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Thread: Talk about reinforcing failure! Churchill strikes again!

  1. #16
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    Default Re: Talk about reinforcing failure! Churchill strikes again!

    Quote Originally Posted by Ardee View Post
    Hi Rising Sun – No, it wasn’t quite as you infer it, though with no fault to you. Lincoln was often trying to spur his generals on, not rein them in.

    As a simplistic overview: Lincoln was a man with relatively little military experience before the war. He had joined a militia in his early 20’s, and served as an officer therein, but I don’t believe he saw any combat. During the Civil War, he initially deferred to the military experts about how things should be done. As defeats continued to pile up, he began asking questions and offering his own suggestions, which were mostly derided by those who “knew better” (albeit, I also have memories of a book with a political cartoon showing Lincoln being led around by the nose by his generals). Part of the problem was the “competent” military experts of the day were rooted in outdated Napoleonic tactics and practices. In the end, Lincoln was often proven correct, and (speaking offhand) I believe he even originated the winning strategy of the war (i.e., controlling the Mississippi River and its transportation/trade). It wasn’t until Lincoln found a compatible partner in Gen. Ulysses Grant that the North began to have significant progress. Prior to the Civil War, Grant was certainly not viewed as a military expert, nor his service as exemplary. In his own words, the pre-war Grant viewed himself as a failure at everything he tried to do.

    It's easy to say a politician should leave things to the experts, but the problem with military expertise is that it often isn't there when you need (or even want) it.
    Thanks for that.

    American Civil War is one of those areas where my knowledge is about the level of popular knowledge apart from isolated bits which generally have come to me through interest in other areas (e.g. Andersonville POW camp and Wirz as part of POW mistreatment in later wars).
    ..
    A rational army would run away.
    Montesquieu

  2. #17
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    Default Re: Talk about reinforcing failure! Churchill strikes again!

    Quote Originally Posted by leccy View Post
    Japan was an Ally during WW1 and still friendly to the UK through the 1920's - was a major trading partner as well.

    Words have to be taken in context with the time they were said.
    Japan was an ally during WWI, but adverse post war treatment of Japan by the other major allies was one of the festering sores which led directly to Japan's involvement in WWII as an enemy of its former allies.

    It started at Versailles when Japan sought, quite reasonably, as an equal ally to have its people in allied nations treated as equals, which the white races would not do. The West was arrogantly and largely ignorant of the effect this had in Japan but, combined with things such as the White Australia Policy http://www.independentaustralia.net/...and-japan,3222 and American treatment of Japanese immigrants, it reinforced the correct perception in Japan that the West looked down on the Japanese as a people of lesser worth, albeit being willing to trade with them. The Japanese perception is expressed at http://www.shsu.edu/~his_ncp/Kawa1.html

    So far as Britain was concerned, the 1920 dissolution of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance Treaty, which is what involved Japan in WWI in providing critical support by dealing with the Indian and Pacific oceans to release the British fleet for Atlantic operations against Germany, was another slight to Japan, as was the British involvement in the the Washington Naval Treaty negotiations in 1921-22 where the Japanese perceived the British as 'rewarding' Japan's support in WWI with an unfair restriction on Japanese capital ship building relative to Britain and the US.

    The necessity of trade with Britain and other Western countries doesn't alter the reality that Japan felt that it and its people in Western countries were exploited, oppressed and unfairly treated by the West. As indeed they were, with few better examples than the shameful confiscation early in the Pacific War of Japanese farms in California and their subsequent sales below value to competing American farmers who had been complaining for years about what they saw as unfair competition from the Japanese.
    Last edited by Rising Sun*; 04-30-2014 at 10:17 AM.
    ..
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  3. #18
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    Default Re: Talk about reinforcing failure! Churchill strikes again!

    A few thoughts on this interesting thread. Regarding Churchill's reinforcement of failure in France, it is worth noting that he was under very heavy pressure from the pro-war leaders of the French government - who, in turn, were under increasing threat from a defeatist element that could not, for political reasons, be excluded from government - to supply ever-more help to the failing French army, and was (as has been commented) most anxious to secure this group by helping as much as possible so as to keep France in the war, both in Europe and overseas. It could actually have been worse - one factor in his refusal to send even more fighter assistance to France was the adamantine resistance of Fighter Command chief Sir Hugh Dowding to such a move; without this, the RAF advance expeditionary force might easily have been further reinforced. He made other serious mistakes - easy, again, to say in hindsight, but there is a strong argument that he would have been better to allow Wavell to employ the main force of his Middle Eastern Command to crush the Italians in North Africa when he had the chance, rather than diverting resources from North Africa to Greece and the Balkans. There were others.

    In general, I have a sense that his strategic sense, throughout his life, was very much informed by his experiences early in life as a junior officer, and a cavalry officer at that. He had a rather old-fashioned attachment to a particular concept of securing and attacking on the flanks, the latter tendency of which may be in large responsibility for the WW1 Gallipoli fiasco, and the less obvious, but perhaps even more disastrous, diversion of forces from the Western Desert to Greece and the Balkans. Of course, political considerations would also have played their part in both instances and, as has been said, Churchill was essentially a politician. The business about downplaying the possibility of war with Japan in the context of implementing cuts in military spending was very much what a Chancellor of the Exchequer could be expected to do, particularly in a government tied to the old-fashioned concept of achieving a strictly balanced Budget.

    The comparison with Lincoln is interesting. Lincoln was little given to interfering with the detailed running of the Union forces in the Civil War - although he did display very sound strategic sense when he did express views on such matters. His great problem for much of the early part of the war was that of persuading his "military experts" actually to fight, and to do so in a manner reflective of their alleged skills and of the substantial material advantages enjoyed by the Union. This was complicated by the problem that, because of the very rapid expansion of the Union Army early in the war, and of the defection of a disproportionate number of the more skilled professional officers to the Confederacy, the cadre of Union Army generals were often pure "political" generals, or by generals as interested in their political constituencies and/or political prospects as they were in fighting. That complex figure of McClellan is a notable case. McClellan clearly disliked Lincoln; saw himself, indeed, as a political rival to Lincoln with Presidential prospects; and enjoyed a degree of political support even within Lincoln's cabinet. Also, while he was widely perceived as a person possessing great military skills, he appears to have been an innately cautious commander, a caution perhaps amplified by a desire to avoid embarrassing defeats that might undermine his political prospects. Whatever about the latter, his innate caution can hardly be doubted. I recall the story from the Peninsula, where McClellan and his staff were holding a serious and lengthy column as to whether they could transport their army across a particular river - was it too deep ? Eventually, presumably impatient with the whole proceeding, a cavalry officer and protégé of McClellan rode his horse into the middle of the ford, the water rising only half-way up the horse's legs. "There, General," shouted the officer, "that's how deep it is !" That officer, typically, was George Armstrong Custer.

    While McClellan may have posed an exceptional problem for Lincoln in the matter of "encouraging" or firing, the same problem recurred to a greater or lesser extent with other "professional" commanders of the Union armies, several of whom seemed to Lincoln to be lacking in aggression and/or prone to attack in the wrong circumstances and/or to win or lose largely through accidents. Then along came Grant who, pre-war, was a military has-been with serious cigar and alcohol problems. Small victories led to greater opportunities the early highlight of which was the Union's "victory in the West" culminating in the capture of Vicksburg (a masterly campaign on Grant's part; I wonder if Manstein was thinking of it in the Crimea in 1942). Lincoln's attitude to his high commanders very much comes out in his attitude to Grant; he was quite happy to let the General get on with it, provided that he fought and generally won - even if the body count sometimes proved rather high. I like the story about the delegation of "good people" (one of many) that met Lincoln to complain, among other things, about Grant's affection for the Demon Drink, and demanding the dismissal of such a "disreputable" officer. Tiring of this, Lincoln interrupted one of the "good people" in full flow with the question, "Sir, do you know which brand of whisky General Grant favours ?" The flustered delegate had to deny knowledge, prompting Lincoln to remark, "Well Sir, that is a pity. If I knew, I would send some cases of it to all my generals. It might persuade them to fight. All I care about is that General Grant fights and that generally, Sir, he wins..". He had a point. Whatever about his love of whisky and cigars, Grant (and his protégés Sherman, Sheridan etc.) certainly fought, and generally won, and took the leading part in finally securing the Union victory.

    Lincoln and Churchill both came to symbolize and embody the will to victory of their peoples. How well would the militarily semi-skilled but "interventionist" Churchill have dealt with, say, the McClellan situation ? How well would the militarily unskilled and "non-interventionist" Lincoln have dealt with Britain's WW2 military dilemmas ? Now, there is a huge but distinctly unhistorical question ! Best regards, JR.
    Last edited by JR*; 05-01-2014 at 05:42 AM.

  4. #19
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    Default Re: Talk about reinforcing failure! Churchill strikes again!

    Quote Originally Posted by JR* View Post
    In general, I have a sense that his strategic sense, throughout his life, was very much informed by his experiences early in life as a junior officer, and a cavalry officer at that. He had a rather old-fashioned attachment to a particular concept of securing and attacking on the flanks, the latter tendency of which may be in large responsibility for the WW1 Gallipoli fiasco...
    In fairness to Churchill, Gallipoli strategically was an excellent idea had it succeeded in its purpose of allowing the other Allies to supply Russia through the Black Sea, which could have had a major effect on the war.

    This aspect is generally not understood in Australia, where Gallipoli has great significance as the first great test of our troops. There is an assumption that the purpose of the campaign was to defeat the Turks, but ignorance of the fact that the defeat was intended for the wider strategic purpose of supporting Russia in the war.

    There is also general ignorance of the fact that the Dardanelles / Gallipoli land campaign wasn't the first choice, but was a consequence of the failure of a naval attempt to force the Dardanelles and recognition that the Turkish land batteries and mines in the channel made naval success impossible unless those batteries were neutralised by a land campaign.

    Compared with the negligible wider strategic gains which could have flowed from Churchill's WWII decision to demonstrate support for the Greek government by diverting North African troops to Greece, the Dardanelles campaign had a lot to commend it. Both campaigns ended in failure, but only the Dardanelles one offered a chance to change the course of a world war had it succeeded. There was a lot more to justify the Dardanelles decision than the Greek one.
    ..
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  5. #20
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    Default Re: Talk about reinforcing failure! Churchill strikes again!

    If Churchill were alive today do you think he would garnish the same type of respect and loyalty that he did back then? I mean, with our over conservative strict anti smoking by-laws, I really really wonder if society could see through the ambiguity and frivolous stance that smoking has, when it comes to times of war. I mean, if Churchill were smoking his stogie in the war room do you really think there would be some do gooders that would object? Churchill was a man of integrity and I bet there are some out there that can't even see this because they are anti-brain washed, brain dead on smoking and the causes of cancer bla bla bla when they cant see the brilliance of a man who did what it took to lead Britain at the time.
    Wiki is ok. History Channel is ok.
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  6. #21
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    Default Re: Talk about reinforcing failure! Churchill strikes again!

    Quote Originally Posted by JR* View Post
    The comparison with Lincoln is interesting. ... His great problem for much of the early part of the war was that of persuading his "military experts" actually to fight, and to do so in a manner reflective of their alleged skills and of the substantial material advantages enjoyed by the Union. This was complicated by ... the defection of a disproportionate number of the more skilled professional officers to the Confederacy, the cadre of Union Army generals were often pure "political" generals, or by generals as interested in their political constituencies and/or political prospects as they were in fighting. That complex figure of McClellan is a notable case. McClellan clearly disliked Lincoln; saw himself, indeed, as a political rival to Lincoln with Presidential prospects; and enjoyed a degree of political support even within Lincoln's cabinet. Also, while he was widely perceived as a person possessing great military skills, he appears to have been an innately cautious commander, a caution perhaps amplified by a desire to avoid embarrassing defeats that might undermine his political prospects. Whatever about the latter, his innate caution can hardly be doubted. ....
    Hi JR. Not sure I want to risk going too far off the WWII topic, but it can also be fun.... The American Civil War is sometimes referred to as the first modern war, with everything from rifles to submarines to railroads and telegraphs. Warfare itself was undergoing profound change. McClellan, as you say, had a healthy dose of caution: he routinely overestimated Confederate forces, stating his army was in fact considerably out numbered, etc. There was also a Napoleonic influence in how the Armies would advance, engage, and then retire after heavy engagements to recover -- allowing considerable time to pass before the next campaign. I think at least some of the reluctance to fight you mention for the north has connection to this notion of maneuver in order to fight major decisive battles. In any case, Grant changed that, believing in long-term closure with the enemy, finally bringing Union superiority of numbers and resources to bear in battles of attrition (shades of WWI). But I'm not sure if I'm reading you right when you talk about political generals and a disproportionate number of skilled officers going south. Yes, Union regiments were raised by rich men with political ambitions -- Gen. Sickles, who with his incompetence nearly won the battle of the Gettysburg (and maybe the war) for the south is a classic example. But the Union also had a high number of professional soldiers trained at West Point (the US Military Academy), and I believe the Union had considerably more generals with professional West Point backgrounds (and as top students!) than the south. McClellan certainly had political ambitions, and ran against Lincoln for the Presidency -- but I'm not sure when those ambitions developed. Were they there before the war, or did they emerge from the constant egging on he got from Lincoln's detractors? I'd have to spend time researching to find out, if you're not sure. McClellan was certainly contemptuous of Lincoln, but he was also a West Pointer, and in theory at least, one of the best military minds around. In reality, perhaps one of his more helpful (if uncomfortable) contributions to the military was the cavalry saddle that bears his name. (Okay, that's unfair -- he is actually credited with instilling the Union Army with the discipline, training, and organization that it needed to win.)

    But what also struck me about your post was your comment on McClellan's excessive caution -- his egotism, his desire to compile a massive, overwhelming force before he would commit to battle, and his constant delays in the face of political pressure to attack the enemy. Does that remind you of anyone Churchill had to work with?
    "...we have met the enemy and he is us." -- Pogo (Walt Kelly)

  7. #22
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    Default Re: Talk about reinforcing failure! Churchill strikes again!

    Quote Originally Posted by herman2 View Post
    If Churchill were alive today do you think he would garnish the same type of respect and loyalty that he did back then?
    Smoking had an entirely different social context then versus now. Churchill may have had the moxie to pull off his habit in public today and make it work. If not, he was a good enough politician that he'd probably do what today's smoking politicians do -- i.e., not smoke in public. In the war room? Out of the public eye, he's the boss and could do what he wants. With today's ventilation systems, it might not even be an issue (and you can also look at JR's story about Lincoln, Grant and Whiskey above). Beyond that -- I fear you may be wandering even further off topic than JR and I were!
    "...we have met the enemy and he is us." -- Pogo (Walt Kelly)

  8. #23
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    Default Re: Talk about reinforcing failure! Churchill strikes again!

    Quote Originally Posted by JR* View Post
    A few thoughts on this interesting thread. Regarding Churchill's reinforcement of failure in France, it is worth noting that he was under very heavy pressure from the pro-war leaders of the French government - who, in turn, were under increasing threat from a defeatist element that could not, for political reasons, be excluded from government - to supply ever-more help to the failing French army, and was (as has been commented) most anxious to secure this group by helping as much as possible so as to keep France in the war, both in Europe and overseas. It could actually have been worse - one factor in his refusal to send even more fighter assistance to France was the adamantine resistance of Fighter Command chief Sir Hugh Dowding to such a move; without this, the RAF advance expeditionary force might easily have been further reinforced. He made other serious mistakes - easy, again, to say in hindsight, but there is a strong argument that he would have been better to allow Wavell to employ the main force of his Middle Eastern Command to crush the Italians in North Africa when he had the chance, rather than diverting resources from North Africa to Greece and the Balkans. There were others.
    Hindsight is always a bugbear and often used to blame people for making mistakes at the time which are obvious with use of hindsight.

    The RAF was just not strong enough to face the Luftwaffe on the mainland in 1940, even when the French Airforce was at its strongest it would have required the full RAF to be deployed to inadequate bases in France to even come close to matching its strength. Much of the RAF and a major proportion of the French Airforce was obsolete and totally outclassed by the majority of the German airforce.

    Politically there was no way the 500+ RAF fighters in 39 Squadrons (a mix of Hurricanes, Gladiators, Defiants, Blenheim's and still a few Harts with Spitfires just starting volume production(although slow still to produce) could be sent, 13 Squadrons were sent in the end consisting mostly of Hurricanes with some Gladiators and Blenheims (the Blenheim 1F seem to be mixed with the bombers though) with others operating from the UK. Losses were high and mostly due to the airstrips being over run.

    Air power on its own would be no good, it could not make up for the strategic and tactical deficiences or lack of training and equipment on the allied side.

    There is doubt that the British Commonwealth Forces could have defeated the Italians in North Africa, the troops were willing to fight and were on a roll but the equipment was struggling and the supply lies were stretched past breaking point, increasing amounts of reliance was placed on captured Italian supplies and vehicles - Italian tanks, vehicles, supplies, artillery were all pressed into service to make up for increasing shortfalls.

    Italian units were not the walk over most assume and were still fighting hard in places even if the tactics were poor, the equipment was generally equal to or superior to much of the British supplied equipment (especially since it was increasingly being supplemented by italian equipment). They were closer to their main bases while the British Commonwealth were stretched far from theirs.
    IN the days of lace-ruffles, perukes and brocade
    Brown Bess was a partner whom none could despise
    An out-spoken, flinty-lipped, brazen-faced jade,
    With a habit of looking men straight in the eyes
    At Blenheim and Ramillies fops would confess
    They were pierced to the heart by the charms of Brown Bess.

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