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Author Topic: PzLdr History Facts  (Read 24723 times)
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« Reply #315 on: October 21, 2017, 06:58:27 pm »

It was one of those days when it starts off great, then falls apart. And it fell apart big time on Confederate LTG Jubal Early in the Shenandoah Valley, at a place called Cedar Creek.

Early had been active in the Shenandoah for a good part of the Summer and Fall. He had been detached from the Army of Northern Virginia by Robert e. Lee for the purpose of putting pressure on Grant's army of the Potomac to reinforce Washington, D.C., and relieving pressure on lee.

Early has started, promisingly enough by feinting toward the capital, and then marching into the Valley. And, in a sense, Lee got what he wanted. But just not in the way he wanted. Grant sent Phil Sheridan, with an army of his own, to settle matters in the Shenandoah for good. Sheridan's orders were to raze the Valley so badly [it was Lee's chief source of provender], that 'if a crow wanted to fly over the Valley, he'd have to carry his own provisions'.

Sheridan then fought a series of battles with Early, generally winning them, and put the Valley to the torch.

But on October 19th, Sheridan was on his way to Grant, and unbeknownst to him, Early was in the neighborhood, planning an attack on Sheridan's army.

Early caught the Union troops unaware, and unprepared, just as they were cooking breakfast. Surprise was complete, and the Rebels carried the field, and drove deeply into the union positions. But then the attack started to break down. Many of the Confederates stopped to eat the Union breakfasts, since they were hungry, underfed and exhausted from the approach  march. Additionally, due to the complexity of Early's attack plan, not all his troops arrived on the battlefield as a cohesive force. So as the morning wore on the attack slowed, then stopped, with many of the Confederate troops looting Union positions. And despite the urging of his subordinates, particularly MG John B. Gordon, Early made no effort to renew the attack.

The Union troops took advantage of the lull to straighten their lines, and redeploy. then, in the afternoon, Sheridan, appeared. Having heard the sounds of battle that morning, he had returned, rallying fleeing troops as he did so. And then he attacked.

The Confederates were caught virtually flatfooted. And while the Union Infantry attacked them from the front, Sheridan's cavalry, led by Wesley Merritt and George Armstrong Custer, attacked them from their left front. In one of the few instances it happened in the civil War, the union cavalry charge broke the rebel infantry. Early's army fled the battlefield, routed. For all extents and purposes, after the cavalry broke off the pursuit the war in the Shenandoah was over.  And in six months, Lee's war would be over too.


It must have been horrible fighting this war....man to man...sickness, wounds. Weather too.
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« Reply #316 on: October 22, 2017, 09:00:27 am »

Charles Arthur 'Pretty Boy' Floyd grew up on an Oklahoma farm, but when times got tough, he turned to robbery as a way of life. his way of life got him in and out of prison [although he escaped when being sent to a 12-15 year stint from a speeding train]. Drifting up to Kansas City, Floyd became involved in the burgeoning gang scene, and began a series of bank robberies across several states. He also attained national prominence when he killed a federal agent.

But Floyd is best remembered for a crime he denied participating in until his dying day, the Kansas City Massacre.

In June, 1933, a small time mobster named Frank Nash was being transported to prison. Nash, disguised with a wig, was being taken to the railroad station for transport. When Nash, and his escorts arrived at the train station, they were met by a hail of machine gun bullets. Nash was killed, with the officers, either because he wasn't recognized because of his disguise [if it was a botched rescue], or because he was the target of a hit [never proven].

But the hue and cry was intense. And 'Pretty Boy' Floyd was fingered as one of the killers, despite his vociferous denials.

J. Edgar Hoover used the Kansas City Massacre to both beef up, and arm the FBI. Floyd, feeling the heat, returned to Oklahoma, where he became known as the 'Robin hood of the Cookson hills'. the locals, with no love of banks [it WAS the Depression], gave him shelter, and protected him. But law enforcement was, again, hot on his tail, and Floyd had to flee.

The end came in a cornfield, at a farm in East Liverpool, Ohio. Floyd had just finished a breakfast [for which he paid the farmer's wife well - she said he was very polite], and fled into the field when the law showed up. It was there he was killed. One of the lawmen involved was Melvin Purvis, who would go on to lead the group that killed John Dillinger.

After his death, Floyd's body was returned to Oklahoma for burial. It was the largest funeral in Oklahoma history.

So who was 'Pretty Boy' Floyd? Despite his apparent likeability, he was a career criminal, a thief, and  a stone cold killer. Floyd was believed to have committed [Kansas City Massacre aside], at least four, and possibly eight murders. He was believed to have killed at least two police officers, and one Federal agent. Pretty on the outside? Maybe. on the inside? Not so much.
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« Reply #317 on: October 23, 2017, 10:59:02 am »

If Gaius Cassius Longinus had a 'lean and hungry look', Marcus Junius Brutus was the poster boy for the 'goodness' for Gaius Julius Caesar's assassination. Descended from one of the oldest families in Rome, one of his ancestors had been one of, if not the, prime movers in the expulsion of Tarquin the Proud, the last Etruscan King of Rome. So if Brutus chose to wrap himself in the cloak of savior of Rome, the cloak had a certain 'family fit to it.

But Brutus was not all that he has been handed down to us. As a provincial official, Brutus was known for his rapacity. his interest rates on loans would have done a Mafia Don proud. As Caesar himself noted of Brutus, "What he wants, he wants badly" [and despite that Caesar pardoned Brutus, a Pompey adherent, after Pharsalus [possibly because Brutus' mother, Servillia, had been one of Caesar's mistresses (and possibly his favorite)]. But being pardoned in the Roman world, while earning accolades for the pardoner, was seen as a weakness for the pardoned. And that impacted on one's gravitas and honor.

So when Cassius approached Brutus about assassinating Caesar, Brutus was all ears. Killing Caesar would wipe out the shame of being pardoned. It would allow Brutus to emulate, and bask in the reflection of, his ancient ancestor. and on a more noble basis [from Brutus' point of view], it would restore the Republic, which meant the rule of the Senate, the 300 men who had ruled the republic before Hurricane Julius, i.e. families like Brutus'. And that meant the cut throat politics that allowed men like Brutus to rise to the top, without the permission from, or consent of, someone, say like Julius Caesar [who had politically, always been a populist, siding with the Plebs, and the provincials].

And so, on the ides of Masrch, in 44 BC, Brutus joined in the murder of Julius Caesar. and he, Cassius and their friends, the self-labeled 'Liberators' waited for the kudos and the power to come pouring in. they didn't. And within six months, Cassius and Brutus left Rome for the East, having been politically outmaneuvered by Octavian and Antony. And both sides prepared for war.

While awaiting the forces of Octavian and Antony to appear, Cassius and Brutus prepared their own forces [and squeezed the locals for cash and supplies on a grand scale].

To no avail. At Philippi, Cassius was crushed when brought to battle, and then committed suicide. Brutus, nearby, was then engaged, and beaten in turn. Brutus fled the field with several companions. And then, before the forces of his enemies could capture him, Brutus took his own life.

So what can we make of Brutus? Idealist? More than Cassius, certainly. But Brutus acted against Caesar not only out of principle but pique. Caesar was not moving his career along quickly enough. And as a Senator of Rome, Brutus chafed at Caesar having any say in his career at all. Neither Brutus, nor Cassius were considered for Caesar's coming campaign against Parthia. Neither was going to be consul that year. And neither, therefore, was in line to line his pockets, and gain legion loyalty, from such a proconsulship.

More seriously, Brutus failed to realize, as Caesar had, that the roman Republic as Brutus knew it, and wanted returned, was dead. It had been dying since Sulla. It was on its deathbed with the First Triumvirate. and it wasn't coming back. And by the time the smoke cleared from Philippi, and the war that followed between Octavian and Antony, the Republic was in its grave. Brutus may have delayed it. But in the end, he helped kill it. 
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« Reply #318 on: October 24, 2017, 06:21:01 pm »

Italy had opened WW I by refusing to fight with her erstwhile Central Powers allies, Germany and Austria-Hungary. Instead, she jumped in on the Allied side, after dickering for Austrian territory as the price of her  entry into the war. And that entry produced little but oddities. Benito Mussolini, one of Europe's leading Socialists, broke with his party, and joined the Italian Army. And that army launched a series of offensives in the same place eleven times [the Isonzo River]. The Italians were defeated in each of those offensives, suffering heavy losses while they did so. but the Austro-Hungarians lost heavily as well. So heavily in fact, that the German Army intervened and sent seven divisions to help the Austrians launch an offensive of their own. and even though the Italians spotted the reinforcements coming, and adopted a defensive position and strategy, they were still caught flatfooted when the Germans and Austrians attacked.

the Isonzo front was located in very mountainous terrain, so some of the units the Germans sent were the mountain troops of the Alpine [Mountain] Corps, including mountain battalions from both the Bavarian and Wurttemburg Army. And one of the officers in the latter battalion was a lieutenant named Erwin Rommel [one of the officers in the Bavarian contingent was future Field Marshal Ferdinand Schoerner].

Rommel had started the war in France, where he had been wounded at least twice. Known for his aggressiveness and preference for movement, Rommel was selected to serve in Wurttemurbg's Mountain Battalion. It proved to be an inspired choice, because Rommel never served in France again during the First World war. He spent the rest of the war in Rumania and Italy, where a war of maneuver was in full flow, and trench warfare was largely ignored.

Rumania was a blitzkrieg in all but name. Led by the former head of the German General Staff, Gen. Falkenhayn, the Germans rolled over the Rumanians, and knocked them out of the war in short order [with an assist from Bulgaria]. And Rommel's battalion played a significant role in that victory. they were then transferred to Italy - and the Isonzo.

Gen. Cardona, the Italian commander, and 'architect' of the eleven offensives that failed, now sought to use the terrain to his advantage on the defense. And the lynchpin of the front was Mt. Matajur. the Germans and Austrians knew it. In fact, a Pour La Merite, the 'Blue Max' was promised to whoever was first up the mountain.

Rommel by now had such a solid reputation that his commander basically made him field commander of the battalion. and with a reinforced company, Rommel set out for the mountain, and the Blue Max.

Rommel, as was his practice, used his machine gun section to blow a hole in Italian lines, and then moved through those holes at speed, while constantly maneuvering up the mountains he faced on his way to Matajur. and finally reaching that mountain, Rommel stormed it, capturing some 9,000 Italian troops and well over 50 Italian generals. And with Matajur in german hands, the rest of the German/Austrian Army poured through. By mid- November, the Central Powers had advanced some 60 miles, and were within striking distance of Venice. And Italian losses were in the neighborhood of three quarters of a million. It was a catastrophe on a scale seldom seen in WW I. It was so bad that British and French reinforcements were required to stop the Germans and stabilize the front.

Cardona was relieved. his successor, Diaz, relied heavily on the allied contingent, and refrained from the offensive for a year.

And the Pour la Merite? It was awarded to Ferdinand Schoerner, who had been first up the mountain in front of Matajur. Rommel was not amused, and complained all the way up the chain of command. And eventually, in a post office in northern Italy, he, and his commander both received the Blue Max -by mail.

Caporetto was a major Allied defeat. And it introduced the world to Erwin Rommel, and the style of warfare he would perfect in France in 1940, and wield with an artist's touch in North Africa in a little over twenty years.
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« Reply #319 on: October 25, 2017, 11:59:32 am »

Their name came from the typhoons that destroyed two fleets and ended any hopes the Mongols had of conquering Japan [although the Japanese themselves did not call their suicide pilots 'Kamikaze'. the name was a western invention]. But Kamikaze is what they are known by, and they began operations around the Philippines on this date in 1944.

By October, 1944, things were looking bleak for the Empire of Japan. As part of the naval operations that resulted in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, Japan had sacrificed the last of her aircraft carriers in a decoy operation. she had also lost one of her 'super' battleships [IJS MUSASHI], as well as other battleships and cruisers, which meant that aside from surface vessels, capable of projecting power only in their immediate vicinity, Japan had lost the ability to protect land based troops from allied attack.

What Japan had plenty of was land based aircraft. And the Japanese military being a death cult anyway, it didn't take long for the Japanese to come up with the tactic of flying planes into Allied ships [In fairness to the Japanese, the Nazis tried the same thing, on a more limited scale toward the end of the war in Europe]. They had the planes to spare, and while the highly skilled pilots of 1941-1943 were mostly dead, flying a one way mission allowed pilots with rudimentary skills to possibly achieve significant damage to the Allies.

And the Kamikaze did. Off the Philippines and later, Okinawa, the Kamikaze took a major toll on American [and to a lesser degree, British] shipping. And the Japanese expanded the program. They developed a flying missile [the "Baka" bomb], and suicide speed boats, and one man subs. They even sent IJS YAMATO, the last 'super' battleship, on a one way mission to Okinawa [she never made it]. They began training civilians on the home islands to use bamboo spears against American ground troops.

It never came to that. Fearing the potential casualties of operating in Japanese home waters, and from a land invasion of Japan, the U.S. opted for the atomic bomb to force Japan's surrender. Coupled with the soviet invasion of Manchuria, it worked.

During their period of operation, over 1,300 Japanese planes crashed into American ships. During that period over 5,000 Japanese pilots lost their lives. Hundreds of [mostly] American ships were sunk. And the effort delayed the allies not a whit. It was a waste of men and material in a senseless orgy of destruction for little purpose. And it was so very Japanese.
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« Reply #320 on: November 02, 2017, 09:19:14 am »

It was a win, based on another man's plans [without giving him any credit] that signaled, in the words of Churchill, the end of the beginning. And it took place at a dusty railroad stop west of Alexandria, Egypt, called El Alamein.

El Alamein was God's answer to British inability to wage maneuver warfare. It was the position Rommel couldn't flank, anchored on the north by the Mediterranean sea, and on the south by the trackless waste of the Quattara Depression. And its significance was not lost on Gen. sir Claude Auchinleck, who had taken direct command of Eighth Army from Lt. Ge. Neil Ritchie after the debacle of Gazala/ Tobruk. Forced to fall back into Egypt, after horrific tank losses, Auchinleck regrouped at El Alamein, and began fortifying a defensive line anchored on a series of terrain features, most importantly, Rusewait ridge.

And there he stopped, for the first time, Rommel's Panzergruppe Afrika. Exhausted, equipment worn out, the Germans tried the usual flank movement on their right. But the space was finite, and the British stopped them.

Then, two things happened. Rommel was recalled to Europe for medical treatment. and Auchinleck was relieved of command during a visit by Churchill. Auchinleck was not to Churchill's taste [he was an Indian Army man]. Nor was he one of the Chief of the IGS, Alan Brooke's acolytes. So the "Auk" got the chop, and Bernard Law Montgomery got Eighth Army [and a ton of re-supply, including large numbers of Sherman tanks]. And the Germans? They dug in behind a series of minefields so vast they were called the 'Devil's Garden', put their panzers in reserve, sighted their 88s, and waited.

They didn't have to wait long. In October, Monty launched 'Lightfoot'. It failed but barely [the fact that the acting Panzerarmee commander, Georg Stumme died of a heart attack at the front didn't help], with the British trapped in the minefields, losing their sense of direction, and German superior tactical skill.

And while both sides caught their breath, Rommel returned. Monty now sought to draw out the Panzers by attacking the Italians when he could. He then launched 'Supercharge'. Having concentrated his forces to the north, he bludgeoned his way west. And despite destroying a significant number of British tanks, Rommel was still faced with 800 to his less than 100. And then he received one of Adolf Hitler's stand or die orders. He halted his already undertaken retreat for 24 hours, and then abandoning any idea of standing and dying, he retreated, initially, to Fuka.

The British, having gained control of the battlefield, stopped to capture the mostly Italian 'leg' infantry Rommel was forced to abandon as a result of Hitler's order, and the Italian inability to get a 'jump' on retreating. The British also stopped to regroup and resupply, a practice that became both synonymous with Montgomery, and an excuse for the British failure to close with and defeat the Germans in battle.

'Supercharge' was the first major defeat inflicted on the Germans by the allies in WW II. It drove them from Egypt, and eventually Libya. But it did not result in the destruction of the Axis forces in North Africa. Far from it. Rommel conducted a masterful, and on of the longest sustained retreats in military history. the Axis, instead of pulling their veteran Italian and German troops out of Africa, reinforced them in Tunisia [where the Allied landings in Algeria and Morocco had made 'Supercharge' unnecessary]. But, as Churchill said, it was the end of the beginning.
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« Reply #321 on: November 04, 2017, 03:10:54 pm »

He was one of New York's most famous gamblers. Although he publicly denied it, by all accounts he fixed the 1919 World Series. He was also one of America's first big time bootleggers, a loan shark, the organizer of one of America's first organized criminal operations, and a mentor to Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky. His name was Arnold Rothstein, and on this date in 1928, he was shot at a poker game in a New York hotel. He was found near the hotel's service entrance. His blood trail led back to the game.

Rothstein had been a numbers whiz since childhood. so gambling and loansharking came easily to him. And by 1919, he was in a position, via an associate, to buy off enough of the heavily favored White Sox to have the heavily favored Sox lose the Series. Rothstein made a killing.

But that killing was nothing compared to the fortune Rothstein made importing liquor from Canada once Prohibition started. Rothstein's liquor, being legally bottled in Canada, was far superior to the rotgut and bathtub gin being produced in New York. and while expensive to buy and ship to New York [Rothstein had his own fleet of 'rum runners'], the quality of his booze commanded the highest prices [And Rothstein had the cash to buy in bulk]..

Rothstein put together a Triple A All Star gang of criminals to run the operation. The 'shop foreman' was Jack "Legs" Diamond. The 'help' included a young Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, and Lepke Buchalter, with Rothstein mentoring all three.

One of the other gamblers, who Rothstein had welched on a 20 grand plus poker loss, was tried for Rothstein's killing, and acquitted [He had invited Rothstein to the game he was killed at]. No one else was ever arrested or tried for the crime. The police seemed to have ignored the possibly it was a criminally related murder. So New York's greatest gambler, and first real crime lord, went out with a bang, and without making a whimper.
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« Reply #322 on: November 05, 2017, 10:08:01 am »

He was a wunderkind at West Point. He was sent as an observer to the Crimean War. He invented the saddle used by the U.S.  Cavalry well after the Civil War. He then left the army, and became a railroad president. But when the Civil War began, George Brinton McClellan returned to the colors.

And initially, he had great success. Posted to what is now West Virginia [which had seceded from Virginia], McClellan faced off against, and beat Robert E. Lee, also in his first command. McClellan's success led Lincoln to call him to Washington, and put him in command of what would become known as the Army of the Potomac.

McClellan took the flotsam and jetsam of Bull run, as well as new volunteers, and forged an effective military force. And if McClellan had been left in charge of a training command, he might well be remembered differently these days.

But McClellan commanded the army he had built in the field, and it was there he failed miserably, even when he won.

McClellan's first operation was the Peninsular Campaign. Rather than face off against the Confederates frontally, between Washington and Richmond, McClellan used one of his aces, the U.S. Navy's dominance, to move his army to the Peninsula, flanking the Rebels. He succeeded in surprising them. And if he had moved with alacrity, he might well have been in Richmond, or been, at least, in its environs, before any major rebel force. But speed and McClellan were natural enemies. And as he plodded up the Peninsula, stopping at every rear guard the Rebels put up [see Williamsburg], the Confederates reacted quickly, and decisively. Gen. Joseph Johnson moved the bulk of his forces from up near Bull Run to the endangered area. Stonewall Jackson was recalled from the Shenandoah Valley to join the main Army. And in what became known as 'The Seven Days Battle', first Johnson, then Robert E. Lee [who replaced the former after he was wounded in action], drove McClellan back [the Rebels having surmised McClellan' right wing was in the air courtesy of JEB Stuart's ride around the Army of the Potomac], despite being outnumbered by him [McClellan had the ability to multiply hypothetical enemy numbers in his head by a factor of ten. and then believe they were real]. He was aided in this idiocy by Alan Pinkerton, serving with the Army.

McClellan avoided complete disaster only because Jackson, perhaps exhausted after the Shenandoah, and the march to the Peninsula was lethargic, and because McClellan wound up at the base of the Peninsula in an imposing defensive position - Malvern Hill.

Lee, being Lee, attacked Malvern hill. but his plan was overly complicated, and the Union artillery, their best arm, mowed the Confederates down like ten pins as they attacked up the hill [a lesson unlearned by both the Union [Fredericksburg], and Lee [Gettysburg].

McClellan withdrew to lick his wounds and reorganize. And while he did, his relationship with Lincoln soured. McClellan was openly contemptuous of his Commander in chief [he called him "the Gorilla"], and openly rude to him. Yet Lincoln put up with it because McClellan's troops idolized him [Custer had a portrait of McClellan in his office at Ft. Abraham Lincoln - along with his own], and McClellan could train troops.

But Lincoln wasn't blind, either. He began siphoning units away from McClellan and transferring them to John Pope's Army of Virginia. Yet when Lee ambushed Pope at Second Manassas, McLellan refused to do anything to aid him. and whatever Lincoln though about that, he had no recourse but to relieve Pope, and put McClellan back in command when Lee invaded Maryland [to the delirious joy of McClellan's troops].

Lee's invasion was curious. Ostensibly to encourage [and arm] pro-Southern Marylanders, Lee invaded WESTERN Maryland, the most pro-Union part of the state. Recruitment went nowhere. Lee went to Antietam Creek, where he split his army [sending Jackson to the rear to take Harper's Ferry], while he prepared to defend against McClellan.

McClellan had several advantages. He heavily outnumbered Lee's remaining troops on the ground. He had pushed Lee's troops over a much more advantageous defensive position at South Pass. And he happened to have a copy of Lee's plans and orders recovered by Union troops wrapped around some cigars.

And while Lee wound up retreating from Antietam Creek after the battle, he did not do so immediately. And the battle itself was hardly a victory for McClellan. He moved so slowly, and so unimaginatively, that Lee not only stopped him, but Jackson made it back to the battle. And at least one Corps of the Army of the Potomac was never committed to the fight. Considering he had been reading the other fellow's mail, it was a lackluster performance at best.

And still Lincoln refused to relieve him -yet. But when McClellan failed to pursue Lee, demonstrated no intention to do, and refused Lincoln's orders  to do so, the camel's back was broken. Lincoln relieved McClellan. He would never command troops again.

And when word of the relief reached the Army of the Potomac, there were no demonstrations of anger or outrage. As McClellan rode by units of his Army, there were no cheers, nor demonstrations of affection, as there had been in the past. Even his troops knew by then, that Little Mac was not the man to lead them to victory.

And in the short run, there were none to do so. McClellan was succeeded by Burnside [Fredericksburg], and Hooker [Chancellorsville], before George Gordon Meade became the last commander of the Army of the Potomac. But it would be a Western import, U.S. Grant, who would finally lead the Army of the Potomac to final victory over Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia.

And McClellan? He went on to run against Abraham Lincoln, the man he despised, as the Democratic candidate for President in 1864. And Little Mac not only lost, but their ballots showed his old creation, the Army of the Potomac, had voted overwhelmingly for Abraham Lincoln.
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« Reply #323 on: November 07, 2017, 09:42:27 am »

He was born in the oil rich provinces of the southern Russian Empire to a German engineer and a Russian woman. His family moved back to Germany where he grew up and was educated. In 1914, he volunteered for the German Army and was seriously wounded in action later on in the war. A committed nationalist when the war started, by 1919 he was a member of the German communist Party. By 1924 he was in the soviet Union. By 1926 he was an agent of the Red Army's GRU [military intelligence. His name was Richard Sorge.

Sorge was sent back to Germany, and like the latterly recruited Cambridge 5, was told to sever all ties with communist parties, fronts and friends. Taking up the profession of journalist, Sorge then traveled around Europe, and the U.S., sending intelligence evaluations, mostly on the political scene to the U.S.S.R. He also traveled to China, making contact with Chinese Communists while ostensibly reporting on agriculture. And it was then that he first began to look into the Japanese involvement in china, because with the conquest of Manchuria, Japan now had a common border with the soviet union on mainland Asia.

Sorge was ordered to Japan, and using his journalistic cover, as well as his NSDAP membership [1933], he got an assignment there as a reporter.

Fluent in Japanese, Sorge made himself nigh on indispensable to the German Embassy, furnishing evaluations of Japanese politics, even writing up Embassy reports to the Reich [he was also sleeping with the Ambassador's wife - with the ambassador's knowledge]. At the same time, Sorge built up ring of agents. They included a Japanese- American, a European radio operator, and a close associate of the Japanese Prime Minister. These assets allowed the Soviets to obtain vital intelligence on the military intentions of the Japanese toward the Soviet Union.

It was Sorge's intelligence that convinced Stalin he could withdraw troops from the Far East because Japan did not plan an invasion, despite two border incidents in 1938 and 1939.

But Sorge's greatest 'gift' was forewarning Stalin of Hitler's intent to launch BARBAROSSA in 1941. While authorities are split as to whether Sorge gave Stalin the exact date of the attack [some say the closet he got was June the 20th, 1941], Sorge accurately furnished intelligence on the size of the invading force. Unfortunately, Stalin, for whatever reason, refused to believe Sorge's reports [as he did warnings from Churchill, and the U.S.A.]. So BARBAROSSA came as a far greater surpise than it should have to the Red Army units on the western border of the U.S.S.R.

But Sorge was running out of time. The Abwehr was suspicious of him. An SS Colonel was sent to Tokyo to investigate him Sorge fooled them both. Bu the Japanese Kempetai was not fooled, and using radio interception, they got his radio operator. And then they got him.

Sorge was arrested in October, 1941. Tthe soviets denied any knowledge of his existence. He broke under torture, and confessed everything. The Soviets refused a Japanese proposed spy swap. On November 7, 1944, he was hanged. And the man who had devoted himself to Soviet Communism, who had died for them, was not acknowledged by them for some forty years after his passing.
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« Reply #324 on: November 08, 2017, 01:47:06 pm »

He was one of New York's most famous gamblers. Although he publicly denied it, by all accounts he fixed the 1919 World Series. He was also one of America's first big time bootleggers, a loan shark, the organizer of one of America's first organized criminal operations, and a mentor to Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky. His name was Arnold Rothstein, and on this date in 1928, he was shot at a poker game in a New York hotel. He was found near the hotel's service entrance. His blood trail led back to the game.

Rothstein had been a numbers whiz since childhood. so gambling and loansharking came easily to him. And by 1919, he was in a position, via an associate, to buy off enough of the heavily favored White Sox to have the heavily favored Sox lose the Series. Rothstein made a killing.

But that killing was nothing compared to the fortune Rothstein made importing liquor from Canada once Prohibition started. Rothstein's liquor, being legally bottled in Canada, was far superior to the rotgut and bathtub gin being produced in New York. and while expensive to buy and ship to New York [Rothstein had his own fleet of 'rum runners'], the quality of his booze commanded the highest prices [And Rothstein had the cash to buy in bulk]..

Rothstein put together a Triple A All Star gang of criminals to run the operation. The 'shop foreman' was Jack "Legs" Diamond. The 'help' included a young Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, and Lepke Buchalter, with Rothstein mentoring all three.

One of the other gamblers, who Rothstein had welched on a 20 grand plus poker loss, was tried for Rothstein's killing, and acquitted [He had invited Rothstein to the game he was killed at]. No one else was ever arrested or tried for the crime. The police seemed to have ignored the possibly it was a criminally related murder. So New York's greatest gambler, and first real crime lord, went out with a bang, and without making a whimper.

Thanks PzLdr. Another wonderful history lesson. Geeze 20k in the 20's was a massive amount of cash. $279,112.14 in today's dollars.
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« Reply #325 on: November 10, 2017, 12:07:34 pm »

Born in Switzerland, a citizen of Louisiana, Henry Wirz was a Captain in the Confederate Army. And after a career that focused largely on prisoners of war [warden, supervising prisoner paroles exchanges, prisoner transport], Wirz wound up as the Commandant of Camp Sumter. History calls it Andersonville.

Wirz could not have assumed command of Andersonville at a worse time. The Union stopped the exchange of prisoners when the south refused to countenance paroling Black union troops [it was also a way to make further inroads into the replenishment of Southern manpower]. The South was losing the war on all fronts, and soon Sherman would be marching to the Sea [Stoneman tried a cavalry raid toward Andersonville, but it failed]. Andersonville, built to house 10,000 prisoners, held over three times that number. Discipline was draconian. Anyone who crossed a deadline was shot by the guards. Food and medicine were closer to non-existent then inadequate. The only water available to the prisoners was a stream that ran through the camp. and its resultant use as a water source, as well as a toilet, led to raging dysentery and other diseases. Prisoners died like flies.

Wirz was also largely indifferent to the situation 'inside the wire', although he allowed the prisoners to try, and sentence, fellow prisoners who had organized into gangs to rob, and kill fellow prisoners. and Wirz carried out the sentences they imposed.

But so many died at Andersonville [malnourished escapees made it to Sherman's Army, and the ensuing anger played a part in the havoc reaked on Georgia], that someone had to pay. And that 'someone' was Wirz. After 100+ witnesses and two months, Wirz was convicted of conspiracy to injure Union prisoners, and sentenced to death.

Wirz was hanged on this date in 1865. He was the only figure from either side to meet that fate for mistreating prisoners. Indeed, he was the only man charged with it.

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« Reply #326 on: November 10, 2017, 12:11:09 pm »

Today is the birthday of the United states Marine Corps. doing the job since 1775. Happy Birthday from an old 'Treadhead'! And many more! Grin Grin Grin

CPT ARMOR
MACV 1971

IMJIN SCOUT
1968 - 1969
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« Reply #327 on: November 11, 2017, 02:55:32 pm »

His grandfather and great uncle served the confederacy. one was killed by union troops in the Shenandoah Valley. As a child, he knew John Singleton Mosby. He served as an aide to Black Jack Pershing during the campaign to capture Pancho Villa, and killed one of Villa's lieutenants in a personal gunfight [it didn't hurt that his sister was Pershing's mistress]. He was probably the most experienced Armor officer to come out of WW I [as a Colonel]. and he went on to become the most celebrated American general of WW II. He was George S. Patton, "Old Blood and Guts" of ivory handled pistol fame. and he was born on November 11, 1885.

Patton was larger than life from his cadet days. He designed a cavalry sword the Army adopted. As a general he designed a uniform for tank troops dubbed the "Green Hornet". He was almost the ultimate arbiter of U.S. armor theory and equipment in WW II [to the Army's detriment. Patton came down heavily in favor of continued production of the M4 Sherman, over the heavier, better armored, better gunned Pershing, resulting in much heavier tank and crew losses, due to the M4's inferiority to every German tank from the Mark IV, long barreled 75 on up].

Yet he was the General the Germans feared most [he was the only Allied general whose army appeared on German situation maps under his name, instead of a number]. And that fear was warranted. Handicapped with the lackluster Courtney Hodges, and the predictable Bernard Montgomery, George Patton put the 'drive' in allied drive. It was Patton who blitzkrieged through France. It was Patton who saved Eisenhower's bacon in the Bulge. And it was Patton who, killed in an accident in the war's aftermath, still stands guard, among the men of his beloved Third Army, in a U.S. cemetery in Luxemburg.
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« Reply #328 on: November 15, 2017, 08:05:08 am »

Faced with Confederates gnawing at his supply lines, and having to commit thousands of troops to defend against their depredations, William Tecumseh Sherman considered his next move after the capture of Atlanta. and the decision he made was revolutionary in an Army trained on Jomini's principles of lines of supply. Sherman decided to abandon his line of supply, split his army, and take the smaller half on a stroll across Georgia to the Sea [Savannah, to be accurate]

Sherman did so, because he was seeking to destroy the southern will to fight by proving a Union Army could go anywhere it wanted to in the deep South, and because it would enable him to deny Lee reinforcements, and to possibly cause desertions from Lee's Army

And once Lincoln's election to his second term was secure, Sherman put his plan into action. He culled all but the fittest of his Army, and sent them to Nashville and MG George Thomas to deal with John Bell hood and the Army of Tennessee. He loaded limited supplies on wagons, and burned down Atlanta's commercial section. And then at the head of 60,000 men, Sherman disappeared into the Georgia interior.

But Sherman wasn't wandering around on a walkabout. He had studied Georgia census reports and tax reports, which showed where, in, and around, the line of march, the richest areas for provender were. And he used his 'bummers' to re-supply the Army on its line of march when the supplies ran out. He also chose lines of advance that allowed him to attack two targets of equal, or near equal worth. And he usually drove through the objective more lightly defended.

Sherman fought almost no battles on the March to the Sea. But he did burn contraband and anything of military value to the confederacy. And the impact on the civilian populace was beyond measure. Georgians began to desert from Lee's Army of Northern Virginia when they received news from home of Sherman.

Sherman arrived near Savannah in December, and in cooperation with the Navy and other Union forces, took it, wiring to Lincoln that it was a Christmas present, and "fairly won".

Sherman had ripped the guts out of the deep South, and destroyed the will to fight of many of its people [Georgia Governor Joe Brown proposed seceding from the Confederacy and re-joining the Union]. He would go on to wreak even greater destruction on South Carolina, the birthplace of secession, after Savannah, when he turned north, on his way through the Carolinas to the rear of Robert E. Lee's  army.

And William T. Sherman ushered in modern war. The only thing missing were columns of panzers and tanks. and Sherman's method of war is with us still.   
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« Reply #329 on: November 17, 2017, 09:49:52 am »

He was the Viscount of Alamein, Knight of the Garter, field Marshal of the British Empire, and probably the most overrated general of WW II, Mark Clark excepted.

Montgomery was born into an Anglo-Irish family. He graduated from Sandhurst, and applied for service with the Indian Army, which rejected him. He served bravely in WW I, was wounded, and posted to a staff position for the rest of the War.

Montgomery spent a great many of the inter-war years as an instructor and staff officer, with occasional troop rotations. He also was fortunate to become one of General Alan Brooke's acolytes. Brook, already seen as one of Britain's best generals, kept a list [much like George Marshall] of those he saw as 'comers' in the next war. Montgomery was on that list.

WW II saw Montgomery in command of the British 3d Infantry Division in Belgium. He played a major roll in covering the BEF's withdrawal to Dunkirk, and was put in temporary command of IId Corps when its [and his]commander, Alan Brooke was recalled to Britain.

Montgomery, after the Dunkirk withdrawal, commanded the southern sector of England in anticipation of OPERATION SEALION [which never came].

Montgomery's chance came when LTG "Strafer" Gott was killed when his plane was shot down in North Africa. Gott was the Commanding General, 8th Army designate at the time, as a result of Churchill's unwarranted relief of Gen. Sir Claude Auchinleck of command of that Army. Auchinleck had commanded British Forces in north Africa since mid-1941. It was Auchinleck who had inflicted the only defeat up to the end of 1941 on the Afrika Korps [OPERATION CRUSADER].It was Auchinleck who had relieved LTG Neil Ritchie of direct command of 8th Army [and assumed it himself] after the debacle of the Gazala Line and fall of Tobruk. Auchinleck led the retreat into Egypt, reforming his army as he did so.

And it was Auchinleck who selected, and fortified the El Alamein position, and offered battle to Rommel in August. Auchinleck won the first battle of El Alamein, stopping the Germans cold. And then, with Panzerarmee Afrika digging in, Auchinleck was relieved by Churchill. And with Gott dead, the command went to Gen. Bernard Law Montgomery, Brooke's choice for the command from the get go.

Montgomery, soon to be famous as 'Monty', took over Auchinleck's army, replacing many of its seasoned commanders with his own acolytes [a la Brooke], and taking over Auchinkleck's battle plans [while never giving the 'Auk' any credit for them].

The Germans tried another attack on the El Alamein position in September. It failed. Rommel went on sick leave, and Monty built up his forces [Corelli Barnett described Monty as the type of general who took a sledge hammer to crack a walnut] for his own attack.

When the British did attack in October, the acting commander of the Panzerarmee, Gen George Stumme, died of a heart attack on a forward recon, and Rommel was recalled. Over the next month, Rommel stymied the attacks by forces much larger than his own, destroying masses of allied armor in the process. But after  OPERATION SUPERCHARGE the game was up, and the Axis forces began a long retreat across the north African littoral that ended in Tunisia [Rommel disobeying direct orders from both Hitler and Mussolini at various times while doing so].And somehow, in that retreat [one of the longest sustained retreats in modern military history], Montgomery never caught up with Rommel.

By the time Montgomery did catch up, Rommel was behind the Mareth Line [built by the French to confront Mussolini]. And having taken the measure of his man, Rommel took time out while Monty built up his forces and supplies, to attack the American II Corps at Kasserine Pass. An attack on Monty after his return to the Mareth Line was a major failure [Monty knew the plan due to ULTRA intercepts], and Rommel was recalled to Germany, never to return.

Montgomery now joined with the other Allied troops in Tunisia to force the surrender of over 325,000 Axis troops [a far larger haul than Stalingrad], and was tapped to lead the 8th Army in the invasion of Sicily [OPERATION HUSKY]. And it was during HUSKY that the antipathy [which would later escalate to distrust, despising, and almost hatred] by his American compatriots began. First, Montgomery unilaterally altered the invasion plan, giving 8th Army the objective of Messina, the closest beaches to the objective, and making the U.S 7th Army his left flank guard. Then, once ashore, he took over the Americans' main supply route to support his own troops.The result was the legendary race to Messina, won by LTG George S. Patton, and a German withdrawal of virtually all their men and equipment to mainland Italy.

Montgomery next led 8th Army across the Straits of Messina into Italy. But he didn't remain in Italy long. Recalled to Great Britain, Montgomery became involved in the planning of OPERATION OVERLORD, the D-Day invasion. One of Monty's first acts was to take the plan, worked on for two years by LTG Frederick Morgan, and change it. He added two divisions to the invasion [up from three]. the Americans were once again, at least initially, a flank guard [although they subsequently were tasked with taking Cherbourg, a deep water port]. And Montgomery's 21st Army Group had a D-Day objective of seizing the city of Caen.

Montgomery was overall commander until such time as the Supreme commander came ashore, at which time Monty was to revert to Army Group command. That didn't suit Montgomery at all, and a running battle [and open sore] among the Allies was Monty's continual efforts to marginalize Eisenhower, and have himself appointed as Supreme Ground commander.

The D-Day invasion further fractured Montgomery's standing with the Americans. He failed to take Caen on D-Day [he wouldn't take it for over a month], but disingenuous communications with Eisenhower led SHAEF to believe he had.

Monty followed that failure up with a failure to close the trap around the Germans encircled after the failure of their offensive  at Avaranche. He lost some more good will.

Monty's next exercise in futility was OPERATION MARKET-GARDEN, the airborne/ground attack into Holland. It not only cost the allies most of the 1st British Airborne division, as well as other casualties, the fuel and supplies funneled  to Montgomery slowed the rest of the allied forces pushing toward the Reich.

21st Army Group pushed up the coast through France, and into Belgium, liberating the coastal ports [which if not still in German hands were in ruins]. And then Monty got to Antwerp. A major port, Monty seized it. But then he stopped, to pitch Market-Garden, and to again argue he should be appointed Allied Ground Commander. What he didn't do was seize the Scheldte Estuary, the body of water leading to Antwerp from the North Sea from Von Zangen's 15th Army; which made having Antwerp pointless.

And so it continued along until December, when the Germans launched the Battle of the Bulge. They split Bradley's 12th Army Group in half, and drove Bradley, and Courtney Hodges from their headquarters. Eisenhower then slit the front in half. Monty got the north shoulder [and Simpson's 9th Army], Bradley got the south [and a George Patton moving to attack in a northward direction]

And while Patton hustled to Bastogne [he had been overruled on a wide encirclement], Monty moved at his usual glacial pace to begin pressuring the Germans from the north. Since his slowness was expected, even that might have been overlooked, but for the press conference he threw in the battle's aftermath.

It was a virtuoso performance of stupidity. Montgomery all but claimed that he was the sole reason the Allies won the Battle of the Bulge, claiming that 21st AG carried the water for the Americans. It was the proverbial straw. Eisenhower wrote to Marshall, demanding Montgomery, or he [Eisenhower] had to go. Patton and Bradley were livid. It got so bad Churchill had to make a speech in the house of commons praising the Americans. Monty got to stay, but payback's a bitch. Eisenhower stripped him of Simpson's Army. 21st Army group would advance toward Hamburg and the German ports, but its strategic role was to act as Bradley's flank guard. Monty's days in the saddle were over.

Montgomery accepted the surrender of the German forces in northwest Germany, but he was not present at Rheims, nor at Berlin for the major surrender ceremonies that ended the war. He went on the be Chief of the imperial General Staff, with lackluster success, and Deputy Commander of NATO.

So how good a general was he? Overcautious doesn't do him justice [although, to be fair, by the time the British Armies reached Belgium, they were so short of replacements they were cannibalizing their own units]. Monty dropped the ball chasing Rommel in North Africa, in Sicily, at Caen, and at the Scheldte Estuary. He was arrogant, self centered, and parochial. His planning lacked flexibility, anticipation of, and planning for, enemy responses, and reliance, with concomitant delays in moving quickly, on overwhelming superiority in everything.

Montgomery was competent, in the sense that anyone making general rank is competent. He was probably, a perfect WW I general. Unfotunately, he was fighting WW II.
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