Luftwaffe versus the British Fleet


The sun rose blood-red over the Aegean Sea, and May 22nd 1941 promised to be hot. On the Peloponnesian airfields of Argos, Mycenae and Molae hundreds of engines roared into life as Ju 87s, Me 109s and Me 110s lined up for the take-off. Seldom had German airmen waited to do so with such impatience.

The war diary of Richthofen’s VIII Air Corps explains the tension: “Since 05.00 hours today reports have multiplied of British cruisers and destroyers in the sea areas north and west of Crete.”

On the previous day German reconnaissance aircraft had kept the movements of the British Mediterranean fleet under observation, and established that Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham’s force was cruising out of sight to the west of Crete. In view of German air superiority, he could not risk participating in the island struggle with his naval guns. As for the German bomber units, their support of the hard-pressed paratroops was for the moment the more important task. Only single Stuka Gruppen attacked the fleet, sinking one destroyer.

But during the night of May 21st/22nd the whole situation changed. Admiral Cunningham now sent two powerful battle groups, each of seven cruisers and destroyers, to take up positions off the north coast of the island. Lying in wait there, they thwarted every German attempt to bring in heavy weapons by sea.

On one matter the British and German supreme commands were in agreement: both rejected the idea that the strongly defended island bastion could be taken by airborne troops alone. If the paratroops, etc., were not to find themselves in a hopeless situation, they must be reinforced from the sea by the second, or at latest the third day of the campaign. But the German transport fleet consisted only of small coasters and powered sailing-ships or caiques—all that was available in the Greek harbours.

On the night of the 21st/22nd the 1st Caique Squadron under Naval Lieutenant Oesterlin neared its destination, a landing-place west of Malemes. It had in fact started the previous day, only to be recalled half-way, then finally sent out again. This coming and going took the twenty-odd heavily laden little ships six hours to accomplish—a delay that was to cost them dear. For now they were delivered straight into the hands of the British.

Just before midnight the British cruisers and destroyers all at once opened fire. Two of the caiques immediately burst into flames, and a small steamer, carrying ammunition for the paratroops, blew up with a blinding flash. The rest sought safety in flight.

The one-sided battle lasted two-and-a-half hours. Rear-Admiral Glennie then broke off the pursuit and led his “Force D” south-west through the Straits of Antikythera. His flagship Dido, and the other two cruisers, Orion and Ajax, had spent a good two-thirds of their flak ammunition, and Glennie reckoned that he was in no position to withstand the Stuka attack that was sure to come early in the morning. In any case the German transport fleet seemed to have been completely annihilated. The British estimated that some 4,000 German soldiers had gone down with their ships.

But at first light ten scattered caiques found themselves once more off the island of Melos. The rest had been sunk, and all over the sea shipwrecked soldiers were clinging to pieces of flotsam. After a rescue operation that lasted the whole day, only 297 men were finally missing. But the British fleet had achieved its objective of preventing sea-borne reinforcements reaching Crete.

Such was the position early on May 22nd, when the Luftwaffe was again able to join battle. Lieutenant-Colonel Dinort, commander of the “Immelmann” Geschwader, StG 2, briefed his crews from his field caravan at Molai airfield. Reconnaissance patrols, he said, had reported ship after ship. They could not fail to find the British fleet.

At 05.30 Hitschold’s and Sigel’s Gruppen took off, formed up over the airfield and headed south-east. By this time “Force D” had departed, and been replaced by the cruisers Gloucester and Fiji and the destroyers Greyhound and Griffin, which lay twenty-five miles off the Cretan north coast. They were the first ships to feel the impact of the Stukas.

From 12,000 feet the Ju 87s dived down into the concentrated naval ack-ack fire. Using full speed and maximum rudder, the warships zig-zagged violently to avoid the bombs. All about them the sea boiled with mast-high columns of water. Often the bursts were so near that the cruisers steamed right beneath the cascades.

Light 100-lb. bombs struck the superstructure of the Gloucester, but though the fragmentation was considerable, they failed to penetrate. The Fiji was also only slightly damaged. All the heavy bombs missed their targets, if often by only a few yards. After an attack lasting one-and-a-half hours the Stukas were compelled to return to base to re-fuel and bomb-up again.

The British used the breathing space to join up with their main fleet, cruising some thirty miles west of Crete. Altogether the combined “Forces A, B and D” represented an imposing array of two battleships (Warspite and Valiant), five cruisers and a dozen destroyers. Its commander, Rear-Admiral Rawlings, reckoned that the anti-aircraft guns of nineteen warships would be enough to scare the Stukas away, or at least to prevent any accuracy of aim.

But the Luftwaffe was aware that, apart from the main fleet, there was another British flotilla considerably nearer: “Force C”, under Rear-Admiral King. As ordered, its four cruisers and three destroyers had from first light on May 22nd been cruising to the north of Crete. Such a daylight penetration of the lion’s den suited the Luftwaffe.

Twenty-five miles south of Melos Rear-Admiral King’s force encountered the second German caique squadron, which had sailed at dawn for Crete. The latter was compelled to turn back, and a second massacre was only avoided by a hair’s breadth. At literally the last minute rescue came from the skies in the shape of a Gruppe of Ju 88s.

Captain Cuno Hoffmann and his I/LG l had taken off from Eleusis near Athens at 08.30, and a few minutes later they were presented with a fascinating picture. Lieutenant Gerd Stamp, one of the Ju 88 pilots, saw far below him the German “midget fleet” sailing off northwards, with the British cruisers and destroyers steaming after them only a few miles away to the south.

Between the latter and their apparently certain prey, however, an Italian torpedo-boat, the Sagittario, had placed itself. Zig-zagging at full speed, the little vessel was laying a smoke-screen to hide its charges, meanwhile drawing the fire of the cruisers Perth and Naiad. It was high time for I/LG l to intervene! Captain Hoffmann gave the order, and the first Ju 88s dived obliquely into the inferno of flak. Their bombs produced two water-spouts beside the Naiad’s gunwales, and the cruiser stopped.

Though the German convoy lay close ahead, the British admiral, fearing to risk his own ships by any further move to the north, decided to turn back. But the Luftwaffe would not let him alone. As the flotilla sped south-west, bombs rained down upon it for three-and-a-half hours, I/LG 1’s Ju 88s and KG 2’s Do 17s taking turns to attack. Effective near-misses put two of the Naiad’s gun turrets out of action and tore her side open, water flooding several compartments. But the bulkheads held, and the Naiad steamed on at half speed.

A direct hit on the bridge structure of the ack-ack cruiser Carlisle killed Captain Hampton, but the vessel continued on her course, and the cruisers Calcutta and Perth successfully evaded every bomb the Germans dropped. Meanwhile Rear-Admiral King grew anxious at the expenditure of anti-aircraft ammunition, much of which had been used up during the four-hour attack of the previous day, when the destroyer Juno had sunk two minutes after a direct hit from a heavy bomb. Though Admiral Cunningham sent him a radio signal to stick things out on behalf of the army in Crete, he felt himself in no position to turn round and re-enter the lion’s den. In fact he had himself to ask for succour, signalling Rear-Admiral Rawlings to bring the main fleet to rendezvous with him in the Straits of Antikythera to help protect his crippled cruisers.

Soon after noon the two groups made visual contact. Ten minutes later the battleship Warspite, Rawlings’ flagship, received a direct hit, and was further damaged by a flight of Me 109 fighter-bombers of III/JG 77 under First-Lieutenant Wolf-Dietrich Huy. These attacked from directly ahead, and wrecked the warship’s starboard 4-inch and 6-inch batteries. All the same, the fleet came off relatively lightly, even if the supply of anti-aircraft ammunition became hourly more critical.

The Luftwaffe, however, had not finished. VIII Air Corps’ war diary records: “The Stukas had meanwhile been brought to readiness again for an attack on the enemy fleet in the Straits of Antikythera. Aided by Me 109s with bombs or without, by Me 110s and bombers, they were to pursue a ceaseless attack.” On May 22nd Richthofen had at his disposal the following units:

KG 2, with three Gruppen of Do 17s under Colonel Rieckhoff, based at Tatoi. Two Ju 88 Gruppen (I and II/LG 1 under Captains Hoffmann and Kollewe), plus one Gruppe of He 111s (II/KG 26)—based at Eleusis. Dinort’s StG 2, with two Gruppen of Ju 87s at Mycene and Molai, and the third under Captain Brücker on the island of Scarpathos, between Crete and Rhodes.

ZG 26, with two Gruppen of Me 110s under Captain von Rettberg at Argos. JG 77, with three Gruppen of Me 109s under Major Woldenga (including I/LG 2 under Captain Ihlefeld), also based at Molai in the Peloponnesus.

While the air-sea battle of May 22nd was at its height, few of these units were launched as such. As soon as their aircraft had landed to refuel and bomb-up, they took off again in pairs or sections to resume the assault. It remained to be seen whether a powerful naval force, without fighter escort, could assert itself against an opponent who ruled the skies.

Towards 13.00 hours—half an hour after the Warspite had been hit—the destroyer Greyhound was sent to the bottom by two Stuka bombs. She owed her doom to having been despatched alone to sink one of the caiques that had been sighted off the island of Antikythera.

As a result, Rear-Admiral King ordered the destroyers Kandahar and Kingston to the spot to pick up survivors, with the cruisers Gloucester and Fiji as anti-aircraft cover. Both of them had been in the thick of things since dawn, and had now virtually no ammunition left. On learning of this, the admiral recalled them. But by then it was too late.

Snatching their chance, a number of Ju 87 and Ju 88 sections bore down upon the isolated cruisers, and the Gloucester was immediately hit. Fires broke out between the funnels and spread rapidly to the whole deck. Unable to proceed, and belching smoke, the cruiser circled slowly around till at 16.00 hours an internal explosion finally sank her.

Again Rear-Admiral King faced a difficult decision, and in the end he left the Gloucester’s crew to their fate. The report of the engagement stated that to have despatched the battle fleet in support of the Gloucester would simply have meant hazarding more ships. Before the next day dawned the Germans saved more than 500 British sailors, partly by means of air-sea rescue aircraft.

As a second potential target the Fiji, with her destroyers, was forced to make a getaway. Proceeding on an individual course to Alexandria, she never joined the main fleet again. For suddenly, at 17.45 hours, she was spotted by a single Me 109 of I/LG 2, carrying a single 500-lb bomb. The pilot, with his plane at the limit of its endurance, was about to return to base when he sighted the cruiser through a thin veil of cloud.

Twenty times this day the Fiji had withstood all the attacks of bombers and dive-bombers, and now she met her fate at the hands of a lone fighter-bomber. Like lightning it came down and planted its bomb close up against the ship. The bomb exploded like a mine under water and tore the ship’s side out. At once the vessel hove to with a heavy list. The Me 109 pilot summoned a colleague by radio, and when the second attack took place half an hour later, the cruiser could defend herself with only feeble fire. This time the bomb scored a direct hit in the forward boiler room—the coup de grace. At 19.15 the Fiji capsized.

At dusk five modern destroyers began a fresh patrol of Crete’s north coast. The British C.-in-C. had ordered them out of Malta in support. The Kelly and Kashmir shelled Malemes airfield and set fire to two caiques. But at dawn next day the Luftwaffe made a final effort. The two destroyers were harried by twenty-four Ju 87s of I/StG 2 under Captain Hitschold, and both were sunk by direct hits.

At 07.00 on May 23rd the battered Mediterranean Fleet returned to Alexandria. The first air-sea battle of Crete was over.

“The result,” wrote Richthofen in his diary, “was abundantly clear. I was convinced we had scored a great and decisive victory. Six cruisers and three destroyers had certainly been sunk, with many additional hits even on the battleships. We had at last demonstrated that a fleet at sea within range of the Luftwaffe was vulnerable—provided the weather permitted flying.”

The actual losses suffered by the Mediterranean Fleet between May 21st and dawn on the 23rd were two cruisers and four destroyers sunk, plus two battleships and three other cruisers damaged—not counting the scars caused by numerous near-misses.

Admiral Cunningham signalled London. He was afraid, he said, that in the coastal area they had to admit defeat and accept the fact that losses were too great to justify them in trying to prevent seaborne attacks on Crete.

Nevertheless the Chiefs of Staff in London required the fleet to risk everything, even by daylight, to prevent seaborne reinforcements and supplies reaching Crete. But Cunningham stuck to his guns: he could not, he said, retain sea control in the Eastern Mediterranean if the blows his fleet had received were repeated. He added that their light craft, officers, men, and machinery alike were nearing exhaustion.

Meanwhile the Ju 52 transport formations of XI Air Corps had succeeded in ferrying to Crete the augmented 5 Mountain Division under Lieutenant-General Ringel. British troop reinforcements, brought by warships and transports in darkness, encountered heavy air attacks at Suda Bay and in the Canea area.

On May 27th the German Navy for the first time succeeded in landing a couple of tanks on the island, after towing them adventurously across the Aegean in an open barge. About the same time General Freyberg reported: “The limit of endurance has been reached by the troops under my command here at Suda Bay. . . Our position here is hopeless.” His force could no longer stand up against “the concentrated bombing that we have been faced with during the last seven days”.

[W. S. Churchill, The Second World War, Vol. Ill, PP- 235-6.]

Though Churchill telegraphed once more: “Victory in Crete essential at this turning-point in the war,” General Wavell answered the same day, May 27th:

“Fear we must recognise that Crete is no longer tenable….”

During the following night the evacuation of the British troops began. It was completed by June 1st.

So it was that victory in Crete was won by the German paratroops, together with the air-lifted Mountain Division, and supported by the ceaseless onslaught of VIII Air Corps’ bombers and fighters. The ten-day struggle had cost the Germans dear, the paratroops alone losing 5,140 dead, wounded and missing out of a force of some 13,000 men.

The greatest loss had been incurred during the initial jump right amongst the alerted enemy, and the paratroops’ victory was a Pyrrhic one. For the rest of the war they were virtually confined to a ground role.

During the evacuation of Crete the British Mediterranean Fleet was once more subjected to heavy air bombardment. The Stukas of StG 2 were now operating from Scarpanto, thus dominating the Straits of Kasos to the east of Crete. A number of cruisers and destroyers laden with troops were either sunk or severely damaged.

Already on May 26th Admiral Cunningham had suffered a new blow, when his only aircraft carrier, the Formidable, was subjected to heavy air attack. Late in the morning II/StG 2, which had been sent to support Rommel in North Africa, and while on the look-out for troop transports, happened upon the British battle fleet, hitherto completely unreported. The Formidable at once turned into the wind and sent off her fighters. But the Stuka commander, Major Walter Enneccerus, dived straight down to attack, followed by the squadrons of First-Lieutenants Jakob, Hamester and Eyer.

The aircraft carrier’s flight deck was struck at the point of gun turret No. 10, and other bombs tore open her starboard side between bulkheads 17 and 24. She then limped back to Alexandria.

It was an echo of what had happened four and a half months previously, when the same Stuka Gruppe had handed out similar punishment to the Formidable’s sister ship, the Illustrious, west of Malta.

II/StG 2 under Major Enneccerus, and I/StG 1 under Captain Werner Hozzel, had only just arrived at Trapani in Sicily on January 10, 1941, when they received information that a British supply convoy, with a large escort of warships, was headed westwards for Malta. Staking all, the Stukas swept down from 12,000 to 2,000 feet into the concentrated fire of the ships and planted six bombs on the Illustrious. Though she did not sink, she had afterwards to be repaired in the United States—a job requiring several months.

On the following day, January 11th, II/StG 2, guided by a “pathfinder” He 111, gave chase to the British fleet as it steamed back eastwards. At extreme range, nearly 300 miles east of Sicily, the Stukas attacked out of the sun and sank the cruiser Southampton with a direct hit in the engine-room.

This represented the first operation by X Air Corps, which in fulfilment of an agreement between Hitler and Mussolini had been posted to Sicily to bolster up the reeling Italian forces. Air General Hans Ferdinand Geisler and his staff accordingly took over the Hotel Domenico in Taormina. Their air force was given the following comprehensive duties:

Bar the narrows between Sicily and Tunis to British shipping. Mount an air offensive against Malta. Provide air support for the Italians in North Africa, and subsequently secure the transport of the German Afrika Korps to Tripoli. Assault all reinforcements for Wavell’s army going via the Suez Canal.

Though the last assignment seemed the most important—i.e., to hamper the British offensive in Cyrenaica—it was also the most difficult. As a base of operations against the Suez Canal the island of Rhodes was the obvious choice. Unfortunately, however, it was without stocks of fuel, and to supply it was a difficult problem. Benghazi had plenty, but within a few days it would be occupied by the British.

There, however, II/KG 26 under Major Bertram von Comiso was hastily sent from Sicily. Of its fourteen He Ills three were lost by a collision on landing, and a further three were billed for a reconnaissance role over the canal. Thus the Gruppe’s effective strength was reduced to eight.

During the afternoon of January 17th the expected report arrived: a convoy stood off Suez, about to enter the canal from the south. Accordingly at half-hour intervals, and in darkness, the bombers took off on their mission. The two quartets of He 111s were briefed to scour the canal from opposite directions, one on the right bank, the other on the left.

From Benghazi to Suez is 700 miles, which meant that the target area was almost out of range. Only at the most economical cruising speed and airscrew trimming had the He 111s a hope of fulfilling their mission and returning to base. In view of these difficulties X Air Corps’ chief of staff, Major Martin Harlinghausen, decided to lead the attack in person. Though the Corps meteorologist, Dr. Hermann, forecast an adverse wind of forty m.p.h. for the return flight, it was hoped to counter this handicap by flying at the most favourable altitude, 12,000 feet.

After a four-hour flight the He 111 carrying Major Harlinghausen, and piloted by Captain Robert Kowalewski, reached Suez and turned north. They flew along the canal, rounded Bitter Lake and continued. But not a ship did they find. The convoy seemed to have been swallowed up.

The other aircraft were sent against alternative targets, but Harlinghausen was loath to give up. On reaching Port Said, he considered returning, but instead turned and repeated the search, this time southwards. Again nothing was seen, and a stick of bombs was dropped on the Ismailia ferry. Once more they came to Bitter Lake, and suddenly there were the ships, widely dispersed and at anchor for the night.

The He 111 tried to bomb a steamship, but missed. The whole operation had failed.

The return flight straight across the desert was hair-raising. At 12,000 feet the Heinkel had unexpectedly to battle against a storm of at least 75 m.p.h. But on board the plane its strength was not realised, for it was now pitch dark, and there were no landmarks by which the ground speed could be measured. Harlinghausen calculated that they would be back in four and a half hours, but at the end of them there was no welcoming beacon. Five hours passed, then five and a half—still nothing. Finally, with his last drops of fuel, Kowalewski had to make a belly-landing in the desert. The ground was indeed so level that he could have landed normally on his undercarriage.

After a brief discussion the four airmen set fire to the wreck, and set off north-west on foot. Benghazi could not be far off, they thought. In fact, it was 175 miles.

Next morning the burning wreck was spotted, but the crew had disappeared. Only four days later were they found by a searching aircraft, which landed beside the exhausted men. Their rescuer was none other than First-Lieutenant Kaupisch, whose He 111 had been the only one to get safely back to Benghazi. Becoming aware of the high-altitude wind force, he had clung low down to the coast. All the others had made emergency landings in the desert, and three of the crews became British prisoners-of-war.

STORM OVER TAIERZHUANG: The Samurai Stalingrad 1938


Japanese troops.


Chinese Troops.

On January 26, 1938, the Japanese launched their offensive towards Xuzhou and by the evening of March 24, 1938, the Japanese 10th division (with around 25,000 men and around 100 tanks and armored cars) had reached the Taierzhuang area. The Japanese had conquered huge swathes of Northern and Eastern China and were steadily pushing deeper into China. With the conquest of Shanghai, Beijing, and Nanjing in 1937, Jiang Jie Shi (Chang Kai Shek) had moved his headquarters to Wu Han. The Japanese seeing an opportunity struck to capture the important rail junction of Xuzhou endangering Wu Han and forcing a Chinese capitulation.

The KMT generals also saw an opportunity to lure Japanese forces into a cul-de-sac and then encircle them with numerically superior Chinese forces. The town of Taierzhuang was chosen as the site for this trap as it was an important rail terminus on the way to Xuzhou. What followed is sometimes known as the “Samurai Stalingrad”, as huge amounts of forces fought over a small town. This scenario has been repeated many times hence, at Ponyri Station, July 1943, at Stalingrad 1942, at Hue, 1968, and so on. The Chinese “lure” was fed by Japanese arrogance and bravado in their attitude of their invading army. To them, they were supreme over all others. The Russian volunteers played a key role in their support of providing pilots for the Russian I-15, I-16 aircraft. Ironically, the Chinese forces were armed with and odd mix of German and non-German weapons.

Taierzhuang was a battle of numbers, as no amount of skill or bravado will can win a battle without additional reinforcements. Here, the Chinese had the superiority and no reinforcements were forthcoming to the Japanese 10th Division whose spearhead was in a fragile position. Thus, the stage was set.



The battle involved a Japanese plan to conquer Xuzhou, a major city in the East. However, the Japanese failed to consider the plans of generals Li Zongren and Bai Chongxi, who planned to encircle the Japanese in the town of Tai’erzhuang. The Japanese operation started on 24 March. Overconfidence led the Japanese commanders to overlook the thousands of inconspicuous “farmers” in the area, who were affiliated with Li Zongren and cut communication lines and supplies, diverted streams, and ruined rail lines. By late March, supplies and fuels were being dropped from airplanes to Japanese troops, but the quantities were insufficient.

On 29 March 1938, a small band of Japanese soldiers tunneled under Tai’erzhuang’s walls in an attempt to take the city from within. They were caught by the Nationalist defenders and killed. Over the next week, both sides claimed to hold parts of the city and surrounding area, and many were killed in small arms battles.

Finally, the Japanese attacked frontally, failing to consider the greater Chinese numbers. A major encirclement on 6 April, with Chinese reinforcements, preceded a major Japanese defeat and retreat, which the Chinese failed to capitalize upon fully through pursuit due to a lack of mobility.

The Chinese captured 719 Japanese soldiers and large quantities of military supplies, including 31 pieces of artillery, 11 armored cars, 8 armored fighting vehicles, 1,000 machine guns and 10,000 rifles.

A “dare to die corps” was effectively used against Japanese units.

Chinese suicide bomber putting on an explosive vest made out of Model 24 hand grenades to use in an attack on Japanese tanks

Due to lack of anti-armor weaponry, Suicide bombing was also used against the Japanese. Chinese troops strapped explosives like grenade packs or dynamite to their bodies and threw themselves under Japanese tanks to blow them up. Dynamite and grenades were strapped on by Chinese troops who rushed at Japanese tanks and blew themselves up. During one incident at Taierzhuang, Chinese suicide bombers obliterated four Japanese tanks with grenade bundles.

Amid the celebrations of the victory in Hankow and other Chinese cities, Japan tried to deny and ridiculed the reports of the battle for days. It was reported in the world’s newspapers, however, and by mid-April had provoked a Cabinet crisis in Tokyo.

The Chinese scored a major victory, the first of the Nationalist alliance in the war. The battle broke the myth of Japanese military invincibility and resulted in an incalculable benefit to Chinese morale.


The Turk in WWI



The Turks established a reputation for themselves as fierce fighters in defensive battles. Their lines around Gaza were strengthened in 1916 and 1917.


Ottoman officers who successfully defended Gaza during the first battle. First Battle of Gaza

First Gaza

Turkey, despite its backwardness, had twice defeated Britain in battle, and its military contribution to the war as a whole was greater than that of the United States.

Tensions were multiplying in Germany’s relations with the Ottoman Empire during 1916. Turkey’s value to Germany lay in the threat it could pose to Britain in the Middle East and in its ability to divert Russian troops from the European front to the Caucasus. In achieving the second of these objectives, the Turks lost eastern Anatolia. The Russians captured Erzurum by 15 February 1916 and reached Trabzon on the Black Sea coast on 18 April. With the British defeated at Gallipoli and Kut, the Turks were able to concentrate twenty-six of their fifty-two divisions on the Caucasus front by the summer of 1916. But as combat casualties (which peaked in the first two years of the war) fell, losses through desertion and disease rose. In September 1916, Enver Pasha restructured the army in the light of its real strength rather than its paper establishment: ‘in general the old battalions became companies, the regiments battalions, the divisions regiments, the corps divisions’.27 Despite this, Enver was able to be supportive when he visited the newly appointed Hindenburg: ‘The decision of the war as a whole lies in Europe,’ he declared on 11 September 1916, ‘and I make all my forces available for the battle there.’

He did not mean quite what he said. Four Turkish divisions were already deployed in Romania, a campaign whose success could clearly jeopardise the Russian position in the Caucasus, but when Ludendorff asked him for three more he prevaricated. The success of the Russians in pulling Turkish divisions to the north of the Ottoman Empire had reopened the British route to Baghdad. The city fell on 11 March 1917. This was no side-show for the Germans: Ludendorff had begun prodding Enver about measures for Baghdad’s defence long before the Ottoman minister of war woke up to the threat. They immediately agreed to release a German commander for the theatre, none other than the former chief of the general staff, Falkenhayn, as well as 18,000 German and Austrian troops. Falkenhayn planned an offensive campaign, codenamed ‘Yilderim’ (lightning), to recapture Baghdad. But when he arrived in the Middle East in May, it became clear that the British in Egypt were pushing into the Sinai desert, and might well advance into Palestine in the autumn. In that event the Turks, conscious of the strengths and weaknesses of their own army, and of the limits imposed by logistical considerations, favoured fighting a defensive battle on the line between Gaza and Beersheba. Falkenhayn feared that the Central Powers’ forces would therefore be divided over two fronts and that a British breakthrough into Palestine would threaten his lines of communication in Iraq. He demanded that all the forces in the two theatres be combined under his command, creating what was essentially a German headquarters which not only marginalised the Turks but also was too far to the rear, in Aleppo. He proposed to strike first against the British in Sinai before turning back to Mesopotamia. His high-handed manner affronted the Turks, and it also antagonised Germans, who had been in the region much longer than he. Falkenhayn saw them as ’Turkified‘; they saw him as ’commanding the Turkish army in the desert as one would lead a German army in civilised Europe‘.

Falkenhayn was not the only new commander in the Middle East with ideas derived from the war in Europe. Edmund Allenby, fresh from leading the British 3rd Army in the battle of Arras and the capture of Vimy Ridge, arrived to take over the British command in Egypt in June 1917. A cavalryman, ‘he looks the sort of man whose hopes rapidly crystalise into a determination to carry all before it’. In London Robertson supported the idea of an attack on the Gaza-Beersheba line, realising that it would take pressure off Baghdad.

Here was no purblind westerner: Mesopotamia, Robertson declared on 1 August 1917, was not a ‘side-show because as long as we keep up a good show there India and Persia will be more or less all right’. Climatic considerations meant that the Palestine front would open up as that in France and Flanders closed down. When the battle of Gaza began on 27 October, the British mounted the war’s heaviest artillery attack outside Europe, with as many heavy guns per yard of front as in the battle of the Somme. Furthermore, aerial supremacy meant that their fire was better directed and coordinated.

But while the guns and infantry pinned the Turks frontally, inland and to the east ‘there grew a muttering that spread for miles – the pounding of ten thousand hooves’. This was a campaign in which cavalry still had a role to play: ‘though most of us laughed when the first shells screamed towards us, other men smoked as we broke into a thundering canter holding back in the saddles to prevent the horses from breaking into a mad gallop’. Beersheba, with its water supply, was captured on 31 October. ‘Men are remarking’, noted one exultant trooper of the Australian Light Horse, ‘how the Turk fights till the very last charge, until the pounding hooves are upon him, then he drops his rifle and runs screaming; while the Austrian artillerymen and German machine-gun teams often fight with their guns until they are bayoneted.’ Unable to hold the line, Falkenhayn pulled back to the hills north of Jerusalem, resting his right flank on Jaffa. In February 1918 he was recalled to Germany, but not before he had intervened to prevent the resettlement of the Jews; they were reckoned to be spying, but neither the Germans nor Talât, elevated to become Ottoman Grand Vizier in February 1917, wanted a repeat of the Armenian massacres.

Allenby’s forces entered Jerusalem on 9 December, and prepared for the expected Turkish counterattack. On his right flank, across the River Jordan, he had the support of Arabs under the command of Feisal, son of Sherif Hussein of Mecca. The British were as ready as the Germans to use revolution as an instrument of war. The Government of India had pinned many of their initial hopes for the campaign in Mesopotamia on the possibility of Arab support. In reality, many Arabs remained loyal to the Turks, while others observed a form of neutrality, eyeing each other and ready to loot either army; as the British advanced up the Tigris in 1915-16, the rule was ‘upstream of us hostile, downstream friendly’. But to the west, in September 1914, before war with Turkey had even begun, Kitchener initiated contacts with Sherif Hussein. Initially Britain offered the Caliphate, which it understood in spiritual rather than temporal terms, but in October 1915 the high commissioner in Egypt, Sir Henry McMahon, also promised Arab independence. The India Office was appalled, because it hoped to annex Iraq for itself. Moreover, although the high commissioner had entered a caveat in relation to French interests in the region, his proposal was at odds with a deal struck in December 1915 between Mark Sykes and François Picot of France. Picot, who represented a small group determined to secure ‘greater Syria’ for France, acted on his own initiative. Sykes responded by setting British desiderata higher in order to off-set French influence in the region. As a result he neglected Arab nationalism. The two divided all Arabia into two spheres of influence, albeit one in which suzerainty would be indirect rather than direct. Sykes was concerned with the post-war settlement; McMahon’s focus was on getting the Arabs into the war. Hussein remained undecided until June 1916. When he did at last declare his hand for revolt, he gave the Turks a scapegoat for defeat not unlike the subject nationalities exploited by the Germans and Austro-Hungarians.

The Foreign Office set up an Arab Bureau, staffed by such luminaries as the self-publicising T. E. Lawrence and the redoubtable explorer Gertrude Bell, in Cairo to liaise with Hussein and his sons. Its self-appointed role was to undo the Sykes-Picot agreement and to wrong-foot the India Office by making ‘an efficient Arab empire’. In 1918, Lawrence was to claim that, ‘The phrase “Arab Movement” was invented in Cairo as a common denomination for all the vague discontent against Turkey’. The strength of the Arab forces in the field oscillated wildly, and the difficulty in military terms was holding the tribesmen together in any coherent body, especially as the Palestine campaign moved north away from their home territories. Since 1915 Syria had been ravaged by famine. Its coastal areas were victims of the allied blockade, and the problems were exacerbated by poor Ottoman administration, bad harvests and speculation. By 1918 the death toll may have reached half a million, and ‘food was the commodity of political allegiance’. As the Australian Light Horse advanced in the wake of the shattered Turkish army, ‘swarms of Arabs, men, women and children, staggering under loads of loot’ pillaged its abandoned baggage. ’Numbers of these Arab cut-throats carried sacks of little flat loaves of brown Turkish bread, looted from the still warm ovens.‘ Lawrence’s success as a guerrilla leader lay in his ability to harness plunder for the purposes of the war.

The allies’ advance was amplified by the dissolution of the apparatus of the Ottoman state, at least in the southern half of the empire. Paper currency, if negotiable at all, was traded at eight to ten times its face value in Syria and Mesopotamia. For most Arabs, only gold was acceptable, and as the British disbursed it so they secured support. Even in Constantinople the cash economy collapsed. The price of bread rose fifty-fold between 1914 and 1918, and by February 1918 the cost of living had risen 1,970 per cent since the war began. An inadequate internal transport system had left Constantinople dependent on imported food even in peacetime. In war the blockade increased the city’s reliance on the hinterland, but its production was falling. Anatolia had been sucked dry of its principal resource, men. Total Turkish deaths in the war may have risen as high as 2.5 million, more than three times those of Britain, and in some villages only 10-20 per cent of those of military age returned. Agricultural production depended in large part on the enormous number of deserters, perhaps as many as half a million, who roamed the interior. Turkey was bitterly disappointed to be excluded by its allies from the proceeds of Romania’s surrender in May 1918.

But if the treaty of Bucharest was a source of frustration for the Turks, that of Brest-Litovsk was an opportunity. The Caucasian front had been quiet since the overthrow of the Tsar, and a local armistice was brokered at Erzincan on 18 December 1917. In the negotiations at Brest-Litovsk, Richard Kühlmann was keen to make the German army’s lust for eastern conquests look like national self-determination, principally to appease the centre-left bloc in the Reichstag. Russia’s evacuation of eastern Anatolia and Turkey’s claim to its pre-1878 frontiers could be rendered compatible with such notions. But in the Baltic states and Poland independence was a fig-leaf for German domination. On 9 February Trotsky walked out of the negotiations, declaring ‘no peace, no war’, rather than accept terms so humiliating. Three days later, the armies of the Central Powers crossed the armistice line. ‘It is the most comical war I have ever known’, the German chief of staff in the east, Major-General Max Hoffmann, wrote in his diary. ‘We put a handful of infantrymen with machine guns and one gun on a train and push them off to the next station; they take it, make prisoners of the Bolsheviks, pick up a few more troops, and go on.’ To the south, the Ottoman army re-entered Trabzon on 17 February 1918 and Erzurum on 12 March. On 3 March, when the Russians signed the treaty, they accepted that Kars, Ardahan and Batum would be restored to Turkey, and acknowledged the independence of Transcaucasia. By now, however, the Turks said they were advancing not to check Bolshevism but to protect Muslims under attack from Armenians. In oil-rich Baku Muslims clashed with Bolsheviks and Christians. While Turkish troops abandoned the southern half of the Ottoman Empire, falling back on Damascus and Mosul, in the northern half the pan-Turk ambitions that had led Enver to Sarikamish over three years before revived. ‘You see that destiny draws Turkey from the West to the East’, Vehib, the army commander in the Caucasus, explained to the Armenians. ‘We left the Balkans, we are also leaving Africa, but we must extend toward the East. Our blood, our religion, our language is there. And this has an irresistible magnetism. Our brothers are in Baku, Daghestan, Turkestan, and Azerbaijan.’

Golubac Fortress



Golubac consists of three main compounds guarded by 10 towers and 2 portcullises, all connected by fortress walls 2–3 meters thick. In front of the fortress, the forward wall (I) doubled as the outer wall of the moat, which connected to the Danube and was likely filled with water. A settlement for common people was situated in front of the wall.

As is the case with many fortresses, Golubac’s structure was modified over time. For years, there were only five towers. Later, four more were added. The towers were all built as squares, a sign of the fortress’ age, showing that battles were still fought with cold steel. Once firearms came into use, the Turks fortified the western towers with cannon ports and polygonal or cylindrical reinforcements up to two meters thick. After the Hungarian raid in 1481, they added the final tower, complete with cannon embrasures and galleries.


Topographical sketch of Golubac Fortress prior to 1972 (symbols referenced in the text)

Upper compound

The upper compound (A) is the oldest part of the fortress. It includes the citadel (tower 1) and the Serbian Orthodox chapel (tower 4). Although it remains uncertain, the chapel has led many to believe that this section was built by a Serbian noble.

Later, during either Serbian or Hungarian rule, the fortress was expanded to include the rear and forward compounds.

Rear compound

The rear compound (D) is separated from the upper compound by both a wall connecting towers 2 and 4, and a steep rock 3–4 meters high. Next to tower 5 is a building (VII) which was probably used as a military barracks and for ammunition storage.

Forward compound

The forward compound was split into lower (C) and upper (B) parts by a wall linking towers 4 and 7. The entrance (II) is in the lower part, guarded by towers 8 and 9. Tower 8 has, in turn, been fortified with a cannon port. Opposing the entrance was a second portcullis that led to the rear compound. Along the path was a ditch 0.5 meters wide and 0.75 meters deep which then became a steep decline. At the outer end of the lower part, and connected to the 9th tower with a low wall, is tower 10, which the Turks added to act as a lower artillery tower. It controlled passage along the Danube and guarded the entrance to the harbor, which was probably situated between towers 5 and 10. There are remains connected to tower 8 which probably formed a larger whole with it, but the lower part did not otherwise contain buildings.

In the wall that separated the upper and lower parts was a gate that led to the upper part. The upper part did not have buildings, but there remains a pathway to the stairs up to gate IV, which is 2 meters off the ground, right next to tower 3.


The first nine towers are 20–25 meters high. In all ten towers, the floors and stairs inside were made of wood, while external stairs were made of stone. Half of the towers (1, 2, 4, 5, 10) have all four sides and are completely made of stone, while the other half (3, 6, 7, 8, 9) lack the side facing the interior of the fort.

Tower 1, nicknamed “Hat Tower” (Šešir-kula), is one of the oldest towers, and doubles as citadel and dungeon tower. It has an eight-sided base with a circular spire rising from it and a square interior. The next tower to the west, tower 2, is completely circular in shape. The third tower has a square base, with the open side facing the dungeon tower to the north. On the top floor is a terrace that overlooks the Danube and the entrance to the Iron Gate gorge. Down the slope from tower 3 is tower 4, which also has a square base. The ground floor has a Serbian Orthodox chapel that was built into the tower, rather than being added later. The last tower along this wall, tower 5, is the only tower to remain completely square.

The top tower along the front wall of the forward compound, tower 6, has a square base which was reinforced with a six-sided foundation. Working west, the square base of tower 7 was reinforced with a circular foundation. Tower 8, on the upper side of the front portcullis, has an irregular, but generally square, base. It is also the shortest of the first nine towers. Guarding the other side is tower 9, which has a square base reinforced by an eight-sided foundation.

The last tower is the cannon tower. It has only one floor and is the shortest of all ten towers. It was built with an eight-sided base and cannon ports to help control traffic on the Danube. Tower 10 is almost identical to the three artillery towers added to Smederevo fortress.

Berezhany Castle

pic_B_E_Berezhany castle (reconstruction)



In 1534, a Polish military commander and politician named Mikołaj Sieniawski decided to build a massive fortress near Berezhany, western Ukraine. Sieniawski wanted to create a place that was impenetrable, so he selected a patch of marshy land that was located on a small island near the Złota Lipa River. The structure took twenty years to complete and was one of the best concealed fortresses of the 16th century. The Sieniawski family wanted to make the fort a stronghold, so they included an entry gate, quarter tower, church, protective bastion, and thick guarding walls (6 meters in places).

Large sections of the building’s design were hand carved, including the chapel ceiling and a series of sculptures. In 1630, Berezhany Castle was expanded to include a collection of military style installments, four towers, lodging, and another church. The fortress was reconstructed by famous Italian architects of the time. Amazingly, the structure was not damaged by the Khmelnitsky’s Cossacks or the Turks of the 17th century.

Berezhany Castle was used as a safe haven for royalty and rich. It was visited by a collection of famous people, including Peter the Great of Russia on two separate occasions. By 1908, the castle had fallen into disrepair. It underwent major damage in World War I and after the Soviet Union occupied Berezhany in 1939, the fortress was destroyed. Many reports say that the Red Army purposefully bombed the buildings. Since 1999, Berezhany Castle has been included on a list of places in Ukraine that need to be reconstructed.

United States Military Academy


The MacArthur Reforms and Wartime Mobilization

The U.S. Army entered World War I desperately short of junior officers. To fill the void, the Academy adopted a three-year, abbreviated schedule that graduated cadets as quickly as possible. Basic training in infantry skills and small unit leadership was accelerated. Many academic courses were shortened or dropped entirely to make room in the curriculum. The Academy also began offering flight instruction to cadets. It hoped to construct its own fixed-wing airfield, but budget constraints always prevented it. War’s end created an awkward situation for the Academy—many of those who had attended accelerated classes could benefit from additional coursework, but few graduates were eager to return to West Point. The Army resolved the issue by returning these individuals to the Academy to finish their education but allowing them to retain their officer status.

Gen. Douglas MacArthur became the first postwar superintendent in 1919. Just 39 years old, he was eager to leave his mark. MacArthur embarked upon a series of curriculum reforms, many of which were opposed by the Academic Board, which consisted of the school’s senior military professors. In MacArthur’s opinion, the curriculum had focused so much on mathematics that the Academy had fallen behind other civilian engineering schools. Limited changes were made during his tenure, but West Point returned to its rote curriculum after he left office. MacArthur also fought to expand the Academy’s size from roughly 1,500 to 2,400 cadets, to better keep pace with Army’s expansion.

West Point faced an even greater mobilization crisis during World War II and again adopted the three-year, accelerated program. Compounding these problems, the War Department approved a plan that allowed up to 60 percent of any graduating class to accept commissions in the Army Air Corps, which left traditional combat branches, such as the infantry, armor, and artillery, even more shorthanded in terms of their complement of Academy graduates. The Academy was also left drastically short of instructors. Typically, its faculty was made up of graduates at the rank of captain or major, but in wartime the operational forces had the greater need for these officers. As a result, the Academy turned to reserve and officers who were not graduates to fill its faculty. Many of these wartime practices would prove to be the springboard for permanent reforms to the academic program in the postwar era.

Philippine War (1898–1902) I


Campaign map to trap Aguinaldo 1899

In October 1899, the Americans launched a campaign intended to cut Emilio Aguinaldo’s northward retreat and trap his remaining conventional forces. The 3-pronged attack consisted of Lawton’s command (red and green lines) moving northeastward to cut off any possibility of Aguinaldo’s army heading east to take refuge in the mountains;  Wheaton’s command (light blue line) steaming from Manila around the northwestern edge of Luzon, coming through Lingayen Gulf and landing at San Fabian, Pangasinan Province, to block roads heading north; and MacArthur’s command (dark blue line) moving northwestward along the Manila-Dagupan railroad from Angeles to Dagupan, Pangasinan Province, to push Aguinaldo into the pocket created by Lawton’s and Wheaton’s forces.

Often portrayed as either a continuation of the conquest of the western frontier or a precursor to Vietnam, the American pacification of the Philippines is more accurately interpreted in the context of the 19th-century wars of imperial conquest. Superior weaponry, training, leadership, and logistics allowed a numerically small Western force to overcome a more numerous but internally divided resistance. What made the American accomplishment notable was the development of an effective pacification strategy that combined chastisement and conciliation.

The Military Conquest of the Philippines

The outbreak of the Spanish–American War on April 25, 1898, was followed almost immediately by the U.S. defeat of the Spanish naval squadron at the battle of Manila Bay on May 1. Comm. George Dewey’s small fleet dealt a crippling blow to Spanish power and ignited widespread Filipino uprisings throughout the Philippines. Many of these movements were headed by local elites and had little connection to the earlier independence movement directed by the exiled Emilio Aguinaldo. Although Aguinaldo returned on June 23 and proclaimed his leadership of a revolutionary government dedicated to Philippine independence, his actual control was largely confined to south and central Luzon. As Spanish authority collapsed, Pres. William McKinley, seeking to exploit Dewey’s success and unaware of the local situation, ordered an American military expedition to capture the capital city of Manila. The first troops arrived in Manila Bay on June 30 and were rapidly increased to some 14,000, sufficient to take Manila against desultory Spanish resistance on August 13.

The Battle of Manilla on February 4, 1899.

The military occupation of Manila alienated Aguinaldo, who sought to maintain a siege of the American forces at the same time he consolidated his military and political power. For his part, McKinley kept his ultimate intentions toward the Philippines unclear until December, when he instructed the commissioners negotiating peace with Spain to demand the entire archipelago. Although historians still debate his real motives, McKinley justified acquisition largely in moral terms: the United States had an obligation to bring economic prosperity, social justice, and peace to the Filipino people. However, his December 21, 1898, proclamation, while declaring that the nation’s goal was one of “benevolent assimilation,” made clear that U.S. authority would be extended throughout the archipelago, by force if necessary. Aguinaldo and his supporters proclaimed the formation of the Philippine Republic on January 20, 1899, but the government was national in name only. Outside of Luzon, insurgent leaders gave either little or no allegiance to Aguinaldo and they, in turn, were given virtually no representation in his government. Neither Aguinaldo nor the local civil and military authorities that wielded actual power sought to include the peasantry, who made up the vast majority of the population. The elitist character and objectives of the nationalist leaders weakened Filipino popular support for the revolution.

Relations between Aguinaldo and the U.S. Army rapidly deteriorated after the occupation of Manila and McKinley’s December declaration. After a number of incidents, fighting broke out on the night of February 4, 1899, and for the next 10 months U.S. and Filipino conventional forces struggled for control of Luzon. In the second battle of Manila (February 4–22, 1899), American forces under the command of Maj. Gen. Elwell S. Otis drove Aguinaldo’s army back from the capital, inflicting crucial losses in matériel and personnel. Two successful offensives in March captured the Republic’s capital of Malolos and cut Aguinaldo’s army in two. In late April, a sustained offensive into central Luzon almost destroyed what remained of the rebels, but a combination of weather, disease, poor communications, and logistical problems allowed the demoralized Filipino forces to escape. The summer monsoon led to a halt in major conventional operations on Luzon and the relief of the state volunteers who had enlisted to fight Spain.

In October, reinforced by a newly recruited federal volunteer force, Otis launched a three-pronged attack designed to encircle Aguinaldo’s army. Two divisions drove north, pinning the insurgents’ main force, while an amphibious brigade landed at Lingayen Gulf to block its retreat. On November 13, 1899, Aguinaldo ordered the remnant of his army to scatter, return to their homes, and take up guerrilla warfare. Although his rear guard was destroyed on December 2, he escaped into the mountains of northern Luzon. With the main insurgent conventional forces scattered, in January and February 1900 American expeditions conquered the area south of Manila and occupied most of the major ports in the Visayan Islands. Believing that no effective armed resistance remained, Otis reorganized his tactical units into operational forces and spread them throughout the archipelago. The Army’s objective was to prepare the way for U.S. colonial government by imposing law and order, reviving the economy, and winning over the population.

Philippine War (1898–1902) II


American troops guarding the bridge over the River Pasig on the afternoon of the surrender. From Harper’s Pictorial History of the War with Spain, Vol. II, published by Harper and Brothers in 1899.

The Guerrilla War, 1900–02

The American occupation provoked strong opposition in much of the archipelago. As American troops entered the countryside, Filipino guerrillas ambushed patrols, attacked supply lines and communications, sniped at sentries, assassinated collaborators, sabotaged economic and social reform projects—and then disappeared into the population. Many insurgents believed that sustained guerrilla warfare would lead the American public to repudiate McKinley in the upcoming 1900 presidential election and induce the rapid withdrawal of the U.S. forces. Drawn largely from the same elites who controlled provincial towns, the guerrilla leadership had strong local connections that allowed it to raise recruits, secure supplies, and hide among the population. However, the most notable aspect of the guerrilla resistance was its regional variations. In almost half of the archipelago’s provinces no armed clashes between Americans and rebels occurred, and in other areas the occupying soldiers were more popular than their irregular opponents. Many of those who resisted the Americans had little or no connection to Aguinaldo. They included Muslims who sought martyrdom through ritual suicide attacks; indigenous religious cults; peasant movements that sought land reform; brigands; and local political factions that controlled armed gangs. In occupying the Philippines, the U.S. military stepped into a society that was breaking apart from ethnic, religious, and class rivalries. The U.S. armed forces attempted to put it back together again, village by village.

American pacification in the Philippines was characterized by a combination of conciliation and coercion. Heeding McKinley’s orders to act as an agent of benevolent assimilation, Army leaders sought to win Filipino support for colonial rule by progressive reforms in sanitation, health care, education, government policies, and the legal system. Otis deployed his forces into hundreds of company garrisons throughout the archipelago. The Army built roads, schools, markets, and wells, soldiers taught Filipino students in newly established schools, and Army doctors vaccinated thousands of civilians. Otis himself rewrote much of the archipelago’s law code, and other officers worked to create civil governments that would provide essential social services to their citizens.

Although such reform activities proved attractive to many Filipinos and gained Americans crucial support in some areas, in others the guerrillas fought on. The Americans had to employ considerable military coercion as well. Soldiers conducted extensive small-scale military operations, most of them patrols of fewer than 100 men, which scoured the surrounding countryside. Aided by Navy gunboats and mounted units, mobile forces soon developed practical and simple tactics for fighting in the jungles, swamps, and paddies. Against particularly skilled or elusive opponents, some soldiers focused on destroying homes, crops, and livestock—both as retribution and to deny the guerrillas supplies and shelter. By mid-1900, such destructive measures had become more and more common in some areas, leading to a sharp contrast between the benevolent policies articulated by the Army high command and the punitive sanctions that were practiced. Otis’s successor, Gen. Arthur MacArthur, recognized the depth and complexity of the guerrilla resistance, but was unwilling to follow the advice of many field officers and adopt more stringent pacification measures.

In December 1900, his resolve stiffened by McKinley’s reelection and increasing pressure from both the U.S. government and his field officers, MacArthur announced the implementation of more punitive measures against guerrillas and their supporters. He lifted many of the legal prohibitions, allowing officers to arrest, jail, fine, and deport suspects, and letting soldiers destroy the crops, livestock, and houses of guerrillas or their supporters. In early 1901, the tide of war clearly turned. American soldiers, most of them veterans of more than a year of fighting, swept through formerly invulnerable insurgent strongholds. Relying on increasingly effective intelligence, they broke up the insurgent logistical and recruitment networks. They were joined by an increasing number of Filipino soldiers, police, and militia. Insurgent leaders and their guerrillas began to surrender. Aguinaldo was captured in April and issued a proclamation urging his followers to surrender. Resistance would continue until May 1902 in some areas of Luzon and on the island of Samar, but the Philippine War was effectively won by the summer of 1901. On July 4, 1902, Pres. Theodore Roosevelt declared the “insurrection” officially over. The American-led constabulary brought a higher level of peace than had previously existed in the countryside, all but ending centuries-long problems of banditry, communal feuds, sectarian rebellions, and other violence.

Consequences of the Philippine War

The long-term consequences of the Philippine War are still debated. Revelations of American troop misconduct—the devastation of villages, the torture of suspected insurgents, and the summary execution of prisoner—were widely reported in the anti-imperialist press and prompted a Senate investigation in 1902. Although the U.S. administration and the military argued that only a few soldiers misbehaved, their opponents argued that the war had been won only by the indiscriminate slaughter of Filipino civilians. The administration’s assertions initially prevailed, and public outrage quickly turned to other concerns, such as regulating trusts and patent medicines, and debating issues of urban reform. However, the anti-imperialist argument revived with the isolationism that took hold after World War I and became the dominant intellectual paradigm during Vietnam, so that by the 1980s textbooks in the United States portrayed American troop behavior as racist, cruel, and murderous. Overlooked were the military’s social reforms in law, education, commerce, health, and transportation, which contributed to a general improvement in the welfare of the population. Overlooked too were the many examples of friendly relations between soldiers and Filipino civilians and the fact that tens of thousands of Filipinos assisted American military forces. Recently historians have accepted a more balanced interpretation of the war that emphasizes the localized nature of Philippine resistance and America’s ability to combine coercion and conciliation.

In many respects, however, the war and the ensuing occupation demonstrated the perils of imperial overreach. The Philippines did not prove to be an economic bonanza. Private financial investment in the islands was modest in scope, and influential Americans viewed Philippine products, particularly sugar, as unwelcome competition. Coupled with these fears were those of Filipino immigration and job competition, a concern that attracted a substantial racist presence to the anti-imperialist movement. As a result, a large number of Americans—farmers, laborers, supporters of Asian exclusion, liberal Democrats, isolationists— urged that the United States cut its ties to the Philippines. Nor did the islands provide sufficient economic or strategic entry into the Far East. With Japan’s emergence as the dominant power in the western Pacific in 1905, the islands became a strategic liability. They were too weak to serve as a base for offensive purposes and their defense drew matériel and personnel away from other, more important areas. By the 1930s American military and political leaders sought to undo the war’s result and to grant independence to the Philippines even before some Filipino leaders desired it. The Japanese attack in the Pacific at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in December 1941 inflicted a humiliating defeat and taught Americans to reassess the high cost of empire.

Bibliography Gates, John Morgan. Schoolbooks and Krags: The United States Army in the Philippines, 1899–1902. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1975. Linn, Brian McAllister. Guardians of Empire: The U.S. Army and the Pacific, 1902–1940. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997. ———. The Philippine War, 1899–1902. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2000

Further Reading Birtle, Andrew J. U.S. Army Counterinsurgency and Contingency Operations Doctrine, 1860–1941. Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, 1998. Boot, Max. The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power. New York: Basic Books, 2002. Trask, David F. The War with Spain in 1898. New York: Macmillan, 1981. Welch, Richard E. Response to Imperialism: The United States and the Philippine-American War, 1899–1902. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1979.