German Generals in WWII Led from the Front — and Paid

Generalleutnant Werner Freiherr von Fritsch, former supreme commander of the German Army (inveigled out of that position by the Nazis, even though he was a Nazi supporter himself) was KIA as an “honorary regimental colonel” of an arty regiment, during the Battle of Warsaw in 1939. Hit in the thigh by a rifle-caliber bullet, he bled out through a femoral artery wound in minutes.

Attached to this post is an intriguing report on German general officer casualties, specifically, KIAs, in World War II. It was rare for an Allied general to be killed or wounded in combat, although there were some celebrated cases, including friendly-fire air-ground incidents. The article is loosely framed as a suggestion that the Americans’ Wehrmacht-inspired AirLand Battle doctrine of the 1980s might have led to a similar result, but that has a whiff of “added this to please the war college reviewers and fake contemporary relevance” to it. The paper is predominantly historical.

The numbers don’t lie: 136 German general-officer commanders –division, corps and army levels, the equivalent of American two-star-and-up generals — were killed in action in 1939-45. Several factors led to this: the Germans’ lead-from-the-front doctrine, the personal courage of the generals concerned, the greater lethality of WWII arms than had been the case in their junior officer days’ Great War, and the German’s whole-war-long shortage of combat commanders.

Wehrmacht doctrine emphasized personal reconnaissance, the general “showing the flag” or “showing his face” to the frontmost outposts, and other examples of personal, retail leadership. Was this a cause or effect of the Germans’ reduced proliferation of command radio nets than the Western Allies? Not clear. But the German general put his life on the line with his men; naturally, the enemy was eager to collect some of these scalps.

The personal physical courage of the generals seems beyond question. Among those old enough to have served in World War I, almost all bore valor decorations from the period. Even more received valor decorations in World War II, between taking command and being slain. It stands to reason that courage increases a soldier’s exposure to enemy fire. (Not always true, as fear, panic and timidity will put your trophy in the hunter’s bag sooner than courage, real or imitation, will).

They may have gotten wrong lessons from World War I. Sure, they learned the hazards of artillery fire against fixed trench lines, but they missed the lethality of modern fires against troops in motion. The lethality of air was not on their horizon; Great War strafing was a mere nuisance compared to systematic attacks by marauding Il-2s, P-47s or Typhoons. This is considerably ironic, when one recalls that the Blitzkrieg and the ground-attack aircraft and unit were largely German inventions.

And they were highly visible targets in highly distinctive uniforms.

Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS general officers died of everything from snipers (2 each) to tank main gun fire (2 more, both facing the Soviets), and one unlucky duck drove into a friendly minefield. But the real execution was done by artillery and air, with small arms a secondary contribution via ambushes, raids and in the hands of partisans. Each fallen general caused a local but rapidly recuperable loss of command continuity, but more serious was the contribution to the initial shorthandedness in GOs.

Bear in mind that the Germans had, throughout the war, excellent junior officers and NCOs. This ameliorated the consequences of such organizational beheading.

Here are some conclusions from the historical section of the paper:

First, most of the deaths occurred from quick unexpected attacks. Air bombardments, artillery barrages, hidden minefields, snipers, and partisan attacks were quite different than the deadly but more methodical operations these men had experienced in World War I.

Second, a great many deaths occurred in vehicles moving through the battle area. Such movement attracted air attacks and set up potential ambush situations. Although the commanders had to move by vehicle to control the battlefield better, it appears most did so without an adequate escort capable of discouraging some of the attacks. Much of this movement was done in hours of very good visibility which facilitated enemy air attacks. Some of their disdain for enemy capabilities may have resulted from Luftwaffe reports of friendly air superiority or the belief that a staff car was too small a target to be effectively engaged.

Finally, throughout the war German generals retained distinctive but dangerous markings of their grade. They continued to wear distinctive uniforms and flew vehicular pennants advertising their position. Both provided target information to snipers, ambushes, and partisans.

The Germans never identified this as a problem during the war and never developed training to prepare transferred GOs for the lethal battlefield that awaited them. It was truly an examination given before the lesson.

We found the Airland Battle stuff less convincing. It’s a pretty long reach, projecting GO casualties and consequent disruptions in American units in the event of The Big One breaking out. But the author’s idea of using wartime German experience to predict US experience is interesting.

Here’s the file:

German General Officer Casualties In WW II-Major French L. MacLean.pdf

92 thoughts on “German Generals in WWII Led from the Front — and Paid

  1. medic09

    We were well-accustomed to seeing general staff officers all the way up to Chief of Staff in the field. But it may be different because the IDF is much smaller, Israel operates in a much smaller AO, and all those officers came up through the ranks. But I can tell you for sure that when we saw Chief of Staff Raful (Rafael Eitan) in the field eyeballing the situation it encouraged us and filled us with pride.

    As far as I know, the IDF also has a relatively high rate of general officers wounded or killed. My generation’s war was Lebanon ’82. One of the chief planners of that operation, Yekutiel Adam, was killed in the field in a firefight with PLO forces outside Damour.

      1. Hognose Post author

        Interesting and well-worth signing up for. As the Israeli command positioning algorithm goes, it was explained to me not long after the combat then-LTC Almog engaged in as follows: “Immediately behind the lead subordinate unit.” In other words, the company commander is not behind his van platoon, but that platoon’s van squad. The battalion commander is not between his first and second companies, but between platoons of his lead company. This seems to be a very Teutonic concept, but it’s long been a part of IDF culture. The officers seem to wear few distinguishing marks, perhaps in part from being forward so much that the men know them, and in part because of the generally levelling culture that seems embedded in the IDF. Whether that’s something particularly Jewish or Israeli or whether it stems from Israel’s founding and early domination by European socialists, beats me. I don’t know enough about Israel.

        1. Sommerbiwak

          I’d say all of the above. They were all refugees looking for a home which automatically levelled the social pyramid. Throw into that some 1920ies socialist dreams and I guess Reichswehr and a few Wehrmacht veterans (yes, there were jews in the Wehrmacht) plus the majority then being ashkenazi, that is the european often yiddish speaking jews that had quite a lot of german culture rubbed off onto them. Resulting in a disciplined and “egalitarian” army.

          And the higher ranks in the IDF don’t look very fancy. Just a different shoulder board and that is it. The rest of the uniform is identical to the newly drawn conscript in basic training.

          Makes me wonder what is going to happen in the future when the sephardim (mediteranean jews) and the levante jews (name escapes me right now) that never left israel or the general area, are going to be the majority. The ashkenazim are very european in their procreational habits.

        2. archy

          ***The officers seem to wear few distinguishing marks, perhaps in part from being forward so much that the men know them, and in part because of the generally levelling culture that seems embedded in the IDF. Whether that’s something particularly Jewish or Israeli or whether it stems from Israel’s founding and early domination by European socialists, beats me. ***

          There’s also an aphorism to that suggests that the side with the plainest uniforms usually wins I think it was a book or magazine article title [Infantry, maybe?] a couple of decades back, but I first heard the phrase from Charley Black, military Affairs writer for theColumbus GA Enquirerer. Mr. Charley knew his stuff.

          1. Hognose Post author

            I totally believe that.

            I hope he was not the Charlie Black from SF that I know by reputation. (His reputation was so toxic that mention of his name was banned on one private SF messaging channel, for the same reason that mention of Jane Fonda was — it produced nothing but vitriol, and since nobody has a good word to say about either, why talk about ’em?)

  2. Bill Robbins

    Perhaps, the high mortality rate among German generals was simply the result of the ever present and characteristically German desire to die for Mein Fuhrer. Seriously, during WWII, the Germans did everything to suicidal excess. Why should the behavior of generals be any different?

    This is not to argue with the conclusions of the article, but, sometimes, the explanation is confounded by factual details. The Krauts were fanatics, from the top down. That, and the Eastern Front was a meat grinder.

    1. Kirk

      No, I have to disagree with that line about “fanatics from the top down”. There were elements of fanaticism in both the Wehrmacht and the Waffen-SS, but the reality is that most of the officers were not, particularly in the Wehrmacht. We like to project all kinds of things onto the German military that simply aren’t there, when you actually go looking, such as their “rigid authoritarianism”. Pure projection, in most cases.

      Sad fact is, the Germans were just better at war, from the ground up to about operational level. Strategy and logistics? Not so much, but when you look at everything from minor tactics up to about the level where you start looking at campaigns, they did much better than any of our armies, until late in the war.

      1. RT


        I’d like to pick your brain some time on the subject of bipods and tripods. Well really you and LRRP 52 really.

        You two, especially WRT the lost art of machine guns thread on arfcom, are very much out of my league when it comes to your knowledge of what separates the good from the bad in tripod and bipod design.

        I’ve sorta set out to see if it’s possible to do a lafette that’s not a lafette.

        1. Kirk

          Be happy to help. I’m not sure how much I can do, from here, but… Your idea sounds interesting, on the face of it.

    2. DominicJ

      “Perhaps, the high mortality rate among German generals was simply the result of the ever present and characteristically German desire to die for Mein Fuhrer.”
      Given the number of German Officers who wanted to assassinate Hitler you may be over estimating that…

      “Was this a cause or effect of the Germans’ reduced proliferation of command radio nets than the Western Allies? Not clear.”
      Probably a bit of both.
      Be interesting to compare losses in the first world war eastern front.

      The allies fought the slow steady grinding war of the western front, with plenty of time to plot intricate battles in the rear, and send those orders forward over huge wired communications systems.
      The Germans fought that in the west, but also fought the much faster mobile war of the east.

    3. Hognose Post author

      I don’t think so, Bill. Suicide tactics are seldom effective, and the Germans were tactically and operationally effective. What did the Japanese get out of kamikaze attacks or banzai charges, except disproportionately creamed? What do the Arabs get out of splodydopes? They’re the laughingstock of the civilized world.

      1. Bill Robbins

        Hognose: I thoroughly appreciate the opportunity to engage in Weaponsman discussions.

        No, German generals were not employing suicidal tactics as a matter of military doctrine. Nor, I would argue, were Japanese kamikaze pilots (to my mind, it was the pilots’ fatal susceptibility to being indoctrinated; something shared by the Germans).

        What I am saying is that the German generals were fighting a suicidal war, and they were doomed from the get-go to be killed in (perhaps) disproportionate numbers. What good are effective tactics when the war you are fighting is a losing proposition? In my view of history, everything devolves from there. The German generals of WWII deserve no admiration. None.

        1. Haxo Angmark

          WWII was not a “losing proposition” for the Axis until Hitler refused Japan’s offer, in March 1942, to seize the Western Indian Ocean, specifically, Madagascar, cut the last remaining allied convoy line, and kick in the back door to the Middle East. German Generals – and other high-ranking officers – spent a lot of time leading from the front because it was the best way to accurately appraise events and make good decisions. Overall, German Generalship was excellent in WW II. But the C-in-C (Hitler) fumbled it all away.

          1. Scipio Americanus

            If he had, the Japanese would have had to renege. The Japanese were, in that phase of the war, very prone to write checks their military power couldn’t cash, this being a good example. They’d tentatively nosed into the Indian Ocean a bit at that point but it would have been something else entirely to mount major operations all the way across it, and they almost certainly would have come to the conclusion that they did in real life – the idea was a waste of resources better dedicated to countering the US in the Central and South-Western Pacific.

          2. Kirk

            If Hitler and the Japanese had gone for that plan, I bet money it would have shortened the war drastically… In our favor.

            Strategic planning and having an innate understanding of their own limitations were both things the Japanese and the Germans did not do well at. Trying to occupy the Indian Ocean? Holee-farkles, would that have not worked out well–That’s something they should have been looking at for Phase Two, or better yet, Phase Three of “Conquering the World”.

            The US did one thing really, really well, and I have to thank Marshall for that–We colored well within the lines throughout the war, not giving way to “strategic exuberance”. The Germans and Japanese, on the other hand? Hoooo-boy…

            The crazy thing is how far they got, honestly. Germany should have been crushed about the time they occupied the Sudetenland and re-militarized the Rheinland. Unfortunately, the French were too feckless to see what was coming, and failed to take action when they still could have. Influence by the COMINTERN on French Communist Party leadership cannot be underestimated, either–I suspect that Stalin had played much more of a role in pre-war influence operations than we’re really willing to admit, thanks to the left-leaning tendencies of the academy. To a degree, I really feel no pity at all for the Soviets–They played with fire, and they got their whole damn arm burnt the hell off.

      2. archy

        Suicide tactics are seldom effective, and the Germans were tactically and operationally effective.

        I seem to recall that Luftwaffe test Pilot Hanna Reitsch, one of the first helicopter and jet test pilots, who test=piloted a V1 fitted with manual controls, proposed that such a piloted V1 could be crashed into a session of the British House of Parliament, a fair trade for a dedicated pilot.

        Her idea was turned down, and it’s not quite clear whether she was volunteering for that particular task, or anything like it. But later in the war, as things became more desperate? And if the decision to employ such tactics was in the hand of the senior political figures, Himmler or higher, rather than the Luftwaffe? Ohne mich!

  3. Keith

    S&T had a note on German GO casualties in W W II back in the 1970’s IIRC. I wonder if the author was aware of it.

    Keep your powder dry and your faith in God.

  4. Kirk

    Here’s the thing about all this that a lot of people miss; the “German way of war” was a system, and that system was predicated on doing things much differently than we did them. Way differently–I have heard German officers comment that if they’d have run their replacement system the way we did in WWII, then they would have been court-martialed and shot for abusing the troops afflicted by the way we routinely did things.

    Germans did a lot of things very differently than we did, and it shows all through the system. Where we treated people as fungible goods, replacement gears for the machinery, the Germans did not. This had great effects on how things were done, down at the retail levels in the forces. Where the Germans kept their aces in aviation combat until they died, accruing incredible scores, we flowed those guys back to run the training pipeline for new pilots, accruing better overall benefits. Where we fed troops into combat piecemeal as individual replacements, the Germans refused to do that without taking time to pull units off the line and then laboriously integrate replacements into the surviving veteran formations. As well, the Germans were far more selective of who they gave commissions to, and subjected all troops in the ground forces to much more lengthy and stringent training. Along with that, they hardly ever allowed circumstances like we did, where a replacement arrived in France just weeks after completing Basic Training, and then got fed into front-line combat alone among complete strangers. A German replacement likely came from the same specific Wehrkreis as the unit he was assigned, and could likely expect to find himself among friends he may well have attended school with. German soldiers were deliberately managed to enhance unit cohesion, and the US did the direct opposite–Which explains why a lot of guys wound up going AWOL from their hospital beds to get back to their units, where they would be among friends.

    Leadership was a different thing in the German military than we popularly suppose–The egalitarian ideal we have for the officers looking out for their troops and sharing their sufferings? German practice required the same things, and might have arguably done a better job of actually accomplishing them. You go to read the memoirs of German soldiers and officers, and what you find is a vastly different set of circumstances than we popularly stereotype about the “authoritarian Prussian” militarism we tend to expect.

    There are aspects of the German system we should have looked at and then adopted for our own. The flatly insane way the US Army treats units and troops as interchangeable cogs in a machine is one–We only pay lip service to things like unit cohesion and continuity, grafting on the forms of unit identity while doing everything possible to actually destroy the things that create cohesion and primary group bonding.

    As well, we ignore the exquisite care with which the Germans selected, trained, and then indoctrinated their low-level leadership on both the commissioned and enlisted sides of the coin. Where we promoted people to “fill slots”, the Germans insisted on qualifying those people first. Where we’d put a guy in charge of a platoon, call him a platoon leader, and promote him to second lieutenant, the Germans would, under the same circumstances, send that guy off to get qualified as an officer, instead of leaving him there running the platoon until he was killed.

    There are reasons the Germans did as well as they did under such poor circumstances, and that’s something we ought to have examined, carefully thought about, and then integrated into our own policies and procedures. What’s impressive about the German effort in WWII is not what they did, but that they managed to do any of it under the incredible disadvantages they were operating under, at the strategic and logistical level. Think about it–90% of their forces were foot-mobile and horse-drawn, and yet they took on the Soviets, the UK, and the US, damn near winning it all. Had Hitler maintained strategic focus in the East, and refrained from declaring war on the US? Who the hell knows how things might have turned out. Without the US logistical support they garnered after Hitler declared war, the Soviets might well have had to settle for peace while the Germans remained in control of most of European Russia.

    We’re damned lucky they were so inept at the strategic and logistical levels, or we’d probably still be dealing with them as opponents.

    1. Scipio Americanus

      Incidentally, Robert Citino wrote a pretty good high-level book called “The German Way of War,” with special focus on the many continuities in how Prussian and then German military leaders thought and fought going all the way back to the Thirty Years War. His “Death of the Wehrmacht” is also very good, in my opinion, for explaining both how the German army died in the east in the 1942 campaigns, as well as how close they came to many of their operational and even strategic objectives.

    2. Larry Kaiser

      Had my grandparents not immigrated to the US my father (born 1921) would have been in the German army instead of the US army. I am sure that there were other good men like him who were where they were in the early 40’s not because they were crazed Nazis but because they were born in Germany.
      I don’t think it would take much of a change in some small details to make WWII a different proposition for the allies. If Hitler would have been in signals instead of the infantry he would have been more aware of the possibility of the Allies reading his mail. If he had not been gassed in WWI he might have been willing to use nerve gas on the Allied landings in Normandy and Italy. I don’t think we had developed a defense against nerve gas at the time and the results would have been horrific.

      1. SemperFi, 0321

        My father was also born in 1921, in Konigsberg, and ended up serving as a Fallschirmjager from 1939-46 (POW 44-46). They almost left for the US in the late 30’s and then my grandfather landed a good job with the city water works.
        My father actually was a Luftwaffe Sgt. Schulz, and not the same idiot that Americans have come to believe represents a German soldier. But as you see here in the comments, Americans still like to show the world their ignorance concerning foreign armies, anyone other than the US had an army composed of true idiots, worthy of dying foolishly at the hands of the superior US armed forces.
        And yet when you study well written history books, you will find in many cases, the US forces barely achieved victory, sometimes actually losing several times before the final conquest. D-Day was a complete disaster, for both sides, the Allies almost retreated the evening of June 6.
        Americans can gloat all they want about their victory over Nazi Germany, but also remember, they only got to fight a small fraction of Germany’s army, 90% of WW2 took place on Russian soil, and not on the western front. America only fought a very small portion of the war, and still takes all the credit for saving the world. I think the picture would not have looked so good had the US faced 100% of German forces, instead of 20% or less.
        Current German tactics in Afghanistan also appear to be superior to those of the US.

    3. Pericles

      Spot on and I observed the same things in the year I spent as a Liaison Officer with the Bundeswehr.

    4. Y.

      Had Hitler maintained strategic focus in the East, and refrained from declaring war on the US?

      There was no way US would have stayed neutral. Existential and strategic issues aside (Hitler reserved particular hatred for the Swiss and the Americans), there was a concerted British campaign to get US enter the war on its side..

      1. Kirk

        Yeah… And, all the isolationists and so forth who were Nazi sympathizers would have just evaporated, huh?

        You do not know the times at all well–Had Hitler and the Nazis played their cards right, and eschewed the declaration of war on the US, they could have leveraged the whole “Japan attacks Pearl Harbor” into victory, because with a little judicious manipulation, FDR could have been blamed for the whole debacle, and then trying to shift focus from the Pacific to the European theater would have been virtually impossible.

        Fortunately, Hitler’s blinders left him with no understanding for what he was doing with regards to the US, and a severe disrespect for US troops and potential contributions to the war effort.

        I’m going to have to go check on this, but I think that if I remember rightly, Hitler had no exposure to US troops at all during WWI. As that was the case, he probably believed all the propaganda which was spouted, and discounted the war potential of the US. As well, the abysmal performance of US industry and logistical performance in that war probably also played into the lack of realism he had on the issue.

        1. Scipio Americanus

          I’ve heard it put, somewhat tongue in cheek, that the best thing Hitler could have done on the morning of Dec. 8, 1941 would have been to declare war on Imperial Japan and decry their dastardly surprise attack.

          1. Kirk

            Preeee-cisely. If he’d have done that, then the odds that FDR would have been able to actually get his European war would have been drastically reduced. Can you imagine the crap that would have resulted from that, just from guys like Henry Ford and Lindbergh?

            Fortunately for the rest of the world, Hitler was a parvenu socialist peasant, with pretensions. If he’d have actually had a clue about manipulating US public opinion? LOL… He’d have probably had a free hand in Europe, despite what FDR wanted.

        2. Haxo Angmark

          no, Hitler and his advisers were desperate to keep the Americans out. We know this from his Table Talk, recorded Naval Conversations, and material in the Third Reich Diplomatic Documents series. That’s why, despite all the Churchill/FDR provocations – cf. the Spring-Summer Undeclared Naval War in the Atlantic – Hitler refused to strike back. His declaration against America, shortly after Pearl Harbor, wasn’t for lack of understanding of America’s actual and latent military power. It was because, beginning c. 72 hours before the IJN strike, the Russians launched a furious counter-attack against Army Group Center, then w/in sight of the Kremlin. By December 11, AG Center was crumbling. Hitler now needed Japanese help – an attack into Siberia – and needed it desperately. His hope was that by supporting Japan against America, Japan would now support Germany against Russia. But the Japs, determined to strike southward at the Dutch East Indies oilfields, instead stuck to their (April, ’41) Neutrality Pack with Stalin. This was neither the first time (see also: China, 1937; Nomonhan, 1939) nor the last time (Indian Ocean, March-April, ’42) that Germany and Japan were unable to get on the same strategic page. And this, as much as anything else, is why the Axis powers lost WW II.

          1. Scipio Americanus

            Yes, it was the lack of coordination that doomed them as much as anything else. In a lot of ways the “Axis” was a sort of figment of diplomatic imaginations, Germany and her client states worked well enough together, but the Japanese were effectively fighting a completely separate, uncoordinated war.

            There might have been some way to force out at least a couple more of the Allies, if not win the war, if they’d worked together closely when they had the whip-hand 1939-42. Realistically, though, it probably couldn’t have happened. Any chance of working together against the USSR was lost after the Russians beat the snot out of the Japanese at Khalkhin Gol and gave the Southern/naval faction the decisive political victory in the Japanese leadership over the Northern/army faction.

  5. Kirk

    I’m addressing this issue separately, in order to highlight it: Personal Security Detachments, or PSD elements–Typically, not something the Germans did, from my reading.

    Normally, the German commander circulating on the battlefield did so with a driver, a vehicle, and perhaps a few aides. There were no dedicated bodyguard or security elements, and this is something I think they were forced into due to a lack of sufficient vehicles to transport them around in. The vehicle assets they would have needed to provide the security elements with mobility were required down at the unit level far more than they were making the commanders mobile, so that’s why you see guys like Rommel wandering the battlefields and getting shot the hell up by the Jabos.

    It’s a lesson we might be well-advised to take, and start standing up permanent security elements in the Headquarters, or we’re going to start losing commanders to things like UAVs and Spetsnatz types operating in our “rear areas”. As well, we need to lose the idea that there are such things as “safe rear areas”, even here in the continental US. Just as you have to fight to get your reconnaissance information, we’re going to have to fight to keep our command and control assets functional. I honestly think we need to have dedicated PSD teams including low-level AA for dealing with UAV assets down to the battalion commander level, particularly for slice elements that are spread around the battlefield. The most effective way to strike at our highly organized and brittle military structure is by taking out the command elements–You get so much more for your money, targeting them. It’s about time we started looking at actually hardening these elements, and making them capable of operating on the modern diffuse battlefield.

    1. Sommerbiwak

      You mentioning Rommel reminded me of his ride in Africa. A SdKfz. 250/5 armoured half-track with radio sets carrying him around the battlefield. Named “Greif” (griffon). So he at least had a better protected ride than the usual 4×4 car. Sometimes not even all wheel drive. Heck, my grandfather was a driver for the Stadtkommandantur of Paris and drove a requisitioned Buick painted camo.

      Agree on the lost lessons, but I guess that is a victor’s hybrid. Won the war so everything has been done right. Right? No need to reflect and introspect.

      And agree on the security for staff elements. In the Bundeswehr one of the duties of MP companies is security, but they are a divisional asset so brigade and battalion get nothing. And in a real big war they will be probably busy as police regulating traffic and catching AWOL and criminals. Standing up dedicated “bodyguard” platoons sounds like a reasonable idea.

      The threat of drones will only be realized, when the first thee or four star is lost to a suicide drone or bomb drop. daesh is becoming better in dropping little bombs on vehicles every day.

      1. John M.

        It seems to me that most terror drones are low-tech enough to be susceptible to relatively low-tech defenses along the lines of launched nets.

        Of course, one has to invent such a thing and deploy it, and whether that will be done before a general officer meets his demise at the hands of one is…well…unlikely.

        -John M.

    2. Seacoaster

      Every battalion commander and above I’ve seen has had a dedicated PSD or “Jump” platoon. But you’re right about dedicated AA, and some of those PSDs were taken out of hide, not T/O.

      1. Kirk

        As far as I know, none of the PSD elements in any of the US forces have been placed into the permanent establishment on any MTOE (Modified Table of Organization/Equipment). If you’ve got cites for showing where they have been, anywhere, I’d be interested to see them.

        1. Seacoaster

          In USMC light armored reconnaissance units the battalion headquarters provides an LAV-25 platoon for the CO. Maybe not explicitly listed as a PSD, it’s just “Headquarters Platoon,” but that’s what it is. Straight leg units take them out of hide though. Not very familiar with MTOE for US Army units, would suspect that mech units are better off there too though.

          1. Kirk

            Unless they’ve changed things, they’re not.

            One of the big issues I have with the way the Army is set up and run is that there is virtually no actual capacity to “learn” in terms of what is going on around the world in conflicts, and from past history. If you stop and look at the history of things going back to ‘effing Korea, the idea that “rear areas” are even a thing becomes ludicrous. MG William F. Dean’s loss shows why securing the leadership and protecting it is essential, and a major problem on the modern battlefield. A dedicated PSD may not have helped in his case, but it damn sure wouldn’t have hurt.

            What really irritates, actually what really pisses me off, is that the whole question is so completely unnecessary. Why the hell did we have to wait until 2004-5 to start procuring mine-protected vehicles and armor kits for logistics vehicles? The ‘effing handwriting was on the wall, for any idiot to see, as far back as Vietnam, and if you bothered to inform yourself as to the realities of war on the veldt in Southern Africa, the implications were quite clear. Not to mention, the fact that the Soviets were playing the “interdict the rear area of battle” as far back as WWII, and were training all their proteges in the necessary skills and doctrine…? How the fuck were we “surprised” by what happened in Iraq with the IED campaign?

            Truth is, we weren’t. People were warning the higher-ups and the school branches about this shit for years, to no avail. I sat down for an impromptu briefing before my unit moved north into Iraq, given by our Brigade deputy commander. In it, he laid out everything that he thought was going to happen over the course of the next few years in Iraq, and I’ll be damned but if he wasn’t spot on in everything he said would happen. The only thing he got wrong was when we’d start to see EFPs used in the IED campaign he projected coming, and on that, he was somewhat pessimistic–Took many more months for those to become common than he projected. So, we could have been better prepared, but because the ossified system we have did not want to take action, we weren’t. Any of us who sat in that briefing, which was more an extensive seminar on what to expect in the OIF campaign, came away with the certainty that we were there for at least another fifty years, much like Germany during the Cold War. Anyone who was talking about us leaving quickly was full of shit–The majority of the professional Army knew better, and did longer-term planning than that. The only people who flubbed it all were the fools in the State Department, and the Defense Department higher-ups who were more politicians than soldiers.

          2. Hognose Post author

            I have Dean’s book somewhere here, and ISTR that he went out hunting T-34s with a 2.36-inch bazooka. Let’s leave aside the inadequacies of the weapon, for even if he had the proven T-34 killer 3.5″ weapon, when a general makes a corporal out of himself he has to expect a corporal’s consequences.

            Re: leaving quickly. Our initial plan in Afghanistan was to be down to a single SF team advising the new Afghan army within 18 months. I saw that plan and it was good and solid. However, “there’s no place here for the Marines… the Army’s big divisions… the XVIII Airborne Corps…” so the whole prospect of doing a Grenada-style “hit it and split it, here’s your country back, thank us later” was subordinated to the desire to introduce more forces for budgetary-bingo and officer-careers reasons.

            Same reason that a week after Grenada, XVIII Corps, various Pentagonian giants, and assorted EAC echelons were sending all their officers on “fact finding tours” where they’d walk around the tarmac for a couple hours and then get back on the jet. Objective: “combat experience” in your jacket, a combat patch on your uniform, and a month’s combat pay. The savvy ones came in on the 31st of October and flew out on the 1st of November, so that along with their “combat patch” they got two months combat pay. If you could get the manifest for that flight it would be the telephone book of Courtney Massengales.

            Same thing was going on in Afghanistan, but it was less of a disruption because they could get the patch and pay in Kuwait, Masirah Island, Karshi-Khanabad, etc.. I wonder how many of these blue falcons are habitués of VA “PTSD support rap groups.” (The one they conned me into going to, once, was all Vietnam phonies. I mean every single one, a phony. And all SF SEAL scout snipers who miraculously experienced the exact plot of The Deer Hunter or The Boys in Company C).

    3. RT

      +1 kirk,

      Then again look at people’s reactions to the recent RAND reports.

      I have nothing but respect for the professionalism and unflinching willingness to charge straight into
      Hell itself of our guys on the line.

      That said, watching the situation develop right now leaves me with ugly feelings that we’re going to slow walk a whole expeditionary element into a fucking meat grinder that will make the withdrawal at Dunkirk scenario something we wish could’ve been managed.

    4. staghounds

      A couple of hundred two person general-killer (like grid-killer, pipeline-killer, and bridge-killer) teams with some cash and hobby drones would pay immense dividends in the first hours of a war.

      1. Kirk

        And, when that happens, the geniuses we have running our military will be going “Ohmygawd… Unprecedented! Unforeseen! Unforseeable!”.

        Reality is? That is precisely what the Soviets were always going to do during the opening phase of WWIII. You’d have seen saturation-level efforts made by Spetsnatz, GRU-sponsored terrorist teams, and fellow-travelers, all of which would have meant us having to fight our way out of the barracks and up into the GDP sites. Odds are, had they every decided to jump, that first 24 hours would have been an utterly epic fucking disaster for us.

        Look for the same thing to happen, next time there’s a major war. You’ll see strikes made on assets here in the continental US, including on things like the homes of the drone pilots working out of Nellis.

        The Air Force is, flatly put, fucking stupid. Site most of the RPV command and control out of an Air Force Base that is located in the middle of one of the biggest tourist destinations in the fucking country? Where you could likely hide ten thousand al Qaeda or Hezbollah operatives, and never be recognized? Brilliant!

        Everything that is at Nellis should actually be somewhere like Mountain Home, where a bunch of strange faces are going to stand out, and the local community isn’t quite as spread out. But, we’re too dumb and arrogant to admit that we might be attacked by the enemy here in our home territory, soooo… We ignore the possibility, and take the chances.

        Next time there’s a coup de main attack on the US like Pearl Harbor, it’s going to be devastating. And, like Leigh and Kimmel, the idiots we have running the defense establishment are gonna be going “We had not a clue this was possible…”. Morons. All of them.

        1. staghounds

          About this, and your description above of your brigade deputy commander’s predictions. I wonder if some of this failure to prevent foreseen problems is somehow connected to the absence of reward for doing that?

          The commander who armors his humvees before roadside mines become a problem isn’t a star- there aren’t any medals for figuring things out in advance. But the man who gets sent in to fix the crisis, his fame is made!

          Of course there are limited resources, and I’m sure there were lots of problems anticipated and headed off without a butcher’s bill. What were they, I wonder?

          Q. E. D.

          1. Kirk

            It’s notable that that deputy commander, who was definitely a perfect exemplar of one of von Moltke’s “Smart and Lazy” officers, did not get selected for a brigade command, and indeed, retired right after the deployment. No idea what he’s doing today, but I now have a lot more respect than I did then for the man’s prescience.

            Which, in retrospect, is kinda scary–How did he manage to pull that discussion/briefing/seminar out of his ass without really preparing for it, and off the top of his head?

            The real question to be asked, here, is why was that lieutenant colonel not working for someone who would a.) listen to his ass, and b.) be in a position to do something with his analysis?

            Along with that, why are our incentives in the system so utterly FUBAR that the guy who manages to be prescient and prepared is sidelined while the idiot who didn’t bother to listen to any of his staff, and walks into a disaster, and then has to pull his unit out of the shit is lauded and celebrated as a hero?

            Some of these issues are simply down to normal human dynamics and interactions; some others are due simply to our inability to inject even a slight note of sanity into how we conduct our affairs.

            Said it before, and I’ll say it again: We need to do better, and I think a part of it is figuring out an entirely new paradigm for organizing and evaluating our performance. At the moment, half our problems or more stem simply from our own fecklessness and foolish way of doing things.

    5. archy

      ***It’s a lesson we might be well-advised to take, and start standing up permanent security elements in the Headquarters, or we’re going to start losing commanders to things like UAVs and Spetsnatz types operating in our “rear areas”. As well, we need to lose the idea that there are such things as “safe rear areas”, even here in the continental US.******

      Back in the ’70s I had the opportunity to help a pal out by running his cafe/restaurant for him while he got his dad thru the last days of his fight with cancer and the resulting funeral As a result, I got to make pals with a few of the cops, state, county and city, who dropped by for coffee or a fairly well-lit place to write out their end of shift reports. One was a guy I knew from the local pistol range who I’d shot with, and we had a ton of fun, time-eating conversations about hardware, ammo, cop jobs and most everything else. One weekend, after there’d been a bank robbery and shootout resulting in two apprehended would-be bad guys, I got to asking my pal who from the local departments he’d want with him if anything of that sort erupted in his AO. He surprised me by telling me he wouldn’t want one of the other local cops, he’d want a nice old guy I fixed lunch for about three times a week What?

      The guy was a local bulldozer operator, [*catskinner*]I went to school with one of the guys boys, dated one of his daughters a couple of times, hadn’t ever seen him at the range or knew of him as a shooter. So I asked. And I found out.

      As an 18-year-old Marine, he’d missed Guadalcanal but made several other of the Marine island visits of WWII. On the second or third day of his first invasion, he managed to turn and sprain an ankle, so they gave him a Thompson and put him on light duty as a guard at the company CP and in the following couple of weeks, he got to use the Tommy a couple of times. By then he waas getting around on his leg a good deal better, and his first sergeant asked him if he’d like to get back to Marine work. Aye-aye, Top…

      They’d been having trouble with night infiltrators, most of whom had been taken care of and wouldn’t be causing any more trouble, but a few of whom were in fine shape, and waiting for anyone to get close enough for them to use their grenade. Or pistol. Or bayonet, or whatever else they had. His job was to go out in front of the Marine lines at first light, and Make Sure. So he did.

      Three the first day, four the second. By the third, he’d come to three conclusions: he wanted someone along to cover his back, most of the ones he was finishing off were wounded, with an occasional *tiger* thrown in, and he wanted something lighter than the 15-pound Thompson. The last part was easy: he swapped it for a 1911 ,45 pistol.

      Next day: five. then three again. and so on, and so on, for most of a month. And then his outfit left, to get ready to go visit another island. By then, the word had gotten around, and their battalion commander decided it’d be a good idea to keep him on that same detail next time out- band to cover the battalion CP instead of his companies, Aye-aye, sir.

      Two more months, 60 more days, 7 magazines of .45, seven rounds each, and an extra 50-round box of ammo with him; never needed it all, never needed half. He did go through thre and a half magazines one morning, the other people had heard about him and had a squad waiting for him. The guy backing him up had a BAR, and afterward he put a .45 round into each of them just to be sure. 9 more rounds.

      Eight islands in two and a half years, two or three or four months per island, some days with no rounds fired, others with a couple of magazines worth, nothing special, all in a day’s work.

      Best estimates: he shot two or three thousand and killed around 250 guys with the .45. He was waiting to go visit the Japanese mainland when somebody dropped a couple of a-bombs and he got to go home instead. There’s no telling how many rounds of .45 he might have burned off had he made that trip, but it didn’t work out that way.

      Instead he got married, got his a job as a catskinner, had a couple of kids, and nobody thought he was anything special or peculiar. I’m pretty sure he never thought of himself as being special or of having done anything extraordinary.

      There must be hundreds, thousands about like him.

  6. Alan Ward

    My understanding and reading about von Fritsch was that this was a glorious battle field death to clear his beschmirched name. He had been relieved of his top spot due to suspicions about homosexual behaviour, later proved false and trumped up by Himmler and Heidrich.
    No doubt the prominent red striped trousers contributed to the targeting of individual GO’s. But the much more likely reason is the ability of allied airmen to strafe ground targets at will after mid 1943.

    1. Sommerbiwak

      And even german generals learned.
      Later in the war photos show them wearing helmets and camouflage uniforms and leaving the red striped trousers at home.

      I think a lonely car was just an easy and tempting opportunity for a strafing run. Going out there and “leading from the front” as they say is dangerous and the numbers show.

  7. robroysimmons

    Rommel got a good strafing as well. I read his book “Infantry Attacks” and have no doubt that his work influenced his peer class.

    1. John M.

      I just skimmed Rommel’s Infogalactic biography, and here’s a quote I thought was relevant to the subject at hand:
      “If Rommel did find it necessary to keep his headquarters well behind the lines, he would often personally pilot a reconnaissance aircraft over the battle lines to get a view of the situation. Although Rommel did not have a pilot’s license, he was a competent pilot, and none of the Luftwaffe officers had the nerve to stop him.”

      -John M.

    1. Haxo Angmark

      in WW2? Only 2 KIA that I know of: Buckner, on Okinawa, and Rose, in Germany, both 1945. Possibly more typical would be Lloyd Fredenthal, whom Ike caught hiding in a bunker about 100 miles behind the battleline during Kassarine Pass. Fired but not shot.

      1. archy

        Additionally: MGEN [I think] Nathan Bedford Forrest III, grandson of the famed US Civil War Cavalry General. Leading a bombing raid on the U-boat base at Kiel, Summer of ’43 or thereabouts.

        Any WWII German Luftwaffe General KIAs? The paratroop officer at Rotterdam took a round [meant for another officer in the group, but during the bullet’s time in flight the targets moved around a bit. In any event, the intended wasn’t killed, though the resulting injury wasn’t career-enhancing for a paratrooper.

  8. Swamp Fox

    THE BEST WWII German Army General, said Patton was mediocre

    Written Operational Orders were FORBIDDEN in his unit, NCO school was 6 months long which was against the Army policy.

    Yet in three short weeks his lone panzer division virtually destroyed the entire Soviet Fifth Tank Army. The odds he faced were scarcely short of incredible: the Soviets commanded a local superiority of 7:1 in tanks, 11:1 in infantry, and 20:1 in a local superiority of 7:1 in tanks, 11:1 in infantry, and 20:1 in artillery.

    In 1978 it took him and his former Chief Of Staff (a very different animal in the WWII German Army, more like CoCommander) about 15 minutes to brief commanded the US Army in Germany how he would defend against a Soviet thrust into the Fulda Gap.

    1. Kirk

      Hermann Balck is the same guy referenced by Dienekes, below.

      Definitely one of the most underrated “captains of war” of history, and someone whose career and writings should be mined for pure military knowledge.

      If I’m remembering correctly, Balck “came up” from the Jager tradition in the Prussian Army, which was a fascinating and little-studied aspect of military history, for as much influence as it has had. One of the things I’d love to do, had I the time and money, would be to spend a few hundred thousand on researchers and time in the archives of Europe to study the various so-called “Light Infantry movements” of the 19th Century, because that’s where an awful lot of our modern technique is rooted. Whether it was the Bersagliere, the Jager, or any of the other European light infantry forces, the influence is fascinating. The Finnish Army, for example, has its basic roots in a battalion of volunteers the Germans trained in WWI as Jager, and the heredity is quite clear in their operations and techniques during the early years.

      Fascinating, and very under-studied area of history.

      1. Hognose Post author

        Guderian gets lots of credit, but another German general worth a look is Hasso von Manteuffel. And here in the USA, Lafayette gets all the credit (Lafayette Road is the ancestral name of US Route 1 here in NH, because he traveled it on his triumphant visit in 1825), but he was only one of several Europeans who came to our aid, and did not make the mark on our Army that von Steuben and possibly also Kosciuszko did.

        The US took the German system where you’re a staff guy and I’m a command guy and we each specialize utterly, and turned it into a system where everybody rotates between command and staff, unless or until “Needs of the Army” knock a guy out of contention for high command and into a specialty track. Of course some people choose to be support and service support branch officers, but the sad truth is most of the good ones punch at the end of obligated initial service, leaving duds and empty chairs… so at the eight year point a bunch of career combat arms officers are involuntarily rebranched. Or THEY get out rather than wear the kissing snails of chemical branch or the shafted pansy of MI.

        1. Jorge

          The forced rotation of officers has always struck me as a horrible idea. It’s as if they consider officers like they are managers at a Best Buy store, not professionals in a unique field who should be given time to develop to a level beyond competent.

          1. jim h

            I believe that’s exactly what they think. remember, we wanted the corporate look.

            then again, this is the type of top driven bullshit that results in GOs with no real combat experience, but racks full of theater specific ribbons indicating that they drew breath somewhere sandy with a bunch of other impotent TOC monkeys and now feel somehow qualified to command combat troops, when they couldn’t really even manage a wet dream or a one car funeral. which I guess makes this rant similar to Hog’s note above. combat patches and bronzies for everyone!

          2. AC

            If I may, I thought the rotation of officers was more to prevent them from plotting take overs and making units or larger units of units easier to control. Needs of the service aside, the rotational friction forces NCOs to be closer to their units in order to protect them from the constant rotation of officers. Simply, us versus them psychology. Of course, there are well run units because of good NCOs, or even good officers, but this is correlation not causality.

          3. Kirk

            The problem is actually rooted back in “ye olden dayes”, with the conditions being set by the initial stand-up after the Revolutionary War. The US has never been comfortable with the idea of a standing, professional Army, and as such, the institution was always seen more as a tool of national development and as cadre for an expansion-based national militia Army. This has led to a lot of the issues we’re still dealing with, from things like developing our own General Staff system to the inherently class-based enlisted/officer culture.

            Initial conditions being set as they were, the Army does not see itself as standing professional force. It visualizes itself as an Army-in-potential, a mass force that will not have room for idiosyncratic excellence, but which will require homogenization of mass mediocrity. Look at the difficulty we had getting them to stand up things like the Rangers and Special Forces, both sub-organizations that are violently opposed by the mass of the mediocre.

            I’m not sure that the Army has it within itself to really, truly, and fundamentally changed. They’ve always been like this, and they likely always will be, until the chain of influence from the old guard to the new is completely broken. You really want to reform the defense establishment? You almost have to destroy it, first–Without that, the people who are the primary problems will not get out of the way, and will not acknowledge that they even have a problem.

            It’s like an institutional version of alcoholism; the alcoholic is never going to really “fix” themselves due to outside influence or intervention; they have to hit rock-bottom, and then acknowledge the problem, resolving to fix it. You can’t really force a fix; it has to be internalized. We almost managed it after Vietnam, but the forces of entropy and mass mediocrity won their battle against the reformers in the 1990s.

  9. robroysimmons

    A bit off topic, but Amazon’s series “Man in the High Castle” better than expected and being slightly Naziphilic to make up a word. My one disappointment after two seasons no StG has been spotted

    1. Hognose Post author

      Amazon’s video DRM does not work with my current browser, Brave, so I quit watching. I thought it was odd that the Germans in 1963 would have SSTs but still carry K98ks.

      1. Steve

        Most of the occupation troops in the US – often American Nazis – have K98s, MP40s, and P38s. German troops stationed at embassies and in Germany itself have H&K G3s and MP5s. Those seem like a more logical move than the intermediate-step MP44.

        What’s interesting to me is that the Japanese, with exception of the Crown Prince’s honor guard who have Howa Type 64s, still have Arisakas and Nambus. You’d think they would have rolled out something better for the majority of their troops after conquering Garand-toting America, but that may be a production issue. After all, G3 and MP5 clones are common enough in the US film industry armories, but who would have Howas? The ones shown are probably airsoft, since they’re never used and never show up again.

        1. Sommerbiwak

          occupation troops and collaborators might just as well use surplus US Army like M1917 rifles or Garands. There are millions of them. Or grease guns… Heck you might even make a case for Mini-14 rifles. Of course the Armalites will not be.

          Japanese firearms are a problem for the prop master of course. Either dress up AR-18 or use airsoft modified to “shoot” propane I guess. But a TV series (or rather www video) does not have unlimited budget.

          Gaawwd is this off topic in an actual interesting topic of how german generals (and officers in general) lead their troops.

  10. Dienekes

    Coincidentally I just finished reading Hermann Balck’s “Order in Chaos”, written in 1980 but only recently available in English. A bit pricey, but worth it. He discussed the above issues in great detail. Balck was a highly experienced veteran of both world wars, and some think the most talented German general ever. His accounts of successful mobile warfare on the Russian front while vastly overmatched in manpower and materiel influenced some of John Boyd’s thinking.

    Balck, unlike many German generals, declined to participate in US Army postwar debriefings. Eventually he wrote the above book. An obviously intelligent and vastly experienced man, he seems to have had some odd blind spots, or at least odd opinions on the political aspects of the war.

    However in 1980 he and his wartime chief of staff were extensively interviewed by the US military. The report is an excellent read, available here:

  11. James F..

    In the movie A BRIDGE TOO FAR. Field Marshal Model finds the front coming to him, in the form of one zillion unexpected parachute troops, and runs away in a memorable fashion:

    Field Marshal Model’s aide: Field Marshal, thousands of paratroops have landed in this area, three kilometres from here.
    Field Marshal Model: What? Why? There is nothing important here… me! I’m important! They must’ve landed here just to capture me.
    [stands from his lunch and moves to the door]
    Field Marshal Model: Get my car ready.
    [makes to leave]
    Field Marshal Model’s aide: Yes, sir!
    [about to leave himself]
    Field Marshal Model: [pops back in and shouts] And don’t forget my cigars!

    More or less what happened, according to Cornelius Ryan:

  12. Swamp Fox

    This post points out the big difference between the US Army and the WWII German Army and it is a Command philosophy. The US Army in general does not form a sold Trust Bond. The Air Land concept came right after the defeat in Vietnam and Depuy was trying to save the Army. Guess what we are doing it all over again, with the new Mission Command concept in the Army now. Both Vietnam and Iraq, Afghanistan have pointed out the US Army’s lack of Trust. All of them where COIN type of conflicts and required a Bottom Up solutions which demand Trust but with new technologies we have Commanders approving every sort of CONOP which leads to Hyper Micro Managing. Why do we have AWG? An Army unit made up of mostly SOF veterans, whose mission is to advise conventional Army units on how to fight. Why don’t the branch Officer and NCO education system schools do this? We have an SF type advising unit to advise the Army. It is TRUST

    1. Kirk

      I don’t think the root problem is so much a lack of trust–that’s more a symptom, than anything else–but in how the US Army conceives itself, which is as a small force of professionals overseeing a mass army of conscripts. Fundamentally, that’s the mental model everyone has–The Civil War, or World Wars One and Two. This whole idea of a standing, highly professional Army in peacetime is really not what the institutional memory says is normal, or what the base culture is set up to support.

      It is really astonishing when you look back at things, and discover just how much of current practice and culture was “set” back in the beginnings of things, and how hard it is to overcome these issues. Everything from the NCO’s place in the Army to how we interface with the civilian leadership goes back to the immediate post-revolutionary period.

      And, a lot of the problems we have with the staff/line dichotomy go back to the arguments of the late 19th Century over the creation of a Prussian-like General Staff. We deliberately sought not to do that, and the choices made back then reverberate down to this day, sometimes good, sometimes bad.

      I think a lot of the problem really stems from a lack of full professionalization across the entire Army. Senior NCO positions ought to have as much prestige and as many stringent requirements as the commissioned officers have, and we ought to be paying for their training, as well. Unfortunately, we’ve got this idiotic half-way house to professionalism, and what we’ve really done is institutionalized mediocrity across the entire force.

    1. Aesop

      Which is no small reason to commemorate the battle.

      Would that modern military operations were similarly gifted.
      I could provide the Army with a list of those who should be in the next first wave…

      1. Kirk

        Why do you hate soldiers so much…?

        It would probably lead to a whole different set of problems, though–Sure, we’d get rid of a bunch of dead weight, but at what cost? And, what would replace them?

        Personally, I prefer the Douglas Adams solution, and would be one-hundred percent behind the “Ark B” program–Only, I’d keep the telephone sanitizers, and ship off all the politicians and bureaucrats.

  13. Pingback: WeaponsMan: German Generals Led From The Front – And Paid The Price | Western Rifle Shooters Association

    1. archy

      ***West Point is not a Bad Tolz, it is more a higher education system.***

      When I was at Tolz, half of the castle was the 7th Army NCO Academy. It might not be a bad
      idea if the young ringknockers of tomorrow were exposed to the young E-6s and E-7s of 4 years hence
      for four years.

      As for the education at The Point, the place is an engineering academy.

  14. Haxo Angmark

    @Scipio/Kirk, above – re Jap Indian Ocean operations, March-April 1942. The IJN didn’t “tentatively nose” into the Indian Ocean, post-Hitler’s refusal on the Madagascar seizure: it was a gigantic power vacuum. They hit Ceylon and the Bay of Bengal with a 5-Carrier strikeforce: first hammering the Ceylon ports and the Bay, where they sank every thing that floated and shot down everything that flew. And then smashed the Brit Eastern Fleet, sinking a carrier, 2 heavy cruisers, and other vessels. Japanese losses? 7 planes. The only reason the rest of the Eastern Fleet (2 carriers with nothing useful on deck, 4 battleships, etc.) survived is because Somerville, the Adm.-in-command, realized he was badly overmatched and beat a quick retreat to Mombassa. And do you know who controlled Madagascar in March 1942? Vichy France. Selfsame who, a few months prior, had handed all of Indochina over to the Japs w/o firing a shot. And more: realizing they had just dodged an enormous strategic bullet….the Allies attacked and seized Madagascar just one month later.

    1. Scipio Americanus

      Yes, and they didn’t do it for two very good reasons: logistics and strategy. What you’re talking about with the fast carrier force’s attacks was a raiding operation; a very large and successful one, but a raid nonetheless (what I meant by “poked their noses into”). What you’re proposing with them taking Madagascar, though, is a persisting operation, one which would have been stupendously expensive in terms of men, materiel, and especially ever-scarce petroleum.

      It was barely possible, given their 1942 sealift capability, to have gotten a sizable force to Madagascar, but it would have been utterly impossible to keep it supplied for any length of time or against any significant resistance (a la the 15,000 or so British soldiers that arrived in May of that year). Even assuming the garrison there holds out the Japanese would have almost immediately lost the ability to use the island as a base from which to interdict shipping.

      The only way to keep this grape from withering on the vine is to commit a substantial portion of the Japanese fleet to the Indian Ocean, at the end of a rather long tether that runs adjacent to quite a lot of enemy-held territory. This would leave the Pacific, the main theater of operations from the Japanese perspective, critically weakened and open to attack by their primary enemy – the US. In effect, it subordinates Japanese war aims to those of Germany in the sense of prioritizing hurting Britain vs. the US. It’s therefore a non-starter – they’d never have gone for it.

      The Japanese were very happy with the success of Operation C, but they understood it for what it was and knew that their resources were far too limited to focus on both the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Naturally, 100/100 times they’re going to devote those limited resources to the main foe.

      1. Haxo Angmark

        the seizure of of Madagascar was proposed by the Japanese, not Hitler. THEY were willing to make it work. The great fear of allied strategists during the early spring of ’42 was that the Germans and Japs would do precisely this – link up via the Indian Ocean and Middle East – and THEY had no answer (Madagascar, in May, was finally seized not by “British” troops but by an ad hoc assemblage of Empire, mostly S. African units). “Enemy-held territory”? The Raj exploded in a pro-Axis uproar after word of the rout of the Brit Eastern Fleet seeped out. Churchill – eventually – calmed things down by gaol’ing the Congress Party leaders & inducing a terror-famine that killed millions in the particularly restive provinces bordering on Burma. As far as the Americans in the Pacific are concerned: at the time the USN was running a few fast carrier raids on Japanese-held islands here and there – Wake, Marshalls, Gilberts, New Guinea, the Tokyo Grandstand Play – with no major strategic moves planned for months. They Japanese had plenty of time and resources to spend getting it right elsewhere. Instead, the Coral Sea and Midway confrontations were forced by the Japs and, crippled by Yamamoto’s awful battle plans – force superior to the Americans in quantity and quality vitiated by tactical dispersion – they lost. The two top IJN carrier divisions and their attack aircraft were by far the world’s best long-range strategic striking force during the early months of 1942…such a pity they were so thoughtlessly ignored by Hitler when offered, and then so ill-used by Yamamoto.

        aside from the good write-up in Roskill’s Official History and some obscure first-hand accounts, in books and on the ‘net, there’s not a lot of additional information about the March-April situ and events in the Indian Ocean. Just two narratives that I know of. And both have the same title: THE MOST DANGEROUS MOMENT. I agree.

        1. staghounds

          I don’t think it’s a pity at all, I am glad the Allies won.

          As an old Confederate soldier once said during one of those “why we lost” conversations, maybe the Yankees had something to do with it.

        2. "Greg"

          I *wish* I could document a reliable source… *BUT* I believe the IJN lost midway due to 1 mechanical problem on 1 search plane – the 1 search plane that was assigned to the area where the USN carriers were located… which had a delayed take off, and thus, a delayed discovery of USN carriers ( and not to forget good US code breaking, too?) almost like the proverb “for want of a horseshoe nail”

  15. Pete Zaitcev

    Apropos the above, Russian MoD reported that first Russian general was injured during the fight for Palmyra. Maj.Gen. Petr Milyuhin lost both feet and an eye from a hit by roadside IED some time around February 24.

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