rubaiyat2 Omar Khayaam, sorry I can’t do the bold around “distant” in a title. I gave Hugo the popcorn on friday, but it didn’t really apply until today. It looks like the Frogs win the first strike award whilst Gaddafi gets the lying scumbag award. The end result of the Gaddafi-vs-the-West military fight is in no doubt; quite where that leaves the ground war is less clear. Probably in an Afghanistan-type situation, where we (well, the US in that case) bombed the Taliban so the Northern Alliance could take over. Only lets hope this time we don’t collude with the drug-dealers; as far as I can tell the rebels are much nicer than the NA.

Soundtrack: Flight of the pelican.

CIP makes various good points; that if we’d done nothing the rebels obvious next choice was Al-Quaeda (but we’ve averted that; good); that by waiting so long we’ve lost the chance to topple Gaddafi easily (sadly so; that leaves Libya badly shot-up and a lot of people pointlessly dead); and that by waiting so long, we’ve probably pushed all the doubters into a show of loyalty to the Dark Side (but hopefully they will be having another think now). But, assuming the worst isn’t true (the worst would be that the West actually wants a stalemate in Libya, because it fears the “example”, and is being leaned on by Saudi and Israel; entirely plausible, but probably not true) then I think the good guys are likely to win out.

Incidentally, I think this is starting to look good for Obama, possibly just by chance. By hanging back and leaving it until late we had the Arab League practically begging the West to intervene, Gaddafi was doing his best to act and sound like a mad dog, and that coupled with France and the UK leading the security council resolution meant that China and Russia found it awkward to veto. Shame about the Squareheads, though.

We’re so predictable

_51601556_rebeltank_ap As in, we start off bombing their air defences. Heavens knows how we’d get on against a clueful opponent. Fortunately the enemy in this case is both clueless and effectively powerless.

This is a picture of a tank. As it happens, a rebel tank. In case you’re wondering what it can do, the BBC has some insightful analysis: It offers high protection from small arms fire and carries a big gun (I’m being snarky of course, that is why you’re here, but the rest of the article is of value). Also interesting to see that Toyota seems to have cornered the market in “technicals” – the stuff-a-machine-gun-on-a-pickup-truck type stuff. They got a bad reputation for wanton violence a while back, but maybe these will feature in the Toyota PR literature.

Too much news

This, of course, pushes the Japanese quake and reactor off the top spot in the news league, which I’d say is a good thing. We can stop vacuously panicking about trivial levels of radionucleides and settle down to some decent war porn, and the Japanese can get started on rebuilding in peace; my best wishes to them.

The random bit at the end where I throw in irrelevant stuff

poll-wash-times Truely outstanding work from our colonial cousins, who as usual are upholding their constitutional right to have silly names. Not content with firing missiles from a ship called Sandra-n-Tracy (I exaggerate) they actually have a ship called the USS Ponce (I don’t exaggerate at all; presumably they aren’t familiar with our “culture”). My current theory for why they had to lauch 120-odd missiles is that the photos for the first few didn’t come out terribly well and they needed to take a few more to get decent pix.

And… thanks to Denial Depot comes this stunning poll from the Washington Times. As Bill says to Sean: “Really, there is no hope for this country”.

Snark annex: A British submarine has fired a number of Tomahawk missiles at Libyan air defence targets. Well of course it has. It is impossible not to, since zero is a number.

And the sub-basement for pedantry fans: the UN resolution sez 6. Decides to establish a ban on all flights in the airspace of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya in order to help protect civilians which, taken rather literally, includes flights by the West, too. So the French have been very naughty people. As have we and the US; cruise missiles fly, after all. [Update: I didn't read carefully enough; section 7 gives them a let-out; I should have known, really they would have high-grade lawyers writing this stuff.

[Update: Monday 21st: after the initial round of French air strikes, and the cruise missiles, today there (and Sunday really) there has been a dearth of real news. But a huge yawning gap of air time to fill in. So the meeja have been reduced to junk like Gaddafi 'not targeted' by allied strikes (what next? "Man not bitten by dog?) and other meaningless drivel.]

[Update: Wednesday 23rd: not much going on. Rebs looking rather chaotic and amateurish (really?). Beeb bored with it, leading on the Budget.]

Refs


* Predictable stupidity from the Grauniad – they have found “Abdel al-Bari Atwan” to say the obvious stupid things.
* Wreck of Gaddafi’s force smoulders near Benghazi – Reuters (more pic)

Comments

  1. #1 snide
    2011/03/19

    The nuclear issue is that it is a needless cockup that should never have happened.

    Dr John Large, an independent nuclear engineer and nuclear safety expert, said: “These plants should be designed to be resistant to tsunamis, but it appears they did not consider that a tsunami would hit the plant when they were using the back up generators.

    “The buildings will have been built to withstand a tsunami, but it appears the back up generators were not.”

    [Err yes I think we noticed that one quite a while back. But before we pat ourselves on the back for being so clever in retrospect, lets remember that none of the after-the-fact experts noticed it *beforehand* even though all the information is presumably there for those who care to look.

    But anyway, this is the war post, nukes are a post or so back -W]

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/japan/8392730/Japan-nuclear-crisis-tsunami-study-showed-Fukushima-plant-was-at-risk.html

    Nuclear safety specialists said that despite the surveys it appeared officials at Fukushima Daiichi had not considered the scenario that a tsunami might hit the power plant at a time when they would need to use diesel back up generators intended to provide emergency power to the reactor cooling systems.

    The nuclear industry does have special safety requirements. The industry in this case has failed.

    Time for gratuitous dig at the standards of engineers as compared to climate scientists, who are incompetent and have no idea about the immpeccably high standards that engineers hold themselves to. Can we get a look at their emails?

  2. #2 bluegrue
    2011/03/19

    Heavens knows how we’d get on against a clueful opponent.

    If you find yourself in a fair fight, you didn’t plan your mission properly. – (David Hackworth)

    [I like it -W]

  3. #4 dhogaza
    2011/03/19

    they actually have a ship called the USS Ponce (I don’t exaggerate at all; presumably they aren’t familiar with our “culture”).

    This particular class of ship’s known as an “Austin-class amphibious transport dock”.

    In other words, they’re named after non-capital cities in US states and territories.

    As in, for instance, “Ponce, Puerto Rico”. Named after Ponce de Leon.

    [And a very respectable person he was too, I'm sure. Not at all his fault that his name now sounds funny to me -W]

    At least we don’t name our ships after impossibly gaudy and annoyingly loud birds like the English Navy does!

    Heavens knows how we’d get on against a clueful opponent.

    Well, the Luftwaffe began the Battle of Britain by concentrating on destroying the British fighter force, airfields, etc.

    Should one wonder how *they* would’ve gotten on against a clueful opponent? :)

    Actually we (the US and UK were allies by 1944, though we would’ve gladly traded Montgomery for a moderately competent colonel trained by the German Army) destroyed the German air force before invading normandy for pretty much the same reason they’re attacking air defenses in Libya …

    Note that we’re already seeing mission creep, though, the French have attacked Libyan ground forces on the grounds that they carry anti-aircraft weapons (presumably surface-to-air missiles judging by the footage of that one rebel fighter knocked down today).

    Looks like enforcing a “no-fly zone” will be interpreted liberally …

    [Yes, I'd expect so. That is part of the point: you have to go pretty damn far to provoke the UN / the West into actually doing something, so and if you do go that far you're going to get worse. Hysteresis, that's the word I'm looking for -W]

  4. #5 dhogaza
    2011/03/19

    But before we pat ourselves on the back for being so clever in retrospect, lets remember that none of the after-the-fact experts noticed it *beforehand* even though all the information is presumably there for those who care to look.

    True enough, but I expect more out of those who are *paid* to look at such stuff beforehand than I do out of we monday morning quarterbacks …

    But, yes, it’s a war post, and that apparently is a T-55 tank, which is far more ancient than the T-72 tanks which Iraq heavily depended on and which were utterly destroyed by our M1A1s during our first invasion of Iraq. During the second invasion, they were mostly dependent on T-55s … the Toyotas can probably run away faster, unfortunately for those conscripts who were manning the T-55s.

    It does have a big gun, though.

  5. #6 Steve Bloom
    2011/03/19

    IIRC the resolution was clear that any “government” ground forces still on the offensive would be subject to air attack. As it’s hard to conduct any sort of offensive out in that sort of terrain without armored vehicles, defenders having a huge advantage otherwise, presumably those are being eliminated. I expect the attacking jets won’t be picky about whether the tanks are still engaged offensively. I wouldn’t even be surprised to see all of the regime’s tanks gone after, that being a good way of exhibiting the shock and awe so beloved of Western war planners.

    That eliminating the air defenses would be the first step taken was announced days ago, so it didn’t even require a prediction.

    OT: Featuring that ridiculous Timmy post attacking McKibben becomes you not, W.

    [This one? http://timworstall.com/2011/03/14/the-guardian-editorial-using-fukushima-to-tell-us-all-how-dangerous-nuclear-is/ Well, it wsa a putting their-opinion-on-the-line sort of post, which I like. Time has, in retrospect, proved him wrong, in a sense: it is now clear that something worse *might* happen, though actually happening now looks unlikely. But Timmy was talking about the reactor, not the old fuel rods, so in a different sense was right -W]

  6. #7 dhogaza
    2011/03/20

    This particular class of ship’s known as an “Austin-class amphibious transport dock”.

    In other words, they’re named after non-capital cities in US states and territories.

    Except that Austin’s the capital of Texas, and Denver of Colorado … oh well.

    Presumably it has something to do with in older days no cruiser named after the city, or some other perceived slight.

    IIRC the resolution was clear that any “government” ground forces still on the offensive would be subject to air attack

    Yeah, but it was sold here (in the US) as a “no-fly zone”. Goal-posts moved, and now my french friend has to contemplate that Sarko’s putting France out in front of the US – “first-strike!” beating the US … believe me, this is an important moment in interpersonal international relationships :)

  7. #8 Paul Kelly
    2011/03/20

    What Timmy post is Steve Bloom talking about. Does he agree Bill McKibben should be a presidential candidate either in the Democratic primaries or for the Green Party in the general.

  8. #9 Clam
    2011/03/20

    I expect that the ship was named at the time of the Vietnam war to take care of the Vietnamese vessel the “President Ho”.
    @dho gaza strip: I seem to remember that Montgomery got the landing where the real opposition was. Remind me to ask my father, he was there.

  9. #10 Hank Roberts
    2011/03/20

    >Soundtrack: Flight of the pelican.

    Wow. Thank you for that link.

  10. #11 Steve Bloom
    2011/03/20

    This currently-featured Timmy post. But nearly all of them contain some grain of stupidity, so feel free to pick yer poison.

    [Ah, that one. Both sides have some valid points; in that one, I think Timmy is probably more correct. McKibben's evidence that complex societies are more prone to failure is non-existent, as far as I can see -W]

    Also, William, while risk of a reactor meltdown has receded, it was very much a possibility. We won’t know how close things came for months, if not years, or perhaps never, if TEPCO can manage to get authorization to entomb the cores without doing the forensics.

    [As I understand it, they are designed to survive meltdown -W]

  11. #12 Steve Bloom
    2011/03/20

    Source for that understanding, please. I think the nuance may be that they are *designed* to not have a sufficiently severe meltdown as to breach the vessel, so when such a thing threatens due to unanticipated faults (of various falvors) a blind panic ensues. FYI a full-scale meltdown test has never been done, and the attempt at quarter-scale test in the ’70s was shown to be not actually scalable.

    [I can't say I'm familiar with the details, so can't give you a good source -W]

    This current NYT article is of interest. Apropos the Timmy post, the described bumbling is inherent, i.e. our society has yet to figure out how to properly account for the failure of complex systems, whether they be mechanical, financial or, er, the ocean-atmosphere circulation (albeit that failure is relative with regard to the latter, as the ocean-atmosphere will keep on circulating in some form with or without inputs from us).

    [OK, how about an analogy. Would you say that in the ecological world, a simpler system is robust, and that the diversity of, say, a rainforest is dangerous? -W]

  12. #13 Holly Stick
    2011/03/20

    That strikes me as a really bad analogy. A diverse ecosystem is better than a monoculture because diseases don’t spread as easily and you are less likely to get soemthing like the potato famine.

    A complicated built system would seem more likely to multiply failures and pass them on. Maybe if it has enough backups it won’t.

    In an ecosystem diversity means flexibility, but in a built system diversity means more things to go wrong.

    [That is an assertion, not an argument. Why do you believe it? Experience doesn't bear it out. Japan is a complex society. That complexity saved many lives (early warnings; safe buildings; rescue efforts) and despite your apparent belief, subsequently no-one (?) has died; the complex society has proved very resilient -W]

  13. #14 Steve Bloom
    2011/03/20

    Re the reactors, suffice to say that they’re a U.S. design that pre-dates TMI, which latter you will recall was famously at risk of a complete meltdown (the “China Syndrome” sort that goes through the vessel and into the water table, although to be fair I should mention that there’s some debate as to whether a melted core that reaches criticality would be able to maintain that or would just blow itself apart, in which case it might not be possible for one to concentrate heat on the vessel bottom long enough to melt through; but having noted the latter, it hasn’t stopped designers from subsequently adding “core catchers” down below the vessels; I suppose there’s also the possibility of a core melting through without reaching criticality, but I don’t know much about that).

    [But "China syndrome" is the name of a film, like "Day after tomorrow". And TMI, well, didn't really cause any radiation leak at all -W]

    Re simple vs. complex ecologies, I’m way out of my league in answering that (paging Jim Bouldin!), but I think it would, um, depend. Maybe the way to think about it is that when a complex one gets whacked the result could be expected to be a simpler one that is more resilient to whatever did the whacking. But then perhaps the simpler one would be relatively more vulnerable to other varieties of whacking. I’ll bet there’s a considerable literature addressing this.

    But since we’re talking about this in the context of action by humans, it’s interesting that our own role has been to simplify ecologies, often to our extreme detriment. Do we show any signs of changing that approach?

    [In terms of farming, we've simplified ecologies and get away with it somewhat in the way of modern fighter planes that cannot be flown by people alone, since they are dynamically unstable - ie, our ecologies need constant intervention. There are some signs of tinkering around the margin but in real terms, no, that is where most of our food comes from -W]

  14. #15 dhogaza
    2011/03/21

    clam:

    @dho gaza strip: I seem to remember that Montgomery got the landing where the real opposition was. Remind me to ask my father, he was there.

    Omaha beach (Omaha being a city in the US) was where most casualties were on D-Day and shortly after.

    Look, a lot of contemporary Brits felt pretty much the same about Monty.

    Never fear, many professional military officers felt the same about our McDouglas.

    Both have suffered in the judgement of history, though it is interesting that mainstream Brit history tends to worship Monty, while in the US, mainstream history tends to be very critical of McDoug.

    [Certainly seems to be the current view -W]

    Maybe it’s true that the Brits are right, and this is why they’re a superpower, while the US is not …

  15. #16 dhogaza
    2011/03/21

    Re the reactors, suffice to say that they’re a U.S. design that pre-dates TMI, which latter you will recall was famously at risk of a complete meltdown

    Actually, TMI mostly melted down, and was contained.

    The safety issue here is that PWR like TMI were built with much stronger containment vessels than boiling water reactors like those at the Japanese site (and the TMI reactor that failed has a twin is still in service).

    although to be fair I should mention that there’s some debate as to whether a melted core that reaches criticality would be able to maintain that or would just blow itself apart

    C’mon, at some point it hits the water table, and blows up in a steam explosion.

    Unavoidable.

    And here I am, not particularly pro-nuke …

  16. #17 Eli Rabett
    2011/03/21

    The lesson here is Bosnia and Afghanistan early on. You don’t need very skilled allies on the ground if the other side can’t lift its head out of the sand without being shot up from the air.

  17. #18 Brian Schmidt
    2011/03/21

    ‘Twere I Qaddafi, I’d have stashed some surface-to-air missiles and manpads in the right parts of the world, and then quietly inform the West that if it attacks, then intermediaries will get the weapons to Al Qaeda.

    More in keeping with the laws of war but still effective: I’d have some very small navy boats in rotation off the coasts of the US and Europe, and following the air attack on Libya I’d drop off uniformed snipers at night on beaches near military bases to attack soldiers and sailors. The small navy boats could even do hit and run attacks on coast guard and navy installations. Very risky, but some folks in Qaddafi’s personality cult might actually be willing to do it.

    Either these ideas don’t work, or Qaddafi isn’t clueful.

    [I think they are both broken. The little-naval-boats falls foul of him not having the ability to do it; plus the risk of simply provoking the West is too strong. Ditto shipping weapons to Al-Q just seems like a really bad idea, the risk of someone leaking it is too strong -W]

  18. #19 thomas hine
    2011/03/21

    Is that an A. Rackham illustration?

    When do the pirates make the payroll?

    [Don't think so, I just ripped it off somewhere. Click on the pic to go to flickr, which lists my source -W]

  19. #20 Steve Bloom
    2011/03/21

    William, the term “China Syndrome” pre-dated the movie. Even WP knows that! Anyway, it seems that your position is that it’s all safe enough until we get complete disaster. Coming really close to the brink more than once doesn’t seem to change your calculus.

    [No, I don't think that is my position. My position re TMI was that the reaction was out of all proportion to the incident, as subsequently assessed. My reaction to Japan is that too much is unclear at the moment; there seems to be no point in rushing to judgement; we can wait a week or a month to see what emerges. Meanwhile, another lot of coal miners are dead: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/asia/2011/03/2011321125819959315.html but that isn't very exciting -W]

  20. #21 JCH
    2011/03/21

    Omaha was a beach. My uncle was an infantry battalion commander in the bocage. After the beach, they took a leisurely walk to the bocage, and there they crept to St. Lo: a very tough go up Hill 192. It took weeks to break through. The Germans were very good at defense. The invasion took weeks to build. The Army could not do amphibious like the Marines.

  21. #22 Majorajam
    2011/03/21

    One of the main reasons why we took so many casualties at Omaha beach dhogaza was the insistence of American commanders on using Sherman tanks as boats notwitstanding D-Day’s heaving seas. Not one of these isn’t scuba diving fodder these days by consequence of which Omaha’s landing force became cannon fodder.

    The folly was of course the original plan, but that didn’t keep the Brits from improvising and driving their landing ships right up to their beaches and successfully delivering their cargo. Tanks of course were absolutely critical in providing the cover and hitting power necessary to take out German pillboxes and dug in positions on the bluffs. This was a Cold Harbor caliber screw-up on our part.

    Another British decision whose ramifications get underplayed was their insistence on delaying the D-Day landing until 1944 in the first place, perhaps due to their first hand experience in getting their tails kicked by the Wehrmacht/Panzer Corps/Luftwaffe in France (or perhaps due to their desire to safegaurding their colonial interest). No matter, the fact that the Western Allies struggled so mightily against the Third Reich *after* it had already effectively been mortally wounded in a series of battles in the East suggests this was a pretty effing good call. Single Tiger tanks were known to hold up entire columns of the Allied force for days. If the Germans had actually had some resources/fuel to throw at us, I fear it would’ve been a replay of Dunkirk only without the successful evacuation.

    This was not to say that Monty didn’t make Patton look good. He did. And that wasn’t easy.

  22. #23 P. Lewis
    2011/03/21

    Mad, despotic tyrant of an oil-rich state; familial successor to head of state probable; secret(!)-police suppression of the masses; killer of his country’s civilians; chemical and biological weapons capability; no-fly zone to prevent tyrant’s abuses of his power …

    Gaddafi and Libya, 2011?

    No. Saddam Hussein and Iraq, 1991-2003.

    [Yes, I agree, the two events deserve to be compared. But I've heard a number of people say "Saddam" as though it was a coherent argument for doing nothing now. Actually I think the best result of thinking about this would be to realise that explicitly pressing for getting rid of Gaddafi would be the best idea; unfortunately the other Arab despots (Saudis, etc) wouldn't stand for that.

    Isn't if funny the way the Russians are huffing and puffing? They really are rubbish -W]

  23. #24 guthrie
    2011/03/22

    At last, a conversation starts on which I feel I am well informed. I spent some time last year reading about the Normandy landings and subsequent ending of the war on Europe. Ok, all books were from the British point of view, but they covered a variety of sources and were critical of different aspects of policy, planning and operations.

    To start with DHogaza:
    “Actually we (the US and UK were allies by 1944, though we would’ve gladly traded Montgomery for a moderately competent colonel trained by the German Army) destroyed the German air force before invading normandy for pretty much the same reason they’re attacking air defenses in Libya”

    That sounds a totally stupid thing to say – Montgomery was the one in overall command of the successful Normandy landings operational phase, so not having him in charge would likely have been a problem. Moreover, combined air and ground force operations were pioneered in north africa by the 8th army, commanded by some chap called Montgomery!

    Now, on post 15, Omaha beach – resistance was fierce along much of the landings because the Germans had moved more troops into the area than the allies had wanted them to. But Omaha beach was a bit of a mess for several reasons – 1) It was a naturally strongly defensive location.
    2) the americans didn’t have many tanks and special things like flail tanks which came in very useful on the British and Canadian landings. Dropping the DD tanks so far offshore didn’t help, and many didn’t make it.
    3) The ususal fog of battle thing (and the weather) which meant that the bombardments supposed to take out the shore defences weren’t very effective at all.
    Chester Wilmot, whose book I’ve taken this from, goes further to say that if the Americans had taken full advantage of the specialised armour that was available to the British, they would have done a lot better on Omaha. The British used swimming tanks, but dropped them closer to shore, so more made it ashore, and they were also happy to put tanks ashore in landing craft, more so than the Americans, who seemed to rely upon the poor bloody infantryman. By contrast, the British tanks made everything a lot easier, although many were knocked out, enough got through that they made a difference in clearing out the defenders.

    Majorajam #22 – There was absolutely no choice whatsoever in delaying D-day to 1944. The manpower and resources required for a successful landing were absolutely not in place. The british had been kicking the arses of the Germans all the way across north Africa, Sicily and Italy, (although British tanks were not suited to modern warfare, we had to use the american ones for best effect). It also took time to get the RAF into fighting fitness after 1940, but an important point is that the germans were still relying on the ME109 by 1944, whereas the British and Americans had brought out multiple new models which were consistently superior in all aspects, such as duration of flight, armour etc. Thus air superiority was assured. It was also not possible to safely carry out landings before the U-boats were neutralised, because of the sheer tonnage of supplies required.
    Single tiger tanks holding up columns for days is just a stupid thing to say. The main issues in the west were to a large extent logistical. The Germans had destroyed the main ports, and the amount of supplies needed to keep 1.5 million men fighting is so huge that you probably can’t imagine it. Hence the stop in Belgium which allowed the Germans to re-group. Moreover, progress was delayed because American generals and Eisenhower etc wanted a broad front advance, which required re-stocking everyone. Montgomery and others wanted a sharp thrust to the Ruhr which if carried out succesfully might have ended the war in late 1944.
    And the mortal wounding, as far as I can judge, was by the end of 1944. Before that there were a lot of intact, dangerous divisions around in france and other parts of Europe. By the end of that year, most of them had been ground to pieces.

    The interesting thing about Normandy is how everything fitted together. Its a brilliant example of how, despite the fog of war and difficulties with everything, you can land over a million men and break out destroying your enemy, who was one of the most skilled at defensive battles ever found, and who was fighting to the last man.
    For starters, the air interdiction and bombing of railways and bridges meant that german re-inforcements trickled into battle, denying them the ability to build up and launch a decisive offensive. Thanks to careful misdirection operated by the allies, the Germans thought for weeks that there was going to be a second landing near Calais, and kept many divisions tied up there for too long to be of any use in repelling the landing.
    Lots of smaller things made a difference – americans on the west flank worked out a way of attacking spikes to tanks to break through the bocage, Bailey bridges were important in crossing so many rivers which otherwise would have stopped progress for days or weeks and so on. Despite damage to the Mulberries by a storm, enough supplies were brought in on beaches to keep operations going, even if it wasn’t enough to keep everyone happy.

    Regarding the possibilities of a failed landing – the first thing Montgomery did when given the command was increase the strength of the landings. The germans had fuel and resources, enough to repel the landings, but they were poorly commanded, and the disruptive effects of air superiority fouled up their deployment.

  24. #25 guthrie
    2011/03/22

    Now, as far as I can see, we were quite lucky here in the UK during the war, in that we had some of the right people in the right place at the right time. Montgomery being one of them. Sure, a lot of people didn’t like his style or the way he spoke to them, but he got things done, and reports from the people involved suggest that many of his men worshipped him. He spent a lot of time on what some might call PR with a snide tone in their voice, and others call necessary raising of morale in order that the troops knew where they stood and had faith in their commander.

  25. #26 J Bowers
    2011/03/22

    “Hobart’s Funnies” is worth reading:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hobart%27s_Funnies

  26. #27 J Bowers
    2011/03/22

    “Bradley decided American units would not use other specialized tanks, including the “flail” tanks that cleared minefields and tanks with flamethrowers, because they required specialized training and an extensive separate supply and maintenance organization.”

    http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/omarnels.htm

  27. #28 guthrie
    2011/03/22

    Really? Thats not the most cogent of reasons given the point that even most of the British use of them was simply during the assault, although I have read of them being used weeks later for mine clearing. Very probably there was a lack of decent training in the use of many of these vehicles, but enough got through that their effectiveness in reducing casualties and permitting quicker more sucessful action is widely documented.
    Flail tanks especially, from eye witness accounts I’ve read, were extremely useful. No faffing about with bangalore torpedos or foot by foot mine clearance, just drive straight to the gap in the defenses through the minefield.

  28. #29 J Bowers
    2011/03/23

    Guthrie, one of the tank types was used during the Korean War, others up until the 1960s with one of the Centurion spinoffs seeing use in Desert Storm.

    I actually sympathise with Bradley’s reasoning. The British had had the time to get familiar with the Funnies. For instance, the mortar version needed the crew to exit through side hatches and load the mortar from the outside. It might seem a simple thing to do, but simple things are rarely that in the heat of battle from what I can tell, at least without lots of training, and the crews had to be specially trained in their use for up to six months from what I can tell. The Division had been formed as early as 1942.

    When you have so many soldiers knowing what their objectives and tactics are, to throw so many unfamiliar vehicles and unknowns into the mix at a late stage in the day could have caused more problems than they solved, especially given the enormous logistical and supply challenges, and the Funnies needed their own tier of logistical support.

    Bradley’s decision most likely wasn’t, in practice, even his to make. His staff had reacted unfavourably to the Funnies, which most likely means that the officers and men in the field had, too. If his men didn’t want them or were reluctant to use them, they’d probably not use them properly in battle at all, regardless of what Bradley thought was best, or even ditch them at the first opportunity. They’d become a hindrance, not a help.

    Caesar would judge the mood of his legionaries first thing in the morning, and if he thought they weren’t up for a scrap that day he’d fix the morning auspices to keep them in camp until the next day. I suspect that Bradley was simply doing similar, but on a much larger scale over a greater length of time. If the men didn’t trust the contraptions that had been foisted on them then it could have had a serious effect on morale, which is more important than anything else.

  29. #30 guthrie
    2011/03/23

    Actually, the overwhelming impression I get of D-day is of total chaos, no matter the training undergone by the people involved.
    I don’t know about American command structures or suchlike so have no idea who made what decision. The british one went all the way to the top and MOntgomery, after seeing what was on offer, picked what he thought was required (of course taking advice from people) and remember he was only put in command late 43/ early 44.
    At the bottom of the heap, we have Stuart Hills, whose memoir is called “By tank into Normandy”. As a new officer, he joined a tank regiment which was then, in February 1944 or so (he doesn’t specify exactly when), trained in the use of the duplex drive Sherman tank. The old hands had previously used normal shermans in north Africa, but there was no great training involved in the switchover to the DD tank, and the americans had had many divisions in the UK since 1943. So I regard it as more of a convenient excuse, perhaps it was the little undertainty which added to all the other straws on the camels back.
    I can’t tell what effect the funnies had on morale, except that I vaguely recall reading about people finding them funny, so helping that way. Different cultures at war find different things useful.

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