2-cm Flak 30/38

2-cm Flak 30

By the time the new German army was ready to re-arm during the early 1930s, the German armament manufacturers had built up a considerable degree of expertise in heavy automatic weapons. This was especially true of the giant Rheinmetall-Borsig concern, and accordingly it was given a contract to produce a light anti-aircraft gun with a calibre of 20mm (0.787 in), and this was ready for service by 1935. Known as the 2-cm Flak 30, the term Flak standing for Fliegerabwehrkanone (anti-aircraft gun), this light weapon was of the type often known as a cannon, and was the first of a series of weapons t h a t were to become dreaded by low-flying Allied aircraft crews.

The Flak 30 was for its light calibre a rather complex weapon mounted on a carriage that could be towed on two wheels and in action rested on a ground platform. This platform provided a stable firing base with 360° traverse, and had a seat behind the gun for the firer who used, in the Flak 30’s original form, a rather complicated form of reflector sight. These sights became even more complicated when simple predictor systems were built into it, and at one point the small sight had reached a state when it had to be driven by clockwork. In fact they got so complicated that the whole idea was dropped and later versions reverted to simple ‘cartwheel and bead’ iron sights. The gun had a crew of five, but in action was frequently managed by less, especially when the guns were located in static positions, Generally the number was at least four, and usually one man held and operated a stereoscopic rangefinder, though after 1944 this function was deleted as it was found to be operationally unnecessary.

Ammunition was fed into the gun in 20-round magazines, but for some never-fully determined reason the Flak 30 was prone to ammunition jams, Also, although it was perfectly adequate when first introduced, it was later discovered that its rate of fire was too slow to cope adequately with the increased aircraft speeds that prevailed after 1940. Consequently it was replaced on the production line by the later Flak 38, but those already in service were not replaced until they became worn out or were lost to enemy action. In army light anti – aircraft Abteilungen (battalions) there were usually three 2-cm batteries to one 3.7- cm (1.457-in) battery, but as the war continued there were many variations on this theme. The Flak 30 was used not only by the Germans. Before 1939 some were sold to the Netherlands and even to China. In Germany the Flak 30 was also used by the Luftwaffe for ground defences, and the German navy had many specialized naval mountings. Some saw service for the defence of armoured trains, and the weapon was one of those mounted on several types of halftracks or trucks for the defence of mobile formations and convoys. The Flak 30 was frequently used in the ground target role, and there was even a special armour-piercing round for use against tanks.

2-cm Flak 38

By 1940 it was already appreciated that the low rate of fire of the2-cm(0.787-in) Flak 30 was too low for future target speeds, so it was decided to increase the rate of fire in order to increase the possible numbers of projectiles hitting the target. It was also decided to redesign the gun to get rid of the inherent jamming problem. Rheinmetall-Borsig was not given the contract for this project. It went instead to Mauser, who came up with a new gun that was outwardly similar to the Flak 30 but internally much was changed to provide a cyclic rate of fire of 420 to 480 rounds per minute. The ammunition, feed system and most of the carriage remained much the same as before. So did the complicated sights which were later simplified, as on the Flak 30.

The 2-cm Flak 38, as the Mauser, design was known, entered service in late 1940 and eventually replaced the Flak 30 on the production lines. It served alongside the Flak 30 and was also used by the Luftwaffe and the German navy. There was even a special version for use by the German army’s mountain units that could be broken down into pack loads. This used the same gun as the Flak 38, but the carriage was much smaller and lighter: it was known as the 2-cm Gebirgsflak 38 and was intended to be a dual-purpose weapon for use against ground targets as well as against aircraft. By 1940 it was appreciated that aircraft targets were not only getting faster but also heavier and better protected against ground and air fire. Undertaken with typical German thoroughness, operational analysis revealed that although the high rate of fire of the Flak 38 was more likely to ensure a target hit, the low explosive payload of the projectile was unlikely to inflict enough damage to ensure a ‘kill’.


Rebuilt Luftwaffe!? Part I


The spectacular Allied failure to seize the bridges and cross the Rhine River at Arnhem in September had given the Luftwaffe a breathing spell to recover from the aerial fiascos of the previous nine months. Finally, Hitler had given fighter production precedence over bomber types; he could do little else after watching the vast armada of Allied planes pulverize the Reich throughout 1944. Then too, there was little in the way of fuel to keep any of the petrol-guzzling German bombers aloft. Albert Speer warned the German leader, however, that if this desecration continued much longer, there would be no way of continuing the war. In spite of increased production from other armament manufacture, the production of oil plummeted. By greatly expanding synthetic fuels production, German petrol stocks had reached an apex of some 574,000 tons by April of 1944. But then the Allied bombing campaign against German oil production began in earnest. Fuel stocks plummeted. By late June, production was down by 90%; only 52,000 tons were produced that month as opposed to 195,000 in May. With the refineries under a withering assault, the free fall continued. Only 35,000 tons dribbled out in July and barely 16,000 in August. Speer gave Hitler an honest appraisal:

“The enemy has struck us at one of our weakest points. If they persist at it this time, we will soon no longer have any fuel production worth mentioning. Our hope is that the other side has an air force general staff as scatter-brained as ours!”

Although his generals told him that things could be patched up, Hitler was too perceptive to believe the sycophants in his headquarters. The German leader was always calling for more tanks and planes from the German factories. Speer pointedly challenged him: what good would be these planes and tanks if there was no fuel for them? Hitler knew Speer was right. The German leader grudgingly approved the plan to re-build the fighter forces at the cost of the offensive air arm that summer. But was all this too late?

Under Hitler’s direction, Speer forcefully addressed the fuel problem. The hydro-generation plants were repaired so that production could resume. A horde of army engineers were enlisted to harden the refineries. The engineers and repair crews were supervised by Himmler’s SS, so that their “enthusiasm” would not flag. Thousands of the impressed laborers died. Where possible, facilities were moved underground. For those above, concrete ramparts were erected; and a thicket of heavy flak guns ringed the facilities. Along with smoke generators, this made bomb runs not only uncertain, but exceedingly deadly. The vital German facilities took on the air of fortresses; they were even called that Hydriesfestungen. The 14th Flakdivision, in charge of the defense of the important oil plants in the Leipzig area, possessed 374 heavy flak guns at the beginning of May, 1944. Over the following months, the dynamic Genmaj. Adolf Gerlach increased their strength six-fold and instituted effective fire control schemes to make future Allied blows nearly suicidal. On July 28th, Speer called for dramatic increase in the fighters allocated to defend German industry. One move designed to accommodate his desire was to post JG 400, flying the rocket-powered, but short-ranged, Me-163 Komet, at Brandis along the approach path to the oil facilities. On August 24, eight of these fast rocket planes struck a surprised force of 185 B-17s moving to attack the refinery at Merseburg. Four B-17s were shot down with only superficial damage suffered by two of the Komets. Finally, the ultimate oil protection strategy was entrusted to Edmund Geilenberg, Speer’s energetic head of the munitions organization. He proposed to dig in 41 small dispersed hydrogeneration plants in underground production facilities around Central Germany.

In spite of the far-reaching measures, oil production continued to flag. The experience of the sprawling synthetic oil plant at Leuna is illustrative. Between May 12th and September 28th, the facility was struck no less than twelve times by over 2,400 medium and heavy bombers. Although production resumed briefly with chaotic repairs during the summer, Leuna was bombed so often that at the end of the month repair work was again disrupted before operation could resume. Meanwhile, German fuel production had dropped to a war-relative drip: a mere 7,000 tons for September. The effects were not immediate the Luftwaffe had accumulated a fuel reserve of over half a million tons before the disasters of summer but soon the fat would be gone. With the total stocks down to only 180,000 tons at the end of September the promise of draconian conservation measures loomed. Gone would be profligate use by the Luftwaffe day-bombers. Even legitimate uses like reconnaissance and training operations would have to be sharply curtailed. Worst of all, the Luftwaffe, increasingly viewed as impotent, would be competing with Hitler’s panzers for the trickle of fuel left.

Fortunately for the Germans, there were so many pulls on the Allied air effort that it did not remain solely concentrated on oil. In the late summer the U.S. strategic air force was committed to the destruction of the rail system in France to hinder the ability of the Germans to respond to the invasion. Later, Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder, the Deputy Supreme Commander at SHAEF, pushed for a greater portion of the strategic bombing effort to be devoted to wrecking the rail and water transport system in Germany on the basis of a controversial study by Professor Zuckerman. Zuckerman had become convinced from an analysis of the effect of bombing on the Italian campaign that destruction of enemy rail centers and rail marshalling yards was the way to speed the end of the war. Eventually, this plan would be translated into Operation Clarion an all-out effort to wreck German rail capability in 1945. But an even larger factor was Air Marshal Harris’ refusal to be drawn away from his area bombing of German cities to attack oil targets. Zuckerman, Tedder and Harris were frequently at odds with Spaatz who was the leading proponent of the oil campaign. But even Spaatz, frustrated with the refusal of Nazi Germany to roll over dead from his precision bombing, was now leaning toward using the heavy bombers to support the armies in massive carpet bombing attacks. A final German grace came from the poor flying weather. With the onset of autumn and the socked-in skies over Western Europe, constant bombing of the German oil facilities became impossible.

Thus, through a combination of circumstances the Germans gained a breathing spell during the summer in which to reorganize. Speer would later write that “Had they continued the attacks of March and April with the same energy, we would quickly have been at our last gasp.” But Speer shrewdly used his breathing room to repair the faltering industry. Synthetic fuel stocks wavered and then rose. Some 19,000 tons were produced in October, and 39,000 in November. This was still not nearly enough, but at least the likelihood of complete collapse was averted. Obviously, the fuel famine was not going to ever allow either the army or Luftwaffe to enjoy the surpluses of a year before. Even with spartan fuel conservation measures, the Luftwaffe would have to fight a poor man’s war. Planes were horse-drawn to their take-off point; personal travel in motor vehicles was forbidden, and training flights were greatly abbreviated. Fuel depots were assiduously dispersed to prevent major losses to Allied air attacks. The gas-guzzling Luftwaffe bombers were relegated to deep mothball status. The list went on. But if Hitler was to have fuel for a major air and ground operation using a large reserve of new aircraft, even sortie rates that fall would have to be curtailed. It was not a good situation, but at least the poor flying weather helped.

Beyond the destruction of the facilities that distilled the German oil, there were limitations with the fuel itself. Although the ingenious distillation process certainly worked, it was inefficient and the produced cost of Hitler’s “synfuels” were about four times the world market crude oil price. When the war began, the octane number of first-grade German aviation fuel was only about 89 and this was obtained only by fortifying the synthetic fuel with 16% aromatics containing tetraethyl lead. Meanwhile, the Americans had 100-octane gas courtesy the pre-war efforts of Jimmy Doolittle at upgrading refineries. The upshot of the difference in 1944 was that the P-51D’s Rolls Royce Merlin engine produced 1,520 hp with 100-octane fuel, while the Me-109G’s Daimler Benz 605 could only reach a similar level of performance with 25% more engine displacement and greater weight. In an effort to match the superior American fuels, the Germans in 1944 were adding 40% aromatics to their brew to pull the octane up to the 96-point range. This increase meant less fuel production overall at a time when the Germans were critically pressed for gasoline for pilot training. Then too, the increased fraction of the aromatics reduced performance in other ways: engines overheated more readily, richer-mixtures had to be run to prevent stalling (reducing aircraft endurance, fouling plugs and fuel efficiency) and the added compounds attacked rubber hoses and the seal-sealing bladders in German fuel tanks. And still the fuels were not equivalent. The Germans attempted to make up for the remaining gulf by using power boost, either methanol-water or nitrous oxide injection. This expedient did increase horsepower, but could only be used for short periods and had to be carefully turned on and off to maintain performance a less than certain event in the heat of combat.

The prospect of increasing fighter output was brighter. With his usual efficiency, Speer set up the Jägerstab, or Fighter Committee, within his Ministry of Armaments to set things straight. Aircraft factories were scattered to prevent intervention by the omniscient Allied air forces: 27 main complexes were brought into being along with many other smaller factories dotted about the German countryside. Critical plants, such as the Junkers Aero-plant producing the Jumo 004 jet and 213 piston engines were sequestered to the safety of underground factories at Kohnstein in the Harz Mountains. There they turned out their products in seven miles of tunnels offering the protection of 140 feet of solid rock. Except for the jet Ar-234 and the new Ju-388, all bomber production was halted; all resources would concentrate on increasing fighter output. Speer’s programs were astonishingly successful. Single engine fighter Gruppen were able to build up to unprecedented operational strengths. German fighter production reached its highest point of the war in September of 1944 when 2,876 Messerschmitt Me-109s and Focke Wulf Fw-190s were produced. It was the final and most remarkable recovery for the Luftwaffe during the war in Europe. Allied intelligence learned of all this by ULTRA decrypts. On October 21, Gen. Spaatz warned that the cost of the air campaign would increase dramatically if the enemy was able to effectively field its new-found strength.

One problem, however, was that such levels of production had been attained by the Jägerstab by concentrating on existing fighter types. The important objective for the Germans was to contest the Allied air power through the use of a strong fighter force. But how would this be accomplished? Should more planes be produced, or fewer planes of higher quality? The most troublesome Allied fighters were the P-47D “Thunderbolt” (top speed: 429 mph), the P-51D “Mustang” (437 mph) and the British Spitfire XIV (448 mph). Production of promising high performance German aircraft to counter these types proceeded at a much slower pace. These included such planes as the Ta-152H (top speed: 470 mph), the exotic Dornier 335 Pfeil or “Arrow” (477 mph) and the jet Me-262 (540 mph) and Arado Ar-234 (461 mph) models. But various problems, particularly the need for very high performance engines, prevented the exotic piston types from seeing service in any numbers. Only eleven of the push-pull propellered Do-335s were delivered by war’s end and only 67 of Dr. Kurt Tank’s beautiful Ta-152. Attempts to build a fighter based loosely on the Me-209, a racing version of the 109 petered out in 1944. With test pilot Fritz Wendel at the controls, this cleaned up piston-powered Me-209V-5 had shown it could reach 42,000 feet and reach speeds of nearly 500 mph. However, Speer did not dare suspend production of the standard Messerschmitt for re-tooling. Instead German production had concentrated on the Me-109G (390 mph), the high-altitude G-10 (426 mph) and the Fw-190A-8 (408 mph). In late fall, production began concentrating on two improved versions, the Me-109K-4s with a nitrous oxide injected Daimler-Benz engine (452 mph) and the Fw-190D-9 “long nose” or Dora (440 mph). Even so, these planes made up a minority of the Luftwaffe inventory. Alas, the Luftwaffe’s new found numerical strength in the fall of 1944 had been achieved at the classic cost quality. But what of the jets?

On May 22nd, 1943, Adolf Galland stopped by the flight testing center at Augsburg. He was to test perhaps the most revolutionary German technological aviation achievement of the war the Messerschmitt 262 jet. Galland’s flight made an indelible impression on the German officer. He was euphoric. “It was just like being pushed by an angel,” he proclaimed. Without delay, Galland sent a teletype message to Genfldm. Erhard Milch. He suggested dropping the Me-209 and immediately transferring the production capacity to the Me-262. “The aircraft represents a great step forward,” he cabled, “which assures us an unimaginable advantage in operations should the enemy adhere to the piston engine. The aircraft opens up completely new tactical possibilities.”

Certainly the new jet aircraft were the most palpable of Hitler’s promises of “wonder weapons” to turn the tide of the war. The Me-262 and the Ar-234, upon which so much hope was pinned, were coming off assembly lines in increasing quantities nearly a hundred per month during the fall. But this was not enough. According to Hitler’s grandiose plans, a new jet plane was scheduled for mass-production, the “Volksjäger” or “People’s Fighter.” The contract was awarded to Ernst Heinkel on September 8, 1944. The single-engined Heinkel-162 “Salamander” went from drawing board to test in the astonishing time of 37 days! In the first test flight made on December 6th, the tiny plane proved speedy, reaching 520 mph. The machine showed signs of it’s abbreviated incubation period. The second test flight a few days later killed the pilot, Flugkapitän Gotthold Peter, when the plane shed its plywood wings due to defective wood-bonding adhesive. Other fliers filed varying reports on the futuristic-looking beast. Some indicated it was ”pleasant to fly” while others related questionable flying characteristics. Almost all, however, agreed that any idea that glider trained recruits might fly the machine was mere fancy.

Clearly, however, Hitler would be unable to realize his summertime wish of “2,000 jet aircraft” to alter Allied air superiority overnight. On the desirability of the jet, Genlt. Adolf Galland, the General der Jagdflieger, was certain. “At the time I would rather have one Me-262 than five Me-109s,” he had told Hitler. Galland fervently believed that only “technically superior planes” could make up for the wide gulf between German pilot experience and their Allied foes. But Hitler insisted that the twin-engined Me-262 be used as a “Blitz bomber.”

Rebuilt Luftwaffe!? Part II


Historians over the years have pointed to Hitler’s decision on the Me-262 as an egregious error; another in a long series of meddlings which cost him the war. Most, however, have not been aware of the limitations under which the German jet was developed. There is little question that the aerodynamics and structural aspects of the plane were brilliant; it was far ahead of its time. A cruising speed of 525 mph with an endurance over an hour was a fantastic achievement for 1944 aviation technology. However, the big problem was the thing that made the propeller-less 262 such a potentially hot aircraft the Jumo 004 turbo-jet engines. As with most new technologies, the revolutionary engine experienced many teething troubles.

The turbo-jet operated at much higher temperatures and rotational speeds that any piston power-plant. Moreover, the metals usually used for high-temperature strength, alloys of nickel and chromium, were in very short supply in the Nazi inventory. The engineers were forced to rely on less-reliable substitutes. As a result, even as late as fall, 1944 the mean serviceable life of the jet engines was only eight hours for the early models! Metal fatigue created engine failures and fires were frequent. All through the summer and fall of 1944, there was always a heavily guarded convoy with replacement jet engines somewhere in Germany looking for Special Detachment E 51. Oblt. Werner Muffey remembers being happy that the Ar-234s had two turbojets:

“it was rare for a single engine to survive the 25 hours scheduled between overhauls. It was much more likely for only 5 to 10 hours to pass before something went wrong. In fact I once jealously preserved a unit for almost 30 hours which was considered a record. Then another turbojet threw several blades before I returned from my first sortie with it. After putting out a small fire in the Riedel gas tank, I returned directly to Oranienburg to change the engine.”

Even worse, German pilots flying the new aircraft learned to their horror that the turbojet was prone to suddenly quit or even catch fire when throttled too quickly. Due to the raw materials shortages, the composition of the turbine blades was not up to the loads which could be imposed upon it. The flight born discovery of “flame-out” would prove fatal to a number of pilots putting the 262 through its paces. The solution to this was to only throttle the engines slowly, a luxury that only a bomber or reconnaissance application could afford. Fighter dogfights demanded sudden acceleration and hence the first use of the Me-262 was most appropriately restricted to less taxing reconnaissance and level bombing missions.

In spite of German engineering genius, the vexing problems with the jet engine were never completely solved during the war. Then there were other mechanical problems, such as roughness in the fuel metering system, which in a piston powered plane might only mean a momentary reduction in power. In an Me-262, such mundane troubles could overheat the engine which would promptly disintegrate as it shed turbine blades. Flying a jet Me-262 was significantly less forgiving than jockeying around in a piston powered plane. Most of the pilots converting to the elite units flying this plane were very experienced, but jets represented new territory. For instance, a common even subconscious habit in piston aircraft, was to push the throttle forward to rev up the engine before easing it back. In a 262, this could drop an engine a potentially fatal mistake. There were even bizarre problems with the J2 fuel. In November and December of 1944 KG 51 experienced mysterious symptoms of poisoning in some of its pilots who had received minor burns. Sr. Warrant Officer Kohler, died after receiving only minor burns to his hands. After the cause was established as the fuel, the jet pilots were provided with leather clothing including protective gloves.

The unparalleled power of the turbojets led to other dangers never encountered in conventional piston aircraft. It was easy to exceed the airframe limits even in a steep climb full throttle would see speeds only encountered in the most daring dives in other planes. Also, unlike the howl of a piston plane under full throttle, the jet was deceptively quiet in the cockpit and a wary pilot had to be attentive to the airspeed indicator. There were high speed limits as well. Up to 570 mph the 262 operated faultlessly. However, as test pilots reached 585 mph, they found that control surfaces responded poorly. Beyond that things quickly became uncontrollable. Today, surviving Me-262 veterans reckon that a number of their compatriots succumbed to compressibility at the aerodynamic limits. Flying a V-2 chase sortie, Werner Muffey, the Technical Officer of an Ar-234 reconnaissance unit, learned that his jet powered craft could exceed the aircraft’s “envelope”:

“This was the only time I got into trouble with ‘Dr. Mach.’ Oblivious of my pilot’s duties and staring constantly down to detect the exploding V-2, I inadvertently pushed the stick forward. The vibration going through the airplane was quite dramatic, and I had some problems recovering control.”

In spite of early recognition of these problems, conversion training was not always satisfactory. Since there was no two-seater version of the 262, training flights were begun after cursory technical instruction. Usually the instructor, who often had little experience with the aircraft himself, would provide a pre-takeoff briefing, supervise the tricky start-up procedure for the engines and then talk the pilot through a flight over the radio. Often too much reliance was made of a pilot’s experience with conventional aircraft. Lt. Walther Hagenah was an experienced Fw-190 pilot from JG 3:

“Our ground school lasted one afternoon. We were told of the peculiarities of the jet engine, the dangers of flaming out at high altitude and their poor acceleration at low speeds. The vital importance of handling the throttles carefully was impressed upon us, lest the engines catch fire. But we were not permitted to look inside the cowling of the jet engine we were told that it was very secret and we did not need to know about it! By the time I reached III/JG 7 there was insufficient spare parts and insufficient spare engines; there were even occasional shortages of J-2 [jet fuel]. I am sure all of these things existed and that production was sufficient, but by that stage of the war the transport system was so chaotic that things often failed to arrive at the front-line units. In our unit, flying the Me-262, we had some pilots with only about a hundred hours’ total flying time. They were able to take off and land the aircraft, but I had the definite impression that they were of little use in combat. It was almost a crime to send them into action with so little training. Those young men did their best, but they had to pay a heavy price for their lack of experience.”

Aside from all of this, Hitler had already decided that the He-162 would be the new jet fighter and the Me-262 must carry bombs. Knowing of the coming invasion of France, he was fixated on the idea of German jets dropping bombs on the heads of the Americans on the beaches. In May, 1944 when Hitler insisted that the 262 be modified to carry bombs, less than fifty had been assembled and all were in use in test programs. Due to the poor reliability (the Jumo 004s were lasting less than 10 hours before failure) none of the jet-powered aircraft would be suitable for any combat role for some time even reconnaissance. The many critics of the decision to use the Me-262 as a fighter-bomber must remember that in 1944 the plane stood as the last chance for an effective offensive air weapon for the Luftwaffe. Any blame for lack of impact of the German jets must rest squarely on the technology itself, rather than on the manner in which the handful of planes were utilized. It was a matter of too little, too late.

However, the engineering problems loomed large; the Me-262 had been designed as a fighter. Change-over to a “hit and run” Blitz bomber required many modifications. The original plane had two fuel tanks, each holding about 200 gallons of J2 fuel. Armament consisted of four 30mm cannon. That the Blitz was to carry two 550 lb. bombs required more fuel to give it an acceptable range. Two additional fuel tanks were fitted one 55 gallon vessel under the pilot’s seat and another 130 gallons in the fuselage to the rear of the main tank. This additional weight not only decreased the plane’s performance, it also resulted in troubles with the plane’s center of gravity. The added weight in the tail of the Blitz was balanced by the two center mounted bombs and two of the four cannon were taken away. The rear fuel tank was never to be filled unless the plane had a bomb load. When flying, the pilot had to be careful that the rear tank was emptied first. Mishandling of the fuel cocks, draining the forward tank first, and dropping bombs would cause the aircraft to rear up violently. Elevator control could not restore such an ill-weighted 262 and pilots who forgot these procedures in the heat of battle could easily lose their aircraft.

The conversion of KG 51 to the 262 was carried out at Lechfeld beginning on September 4th under command of Oberstleutnant Wolfgang Schenck. By late November, Schenk’s command possessed some thirty jets with 26 operational and 48 pilots in training. As a bomber, the 262 reflected its bastardized upbringing. Unlike conventional types, such as the Ju-88, the Blitz was not fitted with a downward facing bomb sight. It had a simple reflector reticle suitable for aiming cannon fire. With practice, pilots found they could reasonably hit sizeable targets, but precision bombing was out of the question. Dive bombing was also Verboten since a personal edict from Hitler himself forbade it along with any flying over enemy territory at less than 13,000 feet lest a 262 fall into enemy hands from AA fire. All this made for some very inaccurate bombing; members of KG 51 began to coyly refer to themselves as the “crop damage Geschwader.” If that was not depressing enough, an “Edelweiss” pilot had to worry about his back, since there was no armor behind the pilot’s head. This design flaw was found responsible for the death of a number of 262 bomber pilots who were killed before design changes went into effect in March, 1945. Some of the experienced Ju-88 and Me-410 pilots of the group had little confidence in the turbine engines and a perpetual fuel shortage made extensive training impossible. Some 65 tons of scarce petrol were needed to provide rudimentary training for a replacement pilot.

Then finally in September, Hitler relented on the employment of the 262 as a fighter, at least in a limited sense. During a Führer Konferenz on September 22nd, on the further reconsideration of this thorny matter, Hitler spelled out a convoluted policy that would allow for some jet fighter versions of the 262 so long as a commensurate number of jet bombers were provided:

“The Ar-234 will, with all possible dispatch continue to be turned out as a bomber in the greatest possible numbers. As it is possible to use this aircraft for the short range targets with three 1,100 pound bombs, and for long-range targets with one 1,100 pound bomb, under considerably more favorable general conditions than the Me-262 when used as a bomber, the Führer confirms his earlier promise that, for every single-battle worthy 234 accepted as a bomber, the General in charge of the fighters [Galland] will be allocated one battle-worthy 262 fighter.”

The direct result was that some forty Me-262s became available for the formation of the first combat jet fighter unit. The incipient command was organized under the legendary Austrian fighter ace, Maj. Walter Nowotny. When he took over the command, “Nowi” had some 250 combat victories and was perhaps the most famous of the Luftwaffe aces. The distinguished title for his unit would take its leader’s name Versuchskommando Nowotny. With tremendous expectation, his unit became operational as a 262 fighter training unit in October with some 23 jets, flying from airfields at Achmer and Hesepe. Not surprisingly, the new jet fighter pilots experienced a rash of technical problems, which led to a very low serviceability rate; on November 1st the unit had only nine of its jets serviceable. There were also questions regarding effective methods of attack. So fast were the machines that the 262 would close on enemy aircraft very rapidly with the target in range for only a fraction of a second. The obvious conclusion, to slow to strike their quarry, was no good. This would only sacrifice their speed advantage.

“Our strength lay in our enormous speed. The reaction propulsion system made us something like twice as fast as the enemy’s airscrew driven fighters. Moreover, the armament of the 262 with 43mm cannon was not only sensational; it was ideally suited to destroying the solid thick-skinned bombers. But the technology of this revolutionary machine also had its weakness that made high-level aerial combat and attacks on bomber formations problematical. Swinging into the target’s wake from above was out because of the danger of exceeding the maximum safe [airframe] speed, the aircraft having no brakes with which to check the rapid acceleration involved in such a maneuver. Frontal attack on collision course with the bombers a favorite method with the experts because the target was virtually defenseless and the crews of the Flying Fortresses were exposed to the hail of bullets was also out because the combined approach speeds made such an attack impossible. In practice we went back to the old, conventional attack from behind, approaching the bomber formation with of course a tremendous speed plus through the defensive fire of the rear gunners and letting off our cannon at short range. The Me-262 was a pretty sensitive and vulnerable piece of machinery, however, and our losses turned out to be higher than we had feared.”

Rebuilt Luftwaffe!? Part III


Encountering the enemy jets for the first time was quite a shock for the P-51 pilots of the Eighth Air Force. So accustomed to being top dog, the Mustang jockeys were forced to admit that the jets were at least 75 mph faster in level flight. However, they reckoned that the 262 were much less maneuverable than the P-51 or even P-47, they accelerated more slowly and the engines appeared to be the target to shoot for when training guns on the enemy. Twenty-two year old Capt. Charles “Chuck” Yeager of the famed 357th Fighter Group (Col. Irwin H. Dregne) found that his P-51 steed, “Glamorous Glennis III,” could not keep up with Kommando Nowotny on November 6th:

“north of Osnabrück we spotted three Me-262s going 180 degrees to us at two o’clock low. We were at 10,000 feet. I and my flight turned to the right and headed the last man off. I got a hit or two on him before he pulled away. They were flying a loose V-formation and they did not take any evasive action, but seemed to depend on their superior speed. They pulled out of range in the haze.”

The Germans at Achmer were quite aware of these shortcomings. Even given all the difficulties, technical and tactical, Nowotny’s advanced fighters claimed 19 victories in their first month of operations for a loss of six Me-262s in combat and another nine lost to accidents. The attrition on the highly prized German jet pilots was severe; more pilots were lost to accidents with the fickle jet engines than in dogfights. After all, the average experience level of the German pilots flying the jets was less than ten hours on the type. On November 8th Kommando Nowotny picked up its activity, flying several sorties against a bomber raid. Lt. Franz Schall felled three escorting Mustangs in a single outing, although was himself shot down (he bailed out after being hit by Lt. James W. Kenny of 357th FG) and Nowotny reported his third kill in the Me-262. However, even with the jets’ superior speed, the P-51s got the better of the action and two of the Me-262s were shot down. Tragically, one of these was Nowotny himself. The holder of the Knight’s Cross with Diamonds was killed as he tried to bring his machine back to Achmer with his left engine out. Picked off by Mustangs of the 20th and 357th FGs while at slow speed, his Me-262 plunged out of the clouds to auger into a meadow near Bramshe. So ragged had become the loss rate of the unit, that it was temporarily withdrawn from action for reorganization. It was to become operational within a few weeks as Jagdgeschwader 7 at Lechfeld. The new detachment was to be commanded by Obst. Johannes Steinhoff.

In was decided in May of 1944 that the experienced Maj. Robert Kowalewski’s KG 76 would be the first Luftwaffe unit to receive the jet-powered Ar-234 bomber now starting to come out of the Arado factory. The only operation of the 234 in the summer of 1944 was as a high-performance camera carrying reconnaissance aircraft. Flying as Kommando Sperling the Staffel-sized unit demonstrated the dramatic capabilities of the B-series aircraft in several spectacular reconnaissance missions over the Allied invaders in August and later in the fall. After months of complete inability to gather aerial reconnaissance Kommando Sperling gave the Luftwaffe ability to scout Allied rear positions freely at will. The plane was a tremendous success.

But the III/KG 76 under Hptm. Dieter Lukesch would be the first unit to be equipped with the revolutionary bomber. Lukesch first flew the plane in July; it was love at first sight. It was very fast, easy to control and with the bubble glass nose possessed excellent visibility. On August 26th the first two bombers were delivered to the unit. Conversion training from their Ju-88A4s beginning almost immediately near Magdeburg. All the pilots chosen had extensive experience and Lukesch found that training went smoothly, although some had trouble with horizontal stability since the pilot was so far forward that there were no engines or wings to look at to help keep one’s bearings.

Helmut Rast was one of the chosen pilots. Rast had been a 19-year old student at Munich Technical School when the war broke out and soon became a flight instructor. However, he was bored with student flying and in 1943 obtained a transfer to the Luftwaffe’s major proving center at Rechlin as a test pilot. There he tested the very latest products of German genius, many of which were extremely dangerous in the test phase. But his personal favorite was the new Arado 234B the “Blitz” then in preparation for its assignment to the Luftwaffe as a reconnaissance aircraft. Rast found the jet a thing of beauty. The bubble-nosed bird handled smoothly and was exceptionally fast. Rast’s reputation flying the 234 rose quickly, being enlisted to conduct a mock combat with a Fw-190A, at the time one of the leading German piston powered aircraft. Rast’s 234 easily outpaced the Focke Wulf in level flight and was faster in climb and descent. One performance limitation was the 234’s turning radius which was very wide relative to the piston-powered fighter. But the major weakness was acceleration; the throttles of the Junkers Jumo 004Bs could not be changed rapidly during takeoff and landings. Vulnerable to attack, the low speed on approach or takeoff could not be changed quickly enough to execute defensive maneuver. Regardless, Rast’s superiors were greatly impressed by his mock combat. He was promoted to Unterfeldwebel and was eagerly assigned to the post of the first combat unit to use the 234, III Gruppe of KG 76. At Burg the pilots trained in earnest with their new craft.

There were problems with the bird, however, which had not really completed flight testing. “Hardly any aircraft arrived without defects,” and Lukesch remembered they “were caused by hasty completion and shortage of skilled labor at the factories.” Training continued throughout the fall, hampered by the slowly accumulating number of aircraft and a variety of accidents associated with the new type.

Two methods of aiming the 3,000 lb bomb load were developed. The first was to drop the bombs during a shallow dive with special periscope sight and a trajectory calculator; the second involved putting the jet on automatic pilot at high altitude and then using the Lotke 7K bombsight to release the bombs automatically after the target was centered in the crosshairs. This advanced technique had considerable safety advantages since high-speed, high-altitude flight could be maintained where the Ar-234 was nearly invulnerable to slower Allied fighters. However, Lukesch felt the method impractical since the Allies quickly learned to attempt attacks on the speedy jets from above with the faster piston types particularly the Tempests, and having one’s hands on the control and able to see behind the aircraft was vital to survive such assaults. Installation of the technically advanced autopilot also slowed the delivery of the aircraft to the unit and it was the end of October before III/KG 76 had 44 Ar-234s available.

Training conversion continued in earnest for the fledgling jet unit in November, although plagued by accidents. Some problems, such as getting used to the tricycle landing gear, were due to differences with the Ju-88, but a variety of troubles arose from the machines themselves. One unexpected problem was that the two Jumo 004 engines were too powerful for their own good and an unladen Ar-234 could easily approach the speed of sound where Chuck Yeager’s demon lived. A good example is the experience of Uffz. Ludwig Rieffel who was hurt when he mysteriously lost control of his Ar-234 near Burg on November 19th:

“The effects of nearing the sound barrier were virtually unknown to us at this time, the high speed of the aircraft sometimes surprising its victims. Rieffel was practicing a gliding attack when he experienced a reversal of the controls at Mach 1. He bailed out successfully, but the shock of the parachute opening at that speed ripped three of its sections from top to bottom. A freshly plowed field prevented him from being seriously injured. This happened later to Oblt. Heinkebut he was unable to escape from the aircraft which crashed into the ground in a vertical dive”

At the end of November KG 76 was reaching its operational strength with 68 Ar-234s on hand. On December 1st, the famous bomber ace and veteran of some 620 operational sorties, Maj. Hans-Georg Bätcher, took command of III/KG 76 to take the jet bombers into action. With so many bomber units now disbanded, Bätcher had the pick of the German bomber pilots. Pilots with the unit included Hptm. Diether Lukesch, holder of the Ritterkreuz with Oak Leaves and veteran of some 372 missions, as well as Hptm. Josef Regler, a veteran with 279 operational sorties under his belt. Unlike the fighter pilots, where the attrition and demand for pilots often meant low skill levels, the pilots with the Gruppe all had extensive flying experience.

Regardless of the minor danger posed by these small groups of German planes, the Allies had a phobia about them and kept their bases at Achmer, Hesepe and Rheine under constant surveillance. Only the profusion of 20mm flak around the bases and a standing guard of German piston-powered planes allowed the jets to get off the ground or land without being shot down during the vulnerable portion of their flight. Still the German bases harboring the jets received much unwelcome attention. A carpet bombing raid on the Rheine base on November 13th killed many members of KG 51.

Similar to the teething troubles of the Me-262 jet, Dr. Heinkel’s entry, the He-162, was designed to use another problem-plagued turbo-jet (BMW-003E-1). And perhaps more significantly, with only one engine, the reliability of the turbojet powerplant would be critical. Operationally, the short-ranged fighter was intended for employment against the enemy escort fighters as soon as they crossed into German territory to cause them to drop their drop-tanks and leave the bombers open for attack from the conventional German fighters. Galland, however, was totally opposed to this aircraft. Not only did he believe it to be of “dubious airworthiness,” but he also questioned whether the plane would ever come into production soon enough to alter the outcome of the war. Certainly it’s production would detract from assembly of great numbers of a proven design such as the Me-262. Even more fanciful was the plan to use Hitler Youth hastily trained in gliders to fly the Volksjäger. Regardless of such assessments, outlandish schemes called for production to be expanded from 500 to over 4,000 per month in salt mines and underground factories in Germany. But all this took on the special air of delusion typical of the last six months of the Third Reich. Neither the Volksjäger nor the Me-262 would be ready for the Ardennes in quantity; the main fighter available would be the Me-109 with which Germany had begun the war in 1939.

Regardless of their type, German aircraft numbers rose in a spectacular fashion that fall: from the end of the summer debacle on the ground in August of 1944 to the middle of November, German single engine fighter strength increased from 1,900 to 3,300 planes a nearly twofold increase. The new aircraft were added to the day fighter force in the form of six new fighter Gruppen and by increasing the established strength of lower echelon units. This improvement resulted in an increase from three to four Staffeln per fighter group and each Staffel was increased from 12 to 16 aircraft. In December alone, a total of 2,953 new aircraft were delivered from the factories to the Luftwaffe. Indeed, so plentiful were the planes that the main problem was finding capable, warm bodies with which to fly the machines and aviation-grade fuel for the intended missions. Piston fighter aircraft were abundant and pilots often found it more expedient to take a new plane than repair a damaged one:

”We simply went to the depot nearby, where they had hundreds of brand new 109s G-10s, G-14s and even the very latest K models. There was no proper organization anymore: the depot staff just said, ‘There are the aircraft, take what you want and go away.’ But getting fuel that was more difficult”

Even the jets were not exempt from the petrol shortage. An OKL circular commanded that J2 jet fuel must be carefully conserved. The German jet bases were hauling the world’s most advanced aircraft to the end of the runway with oxen:

“the monthly production, compared with possibilities of consumption, is very small. As the jet engines have a relatively high consumption rate, it is absolutely forbidden for these particular aircraft to taxi under their own power prior to taking off and after landing. Remember that the Me-262 consumes 200 liters of J2 while taxiing for five minutes under its own power.”

In spite of strenuous efforts Hitler’s hope of “2,000 jet fighters by fall” never materialized. As it had been for the last five years of war, the Me-109 and Fw-190 would carry any German hopes of contesting Allied air power. As for filling the cockpits of the new aircraft, the German plans were sublime; it was anticipated that many of the needed personnel would come from the now moribund heavy bomber command or superfluous reconnaissance units now disbanded. Whether there would be fuel for any of this remained a major question.

Douglas MacArthur’s “Strategic Withdrawal”

By February 17, effective resistance to the Japanese invasion on Sumatra ceased. Two days later, Japanese troops from the Celebes came ashore on Bali. That same date, the 19th, Japanese began landings in Portuguese Timor, and Nagumo launched his massive strike toward Port Darwin, Australia. One hundred fifty aircraft, including shore-based bombers stationed in the Celebes, struck their targets on the north coast of the continent during midmorning with devastating effectiveness.

With the Australians reeling from the attack, the Japanese returned their attention to finishing off Java, the last hope the Allies had in halting the Japanese juggernaut. It was to Java via Australia that many of the aircraft originally promised to MacArthur were destined.

The Philippine defenders who were privy to the incoming news about the fate of the P-40s aboard the Langley and the Sea Witch knew with little doubt they were on their own.

By the end of February, MacArthur no longer sent hopeful messages to the front. He was no longer in denial. The promises made by Washington would not come to fruition. But MacArthur continued to send them a flurry of cables. A total of 142 communiqués sent by the general pleaded for help and recounted the success he was having in holding out. Of those, 109 mentioned only one soldier, Douglas MacArthur. In reality, given the gloom all over the region, the general had to consider the worsening strategic situation in all of the South Pacific as hopeless. He now looked to the future, his own, by browbeating sickly President Quezon into agreeing to rehire him as Philippine field marshal after the war at the same inflated pay and allowances he was currently receiving.

In March, the U.S. Navy sortied again. Vice Admiral Halsey took the Enterprise to sea, and on March 4 struck the Marcus Islands, 650 miles west of Wake and only 1,000 miles from Tokyo. Meanwhile, not a single ship was making its way west to support the Philippines.

Somehow, through all of this chagrin, MacArthur’s men were making a better stand of it than had the British in Hong Kong, Malaya, Singapore, Sumatra, and now Java. Both Percival in Singapore and MacArthur in the Philippines had the advantage of manpower over the Japanese, but MacArthur had fewer aircraft, and his munitions and arms were inferior as was the level of training and experience of his men. Percival’s warehouses had been full of food, and reinforcements had arrived. The Americans and Filipinos on Bataan, however, were putting up a gallant effort while on starvation rations and without military reinforcements. Several steamers, the Legaspi among them, did bring four days of rations to Corregidor,4 but additional food reserves intended for the starving infantry fighting on Bataan were diverted by MacArthur to Corregidor, where no time was wasted consuming them.

The U.S. Navy was still unwilling to risk sending a convoy, opting only to send in a meager supply of munitions via submarine. Part of the reason the troops were holding out on the peninsula was due to the confidence they had that help was coming according to the directions that emanated from Lateral No. 3. Now, that confidence was beginning to falter.

Three times MacArthur refused to evacuate Corregidor, electing to remain in command on the Rock. Roosevelt and the Washington general staff knew they could abandon the Filipinos, but to have MacArthur, a national hero, go down with them would not sit well with the public. As for MacArthur, he had no illusions about his own chances of surviving in defeat. He was 62 years old, the war was just beginning, and the Allies were losing on all fronts. It would be many, many years before he might be released from captivity. To remain to the end on Corregidor and surrender to the Japanese augured a likely death sentence for MacArthur. But his stock purchase, acceptance of the $500,000 bonus (which he kept secret at the time), and his request to Quezon that he be rehired at the end of the war indicate that at least somewhere in MacArthur’s thoughts was the idea that he had no intention of going down in glory with his troops.

General Marshall radioed from Washington that a submarine would be sent for Jean and little Arthur along with the Quezons. Upon hearing of the plan, Jean rejected it. Speaking about her relationship with Douglas, Jean remarked to Mrs. Quezon, “We have drunk from the same cup.” Then indicating her son, Arthur IV, she added, “We three shall stay together.” When she made her wishes known to Douglas, he radioed Marshall that his family would share “the rigors of war.” Then he asked his advisor Huff to find some ammunition for a small derringer MacArthur had inherited from his father. Somehow Huff soon came up with two of the odd-sized rounds needed. Though MacArthur might flee, he was prepared to avoid capture.

During the third week of February, the Quezons and High Commissioner Sayre departed Corregidor via submarine. MacArthur sent along a footlocker filled with personal family items, some stocks and bonds, photographs, and several magazine articles about himself which Jean had saved. The locker was addressed to the Riggs National Bank of Washington, where it was to be held until the general or his heirs claimed it.

It was one thing to lose a heroic leader in a lost cause, but by adding his family to it, MacArthur had upped the political ante. General Marshall in Washington now pushed for the evacuation of MacArthur, no matter what the method. The legendary general had to be saved

On February 23, a cable was received ordering the general to proceed to Mindanao, where he was to investigate the feasibility of defending that island, then depart for Melbourne to assume command of all U.S. troops in the South Pacific. MacArthur debated his response, then replied that he would agree to his withdrawal, but asked for a delay to choose the right “psychological time.” Washington concurred. Four days passed while MacArthur considered his exit. If he left by submarine, there would be room for precious few aboard, namely he, his wife and son, and possibly a few others could be squeezed aboard. But whom would he choose? In the end, he would be saving his own skin. To slip a B-17 onto the island or one of the Bataan fields would have an even worse effect, a highly visible departure. If nothing else, MacArthur was a great tactician, and a plan began to jell in his mind.

On March 1, he ordered his entire remaining P-40 force at Kindley Field on Corregidor, four aircraft, to fly top cover over Manila Bay while he tried out his theory. He then had his remaining Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Three commander sail the three miles to Corregidor in one of his PT-boats from the small fishing dock where they were moored at Sisiman Bay, Bataan. At the North Dock of the Rock, bearded lieutenant commander John D. Bulkeley arrived, looking for all the world like a swashbuckling privateer. He and his crew picked up MacArthur and Jean. Together they made a quick circuit of the relatively calm waters of the bay, while the general determined how Jean might deal with a long voyage in the boat. Though she got queasy, she insisted she could make it. That sealed the deal. MacArthur forbade future sorties by any of Bulkeley’s PT squadron.

There were four PT-boats available. If all were utilized, they would be a force to be reckoned with should they encounter surface resistance in the form of Japanese warships, and more importantly, they could carry a large contingent of personnel. If MacArthur showed up in Australia, virtually alone, he would assume command of a staff of strangers, many of whom would likely consider him a leader who had deserted his troops, regardless of his having been ordered to do so. On the other hand, if he brought his key staff with him, two things would result. First he would be able to insert loyal subordinates into key positions within his new staff, men who had also cut and run from the Philippines. Second, every single one of them would take over knowing MacArthur had saved each from a brutal future. What better way to ensure loyalty, empathy, and unquestioning subservience in his new power base?

Eight days passed, during which time Java capitulated on March 8. There was virtually nothing of consequence left to defend beyond Australia except the Philippines and New Guinea, the latter being an Australian concern. On March 9, Roosevelt raised the departure issue again, and MacArthur set the date for March 15. However, back came a vexing message that a submarine was on its way, arriving on the 13th. Determined to leave on his own terms, MacArthur chose to be on his way before the submarine appeared. He and his entourage would depart on the 11th via torpedo boat, go by sea to Cagayan, Mindanao, then board B-17s at nearby Del Monte airport for Australia. Based on how many of the PT-boats got through, MacArthur would be able to demand a suitable number of planes for the effort. He radioed Lieutenant General George H. Brett, commander of U.S. Army Air Force assets in Australia, requesting three B-17s be readied for a ferry flight to Del Monte Field.12 No one in Washington was informed of this new plan in any detail.

Early on March 11, MacArthur’s chief of staff, Richard Sutherland, sent an order to General George requesting a reconnaissance flight of the waterways south of Corregidor as far as the Cuyo Islands, 250 miles south of the Rock. No explanation was given. Lieutenant Wilson Glover was selected to fly the mission, during which he spotted one Japanese cruiser southwest of Ambulong Island, as well as a destroyer off the northwest coast of Mindoro.13 The cruiser was well east of MacArthur’s intended route, but the destroyer could present a problem.

MacArthur summoned General Wainwright from Bataan the afternoon of the 11th. He arrived by boat, all skin and bones. MacArthur explained that he was leaving under protest, following orders from the president. He wanted Wainwright to make that known to the troops. Though MacArthur had sent a message to Washington that he intended to remain in overall command of the Philippines even after his departure, someone senior in authority had to stay on Corregidor, and someone else needed to run things over on the peninsula. He placed Wainwright in command on the Rock, allowing the 58-year-old lieutenant general to endure what otherwise would have been his own fate. Major General Edward King, also 58, was left in charge of the Bataan defense. Their wives and families had been evacuated the previous year along with military families stationed throughout the Philippines. If it came to it, these two flag officers were expendable.

Though Roosevelt had authorized the departure of MacArthur and no one else, General Marshall sent a follow-up communication adding the general’s wife and son. MacArthur ignored both messages. Instead, he assembled his entourage, planning to set sail at dusk. Included in the party were Jean, little Arthur, his nanny, and 16 members of his military staff, including Admiral Rockwell and generals Sutherland and George. None of the hospital nurses were permitted aboard any of the four PT-boats led by Bulkeley. Even MacArthur’s Filipino aide-de-camp, Colonel Carlos P. Rómulo, was denied an early exit. Just as had occurred at every Allied bastion, the more-senior leaders (with the notable exception of General Percival in Singapore) were abandoning the troops.

The account of what took place in the Philippines next would become the stuff of legend. The four PT-boats gathered just outside the small bay, then went single file through Corregidor’s minefield. Once clear, the squadron of skippers opened the throttles on all three Packard engines. Four thousand horsepower was unleashed on each of the boat’s three screws. Rooster tails rose behind the craft as they swept into rough seas and took up a diamond formation. MacArthur’s boat, PT-41, was sequestered at the rear, protected by the other three. Via prior agreement approved by MacArthur, the three “escorts” would engage any enemy that came at them while MacArthur’s PT-boat fled the scene. His staff knew they were all expendable if it meant ensuring the general’s survival.

The night was moonless, the swells high and whitecapped. The Packard engines, roaring in and out of synchronization, caused teeth-chattering vibrations. The boats bulled their way through swells, hulls slamming against whitecaps. Below decks, almost everyone became ill, the general included. Jean, who oddly seemed least affected, knelt beside MacArthur, rubbing his hands as his dry heaves continued unabated.

As the four craft approached Cabra and the Apo Islands, their engines were heard by the occupying Japanese. Bonfires sprang up along the coasts to signal that an attempt to break the blockade was underway. The formation turned westward until the islands were over the horizon, then swung south again, the seas more brutal than before. Salt spray billowed over the bow. Everyone above deck was soaked from head to toe. Soon the boats got separated. Hours were spent trying to regroup, such that reaching their first intended stop at Tagauayan was no longer possible before daylight. MacArthur’s boat and two others eventually anchored at an alternate island after dawn, three hours short of Tagauayan. The fourth had broken down with fouled fuel strainers. One of the boats barely made the inlet and was no longer fit for travel. The skippers discussed the situation with MacArthur and decided to depart in the afternoon rather than wait until dark.

Down to two boats, they were 15 minutes out when they encountered a Japanese cruiser, most likely the one observed earlier near Ambulong Island by the reconnaissance flight. But the Japanese Navy had not fitted their capital ships with radar. Due to high whitecapped seas, Japanese lookouts did not spot the small boats as they wheeled away and increased separation. Later, a destroyer came into view and it, too, was avoided. MacArthur may well have owed his life to Yamamoto, who did not push for the inclusion of on-board radar in his haste to build a powerful Navy.

As the two torpedo boats swept past the Negros Islands just after sundown, their Packard engines were again heard. The island’s occupiers must have thought the noise was from aircraft, since searchlights began scanning the skies.

Below deck, MacArthur was once again ill, with Jean comforting him at his side. Bulkeley and his skipper mate kept the boats running at top speed through the night. By dawn they had covered 560 total miles and made landfall, sighting the Del Monte pineapple plantation at 6:30 a.m. A half hour later, they rounded Cagayan Point and entered the bay. By now, MacArthur had recovered his sea legs and stood ramrod on the prow. Ashore at Cagayan, staff officer Colonel William Morse was among those awaiting the arrival. The image Morse beheld reminded him of Emanuel Leutze’s painting of Washington Crossing the Delaware.

Once billeted in the guest lodge at the Del Monte plantation, MacArthur decided four B-17s would be needed to safely get his entourage to Australia. After squabbling over the request was resolved at Allied headquarters in Australia, four B-17s took off for Del Monte. One crashed off the Australian coast; two others turned back with engine problems. On the morning of the 13th, the lone remaining B-17 appeared on final approach at Del Monte Field. It made a less than smooth landing and taxied up, engines coughing, to where the general was waiting. MacArthur took one look at the young lieutenant who peered from the cockpit of the worn and battered plane and lost his temper. No way was he or anyone else boarding such a “dangerously decrepit” aircraft flown by “an inexperienced boy.” Not mentioned was the problem of flying through Japanese-controlled airspace in a lone aircraft. There was safety in numbers, and plans could be made to sacrifice one or more aircraft to save another. MacArthur sent a blistering radio message to Australia and Washington demanding “the three best planes in the United States or Hawaii.” No matter that word was out that MacArthur had reached Mindanao and Japanese sympathizers were everywhere. No matter that Japanese planes were seen daily in the skies looking for Del Monte Airfield. MacArthur was not leaving until transportation satisfied his ego and plan. It took until the 16th to finally launch three new B-17s for Del Monte. Two made it; one turned back with mechanical problems.

MacArthur’s entourage boarded that night and the planes took off for the 1,579-mile journey.22 They skirted Borneo, the Celebes, Java, Timor, and Bali, all now in Japanese hands. Though the planes slipped through unscathed, nothing in this odyssey came easy. As the planes approached Darwin, a radio message was received that the field was again under Japanese air attack. The B-17s diverted to Batchelor Field, 50 miles away. Upon his arrival that Monday, March 17, MacArthur made his oft-quoted pronouncement, “I came through, and I shall return.”

The men left on Bataan were not impressed. Instead they were hungry, tired, sick, and dispirited. They came up with pithy sayings, “I am going to the latrine, and I shall return.” Now they began to sense that all who remained were expendable.

At this point in time, the Japanese were able to free up some of the air assets that had been used or held in reserve for the Sumatra and Java campaigns. A slew of Betty bombers from the Takao Ku, originally out of Formosa, arrived at Clark on March 16, along with two squadrons from Saigon and Phnom Penh containing 85 new Ki 21-II Sally bombers. A dozen F1M Pete float planes needed to blockade Manila Harbor also arrived on seaplane tender Sanuki Maru. The noose was tightening.

The inter-island steamer Legaspi had brought many of the Allied troops to Bataan from the Manila piers, then made two dangerous resupply missions from Mindanao to Corregidor before being sunk on its third run. On Bataan, the 26th Cavalry, Philippine Scouts had made the last cavalry charge in history on January 16, at Morong, then turned in their mounts. The remainder of the U.S. Army’s 250 cavalry horses were eventually slaughtered for food along with 48 pack mules. Included was General Wainwright’s prized jumper. Also slaughtered were the native water buffalo.

Soon the media touted MacArthur’s “I shall return” pledge. Upon learning of his departure to Australia, MacArthur was described by Germany’s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels as a “fleeing general.” In Rome, Benito Mussolini called him a “coward.” The Japan Times and Advertiser accused him of being a “deserter who fled his post.”

General Honma learned of MacArthur’s departure and saw it as an opportunity. He ordered his planes to drop beer cans adorned with ribbons containing an ultimatum to Wainwright to accept “honorable defeat” and surrender by noon, March 22. By now, less than a handful of fighter aircraft remained in American hands. One patched up P-40 flew a recon mission out of Bataan Field and reported increasing troop movement near the front lines on Bataan. Wainwright rejected the ultimatum.

On the 22nd, Honma fulfilled his threat, beginning with a widespread artillery bombardment. The salvos continued day and night.

In Washington, Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall decided that the best counter to negative propaganda surrounding the impending loss of the Philippines was to take the initiative in the media. He suggested MacArthur receive the Congressional Medal of Honor. Dwight Eisenhower, who had served seven years under MacArthur and was now on Marshall’s staff, opposed the award. Marshall sent the recommendation on to Roosevelt anyway. It must have come as a painful decision on the part of Roosevelt, who was well aware that MacArthur’s affiliation was hardcore Republican, but decide he did, in favor of the award. The citation read, for “gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty” and for “utter disregard of personal danger under heavy fire and aerial bombardment.” Although true that MacArthur had spent more than two months along with everyone else on Corregidor during the height of the bombing, his personal level of heroism was not at issue. Propaganda was. Thus, shortly after fleeing his command and abandoning his troops to their fate, MacArthur was awarded the medal on March 26, 1942, at a dinner hosted by the Australian prime minister in Canberra.

There can be little doubt regarding MacArthur’s bravery, but bravery is tested when challenges arise and there is little time to consider the consequences. With courage, there is time to dwell on one’s impending fate. Most medals are given out for bravery, not so many for courage. Should there be more acknowledgment for courage, in this instance for staying to the end? In MacArthur’s case, courage seems to have been in short supply, and that is the way his men on Bataan interpreted it.

While the dinner affair was underway, three more B-17s arrived at Del Monte to gather up President Quezon, his family and aides, all of whom had finally arrived there via submarine, steamer and patrol boat. When the planes took to the air for Australia, the Philippines became officially leaderless.

On April 1, the daily artillery barrage on Corregidor and Bataan by the Japanese increased in intensity, augmented by the air arm, which bombed and strafed. Up until now, the sight of American planes mixing it up with the Japanese had given the men on the ground a sense of encouragement. The defenders still had an air force. But now, friendly planes overhead were a rare sight, and much as had happened in Malaya, Singapore and Sumatra, the demoralizing effect was pronounced.

The next big offensive began on Good Friday, April 3, at 10:00 a.m., starting with a five-hour artillery barrage on Bataan. Nearly 150 sorties by Japanese bombers and fighters pounded the front lines. A black pall of smoke blew over the peninsula as bamboo and cogon thickets ignited. The Japanese, augmented by troops newly arrived from Singapore, surged ahead. American and Filipino forces drew back from the Bagac-Orion line, while Japanese fighters swooped in to strafe. The defenders were down to two P-40s, which served only to harass the Japanese. Then Japanese tanks and infantry of the newly arrived 4th Division moved forward. As a soot-shrouded sun dipped to the horizon, Japanese forces churned down the eastern side of the Bataan peninsula nearly to the base of Mount Samat. To the south of the mount rose Mariveles Volcano. Beyond it beckoned Corregidor and the sea.

MacArthur, upon learning that surrender was being contemplated, sent a message to General Wainwright announcing, “I am utterly opposed under any circumstances or conditions to the ultimate capitulation of this command. If food fails, you will prepare and execute an attack upon the enemy.” President Roosevelt agreed with MacArthur and issued his own “no surrender” orders.

Wainwright forwarded the orders to Major General King on April 4. One can only imagine what thoughts went through the two generals’ minds upon reading the messages from these two leaders who had written them off as expendable.

The Bataan defenders continued to fight and fall back, but by April 8 it was clear that the show was nearly over. Ammunition and fuel dumps were blown up, including the British ammunition vessel Yu Sang, which had been taken over by the U.S. Navy. The last remaining P-40 was flown out by Lieutenant Joseph H. Moore, while the last P-35A departed in the hands of Captain O.L. Lunde, with another pilot squeezed into the baggage compartment. Men began to flee to Corregidor via any means possible. A number began to swim the three miles to the island. Friendly skiffs went about plucking them from the water.

Though MacArthur forbade it, General King crossed the lines to surrender on April 9, 1942. At 12:30 p.m., King handed over his pistol to Colonel Motoo Nakayama, General Honma’s senior operations officer.33 King and 12,000 fellow Americans plus 67,500 Filipinos began stacking their arms. They represented the largest force in American military history to succumb to an enemy.

During the final days of the Bataan defense, over 2,000 men made their way to the Rock, where Wainwright was determined to fight on. With 13,000 men bunkered inside the tunnels and caves, they represented a force to be reckoned with.

With the fall of Bataan, General Honma was presented with a new problem: prisoners of war. In spite of the assurance given by Colonel Nakayama to General King that “the Imperial Japanese Army are not barbarians,” the prisoners were assembled on Bataan, then marched north without food or water in intense heat toward San Fernando, 66 miles north. Those who fell out of formation were bayoneted, beheaded, or shot. For the first five days, no food or water was provided by the Japanese. The only sustenance received during that period was whatever was secretly tossed by local Filipinos who at great peril took pity on the men as they staggered through the hamlets. On the sixth day, one cupful of rice was given to each of the prisoners. Water was scrounged from ditches and buffalo wallows. The trek took nine days, and Japanese guards took every opportunity to take vengeance on any prisoner who gave them the slightest provocation. On the ninth day, the men were crammed into railroad cars, 100 to a coach. Men fainted from the heat and lack of air and water. Many who had struggled through the march now died. By the time the survivors reached the prison at Camp O’Donnell, over 8,000 American and Filipino prisoners had perished. These deaths represented only the beginning.

Fortification in the Sixteenth Century

THE SIEGE OF A FORTRESS, BY ALBRECHT DÜRER, 1527 In 1527, Dürer published a treatise on fortification that proposed walls dominated by massive squat roundrels, towers that would also provide gun platforms. Strengthened by earth and timber, such squat towers were better able to take bombardment than high walls. This indicated that not everyone adopted the Italian alla moderna system of low, bastioned defences.

SIEGE OF BOULOGNE, FRANCE, 1544 Henry VIII’s attempt to expand the English position in the Pas de Calais led to the siege of Boulogne from 19 July. The lower section of the town fell rapidly, but the upper town proved more difficult and was put under bombardment, as shown here. Its walls were eventually breached and when the English dug tunnels under the castle, the French surrendered on 13 September. The English had deployed more than 250 pieces of heavy ordnance, including mortars firing exploding cast-iron balls. The following month, a French assault on Boulogne was beaten back. The English then heavily fortified Boulogne, beating off a French attack in 1549, but in 1550 it was returned to France as a result of negotiations.

MUSCAT, OMAN Al Jalali Fort in Muscat was built in 1586–88 to protect the harbour of Portuguese-ruled Muscat from Ottoman (Turkish) attack; the Ottomans had captured Muscat in 1552 and 1582. Named Forte de São João, the fort was built on top of a rocky prominence and included a gun deck designed to dominate the harbour. In 1650, Sultan bin Saif of Oman captured Muscat. The fort, now named al-Jalali, played a role in the civil war and Persian intervention of the early eighteenth century. After Ahmad bin Said al-Busaidi, the first ruler of the Al Said dynasty, captured the fort in 1749, he renovated it, adding the large central buildings and the round towers. Disputes among the ruling family ensured that the fort played a significant role in 1781–82. It subsequently became Oman’s major prison.

The spread and increasing sophistication of cannon became much more of a factor in the attack on fortifications, and their defence in the sixteenth century, although the situation varied greatly across the world. When the Spaniards arrived in Manila Bay in the Philippines in 1572, the local communities were defended only by a bamboo stockade at the entrance to the Pasig River, and only one stone fort is known to have existed in the Philippines before the Spaniards arrived.

In Christian Europe, in a very different context, cannon were most effective from the fifteenth century and, even more, the sixteenth, against the stationary target of high stone walls. As a result, fortifications were redesigned to provide lower, denser and more complex targets. There were developments and adaptations to resist cannon prior to the better-known system alla moderna (more recently called the trace italienne), including adding masonry reinforcements to existing towers and sloping skirts at the base of walls. The boulevards used, as at the siege of Orléans in 1429, were earth and timber outworks constructed to keep the besiegers from running their cannon close to the walls.

Nevertheless, fortifications designed to cope with artillery were first constructed in large numbers in Italy and were then spread across Europe by Italian architects. In this new system, bastions, generally quadrilateral or pentagonal, angled, and at regular intervals along all walls, were introduced to keep the besieger from the inner walls and to provide gun platforms able to launch effective flanking fire against attackers. Cannon were placed on the ramparts, which helped ensure that the defence could be active. The use of planned fire zones by the defence was more important than the strength brought by height, whether of position or of walls. Defences were lowered and sunk in ditches, obliging the attacker to expose their batteries, and the defences, strengthened with earth to minimise the impact of cannon fire, were slanted to help defeat cannonballs. There were similar designs in Japanese castles. These improvements in fortifications lessened the impact and decisiveness of artillery in siegecraft.

The often-cited idea that cannon brought the value of medieval fortifications to an end, and thus brought the medieval military system to a close, requires qualification. Even when cannon were moved up to take part in sieges, itself a difficult process in the transport system of the age, they were frequently only marginally more effective than previous means of siegecraft. Indeed, cannon initially failed more often than they succeeded, and many times a castle fell to treachery or negotiation, rather than bombardment. In addition, stormings, rather than sieges, were also important, as during the Italian Wars, when the French stormed Venetian-held Brescia in 1512.

Nevertheless, with the demise of the siege tower and the battering ram, siege operations in 1550 were different to those of two centuries earlier and were far more focused on cannon. At the successful English siege of Boulogne in 1544, more than 250 pieces of heavy ordnance were deployed, including mortars firing exploding cast iron balls. The introduction and effects of gunpowder weapons were gradual processes, more akin to evolution than the overused term revolution. Similarly, in response to gunpowder, there were a number of much cheaper ways to enhance existing fortifications than the system alla moderna, and these other methods were used much more extensively. As is always the case, most positions were not fortified at the scale and expense of the best-fortified locations. As a result, most sieges did not match the major and lengthy efforts mounted against the latter. Examples of such efforts included the eventually successful efforts mounted by Spain, in opposing the Dutch Revolt, against Antwerp in 1585 and Ostend in 1601–04, both well-defended as well as strongly fortified.

The largest new fortifications in Europe, those at Smolensk in Russia built between 1597 and 1602, were built in the traditional fashion with a high stone wall 6.5 kilometres long and 13–19 metres high, strengthened by towers. The vulnerability of high stone walls, however, meant that such fortifications were increasingly regarded as anachronistic. Indeed, Smolensk’s walls were breached by the besieging Poles in 1611 and by the Russians, when they recaptured it in 1654.

In general, fortifications were of most value when combined with field forces able to relieve them from siege. Indeed, many campaigns revolved around attempts to mount sieges and, in response, to relieve besieged positions. As a result of the latter, sieges led to major battles such as Pavia (1525), Nördlingen (1634) and Rocroi (1643). Sieges, moreover, were frequently determined not by the presence of wall-breaching artillery, but by the availability of sufficient light cavalry to blockade a fortress and dominate the surrounding country. Sieges accentuated the logistical problems that were so difficult for contemporary armies, as besieging forces had to be maintained in the same area for a considerable period, thereby exhausting local supplies.

Other factors were also involved in fortification, and in the campaigning linked to it. In terms of significance of power, the demonstration of force by means of fortifications could be more important than their specific usefulness in action. So also in attacks on fortresses. Thus, many sieges ended not with particular operations, but with a surrender in the face of a larger besieging army. This was a relationship that could be almost ritualistic in its conventions, and not only in Europe.


Outside Europe, Western expansion was anchored by fortresses. This was seen across the oceans and with the eastward expansion of Russia. In the latter case, forts were established at Samara and Ufa in 1586, and then, across the Urals, at Tyumen in 1586 and at Tobolsk, on the River Ob, in 1587. In their expansion, the Russians did not face fortresses in Siberia, but they did when they attacked Islamic opponents, notably the khanate of Kazan. This was a key target for Ivan IV, ‘the Terrible’ (r. 1533–84). Kazan, long an opponent of Russia, not least as a source of slave-raiding by light cavalry, stood on a high bluff overlooking the Volga River. It had double walls of oak logs covered over with clay and partially plated with stones. These were formidable defences, even if they did not match the defences of the alla moderna. There were 14 stone towers with cannon and a deep surrounding ditch. Such ditches posed an obstacle to attackers, accentuated the height of the defensive walls, and made it much harder to undermine them. This factor remained a constant with fortifications.

The garrison of Kazan consisted of 30,000 men with 70 cannon, which was both a formidable force and the main army of Kazan, although there was also a light cavalry army, about 20,000 strong, that sought to harass the besiegers. Ivan attempted two winter campaigns against Kazan in 1547–48 and 1549–50, but these failed because the Russian army had no fortified base in the region, had to leave its artillery behind because of heavy rains, and ended up campaigning with an exclusively cavalry army that was of no use in investing the fortress of Kazan.

But for the third campaign, a base was secured. In the winter and spring of 1551–52, the Russians prefabricated fortress towers and wall sections near Uglich and then floated them down the Volga on barges with artillery and troops to its confluence with the Sviiaga, 25 kilometres from Kazan. Here, the fortress of Sviiazhsk was erected in just 28 days, providing a base. That summer, siege guns and stores were shipped to Sviiazhsk and a Russian army, allegedly 150,000 strong, with 150 siege guns, advanced, reaching Kazan on 20 August. The Russians constructed siege lines from which cannon opened fire and used a wooden siege tower carrying cannon, which moved on rollers. The ditch surrounding the city was filled with fascines and sappers tunnelled beneath the walls. The mines were blown up on 2 October, destroying the walls at two of the gates, upon which the Russian army, drawn up into seven columns, attacked all seven of the gates simultaneously. They soon broke through, and Kazan fell with a massive slaughter of the defenders. The furthest north of the Islamic khanates had fallen. Ivan exploited his success by moving down the Volga valley to capture Astrakhan in 1556 and to establish Russian power on the Caspian Sea. Thus, the capture of a major fortress had major and lasting strategic consequences for Russia and its neighbours.Overseas, the European powers were similarly dependent on fortifications. This was the case with both Portuguese and Spanish expansion, and subsequently with that of England, France and the Dutch. With limited manpower, the Portuguese Empire depended on the combination of fortified positions, notably citadels at ports such as Goa, Malacca, Mombasa, Mozambique and Muscat, with warships that used these ports. Spain was in a similar situation, although, alongside fortifications at ports such as Veracruz, Havana, St Augustine and Cartagena, more of its fortifications protected inland centres of government, such as Mexico City.


That the Ottomans (Turks) did not have a fortification re-evaluation equivalent to that of the Western Europeans, in expenditure or style, was not so much due to a failure to match Western advances, as because the Ottomans scarcely required such a development as they were not under attack. Moreover, the Ottoman emphasis on field forces and mobility, as well as their interest in territorial expansion, ensured that they were less concerned with protecting fixed positions. In contrast, Western losses of fortresses to the Ottomans early in the sixteenth century, such as Modon (1500), Belgrade (1521), and Rhodes (1522), as well as a lack of confidence in mobile defence, encouraged the introduction of the new angle-bastioned military architecture, which the Venetians were very quick to use in their empire. The Ottomans deployed 22 cannon and two mortars against Modon, firing 155–180 shot daily.

In 1529, the Ottomans were less successful when they attacked Vienna, the walls of which were 300 years old. Niklas von Salm conducted a vigorous defence, showing how fortifications could be rapidly enhanced and expanded at times of need. The energy and skill with which this was done was a key element in any successful defence and should not be detached from discussions of fortifications or treated as inherently secondary. Salm blocked Vienna’s gates, reinforced the walls with earthen bastions and an inner rampart, and levelled any buildings where it was felt to be necessary. This defence exacerbated the problems posed for the Ottomans by beginning the siege relatively late in the year. Having withstood the assault, Vienna afterwards constructed massive, purpose-built, encircling fortifications.

When the Ottomans needed fortresses they built them, for example along the Damascus to Cairo and to Mecca roads in order to protect travellers on these important routes from attacks by Bedouin Arabs, and at the southern end of the Red Sea. In the Van region of eastern Anatolia, an area threatened by the Safavids of Persia, the Ottomans heavily fortified a line of towns around the lake. Fortifications both held off the Safavids and also served to overawe the Kurds. In 1582, a chain of seven fortresses was built on the Red Sea coast from Suakin to Massawa in order to consolidate its capture from Ethiopia. In the seventeenth century, there were also to be important Ottoman fortifications in Yemen.


Fortresses, moreover, played a role in Japan. The extent of instability and civil warfare in the sixteenth century encouraged fortifications. However, the need for them in turn fell as cohesion and unity were imposed. Japanese castle building responded to gunpowder by combining thick stone walls with hilltops of solid stone. Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the unifier of Japan in the 1580s and 1590s, proved successful in siegecraft, as with the fall of Odawara and other Hojo fortresses in eastern Honshu in 1590. Cannon became more important from the 1580s, but Hideyoshi’s success in sieges also owed much to other factors, notably the use of entrenchments to divert the water defences offered by lakes and rivers. These entrenchments threatened fortresses with flooding by rising waters, or with the loss of the protection by water features on which many in part relied. This was more generally true of many fortresses, not least because of their role in protecting crossing places against rivers, a function that remains significant to the present day.

In India, Akbar, the expansionist and successful Mughal Emperor (r. 1556–1605), anchored his position in northern India with a number of fortresses, especially Agra, Allahabad, Lahore, Ajmer, Rohtas and Attock. Sieges were also significant. Logistics played a major role in them, while negotiations frequently accompanied sieges as part of the process by which the display of power was intended to produce a solution. Not always, however. In 1567, Akbar declared a jihad against Udai Singh, rana of the Rajput principality of Mewar. Initial attacks on the Mewar fortified capital of Chittaurgarh (Chittor), which stood high on a rock outcrop above the Rajasthan plain, were repulsed, and Akbar resorted to bombardment and the digging of mines: tunnels under the walls filled with explosives. The latter were especially helpful in producing breaches in the walls, although the construction of a sasbat (or covered way) to the walls to cover an attack was also very significant. After a night-time general attack, the city fell in 1568, with all the defenders and 20,000–25,000 civilians killed in hand-to-hand fighting. The fortress was then destroyed. Hilltop locations reflected the major value of topography to the defence and the political message of overawing offered by fortresses. Fortification alla moderna was introduced to India by the Portuguese, who were also probably responsible for circular bastions there, but the diffusion of these techniques was limited.

In China, the military strength of the Ming empire (1368–1644) lay more in fortifications than in firearms. The majority of the army served against the Mongols along the vulnerable northern frontier where there was a series of major garrisons in the complex known as the Great Wall. This provision became increasingly important as Mongol attacks became much more serious in the mid-fifteenth century, and then again in response to ultimately successful Manchu attacks in the early seventeenth. The Chinese sought to cope by relying on walls and on garrisons at strategic passes. As a result, terrain and topography were to be aided by fortifications.

Numbers were crucial in Chinese siege techniques. The earlier use of gunpowder in China ensured that their fortified cities had very thick walls, which were capable of withstanding the artillery of the sixteenth century and earlier. As a consequence, assault, rather than bombardment, was the tactic used against fortifications. This was also appropriate to the large forces available. The risk of heavy casualties could be accepted, a matter both of pragmatic military considerations and of cultural attitudes towards loss, suffering and discipline. Sieges had to be brought to a speedy end because of the serious logistical problems of supporting large armies, which encouraged storming attempts.


Alongside improvements in fortification techniques in particular areas, there was also a destruction of fortifications, deliberate or by neglect, with the latter proving especially important in the rotting of wood and the filling in of ditches and moats by debris. There was also the neglect seen in deciding not to enhance fortifications, notably to counter new developments in artillery. Moreover, governments actively sought to weaken the military resources of real and potential domestic adversaries. As a result, building fortifications could become a questionable step. Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, began the construction of Thornbury Castle in 1511 when he was high in the favour of Henry VIII, but they fell out in 1521; Buckingham’s construction of the castle was one of the charges in the indictment that led to his execution for treason. The castle had six towers with machicolations and a gatehouse on the late-medieval pattern. The castle was confiscated by Henry.

Social élites, notably across much of Western Europe, tended to look to the Crown and, in doing so, to abandon earlier tendencies to resist unwelcome policies by violence. For example, in England the shift from castle keep to architecturally self-conscious stately home was symptomatic of an apparently more peaceful society and a product of the heavy costs of castle building. Castles appeared to be redundant in the face of royal armies, as with the suppression of the Northern Revolt against Elizabeth I in 1569. In 1588, in response to the threat from the Spanish Armada, there were hasty preparations – cannon were mounted on castle walls; but the defences of England primarily rested on the fleet and the army.

Most fortifications in England were in a poor state. There had been an extensive abandonment of castles, in some cases from the 1470s, and far more actively under the Tudors who came to power in 1485. Dunstanburgh Castle was already much ruined in 1538 and Dunster Castle in 1542, as a consequence of a lack of maintenance for decades. In 1597, a survey found that Melbourne Castle was being used as a pound for trespassing cattle, and it was demolished for stone in the 1610s. John Speed described Northampton Castle in 1610: ‘gaping chinks do daily threaten the downfall of her walls.’ When, in 1617, James I visited Warkworth Castle, earlier a mighty fortress, he found sheep and goats in most of the rooms. Bramber Castle, formerly a Sussex stronghold of the Howards, was in ruins.

The major fortresses built in England during the sixteenth century were for frontier defence, and not for mounting or resisting rebellion. In particular, on the pattern of the Roman forts of the Saxon Shore, Henry VIII responded to the alliance in 1538 between the Emperor Charles V and Francis I of France, and the consequent fears of invasion by building, in the 1540s, a series of coastal fortifications on the south coast of England, including Camber, Deal and Walmer. These mounted cannon in order to resist both bombardment by warships and attack by invading forces. More generally, the anchorages on the south coast were to be protected by fortifications, for example Dartmouth Castle. The biggest single new fortified position was Berwick-on-Tweed, the principal fortress intended both to protect northern England from invasion and, more particularly, to provide a base from which attacks could be mounted on Scotland and notably on its capital, Edinburgh. The fortress also protected the anchorage in the estuary of the River Tweed. The modern new defences were very different to the castellated medieval ones there.

In Wales in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, many castles were abandoned or, as with Beaumaris and Conwy, fell into disrepair, while others were enhanced not with fortifications but with comfortable and splendid internal ‘spaces’, especially long galleries, as at Raglan, Powis and Carew. It was not only in Britain that castles fell into ruin. The same was true elsewhere. Thus, in the United Provinces (Dutch Republic), new fortified positions were concentrated in frontier regions, as, in particular, at Breda, but ruined castles were recorded by painters, for example Jacob van der Croos’ Landscape with Ruined Castle of Brederode and Distant View of Haarlem. Built in the third quarter of the thirteenth century and rebuilt a century later, the castle was set on fire by Spanish forces in 1573.

Increasingly, the new fortifications of the sixteenth century and later might provide lodgings for their garrisons, but generally were not private and domestic in the medieval tradition. Instead they were instruments of the state, as in the Roman period.

At the same time, civil wars, such as the German Peasants’ Revolt, the Dutch Revolt and the French Wars of Religion, put a continuing premium on older fortifications, both castles and city walls. They could thwart or delay attacking forces, and thus have a major operational, even strategic, impact, which was the case in all three of these conflicts. For example in France, the fortifications of the Protestant-held town of La Rochelle successfully resisted a Royalist siege in 1572–73, although it fell in 1628 after a 14-month siege.


Cultural factors were important to fortification. This was clearly seen in South-East Asia where most cities, for example Aceh, Brunei, Johore and Malacca, were not walled in the medieval period. However, in response to European pressure, construction of city walls spread in the sixteenth century, for example in Java. Nevertheless, the notion of fighting for a city was not well-established culturally. Instead, the local culture of war was generally that of the abandonment of cities in the face of stronger attackers who then pillaged them before leaving. As in parts of Africa, captives, not territory, were the usual objective of operations. European interest in annexation and the consolidation of position by fortification reflected a different culture. Thus, the role of fortifications in part depended on cultural factors, a point that is more generally true of conflict. This was the case not only with the prudential value of these fortifications, but also with their symbolic significance.

The Legacy of Unternehmen Barbarossa I

As far as high-speed mechanized troops are concerned and their location on the forward zone, one has, in general, to see the threat of their sudden concentration in the mere fact of their existence. These motorized troops, having carried out a march of up to 100 kilometers on the day before or even during the last night, turn up on the very border only at that moment when the decision has been taken to cross the border and to invade enemy territory.

Georgii Isserson, New Forms of Combat

To this day, the coordinated diplomatic and military planning at the heart of Unternehmen Barbarossa remains a model of how to confuse a future enemy with assurances of nonaggression while simultaneously planning a surprise attack. For this reason, among others, Barbarossa warrants careful study, certainly by military planners. The stamp of Barbarossa can be found not only on the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and some of the closing campaigns of World War II—the Normandy landings in June 1944, for example—but also on the Israeli-Arab Six-Day War (1967), the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia (1968), Soviet plans to attack NATO across the inner-German border during the Cold War, and Operation Desert Storm (1991). Other questions arising from Barbarossa are these: Why was the Soviet regime caught unprepared (complicated in part by the sensational claims of Viktor Suvorov)? And how did Hitler influence the decision whether to make the capture of Moscow the highest priority?

There is, of course, one major difference between Unternehmen Barbarossa and the D-Day landings in 1944: there was no nonaggression pact between Britain and Germany that might have led one side to miss the threat. The Germans knew that a landing would be attempted at some stage and were able to take various measures to prepare for it. For their part, the Anglo-American planners were aware that the enemy—an enemy that had repeatedly demonstrated astonishing powers of recovery on all fronts of the European theater of operations—awaited their arrival. Unlike the British army that had exited the European continent in the summer of 1940, the Wehrmacht in France was not psychologically weak in the summer of 1944; it was ready and resolved to fight. The critical problem facing the Allies was therefore how to deceive the enemy concerning the time and place of the landings. In terms of the intelligence battle, the Allies played a masterful hand, confusing and misleading the enemy intelligence services such that total surprise was achieved on 6 June 1944. Even after the Normandy landings, the Germans continued to believe that they were just a diversion. One outcome was that some German units were held in reserve; if they had been deployed on D-Day, they could have affected the success of the landings.

With regard to the period immediately before the outbreak of hostilities in the Six-Day War and the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, there are some elements that bear a resemblance to the state of German-Soviet relations before the launch of Barbarossa. If the preemptive strikes against Egypt and Syria were to stand any chance of success, Israeli planners knew they had to maintain the fiction that Israel was unprepared for war and willing to negotiate, while simultaneously preparing to seize the initiative. To undermine the resistance of Czechoslovak leaders, Soviet negotiators talked publicly of socialist solidarity and fraternity while mobilizing the forces of the Warsaw Pact for intervention. Even allowing for this unequal confrontation, Soviet deception and intelligence measures, refined in the invasion of Hungary twelve years previously, were impressive. By the time Czechoslovak politicians recognized the truth, it was too late.

Soviet planning for an attack across the inner-German border to defeat NATO forces in a molnienosnaia voina owed much to Isserson. All forces, certainly the armored and mechanized infantry divisions, along with their support services, were located as far forward as possible. This concentration of forces had taken place over years, and once established, it was regarded as the norm. Then, all that was required was an escalation in diplomatic and political tension—ideally, outside the main zone of intended operations, possibly the Middle East—and the Soviet shock armies would be deployed, taking NATO forces in Germany by just enough surprise to ensure the necessary momentum to bring Warsaw Pact forces to the French coast.

With regard to Desert Storm, the situation was more akin to the D-Day landings. In this case, the occupier had considerably less military expertise than the Anglo-Americans’ opponent in Normandy, but Iraq was expecting an attack and had to be taken by surprise. When the advantages of technology and training so overwhelmingly favor one side, as they did in Desert Storm, tactical surprise is not essential, but it is desirable. In the period leading up to the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, the role played by intelligence data was crucial, as it was in Barbarossa. Whereas Stalin chose to ignore reliable intelligence material pointing to a German invasion, senior Anglo-American politicians and military leaders were accused of tampering with intelligence material in order to justify military action against Iraq to a skeptical public. These charges have yet to be fully investigated. Mindful of what happened to those individuals who crossed Stalin, Soviet intelligence officers justified telling the boss what he wanted to hear. American and British intelligence officers had no such excuses. Highlighted in both cases—the Soviet Union in 1941 and the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003—is that leaders who exert too much pressure on their intelligence agencies court national catastrophe (in the case of Stalin) or policy disaster (in the case of the US-led coalition). Hitler’s arrogance about what would happen after the start of Barbarossa anticipated the arrogance and unbridled optimism of the US-led coalition that invaded Iraq. Both invaders were taken aback by the insurgencies they unleashed, and both struggled to contain them.

Barbarossa and Stalin

As David Glantz states in his operational analysis of the German invasion of the Soviet Union, “The most vexing question associated with Operation Barbarossa is how the Wehrmacht was able to achieve such overwhelming political and military surprise.” There were, he argues, a number of plausible reasons for Stalin to reject the possibility of a German attack: warnings and hints from the British that Hitler was planning to attack were seen as an attempt of the British side to foment a war between Germany and the Soviet Union, and the Soviet side had succumbed to the Germans’ deception plan. However, even allowing for the fact that “the purges had decimated Soviet intelligence operations as well as the military command structure,” Soviet intelligence assets were performing very well, judging by the material in the two volumes of 1941 god. There was plenty of evidence from a variety of sources that the huge buildup of German forces was not inconsequential. Confronted with these data, neither the intelligence services nor the leader to whom they reported could afford to assume that these large-scale deployments of men and equipment were benign, certainly not in the tense and uncertain atmosphere of Europe in 1941. The Soviet failure is even more unforgivable and inexplicable because of Stalin’s role in destroying the Polish state. All the negotiations with von Ribbentrop over the Non-Aggression Pact and the secret protocols told him everything he needed to know about Hitler. Having seen the methods Hitler used against Poland, Stalin had no right to assume that the Soviet Union would never fall victim to those same methods. In this regard, Isserson’s analysis of how the war between Germany and Poland started is masterful and prescient, which probably did nothing to raise his stock with his dear leader after 22 June 1941.

Zhukov indirectly acknowledges the importance of Isserson’s analysis in the published version of his memoirs (1969). He makes the unusually candid admission that senior Soviet figures (not just Stalin) failed to grasp the nature of the new type of war pioneered by the Germans:

The sudden transition to the offensive on such scales, with all the immediately available and earlier deployed forces on the most important strategic lines of advance, that is the nature of the assault itself, in its entire capacity, was not envisaged by us. Neither the People’s Commissar, nor I, nor my predecessors B. M. Shaposhnikov, K. A. Meretskov and the leadership stratum of the General Staff had reckoned with the fact that the enemy would concentrate such a mass of armored and motorized troops and deploy them on the very first day by means of powerful, concentrated formations on all the strategic lines of advance with the aim of inflicting shattering, tearing blows.

In a supplement published after his death, Zhukov, having confirmed that the 13 June 1941 TASS communiqué contributed to a dangerous sense of complacency among the border troops, goes much further in his criticism of Soviet conceptual awareness and planning:

But by far the most major deficiency in our military-political strategy was the fact that we had not drawn the appropriate conclusions from the experience of the initial period of World War II; and the experience was available. As is known, the German armed forces suddenly invaded Austria, Czechoslovakoslovakia, Belgium, Holland, France and Poland and by means of a battering-ram strike consisting of huge armored forces overran the opposing troops and rapidly achieved their mission. Our General Staff and the People’s Commissar had not studied the new methods for the conduct of the initial period of a war, and had not imparted the corresponding recommendations to the troops for their further operational-tactical training and for the reworking of obsolete operational-mobilization plans and other plans linked to the initial period of a war.

From an outstanding field commander such as Zhukov, these criticisms, aimed at himself and others, are a fitting endorsement of Isserson.

Regarding whether Golikov, the head of the GRU, had accepted the explanation that deployments in the east were tied to German operations in the Balkans, attention should be drawn to an analysis carried out by Golikov on behalf of the Soviet General Staff. He notes that the buildup of German troops and equipment had not been halted by German operations in the Balkans. Over the last two months (March and April 1941), the number of German divisions in the border zone with the Soviet Union had risen from 70 to 107, and the number of tank divisions deployed had increased from 6 to 12.

Finally, Glantz points to institutional failings as the main reason for the Soviet Union’s failure to act in good time: “In retrospect, the most serious Soviet failure was neither strategic surprise nor tactical surprise, but institutional surprise. In June 1941 the Red Army and Air Force were in transition, changing their organization, leadership, equipment, training, troop dispositions and defensive plans.” On its face, this seems plausible. Unfortunately, it shifts attention from the role played by Stalin. Stalin attacked the security institutions—NKVD, Red Army, and GRU—on which he relied. The institutions that emerged after these terror attacks were gravely weakened. Their institutional failings can be directly attributed to Stalin: they were Stalin’s institutions. Characterizing the outcome of Stalin’s murderous paranoia—and in terms of the Red Army’s ability to prosecute modern war, it was almost suicidal—as institutional failings understates Stalin’s responsibility. Stalin’s judicial terrorism also highlights the ideological failures of Marxism-Leninism and its internal obsession with class war, which were clearly inimical to the cool appraisal of military affairs and the need to prepare for modern war. Appeals to Russian nationalism, which were implied in Stalin’s radio address of 3 July 1941 and made explicit during the battle for Stalingrad, are further evidence of ideological failure. The emphasis on class struggle by Soviet military theorists such as Tukhachevskii, Frunze, and Triandafillov was wrong, and it distorted military planning and the assessment of intelligence data.

Here it is essential to recapitulate the damage inflicted by Stalin’s purges. There were four main effects on the Soviet armed forces, all of which were disastrous: experienced commanders were removed; the subsequent personnel replacement policy resulted in inexperienced commanders being promoted before they were ready; professional competence and morale were undermined; and, after 22 June 1941, political control was tightened even further as a consequence of the command and control failures brought on by the purges.

First, and most obviously, the purges led to the removal of large numbers of middle-ranking and senior commanders, men who had come through the civil war and gone on to study modern war and the impact of technological changes, especially in armored warfare, and to formulate a new doctrine suitable for the Red Army. Being arrested and executed did not, in itself, mean that a commander was of exceptional caliber, but even moderately competent officers at all levels who are experienced and have passed the necessary training courses—the backbone of any army—are not easily replaced, especially in wartime. It is impossible to know how a Red Army that had not been subjected to Stalin’s purges would have performed in the summer of 1941. However, it certainly would have been much better prepared to take on the Germans. That said, even an unscathed Red Army would have had to contend with the grave handicap of Stalin’s refusal to heed intelligence warnings and act on them. An interesting question here is whether senior Red Army commanders in an army that had been untouched by purges would have tolerated Stalin’s vacillation in the face of obvious danger. Even after 22 June 1941—such was the climate of paranoia—a disbelief in high-quality intelligence data and the practice of telling the boss what he wanted to hear continued. For example, the volume of high-quality information being passed on by the British traitors Anthony Blunt, Kim Philby, Donald Maclean, John Cairncross, and Guy Burgess to their Soviet handlers aroused suspicions in Moscow that Blunt and the others were double agents.

The removal of so many commanders at all levels and throughout the institutional structure of the Red Army meant that their replacements lacked the experience and training to command the posts they now occupied. Many of the newly promoted, called vydvizhentsy, surely knew that the bizarre accusations leveled against their former superiors were false, making them far more vulnerable to and more dependent on ideological considerations, rather than purely military ones. As a result, military professionalism suffered, and personal initiative was stifled.

The arrest, public vilification, and execution of so many commanders undermined discipline and weakened junior officers’ confidence in their superiors. In fact, a climate was created in which junior commanders with personal grudges or those driven by ideological vendettas were encouraged to denounce their superiors for lacking vigilance (bditel’nost’), engaging in wrecking (vreditel’stvo), or succumbing to ideological deviation (uklonizm). Predictably, the result was a severe weakening of morale, an eradication of unit cohesion, and a collapse in professional solidarity. History provides plenty of examples of outnumbered armies defeating numerically larger and better-equipped foes, but no armed forces, ancient or modern, can function with poor morale and an absence of unit cohesion and where the heroes of yesterday are vilified as traitors.

The damage done by the purges to doctrine, equipment procurement schedules, training, deployment, morale, effective command and control, and leadership was evident immediately after 22 June 1941, but even when confronted with the catastrophic results of their purges of the Red Army, Stalin and his party apparatus were unable to see that the unfolding disaster was a consequence of their vendettas. On the contrary, they saw it as evidence of treachery on an unimaginable scale. In this grotesque scenario, the basic principle of the purges, they persuaded themselves, had been correct: it had just not gone far enough. What was now needed to restore the situation, they believed, was not less party control but more, and so they reinstated dual command, among other things. Dual command was not merely a very public display of the party’s lack of faith in the Red Army, which was soon picked up by enemy propagandists. Being the very opposite of the German doctrine of Auftragstaktik (military tradition that stresses personal initiative), without which all-arms operations could not properly function, it complicated command and control (to put it mildly), playing straight into the hands of German commanders and enhancing their already demonstrably superior tactical leadership.

The Legacy of Unternehmen Barbarossa II

Barbarossa’s failure to deliver the knockout blow and the subsequent failure to take Moscow suggest that December 1941 was the moment Germany lost the war. At best, it could expect a long war of attrition in a struggle against the combined might of the United States, the British Empire, and the Soviet Union, with predictable consequences. At the risk of being accused of Anglocentrism, I suggest that the failure to destroy or capture the defeated British Expeditionary Force at Dunkirk, and certainly the failure to invade England in the summer of 1940, marked the moment when Germany’s chances of winning the war were, if not fatally damaged, at least severely undermined. Granted, as von Manstein has explained only too clearly, the risks of Operation Sea Lion were enormous, but if successful, the rewards would have been stunning. That Hitler was prepared to attack the Soviet Union before Britain had been eliminated is doubly puzzling. First, it suggests that Hitler did not consider the threat posed by Britain serious enough to warrant giving it immediate priority. Second, the risks of attacking the Soviet Union and failing were far greater than the risks of attacking England and being defeated. Here, the factor of time was critical for German ambitions: if the Soviet Union could be defeated in a short campaign, the full weight of German arms could then be turned against Britain. The longer the campaign on the Eastern Front lasted, the more resilient Britain would become and the greater its capacity to mobilize British military might. An alliance between Britain and the Soviet Union would then be a near certainty. That the British were a meddlesome force in the Balkans and a ubiquitous and aggressive presence in the Mediterranean in the months immediately before Barbarossa, though frequently thwarted by German intervention, was evidence enough of what lay in store for Germany if Britain was not checked.

Instead of invading England and, if succeeding, changing the strategic situation in Europe to his overwhelming advantage, Hitler turned east. The Blitzkrieg failed, and by the middle of December 1941, Germany found itself at war with the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union. The advantages of surprise and the benefits of ruthless treachery that had served Hitler so well since 1933 had now been exhausted. The military, technological, and doctrinal advantages Germany had enjoyed from September 1939 to December 1941 were now being matched and surpassed by its opponents.

Reasons for the Failure of Barbarossa

The factors that contributed to the failure of Barbarossa can be summarized as follows: (1) time, space, and terrain; (2) inconsistent attitudes toward nationalism; (3) the brutal treatment of Soviet prisoners of war and commissars; (4) the role of the Einsatzgruppen (the mass murder of Jews); (5) plans for agricultural exploitation and the retention of Soviet collective farms; (6) the assumption that the Soviet Union would collapse very quickly; (7) Hitler’s failure to make a radio address to the Soviet people; and (8) failure to pursue military objectives—the capture of Moscow—to the exclusion of everything else, as recommended by Guderian and other generals.

Time, space, and terrain, along with weather, are factors in the planning and execution of all military operations. The Blitzkrieg doctrine was best suited to the distances and terrain found in western Europe. Even though there were natural and artificial terrain obstacles in the western theater of operations, these could be overcome, as the Germans demonstrated, without losing momentum because the operational area was so much smaller. Moreover, the advanced infrastructure of western Europe—highways, roads, railways, and bridges—facilitated and accelerated the Blitzkrieg, since the invader could exploit them for the rapid deployment of men and equipment and for purposes of resupply. Another advantage arising from the smaller operational area in western Europe was that the invader could seize assets—arms factories, power stations, dams, ports, ships, and food production plants—in a coup de main before they could be destroyed. In western Europe a scorched-earth policy was neither realistic nor psychologically acceptable to the inhabitants. On the Eastern Front, however, there was often time to evacuate major assets, especially plants and factories further east; where evacuation was not possible, industrial assets such as dams could be prepared for demolition. In the east the invader had to reckon with poor-quality roads and rail lines that were often rendered unusable by rain and snow.

The German invasion of the Soviet Union was also characterized by inconsistent and duplicitous policies toward nationalist movements. In the planning phase of Barbarossa, nationalist movements in Ukraine were exploited by the Abwehr, and the threat posed by these movements was taken very seriously by the NKVD. In contrast, the highest levels of the RSHA (the main terror and police agency of the NS regime) regarded nationalist movements with suspicion, and German planning documents make it clear that there was never any serious intention to abolish the Soviet collective farm system; this would be retained to maximize agricultural production for Germany.

However, there is evidence that some German administrators were willing to grant a degree of local autonomy in the occupied areas. One of the more interesting experiments took place in the Orlov district. The 2nd Panzer Army permitted the creation of the autonomous Lokot region, based on the village of Lokot. By the end of the summer of 1942, the Lokot self-governing region had expanded to include eight regions of the Orlov and Kursk districts, with a total population of about 581,000. All German troops were withdrawn, and the region was given self-governing status. To quote the recent work of a Russian historian:

German troops, headquarters and command structures were withdrawn beyond the borders of the district, in which the whole spectrum of power was conferred on an Oberbürgermeister, based on a ramified administrative apparatus and numerous armed formations made up of local inhabitants and prisoners. The only demands made of the self-government were that supplies of foodstuffs were delivered to the German army and that it prevented the growth of a partisan movement.

It turns out that the Lokot self-government even had its own political party, Narodnaia Sotsialisticheskaia Partiia Rossii (The People’s Socialist Party of Russia), and its main aim was the destruction of the communist system and the collective farms. The leaders of this experiment saw a self-governing Lokot as the basis for the rebirth of Russia. One can only imagine the frenzy of hatred this experiment aroused in Stalin and Beria when they eventually got wind of it.

The question arises: to what extent did the existence of this self-governing region assist the Germans and impede the Red Army before and during the battle of Kursk in 1943? Once the battle of Kursk was over, there is no question that the whole area would have been scoured by SMERSH for any official who had worked in the administration. The fate of the 581,000 inhabitants after the Germans withdrew is not clear. It would have taken SMERSH many months, maybe years, to filter all those it considered unreliable, and this must have generated a massive amount of documentation, which is apparently still classified. German initiatives such those in Orlov would have been far more effective had they been launched from the outset.

Harsh treatment of Red Army prisoners, often stemming from callous indifference, was a disastrous mistake. Such treatment was predicated in part on the assumption that the campaign would be over quickly and that any mistreatment of prisoners would have a negligible impact on German operations. The Germans’ attitude toward prisoners and commissars soon became known on the Soviet side of the front, and the longer the campaign dragged on, the more such policies hardened Soviet resistance. Combined with the mass shootings of Jews by the Einsatzgruppen, the treatment of Soviet prisoners of war helped the Soviet regime. These killings supported a sense of Soviet solidarity that could possibly overcome the ethnic heterogeneity and fissiparous nature of the Soviet Union. To this end, Hitler’s failure to make a radio address to the Soviet people immediately after the invasion must be seen as a lost opportunity. A direct radio appeal (reinforced by a massive airdrop of leaflets) in which he promised self-rule, abolition of the collective farms, restoration of the church, and an end to communism and in which he urged the people to turn against their oppressors—the NKVD, the commissars, and the party—would have caused utter panic among Stalin’s entourage. But this did not happen, and the peasants were exploited just as ruthlessly by the German occupiers, which undeniably helped the Soviet regime.

A year later, on the eve of the Stalingrad counteroffensive, the consequences of this German error would be fully grasped by the utterly cynical Commissar Getmanov in Grossman’s Life and Fate: “It is our good fortune that the Germans in the course of just one year did more to make themselves hated by the peasants than anything the communists did over the last 25 years.” Getmanov rather conveniently ignores the civil war and the genocide in Ukraine, but there is much truth in what he says. With victory secured, there would be time enough for the German occupiers to renege on these tactical, time-buying promises. The time for implementing the ideological program would have been after the Soviet state had been knocked out. Nonmilitary objectives that were launched before the Soviet Union had been defeated complicated and compromised the essential task of accelerating the collapse of the Soviet state. Again, the full force of the German propaganda machine should have been used to send the message that the German army had come to liberate Russia from communism. The failure to do so was probably based on the belief that such assurances would not be necessary, since the campaign would be a short one. Such considerations bring us to the question of what the primary military objective should have been in 1941.

One question that continues to engage historians of the Barbarossa campaign is whether Hitler’s decision to head south in August 1941 predetermined the outcome of the eventual resumption of the drive on Moscow. For example, Glantz argues that Germany’s best chance to take Moscow was in October 1941.13 In contrast, Guderian and others maintain that the August 1941 decision to go to Ukraine was the main cause of the failure to take Moscow. Citing various factors that he believes would have thwarted German plans to take Moscow in September, Glantz nevertheless concedes that the Germans might have captured the city then. However, that would have been just the start of the Germans’ problems: surviving the winter in a devastated city, protecting their exposed and extended flanks, and withstanding an attack from a Red Army now numbering 5 million men.

The obvious riposte here is Guderian’s insistence on the pressing need to go all out for Moscow. Given the requirements of modern war, the defense of Moscow in 1941 relied on the Soviet rail network. In fact, the critical importance of the rail network for offensive and defensive purposes was well appreciated by Triandafillov, who identified fast and effective rokirovka (lateral troop movements) as crucial for deployment. The loss of Moscow would have meant the loss of all rail and river links to other parts of the Soviet Union, thus effectively preventing the necessary rokirovka and interfering with the movement of reinforcements from the Soviet Far East. Moreover, any Soviet threat to the German flanks and rear was predicated on a supply chain for the Red Army and the Soviet High Command’s ability to move men and equipment by road and rail. If the German attack had succeeded in September, no buildup of offensive forces would have been possible, and the threat posed by millions of Red Army soldiers would have been reduced, since they would have been cut off from their supply bases.

The other factor to consider is the political impact on the Soviet Union if the Germans had taken Moscow. Guderian made a case for an all-out attack on Moscow in a meeting with Hitler:

I explained that from a military standpoint it came down to the total destruction of the enemy forces that had suffered so badly in the recent battles. I depicted for him the geographical significance of the Russian capital that was, I said, completely different from Paris, for example, the traffic and communications center, the political center and an important industrial region, the fall of which, apart from its having an obviously shattering effect on the morale of the Russian people, must also have an impact on the rest of the world. I drew attention to the mood of the troops who expected nothing else than the march on Moscow and who, so inspired, had already, I said, made all the necessary preparations to this end. I tried to explain that after achieving military victory in this decisive thrust and over the main forces of the enemy the industrial regions of Ukraine must fall to us much sooner when the conquest of the Moscow communications network would make any possible deployment of forces from north to south extremely difficult for the Russians.

Guderian also pointed out that the German supply problem would be easier to deal with if everything were concentrated on Moscow. In addition, it is was essential to move before the onset of the rasputitsa.

Guderian’s views find some support from von Manstein, who maintains—with the benefit of postwar hindsight—that Hitler underestimated the strength of the Soviet system and its ability to withstand the stresses of war. The only way to destroy the system, he argues, was to bring about its political collapse from within: “However, the policies that Hitler permitted to be pursued in the occupied territories by his Reich Commissars and the SD—in complete contrast to the efforts of the military circles—could only have the opposite effect.” This is an obvious point to make, but how do von Manstein’s objections to German policies in the occupied territories fit with his own order issued on 20 November 1941? This lapse in memory notwithstanding, von Manstein’s assessment of the policies being pursued by Hitler underlines the inner contradictions: “So while Hitler wanted to move strategically so as to destroy Soviet power, politically, he acted in complete opposition to this strategy. In other wars differences between the political and military leadership have often occurred. In this situation both elements were controlled by Hitler with the result that the Eastern policy conducted by him ran strictly counter to the requirements of his strategy and perhaps denied it the chance of a quick victory.” Von Manstein believed that the defeat of the Red Army would achieve Germany’s economic and political goals. However, capturing Moscow was the key component: “After its [Moscow’s] loss the Soviet defense would be practically divided into two parts and the Soviet leadership would no longer be able to conduct a uniform and combined operation.”

The period from 1 September 1939 to 22 June 1941 lends some support to Colin Gray’s view that, although it is an intellectual convenience to accept a strict demarcation between war and peace (the title of Tolstoy’s classic novel War and Peace is an indicator of how deeply this binary division is embedded), there can be a situation in which there is neither peace nor war or, rather, there is peace in war and war in peace.19 In this situation, the conditions for a future war are being created amid circumstances that, to most people not immediately involved with problems of war, appear to be peace. This view suggests that peace is not permanent; it is merely a transitional phase during which old conflicts can be reignited or new conflicts can emerge, often unforeseen, because they are driven by political and technological change.

Diplomacy plays a crucial role in this transitional phase. It is in the diplomatic arena that new conditions and new threats arising from these new conditions are perceived or, rather, are open to being perceived. In these conditions, diplomacy can function as either an instrument to avoid war or one to prepare for war, a policy pursued by Hitler and clearly identified by Churchill and Isserson. Thus, Gray’s thesis of war in peace and peace in war implies some modification of the Clausewitzian idea that war is a continuation of policy by other means. War is not merely a continuation of diplomatic policy by other means: war and diplomacy are not discrete entities; they constitute a single entity used by all states to further their interests, assert their honor, and deal with their fears. This entity is power. Thus, in the conditions we traditionally call peace, a state uses diplomacy to advance its interests (moderately or aggressively), and in the conditions we traditionally call war, the state uses force to advance its interests. Both policies, war and diplomacy, are parts of the same entity we call power. The origins of the relationship between diplomacy and war and the nature of power were first enunciated by Thucydides, and they have certainly been modified and reformulated by Machiavelli, Bismarck, and, more recently, Kissinger. However, in the twentieth century, Hitler’s recognition that diplomacy and war are a single entity, and the degree to which this entity became an instrument of his will, remains one of the most important legacies of the NS regime and the planning for Barbarossa.

Finally, and most importantly, there was the human cost. What made Barbarossa and the war on the Eastern Front so appalling was not, to quote Omer Bartov, that “Nazi Germany exercised barbarism on an unprecedented scale” or that “its declared intention was extermination and enslavement.” What made it so appalling was that both Germany and the Soviet Union demonstrated a shocking capacity for barbarism, extermination, and enslavement. Clearly, this was an ideological war, but the first moves were not made on 22 June 1941. The first moves toward this Weltanschauungskrieg were made by Lenin’s Soviet state. By effectively declaring the Soviet state free of all international norms, free of all moral and ethical obligations in its pursuit of global domination and class war, Lenin promulgated an intoxicating, nihilistic idea that was fully apprehended and applauded by the author of Mein Kampf and informed his own cult of German exceptionalism based on das Herrenvolk.