The Great Inca Rebellion – The Siege of Cuzco I

As always, the Spaniards’ first reaction to a disturbance with the Indians was to try to seize the initiative. Hernando sent his brother Juan with seventy cavalrymen – virtually every horse then in Cuzco – to disperse the Indians in the Yucay valley. While riding across the plateau of rolling grassy hills that separates the valley of Cuzco from that of Yucay, they met the two Spaniards who had been with Manco. These had been beguiled by him into leaving when he continued towards Lares, and they were now returning in all innocence to Cuzco, unaware of any native rebellion. The first sight of the magnitude of the opposition came when Pizarro’s men appeared at the brow of the plateau and looked down at the beautiful valley beneath them. This is one of the loveliest views in the Andes; the river below winds across the broad flat floor of the valley, whose rocky sides rise as abruptly as the fantastic scenery in the background of a sixteenth-century painting. The slopes are tightly contoured with neat lines of Inca terraces, and above them, in the distance, the snowy peaks of the Calca and Paucartambo hills shine brilliantly in the thin air. But now the valley was filled with native troops, Manco’s own levies from the area around Cuzco. The Spaniards had to fight their way across the river, swimming their horses. The Indians retreated on to the slopes and allowed the cavalry to occupy Calca, which they found full of a great treasure of gold, silver, native women and baggage. They occupied the town for three or four days, with the natives harassing the sentries at night but making no other attempt to drive them out. The reason for this was appreciated only when a horseman from Hernando Pizarro galloped in to recall the cavalry with all possible speed; for irresistible hordes of native troops were massing on all the hills around Cuzco itself. The cavalry force was harassed continuously on the return journey, but succeeded in entering the city, to the relief of the remaining citizens.

‘As we returned we found many squadrons of warriors continuously arriving and camping in the steepest places around Cuzco to await the assembly of all [their men]. After they had all arrived, they camped on the plain as well as on the hills. So many troops came there that they covered the fields. By day they looked like a black carpet covering everything for half a league around the city of Cuzco, and by night there were so many fires that it resembled nothing less than a very clear sky filled with stars.’ This was one of the great moments of the Inca empire. With their genius for organisation, Manco’s commanders had succeeded in assembling the country’s fighting men and in arming, feeding and marching them to the investiture of the capital. All this had been done despite the fact that the empire’s communications and supply depots were disrupted, and without giving any warning to’ the astute and suspicious foreigners occupying the land. All the Spaniards were taken by surprise by the mobilisation at their gates, and were staggered by its size. Their estimates of the numbers opposing them ranged from 50,000 to 400,000, but the accepted figure by the majority of chroniclers and eyewitnesses was between 100,000 and 200,000.

The great colourful steam-roller of native levies closed in from every horizon around Cuzco. Titu Cusi wrote with pride that ‘Curiatao, Coyllas, Taipi and many other commanders entered the city from the Carmenca side … and sealed the gate with their men. Huaman-Quilcana and Curi-Hualpa entered on the Condesuyo side from the direction of Cachicachi and closed a great gap of over half a league. All were excellently equipped and in battle array. Llicllic and many other commanders entered on the Collasuyo side with an immense contingent, the largest group that took part in the siege. Anta-Aclla, Ronpa Yupanqui and many others entered on the Antisuyo side to complete the encirclement of the Spaniards.’

The native build-up around Cuzco continued for some weeks after the return of Juan Pizarro’s cavalry. The warriors had learned to respect Spanish cavalry on level ground, and they kept to the slopes. The royal general Inquill was in charge of the encircling forces, assisted by the high priest Villac Umu and a young commander Paucar Huaman. Manco maintained his headquarters at Calca.

Villac Umu pressed for an immediate attack, but Manco told him to wait until every last contingent had arrived and the attacking forces had become irresistible. He explained that it would do the Spaniards no harm to suffer confinement just as he had done: he himself would come to finish them off in due course. Villac Umu was distressed by the delay, and even Manco’s son criticised his father for it. But Manco was applying Napoleon’s dictum that the art of generalship is to come to battle with a force vastly superior to the enemy’s. He thought that his warriors’ only hope against the Spanish cavalry lay in overwhelming numbers. Villac Umu had to content himself with occupying Cuzco’s citadel, Sacsahuaman, and with destroying the irrigation canals to flood the fields around the city.

The Spaniards inside Cuzco were suffering just as much anxiety as Manco had hoped. There were only 190 Spaniards in the city, and of these only eighty were mounted. The entire burden of the fighting fell on the cavalry, for the ‘greater part of the infantry were thin and debilitated men’. Both sides agreed that a Spanish infantryman was inferior to his native counterpart, who was far more nimble at this high altitude. Hernando Pizarro divided the horsemen into three contingents commanded by Gabriel de Rojas, Hernán Ponce de León and his brother Gonzalo. He himself was Lieutenant-Governor, his brother Juan was corregidor, and Alonso Riquelme, the royal treasurer, represented the Crown.

At the outset, while the native forces were still massing, the Spaniards tried their tactic of charging out into the thick of the enemy. This met with far less success than usual. Many Indians were killed, but the crush of fighting men stopped the onrush of the horses, and once the Indians saw that the cavalry was thoroughly embroiled they turned on it with savage determination. A group of eight horsemen fighting around Hernando Pizarro saw that it was being surrounded and decided to retreat to the city. One man, Francisco Mejia, who was then alcalde or mayor of the city, was too slow. The Indians ‘blocked his horse and grabbed at him and the horse. They dragged them about a stone’s throw away from the other Spaniards, and cut the heads off [Mejia] and off his horse, which was a very handsome white horse. The Indians thus emerged from this first engagement with a distinct gain.’

This success against cavalry on level ground greatly emboldened the attackers. They moved closer to the city until they were camped right up against the houses. In the tradition of intertribal warfare, they tried to demoralise the enemy by jeering and shouting abuse and by ‘raising their bare legs at them to show how they despised them’. Such skirmishes took place every day, with great courage shown on either side but no appreciable gains.

Finally on Saturday, 6 May, the feast of St John-ante-Portam-Latinam, Manco’s men launched their main attack. They moved down the slope from the fortress and advanced along the steep, narrow lanes between Colcampata and the main square. Many of these alleys still end in long flights of steps between whitewashed houses and form one of the most picturesque corners of modern Cuzco. ‘The Indians were supporting one another most effectively, thinking that it was all over. They charged through the streets with the greatest determination and fought hand-to-hand with the Spaniards.’ They even succeeded in capturing the ancient enclosure of Cora Cora which overlooked the northern corner of the square. Hernando Pizarro appreciated its importance and had fortified it with a palisade the day before the Indian onslaught. But his infantry garrison was driven out by a dawn attack.

If the horse was the Spaniards’ most effective weapon, the sling was undoubtedly the Indians’. Its normal missile was a smooth stone about the size of a hen’s egg, but Enriquez de Guzman claimed that ‘they can hurl a huge stone with enough force to kill a horse. Its effect is almost as great as [a shot from] an arquebus. I have seen a stone shot from a sling break a sword in two when it was held in a man’s hand thirty yards away.’ In the attack on Cuzco the natives devised a deadly new use for their slingshots. They made the stones red-hot in their camp fires, wrapped them in cotton and then shot them at the thatched roofs of the city. The straw caught fire and was burning fiercely before the Spaniards could even understand how it was being done. ‘There was a strong wind that day, and as the roofs of the houses were thatch it seemed at one moment as if the city were one great sheet of flame. The Indians were shouting loudly and there was such a dense cloud of smoke that the men could neither hear nor see one another…. They were being pressed so hard by the Indians that they could scarcely defend themselves or come to grips with the enemy.’ ‘They set fire to the whole of Cuzco simultaneously and it all burned in one day, for the roofs were thatch. The smoke was so dense that the Spaniards almost suffocated: it caused them great suffering. They would never have survived had not one side of the square contained no houses and no roofs. Had the smoke and heat come at them from all sides they would have been in extreme difficulty, for both were very intense.’ Thus ended the Inca capital: stripped for Atahualpa’s ransom, ransacked by Spanish looters, and now burned by its own people.

From the captured bastion of Cora Cora the Indian slingers kept up a withering fire across the square. No Spaniard dared venture on to it. The besieged were now cornered in two buildings facing each other at the eastern end of the square. One was the great galpón or hall of Suntur Huasi, on the site of the present cathedral, and the other was Hatun Cancha, ‘the large enclosure’, where many of the conquistadores had their plots. Hernando Pizarro was in charge of one of these structures and Hernán Ponce de León of the other. No one dared to move out of them. ‘The barrage of slingshot stones coming in through the gateways was so great that it seemed like dense hail, at a time when the heavens are hailing furiously.’ ‘The city continued to burn on that and the following day. The Indian warriors became confident at the thought that the Spaniards were no longer in a position to defend themselves.’

By extraordinary chance, the thatched roof of Suntur Huasi itself did not catch fire. An incendiary projectile landed on the roof. Pedro Pizarro said that he and many others saw this happen: the roof started to burn and then went out. Titu Cusi claimed that the Spaniards had Negroes stationed on the roof to extinguish the flames. But to other Spaniards it seemed a miracle, and by the end of the century it became established as such. The seventeenth-century writer Fernando Montesinos said that the Virgin Mary appeared in a blue cloak to extinguish the flames with white blankets, while St Michael was by her side fighting off devils. This miraculous scene became a favourite subject for religious paintings and alabaster groups, and a church called the Triunfo was built to commemorate this extraordinary escape.

The Spaniards were becoming desperate. Even Manco’s son Titu Cusi felt a touch of pity for these conquerors: ‘They secretly feared that those were to be the last days of their lives. They could see no hope of relief from any direction, and did not know what to do.’ ‘The Spaniards were extremely frightened, because there were so many Indians and so few of them.’ ‘After six days of this strenuous work and danger the enemy had captured almost all the city. The Spaniards now held only the main square and a few houses around it. Many ordinary people were showing signs of exhaustion. They advised Hernando Pizarro to abandon the city and look for some way to save their lives.’ There were frequent consultations among the weary defenders. There was desperate talk of trying to break the encirclement and reach the coast via Arequipa, to the south. Others thought that they should try to survive inside Hatun Cancha, which had only one entrance. But the leaders decided that the only thing to do was to fight back, and if necessary die fighting.

In the confused street fighting the natives were resourceful and ingenious. They evolved a series of tactics to contain and harass their terrible adversaries; but they could not produce a weapon that could kill a mounted, armoured Spanish horseman. Teams of Indians dug channels to divert Cuzco’s rivers into the fields around the city, so that the horses would slip and sink into the resulting mire. Other natives dug pits and small holes to trip the horses when they ventured on to the agricultural terraces. The besiegers consolidated their advance into the city by erecting barricades in the streets: wicker screens with small openings through which the nimble warriors could advance to attack. Hernando Pizarro decided that these must be destroyed. Pedro del Barco, Diego Méndez and Francisco de Villacastín led a detachment of Spanish infantry and fifty Cañari auxiliaries in a night attack on the barricades. Horsemen covered their flanks while they worked, but the natives maintained a steady barrage from the adjoining roofs.

The flat walls of Cuzco’s houses were exposed when the thatch was burned off in the first great conflagration. The natives found that they could run along the tops of the walls, out of reach of the horsemen charging below. Pedro Pizarro recalled an episode when Alonso de Toro was leading a group of horsemen up one of the streets towards the fortress. The natives opened fire with a bombardment of stones and adobe bricks. Some Spaniards were thrown from their horses and half buried in the rubble of a wall overturned by the natives. The Spaniards were only dragged out by some Indian auxiliaries.

With inventiveness born of desperation, the natives evolved another weapon against the Christians’ horses. This was the ayllu, or bolas: three stones tied to the ends of connected lengths of llama tendons. The twirling missile tangled itself around the horses’ legs with deadly effect. The natives brought down ‘most of the horses with this device, leaving almost no one to fight. They also entangled the riders with these cords.’ Spanish infantry had to run up to disengage the helpless cavalrymen, hacking the tough cords with great difficulty.

The besieged Spaniards survived the burning roofs, sling-shots, bolas and missiles of the Inca armies. They tried to counter each new native device. As well as destroying the street barricades, Spanish working parties smashed the flumes along which the natives were diverting the streams. Others tried to dismantle agricultural terraces so that the horses could ride up them, and they filled in the pits and traps dug by the attackers. They even began to recapture parts of the city. A force of Spanish infantry recaptured the redoubt of Cora Cora after a hard battle. In another engagement some cavalry fought its way under a hail of missiles to a square at the edge of the city, where another sharp fight took place.

The brunt of the Indian attacks came down the steep hillside below Sacsahuaman and on to the spur that forms the central part of Cuzco. Villac Umu and the other besieging generals had established their headquarters within the mighty fortress. Indians attacking from it could penetrate the heart of Cuzco without having to cross the dangerous level ground on other sides of the city. Hernando Pizarro and the besieged Spaniards deeply regretted their failure to garrison this fortress. They realised that as long as it remained in enemy hands their position in the roofless buildings of the city was untenable. They decided that Sacsahuaman must be recaptured at any cost.

Sacsahuaman – local guides have learned that they can earn a larger tip by calling it ‘saxy woman’ – lies immediately above Cuzco. But the cliff above Carmenca is so steep that the fortress needed only one curtain wall on the city side. Its main defences face away from Cuzco, beyond the brow of the cliff, where the ground slopes away to a small grassy plateau. On that side the top of the cliff is defended by three massive terrace walls. They rise above one another in forbidding grey steps, casing the hillside like the flanks of an armoured dreadnought. The three terraces are built in zigzags like the teeth of great saws, four hundred yards long, with no fewer than twenty-two salient and re-entrant angles on each level. Anyone trying to scale them would have to expose a flank to the defenders. The regular diagonal shadows thrown by these indentations add to the beauty of the terraces. But the feature that makes them so amazing is the quality of the masonry and the size of some of the blocks of stone. As with most Inca terrace walls, this is polygonal masonry: the great stones interlock in a complex and intriguing pattern. The three walls now rise for almost fifty feet, and excavations by the archaeologist Luis Valcárcel showed that ten feet more were once exposed. The largest boulders are on the lowest terrace. One great stone has a height of twenty-eight feet and is calculated to weigh 361 metric tons, which makes it one of the largest blocks ever incorporated into any structure. All this leaves an impression of masterful strength and serene invincibility. In their awe, the sixteenth-century chroniclers soon exhausted the mighty buildings of Spain with which to compare Sacsahuaman.

The ninth Inca, Pachacuti, started the fortress and his successors continued the work, recruiting the many thousands of men needed to manhandle the great stones into place. Sacsahuaman was intended to be more than a simple military fortress. Virtually the entire population of the unwalled city of Cuzco could have retreated within it during a crisis. At the time of Manco’s siege the crest of the hill behind the terrace walls was covered in buildings. Valcárcel’s excavations – made to mark the four-hundredth anniversary of the Conquest – revealed the foundations of the chief structures within Sacsahuaman. These were dominated by three great towers. The first tower, called Muyu Marca, was described by Garcilaso as having been round and containing a water cistern fed by underground channels. The excavations confirmed this description: its foundations consisted of three concentric circles of wall of which the outer was seventy-five feet in diameter. The main tower, Salla Marca, stood on a rectangular base, sixty-five feet long. Pedro Sancho inspected this tower in 1534 and described it as consisting of five storeys stepped inwards. Such height would have made it the Incas’ tallest hollow structure, comparable to the so-called skyscrapers of the pre-Inca Yarivilca culture along the upper Maranon. It was built of coursed rectangular ashlars, and contained a warren of small chambers, the quarters of the garrison. Even the conscientious Sancho admitted that’ the fortress has too many rooms and towers for one person to visit them all’. He estimated that it could comfortably house a garrison of five thousand Spaniards. Garcilaso de la Vega remembered playing in the labyrinth of its corbelled subterranean galleries during his boyhood in Cuzco. He felt that the fortress of Sacsahuaman could rank among the wonders of the world – and suspected that the devil must have had a hand in its extraordinary construction.

The Great Inca Rebellion – The Siege of Cuzco II

Manco Inca and other 3 soldiers with Spanish weapons during the rebellion.

The beleaguered Spaniards now decided that their immediate survival depended on the recapture of the fortress on the cliff above them. According to Murua, Manco’s relative and rival Pascac, who had sided with the Spaniards, gave advice about the plan of attack. It was decided that Juan Pizarro would lead fifty horsemen – the greater part of the Spaniards’ cavalry-in a desperate attempt to break through the besiegers and attack their fortress. Observers from the Indian side remembered the scene as follows:’ They spent the whole of that night on their knees and with their hands clasped [in prayer] at their mouths – for many Indians saw them. Even those on guard in the square did the same, as did many Indians who were on their side and had accompanied them from Cajamarca. On the following morning, very early, they all emerged from the church [Suntur Huasi] and mounted their horses as if they were going to fight. They started to look from side to side. While they were looking about in this way, they suddenly put spurs to their horses and at full gallop, despite the enemy, broke through the opening which had been sealed like a wall, and charged off up the hillside at breakneck speed.’ They broke through the northern Chinchaysuyo contingent under the generals Curiatao and Pusca. Juan Pizarro’s horsemen then galloped up the Jauja road, climbing the hill through Carmenca. They somehow broke and fought their way through the native barricades. Pedro Pizarro was in that contingent and recalled the dangerous ride, zigzagging up the hillside. The Indians had mined the road with pits, and the Spaniards’ native auxiliaries had to fill these in with adobes while the horsemen waited under fire from the hillside. But the Spaniards eventually struggled up on to the plateau and rode off to the north-west. The natives thought that they were making a dash for freedom, and sent runners across country to order the destruction of the Apurímac suspension bridge. But at the village of Jicatica the horsemen left the road and wheeled to the right, fought through the gullies behind the hills of Queancalla and Zenca, and reached the level plain below the terraces of Sacsahuaman. Only by this broad flanking movement were the Spaniards able to avoid the mass of obstacles that the Indians had erected on the direct routes between the city and its fortress.

The Indians had also used the few weeks since the start of the siege to defend the level ‘parade ground’ beyond Sacsahuaman with an earth barrier that the Spaniards described as a barbican. Gonzalo Pizarro and Hernán Ponce de León led one troop in repeated attacks on these outer enclosures. Some of the horses were wounded, and two Spaniards were thrown from their mounts and almost captured in the maze of rocky outcrops. ‘It was a moment when much was at stake.’ Juan Pizarro therefore attacked with all his men in support of his brother. Together they succeeded in forcing the barricades and riding into the space before the massive terrace walls. Whenever the Spaniards approached these they were greeted by a withering fire of slingshots and javelins. One of Juan Pizarro’s pages was killed by a heavy stone. It was late afternoon, and the attackers were exhausted by the day’s fierce fighting. But Juan Pizarro attempted one last charge, a frontal attack on the main gate into the fortress. This gate was defended by side walls projecting on either side, and the natives had dug a defensive pit between them. The passage leading to the gate was crowded with Indians defending the entrance or attempting to retreat from the barbican into the main fortress.

Juan Pizarro had been struck on the jaw during the previous day’s fighting in Cuzco and was unable to wear his steel helmet. As he charged towards the gate in the setting sun, he was struck on the head by a stone hurled from the salient walls. It was a mortal blow. The Governor’s younger brother, corregidor of Cuzco and tormentor of Inca Manco, was carried down to Cuzco that night in great secrecy, to prevent the natives learning of their success. He lived long enough to dictate a will, on 16 May 1536, ‘being sick in body but sound of mind’. He made his younger brother Gonzalo heir to his vast fortune, in the hope that he would found an entail, and left bequests to religious foundations and to the poor in Panama and his birthplace Trujillo. He made no mention of the native siege, and left nothing to the Indian woman from whom ‘I have received services’ and ‘who has given birth to a girl whom I do not recognise as my daughter.’ Francisco de Pancorvo recalled that ‘they buried him by night so that the Indians should not know he was dead, for he was a very brave man and the Indians were very frightened of him. But although the death of Juan Pizarro was [supposed to be] a secret, the Indians used to say “Now that Juan Pizarro is dead” just as one would say “Now that the brave are dead”. And he was indeed dead.’ Alonso Enríquez de Guzman gave a more materialistic epitaph: ‘They killed our Captain Juan Pizarro, a brother of the Governor and a young man of twenty-five who possessed a fortune of 200,000 ducats.’

On the following day the natives counter-attacked repeatedly. Large numbers of warriors tried to dislodge Gonzalo Pizarro from the hillock opposite the terraces of Sacsahuaman. ‘There was terrible confusion. Everyone was shouting and they were all entangled together, fighting for the hilltop the Spaniards had won. It looked as though the whole world was up there grappling in close combat.’ Hernando Pizarro sent twelve of his remaining horsemen up to join the critical battle – to the dismay of the few Spaniards left in Cuzco. Manco Inca sent five thousand reinforcements, and ‘the Spaniards were in a very tight situation with their arrival, for the Indians were fresh and attacked with determination.’ Below ‘in the city, the Indians mounted such a fierce attack that the Spaniards thought themselves lost a thousand times’.

But the Spaniards were about to apply European methods of siege warfare: throughout the day they had been making scaling ladders. As night fell, Hernando Pizarro himself led an infantry force to the top of the hill. Using the scaling ladders in a night assault, the Spaniards succeeded in taking the mighty terrace walls of the fortress. The natives retreated into the complex of buildings and the three great towers.

There were two individual acts of great bravery during this final stage of the assault. On the Spanish side Hernán’Sánchez of Badajoz, one of the twelve brought up by Hernando Pizarro as additional reinforcements, performed feats of prodigious panache worthy of a silent-screen hero. He climbed one of the scaling ladders under a hail of stones which he parried with his buckler, and squeezed into a window of one of the buildings. He hurled himself at the Indians inside and sent them retreating up some stairs towards the roof. He now found himself at the foot of the highest tower. Fighting round its base he came upon a thick rope that had been left dangling from the top. Commending himself to God, he sheathed his sword and started clambering up, heaving up the rope with his hands and stepping off from the smooth Inca ashlars with his feet. Half way up the Indians threw a stone ‘as big as a wine jar’ down on him, but it simply glanced off the buckler he was wearing on his back. He threw himself into one of the higher levels of the tower, suddenly appearing in the midst of its startled defenders, showed himself to the other Spaniards and encouraged them to assault the other tower.

The battle for the terraces and buildings of Sacsahuaman was hard fought. ‘When dawn came, we spent the whole of that day and the next fighting the Indians who had retreated into the two tall towers. These could only be taken through thirst, when their water supply became exhausted.’ ‘They fought hard that day and throughout the night. When the following day dawned, the Indians on the inside began to weaken, for they had exhausted their entire store of stones and arrows.’ The native commanders, Paucar Huaman and the high priest Villac Umu, felt that there were too many defenders inside the citadel, whose supplies of food and water were rapidly being exhausted. ‘After dinner one evening, almost at the hour of vespers, they emerged from the fortress with great élan, attacked their enemies and broke through them. They rushed with their men down the slope towards Zapi and climbed to Carmenca.’ Escaping through the ravine of the Tullumayo, they hurried to Manco’s camp at Calca to plead for reinforcements. If the remaining two thousand defenders could hold Sacsahuaman, a native counter-attack might trap the Spaniards against its mighty walls.

Villac Umu left the defence of Sacsahuaman to an Inca noble, an orejón who had sworn to fight to the death against the Spaniards. This officer now rallied the defenders almost single-handed, performing feats of bravery ‘worthy of any Roman’. ‘The orejón strode about like a lion from side to side of the tower on its topmost level. He repulsed any Spaniards who tried to mount with scaling ladders. And he killed any Indians who tried to surrender. He smashed their heads with the battle-axe he was carrying and hurled them from the top of the tower.’ Alone of the defenders, he possessed European steel weapons that made him the match of the attackers in hand-to-hand fighting. ‘He carried a buckler on his arm, a sword in one hand and a battle-axe in the shield hand, and wore a Spanish morrión helmet on his head.’ ‘Whenever his men told him that a Spaniard was climbing up somewhere, he rushed upon him like a lion with the sword in his hand and the shield on his arm.’ ‘He received two arrow wounds but ignored them as if he had not been touched.’ Hernando Pizarro arranged for the towers to be attacked simultaneously by three or four scaling ladders. But he ordered that the brave orejón should be captured alive. The Spaniards pressed home their attack, assisted by large contingents of native auxiliaries. As Manco’s son wrote, ‘the battle was a bloody affair for both sides, because of the many natives who were supporting the Spaniards. Among these were two of my father’s brothers called Inquill and Huaspar with many of their followers, and many Chachapoyas and Cañari Indians.’ As the native resistance crumbled, the orejón hurled his weapons down on to the attackers in a frenzy of despair. He grabbed handfuls of earth, stuffed them into his mouth and scoured his face in anguish, then covered his head with his cloak and leaped to his death from the top of the fortress, in fulfilment of his pledge to the Inca.

‘With his death the remainder of the Indians gave way, so that Hernando Pizarro and all his men were able to enter. They put all those inside the fortress to the sword-there were 1,500 of them.’ Many others flung themselves from the walls. ‘Since these were high the men who fell first died. But some of those who fell later survived because they landed on top of a great heap of dead men.’ The mass of corpses lay unburied, a prey for vultures and giant condors. The coat of arms of the city of Cuzco, granted in 1540, had ‘an orle of eight condors, which are great birds like vultures that exist in the province of Peru, in memory of the fact that when the castle was taken these birds descended to eat the natives who had died in it’.

Hernando Pizarro immediately garrisoned Sacsahuaman with a force of fifty foot-soldiers supported by Cañari auxiliaries. Pots of water and food were hurried up from the city. The high priest Villac Umu returned with reinforcements, just too late to save the citadel. He counter-attacked vigorously, and the battle for Sacsahuaman continued fiercely for three more days, but the Spaniards were not dislodged, and the battle was won by the end of May.

Both sides appreciated that the recapture of Sacsahuaman could be a turning point in the siege. The natives now had no secure base from which to invest the city, and they abandoned some of the outlying districts they had occupied. When the counter-attack on Sacsahuaman failed, the Spaniards advanced out of the citadel and pursued the demoralised natives as far as Calca. Manco and his military commanders could not understand why their vast levies had failed to capture Cuzco. His son Titu Cusi imagined a dialogue between the Inca and his commanders. Manco:’ You have disappointed me. There were so many of you and so few of them, and yet they have eluded your grasp.’ To which the generals replied, ‘We are so ashamed that we dare not look you in the face…. We do not know the reason, except that it was our mistake not to have attacked in time and yours for not giving us permission to do so.’

The generals might possibly have been right. Manco’s insistence on waiting for the entire army to assemble meant that the Indians lost the element of surprise they had preserved so brilliantly during the early mobilisation. It also meant that the professional commanders could not attack while the Spaniards had sent much of their best cavalry to investigate the Yucay valley. The hordes of native militia did not necessarily add much to the effectiveness of the native army. But Manco had clearly felt that as long as his men suffered a terrible handicap in weapons, armour and mobility, their only hope of defeating the Spaniards was by weight of numbers. The heavy, determined fighting of the first month of the siege showed that the Spaniards had no monopoly of personal bravery. Once again, it was their crushing superiority in hand-to-hand fighting and the mobility of their horses that won the day. The only arms in which the natives had parity were projectiles – slingshots, arrows, javelins and bolas – and prepared defences such as breastworks, terraces, flooding and pits. But projectiles and defences rarely succeeded in killing an armoured Spaniard, and the siege of Cuzco was a fight to the death.

Manco could also be criticised for not directing the attack on Cuzco in person. He apparently remained at his headquarters at Calca throughout the critical first month of the siege. He was using his authority and energies to effect the almost impossible feat of a simultaneous uprising throughout Peru, together with the feeding and supply of an enormous army. But the Inca’s presence was needed at Cuzco. Although there were plenty of imposing fighting men in the various contingents, the army lacked the inspiration of a leader of the stature of Chalcuchima, Quisquis or Rumiñavi.

The fall of Sacsahuaman at the end of May was by no means the end of the siege. Manco’s great army remained in close investiture of the city for a further three months. The Spaniards soon learned that the native attacks ceased for religious celebrations at every new moon. They took full advantage of each lull to destroy roofless houses, fill in enemy pits, and repair their own defences. There was fighting throughout this period, with great bravery displayed on either side.

One episode will illustrate the typical daily skirmishes. Pedro Pizarro was on guard duty with two other horsemen on one of the large agricultural terraces at the edge of Cuzco. At midday his commander, Hernán Ponce de León, came out with food and asked Pedro Pizarro to undertake another tour of duty as he had no one else to send. Pizarro duly grabbed some mouthfuls of food and rode out to another terrace to join Diego Maldonado, Juan Clemente and Francisco de la Puente on guard.

While they were chatting together, some Indian warriors approached. Maldonado rode off after them. But he had failed to see some pits the natives had prepared, and his horse fell into one. Pedro Pizarro dashed off against the Indians, avoiding the pits, and gave Maldonado and his horse, both badly injured, a chance to return to Cuzco. The Indians re-appeared to taunt the three remaining horsemen. Pizarro suggested ‘Come on, let’s drive these Indians away and try to catch some of them. Their pits are now behind us.’ The three charged off. His two companions turned half way along the terrace, and returned to their post, but Pizarro galloped on ‘impetuously lancing Indians’. At the end of the terrace the natives had prepared small holes to catch the horses’ hooves. When he tried to wheel, Pizarro’s horse caught its leg and threw him. One Indian rushed up and started to lead off the horse, but Pizarro got to his feet, went after the man and killed him with a thrust through the chest. The horse bolted, running off to join the other Spaniards. Pizarro now defended himself with his shield and sword, holding off any Indians who drew near. His companions saw his riderless horse and hurried to help him. They charged through the Indians, ‘caught me between their horses, told me to grab the stirrups, and took off at full speed for some distance. But there were so many Indians crowding around that it was useless. Wearied from all my armour and from fighting, I could not go on running. I shouted to my companions to stop as I was being throttled. I preferred to die fighting than be choked to death. So I stopped and turned to fight the Indians, and the two on their horses did the same. We could not drive off the Indians, who had become very bold at the thought that they had taken me prisoner. They all gave a great shout from every side, which was their normal practice when they captured a Spaniard or a horse. Gabriel de Rojas, who was returning to his quarters with ten horsemen, heard this shout and looked in the direction of the disturbance and the fighting. He hurried there with his men, and I was saved by his arrival, although badly wounded by the stone and spear blows inflicted by the Indians. I and my horse were saved in this way, with the help of our Lord God who gave me strength to fight and to endure the strain.’

Gabriel de Rojas received an arrow wound in one of these skirmishes: it went through his nose as far as his palate. Garcia Martin had his eye knocked out by a stone. One Cisneros dismounted, and the Indians caught him and cut off his hands and feet. ‘I can bear witness’, wrote Alonso Enriquez de Guzman, ‘ that this was the most dreadful and cruel war in the world. For between Christians and Moors there is some fellow-feeling, and it is in the interests of both sides to spare those they take alive because of their ransoms. But in this Indian war there is no such feeling on either side. They give each other the cruellest deaths they can imagine.’ Cieza de Leon echoed this. The war was ‘fierce and horrible. Some Spaniards tell that a great many Indians were burned and impaled…. But God save us from the fury of the Indians, which is something to be feared when they can give vent to it!’ The natives had no monopoly of cruelty. Hernando Pizarro ordered his men to kill any women they caught during the fighting. The idea was to deprive the fighting men of the women who did so much to serve and carry for them. ‘This was done from then onwards, and the stratagem worked admirably and caused much terror. The Indians feared to lose their wives, and the latter feared to die.’ This war on the women was thought to have been one of the chief reasons for the slackening of the siege in August 1536. On one sortie Gonzalo Pizarro encountered a contingent from the Chinchaysuyo and captured two hundred of them. ‘The right hands were cut off all these men in the middle of the square. They were then released so that they would go off. This acted as a dreadful warning to the rest.’

Such tactics added to the demoralisation of Manco’s army. The vast majority of the horde that massed on the hills around Cuzco were ordinary Indian farmers with their wives and camp followers – with few exceptions a thoroughly militia army, most of whose men had received only the rudimentary arms drill that was part of the upbringing of every Inca subject. Only part of this rabble was militarily effective, although the entire mass had to be fed. By August the farmers began drifting away to sow their crops. Their departure added to the attrition of heavy losses in every battle against the Spaniards. Weight of numbers was Manco’s only effective strategy, so the reduction of his great army meant that further operations against Cuzco might have to wait until the following year. But Cuzco was only one theatre of the national uprising. In other areas the natives were far more successful.

Kriegslokomotiven

A Kriegslokomotive usually had two classifications: one based on the normal peacetime classification system and a separate wartime classification. For example, a wartime steam locomotive or Kriegsdampflokomotive (KDL) was given a KDL class as well as its DRG (Deutsche Reichsbahn) class. Likewise a wartime motorised locomotive or Kriegsmotorlokomotive had a KML class number and a wartime electric locomotive or Kriegselektrolokomotive would have a KEL class number. Besides the DRG, the German Armed Forces had their own locomotive classes. A field railway locomotive belonging to the Army were known as a Heeresfeldbahnlokomotive or HF. Standard gauge engines for the Wehrmacht, mostly diesel switchers, were designated “Wehrmacht Standard Gauge Locomotive” (Wehrmachtslokomotive für Regelspur) or WR.

As German troops swept across Poland and Hitler began to prepare for Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union, the Deutsche Reichsbahn was extended ever further east, while more troop trains, trains ferrying tanks and artillery pieces, trains fetching fuel, and trains supplying factories across the newly conquered territories pushed what was a well-run railway to unprecedented limits. With new lines laid quickly, the cry from operators in the east was for simple, strong engines with light axle loads. Fitness for purpose and simplicity truly were the keys to good wartime design. Even Wagner’s powerful and dependable class 44 2-10-0s were too heavy in axle loading and too complex for the rigours of wartime assignments.

Wagner responded with the class 50 2-10-0s, first built in 1939, rugged, two-cylinder machines with an axle loading of just 15.2 tons (anything under 18 tons is light). Weighing 87 tons and allowed to run at 80 kph (50 mph) in both directions, the class 50s were as popular as they were reliable. They were designated Kriegsloks and were among some seven thousand steam locomotives produced in Germany during just two and a half years of brutal conflict. Even so, the first class 50s were considered too complex for the kind of mass production that men like Wagner could never have envisaged in the 1920s. The revised class 50UK (Übergangskriegslokomotive, or transitional war locomotive), with fabricated welded construction replacing steel castings, was the result – yet even this was seen as too complex for the rapid production the government and military demanded. Cue the class 52, an austerity version of the class 50 and the archetypal Kriegslok, a steam locomotive prepared for all-out war as never before.

The class 50, however, continued to be built, with gaps, not just throughout the Second World War, but for a long time afterwards. The final members of the class were built, with modifications to the original design, by the East German Deutsche Reichsbahn at the Lokomotivbau Karl Marx in Babelsberg in 1960, by which time 3,164 had been produced. Class 50s continued in front-line service on the Deutsche Bundesbahn until the end of steam in 1977, and on the Deutsche Reichsbahn until 1987, two years before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

These engines were great travellers. Either seized by allied railway engineers or made over as war reparations, the class 50s could be found at work between the 1950s and 1970s in, among other countries, Austria, Poland, Denmark, France, Turkey, the USSR, and Norway, as well as throughout the Balkans. They may have been used for evil ends in the early and mid-1940s, but the steam locomotive is in itself an innocent machine, and the class 50 was much needed and much liked wherever it went.

The class 52 began service just as German expansion eastwards was grinding to a halt. In this sense, they were too late; yet few can doubt that, whatever the job they were asked to do, the locomotives themselves performed reliably and well. Brutes to look at, the class 52s were among the quickest of all steam locomotives to build. Records of exactly how many man-hours were needed to build a complete 52 are uncertain, but the production figures speak for themselves. Between September 1942 and May 1945, more than 6,300 had been put into service. More were built between 1945 and 1950, bringing the total up to what seems to have been 6,719. From 1960, the Deutsche Reichsbahn rebuilt 200 with new boilers, and a total of 290 with Giesl ejector draughting to enable low-grade coal to be burned efficiently.

After the war, the class 52s were dispersed throughout various parts of Europe, although it was somehow strange to see some of the very last of them working for the Polish railways. It was the invasion of Poland that had signalled the start of the Second World War and it was in Poland that the worst of the Nazi extermination camps were sited – and it was the 52s that had brought so many to their deaths there. But as an example of how a machine that was essentially the product of a long craft tradition could be transformed into a unit of mass production, the 52 remains a fascinating locomotive.

A heavier Kriegslok, the two-cylinder class 42, was built in much smaller numbers – 837 in 1943 and 1944, with further examples produced between 1945 and 1949 – to be used where limitations on axle loads were less demanding than on the eastern front. There was, however, a design for a much larger Kriegslok altogether. This was Adolf Wolff’s 1943 proposal for a 2-6-8-0 compound Mallet, a form of articulated locomotive with two engine units beneath the boiler, devised by the Swiss engineer Anatole Mallet. At 27.4 m (90 feet) long and weighing 140 tons, this impressive locomotive would have been a formidable performer, but by the time Wolff was drawing up outline designs the Borsig works had been severely damaged by allied air raids, and as 1944 dawned it was clear to most steam men – if not to Adolf Hitler – that the war was lost and that, as Germany fought an increasingly desperate rearguard action on two fronts, the production of weapons and ammunition would have to take over from that of locomotives.

One logical end of the Deutsche Reichsbahn Einheitloks (unified locomotive types) programme of 1923 was the class 52 2-10-0s, first steamed at Borsig works on 12 September 1942 in the presence of Albert Speer, Hitler’s minister for armaments and production. The class 52 Kriegslok (war locomotive) was designed for mass production in factories in Germany and in territories conquered through Blitzkrieg, the ‘lightning war’ of 1939–41 which brought much of Europe under the Nazi yoke. Between 1942 and 1945, a total of 6,239 class 52s were built, in twenty factories across Europe. This side of the Russian 0-10-0 standard freight locomotives, it was the biggest class of steam locomotives ever built.

The principal purpose of these brutally functional locomotives was to work freight and troop trains through the eastern front. Until the headlong German retreat of 1944, the Deutsche Reichsbahn’s track mileage had increased by 16,000 miles during the war. The class 52s were also used for the transportation, at a stipulated 45 kph (28 mph), of three million Jews, and others who fell foul of the Nazi regime, to concentration and extermination camps. Perhaps no other class of locomotive has been built for such savage purposes.

Such was the efficiency of the Borsig works that the first of the class was completed three months ahead of schedule. Speed was, of course, of the essence in wartime, yet the drive and ability to build so quickly was the result not just of the Einheitslok programme, which made locomotive building in Weimar and Nazi Germany a model of efficiency, but also of the creation of the Gemeinschaft Grossdeutscher Lokomotivfabriken (GGL) in 1942, as part of Speer’s new ministry founded earlier that year. The Nazi regime had taken absolute control of the Deutsche Reichsbahn, which had been established in 1922 as an independently run state business, able to raise its own finances. Now the GGL was to determine locomotive design and production. Perhaps it is not surprising that, in the wartime imagination, the class 52 had more than something of the look of a Nazi stormtrooper about it.

Detailed design work on the class 52s was led by Friedrich Witte. His predecessor, Richard Paul Wagner, architect of the Einheitloks programme, was forced to resign his responsibility for centralized Deutsche Reichsbahn locomotive design and production in the summer of 1942, as the Nazis tightened their grip on the railways. Hitler and Speer believed that the Deutsche Reichsbahn had been slack in its response to war demands, the Führer calling for steam locomotive production to be upped to 7,500 per year. This was an impossible figure, although production did increase from 660 in 1939 to a peak of 4,533 in 1943. Wagner, who had the responsibility of building up the Deutsche Reichsbahn fleet after some five thousand German locomotives had been packed off to the country’s former enemies as part of the war reparations demanded by the Treaty of Versailles, had been happy with an annual production of 800 new steam locomotives. Even so, that was only possible because of the standardization of design and construction. Significantly, perhaps, Germany built more steam locomotives in total – approximately 155,000 – than any other country except the USA, which produced around 177,000. Britain, a small country with a big empire, built 110,150, Russia around 50,000, and France 39,000. No other country came anywhere near these figures. According to Philip Atkins, former librarian at the National Railway Museum, York, 205 were built in South America, thirty-one in Africa, and, rather charmingly, just one in Portugal.

CSS Milledgeville

This one-of-a-kind vessel was a late-war design intended to be an improvement over the earlier standard hull types such as the Richmond class. As such, the Milledgeville had a similar hull structure to that of earlier ironclads but incorporated significant design changes. Fortunately, these changes are shown in extant plans of the ironclad bearing Constructor Porter’s signature. The Milledgeville was a twin-screw standard hull ironclad laid down in February 1863 by Henry Willink, the constructor of CSS Savannah and a prominent and skilled local shipbuilder. The new ironclad was 175 feet in length between perpendiculars, 185 feet in overall length, 35 feet 2 inches in molded beam, and 48.5 feet in extreme beam. It featured the late-war improvement of the flush deck design of the Columbia, which continued to flare up to main deck level instead of turning back at the waterline. This allowed for a wider main deck and more room for multiple pivot guns in the shortened casemate, which was covered with 6 inches of armor. Most important, the ship had a reduced draft of 9 feet.

The Milledgeville plans also show the general machinery arrangement of the ship, although its final configuration may have differed slightly. Unfortunately, like those of most other Confederate ironclads, the plans show little actual detail of the engines and boilers. Two circles scaled to approximately 30 inches in diameter representing single-cylinder horizontal engines are shown in the starboard plan view along with a boiler 14 feet long and 6 feet in diameter. Dimensions taken off the plans show that the Milledgeville had two boilers. Twin propellers 7 feet in diameter are shown at the stern. All the machinery was built by Columbus Naval Iron Works and should have given good service.

The Milledgeville’s completion was severely delayed, like many other Confederate ironclads. Willink’s prior commitments and design changes to the ship while under construction were the biggest factors. The Milledgeville was launched in the early fall of 1864 and was nearly complete when it was burned to prevent capture as Union forces under General Sherman reached Savannah on December 21, 1864. The ship was anchored and ready for towing out of harm’s way, but there were no vessels available to help. After removing some stores and readying the hulk for maximum destructive effect, the Confederates set fire to the ironclad; it was soon sunk.

The Milledgeville’s engines and most of its armor were installed by that time but were salvaged by the US Army Corps of Engineers in the 1890s. The current condition of the wreck is unknown—future archaeological surveys of the site may uncover new details.

<object class="wp-block-file__embed" data="https://weaponsandwarfare.files.wordpress.com/2021/05/bisbee_ecu_0600m_10826.pdf&quot; type="application/pdf" style="width:100%;height:600px" aria-label="Embed of <br>A Comparative Analysis of Confederate Ironclad

A Comparative Analysis of Confederate Ironclad
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Antitank Warfare in the Spanish Civil War

German Artillerymen of the Condor Legion prepare to fire a Flak 18 88mm cannon onto Republican lines at the Battle of Amposta during the Spanish Civil War; Catalonia, Autumn 1938.

Italian 47mm M-35 antitank guns were supplied for the use of the Italian Volunteer Corps only.

Spanish troops with a proto-Molotov.

“Out-gunned, out-maneuvered, and hard-pressed, the Spanish had no effective answer to the tank, in desperation they resorted to hand-to-hand fighting”

JOHN WEEKS, MEN AGAINST TANKS: A HISTORY OF ANTI-TANK WARFARE, 1975

The Spanish Civil War was the war which produced the “Molotov cocktail,” but Spain also witnessed the first widespread use of antitank weapons, especially guns and most notably the German Rheinmetall 37mm Pak 35/36 and its Russian copy, the Model 1932 45mm antitank gun. These weapons, when skillfully used, proved very effective against tanks. The light tanks were extremely vulnerable to them, and learning from this lesson, production of medium and heavy tanks began in several major European armies. Combat in Spain proved that better armor was needed, even if the main tank contributors—Germany, Italy, and the USSR—did not initially show much haste when it came to making new and more effective tanks.

Since the early days of armored warfare, improved artillery was seen as the quickest solution for antitank defense. In Germany, the Rheinmetall corporation commenced the design of a 37mm antitank gun in 1924, and the first guns were produced in 1928 as the 37mm PanzerabwehrkanoneL/45, later adopted by the Wehrmacht as the Pak 35/36. It made its first appearance during the Spanish Civil War, and the Soviet Army soon upgraded the design to a higher-velocity L/45 Model 1935, while also making a licensed copy of the German gun. However, the Red Army was taught several hard lessons about antitank warfare when many tanks sent to aid the Republican Army were destroyed in combat engagements with German guns.

At the time, the predominant ammunition used against tanks was the armor-piercing kinetic energy shell that penetrated armor by direct pressure, spiking or punching through it. In Spain, the antitank defense of the Nationalists was organized by German Condor Legion officers. The antitank guns were incorporated into a system of obstacles created to stop an armored attack, slowing tanks down, isolating them from the supporting infantry with machine-gun and mortar fire, and forcing them to conduct deliberate head-on assaults with engineer support or to seek a less-defended area to attack. The time thus gained for the defenders meant that Nationalist field artillery could also engage the Soviet tanks.

The only change to German World War I antitank tactics was that an effective antitank weapon was now available to support the defending infantry. However, the Soviet tanks armed with 45mm guns easily destroyed the German light tanks in Spain, establishing an urgent need for antitank guns to be included in mobile tank-led units due to the strong possibility of encountering enemy tanks. To many analysts, the Spanish Civil War reconfirmed the importance of defense over the offensive and of antitank weapons over tanks.

Poorly trained Spanish tank crews among both Nationalist and Republican forces proved undisciplined and prone to attacking heavily defended positions even when equipped with antitank weapons. Tank attacks occurred with little prior reconnaissance and without coordination with supporting infantry and artillery. Too often, tanks made themselves vulnerable to destruction by moving on their own through village streets or remaining on open roads. It was the poor tank tactics that made antitank warfare so successful.

A report presented in Berlin on September 12, 1936, by Lieutenant Colonel Walter Warlimont pointed out that antitank defense was one of the main weaknesses of the Nationalist Army. Consequently, the first German antitank guns came with the first tank shipment the following month, comprising 24 Pak 35/36 37mm guns. An antitank company with 15 guns was formed immediately, with the remaining nine guns kept for training purposes under the supervision of the Drohne group at the German base in Cubas de la Sagra.

A further 28 guns of the same model arrived with the second shipment of tanks in November. With these new guns and four more from the Drohne group, making a total of 32 guns, the Nationalists organized their first three antitank companies. At the end of May 1937, another shipment of 100 37mm Pak 35/36s arrived at Vigo’s harbor for the Nationalist Army, which organized 10 antitank batteries with 10 guns each within the artillery branch, while 50 more guns were delivered in August. On April 14, 1938, the last shipment of antitank guns was received by the Nationalists, with 100 more Pak 35/36s delivered at Cubas de la Sagra, making a total of 352 Pak 35/36 antitank guns supplied to the Spanish Nationalist Army by Germany.

A problem arose when it was established that the antitank gun supplied by the Germans to the Nationalists had a maximum range of 900 meters, whereas the guns in Russian tanks could engage targets at up to 3,000 meters. The Nationalists, under German guidance, were forced to attach at least five antitank guns to each light tank company to provide some effective protection against Soviet tanks. However, the effect was minimal as understanding and coordinating the new tanks and antitank guns proved extremely difficult for the Nationalist forces. Despite much training, and to the dismay of German instructors, Nationalist troops often began shooting wastefully at targets far over 1,000 meters away.

The Condor Legion also made extensive use of the excellent 88/56mm Flak 18 antiaircraft gun in the civil war, where its usefulness as an antitank weapon and general artillery gun exceeded its antiaircraft role. The first four of these guns came to Spain even before the formal organization of the Condor Legion on August 6, 1936, landing with the first shipment of aviation equipment from the Usaramo cargo ship at Seville. They were part of the first heavy air defense artillery battery and arrived with a full complement of men and accessories. The battery was under the command of Luftwaffe First Lieutenant Aldinger, and the guns were to be used in Spain for the first time. The battery was soon combat-ready and was deployed at Seville’s military airfield as protection against Republican raids.

The air defense artillery unit of the Condor Legion was named Flak Abteilung 88 and was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Hermann Lichtenberger, with Lieutenant Colonel Georg Neuffer as second in command and chief of staff. All air defense artillery personnel belonged to the Luftwaffe and not to the Army. Initially, four batteries—16 guns—of Flak 18 88/56mm guns were sent to Spain as air defense artillery for the Condor Legion in 1936, but they were soon used in antitank, antibunker, and even antibattery roles. Further guns were sent later, and more 88mm guns were also supplied to Spanish units. At the end of the war, the Spanish Army took over five batteries— 20 guns—from the total of 71 Flak 18 guns sent for the Condor Legion.

Soviet tank superiority was clearly shown in combat around Madrid, where, by the end of November 1936, the Nationalists lost a total of 28 Panzer Is plus several Italian L3s, resulting in a stalemate. Here, the Spanish People’s Army made the major mistake of not going on the offensive but remaining in a defensive posture. It was here around Madrid where the Nationalist forces employed for the first time in an antitank role, and with great success, their Flak 18 88mm guns. Such was their effectiveness that the Germans later turned the “88,” with some modifications made for ground-to-ground combat, into one of the most dreaded weapons of World War II. The “88” gun literally obliterated T-26 tanks in Spain at the first hit. Luckily for the Republicans, the 88mm guns were not supplied to the Nationalists in large numbers.

Not much is known about the first combat actions of Flak units in Spain, but unconfirmed reports point at 88mm guns entering combat in early 1937 during the fighting around Malaga, when a battery of Flak 18s was assigned to support an infantry column. Bad weather had grounded the main bomber force, but the assault succeeded, mainly because of the concentrated and accurate fire of the supporting 88mm guns.

The Flak 18 guns were deployed mainly to protect airfields and bases used by the Condor Legion. However, the nature of war in Spain, with its wildly fluctuating front lines and the presence of Russian tanks, forced the Germans to employ the Flak 18 guns in a direct-fire role against ground targets. Furthermore, the initial scarcity of Nationalist Spanish artillery and the general low proficiency of its crews soon forced the use of the Flak 18 gun as a direct-fire infantry support weapon. The Flak 88 group fought at the battle of Jarama, in February 1937. The following month, the unit moved northwards and took part in all the battles along the Northern front, where their tasks were divided between antiaircraft duties and field artillery employment. Flak 18 guns took part in the assault against Bilbao’s line of fortifications, the so-called “Iron Belt” (Cinturon de Hierro), and following the battle of Brunete, went north again to contribute to the Santander and Asturias campaign.

Flak 18 batteries were also employed by the Nationalist Army in the Aragon offensive and at the battle of Ebro in 1938, being used for direct fire against pillboxes and indirect fire in the advance towards Barcelona during the final campaign in Catalonia. During the battle of Ebro, Flak 88 batteries took up positions in the neighborhood of the main bridgehead as direct support to the ground forces.

By the end of the war, the 88mm guns had performed far more missions as an antitank and direct-fire field artillery gun than as an antiaircraft gun. In total, German 88mm guns were involved in 377 combat engagements, and only 31 were against enemy aircraft. On the other hand, the use of the 88mm guns in close vicinity to the enemy made them vulnerable to infantry fire. Casualties among the Legion’s 88mm gun batteries in the Spanish Civil War were second only to those of bomber pilots and crews. According to two different sources, which provided information to U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Waite, the Germans alone manned their antiaircraft weapons. No one was allowed within a few hundred yards of them, especially the Spanish soldiers. The French War Department verified that “great secrecy surrounded the operation of these weapons.”

In May 1939, the Flak 88 unit returned to Germany, leaving practically all its equipment in Spain for the Nationalist Army. After the civil war, in 1943, more improved Flak models were sent to Spain—almost 90 88/56mm Flak 36s—and in the same year they were manufactured under license by the Spanish artillery factory at Trubia, near Oviedo, under the name FT 44. These remained in active service with the Spanish Army until the early 1980s.

Italy also sent various antitank guns to Nationalist Spain; however, these were only used by the Italian Volunteer Corps. They were mainly the Breda 47mm Model 35 antitank gun, but there were also some 37mm Models 36 guns, a copy of the German Pak 35/36 made in Italy under license from Rheinmetall.

The Republicans used a similar antitank gun to the German Pak 35/36, the Russian Model 19323 45mm gun. The first shipment of these guns took place on April 29, 1937, when the Republicans received just 15 guns. However, they later received 100 additional guns in May that year, and another 20 in December. In January 1939, the Republicans received through France the last three Soviet guns. The total number of Model 1932 guns delivered to the Republican Army was 138; however, throughout the war, the Republicans received a total of 494 guns of various calibers capable of antitank use. The Soviet Model 1932 45mm gun was a copy of the German Pak 35/36 after the Soviet Union purchased the rights for production from Rheinmetall in 1930 and began a small-scale procurement for the Soviet Army. However, the Soviet General Staff wanted a more “universal” gun able to fire both antitank and high explosive rounds, so the gun was scaled up to 45mm, entering production in 1932, created by Soviet artillery designer Loginov. Towards the end of 1937, the Model 1932 was pushed out by the Model 1937 45mm antitank gun. The new gun had better ballistics, a higher rate of fire, and was more reliable. The new wheels were also made of metal rather than wood (the Model 1932 also received metal wheels in 1937). However, due to insufficient armor penetration against the newest German tanks, it was subsequently replaced by the long-barreled Model 1942.

The Italian M35 47mm gun was a dual-purpose gun able to fire a high explosive round as well as an antitank projectile. It was originally an Austrian artillery piece produced under license in Italy. It was used both as an infantry assault gun and antitank gun, proving to be very successful, especially when equipped with HEAT (High Explosive Antitank) rounds. Due to its shape, the 47mm gun was commonly called the “elefantino” (little elephant) by Italian troops.

The British Major General Fuller wrote an interesting letter published in the London Times following a visit to Spain:

I have referred to the antitank gun several times. On the Nationalist side, the German 22mm gun, mounted on a small wheeled vehicle, has proved to be very useful. It is the gun that I saw in use with the German Army. Other German models are also reported to be in Spain, a 37mm and an Italian 47mm. From all the information that can be gathered, the German antitank gun is a very efficient weapon.

In May 1937, U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Lee quoted an article by Liddell Hart, who said that “the defense against tanks has been developed and perfected more quickly and more effectively than the tank itself.” The antitank weapons used in Spain were clearly a threat to the tankers. As Colonel Fuqua, the U.S. Army attaché in Madrid, concluded, an infantryman with an antitank gun had no need to fear tanks.

The British antitank battery was formed within the International Brigades in May 1937 from 40 volunteers and was issued with three Soviet Model 1932 45mm guns, capable of firing both armor-piercing and high explosive shells that, at the time, represented state-of-the-art of military technology. Well led, trained by Russian instructors, and comprising a high proportion of students and intellectuals, they represented somewhat of an elite unit, and quickly became a highly efficient force in the 15th International Brigade.

After cutting its teeth at Brunete in July 1937, the battery was heavily involved in the battles at Belchite in August, where, according to Bill Alexander, the battery’s political commissar, the antitank guns fired 2,700 shells in just two days. During October 1937, the 15th International Brigade took part in the disastrous operation at Fuentes de Ebro, where the new BT-5 tanks were mauled. Initially, the antitank battery was held back from the main battle until the panicked brigade staff ordered it to advance on the Nationalist lines. None of the guns were able to fire and the battery’s second in command, Jeff Mildwater, was injured before the battery was eventually wisely withdrawn.

During the Aragon front retreat in the spring of 1938, the antitank battery was virtually surrounded and forced to fall back swiftly from Belchite, to avoid being cut off. The battery had to destroy one of its guns that could not be moved, while low-flying Nationalist aircraft destroyed another. With the battery no longer in existence, the men were incorporated as riflemen into the British battalion of the International Brigades.

The remark that antitank weapons had surpassed tank development was perhaps the most important conclusion reached about the use of tanks and antitank weapons in Spain. And if the trend was toward heavier tanks trying to overcome the threat of antitank weapons, there was also a trend for more powerful antitank guns.

In an article sent by American Lieutenant Colonel Lee to the Military Intelligence Division in the spring of 1937, Liddell Hart had argued that light antitank weapons had the advantage of being easily shifted from location to location and quickly brought up to the front lines. Other sources observed that antitank defense needed to be coordinated and that antitank guns were only part of the defensive plan. The U.S. Army attaché in Paris, Lieutenant Colonel Waite, commented that antitank weapons worked most effectively when they were used in combination with obstacles.

All tanks employed in Spain often faced antitank weapons that could immobilize or destroy them at any moment. The tank, that was supposed to return maneuver and offense to the battlefield, was countered with modern antitank weapons that gave the advantage back to the defense. To overcome the threat of antitank weapons, military attachés, observers, and their sources stressed the need for tanks to be employed en masse, not as separate weapons or in small groups. They also recommended that tanks be combined with infantry, which could hold the ground gained, and with artillery and aviation, that could protect the tanks by destroying or suppressing enemy antitank fire.

Although little technical data about antitank and antiaircraft weapons was gathered, there was general agreement on antitank weapons being effective in meeting their enemies in Spain. However, with the trend toward heavier tanks, there was an implied corresponding trend toward more powerful antitank weapons, as has been mentioned. With clouds of war gathering all over Europe, some countries looked to Spain to see what, if anything, they could learn. Unfortunately, most of the lessons were misleading, especially those relating to tanks being defeated. The issue seems to have been that whereas the designers of tanks saw clearly that they had to improve armor and gunnery, those whose specialty was antitank weaponry were quite happy with what they had achieved and took few active steps to improve anything. Such thinking was to work to the detriment of the German Wehrmacht when World War II began, as the Pak 36 was no longer as effective.

Regarding the war in Spain, when expectations about tank performance was not met, it was concluded that circumstances were so specific to the Spanish situation and its kind of war that battles fought there were unlikely to provide useful lessons for most European armies. Others, who had their predictions fulfilled, pointed to specific incidents as evidence that the testing ground of war had proven them right. Nowhere was this more apparent than regarding the efficacy of antitank weaponry. Officers who did not like the tank argued that combat in Spain clearly demonstrated the superiority of antitank guns over tanks. Tanks in Spain had proven themselves as less than the decisive force that some battles of World War I had promised, while antitank weapons now had an advantage in development over tanks.

Yet while the war on the ground was similar in its trenches and infantry battles to World War I, it was also a signal of changes to come in a future European war. Each country was confident that it had in service an adequate antitank defense. Yet, by 1939–40, before a year had passed, each was to find how over-optimistic these predictions had been, how vulnerable troops were, and how poorly the designers had prepared for the onset of the German blitzkrieg.

1813

As 1813 began, Britain was revitalized by Napoleon’s debacle in Russia. Sensing a historic turn in events, the British stripped their country of troops and reinforced Wellington’s army, with the intention of not only driving the French from Spain but also of crossing the Pyrenees to invade France. The Baltic ports were reopened to British trade just in time to prevent economic collapse. And Britain had new partners in the struggle against the French. Paid by British gold, Sweden joined the war on Britain’s side, and the Prussians, once again switching sides, allied themselves with the Russians. Revolt flared in Germany.

These developments were hardly good news for the Americans. The Yankees had banked on the bulk of the Royal Navy being tied up in European waters, but with Napoleon reeling, the British were able to reinforce their squadrons in North American waters. As a result, the frigates that had easily gotten to sea in the opening months of the struggle were bottled up in port on their return from their victorious cruises. Some did not get to sea again for the remainder of the war. Constellation, for example, was blockaded in Norfolk, and United States and the captured Macedonian were locked up in New London. Convoys also were established to protect merchantmen from the attacks of Yankee commerce-raiders. And the British soon got their chance to cheer a triumph at sea.

James Lawrence, as a reward for his victory over the British sloop Peacock, had been given command of Chesapeake, which was being fitted out in Boston. A few weeks before, John Rodgers had managed to evade a British blockading squadron with President and Congress and captured a dozen trading vessels, so Captain Philip Vere Broke, the British commander off Boston, resolved that Chesapeake would not be allowed to escape. He sent Lawrence a message saying he was sending away his supporting vessels and challenging him to an encounter between Chesapeake and his ship, the thirty-eight-gun Shannon, off Boston Light. Lawrence had put to sea on June 1, 1813, before he received this challenge, but he made no effort to elude Broke’s vessel.

Lawrence had considerable difficulty in manning Chesapeake because she was considered an unlucky ship, and many sailors had already succumbed to the lure of privateering. A large number of those who did sign on were foreigners and green hands, and she was hardly in fighting trim. An officer of Lawrence’s energy and experience would have improved the efficiency of his ship after a few weeks at sea, and rather than offering battle, he should have reined in his enthusiasm and slipped away to terrorize British commerce. In contrast, Broke was the Royal Navy’s most efficient and innovative gunnery enthusiast and had been in command of Shannon for seven years. Unlike many British officers, he drilled his men at the guns every day and had personally sighted in each piece. “Don’t try to dismast her,” Broke told his crew as they put to sea to deal with Chesapeake. “Kill the men and the ship is yours.”

Undoubtedly because his crew was inexperienced, Lawrence sailed Chesapeake to within fifty yards of Shannon without maneuvering for a raking position, and both ships unleashed broadsides at point-blank range. The intensive training that Broke had given his gun crews quickly paid off. The British fired far faster and more accurately than the Americans. British shot pounded Chesapeake’s hull and shrieked across her quarterdeck. Lawrence and several of his officers were mortally wounded. Taken below, he implored his remaining officers: “Don’t give up the ship!”

Badly damaged, her headsails shot away and her stern swinging in the wind, Chesapeake fouled her opponent, and the two vessels were lashed together. “Boarders away!” cried Broke as he led fifty men onto the deck of the American frigate. With most of their officers shot down, the ship’s polyglot crew fled below, and only her marine detachment made a stand. Gathered about the mainmast, they fought with bayonets and clubbed muskets until only a handful were still on their feet. “The enemy fought desperately, but in disorder,” related Broke, who suffered a serious head wound in the melee but recovered. Within fifteen minutes of the firing of the first broadside, Chesapeake was in British hands. The “butcher’s bill” was high—twenty-three British seamen killed and fifty-eight wounded, while forty-eight Americans were killed and ninety-nine wounded.

The sight of Chesapeake being shepherded into Halifax with the white ensign flying above the Stars and Stripes sent British spirits soaring, and the Royal Navy regained a portion of the luster lost in previous engagements with the Yankees. Broke was knighted, and his gunnery reforms were adopted by other officers.

Little more than two months later, the brig Argus, which had captured twenty British merchantmen in British waters, was brought to bay by the brig Pelican, off Cornwall. The night before, Argus had captured a wine-laden vessel out of Oporto. The ship was burned, but not before some of the American sailors got into the cargo, which probably influenced their performance in action. Although Argus could have shown her heels to the slower British vessel, Master Commandant William H. Allen chose to give battle. The two vessels were almost equal in force, but the British fire was brisk, and in short order Argus struck her flag. The action reflected little credit on Allen, who lost a leg and died of his wounds. Like James Lawrence, he displayed a romantic élan but showed no understanding of strategic reality. To have continued Argus’s successful career as a commerce raider would have been far more damaging to Britain than the capture of an insignificant brig—and even that was bungled.

In vivid contrast, early in 1813 David Porter took the stoutly built Essex around Cape Horn into the Pacific, on what became a classic raiding voyage. Porter’s objective was to destroy Britain’s Pacific whaling fleet off the Galapagos Islands, and at the same time to protect American vessels engaged in the trade. Within six months he captured a dozen whalers as well as several other ships with a total value of $2.5 million. Porter accomplished all this even though he had no base from which to operate and lived off captured supplies and gear. Prizes were so plentiful that twelve-year-old Midshipman David Glasgow Farragut, the captain’s ward, was assigned to one of them. When Essex required a refit, Porter sailed her three thousand miles across the Pacific to the Marquesas, where his crew had a taste of life in the South Seas while they overhauled their ship.

Early in 1814 Essex put into Valparaiso, Chile, where two British vessels, the frigate Phoebe and the sloop-of-war Cherub, which had been searching for the raider, caught up with her. Although Essex was rated at thirty-two guns, she actually mounted forty-six. Phoebe was similarly armed, and Cherub mounted twenty-six. Essex could have dealt with either of the enemy vessels singly, but together they were more than a match for her. Moreover, the American ship’s main battery consisted of short-range carronades, while Phoebe carried long eighteens, which meant she could stand off and demolish her opponent at long range without danger to herself. The ships lay in sight of each other for the better part of a month while waging a propaganda war. Essex hoisted a large white flag emblazoned “Free trade and sailors’ rights”; the British countered with “God and country, British sailors’ best rights.”

On March 28, 1814, the wind blew up and Essex slipped her cable and headed for the open sea. Escape seemed possible until a sudden squall struck her, sending the frigate’s main-topmast by the board. Phoebe and Cherub bore down on the disabled vessel as she lay in a small cove about three miles from Valparaiso. Porter made excellent use of his few long twelves and forced his opponents to draw off to make repairs. Taking up positions where Essex’s guns could not bear, they began systematically to shoot her to pieces. Midshipman Farragut later recalled that one gun was manned three times, one crew after another having been wiped out. As he helped work another gun, a single shot killed four of the gunners. Unable to close with the enemy, Porter tried to run Essex ashore and put the torch to her, but there was no escape. The spectacular Odyssey of the Salem frigate was over, and more than half her crew were either killed or wounded.

Increasingly, as the British blockade of the U.S. Navy’s warships tightened, the task of twisting the lion’s tail fell to the privateers that had fanned out across the sea lanes at the beginning of hostilities. It is estimated that at least 515 privateers were commissioned, mostly from Massachusetts, New York, and Maryland. They were credited with capturing 1,346 vessels, and probably took others that were not reported. Many of these vessels were bagged off the coast of Portugal and Spain, where the victims were engaged in carrying supplies to Wellington’s army. Navy ships captured another 165 prizes.

To meet the needs of the privateersman, as well as those of slavers and smugglers, ship designers had developed the swift-sailing Baltimore clipper, a topsail schooner with a slim hull crowned by two tall masts and an immense spread of canvas. Usually armed with one “Long Tom” and several smaller guns, they were among the most graceful ships ever built, leading even a landsman such as Henry Adams to rhapsodize:

Beautiful beyond anything then known in naval construcion … the schooner was a wonderful invention. Not her battles, but her escapes won for her the open-mouthed admiration of the British captains who saw their prize double like a hare and slip through their fingers at the moment when capture was sure. Under any ordinary conditions of wind and weather, with an open sea, the schooner, if only she could get to windward, laughed at a frigate.

Privateer skippers often matched their ships in dash and daring. Captain Thomas Boyle of Baltimore raised havoc in the waters around Britain, first in the Comet and then in Chasseur. The profits from one cruise alone were $400,000. Taking a leaf from the British, Boyle, in the summer of 1814, published a mock proclamation putting the British Isles under blockade. Within two months he captured eighteen ships, burning them after removing their cargoes, which were valued at $100,000. The Baltimore schooner Kemp snatched five of the seven vessels in a convoy from under the nose of the escort and returned to port—all within eight days. The prizes were sold for $500,000, making this probably the war’s shortest and most successful cruise.

Although privateers were not supposed to engage British men of war, Captain Samuel Chester Reid of the seven-gun brig General Armstrong successfully violated this rule. Having captured twenty-four enemy prizes, Reid had taken shelter in the neutral port of Fayal in the Azores, where on September 26, 1814, the harbor was sealed by a squadron of British warships. Captain Robert Lloyd sent four boats carrying a hundred men rowing towards the Armstrong. Reid opened fire with his nine-pounders and the British withdrew.

The next night Lloyd launched another attack, this time with twelve boats carrying four hundred men. The attackers were badly cut up but kept coming. When the British boats bumped against the side of their ship, the Yankee privateersmen heaved cannonballs down into the craft, punching holes in the bottoms of several. Undeterred, the British swarmed on board the Armstrong. Reid and his ninety men met them with cutlass, pistol, and pike and the battle surged back and forth along the vessel’s deck. The slaughter among the boarding party was appalling. In forty minutes, Reid estimated, nearly two-thirds of its members were casualties, and the survivors plunged into sea. Two Americans were killed, seven wounded.

Lloyd declared that he would have the privateer at all costs. At daybreak, he sent the 18-gun sloop-of-war Carnation to finish the Armstrong. Reid replied as best he could, but his ship was shot to pieces. He scuttled the vessel, and as she sank, the surviving Americans swam ashore and took refuge in a convent outside Fayal. Claiming that several of the privateer’s crew were deserters from the Royal Navy, Lloyd had them rounded up. But he could not prove his claim, and the Portuguese authorities ordered the Americans released.

Yet, for all the enthusiasm with which Americans embraced privateering, it was not an effective weapon of war. Privateers damaged British commerce and sometimes captured valuable cargoes, but they were no substitute for a navy. They did nothing to weaken the stranglehold that the British had on the American coast, and possibly half the prizes captured by the privateers ended back in British hands when they were caught trying to make port. Throttled by the blockade and British privateers, which cost the Yankees some fourteen hundred vessels, American trade sank to disastrous levels. Exports dropped to only $6.9 million in 1814. A Boston newspaper presented a gloomy picture of conditions: “Our harbors blockaded, our shipping destroyed or rotting at the docks; silence and stillness in our cities; the grass growing upon the public wharves.” The American merchant marine was paying a stiff price for the Jeffersonian theory that it was not necessary to have a seagoing navy to protect the nation’s shipping.

With the war at sea now going against the Americans, attention was increasingly focused on the Great Lakes. The defeat of General William Hull on the northern frontier in the opening months of hostilities convinced President Madison and his advisers that control of the lakes was essential to successful operations against Canada. Few roads existed in the wilderness, and the chain of lakes provided the only satisfactory means of moving large military forces. Captain Isaac Chauncey was given command of American naval forces on the lakes and the task of overcoming British naval supremacy there. He made his headquarters on Lake Ontario, where both sides’ strongest forces were deployed.

Chauncey proved to be a conservative and methodical officer. Except for a few indecisive skirmishes, he and his British opposite number, Captain Sir James Yeo, conducted “a warfare of Dockyards and Arsenals” in which one side and then the other won temporary supremacy on Lake Ontario. By the time the war ended, the British had completed a 102-gun ship of the line and the Americans had two three-deckers of 120 guns each on the stocks.

Master Commandant Oliver Hazard Perry, who directed the American naval effort on Lake Erie, was more vigorous than Chauncey. The twenty-seven-year-old Perry had been in command of a gunboat flotilla at Newport and had sought more active service. When he realized the magnitude of the task given him, he may well have wondered at the wisdom of his request: his mission was nothing less than to build a fleet in the wilderness and use it to wrest control of the lake from a superior British force. Perry established his base at Presque Isle (now Erie, Pennsylvania), toward the northern end of the lake, early in 1813, and there, with the assistance of two remarkable craftsmen, Adam and Noah Brown, Perry set about building a fleet.

Originally the Browns were carpenters and house-builders rather than shipwrights, but they had opened a shipyard in New York a year before the war. With the outbreak of hostilities, they designed and built several privateers that were notable for their clean lines and speed. Using the green timber that grew beside the lake, Noah Brown, who was in charge of construction, built Perry two twenty-gun brigs—Lawrence and Niagara—and a flotilla of smaller craft. Iron, cordage, canvas, oakum, almost everything required for the building of the ships, as well as guns and munitions, had to be hauled overland from Pittsburgh or sailed from Buffalo. “The amount of work that Brown accomplished with about two hundred men, without power tools, and in a wilderness during the worst winter months, makes some of the modern wartime production feats something less than impressive,” notes Howard Chapelle, a historian of the sailing navy. “The man was tireless and ingenious.”

Although Perry had brought the nucleus of his crews with him from Newport, his ships were still shorthanded. Most seamen in the coastal ports avoided service on the lakes, even though a bonus of 25 percent was offered. There was little prospect of prize money in this frontier region, and Secretary of the Navy William Jones observed that such service was regarded as “one of peculiar privation, destitute of pecuniary stimulus.” Perry pleaded for men from Chauncey’s near-idle force, but Chauncey released only a handful. Relations between the two officers were so strained that Perry submitted his resignation, but the Navy Department refused it. To fill out his crews, Perry recruited untrained militiamen, Indians, and even one Russian who spoke no English. Fully one quarter of the men signed on and trained as sailors and marines were black.

While Perry was building his fleet, it was protected from British raids by a sandbar at the mouth of the harbor at Presque Isle. Now, he faced the problem of getting Lawrence and Niagara over the shoal in the face of a British blockade. Fortunately for the Americans, the British force, under the command of Commander Robert H. Barclay, a one-armed veteran of Trafalgar, left its station for a few days in August. Seizing the opportunity, Perry removed the guns from his heavier ships, and using “camels,” or pontoons, floated them over the bar. Unexpectedly faced with this powerful force, Barclay wished to avoid battle until he had strengthened his own flotilla, but he was short of provisions and could not afford to delay very long.

The two fleets met about twenty miles north of Put-in-Bay at the western end of the lake on September 10, 1813. Perry’s squadron consisted of nine vessels firing a total broadside of 896 pounds, to Barclay’s six vessels and broadside of 459 pounds. The Americans also had more long guns than the British, even though Lawrence and Niagara were armed primarily with carronades. Flying a blue banner emblazoned with James Lawrence’s dying words, “Don’t give up the ship,” in white letters, Perry led his fleet into battle in Lawrence. Niagara was commanded by Jesse D. Elliott, who had been senior officer on Lake Erie before Perry’s arrival. Four years older than Perry, he was junior to him on the Navy List and was not happy with his subordinate position.

Perry bore down on the British line in a single column, and Lawrence, which was in the van, absorbed the bulk of the enemy fire. Shortly before noon, the band on Detroit, Barclay’s flagship, struck up “Rule Britannia!” as her long twenty-fours pounded the slowly approaching Yankee flagship. Perry could not reply effectively because the range was too great for his guns. Shot thudded into Lawrence’s hull, and lines and blocks trailed from aloft. Large splinters flew about like straw in a wind. Perry closed with Detroit, and the ships engaged at pistol range. Almost all the British fire was soon trained on Lawrence. Some of Perry’s smaller ships and gunboats came to his aid, but Elliott, in Niagara, stood off, taking no part in the action.

The battle was fought at such close range that every shot struck home. Both Detroit and Lawrence suffered terribly. Barclay was badly wounded, as were many of his officers. Lawrence had gone into action with a crew of 103 men; all but 20 were killed or wounded. Many of the wounded were maimed again or killed while they were being treated, because the cockpit was above the waterline. Within two hours almost all her guns had been dismounted, and there were not enough unwounded men to fire those that were left. Perry summoned the surgeon’s assistants to lend a hand at the guns and, when no one else was left, called down into the cockpit: “Can any of the wounded pull a rope?” Several pitiful figures limped up to the deck to help him aim and fire the few remaining cannon.

Finally, at about 2:30 P.M., when Lawrence’s last gun had fallen silent, Perry decided to transfer to Niagara. Taking his twelve-year-old brother James, who was serving as a midshipman, four seamen, his broad pennant, and the flag bearing Lawrence’s words, he had himself rowed a half mile through a hail of shot to Elliott’s undamaged vessel. Lawrence, now an unmanageable wreck, surrendered, but the otherwise engaged British did not take possession of her.

Wasting no time in recriminations, Perry ordered Elliott to take the boat and bring up the remaining vessels of the squadron. Niagara’s sails caught a sudden breeze, and Perry, to the cheers of the rest of his ships, signaled close action and drove the brig, her guns pouring smoke and flames, into the enemy line. The British were in no condition to resist this fresh onslaught, and one after another, the battered ships struck their colors. Perry’s victory gave the Americans complete command of Lake Erie and allowed them to regain control of the Northwest. As soon as the surrendered ships had been secured, Perry penned on the back of an old letter a dispatch to General William Henry Harrison, the military commander in the Northwest:

We have met the enemy; and they are ours. Two ships, two Brigs, one schooner, and one Sloop.

From the heights of the Pyrenees, Wellington’s victorious Redcoats looked down on the fertile fields of France in the autumn of 1813. In the remote distance they could see the Bay of Biscay, where the warships of the Royal Navy were perpetually on the move, and the white sails of transports bearing the men and supplies that had made their triumphs possible. Had their eyes been able to penetrate the misty autumn horizon eastward to the Saxony plain, they would have seen the steely glint of marching armies. Scarcely a French family was not in mourning after the Russian debacle, but Napoleon had bled the nation for another half-million conscripts, many lads of only sixteen.

Near Leipzig in mid-October 1813, three hundred thousand Russians, Austrians, Swedes, and Prussians closed in on two-thirds as many Frenchmen. Some of the most savage fighting of the war followed, and the dead and wounded covered the surrounding fields. “The Battle of the Nations” ended with the utter rout of Napoleon’s army and casualties five times those at Austerlitz. Yet the war was not over. Though his sword was broken in his hand, the emperor rejected the offer of the allied rulers to cease hostilities if France would withdraw to her “natural frontiers” of the Rhine, the Alps, and the Pyrenees. His sense of reality apparently having departed, Napoleon rejected the offer and told Prince Metternich that he might lose his throne, but he would bury Europe in ruins.

1814

On September 11, 1814, at the Battle of Plattsburgh on Lake Champlain in New York, during the War of 1812.

Like Hitler, Napoleon saw the hope of a reversal of fortune in the possibility that his enemies, all deeply suspicious of each other, would fall out. Several times before, European coalitions had dissolved before him. If he could persuade his father-in-law, the Austrian emperor, to make a separate peace, he was convinced he could crush the Russians and the Prussians, whose forces were dangerously overextended. On March 13, 1814, Napoleon made his last coup by defeating the Prussians near Rheims in a tactical stroke not unlike Hitler’s Ardennes offensive of 1944. But Napoleon’s success was only temporary. Wellington was advancing on Toulouse, Paris was betrayed to the invaders by a defecting marshal, and Cossacks soon clattered down the Champs-Elysées. The wily Talleyrand, who had already ingratiated himself with Czar Alexander, proclaimed a rump government that declared the emperor dethroned.

Awaiting the end at Fontainebleau, Napoleon attempted to save something from the debacle by vainly trying to pass the throne to his three-year-old son and then abdicated unconditionally. Not long afterward, he swallowed a vial of poison he had carried on his person in Russia in case of capture. It had lost its potency and only made him sick. The allies allowed him to retain his title but his domain was limited to the tiny island of Elba in the Mediterranean. On April 28, 1814, with his personal entourage and an imperial guard of six hundred soldiers, Napoleon sailed for his new realm in the British frigate Undaunted. In Belgium, King Louis XVIII, gross, old, and almost forgotten, awaited the summons to the throne of France. “There is only one step,” Napoleon noted wryly, “from the sublime to the ridiculous.”

While all the capitals of Europe were celebrating Napoleon’s fall, some twenty thousand of Wellington’s veterans were crossing the Atlantic to put an end to the annoying American war. With more troops and ships on hand, the British launched a three-pronged assault against the United States: an invasion from Canada, an escalation of the raids on the American coast, and an attack on New Orleans. The major objective of these offensives was to win pawns for use in the peace negotiations already under way in Ghent, Belgium.

Facing no opposition, the British put troops ashore at almost any point on the coast, disrupting trade and preventing American naval vessels and privateers from getting to sea. The Chesapeake Bay area was a major theater for such operations, which were climaxed by an amphibious assault on Washington and Baltimore in the summer of 1814. A flotilla of Yankee gunboats tried to intervene in the attack on Washington, but these craft were brushed aside and then destroyed by their crews to prevent them from failing into enemy hands. An attempt at a stand was made at Bladensburg, outside the capital, but the raw militiamen broke and ran. The only resistance was offered by the sailors and marines from the gunboat flotilla under the command of Joshua Barney, an old Revolutionary War hero. The British put the Capitol and other public buildings to the torch in revenge for the burning of York, the capital of Upper Canada. President Madison and most of the government fled.

The invaders now turned their attention to Baltimore, which, as the home port of 126 privateers, was regarded as “a nest of pirates.” Stalled by the city’s hastily erected defenses, a British army of nearly five thousand men waited for a fleet of frigates and bomb vessels to silence Fort McHenry, at the entrance to the harbor. The night-long bombardment on September 12 inspired Francis Scott Key, a Georgetown lawyer who witnessed the bombardment from the British fleet, to write the words of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The fleet’s guns outranged those of the fort, but the ships were prevented from running past it by a line of sunken hulks that blocked the channel, and the attack failed. A few days later, the troops were reem-barked, neither side having suffered much damage.

The invasion from Canada began in the summer of 1814. Sir George Prevost, the governor-general, followed the route of General John Burgoyne forty years before. He halted at Plattsburgh, on the western shore of Lake Champlain, and waited for the naval commander, Captain George Downie, to deal with a small American squadron under Master Commandant Thomas Macdonough. Prevost, with twelve thousand men, could easily have brushed aside the fifteen hundred Americans led by General Alexander Macomb who were defending Plattsburgh, but he insisted that as long as the Americans controlled the lake, his flank and supply lines would be endangered.

With the aid of Noah Brown, the thirty-one-year-old Macdonough, who had been with Decatur at the burning of Philadelphia, built his fleet on the shores of the lake. They worked with such speed that the largest ship, the twenty-six-gun corvette Saratoga, was completed in little more than a month. She was joined by Eagle, a twenty-gun brig delivered just five days before the squadron went into action, two other sailing vessels, and ten oar-propelled gunboats manned mostly by soldiers and a handful of sailors. The British squadron consisted of the powerful frigate Confiance, of thirty-six guns, one brig, two sloops, and ten gunboats. The two squadrons were about equal in firepower.

Macdonough realized that to command Lake Champlain, he needed only to maintain what Mahan called “a fleet in being,” while Downie, to gain control, had to win a decisive victory. Accordingly, Macdonough decided to anchor his vessels in Plattsburgh Bay, a deep inlet on the western side of the lake, and await a British attack, as Benedict Arnold had done at Valcour during the Revolution. Macdonough ordered his vessels drawn up in a line from Cumberland Head to the shallows off Crab Island, close to the shore, so it could not be turned. As an added precaution, he had springs run out of the sterns of his vessels and attached to their anchor cables, which allowed them to be swung so their guns could be brought to bear on the approaching British.

Downie had wanted to delay going into action until he had time to train his crews, which included a number of Canadian militiamen, but he was prodded along by Prevost. As a result, Confiance went into battle with the fitters still on board. The British sailed southward on September 11, propelled along the reed-lined shore by a light breeze. When they were sighted off Cumberland Head, Macdonough, a devout man, called Saratoga’s officers and crew to prayers—and then to quarters. Most of the ranging shots fired by the British fell short, but one splintered a coop that housed a pet gamecock. Unharmed, the bird flew to a nearby gun, where it flapped its wings and crowed defiantly. To Macdonough’s crews, this seemed a good omen, and they cheered lustily. The commodore himself laid one of the first twenty-four-pounders that bore on the approaching British flagship, and the shot struck home.

Sailing into the bay in line abreast, the British came under heavy fire from the Americans. Downie tried to pass down the Yankee line, but in lee of Cumberland Head, the wind fell and he was forced to anchor Confiance only three hundred yards from Macdonough’s flagship. A British broadside smashed into Saratoga, and her deck ran red with blood. Some forty men were killed or wounded. Nevertheless, she kept up a brisk fire. Fifteen minutes later, one of Confiance’s cannon was dismounted and crushed Downie. The death of their commander so early in the battle had a serious effect on British morale. Macdonough himself had several narrow escapes. As he was aiming a gun, he was knocked unconscious by a falling spar. Later, a round shot tore the head off one of the gun’s crew and drove it into Macdonough’s face with such force that he was knocked sprawling.

Fighting spread up and down the line, and two British sloops and a small American vessel were put out of action. Saratoga and Confiance suffered the most, and both were taking on water. Saratoga was hulled 55 times and Confiance 105, Macdonough reported. Within two hours of the start of the battle, every one of Saratoga’s starboard guns had been put out of action. Heaving in on his spring, Macdonough had his ship pulled around so her undamaged port battery faced Confiance. The British tried the same trick but failed—and were caught by Saratoga’s merciless fire. One by one, the British vessels surrendered. Both sides had suffered severely. American casualties totaled more than a hundred killed and wounded, and Macdonough estimated that the British lost double this number.

Macdonough’s victory forced Prevost, whose simultaneous assault on Plattsburgh was repulsed by Macomb, to call off the invasion, and its effects reverberated far beyond the lake frontier. The peace talks at Ghent had stalled over British insistence on retaining all the territory she had conquered during the war, with a view to creating an Indian “buffer state” in the Northwest Territory between Canada and the United States. But the duke of Wellington, who had been offered command of British forces in America, said that unless Britain regained “a naval supremacy on the Lakes” peace should be made at once—and without territorial demands.

And Lord Castlereagh, the foreign secretary, regarded the war as a tiresome distraction while he was fully occupied with the much more pleasant task of reshaping the post-Napoleonic world at a conference in Vienna. On Christmas Eve 1814 Britain and the United States signed a peace treaty that made no mention of impressment, the Orders in Council, or Britain’s violations of neutral rights, the reasons given by Madison for declaring war. The end of the conflict with Napoleon had rendered these issues moot.

Although the war was officially over, the fighting was not. News traveled slowly in those days, so the British continued their preparation for the descent on New Orleans. The expedition appeared off the mouth of the Mississippi on December 8, 1814, but before the British could advance against the city, they had to deal with a scattering of small sailing vessels and gunboats commanded by Master Commandant Daniel T. Patterson. The shortest route to the city led though Lake Borgne, a shallow bayou that opened up to the sea. Patterson stationed five gunboats there under Lieutenant Thomas ap Catesby Jones. Forty-two British launches, each armed with a carronade and carrying a total of a thousand men, captured all of Jones’s craft in a short, bloody battle on December 14, but at the cost of about a hundred men killed and wounded—and valuable time, which General Andrew Jackson put to good use in preparing his defense of New Orleans.

By December 23 the British had pushed to within nine miles of the city but were thrown into confusion when the fourteen-gun schooner Carolina bombarded their encampment and Jackson launched a supporting attack. The Americans were driven off, but the final assault on the city had to be delayed until heavy guns could be brought up from the fleet to deal with Carolina. Although the schooner was eventually destroyed, Louisiana, of sixteen guns and the sole survivor of Patterson’s squadron, took part in repulsing the British attack on New Orleans on January 8, 1815. It was the worst British defeat in open battle for many years. Recognizing the important role the navy had played in the fight, a grateful Andrew Jackson told Patterson: “To your well-directed exertions must be ascribed in a great degree that embarrassment of the enemy which led to his ignominious flight.”

Throughout the closing months of the war, American naval captains impatiently awaited opportunities to escape the vigilant British blockading squadrons that lay offshore. Constitution managed to escape from Boston in December 1814, and President slipped to sea from New York in January 1815 during a blinding snowstorm. Decatur’s fabled luck soon ran out, however. President was severely damaged when the pilot ran her aground. Decatur managed to free the frigate and later said he would have returned to port had not the severity of the storm prevented him. The limping President was sighted by a British squadron consisting of Majestic, of fifty-six guns, and three frigates. Decatur tried to escape but was overhauled and forced to surrender. One of the pursuing vessels was knocked about by the Yankee frigate’s guns, and President suffered in the exchange. “With about one-fifth of my crew killed and wounded, my ship crippled, and a more than four-fold force opposed to me, without a chance to escape left, I deemed it my duty to surrender,” Decatur declared.

A month later, Constitution, sought by every ship of the Royal Navy since her escape from Boston, was cruising off Madeira when she encountered two British vessels, the light frigate Cyane, of twenty-two guns, and the sloop-of-war Levant, of twenty. The British captains gallantly if unwisely chose to fight. Within forty minutes, both ships were beaten into submission. Captain Charles Stewart put on one of the most brilliant demonstrations of shiphandling of the war. He attacked Cyane, backed down to engage Levant, then sailed ahead to reengage Cyane, and finally wore around to knock out Levant.

The Yankee sloops-of-war Hornet and Peacock also got to sea, and they took the last prizes of the war. Hornet, under Master Commandant James Biddle, captured the brig Penguin, of eighteen guns, after a twenty-minute fight in which the British vessel was transformed into little more than kindling. Peacock sailed into the Indian Ocean, where she captured four large Indiamen. On June 30, 1815, in Sunda Strait, she sighted a fourteen-gun brig belonging to the East India Company. The merchantman’s skipper informed Master Commandant Lewis Warrington that the war was over. Believing this was a ruse designed to permit his prey to escape, Warrington ordered the brig to strike its flag and send a boat. When the Briton refused, Warrington poured a broadside into his vessel, causing fifteen casualties. The brig’s name was Nautilus—the same as that of the first American vessel to be captured by the British at the beginning of the conflict three years before.

In years to come, Americans would forget the humiliations of the futile and inglorious War of 1812—the military defeats, the burning of the capital, the raids on the defenseless coast, and the blockade. With pride they recalled the exploits of Hull, Decatur, Perry, and Macdonough that had preserved the national honor and established a tradition of victory. By providing such a heritage, the U.S. Navy not only fostered a spirit of nationalism that at least temporarily put an end to narrow sectionalism that had threatened to tear the nation apart, it also gained popularity and acceptance for itself.

The Führer’s Military Toy Projects

The perfect armoured fighting vehicle is one that combines speed, heavy armour and a powerful gun. The factors which govern the design and production of a tank are a careful balance of compromises. Any increase in the weight of defensive armour will demand a stronger engine. The new engine may be larger in size than the original and require more fuel. To meet these requirements might encroach upon the limited area inside a tank which can often only be done by reducing the crew space or the ammunition stowage area. The mounting of a bigger gun also raises the vehicle’s weight and brings with it the need to produce a larger turret, which in turn will lead to another weight increase. Then, too, the design of the metal gun box, which is in essence all that a tank is, must be so simple that mass production is possible of parts that are easily machined and, finally, an assembly that is uncomplicated. It must be possible to replace damaged parts swiftly and under battlefield conditions.

Very few tanks of the Second World War met all these criteria. The Red Army’s T-34 was one which did. Not one of the German armoured fighting vehicles did until the later marks of the Panther tank came into service. The fearful reputation of the German Panzers was, as I have already said, due more to an ability to handle armour in the mass then to an inherently good vehicle design or the numbers produced.

Hitler, who had been an infantry soldier during the Great War, did not allow that fact to inhibit him in discussions regarding the weight/power/gun ratio in panzer design. On 7 July 1941, he ordered armoured fighting vehicles (AFVs) to be uparmoured by fitting spaced metal plates to counter the effect of hollow-charge shells, even though the increase in weight brought about by these plates lowered the speed and restricted the manoeuvrability of the vehicles. Later that month he decided that the number of Panzer Divisions was to be increased to 36. The 1941 figures of total production of all types of armoured fighting vehicles was only 3,256. To have equipped the extra Panzer Divisions which the Führer required would have necessitated a threefold output. Hitler was not able to accept the simple economic fact that German industry was incapable of meeting the extravagant demands he made upon it.

German tank production had always been inhibited by the lack of a native-designed vehicle. Not until 1935 and the Panzer III did the German tank-building industry produce a design which was not dependent upon foreign inspiration. The Panzer III was selected as one of Germany’s two projected types of battle tank. The Panzer IV was the other. One surprising fact was that no thought seemed to have been given to whether the contracted companies had experience of mass production. The only conclusion that can be drawn from this is that in the opinion of those in authority conveyor-belt techniques would not be required. It was obviously expected that standard production would be able to make good those losses in vehicles suffered in the projected series of short wars and that, therefore, there would be no need to go into mass production. Indeed, the Ford and Opel car companies, both with great knowledge and ability, were excluded from the panzer construction programme. As a consequence, until Speer’s reorganization of production methods late in the war, panzers were almost hand-built by craftsmen.

Concurrent with Hitler’s order for Speer to take over war production was the change in direction of the Führer’s thinking. He decided, during 1943, that the overriding priority was for tanks and demanded them in large numbers. The demand could not be met for a variety of reasons; principally because industry had not been allowed to concentrate upon a small number of really good designs. During the short years from the advent of Hitler to the end of the war, no fewer than 230 different types of armoured fighting vehicle, including prototypes, were in service. Of those 94 were fighting tanks, ten were various sorts of tank hunters, 42 were armoured personnel carriers, 19 armoured reconnaissance vehicles, 12 were anti-aircraft tanks, ten were SP carriages, nine armoured gun and infantry carriages. The tragedy for the panzer force was that there were too many types, each of too short a run, and brought too late into service. The problem of providing spare parts for this wide variety of vehicles was enormous. Another factor which adversely affected German tank design was the decision taken before the war to halt the development of medium-weight vehicles in favour of light machines whose battlefield role would be reconnaissance. That High Command decision, pushed through at the insistence of the cavalry arm, was to have the most serious effect upon the application of armour in military operations.

On the matter of armament a discussion at the Berghof during May 1941 produced from Hitler the order to fit a 5cm gun into the Panzer IV. Only a month later this weapon was found to be ineffective against most Russian armoured vehicles. The experience gained by panzer units on the Eastern Front during the first months of battle seems to have had a sobering effect upon the Führer’s thoughts concerning panzer construction. On 14 November 1941, Keitel’s memorandum to the Army High Command read, in part: ‘The Führer sees it necessary, having regard to our over-stretched and limited production capacity, to restrict the tank programme regarding the various models and to determine future types … to ease the pressure upon the industrial and military drawing officers and to release engineers for other production, those current developments whose production would, in any case, soon have been terminated will now be discarded. The Führer demands a simplification and a limiting of the programme so that mass production can be more easily introduced…’

This just did not happen. Prestige struggles between Party bosses, together with the conflicting views of senior military commanders on the development of the panzer arm, were sufficient to ensure that Hitler’s clearly expressed wishes were totally ignored. The obsolete Panzer II was still being produced in 1944 and the 38(t) until 1942. Production of chassis of the latter vehicle, to be used as the carriages of SP guns, was actually increased after that year. A lecture given by Guderian on 9 March 1943 showed that the Panzer IV, which had been in service since 1936, was still Germany’s principal battle tank and that it was planned for production to be continued at maximum rate throughout 1944/45. There were also conflicts within the political leadership in an effort to phase out the Panzer IV in favour of SP guns. Such divergences of opinion did not make for a progressive production programme.

The Panzer V (Panther) was one vehicle which showed the effect of Hitler’s direct interference. Drawings and prototypes of tanks heavier than the Panzer IV had been produced by several companies, but the Supreme Command had shown no interest, declaring that there was no need for them. The T-34 soon proved the OKW’s declaration to be untrue. There was a need for a heavier German tank and that need was urgent. Production of the Panzer V began during November 1942, and the first vehicles to be produced showed weaknesses resulting from rushed development. Guderian warned, during his lecture, that the fundamental faults in the Panzer V were of so serious a nature that the vehicle could not enter troop service until July 1943. Hitler was impatient to bring the new machine into service and actually postponed Operation ‘Citadel’, the German offensive against Kursk, in order to use the Panther as the principal weapon in that operation. The routes of advance to the Kursk battlefield were marked with broken-down Panthers whose transmissions had not been able to cope with the great weight they had to bear, and other tanks which had caught fire because of faults in the cooling system. The poor performance of the Panthers was acknowledged in a High Command memorandum which went on to highlight the fault of German production methods: ‘The demand for replacement parts [for the Panzer V] could not be met … without interfering with production of the vehicles…’

The Panzer VI (Tiger) went into production during August 1942 and ran until August 1944. Then, as a result of Germany’s supply shortages, production was concentrated on the Panzer V; in the same number of man-hours two Panthers could be built but only one Tiger. A further reason was that the Tiger was not adaptable for the mass production which was essential. Hitler interfered with the tactical employment of the first Tigers to be built. He ordered the whole batch, 83 vehicles, to be put into action on the Leningrad Front. The Führer, some 500 miles removed from the battle and without knowledge of ground conditions, laid out the tactics for the whole operation. Every one of the Tigers was lost.

The introduction into service of the Mark II Tiger, or König Tiger, reflected the German tendency towards huge and heavily armed monster tanks, of which the Maus was the outcome. During 1943, the Army Weapons Department initiated a new series of AFVs. The construction of these machines would be met by drawing upon the potential of companies which had not hitherto been employed on tank production. Included in this so-called E series development were plans for the Adler Company to produce a tank of more than 140 tons in weight.

The way in which the vehicle was contracted is indicative of Hitler’s spontaneous actions in pursuit of a single, not necessarily desirable objective. The oral contract was given by Hitler to Professor Porsche on 8 June 1942. A model of the vehicle was shown to Hitler during January 1943, but there was little further development until August, when the first prototype was produced. In June 1944, the turret and gun were delivered for the prototype. Although work continued on the Maus it was never completed and did not enter service.

Even had the 188-ton monster gone into action the operations in which it could have taken part would have been limited. To have moved the Maus across country would have placed a strain upon the 1200hp engine. Vast quantities of petrol would have been used at a time when fuel supplies were fast diminishing. To have transported the Maus by rail would have required special wagons to be designed and constructed.

Hitler, in commissioning the Maus, had ordered the construction of a vehicle that was little more than a slow-moving pillbox. It could not move on made-up roads, nor cross bridges because of its great weight, and it had to be waterproofed so that it would not flood when crossing rivers, for one of the contractual conditions was that it had to be capable of submerging to a depth of eight metres. To construct one 25-ton Panzer IV battle tank required among other things, 39,000kg of steel, 195kg of copper, 238kg of aluminium, 63kg of lead, 66kg of zinc and 116kg of rubber. The amounts of material which were wasted in constructing the Maus were shockingly high and the use of so scarce a material as rubber can only be described as an abuse.

That the Führer could waste not just the material alone but the energies of a vast number of skilled technicians and a great amount of shop-floor capacity is indicative of how the Reich’s resources were dissipated. The Maus, with its 12.8cm gun, was one area which Hitler had explored in his manic search for weapons of great size. Another was the production of super-heavy guns of which the 60cm mortar, Karl or Thor, is representative.

The rationale behind the construction of this monstrous piece of ordnance was the need to destroy armoured fortifications. Obviously, the Maginot Line was meant. The use of heavy-calibre artillery pieces to bombard such fixed targets was not new. Before the Great War the Austrian High Command had constructed 42cm weapons to destroy the Italian Alpine fortresses. In those early days the aeroplane was an untried weapon. By 1935, however, flying-machines could cover vast distances to drop armour-piercing bombs on such static targets as fortresses. The day of the super-heavy gun being used to smash forts was over, and yet, upon Hitler’s orders, the construction of such artillery pieces was pushed ahead.

The Karl mortar, named after General Karl Becker, the officer most closely associated with its development, bore the official description, Gerät 040. The first plans for its construction were laid at the end of 1935 and following certain technical discussions the Army Weapons Testing Department laid down guidelines during the following year. The gun was to fire a 2,000kg shell over a distance of 3,000m. A fleet of nine heavy trucks would be required to transport the loads into which the 55-ton piece would be broken down. To assemble the gun ready for firing required six hours from the time of its arrival at the firing site. As the time taken to set up the Karl was found to exceed the projected six hours, it was then proposed to make the gun self-propelled.

Further developments increased the range to 4,000m and the weight of the gun to 64,500kg. In March 1938, production of the final plans was ordered. Within six months an electrically driven, working model on a 1 to 10 scale had been produced. The proposed weight of the gun had now risen to 94,770kg and the range to 10,000m. First firing trials were carried out in the middle weeks of June 1939. By that time plans had been perfected for the gun to be transported as one piece on a specially constructed railway wagon. Consider: to bring a super-heavy piece of ordnance into action required, to begin with, a railway whose gauge was compatible. Those in Russia were not. Once in the target area, a curved spur line had to be constructed to take up the gun’s recoil, ammunition had to be brought forward and a camp for the crews established. Thousands of men were employed to prepare the route and to serve the gun as well as to man the anti-aircraft batteries and the defence units.

And the end result of all that endeavour? One lucky shot during the fighting in the Crimea destroyed a strong Russian fortress. The other shells fired in that artillery bombardment created deep and symmetric holes in the earth. During the destruction of Warsaw, following the collapse of the Polish Home Army, the Karl destroyed blocks of houses and flats. Hitler had ordered the production of super-heavy artillery and the pieces had been created. For the excavation of a number of holes, one fort destroyed and some city buildings demolished, millions of man-hours had been misused, thousands of tons of steel wasted and confusion brought to the railway system as the ponderous artillery train crawled across Europe.

The last of the Führer’s toys was the one which Speer had described as Germany’s most costly and greatest mistake. The V weapons programme was based on the false premise that indiscriminate destruction would smash British morale. Experts, in pre-war years, had predicted that air raids would cause widespread destruction and produce panic among the civil population. Their predictions were incorrect. Both in Britain and then in Germany it was demonstrated that aerial bombing did not break morale but that suffering, paradoxically, stiffened it. Few reports came back to Hitler to show what damage was being caused by his V weapons and he based his hopes not upon facts but upon what he believed to be facts. Lacking accurate Intelligence he continued the random destruction and his actions can be seen not as the application of a thought-out strategy but as the wild blows of a blindfolded man in a dark room.

Into the production of rocket weapons the Führer poured money, men and materials. Upon these revolutionary projectiles he placed his hopes of finding the war-winning weapon. The rockets failed him just as the super-heavy guns had failed him. The Maus did not even have the chance to show that it too would have failed.

Had all Germany’s wasted resources been controlled, used productively on proper weapons and employed correctly, the outcome of certain battles and campaigns might well have been different. Thanks to Goering’s indolence, the Führer’s interference and the fact that Speer was not given the power he needed until it was too late, industrial Germany was not the thundering forge of Vulcan which she had been thought to be. Instead she was an almost undirected economy, working along bourgeois lines, at a low, almost peacetime level of production and riddled with rivalries, inefficiency and corruption.

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