Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.

Posts tagged “Government

Chemical Warfare in World War One

Most historians of the war argue that poison gas on the battlefield was a failure and usually measure its effectiveness based on its lethality. But Tim Cook argues in No Place to Run that this may be true in that gas was not a “war-winning weapon,” but historians should remember that gas was a much more “complicated and nuanced weapon.” It was far more effective at removing men from combat and leaving fear and unrest among its survivors. One soldier wrote that “it is a terrible and hateful sensation to be choked and suffocated and unable to get breath: a casualty from gun fire may be dying from his wounds, but they don’t give him the sensation that his life is being strangled out of him.” Thus, gas was effective for many reasons other than its lethality.

One, it was a weapon of fear. There was no escape from gas on the battlefield, there was no way to tell if you were actually out of range of the gas cloud, or it would be trapped in the buried earth of an artillery shell blast, or even spending a night in a respirator because a sentry mistook fog for a phosgene gas cloud. As Cook’s title notes, there was “no place to run.”

Two, gas was primarily a casualty-causing agent rather than a killer. Cook notes that in 1918 when the Germans were using mustard gas, British gas casualties rose to from 7.2% in 1917 to 15% of total casualties. Yet, at the same fatality rates from gas dropped from 3.4% in 1917 to 2.4% in 1918. Gas wounded soldiers required their comrades to bring them off the battlefield, clogging up supply lines, aid stations and weakening the manpower available to actually continue an offensive. Or, imagine heading to the frontlines while passing the lines of gurgling, choking men who would never die from their wounds but would never recover either. The fear of gas was a far more important weapon than the casualties inflicted.

Even gas casualties statistics are misleading. The British army reports somewhere between 1.1 and 1.3 million gas casualties in the war, of which 91,000 died. This is not as large a number as you might think. Mostly it looks as if gas warfare was ineffective. For example, if the Germans released 600 canisters of chlorine gas and only caused 50 British casualties, this would be seen as a failure. Yet that attack would force the entire line of British soldiers to wear respirators for the duration of the battle – drastically changing the nature of the engagement even without the statistics to prove success.

Both armies on the Western Front (dont know much about other theatres) quickly adapted to the reality of gas warfare. Soldiers were trained to put on masks and protective gear quickly and without thinking – even a few seconds could save you from decades of agony or death. Intensive gas training was increasingly a part of an effective unit’s ability to fight on the battlefields of the Western Front, as there was always the fear of gas in any battle by the last years of the war. Soldiers had to act without thinking – the second the whistle blew that gas was spotted, or when a gas shell landed 5 metres in front of you, you had to immediately adjust your gear or put on your mask, and then keep fighting. Any hesitation could be lethal. Total gas warfare, when both sides began using choking gas, tear gas, and gas that burned any skin it came in contact with, meant that armies had to be trained at many levels. Small things like Doctors removing contaminated fabric from the wounded to avoid gas burns had to be “learned” in medical services dealing with gas casualties. Still, total preparation did not stop gas casualties. Hiding gas shells in the midst of a high explosive artillery barrage could catch soldiers unaware, or gas stuck in shell holes, or gas mixing with the mud and water of the trenches. Days after an attack, a soldier might be discovered dead after digging a hole to rest in during the night, or severely burned as water shifted in the muddy landscape onto a soldier as he slept.

Cook’s work on gas warfare stands out as one of the few historical studies that belie the established narrative in the Canadian literature on the war. I am not sure how other nations’ historians have treated it. Unlike other Canadian historians of the First World War, such as Duguid and Nicholson, Cook’s writing on gas warfare provides depth to the history of the weapon as more than simply an immoral tool of war. He argued that the “gas environment” where a soldier had to fear a gas attack at any moment, or endure fighting within the gas cloud, had had dramatic consequences for all the soldiers of the war. Cooks attempts to re-imagine the entire soldier experience of the trenches as one equally marked by toxic gas as by artillery shells and machine gun bullets. The image of the war he describes presents an important but subtle difference from what other historians have written. It is an atrocious world where the brief moments of courage do little to overcome the unending horrors of gas warfare. It was “like water rotting wood,” Cook writes, “not often immediately deadly, but … constant, insidious, and demoralizing.” His picture has little in common with the image of the successful, deadly, and honourable Canadian soldier. By the end of the war during the Hundred Days, Cook argues that “the Canadian way of war was steeped in poison gas.” Consider that 1 in 4 American casualties were from gas warfare, which demonstrates how the lack of proper gas protocols in the unbloodied American army severely affected their fighting capability. Gas warfare was a reality of the Western Front, one to which armies had to adapt or perish. So while most historians, and popular memory, acknowledge the pervasiveness of gas warfare in the First World War, few address its totality and its effects on tactics and operations.

Gas warfare wasn’t technically banned until the 1925 Geneva Protocol, and even still chemical agents have been used since the First World War. The Italians used it against the Abyssinians in the 30s, Japan used it against the Chinese, there are unconfirmed reports that Egypt used it against Yemen in the 60s, the United States’ use of napalm in Vietnam, allegations of Soviet use in Afghanistan in the 80s, and of course Iraq using it against Iran also in the 80s. One of the biggest fears of the American Army as it entered Iraq in the First Gulf War was being confronted with chemical warfare.


Wounded Knee Massacre – Mass grave for the dead Lakota after the conflict at Wounded Knee Creek; December 29th, 1890

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The Wounded Knee Massacre occurred on December 29, 1890, near Wounded Knee Creek (Lakota: Čhaŋkpé Ópi Wakpála) on the Lakota Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in the U.S. state of South Dakota. On the day before, a detachment of the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment commanded by Major Samuel M. Whitsideintercepted Spotted Elk’s band of Miniconjou Lakota and 38 Hunkpapa Lakota near Porcupine Butte and escorted them five miles westward (8 km) to Wounded Knee Creek, where they made camp.

The remainder of the 7th Cavalry Regiment arrived, led by Colonel James W. Forsyth and surrounded the encampment supported by four Hotchkiss mountain guns.

On the morning of December 29, the troops went into the camp to disarm the Lakota. One version of events claims that during the process of disarming the Lakota, a deaf tribesman named Black Coyote was reluctant to give up his rifle, claiming he had paid a lot for it.A scuffle over Black Coyote’s rifle escalated and a shot was fired which resulted in the 7th Cavalry’s opening fire indiscriminately from all sides, killing men, women, and children, as well as some of their own fellow soldiers. The Lakota warriors who still had weapons began shooting back at the attacking soldiers, who quickly suppressed the Lakota fire. The surviving Lakota fled, but U.S. cavalrymen pursued and killed many who were unarmed.

By the time it was over, more than 200 men, women, and children of the Lakota had been killed and 51 were wounded (4 men, 47 women and children, some of whom died later); some estimates placed the number of dead at 300. Twenty-five soldiers also died, and 39 were wounded (6 of the wounded would later die).

(Source)


Afro-German soldier of the Nazi Germany – Free Arabian Legion; ca. September 1943

"hahahaha, but seriously guys, can I get off the catapult now?"

The Wehrmacht was an equal opportunity employer.

The Free Arabian Legion provided an opportunity for German blacks who wanted to fight for the Reich. The unit’s founder was Haj Amin Al Husseini, an anti-Semite Muslim.

The Legion included Arab volunteers from the Middle East and North Africa, war prisoners who opted to fight instead of go to prison … and blacks. In the end, the Legion saw very little combat action—and most of that during the Allies’ Operation Torch in French North Africa.


Nazi racial ideology in practice could be very inconsistent:

  • 57% of Soviet prisoners and millions of Soviet civilians die as a result of intentional Nazi policy. But a Russian volunteer battallion is raised to fight for Nazi Germany
  • Several groups of Africans fighting for France are murdered upon capture by German troops. But some African volunteers are enlisted in the German armed forces
  • Ethnic Germans in Poland are deemed superior to Poles. But these ethnic Germans, when found guilty of rape, are punished and declared as not being like “true” German men
  • Non-white colonial POWs who fought for France are treated badly and suffer worse mortality rates than white French POWs. But yet the Germans collaborate with certain groups of non-whites.

(More Info)


The German embassy in Sweden flying the flag at half mast on the day Hitler died; April 30th, 1945

Man look at all the Volvos, VÄLFÄRD!

Man look at all the Volvos, VÄLFÄRD!

A picture of a different angle from the same day of the Germany Embassy:

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And here, a request by the leader of the Swedish Nationalist Socialist Party (SNSP) made to the Swedish police in Stockholm to get permission for Adolf Hitler to in March 1931 be allowed to speak at a public meeting:

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Translation on the letter:

To the chief of police in Stockholm

I hereby humbly request an answer on the following:

I. Permission for the National Socialist German Workers Party leader, Mr Adolf Hitler, Munich, and the German [member of parlament], Doctor Joseph Goebbles, Berlin, to hold speeches and public meetings in Stockholm during the next month, March ?

II. Could the police department be responible for the safety of above mentioned persons during their visit in Stockholm ?

February 14, 1931

From the Swedish Nationalsocialist Party

(Signature)


 

Lastly, a picture of the German national team doing the Hitler salute at a game vs Sweden in Stockholm 1941.

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Here’s how the building looks today.

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Canadian Soldiers take back a wounded from the front during the battle of Passchendaele; ca. November, 1917

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Douglas Haig’s chief of staff, Launcelot Kiggell, reportedly broke down and wept when he finally visited the Passchendaele battlefield in the autumn of 1917, saying “Good God, did we really send men to fight in that?”


Top scientists at ground zero soon after the world’s first nuclear explosion; ca. July 1945

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Oppenheimer and General Leslie Groves inspect the melted remnants of the 100-foot steel tower that held the Trinity bomb. Ensuring that the testing of a bomb with unknown strength would remain completely secret, the government chose a location that was so remote they had to import their water from over 150 miles away.


A Japanese cherry tree hacked down with the words “To hell with those Japanese” carved into it three days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor at the Tidal Basin, Washington, D.C.; December 10th, 1941.

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“In 1912 Japan sent 3,020 cherry trees to the United States as a gift of friendship. First Lady Taft and the Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese Ambassador, planted the first two cherry trees on the northern bank of the Tidal Basin.”

(Source)

I guess whoever felled the tree knew the symbolism.


Two Soviet infantrymen frozen to death in their foxhole, Finland; ca. 1940.

 Freezing to death is one of the most peaceful and non-violent ways of natural dying. After the shivering stops and you slip into hypothermia, it’s pretty much a warm and fuzzy sensation until you slowly doze off as your vital organs slowly begin to shutdown.


Freezing to death is one of the most peaceful and non-violent ways of natural dying. After the shivering stops and you slip into hypothermia, it’s pretty much a warm and fuzzy sensation until you slowly doze off as your vital organs slowly begin to shutdown.

The Soviets had to bring troops from far away to the Finnish front. Some of these soldiers were from the south and had never experienced winter conditions like this, combined with Finnish patrols destroying the support lines and the hardest winter of a lifetime created a grim environment. These soldiers lacked winter warfare training and gear. By simply covering the foxhole with branches and packing snow on top could have saved their lives.


Queue on the opening day of the 1st McDonald’s in Moscow; ca. 1990.

Pictured: America winning the Cold War.

Pictured: America winning the Cold War.

Here’s a video:


4 year old Joseph Schleifstein, who survived the Holocaust by being kept hidden by his father, from Nazi officials inside Buchenwald concentration camp, is seen here shortly after his liberation; ca. April 1945

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“For a time, Schleifstein was hidden by his father with the help of two anti-fascist German prisoners, but he was eventually discovered. The SS guards took a liking to him and came to treat him as a “camp mascot”, having a small camp uniform made for him and having him take part in morning appells, where he would salute the guard and report, “All prisoners accounted for.”

(Source)


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A group of German soldiers in a trench posing with a 24cm “Ladungswerfer Erhardt” trench mortar, ca. 1916.

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American Marines during flamethrower training; ca. 1943.

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Life in the trenches:

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I have the daily schedule of one Captain Geoffrey Bowen with the 2nd Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers on September 3rd, 1917.

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I’ll be giving some context in brackets throughout for reading sake:

8.pm. Started [wake up]
9.30 p.m. Arrived. [at trench]
11 p.m. Company arrived.
11 p.m.-3 a.m. Round the line [ie: checking on men, checking positions,
maintaining quality control across the line]
3.15 a.m.-4.15 a.m. Sleep
4.15 a.m.-6.am. Stand to. [Night watch, essentially]
6 a.m.-6.30 Reports [from lower level officers]
6.30a.m.-9. Sleep
9 a.m.-9.30 Breakfast: bacon, eggs, tinned sausage
9.30 a.m.-10.10 Round the line
10.10 a.m.-12. Reports, etc.
12.30 p.m. Lunch: Steak, potatoes, beans, sweet omelette
1.45 p.m.-2.15. Daylight patrol.
2.15 p.m-2.30. Sleep.
2.30 p.m.-3.40. Gup [gossip, idle chat] with the C.O. 
4 p.m. Tea, bread, jam.
4.30 p.m.-4.35. Sleep.
4.35 p.m.-5.10. Entertain 'Bowes' 
5.10 p.m.-5.15. Sleep.
5.15 p.m.-5.25. Trench Mortar Officer reports.
5.25 p.m.-6.15. Sleep
6.15 p.m.-6.35. Entertain Brain and Padre [Chaplains, implied work on 
mental and religious health]
6.35 p.m.-7.30. Sleep.
7.30 p.m.-8. Round the line
8 p.m.-8.15. Dinner: steak, potatoes, tinned fruit and custard.
8.15 p.m.-9. Round the line
11.30 p.m.-12.30 a.m. Sleep.
12.30-2.30 a.m. Intensive sniping [under fire]
2.30-5 a.m. Sleep.
Joan - WW1

It’s not nearly as dramatic as you may think. The unfortunate truth for Hollywood is that most of WWI was sitting around improving defenses and doing basically nothing. The conditions were horrific the entire time for most parts but you were not constantly getting out of trenches and charging enemies most of the time. One of the biggest jobs of men on the front is to constantly check, repair and lay down barbed wire outside of their trenches. This was generally done at night for obvious reasons and generally required hundreds of men to cover the workers doing this. At first they had to use mallets and even if they tried to muffle the sound by putting sandbags between the mallet and the stake to hold the barbed wire down, it was still noisy business. This brought the attention of many snipers. Eventually a corkscrew type of device would be universalized which would allow men to ‘screw’ the stake into the ground silently.

German_Barrage_Fire_at_Night_(Ypres)However the amount of fighting and what fighting you got depended on your sector. There were generally two types, quiet and loud sectors. Loud sectors were ones where the trenches were extremely close to the Germans — at times less than 25 yards away but usually no further than 100-200 yards away. You are in constant threat of rifle fire but not so much artillery lest each side hits their own men. So your entire existence is painted by avoiding snipers, being under sniper fire, and having bursts of machine gun fired in your general direction in your daily life. The quiet sectors were generally very different. You could easily be 600-800 yards away from the other trench and both sides adopted a ‘live and let live’ philosophy and your greatest threat would be random artillery barrages from miles away. Capt. Dugdale described the experience:

Time passed very peacefully, as the Germans were very quiet. My battalion snipers had the time of their lives; never before had they been given such targets. We literally kept a game book of hits for hte first three days; after that the Germans did not show themselves so much; also they started to retaliate.

Wiring was carried out nearly every night, but not in the style we were accustomed to in the days of the Somme. Our men did not creep through the wire carrying coils of wire, stakes, etc.; instead, a general service wagon was driven into No Man’s Land with the materials on board, which were dumped out when required. At first we expected bursts of machine gun fire every minute, but nothing happened. It must have become a well-established custom, as the enemy did the same thing themselves; we did not interfere.

origNonetheless in the general, the Germans were very keen on disrupting workers parties; particularly with machine guns and offensive patrols. The need for quiet was imperative but not always followed by the more reckless green horns. One account by Henry Gregory describes a particularly loud worker party shouting orders and joking with each other while his company was covering their duties. After about 30 minutes of it the Germans (who were previously pretty quiet) got fed up and unleashed a massive mortar barrage and machine gun attack on the position, killing dozens of men who had no reason to.

wwi-trenchesConditions in the trenches were universally awful however. That is one universal thing that can be applied. Many trenches had water up the knees of men and you would have to wade around in this grungy, dirty mud water all day and everything you had would be almost constantly wet. When digging new trenches it was not uncommon to get a sudden and sharp scent of a dead body lying there for weeks or months as you pierced his flesh in the dirt, especially in when repairing trenches taken over from the enemy after large artillery barrages. Everything, once you got up to the front, had to be carried by hand for obvious reasons. Usually in the dark. In knee to waist high water. While being shot at by snipers consistently. You can imagine the frustration and how it could wear on a man.

That’s really what made the war so horrible. You didn’t attack all that much if you were a soldier but your life was still a miserable hellhole. You sat in a crappy trench while being shot on constantly by snipers or being bombarded constantly by artillery depending on where you were — if you were in a perfect spot both at once! You were constantly slightly hungry because of poor rations and if someone slipped and dropped a box of steak in water they were done for and you had just go without. Something that happened enough for men to justify writing about it as a part of their experience. However, for all that, the actual combat was pretty minimal and dare I say cushy, especially for quiet sectors. Your duties if you were a rifleman were essentially forward patrols from time to time and covering worker parties (usually the two duties were combined) which was a dangerous job but not really an all out attack and otherwise maintaining the trench system through constant labor. If you were a machine gunner or a sniper your life was essentially to sit in one spot for hours and harass the enemy and discourage them from performing their own maintenance or making them do it under great duress. And if you were an officer your job was basically to walk around and make sure everyone was doing their job correctly.

cf1rflcNow I’d like to talk briefly about how trench warfare worked. At first it was a crude type of deal, the Generals were literally learning on the fly. The original tactic through 1915 and 1916 was essentially bombard the enemy trench with so much firepower that they couldn’t possibly survive and then mop up the rest with your infantry. This was basically what The Battle of Somme was supposed to be — one of the biggest failures of the war where the British men advancing quickly found that the artillery barrage did nothing to the enemy barbed wire and the Germans just huddled up underground ,waited for the barrage to stop, and then just manned their machine guns again once the assault started. Things like the creeping barrage were developed as well where basically the artillery would ‘creep’ to the German trench as the infantry marched behind it. The idea was that the artillery would hit the trench and within seconds be struck by British and French troops in the immediate aftermath.

Wiltshire_Regiment_Thiepval_7_August_1916

Again, the issue was coming with that all out artillery barrages where the men were marching was a horrible strategy. This is most demonstrated at the Battle of Passchendaele, or the Third Battle of Ypres, where the British attempted to break out of the Ypres salient in Belgium by taking surrounding ridges. The British absolutely unloaded artillery on these positions and when the men went into battle the ground was so utterly destroyed the entire battlefield was composed of flooded craters. The men were literally getting stuck in the mud and could barely move and they were cut down endlessly. The battle was only a half success, only capturing a few ridges with egregious casualties no one predicted even at this stage in the war.

In many ways WWI was an artillery war, but it was a war that was won in the development of infantry doctrine. What generals realized by 1918 was that artillery can not win this war. It could not single handedly destroy the enemy like they believed and the principle of combined arms was developed. Combined arms stated that every component of the army must be used together in equal parts to support each other and win the battle and that’s precisely what happened. Artillery was used in short, concentrated bursts and barrages not meant to obliterate the enemy defense but just shock them and generally create temporary weak points. Infantry stopped being a force that charged into trenches trying to overwhelm a position “shattered” by artillery but rather began doing something we are more familiar with — squad based infiltration tactics. Small squads of men would independently infiltrate enemy weak points, neutralize key points and create an open path for friendly mortars and flamethrowers to move in to create a combined mortar, machine gun and flamethrower assault on the more fortified positions with the infiltrated elite troops attacking from all sides inside the trench as well. Combined with aerial reconnaissance, armor to shield advancing infantry, and short but sweet ‘hurricane’ barrages trenches became all but a stepping stone in the March 1918 offensive by the Germans and then for the Allies in the Hundred Days counter-offensive in August which ended the war.

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Notes:

Holmes, Richard, “Tommy: The British Soldier on the Western Front “

Simpson, Andy “Hot Blood & Cold Steel: Life and Death in the Trenches of the First World War”


Nikita Khrushchev and Richard Nixon debate the merits of communism versus capitalism at the American National Exhibition, Moscow; ca.1959.

...this the exhibition where Khrushchev didn't believe normal Americans had washing machines in their homes.

…this the exhibition where Khrushchev didn’t believe normal Americans had washing machines in their homes.

Here’s the debate:


Japanese Special Naval Landing Forces with gas masks and rubber gloves during a chemical attack near Chapei in the Battle of Shanghai; August 1937.

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The Machine Gun in this picture is a Japanese Type 11 Light Machine Gun.

To understand the Type 11 you have to understand the standard issue rifle. In WW2 if you were issued a Rifle in any army except the United States and their Semi Auto M1’s then chances are you would be issued a bolt action rifle. In a semi or automatic weapon recoil or gas works the bolt, in a bolt action you do it by hand. These kind of Rifles fired slowly, they prized accuracy with long barrels and high velocity rounds. Japan used the Type-38, a 9lb, 1.2 meter rifle with a 31 inch barrel and with the 40 centimeter bayonet it was taller than the average soldier.

The reason I bring up the rifle is the loading system, the rifles magazine unlike modern Assault Rifles the magazines was internal, not detachable and usually held 5 rounds. To load it you used a charger/stripper clip, shown here andhere in a rifle. The clip holds the rounds together, to load you push down on the ammunition stripping them off the clip and into the magazine. Now most Machine Guns use detachable magazines, strips or belts in which rounds need to be loaded onto, if you are in battle and the rifles or machine guns run out of ammo then each round would need to be hand loaded onto a belt, mag or clip to share, time consuming, especially while being shot at… unless you develop a system where the rifle and machine gun can share, one like the Type 11 which is loaded with Stripper Clips.

The Type 11’s loading system is a hopper pictured here and a diagram here. The five round clips are inserted in the top to a maximum of 6, the gun eats them from the bottom. With this system any rifleman can refill the machine gun and the machine gun ammo supply can be distributed if needed. The hopper can also be continuously topped off allowing for uninterrupted fire.

The hopper system used however had three problems on the Type 11. 1. If dust and dirt got in the gun would fail, spare hoppers were carried for this reason. 2. Every 5 rounds needed to be loaded, a tedious task especially if your loader should die. 3. The gun proved temperamental to the high power munitions used by the rifles and would wear out or jam, a low pressure round was developed, this complicated supply and made sharing ammo less common and more for emergencies.

The Type 11 was first produced in 1922 it served at the squad level with 1 per and was the first Japanese gun to do so in real numbers. Most of them would serve in Chinese Theater though their appearance in the Pacific was not unheard of and the ones in the US right now are usually captured examples. The Type 11 was replaced as the main Light Machine Gun by the Type 96/99 Light Machine Gun which arrived in 1936. The 96 featured a more conventional top mounted 30rd magazine like the Bren and a quick change barrel, it used the same low pressure rounds. The Type 11 served as the main squad gun for 14 years, it would be produced for 19 before every factory switched over.

Some quick facts:

  • Approximately 30000 were made in total.
  • The gun fired a relatively slow 400rpm or about 61/2 rounds per sec.
  • It weighed about 25 pounds loaded.
  • Fired 6.5x50mm rounds.
  • It was bipod mounted and had a combination pistol grip and stock.
  • The barrel had cooling fins to absorb heat.
  • The hopper had a built in oilier to lubricate rounds.
  • There was an anti aircraft variant the Type 81
  • The Type 11 had a seldom used tripod designed for it, few pictures exist but here is one.

Bonus Fact: The Type 96 had an ammo counter on the magazine, an advantage made possible by being a top loader.


The rarely seen back of the Hoover Dam before it filled with water; ca. 1936.

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And here’s the view from the other side:

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There were 112 deaths associated with the construction of the dam. Included in that total was J. G. Tierney, a surveyor who drowned on December 20, 1922, while looking for an ideal spot for the dam. He is generally counted as the first man to die in the construction of Hoover Dam. His son, Patrick W. Tierney, was the last man to die working on the dam’s construction, 13 years to the day later.

*Here’s an actual aerial photo from 1950:

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Haircut in the French trenches, WWI in color; ca. 1915.

Ha, look at the stout little guy to the right.

Ha, look at the stout little guy to the right.

*The trenches varied from country to country, and during an attack, a trench could devolve into a scant 18″ deep in places, due to artillery tearing them up, and the soldiers having no extra time to repair them. A fully dug trench could be 5 to 8 feet deep, and generally wide enough that at least three men could walk abreast. A soldiers life in the trench was constant work, as officers kept the men at task, in order to keep them occupied. Concerning dugouts, they varied depending on the country digging them, the soldiers digging them, how far back from the line they were, and so on. As the war progressed, dugouts became less and less protected. Germany’s dugouts were considered better because Germany dug them deeper and the men felt better protected from shelling. Britain’s dugouts were more shallow because the British thought that if their holes were too deep the soldiers would not want to come back again. Concerning trench layout, “the front” wasn’t a single trench with artillery behind it, but rather a complex maze of trenches, reserve trenches, and perpendicular trenches meant to aid the flow of traffic back and forth. (Though this seldom was as efficient as possible, with people trying to go both ways.)


Before Pearl Harbor, Japan’s Emperor Cautioned Against War With U.S., Documents Show

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“Before Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, Emperor Hirohito criticized plans to go to war with the United States as ‘self-destructive,’ and opposed an alliance with Nazi Germany, though he did little to try to stop the war that Japan waged in his name, according to the long-awaited official history of his reign released on Tuesday.” (Source)

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Well, I can imagine that there are some things doctored, but there is definitely some truth behind this. For years, there has been information coming out how the Emperor was hesitant about the war, as well as wanting to surrender well before Nagasaki and Hiroshima. It isn’t out of the question for Emperors/Kings to be ‘taken’ advantage of in times of war. Look at the bombings of England in WWI by Germany, the Kaiser was some-what left out of the loop there.

I am more interested if these texts talk about the war crimes that Japan committed and on what level was the emperor aware of these atrocities, not so much the whole US/Japanese relations. Japan terrorized and murdered millions of people, and that is often forgotten in the western world. And this is a sensitive subject for Japan and countries in its close proximity, mostly because Japan does not admit these things actually happened.

The Emperor was not held accountable what-so-ever for the crimes that were committed in his name; (imagine if Hitler didn’t shoot himself, surrendered, and then set free. That’s how some countries feel about this). In the western world, the German people were held personally responsible for WWII (I’m not saying this was right or wrong, just that it happened), while Japan was more or less ‘forgiven’ after having some higher-ups executed.

To this day, countries still HATE one another because of what happened in this time in history. While in Europe (Western Europe anyways), countries have made great progress in improving the relations between one another.


57,000 German POWs are marched through Moscow to display the Red Army’s dominance; July 17, 1944.

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In June 1944, the Red Army captured the German Army Group Center. This was called Operation Bagration. 185 Soviet divisions with 2.3 million soldiers surrounded and captured or killed the 800,000 members of Army Group Center.

A month later some of the German POWs were transported to Moscow to display to the Soviet people.

Here is a Soviet film of the parade:

The parade was followed by trucks ceremoniously washing the German filth from the streets. The POWs were then transported off to work camps.


Child in a British concentration camp during the Second Boer War (1899–1902).

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For those of you that don’t know, here is a brief lead up to the Boer wars:

In 1795 the British took over the Cape Colony for the Dutch during the French Revolutionary Wars. The colony was restored to Dutch rule in 1804 by the Treaty of Amiens and retaken by the British in 1806. This colony was important to protect trade routes to Britain from the east, especially India. The Dutch settlers in the Cape were known as the Boers. The Boers ignored the new governors and moved away from administrative centers, remaining as independent as possible.

Hostilities started to develop in 1823 as the British changed English to the official language. These escalated further in 1833 when the British passed equality laws, making slavery illegal. This was deeply unpopular will the Boers whose economic stability relied on farming using slaves. Although promised compensation for the Brits they soon learnt that it could only be picked up from London.

In the following years thousands of Boers left British territory to continue farming using slaves. Two new states were formed the Republic of Transvaal and a couple years later the Orange Free State.

The British continued to expand their territory, fighting small wars and skirmishes with the Boers and other Africans.

In 1867 diamonds were discovered near the Vaal River, 550 miles northeast from Cape Town. Tens of thousand of people from around the world flocked to the area.

In 1875, Lord Carnarvon attempted to organize a federation between the Brits and Boers (similar to the Brits and French in Canada). The idea was rejected by the Boers.

In 1877 the British annexed Transvaal non violently, they accepted this because the Boers were near war with the Zulus and couldn’t risk fighting a war on two fronts. This raised Anglo-Boer tensions once again.

The Zulus, who had gathered a sizable army of around 40,000 and now had firearms, were seen as a threat to British and given an ultimatum to disband their army. They failed to do this and reluctantly in 1879 7,000 British with 7,000 Black African levies fought a short war effectively ending the Zulu kingdom.

Now the Boers enemies had all been defeated by the British the Boers resentment grew further for the British and they wanted their independence back.

In November 1880 a Boer man refused to pay a tax and his wagon was seized. When his wagon was to be sold a group of armed Boer took the wagon back and assaulted the sheriff. British troops sent after them but were fired upon.

In December 1880 Transvaal declared independence and began besieging British garrisons in the region and so the First Boer War began.

The Boers being farmers were excellent hunters and riders. They fought using camouflage and stealth to snipe at British red coats.

*Fun Fact: The Boers fought in guerrilla groups called kommandos. Winston Churchill was captured by the Boers and out of respect for their skill he later named British special forces ‘commandos’.


Who won the War of 1812?

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Officially, the US went to war due to the British not respecting US citizenship when pressing sailors into service in the Royal Navy. The British claimed that any British subject was eligible for impressment (ie forced conscription) and that any man born a British subject continued to be a British subject. This included a sizable portion of the US population of the time, as many had been born before the peace treaty of 1782 and thus theoretically had been born as British subjects. Emigres were also subject to this treatment, and there were occasions where Royal Navy officers did not give a damn and just impressed American citizens who had never been British subjects.

Unofficially, the war hawks wanted to see an annexation of British North America (Canada). [The subject was openly debated in the US before the war. Jefferson claimed the conquest of Quebec was “a mere matter of marching” while Clay openly said that militiamen from Kentucky on their own could capture Upper Canada. Major General Brock certainly knew the war was coming, prepared accordingly and knew the US would invade Canada. In fact, his intelligence was so good that he got news of the war before the US troops across the border, something which he used for a surprise attack.]

The US invasions of Canada failed, the British hunted down or blockaded the US navy (a few frigates managed to slip out and the USS Constitution had some spectacular victories) and blockaded the US East Coast, preventing trade and causing widespread discontent, especially in the maritime-dependent New England states, who seriously started to discuss secession from the US.

The peace treaty at Ghent 1814 did not include any gains for the US – at least not officially. The treaty included no provision that the Royal Navy was to respect US citizenship, however, the end of the Napoleonic War had led the British to stop impressment from foreign vessels anyway, so the goal was achieved, king of.

British North America remained in British hands, and eventually became Canada, independent from the US.

The British war goals were to get the US to stop fighting them, without giving anything away, as they had bigger problems back home with Napoleon running rampant all over Europe, in which they succeeded.

The US war goals, to force the British to accept US citizenship as immunity to impressment was achieved, although not officially, while Canada remained unconquered.

While the US did not lose territory, I’d say they lost the war as they were unable to achieve the goals they went to war over. The British, while not gaining anything, did achieve their war goal.

So, it is either a draw (neither side lost anything) or a British victory (as they achieved their war goals and the US did not).


Napoleon’s Exile.

Painting : Napoleon at Fontainbleau

The first abdication was originally conditional. Tsar Alexander had then proposed that Napoleon be exiled to Elba. Even after the unconditional abdication, the marquis de Caulaincourt convinced Alexander to keep the proposition open. Napoleon wasn’t seen as a criminal, an upstart perhaps, but his rule was legitimate and the wars were often declared by the Coalition.

There wasn’t widespread support for Elba, and most diplomats and politicians had their own ideas on where to send him. The United States, Corsica, Sardinia, and the British fort of St. George on Beauly Firth were other possibilities. Alexander insisted on Elba as it would put him at an advantage to Austrian interests, and the other nations went along with it due to the other choices not being entirely pleasing — along with some threats from Alexander that were Napoleon not sent to Elba he would rescind his support for the Bourbons.

When Napoleon escaped, he was declared as much as an enemy of humanity and that he would banished from Europe if captured. He could, in theory, be executed. After Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, the Prussians stated that he would be executed if captured by them. For personal reasons, Napoleon refused to surrender to the Austrians and Russians — though they were unlikely to execute him. Napoleon made his way to Rochefort where he planned on embarking to the United States, though he delayed in doing so and the British blockaded the port in the meantime. Napoleon sent his aides to the captain of the HMS Bellerophon to see what terms he might get for surrendering to them. Captain Maitland suggested that asylum in England may be possible, but would have to clear it.

After some deliberation, Napoleon decided to surrender himself to the Bellerophon. When it arrived at Torbay, Napoleon was kept on board — an amusement for sight seers to come and see. The British government debated what to do with him. The three main figures (being the Prince Regent, Prime Minister, and Secretary of War) all hated him and previously instructed the Bourbons that they should execute him. They declared Napoleon a prisoner of war, which put Bonaparte in a grey area of legality. He couldn’t technically be a prisoner of war since Britain and France were no longer at war. Napoleon was no longer considered to even be a citizen of France. The possibility of him being tried and executed as an outlaw or pirate was raised, but then he couldn’t have been detained as a prisoner of war.

The government’s response to this scenario was to exile Napoleon to St. Helena as a retired general on half pay. Napoleon’s response to this was bewilderment and confusion, stating that if his coming aboard the Bellerophon was simply a trick to make him a prisoner, Britain had shamed itself. One of his remarks was, “They may as well call me Archbishop, for I was head of the Church as well as the army.” The Allies approved of the action, though the British Parliament later admitted that the government had no legal basis for Napoleon’s exile.

So, specifically as for why Napoleon wasn’t executed basically comes down to the unique position he was in. The concept of war criminals wasn’t yet around, and Napoleon was neither a figure that could simply be executed nor given asylum. If Napoleon had been given a *writ of habeus corpus, he could have been put on trial. However, the British government didn’t want the possibility for Napoleon to be let off, so they quickly decided to exile him. Even that was outside of their legal jurisdiction, but it caused a lot less fallout than an execution would have.

[*Napoleon technically had received a writ of habeus corpus. A sympathetic former judge came up with an excuse (an admiral failing to perform his duties) to have Napoleon appear as a witness in a trial. The writ was obtained, but Napoleon was whisked away before he could set foot on land.]

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The Yalta Conference, Crimea; February 1945.

This is photograph TR 2828 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums]


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Color autochrome photograph of French soldiers in a trench manning a St. Étienne Mle 1907 machine gun; ca. 1917.

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