Anglo-Saxon Military Organisation Part I

Recruitment and Obligation

The words used by Anglo-Saxons themselves for ‘army’ vary between the word ‘fyrd’ and the word ‘here’. Historically the word fyrd (from ‘faran’–to travel) has been taken to mean ‘an expeditionary force’, which may not in essence be correct. The contexts in which the words here and fyrd are used in the contemporary texts tend to point to the Anglo-Saxon fyrd being a defensive type of army and the here being an offensive kind. Both Danish and English armies could be described as a here provided they were somehow on the offensive. Few subjects, however, are more obscure and controversial in the world of Anglo-Saxon military studies as that of how the fyrd of the Later Anglo-Saxon era was supplied with its men.

It was the right of an Anglo-Saxon freeman to bear arms. Central to the historic arguments over how Anglo-Saxon armies were formed was the role of the ‘ceorl’, the free peasant warrior. Ideas varied for centuries as to whether an Anglo-Saxon army was essentially one of noble warriors who were summoned by the king in return for land and privileges, or whether it was a general levy of able-bodied freemen, or even a mixture of both. These arguments had their basis in political perceptions of the origins of Englishness and the contemporary spin that people put on it. Was the Anglo-Saxon army some sort of socialist utopia or a system more closely linked to post-Conquest feudalism and aristocratic bonds? The view often held by Victorian historians that the Anglo-Saxon army was somehow a ‘nation at arms’ is not generally accepted today but remnants of the idea of it still can be found in the modern literature.

Historians have tried to address exactly how the mechanics of military obligation worked. How would anyone be made to come to battle and what would they do if they could not? It is now generally accepted that the key to understanding how this worked is in acknowledging the mechanic that drove the whole thing–the personal lordship bond. It has been argued, with growing success, that the lordship ties that held society together were central to the military process throughout the whole period.

In the early 1960s, Warren Hollister provided a seductive solution to the whole problem, acknowledging the diversity of opinion on the matter. The fyrd was not in fact one, but two things. There was a Great Fyrd which consisted of a kind of poorly armed peasant ‘nation at arms’, and there was a Select Fyrd consisting of semi-professional, well-equipped, land-owning warriors whose obligations were based on the 5-hide land-holding unit. The linchpin around which Hollister constructed his theory was a now widely quoted passage in the Domesday Book for Berkshire: ‘If the king sent an army anywhere, only one soldier went from five hides, and four shillings were given him from each hide as subsistence and wages for two months. This money, indeed, was not sent to the king but was given to the soldiers.’ Here, then, was the Select Fyrdsman, a warrior supported by funding, whose duty was to attend the royal host. The fact that he brought money with him hints at the likelihood that there was somewhere arranged for him to spend it. But to find out why the Berkshire thegn bothers at all to turn up for the king, we need to dig deeper into history.

In the early Anglo-Saxon period, when a king summoned his fyrd, he would expect his personal retainers (‘gesiðas’, or companions) to arm themselves and would expect the duties of his ‘duguð’ (senior landed retainers with a proven military track record) to be fulfilled. The duguð were men who had served with their lord’s household throughout their youth and had been rewarded with a little land themselves upon which to found their own group of dependent men. Given the right circumstances, such a man could rise to become as powerful as the lord he served. They would turn up for campaign with their own retinues consisting of people who had received from them various gifts such as rings, treasures and war gear. Above the duguð was a senior warlord for whom all this was being done. Ultimately, the head of the kin group was the man whose influence, wealth and gift-giving capabilities were the greatest. He was the king. The very word ‘king’ comes from the Old English ‘cyning’, which means ‘chief of kinsmen’. Understandably, in a system such as this his power was immense.

Law code 51 of King Ine of Wessex (688–726) spells out the consequences of neglecting fyrd service: ‘If a gesiðcund man who holds land neglects military service, he shall pay 120 shillings and forfeit his land; [a nobleman] who holds no land shall pay 60 shillings; a cierlisc [free peasant] shall pay 30 shillings as penalty for neglecting the fyrd.’ This law is thought to reflect the structure of the earlier Anglo-Saxon armies in that when a king called out his fyrd it would consist of his own landed companions, those who owed service to these men through some other gift exchange, and the free peasants who served them.

However, by the eighth century the rise in the power and wealth of the Church had begun to throw a spanner in the works. The Church required its land in perpetuity and not just for the lifetime of the king who gave it. A system came into being called Bookland. This grant of land to the Church came with no obligations from the Church to the king except, it seems, for the securing of his soul in heaven. But for the king, it meant that the land was permanently removed from his financial and administrative system and given to his ultimate lord, God himself.

Bookland was a problem that took time to materialise but which had inevitable consequences for the kings of middle Saxon England. The more land you gave away free from military service dues, the smaller your warrior base became and potentially your kingdom would become vulnerable to other kings or raiders. The answer to the problem was found in the kingdom of Mercia. King Æthelbald (716–57) decreed that churches and monasteries could hold their land free from all dues except bridge building and the defence of fortifications. The mighty King Offa (757–96) extended this to the all-important fyrd duty. Thus, the three necessities, or ‘common burdens’, were founded. These burdens became the bedrock of military recruitment across the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England until they were modified by Alfred the Great (871–900) in his grand reforms of the ninth century.

At around the same time as the Bookland issue was being resolved there was a change in terminology being employed. The duguð was a term in decline and seems to have been replaced by the word ‘thegn’, which soon came to be a widely used term across the country. The thegn held the Bookland from the king in return for military service. The nobleman who held the large estate known as the ‘scir’, or ‘shire’, would be the ealdorman.

So, the nature of recruitment on the eve of the Viking invasions at the end of the eighth century was fairly straightforward. The armies of Anglo-Saxon England ranged from small warbands of local thegns to larger more territorial units commanded by ealdorman who were protecting their shires. Above this was the royal host called out by the king himself which in effect was made up of numerous groups of thegns, ealdormen and their retinues. All of the constituent parts of these forces came to the battlefield through the duties imposed upon them by lordship ties bound by a mixture of gift giving and land tenure.

The activities of the larger hosts throughout this period are well documented since they are the instruments of the king. Wars between Saxon kingdoms such as Wessex and Mercia, or between Mercia and the Welsh kingdoms, feature in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. But when Alfred the Great first fought the Great Heathen Army alongside his brother King Æthelred I, the chroniclers make a revealing statement about how armies were then organised. The entry for 871 says that during that year there were nine ‘general’ engagements between the West Saxons and the Danes. This figure did not count the expeditions that the king’s brother (Alfred), ealdormen and king’s thegns often rode on. The message here is clear: senior noblemen, ealdormen and king’s thegns were each capable of mounting their own military expeditions outside of the activities of the royal host. The king’s host would of course take weeks to gather together. Importantly, the chronicler mentions that these smaller forces ‘rode’ on their campaigns.

So, how did military provision change during Alfred’s reign? The answer lies in the years after the watershed Battle of Edington (878) when Alfred finally rid himself of Guthrum the Dane in a famous encounter. After Edington, over the next two decades, Alfred instigated a series of fortified places throughout his kingdom resulting in an entirely new type of defence: a defence-in-depth system in which no two forts were more than around 20 miles apart. The impact of these forts and how they were manned is examined below, but the most important point of the reforms was that the fyrd was organised into a three-part system.

We are told by the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in the entry for 894 in a passage that describes the strategic manoeuvring against the renewed Viking threat in south-east England, that ‘The king had separated his army into two so that there was always half at home and half out, except for those men who had to hold the fortresses. The raiding army did not come out in full from those positions more than twice.’ Ample evidence, then, for a system that had its obvious benefits. With a strategically gifted commander such as Alfred, and with numerous manpower resources spread deliberately over the landscape, the new kingdom of the Anglo-Saxons was to be a well-defended place indeed. This kingdom was born out of the combination of Wessex and the English parts of Mercia. Eventually, it would expand under King Athelstan (924–39) to become the Kingdom of the English. The new mechanism meant that there was always one part of the force at home on their estates, another in the field at a state of readiness and a third part on fortress duty. They could act in coordination with one another or mount their own expeditions. It was a plan based on Alfred’s own observations of the Carolingian model, which in itself probably borrowed from a papal Italian arrangement for the defence of Rome. The point is that it worked. Despite some notable problems when one Anglo-Saxon force’s tour of duty had expired before its replacements could take over from it–as happened in 893 at Thorney Island –it remains the case that the Anglo-Saxon armies of southern England were vastly better organised than they had been when the Vikings first descended upon Wessex.

Alfred’s reorganisation still required strong leadership to put into action. Moreover, one fundamental thing remained unchanged and that was the basic make-up of the fyrd. It still comprised the same people. The cost of all this, however, was immense. Inevitably, the system was doomed to be a hostage to neglect. After the reign of King Edgar (959–75) during which the Anglo-Saxons had achieved an unprecedented level of power in the British Isles, the recruitment system in part fell back upon makeshift levies based on land tenures measured in hidage. The grand fortification schemes employed by Alfred, his son Edward the Elder (900–24) and his grandson Athelstan (924–39) had in places fallen into disrepair, leaving England vulnerable once again to Viking attack. This is not to say that King Æthelred (979–1016) did not attempt to rectify the situation–in fact, far from it. Æthelred’s attempted reforms, particularly in respect of naval provision, were ambitious to say the least. Between 1008 and 1013 the king instigated reforms which included the construction across the country of a navy of around 200 ships and the provision of mailcoats for thousands of warriors. However, all the time the king had to pay increasingly burdensome sums of money to pay off the Danes and soon he even took on a Danish contingent of his own which required feeding and provisioning.

The 5-hide unit is usually associated with a thegnly rank, this being an amount of land that qualifies its holder in that rank. However, it is clear from Domesday Book that there was great variety in the land-based obligation, varying wildly from region to region. A nobleman holding just a few hides might be required to provide a warrior, while an estate of well over 5 hides might only be obliged to provide just a single warrior. It depended on the nature of the arrangement between the landholder and the king. If an estate had to provide more than one warrior, the head of the estate would need to recruit from his tenants or find a way of replacing what he could not provide with a money payment so the king could hire a mercenary.

What seems not to have changed was the bond through lordship that drove the obligation. As if to reinforce this notion at a time when service seems to have been widely based on land-holding arrangements, the Danish king of England Cnut (1016–36) came up with a stringent law for deserting one’s lord:

Concerning the man who deserts his lord. And the man who, through cowardice, deserts his lord or his comrades on a military expedition, either by sea or by land, shall lose all that he possesses and his own life, and the lord shall take back the property and the land which he had given him. And if he has book-land it shall pass into the king’s hand.

By the time of the Battle of Hastings, it is still the case that King Harold’s army would have been recruited largely through the bond of personal lordship ties. Land tenure based on the 5-hide unit certainly came into it, but so too did the royal purse and the provision therein for mercenary hire. While not as rigidly organised as the armies of the later Alfredian period, those of 1066 were just as capable of providing results in the field.

What do we know, however, of how long it took any of these armies to gather a force into the field? We have precious little evidence to answer this question, but what little we do have points to the reasons why it was so easy for Scandinavian coastal predators to achieve so much in a short space of time. We know from the 871 Anglo-Saxon Chronicle entry that units of mounted men under the command of local nobles were able to put into the field almost immediately, but were small in number. Larger hosts, however, took longer to gather. Alfred’s famous call to arms of 878 issued from Athelney to the remainder of his core supporters in surrounding shires bore fruition in the seventh week after Easter, but it is not certain when the call went out. It was a nervous wait for Alfred, but when the men of Somerset, Wiltshire and parts of Hampshire answered his call, they joined him at his camp at Egbert’s Stone and were ready to march with him the next day to Illey Oak and thence to Edington.

The Danish assault on Norwich in 1004 gives a clearer idea. The Danish force seems not to have been of a size that any mounted rapid-reaction-style force could deal with. Instead, Ulfcytel Snilling, the local East Anglian leader, was obliged to play for time by buying peace from the army while he raised his force. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is specific that Ulfcytel had not had time enough to gather his own army at this point. The Danes stole away to Thetford and Ulfcytel’s order for their ships to be broken up fell on deaf ears. It was three weeks since their first assault on Norwich when the Danes torched and sacked Thetford. The following morning they prepared to return to their ships when Ulfcytel’s East Anglians fell upon them, forcing a battle. It was a hard-fought battle which Ulfcytel ultimately lost. However, it is explicitly stated that had Ulfcytel’s numbers been up to full strength the Danes would never have made it back to their ships. So it would seem then that three weeks is barely enough time to raise a sizable force to match that of the invader. This gives an idea as to the desperation of the year 1016–a year of endemic warfare in England–when King Edmund Ironside was compelled to call out the ‘national’ host at least five times for extensive campaigning.

The year of 1066 provides its own clues, although we have to be mindful of the possibilities that Harold had with him at all times a household force of a size enough to deal with all manner of problems, probably in the form of his own and his brothers’ retinues and his Danish mercenaries. Nevertheless, he decided to disband his army in the south of England on 8 September 1066, but then heard of the Norwegian invasion in the north and arrived at Tadcaster on 24 September 1066. Similarly, on his dash to London–a journey of some 190 miles–the passage of time is around two weeks, but it is clear from the sources that this was not enough time for a full host to be properly gathered. Harold’s reasons for his actions and his failure to wait at London for reinforcements may be perfectly justified based on what his strategic thinking was at the time, but once again the lesson is that two or three weeks is barely enough for a full host to form.

Quite how the fyrd was mustered is another question that puzzles historians. Messengers will certainly have been used, but did they use any devices to show the king’s will? It has been suggested from very little evidence that token wooden swords may have been used to symbolise a summons to the host. This has been based on finds of such items, sometimes with runic inscriptions from Frisia, Denmark and the Low Countries. The era is not the same (these being late Roman Iron Age or Dark Age discoveries), nor is it directly the same culture, but the intriguing possibility remains that the Anglo-Saxon messenger, when arriving at the residence of our thegn who was to prepare for war, may well have left a physical token of his visit.

The Size and Structure of Armies

The size of the armies of Anglo-Saxon England has been a subject of controversy for many years. It is generally thought that during the Migration period of the fifth and sixth centuries the average size of a warband could scarcely have numbered more than a few hundred. This much is gleaned from the historic and archaeological evidence from what is known of the Danish late Roman Iron Age Continental bog finds of warrior weaponry and what is drawn from the words of renowned ancient Roman authorities such as Tacitus. As early as the late seventh century King Ine of Wessex (688–726) was moved to categorise numbers of armed men: ‘We call up to seven men thieves; from seven to thirty-five a band; above that is an army.’ There is not a great deal that can be deduced from this code, however. Ine’s army was in fact a here. It is probably the case that fyrds and heres of the eighth century were no larger than an extended warband, perhaps numbering just a few hundred. Not until the later Anglo-Saxon period do things take on a quantifiable dimension, if only to confound us with the probability that we are only ever looking at an inherent manpower capability of a kingdom that probably never put all its available men in the field at any one time. Except, that is, for the post-reform period of Alfred’s reign.

A good example is the document known as the Burghal Hidage. Datable probably to the tenth century, it gives specific garrison strengths for thirty-three strongholds built across Alfred’s Wessex and parts of Mercia. It even gives a formula for calculating the garrisons in term of the length of fort’s walls and the numbers of hides providing men to garrison them. The upshot of all this is that across his kingdom Alfred had a burghal garrison strength of around 27,000 men. The figure for all the land south of the Thames was probably larger in reality because the Burghal Hidage does not list the obviously cooperative Kentish strongholds such as Canterbury and Rochester, nor does it cover Cornwall. Moreover, Alfred’s kingdom of the Anglo-Saxons expanded into Danish Mercia during the tenth century to become the Kingdom of the English under Edward the Elder (900–24) and Athelstan (924–39). By the time of King Edgar (959–75), whose kingdom stretched from the south coast to the borders of Scotland, it must surely be the case that the king and his regional ealdormen were capable of raising forces in the field whose numbers were at the very lowest in their thousands.

Writing about the famous events in London in 1016, the German Bishop Thietmar of Merseburg claims he heard there were 24,000 ‘byrnies’ (mailcoats) in London. Even he thought this was incredible, so it is unlikely to be a casual exaggeration. Quite what has happened to all these mailcoats is a matter only for speculation. But the most obvious place to go if we want to make a guess at the near un-guessable, is to look at the Domesday Book and throw around a few figures. Judging from what we have shown so far about the apportionment of land and its division into hides, we might note that the Domesday Book records a total of 80,000 plough teams in the kingdom of England. The duty imposed by Æthelred II (979–1016) in 1008 requiring a ship from every 300 hides and a helmet and byrnie from every 8 hides would indicate on the face of it a ‘royal’ navy of 267 ships and an army comprising around 10,000 mail-clad warriors. Add to these armoured men their lesser armoured retainers at a ratio of say 2:1 and you have an army of 30,000 men. But even this figure is conservative given our knowledge of the Alfredian garrison strength of Wessex alone. Quite how many of these men took to the field at any one time when required is another matter. The actual numbers in any one army of the period must therefore have varied wildly.

One last observation on numbers goes to the Battle of Hastings. Here, the English army is harder to quantify than that of the Normans. The Norman army is well recorded and much research has been carried out as to the likely numbers who came to England in September of 1066. These figures, which are based on calculations relating to the number of recorded ships, the actual available men in Normandy and William’s mercenary contingents, in most people’s estimations amount to a force of between about 5,000 and 7,000 men. Although it is the result of educated guesswork, the consensus has been that the division of Norman forces was probably along lines of around 2,000 cavalry, 800 archers, 3,000 infantry, 1,000 sailors and logistical support men.

But what of the Anglo-Saxon army at Hastings? William apparently was told that he was likely to be swamped by English numbers when Harold’s army arrived. The English army was led by Harold and his brothers Leofwin and Gyrth, each with personal retinues numbering probably in their hundreds. We cannot be sure how many Danes were in the army, although it is suggested by William of Poitiers that these were ‘considerable’ and had been sent by the king of Denmark to help the English. To the Danes we must add the numbers of men gathered (or at least warned to attend the host) along the way. While these may have taken time to join Harold’s force and get to London, there is mention in the twelfth-century Robert Wace’s account of the regions from which the king recruited his force. These comprised the men of London itself, Kent, Hertford, Essex, Surrey, St Edmunds, Suffolk, Norwich, Norfolk, Canterbury, Stamford, Bedford, Huntingdon, Northampton, York, Buckingham, Nottingham, Lindsey, Lincoln, Salisbury, Dorset, Bath, Somerset, Gloucester, Worcester, Hampshire and Berkshire. We cannot be sure how authentic this evidence is, or whether each of the regions answered their call. It does not represent the entire ‘national’ host, either, which may be why William of Malmesbury suggested Harold’s numbers were not as high as they might have been. However, if we assign an unlikely low figure of 200 men per place mentioned, we come up with a force of 5,400 men before we have even added our Danes and earl’s retinues. It is small wonder then that when William of Poitiers (borrowing his style from the ancients) described the English army emerging from the Wealden forest to the north of Senlac Ridge he said, ‘If an author from antiquity had described Harold’s army, he would have said that as it passed rivers dried up, the forests became open country. For from every part of the country large numbers of English had gathered.’ If the numbers themselves are difficult to pinpoint, the evidence outlined above must surely suggest that the Anglo-Saxon military system, however allegedly archaic and obsolete by 1066, was capable of sending a force of up to 10,000 or more men to Senlac Ridge that October morning. We should not underestimate this capability.

But what form did these armies take in the field? How were they structured? At the top, of course, was the chief kinsman, the king. Around him in the later period were the men who constituted his household retinue, heavily armoured infantrymen. Also at the king’s disposal from the time of Æthelred were the Danish mercenaries available as a separate subordinate command, probably protected with mail armour and equipped with Dane-Axes. Further still, according to Wace in his Roman de Rou, the men of London fought around the king, presumably as heavy infantry spearmen. Wace also tells us that it was protocol for the Kent fyrd to be the first into battle. John of Salisbury also recalls this right of the Kent fyrd, a very prestigious right, but he adds that after Kent, the next in order to fight would have been the men of Wiltshire, Devon and Cornwall. The king’s close kinsmen, such as brothers and sons (æthelings), would have their own entourages around them with the exception of the mercenaries and Londoners. If they were all travelling together, the size of this force alone would have been considerable. Next, the regional ealdormen, or earls, who took their place would also form separate command units and they would bring along with them the thegns and their men, the ceorls, or free peasants from their estates, armed and equipped variously. These forces were organised by shire, hundred and ‘soke’ (private holdings). It is very clear that the armies of the later Anglo-Saxon period were both numerous and structured.

Film: STALINGRAD (1993)


Stalingrad is a German war film directed by Joseph Vilsmaier. Starring Thomas Kretschmann as Lt. Hans von Witzland, the movie follows a platoon of World War II Wehrmacht soldiers from Italy in the summer of 1942 as they are transferred to the German Sixth Army, which finds itself surrounded and besieged by the Red Army during the fateful Battle of Stalingrad during the winter of 1942–1943.


The Battle of Stalingrad (23 August 1942–2 February 1943) was one of the largest (nearly 2.2 million personnel involved) and bloodiest battles ever fought. After 13 weeks of street-to-street combat in the fall of 1942, the Germans had taken most of the city—reduced to rubble from aerial bombardment and shelling—but they had neglected to shore up their weak flanks to the north and south. On 19 November 1942 the Russians launched Operation Uranus, a surprise massive counterattack on those flanks that quickly surrounded and ultimately destroyed the German Sixth Army in a giant pincer movement. Total Axis casualties (Germans, Romanians, Italians, and Hungarians) are believed to have been more than 250,000 dead, 450,000 wounded, and 91,000 captured—a devastating defeat that essentially sealed the doom of Hitler’s Third Reich. Over the ensuing decades a number of documentary and fiction films, German and Russian, have been made about this decisive WWII battle, but the best of them remains Joseph Vilsmaier’s Stalingrad. The film originates with Christoph Fromm, a young German screenwriter who wrote a screenplay (c.1990) based on extensive research, including numerous interviews, that places fictive characters in the 336th Pioneer Battalion, 336th Infantry Division, a real unit that fought at Stalingrad. Producers Günter Rohrbach and Hanno Huth acquired Fromm’s script and hired director Joseph Vilsmaier to turn it into a movie for Bavaria Film. Vilsmaier and co-writers Jürgen Büscher and Johannes Heide retained Fromm’s characters and basic narrative structure, but extensively reworked the material, making it less a documentary and more of “a movie with feelings,” as Vilsmaier later put it—so much so that Fromm took his name off the project and later published his version as a novel (Stalingrad—Die Einsamkeit vor dem Sterben [Stalingrad—The Loneliness Before Dying]).


In order to show the declining health and weight loss of its main protagonists, Stalingrad was shot in sequence between October 1991 and April 1992. The opening moments were filmed on location in Cervo, Liguria, Italy, while the Stalingrad scenes were shot in Prague and in Kurivody, Ceská Lípa District of Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic), and in Kajaani and Kemijärvi, Finland. Additional interiors were shot on sets at Bavaria Studios, Geiselgasteig, Germany. There was no filming at Stalingrad itself (now Volgograd); destroyed during the Nazi siege, the city was completely rebuilt after the war so there were no period buildings. Vilsmaier’s production team made every effort to ensure authenticity; they found 9,000 original World War II uniforms, period weapons, and a number of World War II–era Soviet tanks that were still operational. In addition to the 40 actors with speaking roles, the movie employed a production team of 180 technicians, 12,000 extras (mostly Czechs and Germans), and 100 stunt persons. Vilsmaier also combed a veterans’ hospital near Prague for extras missing arms and legs. The world’s largest snowmaking machine was used during the filming of the winter scenes, some of which were shot in the dead of winter with temperatures as low as −22° F (−30° C). The production budget was an estimated 20 million Deutschemarks ($13.2 million).

Plot Summary

In August 1942, after the First Battle of El Alamein (1–27 July 1942) ends in a stalemate, German soldiers who fought with Rommel’s Afrika Korps enjoy leave in Cervo, Liguria, Italy. At an assembly of the battalion, some of the men are awarded the Allgemeines Sturmabzeichen [General Assault Badge], including Unteroffizier [Sgt.] Manfred “Rollo” Rohleder (Jochen Nickel) and Obergefreiter [Senior Lance-corporal] Fritz Reiser (Dominique Horwitz). Both men meet Lieutenant Hans von Witzland (Thomas Kretschmann), a platoon commander on his first leadership posting, and the squadron travels by train to participate in the Battle of Stalingrad. Witzland’s unit links up with a group led by Hauptmann [Captain] Hermann Musk (Karel Heřmánek), who takes them on an attack of a factory building, resulting in a large number of deaths and injuries. During a ceasefire, the unit retrieves their injured soldiers and manages to take a prisoner: Kolya (Pavel Mang), a young Russian boy. However, Russian forces swarm the next day, and the boy escapes. Without a working radio, von Witzland, Reiser, Rollo, Emigholtz (Heinz Emigholz), “GeGe” Müller (Sebastian Rudolph), and Wölk (Zdenek Vencl) take to the sewers to find their way back to the German front. Witzland is soon on his own, having lost his unit underground, but is able to capture a Russian soldier named Irina (Dana Vávrová), who lures him into a sense of safety by offering to help him, but betrays him by pushing him into the water before running off. Witzland is saved by his men, but Emigholtz is severely wounded when he unwittingly detonates a booby trap. His comrades take him to a crowded aid station full of severely wounded soldiers screaming in agony, and Reiser orders an aid worker to help his friend, pointing a gun at the orderly. Emigholtz dies, despite their efforts. Hauptmann Haller (Dieter Okras) captures the men and sets them up in a penal unit forced to disarm landmines. By late November 1942, a brutally cold winter season has arrived, and the Soviet forces have outflanked the Germans. Hauptmann Musk sends the penal unit to the frontline, and Witzland’s squadron has some initial success defending their position, but Wölk dies in the process. Witzland, GeGe, and Reiser then decide to desert. They steal medical tags from corpses to feign being wounded and head towards Pitomnik Airfield, in the center of the “cauldron” (pocket), in hopes of catching a medical evacuation plane out of Stalingrad. However, they arrive too late and watch as the final transport heads out without them and the airfield is riddled with bullets from the Russian forces. They return to their unit in a shelter and see that Musk is afflicted by a bad case of trench foot. When a German plane arrives with supplies, the unit hurries out to secure provisions. Haller accosts them at gunpoint and is taken down, but he kills GeGe as he hits the ground. Making a desperate play for his life, Haller tells the men that he has a stash of supplies hidden at a local house, but Otto executes him. The men find the house in question full of provisions, but they also find Irina bound to Haller’s bed as his sex slave. Von Witzland frees Irina, and she tells the men that she collaborated with the Germans. The squad help themselves to food and drink, while a feverish and dying Musk tries to convince them to fight on. Otto commits suicide instead. Once Musk dies, Rollo brings his body outside and sees the remaining members of the German Sixth Army conceding to the Russian forces. Irina, Witzland, and Reiser make their way through the snow to escape, but shots from the Soviets kill Irina and mortally wound Witzland. The Germans manage to get away. Witzland eventually succumbs to his wounds and perishes in Reiser’s arms. Reiser holds his dead commander, thinking about North Africa as he eventually freezes to death.


Stalingrad premiered in Munich, Germany on 21 January 1993 but was not released in the United States until 24 May 1995, after it had already gone to video. Box office numbers are unknown, but anecdotal information suggests that the movie was not profitable—perhaps not surprising, insofar as Stalingrad is one of the bleakest movies ever made. It did, however, receive mostly positive reviews. Stephen Holden notes that Stalingrad “has some of the most virtuosic battle scenes to be found in a modern war film” but also observes that the movie “is so determined to show the horrors of war that [it] doesn’t devote quite enough time to its major characters” (Holden, 1995, p. C19). Peter Stack called the film “grimly beautiful” and found the soldiers depicted as “anything but reverent toward their leaders … Stalingrad is rough yet fascinating viewing. Delving into the brutal realities of war with an almost docudrama style, it renders a bitter, almost choking sense of the futility of war through the destruction not only of bodies, but of the human spirit” (Stack, 1995).

Reel History Versus Real History

In its display of uniforms, weapons, and tanks and its visceral rendering of combat in urban and open settings, including severe casualties, atrocities, and the abysmal conditions faced by the trapped remnants of the Sixth Army, Stalingrad achieves a high degree of historical accuracy. Focused at the squad level, the film is not able to convey or even suggest the enormous scope and complexity of the Battle of Stalingrad (a task better left to documentaries).

PATTON (1970)


Patton is an American biopic/war epic directed by Franklin J. Schaffner from a script by Francis Ford Coppola and Edmund H. North. The film focuses on General George S. Patton (played by George C. Scott) during his World War II service as commander of the U.S. Seventh and Third armies.


General George Smith Patton Jr. (1885–1945), commander of the U.S. Seventh Army in North Africa and Sicily and the U.S. Third Army in France and Germany during World War II, was one of the most colorful and controversial figures in modern American military history. Known as “Old Blood and Guts,” Patton was a strutting, profanity-spouting, war-loving egomaniac, but also an effective military leader much feared by America’s enemies—and sometimes feared and reviled by his own men. Frank McCarthy (1912–1986), a staff officer with Gen. George C. Marshall during World War II and a Hollywood producer after the war, knew Patton and regarded his story as eminently screen-worthy. When he proposed a Patton film to his boss, Darryl F. Zanuck, at 20th Century Fox in October 1951, Zanuck gave the go-ahead, but it would be another 19 years before the project came to fruition. Patton’s widow and other members of the Patton family obstructed McCarthy, fearing that a Hollywood biopic would caricature Patton and sully his memory (Toplin, 1996, pp. 158–159). McCarthy was only able to move forward after Ladislas Farago’s biography, Patton: Ordeal and Triumph provided a source copious enough upon which to base a biopic without recourse to family sources. 20th Century Fox bought the film rights to Farago’s book and to Gen. Omar Bradley’s A Soldier’s Story. In 1965, after rejecting several script drafts by other writers, Frank McCarthy hired an up-and-coming 26-year-old screenwriter named Francis Ford Coppola, paid him $50,000, and gave him six months to carve a coherent narrative out of Patton’s complex life and military career. Coppola wisely made two tactical decisions early on that allowed him to create a fine script. After doing his research, Coppola concluded that “Patton was obviously out of his mind” (Phillips, 2004, pp. 31–32). A script that celebrated George Patton’s bizarre war-mongering would be ridiculous but one that merely vilified him would be rejected out of hand, so Coppola split the difference by writing an ambiguous script that emphasized Patton’s dual nature—part lunatic, part super-warrior—and depicted him as an anachronistic, Quixotic figure who really belonged to a bygone era. Coppola’s other choice was an easy one: to focus exclusively on Patton’s life during the Second World War, a span of only two years and ten months (ten months of which he was sidelined), that kept the narrative tightly focused and action packed. McCarthy engaged William Wyler (The Best Years of Our Lives) to direct the picture but Wyler didn’t like Coppola’s unconventional script, so James Webb (Cheyenne Autumn) was brought in to write a new version. To play Patton, McCarthy and the studio wanted George C. Scott, a superb actor and ironically an avowed pacifist, but Scott found Webb’s script too reductive so he bowed out. Robert Mitchum, Burt Lancaster, Rod Steiger, and Lee Marvin all turned down the role. John Wayne badly wanted to play Patton but his utterly dissimilar appearance, laconic manner, and narrow range as an actor made him a poor choice to play the shorter, more volatile, and markedly more educated and intelligent Patton. Fortunately, George C. Scott consented to do the film when McCarthy agreed to revert back to Coppola’s script, though veteran screenwriter Edmund H. North (Twelve O’Clock High) made further revisions. Scott then proceeded to do exhaustive research on Patton, watching newsreels and reading and re-reading every Patton biography in order to master his character. In the meantime Wyler dropped out as director and was replaced by Frank Schaffner (Planet of the Apes). By early 1969, after five years of shuffling and reshuffling, Frank McCarthy finally had a script, a star, and a director.


Principal photography began outside of Segovia, Spain, on 1 February 1969. Patton was filmed at 71 locations in six countries, but most of it was shot in Spain because Francisco Franco’s Spanish Army could provide the needed WWII equipment—though the rental of troops and equipment consumed half the film’s $12 million production budget. The film’s opening, showing the aftermath of the American defeat at the Battle of the Kasserine Pass, was shot at the ruins of Tabernas Castle in Almeria Province on the coast of southern Spain. The place where Patton halts Rommel’s advance towards Messina is located just below the village of Turillas, 12 miles east of Tabernas. Some 600 Almeria residents worked as extras for the scene depicting Patton’s arrival in Palermo, Sicily, which was actually filmed in Nicolás Salmerón Park in the City of Almeria. After the Battle of El Guettar, Patton meets his new aide de camp at his headquarters, which was in reality the Governor’s Palace of Almeria, and when Patton marches down a long corridor after the slapping incident, he is actually in La Granja Palace near Madrid. The winter scenes in Belgium were actually shot near Segovia. The scene depicting Patton driving up to an ancient city that is implied to be Carthage was actually shot in the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Volubilis in northwest Morocco. Patton’s speech to the troops that opens the movie was shot at Bob Hope Patriotic Hall in downtown Los Angeles.

Plot Summary

Gen. George S. Patton (George C. Scott), in full military regalia, strides on to a stage at some undisclosed location in Europe during World War II. With a giant American flag behind him, he addresses an unseen group of American troops to rally them in support of the war, zeroing in on the importance of “winning” American style. The film proper begins with the humiliating American defeat at the Battle of the Kasserine Pass (19 February 1943–25 February 1943). Replacing Major General Lloyd Fredendall, Patton is put in charge of the U.S. Army’s II Corps in North Africa. Upon his arrival, he cracks down on the soldiers and enforces rules, for example, demanding that soldiers wear ties and fining a cook for not wearing his Army-issue uniform. At a meeting with RAF Air Vice-Marshal Sir Arthur Coningham (John Barrie), Patton takes issue with Coningham for having discredited the notion that lack of air cover contributed to the American defeat. Coningham apologizes and promises Patton that he will see no more German planes. Seconds later Luftwaffe planes bomb and strafe the area, and Patton emerges from cover to fire his .45 at them. In the next scene, Patton defeats a German attack at the Battle of El Guettar in Tunisia (23 March–3 April 1943), but his aide-de-camp, Major Richard N. Jenson (Morgan Paull), is killed in the battle. Lt. Col. Charles R. Codman (Paul Stevens) replaces him. Patton is disappointed to learn that Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, Commander of the Afrika Korps, was on medical leave with diphtheria. Codman reassures him that “If you’ve defeated Rommel’s plan, you’ve defeated Rommel.” After victory in the North Africa campaign, Patton and Sir Bernard Montgomery (Michael Bates) formulate competing plans for the Allied invasion of Sicily. Patton’s plan is to lead his Seventh Army to the northwest sending Montgomery to the southeast area of the island in an attempt to trap German and Italian units. Their superior officer, Gen. Alexander (Jack Gwillim), likes Patton’s plan, but Gen. Dwight Eisenhower (not portrayed on screen) opts for Montgomery’s conservative approach. As a result, Patton’s army heads southeast to cover Montgomery’s troops. All land without a hitch, but the Allied advance is sluggish, and Patton takes matters into his own hands. Going against his superiors, Patton leads his men to Palermo in the northwest, then continues on to Messina, outpacing Montgomery to their objective (17 August 1943). Patton states that his contention with Montgomery stems from Montgomery’s inability to admit his own vanity and glory-seeking ambitions. However, Patton’s methods do not go over well with the men he commands, Major Gen. Omar Bradley (Karl Malden) and Major Gen. Lucian Truscott (John Doucette). While on a visit to a field hospital (early August 1943) crowded with battle casualties, Patton sees a shaken soldier weeping (Tim Considine). Angrily labeling the soldier a coward, Patton assaults him and threatens to kill him, then concludes the interaction by insisting that the soldier return to the frontline. When Eisenhower learns of the incident, he relieves Patton of his command and orders him to offer apologies to the wronged soldier, to all occupants of the field hospital, and to his command, one unit at a time. Eisenhower also sidelines Patton during the D-Day landings (6 June 1944), placing him in command of the phantom First U.S. Army Group in southeast England as a decoy, which works; German Col. Gen. Alfred Jodl (Richard Münch) posits that Patton will lead the charge through Europe. Afraid he will miss out on the rest of the war, Patton pleads with his former subordinate, Omar Bradley, for a leadership role, and he is put in charge of the Third Army. Patton excels at his post and rapidly advances through France, but his tanks are halted when they run out of fuel, which is mostly consigned to Montgomery’s Operation Market Garden (17–25 September 1944), much to Patton’s disgust. Later, during the Battle of the Bulge (16 December 1944–25 January 1945), Patton’s forces relieve the besieged town of Bastogne and then punch through the Siegfried Line and into Germany. In an off-the-record short speech at a war-drive event in Knutsford, England (25 April 1944), Patton said “it is the evident destiny of the British and Americans (and, of course, the Russians) to rule the world.” Media coverage omits the reference to Russia, so Patton’s remarks are viewed as an insult to the Soviet Union. After Germany capitulates (5 May 1945), Patton, through an interpreter, insults a Russian general to his face at a postwar dinner. The Russian amuses Patton by insulting him in kind, and the two officers proceed to have a drink together. Later, Patton makes the mistake of comparing the Nazi Party to American political parties. Patton’s comments lead to his second loss of command. Patton is then seen away from the war, talking his dog, Willie. In voice-over, Patton describes how a returning hero of ancient Rome was honored with a “triumph,” a victory parade in which “a slave stood behind the conqueror, holding a golden crown, and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.”


Patton had an East Coast premiere in New York City on 4 February 1970 and a West Coast premiere two weeks later. During its domestic theatrical run the movie made $61.75 million ($389 million in 2017 dollars). Patton earned an additional $28.1 million in video rentals later on—a grand total of almost $90 million against an estimated production cost of $12 million (i.e., a $78 million profit, minus promotion and advertising expenses). Patton received 10 Oscar nominations and won 7 Oscars at the 43rd Academy Awards (April 1971), including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. George C. Scott won the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of General Patton, but declined to accept the award on the grounds that acting should not be treated as a competitive enterprise. Reviews were overwhelmingly positive, with many critics citing George C. Scott’s performance as one of the greatest ever committed to celluloid.

Reel History Versus Real History

In his book, History by Hollywood: The Use and Abuse of the American Past, Robert Brent Toplin includes a chapter on Patton entitled “Patton: Deliberately Planned as a Rorschach Test” (1996, pp. 155–175). Evidently unaware of Francis Ford Coppola’s pragmatic reasons for writing an ambiguous script, Toplin argues that, given its time of release—at the height of the Vietnam War in 1970—Patton had to be carefully calibrated so as to present a balanced depiction of George S. Patton; at a time when anti-war sentiment was raging in the United States, an epic biopic about a gung-ho WWII general had to be constructed in ambiguous terms in order to appeal to the widest possible demographic. Hence, Patton is portrayed as a very capable military commander, pleasing Vietnam-era hawks, but also as an egomaniacal crackpot, confirming the biases of doves who abhorred war-mongering. In the end Toplin judges Patton as historically quite accurate and a “balanced” portrait. Patton is not, however, the “balanced” cinematic portrait that Toplin contends that it is. It contains contrived events and false characterizations designed to skew viewer identification toward George Patton. For example, George C. Scott’s Patton speaks in a raspy growl whereas the real Patton had a high-pitched, squeaky voice that did not exude Scott’s machismo. The movie also misrepresents the relationship between Patton and Gen. Omar Bradley. Depicted as close friends in the film they were, in reality, distant; Bradley found Patton’s personality grating and offensive. The movie also suggests that Patton and Gen. Dwight Eisenhower were distant, whereas they had been close friends for decades. Oddly, Eisenhower is barely represented in the movie. The film depicts a sustained a rivalry between Patton and Field Marshall Montgomery. In reality, the rivalry was one-sided; Montgomery was less concerned about his reputation relative to Patton than Patton was to his. All of these touches tend to humanize Patton and make him more sympathetic. Patton was an avowed anti-Semite—an unsavory aspect of his character that the movie chooses to overlook. The film portrays George Patton as a largely solitary figure, barely mentioning his wife and family and completely omitting the fact that Patton had a long-term extramarital affair with his niece, Jean Gordon. The film also omits the fact that Patton set up a disastrous secret raid on a Nazi prison camp in Hammelburg, Germany, in a failed attempt to liberate his son-in-law, John K. Waters. The film excludes this incident to protect the myth of Patton as a military genius. Another key omission concerns the infamous slapping incident. The movie depicts just one slapping incident, but in point of fact, there were two separate incidents, and Patton bragged about them to Bradley, showing a pattern of disrespect for subordinates. In his book, American Films of the 70s: Conflicting Visions, film historian Peter Lev notes that Patton consistently enlists viewer identification with the film’s protagonist: “General Patton is the focus of identification because he is the only character available for audience sympathy. We experience what he experiences; we share his hopes and dreams [because] we really have no alternatives for emotional investment” (Lev, 2000, p. 115). For corroboration, Lev reports the reaction of WWII veteran and war scholar Paul Fussell, who also noted the film’s tendency to manipulate viewer identification. Fussell says that he would have preferred “a more complex” view of Patton “as a dangerously out-of-control individual, instead of the eccentric but brilliant leader of myth.” Fussell adds that “there are other real moments that the film wouldn’t think of including, such as the sotto voce remark of one disgruntled junior officer to another after being forced to listen to a vainglorious Patton harangue: ‘What an a—hole!’ That would be an interesting historic moment. I know it took place,” says Fussell, “because I was the one who said it” (quoted by Lev, 2000, p. 115).

Vietnam – The Air War

The conflicting views of the nature of the war have contributed to disagreements about the way the United States used air power. But a much older argument has also played a role: that between the advocates of strategic and tactical bombing. Tactical bombing is directed against the enemy armed forces on the battlefield, or against forces and facilities close enough to the battlefield to provide direct and immediate support for the enemy forces on the battlefield. Strategic bombing attacks targets relevant to the overall power of the enemy nation, such as oil refineries, weapons factories, or the homes of the workers who make the weapons, rather than attacking individual military units or the facilities that support individual units. The U.S. Air Force was dominated by men who believed that strategic bombing was the best use of air power.

Those who believed in strategic bombing, and those who believed that the real enemy the United States was fighting in Vietnam was the government of North Vietnam, tended to believe that the most significant use of U.S. air power would be attacks on the heart of North Vietnam. They were sorely disappointed. President Lyndon Johnson (1963–1969) was concerned that bombing in the northern half of North Vietnam, especially in the areas of Hanoi and Haiphong, and in the immediate vicinity of the Chinese border, could trigger direct intervention in Vietnam by the Soviet Union or the PRC. He was very reluctant to approve any bombing in these areas, and to the extent he approved it, he kept the tightest personal control of it. His often-quoted statement “They can’t bomb an outhouse without my permission” describes his attitude toward the use of air power in the northern half of North Vietnam. In April 1968, Johnson halted all bombing of the northern part of North Vietnam. It did not resume on any significant scale until 1972, and even if one includes the bombing of 1972, Hanoi was never subjected to anything like the pounding that had been applied to every North Korean city during the Korean War, and to almost every German and Japanese city during World War II. Looking at the northern part of North Vietnam, one sees a restricted use of air power.

Those who believed in tactical bombing, and those who thought that the war was essentially a struggle against the guerrillas in South Vietnam, looked at areas closer to the battlefields in the South, and saw a very different picture. An enormous weight of U.S. bombing was applied in South Vietnam, and in the areas of Laos through which the Ho Chi Minh Trail carried supplies and reinforcements from North Vietnam to Communist forces in the South. South Vietnam became by a wide margin the most heavily bombed country in the history of the world, and Laos became the second most heavily bombed. The White House, furthermore, left the details—the choices of which targets were to be hit in South Vietnam and along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and when—pretty much to the military.

The southern part of North Vietnam, especially the area within about 200 kilometers of the DMZ, was intermediate in terms of U.S. policy. Lyndon Johnson approved missions in this area much more readily than he did in the areas further north, and he did not control the missions in such detail. He often approved missions of “armed reconnaissance” in which pilots were authorized to search an area, often quite a large area, and bomb whatever targets of opportunity they found there. The towns of this area were devastated in a fashion that never happened to Hanoi. Bombing was not halted there until October 1968, and the halt was not as absolute as in the area farther north; a significant number of strikes were flown between 1969 and 1971.

Air power was used in the Second Indochina War on a far larger scale than in any other war in history, and it shaped the conduct of ground operations to a far greater extent than in any previous war. By 1968, the three busiest airports in the world were all in Vietnam: Bien Hoa, Danang, and Tan Son Nhut in that order.

United States bombers and fighter-bombers expended more than 6,715,500 tons of air munitions in Indochina during this war. More than 3,203,000 tons of this were expended in South Vietnam from 1962 to 1973, and 2,093,300 tons in Laos from 1964 to 1973, making these the two most heavily bombed countries in the history of the world. Some 880,108 tons were expended in North Vietnam from 1964 to 1973, and 539,129 tons in Cambodia from 1969 to 1973. A majority of the munitions tonnage fell on South Vietnam in each year from 1962 to 1969, and in 1972; on Laos in 1970 and 1971; and on Cambodia in 1973. There was no year when a majority fell on North Vietnam. Aside from bombers and fighter-bombers, there were also helicopters, fixed-wing gunships, the C-130 transport planes that dropped more than 3,700 tons of the huge M-121 and BLU-82 bombs, and other aircraft. U.S. and allied aircraft of all types expended a total of about 8,000,000 tons of air munitions of all types, with about half falling on South Vietnam.

This enormous application of aerial firepower not only inflicted heavy casualties on Communist forces, but allowed relatively small U.S. and allied ground units to operate in areas where they could not otherwise have been sent. If they were attacked by forces far too strong for their own weapons to have given them any chance of survival, they could often (not always, but often) be saved by air support.

The United States modified the physical environment of the war by spraying herbicides from aircraft to kill trees and brush. Efforts to modify the weather and the structure of the soil were less successful.

U.S. Air Force (USAF) fixed-wing transport planes were carrying 2,732 tons of cargo per day in Vietnam during the peak year, 1968. The peak year for cargo transport by helicopters, which could reach smaller units in the field, was 1969, with an average of 3,533 tons per day. Many positions in isolated locations could not have survived without air supply.

Airmobility—helicopter transport of troops—radically altered the nature of warfare. An airmobile unit could be landed in the middle of enemy territory in an organized fashion, not scattered by having the men come down individually by parachute. When men were wounded, medical evacuation helicopters carried them to hospitals. Thousands of men suffered wounds that in any previous war would have been fatal, but survived because of the speed with which helicopters brought them to hospitals. Medical evacuation by helicopter also allowed units that had suffered casualties to retain their mobility; they did not need to carry their wounded because the wounded had been sent off into the sky. If enemy forces in an area were too strong, a whole unit could sometimes be picked up and carried to safety.

The American air war in South Vietnam began late in 1961 when USAF pilots were sent to Vietnam under Project Farm Gate. Army helicopter pilots joined them at the end of the year, and a Marine Corps helicopter unit early in 1962. Their operations were at first kept quiet; the United States maintained a pretense that U.S. military personnel were in Vietnam only as advisers, not to conduct combat operations themselves. The first overt USAF combat missions in South Vietnam were flown on February 19, 1965, by B-57 Canberra bombers based at Bien Hoa.

The U.S. bombing campaign against North Vietnam started with sporadic air strikes—the U.S. retaliation for the Tonkin Gulf incidents in August 1964, and Operation Flaming Dart in February 1965. These were followed by a systematic bombing campaign, Rolling Thunder, from March 1965 to October 1968. There were only occasional strikes from then until 1972. Systematic bombing resumed in Operations Freedom Train in April 1972, and Linebacker beginning in May. Linebacker II, the famous “Christmas Bombing,” came in the second half of December. All U.S. bombing of North Vietnam was halted in January 1973.

Characterizations of the U.S. air war as limited, and complaints about presidential interference in the choice of targets, refer primarily to North Vietnam, especially the northern half of North Vietnam. Lyndon Johnson was very worried about possible reactions by China or the Soviet Union to U.S. bombing of the northern half of North Vietnam, and he exercised tight personal control over bombing missions there. He allowed the military considerably more freedom in the bombing of the southern panhandle of North Vietnam, where all the major towns suffered devastation of a sort never inflicted on Hanoi. He allowed great freedom in the bombing of South Vietnam and Laos.

Air-to-air combat occurred mainly over North Vietnam, though there were a few incidents over Laos. The American planes tended to be larger and heavier, with more sophisticated equipment, but with a relatively low ratio of wing area to weight, which limited their maneuverability. The North Vietnamese MiGs were smaller, lighter, and more maneuverable. The Americans enjoyed a favorable kill ratio. The airfields from which the MiGs flew were off limits to U.S. bombing until April 1967. Two airfields were bombed on April 24, 1967; raids were authorized against the others gradually over the coming months, and the last, Phuc Yen, was finally bombed on October 25. By late fall of 1967, most of the MiGs had shifted to bases in China.

U.S. aircraft also faced strong ground-based air defenses in North Vietnam.

There were a few U.S. air strikes on Laos in 1964; bombing became systematic and massive in 1965, and remained so until February 22, 1973. The last isolated air strikes were in April 1973. Bombing in Laos fell mainly on the Ho Chi Minh Trail in the South, but there was also bombing in northern Laos, supporting the Royal Laotian Army and the Central Intelligence Agency’s “Secret Army” of Hmong tribesmen in their war against PAVN and Pathet Lao forces. The CIA’s proprietary airline Air America provided vital support for the Secret Army. Respecting the fiction of Laotian neutrality, the United States for years avoided openly acknowledging its air war in Laos, but the bombing was not in any genuine sense secret.

When significant U.S. bombing of Cambodia began in March 1969 under Operation Menu, it was truly secret. The administration of Richard Nixon was determined to prevent the press, the Congress, or even most U.S. military officers from learning that it was occurring. Overt bombing of Cambodia did not begin until April 1970. It remained on a limited scale until U.S. bombing of South Vietnam and North Vietnam was halted completely, and bombing of Laos halted almost completely, in January and February 1973. With only Cambodia left to bomb, the United States intensified the bombing there to far higher levels than had ever been attained before. The U.S. Congress finally forced a halt to the bombing on August 15, 1973.


The most common type of bomb used in Vietnam was the general purpose (GP) high-explosive bomb. About half the weight of such a bomb was actual explosive, and half the weight was the steel case. The 500-pound MK-82 bomb (see photograph 15), for example, contained 192 pounds of explosive; the 750-pound M-117 contained 386 pounds of explosive; the 2,000-pound MK-84 contained 946 pounds of explosive. The most common bomb size in the Vietnam War was 750 pounds, and the 500-pound bomb was the second most common, but 125-pound, 250-pound, 1,000-pound, 2,000-pound, and 3000-pound bombs were also used in significant numbers.

“Snake-eye” bombs had large tail flaps that unfolded after the aircraft released them, to slow their fall. These could be dropped from low altitude; slowing the fall of the bomb gave the plane that dropped it time to get far enough away not to be damaged by the explosion.

“Daisy cutter” bombs used a fuze extender, a long rod attached to the nose of a bomb. When the tip of the fuze extender struck the ground, the bomb would detonate. Detonation while the body of the bomb was still above ground level produced less of a crater, but made the bomb very effective for knocking down trees. Small “daisy cutter” bombs, 500 pounds, were sometimes dropped near roads that the Communist forces were using, to cause trees to fall across the roads and block them. Very large ones, dropped under the code name Commando Vault from C-130 transport aircraft, were used either for the destruction of military targets or for the creation of instant helicopter landing zones in the jungle. The first test drops, using five-ton M-121 bombs, were performed in South Vietnam in October 1968. Each M-121 cleared an area about 200 feet in diameter. More than 200 were eventually dropped. Commando Vault began using an even larger bomb, the 15,000-pound BLU-82, which could create a clearing about 260 feet in diameter, in March 1970. More than 360 BLU-82 bombs had been dropped, in South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, by the time U.S. bombing was ended in 1973. The Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF) dropped an additional 15 of them during the last weeks of the war, in April 1975.

Fuel-air explosive bombs were also used occasionally in Vietnam. These were designed to release a cloud of flammable gas, which was detonated only after it had had time to mix with the air.

A smart bomb is one that is actively guided to its target after leaving the aircraft, rather than simply falling under the influence of gravity. The concept had been tested occasionally in combat beginning late in World War II, but the technology matured to the point of making this a truly effective weapon during the Vietnam War. The AGM-62 Walleye had a television camera in its nose; once it had locked onto the target, it steered itself. It was a glide bomb with a slant range of up to 40,000 feet. Its main disadvantage was that its camera needed daylight, good visibility, and a high-contrast target. Its shaped-charge warhead was effective against pinpoint targets, but was not very large; American pilots were frustrated when direct hits by Walleyes failed to knock down the very strongly built Ham Rong Bridge, in Thanh Hoa province. It began combat tests in March 1967, and came into full operational use early in 1968.

Laser guidance proved a more versatile means of steering smart bombs to their targets. Usually, one aircraft would shine a laser on the target, while another dropped the bomb, usually an MK-84 2,000-pound bomb with a seeker head and steering fins added to allow it to guide itself to the bright spot. The bomb had far more explosive power than the Walleye, and could be used at night and against targets that were not visually conspicuous enough for the television camera in the Walleye to lock onto them. Combat tests began in 1968, but little is known about the early tests and they may not have been very successful. The first combat test of a very successful design was on February 3, 1971, when an F-4 Phantom destroyed a 37-mm anti-aircraft gun in Laos, using a bomb equipped with a Pave Sword laser-seeker pod. A laser target designator aboard an AC-130 gunship provided the bright spot on the target. Smaller OV-10 aircraft were soon also being equipped with laser target designators. The bomb proved itself during the following months in Laos; in 1972 it was used with spectacular success against considerably more important targets in North Vietnam, during Operation Linebacker.


Capital of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV), located in the Red River Delta, about 95 kilometers from the sea. Under the name Thang Long, the city had been the traditional capital of Vietnam up to the late 18th century. Hanoi was not a major industrial center; its importance during the Second Indochina War was as a transportation nexus (both road and rail traffic crossed the Red River by the Doumer Bridge in Hanoi), an administrative center, and a symbol.

The question of bombing Hanoi was a contentious one through much of the war. The U.S. Air Force, dominated by doctrines of strategic bombing, urged attacks on targets in Hanoi. President Lyndon Johnson was very reluctant; he feared the possible reactions of China, the Soviet Union, and public opinion in the West, and he may have felt (some of his advisers are known to have felt) that once targets were destroyed, the United States would no longer be able to threaten to destroy them. President Johnson initially defined a restricted zone, a circular area with a radius of 30 nautical miles (55.56 kilometers) measured from the center of the city, in which air strikes could be flown only with his specific permission. The degree of his willingness to grant such permission fluctuated. Sometimes there was a smaller circle within the large one, inside which air strikes were completely prohibited.

The first air strikes within five nautical miles of the city center were in June and August 1966. The next strikes in this area, in the first half of December, were considerably heavier. The DRV, wishing to publicize this intensification of the bombing, invited Harrison Salisbury of The New York Times to come to Vietnam late in December. Salisbury’s reports from Hanoi caused considerable controversy. The restrictions on bombing were further loosened in 1967. In May and June there were numerous raids on the edges of Hanoi, and a few against targets such as the electric power plant and the waterworks, well inside the city. Beginning in August there were occasional attacks on the Doumer Bridge, very close to the city center.

U.S. bombing of the Hanoi area was terminated in April 1968, and did not resume until April 1972. Even then it was on a much more limited scale than most people realize. Operation Linebacker II, the so-called “Christmas bombing” of December 1972, hit many targets on the edges of Hanoi but did little damage to the city center.


By the middle and late stages of the Vietnam War, North Vietnam had what is often described as the strongest air defense system in history, though it is important to remember that this is true only in an absolute and not in a relative sense. North Vietnam’s air defenses were stronger in 1967 than Germany’s had been in 1943, but the attacking aircraft had improved during the intervening years by an even greater margin; North Vietnamese defenses posed less danger to the jet aircraft that were attacking North Vietnam in 1967 than Germany’s had to the much slower aircraft attacking Germany in 1943.

The most important component of the North Vietnamese air defenses was anti-aircraft artillery. The 100-mm radar-aimed guns, from the Soviet Union, could reach altitudes of 30,000 feet and could pose serious dangers to aircraft at altitudes as high as 20,000 or 25,000 feet. The 57-mm guns might be either radar-guided or visually aimed. Smaller visually aimed cannon, 23-mm and 37-mm, could be very dangerous to planes at lower altitudes. The 12.7-mm and 14.5-mm machine guns and the rifles of peasant militiamen knocked down few U.S. planes, but were nonetheless significant in deterring U.S. planes from using very low altitudes to dodge the fire of the larger guns.


A rocket designed to be fired from the ground against aircraft.

Early in 1965, the Soviet Union began to supply the Dvina missile to the DRV. This was a relatively large two-stage rocket, with a solid-fuel booster and a liquid-fuel final stage. Approximate specifications (subject to some variation between models): length 10.7 meters, warhead 130 kilograms, range 40 to 50 kilometers, ceiling 18,000 meters. It was referred to in American sources usually as the SA-2 or SAM-2, sometimes as the Guideline.

The Dvina did not itself track its target; instead a radar on the ground, of the type the United States called Fan Song, tracked both the rocket and the target aircraft, and furnished data to a control unit also on the ground, which steered the rocket by radio. The percentage of hits achieved by Dvina rockets was relatively low; a pilot who saw the rocket coming could usually dodge it successfully, and pilots usually had some warning that missiles were in the air—they saw the conspicuous takeoff of the missile, they got warning from detection devices in their aircraft that the Fan Song was tracking them, or they got warnings by radio from other pilots. The Americans also sometimes could jam either the Fan Song radar or the radio signals that steered the missile to the target.

The first success by a Dvina over North Vietnam was the downing of an F-4C Phantom on July 24, 1965. The U.S. military, which had been asking President Lyndon Johnson for permission to bomb the SAM launching sites, construction of which had been observed by U.S. reconnaissance, got that permission after this incident. The first air strikes against SAM launch sites were flown on July 27. American aircraft assigned to attack the launch sites and guidance radars later came to be called Iron Hand and Wild Weasel.

The Dvina was designed to hit aircraft at relatively high altitudes. American aircraft in areas where there were SAMs usually stayed at lower altitudes, to be less vulnerable to the missiles, but this made them more vulnerable to fire from anti-aircraft artillery. When SAMs were fired, dodging them involved diving still lower. B-52 high-altitude bombers usually stayed away from the sections of North Vietnam defended by missiles; not until November 1972 was a B-52 shot down by a SAM.

In 1967, some Dvinas began to be guided optically, rather than by the Fan Song radar, depriving the American pilots of the warning they had been getting when a Fan Song locked onto a plane.

The fact that the Dvina was the only important SAM threat to aircraft over North Vietnam allowed American pilots to use standardized procedures for avoiding SAMs. The Soviet Union could have made the air defenses of the DRV more effective by providing a greater variety of SAMs, such that a single avoidance technique would not be appropriate for all, but this did not happen for a long time if at all. According to some sources, the S-125 Neva, also called the SA-3 or Goa, effective at lower altitudes than the Dvina, finally entered service in North Vietnam in late 1972.

A few Dvinas began to be used in Laos, to defend the Ho Chi Minh Trail against air attack, in March 1971. They became a serious threat, forcing the United States to restrict the operations of fixed-wing gunships in crucial areas of Laos, in 1972. Dvinas were first fired at aircraft over the northernmost portion of South Vietnam, some from launch sites in North Vietnam or in the Demilitarized Zone, some apparently from sites inside South Vietnam, during the Easter Offensive in 1972.

The Strela, which the U.S. called the SA-7 or Grail, was a shoulder-launched missile that steered itself to the target, using an infrared sensor to home in on the engine heat of an aircraft. Its very short range—3,500 meters—did not allow much effectiveness against jet aircraft, since the missile would normally have to overtake the target from the rear, and it could not often overtake a jet before running out of fuel. The Strela was much more effective against helicopters. Its greatest effect on fixed-wing air operations was that it forced the relatively slow aircraft used by most Forward Air Controllers (FACs) to shift to higher altitudes for safety, which greatly reduced the FACs’ ability to spot targets on the ground. Its first impact on the war was in Laos during Lam Son 719, the ARVN effort to cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail in 1971. The Strela did not appear in South Vietnam until the Easter Offensive of 1972; the first downing of a helicopter by a Strela in South Vietnam occurred on May 2, 1972, and the first downing of a jet occurred on May 26. A modified version with a somewhat greater range was introduced toward the end of the war.

The United States deployed a few Hawk surface-to-air missiles to South Vietnam beginning in late 1964, in case the North Vietnamese attempted air attacks against U.S. bases in South Vietnam. Two Hawk missile battalions were sent in September 1965. The missiles were never used; they were withdrawn in 1968 and 1969.


LINEBACKER II, Operation, 1972

The Paris negotiations seemed close to success in October 1972, and U.S. bombing of the northern part of North Vietnam was halted. But the negotiations stalled amid mutual recriminations in December; there is a widespread though false story that the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) had even walked out of the peace talks. The DRV began evacuating the civilian population of Hanoi in anticipation of possible heavy bombing. President Richard Nixon indeed ordered a major bombing campaign, Linebacker II, which ran from December 18 to 24, stopped for one day on Christmas, and then resumed from December 26 to 29. During the 11 days of bombing, B-52s dropped 15,237 tons of bombs on North Vietnam, almost all north of the 20th parallel and mostly in the area of Hanoi. Fighter-bombers dropped about 5,000 tons. These tonnages exceeded the usual levels of U.S. bombing, but not by a huge margin. The reason the damage done was far greater than usual was that Linebacker II went for much more important targets than U.S. bombing of North Vietnam usually had done. The fear of aircraft losses that had previously kept B-52s out of the areas of heaviest air defenses was completely discarded, and the fears of international repercussions that had inhibited bombing in the Hanoi and Haiphong areas were largely discarded.

The U.S. military said 15 B-52s had been lost and nine damaged, and denied rumors that some of the damaged ones were beyond repair. The number of smaller airplanes lost was variously given as 11 or 13.

Linebacker II inspired a worldwide storm of outrage, based on a serious misunderstanding of its nature. Most people got the impression that it was an extraordinarily ruthless campaign, pounding cities in the style of World War II. All of America’s major allies were bitterly critical. The U.S. government made little effort to explain that while the Hanoi area was being heavily bombed, almost all the bombs were directed at military targets on the outskirts; the city center was little damaged.

The Vietnamese have released a variety of figures on the casualties. Preliminary data released immediately after the bombing, before there had been time to do a thorough search for bodies under the rubble, indicated that 1,318 civilians had been killed in Hanoi and 305 in Haiphong. Later figures, indicating that either 2,027 or 2,196 people had been killed in Hanoi, included civilian bodies discovered after the preliminary figures were released, but they may also have included military casualties. A figure of 2,368 dead for North Vietnam as a whole was probably a final total for civilian dead only.

Linebacker II left both sides eager for a settlement. Nixon needed peace to counter the widespread belief that he had engaged in a mass slaughter of civilians, and the DRV needed an opportunity to rebuild transport systems, power plants, and many military facilities. The Paris Peace Agreement was signed on January 27, 1973; it was similar in most ways to the agreement that had almost been signed in October 1972.

Spain: Tradition and Enlightenment I

Portrait of Carlos III by Goya, 1786-1788

In February 1701, Madrid gave enthusiastic welcome to teenaged King Philip V. Philip employed mostly Spaniards on his Council of State, though he did include Frenchmen. Confused by the problems of government, he corresponded with his grandfather Louis XIV in search of advice. Cardinal Portocarrero presided over government, and the Cortes of Castile met in grand assembly and voted the king money. In late summer Philip journeyed to Catalonia to meet his bride, thirteen-year-old Maria Luisa of Savoy. The Catalan Corts voted him a rich subsidy, despite strong separatist sentiment. Philip married Maria Luisa at Figueras; the young couple were soon smitten with each other. Full of energy, she gave the sometimes melancholy Philip crucial support. Even more crucial was the chief lady of her household, the princess of Ursins, handpicked by Louis XIV. Already aged sixty, Ursins arguably saved the Spanish throne for the Bourbon dynasty through her astuteness.

The Habsburgs of Vienna had not given Spain up, and Austrian armies marched on Philip V’s Italian possessions. Louis XIV provoked the English and Dutch into war when he sent French troops into the Spanish Netherlands to secure them for Philip. Thus erupted in 1702 the War of the Spanish Succession, which arrayed the Grand Alliance of Emperor Leopold, England, the Dutch, Savoy, and Portugal against Spain and France. Philip left his tender bride as regent in Spain and hurried with Spanish troops to defend his Italian possessions.

Philip’s victories in Italy temporarily saved Naples and Sicily for his crown, but the English navy sank Spain’s treasure fleet off Vigo. Emperor Leopold proclaimed his younger son, Archduke Charles, as King Charles III of Spain. Charles provided a rallying point for Spaniards who opposed the House of Bourbon and feared Philip would extend to Spain the centralization of government apparent in Louis XIV’s France. Many grandees feared the loss of influence over their provinces, while dominions subject to the Crown of Aragon feared the loss of autonomy. Philip hurried back to Spain to shore up his government against growing unrest. Louis XIV sent him French troops, commanded by the duke of Berwick, illegitimate son of deposed King James II of England.

In 1704 an English fleet landed Charles III in Portugal, then surprised Gibraltar and accepted its surrender in Charles’s name. In 1705 an army of Portuguese, English, and Dutchmen invaded Spain, while an English fleet bombarded Barcelona into submission. Austrian and English troops occupied it for Charles III, cheered by Catalan separatists. Charles reached Barcelona in November to find that Valencia and much of Aragon had also rallied to him. The allied armies next converged on Madrid and forced Philip and his queen to flee to Burgos. In June the allies paraded into Madrid and by late summer held Zaragoza. But the people of Castile proved hostile to them and made their situation tenuous, despite their victories in the field. Philip V acknowledged Castile’s loyalty and clung doggedly to his throne. Allied troops, isolated by Berwick’s reinforced army and popular hostility, abandoned Madrid late in 1706. Philip remained with Berwick; the queen returned to Madrid to cheers. In the spring of 1707, Berwick defeated the allies at Almansa and drove them from Aragon and Valencia. Philip deprived Aragon and Valencia of their traditional privileges and institutions as punishment for rebellion. In both kingdoms, the opposition had been undermined by conflicts between nobles and commoners. On both he imposed Castilian forms of government. That summer, the queen gave birth to an heir, Prince Luis. She bore a second son, Fernando, in 1713.

In 1708 Charles III married in Barcelona and proved as stubborn as Philip. Though most of Spain seemed secure in Philip’s hands, the English took Minorca. In 1709 Louis XIV sought to end the war. He agreed to abandon Philip and even to subsidize the allies but denied their request for French troops to aid them against his grandson.

The princess of Ursins refused Louis’s command to return to France and remained with Philip and Maria Luisa to bolster their morale and rally support. Alone, Philip’s army of Spaniards and a few Irishmen could not with stand the allies. Philip again abandoned Madrid, and Charles III marched in, welcomed by none but a few disgruntled grandees. The general population, disgusted by so many Protestants in the allied army, remained loyal to Philip V.

In 1710 French soldiers again joined Philip’s Spaniards after Louis XIV rejected the allies’ terms. Together Spanish and French forces soon had the allies in retreat. In 1711, Charles III’s older brother, Emperor Joseph, died, and Charles inherited Austria and was elected Emperor Charles VI. He returned to Vienna but did not yield his claim to Spain. He thus alarmed his allies with the specter of the European empire of Charles V all over again. Philip, in contrast, renounced all rights to France. Because the allies were as war weary as their enemies, they ignored Charles VI and opened peace negotiations at Utrecht, where in 1713 a treaty was signed by everybody but Charles, who settled a year later. By the Peace of Utrecht, Philip kept Spain and its overseas possessions. Charles VI received Naples, Milan, Sardinia, and the Spanish Netherlands, which became the Austrian Netherlands. The duke of Savoy got Sicily. England won trading concessions in the Spanish empire, including the lucrative African slave trade, and kept Gibraltar and Minorca.

In 1714 Philip reconquered Barcelona. To punish the Catalans, he stripped Catalonia of its ancient privileges, as he had stripped Aragon and Valencia of theirs, and went further, suppressing its universities.

Bourbon Spain was no longer a union of crowns but had become a unified kingdom. It had its capital in Madrid, centralized departments of government, and a single Cortes rendered largely ceremonial. The historic kingdoms became administrative regions and were each subdivided, giving Spain some thirty provinces. The old organization of government by councils, given to passing the buck among councillors, gave way to a government of ministries, each headed by a single responsible minister, on the French model. Although unpopular and associated with Finance Minister Jean Orry, a Frenchman, the reforms in government and finance were effective and doubled Philip’s annual revenues. Not happy with centralized government, the old grandees largely withdrew from public service, though they maintained palaces in the capital for its social whirl. Philip and his Bourbon successors proved generous in bestowing new titles on their public servants and soon created a titled nobility beholden to them. From Madrid the ministries worked to revive the economy of Spain and rebuild its army and navy.

Tuberculosis took Philip’s queen in February 1714, which left him depressed. Government routine carried no interest for him. His clinging to the aged princess of Ursins became ludicrous, and he was urged to marry again. An ambitious Italian cleric, Giulio Alberoni, agent in Madrid for the duke of Parma, persuaded Ursins that Elizabeth Farnese, Parma’s stepdaughter and heir, was the right match for Philip. When Elizabeth arrived in Spain, Alberoni met her at the frontier and gained her confidence. At her first interview with Ursins, she had the old princess packed out of the kingdom. She soon dominated Philip, and in 1716, she bore his son, Carlos, for whom she expected Parma, if not more.

Alberoni, backed by the queen, emerged from the Parmesan embassy to become in effect chief minister of Spain. The pope confirmed him as bishop of Malaga and in 1717 made him a cardinal. Aware that Austrian rule in Emperor Charles VI’s Italian possessions made people yearn for the good old days of Spanish government, Elizabeth and Alberoni sent the rebuilt Spanish fleet with troops aboard to reconquer Sardinia and Sicily. The English, who feared the revival of Spanish naval power in the Mediterranean, overwhelmed the raw Spanish fleet off Cape Passaro. Alberoni threatened to send the Stuart pretender, James III, in a Spanish armada against England and its new Hanoverian king, George I. But the rest of Europe, France included, ganged up on Spain and forced it to withdraw from Sardinia and Sicily. Alberoni was sacked. In 1720, by the Peace of the Hague, Philip V and Emperor Charles gave up their claims to each other’s territories, and all agreed that Elizabeth’s son Carlos would inherit Parma. Charles VI joined Sicily to Naples, to reconstitute the kingdom of the Two Sicilies, and the duke of Savoy got Sardinia.

The energies Spain showed in rebuilding its army and navy were indicative of a return to prosperity. The population, measured at 7.5 million at the end of the War of the Spanish Succession, would pass the 9 million mark by midcentury. Emigration to the Americas averaged 15,000 hopeful folk a year, and Spain’s shipping and American trade revived. In Madrid competent statesmen, such as Jose Patino and the marquis of la Ensenada, gave firm direction to government. Queen Elizabeth Farnese continued to connive, now for her second son, Felipe. The king kept his dignity in public and alternated between bouts of hunting and fits of deep depression.

The royal couple built the extravagant summer palace of San Ildefonso de La Granja, with its soaring fountains, on a forested slope above Segovia. There Philip hankered to retire, and in January 1724, he abdicated in favor of sixteen-year-old Luis. Luis died that August, and Philip V dutifully resumed the throne, although his fits of depression continued. Elizabeth’s moment came in 1733, when the War of the Polish Succession allowed her to further her ambitions for Carlos. With the first Bourbon family compact she got French support. Carlos marched from Parma, aided by Spanish troops and a fleet, and chased the Austrians from Naples. He obtained the Two Sicilies by the Peace of Vienna in 1738, at the price of Parma to Austria.

A mire in 1734 gutted the gloomy old Alcazar of Madrid, which Philip hated, and allowed him and his queen to begin construction of the current royal palace. Philip’s energies were revived when the War of Jenkins’ Ear with England erupted in 1739 over disputed commercial rights. It began after a Spanish coast guardsman in the Caribbean sliced off the ear of an English smuggler named Jenkins and in 1740 merged into the War of Austrian Succession. Elizabeth saw the chance to recover Parma and in 1743 dispatched Felipe to Italy with a Spanish army, under the tutelage of the marquis of la Ensenada. Felipe conquered it and by the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748) became duke of Parma.

Philip V died in 1746, and Fernando VI, his surviving son by Maria Luisa of Savoy, succeeded to the throne. Fernando retained the public servants of his father’s reign and the successors to office they groomed. He gave Spain ten years of peace and prosperity. Catalonia, after a painful recovery, once more flourished economically, and the trade of Barcelona grew. Barcelona’s shipping linked a lively economy that included the Balearic Islands, the thriving orchards of Valencia, and the Andalusian coast as far west as Cadiz, where it met the American trade, now opened to all Spaniards by the Bourbons. Programs of road building begun under Philip V restored wheeled carts and wagons drawn by mules and bullocks to inland commerce. La Ensenada directed a detailed census to provide data on Spain’s economic strengths and weaknesses and aid in the reform of tax policy. Although conservative opposition blocked tax reform, Spain’s improving economy generated more revenues, and when Fernando died, he left the treasury with a surplus that equaled a half year’s ordinary income. Fernando also extended the crown’s authority over the Church through the Concordat of 1753 with the pope, which clarified and amplified the king’s power to nominate bishops for Spain’s dioceses. Fernando and his queen, Barbara of Braganza, cultivated the arts and employed Domenico Scarlatti as their court composer. Childless but devoted to his queen, Fernando suffered a mental collapse when she died, and he died in 1759, a year after she did.

And so Elizabeth Farnese’s eldest son Carlos, king of the Two Sicilies, became king of Spain as Carlos III. He abdicated the Sicilies to a younger son, Ferdinando, and embarked from Naples for Spain with his heir, now prince of Asturias and also named Carlos. Carlos III meant to continue the improvement of government and brought with him several of his best Italian ministers. Cognizant of the ideas on kingship in the eighteenth century Enlightenment, he stands prominent in the ranks of rulers called “enlightened despots” by history. According to theory, the enlightened despot should promote rational government, employ the best and brightest men available to assist him, regardless of their social status, and use his authority to sup port them. To Carlos this just seemed common sense. Carlos also tried to make good use of the Church in his programs and utilized the Concordat of 1753 to provide him the bishops he wanted. Traditionalists and the Jesuits, who opposed what they saw as too much government intervention in Church affairs, branded his bishops and supporters as “regalists.” Regalists called their enemies “ultramontane” (people who looked “over the mountains” to Rome), suggesting they put pope over king.

While most Enlightenment intellectuals downplayed the role of religion in public life, most ordinary people believed that sovereigns ruled by the grace of God; religion remained a major prop of government alongside habit, personal loyalties, patriotism, and fear. The Catholic Church and its Inquisition enjoyed enormous influence in Spain. The clergy numbered some 200,000 men and women in a population of nearly 10 million. Huge public religious devotions remained strong, even as they waned in other parts of Europe. Throngs turned out for Holy Week processions, and every region had its pilgrimages to local shrines, such as the romeria of El Rocio in Andalusia. Reports of miracles and apparitions were common. Carlos III was devout and once attracted cheering crowds in Madrid when he gave up his carriage to a priest carrying the Sacrament to a dying person.

The Church was also the single largest landowner in the realm. Enlightenment intellectuals thought its land management backward and preferred to put land in the hands of entrepreneurs who would make it more productive. The regime of Carlos III encouraged the spread of local economic societies of amigos del pals (friends of the country), who discussed the improvement of agriculture as well as of industry and education. Yet any talk that threatened the place of the Church ran into opposition at once.

Carlos III not only wanted to continue the economic improvement of Spain; he also wanted Spain to play the role of a great power. He signed another Bourbon family compact with France and in 1762 belatedly entered the Seven Years War. Great Britain promptly seized Manila and Havana. To recover them at the Peace of Paris in 1763, Carlos had to make formal concession of Gibraltar, Minorca, and all of Florida to Britain, and Uruguay to Portugal. In compensation, France, stripped by Britain of Quebec, conceded New Orleans and the vast Louisiana territory to Spain.

Increased treasure from Mexico helped finance the war, as well as other reforms, but it also caused inflation. In 1766 the rising price of bread led to popular unrest and rioting that took a peculiar turn in Madrid. One of Carlos’s ministers from Naples, the tactless marquis of Esquilache, had revived a ban on the broad-brimmed hats and long cloaks popular among Spanish men, on the argument that criminal elements used the hats to hide the face and the long cloaks to conceal weapons. Spaniards, he decreed, should wear tricorn hats and proper skirted coats like other Europeans. Young toughs called majos took to flaunting the ban by sporting the forbidden hats and cloaks. Clashes broke out with soldiers ordered to enforce the decree and quickly led to widespread violence. For two days riots continued unabated until, with the aid of Madrid’s clergy, Carlos began the restoration of order by revoking the decree, sacking Esquilache, and promising to deal with the high price of bread. He appointed the count of Aranda to head the government.

While Carlos and the government in Madrid followed the latest European fashions, and Spain’s army and navy looked imposing, foreign travelers increasingly remarked on the differences between Spain and other parts of western Europe and northern Italy. They found many of the nobility illinformed about the world and indifferent to the new ideas spawned by the Enlightenment. They described the larger population as priestridden, ignorant, superstitious, lazy, and unclean. Their belief that Spaniards were lazy likely grew from what they saw of the indolence of too many of the well-todo. Most Spaniards worked hard to make a living, although the rhythm of the seasons in the countryside required more work at some times than at others. To be sure, the extreme heat of summer could be paralyzing. Spanish cities probably had no more idlers than most other metropolises of the times, but the better weather of Spain, as of southern Italy, made idlers more conspicuous.

DOUGLAS MACARTHUR – A Man Deeply Flawed: How Did He Do It? Part II

Am I thoroughly familiar with the technique, necessities, objectives, and administration of my job?

That there were no major foul-ups or charges of corruption during his reign is a tribute to his superb ability as an administrator. He may have been remote as a person, but as an administrator he was thoroughly involved and hands-on. None of his SCAPINS were half-baked or had to be recalled because they were poorly conceived.

Like a president of the United States, he knew the most important person in his administration was the chief of staff. In Courtney Whitney, he had a superb one. He divided his organization into sections, appointed top-class officers, and let them run the show. SCAP was a remarkably lean organization. Personal initiative and responsibility took precedence over procedure. “Rules,” said MacArthur, “are mostly made to be broken and are too often for the lazy to hide behind.”

More important than his performance as a manager was his performance as a leader. The two roles are different. The Harvard Business School professor John Kotter defines the difference in succinct fashion: One copes with complexity, and the other—leadership—copes with change. “Most organizations are overmanaged and underled,” he says.

Nobody would say this about MacArthur’s SCAP. It was an organization determined to shake up the status quo, rid Japan of feudalism and militarism, and protect the country from its major external threat, the Russians. These were extremely ambitious goals, the kind of goals that call for leadership rather than management.

Do I lose my temper at individuals?

MacArthur was a master of self-control. The same fearlessness he displayed in battle he carried over into his office. When he got word he had been fired by President Truman, he evinced no anger or outrage. No matter how upset he must have been at the callous way it was handled, he did not lash out. Minutes after he had left Tokyo for good, John Foster Dulles’ plane passed by, coming from the opposite direction. By telephone in midair, they had a lengthy talk about what needed to be done in Japan. Dulles noted: “I never had greater admiration for a man. Under such provocation, he still uttered not a word of personal bitterness; he considered only the cause of his country. . . . As long as America can produce men of that stature and caliber it will be safe.”

Have I the calmness of voice and manner to inspire confidence, or am I inclined to irascibility and excitability?

In keeping with the above tenet about self-control, MacArthur was a master of serenity—a quality rarely mentioned in books on leadership. MacArthur possessed what Voltaire praised in Marlborough: “that calm courage in the midst of tumult, that serenity of soul in danger, which is the greatest gift of nature for command.”

He never lost his temper. He radiated calm and self-assurance throughout his tenure. According to John J. McCloy: “He was most impressive as he talked about the future and the forces that were playing around the Orient with which he was quite familiar. He was a man of tremendous discernment. . . . He was a thoughtful man, he was not a poseur.”

Am I inclined to be nice to my superiors and mean to my subordinates?

Here the evidence is mixed. MacArthur was not a butt-kisser who toadied to the powers that be in Washington. He followed his own drummer, and got away it by being extremely charming with visitors from Washington. He was a master at seeming to agree with people when in fact he didn’t. People could get frustrated with MacArthur, but it was hard to get angry at him.

Asked by his military secretary Faubion Bowers how he managed to make such a powerful impression on people who came to see him, he said: “I just give ’em a shot of truth. They’re so unused to it, it knocks ’em for a loop.”

There’s a wonderful story about MacArthur in World War I that showed his compassion toward subordinates. Brig. Gen. Douglas MacArthur was in the trenches just before dawn; he took the Distinguished Service Cross ribbon from his own tunic and pinned it to the chest of a young major about to lead his battalion into battle, explaining that he knew the major would do heroic deeds that day.

Such displays of personal concern can spur followers to excel. MacArthur treated his subordinates decently; he never bullied or browbeat them. He had his personality differences with Eisenhower, his long-standing aide in the Philippines, but never let that interfere with his professional judgment. In a fitness report on Eisenhower, he wrote: “This is the best officer in the Army. When the next war comes, he should go right to the top.”

With men his equal, however, MacArthur could be tough, even mean. He went after generals who beat him and demanded revenge. Instead of treating Yamashita and Homma like honorable warriors, he made sure the U.S. Military Tribunal sent them to the gallows. One of his closest colleagues was Robert Eichelberger, who had won the pivotal battle at Buna and who he insisted be the first to greet him at Atsugi. The two men had known each other since 1911. When Eichelberger emerged from the jungle after winning Buna, MacArthur was there to greet him—with a chocolate milk shake. Their relationship cooled in 1946, when Eichelberger expressed his wish to leave and go work in Washington for Eisenhower and hopefully succeed him as army chief of staff. MacArthur blocked the move, and when Eichelberger left Japan two years later, MacArthur gave him only a perfunctory send-off.

Do I think more of POSITION than JOB?

Twice he turned down invitations from Truman to appear in Washington as a hero, with all the publicity and visibility it would have generated. He was absolutely right: The situation in Tokyo was critical; this was not a time to run off and play crowd-pleaser. He couldn’t even be bothered to pick up a Harvard honorary degree.

Other than president, there was no job big enough for a man of his ambition and talents. He knew his post in Japan was a last stop in his career, with no opportunity for promotion. Yet he took the job seriously, and put in hours that would have exhausted younger men.

MACARTHUR MADE EIGHT bold moves when he went against or vastly exceeded Washington’s wishes, any one of which could have seriously jeopardized his tenure. They were:

  • recommending an immediate, major reduction of troops
  • initiating a massive food relief program
  • rejecting repatriation demands
  • pushing for Article 9
  • blackballing the Japanese version of the new constitution
  • giving free license to Communist agitators in labor unions
  • vetoing Dulles’s proposal for a 300,000-man police force
  • launching the surprise amphibious attack at Inchon

In every single one of them MacArthur was right, and Washington was wrong.

He had “the gift of command,” said William Randolph Hearst. The components of this gift were mastery of sound policy, sensitivity to the local culture, and personal traits of flexibility, persuasiveness, and idealism.

Sound Policy

AS EVERY CEO will agree, more important than “strategy” (goals and means) is “policy” (purpose and rationale). MacArthur’s job was to develop permanent peace and democracy in Japan. Everything he did was directed toward this mission. When superiors in Washington wanted him to pursue specific Cold War objectives (preserve the zaibatsu, build up the Japanese military), he did so only with the greatest reluctance. Such objectives were not consistent with his mission.

He undertook bold new measures—labor unions and women’s rights—that were disruptive but consistent with his mission. In promoting prodemocracy measures even more liberal than current practices in the United States, he was a man ahead of his time. He was a master of “soft power” in communicating America’s culture, political ideals, and aspirations.

Walter Lippmann once said that effective leadership consists not of giving people what they want, but of giving them what they will learn to want. MacArthur was very much an agent of change, attempting to push Japan toward a new future. He ran a highly disciplined, well-behaved organization. His troops, on the whole, behaved superbly and became popular ambassadors for America and its values.

He was not reckless or impulsive. He took a tremendous risk at Atsugi, but it was a gamble based on a careful reading of the Japanese mood and situation. It was a risk worth taking because the rewards would be so extraordinarily high. Almost everything he did was according to plan. He announced eleven specific objectives to his fellow generals on the Okinawa-to-Atsugi flight—and he accomplished them all.

Sensitivity to the Local Culture

FROM THE MOMENT he landed at Atsugi not wearing a firearm, he let the Japanese people know he trusted them. They were a beaten people; he would not humiliate them by showing up with a lot of guns. He never strutted around in public wearing all his medals, reminding them he was a victorious general. He always dressed informally, like he did in his first meeting with Hirohito.

He jumped immediately to meet their desperate need for food. He preserved the emperor, even if he had to perform considerable gymnastics to do so. He let almost all Japanese government employees keep their jobs, and motivated them by giving them important tasks to do, under American guidance and supervision. He reduced American troop levels (making Japan happy, Washington unhappy). He read every single letter sent to him by the Japanese people, and went so far as to meet with a man who tried to assassinate him, so as to glean deeper insight into Japanese sensibilities, even perverted ones. He quashed public exposure of the atrocities of Unit 731, not only to keep the biological research away from the Russians but also to avoid damaging Japan’s international image.

Seeing how the Japanese were having trouble developing a new constitution, he ordered his staff to jump in and do it in one week—no messing around. He never insulted the Japanese or put them down. He did not blow up and insist it was his way or no way. He entertained modifications, and when the final version finally came out he gave the Japanese full credit. According to Shigeru Yoshida:

General MacArthur’s headquarters did insist, with considerable vigor, on the speedy completion of the task and made certain demands in regard to the contents of the draft. But during our subsequent negotiations with GHQ there was nothing that could properly be termed coercive or overbearing in the attitude of the Occupation authorities towards us. They listened carefully . . . in many cases accepted our proposals.


WARNED THAT GEORGE Atcheson might be a State Department “pink,” MacArthur kept an open mind and gave the man a chance. On another occasion when he issued three directives and Mamoru Shigemitsu came to him and said it wouldn’t work, MacArthur revoked them immediately and set about revising them. When George Kennan came to see him with new demands from Washington, MacArthur cooperated. On the other hand, when the Communists stepped over the line and went too far in taking advantage of his labor union reforms, he went after them vigorously. He did not bluff.

The son of a general, and a military man all his life, he was unlike most generals who “think of the last war.” He was always thinking ahead. Of all the World War II generals, he was the most aggressive in advocating new technologies in motorized transport, fast boats, and aircraft. He recognized the obsolescence of Clausewitz’s “war is policy by other means” in a world of atom bombs, and became a fierce opponent of attempts to build up “offensive” military operations intended solely to intimidate.

Considerable credit for his success belongs to the Joint Chiefs in Washington, who gave him good plans to work with. But planning can only do so much. The idea of exhibition baseball games didn’t come from Washington, or even from MacArthur, it came from a lowly lieutenant. Knowing a good idea when he saw one, MacArthur pounced on it—on the spot.


HE WAS AN extremely hard worker. Officials who conferred with him were astounded how well prepared he was and how much he knew about their particular areas of expertise. He outdueled Nimitz in persuading the president how to wage the Pacific war. One on one with important visitors like Hirohito, Shigemitsu, Yoshida, McCloy, Kennan, Dodge, and Dulles, even lesser visitors like Choate and Griffin, he dazzled them all. At the Wake Island meeting, where neither protagonist was at his best, he still managed to astound his audience with his mastery of distances, temperatures, artillery, aircraft, and number and configuration of troops. Army Secretary Frank Pace, who had never met him before, concluded MacArthur “was indeed a military genius . . . the most impressive fellow I ever heard.” Added Truman’s special counsel Charles Murphy: “I believed every word of it.”

His speeches to the Japanese public, beginning with the surrender signing, were inspirational and uplifting. He expressed big ideas—nothing pedantic or parochial. He was a serious man: He never started a speech with a silly joke or how honored he was to be there. He was a superb communicator, with a rich vocabulary and a mastery of cadence. He could be mesmerizing. Who else could write like he could? “He died unquestioning and uncomplaining, with faith in his heart and victory his end.”

As manager of a large enterprise, he communicated his wishes to his thousands of employees fully. Everybody knew what the boss wanted done, and they did it. He assembled a staff that covered all the political bases. He had liberals and New Dealers under Whitney, counterbalanced by conservatives under Willoughby. Somehow they all managed to work under one roof. There was remarkably little backstabbing. Why? Because everyone feared him, they knew they must act professionally.

A number of visitors, observing how loyal MacArthur’s staff members were to him, accused him of surrounding himself with yes-men. This was a simplistic observation. MacArthur was so smart he usually was right. People who rebutted him were welcome so long as they knew their facts. Eisenhower stated that he argued with his commander for the nine years they were together and they had no problem.


“WARRIOR RAGE” WAS never part of his temperament. He was no William Tecumseh Sherman whose scorched-earth policies created Southern hatred that lasted for decades (as a Southerner, MacArthur was very much aware of this). He had none of the attitude of Admiral Halsey, who had posted signs in a Pacific seaport on the way to Japan: “Kill Japs. Kill Japs. Kill All the Lousy Bastards.” Like Ulysses Grant, he fought relentlessly like a warrior, but had no admiration for generals who incurred massive casualties and needless deaths in pursuit of victory. He set a standard for moral conduct toward an enemy who in war had shown hardly any honor at all. He was betting—correctly, it turned out—that in peace the enemy would respond positively to his overtures and cooperate.

But it wasn’t easy. The Japanese military and zaibatsu—with the government looking the other way—were having a field day stealing wartime supplies for their personal aggrandizement and benefit, while the masses were starving. Corruption was rampant. Ishii was playing games. The Communists were making trouble at every opportunity. The economy was a shambles. No country in Southeast Asia wanted to trade, they all wanted revenge.

Yet throughout it all, MacArthur never wavered. He was imbued with a strong sense of idealism and purpose. It may be fashionable in certain political circles today to knock idealism as causing America to get into foreign policy excesses, but properly applied in places like Japan after World War II, idealism brought out the best in American influence. For the final word on MacArthur as a transformational leader, a comment by the historian Kazuo Kawai:

One reason for his influence on the Japanese was his dedicated sense of mission. The egoism fringed with mysticism, with which he regarded himself as the chosen instrument for the reformation and redemption of the Japanese people, might sometimes be ludicrous and sometimes irritating. But there was no mistaking the sincerity and intensity of his idealism. . . . He lifted the tone of the Occupation from a military operation, to a moral crusade.

Immediate Post-WWII Soviet Experimental Heavy AFVs

Soviet IS-4 Heavy Tank

Soviet IS-6 Heavy Tank

Two versions of a prototype WWII Russian tank destroyer based on the ISU-152 assault gun. The goal was to field an anti-tank gun heavy enough to deal with the heavier German tanks like the Tiger II, JagdTiger and any potentially larger tanks the Russian thought might be in the works with the Germans. The first prototype ISU-152-1 (Object 246) was developed in April 1944 and mounted the BL-8 long barrel gun. Performance did not meet expectations so the gun was reworked. In August 1944 a second prototype ISU-152-2 (Object 247) replaced the BL-8 with the improved and slightly shortened BL-10. It was not accepted into service because the barrel’s service life was still not what designers wanted it to be. The penetrating power and accuracy still did not meet expectations so the gun was again sent back for improvements but the war ended before this was ever completed.

The Object 704 self propelled gun was a prototype tank utilising elements both the IS-2 and IS-3 tanks. It was designed to carry the 152.4 mm ML-20SM model 1944 gun-howitzer, with a barrel length of over 4.5 metres (29.6 calibers) and no muzzle brake. It had a maximum range of 13,000 metres. The self-propelled gun carried 20 rounds of two piece (shell and charge) armour-piercing and high explosive ammunition. The armour-piercing round, weighing 48.78 kg, had a muzzle velocity of 655 m/s. The rate of fire was 1-2 round/min. The secondary armament of the fighting vehicle consisted of two 12.7 x 108 mm DShK machine guns, one anti-aircraft and one co-axial.

In many ways it was superior to the ISU-152 with thicker and more well angled armour, without sacrificing much in terms of mobility which was comparable to the ISU-152. In some places, especially the mantlet, the armour thickness could reach 320mm making it the best protected Soviet Assault gun of WW2. Built in1945 at the Chelyabinsk Kirovsk Plant. One prototype was developed of Object 704, which is housed today at the Kubinka Tank Museum in Russia.

However, there were numerous issues that came with the tank. Notice in the picture that the gun lacked a muzzle brake. This noticeably increased the recoil of the gun. Combined with the sloped armour which reduced space in the fighting compartment, it significantly complicated the work for the crew.

This was the primary reason the tank wasn’t used. Although on paper, the tank looked superior to the ISU-152, it gained those advantages at the cost of ergonomics.

The Soviet Army continued to develop heavy tanks with even thicker armour. The most significant of them was the IS-3, which stemmed from the experience of the 1943 Battle of Kursk. This battle emphasized the importance of frontal armour and led to the design of the IS-3, which was in effect an IS-2 but with a ballistically much better-shaped turret and hull front. The armour of IS-3 was actually 120mm thick at the front of the hull, but because of the way it was angled it was equivalent to about 330mm against conventional armour-piercing projectiles, which was more than the armour of any tank produced before its appearance.

The development of the IS-3 started in 1944 and it was put into production with remarkable speed at the beginning of 1945. But only a few were completed by the time the war ended and so none saw any action in it. Production of it continued until 1959 and totalled 2,311 tanks.

The existence of the IS-3 was revealed to the outside world when 52 took part in the Allied Victory Parade in Berlin in September 1945. After the parade Marshal Zhukov, the Soviet commander in Germany, is reported to have told Stalin that IS-3 made a great impression on Western observers. In fact, the IS-3 came to be considered the principal threat to Western armies during the early days of the Cold War, and as `Stalin tanks’ they became something of a bogey. However, they suffered from various shortcomings including cracking of the welded joints between their armour plates, some of which was due to them being rushed into production, and they had to undergo a number of modifications that went on until the late 1950s. When they were eventually used in combat, they also proved less formidable than was expected. This was the case in 1956, when some were destroyed in the streets of Budapest during the Hungarian uprising, and when the Israeli forces destroyed or captured 73 of the 100 IS-3s the Egyptian Army employed during the Six Day War of 1967.

The IS-3 was followed after the Second World War by the development of other heavy tanks. First came the IS-4, which was also armed with a 122mm gun but had thicker frontal armour, as a result of which it weighed 60 tonnes compared with the 46.5 tonnes of the IS-3. It was produced from 1947 to 1949 but only about 200 are believed to have been built. Next came the IS-6, which was essentially an IS-4 but with an electric instead of a mechanical transmission. It proved a failure. The third tank to be built was the IS-7, which was armed with a more powerful 130mm gun based on a naval gun. It weighed 68 tonnes, which made it the heaviest tank built in the Soviet Union. Design of the IS-7 was begun in 1945 and a series of four was completed in 1948, but after accidents during trials further development of it was abandoned.


Galland and the Squadron of Experts I


25 FEBRUARY 1945

JV 44 is established at Brandenburg-Briest with immediate effect. Ground personnel are to be drawn from 16./JG-54, Factory Protection Unit 1 and III./Erg JG-2. The commander of this unit receives the disciplinary powers of a Divisional Commander as laid down in Luftwaffe Order 3/9.17. It is subordinated to Luftflotte Reich and comes under Luftgaukommando III (Berlin). Verband ‘Galland’ is to have a provisional strength of sixteen operational Me 262s and fifteen pilots.

(signed) Generalleutnant Karl Koller

Chief of the General Staff of the Luftwaffe

Galland’s JV-44, the legendary “Squadron of Experts,” was established on February 5, 1945. The unit was commanded by its founder, the legendary Generalleutnant Adolf Galland. Hitler had himself given his permission for Galland to organize a small unit to demonstrate the superiority of the Me 262 as a fighter. Adolf Galland had long championed the jet fighter as being the only viable method of challenging the bomber streams pounding Germany and getting through the Allied fighter escorts that outnumbered sometimes fifty to one in the air. Ever since his test flight in 1943, he used every method and contact at his disposal to try to push his plan ahead, as he stated:

“In the previous August 1944 meeting, Speer and I had discussed the critical fuel shortages experienced by the military all over Europe. Speer had just met with Hitler and Göring the previous month, and he was also working on increasing fighter production, and I had previously given him the recommendation that the Me 109 be phased out, and only Fw 190D and the later models be produced as far as conventional aircraft. I also told him, following my first test flight in the Me 262 jet at Rechlin, that this was the fighter we needed to focus upon. This was also the subject of discussion in 1943.

“However, as the world knows, Hitler had other ideas. Göring knew the reality, and he was very excited by the 262, and told me personally that he would see to it we received the new fighter. He read the reports on how and why it was a better fighter. It was not just the faster speed and heavier armament, it was also able to operate on much cheaper and readily available fuel, and did not require the high-octane fuel that the conventional fighters did. Speer also mentioned that, in order to appease Hitler, he would increase construction on the Arado and Heinkel jet models as bombers, allowing us to have the 262 as a fighter.

“Speer and I again met with Hitler, and Speer tried to get him to rescind the order to have the two thousand new fighters just built sent to the Western Front. I agreed, and I explained to Hitler that, given the tactical situation, lack of fuel, few highly qualified and experienced pilots, that the best we could do would be to use these aircraft as a protective force at our critical industries, especially the petroleum and aircraft locations. Speer even gave him the data, which normally Hitler would examine in great detail.

“Speer and I did our best to persuade him. It was like talking to a deaf man. I explained the situation to Hitler, and also gave him proven statistics, but he went mad. He then stated that he would order the halt to all fighter aircraft production, the fighter arm was to be disbanded, and those industries were to be then focused upon building flak guns. He firmly believed that flak guns alone would keep Germany safe. I could not believe it.

“It was during this meeting that Göring brought up the possibility of strafing enemy pilots as they bailed out, and he asked me my thoughts on that subject. I told him in no uncertain terms that I would never issue that order, and I would court-martial any man who I could prove did such a thing. I also invoked the Geneva Convention, explaining that such a method was illegal.

“Göring seemed less interested in the laws of warfare, and as I learned much later after the war, I understood why. He was more concerned with the image of the chivalrous fighter pilot being tarnished, so he did not really push the issue further. He also told yet another story of his days in the Great War flying with Bölcke and Richthofen, and how chivalry was only seen in the air. Enemies respected each other. I agreed with him. The killing of parachuting airmen was then dropped.

“I knew from experience, after the Battle of Britain, and seeing the RAF ability, that if these fighter pilots had shorter distances to travel, they could concentrate on a smaller operational area, and focus upon attacking the enemy bombers over or near targets, that several things would happen. First, our men shot down would be able to be back in the air more quickly. Second, the larger numbers of German fighters in a more concentrated area would provide more opportunities to attack enemy bombers. Third, it would save on fuel. Hitler waved his hand and said he had heard enough. He had absolutely no interest in discussing anything that would have made him change his mind.

“Despite all of Göring’s faults, I must say that he did support me in the position that the 262 should be specifically built as a fighter. I had his support by the time of my meeting with him in May 1944, after he had come to his senses regarding just how deep American fighters were entering German airspace. [The actual date was May 29, 1944, and also present were Generals Korten and Bodenschanz and Oberst Petersen.]

“Speer reassured him that we had plenty of flak guns, but we did not have the munitions for them. He also told me that I should not worry about the fighter production, that he would work around Hitler. He actually managed to do this, as we still managed to get out jets, which allowed me to create my Jagdverband 44 in 1945.”

Galland already had the perfect man in mind when it came to staffing his new unit of elite pilots. Johannes Steinhoff, who wore the Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords and scored 176 victories during the war (six in the jet), was recruited by Galland to be the unit’s training and recruitment officer, as Galland explained:

“I made Steinhoff my recruiting officer, and he traveled to all of the major bases, picking up pilots who wanted to once again feel a sense of adventure. Steinhoff managed to collect some of our best pilots, although not all of them. This was a direct result of my last meetings with Hitler in January 1945, and with Göring in December 1944, before the meeting that I was not invited to in January where I was fired by a telephone call; and those officers who supported me were likewise in a lot of trouble.

“We had most of the greats, like Gerd Barkhorn, Walter Krupinski, Johannes Steinhoff, Heinz Bär, Erich Hohagen, Günther Lützow, Wilhelm Herget, and others. I tried to get Erich Hartmann, but he wanted to stay with JG-52. That decision would prove very costly for him at the end of the war. We were finally stationed at Munich-Riem, and on March 31 flew the first of several missions, and later we were very successful using the R4M rockets, which we fired at bomber formations. The first confirmed victory over a fighter for JV-44 was on April 4, 1945, when Eduard Schallmoser miscalculated an attack, and crashed into the tail of a P-38. This was perhaps not the best of beginnings, but it at least showed we had determination.

“I was happy again, although I knew the war was lost. I was then able to choose all the pilots I could find who would join me, with Steinhoff’s assistance, and almost all had the Knight’s Cross or higher decorations. It was our badge. This was the beginning of March 1945, when I created Jagdverband 44.”

When Steinhoff soon found himself in the unique position of recruiting officer for Jagdverband (JV) 44, he was in his element. Steinhoff wrote many books about the war, and from his position as a fighter pilot and leader, his comments ring of experience. In his book The Final Hours, he mentioned the training program he conducted:

“I adopted a fairly informal approach to conversion training on the Me 262, feeling that time was running short and wanting to make it easy for the veterans. We had no instruction manuals or visual aids and the lessons were held in the open air with all of us squatting on the earthworks that had been thrown up around the jets. Or we sat on plain wooden benches near the telephone, on the alert, and I explained how one flew the Me 262.

“I told them what to do in order to fly it correctly, and what they absolutely must not do. I spoke of the aircraft’s weaknesses, how it was very slow to gain momentum, jolting along the grass for an apparently endless length of time before one could risk pulling the stick back, and then only very, very carefully because an angle of incidence of one or two degrees sufficed to provide enough lift and because too steep an angle, caused by pulling too sharply on the stick, could kill one’s speed, and with it oneself.

“I spoke of the phenomena of flight at speeds that none of them had flown before. How at high altitudes one should avoid touching the throttle at all if possible. How abrupt movements could cause explosions in the powerplant, heralded by a sudden increase in engine noise. And I warned against over-steep gliding or diving at high altitudes since this could cause the ailerons to lose their effect without warning or even to have the reverse effect.”

The early missions for JV-44 were fraught with teething problems, as may have been expected, but problems or not, the war came to the unit. JV-44 was also suffering from the same malady of lack of supplies in all forms from the day it was created, which was not unusual for all fighter units in the Luftwaffe. For the jet units in the west, these problems were compounded by the fact that Allied tactical fighter-bombers destroyed anything moving in daylight, and roads, railways, and bridges had to be repaired around the clock to keep supplies moving. Also, Galland still had the problem of his superior, Hermann Göring, who had wanted his head for insubordination, if not treason. Galland related the issue:

“By the middle of April we were very hard pressed to receive fuel, and even ammunition was hard to come by. Our supplies were not coming, and there was a great bureaucracy strangling our operations. On April 10, I was again summoned to see Göring, this time at the Obersalzberg, and to my astonishment, he greeted me as if we were old friends. There was none of the arrogance and pompous, critical attitude I had known for almost five years.”

JV-44’s missions and table of organization were rather unusual when compared with the conventional fighter units. Rarely did a unit at squadron strength operate under the command of lieutenant general, with the majority of the pilots holding the rank of lieutenant or higher, flying wingmen to lieutenant colonels. Also, there was no other unit in the Luftwaffe that had most of its members wearing the Knight’s Cross—and half of those being the Oak Leaves or even higher.

One of the problems regarding their readiness for missions was explained by Erich Hohagen: “There was no local radar station, or even a main detection system that we had access to. There was a large station near Munich, which we used since we did not have one. We were like a gypsy band, moving here and there. We had a short-wave radio, which was mostly used for air to ground communications with our fighters, and a telephone, and when it rang, that was to usually inform us of an inbound enemy bomber formation. We rotated our pilots in and out of the cockpits, starting sun up and ending at sundown. During April through May, we kept the engines warmed up every two or three hours, making sure that the fuel lines were completely filled, no airlock, which would force a jet to be grounded until it could be cleared.

“We also had a ground crewman standing by, in case we had to take off. His job would be to remove the wheel chocks and intake covers, which we left on to keep debris from entering the engine. Since we usually operated from grass or dirt airfields, there was always the possibility of stones and large pieces of sod being thrown up into the engines, not good. Once I was taking off and I hit something on the runway, it threw my takeoff attitude out of line, and I momentarily lost control, but regained it and took off. The gear lifted fine, no problems. I had no idea what the hell had happened. When I landed later, my crew chief said that I had hit a large rabbit that ran across the field. Think of that, I almost lost an expensive jet, and maybe my life because of something that became that man’s dinner that evening.”

However, JV-44 was also quite similar to most other units, in that the attrition rate among its pilots was high. Even the most experienced fighter pilots still felt themselves in a learning curve. The first missions were light duty compared to what most of the pilots had experienced during the war, especially the men who had flown on the Eastern Front, or in the West against the ever-growing American air armadas that never seemed to stop coming.

Klaus Neumann described what it was like flying in JV-44 after his experience of flying in Russia with JG-51 and later in the west against the bomber formations with JG-3: “The jet was a remarkable departure from flying the Me 109 or even the Fw 190. Do not get me wrong, as both of those were fine fighters. The 190 was a much better aircraft when it came to attacking bombers, and I did do rather well with that business. It could also take a lot more damage than a 109, especially since it had a more rugged airframe and air cooled engine in the A series of the fighter. It was fast and maneuverable.

“But the 262! It was like being a god in a way: fast, great firepower, and you had a lot of confidence in the plane. As long as you were not tangled up with enemy fighters or too heavily damaged after attacking the bombers to have reduced speed or maneuverability, then you always had a great chance of getting home. Once we had the R4M rockets, it gave us that extra punch; fire the rockets, do the damage, weaken the tight formation integrity of the bombers, then pick off the crippled stragglers.

“I scored five confirmed kills in the jet, although I know I must have damaged around twenty, many probably never made it back home, but who will ever know? I was at first assigned to JG-7, not long after it was created from the Nowotny Kommando, when Steinhoff was in command. Then he left and Weissenberger took command, and we just really did not hit it off that well. I know that he was a great fighter ace, and an excellent handler of the jet. I saw him in action, but I just do not think that he had the right temperament to be a good leader. He had a hot temper, and he became enraged when something did not go well. I asked for a transfer, and Steinhoff always liked me, and he convinced Galland to bring me over to JV-44. That was where I found happiness.” Neumann joined right as JV-44 was about to enter hard combat. Johannes Steinhoff commented on the strain that Weissenberger placed upon JG-7, which is an interesting sidebar:

“Once Weissenberger took command, we received a flurry of transfer requests, so many pilots just wanted to get away from him. I knew Theo, he was a great pilot and had fought a hard war in the Arctic, and he was also one of the bravest men in the Luftwaffe. But, he had his issues, alcohol being one of them, and his attitude was more like that of an overlord, very strict, and many of the men had grown comfortable under Nowotny’s relaxed method of command, from what I was told—and Galland even told me that. I was also a professional, but a relaxed sort. I never had to raise my voice to get the job done. It was just done, but that was because I placed a lot of trust and responsibility in my subordinates, allowing them to show me what they could do.

“Weissenberger was a different animal. He was what you could call a micromanager. He had to oversee every small detail, and when you do that it erodes the confidence of your men. I will say this about Theo: he was a very intelligent man, but he was not of the caliber of Adolf Galland or Günther Lützow, but then again, neither was I.”