Archive for the 'Air Force' Category

We have lost a truly great one. Military Historian and analyst Sir John Keegan, OBE, has died at the age of 78.

The Telegraph announced the death of this nonpareil author and military historian. No serious student of the Profession of Arms should fail to read Keegan’s seminal work, The Face of Battle, nor many of his other numerous and superlative works, including The First World War, The Second World War, Six Armies at Normandy, and The Price of Admiralty.

Keegan’s genius in explaining the incomprehensible, warfare, at all its levels, was simply remarkable. His was a once-in-a-century intellect, and he shall be missed.



Reuters has the story.

Russia has been increasing the reach of its navy in recent years, sending warships further afield as part of an effort to restore pride project power in a world dominated by the U.S. military.

That throws a wrench in our Maritime Strategy, it would seem. Or does it? What should our reaction be, militarily? And what, diplomatically? Should there be any?

 



While I certainly sympathize with the thrust of John Kuehn’s title in his energetic article about the situation in Afghanistan, I’d like to offer a somewhat different perspective from my position as the Supreme Allied Commander for all NATO operations, including the 140,000, 50-nation coalition in Afghanistan.

First, I want to agree with John’s laudatory comments about our NATO / ISAF Commander in Afghanistan, my Naval Academy classmate and close friend General John Allen; as well as the commander of NATO’s Training Mission – Afghanistan, Lieutenant General Dan Bolger. Both are doing superb work in truly demanding assignments.

In terms of the Soviet experience in Afghanistan, while there are some similarities, the differences are far greater, and far more encouraging than the situation back in 1989.

In comparison to the Soviet Union, the ISAF coalition has devoted great resources to human capital and infrastructure development, and we have devoted significantly greater troop numbers for kinetic operations; and we already are well underway with a responsible and managed turnover of security responsibilities to Afghan National Security Forces. Most importantly, the international community’s commitment to Afghanistan after the majority of ISAF forces are withdrawn from Afghanistan in 2014 is real and tangible: detailed planning is in progress now in NATO.

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James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence in the Obama Administration, thought so.

From the Daily Beast:

Whether or not sensitive weapons technology was moved to Syria is a hotly disputed question in the intelligence community. James Clapper, now the Director of National Intelligence and formerly the director of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, said in 2003 that he believed materials had been moved out of Iraq in the months before the war and cited satellite imagery.

If the Bashar al-Assad regime falls, and should the securing of the chemical and biological stockpiles of Syria be necessary, what would be the effect if some of those materials and munitions bear Iraqi markings?

Former Iraqi General Sada asserted that Saddam’s chemical stockpile was lifted, in his book “Saddam’s Secrets” and summarized by Investor’s Business Daily:

As Sada told the New York Sun, two Iraqi Airways Boeings were converted to cargo planes by removing the seats, and special Republican Guard units loaded the planes with chemical weapons materials.

There were 56 flights disguised as a relief effort after a 2002 Syrian dam collapse.

The IBD article also mentions Israeli General Yaalon’s assertions, and those of John Shaw regarding Russian assistance in the form of former KGB General Primakov:

There were also truck convoys into Syria. Sada’s comments came more than a month after Israel’s top general during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Moshe Yaalon, told the Sun that Saddam “transferred the chemical agents from Iraq to Syria.”

Both Israeli and U.S. intelligence observed large truck convoys leaving Iraq and entering Syria in the weeks and months before Operation Iraqi Freedom, John Shaw, former deputy undersecretary of defense for international technology security, told a private conference of former weapons inspectors and intelligence experts held in Arlington, Va., in 2006.

According to Shaw, ex-Russian intelligence chief Yevgeni Primakov, a KGB general with long-standing ties to Saddam, went to Iraq in December 2002 and stayed until just before the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.

Anticipating the invasion, his job was to supervise the removal of such weapons and erase as much evidence of Russian involvement as possible.

An interesting statement from Brian Sayers, the director of government relations for the Syria Support Group:

We believe that if the United States does not act urgently, there is a real risk of a political vacuum in Syria, including the possibility of a dispersion of chemical weapons to rogue groups such as Hezbollah.”

What of a regime such as Saddam Hussein’s in Iraq that was suspected of actively attempting to peddle such weapons?

Should these suspicions surrounding Iraq’s possible pre-invasion transfer of its remaining chemical stockpile be confirmed, the silence being heard in the media regarding them will have been deafening.

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Just in case folks still wanted to debate the existence of Syria’s stockpile, I think we might have our answer. How many carry Iraqi markings? How many, Russian?

 



4th

Two Sentences

July 2012

By

Some years ago, I was engaging in a conversation with my niece, a lovely and talented high school junior at the time (now about to be a college senior), who informed me that her English teacher had made the rather unequivocal statement that with perhaps the exception of Melville, no American authors had produced much of any real value. My dismay at hearing this was tempered by the opportunity to disabuse my niece of such a rather uninformed and narrow notion. I told her that, among the most powerful and beautiful words ever uttered or written by mankind was the greatest of all political treatises. And it was a mere two sentences long.

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Those 182 words, spoken plainly and firmly, eclipse the thousands of pages Hobbes, and Locke, and of Rousseau and Montesquieu. And the nascent works of Chinese and Greco-Roman antiquity. Our politicians of every ilk, present and future, would do well to understand those words at the levels of both the intellect and the soul.

(The paragraph here was in error, and has been removed. Pointed out by a reader.)

Today as we celebrate our independence, let us remember to give thanks to the courage, character, wisdom, and brilliant foresight of our Founding Fathers, and for the good providence of God for having shed His grace on us. And to all those who have stood and suffered that we may still count ourselves among the world’s free peoples.

 



Almost a year ago, I posted a guest blog here in response to a blog post by “Steeljaw Scribe” about an article on Professional Military Education (PME) I had written for AOL.Defense. Since then, I’ve written an article for Orbis and a book on PME, (forthcoming in October 2012), in which I’ve continued to advocate open discussion as a necessary step toward improving one of America’s most valuable assets: Professional Military Education. A year later the good news is that discussion has flourished; the bad news is that for the most part it’s business as usual in PME.

The initial response from many readers and commenters to even mild suggestions that the academic rigor and practices in PME could be improved was to dismiss them as the ramblings of one or two disgruntled or failed academics, or those who just “didn’t get” that PME “is different.” There was a time when those caustic responses might have shut down the debate, but in the era of new media, many individuals– even if under a pen name or after they leave PME — nonetheless continued to express their views. The ongoing discussion confirms that there are widespread issues common to PME in general that are not limited to one or two institutions, or a few grumpy faculty.

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During my busy day I had a little time to think about the ruling that was just handed down from the U.S. Supreme Court citing that the Stolen Valor Act shall be struck down as being unconstitutional. In the end I came to the determination that the decision, made by our highest court- though sound, is wrong.

The basis of the 6-3 judgment is a sound one based on the oldest laws of the land; the first amendment may indeed have been violated. However, the spirit of the violation is really what was at stake here. As a blogger I am, by default, for our first amendment rights of free speech. On the same note I’m also a member of the U.S. Coast Guard and a former member of the U.S. Army- two of our five military branches; this is where I begin to cringe.

The First Amendment, as read in the Bill of Rights, and interpreted by Cornell Law states (as it pertains to free speech):

The right to freedom of speech allows individuals to express themselves without interference or constraint by the government. The Supreme Court requires the government to provide substantial justification for the interference with the right of free speech where it attempts to regulate the content of the speech.

If need-be, reread that and pay attention to the second sentence in particular. The words “substantial justification” can be clearly articulated in nearly all the cases involved with bringing charges against individuals under the Stolen Valor Act. I’m kind of confused on how bringing charges against someone isn’t justified if that someone lies about their military services and/or decorations, and there is substantial proof via an individuals military record, or lack thereof?

I’ve heard people tout that people pretending to be military heroes is akin to those who dress up in those costumes at Disneyland; after all it’s just pretend right?

Wrong.

Impersonating a hero of war, or any current or former military member in general, is of the utmost disrespect to the service members of this nation. Those who’ve sacrificed their daily freedom to be part of a military force, and those who’ve died as part of the same forces have an extreme level of pride in what they do (or did) as the case may be. They’ve worked hard to obtain their position, from E-1 to O-10, they’ve all had to work to get to that place in their lives. For someone to simply walk into their local Ranger Joes or Army/Navy store and buy their way into the service is as low as one can be. If you want a Purple Heart join the military, go to war and get one (that’s from my 9 year-old daughter).

The Supreme Court has taken the side of the people, as they are supposed to. But in doing so they’ve alienated those who protect the freedoms of the United States. They’ve allowed the liars, heart-breakers, thieves, and con-artists of the U.S. win. While they win the service men and women of the United States have seen their sacrifices being lessened. If anyone can claim to have a Medal of Honor what’s the point of even being presented with one (No, I don’t really belive this but I’m trying to make a point). I’m grateful for people like those who run This Ain’t Hell for watching out for the rest of us.



It would seem that the word “solidarity” doesn’t mean what it used to.

Turkey, a long-time member of NATO, invoked Article 4 of the Charter, which calls for emergency consultation of all 28 member states, in response to the Syrian downing of an RF-4E reconnaissance aircraft. While not as serious as Article 5, which is invoked in the defense of a NATO ally that has been attacked, Article 4 has generally been seen as a preliminary to discuss options short of armed response. Turkey had threatened to invoke Article 4 back in April, when a cross-border incident in a refugee camp left five people, including two Turkish officials, dead.

From the meeting in Brussels, all Turkey got was the expected condemnation and the assurances of NATO togetherness. Turkey may have been expecting little else. Which is a good thing. In the case of Turkey and Syria, NATO is contemplating no such thing as armed intervention, or intervention of any kind. Not least of which because of Russia’s stance and Putin’s support for Syria’s embattled Assad, combined with the general and embarrassing lack of credible capability demonstrated by NATO in Libya last year.

Despite a WAPO article with some speculation that NATO would consider sidestepping the UN and a certain Russian veto for real action against Syria, the chances of such a sidestep are virtually nil. Turkey knows that, Russia and Syria (and Iran) do, too. Making invocation of Article 4 a symbolic gesture by Turkey toward an increasingly impotent NATO, whose only action was to “condemn in the strongest terms”. I am reminded of one of my favorite Daffy Duck lines. “I will do everything in my power to help you. Which will be nothing!” The rather unimpressive response to Turkey’s Article 4 declaration bodes ill for any NATO member that might possibly wish to invoke Article 5, particularly if Putin and Russia wait in the wings.

Visegrad Group, anyone?

 

 



Those were Adolf Hitler’s words in December of 1940, as he revealed to his senior Wehrmacht Field Marshals and Generals his plans for the invasion of the Soviet Union.

At a few minutes past 0300 on the morning of 22 June 1941, the rumble of 8,000 artillery pieces shook the western positions of the Red Army, all along the new borders of the Soviet Union. Simultaneously, more than 3,300 aircraft roared overhead on their way to attack Soviet airfields, troop concentrations, command posts, and artillery positions. The most fateful day of the Twentieth Century had begun.

In the west, the Wehrmacht of Hitler’s Third Reich consisted of 2.5 million men and more than 4,000 tanks comprising 180 divisions, organized into three massive Army Groups, which were poised to smash their ideological and political enemies, the Bolshevik dictatorship of Stalin’s Soviet Russia.

Opposing the German onslaught was more than 3 million soldiers of Stalin’s Red Army. Numerically superior to its German opponent in men, aircraft (4,000), and tanks (more than 7,000), the armies on the Soviet western boundary were nonetheless abysmally led and poorly trained. Still reeling from Stalin’s 1937-39 purges of most of its officer corps, and from the bloody humiliation of the disastrous “Winter War” with Finland in the winter of 1939-40, the Red Army was ill-prepared for war against a modern western foe.

The Wehrmacht, on the other hand, was a finely tuned weapon of mechanized warfare, having conquered Poland two years earlier, and overrun France in less than six weeks in 1940. Superbly trained and equipped with modern armor and the most advanced combat aircraft, the three German Army Groups shattered the Soviet forces opposite them. The Luftwaffe swept the Red Air Force, the VVS, from the skies and smashed it on the ground. By the end of the second day, more than 2,300 Soviet aircraft had been destroyed. The Red Army was already being shattered and destroyed piecemeal, in what would be the “great battles of encirclement” of that summer and autumn of 1941, from which few escaped death or captivity. The eradication of the VVS was nearly complete. Nearly. The Red Army almost bled to death. Almost. Yet, somehow, they held on.

Operation BARBAROSSA, the German invasion of the Soviet Union, more than any other, was Hitler’s war. It was the war of Mein Kampf, the war for Lebensraum in the East, whose purpose was to open the great steppes for colonization by the Aryan race. It was a war not just of conquest but of subjugation and annihilation, fought with a brutality that had not been seen in Europe since the Tatar conquests of seven centuries before. It was a war of unspeakable horror and unimaginable suffering, by soldier and civilian alike. Prisoners on both sides died by the millions, worked to death as slave labor, starved, or simply shot or hanged out of hand. But it was also a war of grim and fatalistic heroism on both sides. The German-Soviet conflict, when it ended in the rubble of Berlin nearly four years later, would take the lives of almost twenty-three million souls.

Some of the most enduring images of the Eastern Front, and for the Soviets the Great Patriotic War, are of columns of Russian and German prisoners forlornly marching to their fates (the Russians seemingly always in the dust of the summer, the Germans in the bitter cold of winter). And of grainy images of executions and hangings by the German SS Einsatzgruppen, and far less publicized, of the execution of suspected Russian collaborators by field units of the NKVD, the terror apparatus of Stalin’s brutal regime.

There are lessons and cautions abundant in examining this titanic struggle. Cautions about underestimating one’s enemy, his will to fight for family and homeland. The Russian soldier, deemed racially inferior and incapable of waging modern war, proved individually tough, able to endure hardship and privation in startling measure. He was also fanatical in the defense, fierce in the attack, and bore a hatred of the “blue-eyed oaf” that would be carried across the borders of Prussia with terrible effect.

The Russian was also capable of producing simple but highly effective weaponry, and of mastering its employment. The T-34 and KV-1 tanks that began to appear in the autumn of 1941 were superior to any German design. Soviet aircraft began to close the technology gap with the Luftwaffe far faster than anticipated. Soviet artillery, superior to the Germans even in June of 1941, would dominate the battlefield as the Red Army’s “God of War”. All these would surprise and confound the German commanders who were told to expect an enemy of limited intellect and poor character.

There are also many myths and misconceptions surrounding the struggle between these oppressive dictatorships. Here are two:

  1.  The Wehrmacht was not capable of winning a short (ten-week) war against the Soviet Union.

Because the Germans did not win does not mean they were not capable of winning, or the Soviets capable of losing. Had the Ostheer kept its focus on Moscow as the main objective (the plan was to surround, not enter the city), and had Hoth’s Panzers been unleashed in the first week of August, rather than frittered away in other operations until October, the capture of the European capital of the Soviet Union was within its capabilities. Perhaps even more important than the purely political prize was the massive Soviet war industry that occupied the so-called “Moscow-Gorky Space”. Siberian forces did not begin to arrive to defend the city and its immediate area in significant numbers until late September, 1941. The capture of the Soviet war industry, which included the massive tank works at Gorky itself, and the aircraft engine factory at Kuibyshev, would have deprived the Soviet Union of its most valuable asset, the ability to replace the massive combat losses with more modern and capable equipment. Had those factories been destroyed or fallen into German hands, there would have been no MiG or Yak fighters, no Il-2 Sturmoviks, no PE-2s, or any of the other increasingly modern aircraft that would eventually sweep the Luftwaffe from the sky. There would have been no replacement divisions of T-34/76 and /85 tanks, no self-propelled guns, no artillery pieces to replace those lost in the massive battles or worn out in extensive combat. Without those factories and the hardware they produced, there would have been no rehabilitation of the VVS or of the Red Army into the juggernaut that crushed Army Group Vistula into bits and eventually subsume eastern Germany.

  1. The Soviet Union was capable of defeating Nazi Germany without Allied assistance.

While it is true that the Soviet Union bore the unquestioned preponderance of the weight of German arms (at various times, 80% of German combat power was employed in the East, and nearly 80% of all German losses were inflicted by the Soviets), and the suffering and casualties of the Soviet military and civilian population exceeded the rest of the Allies combined by a wide margin, Stalin’s Russia could not have won the war without Allied, and particularly American, assistance. While many are familiar with pictures of some of the 9,000 US and British tanks shipped to the Soviets under Lend-Lease, these represented only about 20% of Soviet tank production during the war. There is little question upon any examination, however, that there were two absolutely critical areas of direct assistance were the linchpins of the survival of the Soviet Union in the dark days of 1941-43, and their drive to ultimate victory in 1944-45. The first of these areas was in food production. The United States shipped more than seventeen MILLION tons of food, wheat and canned goods, to the Soviet Union whose agricultural bread basket was under German occupation. That food sustained the Red Army and Russian war industry workers when none other was available. Without it, the prospects for Soviet victory would have been slim indeed. The second item so critical to the Soviet war effort was the supply of more than half a million American trucks. Tough, six-wheel drive vehicles which carried logistical supplies from the rear areas to the front, and which mounted the famous 122mm Katyusha rocket launchers by the tens of thousands, allowed the Red Army to supply itself on the battlefield in the defensive struggles of 1942 and carried that Army to the great offensive drives that eventually smashed the German Ostheer. Those trucks represent more than 70% of total Soviet vehicle production, freeing their industries to produce the war weapons, tanks, artillery pieces, and armored vehicles that equipped the Red Army.

The final victory of the Soviet Union is, however, a testament to the tough, fierce, and brave Russian soldier. His image, the hardened veteran soldier sitting atop a T-34 with PPSh in hand, scanning for a glimpse of the hated enemy, his mustard-colored quilt uniform covered with dust and snow, will endure for centuries in the collective consciousness of the Russian people.

The German invasion of the Soviet Union has never been comprehensively treated. The subject is far too large. It is too complex and incapable of being understood, except gradually, within the context of its salient events, and those of the rest of the world during and since. A thousand volume work on the subject would still require an explanation and a qualification that such a work was by no means all-inclusive. Yet, it remains one of the most compelling subjects for historians, social and military, because of the world-altering impact of the events themselves and their decades-long aftermath. The magnitude of the struggle defies modern understanding. As does the agony of the armies and the peoples locked in the grips of that mortal struggle.

And so it is likely to remain. And it began with the flash of cannon and the roar of engines, in the morning darkness, seventy-one years ago today.

(Cr0ss-posted at Bring the Heat, Bring the Stupid)



The news today carried the notice of the passing of actor Frank Cady, aged 96. Frank Cady was best known for playing shopkeep Sam Drucker on the 1960s sitcom “Green Acres”. Mr. Cady looked old then, which was more than 40 years ago. What strikes one who reads the cast list for “Green Acres” is the fact that actors who played three major characters, as well as the composer of the “Green Acres” theme song, were all veterans of World War II. (Warning: clicking on the link will cause that song to run through your head during important meetings and possibly religious services, so do so at your own risk. )

That composer was the late Vic Muzzy, who served in the United States Navy. Actor Alvy Moore, who played Hank Kimball, was a US Marine combat veteran in the South Pacific. And most notably, star Eddie Albert was a Navy salvage officer who experienced the terrible carnage on the beaches of Tarawa. He talked of his experiences in the 1993 History Channel documentary Death Tide at Tarawa. Moore passed away in 1997, Eddie Albert in 2005, and Muzzy in 2009. Frank Cady was the oldest and the longest-lived of them.

These stars are all gone now, as are most of the Hollywood veterans who put their careers on hold to serve our nation. Gone with them is their collective consciousness of service in wartime that made them so very different from those who act and produce what Hollywood makes and sells today. Not every change is for the better.

 

 



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