Ghastly Victories: The United States in the World Wars

Part 5-20 European Wars, Columbia's Sword, Steel Talons, Revisionist Viewpoints
  • ...The Nationalists made no plans for a major offensive until Spring of 1938. Time was on their side and the Popular Front was growing weaker by the day. They planned to wait and raise new forces to cover for the withdrawal of the German Condor Legion and half of the Italian contingent. Fate however would have something else in store for them. It started with a simple bombardment of a Popular Front blocking position at the town of Puerto Rey by the Nationalist heavy cruisers Canarias and Baleares in January. A few hundred 8” shells and half as many 4.7” shells were lobbed at an exposed frontline coastal position and the reserves immediately behind it, more to justify the Spanish Navy’s postwar budget than anything else.

    That this bombardment resulted in the frontline forces fleeing and allowing their position to be taken by the Nationalists was not entirely out of left field. What was out of left field was the Nationalist forces acting aggressive enough to not only force the somewhat shaken reserves to withdraw but to seize the next river line before popular front forces could arrive. What was further unexpected was that the Popular Front forces immediately inland of there would disintegrate upon being outflanked rather than withdraw creating a true breach in the lines.

    The gap would only continue to grow as even modest attempts by Nationalist leaders saw tertiary Popular Front forces seem to disintegrate on contact. In an uncharacteristic display of initiative the Nationalist Corps commander in the area took the opportunity to push his reserves through a gap in the mountains and take the city of Cartagena. That alone should have been the end of it but the fall of Cartagena, along with so much other bad news broke Popular Front morale on the southern front.

    Blocking positions in the mountains of Murcia that should have taken Nationalist forces weeks and heavy artillery to break through often broke after the first desultory bombardments. Despite not wanting or planning it General Franco found himself with a general offensive going on as glory seeking commanders pushed their troops onwards. The Nationalist war leader quickly realized that he had to get ahead of things and deployed his air and naval forces to prevent the Popular Front from taking advantage of the overextended Nationalist forces.

    On February 20th the port of Alicante fell and the situation utterly collapsed for the Popular Front. Only Valencia was left to provide a source of supply for the Popular Front pocket in central Spain, and that city was within range of Nationalist heavy artillery. It was soon clear to everyone that the Popular Front forces were about to be cut off and morale already faltering collapsed on the western and northern fronts as well. Units shot their commissars and went home, while efforts to recruit emergency units of old men, young boys and women to replace them proved fruitless. Only a small hard core of communist fanatics remained to resist the Nationalist tide and they were quickly overwhelmed, by the beginning of April only Catalonia remained in Popular Front hands...

    -Excerpt from European Wars for Americans, Harper & Brothers, New York, 2004


    ...1937 saw the US Army reverse one of its long standing war plans. Until that point the Army had followed the lead of the Navy in the defense of the Philippines, given that the Navy had concluded for the past decades that they could not relieve the islands for at least 24 if not 36 months given a need to secure advanced bases and crash build auxiliaries, the Army had like them written the islands off. Nothing more than a tripwire force to deter rebellion and aggression was placed on the islands. If the Japanese attacked it was small enough to be an affordable loss, if the islands revolted it was large enough to hold Manila until reinforcements arrived. With the decision to grant the islands their freedom in 1944 rebellion became a distant concern as most would be rebels would not jeopardize a known date for American withdrawal and the Army garrison was drawn down further.

    In 1937 however Army plans began to change. There are a number of reasons for this. The famous but apocryphal story is that a racist Army observer at a Navy Wargame saw that the Navy rated IJN crews as being as good as their own and since “Nips can’t fight like White Men,” concluded that the Navy was sandbagging and actually could immediately relieve the islands. The actual reasons were…

    ...Army planning focused on holding the Bataan Peninsula. Doing so would deny the Japanese the use of Manila Bay and make retaking control of the Bay easier when the Navy Relief force arrived. Bunkered stockpiles and prebuilt defense lines would be created there, along with an internal railway to move troops and operate railway artillery. Several additional heavy coast artillery batteries would be placed to cover the western side of the Peninsula while airfields would be built to protect the skies.

    No plans were made to contest the beaches, given that it was assumed that the Japanese could bring together enough firepower to eliminate any beach defenses not covered by battleship grade artillery. This of course ignored that doing so was not IJN doctrine, something that the Navy would have been happy to point out.

    Similarly there were no plans to fight a mobile campaign on Luzon, as that approach was thought to expose the defenders to more casualties than a fixed defense of Bataan would and would not expose the IJA’s lack of heavy artillery that a fixed defense would. While true this approach would also neutralize the IJA’s greater relative lack of mobile artillery and motorized transport, something that would be especially felt given the bottlenecks imposed by over the beach logistics. This was a matter that the Marine Corps had studied extensively in the interwar era, yet like the Navy they were not consulted on the matter…

    ...An alternative plan was floated later on in 1938 with input from the Navy and Marines. It called for a mobile defense of Luzon from the beaches all the way back to Bataan, where a much reduced stand would take place. The forces freed up by a smaller force at Bataan would instead be used to fight a combined land and naval guerrilla campaign in the countless islands that made up the center of the Philippine archipelago. This plan was wargamed and found to potentially allow forces to remain in being until relieved, unless the IJN was prepared to pay a very steep price in blood and ships to force them out. The Army brass refused to consider this plan...

    -Excerpt from Forging Columbia’s Sword, The United States Army between the Wars, Norwich University Press, Northfield, 2009





    ...In 1937 Hitler formally established the Volkskampfverband or VKV as the successor to the myriad of Weimar era paramilitaries that had been unified as the Kampfbund with the creation of the German National Front. Following the Consolidation of the National Front into the SVP and the repudiation of the Versailles Treaty the paramilitaries had been allowed to languish and shrink. No longer needed for political purposes with Hitler’s consolidation of power and no longer useful as a hidden reserve with the expansion of the Heer the Kampfbund was surplus to requirements and generated too much bad PR with the law and order crowds to be worth it. By 1937 the organization was less than a tenth its 1932 size and shrinking.

    In 1937 however Hitler saw a use for it. Officially it was used as a source of military manpower that would not stress the already full training and expansion pipeline of the Heer that could be used for third lines roles in occupations or internal security. Unofficially the VKV was created to counter the possibility of a coup by the Wehrmacht. While Hitler had not discovered any of the conspiracies to oust him that had floated around the Wehrmacht High Command he was aware that he was not well liked and that many saw his course of action as exceedingly reckless. Thus he desired to break the Wehrmacht monopoly on military force…

    ...Another key motivation behind the creation of the VKV was that as a purely political and ideological creature it lacked the ingrained traditions of honor and duty that permeated the Wehrmacht. Thus the VKV could be used for dirty work that the Wehrmacht would refuse to stoop to. Given Hitler’s plans to “purify” the areas he conquered the need for a military force without a conscience was clear...

    -Excerpt from Steel Talons: Armed Forces of the Interwar, Dewitt Publishing, Los Angeles, 2011



    …The Myth of the Clean Wehrmacht is an enduring one in popular consciousness. The idea that the VKV was responsible for all, or almost all, of the bad things that the German military forces did in WWII is well accepted. Careful collation of data in recent years casts doubt on this. While data on many of the worst crimes of the German state during WWII is difficult to come by, to the point that records of many atrocities are undoubtedly lost, data from American and British Commonwealth military sources has survived intact. This paper will show that data indicates that the Wehrmacht carried out a significant number of warcrimes on its own, ranking third in confirmed cases per capita behind the IJA and VKV during WWII…

    ...An obvious reason for the scapegoating of the VKV was its relatively smaller size. Quite simply far fewer Germans served in the VKV than the Heer. Given that almost all German men of appropriate age, and many above or below that line, served in WWII, accusing the Heer of committing large scale war crimes would be akin to accusing the entire population, something obviously not popular with that population. Blaming a smaller minority was thus far easier politically...

    ...Collation of Americans and Commonwealth regimental histories shows that recorded POW massacres by Wehrmacht units occur only 40% less frequently than those by VKV units after adjusting for differences in frontline strength...

    -Excerpt from Revisionist Viewpoints in History Volume XXX, University of California Press: Berkley, 2020



    Okay no word on my laptop so still borrowing a computer to write these, corrections may be slow in coming
     
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    Part 5-21 Into the Abyss, Mass Destruction
  • …Events surrounding the brief war between Bolivia and Paragauy over the Chaco Desert in the early 30’s and H.C. Englebert’s popular 1935 book “The Merchants of Death” brought the topic of neutrality front and center. Engleberts book and the actions of several corporations in the Chaco War challenged well held notions about American Entry into WWI. Prior to that point the dominant narrative was of German diplomatic incompetence in sending the Zimmerman Note and failing to realize the consequences of Unrestricted Submarine Warfare. Failing that the next most common explanation was that American Entry was all Wilson’s fault for blatantly favoring the Entente in public, projecting weakness to the Germans and not building a sufficient military deterrent.

    Englebert’s book proposed an alternate explanation. American entry into WWI was caused by a cartel of financiers and munitions makers in a quest for greater profits, not by Woodrow Wilson or German incompetence. They were afraid of their gravy train coming to an end and engineered American entry to protect their investments. Englebert’s book struck enough of a cord amongst a population made skeptical of big business and high finance from the Depression that a senate committee was formed in 1936 under Senator Gerald Nye of North Dakota to investigate the Munitions industry.

    The Nye committee lasted two years and interviewed about 200 witnesses. It found that huge profits had been made by the arms industry during WWI, that there had been price fixing, bribery and collusion, that undue influence was exerted by financiers and the arms industry over American foreign policy. It did not find any evidence of an actual conspiracy of munitions firms and financiers, either current or historical, to promote warfare but deliberately did not dispel the notion in their reports, which were deliberately shaded.

    The Nye Committee recommended that the Arms industry be nationalized, that lending to belligerents be banned, that American travel on belligerent ships should be banned, that trade with belligerents should be banned in American hulls, that Arms exports should be banned to belligerents and tightly controlled otherwise and that foreign policy be subject to greater scrutiny.

    The Committee’s recommendations on foreign policy and nationalization were not acted upon, both proposals died in committee. What was acted upon were the proposals to restrict lending, trade and travel to belligerents. These were combined in the form of a Neutrality Act in early 1938.

    President Roosevelt was against the act, but he found that his options were limited. Large elements of his own party, especially in the South which through the seniority system controlled key committees, supported the measure. He could veto it, but in doing so he would alienate congressmen and senators that he needed to pass his New Deal Agenda. Instead he insisted that a sunset clause be inserted to end the Act after two years. This was accepted and the Act passed.

    Notably the Neutrality Act of 1938 did not cover civil wars, an oversight which would be corrected next year…

    -Into the Abyss: The leadup to the Second World War, Harper and Brothers, New York, 2009



    …On November 18th 1935 Scientists at IG Farben in Leverkusen Germany under Otto Ambros spilled a tiny quantity of the organophosphate compound Tabun as part of research into new insecticides. After experiencing debilitating side effects that sickened them for a month they determined that the organophosphate compound had definite applications as a chemical weapon. Per German law a sample was submitted to the chemical warfare section of the German Army Weapons Office at Spadnau.

    Ambros and his team were summoned to Berlin to give a demonstration for Colonel Rüdiger of the Chemical Weapons office in May 1936. After a successful demonstration a new laboratory was built in the Elberfeld suburb of Wuppertal to study organophosphate compounds…

    …An experimental plant for production of Tabun was set up at the German Army’s Munster training area in 1938. This was followed by a full scale plant at Krappitz in Silesia that started construction in 1939. The Krappitz Plant, operated by IG Farben subsidy Anorgana, would have a capacity of producing 10,000 tons a year when complete…

    …The Elberfeld Lab discovered three other organophosphate compounds of note. The first discovered in 1938 was named Sarin as a portmanteau of its discoverers names. This was followed by the variant Cyclosarin in 1941 and the related compound Soman in 1942, named from the Latin soma or sleep…

    …The Japanese Togo Unit was formed in 1934 at the town of Pingfeng in Manchuria after extensive lobbying from Colonel Shiro Ishii as a combined biological warfare, chemical warfare and experimental research unit…

    …The Togo unit quickly became infamous for its human experimentation. Its location in Manchuria allowed the unit to snatch victims right off the street for experimentation. Roughly 60-100 prisoners were consumed a month in such experimentation. The opportunity to do such work allowed the Togo Unit to attract many volunteers from the Japanese medical community…

    …Much of the human research performed by the Togo Unit was in addition to being completely monstrous, utterly useless. Poor scientific rigor was shown and many so called experiments proved to be simple displays of sadism from which nothing useful could be learned even if appropriate rigor was present…

    …The Togo unit studied use of plague, typhoid, paratyphoid, cholera, typhus, smallpox, anthrax, botulism, syphilis, gonorrhea and other diseases. By 1936 the first crude delivery systems for bubonic plague were ready for use…

    …The Togo Unit is notable for having only three known survivors of at least 10,000 experimental victims. Any survivors of the experiments were killed after their use was ended, with only three managing to successfully escape. Furthermore an unknown but large number of babies, usually children of the rape of female prisoners, were murdered in addition to the experimental victims themselves…

    …Little is known about the Soviet biological weapons program. It was established mere months after the USSR signed the Convention banning it. The program received priority in 1929 and tests were first carried out on the Aral Sea in 1936…

    -Pandora’s Children: Weapons of Mass Destruction, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2012




    Okay update delayed fortunately only by the thunderstorm and not the accident with the axe. Was planning to supplement this but then discovered the tree lying on the wires on my way home so will probably lose power again today for it to get fixed
     
    Part 5-22 Into the Abyss
  • …As 1938 wore on the weakness of Stiedle’s position as Chancellor grew ever more apparent. The Austrian SVP increased their pace of rabble rousing. Riots, violence and agitation increased in lockstep with German propaganda about the oneness of the German people. In February after requesting that Germany cease supporting the actions of the SVP in Austria and receiving a negative response, Stielde launched a crackdown on the SVP.

    Stiedle actions were met with more than just the expected condemnation from Germany. Sanna in Italy rapidly condemned the campaign as an unnecessary escalation that risked the fragile relations between Germany, Italy and Austria to Stiedle’s shock, having assumed that for reasons of realpolitik that Sanna would still back Austria. Without Sanna’s support Stiedle’s gamble failed as President Miklas and the rest of the cabinet came out against Stiedle’s actions. What little credibility Stiedle had began to evaporate.

    In order to avoid precipitous action by Germany Stiedle was forced to bring elements of the SVP into the cabinet, most prominently appointing Austrian SVP head Arthur Seyss-Inquart to the vacant position of Vice-Chancellor. This placed Stiedle in a very weak position and risked the SVP taking over should he be killed.

    Stiedle realized that this was merely a prelude to a German attempt to annex Austria. A fervent Austrian nationalist he spent the remainder of March and April attempting to rebuild a right wing coalition against the SVP. Despite support from President Miklas he soon found that there was little appetite to support him against the SVP in the ruling fatherland front. The Heimwehr paramilitary he had helped found was outside of his home province against him, the monarchists while against the SVP were pro unification and most of the other conservative groups saw the SVP as the lesser of two evils.

    Stiedle would have been content to try and keep working on the right had he not been placed under an effective time limit by Hitler. On April 24th Hitler declared on the radio that he would no longer tolerate the suppression of ten million Germans right next door to Germany. This was an implicit threat to Stiedle and he realized that he had to do something drastic if Austria was going to stay independent.

    Stiedle in May then decided to make a surprising move for someone of his background, he reached out to the left and far left. His Austrian Nationalism proved stronger than his conservatism and hatred of socialism and communism. He offered to legalize the Social Democrats and end the laws against them, even attempt to bring them into the government. In exchange he wanted them and the far left to support a referendum in June enshrining the principle of Austrian Independence.

    This was Stiedle’s big gamble, a statement of the Austrian people that they did not want to join Germany would allow him to remove the SVP from the cabinet and would deter Hitler from militarily intervening by making any attack look like blatant aggression. Of course Stiedle was aware that a significant portion of the Austrian population, if not a majority, wanted Austria to join Germany, even if that number was not quite so high in 1938 as it had been in years past. Stielde thus planned on manipulating the voting age to exclude as many disproportionately young SVP voters as possible and to use a variety of other legal tricks to discourage pro-independence turnout. Even with all of this Stiedle was quite aware that his gamble was likely to fail. In that event he planned to go into exile in Finland at the court of King Charles.

    Despite having a leader, Karl Renner, who was pro unification the Social Democrats agreed to Stiedle’s plan. Renner while wanting a united German state also thought that a better time would be after the SVP government fell and was replaced with a moderate regime. Thus the stage was set for an independence referendum on June 10th.

    News of this referendum outraged Hitler when it was announced. Even if the pro unification side won the referendum, a strong possibility even with Stiedle’s attempts at tilting the odds, it would be by a reasonable margin, not the overwhelming support that Hitler craved. It would be a blow to his ego and prestige that his homeland would have significant resistance to him.

    On May 25th Hitler ordered the Austrian SVP and German intelligence to work their utmost to create civil disorder in Austria. Following this German propaganda began announcing that the June 10th Plebiscite would be rigged and that there was large scale rioting in Austria on the 27th. The Austrian government fervently denied that the rioting was anything more than isolated provocations by the SVP the Germans were blowing out of proportion in an attempt to dissuade Hitler from intervening.

    On May 29th Hitler sent an ultimatum to Austria, Stielde would resign by noon on May 31st or else he would invade to restore order. Stiedle and Miklas spent the 30th attempting to drum up support from Italy, France and Britain, but quickly found that no help would be coming from that quarter. At 11:00 on May 31st Stiedle officially resigned and Arthur Seyss-Inquart was appointed Chancellor of Austria.

    On June 1st German armored columns entered Austria on Seyss-Inquart’s invitation to cheering crowds. Hitler followed later that day, beginning a four day triumphal tour that started at his hometown of Branau-am-Inn and ended at Heroes Square in Vienna. At the end of the tour Hitler and Seyss-Inquart officially announced the abrogation of the treaty articles forbidding the Anschluss and the official entrance of Austria into the Third German Reich…

    …On August 1st Hitler held a plebiscite to legitimize his annexation of Austria. An unbelievable 99.3% of the votes were for union with Germany in a blatantly rigged election. This was wholly unnecessary, as support was estimated at least 75% in August 1938, given that the senior representative of the Catholic Church in Austria and the head of the main opposition, the social Democrats, endorsed the Anschluss as both a done deal and in support of pan-German sentiments. Furthermore Hitler had purged 400,000 from the Austrian voter rolls, left wing supporters, Jews and Gypsies primarily, something that would further increase his margin. However Hitler wanted to show almost total support, even at the cost of believability…

    …Karl Renner of the Austrian Social Democrats was rewarded by Hitler for his support of the Anschluss and the subsequent antisemitic laws that followed with arrest and incarceration at Mauthausen concentration camp in 1941. He was later executed there in 1943…

    …Reaction to the Anschluss was fairly tepid internationally. While most governments recognized that it was not entirely voluntary, there was an undercurrent of acceptance that it was a done deal and most Austrians were satisfied with the new arrangements. Only Mexico protested vociferously as a matter of principle…

    …The Anschluss came at a necessary time for Germany. German foreign exchange reserves were down to six weeks’ worth. Based on their current balance of payments deficit they would have likely run out in four months and thus suffered an economic crash that would have wrecked their rearmament program. Acquiring Austria saw those reserves instantly triple and their balance of payments deficit be reduced substantially. Germany now had over a year at current rates of expenditure…

    …With France and Britain distracted by the Anschluss little note was taken when Italy occupied Albania on June 20th following a missed debt payment and effectively took control of the country…

    …The largest effect of the Anschluss was what it had on Czechoslovakia. The country had a 3 million strong German minority concentrated in the area known as the Sudetenland. This minority was growing increasingly restive as the Depression had killed the export industries that employed them and the Czech majority attempted to impose Czech on them. The government in Prague was well aware that Germany under Hitler might want to take those areas as part of his pan-German rhetoric.

    A large series of border fortifications were thus constructed effectively as strong as the Maginot line in France. Combined with a large army equipped by Czechoslovakia’s strong defense industry they would allow the Czechoslovaks to bleed any German invasion white, ideally long enough for international aid to materialize. The annexation of Austria provided the German Army with a route that avoided those fortifications, which placed the Czechoslovaks at a distinct disadvantage.

    The Stage had been set for the next step on the road to war…

    -Into the Abyss: The leadup to the Second World War, Harper and Brothers, New York, 2009

     
    Part 5-23 European Wars, Butchers Bill, Revisionist Viewpoints
  • …Following the unexpected rout and collapse of the Popular Front forces in the Southern Pocket the Nationalists moved up their plan to crush the remnants in Catalonia. This was not by as much as one would think, despite the conquest of the main Popular Front pocket being 3 months ahead Franco could only move up the offensive from August to July, given the need to garrison the liberated area and to replace expended munitions and fuel.

    The military leadership of the Popular Front was well aware that once this happened the Nationalists would win by the end of August. By this point while they had a quarter of a million men, only half had rifles, they had 30 planes, 20 tanks and 50 artillery pieces and morale was poor. The Nationalists had three times as many men, all with proper weapons, 500 aircraft, 200 tanks and 700 artillery pieces, furthermore their morale was great. The military leaders of the Popular Front thus called for a negotiated surrender to the Nationalists, figuring that the Nationalist Junta would rather the war end in May than in August and with a smaller butchers bill.

    This was vetoed by Prime Minister Juan Negrin, who had taken over from Manuel Azaña after the fall of Madrid. Negrin, or more precisely his Communist handlers was unwilling to consider peace. The exact reasons for this remain unknown but peace negotiations were explicitly off the table and the order of the day was to drag the war out as long as possible.

    The Communist refusal to consider negotiations alienated the other parties that made up the Popular Front. In previous times this would not have been a problem, given that the Communists had used Soviet weapons deliveries and volunteers as leverage to marginalize the other parties. Combined with some well timed assassinations, thuggery and blackmail and the Communists had by fall of 1937 taken almost complete control of the Popular Front. However with the collapse of the southern pocket it was clear that the cause was lost and Soviet arms deliveries slowed to a trickle while their volunteers withdrew. Furthermore the Popular Front was now confined to Catalonia, which was strong anarchist territory and had a local political base that the communists had utterly infuriated.

    This gave the Popular Front Military a base of support to prepare a coup. The Anarchists militias, such as they remained could seize control while the anti-communist military elements could neutralize the communist ones. The Communists could be removed from government and peace negotiations could occur while the Popular Front still had leverage. Planning for a coup took place during May with a planned launch date of June 6th.

    Unfortunately the Communists got word of the coup on June 3rd and launched a major roundup on the 5th, capturing most of the senior plotters. Despite this the coup still went off the next day, but in an uncoordinated manner more like a popular uprising. Communist loyal forces moved to intercept and a civil war within a civil war broke out. The Communists were able to take control of the cities, but the countryside rapidly fell to Anarchist militias.

    This miniature civil war had a deleterious effect on the front line which was quickly noticed by the Nationalists. On June 21st they launched their victory offensive. With the exception of certain hard core communist units the Popular Front Army evaporated. Most soldiers decided that they no longer cared who won and simply wanted to live to see the end of the war. By the 30th the Nationalists had reached the sea and only a handful of cities with Communist holdouts remained, and even those were few as many units shot their commissars and surrendered.

    By July 14th the last holdout surrendered and the Spanish Civil War was over. General Sanjurjo however would not live to lead the postwar government as he died of a heart attack at a victory party that night…

    -Excerpt from European Wars for Americans, Harper & Brothers, New York, 2004



    …In terms of military dead the Popular Front suffered approximately 110,000 while the Nationalists suffered 80,000. A further 10,000 foreign volunteers were killed fighting for the Popular Front, while the Nationalists lost about 2,000. The military death toll however is the easy part of the equation.

    Officially only about 100,000 civilians died during this period, of which the Spanish government attributes 90% to the Popular Front. This itself is a noted change from previous figures supported by the Spanish government that were both lower and further weighted against the Popular Front, but remains an underestimate according to most non-Spanish scholarly sources…

    …Based on Demographic estimates Latin American scholars have concluded the true civilian death toll of the Spanish Civil War is in the range of 250,000-350,000, from both deliberate killing and from causes such as malnutrition and exposure. The typical attribution is 60% of civilian deaths were caused by the Popular Front while 40% are attributable to the Nationalists…

    -Excerpt from The Butcher’s Bill: An Incomplete History of Wartime Casualties, New American Press, Chicago, 1996



    …Work by modern scholars has conclusively disproved the 90% Republican caused death toll in the Spanish Civil War. Further analysis indicates that the 60:40 ratio, created in the late 80’s by a number of Latin American researchers is itself a flawed underestimate. Based on newly released scholarship from the National Autonomous University of Mexico and the University of Buenos Aires it is clear that at a minimum the commonly accepted ratio must be reversed and the Nationalists be given responsibility for at least 60% of the civilian casualties of the Spanish Civil War…

    …Modern estimates are that in addition to wartime casualties a further 100,000-200,000 deaths are attributable to the Nationalist regime in the period immediately following the war of […]. Combined with the wartime civilian deaths attributed to them and the civilian death toll attributable to the nationalists Nationalist is as much as ten times as great as that attributed to the Republicans…

    -Excerpt from Revisionist Viewpoints in History Volume XXIX, University of California Press: Berkley, 2019
     
    5-24 Assassinations, Into the Abyss
  • …The death of General Jose Sanjurjo y Sacanell on the very night of the war’s end left General Francisco Franco in charge of the new Spanish government. As one of his first actions he arranged for Sanjurjo to receive a heroes funeral at the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, the holiest site in Spain, dedicated to Saint James the Moor-Slayer…

    …As the funeral party processed in a man who had entered disguised as one of the violists in the orchestra opened his case and pulled out a Thompson Submachine Gun that had been concealed American Gangland style. The Assassin managed to empty 37 of the 50 rounds in the Thompson’s drum magazine before he was wrestled to the ground. Six of those bullets struck General Franco. Franco was not killed outright but passed away two days later after heroic efforts by Spanish surgeons failed to save him…

    …The Assassin one […] was a known member of the Spanish Socialist Party whose family had fled into exile in France during the fall of Catalonia. This led to the official Spanish government explanation that this was a communist influenced plot to get some measure of revenge…

    …General Mola was a natural suspect for the assassination, given that he ended up inheriting power from Franco. Extensive investigation has not shown any connection between Mola and the plot…

    …The murder weapon in question was part of a consignment of a hundred ordered by a front company for the Union Corse. Another seven weapons of this consignment were later found in the possession of the Italain Military Information Service. This is perhaps the strongest circumstantial evidence in the case and it lends credence to the theory that Franco was assassinated by Sanna to place the more pliable Mola in charge of Spain. Mola had a much weaker base of power and was forced to rely on the strongly Fascist influenced Falangist Party to a far greater degree than Franco would have. Furthermore Sanna had a strong intelligence network in Southern France, one perfectly capable of threatening the assassin’s family as a means of coercion…

    -Excerpt from A History of Assassination, American Youth Press, New York, 2001



    …On August 1st 1938 a train derailed in Manchuria, in particular one carrying the first load of crude oil from the newly opened Daqing Oil Field. Suspecting sabotage the local IJA garrison quickly rounded up a dozen men who had been found with heavy work tools. After a rapid interrogation the men confessed to being paid by some of their relatives in the KMT to sabotage the railroad.

    In fact no such payment had been occurred. The men had been kidnapped days earlier precisely because of their relations. A clique of two captains, three majors and a lieutenant colonel had arranged the kidnapping and sabotage. They felt that the current Japanese government policy was too conservative on China and that in the model of the Kodoha movement they would have to lead the government into it.

    A Japanese infantry battalion stationed on the border then advanced to a neighboring village where the so called “paymaster” of the operation was living. The Japanese commander then demanded the extradition of the so called paymaster. After being refused he sent some of his men in to grab the man to take back to Manchuria for a trial by the puppet Beiyang government. On the way out however a party of KMT soldiers arrived and got in a firefight with the Japanese rearguard.

    The commander on the scene then requested reinforcements from the Kwangtung Army high command. The Kwangtung Army higher ups were well aware of what was going on, however they agreed with the motivations of the clique. They thought that the government was too timid in dealing with the Chinese and while not willing to start things themselves were willing to pour fuel on the flames someone else had lit. In their view the Chinese were getting stronger faster than the Japanese, it was better that a war start on their terms now rather than later.

    Large scale reinforcements immediately began to pour in from both sides and a series of battles were fought along the frontier as the situation escalated. In the view of the government in Tokyo this was a disaster, while not pacifists by any means the current government wanted to wait until 1942 to start a war with China, at which point a major military modernization program would be complete. At the same time they could not back down, doing so would see the Army Minister resign from the cabinet and bring down the government given both the Army and the general population were against backing down from the Chinese.

    The Prime Minister, with the blessings of the Emperor, thus authorized a major offensive to seize Peking. After this they would seek to negotiate a peace agreement where the KMT would be allowed to retain control of Hebei but it and Shantung would be demilitarized and possess Japanese garrisons. This would satisfy the militarists and popular opinion and not be too onerous for the Chinese.

    A major battle raged in Beijing for six days in early September. 150,000 Japanese troops crushed half their number of Chinese troops with superior firepower and took the city, along with the neighboring port of Tientsin. The Japanese then sent envoys to negotiate with Chiang Kai Shek.

    Upon hearing the terms Chiang quickly rejected them. While such a concession could have been possible earlier, the United Front made that impossible. Backing down like this would almost certainly mean a civil war and while Chiang would probably win it would leave him far weaker and vulnerable to further attacks by the Japanese who would slowly pick China apart piece by piece as the British had done to India. In this he had correctly divined the Japanese plan for China.

    The only way to avoid such a fate was an immediate full scale war. China was completely unprepared for such, Chiang had 50 German trained divisions which were acceptably trained and possessed of high morale, but even they were more poorly equipped than their Japanese counterparts. Most of his Army was barely more than a warlords levy or a militia, lacking in modern weapons and in an heavy weapons more generally. Some numbers of his troops had only swords such was the shortage of arms. In the air the situation was even worse, with the ROCAF outnumbered 7 to 1 by the Japanese. At sea there was no contest at all, with the Chinese possessing only two small cruisers and some gunboats against the third largest navy on earth. The only advantages China had were in manpower and geographic size, their only option was to drown the Japanese in Chinese blood and to exhaust their stores of blood and treasure over many hard years of war.

    It was a horrible strategy that would cost the Chinese oceans of blood and set back the country’s development by years even if they won, which was by no means guaranteed. Yet it was the only way forward that Chiang could see…

    -Into the Abyss: The leadup to the Second World War, Harper and Brothers, New York, 2009

     
    Part 5-25 Into the Abyss
  • …Following the seizure of Beijing and Tientsin the Japanese were content to wait while their negotiations bore fruit. Those cities and the surrounding territory was sufficient prize for a campaign. The Japanese leadership were wary of expending too much strength against the Chinese at any given time when the threat of the Soviet Union still loomed large in the North. Further advances could overstretch them to the point where Stalin might seek to take advantage.

    As the weeks wore on it quickly became clear that Chiang was not interested in negotiating with them. Thus the government and military leadership planned a limited scale offensive in Northeastern China to create a land bridge to Shangtung and control the lower reaches of the Yellow River. This plan played to the relative strength of the Japanese as the open spaces of the North China Plain would let their superiority in artillery and airpower tell the most, while allowing the better trained and disciplined troops freedom to maneuver.

    Chiang had however correctly guessed what the Japanese would attempt and made the decision to preempt them. He ordered his men in Shanghai to create a provocation so that the Japanese would have to respond there in force, rather than start a campaign elsewhere in China. Shanghai was chosen as it was in the heart of the KMT’s military strength in the lower Yangtze Valley, if he could inflict a severe defeat on the Japanese anywhere it would be there. The maze of waterways and wetlands surrounding the city would make Japanese maneuvers difficult while the urban terrain within the city would mitigate Japanese firepower. Finally as the most international city in China fighting there would arouse the most foreign interest and be most likely to lead to foreign intervention, something Chiang saw as the only way to avoid spilling an ocean of Chinese blood.

    There was however an enormous risk inherent in bringing the fighting to Shanghai. It was the largest industrial center in China, if lost it would have an enormous impact on the Chinese ability to fight back against the Japanese. Furthermore losing it would open up the road to the Nationalist Chinese Capital at Nanking, the loss of which would be catastrophic for the KMT’s political power and Chiang’s personally. Nevertheless it was the decision that Chiang made.

    On October 1st several off duty Japanese naval personnel were assaulted by an angry mob, with two killed. When the Japanese consul attempted to get those involved punished the day afterwards the Chinese “Peace Preservation Corps” stonewalled him. On October 3rd firefights broke out between the Peace Preservation Corps and the Japanese garrison in the city, escalating to exchanges of mortar fire by nightfall. The Japanese were compelled to prepare reinforcements for the city and abandon thoughts of a campaign in North China.

    Before those reinforcements could arrive the Chinese struck. The Chinese plan was to push the Japanese away from the wharves on the Whangpoo river to prevent them from immediately landing reinforcements at the battle site. Any reinforcements would then have to fight their way ashore elsewhere and would be forced to assault recklessly to relieve the Shanghai garrison, and thus expose themselves to more casualties, which would allow the otherwise inferior firepower of the Chinese to bleed them white. To do this Chiang had assembled 100,000 troops to attack the 5,000 sailors and 5,000 reservists and volunteers the Japanese had garrisoning the city.

    Almost immediately the Chinese attack ran into problems. The 150mm pieces that were their heaviest artillery could not defeat the concrete bunkers that the Japanese had constructed to protect their garrison. Thus the bunkers had to be suppressed with machine gun fire while men painstakingly crawled forwards with bundles of grenades or flamethrowers to knock them out. This was made even more expensive by the superiority in artillery provided by the Japanese warships in the harbor. When the Chinese air force attempted to sink some of those vessels, they instead ended up bombing the International Settlement killing several thousand civilians and costing them much of the international sympathy they were hoping to gain. Much of the painstakingly imported Chinese tank corps was lost in attempts to overrun the Japanese before reinforcements arrived, with their infantry coordination severely lacking even in the best cases.

    On October 8th the Japanese reinforcements began arriving and the Chinese plan started to unravel. Able to land uncontested, rather than having to conduct assault landings they were quickly able to stabilize the lines then start pushing the Chinese back. It was at this point that Chiang made his fatal mistake in the campaign. Rather than recognize that his gambit had failed and maintain a strong reserve for the next phase of the campaign he instead sent further reinforcements into the fighting in and immediately around the city. Most fatally he sent more of his precious German trained divisions. 10 of them were fully trained and fully equipped to an equivalency with the Japanese, 10 more were trained if not equipped and 30 more were partially trained, four of the first category, two of the second and six of the third had been committed already. Chiang’s decision to now commit them all would send his best and most loyal troops into an inferno.

    Fighting continued to escalate over the next month. The Japanese expanded the battlefield as they landed their troops outside of the city proper, clearing the way with levels of naval artillery fire that Chiang had not predicted. By the second week of November the Chinese air force which had thus far been able to check the Japanese was forced to retire from the combat area due to attrition and the Japanese were advancing on key logistics node at Dachang that the Chinese needed to keep fighting in Shanghai proper. Furthermore Japanese use of chemical weapons, officially at the behest of the Beiyang government to “suppress rebellion” and thus technically legal, made it difficult for the underequipped Chinese troops to stand in place.

    Chiang was urged by some of his advisers to withdraw from the city and preserve his troops. Fighting further inland would stretch out Japanese supply lines and eliminate the Japanese ability to use naval artillery. For reasons of diplomacy Chiang could not do this, a Conference of the Ten Powers, established by one of the London Treaties, was ongoing. Withdrawing from Shanghai would have sent the wrong message to the various powers, while staying was an indication of Chinese resolve to keep fighting the Japanese. Given that international support was the only way to end the war without enormous Chinese casualties or to replace heavy equipment Chiang felt he had no choice but to keep fighting.

    Despite ever growing numbers of Chinese reinforcements the Japanese continued to advance and on November 27th captured Dachang. This forced the Chinese to make a largescale retreat across the Woosung river, leaving a sacrificial rearguard to hold another four days in a desperate attempt to hold a warehouse at the outskirts of the city for PR reasons while the rest was abandoned. Chiang hoped to use the river to force the Japanese into costly assaults, however by this point the Chinese forces were so weak that it took a dozen of their divisions to match a single Japanese one. Worse the troops set to guard against Japanese amphibious flanking attacks had been diverted to fighting in the city. Thus on December 1st the Chinese were forced to retreat again to avoid encirclement as the Japanese threatened to both break through their front and to cut off their rear at the same time.

    On December 4th the official order to withdraw was given and the Chinese withdrew from their last positions near Shanghai. What little order and organization remained quickly disintegrated in the retreat as the 70 divisions had been chewed up and spit out in the defense of Shanghai effectively ceased to exist. The best trained and equipped units in the Chinese Army ceased to exist and the way to the Chinese capital was defended only by a few low quality units…

    …Chiang’s gamble at Shanghai turned into an enormous failure. The European members of the Ten Power Conference were too busy in Europe to intervene and the Americans were hamstrung by their neutrality acts, no foreign aid would be coming. The best and most loyal units and officers of the Chinese Army were lost. 95% of the city’s industry was either captured by the Japanese or destroyed, leaving only 5% to be relocated…

    …Following their victory at Shanghai the Japanese looked towards taking the Chinese capital at Nanking. They hoped that if they could capture that the Chinese would sue for peace and end this expensive war…

    -Into the Abyss: The leadup to the Second World War, Harper and Brothers, New York, 2009

     
    Part 5-26 Seeds of Hate, Ignition
  • …Serbian Ultranationalism, having emerged in the days before WWI and transformed itself in the days immediately following WWI, took on a new form during the reign of King Paul. Before that point the various Serbian nationalist organizations were concerned with assimilating the south Slavic but non Serbian populace of Yugoslavia into proper Serbs. With King Paul’s ascension to the throne any official moves in that direction stopped. Paul was a British educated liberal who had a model similar to Great Britain in mind for Yugoslavia, where Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Bosniaks and others remained separate nations working together as part of one country.

    For many Serbian nationalists this was seen as a betrayal. His Father, King Arsen, had tried to run Yugoslavia as a greater Serbia, with Serbs influence being paramount at every level of government. King Paul worked to run the country as a true federation and allowed non-Serbs far greater influence. For the traditional elite of Serbia this weakened their power, influence and prestige, as rather than rulers of a nation they were now rulers of a province in a federation…

    …Many Serb Nationalists saw the fact that over a million Serbs were living in Banovinas that were dominated by non-Serbs as a betrayal of their people. Only Serbs should govern Serbs they argued…

    …In the late 30’s Serbian nationalist groups began coalescing under the banner of the National Chetnik Union. Originally founded as an association of Veterans of the various WWI Cheta guerilla bands in 1921, by the late 30’s it became an umbrella group for Serbian ultranationalists. Its manifesto called for an independent ethnically homogenous Serb state consisting of about 85% of Yugoslav territory, along with land from Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania and Italy…

    …The Chetniks were heavily funded by Italain intelligence through a number of proxies. Funding them was considered a win-win for Sanna. If they took over, they would alienate all of Yugoslavia’s neighbors and allies and give Sanna a perfect causus belli to take what he desired from the country. If they failed they would weaken the Yugoslav state for whenever he got around to dealing with it.

    It was Sanna’s support that made the Chetniks a true power in Yugoslavia…

    …The defeat and dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire had left shockwaves in the Turkish Nation. The complete discreditation of Ottoman Imperial Institutions that had started even before the war left many turning towards secular Turkish Nationalism. The Apex of this was the movement to revise the Treaty of Sevres under Mustafa Kemal. However following the death of Kemal and the defeat of his movement by the Greeks this secular nationalism too was discredited…

    …With royalism and secular nationalism both discredited many Turks increasingly turned towards religion as an answer. The extant and traditional forms of Islam practiced in Turkey were closely linked with the Ottoman regime and were thus discredited in turn. This led to the rise a bewildering variety of itinerant preachers each peddling their own unique interpretation of Islam in hopes of attracting a following at the expense of local imams and mullahs. The most infamous and successful of these was Hasim “the Arab” Demir…

    …Born of an Arab concubine of an Ottoman Officer stationed in Medina Hasim the Arab followed his father into the Ottoman military in 1913. Obtaining the rank of Captain over the course of the war he was wounded in 1919, losing his left hand and two toes of his left foot, resulting in his discharge shortly before the end of the war. Lacking prospects given his wounds and the depressed economy of postwar Turkey, still nominally the Ottoman Empire, he ended up visiting his mothers extended family in the Najd.

    While there he spent a great deal of time studying the Quran and was quickly accepted into a Madrassa. There he flourished and became a devout follower of the local creeds. Following his graduation with honors he returned home determined to preach the true word of the Prophet to his father’s people…

    …Hasim’s preaching was radically different than the mainstream Ottoman interpretations of Islam. The Ottomans had in the main followed the liberal Maturidi theological creed and the liberal Hanafi school of Islamic jurisprudence. Hasim preached the strict Athari creed and the even stricter Hanbali school of jurisprudence to interpret it, in accordance with the teachings of the 18th century scholar al-Wahhab. He called for a return to the early days of Islam and an end to the decadence that brought about the fall of the Ottoman Empire, as it had so many other Islamic empires previously…

    …Hasim started his preaching in the city of Kayseri in 1930 where he quickly gained a large following. Showing a keen organizational mind in addition to a powerful oratory he quickly organized his greatest adherents to spread the word to other cities and towns, while still taking direction from him…

    …By the late 30’s Hasim’s movement had spread throughout the unoccupied portions of the rump Ottoman State and even within those portions to a degree. In those areas without foreign troops he was able to organize what amounted to a shadow government backed by a paramilitary militia modeled on the Arabian Ikhwan that had propelled the Saudi dynasty to power…

    …By 1940 the Ottoman government effectively ruled only the international zone of the straits, with the remaining area that was not controlled by colonial powers being effectively under the control of the so called “Iron Preacher’s” shadow government…

    -Excerpt from Seeds of Hate: The Origins of the Secondary Conflicts of WWII, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2018



    …Over the course of the 30’s the US Army Chemical Corps scaled up the 3” Infantry Portable Rocket, or Stovepipe as it was popularly known to larger sizes. A 5” and 8” rocket would replace the 6.1” and 9.4” mortars that had proved too immobile for their limited range and payload. Primarily these were to be used to disperse various chemical agents, though Smoke was the official payload of record, with secondary roles of delivering HE and incendiaries. The 5” model had a range of 10,000 yards while the 8” possessed a range of 15,000 yards…

    …By the late 30’s all three of the Germans, the British and the Soviets had rocket weapons in development. The French while having performed a great deal of research into rocketry did not have an active weapons development program for various budgetary reasons. The German and Soviet program were both focused on surface to surface use, as was the American one, while the British focused on anti-aircraft use. All three of the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom were pursuing rocket assisted takeoff as well…

    …By 1939 the US Army was growing dissatisfied with the 16.5” Coast Artillery Howitzer that it planned on using as a siege weapon in future wars. While fitting the goals set out for the program, simply transporting four of the weapons to Panama in peacetime proved an endeavor and a half. Deploying these weapons offensively in wartime, along with the standard 16”/50 coastal defense gun and the prototype 9.6”/100 long range harassment gun was now seen impossible to do in a timely manner. What the Army wanted was something that could fill the same roles but be at least as transportable as the 240mm howitzer and the 8” gun scheduled to enter service in 1941.

    The Chemical Corps large solid fueled rockets promised a solution to that conundrum. A goal was for three rockets, a short range weapon that could lob 400 pounds of explosive 24,000 yards or a heavy armor piercing shell 16,000 yards, a medium range weapon that could lob 200 pounds of HE 48,000 yards and a long range weapon that could lob a 50 pound charge 144,000 yards. The medium class weapon was quickly cancelled due to accuracy issues, being too inaccurate for its relatively limited payload and not serving as a mere harassment weapon as the long range rocket was…

    …Despite the Army’s preoccupation with solid fuel rockets, Robert Goddard in his role as their lead rocketry expert continued to press for the development of liquid fueled rockets. He argued that they were more scalable and efficient and were the ideal solution for the Army’s needs based on his personal research that had been funded by the Guggenheims. Army officials however preferred the simpler and more storable solid rockets they were familiar with…

    …Experiments in liquid fueled rocketry in Germany under Hermann Oberth as part of the Society for Space Travel were put an end to by the rise of the SVP. Despite a comfortable relationship with right wing paramilitaries getting initial funding in 1932 by 1934 Rudolf Nebel, the Society’s main contact with the government had thoroughly alienated his government handlers. Oberth, Engel, Nebel, Riedel and Ehmayr were thus treated with suspicion by the SVP government and were barred from working on weapons research before and during the war. This thus held back German rocket research in general and ended any serious work on liquid fueled rocketry in Germany…

    …The beginning of WWII forced Goddard to concentrate on his work for the Army and to end his work with liquid fueled rocketry. This marked the end of serious development in that field until the mid-1950’s when the United States and Soviet Union embarked on crash programs to design Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles capable of carrying Hydrogen bombs...

    -Excerpt from Ignition: A History of Rocketry, Harper & Brothers, New York, 2015
     
    Part 5-27 Into the Abyss, Airpower
  • …Following the capture of Shanghai the Japanese moved quickly to follow that up with a capture of the KMT capital at Nanking. Generalissimo Chiang wanted to defend the city for the same reason he so tenaciously held on to Shanghai, as a symbol of Chinese resistance that could rally international support. His advisers however were unanimous in opposing this. Nanking had no natural barriers to an attack from the direction of Shanghai, that his troops were still exhausted from defending that city and the Yangtze River would cut off any possibility of an organized retreat from the city. Instead they proposed to retreat inland, trading space for time to rebuild the army and to overstretch Japanese supply line. Eventually a number of Chiang’s advisers came around to his view and the decision to defend the city was made.

    150,000 troops were assembled to defend the city, including 20,000 “elite troops” and most of the KMT’s remaining tanks. Nanking’s stone walls, already 65 feet high and 30 feet wide were slathered with machine guns while weak points were reinforced with up to 20 feet of concrete and sandbags. Two outer lines of trenches were dug in semicircles to defend the city beyond its walls while a scorched Earth campaign was conducted to deny the Japanese supplies. The remnants of the Chinese air force were gathered at a number of airbases to provide some defense against Japanese bombing

    On December 10th the Japanese launched their assault on the city. 50,000 men advanced in two columns, while a gunboat flotilla moved up the Yangtze. The Japanese quickly found Chinese resistance on the way to be minimal, advancing up to 25 miles a day, far ahead of their planned schedule. Japanese troops traveled light, living off the land and carrying a minimum of ammunition. This was made possibly by a complete air superiority, as the Chinese were concentrated on defending the city itself, the lack of Chinese anti-armor weaponry to counter the few tanks the Japanese brought, and the practice of concentrating defenses on single elevated points, leaving them vulnerable to flanking attacks.

    On December 16th Chiang, despite vowing to fight to the last for the city, left for Hankow. He was followed on the next day by the rest of the KMT government and the municipal government of the city. Civil control of the city effectively passed to a group of foreign missionaries and businessmen.

    On December 20th the Japanese arrived and summoned the garrison of the city to surrender. The commander of the garrison refused and the Japanese attacked the city the next day. The outer defensive lines were breached on the 22nd, and the city walls on the 23rd due to aggressive Japanese attacks and the effective disintegration of the defending forces. Poorly trained, poorly armed and already tired and disorganized from Shanghai the defending garrison could not effectively resist. The order was given on the 24th to retreat, however by this point it was too late as the Japanese had surrounded the city by land and sea. The remaining Chinese soldiers shucked their uniforms and weapons and tried to blend in among the mass of refugees in the city.

    On December 25th the Japanese took control of the city. The prewar population of a million had dwindled to half that, and included a large number of local refugees rather than city dwellers. Approximately half of this population, a quarter of a million, was located in a safety zone established by the foreign business men and missionaries in the center of the city. This group at least would be safe from what followed.

    In an unparalleled orgy of violence the Japanese army killed and raped its way through the city for six weeks in what was known as the Rape of Nanking. The infamously harsh discipline of the IJA broke down and the enlisted and lower ranks embarked on a campaign of murder supposedly sparked by rumors of Chinese soldiers conducting guerilla attacks in plain clothes. An estimated 200,000-300,000 Chinese civilians were murdered and 20,000-30,000 women were raped in the areas of the city outside the control of the foreign committee…

    …At Nanking Chiang lost much of his best remaining troops and equipment in a futile defense that inflicted minimal losses on the Japanese. This mistake would be felt for the rest of the Sino-Japanese war and beyond…

    …Following the victory the Japanese sent terms of surrender to the Chinese, ones even harsher than before the battle. These were rejected, and even the pre battle terms would have been. Galvanized by the Rape of Nanking the Chinese moved their capital to Wuhan and vowed to fight on…

    …The Rape of Nanking firmly poisoned international opinion against the Japanese. They were quickly regarded as a threat almost as bad as or worse then Hitler and the first diplomatic actions were taken against them. In particular was the American modification of their Neutrality Act in early 1940 to allow sales of arms to belligerents if paid in cash and transported in foreign bottoms…

    -Into the Abyss: The leadup to the Second World War, Harper and Brothers, New York, 2009


    …By the end of 1938 the transition to low winged monoplane fighters with retractable landing gear was well underway in almost all of the major powers. The exceptions were in Britain and France. In Britain a combination of conservatism, the budgetary demands for more bombers and a desire for rate of climb above all else allowed the biplane to hang on longer there, with major orders only coming that year. In France while the potential of the monoplane was recognized, the problem was the French aviation industry. The French Aviation Workers Unions, strengthened by the socialist Blum government, imposed restrictive requirements on the industry that slowed production. When one took into account the constrained nature of French budgets, the result was a glacial replacement of older aircraft by the standard of the era. In effect both countries were at least a year behind the Germans and Italians at the start of 1939 in terms of fighter aircraft, an effective eternity in that time period…

    …One Blind Alley stumbled upon by the British was the concept of the turret fighter. With a primary armament located in a powered turret behind the cockpit, they were meant to be able to attack bombers from unexpected angles through use of special deflection sights. In practice the armament mounted in the turret was too light to deal with later bomber designs and the weight and drag of the turret left them slower and less maneuverable than more conventional contemporaries…

    …The prewar Chinese Air Force was effectively destroyed by the end of 1938 and the Japanese were free to conduct strategic bombing almost totally unhindered. Despite a lack of air cover and a shortage of AA constant Japanese attacks, first against Wuhan then against Chungking. Such attacks, effectively a textbook case in the use of strategic airpower, failed to break the morale of the Chinese. It was a lesson that others air arms would have done well to learn, rather than ignore…

    …With the destruction of its prewar air arm the Chinese was forced to rely on foreigners, first Soviet “volunteers” and later American volunteers to prevent total Japanese air supremacy in the Chinese theater of war…

    …By the beginning of 1939 both Germany and Italy had stood up division strength airborne units. Both countries had a well developed doctrine for their use and other countries were not far behind. It was however this experience with large scale airborne use that caused the Germans to realize a key weakness, namely a lack of heavy weapons available to parachute troops. Drawing on their experience in building up a corps of pilots in defiance of the Treaty of Versailles the Germans came up with the idea of using gliders to land heavy weapons in support of their paratroopers…

    -Excerpt from Airpower!, Dewitt Publishing, Los Angeles, 2010

     
    Part 5-28 Into the Abyss, The Third Way, Steel Talons
  • …The 1938 Midterms saw FDR’s New Deal Coalition retain control of both Houses of Congress, if narrowly. The Democratic majorities had fallen to 70 and 305 respectively, but enough progressive democrats remained to ensure a majority of the Democratic party, which combined with the progressive elements of the Republican Party, and the few Democratic-Farm-Labor congressmen. This allowed Roosevelt to expand his New Deal. The primary focus of this expansion was on TVA inspired development authorities. The Columbia River Authority, Appalachian Mountains Authority, Mississippi Delta Authority, Colorado River Authority and Alaska Development Authority being the most famous…

    …1938 saw the abuses of the Volkist state reach new heights of depravity. The Volkist Eugenics laws began to be enforced with greater stringency, not only sterilization on the American model, but also the first uses of compulsory euthanasia. Such acts were limited compared to what was authorized by the need of the German economy, on a de facto war footing, for labor. Thus only those incapable of work were euthanized, even if the laws permitted a broader application…

    …As part of a German policy since 1933 there was a movement to expel Jews from the country. It was not cared where they would go, so long as they left. In 1938 the decision was made to require the renewal of residency of all foreigners in Germany, with undesirable groups such as Jews not being granted a renewal outside of exceptional circumstances. For 17,000 Polish Jews this became a problem as the Polish government had cancelled their citizenship, when the Germans tried to deport them to Poland, the Polish officials would not allow them in.

    The now stateless Jews of Polish origin in Germany were rounded up and placed in a temporary concentration camp near Kolmar, the first specifically for Jews. Confitions in the camp were bad, though better than the later camps and the Jewish population attempted several escapes. During one of those escapes three guards were stabbed to death. This triggered the so called “Purim” Pogrom of 1939.

    Officially the Volkist claimed that is was a reaction to the deaths of the guards. In practice the pogrom had already been planned for a while, the stabbings merely set the date. Volkist officials had been itching for an excuse to loot German properties and the treasury saw a major pogrom could trigger large scale Jewish emigration and thus a legal excuse to confiscate Jewish wealth under the capital flight laws inherited from the Weimar Republic.

    On the Jewish holiday of Purim angry mobs led by the Gestapo, Volkist party officials and VKV units engaged in arson, looting, assault and murder directed at the Jewish community in Germany. Between suicides, murders and deaths in custody the Purim pogrom killed over 1,000 jews, with 30,000 arrested, 7,000 businesses destroyed, and 265 Synagogues destroyed. It was widely reported on and drew massive international condemnation. The former Kaiser Wilhelm II even stated that it made him feel ashamed to be German…

    …One of the most notable complaints about the Purim Pogrom was from the German Treasury, who were upset that so many Jewish assets were destroyed rather than compensated. Better to have killed ten times as many Jews they said than to have destroyed so much valuable property…

    …The Purim Pogrom triggered a major flight of German Jews, turning a flow into a flood. However most could not flee far, and even those who could flee often found difficulty in finding a country that would take them as many countries saw the Jewish refugees as undesirable…

    …The Purim Pogrom was not popular among the German public, and the Volkist government was forced to launch major propaganda campaigns to whip up greater racism in the German population…

    …1938 saw the last Soccer World Cup held in France, where the Italain team knocked out the hosts in a 3-0 game in the final round. The Second World War would break out before the 1942 World Cup could be hosted and would result in its cancellation. By the time most nations had sufficiently recovered to participate in such an event interest had faded and Soccer would lose its position as the world’s preeminent sport…

    -Into the Abyss: The leadup to the Second World War, Harper and Brothers, New York, 2009


    …American Socialism arguably reached its peak in 1938 with the election of Jasper McLevy, the only Socialist Governor in American History, after the sudden death of the popular Connecticut Governor Wilbur Cross and the nomination of two relative nonentities allowed the Bridgeport Mayor to reach the State’s top office. McLevy was the most prominent example of the uniquely American school of Sewer Socialism, that held a pragmatic focus on public works rather than high minded ideals. Thus it was a far more moderate tendency and one that echoed the ideals of Mussolini and Sanna, rather than clinging to the gospel of Marx. Such Sewer Socialism was an important forerunner of the postwar American Fascism…

    -Excerpt from The Third Way: A History of Fascism, American Fascist Party Presshouse, Jersey City, 2008



    …By the end of 1938 most armed forces had evolved through parallel means into a similar armored doctrine. This called for a slow heavily armored tank to support infantry, and a fast lightly armored one to replace the horse in the role of cavalry. The Soviets were among the first with the T-29 Infantry Tank and the BT series of cavalry tanks, both mounting the same 45mm gun, along with the tiny T-30 Tankette and the amphibious T-32 tankette. The T-29 was thought to be inadequate and development had yielded the larger multi turreted T-34 with a 76mm gun and 5 machine guns, which was supplementing it. This was unsatisfactory to Stalin and work was underway on the T-39 “Land Battleship” with 1 76mm gun, 2 45mm guns and 7 machine guns. Upgrades of the BT series, T-29 and T-32 continued as well alongside the development of larger vehicles.

    The French had developed a series of relatively well armored infantry and cavalry tanks. Internal politics meant that they were concurrently building 3 of each, as Renault, Schneider, AMC and SOMUA each had to be given sufficient work. By 1939 the standard French Cavalry tank had a 47mm, while light infantry tanks had a 37mm gun, and heavy ones a 75mm howitzer in the hull and a 47mm gun. Plans were underway for a superheavy with a turreted gun in the 75-105mm category along with a continued iteration on their existing designs. While on paper the French designs were among the most capable, they achieved this by having poor ergonomics, 2 or 3 man crews and most lacked radios for budgetary reasons.

    The British in the interwar had focused on light tanks for colonial use to save on budget. This had been recognized as a problem and by 1939 the deployment of a proper cruiser and infantry tank had started. The Cruiser tanks would standardize on a 40mm 2pr gun, while the infantry tank was a 2 man vehicle with a machine gun. A larger 3 man infantry tank with a .55 caliber machine gun and a still larger 4 man tank with a 75mm howitzer are in development, along with faster and more reliable Cruiser tanks. The British infantry tanks are perhaps the best armored tanks in the world at the time, achieving that by being highly compact while the Cruiser tanks are not that well armored and unreliable but surprisingly ergonomic with 3 man turrets. Both are lacking radios outside of command tanks for budgetary reasons.

    The Germans had transitioned from the training model Panzer III to the interim Mark IV with its 20mm gun. Work on the Panzer V Infantry Tank was occurring as planned and the first units were already equipped by the start of 1939. The Panzer VI Cavalry Tank was much more troublesome, as the requirements to outrun and outgun the Soviet BT tanks required an extremely ambitious engine, transmission and suspension design. There were thus proposals to make a series of Panzer V with the 5cm AT gun instead of the short 7.5cm infantry support gun and a stronger engine as a stopgap cavalry tank. While relatively lightly armed, armored and relatively slow for their size the German tanks were highly ergonomic, all equipped with radios and with the Panzer V had transferred to the modern 3 man turret. Despite an articulated requirement for a super heavy tank the Germans at this point had no active design work for one.

    The Japanese had a variant of the typical Infantry/Cavalry Tank dynamic. For internal political reasons they could not call their cavalry tanks as such, because infantry controlled the tanks in the IJA, instead they were called armored cars. Unlike most powers whose cavalry tanks were equipped to fight other tanks, the Japanese instead operated tankettes with machine guns in that role, rather than anti-tank guns. Their infantry tanks were also relatively lightly armored designs with 37mm guns, or on the newest 57mm low velocity guns in two man turrets, as they did not expect to face much armor. The Japanese also had a variety of 37mm armed amphibious tanks which were used by the IJN, as the IJA and IJN did not cooperate and the IJN wanted something for use in amphibious landings. A general Japanese scarcity of electronics prevents them from issuing radios to all their tanks.

    The Italians were one of the exceptions to the interwar infantry/cavalry tank dichotomy. They determined that in the theaters they planned to fight armored cars would be just as useful as cavalry tanks. Instead they focused on infantry tanks, but not to the point of making them too slow to maneuver. By 1939 most of their tanks were light models, the 13.2mm armed L5/34 or the 20mm armed L6/38, however the first M16/39 were entering service. This was a stopgap for a later design, but still had a 47mm gun in a three man turret, a radio, acceptable armor and adequate speed. It was to be replaced in 1941 by a well armored tank with a 65mm gun. The Italians were also producing a variety of tanks for export with 13.2mm, 20mm, and 37mm guns which would equip a variety of secondary nations.

    The Americans were the other main exception to the infantry/cavalry tank dichotomy of the interwar period. American tanks had been exclusively under the control of the infantry, thus only infantry tanks and light tanks for colonial use had been built, with the cavalry building well-armed halftracks. By the end of 1938 the infantry lost exclusive control of tanks, but Congress would not appropriate funds for a separate infantry and cavalry tank. Thus the existing infantry tank was to be upgraded with a higher velocity engine and more powerful 75mm gun to serve both branches. In addition the US Army and Marines had both upgunned their light tanks, the Army to a .60 caliber AT machine gun and .30 caliber coax, the Marines to a 20mm Swiss Solothurn Cannon and a .30 caliber coax.

    The lesser European Tank building nations of Czechoslovakia, Sweden and Poland did not follow the infantry/cavalry tank dichotomy for more practical reasons. Namely that they could not afford to operate multiple types of tank. All three were producing 37mm armed light tanks by the end of 1938, the Czechs had the best design with the best speed and armor, while the Poles had the worst. The Czechs were further planning on replacing it with a 47mm armed design in the near future, while the Poles and Swedes had no such plans, preferring to stick with slightly improved 37mm vehicles…

    -Excerpt from Steel Talons: Armed Forces of the Interwar, Dewitt Publishing, Los Angeles, 2011
     
    Part 5-29 Naval History
  • …The late 30’s saw a fad for anti-aircraft cruisers emerge following the sinking of the Jaime I. The United States, Great Britain and Italy all built new ships, while Britain and Japan converted older ones and the United States considered doing so. The Americans considered converting their Omaha class cruisers to AA ships with 4-6 twin 5” DP guns, but found that conversion would be expensive and produce highly compromised ships. Instead a class of 7500 ton cruisers was built with 6 twin 5” guns and a heavy 1.1” secondary battery, designed so that the hull was easily adaptable to a third class “emergency cruiser” with 6 6” and 6 5” guns that could be built on smaller slipways.

    The British converted several of their C class cruisers to AA ships, early conversions with 10 single 4” guns, later conversions with 4 twin mounts. Furthermore British construction of 5500 ton cruisers switched from vessels with 6 6” guns to vessels with 8 5.25” DP guns, contemporary with the shift to also building large 6” gunned cruisers for facing enemy cruisers instead of just small 5500 ton trade protection vessels.

    The Italians had started building their 4000 ton Capitani Romani class vessels as answers to the French super destroyers. Being very lightly armored but extremely fast ships they were rated as AA cruisers by virtue of their 8 135mm DP guns on such a small hull, even if doctrinally they were scout cruisers or heavy destroyers.

    Finally the Japanese converted their Tenryu class cruisers into AA vessels. Originally plans for conversion foundered on cost grounds, however following both ships being damaged by Chinese bombers the cost of converting them was not significantly more than repairing them. The two vessels were given an armament of 8 12.7cm DP guns. Similar modifications were performed on the larger cruisers Kuma and Tama following their grounding while performing gunfire support…

    …A general trend following the collapse of the Naval Treaty system was an increase in ship size. While the gentlemen’s agreement not to build a destroyer above 2,000 tons or a cruiser above 12,500 tons remained, attempts to fit more units into a limited total tonnage by building smaller were gone. While primary capabilities, armament, protection and speed were improved, much of the extra tonnage was devoted to secondary capabilities, seaworthiness, reserve buoyancy, endurance, and crew space, which had all been compromised on during the treaty era for more direct combat power.

    This was most noticeable in the US were the post collapse light cruiser design gained 2500 tons over its treaty era counterpart in exchange for a modest increase in torpedo defense and 4 extra 5” guns…

    …With the Japanese invasion of China and an incipient naval arms race the United States ended up revising its long term plans. A goal of 30 battleships and 10 battlecruisers was decided on to be the core of the fleet, along with 10 aircraft carriers. This would allow two nine ship squadrons of battleships in the Pacific and one in the Atlantic, with a three ship division in reserve in case of long term lack of availability due to refits. A similar scheme was considered for carriers and battlecruisers, but by divisions with a single reserve ship. This would mean that no capital ships would be retired until the 1945, assuming that the trend of two ships per fiscal year along with the four ordered in 1936 continued.

    Therefore the 14”/45 armed ships would be retired by 1948, and would receive improved light AA and a minimal radar fit. The 14”/50 armed ships would serve until 1950 and see their casemated 5” guns traded for increased AA and comprehensive radar fits. The Colorado class battleships would serve until 1952 and receive superstructure rebuilds with 16 5” DP guns, larger torpedo bulges, increased light AA and comprehensive radar fits. The South Dakota class would serve until 1955 and get deep rebuilds similar to the Lexington class Battlecruisers for improved deck armor, torpedo defenses and 20 5” DP guns.

    The expected pattern of capital ships construction would be 2 battleships each in FY 1937, 1938, 1939 and 1940, two battlecruisers in 1941 and two battleships a year until 1952. Increased authorizations would see an accelerated retirement of existing vessels unless there was an imminent threat…

    …By the end of 1938 the French had noticed a rather serious flaw in their new Richelieu class battleship. Namely that the main battery was close enough together that a single torpedo or mine hit could knock out all 8 guns. Construction on the first two vessels had already started, however the next two vessels could be so modified. The third vessel would be lengthened by 10 meters, to allow an additional 6 meters forward between her main battery turrets, and an additional 4 meters aft to modify the secondary turret arrangement to fit four triple 155mm turrets, with two centerline and two wing, increasing tonnage to 42,000 tons. The third vessel would be further lengthened and be modified with her main battery split between fore and aft, with all four secondary turrets on the centerline superfiring, necessitating a 43,500 ton displacement…

    …The first large battleship of the Stalin’s great naval buildup was laid down in 1938 and it was quickly obvious that claims of being 45,000 tons were a lie. Italain spies were able to determine that she had a 420mm belt, which combined with her other characteristics they knew of led them to calculate she was at least 52,000 tons standard, about 7,000 tons short of her actual displacement. This fact was used as an excuse by the United States, Italy and Germany to all publicly admit their future battleships would be above 45,000 tons, though only the Germans would lay down a new ship before 1940. Japan would use it to claim their second pair of Yamato class was 50,000 tons rather than 45,000 tons, though they stuck to the former claim for the original pair…

    …By 1939 the Soviets were having serious development problems with their 305mm gun that was planned for their new battlecruisers. Attempts to make a weapon with a muzzle velocity of over 900 meters per second, 1000 with an HE shell, resulted in a gun with a barrel life of under 50 rounds. Correcting this proved very troublesome for Soviet technology without heavily compromising on performance…

    …The Soviet Naval buildup was viewed with alarm by the Swedish. While knowing that they could never match the Soviet Battleships, the buildup of cruisers presented a threat as they were powerful enough to defeat their older coastal defense ships which were only armed with 2 8.2” guns. Thus to replace the oldest four coastal defense ships an extra pair of vessels would be ordered to complement the four modern Sverige class, along with a considerable number of smaller units. Built to an Italain design the vessels would have 6 11” guns in twin turrets, with one fore and a superfiring pair aft, 25 knots speed, armor comparable to the Sveriges and a 10 gun secondary 6” battery…

    …The heightened tensions in Asia saw the Dutch decide to finally order proper capital ships in 1938. Based on their successful cooperation with Germany they ordered a slightly smaller version of German’s Scharnhorst class light battleship. Swedish 11” guns would be substituted for German 30.5cm guns, armor would be reduced, horsepower increased and the secondary battery would be 16 Bofors 4.7” DP guns. These three ships would ordered alongside an extra pair of light cruisers to form the core of the Dutch East Indies defense force…

    -Excerpt from Naval History Between the Wars, Harper & Brothers, New York, 2007

     
    Part 5-30 Into the Abyss, Revisionist Viewpoints
  • …Following the Anschluss Hitler’s eyes turned towards the east and Czechoslovakia. Twenty Two and a half percent of the country was made up of ethnic Germans, predominantly living in the border areas of the country known as the Sudetenland. This group had been largely marginalized in the formation of the state, which had been a Czech and Slovak nationalist project. The grievances of the Sudeten Germans were largely ignored by the government at large and when the Depression hit two thirds of the unemployed in the country were Germans, as the government in Prague decided that support industries in ethnically Czech lands and Slovak farmers was of higher priority.

    As a result of this in 1933 the Sudeten Volkspartei, or the SuVP to distinguish it from the SVP, was formed. Entering an alliance with the Carpatho-German Party representing the ethnically German areas of the Carpathian mountains in Czechoslovakia, the party became the second largest in the country by 1935, showing a shocking degree of support among the German population. No less then 90% of the ethnically German population voted for the SuVP by 1938. Originally the SuVP had advocated a union with Austria, by 1936 that had shifted to a desire for a union with Germany as the SVP gained in influence and the success of Hitler’s Germany at revising the Versailles order became more apparent.

    It was not for this reason that Hitler turned his eyes towards Czechoslovakia. He personally cared not for the plight of the Sudeten Germans, even if he publicly stated otherwise. Rather it was for the countries industry not its German population that he was covetous. Czechoslovakia had inherited almost 80% of the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s industry, placing it at number 10 in the world. Especially important was the Skoda Works in Pilsen, one of the worlds biggest arms conglomerates and a major producer of tanks and heavy naval equipment. Control of this industry would make Germany significantly stronger and accelerate Hitler’s rearmament timetable by years.

    To this end in October 1938 soon after the Anschluss had officially concluded Hitler ordered that plans be drawn up for an invasion of Czechoslovakia while he took the SuVP under greater control. In January 1939 the SuVP under its leader, the former gymnastics teacher Konrad Henlein released a program of demands to the Czechoslovak government. The Karlsbad program called for Germans to receive full equality with Czechs in various ways, a German autonomous area in the Sudetenland and reparations for actions against ethnic Germans by the Czechoslovak state. This program was specifically intended to be impossible for the Czechoslovak government in Prague to agree to by Hitler, thus a reason for violence to emerge. Indeed the Czechoslovak government refused the autonomy and reparations portion of the program soon after it was presented, with violence starting immediately afterwards as an SuVP associate torched a post office.

    Hitler planned that violence would escalate over the winter and spring, in time for a war in June. However in April after various acts of terrorism by the SuVP had already started Hitler pushed back his invasion to August after the Heer stated that they were unready for a major war in June. This resulted in tensions briefly lowering before spiking again in July as incidents by of violence by the SuVP resumed. The Czechs conducted a partial mobilization and began asking covertly for backing from the other powers.

    The Soviets were willing to honor the alliance they had made, but stated that actual aid depended on Poland or Romania and Hungary allowing them through, as they lacked a land border. The French were willing to go to war, so long as either the British or the Soviets did as well, but they would not do so alone. The British were not willing to go to war, but sent a peace mission to try and persuade the Czechs to back down.

    Seeing public support for the Czechs by the French the Heer asked for another delay to allow work of the Westwall fortifications to further progress and deter the French from interfering. Hitler begrudgingly approved of this, but stated that this would be the absolute last delay. The invasion of Czechoslovakia would take place no later than October 15th no matter what. Actions by the SuVP slowed down once more in August before heating up in September. 750,000 troops were moved to the Czech borders as an act of intimidation while newspapers played up supposed Czech atrocities against Germans.

    The Czechs at this point realized that not only did the Germans want war, but that they would receive no help from abroad. The French were ambivalent, the British were begging them to give in and the Soviets had no way to intervene. The Italians were willing to guarantee their independence, and only that, but at the price of renouncing their alliance with the USSR. Their neighbors in Poland and Hungary both had territorial grudges against them, and would be just as happy to join the Germans in attacking them. Thus the Czech President Edvard Benes decided to agree to the SuVP demands of the Karlsbad program.

    This move came as a shock to Hitler, who had expected the Czechs to fight tooth and nail. He ordered the SuVP to step up provocations, and shortly afterwards several SuVP parliamentarians were arrested, giving them a cause for more demonstrations. By October 1st there was a near revolt going on in the Sudetenland as border skirmishes between the Heer and the Czechoslovak Army occurred daily.

    Many of Germany’s leading generals began to worry as the French announced their support of the Czechs, and the Soviets began mobilizing. The Czechs alone possessed an army 40% as large as Germany’s and one that was well equipped and on the defense with fortifications on much of the border and decent defensive ground. Combined with the probability of intervention and it was feared that Hitler was about to lead them into an unwinnable war. Thus plans were made to coup Hitler if October 15th arrived and he continued to press for war.

    Hitler had every intention of doing that, but as it turned out he was not the only foreign leader with plans for Czechoslovakia…

    -Into the Abyss: The leadup to the Second World War, Harper and Brothers, New York, 2009


    …It is commonly believed that the actions of the Czechoslovak state are solely to blame for the radicalization of the Sudeten Germans into the most strongly Volkist population in the Greater German Reich. This paper will show that while there is strong evidence that the Sudeten German population had legitimate grievances with the Czechoslovak government, there is significantly more evidence that the Sudeten German elite deliberately sabotaged cooperation with the Czechoslovak government and fostered an attitude of negativism in denying its legitimacy from the beginning of the Czechoslovak state in 1919…

    -Excerpt from Revisionist Viewpoints in History Volume XXVII, University of California Press: Berkley, 2017
     
    Part 5-31 Into the Abyss
  • …As the campaign season in China restarted the Japanese intended to launch an offensive to take the new Nationalist administrative capital at Wuhan. The Japanese believed that the Chinese expected to lose Nanking, and that taking Wuhan, the de facto capital after the fall of Nanking would cause the KMT to negotiate. The IJN wanted to conduct a straightforward advance up the Yangtze to keep the operation contained and avoid straining their logistics. The IJA instead preferred to attack Wuhan from the North, necessitating a major preparatory operation to clear out KMT forces in the way of that and the seizure of the North China plain and much of central China.

    Given the realities of Japanese politics the decision was made to perform both options, with the IJN seizing China’s various ports while the IJA cut their way through North China. To enable this level of commitment the Japanese were forced to commit to a full war economy in April…

    …The IJA’s campaign began well, with a rapid advance by the first army south from the Peking-Tientsin area. However as the elite 12th Division was crossing the Hutuo river near Anping it had raced too far ahead of its fellow divisions for mutual support. The Chinese noticed this and deployed most of their 1st Military Area to try and crush the isolated Japanese unit. They were successful in doing so and inflicting heavy losses on the division and forcing it to turtle up and await for reinforcements.

    The Chinese planned to follow up on their success by grinding down the isolated division while inflicting heavy casualties on relief forces attempting to cross the Hutuo. Over the course of three weeks they reduced one of Japan’s elite divisions to an effective battalion and inflicted moderate casualties on two more divisions. In doing so however they had neglected to secure their flanks or rear.

    The Japanese had not wasted the three weeks in April and deployed a large additional force in the form of the Central China Expeditionary Army. This force included a large contingent of tanks and motorized infantry and advanced quickly out of Shantung into the 1st Military Area’s rear. Almost 300,000 Chinese troops found themselves cut off from support, and encircled soon after. By the end of May the pocket had collapsed, 150,000 troops were captured and the rest either deserted or were forced to flee to the Communists to their west, and the Japanese were free to advance once more.

    This time the target was the 5th Military Area and a repeat of the performance against the 1st. The Chinese scored some victories against isolated Japanese detachments, but were overall pushed back. The Chinese were leery of withdrawing too quickly however and this let mechanized Japanese columns push around their flanks. By mid-June it seemed that the 5th Army would follow the 1st.

    However the Chinese deployed their recently formed 200th Division, equipped with cast off soviet tanks and trucks it was their only mechanized unit, to stop the Japanese eastern column. The 200th Division was annihilated in a fight with two reinforced Japanese divisions, but it was able to open a line of retreat for the 5th Military Area’s 300,000 men. Unfortunately this sacrifice proved to be in vain.

    As Japanese forces were nearing the Yellow River in Mid-June Chiang made the decision to break the dikes on the Yellow River and allow it to flood while he still could. Roughly a million Chinese civilians were killed and many more forced to flee or had their livelihoods destroyed by the rushing river. However it created a barrier that the Japanese could not cross, protecting the northern flank of Wuhan and the vital industry there. Unfortunately it also proved a barrier to the retreating 5th Military Area.

    Pushed south against the floodwaters by the oncoming Japanese the 5th Military Area evacuated what it could by small boat. The nature of the flooded area precluded use of larger vessels and the Chinese could only evacuate men, not heavy equipment, nor even armed men given the number of men to move. While rearguards fought to the last bullet and shell the Chinese were able to evacuate about half of the trapped force across the waters. 150,000 men were forced to surrender while another 150,000 escaped to continuing fighting, once arms could be found for them…

    …The breaking of the Yellow River dikes left the Japanese with only the Yangtze River as a possible route for an advance on Wuhan. Thus in July the Japanese began advancing west up the river while large scale air attacks on both Wuhan and Chunking began. Moving up both sides the Japanese advanced quickly against moderate Chinese resistance. The Chinese had no effective answer to the Japanese tanks and gas after their losses at Shanghai and Nanking and thus were unable to inflict serious casualties on the Japanese. An exception to this rule occurred at the city of Hwaining were the Chinese were able to inflict a two week delay on the advance with urban warfare.

    As the advance continued to the lake region near the confluence of the Gan and Yangtze Chinese resistance intensified. Use of suicide bombers and sword charges, previously a rare thing, became common as the Chinese became desperate and lacked modern arms for all their troops. Furthermore deliveries of Soviet “aid” and foreign purchases had by that point given the Chinese some heavy equipment to use against the oncoming Japanese. By the end of August this had mostly been used up and the Japanese advanced to Kew Keang, but the Japanese had been slowed long enough for events to the north to give the Chinese a brief respite as Japanese attention turned elsewhere…

    -Into the Abyss: The leadup to the Second World War, Harper and Brothers, New York, 2009




    Okay short update, I hate working Sundays, but holidays
     
    Part 5-32 Communism
  • …The Soviet Union was not a stranger to purges. Lenin had conducted several purges to ensure the Bolsheviks came out on top of the Russian Civil War and stayed on top. Upon taking control after Lenin’s incapacitation Stalin launched his own purge of the Communist party to strengthen his authority, another purge after the defeat of Trotsky to deal with his followers, and a third purge in 1926 after Lenin died to fully secure his position.

    For almost a decade it seemed like the purges were over, that having secured power Stalin would stay with surgical means of dealing with his opponents, rather than the blunt instrument of the purges. In 1935 the purges returned with a vengeance. After the 16th Party Congress in 1935 about 20% of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union were purged, totaling almost 200,000. Unlike previous purges which were primarily just expulsions those purged in the 1935-36 purge were thrown into the Gulags if not executed outright. Many of those previously thought immune were suddenly on the lists, even Central Committee members were no longer immune from Stalin’s wrath…

    …The 1935 Purge was probably launched for two reasons. The expected reason being Stalin’s paranoia and desire to secure power. A secondary reason was to provide the Gulags with manpower. The Gulags had originally been filled with troublesome minorities and kulaks, however the Second Five Year Plan, having started in 1934, would require more forced labor than they could provide. Hence the decision for a broad scale purge…

    …By 1938 the terror from the 1935 purge had almost worn off when Stalin decided to launch a new purge. This one would be of unprecedented scale and was framed as a reaction to a treasonous plot rather than a culling of insufficiently qualified or motivated party members as the previous purge had been. It opened with the arrest of most of the remaining Old Bolsheviks from the Russian Revolution, and the trial of a Group of Eighteen of them for plotting a Trotsky inspired coup. While it was possible that they really were planning to overthrow Stalin, what circumstantial evidence there is suggests that they were not. This trial was followed by a Trial of Twenty and a Trial of Twenty Three, representing different supposedly separate conspiracies against the Soviet Union.

    While these show trials were underway the NKVD, as the Cheka had been reorganized into, launched a reign of terror throughout Soviet society. A third of the Party membership were purged and either sent to the gulags or even executed as Stalin solidified his control over the organs of state to an ironclad degree. Very quickly the purge spread beyond the party to the country at large. Several minorities that had previously been ignored were suddenly targeted for attention from the state and forced deportations. Educated individuals were targeted for special attention and the Soviet intelligentsia suffered heavily. Worse than the losses to the Soviet cultural sphere was the loss from the scientists and engineers taken in the purge, something that would haunt the USSR to its dying day…

    …In 1939 the Great Purge spread to the Soviet Military. A conspiracy was fabricated that the Soviet Military was preparing a coup in support of the Old Bolsheviks being tried in Moscow. A large number of the Soviet Military’s most prominent officers were implicated and, as the nature of the Great Purge required, were tortured into implicating their subordinates. This continued onwards down the chain of command until about 10-50% of the Soviet Military’s officers were purged in some manner…

    …In 1940 as the Great Purge entered its third year Stalin realized that he had gone perhaps a bit too far and had things halted. The top levels of the NKVD, especially its head Nikolai Yezhov, were blamed for the excesses of the purge and themselves executed. Over a million had died in the purge by the time this had happened…

    …While the purges of the Party and most civilian fields ended in 1940 the Red Army continued to be purged after an actual attempt to assassinate Stalin by a Red Army Captain whose sister had been executed in the purge…

    …The Great Purge was known for creating the first real fracture in the Trotskyist movement. The vast majority of the dissident communists had followed Trotsky’s will, which was pretty clear on unconditionally supporting the USSR despite its leadership as the only real example of existing socialism. The Great Purge was enough that a substantial minority were willing to break with this viewpoint and consider the USSR unworthy of support while Stalin was at its head, a logical view given that the government of the USSR wanted them dead. Most modern day urban Communist groups descend from this minority…



    -Excerpt from The Book of the Hammer, an Irreverent History of Communism, Moon Press, Los Angeles, 2018






    Yes this is a short update, working Sundays sucks. Work in general sucks enough that we had a low key mutiny in my department the past couple of days and its only going to get worse
     
    5-33 Into the Abyss, Sideways
  • …As Hitler’s deadline approached Sanna grew increasingly concerned. He had expected that Hitler would do something that would put him at odds with Britain and France and lead him to war with them eventually. Yet Hitler’s apparent headlong rush into a war in Czechoslovakia was unexpected, the Czechs had agreed to all of his demands, Sanna expected that he would take the win and move on to Poland or Belgium. Hitler’s mad drive to war confused him and placed him in an unexpectedly bad position.

    The Soviets were apparently prepared to intervene if the Czechs fought given their security treaty. Ordinarily this would not be a problem, but it would require them to move through either Poland or Romania and Hungary, whose governments would disagree with the move. From Soviet troop concentrations Sanna expected the latter route, especially given that Romania was still occupying Bessarabia and that the USSR had never ceased to claim that territory. As Sanna had provided security assurances to the governments of Romania and Hungary in case of a Soviet attack on them, if Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia it was very likely that Italy would need to get involved.

    In the best case Sanna would be involved in an eastern European war against the USSR as a junior partner to Germany, spending blood and treasure to not reap any rewards and putting Itlay behind their rival in France. In the worst case Italy would find itself shackled to Germany in a new World War, and end up receiving a Versailles Treaty of her own. Sanna briefly thought of abrogating his security treaties in Eastern Europe and taking the diplomatic hit to avoid such a fate before he came up with an outside the box solution.

    During the first week of October Sanna made some urgent phone calls with the Hungarian government of Miklos Horthy, the Polish government of Edward Rydz-Smigly, the Slovak Peoples Party under Alexander Mach and the Rusyn National Autonomous Party under Stepan Fencik. Sanna very quickly hammered out an agreement between the four groups and on October 9th made a call for a general European Conference to settle the issue of minorities in Czechoslovakia. This call was immediately supported by the governments of Hungary and Poland, along with the representatives of the Slovak and Rusyn minorities in Czechoslovakia.

    Hitler was furious on hearing Sanna’s announcement, considering it meddling in his backyard. In France and especially in Britain it was greeted with a major sigh of relief. The leadership of the two countries had resigned themselves to the grim possibility of another European war that they absolutely did not want and were worried that it would drag them in when it occurred. When they saw a chance to avoid such a war they grasped the opportunity like a lifeline thrown to a drowning man. The two countries put pressure on the Czechs to agree to the conference.

    The Czechs were initially reluctant, believing that the USSR would come to their aid. However they soon realized that if they did so they would not receive any help from the west. It would be them and the USSR against Germany, Italy, Poland, Hungary and Romania at a minimum. Thus they made the decision to agree to abide by the results of the conference the Italians were holding at Vicenza.

    This left Hitler as the main holdout. As late as the 13th he still wanted to invade Czechoslovakia no matter what European public opinion said. The unanimous opinion of the high command of the Wehrmacht and his advisers eventually shifted him, reminding him that refusing to attend Sanna’s conference would completely isolate him. If he went against European public opinion that badly it was likely that he would face Britain and France, as well as the Czechs and Soviets, with the possibility the Italians might compel either the Polish or the Romanians and Hungarians to allow them access. Thus on the evening of the 13th he agreed to attend the conference and cancel the invasion of Czechoslovakia…

    …The Vicenza conference on the 16th saw the decision made to remove as much of the German, Polish and Hungarian minorities from Czechoslovakia as possible in accordance with the principle of self-determination. Germany would receive about 38% of the former lands of the Bohemian crown, containing 3.5 million Germans, in the border regions making up the Sudetenland. Poland would receive roughly 450 square miles around the towns of Teschen, Spis and Orava with a polish plurality, formerly a majority before Czech ethnic cleansing during the 20’s. Hungary received about 4600 square miles of former upper Hungary in Southern Slovakia, containing about 600,000 Hungarians and 300,000 others. Furthermore the Czech government in Prague was required to give full autonomy to Slovakia and Carpathian Ruthenia…

    …The Vicenza Conference was hailed as a major achievement in the international press. Another European War had been prevented and the principle of self determination had been further cemented. Sanna, British Prime Minister Anthony Eden and President Roosevelt were credited as the main contributors, with Sanna playing the largest role. The Agreement was widely believed to have, in the words of Eden’s ally Foreign Secretary Neville Chamberlain, “preserved peace in our time.” So great was the hope for Peace that Sanna was nominated for and would have won the 1940 Nobel Peace prize had it been awarded that year…

    …The Soviet Union was particularly furious about the Vicenza conference, not only that they had not been invited, but that it made a mockery of their security treaty with the Czechs. However Stalin was not about to come to start a war when the Czech government had capitulated and it would align all of Europe against him. Stalin did make the decision following Vicenza that there was nothing to be gained from opposing Hitler…

    …The Vicenza Agreement saved Germany from an imminent balance of payments crisis which would have derailed her rearmament. 70% of the Czech iron and steel industries went to Germany, allowing Hitler to reduce his imports of foreign metallurgical products for a time. Similarly 90% of Czech export industries were located in the area, allowing Germany to earn vital foreign exchange. Whereas before the agreement Germany was likely to run out of foreign exchange in December, she now had enough to last until June without compromising her arms buildup.

    Despite this Hitler was still unsatisfied with the arrangement. He wanted the rest of the Czechoslovak industry, especially the Skoda works now just outside German borders. He further wanted a short victorious war to prove the strength of German arms. At the same time he realized the degree of opposition that his moves had caused among his advisers and military officers. He thus decided to wait before he took further action…

    -Into the Abyss: The leadup to the Second World War, Harper and Brothers, New York, 2009

    …The Sudeten Crisis and the related Vicenza Conference are common as Points of Divergence to avoid the full horrors of WWII. The coup against Hitler being organized to take place if an invasion occurs is commonly used to eliminate Hitler and to usually avoid a major European war. Somewhat less common are situations where the Czechs do not agree to the Vicenza Agreement and a war occurs where Hitler is not eliminated in a coup and a general war against communism almost always brakes out. Other variations on the scenario are much less common…

    …Almost inevitably the outcome of a Sudeten Crisis war is better in the short to medium term for Europe. The situation that resulted in our world’s WWII required some very precise circumstances that are not yet present, all the variables had not yet lined up to form the perfect storm that encompassed our world.

    Whether this outcome is better long term depends on the aftermath of the war and its impact during the second half of the twentieth century…

    -Excerpt from Sideways: An Examination of Common Divergences in Counterfactual History, Gate Publishing, Atlanta, 2016
     
    Part 5-34 Into the Abyss New
  • …On June 1st of 1939 the head of the NKVD in the Far East defected to the Japanese in order to avoid being executed in Stalin’s purges. He brought with him complete information on the state of the Soviet forces and border defenses in the Far East, and a partial picture of those in the neighboring trans-Baikal district. This information revealed that the Soviets were very ill prepared for combat in the region, even discounting the effects of the ongoing purges. Elements of the IJA, especially in the Kwangtung Army in Manchuria, wanted to use this information to start a campaign against the USSR. The so called Strike North Faction, lead by the secretive Black Dragon Society or Kokuryu-kai, believed that a war with the USSR was the ideal way to secure the future of Japan by conquering everything east of Lake Baikal.

    The higher headquarters of the IJA and the Japanese government realized that an all-out war with the USSR would be a great challenge even without the ongoing distraction of the fighting in China, with it such a war was considered to be disastrous. That said they did take note of how weak the Soviet forces in the area were and that a limited border offensive might bear fruit. Namely that a bite and hold operation could grab an area of strategic terrain and hold it against reasonable sized counteroffensives. Thus such an operation could be used as a bargaining chip to get the Soviets to cut aid to the Nationalist Chinese. It was thus decided on June 30th to launch a limited border offensive to apply pressure on the Soviets.

    The target of this offensive would be the Changkufeng Heights west of Lake Khasan on the Korean-Soviet border. This location was chosen so that it would be the Korean Army involved, as not to embolden the Kwangtung Army into greater recklessness, and that it was already disputed between the two sides. The marshy territory nearby and single unpaved road for a supply route would make it difficult for the Soviets to deploy armored forces and heavy artillery while its proximity to the port of Rajin and a nearby railroad would make it easy for the Japanese to supply.

    At 12:30 in the morning local time on July 25th a reinforced division of the IJA Korean Army crossed the border and rapidly seized the disputed area before digging in. Three days later the Soviets attempted a division level counterattack and were repulsed with heavy losses after inflicting only minor losses. A week after that a Corps level attack was launched on the Japanese position in concert with a large scale air strike, this was similarly repulsed with heavy losses. Given the Soviet lack of a railhead in the area an Army level attack would take another week to prepare and in that time the Japanese deployed a second division to the area and further dug in.

    Given the loss of over a hundred tanks and aircraft already, along with almost 1500 dead and the expenditure of a good percentage of the areas ammunition stocks the Soviet high command was having second thoughts about continuing the counterattacks. A Japanese proposal on August 7th to withdraw from the area in stages alongside a cessation of Soviet aid to the Chinese was seriously considered in Moscow. Unfortunately for the Japanese the incident at Lake Khasan had already been joined by another incident.

    Elements of the Kwangtung Army, feeling left out of the glory that the Chinese Armies and Korean Army were earning, decided to earn some glory of their own. On August 1st elements of the Kwangtung Army crossed the border into Mongolia near the town of Nomonhan, intending to occupy the disputed area east of the Khalkha River and evict the Mongolian units grazing their horses there. They expected only light resistance based on the information gleaned from the June 1st defection.

    Unfortunately for them Mongolia was part of the Trans-Baikal theatre not the Far Eastern one and their information on the Soviet forces there was far less complete. Rather than one infantry and one cavalry regiment, there was a full infantry division and two cavalry regiments, effectively matching the Japanese invaders and slowing them down. The Japanese were able to continue to advance up until August 10th, when IJA headquarters ordered the IJAAF to stop offensive actions in the theatre. They had not managed to seize the entirety of the disputed area and had expended most of their stocks of ammunition in doing so. The Kwangtung Army forces thus had to stop to allow their strained supply situation to recover.

    The Soviet high command looked at the situation and realized that they had an opportunity. The Trans-Baikal theatre was in better shape than the Far Eastern one. The area around Nomonhan further favored them logistically, with the Japanese having a more strained supply situation than they did. There was an opportunity to hand the Japanese a stinging defeat and avoid having to give any concessions. They rushed reinforcements into the area and skirmishing began to escalate.

    By the 25th of August the Japanese were losing 100 men a day around Nomonhan and realized that the situation could escalate into a full scale war with the Soviets. Reinforcements bound for China were diverted to Manchuria, but were held at Harbin to prevent the Kwangtung Army from using them to escalate the situation.

    On September 5th the Soviet forces near Nomonhan had grown to three infantry, two motorized infantry, two armored and two cavalry divisions, along with two independent armored brigades and almost a thousand aircraft, a concentration made possible by the seizure of every free motor vehicle in the Trans-Baikal, Central Asian and Far Eastern Theatres to provide logistical support. The IJA forces in the area consisted of two infantry divisions, two tank regiments, two Manchurian cavalry regiments and 200 aircraft by that point. Having received intelligence that Hitler was about to try something in Czechoslovakia Stalin ordered that the situation along the Japanese borders be ended immediately.

    On September 6th Soviet forces launched a large scale double envelopment on the Japanese west of Nomonhan. Supported by a huge number of bombers the nearly a thousand armored fighting vehicles of the Red Army punched through about a twentieth of their number of Japanese opponents, rapidly destroying the lead Japanese tank regiment and the flanking cavalry units. The lead IJA 25th division found itself encircled by the evening of the 8th. Attempts to break the encirclement on the 10th and 11th merely cost the Japanese their other tank regiment and half of the 9th division’s strength. On the 14th after expending enormous amounts of firepower the isolated Japanese 25th division was functionally destroyed, and with it all Japanese forces east of the Soviet claimed border.

    On the 17th The Soviets and Japanese came to an agreement that the Japanese would withdraw from the Changkufeng heights and that the Soviets would return all captured prisoners and equipment. This would quickly be followed by a non-aggression pact, which would allow both parties to turn their attention to matters elsewhere they deemed more vital…

    …The Soviet border incidents had the effect of giving the Chinese a two month respite in the vital battle for Wuhan as IJA headquarters would not release further reinforcements until October given the potential of a future flare up. Furthermore the incidents discredited the Strike North Faction within the Japanese military, Nomonhan had demonstrated that they lacked the logistics to make large sweeping advances into Soviet territory. Furthermore even the success at Changkufeng came with costs, the semi-static fighting their used up an enormous amount of heavy artillery ammunition, a full scale fight with the USSR would quickly drain the Japanese stockpiles dry. War with the USSR would thus not be an easy victory like their previous war with Czarist Russia but a long hard slog in the best of conditions. The Navy dominated Strike South Faction thus gained considerable political leverage…

    …The Soviet victory over the Japanese at Nomonhan had been relatively costly. Despite a ten to one advantage in armor, a five to one advantage in airpower, a three to one advantage in manpower and a two to one advantage in artillery they had taken heavy losses. They had lost 30,000 men, as many as the entire IJA force, along with 250 tanks and 150 armored cars and 200 aircraft by most reliable estimates. Given these losses against forces that were, outside of the armored and air units, second or third rate by IJA standards, a Japanese invasion remained a major threat in their eyes, especially with the failure to dislodge them from Changkufeng…

    …The Soviet commander, one Georgy Zhukov, had pulled off the first true successful large scale mechanized operation, well before any of the German “Blitzkriegs”. For this he was rewarded with a 7.62mm revolver bullet to the back of the head from the NKVD due to Stalin’s paranoia, along with several other individuals key to this victory…

    -Into the Abyss: The leadup to the Second World War, Harper and Brothers, New York, 2009







    I was so very tempted to make a Magic Bushido Hands joke when mentioning the Black Dragon Society

    On a more serious note yeah Sanna is a fictional character. When hammering 3 or now that I think of it 4 sets of TL outlines to make this TL I needed at least an OTL strength Italy, but at the same time Italy gets f*cked over more in WWI, so I need someone who acts a lot differently than the Moose in charge

    As for FDR and *Munich, he got some credit unfairly for OTL Munich, for basically just some supportive phone calls, same thing happened here
     
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