John Singleton Mosby


Born December 6, 1833

Powhatan County, Virginia

Died May 30, 1916

Washington, D.C.

Confederate guerrilla leader

Tormented Union forces in northern Virginia from 1863 to 1865 as commander of “Mosbís Rangers”

During the course of the Civil War, groups of armed raiders known as “guerrillas” or “rangers” sprouted up all across the Confederacy to fight against invading Union armies. A number of these groups amounted to little more than semi-organized bands of outlaws who became best known for episodes of drunkenness and mindless violence. But other Southern guerrilla units operated with great effectiveness against important Union patrols and supply lines. The best of these guerrilla companies was commanded by John Singleton Mosby, a native Virginian whose bravery and dedication made him one of the most feared and respected of Confederate military leaders.

Born and raised in Virginia

John Singleton Mosby was born in Virginia in 1833 to Alfred and Virginia Mosby. Both sides of Mosbís family had lived in Virginia for generations. As he grew up, his relatives instilled in him a great love for his home state. Mosby entered the University of Virginia at the age of nineteen, but his studies were abruptly cut short when he killed a man in an angry dispute.

When Mosby was brought to trial, the court decided that he did not deserve to receive a long prison term. Nonetheless, he was expelled from the university and imprisoned for nine months on a charge of unlawful shooting. Mosby spent much of his time in jail reading law books. When he was released, he became a legal assistant in the office of the local prosecutor who had convicted him.

Mosby worked and studied hard during this time. Within a year or so of his release from prison, he launched a successful career for himself as an attorney. In 1857, Mosby married Pauline Clark, the daughter of a Kentucky politician, and the couple soon started a family. Mosbís peaceful life was shattered, though, when the American Civil War broke out in April 1861.

Mosby sides with Virginia

The Civil War came about because of long-standing differences between the Northern United States and the Southern United States over a variety of issues, especially slavery and the concept of states’ rights. Many Northerners believed that slavery was wrong and wanted to abolish (eliminate) it. They also contended that the Federal government had the authority to pass laws that applied to all citizens of the United States. But a large part of the South’s economy and culture had been built on slavery, and Southerners resented Northern efforts to halt or contain the practice. In addition, they argued that the Federal government did not have the constitutional power to institute national laws on slavery or other issues. Instead, white Southerners argued that each state should decide for itself whether to allow slavery. Finally, America’s westward expansion worsened these disputes, since both sides wanted to spread their way of life-and their political ideas-into the new territories and states.

By the spring of 1861, these bitter differences had caused a dramatic split in the country. At that time, a number of Southern states seceded from (left) the United States to form a new country that allowed slavery, called the Confederate States of America. The U. S. government, however, declared that those states had no right to secede and that it was willing to use force to make them return to the Union. In April 1861, the two sides finally went to war over their differences.

When the war began, Mosby promptly joined Virginia’s Confederate army as a private. During the first six months of his service, however, Mosby did not make much of an impression on his superiors. Bored with routine military duties, he showed little initiative or interest in advancing to a higher rank. “We all thought he was rather an indifferent soldier,” admitted one Confederate officer who knew Private Mosby.

Mosby becomes a ranger

By the spring of 1862, Mosby was spending most of his time helping Confederate colonel William E. Jones with paperwork and other administrative affairs. Desperate to escape these routine duties, he occasionally managed to grab an assignment to go scout enemy positions.

Within a few months, the detail and accuracy of Mosbís scouting reports caught the attention of General Jeb Stuart (1833-1864; see entry), a dashing cavalry officer in the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. Impressed by Mosbís scouting abilities, Stuart used the young Virginian whenever he could. In fact, Mosbís scouting reports proved vital in helping Stuart execute a famous reconnaissance (exploration and spying) mission around Union troops in the summer of 1862. After the mission was completed, Mosby could barely contain his enthusiasm. “My dearest Pauline,” he wrote to his wife. “I returned yesterday with General Stuart from the grandest scout of the war. I not only helped to execute it, but was the first one who conceived and demonstrated that it was practicable. Everybody says it was the greatest feat of the war. I never enjoyed myself so much in my life.”

Mosbís experiences on the reconnaissance mission convinced him that he could better serve the Confederacy as the leader of one of the guerrilla units that were popping up across the South. These guerrilla or ranger companies used violent raids and sabotage (destruction or vandalism of proper ty) to strike against Union outposts and supply lines. Loosely connected with the Confederate Army, they were supposed to operate under the direction of the South’s regular military commanders. In many cases, though, these guerrilla companies functioned with little supervision from the army.

At first, Stuart resisted Mosbís requests for permission to start a new guerrilla group that would operate behind enemy lines in northern Virginia. But in December 1862, Stuart finally approved the request. On January 1, 1863, Mosby officially became the captain of a nine-man guerrilla group that eventually became the most effective ranger company in the entire South.

“Mosbís Confederacy”

Mosby spent the first two months of 1863 adding new recruits to his band. Then, as springtime arrived in northern Virginia, Mosby launched a series of raids that rocked Union forces throughout the region. Sometimes they ambushed (lied in wait to attack) Union patrols or captured Union horses and other supplies. At other times they destroyed Union railroads or cut telegraph lines. On a number of occasions, he and his men even struck on the outskirts of the Federal capital of Washington.

Mosbís most daring escapade of 1863 came in March, when he traveled into Northern territory and captured a Union general, thirty-two other Federal soldiers, and fifty Union horses. According to Mosby, the Union general was sound asleep in his bedroom when he walked in. Mosby promptly drew the covers back, pulled up the general’s nightshirt (a long shirt worn in bed), and swatted him on the rear with the blunt side of his sword blade. As the general bolted upright in bed, Mosby said, “Do you know Mosby?” The still-sleepy Union commander responded, “Yes, have you captured him?” Smiling, Mosby answered, “No, but he has captured you.”

Mosbís raids angered Union commanders in the region, but they seemed helpless to stop his band. The Union’s inability to catch “Mosbís Rangers,” as they came to be called, was due in no small part to pro-Confederate feelings in northern Virginia, which Mosbís guerrillas continued to use as a base of operations. In fact, most people who lived in that area were so sympathetic to Mosby and his fellow guerrillas that a few counties came to be known as “Mosbís Confederacy.” “The people of Mosbís Confederacy were overwhelmingly pro-Virginia, pro-Confederacy, and therefore pro- Mosby,” wrote William C. Davis in Civil War Journal: The Leaders. “They opened their homes, silos, barns, hayricks, and cellars to Mosbís men, and they fed and hid them. Without this informal civilian volunteer infrastructure, Mosby could not have operated.”

In June 1863, Mosby formally organized his rangers into the Forty-third Battalion of Virginia Cavalry. By this time, many men were asking to join Mosbís company. They were drawn by his spectacular successes and the idea of serving the Confederacy without putting up with lots of military rules and regulations. But even as the size of his band grew- an estimated one thousand guerrillas rode with Mosby at one time or another during the war-the Virginian never gave up control. In fact, he was known as a tough disciplinarian who commanded complete respect, even though he was one of the smallest men in the entire company.

Triumphs and setbacks

From mid-1863 through early 1865, Mosbís Rangers continued to steal Union supplies, destroy Union communication lines, and ambush Union patrols with great effectiveness. Mosby recognized that he was a hunted man, and he barely escaped death in a couple of battles with Union pursuers. But he never gave any thought to quitting his guerrilla activities. “The true secret was that it was a fascinating life, and its attractions far more than counterbalanced its hardships and dangers,” he later admitted.

Mosbís leadership enabled his band of guerrillas to avoid disaster on numerous occasions. But in early 1864, his fortunes took a turn for the worse. On January 10, eight of Mosbís Rangers-including his two best lieutenants-were killed by Union cavalry forces outside of Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Then, in May 1864, Mosby learned that his close friend Jeb Stuart had been killed in battle outside of the Confederate capital of Richmond.

In August 1864, Mosby faced his greatest challenge yet when Union cavalry under the command of General Philip Sheridan (1831-1888; see entry) entered northern Virginia. Sheridan’s mission had two primary elements. First, he had been ordered to destroy fields and farms in the area so that they could not be used by Confederates. Second, he had been instructed to clear northern Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley of the troublesome Confederate cavalry and guerrilla units that had used it as their home for the previous few years.

Battling Sheridan

Over the next few months, Mosbís Rangers and regular Confederate cavalry under the command of Lieutenant General Jubal Early (1816-1894) repeatedly struck against Sheridan’s invading army. Mosbís raids on the Union Armís supply lines were so effective that Sheridan admitted that “Mosby has annoyed me considerably.” But Sheridan diverted large numbers of troops to protect his supply lines. He then continued with his brutally effective demolition of the Shenandoah Valley.

In September, Mosby suffered a gunshot wound that forced him to the sidelines for a few weeks. During his absence, Sheridan’s cavalry captured seven of Mosbís men and executed them. They killed their captives because they believed that a Union cavalryman had earlier been murdered while trying to surrender. Before leaving, the Union troops pinned a note on one of the bodies that indicated that death would “be the fate of all Mosbís guerrillas caught hereafter.”

Mosby decided that he had to take firm action to put a halt to such executions. In October, Mosbís Rangers derailed a train outside Harpers Ferry and stole more than $170,000. Union cavalry under the command of Major General George A. Custer (1839-1876) gave chase, but over the next two weeks Mosby captured thirty of his pursuers. On November 6, the guerrilla leader ordered all of the prisoners to pull a piece of paper out of a hat. The seven men who selected papers with marks on them were to be killed in revenge for the executions of his men a few weeks before. When Mosby saw that one of the unlucky drawers was a teenage drummer boy, he spared his life. But he forced the other prisoners to draw again to see who would take his place. Of the seven condemned Union prisoners, four actually lived (two survived their gunshot wounds, and two escaped). But Mosby felt that he had made his point. If any more of his rangers were executed, he would execute the same number of Union prisoners.

By late October 1864, Sheridan had swept Jubal Earlís cavalry out of the Shenandoah Valley and burned many of the farms and crops in northern Virginia. He never fully crushed Mosby and his raiders, but ultimately the guerrillas could do little to stop Sheridan, as he pushed his way through the region. In December 1864, Mosby was wounded once again. Rumors of his impending death swirled around the Confederacy until February 1865, when he made an appearance in Richmond.

Mosby joins the Republican Party

By the spring of 1865, the Confederacy was tottering on the brink of defeat. On April 9, the largest of the remaining rebel armies surrendered, and the other Confederate forces quickly followed suit. Instead of formally surrendering, however, Mosby disbanded his company of rangers on April 21.

After the war, Mosby returned to his law practice. The size of his family continued to grow (he and his wife eventually had eight children), and he became increasingly involved in politics. During the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885), Mosby decided to join the Republican political party. This decision shocked and angered many of Mosbís Southern friends, since the party was viewed as an organization of Northerners and abolitionists. But Mosby refused to budge from his decision. Over the next several years he served in Republican administrations in a variety of positions, including assistant attorney in the Department of Justice. He died in 1916 at the age of eighty-two.

Carter, Samuel. The Last Cavaliers: Confederate and Union Cavalry in the Civil War. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1980. Jones, Virgil Carrington. Ranger Mosby. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1944. Reprint, McLean, VA: EPM Publications, 1987. Longacre, Edward C. Mounted Raids of the Civil War. South Brunswick, NJ: A. S. Barnes, 1975. Reprint, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1994. Ramage, James A. Gray Ghost: The Life of Colonel John Singleton Mosby. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1999. Siepel, Kevin H. Rebel: The Life and Times of John Singleton Mosby. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1983. Reprint, New York: Da Capo Press, 1997. Wert, Jeffry D. Mosbís Rangers. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1990.



Siege of Acre 1291 – Guillaume de Clermont Defending Ptolemais from the Saracen invasion. The fall of Acre signaled the end of the Jerusalem crusades. No effective crusade was raised to recapture the Holy Land afterwards, though talk of further crusades was common enough. By 1291, other ideals had captured the interest and enthusiasm of the monarchs and nobility of Europe and even strenuous papal efforts to raise expeditions to retake the Holy Land met with little response.


Map of Acre in 1291

When King Louis IX left Acre in 1254 the kingdom of Jerusalem was, for all practical purposes, leaderless. In that year the absentee king Conrad II (Conrad IV of Germany, 1250-54), the son of the emperor Frederick II and Isabella of Brienne, had been succeeded by his two-year-old son Conrad III (1254-68).

The Mongols were now the dominant force in the region and the Mongol threat actually created a brief period in which the crusader states enjoyed relative peace with their neighbors. Unfortunately, the internal political situation prevented them from taking advantage of this to strengthen their position. The absence of royal authority and the relative freedom from external threat allowed the various factions within the kingdom to give full vent to their grievances.

These included the Venetians and Genoese, who were vying for dominance in the eastern Mediterranean. More crippling, however, was the contest for control of the regency for Conrad II between two factions of the Ibelin family. Their machinations finally led to a state of affairs in which one child, King Hugh II of Cyprus, became regent for another, Conrad III. Hugh’s mother, Plaisance, acted as the regent’s regent. Clearly, in these years, the seat of real power in the crusader kingdom was no longer on the mainland, but in Cyprus.

The five years from 1265 to 1270 witnessed serious losses by the crusader states at the hands of the Mamluk sultan Baibars. In the West, however, attention was focused on internal matters, especially the struggle between the Hohenstaufens and Charles of Anjou. In the critical period of Mamluk expansion, therefore, the crusader states lacked the new infusions of western manpower and money upon which they depended. The internal conflict in the crusader states was partly, or perhaps even mostly, due to the inability of the various factions to find security in a deteriorating situation.

In the mid-1260s another dispute arose over the regency for Hugh II of Cyprus between Hugh of Brienne and Hugh of Antioch-Lusignan. The Frankish barons favored Antioch-Lusignan, one of the most powerful men in Cyprus. They were already looking to Cyprus as the most likely source of their future security.

This was the situation when, in 1265, Baibars launched an offensive against crusader territories of the interior. One by one castles and towns fell, including Caesarea, Haifa, Toron, Arsuf, and, in July 1266, the great Templar fortress of Safad, the key to control of the lands around Acre. In that same year, a second Egyptian army devastated Cilician Armenia. In 1268, Baibars again moved north from Egypt, seizing Jaffa and Beaufort castle. He bypassed Tyre, which was well fortified, and on 14th May besieged Antioch. The city fell on 18th May and was put to the sack.

Antioch, which had been in Christian hands since 1098, was one of the major centers of Christendom and its loss was a disaster for Christianity, removing a key base of support for the Armenians, and an ally of Baibars’ Muslim enemies in the north. The loss alerted the West to the danger that confronted the crusader states. In France, King Louis IX had already taken the cross once more. Lord Edward of England, the future King Edward I, prepared to join him.


So long as the costs of the Crusades were born by the crusaders and their families, there were few who objected to the repeated efforts to free and preserve the Holy Land. But when kings began to lead, the expense of crusading soon was being imposed on everyone, including the clergy and the religious orders, in the form of crusader taxes. Grumbling began at once. The grumbling grew increasingly louder when bloody “crusades” began against “heretics” in Europe: thousands of Cathars, Waldensians, Beghards, and Beguines were condemned by the Church and killed in battle or hunted down and massacred. In the midst of all this, a medieval version of an antiwar movement eventually prevailed; after two centuries of support, the kingdoms in the Holy Land were abandoned.

In February 1289 Saif al-Din Qalawun (or Kalavun), the Mamluk sultan of Egypt, marched a huge army north and laid siege to Tripoli, one of the five remaining crusader ports in the Holy Land. When warned by the Templars that the Egyptians were coming, at first no one in Tripoli believed it. And, confident of the immense strength of their fortifications, they made no special preparations until the enemy was literally at the gates. Much to their surprise, not only was the Muslim army much larger than anyone in Tripoli had thought possible; this Muslim force brought immense siege engines able to smash the citís walls. As the bombardment ensued, members of the Venetian merchant community within Tripoli decided that the city could not be held and sailed away with their most precious possessions. This alarmed the Genoese merchants, and so they, too, scrambled aboard their ships and left. This threw the city into disorder just as the Muslims launched a general assault on the breaches in the walls. As hordes of Egyptian troopers swarmed into the city, some Christians were able to flee to the last boats in the harbor. As for the rest, the men were slaughtered, and the women and children were marched away to the slave markets. Then “Qalawun had the city razed to the ground, lest the Franks, with their command of the sea, might try to recapture it.” He also founded new Tripoli a few miles inland, where it could not be reached by sea.

That left Acre, Tyre, Beirut, and Haifa.

On his deathbed, Qalawun had his son and heir, al-Ashraf, swear he would conquer Acre. So in April 1291, al-Ashraf arrived at Acre with an even larger army than his father had marched to Tripoli and with even more powerful siege machines. The defenders fought bravely and with great skill; several times they sallied out the gates and attacked the Muslim camp. But all the while their fortifications were being reduced to rubble by the huge stones hurled by the siege engines, although supplies continued to arrive by sea from Cyprus and some civilians were evacuated on the return voyages. In May, a month after the siege began, reinforcements consisting of one hundred mounted knights and two thousand infantry came from Cyprus. But they were too few.

Soon the battle was being fought in the streets, and many civilians were crowding aboard rowboats to reach the galleys out in the harbor. But most people were unable to leave, and “[s]oon the Moslem soldiers penetrated right through the city, slaying everyone, old men, women and children alike.” By May 8, all of Acre was in Muslim hands except for the castle of the Templars, which jutted out into the sea. Boats from Cyprus continued to board refugees from the castle while the Templars, joined by other surviving fighting men, held the walls. At this point al-Ashraf offered favorable terms of surrender, the Templars accepted, and a contingent of Mamluks was admitted to supervise the handover. Unfortunately, they got out of hand. As the Muslim chronicler Abu’l-Mahasin admitted, the Mamluk contingent “began to pillage and to lay hands on the women and children.” Furious, the Templars killed them all and got ready to fight on. The next day, fully aware of what had gone wrong, al-Ashraf offered the same favorable terms once again. The commander of the Templars and some companions accepted a safe-conduct to arrange the surrender, but when they reached the sultan’s tent they were seized and beheaded. Seeing that from the walls, the remaining Templars decided to fight to the death. And they did.

Less than a month later this huge Muslim army arrived at Tyre. The garrison was far too small to attempt a defense and sailed away to Cyprus without a fight. Next, the Muslims marched to Beirut. Here, too, resistance was beyond the means of the garrison, and they, too, sailed to Cyprus. Haifa also fell without opposition; the monks on Mount Carmel were slaughtered and their monasteries burned. The last Christian enclave was now the Templars’ fortress island of Ruad, two miles off the coast. The Templars held out there until 1303, leaving then only because of the suppression of their order by the king of France and the pope. After the fall of Acre, the Hospitallers gathered on Cyprus and then, in 1310, seized the island of Rhodes from the Byzantines. There they built a superior navy and played an important role in defending Western shipping in the East.

And so it ended. It should be kept in mind that the kingdoms had survived, at least along the coast, for nearly as long as the United States has been a nation.

Guided Bombs in Korea


The VB-3 Razon (for range and azimuth) was a standard 1,000-pound general purpose bomb fitted with flight control surfaces. Development of the Razon began in 1942, but it did not see use during World War II.


The ASM-A-1 Tarzon, also known as VB-13, was a guided bomb developed by the United States Army Air Forces during the late 1940s. Mating the guidance system of the earlier Razon radio-controlled weapon with a British Tallboy 12,000-pound (5,400 kg) bomb, the ASM-A-1 saw brief operational service in the Korean War before being withdrawn from service in 1951.

As with aircraft design, guided weapons development did not cease in the aftermath of World War II. Allied and German progress in the latter stages of the war appeared so promising that a number of related projects were contracted by the U. S. military throughout the late 1940s. Not surprisingly, much of the emphasis within the munitions community in the early postwar period remained on further development and testing of atomic weapons. However, following the Operation Sandstone atomic bomb tests of early 1948, Air Proving Ground Command reorganized several of its units returning from the Marshall Islands to create a 750-man group dedicated to the acquisition of guided weapons. Based at Eglin Air Force Base, in the Florida panhandle, the 1st Experimental Guided Missiles Group was specifically charged to develop tactics and techniques for guided missile operations. Although the term “guided missile” conjured up images of exotic weaponry that captured the imagination of neighbors in nearby Fort Walton Beach, as used in the postwar period it designated the limited mix of existing guided weapons, all of which had pre-1945 antecedents.

By December 1948 the Group was conducting proving demonstrations on four distinct guided weapons, only one of which was a self-propelled missile. However, the one thing that all four did have in common was the implementation of radio control for guidance. The most “missile-like” weapon under test, the JB-2, was simply an American adaptation of the German V-1, or “Buzz-Bomb.” Powered by a pulse-jet engine, this short-range, high-explosive missile was modified to allow launch from a parent aircraft and adapted to guidance either by preset data or remote radio control while in right. Capable of a fifty-mile range at speeds up to 440 miles per hour, the fact that the JB-2 was never fielded was more a function of its inaccuracy, which was in the half-mile range, than the mere result of budget constraints. Another Guided Missiles Group project that likewise never saw production was Project Banshee. Hoping to prove that “a pin-point target can be precision-bombed by remote control, at a very long range from an operating base,” Banshee underwent operational testing beginning in February 1949. Using equipment designed and fabricated by General Electric and RCA, airmen were able to fry a B-29 aircraft 2,000 miles and drop a bomb on a target by remote control, using two airborne navigation stations. Despite achieving “excellent” results on several test rights, it became clear that the electronic equipment still suffered from technical difficulties. Beyond this, even at its best Banshee could hope to achieve an accuracy no better than a manned B-29 bomber.

Not every early postwar test project ended in obscurity-in fact, two survived to see not only quantity production but also actual combat in Korea. Classified as air-to-surface missiles, these two weapons were a continuation of the wartime high-angle bomb project, and bore the designation “VB” for vertical bomb. Similar to the VB-1 Azon, discussed in the previously, the VB-3 Razon bomb consisted of a free-falling M-65 1,000-pound general-purpose bomb, fitted with a special tail section for guidance. Like Azon, the tail fins contained the equipment necessary to receive transmitted radio signals from the aircraft and apply the appropriate control surface movements. However, in place of cruciform fins, the Razon tail employed a pair of in-line octagonal shrouds-the rearmost containing the elevators and rudders that allowed the bomb to be controlled in both azimuth and range-mounted on struts containing roll stabilization surfaces. In practice, Razon was controlled by a bombardier using a method reminiscent of earlier Azon and Fritz-X deployment, namely by means of a rare attached to the bomb’s tail and superimposed upon the target through the optics of a bombsight.

In order to remedy the parallax problem that had plagued wartime engineers’ attempts at range guidance, the standard M-series Norden bombsight was modified with a clever crab and jag attachment. The “crab” portion of this device consisted of a mirror placed between the target mirror and the telescopic lens system of the bombsight. This mirror not only projected an image of the rare onto the target mirror but also calculated the correct time of fall when the trail angle set into the sight was aligned exactly with the angle of the “crab” mirror setting. In principle, this allowed the bombardier to simply superimpose the rare image on the target throughout bomb descent using a radio control joystick. However, because any movement of the bomb’s control surfaces during the drop caused a variation in the time of fall, affecting range, the “jag” attachment was introduced to compensate for this effect by changing the rate set into the bombsight each time course corrections were made. In theory, by keeping the images of the rare and target in perfect collimation via radio control throughout the bomb’s descent, a bombardier could score a direct hit with Razon virtually every drop. In actuality, testing still showed Razon to be far more accurate in azimuth than range. For example, of the eight bombs tested in August 1948, fully three out of four had an azimuth error of zero, while the average range error was almost 200 feet. Only one of the eight scored a direct hit. Still, Razon bombing showed enough promise in early testing that approximately five hundred tail assemblies were produced by Union Switch and Signal Company and stockpiled, allowing their use in the early months of the Korean War.

Although development and testing of a second vertical bomb, the VB-13 Tarzon, trailed Razon, it too had its roots in the World War II high-angle dirigible bomb project. Realizing that some of Azon’s deficiencies in accuracy could be negated through increased firepower-in this case, bomb tonnage- Gulf Research and Development Corporation received Army authorization in February 1945 to investigate the aerodynamic aspects of the problem of controlling larger bombs. Simple scaling up of Razon proved unsatisfactory, since the derecting forces on a given bomb increase with the square of the diameter, while the mass to be controlled increases as the cube of the diameter. A larger bomb thus required disproportionately larger control surfaces- which, in turn, magnified the problem of range error due to variation in time of fall-and limited in number and placement its carriage by existing bombers. Several preliminary models were built in mid-1945 but failed to reach combat, and by 1947 the NDRC was still of the opinion that “future developments in this field will require considerable fundamental research.”

Ironically, at the time this NDRC report was issued, Bell Aircraft Corporation had already developed a working solution involving a bomb an order of magnitude larger than Azon and Razon. Once again following technological precedent, Bell designed only a bomb tail guidance assembly to be mated to an existing bomb. In order to gain the full advantages of increased yield, however, the warhead selected for this project was the British “Tallboy,” a 12,000-pound bomb in use by Bomber Command by 1944, and procured by the Air Force as the general-purpose M-112 bomb following the war. The name of the resulting guided weapon, Tarzon, was arrived at as a clever-sounding pseudo-acronym combining Tallboy, range, and azimuth only. In order to produce sufficient force to steer Tarzon without introducing giant fins that would exceed a standard bomb bay, Bell attached a lift ring to the warhead around the bomb’s approximate center of gravity. The effect of this ring shroud was to greatly amplify directional changes introduced by the tail surfaces, much like the wings of an airplane. However, this ingenious solution to heavy bomb guidance was not itself without antecedent. In order to adapt its NDRC-sponsored Roc radar-guided bomb to naval aircraft in 1944, Douglas Aircraft Company had replaced large crossed wings with a ring shroud, greatly reducing its cross-sectional area. Even so, Tarzon measured twenty-one feet in length, four and one-half feet in diameter, and with a gross weight of 13,000 pounds, could be dropped only by a specially modified B-29 Superfortress with cutouts in the bomb bay doors, and was limited to a single bomb per aircraft sortie.

In virtually every other respect, Tarzon was an enlarged version of Razon. For example, its tail section consisted of an octagonal shroud containing pitch and yaw control surfaces, connecting struts with roll stabilization surfaces, a rare cone, and a center section containing the radio receiver, gyroscope, batteries, and servomotors. Guidance equipment aboard the launching aircraft similarly consisted of a radio transmitter controlled by a two-axis control stick, and a Norden M-series bombsight modified with crab and jag attachments. Although development of Tarzon lagged Razon by several years, testing of the two bombs was performed concurrently in 1948-49 by the 1st Experimental Guided Missiles Group. However, because of its greater size and cost, and retarded development, far fewer Tarzon bombs were dropped on Eglin test ranges during this period. For example, during the month of August 1948, as four Razon drops per week were contributing to improved tactics, training, and accuracy, a single Tarzon was expended to determine the effect of applying maximum up control using a recently modified tail assembly. By mid-1949, Razon had been upgraded with “the newest modification of radio control equipment” and underwent extensive testing under a variety of conditions, including night rights. During this same period, Far East Air Forces sent two airmen from Japan to Eglin for “training in the tactical application of VB-type bombs,” where they participated in a variety of missions and dropped sixteen Razons before returning to their unit. Meanwhile, Tarzon testing under cold weather conditions produced results that “were at best only fair, due to rare failure.”

Notwithstanding the steady introduction of new technology throughout the late 1940s, the early fighting in Korea closely resembled that of World War II-familiar faces and weapons engaged in a familiar war-winning strategy. However, the exploitation of existing jet fighter technology, which rapidly translated into American air superiority, created a combat environment conducive to the introduction of precision bombardment at a time when the ground situation desperately called for it. The radio-controlled vertical bombs just described were not the only postwar attempts at precision. In 1949 the 1st Experimental Guided Missiles Group took on seven additional test projects, including the VB-6 Felix, a heat-seeking bomb designed to steer itself toward the target producing the highest temperature emanation within the twenty-degree scope of its forward sensor. Felix was envisioned as a decisive tactical weapon, but initial tests were disappointing. Although the decision to return the bomb to the research and development phase was based primarily on insufficient reaction speed of its control surfaces, the final test report also noted “lack of a suitable target during this time would also negate any efforts to test it, even if a theoretically workable model was available.” Thus, as America went back to war in 1950, its best prospects for precision guidance bore a remarkable resemblance to the radiocontrolled weapons used during World War II.

Once war broke out, it did not take long for bombing accuracy to surface as a deficient capability. Specifically in the realm of strategic bombardment, despite the use of sophisticated, computer-assisted bombing systems such as the Air Force’s K-series, CEPs remained in the 500-foot range, far from optimal given North Korea’s rugged terrain and segregated targets. Not surprisingly, as the only guided weapon in quantity production prior to 1950, Razon emerged early in the conflict as a promising alternative to gravity bombs. As previously noted, preparations for the implementation of Razon by Far East Air Forces bomber crews anticipated the Korean conflict. As early as 1949, Air Proving Ground had trained three officers and six enlisted men of the 19th Bombardment Group for Razon work and in early 1950 began delivering specially equipped aircraft and a supply of Razon tail assemblies to this same group, which was based on the Japanese island of Okinawa. Clearly, the intent was to establish a training cadre that would instruct additional aircrews of this group to use Razon. However, shortly after the outbreak of war in Korea, it became apparent that neither the personnel nor the equipment was being utilized, and Far East Air Forces headquarters turned to the Air Proving Ground for additional assistance.

Because of the resulting delay in assembling the necessary equipment and personnel, the 19th Bombardment Group did not fry its first Razon combat mission over Korea until August 23, 1950. Even then, the first several missions produced unsatisfactory results because of frequent bomb malfunctions, some caused by damage from the bombs’ long storage and poor packaging, and some by the relative inexperience of the group’s operators and maintainers. Moreover, even though missile reliability quickly rose to 96 percent, from the outset Razon remained far more accurate in azimuth than in range, making it a weapon best suited for use against long, narrow targets. Like its Azon predecessor, Razon was used almost exclusively against bridges in Korea, with defensible results-during the last four months of 1950, fifteen Korean bridges were destroyed using Razon bombs. However, to put these results into perspective, a total of 489 Razons were dropped during this period, of which 331 were controllable. Razon was far from attaining the long-sought single-bomb destruction capability, and yet it had its supporters. The low percentage of targets destroyed was partially attributable to the fact that limited equipment and crews forced training to be combined with combat missions. As an example, one bombardier destroyed two bridges with his first two bombs, but was then instructed to drop the remaining six for practice. In every case where a bridge was destroyed by Razon, additional bombs were dropped on the same target for practice. Although clearly not unbiased, the onsite Razon project officer estimated that “any bridge can be successfully severed or destroyed with a maximum of four Razon missiles.





Map of the Hittite Empire (c. 1300 BC)

The Hittites occupied the Anatolian peninsula from approximately 1900 to 1000 b. c. e. The origins of this rugged people skilled in mountain warfare remain obscure, but the evidence suggests that their settlement in Anatolia began with the tribal migrations of peoples whose origins lay in the area that stretches from the lower Danube along the north shore of the Black Sea to the northern foothills of the Caucasus Mountains. The date of migration is uncertain but may have been as early as 2500 b. c. e. By 1900 b. c. e., there was clear evidence of the beginnings of a separate society that can be identified as Hittite. The Hittite society lasted until circa 1100 b. c. e., when, like the other states of Syria, Lebanon, and the upper Euphrates, it was overrun and destroyed by the invasion of the Sea Peoples.

Hittite society was a feudal order based on land ownership and fiefdoms governed nationally by a council of great families, called the Pankus. This same pattern of social development is found in early Sumer, Egypt, and Rome. Gradually, a governing aristocracy was formed, with its capital at Hattusas in northeast Anatolia. Social organization centered on the “fiefholder,” who worked the land, and, as the need for defense and military power increased, on the “man of the weapon,” who was given land and income in return for full-time military service to the high king. As in medieval Europe, there was constant tension between the central governing authority and powerful local vassals, who often could not be controlled. Hittite central authority waxed and waned from one period to the next. Only rarely was it possible for the Hittite kings to unify and control their country, and then only for relatively short periods. One result was that to the end of the empire, Hatti remained essentially a feudal society, whose army comprised a core of loyal troops of the king augmented by feudal armies contributed by vassals and foreign client states.

The imperial period of Hittite power is dated from 1450 to 1180 b. c. e. In 1346 b. c. e. a young and vigorous king named Suppiluliumas brought the domestic situation under control and moved militarily against the city-states of the Syrian zone. He succeeded in gaining control of most of the major city-states of the area before moving against the Mitanni. With the power of the Mitanni brought to heel, he installed his own governors there and created a new state to act as a buffer against the growing power of Assyria. Suppiluliumas was succeeded by his youngest son, Mursilis, who continued to strengthen Hittite control in the Syrian zone while bringing the new Mitanni buffer state further within his control. Hatti encroached farther south into the Syrian zone while the Egyptians were paralyzed by domestic turmoil.

Mursilis passed the Hittite throne to his son Muwatallis (1308-1285 b. c. e.), who suppressed revolts in Arzawa and the Gasgan lands, making certain that domestic events did not interfere with the emerging conflict with Egypt. He achieved a temporary diplomatic settlement to blunt renewed Assyrian pressure in the Mitanni region. Egypt was at last ready to attempt to counter Hittite influence in the Syrian zone and began by fomenting unrest in some of the city-states. Muwatallis moved quickly to reduce the threat with armed intervention against Kadesh, Carchemesh, and Allepo, bringing them to heel and installing Hittite rulers and garrisons. This was a clear challenge to Egypt, and armed conflict was inevitable. The basis of Hittite national security strategy remained unchanged for almost five centuries. The goal was to secure the homeland by suppressing domestic revolts and increasing the power of the national authorities to deal with the constant threats on the border.

In 1279 b. c. e. Ramses II, one of Egypt’s great warrior pharoahs, came to the throne. Ramses understood that Egyptian influence in Lebanon and Palestine would never be secure as long as the Hittite threat hung over the Syrian zone. The passage of time would only work to the Hittite advantage as they strengthened their hold on the area. Egyptian strategic thinking held that a threat to Syria was a threat to Palestine, and a threat to Palestine was a threat to the Nile. The world’s first “domino theory” was born. In the fifth year of his rule, 1275 b. c. e., Ramses II set out to destroy Hittite influence in Syria and to drive it back behind the Taurus Mountains. As the room for maneuver narrowed, the clash between the two great powers became certain. When it came, it came at the city of Kadesh on the Orontes River.


The size of the armies that fought at Kadesh remains the subject of some dispute. The foremost experts on the Egyptian and Hittite armies of the period estimate the size of the Egyptian force at between 25,000 and 30,000 men comprised of four divisions of 6,000 each, plus some nim and allied Canaanite chariot contingents. The Hittite army appears to have been in the neighborhood of 17,000-20,000 men, which was probably the largest combat force ever deployed by the Hittites. The unusual size of the Hittite force is explainable by the fact that the Hittite king, Muwatallish, had been successful in uniting the various vassals of the country and in concluding a number of mutual assistance treaties with the city-states of Syria. Of the other great powers, only the Mitanni deployed forces comparable in size to the Hittite armies, and they, too, relied heavily on allied contingents for maximum national efforts. The full military manpower pool of Hatti was available to the king, as were military contingents from allied states.

The Hittite army was organized around the decimal system common to armies of the area at that time. Infantry, chariots, and archers shared the same organizational structure, with squads of ten, companies of ten squads, and battalions of ten companies. Infantry deployed for battle in companies 10 men wide and 10 men deep, with battalions standing with 100-man fronts 10 men deep. The basic weapons of the Hittite infantry were the medium-length spear, the axe, and the sickle sword. Hittite infantry was flexible in armament, equipment, and manner of deployment.

Hittite infantry had been developed in the rough terrain of Anatolia, where the land itself placed a premium on ground troops used in various ways. Hittite commanders commonly changed the mix of infantry weaponry and even clothing and armor, depending on the nature of the terrain and the type of battle that the infantry was expected to fight. In mountain terrain the infantry carried the sickle sword, dagger, axe, and no spear, a mix of weapons suited primarily to close combat. Mountain infantry were issued metal helmets, good boots, leather or scale armor, and a specially designed shield in the shape of a figure eight. The narrow waist of the shield made it lighter while still affording good, full-length body protection. The narrow waist improved the ability of the soldier to see his adversary and provided greater room for him to wield his sword when in close-order battle. Later, the Hittites adopted the small round shield, a piece of equipment specifically designed for close combat.

The infantrís weapons and equipment were changed whenever the Hittite army was required to fight in open terrain. Under these conditions, the primary weapon was the long stabbing spear, and the fighting formation was the packed heavy phalanx. An army that tailored its units, weapons, and combat formations so readily required a high degree of discipline and training from its soldiers. The Hittite army was constructed around a core professional force loyal to the king and augmented by forces provided by the king’s vassals. Hittite society provided for the “man of the weapon,” who was given the income from land in exchange for military service. The Anatolian terrain placed a premium on stealth, rapid movement, movement at night, and quick deployment from the line of march to fighting formation to avoid ambush. These abilities are the characteristics of a professional army, not an army of conscripts. The Hittite army comprised almost professional-quality soldiers similar in experience and ability to the feudal military classes of Europe during the Middle Ages.

The Hittite arm of decision was its chariotry. The chariot’s role was to close quickly with the enemy infantry, delivering maximum shock, then to dismount and fight as heavy infantry. The Hittite machine was heavier than the Egyptian chariot and had its axle positioned in the center of the carrying platform. This arrangement reduced speed and stability but made it possible for the machine to carry a crew of three. The crew was armed with the six-foot-long stabbing spear designed not to be thrown but to be used as a lance while mounted and as an infantry weapon when dismounted. The Hittites used their chariots as mounted heavy infantry, and they were the key to the success of the Hittite army fighting in open terrain.

One can understand the tactical role of Hittite chariotry by remembering that the Hittite art of war developed in the inhospitable terrain of the Anatolian plateau, which afforded few open plains where chariots could maneuver but offered numerous valleys and defiles from which a hidden army could suddenly strike at an unsuspecting enemy. Under these conditions of short distances to combat closure, even a heavy machine could move fast enough to inflict sudden and decisive shock. Whereas the open terrain of Egypt and Palestine encouraged an emphasis on speed of movement over expanses of open terrain, the Hittite experience emphasized tactical surprise. It was typical of Hittite strategy to attempt to catch the enemy on the march and ambush him with a sudden rush of infantry-carrying chariots and to be on him before he could deploy to meet the attack. This tactic was employed brilliantly at Kadesh and almost destroyed the Egyptian army.

Invasion of Java (1811) Part I


The invasion of Java in 1811 was a successful British amphibious operation against the Dutch East Indian island of Java that took place between August and September 1811 during the Napoleonic Wars. Originally established as a colony of the Dutch Republic, Java remained in Dutch hands throughout the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, during which time the French invaded the Republic and established the Batavian Republic in 1795, and the Kingdom of Holland in 1806. The Kingdom of Holland was annexed to the First French Empire in 1810, and Java became a titular French colony, though it continued to be administered and defended primarily by Dutch personnel.

After the fall of French colonies in the West Indies in 1809 and 1810, and a successful campaign against French possessions in Mauritius in 1810 and 1811, attention turned to the Dutch East Indies. A expedition was dispatched from India in April 1811, while a small squadron of frigates was ordered to patrol off the island, raiding shipping and launching amphibious assaults against targets of opportunity. Troops were landed on 4 August, and by 8 August the undefended city of Batavia capitulated. The defenders withdrew to a previously prepared fortified position, Fort Cornelis, which the British laid siege to, capturing it early in the morning of 26 August. The remaining defenders, a mixture of Dutch and French regulars and native militiamen, withdrew, pursued by the British. A series of amphibious and land assaults captured most of the remaining strongholds, and the city of Salatiga surrendered on 16 September, followed by the official capitulation of the island to the British on 18 September. The island remained in British hands for the remainder of the Napoleonic Wars, and was restored to the Dutch in the Treaty of Paris in 1814.

The invasion

The column of soldiers moved silently through the forest, picking their way along muddy trails between dense stands of betel-nut trees. Already the thick tropical heat was rising, and their red jackets were sodden with sweat.

It was an hour before dawn on 26 August 1811, and the men – British redcoats and Indian sepoys – were heading for the formidable fastness of Meester Cornelis, the great redoubt of Batavia, grand old capital of the Dutch East Indies. Inside the fortifications was a massed force of Dutch, French, and Javanese troops. In the words of one British participant, the ‘day that was to fix the destiny of Java’ had arrived.

The prize

British Invasion Of Java- Todaís Indonesia – the former Dutch East Indies – lies largely beyond the horizon of the English-speaking imagination. But in the second decade of the 19th century it was the scene of a dramatic episode of British colonial history.

The five-year British interregnum in Java, which began with the battle for Batavia in August 1811, was a period of furious controversy that would have a lasting impact on Indonesian history. It also marked a significant chapter in the life of the man best known today for the founding of Singapore: Thomas Stamford Raffles.

Holland, in the form of the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC), the Dutch East India Company, had been involved in Indonesia for more than two centuries. The company had established Java, the 600-mile long lodestone of the Indonesian archipelago, as the hub of its nascent empire, naming Batavia on the north coast of the island as capital, and setting up a network of outposts across the region.

Britain, meanwhile, was increasingly entrenched in the Indian Subcontinent, and had little interest in South-East Asia. But war in Europe changed all that.

In the winter of 1794, Napoleon invaded Holland and installed a puppet republican regime. For the British authorities, all Dutch overseas territories became de facto enemy territory – though pressing concerns closer to home meant that it was not until 1810 that the British East India Companís governor-general in Calcutta, Gilbert Elliot, Lord Minto, received instructions to ‘proceed to the conquest of Java at the earliest possible opportunití. The following year a fleet of 81 troop-ships departed India on course for Batavia.

Minto and Raffles

Lord Minto

The advance on Java had the air of a Sunday outing. Lord Minto -a dandyish 60-year-old civilian -had taken a personal interest in the project, and together with his collaborator, the 30-year-old Thomas Stamford Raffles, a former clerk in the administration of Penang, he had developed a wildly Romantic view of java as ‘the land of promise’.

Regimental wives and civilian hangers-on had tagged along for the adventure, and as the fleet lumbered across the Java Sea, they were entertained by the antics of strapping young sailors dressed as ‘young, accomplished, and generally sentimental ladies of quality.

On 4 August the fleet dropped anchor in the murky waters of Batavia Bay, and the 12,000-strong invasion force was landed at the undefended fishing village of Cilincing, eight miles east of Batavia. The forces were evenly split between British regiments and units from the Bengal Presidency Army.

Batavia’s climate was notoriously unhealthy, and it was hoped the Indians would fare better than Englishmen; in the event, they began to succumb to fever before the first shot was fired.

The commander-in-chief was the New York-born veteran Lieutenant-General Sir Samuel Auchmuty, and the commander of the forces in the field was the feisty 45-year-old Irishman Colonel Rollo Gillespie.

The Dutch settlement of Batavia formed a linear development, running inland from the mouth of the Ciliwung River, eight miles west of the British landing spot. First came the walled city of Old Batavia, built in the early 17th century; three miles inland was the modern garrison of Weltevreeden; and a further three miles towards the mountains stood the fortress of Meester Cornelis.

Auchmuty and Gillespie had expected first to engage enemy forces in Old Batavia, but when they reached the city -the eight-mile advance took several days, so intersected with canals and fishponds was the country – they found that the Dutch had already abandoned it.

Dutch ploys

Jan Willem Janssens

The Dutch-Napoleonic army in Batavia amounted to a mixed force of some 18,000 men. At their head was the governor-general Jan Willem Janssens, a committed Dutch republican who wrote his letters in florid French. He had already presided over one notable defeat at the hands of the British at the Battle of Blaauwberg in South Africa in 1806, and it was said that Napoleon had despatched him to Java with an ominous warning: ‘Know, sir, that a French General is not offered a second chance.’

Janssens had abandoned Old Batavia as a deliberate ploy, hoping that the British would rapidly succumb to the malaria endemic there, and could then be pinned down in the pestilential alleyways. As an imaginative additional measure, he had ordered that copious quantities of alcohol should be left in the abandoned houses, in the hope that the British would drink themselves into a stupor.

Gillespie issued strict orders for sobriety. A tentative Dutch assault on the southern gates of the walled town was seen off. And the best efforts of a requisitioned French servant to fell the top brass with a batch of poisoned coffee had only limited results. Then, before dawn on 10 August, a 1,500-strong British force moved south along the road to Weltevreeden. But once more, the British found that Janssens had already pulled back his forces.

An elusive foe

Some of the British began to wonder if they would ever get the chance to fight in Java. But as they pressed on, now heading northwards through a dense stand of pepper trees, they finally came under sustained fire for the first time. The Dutch had set up field guns on either side of the road, and had felled trees to block the way.

Gillespie, who was still vomiting from time to time as a result of the poisoned coffee, ordered two parties to loop out left and right to attack the enemy positions from the flank, while a third party scrambled forward under covering fire to haul the trees out of the way.

It was all over in minutes, and the Dutch forces were soon fleeing through the forest towards Meester Cornelis, despite the best efforts of their officers to rally them.

At one point, Janssens’ chief of staff, General Alberti, who had become separated from his own men, ran into a small party of the green-coated British 89th. Mistaking them for his own troops, Alberti began upbraiding them angrily for retreating without orders – at which point a private of the 89th shot him in the chest (though he ultimately survived).

The problem that Janssens faced was not one of numbers; it was a question of loyalty and quality. Many of the Dutchmen were aging veterans of the former VOC army -the VOC itself having been disbanded shortly after the French invasion of Holland – and they had little, if any, commitment to the Napoleonic cause. The Javanese conscripts had still less interest in fighting.

A number of French soldiers had been shipped out in recent years, but they were reportedly the dregs of the Republican army, deemed of little use on European fronts. Now they bolted for the final fastness of Meester Cornelis, where Gillespie and Auchmuty set up a siege.


Marshal Daendels


Meester Cornelis was a formidable fortress. Built by Janssens’ predecessor, Marshal Daendels, it comprised five miles of fortifications studded with 280 pieces of heavy cannon, and was flanked to the west by the meandering Ciliwung River, and to the east by a deep canal called the Slokan. The surrounding countryside, meanwhile, was ‘intersected with ravines, enclosures, and betel plantations, resembling hop-grounds, many parts of which could only be passed in single file’

Over the coming days the British kept up a heavy cannonade against the northern walls of Cornelis. Gillespie and Auchmuty were sensitive to the dangers of a stalemate in the morbid Javanese climate. They had arrived with the advantage of energy and health, but by mid-August heat and fever were taking their toll, and they knew they must act. And so, in the early hours of the morning of 26 August, the final stealthy assault began.

Small parties were sent out to attack the fortress from all angles, while the bulk of the British forces under Gillespie headed off through the forest to launch a surprise assault across the Slokan from the east, the point they had judged the weakest. The plan was to launch simultaneous operations at first light.

In the event Gillespie almost met with disaster. As the first section of the advance huddled in the trees just a few hundred yards from the first Dutch pickets, they realised to their horror that the thousands-strong column that should have been snaking up behind them was nowhere to be seen: they had got lost in the betel plantations.

It was, in the words of Captain William Thorn, a close confidant of Gillespie, ‘One of those pauses of distressful anxiety, which can be better conceived than described.’

Unable to communicate with the other parties, Gillespie decided on a typically brazen course of action: he attacked anyway, sneaking unspotted past the first Dutch sentries, and then launching an unsupported rush on the first redoubts.

Invasion of Java (1811) Part II


An almighty explosion

As the sun slipped up over the lush green Javanese countryside, the battle for Meester Cornelis got under way. Gillespie and his men forced their way across the Slokan and overwhelmed Redoubt Number Four in a welter of close combat.

Eventually the missing columns appeared from the forest and joined an attack on the next redoubt. But on the brink of storming it, the British were subjected to an almighty explosion. A pair of French captains, in an early instance of a suicide bombing, had immolated themselves in the powder store – with dramatic consequences, as Captain Thorn recorded: ‘The ground was strewn with the mangled bodies and scattered limbs of friends and foes, blended together in a horrible state of fraternity.’

Despite this shocking incident, Gillespie’s men pushed on, deeper into the Cornelis fortifications. More redoubts fell. Guns were seized. An attempted Dutch cavalry charge from the bowels of the fort faltered fast under fire.

Very soon the assault had triggered a rout, and the defenders were fleeing south through the forest, heading for the Dutch hill-station of Buitenzorg, with the British in furious pursuit. By the time they had gone ten miles, the British had taken 5,000 prisoners.

Once more, it was shaky loyalties that had caused Janssens’ defence to collapse. One appalled Napoleonic officer recorded the scene as he was dragged back towards British lines: ‘With a feeling of shame and indignation I saw more than one [Dutch] officer amongst them trample on his French cockade, to which he had sworn allegiance, uttering scandalous imprecations and swearing and assuring the English: “I am no Frenchman, but a Dutchman.” ‘

Lord Minto, who had been safely ensconced offshore during the worst of the fighting, visited the battlefield the following day, and was horrified: ‘The number of dead and the shocking variety of deaths had better not be imagined.’ But in truth the outgunned British had achieved victory at minimal cost. Just 62 British soldiers and 17 Indian sepoys had died in the attack on Meester Cornelis.

Janssens and a small body of Napoleonic officers had escaped and fled east to Semarang, where they attempted to organize a second line of defence. Auchmuty set out in pursuit.

Eventually, on 18 September, at the little upland garrison of Salatiga, Janssens – who was almost alone by the end – ceded control of the Dutch East Indies to the British. He stressed, however, that ‘as long as I had any [men] left me, I would never have submitted’.

The British interregnum

The five-year interregnum that followed the fall of Batavia was, in truth, a rogue operation. Lord Minto’s instructions from the Supreme Government had ordered him to organize only ‘the expulsion of the Dutch power, the destruction of their fortifications, the distribution of their arms and stores to the natives, and the evacuation of the Island by our own troops’.

But with his Romantic notions of ‘the land of promise’, as well as supposed concern for the fate of Dutch civilians, he unilaterally decided to retain the territory. He and Auchmuty returned to India in October 1811, leaving the inexperienced Raffles as lieutenant-governor, with Gillespie as his military counterpart.

Today Raffles is best remembered for the subsequent founding of Singapore, and is usually portrayed as a liberal reformer, a gentleman scholar, and an acceptable counterpoint to the more aggressive aspects of British colonial history. His actions in Java, however, reveal him to have been a personification of the shift from the earlier 18th-century style of ‘company colonialism’ towards the grand imperialism of the coming Victorian Age.

During the previous century, in both British India and the Dutch East Indies, there had been room for compromise. The agents of the Dutch and British East India Companies had often tried to further European commercial interests without seeking to overturn the sovereignty of native courts. Some of their number had engaged with Asian cultures in a manner that would be anathema in a later epoch, participating in local society, legitimately marrying Asian women, and even converting to Islam.

Raffles’ arrival in Java marked an abrupt end to such acculturation, and his five-year reign on the island was a microcosm of the wider transition from the era of the ‘White Mughals’ to that of the ‘Queen Empress’.

Raffles rampant

The European enemy had been roundly trounced, but there were other powers in Java – the great native courts of the hinterland, Yogyakarta and Surakarta. Raffles decided that they constituted an unconscionable challenge to his authority.

By early 1812 he had decided that he needed to organise a crushing military defeat of one or other of these courts as ‘decisive proof to the Native Inhabitants of Java of the strength and determination of the British Government’.

In June that year he made his move, ordering an attack on Yogyakarta on the flimsy pretext of an uncovered correspondence discussing an uprising against the Europeans which had, in fact, been instigated by the Surakarta court.

Yogyakarta was the more significant of the two realms and, wrote Raffles, ‘the Sultan [of Yogyakarta] decidedly looks upon us as a less powerful people than the [Napoleonic] Government which proceeded us, and it becomes absolutely necessary for the tranquillity of the Country that he should be taught to think otherwise.’

If the conquest of Batavia had been a remarkable success for an outnumbered British force, the subsequent sacking of Yogyakarta was, on paper at least, a feat of almost superhuman status. On 20 June 1812, most of Britain’s military manpower was tied up in Sumatra, where Raffles had ordered a punitive expedition against the Palembang Sultanate. With just 1,200 men at his disposal, therefore, he now instructed Gillespie to launch an attack on the walled city of Yogyakarta, a place defended by some 10,000Javanese troops.

The storming of Yogyakarta

In truth, however, the turn of events was such an earth-shattering shock to the Javanese that their defence collapsed almost at once. Yogyakarta had inherited the mantle of past javanese kingdoms such as Mataram and Majapahit. It was a place of high protocol and of a complex Muslim-Javanese courtly culture that drew on an older Hindu and Buddhist heritage.

During the previous two centuries, conflicts between the Dutch and the Javanese courts had been typified by formalized posturing and brinkmanship, and had then usually been resolved through face-saving diplomacy. The Sultan of Yogyakarta, Hamengkubuwono II, had never believed that the British would really attack, and once the sepoys began to surge over the walls his court descended into panic. As one Javanese prince, Arya Panular, noted, ‘In battle [the British] were irresistible… they were as though protected by the very angels and they struck terror into men’s hearts.’

The assault began at dawn, and by 9am it was all over. Though they had been outnumbered by almost ten to one, the British lost just 23 men. The Sultan was arrested and exiled, and the victors fell to enthusiastic looting of the city. Gillespie took away personal booty valued at GBP 15,000 (half a million, in modern terms) while Raffles and the British resident at Yogyakarta, John Crawfurd, stole the entire contents of the court archives. The following afternoon the Crown Prince was placed on the throne as a British puppet, and during the coronation the courtiers were forced to kiss Raffles’ knees in the ultimate Javanese act of subjugation.

Writing to Lord Minto to inform him of the victory, Raffles declared that it had ‘afforded so decisive a proof to the Native Inhabitants of java of the strength and determination of the British Government, that they now for the first time know their relative situation and importance… The European power is now for the first time paramount in Java.’

The return of the Dutch

After the fall of Yogyakarta, peace returned to Java. But the new British administration rapidly descended into disorder. A vicious clash of personalities emerged between Raffles and Gillespie.

They had been ill-suited to being left in charge of a complex colony – one man a bruising aristocratic war-hero, the other an ambitious if insecure middle-class civilian; and neither with any real experience of government. They were, according to one visitor, ‘at constant variance and daggers drawn’, and Gillespie eventually lodged formal accusations of corruption against his civilian counterpart. Meanwhile, a series of budgetary blunders and ill-planned and overreaching reforms pushed the colony to the brink of an economic meltdown.

Raffles and Minto had dreamed of making Java a permanent British possession, controlling traffic between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. But in the circumstances the higher authorities were all too eager to hand it back to the Dutch once the wars were over in Europe, and Holland had regained its sovereignty.

When they returned in 1816, the Dutch found administrative and financial chaos; but there was also another, more useful inheritance. The great native courts had finally been hobbled. There would be no return to old modes of compromise: the European power was indeed finally paramount in Java, and the scene had been set for the coming colonial century, both in the Dutch East Indies, and in the wider Asian continent beyond.

The Sylwester offensives




The main Nordwind attack by the 17. SS-Panzergrenadier-Division in the Saar Valley went badly from the start. On January 5, 1945, a few of the monstrous Jagdtigers from schwere-Panzerjager-Abteilung 654, accompanied by a captured M4 medium tank, supported the attack near Rimling. An M36 90mm GMC from the 776th Tank Destroyer Battalion carefully moved into a flanking position and at a range of 900m, put a single armor-piercing round into the side of Jagdtiger number 134, causing an internal ammunition fire which destroyed the vehicle in a catastrophic explosion, blowing off the superstructure sides.

The failure of the Ardennes offensive convinced Hitler that some new tactic had to be employed when dealing with the Allies. Instead of a single large offensive, Hitler decided to launch a series of smaller, sequential offensives. As a result, some German commanders called the Alsace campaign the “Sylwester offensives” after the central-European name for the New Year’s Eve celebrations.

The departure of Dietrich’s Sixth Panzer Army – which was soon to be renamed the Sixth SS Panzer Army – did not mark the end of the participation of Waffen-SS panzer divisions against the Western Allies.

In tandem with his plan to strike into the Ardennes, Hitler had long dreamed of pushing into Alsace and retaking the border city of Strasbourg. Army Group G was to strike south in Operation North Wind, with the 17th SS Panzergrenadier Division in the lead, in order to outflank the city. The division was rebuilt after being heavily battered around Metz in November 1944 and bolstered with the delivery of 57 StuG IIIs in early December. When the attack began on New Year’s Eve, the Waffen-SS division achieved the deepest penetration of the American lines until strong counter-attacks halted it. The main assault by Sturmgruppe 1, Simon’s 13. SS-AK with the 17. SS-Panzergrenadier-Division and the 36. Volksgrenadier-Division, ran into the deep defenses of the 44th and 100th Infantry Divisions in the Saar Valley. A narrow penetration was made towards Rimling and Achen, but in general, the attack in this sector was stopped dead in its tracks with heavy casualties. Sturmgruppe 1 had very little success in bringing up its armored support due to the poor road conditions and the weather. On the night of January 3 the offensive in this sector was halted.

Panzer support in Alsace was weak, since so many units had been shipped to the Ardennes sector. The only mechanized unit earmarked for the initial Nordwind attack was 17. SS-Panzergrenadier-Division “Gotz von Berlichingen,” a formation that had been in continual combat with the US Army since Normandy, and which had been burnt out and rebuilt on several occasions. The neighboring army commanders felt that its main problem was poor leadership, and it had lost several divisional commanders and numerous junior commanders during the autumn. The field army staff labeled the current commander as incompetent. Its main armored element, SS-Panzer-Abteilung 17 Bataillon was equipped mostly with assault guns instead of tanks, with 45 StuG III assault guns, three PzKpfw III command tanks, six Flakpanzer 38(t) vehicles, and four Flakpanzer IV Wirbelwinds on hand, of which 84 percent were operational. The SS-Panzerjager-Abteilung 17 Bataillon was similarly equipped with 31 StuG III assault guns, two Jagdpanzer IVs, one Marder III and eight towed 75mm PaK 40 anti-tank guns; only 67 percent of the vehicles were operational with many of the old StuG III assault guns being worn out or damaged in combat. Their strength was later increased by 57 assault guns that arrived after Christmas, but the reinforcements had been sitting out in the open for months and only a few could be rendered serviceable before the attack. The division’s two Panzer grenadier regiments were burned out and at less than half strength in the middle of December, but some additional troops were received in the last week before the offensive, mainly of “an inferior type” of German (ethnic Germans from eastern Europe). Senior officers at AOK 1 were so unimpressed by the poor performance of the 17. SS-Panzergrenadier-Division in the autumn fighting that they wanted to strip it of its assault guns to re-equip the 21. Panzer-Division, but Berlin refused.

Three days of heavy fighting followed in which the division’s commander, SS-Standartenführer Hans Linger, was captured when he took a wrong turn near the frontline as he drove in his command Volkswagen.

General der Panzertruppe Karl Decker’s 39. Panzer-Korps had been allocated the 10. SS-Panzer-Division to spearhead a breakout from the Gambsheim bridgehead, and the Panzers had begun their transfer over the river by ferry from the Freistatt area on January 15/16 after dark. The division set up headquarters in Offendorf and planned to begin their assault with a tank attack by I./SS-Panzer Abteilung 10, equipped with about 50 PzKpfw IVs and over 40 Panther tanks. The German tank attack collided with a two-pronged American attack. Combat Command B attempted to push into Herrlisheim again from the north, while at the same time, Combat Command A launched two attacks from the south. The attacks began in the pre-dawn hours of January 17 and did not go well for either side. In the early morning fog, the German tank column took heavy losses to US tank guns on the approach to Herrlisheim and withdrew to Offendorf. The American attacks against the northern corner of Herrlisheim and against the Steinwald failed with heavy losses. The 43rd Tank Battalion moved between Steinwald and Herrlisheim, taking anti-tank fire from both locations, but managed to fight its way into Herrlisheim from the south. The tanks and their supporting infantry and engineers came under unrelenting attack by German infantry armed with Panzerfaust rockets. The battalion commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Nicholas Novosel, radioed back that “Things are hot” but radio contact then went dead. The 23rd Tank Battalion was instructed to reorient its attack towards Drusenheim farther to the north, passing through Herrlisheim in the process, but was stopped cold on the outskirts of the town by heavy fire without linking up with the infantry.

Back at Offendorf, the 3./SS-Panzer-Abteilung 10 under the regimental adjutant Obersturmbannführer Erwin Bachmann, set off again for Herrlisheim with a Panther tank company. They knocked out or captured most of the remaining Sherman tanks still in Herrlisheim; Bachmann was later awarded the Knight’s Cross for his actions that day. By the end of the day the 12th Armored Division headquarters had no idea of the fate of the 43rd Tank Battalion; the 17th Armored Infantry Battalion positions in Herrlisheim were overrun in the pre-dawn hours of January 18 and the battalion commander captured. The following day, the 12th Armored Division sent a rescue party to find any survivors from the missing 43rd Tank Battalion or 17th Armored Infantry Battalion, but they were brusquely pushed back by heavy German fire. An artillery spotter plane discovered a field full of charred Shermans south of Herrlisheim so further attacks were called off. In February, when the area was retaken by the US Army, 28 destroyed Shermans of the 43rd Tank Battalion were found in and around the town. The 10. Panzer-Division had captured more than ten Shermans and these would later serve with the division when it was sent east to fight the Red Army in February.

The 10. SS-Panzer-Division had no more luck over the next few days, beaten bloody during attempts to push out towards Kilstett on January 18. Its Panzer regiment lost 8 PzKpfw IVs and 21 Panthers during the fighting between January 17-21. The fighting on January 19 was especially costly, accounting for 22 of the 29 Panzer losses, so that evening the attacks were halted.

In a final irony, the veteran Waffen-SS general, Paul Hausser, who had recovered from his injuries received in Normandy, was placed in command of Army Group Upper Rhine for what would be the final months of the war from 29 January.

Soon the needs of the Eastern Front also resulted in Hausser losing the Frundsberg Division. The 17th SS Division was the only Waffen-SS armoured unit to remain on the Western Front until the end of the war. By 25 March, it had been reduced to some 800 men who were desperately holding the last German bridgehead on the west bank of the Rhine. The Frundsberg managed to escape across the mighty river, but the Americans caught up with the division at Nuremberg, where it tried to mount a series of rearguard actions during early April. It then surrendered to the Americans.

The Battle of Jankau


Battle of Jankau 5th March 1645

jankov 1

The first image above is the view of Chapel Hill looking over the battlefield on the day before the battle. As we can see both the Swedish and Imperial armies kindly burnt down a number of the local villages during their respective marches, and the Swedes are alleged to have pillaged and burnt down the rest after the battle.

jankov 2

The second picture shows the closing stages of the battle as the Swedes pushed through the Hartmany wood. It actually captures a number of phases at the end, including the final unexpected Swedish attack as the light was falling, the capture of Hatzfeld and the rout of the Imperial army.

Denmark’s defeat and the destruction of Gallas’s army prompted Elector Maximilian to open new talks with France. With his position crumbling, the emperor summoned his closest advisers for their candid opinion at New Year.24 None thought victory was possible or believed in the Prague strategy of uniting the Empire to expel the foreigners. However, they were not yet prepared to relinquish the gains from 1635 and had little faith in achieving a satisfactory peace in Westphalia. They recommended renewed military effort to compel Sweden to agree more favourable terms, while remaining unrealistically hopeful that the election of Pope Innocent X in 1644 would assist a separate settlement with France.

The Austrian Estates had already been summoned and voted increased taxes and food supplies. The emperor sold part of the crown jewels and, following his example, the churches surrendered their silver, while nobles advanced loans. Ferdinand rejoined the army as part of a strategy to rally popular and divine support that culminated in his leading a religious procession in Vienna on 29 March. Here he announced his intention to build a monumental column dedicated to the Virgin like the one completed in Munich seven years earlier to commemorate White Mountain. Actual command was entrusted to Hatzfeldt who had spent most of 1644 in charge of the reserve army in Bohemia and Franconia. Maximilian was persuaded to despatch Werth with 5,000 Bavarian veterans despite the critical situation on the Upper Rhine, while Johann Georg sent 1,500 Saxon cavalry. This gave a combined field force of 11,000 cavalry, over 500 dragoons, 5,000 infantry and 26 guns that collected at Pilsen in January.

The Swedes were determined to exploit the unexpected bonus of the disintegration of Gallas’s army. They had 43,000 men in Germany at this point. Some were with Königsmarck completing the conquest of Bremen and Verden, while others garrisoned the Baltic bridgehead and positions in Silesia and Moravia. The main strike force under Torstensson numbered 9,000 horse, 6,500 foot and 60 cannon and was in western Saxony where it had arrived in pursuit of Gallas. Torstensson was already on the march by 19 January to deny the Imperialists time to recover. Hatzfeldt guessed correctly he was heading for Olmütz, but did not know whether he would go north or south of Prague to get there. Operations were disrupted by a February thaw that turned the roads to mud. Torstensson dodged south of Prague as it turned cold again and crossed the frozen Moldau. Hatzfeldt recovered quickly, and moved east to block him in the hills by Jankau (Jankov) on 6 March.

The imperial right was protected by steep, rising ground and thick woods. The left was more exposed, but the entire front was covered by the freezing waters of the Jankova stream and a network of ponds south of Jankau itself. Torstensson decided to feint against the enemy right, while going round their left to outflank them in a move that resembled Frederick the Great’s tactics at Leuthen in 1757. The Swedes set off at 6 a.m., around ninety minutes before dawn, heading for Chapel Hill, a small rise they had to secure to get safely past the ponds. Hatzfeldt had gone to reconnoitre, leaving Count Götz vague instructions to hold the hill. For reasons that remain unclear, Götz moved the entire left wing south into the valley leading to the hill. This move was constricted by thick woods either side of his route and Hatzfeldt returned to find the soldiers struggling across the very obstacles he intended to disrupt the enemís advance. It was too late to turn back.

The frozen ground gave the Swedes a firm footing and they were able to drag their heavy guns onto Chapel Hill, whereas the imperial artillery got stuck in the woods. Hatzfeldt moved his centre and right southwards in support as a fierce fight developed to prevent the Swedes advancing beyond the ponds. Werth and the Bavarian and Saxon cavalry overran two Swedish infantry brigades, before being compelled by artillery fire to retire. The Swedes then pushed east, gaining the high ground on the imperial flank and forcing Hatzfeldt to retire northwards. After an hour of musketry, Hatzfeldt disengaged and withdrew further across his original position towards Skrysov village, where he redeployed facing south with his right on the Jankova and left on Hrin. Torstensson followed, taking up position between Jankau and Radmeritz. He had expected Hatzfeldt to continue his retreat, but noticed imperial musketeers entrenching on a small wooded hill in front of Skrysov. Hatzfeldt intended this as an outpost while he waited until nightfall to slip away. Once the Swedes had dislodged the musketeers he grew concerned and launched a counter-attack, renewing the battle around 1 p.m.

Werth, now on the left, led another successful charge, this time routing the best Swedish cavalry that had deployed opposite him at Radmeritz. However, his comrades in the centre and right were dispirited after the defeat that morning and cracked under the strain of renewed fighting. The Bavarian cavalry had dispersed to plunder, capturing the Swedish armís loot and women, including Torstensson’s wife. The Swedes rallied and drove them off, rescuing the women. As the imperial horse on the right had also given way, the infantry in the centre were abandoned like the Spanish at Rocroi and their own comrades at both battles of Breitenfeld. They fought on till dark. Some escaped into the woods to the rear, but 4,500 were captured. Götz, along with several other senior officers, was killed, as were around 4,000 men, many during the pursuit. Hatzfeldt was caught because his horse was exhausted and, having been robbed, he was handed over to Torstensson.

The battle was clearly a disaster for the emperor. A muster of 36 regiments outside Prague a week later revealed that only 2,697 officers and men remained. Another 2,000 fugitives were left stranded by the rapid Swedish advance through Moravia and lived as marauders in a running conflict with local peasants. The veteran Bavarian cavalry had been virtually destroyed, while the loss of so many senior officers left the army leaderless. It is a sign of Ferdinand’s desperation that he even recalled Gallas to help reorganize the army. However, comparisons with Rocroi or White Mountain are exaggerated, as the battle was not followed by military or political collapse.

Torstensson claimed he lost only 600 men, but the later Swedish General Staff history puts the casualties at a more realistic 3–4,000. The victory allowed him to widen his objectives beyond merely resupplying Olmütz. He swept on through southern Moravia and over the frontier hills into Lower Austria to arrive outside Vienna with 16,000 men on 9 April. The advance renewed the possibility that Transylvania might intervene for another combined siege of the imperial capital.