The Army of Meiji 1 of 3 Parts

Uniforms during the Boshin War and Meiji era

On May 14, 1878, the most powerful man in Japan, Minister of Home Affairs Ōkubo, was riding alone in his unescorted carriage from his Tokyo residence to a morning appointment. Six sword-wielding former samurai surrounded his carriage in a narrow lane and hacked and stabbed him to death. The ringleader later admitted that the killers feared an Ōkubo dictatorship and had planned to murder him since they heard of Saigō’s suicide. One captured assassin joked to interrogators that if life was a stage, their act might be seen as a cheap burlesque.

Besides Ōkubo’s brazen murder, lingering questions of loyalty and obedience to orders clouded the national army’s victory over Saigō’s warriors. In the aftermath of the rebellion, many units felt slighted by a government that neither recognized nor rewarded their wartime sacrifices. For example, the Imperial Guard artillery battery, despite its prominent wartime role, received belated commendations and smaller monetary awards than soldiers had expected. The parsimoniousness reflected the government’s financial retrenchment policy deemed necessary to repay the enormous cost of the war, including more than 30 million yen in supplemental funding (five times the army’s annual budget). In order to balance the national budget, in December 1877 the council of state ordered 20 percent across-the-board reductions to ministry budgets. The following May the army ministry reduced military pay by 5 percent and temporarily suspended work on its showcase coastal fortification construction projects. These actions only added to the list of soldiers’ grievances.

On the night of August 23, 1878, about 200 noncommissioned officers and enlisted men of the Guard artillery battalion garrisoned near Tokyo’s Takebashi Bridge mutinied, murdered their commanding officer and the officer of the day, perfunctorily shelled the finance minister’s official residence, and demanded to speak directly to the emperor. The army ministry, having been tipped off in advance, quickly crushed the insurrection. Courts-martial held in October sentenced 55 mutineers to death and punished over 300 more (including accomplices in other units) with prison terms or banishment. Unrewarded wartime service had sparked the so-called Takebashi Incident, but the trials also revealed that many of the enlisted troops were active in the nascent liberty and people’s rights movement, a popular national political campaign demanding democratic rights from the Meiji government that leaders like Yamagata regarded as subversive and dangerous.

Yamagata sought to inoculate the army from the virus of mutiny by appealing to a romanticized imperial past. Fifty days after the Takebashi Incident, the army distributed his Admonition to Soldiers (gunjin kunkai) to all its company commanders. The instructions, aimed specifically at the officer corps, stressed that strict military discipline and unquestioning obedience to a superior’s orders were the foundation of the military institution. He portrayed officers as the heirs to a glorious samurai tradition in which loyalty and valor were the “way of the warrior” (bushidō).3 Real samurai were discredited, so officers and conscripts were indoctrinated to aspire to the greatly romanticized version of idealized warriors.

Yamagata also warned that disobedience to orders led to military involvement in political activities and spread subversion among the ranks. He justified that claim with another dubious assertion: that in ancient times the army had belonged to the emperor and was therefore above politics. By equating obedience to a superior’s orders with compliance to a direct imperial order, Yamagata further implied that a superior’s orders had to be followed unquestionably, regardless of legality. In sum, Yamagata wanted an apolitical army under his control to prevent a reoccurrence of the Satsuma Rebellion or Takebashi Incident, and one means to achieve this goal was to make the military directly responsible to the emperor, thereby insuring imperial control of the army.

Institutional Reforms

In the decade following the Satsuma Rebellion, the army thoroughly reorganized. The process was gradual, but the reforms were radical. The army’s fundamental institutions—a general staff, an inspector general, a general staff college, and a division force structure—evolved, but only after acrimonious debates within the army that pitted Francophile traditionalists against pro-Prussian reformers.

In the wake of rebellion, mutiny, and popular demonstrations, Yamagata feared that antigovernment politicians would restrict the army’s freedom of action, or that antigovernment forces might incite the ranks to revolt and overthrow the government. These concerns justified reforms to ensure an apolitical army by removing the supreme command from the political arena. The ruling oligarchy concurred because they wanted no more Saigō Takamoris—men who held dual military-civilian appointments and might use their military power to usurp the civilian government. One possible solution was to create a general staff with direct access to the emperor that could execute imperial commands unencumbered by the agenda of civilian political leaders or military administrators.

The idea was an extension of Yamagata’s 1874 establishment of the sixth bureau, augmented with fresh ideas from Europe. Capt. Katsura Tarō, one of Yamagata’s many Chōshū protégés, had spent the Satsuma insurrection studying at the Prussian military academy at his own expense. He returned home in 1878 convinced of the merits of a general staff that was independent of the army ministry’s administrative control and enjoyed direct access to the emperor. That October, apparently on Katsura’s advice, Yamagata formally recommended to the council of state the separation of staff and administrative functions.

The council of state abolished the general staff bureau on December 5, 1878, and established a general staff separate from the army minister and directly responsible to the emperor, although without clearly delineating the new staff’s authority. During peacetime the general staff controlled the Imperial Guard and regional garrisons, and the chief of staff, an imperial appointee, also served as the emperor’s highest military adviser. During wartime the chief of staff assisted the emperor with military matters but lacked command and decision-making authority, those formally being the prerogatives of the emperor. He could, however, issue operational orders in the emperor’s name. This provision institutionalized the prerogative of the independence of command (tōsuiken) executed in the emperor’s name as supreme commander (daigensui).

The new general staff had two bureaus divided by geographic interest. The eastern bureau was responsible for the garrisons in the Tokyo and Sendai military administrative districts as well as Hokkaidō, Siberia, and Manchuria; the western oversaw the other four regional garrisons plus Korea and China. Each bureau had operational and intelligence functions, and two smaller subsections handled administration, prepared gazetteers, translated materials, and archived documents.

Within days of creating a general staff, Yamagata, who became the first chief of staff, established a superintendency on December 30 as a separate headquarters in Tokyo. It too reported directly to the emperor, coordinated army-wide training, standardized tactics and equipment, ensured that units carried out the general staff’s orders, and enforced army regulations. The superintendency had no director, and the duties of its headquarters in Tokyo were limited, but its three regional superintendents enjoyed broad authority because they reported directly to the emperor, bypassing the general staff and army ministry. In peacetime each regional superintendent was responsible for the education and training at two garrisons and in wartime commanded a two-division corps formed by combining the garrisons’ forces.

The three regional superintendents were superimposed on the existing garrison system, and each was of lieutenant-general rank; Tani supervised the eastern commandaries, Nozu the central, and Miura the western. Each had the authority to enforce orders issued by the general staff with imperial approval. This reorganization of the army’s administrative system with a new inspectorate and an independent general staff was an attempt by Yamagata and Army Minister Ōyama to consolidate their power and, by extension, the Satsuma-Chōshū monopoly on senior army positions.

The Satsuma Rebellion had exposed the need for trained staff officers to plan and coordinate operations, formulate strategy, and remedy deficiencies in operational planning. In 1882 the army had a total of forty-nine staff officers: fourteen assigned to the general staff, five to the army ministry, and the remaining thirty to the various garrisons, the Imperial Guard, or the military districts. That year the army opened the general staff college to train and educate officers for future staff assignments. Nineteen students were selected for the three-year course. The first year was remedial and concentrated on the study of foreign languages (German and French), mathematics, and drafting for engineering and map-making purposes. Officer-students studied military organization, mobilization, tactics, and road march formations in their second year; their third year focused on the mechanics of overnight unit bivouacs, reconnaissance, strategy, and military history. Instruction in tactics and strategy was initially limited because of a lack of qualified Japanese instructors and the continuing debate within the army over adopting French or German doctrine. From its inception, the staff college had a close association with the throne, personified by the emperor’s personal presentation of an imperial gift to the top graduates: a telescope in the case of the first six graduating classes, and thereafter a sword.

Another manifestation of the link between emperor and army was the conversion of Ōmura’s Shōkonsha concept of a public memorial to commemorate those who died in the Boshin Civil War to a state-sponsored Shintō shrine to promote imperial divinity and Japanese uniqueness. In June 1879 the Shōkonsha was renamed the Yasukuni Shrine, with a status second in ranking only to the imperial shrines. The home ministry, army, and navy administered the shrine while the army paid for its upkeep. For purposes of army morale, the army reinterred its war dead from the Satsuma Rebellion at the Yasukuni and announced that they had been transmogrified into spirits guarding the nation. Interment was strictly limited to those killed in action; soldiers who died on active service during peacetime were interred in army-designated regional cemeteries.

Promulgating a New Ideology

Political agitation since the mid-1870s for a constitution and a parliament gradually matured into a campaign for freedom and people’s rights, a broader-based political movement whose origins lay in samurai discontent. By the late 1870s, peasant unrest had also increased because the government resorted to deflationary fiscal policies to repay the foreign loans that underwrote the military costs of suppressing Saigō’s rebellion. Retrenchment caused a sharper decline in market prices for rice and raw silk, the cash crops of the peasantry, than in overall consumer prices. Many peasants fell into debt, borrowed money to buy seed or pay land taxes, and in some cases were unable to repay the loans. Disaffected peasants organized into groups seeking debt relief, and outbreaks of armed violence—some led by local political party branch members—erupted in central Japan during 1882.

Soldiers had also been active in the people’s rights movement since its inception. In January 1879 police arrested several enlisted men assigned to the Guard infantry regiment for conspiring to murder their company commander and high-ranking government officials. Sometime later they apprehended a disgruntled artillery officer who was threatening to bombard the imperial palace. Dissatisfied over the awarding of medals, troops also complained about the five-year term of active service for those assigned to the Guard, demanded special pay and allowances, and sought political redress for grievances over the living conditions of enlisted men in garrisons.

Yamagata did initiate reforms that shortened the Guards’ length of service and reduced pay inequalities. Conscription reforms in October 1879 extended terms of reserve duty from four to seven years by creating a first (three-year) and second reserve (four-year), halved the fee to purchase a substitute, and tightened deferments. Yamagata refused, however, to allow soldiers greater political expression, believing that it would undermine military discipline. As if to underscore his fears, in 1880 a soldier stationed in Tokyo committed suicide in front of the imperial palace when the government refused to accept his petition calling for the opening of a parliament.

Internal army dissent also targeted the government and Yamagata, particularly the council of state’s fire sale of the Hokkaidō Colonization Office’s assets to private Mitsubishi interests allegedly to defray the retrenchment costs. Among the most vocal and persistent critics were four general officers: lieutenant generals Torio Koyata, Guard commander; Tani Tateki, commandant of the military academy and the Toyama Infantry School; Miura Gorō, superintendent of the western commandary district; and Maj. Gen. Soga Sukenori, acting superintendent of the central commandary district. The four claimed to be acting from bushidō principles when in September 1881 they petitioned the throne to reverse the transaction.

The people’s rights movement also criticized the sale, and the generals’ petition forged another link in the chain of protests during the so-called crisis of 1881, which climaxed that October when the emperor canceled the sale and promised a national assembly by 1890. To prepare for the assembly, a cabinet system of government would replace the council of state in 1886 (the change actually occurred in December 1885).

Liberal members of the government resigned to join the popular rights movement in anticipation of greater political opportunity. The four generals remained on the active duty list, continued to hold important positions, and formed the conservative opposition to Yamagata’s efforts to reorganize and unify the national army. The involvement of enlisted troops and senior officers in political activity stimulated army chief of staff Yamagata’s fears about the military’s security and reliability.

On January 4, 1882, Yamagata promulgated the imperial rescript to soldiers and sailors to remedy what he perceived as lax military discipline and military involvement in the popular rights movement. Its audience was the army rank and file, and the language was clearer and easier to understand than the highly stylized 1878 injunctions to officers. The message, however, was the same. Yamagata reemphasized respect for superiors, the spirit of courage and sacrifice, and absolute obedience because superiors’ orders were direct commands from the throne. Soldiers and sailors, he wrote, should loyally serve the emperor, their commander-in-chief, “neither being led astray by current opinions or meddling in political affairs,” and always recalling that “duty is heavier than a mountain while death is lighter than a feather.” Yamagata again relied on hoary martial values to send a message of modernity based on loyalty to the emperor and nation, not one’s former domain, and issue a caution against political involvement. The 1882 memorial would shape official popular ideology and the notion of duty and loyalty to the emperor.

The army’s role in controlling domestic disorders peaked in the autumn of 1884 when troops suppressed a large popular uprising in Chichibu, west of Tokyo. That October a 5,000-man-strong peasant army protesting usurious interest rates and demanding lower taxes and debt relief attacked government offices and moneylenders. In early November government troops used overwhelming force to restore order and shatter the popular rights movement, whose members disbanded rather than risk being labeled traitors for supporting insurrections. By that time, the army was engaged in reorganizing its basic force structure and command and control apparatus.

Focke Wulf Fw 190D-9 Dora

Arguably, the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 evolved into wartime Germany’s most effective fighter, offering the Luftwaffe the benefit of manoeuvrability combined with stability as a formidable gun platform and the flexibility to perform as an air superiority fighter, a heavily armed and armoured interceptor and as an ordnance-carrying ground attack aircraft. However, this superlative machine had its Achilles’ heel, for when the first Fw 190A-2s entered operational service with Stab/JG 26 and I./JG 26 on the Channel Front in July 1941, it became apparent quite quickly that the type’s performance at high-altitude was weak.

The Fw 190A-2 was powered by the 1,500hp BMW 801C-1 and 1,600 hp C-2 radial engines. From the start, and during initial testing in 1940 and early 1941, this engine was plagued with faults. Crews and technicians of the Luftwaffe’s dedicated test unit Erprobungsstaffel 190 at Rechlin, therefore, were forced to undertake considerable trouble-shooting. Finally, by August 1941, the engine was deemed safe enough to allow the first Fw 190A-1 production machines to be handed over to 6./JG 26, which at the time was based in Belgium. Unfortunately, the problems persisted, with nine Fw 190s crashing in August–September 1941. The finger of blame was pointed at BMW, whose engines continued to be plagued by overheating and compressor damage.

There were also delays in deliveries associated with failings afflicting the anticipated 1,700hp BMW 801D. This engine, fitted in the Fw 190A-3 (in production from late 1941), benefited from uprated power achieved by increasing the compression ratio in the cylinders and refinements to the two-speed supercharger. Nevertheless, it was found to suffer from a fall in performance above 19,750ft.

Despite this worrying scenario, since early 1941 Kurt Tank had been working on a re-design of the Fw 190 that would incorporate a different powerplant capable of functioning effectively at altitudes higher than those then achievable. In his post-war memoirs, Tank summarises succinctly the prevailing situation at the time:

Hardly was the Fw 190 flying at the beginning of the war before it had to be extensively redesigned, enlarged and made more powerful still. In no time at all, the requirements of very many pieces of auxiliary equipment connected with the armament and communications of the plane forced up its weight, and at the same time new and more powerful engines were becoming available.

In November 1941, under the project designation ‘Ra-8’, Focke-Wulf decided to install a Junkers Jumo 213A inverted V12 engine into the airframe of an Fw 190, while tests also proceeded with a Daimler-Benz DB 603 inline inverted V12 – this option was ultimately dropped in favour of the Jumo unit. The Jumo 213’s edge came in the form of a pressurised cooling system and, with high boost settings, was designed to produce 1,750hp at 3,250rpm. In a clever move, the Junkers design team placed the mounting points in exactly the same locations as those for the DB 603. Although this meant easy interchange, the supercharger intake was to be found on the left side of the DB 603, while in the case of the Jumo it was on the right. The Jumo 213 also had a strengthened crankshaft and engine block, with smaller external dimensions than the Daimler-Benz motor, although it did retain the same bore and stroke.

The first aircraft to be fitted with a Jumo 213A was Wk-Nr. 0039 CF+OX, which was prototype V17. This Fw 190, with its ‘Langnase’ (‘long nose’) as a result of the engine installation, also featured a tail unit that was similar in shape to what would appear in the later Ta 152 high-altitude interceptor. It took to the air for the first time on 26 September 1942 from Hannover-Langenhagen, flown by Focke-Wulf chief test pilot Flugkapitän Hans Sander. There were some initial teething problems with the installation, and after Kurt Melhorn had made the eighth test flight in V17 on 4 December 1942, he reported that ‘the engine is still running very roughly so that proper testing cannot be carried out.’ In January 1943 the aircraft was returned to the workshops for fitting with a pre-production Jumo 213A-0.

Focke-Wulf persisted with the trials throughout 1943, Sander completing three test flights in V17 on 27 February, for example. The aircraft had its radio equipment removed and replaced by a ballast load of 290lb, with 26lb in the tail fin and 33lb in the jacking tube. Unfortunately, extreme vibration made the machine impossible to fly, casting heavy doubts over any chance of it becoming a combat-ready fighter since, primarily, such vibration would greatly hamper use of a reflector gunsight. More flights were undertaken in March by Sander, his fellow test-pilot Bernhard Märschel and Hauptmann Otto Behrens, a Luftwaffe fighter technician from Rechlin. Still the Jumo was viewed as unfavourable compared to the earlier BMW engine, despite the fitting of new bearings. Beside long-running coolant leaks, oil was now found to be routinely seeping onto the floor of the cockpit when the aircraft was aloft.

On 30 April V17 was transferred to Rechlin for further assessment in the hope of solving these problems. It was discovered that the vibration was caused by crankshaft resonance in the continuous speed range, and a solution was soon found in the form of a spoke wheel inserted between the crankshaft and the propeller. This duly shifted the resonance into an rpm range that was not disruptive. A change in the cylinder firing sequence reduced vibration levels even further, although this in turn reduced the engine’s performance by a full eight per cent because the exhaust and intake lines had been optimised for the original firing sequence. Nevertheless, by June 1943, the 185 engines thus far completed at Junkers’ Dessau plant had been modified accordingly.

During the summer V17 returned from Rechlin to Focke-Wulf, where it was fitted with a Jumo 213A-1 and a streamlined cowling but still lacked armament.

The technical issues surrounding the Jumo powerplant persisted for more than a year, prompting General-Ingenieur Wolfram Eisenlohr, head of the engine department in the RLM, to lament:

The neglect under which matters of engine development have long suffered have now led to a critical lack of developmental capacity. A glance at other countries shows that research into powerplant matters abroad have been handled much more favourably than here.

In May 1944 V17 was refitted with a Jumo 213A-2 that drove a wooden VS 9 propeller. The Junkers engine was some 24 inches longer than the BMW 801, which meant the aircraft had to be modified at the Focke-Wulf plant at Adelheide in late April. Its fuselage was extended by 20 inches just ahead of the tail assembly to offset this. In this configuration, the machine became V17/U1 – the first true Fw 190D-9 prototype. Testing went reasonably well, with Märschel completing the inaugural flight on 17 May when he flew it back to Hannover-Langenhagen. Here, it underwent extensive trials, with test pilots generally reporting that the Jumo 213A offered a great improvement at altitude over the BMW 801D. Furthermore, thanks to the D-9’s reduced drag as a result of its a narrower radiator profile, it was faster than the radial-engined Fw 190 in a dive.

In a further stage of development, in June–July 1944, because of ‘difficulties with existing prototypes’, the airframes of two early Fw 190A-8s were reconfigured under the suffix D-9 (‘D’ being given the moniker ‘Dora’) – a designation that seems to have first been used in a Focke-Wulf drawing dating from January 1944. These aircraft were to be made available ‘immediately’ at Adelheide under the prototype numbers V53 and V54. The Fw 190A-8 variant was by far the most numerous and most potent Focke-Wulf heavy fighter to be built, and it became the Luftwaffe’s main close-range interceptor for operations against USAAF heavy bombers throughout 1944–45.

The January 1944 drawing incorporated an extended fuselage and tail assembly, along with strengthening of the forward fuselage and wing centre section and provision for a Jumo 213A engine.

The first to be converted was Wk-Nr. 170003, the third A-8 to be built, which became V53 (coded DU+JC) in the D-9 programme. However, this prototype was fitted with a Jumo 213C at the Focke-Wulf plant at Sorau, in Silesia. Essentially an A-model Jumo engine with rearranged secondary equipment (such as supercharger and oil pump), it was capable of, and designed from the outset for, the fitment of a centreline cannon firing through an opening for a blast tube in the propeller hub. This had the advantage of a gun being more along a pilot’s line of sight, as well as offering less impact on speed and manoeuvrability. A disadvantage, however, was the recoil associated with a centrally-mounted weapon and the impact it had on the engine, leading to potential mechanical problems and possible damage.

When the aircraft made its first flight on 12 June 1944, it retained the original A-8 wing armament comprising four 20mm MG 151/20E cannon and a pair of 13mm MG 131 machine guns mounted over the engine. Testing of V53 was rigorous, with no fewer than 100 flights being made before it was eventually reassigned as an armaments test aircraft for the new Ta 152B-5, at which point it became V68.

Fw 190A-8 Wk-Nr. 174024, coded BH+RX, was an aircraft that had suffered some damage on 29 May. Reconfigured as D-9 V54, its maiden flight took place on 26 July 1944 and its last on 4 August at Focke-Wulf’s Langenhagen plant when it was flown by Flugkapitän Sander. The main task of V54 was to trial the MW 50 methanol-water power-boosting system, for which a 115-litre tank was installed. There is some documentary evidence to suggest that the original plan was for V54 to test the GM-1 nitrous oxide-based injection power-boosting system developed by Otto Lutz in 1940.

MW 50 was a solution of 50 per cent methanol, 49.5 per cent water and 0.5 per cent anti-corrosive fluid, the liquid being injected directly into the supercharger for limited periods not exceeding ten minutes. In air combat, the boost increased the power of a Jumo 213 engine by at least 300hp to 2,000hp for short periods. Such a system came with the added benefit of needing only the installation of purpose-made spark plugs to modify the engine. However, its one side-effect was that the corrosive nature of methanol reduced engine life.

Production of the Fw 190D-9 was planned to commence in August, but on the 5th there was a setback when both the A-8 conversions were damaged as a result of an American bombing raid on Langenhagen. V53 escaped with light damage rated at five per cent, but V54 suffered 80 per cent damage and was written off. Nevertheless, series production did start at Focke-Wulf’s Cottbus and Sorau plants later in the month, as well as at the Gerhard Fieseler Werke at Kassel-Waldau and at the Ago Oschersleben and Arbeitsgemeinschaft Roland plants. The first production machines rolled out of the assembly halls at Sorau towards the end of August, with Sander taking Wk-Nr. 210001 TR+SA up on the 31st, while Hauptmann Schmitz flew the second example, Wk-Nr. 210002 TR+SB, on 15 September. Both aircraft did suffer from minor teething problems, but series production was now underway.

Having been repaired after the August attack on Langenhagen, V53 had had its outboard wing MG 151s removed and the two inboard weapons replaced by 30mm MK 103 cannon by late 1944. In such a configuration the aircraft was redesignated V68. V17 was still available for testing, despite its ‘official’ testing life having ended on 6 July at the Erprobungsstelle at Rechlin. Wk-Nr. 210001 was fitted with two MG 131 machine guns above the engine and two MG 151 cannon in the wing roots. Problems were still being experienced with the Jumo 213A-1, however. The second machine to be turned out, Wk-Nr. 210002, had the same armament and took to the air on 15 September flown by Hauptmann Schmitz. It was found during subsequent tests in this aircraft that ‘while climbing at combat power, with all flaps set to flush at 9,000m [29,500ft], an increase of over 2m [6.5ft]/sec in the rate of climb, as well as an increase of the service ceiling to 10,500m [34,500ft], could be obtained.’

In one test to measure engine temperature during a climb in Wk-Nr. 210001 at Langenhagen on 20 October, it was noted that:

The radiator coolant inlet and outlet temperatures, as well as the lubricant and supercharger air temperatures at the engine entrance, were taken using combat power climb with 20 degrees angle radiator flap opening. Since the last flight had to be broken off because of weather and engine breakdown, the height of peak temperature was just reached at 6000m [19,685ft] altitude.

Teething problems persisted, however, as illustrated by a report prepared at Langenhagen on 24 October:

As delivered, substantial gaps were present in the engine, in particular in the connection from the cowl to the wing. In order to check for their influence on level speeds, performance comparison flights were carried out in the low supercharger range, before and after sealing of all existing gaps. After conclusion of the trials in the initial condition, an even gap width at the transition from the cowl to the wing had to be ensured, first by shifting of the lower engine cover against the propeller direction of rotation, since substantial differences arose by the engine torque in flight. Then the sealing of the fairing was made by means of rubber gaskets and metal strips.

Nevertheless, as production stepped up at Cottbus and Sorau, plans were made to manufacture four D-9s per day, but such a scale of output would not be reached until November, when, in addition to the Focke-Wulf, Fieseler and Roland plants (Ago was eventually dropped from the programme), Mimetall at Erfurt-Nord was added. The first Fw 190D-9 to be delivered to an operational Luftwaffe unit was Wk-Nr. 210003.

It was not until December 1944 that this aircraft saw operational service. The Junkers Jumbo 213A-1 engines produced an amazing 2242hp at sea level and had a methanol injection system as well. The speed at 20,000 ft was 426mph and at sea level it was 327mph. The climb rate was quite impressive from sea level to 32,000-ft it took only 7.1 minutes.

Even though the FW190D-9 “Langnasen-Dora” shared parity with many allied fighters, it also suffered heavy losses, both in the air and on the ground. Many inexperienced and poorly trained pilots, were no match and were at the mercy of the allied pilots with a great deal of flying time and combat experience.

Kurt Tank had designed this model to operate as a high-altitude fighter but the cabin design was unable to provide adequate pressurization. The aircraft was used to replace The FW 190A at lower altitudes and coincidentally was sometimes humorously referred to as “Downstairs Dora” or “Maid”.

Pilots that flew the FW 190A were somewhat distrustful and apprehensive to switch over to the new FW 190D-9 with its liquid cooled engine. Once these seasoned and operational pilots became accustomed to this new breed of fighter, they soon regarded it to be the best piston-engine fighter to serve with the Luftwaffe in World War II.

Sicily between Byzantium and the Islamic World

The Hariri Ship, the first known picture of an Arab sailing vessel.

Map of the Arab–Byzantine naval conflict in the Mediterranean, 7th–11th centuries.

Map of southern Italy in the 10th century. Byzantine provinces (themes) in yellow, Lombard principalities in other colours.

Afterwards, the Saracens who had sailed from Rome came to Sicily, where they occupied the aforementioned city and slaughtered many of the population who had taken refuge in fortifications or in the mountains and, taking with them lots of booty or bronze, they returned to Alexandria.

Vita of Pope Adeodatus II

During the Byzantine centuries, Greek and Latin travelers to and from Sicily were examples and, indeed, agents of the complex web of connections between the Latin and Greek Christian worlds as they overlapped on Sicily. From the seventh century onward, Sicily also began to be drawn into the Islamicate world, as represented primarily by the political center of Qayrawān and the many seaports of Aghlabid Ifrīqiya (modern Tunisia) and Egypt. Long before Sicily became a Muslim province in the ninth century, in fact, considerable travel and communication were conducted between the island and the dār al-Islām, making the island increasingly important as a zone of interaction between Muslims and Christians, both Greek and Latin. Although, as in the sixth and seventh centuries, economic movements cannot be quantitatively reconstructed from the remaining data, by the eighth century, there is clear evidence of semiregular ship travel between the shores of Sicily and Aghlabid Ifrīqiya. While most of this traffic was of a military nature—with regular raids on Sicily’s southern shores starting in the seventh century of the common era—evidence also points to both diplomatic and, perhaps, even commercial transactions occurring between Sicily and Muslim North Africa while the island remained under the administrative control of Constantinople.

The introduction of Muslim powers into the western Mediterranean thus expanded the communication networks in which Sicily participated, in effect broadening the island’s place in the region rather than constricting or isolating it. New networks were opened while preexisting ones were maintained, even if altered. It is true that the relative amount of travel along each of the routes shifted and rebalanced over time, as Sicily conceptually drew closer to Muslim Africa and drifted farther from the Greek eastern Mediterranean. As the central Mediterranean Sea became populated with more and more Muslim-sailed ships, the waters around Sicily came to be linked more closely with northern Africa. At times we see ships from the Christian world encountering difficulties when sailing into hostile waters, but these voyages did not cease. The island, at the nexus of these three worlds, continued for some time to be a place of interaction and connection between Muslims and Christians, even if a preponderance of these interactions, as they appear in the sources, were hostile. Even violent interaction—and especially regularly recurring violent contact, such as that which took place during the nearly annual Muslim raids against Sicily—is a type of exchange that requires travel and the infrastructure of travel, and that connects peoples and spaces, drawing them closer together in terms of communications.

Even while communications with Muslim North Africa were increasing, Sicily remained in contact with the Greek East and with the Latin West. That is, the entry of Muslim polities into Sicilian affairs caused a relatively slow shift southward—rather than a break—of the communication networks of the island, concurrent with the persistence of many of the connections between Constantinople, Sicily, and Rome. The traditional periodization of Sicily’s history draws a firm line between the Greek Byzantine era and the Muslim period, with historians of Byzantium and the Middle East divvying up their examinations of the island. If, instead, we look across these centuries, at the transition period itself, our view of Sicily’s history and role within Mediterranean systems is very different. By placing the conquest of Sicily by Muslim forces in the middle of our examination rather than at the beginning or the end, we see that Muslim North Africa’s involvement with Sicily transformed the island’s communication networks rather than simply replacing one set of networks with another. Viewed across the period of the conquest, from the start of Muslim involvement in Sicily in the seventh century through the ninth–century conquest and into the tenth century, as Byzantine forces continued to try to retake Muslim Sicily—and by examining a variety of sources in Greek, Arabic, and Latin—political control did not necessarily determine the extent and range of the communications that defined Sicily’s regional affinities and its place within those local systems. Sicily was and remained broadly interconnected within the Mediterranean system, with Muslims and Latins as well as Greek Christians, even as the shapes and meanings of these connections shifted.

At the same time that military engagement was the most often recorded type of interaction between Sicily and Africa, the sources also allow glimpses of less martial communications between Greek Christians and Muslims. At times, those interactions took place because of or in the midst of battle, and at other times they could arise from diplomatic exchanges aimed at the stabilization of political and military tensions. Just as Byzantine Sicily was the site of diplomatic negotiations and the transfer of information between Greek and Latin Christian officials, so too did diplomats and envoys travel between Greek Sicily and Islamic North Africa, carrying both news and negotiations for peace. For example, the semiannual military incursions from Ifrīqiya were several times halted by truces that were officially concluded between embassies traveling between Syracuse and Qayrawān. Likewise, economic connections between the two may also have developed at this time. Because direct evidence for trade between Sicily and Ifrīqiya at this time is scarce, we can only assume the existence of economic connections that might be implied in the source record. Ships sailing back and forth within the Sicilian Strait between Ifrīqiyan ports and those of Sicily could have easily made the trip without meriting record in textual sources, and there are some suggestions that Sicily’s economic conditions were attracting the attention of Qayrawān. The Arabic chronicles, although written much later than the events they describe, detail the raids on Sicily carried out from Ifrīqiya and list all of the items gathered from the island, which suggests that the Aghlabid emīrate was taking an increasingly economic interest in the island of Sicily. Even if these lists of valuable items reflect a nostalgic image of a lost island of wealth, they demonstrate that the memory of Sicily’s conquest was tied closely to the perceived value of the products to be gained there. While the collection of war spoils was a regular part of this type of military strike, and a common way to reward soldiers for their service, it is the prolonged interest paid to the details of this booty by the later chroniclers that merits our attention. On the other hand, the products mentioned were exclusively high-value items—bejeweled icons and human slaves, for example—rather than more mundane trade items such as grain or textiles, which may also have proved attractive. At any rate, the Arabic chroniclers’ focus on these spoils indicates that they associated the conquest (and, therefore, also the loss) of Sicily with the annexation of an opulent and prosperous society.

The precise reasons that in the ninth century these regular raids for the collection of booty turned into an outright conquest of Sicily are not perfectly clear. The sustained interest that North African Muslims had taken in Sicily for many years suggests that the conquest was not simply the result of a sudden revival of jihād ideology or a desire to expand Islamic rule into Italy. Likewise, the conquest of Sicily should not be understood as part of the same process that brought North Africa and Iberia into the Islamic world, although those conquests do provide a background for this one. The conquest of Sicily was a major undertaking that occurred more than a century after the conclusion of the initial period of Muslim expansion into the Mediterranean region, and it arose from unique impulses relating to the nature of the Byzantine-Muslim frontier in the central Mediterranean. As with the later Norman Latin takeover of Sicily, outright military conquest followed many years of involvement in the island’s affairs. Sicily had been slowly entering the orbit of North Africa for several centuries prior to the ninth-century takeover. Then, as the boundary line between Byzantine and Muslim territory in the Mediterranean became more porous, the balance of power tipped far enough in Muslim favor that the outright military conquest of Sicily appeared to be advantageous for the Aghlabid administration of Ifrīqiya.

Indeed, it is the permeability of the Sicilian borderland itself that created the shift in relative power between Muslim and Christian authorities in the region. Much work has been done on the relationship between the Byzantines and the Muslims along the eastern frontier between Anatolia and Syria, and on the importance of that border zone for the health and wholeness of the Byzantine Empire. Far less has been written about the western frontier, partly because the Muslim-Greek battles that took place in Syria and the eastern Mediterranean were closer to the heartlands of both civilizations, and partly because that region produced the preponderance of sources about the Muslim-Christian conflict. But Sicily operated within the Byzantine Empire of the sixth through tenth centuries as an equally important frontier for Constantinople: one that both connected and separated the Greek world from the Latin Christian world and, as we will see here, one that did likewise with the Muslim world. Sicily was not simply a point on the dividing line between polities or religiopolitical civilizations; it also connected cultures in a zone of contact and conflict. The paradigm for discussing the relationships between Byzantines and Muslims has also tended to be that of conflict—both rhetorical and militarized. But some more recent work has also located shared traditions and a high degree of continuity between the Roman past and both the Christian and Islamic Middle Ages. Likewise, the three cultures that overlapped in the border region of Sicily and southern Italy indeed did so with violence and war, but also with shared reliance on the Roman tradition and through diplomacy, trade, and interpersonal interactions in the midst of warfare.

During the centuries of Byzantine control, Sicily was a region where fluidity of communications made it possible for Greeks, Muslims, and Latins to contest their control over a coveted locale while also maintaining the diplomatic and economic ties that were important to all of the parties involved. That is, this boundary zone between the Latin, Greek, and Muslim worlds was a disputed area, but one where various parties could meet, rather than a solid line of demarcation between Christians and Muslims. Sicily was often considered—by both Constantinople and local powers in Italy—an extension of Constantinople’s authority and, at the same time, was an important venue for managing relationships between local Muslim powers and the Greek Byzantine world. These multifaceted relationships along the Sicilian borderland will here be viewed by means of military, political, diplomatic, and economic communications between Byzantine Sicily and Muslim North Africa, along with the consequent population transfers that wrought demographic changes in the region, which would themselves also help shape future communication networks on and around the island.

A Modern Cromwell

Sir Gerald Templer and his assistant, Major Lord Wynford inspecting the members of Kinta Valley Home Guard (KVHG) in Perak, c. 1952.

A Plan and a Man

By October 1951, the Malayan Communist Party Central Executive Committee met to review the war to date. Over the past year guerrillas had staged some 6,100 incidents while inflicting the highest record of losses on civilians and security forces. The Central Executive Committee did not have precise figures. What they did know was that they had massed their fighters to the greatest possible extent in an effort to obtain important results. Company-sized units of 100 to 300 men had attacked remote police stations, European business offices, and mining installations. The goal was to overpower the regular and irregular police guards, capture weapons and ammunition, and demoralize the native constabulary. These assaults had been costly and seldom succeeded. The Central Executive Committee did not realize that its fighters had become demoralized, with many shying away from contact with the British.

The second major Communist objective was the New Villages. Communist agents had infiltrated squatter communities to persuade the people to resist relocation. Guerrillas ambushed truck convoys conveying the squatters to the New Villages. They fired into newly settled villages in hopes of stampeding the inhabitants. In spite of making the strongest possible effort, the Communists had failed to prevent the expansion of the New Villages.

During its October 1951 review, the leadership concluded that while it could foment terror, depredations against the people—slashing rubber trees, burning workers’ huts, sabotaging public utilities, ambushing Red Cross convoys, derailing trains, shooting up New Villages, killing for identity cards—merely increased the general population’s misery. The committee decided that these tactics had been a mistake since they alienated the very people they most needed to support the insurgency. The MCP leadership decreed that henceforth the masses were to be courted. The sole legitimate targets for terrorist operations were the British and their “running dogs.”

The Executive Committee resolved that in order to wage a protracted struggle, the formed guerrilla units had to break contact with the security forces and withdraw deeper into the jungle to rest and refit. Couriers set out on foot to disseminate this decision to all guerrilla units. The jungle was no longer a completely safe haven. Fear of ambush and the need to dodge British patrols caused the couriers to move cautiously from one jungle post office to the next. Consequently, months passed before many guerrilla leaders received the new orders.

At the time no one realized the enormous significance of the committee’s decision. The British had no knowledge of this strategic shift for almost a year. Only then were intelligence officers able to link prisoner interrogations with captured documents to discover that there had been a fundamental shift and that the insurgents had lost their revolutionary momentum. The shift most dramatically changed the status of the village police posts. For the previous three and a half years, policemen had confronted a mortal threat of massed attack by overwhelming numbers. Henceforth, attacks came from small bands of twenty to thirty and were typically only nuisance raids. Relieved of their fear of annihilation, the village police could focus on providing security and restoring law and order.

Yet it was the inherent nature of a counterinsurgency that the British were unable to assess accurately its progress until after the fact. The British did not perceive that the tide was turning. They did not know Communist strength had declined to perhaps 500 hard-core guerrillas supported by another 4,000 fighters of indifferent morale. They did not know that the year 1951 would prove the high-water mark of the insurgency.

The Return of Winston Churchill

Great Britain’s October election of 1951 brought a new Conservative government led by a revived Winston Churchill. Churchill returned to office to find his country still struggling from its exertions during World War II. Food stocks were as depleted as they had been at the height of the U-boat menace in 1941. Strict food rationing remained in place. Prosperity seemed a distant mirage. The Malayan Emergency was costing the nation’s pinched economy half a million dollars per day. In Asia, some 800,000 United Nations soldiers including a Commonwealth Division were challenging Communism in Korea. More than 100,000 French troops were fighting the Viet Minh in Indochina. Although Churchill supported both fights, he believed that the fate of the entire Far East truly depended on Malaya. The prime minister requested a complete report on Malaya, and its contents depressed him. Committees charged with winning the war were spending most of their time bickering. The police force was riven with factions. Worst of all, in Churchill’s view, no one seemed to sense the urgency of the problem. He issued orders to Secretary of State Oliver Lyttelton—“The rot has got to be stopped”—and sent him to Singapore.

Lyttelton arrived in Malaya before Christmas 1951. His initial survey convinced him that the British were on the verge of losing Malaya. On his last night at King’s House he found the regular staff absent, replaced by police officers. They sheepishly reported that the Chinese butler who heretofore had served the secretary his after-dinner coffee had been removed from his position because he was a Communist agent.

Lyttelton described the essential conundrum facing a counterinsurgency: “You cannot win the war without the help of the population, and you cannot get the support of the population without at least beginning to win the war.” The antagonism between the Malay majority and the Chinese minority seemed overwhelming. A Malay political delegation met with Lyttelton to propose a compromise solution: accept the existing situation and let Malaya be granted in dependence forthwith under British administration.

This proposal was immensely attractive. It addressed the prime Malay concern about power sharing with the Malayan Chinese by acknowledging that the Malays would remain politically dominant. If the British accepted it would motivate Malays to put forth far more effort in the war. It meant the war would come to an end soon and Commonwealth troops could escape what appeared to be a jungle quagmire. But in the minds of Lyttelton and Churchill the proposal violated basic British values, not the least of which was the preservation of a disintegrating empire, and smacked of declaring victory and going home. Consequently they rejected it.

Instead Lyttelton recommended a colossal Organizational change: the installation of a supreme warlord in charge of both military and civil affairs. As Lyttelton pondered candidates he briefly considered Britain’s most famous warrior, Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery. He correctly suspected that the immensely proud Montgomery would not want to risk his reputation in Malaya’s jungles. However, Montgomery did send a Lyttelton a brief note of advice: “Dear Lyttelton, Malaya. We must have a plan. Secondly, we must have a man. When we have a plan and a man, we shall succeed; not otherwise.” If the field marshal’s advice was rather obvious—Lyttelton later wrote with British understatement that “this had occurred to me”—it still made the solid point that heretofore British efforts had yet to marry leadership and strategic execution.3 That was about to change.

The Rise of Sir Gerald Templer

Lyttelton’s choice for warlord was General Sir Gerald Templer. Templer arrived in Malaya in February 1952 to assume an exceptional posting as both the high commissioner and operational commander of the military. Not since Oliver Cromwell had Britain invested a soldier with this combination of military and political power. But Templer was an exceptional man. He had served in the trenches of France during World War I, competed on the 1924 British Olympic hurdles team, won the army’s bayonet fighting championship, earned the prestigious Distinguished Service Order in Palestine, and risen to corps command during World War II’s Anzio campaign. During the Allied occupation of Germany he was director of military government and later became the director of intelligence at the War Office. His combination of combat and civil leadership coupled with an intelligence background well prepared Templer to meet a novel challenge.

Templer coined the phrase “winning hearts and minds” to describe the foundation of a counterinsurgency strategy.4 He tackled the difficult problem of constructing a political system that would unite Malaya’s many ethnic groups into a stable structure. He was very much a man of action, disdaining all theoretical constructs. He saw that the existing bureaucracy, with its numerous committees and duplication of authority on the state and district levels, was failing because the civilians, policemen, and soldiers could not agree. He told one such committee, “My advice is for you to thrash out your problems over a bottle of whiskey in the evenings. If you can’t agree I don’t want to know why. I’ll sack the lot of you and bring in three new chaps.”

Templer’s political goal was a united nation of Malaya with “a common form of citizenship for all who regard the Federation or any part of it as their real home and the object of their loyalty.” With Templer’s encouragement, in January 1952 the United Malay National Organization and the Malayan Chinese Association cooperated to form the Alliance Party. The Alliance Party contested the capital’s municipal elections and won nine of eleven seats, thereby vaulting itself into national prominence. Templer pledged that legislative elections would be the first step toward independence.

The issue of what would happen after in dependence haunted some Europeans and many Malayans. One experienced reporter warned, “Unless a united Malayan nation is achieved before the British government hands self-government to the country a much more terrible Emergency of racial strife may break out.” Templer addressed this problem head-on. In September 1952 all aliens born in Malaya, including most notably 1.2 million Chinese, received full citizenship. Later Templer signed a decree requiring every New Village to have a school where the language of instruction was Malayan. Newly constructed primary schools in other towns and villages had the same requirement. The ability to speak Malayan was intended to cement future generations to a united Malaya while reassuring the current majority Malay population. Templer also explicitly addressed the question of land tenure when he said that the inhabitants of the New Villages needed to own the land where they lived. By deft political manipulation, Templer cleverly changed the calculus of battle. By hitching the forces of nationalism to an emerging democratic Malay state, the British undercut an insurgency against colonial oppressors and replaced it with a competition for the future of an in dependent nation.

Encased in this velvet glove was an iron hand. Ten days after describing his vision for a united Malaya, a particularly bloody guerrilla ambush brought Templer to the town of Tanjong Malim, fifty-five miles north of Kuala Lumpur. The town had a bad reputation for violence, with almost forty incidents in the past three months. Recently seven Gordon Highlanders had died in an ambush and fifteen civilians and policemen had been murdered. Now for the sixth time guerrillas had cut a water pipeline outside of town. This time they remained on the scene to lure the repair crew and its police escort into a carefully prepared killing zone. Among the killed were a highly respected district administrator—the celebrated Michael Codner, who had earned a Military Cross for his role in the famous “Wooden Horse” escape from a German prison camp during World War II—the area executive engineer of public works, and seven policemen. Once again no townsperson admitted hearing, seeing, or knowing anything about the ambush.

Templer ordered community leaders to assemble and then during an hour-long rant charged them with “cowardly silence.” He said that he would install a new town administration backed with more troops. When some nearby listeners nodded approval, Templer lashed out: “Don’t nod your heads, I haven’t started yet.” He proceeded to impose a twenty-two-hour-a-day curfew, during which time no one was to leave their homes. No one was to leave town at any time. Templer closed the schools and bus service and reduced the rice ration by 40 percent.

How long these measures remained in place would depend upon the townspeople. Ten days later each household received a confidential questionnaire in which they were supposed to denounce any known Communists. With a fine sense of the theatrical, Templer had the completed questionnaires deposited in a sealed box, brought to the capital by selected community leaders, and then opened the letters himself. He read them, made notes, and then destroyed the originals to preserve confidentiality. He sent the village notables home with instructions to tell the people how the letters had been handled. After processing the questionnaires, authorities made some minor arrests and Templer gradually lifted the restrictions. From a tactical standpoint, Templer’s angry retaliation failed; the people arrested were Communist supporters or sympathizers, not members of the guerrilla band who actually had ambushed the repair crew. Moreover, given the limited extent of literacy in the town, the use of written questionnaires was not the best way to obtain responses. But strategically Templer had made his point: a new authority was on the scene and was prepared for stern action when called for.

Because of Codner’s hero status, the incident received widespread publicity. Templer’s notion of collective punishment produced a storm of protest from British and international media. Among many, the Manchester Guardian labeled his behavior “odious.” Templer cared not. His first months in Malaya had an electric political and morale-boosting impact: “he was not only there, but was most certainly seen to be there.”

A Winning Strategy

By British standards, Templer commanded a sizable force including half of the line regiments in the entire British army, all its Gurkha battalions, and a variety of regiments from the remnants of the far-flung empire, including the King’s African Rifles and the Fijian Regiment. He intended to wield them differently, moving away from large sweeps and instead concentrating on keeping units in one area long enough so they could learn the local terrain. Templer also thought that various British units had acquired valuable experience in jungle fighting and that this knowledge needed to be collected and disseminated in a systematic way. The result was a booklet entitled “The Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya.” Based on the syllabus of the Jungle Warfare Training Centre, it was written in just two weeks. It was a practical how-to compendium describing techniques for patrolling, conducting searches, setting ambushes, and acquiring intelligence. Printed in a size that fit into a jungle uniform pocket, “The Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya,” inevitably given the acronym ATOM, served as a soldier’s bible. Templer inscribed his own copy with this notation: “It is largely as a result of the publication of this handbook . . . that we got militant communism in Malaya by the throat.”

The improvement in jungle tactics coincided with the insight that the vast, apparently impenetrable jungle actually held a limited network of trails and that the enemy had no choice but to use them. Communist couriers, food requisition parties, and organized units carrying out operations had to traverse these trails some time or another. Rather than noisily bashing about the jungle on useless large-scale sweeps, the British tactic of choice became the setting of an ambush overlooking a trail, followed by a patient waiting period. Platoons operated along the jungle edge for ten to twenty days at a time. They spent most of their time watching and listening.

For a superior officer, the notion of passively waiting for the enemy to appear flew in the face of conventional training. For the soldiers waiting silently hour after hour trying to ignore the leeches, mosquitoes, sleep-inducing heat and humidity, and fatigue, it was not pleasant. A British officer wrote, “I had grown used to the jungle during the war in Burma, but there we were always in large parties and in touch either by sound or wireless with the units to our left and right. Also we always had some idea of where the enemy was. Here we were just a little party of ten men, completely isolated, and the enemy was God knows where. He might be behind the next bush, or the one beyond that, or he might be a hundred miles away. We never knew.”

Most of the time no one passed the ambush site. Yet statistics revealed that on average a soldier on patrol encountered an insurgent once every 1,000 hours. The same soldier waiting patiently in ambush saw an insurgent once every 300 hours. Typically, a contact did not occur until after the ambushers had been in position for more than twenty-four hours. An officer tabulated his accomplishments at the end of his tour. He had spent 115 days in the jungle: “I was with my company when we shot and killed a terrorist. I set an ambush with a section of my platoon which shot and killed a terrorist. My platoon shot and killed a terrorist in an ambush while I was on leave. A company operation in which I took part resulted in four terrorists surrendering. I fired at, but missed, a terrorist who was running away from a camp which we were attacking.” Based on conversations with fellow officers, he concluded that he had experienced a fairly active tour of duty.

Jungle ambush was not comfortable, it was not glorious, but in this war it was the most effective purely military tactic.

Food Denial

The Malayan jungle did not produce enough food to sustain the guerrillas. They needed to obtain sustenance from sympathizers living outside the jungle to survive. The British knew this and conceived a strict food denial program (what became known as Operation Starvation) to starve the guerrillas. Weakened by hunger, they would become vulnerable to military operations or surrender. The food denial strategy proved a devastating measure that eventually defeated the insurgents.

The British carefully followed a three-phase approach to implement the food denial strategy. A months-long intelligence-gathering operation inaugurated the program. Special Branch officers infiltrated the Min Yuen support organization inside a designated village. During this time, military patrols deliberately avoided this village. Instead, they operated in adjacent areas in the hope that their presence would push the terrorists toward the apparent sanctuary of the designated village.

The second phase began the day the strict food rationing began and lasted three to five months. It included house-to-house searches to seize food stores and the arrest of known Communist agents who had been identified by the Special Branch undercover agents. Thereafter, security forces tightly guarded the supply convoys that delivered rice to the village. The rice was cooked centrally by government cooks while armed guards looked on. Within the village, authorities controlled the sale and distribution of all other food. Meanwhile, the military patrolled the nearby jungle to provide security against insurgent attacks.

The people were told that the restrictions would end as soon as the terrorists had been killed or captured. If all proceeded as planned, the villagers would tire of this intrusive disruption and denounce the Communist infrastructure. Then, in the final phase, Communist turncoats would lead Special Branch operational teams, masquerading as Communist terrorists, against higher-level formations.

The food denial effort was not airtight. At first many of the village perimeters lacked illumination, making it easy for Communist sympathizers to throw food and medicine to the waiting guerrillas outside the wire. As perimeter security improved, the sympathizers turned to other tactics. Villagers smuggled rice by hiding it inside bicycle frames, cigarette tins, or false-bottomed buckets of pig swill on the supposition that a Malay policeman, because of his Muslim religion, would be unwilling to touch anything to do with swine. When security forces detected these dodges, the insurgents increasingly turned to using children to smuggle food.

The soldiers and the police usually harnessed their efforts in tandem. An infantry officer wrote, “The police could not take on the fighting against the bandits in the jungle, whereas we could not undertake the normal process of maintaining law and order in the villages and towns and protected areas.” Another infantry officer inspected his men while they were on gate duty at a New Village. Long lines of pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicles impatiently waited to leave the village while hour after hour the men of the South Wales Borderers performed meticulous vehicle and body searches. He wrote, “It is not easy to turn one’s battalion into a cross between a body of high-class customs officials and police detectives, but what I saw that morning confirmed everything that has been said about the adaptability of the British soldiers.”

As the security forces became ever more serious about enforcing food regulations, which meant time-consuming personal body searches each morning, villagers became understandably more angry about the long lines as they went outside the wire to work in the fields and jungle. Communist propagandists tried to magnify village grievances, claiming security forces were taking indecent advantage of females during searches. Although the international press published some of this propaganda, it failed to deter the British from intensifying their food denial efforts.

The mere possession of food outside the wire risked a penalty of up to five years in prison. The government reduced the number of stores authorized to sell food, banned tinned Quaker Oats because it was an insurgent emergency ration, restricted the sale of high-energy foods and medicines, and ordered shop keepers to puncture tins of food in the presence of the buyer so tropical heat could begin its spoiling process and prevent the food from being stockpiled for the insurgents. Other draconian measures severely restricted the quantities of tinned meat, fish, and cooking oil permitted in individual households.

While the New Villages were subjected to the methodical imposition of food denial measures, military search-and-destroy operations in adjacent areas proceeded. Often during these operations the security forces imposed a severe rice ration on the local inhabitants. Government spokesmen claimed that this ration was “just enough to keep a person in good health.” According to the Chinese Chamber of Commerce this was not true. The rice ration created “fifty thousand half-starved people, many of whom were too ill or to weak to work.”

Templer and his subordinates were not blind to the human suffering caused by the food denial program. They also considered other adverse consequences such as the real risk of spawning a repressive governmental bureaucracy and the impact of international opprobrium. They weighed the operational effect of the food denial policies versus the impact on civilian morale and pressed ahead. At the same time, the British offered the people an enormous incentive to cooperate. The British called this inducement the “White Area,” a symbolic cleansing of the red taint of Communism.

White Areas were almost literally the carrot to the stick of Emergency regulations. When a region demonstrated loyalty to the government and a corresponding dramatic reduction in Communist activity, authorities suspended Emergency regulations including most especially food restrictions, curfews, limited business hours, and controls over the movement of people and goods. The inhabitants of the New Villages still had to live within their assigned villages and maintain their defenses. But compared to their onerous life under Emergency regulations, this was freedom. The government declared the first White Area in September 1953 and during the next two and a half years extended this designation to include almost half the country’s population.

As time passed, the operational effects of the food denial program were dramatic. The guerrillas literally began to starve. They could hardly lean on sympathizers to provide for them since those sympathizers could honestly say that strict rationing, central cooking, thorough gate searches, and swarming security patrols prevented them from smuggling food to the guerrillas.

When British intelligence pinpointed a guerrilla band on the verge of starvation, security forces flooded the area and food denial operations intensified. At such times civil life came to a standstill as the security forces imposed curfews of up to thirty-six hours along with very strict rice rationing. Knowing that the guerrillas would have to move or die, military forces flooded the area to set ambushes along every possible trail. One such operation in Johore featured three infantry battalions, five Area Security Units, two Police Special service Groups, and a “volunteer” force of ex-guerrillas. For five weeks these forces operated in conjunction with strict local food denial and pervasive psychological warfare efforts. They never killed a single guerrilla, yet their presence led to the collapse of guerrilla morale. Hobbled by hunger, compelled to keep on the move while dodging patrols and ambushes, the guerrillas initially survived only by operating in ever-smaller groups. This dispersal led to the breakdown of command authority. In the absence of officers, individuals found it easier to surrender. As unit disintegration continued, the leaders concluded that further resistance was futile and they too surrendered.

This type of operation could only work in compact, carefully targeted areas where the security forces could completely dominate the terrain. The Johore operation required an enormous expenditure of effort to capture one guerrilla and receive the surrender of eleven more. However, it was an operational approach to which the guerrillas had no answer.

Hannibal’s retreat

There is no reliable evidence that Rome demanded Hannibal’s surrender in 201 BC; this would come later. Returned to civilian life, Hannibal now had the opportunity to employ his great powers of statesmanship, no longer masked by his prestigious soldierly skills. There was plenty of scope for it, in his politically bankrupt and physically exhausted country.

One of his first tasks, after his appointment as one of the two sufetes, was to have an investigation made of the resources left to Carthage. The situation in fact was far better than could be expected. The city was on the road to recovery with regards to its commercial prosperity, but before long a scandal broke out. The first instalment of the war indemnity due to Rome under the terms of the peace treaty was paid in 199 BC, but the silver was found to be of such poor quality that Carthage had to make up the deficiency by borrowing money in Rome. In looking into the scandal, Hannibal soon found himself up against ‘the hundred’. He obtained a major revision of the constitution, and ‘the hundred’ was subject to annual elections with the proviso that no man should hold office for two consecutive years. By eradicating administrative corruption and functionary embezzlement, and collecting arrears of unpaid taxes, Hannibal showed how the heavy war indemnity could be paid without an increase in public taxation. Government putrescence and peculation were of course scarcely novel in Carthage, but his far-reaching reforms, which also embraced commerce and agriculture, were so successful that by 191 BC Carthage could offer to pay off the whole of the outstanding debt, forty years’ instalments, in a lump sum (viz. 8,000 talents), while also supplying the Roman army currently at war in the eastern Mediterranean with large quantities of grain. The offer, either for reasons of spite or arrogance, was disdainfully declined.

Hannibal had another, and trickier, situation with which to deal. When his brother’s army left Liguria, a Carthaginian officer with the name of Hamilcar stayed behind and placed himself at the head of a number of malcontent Ligurian and Gaulish tribes. The Latin colonies of Placentia and Cremona were attacked. Rome naturally complained to Carthage, demanding a recall and surrender of this freebooter, whose activities were a clear breach of the peace treaty. Suspicion, naturally, was laid on Hannibal of having taken some dastard part in these guerrilla operations in Gallia Cisalpina, but the senate in Carthage replied that it had no power to do anything beyond exiling this Hamilcar and confiscating his property.

Meantime, in the aftermath of Hannibal’s defeat, the Romans had turned their attention towards the east. Ostensibly in response to appeals from tiny but independent powers of Pergamon and Rhodes, Rome decided to intervene in Greece before Philip V of Macedon (r. 221-179 BC) and Antiochos III of Syria (r. 223-187 BC) had a chance to upset the balance of power in the east. This is an example of Rome’s increasing propensity to regard other people’s business as its own, viewing events in regions bordering on its sphere of influence as events upon which it was entitled, at the very least, to voice an opinion. The possession of irresistible power tends to lead to such arrogance. Of course, Rome had never forgiven Philip for his alliance with Hannibal, but Antiochos was a very different kettle of fish.

One of the greatest Hellenistic monarchs who, in conscious imitation of Alexander, bore the epithet ‘the Great’, Antiochos earned this title attempting to reconstitute the kingdom by bringing back into the fold the former outlying possessions. He thus managed to reassert the power of the Seleukid dynasty briefly in the upper satrapies and Anatolia (Asia Minor to the Romans), which effectively made him ruler of the eastern world from the Indus to the Aegean, but then inadvisably challenged Rome for control of Greece in 194 BC. Concerned first and foremost with maintaining in their entirety the territorial possessions he had inherited from his forefathers, having just retrieved them, what Antiochos wanted was for Rome to mind its own business and leave him free to do as he wished on his side of the Hellespont. It was not to be. Towards the end of 190 BC Rome, backed by Pergamon and Rhodes, won the final battle over Antiochos on the level plain of Magnesia-by-Sipylos in Lydia, driving that magnificent and ambitious king back across the Taurus Mountains and out of Anatolia.

It was suspected in Rome that Hannibal had been in touch with Antiochos. This would of course have been another breach of the peace treaty by which Carthage was bound not to partake in any hostilities without Rome’s acquiescence, especially not when they appeared to be directed against Rome itself. Rome had another reason to be furious with Hannibal, for his skill in reorganizing the finances of Carthage had made the Roman plans miscarry; they had hoped that the war indemnity would cripple Carthage, and they were disappointed. Despite the reasonable objections of Scipio Africanus, who had been censor in 199 BC and princeps senatus in 198 BC, a commission was sent to Carthage in 195 BC, the very year Marcus Porcius Cato, the elder Cato as he is known to history, was consul, alleging that Hannibal was aiding an enemy of Rome. In the senatorial debate, where Scipio Africanus brought his full weight to bear against those he saw lending a favourable ear to what he viewed as a baseless accusation, ‘considering that it consorted ill with the dignity of the Roman people to associate themselves with the animosities of Hannibal’s accusers, to add the support of official backing to the factions at Carthage’.5 Noble words, forsooth, which fell on deaf ears.

Be that as it may, at this very moment Hannibal’s position in Carthage was insecure. For not only had he made implacable enemies of all those functionaries whose peculations and perks he had stopped, but his year of office as sufete had now expired. And so, with his keen sense of appreciation that the Roman commissioners could not fail to demand his surrender, and the probability that the Carthaginian senate would comply, he withdrew from their grasp by a series of characteristic tricks. Pretending to be going for a short ride with two trusted companions (Sosylos and Silenos?), he rode through the night, hell for leather, to his seaside estate near Thapsus, which was more than 150km as the crow flies. His treasure had already been embarked on a fully outfitted and crewed ship, and he sailed for Cercina (Kerkennah), an island just off the coast. There he was recognized by the crews of some Phoenician merchantmen, which was unwelcome to him as the news of his presence there could not fail to reach Carthage. In order to forestall them, Hannibal suggested to the ships’ captains that they should dine with him on shore and bring their sails and yards with them to provide shelter from the midsummer sun, which they did, taking care to leave his own vessel fully rigged. What they did not realize was that by doing so, they had delayed the time of their departure next day.

Naturally, Hannibal showed a clean pair of heels during the night while the revellers slept off their drink. Back in Carthage the Roman commissioners were naturally furious, and Hannibal’s enemies in the Carthaginian senate placated them by formally declaring him to be an outlaw, confiscating his property (such as he had left behind him), and razing his property to the ground. So was Hannibal honoured in his own country.

Hannibal sailed away to Antiochos, who must have been an attractive host to him because he was soon to be engaged in fighting the Romans. By accusing him of plotting war with Antiochos, his enemies in Carthage and, in Rome, the senators determined on his downfall, had propelled him into the king’s arms. Hannibal caught up with the busy king in Ephesos, and there, it is said, explained to him his grandiose plan for opposing Rome. If we are to believe Livy, it involved entrusting to Hannibal an army of 10,000 foot and 1,000 horse and a fleet of 100 warships, with which he would first sail to Africa to win over Carthage, and then on to Italy to raise war there against the Romans. At the same time Antiochos was to lead his main army into Greece, where he would take up a strong position to paralyse Rome’s efforts. It seems the Romans got wind of Hannibal’s war plan, and the combination of artful agents and covetous courtiers scuppered his chances to carry the upcoming war into Rome’s backyard. As we have noted, Antiochos was eventually defeated at Magnesia, and Rome predictably demanded the surrender of their most implacable foe. When Hannibal had resumed the struggle against the Romans, the exile, in their eyes, had become a rebel. Semantics aside, it was too late anyway. For Hannibal had already embarked his treasure on a ship and sailed away again, this time for Crete.

Though Crete had remained aloof from all the fighting in the eastern Mediterranean, Hannibal now ran the danger that the proverbially covetous Cretans knew how great the sum of money was that he had brought with him. He countered this by filling a number of large narrow-necked jars with lead and covering this with a shallow layer of gold and silver pieces at the top. These heavy jars he deposited in a local temple, where the Cretans jealously mounted guard over them, without troubling Hannibal. His real fortune he stuffed inside a pair of humdrum bronze statues, which he left carelessly lying around his garden, so that when he wanted to leave he was able to take his treasure with him without the Cretans suspecting it.

This story, of course, can be taken for what it is worth. Nevertheless, Hannibal lived quite comfortably on the island of Crete, but being one not fain to take life calmly as it comes, he was not likely to want to live there for too long. We next find him offering his services to Prusias I of Bithynia (r. 228-181 BC), who, from about 186 BC to 183 BC, was at war with his neighbour, Eumenes II of Pergamon (r. 197-158 BC), an ally of Rome who had fought at the Battle of Magnesia. This local spat gave Hannibal one last opportunity for showing his military genius. Prusias was defeated on land and transferred hostilities to the sea. Outnumbered in ships, Hannibal advised the king’s marines to gather venomous snakes, stuff them in earthenware pots, and catapult them onto the enemy’s ships. The sailors of Pergamon began by jeering at such ridiculous tactics of fighting with pots instead of swords. But when these pots crashed on board the Pergamene ships, which were soon crawling with snakes, the laugh was on the other side of their faces and, as Trogus Pompeius relates, ‘they yielded the victory’.

There followed yet another demand for the surrender of Hannibal, whom the Romans pursued, as Plutarch says, ‘like a bird that had grown too old to fly and had lost its tail feathers’. He was then 64 years old. Hannibal headed off his captors by taking poison, and in his final agony, or so said Livy, he cried out: ‘Let us free the Roman people from their long-standing anxiety, seeing that they find it tedious to wait for an old man’s death’. Thus perished Hannibal of unhappy memory. The year was 183 BC, and the Romans breathed freely for the first time since that day, some thirty-five years back, when Hannibal crossed the Alps, elephants and all. There was no room for forgiveness in the hearts of the Roman nation; they had been too frightened for that. There are some things which can never be forgiven, let alone forgotten.

RÖSSELPRUNG

After 1941, the Balkans provided a much-required supply of natural resources for the Reich. One source, citing post-war reports from the Nuremberg trials, stated the Balkans provided “50% of petroleum, 100% of chrome, 60% of bauxite and 21% of Copper” for the German war machine. To protect both this vital source of resources and the lines of communication for its substantial occupation forces in Greece, Germany had some 18 Divisions in Yugoslavia, along with numerous other independent formations. This was an ulcer in the side of Germany as they sought to find troops to bolster their deteriorating position on the Eastern Front. These forces were still not sufficient to dominate the country and consequently they occupied the major urban areas and important communication nodes, while Partisan forces controlled the rugged countryside and were free to attack at will. The resulting situation for the Germans was dismal. In fact, in some areas morale was so low amongst German troops that many thought their prospects were better against the Russians and took the extraordinary move of volunteering for transfer to the Eastern Front rather than take their chances against the Partisans.

To Field Marshal Maximilian Freiherr von Weichs, who was not only the Commander of Army Group F responsible for Yugoslavia and Albania but also oversaw Luftwaffe General Alexander Löhr’s Army Group E in Greece, it was very apparent that he lacked the manpower and equipment to gain total victory in the field over the Partisan masses. The terrain was extremely well suited for guerrilla operations and very much favored the Partisans. He believed that the elimination of Tito, the personification of the Partisan movement and its center of gravity, would eliminate their will to fight. Hitler, who had personally ordered the elimination of Tito, shared this belief.

The task to locate Tito was assumed by several German intelligence organizations, including SS special operations expert Major Otto Skorzeny, operating independently on Hitler’s direct orders, and elements of the Brandenburg Division, the Abwehr’s special operations arm. The Brandenburgers had been involved on the attack on Jajce and now had their agents looking for clues as to Tito’s new location. The detailed task went to the Brandenburg Lieutenant Kirchner and his troops, and in a series of events to be discussed later, Tito and his headquarters were discovered from several sources to be in Drvar.

Planning and Preparation

Planning for the operation began in earnest. Field Marshal von Weichs signed the order on 6 May, and balancing synchronization of the operation with operational security, General Lothar Rendulic issued the Second Panzer Army order for Operation RÖSSELPRUNG two weeks later, on the 21st of May, allowing only three full days for subordinates to conduct battle procedure. Given potential security leaks in the form of Partisan agents, this was a prudent move. Rendulic, whose Second Panzer Army paradoxically did not include any panzer divisions, directed that the XV Gebirgs (Mountain) Army Corps, commanded by Lieutenant-General Ernest von Leyser, was to execute the operation.

A heavy bombardment of Partisan positions in and around Drvar by Fliegerführer Kroatien (Air Command Croatia) aircraft was to precede a parachute and glider assault by 500 SS Fallschirmjäger Battalion whose task it was to destroy Tito and his headquarters. Concurrently, XV Corps elements would converge on Drvar from all directions, in order to linkup with 500 SS on the same day, 25 May 1944. Speed, shock and surprise were key for the paratroopers of 500 SS to accomplish their mission.

500 SS Fallschirmjäger Battalion was a relatively new unit. It was formed in the autumn of 1943 by direction of Hitler’s headquarters for the purpose of performing special missions. Sometimes referred to as a penal unit, it included many volunteers but for the most part initially, the enlisted ranks came from ‘probationary soldiers’. These were soldiers and officers who were serving sentences for minor infractions of a disciplinary instead of a criminal nature, imposed in the draconian environment of the Waffen SS. Dishonored men of all ranks of the SS could redeem themselves in this battalion and once joined had their rank restored. The unit conducted parachute school at the Luftwaffes’s Paratroop School Number Three near Sarajevo, Yugoslavia in November and finished in Papa, Hungary, early in 1944, as the school relocated there. After training was completed the unit participated in several minor Partisan drives before returning to its training grounds on the outskirts of Sarajevo in mid-April and remained there under strict security measures. While there, the 27-year-old SS Hauptsturmführer (Captain) Kurt Rybka took command of the battalion.

Rybka received an outline of the operation on 20 May and more detailed orders the following day. Realizing there were not enough gliders or transport aircraft to deploy 500 SS in one lift, he devised a plan where 654 troops would conduct the initial assault at 0700 hours, and a further 220 would reinforce as a second wave some five hours later. The intelligence picture that was portrayed to him was based on available sources, and recent air photos were used to aid in the planning. The suspected location of Tito’s headquarters, a cemetery on dominating ground, was given the codename ‘Citadel’ and the important crossroads in town was entitled the ‘Western Cross’.

The town was to be secured by 314 parachute troops. They were split into Red (led by Rybka), Green, and Blue Groups and were based on elements of the unit’s three rifle companies. Another 354 troops, based on remaining members of the rifle companies and the heavy weapons company, were split into six assault groups for specific missions. Panther Group of 110 soldiers, the largest, was to capture Citadel and destroy Tito’s headquarters. Greifer Group of 40 soldiers was to destroy the British military mission. Sturmer Group of 50 men was to destroy the Soviet military mission. Brecher Group of 50 men was to destroy the U.S. military mission. Draufgaenger Group was to capture the Western Cross and the suspected nearby Partisan communication facility. Of the 70 personnel in Draufgaegner Group, 40 belonged to the Brandenburg Benesch Group (some of whom were Chetniks and other local Bosnians) and six came from an Abwehr detachment commanded by Lieutenant Zavadil. These attachments were given specific intelligence collection, translation and communication tasks. Beisser Group of 20 soldiers was to seize an outpost radio station, then assist Greifer group. Finally, the second wave, base on the Field Reserve Company (basically the training company) and the remainder of the unit was to insert by parachute at 1200 hours.

For security reasons, the Battalion’s soldiers were not briefed on the operation until several hours before it was launched, but preliminary moves began on 22 May as the unit, dressed in non-descript Wehrmacht uniforms for security reasons, was transported by truck to three assembly areas, Nagy-Betskerek, Zagreb and Banja Luka. There they linked up with their Luftwaffe transport from Fliegerführer Kroatien, some of which had been brought in from France and Germany specifically for the operation. The 1st and 2nd Squadrons of Towing Group 1, and 2nd and 3rd Battalions of Air Landing Group 1, all with 10-passenger DFS 230 gliders and towed by either Hs 126 or Ju 87 (Stukas in a towing role) aircraft, would transport the glider-borne force. The 2nd Battalion of Transport Group 4, with about 40 Ju 52 transports, would deliver the parachute force. By 24 May, battle procedure was complete.

Partisan Disposition

German intelligence claimed about 12,000 Partisans were active in the area of operations, but Yugoslav sources place this number around 16,000, not including auxiliary support, schools, or members of the SKOJ (Communist Youth League of Yugoslavia). Immediately surrounding Drvar were the First (Nikola Tesla) and Six Proletarian Divisions of the First Proletarian Corps, with the Corps HQ based six kilometres to the east in Mokronoge. Of immediate concern was the Third Lika Brigade of the First Division stationed five kilometers south of Drvar in Kamenica, whose four battalions of were the most potent reaction force.

Within Drvar itself there was a mixed bag of military liaison missions, support and escort troops and both the Supreme Headquarters of the NOVJ and the Central Committee of the Yugoslav Communist Party. The Central Committee of the Communist Youth League of Yugoslavia was located in town, and had just held a congress of over 800 youths in attendance, some of whom were still in the process of departing. As well, the AVNOJ (Anti-Fascist Council of the National Liberation of Yugoslavia) had their headquarters on the outskirts of town and in the nearby village of Sipovljani there was the Partisan officers’ school with about 130 students. The Soviet Union, Britain and the United States all had military missions to Tito’s headquarters in some of the adjoining small villages. Finally, Tito’s Escort Battalion of three companies, two of which were with him, was present to provide personal protection to the Marshal and the various headquarters and missions.

Tito’s personal headquarters was initially located in a cave immediately north of Drvar and overlooked the town. When rumors surfaced that this location had become compromised, he moved his main headquarters to another cave in the town of Basasi, some seven kilometres to the west. His Drvar cave was used primarily during the day and he would return to Bastasi at night for security reasons. The location the Germans believed housed his headquarters, the cemetery at Slobica Glavica (Objective Citadel), was, in fact, sparsely manned.

Tito’s birthday was the 25th of May. On the evening of the 24th, a celebration was held in Drvar, and, due to the festivities finishing late, Tito decided to spend the night in his Drvar cave. Despite his initial concerns that caused him to relocate to Bastasi, he felt confident all would be quiet. It almost proved to be a fatal error.

The Battle

Tito, still somewhat sluggish from the previous evening’s celebration, awoke to the attack on Drvar. Operation RÖSSELPRUNG began according to plan on 25 May with a preparatory aerial bombardment of suspected Partisan location in Drvar, including the cemetery. This bombardment was to begin at 0635 hours and consisted of five squadrons of Ju 87 Stuka dive-bombers, older He 46 medium bombers, and Italian made Ca 314 and Cr 42 medium-bombers. It appears that the plan was closely followed. P-Hour began at 0700 hours. Although dense smoke from the bombardment reduced visibility, most pilots were able to orient themselves on the Western Cross and land gliders or drop their paratroops relatively close to designated objectives. Several gliders did land off course, including one in front of the main headquarters cave in Bastasi, where members of the Escort Battalion immediately killed the occupants before they could exit. Between two and four others landed in Vrtoce and the occupants had to fight their way into Drvar. German sources claim the parachute jump was made at 60 to 75 metres above ground level, but pictures taken from the ground of the jump indicate the it was somewhat higher.

Once on the ground, the Fallschirmjägers quickly seized control of Drvar. Panther Group, supported by Red Group, rapidly overcame token resistance at the cemetery and Rybka established battalion headquarters behind its walls. The only forces of consequence located there were the crews manning three anti-aircraft machine guns, of which two escaped. Needless to say, neither Tito nor his headquarters were found. Greiffer and Brecher Groups came up empty handed as the British and American missions were not present in their accommodations. Elements of Sturmer Group landed in a field immediately south of the cave and came under fire from Escort Battalion members positioned in the high ground surrounding Tito’s location. The most intense fighting was with Draufganger Group in the area of the Western Cross who assaulted what they believed to be the Partisan communications center, but was in fact the office building for the Communist Party’s Central Committee. After intense close quarter combat against fanatical resistance, the building was basically leveled with satchel charges.

Also subject to very fierce fighting were Blue and Green Groups, who were attempting to establish a cordon in the eastern part of town, where most of the population was located. Although not mentioned in German reports, Yugoslav accounts proudly cite a Partisan counter-attack by four captured Italian CV-34 tanks. Not inflicting any noteworthy damage, three tanks were quickly disabled and the remaining one escaped to Bastasi. Also creating a problem for the Germans, especially in the more populated areas, was resistance from the members of the Communist Youth League of Yugoslavia who remained in Drvar and whose enthusiasm in taking up arms (whatever were available) against the attackers could explain some accounts of spontaneous uprisings.

Immediately upon realizing the nature of the attack, the candidates from the officers’ school marched to the sound of gunfire. Armed with only pistols and the odd rifle, they split into two groups. The smaller group crossed to the north side of the Unac River and advanced west along the rail line with the aim of protecting Tito’s headquarters. The larger group, bolstered by the retrieval of several misdirected drops of German ammunition and arms, attacked Green and Blue Groups in their eastern flank beginning at approximately 0800 hours. Although the officer candidates suffered severe casualties, the pressure of their attack on this flank was maintained throughout the day.

By about 0900 hours, the Germans had secured the majority of Drvar, but they still had no trace of Tito. Before the operation, every Fallschirmjäger was issued with a picture of him[36] and they now went door to door, brutally questioning those civilians they could find. There are many Yugoslav based stories of German atrocities against the civilian population at this point in the battle, including herding people into houses to be burned alive, but it is difficult to determine where the Germans would find the time to do this based on the influence of other events.

By mid-morning it became apparent to Rybka that Partisan resistance was concentrated to the north in the area of the headquarters cave. He surmised that there must be something to protect in this area, and if Tito was in Drvar this would be his likely location. Launching a red flare as a pre-arranged signal, he rallied his soldiers for an attack on the new objective. Around 1030 hours he launched a frontal attack across the Unac River, supported by at least one MG-42 medium machine gun firing into the mouth of the cave. They made it as far as the base of the hill leading up to the cave, less than fifty metres from its mouth, before being repulsed. The Fallschirmjägers from 500 SS, already parched from a lack of water, had suffered severe casualties.

Concurrent with the mounting and execution of this attack, more Partisan forces were beginning to converge on Drvar. From the west and southwest came three of the battalions of the Third Brigade of the Sixth Lika Division. One battalion attacked directly towards the German position at the cemetery while the other two swung around to the west through Vrtoce to hit the Germans in the western flank with a view to relieve pressure on the cave area.

At approximately 1115 hours, during a lull in the fighting and after the attack had been repulsed, Tito managed to escape from the cave. This act has been inaccurately described in many accounts. After the first attack failed, Tito, escorted by several staff, climbed down a rope through a trap door in a platform at the mouth of the cave. He then followed a small creek leading to the Unac River, then diagonally climbed the heights to the east of the cave, a route which would provide cover for most of the way. From the Klekovaca ridge overlooking Drvar, he began his withdrawal east to Potoci.

1200 hours was P-Hour for the reinforcing second wave of 220 Fallschirmjägers who jumped in two groups just to the west of Objective Citadel. Their drop zone was situated within Partisan fields of fire and thus the wave suffered many casualties as they hit the ground. Newly armed with the remaining reinforcements, Rybka attempted another assault, but by now the pressure on his flanks was too great and the attack again floundered. Fighting continued throughout the afternoon with both sides taking heavy casualties. By late afternoon Rybka, realizing that the capture of Tito was improbable at this point and that the linkup with ground forces would not happen as planned, ordered a withdrawal. He initially planned to have a defensive perimeter encompassing both the cellulose factory and the cemetery, but after realizing the extent of his casualties and his consequent inability to hold the large perimeter, he reduced his defensive position to include just the cemetery. At about 1800 hours, while withdrawing under fire, he was injured by a grenade blast and was out of the battle.

The withdrawal to the cemetery was done under considerable pressure. At least one group of Fallschirmjägers was cut-off and wiped out. By about 2130 hours, the remnants of the Battalion had consolidated in the cemetery. Partisan forces had the remnants of 500 SS completely surrounded. Throughout the night attacks against the German position continued. The fourth battalion of the Third Lika Brigade, which had arrived later than the other three and been kept in reserve, was launched with the remnants of the other three battalions against the cemetery. Elements of the Ninth Dalmatian Division joined the attacks at some point during the night, increasing the pressure. The Fallschirmjägers continued to hold their ground, but casualties were mounting. At 0330 hours the final Partisan attack was launched, breaching the cemetery wall in several locations, but the German defence held.

Throughout the day, the progress of the converging elements of XV Mountain Corps was not as rapid as had been planned. Unexpected resistance from I, V, and VIII Partisan Corps along their axis of advance greatly hindered their movement. Most post-operation reports cite extremely poor radio communications amongst the different elements, causing a plague of coordination difficulties. It would also appear that Allied aircraft, based in Italy, attacked the linkup forces with several sorties throughout the day, however air support from the Luftwaffe was also present throughout. In fact, an unarmed Fiesler Stork reconnaissance plane, initially intended to whisk Tito away once taken, was able to land and extract casualties, including Rybka.

After the last attack failed to penetrate the German defences and knowing that relief in the form of XV Mountain Corps was on the way, Tito ordered the Partisan forces to withdraw, and then made good his escape. Escorted by elements of the Third Krajina Brigade, he first went to Potoci, where he met up with a battalion from the First Proletarian Brigade, and, after discovering German troops in force in the area, made his way to Kupres. In the Kupres Valley, a Soviet Dakota aircraft stationed at a Royal Air Force base in Italy and escorted by six American Aircraft picked him up on 3 June and took him to Bari, Italy. On 6 June, a Royal Navy destroyer delivered him to the Island of Vis, along the Dalmatian Coast, to re-establish his headquarters.

The remnants of 500 SS were to spend the rest of the night of 25/26 May in their hasty defensive positions. They received some support at 0500 hours as a German fighter-bomber formation attacked the withdrawing Partisans. At 0700 hours, the unit finally established radio contact with the Reconnaissance Battalion of the 373rd Division but physical linkup in Drvar with XV Mountain Corps did not occur until 1245 hours when the lead elements of the Second Battalion of the 92nd Motorized Grenadier Regiment arrived.

Despite not eliminating Tito, the Germans were unwilling to admit defeat and viewed this operation as a success with blind arrogance. According to a self-congratulatory report from Second Panzer Army:

“The operation against the partisans in Croatia [this area of Bosnia was included as part of Croatia at this time] enjoyed considerable success. It succeeded in 1) destroying the core region of the communist partisans by occupying their command and control centers and their supply installations, thereby considerably weakening their supply situation; 2) forcing the elite communist formations (1st Proletarian Division and the 3rd Lika Division [incorrect designation] to give battle and severely battering them, forcing them to withdraw due to shortages of ammunition and supplies, and avoid further combat (the 9th, 39th and 4th Tito Divisions also suffered great losses); 3) capturing landing fields used by Allied aircraft, administrative establishments, and headquarters of foreign military missions, forcing the partisans to reorganize and restructure; 4) giving the Allies a true picture of the combat capability of the partisans; 5) obtaining important communications equipment, code keys, radios, etc. for our side; 6) achieving these successes under difficult conditions that included numerous enemy air attacks.”

The future commander of 500 SS was even more sanguine: “Overall the operation with its jump and landing was a success. Unfortunately Tito and the Allied military delegations managed to escape.” With an understanding of the German mission, this becomes a rather contradictory statement.

The overarching intent of Operation RÖSSELPRUNG was the elimination of Tito, the man who personified the Partisan movement. To the German high command, Tito was the center of gravity for the Partisans and his elimination would greatly diminish the resolve of the movement to continue. “Tito is our most dangerous enemy,” Field Marshal von Weichs was to claim before the operation. Despite the words of praise, the costly operation only netted the Marshal’s uniform, in for tailoring, a Jeep, which was a gift from the American mission, and three British journalists, one of whom later escaped. Even the intelligence information gathered, contrary to the above report, was not of much use. When the operation failed to eliminate Tito, it failed to achieve its underlying intent for being launched, and thus by no stretch can be considered to have achieved its purpose.

Ironically, Tito’s dramatic escape further solidified his deity-like stature amongst the Yugoslav population, and became part of the mythology surrounding this cult of personality. Although NOVJ headquarters, along with several other Partisan organizations, had their operations temporarily disrupted and several higher level personnel killed, they were quick to recover and set up in different locations. Drvar reverted to Partisan control within weeks.

Many accounts of `Rösselsprung’ state that SS-Fallschirmjäger-Bataillon 500 was `destroyed’ in the fighting, claiming that of the 874 men that had landed at Drvar only some 200 survived fit for service at the end of the battle, but this assertion needs to be differentiated. According to official German after-action figures dating from June 10, the battalion had 61 killed, 114 seriously and 91 lightly wounded and 11 missing, making for a total of 277 casualties. An earlier report from June 7 quoted even lower figures: 50 killed, 132 wounded and six missing, i. e. a total of 188. Even if one allows for the casualties suffered by the attachments (of the 36 glider pilots five had been killed and seven wounded; of teams Zawadil and Benesch two men had been killed and 24 wounded, etc) this is far from the reputed 650 casualties.

It continued throughout the rest of the war as the sole SS parachute unit, with its designation later changed to 600 SS Fallschirmjäger Battalion, but Operation RÖSSELPRUNG was to be its only combat jump of the war.

Emperor Kanmu 737–806

To advance not at all, and then to dismiss the troops – what kind of reasoning is there in this plan of Our generals? We know that it is because Our generals fear the ferocious rebels that they remain in garrison. They cleverly employ words to avoid facing their crimes. Nothing can surpass this in disloyalty.

Such was the verdict of Emperor Kanmu on a notorious military debacle in 789, suffered at one of the far frontiers of his realm, in north-eastern Honshū. From an imperial force claimed by court chroniclers to have numbered in excess of 50,000 men, a number of detachments had been sent across the Koromo River to attack the home territory of a ‘barbarian’ leader by the name of Aterui. The soldiers set about their task enthusiastically, managing to burn down some 800 homes spread across fourteen villages. But then things started to unravel.

Based on a Chinese model, the imperial army was organized to fight mostly on foot. They used wooden shields for protection and deployed against their enemy a combination of bows and arrows, spears, and catapult-like devices built on top of mobile platforms. Aterui’s forces, by contrast, consisted of skilled archers mounted on horseback, capable of launching volleys of arrows before galloping away out of reach. They now counter-attacked, harassing Kanmu’s men into a hasty and disorganized retreat back across the river. Nearly 300 imperial soldiers were killed or wounded in the fighting, while more than 1,000 drowned. Another 1,250 ended up fleeing the scene half-naked, having survived in the water only by letting go of their weapons and wrestling their armour from their bodies.

The whole thing was a disgrace, as far as the Emperor was concerned. Born in 737, Kanmu had ascended the throne in 781, becoming Japan’s fiftieth emperor according to the traditional line of succession going back to the mythical Emperor Jimmu. Japanese emperors tended to have a number of official consorts. It was a useful way of maintaining alliances with important clans, but a source of endless conflict over which of an emperor’s children – by which wife – would be named heir. Kanmu’s half-brother had initially been designated Crown Prince instead of him. Kanmu’s Korean ancestry on his mother’s side perhaps held him back; only later was the succession altered in his favour.

Kanmu proved to be an excellent monarch. As a former Head of the State Academy – Nara’s training centre for future officials – he was well placed to operate the levers of a centralized imperial system of government whose inspiration the Chronicles of Japan credited to the great Prince Shōtoku. And where that system was not to his liking, Kanmu found ways of working around it. With the Dajōkan, or Great Council of State, threatening to become the means by which elite clans like the Fujiwara could compromise imperial power, Kanmu dealt with vacancies there, when they arose, either by installing members of his own family or by leaving the posts empty.

This keeping of the clans at bay helped Kanmu to become one of the most powerful emperors in the archipelago’s history, a worthy contemporary of Charlemagne at the other end of the Eurasian continent. He epitomized the kind of forceful imperial leadership, seen on and off between the late 600s and mid-800s, which was capable of pushing important boundaries in a country by this time referred to in official correspondence as ‘Nihon’ (Japan). Kanmu expanded and shored up his country’s frontiers. He advanced its religious and artistic imagination, and he corralled its wealth and manpower into the establishment of its greatest city.

Alongside Kanmu’s unprecedented political and military authority ran what his chroniclers recalled as a powerful dislike of ‘literary floweriness’. Here was a man not to be failed, and certainly not to be plied with unlikely excuses or poetic protestations. Kanmu’s military commanders discovered all this to their cost in the wake of the humiliation at the Koromo River:

Government losses are nearly 3,000! What is there to be joyous about? You say, ‘Wherever the heavenly troops were sent, there were no strong enemies before them. In their homes in the caves along the sea and bays, no more will there be human smoke; in their nests and holes in the mountains and valleys only ghost fires can be seen.’ These are only floating words; they far exceed reality.

As to the sending of victory reports to court, these should be made after the rebels have been levelled and merit made to stand. Without advancing into the depths of their territory, you boast that you have destroyed their villages and rush to proclaim your joy. Is this not too shameful?

Had Kanmu’s commanders taken their leader’s preference for straight talking and forensic analysis more seriously, they might have tried a different tack in their reports – admitting failure and blaming it on the raw materials they were given to work with. Theirs was, after all, merely a conscript army. Four years in the military – one served in the capital, three on one of the frontiers – was part of the price that a man paid for the honour of being an imperial subject. The rest of the time he would farm his state-allocated plot of rice, labour on public works projects when required (up to sixty days a year), pay his taxes and behave himself.

It didn’t always make for an easy life. Population pressure on the land could be heavy. Outbreaks of famine and disease were not unknown. And conscription tended to compound economic hardship. Little of the military equipment lining the bottom of the Koromo River after 789 had been paid for out of courtly coffers. A conscript was expected to feed, clothe and equip himself on the basis of an official kit-list – including a bow, bow-strings, arrows, quiver, two swords, leggings and boots – whose proper fulfilment could easily bankrupt a family.

When it all became too much, some farmers chose to flee to the north-east of Honshū in an attempt to escape imperial reach. Others journeyed in the same direction as official colonists: they were sent by the state during the 700s as part of a boundary-pushing exercise in which new forts were established – a combination of garrison, granary and administrative centre – and farmers were required to break and till the land around them.

Both sorts of migrant ended up in conflict with the older inhabitants of this part of the archipelago. They were a mix of hunter-gatherer and agriculturalist clans, lumped together as ‘barbarians’ and ‘savages’ by a Japanese state whose approach to outsiders was yet another of its cultural borrowings from China. In the words of the Chronicles of Japan:

Amongst these savages the Emishi are the most powerful. Their men and women live together promiscuously, there is no distinction of father and child. In winter they dwell in holes, in summer they live in nests. Their clothing consists of furs, and they drink blood. Brothers are suspicious of one another. In ascending mountains they are like flying birds; in going through the grass they are like fleet wolves.

When they receive a favour, they forget it, but if an injury is done them they never fail to revenge it. Therefore they keep arrows in their top-knots and carry swords within their clothing … If attacked, they conceal themselves in the herbage; if pursued, they flee into the mountains. Therefore ever since antiquity they have not been steeped in the kingly civilizing influences.

The present trouble with these ‘Emishi’ had begun in 774, when the old policy of slow and steady colonization, combined with some judicious alliance-making, was brought to an end by an imperial order to ‘strike down the barbarians’. Emperor Kanmu inherited the resulting conflict, its painfully slow progress and even more painful costs becoming the bane of his early reign.

A small victory was won in 801–2, when a new military commander by the name of Sakanoue no Tamuramaro managed to put sufficient pressure on Aterui to persuade him and another prominent Emishi leader to negotiate their surrender. But where Emishi prisoners taken in this way were usually dispersed across Japan, serving as slaves of the nobility or living in their own segregated communities, these two high-profile prisoners ended up losing their heads. Kanmu and his advisers had had enough of the north.

A few years later, Kanmu ended the Emishi campaigns altogether, reluctantly allowing parts of north-eastern Honshū to remain beyond his reach. The fighting had become one of two great ‘sources of suffering in the realm’, as one of his advisers put it. The other was the new capital city growing up around them.

Almost immediately upon ascending the throne in 781, Kanmu had decided to transfer his court to a new location. In the past, emperors had moved around for a variety of reasons. Some thought that a new era should begin in a new place, and ideally in a more impressive palace than their predecessor: this was a matter not merely of self-regard, but of advertising one’s role as the ‘sacred centre’ of the realm. Others found themselves facing a famine or epidemic, and sought to escape this combination of physical threat and spiritual contagion by upping sticks – literally, in terms of valuable timber structures, which could be taken down and reassembled elsewhere. Semi-regular uprisings by armed rivals offered a third compelling rationale for a hasty relocation.

Kanmu, in the end, found himself having to move home not once but twice. He first transferred his court from Nara to an area called Nagaoka, in 784. But it was quickly beset by political assassination, suicide, famine, flood and disease, persuading Kanmu to seek out a more auspicious location. This he did on horseback in 793, under cover of a ‘hunting trip’ on which he was joined by his royal diviners.

They found what they were looking for around fifty kilometres north of Nara. The topography ticked all the boxes. There were mountains to the north, west and east, offering excellent defensive potential. Chinese geomantic requirements for pleasing the gods of the four quadrants were also met: a mountainous north, a roadway to the west, a river to the east, and a large area of water to the south. The inauspicious north-east, from which it was said demons might invade, was guarded by the formidable Mount Hiei. Added to all this was rich, naturally irrigated rice-growing soil, timber aplenty in the hills, good access via river to the Inland Sea (separating the islands of Honshū, Shikoku and Kyūshū), and a generally flat central area on which to build without too much preparatory work required.

If there was a catch, it was the climate. The site was located in a basin, meaning that summers and winters would not be much fun for residents: alternating intolerably hot and humid weather with bitter cold. Kanmu endured his own first winter there in 794. From the confines of a palace that was still under construction, he issued a grand edict announcing the new location for the imperial capital alongside his choice of official name. It was to be called Heian-kyō: ‘Capital of Peace and Tranquillity’. Most Japanese would one day know it simply as ‘Capital City’ – in Japanese, ‘Kyoto’.

A city destined to be home to Japan’s emperors for more than a thousand years started life on a relatively modest scale. A rectangular-shaped grid ran for five and a half kilometres from north to south, and nearly five kilometres from east to west. Wide avenues ran along both axes, paralleled by narrower lanes in between. Most buildings were limited to a single storey, meaning that residents suffering with the climate could at least claim the consolation of fantastic views – lush, forested mountains, whose seasonal changes of colour became a favourite theme for the writers who soon flourished in Kanmu’s new capital.

And this really was Kanmu’s capital. The north end of Heian-kyō was dominated by a ‘Greater Imperial Palace’ that sprawled across nearly 7 per cent of the city’s total land area, and whose construction, alongside that of associated princely residences, accounted for up to three-fifths of central government expenditure during Kanmu’s reign. Provincial workers, here to pay their imperial labour tax, were kept busy erecting around 200 buildings, towers and corridors – including fourteen separate gateways, of which the most important was the Suzakumon: the ‘Gate of the Vermilion Sparrow’.

This was both the Emperor’s home and his place of business. A residential compound was located at the north end of the palace complex, while government offices and meeting areas, including the three buildings that comprised the Great Council of State, were laid out to the south. A large area of greenery, the ‘Park of the Divine Spring’, was maintained nearby for imperial banquets, entertainment and the occasional spot of hunting and fishing.

Southwards from the palace, all the way through the city, ran Suzaku Ōji. Possibly the broadest boulevard in the world at the time at around ninety metres wide, and terminating in the famous Rashōmon gate (two storeys high and painted red and white with a green roof), it was lauded in song for its beautiful willow trees:

Light green they shine,

Dark green they shine,

Stretching into the distance as far as the eye can see,

They glitter like jewels.

Oh, how they glitter – those low-hanging boughs

Of the willows on Suzaku Ōji!

In the centre of the city lay two shopping areas, where business was based mostly on barter and items for sale included everything from rice and fruit to writing brushes, medicinal herbs and suits of armour. Fine accommodation was created for visiting foreign dignitaries, in the hope of striking favourable trade deals, while aristocratic residents settled into expansive villas whose exquisitely kept gardens and ponds were fed from the city’s waterways – so numerous that Heian-kyō quickly became home to hundreds of bridges. Most of the population, estimated at around 100,000 people in the city’s early years, lived rather more modestly and were involved, directly or indirectly, in some kind of service to the state and the aristocratic class: from keeping accounts and guarding prisoners to brewing sake, weaving silk and reviving heat-stricken humans or their pets.

Heian-kyō had no perimeter wall worthy of the name, because Kanmu had no earthly enemies worthy of the name. Concerned instead with cosmic vulnerability and defence, he was quick to send tributes to the Upper and Lower Kamo Shrines, situated in the feared north-easterly direction, in order to seek the protection of the kami enshrined there. This offering of tributes soon morphed into an annual night-time ceremony in which priests called out to the gods in darkness, bidding them to come down into specially created structures of sand and pine logs. From there, the kami were transferred into small sakaki trees, to be carried into the main sanctuary of the shrines. This accomplished, the shrines were illuminated and public festivities were held for the kami’s amusement.

These festivities grew in scale, year on year, until the Kamo Festival became the major event in Heian-kyō’s social calendar. A Grand Imperial Emissary and a specially selected imperial princess would travel to the two shrines, the former to present tributes including dances and horses, and the latter to worship there – just as a member of the imperial family worshipped at Amaterasu’s Ise Shrine, to whose level the Kamo Shrines were now elevated. Both the emissary and the princess travelled with glamorous retinues. Senior courtiers rode on horseback or rumbled along inside ox-drawn carriages lavishly adorned with hollyhock flowers, accompanied on their journey by musicians and dancers. The whole city turned out to watch the spectacle, with vantage points varying according to the decorum demanded by one’s status. The higher-born sent someone ahead to save a good parking spot for their carriages. Humbler sorts roamed rooftops and the branches of tall trees.

Solicitous of the kami, Kanmu was rather more sceptical about the role that Buddhism might play in the welfare of his city and his country. One of the reasons for leaving Nara behind after he became Emperor had been its powerful, even overbearing Buddhist institutional presence: from great temples, grown wealthy and excessively independent of imperial and clan patronage, to a population of monks so large that Kanmu’s father had striven to weed out any who were living in the capital illegally and have them returned to the provinces whence they came. If rival clans were one perpetual threat to imperial power, Buddhism had come to represent a second. And Kanmu was determined to do something about it.

One of Buddhism’s most powerful backers after Prince Shōtoku had been Emperor Shōmu (reigned 724–49). A mixture of personal devotion and desperate pragmatism, in the midst of a devastating smallpox outbreak in 735–7, had led him to establish a protective nationwide network of temples and nunneries: one of each, in every province. The awesome Tōdai-ji in Nara was built to serve as the central temple for this network and as home to an enormous sixteen-metre gilded bronze statue of the celestial Buddha Vairocana. Its casting, said to have required 338 tons of copper and 16 tons of gold, nearly drove the nation into bankruptcy. The statue’s dedication in 752, during which its eyes were ceremonially opened, had been one of the events of the era, attended by no fewer than 7,000 courtiers and 10,000 monks.

Alongside keeping the country safe and furnishing some of its great early aesthetic achievements, Buddhism also became a way for talented individuals born into families of modest means to acquire education and enter public service. Some outstandingly wise and compassionate figures emerged in this way, amongst them a monk by the name of Gyōki (668–749) who was celebrated for his preaching and his practical aid to poor farmers – notably a number of precious irrigation projects – alongside his work as an imperial adviser.

Yet some clergy seemed to treat Japan’s legal restrictions on monastic behaviour – from taking wives to lending money and holding private property – less as a series of prohibitions and more as a to-do list. Temples loaned money to farmers, then took their land when they defaulted on repayments. One temple was said to be operating as a pawnbroker, charging an annual interest rate of 180 per cent. The biggest fear was of monks playing politics, potentially giving rise to an anti-imperial perfect storm of eloquent preaching, deeply impressive ideas and vestments and rituals, hostile clan backing and popular discontent about the direction in which the world was heading. This had yet to happen, but in the 760s a mercurial monk called Dōkyō had managed to persuade Emperor Shōmu’s daughter and successor to grant him progressively greater influence in government. Amidst rumours of intimacy with the Empress, he eventually sought the throne itself, thwarted in the end only by vehement courtly opposition and by the Empress’s death.

Kanmu fought back against all this on several fronts. He banned the establishment of ‘private temples’, a practice that was often less about devotion than tax-avoidance: institutions claiming to conduct rituals for the good of the realm were exempt from contributing to its coffers. And he banned existing temples from receiving donations without permission. At the same time he opened up temple property to provincial audits (and possible confiscation), and set the maximum interest rate for a temple loan at a comparatively reasonable 10 per cent. Kanmu clamped down, too, on clergy fathering children, claiming to be able to work miracles and engaging in ‘black magic in the mountains with the aim of harming their enemies’. All the while, he tried to raise the bar for people wishing to become monks or nuns. Character and learning were given renewed importance, the latter tested via rigorous examination.

But Kanmu’s most consequential move was the one he made against the supremacy of the Buddhist establishment in Nara, which was made up of six major sects. In this he was helped by a monk called Saichō. Born in 767 and ordained at Tōdai-ji in 785, Saichō swapped what he saw as the corruption of contemporary Buddhism for an austere life on Mount Hiei – a rare move in his day. When Kanmu moved his capital to the area in 794, he came to hear of Saichō’s life on Hiei and his study of Tiantai Buddhism. Struck by the potential of the latter as an alternative to the squabbling Nara sects, Kanmu allowed Saichō to travel to China to learn more.

Saichō arrived in China in 804, returning to Japan the next year having studied these and many other Buddhist teachings besides. The result, within a few short years, was a new ‘Tendai’ sect, established on Mount Hiei and taking its name from ‘Tiantai’ while in fact being very much more. It incorporated elements from Zen, from a set of advanced moral codes called the Bodhisattva Precepts and from esoteric Buddhism. Tiantai by itself was already an attempt to work Buddhism’s various sects and scriptures into an ambitious hierarchical whole, with the Lotus Sutra at the apex. Tendai ended up so comprehensive – across ritual, contemplation, faith and morality – that Saichō saw no need for any other sect in Japan.

Saichō dubbed his teachings ‘Buddhahood for all’. The basic idea was very much in tune with the Mahayana branch of Buddhism. Coalescing in India by around 200 CE and mixing with Chinese philosophical and religious traditions across the centuries since, the Mahayana (‘Great Vehicle’) had helped to broaden Buddhism from being the preserve primarily of monastics to a ‘vehicle’ for the salvation of laypeople too. Devotional possibilities expanded with the idea that the Buddha takes on three different forms or ‘bodies’: a cosmic, all-embracing form, akin to the Absolute; a celestial form, appearing as various gods inhabiting the realms that make up the cosmos; and more limited forms manifesting in ordinary time and space – the most famous being Siddhartha Gautama. There was great emphasis, too, on the figure of the ‘bodhisattva’: beings on the path to Buddhahood across many lives, who out of compassion seek to release all other sentient beings from suffering along the way.

For Saichō, ‘Buddhahood for all’ meant that traditional distinctions between clergy and laypeople, and between men and women, did not matter. What mattered was that the Buddha in his cosmic form resided in the depths of every person, as their ‘Buddha nature’. Enlightenment was, as a result, not something to be striven for across many lifetimes via monastic vows, complex rituals and unending austerity. It was already here, already the truth of things, needing only to be apprehended via a simple faith nourished in contemplation and everyday life – if, that is, a person really wanted it. As Saichō himself cautioned his followers: ‘There is room for food and clothing within an aspiration for enlightenment, but there is no room for an aspiration for enlightenment within the quest for food and clothing.’

In one respect, Saichō was developing here a characteristically East Asian take on Buddhism. In India, the idea of reincarnation was so deeply entrenched that moral effort across many lifetimes seemed an entirely natural proposition. In China and Japan, by contrast, where reincarnation was just one amongst many possible posthumous outcomes, Buddhism came to have a greater focus on the here-and-now; on the possibility that people, even inanimate objects, possess the Buddha nature; and on the religious practices and artistic ways of looking at the world that flow from that.

But the politics of Tendai were distinctive and clear from the start. Saichō regarded Prince Shōtoku as a great statesman and his ‘spiritual grandfather’. Where the Prince was credited with helping to establish ‘Nihon’ as his country’s name, Saichō was amongst those to use the powerful expression dainipponkoku: ‘the great country of Japan’. The cosmic protection of this great country, he claimed, and its freedom from chaos, was one of Japanese Buddhism’s most weighty responsibilities.

If Saichō was Kanmu’s ideal Buddhist – scholarly, moral, highly patriotic – he nevertheless had a rival in a second Buddhist monk arriving in China in 804 as part of the same diplomatic mission. His name was Kūkai, and just like Saichō he returned to Japan to establish a brand new Buddhist sect. Where Tendai was broad in its philosophy and ritual, Kūkai’s new sect – Shingon (‘True Word’), which came to be based on Mount Kōya – focused more closely on esoteric Buddhism. Monks studied mudras (ritual gestures, mostly using the hands), mandalas (visual representations of sacred realms), mantras (sacred phrases) and mental concentration.

Saichō and Kūkai became two of the most influential Japanese Buddhists who ever lived. Their rise might not have been good news for women, who thrived as nuns in the existing system but were, early on at least, barred from Mounts Hiei and Kōya for fear of compromising the efficacy of the rituals performed there. But where Buddhism in Japan had, in the past, relied heavily on foreign scholarship, Saichō and Kūkai were its first great Japanese innovators.

Japan’s native gods, meanwhile, remained very much in the picture. At its own request, via an oracle, the kami Hachiman had been moved from Kyūshū to Nara, so that it could pay homage to the great Buddha at Tōdai-ji. Now, the Tendai and Shingon sects turned to the kami of Mounts Hiei and Kōya respectively to help secure themselves in their new homes. Buddhism and the kami would continue to interweave – philosophically and ritually – for a millennium to come, so that eventually few Japanese would recognize them as two separable traditions.

Emperor Kanmu did not live to see the full fruits of his boundary-pushing efforts, which contributed so much to Japan’s Heian era, beginning with the establishment of the new capital and ending in 1185. Already unwell by the time Saichō returned from China in 805, Kanmu died the following year, after an esoteric Buddhist ritual intended to revive him failed to achieve its end. But in the decades following his death, Buddhism’s boundaries were steadily and radically redrawn thanks to his support for Saichō and Kūkai: from an urban system in which six sects mixed and mingled, to a mountain tradition, firmly rooted in Mahayana Buddhism, where differing sects maintained their own temples, lineages, interests and eventually even armies.

More broadly, Kanmu had helped to usher in an era of remarkable cultural confidence in Japan. He left his country on the cusp of a classical era in which contacts with China fell away and instead fashion, art, architecture, music, poetry and prose all took on distinctively Japanese forms. Tendai and Shingon had an important part to play here. The idea that Buddha nature resides in everyone and everything made possible a shift from the relative austerity of the Nara schools to a broad and enthusiastic embrace of aesthetics as yet another means of accessing the Absolute. Kūkai became famous not just as a Buddhist pioneer but also as a poet, painter and calligrapher. For centuries to come, some of Japan’s greatest artists would also be Buddhist priests.

Kanmu’s new capital at Heian-kyō became synonymous with these celebrated cultural achievements. The city was also the governmental and administrative heart of a centralized imperial realm that encompassed most of the islands of Kyūshū and Shikoku, along with southern and central areas of Honshū. Its population stood at around 6 or 7 million people in Kanmu’s lifetime. Thanks to his political achievements and his siring of three strong sons – whose combined reigns continued until 833 – Kanmu’s legacy in all these areas was given time to develop before enemies crowded in.

But crowd in they would. Clan power had been dampened down, not defeated. Before too long, successors to the imperial throne would look back on Kanmu’s era less as a practical example and more as a glorious and utterly irretrievable past.

Imperial Crown Prince Wilhelm (1882–1951)

German Imperial Crown Prince Wilhelm seen here cracking a joke with officers and men during an Iron Cross award ceremony for the 1st Company, Bavarian Infantry (Bavarian King’s Guard Regiment), during the Verdun campaign, July 7, 1916.

The First Battle of the Marne had recently been won by the French Army when, in the first half of November 1914, American Hearst Corporation journalist Karl von Wiegand paid a visit to the commander of the German 5th Army at Stenay in occupied France.

He was stunned to hear its commander—Imperial Crown Prince Wilhelm himself of the reigning House of Hohenzollern—assert in a private aside, “We have lost the war! It will go on for a long time, but lost it is already!”

This accurate analysis was not published until 1961 by German author Klaus Jonas in his groundbreaking, and still singular today, biography of the man his enemies both foreign and domestic derided as Little Willy, to denote him from his father the Kaiser.

Crown Prince Wilhelm’s offhand remark was seen as all the more surprising in that it had been said three and a half years before the bloody struggle ground to a halt following the also lost Second Battle of the Marne in 1918.

The other surprise was that it had been correctly foreseen by a man many considered to be a failed soldier, and also a morally discredited heir to the throne who was long thought to be an ineffectual fool supremely interested in chasing women, racing cars and horses, playing tennis, and hunting stags.

Ironically, this supposed intellectual lightweight had foreseen what the learned gentlemen of the German general staff at supreme headquarters had failed to admit—even to themselves—that the former, much-touted Schlieffen Plan to defeat the combined Allied armies of France, Great Britain, and Belgium on the Western Front had been stillborn. Thus, their expected war of movement was abruptly over, that of the stalemated trenches begun, and the vaunted victories in the east ultimately made meaningless thereby.

Beyond that, His Royal Highness also grasped simultaneously that Imperial Germany and his own ruling dynasty—caught in the maw of war—had thus doomed itself, and this at the very start of the conflict it had worked a generation to win.

Not so ironically, this very same young prince—aged thirty-two at its outset—had been a trained soldier for most of his life: in childhood, adolescence, and on into adulthood, as had also previously been the case with all the male members of his family, commissioned lieutenant at the age of ten. Oddly, the 1914 celebrated “Hero of Longwy” soon emerged early on in the conflict as one of the most cruelly maligned figures of the entire Great War.

Noted Horne: “The leptic, unfinished-looking figure—with the narrow, sloping shoulders and almost deformed Modigliani neck in its high collar, and the elongated features of an amiable greyhound—was a boon to the caricaturists.”

Added Tuchman, “The cartoonists’ pet was the Crown Prince, whom they delighted to draw as an exaggerated fop with pinched waist, high tight collar, rakish cap, and an expression of fatuous vacuity” that, often enough, unfortunately for him, was not very far from being the truth.

Yet German and foreign women the world over found the prim, prudish Kaiser’s eldest son and offspring wildly sexy and attractive, an attribute that, in the end, helped materially in losing him his 300-year-old rightful crown as his father’s legal successor. In studied contrast to his father—who himself had served as crown prince for a mere ninety-nine days—Little Willy was fated to be the long-suffering heir for sixty-nine years, one of the longest such stints on record.

As a six-year-old at his father’s 1888 accession, from then on, Willy’s most personal dealings with his august, austere father had to occur through the latter’s formal chief of the military cabinet, as a younger officer to his army superior.

He became a corporal in the Prussian Army at the age of seven, having been placed within the daily regimen of a series of martial tutors. Indeed, in full Prussian dress kit and regalia, “the pathetic little boy” saluted on a parade ground his own father on the latter’s thirtieth birthday in 1889 during the first year of the latter’s three-decade-long reign.

One of his thousands of ardent female admirers was his own younger and only sister, Princess Viktoria Luise of Prussia, who gushed that “He looked brilliant, and—because of his natural, unaffected manner—won a lot of sympathy,” but rarely from his Imperial father, however.

Tuchman described Little Willy in rather less fulsome terms. In 1914, “The Imperial scion was a narrow chested, willowy creature with the face of a fox,” who was known as an avowed militarist who had already glorified war in a book he had edited for children entitled, Germany in Arms, which celebrated the centennial of the War of Liberation against the hated, but feared, Napoleon Bonaparte that had been led by his own earlier dynasty, no less, and won. Postwar, the imperial author published a pair of autobiographical works that I have found useful here, both in 1922, while he was in his Dutch exile: The Memoirs of the Crown Prince of Germany and My War Experiences.

In the latter, young Wilhelm recalled watching with glee his invading, “Joyous German soldiers with sparkling eyes,” as they launched the later famed Battle of the Frontiers of August–September 1914 against the French. During the heady general mobilization days of August 1914, as all Europe went to war, it seemed, Albrecht Duke of Württemberg (1865–1939) and Kronprinz Rupprecht (1869–1955) of Bavaria of the ruling House of Wittelsbach each received Army commands from their imperial master the Kaiser. Thus it was both politically and dynastically essential that the German Imperial Crown Prince Wilhelm as his own heir receive one as well.

Then, as Little Willy looked forward to the “happy, cheerful war,” as he initially called it, German general headquarters—where sat his own father as Supreme Warlord, no less—created the imperial crown prince an army commander as well, complete with his own first chief of staff, Gen. Konstantin Schmidt von Knobelsdorf (1860–1936.)

The crown prince’s father-cum-military superior sternly admonished his oldest—and by then, well wayward—son as he left for the Western Front: “Whatever he advises you, you must do!”

Thus did Little Willy enter upon a four-year-long top combat command with but a prior colonelcy of the famed Death’s Head Hussars under his belt, that and a year on the general staff at Berlin, but no experience as either a divisional or a corps commander—and more was to come, too.

Nevertheless, the steeple-chasing imperial crown prince had faith in himself, as he later wrote, and believed as well that what he had, “Gave [him] the theoretical groundwork for command of large units.” Indeed, von Moltke told HRH personally that he had “a good military outlook and a healthy common sense.” He would both need and display them before the Great War played itself out, four years and more later.

Indeed, to almost everyone’s astonishment, on both sides, his 5th Army won the Battle of the Frontiers, making him instantly renowned as the “Hero of the Battle of Longwy” of August 23, 1914, and this on the very day that far to the east the Hindenburg-Ludendorff team was being forged in steel as well.

That day, his 5th Army bypassed the Longwy Fortress itself, leaving it to be taken later by follow-up siege troops and engineers. Thus freed of this obstacle now to his rear, the intrepid imperial crown prince won laurels in the media for advancing, impressing for the very first time even his stern papa. Flush with this victory that reflected well on their dynasty jointly, the Kaiser joyously awarded him, as well as Rupprecht, the coveted Iron Cross, both First and Second Class, simultaneously.

“Deeply moved,” the proud crown prince handed his father’s telegram around for all his personal staff to see as well. Soon, the handsome young prince would be awarding combat medals for battlefield bravery himself, clad in “A dazzling white tunic, walking between two lines of soldiers distributing Iron Crosses from a basket carried by an aide,” thus aping his father’s own front visit style.

The coveted telegram trumpeted, “Well done! Am proud of you!” In fact, the incident even made the famous American New York Times edition August 26, 1914 thus:

Kaiser Decorates 2 Sons for Bravery

Berlin, via Copenhagen & London—Emperor William has conferred the decoration of the Iron Cross of the 2nd and 1st Class on Crown Prince Frederick William and Duke Albrecht of Württemberg.

He has conferred also the Iron Cross decoration of the 2nd Class on his son Prince Oskar. His Majesty also sent the following telegram to the Crown Princess: “I thank thee with all my heart, dear child; I rejoice with thee over the first victory of Wilhelm!”

“God has been on his side, and has most brilliantly supported him! To Him be thanks and honor! I remit to Wilhelm the Iron Cross of the 2nd and 1st Class. Oskar also fought brilliantly with his grenadiers!

“He has achieved the Iron Cross of the 2nd Class. Repeat that to Ina and Marie! Also in the future, God be with thee and all wives! Papa Wilhelm.”

The younger son again made the New York Times on February 8, 1916:

Kaiser’s Son Oskar is Wounded Again. Hit in the Head and Thigh by Shell Splinters on the Russian Front

Amsterdam—Prince Oskar of Prussia—fifth son of Emperor William—has been slightly wounded in the head and on the upper part of the thigh by shell splinters during the fighting in the eastern war theater, according to a Berlin official report received here.

Prince Oskar was wounded at Virton, Belgium in September 1914. He was ill for a long time, and was declared to be suffering also from an affection of the heart. He returned to duty in the field in November 1914, and narrowly escaped capture the following month during the fighting in Poland.

In Klaus Jonas’s The Life of Crown Prince Wilhelm, it was written that in that same early spirit of wartime magnanimity, the crown prince’s own 5th Army Chamberlain Elard von Oldenburg-Januschau (1855–1937) recalled in his postwar memoirs of 1936:

I shall never forget how the Crown Prince with a noble gesture returned the sword to the brave French commander, and gave him the choice of returning to France if he would give his word of honor not to fight any longer against Germany.

However, the officer frankly refused the offer, and accepted the hard fate of imprisonment.

Following the sudden and totally unexpected loss of First Marne—for the remainder of 1914 and all of 1915—Imperial Crown Prince Wilhelm remained at his Stenay Field headquarters while the interminable trench warfare dragged on.

By the end of 1915, he had concluded that Germany simply could not win a two-front war, and, therefore, must seek to conclude a peace in either the east or the west. He even floated the controversial idea himself of returning to the French their famous lost Fortress Metz of 1870 as an olive branch toward a peace settlement with at least the Gauls, if not yet the English.

The Battle of Verdun, February–December 1916

Then came the idea of “bleeding white” the French Army opposite the crown prince’s own 5th German Army command at the former’s Verdun fortress system, which was proposed by the Kaiser’s favorite chief of general staff, Gen. von Falkenhayn. He was the Kaiser’s antidote to the politically feared duo of the Eastern Front—Hindenburg and Ludendorff. Here, then, was how the bogged down war in the west would be won, via a brutal wastage slugfest, but it never was.

Asserted Perrett: “The German intention was to impose a ruinous battle of attrition on the French Army, thereby destroying its limited manpower reserves at this fortified city on the upper Meuse River in eastern France.”

The overall main battle lasted from February 21 to December 18, 1916, with Gen. Henri Philippe Pétain and then Gen. Robert Nivelle facing the imperial crown prince of the German Reich.

The epic bloodletting was an inconclusive standoff between Gallic defender and Teutonic attacker, with severe casualties on both sides—overall French Army commander Gen. Joseph “Papa” Joffre lost 362,000 killed to the German toll of 337,000 slain and wounded. Begun under von Falkenhayn’s aegis, it took the succeeding duo partnership another four months to wind down the slaughter, even after they assumed the supreme command on August 29, 1916. This abrupt change-of-command was one that the political intriguer Crown Prince Wilhelm had worked for mightily behind the scenes, proving that he had some powerful domestic chops as well.

The blame on the German side of the ledger for the Verdun debacle—for, indeed, such it was, with very little actually accomplished—has been debated by military historians ever since. Again, proposed by von Falkenhayn at the start, it had nonetheless been warmly endorsed by both the crown prince and his respected chief of staff, von Knobelsdorf. As the grim death toll mounted, however, young Wilhelm began more and more to have his own serious doubts as to the operation’s actual worth.

The story is told that—at the other end of the world—the great British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton reached South Georgia Island in 1916 after two years’ isolation in Antarctica and asked when the war had ended. He was told, “The war is not over! Millions are being killed. Europe is mad. The world is mad!” according to Horne. Indeed, thought one German writer of the struggle at Verdun, there would be no end, “Until the last German and the last Frenchman hobbled out of the trenches on crutches to exterminate each other with pocket knives, or teeth and finger nails.”

The overall battle statistics were truly staggering: German artillery alone shot about 22 million rounds, with the French guns also accounting for an estimated 15 million. The French Army in 1916 boasted ninety-six divisions stationed on the Western Front, and of these, seventy had been deployed to Verdun, with the Germans throwing in a little over forty-six of their divisional-sized units.

All that either side ever gained territorially was about that of the size of the Royal Parks of London combined, leading the later crestfallen Little Willy—once so fond of glorious wartime exploits—to note postwar that “The Mill on the Meuse ground to powder the hearts as well as the bodies of the troops.”

Nevertheless, both he and his staff learned well the lessons that the sturdy French had so bloodily taught the German 5th Army at Verdun, and they employed them well the following year, as he later admitted: “Had we held to such defenses that had hitherto been the rule, I am convinced that we should not have come through the great defensive battles of 1917.”

By now, Gen. Friedrich von der Schulenburg had replaced Schmidt von Knobelsdorf as the crown prince’s new and final chief of staff, and the former leather pickelhaube (spiked helmet) was superseded by the 1916–35 “coal scuttle” helmet as well. Some things remained grimly the same as always, however, such as the men shitting their pants as they went “over the top” from both ends of the battlefields to their deaths.

By then, the crown prince had joined the scheming duo of the east in their behind-the-scenes political maneuvering at the Kaiser’s court, which helped overthrow the 1914 era’s Imperial Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg (1856–1921).

The crown prince went further by backing Hindenburg’s abrupt First Quartermaster General Ludendorff against the interests of his father by campaigning, successfully, to have certain high members of the Kaiser’s various personal cabinets removed as well, especially that of the Civil Cabinet, Rudolf von Valentini.

Indeed, it must have seemed like a long time ago, as Crown Prince Wilhelm later recalled in his postwar memoirs: “The moment when I was standing in the old chapel of the Berlin Castle and took my military oath in front of my father the Kaiser, and stands out in my mind as my most cherished memory.”

Countered Jonas, however, of the crown prince in The Life of Crown Prince Wilhelm:

He had often—without wanting to—shocked soldiers returning from the front lines when he greeted them in his extravagant clothing, with a narrow riding whip in his hand, surrounded by his Indian whippets.

If now and then in his white uniform he threw them cigarettes, many of them indignantly thought that he had just come back from playing tennis. Whenever young French girls waved to him, he made his bright red car stop in the street, picked them up, and listened with a great deal of interest to their worries about the fate of their husbands or sweethearts.

Often, he promised to make inquiries for them in Supreme Headquarters, and by doing so, completely ruined his reputation at the German High Command.