Friday, July 28, 2017

May 1940

Refugees in Belgium, May 1940 (Source)
So, continuing (after a bit of a pause for other stuff) with the Dunkirk theme (the movie of course, not the town) I thought it might be worthwhile to cover a few things. The context of Operation Dynamo (which was the code name for the evacuation) and some of the events leading up to the evacuation and why the evacuation was necessary. And yes, I will be interjecting some of my own opinions on the matter and some of those opinions may upset/annoy any French or Russian readers. (If we actually have any of those, I mean The Chant gets hits from those two countries, but never any comments. Just sayin'...)

Now we need to go back to World War I, everything which followed the Armistice of 1918 (on the 11th of November of that year, there's a reason the British Commonwealth calls that day Armistice Day, even if we do not. (Opinion Alert: I prefer the to call it Armistice Day and I "celebrate" that day much the same way as the Commonwealth does, as a day of mournful remembrance. I'm a veteran, I don't need a "Veteran's Day" to remind me of that, nor to be celebrated. The retirement check is all the thanks I need. But I digress...)

Let's go back in time, shall we? World War I is over, the British and the French decide that "it's all Germany's fault" as the Austro-Hungarian Empire is no more, they are defunct, if they hadn't nailed them to the perch...

Oops, reverted to my default Monty Python mode, it happens.

Ahem...

Germany gets all the blame for World War I. No more airplanes, no tanks, and your army can only be 100,000 guys and none of that "bring in reservists every six months" crap like you pulled after the French kicked your Prussian butts in 1806. (Yeah, I'll enlighten you on that score. Someday. POCIR.)

Shortly after all that, the Depression hits and things suck for everybody in the civilized world. (FWIW, things have always sucked in the uncivilized world. Life there is nasty, brutish, and short. Hobbes wrote that, the philosopher, not the tiger.)

Long story short, the Germans are pissed at their government, so they elect Hitler to be in charge. Sort of. In actuality, the German political system of the late 20s, early 30s was sort of like the French and sort of like the British. They had a president who was the head of state (like the president in France and the Queen in the UK) and a chancellor (like the premier in France and the prime minister in the UK. Follow me so far?) who was the head of government.

There was an election, Hitler's party, the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (National Socialist German Workers Party, the NSDAP, or Nazis, for short) won a plurality (not a majority) of the vote. The party with the largest vote total should get to have it's party leader be the chancellor. Hitler, of course, was the leader of the Nazi Party. But there were a number of people who thought that that would be a bad idea to have this guy, who had a lot of thugs in his party, be the chancellor of Germany. The very same office held by the great Otto von Bismarck!

Now the president of Germany at that time was Paul von Hindenburg, an old general. He was getting a bit senile and he really didn't like Hitler, a former corporal. But a lot of folks convinced the old guy that they could "control" Hitler. Go ahead, make him chancellor they said, it'll be fine, they said.

Not.

Paul von Hindenburg
(And yes, the airship that blew up in New Jersey was named after him.)

Hitler is appointed Chancellor, Hitler gets to be in charge, there's another election (which the Nazis forced) and now the Nazis pretty much own the whole shooting match. Hindenburg dies, Hitler manages to abolish the office of president and has himself appointed Führer und Reichskanzler, the Leader and Chancellor of the Realm. In other words, Germany now belongs to Hitler. He is the boss.

Yes, I have skipped a lot of details here. The German tank school in the Soviet Union which ended before Hitler had fully seized the reins of government springs immediately to mind. Let's jump ahead, here's a timeline of the events leading up to the evacuation of Dunkirk and afterwards to the end of the Battle of Britain -
While the Poles were fighting bravely against the Germans, the Russians stabbed them in the back. (Hey Vladimir, should they have put that in the movie Dunkirk?) Meanwhile the British and the French watched from their positions along the Rhine and did what?

Pretty much nothing. So much for Britain "guaranteeing" Poland's independence. Of course, the British Army was small, especially when compared to those of the Germans and the French. There was realistically nothing the British could do as an independent force. So what about the French?

France was still exhausted by World War I, her government, her people, and her army had no desire to see another bloodletting on the scale of 1914 - 1918, which was fought (in Europe) primarily on French soil. But the French had also learned all the wrong lessons from World War I.

The aircraft?

The French high command saw little use for it except as an auxiliary to the ground forces.

The tank?

A good thing to support infantry with, so their tanks, while they had better guns in general than the Germans, tended to be ponderous, slow. Much like the British tanks of the period. While the Germans were forming armored and motorized divisions, the French assigned their tanks in "penny packets" to support the infantry.

Remember the trenches and the extensive fortifications of World War I?

The French most certainly did. They poured lots of money into a string of fortifications known as the Maginot Line.



Yup, the Germans went around it. In all fairness, northern France has some very poor soil for fortifications this massive, a lot of them would have sunken into the mud when the heavy rains came. The Ardennes did look pretty iffy to drive tanks through as well. I mean the Americans in 1944 viewed it the same way, "can't drive tanks through there!"

Well, you can but the logistics are a bear. Narrow roads, hills, and forests. It's easy enough to drive a bunch of tanks through. But add in all the trucks, troops, and supplies that need to travel with those tanks and you have a big potential problem on your hands.

Traffic jams of that very nature stalled and eventually stymied the German attack in December of 1944. But May of 1940 was a totally different beast. Fine weather and little resistance and before you know it, the German armor was at, and then over the Meuse.

The German tank generals wanted to drive on to the English Channel and cut off the British and French armies in Belgium and...

Belgium?

Yes, Belgium.

For the Brits and the French expected a replay of Word War I: Germans invade Belgium and then sweep into France. So they figured they would advance into Belgium and meet the Germans forward, away from the French border.

Now if some German generals had had their way, that's exactly what would have happened. But there were a number of modern thinking German generals and Hitler actually listened to them. So here's a map of what happened -

Fall Gelb* (Source)
Blue lines advancing into Belgium, which the Belgians weren't all that thrilled with at first, see the red lines advancing through your rear areas, fouling your logistics and cutting off your combat units from their bases of supply? Yeah, those are the Germans, using tanks and aircraft, spoiling your lovely little plan.

Most folks think the German Army in World War II was fully motorized, with lots and lots of tanks. A common, and very false, perception. What the Germans did was concentrate them and use them in ways that most of the enemies they faced hadn't really considered. Their armored divisions (Panzerdivisionen) were a well-balanced mix of tanks, motorized infantry, artillery, engineers, and logistical units. They could move fast and they did, what's more, the Panzer generals knew how to use them.

So in late May, 400,000 Allied troops found themselves behind the German lines along the Channel coast in the vicinity of, you guessed it, Dunkirk.

The rest, as they say, is history.

(Ibid)
The British view of the evacuation -



The German view -



The French view -



War is Hell.



* Fall Gelb - Case Yellow, the invasion of the Low Countries, Luxembourg, and France.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Furriners

Kazimierz Michał Władysław Wiktor Pułaski,
Andrzej Tadeusz Bonawentura Kościuszko,
Michael Kováts de Fabriczy,
Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette,
Friedrich Wilhelm August Heinrich Ferdinand von Steuben
(Left to right, top to bottom Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
Today I want to talk about five heroes of the American Revolution. Maybe you've heard of them, maybe you haven't. Two Poles, a Hungarian, one Frenchman, and a Prussian. One could make the argument that if these five fellows hadn't shown up on our shores, we might have remained part of the British Empire, however grudgingly for a tad longer than we did. In face, we may have gone the way of Canada. Eventually sovereign, part of the British Commonwealth, and perhaps with lingering memories of a bloody revolution which failed.

But those five guys did show up and today I want to tell you a little about them.

Now this country was built by immigrants and the original inhabitants as well. (Code-talkers anyone?) But most of those folks were people like you and me, we did our bit without a lot of shouting and cheering, then went home to get on with our lives. But these five guys I'm going to talk about? All were professional soldiers, some went on to other wars, other revolutions, and like I said, without their presence and assistance in the birth of this nation, who knows where we might have wound up.

One thing you might notice is that "them furriners" all seem to have really long names, I mean Kováts is bringing up the rear in that category, but do you know what is name was in Hungarian, his birth name if you will? Kováts Mihály, the shortest name of the lot. (Note that in Hungary the family name comes first, like Japan and Korea, and others I'm sure.)

Anyhoo, let's get to it!

Kazimierz Michał Władysław Wiktor Pułaski, or Casimir Pulaski, as we Americans like to keep things simple, especially names we can't pronounce, (We can, we're just impatient and perhaps unwilling to spend the time to do it right. For fun and games, plug his name into Google Translate and then hit the little speaker icon, the pronunciation isn't that hard. But it is tougher than say "Fred" or "Bob.") was born in Poland in 1745. His father was a count (hence the long name, nobles always get long names, I'm sure there is a rationale behind that) and the two of them were big in resisting the Prussians and the Russians who, along with the Austrians, were always dividing Poland up between themselves.

He came to the Americas in 1777, after a correspondence with Ben Franklin, who was much impressed with the young man (he was 32) -
Franklin was impressed by Pulaski, and wrote of him: "Count Pulaski of Poland, an officer famous throughout Europe for his bravery and conduct in defence of the liberties of his country against the three great invading powers of Russia, Austria and Prussia ... may be highly useful to our service." He subsequently recommended that General George Washington accept Pulaski as a volunteer in the Continental Army cavalry and said that Pulaski "was renowned throughout Europe for the courage and bravery he displayed in defense of his country's freedom." Pulaski departed France from Nantes in June, and arrived in Marblehead, Massachusetts, near Boston, on July 23, 1777. After his arrival, Pulaski wrote to Washington, "I came here, where freedom is being defended, to serve it, and to live or die for it." (Source)
Washington made him a brigadier general and along with his friend Michael Kováts de Fabriczy were known as the fathers of the U.S. cavalry. (Some sources say Pulaski was the dad, some say Kováts, as they were friends, I'm guessing it was a cooperative effort.) So our horsemen have some pretty fine ancestors, the Poles and Hungarians are famous for their cavalry (and their sometimes insane bravery!)

General Pulaski was killed in action at Savannah, Georgia on October the 11th, 1779. He was mortally wounded by grapeshot (canister?) while attempting to rally fleeing French cavalry. He had been in command of the combined American and French cavalry at the time of his death.

He is celebrated in his native Poland as a hero and also here, to a lesser extent in the United States. We Americans are all too often ignorant of out own history and the men and women who build this country.

Sad, innit?

Michael Kováts de Fabriczy also corresponded with Ben Franklin (a really useful fellow that Franklin) and offered his sword to Franklin, who was then serving as the ambassador to France. He was accepted and soon joined General Pulaski in the south.
Upon his arrival in America, Kováts joined Count Casimir Pulaski, who was then brigadier general and commander-in-chief of Washington's cavalry. Pulaski's cavalry was poorly trained. There were few trained cavalry officers which made the task of commanding the forces formidable. On February 4, 1778, Pulaski proposed a plan for the formation of a training division of hussars. In a letter to Washington Pulaski wrote: "There is an officer now in this Country whose name is Kovach. I know him to have served with reputation in the Prussian service and assure Your Excellency that he is in every way equal to his undertaking." Later, in another letter to Washington dated March 19, Pulaski again recommended Kovats: "I would propose, for my subaltern, an experienced officer, by name Kowacz, formerly a Colonel and partisan in the Prussian service." (Source)
On the 11th of May, 1777 Colonel Michael Kováts was killed in action before Charleston, South Carolina at the head of Pulaski's Legion. His British opponents admitted that the cavalry trained by him was the best they had seen in American service.

Another man little known in this country. But the cadets of The Citadel remember him and honor the memory of this brave patriot from across the seas who shed his blood for our freedom.

Tadeusz Kościuszko was actually Polish-Lithuanian (those two nations have a long intertwined history together) and was a military engineer. He arrived in America in August of 1776. He petitioned Congress to join the Continental Army and joined the very next day. (I should note that Congress in those days was very infatuated with foreign officers. Even those whose claims to military greatness were largely exaggerated. Washington was very frustrated by this but found a number of the foreign officers to be most useful. Including Kościuszko who went to work straightaway.)

His work on the field fortifications at Saratoga was critical.
Gates tapped Kościuszko to survey the country between the opposing armies, choose the most defensible position, and fortify it. Finding just such a position near Saratoga, overlooking the Hudson at Bemis Heights, Kościuszko laid out a strong array of defenses, nearly impregnable from any direction. His judgment and meticulous attention to detail frustrated the British attacks during the Battle of Saratoga, and Gates accepted the surrender of Burgoyne's force there on October 16, 1777. The dwindling British army had been dealt a sound defeat, turning the tide to an American advantage. Kościuszko's work at Saratoga received great praise from Gates, who later told his friend Dr. Benjamin Rush: "[T]he great tacticians of the campaign were hills and forests, which a young Polish engineer was skillful enough to select for my encampment." (Source)
The defenses at West Point that Benedict Arnold tried to betray to the British? Designed by Kościuszko over two years. Heading south with the army when the struggle in the north dwindled into stalemate, Kościuszko proved his worth again and again.
During the Race to the Dan, Kościuszko had helped select the site where Greene eventually returned to fight Cornwallis at Guilford Courthouse. Though tactically defeated, the Americans all but destroyed Cornwallis' army as an effective fighting force and gained a permanent strategic advantage in the South. Thus, when Greene began his reconquest of South Carolina in the spring of 1781, he summoned Kościuszko to rejoin the main body of the Southern Army. The combined forces of the Continentals and Southern militia gradually forced the British from the back country into the coastal ports during the latter half of 1781 and, on August 16, Kościuszko participated in the Second Battle of Camden. At Ninety Six, Kościuszko besieged the Star Fort from May 22 to June 18. During the unsuccessful siege, he suffered his only wound in seven years of service, bayonetted in the buttocks during an assault by the fort's defenders on the approach trench that he was constructing. (Source)
After the Revolution, Kościuszko returned to his native Poland where he led a revolt against the Russians, which bears his name, The Kościuszko Uprising. This uprising failed and led to the Third Partition of Poland in 1795, which took Poland off the map of Europe for 123 years. Not on the map but always alive in the hearts of the Polish people.

I wonder if they still teach about Kościuszko? Sad if they don't, but not surprising.

We should all know the Marquis de Lafayette, they must still teach that. They must.

This young Frenchman, who endeared himself to George Washington, may not have been the best soldier on our side, but he learned fast.
Born in Chavaniac, in the province of Auvergne in south central France, Lafayette came from a wealthy landowning family. He followed its martial tradition, and was commissioned an officer at age 13. He became convinced that the American cause in its revolutionary war was noble, and traveled to the New World seeking glory in it. There, he was made a major general; however, the 19-year-old was initially not given troops to command. Wounded during the Battle of Brandywine, he still managed to organize an orderly retreat. He served with distinction in the Battle of Rhode Island. In the middle of the war, he returned home to lobby for an increase in French support. He again sailed to America in 1780, and was given senior positions in the Continental Army. In 1781, troops in Virginia under his command blocked forces led by Cornwallis until other American and French forces could position themselves for the decisive Siege of Yorktown. (Source)
Lafayette is indeed remembered in Rhode Island. In fact, there is an old inn (which is now a private home) not far from where I live where Washington and Lafayette stayed for a while. There are signs on the road from where I live to where I work commemorating the battles in Rhode Island during the Revolution.

A very useful young man he later participated in the French Revolution and at one point was the commander of the National Guard of France. Lafayette fell afoul of the Jacobin radicals and eventually had to flee France.

He was stripped of his French citizenship which Napoléon reinstated in 1800. Lafayette was offered the ambassadorship to the United States but he turned it down, wanting nothing to do with Napoléon and his ilk. (Smart guy that Lafayette.)

A brave, intelligent, and scrupulous man.

Growing up I learned the story of the great Baron von Steuben who trained we unruly and undisciplined Americans in the ways of European soldiery. (That whole hiding behind rocks and trees thing was also taught. Early in my life I had one of those "wait a minute" moments. If we can beat the British by skulking about the woods, why would von Steuben be so important? I posted about that a while back, read it at your leisure.)

The Baron's story is an interesting one, he did serve as an officer in the Prussian Army but there is some conjecture as to whether or not he was actually a "baron" as he claimed. Doesn't really matter as -
Washington appointed von Steuben as temporary inspector general. He went out into the camp to talk with the officers and men, inspect their huts, and scrutinize their equipment. Steuben established standards of sanitation and camp layouts that would still be standard a century and a half later. There had previously been no set arrangement of tents and huts. Men relieved themselves where they wished and when an animal died, it was stripped of its meat and the rest was left to rot where it lay. Steuben laid out a plan to have rows for command, officers and enlisted men. Kitchens and latrines were on opposite sides of the camp, with latrines downhill side. There was the familiar arrangement of company and regimental streets.

On May 5, 1778, on General Washington's recommendation, Congress appointed Steuben inspector general of the army, with the rank and pay of major general. Internal administration had been neglected, and no books had been kept either as to supplies, clothing or men. Steuben became aware of the "administrative incompetence, graft, war profiteering" that existed. He enforced the keeping of exact records and strict inspections. His inspections saved the army an estimated loss of five to eight thousand muskets.

Steuben picked 120 men from various regiments, to form an honor guard for General Washington, and used them to demonstrate military training to the rest of the troops. These men in turn trained other personnel at Regimental and Brigade levels. Steuben's eccentric personality greatly enhanced his mystique. In full military dress uniform, he twice a day trained the soldiers who, at this point, were themselves greatly lacking in proper clothing.

As he could only speak and write a small amount of English, Steuben originally wrote the drills in the German dialect of Prussian, the military language of Europe at the time. His secretary, Du Ponceau, then translated the drills from Prussian into French, and a secretary for Washington translated it to English. They did this every single night so Washington could command his soldiers in the morning. Colonel Alexander Hamilton and General Nathanael Greene were of great help in assisting Steuben in drafting a training program for the Army. The Baron's willingness and ability to work with the men, as well as his use of profanity (in several different languages), made him popular among the soldiers. It is here he met his reputed future lover, Captain Benjamin Walker. Upon meeting Walker for the first time he exclaimed "If I had seen an angel from Heaven I should not have more rejoiced." Within weeks, Walker was Steuben's aide-de-camp.

Steuben introduced a system of progressive training, beginning with the school of the soldier, with and without arms, and going through the school of the regiment. This corrected the previous policy of simply assigning personnel to regiments. Each company commander was made responsible for the training of new men, but actual instruction was done by sergeants specifically selected for being the best obtainable.

In the earlier part of the war, Americans used the bayonet mostly as a cooking skewer or tool rather than as a fighting instrument. Steuben's introduction of effective bayonet charges became crucial. In the Battle of Stony Point, American soldiers attacked with unloaded muskets and won the battle solely on Steuben's bayonet training.

The first results of Steuben's training were in evidence at the Battle of Barren Hill, May 20, 1778 and then again at the Battle of Monmouth in June 1778. Steuben, by then serving in Washington's headquarters, was the first to determine that the enemy was heading for Monmouth.

During the winter of 1778–1779, Steuben prepared Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States, commonly known as the "Blue Book". Its basis was the training plan he had devised at Valley Forge. It was used by the United States Army until 1814, and affected American drills and tactics until the Mexican War of 1846.
 (Source)
Proper record keeping? Discipline? Drill? Yeah, tickles the Old Sarge's heart it does (yes, I have one). Huge von Steuben fan here. Yuge.

Five men you should know.

Pulaski at Częstochowa - Józef Chełmoński
Kościuszko (Source)
Kováts (Source)
Washington and Lafayette at Valley Forge (Source)
Baron von Steuben Drilling Troops at Valley Forge - E. A. Abbey
American heroes...

Even if they were "furriners."



Wednesday, July 26, 2017

We Need A Movie About...

This guy, for sure.
(U.S. Air Force Photo)
Alright, so we've been all over the movie Dunkirk lately AND yesterday I posted some movie previews that are recent, as in out already or to be released this year. Now on that post there were any number of awesome comments. But there were a couple which gave me the idea for today's post. Before proceeding, here are the comments in question -

(We'll be forming the "Actually liked Pearl Harbor Anonymous" group soon. I need to work out meeting times, etc. So if you're interested in joining ALPHA, let me know. HSWHTPFIHC.)

But IAS, if you had a gazillion dollars to get a historical motion picture made, what would it be? Who would it star? Would you go with CGI? Or would you insist on using real hardware, like the real machines or like the radio-controlled aircraft used in Dunkirk?

I'll kick things off. Remember the opening photo? Yeah, that's what I want to see, a bio-pic of Brigadier General Robin Olds. Start off with an early scene of him flying combat in World War II, then fast forward to the man arriving in Thailand to take command of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, the mighty Wolf Pack.

There are still a few F-4 Phantoms around, a few MiGs, then you could "special-effect" for quantity. Hell, there's enough combat footage from Vietnam to really give the film that authentic feel. (Remember, you've got a gazillion bucks. but you still have to pay the actors and market the thing. I wouldn't go too nuts on refurbishing Phantoms from the boneyard. Then again, when the movie is over, I could sell those refurbished Phantoms to folks who really, really want their own Double Ugly. I'll bet Juvat wants one, heck after that superb post on Monday, I'd give him one, free!)

My first choice to play the general would be Robert Duvall, if he were a little younger...

(Source)
Um, okay. You've got the job Mr. Duvall.

Now it's your turn. What movie would you like to see? Even if it's a remake of an old favorite, the only rules are that it has to be military and historical. (No Colonial Space Marines, even though they are cool as heck!) We're not making a documentary, but it has to be close to the truth, no fantasy stuff about "What if Peru had won the Napoleonic Wars?" (Yeah, yeah, I know. They weren't involved...)

Go!

Yeah, he could pull it off...(Source)



Tuesday, July 25, 2017

New World War II Films

The British Army in France and Belgium 1940.
A Morris-Commercial CS8 15cwt truck passes a group of Belgian troops resting by the roadside in Louvain, 14 May 1940. (Source)
After seeing the film Dunkirk last Friday, I've been digging through the archives for material on the events leading up to the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from France in 1940. A number of folks have expressed an interest in knowing "the rest of the story." Now this stuff (the European viewpoint) wasn't taught in high school when I was a kid, I grew up knowing it because I love to read. A lot. Particularly military history.

Did you know that there are at least three recent or upcoming films dealing with World War II other than Dunkirk? I didn't. The first, a preview of which I saw at the theater where we saw Dunkirk, is Darkest Hour (and which led me to stumble across the other two while searching YouTube for the trailer).

Darkest Hour is a film about the time when Sir Winston Churchill was called to serve as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. In hindsight, that appointment, not popular with some, was, in this scribe's humble opinion, the death knell of Hitler and his henchman. There was no quit in Sir Winston. None at all.



Gary Oldman is a brilliant and talented actor, watching that preview I was nearly convinced that Churchill was somehow alive again. Am I looking forward to this film? You betcha!

Another film, one of those I stumbled across, is a Norwegian offering, The King's Choice which apparently came out last year.

Before Hitler invaded France, he sent his forces north, to Norway and Denmark. There they met British and French troops sent to seize the Norwegian port of Narvik. Iron ore from Sweden was being shipped through that port and down to Germany inside Norwegian waters and Churchill and others had a thought to stop that trade. The Allied forces invaded Norway at about the same time the Germans did. It was a disaster for the British and the French (the Royal Navy lost a carrier, HMS Glorious) and should have given the Allies some idea of German capabilities.

It did not.

I need to find this film, the preview looks interesting.



The other film, set later in the war, is HHhH, a rather odd title indeed, turns out that it is an acronym popular inside Germany during the war for "Himmlers Hirn heißt Heydrich."

Say what?

What that translates to is "Himmler's brain is called Heydrich." Heinrich Himmler was the head of the SS and a major power in Nazi Germany. Reinhard Heydrich (his "brain") was a very intelligent and ruthless Nazi who was the "Protector of Bohemia and Moravia" which is what the Nazis called what was left of Czechoslovakia after they'd ripped chunks from it, courtesy of, among others, Churchill's predecessor Neville Chamberlain. He ruled the area from Prague with an iron fist.

This film is about the assassination of Heydrich by Czech patriots sent in by the British. It's a sad story. An entire Czech town, Lidice, was destroyed, the inhabitants murdered or enslaved by the Nazis in retaliation for the killing of Heydrich. Who, incidentally, was one of those fellows of whom a Texan might have said, "needed killing."

This film, which will apparently be released this year, looks pretty good and I plan to see it as well. (Seems that it's title in English is The Man With the Iron Heart, which is what Hitler called Heydrich. Nazis, I hate those guys...)

I wonder why this resurgence of interest in World War II? I'm not complaining but it seems odd. Your thoughts?



I just might exceed my one film a year limit this year. Who knows?


Monday, July 24, 2017

Dunkirk Air Tasking Order


ATO A: USCINCCHANT UNCLAS EXER/ //
MSGID/AIR TASKING ORDER #1(G.I.)//AOC//
PERID/201707240000Z/TO:2017072359Z//
AIRTASK/ATO A//
TASKUNIT/JUVAT (AIR PIRATE)//
MSNDAT/AF003/-/juvat/1XF150/AIR SUPERIORITY (OF COURSE)/15M/A1/-/31511-//
TGTLOC/FRITZTOWN CINEMA//
AMPN/A.  OBSERVE AND EVALUATE BOTH FRIENDLY AND ENEMY AIR ACTIVITY VIC DUNKIRK.  AS THIS MISSION WILL REQUIRE TIME TRAVEL, DO NOT ENGAGE ENEMY UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.  OUR LAST SORTIE OF THIS TYPE (OPERATION PRAIRIE ADVENTURE) WITH CVN68, ALMOST CAUSED A TEMPORAL RIFT FOREVER ALTERING THE TIME LINE.  WE WON WWII WITHOUT ANY INTERFERENCE, DO NOT ENGAGE NO MATTER HOW EFFECTIVE AN F-15 WOULD BE AGAINST FOKKERS AND MESSERSCHMITS AND FOKKERS FLYING MESSERSCHMITS.

B. REPORT OBSERVATIONS AND EVALUATIONS TO THIS HQ NLT 201707241100Z.//

Given the above tasking from USCincChant, callsign Sarge, I entered the target area at precisely  201707221850Z (1350 local.  All right! 1:50PM Saturday! Sheesh, a guy can't wander around dreaming of his Glory Days?)

The mission, as assigned, was to evaluate the "flying sequences" for accuracy.  The short version is they were pretty good with a couple of  "nice touches" that few would have noticed had they been omitted, but that showed RJ Casey, the Aerial Safety Coordinator/Military Advisor, knew what he was about.

Before I get into the specifics of the above mission, first let me say, I went to a theater, by choice, by myself, at almost 2 O'Clock on a Saturday.

Talk about Decadence!

It was exhilarating!  I compounded the Decadence by consuming an ice cold Shiner Bock while watching the movie evaluating the tactics.

Also, let me say this, Yes, my precious snowflake, whomever you are, there are no "people of color" or women in any significant role in the movie.  There is the possibility that French Senaglese troops were there, but the French forces played little role in the movie either.  Similarly, for injured troops being rescued, the female nurses were singularly important to them personally, but again played little role in this story.

Get over it.  The solar system revolves around the Sun, not Uranus!

So, back to the tasking.

Stuka scenes.
Source

Given that there are only two intact Stukas left in the world and neither are flyable, their scenes were done with radio controlled aircraft.  That having been said, I had to google that info before I realized that the movie used radio controlled models for their scenes, they were that well done.

However, the smaller size of the R/C aircraft as well as sheer physics of cameras led to a historical error.  According to Hans Rudel in his book "Stuka Pilot" standard Stuka tactics would involve approaching the target at 15000', then push over or roll and pull into an 80o dive.  
Source

With a dive this steep accuracy is greatly enhanced.   (If I've done the math right, you've traveled about 2350' forward from 15000' until the release point. Compared to a little over 6000' for the usual 30o dive used back in my day.)

So, putting an actual Stuka (with a 45' wingspan) at altitude to give the picture historical accuracy would have meant filming an object only slightly bigger than the size of this period.

Another factor was the extreme stress on the aircraft in the recovery from the dive.  Because of this, the actual Stuka required a dive checklist to be completed before the attack began.  That checklist looked like this:

✔ Landing flaps at cruise position
✔ Elevator at cruise position
✔ Rudder trip at cruise position
✔ Contact altimeter ON
✔ Contact altimeter set to release altitude
✔ Supercharger set at automatic
✔ Throttle fully closed
✔ Cooler flaps closed
✔ Dive brakes open


All that would have been difficult to achieve in an R/C aircraft.

So, the dive angles weren't quite right.

The second quibble about the Stukas was there were 5 explosions during the attack on the beach.  True Stukas carried 5 bombs (1 x 250kg +4 x 50kg), but they would have been released in pairs from the wings.  The reason the bombs would have been released in pairs is that releasing them singly would have induced a differential in lift and drag on the two wings, inducing a lateral motion of some sort, thereby reducing accuracy.

However, even though the Stukas were in a lower angle dive than was historically accurate, and as mentioned above, the horizontal distance across the ground was increased, the string of bomb explosions was accurate in that there were a long string of separate explosions.

So, Stuka tactics in the movie were not exactly historically accurate, but aerodynamically accurate and would reflect modern air to ground tactics.

ME-109 Tactics

Again, a certain amount of tactical accuracy had to be sacrificed simply to film the movie.  Air to Air action, even in WWII (heck, even in WWI) involves a lot of space, both horizontally and vertically.  So getting all the players into one camera scene means the formations and the maneuvering has to be tighter and smaller than would be the case 
in reality.

That having been said, the escort formation on the Heinkel was correct.  The Messerschmits (with their Fokkers in them) were above and behind the bomber positioning themselves in between the bomber and the most probable avenue of attack.
Wider spread, Excellent post describing the how and why of the formation at the source.

There formation was accurate for Luftwaffe formations at the time.  The wingman was positioned far enough away  from his lead to protect his six as well as to keep a lookout.

The defensive jinking of the ME-109s was far more accurately portrayed than that of the Spitfires.  He was changing all three planes as he jinked, vastly improving his chances of survival.  But, let's be honest.  If someone shows up at your six and the first time you see him is when he opens fire, your chances of survival, or at least returning the aircraft to maintenance undamaged are next to non-existent. So any improvement to those chances is a vast one.

So, the realism of the ME-109 scenes was accurate within the confines of camera physics.

Spitfire Tactics

Initially, I thought the Spitfire scenes were the least accurate in the film.  Then I realized that, in fact, they were the MOST accurate.  The Luftwaffe had cut their teeth in the Spanish Civil War and learned what formations and tactics had worked and, more importantly, what had not.

The RAF however had not had that advantage, and entered WWII with only lessons learned from the First War.  They would learn fast, and indeed, according to this post, shot down 326 Luftwaffe aircraft to the loss of 121 of their own during the extraction.

One of those lessons was shown in the first scene of the Spitfires.  They're flying in what was referred to as the VIC  formation, and the intent was to concentrate all three aircraft's weapons on a single target.  The two wingman fly fingertip formation on each wing of the leaders apparently having no other responsibilities other than to be gun bearers.  That's about all they CAN do since, having flown fingertip a time or two in my day, I'm here to tell you that the wingman's attention is 98% consumed with flying formation.  He can only spare a quick glance at a fuel gauge or a radio channel change.






Vic Formation
Source



Visual lookout is non-existent in this formation.

Yet, it was the standard combat formation for the RAF up til someone recognized the error of their ways during the Battle of Britain and the RAF adapted a version of the Luftwaffe spread formation for the rest of the war.

Similarly, at no point in the movie, except when they were actually under fire, did I see a Spitfire pilot actively "Checking Six".

I think I actually said "Move the aircraft and check six" out loud as, during one scene, a Spitfire watched his target slowly crash into the sea.  Sure enough, everyone else in the audience jumped in their seat as the bullets started flying around him.  I think I mumbled something along the lines of "Tolja, ya dumb SOB"

But, that is an entirely accurate situation. At that moment in time, the Spit pilot was master of the universe and invincible.  I understand the feeling but it was hammered into me, in F-15 school, that the second most dangerous place to be in an Air to Air engagement is in the general vicinity of your victim.  The first being, of course, in the cockpit of your victim.

Move the aircraft, and check six.  "Bastards have brothers!"

One of the things that I did find very accurate was the gun shots.  Neither Spitfire pilot pulled the trigger (yes, the Spit didn't have a trigger, it had a firing button, I know) when he had enough lead.  Just like any shot taken on a moving target, you don't aim where he is, you aim where he will be when the bullets arrive.

The pilots pushed the button (OK?) when the pipper was on the target.  That is correct nowadays with lead computing sights that account for time of flight, but that wasn't the case back then.  However....the movie correctly portrayed the shots taken with that aimpoint as misses.

I did notice that during those engagements, my legs tensed up, my breath started coming in little gasps, my head would lean in the direction of the turn and my right arm would be moving also.  It was a good thing it was a matinee, dark, and there wasn't anybody within about 10 feet of me.

I also noticed one of those little "bon mots" I spoke of earlier.  In the first fight scene, as the leader spots the ME-109s.  He calls them out and then says "Feet up on the bar, boys".  That is a little known and totally accurate thing about the Spitfire.  It's rudder pedals had an upper level to them.  When about to engage in high G maneuvering combat, Spit pilots would put their feet on the upper level, to reduce the amount of blood pooling in their legs which improved G tolerance by keeping more blood (AKA Oxygen) in the brain.


Source

Since that was in one of the initial scenes, it was one of my first indications that this was going to be a good movie.  I was not disappointed, and I highly recommend it.

To be honest, the credits hadn't even started rolling when I texted Sarge "Great Fricking Movie!"



Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Chant's Very First Recipe Post...

(Source)
So I recall promising y'all a recipe. Well...

Seems that the recipe is a closely guarded secret, handed down from generation to generation and...

No, not really. Those guys in the opening photo are not guarding the secret recipe of the way my wife makes bulgogi (불고기). Which literally translates to "fire meat," no, really, it does. The usual translation is "roast meat" or just bulgogi. It's what it's called in Korean, everyone I know calls it that in English.

Anyhoo...

It seems that my wife, much like my paternal grandmother, doesn't write recipes down. She just does it. The following exchange took place the other day -

Moi: "Yeobo (여보)*, how do you make bulgogi?"

TMH: "I don't know."

Moi: "Come on, you must have a general idea."

TMH: "Not really, I just make it."

Moi: "Well, you must measure stuff. My grandmother used the palm of her hand as a measuring..."

TMH: "I don't do that."

Moi: "Well, how do you know..."

TMH: "I just do. Why do you want to know? You never cook."

Moi: "Well, it's for the blog, a lot of my readers want to know..."

TMH: "Look it up on line."

Moi: "But..."

TMH: "I don't know. All bulgogi recipes are the same. Tell them to look it up on line..."

Realizing the futility of further inquiry, I decided that I would look on line and find the recipe that seemed closest to the way she cooks it. I mean I do pay attention. It's not like I wolf everything down without tasting it.

Though I've been accused of doing exactly that.

This recipe is very close to how my wife makes it. Though she does it up in a wok (though she has been known to do it on the grill) and mixes in regular onions (green onions or scallions are also used at times). For most of the family she uses sesame seeds, but not for me (if you remember the picture here). I'm not allergic to sesame or anything, I just can't eat little seeds, nuts, popcorn, or stuff like that. I've told that story before and I don't like rolling the dice with my intestinal health!

As to pickling the pig potatoes, I have no idea and was honestly afraid to ask. I did Google that and, well, let's just not go into that...

The rice is easy enough if you have a rice cooker, which can be quite pricey, but if you eat a lot of Asian-style rice, having one is a must! (So The Missus Herself tells me. Ours talks to us, in Korean. It seems very polite but I only understand half, if that much, of what it's saying.)

So there you go, a recipe for bulgogi, not The Missus Herself's super-secret-ultra-classified recipe, but damned close.

Speaking of Top Secret...



Heh. I like that movie...

Oh look, a squirrel!




* Essentially, honey, or darling in Korean.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Dunkirk - A Review

Kenneth Branagh in Dunkirk
(Source)
No spoilers here...

I wasn't quite sure what to expect when the movie began. The trailers I'd watched beforehand made me want to see this movie very badly. But is it an action movie? Is it a standard war movie? Is it historically accurate?

It's not really an action movie. Though there is action, there is combat, there is suffering, there is death.

It's not a standard war movie. Though war is at its the heart. There is confusion, there is noise, there is heroism, there is cowardice.

The suspense in the movie is palpable. It's not so much the action on the screen as the anticipation of what might happen next. Who will, or who won't survive?

As to its historical accuracy? Well, I might have a quibble here and there, but for this amateur historian there were enough "nicely done" touches in the film to make me ignore whatever quibbles I might have had.

After all, the event was over 77 years ago. (Getting the right equipment would be daunting after all these years.) The filmmakers did, in my estimation, a superb job of portraying the events on those beaches in the late spring of 1940. This is a powerful film for me as a student of those times. It brought the events to life, it brought the participants to life. Cowards, heroes, people just doing their jobs, trying to do their bit.

And sometimes paying the ultimate price.

Will the movie-going public embrace this film? I don't really know. I hope so. Films like this are few and far between.

The film left me thoughtful and with a deeper appreciation for what good people are capable of in bad times.

See it.

Tom Hardy in Dunkirk
(
Source - Screen Capture)