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Friday, 02 February 2018


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For a much more dry, but very thorough history of the Pacific Campaigns, try reading the official US Army histories found at

My personal favorite is the "Seizure of the Gilberts and Marshalls."

Reading about and viewing official photos of Tarawa, bloody Tarawa, will make you think the Overlord campaign was massive but easy.

Many of the lessons learned at Tarawa were used at Normandy, mainly in the naval gunfire and use of rocket launching ships.

May I put in a word in defence of the much-maligned Hitler? Someone has to do it.

Mildly provocative, I know, but if we do have to personalise all this stuff, I’d grant him ‘blitzkrieg’. Astonishingly effective. If you’re going to try to win a war, for better or worse, don’t dick about, just do it. Does that rather impressive achievement elevate him to military genius or is he still just the frothing baddie in the war movies and the incompetent frustrated corporal? Someone who gets a marginally better press, Napoleon, who by virtue of being longer dead and thus being slightly more historically ambiguous (at least if you are French) and hampered by lower tech, aspired to be half as ‘good’. And was not that ineffective anyway.

The trouble with playing armchair favourites, intoxicating game that it is, is that it has no consequences. So, and only just for instance, you appear to have an aversion to Patton. Neither of us have met him or know him. Doesn’t seem to stop us having an opinion. Who needs facts, whatever they are, when we can have motivational and formative preconceptions. As it happens, Patton presents like a murderous pit bull, with issues. A bully or worse? But I like him on my side, in all the circs. They are all degrees of nut jobs. And just by the way Rommel seems unaccountably to get a sentimental free pass even today. When you get these kind of discrepancies or discordances you have to wonder where gossamer-like truth has gone.

The German army was quite extraordinarily effective in a crap cause for an awful long time. That’s the truly interesting fact for me. That’s the bit I don’t fully understand. Those guys were ‘horribly’ good. I’m not entirely convinced that Hitler was, in his important period, the gibbering loony we would conveniently have him.

It's always important to try to get the true measure of one’s enemies, then and now, I’d say.

This is going to have to come through in two packets as it appears too large on its own.

Land warfare was never my field however discussions with “Brown Jobs”, usually over G&Ts after an enjoyable dinner, often led to the subject of ‘blitzkreig” and, like many others, I was of the opinion that the idea was one belonging to Heinz Guderian. I was suitably chastised by an infantry Colonel of considerable experience who pointed out that it was actually a concept developed by two Brits. As a result, and to avoid future embarrassment when talking to “Brown Jobs”, I did my own research

His explanation was that while Guderian did perfect the doctrine of what we know now as Blitzkrieg the concept of highly mobile forces quickly smashing through enemy defences actually goes back to the days of the armoured knight and cavalry charges. According to some historians [sorry but I can’t find my references - packed away preparatory to moving], Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden formalized a military doctrine which called for rapid movement in the battlefield along with a combined arms assault. This was later adopted by the Prussian military during the time of Field Marshal Moltke the Elder.

The tactics of German Storm Troops during WWI could be considered blitzkrieg without tanks or close air support because they planned to go on a war of manouevre, bypassing fortified lines/trenches and striking vital enemy positions in the rear or even encircling them which was the Wehrmacht's modus operandi during WWII.

What people now know as blitzkrieg where tanks over-run enemy defences with supporting infantry and air support in a swift manner comes from J.F.C Fuller and B.H. Liddell Hart. If they hadn't been at odds with the British military establishment, Britain might have been the one to employ blitzkrieg in WW2.

Part Two

As to NGS [Naval Gunfire Support] it's history goes back to the early days of ship mounted canon. At the siege of Calais in 1347 Edward III deployed ships carrying bombardes and other artillery.

As to the lessons learned from Tarawa and a succinct analysis of that engagement it is worth reading

Over the centuries naval tacticians have studied and improved the use of NGS and the US experience at Tarawa certainly provided valuable lessons for the assault on Normandy albeit at huge cost to the US Marines who comprised the assault force.

There is however a vital difference in the recommendations of the report on Tarawan and the use of NGS on D-Day. The Tarawa Report concluded that prolonged NGS is desirable to eliminate defences and this is almost self evident where the target is, like Tarawa, an island. However Normandy is not an island and a prolonged preliminary bombardment would have alerted the German High Command to the impending landing and allowed them to move their reserves to positions just outside the range of the heaviest naval guns and then allow them to be used in the counter attack. The purpose at Normandy was to provide covering fire for the assault which was to be a surprise and to eliminate targets which had been previously identified and also targets of opportunity.

Gentlemen, your commentary above deserves consideration and response but alas this weekend I am otherwise occupied. It is the Memsahib's birthday today and as part of the celebration 'SoD' and his Czech lovely are descending and we are out tonight for a fish supper, and tomorrow, other good friends are whisking us off to the coast for a leisurely lunch. Maybe, Sunday night will give me some spare time.

However, I will just mention to Andrew that Robin Neillands' books make extensive use of the official American histories which, alas, are not always strictly neutral - and why would they be given that they are written by men and, er, 'neutral' men are hard to find!

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