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Author Topic: PzLdr History Facts  (Read 69464 times)
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PzLdr
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« Reply #30 on: June 16, 2016, 10:59:08 am »

In the early morning of June 20th, 1942, Erwin Rommel stood in his command vehicle to the southeast of the defensive perimeter of Tobruk, Libya. As he trained his field glasses on the fortifications [sadly degraded since the previous year by lack of repair], the STUKAS began to roar in for a series of sorties.

Tobruk had been a fixation for Rommel from almost the beginning of his first campaign in Libya the year before. Initially sent with a scratch force to bolster the Italian defenders of Mussolini's Empire in North Africa, Rommel had been cautioned not to undertake any major offensive actions, and was, indeed, barred from any minor offensive actions pending the arrival, in March, of the 15th Panzer Division. However, he quickly ascertained that the British had withdrawn large numbers of troops for redeployment to Greece. Scenting weakness, he moved his AFRIKA KORPS to El Agheila, and launched a probing attack. The British retreated, and Rommel launched a full offensive. He sent part of his force [and Italian units] up the coast road toward Benghazi, while he led [sometimes by airplane] another column across the desert. As a result, by the ned of April, the Axis stood on the Egyptian border, with Libya swept clean of British forces. Except at Tobruk.

Tobruk was a major supply port, on the eastern side of the Cyrenacian bulge. And supply largely dictated the desert war. Without Tobruk, Rommel was required to bring all his supplies from Tripoli, and to a lesser extent, Benghazi. that requirement stripped him of  trucks he could better use at the front, and ate up fuel he desperately needed at the front to transport the rest of his fuels and supplies to the army. Simply put, Rommel needed Tobruk to undertake any further operations.

His first attack was a 'rush job', with little or no reconnaissance. The result was heavy German losses. Further attacks were also beaten off, resulting in the Axis undertaking a rather ineffective siege, inasmuch as the Royal Navy controlled the seas, and could resupply and reinforce the garrison almost at will. Rommel was now fighting a war on two fronts: Tobruk and the border [also known as 'the wire'].

Rommel fared much better on the border. A British counteroffensive, "Operation BATTLEAXE", in early June was shot to pieces by 88s at Halfaya Pass and  an oasis further south, followed by a counterattack by 21st and 15th Panzer. But the 9th Australian Division, defending Tobruk was neither passive nor quiet. They engaged in active patrolling and raids. they also coordinated with the 8th Army's Operation "CRUSADER" in November, an operation remembered for heavy fighting at Sidi Rezegh airfield, Rommel's run to the wire, and the eventual retreat of the Axis forces in the faced of 8th Army's pressure, lack of supplies, and a breakout by 9th Australian that linked up with 8th Army.

By January, Rommel was back at El Agheila, licking his wounds, and receiving belated resupply. then he noticed the British rotating their veteran formations away from the front, and replacing them with 'green' units. And once again, the British withdrew veteran formations from the theater [some 30,000]and sent them to Singapore. Rommel did not need an invitation like thaqt twice. On January 23rd, he attacked again, and the second race for Egypt began.

This time, however, the British endeavored to stop Rommel west of Tobruk by creating a defensive line [the GAZALA line], built around a series of 'boxes', or self contained outposts, that ran down to Bir Hachim. And stopped. The British kept their armored units [brigade sized] behind the line in so-called 'penny packets', waiting for Panzerarmee AFRIKA. They didn't have to wait long.

It was probably Rommel's greatest battle. It showed all his trademark moves: aggressiveness, the ability to improvise and adjust on the fly, and the superlative use of combined arms.

Rommel swept around the south end of the Gazala line with his two panzer divisions, the 90th Light Infantry Division, and two armored and one mechanized Italian divisions. They ran over two British tank brigades in short order, but then got stalled. Rommel was in a bad situation, low on gas, and with Bir Hachim sitting on the flank of his supply line. He did two things. He ordered the capture of Bir Hachim, and personally went back and brought up a column of fuel trucks for his stranded panzers.

At the same time, the Italians on the west side of the Gazala line cleared a path through a British minefield which was not covered by British artillery, nor the adjacent boxes. Rommel then pulled his troops on the east side of the line, into a bridgehead btween the boxes and waited for the inevitable British attacks. Using 88s, minefields and a devastating panzer attack/ambush at Knightsbridge, Rommel decimated the British armored force [destroying some 800 tanks]. The British Army fell back on Egypt. the way to Tobruk was now open.

This time, the garrison was composed of second rate South African troops, not Australians. And the formidable defenses from a year before had been cannibalized, allowed to degrade and to fall into disrepair. It was a disaster waiting to happen.

And so, on June 20th Rommel watched the STUKAS, and then the panzers and grenadiers roll in. By 0930, they had broken into the inner defenses. By early afternoon, it was all over. Rommel captured some 33,000 prisoners[When Churchill, then in Washington, received the news, he said it was one of the worst moments of the war for him]. Of greater importance than the prisoners to Rommel were the mountains of supplies and fuel, and the number of vehicles he captured. With that haul, he was able to hurry after the British into Egypt. And plans for the invasion of Malta were forgotten. That night Erwin Rommel was notified that he had been promoted to the rank of GENERALFELDMARSCHALL, at that time the youngest Field Marshal in the German Army. He reportedly said he would have preferred another division.

Rommel went on to one more victory over the stampeding British before he ran into the hell and fire of El Alamein. He would then lead one of the longest and best executed retreats in modern military history, through Egypt, and Libya to Tunisia. There he would score his last major battlefield victory, over the Americans at Kasserine Pass.

Rommel was withdrawn from Africa, and would go on to command the defense of Normandy. He would die a forced suicide, for his involvement in the plot against Hitler. But the sun never shone brighter on Erwin Rommel than it did in June 20th, 1942.
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« Reply #31 on: June 21, 2016, 07:08:49 pm »

It was an operation doomed to fail. It was built on competing views of its goals, and duplicity by its military planners. It came closer to success than it should have. And it spelled the end of both the Thousand Year Reich, and the ideology that drove that Reich to war in the East.

BARBAROSSA was the largest military operation, and invasion in world history. It involved some 3.5 million men attacking on an 800 mile front. The attackers were divided into three Army Groups: North, under Field Marshal Ritter von Lieb, comprising the 16th and 18th Armies, and the 4th Panzer Group [Hoeppner] (the smallest Army Group), which deployed in East Prussia, with an objective of Leningrad and environs; Center, under Field Marshal Fedor von Bock, with the 4th and 9th Armies and the 2d [Guderian] and 3d [Hoth] Panzer Groups the strongest Army Group], with an objective of Moscow; and Army Group South, , under Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, with 6th, 11th and 17th German Armies, a Romanian Army and 1st Panzer Group [von Kleist], with the objective of the Ukraine, and Rostov and the Caucasus oilfields.

The disposition of resources for the campaign, upon examination is somewhat surprising. Adolf Hitler, driven by ideology, as well as pragmatism, viewed the long range objectives of the campaign as ECONOMIC. So his long range objectives were the industrial areas of the Leningrad area, and the Donbass; as well as the agricultural potential of Ukraine. For Hitler, Moscow was of secondary importance. And his constant back and forth with OBERKOMMANDO DES HEERES [the Army High Command and General Staff], made this perfectly clear. Where they wanted Moscow, he wanted Leningrad, the Baltics, and especially, Ukraine [since OKH was perfectly aware of the plan to strip so much of the food from the western USSR for Germany that 30 million Slavs were expected to die (Operation HUNGER
)], it was amazing they did what they did. But for Field Marshal von Brauschitsh [German Army Commanding General], and Col. Gen. Fritz Halder [Chief of the German General Staff], Moscow was the Holy Grail. So while paying lip service to Hitler's wishes in the campaign orders, they sent the weakest Army Groupto not only seize Leningrad but to occupy the Baltic States.

In a similar vein, Army Group South, faced with the occupation of at least half of the landmass being invaded, faced a split front, strong natural defensive positions [rivers running serially across the front], an unflankable left [the Pripyet Marsh - more on that below], an talented opponent [General Kirponis], the largest concentration of Soviet troops [they thought the main blow would be in Ukraine], and the largest number of both the new T-34 and KV 1 tanks; had only one Panzer Group.

But Army Group Center,directed against Minsk, Smolensk and what Hitler viewed as a secondary target, Moscow, contained almost half the German Armor on the Eastern Front, as well as two large armies.

The one thing Hitler and his senior generals agreed on was the necessity to destroy the Red Army as far west as possible. Large Soviet concentrations forward, plus alarming underestimates of Soviet troop strength, equipment strength, and reinforcement capability which would dog German operations in the Eastern War until its end seemed to make this possible.

But first there were major prblems to contemplate. ThePripyet Marsh, an exceptionally large swamp, divided Belorussia from Ukraine in the West. So the German offensive would not have a continuous front until after the Germans passed Minsk, and then only after AG Center and AG South made contact. And by that time, AG North would be on a divergent axis of advance from AG Center. Both of those scenarios required troops to hold the increasing gaps between the German AGs.

This led to another problem. The German advance would open the front from 800 to 1,200 miles fairly quickly. But German reserves, both at the Army, Army Group, and OKH reserve level were 'thin'. This could lead to gaps that could not be filled, and openings for Soviet troops to escape through.

Which was more than probable because the German Army was 90% horse drawn, an, in the case of the infantry, foot powered.And while it was true that the number of Panzer Divisions had been doubled since 1940, it was all sleigh if hand. They had cut the Panzer regiments in each division from two to one, and built a new division around each regiment. However, German industry couldn't fill the requirement for all the other vehicles a Panzer Division needed [trucks, cars, fuel trucks, half-tracks, etc.]. As a result, Panzer Group 3's vehicular [non-Panzer] establishment was some 60% French, but of differing manufacture, making the supply system chaos.

And that system was made MUCH worse by two facts. Soviet railroad gage was different than European standard gage. So the Germans had to relay every mile of track as they drove east. Andwhat appeared as 'roads' marked on maps turned out to be goat racks, and sandpits that turned into mud pits when it rained. Result, German supply convoys drank much of the fuel they carried to get the rest to the front, along with other supplies. The Panzers wound up short of fuel and were halted for same at inopportune times. And the German 'leg' infantry had to march some 40 miles a day, aidedby the amphetamines they received as standard issue.

The Soviets had ample warning Hitler was coming. Sorge told them. Churchill told them. German deserters on the night of 21-22 JUNE told them. The reports were duly passed up. And the reports were duly ignored by Stalin.

BARBAROSSA opened at 3:52 AM on June 22nd, with an intense artillery barrage that moved fromnorthto south, followed by Luftwaffe attacks on every Soviet Airbase they could reach. They switched to ground support later in the day. By the end of Day 1, the Germans had destroyed over 2,000 Soviet aircraft, most on the ground.

Within a week, the Germans had taken Minsk, and driven deep into the Baltic states. But Kirponis was giving Rundstedt all he could handle. Rundstedt advanced, but slowly. And at great cost. And by August there were problems. Of sufficient size to call Hitler in as referee. The Germans were now east of Smolensk, some 100 miles or less from Moscow. AG north was closing on Leningrad. But AG South had yet to either take Kiev, or force the Dnieper River. And the right wing of AG Center was'hanging in the air' to the tune of some 300 miles. The issue Hitler was called to referee was what to do next. Brauchitsch, Halder, Bock, Guderian and Hoth wanted to drive on Moscow. But Rundstedt, Kleist, and AG South wanted some of AG Center's armor to pivot to the South, come down behind the Soviets defending Kiev and the Dniper line, join up with Panzer Group 1, and encircle the Russians. Rundstedt was supported not only by his commanders, but by Bock's infantry army commanders, Kluge [4th], and Struss [9th].

Hitler finally was able to see the duplicity of his senior army commanders writ large. No artful communiques could cover what Halder and his staff had done. One of the first significant trust issues between Fuehrer and Field Marshals had occurred. Hitler sided with Rundstedt, and Guderian was ordered south. Result? 660,000+ Soviet prisoners, a continuous front running through Kursk and Kharkov, Kiev captured,and Rundstedt driving east toward Rostov.

By the beginning of October, Guderian had returned to AG Center, and Hitler let his generals of the leash to capture Moscow. It started brilliantly, with the twin encirclements at Vyazma and Bryansk. But then the weather changed, and the Germans drove on, but increasingly slowly. they not only lacked cold weather uniforms and boots, but cold weather lubricants, hydraulic fluids, and fuel. Tanks required fires under engines to turn over. Machine guns and cannons froze and became inoperable. The Soviets counterattacked on December 6th with fresh armies from Siberia and the reserves. the Germans broke and retreated. Only Hitler's order to stand and fight, no retreat, prevented a rout. A correct call in December, 1941, it became an increasingly incorrect one, and a cornerstone of German defensive strategy for the rest of the war.

Brauchitsch resigned under health grounds, to be replaced by Hitler. Bock, Lieb, Rundstedt, Guderian, and Hoeppner were relieved [Bock and Rundstedt were called back to duty in 1942. the war in the East would continue to 1945. the Germans would attack again in 1942 , and 1943 [CITADEL].  But BARBAROSSA was over, It died in the snows of Russia, in December, 1941.
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« Reply #32 on: June 22, 2016, 01:27:52 am »

So while paying lip service to Hitler's wishes in the campaign orders, they sent the weakest Army Groupto not only seize Leningrad but to occupy the Baltic States.

Is that why the siege of Leningrad was unsuccessful? Or that combined with the tenacity of the city's defenders (The 900 Days)?

The Soviets had ample warning Hitler was coming. Sorge told them. Churchill told them. German deserters on the night of 21-22 JUNE told them.

Sorge told the Soviets more than that. He also informed them the Japanese would NOT attack the Soviet Union from the south but instead would turn south and west toward India. Stalin was thus able to keep only a token force on the Soviet Union's border with China/Mongolia and mass all his available manpower in the West for face the Germans. Richard Sorge changed the course of history. A remarkable spy.

a continuous front running through Kursk and Kharkov, Kiev captured,and Rundstedt driving east toward Rostov.

When the German army entered Ukraine they were welcomed as liberators. The Ukranians well remembered the Holodomor. Later in the war, when it was much too late, Hitler even authorized an independent Ukranian unit to fight alongside the Germans.

they not only lacked cold weather uniforms and boots, but cold weather lubricants, hydraulic fluids, and fuel.

This, I once read, was the result of delaying Barbarossa for 6 weeks because, as PZLdr stated in another thread, "In April, 1941, Adolf Hitler was forced to invade Greece as a result of the maladroitness of his erstwhile ally, Benito Mussolini.
(Operation MERKUR [MERCURY]- 20 MAY 1941: The German Airborne Invasion of Crete). The delay meant the German troops were not properly equipped for the brutal Russian winter, and, well, the rest is history.


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« Reply #33 on: June 22, 2016, 07:25:56 am »

So while paying lip service to Hitler's wishes in the campaign orders, they sent the weakest Army Groupto not only seize Leningrad but to occupy the Baltic States.

Is that why the siege of Leningrad was unsuccessful? Or that combined with the tenacity of the city's defenders (The 900 Days)?

The Soviets had ample warning Hitler was coming. Sorge told them. Churchill told them. German deserters on the night of 21-22 JUNE told them.

Sorge told the Soviets more than that. He also informed them the Japanese would NOT attack the Soviet Union from the south but instead would turn south and west toward India. Stalin was thus able to keep only a token force on the Soviet Union's border with China/Mongolia and mass all his available manpower in the West for face the Germans. Richard Sorge changed the course of history. A remarkable spy.

a continuous front running through Kursk and Kharkov, Kiev captured,and Rundstedt driving east toward Rostov.

When the German army entered Ukraine they were welcomed as liberators. The Ukranians well remembered the Holodomor. Later in the war, when it was much too late, Hitler even authorized an independent Ukranian unit to fight alongside the Germans.

they not only lacked cold weather uniforms and boots, but cold weather lubricants, hydraulic fluids, and fuel.

This, I once read, was the result of delaying Barbarossa for 6 weeks because, as PZLdr stated in another thread, "In April, 1941, Adolf Hitler was forced to invade Greece as a result of the maladroitness of his erstwhile ally, Benito Mussolini.
(Operation MERKUR [MERCURY]- 20 MAY 1941: The German Airborne Invasion of Crete). The delay meant the German troops were not properly equipped for the brutal Russian winter, and, well, the rest is history.




Hitler was more interested in the industrial zone to Leningrad's south and southeast than the city itself. But the weakness of AG North played a part. At one point they could most likely have sailed into Leningrad with little effort [September]. But then Hitler started pulling troops [the armor of 4th Panzergruppe] back and forth with armor from Panzer Group 3 while constantly shifting objectives from the northern front, asnd the northern part of the central front [the area of the Voldai Hills. And by then Hitler had decided to starve Leningrad to death without taking it. [the siege]. But of all the objectives of Barbarossa, with hindsight Leningrad was the most doable, if AG North had been properly staffed.

Sorge worked under a handicap common to both GRU [Sorge] and NKVD agents. Stalin refused to believe them. The LUCY ring in Switzerland, the ROTE KAPELL with tentacles into Goering's Air Ministry and the Ministry of Economics, not only confirmed Sorge's information, but were equally disbelieved. At one point [several years in fact], the Soviets broke contact with almost all their western agents. Max Hastings just wrote a superb book on intelligence in WW II. He has almost a whole chapter on Sorge.

Hitler was none too happy when he found out about the volunteer Galician division, and the various ethnic HIWIs serving with the Wehrmacht. Old prejudices never died with Hitler. Interstingly, aside from the German Army, the major push to incorporate the various ethnicities cam from the SS. the Cossack division was commanded by an SS general [Pannwitz(?)]. In addition to Ukraianians, the Germans formed units of Krim Tartars, Cossacks, Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, and Russians.

The Balkans and Crete campaign had minimal effect on BARBAROSSA. The Soviet Union had a particularly wet Spring in 1941, and the Germans had to wait for the mud to dry before they could kick off the campaign. In reality they lost maybe two weeks. But the southern ventures did have two consequences: AG South, facing the most difficult front, went in with troops and equipment worn down by Yugoslavia and Greece. But the lack of proper winter equipment was due to two other problems, German hubris [they ALL thought BARBAROSSA would be a wrap in 8 weeks or less], and the chaotic supply system. By the time the Germans realized that it wasn't going to be 8 weeks, and tried to gather winter supplies, their supply system had no way of getting the gear to the front in anywhere near sufficient quantities.

thanks for the comments and the inquiries. hope you enjoyed the thread.
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« Reply #34 on: June 22, 2016, 01:49:56 pm »

It was the single biggest single military disaster the German Army suffered in World War  II. By the time Soviet operations ended in August, 1944, Army Group Center had been virtually annihilated. Two German Armies, the 4th and the 9th, ceased to exist, as did 3rd Panzer Army. The Germans lost approximately 400,000 men, killed wounded or captured [most of them killed or captured]. Only 17 of Army Group Center's generals were not killed or captured. And by the time it was over, the Soviet Armies that had started just west of Smolensk, with an objective of Minsk, were across the Vistula River from Warsaw, in Poland, and had invaded East Prussia, threatening to cut off Army Group North from the rest of the German Army.

Planning had begun much earlier, and one of its key elements was deception. The Germans were inclined to believe that the Soviet offensive for the summer of 1944 would center on the north Ukraine. The terrain was more conducive to armor operations, and an advance southwest would threaten Romania, and Germany's principal oil supply. The Soviets gave the Germans all the indicia they needed that the assessment was correct. Much in the mode of Patton's pre- D-Day phantom First Army Group, the Soviets used dummy equipment, phony radio nets, and selected German air reconnaissance to reinforce the German belief that north Ukraine was the target. they were so successful that Hitler stripped AG Center of some 25% of its assault guns and tanks, and sent them to AG North Ukraine. the result was that AG Center faced the Soviets' 6,000 tanks with some 500+ of their own.

Compounding the incipient problem they faced was the Germans' own commander, Field Marshal Busch. Busch owed his position to neither strategic insight, nor tactical ability [although he did share his belief, just before the storm broke that AG Center was the next focus of Soviet intent], but rather to his slavish obedience to the Fuehrer's wishes. And Hitler had ordered that AG Center base its defensive strategy on the FESTUNG [fortress] doctrine, thereby effectively making AG Center [except its only armored formation, 20th Panzer Division], static.

Before the campaign opened, major partisan operations were undertaken throughout Belorussia. They were aimed specifically at the rail lines  and supply depots. Then the Soviets' first attack came in on the northern flank of AG Center, both to impede and separate AG North formations, and to draw mobile reserves to the center of AG Center's area of operations [Large formations of Soviet armored and mechanized forces faced AG North Ukraine waiting to break out when they moved]. Then Marshal Rokossovsky attacked from the south [the Pripyet Marsh], driving on Minsk. All Soviet attacks were preceded by what German survivors characterized as the heaviest artillery bombardment they had ever faced.

And as the Soviets broke through the static German positions, their deep penetration operations picked up pace, with the shoe on the other foot, as it were. The German Army was still 90% horse drawn. But the Soviets, after two years of Lend-Lease, were richly supplied with 2 1/2 ton trucks by the U.S. They were now capable of mobile operations the Germans could only dream about - even in their heyday. The result was encirclement and destruction for the Germans. Busch was relieved when he went to plead with Hitler to allow him, and his Army commanders more freedom of maneuver. He was replaced by the "Fuehrer's Fireman", Field Marshal Walter Model - to no avail.

The Soviets were taken by surprise by their own success. They ordered further attacks into Poland, toward the nexus of the Baltic States, and East Prussia, and in Ukraine. By August the Germans had been through past the 1939 border. And coupled with the Falaise Gap encirclement, it was a blow from which the Wehrmacht never recovered.

At one point 50,000 German prisoners, en masse, were paraded through Moscow. Some 160,000 Germans were taken prisoner. Many were murdered by the Red Army, or died in the Gulag. And the final debacle in Russia started, to the day, on the third anniversary of the commencement of Operation BARBAROSSA.
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« Reply #35 on: June 22, 2016, 05:03:47 pm »

The Secret War: Spies, Ciphers, and Guerrillas, 1939-1945 by Max Hastings
https://www.amazon.com/Secret-War-Ciphers-Guerrillas-1939-1945/product-reviews/006225927X/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_hist_2?ie=UTF8&filterByStar=two_star&showViewpoints=0&pageNumber=1

Quote
But the lack of proper winter equipment was due to two other problems, German hubris [they ALL thought BARBAROSSA would be a wrap in 8 weeks or less], and the chaotic supply system. By the time the Germans realized that it wasn't going to be 8 weeks, and tried to gather winter supplies, their supply system had no way of getting the gear to the front in anywhere near sufficient quantities.

Quite interesting given the legendary German reputation for efficiency.

Quote
thanks for the comments and the inquiries. hope you enjoyed the thread.

Always do enjoy them. History fascinates me and I appreciate your posts. I hope you are not offended by my comments on your threads. Not trying to steal your thunder, but merely to illuminate your contributions from a different perspective.
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« Reply #36 on: June 22, 2016, 05:43:12 pm »

The Secret War: Spies, Ciphers, and Guerrillas, 1939-1945 by Max Hastings
https://www.amazon.com/Secret-War-Ciphers-Guerrillas-1939-1945/product-reviews/006225927X/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_hist_2?ie=UTF8&filterByStar=two_star&showViewpoints=0&pageNumber=1

Quite interesting given the legendary German reputation for efficiency.

Always do enjoy them. History fascinates me and I appreciate your posts. I hope you are not offended by my comments on your threads. Not trying to steal your thunder, but merely to illuminate your contributions from a different perspective.

Not offended at all. Your insights are spot on, and often add light to the subject.

As for the  German reputation for efficiency, it seems confined to operations, tactics and the operational level of strategy. The German Army gave almost no thought, it seems, to either intelligence, nor supply. When confronted by his quartermaster in Africa over re-supply for a battle, Rommel famously remarked "That's [logistics] your problem.

German doctrine developed in, and evolved to plan, short wars. The General Staff was always weak on Grand Strategy, and most times on strategy. In the German Staff system, the Operations Officer [1a], was the senior staff officer after the Chief of Staff, if there was one. Intelligence and Logistics were far down on the totem pole - at all levels- and it showed. After Poland, the Army was down to some 50% of its artillery reserve, and the Luftwaffe was low on bombs. And except for excellence in Signal intelligence, the German Army's intelligence officers were parvenus. Their absolutely abysmal performance in the Soviet Union is proof of that.
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« Reply #37 on: June 24, 2016, 08:40:23 am »

The lovefest that started between Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of the French, and Alexander, Czar of all the Russias at Tilsit in 1807, had soured irretrievably by 1812. From Napoleon's point of view, Alexander had failed to act like the junior partner he expected. Alexander not only refused to follow the French "Continental System", designed to bar the British from continental trade, he flouted it. Nor did he conform to the French Emperor's wishes in matters of foreign policy and diplomacy. For Alexander, Napoleon was overbearing, treated some his fellow monarchs [and Alexander's allies/friends], specifically the King of Prussia, with disdain, and most sinful of all, no longer looked like a winner.

The 'Spanish ulcer' was now superating in its fourth year, with the French unable to either put done the widespread guerilla insurgency in Spain proper, nor to defeat the Duke of Wellington, based in Portugal, on the battlefield.

And Napoleon, like Adolf Hitler over a century later, decided that the way to defeat England was to take Russia out of equation in Europe. Napoleon prepared for war.

The "Grande Armee" Napoleon fielded in 1812 was the largest he would ever command. 500,000 men were drawn from not only France, but Prussia, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Holland, and virtually every other country in the French sphere of influence. the plan was simple. Invade Russia, drive north toward the Czar's capital, St. Petersburg, pin the Russian Army, destroy it, and force an unfavorable peace on the Czar. But as Moltke the Elder once said, "No plan survives the battlefield".

The Russians did NOT fall back on St. Petersburg. Instead they moved the government to Moscow, and began trading space for time. Napoleon, whose whole plan was to bring the Russian Army to battle, was forced to follow. This presented somewhat of a problem, because the French supply system was somewhat, to put it charitably, rudimentary. And this was before the era of railroads. Still, the French over 20 years of war, had developed living off the other guy's land to an art form. So they dogged the Russians, looking for a decisive battle through Minsk and Byelorussia, past Smolensk to Borodino.

Napoleon won Borodino, but the victory was hollow. first, his tactics were fairly hamfisted, requiring the intervention of the Imperial Guard, and resulting in fairly heavy French losses. Worse, the Russians got away, undestroyed.

The Russians kept going east, even allowing the French to occupy Moscow, where Napoleon waited for the Czar to open peace negotiations. He waited until October. the only message the Czar sent was letting Moscow burn in a deliberate act of arson. With winter setting in [one of the worst of the century], Napoleon withdrew.

The plan was to head south, then west through the [until then] unplundered Ukraine. But blocking Napoleon's way was the Russian Army, ready for battle. Napoleon declined, and instead retreated out the way he had come in. With catastrophic results.

His supply system in shambles, the land picked clean on the way in, his men could find neither shelter, food, nor wood for fires. The were harried the entire retreat by Cossack light cavalry, and the Russian Army. And it just got colder.

Napoleon abandoned his Army to his Marshals at Smolensk, taking first a sled, and then a carriage in an  effort to beat the bad news to Paris, and assert his political control. The Prussian Corps attached to his army defected to the Russians [the Convention of Torgau], and within 6 months Prussia was fighting in the Allied coalition.

The retreat of the Grand Armee ended at the Berezina, with Marshal Ney the last man out. But the dimensions of the catastrophe were astounding. Of the Army that went into Russia, far less than 100,000 came out. the French lost some 600,000 horses. And that would play hob with both their artillery and cavalry in  the 1813 and 1814 campaigns.

Napoleon had invaded Russia to isolate England. Instead, he wound up, with few exceptions [the Saxons, the Poles], isolating France. By 1813, he had Britain, Russia, Austria, Prussia, Sweden [led by a former French Marshal, Bernadotte], and the Iberian Penisula arrayed against him.

He held them off, but lost Germany, in 1813. His own Marshals refused to continue the fighting [despite some of Napoleon's most inspired campaigning], in 1814, in France. Bonaparte was forced to abdicate, and become Emperor of Elba. then came the return, the 100 days, Waterloo, and final exile to St. Helena. But all that was far in the future when, on June 24th, 1812, the Grande Armee and their Emperor, splashed across the Nieman River.
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« Reply #38 on: June 24, 2016, 07:56:05 pm »

It had been ruled by Japan since the early 20th century. And in the dynamics of the dying days of WW II, it was almost an afterthought.  But in the aftermath of the Japanese surrender, American and Soviet military officers faced each other in the Korean peninsula, trying to decide what to do. An impromptu agreement divided the country along the 38th parallel, with the Americans controlling the southern half, and the Soviets the northern portion of the peninsula.

The Soviets moved quickly to establish a puppet regime in the North, bringing back from Manchuria [where he'd been fighting alongside the Red Chinese], and from service in the Red Army, Kim Il Sung. Kim was popular in Korea because he had fought as a guerilla against the hated Japanese. His regime, however, relied in no small part, on repressive power, especially during the Stalin- like purges he instituted to wrest supreme power from his enemies within the Communist Party.

The South, on the other hand, found itself in a quasi-democracy under the rule of Syngman Rhee, who had returned from a life of exile in the U.S. Rhee had one thing in common with Kim. They both believed that Korea should be united as one country. they differed over who should rule it.

The U.S and Soviet troops withdrew by 1948 [the Russians left Kim bunches of military equipment], with only a U.S advisory team [KMAAG] remaining in the South. The Republic of [South] Korean Army [ROK] was composed of draftees, some professional officers, and some political soldiers. whatever their differences, they had one thing in common. They were woefully and deliberately underequipped. ROK had NO armor, NO AT guns, NO heavy artillery, and almost no Air Force. Why? Because the United States was convinced that given such equipment, Rhee would invade the North.

Whether he would have or not was problematic, and actually irrelevant. Because Kim was drumming up support for the Democratic Republic of [North] Korea to invade, overrun and unify the South with the North. He first got a tentative OK from Stalin, providing Mao Tze Dung signed off on the project. Mao did, having returned thousands of North Korean troops who had fought for Mao in the Chinese revolution.

Stalin now upped the game. The invasion was planned by Russian officers. Equipment rolled into North Korea by the trainload. the latest [prop driven] YAK fighters entered service with the North Korean Air Force. Critically, the Inmun Gun was furnished with a brigade of T-34/85 tanks. They would be the centerpiece of the plan. The final green light may well have been given by the U.S Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, who, in a speech said Korea was OUTSIDE the U.S Pacific Defense perimeter.

It started, in the Soviet style, with a massive artillery bombardment early in the morning of June 25th. Infantry attacks developed first on the far west and east of the peninsula, in part because the ROK troops in those areas were geographically isolated. The offensive then erupted in the central sector, with the NKPA 105th Tank brigade driving down the Uijonbu corridor. North Korean aircraft attacked Seoul and Kimpo airfield. The ROK were caught off guard. Some units fought bravely, many not so much. By Day 3, the NKPA was in Seoul, and preparing to cross the Taegu River. They were also murdering hundreds, if not thousands of ROK civilians and military [a habit that persisted on the drive south.

But now a Soviet diplomatic error came into play. The Soviets had been boycotting U.N Security Council meetings over the question of seating Red China in the U.N. Thus, they were unable to veto a motion by the U.S. to have the U.N respond, militarily to the North Korean invasion. And whether he had intended or not, Kim had now joined at the hip Syngman Rhee and the United States.

The first U.N ground contingent to arrive in South Korea was American [the bulk of U.N forces would be furnished by the U.S., with contingents from Great Britain, France, the Commonwealth, Greece, Turkey and others]. Task Force Dean moved up to Taejon, where they ran into the 105th Tank Brigade and other NKPA units. Equipped with the smaller version of the bazooka [NOT the 3.5" version] they were unable to stop the North Koreans.

But as the North Koreans continued their drive south, they did began to slow down. North Korea's Achilles Heel had always been a combination of distance, logistical support, and lack of sufficient air power. American sorties from aircraft carriers and Japan began to bite deep. What they didn't destroy, they caused to move at night, slowing reinforcement and resupply. At the same time, more and more U.S troops, under Walton Walker's 8th Army, began arriving in the port of Pusan, and began fanning out to fill defensive positions along the Naktong River. The race for Pusan became a close run thing, but the Americans won. And in a series of savage battles they held the increasingly diminished and despondent NKPA.

And then, for Kim, the roof caved in. Despite warnings from the Chinese to prepare defensives at Inchon, he didn't. And the Supreme U.N commander, Douglas MacArthur had amphibious Marines first take Womedo Island, which guarded the entrance to Inchon, then take Inchon, and then liberate Seoul.

The NKPA, most of which was far to the South experienced, at the same time, a full blown offensive by 8th Army, which drove them north as they disintegrated under the attack. By September, U.N and ROK troops were crossing into North Korea. Four more years of fightin and negotiation lay ahead. Seoul would change hands twice more. And the armistice that concluded combat operation is still in force today. But it all began on June 25th, 1950.
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« Reply #39 on: June 25, 2016, 07:55:14 pm »

He was last in his class [1861] at West Point. He was one of the Army's first aviators [hot air balloon on the Peninsula]. He fought in almost every major battle fought by the Army of the Potomac. He was a hero at Gettysburg. He was the youngest Major General [brevet] in the U.S. Army at 24. His nicknames included "Autie", and "Iron Ass". His name was George Armstrong Custer. And as a Lieutenant Colonel of Cavalry, and field commander [he was the executive officer] of the 7th Cavalry Regiment, he died on a lonely hilltop, with over 200 of his men, on June 25th, 1876, the nation's Centennial Year.

With demobilization, Custer was demoted back to Captain. But when it was realized that the frontier would need to be secured, Congress formed ten infantry, and ten cavalry regiments to police it. Custer was offered the full colonelcy of the Ninth or Tenth cavalry, both Black regiments [with white officers]. Custer declined, refusing to serve with blacks. Instead he accepted the Lieutenancy of the 7th Cavalry. He, his wife Libby, his menagerie of dogs, pets and servants then decamped to Ft. Leavenworth, to fight the Commanche, Kiowa and Southern Cheyenne.

Custer's initial campaigns were a failure. The Indians didn't stand and fight, finding them was like finding a needle in the haystack. Discipline problems led to floggings, bucking, and when men deserted to look for gold, impromptu executions.. And then Custer deserted his command and rode in excess of 100 miles to be with his wife. The result was a court-martial, and a year's suspension without pay. For all extents and purposes Custer was finished. Except, he wasn't.

Custer received a telegram from Phil Sheridan recalling him to duty for a winter campaign. Custer was back by October. He trained his men hard, with an emphasis on marksmanship. He gathered the necessary clothing and other supplies, and struck out in a howling blizzard. Custer soon struck the trail of a war party, and followed it to the Wash*ta River. There he found the Cheyenne village of Black Kettle.  Black Kettle, a proponent of peace, had been the victim of the Chivington massacre in 1864. Although he wanted peace, his young men didn't. the 7th was to find mail, and other items taken on the Indian raids, in Black Kettle's village.

Custer deployed his men for an attack from three directions. As the Sun rose, he had the band signal the attack by playing "Garry Owen". The attack was devastating. Despite Custer's orders to spare all the women and children, some women, including Black Kettle's wife were killed. Most were captured.

As the battle wound down, Custer's XO, Major Joel Elliot, took a small group of men, and rode after some fleeing Indians, declaiming "For a brevet or a coffin". They were never seen again. As Custer consolidated his hold on the village, larger and larger groups of Indians began to approach from downstream, taking the cavalry under fire. With full daylight, Custer became aware that Black Kettle's was the first of some seven large villages on the Wash*ta. Unable to look for Elliot, Custer feinted toward the other villages, halting the Indians. He then slaughtered Black Kettle's pony herd [minus horses for the captives] burned down the village and its supplies [agasin minus what was needed for the captives], and withdrew.

The Battle of the Wash*ta drew rave reviews in the west, but some condemnation in the East. The Army Thought it was a job well done. Except for Captain Frederick Benteen. A friend of Elliot, and an exceptionally vindictive and small minded man, Benteen began an anonymous letter writing campaign faulting Custer for not looking for Elliot. The bad blood quickly split the regiment in to Custer admirers and an opposition group [the bodies of Elliot and his men were found when Custer and Sheridan returned to the battlefield some months later.

But Custer, reinvigorated, took to campaigning with zeal. The following Spring, he made peace with the Southern Cheyenne, and some of the Comanches. Custer was now regarded as one of the premiere Indian fighters in the west [along with George Crook and Ranald McKenzie]. He, and the 7th were then transferred to Ft. Abraham Lincoln. It would be Custer's last home.

On the Northern Plains, the principal enemies were the Lakota Sioux, comprised of bands called Ogalala, Hunkpapa, Sans Arcs, Two Kettles, Minneconjou, Brule and Blackfoot [not to be confused with the Blackfoot tribe in northern Montana and southern Canada]. The Lakota were an expanding military power on the Plains. Originally from Minnesota, they reached the Black Hills around 1775, drove the Kiowa out,  and spread west and south. They were in almost constant warfare with the Pawnee, the Shoshone, and the Crow. They allied with the Northern Cheyenne and the Arapahoe. In 1875, they finally drove the Crow off the Powder River  buffalo range. They were tough, ruthless, and saw no reason to accommodate the Whites.

Major problems arose from two sources.  The first was an exploratory mission into the Black hills [ceded to the Indians by Treaty]. Gold was found, and the rush was on. The Army tried to keep people out of the Hills, with limited success. The Sioux began killing the transgressors.

President Grant was in a bind. there was a recession on, and the gold would come in handy to stanch it. Plus he was under rising pressure for the West to abandon his "Peace Policy" for the Indians. He did, and in late 1875, riders were sent to the northern Plains tribes telling them any Indian not on a reservation by January, 1876 would be treated as hostile. Plans were made for a major campaign in the summer of 1876, consisting of three converging columns, commanded by Alfred Terry. John Gibbon would be there. So would George Crook. But not George Armstrong Custer.

Custer had been leaking information about corruption in the Indian agencies to select Democrat Congressmen and Senators. Called to testify, he implicated, indirectly, Grant's brother. Revenge was swift. Grant ordered Custer to stay in D.C. And he was there when the campaign started. After a cry de couer from Custer, Grant allowed him to return to the 7th.

Terry for one was pleased to see him. Major Marcus Reno, Custer's XO, had led the regiment in his absence, disobeyed orders on a scout, and had generally screwed things up. From Reno's point of view, it couldn't have been worse. The commanding general was angry. Reno's plan to supercede Custer as Filed CO of the 7th was up in flames, and worst of all, the man he tried to supplant was back.

Terry directed Custer t sweep to the south and use his own judgment if he struck a trail. Intelligence put the potential Indian strength at 800 men, women and children. The intelligence was dead wrong. The Indian agents had over reported the reservation Indians' numbers, leaving out those Indians who went out on the Plains every summer to hunt buffalo with their non-reservation cousins. So the actual Indian strength was in the thousands, with a minimum of 800, and as many as 2,000+ warriors. It was the greatest aggregation of Indians ever gathered on the northern Plains.

Custer's prime directive [to use a STAR TREK term] was not to let the Indians escape. It was bedrock doctrine in the U.S Army in the west that when a village was attacked the Indians would flee. Custer was not to allow that to happen. Terry further told Custer they believed the Indians were in the vicinity of the Big Horn River, and that Terry's column from the northeast, Gibbon's column from the northwest, and Crook's column from the  south would converge and meet Custer on June 26th.

Custer declined a battery of Gatling guns [a good call], and troops from the 2d Cavalry [a bad one], and headed south. What he was unaware of was that Terry's plan had started to unravel - in a big way.

George Crook was a great Indian fighter. He had fought Indians in the Pacific northwest, and pacified Arizona and New Mexico from the Apache. But at Rosebud Creek, he suffered a serious defeat at the hands of the Oglala war chief, Crazy Horse, and at least several hundred of his friends. Caught by surprise while eating, Crook's men were only saved by the heroic actions of his Shoshone and Crow scouts. Crazy Horse's attack, while not U.S Army in its discipline hewed much more to a recognizable military force than the popular conception of an Indian attack. Crazy Horse eventually withdrew, so Crook could claim victory for holding the battlefield. But he withdrew to his suplly base almost immediately. More importantly, he informed Terry neither of his encounter, nor his retreat.

John Gibbon, former commander of the Civil War's Iron Brigade, unlike either Crook or Custer was fully aware of the size of the Indian village. He had paralleled it at least  twice, from the other side of  a river. Strangely, he never sought to engage the hostiles, Nor did he notify Terry of their numbers or location. Terry himself moved southwest at a more leisurely pace than one would have expected of a combat commander. the result was Custer was out alone, with no idea of the numbers he faced or where they were located.

That changed on the morning of June 25th. Custer and the 7th reached a Crow Indian lookout called, appropriately 'the Crow's nest', some fifteen miles from the valley of the Little Big Horn. Lt. Varnum, Custer's Chief of Scouts, and his Crow scouts saw a huge pony herd [Custer couldn't see it] toward the west side of the valley. Accepting his scouts' claims, custer planned to rest his horses for the rest of the 25th, and attack early on the 26th, when, according to the plan, Terry and Gibbob would be in the vicinity, able to support him.

But then came bad news. Troopers covering the regiment's back trail, and searching for cases of rations that fell off a mule, found the rations - and a small number of Indians that found them at the same time. The Indians escaped [Unbeknownst to Custer they were returning to their reservation, and gave no warning to the hostiles].

Custer was now forced to change his plans. Aware that he may have been seen, knowing the general direction of the village, and ever mindful of not letting the Indians escape, he advanced the regiment to the north. Just short of a tributary of the Little Big Horn River, he divided the regiment into three battalions.

From Custer's location, there was a series of ridges off to the left, meadows and some woods to the front, and higher bluffs to the right. The river ran to his right front paralleling the bluffs. Using seniority, he gave Benteen several troops, and ordered him to scout the ridges to the left, and to prevent any Indians from escaping that way. He also sent the pack train with the reserve ammunition with Benteen [including his nephew, Boston Custer]. He gave several more troops to Major Reno, with orders to cross the river and charge the village. Custer himself took five troops, and went up the bluffs to the right, heading generally northward, with a promise to support Reno.

The Indians had almost no warning that an attack was underway. But when they were warned, they moved into action. Benteen was charging the lowest 'circle' of the village, the lodges of the Hunkpapa. While warriors grabbed weapons, and headed for the soldiers to theier south, Sitting Bull, paramount leader of the free Indians, and their spiritual leader, funneled more warriors into the attack, and sent the aged, the women and children toward the northern end of the village. Still, for a moment, it seemed Custer's plan was working.

But then, at least a quarter to half mile from the village, and before any serious opposition appeared, Reno halted his charge, ordered his men to dismount in the grass, and set up a skirmish line, with his left in the air. Since dismounted combat required one in five or four troopers to act as horse holders, Reno effectively lost 20-25% of his effective combat strength before engaging the Indians. It didn't take long for mounted, and warriors on foot to begin attacking, and working around Reno's left flank. Without issuing any orders, Reno pulled into a patch of woods with the river protecting his right. The troops under his command straggled in, but once there, it was a highly defensible position.

While Reno was falling back to the trees, it appears that Custer may have observed the action from the bluff at Medicine Lodge Coulee. It appears he sent a feint down the coulee toward the village with the intent of drawing off some of the Indians. It also appears he saw the refugees fleeing through the village toward its northern end. After some desultory with the Indians opposite [Northern Cheyenne], which resulted in the serious wounding [according to the Cheyenne] of an officer in buckskin, the feint withdrew up the coulee, covered by two or more volleys [heard by the other battalions]. Custer then proceeded toward the north end of the village, to cut off those fleeing. He also sent a message to Benteen "Big Village. Bring ammo packs. Come quick. Bring Packs". The message was delivered by trumpeter Giovanni Martini to Benteen, who claimed Martini's English was so poor, he was unable to better grasp the situation. In any case, Benteen began to return to the initial dispersion point, where he watered his horses and mules. He then began to move north, again at a somewhat leisurely pace [Boston Custer left the pack train when the message arrived, and died with his Uncles].

In the woods, Reno was standing next to the Arikira scout Bloody Knife. A Lakota or Cheyenne bullet blew his brains all over Reno. Yelling "charge" or some such, Reno jumped on a horse, and ran for the river. Most of the men who could or see him followed, in ones, twos and small groups. Many were killed in the river by the Indians. The rest, minus small groups that successfully hid in the woods until escaping that night, arrived atop what is now known as Reno Hill, and dug rudimentary defenses while under attack. There they remained until Benteen showed up. It appeared Reno may have been drunk. In any case, Benteen elected to combine his command with Reno's, took over actual direction of the defense, and improved the defenses somewhat. And then most of the Indians rode off - to the north.

Custer was under increasing pressure from the Indians in tactically unfavorable terrain. What appeared to be gently rolling hills were laced with coulees and smaller gullies, which allowed Indians not only cover, but the advantage of high arc bows and arrows. Gall, war chief of the Hunkpapa, ran of a sizable number of horses, from one of what became a number of blocking positions, while Custer continued to maneuver in a northerly direction. The blocking units began to be destroyed piecemeal, their survivors joining the survivors with Custer. Troopers began to try and flee; a number began to commit suicide.

Then as Custer and his men rode up the hill that bears his name, a large, mixed band of Indians appeared at the crest to Custer's left front. Custer, his family members, the HQ staff, and what remained of his battalion dismounted, and cut off, prepared for the end.

One of the Indians said later that "It took as long as a hungry man takes to eat his breakfast". Except for a desultory reconnaissance, against orders from Reno and Benteen, by Cpt. Weir [to the point that bears his name], no effort was made to aid Custer, not to find him, or find out what had happened to him.

That mystery was solved two days later, when Terry and his column, a day later than expected, found the remains of Custer's command on the high ground to the north of Reno and Benteen. The corpses had been robbed and mutilated, although Custer's showed only two bullet wounds, and some minor cuts. Custer's Last Stand was over.
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« Reply #40 on: June 25, 2016, 11:39:25 pm »

My apologies. I spent over two hours composing this post, but was informed it was over the 2,000 word/digit limit when I tried to post it. So I tried to edit it down [hack it up was more likely] and re-post. It appears most of what I thought I had left has disappeared, making this post unintelligible. Again, my apologies.
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« Reply #41 on: June 25, 2016, 11:53:12 pm »

Criteria:

Any General [can include a king or emperor who led his troops in the field] from any era of recorded history.

State your choice.

Defend your choice.
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« Reply #42 on: June 26, 2016, 09:49:24 pm »

Gen George Patton.  Don't need to defend him.  His numbers speak for themselves.
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« Reply #43 on: June 27, 2016, 10:16:21 am »

Subodei Bahadur:

Uriankhi Tungus in service to the Mongol Quans. Participated in the invasion of Jin china. Chief of Staff to Chingghis Quan in the campaign that destroyed the Khwarism Empire. Led [with Jebe Noyon], the 'Great Raid', pursuing the Khwarism Shah to the Aral Sea, marching through the Caucasus, and destroying Georgia, raiding the Crimean Peninsula, destroying an 80,000 man Russian Army on the Khalka River and returning to Mongolia.

Subodei returned to Russia in 1237, after an approach march of 15 degrees in latitude. He destroyed the Volga Bulgars, shattered the Kipchak Turks, and became the ONLY general in history to conquer Russia. He sacked Kiev in 1240.

In 1241, he led the attack on Eastern Europe with a front that stretched from Transylvania to Poland. Sub commanders razed Crackow, destroyed the Balkans while he and Batu Quan crossed the Carpathians for the assault on the principal target, Hungary. By New Year's 1242, he had destroyed the Hungarian Army, sent the King of Hungary fleeing for his life. and taken both Buda and Pest. Spring 1242 found Mongol columns raiding Austria and Italy. Undefeated, the Mongols withdrew when they received news of the death of the supreme Quan, Uggedai, in Mongolia.

Subodei went on to campaign against the Sung Chinese before his retirement. He died in Mongolia.

Subodei won 65 battles, and lost one [during the Great Raid, against the same Volga Tartars he crushed 13 years later]. IMHO, no other general comes near him. He is history's greatest general.
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« Reply #44 on: June 27, 2016, 11:11:10 am »

He was last in his class [1861] at West Point. He was one of the Army's first aviators [hot air balloon on the Peninsula]. He fought in almost every major battle fought by the Army of the Potomac. He was a hero at Gettysburg. He was the youngest Major General [brevet] in the U.S. Army at 24. His nicknames included "Autie", and "Iron Ass". His name was George Armstrong Custer. And as a Lieutenant Colonel of Cavalry, and field commander [he was the executive officer] of the 7th Cavalry Regiment, he died on a lonely hilltop, with over 200 of his men, on June 25th, 1876, the nation's Centennial Year.

With demobilization, Custer was demoted back to Captain. But when it was realized that the frontier would need to be secured, Congress formed ten infantry, and ten cavalry regiments to police it. Custer was offered the full colonelcy of the Ninth or Tenth cavalry, both Black regiments [with white officers]. Custer declined, refusing to serve with blacks. Instead he accepted the Lieutenancy of the 7th Cavalry. He, his wife Libby, his menagerie of dogs, pets and servants then decamped to Ft. Leavenworth, to fight the Commanche, Kiowa and Southern Cheyenne.

Custer's initial campaigns were a failure. The Indians didn't stand and fight, finding them was like finding a needle in the haystack. Discipline problems led to floggings, bucking, and when men deserted to look for gold, impromptu executions.. And then Custer deserted his command and rode in excess of 100 miles to be with his wife. The result was a court-martial, and a year's suspension without pay. For all extents and purposes Custer was finished. Except, he wasn't.

Custer received a telegram from Phil Sheridan recalling him to duty for a winter campaign. Custer was back by October. He trained his men hard, with an emphasis on marksmanship. He gathered the necessary clothing and other supplies, and struck out in a howling blizzard. Custer soon struck the trail of a war party, and followed it to the Wash*ta River. There he found the Cheyenne village of Black Kettle.  Black Kettle, a proponent of peace, had been the victim of the Chivington massacre in 1864. Although he wanted peace, his young men didn't. the 7th was to find mail, and other items taken on the Indian raids, in Black Kettle's village.

Custer deployed his men for an attack from three directions. As the Sun rose, he had the band signal the attack by playing "Garry Owen". The attack was devastating. Despite Custer's orders to spare all the women and children, some women, including Black Kettle's wife were killed. Most were captured.

As the battle wound down, Custer's XO, Major Joel Elliot, took a small group of men, and rode after some fleeing Indians, declaiming "For a brevet or a coffin". They were never seen again. As Custer consolidated his hold on the village, larger and larger groups of Indians began to approach from downstream, taking the cavalry under fire. With full daylight, Custer became aware that Black Kettle's was the first of some seven large villages on the Wash*ta. Unable to look for Elliot, Custer feinted toward the other villages, halting the Indians. He then slaughtered Black Kettle's pony herd [minus horses for the captives] burned down the village and its supplies [agasin minus what was needed for the captives], and withdrew.

The Battle of the Wash*ta drew rave reviews in the west, but some condemnation in the East. The Army Thought it was a job well done. Except for Captain Frederick Benteen. A friend of Elliot, and an exceptionally vindictive and small minded man, Benteen began an anonymous letter writing campaign faulting Custer for not looking for Elliot. The bad blood quickly split the regiment in to Custer admirers and an opposition group [the bodies of Elliot and his men were found when Custer and Sheridan returned to the battlefield some months later.

But Custer, reinvigorated, took to campaigning with zeal. The following Spring, he made peace with the Southern Cheyenne, and some of the Comanches. Custer was now regarded as one of the premiere Indian fighters in the west [along with George Crook and Ranald McKenzie]. He, and the 7th were then transferred to Ft. Abraham Lincoln. It would be Custer's last home.

On the Northern Plains, the principal enemies were the Lakota Sioux, comprised of bands called Ogalala, Hunkpapa, Sans Arcs, Two Kettles, Minneconjou, Brule and Blackfoot [not to be confused with the Blackfoot tribe in northern Montana and southern Canada]. The Lakota were an expanding military power on the Plains. Originally from Minnesota, they reached the Black Hills around 1775, drove the Kiowa out,  and spread west and south. They were in almost constant warfare with the Pawnee, the Shoshone, and the Crow. They allied with the Northern Cheyenne and the Arapahoe. In 1875, they finally drove the Crow off the Powder River  buffalo range. They were tough, ruthless, and saw no reason to accommodate the Whites.

Major problems arose from two sources.  The first was an exploratory mission into the Black hills [ceded to the Indians by Treaty]. Gold was found, and the rush was on. The Army tried to keep people out of the Hills, with limited success. The Sioux began killing the transgressors.

President Grant was in a bind. there was a recession on, and the gold would come in handy to stanch it. Plus he was under rising pressure for the West to abandon his "Peace Policy" for the Indians. He did, and in late 1875, riders were sent to the northern Plains tribes telling them any Indian not on a reservation by January, 1876 would be treated as hostile. Plans were made for a major campaign in the summer of 1876, consisting of three converging columns, commanded by Alfred Terry. John Gibbon would be there. So would George Crook. But not George Armstrong Custer.

Custer had been leaking information about corruption in the Indian agencies to select Democrat Congressmen and Senators. Called to testify, he implicated, indirectly, Grant's brother. Revenge was swift. Grant ordered Custer to stay in D.C. And he was there when the campaign started. After a cry de couer from Custer, Grant allowed him to return to the 7th.

Terry for one was pleased to see him. Major Marcus Reno, Custer's XO, had led the regiment in his absence, disobeyed orders on a scout, and had generally screwed things up. From Reno's point of view, it couldn't have been worse. The commanding general was angry. Reno's plan to supercede Custer as Filed CO of the 7th was up in flames, and worst of all, the man he tried to supplant was back.
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