Soviet strategy in the Middle East from 1965 to 1973

859d0d42cd27807c34716bab6bf6d4bb

Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev greets Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, who was in Moscow in October 1971 seeking diplomatic support and military hardware against Israel.

500x702xSinai_Oct6_13_1973map_sm.jpg.pagespeed.ic.nRROL9ErL8

500x698xGolan_Heights_Oct6_10_1973map_sm.jpg.pagespeed.ic.TnBScTtKmc

Soviet strategy in the Middle East from 1965 to 1973 was subordinate to Soviet strategy toward Indochina. In response to the escalating war in Vietnam after 1965, the Soviets supplied many tens of thousands of tons of weapons and equipment to Hanoi. The overland supply route from the Soviet Union across the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) was not secure because of Sino-Soviet antagonism and the turmoil created by China’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Nor could supplies travel via Vladivostok given the limited capacity of the Trans-Siberian Railroad and the need to increase Soviet forces in the Far East to confront China. Thus, the Soviets shipped supplies to North Vietnam primarily via the Black Sea port of Odessa. The sea route from Odessa to Haiphong via the Cape of Good Hope was more than twice as long as the route via the Suez Canal. Closing the Suez Canal would thus more than halve the quantity of supplies the Soviets could deliver. After the 1967 Six-Day War closed the canal, the Soviets urgently sought to reopen it both by demanding Israeli withdrawal from the canal zone and by arming Egypt to open the canal by force.

The argument that the Soviets instigated the Six-Day War or encouraged Arab aggression in 1967 defies logic. The Soviets wanted to keep the Suez Canal open. Furthermore, Egyptian and Syrian forces had not yet received all the weapons or training that the Soviets intended to provide. The war came about with a third of Egypt’s army (55,000 troops, including the best units) deployed in Yemen and thus unavailable to fight Israel. When tensions rose in May 1967, the Soviets warned Egypt that Israel planned to attack Syria. This triggered Nasser’s subsequent actions, closing the straits of Tiran and ordering United Nations (UN) peacemakers to leave the Sinai. Possibly, the Soviets hoped that a display of Egyptian resolve would deter Israel from striking Syria, but if so this backfired. Israel chose to interpret these responses as acts of war. On May 26, 1967, the Soviets pressured Egypt and Syria to moderate their rhetoric and prevent armed conflict with Israel by whatever means necessary, but this came too late to prevent Israeli action.

Soviet behavior during the Six-Day War was restrained. The Soviets expressed resolute support for the Arabs, but did not resupply them or risk confrontation with the United States. The Soviets only threatened overt involvement on June 10, when they feared that Israel would take Damascus and overthrow the Syrian government. They broke off relations with Israel and alerted their airborne divisions for deployment, but intervention proved unnecessary when Israel accepted a cease-fire.

After the Six-Day War, the Soviets replaced Egypt’s and Syria’s lost equipment and dispatched huge quantities of arms to Sudan, Iraq, and Yemen. The Soviets sent 13,000 military advisers to Egypt in late 1967—rising to 20,000 in 1970—with advisers attached to every Egyptian unit down to battalion level. The Soviets demanded an overhaul of the Egyptian high command, and thousands of Egyptian officers visited the Soviet Union for training. Diplomatically, the Soviets continued to insist that Israel withdraw from the canal zone without preconditions. Washington responded that a comprehensive solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict must precede Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories. The Soviets and the East Europeans began to train, fund, and equip terrorist organizations, such as the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), to harass Israel, Western Europe, and the United States.

In April 1969 Egypt launched the War of Attrition, which sought to avoid major ground combat while causing continual Israeli casualties. Israel countered with air strikes that destroyed Egypt’s air defenses in the canal zone. When this did not force Egypt to desist, Israel began deep-penetration raids throughout Egypt. Egypt then convinced the Soviets to take control of Egypt’s air defenses. More than 12,000 Soviet operators manned air defenses that included 85 SA-2 and SA-3 missile sites, radar-guided artillery pieces, and more than 100 MiG-21 fighters with Soviet pilots. Although initially restricted to defense of the Nile River Valley, the Soviets began moving SAM batteries closer to the Suez Canal in July 1970, creating the prospect that Egyptian forces could cross the canal under this umbrella. The United States equipped Israeli aircraft with advanced electronic countermeasures and air-to-surface missiles to defeat the SAM threat.

The effort to put a SAM umbrella over the Suez Canal coincided with a crisis in Jordan. In September 1970 King Hussein violently suppressed increasingly uncontrollable Palestinian guerrilla groups. In response, the Soviets sponsored a brief Syrian invasion of Jordan. Soviet advisers planned the operation and accompanied Syrian tanks until they crossed the border. The Soviets hoped that either Israel would intervene, which would discredit Jordan’s King Hussein, or that the Americans would intervene, which would discredit the United States in the Arab world. However, the Jordanian air force smashed Syria’s tank columns, making outside intervention unnecessary.

After Nasser’s death in September 1970, Egypt’s new president, Muhammad Anwar Sadat, sought to improve relations with Western Europe and the United States. When the Soviets tried to influence the Egyptian succession struggle in favor of leftist vice president Ali Sabri, Sadat dismissed and arrested Sabri. More than 100 Nasserist or leftist officials were purged from the Egyptian government in the Corrective Revolution of May 1971. To prevent a complete break in relations, the Soviets demanded—and obtained—a Soviet-Egyptian Treaty of Friendship. The treaty restricted the Soviet role in Egypt to providing military aid and training, and Egypt agreed not to join any anti-Soviet alliance.

Having lost influence in Egypt, the Soviets tried to strengthen their relations with other Arab states through arms deliveries to Syria, Iraq, Somalia, South Yemen, and the Sudan. However, by this time the communist parties in Syria and Iraq were suppressed by the Baathists. Some competition in the form of aid and weapons sales came from China. However, in the Sudan, the Nimeri government cracked down on the substantial Sudanese Communist Party, limiting its influence from that point. The Sudanese communists launched a coup attempt but were crushed. Soviet military advisers were then expelled.

Sadat understood that the Soviets preferred to perpetuate Arab-Israeli antagonism to keep Egypt isolated and dependent on the Soviet Union. He also knew that only the Americans could deliver a political settlement with Israel and the return of the Sinai to Egyptian control. Sadat hoped that Washington could broker a political solution, but American efforts to do so in 1971 and 1972 foundered on Israeli intransigence. Sadat signaled his independence and desire for improved relations with the United States, but was thus breaking with Egypt’s long-standing nonalignment policy and strong desire to avoid any measures of foreign control. Sadat’s strategy was to prepare for a limited war in the expectation that victory would enable Washington to force Israel to accept a peace agreement and withdraw from the Sinai. Sadat informed the Soviets in February 1973 that he intended to attack Israel, and he demanded their support. The Soviets had little choice but to agree, since failure to support Egypt would destroy Soviet influence in the Middle East. Furthermore, reopening the Suez Canal would facilitate arming Hanoi for a future attack on South Vietnam.

From late June 1967 until early 1973, the Soviets gave Egypt sufficient weaponry to defend itself but not advanced offensive weapons. The Egyptians were especially displeased that the Soviets did not provide their latest MiG-23 and MiG-25 fighters to counter Israeli F-4 Phantoms. Before the October 1973 Yom Kippur (Ramadan) War, the Soviets provided first-line T-62 tanks and large numbers of antiaircraft and antitank missiles, which would enable Egypt to take and hold a bridgehead on the east bank of the Suez against Israeli air and armored counterattacks. Syria and Iraq also received significant quantities of Soviet weapons before the war.

The main Soviet objective before and during the 1973 war was to ensure that the region remained polarized. This required either stampeding Israel into a preemptive attack on Egypt, which would make Sadat’s goal of a limited victory over Israel impossible, or prodding Washington into a premature display of full support for Israel, which would ruin Washington’s credibility as an honest broker. Moscow tried to provoke Israeli preemption by circulating warnings in the communist press that an attack was imminent and by evacuating Soviet civilians from Egypt and Syria. These gambits failed, not least because the U.S. sternly warned Israel not to preempt.

Once the war began in October 1973, the Soviets sought a ceasefire at the point of maximum Arab gain—when Egypt had taken the east bank of the canal and Syria had taken the Golan Heights— but this effort failed. Israel quickly counterattacked the Syrians, and Moscow asked Egypt to advance in order to divert Israeli attention. The Soviets also began resupplying Syria and Egypt by air and sea and alerted their airborne divisions for deployment to Damascus. Israel, however, stopped short of Damascus and shifted its forces south to inflict a catastrophic defeat on the Egyptians, who had advanced into the Sinai beyond their air-defense umbrella. Israeli forces then crossed the Suez Canal and threatened to destroy Egyptian forces trapped on the east bank. The UN Security Council called for a cease-fire on October 22, 1973, but Israel disregarded this and continued encircling the Egyptians. The Soviets proposed sending joint U.S.-Soviet military contingents to enforce the cease-fire and threatened to act unilaterally if the United States refused. To emphasize their determination, the Soviets made further preparations to deploy airborne forces, and Soviet troops in Egypt fired two Scud ballistic missiles into Israel. At this point there was a real prospect of renewed fighting and the commitment to nuclear weapons. Washington raised its military alert level, informed Moscow of its willingness to cooperate in maintaining a cease-fire (although not with U.S. troops), asked Sadat to withdraw his request for superpower military intervention (which he did), and demanded that Israel cease operations (which, under extreme duress, it eventually did).

The 1973 war yielded only one positive result for Moscow: the opening of the Suez Canal. Otherwise, the outcome was profoundly negative. Washington reestablished ties with Egypt and excluded Moscow from any substantive role in the Egyptian-Israeli peace process. Moscow’s only recourse was to strengthen ties with Syria and to forge a relationship with Libya, which bought $20 billion in Soviet arms from 1974 to 1985.

Wilhelm, Ritter von Leeb Part I

Generalfeldmarschall Ritter v. Leeb (15.8.1940)

Generalfeldmarschall Ritter v. Leeb
(15.8.1940)

Wilhelm, Ritter von Leeb, whose austere, intellectual features and long head with its high, domed forehead mark him as a thinker more readily than as a man of action, was considered to be the leading defensive strategist of the pre-war German Army. An artilleryman only one year junior to von Rundstedt, he had been born in 1876 and was thus 63 years old when war broke out. A sincere Catholic, he had been a supporter of von Fritsch although, rather curiously, he was also on good terms with his fellow gunner Keitel. As one of the old school, a monarchist and a Catholic, Leeb was neither a friend nor a follower of the Nazi Party, and indeed Hitler once referred to him as ‘an incorrigible anti-Nazi’. He was one of those to lose his command in the purge of 1938, though he was restored the following year.

By 1932 Leeb was a Lieutenant-General commanding a division, and between 1934 and February 1938 he commanded Gruppenkommando 2 as a full General of Artillery with headquarters at Kassel.

Although never a member of any of the conspiracies against Hitler, Leeb must have been one of the first important generals to have been put under surveillance by the Gestapo. He worked out his own ideas from the standpoint of an intellectual, and although ignorant of the plots of Beck and Halder in 1938 and 1939, came up independently with his own idea that, in 1939 when the invasion of France loomed, the three Army Group commanders, of whom he was one, should refuse to undertake the offensive, and tell Hitler so. He was dissuaded from this drastic course of action by the other two generals concerned, Rundstedt and Bock, who told him that such a step would amount to mutiny. Leeb may be seen from this episode to have been somewhat naive.

During the invasion of Poland Leeb, then a Colonel-General, was left in charge on the Western front, as the expert on defence, and must have been relieved that no Allied attack was made against his threadbare forces. He was not in favour of a policy of aggression in the west, and in October 1939 circulated a memorandum among his fellow generals prophesying that the whole world would turn against Germany if she, for the second time in twenty-five years, violated Belgian, and now also Dutch, neutrality. ‘The entire nation is longing for peace’, Leeb wrote. It was for this reason, and for his admirable personal character, that conspirators such as Hassell and General Thomas saw some hope in Leeb. In January 1940 Etzdorf, the Foreign Office liaison officer with the General Staff, thought Leeb the only one of the three Army Group commanders with whom something might be done. But Leeb was not forceful enough, and did not command sufficient backing in the Army, to be a successful catalyst; and by September 1941 Johannes Popitz, the Prussian Minister of Finance and a leading conspirator, told Hassell that he found Leeb ‘almost fossilized’.

As C-in-C West in 1939, Leeb was naturally given an Army Group for the invasion of France, but Hitler saw to it that it was the least powerful one. For the first part of the blitzkrieg the 1st and 7th Armies of Leeb’s Army Group C merely tied down the French forces opposite them in the south, and it was only after the encirclement of the British and French’ in the north that he penetrated the Maginot Line. Thereafter Leeb’s seventeen divisions made good progress in the second part of the battle of France, but their achievements were overshadowed by the more spectacular Panzer breakthroughs in the north.

Leeb was promoted Field-Marshal on 19 July 1940, and on 25 October his Army Group headquarters was moved from France back to Dresden, in preparation for the coming invasion of Russia. In this campaign Leeb was given command of Army Group North, whose main objective was Leningrad, and which consisted of his friend Colonel-General von Küchler’s 18th Army, Colonel-General Busch’s 16th Army, and Colonel- General Höpner’s 4th Panzer Group. Leeb was against the invasion of Russia, and protested about it to Brauchitsch, foreseeing for one thing the entry of America into the war against Germany. Nevertheless he took command of a formidable force of twenty-three infantry divisions, three panzer, three motorized, and three security divisions.

Although von Leeb’s initial advance into the Baltic States from East Prussia was successful, and he crossed the Dvina River, he was unable to encircle the defending Soviet north-west front as it withdrew. Admittedly the Russians lost much materiel, but they husbanded their personnel. By the end of July, when Leeb’s forces were getting close to Leningrad, opposition stiffened. The Finns in the north had retaken the ground they had lost in the Winter War of 1940, but did not press towards Leningrad or south of the Stir River. When Hitler changed his mind about Moscow in September, one result was to have a disastrous effect on Leeb’s advance: he lost at the end of the month Höpner’s 4th Panzer Group, a total of five panzer and two motorized divisions, to von Bock’s Army Group Centre for ‘Typhoon’; and also Richthofen’s VIII Air Corps from Kesselring’s 2nd Air Fleet, which returned to its parent formation in the centre.

Leeb’s objections were overridden by Hitler with the assurance that Bock’s successes would take the pressure off Army Group North and make its task easier. Rundstedt in the south also had to sacrifice nine divisions, two of which were panzer and two motorized, to Bock. This was at the very end of September and the beginning of October. By furious attacks Leeb’s troops reached the shores of Lake Ladoga, but thereafter his offensive got bogged down, supply difficulties became acute as the Russian winter made itself felt, and the Finns showed no sign of crossing the Stir. By late November the Red Army was launching counter-attacks on Leeb, the strength of which surprised Halder, especially in artillery. Leeb was unhappy at the way in which the whole campaign was being directed, and on one occasion remarked sarcastically that Hitler seemed to be allying himself with Stalin.

On 6 December 1941 Leeb’s Chief of Staff, Lieutenant-General K. Brennecke, reported to O.K.H. that Tikhvin was under threat of encirclement from the Russians, in such intense cold, sometimes as much as minus 35 degrees centigrade, that most of the German tanks could not fire their guns. In fact Army Group North had long since gone over to the defensive after the transfer of the bulk of its armour. For once Hitler gave permission for a withdrawal without making a fuss, though he stipulated that Tikhvin be kept within artillery range. It had become clear to O.K.H. that Leeb, like von Rundstedt, was overextended and weaker than they had thought.

Why did Leningrad not fall, apart from the heroic resistance of the Russians? It should have been captured before Leeb lost his main armour. On 16th August Lieutenant-General Otto Sponheimer’s 21st Infantry Division from East Prussia, part of I Corps in Busch’s 16th Army, captured Novgorod which the Russians had made a ‘last man, last round’ citadel. Without stopping they had pushed on by the 20th to Chudovo and captured intact the railway bridges first over the Kerest River, then the more important one over the Volkhov which took the October Railway from Leningrad to Moscow.

Wilhelm, Ritter von Leeb Part II

1940_Field_Marshal_Ceremony

Hitler posing with his field marshals at the ceremony. Leeb is fifth from the right. Second from left; Von Rundstedt’s expression at the stand-apart Keitel, far left,  is priceless.

It had been decided at O.K.H. that the main attack on Leningrad should be developed from the right flank, that is from the south-east. Meanwhile resistance at Luga, which lay astride the main road to Leningrad, was very fierce. Had Höpner been allowed to switch all his armour to the north-west, parallel to the Narva-Kingisepp railway, and attack Leningrad from the west, the chances are that he would have succeeded before Bock’s autumn push on Moscow. This would have meant switching Manstein’s LVI Panzer Corps from the Novgorod-Luga-Soltsy to join Reinhardt’s XLI Panzer Corps between Luga and Kingisepp, on the lower Luga stretches. But when Höpner had established a springboard for the final seventy-mile advance to Leningrad east of Lake Peipus, the High Command held back his tanks for three fatal weeks. They wanted him to wait and join up with the bulk of 16th Army, coming up on the right, to envelop the Russians in retreat from the Baltic countries. Unfortunately this plan and the allocation of the weight of the attack on Leningrad from the south-east did not take into account the fact that on the right, where the ground was wooded and marshy, tanks could not operate nearly so freely as on the left, which was why Höpner had switched Reinhardt’s Corps. All that Höpner needed for a successful attack were more infantry divisions to cover a long panzer thrust to Leningrad. At worst he could make do with Manstein’s Panzer Corps. But Leeb was unable to persuade Rastenburg of the soundness of his theory, it being held that Reinhardt was not strong enough to attack Leningrad by himself. When reinforcements did arrive they were sent to the Lake Ilmen area on the right, not to the left.

Colonel-General Georg-Hans Reinhardt, as he became, later asked why Manstein’s Corps was not switched to his wing. Leeb did try to have the decision to emphasize the right wing rescinded, but failed after weeks of argument during which the Russians were working night and day to strengthen their line. So a great opportunity was missed, the more so because Höpner and Reinhardt were two of the most experienced commanders of armour in the German Army, and von Manstein had already proved his worth in this role, though an infantryman. On 30 July Reinhardt wrote in his diary: ‘More delays. It’s terrible. The chance that we opened up has been missed for good, and things are getting more difficult all the time.’

He admitted that it was necessary to improve the road system before the attack (how often were the Russians to be saved by their bad roads!) but this was a matter of days, not weeks: ‘Time and again our Corps urged a speedy resumption of the attack’, Reinhardt told Paul Carell, ‘and asked that some units at least of Manstein’s Corps should be switched over to us, especially as they were bogged down where they stood. But all was in vain.’

Eventually on 15 August, after a heated discussion between Höpner and Leeb, the latter agreed to give Reinhardt one of Manstein’s motorized divisions. But this was hardly enough.

Between 15 and 23 August, Manstein’s forces were heavily engaged in the south-east corner of Leeb’s front, in the Lake Ilmen area and at Staraya Russa. Because of this crisis at Staraya Russa, Höpner had to hold his attack on Leningrad. Höpner had been advocating to Leeb since 15 August a switch of von Küchler’s 18th Army from Estonia to the Luga front, so that Küchler could secure Höpner’s northern flank.

Leeb, however, now gave Küchler two jobs: to destroy the Soviet 8th Army on the Baltic coast, then to capture the Russian fortifications along the southern coast of the Gulf of Finland. This double-headed order was a mistake, for it meant tying down forces on a secondary front when Höpner needed every division he could get for Leningrad. Now every day was important to the Russians digging defences, and it took eleven days for 18th Army to move from Narva to Opolye, only twenty-five miles in a direct line! Carell believes that Leeb was motivated by a wish to let Küchler, an old friend, share in the coming victory at Leningrad. But whereas Höpner and his 4th Panzer Group might well have taken the city in mid-August, when the morale of the population was very low in the face of German successes, it was a different matter by 8 September when the German attack finally began.

The Russian resistance was ferocious. The key to the capture of Leningrad was the fortress of Schlüsselburg, and this was taken by German infantry in a surprise attack, thus sealing off the city to the east Despite severe Russian counter-attacks the Germans held on, and when the Duderhof Hills had been taken, and then Uritsk, it seemed that the end was near. But now came starting interference and a change of plan from Hitler. Reinhardt recalled to Carell: ‘In the middle of the troops’ justified victory celebrations, like a cold shower came the news from Panzer Group on 12 September that Leningrad was not to be taken, but merely sealed off. The offensive was to be continued only as far as the Pushkin-Peterhof road. The XLI Panzer Corps was to be detached during the next few days for employment elsewhere. We just could not understand it. At the last moment the troops, who had been giving of their best, were robbed of the crown of victory.’

On 17 September Höpner’s Panzer Group was withdrawn from the Leningrad front, and so were all bomber formations. This at a time when one final push would have secured the city, invaluable as a port and supply base, as a factory area producing tanks, guns and ammunition, and as a point of juncture with the Finns. Its capture would have freed 18th Army for other operations; as it was, this army was contained round Leningrad until 1944.

One reason for Hitler’s directive was the attitude of the Finns. Marshal Mannerheim did not wish to involve his troops in the capture of the city, or cross the old Russo-Finnish frontier in the Karelian Isthmus. But Hitler was to pay hard for his change of mind. Previously he had always insisted that Leningrad should be taken before the attack on Moscow. Now, despite the Kiev success in the south, he was to have neither Leningrad nor Moscow, and from the end of 1941 onwards the front between Leningrad and the Volkhov was to be a continuing threat and an expensive drain on the Germans. Indeed it may be said that never again did Army Group North gain any great success.

It is easy to see why and how von Leeb was so dissatisfied with the conduct of the Russian campaign. But a more forceful man would not have been put off or been so compliant as was Leeb. He does not emerge in any sense as a great commander. The fact was that the war in Russia was not for elderly gentlemen, it was for younger toughs like Model and Schörner. In their sixties men like Rundstedt, Bock and Leeb were too old and too set in their ways to stand up to Russian winters and hardships, and to an exasperating Commander-in-Chief playing the part of a sometimes hysterical back-seat driver.

It is also clear that Leeb’s heart was not in the war. On 12 January a crisis arose when a large part of Busch’s 16th Army looked like being cut off in the Demyansk pocket. Leeb therefore asked permission to withdraw II Corps, but Hitler refused. Leeb had the chance he had been looking for, and requested that he be relieved of his command. Hitler complied, and von Küchler succeeded to the command of Army Group North on 18 January.

In October 1948, when he was 72, Field-Marshal von Leeb was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment as a minor war criminal. The court found that there was much to be said in mitigation for him. Today the verdict seems hard, and perhaps the best epitaph for this intelligent, conscientious Bavarian general remains, as the judges put it, ‘He was not a friend or follower of the Nazi Party’.

SCHLIEFFEN PLAN

Schlieffen_Plan

The so-called Schlieffen Plan, Germany’s infamous military deployment plan of the early twentieth century, took its name from Count Alfred von Schlieffen, chief of the German General Staff from 1891 to 1905. Its genesis and the reasoning behind it are best explained against the background of international developments in Europe at the beginning of the twentieth century.

INTERNATIONAL BACKGROUND TO SCHLIEFFEN’S MILITARY PLANNING

The Entente Cordiale (1904) between Britain and France had just been successfully tested during the First Moroccan Crisis (1905–1906), and Germany began to feel the full consequences of its own expansionist foreign policy. To Germany, British involvement in a future war now seemed almost certain, and consequently Italy, allied to Germany and Austria since 1882, became a less reliable ally, because it would be unable to defend its long coastlines from Britain and might therefore opt to stay neutral in a future war. The international events of 1905 and 1906 marked the beginning of Germany’s perceived ‘‘encirclement’’ by alliances of possible future enemies.

Between this time and the outbreak of war in 1914, the General Staff became increasingly concerned about the growing military strength of Germany’s enemies. As a result of the Russo-Japanese War (1904– 1905) Russia was eliminated as a serious threat to the European status quo for the foreseeable future. It would first of all have to recover from a lost war and revolution. For Germany’s military leaders who feared Russia as a potential future enemy, this was a perfect time to consider ‘‘preventive war,’’ because Germany still had a chance to defeat Russia. In the not too distant future, Germany’s military planners predicted, Russia would become invincible. The Schlieffen Plan was developed against this background and designed primarily as a war against France (and Britain) in 1905 and 1906.

SCHLIEFFEN’S STRATEGY

Schlieffen saw Germany’s best chance of victory in a swift offensive against France, while in the east the German army was initially to be on the defensive. Russia would be dealt with after France had been defeated. In effect, Schlieffen aimed to turn the threatening two-front war into two one-front wars. The plan further entailed that Germany would have to attack France while avoiding the heavy fortifications along the Franco-German border. Instead of a ‘‘head-on’’ engagement, which would lead to interminable position warfare, the opponent should be enveloped and its armies attacked on the flanks and rear. Moving through Switzerland would have been impractical, whereas in the north the terrain was easier to negotiate and the necessary railway lines existed that would ensure a swift German deployment. In addition, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Belgium were not expected to put up much resistance. With these considerations in mind, Schlieffen decided to concentrate all effort on the right wing of the German advancing armies. The plan involved violating the neutrality of Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Belgium, but Schlieffen and his colleagues in the General Staff considered the political ramifications of this act of aggression insignificant.

In his planning, Schlieffen counted on two things—that German victory in the west would be quick, and that Russian mobilization would be slow—so that a small German force would suffice to hold back Russia until France was beaten. After a swift victory in the west, the full force of the German army would be directed eastward, and Russia beaten in turn.

This scheme was the result of years of planning and strategic exercises designed to find the best solution to the problem of a two-front war. Schlieffen put this version on paper in December 1905 in a memorandum written on the eve of his retirement (this document is usually referred to as the ‘‘Schlieffen Plan’’). In subsequent years, the plan was adapted to changing international circumstances by his successor, the younger Helmuth von Moltke. Nevertheless, the underlying principles— trying to fight two wars on one front, wanting to fight against France before attempting to defeat Russia, and attempting to envelop the opponent—remained the same until August 1914, when Germany’s deployment plan (now significantly revised) was put into action.

In 1914 the plan (more aptly called the ‘‘Moltke Plan’’ at this point) imposed severe restrictions on the possibility of finding a diplomatic solution to the ‘‘July crisis,’’ particularly because of its narrow time frame for the initial deployment of troops into Luxembourg, Belgium, and France (the neutrality of the Netherlands was spared by this time). The escalation of the crisis to full-scale war was in no small measure due to Germany’s offensive war plans.

THE MYTH OF THE SCHLIEFFEN PLAN

After the war was lost, Germany’s military leaders initially attempted to keep details of the plan a secret, not least because they might have underlined the war guilt allegations made by the victors against Germany. Official document collections omitted Schlieffen’s memorandum of 1905, although in private correspondence and in their memoirs, contemporaries frequently referred to Schlieffen’s ‘‘recipe for victory,’’ which had, in their opinion, been squandered by his successor. Details of the memorandum did not become public until after World War II, when the German historian Gerhard Ritter published this and other documents. His study of the Schlieffen Plan, and his subsequent publications, blamed German militarism for the outbreak of war.

More recently, however, it has been argued by the American historian Terence Zuber that there never was a Schlieffen Plan. His contention is that the famous 1905 memorandum did not amount to a military plan. Other historians have suggested that it would be more appropriate to use the term Moltke Plan when referring to the outbreak of war in 1914, because by then Schlieffen’s own plan had been superseded by that of his successor. Zuber’s thesis has provoked much debate (see, for example, the journal War in History where much of this debate has taken place), but he has largely failed to convince his critics that there was no Schlieffen Plan. His apologetic interpretation that Germany did not have an offensive war plan in 1914 has similarly found few supporters.

The debate has, however, reemphasized what others had already stressed: that there never existed a guaranteed recipe for victory that Schlieffen’s hapless successor adulterated, and that it would be prudent to think carefully about the terminology used to describe Germany’s prewar military plans. The term Schlieffen Plan as a convenient way of summarizing German military intentions is perhaps not accurate enough; by 1914, when Germany put its offensive war plan into action, Schlieffen had long ceased to have any influence on Germany’s military planning. The responsibility for the plans that were put into practice in August 1914 lay with his successor, Helmuth von Moltke, who had adapted Schlieffen’s ideas to changing international and domestic conditions.

BIBLIOGRAPHY Bucholz, Arden. Moltke, Schlieffen, and Prussian War Planning. New York, 1991. Ehlert, Hans, Michael Epkenhans, and Gerhard P. Gross, eds. Der Schlieffenplan: Anlayse und Dokumente. Munich, 2006. Foley, Robert T., trans. and ed. Alfred von Schlieffen’s Military Writings. London, 2003. Mombauer, Annika. Helmuth von Moltke and the Origins of the First World War. Cambridge, U.K., 2001. Ritter, Gerhard. The Schlieffen Plan: Critique of a Myth. Translated by Andrew and Eva Wilson. London, 1958. Translation of Der Schlieffenplan: Kritik eine Mythos. Zuber, Terence. Inventing the Schlieffen Plan: German War Planning, 1871–1914. Oxford, U.K., 2002.

86th Fighter Group – USAAF

3_283

A-36 “Priscilla/Mavonne”, Unit: 526th FS, 86th FB, USAAF, Serial: N (956)
Pilot – Bert Benear. Mavonne – crew CO’s wife name, Priscilla – name of Benear colleague girl-friend.

bgvfbzdfg

Activated on 10 February 1942, as the 86th Fighter Group at Will Rogers Field, near Oklahoma City, Oklahoma with a cadre of five officers and 163 enlisted men. The unit made several moves before settling at Key Field in Meridian, Mississippi, where it began training on A-20 and DB-7 Havoc. In September 1942, the 86th was redesignated a dive-bomber unit and received A-24 Banshee, the Army Air Forces version of the US Navy’s highly successful SBD Dauntless, and A-31 Vengeance aircraft, transferring its A-20s and DB-7s to the 27th and 47th Light Bomber Groups.

The new aircraft did not improve the 86th’s combat capability. The Allies had found land-based dive bombers unsatisfactory for combat in Europe after the initial days of the war, so the A-24 and A-31 were as replaced as rapidly as possible. The transition began 20 Nov. 1942, with the arrival of the first A-36 Apache (also christened the Apache or Invader), one of the finest ground-attack aircraft in the world at the time and a version of the P-51A Mustang.

After completing training, in March 1943 the 86th and its three squadrons, the 309th, 310th, and 312th Bombardment Squadrons (Light) embarked from Staten Island 29 April and sailed to Algeria, arriving at Mers El Khebir, a former French naval base at Oran, in May. Flying operations began 15 May from Médiouna Airfield, near Casablanca, French Morocco. The 86th and its squadrons then began a series of moves around the theater which would eventually lead to Sicily, Italy; Corsica, France; and Germany.

In the North African Campaign, the 86th engaged primarily in close support of ground forces, beginning in early July against German positions in Tunisia. The 309th Squadron flew the group’s first combat mission on 2 July 1943 from Trafaroui Air Base, Algeria, and the group’s other squadrons began combat operations on 6 July with attacks against Cap Bon, Tunis.

On 14 July, initial elements of the 86th embarked for Comiso Airport, Sicily. The entire group settled into the airfield at Gela West, by 21 July. The following day the group flew its first mission from that base, supporting the 1st Division of II Army Corps. By the time the Germans withdrew from Sicily on 17 Aug., the group had flown 2,375 combat sorties in Sicily and along the southern coast of Italy.

The group was redesignated the 86th Fighter Bomber Group on 23 Aug. 1943, and its squadrons, the 309th, 310th, and 312th Bombardment Squadrons (Light) redesignated the 525th, 526th and 527th Fighter-Bomber Squadrons. On 27 Aug., the newly designated group moved to Barcelona Landing Ground, Sicily where the group provided air support for the first Allied landings on the European mainland at Salerno, Italy. On 10 Sept. 1943, three days after the invasion of Salerno, advance echelons of the 86th moved to Sele Airfield, near the beachhead. Enemy shelling of the beaches caused considerable difficulty during the move, and the group did not fly its first missions until 15 September.

After the fall of Naples, the group moved to Serretella Airfield, then on to Pomigliano d’Arco where it remained for some time. Throughout 1943–44, the 86th FBG supported Allied forces by attacking enemy lines of communication, troop concentrations and supply areas. Then, on 30 April 1944, the 86th moved to Marcianise Airfield to prepare for the spring offensive against the German Gustav Line. It also attacked rail and road targets and strafed German troop and supply columns during late spring, earning a Distinguished Unit Citation (DCU) for outstanding action against the enemy on 25 May when the group flew 12 armed reconnaissance and bombing missions and 86 sorties, destroyed 217 enemy vehicles and damaged 245, silenced several gun positions, and interdicted the highways into the towns of Frosinone, Cori, and Cescano. The group suffered heavy losses—two aircraft lost, six others heavily damaged, and one pilot killed.

The 86th was an active participant in Operation Strangle, the attempt to cut German supply lines prior to the Allied offensive aimed at rail and road networks, and attacking German troop and supply columns. While Strangle did not significantly cut into German supplies, it did disrupt enemy tactical mobility and was a major factor in the Allies’ eventual breakthrough. During this period the 86th received P-40 Warhawks to augment its aging A-36s, but the obsolescent P-40s were only a stopgap measure. On 30 May 1944, the 86th received its final wartime designation, the 86th Fighter Group, but more importantly the group welcomed its first P-47 Thunderbolts a few weeks later, on 23 June. The tough, modern P-47 was welcomed by the group’s pilots, as was their move to Orbetello Airfield, on the west coast of Italy, between 18 and 30 June.

In mid-July, the 86th continued its tour of the Italian coast by moving to Poretta Airfield, near Casamozza, on the island of Corsica. From Poretta, the fighter group flew bombing missions against coastal defenses in direct support of Operation Dragoon, the Allied invasion of southern France 15 Aug. 1944. Allied forces met little resistance as they moved inland twenty miles in the first twenty-four hours. Once the invasion was completed, the 86th moved back to Grosseto Airfield, Italy and continued its coastal basing by attacking enemy road and rail networks in northern Italy and, for the first time, flying regular escort missions with heavy bombers. The group also conducted armed reconnaissance against the enemy in the Po Valley region.

In October, 1944, the 86th was ordered to move to a new base in Pisa, Italy, but the weather turned bad, limiting the group’s combat flying and impeding its movement to Pisa. Finally, on 23 Oct., the first echelon moved to Pisa while the main body remained at Grosseto, but severe floods at both locations hampered the move. It was 6 Nov. before the 86th FG finally completed the move to Pisa.

The group continued combat in northern Italy until February 1945, when it left the Mediterranean Theater and moved to Tantonville Airfield (Y-1), France, in the Lorraine region, and operations shifted from targets in the Po Valley to those in southern Germany. The group’s first mission to Germany – a cause of some excitement – was on 25 Feb. 1945, and by March most missions were flown into Germany against rail lines, roads, supply dumps, enemy installations and airfields. The 86th FG transferred from Tantonville to Braunshardt Airfield (R-12), near Darmstadt, Germany, in April. A “maximum effort” on 20 April to stop all enemy transportation in southern Germany earned the group its second Distinguished Unit Citation. The 86th Fighter Group flew its final combat mission on 8 May 1945. By the end of that war, the group had flown a total of 28,662 combat sorties and claimed the destruction of 9,960 vehicles, 10,420 rail cars, 1,114 locomotives and 515 enemy aircraft.

Just after the war, the group performed occupation duty at Braunschardt (Now designated AAF Station Braunschardt) which became a replacement depot to process troops returning to French staging areas for shipment home. Flying personnel performed routine training to maintain their proficiency. On 25–26 Sept. 1945, the group moved to AAF Station Schweinfurt, Germany to begin operations as a unit of the occupation force. The group’s squadrons lost their personnel without replacement in October – November, and the group headquarters began absorbing all squadron personnel in October, completing the shift on 24 Nov. 1945

At midnight on 14 Feb. 1946, group headquarters personnel were assigned to Detachment A, 64th Fighter Wing. The designation of the group and squadrons moved, without personnel or equipment, to Bolling Field, Washington, DC, to join Continental Air Forces (later, Strategic Air Command). However, Continental Air Forces had a surplus of units and on 31 March 1946, the 86th and its units were deactivated and its aircraft being sent to the new “Schweinfurt Air Depot” operated by Air Technical Service Command for deposition.

LINK

Raketa

preparations_1

The R-1 was the Soviet copy of the German A-4 missile. The R-1 was developed by OKB-1 led by Sergei Korolev and test-launched for the first time in 1948 in Kapustin Yar.

The Soviet leadership in 1944 had no Interest in creating a program for the development of ballistic missiles in support of the war effort. Despite this lack of enthusiasm for indigenous efforts, there was considerable interest in acquiring and studying concurrent German rocket technology. Without a doubt, the most technologically sophisticated and advanced rocketry program during the war existed in neither the United States nor the Soviet Union, but at Peenemünde in Germany under the administrative leadership of General Walter Dornberger. With the young Wernher von Braun as the technical head of operations, Dornberger’s group of highly talented Individuals had, by the end of the war, developed one of the most feared weapons of World War II, the A-4 ballistic missile. More commonly known as the V-2, or “vengeance weapon.” in German, the A-4 performed its first successful launch on October 3, 1942, after three failures in March, June, and August of the same year. With a maximum range of about 300 kilometers and a capability to reach altitudes of close to ninety kilometers, the A-4 was produced in the thousands by slave labor in the latter part of the war as almost a last-gasp attempt by the Nazis to turn the inevitable course of the war. A second weapon, the Fieseler Fi-103 “flying bomb.” also known as the V-1, was part of this intense German campaign to numb Great Britain into submission. Although casualties were relatively low compared to aerial bombing, the spectre of the two missiles produced an unimaginable sense of terror among the mostly civilian victims.

In a letter dated July 13. 1944, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill personally requested Stalin’s cooperation in locating and retrieving A-4 and Fi- 103 production materials that the Germans were leaving behind with their retreat.” Churchill’s prime concern was that British intelligence officers be allowed to inspect and examine any captured A-4 components from the experimental missile station at Debica near Krakow in Poland, which, by July 1944, was only about fifty kilometers from the Soviet frontlines. As they began their retreat in mid-1944, the Germans had, however, done a fairly good job of destroying all possible remnants of their research.

Stalin ordered the formation of a secret expeditionary group of Soviet specialists to investigate the remains at Debica. People’s Commissar of Aviation Industry Aleksey I. Shakhurin tapped the Nil- l organization to help set up an advance team. Under the watchful eye of the NKVD, on August 5, May, General Fedorov led a small group of NII- l engineers, including Korolev’s old RNll associates Tikhonravov and Pobedonostsev, to Debica. Initially, the Soviet team collected some interesting parts, such as an A-4 combustion chamber and parts of propellant tanks, before allowing British teams to enter a week later to conduct their own investigations. Highly accurate aerial maps prepared by the latter were instrumental in locating more fallen A-4 debris from test firings that the Germans had conducted. Recovered parts from the missile were soon loaded into Li-2 transport aircraft and returned to Moscow under tight NKVD security. Upon return to Moscow, with the exception of NII- I Director Fedorov and Deputy Director Bolkhovitinov, almost all the employees of NII- I were kept in the dark about the entire operation. Eventually, the NKVD loosened some of their restrictions, and Bolkhovitinov was ordered to establish a very small group of talented engineers to study the engineering aspects of the A-4. This section of A-4 researchers was given the top-secret designation Raketa. the Russian word for “missile,” and included RNll veterans Tikhonravov and Pobedonostsev. Plant No. 293 alumni Bereznyak, Bushuyev. Chertok. Isayev, and Mishin, and newcomers Nikolay A. Pilyugin and Leonid A. Voskresenskiy.

Possibly the youngest of the group was Vasiliy Pavlovich Mishin, a specialist in control systems who, twenty years later, would lead the Soviet program to land a cosmonaut on the Moon. He was born on January 5. 1917, in the village of Byualino not far from Moscow. His brother and sister died in childhood, and his family disintegrated soon after. The young Mishin was raised by his grandfather because his father had been jailed for several years for not informing on a person who had told a joke about Stalin. After his father’s release. Mishin moved to Moscow and qualified as one of the lucky entrants into the prestigious Moscow Aviation Institute in 1935. He was 18 at the time and apparently considered a very bright student. There, Mishin did his pre-diploma work under the aircraft designer Bolkhovitinov. Passionately in love with flying, Mishin was also well known as one of the first pilots in the Soviet Union to master a “self-starting” piloting technique without outside assistance. Later in 1940, he was called up for work at Bolkhovitinov’s Plant No. 293 and took part in the development of the one of the world’s first rocket-powered airplanes, the BI-1, which flew successfully in 1942. Mishin was one of many of Bolkhovitinov’s engineers transferred to NII- l in early 1944, and after the A-4 fragments were recovered in August, he became one of the leading members of the group. Equipped with a very assertive personality, he was instrumental in extracting important information on the workings of the German missile from the few scraps that were recovered. Because of his father’s “suspect” background. Mishin was apparently considered somewhat of a state risk and was not allowed to travel anywhere without permission.

The primary goals of the 1944 recovery operations were to determine whether the possibility existed of creating an analog of the A-4 weapon in Soviet industry. It seems that the evaluation team was actually organized on two different levels. While the Raketa group at NII- I was kept busy with a technical investigation of the recovered remains, a second group was tapped to advise Stalin and the Soviet leadership on the possible uses of such weapons-that is, their utility in wartime conditions. This process was the catalyst for introducing a second group of individuals, the artillery officers, who would play a very significant role in the future development and operation of the Soviet space program.

Z SPECIAL UNIT ‘SNAKE’ Boats

srd2

Above: Mother Snake with charges Tiger Snake and River Snake Alongside.

LINK

HMA Ships Kuru, Tiger Snake, River Snake, Black Snake, Sea Snake, Grass Snake, Diamond Snake, Mother Snake, Taipan, Krait, Kuru, Alatna, Karina, Nyanie, Misima, Motor Work Boats (AM) 1830, 1629, 1983, 1985, 2003, 2004.

The activities of “Z” special Forces and the Services Reconnaissance Department (SRD) have become as much part of Australia’s military history as Gallipoli and Tobruk. “Z” special Force were Australian Army Commandos; SRD was a grab-bag of boats of all shapes and sizes crewed by the RAN, and it was their task to assist “Z” Special Forces with transport, reconnaissance, supply, insertion and so on. Operations saw various parts of the force involved in raids into Singapore Harbour, the Celebes, Timor and Borneo, the pace of operations increasing steadily towards the end of the war.

In the hard times of 1942 and 1943, when the Australians, British and Americans were struggling to contain Japanese expansion, some vessels became little legends in their own right. Kuru, a minute motor-boat of just 55 tons, made a hero of herself on the “Timor Ferry Service” in early 1942; along with the auxilliary patrol vessel Vigilant, she ferried refugees, commandos, stores and equipment between Fremantle and small, dark bays on the Timor coast – a round trip of more than 6,000 kilometres. But perhaps the best known was Krait, originally the Japanese Kofoku Maru, a 70-foot wooden motor fishing vessel of 1920 vintage. She was seized at Singapore and sailed away before the place fell to the Japanese on 15th February 1942. An excellent type of vessel for raiding, she was taken into service and carried out many daring intrusions into enemy territory. The most famous was Operation “Jaywick”, the successful insertion of canoe-borne Commandos into Singapore Harbour (26th September 1943).

Alatna, Karina, Nyanie and Misima were “AM”s – army launches transferred to Naval service, each of 62 feet and capable of 20 knots, bearing a couple of machine guns by way of armament and with considerable capacity for shifting large amounts of cargo. They first came into service at the beginning of 1944. They were officially tenders, but in practice were used as fast supply boats – “fast supply” meaning running guns and stores across five thousand kilometres of open ocean into enemy-held areas and delivering them to the commandos operating behind enemy lines.

By the end of 1944, three vessels were being used as depot ships by these raiders. Taipan was a junk, captured and converted; Anaconda and Mother Snake were big “mother ships” for the raiders, of 550 tons displacement, 125 feet overall, with a large crew of 14 to 19. Anaconda carried a single 20 mm Oerlikon gun, while Mother Snake was a floating anti-aircraft battery by comparison, sporting a 40 mm Bofors gun and two Oerlikons.

The “Snake” boats came early in 1945, and in their way are a clear indication of the resources becoming available, and of the heights to which Australian Naval organisation was ascending. The “Snakes” were purpose-designed commando-carriers – trawlers of 66 feet and 80 tons, equipped with sail as well as motors, mounting at most an Oerlikon and a few machine guns, usually concealed. They looked very much like Malay fishing boats or Chinese junks – a deliberate design feature. They also carried one very special piece of equipment, the “S” phone. This invention of the British SOE (Special Operations Executive) was a short-range radio set which sent its signal down a narrow directional beam. Since it could only be received by someone the transmitter was pointing at, it was almost undetectable to conventional listening apparatus. It was thus very useful in smuggling spies across beaches. With the end of the war came the end of a need for Commando insertions – none of these boats had been lost in service, and all were turned over to civilian use, or in the case of the ex-army boats, returned by the Navy to their original owners. Sadly, Alatna was sunk in a collision within six months of the war ending.

SPECIAL UNIT Operation ‘Jaywick’

Krait-crew

Top secret, highly trained ‘Z Special Unit’. More commonly but also incorrectly referred to as ‘Z Force’, in fact these were two entirely different units. Z Force was a forward observation force attached to the British General Staff Intelligence, that operated in Burma during World War II. The crew of the Krait during Operation Jaywick.

869361

Z Force’s function was to obtain information for General Slim commander of the British Fourteenth Army. The Fourteenth Army was engaged in the prolonged Burma Campaign fighting to recapture Burma from the Japanese. Z Force’s tasked to obtain information on the size and location of Japanese forces and their logistics (oil dumps, ammunition depots etc.). Z Force did this did this sending intelligence units into Japanese held territory that then relayed the information back by radio to the headquarters of the Fourteenth Army. The Chindit operation of 1943 owed much to men such as Major Herbert Castens of GSI (Z) or Z Force as it was known.

The intelligence units that went behind enemy lines were made up of expatriates who had worked in Burma before the war and were familiar with the jungle (most were teak forests, but some were petroleum engineers, and some had worked with radio companies), and natives Burmese from the Chins, Kachins and Karens peoples. The expatriates were all commissioned as offices from captain to colonel.

Z force operated for three years, initially penetrating Japanese lines on foot but later on they were parachuted in by the RAF who also resupplied them via parachute drops. The “highly dangerous mission in a war noted for its ferocity and bestiality” were carried out in some of the most difficult jungle terrain in the world. During the campaign Z force personnel were awarded one CBE, two DSOs, four OBEs, four MBEs, seventeen MCs with bars to two, and sixteen Burma Gallantry medals

Z Special Unit Operation Jaywick

The Operation was planned by Australian and British Commando and Intelligence Officers and was to take place at the same time when the Salamaua, Lae and Finschafen operations were taking place against the Japanese in New Guinea. Disorganisation of Japanese shipping was deemed to be an essential factor in the success of these operations. So great was the secrecy of Operation Jaywick that Major Bob Page of Grafton, New South Wales, died in a later operation without even knowing he had been decorated for his part in it. For nine months the party trained at a secret camp on the Queensland coast.

The vessel assigned to them was the ‘Krait’, a former Japanese fishing boat, 70 feet long, 11 foot Beam with a range of 11,000 miles and a top speed of 6.5 knots. Krait had originally been sailed to India from Singapore, after its fall to the Japanese, where she was commandeered by Military Intelligence for ‘possible future use’. Later, she was sent on a perilous voyage across the Indian Ocean to Australia and refitted for her new role.

Krait departed Exmouth in Western Australia laden with weapons, limpet mines and rubber canoes, which were stowed out of sight, and headed north toward the Lombok Strait in the very dangerous occupied waters around Surabaja, Indonesia.

She was sailed to within 21 miles of the ‘Singapore Roads’ and then the canoes were loaded with rations and water for one week plus operational stores and weapons. The canoe borne raiders arranged their rendezvous with Krait for the night of October 1st at Pompong, 28 miles from the advanced operational post, for which Dongas, eight miles from Singapore Harbour had been selected.

At 8:30 on September 22, the three canoes, with their six raiders a piece reached Dongas. The arduous nature of the long paddle necessitated a day of rest for the canoeists and the next day Singapore Harbour was reconnoitered for likely targets. At no time during their five day observation was there less than 100,000 tons of shipping present in the harbour. On September 24 the three canoes attempted infiltration of the harbour but adverse tides forced abandonment of the mission. All during this period the raiders were under the constant threat of being detected by the numerous and active Japanese water and shore patrols. The next night the base of operations was altered to Palau Sambu where the tides were more favourable and on the night of 26 September the successful raid was launched.

Canoe 1 reached a 10,000 ton tanker and two limpet mines were attached to her hull, one at the place of the engineroom and another on her propeller shaft. Canoe 2 twice crossed the boom of the harbour in search of worthy targets and finally selected three of the most tempting – one 5,000 ton freighter, the 6,000 ton ‘Taisyo Maru’ and another 5,000 ton tanker. Canoe 3 covertly examined ships and sentries along the lighted wharves before selecting the modern freighters ‘Nasusan Maru’ and ‘Yamataga Maru’. The attacks began soon after 8:00 pm. At dawn, the canoes were back at their operations base camp and there the crews settled back to watch the forthcoming show.

Seven separate explosions were heard between 5:15 am and 5:50 am and both sea and air patrols were observed setting out searching for the attackers. At dusk on 27 September the raiders set out for their rendezvous with Krait which was cruising in the vicinity of Pompong Island and despite the frantic and exhaustive air and sea searches by the enraged Japanese the canoeists slipped through the net and made their rendezvous.

Lieutenant Carse and the seven member crew of Krait had been waiting and playing cat and mouse with Japanese patrols for 16 anxious days when all of the raiders were picked up safely. The Krait then stole away unnoticed bound for Australia where there were one or two close calls along the way – such as being interrogated by an inquisitive enemy destroyer, but she reached Australia without the loss of a single man (a remarkable achievement for such a hazardous mission). The seemingly impossible ‘Operation Jaywick‘ had been a resounding success.