Those are thoughts that occurred to me after reading about Churchill's decision in the summer of 1940 to attack the navy of France, which had been an ally just a month earlier, and which certainly was not at war with the United Kingdom. More than 1,200 French sailors were killed in the attack, while the British suffered two dead. The purpose, of course, was to prevent the French fleet from falling into German hands (as had happened with Austrian gold and Czech weapons factories).
President Roosevelt, knowing how difficult a decision it was to launch a surprise attack against a former ally, was said to have calculated that his defeatist ambassador to London, Joseph Kennedy, was wrong, and that in fact Britain was determined to fight on alone. (Speaking of FDR, it took me a while to remember the names of his three vice presidents, but eventually I did. But for the life of me I couldn't remember who Truman's veep was, and had to look it up.)
On the other hand, I was interested to read in Cambridge History of War, Vol. IV: War and the Modern World that one reason the Germans couldn't invade England later that same summer was because of their naval losses the previous spring in fending off the British attempt to take Norway. "While the victory of the British in the Battle of Britain was won in the air," Gerhard Weinberg writes in his fine essay on World War II, "the German failure to attempt an invasion was due at least as much to their naval losses in the Norwegian campaign."
That British attack on Norway long has been regarded as a disaster. Reading about its beneficial effect on the Battle of Britain makes me think that Churchill may have been right in his view that in conventional warfare, doing something, even at the periphery, is always better than doing nothing at all.
As Bob Dylan or Clausewitz once observed, nothing is easy in war, because friction makes even easy things difficult.
From a book review by Mark Grotelueschen in the October issue of The Journal of Military History:
Although the infantry assault was conducted by just one reinforced regiment, the attack was supported by the rest of the 1st Division (itself nearly half the size of Lee's entire army at Antietam), thirty French aircraft, a squadron of French heavy tanks, a section of French flamethrower troops, a wide variety of communications technologies, and over 250 pieces of French and American artillery (about a hundred more than Lee used to support Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg), Cantigny truly was the U.S. Army's baptism into modern battle."
I'd never thought of it that way, partly because it is hard to judge by reading first-person accounts, which is mainly what I read when, as research for my book The Generals, I was looking at George Marshall's experience in World War I.
One of the eternals of combat is that frontline fighters will always feel betrayed by the BS being peddled by top leaders. I thought of this when I read that during the summer of 1940, the German leaders kept saying that the Royal Air Force was on the verge of collapse. It didn't feel that way to Luftwaffe pilots, who supposedly would radio each other sarcastically as they crossed the British coast, "Here they come again, the last fifty British fighters."
The RAF did take a beating that summer, of course. I was surprised to see that the majority of Australian pilots flying for the RAF were killed -- that is, 14 of 22, according to Len Deighton's Battle of Britain. (Other sources offer different numbers.) By contrast, Deighton's chart shows that 418 of the 2,543 British-born aircrew members were lost.
By James de Waal
Best Defense guest columnist
Much of the story of America's Iraq and Afghanistan wars -- written by Tom and others -- is the story of the relationship between politicians and military officers. Hirings and firings of generals and admirals have marked changes of policy and shifts in the fortune of war.
Britain has been fighting the same wars, but its story is different. In the dominant British narrative, most of its military failures are to be blamed on reckless and naïve politicians, while its generals were reluctant warriors doing their duty in difficult circumstances. And while politicians like Tony Blair have seen their careers blighted by the wars, no senior military officer has paid a similar penalty.
As I argue in a new report for Chatham House, this is too simple a story. While British politicians must shoulder ultimate responsibility for what happened on their watch, it's also clear that senior military officers and civilian officials also played their part. Some key decisions seem to have been the result of military lobbying via the media, or the armed forces acting without or contrary to political direction. For example:
In these, and other similar cases, those involved may have believed they were acting honorably and in the country's best interests. But the way some elements of the British military seem to have felt able to challenge and lobby their political masters suggests something wrong with the way the British took their decisions.
In contrast to the United States, Britain has no equivalent of Goldwater-Nichols, and a much weaker public and academic debate on civil-military relations (beyond the ritual mention of the wartime Churchill-Brooke relationship).
Britain needs to learn from the successes and failures of the United States, developing a more balanced and authoritative discussion of the relations between its politicians and generals, and establishing a stronger formal process for controlling its military decision-making.
James de Waal is visiting fellow in the International Security Department at Chatham House. He has worked in the British Ministry of Defence, including on the 2010 Defence and Security Review, and served in HM Diplomatic Service in New York (United Nations), Berlin, Washington, Santiago, and London.
I was re-reading Churchill this summer a lot. For the first time, I began thinking of some of his great passages as arias or poems. For example, try this, with the words the same, but in the typography of a poem:
We shall fight in France,
we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence
and growing strength in the air.
We shall defend our island,
whatever the cost may be.
We shall fight on the beaches,
we shall fight on the landing grounds,
we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,
we shall fight in the hills.
We shall never surrender.
By Emile Simpson
Best Defense office of counterinsurgency doctrine
Counterinsurgency in Crisis concerns specifically the British experience of conflict over the last 10 years. The timing of this book matters, given that the British combat mission in Afghanistan is now in its twilight, at least on current plans: By publishing in 2013, the authors -- the estimable David H. Ucko and Robert Egnell -- free themselves from the temptations of a polemical approach to influence events on the ground; they rather deploy a dispassionate, analytical style that will serve to influence the debate over the longer term, as this admirable book deserves to do.
The central conceptual argument is that counterinsurgency in the abstract offers guidance and principles based on past experience that may be helpful in the design and execution of an effective campaign plan, but that it is an operational approach, not a strategy: "the focus on military operations can easily obscure the fact that they require a political strategy to be meaningful".
This argument is presented in four thematic strands: how the British understood and applied their own past experience of counterinsurgency, two main case studies in Basra and Helmand, and an extensive analysis of the British Army's internal institutional adaption over this period.
In terms of the British understanding of their own doctrine, the authors argue that the examples of Malaya and Northern Ireland in particular were overly privileged, selectively understood, and superficially applied. This resulted in operational approaches driven by principles that did not necessarily translate across to substantially different political and military contexts.
For example, the promotion of a legitimate government makes sense in the abstract as a generic counterinsurgency principle, but "who were the established authorities in Basra in 2003 or 2006, and who were the established authorities in Helmand of 2006 or 2009?"
The authors propose that both historical case studies and contemporary conflicts need to be understood on their own terms, not regurgitated as templates. Of course there would be few writers on COIN who would disagree with that. The real power of this argument concerns how, given the experience of Basra and Helmand, the British Army's own historical experience of counterinsurgency operations did not make the impact it should have done.
The reasons presented for this are complicated, but this important chapter goes a long way to explain the difference between assumed corporate knowledge, which the British Army did have in places, both in terms of people in and out of uniform, and actual operational practice. For example, the book mentions the successful British Dhofar campaign in the 1960s and ‘70s as one example of a lacuna in the British Army's understanding of its own history: It was only "remembered" at an institutional level long after Basra and Helmand had started.
The Basra chapter is calm, objective, and ruthless. There is no escaping that the British made a secret deal with Shiite militias in Basra in 2007 that, however spun, remains a deep humiliation. What about Charge of the Knights in 2008 that re-took the city? Ucko and Egnell are fair: While recognising that this was "salvation" for the British, who played a relatively minor part, so too is there acknowledgement that the British Army in Basra made important reforms that enabled aspects of the operation, such as an evolution in the partnering and mentorship structures with the Iraqi Army.
However, these eleventh hour successes are analysed as being in spite of London, which does not speak to a coherent strategic process: "Operation Charge of the Knights unfolded so quickly and so unexpectedly that there was less chance for the British Government and MoD back in London to interfere". Indeed, a strength of the book is the analysis of the conflicting demands that British field armies in Basra, and to a lesser extent in Helmand, have experienced in reporting both to London and in-theatre chains of command.
The authors acknowledge the basic resource and political constraints that put in a kinder context the operational problems of the British field forces on the ground in Basra. But London does not come off well. The presentation of Basra as a strategic success by senior political and military apologists is forensically dismantled: "if this strategy was ever sincere, it failed".
Turning to the Helmand chapter, I would take a different view of the dynamics of the conflict, specifically the claim that Helmand was a hornet's nest of Taliban before 2006. In my view, there was not a specifically Taliban insurgency in Helmand before the 2006 British deployment, and the insurgency that emerged initially was of a local and fragmented nature, not a coherent Taliban enemy. To be fair to the authors on this point, my view is currently in the minority in terms of the wider debate. Leaving that to one side, I agree with the chapter's main assertion that despite operational progress in Helmand later on, the early campaign lacked clear focus, and replicated the problems of Basra at the strategic level.
The analysis by Ucko and Egnell of the problems of the Helmand campaign is convincing, and points out inter alia that the substantially different approaches taken by successive brigade rotations did not make sense in terms of an overall campaign, which raises real question-marks over the coherence of the British strategic process (although this was by no means a uniquely British problem).
From a personal point of view, having served in Helmand, there were many British officers who were familiar with COIN in the early phase, but we lacked the manpower before the surge in 2009 to hold cleared ground, the intelligence resources to understand the political complexity, and tight enough operational aims. Since 2009, I think the British Army has performed effectively in Helmand.
I also think that from an internal, institutional perspective, the single biggest practical difference to the British Afghan campaign, beyond resources and political goals, was the personality and drive of General Stanley McChrystal in 2008 and 2009. The fact that it ultimately took a U.S. general to tone down what was plainly an overly kinetic approach before 2009, which was antagonising too many people in Helmand, says something about British claims to be the guardians of the minimum force tradition of COIN.
The book's conclusion does not advance either the retention or jettisoning of counterinsurgency, as other works in this area have done. Rather, a nuanced position is established: There may well be operations possibly involving British forces in the near future that require an understanding of counterinsurgency, but COIN should be properly understood as a pool of operational practice that needs to be applied to the particular context, and accompanied by a political strategy, which COIN is not in itself.
More specifically for a British audience, this book may trigger a more public discussion of what happened to the British in Basra. That debate has been on hold due to Helmand, and will be coloured by the extent to which Helmand is received as an exorcism for the British Army's experience of Basra.
Given that it is naturally hard for British soldiers, many of whom have lost friends in Basra, to look at the subject objectively, the authors ultimately do the British Army a service by prefiguring a moment in the near future, when most of its troops are off the ground, when the British Army and its masters in the government and the electorate may come to take a dispassionate, and probably painful look, at this most emotively charged of subjects.
Emile Simpson served in the British Army as an infantry officer in the Gurkhas from 2006 to 2012. He deployed to southern Afghanistan three times and is the author of War From the Ground Up: Twenty-First Century Combat as Politics (Columbia, 2012).
Yes, there was the Taranto raid, and Royal Navy aircraft crippling the Bismarck's rudder about seven months later. But did British naval aviation have any effect on World War II after 1941? I've been struck at how absent it is from the World War II histories. Of course, there was the Battle of the Atlantic, which was crucial -- but wasn't the most effective air work done by long-range RAF flights over the Western Approaches?
The war record is especially striking when you contrast it to the RAF saving the nation from possible invasion during the summer of 1940.
It is even more striking that as late as 1944, the Royal Navy's planners were arguing that the postwar British fleet should be built around the battleship, according to Eliot Cohen's Supreme Command, which I was re-reading this summer.
Today's essay question: Was the RAF more adaptive than the air wing of the Royal Navy? If so, why? Extra credit for good historical examples, double points for class antagonism.
I've just finished reading most of British Generals in Blair's Wars, a fascinating volume, one of the most interesting I've read this year. As the title indicates, it is a compilation of talks and essays by generals who played various senior roles over the last 10 years in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.
The views are remarkably diverse. For example, some generals look to the Americans as an example of a military that was more adaptive than the British, while Gen. (ret.) Sir Michael Jackson calls the U.S. military "intellectually bankrupt." (That may be due to a time difference: Jackson led British forces in Kosovo in 1999, while others saw the U.S. Army and the Marines finally get their act together in Iraq eight long years later.) Maj. Gen. (ret.) Andrew Stewart, who served in Iraq, states as a given that "aside from the USA, there are no armed forces in the world that have all the capabilities needed to wage modern warfare." Gen. (ret.) John McColl, who was deputy commander of MNF-Iraq, also says enviously that American soldiers have more pride than do their British counterparts. He adds that he found the American military to be generous and open.
They also are candid about each other in ways that American generals rarely are in public. "The majority I would rate as fair," Lt. Gen. (ret.) Graeme Lamb, says of his peers, "a few I would gladly join and assault hell's gate, and some I wouldn't follow to the latrine."
The talk by Lamb, who did four tours in Iraq and two in Afghanistan, is for me the high point of the collection, in part because he addresses issues I spent much of the last three years contemplating as I wrote The Generals. He says that generalship is about three things: character, competence, and communication. "So do we select our generals on such criteria? Don't be daft, of course we don't. We pull them up through patronage, misplaced loyalty, self-promotion and a host of other rather tawdry reasons and, occasionally, on ability; but it is not always the brightest and the best that are selected for high office." The majority of people disagree with him, he notes, but adds that they "lack the balls to say so."
The book would be even more candid except that the Ministry of Defence refused to allow the editors to publish the remarks of generals still on active duty. "Indeed, even this book has had chapters by serving officers withdrawn on orders of the MOD, including a chapter by the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff on the difficulties of making strategy in the twenty-first century." All told, six chapters were ordered withdrawn.
(More to come.)
I see Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the secretary general of NATO, is urging European members to spend more on defense. This is something that NATO secretary generals have been saying for at least 20 years. I covered a lot of their press conferences, knowing that what they said was meaningless, or worse. Then I went out for a good dinner in Brussels, feeling a bit guilty and glad the food was on an expense account.
Just for fun, why not have a NATO secretary try calling for the organization's members to spend less on defense? It couldn't hurt.
Meanwhile, speaking of NATO, Canadians like Steve Saideman (a sometime reader of this blog, and a likely fan of that definitive new book on Bush and Cheney) are getting suspicious about the Americans peddling them overpriced fighter planes.
That's Richard FitzAlan, the tenth Earl of Arundel. He fought in France and Scotland and commanded the English army for awhile. He also was incredibly rich. He died in 1375 or 1376 -- accounts differ. In their tomb, he and his wife are depicted with their dogs sleeping at their feet
Philip Larkin wrote a lovely poem about this tomb that ends with these lines:
Our almost-instinct almost true:
What will survive of us is love.
You must see the ground; you must cover the distances in person; you must measure the rivers and see what the swamps were really like.
--Winston Churchill, "Old Battlefields of Virginia," Daily Telegraph, December 16, 1929, about walking the sites around Richmond and Fredericksburg, as quoted on page 121 of Martin Gilbert, Churchill and America.
I ask because the Guardian reports that "The [Royal] navy is to get its first unmanned drone."
I didn't know there was any other kind.
By Robert Goldich
Best Defense guest book reviewer
Rick Atkinson's final work in his Liberation Trilogy, The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945 (New York: Henry Holt, 2013), has just been published, to rave reviews. They are entirely justified. It's a triumphant conclusion to his previous two volumes on the war in North Africa and the war in Sicily and Italy through mid-1944. Critics have correctly praised its depth, its evocative nature, and its grasp of the human dimensions of this titanic campaign without losing sight of a broader narrative.
All true. But there are even more good things to be said about this magisterial work. Let me summarize five of them:
First, and perhaps most importantly, The Guns at Last Light is an American book, written by an American author, in an extraordinarily felicitous literary style in American English, in which the narrative and interpretation of the American components of the Northwest Europe campaign are stressed. It's about time. For far too long, general histories of the campaign, and particularly of the Battle of Normandy, have been dominated by supercilious British historians. These men almost never fail to grasp an opportunity to criticize American military performance from privates to generals, up to the highest-ranking American leader of all, Dwight D. Eisenhower. From Chester Wilmot in the early 1950s, to Max Hastings in the early 1980s, to Antony Beevor over the past couple of decades, the British have monopolized the popular historiography of the Northwest Europe campaign (largely, I suspect, because Britain has done nothing beyond the tactical level of war since 1945, and American military historians have had four major wars involving forces of field army size to write about). This narrative of alleged American military bungling would simply make an American uncomfortable if there was any substantive truth in it. But there isn't. By being scrupulously fair in his evaluation of American, British, and Canadian commanders, Atkinson shows that the latter two were not one iota better, and arguably slightly worse, than American leadership at the division, corps, army, army group, and theater level. Certainly he reinforces the long-known truism that, to quote Field Marshal Lord Carver (as 29-year-old Brigadier Michael Carver, the youngest brigade commander in the British Army while serving in Northwest Europe during 1944 and 1945), the Americans were more willing to "go at it" than the British. Atkinson's casualty figures show this. Although at VE-Day two-thirds of 93 Allied divisions under Eisenhower's command were American, the 587,000 casualties the Americans suffered in 1944-1945 were over 75 percent of the total.
His meticulous description of British and Canadian operations, particularly in Normandy, shows a considerable sluggishness on the part of high-level British commanders. There were no British armored division commanders with the aggressiveness of -- just to take those American armored divisions employed in Normandy -- Edward Brooks of the U.S. 2nd Armored Division, Maurice Rose of the 3rd, "P" Wood of the 4th, or Robert Grow of the 6th. There were no British corps commanders who were hard-chargers like Lightning Joe Collins of VII Corps. Even the slower American corps commanders, like Leonard Gerow of V Corps, Troy Middleton of VIII Corps, and Walton Walker of XX Corps, were dynamos compared to their British counterparts. Reading Atkinson's melancholy account of Operation Market-Garden, the failed drive popularized by the movie A Bridge Too Far, one weeps when one thinks about what could have been done if the armored advance had been conducted by an American corps, commanded by a Joe Collins or Walton Walker, rather than the personally attractive but operationally incredibly diffident Brian Horrocks commanding British XXX Corps. Or if an American armored division, instead of the leisurely Guards Armoured Division, had led the attack.
Second, Atkinson sends us an important message that can never be repeated too often: When armies of roughly equal military competence and weaponry clash, tactical and operational deadlock are almost inevitable, and usually the only way to break it is through attrition. This was particularly true in Normandy. In a small beachhead crammed with troops, and no flanks to turn, Field Marshal Lord Wavell's remark that "In every war, there is a time when Private Snodgrass must advance straight to his front" couldn't be avoided. Furthermore, the Allied Snodgrasses were opposed by lots of Schmidts and Webers with a great tradition of military excellence, led by men with five years of wartime experience, and weapons about the same as those of the Allies. So there was nothing for it but to spend lots of men to expand the beachhead and wear down the Germans in Normandy. The brutal battles of attrition from D-Day through early August 1944 were absolutely essential to enable the much-touted armored breakout to take place. Someday we'll fight somebody just about as good as we are. When we do, we'll have to use our huge population, and the high casualties that such a huge population can absorb, as well as our productive capacity, to attrition them if we are going to win. Planners for future wars, especially with possible peer competitors, take note.
Third, something which Atkinson doesn't address directly, but which comes through very clearly in his discussion of Allied general officers in command at division level and above, is that nothing is more important for such men than having physical and moral stamina. Tactical and operational elegance and great imagination is nice to have, but there are two more important personal qualities needed by division, corps, army, army group, and theater commanders, especially but not only in high-intensity conventional conflict. They've got to be able to accept the responsibility for the lives of thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of their soldiers -- and send many of them to their deaths and maiming. And they've got to be able to keep their head when plans fail and disaster strikes and the enemy's vote kicks in. Eisenhower, no Napoleon at Austerlitz, had this. Montgomery, tactically and operationally mediocre at his best, had it. Omar Bradley and his sadly unknown counterpart on the southern flank of the Allied front, Jake Devers, had it. So did most of the army and corps and division commanders -- as did the opposing German generals.
Fourth, Atkinson shows very clearly how logistical considerations dominate planning and conducting an operational offensive. He shows that Montgomery's plan for a pencil-thin thrust to the Ruhr after the pursuit across Northern France in August 1944 was logistically unsupportable. It would have been an operational disaster because the speed of the Allied advance was such that there just wasn't enough transport to sustain a force of any size that far -- planners estimated that the number of divisions that could have made it would have been in the single digits. The Germans would have annihilated it. Similarly, Atkinson shows just how worn out all the Allied units were after two and a half months of attrition fighting in Normandy and a vehicle-consuming pursuit across Northern France. They had to wait until their logistical tail caught up with them, literally and metaphorically, until they could conduct the great November-December 1944 offensives of all four U.S. field armies. When politicians or outside analysts start talking about intervening in Ambarzagoomiland, they frequently don't bother to think at all about logistical constraints. Soldiers (and sailors and Marines and airmen) can't avoid it.
Finally, Atkinson does a superb job of showing just how perfect Eisenhower was as Allied theater commander. Ike perceived from the beginning, as did Norman Schwarzkopf in a later and smaller war with a much more heterogeneous coalition, that the crucial center of gravity of the Anglo-American alliance was the alliance itself. This has generally been recognized. But Atkinson shows us that a logical corollary of this was that maintaining Allied comity and cooperation had to be Eisenhower's first priority, even at the expense of additional Allied casualties. Thus, even if Montgomery's incessant bombardment for a single narrow thrust into northern Germany had been doable, which it manifestly was not (look what happened when it was tried in Market-Garden), it was politically more important that no one country, in this case Britain, carry the lion's share of offensive operations against the enemy, so as not to antagonize public opinion in either democracy. It is a measure of Montgomery's lack of qualification for the position of theater ground forces commander, for which he constantly agitated, that he failed to grasp this.
There's much, much more in this absolutely splendid capstone of Rick Atkinson's Liberation Trilogy. He's produced a profound work, worthy of being rapidly placed on the service chiefs' and other senior American commanders' reading lists. And he's given those of us livin' in the USA a long overdue accolade for the biggest single military campaign in American history.
In Tom's opinion, Bob Goldich is, like Rick Atkinson, a force of nature.
My wife and I both recently read the two volumes of Ernie O'Malley's memoirs of the Irish war of independence and the subsequent civil war (thanks to a BD contributor recommendation), so we decided to watch the film Michael Collins. I was surprised at how cheesy and Hollywoodish the whole thing seemed, with a dull love story embedded in the middle, with the female love interest played woodenly by Julia Roberts.
But I shoulda know the jig was up during the introduction that gave the historical context, and it informed us of the "guerilla" war in Ireland against the British -- that is, with one "r."
I know, I know, we should have been watching The Wind That Shakes the Barley. But my wife already has seen it twice. The first time, we were in a theater, and she gasped when the priest refused communion to the anti-Free Staters. She said, "My mother told me that happened to her father" (in County Clare).
Almost certainly Stefan Flueckiger, who recently while drunk led French police on a high-speed car chase through Paris. Livin' large.
One of the great things about writing this blog is the reading suggestions made to me by readers. About a year ago, one of youse suggested David Fromkin's Europe's Last Summer: Who Started the Great War in 1914?. I finally got around to it and am really enjoying it.
For some time, the unspoken text of some in the West on China has been to avoid making some of the mistakes the British and French made in the late 19th century as Germany became Europe's leading economic power. In this view, the argument is that the British (primarily) stymied Germany instead of bringing it to the table where great power decisions were made.
But in reading this book, I began to wonder if we have been looking through the wrong end of the telescope. Fromkin, who also wrote the terrific A Peace to End All Peace, argues that Germany brought about its own fate: "the hostile encirclement that Germany so much feared was achieved by Germany itself." German leaders moved toward war in the belief that it was inevitable, and that not only brought it on, they did so in the belief that "Germany ought to launch a war as soon as possible precisely because the chances of winning it would be less every year."
To apply his observation to China: What, if by its own over-reaching, and through its cultural contempt for all things not Chinese, it is likely to provoke a reaction to its growing economic and military power? If that is a plausible possibility, it has huge implications for Western policy. Among other things, we'd need to consider whether the best policy is to give them enough rope.
A second thought: At the time it started World War I, Germany was the leading country in the world in technology, basic science, and perhaps in music. German often was the language of scholarly discourse. None of that applies to today's China. Yet another observation by Fromkin does evoke China a bit: "An advanced country inside a backward governmental structure, broadly humanist yet narrowly militarist, Germany was a land of paradoxes."
By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent
Over the holiday weekend I saw this image posted on a Facebook page that features a wonderful selection of eclectic and charming images from a worldwide archive of photos past. And though it's a little late, this photo taken in 1920 seemed a fitting Memorial Day tribute. The provided caption (somewhat bluntly mistranslated from the French) gets the basic information across. The man identified as Andrivet had lost the use of his legs and the dog, who appears to be pulling him along a Paris street, is called Paulo. But what caused Andrivet's injuries or what bonded this pair is not explained, though given the date, one could make a decent guess.
After a little digging, I found another photo of Andrivet and Paulo (likely taken the same day even) in a collection of old Popular Science magazines. While the details are still scant, the small clip dated May 1920 reports that during battle in Argonne both Andrivet and Paulo were wounded. The dog would make a full recovery but his master would not. And because he could no longer get around on his own, Paulo would pull Andrivet in this three-wheeled cart while the WWI veteran steered.
"Paulo," the article notes, "is an excellent motor, and he never stalls."
Rebecca Frankel is away from her FP desk, working on a book about dogs and war.
Facebook/Photo Agency Meurisse circa 1920
In the ever-growing category of things I didn't know:
The first time British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain ever flew in an airplane was on 15 September 1938, to see Hitler at Berchtesgarden. Seeking to bolster his policy of appeasement, Chamberlain flew to Germany twice more that month, first to Bad Godesberg and then to Munich.
Also, Churchill, stunned and alone after the Munich agreement, retreated to his country house, where his first visitor was Guy Burgess, then a producer for the BBC, but of course also a Soviet spy. No indication that Churchill knew anything about that.
Both facts from Martin Gilbert's fine Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years.
Winston Churchill, writing in My Early Life, mentions how wealth affected one's choice of branches in the British Army:
I qualified for a cavalry cadetship at Sandhurst. The competition for the infantry was keener, as life in the cavalry was so much more expensive. Those who were at the bottom of the list accordingly were offered the easier entry into the cavalry.
Tom again: So, by making the cavalry expensive, the wealthy aristocracy was able to reserve largely for itself job openings in part of the military -- perhaps a place to store second sons without sufficient brains for other jobs? I asked Douglas Allen, an economic historian who has studied the political economy of the British military. He wrote back, "No doubt though, it took a long time for the aristocrats to be replaced by attrition, and they probably did use a price mechanism to keep the vulgar middle class out of their preferred positions."
Was it Normandy? Blenheim? Waterloo? Goose Green? No to all.
Perhaps Naseby or Culloden? No again. El Alamein? Nope.
It was, indeed, Imphal and Kohima, the turning point in the fighting in South Asia during World War II. Now, I'm a Burma theater fan as much as the next guy. But this still surprised me. I wonder why they picked that. It wasn't just because President Obama's grandfather served there. Perhaps it was the ever-growing reputation of General Slim?
(HT to PL who had to read the original article upside down)
In a footnote in the Orwell diaries, I learned that more British civilians were killed by enemy action during World War II than were members of the Royal Navy (60,595 vs. 50,758).
Meanwhile, in other news related to World War II, for the first time in nearly 70 years, there is not a single American tank on German soil.
A woman who had too much to drink fell asleep on a train. Mark Scully, an official in the British Ministry of Defence, pretended to help her to a taxi but instead dragged her into some woods and assaulted her. He worked on reconstruction issues in southern Afghanistan in 2009-10, the Daily Mail reports.
It is mentioned in the diary of John Colville, one of Churchill's aides during the war. Churchill was so mad he said he would make sure Rome was bombed.
Colville is a snob and a prig, but his diary contains many illuminating passages about Churchill, and also some inadvertently good insights into the British mentality during the war. Among other things, they have no idea of how much ground they have lost technologically, which slammed their economy in the following decades.
Another interesting moment came in February 1944, when Churchill mistakenly had the songwriter Irving Berlin to dinner, believing he had invited the philosopher and diplomat Isaiah Berlin. He kept pestering poor Irving with questions about his thinking about when the war might end. The great songwriter, no slouch himself, correctly predicted that FDR would run for a fourth term and win.
Also, on New Year's Day 1953, Churchill predicted that communism in Eastern Europe would end before the century did. Well played, sir.
By Henry Farrell
Best Defense office of ethno-military affairs
You asked recently whether the "British Army ever formally recognized and honored the role that Irishmen (not Anglo-Irish aristos) historically played in its enlisted ranks?"
The answer is yes, at least for World War I. Neither the British nor the Irish government was particularly inclined to celebrate the role of Irish soldiers in the British Army until quite recently. World War I split the Irish Volunteers into a majority under the sway of John Redmond, who supported the British in World War I (and in many cases volunteered to join the British Army), and a minority who opposed the war and the threat of conscription (which was nominally led by my great-grandfather Eoin MacNeill). The latter started the Easter Rising and the War of Independence, and won, more or less (the Irish civil war was fought between two sub-factions of this faction; as Brendan Behan once remarked, the first item on the agenda of any IRA meeting was always The Split). The former nearly completely disappeared from historical memory -- nobody, except the Ulster Unionists, particularly wanted to remember the Irishmen who had fought on Britain's side. Sebastian Barry's extraordinary play, The Steward of Christendom, talks to this amnesia from the perspective of the "Castle Catholics" who had sided with the British administration. Frank McGuinness's earlier play, Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme, talks about it from a Unionist perspective.
This began to change in the 1990s, leading to an initiative to create a memorial to the Irish who died in World War I, which was folded into the more general peace initiative. The result was the building of a tower with financial support from both the British and Irish governments, commemorating the war dead from both parts of Ireland. The British and Irish army bands played together for the first time at its opening. The Wikipedia page on the memorial gives a good overview of the project and the politics behind it.
Pretty small to start: Six Irish troops with work with 21 British troops. And less than 100 years after the Easter Rising! (And why six Irishmen -- for the "six counties that live under John Bull's tyranny"?)
I wonder: Has the British Army ever formally recognized and honored the role that Irishmen (not Anglo-Irish aristos) historically played in its enlisted ranks?
In other Anglo-foreign military news, a Canadian reservist who presided over a lethal screw-up with Claymore mines in Afghanistan was demoted from major to lieutenant. I don't remember that sort of two-grade demotion occurring in the U.S. military -- do you?
A reader writes with this request for you well-informed BD readers. It reminds me that I read the other day that Russia took more casualties at Stalingrad than the United States suffered during the entire war:
While I've read many books about World War II, they've all been from the Western perspective (and predominantly about the United States' role in the war). I've been reading Dominic Tierney's mediocre but salvageable How We Fight, and he made a particularly interesting note about Russia's more significant role in WWII compared to the US -- more loss of life, greater stakes, and ultimate victory.
I've never read an account of WWII from the Russian perspective, and I'm not quite sure where to start in my search for one or two good volumes. I was hoping you might either have a suggestion, or be interested in posting to your blog to see what answers may come.
From T.P. Cameron Wilson, who was killed in 1918:
. . . The gates of Heaven were open, quite
Unguarded, and unwired.
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.