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Guest Hans Engström

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And the Spanish Civil War was not a proxy war between Germany and Italy on one side, and the USSR on the other? I think that the Spanish Civil War showed the new technologies in action in a way that the Chaco War didn't, and that was recognized at the time to be so.

 

The Spanish Civil War is more recognizable as a precursor of modern warfare with the benefit of our hindsight than it was then. It was nothing different than any other revolution or things like the Chaco War. Comparing it to the reaction to the '73 war makes little sense. The '73 War was largely a 'proxy war' fought by client states of the superpowers, with modern equipment on both sides. People wanted to see how (if) the new stuff worked. There was very little earth-shakingly new about the Spanish Civil War, and the US had no pig in that stew. In fact, it was the Spanish Civil War that led to most of the US laws embargoing sales of war materials. It was very unlikely that the US Army would go to Europe again;  fighting Japan in the Pacific was much more likely; that's what was planned for and studied  - and it happened.

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And the Spanish Civil War was not a proxy war between Germany and Italy on one side, and the USSR on the other? I think that the Spanish Civil War showed the new technologies in action in a way that the Chaco War didn't, and that was recognized at the time to be so.

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Of course it was, and Germany, Italy, and the USSR all studied it and drew some fairly erroneous conclusions (Germany getting more right).

 

But it was their war, and didn't teach the US anything except how to stay out of one.

 

I can't think of any "lessons" that hadn't been at least thought about by the US.

 

Just to give one example, German (and other) authors credit the happenstance AT action by an 88mm Flak battery with causing the Germans to make their AA guns dual purpose and develop direct fire sights, etc. The British apparently missed that clue. The US already knew it - US AA guns had been dual purpose since they were first adopted (although the surface engagement motive was more Coast Defence than AT work).

 

Ordnance had done their homework and had all sorts new equipment ready to be built when mobilization opened the Congressional wallets. Artillery had new fire control techniques, and Signal had radio designs to make the techniques operable. Infantry had a nice simple easy-to-teach doctrine that got us through the coming war and longer.

 

The things the Army were lacking in were money for equipment and money for training, and neither was under their control. You mentioned some "real duds" the Army had at general officer level; well, the Army first got enough money to assemble division and corps-level forces and have large-scale exercizes in 1940. The "real duds" had never been able to 1)practice their way to competence, or 2)be identified as duds and be put in charge of Wyoming Coastal Defenses.

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No, clearly the pre-war Regular Army had some outstanding officers: the ones you named, Marshall, and the Army Air Corps was a cutting edge organization which attracted and retained some truly great officers.

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This reminds me of a story. Ike's brother Milton was an important official with the Dept. of Agriculture and closely tied to the New Deal intellectual crowd in Washington DC. A New Dealer recalled attending a DC reception with Milton Eisenhower in the late 1930s when Milton said "You have to me my brother Dwight. He's a brilliant officer and going to be a great general for the Army, especially if war comes." Milton then introduced him to a balding, nondescript Major pushing 50, who looked like he would be lucky to make Colonel. Appearences in the prewar Army could be deceiving!

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I just got a copy of The Complete New Yorker Cartoons. A huge book with two CDs for good measure. Now, how will I get it in my suitcase?

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I got that for Christmas. Cool book. We got my son the huge two-volume Far Side compilation, which is even better.

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Just re-read Jaguars Ripped My Flesh by Tim Cahill. A collection of outdoor adventure travel stories, mostly published in Outside Magazine back in the 1970s and 80s. Cahill writes as an Everyman doing extreme sports and going to unusual places. He tends to go a little overboard with the iconoclastic antihero stuff, but he's generally pretty funny.

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Just re-read Jaguars Ripped My Flesh by Tim Cahill. A collection of outdoor adventure travel stories, mostly published in Outside Magazine back in the 1970s and 80s. Cahill writes as an Everyman doing extreme sports and going to unusual places. He tends to go a little overboard with the iconoclastic antihero stuff, but he's generally pretty funny.

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You ought ot read Death in the Long Grass by Peter Hathaway Capstick. Not very PC -- hunting big game and all that -- but insightful and humorous.

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Just re-read Jaguars Ripped My Flesh by Tim Cahill. A collection of outdoor adventure travel stories, mostly published in Outside Magazine back in the 1970s and 80s. Cahill writes as an Everyman doing extreme sports and going to unusual places. He tends to go a little overboard with the iconoclastic antihero stuff, but he's generally pretty funny.

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Another great book (one of my all-time favourite books period) by Cahill is Road Fever, which is a chronicle of his record-breaking trip with Garry Sowerby from Tierra del Fuego to Prudohe Bay Alaska in 1988. I received an autographed copy when I met Sowerby at a School Fair of all placed. The narritative is at a good pace and is complete with hillarious moments. After reading it, a few phrases entered my vocabulary that have not left, such as We are not men, we are roto.

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You ought ot read Death in the Long Grass by Peter Hathaway Capstick. Not very PC -- hunting big game and all that -- but insightful and humorous.

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Already have, along with several of Capstick's other "Death" books, and a couple of his other books. Probably his best work is when he hunted as a client in his later years; Sands of Namibia or something like that is one title.

 

Another great book (one of my all-time favourite books period) by Cahill is Road Fever, which is a chronicle of his record-breaking trip with Garry Sowerby from Tierra del Fuego to Prudohe Bay Alaska in 1988.

 

Read that one too. Loved the scene where they are pulled into an inspection pit by some Customs folks, and they open the camper shell hatch and the stench flows out.

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Partway through the book 'Europa, Europa', a story of a Jewish boy in Hitlers Germany. So far he has fled Germany and then Poland, becoming a Komosol member on the Russian side of the river. He's just finished serving a year with 12th Panzer and is headed back to Germany to study at a elite school for Hitler Youth.

 

The really freaky part is that it is all true.

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Ive read alot in the last 6 months , computer was bummed.

 

 

Tommy Frank's bio .

 

In the Company of Soldiers by Atkinson

 

911 Commission reprt

 

Just finished ' Freedom From Fear ' by David Kennedy .

 

Excelllent read on the U.S. from 1929 until the end of WW!II.

 

Covers Hoover and FDR , I learned alot.

 

Good read for serious students of U.S. history.

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Welcome back Ron! How's the health?

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I think I'm fine. I haven't been to a doctor for a year.

 

 

However my wife went through a spine fuzing in Sept.

That's a very nasty proceedure and she was off work for 4 months.

So things are more or less normal again , finally .

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Recently read:

 

Iain Banks. Raw Spirit: In Search of the Perfect Dram - Describes his travels around Scotland searching for the perfect single malt. A good read, although his occasional sideswipe at "The War" may put some people off.

 

Wolfgang Büscher. BERLIN-MOSKAU: Eine Reise zu Fuß (Trans: A journey by foot) - He follows Napoleon and Heeresgruppe Mitte taking 3 months to make the journey and meeting some pretty wierd folk on the way.

 

Melvyn Bragg. The Adventure of English: The Biography of a Language - Typical Bragg (bubbling over with enthusiasm!) and a really interesting and enjoyable read.

 

Currently reading:

 

Wibke Bruhns. Meines Vaters Land: Geschichte einer deutschen Familie (Trans: My father´s Land: Story of a German Family) - Written after she saw her father (who she hardly knew as he was executed when she was 6 years old) in a TV documentary about the trials of the July 20th plotters. A facinating journey back into the life and times of a middle class German family during the first half of the twentieth century.

 

To-read pile:

 

Niall Ferguson. Empire: How Britain made the Modern World.

 

Thomas Levenson. Einstein in Berlin - Couldn't resist getting this living, as I do, in Berlin and this being Einstein Year

 

Ian McEwan. The Innocent - Also set in Berlin, about young British Intelligence operator involved in tapping Soviet comms

 

Richard Overy. Interrogations: Inside the Minds of the Nazi Elite - An analysis of the transcripts of the pre-Nuremburg interrogations. Apparently no-one else has done this up to now

 

Philip Roth. The Plot against America - The consequences of a hypothetical Lindberg presidency in 1940

 

Max Hastings. Armageddon: The Battle for Germany 1944-45

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Wrote this book review on The Pity of War: Explaining WWI for my British History class:

The Pity of War: Explaining WWI, attempts to make the argument that WWI was an avoidable horror that was poorly fought and managed by the Entente powers; Britain in particular.  Niall Ferguson’s book is for historians with a statistical bent, a good grounding in economics and statistics would lend itself to a deeper analysis of the weighty volume of quantitative evidence he posits for his argument.  Much of that evidence is drawn from economic studies of the period from secondary sources leaving fully a sixth of this work to an impressive section of endnotes and bibliography, but little original research.  It is a novel approach to the war, taking an economic slant and rigorous statistical analysis of war finance, production and casualties.  While this approach may be new and convincing in parts, it is unfortunately the bias of the economist that lacks the insight of a more humanistic approach to causation for the great events of the Great War.  Ferguson’s strength is in demonstrating the quantitative facts in contravention of many widely held assumptions and beliefs, where he falters though is in losing the context of much of this data.  For this reason, The Pity of War’s thesis would be strengthened by a deeper analysis of the decision makers of the day, the wider context of his economics and a more informed study of the execution of combat.

 

Besides showing at length that war is a horrible enterprise, Ferguson also poses ten questions to the reader to frame his argument.  These include whether or not war was inevitable, why the Germans gambled, why Britain intervened, whether or not there was in fact popular enthusiasm for the war and if propaganda kept the war going, whether Britain had economic superiority, whether Germany had military superiority, why men fought and stopped fighting and who actually won the war?  His introduction tracks poetry and literature’s slant on the war to underline the horrors of WWI and the indelible mark it left on a generation.  He then moves through the historiography on the causes of the war such as theories of catastrophe and natural disaster, capitalist and Marxist theories, German continental expansion, and German/Anglo naval rivalry.  His method is counter-factual analysis, posing a number of ‘what if’ questions, his concluding chapter in particular posing an alternative Europe where Britain sat out the war and Germany formed the basis for the European Union 80 years early.  While this alternative world is interesting, Ferguson goes somewhat off the rails in keeping his data within context.  In particular, three key areas that require closer examination are the decision makers, context of the economics and the will to fight.

 

The first chapter sets context for decision makers of the time.  Ferguson makes good use of citing period fiction to show war sentiments in Germany and Britain, but editorial writings would be more objective as would cabinet minutes of decision makers, their diaries and letters, to see their perspective and perception of the public mood.  Regrettably for his argument, he does not delve into these primary sources.  Nations do not make decisions such as whether or not to go to war, people do, and those people are the leaders of the day.  Their motivations should have been central to his analysis, but he instead chooses to paint with a broad brush.  However, he poses a convincing image of liberal pacifism in both Germany and Britain amongst the middle-class, but claims that in Germany militarism was a, “rallying point for popular chauvinism, turning attention away from the Reich’s ‘anti-democratic’ political system” (p. 27).  Focusing on these sorts of machinations by the Wilhelmine government are more on the mark.  Likewise, Sir Edward Grey’s role as Britain’s Foreign Secretary is a good personal analysis of how decisions were made.  The disconnect between Germanophobia and reality shows how Grey’s decisions were shaped by prestige and perception, Grey being more pro-French in his appeasement than anti-German and concerned that any olive branch offered to Germany would threaten the Entente (p. 72).  Finally, the German position and aims before the war are credible within context of Ferguson’s earlier arguments, Germany having few allies and so needing to side with the Austrians and launching a pre-emptive war on the Entente from a position of weakness, exploiting their unprepared rivals.  British political machinations are telling and properly focus on motivations of the decision makers, party politics of the Liberals preventing the Conservatives from getting a wedge fit with a focus on leader’s choices (p. 164).  Ultimately, Ferguson is uneven in his treatment of decision makers, by one hand offering a credible analysis of Grey while providing a dearth of information on the German leadership, but setting the circumstances quite well.  The area of his greatest statistical force, his economics, loses its might on closer inspection though.

 

Ferguson’s delving into war economics raises more questions than it answers.  Most importantly, by what degrees were German and British economics more or less efficient in relation to a total war commitment?  He presents his data as apples vs. apples where there is a clear dichotomy.  Germans, fighting from a position of weakness, simply had more to fight for, while Britain’s laissez faire approach to war economics demonstrates that they lacked the same sense of urgency to put their nation on total war footing like the Germans.  Ferguson misses this point while raising it obliquely several times in his book; the Germans having a planned economy on a total war footing but bungled by military aims vs. the British laissez faire approach winning the war in spite of its inefficiencies (p. 255), never illustrating degrees in his argument and insisting on absolute bottom lines (p. 258).  Manpower issues of recruitment are also out of context and are hindsight.  On p. 268 Ferguson presents evidence that all nations were indiscriminate in their military recruitment of irreplaceable skilled labour.  This claim doesn’t account for his earlier arguments about nationalist fervour in recruitment nor does it account for the degree by which respective governments anticipated a need for such labour, or the pressures of time on forcing wartime adaptation to labour shortages.  Wage and labour issues presented were also tied to commitment, the German privation issue (p. 278-279) demonstrating commitment to a total war footing.  Worst of his failings are his war by spreadsheet.  Claims of lacking German productivity in new weapons technology require context, as well, German superiority in winning the attrition war and general military effectiveness also lack a cogent explanation.  Ferguson expects the reader to accept quantitative analysis of war without undertaking a qualitative study of where the data came from.  He also misses military historiography, the fact that every army has been unprepared to fight the technology of the next war, is a risk averse culture, and the dynamics of tactics.  Lastly, his putting a dollar figure on each casualty to denote effectiveness ignores the realities of military logistics, a study of this field would better put his figures into context to make a convincing argument of efficiency.  When Ferguson isn’t bean counting the war he tends to make his most onerous errors of analysis in the human element.

 

His two chapters examining why men fought on and why they surrendered are primarily anecdotal and are largely uninformed of studies of the behaviour of men in battle.  Ferguson’s conclusion that soldiers fought for their peers and unit more than for any sense of patriotism is correct and well documented, not only in this war, but in many since the study of battle psychology demystified combat fatigue.  But where Ferguson shows a bias to data strictly from the period is in citing Freud (p. 358) and antiquated ideas that men wanted to fight and enjoyed the killing.  He also fails to put the acts of soldier’s dehumanizing the enemy within a psychological context as a coping mechanism (p. 363).  His conclusions that hatred and vengeance were the mechanisms is speculative and lacks the depth of study of such works as Richard Holmes’ Acts of War, or J. Glenn Gray’s The Warriors: Reflections of Men in Battle or any of a number of psychiatric studies on combat fatigue. Ferguson’s final word on the fighting, in an attempt to explain the high rates of German surrender and high Entente casualties late in the war, is again, history by spreadsheet.  Each battle requires analysis to dictate why death and capture ratios were as they were.  He misses the point of logistical considerations leading to ‘take no prisoners’ only focusing on ratios (p. 388).  Lastly, his post-war analysis is simply odd, claiming an increase in domestic and international violence after WWI was because of the violence in WWI, totally missing the point that the disenchanted peace left great instability and unfinished business between nations and that WWI did not lead to some influenza-like epidemic of violence.

 

Juxtaposed against other book reviews these observations on Ferguson’s work are shared by others.  The Journal of Military History review by Samuel R. Williamson, Jr. supports the thesis that context is lacking in defining the causes and effects of militarism of the period and that Ferguson’s assertion that earlier claims that war was inevitable are off.  Williamson adds that an important oversight has been made in delving into the designs of Russia and the Austria-Hungary alliance.  Indeed, the book’s focus is on Germany and Britain with France as a perfunctory player and other nations mere sideshows.  While Williamson considers Ferguson’s claims; that the German threat to British interests as limited, and the eventual dominance of Germany hastening the outcomes of the EU of today, as ‘provocative,’ it is more to the point that the contra-factual approach is playing a game of omniscient hindsight that is best left to writers of historical fiction than analysis.  Williamson also has a depth of understanding the issue of Belgian neutrality and points to the weak claim that Britain would have violated neutrality if Germany had not.  He also counters Ferguson’s claims that Grey was unaware of Germany’s ultimatum to Belgium, illustrating that Ferguson is not at his analytical best when not crunching economic numbers in support of this thesis.  Where reviews are also in agreement is in labeling Ferguson’s approach as contrarian.  There is a certain tone to The Pity of War that leaves the reader thinking that the author is too eager to lay blame on the British and thinking that British appeasement of Germany would have been a panacea for the ills of the post-war world.

 

Where Williamson and this review divide is on his lauding Ferguson for his analysis of why men fought.  While he has admiration for Ferguson’s analytical style, this review demonstrates that it is a shallow approach to a complex subject.  His buying into Freudian arguments presented by the author is equally disappointing considering the body of literature to the contrary.  The lack of cross-over between psychology and historiography on the subject is evident and perhaps will constitute a field of its own in time.  But for now, Ferguson’s comments must be coached against war as part of the human experience and not viewed in historical isolation as he attempts.  Williamson’s valuation of the book’s economic data related to battlefield costs also overlooks the context of military logistics in hanging a monetary value on casualties.  Ferguson’s data can easily overwhelm the reader but shouldn’t silence questions of causation.  These points aside, this review is in accord with Williamson’s. 

 

The Pity of War, in spite of its short comings, does add to the historiography of WWI.  Ferguson’s analysis of the pre-war conditions; finance, diplomacy and empire, are thought provoking and challenges accepted givens for why WWI started.  His evidence in these areas is strong and plausible and for that reason alone his work recommends itself to both the lay reader and the historian.  But, where Ferguson fails is in putting his reams of data within context, often moving myopically from one statistical spread to the next without pausing to reflect on the circumstances and contingencies that generated the data.  For that reason, The Pity of War comes with a caveat that it must be read carefully, the reader not allowing themselves to become overawed by the weight of his evidence.  It raises many questions that future scholars should delve into.

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Josephus's "Jewish Antiquities", books 1 through 3. Written by the Jewish historian Josephus 37?-94 A.D. A history of the Jewish people in the Old Testement. Translated from the Greek in 1930. When I have the money and time I'll try to obtain and read the rest of the 17 books. Should keep me out of mischief for the rest of the year.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Panzer Operations by General Erhard Raus

 

only at page 24 and already love it, so intense descriptions of the action of his kampfgruppe in the first days of barbarossa...

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Our German History Professor here heartily recommended a book entitled Absolute Destruction: Military Culture And The Practices Of War In Imperial Germany By Isabel Hull. I haven't been able to read it yet (Perhaps after my Liberat...er Graduation) but it looks interesting in that she make the provocative thesis that the German military "got a mind of its own" and escaped the clutches of the government to follow the idea of the only way to achieve victory was through "Absolute Destruction." Her focus is, refreshingly, the Herero rebellion in German Southwest Africa in 1904-05. However, from reviews in journals, she kinda runs into problems whilst discussing World War I, but overall, it is a thesis that, even if you don't agree with, should make you think a bit.

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"La División Azul. Sangre española en Rusia" by Xavier Moreno Juliá.

 

The title can be translated as "The Blue Division. Spanish Blood in Russia" or as "The Blue Division. Spaniards bleeding in Russia". It's a kind of pun.

 

I'm reading it jumping from chapter to chapter while commuting in train to work. Attracts some curious looks ;). Some people here seems to think I'm a kind of Fascist, but it's the same people that wouldn't recognize a Fascist standing in front of them, with black shirt, right arm up, and singing "Facetta nera ..." :P .

 

More than a work of military history (which is touched in a manner of shallow manner) is more a book about the Spanish politics lying under the sending of the Division and the various stances Franco's regime adopted in WWII. However, it's a book carefully researched, as the writer was capable to read many original German documents.

 

It's remarkable the fact that the writer (a Associate Professor in a obscure Catalonian university) while quite PC (in the Spanish sense ...) tends to be objective about the interior politics in the Spain of the time. It's not a hate work, and this is more remarkable in the Spanish academia of today.

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Doh! Everyone who reads a book about WW2 is a nazi or fascist (and they actually are the same, aren't they??? :P )

 

I once had a hard time reading "The German Generals Talk" by Liddel-Hart on the bus, cause for some reason they made this pure white cover with a huge swastika on it. I don't think anybody saw it but I had to hold it in weird ways because of that...

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Saw this on the "new book section" of the library and just couldn't find a reason not to get it:

The Men Who Stare At Goats by Jon Ronson

..http://www.jonronson.com/goats_04.html

 

A very strange book.

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Guest Hans Engström
Saw this on the "new book section" of the library and just couldn't find a reason not to get it:

The Men Who Stare At Goats by Jon Ronson

..http://www.jonronson.com/goats_04.html

 

A very strange book.

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I brwsed it today, agreed, very strange, but it didn't seem worth the money.

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I just finished reading "The Men Who Stare at Goats" and I have to say it's a very strange and unusual book, almost to the point of making me uncomfortable about the entire thing.

 

Basically - it's about the American Psy-Ops community and the Military Intelligence community. There is a great deal about subliminal messaging, radical interrogation techniques, and just weird techniques for any number of issues. Some of the names in the book also appear in other equally strange books - COL John Alexander pops up here, and he was also mentioned in the book "The Hunt For Zero Point" by Nick Cook. I've also seen him mentioned in a few other books that link the arcane and occult with military affairs - my deduction is that there is some very, very weird goings on within the intelligence community and this has been the case for quite some time.

 

I don't what to make of this - it's disturbing. I guess some who read the book will just call it crap, but again, there are some intelligence personnel that keep popping up in books of this nature.

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