THE SECOND MEXICO EMPIRE, 1861-1866 Part I

Siège_de_Puebla_-_29_mars_1863

General Bazaine attacks the fort of San Xavier during the siege of Puebla, 29 March 1863.

th

The victory over the conservatives allowed Mexico to hold elections. Three candidates presented themselves-Acting President Juarez, Miguel Lerdo de Tejada, author of the Lerdo Law, and General Jesus Gonzalez Ortega, a war hero. Due to his reputation achieved during the War of Reform, as well as rising anti-military sentiment, Juarez defeated Gonzalez Ortega. Lerdo de Tejada died of natural causes just before the election.

Even after the defeat of the conservative army, turmoil continued. There were several peasant uprisings in central Mexico. In June 1861, U. S. Ambassador Thomas Corwin sent a dispatch from Mexico City describing the conservative irregulars who continued to attack Juarez’s forces:

Since my last dispatches the country has been in a state of great disorder. Bands of armed men, in numbers varying from fifty to four thousand, have been ravaging the country in this and two or three adjoining States, pushing their operations to the very suburbs of this city.

Given the unrest and destruction, Mexico could not make payments on its public debt. In July 1861, the Mexican Congress recognized this and, as an emergency measure to permit internal reconstruction, it unilaterally suspended payments on its foreign and domestic debts for two years, but it did not repudiate the debts. This act, coming as it did during the U. S. Civil War (which prevented the United States from enforcing its Monroe Doctrine and keeping Europeans out of Latin America), gave Europe the pretext for massive intervention in Mexico.

Spain, England, and France formed an alliance to collect the debt, including the amount due on the Jecker bonds approved by conservatives battling Juarez’s forces in the War of Reform. Representatives of the three creditor nations met in England and signed the Tripartite Convention of London. Its signatories declared that they would occupy Mexico’s customs houses so they could collect funds to retire the debt owed them. However, they pledged not to “interfere in Mexico’s internal affairs in such a manner as would impair that nation’s right to freely elect and constitute its own government.”

The French, who were already expanding their empire into Algeria and Indo-China, had the most far-reaching plans. French Emperor Napoleon III planned to impose a monarchy that would provide France with markets and raw materials and prevent the spread of U. S. influence into Latin America.

Mexican conservatives welcomed France’s monarchical pretensions. Having lost in the War of Reform, they were more than willing to allow foreigners to restore them to power. They felt the early 1860s were an ideal time to install a monarchy since the United States, preoccupied with its own civil war, could not oppose an empire to its south. Also, as long as the United States remained at war, it would not compete with Mexico for European investment capital. Conservatives felt the circumstances were finally at hand to fulfill Lucas Alaman’s dream of a monarchy that would produce stability-the key to attracting foreign capital for development.

In December 1861 and January 1862, Spain landed 6,000 troops and Britain sent 800 marines. As occurred with the U. S. invasion fifteen years earlier, Mexicans failed to oppose the landing. Unlike their American predecessors, though, the European invaders remained on the coast too long and fell victim to yellow fever.

The British and Spanish soon realized that the French, the Tripartite Convention of London notwithstanding, were planning a much greater undertaking than debt collection. After the Mexican government pledged to resume debt payments as soon as possible, the British and Spanish departed. 57 The French commander, General Charles Latrille, Count of Lorencez, began an advance on Mexico City. On April 25, 1862, he wrote his minister of war, “We are so superior to the Mexicans in race, organization, morality, and devoted sentiments that I beg your Excellency to inform the Emperor that as head of 6,000 soldiers I am already master of Mexico.”

Ten days after this was written, the French force fought its first major battle at Puebla, where its advance was blocked by two forts, Loreto and Guadalupe, perched on hilltops connected by a 3,500 foot-long ridge. The 4,500-man French force had to traverse a two-mile wide plain. Then they faced withering Mexican cannon fire as they scrambled up the hills. Eventually combat extended along the ridge connecting the two forts. The French approaching the ridge were exposed to crossfire from both forts. After 475 of the attackers were killed, wounded, or taken prisoner, the French force withdrew. Mexican casualties totaled 227.

The battle fought on May 5, 1862, brought together diverse elements of Mexico’s population. Not only did units come from numerous states but indigenous units from north Puebla towns fought alongside mestizos, distinguishing themselves in bitter hand-to-hand combat. The victory at Puebla remains the outstanding military victory in Mexican history. Each year Mexicans, and many Americans, celebrate the Cinco de Mayo (Fifth of May), and Ignacio Zaragoza, who commanded the defending forces, is widely honored.

This defeat affected the outcome of the intervention since the French had to await reinforcements before they could advance. This delayed the establishment of a puppet government by a year, which left relatively little time for that government to consolidate itself before the end of the U. S. Civil War. After its own civil war ended, the United States could credibly threaten France for violating the Monroe Doctrine.

After their defeat at Puebla, the French retreated and awaited the arrival of additional troops. By January 1863, the interventionist force totaled 30,976. Then the French advanced and besieged Puebla for seventy-four days. Its residents were reduced to eating house pets and small animals that they trapped. After a lack of food and ammunition forced Puebla to surrender to the French, starving children stole corn from the fodder bags of French cavalry mounts.

As the French approached Mexico City, Juarez abandoned the practically defenseless capital and moved his government north to San Luis Potosi. For the next three years, he would govern by decree, using the extraordinary powers Congress had granted him to prosecute the war.

After arriving in Mexico City, the French created an interim government. Its officials invited all Mexicans to unite around it and urged them to cease considering themselves liberals or conservatives. Conservatives forming the interim government felt a foreign Catholic monarch would bring Mexico’s polarized society together. As a result, they invited the Austrian archduke, Ferdinand Maximilian, to become emperor of Mexico.

The person invited to assume the throne was the brother of Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph and the son-in-law of King Leopold of Belgium. His invitation resulted from pressure exerted on Napoleon’s wife Eugénie by conservative Mexican exiles in Europe who had engaged in a prolonged lobbying effort to have a European power install a monarchy in Mexico. Eugénie influenced her husband, who insured that Maximilian received the invitation.

Maximilian did insist that a plebiscite be held in Mexico to determine whether he should assume the throne. The French obliged, allowing individuals favoring the monarchy to act as local representatives who could “vote” for the rest of the population. Sometimes the French claimed that voting, which only occurred in a state capital, represented the entire state’s population. Ultimately the French claimed that all important Mexican cities and towns had accepted the empire, even though the French had yet to extend its control to many areas.

The future emperor of Mexico accepted the plebiscite at face value. However, a somewhat more skeptical Sir Charles Wyke, the former British chargé d’affaires in Mexico City, remarked that Maximilian had been “elected” to the throne by a “majority vote from places inhabited by two Indians and a monkey.”

In April 1864, Maximilian signed a secret treaty with the French, making Mexico a virtual French colony. He agreed to pay not only the inflated debt claims of the French but also the cost of French troops occupying Mexico. Napoleon agreed to keep French troops in Mexico until 1870.

Before leaving Europe, Maximilian received the personal blessings of Pope Pius IX. The pope felt Maximilian would restore the Church to its former position in Mexico. Pius commented, “Although the rights of nations are great and must be respected, those of religion are much greater and holier.”

Even before arriving in Mexico, Maximilian began courting liberals by granting pardons to republican prisoners and reducing their prison sentences. To broaden his support, he shifted tax burdens to the rich and ended debt servitude. He also showed his moderate European liberalism by refusing to return to the Church the property it had formerly owned and by allowing freedom of worship. He abolished corporal punishment, limited hours of work, and guaranteed a minimum wage to agricultural workers. He mandated that those employing more than twenty families should provide free primary education and that Indian schools should be bilingual. He anticipated twentieth century land reform efforts by ordering that unused government land should be provided to the landless. Maximilian’s failure to embrace the conservative agenda reduced his conservative backing and won him few liberal supporters. His enactments might have been sound policy. However, quite often imperial hegemony did not extend beyond the edge of Mexico City, leaving his decrees unenforced.

THE SECOND MEXICO EMPIRE, 1861-1866 Part II

pueblapaint

The Battle of Puebla, 1862.

Maximilian attempted to hold himself above the liberal-conservative fray and invited all Mexicans to join his government. Moderate liberals did accept appointments to serve as ministers of foreign relations, interior, and justice. Again, this cost him conservative support and did little to attract other liberals.

In 1863, French General François Bazaine, who had learned counter-guerrilla tactics while imposing French colonial rule in Algeria, assumed command of imperial forces in Mexico. The next year, he wrote Napoleon to say that Maximilian was “putting on airs; that he fails to remember that he is still dependent-dependent on France, dependent on General Bazaine, and dependent on General Bazaine’s army.”

After occupying Mexico City, the French moved north, taking Saltillo and Matamoros. Juarez retreated, eventually taking refuge in Paso del Norte (today, in his honor, Ciudad Juarez). By mid- 1864, French-installed governments controlled eighteen of the twenty-four Mexican states. By the following year, all state capitals flew the imperial flag. Imperial forces totaled 60,000 troops, of whom 30,000 were French, 24,000 Mexican, and the rest Austrian and Belgian. These forces con – fined Juarez’s regular forces to a small area bordering on west Texas and New Mexico. In December 1865, the U. S. consul in Paso del Norte reported that Juarez’s forces numbered only 300. In addition, 200 to 300 men in Guerrero and Oaxaca, led by the wily guerrilla fighter Porfirio Diaz, supported Juarez. Unlike Santa Anna in the Mexican-American War, Juarez realized that guerrilla warfare was the only way to confront a powerful foreign army.

The French occupation made elections impossible when Juarez’s presidential term expired in 1865. Juarez used the extraordinary powers granted him by Congress in 1861 to simply extend his term. Some liberals, especially those seeking power themselves, criticized this as a violation of liberal principles. Undaunted, Juarez continued to rule by decree.

Even though Juarez’s regular forces verged on annihilation, the French could not extend their control into the countryside. As soon as their troops withdrew, popular uprisings occurred. The French-organized counter-guerrilla forces were effective, but lacked sufficient numbers to dominate an area as large as Mexico.

The imperial government’s fragmentation prevented it from implementing policies that might have won it adherents. The French dominated the military and occupied the customs houses. Maximilian’s cabinet contained both conservatives and liberals and had to share power not only with Maximilian’s European-dominated private cabinet but with the French ambassador and the head of the French financial mission.

Maximilian established a royal court complete with what he considered fitting pomp and ceremony. The manual describing court etiquette, the Relgamento para el servicio y ceremonial de la corte (Regulations for Court Service and Ceremony), filled almost four hundred pages. His elaborate lifestyle made previous Mexican presidents seem positively frugal. Guadalupe Victoria had a pair of carriages, while Maximilian had thirty-three. During his last presidency, Mexicans had widely criticized Santa Anna for his spending some 8,000 to 10,000 pesos a month to maintain himself in regal style. Maximilian and his wife Carlota received an annual allowance of 1.7 million pesos for living expenses and maintaining the court, palace, and grounds.

Feeling the republican forces were almost defeated, on October 3, 1865, Maximilian signed the infamous black flag decree, published in Spanish and Nahuatl and posted throughout the empire. It decreed that any person apprehended bearing arms against the empire would be executed within twenty-four hours. Despite its widespread application to prisoners of war, this measure drove more Mexicans into the arms of the republic.

In 1866, Napoleon decided to withdraw French troops from Mexico. His decision resulted from: 1) the high cost of the war in Mexico; 2) its unpopularity in France; 3) Maximilian’s failure to develop an independent base; 4) the fear that the United States would support Juarez after its own civil war ended; and 5) Napoleon’s need for troops in Europe to respond to the threat posed by an increasingly militarized Prussia.

Upon learning that the French had decided to withdraw their troops, Carlota returned to Europe to persuade Napoleon and the pope to continue supporting her husband’s empire. Before leaving, she appealed to Maximilian to stay in Mexico and uphold Habsburg honor. The empress not only failed to rally support in Europe but suffered a mental breakdown there from which she never recovered.

At the time, Maximilian felt he could end the raging civil war by convening a national Congress that would invite both liberals and conservatives to sit down and amicably resolve their disputes. However, any chance of Juarez’s compromising with his foe had vanished, since the French departure opened the way for a liberal victory without compromise.

Bazaine sailed from Veracruz with the last French forces in March 1867-three years earlier than the departure date agreed to by Napoleon. After the French departure, Maximilian’s empire began to disintegrate with increasing rapidity. Juarez’s forces, taking heart at the French withdrawal, moved south, aided by U. S. arms and veterans who appeared in Mexico after the end of the U. S. Civil War. In January 1867, liberal forces took Guadalajara, San Luis Potosi, and Guanajuato. They occupied Cuernavaca, Morelia, and Zacatecas the following month.

The imperial forces made their final stand at Querétaro. In February, General Mariano Escobedo besieged the city with 30,000 liberal troops. Maximilian had already come north from Mexico City to personally lead his 9,000-man force. The siege lasted until May, when liberals captured the city and took Maximilian prisoner. Shortly afterward, Porfirio Diaz came from the east and captured Mexico City for the liberals.

Juarez ordered that Maximilian be tried by court martial. The former emperor faced the same criminal charges of rebellion that he had decreed Juarez’s supporters captured in battle should face. The court found him guilty and sentenced him to be executed by firing squad, along with two of his generals, Tomas Mejia and Miguel Miramon. Juarez resisted intense pressure from around the world to issue a pardon, feeling that a live Maximilian would only serve to promote further uprisings and prolong internal strife. Juarez knew that conservatives pardoned after the War of Reform had supported the empire. Liberal journalist Juan José Baz wrote, “This example will ensure in Europe we are respected and will remove any desire on the part of any other adventurer to come here.”

In July 1867, after an absence of four years, Juarez returned to Mexico City. His wife Margarita Maza de Juarez, who had spent the war years in the United States, soon rejoined him. During these years she had not only rallied support for the liberal cause in Washington but had done her best to keep her family together. Despite her efforts, two of her children died while in exile, one of dysentery and one of cholera.

Compared to Mexican resistance in the Mexican-American War, resistance to the empire was, as historian Alan Knight noted, “more prolonged, dogged, and above all, successful.” Liberal strongmen provided Juarez with crucial support at the regional level, just as they had in defeating the conservatives during the War of the Reform. Rural people generally supported the liberal cause, feeling liberalism offered greater local autonomy. Much of Juarez’s appeal was based not on his program but on his once having been a poor Indian who rose through the ranks to govern the country.

Another reason for the fall of the empire was the less than total support from France. In 1808, Napoleon I had sent more than 200,000 French troops to support his brother Joseph in Spain. Since these troops failed to keep Joseph on the throne, it is not surprising that 27,000 French troops failed to keep Maximilian on the throne in Mexico-a nation twice as large as Spain. The effectiveness of these troops was greatly reduced because guerrilla forces opposing them refused to fight the set-piece battles the European-trained military expected. Rather, they simply outlasted the French in a prolonged war of attrition.

The forging of a Mexican national identity, a spirit sorely lacking in 1847, forms a lasting legacy of the struggle against the French. After the collapse of the empire, Creoles no longer defined Mexican nationality. This role shifted to Juarez’s generation of mestizo politicians, journalists, writers, poets, legislators, and historians. They created republican institutions and a wide range of newspapers, magazines, and scientific and literary academies. They felt that history and education should form national character and wrote novels with mestizo characters and scenes.

The enhanced national identity resulting from the war came at a high cost. Approximately 300,000 died as a result of the French intervention. In addition, Mexico’s already abused and neglected infrastructure suffered extensive damage, and marketing arrangements were once again disrupted.

LINK

CARPIQUET AIRFIELD I

a515714ea335f7edc365aecf9618039a

A Sherman tank of the Fort Garry Horse

Operation Windsor

Operation Windsor

Both Carpiquet airfield and village were held by the 12th SS (Hitlerjugend) Panzer Division, which had proven a tenacious and ruthless foe during the June 7–12 fighting. All SS divisions were fierce and fanatical, but the 12th SS was uniquely comprised almost entirely of teenaged soldiers commanded by older, veteran officers and NCOs. The youths had been indoctrinated to believe they were Aryan “supermen.” The 12th SS was commanded by the extremely capable, thirty-three-year-old Standartenführer Kurt Meyer.

Its thick stone-walled buildings bordered by the Caen-Bayeux railway to the north and the airport to the south, Carpiquet was a typical Norman farm village. On the other side of the railway was a series of iron quarries. To the east and west were grain fields.

In front of the village, fifty panzer grenadiers from 26th Regiment hid in trenches and bomb shelters. Another 150 of Meyer’s men were mostly sheltered in thick concrete bunkers.

The June fighting had scythed through Meyer’s infantry strength. Lacking reinforcements, his only hope was to break the Canadian attack with heavy weapons. The troops in front of Carpiquet were intended to lure the Canadians into a series of minefields and then suck them into the village by executing a rapid withdrawal. All available artillery and mortar units had the village zeroed in. Chief among these was an 88-millimetre battery next to Saint-Germain, a village to the east. Five Panzer Mark IV tanks lay in ambush position inside the southern hangars. A dozen-strong company of Panther Mark V tanks nearby could also be brought into play. Meyer had several unique 50-kilogram rockets [Nebelwerfers]filled with either explosives or flammable oil.

Meyer never doubted his young soldiers would fight like lions. They had done so during the attacks on the beaches—and events during those days left many fearful for their lives should any decide to surrender. During that fighting, 156 Canadian prisoners had been brutally murdered by the 12th SS.

Although most execution sites, such as the Abbaye d’Ardenne, remained behind German lines, enough bodies had been recovered for the atrocity to be known. Without orders being issued, it was understood among the Canadians that they should show “little mercy in subduing the German defenders” of Carpiquet.

Brigadier Ken Blackader knew his 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade would aim “at the heart” of the 12th SS and “the fanatical youth of this division” would fiercely defend it. A forty-six-year-old World War I veteran, who had won a Military Cross during that war, Blackader had a rock-solid reputation for competent leadership and personal courage. Quickly realizing his three battalions were insufficient to win both airport and village, he acquired 7th Brigade’s Royal Winnipeg Rifles as reinforcement. Two Fort Garry Horse tank squadrons would help the North Shore (New Brunswick) Regiment and Régiment de la Chaudière gain the village, while a third supported the Winnipeg advance on the hangars. Once these two objectives were taken, the Queen’s Own Rifles would clear the control and administration buildings on the airfield’s northern edge. A squadron each of the 79th British Armoured Division’s specialized tanks, known as “funnies,” were also on hand. One squadron mounted Petards—short-barrelled guns that fired a heavy charge intended to destroy concrete bunkers. The Flail squadron’s tanks were fitted with rotating drums to which long chains were attached that slapped mines into harmlessly detonating. The third was a Crocodile squadron, its tanks equipped with flame-throwers.

A lavish artillery plan included every gun within range—428 from one heavy, eight medium, and twelve field regiments. There were also six 16-inch guns of battleship HMS Rodney, two 15-inch guns of monitor HMS Roberts, and nine 6-inch guns of cruiser HMS Belfast. A total of 30,250 shells would provide a creeping barrage for the troops to advance behind while also concentrating on specified strongpoints. The entire complement of the Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa (MG) 4.2-inch mortars and Vickers medium machine guns were ranged on village and airfield. Two squadrons of tank-busting Typhoon fighter-bombers were also available.

In the North Shore’s perimeter on the night of July 3–4, four men huddled in a slit trench. Lieutenant Chester MacRae was upset when Lieutenant Hector “Hec” MacQuarrie and Company Sergeant Major Joe Murray both confessed to premonitions that they were sure to die in the fight. Neither McRae nor Lance Corporal Wes McDavid could offer meaningful reassurance, because it was clearly going to be a rough attack.

At 0300 hours, the North Shores, Chauds, and Queen’s Own moved to starting positions in front of La Villeneuve, while the Winnipegs formed up outside Marcelet. To avoid being seen, the men lay down in the wheat fields. Major Lochie Fulton walked over to greet Major Alex Christian, whose Fort Garry Horse ‘B’ Squadron had just rumbled up. Intelligence staff reported that the airport was “a very strong defensive position” with many “concrete strong points, barbed wire, communication trenches, gun positions of all types and even extensive underground tank hangars and tunnels … Also many infantry trenches with machine guns and mortars and anti-personnel and tank minefields.” Yet, because 8th Brigade’s main thrust was directed towards Carpiquet and the control complex on the northern side of the airport, the tanks supporting the Winnipegs were not accompanying the infantry. They would instead remain on the edge of Marcelet to serve as an armoured reserve that could be sent towards Carpiquet if required. Christian’s Shermans would fire their 75-millimetre guns over the advancing infantry’s heads—scant help on a battlefield boiling with blinding smoke and dust raised by the massive artillery bombardment.

At 0500 hours, North Shores’ Major Clint Gammon, commanding ‘D’ Company, looked over his shoulder in amazement as “the whole horizon in a semi-circle behind us became a blaze when the artillery opened up.” Major J.E. “Ernie” Anderson at the head of ‘A’ Company thought the barrage “awe-inspiring.” One minute he was “in a quiet and peaceful countryside with dawn just breaking; the next, the ground … was shaking from the bursts of shells.” When the great naval guns on Roberts and Rodney joined in, the noise rose “to a crescendo.” Anderson’s men were on the battalion’s right, Gammon’s on its left. They were to secure the first half of the village, and the two following would clear the rest. Gammon had two platoons out front, the third hanging in reserve. As the advance was not to begin until ten minutes into the bombardment, Gammon decided he had time to check on the rear platoon. He had covered just fifty yards when the start line exploded with shell bursts. Through burning and smoking wheat, Gammon ran back to the company front and discovered that “a lot of my men were dead or wounded.”

German artillery and mortar units had deliberately struck at this moment to catch the Canadians on their start lines. Increased wireless traffic the day before had warned Meyer that a Canadian strike was imminent, and past experience led him to expect a dawn attack. So he arranged a coinciding fire plan. Perfectly timed, it had devastating results.

The bombardment and counter-fire came as Meyer was scrambling over the rubble of destroyed airfield buildings. A salvo of 50-kg rockets flashed overhead, “leaving their long, fiery trails behind them.” Dashing into the concrete bunker of the infantry battalion’s headquarters, Meyer was unable to hear Sturmbannführer Bernard Krause’s report. There “were crashes and shrieks all around us. We crowded together in the bunker entrance. The bunker shook as the … rounds from the battleships exploded nearby … The naval rounds spun entire hangars into the air. The village could not be identified … Thick clouds of smoke lay to the west.”

German casualties were heavy. “Many … survivors had to dig themselves and their weapons out of the rubble,” the 12th SS historian recorded. Every building in Carpiquet and at the airport was either destroyed or damaged. While most exterior walls of the stone houses in the village withstood the shellfire, their roofs were torn open.

Lying in the dew-drenched wheat field had left Rifleman Alex Kuppers of Fulton’s ‘D’ Company soaking wet. He was watching the fall of the incoming shells. Kuppers poked the guy beside him. “I think we should move—either right, left or back,” Kuppers shouted. “The way these are coming, the next one’s going to be here.” The soldier refused. Kuppers scrambled back about four yards to where a sunken road afforded some shelter. Then the signal to advance sounded. When Kuppers reached his previous spot, he saw that “the shell had landed right beside [the other soldier] and the only thing missing was that half his foot was gone. Blood was running from his eyes.”

As the Winnipegs crossed the start line, Fulton thought the artillery was falling short, “but then I realized we were under German barrage, which had been waiting for us. Their locations made it possible to direct their fire with deadly accuracy. Casualties were immediate, and in the waist-high wheat, the stretcher-bearers had difficulty finding the wounded and in giving first aid. Jeeps usually used to evacuate casualties to the regimental aid post (RAP) could not be used because, as soon as a vehicle appeared on the airfield, it was knocked out by the German guns.

“We kept moving ahead but soon all the Platoon officers were hit. The last one to go was [Lieutenant] Jack Mitchell. He came over to … say that he was hit in the arm and would go back to the RAP to get fixed up and would be right back. Jack was a stout-hearted individual, but his wounds were more severe than he realized, and his war was over.”

‘A’ Company led the Winnipeg advance in arrowhead formation with Lieutenant Richard Moglove’s No. 9 Platoon at the front and the other two platoons behind and out on opposite sides. Rifleman Arthur Davey was on No. 9 Platoon’s point. Davey was packing bolt cutters, his task to cut a hole through the eight-foot perimeter fence. To his relief, the artillery had ripped the fence asunder. The platoon dashed through great gaping holes and Davey threw the cutters aside.

“Davey, get up on the tarmac and dig me a slit trench for OP[Observation Post] purposes,” Moglove yelled.

“Why me?” Davey replied.

“Because you have the pick.” True enough. It was slung across Davey’s back. “I crawled up and took one swing with the pick when a sniper shot ricocheted between me and the handle of the pick. I moved out of there fast,” leaving the pick “stuck in the tarmac.”

All three battalions were taking heavy casualties. Private Abraham Feldman, a young wireless operator assigned to Major Hugues Lapointe of the Chauds’ ‘A’ Company, weighed 122 pounds and stood just five feet, five inches tall. The No. 18 set weighed 35 pounds, his rifle 11 pounds. Feldman figured he carried at least 70 pounds of equipment.

Walking out from the start line in reserve position behind the two leading companies, ‘A’ Company was “clobbered.” Feldman saw Carpiquet “inundated with bombs, shells and bullets. You just had to keep going. It’s hard to describe. You’d move, advance two feet at a time, drop down, get up again and bingo you hear the 88s. It was a slow advance with men dropping like flies.”

To indicate the location of a wounded man, the nearest soldier would drive the man’s rifle bayonet into the ground so the butt was visible above the wheat. The rifle markers also helped prevent tanks and Bren carriers from running over the fallen. On the extreme left flank, the North Shore’s carrier platoon rumbled along in their Bren carriers next to the railroad. Their commander, Captain J.A. Currie, thought the “dust and smoke made it like a night attack … and during the clear spots, we could see men going forward, but had no idea so many had been hit. Padre [R. Miles] Hickey was right among them, giving the last rites and so was Doc [John Aubry] Patterson with his medical kit. No other unit had a pair to match them.”

Hickey had waded into the midst of ‘B’ Company, shredded even as it advanced towards the start line. “Everywhere men lay dead or dying,” Hickey wrote. “I anointed about thirty right there.”

‘A’ Company’s Major Anderson thought the “advance through the grain field was little short of hell.” He kept his bearings in the boiling smoke by taking constant compass readings. Behind him, one platoon wandered off at a right angle to the line of advance. Lieutenant Darrel Barker had been mortally wounded, and, unable to see the rest of the company, the platoon drifted out of sight into the smoke before Anderson could bring it back on course.

Many of the fifty 12th SS soldiers deployed in the field west of Carpiquet had been killed or so badly dazed by the shelling that they meekly surrendered when overrun. But a few remained defiant. Their fire added to the casualty toll. “I am sure at some time during the attack,” Anderson recalled, “every man felt he could not go on. Men were being killed or wounded on all sides and the advance seemed pointless, as well as hopeless. I never realized until the attack on Carpiquet how far discipline, pride of unit, and above all, pride in oneself and family can carry a man, even when each step forward meant possible death.”

‘B’ Company’s Lieutenant Charles Richardson had only twenty of the thirty-five men in his platoon left. Lieutenant Paul McCann’s platoon was on his right. Both men were using compasses. When the smoke lifted momentarily, Richardson saw that McCann’s men were now to his left. He had no idea how that had happened. His men emerged from the smoke in an extended line and suddenly faced a field that had been burned to stubble by artillery fire. Charging forward, they wiped out a slit trench defended by five Germans. Richardson saw a pinwheeling stick grenade land in front of him. “I felt a hot stinging in my right side and left hand, then thought it didn’t matter too much.” Suddenly alone, Richardson took on the German position single-handedly and killed its defenders. His batman and two runners had all been seriously wounded by the grenade.

“My side started to bother me badly and my left hand was peppered with shrapnel. I had a long cigarette case in the inside pocket of my battledress and a towel wrapped around my waist. In order to look at my side, which was throbbing, I unbuttoned my tunic and the towel was full of shrapnel. I reached for a cigarette and found the case bent almost double by a large piece of shrapnel. I felt I was not hit too badly but out of nowhere appeared our beloved colonel and I quickly had orders to get back to the first aid post—which marked the finish of my first month in action.”

CARPIQUET AIRFIELD II

gnfxgfnxgfnx

A soldier of the Hitlerjugend carrying an MG42 machine gun near Caen.

Victory-10

Two Fort Garry Horse squadrons were riding right on the heels of the North Shores and Chauds. One Sherman rolled up and spun in a full turn that buried Sturmmann Karl-Heinz Wambach to the chest in the sandy soil of his slit trench. He was trying to free himself when a voice yelled, “SS bastard, hands up!” Two North Shores dragged him free and tied his hands. One then punched him in the face. He was taken to the rear, urged along by rifle butt blows, and tied to a fence post for some hours in an area subjected to frequent shelling by German 88-millimetre guns.

Wambach’s complaints about his treatment led the North Shore’s historian to comment that “given the way Canadians felt about the 12th SS, he got off lucky.” During its advance across the field, the North Shores took thirty-five prisoners and killed an equal number.

At 0625 hours, almost ninety minutes after the attack began, the North Shores reached the shelter of a stone wall in front of Carpiquet and reported being on their first objective. The Chauds signalled brigade a few minutes later that they had men on the village edge and among the nearby hangars. Carpiquet was still being heavily shelled, forcing a twenty-minute pause. More casualties resulted when shells burst in the tree canopy next to the Canadian positions. When the artillery ceased firing, both battalions plunged into the village. Most of the small garrison actually deployed within either surrendered, were already dead, or quickly fled. The North Shores sent back twenty more prisoners. In the Chaudière sector, a handful of hard-core 12th SS in the hangar complex were burned out of concrete pillboxes by Crocodiles. At 1056, the Chauds reported their grip on the hangars secure.

Surprisingly, there were French civilians still living in the badly damaged village. Some, who emerged from bomb shelters and basements, had been wounded, and most seemed to be “in a state of severe shock,” Lieutenant MacRae wrote. “One old couple passed me going to the rear with their few possessions in a wheelbarrow. They looked too dazed to know what was going on.” While most of the civilians immediately fled towards the Canadian lines, a few were driven back into hiding when the Germans slammed Carpiquet with heavy and continuous mortar and artillery fire.

Private Feldman manned his wireless in a concrete bunker the Chauds were using as a battalion headquarters. Lieutenant Colonel Paul Mathieu, Major Lapointe, the battalion padre, and Feldman felt pretty secure there until “we heard this big noise and knew it was coming close. I was facing one way and the shell … hit the HQ in another place. I was in the ‘dead zone’ or I’d have been killed by the concussion … I was knocked flat into the bunker and the officers looked at me and thought I’d died … I had landed on my set and that really prevented me from getting hurt, but the set was damaged. We got it going again and it was a miracle.”

To the south, as Fulton’s ‘D’ Company had closed on the first of the three hangars, it began taking heavy small-arms fire in addition to being shelled and mortared. All three platoons were shredded. Fulton was the only officer still standing. “We made a final rush and got into the hangar, taking over the extensive network of deep weapon pits and trenches developed by the Germans to guard the hangars. It was then that the heaviest bombardment I experienced throughout the whole war was brought down upon us. If it hadn’t been for the excellent German trench system, I believe none of us would of survived.”

Fulton radioed Lieutenant Colonel John Meldram. His company held the hangar but was too weak to go any farther, Fulton reported. However, he believed it could repel the likely counterattack. ‘A’ Company had been forced to ground a hundred yards short of the hangars. Meldram decided to feed ‘B’ Company through to the hangar held by Fulton. He also requested that 8th Brigade release some of ‘B’ Squadron’s tanks to accompany it.

Blackader reluctantly agreed to release one troop along with four Crocodiles. ‘B’ Squadron was Blackader’s only armoured reserve, and he intended to have it support the follow-on assault by the Queen’s Own Rifles to clear the control and administration buildings in the northeast corner of the airfield. Because the Winnipegs had failed to clear the hangars and remove the German threat to the Queen’s Own from that flank, Blackader had delayed this phase. He also ordered the Queen’s Own to form up inside Carpiquet for the launch of their attack.

‘B’ Company met the same murderous hail of German shells the two leading companies had endured. Only about half the men reached the hangar Fulton held. Captain Jack Hale had been wounded. Fulton combined the survivors with his own. But the Winnipegs were still unable to clear the Germans out of the concrete pillboxes and trench systems defending the other hangars. The Crocodiles, the Winnipeg war diarist wrote, “proved useless.” As for the Fort Garry troop, its four Shermans met deadly fire from hidden anti-tank guns. Lieutenant Arthur Edwin Rogers and Sergeant Alastair James Innes-Ker were both mortally wounded when their tanks burst into flames. The demise of those two tanks prompted the remaining two to flee.

Wireless contact between battalion headquarters and the forward companies was so erratic that Meldram ordered Fulton to come back for a briefing. “I had no desire to make my way back across the airfield again, a target for the German guns; mine not to reason why, however.” As Fulton ran back, he spotted Rifleman Leonard Miller calmly lying in a slit trench and reading a pocket-sized New Testament. Meldram ordered the lead companies pulled back to a small, sparse wood a few hundred yards ahead of the original start line. Artillery would then plaster the hangars, and a new attack would go in with ‘B’ Squadron alongside. As Fulton passed Miller’s s lit trench on his return run, he saw the man had been killed by a mortar round.

At 1600 hours, the new attack went in behind another bombardment. Rifleman Edward Patey, a Bren gunner in ‘C’ Company, had just started forward when mortar and machine-gun fire tore into his platoon. Three men went down. He recognized one as a man in his mid-thirties everyone had nicknamed “Pops.” The man lay “writhing on the ground, his whole stomach ripped with bullets.” Patey “was hit by a mortar piece in the eye and upper chest and … left deaf for a couple of days.”

‘B’ Company’s Sergeant Major Charles Belton suffered a chest wound. “I can remember when we were kids, we watched an Indian-cowboy movie and someone got shot and hit the ground and was dead. When I looked down and saw this blood spurting out of my chest, I thought I’d better lie down, so I did. I was fortunate. The shrapnel came through a book I had in my upper right breast pocket. Otherwise I would probably have had that shot go right through me. But the book stopped the shrapnel, although it took two pieces of cardboard and that book into the wound and that infected it and made it worse.”

As Belton started crawling to the rear, a German sniper in a nearby tree shot him in the leg. One of his men gunned the sniper down. Belton was evacuated to a field hospital. “There were so many of us in that tent that stretchers were only about [six] inches apart, just enough room for the nurses to walk in between … just row, and row, and row of us on these stretchers. I lay so long on this stretcher that my back pain was far worse than the wounds. I finally got back to England on a barge.”

While the infantry had gone straight for the hangars, the Shermans had executed a “sweeping attack” to get around the left flank of the Germans inside. Within minutes the tankers found their planned charge slowed to a crawl by thick bands of barbed wire and other obstacles, as well as anti-tank fire coming from in and around the hangars. Major Christian also reported the squadron was taking heavy fire from Panthers on the high ground behind the village of Verson to his right. The British were to have taken this ground but were stalled inside Verson.

‘B’ Squadron was completely out of contact with the infantry, which, having regained the first hangar, were again stuck there. Christian manoeuvred the squadron towards the hangars but found his tanks caught in a vise between a force of Mark IV and Panther tanks near Verson and other tanks at the hangars. A fierce shootout ensued. Soon burning tanks littered the airfield. ‘B’ Squadron had gone into the attack fifteen strong. When the tank battle broke off, nine remained operational.

The battle clearly stalemated, Meldram told Blackader at 1725 hours that “it would be impossible to hold on without increased [support]. Blackader had nothing more to send. When a mixed force of tanks and infantry approached the airfield from the east, artillery managed to scatter it. But the Germans only “dispersed and rallied” the moment the guns ceased firing. Blackader ordered the Winnipegs back to Marcelet. As the infantry withdrew, the surviving tanks joined them. At Marcelet the Winnipegs dug in. Blackader ordered his battalions to reorganize where they were.

“What had we accomplished?” Fulton wondered. “Possibly the Germans recognized our intention to take Carpiquet and that we would be back. But at what a cost!”

Blackader ordered the Queen’s Own to join his other battalions holding Carpiquet. To reach the village meant running the gauntlet of artillery and mortar fire through the wheat field. En route, ‘B’ Company’s Rifleman Alex Gordon was wounded and left behind. Rifleman J.P. Moore rolled up in his Bren carrier just as the men in Gordon’s platoon realized he was missing. They warned Moore that “the fire was so heavy that anyone in the wheat field would be killed.” Moore gave the carrier full throttle, drove like mad into the wheat field, grabbed up Gordon and threw him in the carrier, and brought him to safety.

As the battalion closed on Carpiquet, one carrier platoon section, operating as foot infantry, sought shelter beside a concrete bunker. Suddenly, a German inside it opened up with a Schmeisser, and Rifleman Art Reid was shot dead. The entire battalion went to ground and called for tanks and Crocodiles to destroy the position.

When the armour arrived, the Crocodiles blasted “with flame the walls about the entrances, which were set in a wide trench on the south side. This treatment merely blackened the [heavy] concrete walls and appeared to have no effect upon the enemy within. Nor were the tanks able to damage the structure,” Major Steve Lett, the battalion’s second-in-command, wrote.

Corporal Tom McKenzie noticed six ventilation shafts poking out of the bunker’s roof and dropped a Mills grenade down one of the pipes. When nothing happened, he realized the pipe was virtually the same diameter as the grenade and this prevented the firing pin from releasing. Flipping the pins free and then dropping the grenades down the pipe worked, but the explosions still failed to convince the Germans inside to surrender.

Because the Germans had killed Reid, McKenzie was getting “madder than hell.” So he stole a carrier’s four-gallon jerry can, emptied the gas down the pipe, and dropped a phosphorous grenade down after. A lot of smoke boiled out of the ventilation duct and there were some satisfying secondary explosions, but still no Germans appeared.

While McKenzie had been taking on the bunker, the battalion’s pioneers had unsuccessfully tried to blow the roof open with a 25-pound demolition charge. “Others tried to blow the steel doors set within the entrances, but here the approach was covered by fire from a sliding panel in the wall through which weapons could be pointed. Several men were killed in this attempt.”

McKenzie took the problem to an engineering officer, Lieutenant John L. Yeats from 16th Field Company, RCE, which was supporting 8th Brigade. When he explained the problem, Yeats showed him a shaped explosive 10-pound charge he had slung on his back. When detonated, this type of charge focused on a wall rather than dissipating the blast in all directions. With McKenzie providing covering fire, Yeats wriggled up to the bunker door, set the charge, lit its fuse, and then both men scrambled for cover. This time the explosion had the desired effect.

A German soldier “emerged from the outer door, announcing himself as spokesman for the remainder, who were afraid to come out, and asking permission to surrender.” Eleven 12th SS troops warily emerged. Several said they had been “told that Canadians take no PW. Consequently they [were] reluctant to surrender, preferring to fight to the last.” The youths admitted “a great hatred for our arty, which is far superior to their own, and never gives them rest.”

Inside the bunker, Lett found the corpses of an officer and sixteen other men, who had been killed by the grenades, burning gasoline, and detonation of the shaped charge. Having cleared the bunker, the Queen’s Own continued into Carpiquet. “Jutting into enemy territory at the tip of the newly-won salient, the village was open to hostile fire from three sides and the three battalions, huddled with their tank squadrons and other supporting arms under the shelter of battered walls, were now being severely shelled and mortared.”

Winning Carpiquet had exacted a dreadful toll. The North Shores lost more men than on any other day of the war—132, of which 46 were killed. The Chauds had 57 casualties, 16 killed. The Queen’s Own suffered 4 killed and 22 wounded. In its failed assault on the southern hangars, the Winnipegs lost more men than during the D-Day landings or when they were overrun at Putot-en-Bessin on June 7–8. Forty of its 132 casualties proved fatal. The Fort Garry Horse lost 8 men killed and 20 wounded—most from ‘B’ Squadron—while 16th Field Company, RCE, had 10 casualties, of which 3 were fatal.

North Shore’s medical officer, John Patterson, and Padre Hickey opened an RAP in a German dugout within the village because “there wasn’t a building left standing, even the trees were smashed to splinters.” Wounded poured in, and the medical teams worked frantically to stabilize people before evacuating them rearward to casualty clearing stations and field hospitals. When Major Blake Oulton was carried in on a stretcher with a bullet in his leg, Hickey said he was a “lucky dog” to have received such a “lovely wound” that would take him out of this hellhole. As dusk fell, Hickey and Major G.E. Lockwood led a burying party during a short lull in the German shelling. You “could fancy how the wheat field had been just like any of our wheat fields back home,” Hickey wrote. But “now the wheat was just trampled into the earth; the ground was torn with shell holes and everywhere you could see the pale upturned faces of the dead. That night alone we buried forty—Carpiquet was the graveyard of the regiment.”

FRANÇOIS DARLAN, (1881-1942), French admiral.

Admiral_Darlan

Jean-François Darlan, Admiral of the Fleet, a title he had ordered put back into use for himself and which has never been used since, remains a very controversial figure. Different historians have attributed contradictory and dubious intentions to him, so one must turn to the facts instead. As a member of a navy family that had dabbled in politics (his father had been a deputy for Lot-et-Garonne and minister of justice from 1896 to 1897), he joined the navy as well but saw little action, at least at sea. During World War I he almost always fought on land, and in the years that followed was often a state minister. He had a reputation for leaning toward the Left, which was rare in the navy, and it was Léon Blum who appointed him Admiral Chief of Staff in 1937. He is a bit excessively glorified as the creator of the large fleet France possessed at the outbreak of World War II in 1939. The ill winds of the day worked against anything more than its limited use in combat, however. A portion of the fleet was destroyed in the raid on Mers El-Kebir in July 1940 by the British, who were afraid it would fall into the hands of the Germans. The majority of the fleet, however, was scuttled in the port of Toulon in November 1942, when the Germans invaded the “Free Zone.”

Admiral Darlan was a high-profile figure under the collaborationist Vichy government. He had been tapped as minister of the navy by Marshal Philippe Pétain on 16 June 1940, during the last government of the Third Republic. But it was only after the 1940 defeat that he acceded to the highest ranks. An Anglophobe, as French sailors traditionally were, especially after the events at Mers El- Kebir, he quickly became convinced of the need to collaborate with Germany, whose victory appeared certain. His position was in fact very close to that of Pierre Laval, and when a plot was hatched in December 1940 to supplant Pétain’s second-in-command, who held the real reins of power, Darlan replaced him as deputy prime minister and designated successor. Although some said Darlan privately had reservations about the National Revolution, in practice he was a fervent supporter, and it was during his government that a whole series of its measures were taken, including the creation of the General Committee on the Jewish Question, the passage of the second set of anti-Semitic laws, the special tribunals for judging members of the Resistance, and the Work Charter. Above all, it was during Darlan’s tenure that a marked increase in collaboration with the Germans occurred. In the hope of forging a political accord, to which the Germans had no intention of agreeing, Darlan offered military cooperation, which included giving the Germans access to airfields in Syria and the ports of Bizerte and Dakar. As events unfolded after the Soviet Union and the United States entered the war, however, these attempts failed to gain concessions from the Germans, who feared Admiral Darlan would change sides and whom they felt was not the man they needed. They reinstated Laval to his position of power in April 1942, though Darlan remained commander of the army.

His fate was determined somewhat by chance, since he happened to find himself in Algiers during the Anglo-American landing in North Africa in November 1942. It was an opportunity for him to switch sides-he intended to maintain a Vichy-style regime while at the same time rallying the leaders of the colonial territories, as well as other exiled French forces to the Allied cause, even though he had recently ordered those forces to fire on the Allies. He was engaged in a highly complex and ambiguous game, virulently opposed by the Gaullists, when he was assassinated by Bonnier de la Chapelle, a young member of the Resistance with monarchist tendencies. Was this an isolated act or the result of a conspiracy? The truth will never be known, given the local authorities’ evident haste to execute the admiral’s murderer by firing squad. In continental France, the public was not fooled-Darlan, too visible to be able to switch sides at the necessary moment as others managed to do, was a Vichyist and a collaborator who had been executed for his acts.

BIBLIOGRAPHY Couteau-Be’garie, Herve’, et C. Huan. Darlan. Paris, 1989. Paxton, Robert. “Un amiral entre deux blocs.” Vingtie`me sie`cle, revue d’Histoire (October-December 1992): 3-19. Sirinelli, Jean-Franc, ois, ed. Dictionnaire historique de la vie politique franc, aise au XXe sie`cle. Paris, 1995.

Hô Chí Minh Campaign (April 1975)

1

doi-hinh-xe-tang-hung-dung-tien-vao-giai-phong-sai-gon-hinh-6

South_Vietnam_-_The_final_days_1975

On 25 March the Politburo in Hà Nôi revised its timetable for ending the war, deciding that Sài Gòn should be taken before the beginning of the mid-May rainy season. Dung asked permission to call this the Hô Chí Minh Campaign, in the hope of achieving victory before Hô’s 19 May birthday anniversary, and the Politburo agreed.

In early April 200,000 Communist troops in 173 regiments had overrun two-thirds of South Vietnam. Communist forces now greatly outnumbered those of ARVN, and by mid-month nine Communist divisions converged on Sài Gòn. To defend the capital, Thiêu had only the three divisions assigned to III Corps (the 5th, 18th and 25th), a reconstituted division from Military Region II (the 22nd), and what remained of the armour brigade, the Marine division, the Airborne division, and a few Ranger groups.

The only major ARVN stand during the Communist offensive occurred at Xuân Lôc, capital of Long Khánh Province. Located on Route 1 just east of the junction with Route 20 and some 40 miles northeast of Sài Gòn, Xuân Lôc was strategically important to the RVN capital’s defence. The city was defended by Brigadier General Lê Minh Ðao’s 18th Division. On 9 April, following a 4,000-round artillery and rocket barrage, three PAVN divisions (the 6th, 7th and 341st) attacked Xuân Lôc, now isolated because the Communists had cut Route 1.

VNAF A-1 Skyraiders and F-5 fighter-bombers struck the PAVN attackers and ARVN armoured columns attempted to push through PAVN roadblocks on Route 1. A brigade of the 1st Airborne Division arrived by helicopter, but PAVN troops pinned it down at its landing zone east of the city. Meanwhile the PAVN force continued to grow. On 14 April PAVN 130mm heavy guns pounded Biên Hòa Air Base for the first time in the war. On the 15th Communist sappers blew up the base’s ammunition dump. The next day PAVN 130mm shells damaged 20 aircraft on the ground, which effectively ended air support for Xuân Lôc. Although they were heavily outnumbered and the outcome of the battle was certain, Ðao’s troops fought on courageously in what was probably the most heroic stand of any ARVN division of the war. They destroyed 37 PAVN tanks and killed over 5,000 PAVN troops.

At Xuân Lôc the VNAF employed 750-pound CBU-55 cluster bombs and 15,000-pound “Daisy Cutter” bombs. On the 21st a VNAF C-130 dropped a CBU-55 “fuel bomb”, the most powerful non-nuclear weapon in the US arsenal. This was the first time the weapon had ever been employed. It consumed the oxygen over a two-acre area and killed more than 250 PAVN troops.

In the battle more than 7,500 ARVN soldiers died or were wounded. On the 23rd the remaining ARVN defenders and PF and RF elements conducted a well-executed retreat south from Xuân Lôc.

Sài Gòn, meanwhile, was in turmoil. US evacuation flights began removing key Vietnamese officials and dependents. On 8 April VNAF pilot Lieutenant Nguyên Thành Trung dropped two bombs from his F-5 on the presidential palace and then defected. President Thiêu was unhurt, but General Dung immediately ordered Trung sent to Ðà Nang to help train North Vietnamese MiG pilots to fly captured VNAF A-37 and F-5 jets.

The US evacuation of Cambodia on 12 April reinforced Hà Nôi’s assessment that Washington would not intervene to prevent the collapse of the RVN, although some Sài Gòn officials refused to believe they would be abandoned. Even the loss of Military Regions I and II did not dissuade many US officials in South Vietnam from acting as if the Sài Gòn government could at least bring off a negotiated settlement.

On 21 April President Thiêu resigned in favour of Vice President Trân Van Húóng. In a televised farewell address he lied when he stated, “What happened in the highlands was the decision of leaders in Military Region II”. He blamed Washington for forcing Sài Gòn to sign the Paris Accords, for failing to replace military equipment lost after the US withdrawal and for its refusal to honour its pledges to come to the aid of South Vietnam. Despite Thiêu’s speech on the 21st, or perhaps because of it, he lingered on in the capital until flying out on the 26th.

Dung did not halt the PAVN offensive. He assembled 130,000 troops in 18 divisions for the final assault on Sài Gòn, which began on the 26th. Early the next morning four rockets hit the city, killing ten people, injuring 200 and leaving 5,000 homeless. In a fierce tank battle PAVN forces took Long Thành, which was located on Route 15 to Vung Tau on the coast. On 28 April President Húóng resigned in favour of Dúóng Van Minh, who had helped overthrow President Diêm in 1963. Minh called for an immediate cease-fire and the opening of peace negotiations, but the PRG rejected this. That same day five captured A-37 jets led by Lieutenant Trung flew from Phan Rang to attack Tân Són Nhút. The raid destroyed seven planes. It was the only Communist air strike in South Vietnam during the entire war, but it helped bring about the final surrender of Sài Gòn.

At the end of March 7,500 Americans remained in the RVN. On 16 April President Ford had ordered all “unneeded” Americans to leave. The PRG announced it would impose no obstacles to this. A greater issue was some 50,000 “high risk” Vietnamese who had co-operated with the Americans. Many of them now began to depart. On the 27th the RVN stopped issuing exit visas, although this did not prevent many high-ranking RVN officials from departing the next day.

The air attack of the 28th and a rocket barrage on Tân Són Nhút the next day finally convinced US Ambassador Graham Martin to order a full evacuation. Fearing its negative impact on morale, he waited until the 29th. The operation (Frequent Wind) took place in chaotic circumstances as 81 helicopters and a thousand US Marines evacuated 395 Americans and 4,475 Vietnamese. Only a minority of Vietnamese thought to be at risk were evacuated by helicopter or managed to escape by other means. Forty US Navy ships off shore did rescue a large number of refugees fleeing by boat from Vung Tàu under artillery fire.

ARVN units around the Sài Gòn perimeter came under heavy PAVN attack on 29 April and ceased their resistance the next day when elements of General Dung’s force walked unopposed into the centre of the city. At noon on 30 April a PAVN tank crashed through the gate of the presidential palace. The Republic of Vietnam had come to an end. Some ARVN forces held out in the Central Highlands and Mekong Delta for a time, but for all intents and purposes the Third Vietnam War was over.

Although the United States had extracted its own personnel, it left behind in South Vietnam a vast military stockpile. The PAVN now seized from the RVNAF 467 aircraft, 466 helicopters, 80 self-propelled guns, 1,250 105mm and 155mm howitzers, 3,300 armoured personnel carriers, 400 tanks, 42,000 trucks, 47,000 grenade launchers, 63,000 light anti-tank weapons, 15,000 machine guns, 12,000 mortars, 791,000 M16 rifles and 857 other small arms, 90,000 pistols, 940 ships (mostly landing craft) and 130,000 tons of ammunition. In the years to come the Vietnamese government sold much of this abroad to gain hard currency.

The Bolsheviks’ new army

gfnbgfxn

The Bolsheviks’ new army, which they called the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army (Raboche Krest’ianskaia Krasnaia Armiia, RKKA) did, surprisingly enough, start out nearly as Lenin had envisioned. Based on Red Guard detachments the Bolsheviks’ first military force was completely voluntary, drawn from the working class, and determined to defend the revolution. It soon became apparent to even the most idealistic of revolutionaries, however, that groupings of Red Guards did not constitute an army. The civilian leadership also quickly realized that the tasks at hand, such as preserving an empire threatened by independence movements and defending their fledgling Bolshevik government from a counterrevolutionary civil war and foreign intervention, required a real army and all it entailed. In March 1918 Lenin assigned Leon Trotsky the task of creating a true army.

Trotsky wisely dropped most of his Marxist utopian preconceptions of what an army ought to look like and immediately began forming an army along traditional lines. This included creation of a hierarchy of officers and enlisted men and provisions for military discipline and organization. Initially recruitment was limited to the working class, but this soon proved to be inadequate and the gates were flung open to all comers except rich peasants, the clergy, bourgeoisie and, with exceptions, the nobility. Manning the army on a voluntary basis also went by the wayside rather quickly; the regime instituted conscription early in 1918. The most controversial aspect of Trotsky’s new army was his reliance on former tsarist officers to train and even lead units of the Red Army. Such dependence on the avowed class enemy was anathema to the average Bolshevik and caused considerable turmoil in the party. This army, which swelled to nearly five million men at its peak, successfully fought a civil war preserving Bolshevik dominance, though it failed to restore Russia’s pre-1914 borders.

Demobilization of the Red Army began in late 1920 and the debate resumed on the form the peacetime armed force would take. Once again Marxist idealists resurrected the idea of a citizens’ army but were now challenged by those Bolsheviks desiring a professional standing army. A compromise resulted. In 1921, the party accepted the need for a standing army but insisted that the bulk of the country’s military force would be its reserve, the citizen army. The compromise was viewed differently by the two opposing camps: the socialist idealists accepted the standing army as a temporary but necessary evil, expecting that once the conditions for true socialism were achieved the standing army would be done away with. Those in favor of a large and permanent standing army accepted the small active army and large territorial militia as a temporary expedient that would eventually result in a large standing army and small reserve once the economy became strong enough to support it.

The Communist Party still insisted that the standing army reflect the revolutionary ideals that guided the party’s transformation of civilian society. It would not be a replica of the old tsarist army. The political and military leadership, despite their abandonment of a fundamental tenet of socialist philosophy, honestly attempted to create an army of a new type in officer-enlisted relations, discipline, war-making doctrine, and quality of life in contrast to the Imperial Russian Army. The regime believed their army could be a tool of social transformation for the masses. Some military theorists even believed that socialism would be the basis of a new method of warfare. Ultimately the idealism waned, and by 1941 the Red Army in many ways, both intentionally and unintentionally, resembled the reviled and much maligned imperial army. Between 1945 and 1991 the Red Army completely fell away in practice from its founding revolutionary vision and resembled the tsarist army of the nineteenth century more than it did the Soviet Army of the 1920s. The process of this transition and the attendant ramifications are major themes of this book.

The early history of the Red Army is the story of the Soviet regime’s attempts to create an army that not only treated its soldiers well, but also tried to elevate their consciousness. It is the story of perhaps the world’s first political army in the sense that the military leadership of the Red Army shared decision-making responsibility with a political party. The Communist Party’s values became so intertwined with those of the military that the two became virtually indistinguishable. This union of party and army seemed logical and necessary to the party and was never seriously challenged by the army, yet proved to be the source of some of the weakness of the armed forces.

The Second World War shows the Red Army at both its nadir and pinnacle of effectiveness. The war began with the catastrophe of German invasion and ended with the Soviet conquest of Eastern Europe. In between, the army reverted to many Civil War practices that proved costly in lives but also developed new methods of manning that promoted cohesion and morale. The leadership of the army matured under fire ultimately rising to the occasion. Soviet society temporarily became wedded to the army in the way Lenin envisioned in 1917, and the army temporarily became a trusted and respected institution by most.

Minutemen

Minutemen_Group

Minutemen-Bunker-Hill-e1326201603400

The last of the French and Indian Wars, 1754 – 63, opened with attempts first by Virginia volunteers (raised outside the militia system) commanded by George Washington, then by British regulars commanded by Edward Braddock to seize control of the forks of the Ohio River from France. Though not used to raise men until 1757, the militia system proved efficient enough to muster men from New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts for John Bradstreet ‘ s 1758 expedition that captured Fort Frontenac on the St. Lawrence River in 1758. William Byrd II commanded the Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and North Carolina militiamen who accompanied the British regulars who drove the French from Fort Duquesne at the forks of the Ohio (Selesky 1990, Titus 1991, Ward 2003). Though they worked together colonial militiamen and British regulars did not get along and this experience reinforced American distrust of standing armies of professional soldiers (Leach 1986, Johnson 1992).

The French and Indian War resuscitated the militia system and gave colonial leaders experience in working together on military matters, but, in general, militia did not perform well on extended campaigns away from their immediate homelands, indeed many deserted. On the eve of the American Revolution the 13 colonies had a total of 500,000 men enrolled in the militias, one – third of the entire population of those colonies. As tensions between Americans and the mother country escalated, leaders of what would become the Patriot cause gained control of most militia units purging officers loyal to Britain (Shy 1975). Militia officers often assumed leadership roles in committees of correspondence, Sons of Liberty, and committees of public safety that organized opposition to British policies and enforced non – importation, non – consumption agreements. In 1774 and 1775 the Continental Congress instructed colonial governments to reorganize their militias and gather arms and ammunition. The revolutionary government in Massachusetts ordered all commanders to designate a portion of those under their command to be ready for instant service. Thus were born the Minutemen who opposed British regulars at Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill and laid siege to the British in Boston (Fischer 2004).

Those units were subsequently formed into the Continental Army during 1776. From 1777 to the end of the war the “American army ” would consist of Continental Army ” regulars ” who were organized as state ” lines, ” whose ranks state governments were responsible for filling with volunteers or conscripts; by state troops which were raised in a variety of ways, and local militia units that were usually called to serve for short periods of time when their state was threatened (Alexander 1945, 1947 , Murphy 1959 – 60 , Royster 1979 , Buel 1980 , Kestnbaum 2000 ). Mark Kwasny (1998) traces the evolution of the militia and George Washington’s employment of militia units as the war progressed concluding that they came to form an important component of his campaigns. In 1776 Charleston was defended by a force of 900 Continentals, 2,000 state troops, and 2,700 local militia. The August 16, 1777 defeat of a force of 1,250 British troops by 2,000 New Hampshire and Massachusetts militia at Bennington, Vermont, laid the basis for Major General John Burgoyne ‘ s surrender at Saratoga two months later. Brigadier General Daniel Morgan made effective use of militia units at Cowpens, South Carolina, in January 1781, and George Washington had three brigades of Virginia militia at Yorktown. In addition to providing a system through which governors could raise state armies for operations such as the Virginian campaign that captured British posts in the Old Northwest or the Massachusetts – organized debacle at Penobscot, militia conducted most operations against Britain’s Indian allies and kept in check Loyalists away from the main theaters of operations (Higginbotham 1971, Ferguson 1978, Galvin 1989, Clements and Wright 1989, Resch and Sargent 2007). Patriot militiamen inflicted significant defeats on Loyalist American militiamen at Moore’s Creek Bridge, North Carolina, in February 1776 and at Kings Mountain, South Carolina, in October 1780. Militia successes were balanced by failures, for example, at Groton Heights in Connecticut in 1781 and at Blue Licks in Kentucky in 1782, and many commanders, with reason, considered militiamen unreliable. Dissatisfied with the performance of Virginia ‘ s militia during the war, governor Patrick Henry sought to reorganize it during the 1780s and met resistance from local governmental officials (Ethridge 1977 , Waghelstein 1995 ).

During the late 1780s insurrections occurred in South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Massachusetts where militia units from the eastern portion of the state subdued Shay ‘ s Rebellion in the west (Szatmary 1980 ). When these were followed by the Whiskey Rebellion and Fries Rebellion during the 1790s it appeared for a while that domestic civil unrest might pose a greater threat to American society than any foreign enemy.

Nonetheless, always warned to fear a standing army, Americans relied, at least in theory, on militia as their first line of defense against enemies domestic and foreign for the half century of their independence (Cunliffe 1968, Crackel 1987). Richard Kohn (1975) shows that during the 1790s the Federalists created and stationed a standing force of army regulars on the frontier, and Lawrence Cress (1981) argues convincingly that within a decade, despite Republican rhetoric, most American leaders accepted, at least tacitly, a force structure in which regulars formed the core around which militia would build in time of danger.