Saturday, February 22, 2020

What Civilians Can Learn From the Military


Disunity. Mean-spirited divides. The wish to persecute one another loudly and publicly. This is the people of the United States today. Powerful political, corporate and social forces are threatening to destroy our country, as never before. 
The military teaches life lessons to its members about teamwork.

  I had a sergeant in the Army, long ago, who once said that he throught America was better-off when there was a draft. He said that military service could be a common touchstone in everyone's life...whether they were in uniform or had left the service to be a civilian (and a veteran). He thought that unavoidable military service would restore the common sense, unity and morals of the American people. I disagreed with him at the time, because I never wanted to trust my life to anyone who didn't want to be a soldier. I think I was wrong, though.

   Why does America have a 20-year war still going? It's because there is no draft. If there was then John and Jane Smith, residing on Main Street, USA would probably seek to have the government end its policy of military adventurism around the globe. With volunteers, the government can do anything it wants. With's a whole other Magilla Gorilla.

   And that is why there will probably never be a draft again.
The military develops individual character.

   The military teaches people to be organized, disciplined and focused. I think service makes each of us closer to that 'best version' of ourselves that so many are always seeking. When I was a 17-year-old mortarman, I entered the military without a lot of experience with diversity. Well, that changed pretty quickly. In an infantry platoon, it is impossible for the unit to function when even one racist is in its ranks.

   Today, from what I have gathered, units do not use the 'informal methods' of my day. This means that, in the '80s, when someone was impacting the unit with their nonsense, soldiers in the unit got together and made sure that the offending trooper received a punitive reminder that 'uniqueness' was not tolerated. Soldiers solved their problems among themselves. No one was 'special,' and maybe it is the mantra 'everyone is special' that should be blamed for our national catastrophes.

   Currently, people who have done nothing but seek to avoid military or public service have labeled themselves as "patriots," while actual patriots, former servicemen and women, are branded with derogatory terms because they do not travel lock-step with the Great Unwashed Masses of division-focused cliques.

   I do not agree with everyone I served with in any variety of issues. But, in disagreement, we treat each other with respect and intelligence. It is because the bond we share with each other is more important than whatever might divide us.
'If America does not mean more to someone than their own image then America falls apart.' 

   Our individual experiences craft who we are. If someone does not experience diversity then they will fear it, without exception. If someone does not see the perils that can become of marginalized people, firsthand, then they will have no compassion or empathy. When people do not know how to create consensus or are unaware that this is necessary, then we are on the road of creating people who have the capability of becoming monsters. And, being sheltered in life creates a sense of entitlement, of imagined privilege and fear of what is not known or different.

   The military functions, any branch, because people must work together efficiently, without a lot of loose talk. If someone cannot be part of a team, will not work with other people in their unit then it is impossible for the unit to function correctly. Usually, people deficient in teamwork are vetted out of the service. In civilian life, though, these people are usually elected to high office. Who suffers? The nation, the republic, the ordinary Jane or Joe on the street.

   If America does not mean more to someone than their own image then America falls apart. Make no mistake about it: America is falling apart and in many ways has already fallen apart. Our metaphoric house is on fire; I suggest putting it out.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Where Do Guderian, Rommel Belong in Tank Warfare History?


I am the son of a U.S. World War II European combat veteran. My uncle, a 19-year-old LST driver for the U.S. Navy, was killed by the Germans at the Anzio Beach landings, in 1944. Most of my uncles fought the Germans during World War II. And, my family lived with my Dad's undiagnosed PTSD all our lives before he passed. During my early years, I was an intelligence analyst with the 4th Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Armored Division (Forward), in Garlstedt, Federal Republic of Germany in the 1980s. I wanted to qualify this up front, before i offered commentary about where German tank masters belong in history.
Erwin Rommel (circa World War I)

  I have biases, of course. But, I have stated them honestly: so, we can begin, I suppose.

  In important ways, Germany was a leader in the development of armor, armor tactics and combined arms tactics using armor as a centerpiece.

  I believe if you had to boil everything down to two central figures in German tank history, it would come down to understanding the contributions of two German Army officers: Generalfieldmarschall Johannes Erwin Eugen Rommel (1891-1944) and Generaloberst Heinz Wilhelm Guderian (1888-1954).

  During World War I (1914-1918), Rommel was an infantry lieutenant in France and Romania. While in this capacity, Rommel developed his own style of combat which involved covering fires with rapid troop advances. He also innovated the use of penetrating attacks, the doctrine of which were later used by the German Army as well as Allied Forces. This stylized approach amounted to the genus of the idea of "Blitzkrieg tactics" in the next war. Rommel did not play a role in the adoption of Blitzkrieg by the German Army of the late 1930s, but he certainly laid down the gospel of attack from which later leaders would place the tank at its center. These ideas were published by Rommel in 1935, in his book "Infantry Attacks." This work appeared after, the year before, he had written a  manual for infantry attacks for the German Army.

  It was Guderian who would go on to refine Rommel's ideas of attack, and codify them in a technique known in World War II as Blitzkrieg, or "Lightning War." During World War I, Guderian was a communications officer who commanded a radio station. Certainly, this must have given him an appreciation for close communications of units that he would remember later. However, when he was promoted to captiain, young Guderian was placed in command of an infantry company. Later during the war, Guderian would serve as a General Staff officer.

  Aster the war, Guderian became an admirer of World War I tank ace Ernest Volckheim (1898-1962). Guderian began to consume whatever he could about armored development and combat. In addition, he wrote scholarly military articles about the subject. By 1928, Guderian was considered the voice of Germany's armored development. And, by 1938, Guderian was promoted to the rank of colonel-general and placed in command of Germany's motorized forces and armored development. And it was during this time that Guderian brought together Rommel's concepts of attack with his own insights into armored development and the use of combined air into the Blitzkrieg strategy, which created a new doctrine in armored warfare, but heralded the darkest of times for Europe during World War II (1939-1945).

Guderian (circa World War II)
  During the war, Rommel learned a great deal from Guderian's insights. And, he applied them with vicious efficiency as a tank force commander. Rommel used armor so well, in fact, that for many of his enemies he was considered the armored warfare leader of the day.

  Well, after this bit of history, let's get into it about where these men belong in the history of armor. We can start with the elephant in the room: they fought for an unholy cause under the most evil leader in the history of humanity. Despite attempts by Rommel and Guderian apologists of the past half-century, the fact remains that no one became a field marshal or a general in Hitler's army by being against him. These men were pro-Nazi, whether or not they agreed with all the things Nazis believed in. Should someone get a pass if they say, "I was a Nazi, but I never believed in..."? In my view, one is either a Nazi or they are not a Nazi and both Rommel and Guderian were Nazis. Yes, later in the war Rommel did try to kill Hitler as part of a failed coups. But, whether or not the coups succeeded, Rommel was a Nazi. So, when I go forward from here there will be some words missing from my description of either of them. Some of these words will be 'good,' 'great,' or 'well-intentioned.' These men were master's of death and evil. But, their 'contributions,' such as they were, led to the advancement of armored theory. This cannot be denied, in my opinion.

  During the Interwar Years between World War I and World War II, perhaps Guderian was the most important figure in the development of the production and use of armor. In the United States, later advocates of armor like General George S. Patton Jr. had happily reverted to horse vavalry ways. At least, this was so until the world got a taste of what armor could do during the late 1930s.

  To be honest, Rommel and Guderian laid the bedrock of the use of the tank as the focus of a combined arms attack. Without them, perhaps the opening days of World War II would have started with ancient cavalry attacks waged against protagonists. In many ways, the combined arms theories used by modern armies have their origin in Blitzkrieg. It's probably not popular to say, but it is true that modern tank warfare's unlikely fathers were Rommel and Guderian. But, even after more than 70 years, it galls me to have to credit these guys with anything remotely relevent. But, even the Devil gets his due sometimes, and that is a very adequate saying to apply to this discussion.