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The Lessons of Force Z by Chris Kolakowski

Teachings From A Lost British Fleet
At 1100 on 10 December 1941, a small British fleet cruised fifty miles off the Malayan coast. Called Force Z, it centered on the battleship HMS Prince of Wales and battlecruiser HMS Repulse. After vainly hunting for Japanese transports, the Force turned to investigate a Japanese trawler sighted to the east. But that plan fell apart as a wave of Japanese aircraft swooped down from the southeast, the first of several attacks over the next 2 1/2 hours that ultimately left both ships on the bottom.
The destruction of Prince of Wales and Repulse was the first time major capital ships had been sunk solely by aircraft in the open seas while actively defending themselves. Their loss shocked the world and psychologically crippled the British Empire in the Far East. Aside from the historical importance, their sinking also offers lessons relevant to today – especially how these large ships were overtaken by a swarm of small aircraft.
Major capital ships, such as World War II battleships or modern aircraft carriers, are large systems, made up of several interlocking elements that together answer the commands of the leadership. Their large crew sizes and complexities rival the size of corporations, large computer networks, or government agencies. These systems function very well on a large scale, but can be vulnerable to small disruptions in key areas. Alternately, a swarm of small actors moving in coordination can overwhelm and pressure the systems until they crack.
Today, technology and social media increasingly enables small actors to affect large systems. Social media creates “flash mobs” and can quickly mass a group to move toward a common goal, such as the street protests in Cairo that ultimately brought down Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 2012. Alternately, a single motivated and skillful hacker can compromise key systems and render serious damage to a large system – much like the Target data compromise in December 2013.
The fate of Force Z is a metaphor to help understand how small actors can destroy larger foes. It also offers lessons applicable to both military and corporate leaders.
The Story of Force Z
In the fall of 1941, Singapore and Malaya represented the keystone of the British Empire in Asia. As tensions rose with Japan, Britain strained to enhance the defenses in this area. British strategy hinged on the entire main fleet arriving from England to assist in the defense of Singapore, and a large naval base had been built on Singapore Island capable of handling the bulk of the Royal Navy. This base was central to the entire defense plan; the stated purpose of the 88,000 troops and 141 aircraft in Malaya was to defend the naval base.
These plans ignored the possibility that the fleet might be busy elsewhere when needed, and Britain faced just this problem in the summer of 1941. Battles in the Atlantic and Mediterranean stretched available modern ships to the limit, with little to spare for Singapore.
After much debate with the Admiralty (who wanted to send four older battleships), Prime Minister Winston Churchill dispatched Prince of Wales, one of his newest battleships, and Repulse, one of his best battlecruisers, under the command of Admiral Sir Thomas S. Phillips, former Vice Chief of the Naval Staff. Rounding out Phillips’ little fleet, designated Force Z, were the British destroyers ElectraExpressEncounter, and Jupiter. Force Z had a dual mission, to defend Singapore and also give the Japanese second thoughts about attacking. Churchill said Force Z was to be a “vague menace” but also confidently declared that Prince of Wales could “catch and kill” any like Japanese ship. To increase the political effect, maximum publicity attended Phillips’ movements to Malaya.
[1]

Force Z’s leadership. Admiral Sir Thomas S. Phillips (right) and his Chief of Staff, Rear Admiral Sir Arthur F. E. Palliser, on the dock at Singapore, 2 December 1941. (Imperial War Museum)
Force Z arrived in Singapore on 2 December 1941 to much fanfare. While his men and ships refitted and acclimated to Southeast Asia, Admiral Phillips flew to Manila to confer with his U.S. counterparts about combined operations. He returned on 7 December 1941 (6 December in Hawaii). The war started the next day in Malaya with the bombing of Singapore and landings at Singora on the Thailand coast.
After consultation with his staff and ship captains, Admiral Phillips decided to sortie and engage the Japanese invasion fleet. Royal Air Force commanders promised reconnaissance on the 9th and 10th, but stated that fighter cover would be unavailable. “We must get on without it,” said Phillips. Prince of Wales and Repulse sailed in company with the destroyers ElectraExpress, HMAS Vampire, and HMS Tenedos at twilight on 8 December 1941.[2]
Without air cover, Phillips depended on surprise for success. He sailed northward, hiding in weather as much as possible. Japanese aircraft and submarines detected Force Z the evening of the 9th, and Phillips reluctantly turned for home. Japanese aircraft in Saigon launched a strike, but missed the fleet entirely.
That night Phillips received a report of enemy landings at Kuantan on the Malay coast, and diverted to investigate. A Japanese sub reported Force Z’s location;in response a new airstrike took off at dawn from Saigon. At daybreak on 10 December Force Z scouted Kuantan but found nothing, and Phillips turned east to investigate some suspicious trawlers. At this point the first raiders found Force Z.
At 1107 Repulse‘s Captain William G. Tennant ordered, “Enemy aircraft approaching. Action stations!” Captain John C. Leach gave a similar order on Prince of Wales, as did his counterparts in the destroyers. All ships sped up to 25 knots, opened antiaircraft fire, and began evasive maneuvers. The first group of planes bombed Repulse from 12,000 feet, scoring one minor hit on the boat deck and several near misses. Repulse remained in action, accompanied by cheers from Electra.[3]

The first bombing attack against Force Z, 10 December 1941, seen from a Japanese plane. Repulse (left) has been bombed and taken one hit, while Prince of Wales is maneuvering to starboard. Note the calm sea. (U.S. Navy)
Shortly after the bombers departed, a wave of torpedo planes swarmed. Splitting their effort against both ships, they flew in at 400 feet and launched their torpedoes. On Repulse, Captain Tennant calmly ordered the helm about, deftly maneuvering the battlecruiser out of the way of all torpedoes. After the attack concluded, he proudly signaled Phillips: “We have dodged 19 torpedoes so far, thanks to Providence.”[4]
The flagship was not so lucky. One torpedo hit Prince of Wales’ port side aft at 1144, wrecking both port side screw shafts, flooding much of the port side engineering spaces, and knocking out power to much of the ship. Her speed slowed to 15 knots and she developed an immediate 11-degree list to port. The power loss cut most internal and external communications, and froze many turrets in place; between that and the list, most antiaircraft guns were no longer effective. Pumps stopped working, and the ship’s electric steering failed. Leach hoisted the “Not Under Control” signal. As a 2012 analysis put it, “it had taken just one torpedo and less than half an hour to turn the pride of the British Navy into an unresponsive, indefensible wreck of a ship.”[5]

Captain John C. Leach, HMS Prince of Wales. (Imperial War Museum)
Over in Repulse, Captain Tennant received no messages from the flagship. After reporting the attacks to Singapore, he deliberately slowed Repulse and maneuvered her close to Prince of Wales to render assistance. At this point, more Japanese planes struck from the east. Three torpedoes slammed into Prince of Wales’ starboard side, while Repulse took one hit amidships after dodging attacks from several directions. Another wave of nine aircraft swept in, making a coordinated torpedo attack on Repulse from several directions at once. Repulse took four hits that collectively spelled her doom. Tennant ordered his crew to abandon ship. At 1233 Repulse rolled over and sank.[6]
Prince of Wales meanwhile continued to struggle. The Japanese bombed her again, scoring one hit. All damage after the first torpedo only hastened the inevitable end. Admiral Phillips signaled for Express to take off the wounded and unneeded men. In the midst of this process, Prince of Wales rolled over to port and sank at 1320.
It had taken 85 Japanese planes less than three hours to sink two of Britain’s most powerful ships, at a cost of just three planes destroyed. Destroyers saved 2,081 men from both ships, but 840 perished. Phillips and Leach on Prince of Wales made no effort to save themselves. Tennant of Repulse had the same idea, but his staff physically pulled him away from his post and tossed him into the sea. Most of Phillips’ staff drowned. At a stroke, British naval power in the Far East had been broken.[7]
The Lessons of Force Z
Force Z’s destruction offers much for leaders to study and consider. Both military and organizational leaders can find significant lessons applicable today. This section will examine each in turn.
Military Lessons. Force Z’s fate is a warning to modern naval leaders. Large capital ships require considerable protection at all times, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. Despite several tries, the Germans and Italians had failed to sink British capital ships from the air before December 1941. This record inspired overconfidence; Churchill’s belief in his ships’ ability to defeat the Japanese trickled down to the British wardrooms, affecting strategy and tactics. The sinking’s’ psychological blow was therefore greater.[8]
Today the aircraft carrier is the preeminent capital ship in the world. Possessing one is an expression of naval power, and number of carriers is the yardstick by which major navies are compared – much like battleships had been counted before 1942. The United States Navy has not lost an aircraft carrier sunk or knocked out of combat by enemy action since 1945. Except for the USS Cole (DDG-67) attack in 2000, it has been 25 years since a cruiser or frigate was knocked out – even longer since one was sunk by enemy action. The Navy must be careful that this track record does not create overconfidence and affect strategy and tactical decision making.
Much like Japan fielded an air fleet to help counter British capital ships in 1941, Iran, North Korea, and China are perfecting missiles, submarines, and other countermeasures to neutralize U.S. capital ships. The tactic is not necessarily to sink the enemy, but simply knock them out of action – a “mission kill” or “mobility kill.” The Japanese achieved that with one torpedo hitting the right spot on Prince of Wales, as did terrorists with a single boat against the Cole. Today’s naval thinkers should ponder the implications of those events.

Prince of Wales arriving in Singapore, 2 December 1941. (Imperial War Museum)
A final lesson for military leaders is the effect of peacetime budgeting on the fleet. Because of prewar austerity, Britain did not have enough modern capital ships to answer all the crises it faced during World War II. The Royal Navy’s Captain Russell Grenfell explained: “The people of Britain set their face against spending money on armaments between the wars. They were prepared to back any policy, expedient, or nostrum that offered reduction of such expenditure.” Global conflict stretched the Royal Navy to the breaking point, forcing reuse of many obsolescent World War I-era battleships. These were the ones Churchill rejected sending to Singapore in favor of the more modern Prince of Wales – a gamble of modern quality over older quantity.[9]
Organizational Lessons. Writers like Thomas Friedman and Malcolm Gladwell have pointed out that today’s technology increasingly enables large systems to be taken down by small actors who target key areas or overwhelm by attacks from all directions. The destruction of Force Z shows that this trend is not new.
The modern equivalent of a plane torpedoing Prince of Wales’ engineering is a lone hacker (or small group) exploiting vulnerabilities in critical parts of large networks to gain access and do major damage. To cite just one recent case, the Heartbleed hack in April 2014 did not directly target main systems or databases, but rather the OpenSSL library that encrypts communications between networks and websites. Hacking OpenSSL thus provided access to sites and personal information across a wide spectrum. The result of this one hit on a key system rippled across the Internet, causing major disruption. Russian hackers did something similar when raiding the bitcoin market server in early 2014. The information technology managers working to contain the damage in both cases would understand Prince of Wales’ ordeal.
Computers and social media also enable mass gatherings (real or virtual) to move in a common purpose against a single target – much like how the Japanese attacked Repulse. Viral posts show how quickly information (and misinformation) can spread, creating a mob effect. Social media’s ability to mobilize masses of people has been demonstrated in protests around the world over the past three years, several of which have changed governments.
This mass generation of effort also shows up in the stock market, as smaller traders detect vulnerable corporations and attack them in a mass fashion from all directions. In 2008, short sellers used these methods to target and spiral the stock prices of both Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers; as their prices fell, other investors began pulling out their money, which overwhelmed those companies to the point of collapse. Morgan Stanley barely survived a similar attack. “Shorts are destroying great companies,” observed CNBC’s Jim Cramer at the time.[10]
The Force Z Solution
The story of Force Z also offers a solution as to how large systems can survive against smaller actors, be they planes, hackers, short sellers, or something else. Passive defense alone does not work; it is impossible to close all vulnerabilities or to anticipate all threats in terms of timing or direction.
The answer is to stay agile and vigilant. HMS Repulse dodged 19 torpedoes due to her maneuverability and the alertness of her bridge crew in spotting the incoming planes. Just as the Japanese released their weapons, Captain Tennant made a hard turn and avoided incoming torpedoes. Prompt and disciplined damage control kept the ship in action after hits. Repulse only succumbed after she voluntarily restricted her mobility to stay by the stricken Prince of Wales.

William G. Tennant of Repulse, shown later as a Vice Admiral. (Imperial War Museum)
In the corporate world, an example of this concept is the famed “fortress balance sheet” strategy, advocated most prominently by JPMorgan Chase’s chief executive, Jamie Dimon. “The fortress balance sheet demands nothing less than full attention to the reality of the situation and a constant focus on the risks,” described one of Dimon’s biographers. It is structurally designed to anticipate threats, operate with discipline, and preserve flexibility through good times and bad. This vigilance enabled JPMorgan Chase to weather the financial hurricane of 2008, while having the ability to acquire several major companies and exploit opportunities to move forward.[11]
Force Z’s Legacy
The sinking of Prince of Wales and Repulse shocked the world and reverberates today. Psychologically, Britain and her regional allies never fully recovered from this blow. Force Z’s destruction “marked, in fact, the end of an epoch; that of British pre-eminence as a sea power,” according to Captain Grenfell. Militarily, the loss of this fleet knocked out the centerpiece of British defense in the Far East.
Suddenly vulnerable, Australia and New Zealand turned to the United States for defense assistance, planting the seeds of today’s alliance. Grenfell explained, “The . . . resultant passing of the command of the south-west Pacific to the Japanese was never redeemed, at least by the British. When redemption came, it was the achievement of the Americans.”[12] This fact continues to influence Asian geopolitics.
Today Prince of Wales and Repulse rest on the floor of the Gulf of Thailand, with naval ensigns attached to each. Passing Royal Navy ships pay their respects. Aside from periodic visits by divers, they and their men sleep undisturbed. These wrecks are monuments to the twilight of the British Empire, but also symbolize much more than that. Leaders should ponder their stories and lessons, for they have much to teach, even from the deep.

Repulse leaving Singapore on the evening of 8 December 1941. (Imperial War Museum)

Prince of Wales about to roll over, seen from the destroyer Express. (Imperial War Museum)


[1] Russell Grenfell, Main Fleet to Singapore (London: Faber and Faber 1951) p. 92-97; 133-136. Because of his short stature, Phillips was nicknamed “Tom Thumb.” His official title was Commander-in-Chief of the Eastern Fleet, but his squadron was known as Force Z. Repulse was commissioned in 1916, and served prominently between the wars worldwide, often in company of battlecruiser HoodPrince of Wales entered service in May 1941, and immediately accompanied Hood on the hunt for the German battleship Bismarck; after Hood was sunk during the Battle of the Denmark Strait, Prince of Wales inflicted key damage on the German ship before breaking off the action. In August 1941 she carried Churchill to Newfoundland and a face-to-face meeting with President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
[2] John Toland, But Not In Shame (New York: Ballantine 1961) p. 79. Force Z was supposed to include the aircraft carrier Indomitable, but she ran aground in November 1941 and went to Norfolk, Virginia, for repairs.
[3] Grenfell, p. 119-120; Toland, p. 90-92. See also Cecil Brown, Suez to Singapore (New York: Halcyon 1942), p. 314-319.
[4] Grenfell, p. 119-120; Toland, p. 90-92; Brown, p. 314-319.
[5] William Garzke, Robert Dulin, and Kevin Denlay, Death of a Battleship: A Re-analysis of the Tragic Loss of HMS Prince of Wales. (2012). Available on www.pacificwrecks.com. Copy in the author’s collection. The quote comes from p. 27.
[6] Grenfell, p. 121-124.
[7] Grenfell, p. 124-125, and Toland. Captain Tennant later was promoted to Admiral, and led the transport and construction of the Mulberry harbors along the Normandy coast in 1944. Captain Leach’s son Henry served as First Sea Lord during the Falklands War in 1982.
[8] Brown, p. 306-308 relates a conversation on this subject in the wardroom of Repulse on 9 December. Several cruisers and destroyers had been sunk by German aircraft in the Mediterranean. Two battleships and an aircraft carrier had been sunk by German submarines.
[9] Grenfell, p. 221
[10] Andrew Ross Sorkin, Too Big To Fail (New York: Viking 2009), passim. The Cramer quote is on page 98.
[11] Patricia Crisafulli, The House of Dimon (Hoboken NJ: John Wiley & Sons 2009) p. 155-207. The quote is on p. 156.
[12] Grenfell, p. 209, 210. Good perspective on Force Z’s legacy is also found in Christopher Bayly and Tim Harper, Forgotten Armies: the Fall of British Asia, 1941-1945 (London: Penguin 2004), p. 115-118.
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Communist Small Arms of the Korean War 1950-53 AD (My Dads War)


American troops went to war in Korea carrying many of the same weapons that served the U.S. military during World War II. They soon found themselves in combat against North Korean troops carrying their own World War II-vintage small arms. The North Koreans used Soviet-made small arms, the same types used on the Eastern Front.
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When the Chinese joined the fight, American troops would be surprised to find their opponents armed with a strange variety of small arms. Some of them were from the Eastern Bloc, others were recycled Japanese arms captured in China during World War II. There were even American-made rifles, submachine and machine guns provided to China via the Lend-Lease Act.

Before the war:  A North Korean border guard poses with a Mosin-Nagant M1891/30 rifle (7.62x54 mm R).

Before the war: A North Korean border guard poses with a Mosin-Nagant M1891/30 rifle (7.62×54 mm R).

At the beginning of the Korean conflict, the American military was well-equipped for a modern war but rather unprepared for the nature of battle which would take place; an old-fashioned, gut-level infantry struggle across some of the harshest terrain ever fought over.

Eyes on the Sky

On Aug. 29, 1949, the Soviets shocked the world when they detonated their first atomic bomb, the RDS-1. The nuclear “balance of terror” that would define the Cold War had begun. Less than a year later, the Soviets debuted their world-leading MiG-15 jet fighter, and on Nov. 1, 1950, the first jet-versus-jet combat took place when a Soviet pilot named Khominich downed a U.S. Air Force F-80C.

A good example of typical Chinese or North Korean uniform during the Korean War, along with the nearly ubiquitous PPSh-41 submachine gun.

A good example of typical Chinese or North Korean uniform during the Korean War, along with the nearly ubiquitous PPSh-41 submachine gun.

Soviet pilots (called “Honchos” by the U.S.A.F.) covertly flew MiG-15s in North Korean or Communist Chinese air force colors throughout the Korean War.  Consequently, America’s military attention was focused on advanced Soviet weapons technology.  Soviet-made small arms were otherwise generally overlooked.

Eastern and Western Philosophies in Conflict

As I began to research this article, I sought to gather resources that provided details on Communist small arms from the beginning of the Korean War. I quickly learned such information is nearly non-existent.

U.S. Ordnance was very proud, and rightfully so, of the American arms that proved so crucial to Allied victory in World War II. Axis infantry weapons, particularly the later German designs, were carefully examined and assessed by American weapons experts. Across the board, German designs were judged to be inferior to U.S. weapons.

A communist soldier equipped with the PPS-43 submachine gun (7.62x25mm).

A communist soldier equipped with the PPS-43 submachine gun (7.62x25mm).

Certain German concepts, like the “General Purpose Machine Gun” that were the basis of the MG34 and MG42, were explored for later U.S. designs. Other concepts, particularly the MP44 Sturmgewehr “assault rifle” and its intermediate cartridge were not embraced by U.S. Ordnance initially. Work began on improving the M1 Garand, but the M14 rifle that would come to replace it did not enter service until 1958.

After World War II, the Soviets were busily working on small arms to leverage their M43 7.62×39 mm cartridge, which was developed from the German 7.92 mm “Kurz” round.  Even so, the now-famous SKS-45 rifle and the AK-47 would not reach standard-issue status until well into the 1950s, and neither one would see service in the Korean War.

War trophy: A Leatherneck of the 5th Marines looks over a captured Mosin-Nagant M1944 carbine with its spike bayonet in June 1952.

War trophy: A Leatherneck of the 5th Marines looks over a captured Mosin-Nagant M1944 carbine with its spike bayonet in June 1952.

The Soviets would supply their Communist allies with the same weapons the Red Army had used so well during World War II. American military leaders overlooked the fact that 80 percent of all German combat casualties in World War II came on the Eastern Front. Those same weapons, considered crude by American standards, coupled with the basic infantry tactics of the Red Army were waiting for U.S. troops in Korea.

In the March 1951 issue of “Popular Science”, editor Perry Githens wrote a review of Communist small arms captured in Korea titled “How Good Are Russian Guns?” Githens writes:

“It is true that many of the Russian-made weapons I saw and handled at Aberdeen Proving Ground look, at first glance, like practice work in a school for lady welders. It is also true that they can kill you very dead at the effective ranges for weapons of their type. 

Red semi-automatic: Marines examine a rare Simonov AVS-36 selective fire rifle at a stateside range.

Red semi-automatic: Marines examine a rare Simonov AVS-36 selective fire rifle at a stateside range.


How good are Russian guns?  Just exactly good enough and no more.  …For Russian weapons are a literal reflection of the harsh Asiatic philosophy that life is cheap. Where men are expendable, so are guns. And if guns are to be lost in the grinding of war we politely call “attrition,” it is better to lose cheap guns.”

I mentioned that pre-Korean War references on Soviet small arms were hard to find. To my knowledge, there was one American arms expert actively writing about Soviet guns in this era. His name was Roger Marsh, a gunsmith, gun writer and NRA member from Hudson, Ohio. In 1950, Marsh researched, wrote, illustrated and self-published “Weapons I: Overture to Aggression.”

Marines pose with a captured PPS-43 submachine gun (7.62x25 mm) during 1952.

Marines pose with a captured PPS-43 submachine gun (7.62×25 mm) during 1952.

Githens mentions Marsh’s soft-cover book in his article, calling the work “excellent” and “brief but meaty.” Those are accurate descriptions, and “Weapons I” also provides a valuable snapshot of what we knew (and should have shared with our troops) about Soviet-made small arms as the Korean War began. Along with the details he shares in his book, Marsh also provides some interesting editorial:

“Although there has been little reported on the subject, it is rumored that the North Koreans have held classes for their men in the use of U.S. weapons. Its logical: Communist activists are expected to know the use of their own weapons and those of their enemies, and the North Koreans found added incentive in the fact that they expected to have a quick brawl with U.S.-armed South Korea.

Chinese influence: A Chinese soldier with a Czech ZB vz. 26 light machine gun (7.92x57 mm).  The Chinese purchased more than 30,000 of these from the Czechs and made thousands more under license.

Chinese influence: A Chinese soldier with a Czech ZB vz. 26 light machine gun (7.92×57 mm). The Chinese purchased more than 30,000 of these from the Czechs and made thousands more under license.


I wonder if U.S. forces are getting comparable instruction in the use of Soviet and other foreign equipment? The Germans were publishing extensive information on Soviet weapons in 1941-1943, and it is 1950 now. In 1943, in the Armorers Section, ORTC (Aberdeen Proving Ground), I set up, wrote the lessons plan for and the instructional materials for, and repaired or rebuilt the material for and trained other instructors for a Foreign Material course. Maybe it saved some American lives…we did the best we could. The services have had a seven-year start anyway. I hope they have done something with it.”
   

Opponents Old and New

When the Chinese joined the fight in Korea, American troops would find their opponents armed with wide variety of small arms. Some were made in the Soviet Union, others were repurposed Japanese arms captured in China during World War II and finally, there were American-made rifles, SMGs and machine guns provided to Nationalist China via Lend-Lease and then absorbed into the Chinese Communist Army after China’s civil war.

Captured weapons:  A haul of captured Communist weapons, including a bundle of Mosin-Nagant rifles and carbines with a Japanese Arisaka Type 99 rifle on top.

Captured weapons: A haul of captured Communist weapons, including a bundle of Mosin-Nagant rifles and carbines with a Japanese Arisaka Type 99 rifle on top.

The 1953 U.S. Army Military Intelligence Guidebook “Material in the Hands of or Possibly Available to the Communist Forces in the Far East” lists the following Japanese small arms potentially in the hands of North Korean or Chinese Communist troops:

  • Type 14 pistol (8 mm Nambu)
  • Type 94 pistol (8 mm Nambu)
  • Type 38 rifle (6.5×50 mm)
  • Type 99 rifle (7.7×58 mm)
  • Type 96 Light Machine Gun (6.5×50 mm)
  • Type 99 Light Machine Gun (7.7×58 mm)
  • Type 92 Heavy Machine Gun (7.7×58 mm)

These weapons, along with the Type 89 50 mm Grenade Discharger, commonly called the “Knee Mortar”, made up the bulk of Japan’s World War II infantry weapons, all of which were captured in large numbers by the Chinese and remained in their service until the mid-1950s.

Red Impressions

Several Soviet weapons made a significant impression on U.S. troops in Korea. During World War II, the Red Army was often short of rifles, and the Soviet remedy was to replace long arms with considerably less-expensive submachine guns, quite often at a ratio of three-to-one. Primary among these submachine guns was the PPSh-41 (7.62×25 mm Tokarev), and more than six million of them had been produced by the end of World War II.

Entire units were equipped with the PPSh-41, and with it, the Soviets introduced the idea of tremendous infantry firepower, albeit at short range, to combat on the Eastern Front. They shared the PPSh-41 with their satellite states, and licensed copies were created in North Korea (the Type 49) and China (the Type 50).

The Chinese Type 50 submachine gun, a copy of the Soviet PPSh-41.  The Type 50 only accepted 35-round box magazines. With a high cyclic rate (almost 1,000 r.p.m.), the PPSh-41 proved to be the king of the close-quarter firefight in Korea.

The Chinese Type 50 submachine gun, a copy of the Soviet PPSh-41. The Type 50 only accepted 35-round box magazines. With a high cyclic rate (almost 1,000 r.p.m.), the PPSh-41 proved to be the king of the close-quarter firefight in Korea.

The PPSh-41 and its clones feature a high cyclic rate, 900 to 1,000 rounds-per-minute.  Equipped with either a 71-round drum (the Russian and North Korean models accept the drum) or a 35-round box magazine (the Chinese version only accepts the box magazine), the PPSh spits out a lot of lead in a hurry. When Communist troops closed the range in Korea, the PPSh submachine guns gave them an advantage in firepower. G.I.s called it the “burp gun”, and some U.S. infantry commanders considered the PPSh-41 to be the best short-range infantry weapon of the war.

No Communist weapon brought forth as much curiosity from American troops as the Soviet PTRD-41 and PTRS-41 anti-tank rifles, chambered in 14.5×114 mm. These massive rifles, 79.5” for the PTRD and 83” for the PTRS, overlooked or considered obsolete in the West for a decade, made a big impression on American troops in Korea. What the G.I.s called “Buffalo Rifles” had been the Red Army’s prime man-portable anti-tank weapon of World War II.

The Maxim Model 1910/30 (7.62x54 mm R) on a wheeled Vladimirov mount.  This later variant of the classic Russian Maxim machine gun (in service prior to WWI) features a radiator cap on the water jacket to allow snow to be easily packed in to help keep the barrel cool.

The Maxim Model 1910/30 (7.62×54 mm R) on a wheeled Vladimirov mount. This later variant of the classic Russian Maxim machine gun (in service prior to WWI) features a radiator cap on the water jacket to allow snow to be easily packed in to help keep the barrel cool.

The Western Allies had given up on anti-tank rifles by the end of 1941, but the Soviets had effectively used their 14.5 mm AT rifles until the end of the war. While other nations assumed that for an anti-tank weapon to be worthwhile it must be able to penetrate the enemy tank’s armor where it is the thickest, the Soviets employed their anti-tank rifles to target sensitive points like running gear, vision ports, engine compartments and even cannon barrels.

AT rifles were deployed in depth, with multiple weapons firing at a vehicle from several angles. Once disabled, the tank was vulnerable to roving Soviet tank-hunter teams. As World War II progressed, the Red Army found useful secondary applications for their PTRD and PTRS rifles, most notably in sniping at hardened enemy machine gun and artillery positions. The big rifles, along with their doctrine for use, were provided to the North Korean and Chinese Communist armies.

A U.S. soldier examines a bolt-action PTRD-41 anti-tank rifle chambered in  14.5x114 mm.

A U.S. soldier examines a bolt-action PTRD-41 anti-tank rifle chambered in 14.5×114 mm.

Interviews with North Korean P.O.W.s revealed that they were well aware that their anti-tank rifles could not penetrate the frontal armor of U.N. tanks, and thus, Communist AT rifle teams targeted lightly armored vehicles and motor transports, along with machine-gun bunkers and artillery positions. The enemy “Buffalo Rifles” drew attention for their potential as big-bore sniper rifles.

American sniping expert, Lt. Col. William S. Brophy took a captured PTRD-41 AT rifle and reworked the weapon with a .50-caliber machine gun barrel, adding a Unertl scope and the small comfort of a butt pad. Using his early conversion, Brophy successfully engaged enemy targets at more than 1,000 yds. This basic modification became one of the forerunners of the modern .50-caliber sniper rifles we know today.

A Marine examines a semi-automatic PTRS-41 anti-tank rifle chambered in  14.5x114 mm.

A Marine examines a semi-automatic PTRS-41 anti-tank rifle chambered in 14.5×114 mm.

Roger Marsh describes the Russian-made AT rifles in his book “Weapons I”:

No US weapon or class of weapons corresponds exactly to the PTRD/PTRS class.  The closest approximation is the M2 Caliber .50 Heavy-Barrel Browning machine gun.

Unquestionably, as far as general effectiveness is concerned, the high rate of fire of the M2 makes up for the differences in ammunition and weight, but is it impossible that a weapon of the PTRD/PTRS class might be of use in U.S. service?  The PTRD weapon is surprisingly light for a weapon which can punch a hole in 30 mm thick armor at 100 meters. Perhaps an American version of the 33-lbs. PTRD type would be useful where the M2 could not readily be carried, but where a weapon effective against medium armor and motor transport might be useful, as, for example, in a behind-enemy-lines raid on supply facilities and motor pools.”

Red sniper: A Marine examines a M1891/30 sniper rifle (with a 3.5X PU scope) in Korea, 1952.

Red sniper: A Marine examines a M1891/30 sniper rifle (with a 3.5X PU scope) in Korea, 1952.

The Soviets also provided the Mosin-Nagant M1891/30 rifle (7.62×54 mm R) to their Communist allies. Chinese and North Korean snipers used these weapons, either in their standard configuration or equipped with a 3.5X PU scope. As the Korean War became a stalemate during the final two years of the conflict, snipers on both sides of the lines took their bitter toll of unwary opponents.

Soviet-made machine guns made a strong impression on the Korean battlefield as well. The venerable Maxim M1910 water-cooled machine gun was already a veteran of two world wars by 1950.  Many of these were attached to the wheeled Sokolov mount, a low-profile configuration often fitted with a light armored gun shield. World War II models of the Maxim gun had a radiator cap added to the top of the water jacket, allowing snow to be easily added to keep the barrel cool.

Marines examine a DP-27 light machine gun. The DP-27 weighed 25 lbs. loaded and had a cyclic rate of 550 rounds-per-minute.

Marines examine a DP-27 light machine gun. The DP-27 weighed 25 lbs. loaded and had a cyclic rate of 550 rounds-per-minute.

G.I.s came to respect the light DP-27 “Degtyaryov” machine gun (7.62×54 mm R), which featured an odd 47-round pan-shaped magazine. Somewhat comparable to the BAR, the DP-27 weighed in at about 25 lbs. loaded and provided the base of fire for better units of the Chinese Army. Communist forces also used the Soviet SG-43 medium machine gun (7.62×54 mm R), and this more modern Soviet machine gun was new to American troops, apparently. Roger Marsh makes mention of this in his “Weapons 2” (1952):

“The SG-43 “Goryunov”: The Goryunov is now almost 10 years old. It was used in World War II—extensively. And yet, when the Korean Incident began, the Goryunov came as a complete and terrible surprise, according to the newspapers. One wonders how such things can happen. We can’t afford many more “surprises”.

SG-43 Goryunov (7.62x54 mm R) seen at a USMC display in early 1954.  With its wheeled mount and armored shield, the SG-43 weighs 90 lbs. Cyclic rate is about 600 rounds-per-minute.

SG-43 Goryunov (7.62×54 mm R) seen at a USMC display in early 1954. With its wheeled mount and armored shield, the SG-43 weighs 90 lbs. Cyclic rate is about 600 rounds-per-minute.


Acceptable War Trophies

It is interesting to note that the 1953 US Army Military Intelligence Guidebook “Material in the Hands of or Possibly Available to the Communist Forces in the Far East” provides a list of “Permissible War Trophies” in the Far Eastern Command. All ordnance items of Japanese, German, Chinese, Polish, Czech, Rumanian, Albanian, Hungarian and Bulgarian manufacture were considered acceptable trophies, provided they were manufactured prior to the end of World War II.

U.S. War Correspondents review captured communist weapons, ranging from a M1938 Carbine (modified to accept a bayonet), a Chinese Bolo Mauser (with a white grip) and a classic spear for the modern era.

U.S. War Correspondents review captured communist weapons, ranging from a M1938 Carbine (modified to accept a bayonet), a Chinese Bolo Mauser (with a white grip) and a classic spear for the modern era.

No Russian-made items were deemed acceptable war trophies, and U.S. troops were instructed to turn over any captured Soviet equipment to their superior officers. The Cold War was already hot, and U.S. Ordnance intelligence had plenty of catching up to do.

Categories
All About Guns The Green Machine War

The Story of the PBI (Poor Bloody Infantry) during the End of the Indian Wars from Grunts 7 Company

Frontier Infantry 1866-91

Posted on: February 2nd, 2014 by Will Rodriguez
Protecting the wagon train by Frederic Remington
Essay by Yankee Papa (all rights reserved)
In June of 1866 700 men of the 18th Infantry Regiment were marching out of Fort Laramie heading up the new “Bozeman Trail…” This would save hundreds of miles from the old route to the mines in Montana.
The weather was splendid and the troops were marching towards some of the most beautiful country in North America…at least in June. They were also marching into the hunting grounds of the Lakota, the Northern Cheyenne and the Arapaho.
That wasn’t supposed to be a problem. Peace Commissioners were meeting with the chiefs at Fort Laramie as they marched past. Unfortunately some of the chiefs were deeply opposed and nothing had been agreed upon when the troops showed up to build three forts in their territory. A couple of the most fierce, including Red Cloud called foul and rode off pledging war.
As they were too often wont to do, the commissioners decided to ignore the hostile or no show chiefs and just get the signatures of the ones present… even though it might not be their territory at issue. More than one war started this way.
But the word from the brass was that there would not be war… just some hotheaded chiefs… maybe some livestock raids on the posts. The high brass did not understand that as many as 4000 warriors might wish to dispute the matter with them.
The 18th had a proud record in the Civil War, but most of those lads had mustered out. Officers (who often had held higher rank during the war) and NCOs had seen combat… but not most of the common soldiers.
But… the brass indicated that there would be no major fighting. So many raw recruits and almost no training… just what little their NCOs could give them on their way. Drill and musketry not even scheduled until into the next year after the forts built.
The 18th was something new… it was not just made up largely of post-war men… but was among the first of the new blood on the frontier.
The remnants of the old marched past them as they neared Fort Laramie. The last of the “Galvanized Yankees”, former Confederates who volunteered to join the Union infantry to get out of the prison camps. Promised that they would fight Indians on the frontier, not their kin in the South.
The Galvanized Yankees by Dee Brown(An interesting book by the way Grumpy)
Many were signed up for three years, and that meant that many were not discharged upon the end of the war. The last of the six regiments marched past the 18th on their way home to be discharged.
The soldiers of the 18th found that interesting, but were more concerned with their boots. Loss of weapons…illness and wounds… and bad feet could cripple an infantry unit.
Unless you paid a private boot maker, you bought “off the shelf…” In 1818 “lasts” were developed to enable production of specific left and right shoes… but this only came into common usage in the late 1850s… and with some minor exceptions, infantry in the Civil War and for some years thereafter (until Civil War stocks used up) had shoes with no left foot-right foot differentiation.
Prior to the march most NCOs would have shown the recruits how to fully soak the “boots” (up to the ankle and 4 sets of eyelets) and then let them dry on their feet before attempting to cover any distance in them. Easier to break in the boots than the feet.
Just as well that no fighting was expected…Colonel Carrington… well, everybody liked him, but he had never been in battle. Commissioned a Colonel from a law practice at the start of the war and handed the 18th Regiment… he was placed on “detached duty” for the entire war… staff duty in Washington.
If some of the officers thought that there might be a fight, they could not be happy at the Regiment’s strength… A new Civil War regiment contained 1000 men… the 18th only had 700… and of those all but 400 would be going to two forts… one at either end of the trail.
Actually they were lucky. A decade later and infantry companies on the frontier would not be at 70 like the 18th instead of the Civil War standard of 100… but down to a normal of 37.
And of course the rifles. The Ordnance Department had plenty of breech loading rifles in storage after the war… but chose to let the 18th head into the Powder River country with muzzle loading rifles (see https://gruntsandco.com/u-s-ordnance-rogue-fiefdom/  ) But then again, there was not supposed to be any fighting.
Only real Indian fighter around here, the Colonel’s guide… Jim Bridger. Even the recruits had heard stories about this old mountain man.
Bridger had his own assessment of what was going on. He thought that Red Cloud and some others would do more than just “steal some livestock…” A lot of horses, mules, and cattle that would have to be grazed outside the fort… Firewood to be cut some miles from the fort…something that required peace…
And then there were the women and children that the brass encouraged the Regiment to take with them. Total including workers of 400 civilians. Most would be at the fort in the middle of the trail… right in the heart of the Powder River hunting grounds. Colonel Carrington listened to Bridger… but the high brass assured Carrington that there would be no major hostilities…
[…The 18th had detachments build forts at both ends of the trail and built Fort Phil Kearny in the middle. Livestock indeed stolen and soldiers and woodcutters killed. On December 21, 1866, a Captain Fetterman… (had commanded the 18th at times during the war in higher brevet rank) put the seal on his disrespect to the Colonel and arrogantly disobeyed his orders.
Sent in relief of a wood chopping party, he instead rode after a party of Lakota to a ridge line. Ordered not to go past it, he did… with a mixed force of Infantry and Cavalry… 80 men. Just the number that he had boasted about… “With 80 men I can run roughshod over the whole Sioux nation.” Instead the Cavalry bolted to the front leaving the infantry panting behind… then more than 1000 Sioux rose up and caught them all in the open. It was over in a couple of minutes…
There would be other fights in the area, but the high brass in Washington decided what they should have in the first place… the soldiers could not guard the trail… only their own forts. Besides, Infantry needed to guard the trans-continental railroad that was being built.  A treaty was signed… the troops pulled out by 1868 and the Sioux burned the forts behind them. It was the last war that Indians would win in North America…]“Good Marksmanship and Guts”  DA Poster 21-45 Near Fort Phil Kearney, Wyoming, 2 August 1867. The Wagon Box Fight is one of the great traditions of the Infantry in the West. A small force of 30 men on the 9th Infantry led by Brevet Major James Powell was suddenly attacked in the early morning hours by some 2,000 Sioux Indians. Choosing to stand and fight, these soldiers hastily erected a barricade of wagon boxes, and during the entire morning stood off charge after charge. The Sioux finally withdrew, leaving behind several hundred killed and wounded. The defending force suffered only three casualties. By their coolness, firmness and confidence these infantrymen showed what a few determined men can accomplish with good marksmanship and guts.
“Good Marksmanship and Guts” DA Poster 21-45
Near Fort Phil Kearney, Wyoming, 2 August 1867. The Wagon Box Fight is one of the great traditions of the Infantry in the West. A small force of 30 men on the 9th Infantry led by Brevet Major James Powell was suddenly attacked in the early morning hours by some 2,000 Sioux Indians. Choosing to stand and fight, these soldiers hastily erected a barricade of wagon boxes, and during the entire morning stood off charge after charge. The Sioux finally withdrew, leaving behind several hundred killed and wounded. The defending force suffered only three casualties. By their coolness, firmness and confidence these infantrymen showed what a few determined men can accomplish with good marksmanship and guts.
These days you mention the Old West and the Indian Fighting Army and people immediately picture Cavalry. Usually John Ford Cavalry. West had wide open spaces and the Indians had horses… so troops had to have horses… right? Oh, maybe some Infantry to guard the forts, but otherwise…
History tells a far different tale. There were never enough Cavalry… there never could be. The gigantic Union Army was mustered out and in the end, only 25,000 soldiers were left in the entire Army… many in the South enforcing Reconstruction.
A Cavalry regiment cost twice as much to raise as an Infantry regiment… and a lot more to keep running each year. And in spite of Hollywood… Infantry had a major role to play.
While mounted forces had played a role in every war from the Revolution on, there were no permanent regiments until the 1850s. Even then the mission a bit “fuzzy…”
Cavalry proper was supposed to fight almost exclusively on horseback. Dragoons were supposed to be able to fight some on horseback and some on foot. We had both, but at the start of the Civil War it was decided to call them all “Cavalry…”
Immediately after the Civil War a lot of regular and volunteer regiments were thrown into Kansas to put down Indian raids.  Thousands of soldiers tracked endless miles and only killed two hostiles.  Something else would have to be tried… and with a lot less soldiers… most of these were going to be demobilized.
Infantry would be needed for far more than to guard the forts.  Wagon trains and supply trains would need escorts. While some Cavalry with the trains were handy… too many and they became a logistic nightmare.
American stock, unlike Indian ponies could not subsist on grass… Cavalry remounts needed oats and the like…a lot of them.
Even “all Cavalry” offensives had a limited range… In 1882 the assistant Quartermaster of the Army reported: “Unless cavalry operate in a country well supplied with forage, a large amount of wagon carriage must be furnished for forage and in such cases, cavalry is of little value except to guard its own train… and to do that in the presence of an enterprising enemy it will need the addition of infantry…”Covering the Cavalry's Withdrawl by Frederic Remington
Covering the Cavalry’s Withdrawl by Frederic Remington
Horses are, for all their size, relatively fragile.  They can drop from a number of diseases and if worn out require an extended amount of time to recover.  At the end of the day men are tougher than horses.
One officer who served in large expeditions in the Sioux and Nez Perce campaigns involving major units of Cavalry and Infantry, Sixth Infantry’s Col. William B. Hazen wrote “After the fourth day’s march of a mixed command, the horse does not march faster than does the foot soldier, and after the seventh day the foot soldier begins to out-march the horse, and from that time on the foot soldier has to end his march earlier and earlier each day to enable the cavalry to reach the camp the same day at all. Even with large grain allowances horses quickly deteriorated under extended exertion…”
In 1876 a 50 man Cavalry troop dismounted had less firepower on the line than an Infantry company of 37 men. Every fourth trooper had to take four horses to the rear and hold them there until the engagement was over. In addition the Cavalry was using shorter range carbines while the Infantry was using longer range (and more reliable) rifles.
The image of the “Cavalry riding to the rescue…” could not have been farther from the truth.  In most cases, by the time that the Cavalry found out about a raid, the Indians could be fifty miles away… one hundred if they were Comanches.
Comanches might make a raid… then join up some miles off with couple of boys holding spare ponies… Alternate between them making distance.  Cavalry, even an hour away would never catch up with them… just wear out their mounts. Cavalry had to dismount and walk their horses for a while every couple of hours to give them a breather.  Meanwhile the Comanches kept swapping ponies.
One thing that cost the Cavalry was riding exhausted mounts into contact with Indians who were up for a fight… Reno almost lost his squadron when he had to retreat with blown horses (and exhausted, sleep-deprived troopers) at the Little Big Horn.
Map  from “Winning the West The Army in the Indian Wars, 1865-1890” Army Historical Series
Map from “Winning the West The Army in the Indian Wars, 1865-1890” Army Historical Series
The only feasible military solution was to hit the hostiles in their villages… preferably in the winter when their mounts were scrawny.  There were a number of problems with that strategy.
In the first place, during the Civil War a regiment of Colorado volunteers (enlisted for 100 days only) under a fanatic named Chivington had murdered many Southern Cheyennes at Sand Creek.  Most of his men were bar sweepings and acted accordingly… rape, beheadings, “trophies” taken… slaves.
These Indians had followed the directive to camp by the nearest fort… but were ordered away by militia officers as a cynical prelude to slaughter.  Other Indians were making the trouble… but these were closer… and both Chivington and the Governor of Colorado were looking for a cheap victory.
By the time that the people back East figured out what had happened, the regiment was paid off and the Army could do nothing.  One regular officer who was going to testify was murdered in Denver.
So raids even into actual hostile Indian villages… though not as barbaric as Chivington’s would raise holy hell with people back East and their Congressmen.
And just what was a hostile village?  Custer’s assault on Black Kettle’s village on the Washita, while not the insanity of Sand Creek was bad enough and raised troubling questions.
Black Kettle himself was an honorable chief who wanted peace.  But war parties drifted in and out of his camp…some with hostages.  He was not keen to have them rest up in his village… but tribal custom prevented him asking them to leave so long as they did not cause major trouble. He had no actual *authority*… as with most Plains chiefs, he led by his personality.
The Eastern media learned that Black Kettle had attempted to speak with the soldiers before the first shots were fired.  He was shot and too many of the soldiers fired at anything that moved.  It was a “victory” that would cost the Army in political support and in the unending enmity of both major branches of the Cheyenne people.
The biggest problem was identifying hostiles.  Generally back when the Indian wars fought East of the Mississippi, a chief’s word would bind his tribe.  On the Plains it was different.
A chief might sign a treaty with every intention of honoring it.  But on the Plains both the war chiefs and the peace chiefs led by their personality and influence…not by compulsion.
Some members or clans of his tribe might decide to go their own way and raid.  This caused reprisal raids (often by civilians) against the nearest members of that tribe regardless of any possible innocence.  This of course led to those victims raiding the nearest whites… regardless of any possible innocence.
The reservation system was supposed to clear all this up.  Those on the reservations would be labeled as “peaceful” and those off would be considered hostile.
But not all Plains Indians treaty bound to live on reservations. Some clans might…other might not.  And some hostiles came to the reservations (mostly come winter) to rest up for new raids in the Spring. Some reservation occupants had permission to go off reservation on long hunting trips… Some were just that… others…
Shortly before the Little Big Horn campaign the government decided to reshuffle the deck.  Indian tribes would no longer be treated as “sovereign nations” but as wards of the government.  Certain tribes including the Sioux and Cheyenne were ordered (in winter) to report to a reservation or be considered hostile.
It is doubtful that many got the order…or would have considered moving in that weather… or even in the Spring.  They saw no reason to give up their way of life.
The Army moved…and bungled the entire campaign…Custer’s blunders just one part of a bad set of events. But from this point the role of the Infantry would increase.
Like other troops on the frontier, the Infantry had some real problems.  Their authorized strength too low… and usually could not meet that.  Something like 37% of all troops on their first enlistment deserted each year.
Not just the low pay.  Army preferred to pay in paper money at isolated posts.  Counterfeiting so rampant for some years that most merchants would only take at a discount.
New troops got very little training. Most years no more than 16 rounds of ammunition per man for target practice. Often used on endless details having little to do with soldiering.  If infantry present at a fort, they got most of the endless chores… most troopers work time centered around their mounts.
While officers preferred “Iowa farm boy” type recruits…they usually didn’t hang around.  Many of the best soldiers were the Irish and Germans… at least those who made it into the NCO ranks.
Many people have heard of the two regiments of black soldiers in the Cavalry.  But there were also two regiments of Buffalo Soldier Infantry on the plains.  On average they were a better investment than many of the white recruits.
Lot of drunks and loafers and other types likely to get into trouble and/or desert joined the white regiments… But there was a surplus of good quality men wanting to join the black regiments.
Desertion was a very small problem.  Training took longer because of their background (this happened in Rhodesia with the Rhodesian African Rifles as well), but once trained up, these men proved superb soldiers.
Most white officers outside the black units looked down on the regiments…prejudice… nothing more.  At the end of the Civil War Custer had refused the rank of full Colonel with a black regiment and chose to be a Lt. Colonel of a white one. (Actual commander, Colonel Sturgis always on temporary duty in Washington until after Custer’s death.)
Whether in garrison, or even in the field, the Buffalo Soldiers often looked smarter than their white counterparts.  Some of that was their desire, and that of their officers to look like proper soldiers.  Initially, part was because by the time that the black post-war regiments formed, the Army was out of their stocks of poorly made Civil War uniforms (bad contractors) and only had the later quality stuff left.
Company B of the 25th Infantry was stationed at Fort Snelling, Minnesota, from 1883-1888.  They pose here in their full dress uniforms. U.S. Army Signal Corps photo
Company B of the 25th Infantry was stationed at Fort Snelling, Minnesota, from 1883-1888.
They pose here in their full dress uniforms. U.S. Army Signal Corps photo
After Custer’s famous luck ran out, the Army got orders to clean up the plains once and for all.  The Infantry now would show what they could do.
The Infantry did whatever it took… The Fifth Infantry’s Colonel… Nelson Miles… put some of his troops on confiscated Indian ponies to help run the hostiles ragged and keep them from assembling in mass numbers.
But the real mission for the Infantry was a foot job… Hitting the Indian camps in the winter.  The idea was not to win a big battle to the finish… Too often women (who often fought) and children caught up in the gun play and too many warriors would escape.
And a desperate fight for a village would often result in heavy casualties among the troops.  At Big Hole later against the Nez Perce, troops from another Department would learn that the hard way.
The object was to cause the hostiles to flee… leaving their winter camps behind them… their shelter… massive food stores… and often most of their spare ponies.  The best would be used and later sold… the rest shot.
The Indians would stagger into another village of the same or allied tribe… but they too could be hit by the “walks-a-heaps” tomorrow. One winter of the Infantry doing this broke the backs of the Sioux (many of whom fled to Canada…where only the Royal Navy prevented the U.S. Army from crossing after them…)and the Northern Cheyenne.  The foot sloggers could hold up better in appalling weather than Cavalry remounts.
There were other campaigns on the plains… the Nez Perce battles that often involved Infantry… including their final one.  Then in Northern California the Modocs in the lava beds where only the Infantry could operate. Others…
Against the Apache the Infantry had its work cut out for it.  If Wyoming and Montana cold in the winter… the heat of the Southwest could be hell on earth.  And the Apaches liked it just fine…
Other than the expedient of the Indian ponies, there were two primary ways that the Army could mount Infantry.  European mounted infantry rode horses but always fought on foot and carried rifles… not carbines.
But it takes time to get Infantry used to the bone breaking gait of a Cavalry remount.  Besides, especially in Apache country horses prone to dying even when cared for by specialists.
The answer was to mount the Infantry on mules.  Mules can be stubborn…but once one accepts the rider, their easy walking gait far easier for a novice to handle.  Add to that that other than camels (used for a time in the 1850s) they were the hardest critters to kill off in the desert. Unfortunately (from a Cavalryman’s standpoint) most mules will not charge into gunfire.  Smarter than horses… and maybe their riders.
An elephant’s main strength is in pushing and pulling, but it can still handle a lot on its back.  A properly packed Army mule could carry two thirds of the load (weight, not size) on its back that an elephant could.
One of the better Generals was a Colonel named George Crook who had worn stars in the Civil War and after dazzling victories in Idaho and Oregon was promoted to Brigadier General over a great many heads.
“Crook refined the science of organizing, equipping and operating mule trains … selection of mules civilian attendants preferred… proper design  mounting and packing of pack saddles…” (Utley)
But the best partnership was Infantry on foot… with pack mules (no wagons that could not go into nasty country)and Apache scouts from the same tribe… day or two out in advance.
This partnership was put to the test in Mexico in the Geronimo campaign.  After the Apaches surrendered, they said that this combination gave them the most trouble.  They could always mount up and ride away from their hideouts… but American and Mexican Cavalry all over the place… sudden moves dangerous… Meanwhile the Infantry and mules would be maybe a day behind the scouts…as persistent as the scorching sun.
Grant’s troops in Virginia would not have recognized one of these companies.  No bugles on the march…bayonets left in barracks.  No glorious dark blue tunic over sky blue trousers.
Like Captain Henry Lawton’s company out of Fort Huachuca, they marched in white long underwear and campaign hats.
These companies marched without the drunks and the slackers.  They had some of the roughest on the job training on the frontier…that produced hard-bitten professionals.  They were a world away from the green 18th Infantry lads marching up the Bozeman Trail in 1866.
US Infantry in the Indian Wars
This period of the “Dark Ages” of the United States Army lasted from 1866-98.  But these Infantry companies in Mexico would not have been out of place in many Twentieth Century campaigns… from the Philippines to Nicaragua…
US Postage Stamp of Remington’s “Protecting the Wagon Train”US Postage Stamp of Remington’s “Protecting the Wagon Train”
-YP-
Suggested Reading
 
http://www.amazon.com/Crimsoned-Prairie-S-L-Marshall/dp/0684130890/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1390888130&sr=1-1&keywords=crimsoned+prairie
 
http://www.amazon.com/Frontiersmen-Blue-United-States-1848-1865/dp/0803295502/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1390887589&sr=1-1&keywords=frontiersmen+in+blue
 
http://www.amazon.com/Frontier-Regulars-United-States-1866-1891/dp/0803295510/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1390887935&sr=8-1&keywords=frontier+regulars+utley
 
http://www.amazon.com/Dose-Frontier-Soldiering-Corporal-1877-1882/dp/0803242328/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1390887799&sr=1-1&keywords=soldiering+american+southwest
 
[CORRECTION UPDATE:  The above version of YP’s essay is an updated version.  The editor (me) originally published an earlier and slightly shorter version.  Apologies to all.]

Be Respectful, Candid and Pertinent. No Posers, No Trolls…

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Dear Grumpy Advice on Teaching in Today's Classroom Good News for a change! Hard Nosed Folks Both Good & Bad Leadership of the highest kind War Well I thought it was neat!

LESSONS IN LEADERSHIP: From a Janitor

By Colonel James E. Moschgat, Commander of the 12th Operations Group, 12th Flying Training Wing, Randolph Air Force Base, Texas

William “Bill” Crawford certainly was an unimpressive figure, one you could easily overlook  during a hectic day at the U.S. Air Force Academy.  Mr. Crawford, as most of us referred to him back in the late 1970s, was our squadron janitor.
While we cadets busied ourselves preparing for academic exams, athletic events, Saturday morning parades and room inspections, or never-ending leadership classes, Bill quietly moved about the squadron mopping and buffing floors, emptying trash cans, cleaning toilets, or just tidying up the mess 100 college-age kids can leave in a dormitory.  Sadly, and for many years, few of us gave him much notice, rendering little more than a passing nod or throwing a curt, “G’morning!” in his direction as we hurried off to our daily duties.
Why?  Perhaps it was because of the way he did his job-he always kept the squadron area spotlessly clean, even the toilets and showers gleamed.  Frankly, he did his job so well, none of us had to notice or get involved.  After all, cleaning toilets was his job, not ours.  Maybe it was is physical appearance that made him disappear into the background.  Bill didn’t move very quickly and, in fact, you could say he even shuffled a bit, as if he suffered from some sort of injury.  His gray hair and wrinkled face made him appear ancient to a group of young cadets.  And his crooked smile, well, it looked a little funny.  Face it, Bill was an old man working in a young person’s world.  What did he have to offer us on a personal level?
Finally, maybe it was Mr. Crawford’s personality that rendered him almost invisible to the young people around him.  Bill was shy, almost painfully so.  He seldom spoke to a cadet unless they addressed him first, and that didn’t happen very often.  Our janitor always buried himself in his work, moving about with stooped shoulders, a quiet gait, and an averted gaze.  If he noticed the hustle and bustle of cadet life around him, it was hard to tell.  So, for whatever reason, Bill blended into the woodwork and became just another fixture around the squadron.  The Academy, one of our nation’s premier leadership laboratories, kept us busy from dawn till dusk.  And Mr. Crawford…well, he was just a janitor.
That changed one fall Saturday afternoon in 1976.  I was reading a book about World War II and the tough Allied ground campaign in Italy, when I stumbled across an incredible story.  On September 13, 1943, a Private William Crawford from Colorado, assigned to the 36th Infantry Division, had been involved in some bloody fighting on Hill 424 near Altavilla, Italy. The words on the page leapt out at me: “in the face of intense and overwhelming hostile fire … with no regard for personal safety …  on his own initiative, Private Crawford single-handedly attacked fortified enemy positions.” It continued, “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty, the President of the United States …”
“Holy cow,” I said to my roommate, “you’re not going to believe this, but I think our janitor is a Medal of Honor winner.” We all knew Mr. Crawford was a WWII Army vet, but that didn’t keep my friend from looking at me as if I was some sort of alien being.  Nonetheless, we couldn’t wait to ask Bill about the story on Monday.  We met Mr. Crawford bright and early Monday and showed him the page in question from the book, anticipation and doubt in our faces.  He starred at it for a few silent moments and then quietly uttered something like, “Yep, that’s me.”
Mouths agape, my roommate and I looked at one another, then at the book, and quickly back at our janitor.  Almost at once we both stuttered, “Why didn’t you ever tell us about it?”  He slowly replied after some thought,   “That was one day in my life and it happened a long time ago.”
I guess we were all at a loss for words after that.  We had to hurry off to class and Bill, well, he had chores to attend to.  However, after that brief exchange, things were never again the same around our squadron.  Word spread like wildfire among the cadets that we had a hero in our midst-Mr. Crawford, our janitor, had won the Medal!  Cadets who had once passed by Bill with hardly a glance, now greeted him with a smile and a respectful, “Good morning, Mr. Crawford.”
Those who had before left a mess for the “janitor” to clean up started taking it upon themselves to put things in order.  Most cadets routinely stopped to talk to Bill throughout the day and we even began inviting him to our formal squadron functions.  He’d show up dressed in a conservative dark suit and quietly talk to those who approached him, the only sign of his heroics being a simple blue, star-spangled lapel pin.
Almost overnight, Bill went from being a simple fixture in our squadron to one of our teammates.  Mr. Crawford changed too, but you had to look closely to notice the difference.  After that fall day in 1976, he seemed to move with more purpose, his shoulders didn’t seem to be as stooped, he met our greetings with a direct gaze and a stronger “good morning” in return, and he flashed his crooked smile more often.  The squadron gleamed as always, but everyone now seemed to notice it more.  Bill even got to know most of us by our first names, something that didn’t happen often at the Academy.  While no one ever formally acknowledged the change, I think we became Bill’s cadets and his squadron.
As often happens in life, events sweep us away from those in our past. The last time I saw Bill was on graduation day in June 1977.  As I walked out of the squadron for the last time, he shook my hand and simply said, “Good luck, young man.”  With that, I embarked on a career that has been truly lucky and blessed.  Mr. Crawford continued to work at the Academy and eventually retired in his native Colorado where he resides today, one of four Medal of Honor winners living in a small town.
A wise person once said, “It’s not life that’s important, but those you meet along the way that make the difference.” Bill was one who made a difference for me.  While I haven’t seen Mr.  Crawford in over twenty years, he’d probably be surprised to know I think of him often.  Bill Crawford, our janitor, taught me many valuable, unforgettable leadership lessons.  Here are ten I’d like to share with you.

  1. Be Cautious of Labels.  Labels you place on people may define your relationship to them and bound their potential.  Sadly, and for a long time, we labeled Bill as just a janitor, but he was so much more.  Therefore, be cautious of a leader who callously says, “Hey, he’s just an Airman.”  Likewise, don’t tolerate the O-1, who says, “I can’t do that, I’m just a lieutenant.”
  2. Everyone Deserves Respect.  Because we hung the “janitor” label on Mr. Crawford, we often wrongly treated him with less respect than others around us. He deserved much more, and not just because he was a Medal of Honor winner. Bill deserved respect because he was a janitor, walked among us, and was a part of our team.
  3. Courtesy Makes a Difference.  Be courteous to all around you, regardless of rank or  position.  Military customs, as well as common courtesies, help bond a team.  When our daily words to Mr. Crawford turned from perfunctory “hellos” to heartfelt greetings, his demeanor and personality outwardly changed.  It made a difference for all of us.
  4. Take Time to Know Your People.  Life in the military is hectic, but that’s no excuse for not knowing the people you work for and with.  For years a hero walked among us at the Academy and we never knew it.  Who are the heroes that walk in your midst?
  5. Anyone Can Be a Hero.  Mr. Crawford certainly didn’t fit anyone’s standard definition of a hero.  Moreover, he was just a private on the day he won his Medal.  Don’t sell your people short, for any one of them may be the hero who rises to the occasion when duty calls.  On the other hand, it’s easy to turn to your proven performers when the chips are down, but don’t ignore the rest of the team.  Today’s rookie could and should be tomorrow’s superstar.
  6. Leaders Should Be Humble.  Most modern day heroes and some leaders are anything but humble, especially if you calibrate your “hero meter” on today’s athletic fields.  End zone celebrations and self-aggrandizement are what we’ve come to expect from sports greats.  Not Mr. Crawford-he was too busy working to celebrate his past heroics. Leaders would be well-served to do the same.
  7. Life Won’t Always Hand You What You Think You Deserve.  We in the military work hard and, dang it, we deserve recognition, right?  However, sometimes you just have to persevere, even when accolades don’t come your way. Perhaps you weren’t nominated for junior officer or airman of the quarter as you thought you should – don’t let that stop you.
  8. Don’t pursue glory; pursue excellence.  Private Bill Crawford didn’t pursue glory; he did his duty and then swept floors for a living. No job is beneath a Leader.  If Bill Crawford, a Medal of Honor winner, could clean latrines and smile, is there a job beneath your dignity?  Think about it.
  9. Pursue Excellence.  No matter what task life hands you, do it well. Dr. Martin Luther King  said, “If life makes you a street sweeper, be the best street sweeper you can be.” Mr. Crawford modeled that philosophy and helped make our dormitory area a home.
  10. Life is a Leadership Laboratory. All too often we look to some school or PME class to teach us about leadership when, in fact, life is a leadership laboratory.  Those you meet everyday will teach you enduring lessons if you just take time to stop, look and listen.  I spent four years at the Air Force Academy, took dozens of classes, read hundreds of books, and met thousands of great people.  I gleaned leadership skills from all of them, but one of the people I remember most is Mr. Bill Crawford and the lessons he unknowingly taught.  Don’t miss your opportunity to learn.

Bill Crawford was a janitor.  However, he was also a teacher, friend, role model and one great American hero.  Thanks, Mr. Crawford, for some valuable leadership lessons.
Dale Pyeatt, Executive Director of the National Guard Association of Texas, comments:  And now, for the “rest of the story”:  Pvt William John Crawford was a platoon scout for 3rd Platoon of Company L 1 42nd Regiment 36th Division (Texas National Guard) and won the Medal Of Honor for his actions on Hill 424, just 4 days after the invasion at Salerno.
On Hill 424, Pvt Crawford took out 3 enemy machine guns before darkness fell, halting the platoon’s advance.  Pvt Crawford could not be found and was assumed dead.  The request for his MOH was quickly approved.  Major General Terry Allen presented the posthumous MOH to Bill Crawford’s father, George, on 11 May 1944 in Camp (now Fort) Carson, near Pueblo.  Nearly two months after that, it was learned that Pvt Crawford was alive in a POW camp in Germany.  During his captivity, a German guard clubbed him with his rifle.  Bill overpowered him, took the rifle away, and beat the guard unconscious.  A German doctor’s testimony saved him from severe punishment, perhaps death.  To stay ahead of the advancing Russian army, the prisoners were marched 500 miles in 52 days in the middle of the German winter, subsisting on one potato a day.  An allied tank column liberated the camp in the spring of 1945, and Pvt Crawford took his first hot shower in 18 months on VE Day. Pvt Crawford stayed in the army before retiring as a MSG and becoming a janitor.  In 1984, President Ronald Reagan officially presented the MOH to Bill Crawford.
William Crawford passed away in 2000.  He is the only U.S. Army veteran and sole Medal of Honor winner to be buried in the cemetery of the U.S. Air Force Academy.

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War

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SOMME 100: WEAPONS OF THE SOMME

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One hundred years ago today one of the bloodiest battles in history began, with French, British and Commonwealth troops charging across No Man’s Land to attack the Germans. In this blog we look at some of the weapons used in the fierce fighting as the armies looked to break the bloody stalemate of the Somme.

The Rifle

German soldiers defending the Hindenburg Line in 1918 armed with Gew 98 rifles
Artwork by Peter Dennis, taken from WPN 39: Mauser Military Rifles

For infantrymen infantryman at the Somme the most common weapon was the rifle. For the British this would in all likelihood mean the .303in Short Magazine Lee Enfield (SMLE), which the BEF fired with such speed and accuracy that one German commander reportedly thought they were armed with machine guns.
The majority of German infantry would be armed with the Gew 98 Mauser rifle, one of the most accurate target weapons of the day. For the French the rifle of choice would either be the 1886 Lebel or the 1907 Berthier.
To read more about British rifles in World War One pick up a copy of Weapon 17: The Lee-Enfield Rifle by Martin Pegler. For further information on German rifles, take a look at Weapon 39: Mauser Military Rifles by Neil Grant. Anyone interested in reading about French rifles should take a look at Warrior 134: French Poilu 1914-18 by Ian Sumner.

The Machine Gun

A Lewis gun in action at the third battle of Ypres in August 1917
Artwork by Peter Dennis, taken from WPN 34: The Lewis Gun

As British and French troops marched across No Man’s Land towards the German trenches, one of the weapons that caused the most devastation was the machine gun. The MG 08 and MG 08/15 were crucial in defending trenches and field works, and inflicted heavy casualties on the advancing French and British troops.
The British counterpart to this fearsome weapon was the Lewis Gun, arguably one of the best machine guns of World War I, whilst the French relied on the Chauchat LMG.
If you would like to read more about the Lewis gun then grab a copy of Weapon 34: The Lewis Gun by Neil Grant. The MG 08 and MG 08/15 are examined in Weapon 47: German Machine Guns of World War I by Stephen Turnbull, whilst French machine guns are covered in Warrior 134: French Poilu 1914-18 and Men-at-Arms 286: The French Army 1914-18. Another book that may be of interest is Weapon 25: The Vickers-Maxim Machine Gun by Martin Pegler.

The Hand Grenade

British infantry throwing grenades from their trenches at Flanders, 1916
Artwork by Johnny Shumate, taken from WPN 38: The Hand Grenade

British, French and German troops all had hand grenades at their disposal throughout World War I, as it was seen as an ideal weapon for trench warfare. Each nation pressed forward with their development of grenades, experimenting with fuse length, percussion detonation and different shapes. At the battle of the Somme grenades would have been used when assaulting trenches as well as when defending from the attackers.
To read more about the history of hand grenades take a look at Weapon 38: The Hand Grenade by Gordon L. Rottman.

The Flamethrower

A two-man German flamethrower team attacking a French trench at Verdun, February 1916
Artwork by Steve Noon, taken from WPN 41: The Flamethrower

One of the most terrifying weapons used in the battle of the Somme was the flamethrower. The weapon had proven successful for the Germans earlier in the war, and by 1916 it had become an integral part of the German arsenal.
However, at the Somme it was in the hands of the British that the flamethrower was most effective. The Livens Large Gallery Flame Projector was a static flamethrower used to spit fire onto German trenches at a ranges of nearly 100m, saturating long stretches of trench line which was subsequently occupied relatively easily by the British troops.
If you would like to read more about the flamethrower take a look at Chris McNab’s Weapon 41: The Flamethrower.

Artillery

The attack on La Boiselle, with German artillery landing in No Man’s Land
Artwork by Peter Dennis, taken from CAM 169: Somme 1 July 1916

The build up to the battle of the Somme saw the German trenches endure a week-long bombardment, with French and British guns hoping to destroy German defences and shatter their morale.  On 1 July when the assault was launched creeping barrages were used to support the British and French troops, whilst the Germans sent shells crashing into No Man’s Land to inflict as many casualties as possible.
For a better understanding of the role of artillery in World War I pick up a copy of Elite 199: World War I Battlefield Artillery Tactics by Dale Clarke.

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