Italian Colonial Wars (1882–1936)

The Italian quest for prestige. Though it would seem that the pursuit of an overseas empire would be a low priority for the newly unified Italian state, with its lack of internal integration, serious border disputes with Austria, and a general paucity of resources, Rome still sought this objective in competition with the other major powers of the nineteenth century. The objectives being international prestige, potential markets, and an outlet for Italy’s excess population that would still be under Rome’s political control. A particular impetus for Italian expansion was the resonance of the very name Rome with empire.

While allowed by the British government to gain a foothold in what is now Somalia, Italian efforts to create a protectorate over the Ethiopian Empire failed. Despite losing to feudal levies at Dogali in 1887, Rome signed the treaty of Wichale with Emperor Menelik II in 1889. The emperor believed he had signed a treaty recognizing his sovereignty. The Italian government felt they had cleverly bound the Ethiopians with an admission of overlordship. When Menelik came to understand the true meaning of the treaty, he repudiated the document in 1893 and went to war.

The climax of this campaign was the disastrous Battle of Adowa in 1896, though the Italians were also fought to a standstill at Amba Alagi (1895) and Macalle (1896). Essentially, the Italo-Ethiopian conflict had become a proxy fight between London and Paris over control of the Sudan, with the result that the Ethiopian military, while essentially a feudal horde, had access to modern French and Russian weapons. When added to the raw numbers and traditional warrior ferocity of Menelik’s army, the result was a crushing Italian defeat. Rome was unable even to mount a retaliatory campaign to exact revenge for the worst humiliation ever visited by a traditional state on a modern Western army.

The second major effort by the Italians came in North Africa, as the Agadir Incident encouraged Rome to try to turn its area of influence in Cyrenica and Tripolitania (modern Libya) into a formal colony, mostly from fear of French aggrandizement. This move led to the Italo-Turco War (1910–1911), which, although a war between organized armies, was mostly about securing colonial possessions in compensation for other governments’ gains.

Once the Turks had stepped back from their confrontation with the Italians, mostly to deal with the Balkan War, Rome found itself locked into a long-running guerrilla war with the Senussi, a culture of desert nomads with no intention of compromising their traditions for the sake of Rome’s economic and political aspirations. With encouragement from Turkey and Germany, the Senussi (under their emir Idris) were able to fight the Italians to a standstill; by 1919 Rome was forced to grant the nomads autonomy.

These were circumstances that Benito Mussolini was not prepared to tolerate upon his accession to power, though it was not obvious that he would be interested in pursuing a formal empire. As a former socialist, Mussolini was nominally an anti-imperialist. There was also the more cynical consideration of whether adopting such a pose would better serve the ends of the new regime. In the end, Mussolini was further concerned with achieving victories for his regime so as to solidify his domestic power, in addition to the usual Italian colonial goals.

Mussolini assigned Emilio De Bono the task of bringing the Senussi to heel, thus beginning a campaign that lasted into the early 1930s. De Bono was chosen because he was the most eminent soldier to join the Fascist cause, and his success would reflect glory on the Blackshirt movement, but his lack of progress led to his replacement by the regular army generals Pietro Badoglio and Rodolfo Graziani.

Their strategy was the traditional anti-insurrection method of concentrating the noncombatant population in secured camps so as to separate them from the active fighters, there being no more than 1,000 active guerrillas at any one time. The anti-insurgency campaign was carried out with all of the expected Fascist brutality and much of the social and economic infrastructure of Libya’s traditional peoples was destroyed; it was estimated that by 1932 some 100,000 persons had died in Cyrenica alone, roughly half the population of that region.

It was probably inevitable that Mussolini would revisit the question of exacting revenge from Ethiopia for the debacle of 1896, the rationale given to the Italian population. Though Rome had been able to exert more influence over Addis Ababa, Haile Selassi had continued to try to play off the major European powers against each other so as to maintain the sovereignty of his state. Believing himself to have a free hand from London and Paris, Mussolini began his second colonial war much as he had his campaign in North Africa, by dispatching De Bono with a large force of Blackshirt militia to march on the Ethiopian capital so as to monopolize all the glory for his regime.

As before, a larger than expected force (some 800,000 men were mobilized) under professional officers was required to bring the formal campaign to a conclusion, a campaign that nauseated the democracies with its use of chemical weapons, indiscriminately spread by air. Much of the war became desultory after the Ethiopian regular army was defeated.

However, formal military conquest did not lead to a pacified region and the Italians found themselves contending with a constant level of insurrection, a matter not helped by the fragmentary control that the Ethiopian central government had exerted over the country. Neither sanguinary violence nor relative benevolence was able to solidify the Italian position before the country’s defeat at the hands of the British in 1941 and the total loss of empire. The entire Italian adventure in imperialism brings to mind the supposed quotation of Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, “The Italians have strong appetites but weak teeth.”

References and further reading: Gooch, John. Army, State and Society in Italy, 1870–1915. London: Macmillan, 1989. Mack Smith, Denis. Mussolini’s Italian Empire. New York: Viking Press, 1976. Mockler,Anthony. Haile Selassi’s War: The Italian-Ethiopian Campaign, 1935–1941. New York: Random House, 1984. Tripodi, Paola. The Colonial Legacy in Somalia: Rome and Mogadishu from Colonial Administration to Operation Restore Hope. New York: St.Martin’s Press, 1999.



The universal principles of supplying war have been applied in three major periods: the long period of history when war was powered by human and animal muscle; the approximately 100 years from the mid-19th century through World War II, when industrial might changed warfare profoundly; and the modern nuclear age, when weapons of mass destruction and technological change have removed certain age-old problems of logistics and created new ones.

In ancient history the combination of local supply for food and forage and self-containment in hardware and services appears often as the logistic basis for operations by forces of moderate size. Some of these operations are familiar to many a schoolchild—the long campaign of Alexander the Great from Macedonia to the Indus, the saga of Xenophon’s Ten Thousand, Hannibal’s campaigns in Italy. The larger armies of ancient times—like the Persian invaders of Greece in 480 BCE—seem to have been supplied by depots and magazines along the route of march. The Roman legion combined all three methods of supply in a marvelously flexible system. The legion’s ability to march fast and far owed much to superb roads and an efficiently organized supply train, which included mobile repair shops and a service corps of engineers, artificers, armourers, and other technicians. Supplies were requisitioned from local authorities and stored in fortified depots; labour and animals were drafted as required. When necessary, the legion could carry in its train and on the backs of its soldiers up to 30 days’ supply of provisions. In the First Punic War against Carthage (264–241 BCE), a Roman army marched an average of 16 miles (26 km) a day for four weeks.

One of the most efficient logistic systems ever known was that of the Mongol cavalry armies of the 13th century. Its basis was austerity, discipline, careful planning, and organization. In normal movements the Mongol armies divided into several corps and spread widely over the country, accompanied by trains of baggage carts, pack animals, and herds of cattle. Routes and campsites were selected for accessibility to good grazing and food crops; food and forage were stored in advance along the routes of march. On entering enemy country, the army abandoned its baggage and herds, divided into widely separated columns, and converged upon the unprepared foe at great speed from several directions. In one such approach march a Mongol army covered 180 miles (290 km) in three days. Commissariat, remount, and transport services were carefully organized. The tough and seasoned Mongol warrior could subsist almost indefinitely on dried meat and curds, supplemented by occasional game; when in straits, he might drain a little blood from a vein in his mount’s neck. Every man had a string of ponies; baggage was held to a minimum, and equipment was standardized and light.

In the early 17th century, King Gustav II Adolf of Sweden and Prince Maurice of Nassau, the military hero of the Netherlands, briefly restored to European warfare a measure of mobility not seen since the days of the Roman legion. This period saw a marked increase in the size of armies; Gustav and his adversaries mustered forces as large as 100,000, Louis XIV of France late in the century even more. Armies of this size had to keep on the move to avoid starving; as long as they did so, in fertile country they could usually support themselves without bases, even with their customary huge noncombatant “tail.” Logistic organization improved, and Gustav also reduced his artillery train and the size of guns. In the Thirty Years’ War (1618–48) strategy tended to become an appendage of logistics as armies, wherever possible, moved and supplied themselves along rivers exploiting the economies of water transportation, and operated in rich food-producing regions.

After the Thirty Years’ War, European warfare became more sluggish and formalized, with limited objectives and an elaborate logistics that sacrificed both range and mobility. The new science of fortification made towns almost impregnable while enhancing their strategic value, making 18th-century warfare more an affair of sieges than of battles. Two logistic innovations were notable: the magazine, a strategically located prestocked depot, usually established to support an army conducting a siege; and its smaller, mobile version, the rolling magazine, which carried a few days’ supply for an army on the march. Secure lines of communication became vital, and whole armies were deployed to protect them. The increasing size of armies and of artillery and baggage trains placed heavier burdens on transport. Also, a revulsion against the depredations and inhumanity of the 17th-century religious wars resulted in curbs on looting and burning and in regulated requisitioning or purchase of provisions from local authorities. Because of the high cost of mercenary soldiery, commanders tended to avoid battles, and campaigns tended to become sluggish maneuvers aimed at threatening or defending bases and lines of communication. “The masterpiece of a successful general,” Frederick the Great remarked, “is to starve his enemy.”

The era of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic domination of Europe (1789–1815) brought back both mobility and range of movement to European warfare, along with an immense further increase in the size of armies. Abandoning the siege warfare of the 18th century, Napoleonic strategy stressed swift offensives aimed at smashing the enemy’s main force in a few decisive battles. The logistic system inherited from the Old Regime proved surprisingly adaptable to the new scale and pace of operations. Organization was made more efficient, baggage trains were pared down and some of their load shifted to the soldier’s back, and much of the noncombatant tail was eliminated. The artillery train was increased, and the rolling magazine was used as the occasion demanded. The heavily burdened citizen-soldier marched faster and farther than his mercenary predecessor. In densely populated and fertile regions, moving armies continued to subsist, by purchase and requisition, on the countryside through which they marched, spreading out over parallel roads, each corps foraging to one side only. Even so, the numbers involved dictated greater dependence on magazines.

Napoleon made relatively few logistic innovations. He militarized some services formerly performed by contractors and civilian personnel, but the supply service (intendance) remained civilian though under military control. A significant change was the establishment in 1807 of a fully militarized train service to operate over part of the line of communication; this was divided into sections that were each serviced by a complement of shuttling wagons—foreshadowing the staged resupply system of the 20th century. The 600-mile (1,000-km) advance of Napoleon’s Grande Armée of 600,000 men into Russia in 1812 involved logistic preparations on an unprecedented scale. Despite extensive sabotage by the Russian peasantry, the system brought the army victorious to Moscow.



The amalgamation of German rocket scientists into the American space program yielded benefits for the US, while giving the Germans a safe haven. Wernher von Braun became the spokesman for imaginative space-travel stories on American television in the 1950s, his previous association with the Nazi regime largely forgotten and forgiven.

Beginning in the fall of 1945, the arrival of more than 100 German scientists in El Paso, Texas, as invitees of the US Army, at Fort Bliss happened with little fanfare – a deliberate US Army action. Fort Bliss’ huge open range area abutted the White Sands Proving Ground (to become the White Sands Missile Range) in adjacent New Mexico, giving vast isolation in which to conduct missile launches with little fear of collateral damage or prying eyes. Some of the Germans were amazed at the expansiveness of the American west – easily capable of swallowing up all of Germany’s area many times over. Also curious to them was the ease with which they, with their US Army escorts, traveled thousands of miles across many state lines with no policed border crossings.

The Germans were guests of the US Army who arrived without the normal processing of foreign visitors to the United States. They had one-year contracts. Initially they were closely watched and escorted by their US Army hosts any time they wanted to go off Fort Bliss. Over time, the restrictions relaxed. Von Braun, in particular, urged his German associates to learn English, which many of them accomplished with the colorful inflections of the American southwest. Some of the men initially felt their talents were underutilized at Fort Bliss. Von Braun did what he could to keep them focused and motivated, discussing their unifying vision of space travel. During their first Christmas in America in 1945, some of the Germans, including Wernher von Braun’s younger brother Magnus, devised a skit foretelling the first launch of man into space from White Sands in the year 2000. Little did they know then how the American-Soviet space race would buoy many of these same German émigrés on an aggressive adventure to put men on the moon by 1969.

The first year for the Germans in El Paso saw some of them assist the US Army in early V2 launches. For the Germans, the future was in new missiles and new goals in space, while for the Americans, self-sufficiency with the V2s was a worthy milestone. Before the first year-long contracts were up, it was evident the Germans possessed knowledge and skill levels not yet attained by their American counterparts. In an effort to retain the services of the Germans, five-year contracts tied to civil service wage rates were offered. In addition, the scientists and engineers could bring their families from Germany. The rocket men did what they could in those first few postwar years in El Paso, caught in a limbo where some American decision-makers did not want to fund extensive new missiles as a military venture, and the notion of non-military manned spaceflight was too far-fetched to gain traction. But in 1949, Soviet testing of their first atom bomb, coming on the heels of the contentious Berlin blockade and airlift the year before, prompted a change in thinking. The Germans would be employed initially in the creation of a new ballistic missile with a 200-mile range and nuclear capability. Longer-range missiles were expected to follow this initial effort. Col Holger N. Toftoy, the US Army ordnance officer entrusted with leading this effort, needed a better physical plant than the makeshift operation he had at Fort Bliss. When his request to build proper rocket research facilities was turned down for other operational requirements at the Texas site, he inspected, and then requested, two mothballed US Army arsenals in Huntsville, Alabama. His plans for the US Army missile facility survived some challenges to become funded at Huntsville.

In 1949, with multi-year work agreements and a planned move in the following year to the green hills of northern Alabama, the German scientists encountered a new dilemma. Their status as invitees of the US Army had circumvented normal immigration processes. They could not apply for US citizenship because they were technically illegal aliens. In a bit of old west choreographing that met the letter of the law, the Germans in El Paso simply stepped into neighboring Mexico and returned to Texas, this time as recognized aliens seeking American citizenship.

If a summation of the German rocket scientists’ experiences can be made, it must include recognition of the team spirit they managed to hold on to, in spite of their upheaval in Germany, and perceptions of underutilization early in their U.S. sojourn. Their integration into US Army ballistic missile programs of the 1950s gained for them the next new missile program, the Redstone, followed by the Jupiter. But much more fortuitously, it kept them available to form a cadre at NASA for developing the space exploration vehicles and rationale they had dreamed of since the 1930s. In 1960, with President John F. Kennedy’s stirring challenge to the United States to put a man on the moon within the decade, much of the US Army’s missile development team at Huntsville transferred over to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) who created the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville to enable creation of the Apollo Saturn V multi-stage moon rocket. Naturalized US citizen Wernher von Braun was selected to become the first director of the new Hunstville NASA center.

If the spectacular acceleration of America’s space program outstripped the efforts of early V2 launches in the New Mexico desert under the overarching moniker Project Hermes, those flights nonetheless set the stage for what followed. After a number of basically stock V2s (albeit usually with some American-made components) reached various altitudes and achieved differing levels of upper atmospheric research over New Mexico, scientific and engineering entities in the United States began modifying the German war booty in an effort to make the V2s more effective research vehicles.

The US Navy’s Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) accepted the US Army’s invitation in January 1946 to become involved with V2 research in the New Mexico desert. The NRL held a key position in the US V2 program, conducting upper atmospheric science and developing the technology to enable this research. The NRL logged 80 experiments between 1946 and 1951. Major accomplishments included the first photos of Earth from altitudes of 40, 70, and 101 miles; the first detection and measurement of solar X-rays; the first direct measurement of atmospheric pressure higher than 18 miles; the first photography of the ultraviolet solar spectrum below 285 angstroms; the first detection of solar Lyman-alpha radiation; and the first direct measurement of the profile of ionospheric electron density versus height.

The NRL’s Richard Tousey took advantage of the V2’s altitude capability to design special spectroscopes to measure solar ultraviolet radiation from above the filtering blanket of Earth’s atmosphere. His first instrumentation package was destroyed in a shattering desert crash, but in October 1946, the device survived and provided the first solar spectrum in the far ultraviolet range.

The military V2 s had warhead nose cones that were ill suited to housing scientific payloads. The Naval Gun Factory in the District of Columbia manufactured new lookalike nose sections that had appropriate access panels and the ability to better accommodate research packages. The 7½ft-long science noses initially answered the need. As science flights continued, instrumentation packages in the extreme nose of a V2 were sometimes irretrievably damaged on impact with the ground. Researchers noted the lower sections of the rocket body tended to survive the return to Earth better than did the nose cone. Some effort was made to use explosives to separate the rocket nose from the rest of the body, and to mount instrumentation in the lower body areas for an increased chance of data survival. Launches of anesthetized monkeys provided data on weightlessness and other phenomena that increased the scientific confidence level that humans could survive the rigors of spaceflight.

Navalized V2s included a trio of the missiles trucked from New Mexico to Norfolk, Virginia in 1947. The three V2s were loaded aboard the aircraft carrier USS Midway (CVA-41) for Operation Sandy, the shipboard launch of a V2. A US Army team familiar with the German rockets assembled the V2s for the US Navy and trained a US Navy launch crew. While Midway cruised in calm waters a couple of hundred miles off the east coast of the United States, Operation Sandy launched one of the V2s on September 6, 1947. The launch succeeded, but the missile destroyed itself at about 12,000ft. With little delay, Midway began aircraft launch operations once the V2 was gone. The test was called successful because it showed the possibility of handling a large rocket like the V2 aboard a ship at sea, then launching it without impeding the ship’s normal operations. The US Navy’s missile aspirations were whetted by the Operation Sandy flight. But what if rough seas caused a calamity in which a V2-type missile tipped over on deck after being fueled? Operation Pushover used a replicated section of steel aircraft-carrier deck installed at White Sands, plus two V2s that were deliberately toppled at different times in the pre-launch sequence to gain an appreciation for the inferno a fully fueled missile could cause. Ultimately, the US Navy’s unique leg of the strategic triad in American nuclear deterrence would come in the form of specialized submarine-launched Polaris missiles.

The USAAF’s (later USAF’s) Cambridge Research Laboratories in Massachusetts participated in upper-atmosphere measurements made aboard V2s launched over New Mexico. Instrumented balloons of the day typically only reached about 19 miles high; the V2s promised altitudes of 100 miles or more. It was in the service’s interests to quantify as much as possible the characteristics of the upper atmosphere and near exoatmosphere, to aid in the development of viable high-altitude aircraft and even higher-flying missiles.

Records show seven V2s were assigned to the Cambridge labs, under the name Blossom. They were modified by lengthening them about 5ft 5in. in the midsection, as well as extending the nose cone and developing parachutes for instrument and experiment recovery purposes. Their modifications were designed to cause the Blossom V2s to break up in flight, separating research sections for, hopefully, survivable landings in the desert. Four of the seven Blossom V2s were considered to have successful missions.

The American testers of V2s in the desert gained valuable experience with large-rocket staging when they mounted an American product, the WAC Corporal rocket, to the nose of a V2. The staging and separation enabled the WAC Corporal to ride aloft, boosted by the massive liquid-fueled V2, and then accelerate ahead to achieve research altitudes unattainable by other means of the day. Suggested in mid-1946 by Col Toftoy, the ensuing lash-up of the American and German rockets constituted the first multi-stage liquid-fueled rocket tested in the United States. The modified missiles were operated under the project name Bumper. The existing WAC Corporal was modified with the addition of another fin and the enlargement of all fins to help stabilize it in the extremely rare atmosphere in which it would begin its solo boosted flight after separation from the V2. As the WAC Corporal eased out of the V2 nose cone on rails, two small rocket motors imparted a gyro-stabilizing spin to the smaller missile to enhance the accuracy of its flight into space. The first Bumper launch was on May 13, 1948. It was a test of the system. The Bumper team made several launches of varying degrees of success leading up to Bumper 5 on February 24, 1949. The full-up V2 and WAC Corporal combination delivered as designed, and after leaving its V2 booster behind, the slim Corporal reached the then-astounding altitude of 244 miles above the stark desert, and a speed of 5,150 mph. It was the highest a man-made object had soared at that time.

Two Bumpers were earmarked to explore flight dynamics around Mach 7. This required a flatter trajectory and not maximum altitude, which translated into a long 250-mile downrange profile. Even the vast reaches of White Sands could not contain a run that long, so Bumpers 7 and 8 were launched from the USAF’s newly designated overwater range at Cocoa Beach, Florida, on Cape Canaveral. They inaugurated the Florida facility. One of the Florida Bumpers boosted its WAC Corporal in a trajectory that enabled the smaller rocket to reach nine times the speed of sound – a record.

Seventy-two Americanized V2s are counted in the launch statistics between April 16, 1946 and September 19, 1952. Of these, only 68 percent were called successful launches, although some of the failed missions still yielded useful information and experience. If the scientific research was sparse over this large batch of V2s, the experience gained in missile operations and how to conduct missile research was very valuable, and is generally credited with saving the US years of delay in maturing its missile development program.

One can only imagine the excitement of US Army, US Navy, and industry rocket testers as they pondered the availability of as many as 100 supersonic German V2 missiles in 1946. These early American rocketeers were fresh from victory in the most technologically complex war the world had known. Yet by their very use of appropriated German technology, they had to be cognizant that even as they were pioneering new experiments, they were doing so with a design made by their erstwhile mortal foe. Subsequent space developments would show just how important the sometimes-controversial decision to bring German rockets and rocket scientists into the United States would be.

If Wernher von Braun’s enthusiastic, upbeat, yet authoritative persona made him the natural leader of the transplanted German rocketeers in America, he wisely kept his wartime deputy, Dr. Eberhard Rees, close at hand and in pivotal positions in the nascent postwar American rocketry discipline. Rees, a mechanical engineer by training in Germany in the 1930s, was summoned to join the rocketry team at Peenemünde in February 1940. It would be his introduction to rocketry, and to Wernher von Braun. Years later Rees recalled how he and von Braun discussed the spaceflight potential of rockets – the kind of talk that once got von Braun incarcerated for a brief time. Both men agreed that their peacetime vocations would involve development of rockets for spaceflight.

When Wernher von Braun was chosen to be the first director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, he tapped his old colleague Eberhard Rees to be deputy director to handle technical and scientific issues. At Marshall in the 1960s, Rees and von Braun were seminal to the success of the evolutionary Saturn I, I-B, and Saturn V that were required to boost manned Apollo vehicles to the moon. Rees would later say the Saturn development was the most interesting work in his career. When von Braun departed Marshall, Rees assumed duties as director until his retirement in 1973.

Nor did the early American rocket breakthroughs end with the last captured V2 launch in 1952. General Electric built upon another German rocket, the unfielded surface-to-air Wasserfall. Smaller than a V2, but with similar aerodynamic shaping, the Wasserfall silhouette had German research to back up its reasoning; General Electric capitalized on this research, but improvised with a different internal motor system in their variant known as the Hermes A-1. The wealth of experience General Electric gained in its White Sands V2 and Hermes efforts can be traced through several iterations, each more original than the previous, leading to the US Army’s successful Redstone surface-to-surface missile.

The Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Company – Convair – was, like all American aircraft manufacturers after war’s end, in search of new business. Convair diversified its aviation portfolio with contracts for the giant B-36 strategic bomber, forays into twin-engine airliners, and exploratory military work. When the USAAF solicited proposals for projects as part of a decade-long study of guided missiles, Convair received approval to explore a theoretical 5,000-mile-range ballistic missile projected to deliver a nuclear warhead with an accuracy of just under one mile. The first step in this ambitious plan was creating a smaller liquid-fueled missile to validate the use of swiveling rocket nozzles instead of movable vanes for control. The use of telemetry, and improvements in guidance systems also were to accrue from this demonstration missile, given the USAAF project designator MX-774.

Convair’s Vultee division undertook the challenge. Vultee lead engineer Karel Bossart began with a known quantity – the V2 – and his resulting MX-774 bore a strong resemblance to the German wartime product. But Bossart and his team made a salient change that saved substantial weight. Where the V2 had a steel shell housing separate fuel and oxidizer tanks, the Convair engineers reasoned that the external skin of the rocket body could be the outer wall of integral tankage for the two fuel components. The pressure of the liquids in the tanks lent rigidity to the missile while on the ground; in ascent, the loss of fluids due to fuel burn was offset by gas pressure to maintain rigidity. This clever mating of German silhouette as a design shortcut, plus revolutionary integral tanking and swiveling nozzles, permitted the MX-774 to be built in less than two years. After static engine tests, the first launch of an MX-774 took place at White Sands on July 13, 1948. It and two other copies suffered problems in their flights, but they validated two key concepts – swiveling nozzles and thin-wall integral fuel tank/rocket body construction.

The Germanic connection does not stop there; photos of MX-774 launch recovery operations show what appear to be German-inspired ribbon parachutes intended to slow the fall of the instrument-laden missiles.

Convair MX-774 Vultee “Hiroc” Missile

The innovative design of the MX-774 gave Convair and the USAF sufficient confidence to proceed with an operational intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) derivative – the much larger, and finless, Atlas. Late variants are still in use as satellite boost vehicles at the time of writing. Visitors to the Atlas assembly plant are surprised at the hollow, vibrating drum-like sensation that comes from thumping the skin of a cradled and unpressurized Atlas. The original Atlas missiles deployed by the Air Force as ICBMs in October 1959 no longer looked like V2s, but they owed their successful development time to the use of V2 aerodynamics in the MX-774 more than a decade earlier. Withdrawn from USAF service as an ICBM in the middle of the 1960s, the Atlas will forever be associated with its decades-long service as a boost rocket, including the mission that put John Glenn, America’s first orbital astronaut, aloft in 1962.

Air Offensive Over Lebanon 1982



On June 9, 1982, three days after the start of the first Lebanon War, IAF pilots waited with great tension and suspense for the signal to embark on one of the air force’s most complicated missions: attacking Syrian missile batteries in Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley. In Jerusalem, the government continued to discuss the operation, struggling over fears of an escalation with the Syrians, who were politically and militarily involved in Lebanon. The debate was tense and stretched on for many hours. The time set for the start of the operation was pushed back, and Air Force Commander David Ivry retired to his office to concentrate on the latest flashes from the battlefield. Colonel Aviem Sella, the head of IAF operations, circulated among the pilots, checking their readiness, providing encouragement and trying to ease the tension.

At 1:30 P.M., IDF Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan called the air force commander from the prime minister’s office, telling him, “Time to act. Good luck!” At two, the offensive got under way.

When the green light was given, twenty-four F-4 Phantom jets from IAF Squadron 105 took off, armed with missiles. Soaring alongside them were Skyhawk fighter aircraft, Kfirs—Israeli-made combat jets—and F-15s and F-16s armed with heat-seeking air-to-air missiles. For Israel’s electronic-disruption effort, the air force had enlisted Hawkeye early-warning aircraft, Boeing 707s and Zahavan drones. At the peak of the action, approximately one hundred Israeli planes were in the air.

The Syrians likewise threw roughly one hundred aircraft into battle—MiG-21s and -23s. Nineteen surface-to-air-missile batteries had been spread across the Beqaa Valley, where they were ready to launch SA-3, SA-6 and SA-8 surface-to-air missiles, among the most advanced, state-of-the-art engines developed by the Soviet Union.

Surface-to-air missiles were still a source of trauma for Israel’s air force. The war of attrition with Egypt, followed by the Yom Kippur War, had left behind bad memories and a sense of powerlessness against Egyptian missiles. The former defense minister, General Ezer Weizman, had coined the famous phrase “the missile that bent the plane’s wing,” which had motivated IAF commanders to look for a solution to this difficult problem. For five years, the top minds in the air force had labored with members of the military industry to develop a technological response that would protect the planes from the enemy’s missiles and bring the plane’s wing back to its natural place.

Now the hour of judgment had arrived: Would the Jewish brain again come up with an answer? Would the pilots’ nightmare come to an end? Would the IAF reestablish control over the region’s skies?

The attack’s opening move was the launch of drones over the Beqaa Valley, an act of misdirection. The aircrafts’ radar profile had been designed to resemble that of fighter jets, and the Syrians fell into the trap. As Israel’s military planners had thought, the Syrians immediately launched surface-to-air missiles at the drones, exposing the precise locations of their batteries, which in turn became targets for Israeli radiation-seeking missiles. Simultaneously, the IDF ground electronic sensors pinpointed the batteries’ locations and its artillery began shelling them.

Twenty-four Phantoms then suddenly appeared, each carrying two “Purple Fists,” anti-radiation missiles that zero in on radar installations by detecting the heat from antiaircraft systems. The planes launched the missiles at the batteries from nearly twenty-two miles away; also fired were Ze’ev surface-to-surface missiles, a sophisticated short-to-medium-range weapon that had been developed in Israel. The entire time, drones circled above the area, transmitting the results back to the operation’s commanders.

After the attack’s first wave, the Syrian batteries went silent for several minutes, and then the second wave arrived. Forty Phantoms, Kfirs and Skyhawks fired various types of bombs, among them cluster bombs that destroyed the batteries and their crews. The third wave took on the few remaining batteries, and within forty-five minutes, the attack had ended as a complete success. Most of the batteries had been wiped out.

During the offensive, the Syrians had fired fifty-seven SA-6 missiles but had managed to hit just one Israeli plane. For several long minutes, the Syrian command had been in complete disarray, and when it realized its battery system had collapsed, scrambled its MiGs. During the aerial battles that ensued, Israel’s F-15s and F-16s brought down twenty-seven MiGs using air-to-air missiles.

“From an operational standpoint, in contrast to what was planned, the attack on the missile batteries was one of the simplest missions I ever oversaw,” said Colonel Sella, who had been charged with the operation’s ground management. “Everything went like clockwork. As a result, even after the first planes successfully attacked the batteries, I ordered their continued bombing. The perception was that any change, any pause or shift, could only create turmoil that would disrupt the progression of matters.”

Toward 4:00 P.M., Sella reached a decision that he later described as the most significant of his life: to halt the operation. “At this stage, we had already destroyed fourteen batteries. We were an hour before last light, and we hadn’t lost a plane. I believed we couldn’t achieve a better outcome. When I leaned back for a minute in my chair, I took in some air and said to myself, ‘Let’s stop—we’ve done our work for the day. They’re going to bring more batteries tomorrow in any case.’”

Sella went to David Ivry, who was observing the mission with Chief of Staff Eitan. Sella leaned into Ivry’s ear so that Eitan wouldn’t hear and said, “I’m requesting authorization to stop the operation. We won’t accomplish more today. We’ll destroy the rest tomorrow.”

Ivry thought for a moment and nodded in agreement. The handful of planes then en route to an additional attack returned on Sella’s orders to their bases. Defense Minister Ariel Sharon didn’t love the decision, to put it mildly, even criticizing it harshly during a meeting with Eitan. But Sella’s theory that the Syrians would move additional batteries to the Beqaa Valley overnight proved correct.

Over the next two days, Israeli bombers, escorted by fighter jets, set out to strike the new SA-8 batteries relocated by the Syrians. Because of the paralysis of Syria’s defensive batteries, its air force dispatched planes to intercept the Israeli aircraft. In the battles that followed, Israel’s pilots again had the upper hand: eighty-two Syrian aircraft were downed over the course of the first Lebanon War. The Israeli Air Force lost two planes to ground fire. During the campaign, what became known as the “biggest battle of the jet age” took place, involving approximately two hundred planes from the two sides.

“This situation, in which our planes were dominant and the Syrians were in a state of panic, gave us a huge psychological advantage,” Ivry said. “The aerial picture on the Syrian side was very unclear. We added in electronic means for disrupting their ability to aim and keep control, meaning that the Syrians entered the combat zone more as targets than as interceptors.”

When Ivry, who had also been the air force commander during Israel’s attack on Iraq’s nuclear reactor, was asked what his most exciting moment had been, he answered without hesitation that it was the end of the missile attack during the first Lebanon War. “When it became clear that we had succeeded in destroying the Syrian missile apparatus and that not one of our planes was damaged, it was a moment of true spiritual transcendence. This was a struggle involving the entire air force—a big concert with lots of instruments of various types, and everyone needed to play in perfect harmony.”

The operation’s success gave Israel complete control over the skies of Lebanon and made it possible for air force planes to freely assist IDF ground forces. Nevertheless, the air force abstained from striking Syrian ground troops, in keeping with a decision made by the cabinet, which feared sliding into an all-out war with Syria. On June 11, 1982, following mediation by the American emissary Philip Habib, a cease-fire between Israel and Syria took hold.

The mission, Operation Mole Cricket 19, was considered one of the four most important in the history of the air force. (The other three were Operation Focus, the assault on the combined Arab Air Forces during the Six Day War; Operation Opera, the attack on the nuclear reactor in Iraq, in 1981; and Operation Yonatan, the rescue of hostages in Antebbe, in 1976.) Western air forces regarded the mission as an example of the successful use of Western technology against Soviet defense strategy. The results of the attack caused a great deal of astonishment among the military leaders of the Warsaw Pact, overturning their sense of confidence in the USSR, and particularly in the Soviet bloc’s surface-to-air-missile apparatus.


“For the sake of this operation, we developed, with the help of a great team of scientists from the Weizmann Institute, a computerized control and planning system that would make it possible to prepare and command a multivariable campaign: to manage hundreds of planes with hundreds of weapons facing dozens of missile batteries and dozens of radar installations. It was a dynamic system operating in real time with thousands of variables. The primary and most outstanding programmer was a Haredi [Orthodox Jew] who lived in Bnei Brak, Menachem Kraus, who had no formal education but immense and unique knowledge. He was involved in all of the operational programs and, at the moment of action, sat with us in the Pit, in his civilian clothes.

“At the end of the day, we would conduct a nighttime debriefing and discuss what we had learned. I arrived at one debriefing where all the squadron commanders were participating, as well as all the wing commanders and former air force commanders. And, all of a sudden, everyone is standing and starts to applaud me for the perfect operation. I was very moved, because this sort of thing is quite rare in the middle of a war. I also got a little statuette, which was inscribed, ‘To Sella, the thinker behind the fight against missiles, your vision has been fulfilled and we’re standing tall once again—the fighters of Air Force Base 8.”

Kuwait 1990-92 I

In the early morning hours of August 2 1990, tens of thousands of Iraqi troops crossed into Kuwait in a dash to occupy the oil-rich state. The shocked residents of Kuwait were the first to find out. Jehan Rajab, a school administrator in Kuwait City, recalled: “At 6:00 A.M. on 2 August I got out of bed as usual, opened the window and looked outside. To my consternation I heard the sharp staccato sounds of gunfire, not a shot or two but sustained firing, which was being answered back. The sounds resonated off the walls of the mosque beside us and it immediately and horrifyingly became obvious what was happening. Kuwait was being invaded by Iraq.”

Telephones began to ring across the Arab capitals. King Fahd was awakened with the news at 5:00 A.M. Having just seen off the Iraqi and Kuwaiti negotiators in Jidda the night before, the Saudi king could scarcely believe that Iraqi troops had invaded Kuwait. He immediately tried to contact Saddam Hussein but could not reach him. His next call was to King Hussein of Jordan, who was known to be closest to the Iraqi leader.

An hour later, aides woke the Egyptian president, Husni Mubarak, to report that Iraqi troops had occupied the amir’s palace and key ministries in the Kuwaiti capital. The Arab leaders had to wait until mid-morning for the first explanation from Baghdad: “This is just part of Iraq returning to Iraq,” Saddam’s political envoy explained to the incredulous Arab heads of state.

The international community now faced the first crisis of the post–Cold War era. News of the invasion reached the White House at 9:00 P.M. on August 1; the Bush administration issued a robust condemnation of the Iraqi invasion that same night. The next morning it referred the matter to the UN Security Council, which swiftly passed Resolution 660, calling for an immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Iraqi forces.

Undaunted, Iraqi forces sped into the capital, Kuwait City, in a bid to seize Kuwait’s amir, Shaykh Jabar al-Ahmad al-Sabah, and his family. Had they successfully captured the ruling family, the Iraqis would have enjoyed far more control over the country, holding the amir and his family hostage to secure their objectives. However, the amir had been warned that the Iraqis were on the move and left with his family to take refuge in neighboring Saudi Arabia.

The Kuwaiti crown prince, Shaykh Saad, returned from his Jidda meeting with the Iraqi vice president to learn that the invasion was already underway. He immediately called the U.S. ambassador in Kuwait and officially requested American military support to repel the Iraqi invasion, before joining the rest of the royal family in exile in Saudi Arabia. By these two simple acts—the request for American assistance, and taking exile—al-Sabah managed to foil Saddam’s invasion just as it was starting. Yet the Kuwaiti people would face seven months of horror before the ordeal of occupation would end.

Given the authoritarianism and political double-talk of the Ba’thist regime, the first days of the occupation seemed to emanate straight from the pages of George Orwell’s 1984. The Iraqis preposterously claimed to have entered Kuwait on the invitation of a popular revolution to overthrow the ruling al-Sabah family. “God helped the free people from the pure ranks in Kuwait,” a communiqué issued by the Iraqi government explained. “They have swept away the old order and brought about a new order and have asked for the brotherly help of the great Iraqi people.” The Iraqi regime then installed what it called the Provisional Free Kuwait Government.

With no obvious Kuwaiti revolutionaries to support Iraq’s claims, however, Saddam Hussein’s government quickly abandoned the pretense of liberation and announced the annexation of Kuwait. On August 8 it was declared the nineteenth province of Iraq. The Iraqis went to work erasing Kuwait from the maps, and even redesignated the capital Kuwait City by a name of their own coining—Kazimah.

By October, new decrees were issued that required all Kuwaitis to change their identity papers, as well as the license plates on their cars, to standard Iraqi issue. The Iraqis tried to force compliance by denying services to Kuwaitis without Iraqi papers. Ration cards for basic foods like milk, sugar, rice, flour, and cooking oil were only issued to people with Iraqi papers. People had to present Iraqi identification to get medical service. Gas stations would only serve cars with Iraqi license plates. Yet the majority of Kuwaitis resisted these pressures and refused to take Iraqi citizenship, preferring to trade for essentials on the black market.

The invasion of Kuwait was accompanied by the wholesale looting of shops, offices, and residences by Iraqi forces, much of it for reshipment to Baghdad. Watching the truckloads of stolen goods depart for Baghdad, one Kuwaiti official questioned an Iraqi officer:

“If you are saying that this is part of Iraq, why are you taking everything away?” “Because no province can be better than the capital,” the officer replied.

The brutality of the occupation grew more intense with each passing day. Toward the end of August, Saddam Hussein appointed his notorious cousin Ali Hasan al-Majid, grimly nicknamed “Chemical Ali” for his use of gas warfare against the Kurds in the Anfal campaign, as military governor of Kuwait. “After the arrival in Kuwait of Ali Hassan Al Majeed,” Kuwait resident Jehan Rajab noted in her journal, “the reign of terror intensified, as did the rumours of possible chemical attacks.” Those who could, fled. “Escape was on everyone’s mind,” reflected Kuwaiti banker Mohammed al-Yahya. He described cars from Kuwait four abreast at the Saudi border, backed up for 30 kilometers (about 19 miles). Al-Yahya, however, chose to remain in Kuwait.

As the full repression of Iraq’s political system took root in Kuwait, its people rose up in nonviolent resistance. “Within the first week of the invasion,” Jehan Rajab wrote, “Kuwaiti women decided to demonstrate on the streets against what had happened.” The first demonstration was held on August 6, just four days after the invasion. “There was a feeling of tension and expectancy: it was almost as if the crowd subconsciously realized that even peaceful demonstrations would not be countenanced by the Iraqis.” As many as 300 people took part in the march, carrying banners, posters of the exiled amir and crown prince, and Kuwaiti flags.

The protesters combined chants in honor of Kuwait and the amir with condemnations of Saddam Hussein: “Death to Saddam” and, incongruously, “Saddam is a Zionist.” The first two demonstrations met with no Iraqi reaction, but by the third consecutive day of protests, the swelling mass came face to face with armed Iraqi soldiers who fired straight into the crowd. “Pandemonium broke out,” Rajab recorded. “Car engines roared as they tried to back wildly down the road, people screamed and the shooting continued.” Dead and wounded demonstrators littered the ground outside the police station in downtown Kuwait City. “That was the last of such marches in our district, and probably the last anywhere, for the Iraqis shot to kill or maim. Kuwaitis were beginning to understand just how ruthless the invaders were.”

Yet nonviolent resistance activities continued throughout the Iraqi occupation. The resistance movement changed tactics to avoid the risk of Iraqi gunfire. On September 2, the Kuwaitis marked the end of the first month of the occupation with a show of defiance. The plan spread by word of mouth for all residents of Kuwait City to climb to their roofs at midnight and cry out “Allahu akbar,” or “God is great.” At the appointed hour, thousands joined in a chorus of protest against the occupation. For Jehan Rajab, it was a shout of “defiance and fury at what had taken place—at the invasion, the brutality that had followed, the killings, and the torture centres that had been set up in various places around Kuwait.” Iraqi soldiers fired warning shots to the rooftops to silence to protest, but for one hour the people of Kuwait successfully defied the occupation. “Some say Kuwait was born anew that night,” the banker al-Yahya claimed.

Many Kuwaitis mounted armed resistance against the Iraqis as well, led by former police and soldiers who were trained in the use of firearms. They ambushed Iraqi troops and ammunition stores. The road that ran past Jehan Rajab’s school was a main thoroughfare for Iraqi military vehicles and became the focus of many resistance attacks. In late August, Rajab was shocked by an enormous explosion from the main road, followed by a random volley of rocket fire. She soon realized that the resistance had struck Iraqi ammunition trucks and detonated the ordinance they were carrying. She only dared to leave her apartment when the explosions died down. She found fire engines dousing the flaming wreckage of the Iraqi army trucks. “There was little left to be seen other than scattered and blackened skeletal remains,” she noted in her journal. “Anything human must have been blasted into infinity.”

The attacks placed the residents of her neighborhood at grave risk, both from the fallout of the attacks and from the retaliation of the Iraqis. “After this particular incident,” she noted, “in which a few houses had been hit and, worse, the Iraqis had threatened to kill everyone in the area if anything like it happened again, the Resistance tried to protect ordinary civilians by keeping its explosions further away from residential districts.”

The residents of Kuwait took Iraqi threats very seriously. The stench of death hung heavy over the occupied country. Death had literally come to the doorsteps of many Kuwaitis: one of the Iraqis’ tactics was to return a detainee to his home and gun him down before his family. To compound the horror, the authorities threatened to kill all members of the household if the body was moved. The dead were often left for two or three days in the heat of summer to serve as a grisly warning to others who dared to resist.

Yet in spite of Iraqi efforts to intimidate the Kuwaitis into submission, resistance continued unabated throughout the seven months of occupation. Jehan Rajab’s claims of “continued resistance during the long months” of the occupation are corroborated by Iraqi intelligence documents, seized after the liberation of Kuwait, that tracked resistance activities through the seven months of the occupation.

In the early days of the occupation, there was no reason to believe that Iraq would confine its ambitions to Kuwait. None of the Arab Gulf countries had sufficient military strength to repel an Iraqi invasion, and following the fall of Kuwait, both the Americans and the Saudis were concerned that Saddam Hussein might attempt to occupy nearby Saudi oil fields.

The Bush administration believed a large American presence to be the only deterrent against Saddam Hussein’s ambitions. It wanted base rights for U.S. troops in the event of military action to displace the Iraqis; however, the administration would need a formal request from the Saudi government for military support before any troops could be dispatched. King Fahd demurred, fearing a negative domestic public reaction. As the birthplace of Islam, Saudi Arabia has always been particularly uncomfortable with a non-Muslim presence on its soil. Furthermore, never having been subject to foreign imperial control, the Saudis guard their independence from the West jealously.

The prospect of American troops flooding into Saudi Arabia rallied the country’s Islamists to action. Saudi veterans of the Afghan conflict, flushed with their successes against the Soviets, were adamantly opposed to an American intervention in Kuwait. Osama bin Ladin had returned from the Afghan jihad and had been placed under house arrest by the Saudi government for his outspoken speeches, which were enjoying wide circulation by cassette recording.

When Saddam Hussein’s forces invaded Kuwait, Bin Ladin wrote to the Saudi minister of interior, Prince Nawwaf bin Abdul Aziz, to suggest mobilizing the mujahidin network that he believed had been so effective in driving the Soviets from Afghanistan. “He claimed he could muster an army of 100,000 men,” recalled Abdul Bari Atwan, one of the few journalists to interview Bin Ladin in his hideout in the Tora Bora Mountains of Afghanistan. “This letter was ignored.”

On balance, the Saudis believed the Iraqis to pose the greater threat to their country’s stability, and opted for American protection in spite of domestic Saudi opposition. Bin Ladin denounced the move as a betrayal of Islam. “Bin Laden told me that the Saudi government’s decision to invite U.S. troops to defend the kingdom and liberate Kuwait was the biggest shock of his entire life,” Atwan recorded.

He could not believe that the House of Al Saud could welcome the deployment of “infidel” forces on Arabian Peninsula soil, within the proximity of the Holy Places [i.e., Mecca and Medina], for the first time since the inception of Islam. Bin Ladin also feared that by welcoming U.S. troops onto Arab land the Saudi government would be subjecting the country to foreign occupation—in an exact replay of the course of events in Afghanistan, when the Communist government in Kabul invited Russian troops into the country. Just as bin Laden had taken up arms to fight the Soviet troops in Afghanistan, he now decided to take up arms to confront U.S. troops on the Arabian Peninsula.

His passport confiscated by the Saudi authorities, Bin Ladin had to exploit his family’s close ties with the Saudi monarchy to secure travel documents and go into permanent exile. In 1996 he declared jihad against the United States and declared the Saudi monarchy “outside the religious community” for “acts against Islam.” Yet his alienation from the United States and the Saudi monarchy, his former allies in the Afghan jihad, dated to the events of August 1990.

The Kuwait crisis opened a new chapter of Soviet-American cooperation in international diplomacy. For the first time in its history, the Security Council was able to take decisive action without being undermined by Cold War politics. Over the four months following the swift passage of Resolution 660 on August 2, the Security Council passed a total of twelve resolutions as the crisis deepened without the risk of a veto. On August 6 it imposed trade and economic sanctions on Iraq and froze all Iraqi assets abroad (Res. 661); the UN tightened the sanction regime again on September 25 (Res. 670). On August 9 the Security Council declared the Iraqi annexation of Kuwait “null and void” (Res. 662). A number of resolutions condemned Iraqi violations of diplomatic immunity in Kuwait and upheld the rights of third-state nationals to leave Iraq and Kuwait. When on November 29 the Soviets joined with the Americans in passing Resolution 678, authorizing member states “to use all necessary means” against Iraq unless it withdrew fully from Kuwait by January 15, 1991, the Cold War in the Middle East came to a formal end.

What most surprised Arab statesmen—and the Iraqis in particular—was the Soviet position. “Many in the Arab world assumed that even if Moscow refused to help Iraq after the invasion it would at least remain neutral, and they were surprised when the Soviet Union helped the Americans to pass resolution after resolution through the UN Security Council,” Egyptian analyst Mohamed Heikal recalled. What the Arab world had not reckoned on was the weakened state of the Soviet Union and its concern to preserve good relations with Washington. Given America’s geostrategic interests in the Gulf, the Soviets knew they could either support the U.S. or confront it, but they could not deter it from action. With nothing to be gained from confrontation, the Soviets opted for cooperation with the United States and left their former Arab ally totally exposed.

The Arab world was slow to recognize the reorientation of Moscow’s policies in the post–Cold War age. As Iraq turned a deaf ear to the UN, and as the United States began to mobilize a war coalition, the Arab world still expected the Soviet Union to prevent the United States from taking military action against its ally Iraq. Instead, Soviet foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze worked closely with U.S. secretary of state James Baker in drafting the very resolution that authorized military action. “To the amazement of Arab delegations,” Heikal claimed, “it became clear that Moscow would give Washington a license to act.”

Whereas the Americans and the Soviets enjoyed a moment of unprecedented cooperation over the Kuwait crisis, the Arab world had never been so fragmented. The invasion of one Arab state by another, and the threat of outside intervention, provoked deep divisions among Arab leaders.

Egypt, recently rehabilitated after a decade’s isolation for its peace treaty with Israel, took the lead in organizing an Arab response to the Kuwait crisis. President Mubarak convened a snap Arab summit, the first to be held in Cairo since the Camp David Accords, on August 10. The Iraqis and Kuwaitis faced each other for the first time since the invasion. It was a tense moment. The amir of Kuwait gave a conciliatory speech, trying to mollify the Iraqis and to advance a diplomatic resolution to the crisis. He hoped to return to where negotiations had left off in the August 1 meeting in Jidda. The Iraqis, however, took an intransigent line. When the amir finished his speech and sat down, the Iraqi delegate Taha Yassin Ramadan protested: “I don’t know on what basis the sheikh is addressing us. Kuwait does not exist any more.” The amir stormed out of the hall in protest.


Breaking into the South I


Sherman’s men destroying a railroad in Atlanta.


Map of Sherman’s campaigns in Georgia and the Carolinas, 1864–1865.

General William Tecumseh Sherman, who had been left by Grant to command in the West—a term used during the war to signify the campaigns not fought in Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, but geographically in the beginnings of the Deep South—received on April 4 and 19 two letters in which Grant outlined his plans for the conclusion of the western campaign. Grant’s order to Sherman and his armies in Tennessee for the campaign of 1864-65 had been to “move against Johnston’s army, to break it up and to get into the interior of the enemy’s country as far as you can, inflicting all the damage you can against their war resources.” In addition to the Army of the Potomac, Grant had three other armies to employ in 1864: those of Banks at New Orleans, Butler on the Virginia coast, and Sigel in West Virginia. Sigel was responsible for the Shenandoah Valley, from which Lee drew many of his supplies; Butler was to operate on the James River near Richmond, with the object of cutting the city’s rail communications with the rest of the Confederacy; Banks, Grant hoped, would get into Mississippi and seize Mobile, an important naval and rail centre.

The key operation, however, was that of Sherman, who commanded, as a combined force, McPherson’s own Army of the Tennessee (24,465), Thomas’s Army of the Cumberland (60,773), and John Schofield’s Army of the Ohio (13,559), total strength 98,797. Its task looked simple enough: to push forward from the neighbourhood of Dalton to Atlanta, ninety miles to the south, dispersing Johnston’s Army of Tennessee, only 60,000 strong, and beating its component units as he went. Easier said than done. Part of Sherman’s problem was his very long and attenuated line of communications, which stretched back along the Western and Atlantic Railroad 470 miles to his main base at Louisville, Kentucky, much of its length running through hostile or at least dangerous territory. Forward of Dalton, moreover, the defenders enjoyed the use of several strong defensible features, notably the Oostanaula, Etowah, and Chattahoochee rivers and the steep slope of Kennesaw Mountain. Johnston’s favoured strategy, moreover, was perfectly suited to the terrain, since he believed in avoiding battle when possible and extracting advantage by manoeuvre.

Sherman began his advance into the South on May 4, 1864, leaving Chattanooga to confront Johnston on the route that led to Atlanta (not then Georgia’s state capital, which was Milledgeville). The fighting opened at Tunnel Hill, one of the features of Lookout Mountain, captured by Sherman the previous month. After some vigorous outpost skirmishing, Thomas, with General Oliver Howard, one of his corps commanders, spent May 7 and 8 trying to clear the Confederates off the high ground, so as to open a way forward. Johnston opposed him very effectively, until McPherson, whose corps was principally engaged, was forced to withdraw and wait between Sugar Hill and Buzzard-Roost Gap for a better opportunity. Johnston denied one until May 12, when, in what Howard called “one of his clean retreats,” he left the way open. Sherman’s men caught up with his at Resaca on May 14 and found that by entrenchment and barricading, Johnston had made the position as strong, in Howard’s opinion, as Marye’s Heights at Fredericksburg. While the army was advancing, Sherman, who had spent the night at his map table, took the opportunity to snatch a nap against a tree trunk. A passing soldier remarked, “A pretty way we are commanded.” Sherman, who was less asleep than he appeared, called out, “Stop, my man. While you were sleeping last night, I was planning for you, sir; and now I was taking a nap.” Least pompous of men, Sherman left the exchange there. He was sometimes mistaken for a young junior officer, since he stood less than five feet, six inches tall and weighed under 150 pounds.

The Confederate commander opposite at Resaca was Leonidas Polk, the Episcopalian bishop-turned-general. During the evening of May 14, he attempted to drive McPherson’s men away, but his effort was defeated. The Confederates lost 2,800 men to the Union’s 2,747 at the battle of Resaca. Sherman had a thoroughly realistic attitude towards losses: “A certain amount of … killing had to be done, to accomplish the end.” At Resaca Sherman fought offensively, Johnston defensively, aided by earthen parapets. Johnston then fell back to Calhoun, Adairsville, and Cassville, where he halted for the battle of the campaign, but then he continued his retreat beyond the next spur of the Appalachian chain to Allatoona.

Sherman, who knew Allatoona from a previous visit, decided not to fight there. After repairing the railroad he pushed on to Atlanta by way of Dallas. Johnston divined Sherman’s intention and forced him to fight at New Hope Church on May 25-28, a slight Union victory. Sherman remarked that “the country was almost in a state of nature—with few or no roads, nothing that a European could understand.” Johnston continued to retreat, picking up reinforcements as he went to raise his strength to 62,000. His route took him to Marietta, between Brush Mountain and Lost Mountain. Johnston’s line was too long for his numbers so he drew in his flanks and concentrated on Kennesaw. Sherman repaired the railroad up to his camp, awaiting a battle he knew must come. During the preliminaries, there was continuous skirmishing, with the batteries and line of battle pushed right forward. Sherman’s effort to carry the Kennesaw position failed, however, with a Union loss of 3,000 to the Confederates’ 630. Yet Johnston was so shaken that he abandoned his lines and retreated to the Chattahoochee River. After a skirmish at Smyrna Church, he was driven across the Chattahoochee on July 10. Sherman paid tribute to Johnston’s conduct of the retreat, saying his movements were “timely, in good order and he left nothing behind.” The Union “had advanced into the enemy’s country 120 miles, with a single-track railroad which had to bring clothing, food, ammunition, everything requisite for 100,000 men and 23,000 animals. The city of Atlanta, the gate city opening the interior of the important State of Georgia, was in sight; its protecting army was shaken but not defeated, and onward we had to go,” illustrating the principle that “an army once on the offensive must maintain the offensive.”

The fighting along the Oostanaula River was heavy. On July 15, Sherman committed the troops commanded by Hooker, who since being relieved of command of the Army of the Potomac had reverted to corps commander, with remarkable equanimity. After a heavy day’s fighting, he carried most of the ground before him. Sherman committed cavalry and laid pontoons over the Oostanaula, thereby achieving superiority of numbers. During the night Johnston decided he could no longer hold the Resaca position and withdrew the Army of Tennessee. In the day following, the Confederates completed an extended withdrawal, to the line of Rome-Kingston-Cassville, along the Etowah River. Oliver Howard, with Sherman in his command party, pressed forward and was fired upon by rebel artillery, which killed several Union horses. The enemy, however, was now badly demoralised by the successful Union advance from Resaca. Howard captured about 4,000 prisoners, including a whole regiment.

His engineers were also energetically repairing the railroad running back to Nashville and Louisville. On the morning of July 18, word arrived by the repaired telegraph from Resaca that bacon, hardtack, and coffee, the essentials of the Union soldier’s fare, were already arriving. The Confederates continued to fall back, all the more eagerly when Johnston, on the Etowah, discovered that the Union’s advance guards were south of him in force at Cartersville and Kingston, where Sherman had set up his headquarters. General Howard found the countryside of farm and woodland about here so picturesque that it was as if there were no war, and the surroundings encouraged Sherman to give his troops three days’ rest. Nevertheless, the abundance of timber allowed both armies to construct strong defences both in attack and defence and, when fighting broke out, to inflict heavy casualties on each other. It was in this region that, as Sherman pressed his advance towards Atlanta, Bishop Polk was shot through the body by an artillery round, dying instantly. By further disengagement, Johnston had now established his line on high ground at Kennesaw Mountain, one of the last peaks of the Appalachian chain, an obstacle which at last gave him a holding place Sherman could not turn. Sherman was in practice more concerned with Hood’s suddenly evinced determination to cut the Army of the Tennessee’s connection with its distant base, an aim that had drawn Nathan Bedford Forrest’s cavalry into an attack on the Union’s railroad link. Sherman had despatched a counter-attack force from Memphis to run Forrest down, angrily proclaiming that there would never be peace in Tennessee until Forrest was dead. The Memphis force brought Forrest to battle at Brice’s Crossroads in Mississippi, where it was badly defeated. At a second encounter Forrest was defeated at Tupelo and wounded, but he did not die. There was a lot of life in the old hellhound yet.

Johnston’s success in holding the Kennesaw position came, however, too late to save his own position. Jefferson Davis had an old grudge against him, over a trifling dispute about rank, but the real cause of his fall was popular dissatisfaction with his strategy of evasion and delay, which was almost universally misunderstood as reluctance to risk battle. He was now removed from command in the West and replaced by Lieutenant General John Bell Hood, who, by contrast, was aggressive, bold, and personally brave. Sherman, a friend and intimate of Grant’s recorded his feelings as he embarked on his first major independent campaign:

We were as brothers, I the older man in years, he [Grant] the higher in rank. We both believed in our hearts that the success of the Union cause was necessary not only to the then generation of Americans, but to all future generations. We both professed to be gentlemen and professional soldiers, educated in the science of war by our generous government for the very occasion which had arisen. Neither of us by nature was a combatative man [this was disingenuous of Sherman since the two were to prove themselves the most ruthless commanders of the whole war]; but with honest hearts and a clear purpose to do what man could, we embarked on that campaign which I believe, in its strategy, in its logistics, in its grand and minor tactics, had added new luster to the old science of war. Both of us had at our front generals [Lee and Johnston, then Hood, respectively] to whom in early life we had been taught to look up to,—educated and experienced soldiers like ourselves, not likely to make any mistakes, and each of whom had as strong an army as could be collected from the mass of the Southern people,—of the same blood as ourselves, brave, confident, and well-equipped; in addition to which they had the most decided advantage of operating in their own difficult country of mountain, forest, ravine and river, affording admirable opportunities for defense, besides the other equally important advantage that we had to invade the country of our unqualified enemy, and expose our long lines of supply to guerrillas of an “exasperated people.” Again, as we advanced we had to leave guards to bridges, stations and intermediate depots, diminishing the fighting force, while our enemy gained strength, by picking up his detachments as he fell back, and had railroads to bring supplies and reinforcements from his rear. I instance these facts to offset the common assertion that we of the North won the war by brute force and not by courage and skill.

Johnston’s last act before his dismissal was to defend the earthworks he had built at the crossings over the Chattahoochee above Atlanta, which the Union overcame by finding crossings elsewhere, and then to withdraw into the defences of Atlanta itself. His conduct in the preceding weeks had been by no means contemptible; he had forced Sherman to spend seventy-four days in advancing a hundred miles, and was still in fighting form.

Bars Class Russian Submarine 1915





Grand Duke Konstantin also gave his support to the Polish-born engineer Stefan K. Drzewiecki’s submarine projects. Again, conflict provided the immediate impetus, in this instance the outbreak of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877. Drzewiecki built and tested two successive designs for small, man-powered submersibles that led to the construction of a series of 50 production units for the war ministry by the Nevskiy Shipbuilding and Machinery Works at St. Petersburg between 1879 and 1881. The army deployed these craft in the defense of Kronshtadt and Sevastopol until they were transferred to the navy in 1885, whereupon they were discarded as ineffective. Drzewiecki himself moved to France in 1887, where he proposed several semi-submersible designs for the French Fleet, none of which were built, and also developed his very successful drop-collar torpedo launch system that saw extensive use on both French and Russian submarines into the 1920s.

Russian interest in submarines revived in the 1890s, leading to the establishment of a special submarine committee on 19 December 1900, headed by Ivan Grigorevich Bubnov. It evaluated both foreign and native designs and by June 1901 had produced an indigenous design that was constructed as the Delfin . Bubnov went on to design a series of submarines for the Imperial Russian Navy, culminating with the Bars class, laid down immediately before World War I.

The 1912 construction programme for the Russian Navy included 12 submarines for the Baltic Fleet, and six for the Pacific Squadron, all of the same type. They were designed by Professor Bubnov, the leading Russian submarine designer, but did not prove suitable in service. The Drzewiecki ‘drop collars’ for the external torpedoes were sited too low, on either side of the casing, where they had an adverse effect on underwater handling.

During the autumn of 1915 work started on rebuilding the class to move the drop collars higher; in some cases they were actually sited on the casing, and the later boats were completed with the improvements. After the success of the minelayer Krab. the Ers and Forel were altered on similar lines, but neither boat entered service until after the October Revolution in 1917. The boats were built at the Baltic Metal Works yard at Saint Petersburg (Petrograd) and the Reval Russo-Baltic works.

As with many of the surface warships, the main machinery had been ordered from Germany, and at the outbreak of war all the diesels had been seized by the Germans. The early boats of the Bars Class were therefore without diesels, and it was necessary to requisition weaker machinery from the Kopje Class Amur monitors. Not until 1917 could 1320-bhp engines be obtained, and the first boat fitted with them, the Kuguar. was able to make 17 knots. Despite these problems the boats boats completed in 1915 were active against German shipping in the Baltic.

On May 17, 1917 the Volk sank the steamers Bianca, Hera and Kolga off Norrkoping. Late in May 1916 the Gepard was rammed by the German decoy-ship K while attacking a convoy, but she escaped with damage to her deck guns. During the same operation the Bars was also attacked but escaped without being hit. In the Gulf of Bothnia two more ships were sunk, the Dorita by the Volk on July 5 and the Syria by the Vepr.

The freezing of the Baltic prevented activity during the winter but in May 1917 the Bars, Gepard, Vepr and Volk began their patrols again. This time the Bars was unlucky and failed to return from a patrol. She was probably sunk by a German depth-charge attack in the Bay of Norrkoping on May 28, but she could have been rammed accidentally by a Russian destroyer. The Pantera was damaged by an airship on June 14 and the Lvitsa was sunk, probably on June 11 by patrol craft. The Vepr, however, sank the SS Friedrich Carow on August 8. The Gepard was damaged on September 20 while carrying out an attack, and in October she failed to return from a patrol. She was possibly sunk in a minefield on October 29.

Three more of the Bars Class were ordered in 1911 for the Black Sea Fleet, and were known as the Morz Class. They were followed by a further six ordered in 1915. The launch dates for this group are not known.

The Morz sank a small steamer in March 1915 while the Tjulen torpedoed a larger collier and 11 schooners early in April. The two boats were active again in May, when the Morz was damaged by a Turkish aircraft. All three were active in the spring of 1917 as well, and the new Gagara sank six sailing vessels on her first mission in August. The Morz failed to return from a patrol in May, and was probably sunk by air attack near Eregli or mined east of the Bosphorus. During the British Intervention the Pantera (of the original group) succeeded in sinking the destroyer HMS Vittoria.

Both the Baltic and Black Sea submarines of the class were victims of the chaos which followed the Revolution. The Edinorog was scuttled on February 25, 1918 and the Ugor was scrapped in 1922, the Forel, the incomplete Jaz and the Kuguar and Vepr were scrapped in 1925. The Gagara and Orlan fell into British hands at Sevastopol during the Anglo-French Intervention, and both were scuttled in April 1919. The incomplete hulls of the Lebed and Pelikan were scuttled at Odessa in 1919, and although they were subsequently raised they’ were not repaired. The Burevestnik, Tjulen and Utka followed General Wrangel into exile at Bizerta in 1920, leaving only the Nerpa in the Black Sea.

General characteristics
  • 650 tons surfaced
  • 780 tons submerged
Length: 68 m (223 ft 1 in)
Beam: 4.5 m (14 ft 9 in)
Draft: 3.9 m (12 ft 10 in)
  • Diesel-electric
  • 2,640 hp diesel
  • 900 hp electric
  • 2 shafts
  • 18 knots (33 km/h) surfaced
  • 9 knots (17 km/h) submerged
Range: 400 nmi (740 km)
Complement: 33
  • 1 × 63 mm (2.5 in) or 75 mm (3.0 in) gun
  • 1 × 37 mm (1.5 in) AA gun
  • 4 × 457 mm (18.0 in) torpedo tubes
  • 8 × torpedoes in drop collars (later removed)