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Study: Coronavirus Unemployment Is Creating Early Retirement Wave

Sun, 24/05/2020 - 01:00

Brent Orrell

Politics, Americas

The authors believe that these retirements are likely earlier than originally planned, given the age range of the participants.

Almost 40 million claims for unemployment insurance have been filed in the past two months as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and it appears that not everyone is looking to go back, particularly older workers.

A recent working paper from the University of Chicago’s Becker Friedman Institute finds that the unemployment rate has not risen to levels that would correspond with the numbers of jobs lost. Through surveys conducted earlier in 2020 and again at the height of the pandemic, they found that some of those who lost jobs have not been counted in the BLS unemployment rate because these workers have dropped out of the labor force. Furthermore, a striking percentage of these former workers cited retirement as their reason for not seeking additional work, rising from 53 percent in the first survey to 60 percent in the follow-on survey. The authors believe that these retirements are likely earlier than originally planned, given the age range of the participants.

There are numerous variables affecting retirement decisions, including household income, personal health, lifestyle preferences, and caretaking responsibilities. Researchers disagree on whether economic downturns postpone or hasten retirement decisions, though it does seem that a household’s financial assets play an important role in this decision.

A unique feature of the current recession is that health officials have been warning the public for months that older people, and especially those living with underlying health conditions, are more at risk of developing more serious forms of the disease than their younger, healthier counterparts. Anxiety about the disease and lower rates of telecommuting might be combining to encourage more early retirement.

Prior to COVID-19, the number of older workers remaining in the workforce was growing at a rapid rate. The US Senate’s Special Committee on Aging found that older workers are on track to make up one quarter of the workforce by 2026. We will have to wait and see whether the pandemic has changed this calculus by creating an exodus of our most experienced and knowledgeable workers.

Learn more: Reemployment is walking; worker safety is chewing gum. We have to do both. | What will 'the ties that bind' look like after COVID? | Workforce education and training, during and after the coronavirus

This article by Brent Orrell first appeared in AEIdeas on May 21, 2020.

Image: Reuters.

Coronavirus: How to Go Back to Work and Not Freak Out

Sun, 24/05/2020 - 00:30

Olivia Remes

Health,

Here's a few tips. 

At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, people’s anxiety levels shot up. Daily reports were coming in about the number of new deaths, there was global chaos and people had to be persuaded to stay inside. And even though this was difficult, we somehow managed to pull through. We slowly became used to our new lives in lockdown, and our anxiety began to subside.

But just as we were settling in to a new reality and routine, the UK government recently announced new measures for lifting the lockdown. Naturally, this has been causing some panic and reports are beginning to surface about how people’s mental health is again being affected. Many people are worrying about whether it is safe to go back to work or send their children to school.

This anxiety is mainly related to uncertainty. We don’t know what the future will hold and this can keep us up at night. It can trigger excessive and uncontrollable worrying, and it can even lead to physical symptoms, such as shortness of breath and heart palpitations.

For people with a pre-existing anxiety disorder or depression, the coronavirus pandemic is a recipe for disaster. Going back out into society might trigger or revive past conditions – such as health anxiety or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). We’re advised to wash our hands frequently and keep our distance from others at all times – but there is a point when safety behaviours begin to morph into mental disorders.

Sometimes we think that worrying serves a useful purpose, making us vigilant and prepared. We believe that it can help us arrive at a better solution by being proactive about a situation. But worrying for even a short amount of time predisposes us to even more worrying. And before we know it, we’re stuck in a vicious cycle which we can’t escape.

It is a myth that worrying helps us arrive at a better solution. It only makes us feel anxious and stressed – especially if the worrying becomes chronic. Just knowing this can help us take useful steps forward, because we can let go of those anxious thoughts. And most of our worries won’t come true anyway. When researchers at Penn State University asked people to track their anxieties and revisit them at a later point, they saw that 91% of the participants’ worries didn’t come true.

Giving up control

Sometimes, however, this is easier said than done. Sometimes it is very difficult to stop worrying. Sometimes we can’t stop cleaning, and begin to perform repetitive behaviours that can turn into OCD. The way that OCD oftentimes starts is with repetitive, fixed ideas. People read news stories about coronavirus and start worrying that they might get infected if they go back out.

To alleviate this anxiety, they begin to engage in behaviours – such as repetitive, excessive hand-washing – to avert the dreaded outcome. When they do this, they are trying to take control of the situation. But the more they indulge their obsessions, the more – ironically – they begin to lose control. They become unable to rein in their thoughts and lose power over their actions. At this point, OCD has a stronghold over the person and they can’t get out.

One way to prevent this from happening is to do what you can to protect yourself – wash your hands for only the recommended amount and wear a mask – and then let the chips fall where they may. And realise that no matter what you do, it is sometimes impossible to completely protect yourself. Letting go of control is, paradoxically, a way of gaining it back.

This can help us see things more clearly and with a calmer mindset. It also helps us make better decisions. And if you’re worried about restrictions lifting and having to take a crowded tube again - remember, that any anxiety you will be feeling as you’re on that tube will subside. It’s temporary and you will bounce back from it. This is the nature of anxiety, and research has shown this time and again.

Master your life

Another good way to maintain your mental health during this time of constant change and uncertainty is to introduce a positive agenda into your daily routine. How do you do that? By scheduling positive activities into your life and monitoring them. This may include short walks in parks, trying a new recipe or anything else you might enjoy. It’s also important to track yourself to make sure you’re doing such activities on a consistent basis.

When we take the time to engage in pleasant activities, research shows that we not only begin to feel pleasure, but we gain “mastery”. When you have mastery, you start to feel satisfied, having a sense of achievement and control. If you suffer from depression, this technique is particularly useful – it’s like a crane that can help lift you out of a low state. And we know that low mood is something many people have been feeling during this pandemic.

But the road to mastery can be scary to some people. Scheduling things into your life that make you feel happy can be frightening, especially if depression has been a part of your life for a long time.

The rollercoaster of emotions we’ve been experiencing throughout this pandemic might also make us cautious of being too happy too quickly. You might have superstitious thoughts that, if you feel good, something bad will happen. You may worry that it won’t last, or that you’ll get hurt. Isn’t it better to have low expectations – not get too excited and maintain a position of “defensive pessimism”?

Research tells us that the answer is no. Because when we don’t hope and aim for happiness, our lives become a flat line. And isn’t it better to experience a life with ups and down, like a wave with crests and troughs? Embracing life can have a significant impact on our mental health and places us on a path to wellbeing – even during a pandemic.

, Mental health researcher, University of Cambridge

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Image: Reuters

NATO Needs a Standing Naval Group In the Arctic to Stop China

Sun, 24/05/2020 - 00:00

Colin Barnard

Security, Americas

As NATO becomes the recognized authority for maritime security in the region, de-escalation and even cooperation with Russia could be possible.

Since the Cold War, the U.S. has maintained a steady presence in the Arctic—specifically the European Arctic, or High North—primarily through nuclear submarine deployments while relying on NATO allies in the region for logistical support. However, melting ice caps, an increase in commercial maritime activity, and ongoing territorial disputes necessitate stronger NATO cooperation in the region to achieve a deterrence posture against Russia and safeguard maritime security. Deterring Russian aggression is important in all European bodies of water, and the Arctic will increasingly face the same maritime security issues as other parts of the world, including illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing by China and the movement of migrants and refugees by sea.

Checking a Growing Russian Sphere of Influence

The Arctic has reemerged as a front for NATO in recent years, as Russia has ignored European policies not to militarize the region. Since at least 2010, Russia has been reopening and rearming much of the Arctic infrastructure used at the height of the Soviet Union. In 2012, Russia resumed its patrol of the Northern Sea Route (NSR), a commercial shipping lane running along Russia’s northern coastline from the Kara Sea to the Bering Strait. In 2014, Russia established a new joint strategic command in Severomorsk to oversee its Northern Fleet with renewed focus on the Arctic. And in 2019, following the first successful navigation of the NSR without icebreakers two years prior, Russia implemented mandatory pilotage for foreign vessels and demonstrated its maritime interdiction capabilities.

Similar to Russia, NATO needs to improve its capability and capacity to operate on the Arctic front. In order to deter the Russian threat and safeguard maritime security, sustained presence in the region is needed. To this end, NATO should create a new standing maritime group dedicated to the Arctic and separate from themaritime groups focused elsewhere. While likely to be hotly debated, a new standing maritime group should gain traction among many of the Arctic states, especially Iceland, Norway, and Denmark, who have long recognized the growing Russian threat in the region. With sustained presence, so too will come sustained situational awareness, which is fundamental for conducting successful operations.

Currently, NATO’s maritime component commander, HQ Allied Maritime Command (MARCOM), maintains operational control of NATO’s four standing maritime groups: two destroyer/frigate groups and two mine countermeasures groups. These groups are already overtasked, posturing against a resurgent Russian Navy across the North Atlantic, Baltic, and Black Seas, and lending support to NATO’s maritime security operation in the Mediterranean, Operation Sea Guardian, as well as the EU refugee and migrant crisis. Regardless of these ongoing tasks, these groups are not tailored for Arctic naval operations. For this reason, a new group needs to be formed.

Instead of relying exclusively on frigates and destroyers from NATO navies to form the new group, NATO should look to its coast guards as well, recognizing that many of these forces field ships that are optimized for Arctic operations. The U.S., Canada, Denmark (via Greenland), Iceland, and Norway all have Arctic maritime borders, and most have ice-class ships. Denmark has Thetis-class and Knud Rasmussen-class patrol vessels, the latter of which double as icebreakers. Norway has the patrol vessel Svalbard, which also doubles as an icebreaker and recently completed the first Norwegian voyage to the North Pole. Three new patrol vessels will soon join her. Iceland, too, can lend support with their aging but capable Ægir-class or newer Thor-class patrol vessels. Thor is not capable of icebreaking, but it can still operate in the Arctic.

Of course, these examples are just from the smaller NATO navies and coast guards of the Arctic; the U.S. and Canada would have a responsibility to support the group as well. U.S. Arleigh Burke-class destroyers can operate in the Arctic, as recently demonstrated, and where capabilities are lacking, the NATO Defense Planning Processshould abide. NATO partners Sweden and Finland have land borders in the Arctic region and would likely contribute to the group, if not with tangible patrol and surveillance assets, then with information exchange. Beyond historical cooperation with NATO states through agreements such as NORDEFCO, Sweden and Finland have increased cooperation with NATO in recent years, joining the UK’s Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF), improving on existing agreements with the U.S., and participating in NATOexercises in the Baltic Sea.

One potential, but not required, outcome of establishing a standing maritime group for the Arctic is the feasibility for NATO to conduct freedom of navigation operations, or FONOPS, against Russia’s excessive maritime claims in the region. For years, the world has read stories of FONOPS in the South China Sea to challenge China’s excessive claims. According to the Department of Defense (DoD), FONOPS are conducted to “consistently challenge excessive maritime claims made by a variety of coastal States, including allies, partners, and competitors.” However, despite excessive maritime claims made the world over, high-profile FONOPS are rarely conducted outside of the South China Sea, including againstRussia.

Concerns over whether or not FONOPS in the Arctic would do moreharm than good are valid, but these concerns are mostly due to the U.S. Navy’s current lack of capability and capacity in the region, which the new standing maritime group would help address. Nevertheless, objections to FONOPS in the Arctic, especially NATO-led, are still likely to be made for fear of escalation with Russia. However, even if Russia were to cite a NATO FONOP, it does not require one to justify its continued aggression, nor did it require one in Georgia in 2009 or in Ukraine in 2014 and 2018. Russia justifies its aggression because of NATO’s continued expansion into once Soviet territory, something which George Kennan, the architect of the Cold War containment strategy,predicted. Russia is going to act regardless of NATO conducting FONOPS.

With this tension between NATO and Russia in mind, some believe a military “code of conduct” is needed for the Arctic. While the recommendation for the deployment of a standing maritime group to the region may appear hardline in contrast, such a group would operate professionally alongside Russian units, as is already done by the other maritime groups. Moreover, such a group would be part of NATO’s increasing role in Arctic maritime security. From assisting with search and rescue operations to helping deter illegal/illicit activity ranging from IUU fishing to trafficking in persons or goods, NATO’s role in the region would be two-fold: deter Russia while safeguarding maritime security. Neither role precludes a code of conduct for the region, and the latter presents an opportunity for de-escalation and possibly even a measure of cooperation with Russia.

The China Angle

Another potential outcome of NATO’s sustained presence and situational awareness in the Arctic is a better deterrence posture against China. China, declaring itself a “near-Arctic” state and achieving observer status on the Arctic Council, is increasingly becoming a player in the region. While for now most of the play has been economic, investing large sums in Arctic states—including NATO allies—and adding the Arctic to its Belt and Road Initiative (Polar Silk Road), it can be assumed that its economic investment in the region will eventually be followed by militarization.

How China might move to militarize the Arctic is anyone’s guess, but its 2018 white paper on the Arctic, as summarized by Lieutenant Commander Rachel Gosnell, USN, clearly states China’s interests in the region, and it has plans to protect them. While much of the paper touts adherence to international law, the world has very little reason to believe China will do so. One example of how China could move to militarize the Arctic is on the back of its seemingly benign fishing fleet. China has stated it has inherent rights to the fish migrating to the Arctic because of its large population. And where China’s fishing fleet goes, militarization will soon follow, as has been demonstrated already by Chinese fishing “militias.”

Conclusion

NATO’s sustained presence and situational awareness are needed to achieve deterrence against both Russia and China while safeguarding maritime security in the Arctic. The first step toward achieving this goal is to increase NATO capability and capacity to operate in the region, centered on a new standing maritime group that is dedicated to the Arctic and separate from NATO’s maritime groups operating elsewhere. This group should be formed by NATO states with Arctic maritime borders and ice-class ships. As NATO becomes the recognized authority for maritime security in the region, de-escalation and even cooperation with Russia could be possible. It is time for NATO to invest in this future, starting with a standing maritime group for the Arctic.

Lieutenant Barnard is serving as a staff operations and plans officer at NATO Maritime Command in Northwood, U.K. He was previously gunnery officer onboard USS Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) and weapons officer onboard USS Firebolt (PC-10), and was recently selected to be a foreign area officer in Europe. He graduated from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland with a master’s in terrorism studies and holds a bachelor’s in political science from Abilene Christian University in Texas. His views are his own and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Department of Defense, or NATO.

This article by Colin Barnard first appeared at the Center for International Maritime Security on May 15.

Image: U.S. Navy safety swimmers stand on the deck of the Virginia class submarine USS New Hampshire after it surfaced through thin ice during exercises underneath ice in the ArcticOcean north of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska March 19, 2011. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Dangerous Mission: How Allied Pilots Flew Over the Himalayas to Supply Forces in China

Sat, 23/05/2020 - 23:30

Warfare History Network

History, Asia

Many planes were lost to accidents over the steep mountains.

In truth, it really was not a combat operation. For every airplane lost to enemy action, a hundred were destroyed in accidents. Yet the effort to resupply Allied forces in China entirely by air was perhaps the most ambitious effort of World War II.

No other effort—including the amphibious landings on beaches from Casablanca to Normandy and from Guadalcanal to Okinawa—faced so many obstacles; obstacles that had to be overcome to simply keep China in the war and prevent the Japanese from overrunning all of Asia. They were obstacles that are as old as human history: rugged mountains, raging rivers, steaming jungles, violent weather—the very features that dictate how regions are settled, trade routes are developed, and wars are fought. These are the obstacles that ultimately dictate how nations and modern military forces develop. Prior to 1942, these obstacles could have never been scaled. Even then, the cost of surmounting them was extreme.

The actual decision to attempt to resupply China by air is lost to antiquity, although developing events in the spring and summer of 1942 dictated that aerial resupply was the only possible means of getting supplies to a country that by that time had been completely cut off from the sea. By mid-1942 Japanese troops occupied China’s port cities and the southern two-thirds of Burma. The Japanese had cut the Burma Road, and Rangoon had fallen into their hands. Thailand, which lay to the south, was allied with Japan, while Japanese troops occupied French Indochina by proxy from the Germans, who now controlled France. The vast Chinese interior remained under Allied control, but with no suitable roads and all of China’s seaports in Japanese hands, the only means of delivering supplies to the region was by air.

As the first country to experience Japanese aggression, China came to depend on the United States as a valuable ally through the efforts of the American-educated wife of the leader of the Koumintang, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. Madame Chiang used her American connections to influence President Franklin D. Roosevelt to provide military supplies and other support to her country. Her brother, T.V. Soong, the head of the China lobby in the United States, made sure that Chinese-Americans did not forget their native land and the many troubles facing it. The Soongs found a ready audience for their message in the evangelical Christian movement in the United States, where China had been a focal point of American missionary efforts for nearly a century.

When war finally came to the United States on December 7, 1941, China immediately took on a strategic importance due to its location in relation to Japan. Although events pushed the massive Asian country to the back burner, Allied planners initially saw China as an avenue from which to take the war to the Japanese homeland. American heavy bombers—Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses and Consolidated B-24 Liberators—could wage a strategic bombing campaign against Japan from air bases in China. In the spring of 1942, the U.S. War Department authorized the establishment of the Tenth Air Force to defend China and begin an aerial offensive against Japan.

Major General Lewis Brereton was transferred from Australia to India to organize an air force that would be made up of a group of heavy bombers, a group of medium bombers, and two groups of pursuit planes, with a troop carrier group to provide air transportation. The famous Doolittle Raid on Japan was actually a part of this plan—18 North American B-25s that had been authorized for China service were diverted by presidential order to make a raid on Japan from an aircraft carrier. The War Department plan called for them to overfly Japan after departing an aircraft carrier in the Pacific, then to proceed on to China. When they got there, the B-25s were expected to form the nucleus of a medium bomber force in China.

It was the impending arrival of the Doolittle force that led to the initial deployment of American transports to India for flights to China. In advance of the raid, 10 Pan American Airways Douglas DC-3 transports operating under contract to the Army Ferry Command were moved from Africa, where they had been supporting British forces, to India. Their mission was to pre-position gasoline and oil at Chinese airfields to service the B-25s when they arrived in China. As it turned out, not a single B-25 arrived intact. The task force was discovered and Doolittle decided to launch the bombers at the limit of their range to even strike Japan. There was little chance that any of them could make China intact. The raid was a propaganda coup for the Roosevelt administration, but the loss of the B-25s and the subsequent capture of the proposed sites for bomber bases destroyed Allied plans for mounting an air campaign against Japan from China in 1942.

Even as the Doolittle raiders were on their way to China aboard the aircraft carrier Hornet, Colonel Caleb V. Haynes was on his way to India via the overland route across Africa and Central Asia with a combined flight of Boeing B-17s and Douglas C-47 transports. Haynes’s force, which was designated as Project Aquilla, was to serve as the nucleus of a heavy bomber force in China. These planes were to join a bombardment group that was being transferred from Australia. (The 7th Bombardment Group had fought in Java and the Philippines—its small force of B-17s and LB-30 and B-24 Liberators had been greatly diminished.)

Another force of B-24s under Colonel Harry Halverson was also planned for China, but its departure from the United States was delayed, and the Halpro force ended up diverting to the Middle East where it would eventually be joined by the Aquilla B-17s. Haynes and his men arrived to discover that the military situation in China had taken a turn for the worse as the Japanese went on the offensive in retaliation for the Doolittle Raid. The planned bomber bases had been overrun, and Japanese forces were advancing into Burma. Haynes and some of his crews gave up their B-17s and were put to work with the C-47s hauling supplies into Burma. As the military situation deteriorated, they evacuated Allied troops from the country.

Unfortunately, the Japanese were successful in both Burma and eastern China, leaving the Allies completely landlocked. Although Chinese forces held the vast interior of the country, the only means of delivering supplies was from India. Even without the threat of enemy action, land delivery was extremely difficult due to the rugged terrain of eastern India and central Burma, but even that possibility was ruled out when Japanese forces cut the Burma Road. With the land routes cut, the only means of delivering supplies to China was by air.

By the spring of 1942, it was apparent that delivering supplies to China was to be a major mission of the Tenth Air Force, the organization the War Department had created for control of air operations in the China-Burma-India Theater. With the loss of the planned bomber bases, China also lost its importance to the strategic plan, but there was one element that dictated that the country could still be important to the Allies.

Chennault’s ‘Flying Tigers’ Evolved into an Air Force Deep in the Chinese Interior

Before the war, retired U.S. Army Captain Claire Chennault had organized an all-volunteer air force staffed by former U.S. military personnel to support China. The American Volunteer Group went into action two weeks after Pearl Harbor and immediately revealed to the world that Japanese air units were not invincible. Chennault’s small force of fighters, known as the Flying Tigers, would evolve into an air force operating deep in the Chinese interior, a force that would tie down Japanese air units in Southeast Asia, preventing some of them from moving to other theaters. Chennault was recalled to active duty as a brigadier general and given command of the China Air Task Force (CATF), a subordinate unit to Tenth Air Force. The CATF would be entirely dependent on airlift for everything it needed to function as a viable combat force.

When it became obvious that air resupply of China would be a major Allied mission in the CBI, the War Department authorized the creation of a special transport unit to move supplies from India to China. In March 1942, Project Ammisca, a special effort consisting of a “ferry” force made up of a hundred recalled Army reservists, mostly active airline pilots, was formed. The reservist pilots reported to the Ferry Command base at Morrison Field, Florida, where they joined enlisted crew chiefs and radio operators. Formed in 1941 to provide crews on temporary duty from the Air Combat Command to ferry U.S.-built aircraft sold under Lend-Lease to the Allies, Ferry Command had no other operational mission.

However, just prior to the war, the command was authorized to contract with the airlines for aircraft and crews to set up a “ferry” of supplies to British forces in North Africa. So, the mission of delivering supplies to China was given to it. The situation became even more complicated when the War Department decided that the “India-China Ferry” should be a Tenth Air Force responsibility. The original plan called for Ammisca to be under the direct control of General Joseph Stilwell, the senior Allied officer in China, but Tenth Air Force commander Brig. Gen. Clayton Bissell naturally believed that if he was to be responsible for the air ferry, all of the assets involved should be under his command.

Ammisca commander Brig. Gen. Robert Olds, an original member of the Ferry Command staff, opposed the transfer, but Bissell’s view won out. When Ammisca arrived in India as the 1st Ferrying Group, it became part of the Tenth Air Force.

There was a third air transportation entity in Asia, one that offered perhaps even more possibilities for success than the 1st Ferrying Group. China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC) was a subsidiary of Pan American Airways, which had been established in China in the 1930s. Many of the pilots were former U.S. military fliers—including some who joined the airline after leaving Chennault’s AVG—and they took quickly to air transportation operations in the rugged conditions faced along the routes to China. CNAC would be the prime element in the China Ferry for most of 1942.

Brigadier General Earl Naiden surveyed the route for the Assam-Burma-China Ferry, along with a Trans-India route from Karachi to the Assam Valley, from which supplies bound for China would depart. The most direct and efficient route was across Burma to the airfield at Myitkyina on the Burma-China border, where supplies could be transferred to river barges then to trucks for the remainder of the trip to Chungking and Kunming. But Myitkyina was a strategic target for Japanese forces in Burma, which captured the airfield on May 8, placing the success of the resupply effort to China in doubt.

From Myitkyina, Japanese fighters threatened to control Burmese skies while their bombers were in easy range of the Indian bases from which the airlift was to be mounted. To alleviate the threat to India and reduce Japanese efforts against the air routes to China, the Tenth Air Force made the airfield at Myitkyina its primary target.

The delivery of supplies to China attracted political attention at the highest level of the United States government as President Roosevelt took a personal interest, to the extent that he actually set monthly tonnage goals. Had simply flying supplies into China been the only military consideration in the CBI, the goals might have been met. Unfortunately, Japanese troops were moving westward, forcing the Tenth Air Force to prioritize the use of its forces, with the defense of India becoming primary.

Air transportation was proving to be a major asset to ground operations in the theater, as well as in New Guinea in the Southwest Pacific where Allied forces faced similar obstacles. Military considerations for the defense of India led to frequent diversions of 1st Ferrying Group transports to missions in support of combat operations. Every time a transport was assigned to another mission, one less airplane was available for the China Ferry.

Sinclair’s Scathing Report of the 10th Air Force Accused Them of Having a “Defeatest Attitude” and Lacking a “Singleness of Purpose”

Political interest in the delivery of supplies to China ran high, thanks in no small measure to the interests of the American companies selling war materials to the Chinese. Their representative company was China Defense Supplies, Inc., a corporation that had been formed by Whiting Willauer, a New York lawyer with political connections, to act as a middleman between the Chinese government and the U.S. manufacturers for the delivery of Lend-Lease supplies. Willauer was also instrumental in the formation of the AVG. Payment for materials was contingent on their delivery to Chinese soil, and executives whose companies stood to make millions from the supply effort were not sympathetic to the military problems of the region.

A China Defense Supplies, Inc., representative, one Frank D. Sinclair, who wore the title of “Aviation Technical Advisor” in the company, visited India in the summer of 1942 to observe the airlift. Sinclair, whose background was in the aviation industry and who had airline connections, wrote a scathing report accusing the Tenth Air Force of having “a defeatist attitude” and lacking “singleness of purpose” in regard to the China Ferry. Sinclair’s accusations seem ridiculous today when considering the seriousness of the military situation in eastern India in 1942, which he either failed to grasp or chose to ignore. Nevertheless, the report attracted the attention of the White House. A copy also went to the headquarters of the infant Air Transport Command.

In reality, the effort to deliver supplies to China was proceeding in spite of numerous problems, the most serious of which was the loss of Myitkyina. With the central Burmese airfield no longer available for transshipment, transports were forced to fly all the way to Kunming to deliver their loads, which reduced the efficiency of the transports and the amount of supplies that could be delivered. Furthermore, the threat of interception forced the unarmed transports to fly a more circuitous route, heading north over the eastern reaches of the Himalayas, then turning east to their Chinese destinations. Although the high Himalayas were well to the west, the “foothills” north of the Assam Valley were higher than the American Rockies.

The combination of humid air masses moving north out of the Bay of Bengal and the high mountain elevations produced some of the worst weather conditions in the world—strong winds that made navigation difficult, violent thunderstorms with heavy rain, and severe mountain turbulence that could rip an airplane apart. In the higher elevations the rain turned to ice and snow, which could load the wings and force an airplane into the mountain peaks.

Consideration was given to placing the entire responsibility for the movement of supplies to China on the China National Aviation Corporation, a move that Stilwell opposed. He believed it would be a mistake for U.S. military personnel to be under the control of an organization whose civilian personnel were paid on a much higher scale. Stilwell proposed instead that the CNAC be contracted to the Tenth Air Force, a suggestion accepted by the War Department and by the Chinese government, which owned the airline. The CNAC transports were assigned exclusively to the movement of supplies from Dinjan to China.

The airlift got off to a slower start than the White House wanted, but it was a start nevertheless. The CNAC transports in particular soon established an efficient routine. But the 1st Ferrying Group effort suffered innumerable problems, thanks in part to the diversions of some of its airplanes—one squadron was diverted to the Middle East in June. Only about two-thirds of the group’s assigned airplanes had reached India by mid-1942. Quite a few were involved in accidents during the move while others were diverted to support military operations in Africa and the Middle East. Once they began operations, the transport force was plagued by accidents.

Events in the spring of 1942 eventually affected the China Ferry, although not until late in the year. Lawrence Pogue, the director of the Civil Aeronautics Board, wrote a letter to President Roosevelt expressing his concern that the haphazard awarding of military contracts to the nation’s airlines was detrimental to the future of the industry. Pogue’s solution was the creation of a pseudo-military government-run airline reporting directly to the president, an airline that would function independently of the Departments of War and the Navy.

A second alternative was for the War Department, at least, to set up its own air transportation command to handle airline contracts. A board of military officers was appointed to consider the problem, but before it submitted a solution Army Air Forces commander General Henry “Hap” Arnold took matters into his own hands. On June 20, Arnold issued General Order No. 8, establishing an Army air transportation organization that would be responsible for all air transportation needs except those directly related to combat.

The order took the “air transport” designation that had previously belonged to the groups and squadrons that had been formed to support combat operations and gave it to the new organization. The former air transport units were redesignated as “troop carriers.” The reorganization also transferred the responsibility for issuing military contracts to the airlines from the Air Service Command to the new Air Transport Command.

The Air Transport Command was assigned a dual function, the ferrying of military aircraft, including Lend-Lease aircraft that had been consigned to other nations, from factories to combat units and the transportation of military cargo and passengers. As such, it was divided into two sections, the Ferrying Division and the Air Transportation Division. To staff the new command, the Army drew heavily on the airline industry, which contributed a number of key personnel who were given direct commissions as field grade officers. American Airlines President Cyrus R. Smith was assigned as the chief of staff of the new ATC, initially with the rank of colonel and with the responsibility of organizing and supervising the Air Transport Division.

Both divisions depended heavily on the national airline industry for contract pilots and air crews as well as for former airline personnel to fill military positions. The Air Transport Command also utilized “service pilots,” men with civilian flying experience who were brought directly into the military without undergoing military pilot training. ATC’s Ferrying Division also included a sizable number of female pilots, women with civilian flying experience who were employed in the same manner as male civilian contract pilots with the exception that their activities were confined to North America.

A copy of the Sinclair letter ended up in the hands of ATC Chief of Staff C.R. Smith, who saw and seized an opportunity for his new command and for the airline he managed in civilian life. He elaborated on Sinclair’s complaints to assert that an independent command should be established in the CBI for the sole purpose of delivering supplies to China. Smith proposed that the Air Transport Command “take over” the airlift of supplies to China. His rationale was that since the Air Transport Command was made up of “air transportation professionals,” it would logically be able to produce a better product than the Army’s combat command.

All that would be required, according to Smith, would be support from the theater units in the form of base facilities and the air bases from which the ATC transports would operate. ATC would do the rest. Smith made a powerful case, and his proposal was accepted by General Stilwell. The ATC was to take over the airlift to China on December 1, 1942. Unfortunately, Smith’s proposal was founded to a large degree on wishful thinking, and his command would not only fail—it would fail miserably.

Crews Flying “The Hump” Faced Constant Danger From Enemy Attack and Reduced Aircraft Performance Due to the Rarified Air

The “Hump” that ultimately gave the airlift its name was the Santsung Range, a long ridge that reached 15,000 feet in places and lay between the Salween and Mekong River valleys on the Burma-China border. Fortunately, Allied troops, mostly native Ghurkas and Chinese, held northern Burma, thus affording advance bases for Tenth Air Force fighters charged with protecting the airlift route. Allied fighters and bombers concentrated on Japanese airfields in Central Burma, reducing Japanese fighter capabilities and allowing more direct deliveries from the transport bases in India’s Assam Valley to the destination airfields at Kunming and Chungking.

Even though the threat of enemy air attack was sporadic, the crews flying the Hump faced constant danger, not the least of which was the reduced performance of their aircraft in the rarified air at the airfields themselves. Many of these were located at altitudes several thousand feet above sea level. In six months in 1943, Air Transport Command suffered no less than 134 major accidents on the Hump route, a large number of which occurred during takeoff and landing.

In spite of Smith’s assurances that ATC would increase airlift capabilities over the Hump, tonnage amounts actually declined during the first months after the transfer. The decline came in spite of an increase in the size and perceived capabilities of the airlift force. When ATC took over the Hump operation, it began making plans to add new types of aircraft to replace the Douglas C-47s with which the 1st Ferrying Group was equipped. In early 1943 a contingent of Consolidated C-87 four-engine transports arrived in India. C.R. Smith’s own company, American Airlines, provided the flight crews under contract.

The transport version of the B-24 Liberator bomber, the C-87 promised to increase tonnage capabilities considerably due to its increased payload. However, it failed to live up to initial expectations. The other new type assigned to the Hump operation was the Curtiss C-46 Commando, a large twin-engine airplane capable of carrying a much larger payload than the DC-3 and C-47. But the C-46 was poorly designed, particularly the fuel system, with miles and miles of aluminum and steel tubing that made the airplane a mechanic’s nightmare. Fortunately, modifications to the design turned the C-46 into an adequate transport, although it never lived up to expectations.

Although ATC had promised to increase the airlift tonnage, it would take the India-China Wing another six months to attain the 4,000 tons a month goal it had promised for February 1943. Meanwhile, the White House and War Department were promising tonnage levels twice those that were actually being carried. For example, the goal for September 1943, when tonnage finally exceeded 4,000 tons, was 10,000 tons. The Air Transport Command commander, Maj. Gen. Harold George, passed the buck to the Tenth Air Force, claiming that the India-China Wing was “a relic” of the 1st Ferrying Group that had been transferred to theater command over the protests of the Ferry Command leadership. Such an argument doesn’t hold water. In reality, other units involved in airlifting cargo to China were constantly increasing their capabilities.

By September 1943, the CNAC was averaging 49 tons per airplane per month, while ATC squadrons were only carrying 23—and this in spite of the fact that ATC was equipped with C-87s and C-46s, both of which afforded considerably larger payloads than the CNAC DC-3s. Furthermore, when the 1st and 2nd Troop Carrier Squadrons became operational in India in the spring of 1943, they immediately became far more efficient than ATC. Many of the crews in the two troop carrier squadrons, which were promised to the Tenth Air Force as compensation for the loss of the 1st Ferrying Group, were fresh from training in the United States. Obviously, the problems with the India-China Wing were internal.

Eastern Airlines president and World War I ace Eddie Rickenbacker paid a visit to the CBI in the spring of 1943. With decades of experience in air transportation, Rickenbacker recognized that the real problem with the airlift lay in the command organization. The Air Transport Command was attempting to operate an independent command within a combat zone while expecting to receive priority support from a theater command that was up to its ears in combat operations.

Rickenbacker also noted the lack of suitable airdromes to handle the airlift operation, as well as shortages in weather forecasting, communications, engineering, and maintenance personnel. To Rickenbacker, the only logical solution was to return responsibility for the airlift operation to the Tenth Air Force. Rickenbacker’s views were not shared by those within the military establishment in Washington, especially the leadership of the Air Transport Command. The airlift remained under ATC. The problems continued.

Low morale was a major problem in the ATC units in India, although they were operating under conditions no worse, and perhaps better, than those endured by the combat squadrons. For Americans native to the temperate United States, the heat and humidity of India were a shock. They made life miserable, and they also produced torrential rains that turned the bases into seas of steaming mud. The situation was compounded by the presence of venomous snakes, insects, and vermin of every description.

Another factor unique to ATC personnel that is not discussed in histories of the airlift was the feeling that hauling freight to China was less important than fighting the Germans and Japanese. While the Ammisca pilots were drawn from the ranks of the U.S. airlines, they were also U.S. Army reservists and trained combat pilots. They knew that other reservists had been assigned to the bomber squadrons that were being formed in the United States, often in positions of leadership as flight and squadron commanders. Yet, here they were, pushing freight in unarmed transports in a backwater region of the world.

The lack of the exuberance of youth was also a factor. As a rule, ATC pilots in 1942 and 1943 were considerably older than the young men assigned to the combat squadrons. An older man’s ordeal is often a young man’s adventure. It is worth noting that the efficiency of the airlift began to improve after more and more Army pilots became available for transport duty.

Combat Crews Derided the ATC Crews, Referring to the ATC Acronym as ‘Allergic to Combat’

The Air Transport Command took several steps in an attempt at improving the morale of the airmen assigned to the Hump mission. A major complaint was the poor delivery of mail, so mail was assigned a higher priority in the cargo system. General George convinced the Army Air Forces to authorize the awarding of combat decorations, particularly the Air Medal and Distinguished Flying Cross, to Hump flyers even though the dangers they faced were more from weather conditions and adverse terrain than from an armed enemy. He also obtained a citation for the India-China Wing.

The ATC headquarters encouraged several well-known media representatives to observe command operations, including the Hump airlift. Photographs and articles produced by men such as Ivan Dmitri appeared on the pages of Time, Life, and The Saturday Evening Post. The publicity drew attention to the role of the ATC airmen, but it also led to derision among the combat crews—especially troop carrier personnel—who began referring to the ATC acronym as “allergic to combat” or, in reference to the civilian contract crews, “Association (of) Terrified Civilians.” The hostility toward ATC also reached into the command levels in the combat units, as theater command personnel came to believe that the ATC leadership in Washington was out to build an empire at their expense.

In mid-1943, the Army increased the size and capabilities of the India-China Wing of the ATC more than fivefold, a factor that allowed tonnage levels to finally begin increasing. Additional air bases were placed into service in India’s Assam Valley and in the Chinese interior to handle the vastly increased airlift apparatus. All of the ATC wings were elevated to division status, including the India-China Wing, which became the India-China Division.

In September, Colonel Thomas O. Hardin transferred to the India-China Division to take command of the Hump operation. An airline executive in civilian life, Hardin had a reputation as a hard driver. He was also a practical commander who realized that official policies were often detrimental to mission completion. One of Hardin’s actions was to implement 24-hour-a-day operations on the Hump route, thus greatly increasing the number of flights each day. The additional flights immediately increased tonnage capabilities over the Hump. In December, Hump crews hauled more than 12,000 tons into India. Adverse weather and high terrain made night operations more dangerous, and the accident rate increased.

The ATC leadership realized that an essential ingredient in the success of the airlift was an adequate supply of aircraft and engine parts. General George authorized special weekly flights from the Air Service Command supply depot at Fairfield, Ohio, to India. Four C-87s from the 26th Transport Group began the operation in September, but the mission transferred to the Ferrying Division in November and became known as Fireball. To keep the airplanes moving, crew stage bases were set up along the route. The rapid deliveries of aircraft parts also increased the numbers of available operational airplanes.

Although the threat of enemy interception was real, there were actually very few instances when ATC transports were subjected to enemy air attack. The worst period for the ATC, and other crews flying the Hump, commenced on October 13, 1943, when Japanese fighters operating from forward fields in central Burma attacked Allied aircraft over northern Burma. Two transports, a C-46 and a C-87, were shot down that day along with a CNAC DC-3. A B-24 and two Tenth Air Force C-47s were damaged. The Japanese were in for a surprise when they attacked several armed B-24s that were engaged in transport operations, and paid for their mistake with several losses.

Over the next two weeks two more ATC transports were shot down, and three others were reported missing. Two more transports were shot down in December. These were the only ATC combat losses on the airlift to China. Statistics reveal losses to enemy action of seven transports and 13 crew members during the duration of the Hump Airlift.

Even though losses to enemy action were minimal, Hump airplanes and crews were being lost to accidents at a phenomenal rate. So many wrecks were strewn along the route from Assam to Kunming that some Hump crews began referring to it as “The Aluminum Trail.” Still, the majority of the accidents occurred at the airfields themselves, where the combination of higher elevations and hot temperatures put the transports on the very edge of their operational performance envelope.

The accident rate was particularly high among the four-engine C-87s, no doubt due to the lack of adequate runway lengths for the altitudes involved. The Army had established 6,000 feet as the necessary runway length for a loaded C-87, apparently without taking into consideration the phenomenon known as density altitude. Due to high temperatures, density altitude—the altitude that actually effects an airplane’s performance—is significantly higher than the actual elevation, thus increasing takeoff distance considerably. Climb performance is also drastically affected, meaning that the loss of an engine right after takeoff on a hot day in high terrain was a sign of impending doom. It is reported that accidents during the Hump airlift claimed some 600 transports and the lives of 1,000 airmen.

In the spring of 1944, the capabilities of the ATC Hump airlift force were greatly increased with the arrival of additional C-46s that were dedicated to the support of Matterhorn, a special unit equipped with long-range Boeing B-29 Superfortress bombers to begin aerial operations against Japan. The Twentieth Air Force deployed to China as a self-sufficient unit. Several XX Bomber Command B-29s were converted into tankers to transport fuel from India to the advance bases in China from which the Superfortresses would depart on missions against Japan.

The Matterhorn force also included its own transport squadrons equipped with C-87s and a new transport version of the Liberator, the C-109 tanker, which entered service in August. While the C-87 was essentially a B-24 that had been stripped of the features that made it a bomber and equipped with a cargo floor, the C-109 incorporated a system of tanks that could be filled with fuel. Both the C-87 and C-109 were designed so that ground crews could drain extra fuel from their tanks at the Chinese bases. Aviation fuel was the major commodity delivered over the Hump, especially in 1944 and 1945.

Support of the Matterhorn force greatly increased the amount of tonnage being hauled across the Hump by the India-China Division. The division received a bonus when XX Bomber Command agreed to transfer its C-87s and C-109s to the Air Transport Command. When the War Department decided to withdraw the B-29s from China in early 1945, the transports that had been dedicated to their support were incorporated into the Hump airlift. It was largely due to the increase in airlift capability that ATC was able to start exceeding its monthly tonnage goals.

In August 1944, Brig. Gen. William H. Tunner replaced Brig. Gen. Thomas O. Hardin as commander of the India-China Division. Tunner was an ATC veteran whose air transport career dated to his assignment as the personnel officer for the Ferry Command before the war. When the ATC was activated, Tunner was placed in command of the Ferrying Division. One of the first production-oriented officers of the Army Air Forces, Tunner achieved a reputation for organization and safety. The India-China Division set unprecedented records while under Tunner’s command, records for which the general was quick to take credit. Many historians credit Tunner with “turning around” the airlift, and the modern Air Mobility Command considers him to be “the father of Military Airlift.” Such, however, is not the case.

The ATC Effort had Fallen Short of its April Allotment by More Than 4,000 Tons, Causing the Assignment of More Aircraft and Crews and Leading to a Great Deal of Resentment Towards the ATC.

Several factors led to the increase in tonnage being airlifted to China, not the least of which was the capture of the airfield at Myitkyina by Merrill’s Marauders in May 1944. Although the town itself remained in Japanese hands until August, the capture of the airfield had a two-fold benefit for the Hump airlift. It deprived the Japanese of an advanced base for their fighters and afforded the ATC a delivery point from which supplies destined for China could be further delivered by truck and barge.

The reduction in the threat of enemy interception allowed ATC crews bound for China to take a more southerly route over lower and less hostile terrain. The lower altitudes now required for flights into China allowed the introduction of the four-engine Douglas C-54 Skymaster to the airlift. Although the C-54 had proven to be a reliable transport with substantial payload capabilities, its limited high-altitude performance ruled it out for flights over the Hump. The C-54 also had a far better safety record than the C-87, although this was perhaps largely due to the Douglas transport being operated at lower elevations than the Liberator Express. However, it was C-46s, not C-87s, that the C-54s began replacing.

Tunner took command in India just as the size of the India-China Division was greatly increased by the transfer of the XX Bomber Command transports to ATC. The combination of an increased force and shorter routes at lower altitudes from India to China naturally resulted in an increase in the amount of cargo carried.

Although Tunner has been given too much credit for the success of the Hump airlift during its final year, he did implement new maintenance and cargo-handling procedures that improved efficiency. One of his first actions was the introduction of what he called “Production Line Maintenance,” a system under which airplanes were placed on a line not unlike an assembly line over which they moved as various maintenance items were completed. Under previous procedures, a crew of men would complete all required maintenance procedures one airplane at a time.

Tunner’s system allowed more specialization as individual mechanics concentrated on specific tasks. He also applied similar techniques to the processing, handling, and loading of cargo. Due to the increase in size of the airlift force and the decreasing military urgency, Tunner was also able to institute safety policies in an attempt to lower the accident rate.

Tunner also benefited from the Allied successes in Europe and elsewhere in the Pacific Theater. By the time he took over the India-China Division, Allied troops were advancing from the Normandy beachhead and, most important, the air war in Europe had been won. The decreasing demand for replacement pilots in heavy bomber groups made more four-engine pilots, aerial engineers, radio operators, and navigators available for transport duty. The reduced demand for trained aircrews in the combat groups led to a reduction in primary flight training, thus releasing the staffs of the hundreds of primary flight schools for military service.

Tunner and the India-China Division also benefited from decisions made by the Army Air Forces as the war in China began winding down. By the spring of 1945, Burma had been liberated, and the massive troop carrier and combat cargo organization that had been developed to support combat operations in the CBI became available for routine transport operations.

Lieutenant General George Stratameyer, the senior American air officer in the CBI, made another decision that greatly increased ATC capabilities. He and his staff decided that the cost in fuel of conducting heavy bomber operations from bases in China was prohibitive and that the four-engine B-24 Liberators of the 7th and 308th Bombardment Groups would be more productive in transport operations than in tactical operations.

In May, Stratameyer ordered the transfer of the two bombardment groups, the 433rd Troop Carrier Group, and the 3rd and 4th Combat Cargo Groups to the operational control of the India-China Division of the ATC. The transfer was not based solely on efficiency. The ATC effort had fallen short of its April allotment by more than 4,000 tons, and the assignment of more aircraft and crews would boost ATC capabilities.

The transfer met with resentment on the part of the combat personnel, who saw their new assignment as degrading. That they had to undergo a week of training under the supervision of ATC personnel caused further resentment among the bomber and troop carrier crews—all of whom were veterans of months and sometimes years of Hump operations. Ironically, the troop carrier and combat cargo squadrons had been carrying considerably more tonnage across the Hump than ATC. In March 1945, troop carrier and combat cargo transport delivered twice the tonnage transported during the same period by ATC.

The former combat aircrews were now under the control of “Tonnage” Tunner, and the India-China Division commander insisted that the combat crews undergo the same training as newly assigned crews fresh from the United States. In spite of their resentment and subsequent low morale, the bomber and troop carrier/combat cargo crews made a large contribution to the airlift to China through the end of the war. It was only due to their contribution that the India-China Division was able to exceed 50,000 tons a month.

With the end of the war, the requirement for the airlift of supplies to China lessened. The airlift continued, however, until November as Allied forces in China moved into occupied territory formerly held by Japanese troops.

Sam McGowan is himself a pilot. He resides in the Houston, Texas, area.

This article originally appeared on the Warfare History Network.

Image: Wikimedia

The Ruger American Ranch: A Reliable (And Accurate) Bolt Action Rifle

Sat, 23/05/2020 - 23:00

Richard Douglas

Technology,

Combining their favored .223 Ranch rifle with their American bolt-action line, Ruger has produced an economy rifle that their customers love.

Whether you’re taking fast shots at predators from the cab of a pick-up or shooting cans off a fence rail from 100 yards out, everybody needs a reliable, accurate, and versatile rifle in their arsenal.

While there are a lot of quality rifles on the market today, like the Barrett Multi-Role Adaptive Design (MRAD) Rifle, not everyone has the budget or needs of an expensive, high-precision gun—a more economical and practical option was called for.

Ruger has once again answered that call. Combining their favored .223 Ranch rifle with their American bolt-action line, Ruger has produced an economy rifle that their customers love. Let’s find out why…

Accuracy 

By all accounts, the American Ranch rifle is as accurate as its Ruger predecessors. The cold hammer-forged barrel is firmly attached to the action via a barrel nut system and V-notch supports, which leaves the barrel free-floating. Even with heavy rounds, there is very little recoil. It can handle a wide array of ammo—from 50 to 77 grain—and keeps shots at about 1 MOA. There aren’t any built-in iron sights, but there’s a picatinny rail mounted to the receiver to accommodate optics. All of this combined with the low-pressure trigger pull adds up to a stable shot and accurate sight picture.

Reliability 

The three-lug bolt is on the left rear of the receiver. The smaller field of movement found with the 70-degree throw (as opposed to a 90-degree throw) allows for the bolt to clear your scope when loading. As far as I can tell the magazine feeds clean and it won't jam up on you. Due to the well-crafted barrel, this gun is capable of shooting over 1,000 rounds of fairly cheap shot without any problems, so it's a great rifle to bring to the range. Ruger makes a simple, reliable, and fast-firing rifle.

Handling 

The American Ranch rifle is versatile and lightweight. The safety is tang-mounted and easy to reach with either hand, and the ambi mag release is located at the rear of the magazine well. The 16 inch barrel allows for quick maneuvering in a tight space, and I like the way the 5-round magazine sits flush with the stock. There’s sling mounts on both ends of the stock, and the barrel is threaded for sound and fire suppressor attachments. The synthetic stock material feels pretty cheap, but it’s not bad for the price. All together, it’s a pretty neat little rifle. It’s fairly small and lightweight, easy to handle, doesn’t have a lot of kick-back, and allows for scope and muzzle attachments.

Trigger 

The trigger on the American Ranch is one of my favorite aspects. The user-adjustable trigger can be set between 3 and 5 pounds and the trigger guard is integrated directly into the stock. Out of the box, the pull is about 4 pounds, so there might be an initial adjustment until you’re comfortable with the pressure.

Magazine & Reloading 

This .223 Remington chambered rifle comes with a detachable, 5-bolt, rotary magazine, but you can use 10 and 20 round mags as well. A major selling point with these rifles is that they accommodate AR15 mags. Reloading is easy. The mag release paddle is located on the rear of the magazine well and is designed for ambidextrous use. Load the magazine, slide the bolt to chamber a round, and fire. Ruger also manufactures this rifle in 5.56x45mm, 7.62x39mm, .300 Blackout, and .450 Bushmaster.

Length & Weight 

With an overall 36 inch length, and a 16.1 inch free-floating barrel, the Ruger American Ranch rifle is pretty compact. It also weighs in at 6 pounds, unloaded, so there isn’t a lot of bulk to contend with. It’s lightweight design makes for a great gun to grab for that quick-shot or to sling over a shoulder for longer treks.

Recoil Management 

With the low comb and smooth trigger pull, the recoil on this rifle is negligible at best, but there is a rubber recoil pad on the butt of the gun for support. The addition of a suppressor will do even more to suppress recoil effects.

Price 

The best part about this rifle is affordability. At around $550.00 suggested retail, it’s a great, cheap, investment for those of you who need a reliable gun on a budget. If you’re budget calls for something less expensive, check out the similar Remington 783 Bolt-Action Rifle.

My Verdict? 

The American Ranch rifle is definitely the “every man’s” rifle we’ve all been waiting for. Its lightweight handling and maneuverability, combined with its compact design allow for a reliable and accurate firearm that anybody would benefit from owning. This durable (and affordable!) rifle is a must-have for anything from target practice to varmint hunting.

Richard Douglas is a firearms expert and educator. His work has appeared in large publications like The Armory Life, Daily Caller, American Shooting Journal, and more. In his free time, he reviews optics on his Scopes Field blog. 

Image: Youtube Screenshot.

It's True: Code Breakers Were Warned Before the Battle of the Bulge

Sat, 23/05/2020 - 22:30

Warfare History Network

History, Europe

So what went wrong for the Allies?

Key point: Just because a code is cracked, does not mean enough warning is always given. However, the Nazis were unable to ultimately win that battle anyway.

World War II, being far more fluid than World War I, marked the advent of the mobile radio intercept unit whose task was to pick up, decrypt if possible, and pinpoint enemy units sending their messages through the airways. The U.S. Navy set up intelligence teams on various carriers and command ships soon after the Battle of Midway. The British Army, followed by the U.S. Army, put together similar groups in the North African campaigns. They were called “Wireless Units” by the English, “Signal Radio Intelligence Companies” or “Signal Service Companies” by the U.S. Army, and “Mobile Radio Squadrons” by the U.S. Army Air Force.

In England, late in March 1944 while the English and American armies were feverishly preparing for the invasion of Normandy only two months away, the U.S. Ninth Air Force, whose assignment it was to conduct the tactical air war over the Continent, ordered a Major Harry Turkel to form and train a new unit in time for the invasion.

3rd Radio Squadron Mobile

The new unit’s task was to monitor and intercept German Air Force radio traffic while operating out of mobile caravans designed to keep pace with advancing armies. This new unit was to be aptly named the 3rd Radio Squadron Mobile (“G,” for German).

In order to perform the nearly impossible in so short a time, Turkel was given extraordinary powers to co-opt men from any U.S. unit in the United Kingdom. His long arm even reached back to the States.

I was a product of this levy. In late April 1944 I was among 10 who had trained in German at Michigan State College and were then in a code-breaking class at Vint Hill Farms Station, Warrenton, Va. We were suddenly ordered to prepare to leave, within 24 hours, by plane for London to join the 3rd Radio Squadron Mobile (R.S.M.).

Voice-Intercept Operations on the D-Day Invasion

For Detachment “A,” the code-breakers, he was able to find two young and intelligent lieutenants, Mortimer Proctor, Jr. of Proctor, Vt. (son of the governor); and Hugh Davidson, a University of Chicago graduate. They were the only ones in the squadron with previous code-breaking experience, as civilians with the Signal Corps in Washington.

With experienced British officers as teachers, we received hands-on training with real-time German messages at various places throughout southern England. The British proved to be excellent instructors and apparently we were apt pupils. On The D-Day Invasion, a 20-man echelon of Detachment “B” led by Lieutenant Gottlieb was off Omaha Beach and landed on June 9, during which two trucks sank. Their voice-intercept operations started on June 11 at Cricqueville-in-Bessin two miles south of Pointe de Hoc. By the end of the month the balance of Det. “B,” all of Det. “A,” and the nucleus of “C” were all dug-in in adjoining fields. “C” was awaiting the organizing of the XIX Tactical Air Command, to take place when Lt. Gen. George S. Patton’s Third Army went into action. This was the only period until the war ended that all detachments were “together.” After the breakout from Normandy, “B” and “C” went with the First and Third Armies respectively and “A” served both 8th Air Force Headquarters and SHAEF.

On the night of July 21 my squadron had a weird experience. The usual German night intruders were overhead trying to drop their mines to interfere with our unloading operations at Omaha Beach, and our usual antiaircraft “Fourth of July” show was in full visual and sonic bloom when suddenly, Corporal Albert Gruber, monitoring his Hallicrafter intercept set, heard a panic-stricken German pilot announce, “I’ve been hit—am losing altitude—must get rid of my load.” Before Gruber had finished writing this down on his message pad he saw a blinding flash in the field adjoining his and seconds later a blast wave knocked him off his chair.

Parachutes From Stricken Aircraft

My detachment (“A”) was in the adjoining field and I was hunkered down in my foxhole watching this Heinkel 111, tail aflame, coming in ever lower and suddenly, in the light of our exploding ack-ack fire, seeing several parachutes drop from the stricken aircraft. These were concussion mines. Some exploded setting off our own thermite grenades, kept on or in the vans to destroy them in case of imminent capture. The pressure wave from the grenades pressed me down in my hole as if an elephant were standing on my back.

About a week later the Allies broke out of their breachead, and within a few days Det. “A” left Normandy via Avranches and set up operations at the small village of Parné-sur-Roc near Laval. Our stay there was marked by a flood of activity because many German units, in retreat, were sending panic messages, some poorly enciphered, a few even “en clair.”

Cracking the Code

It was at Parné on August 13 or 14 that we intercepted a message that I recall playing an important part in breaking. Traffic analysis identified the call sign as being that of a German reconnaissance squadron. Direction finding added that the flight originated from La Spezia in Northern Italy and that the aircraft was flying westerly along the Mediterranean littoral. Armed with this information and the fact that the previous duty shift had already postulated the letter “J” I stared at the message with my mind on idle, until, suddenly, in an intuitive spurt the name of the Corsican port of Ajaccio came to me.

This helped break the entire message and we found that the German plane was reporting on a concentration of Allied landing craft in the harbor of Ajaccio. (They were to be used one or two days later for the landings in Southern France.) Ninth Air Force H.Q. became very excited when they received our break. They bombarded us with all sorts of questions. To this day I am not certain about their reasons: whether they hadn’t been previously informed about the new landings or whether they wanted to know more about what the Germans had observed.

A few days later, as Paris was being liberated, we hastily packed up and raced to Chateau Beaumont, the recently evacuated headquarters of the Luft Funkhorch Regiment West, our counterparts, located in La Celle St. Cloud just west of Paris.

The heated barracks with beds and bath were a far cry from the foxholes of Normandy. And in the Chateau proper the code-breakers occupied the tower rooms with a fireplace and a superb view of Paris down the silver lane of the Seine while the intercept operators set up their equipment in the Grand Ballroom. We stayed at La Celle St. Cloud while our “voice” detachments went on to the Ardennes in Belgium (“B”), East of Nancy (“C”), and the newly formed (“D”) at Fouron St. Pierre on the Belgo-Dutch border.

Tracking the German Anti-Aircraft Guns

During the next several months Det. “A,” still at Chateau Beaumont, monitored and decoded messages as usual. We had many adventures during this time, but at 0415—it was December 16—out of the silence of the night, the radios of Det. “A” came alive with a short but hastily sent message. It was unusual to get such traffic at night. The intercept operator took the message up the stairs to the Tower, where in front of a crackling fire, the midnight-to-0800 shift of code-breakers was on duty.

The cryptanalysts had barely started to work on the message, when, at 0419, a second message, exactly repeating the first, was brought in. Eyebrows were raised. Most unusual. This was the first time in their experience that a message had ever been duplicated. It eliminated the possibility of corruption in the code groups or a decryption error.

We quickly identified the German encryption. It was one of a family of codes we had named after musical composers, an “elgar” used by the Germans to contact their antiaircraft units. It was quickly broken, and we read “… 90 JU 52s and 15 JU 88s going from Paderborn area to area 6˚-6˚ 30´, E to 50˚ 31´-50˚ 45´ and returning by same route.” We plotted the co-ordinates on our maps as between Hofen and Monschau on the Belgo-German border. In the dim light of the tower room, eyebrows went up even higher. JU 52s were transports. JU 88s were versatile aircraft used as bombers, night fighters and occasionally as transports; we thought they would be used as transports. Never had the Germans used 105 transport planes at night.

The consensus was that so many aircraft flying into Allied airspace had to be an airborne-operations parachute drop. Our usual addressees—9th Air Force H.Q. in Luxembourg City, IXth TAC in Verviers, SHAEF at Versailles and A14F (Air Ministry Intelligence, London) were promptly notified, and in traditional fashion we received the standard “QRV”—message received.

At 0549 that morning we received a third message. It canceled the operation. This we also sent on to the higher headquarters.

De-Classification in 1996

Whatever use the Allied commanders made of our decodes remains a matter of conjecture. The fact is that the Germans did make the parachute attack early on the following morning, December 17—instead of the 16th—along the Eupen-Malmedy road having flown over the frontier between Hofen and Monschau. It was the early strike of the massive morning attack of three German armies to turn the tide of the war in the West, and launched what we call the Battle of the Bulge. Fortunately for the Allies, the delays, confusions and outright incompetence connected with German “Operation AUK” (also known as Operation STöSSER) resulted in a catastrophic drop for 1,200 Fallischirmjäger that on a smaller scale was worse than the fate they had suffered in Crete in May of 1941.

Records show that American antiaircraft battalions (possibly informed by 3rd R.S.M.’s alert) took a heavy toll on the German transports that morning. To add insult to injury, many German antiaircraft units, apparently never receiving the messages sent by Lieutenant Colonel Friedrich von Der Heydte, the paratroop commander, shot up and shot down many of their own planes.

The cryptanalysts of detachment “A” as well as various RAF Wireless Units and Hut 3 at Bletchley Park, which apparently also took down some or all of the messages, had to wait until mid-1996, when our National Security Agency finally declassified all the documents. They then learned, “The only advance intelligence of the German offensive received in low-grade air codes was the warning of the parachute landings.”

It is obvious that two hours’ warning is not very much but certainly higher headquarters should have been alerted by this unique message that meant that something more than a local counterattack was afoot.

A Mexican Standoff in Belgium

For the 3rd R.S.M. there was another, even more bizarre aspect to the confusion. Our venerable detachment “B” was encamped astride the Eupen-Malmedy road. Headquarters and the voice interceptors were lodged in the town of Jalhay west of the road but the Direction Finding Vans were located at Baraque Michel and Mt. Rigi, the highest points in Belgium, east of the road. The remnants of von Der Heydte’s parachute force (less than a hundred men) landed right between them.

Major Silverstein, Det. “B”’s commander, had been alerted to “A”’s break of the paratroop message, but only knew what direction the Germans were taking, not how deep into Allied territory they were flying. He was rudely shocked when men of the morning duty shift on December 17 ran in, carrying empty German parachutes they had picked up in the woods near town. When Sergeant Bob Siefert led his crew out to relieve the D/F operators he noticed some men filtering through the trees, but it was the guard in front of one van who cautioned him, whispering that he suspected they were Germans.

A Mexican standoff developed. The Germans were too weak to provoke a battle, and our men, armed only with carbines, were certainly not going to take them on. Major Silverstein, fearing capture and the compromise of our secret operations, contacted IXth tac in nearby Verviers requesting permission to move out immediately. But IXth tac as well as 9th Air force H.Q., were still completely unaware of the extent of the attack and advised him to wait. By day’s end, however, Silverstein took matters into his own hands and ordered “B” to move north and join Det. “D” at Fouron St. Pierre on the Dutch border. It was good that he did so because by that time a German battle group under Joachim Peiper was already threatening to capture Malmedy.

Fading Into History

In the spring of 1945 the 3rd Radio moved into Germany with the various Allied armies. Det. “A” took over a “Kurhaus” and a school (used as barracks) in the little village of Bad Vilbel near Frankfurt-am-Main presumably to be nearer to SHAEF.

When the war ended in May the other detachments eventually all moved in with us. Once the war with Japan was over, the majority of the squadron was sent home. I was discharged the day before Christmas 1945. A skeleton unit, called the 2nd—Radio Squadron under ex-Lt. Maj. Mortimer Proctor stayed on until the spring of 1946, and then it also faded into history. Interestingly, during the Korean War, the 3rd Radio was reconstituted and served for over a year in Alaska monitoring Korean and presumably Russian transmissions.

Originally Published November 21, 2014

This article originally appeared in 2015 on the Warfare History Network.

Image: Wikimedia

What If North Korea Somehow Got an Aircraft Carrier?

Sat, 23/05/2020 - 22:00

JD Work

Security, Asia

Here's a fictional account of how that could happen.

The cheers of the crowd were deafening as the sharp prow of theBaekdusan fast carrier (CVL) slid into the dark waters of the protected basin at Sinpo. The adulation may have even carried some genuine enthusiasm by those caught up in the sight of North Korea’s first aircraft carrier officially launching, mixed in of course with mandatory nationalism under compulsion for fear of “encouragement” by watchful political commissars. The formerMistral-class amphibious assault ship was nearly unrecognizable after more than a decade in the yard, resulting in profound changes to the vessel. These changes go far beyond the superficial difference of the dazzle camouflage paint scheme that replaced the earlier haze gray given to her by the original French builders of Chantiers de l’Atlantique. The oddities of the unusual, algorithmically-derived dark blue pattern were perhaps a fitting metaphor for the long, strange journey that brought this hull to North Korean shores. Bringing a new light carrier into service would be an impressive feat for any naval enterprise, let alone the Korean People’s Navy.

From Egypt to the East Sea of Korea

The complex saga began in the bizarre spring of 2020, as the world reeled under the uncertainties of pandemic. Kim Jong Un had already been in isolation out of fear of the disease, and following a cardiac scare that gained worldwide attention, would emerge even more determined to make his mark upon the global stage through his nation’s military.1 Among these assets would be a stunning set of naval capabilities, built around a ballistic missile submarine (SSB) program and the fleet to protect those boats. During these months, an intrusion attributed to the Reconnaissance General Bureau by commercial cyber intelligence services was attempting to compromise the networks of a cleared defense contractor in the United Kingdom.2 The incident was part of a long-running cyber espionage activity – known commonly as HIDDEN COBRA, Lazarus, or HERMIT – that targeted individuals associated with high-profile defense acquisition efforts to seek out information related to aviation, shipbuilding, missile development, and other critical capabilities.3

Almost overlooked in the flurry of ever-changing malware and forged documents that furthered these machinations, the UK incident was notable only in that the decoy message repurposed a glossy promotional photo from the UK Royal Navy’s Future Aircraft Carrier program. But while this specific lure was detected and the attempt defeated, it was not the last such attempt. Other efforts would persist and ultimately provide sustained access to the shipbuilder, systems integrators, and strike aviation programs. This espionage not only gave the National Defense Commission insight into the capabilities and deployments of newly introduced systems, but the aggregation of stolen documents, technical information, software code, and problem-solving correspondence allowed various Machine Industry Bureaus to circumvent years of research and development activity. Integrating this espionage haul into an ossified and overly centralized military industry was the work of almost a generation of intelligence officers, scientists, and production managers.

For all the edge that stolen intellectual property could offer, the DPRK’s heavy industry could not muster the resources and expertise to construct a major surface combatant out of nothing. To overcome this deficiency, the Korean Worker’s Party turned to the shadowy entity known informally as Office 39. This group essentially served as the organized crime racketeering function of the North Korean state, tasked with generating the illicit revenue required to keep the country functioning and the Kim family in power under the crushing weight of international sanctions. Its far-flung operations ranged from gold smuggling, drug trafficking, cybercrime and other pursuits on a massive scale.4 It would be Office 39’s access to the proceeds of these continuing criminal enterprises that would fund the operation, laundered through the vast markets of the online videogaming industry and the many quasi-legal virtual gambling ventures launched by the casinos of Macau, Manila, and Hanoi – each desperate for gamblers to replace those driven away by pandemic and the downturn of the mainland Chinese economy.

Office 39 would score its grandest coup to date as the Egyptian state collapsed into yet another endless series of coups that continued to ripple out from the Arab Spring. The regime had long established itself through corrupt relationships with key power figures that increasingly were backed by intelligence advantages offered by compromised Orascom telecommunications networks. The HIDDEN COBRA intrusion set subgroup known commonly as APT37, REAPER, Scarcruft, or RICOCHET CHOLLIMA had enabled an initial foothold in the country’s networks after the collapse of a joint venture between the Egyptian firm and the North Korean Ministry of Post and Telecommunications.5 APT37 / REAPER operators built upon this initial access to develop an unprecedented signals intelligence interception architecture across the backbone of telecom infrastructure in the region. Years later, in the frantic uncertainty before Cairo’s ultimate fall, this combination of insider knowledge and powerful friends would give Office 39 the chance to purchase what was then the nearly unserviceable Mistral-class multipurpose amphibious assault ship, ENS Anwar El Sadat.The LHD was the last surviving vessel of two purchased from France after a Gallic deal with the Russian Navy had fallen through in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea.6The Sadat’s sister ship, the Nasser, had been sunk at her higher-profile port in Alexandria by Ikwan saboteurs, and the Sadat was left to rust.

The ripple effects of serial pandemics throughout the 20s would again prove key. The near total collapse of the recreational and luxury cruise industry left hundreds of vessels at sea in makeshift flotillas, crewed by unpaid and increasingly desperate mariners abandoned by corporate headquarters which had rapidly ceased to exist.7 These ungainly, massive ships were unsuitable for merchant commerce, and poor choices as pirate motherships – although many crews tried both just to survive. Eventually, they would be destined for the shipbreakers in order to extract any value that could be salvaged. The ordinary yards of Alang and Chittagong, already under immense pressures over environmental regulation and worker safety, could not accept hulls encumbered by high profile, already years-long bankruptcy litigation – and especially would be unable to pay a master and crew whose only tenuous claim to ownership was mere possession.8

But the great decoupling had also killed many other vessels no longer needed for trade with an increasingly broken Chinese market, and like countless oil tankers and container ships, these hulls would be stripped in the newly emerging breaker yards of Africa. Here, the remnants of Belt and Road Initiative mercantilist outposts still raced to extract any resources that could be used to offset crippling debts to Beijing, heedless of legality or consequence.9 One more sale to one more shell company, paid through a Southeast Asian nation banking institution cutout, passed without notice. The Sadat would sit at anchor for nearly two years at harbor in Nacala, Mozambique; just another hulk among the many waiting to be beached and broken in a forgotten port at the wrong end of a frequently failing rail corridor.

Only commercial imagery satellites recorded when the Sadatvanished from port under cover of darkness, and even despite the high revisit rate of increasingly more capable constellations, some uncertainty would persist over exactly which night it happened. Active interest had long since faded and monitoring was reassigned to mere automated change detection algorithms, which dutifully flagged the discrepancy as being lost in the sea of other low-profile vessel movements. The system, triaged only by a bored Office of Naval Intelligence analyst, who did not speak French, apparently did not pick up on the significance of the type designator BPC (for Bâtiment de Projection et de Commandement) as he might have then tagged the vessel as an LHD. Instead, it was mistaken for one of many legacy British Petroleum entries that had never been corrected following Brexit. The error would prove costly, especially as the KPN prize crew now sailing the Sadat would embark on a route that would take her through the most desolate and empty waters imaginable.

The over 9,000 nautical mile journey would depend heavily upon Office 39’s prior experience conducting illicit transfers at sea, especially for the clandestine movement of oil to keep the Sadat’sbunkers topped up.10 Over nearly three months at sea, a quarter of the crew would perish from accident, malnutrition exacerbated illnesses, and what became an infamous purge responding to what the KPN would describe as a mutinous plot by so-called “wreckers.” The global community further failed to respond effectively when the Sadat was at last spotted approaching Indonesian waters, initially unclear on her destination. The distractions of the Taiwan crisis further delayed consensus for action as she transited east of Hokkaido. A promised interdiction operation by Russian forces from Vladivostok did not materialize when the lead Lider-2 (Project 23780M) class destroyer allegedly suffered an unspecified mechanical failure, reportedly preventing pursuit – an event which remains viewed with much skepticism by international diplomats and navalists alike.11

Outfitting

The ship once called Sadat was transformed in years-long process in the yard at Sinpo. Her flight deck was extended, and featured a new ski-jump ramp that offered a Short Takeoff But Arrested Recovery (STOBAR) capability for somewhat limited aircraft weights.12 Her obsolete and degraded onboard networks were refitted with an indigenously developed Red Star operating system.13 Somewhat surprisingly new, Iranian-origin 15 Khordad radars and missile canisters would be integrated for air defense, along with multiple CHT-02D torpedo mounts and small arms weapons stations.14 Concept graphics reported by Chinese defense analyst sources also depicted KN-23 SRBM TELs positioned on the aft deck, possibly intended to mimic the U.S. Marine Corps deployment of HIMARS systems on light amphibious warships, although the North Korean missiles have not been observed to date in handheld imagery of the platform.15

On the day of the Baekdusan’s launch, the pierside static display of light aircraft that would operate from her decks also commanded attention, with the ranks of their future pilots assembled alongside in full Nomex suits and oddly shaped augmented reality flight helmets. The two delta wing fighters, a supposedly navalized variant of the country’s indigenously developed “next generation pursuit assault plane,” had been observed through overhead commercial imagery for years. It was still unclear if the North Korean aircraft industry had produced more than a dozen airframes – nearly half of which had already been lost to mishaps during development.

One of these mishaps had claimed the third aircraft previously intended for display, where the platform was lost during the long road movement from the airstrip at Iwon down to the port in the weeks before the ceremony. Handheld imagery of the mishap had circulated among the country’s elites-only StarMesh social media network, where in virtue signaling posts they condemned the heavy transport truck driver for careless driving. It had just as quickly been censored – but not before being picked up and reported to the world by a sharp-eyed Chinese defense blogger.

The obvious gap in the display arrangement had been hastily filled with a Kimchaek unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV). While manned flight operations were still considered the prestige assignment, it was the dark composite of the cranked kite design that brought the Baekdusan its truly operational airwing. A nearly direct two-thirds scale copy of the CASIC CaiHong-7, the stealth platform had been a revolutionary development for DPRK strike capabilities despite its quintessentially 2020s vintage design.16 When fitted with beyond visual range air-to-air missiles, the UCAV could also serve in the combat air patrol (CAP) role, as a pair of Republic of Korea (ROK) KF-X fighters found to their surprise when ambushed near the Northern Limit Line a few years ago. Named for the former Korean People’s Army Air and Anti-Air Force Academy, the Kimchaek UCAV’s resemblance to the Northrup Grumman X-47B demonstrator was a constant reminder of the path not taken by the U.S. Navy. The Kimchaek fighters were also fitted for delivery of autonomous standoff naval mines, using a bolt-on kit of Chinese origin for glide, underwater propulsion, fusing and guidance that could be fitted to low-cost conventional gravity bombs that themselves were well within North Korean production capacities. This too incorporated stolen designs that could be originally traced to cyber espionage against the defense industrial base conducted by Chinese Ministry of State Security operations known as APT40, Periscope, KRYPTONITE PANDA, or GADOLINIUM.17

Implications and Outlook

Baekdusan is in many ways a counter-intuitive platform to Western eyes. The KPN still does not appear to have a genuine strategic requirement for the kind of force projection options that are the traditional role of a carrier or expeditionary strike group. However, to a dictator the investment could be justified solely on its basis as a prestige capability – to say nothing of the propaganda value in continued demonstration to domestic audiences of the Jucheideology of self-reliance. It mirrored the accomplishments of their larger neighbor in acquiring and fielding a modified CV, much as the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy managed to convert their purchase of the Varyag heavy aviation cruiser (TAKR) into the fleet’s first carrier, Liaoning.18 But this is likely not the whole story, suggesting both wider ambitions and a new strategic depth to the regime’s ultimate priority: the survival and continued rule of the Kim dynasty.

The Gorae SSB and its successors remain a key linchpin of this priority. These submarines continue to represent a significant wildcard in any potential strategic exchange – despite the relative obsolescence of their design, terrible acoustic profile, and frequent maintenance casualties.19 Even as advances in Western intelligence capabilities, prompt conventional strike options, and other left-of-launch methods increasingly threaten the DPRK mobile missile force, the ability of the Korean People’s Navy to sustain a sea-based second strike delivery platform presents an unknowable challenge to deterrence. This challenge becomes especially salient in the case of an ROK attempt at leadership decapitation, whether due to Pyongyang’s feared bolt out of the blue or Seoul’s anticipated crisis escalation scenarios.

The Baekdusan fast carrier (CVL), or drone carrier (CVLQ) as some would prefer to argue, may instead represent a substantial further investment to protect the Gorae SSB as a second strike retaliation capability, drawing upon older Soviet naval doctrine developed when facing similar correlations of forces and qualitative disadvantages. The bastion model of patrol within confined seas, where access may be controlled via strategic chokepoints or sea denial, may have unexpectedly re-emerged in part as a function of the new time and distance equations that bound the contemporary weapons engagement zone. In this, the DPRK may also be mimicking emerging thinking observed over recurring deployments of the PLAN SSBN force.20 A North Korean carrier provides the option, at least as a matter of doctrine, to delay regional or international naval intervention in order to buy necessary operating space for the survival of the Gorae and her sister boats.

It still remains to be seen if this costly and audacious program will be nothing more than a white elephant. Certainly, the debate is far from finished regarding the limited survivability of a large surface platform like a carrier in the face of contemporary precision guided munitions fires, especially given ever-increasing ranges, loiter times, sensor integration, and autonomy. The remarkable accomplishment of the Baekdusan may be merely reduced to the first flaming datum in a future peninsular conflict.

Still, one cannot help but reflect on what might have been different. The combination of factors that had to line up “just-so” for this carrier to be built was the result of remarkable North Korean tenacity, and no small degree of luck. So many opportunities existed where intervention could have halted Pyongyang’s progress, starting from the earliest cyber espionage campaigns against defense industrial base contractors. But very much like the reaction to early Chinese forays toward a blue water navy in the 1990s, serious people would not take the idea seriously. After all, everyone knew the immense hurdles of building a naval aviation warfare community to operate from a narrow deck at sea. This simply could not be achieved using a rusting hulk headed to the shipbreakers, by the kinds of people more at home in a casino than in a banker’s office or a uniform. Likewise, conventional wisdom demands that serious naval strategists focus on power projection in the open ocean, unencumbered by the distractions of littoral operations in close and confined seas.

But what if they were wrong?

JD Work serves as the Bren Chair for Cyber Conflict and Security at Marine Corps University, and as a non-resident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative. He holds additional affiliations with the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, the Elliot School of International Affairs at George Washington University, and as a senior adviser to the Cyberspace Solarium Commission. He can be found on Twitter @HostileSpectrum. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any agency of the U.S. government or other organization.

This article by JD Work first appeared at the Center for International Maritime Security on May 20.

Image: Modified aircraft carrier, Jack Cong.

Image: Modified aircraft carrier. Jack Cong.

People Are Living Longer. What Does That Mean for the Poor?

Sat, 23/05/2020 - 21:30

Justine Ina Davies, Maria Odland

Health, World

The aim is to prevent the increasing burden that multimorbidity could put on health systems, individuals, families and societies worldwide in the years to come.

With ageing come many benefits, including freedom, wisdom, perspective, and – in many cultures – respect. Unfortunately, the downside is that ageing also brings medical ailments. Many people in wealthy countries have multiple co-existing, chronic conditions. This is known as multimorbidity. In 2016, chronic conditions accounted for over two-thirds of deaths worldwide. Many of these people had more than one condition.

The number of medical conditions that people accrue increases with age. The concept of multimorbidity is well known to healthcare providers in high-income countries where there are large numbers of older people. In poorer parts of the world, such as sub-Saharan Africa, populations are younger. The focus of healthcare has been on diseases affecting these younger populations such as infectious diseases and maternal and child ill-health.

But the world is changing. The number of older people in lower income countries is growing. These countries’ health systems are not designed to care for people with chronic conditions. They are more focused on single, acute diseases. This may need to change towards more individual-based health care for chronic conditions. This is why it’s important to establish if multimorbidity is also an issue in lower income countries.

Our work shows that the impact of multimorbidity on individuals living in lower income countries is substantial. This should inform the planning of health system development which will need different medical skills, facilities, policies and resources to care for individuals with multiple chronic conditions in addition to acute single conditions.

Multimorbidity in low-income countries

Previous investments into health challenges in lower income countries are paying off. Fewer women are dying in childbirth, more children are reaching adulthood, and people are living long lives with HIV.

These healthcare successes have conspired positively with increasing country wealth and change in lifestyle and diets to result in life expectancy increasing worldwide, especially in the lower income countries. In fact, by 2050 most of the elderly population will be living in developing countries. But an ageing population means that chronic diseases and multimorbidity will increase.

Multimorbidity in lower income countries has so far been given little attention by researchers. Most research and development funding still goes to infectious diseases and those that predominantly affect mothers and young children.

We recently did a study in Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries in the world. We found that 20% of people over 40 years of age had multimorbidity – one or more infectious, non-infectious, or mental health conditions.

We also found that the chance of having multiple conditions increased with age, being female, or being unmarried. This is in line with other studies which have shown that increasing age is a risk factor for multimorbidity. People over 60 or 65 years are particularly vulnerable. In addition, research suggests that the combination of mental health conditions and physical conditions is more common among women then men. But more research is needed to map the extent of multimorbidity in different population groups. The evidence is especially low in low-income countries.

In our study, multimorbidity was more common among people with higher socioeconomic status (education and wealth). This differs from what is usually seen in high-income countries, where it is more common among poorer or less educated people. It may be that in lower income countries people who are wealthier can afford the unhealthy lifestyles that lead to multimorbidity.

More troubling, we found that multimorbidity is associated with increased disability, low quality of life, and poor physical performance in Burkina Faso. These are all outcomes that are very important to older people, as they capture health in a broader sense than just assessing medical conditions. We also found that the combination of non-communicable diseases and mental health conditions is particularly negative.

If we found these results in such a poor country, it is highly likely that multimorbidity is a major problem for older people in all parts of the world.

The double burden of disease and the health system

Large improvements have been made in tackling infectious diseases and those that affect younger people. But lower income countries are still struggling with these conditions, in addition to an increasing burden of chronic diseases and multimorbidity. This double burden of disease is overwhelming the health services. This is especially pertinent, given that health services in many developing countries are organised only to handle single conditions, and not to care for patients with multiple chronic conditions.

There’s a lack of health service factors – for example, follow-up systems and availability of doctors or nurses – needed to take care of patients with multimorbidity. There are also patient-side barriers to care – for example, the understanding of chronic conditions and their treatment. These factors culminate in other unpublished findings from our study that fewer than 10% of the people with the chronic conditions of hypertension or diabetes had their conditions adequately managed.

The prevalence of multimorbidity, the fact that conditions are not being adequately treated, and the association with outcomes that matter to patients (quality of life, physical function, and disability) mean that without rapid development of adequate health services to prevent and manage it, multimorbidity will be especially devastating in these settings.

The way forward

Our research from Burkina Faso adds to a growing body of evidence that highlights multimorbidity as a global health issue of major significance. Investments are needed by researchers, development agencies and national governments to prioritise understanding of this emerging global epidemic. The aim is to prevent the increasing burden that multimorbidity could put on health systems, individuals, families and societies worldwide in the years to come.

, Professor of Global Health, Institute for Applied Research, University of Birmingham

, Research Fellow Global Health, University of Birmingham

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Image: Reuters

Who Knew Elon Musk's Favorite Plane is the SR-71 Blackbird

Sat, 23/05/2020 - 21:00

Peter Suciu

Technology,

Any ideas as to why? We know.

Elon Musk is often seen as either a visionary that will change the world or just the latest billionaire eccentric with crazy ideas. Perhaps the man who seems to evoke not only the lifestyle but also the work ethic of Howard Hughes is a mix of both. What is clear is that he has really good taste in airplanes.

Musk's favorite is the Lockheed Martin SF-71—the legendary U.S. spy plane that could fly three times the speed of sound.

He and his girlfriend, the singer Grimes (real name Claire Elise Boucher), loved the super-fast plane so much that they named their first child after… its predecessor. In a tweet, Grimes explained that the baby boy's name, which is X Æ A-12, comes from a strange combination where X is the unknown variable, Æ is her "elven" spelling of Ai for both love and artificial intelligence, while the A-12 is the precursor to the "SR-17 (sic)."

As Grimes explained, "No weapons, no defenses, just speed. Great in battle, but non-violent."

This does beg the question why the child couldn't have been named X Æ SR-71, but as noted by Grimes' tweet she was confused over exactly what was her favorite aircraft. Moreover, while the SR-71 Blackbird became prominent during the Cold War when it was used primarily for high-altitude surveillance, the A-12 "Oxcart" was actually a faster single-seat version.

The Air Force ordered the larger SR-71 variant as it was deemed superior a "fly off" of the two aircraft. In addition there were fears that Soviet technology was catching up that could render the A-12 Oxcart obsolete.

The two-seater SR-71 Blackbird featured more radar-reflecting surface, which made it less easily detected by enemy anti-aircraft. It could fly at speeds in excess of 2,000 mph, or about three times the speed of sound, and at altitudes that were greater than 80,000 feet. It could cross continents in just a few hours, but it flew so high that pilots navigating by sight couldn't rely on ground features such as roads, but instead needed to look at the mountains, rivers and major coastlines.

When in danger, the pilot could engage the aircraft's afterburners. Simply put, if seen, the SR-71 could outrun rather than out gun anything that came at it.

The futuristic looking plane wasn't without problems however. It required a special fuel, and had to take off with minimum fuel in the tanks and then be refueled once in the air.

Perhaps Musk sees the fuel problem as a non-issue as his Tesla, Inc. has developed electric vehicles and clean energy. Still, naming a child after an airplane still seems like an odd choice—but celebrities have often gone for non-traditional names.

Yet, with respect to Grimes, the A-12 part of the baby's name isn't the only confusing part. Some have noted that the Æ isn't in any way similar to "Ai," but then again neither Grimes nor Musk have actually said how to actually pronounce the child's name. Perhaps it will come down to a case of just calling him, "Elon Musk's and Grimes' son," akin to The Artist Formerly Known As Prince.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.

Image: Lockheed Martin.

Germany's Death March: 10,000 Allied POWs Were Brutally Moved To Escape The Incoming Soviet Army

Sat, 23/05/2020 - 20:30

Warfare History Network

History,

The German Death March was truly the March to Nowhere. So how did the POWs try to survive? Read on to find out.

On February 6, 1945, the 10,000 POWs of Stalag Luft IV received their marching orders to move out. They were told it would take several days. It lasted 86, with the men covering nearly 600 miles. Prisoners were pressed onward at a grueling pace. Many soon came down with dysentery, diphtheria, pneumonia, typhus, trench foot, and tuberculosis. Frostbite resulted in the loss of limbs, toes, and fingers.

Major Leslie Caplan, one of the few doctors who endured the death march, recalled, “Some men drank from the ditches that others had used as latrines. Dysentery made bowel movements frequent, bloody, and uncontrollable. Men were forced to sleep on ground covered with feces of those who had passed before them … Our sanitation approached medieval standards, and the inevitable result was disease, suffering, and death.”
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Doctor Caplan tried desperately to get medical supplies from the Germans but was turned down. “I had no stethoscope,” he later wrote, so to examine someone, he “would kneel by the patient, expose his chest, scrape off the lice, then place my ear directly on his chest and listen.”

Often referred to as “luftgangsters” or “terror fliegers,” the air crews of the Allied air forces were not popular among the civilian population who resided in the cities. Many were marked for death if they crashed in an area where the populace was hostile toward them. Some crew members were summarily executed if snared by SS troopers or angry mobs of people for delivering such destruction to their homes.

During the march, however, the farms that dotted the countryside had not been on the receiving end of such destruction. Although it was forbidden to trade with the farmers, many guards ignored the rule and looked the other way, allowing the marchers to barter for food. Items such as watches, rings, cigarette lighters, and even chocolate were given up.

Men had to procure their own food, and there were scant supplies in the war-torn German countryside. Although they could be shot by their guards, the marchers took to stealing farm animals such as pigs and chickens. However, such livestock was scarce. Occasionally some Red Cross packages, if they were not already pilfered by the guards, arrived for them. The hunger became so intense that some POWs started eating uncooked rats they had captured.

Sometimes barns, such as the one Steve Stupak was wounded in, were used to find refuge from the winter weather. Although it was warmer, the lice and fleas were everywhere. Also, animal and human feces, plus the hundreds of unwashed bodies, littered the inside of the structures and made the stench unbearable. Some preferred to remain outside and brave the elements.

It is estimated that 1,300 men perished on the Death March. Carrol F. Dillon, author of A Domain of Heroes, wrote, “No records were kept, hence only a few cases are documented. When the men dropped by the wayside or were sent off somewhere supposedly to a hospital, their buddies never heard from them again. The survivors believe that there were many that died on the Death March. Certainly a much greater number died then we are aware of.”

This article first appeared at the Warfare History Network.

Image: Wikipedia.

HDTV Bargain Hunting: 5 OLED TVs You Can Buy for Under $2,000

Sat, 23/05/2020 - 20:00

Ethen Kim Lieser

Technology,

If you put in the time and do your homework, you don’t necessarily have to overspend. Here are five solid OLED TVs that you can buy right now that are under $2K.

Consider yourself in TV heaven. Via their next-gen tech that utilizes self-emissive pixels, OLED panels offer unrivaled picture quality, accurate colors, deepest blacks and inimitable uniformity and contrast ratios.

Despite all of this visual goodness, if you don’t watch out and control your excitement, you can easily shell out $3K, $4K or more for what is often considered the best TV panel on the planet.

But if you put in the time and do your homework, you don’t necessarily have to overspend. Here are five solid OLED TVs that you can buy right now that are under $2K.

If you want all of your high OLED expectations fulfilled and save some money, look no further than LG’s 55-inch B9 Series. In addition to eye-popping picture quality, this particular TV, which can be had for the bargain-bin price of $1,300, comes with plenty of extra goodies, namely the built-in Amazon Alexa and Apple AirPlay 2. It also boasts Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos and all of the HDMI 2.1 extras, including eARC, Auto Game Mode and Variable Refresh Rate.

If you are able to come up with another $200, you can upgrade to the 55-inch C9 Series, which features minor improvements in design and processing speeds compared to the B9. If you’re a diehard gamer, perhaps the C9 will be a better fit because it supports FreeSync and G-Sync. As an LG brand, you will also be getting the mostly reliable webOS operating system, which features a pleasant, stripped-down user interface and a decent selection of apps.

No. 3 on the list stays within the LG OLED universe—the 55-inch CX Series. Currently retailing for $1,800, this is another solid option for OLED bargain shoppers out there. Featuring LG’s latest Gen 3 α9 4k processor, you’ll be receiving top-notch upscaling technology, HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision. In terms of overall picture quality and performance, the CX is a bit like the B9 or C9 on steroids.

Next up is Sony’s 55-Inch 4K OLED HDTV, which can be yours for a reasonable $1,500. Like LG’s OLED panels, the picture quality on this set if pretty remarkable—as you’ll be getting the perfect black levels and unrivaled contrast ratio. The panel’s highly rated response time also works well for today’s graphic-intensive video games and action flicks.

Finally, let’s stick with the Sony A8G OLED and add another 10 inches to it, which puts the price tag right at $2K. That extra screen size in 4K with 8 million hard-working pixels will surely boost your cinema-like experience in your living room. Sony’s Acoustic Surface, X-Reality PRO, IMAX Enhanced, Dolby Vision, Motionflow XR, Google Home and Alexa compatibility and other awesome perks will definitely make you feel like you got a steal on this OLED TV.

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek and Arirang TV. He currently resides in Minneapolis.

Everyone Is Taking Today's Peace Between India And Pakistan For Granted

Sat, 23/05/2020 - 19:30

Sebastien Roblin

Security, Asia

It's one of the world's most dangerous nuclear hotspots.

Here's What You Need To Remember: Despite diverging political agendas on the Indian subcontinent, there should be a common interest in limiting the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the likelihood of nuclear war. Growing arsenals in India and Pakistan serve to increase the catastrophic human cost of a potential conflict between the too, without evidently decreasing the frequency of inflammatory episodes of violence that spike tensions between the nuclear-armed states.

While the United States is preoccupied by the threat of nuclear weapons in the hands of potential adversaries such as Russia, China or North Korea, the danger of nuclear conflict may actually be greatest between two of its allies, Pakistan and India. The two nations have engaged in four wars starting since their partition along religious lines in 1947. A fifth could be drastically more costly, as their nuclear capabilities continue to grow and diversify.

Several years ago I made the acquaintance of a Pakistani nuclear science student in China. Curious about the thinking behind his country’s nuclear program, I asked if he really believed there was a possibility that India would invade Pakistan. “There’s still a lot of old-school thinkers in the Congress Party that believe India and Pakistan should be united,” he told me.

I doubt there are many observers outside of Pakistan who believe India is plotting to invade and occupy the Muslim state, but a feeling of existential enmity persists. The third conflict between the two countries in 1971 established India’s superiority in conventional warfare—not unexpectedly, as India has several times Pakistan’s population.

The bone of contention has always been the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. At the time of partition, the predominantly Muslim state was politically divided over which nation to join. When Pakistani-allied tribesmen attempted to force the issue, the Hindu maharaja of the region chose to accede to India, leading to the first war between India and Pakistan. Ever since, the line of control between the Indian and Pakistan side has remained bitterly contested, with artillery and sniper fire routinely exchanged. Pakistan intelligence services have infiltrated insurgents and plotted attacks across the border for decades, and Indian security troops have been implicated in human-rights violations and killings of the locals as a result of their counterinsurgency operations.

Pakistan does have to fear the potential of an Indian counterstrike intended to retaliate for a terrorist attack by Pakistani-aligned groups, such as the killing of 166 in Mumbai by Lashkar-e-Taiba in 2008 or the attack on Indian parliament in 2001 by Jaish-e-Muhammad. In both cases, the attackers had ties with Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence, and Islamabad has shown limited willingness or ability to crack down on these groups. Complicating matters, civilian control of the military is far from consolidated in Pakistan, and it would be quite possible for ISI or some other agency to carry out such activities on its own initiative without the knowledge or support of the head of state.

India’s military has formulated a “Cold Start” doctrine to enable its forward-deployed land forces to launch an armored assault into Pakistani territory on short notice in response to a perceived provocation from Islamabad. This new strategy was devised after the Indian Army’s armored strike corps took three weeks to deploy to the border after the attack on the Indian parliament in 2001, by which time Pakistan had already mobilized its own troops.

Islamabad sees nuclear weapons as its deterrent against a conventional attack, and Cold Start in particular. This is demonstrated by its refusal to adhere to a “No First Use” policy. Pakistan has an extensive plutonium production capacity, and is estimated to possess 130 to 140 warheads, a total that may easily increase to 220 to 250 in a decade, according to a report by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.

Many of the new weapons are smaller, short-range tactical weapons intended for targeting frontline troops. To enable a second-strike capability, Pakistan has also empowered local commanders to launch retaliatory nuclear strikes in case the chain of command is disrupted.

While battlefield nuclear weapons are less likely to cause the mass civilian casualties that a strike against a densely populated city would produce, they are deeply worrying in their own way: a state may be more tempted to employ tactical nuclear weapons, and perceive doing so as being intrinsically less risky. However, many simulations of nuclear war suggest that tactical-nuclear-weapon usage rapidly escalates to strategic weapons.

Furthermore, tactical nuclear weapons are necessarily more dispersed, and thus less secure than those stationed in permanent facilities. These issues led the U.S. Army to at first reorganize its tactical nuclear forces in the 1960s, and largely abandon them after the end of the Cold War.

Pakistan fields nearly a dozen different types of missiles to facilitate this strategy, developed with Chinese and North Korean assistance. Ground based tactical systems include the Hatf I, an unguided ground-based rocket with a range of one hundred kilometers, and the Nasr Hatf IX, which can be mounted on mobile quad-launchers. Longer reach is provided by Ghauri II and Shaheen II medium-range ballistic missiles, which can strike targets up to around 1,600 and 2,500 kilometers, respectively.

The Pakistani Air Force’s American-made F-16 fighters are also believed to have been modified to deploy nuclear weapons. The older F-16As and Bs of the Thirty-Eighth Fighter Wing and the newer Cs and Ds of the Thirty-Ninth are both believed to be based near nuclear-weapon storage facilities. The PAF’s five squadrons of Mirage IIIs, based in Karachi and Shorkot, meanwhile, have been modified to launch the domestically-produced Ra’ad nuclear Air-Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM), with a range of 350 kilometers. New JF-17 fighters jointly produced with China are also thought to be capable of carrying the Ra’ad ALCM.

The Pakistani Navy lacks a nuclear strike capability, but appears interested in acquiring one. In January of this year, it released a video claiming to show a test launch of a Babur-3 submarine-launched cruise missile. The domestically produced Babur is similar to the Tomahawk, and designed to approach its target at low altitude to avoid detection. Pakistan already possesses land-based TEL vehicles to deploy the nuclear-capable weapon.

Reflecting its superior conventional abilities, India does adhere to a “No First Use” nuclear weapons policy. Its security posture is also complicated by long lasting tensions with China, dating back to a border war in 1962 in which Beijing seized territory in the Himalayas. Today, China is closely allied economically and militarily with Pakistan, and even has a naval base in Gwadar as part of a strategy to envelop India. India, by contrast, continues to receive much of its weaponry from Russia, but does not enjoy the same kind of military alliance. It has instead dramatically expanded civilian nuclear cooperation with the United States and other nations in the last decades.

India possesses a smaller number of nuclear weapons, estimated in 2015 to range between ninety and 120. However, New Delhi recently acquired a full nuclear triad of air-, land- and sea-based nuclear platforms when it deployed its first home-produced nuclear-powered submarine, the INS Arihant. The Arihant is capable of launching a dozen K-15 Sagarika submarine-launched ballistic missiles. However, these are limited to a range of 750 kilometers, and are thus incapable of reaching the major inland cities of Pakistan or China, a shortcoming India is attempting to address with new K-4 missiles, derived form the land-based Agni-III. New Delhi intends to produce three more nuclear submarines over the years, while Pakistan is considering building one of their own.

India’s chief nuclear arm is thought to lay in its Mirage 2000H and Jaguar fighter-bombers, which can carry nuclear gravity bombs. In 2016, India signed a contract for thirty-six nuclear-capable fourth-generation Rafale fighters from France, further enhancing its aerial striking power. India has also modified its Su-30 fighter-bombers to carry the BrahMos cruise missiles with a range of five hundred kilometers. These could theoretically carry nuclear warheads, though none are believed to have been so equipped so far.

India also has its own array of ground-based nuclear ballistic missiles. The most numerous are slow-firing Prithvi short-range ballistic missiles. Twenty mobile Agni-1 ballistic missiles with a range of seven hundred kilometers are also deployed along the border with Pakistan, while ten heavier Agni-II systems with a range of two thousand kilometers are situated in the northwest for potential strikes on China. India also possesses a small number of rapid-deploying Agni III missiles with a range of 3,500 kilometers, and is developing an Agni IV MRBM and Agni VI ICBM with sufficient range to hit Chinese cities on the Pacific coast.

If there is any silver lining to this steady escalation in nuclear firepower, it’s that neither India nor Pakistan appears to possess chemical or biological weapons. (India completed the destruction of its stock of mustard gas in 2009.) However, the potential for catastrophic loss of human life if nuclear warheads rain down on the cities of the Indian subcontinent is self-evident.

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi and Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif showed goodwill in a surprise meeting in 2015. Unfortunately, neither state appears capable of shaking out of its intractable pattern of conflict, driven by domestic political forces, which makes diplomatic accommodation difficult. The struggle for Kashmir occupies an important part of Pakistani national identity, and there has yet to be a civilian head of state in Islamabad with the will and authority to bring an end to cross-border infiltration and support for terrorist or insurgent fighters. For its part, the Indian Army has failed to respect local Kashmiri leaders and significantly improve its human-rights record.

In 2016 the killing of Kashmiri militant Burhan Wani led to an outbreak of domestic civil unrest in Kashmir that resulted in dozens of civilian deaths. After attackers killed seventeen Indian Army troops in Uri on September 18, the Indian army launched a cross-border raid under murky circumstances ten days later, followed by heavy exchanges of artillery and sniper fire in October and November that killed or injured dozens of civilians and soldiers on both sides of the Line of Control.

The United States sits awkwardly astride the two states. During the Cold War, the United States tilted in favor of Pakistan due to India’s good relations with the Soviet Union. Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, against the advice of the State Department, even dispatched a carrier task force in a futile attempt to dissuade India from its support of Bengali independence fighters. However, in recent decades, U.S. diplomacy has moved gradually in favor of democratic India, both due to its potential as a future superpower and its role as a counterbalance to Chinese influence. The role played by President Clinton in helping negotiate the end of the Kargil conflict in 1999 stood as a key turning point in the region—and marked one of the most dangerous confrontations in recent history, as it two nuclear-armed states were at risk of entering into full-scale conflict.

U.S. relations with Pakistan, meanwhile, have worsened despite a continuing flow of American arms for the Pakistani military. This mutual distrust is due to the presence of Islamic militant groups on Pakistani soil and U.S. drone strikes targeting them. Washington and Islamabad have genuinely diverging interests in regards to Afghanistan, the latter desiring to control Afghanistan out of fear that it might otherwise fall under Indian influence. Pakistan, however, can fall back on its relations with China if the U.S. alliance collapses, leading to a complicated diplomatic balancing act.

Despite diverging political agendas on the Indian subcontinent, there should be a common interest in limiting the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the likelihood of nuclear war. Growing arsenals in India and Pakistan serve to increase the catastrophic human cost of a potential conflict between the too, without evidently decreasing the frequency of inflammatory episodes of violence that spike tensions between the nuclear-armed states.

India and Pakistan will of course retain their nuclear arms, and continue to see them as vital deterrents to attack. However, for such policies to remain tenable in the long run, the longtime adversaries must seek to bring an end to a pattern of recurring conflict that is entering its seventh decade this year.

Sébastien Roblin holds a master’s degree in conflict resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing and refugee resettlement in France and the United States. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring. This piece was originally featured in March 2017 and is being republished due to reader's interest.

Image: Reuters

The Effect of Coronavirus on the Afghan Economy

Sat, 23/05/2020 - 19:00

Hanif Sufizada

Security, Middle East

Could COVID-19 make decades of carnage even worse?

After the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in December 2019 in Wuhan, China, and then spreading to many parts of the country and more than one hundred locations around the world, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared coronavirus a pandemic.

According to statistics released by the end of this date, the virus has spread to almost every corner of the world and infected almost 5,000,000 people, of which over 300,000 have died and around 1,800,000 have recovered. It has been speculated by many medical professionals that the actual total death rate is much higher due to people dying at home, the inability to test everyone, and deaths attributed to other illnesses not linked to the disease. Coronavirus spread quickly in European countries, especially Italy and Spain. Likewise, it spread quickly in the Middle East hitting Iran, Pakistan, India, and of course, Pakistan.

Because of declining demand in world markets due to the pandemic, many companies have been shutting down, leading to unprecedented levels of unemployment around the world-amounting to 36.5 million in the United States according to the U.S. Department of Labor. It looks like the situation will not become normal anytime soon. The private sector, especially non-financial corporations, has also resorted to borrowing. The UN and World Bank have mentioned that we will witness a sharp decline in economic activity around the world in the first half of this year, and continue for many months thereafter.

The Afghan Economic Impact

From January 1 to April 11, nearly 243,000 people crossed back into Afghanistan from Iran, according to the International Organization for Migration. Iran has been hit hard by coronavirus with it causing a major blow to its already shaky economy. But the influx of returnees, without a clear coronavirus diagnosis, brought serious threats with them to Afghanistan, which the current government, embroiled in a political crisis and negotiations with the Taliban, may not be able to address on its own. Recently, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan helped nearly 91,486 Afghans stranded in different countries to return home. This included 70,000 people from Pakistan, 13,600 from the UAE, 5,400 from India, 2,000 from Turkey, 300 from Qatar, and 186 people from Kazakhstan. Also, 634 inmates from different countries were released and helped return to Afghanistan. According to the Ministry of Public Health of Afghanistan on May 19, 7,653 positive cases of the coronavirus have been reported so far, with Kabul (2,231 cases) and Herat (1,286 cases) ranking first and second, respectively. Of these, 178 people have died and about 850 have been recovered so far. But people are skeptical of the Ministry of Public Health's statistics.

Afghanistan is currently running short of sufficient resources and equipment to cope with the outbreak of the coronavirus. The virus cannot only cause a health crisis in Afghanistan, but also an economic crisis. The pandemic has shaken the world economy. However, the people of Afghanistan have not been serious about flattening the curve.

The serious economic consequences that can be expected from the coronavirus include:

The unprecedented decline in business activity. Coronavirus will further damage business activities, especially the small and medium enterprises which make 80 percent of Afghan businesses. Like other countries where firms have been shut down, here in Afghanistan, national and international flights have been suspended indefinitely. Other manufacturing and service companies have also halted their operations or completely shut down. The pandemic could further damage informal businesses because they neither have insurance nor access to bank loans. If the coronavirus spread worsens within Afghanistan, it will have a detrimental effect on market supply and demand. A decline in business activity will further slow economic growth and reduce government revenue. A recent study conducted by Biruni Institute concluded that, due to sluggish activity, the Afghan economy will contract by 3.3 percent at least in their moderate scenario and 9.9 percent in an acute coronavirus scenario. In addition, the $1 billion reduction in U.S. aid to Afghanistan is expected to take a heavy toll on the already fledgling economy.

Increased food prices. Afghanistan is an import-driven economy, with more than 80 percent of its food imported from other countries. With the spread of the coronavirus in neighboring nations such as Pakistan and Iran, imports may decrease as these countries become aware of their own domestic consumption. UN Food and Agriculture Organization senior economists and agricultural analysts have warned that lockdowns and high food purchases may increase global food inflation. Despite a large supply of cereals and oilseeds by major exporters, the hoarding of commodity items by large importers such as big companies and governments is enough to create a crisis. That is why, in just the first month into the outbreak, Kabul witnessed a dramatic increase in the price of food, especially flour. The authorities, thankfully, intervened in a timely manner and took measures to prevent a dramatic increase in food prices around the country. Prior to the news of the coronavirus outbreak, the price of 50 kg of flour was up to 1,400 Afghanis ($19), but in just one day the price of 50 kg of flour skyrocketed between 1,900 ($25) to 2,500 Afghanis or $33, forcing some people to buy food at a high price. Afghanistan has strategic reserves in twenty-two provinces with a capacity of 263,000 metric tons of food, but currently, it has 20,212 metric tons of wheat in its stock. It is noteworthy that India has also pledged to provide 75,000 tons of wheat to Afghanistan. In April, India shipped the first consignment of 5,022 metric tons of wheat to Afghanistan to ensure food security during these trying times.

The Afghan Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock (MAIL) has announced that it can merely afford to distribute food for three months from the national strategic reserve. According to MAIL, six million tons of wheat are needed annually, of which four million and five hundred thousand tons are harvested and about two million tons of wheat is imported from the neighboring countries. But last year, Afghanistan imported $656 million worth of flour and wheat from the neighboring countries. In late April 2020, President Ashraf Ghani announced a bread distribution program to take place initially in Kabul, Balkh, Herat, Kunduz, Nangarhar, and Kandahar. The government has now decided to extend the program to the remaining twenty-eight provinces of the country to help the needy and stabilize prices. 

Rising unemployment. In 2019, the unemployment rate in Afghanistan was about 1.52 percent according to the World Bank. If on the one hand, the current political crisis and peace talks with the Taliban remain unresolved, and on the other, the number of people infected with the virus grows exponentially, I am afraid the unemployment rate in the country will increase dramatically. The National Union of Afghanistan Workers & Employees said last week that approximately two million workers and employees have lost their jobs due to the spread of the coronavirus and preventive measures like the lockdowns in the cities. The Ministry of Economy warned earlier that unemployment in Afghanistan will increase by 40 percent and poverty will increase by 70 percent because of unemployment and the spread of the coronavirus. And seeing that informal businesses account for 80 percent of the country's economic activity, quarantining cities will further increase unemployment thus aggravating the economic constraints.

A Big Blow to Exporters. Afghanistan mainly exports fruits to countries such as India, Pakistan, and others. If the coronavirus situation worsens, Afghanistan's exports may see an unprecedented decline due to border closures. Transport restrictions, such as the restrictions on international air travel, will also cause serious damage to the already struggling economy. The coronavirus will dramatically influence the country’s exporting strategy, especially with new standards in the food and agriculture sector. Pakistan had closed its border with Afghanistan but announced in April that it would open the two border crossing points thrice a week to facilitate the entrance of cargo trucks and containers into Afghanistan. On May 17, Pakistan decided to open its border crossings—Torkham in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Chaman in Balochistan—for six days a week to facilitate cross-border trade.

Recommendation to the Afghan government

1. Serious Enforcement of the Anti-Hoarding Law. To prevent commercial opportunism in the free market system that prevails in Afghanistan, Articles 800 and 801 as well as Articles 900 to 905 of the Afghan Penal Code considers hoarding a crime. Since hoarding disrupts the economic order of society, the Afghan government must act seriously in accordance with the provisions of the law. Merchants and shopkeepers must work shoulder-to-shoulder with the government. Last month, food markets in Kabul saw a large influx of people, but fears and threats of the coronavirus and the need for people to hoard food resulting in profiteering. In the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, the government must act more seriously and businessmen must be fair.

2. Strengthen Strategic Grain Reserves. Over the past decade, Afghanistan has twice experienced severe shortages of wheat due to declining production and the threat of wheat supply from the region's export markets. As a result, large numbers of Afghans, especially those living in rural and remote areas, have faced a shortage of wheat. The government these days needs to increase its strategic reserves. The government must import more flour from countries that it has good trade relations with and can easily transit import, and export with Afghan traders before the spread of the virus is uncontrollable.

3. Increase Investment in the Health Sector. Afghanistan's public health sector is weak in general, which makes its population vulnerable to the rapid spread of the coronavirus. Currently, there are only two coronavirus testing labs with a total capacity of nearly 2,000 tests per day. There are four in Kabul (National Public Health Lab, National Veterinary Lab, Afghan-Japan Hospital, and Military Hospital), and one each in Herat, Kandahar, Nangarhar, Balkh, Paktya, and Kunduz. A new one-hundred-bed coronavirus hospital is now open in Herat. The Afghan-Japan hospital initially could not conduct even a hundred tests per day when it started operations. Now it can do at least six hundred tests per day, which is still not sufficient given the alarming number of people at risk.

Additionally, health workers are more prone to the virus. According to Public Health officials, more than 350 medical staff have been infected with the virus. This may put serious pressure on the health system, which will ultimately cause adverse economic effects in the country. In the absence of the necessary health facilities and adequate health workers, the increasing number of deaths will cause more damage to the workforce, and companies and small and large entrepreneurs will be harmed.

4. Quarantine Affected Cities and Create a Safety Net. The government should create a stronger safety net with the cooperation of international organizations and distribute food and other basic necessities to the people. And if it is in the power of the government, it should help the people with the distribution of cash via assistance programs. Although this may seem impractical, it will help the government save the country. How much is a human life worth? To prevent the rapid spread of the coronavirus, the government should have mandated compulsory quarantine in areas most exposed to the coronavirus much earlier. Still, people are very indifferent to lockdowns. Only recently, hundreds of people were out in the city doing their Eid shopping despite the fact that the government extended lockdown measures until May 25 across the country.

5. Support the Private Sector. Since small and large domestic businesses will be affected by the pandemic, the government should assist them with tax exemptions or subsidies. As the coronavirus spreads, private investors are likely to leave the country, which would be a major blow to the economic cycle. In order to ensure that there is no disruption in the food supply chain and other basic necessities of the citizens, the customs tariffs, especially the tariffs imposed on foodstuffs or raw foodstuffs, should be reduced or be put at zero.

6. Handle Financial Markets Disruption. The Central Bank of Afghanistan, as it is sensitive to the risks of banks in developed countries, must be prepared to respond to the turmoil in the financial markets. To restore financial stability and boost growth, it may need to reduce interest rates and inject liquidity. It is worth mentioning that with the global infection of coronavirus, the issue of transmission of this virus through coins and paper money has also been considered. Afghanistan is a country where cash is still a common mode of financial transactions. The WHO announced on its website that it has not yet conducted a specific study on the rate at which viruses can be transmitted through banknotes and coins, but in general coronavirus can survive for several days on various types of surfaces. The organization strongly recommends that people use electronic money transfer tools as much as possible and wash their hands thoroughly if they come in contact with banknotes and coins. Therefore, the Afghan government should make sure to inform people that they should wash their hands, including after handling money—especially if they are eating or touching food. The government may also explore ways to collect old money from the market.

7. Observe Strict Transparency in International Aid. The international community has so far pledged over $600 million to Afghanistan to help the country in its fight against coronavirus. Of that amount, $100 million was provided by the World Bank, 117 million euros were pledged by the EU, $50 million was pledged by the Asian Development Bank, $35 million was promised by the United States, and $220 million in loans were granted by the International Monetary Fund. Other countries such as China, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, and the Czech Republic also provided material aid—in many cases in the form of medical equipment. The government needs to undertake transparent management and spending of the aid money.

Afghanistan’s Future

Now that Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani have signed a power-sharing deal, they should pay serious attention to addressing the coronavirus crisis in the country besides prompting entry into intra-Afghan negotiations with the Taliban, who are hampering and harming the coronavirus efforts across the country. The United States on the other hand should also act more fairly in helping Afghanistan at this difficult time of the crisis. A serious effort by the Afghan government, the United States, and the Taliban will not only help Afghanistan to avoid a major human catastrophe, but also salvage its nascent economy from the coronavirus pandemic storm.

Hanif Sufizada is a former Director of Private Sector Development at the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock in Afghanistan. Currently, he manages higher educational programs at the Center for Afghanistan Studies at University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Image: Reuters

Failure At Dieppe: The World War II Allies' First Invasion Of France Was Turned Back

Sat, 23/05/2020 - 18:30

Warfare History Network

History, Europe

The Allies learned bitter lessons during the August 1942 Dieppe Raid, which helped with the success of Operation Overlord two years later.

By early 1942, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was still unable to boast a single victory in the field against Germany. Under enormous pressure both at home and abroad, he hoped a large-scale cross-channel raid, code-named Operation Jubilee, would send a clear message to the world that England was still very much in the fight.

The combined operation, deemed a reconnaissance in force by Churchill, would determine what resistance was likely to be encountered in an attempt to seize an all-weather port by frontal assault. It was a view that fell into line with that of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who had wanted to launch a sizable amphibious landing under fire as a prelude to a much larger operation (Operation Overlord) planned in the years ahead. With the ports of the Pas de Calais considered too heavily defended, the gaze of the interservice planning committee came to rest upon the small French resort town of Dieppe.

The thousand-year-old seaport derived its name from Norman adventurers who found its Diep, or natural inlet, to be an ideal anchorage. The harbor is located in a mile-wide gap at the mouth of the Arques River approximately two miles west of center of an 11-mile strip of coast. Backed by two wide boulevards, villas, and a casino, the open beaches were flanked by two commanding headlands at Berneval to the east and Varengeville in the west, each of which boasted formidable German gun batteries.

It would be a difficult nut to crack because the port, being so close to the English coast, was a vital link in the enemy chain of coastal defenses. The beachfront and cliffs had been fortified with reams of barbed wire and strategically placed strongholds supported in depth by countless machine-gun nests and mortar emplacements bolstered by medium and heavy artillery batteries sighted to cover the beaches and sea approaches.

Combined Operations, under newly appointed chief Lord Louis Mountbatten, finalized the details for Jubilee, which, in reality, had been on the drawing board for some months in one form or another. With available landing craft able to transport approximately 6,000 troops and tanks across the Channel, the bold objective of the raid was to occupy the port of Dieppe, establish a defensive perimeter around the town, inflict as much damage as possible to docks and enemy facilities during the course of a single tide, and then withdraw to England.

The planning, however, was based on the mistaken belief that fewer than 2,000 Germans manned the shore defenses. In fact, close to 6,500 experienced troops of the 302nd Infantry Division were on station with strong mobile reinforcements close by. Instead of outnumbering the defenders three to one, the invaders would be facing the enemy on even terms.

For air cover, the Royal Air Force committed over 70 squadrons to Operation Jubilee, 48 of which were fighters, to form a protective umbrella over the beaches. Opting to forego a softening-up bombardment for fear of alerting the Germans, the RAF would instead provide fighter-bomber support to naval shore parties and ground troops fighting their way off the beaches.

Outnumbering the Germans in the air three to one, the RAF viewed the raid as an opportunity to force the Luftwaffe to do battle on its terms. With all in readiness, it was now a matter of selecting the troops to carry out the operation.

The 2nd Canadian Division had been training in England for nearly three years, but had yet to see combat. The divisional officers were chafing at the bit for operational experience while the restless troops, bored with home uty and frustrated by countless exercises, wanted action. With the men having undertaken extensive training in amphibious assaults, the Canadian High Command insisted that its troops take the lead role in the raid. With the die cast, the eager young men from the Rockies, prairies, and Maritime Provinces of Canada appeared destined to finally get their baptism of fire.

The moonless night of August 18 was the last date in 1942 that offered the conditions of time and tide suitable for the operation. With the new Churchill tanks already embarked onto their landing craft, the assault force of 6,086 officers and men began boarding their ships. Loaded down with full kit and believing they were embarking on another tedious exercise, the grumbling troops filed through the companionways below deck to their assigned areas.

The banter of the men, however, quickly fell silent as unit leaders began distributing maps and aerial photographs in preparation for detailed briefings. As the troops listened intently to their officers, naval crews in numerous harbors along the British coast busied themselves in preparation for putting to sea. Shuffling, shadowy figures moved to and fro along the quays as Aldis lamps flashed signals directing smaller craft to their flotilla positions. In an atmosphere of excitement and high expectation the 252 vessels, under the command of Maj. Gen. J.H. Roberts, slipped away from their English coastal ports to negotiate the 70 miles of seaway to Dieppe.

The various units had been organized into specific groups, each with a clearly defined task that had been studied and rehearsed. Prior to the main assaults, two flanking attacks would see the British No. 4 Commando put the battery near Varengeville out of action, while No. 3 Commando would deal with the batteries at Berneval, thus clearing the way for the five landings.

Scottish Saskatchewan Regiment was Tasked with the Difficult Assignment of Completing Many Objectives, Including Overwhelming the Stronghold at Les Quatres Vents Farm

The Royal Regiment of Canada, along with elements of the Canadian Black Watch, would land on Blue Beach at the small resort village of Puys to secure the east headland at Berneval and capture a gun battery east of Puys. It was imperative that these eastern defenses be silenced ahead of the main landings.

In a simultaneous landing farther west at Pourville, the Scottish Saskatchewan Regiment would disembark on Green Beach. Theirs was a difficult assignment with a number of key objectives. First, they were to offer direct flank support to the landings on the main beaches by clearing the ridge to the east and capturing the radar station sited nearby, then they were to push on ahead and overwhelm the stronghold at Les Quatres Vents Farm, and finally take the battery on the west headland in the rear.

Thirty minutes later, with the beachhead at Pourville secured, the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders would land in a second wave to pass through the Saskatchewans and link up with the main attacking force and its tanks to capture St. Aubin airfield and the headquarters of the German division at Arques la Battaille.

While the Camerons were coming ashore at Pourville, the main effort would see the Essex-Scottish Regiment land in eastern Dieppe at Red Beach and the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry land in western Dieppe on White Beach.

To support the main landings, Churchill tanks of the 14th Canadian Army Tank Battalion would simultaneously undertake the first amphibious tank assault in history. Having been rushed into service despite limited trials and an unreliable reputation, the new Churchills were deemed ideally suited to infantry support and had been waterproofed and fitted with a unique exhaust attachment that would allow them to come ashore from a depth of up to seven feet.

A colorful unit called Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal, made up of French Canadians, would be held in floating reserve. When Dieppe was secured, they would be landed to occupy and maintain an inner perimeter before forming the rear guard covering the final withdrawal through the town to the beaches. To add salt to the German wound, a Royal Marine cutting-out party, acting in the finest traditions of the navy, would dash into the harbor to remove 40 German invasion barges and take them back to England.

Steaming through the inky blackness of the English Channel, the convoy cleared the German minefields and arrived undetected eight miles off the French coast shortly before 0300 hours on the morning of August 19. Holding outside the range of German radar, the escorting destroyers immediately took up their stations east and west of the headquarters ship, HMS Calpe, to act as the eyes and ears of the expedition. Naval personnel aboard the landing ships began to lower the landing craft into the water. It was a noisy, tedious process leaving many convinced the sound must surely have carried to the German shore defenses—but it had not.

The commandos had already departed toward the two headlands as the troops destined for Puys and Pourville were loaded onto their landing craft. As officers moved reassuringly among the soldiers, the men began to blacken their faces and arms; some rechecked equipment, many steadied their nerves with the repetition of orders, while others remained silent, lost in their own thoughts, wondering if they would survive the dawn.

As the LCPs took up station behind the gunboats leading them in, the most hazardous seaborne operation conceived or attempted up that point of the war was underway. There was no turning back.

The run in across the calm, misted waters was unfolding smoothly until some of the landing craft carrying the Royal Regiment of Canada mistakenly formed up behind the wrong gunboat; 20 vital minutes were lost sorting out the confusion. Would they now be able to make it to the beach on time—or even in time to carry out their tasks?

This setback was followed at 3:50 am by the first disaster of the raid, when the gunboat and 23 landing craft carrying No. 3 Commando to Berneval were suddenly illuminated by star shells. Through pure chance, the small Allied force had blundered into a convoy of formidably armed German trawlers and E-boats making for Dieppe harbor. In the brief firefight that ensued, the lead gunboat lost her wireless station and was left a wreck, her guns knocked out and most of her crew wounded.

Many of the small wooden landing craft were sunk or scattered, making it highly unlikely that the commandos’ mission could succeed. Without communications, the gunboat was unable to report what had happened. The flashes of gunfire, however, had been observed from the command ship, leaving General Roberts gravely concerned. He knew that many lives hinged on the commandos successfully silencing the three 8-inch and four 4.2-inch guns of the Berneval battery.

Fortuitously, one of the landing craft, having avoided the engagement, held its course to land three officers and 17 men undetected on the narrow beach of Bellevile-sur-mer. Armed with only their personal weapons and one 2-inch mortar, the commandos scaled the cliff face to engage the Germans. Their harassing fire was so effective that the Berneval guns failed to fire an effective shot during the main landings.

The No. 4 Commando contingent landed without incident on the extreme right flank. In a textbook action, the men blew up the six 6-inch guns of the Varangeville battery and by 0730 hours were on their way back to England. The mission, carried out with daring and skill, would be the only complete success of the entire operation.

By closely coordinating the timing of the flank assaults at Puys and Pourville, the invaders hoped to minimize the chance of alerting the Germans’ main defenses, but the Royal Regiment of Canada was already in trouble. Having not made up the time during the confusion on the run in, the Canadian force had broken into two waves instead of one and would hit the narrow Blue Beach at Puys nearly 20 minutes late and in full daylight. Their protective smoke screen, dispersed prematurely by the breeze, failed to conceal their approach as German gunfire confirmed that the element of surprise had been lost.

With bullets already striking the metal ramps, the tension was almost unbearable as the men steeled their nerves and moved to the forward section of their landing craft ready to disembark. When the LCPs struck the beach, the troops surged forward into a hell few could have ever imagined. Sheltered in trenches and pillboxes, the waiting Germans opened up with a heavy and murderously accurate deluge of fire. The effect was devastating.

The 300 yards from the shoreline to the head of the beach were soon littered with the bodies of the dead and wounded as most of the first wave was annihilated. The few who had cleared the shingle unscathed huddled for dear life against a 12-foot stone sea wall as German shells tore up every square inch of the beach behind them.

While teams tried to blow breaches in the wire, the men beneath the wall found themselves exposed to enfilade fire from a blockhouse overlooking the beach.

The concrete fortification claimed scores of troops as its guns swept the outer face of the wall until an officer, leading from the front, worked his way forward to throw a grenade through the embrasure, killing the occupants, then falling dead himself.

With fire raining down upon them from all angles, the men pinned on the beach frantically signaled the incoming troops to turn back but it was too late. The Germans, now incorporating mortars, let loose a frenzied inferno of explosives and flying shrapnel that cut the next wave to pieces. An officer recalled that within five minutes, “an assaulting battalion on the offensive [had been reduced] to something less than two companies on the defensive, hammered by fire they could not locate.”

With German guns commanding the only access point off the beach, the surviving Royals were trapped. As casualties mounted by the second, and with virtually no radio contact with the headquarters ship, the situation seemed utterly hopeless. Salvation arrived in the form of strafing runs by RAF fighters, supported by naval bombardment that had the German gun crews ducking for cover.

During the lull, the commanding officer, Colonel Douglas E. Catto, desperate to get his men off the beach and onto the high ground, sent Bren gunners to the western edge of the beach to subdue German fortifications on the opposite slope. Showing exemplary leadership, Catto and an NCO then scaled the western edge of the sea wall and began cutting through the wire by hand. Exposed to enemy fire, Catto toiled for over half an hour to clear a path, then rallied his men to follow him through. Only 20 made it before heavy machine-gun fire sealed off the opening.

“From Blue Beach: Is There Any Possible Chance of Getting us Off?”

Finding himself cut off from the battalion, Catto pressed on to the top of the gully, clearing the Germans from a number of houses, but soon found the roads beyond heavily patrolled by enemy troops. The small band, now isolated from the battle, was forced to find cover in the nearby woods where it remained until long after the operation had ended, at which time it surrendered.

A third wave, carrying a detachment of the Canadian Black Watch, landed on the western edge of the beach alongside survivors from preceding waves who lay trapped at the foot of an unscalable cliff. A small group managed to fight its way off the beach to inflict heavy casualties on the Germans, but eventually was forced to surrender when it ran out of ammunition.

With smoke obscuring Dieppe and wireless communications on the beach disrupting signal traffic to the headquarters ship, General Roberts was left unaware of the unfolding tragedy. It was not until much later that the first chilling message from Puys got through, “From Blue Beach: Is there any possible chance of getting us off?”

With over 200 men lying dead along the beach, it was clear that the landing had failed. While a shaken General Roberts belatedly gave the order for evacuation, the prospect of a systematic withdrawal was impossible due to the intense German fire raking the beaches and sea approaches. Barely any of the naval craft that ran the gauntlet made it in and back unscathed. Most were sunk.

In any case, the rescue effort had come too late. Of the more than 700 men who landed, 600 were casualties, including 240 dead. Incredibly, German records examined after the war indicated that the defense of Puys was conducted by only two platoons manning machine-gun nests that incorporated the new rapid fire MG-42s, mortars, and supporting howitzers. This small garrison, which was not reinforced during the entire action, had in less than two hours torn the Royal Canadian Regiment to shreds.

In stark contrast to the disaster at Puys, the simultaneous landing by the South Saskatchewan Regiment on the other side of Dieppe on Green Beach had proceeded unobserved, on schedule but in the wrong place. Instead of disembarking astride the River Scie, the Saskatchewans had landed on the western bank, forcing those units with objectives to the east to detour inland to the only bridge that would get them back over to the right side. With the fully alerted Germans now firing on them from emplacements along the west headland, this costly navigational error had essentially nullified the advantage of an unobserved landing.

One company made solid progress on the west bank, taking all of its objectives on the hills overlooking the village of Pourville, paving the way for the Camerons to land. The other two companies, pushing inland to the radar site, were soon stalled at the bridge, whose approaches were swept by mortars and withering machine-gun fire. Repeated attempts to force a way over to the opposite bank were ruthlessly beaten back with heavy losses.

The battalion’s commanding officer, Colonel C.C.I. Merritt, seeing the roadway to the bridge strewn with bodies, rallied his troops in similar fashion to Napoleon at Arcole. The Canadian officer, however, seized not a flag but his helmet and held it aloft as he walked out onto the western entrance of the bridge, shouting, “You see there’s no danger at all.” His courage injected new momentum into the attack, and the men, following their leader’s example, dashed over the bridge to silence the guns that had cost so many lives.

The troops continued inland, fighting close- quarter engagements all the way, only to find the radar site’s outer defenses too strong to overcome without artillery. The strategic position at Quatre Vents Farm, south of the radar site, was also found to be too heavily defended, and the Canadians were forced to withdraw. It became clear that they could not take either of these objectives; their arduous inland penetrations had been in vain.

Meanwhile, on Green Beach the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders landed at 0530 hours to the skirl of their bagpipes. Their commanding officer was killed as the men dashed across the beach, leaving the unit’s second in command, Major A.T. Law, to take over. Most of the force had landed at the river mouth, and Law, quickly moving the men through Pourville, realized his comrades had not captured the heights of the right bank. Leaving a company to assist the Saskatchewans, he pushed the rest of his command swiftly along the left.

About a mile inland from the coast the Camerons reached the hamlet of Petit Appeville where they crossed over the Scie toward the aerodrome at St. Aubin, but the leading troops came up against exceptionally strong resistance. The tanks and Hamiltons with which Law was to attack the airfield were nowhere in sight; he was not to know that most of them were already dead or wounded.

In any case, the Camerons could not launch the attack alone, so Law decided to strike out toward the fortifications at Quatre Vents Farm. Not long after pushing on, the Camerons found themselves fending off repeated attacks by German units in the area with further reinforcements observed pouring in from all directions. With little knowledge of the enemy dispositions in front of him and no idea how the main landings had fared behind him, Law was in a difficult situation. By mid-morning a message came through for Law to get his men back to Green Beach. At this point, it was clear that the success of the raid was in serious doubt.

The landings by the Saskatchewans and Royals had been made primarily to silence much of the opposition beyond the town and on the flanks prior to the main landings. Despite their valiant attempts, the under-gunned Canadians could not make headway against a well-entrenched and well-prepared enemy. With the German guns still largely intact, the stage was set for tragedy on the main beaches.

Hawker Hurricane fighter-bombers and naval gunfire supported the main effort by the Essex Scottish and Royal Hamiltons coming in to land under cover of smoke. However, the moment the bombardment finished German fire quickly resumed with even greater intensity. Ominously, bullets began sweeping out across the water, slamming into the plywood hulls and metal ramps of the boats. Scarcely reassuring to the nervous troops, this situation was compounded by a navigational error that would delay the tank landings.

Along the Fireswept Beach, All Vestige of Command and Coordination had Been Blown Away, and Enemy Snipers Coolly Picked Off Anyone Showing Leadership

The armor had been an important element of the attack, but without its firepower the men would be left completely unsupported during those first crucial minutes. It was a recipe for disaster. The moment the landing craft dropped their ramps, the troops struggling ashore were greeted by an impenetrable wall of fire.

In the face of such brutal firepower, the organization of the first assault waves completely collapsed as the men vainly struggled to break through the wire entanglements that ranged along the beaches.

The Essex-Scottish landing at Red Beach had no natural cover, and the featureless promenade between the town and the beach was 150 yards wide. They made three attempts to cross this area, but each time they were driven back, sustaining heavy casualties. Along the fireswept beach, all vestige of command and coordination had been blown away, and enemy snipers coolly picked off anyone showing leadership; few company commanders or senior NCOs survived the morning.

The Essex-Scottish Regiment had been nearly destroyed by the weight of fire brought to bear from both the east and west headlands and positions within the fortified villas and houses fronting the promenade. Their attack was maintained only by the initiative of small isolated groups, acting on their own and now fighting for survival. With such grievous losses, any hope of launching a coordinated assault on the town was gone.

On the right, the Royal Hamiltons assaulted White Beach, but once ashore they were raked with impunity from dozens of hidden machine-gun and mortar emplacements. The German gunners could not miss as they capitalized on the skillful use of barbed wire that channeled the Canadians into predetermined killing zones where they were mercilessly mowed down.

With one company completely wiped out, the Hamiltons were reduced to a few desperate bands of men trying, like a punch drunk boxer, to fend off blows they could not see coming. White Beach had become a deathtrap.

The Canadian soldier’s reputation for fearless gallantry had been forged during the nightmare battles of World War I. But like their grandfathers on the Western Front, the men at Dieppe would discover that flesh and blood sustained by raw courage are rarely enough in the face of overwhelming machine- gun, mortar, and artillery fire.

Despite the lack of tank support, some of the Hamiltons breached the wire in several places and made for the shelter of the casino. Forcing their way inside, they overwhelmed the Germans and broke into buildings beyond to establish a defensive foothold. Nearby, a small number of Essex-Scottish troops had also fought their way into Dieppe and set the tobacco factory alight, while others made it as far as the harbor. Their numbers were small and their impact was minimal, but they were at least hitting back in a fight that had been tragically one-sided.

Finally, the tank landing craft made their run into the beaches. As they emerged from the protective curtain of smoke with their ramps down and doors open, German shells began slamming into the metal plating of the landing craft when they were still 200 meters offshore. Of the four troops of tanks landed in the first wave, only 17 made it ashore, with most of these quickly disabled or bellied out and immobilized in the loose gravel. The steep grade of the shingle beaches intermingled with large pebbles and sand made it difficult for the tanks to maneuver, leaving many trapped and floundering under heavy fire.

Major Allen Glenn of the Calgary Tank Regiment recalled, “You couldn’t pick worse terrain for a tracked vehicle. You turn the vehicle a little bit, the stones are rolled into the track, and if you get too many going in at once you break the track.”

The men of the Royal Canadian Engineers, lacking the specialized equipment needed to deal with the beach obstacles, toiled with incredible bravery and suffered horrendous losses as they tried desperately to clear a path for the armor. Of the 314 engineers landed, 186 were killed or wounded.

At the eastern end of the beach, the seawall was found to be only a few feet high, allowing five Churchills to claw their way onto the promenade, immediately drawing substantial fire away from the men on the beaches.

The tanks provided much needed fire support to the small bands of Canadians fighting in Dieppe, but they found themselves hemmed in by concrete roadblocks at the entrances to the town. Left to prowl the beachfront like caged lions, the tanks, all armaments blazing, were a potent force that broke down numerous strongpoints until German reinforcements with antitank guns reclaimed the initiative. The Germans launched coordinated attacks that would eventually bottle up or overwhelm those Canadian forces still fighting within the town, while pushing the rest back to the beach.

While Supermarine Spitfire fighters circled tirelessly above the beaches, Hurricanes continuously came in across the wave tops to strafe and bomb the German positions with unbridled fury.

As the morning wore on, however, it was clear that the main landings at Dieppe had disintegrated. While nothing seemed to be going right for the Allies, very little seemed to be going wrong for the Germans. They appeared to have the situation well in hand. The forlorn body of men on the beachfront, unable to mount a serious challenge to the surrounding German defenses, could do little more than maintain static gunfire exchanges, tend to the wounded, and await death, capture, or evacuation.

Due to faulty communications and heavy casualties among signal groups, General Roberts was still ignorant of the true situation or the magnitude of the losses. Hampered by smoke that completely obscured the beach from view, he tried to coordinate his forces based on fragmented and sometimes misleading radio intercepts.

Believing that the Essex-Scottish and Hamiltons had successfully fought their way into the town and that the Canadians held the western section of the front, he committed his floating reserve, Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal, to reinforce the Essex-Scottish and allow them, with tank support, to push inland.

At 0700 hours, the famous Les Fusiliers Mont-Royals made their way onto Red Beach only to meet appalling fire as soon as they came within range. Further problems arose from tidal influences that spread the landing craft and scattered the men along the beach instead of concentrating them behind the Essex Scottish as planned. The reinforcement was ineffectual, with most of the men quickly seeking refuge beneath the seawall alongside the various units of the Essex-Scottish and Hamiltons. The landing of the Fusiliers ultimately meant that instead of two battalions being trapped on the beach, there were now three.

General Roberts, still oblivious to the real course of events and under the mistaken belief that large raiding parties were moving into Dieppe, decided that the harbor was still a viable objective. Earlier attempts to capture the landing barges had been driven off by German shore defenses, which freed up the Royal Marine A Commando for a new assignment. Landing on White Beach, they were to work their way through Dieppe to launch a flanking attack against German emplacements situated along the east cliffs.

At 0830 hours, the marines began to move toward the beach but were set upon by the most murderous concentration of fire yet seen that dreadful morning. From his landing craft, the Royal Marines’ commanding officer, Lt. Col. J.P. Phillips, could quickly see that the Dieppe beaches were completely blanketed with fire and that attempting to land would be suicide. Standing up in the small forward deck of his craft, exposed to the enemy, he signaled the landing craft following him to turn back. Moments later he was cut down, but not before six vessels veered off, saving 200 men from certain disaster.

With ruthless efficiency, German machine guns, mortars, captured French 75s, and German 88s firing over open sights were tearing the life out of the attack, but it was not until 0900 hours that General Roberts became aware of the full extent of the calamity. With barely any of its objectives having been achieved, Operation Jubilee had collapsed. It was now of the highest priority to save as many troops as possible.

Planning for the original withdrawal had anticipated victory and was to be phased in over a three-hour period. In the shambles of the Dieppe beaches, these elaborate plans had been rendered useless. At approximately 1100 hours, with the distant shoreline a cauldron of smoke and flame, the crews of the landing craft steeled themselves for the run into the beaches. Every craft possessing guns and ammunition joined in close support as destroyers formed a line to follow the rescue.

The Unspeakable Carnage, Terror, and Turmoil at Dieppe Defied Description.

With the last tragic chapter of that terrible morning about to commence, formations of German bombers supported by fighters broke through from the south to add to the misery and chaos. This was the first time the Luftwaffe appeared in force over Dieppe, and Spitfires wasted no time trying to break up the German bomber formations. The sky above the beaches was soon filled with hundreds of aircraft engaged in furious combat.

Along the shallows, meanwhile, landing craft and other rescue vessels were desperately loading as many men as they could while destroyers, guns blazing furiously, continuously streamed up and down the length of the beaches trying to suppress the German fire.

The unspeakable carnage, terror, and turmoil at Dieppe defied description. German guns continued to methodically pound the men without respite. Focke Wulf Fw-190 fighters strafed the crammed open decks of the landing craft, and Luftwaffe bombers from airfields as far away as Belgium and the Netherlands plastered the beaches.

The noise of gunfire, bombs, and shelling was deafening; a man could barely be heard over the frightful din.

Despite the unimaginable horror being played out during those last desperate hours, ordinary soldiers committed deeds of extraordinary heroism and self-sacrifice. Many repeatedly went back and forth through a hail of fire to retrieve wounded comrades; naval personnel held their vessels in close, absorbing incredible punishment as bullets raked many from stem to stern; and Air Rescue launches weaved among the water spouts to pick up downed airmen. On shore, gallant rear guards fought against overwhelming odds, buying time for those on the beaches, while the RAF crew, some on their fourth sortie of the morning, continuously attacked the enemy positions.

With the Germans maneuvering to seal off and secure the entire sector, the tanks on the promenade fell back to form the core of the beach defense. Taking the role of self-propelled guns, they valiantly provided fire support on Red and White beaches until the bitter end, with barely a handful of crewman making it back to England.

Finally, with the likelihood of more casualties than survivors coming off the beaches, further evacuation attempts were abandoned. In the mayhem, many troops, desperate not to be left behind, tried to swim out to the departing craft, but it was too late. Those who remained at Dieppe had no alternative but to surrender.

By early afternoon on August 19, the battered ships were finally homeward bound, leaving behind beaches strewn with burning tanks, destroyed landing craft, and the corpses of nearly 1,000 comrades. A shattered General Roberts dispatched a message to the Headquarters of the 1st Canadian Corps which read, “Very heavy casualties in men and ships. Did everything possible to get men off but in order to get any home had to come to sad decision to abandon remainder. This was joint decision by Force Commanders. Obviously operation completely lacked surprise.”

As a raid, Operation Jubilee had been a dismal failure. The attempt to seize Dieppe had failed on the beaches and surrounding shallows and died. The enemy defenses had been tested, but overall the Germans had not been seriously alarmed. They did, however, undertake a major review of their western coastline defenses and withdraw a number of divisions from the eastern front.

While apparently no one foresaw the tragic consequences of Dieppe at the time, the long-term Allied view was that many valuable lessons had been learned and it was certainly realized that capturing a German-held port by direct assault was nearly impossible. For the D-day landings in 1944, the Allies developed and transported their own artificial harbors, code-named Mulberry.

As vital as this information may have been for the future, there was no escaping the horrendous cost borne by the Canadians and the handful of American Rangers who accompanied them. It was six days before the causalities could be assessed, and in the final count the total military losses amounted to well over 4,000 officers and men killed, wounded, or missing.

Postwar Postmortems Have Generally Accepted That the Dieppe Raid was Too Ambitious, Too Inflexible, and Expected Too Much of the Troops.

Of the seven major Canadian units involved, only one, Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal, returned to England with its commanding officer. Seventy percent of the Canadian raiders did not return at all. The Royal Navy suffered over 550 casualties and lost 34 ships, while the RAF, which had flown nearly 3,000 operational sorties over Dieppe, lost more than 150 aircrew and 106 aircraft, of which 88 were Spitfires.

Three Victoria Crosses were awarded for actions during the Dieppe raid. Captain Pat Porteous of No. 4 Commando, Royal Marines, received the medal for saving an NCO during the raid on Varengeville, and Lt. Col. Merritt received it for his leadership at the bridge over the Scie. The third went to a padre, Captain J.W. Foote, chaplain of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, who worked tirelessly and courageously carrying men from the beach to the cover of the landing craft during the evacuation.

What went wrong at Dieppe is a matter of much conjecture, even today. Postwar postmortems have generally accepted that the military plan was too ambitious, too inflexible, and expected too much of the troops. The reliance on tactical surprise over such a wide area was deemed overly optimistic, and the dependence on timing for the various operations left no room for error.

In general, communications were found to be completely inadequate and intelligence was poor, particularly information on the German defenses at the assault points, which was hopelessly inaccurate. In command circles it was believed that the Germans had been warned of the raid by French traitors and were therefore alert and ready.

It should be noted, however, that German reconnaissance aircraft had observed the steady build-up of ships and materiels prior to the operation and that the Wehrmacht was alert to the tidal periods suitable for an amphibious assault just as the British had been. To this end, they routinely maintained a state of readiness during these times and regularly brought up reinforcements. August 19, 1942, fell within one of these periods of heightened alert.

The implication that the nefarious work of French traitors rather than inept planning by the British had led to the disaster at Dieppe has been the topic of debate for decades. However, many believe that the Combined Operations Staff, who had planned and briefed the front-line officers on the raid, should have shouldered much of the responsibility for the failure at Dieppe.

In the end, it was Maj. Gen. Roberts who became the scapegoat. Shifted sideways, he was placed in charge of Canadian reinforcements and would never again command troops in the field.

Cruelly, on August 19 for years afterward, Roberts would receive an anonymous package in the mail containing a small piece of stale cake—a bitter reminder of his comment at the preraid briefing that the Dieppe operation would be a “piece of cake.”

Richard Rule writes from his home in Heathmont, Victoria, Australia. A veteran of the Australian Army, he works in sales management, enjoys fly fishing, and has written several books.

This article first appeared at the Warfare History Network.

Image: Wikipedia.

Coronavirus Could Flatten the Curve of China’s Rise

Sat, 23/05/2020 - 18:00

Jeffrey Cimmino

Security, Asia

After half a century of remarkable growth, China’s ascent toward great-power status could prove to be a casualty of the coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic presented an opportunity for China to demonstrate it could be a responsible, leading global power – thus far, it has failed.

After half a century of remarkable growth, China’s ascent toward great-power status could prove to be a casualty of the coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic presented an opportunity for China to demonstrate it could be a responsible, leading global power. Thus far, it has failed.

Diplomatically, China finds itself in a significantly more hostile global landscape than it did prior to the crisis. This stems in large part from China’s missteps and suppression of information in the early stages of the crisis, and its bungled attempts to deflect blame and assert its influence abroad.

Indeed, the virus was likely identified in China in early December, yet Chinese officials reprimanded doctors for discussing the new virus and ordered samples of it destroyed. By the time Chinese officials instituted rigorous movement restrictions in Wuhan, the original epicenter, millions of people had left the city.

To cover its errors, China launched a full-scale propaganda campaign to distract from its irresponsible behavior, even suggesting the United States unleashed the virus on the world. The primary effect of this campaign was not convincing the world of its innocence, but sharpening American resolve that China is an adversary that must be confronted.

In fact, China’s blunders and subsequent propaganda campaign have led to a rare case of bipartisan consensus in the United States: most Republicans and Democrats agree that America needs to be tough on China, that Chinese authorities cannot be trusted, and that China is responsible for the pandemic. The United States, with its capability of amassing a vast reserve of hard and soft power, is especially dangerous to autocratic adversaries when it is not bogged down in gridlock.

Outside the United States, China’s attempts to improve its image have similarly faltered. In Europe, much of the medical equipment provided by China has proven faulty. The Netherlands, for example, recalled hundreds of thousands of facemasks it received from China. Spain, meanwhile, recently canceled an order of defective test kits—the second time they received flawed kits from China.

China’s aggressive, so-called “Wolf Warrior” diplomacy, named for popular movies depicting a Chinese hero defeating American mercenaries, is also undermining relationships abroad.

Recently, after Australia called for an inquiry into the virus’s origins, China’s state media claimed Australia was “gum stuck to the bottom of China’s shoe.” Chinese officials suggested Australia was jeopardizing its trade relationship with China, with its ambassador saying, “Maybe the ordinary people will say, ‘Why should we drink Australian wine? Eat Australian beef?’” Perhaps instead of the “Wolf Warrior” label, this is more accurately called the Don Corleone school of diplomacy.

China has raised the ire of other close partners of the United States. The Chinese embassy in Berlin got into a public spat with the German newspaper Bild after it called for billions of dollars from China in compensation to Germany. Chinese diplomats also accused France of intentionally letting older residents die in nursing homes, prompting reprimands from French officials.

Rising xenophobia in China has damaged relations with African countries, particularly after reports emerged of African residents of the Chinese city of Guangzhou being targeted for eviction amid the pandemic. African officials have publicly rebuked China for these and similar actions.

In the realm of diplomacy, rather than living up to the moment, China has been acting out on the world stage and it is witnessing the negative consequences. A report by a Chinese think tank connected to the Ministry of State Security, the country’s foremost intelligence body, and reportedly seen by President Xi Jinping, warns that anti-Chinese sentiment is at a global high not seen since the country suppressed protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Moreover, China’s troubles are not limited to diplomacy. Its economy contracted for the first time in half a century, shrinking by 6.8 percent in the first quarter of 2020. Retail sales and industrial output declined significantly compared to the same period last year, while unemployment grew. Even with stimulus measures, economic growth for the year is likely to be sluggish.

Lethargic growth could pose problems for the country’s political stability. The Chinese Communist Party’s governance model relies on fostering economic expansion and steadily increasing living standards to mitigate any broad challenge to its political authority. Should domestic turmoil arise from the downturn, China’s ability to project power overseas could also be limited.

Several months into the pandemic, China finds itself with declining soft power, a battered economy, and a generally more inhospitable global environment. It has, in short, failed the leadership test presented by the pandemic and its quest to be a leading global power could wind up dead-before-arrival.

Having failed the diplomatic test, the next question will be whether China’s economy can bounce back quicker than the United States and its allies, thereby putting it in a stronger position to become the lynchpin of a global economic recovery. But leading a global recovery will also require China to demonstrate leadership abroad, which China has shown it is ill-prepared to handle.

Jeffrey Cimmino is a program assistant in the Global Strategy Initiative in the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. His writing has appeared in the National Interest, National Review, the Washington Free Beacon, the Washington Examiner, Spectator USA, and other publications.

Image: Reuters.

Russia's 'Political General' Kliment Voroshilov Was A True Soviet Survivor

Sat, 23/05/2020 - 17:30

Warfare History Network

History, Europe

Joseph Stalin’s crony, Kliment Yefremovich Voroshilov, became the disgraced First Marshal of the Soviet Union, but always survived.

In the summer of 1941, as the Nazi German blitzkrieg rolled over the Russian Red Army defenses at the embattled city of Leningrad, today once more St. Petersburg, a short, squat figure with pale blue eyes, cherubic face, and gray-blond hair stood erect atop a parapet, seemingly oblivious to the exploding enemy shell bursts all around him, bullets whizzing by his head.

One amazed soldier in the trench below turned to another and said, “Look! It’s him! Klim! Look how he stands as if he grew out of the earth!” Klim was the derivative Christian name of the legendary commissar of the Russian Civil War of 1918-1920, the Battle of Warsaw that latter year, the disastrous but still victorious Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1939-40, and now of the German Operation Barbarossa attack on the Soviet Union.

“That Sly Old Bastard”

The renowned Hero of Tsaritsyn (later Stalingrad) with the famed 1st Cavalry Army, the man who quelled the naval uprising at Kronstadt in 1921, the first marshal of the land of the Soviets from 1935, Voroshilov was one of only two from the original five who survived the Stalinist Great Purge of the Red Army in 1937.

He was also a member of Stavka, the Supreme Command, during the Great Patriotic War, the official Russian name for World War II. In addition, Voroshilov was author of the 1937 book Defense of the USSR, which lauded dictator Josef Stalin as a preeminent military genius.

The man who called Stalin by the nickname of Koba and was in turn termed by him the Soviet Union’s “top marksman” for his prowess with firearms was also a member of both the Presidium and Politburo, the ruling bodies of the Communist Party; a member of the GKO, or State Committee of Defense; and people’s commissar of military and naval affairs from 1925-1940.

Termed “a political general rather than a professional soldier” by noted English Kremlinologist author Edward Crankshaw, “he had a long career, marked by vainglory, folly, and durable good luck.” Within high Communist Bolshevik circles, many called him “the Party boy,” due to his long ties to Stalin, whom he claimed to have met at a Communist Party congress at Stockholm in 1906.

Stalin himself said that he did not remember and, in his more famous paranoid years toward the end of his life, asserted that his deputy had actually been an English spy during the period of 1938-1948. Nikita S. Khrushchev, who rose to lead the Soviet Union, called the assertion “stupidity.”

Nevertheless, Stalin took the man whom Red leader Lazar Kaganovich called “that sly old bastard” with him to the conference at Teheran, Iran, in 1943 where British Prime Minister Winston Churchill presented the Soviet leader with the famed Sword of Stalingrad, given to the Russian people by King George VI in honor of their incredible valor against the Germans.

Stalin picked up the sword with both hands and, holding it horizontally, kissed the scabbard. He then handed it to Marshal Voroshilov, as the blade slid from its sheath and clattered loudly onto the floor. It was considered to be a bad omen, and yet Voroshilov, whose military codename was Yefremov, managed to survive the incident, just as he did everything else over the course of his remarkable career under Stalin and his volatile successors.

Voroshilov’s Wide Renown

The most incredible aspect of Marshal Voroshilov’s meteoric career was that he began it with no military experience at all, having spent World War I during 1914-1916 as an exempt armaments factory lathe worker who was an undercover Bolshevik agent while singing in one company’s choir and working as a machinist at several other locations.

After the Bolsheviks succeeded in taking over the government following the Great October Revolution of 1917, Voroshilov allied himself to Stalin in the Battle of Tsaritsyn during the subsequent Civil War and served as a cavalry commander under his later fellow marshal, Semyon Budenny, another longtime Stalinist crony.

With the breaking of the siege of the rival White Army, Voroshilov found himself an enduring hero of the Civil War, even though he was defeated outside Warsaw in 1920 by Polish Marshal Josef Pilsudski.

Called “the child of Stalin’s military genius,” Voroshilov sang (literally!) his master’s praises and survived along with Budenny long after Stalin’s death in 1953. Their rival Leon Trotsky called Voroshilov “a hearty and impudent fellow, not overly intellectual, but shrewd and unscrupulous, a conscientious worker with an excellent understanding of the organization of the 10th Army.”

The famed first marshal was widely lauded by Soviet propagandists as unafraid of bullets, easy in the company of writers and artists, a Hero of the Soviet Union and Hero of Labor, one of Stalin’s “Magnates,” and hailed as a knight in ballads. The novel The Red Eagle was written about Voroshilov, who was portrayed on Russian trading cards for children like an American baseball star and was touted as “the most popular hero in the Bolshevik pantheon, the most illustrious of the Soviet grandees,” according to Stalin biographer Simon Sebag Montefiore.

British Field Marshal Alan Brooke rightly called Voroshilov “an attractive personality who owed his life to his wits,” and that was definitely true, while his Kremlin colleague Khrushchev admitted, “He certainly was loyal and honest,” particularly with Stalin.

Soviet Foreign Minister Vyachelsav Molotov, who outlived all the old Bolsheviks of the Lenin-Stalin era, asserted that the Soviet dictator never completely trusted Voroshilov, nor anyone else, for that matter, and Voroshilov in turn was never completely sold on Stalin either.

Nevertheless, Molotov concluded, “He performed well at critical moments,” such as being Stalin’s closest aide during the purges against the peasant Kulak class and, later, in decimating the upper officer tiers of the Red Army.

Indeed, First Marshal Voroshilov helped Stalin kill fully 4,000 of his own officer corps, crippling it just before the onset of a series of wars with the fascist powers.

An Incomprehension of Modern Mechanized Warfare

Stalin’s secretary, B. Bashanov, characterized Voroshilov as “Quite a man, full of himself,” and indeed he was that, too, basking in the full glare of the public limelight with his many medals and decorations. The marshal swilled vodka with artists and generally lived the high old life of the former czarist landed gentry.

The first marshal had a huge, ostentatious country home that was modeled on the Livadia Palace at Yalta in the Crimea on the Black Sea, as indeed, all the top Soviet leaders did during the Stalin era.

“Klim” loved being painted on horseback, flashing saber in hand, in full-length, life-sized portraits by the Kremlin’s court painter, Gerasamlinov, and critics charged that he spent more time thus portrayed than doing his job at the Commissariat of Defense.

General Sergei M. Shtemenko, a future chief of staff of the Warsaw Pact alliance, called Voroshilov “a man of education and culture, something of a showman, exuding cordiality and bonhomie, making a parade of his courage, and thinking that he would be better received by the Terek and Kuban Cossack infantry by riding out to inspect them on a horse.”

Like his fellow Marshals Budenny and Stalin, Voroshilov comprehended the infantry, cavalry, and armored-train tactics of the civil war era and Russo-Polish War of 1920 far better than he did that of the mechanized warfare of tanks and armored divisions, and therein lay the seeds of his defeats in both the Russo-Finnish War and World War II.

A successful practitioner in the latter, Marshal Ivan Konev, said of his former chief that he was “a man of inexhaustible courage, but incapable of understanding modern warfare.” Harshly criticized both during and after the wars, Voroshilov always landed on his feet, however, and he was always assigned to other high-level posts.

Loyalty and Results

As a sort of Soviet Hermann Göring and Albert Speer combined, the first marshal in his pre-World War II years was responsible for building up the Army and Navy as well as industry with Stalin to prepare for what both saw as the inevitable war against fascism.

Noted Soviet military writer Dmitri Volkogonov was very critical, defining Voroshilov as mediocre straight out, having but two years of formal schooling, beginning as a Chekist secret policeman during the revolution, and becoming Stalin’s willing stooge and toady, thus being placed in important high military commands “with having never worn a uniform … and lacking the least military knowledge”

What mattered first and always to Stalin was loyalty and getting the desired results. Voroshilov excelled in the former and produced admirably in the latter category, at least until the Japanese killed 3,000 soldiers in the Far East in August 1938, the Soviet Union stumbled badly during the 105-day war with tiny Finland during 1939-1940, and the Red Army was smashed by the German Wehrmacht during 1941-1943.

According to Volkogonov, First Marshal Voroshilov was also the father of both chemical and biological warfare in Russia. His house of cards began collapsing in 1939, though, with the stunning initial defeats of the Red Army by far-outnumbered Finland during the early stages of the Winter War debacle that left 70,000 known dead Red Army soldiers in the frozen snow and ice, a harbinger of what later happened to the German Army in Russia.

“His Negligence Was Criminal”

Born Janury 23, 1891, the son of a railway worker and a milkmaid, the future first marshal came out of the Russian Civil War with a strong belief in irregular partisan forces, as opposed to a regular army, and found the means for his resurrection militarily by the end of 1942 by being appointed head of all partisan forces fighting behind the lines of the vast German invasion front that extended across the width of the Soviet Union and for hundreds of miles back toward the borders of the Third Reich.

He had thus reinvented himself once more.

Having concluded the unsuccessful 1939 diplomatic negotiations with the lukewarm British and French for an alliance against Hitler that did not materialize, the first marshal conducted vastly positive Lend-Lease talks with the United States, greatly assisting Russia in the war.

Indeed, in 1954, the then party general secretary, Nikita Khrushchev, included Voroshilov in his first summit talks with the West at Geneva. As Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet and head of state, President Voroshilov was present five years later during the famous Moscow “kitchen debate” between Khrushchev and U.S. Vice President Richard M. Nixon, seen worldwide on television.

According to author Anthony Beevor’s Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege, 1942-43, during the cataclysmic Winter War against Finland’s Marshal Baron Carl Gustav Mannerheim, Voroshilov showed “an astonishing lack of imagination.”

Khrushchev was an even more vocal, scathing critic in his 1970 memoirs, Khruschchev Remembers: “I put the principal blame on Voroshilov for the Finnish War … His negligence was criminal … As Commissar of Defense, he was ill prepared, careless, and lazy,” much like the later Reichsmarshall Göring, whom Voroshilov closely resembled as a pompous show-off in many respects. Khrushchev, however, was quick to remind his readers that Stalin was equally at fault.

In the end, Voroshilov was relieved of command, and his post of commissar of defense was given instead to Marshal Semyon K. Timoshenko on May 8, 1940, two days before Nazi Germany launched its Western Offensive against the Allies. The Finns were defeated and the war brought to a satisfactory conclusion. Stalin, asserted Khrushchev, kept Voroshilov “around as a whipping boy,” but the latter stood his ground.

Voroshilov in Leningrad

Yet again the first marshal survived. Next, he turned up as chief of the Leningrad High Command during the summer battles with the Germans from July to September 1941. Andrei Zhadanov served as his Communist Party political commissar, the joint commander who had to endorse all his military decisions in a cumbersome dual command process that existed throughout the Red Army at that time.

Thus, the 60-year-old marshal could be found, pistol in hand, personally leading the feared Red Marines, with their famed black wool capes, into repeated actions against the enemy, only to be repulsed by the Germans time and again. Once more Stalin, who generally called Voroshilov’s headquarters at Smolny after midnight, relieved him for what he claimed was his “passiveness,” replacing him with Marshal Georgi Zhukov. In 1975, stated Molotov in an interview, “I dismissed Voroshilov. He spent all his time in the trenches.”

In his swan song, Voroshilov told his staff officers, “Farewell, comrades! They have called me to headquarters. Well, I’m old, and it has to be. This isn’t the Civil War! It has to be fought another way, but don’t doubt for a minute that we are going to smash those fascist bastards right here! Their tongues are already hanging out for our city, but they will choke on their own blood!”

In the end, he was right, and the siege of Leningrad was lifted after 900 days by the resurgent Red Army.

Unrepentant Stalinist, Mass Murderer

Following the end of the war and Stalin’s death in March 1953, Voroshilov played a waiting game to see who would emerge as his successor: NKVD Secret Police Chief Laventi P. Beria, or Khrushchev. In the end, he joined with the latter and Marshal Zhukov, after which the brutal, murderous Beria was removed from power and shot for his crimes.

When Khrushchev denounced Stalinist crimes in his famous “Secret Speech” at the 20th Party Congress in Moscow in 1956, the old first marshal vigorously berated the new leader for fear that the retribution for the former evil would encompass the rest of the Soviet leadership. “We’ll be taken to task!” he wailed. “We’ll still be made to pay!” but no one came to arrest, try, and shoot the former cavalry general. Once again, the wily old first marshal had survived.

Although he was made to admit many of his past “errors” publicly in true Communist Party style and kowtow to Khrushchev in private, Voroshilov remained titular president of the Soviet Union until 1960 and therefore head of state on par with U.S. presidents and the king and queen of England. It was in this capacity that the president of the Soviet Union traveled to confer with Premier Chou En-lai of the People’s Republic of China at Beijing.

In April 1962, President Voroshilov was reelected to the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet yet again. He remained to the end an unrepentant Stalinist politically. He was also an unrepentant international mass murderer, since on March 8, 1940, he signed the death warrants of 22,000 murdered Polish officers found by the Nazis in the Katyn Forest in 1943.

A Death of Natural Causes

The old Bolshevik died at age 89 on December 2, 1969, having outlived both Lenin and Stalin and also witnessing the fall of Khrushchev in 1964 in a bloodless Kremlin coup. He had survived them all and died in bed of natural causes so far as is known—no mean feat during his bloody era.

Since his death, historians of both East and West have been uniformly critical of the proud first marshal, who once ordered a cowed subordinate to kiss his boots.

Dmitri Volkogonov had the harshest barbs: “The most mediocre, faceless, and intellectually dim … no intellectual power, genuine civic feeling, vision, or moral stature … An historical accident raised him to the highest level of State power … lacking in the least military knowledge … He blamed others … Had neither strategic thinking, nor operational vision, nor organizational ability.”

During his lifetime, Voroshilov had many mistresses. His wife died in 1959, and at his retirement in 1960 he was succeeded by a later marshal, Leonid Brezhnev. The pensioner retained his Moscow apartment, a country house, chauffered limousines, bodyguards, doctors, and servants.

All things considered, the nonsoldier had not done entirely badly for himself.

This article first appeared at the Warfare History Network.

Image: Wikipedia.

The Real Reason U.S. Patriot Missile Defense Batteries Are Leaving Saudi Arabia

Sat, 23/05/2020 - 17:00

Kirsten Fontenrose

Security, Middle East

The decision to remove Patriots from Saudi soil has very little to do with oil prices or changed assessments of the Iranian threat and everything to do with North Korea and China.

The announcement that the United States is moving Patriot batteries out of Saudi Arabia was a surprise to analysts with a stove-piped focus on the Gulf. Immediately following the announcement came erroneous suppositions about the intent and the meaning of the move.

The decision to remove Patriots from Saudi soil has very little to do with oil prices or changed assessments of the Iranian threat and everything to do with North Korea and China.

This spring while international attention focused on coronavirus, North Korea conducted nine missile launch tests in one month, a record according to Dr. Shane Smith of the National Defense University’s Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass DestructionThis is particularly noteworthy in light of the Center for Nonproliferation Studies’ (CNS) data indicating that North Korea’s missile launch test success rate improved by almost 30 percent in 2019.

On May 5, a report by imagery experts at Jane’s Intelligence Review and the Center for Strategic and International Studies confirmed in the unclassified space the existence of a near-completed missile assembly and storage facility large enough to accommodate all known North Korean ballistic missiles and launchers. It is an almost braggadocious representation of the missile modernization program North Korea has pursued over the past decade while simultaneously feigning sincerity about curbing its nuclear pursuits.

As such, the removal of Patriot batteries from Saudi Arabia should not be a surprise. They will once again be moved to Northeast Asia to guard against the more imminent threat from an unpredictable Kim Jong-un.

Conducting deterrence in two theaters can be dizzying. In the past two years the United States has had Patriots in place in the Gulf; moved some out (of Bahrain, in October 2018); deployed some back to the Gulf (May 2019); and will now move them out again. It is a geostrategic hokey pokey and it is necessary because missile defense platforms are a finite resource with a long delivery timeline. Nobody understands that better than Saudi Arabia, who dragged their feet on the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system purchase until July 2019, pushing back the delivery date by a year and a half.

These moves are not a reflection of changing U.S. policy in the Middle East. They are a reflection of the heightened perception of threat in East Asia. The US Government’s unrealized dream of pivoting to Asia carried over from the Obama administration and was sustained by the Trump administration. The U.S. National Security Strategy (2017) commits the United States to “retain the necessary American military presence in the region to protect the United States and our allies from terrorist attacks and preserve a favorable regional balance of power.” The more strongly worded commitment regarding the Indo-Pacific is to “maintain a forward military presence capable of deterring and, if necessary, defeating any adversary.”

The North Korean missile program is the only missile program specified by country name as a threat in the 2018 National Defense Strategy.

China’s top ranking in the U.S. hierarchy of threats is due to China’s economic strength, sophisticated strategies for undermining the U.S. defense supply chain and robust propaganda and soft power machines. Add that the nuclear program of concern in the Korean Peninsula is so much further along than Iran’s that it might pose a threat to the United States. North Korea’s Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile is believed to be able to fly 8,000 miles and reach the homeland if fired, no coronavirus pun intended, on a flattened curve.

The recent bluster of North Korea may or may not be encouraged by China. Either way, if Patriots must be moved away from oil facilities in the Gulf to deter it, the timing is not bad. The United Nations Arms Embargo on Iran set out in UNSCR 2231, Annex B, Paragraph 5 will expire this October. As if an alarm went off at the t-minus six-month mark, attention to this embargo spiked in April and will remain high due to the heated debate about whether this expiration should be allowed to happen.

The U.S. administration argues that the language in the resolution allows for a snapback of the restrictions if Iran does not meet the terms it committed to in the Iran nuclear agreement (JCPOA). Iran argues that the snapback language tied to the JCPOA cannot be binding if the United States left the agreement. Europe and countries in the Gulf like Oman, Kuwait, and Qatar are courted by both sides.

As long as these countries are not fully convinced that allowing the embargo to lapse would present no greater threat to regional security and stability, Iran cannot afford to act provocatively. Doing so would reinforce the U.S. position that Iran would exploit the end of the embargo to increase the lethality of their regional destabilization activities. Therefore, the risk of new attacks on the oil facilities in Saudi Arabia that the Patriots are departing is greatly diminished in the near term.

U.S. partners on the Arabian Peninsula should be concerned about the risk of Iranian escalation after October, when the US will inevitably enact sanctions of its own if an embargo snapback proves impossible and Russia blocks follow-on action in the UN Security Council.

But before Gulf watchers cry foul about the relocation of Patriots once in the Gulf, they should examine the strengthening ties between the Gulf and China that compound U.S. concerns about competing with Asia’s Great Power. The more the Gulf cozies up to the hegemon in America’s number one region of threat, the fewer resources the United States can devote to protect them from the threat on their border.

Kirsten Fontenrose is the Director of the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Middle East Security Initiative, and former Senior Director for Gulf Affairs at the National Security Council during the Trump administration.

Image: Reuters.

Meet the Grandenburgers: Nazi Germany's Special Forces Who Attacked Behind Enemy Lines

Sat, 23/05/2020 - 16:30

Warfare History Network

History,

The elite 'Bradenburgers,' or Brandenburg commandos, scored many spectacular successes during clandestine operations.

War had been raging for 10 days, and Wehrmacht columns were pouring through Poland in a ceaseless torrent. Thousands of civilians and Polish troops were fleeing the enemy as fast as they could go. At Demblin, a railway bridge that was crucial to the Germans’ continued success, remained intact.

One Polish group, however, maintained a spirit of martial discipline; immaculately turned out, marching proudly while singing a Polish Army song, they arrived at the bridge surrounded by panic stricken refugees. Quickly, the noncom in charge found the commander of the pioneers entrusted with the demolition. The latter was not expecting relief and tried to phone through to his superior, only to find that enemy action had cut the line. Suddenly, a dive bombing Ju-87 Stuka raid sent everyone scurrying for cover.

The kind offer to take over the responsibility for the bridge was hastily and gratefully accepted, and quickly the guard left. When Germans appeared some five hours later, the new demolition guard provoked a panic that cleared the bridge, then, having handed over control to the advancing panzers, they were left with nothing more to do than to change back into their own German uniforms.

Thus ended one of the first instances of the use of special forces by Germany in World War II. The “demolition guard” were all men specially selected from Upper Silesia and were, if anything, more fluent in Polish than in German. Operating behind enemy lines requires guile and a spirit of subterfuge that can only come from first-class training and an unorthodox mind.

From the earliest days of the war, the German high command understood this, and deceit and infiltration were put to good use. The essence of blitzkrieg is the dislocation and disruption of an enemy’s defensive position rather than the piecemeal destruction of his forces. If the speed of advance was to be maintained, then columns of armor and motorized infantry required control of vital road and rail junctions, tunnels, and above all, bridges. The use of parachutists could not guarantee these objectives. Consequently, by 1939, a number of special organizations were already in existence.

Foremost among them was a group formed by the German intelligence and counter-intelligence service, the Abwehr. Expanding rapidly from January 1935, the Abwehr was controlled by Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, a refined and intelligent officer with experience dating from World War I and an aptitude for languages. By 1939, the Abwehr consisted of three sections. Abwehr I was responsible for espionage and intelligence gathering, Abwehr II for sabotage and special units, and Abwehr III for counter-intelligence, although they were in competition with the security service of the SS, the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) commanded by the infamous Reinhard Heydrich.

Within Abwehr II, the first commander of special forces was a man who had paid careful attention to the successful use of commandos in Germany’s African colonies during World War I, and who had studied the writings of T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia). Captain Theodor von Hippel set about recruiting a small force of German fighting men from the border regions such as the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia or the Silesian districts of Poland. He also looked for Germans who had lived abroad, in Africa or South America; Anybody, in fact, who had knowledge of the language and customs of potential enemies. He also looked for the specific personal qualities necessary to make a special forces soldier—self-reliance, imagination, and a spirit of unorthodoxy not normally associated with a good regular.

Every man had to be a volunteer because only a volunteer had the commitment to face almost certain execution, which was very likely if captured while taking part in a covert operation. In 1939, Hippel’s men formed a single unit known as the No. 1 Construction Training Company, whose soldiers were mostly fluent in Polish, and whose success in the initial campaign of the war was to guarantee them further employment.

Just to the east of the border in southwest Poland lay the vital railway junction of Katowice. Before the invasion had even begun, 80 men infiltrated Poland. They disguised themselves as Polish railway workers to avoid drawing attention from Polish troops and to enable ease of movement around the rail network. Immediately after the start of the invasion, they pulled out concealed weapons and set upon the astounded Poles. So thorough was the deception that one group even persuaded a body of Polish troops to board a train which they then drove into a rail siding far from the action.

The operation was completely successful, and German forces began to operate from Katowice Junction. The facility was undamaged, and all its rolling stock in perfect working order at a time when the German Army relied heavily on the railway system.

The Brandenburg Commandos Were Quickly Expanded to Battalion Strength and Subjected to Rigorous Training in Commando and Parachute Techniques.

Unfortunately, not all the operations in the invasion of Poland went quite this smoothly, and other units failed to prevent the destruction of bridges over the River Vistula at Dirschau and Graudenz. A total disaster almost befell another group sent to capture the Jablunka Tunnel where the soldiers failed to receive an order delaying the operation and opened fire some hours before the invasion was actually due to commence. The Poles retaliated fiercely, and the Germans were pursued across country with the two sides still nominally at peace. To maintain the air of respectability, the German government was forced to issue a denial and placed the blame on Slovakian terrorists.

These failures notwithstanding, the German high command was very impressed with the results of these operations and agreed to expand and develop the concept. The various groups involved were duly brought together at Brandenburg-Am-Havel at the end of the year and given the formal status of Baulehr-Kompanie zbV 800 (800th Construction Training Company For Special Purposes) on October 25. Taking the name of the town just west of Berlin where they were based, the Brandenburg Commandos were quickly expanded to battalion strength and subjected to rigorous training in commando and parachute techniques. Their organization and training were further cemented in April 1940, when they took part in the invasion of Norway and Denmark. They were also to play an important role during the invasion of the Low Countries.

The Germans could not afford to get bogged down in Holland and needed a speedy capitulation in order to proceed with the defeat of France. To this end, the Brandenburgers were ideally suited, and on the night of May 9, 1940, they crossed the border. Once more, a railway bridge was a principal target, this time just inside the Dutch border at Gennap in the path of 9th Panzer Division, the only armored formation involved in the invasion of the Netherlands.

The seizure of the bridge was vital, and a particularly subtle deception was planned. A group of seven German prisoners escorted by two Dutch guards arrived at the bridge 10 minutes before the planned attack when, after receiving a signal, they attacked the guard post. Firing broke out, and three of the Brandenburgers were wounded. The mission, however, still had to be carried out, including the capture of the post at the far end of the bridge. With their Dutch accomplices, the commandos advanced upon it.

The guards simply did not know how to react, so swift and complete had been the surprise. A grenade produced the desired effect, and the commandos took control of the detonator which might have blown the bridge just as the first tanks appeared. Unfortunately for the commander, he was mistaken for a Dutchman by the lead vehicle and cut down by machine-gun fire, although he survived to receive the Iron Cross later. Further displays of bluff and ferocious aggression resulted in the capture of other vital bridges at Roermond and Stavelot.

With the Netherlands quickly overrun by aerial and panzer assault, the commandos had another chance to reinforce their Polish success by preventing the opening of the sluice gates at Nieuport. During World War I, the Belgians had successfully flooded the Yser plain and impeded German progress. It was imperative that this setback not be repeated. The pump houses controlling the waters were located south of the river alongside the Oostende-Nieuport road.

On May 27, German forces were close to Oostende and Belgium was close to capitulation. Wearing Belgian infantry uniforms, 13 commandos infiltrated a chaotic mass of people in a captured Belgian Army bus. They fought their way through the morass of humanity until they arrived at the bridge around sunset. British troops holding the bridge ready for demolition opened fire, and the Germans quickly took cover and changed into German uniforms.

With darkness to protect them, a pair of commandos crawled across the bridge, cutting the explosive charges as they went while machine-gun fire rattled overhead. On reaching the far side, the two opened fire, and their comrades charged the bridge using sub-machine guns and hand grenades to neutralize the defenders, whom they now isolated and mopped up. Both the bridge and the pump houses were captured intact.

The Brandenburgers had proved a huge success, and during the summer of 1940, they prepared to make a significant contribution to the impending invasion of the United Kingdom. When this operation failed to materialize, they moved to Quenzsee for a period of intensive training and expansion to regimental strength. New recruits learned all the skills associated with special forces, but with a particular emphasis on deception techniques. Recruits were regularly paraded in foreign uniforms, and every effort was made to develop camaraderie within their small, tight knit groups.

Soldiers would greet their officers with a handshake rather than a salute, and discipline was promoted on the basis of trust rather than obedience. Initiative was also encouraged from the beginning of a recruit’s career in the regiment, with exercises such as one group being ordered to obtain the fingerprints of the local chief of police without his knowledge. Later in the program, they would be ordered to capture 10 Wehrmacht soldiers within five hours and bring them to Quenzsee. This apparently relaxed and aberrant attitude to military life won them few friends. After making a contribution to the swift occupation of the Balkans, and with a strength of three battalions and a number of independent companies, their unconventional methods would pay huge dividends in the forthcoming and toughest assignment of all—Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union. Although the operation would not formally begin until the early morning of June 22, 1941, many Brandenburgers were infiltrated into enemy territory the day before in what was by now the customary fashion. They wore Soviet coats over their field grey uniforms and drove trucks captured from the Soviets by the Finns during their war in the previous year. Despite each detachment being led by a commando who spoke Russian fluently, they were unaware of Soviet passwords for the night and the border guards were suspicious of a possible German attack.

Under strict instructions not to open fire before the main assault began, their only option was to flee if unable to talk their way through, and a number of casualties were suffered when this proved unsuccessful. However, many managed to get into positions to exploit the confusion that reigned on the morning of the attack and to join the advance into rear areas of the Soviet forces.

Having Seized the Bridge, the Brandenburgers Would Have to Hold it for at Least 15Long Minutes Against All the Surrounding Soviet Troops.

Typical of the actions of the first week was the capture of a key bridge within the Pripet marshes on June 27. The approach of a conventional armored column would lead the defenders to complete its demolition, so the requirement for stealth made it a special forces task. Setting out just before dawn on June 26, the detachment reached the panzer regiment to be supported only on the following day.

After an extremely arduous journey in captured Soviet trucks, the mission that was outlined was clearly going to be difficult and dangerous. Any sight of the armor would provoke the bridge’s demolition, and the regimental commander informed the Brandenburgers that he could not approach any closer than 15 minutes driving distance from the objective. It was, therefore, immediately apparent that having seized the bridge, the Brandenburgers would have to hold it for at least a quarter of an hour against all the surrounding Soviet troops.

Even more immediate was the question of reaching the bridge. A variation on the traditional deception was planned. The men would drive toward the bridge in two Soviet trucks. They would be wearing Red Army greatcoats and carrying Soviet rifles while concealing machine-pistols underneath. By driving out of the sunset at dusk, they planned to be silhouetted in the long shadows of a summer’s evening on the steppes, while German infantry patrols maintained pressure on the retreating troops milling towards the bridge.

Artillery and Stuka bombardment added to the confusion and panic to produce just the sort of chaos ideal for such a mission. The Brandenburgers would shout that they were being closely pursued by panzers. While one truck would cross the bridge, the second would appear to break down on the far bank, and the Brandenburgers would attempt to persuade the demolition guard to delay the destruction of the bridge until their comrades could cross. In the confusion, they would locate the demolition charges, and once the second truck had limped onto the bridge, throw off their greatcoats and seize the span intact.

The attack was to be heralded with a raid by Stukas, their sirens wailing to create terror among the defenders, and the deception was further improved by carefully following the trucks with artillery fire. Despite setting off at speed, the press of frightened bodies close to the bridge slowed the Brandenburgers’ approach to a crawl, and many of the fleeing Soviet soldiers tried to clamber aboard the trucks. As the first truck crossed the bridge and the second slowed to a halt, the Brandenburgers were ready to fight off the Soviets with their rifle butts.

The German leader managed to locate the demolition guard commander and engaged in a furious argument to prevent him from blowing the charges while commandos quickly sought to surreptitiously find and disconnect them. The second truck finally drew close to the bridge, and the German now threw off his coat and began shooting. He was soon killed, but a noncom had cut the wires from the detonator. Both groups were now in position at either end of the bridge and ready to defend it for 15 minutes.

Two hours later, the objective was finally secured with the arrival of the main body of the armor after fierce counterattacks by wave upon wave of desperate Soviets, supported by mortars and artillery. The armored column had run straight into trouble with a mechanical breakdown blocking the only approach route. Dense oak woods on either side prevented speedy evasion of the obstacle, and pioneers had to be brought forward to clear a path. The second panzer roared past but drove directly into artillery fire that once more blocked the way. Two more panzers were lost, and air support was unavailable while smoke laid to cover the advance was dispersed by unfavorable winds. Meanwhile, the Brandenburgers were close to disaster. Although they had held off the counterattacks against them, they had suffered heavy casualties and were almost out of ammunition.

With annihilation looming, a Stuka unit whose original mission had been aborted came to their rescue. As their bombs pinned the Soviets in their positions, the panzers moved up to the objective, and two of them broke through to cross the bridge. As the night wore on, more armor finally arrived to secure it.

Few among the line troops of the Wehrmacht were aware of what had happened as the Brandenburgers collected their dead and disappeared into the night. Once more, they had secured the advance that would drive deep into the heart of Soviet Russia. After these spectacular raids in the opening phases of the invasion, the Brandenburgers were used for further strikes against targets in the enemy’s rear and were employed extensively during the summer offensive of 1942, particularly in the Caucasus.

Meanwhile, in the spring of 1941, Canaris formed the Brandenburg Afrika Kompanie. It comprised 60 volunteers each with wide experience in Africa and selected for their personal resilience and as usual, their linguistic abilities. The unit’s intended role was as a reconnaissance unit to make short penetrations of the British front lines.

One spectacular journey was made to insert agents into Cairo by driving through some of the fiercest deserts in the area, across the Great Sand Sea that lies between Libya and Egypt. The commandos suffered intense hardship and accomplished the mission, only for British counter-intelligence to rapidly pick up the agents.

With the success of the Axis offensive in June 1942, however, plans were made to seize key bridges on the Nile and Suez Canal in traditional Brandenburger fashion. The failure to breach the main British defensive position and the subsequent defeat at El Alamein resulted instead in a headlong retreat by German forces as far as Tunisia. The Brandenburgers were entrusted with the task of disrupting British supply lines to First Army in western Tunisia and launched assaults by glider against two bridges, but the operation ended in disaster. On May 6, 1943, the specialists were ordered out of Africa although many were stranded due to lack of transportation and finished the war as prisoners.

The Brandenburgers’ most notable success in the Eastern Mediterranean came on the island of Leros. This was garrisoned by a brigade of British troops and about 5,500 Italians, now on the Allied side. The latter were extremely low-grade troops who could not be expected to offer much resistance. Heavy aerial bombardment was to be followed by a seaborne assault from two sides with a supporting parachute drop that would split the defenders.

A parachute company of Brandenburgers was attached to the 1st Battalion, 2nd Parachute Regiment, and these were dropped after a 12-hour delay at 1 pm on November 12, 1943. They dropped in the face of heavy antiaircraft fire on a tiny strip of ground between Gurna and Alinda bays. This would split the island’s defenses in two. However, the drop zone was barely half a mile wide and defended by the 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers. By dropping from 450 feet, the parachutists were quickly on the ground and hastily organized so that two companies could protect the position from the north and east, while the other two attacked Rachi Ridge.

Intense Fire From Mortars and Machine Guns Held the Commandos Up, and all the Officers Were Either Killed or Wounded.

The Eastern task force had a difficult time, and the Brandenburgers’ Küstenjäger (coastal raider) detachments were unable to land because of heavy fire from Italian-manned coastal batteries. A concerted Stuka raid and smoke screens allowed them to get ashore, and they landed on the north side of Pandeli Bay while the convoy put in for Alinda Bay.

Despite losing one boat to gunfire, the Brandenburgers got to the cliffs and scaled them successfully to attack their objective, Mount Appetici. Close air support was called but accidentally struck the Germans before pulverising the defenses. Then an assault went in. Intense fire from mortars and machine guns held the commandos up, and all the officers were either killed or wounded. Another air strike was called, but once more it struck the Brandenburgers and they pulled back to regroup. A council of war resolved that while the main objective could not be taken, the Italian battery at Castle Hill could, and this was swiftly achieved with hand grenades.

For three days, the Küstenjägers held their captured positions. Throughout the nights, the British maintained artillery harassment, and several attempts to storm the German position were driven off. Both sides sent out patrols, and the Germans were only resupplied by air drops of water, ammunition, and mortars—a useful addition to their armament. Reinforcements were brought up to the ridge. The location of the British headquarters at Mount Meraviglia was known, and reinforcements were needed to complete its capture. This effort proceeded in the face of determined counterattacks by the British infantry who remained cut off from each other in the north and south of the island.

On the 14th and 15th, the British continued to attack the thin line held by the parachutists across the center of the island. The Küstenjägers held off an attack by three companies with mortar and machine-gun fire, and the British switched their efforts to Rachi Ridge and Mount Germano. Exhausted by constant Stuka attacks, they nevertheless managed to link up and retake Germano. If the British could wrest control of the village of St. Nicola from the Germans, then the German forces around Leros would be bottled up.

Vicious hand-to-hand fighting ensued, but the Germans had a numerical advantage and forced the British out of the sparse stone houses. With the operation entering its fourth day, the German command was afraid of losing momentum, and the 3rd Battalion of the Brandenburgers’ 1st Regiment was ordered to Leros. The battalion landed at 2 am on the 16th and captured the heights south of Leros town.

As dawn rose, the Brandenburgers looked upon their next objective, Mount Meraviglia and the British headquarters. Despite fearsome losses, they pushed on across bare, rock-strewn slopes, overrunning the antiaircraft and field defenses and engaging in further hand-to-hand action against the stubborn defenders. By 3 pm, it was over, although the 3rd Battalion’s commanding officer was among the seriously wounded. A patrol linked up with the Küstenjägers on Castle Hill for the final assault on the British headquarters, and the British commander surrendered to these Brandenburgers.

In October 1942, the Brandenburgers had expanded to divisional strength, but increasingly, as German advances were brought to a stop and partisans began to operate in the rear areas, the Brandenburgers were engaged in trying to subdue the resistance. The Germans had occupied a large area of Soviet territory, and within it the partisans flourished. They constantly attacked the supply lines of the Wehrmacht, using hit-and-run tactics and taking advantage of the cover of the forests and marshes.

By the beginning of 1943, the threat was serious. Regular troops could defend key points and installations, but chasing the partisans into their strongholds and destroying them seemed an obvious task for the Brandenburgers, trained as they were in irregular warfare. The ranks of the commandos had been swelled by citizens from occupied territories disaffected with their own political situations. A notable band of Ukrainians, the Nightingale Group, had played an important role in the initial invasion of the Soviet Union by seizing the town of Przemysl and the bridge over the San river. Eventually, each Brandenburg battalion had a company of “Eastern Vounteers” attached to it. But it proved to be an error to use the Brandenburgers in a counter-insurgency role, despite their apparent qualifications.

The commandos had been formed for offensive tasks, and while their skills enabled them to score some spectacular successes, time became wasted on incessant patrolling. Morale plummeted, and the Brandenburgers could achieve no more than containment at best. Heavy losses and political maneuvering destroyed their cohesion, and many of them left to join a commando unit formed by Ss Colonel Otto Skorzeny in the Waffen SS.

Skorzeny later employed many of the techniques used so effectively in the early part of the war during the ill-fated Ardennes offensive in 1944. With the Eastern Front crumbling, so the need for anti-partisan warfare receded. In the summer of 1944, the Brandenburgers were deployed conventionally. Later in the year, the formation was disbanded and reformed within the GrossDeutschland Division. Few of its men survived the final bitter conclusion of the war.

Author and historical researcher Jon Latimer writes from his home in Wales, United Kingdom.

This article first appeared at the Warfare History Network.

Image: Wikipedia.

Banned Guns: Why You Can't Buy the Glock 18 or Glock 25

Sat, 23/05/2020 - 16:00

Peter Suciu

Technology,

Well, for starters, the Glock 18 can fire 1,200 round a minute.

While many Americans will go to any length to buy American and will choose a Smith & Wesson or Colt when it comes to handguns, just like many Americans swear by Ford and GM, there are those who prefer what the Europeans use. In the case of cars it might be BMWs and Mercedes. In handguns, it means Sig Sauer and, more commonly, Glock.

For a firearms company that has been around for less than forty years it has managed to become quite popular with handgun enthusiasts. Yet, despite the popularity of the Glock, there are a few models that the average American shooter simply can't own.

In the case of the Glock 18, it is pretty easy to understand why it is banned for mainstream sale and is illegal for civilian ownership. It is a full-sized "automatic pistol" that can shoot out the 9mm rounds like a submachine gun. It has a rate of fire of 1,200 rounds per minute, which is technically impossible given the fact that its high-capacity magazine holds only 33 rounds.

The weapon was introduced as a select-fire 9mm for military and police units in 1986, and was originally designed at the request of the Austrian counter-terrorism unit. It is nearly identical to the civilian-friendly Glock 17, except for a rotating lever-type fire-control switch that is placed on the left side of the slide. Because of the full-auto functionality it is almost impossible for civilians to legal purchase/own one.

There are likely few—if any—legally transferrable Glock 18s out there, and as The National Interest previously noted, "If you do manage to stumble across one of them though, you'll likely have to fork up a luxury car amount of money just to purchase it."

While it is easy to understand why the Glock 18 is banned, it isn't as clear with the Glock 25 and Glock 28—but this comes down to the Gun Control Act of 1968, which set new criteria for the importation of guns. The then-newly created Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) created a point system to determine whether a handgun could be imported into the United States. The points are awarded based on criteria that include the length, height, weight, construction, safety, features, sight, grips and caliber.

The Glock 25 fell short in the points system. It was actually created for the South American market, where civilians could not carry military caliber weapons. The Glock 25, along with the Glock 28, is chambered for the .380 caliber round, which makes it perfectly legal in South America, yet at the same time illegal to import to the United States market.

Where it gets slightly more confusing is that while the Glock 25 was banned for civilian sales, it was still legal to import for law enforcement and military sales. So it is possible to legally purchase a used Glock 25 or possibly Glock 28 that was bought by a law enforcement agency that has since sold them off. But that is a stretch and probably not worth the bother when a Glock 26, 27, or 33 are similar and do the job just as well.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.

Image: Pixabay.

The History of Memorial Day – Way More Than a Three Day Weekend

Sat, 23/05/2020 - 15:30

Peter Suciu

History, Americas

Too often people think it is a holiday to honor American military veterans, but that's not true. November 11, which began as Armistice Day to mark the end of the First World War and evolved into Veterans Day, is when we pay tribute to those who served in the United States military.

It is called the unofficial start to summer; a three-day weekend when a "tent pole" action film (usually with lots of CGI heroes) opens and it is a holiday that retailers use to clear inventory. Unfortunately, what is often forgotten is the actual origin of Memorial Day. For those who say that "Christmas is too commercialized" and that the meaning is lost should remember that, sadly, few Americans understand the meaning behind the Memorial Day holiday.

Too often people think it is a holiday to honor American military veterans, but that's not true. November 11, which began as Armistice Day to mark the end of the First World War and evolved into Veterans Day, is when we pay tribute to those who served in the United States military.

Memorial Day is actually a more solemn occasion—or at least should be—as it honors those men and women who died while serving in the Armed Forces. It is a time to reflect and remember those American patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice while protecting and defending the country they loved.

The holiday's origins go back to May 1868, when General John A. Logan, who was the commander-in-chief of the Union veterans' group the Grand Army of the Republic, issued a decree that May 30 should become a nationwide day of commemoration for the more than 620,000 soldiers killed in the recently ended Civil War. Logan reportedly chose that date for Decoration Day not because it marked a major battle, but rather because it was a rare day that didn't fall on the anniversary of a Civil War battle. Logan, who had been a congressman before the war, returned to his political career and eventually served in both the House and Senate. When he died his body was laid in state in the rotunda of the United States Capitol, making him just one of thirty-four people to have received the honor.

His Decoration Day was embraced by the nation and by 1890 every state adopted it as a holiday, and over the years it was used to remember those killed not just in the Civil War but in other American conflicts. However, it wasn't until 1971, during the Vietnam War, that Memorial Day became officially recognized as a national holiday.

Likewise, while it was largely known as Memorial Day, it was still officially Decoration Day until the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968 finally went into effect. That both officially renamed the day, and moved it to a set day—the last Monday in May. Some veterans groups have expressed concerns that it has become merely a long weekend of summer and thus it fails to honor those veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice. For twenty years that cause was championed by Hawaiian Senator and decorated World War II veteran Daniel Inouye, who until his death in 2012, reintroduced legislation that would move the holiday back to May 30.

The National Movement of Remembrance resolution was passed in December 2000, and it asks that at 3pm local time, all Americans "voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from what they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to 'Taps.'"

Memorial Day should be about honoring the true American heroes, not those in an action movie, and we should remember their sacrifice that makes it possible to enjoy a three weekend of BBQs and summer activities.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.

Image: Reuters.

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