About MSW

Forschungsmitarbeiter Mitch Williamson is a technical writer with an interest in military and naval affairs. He has published articles in Cross & Cockade International and Wartime magazines. He was research associate for the Bio-history Cross in the Sky, a book about Charles ‘Moth’ Eaton’s career, in collaboration with the flier’s son, Dr Charles S. Eaton. He also assisted in picture research for John Burton’s Fortnight of Infamy. Mitch is now publishing on the WWW various specialist websites combined with custom website design work. He enjoys working and supporting his local C3 Church. “Curate and Compile“

Danzig 1939

Soldiers of the SS-Heimwehr Danzig round up “undesirables” in the free city of Danzig. The SS had clandestinely sent troops into Danzig before the invasion ready to seize key objectives once war was declared.

 

Soldiers of SS Heimwehr Danzig, an SS unit recruited in Danzig, take cover behind an ADGZ armored car during an attack on Polish troops in a post office. SS Heimwehr Danzig was incorporated into the 3rd SS Totenkopf Division after the Poland campaign.

The Battle for the Polish Post Office in Danzig

On 19th December 1921, Poland received the former Danzig Garrison Sick-bay on the Heveliusplatz from the International Arbitration Commission for use on postal duties. The Polish Post Office was called “Gdansk 1” from 1st August 1926. The former military hospital had already been robustly built, but the Poles began to strengthen and extend the building in the 1930s. 38 special ex-service reserve officers of the Polish Army were made postal officials. They were enlisted by Ridz-Smigly for defence of the Post Office until the promised relief by Polish cavalry.

A group of a hundred VGAD, which was formed from SA men, joined the 1st half platoon of the 3rd platoon of the 13th Coy., SS-Heimwehr Danzig in the battle for the Post Office under Hauptmann der Schutzpolizei Tornbaum, as well as the barracked police of the 2nd Police Precinct.

The members of SS-Heimwehr received their order into action in the early morning hours. A swift, surprise seizure of the Post Office by the police units failed due to the unexpected readiness of the Polish postal officials, and the German attackers were left around 20 metres in front of the building under well-planned defensive fire. Both light infantry guns of SS-Heimwehr were only partially used, since they would have endangered the population. The SS men were therefore used as infantry for the short term. Further attempts to storm the Post Office quickly and without losses failed due to the dogged defence by the Poles. In contrast to the Post Office, the other Polish quarters in Danzig were occupied by the afternoon. The SS-Heimwehr Danzig was however not involved.

Place; Found:

  1. Main railway station a light MG
  2. Polish railway post office a MG, four rifles, 18 pistols, and two cases of hand grenades
  3. Polish railway office 45 pistols
  4. Polish customs post 15 rifles
  5. Diplomatic agency a light MG, five rifles, four pistols
  6. Polish scout hall a machine gun
  7. Polish living quarters some rifles
  8. Polish student hostel some rifles
  9. Polish grammar school some rifles

A new attack was planned for 1700 hrs. One of the two Minenwerfers which had been set up on the Westerplatte was taken from there and brought to the Post Office. This was to shell the brick building until it was ripe for the storming. After the guns had together shot a large hole in the wall, the Poles retreated to the cellars. When the Fire Brigade finally managed to pump gas into the cellar and ignite it, the confused defending Poles gave up. The well-built Post Office came in useful while the German soldiers and police had to move around in the street without cover. At 1830 hrs, the swastika flag was raised. The battle was over. After the end of the battle for the Post Office, further weapons were found: 3 light machine guns with 44 full and 13 empty rounds, 30 army pistols, 1 drum revolver, 1 sack of infantry and pistol ammunition and 150 hand grenades. (Source: Auswärtiges Amt. Weißbuch Nr. 2/1939/ Dokumente zur Vorgeschichte des Krieges.)

The then SS Officer Anton Winter experienced the battle for the Polish Post Office: “I experienced the outbreak of war on 1st September 1939 as a member of the 3rd platoon of the 13/SS-Heimwehr Danzig. Our orders were to immediately go to the Bischofsberg above Danzig. The infantry gun company consisted at the time of three platoons each of two infantry guns, called “gypsy artillery”. The guns of the 1st and 2nd platoons were rubber-tyred so as to be suitable for motorised deployment. Because of the lack of purpose-built artillery tractors they could only be pulled by the Opel Blitz truck which was present. Our 3rd platoon had only iron-wheeled guns, for horses to pull, but we had no horses, so we had to move the guns ourselves. Later we loaded our artillery into requisitioned civilian vehicles. In our case it was a margarine factory truck. Apart from the infantry guns we received another two Minenwerfers from World War I. The manpower stayed the same and since we were not trained in these heavy Minenwerfers, we had serious difficulties in using them later. The calibre of this mortar was, as I recall, 150 mm (6-inches)[1]. Our platoon was transferred to the Danzig mess hall from Bischofsberg shortly before 1st September 1939. From here we were ordered, most nights, to guard the harbour area of the new shipping route with our “margarine gun”. On 31st August 1939 the units of the Heimwehr were put on stand-by. Only we, the 3rd platoon of the 13th company, remained in the mess hall for the time being, for defence and possible deployment in the city. In the early morning hours of the 1st September 1939 we were wakened by a muffled rumbling. The shelling of the Westerplatte had begun. We listened until our platoon leader came to us with the order into action. We crawled to our gun in the truck and drove to the Polish Post Office, where we moved our gun into an open firing position. The distance to the Post Office was about 60 metres. Despite the heavy rifle and machine gun fire against us, we fired shell after shell directly on and into the building. At every shot from the cobbled street, however, our gun recoiled out of position, which definitely made our shooting more difficult. We had to take the cobbles up, during which our comrade Taynor was killed by a shot to the head, and our platoon leader was seriously injured on the arm. With the help of an armoured scout car from the police, we tried to storm the Post Office again, but failed, and we had further losses. It was just impossible to get through the strong wall and bars and take the building. After the attack with the armoured scout car had also failed, there was a pause in the battle. Even shelling with the recently-arrived heavy 15mm howitzer of the Wehrmacht could not bring the defenders to surrender. The Poles defended their Post Office with extraordinary bravery, even in the belief that they would be relieved by Polish cavalry, which was expecting to be in Berlin in seven days. Only in the late afternoon did we succeed, under heavy defensive fire, in getting flammable material into the rooms and cellar, igniting it and thus smoking out the defenders. Only then did they give up, and we pulled our gun back to the mess hall through a mass audience of people drawn up in a row. In the evening our gun company was ordered to see Generalmajor Eberhardt, who wanted to praise us for our “selfless action against the Polish Post Office”. On the next day, our company was taken off and deployed in the battle for the Westerplatte.”

Kurt Boldt from Danzig lived near the Polish Post Office in 1939: “… When SS-Rottenfiihrer Taynor fell with a head wound, I was stood about 60 to 80 metres away and observed how a comrade, with complete disregard for his own life, moved the body to the shelter of the houses, on the corner of Heveliusplatz…” The Polish postal officials, as they wore no military uniforms, were tried and executed in October 1939 as guerrillas.

Small quantity of ADGZ armoured cars was used by Germans. The most familiar example is a combat record of two ADGZ’s in Danzig, early 1939. Both of them organisationally belonged to a local “Heimwehr” and took part in assaulting the Polish post office in the city. It’s important however that instead of their original Austrian armament consisting of the 20mm Tankgewehr M35 and Schwarzlose M07/12 MMG’s the Germans re-armed their ADGZ’s with MG 34’s and reduced the vehicle crew to four crewmen (the vehicle was designed to accommodate a crew of six).

The 2 ADGZ used in Danzig where in fact cars of a police unit (together with 2 old Erhardt armoured cars), despite being marked with SS runes and a skull. They where supporting the Heimwehr troops. It had been planned to storm the Polish post office with Police men of the local German police, whose office was in a side floor of exactly that building. But both police and Heimwehr where not able to get into the main building for several hours. They succeeded only after the ADGZ held down the Polish defenders and fuel was pumped into the building and ignited.

The Polish post office in Danzig had successfully resisted the first German assaults and the 30 or so Poles had retreated to the cellar, where they refused to surrender. Rather than suffer more casualties, the Germans ordered the Danzig Fire Brigade to pump domestic gas into the cellar. The asphyxiated Poles duly gave themselves up.

The Poles were later shot for wearing civilian clothing whilst bearing arms. The Danzig firemen were presumably not shot for the more serious offence of using gas while in civilian uniform.

General Friedrich-Georg Eberhardt

Kampfgruppe Eberhardt 1939

I think it was officially known as Brigade Eberhardt. It later became the core of 60th Motorised Infantry Division.

There is a book entitled something like “Heimwehr Danzig” about the SS contribution beside Brigade Eberhardt in Danzig in 1939.

The OB I have for Brigade Eberhardt comes from a Polish book on the fighting along the seacoast during the German invasion in September 1939. It is the only source I have ever found that gives an OB for the brigade. It is as follows:

Police Brigade Eberhardt: 1st and 2nd Police Regiments

SS Heimwehr Danzig Infantry Battalion

Battalion Hacker (a Grenzwacht battalion)

Danzig Artillery Battalion

Eberhardt Cavalry Squadron

Eberhardt Construction Engineer Battalion

The book Sid mentioned is a history of the SS Heimwehr Danzig Battalion during the early days of the campaign, but that’s about it. There is nothing about the rest of the brigade in the book.

” Die Geschichte der SS Heimwehr Danzig” by Rolf Michaelis

SS-Heimwehr-Danzig

In June 1939, the III./SS-Totenkopf-Standarte was redesignated as the “SS-Heimwehr Danzig”.

Headquarters SS-Heimwehr Danzig — Feldpostnummer 24 611

— Signal Plt.

— Pioneer Plt.

— Medical Plt.

— Motor Transport Company (motorized) [3 truck Plt.]

1st Infantry Company — Feldpostnummer 24 293 [4 infantry Plt.]

2nd Infantry Company — Feldpostnummer 31 292 [4 infantry Plt.]

3rd Infantry Company — Feldpostnummer 31 700 [4 infantry Plt.]

4th Machine-Gun Company — Feldpostnummer 32 304 [3 MG Plt.; 1 mortar plt.]

13th Infantry Gun Company — Feldpostnummer 33 475 [2 lt IG Plattons w/ 4 lt IG; 1 mixed plt. (2 lt IG + 2 mortars)]

14th Anti-Tank Company — Feldpostnummer 33 832 [4 Plt. w/ 3 ATG]

15th Anti-Tank Company — Feldpostnummer 34 799 [4 Plt. w/ 3 ATG]

The SS-Heimwehr Danzig was an infantry (non-motorized) battalion-sized unit. It certainly did NOT have an “Panzer-Nachrichten” units.

Gemischter Verband Danzig (aka Brigade Eberhardt) [3. Armee]

Danziger Infanterie-Regiment 1 (Landespolizei) (I. – III.)

Danziger Infanterie-Regiment 2 (Landespolizei) (I. – III.)

Danziger leichte Artillerie-Abteilung

Grenzabschnitt Hacker (3 cos.)

Arbeitsdienstgruppe Eberhardt (6 cos.)

Aufklaerungs-Kompanie Eberhardt

Brigade NetzeIII. Armeekorps, 4. AOK]

2x Grenzwachtabschnitt (#’s unknown) of Grenzwachtabschnitt 2

It is impossible to compile a complete accurate composition of all companies and individual weapons, as many records have been destroyed. The above is a compendium of many sources, not all original, and some conflicting.

Polizei-Panzerkampfwagen ADGZ

The Steyr ADGZ was originally developed as a heavy armored car for the Austrian army (its designation was “M35 Mittlere Panzerwagen”) from 1934 and delivered from 1935-37. Series production was under consideration, but the events of 1938 precluded the completion of this possibility. In 1941, Steyr received an order from the Reichsfuhrer-SS to complete a further 25 new ADGZ for the SS. These were delivered during 1942. An interesting feature of this vehicle was that there was no “rear:” either end was capable of driving the unit.

The original fourteen” ADGZ served with police detachments in Danzig in September 1939. The ADGZ delivered in 1942 were used by the SS to fight partisans in the East. After the invasion of the USSR a few ADGZ armored cars were rearmed with turrets from the Soviet T-26 model 1933 light tank.

Verstärkter Grenzaufsichtsdienst (VGAD, Reinforced Border Surveillance Service)

A very little known unit deriving from the SA was the Verstärkter Grenzaufsichtsdienst (VGAD, Reinforced Border Surveillance Service) created in 1939 at Danzig (today Gdansk in Poland) from the SA Brigade VI. As the title implies, the VGAD was intended as a paramilitary unit for patrolling the frontiers around the Free City of Danzig and as an extra defence against the Poles. Members of the VGAD usually wore standard German army uniform with a black collar displaying the SA collar patch and a sleeve title reading Grenzwacht (Border Guard). During the invasion of Poland in September 1939 members of the VGAD fought as part of the Sonderverband Danzig (Special Detachment Danzig), also named Brigade Eberhardt after its commanding officer Generalmajor Friedrich Eberhardt. This unit is principally remembered for capturing the central post office of Danzig after heavy fighting.

„Küstenschutz Danzig“

This unit was formed by Marine-SA (~naval SA) and Zollbeamte (customs officers).

Some 250 men formed two Coastal Artillery Batteries and one Harbour Barrier/Blockade Group.

„Küstenschutz Danzig“ was attached to „Gruppe Eberhardt“.

It seems as the „Küstenschutz Danzig“ was a kind of a naval version of the SS Heimwehr Danzig, each battery comprised four 88mm pieces.

The task of Küstenschutz Danzig was to make provisions for operation of SCHLESWIG-HOLSTEIN. They were also responsible for closing (blocking) the Danzig harbour, or unblocking it – depending on situation.

On 4th September 1939 one battery of Küstenschutz Danzig shelled Westerplatte.

in “Die Yacht” Jg, 1939 ist ein schönes Soldatenfoto mit Mützenband

LINK

LINK

Advertisements

“River Raid on Korea”

Map of the American Naval Operations in Korea, 1871.

The largest-scale combat in which Leathernecks participated in the three decades following the Civil War was the Korean Expedition of 1871. On 23 May of that year, five vessels of Rear Admiral John Rodgers’s Asiatic Fleet—the frigate Colorado, sloops Alaska and Benicia, and gunboats Monocacy and Palos—entered Roze Roads on the west coast of Korea not far from Chemulpo (modern-day Inchon). Aboard Admiral Rodgers’s flagship, the Colorado, was Frederick F. Low, the U.S. minister to China, who had been sent to open diplomatic relations with the hermit kingdom of Korea. Contact was made with the local inhabitants, and on the 31st a small delegation of third- and fifth-rank Korean officials appeared. Low refused to receive them, directing his secretary to explain that the presence of first-rank officials qualified to conduct negotiations was required. In the meantime, the Koreans were informed, the Americans desired to chart the Salee River, as the channel of the Han River between Kanghwa-do (island) and the Kumpo Peninsula was then called. As the Han leads to the capital city of Seoul, the Koreans might have been expected to consider such an act provocative, American assurances of goodwill notwithstanding, but they raised no objections. Twenty-four hours were allotted for them to notify the appropriate authorities.

Accordingly, at noon on 1 June, four steam launches followed by the Monocacy and Palos set out to begin the survey. As they came abreast of the fortifications on the heights of Kanghwa-do, the Koreans opened fire. The surveying party replied with gusto, shelling the forts into silence, and returned to the fleet’s anchorage. American casualties were two men wounded.

Admiral Rodgers waited nine days for an apology or better tides. The former was not forthcoming, and on 10 June a punitive expedition entered the river with the mission of capturing and destroying the errant forts. The landing force numbered 686 officers and men, including 109 Marines organized into two little companies and a naval battery of seven 12-pounder howitzers. Fire support would be provided by the gunboats and four steam launches mounting 12-pounders in their bows. Commander L. A. Kimberly was placed in command of the landing force; Captain McLane Tilton led its Leathernecks. Tilton was one of those unconventional characters for whom the Corps has always seemed to exercise an attraction. (Writing his wife from a Mediterranean deployment, he reported that when he first went on deck each day, “If anyone asks me how are you old fellow, I reply, ‘I don’t feel very well; no gentleman is ever well in the morning.’”)

Three forts, each with a walled water-battery, overlooked the shore of Kanghwa-do. In the course of the operation, the Americans christened them the Marine Redoubt, Fort Monocacy, and The Citadel. The Monocacy took the first two under fire shortly after noon. Both had been silenced by the time the Palos appeared with the landing party’s boats in tow about an hour later. The boats cast off half a mile below the nearest fort, and at 1345 that afternoon the Bluejackets and Marines began struggling ashore across a broad, knee-deep mudflat “crossed by deep sluices,” a disgusted Tilton noted, “filled with softer and still deeper mud.” Some men left their shoes, socks, leggings, and even trouser legs behind, and the howitzers bogged down to their barrels. Fortunately, the Koreans did not attempt to oppose the landing.

The Leathernecks had been selected to serve as the expedition’s advance guard. Tilton deployed them into a skirmish line as soon as they left the boats. Once both companies reached firm ground, Commander Kimberly ordered Tilton to lead his Marines toward the fort, an elliptical stone redoubt with 12-foot walls. Most of the sailors remained behind to manhandle the guns out of the muck. On the Marines’ approach, the fort’s white-robed defenders fled, firing a few parting shots. The work mounted 54 guns, but all except two were insignificant brass breechloaders. Tilton halted his men until the main body came up, “when we were again ordered to push forward,” he wrote, “which we did, scouring the fields as far as practicable from the left of the line of march, the river being on our right, and took a position on a wooded knoll . . . commanding a fine view of the beautiful hills and inundated rice fields immediately around us.” At this point he received orders to hold for the night. It was 1630 before the guns had been dragged ashore, and too few hours of daylight remained to demolish the captured fort and tackle the next. The seamen bivouacked half a mile to the rear.

The landing force moved out at 0530 the next morning. Its fire support had been reduced by the withdrawal of the Palos, which had hurt herself on an uncharted rock while the landing was in progress, but that available from the Monocacy and the launches would prove more than sufficient. The second fort, a chipped granite structure about 90 feet square, stood on a bluff a mile upstream. Tilton’s men found it deserted. While a Marine bugler amused himself by rolling 33 little brass cannon over the bluff into the river, other members of the expedition spiked the fort’s four big guns and tore down two of its walls. The march was then resumed.

The track between the first two forts had been relatively easy going, but beyond the second it became extremely difficult, “the topography of the country being indescribable,” Tilton reported, “resembling a sort of ‘chopped sea’ of immense hills and deep ravines lying in every conceivable position.” Presently the column came under long-range musket fire from a Korean force estimated to number from 2,000 to 5,000 among some hills beyond the Americans’ left flank. Five guns supported by three companies of seamen were deployed to hold this body in check, and the remainder of the party continued its advance. On two occasions the Koreans made a rush toward the detachment, but a few artillery shells turned them back each time.

The last and strongest of the Korean fortifications, The Citadel, was a stone redoubt crowning a steep, conical hill on a peninsula some two miles upstream from its neighbor. The Monocacy and the steam launches opened fire on the Citadel at about 1100. At noon, Commander Kimberly halted his command 600 yards from the fort to give the men a breather. By that time, the parties of Koreans seen falling back on The Citadel and the forest of flags in and around it left no doubt that the position would be defended.

After signaling the Monocacy to cease fire, the storming party, 350 seamen and Marines with fixed bayonets, dashed forward to occupy a ridgeline only 120 yards from the fort. Although Tilton’s men were still armed with the model 1861 muzzle-loading Springfield rifle musket (in his words “a blasted old ‘Muzzle-Fuzzel’”), they quickly established fire superiority over the fort’s defenders, who were armed with matchlocks, a firearm that had disappeared from Western arsenals 200 years before. “The firing continued for only a few minutes, say four,” Tilton wrote, “amidst the melancholy songs of the enemy, their bearing being courageous in the extreme.”

At 1230 Lieutenant Commander Silas Casey, commanding the Bluejacket battalion, gave the order to charge. “[A]nd as little parties of our forces advanced closer and closer down the deep ravine between us,” Tilton continued, “some of [the Koreans] mounted the parapet and threw stones etc., at us, uttering the while exclamations seemingly of defiance.” The first American into The Citadel, Navy Lieutenant Hugh W. McKee, fell mortally wounded by a musket ball in the groin and a spear thrust in the side. The spearman also stabbed at Lieutenant Commander Winfield Scott Schley, who had followed close behind McKee. The point passed between Schley’s left arm and his chest, pinning his sleeve to his coat, and he shot the man dead.

Tilton was among half a dozen officers who led their men into the fort moments later. The Koreans stood their ground, and the fighting became hand to hand. Clambering over the parapet, Private Michael McNamara encountered an enemy soldier pointing a matchlock at him. He wrenched the gun from the Korean’s hands and clubbed him to death with it. Private James Dougherty closed with and killed the man the Americans identified as the commander of the Korean forces. Tilton, Private Hugh Purvis, and Corporal Charles Brown converged on The Citadel’s principal standard, a 12-foot-square yellow cotton banner emblazoned with black characters signifying “commanding general.” For five minutes the fort’s interior was a scene of desperate combat. Then the remaining defenders fled downhill toward the river, under fire from the Marines, a company of seamen, and the two howitzers that had accompanied the attackers.

A total of 143 Korean dead and wounded were counted in and around the Citadel, and Lieutenant Commander Schley, the landing force’s adjutant, estimated that another 100 had been killed in flight. Forty-seven flags and 481 pieces of ordnance, most quite small but including 27 sizable pieces—20-pounders and upward—were captured. The storming party lost three men killed and ten wounded, with a Marine private in each category. Captain Tilton was pleasantly surprised by his survival. In a letter home a few days later, he wrote, “I never expected to see my wife and baby any more, and if it hadn’t been that the Coreans [sic] can’t shoot true, I never should.” He retired as a lieutenant colonel in 1897. Nine sailors and six Marines were awarded the Medal of Honor. Among the latter were Corporal Brown and Private Purvis, who had rendezvoused with Tilton at the Citadel’s flagstaff.

The landing force reembarked early the next morning, leaving The Citadel in ruins. “Thus,” wrote Admiral Rodgers, “was a treacherous attack upon our people and an insult to our flag redressed.” Successful as it had been from a military standpoint, however, the operation was not a masterstroke of diplomacy. Subsequent communications with Korean authorities, conducted by messages tied to a pole on an island near the anchorage, were entirely unproductive, and on 3 July the fleet withdrew. A treaty with Korea was not negotiated until 1882.

Marine Amphibious Landing in Korea, 1871

 

A NEW AMERICAN STRATEGY FOR THE ASIA-PACIFIC REGION I

The Chinese fleet review, April 2018 in the South China Sea. More than 10,000 service personnel, 48 vessels and 76 aircraft took part in the review, including the Liaoning aircraft carrier, high-tech submarines and warships as well as advanced fighter jets. More than half of the vessels were commissioned after the Communist Party’s National Congress in 2012, when Xi became the party’s general secretary.

Naval fleets 2011

Designing and implementing an effective strategy for China will be an especially demanding task for U.S. policymakers. Almost every dimension of the problem adds difficulty and complexity to the challenge.

Within a decade, China’s economy, and the potential for that economy to support military power, will constitute a rival the size of which the United States has not faced since it emerged as a global player over a century ago. Comparisons with recent large military competitions reveal the size of the looming challenge. World War II required the United States to mobilize for a global war effort. But once it did so, its production, combined with that of its allies, including the Soviet Union, easily swamped that of the Axis powers. By 1944 success in that war was not in doubt. During the Cold War, U.S. economic and technical advantages over the Soviet bloc permitted a military competition that little strained the United States but bankrupted the Soviet Union.

With China, by contrast, the United States could by next decade face a rival with substantially equal economic output and potentially comparable military spending. Unlike the Soviet Union, China, with a much larger economy, will very likely be capable of sustaining an arms race on roughly equal terms for as long as it chooses. For the security balance in East Asia, China, as we have seen, gets much more out of its military spending because it is the “home team.” The effectiveness of U.S. military investment by contrast is diluted both by U.S. global security responsibilities and by the nation’s need to project its military power to a far-off “away game” in East Asia. The United States will be able to add the military potential of its partners in the region to its side of the ledger. But others in the region may bandwagon with China. The result is a security challenge in East Asia the potential magnitude of which U.S. policymakers have not faced in the modern era.

Second, as much of this book has sought to explain, the structure of the military problem in East Asia seems only now to be dawning on policymakers in Washington responsible for the design of U.S. military forces. Overconfidence in an assumed lead in U.S. military technology and attention drawn to nearly two decades of small wars have led policymakers and planners to lose sight of technological developments—most of them ironically first developed by the United States—that are now nullifying previous U.S. military advantages in power projection and strategic mobility. With the PLA’s military strategy now placing much of America’s tremendous investment in naval and aerospace power at risk of irrelevance, U.S. military planners and commanders must now cobble together new ways of performing basic missions in a region they previously took for granted.

America’s allies in the Asia-Pacific region are its most valuable asset; but they are also an especially challenging lot for U.S. diplomats. In Western Europe during the Cold War, former enemies were able to put the past behind them and coalesce around NATO and the concept of collective security. The bald Soviet threat, the brashness of which China has yet to fully replicate, certainly provided much of NATO’s glue. France’s early obstreperous behavior toward NATO is just one example that not all was harmonious inside the Atlantic alliance. But today’s American diplomats would surely welcome that relative unity of purpose compared to what they must wrestle with in East Asia.

Unlike Europe, bitter memories in Asia from last century and before remain unforgotten, with multilateral security cooperation suffering as a result. Moral hazard, the temptation by allies to let America do the heavy work, remains strong; for all of the talk about China’s military modernization, defense spending in frontline places such as Taiwan, the Philippines, and Japan is shockingly slight. Schizophrenia over either U.S. abandonment or entrapment in a military misadventure still plagues many of America’s allies in the region. With little prospect of any permanent and effective security institutions developing in the region, U.S. diplomats will continue to face uncertainty and ambiguity; partners may plead for U.S. protection while simultaneously hedging to keep their options open.

At home, the American public and policymakers have yet to sort out just what to make of the new China. A poll conducted in 2012 by Pew Research showed that while 52 percent of the U.S. general public viewed the emergence of China as a major threat, the concern centered on China’s economy rather than its military potential; only 28 percent of the public rated China’s military might as the greatest concern. A parallel poll of government executive and legislative branch officials found just 31 percent perceived China as a major threat. A 2013 Pew poll asked respondents from the general public to rate various international security issues. While 59 percent assessed North Korea’s nuclear program a major threat, 56 percent said the same of Islamic extremist groups; China’s power and influence, number five on the list, was rated a major threat by 44 percent of the respondents. With economic anxiety lingering in the United States in the wake of the recent economic recession, many in the U.S. public register more concern about China’s economic competitiveness than its military modernization, a topic which has received scant media attention. So although we have argued in this book for major reforms to U.S. security strategy in Asia, most of the U.S. public seems unaware of the need for a change.

Adopting a more assertive stance toward China is also likely to create frictions inside the United States. The 2012 Pew poll showed a broad disparity of views between the general public and some elites regarding China. For example, 71 percent of the general public perceived a loss of U.S. jobs to China as a very serious problem, a view held by only 15 percent of the business and trade leaders Pew interviewed.

Even as a security competition between China and the United States continues to grow, trade and financial linkages will continue to deepen. Commercial and financial interaction with China creates winners and losers inside the United States. Although overall economic welfare benefits from this trade, those losing from trade with China—say workers and investors in some industries—might view a more assertive stance against China favorably. By contrast, those who currently benefit—those with large exports and investments in China—may argue against a more assertive U.S. security strategy in the Asia-Pacific region. Because of the deepening trade and financial linkages between the two countries, a debate over U.S. security strategy in the region could pit many domestic interests against each other.

It has been two centuries since the United States last faced a country that was simultaneously a potential adversary and a large and vital trade and financial partner. The misbegotten War of 1812 divided the southern and western states, which saw the war as a chance to expand the country into Florida and farther west, against the New England states that had deep commercial and financial ties with Great Britain and that therefore strongly opposed President James Madison’s war policy.8 Strong economic ties to an adversary, concentrated in mainly one region of the country, resulted in a deep internal split over foreign policy. Should the security competition between China and the United States accelerate in the years ahead, we should expect to see interests and factions inside the United States clash over America’s China policy. An internal competition over China policy will only increase the subject’s complexity for political leaders responsible for fashioning that policy.

Finally, the gravity of U.S. interests at stake in the Asia-Pacific region will magnify the stress on America’s policymakers. No less than America’s standard of living, the future of its relationships around the world, and its status as a great power are in the balance. The Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia” is both a reflection of this gravity and an antecedent for follow-on actions in the region by his successors. With the China security competition, U.S. policymakers will be forced to deal with a true peer competitor, a confounding military challenge, quarrelsome yet vital allies, clashing domestic interests, and a public that is understandably conflicted about the issues in play. Because the stakes are so large, no security issue will be more consequential for American interests. China policy will be a great challenge for a long time to come.

The United States Needs a New Approach

For the United States and its allies, the current trends are too dangerous to be allowed to continue. By early next decade, China’s leaders could conclude that they, and not the United States and its partners, possess escalation dominance. Those leaders could perceive that China’s leverage would improve during a crisis in the western Pacific, the more that crisis escalated. During such escalation, the PLA could put into readiness, and perhaps into action, more and more of its land-based access-denial air and missile power. Under these conditions, U.S. commanders would not relish the prospect of sending their naval and airpower into such tactically unfavorable circumstances. They would presumably have to report this analysis to policymakers in Washington, who would similarly have to ponder the consequences of a visible and substantial military setback. For the policymakers, attention would inevitably shift to face-saving de-escalation of the crisis, done with a lack of negotiating leverage.

Needless to say, such a scenario would be unfamiliar ground for U.S. policymakers and commanders who have held, in most cases since World War II, the advantage of escalation dominance. Policymakers in the Lyndon Johnson administration believed (incorrectly as it turned out) that escalating the employment of airpower and ground forces would compel North Vietnam to end its military operations in South Vietnam and its support for the Viet Cong resistance. In the 1991 Persian Gulf War, President George H. W. Bush resisted attempts to arrange a negotiated settlement even after the monthlong preparatory air war had begun; Bush and his advisers wanted more escalation, with the employment of U.S. and coalition ground combat power against Iraqi forces.10 In 2002 and 2003 President George W. Bush and his advisers again favored escalation in order to achieve the employment of what they believed was U.S. military superiority over Iraq.

Perhaps the most interesting and, for current U.S. planners, the most disturbing parallel, is the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. In that case, President John Kennedy and his team employed conventional military escalation—the visible buildup of air, naval, and amphibious forces opposite Cuba—to persuade Soviet leaders that a military clash in the Caribbean was hopeless for Soviet plans. In this case, Soviet forces, in the role of the expeditionary power, faced poor odds against the American and continental “home team.” The result was a withdrawal of the Soviet missiles from Cuba.

An adversary’s possession of escalation dominance will be strange territory for U.S. policymakers, one that could lead to either costly miscalculation or an embarrassing climbdown in a crisis. Most dangerous of all would be a situation in which each side perceived it would benefit from escalation. In that case, a conflict would be virtually certain. By next decade, such a disturbing scenario in East Asia is plausible. By that time, PLA commanders might have great confidence in the missile and aerospace power they will have built. On the other side, the confidence of U.S. policymakers in a crisis could rest on comforting, but possibly mistaken, memories of military dominance. Needless to say, it can’t be the case that both sides will benefit from escalation. We can hope that it won’t take a clash of arms to prove this point.

Should U.S. policymakers and military planners take little effective action to change the current trajectory, we should expect other players at risk in the region to take their own actions, with unpredictable consequences. For example, in July 2013 the Japanese government, led by the nationalist prime minister Shinzo Abe, released a new defense policy white paper. Reflecting a trend of increasing Japanese anxiety about the regional security situation, the white paper called attention to China’s “dangerous acts,” including intrusions by Chinese air and naval forces into Japan’s territory. Perhaps most notable was the white paper’s call for Japan to develop the ability to execute preemptive attacks on enemy bases abroad and an amphibious assault capability, presumably with the clashes over the Senkaku Islands in mind. As a result, the Japanese government increased defense spending in 2013 and directed more of Japan’s defense resources toward the Chinese threat to the Japan’s southwest.

U.S. policymakers should obviously be pleased that Japan is doing more for its own defense. The much more assertive content of Japan’s 2013 defense white paper is largely a response to China’s own military assertions, even into Japanese territory. As a consequence, Japan’s defense policy is now much more hawkish, a substantial change in policy and military latitude from just a few years ago. This trajectory is likely to keep going should the security situation in the region continue to deteriorate. Without a new American strategy, the still-modest defense buildup now under way in Japan could metastasize into a much more intense regional arms race, with destabilizing consequences to follow. Indeed non-Chinese defense spending in the region is expected to leap 55 percent in the five years ending in 2018. This budding arms race could turn dangerous should players conclude that they need more nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles or should they perceive that adverse trends and time pressure are eroding their strategic positions.

It matters who runs the western Pacific. Because the United States is an outsider, most countries in the region trust it to be the region’s dominant security provider, a role they will not trust to a local great power like China. As a corollary, it is very unlikely, and indeed too risky, to contemplate East Asia finding a stable balance of power on its own. The Asia-Pacific is the globe’s economic dynamo and the direct source of nearly a tenth of America’s economic output; the consequences of a large conflict in the region would be disastrous. Thus, the United States needs to maintain its security presence. But it also needs a new and better way to do so.

Sustaining an Effective Peacetime Competition

The goal of America’s strategy for the region should be to preserve the region’s security while also maintaining the existing rules-based international order. With China’s interests and those of the United States and its partners increasingly coming into conflict, a successful strategy must first attempt to persuade China’s leaders to accept—to China’s benefit—the existing order and to dissuade China’s leaders from attempting to replace it with an alternative that privileges China over its neighbors. Developing effective persuasive and dissuasive leverage will require a much deeper understanding of Chinese decision making. It will also require assembling a full range of political, diplomatic, economic, and military tools that can both provide rewards for favorable Chinese behavior while also threatening to impose costs for unfavorable actions. China has interests and vulnerabilities that can be sources of leverage for a competitive coalition strategy. U.S. and allied policymakers and planners need to understand these sources of leverage and design a strategy that takes advantage of them.

The first and most important element of an effective American strategy is America’s partners in the region. In most respects, the security interests of the United States and its partners are in alignment; China’s rising military power and its territorial assertions are a common concern. These partners in the region, especially those on the front line such as the Philippines, Japan, India, and Vietnam, add political legitimacy to the effort of resisting China’s assertions in the region. The larger the partnership network, the greater its overall legitimacy and the more difficult the task for China’s decision makers. No U.S. strategy can hope to succeed without the participation of these partners. For these reasons, the partnership network should be the key pillar of any U.S. strategy for the region. This means that all other elements should support this pillar. And in order to do that, U.S. policymakers and diplomats must listen carefully to the interests and concerns of the partners.

The United States and its partners face an open-ended competition with China. All the players have an interest in avoiding conflict. But that outcome will not happen without active “preventive maintenance” by policymakers. For the United States, that means creating persuasive and dissuasive leverage designed to influence Chinese strategic behavior along a favorable path. An effective and sustainable U.S. strategy will engage the partners to contribute to this effort.

Persuasive and dissuasive leverage comes in many forms. China’s breathtaking economic growth over the past three decades should be evidence enough to China’s leaders of the rewards for cooperating with the existing international system. That success has resulted in more diplomatic power for China and greatly increased prestige for the CCP. China’s continued access to these benefits should be persuasive.

China’s military modernization now hangs like a cloud over this universally beneficial success. This means the United States and its partners need to develop dissuasive tools that could impose costs on China and that would promise to negate much of the large investment China has made in its military strategy. The coalition’s dissuasive tools should hold at risk those assets and conditions China’s leaders value most. These dissuasive tools should encompass a very broad range, from political and economic pressure up through potential military options. As we have seen throughout history, the more the United States and its partners are prepared to employ these tools, the greater will be their credibility and thus the less likely their need to be used.

Much of the recent discussion inside Washington defense circles regarding China and the Pacific has focused on Navy and Air Force programs and plans. But regarding the peacetime security competition in the region and bolstering deterrence, the contribution made by U.S. ground forces—the Army, Marine Corps, and special operations forces—may be the most valuable. These services will have the lead role in assisting America’s security partners in the region as they build their own capabilities to resist China’s pressure and assertions. The actions of China’s neighbors to defend their sovereignty will enjoy increasing political legitimacy and will be key to preserving the existing rules-based order.

U.S. ground forces can provide assistance with internal defense, building conventional combat power, air defenses, antiship missile systems, command and control, intelligence gathering and sharing, amphibious capability, and many other important military functions. Ground forces will also have an important role preparing for various forms of defensive and offensive irregular warfare, which could occur as the security competition intensifies. The assistance provided by U.S. ground forces will boost the confidence of America’s partners while displaying to China’s leaders the rising costs for potentially bad behavior. Such an outcome would bolster deterrence and improve regional security.

The U.S. Navy and Air Force naturally must prepare as well for a security environment in the western Pacific that now challenges the operating practices these services have long taken for granted. China’s land-based air and missile power, and a “reconnaissance-strike complex” with ever-increasing range and targeting ability, have resulted in bleak prospects for the U.S. Navy’s surface forces in the region, at least until advanced missile defense technology arrives at the end of the next decade. The Navy will thus increasingly rely on its submarines to hold China’s navy at risk; the Navy must make sure that this remains the case.

Meanwhile the United States needs to ensure that it has enough long-range strike capacity to hold at risk those targets China’s leaders value most. High on this list should be China’s land-based “anti-navy” capabilities. The U.S. Navy will not be able to maintain freedom of navigation in the western Pacific without the capacity to suppress these forces. In addition U.S. long-range strike capacity should hold at risk targets and assets valued most by China’s leaders. Creating these capabilities will be technically challenging and will not be cheap. Suspending the purchase of systems such as aircraft carriers and short-range tactical aircraft that don’t have much use in the region could help pay the bills. Meanwhile, expanding America’s long-range strike capacity will be an important dissuasive tool and will be critical to maintaining deterrence.

A NEW AMERICAN STRATEGY FOR THE ASIA-PACIFIC REGION II

Why the Skeptics of Sustaining America’s Presence in Asia Are Wrong

This book has argued that sustaining the U.S. forward presence in Asia is essential to America’s interests. It has also shown that the current policies supporting that commitment are weak and are failing. Dramatic reform to the U.S. approach to the region is needed if the United States is to maintain the credibility of its commitments. Some of these reforms will be controversial because they will include measures that threaten to impose steep costs on China in the event Beijing pursues actions that would harm U.S. and allied interests.

Naturally there are skeptics who doubt whether it is wise or even practical for the United States to attempt to sustain its leading role in the region in the face of China’s rapid rise.16 It is important to rebut the skeptics’ arguments.

Some skeptics assert that a visible and formidable response to China will only antagonize China, making an enemy where none previously existed. But this ignores the fact that China’s well-planned military modernization strategy began two decades ago and has followed a steady course since its inception. The U.S. “pivot to Asia” came long after and was clearly a response to decisions China’s leaders had previously taken. The skeptics’ view also presumes that China’s leaders respond emotionally rather than deliberately, as is much more likely the case. The recent U.S. response to the changing security balance in the western Pacific will not spark a new military competition with China, because that competition has been already been under way for some time.

Many observers explain that it would be irrational for two countries as interdependent economically and financially as China and the United States to ever go to war. Others made the same assertion a century ago to explain why a war among the great powers in Europe would be similarly illogical. In 1914 Europe’s great powers were more intertwined by trade and financial linkages than are the United States and China today. But for the statesmen who made decisions in that fateful year, strategic considerations trumped economics and finance. We can hope that today’s policymakers, chastened by the past century’s wars, will be wiser. But now as then, decision makers might also conclude that it will be easier to recover from the economic consequences of conflict, which could be temporary, than from a grave strategic setback, which would more likely be permanent. By this reasoning, a temporary economic setback caused by conflict would be a price worth paying for the avoidance of a strategic defeat.

Perhaps more relevant in the current case is Beijing’s view that it does not have to choose between peace and the achievement of its territorial and security goals. Through careful “salami slicing,” China’s leaders very likely believe they can have both the peaceful development they enjoy plus the enlarged security they seek. The risk, of course, is that China will eventually meet resistance that its leaders did not expect, resulting in a crisis fueled by nationalism and the perceived need by leaders to defend their country’s prestige. Add in the possibility of miscalculations over escalation dominance and the result could be calamity. The United States and its partners can avoid this scenario by bolstering their deterrence capacity and by displaying early resolution against China’s assertions, before possible misunderstandings accumulate.

Many skeptics assert that it is the responsibility of China’s neighbors, and not the United States, to balance China’s power. Under this view, these countries, having the most at stake, should bear the heaviest portion of the balancing task, instead of “free riding” on U.S. security guarantees. Other skeptics (notably Christopher Layne and others from the “offshore balancing” school) believe that U.S. security alliances in general expose the United States to unnecessary risks in exchange for minimal benefits.

This book has argued for a diplomatic strategy that would make America’s security partners in the region the central pillar of this strategy and would arrange for them to play a larger role in regional security; but a leading U.S. role is also essential. Just as Europe witnessed in the years leading up to World War I, East Asia, too, will unlikely be able to peacefully establish on its own a stable balance of power. It is certainly too dangerous to take a risk with such an experiment, because the consequences of failure would be immense. By contrast we see how the opposite experiment, with the United States as the outside security provider, has allowed East Asia to become perhaps the most successful region in the world over the past seven decades. The United States has a strong interest in making sure that experiment continues to run.

Another criticism is that China’s military rise is simply a natural consequence of its economic and political rise and its need to protect its growing interests around the world. It is argued that this is a reality U.S. policymakers must therefore simply accept. It is true China’s military expansion is a consequence of its rising power and interests, but just because it is a natural and logical consequence of China’s rise does not mean it is not also dangerous to regional stability. Indeed, the rise of Athens in ancient Greece, Germany in the late nineteenth century, and Japan during the first half of the twentieth century were similarly “natural” and all led to clashing interests and war. It will take more than merely accommodating or accepting China’s rise as a great power to avoid similar disastrous results. Avoiding disaster will require astute policies that both actively balance China’s power and create effective incentives for China and the other players in the region.

This book has called for numerous reforms to U.S. military forces for the region. These reforms include increasing U.S. long-range striking power, establishing the capability to suppress China’s land-based “anti-navy” air and missile forces, and holding at risk other assets and conditions highly valued by China’s leaders. Many observers object to a strategy designed around the prospect of bombing China. They assert that such a plan only guarantees a large and damaging war, and potentially ruinous escalation.

The object of the strategy proposed in this book is preventing conflict in the region by bolstering deterrence. The proposed strategy is not a war plan. It is a strategy to manage a peacetime security competition in East Asia.

The strategy calls for preparing favorable and unfavorable consequences for China’s leaders to consider as they fashion their nation’s external policies. A credible U.S. strategy must include the ability to hold at risk those targets China’s leaders value. The United States, with its tiny number of stealthy long-range bombers and relatively small capacity to deliver Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles, currently lacks the needed capacity to threaten these targets during a conflict. China’s leaders will take that into consideration during a crisis. Perhaps most important, the United States cannot achieve its most important mission in the region, defending the freedom of navigation in the western Pacific, while China’s land-based antiship forces continue to threaten the sea lines of communication. A credible strategy will have to include the ability to hold these land-based targets at risk.

Finally, some will label a policy that responds to China’s assertions as “containment” and thus a throwback to the Cold War. But the strategy proposed here in no way resembles Cold War–style containment. The West’s containment of the Soviet Union during the Cold War was multidimensional. In addition to the military competition, the United States and the West battled the Soviet Union’s ideology and isolated it (until late in the period) economically and financially. Diplomatic contact was sparse and trade was virtually nonexistent until near the end. In sum, containment was broad-ranging isolation, imposed until, as George Kennan predicted early on, the Soviet Union’s internal weaknesses caused its ruin.

The policies proposed in this book in no way resemble containment. China’s economic and financial linkages with the world are large and expanding, trends the United States should welcome. There is no ideological competition with China, at least from the U.S. perspective (the leaders of China’s Communist Party may have a different view). Diplomatic contact between China and the United States is continuous and extensive. Far from containment, the strategy proposed in this book relies on positive (and negative) incentives to encourage China’s leadership to choose a path that benefits China, its neighbors, and the United States. This book has recommended U.S. military reforms that counter China’s military modernization and create a capacity to hold valuable Chinese assets and conditions at risk; but these reforms serve deterrence and regional stability and hardly amount to Cold War–style containment.

Those who are skeptical of maintaining America’s leading role in the region are concerned that the cost of that role is going up, perhaps sharply. On this, the skeptics are right—the costs are going up. But so too would be the consequences to the United States for surrendering that role. It will not be easy for the United States to sustain its position. But the benefits of doing so are still great and will exceed the costs and risks.

The Barriers to a New Strategy

If a better approach to China was obvious and easy to implement, that approach would already be current policy. There are several reasons why the United States does not have the policies for the region that it should; overcoming barriers to a better approach will be a challenge and will require leadership from policymakers.

The first barrier is overcoming the reluctance to recognize that the U.S. strategic position in the western Pacific is quickly deteriorating, a syndrome seemingly few policymakers, let alone the public, yet appreciate. Media attention on China has focused on its economic growth, its financial influence, its cyber espionage activities, and some of its internal social problems. China’s military modernization, by contrast, receives only occasional coverage in mainstream Western media. Most people inside the United States assume that American military power is still superior and free to roam as it has for decades; arguing that this will soon no longer be the case in East Asia is a novel thought to most observers and thus not easy to accept.

Next, U.S. policymakers, tasked with an entire world of security responsibilities, will struggle to decide how many resources to allocate to the growing security problems in the Asia-Pacific region. This book has focused narrowly on what the United States should do to respond to the challenge presented by China; it is explicitly not a template for how America should meet its global responsibilities. Many of the military capabilities proposed, such as new long-range strike aircraft, however, would be useful everywhere, not just in East Asia. Even so, policymakers will debate what draw on resources the China challenge properly merits. The Obama administration has identified the region as America’s top security priority. But that does not settle how much of the security pie it should receive. That is a question that very likely will never be finally settled.

With resources finite, allocating more to meeting the particular challenges in East Asia means allocating less elsewhere. The good news is that whenever U.S. policymakers have given their consistent attention to certain security threats, they have usually been successful at mitigating those threats. Four decades of consistent attention to Soviet power deterred conflict, prevented war, and protected Western values and institutions. In another example, once the U.S. security bureaucracy fully mobilized after 2001 to face the terrorism threat, large-scale terror attacks inside the United States did not recur. Likewise, if U.S. policymakers really make security in East Asia the priority they say it should be, they should be able to prevent conflict in the region from happening.

However, in a world of zero-sum security planning, U.S. policymakers will necessarily have to take risks. Even while defense planners averted conventional and nuclear war with the Soviet Union, irregular and proxy conflicts occurred in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and elsewhere, with damage to U.S. interests. Neglecting the terrorist threat before 2001 led to a decade of costly interventions. The security challenge posed by China is arguably the most consequential the United States faces and therefore warrants the first call on attention and resources. But that will likely necessitate more risk elsewhere.

The greatest barrier to a better security strategy for Asia is the existing bureaucratic and institutional interests that will resist changes to the programs from which they currently benefit. There are large defense bureaucracies, industrial contractors, military bases, local constituencies, and supporting interest groups that have grown around the current defense posture and that will resist any radical change to it. Short-range tactical airpower and surface forces of all kinds are under increasing threat in the looming military environment. But these forces also constitute the overwhelming majority of the U.S. Defense Department’s current program of record. In theory, reallocating the same defense dollars into more useful programs and systems could see existing personnel, contractors, and communities transition to those new programs and systems. But that reassuring message likely won’t forestall bureaucratic and political resistance from risk-averse interests that fear change.

Overcoming these barriers to change will require persistent and bipartisan leadership from civilian political leaders and policymakers. These civilian leaders must learn about the quickly changing security situation in Asia and then formulate enduring policies that successive administrations will continue. Above all, success will require strong civilian leadership to implement the changes that numerous interests are likely to resist. That is asking a lot from America’s political system; but that is what the China challenge will require.

Entering a Danger Zone

The delayed response by U.S. policymakers to China’s military modernization has regrettably ensured that a period of danger for U.S. and allied interests will inevitably occur around the end of this decade. China’s development of its space- and land-based reconnaissance and command systems, and its land-based antiship air and naval forces, will begin to fully flower around 2020 and thereafter. However, U.S. responses, such as directed-energy missile defenses and alternatives to space-based command and control, are not likely to arrive in force until the second half of the next decade. Military improvements begun recently by China’s neighbors may similarly not mature until later next decade. New U.S. long-range aircraft and missiles could arrive sooner if made an urgent priority.

China’s leaders may perceive a narrow window of opportunity during which they might believe they will possess escalation dominance. These leaders might conclude that early next decade will be the last opportunity for China to settle its claims in the Near Seas and to obtain any other regional security interests its leadership feels China requires. The leaders of Imperial Germany, facing similar concerns about Russia’s growing economy and military power before World War I, felt themselves under pressure to employ their military option while it was still useful.

The fact that an improved U.S. military and diplomatic strategy for the region will create time pressure for China’s leaders is certainly not an argument that the United States should refrain from these reforms. Prolonging the period of danger—the consequence of further delaying or even rejecting reforms—makes no sense. U.S. military planners will attempt to get through this increasingly risky period by shifting more military assets into the region. This shift will increase the vulnerability of these mostly short-range forces to Chinese attack and will magnify the risk of “use it, or lose it” instability during a crisis. In order to escape these dangers, U.S. policymakers should urgently get on with the military reforms discussed in this book, reforms designed to increase the range and reduce the vulnerability of U.S. military power in the region.

In the long run, the Asia-Pacific region will avoid major conflict only after the players in the region establish incentives that reward cooperation and punish attempts to disrupt the existing rules-based system. For these incentives to be effective, they will have to endure changes in governments and policies as well as shifts in the region’s allocation of power and influence. Sadly, history is filled with occasions when swings in the balance of power, national and ethnic grievances, or the sudden arrival of aggressive leaders brought an end to long episodes of regional stability.

The United States and its partners should firmly pursue their interests; this book has described how they can do that. As they do so, they must also treat China with respect and ensure that China has a clear path for continued success, a path that does not detract from the potential of its neighbors or the United States. The United States and its partners should bolster their defenses quietly, but in full view of the PLA and China’s decision makers. The United States and its allies should do nothing to cause China’s leaders to lose face. But these leaders should also be fully aware of the consequences of continued assertive behavior.

Preparing for the security challenge posed by China’s growing military power is not an affront to China. Indeed, these preparations show respect for China’s arrival as a great power. That arrival now threatens the region’s hope for a rich and peaceful future. History is now calling on the United States to again lead its partners in a new effort to sustain the region’s balance and prosperity, an endeavor from which all will benefit.

The Persian [Achaemenid] Army

Persian military forces were drawn from all areas of the Empire, members of the elite corps as well as conscripts levied for local action or for major campaigns. Thus the label “Persian” is not to be understood as describing the ethnic makeup but rather the troops’ allegiance, fighting under Persian officials or commanders. As has been seen, however, the command structure was not thoroughly Persian by any means either, save at the very top of the hierarchy, including most satraps and of course the King himself. The Old Persian word kra may be translated either as “army” or as “people.” This reveals the army’s ultimate origin – among the Persians themselves, many of whom came to form the corps of the standing army – as it results in occasional confusion in modern translation. When kra appears in a text, it is not always evident to us whether the people as a collective group or the specific subset of the army is meant.

Herodotus gives a full and colorful account of the vast and diverse forces of the imperial levy, the full army and navy of Persians and subject peoples, when he tallies the vast forces that Xerxes arrayed against Greece in 480 BCE. Herodotus also names many of the commanders, an elaborate depiction of the peoples of the Empire with descriptions of their clothing and equipment (7.61–100). For example, both Persians and Medes were arrayed in felt caps, colored tunics over scale mail, trousers, wickerwork shields, and a variety of weapons. Ethiopians (Nubians) wore leopard or lion skins and carried large bows. Paphlagonians wore woven helmets and carried small shields and spears. That Herodotus’ entire portrayal better describes a parade than a battle array has long been understood. But it typifies the diversity of peoples and weaponry that the Persian commanders had to weld into an effective fighting force. Persian forces, both infantry and cavalry, were renowned for their use of the bow: a frequent tactic was the unleashing of storms of arrows from behind a shield wall or for horsemen to harry the enemy with volleys of arrows.

Scholars debate the effectiveness of the Persian forces’ armor and tactics especially in the context of Xerxes’ invasion of Greece in 480 and Alexander’s invasion of the Persian Empire in the late 330s. Herodotus (9.62) describes the final crush of the Persians against the Spartans at the Battle of Plataea in 479:

On the one hand the Persians were no less than the Greeks in courage

and strength, but the Persians were without shields and, beyond this,

were unskilled and not the equal of their opponents in experience.

This passage offers just one example of the persistent problems of source evaluation. When Herodotus says that the Persians were “without shields” (Greek anoploi), what does that mean? Were the shields lost in battle? Was this contingent of the Persian army simply not carrying shields? And which group was it, ethnic Persians or some other? Some translate anoploi as “without armor,” which adds another layer to the problem. The Spartans were the most (by far) professionalized Greek soldiers of their day, so even the elite corps of the Persian army would have had their hands full against them. Beyond the elite, levied troops from the provinces of course did not have the same sort of armor, weaponry, or tactics as did, for example, the Persian Immortals and similar contingents. Numerous other passages in Greek sources provide similar perspectives: heavily armed Greek infantry, fighting in tight phalanx formations, trumped the (as generally described in Greek sources) light armed, less experienced, inferior Persian infantry every time – except when they did not. It is difficult to sift the Greek stereotypes from the realities of individual battles. That the Persians were able to conquer and retain so much territory for so long testifies to their army’s effectiveness.

The elite Persian force, numbering 10,000 according to Herodotus (7.83), was called the Immortals. Whenever one of their number died or was wounded or ill, another would take his place so the number of the battalion always remained 10,000. They were the most effective, and feared, Persian infantry force, and clearly comprised elite members of Persian society: men of prominent families or high rank. One thousand of them had gold pomegranates on their spears, some of whom comprised the king’s personal bodyguard, and the other 9,000 had silver. Herodotus’ incidental detail that the Immortals were conspicuous for their gold (bracelets or other marks of status and honor), and that they were accompanied by wagons bearing concubines and many servants, indicates that we are not dealing with the rank and file. Prestige items are frequently mentioned in conjunction with Persian officers and nobles, a phenomenon that also fed Greek stereotypes of Persian effeminacy and weakness. But these items were more symbolic than practical and communicated entirely different messages – honor and status – in a Persian context.

Greek sources often highlight the prominence and skill of Greek mercenaries, and from that perspective it was only thanks to better trained and better equipped Greek professionals that the Empire was able to field any sort of worthwhile fighting force in the fourth century. This trope contributed heavily to the stereotype of the effeminate, decaying Persian Empire before its fall to Alexander the Great. And even though Greek mercenary forces were an increasing phenomenon in the fourth century, and certainly used by Persian commanders, their significance often seems overestimated in Greek sources.

Persian Arms and Equipment

Herodotus describes the arms and equipment of Xerxes’ army in some detail. The Persians themselves wore floppy felt hats, tunics and armour exhibiting a surface of fishlike iron scales, and trousers. They carried wicker shields. Their weapons were large bows, short spears and daggers which were suspended from the belts on the right-hand side. Thus equipped, they might or might not be mounted. Persian armies generally relied upon the large numbers of their horsemen and bowmen.

Apart from the Persians themselves, Herodotus gives particulars of the other national contingents which the Persian kings were able to mobilize, although the statistics on which he based his information may have referred to the potential fighting strength of the entire Persian Empire rather than to Xerxes’ expeditionary force, gigantic though this force unquestionably was. We hear of Assyrians and others with bronze helmets; but in general, the Asiatics were protected only by various kinds of soft headgear and they seem to have worn no substantial body armour. Apart from daggers, bows and arrows, their weapons included iron-spiked clubs, axes and lassoes.

Cavalrymen – especially cavalry officers – may have worn more protective armour. Masistius, the Persian cavalry commander who was killed in the early stages of the Plataea campaign, wore gold scale armour under his scarlet surcoat. When his horse was hit by an arrow, he defended himself vigorously on foot and could not be brought down by body blows. At last, the Athenians who surrounded him guessed the secret and struck at his face.

Persian archers, both mounted and unmounted, carried their arrows in a quiver slung on the hip. This practice differed from that of the Greek archers whose quivers were slung on their backs. The hip position was no doubt more expeditious when there was a requirement for rapid fire.

Herodotus refers to the war chariots of the Indian contingent, but there is no mention of these chariots being used in the fighting. Persian kings normally went to war in chariots, which were also employed by the Persians for hunting. The Greeks of the classical period used chariots only for sporting events. Generally speaking, by the time of the Persian Wars the war chariot had been replaced by the man on horseback. The change had no doubt been brought about by the improved efficiency of horses’ bits, which made it easier for the rider to control his steed.

The Persian High Command

The Persian numbers in the two invasions were so overwhelmingly superior that one tends to blame the Persian commanders for the startling lack of success. The initiative for both enterprises came from the Great Kings themselves and there seems to have been no question of any significant “power behind the throne”. Yet there is nothing particularly blame-worthy in their conduct of the two operations – apart from the undertaking itself. There comes a time in the history of every empire when expansion has gone far enough and stability and consolidation, if not retrenchment, are needed. The handful of Athenian and Eretrian ships that had abetted the Ionian revolt was a poor pretext for such a massive military and naval effort.

If we turn to Aeschylus’ play, we find some contrast between the characters of Darius and Xerxes. The Persae presents the story of Xerxes’ crest-fallen return to Persia after his defeat at Salamis. Darius’ ghost appears and denounces the folly which has led to the recent débâcle. Darius is stern and dignified; in contrast, Xerxes is petulant and ineffective. At first sight, Herodotus’ narrative might seem to confirm this estimate. One recalls the incident when high winds destroyed the first bridge which Xerxes had constructed over the Hellespont, whereupon Xerxes ordered that the rebellious waters should be whipped as a punishment for the outrage. But perhaps this was not mere childishness on his part. In his multinational host there were many simple tribesmen who knew nothing of the enlightened Zoroastrian religion of the Persians; thus, to restore morale, it was no doubt necessary to demonstrate that even the gods of the winds and the waves were subject to the Great Kings of Persia.

Again, we are inclined to regard Xerxes’ return to Susa, his remote capital, after the disaster of Salamis, as weak and cowardly. Mardonius, his general, seems to have been left callously to his fate in Greece. But the matter may be viewed quite differently. The success of the Persian kings lay very largely in their ability to delegate power. Cyrus, when he conquered Lydia, had delegated the completion of his conquest to his general Harpagus, and probably Mardonius was expected to complete the conquest of Greece in the same way. However, when all has been said, the delineation of character in Aeschylus’ play should not be lightly dismissed. Aeschylus was, after all, writing at a time very close to the events which he described and he cannot altogether have overlooked the reputations which Darius and Xerxes had earned for themselves among their contemporaries.

As for Mardonius, he was Darius’ son-in-law, and had commanded the Persian fleet when it met with disaster on the rocks off Mount Athos. Darius’ dissatisfaction with him is clear, for in the subsequent expedition which that monarch launched against Greece, Mardonius was not in command. Datis and Artaphernes were in charge of the fleet which sailed across the central Aegean to Eretria and Marathon. However, Mardonius was a man of no mean ability and his later reinstatement proves that he enjoyed Xerxes’ confidence. After Xerxes’ return to Persia, Mardonius tried by sensible diplomacy to divide the Greek states against one another before deciding to engage in battle with them. His chances of success in this diplomatic initiative were very good and with a little more perseverance he might have succeeded. But, cut off from supplies by sea, he perhaps had difficulty in feeding his large army and was accordingly under pressure to reach a decision with the utmost possible speed.

The Persian Fleet

No one who reads Herodotus’ narrative can underestimate the importance of the naval factor in the two Persian invasions. The Persians were an inland power and possessed no fleet of their own. It says all the more for the organizing ability of the Great Kings – Xerxes in particular – that they were able to muster such vast armadas. It also suggests that their knowledge of Greek seamanship and fighting power was such that they by no means despised the enemy with whom they had to deal.

The largest contingent of the Persian fleet consisted of Phoenician vessels, manned by Phoenician crews. Rather surprisingly, the Persians relied also upon ships and crews from the Greek Ionian cities which they had subjugated. Inevitably, they must have felt some doubts about the loyalty of the Greek contingents of their own fleet. On several occasions during the campaigns, the Ionian effort seems to have been half-hearted, and at the battle of Mycale the Ionian Greeks at last deserted their Persian overlords to aid their compatriots.

Artemisia, the Greek princess who ruled Halicarnassus (subject to Persian goodwill), was present herself on shipboard at the battle of Salamis, fighting on the Persian side. However, she seems to have joined either fleet as circumstances dictated at any particular moment, for when pursued by an Athenian vessel she deliberately rammed and sank another galley of her own contingent. The Athenians, thinking that she had changed sides, abandoned the pursuit and Artemisia made good her escape without further impediment.

The truth is possibly that Xerxes found it less risky to take the Ionian fleet with him than to leave it in his rear. On every ship there was a force of soldiers, either Persians, Medes or others whose loyalty was to be trusted. Persian commanders often took the place of local captains and Xerxes probably kept the leaders of the subject communities under his personal surveillance. Their position closely resembled that of hostages to the Persians.

Apart from the Phoenician and Greek naval contingents, there was in Xerxes’ fleet an Egyptian squadron which was to distinguish itself in the course of the fighting. We hear also of ships from Cyprus and Cilicia. Cyprus contained both Greek and Phoenician cities and the people of Cilicia were largely of Greek extraction. Whether the Cilicians felt any bond of sympathy with the Greeks of the mainland is another question, but only the links of empire united them with the Persians. The proportion of the total naval strength to that of the land army is recorded: the land forces, when counted by Xerxes at Doriscus in Thrace, were, according to Herodotus, 1,700,000 strong: the strength of the fleet is given with some precision as 1,207 vessels, not including transports.

Persian Naval Strategy

It is interesting that Xerxes reverted to his father’s original plan and decided to invade Greece from the north. He must have considered that his channel through the Athos peninsula eliminated the main hazard of this route. Clearly, he could deploy a much larger army in Greece if his land forces could make their own way along the coast. At the same time, the fleet keeping pace on the army’s flank contained transports which considerably eased his supply problem. The land forces carried a good deal of their own baggage and equipment with the help of camels and other beasts of burden. These did not include horses. It was not customary in the ancient world to use horses for such purposes and it is noteworthy that Xerxes transported his horses by sea on special ships. Horseshoes were unknown in the ancient centres of civilization, and it is possible that the Persian cavalry might have reached Greece with lame mounts if their horses had been obliged to make the whole journey by land.

Warships were, of course, necessary to protect both the transports and the land forces. Without naval defence, the Persian army would have been exposed to the danger of Greek amphibious attacks on its flank and its rear. Moreover, it was Xerxes’ hope that he would crush any Greek naval units immediately, wherever he met them.

He met them first at Artemisium, on the northern promontory of Euboea. Several actions were fought there, with varying outcome. The Greek position was well chosen. In the narrow channel between the Euboean coast and the mainland, the Greeks could not be enveloped by superior numbers. At the same time, they guarded the flank of Leonidas’ forces at Thermopylae. If the Persians sailed round Euboea to attack them in the rear, then the Persian land forces would be separated from their seaborne support. What took the Greeks by surprise was the enormous size of Xerxes’ force, which despite all reports far exceeded their most pessimistic estimates. It was possible for Xerxes to send one section of his fleet round the south of Euboea while he engaged the Greeks at Artemisium with the remainder. Such a manoeuvre entailed no loss of numerical superiority on either front. But summer storms gathered over Thessaly and aided the Greeks. The very size of Xerxes’ fleet meant that there were not sufficient safe harbours to accommodate all the ships; a considerable part of it had to lie well out to sea in rough weather. In this way many ships were wrecked. When a squadron was dispatched to round Euboea and sail up the Ruripus strait, which divides the long island from the mainland, this contingent also fell victim to storms and treacherous currents. The task assigned to it was never carried out.

Quite apart from the figures given by Herodotus, events themselves testify to the huge size of the Persian armada. Despite the heavy losses suffered at Artemisium, Xerxes’ fleet still enjoyed the advantage of dauntingly superior numbers when, late in the same season, the battle of Salamis was fought. Even after Salamis, the number of surviving ships and crews was such that the Greek fleet at Mycale hesitated long before attacking them.

Communication Networks – The Royal Road

Reliable and efficient communications throughout the Empire were a necessary component for its success. The construction, maintenance, and guarding of an extensive network of roads and bridges required a great deal of engineering expertise, manpower, and expense. The Persians adopted and adapted their predecessors’ systems, and greatly expanded them, to facilitate communication across vast distances. Individuals or groups on state business carried sealed documents that allowed access to supplies or provisions en route to their destination.

The most famous of these roads, though it was only one of many, was what Herodotus called the Royal Road from Susa in Elam to Sardis in Lydia (5.52–53). Any “royal” road would have, in fact, run through Persepolis and points eastward, so Herodotus’ terminology reflects a Greek view, which usually viewed Susa as the main Achaemenid capital. From the west it ran through Cappadocia and Cilicia in Anatolia to Armenia and then south through Arbela – along the Tigris River – and on toward Susa. Herodotus notes that there were 111 royal staging posts interspersed on it and mentions several of them specifically (5.52). By his calculations this route ran roughly 1,500 miles and took a journey of ninety days. That was for a traveler in no great haste. Royal dispatches could move with surprising speed, a relay system with fresh horses and messengers at each staging post. Herodotus also describes these royal messengers: “There is nothing mortal that travels faster than these messengers … for as many days as the whole route there are horses and men stationed, one horse and one man set for each day. Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor night hinders them from accomplishing the course laid before them as quickly as possible. After the first one finishes his route, he delivers the instructed message to the second, the second does likewise to the third; from there in rapid succession down the line the message moves.” (8.98)

There were similar routes in all directions from the Empire’s core in Fars.11 Ctesias alludes to other roads running from Mesopotamia and Persia proper to Central Asia. The primary route to Bactria across northern Iran is called in modern works either the (Great) Khorasan Road or, for later periods, by its better known appellation the Silk Road. Administrative documents from Persepolis, Syro-Palestine, and Egypt record disbursements to travelers in all directions. From the Persepolis documentation we gain a sense of the itineraries of a number of the network of roads running between Susa and Persepolis. An Aramaic document tracks travelers journeying from northern Mesopotamia to Damascus and on into Egypt, with several stops along the way listed by name.

Large work crews were involved in the construction and maintenance of these roads. Herodotus’ account of Xerxes’ invasion of Greece describes roadmakers at work, not infrequently the army on campaign. The main roads, constructed wide enough to allow chariots or wagons to travel on them, served to move military forces quickly, but they were also used by travelers or merchants to transport cargo. Roads also at times had to cross obstacles such as rivers. Some permanent bridges, such as one spanning the Halys River in Anatolia, were guarded by a fort. Pontoon bridges allowed crossing of other rivers, for example, at many spots on the northern Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers and their tributaries. Temporary pontoon bridges afforded the means for Persian armies to cross into Europe: Darius I over the Bosporus on his campaign against the Scythians and Xerxes’ bridge over the Hellespont against the Greeks. Of course, rivers and larger waterways were sometimes part of the route. Diodorus Siculus (14.81.4) records a journey on a well-known route at sea along the coast of Cilicia, on land from northwestern Syria to the Euphrates, then down the river to Babylon. Similar sea trading routes connected other parts of the Empire to the core, such as through the Persian Gulf and along the southern coast of Iran to the Indus Valley.

Battle of Sept-Îles

22/23 October 1943

The English Channel’s importance as a transit route for British and German shipping made it one of the war’s most bitterly contested bodies of water. When the blockade runner Münsterland and its escort of six minesweepers and two patrol boats departed Brest on October 22, 1943, the Royal Navy’s Plymouth Command ordered the antiaircraft light cruiser Charybdis (senior officer, Captain G. A. W. Voelcker); the fleet destroyers Grenville and Rocket; and the escort destroyers Limbourne, Wensleydale, Talybont, and Stevenstone to intercept the German convoy. Because Plymouth was a transit point, it often tried to maximize resources by using ships that were passing through, such as the Charybdis, but this practice had its dangers, as became clear in execution.

The British warships arrived off the Breton coast shortly after midnight on October 23 and, with the cruiser in the lead, began sweeping west. Meanwhile, the German 4th Torpedo Boat Flotilla, T23 (Korvettenkapitän Franz Kohlauf ), T26, T27, T22, and T25 reinforced the escort. Based on past operations, the Germans had a good idea when and how the British would come. When T25’s hydrophone detected ships to the northeast, the 4th Flotilla turned toward the contact.

At 1:30 a. m., the Charybdis’s radar detected the Germans 14,000 yards ahead. As the columns rapidly converged, Captain Voelcker ordered his column to come to starboard and increase speed, but there was confusion and only the rear ship received his signal. A minute later at 1:43 a. m., the German commander saw the cruiser’s large silhouette illuminated against the lighter northern horizon only 2,200 yards distant. He ordered an emergency turn to starboard. As they came about, the T23 and then T26 emptied their torpedo tubes toward the enemy.

British radar was registering contacts and the British were intercepting German radio traffic. The Charybdis fired star shell, but the rockets burst above the clouds and only brightened the overcast sky. The Limbourne, which had lost touch with the flagship, plotted a contact off its port bow and, unsure whether it was hostile, likewise fired rockets. The fleet destroyers came to port and crossed ahead of Limbourne. Then lookouts aboard the Charybdis reported the tracks of torpedoes.

The cruiser came hard to port, but at 1:47 a. m., a torpedo struck it on the port side. As this happened, the German column was still turning and both the T27 and T22 fired full torpedo salvos as they came about. Only the T25 failed to launch. At 1:51 a. m., the German column withdrew on an easterly heading.

Another torpedo struck the Charybdis, and within five minutes its deck was under water. A minute later, a torpedo slammed into the Limbourne and detonated the small destroyer’s forward magazine. The Grenville and Wensleydale barely avoided the massive explosion. The Charybdis sank at 2:30 a. m. Attempts to tow the Limbourne failed and it was scuttled.

The British force was an improvised one following a scripted plan and had blundered into a massed, close-range torpedo salvo. The British were fortunate in that they only lost two ships. Admiralty staff studied the action off Les Sept Iles intensely and drew many of the right conclusions. Not coincidentally, it was the last clear victory German surface forces would win during the war.

References Smith, Peter C. Hold the Narrow Sea, Naval Warfare in the English Channel 1939-1945. Ashbourne, UK: Moorland, 1984. Whitley, M. J. German Destroyers of World War Two. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1991

Blockade Running

In the early stage of World War II, the main lines of communication between the Axis powers were either over land via the Trans-Siberian Railway or, when Japan entered the war in December 1941, across the sea by surface blockade runners. Japan used German blockade runners to send such goods as rubber, cooking oil, lead, tin, and tea to Germany. In return, the ships carried industrial products such as locomotives and machinery and various pieces of technical equipment, scientific instruments, and chemical and pharmaceutical products to Japan. In addition, ships carried supplies and spare parts for German warships in the Far East. Some blockade runners also supplied German armed merchant cruisers operating in the South Atlantic, Indian Ocean, and Pacific.

After Germany invaded the Soviet Union (Operation BARBAROSSA ) in June 1941, the continental line was cut, and only sea routes remained. Blockade running that began in April 1941 and ended in October 1943 involved a total of 36 ships traveling from Asia to Europe. Six of them were recalled or returned after sustaining damage, and, of the 30 that remained, 11 were sunk by Allied forces or were scuttled by their own crews to prevent capture. Another 2 were accidentally sunk by German submarines, and 1 was seized by a U. S. cruiser. Thus, 16 ships actually completed their voyages and delivered their cargo to the port of Bordeaux in German-occupied France.

In the other direction, 23 ships, including 5 fleet supply ships, were sent from Europe to the Far East between September 1941 and April 1943. Of these, 16 reached Asian ports, 5 were sunk or scuttled, and 2 were recalled or returned to port.

Overall, 45.8 percent of the blockade runners on the Far East route were lost. However, annual ship losses rose dramatically over the course of the war. Between April 1941 and October 1942, only 12.1 percent were lost, whereas in 1943, losses rose to 85.7 percent. Of 104,700 tons of materials loaded on the ships, only 26,600 tons reached their destinations. In addition to raw materials and equipment, these ships also transported passengers. Some 900 passengers embarked to travel from the Far East to Europe, but fewer than half of them arrived safely. A total of 136 died when their ships were sunk, and the remainder became prisoners of war or remained in the Far East after their ships turned back.

From early 1944, submarines took over the blockade runners’ mission. Between then and early March 1945, 16 German U-boats sailed to the Far East as combat cargo transporters. But only 8 actually arrived in Far Eastern ports, carrying some 930 tons of cargo. The other 8 boats were lost, most of them to hostile action. Through the end of 1944, only 3 submarines reached Europe, but none got to Germany: the U-843 arrived at Norway but was sunk in the Kattegat Straits; the U-510 and U-861 reached French ports.

Under the code name AQUILA, 5 Italian submarines also participated in blockade running. Departing France, they carried some 500 tons of supplies for German/ Italian submarine bases in the Far East as well as personnel and cargo for Japan. None of them returned to Europe. The Japanese also sent five submarines to Europe to transport German military technology and to exchange personnel. Ultimately, four of them reached the Continent, but only three returned: two to Singapore and one to Japan. All these submarines had Japanese and German technicians, liaison officers, and equipment and blueprints of German’s newest weapons. Of 89 passengers aboard Axis submarines traveling from Japan, 74 arrived in France; the remainder died when their boats were sunk. A total of 96 passengers sailed in the opposite direction, 64 of them arriving safely; 22 were lost while under way, and 10 others fell into U. S. hands.

References Boyd, Carl, and Yoshida Akihiko. The Japanese Submarine Force and World War II. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2002. Krug, Hans J., and Yoichi Hirama. Reluctant Allies: German-Japanese Naval Relations in World War II. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2002.

Battle of the Bay of Biscay

28 December 1943

After the invasion of the Soviet Union severed German land access to strategic raw materials such as rubber and tin, blockade runners became essential to the Axis war effort, and the Kriegsmarine maintained destroyers and fleet torpedo boats on the French Biscay coast to escort blockade runners into port during the dangerous final leg of their voyage. On December 27, 1943, two German flotillas sortied to meet the blockade runner Alsterufer, not realizing that Allied aircraft had surprised and sunk it the day before. The German units were the 8th Destroyer Flotilla (Kapitän zur See Hans Erdmenger) with the Z27, Z23, Z24, Z32, Z37 and the 4th Torpedo Boat Flotilla (Korvettenkapitän Franz Kohlauf ) with the T23, T22, T24, T25, T26, and T27. Two British light cruisers, the Glasgow and Enterprise, which had been hunting the Alsterufer, were south of the Germans, and, learning of their mission from signals intelligence, they steered to intercept.

The German flotillas united just after noon on December 28 and swept eastwardly. It was a rough day in the Bay of Biscay with a strong easterly wind. Conditions were difficult aboard the German Type 36A destroyers, which were poor sea boats, and they were worse for the torpedo boats, which had green seas breaking over their bows and spray inundating their bridges.

At 1:32 p. m., the Glasgow spotted the Germans, and eight minutes later, the Z23 saw the British cruisers bearing down. At this point, the Germans were steaming south-by-southeast in three columns. Almost immediately, Erdmenger ordered a torpedo attack, which was impractical due to the range and rough seas. Meanwhile, the British closed, and at 1:46 p. m., Glasgow’s forward turret fired the first salvo from a range of 18,000 yards.

Initially both forces ran south-southeast trading long-range broadsides. At 1:56 p. m., Erdmenger ordered another torpedo attack, and the Z32, Z37, and Z34 took station to port and edged toward the cruisers. At 2:05 p. m., a shell from the Z32 struck the Glasgow, killing two men. At 2:15 p. m., the Z37 fired four torpedoes from 14,000 yards.

While this futile barrage churned through seven miles of stormy water, Erdmenger decided to divide his force, even though German shooting had been at least as good as the British. At 2:19 p. m., the T26, T22, T25, Z27, and Z23 turned north as Z32, Z37, Z24, T23, T24, and T27 continued southeast. The Z27 turned toward the British rather than away, and the flagship became the first German vessel damaged when a 6-inch shell from the Enterprise penetrated a boiler room and ignited a huge fire.

As the Germans divided, the Glasgow joined Enterprise and ranged its turrets on the three torpedo boats heading north. At 2:54 p. m., the Glasgow damaged the rear warship, the T25. Then the Glasgow shifted fire to the T26 and hit its boiler room.

After temporarily disengaging to clear some gun defects, the Enterprise joined the Glasgow, and the two cruisers sank the T26, the most southerly of the three damaged ships at 4:20 p. m. The Enterprise dispatched the T25 at 4:37 p. m. with a single torpedo. Finally, the Glasgow found the Z27 drifting with all guns silent. It closed and exploded the German destroyer’s magazines at 4:41 p. m. The British cruisers then made for Plymouth. The Glasgow had been hit once, while the Enterprise received minor splinter damage from numerous near misses. The rest of the German force safely made port.

The Germans fired 34 torpedoes from impossibly long ranges in eight separate attacks, but in rough conditions with extended visibility the better gun platform prevailed. The German commander’s decision to divide his flotilla also proved ill-advised as afterward ranges dropped. In the engagement, the Germans lost three ships.

The two British cruisers met up once more and, seeing no further signs of the German squadron and having accounted for three of them at no significant damage to themselves, withdrew toward Plymouth. They arrived on the evening of 29 December, low on both fuel and ammunition. Glasgow had received one hit that killed two crew members and wounded another three, while Enterprise had no real damage except for shell splinters.

The two German survivors, T22 and Z23, reunited and headed towards Saint-Jean-de-Luz near the Spanish border. The rest of the German ships headed back to the Gironde.

Only 283 survivors of the 672 men on the three sunken ships were rescued: 93 from Z27, 100 from T25 and 90 from T26. British and Irish ships, Spanish destroyers and German U-boats took part in the rescue. About 62 survivors were picked up by British minesweepers as prisoners. 168 were rescued by a small Irish steamer, the MV Kerlogue, and four by Spanish destroyers, and they were all interned.

References Koop, Gerhard, and Klaus-Peter Schmolke. German Destroyers of World War II. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2003. O’Hara, Vincent P. The German Fleet at War 1939-1945. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2004

Postscript

On the 26th December eleven German destroyers and torpedo boats sailed into the Bay of Biscay to bring in the blockade-runner “Alsterufer”. however she was sunk by a Liberator bomber of RAF Coastal Command on the 27th, and next day as the German warships return to base they are intercepted by 6in cruisers “Glasgow” and “Enterprise”. Although outnumbered and out-gunned they sank the 5.9in-gunned destroyer “Z-27” and torpedo boats “T-25” and “T-26”.

Regarding the blockade-runner “Alsterufer”….Sunderland aircraft operating from Castle Archdale…201 & 422/423 RCAF also helped in the tracking and took part in several attacks on the ship.

‘Sixty-four survivors were rescued by the cruisers and several more by an Irish steamer, a Spanish destroyer and U-boats.

KERLOGUE, Wexford S.S. Co. Built in Holland in 1938 for the Wexford S.S. Co. In 1957 the KERLOGUE was sold to Norwegian interests and wrecked in 1960 off Tromso.”

All Irish ships leaving Ireland had to call at Fishguard to obtain a British Navicert before proceeding and likewise when returning to Ireland. In the early hours of the 29 December 1943 when the Irish Vessel Kerlogue was enroute from Lisbon a Focke Wulf 200 circled and signalled ” SOS follow” the ship picked up 168 survivors from the encounter with HMS Glasgow and HMS Enterprise. The little ship with a crew of 12 under Capt Donohue set course for Ireland direct. The senior German officer Kplt. Quedenfeldt requested that they be taken to Brest but he refused. They Irish crew could have been easily overpowered but the refusal was accepted. Despite repeated requests by Lands End radio, to proceed to Fishguard they continued to Ireland and landed the survivors there. They were interned. The Irish captain was at the receiving end of a very abusive Naval officer when he next called to Fishguard, who threatened to have him interned for his humanitarian act.

Bay of Biscay Offensive (February-August 1943)

Major anti-U-boat operation conducted by the British and U. S. air forces. Beginning in January 1942, Allied maritime patrol aircraft carried out air antisubmarine transit patrols in the Bay of Biscay. The advent of the new 10-cm radar in late 1942 and new methods of operations research encouraged a fresh approach to the flagging campaign there. The revised concept foresaw a continuous barrier patrol of the U-boat transit exit routes from the Bay of Biscay into the Atlantic by a total of 260 aircraft equipped with brand-new ASV Mk. III 10-cm-band radars. Operational command would lie with the Number 19 Group of the Royal Air Force’s Coastal Command. Allied projections for success were vague and excessively optimistic, but the planners assumed correctly that it would take the Germans at least four months to respond effectively to the new 10-cm radar.

The actual offensive was preceded by three trial phases: Operations GONDOLA (February 4-16, 1943), ENCLOSE I (March 20-28, 1943), and ENCLOSE II (April 5-13, 1943). Beset by difficulties, such as the withdrawal of the U. S. Army Air Force’s B-24 Liberator bombers, slow delivery of the ASV Mk. III radar, and lack of aircraft, the operations were nonetheless a success in that they demonstrated an increased efficiency in aircraft allocation and in U-boat sightings.

Air Marshal Sir John C. Slessor, head of Coastal Command, decided to launch the full-scale offensive (Operation DERANGE ) on April 13 with 131 aircraft. The repeated, accurate night attacks by the Vickers Wellington medium bombers of Number 172 Squadron, then the only Coastal Command aircraft equipped with new ASV Mk. III radars and Leigh lights, produced instant, although unforeseen, results. The failure of the German threat receivers to warn the U-boats of the incoming aircraft and the success of two U-boats in shooting down the attacking planes convinced the German U-boat command that the remedy was to give up the night surface transit and to order the U-boats to fight it out with aircraft while on the surface during daylight hours.

Coastal Command aircraft wreaked havoc among the grossly overmatched U-boats during those daylight battles. In May alone, six U-boats were destroyed and seven so severely damaged that they had to return to their bases. In turn, the U-boats accounted for only 5 of 21 aircraft lost by the Coastal Command in the Bay of Biscay that month.

The German withdrawal from the North Atlantic convoy routes following the “Black May” of 1943 allowed Slessor to step up the operation with additional air assets. The Germans took to sending the U-boats in groups in order to provide better antiaircraft defense, yet in June, four U-boats were lost and six others severely damaged. DERANGE peaked in July, when Allied aircraft claimed 16 U-boats- among them three valuable Type XIV U-tankers-compelling Grossadmiral (grand admiral) Karl Dönitz to call off a planned operation in the western Atlantic.

German losses in the Bay of Biscay dropped considerably thereafter, but the air patrols remained a formidable obstacle throughout the remainder of the war by forcing the U-boats to stay submerged for most of the time during transit. Although the Battle of the Atlantic was ultimately won around the convoys, the Bay of Biscay Offensive contributed to the success by preventing many U-boats from reaching their operational areas in time to saturate convoy defenses as they had done in March 1943.

References Blair, Clay. Hitler’s U-Boat War. Vol. 2, The Hunted, 1942-1945. New York: Random House, 1998. Gannon, Michael. Black May. New York: HarperCollins, 1998. Morison, Samuel Eliot. History of United States Naval Operations in World War II. Vol. 10, The Atlantic Battle Won, May 1943-May 1945. Boston: Little, Brown, 1956. Roskill, Stephen W. The War at Sea, 1939-1945. Vols. 2 and 3. London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1957 and 1960