A Farewell to Tanks

M60A3 Tanks roll through a German Village during a REFORGER Exercise. For more than 50 years a common site in Germany.

A recent newspaper article from Europe described the departure of the last 22 US Army M1 Tanks from the European Military Theater.  This is truly a historic event.  It may be the final curtain on the play that began with the deployment of literally thousands of US Army tanks to Europe in the midst of WWII.  In many ways those tanks never returned to the US.  They were just updated, replaced, reorganized, and realigned, first as part of the short hot war that was World War II, and then as part of the long Cold War.  So, the departure of the last US tanks from Europe represents recognition of the final end to the US participation in both wars.

However, some observers see the departure of US armor from Europe in a more contemporary light.  Rather than it representing the close of a historical era, they see it representing the beginnings of a new era.  What is that new era?  It could be several thing.  Perhaps it’s the end of the importance of Europe to US foreign policy –representing the final turn away from Europe that began two decades ago.  Europe may not be worthy of the cost of stationing US armor forces (the US’s most costly ground combat system), and those forces may be more effectively and efficiently used either in another theater (Asia or the Middle East) or centrally located for global deployment in the continental US.

Another new era that this event may represent is the withdraw of the US from a commitment to global stability.  The forward basing of US heavy forces since WWII (in Korea and Germany, but also in the Middle East) has represented a firm commitment of the US to enforcing stability in those critical regions.  Nothing speaks to firm commitment more than the permanent basing of US heavy ground forces.    Will we soon see the last of US heavy forces loaded out of the Middle East?  Will the tiny US heavy force commitment to Korea soon be terminated?  This can easily be done and rationalized by the fact that US airpower can quickly make up the combat power of the ground based heavy force.  But US airpower is ephemeral.  There one day, and easily gone the next.  Sea and air power, because of their incredible mobility, do not make the same firm permanent strategic commitment to a region as heavy ground forces –armor.  It may well be that the day of firm strategic commitments overseas are over.

Another new idea that the redeployment of US armor from Europe may represent is that we have turned the corner into a new era of warfare.  Warfare of the future will not require the large heavily armored land forces that are legacies of World War II.  Instead, future war will be dominated by airpower and guided by digital information based technology.  Land forces will be a combination of small highly mobile wheeled platforms coordinated with even smaller special operations ground forces.  Tanks operating in that environment are nothing more than big slow easy to identify targets for precision munitions delivered  by a variety of different sources including drone aircraft piloted by humans on a different continent.

So, observers who follow military affairs probably have no trouble agreeing that the departure of the last US heavy tanks from Europe is a remarkable historical event.  But,  there is likely significant disagreement regarding why the event is remarkable.  The optimist view is that it represents the advancement of the US and its armed forces into the 21st Century with a new and forward thinking mindset and with a technological edge that represents American military preimenance for decades to come.  A more pessimistic view might see this event as a retreat from a global foreign policy and an unwillingness to invest US military resources in expensive technologies that require US national political commitments.

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Published in: on April 23, 2013 at 8:52 am  Comments (1)  

War Horse Retires

His comrades in the Army would be first to admit that he has never really been the stiff-upper-lip sort.

So when Thomas the strapping black gelding retired after almost 20 years of impeccable military service yesterday, he bowed out in an emotional farewell, complete with goodbye kisses for everyone.

His slobbery smooches for the soldiers looking after him have become the stuff of legend in the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment.  Click Here to read the rest of the article.

I’m Back!

I have had alot of things going on the past six months or so and it has totally overwhelmed this blog.  I’m back now and will start posting new material over the next few days and regularly after that. 

I missed the blog and I know its like starting over but I have a lot of new ideas I want to try out as well.

Published in: on June 14, 2012 at 4:32 pm  Comments (1)  

New Review of “War Horse”

A Recent and I believe fair review of War Horse in Michigan War Studies Review byGervase Phillips, Manchester Metropolitan University :

A one-volume history of mounted warfare is a bold undertaking, for the scope of the topic is immense. As Louis DiMarco remarks in the introduction to this new study, “the war horse and rider was a viable military system for more than 3,000 years, far longer than any other military system” (ix). It is a challenge that has largely defeated the handful of historians who have attempted the task thus far: G. T. Denison, in the late nineteenth century, wrote what was, essentially, a polemic advocating the then current “mounted rifleman” school rather than a history;1 in 1961, James Lunt, a former cavalryman, published an elegy for his arm, too episodic to serve as a general history.2 In the 1970s, two works, one a collection of essays,3 the other a monograph by John Ellis,4 attempted a more comprehensive coverage, but these slim volumes provide only superficial treatment of their topic, and Ellis’s work is marred by his ideological prejudices against those social classes who (in the west at least) traditionally dominated the cavalry branch. DiMarco’s work is different: in his history, the horse itself provides the strong, central, unifying theme. The physical characteristics of the horse, breeds and types, horse equipment, equitation and horse mastership (care of horses) in the field—these are DiMarco’s concerns as he takes his reader from the earliest years of man’s blossoming relationship with equids, up through their use by American special forces in Afghanistan today.

I can recommend DiMarco’s work as the best single-volume history of cavalry….

Read the complete Review Here.

A note on the blog.

Its been a very busy and hot summer here in Kansas and the blog has been neglected.  As the academic year cranks up in the next few weeks so will the blog.  Looking  forward to more updates on a variety of topics as well as some book and movie reviews coming soon.  LD.

Published in: on August 11, 2010 at 9:34 am  Comments (1)  

Age Old Issue of Stallions vs Geldings in Military Use

For centuries the armies of Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East used Geldings and Mares as their primary military horses. European armies, however, persisted in using Stallions until the early modern period. The obvious advantage of the Gelding/Mare was their calm in large groups and their trainability. European knights, however, preferred stallions because of their fighting ability. European knights believed that it was dishonorable to go into battle on anything other than a Stallion. Some new insights into this issue are gained from the news report below on the Terracotta Army:

Expert: Horses in terracotta army ‘castrated’

(Xinhua)
Updated: 2010-03-01 16:20

XI’AN – Most of the clay horses unearthed from the mausoleum of Qinshihuang, the first emperor of a united China, had been “castrated”, a Chinese archeologist said after studying more than 600 of the life-sized animals.

All the 520 horses that pulled chariots in the terracotta army, unearthed from the mausoleum on the outskirts of Xi’an, capital of the northwestern Shaanxi province, had penises but no testes, said Yuan Jing, an archeologist with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

The situation varied, however, with the 116 cavalry horses, he said. “Some of them were castrated but many others were not.”

Read the rest of article here.

Temporary Slow Down

Posting to the blog site by myself have slowed down recently, and will continue to be slow for a few more weeks.  I’m in the midst of a big writing / research project which will be done around the Christmas holidays.

Published in: on November 8, 2009 at 2:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

New Horse on Board!

P1070303(1)The “Bit of Heaven Farm” horse herd has a new addition in the form of a 3 (almost 4) year old Hafling gelding named  “Hans.”  We were fortunate enough to stumble upon Hans as we were looking for a steady school horse for hacking around the farm and maybe hill topping with the fox hunt.  We think we have hit gold! 

As many of you know, the Haflinger is a small horse breed that originates in the Tyrolean Alps.  My Mom remembers these horses living at the farm next door in Süd Tyrol in the 1930s. The breed is still in use with the Austrian and German armies as a mountain supply horse (see previous blog on German army  “tragtier”). Hans stands right about 14 hands and has the typical type coloring (chestnut (light golden brown) with flaxen mane and tail) of the breed.  The cold blood influence in the breed is obvious in his very sturdy musculature, big head and big feet.  That influence makes him a great hacking horse.  The kids are not intimidated because of his short size and very calm disposition.  Still, he can be ridden by an adult because of his powerful build. 

Hans is broken to both driving (competitive carriage driving) and riding.  We plan to teach him the basics of the English riding disciplines (dressage, jumping), but to use him mostly for hacking around the property, teaching kids, and maybe hill topping with the hunt.  We may, someday, put him back into driving as well, but not in the short term.  He is incredibly calm and friendly.  We are looking forward to many years of fun and companionship with him!

Published in: on September 16, 2009 at 8:51 am  Comments (5)  
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Organizational Culture and Creating Phase IV Competence

The below paper is a historical reflection on one of the factors I believe contributed to the success of post-conflict operations during and after World War II.  Obviously there is not a direct link to Phase IV operations in either Iraq or Afghanistan.  However, I think recognizing that a) the U.S. Army did a very good job with the post WWII occupation and military government missions, and 2) that it was no accident, but rather was largely a function of very smart army officers recognizing the requirement, understanding the scope and demensions of the task, and then putting resources, talent, and time toward mission accomplishment.  The paper doesn’t suggest how to conduct current Phase IV operations or how to ensure we address them adequently in the future.  However, by highlighting that WWII success was a function of operational expereince, professional military education, and mentoring, it suggests what preconditions might need to exist for the U.S. Army to better understand and execute Phase IV operations in the future.

Occupation Army:  Institutional Culture and Successful U.S. Occupation Operations in WWII

The successful post-World War II economic revitalization and political transformation of both Germany and Japan are virtually without precedent in the history of warfare.  However, almost no agreement exists regarding the credit for these successes.  The historiography assigns credit to a variety of factors ranging from the unique character of the German and Japanese people, to the brilliance of General MacArthur, to the magnanimous of the Marshall Plan.  This paper will argue that one of the major reasons for the success of post-conflict operations after World War II was an institutional culture within the U.S. Army that recognized and accepted the absolute criticality of effective post-combat operations to strategic success.  U.S. Army leaders understood that the measure of long-term battlefield success was the ability of the U.S. to shape a favorable post-conflict political environment, and that the army had a vital if not central role in that effort.  This understanding was the result of eighty years of institutional experience in which post-conflict operations and related tasks were an accepted mission.  The army’s history helped foster a culture wherein leaders like Marshall, MacArthur, and Eisenhower placed priority, devoted robust resources, and conducted detailed planning for the occupation of Germany and Japan.  .

The U.S. Army that entered World War II had a distinct culture, which the regular army officer corps most dramatically represented.  The army’s organizational culture evolved from several factors.  The army’s history was a strong influence on the culture.  Also, the interpersonal relationships between army officers and their mentors, friends, and family which ensured that the history was passed from generation to generation was a critical factor. Another factor that effected the culture was the professional education and operational experiences of army officers, particularly in the interwar years.  Examining the careers of three key figures in World War II military occupation operations, George Marshall, Dwight Eisenhower,  and Douglas MacArthur, demonstrates how the components of institutional culture combined to contribute to the success of Army occupation operations in Germany and Japan during and after World War II.

Read the Rest of the Paper Here.

Book review of two pretty good general works on the important general officers of the occupation era: “Not the President’s Men.”

First German Army Award for Bravery in 64 Years!

The German army has reinstated an award for bravery for soldiers of the Bundeswehr.  It is the first award for bravery for German soldiers since the end of World War II.  Though traditionalist will lament the break with the 130 year German tradition of the Iron Cross, I believe the “Cross of Honor for Bravery,” the Ehrenkreuz der Bundeswehr für Tapferkeit, is a good compromise.  A cross of any kind links it strongly to the German military tradition without linking it to the baggage of the German Military in WWII.

As the article below indicates, 35 German soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan, and many more wounded.  As I understand it, the Germans do not yet have the equivelant of a purple heart or wounds badge.  Something I’m sure their veterans organizations are working on. 

Sixty-one percent of the German population is against their operations in Afghanistan.  The population is generally against anything that shows support for the military.  Germany is a very pacifist country. In speaking to many allied military officers I have often heard it said that they envy the status and appreciation the American military receives from the American people.  They think we’re pretty lucky.  I agree with them –we’re pretty fortunate to be American Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines.

See the Spiegel Article Here.

See the various grades of the Honor Cross Here.