September 1st, 1939

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Much rightful attention will be paid to the events of the First World War as we mark the centennial of the events of the “War to End All Wars”. 

Not to be lost in those observances of the Great War is tomorrow begins the marking of the 75th anniversaries of the events of the Second World War.  It was seventy-five years ago tomorrow, September 1st 1939, that the Wehrmacht of Hitler’s Third Reich crossed the Polish border and unleashed the savagery and bloodshed of that global conflagration. 

A great deal of what is in the news today can lead one to believe that the world is literally going to hell.  Perhaps it is, but the last century shows us that it has been there before.  Imagine in 1939 being a man or woman in your early 40s, who experienced the war of 1914-18, lost family and loved ones, perhaps your home and possessions, only to see war again come to your land and your people.  Again, for the second time in your short life, you may send a loved one (a son, or a husband) to war. Millions of men who fought in the Second World War had done so in the First.  Even without yet more personal participation as a soldier, the horrors of war were again manifest in the lives of hundreds of millions of souls, many of whom would perish before the uneasy peace ended the carnage. 

In 1914, the world was plunged accidentally into a bloodletting that spiraled out of control, by incompetent and irresponsible leaders in the nations of Europe.   In 1939, the world was again plunged into bloodletting, this time deliberately so by monsters who spewed their hatred and made no secret of their plans for conquest and subjugation.  Following a half a decade of weakness and appeasement from the Western democracies, whose desperation to avoid war only fueled the appetite of the dictator.

There are lessons aplenty from 1914, and many more from 1939.   Which are most applicable to 2014?  As the storm clouds gathered in the late 1930s, the words of Berthold Brecht must have echoed forlornly across the great cities of Europe.

Do not rejoice in his defeat, you men!
Although the world stood up and stopped the bastard,
The bitch that bore him is in heat again.

If one listens to the cries of “death to the Jews” in the Muslim protests all over Europe, and watches the death squads murder thousands in Iraq, those words should echo still. 

Air Force to begin rotating launch officers | Air Force Times | airforcetimes.com

The latest change in the nuclear missile career field will let airmen trade places with each other, opening up opportunities for officers to work on a different base for three months.

The program, announced Wednesday, will transfer small groups of airmen to give them first-hand experience with operations in another squadron. Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, has received four officers from Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, and three from F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming. Seven officers from Minot were sent to fill the places of the airmen from Malmstrom and F.E. Warren.

“The idea is that the folks embedding with us for 90 days would be able to experience at the ground level some of the changes and initiatives we’re implementing as part of the Force Improvement Program,” Lt. Col. David Rickards, deputy group commander of the 91st Operations Group at Minot, said in a release announcing the program.

via Air Force to begin rotating launch officers | Air Force Times | airforcetimes.com.

Eh. ICBM launch officer is a career field in the Air Force. Imagine that. A career of 20 to 25 years consisting of sitting in a hole in the ground. It was one thing during the height of the Cold War to provide incentives to keep at least some high quality officers in the career field. But in the last 20 years, it has  apparently been quite the challenge. The scandals that have rocked the community are evidence of this.

The really interesting part of the article is the part I didn’t excerpt. The Air Force has started to send some missileers on exchange tours to the Navy’s Trident sub community.  The thing is, there’s not really a “missile” community in the Navy for submarine officers. Oh, sure, some officers will spend more time in missile boats than in fast attack boats, but there isn’t a dedicated career path that an officer follows to the exclusion of serving on another type of sub platform.

And the Navy draws its missile officers from the ranks of its qualified nuclear submarine officers. That is, a tour as a missile officer is just that, a tour, as a part of a successful career as a submarine officer.

Given that, we have to wonder if the Air Force should look to that model, where serving as an ICBM launch officer is a tour as  a part of a career dedicated primarily to another platform, say space systems management, or service in the B-52 and B-2 communities.

The Vanishing Polar Ice Cap Has Grown 43% Since 2012 (and gotten thicker, too)

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The UK Daily Mail has the story.  Despite some logical tap-dancing by a number of “experts” in the article, the fact remains that the predictions of doom and gloom regarding the polar ice cap are complete hogwash.   And I cannot shake the feeling that, like so much else about the “environmental movement” dominated by anti-capitalists with a statist communist agenda, these “experts” knew it all along.  Which is why there has been massive fraud and dishonesty in the body of research regarding Global Cooling Global Warming Anthropogenic Climate Change.

Al Gore, inventor of the internet, once ominously forecast that by this summer (2014) it would be possible to have “ice-free” polar waters.   The predictions of the acceleration of global warming that would cause sea levels to rise (global cooling alarmists were predicting sea levels to fall back in the 70s) have proven entirely inaccurate.  Even given the widespread manipulation of scientific data, the warmest year on record was some sixteen years ago.  The twelve months between March 2013 and March 2014 were the coldest on record in North America.   The snow cover in the Himalayas was supposed to have melted, but we know that the snow cover is as deep as it has ever been.  Massive hurricanes, we are constantly told, will destroy coastal US cities because climate change will make them so much more powerful and intense.  Yet, we have had the longest drought for a major hurricane (Category 3 or higher) striking US soil in a century.   It has been nearly NINE YEARS since Hurricane Wilma struck the US mainland in October of 2005.

Each and every prediction has been wrong.  All of them.  So why do they persist?  Why is it that the EPA is allowed dictatorial powers as a mere regulatory entity of our government?  Because “environmentalism” is yet another path that the far-left is employing to engorge the power of government, enrolling the ideologically rabid but wildly ill-informed and poorly reasoned (you listening, Sam Locklear?), to erode capitalism and make private business and private citizens in this country subject to the extra-legal authority of unfettered and ideologically-driven bureaucratic apparatus.  And that authority will be wielded by distinctly far-left zealots who despise capitalism and see mankind as a dangerous inconvenience to the perfect world they seek.  And, of course, there is money in it.  Lots and lots of money.  Taxpayer money.  For research.  For bureaucracy.  For enforcement, often at the end of a gun that the far-left purports to despise when it is in the hands of a private citizen.

Barack Obama partakes of the lies, and perpetuates them to the American people.  There are enough addle-headed and smug Prius drivers to nod grimly and resolutely when Obama talks of the next draconian measures that will stifle free enterprise and once again increase the scope of government power to have the complicit media tell us that such measures are not only necessary but popular.   New carbon rules, choking regulation of industry, emphatically demanded from the man who demands his dog be put on a separate airplane to join him on vacation.   After all, the environmental omelet requires the breaking of eggs.   Those eggs just happen to be the liberties of American citizens, which once again are so inconvenient to the Socialist-Communist Secular Paradise that Hope and Change will bring us.

The Joy of Field Rations: The French P-38 Can Opener

The French P-38 Can Opener.

Can opener, scraper, screwdriver, chisel, pick, the tool of a hundred thousand uses, “The Greatest Army Invention”, “invented in just 30 days in the summer of 1942 by Maj. Thomas Dennehy at the Subsistence Research Laboratory in Chicago”*, was actually invented 30 years earlier by a Frenchman.

via The Joy of Field Rations: The French P-38 Can Opener.

My entire world has been upended. That magnificent piece of American technology is French?

The blog I borrowed this from is interesting in its own right, with posts about the hardware, and the recipes related to field feeding of troops. The 1944 Army biscuit recipe looks pretty promising.

Army in the Pacific adopts new style of deployment – Pacific – Stripes

The Army in the Pacific is starting a new deployment concept this week that sends soldiers out into the region for multiple exercises and longer stays in foreign countries that are intended to reassure partner nations and develop closer relationships as the United States continues its “rebalance” to the Pacific.

Developed out of Fort Shafter, “Pacific Pathways” also is a new Army strategy to stay relevant as large occupational land forces that are costly and slow to mobilize become less viable.

About 550 soldiers with the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team out of Washington state and supporting units are heading to Indonesia for the exercise Garuda Shield in the first iteration of Pacific Pathways, the Army said.

The soldiers will utilize nine Stryker armored vehicles and eight helicopters.

About 500 other 2nd Stryker and supporting soldiers will head to Malaysia with 11 Stryker vehicles and three helicopters for the exercise Keris Strike, which overlaps with the Indonesia training.

The first group of 550 soldiers and others will then leapfrog over to Japan for Orient Shield, the Army said.

via Army in the Pacific adopts new style of deployment – Pacific – Stripes.

My tour in the 25th ID meant I was part of US Army Pacific. And at that time, there was a fairly regular schedule of international training exercises with a wide variety of nations throughout the Pacific. Team Spirit was the biggest, partnering the US Army with the Republic of Korea. Generally, in addition to the 2nd Infantry Division stationed in Korea, at least a brigade from the 25th ID would deploy for the exercise, in addition to various Air Force, Navy and Marine units. Other major exercises included Cobra Gold with Thailand, and various smaller, usually battalion sized deployments to Japan, Indonesia, and Malaysia.

Given that there were 9 Infantry battalions in the division, a soldier could expect to only participate in one or two major deployments of about one month in a year. That reduced the burden of a high operational tempo and spread the benefits of training exercises across all the units of the division.

That didn’t count the availability of the 7th and 9th Infantry Divisions to send troops on their own training deployments.

During the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army had a crushing operational tempo, with some soldiers spending half their enlistments deployed overseas to a war zone. The risks of battle are bad enough, but the disruption to any chance at a semblance of a family life drive many of the best and brightest out the door. And somewhat obviously, the longer a soldier stayed in, the longer they could anticipate being deployed.

So I’m not entirely sure the 550 or so troops are going to be thrilled to deploy on a series of back to back training missions overseas, away from their homes and families, when they might reasonably point out that other troops might be available to take of month of training of their own.

China is not playing well with others.

The US Navy has always maintained that international waters, and airspace, are just that, international. And that those waters and airspaces are free to the passage and use of any nation. And the US has long recognized the international standard of the 12 nautical mile limit on territorial waters.* And the Navy has long known that a right not exercised isn’t really a right. So the Navy has also long conducted Freedom of Navigation exercises, sending ships and planes into areas that we recognize as international waters or airspace, simply to make the point that they are available for use. Additionally, to maintain awareness of the maritime domain, the Navy has long used P-3, and now P-8 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) to conduct surviellance of shipping in international waters. If they can also happen to track foreign warships such as submarines while going about their business, so much the better. That’s the whole point to MPA, to patrol.

China has long felt its proper place was to be at least a regional hegemon, if not a great world power. And as such, it has long resented the US presence in the Western Pacific, particularly in the South China Sea area. And so, they have a long history of intercepting US patrol planes in international airspace. Mind you, there’s nothing wrong with that. The US does the same thing, and has done so around the world.

But the Chinese also have a history of either outright attacking US reconnaissance aircraft, or of recklessly endangering our aircraft. While it has been a relatively long time since the Chinese have actually shot down one of our planes, it hasn’t been that long since the 2001 collision between a Chinese fighter and a US EP-3E spy plane resulted in an international incident, with the EP-3 making an emergency landing in China.

And as we noted just the other day, a US Navy P-8 Poseidon on patrol in the South China Sea was aggressively intercepted by a Chinese fighter.

Pentagon officials said a Chinese fighter buzzed a P-8 Poseidon anti-submarine and reconnaissance plane on Aug. 19, at one point flying 9 meters (30 feet) from its wing tip before doing a barrel role(sic) over the top of it.

A Chinese J-11 fighter jet is seen flying near a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon about 215 km (135 miles) east of China's Hainan Island in this U.S. Department of Defense handout photo taken August 19, 2014. REUTERS/U.S. Navy/Handout

Nor is this simply a case of an exuberant pilot feeling his oats.  Because the article also shares this bit:

“We didn’t give them enough pressure (before),” Zhang said in the Global Times, a popular tabloid under the official People’s Daily newspaper that is known for its nationalist sentiments. “A knife at the throat is the only deterrence. From now on, we must fly even closer to U.S. surveillance aircraft.”

Emphasis mine.

The US seems to be showing weakness everywhere on the international front, so why wouldn’t China feel emboldened to pressure the US to scale back its patrols? A strongly worded note isn’t worth the paper it is written on.

Were I in charge, I’d certainly think about providing some fighter escort for MPA flights. If they want to push, I’m fine with giving a shove back.

 

*The US also recognizes, as a general rule, the concept of a 200nm EEZ, or Exclusive Economic Zone, where fishing, drilling and other economic activity rights are retained exclusively by the bordering nation. Vessels and aircraft from other nations may pass through those waters, but not fish or drill.  That’s a pretty simple concept for nations like us, bordered only by Canada, Mexico, and Russia. But in the waters of nations like China, or in the Mediterranean Sea, it gets a bit more complex.

Tannenberg

PVH

One hundred years ago today, the greatest German victory of the First World War was won in the East, against vastly superior numbers of Russian forces, at the Battle of Tannenberg.

In mid-August 1914, the two large Russian armies in the East had made incursion on German soil, and threatened to subsume much of the German countryside.  In the weeks leading up to the massive action, the German 8th Army was roughly handled at Gumbinnen, and its commander, General Maximilian von Prittwitz, ordered a withdrawal behind the Vistula.  German Chief of General Staff von Moltke (the Younger) dismissed Prittwitz, replacing him with General Paul von Hindenburg, who had been called out of retirement (He had retired in 1911, and had first seen action almost a half century before, at Königgratz in 1866.).  Barbara Tuchman’s description of the elderly Hindenburg waiting at a siding in a Prussian railroad station in his sky-blue Prussian General’s uniform is a striking one.  Hindenburg’s Chief of Staff was to be General Erich Ludendorff.  Hindenburg was most fortunate to retain Prittwitz’s Chief of Operations, the brilliant Colonel Max Hoffman, who would be the true architect of the great victory at Tannenberg, though contemporary opinion gave nearly all the credit to Hindenburg and Ludendorff.

The battle, which began on 26 August, featured some of the first instances of what is now called signals intelligence.  The Russians, inexplicably, transmitted orders and messages over wireless communications sets entirely in the clear, giving Hindenburg and Ludendorff the Russian plans and intentions from the two Russian commanders, Samsonov and Rennenkampf (whose full name, Paul von Rennenkampf, seems far more suited for German than Russian high command), and from the Russian Army Chief of Staff Zhilinski.

Hoffman’s plan reversed the withdrawal over the Vistula for the German 8th Army, and instead set a series of traps for the widely-separated and badly coordinated Russian armies.  On the narrow end of a 1:3.5 force ratio (The Russians with almost 800,000 combined between Samsonov and Rennenkampf, and the Germans with about 210,000), Hindenburg gambled with an economy of force action that a thinly held line could halt the Russians long enough for the trap to be sprung on Samsonov.  Rennenkampf, who personally despised Samsonov (the feeling was mutual), did little to come to his aid.  Near Konigsberg, Samsonov’s army was surrounded, and between 29 and 30 August was annihilated.  The numbers staggered the imagination.

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Samsonov’s 150,000 engaged troops lost nearly 30,000 killed and 90,000 captured. More than 500 guns and mountains of supplies and ammunition were captured by the Germans or abandoned by the fleeing Russians. It is estimated that the ordnance and equipment required sixty trains to be transported to Germany. Samsonov, for his part, famously killed himself as he and his staff wandered in the German woods. Rennenkampf withdrew from the battle largely intact, but would be ejected for good from German soil at the First Battle of the Masurian Lakes in the second week of September.   Russian forces would not set foot on German soil again until January of 1945.

Hindenburg, with a strong grasp of history, insisted that this decisive battle of encirclement be named for one of the villages which had been the scene of a Teutonic defeat five centuries earlier.  His written summary of the great battle included the following:

On August 24 I motored with my small Staff to the Headquarters of the 10th Corps, and thus entered the village which was to give its name to the battle so soon to blaze up.

Tannenberg!  A word pregnant with painful recollections for German chivalry, a Slav cry of triumph, a name that is fresh in our memories after more than five hundred years of history.

Before this day I had never seen the battlefield which proved so fateful to German culture in the East.  A simple monument there bore silent witness to the deeds and deaths of heroes.  On one of the following days we stood near this monument while Samsonof’s Russian Army was going to its doom of sheer annihilation.

The Battle of Tannenberg featured another interesting situation, which is an object lesson in the high quality of German military leadership.  Ludendorff had ordered I Corps commander General von Francois to attack Sazonov’s flank on 25 August.  Francois, desperately short of artillery ammunition, abjectly refused.  He informed Ludendorff that he would not attack without sufficient artillery support, and was due an ammunition delivery on 27 August, and that the tactical situation allowed him to afford the wait.  Interestingly, intercepts of Russian messages showed Francois to be correct, and he was neither relieved nor punished.  He was instead allowed to begin his attack on the date he stated, when the supply of artillery ammunition would be adequate.

On 31 August, Hindenburg was able to dispatch the following message to the Kaiser:

I beg most humbly to report to Your Majesty that the ring round the larger part of the Russian Army was closed yesterday.  The 13th. 15th and 18th Army Corps have been destroyed.  We have already taken more than 60,000 prisoners, among them the Corps Commanders of the 13th and 15th Corps.

The guns are still in the forests and are now being brought in.  The booty is immense though it cannot yet be assessed in detail.  The Corps outside our ring, the 1st and 6th, have also suffered severely and are now retreating in hot haste through Mlawa and Myszaniec.

The Russian threat in the East, so ominous in those August days, was shattered.  It would be eliminated for good at Masurian Lakes in September.  Hindenburg, for his part, was largely complimentary of the Russian soldier, of his toughness and bravery.  His descriptions of the magnanimity of the German soldier toward the Russian prisoners, while accurate in 1914, stands in stark contrast to the events of the next war.

Airbus A400M Atlas

Personally, I’d prefer if our European allies simply bought C-17s and C-130Js from us, but I’ll settle for them producing their own transport aircraft. At least they’re putting money toward some capability.

The Airbus A400M is a turboprop powered transport roughly between the C-17 and the C-130 in size. It’s also a fairly sprightly bird when lightly loaded.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fRtOGJTqjkQ]

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LvvzfednAPg]