Category Archives: army

Bergdahl to report for duty.

SGT Bowe Bergdahl, since his return to US control after years of captivity in Afghanistan, has been a patient in a military treatment facility, undergoing reintegration. Apparently, that reintegration process is near completion, and Bergdahl will soon be reporting for duty with a troop unit.

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has finished undergoing medical care and counseling at an Army hospital in San Antonio and could return to an Army unit on a Texas post as early as Monday, a defense official tells CNN.

Bergdahl was held captive by militants for five years before he was released in May in exchange for five senior Taliban members held by the U.S. military. He has always maintained his active duty status. He cannot retire from the service or be discharged until the investigation concerning his disappearance and captivity in Afghanistan is complete.

For about three weeks, Bergdahl has been an outpatient at the San Antonio hospital, and military officials have interviewed him about his time in captivity.

Bergdahl is set to take a job at Fort Sam Houston, the Army post in San Antonio, according to an Army statement Monday. He will return to “regular duty within the command where he can contribute to the mission,” the statement said.

Since Bergdahl was an infantryman, and there are no Infantry units at Ft. Sam, I suspect he’s going to be placed at a desk in a headquarters unit somewhere on post, with the primary duty of answering the phone. That’s actually fairly common for people who are otherwise not capable of performing a full range of military duties.  I’m curious about the two troops assigned to be his minders. I’m sure they’re just thrilled to be given that chance to excel.

Aggiesprite suspects there might just be  a whiff of politics involved with the ongoing investigation surrounding the circumstances of Bergdahl’s departure from his post in Afghanistan. I don’t know anything about MG Dahl, the investigating officer. I do know that to date, none of the other soldiers that were there have been reinterviewed.  And as I said in the comments at Aggie’s, I strongly suspect Big Army hopes this will fade from the headlines, and the Army can quietly discharge Bergdahl into obscurity.

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Hometown memorial and a friend remembered

Huntsville has a significant military presence, and so it is fitting that the Huntsville-Madison County Veterans Memorial is not just a stone on the courthouse square but a place to contemplate, to remember those who fought for us, those who held up their hands and swore the oath, those who gave everything.
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The waterfalls and fountain are soothing.  The three sections along the outside provide a chronicle of the wars fought, with black marble memorials to hometown heroes.  These sections are anchored by two sets of statues.

100_0640 cropand

100_0637 cropSome of the stones on the walkway have famous or appropriate sayings (click to embiggen).

100_0638Wonder if anyone in the current administration would take heed of this one.

100_0639The walkway behind this part of the memorial is paved with memorial bricks.  This one was placed just in time for Independence Day.

100_0632 cropAs Don would say, pull up some bench.

100_0633 cropDon’s ashes will be scattered during a parachute jump next month, so there will be no grave marker for him.  This I thought was appropriate, so that he will never be forgotten.

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A Camera Lost for 70 Years Gives a Glimpse Into the Battle of the Bulge.

Cameras are ubiquitous today.  We’ve all grown somewhat accustomed to seeing combat footage from Iraq and Afghanistan, often taken by the soldiers themselves. 70 years ago, that wasn’t quite the case. There were some cameras, but not many, and film was hard to come by.

U.S. Navy Captain Mark Anderson and his historian friend Jean Muller were out with metal detectors, scavenging around Luxembourg, where the most heated firefights of The Battle of the Bulge took place.

While traveling through the hilly forest that once served as a brutal battleground, the pair came across an empty foxhole, and inside of that foxhole they found the personal possessions of an American soldier, left untouched for almost three-quarters of a century.

Among those possessions was a camera with a partially-exposed roll of film still inside.

The Battle of the Bulge was the largest battle in the history of the US Army, and much of it was fought with an intensity that would rival any other. The Army would suffer 19,000 Killed in Action, over 47,000 wounded, and 23,000 captured or missing. One soldier, first listed as Missing in Action, was later listed as Killed in Action when his remains were recovered.

And it was Louis J. Archambeau’s camera that CAPT Anderson found.

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The handful of images may be in poor condition, but they clearly show the discomfort and tension of that awful battlefield.

H/T to Jennifer Holik for sharing this on facebook.

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‘Some damn fool thing in the Balkans”

Postcard_for_the_assassination_of_Archduke_Franz_Ferdinand_in_SarajevoGavrilloprincip

Today marks the centennial of one of Western society’s most improbably momentous events.  It was on June 28th, 1914 that the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, the Countess Sophie of Hohenberg, were assassinated in the street of the Bosnian city of Sarajevo.  The events of that day, the failed bombing at the bridge, the missed attempt on the road, the wrong turn by the Archduke’s driver, the opportunity for another attempt on the Archduke’s life, are well-known.  The motives of the assassin, 19-year-old Gavrilo Princip, and his Mlada Bosna (Young Bosnia), a group supported by the infamous Black Hand, are well-documented and, to the serious student of Balkan history, quite familiar.

What is nearly impossible to understand, despite the volumes upon volumes of historical analysis and the (now) generally agreed-upon portrayal of events, is HOW the assassination of an Archduke, the heir to a throne whose sitting monarch despised him, and whom he in turn despised, could be the triggering event that led to the greatest blood-letting cataclysm in Western history.   There are superb pieces of research and analysis, among them Christopher Clark’s 2012 masterpiece The Sleepwalkers, and DJ Goodspeed’s The German Wars (1965), that provide detailed explanations of the diplomatic and military decisions that took Europe from a century of relative peace into a devastating conflict more profoundly destructive than the Thirty Years’ War.   Even with that,  a historian can often do little more than shake one’s head incredulously at the sequence of decisions and miscalculations that would pit the great nations against one another for four bloody years.

I offer, in no particular order, some of the factors which led to what can be described as the least necessary of wars.

A notable mediocrity amongst the foreign ministers of the belligerents, to include England’s Edward Grey, who failed to understand that England’s real interests were in a balance of European power, and not in France’s desire to avenge the humiliation of 1871.  There was Count Berthold of Austria-Hungary, whose distinct lack of subtlety in his demands to Serbia inflamed Russia (who held dreams of being the protector of “pan-Serbism” in the Balkans).   Russia’s Sazonov, a duplicitous and dishonest schemer who collaborated with France’s Poincaré to virtually guarantee war with Germany.  France’s revolving door of Foreign Ministers, none effective, that included René Viviani during what became known as the July Crisis.  Wilhelmine Germany’s Gottlieb von Jagow, whose terrible miscalculation of the Austria-Serbia crisis proved so tragic.

Detached and often delusional monarchs, whose laissez-faire approaches to their respective nation’s diplomatic postures during the critical weeks following the assassination allowed the respective foreign ministers mentioned above, along with military chiefs of those countries, to dictate rather than execute their nation’s foreign policies.  Emperor Franz Josef of Austria-Hungary only briefly interrupted his vacation after the assassination, and was largely absent from the seat of power in Vienna during most of the July Crisis.  When he did return, he was somewhat shocked at the harsh terms of the ultimatum to Serbia, crafted by his own Foreign Minister and Chief of Staff.  Tsar Nicholas in Russia was absent for crucial meetings between French President Poincaré and his own “war party” of Sazonov and War Minister Sukhomlinov, during which it is presumed Russia agreed to war with Germany should she intervene in the Austria-Serbia crisis.  Even the mercurial and impetuous Kaiser Wilhelm, whose envy of the Royal Navy (and subsequent Naval Race with Britain) and imperial desires were perceived by the British as threats to the Empire, was strangely passive during the playing out of the events of July 1914, limiting himself to making marginal notes in the diplomatic messages until the specter of a wider continental war elicited desperation.   The one exception as head of state is the aforementioned Raymond Poincaré, the French President, whose actively malignant role included agitating for the long-desired war of revanche with Germany, and enlisting the Russians to assist France in that effort.

The international order built so carefully by Bismarck in the later decades of the 19th Century was rendered topsy-turvy, with illogical alliances and unlikely enmities that cooler analysis and more competent diplomacy might have gone great lengths to remedy.   Britain had far more in common with Germany than with her traditional antagonist, France.  Germany had been to war with Austria in 1866, when it wrested away the German states from Vienna (and from the very same Franz Josef) to, eventually, in 1871, Berlin.  Kaiser Wilhelm and Tzar Nicholas, cousins (along with George V) and grandsons of Victoria, had warm personal relations, and many more reasons to cooperate over the breakup of European Turkey than to be in conflict.  England, for her part, had been the traditional guardian of the European balance of power before inexplicably abandoning that role in an informal (but in the end, very binding) alliance with France.

To the events of July 1914, technological development and industrialization would be a determinant of not just tactics and doctrine, but also would be a major factor in the shaping and executing of Grand Strategy for the countries embroiled in the crisis.   The mobilization of an army in the industrial age entailed a great deal of preparation, and once executed, left little to no room for equivocation.  To do so would be to throw the proverbial spanner in the works, causing upheaval, delays, and the real spectre of being unprepared and in the midst of deploying when war came.  Thus, when the decisions in the respective governments for mobilization came, war was all but inevitable.  Interestingly, the last continental power to order mobilization was Imperial Germany.  Wilhelm, with the prospect of war looming, had tried desperately to apply the brakes to the rapidly accelerating events.   That German war plans calling for the rapid defeat of France to avoid a two-front war were what impelled the German Army to violate Belgian neutrality is one of the tragic ironies of all history.  It was the invasion of Belgium which, in the end, made inevitable British intervention against Germany, preventing the very victory over France sought by the Germans, and all but ensuring their slow strangulation at the hands of the Royal Navy which they had so antagonized with the Naval Race in the previous two decades.

Of the battlefields themselves, much has been said.  The warning signs of what modern war would be had been plentiful for anyone who cared to see.  Dating to the American Civil War, the increasingly deadly weapons of the Industrial Age had made their presence felt.  Britain, certainly, had experience against an enemy armed with modern metallic cartridge rifles in South Africa, and had employed modern machine guns against its empire’s foes at places like Omdurman and Cape Colony.   Envisioning what being on the other side of the Maxim Gun would entail should not have been beyond imagination for the British Army’s Officer corps.  Modern breech-loading rapid-fire artillery, with recoil systems which eliminated the need to re-position guns after firing, had been in military inventories for more than two decades.  The battlefield tactics of 1914, a full generation behind those technological developments, were an invitation to the subsequent slaughter that ensued, resulting in the profligate wastage of much of the youth of Europe.   The names of the Somme, Verdun, Gallipoli, Jutland, Ypres, Loos, Caporetto, Tannenberg, Passchendaele, and the Isonzo all evoke images of privation and death without purpose, and rightly or wrongly, of incompetent and criminally obtuse military leadership.

The effect of the unprecedented butchery on the psyche of Western civilization is still being felt.  The old order in much of Europe, political as well as social, collapsed utterly.  The confidence in the enlightened nature of Man, of his scientific mastery, and his cultural education, was shattered forever.  Monarchies in Russia, Austria-Hungary, and Germany fell, replaced mostly by the anarchy of revolution.  In the wake of that revolution, spurred in great measure by the War to End All Wars, came the Bolsheviks and National Socialists who would ensure that the horrors of 1914-18 would be just a precursor to the bloodiest of centuries.

However implausible it may seem (and all the more implausible with closer analysis), the impetus for the Great War and all that followed occurred one hundred years ago today, when bullets from a sickly and tubercular young assassin’s pistol ended the lives of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife on a Sarajevo street.  The warnings of Bismarck in the 1878 Congress of Berlin to not allow Europe to devolve into general war over “some damned fool thing in the Balkans” went, in the end, unheeded.

 

 

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Fortitude.

Yesterday we honored the 70th Anniversary of Operation Neptune/Overlord, better known as D-Day, or the Invasion of Normandy.

Operation Neptune referred to the naval portion of the attack, while Overlord was the name for the ground operation.

But as momentous as D-Day itself was, as Cornelious Ryan famously tagged it, The Longest Day, the landings were only the beginning of what would become a massive campaign.

The Allied leadership, Eisenhower, Montgomery and Bradley, were quite confident the initial landings would be successful. The attacker has the advantage of choosing the time and place of the assault. To them, there was really no question that they would have a toehold on most if not all of the five beaches by the end of June 6.

The real question was, could they continue to reinforce and expand that beachhead? The initial allied assault was five infantry divisions and three airborne divisions. While they outnumbered the German forces in the immediate vicinity of the beaches on June 6, the Germans in northern France had two entire field armies. The struggle would be to see who could reinforce their units at the fight faster. Allied airpower worked The Transport Plan to prevent the Germans from quickly reinforcing the units on the coast.

The Allies were prepared to build up quickly enough to defeat the German 7th Army in Normandy, if only barely.

The problem was, the powerful German 15th Army was guarding the Pas de Calais. As soon as it became evident that the Allies would not conduct a landing there, it could be shifted south to join the 7th Army and overwhelm the Allied beaches.

The key became delaying that shift for as long as possible.

And that’s where Fortitude came in.

Fortitude was the code name for one of a  series of deception operations designed to confuse the Germans. Under the overall plan named Bodyguard, initially the plan led the Germans to consider landings in such disparate places as Greece and Norway. As the build up of D-Day forces in Britain made it clear that northern France would be the target, the plan shifted to convincing the Germans that landings would come at Pas de Calais. Pas de Calais, at the narrowest point of the English Channel would have been the most obvious place to land. And that’s why the coast there was more heavily defended than anywhere else. Consequently, that’s why the Allies chose not to land there, choosing instead the Cotentin Peninsula in Normandy.

The Allies had wargamed the invasion of Normandy time and again (in fact, the Command and General Staff School in the US used a possible assault there as the core of its abbreviated syllabus during the war). Time and again they saw that if they could pin the 15th Army in Pas de Calais for 14 days, the build up would be strong enough to succeed. Fortitude sought to buy the Allies these critical two weeks.

Fortitude was actually two operations. Fortitude North used a fictional British 4th Army in Scotland to threaten an invasion of Norway.  By means of fake radio traffic simulating the units of the 4th Army, and by double agents, Fortitude North actually lead to an increase in the number of German divisions in Norway, troop that otherwise might have gone to reinforce France (or the Eastern Front for that matter). 

Fortitude South was designed to convince the Germans that the landings in Normandy were a diversionary attack, albeit a really big one. To sell Fortitude South, the Allies created the fictional First United States Army Group (FUSAG), notionally under the command of LTG George S. Patton. Patton had been relieved by Eisenhower in Italy, and if he wasn’t quite the golden-haired boy of US generals, he certainly held outsized sway in the minds of the German leadership, particularly Rommel. After all, he’d been the leader of the US invasions in North Africa and Sicily.* Choosing him to lead the invasion of Europe certainly seemed plausible to the Germans.

Fortitude relied on convincing the Germans that the Allies have far, far more troops and equipment in England than they actually did.

Four primary means would be used to build this illusion:

  1. Radio deception- by creating dummy radio traffic mimicking real units, the Allies allowed German intelligence to intercept traffic, and begin building an order of battle of FUSAG.
  2. Double agents- the XX Committee had captured and turned virtually every German agent in England. These double agents were carefully controlled to build their credibility with the Germans. During Fortitude, they were seen by the Germans as virtually gold-plated sources.
  3. Visual decpetions- German reconnaissance airplanes were  allowed to see troop buildups that strongly suggested an assault across the channel to the Pas de Calais. A huge array of inflatable tanks and trucks, tentage, dummy landing craft made from barrels, plywood and canvas served to reinforce visually what the Germans already sensed from their radio intercepts and double agents.
  4. Code breaking- the Allies had broken a considerable amount of the German codes and had a very strong capability to monitor German traffic. How did that help deception operations, you ask? Well that’s worth a little more discussion.

One of the great challenges of any deception operation is determining their effectiveness. If the enemy has smoked out the deception, he can lay his own trap.

The Allies, especially the British and expatriate Poles, had thoroughly compromised German radio communications. The Allies had achieved a closed feedback loop, where they were able to determine which deceptions were successful, allowing them to reinforce those fears, via the first three means, and to reduce efforts on less successful operations. By knowing what worked and what didn’t, the deceptions of Fortitude became ever more convincing to the Germans.

Fortitude was also a very integrated plan. All three of the primary means worked in coordination with one another. Further, other elements of the British and other Allied governments worked within the Fortitude framework to bolster the plan. BBC radio made announcements and broadcasts that could be perceived as intended for FUSAG or British 4th Army.

So wholly did Fortitude South flummox the German high command that not only did it succeed in pinning 15th Army down for two weeks, it had Hitler convinced for an entire seven weeks that Patton would come charging across the Channel to Pas de Calais. By the time the scales fell from his eyes, Operation Cobra and the great breakout from Normandy were at hand. Fortitude had secured the flank of the Allied invasion, succeeding far, far beyond its creators wildest dreams.

 

*Depending how you measure it, the assault on Sicily was actually larger than the assault on Normandy.

The wiki entries for Bodyguard and Fortitude are both interesting reading. Further interesting reading on Fortitude can be found here.

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DaveO at Op-For has Questions

They should be everyone’s questions.  The true answers to which may cement the Obama Administration as an outlaw regime that makes Richard Nixon on his worst day look like honesty itself.

Who is America’s negotiator with the Taliban?

Are we also negotiating with AQ?

Are we negotiating with terrorist groups in the Philippines and/or Thailand? What are they getting from the White House?

Why won’t the White House negotiate with Congress? Not enough beards?

Why these particular 5 Taliban? Who read their dossiers and agreed that lesser capable detainees in Gitmo would not suffice?

“Curiosities” indeed.  Perhaps it is time for a “revolt of the Generals”.  Though those in senior positions seem to have been placed there with careful consideration to their political pliability/reliability and their distinct lack of spinal column.  The pattern of military and foreign policy of this Administration, if laid out chronologically and without the spin of the lap-dog MSM co-conspirators, can only be described as an active effort to erode America’s security and military capability.  The time for calling such “miscalculation” and “blunder” has long passed.

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Women can be Marine Infantry Officers. All You Have to do is Change the Standards.

Feminist advocate Ellen Haring, a Reserve Army Colonel, wrote a piece over at War on the Rocks about how to fix why females cannot pass the US Marine Corps Infantry Officers’ Course.   Not surprisingly, Haring’s assertions ring hollow and partisan to any Marine ground combat Officer, especially one with the Infantry MOS.

…why are the physical standards different for officers and enlisted infantry Marines?…
Officers and enlisted infantrymen perform the same physical tasks in their units and during combat operations.  The discriminator between officer and enlisted has always been education, not physical differences.

What Haring writes is utter nonsense.  The answer, which should be glaringly evident to someone with the rank of Colonel, is that Marine Officers must not just “perform the same physical tasks”, but to LEAD, and lead by physical example.  A great deal of a young Officer’s credibility with his Marines comes from the display of physical courage and personal fitness, which includes strength, stamina, and endurance.  A Marine Infantry Officer must be prepared to lead despite extreme physical fatigue, and retain the ability to make alert and sound decisions.  The lives of his platoon or company depend upon it.  That Haring ignores such a fundamental of leadership in a combat MOS is not surprising, and I don’t think for a minute it is unintentional.

Haring also cites the op-ed by 2nd Lt Santangelo, in which the Lieutenant asserts that expectations, and not physical limitations, are the reasons for failure among the female Officers.  Nowhere does Haring mention the viewpoint of Captain Kate Petronio, whose extensive experience serving beside Marine Infantry units would seem to have a bit more validity than to be ignored.

Haring’s focus is, of course, the Combat Endurance Test, a grueling physical event that has been a part of the Infantry Officers’ Course for decades.  This is where 13 of the 14 female Officers have failed, and it is administered on the first day of training.  (The 14th female was dropped with a stress fracture in the first few days of training.)  Haring calls the Combat Endurance Test an “initiation”, rather than an occupational qualification, and to an extent that is correct.  In order to lead Infantry Marines, an Officer must successfully complete that test.  So, of course, since it is a stumbling block for 93% (at least) of the female Officers, Haring takes aim at that event.  And here is the crux of her argument:

Do initiation rites have a place in our military?  There will be those who argue that they absolutely have a place in developing the esprit de corps that is vital to the Marine Corps and those arguments have merit.  Certainly the Marines have built their reputation on being tough, trained professionals whose motto Semper Fidelis (always faithful) embodies their total dedication to this country and to the Corps. But does an initiation rite that effectively filters out half the American population (all women) do the Marine Corps justice?

It is that last line which says it all.  Haring apparently has issue with how the Marine Corps trains its Infantry Officers, as such training doesn’t do the Corps “justice”.   Huh.  Here I was thinking the Corps had a rather successful training program for what it rightly considers the backbone of the service, the Marine Infantry Officer.  Haring parenthetically mentions that such training “filters out” women, as if that part of her argument is an afterthought.  In reality, her entire effort centers around that very premise.  While she goes on to say that she is not advocating elimination of the Combat Endurance Test, she does advocate advancing female Officers through IOC without passing the test, as she claims male officers have done, and allow females to repeat the test (one assumes, indefinitely), until they pass.  (I question the accuracy of her assertions that males have been given unlimited chances to pass the Combat Endurance Test, and know of several males who have washed from IOC because they could not do so.)

This will have the effect of making passing of the Combat Endurance Test a graduation requirement rather than an entry requirement.  Of course, once a female Officer has had all that time and money invested in her training, the argument will then be to waive passing of the Combat Endurance Test altogether.  Because it would be foolish and wasteful to put a female Officer through all that training and not have her graduate.  Which will be precisely the goal of feminist activists like Haring.  Female Marine Infantry Officers, no matter how unqualified or ill-equipped to be such.  Because, well, the cause is more important.

So, despite her assertions that she does not advocate changing the standards in order to have female Marine Officers become Infantry Officers, she is advocating just that, and she knows it.  Like so many in the “girl power” feminism ranks, she simply lacks the integrity to say so.

h/t to Info Dissem

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