American Colonial Militia Systems


This illustration depicts the first muster of Massachusetts Bay Colony militia in the spring of 1637.

In the colonial era, the militia system was linked to fundamental concepts of American citizenship; militias were considered to be one of three pillars of society, along with the church and local government. Militarily, the colonial militia was the primary instrument of defense for the American colonies. By the latter part of the 17th century, the militia had become more complex, as local militias continued to function as local defense forces, while militia volunteers and draftees made up the provincial expeditionary forces for major campaigns. The structures and functions of local militias and expeditionary forces continued to evolve through the series of imperial wars of the 18th century.

Early Colonial Militias

The first English colonists found themselves in precarious circumstances. Potential attack from Native Americans and England’s European rivals compelled the colonists at Jamestown and Plymouth to immediately organize their defenses. For guidance, colonists turned to the English militia tradition, dating to the 12th-century Assize of Arms (1181), which obligated every able-bodied adult man in the community to provide military service for the common defense.

In Jamestown (settled in 1607), Capt. John Smith was one of several among the first colonists with professional military experience. Smith proved more forceful than most, however, and once he assumed responsibility for the defense of the colony he held every man responsible for militia duty. Facing the prospect of the colony’s starvation and total collapse, Smith declared martial law and organized reluctant settlers to raid corn supplies of local Native Americans. Smith’s authoritarian actions kept the colony alive without a formal militia structure. The founders of the first New England colony in Plymouth (1620) hired a military adviser, Miles Standish, to oversee the colony’s defenses. In the early years of both colonies, community defense fell to the entire male community.

After a decade of settlement, the militia structures of Virginia and New England diverged, reflecting differences in their societies and circumstances. In Virginia, the emergence of tobacco as a cash crop stimulated the entrepreneurial individualism that produced a rapid expansion of dispersed plantations. The isolated plantations, however, hindered militia organization and were vulnerable to attack; a 1622 attack by local Powhatans devastated the English colony. The royal government determined to establish an effective militia by mandating universal military service for every man between the ages of 17 and 60. Orders instructed planters to take their weapons with them to church and into the fields when they worked.

In contrast to Virginia’s dispersed settlement pattern, New Englanders settled closely around their meetinghouses, which enabled each town to maintain a militia company. In a total community effort, towns constructed fortifications that made each town an outpost and every freeman a soldier. The display of military prowess combined with competent diplomacy permitted New England to avoid major conflict during the early years of settlement.

17th-Century Militia Systems

Gradually over two decades, New England and Virginia transformed their ad hoc militias into formally structured militia systems. In New England, specialized “trained bands” received military training while the rest of the male population constituted a reserve. Between 1637 and 1676, New England’s military planners learned from repeated conflicts with Native Americans that their best chance for success depended on their ability to counterattack quickly and effectively. The Massachusetts militia adapted by creating special units of troops drawn from the trained bands based on particular skills, for example, tracking and marksmanship.

Their first major expedition during the Pequot War (1637) proved a tactical success but revealed shortcomings in command. As a remedy, New England colonies joined in a cooperative military establishment, the United Colonies of New England (1643). The confederation was formed expressly to provide mutual aid with both men and logistical support and to provide a central command. While imperfect, the New England regional coordinating council lasted for some 40 years.

By the time of King Philip’s War (1675-76), the colonial militia system had begun to take on two distinct forms: local militia and provincial expeditionary forces. After damaging surprise attacks by Native American warriors in 1675, New England towns contributed more than 1,000 militia troops for a retaliatory provincial expedition. The evolution of the militia- from a universal community obligation for local defense to a formalized military force-required provincial officials to negotiate soldiers’ pay rates and specify the destination and duration of service. Soldiers enlisted with the expectation that they were entering into a contract between equals. They insisted on electing the officers who would lead them, set the geographic limits of their service (often refusing to leave their own provinces), stipulated the rations and supplies to which they were entitled, and demanded discharge at the agreed expiration of their enlistment. As the scale and risks of expeditions grew, recruiters increasingly relied on enlistment bonuses to fill the ranks, and the social profiles of expedition soldiers shifted more toward young bachelors and the “lower sort” who were more likely to be enticed by economic incentives.

New England militias were subordinated to the selectmen of their towns; expedition forces reported to the provincial government. Operationally, local committees raised, equipped, and paid the militia, with the social composition of New England militia closely mirroring the community. In the local militia, the “better sort” of well-to-do and respectable men tended to be officers, while freeholders (property owners) filled the ranks; expeditionary forces relied more on the lower end of the social order for their rank and file.

During this same period, the evolution of the Virginia militia followed a different trajectory but arrived at a similar end. After quelling another Powhatan uprising in 1644, Virginia’s militia organization suffered from complacency and neglect. Militia duty was burdensome to busy tobacco planters. The lack of support from established planters pushed frontier settlers to organize their own vigilante militia. In 1676, they attacked bordering tribes, but then quickly turned their wrath on the colonial governor in a violent outburst known as Bacon’s Rebellion. After British regulars restored order, the royal government promptly restructured the Virginia militia, hiring professional soldiers for frontier duty and reserving future local militia service to the “better sort.”

18th-Century Militia Systems

From 1689 to 1763, the demands on the militia system shifted predominantly to providing expeditionary forces to support British wars with Spain and France. By the time of King William’s War (1689-97), provincial expeditionary forces were the primary unit for active duty, even though the militia remained the first line of defense for outlying towns. In the south at the turn of the century, the militia was only occasionally a viable force. When South Carolina experienced a Spanish attack in 1706, the militia rushed to defend the coastal capital Charleston, but during the Yamasee War (1715), militia turnout was dismal. Following the end of Queen Anne’s War in 1714, southern colonial militias declined in military readiness and became exclusively the preserve of white planters who were more worried about slave rebellion than Indian attacks.

By the time of the culminating phase of imperial wars in North America (King George’s War, 1744-48, to the French and Indian War, 1756-63), southern militias’ main function was community policing. When Britain called upon Virginia for troops to support a Caribbean expedition, the Virginia assembly hired or drafted transients, laborers, and other landless persons because propertied men refused to enlist for distant expeditions. Men of property remained active in the militia while it functioned as a policing force at home, but most landholders avoided active duty on the frontier or expeditions by paying a fine for nonservice. In contrast, New Englanders from across the entire social spectrum turned out for an offensive expedition against French Canada in 1745. The French and their Indian allies were a long-standing menace to the northern colonies, and past experiences of predations motivated some recruits. Others responded for army pay and the prospect of plunder, and still others for God and glory.

When the French and Indian War reignited hostilities, the British deployed a regular army to America and called on 30,000 colonial troops to support them. The war linked global imperial struggles to local frontier warfare, and New Englanders again joined the fray in considerable numbers. Because colonial militiamen in Massachusetts saw their military service as a contract, freely entered into and with stipulated limits, most joined voluntarily and were not disproportionately of the lower classes as was the case in Virginia.

As expeditionary forces increasingly fought the wars of empire, local militias became more important as social institutions than as military organizations. By the 18th century, militia training days were important community events in colonial society. Not only did the men come together to drill, the entire community joined in a civic holiday and a picnic, opened with a prayer by the minister of the congregation. Afterward, while the men drilled on the green, women cooked feasts and children socialized with other youngsters. Young women looked on as the young men fired their muskets and marched smartly on the training greens. Training day functioned as an initiation ritual for younger men entering into the world of adult manhood. It also was the stage upon which a community reconfirmed the ranks of citizenship and the social order. Those on the margins of the social proceedings at training days were the same people on the margins of full citizenship or prosperity-a diverse group that included servants, slaves, Native Americans, and transient laborers.

The Revolutionary Militia

The onset of the American Revolution inspired the last resurgence of colonial militia systems as effective military organizations. In 1775, the Minute Men were the American vanguard, as the larger part of the adult male population mustered for community defense. Once serious fighting began, however, the New England colonies reverted to the established model of the expeditionary forces in which recruits tended to be single young men able to handle the rigors of military life. When the war continued into another year, at Commander in Chief George Washington’s urging, the American Congress authorized establishment of a truly national army, much more similar to the European model of a professional army. The demands of a continental war required a national army that superseded the capacities of the colonial militia systems, and henceforth the militias functioned as auxiliaries and recruiting pools.

Bibliography Boucher, Ronald L. “The Colonial Militia as a Social Organization: Salem, Massachusetts, 1764-1775.” Military Affairs 37 (1973): 125-30. Cress, Lawrence Delbert. Citizens in Arms: The Army and the Militia in American Society to the War of 1812. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1982. Leach, Douglas Edward. “The Military System of Plymouth Colony.” New England Quarterly (1951): 342-364. Shy, John. “A New Look at the Colonial Militia.” William and Mary Quarterly 20 (1963): 175-85. Whisker, James Biser. The Rise and Decline of the American Militia System. London: Associated University Press, 1999.

Further Reading Anderson, Fred. A People’s Army: Massachusetts Soldiers and Society in the Seven Years’ War. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1984. Gross, Robert. The Minutemen and Their World. New York: Hill & Wang, 1976. Leach, Douglas Edward. Roots of Conflict: British Armed Forces and Colonial Americans, 1677-1763. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986. Main, Jackson Turner. The Social Structure of Revolutionary America. Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 1965. Millis, Walter. Arms and Men: A Study in American Military History. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1956.

Han Dynasty Frontier Armies



One of the key transformations of Chinese society during the Han was the abolition of universal military service, an institution that had underpinned the Warring States and the Qin.22 With the Han’s defeat of the feudatory kingdoms in 154 B.C., the possibility of large-scale warfare in the interior of China vanished, leaving only the threat of the Xiongnu on the northern border. The inability of peasants serving one-year terms to master horsemanship and the crossbow left them ill-equipped for expeditionary forces. Their relatively short terms also made them unsuitable for long-term garrison duty. Emperor Wu allowed some peasants to pay a tax in lieu of military service and used this money to recruit professionals. Nomadic enemies of the Xiongnu and dissident elements of the Xiongnu themselves were also recruited to provide skilled cavalry. In some cases convicts were sent to the frontiers to man garrisons. Thus, during the last century B.C. the Chinese army began to shift away from peasant levies to an army based on professionals, nomads, and criminals.

The rebellion against Wang Mang turned this gradual and informal process into official policy. The rebellion had demonstrated that peasant conscripts could be turned against the state, especially during the autumn training session, when adult males of a commandery gathered for inspection. It also showed that peasants would follow locally powerful families to whom they were bound rather than officials. Training peasants to fight thus simply provided potential rebels with a superior quality of soldier. Furthermore, in the course of the rebellions, much of the population had been displaced, and loss of registered population meant a drastic decrease in tax income for the court. Motivated by the need to decrease expenditures and reduce internal threats, and by the uselessness of conscripts on the frontier, the newly established Eastern Han regime abolished both the annual training sessions and the local military officials. This did away with a formal peasant army, and left only a small, professional army stationed around the capital.

Following the split of the Xiongnu into southern and northern confederacies in 48 A.D., nomads were internally resettled on a large scale. To supervise these new inhabitants, the Eastern Han government set up standing army commands in camps at the frontier, one command for each major nomadic group resettled in China. These standing armies were manned by professional Han soldiers. The total number of troops in the camps is not recorded, but scattered citations indicate that they were in the tens of thousands. These camps remained a permanent feature of the Han army, and their troops took part in most of the major campaigns of the second century A.D.

Expeditionary armies were distinct from the standing armies, and drew their forces primarily from resettled barbarians. Most of the cavalry in the campaigns of the first century A.D. that destroyed the Xiongnu confederacy consisted of nomad soldiers. The Han founder had already employed tribal soldiers during the civil war. After the reign of Emperor Wu, these tribes were usually classified as “dependent states” and allowed to keep their own leaders and customs, under the supervision of a commandant. But the Eastern Han went beyond the policy of “using barbarians to control barbarians.” Non-Han soldiers also quelled internal rebellions, much as foreign mercenaries did for monarchs in early modern Europe. The histories record more than fifty cases of the participation of non-Han soldiers in Chinese armies. Twenty-seven of these list no Han troops in the forces involved, and six were under the command of tribal chieftains.

From this evidence it is clear that after the middle of the first century A.D. the primary source of mounted warriors was non-Han soldiers. State-controlled grasslands and stables for rearing military horses, which the Western Han had maintained since the reign of Emperor Jing in the second century B.C., were largely abandoned. The warlords of the Three Kingdoms period (220-280 A.D.) continued to rely on non-Han peoples to provide their cavalry.

In addition to using non-Han troops in their army, the Han also paid bounties for the heads of slain enemies. Xianbei chieftains, before submitting to the Han, received payments for the heads of Xiongnu. In 58 A.D. they again received payments for crushing a force of invading Wuhuan, and at that time they formally submitted. They received annual payments of 270,000,000 cash, and in return they controlled the Wuhuan and killed Xiongnu. Thus the most common military man in the Eastern Han was the nomad warrior serving the empire under the command of his tribal chieftain.


In contrast with the Warring States period, when regional cultures constituted the primary divisions in the Chinese sphere, the imagining of a world divided between nomads and Chinese marked a major step. It posited the fundamental unity of a single Chinese civilization defined by what was not nomadic, and it reduced regional divisions to secondary status. China first emerged as a unity through the invention of a Chinese/ nomad dichotomy, and this bipolar concept remained central to Chinese civilization in later periods.

It is ironic, then, that the political partition of the world into two spheres lasted only a few decades. In spite of increasing payments, Xiongnu incursions did not cease. Each agreement lasted a few years, only to be broken by a new invasion, which was followed in turn by demands for a resumption of peaceful relations based on an increase in payments. The Chinese attributed this to barbarian perfidy, but it reflected the nature of the Xiongnu state. While the Chinese emperor was unchallenged as chief lawgiver, judge, and administrator, power within the Xiongnu state was constrained and divided by kin bonds, customary practice, and horizontal segmentation between clans or tribes. The chanyu maintained control over his subordinate chiefs only by constant negotiations in which he was first among equals rather than an absolute authority. Consensus on his power hinged on his success in battle and distribution of booty.

In such a system, the chanyu could not refrain from military action indefinitely. Nor could he stop his subordinates from attacking on their own, for the power and prestige of chiefs likewise depended on their success in battle and distribution of booty. Sometimes they invaded because of tensions with local Chinese officials, sometimes because of resentment of the chanyu. The he qin policy failed because it relied on a structure of authority that did not exist among the Xiongnu.19

As treaty after treaty was violated, debates at the Chinese court were increasingly dominated by calls for war. Decades of peace had given the Chinese time to develop a new style of army based on cavalry and crossbows that could successfully engage the Xiongnu in the field. In 134 B.C. Emperor Wu finally undertook to destroy the Xiongnu through military action. Although his attempted ambush of the chanyu failed, in the decades that followed, Chinese armies pushed deep into Central Asia and inflicted substantial losses of both men and flocks on the Xiongnu.

However, Han losses were also considerable, and repeated campaigns drained the treasury without achieving any decisive result. Difficulties in transporting supplies and harsh weather meant that no army could spend even as much as one hundred days in the field, so victories could not be translated into an enduring occupation. Emperor Wu’s successors consequently abandoned his policy of launching expeditions and instead retired behind a defensive line, while refusing to pay tribute. This policy was successful, for it deprived the chanyu of Han tribute and also reduced his role as defender against Han invasions. The position of the chanyu deteriorated, and in 120 B.C. a dissident Xiongnu king surrendered to the Han with 40,000 men. In subsequent decades other chiefs refused to attend the chanyu’s court.20 Between 115 and 60 B.C. the Han also secured control of the former Xiongnu sphere of influence in eastern Central Asia (modern Xinjiang).

A battle over succession split the Xiongnu empire in 57 B.C., with no fewer than five kings claiming the title of chanyu. After several years one king acknowledged Han suzerainty, visited the Han court, and resettled inside China. This proved to be highly advantageous, for in exchange for obeisance he received generous gifts from the Han. He repeated his visit to the court in 49 and 33 B.C. and sent a son there as a hostage, whose well-being depended on his father’s good conduct and who learned Han culture. The wealth that the vassal chieftain gained allowed him to build up his following and defeat his rivals. Eventually, he grew powerful enough to return to the north and resume the old pattern of demanding tribute, until a second succession struggle renewed the civil war in 48 A.D. This led to a permanent split between the southern Xiongnu, who dwelt in China and submitted to the emperor, and the northern Xiongnu, who resided beyond the boundaries of the Han empire.

The southern Xiongnu became dependent on Han assistance, as indicated in 88 A.D. in a memorial from the southern chanyu: “Your servant humbly thinks back on how since his ancestor submitted to the Han we have been blessed with your support, keeping a sharp watch on the passes and providing strong armies for more than forty years. Your subjects have been born and reared in Han territory and have depended entirely on the Han for food. Each year we received gifts counted in the hundreds of millions [of cash].”21 This policy of resettling nomads still grouped in their tribes inside the Chinese empire would have disastrous long-term consequences, as we will see, leading to a breakdown in civil order in the northwest and the southward flight of large numbers of Han Chinese.

Although the northern Xiongnu continued to defy the Han, they were defeated on several occasions by allied armies of the Han and the southern Xiongnu. Moreover, other tribal peoples such as the Wuhuan and Xianbei broke away from the Xiongnu and received large bounties from the Han for killing Xiongnu. In 87 A.D. a Xianbei army defeated the Xiongnu, killed the northern chanyu, and flayed his body. More than 200,000 Xiongnu tribesmen surrendered after this defeat, and a great Han victory in 89 A.D. completed the destruction of the Xiongnu state.



The Romans’ success in conquering and maintaining their enormous empire lay partly in their military culture, their weapons and their training. Rome’s ability to provision large armies at long distances was, however, equally as, or more important to its success. The military history of Rome is not one of continuous victory: indeed the Romans often won wars because, after losing battles—and sometimes entire armies and fleets—they could keep replacing them until the enemy was defeated. Polybius, a keen observer of the Roman military at its height, remarked that “the advantages of the Romans lay in inexhaustible supplies of provisions and men.”

A sophisticated logistical system allowed the Romans to exploit their military resources effectively. The Romans recognized the importance of supply and used it both as a strategic and a tactical weapon and the necessities of military supply influenced and often determined the decisions of the Roman commanders at war. Plutarch even mentions the military slang term for such tactics: “kicking in the stomach” (eis tên gastera enallonomenos). Frontinus cites Caesar, certainly Rome’s greatest general, on the use of logistics in military strategy:

I follow the same policy toward the enemy as did many doctors when dealing with physical ailments, namely, that of conquering the foe by hunger rather than by steel. Logistics in Campaign Planning Traditionally, Roman campaigns began on March 1st: in part to ensure the availability of fodder.

The Romans paid close attention both to raising armies and to the preparations for supplying them. Their habitually careful arrangements made a strong impression, and, given the general neglect of logistics in military history, our sources mention such planning remarkably often. For example, Polybius describes the large-scale Roman preparations for a Gallic invasion as early as 225 B. C.:

[The consuls] enroll[ed] their legions and ordered those of their allies to be in readiness. . . . Of grain, missiles and other war materiel, they laid in such a supply as no one could remember had been collected on any previous occasion.

There are many other examples both in the Republican and the Imperial periods.

Commanders naturally wanted to complete their logistical preparations before operations began. When Quinctius Flamininus was preparing his campaign against Nabis, the tyrant of Sparta, in 195 B. C., the arrival of allied troops, including Macedonians, completed his authorized force. Nevertheless, he still waited until the arrival of the supplies (commeatus) requisitioned from the neighboring Greek states before beginning his offensive. At times, troops were moved first and supplies sent after them. When Sulla had obtained the command of the First Mithridatic War, he marched his army over to Greece and then summoned money, auxiliary troops and supplies from Aetolia and Thessaly.

Some wars broke out unexpectedly and preparations had to be made in haste. Sallust notes that when the consul Spurius Postumius Albinus determined to reopen hostilities with Jugurtha, he “hastened to transport to Africa provisions (commeatus), money for paying the soldiers, and other apparatus of war.” The frequency of Roman conflict, and the experience of Roman officials with warfare, made such impromptu preparations much easier. Other times, military campaigns were planned years in advance.

The Security of Supply Lines

Ensuring that the army continued to receive supplies, despite an enemy’s attempts to interrupt them, remained an important priority in Roman warfare in every period. Provisions reached the army in a variety of ways: by sea and river, overland and through foraging and requisition. In each of these circumstances, enemy action was a threat, and the Romans had to deploy military forces, as well as the application of strategy and tactics, to meet this threat. Rome often found it necessary to prevent the enemy plundering Roman or allied territory: it is noteworthy that the fleet of Gaius Duilius, which won the first major Roman victory of the First Punic War at Mylae (260 B. C.), was sent out to prevent the Carthaginians from plundering the territory of a Roman ally.

Security of Waterborne Transport

Protecting sea-borne transport was vitally important in wartime: enemy action could seriously threaten the army’s supply shipments. There are many instances of such threats. In 217 B. C., for example, the Roman grain fleet supplying the army in Spain was captured by the Punic fleet. A Roman task force was immediately mobilized to set out in pursuit, but the damage had already been done. Plutarch notes that the Macedonian king Perseus during his war against the Romans (172–167 B. C.):

. . . made an unexpected attack upon the Roman fleet which was lying at anchor near Oreus, seized twenty ships of burden with their car- goes, and sank the rest together with the grain that filled them. . . .

The navy of Antiochus III, operating from the Hellespont and Abydos during the war of 192–189 B. C., made frequent raids (excursiones) against Roman cargo ships (onerariae) supplying their army in Greece. Later, Mithridates used his naval superiority in the eastern Mediterranean to cut off supplies to Sulla’s forces in Greece in 87–85 B. C. Attacks on sea-borne supply were important elements in the Civil Wars of the Late Republic. In 42 B. C., a Republican fleet under Statius defeated Dolabella’s fleet at Laodicea, cutting him off from supplies. When Octavian sent a large force by sea to reinforce and resupply the Caesarean army at Philippi, it was attacked and destroyed by the Republican navy.

The Romans routinely used their fleet to protect supply transports in wartime. As early as the First Punic War, the Romans assigned a fleet of 120 warships to provide a convoy for merchant ships bringing supplies for the siege of Lilybaeum (249 B. C.). When the commander of the fleet in 209 B. C., Marcus Valerius Laevinus turned some ships over to the consul Quintus Fabius Maximus for use in the assault on Tarentum, they are called by Livy “the ships which Laevinius had for protecting the supply lines (tutandis commeatibus).” Such protection continued in the late Republic: Sallust, in a speech attributed to the consul Gaius Cotta, and set in 75 B. C., refers to the fleet which “guarded our supplies (commeatus tuebatur).”

Such naval escorts were not always successful. The convoy protecting supplies going to Lilybaeum in 249 B. C., mentioned above, did not prevent the Carthaginians from attacking and seizing several of the merchant vessels. The threat of attack was sometimes more destructive than the attack itself: trying to avoid attack by Carthaginian warships, a Roman supply fleet placed its ships in a dangerous anchorage where a storm destroyed the entire fleet including all the army’s supplies. Whenever possible, a fleet put supplies put ashore before a battle. To prevent them from falling into enemy hands commanders of escorts might scuttle conveyed merchant ships, as the Pompeian admirals Lucretius and Minucius did during the Dyrrachium campaign of 48 B. C. 26 Despite the dangers of attack, supplies transported by sea were generally safer from attack than those sent overland, a point made by Tacitus.

Security of Overland Supply

The army provided escorts for supply convoys bringing provisions to troops in garrison even during peacetime, albeit on a limited scale. An incident from the anti-Roman uprising of Athrongaeus in Palestine around 4 B. C. illustrates the small size of such peace- time escorts. Josephus reports that a single century (80 men at full strength) was escorting a convoy of grain and arms to a legion stationed in Jerusalem, when the rebels ambushed the column near Emmaus. The Romans lost half the century and only the intervention of King Herod’s army saved the rest.

Obviously, moving provisions from the operational base to the army over supply lines provided ample opportunities for attack. Due to the increased danger in war, convoy escorts were, of course, considerably larger than in peacetime. A tribune commanded the forces that escorted a supply convoy bringing provisions to the army of Pompeius Aulus in Spain in 141 B. C. Appian does not give the size of the escort, but a tribune would have commanded at least several centuries and possibly a cohort or more.

An escort’s size was not the only factor in successful defense of a convoy. While accompanying a supply convoy to Lucullus’s army from Cappadocia in 71 B. C., a Roman force defeated an attack by Mithridates’s cavalry: the Pontic force had attacked the convoy in a defile, a more easily defensible position, instead of waiting until it reached open country. An escort also had to maintain a disciplined defense cordon, even if the column was proceeding to pick up sup- plies. Tacitus notes the lack of security in an unloaded supply column going to Novaesium from the Roman forces at Gelduba in 69 A. D., during the revolt of Julius Civilis. The troops assigned to defend it moved as if there were no danger:

. . . the cohorts escorting [the convoy] were proceeding as if in time of peace, that there were few soldiers with the standards, that their arms were being carried in carts (vehicula) while they all strolled along at will, he drew up his forces and attacked them, sending first some troops to occupy the bridges and narrow parts of roads.

The column was unable to make it to Novaesium and had to fight its way back to Gelduba without fulfilling its mission. In order to secure its supply lines, an army had to pacify the area between the operational base and the tactical base. This is why Vespasian did not immediately attack Jerusalem when he arrived on the scene in 67 A. D.: if he left hostile forces behind him, in Galilee and Samaria, the rebels would have been in a position to cut off his supply lines. Therefore, he spent an entire campaigning season taking important fortresses in the north of Palestine.

Providing a series of depots between the operational and tactical base was not only a question of “leap-frogging” supplies forward. Depots were generally placed within fortifications, as at Rödgen and South Shields and they served to secure provisions from enemy attack. Therefore, the sources often refer to them as “forts” (castella or phrouria). Vegetius describes this practice:

Among the things particularly incumbent upon a general . . . is to see that the transportation of grain and other provisions . . . is rendered secure from hostile attack. The only way to achieve this is to plant garrisons at suitable points through which our supply-trains pass. These may be cities or walled forts. If no old fortifications are available, temporary forts (castella) are established in favorable positions [and] a number of infantry and cavalry stationed in them on outpost duty provide a safe passage for supplies.

Brutus used fortified lines to protect his supply lines at Philippi (42 B. C.).

The use of fortified depots considerably reduced the risk of attack to supply lines. Once a rear area had been pacified, though, the danger of convoyed supplies, which at first glance seem very vulnerable, was actually rather small. Lacking firearms or explosives, the ambushing party in antiquity usually had to rely on superior numbers to overwhelm a convoy. Even if the enemy knew the likely route of a convoy, the exact time of its movement would not be predictable, so a large ambushing force would have had to wait in enemy territory, itself vulnerable to surprise attack.

Naturally, armies have a tendency to use their worst troops to garrison depots and operational bases, not to mention escort duty, leaving the best soldiers for combat. Livy explicitly states that after the consuls filled their legions with the best troops, they assigned the “surplus” (ceteri ) to garrison duty. In the Republican period, the Romans sometimes used their least reliable Italian allies to defend supply lines, sometimes with unfortunate results. In 218 B. C., Dasius of Brundisium commanded the garrison of Clastidium, in which a great quantity of grain had been stored for the Roman army. He betrayed the city to Hannibal for 400 gold pieces. The city’s capture not only hurt the Romans, but relieved the Carthaginians of considerable supply difficulties. When Manlius Vulso set up an operational base on the Lake of Timavus in his Istrian campaign of 178 B. C., he garrisoned it with a single reserve cohort (repentina cohors) and a few legionary centuries. The Istrians, seeing the weakness of the Roman defense, attacked the base and captured it. Only the barbarian drunkenness that followed, and the timely arrival of Gallic auxiliaries and of part of another legion (which had been foraging nearby) restored the situation, and the base, to the Romans.

Since Roman marching camps also functioned as supply bases, camp security was especially important. The Romans were justifiably famous for their security measures while encamping. Such measures involved both fortification and maintaining the discipline necessary to proper security. This system sometimes broke down, as it did in Albinus’s army in Numidia. Sallust notes that in this case:

. . . [his] camps were not fortified, nor was watch kept in a military fashion, men absented themselves from duty whenever they pleased.

It was no doubt at least partly for logistical reasons that the consul Caecilius Metellus reestablished security in his famous reform of the army in 109 B. C.

Sickle Cut through France I

Knights of our times . . . Tank units, mobile, fast and hard hitting, and directed by wireless from headquarters, attack the enemy. This armoured machine paves the way to victory, flattening and crushing all obstacles and spitting out destruction.

Signal, 1940

Although Britain and France had declared war on Germany in September 1939, nothing much happened on the Western Front until the Germans invaded France in May 1940. This was the period known to the Germans as the Sitzkrieg (sit-down war) during which time both sides faced each other across the frontier, the Allies waiting for the Germans to make the first move. The Germans for their part were surprised that the French had not attacked while the bulk of the Wehrmacht was engaged in Poland. Indeed not only had the Germans stripped the West of all of their tanks and almost all of their infantry, they had no defence line worthy of the name to delay any French thrust. But the French chose instead to renege on their military pact with Poland and do nothing to help their ally.

The French did launch a half-hearted attack from the Saar with nine divisions on 9 September, in what was to be the only major French offensive of the war. But these divisions were ordered to halt after just three days and were withdrawn completely by early October, largely due to an unwillingness to provoke the Germans. The Western Front then settled into a period of prolonged inactivity, broken only by occasional artillery duels and the continual patrols mounted by each side to discover the strengths and dispositions of the other. Activity in the air was limited to reconnaissance and leaflet dropping, both sides wary of encouraging retaliation on civilian centres.

At least part of the reason for French inactivity can be attributed to their Commander-in-Chief, the 68-year-old General Gamelin, a relic of the First World War with an over-inflated reputation. He seemed to regard his real enemy to be not the Germans, but his own government. Gamelin set up headquarters in a thirteenth-century castle without radio or telephone communication and admitted it normally took forty-eight hours for his orders to reach the front. He was also on poor terms with his chief of staff. Clearly the French High Command was neither technically nor psychologically prepared for the pace of the battle ahead.

The Germans had used the winter of 1939–40 to convert the four Leichte divisions to full panzer status, thus forming the 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th panzer divisions. The general shortage of tanks meant that once upgraded, they were equipped with only one tank regiment whereas the earlier divisions all had two and about half of the 220 tanks each of these new divisions contained were Czech-built. There were now ten panzer divisions. The process of replacing the obsolete Pz Is and IIs with the new Pz IIIs and IVs was also accelerated, but the low numbers of tanks being produced meant that relatively little progress had been made on this by May 1940.

On 1 March 1940 Hitler issued a directive for the occupation of Norway and Denmark which he codenamed Fall Wesserubung. It was a daring operation, devised from a Baedecker guide by General Nikolaus von Falkenhorst and the Kriegsmarine (German Navy) staff and conducted largely by naval forces landing infantry at the main ports. The attack was launched on 9 April and Denmark capitulated almost immediately with Norway subdued by early May. Although the Panzerwaffe played only a very minor role in the campaign, it is still worthy of a mention.

A special tank battalion, Panzer Abteilung zur besonderer Vervendung 40, was formed for use in Norway by taking one company each from the 4th, 5th and 6th panzer divisions. Two of these companies were initially used in Denmark and the bulk of the third was lost at sea when its transport went down. An experimental formation called Panzerzug Horstmann was also dispatched to Norway, comprising three Neubaufahrzeug Panzerkampfwagen VI – these were prototypes sent with the specific intention of convincing the Allies that the Germans already possessed heavy tanks. With this purpose in mind, staged propaganda photographs were taken of the three tanks leaving the harbour. Whether the ruse worked or not must remain a matter of conjecture, as before the campaign had ended Hitler had struck in the West.

The total number of German tanks used in the northern campaign never exceeded fifty and was composed largely of obsolete Panzer Is and IIs. Despite the limited nature of the Panzerwaffe’s participation in the Norwegian campaign, the Germans learned some valuable lessons. The prototype heavy tanks were found to be suitable only for supporting infantry operations and never went into production. Indeed one proved so heavy it bogged down at a fjord crossing and had to be destroyed by army engineers – it was replaced with a sheet-steel mock-up in order to maintain the subterfuge. Experience in dealing with mountainous terrain was studied and put to good use when the panzers struck in the Balkans a year later.

The Allies, while slow to honour their pact with Poland, had devised a plan to counter the likely German assault on France. The plan, codenamed Plan D after the River Dyle, was to advance into Belgium to meet the invading Germans there. It was based on two simple premises: an expectation that the Germans would attack along the lines of the famous von Schlieffen plan which had come within an ace of success in 1914 and that the Allied southern front was adequately covered by the supposedly impassable Ardennes forest and the Maginot line fortifications. A German attack across the plain of Flanders offered ready access to France’s greatest prizes, Paris and the industrial region near the Belgian border. To counter this expected revival of Schlieffen, the Allied plan called for a wheel-like advance along the Belgian border to establish a defensive line along the rivers Dyle and Meuse. The overall objective of Plan D was to gain time, not outright victory. The Allies aimed for a battlefield deadlock until their own armament production got into full swing and they could then launch a massive offensive of their own in late 1940 or early 1941.

The French Seventh Army was allocated the bulk of motorised units as it was expected to advance along the coast, at the rim of the imaginary wheel, and hence had the farthest to travel. The ten motorised infantry divisions of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) occupied the centre of the front with the French First Army, to their south. Corap’s French Ninth Army was at the hub of the wheel and was composed of second-rate reservists and older troops. Their advance was to be the shortest as these troops were not up to the rigours of the long forced marches expected of their northern comrades.

Little or no consultation was taken with the Belgian military, as the Belgians, keen to maintain a neutral stance, did not want to provoke the Germans with overtly belligerent behaviour – an attitude hard to reconcile with the fact that all her defences, including the fortress of Eben Emael, pointed toward the Reich. As a result no common defence plan, central command or framework for co-operation was agreed on for use in the event of a German attack. This unhelpful Belgian attitude to their own allies hampered the successful prosecution of Plan D, as the twenty-two Belgian divisions would be badly missed if they were destroyed in the initial stages of a German attack.

The French for their part had invested a lot of money and effort in the Maginot Line, the series of underground fortifications built along the central part of her north-eastern frontier during the 1930s. These forts were the physical manifestation of the French static warfare mentality. It is often said that generals always expect the next war to be fought in the same way as the last one and in the case of the French, this was certainly true. They anticipated the battle ahead would be First World War, Mark II with a deadlock on the battlefield forcing both sides to dig into defensive positions like the trenches of 1914–18. They seemed to have forgotten that Napoleon had once said that the side that stays within its fortifications is beaten.

Each of the large forts was the equivalent of a two-storey building sunken into the ground with only the big guns on its roof visible. They were designed to be self-sufficient and indestructible, the larger ones capable of housing up to 1,000 defenders for a prolonged period. Some were interconnected by tunnels and the guns were given a good range of fire, even capable of firing at neighbouring forts if they fell into enemy hands. This impressive piece of engineering formed a formidable obstacle stretching along the French border from Luxembourg to Switzerland. However it must be stressed that large parts of the line were less well defended and consisted of minor secondary works.

There was only one problem with the Maginot Line: it was clearly in the wrong place. No invader of France had ever followed the route it defended – from the time of the Romans they had always come further north. The Germans had come through Belgium in the First World War and even the Allies expected them to do so again in the coming attack. Why then was the Maginot Line not extended as far as the Channel coast?

The main reasons were political. For one thing, building a defensive line between Belgium and France would mean abandoning the Belgians to their fate. If it had been built, it would have left the Belgians to fight the initial German advance alone, while the Allies stood by and watched the Belgian Army’s inevitable destruction from behind their defensive walls. More importantly, Allied military thinking was based on the notion of advancing into Belgium to meet the Germans there, thus keeping the fighting off French soil altogether. There were also the peacetime considerations of the detrimental effect such a barrier would have on trade, industry and communications.

Once war broke out, the French did begin work on extending the defensive line to the sea, but it was much too late by then and it didn’t take the panzers long to breach these flimsy westward extensions when they met them in May 1940. In the end the Maginot Line proved more of a propaganda success than a military one. One commentator later stated that the Maginot Line did prove a formidable barrier, not to the Germans but to ‘French understanding of modern war’.

In September 1939, Hitler had ordered his army to produce a plan for the conquest of France. The work was allocated to the planning staff of the OKH (Oberkommando das Heer – Army High Command) led by Generaloberst Franz Halder, Chief of the General Staff. The bureaucratic, pince-nez-wearing Halder, a typical product of the German General Staff, looked and behaved more like a pedantic school-master than a soldier. This colourless functionary had no real faith in the possibility of a successful Western offensive, and aided (or hindered) by a 58-page memo from Hitler, the OKH under Halder’s guidance produced an unambitious plan which bore some resemblance to the Schlieffen Plan of 1914, but fell far short of promising the quick and decisive victory Hitler needed in France.

The plan proposed a strong right hook across Holland and Belgium led by Generaloberst Fedor von Bock’s Army Group B. Holland would be overrun by Armee-Abteilung N (an army detachment – this was a small army made up of two or three army corps) while the three armies under von Bock were expected to engage and defeat the Allied armies in Belgium somewhere in the region of Liege. For this task Bock’s Army Group was to receive eight of the ten panzer divisions and over half of the available forces in the West. At the same time Army Group A under Generaloberst Gerd von Rundstedt was to cover the southern flank of these operations using two armies and a single panzer division, but with little hope of getting much farther than the Meuse. Army Group C, commanded by Generaloberst Ritter von Leeb, was left to hold the Siegfried Line. Although the attack on Holland was repeatedly dropped and re-included over the coming months, the plan in essence remained the same.

Neither Hitler nor his army chiefs had any great faith in the ‘Fall Gelb’ (Case Yellow) plan. If the Germans failed to defeat the Allies outright in Belgium, all they could then hope for was to push them back to the Somme, at the same time aiming to seize as much of the Channel coast as possible for future operations by the Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine. What was to happen after that was unclear, but it looked as if the battle would then settle into a protracted First World War style war of attrition, which the Germans knew from experience they couldn’t win. Victory had to be quick if war in the West was to be viable.

The launch of Fall Gelb was postponed nearly thirty times, generally caused by poor weather prospects, but one wonders how much Hitler’s basic dislike of the plan influenced these postponements. In the months before the attack he constantly sought modifications and improvements. Finally a new and radical plan came to his attention and he enthusiastically adopted that instead.

In October 1939 the Fall Gelb plan fell into the hands of General von Manstein, now Chief of Staff to Army Group A under his old boss, von Rundstedt, and he wasn’t at all impressed. Manstein, who had ably proven his own planning credentials during the Polish campaign, remarked in his memoirs that he felt deep disgust that the General Staff could do no better than try an old formula, and even then on a less ambitious scale: ‘I found it humiliating, to say the least, that our generation could do nothing better than repeat an old recipe, even when this was the product of a man like Schlieffen.’ By the end of the month he had formulated an entirely different plan.

Manstein was of the opinion that what was required was a decisive result from the campaign, not merely grabbing as much of Belgium as possible – he wanted to defeat the Allies completely. The strategic surprise so obviously lacking in Fall Gelb could only be attained by attacking through the Ardennes. With these ideas in mind, he proposed a feint attack in the north through the Low Countries and Belgium, as the Allies no doubt expected, by Army Group B. The new Schwerpunkt would now however lie along the front of Army Group A, reinforced with an extra army and most of the armour. Army Group C would continue to harass the Maginot Line and man the Siegfried defence line. Once the Allies had been lured north into Belgium to meet the threat of Bock’s armies, phase two would be set in train. Rundstedt’s forces would strike out for the Meuse and once that obstacle was overcome, would thrust in the direction of the Channel coast, thus severing the Allies’ communications and supply lines and trapping their best troops in a pocket.

Manstein conferred with Guderian when the tank expert’s new command, the XIX Panzerkorps, was transferred to Army Group A on Hitler’s order to conduct an attack south of Liege. Guderian assured him that the terrain through the Ardennes was not in fact tank proof as all serious military experts assumed. He had personal experience of the Ardennes and the Meuse river valley from the First World War and study of the maps did nothing to discourage his view. He therefore became an enthusiastic supporter of Manstein’s plan, realising that the panzer divisions were the ideal force to deliver the surprise blow needed. Armed with this assurance, Manstein now attempted to get his plan adopted.

Although in essence events evolved as Manstein had foreseen, the real struggle for France was in getting the Supreme Command to accept his proposals. Manstein bombarded the OKH with a whole series of memoranda, all countersigned by von Rundstedt, but to no avail. Halder and the Army’s weak-minded Commander-in-Chief, Generaloberst Walther von Brauchitsch, lacked the imagination to appreciate the subtle genius of the plan. Manstein’s persistence eventually led to him being sidelined to command an obscure infantry corps, which later backfired on the arch plotter Halder and his vacillating Commander-in-Chief.

On 10 January 1940 German plans received a serious setback when a Luftflotte II liaison officer was forced to land his plane in Belgium during a storm. In strict contravention of standing orders, he carried a full set of plans detailing Fall Gelb. Despite his frantic efforts to destroy the documents, they were captured relatively intact and sent post haste to Paris and London. In any event, the Allied High Command chose to dismiss them as a deliberate plant and made no effort to change their dispositions, but the Germans couldn’t have known this and had to assume that the element of surprise was lost.

Only now were conditions ripe for the adoption of the Manstein plan. On 17 February Manstein and all other newly appointed corps commanders were summoned to meet Hitler for lunch. As they rose to leave, Hitler asked Manstein to remain and expound on his ideas for a thrust through the Ardennes. Manstein outlined his ideas succinctly, calling for a shift in emphasis to Army Group A, which would then attack across the Meuse towards the lower Somme, while Army Group B attacked the Allies frontally in Belgium. Once Army Group A reached the Channel coast, the Allied forces would then be surrounded and destroyed. He argued that for this Rundstedt now needed three armies: one to intercept the Allied forces driven back by Bock; a second to cross the Meuse at Sedan and destroy any French forces massing for a counter attack and a third to cover the southern flank of the Group. He also insisted that Guderian’s XIX Panzerkorps was insufficient to force the Meuse crossings and demanded the motorised infantry of Wietersheim’s XIV Armeekorps to reinforce them.

Hitler was attracted to his proposals for three reasons. Firstly, they were audacious and appealed to Hitler’s liking for the unorthodox; secondly they tied in with his earlier calls for an attack south of Liege; and thirdly they were in complete contrast to the proposals of the hated General Staff. Whatever his shortcomings as a warlord, Hitler can never be accused of lacking imagination and a taste for novel schemes. Manstein himself received precious little credit for his masterstroke; he was to command a mere infantry corps in the second wave of the attack while Hitler later claimed the idea for the plan as his own.

On 20 February Manstein’s Sichelschnitt (Sickle Cut) was officially adopted, although not without much opposition from within the High Command. The pedantic Halder declared the plan ‘senseless’ and wanted the panzers to wait on the Meuse till the infantry and artillery caught up for what he called ‘a properly marshaled attack in mass.’ Guderian was violently opposed to this. The vain and ambitious General Bock, appalled at the erosion of his Army Group, developed an irrational jealousy of Rundstedt that was to have dire consequences for the entire Wehrmacht within eighteen months. Even Rundstedt seemed doubtful that his Army Group could carry out its task and uncertain about the capabilities of tanks. In fact there was so little enthusiasm for the plan among the High Command that Guderian states in his memoirs that only three people believed it would actually work – himself, Manstein and Hitler.

On the eve of battle the German Army in the West comprised 136 divisions. These forces were opposed by 135 Allied divisions: 94 French, 10 British, 22 Belgian and 9 Dutch divisions. There was rough parity in the numbers of troops, about 2.5 million men each. The Germans were outnumbered however when it came to most important weapons: in field artillery pieces they had 2,500 versus the French’s 10,000 and in tanks they fielded 2,600 to the French 4,000. The only place the Germans had superiority was in the air where they could pit 5,500 planes against the Allies’ 3,100.

Of course as it turned out the tank was to be the crucial weapon in this campaign – not so much because of their quantity or quality, but because of the way they were handled. The BEF, though small, was entirely motorised and the French had a total of 7 armoured divisions; these were the 3 Divisions Légères mécaniques (DLMs), mechanised cavalry divisions which carried out the traditional roles of cavalry, and the 4 Divisions Cuirassées Rapides (DCRs) which acted as infantry support units. There were also 25 independent light tank battalions engaged in infantry support. In total 1,300 of France’s tanks were concentrated within these armoured divisions, which were spread across the front in line with the fatal French reluctance to concentrate their armour.

The French main battle tanks included 300 massive Char B1 heavy tanks, bigger and better armoured than anything the Germans had and carrying two guns, a 47 mm in the turret and a low-velocity 75 mm in the body of the tank. They proved almost impossible to destroy and the Germans who encountered them dubbed them Kolosse; their only vulnerable point proved to be a small ventilation grill in the side – it took a steady and calm gunner to hit it at close range. The French were also able to field over 250 Somuas, widely regarded as the best tank in Europe at the time and the model for the American Sherman; like the Char B1, it mounted the superb 47 mm gun and at least 55 mm of armour. The French also had plenty of light tanks, including 800 Hotchkiss H35s or H39s, nearly 1,000 Renault R35s and about 2,500 of the tiny First World War vintage Renault FTs. All these light tanks were armed with 37 mm guns and mainly used for infantry support.

The Char B1 was the only French tank with four crewmen. The Somua had three, all the rest only two. This proved to be a major disadvantage, especially as many of the French tanks incorporated a one-man turret where the commander was expected to choose targets and then load, aim and fire the gun all by himself; in the German turrets there were three men to carry out these tasks. Also, very few of the French tanks had radios, making formations hard to control in battle.

The French Army had neglected higher formation staff training for tank officers such as was needed for handling several divisions at once. This was in keeping with their belief that tanks should function either as infantry support or in the traditional cavalry roles. The French had completely failed to grasp the possibilities offered by tanks deployed independently and in concentration, instead sticking to the tired old formula of ‘penny packeting’ their armour.

The Strategic Errors of Nicholas I

Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias: Nicholas I

The diplomacy of Nicholas I, then, all too often consisted in using inadequate means to try to reach the unattainable. Nicholas’s approach to the use of his military power was also faulty. Consider, for example, his practice of using his army as an instrument of deterrence and intimidation. It is always risky to stage such threats; instead of cowing one’s enemies into submission, they may galvanize them into action. Such was often the case during the reign of Nicholas I. His blustering against the Turks, for instance, led them to declare war on Russia first in 1827 and again in 1853. The bellicose posturing of the Russia was also counterproductive in its relations with the French and, most particularly, the British. The Tsar’s conversations with the British Ambassador in early 1853, when he had suggested the need for an agreement with London in advance about how to fill the vacuum of power that would occur should the Ottomans collapse was misinterpreted by the British as evidence of Russian annexationist designs. The Russian destruction of the Turkish fleet at Sinope the following November—which the Tsar had intended to use to force Turkish capitulation—inflamed British public opinion against Russia and set the stage for the British declaration of war. Nicholas’s practice of trying to bully and intimidate his neighbors with his military might often backfired, much as similar Soviet efforts did under Brezhnev in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Still further, mobilizing the army to send signals or to make military demonstrations was often fundamentally detrimental to Russia if war broke out. Deploying forces as a signal could make the prosecution of a real war much more difficult. The requirements of intimidation and the requirements of warfighting at times radically diverged. Take, for instance, Russia’s occupation of the Danubian principalities in 1828 and 1853. On the former occasion Russia marched into the principalities, despite the fact that Turkey had already declared war, in the hope of scaring the Porte to the bargaining table. Not only did the gesture fail to achieve its purpose, but it also complicated the execution of the Russian campaign plan, as the occupation of the principalities subtracted 20,000 men (almost one-third of its strength) from the ranks of the army. Nor was Russia any more successful in 1853, when as before it seized the principalities and then stopped. That action both antagonized the Austrians and provided the Turks with a breathing space of several months in which to organize their defenses. In international relations, no less than on the street, it can be perilous to draw a gun if one does not really intend to use it.

Once shooting war broke out, Nicholas’s ideas about how to wage it also had harmful results. In the first place the Tsar, who had a grotesquely distorted opinion of his own military talents, meddled far too much in the military planning and operational decision-making. The letters and memoranda he showered on his commanders analyzed the military options available to them in excruciating detail. The Tsar’s gratuitous advice and exhortation naturally enough hobbled his generals, stifling even what little initiative they had. Some of Nicholas’s military recommendations were simply boneheadly wrong, as the proposal he seriously made in February 1854 for a suicide naval attack should the British and French fleets enter the Black Sea and anchor off Feodosiia. Further, the Tsar’s constant insistence on the need for speedy victory, although founded on a shrewd estimation of the limitations of Russian power, often resulted in spreading forces too thin or incurring unacceptable risks. During the Turkish campaign of 1828, for instance, Nicholas ordered simultaneous sieges of three Turkish forts—Varna, Silistriia, and Shumla—despite the intelligent counsel of General Wittgenstein that it would be better to concentrate all effort on merely one objective. As Wittgenstein had foreseen, Russia did not have the forces with which to capture all three fortresses at once. Shumla and Silistriia successfully resisted Russian sieges, and although Varna fell, it took eighty-nine days to do so, principally because of the minuscule resources the Russian army was able to devote to investing it. Nicholas’s decision here was clearly one of the capital blunders of the campaign. Although his purpose had been to accelerate the progress of the war, arguably he only succeeded in protracting it. Nicholas’s demand for rapid results was not much of an asset to the Russian army during the war with Shamyl in Transcaucasia, either. It inclined at least some commanders to reckless haste, such as Viceroy Vorontsov, whose forces Shamyl trounced at Dargo in 1845 for that very reason. It took Nicholas too long to grasp the fact that pacification of guerrilla tribesmen in the extraordinarily difficult terrain of the Caucasus would perforce have to be accomplished gradually and slowly.

A final flaw in Nicholas I’s appreciation of warfare was the pernicious influence upon it of the image of the War of 1812. As we saw in the previous chapter, a considerable gap existed between the reality of the Fatherland War and the myth. The Fatherland War had not in fact seen the forging of unshakable national unity. Nicholas thought that it had. He considered its chief lesson to have been that the Russian army was invincible when in defense of its own territory. That was a dangerous belief for the Tsar to hold, for it engendered overconfidence no less than his erroneous reliance on alliances with the German Powers. Unrealistic expectations befogged the Emperor’s mind during the Crimean War. It was as if he expected his troops to be able to compensate for every advantage the enemy possessed by dint of gallantry alone. That gallantry, although evident on many occasions, was inadequate to the task.

Weaknesses in the Armed Forces

Nicholas’s use of military forces to gain his objectives often misfired. Part of the trouble lay in the quality of the military instrument itself. Grave inadequacies in the army, many stemming from Nicholas’s preference for using it to threaten, not fight, crippled the execution of Russia’s wartime strategies.

Of all of the problems of the Nicholaevan army, perhaps the most severe was that of manpower. Nicholas’s army was larger on paper than it was on the parade ground or in the field. In every war waged by Russia throughout the reign, its generals were chronically embarrassed by a shortage of troops. During the Turkish War of 1828–29, for instance, the Second Army mustered only 65,000 men, roughly half what it was supposed to contain by statute. Adjutant General Vasil’chikov, entrusted by the Tsar with drafting a report on the failure of the 1828 campaign, concluded that it had occurred in large measure because of insufficient military manpower. Ninety thousand men, he wrote, were simply too few with which to occupy Wallachia and Moldavia, block the Danubian forts, and conduct the sieges of Brailov, Varna, and Shumla. Three years later, during the Polish war, the situation was no different. The initial contingent of Russian forces earmarked for field operations consisted of only 120,000 men, and it required two months to assemble even that number. When Paskevich begged for reinforcements in August 1831, Nicholas replied that only 10,000 infantry men were immediately available and that there would be no more at least until the spring. Still later in the reign, when Russia went to war against Britain, France, and Turkey, it experienced grave (and notorious) difficulties in bringing its military power to bear in the chief theater of conflict. Out of total military forces that were supposed to amount to 1.4 million soldiers, fewer than one hundred thousand were initially available for the defense of the Crimean peninsula. Indeed, Russia’s military effort in the Crimea would be crippled throughout the two and a half years of war by inadequate numbers of troops.

What explains the fact that in Nicholaevan Russia, the outbreak of any war was immediately attended by a crisis of military manpower? Several factors were responsible. In the first place casualties were always high whenever the Russian army embarked on a campaign, and for the traditional reasons: miserable weather, bad hygiene, and inferior military medicine. During the Persian campaign of 1827 Russian losses from heat prostration (temperatures hit well over 100 degrees F. that July) so weakened the army that the siege of Erivan had to be postponed. During the subsequent Turkish war, disease in combination with extreme cold during the terrible winter of 1828 resulted in the loss of 40,000 men, virtually half the army. Operations in Poland in 1831 were stymied by an epidemic of cholera, which carried off the Tsar’s Viceroy and his commander-in-chief along with thousands of common soldiers. Excessive mortality and morbidity were also features of the campaigns in the Caucasus. Conditions of service in the Black Sea forts that Russia built to blockade the coast were so harsh that a soldier’s life expectancy there was estimated at three years. D. A. Miliutin, who was a participant, remarked that the rapid spread of sickness among the Russian soldiers during the siege of Akhulgo in 1839 was the result of “prolonged encampment in the same positions, on sunparched cliffs and in air poisoned by corpses.”

We should note, inter alia, that poor hygiene and bad food plagued the health of the troops in peace as well as in war. The Ministry of War admitted, for instance, that dysentery “was a frequent, even common” ailment suffered by the troops every summer. Official statistics indicate that more than 16 million cases were treated in military hospitals and clinics from 1825 to 1850. Over the same time period, whereas 30,000 Russian soldiers perished in combat, more than 900,000 succumbed to diseases of all kinds.

Another strain upon available military manpower in war was the widespread use of military units to perform a variety of nonmilitary services within the empire. During the first twenty-five years of Nicholas’s reign some 2,500 battalions of troops were at some time employed in state works for the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Communications, the Engineers, or the military colonies. Elements of the Russian army performed such essential tasks as the road repair and bridge-building. A still more serious headache for military planners was the deployment of large numbers of troops as permanent garrisons throughout the empire for the maintenance of internal order. In addition to the fifty battalions of the Internal Guard, troops were also stationed in quantity for this purpose in Finland, Orenburg, and Siberia. During the Crimean War forces detached for internal duty (and consequently excused from combat) may have numbered as many as 500,000. Also complicating the manpower problem during 1853–56 was the need to deploy troops in auxiliary and potential theaters of war other than the Crimean peninsula. The struggle against Shamyl’s murids tied up the entire 200,000-man army of the Caucasus; 300,000 soldiers were emplaced in the northeast to defend against possible attacks on the Baltic coast; and Paskevich insisted on retaining sizable forces in Poland to deter potential Austrian intervention.

A final limitation on military manpower inhered in the defects of recruitment. Throughout the reign of Nicholas, Russia continued to replenish its armed forces on the basis of the old Petrine conscription system. In times of peace the state decreed levies of from two to three soldiers per 100 taxable men in the empire. The system was naturally burdensome to the Russian economy, and Nicholas, for one, was troubled by that fact. Although early on he rejected the idea that the military colonies should be enlarged so as eventually to create a captive pool of manpower equal to the army’s entire annual needs, he was keenly interested in reducing the strain of recruitment on the population of his empire. He experimented with various reforms, including dividing the country into halves from which conscripts would be taken only in alternate years. Yet none of his reforms came up to the Tsar’s expectations, principally because the system as it was almost guaranteed that the quality of recruits would be poor. To be sure, selection of recruits by means of lotteries, which was gradually made mandatory for state peasants (gosudarstvennye krestiane) under Nicholas, was a reasonable safeguard against the tendency of that segment of the population to defraud the army of quality men. But for the majority of peasants—the proprietary serfs—selection of recruits was still in the hands of local landlords and village communes. Both the landlords and the communes still had every incentive to fob the dregs of the village off on the army. Because the conscription laws were often quite slackly enforced during peacetime, the consequence of the system was that the Russian army began each of the wars it fought under Nicholas seriously under strength. When the Turkish war broke out in 1828, for instance, the army was undermanned by no less than 40 percent. Since Nicholas almost never foresaw the outbreak of any war (expecting his military bluster to prevent it), the army was always severely short of men at the precise moment when operations began. The government therefore had no choice but to institute draconian recruitment procedures, including a doubling or tripling of the conscription levy, in order to fill the ranks of the army as quickly as possible. Yet despite all of the emergency efforts of the recruitment officers, numbers of recruits dispatched to the theater of war always lagged behind army requirements. The forced marches the new recruits endured, in addition to their almost total lack of training, seriously impaired their military value once they arrived on the battlefield. During wartime, in Nicholas’s words, the regiments “either did not receive reinforcements or received naked, unshod, and exhausted recruits; the regiments melted away, perished, and behind them stood nothing.”

It was precisely because he was alive to this problem that Nicholas had tried to overhaul the recruitment system by introducing provisions for “unlimited furloughs” in 1834. As already noted, the purpose of the reform was to build up a supply of trained reservists who would be available for recall to the army in the event of a crisis. After fifteen years of blameless service, a demobilized soldier was assigned to a reserve battalion that was in turn linked to an actual field regiment. On one level the “unlimited furloughs” were doubtless a boon to the Russian army, for having reserves was clearly preferable to having none. For example, in 1848 and 1849 the state succeeded in calling up more than 175,000 men in this category. Unlimited leaves were probably beneficial to army morale as well. Surely the prospect of an early discharge from the ranks was a powerful incentive for good behavior.

But the “unlimited furlough” system imposed costs on the state as well. In granting up to 17,000 men a year indefinite leave, the Russian government in effect created a legally anomalous and impoverished new class. Where, after all, were these discharged men to go? State peasants on indefinite leave might rejoin their communities, but for the majority of men on leave, former proprietary serfs, there was no welcome at home. Now legally free, they had nonetheless lost all of their claims on land or property within the village the moment they had entered the army. If they tried to rejoin their families, the latter were burdened with feeding them and paying their taxes. Thus neither their relatives nor their former landlords, for that matter, wished to see them return. The result was that many apparently took to begging, vagabondage, or crime. The plight of those miserable outcasts properly ought to have been a matter of grave state concern; in actuality, the Russian government was even more worried lest the former soldiers prove to be an unstable element in the villages and towns where they took up temporary residence. One prominent general warned Nicholas that “a man who is not attached to society by either property or family ties, wandering without work or goals, easily gets involved in disorders.” The head of the political police himself reported to the monarch in 1842 that in his opinion indefinite leaves had produced “an undesirable change in the morals of the Russian soldier.”

In any event, the reform of 1834 was a palliative, not a solution. Although it was able to provide the army with enough reservists to undertake the punitive expedition into Hungary in 1849, the program was too small in scale to satisfy the army’s need for reinforcements in case of a major war. All the 200,000 reservists on the books had been called up within the first year of the Crimean War. As that number was insufficient, the government once again had to resort to ad hoc emergency levies, which inducted possibly as many as 800,000 men into the ranks of the army during the conflict. Even that quantity proved in the end to be too small.

Problems other than inadequate manpower sapped the combat strength of the Russian army. The omnipresent evils of corruption and peculation are an example. On all too many occasions, officers devised ingenious methods for robbing both the state and the soldiers under their command. They ranged from outright theft, to doctoring the books, to substituting inferior goods for state supplies and pocketing the difference. To be sure, soldiers themselves stole as well. Then, too, as one scholar has recently emphasized, in view of the haphazard issuance of pay, the snail’s pace of logistical deliveries, and in general the relatively small state resources expended on its maintenance, the Russian army could not even have survived without some corruption. Still, egregious thieving could not but be detrimental to the morale of the troops. Some colonels were known to have syphoned off as much as 60,000 rubles from the regiments in a single year. It was not uncommon for soldiers to be deprived of such necessities as rations and firewood because of the criminal greed of their commanders. Abuses like those, a War Ministry report of the 1850s commented, “have a harmful effect on discipline”—an understatement if there ever was one.

Bad consequences arose also from what has been termed the “platz parad” (parade ground) tradition during the reign of Nicholas I. The tradition has often been portrayed as more dysfunctional than it actually was: goose-stepping and meticulously executed drill really did make the army look fearsome and imposing, which is how the Emperor wanted to look to potential enemies abroad or potential dissidents at home. Still, as was the case also with military deployments, drill that served the interest of military intimidation often did not prepare the troops for war. At inspections and exercises troops were required to observe petty rules: ranks had to be perfectly dressed; intervals between each man had to be identical; and boots had to be polished just so. Failure to measure up could incur many blows of the stick. In general, disciplinary measures were brutal. Army authorities meted out harsh punishments (including often fatal sentences of running the gauntlet) for quite trivial offenses. Although better off than common soldiers, officers themselves were not spared the rigors of Nicholaevan discipline. One young officer complained in his diary that as he found it physically impossible to fulfill all of his service obligations, he was under intolerable mental strain, fearing that any moment he might be visited with summary punishment for dereliction of duty.

In any event, contemporaries often bemoaned the deleterious effects of this rigorous and punctilious training on the health of the troops. Tight uniforms and incessant parading are said to have born fruit in disease. Parade ground exercises also wreaked havoc with military equipment. The manual of arms, which required a soldier to slam his musket violently onto the ground, often dislocated the firing mechanism, which could later result in the breech exploding in his face when he tried to take a shot. At least one commander placed such an emphasis on the smartness of his unit when on parade that his men’s gun barrels were actually worn thin through excessive burnishing.

Drill can obviously be of great military use. It can teach civilians to think of themselves as soldiers and can help build confidence and esprit de corps. There can, however, be too much drill. Pushed too far, as it was under Nicholas I, drill contributed little to preparing the soldiers for battle. Still worse, if soldiers attempted to perform in the field as they had been trained to on the Champs de Mars, the results could be disastrous. Intelligent young officers assigned to the Army of the Caucasus during Nicholas’s reign quickly discovered that it behooved them to forget everything they had learned on the parade ground—that is, if they wished to remain alive.

A final set of difficulties stemmed from the state’s efforts to economize on the maintenance of its army. Take, for example, the military colonies. One of the principal reasons for establishing them was the desire of the government to keep the military budget under control. Yet despite the fact that the colonies allowed (and indeed encouraged) soldiers to marry and raise families, both the soldiers and the peasants settled in the colonies regarded them as little more than hells on earth. Count A. A. Arakcheev, the driving force behind the colonies, was a sadistic martinet, and the administration of the settlements bore the imprint of the deformities of his character. Every aspect of life and behavior in the colonies was regimented; each colonist was attired in military uniform; hours of drill were demanded on top of backbreaking agricultural labor; discipline was both harsh and capricious. Conditions in the colonies, frankly unendurable, resulted in high incidences of suicide and eventual rebellion. In 1831 military colonists in Novogord suddenly rose up in revolt and massacred more than two hundred bailiffs, nobles, and officials; 3,600 men and women implicated in the atrocities were tried and punished.

The rebellion forced the state to ameliorate the regimen that existed within the colonies. In the immediate aftermath of the 1831 uprising many of the colonists were reclassified as “farming soldiers.” That relieved them of the responsibilities of military drill and placed them more or less on a par with the state peasants. Their children were no longer automatically enrolled as cantonists. Those reforms, however, represented a retreat from the principle of squeezing the colonies to provide food, money, and conscripts for the army.

Although Nicholas’s regime was unquestionably militaristic and although the Tsar personally was devoted to his army, the fact remained that the state simply did not possess enough revenue to support its armed forces or its ambitious military policies. Despite all the efforts of the Ministry of Finance, the state ran a budgetary deficit almost constantly during the reign of Nicholas I. Although the army continued to claim a high proportion of total governmental outlays, the bad harvests of 1839–41 compelled St. Petersburg to cut even its military spending.

Financial pressure had obvious consequences for military preparedness. Nicholas I was, for instance, very interested in constructing or improving fortifications along the western perimeters of his empire from Åland Island to Aleksandropol. Yet while Nicholas started nine large-scale fortress-building projects during his reign, he completed few. Of the three forts deemed indispensable for the defense of Poland—Novogeorgievsk, Ivangorod, and Brest—only the first had been finished when Nicholas died.

Revenue problems were still damaging to the armed forces during the 1840s and after. During that time Russia’s European competitors increasingly adopted advanced (and expensive) military technologies. Impoverished Russia lacked the money with which to compete. The navy was the first to suffer. In the early years Nicholas had been concerned with upgrading and improving his fleets. Indeed, sea power had served Nicholas well at Navarino in 1827 and at Constantinople in 1833, to mention but two occasions. Yet when the transition from sail to steam began, the Russian navy lagged behind. Russia did not acquire its first steamship until 1848. When the Crimean War began, there were only ten small paddle-wheelers in the entire Black Sea fleet, and they were completely outclassed by the French and British ships-of-the line, driven by their screw propellers. Russia was to suffer for that naval inferiority throughout the entire war. It was the reason that Russia felt it had to detach such a high proportion of troops to guard its Baltic coast in the 1853–56 period. It also meant that certain Russian possessions had to be abandoned. In December 1854 the Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolaevich ordered the governor-general of Eastern Siberia to evacuate all Russian troops from the island of Kamchatka in view of the impossibility of defending it against an amphibious invasion. Technological inferiority was also a great problem for the army. The smoothbore muskets and cannon employed by the defenders of Sevastopol were no match for the rifles and improved ordnance of the enemy. French and British guns could fire faster and farther than Russian ones. The allies, moreover, were more abundantly furnished with ammunition; during the siege the French and the British fired at least 400,000 more shells on Sevastopol than the Russians were able to fire back. There is something in the end pathetic about Nicholas’s requests during the war that captured enemy rifles and shells be brought to Petersburg for his personal inspection; he was making an all too belated acquaintance with the implications of nineteenth-century technological progress. Allied technological superiority was in the end to be decisive in the Crimean War.

The Crimean War

As Russia interpreted them, the terms of the Peace of Kuchuk Kainardzhi of 1774 gave it special rights to protect the interests of Orthodox Christians living in the Ottoman Empire. In 1850, however, the government of France began to pressure Constantinople to grant it exclusive rights over the Churches of the Holy Sepulcher and the Nativity, in Jerusalem and Bethlehem respectively. Those demands were advanced even more forcibly after 1852, when, by means of a coup d’état, Louis Napoleon had swept away the Second Republic and proclaimed himself Emperor of the French. As Emperor, Napoleon III was eager both to enhance his international prestige and to curry favor with Catholic opinion in France by posturing as the most devoted defender of the Roman Catholic faith.

Napoleon’s negotiations with the Turks put Nicholas I in a difficult position. While the Holy Places per se were of little concern to him, he was unwilling to be perceived as backing down in the face of the French. Then, too, he believed that Imperial France was about to embark on a revolutionary policy, designed to win influence in Turkey at Russia’s expense. After much abortive negotiating, Nicholas finally dispatched his Minister of Marine, Prince Menshikov, to Constantinople as his personal emissary. Menshikov’s mission was to demand that the Turks reconfirm the special privilege of the Russian Tsar to protect the status of the 12 million Orthodox believers who were Ottoman subjects. Regarding this as tantamount to a surrender of sovereignty, the Turkish government rejected the demand, counting on the support of both France and Britain. Napoleon III was only too glad to oblige. And the coalition government of Lord Aberdeen, which included the Russophobe Palmerston as Foreign Minister, was increasingly inclined to view Russia’s activities as a prelude to an aggressive assault on the Near Eastern balance of power.

After the fiasco of the Menshikov mission Nicholas I attempted to threaten the Turks, as we have previously seen, by staging an invasion of Wallachia and Moldavia, two provinces under the nominal suzerainty of the Sultan. The Turks, however, were not inclined to give way. When a last-minute attempt at mediation by the Austrian Chancellor, Count Buol, also failed, Turkey declared war on October 4, 1853.

Although Russia intended to stand on the defensive against the Turks on land, it undertook offensive naval action early. In November its Black Sea fleet caught a Turkish naval flotilla in the Black Sea port of Sinope and sent it to the bottom. Fearing that Turkey was now in danger of toppling, France and Britain sent naval squadrons into the Black Sea and shortly thereafter (March 1854) declared war themselves.

Although the Russians had successfully repulsed Turkish attacks in the Balkans and the Caucasus during the first months of the war, the correlation of forces was now different. In September 1854, under the cover of the Royal Navy, an Anglo-French expeditionary force landed on the Crimean peninsula roughly 30 miles north of the strategic fortress of Sevastopol. On September 20 combined French, British, and Turkish forces ran into a Russian detachment of 36,000 men at the Alma River. The battle of the Alma, which featured senseless frontal assaults on both sides, resulted in a costly victory for the allies. The Russians were forced to retreat into the fortress of Sevastopol itself, reinforcing the 20,000-man garrison.

The Russians now made extensive preparations for the defense of the city. Under the direction of the brilliant engineer Colonel Totleben, Russian troops constructed an intricate system of earthworks and fortifications on the southern or inland side of the town. Those works were so formidable that the allies hesitated to risk an assault on them. Finally, in early October 1854 the allies launched the first of their attempts to take Sevastopol. The allied fleet bombarded the seaward side of the fortress with more than 40,000 rounds, while siege guns dragged into positions inland hammered at Totleben’s fortifications. The struggle, however, proved inconclusive, for if many of Sevastopol’s guns were silenced, several allied warships also took heavy damage.

But food and ammunition supplies were running low inside Sevastopol. Precisely because of powder shortages, Menshikov, the commander of the garrison, now ordered a Russian counterattack in the hope of raising the siege. The Russians selected as their target Balaclava, the site of a great concentration of British food and stores. The upshot was the Battle of Balaclava (October 12, 1854). The Russian 12th Division under Liprandi early on captured four Turkish redoubts on the British right flank. It soon appeared that the entire battle would turn on the British efforts to retake them. This was the engagement that witnessed the notorious Charge of the Light Brigade. Misunderstanding its orders, which were to harass the Russians on Causeway Heights, Cardogan’s light brigade instead attacked directly into the massed Russian artillery, with predictably catastrophic results. Despite wholescale carnage on both sides, Balaclava was also curiously indecisive. Although the Russians had failed to break through the allied lines, their military position actually improved after this defeat, for they shortly received a large number of reinforcements.

On October 24 Menshikov once again tried to break out of the allied encirclement by assaulting the forces of the British right flank on Inkerman Heights. Initially hard pressed by the Russian assault, the British troops were saved by the timely arrival of French troops from Bosquet’s corps of observation. The Russians were once again rebuffed, taking 11,000 casualties—roughly 40 percent of the men they had committed to the battle.

The war now settled into the dreary pattern of siegecraft, bombardment, and sorties. But time was not on the Russian side. Finally, after losing the suicide engagement at Black River (August 4[16], 1855), the Russians decided that Sevastopol had to be abandoned. The outgunned and outnumbered Russian soldiers and sailors began the evacuation; Sevastopol fell to allied forces at the end of August. Russia was now at the point of exhaustion. It was fighting a coalition composed of France, Britain, Turkey, and Sardinia. Sweden was growing increasingly hostile. When the Austrian government presented its ultimatum, demanding that Russia negotiate or face war, the new Emperor, Alexander II, felt that he had no choice but to agree.

The Crimean War represented the death knell of the Nicholaevan system. That system, and much of what it stood for, was thoroughly discredited. The Crimean defeat put into motion a process of reassessment that eventually resulted in such important reforms as the abolition of serfdom in 1861. Efforts by Russian diplomats to undo the humiliating Peace of Paris, which ended the war, were to occupy them for years afterward. But the impact of the war on the Russian military establishment was no less momentous. For more than a hundred and fifty years, the Russian military system with its impressed peasant army had proved equal to almost any challenge that could be brought against it. The Russian army had been an extraordinarily reliable instrument of the state’s grand strategy. But the Crimean War demonstrated that this was not necessarily the case any longer. The old military system was no longer of value under the changed conditions of warfare. That system now had to be reinvented—taken apart and replaced with something else that would permit Russia to be victorious on the battlefield once again. The problem was complex. What new sort of military system ought Russia to have? How could Russia integrate modern military technologies into its armed forces? Finally, how could it pay for it all? In one way or another, those questions continued to bedevil Russian statesmen for the next eighty years, until Stalin finally and conclusively resolved them in the 1930s. But a first attempt to answer them came in the reign of Alexander II. It is to this subject that we must now turn.

Reforging the Weapon

B-36 “Peacemaker”

One General Curtiss LeMay legend concerns “the attack on Dayton.” After talking to his commanders and staff, he realized that they “weren’t worth a damn.” Unfortunately, they did not realize how bad they were, so he decided to show them. He announced an alert-a maximum effort of all SAC bombers to carry out a simulated attack on Dayton, Ohio. The strike would be made from high altitude, at night in lousy weather, using radar bombing techniques. According to LeMay, not one aircraft completed the mission as briefed. The SAC history is not quite that damning, but it notes that the results of the mock attack were poor. For example, of 15 aircraft scheduled in one B-36 bomb group, six aborted and three others failed to “drop” over the target due to radar malfunctions. The story was the same in several other groups, and in still others aircraft that made it to the target were unable to return to their home airfields and had to divert elsewhere. Targeting accuracy on bomb drops was appalling, with an average miss distance of two miles. LeMay had made his point. The general then began to strip down the command and remake it. The three numbered air forces were reshuffled. This had been needed for some time: it made no sense to have a bomb wing at MacDill AFB in Florida assigned to the Fifteenth Air Force, headquartered in California. The air forces also had been organized along functional lines: the Eighth had mostly B-50s, while the Fifteenth flew largely B-29s; the Second Air Force contained all reconnaissance assets. LeMay made all three composite units with a mix of very heavy bombers (the new B-36s coming on line), mediums (B-29s and B-50s), a reconnaissance wing, and fighter escorts. This commonsense reorganization saved money, cut communication and travel time, and allowed for better combat training.

At the base level, the so-called Hobson plan was by this time fully implemented across the Air Force. Instead of the standard group designation, a wing now became the parent organization on base with two groups under it: an operational group of bombers, reconnaissance, fighters, or some mix thereof and an air base group consisting of maintenance, supply, administrative, and financial staff. The wing commander, a full colonel, was now in command of all units needed to carry out the assigned mission. At the same time, the Air Force was introducing a new management system entailing comptrollers assigned to each command to help systematize financial planning and budgeting matters. Right behind these individuals would be computers; the Air Force pushed for their inclusion long before the other services. These initiatives were not LeMay’s doing, but he embraced them because they appealed to his sense of command responsibility and sound management.

Personnel issues remained: when Air Force headquarters imposed new cuts, LeMay wrote in exasperation that the efficiencies his reorganization was providing “will be accomplished only in time to be cancelled out by the cuts your office proposes.” In truth, the cuts and personnel shortages were a specialization concern. The aggregate numbers of personnel at SAC were close to the authorized strength. Although not at full manning, the debilitating era of units with less than half their complements was becoming a bad memory. Yet a lack of specialized people for radar, electronics, and engine maintenance remained problematic. In late 1949, for example, persistent B-29 engine problems caused most to be grounded until spare parts could be obtained and repairs made. Similarly, the B-36 was experiencing the typical troubles of any new aircraft: engines, exhaust systems, radars, defrosting systems, and fuel leaks. A “maintenance control” system was installed at base level that centralized flight maintenance functions for better efficiency and permitted a crew chief and a limited number of mechanics to work on a single aircraft-they became the “owners” of the plane and were expected to know and understand all of its individual quirks and problems, thereby forestalling difficulties.

Vandenberg continued to prod LeMay, writing in September 1948 that he hoped the deficiencies noted in the Lindbergh report would be quickly addressed. After the first of the year, Vandenberg sent Lindbergh back on another inspection trip. His report was better than the previous one but not by much. He began by stating, “The actual striking power of our Air Force is much lower than its numerical strength and material quality indicate.” Lindbergh cited inadequate training and “diversion from the primary mission.” He noted examples of poor flying: “I was present on two occasions when a B-29 squadron from England turned back to its home base rather than land under instrument conditions, which were above normal minimums in the first instance and bordering on VFR [visual flight rules] below 3,000 feet in the second instance. The GCA [ground controlled approach] radar was operating.” Many B-29 crew members were “seriously concerned” because of the high accident rates in their group and inexperience of some pilots. Inadequate housing conditions remained a trouble spot, but he noted that LeMay was working on this problem. Overall, SAC still had a long way to go.

LeMay could understand these types of problems and knew that hard work, more training, and better managerial skills could handle them soon enough. Other matters were more serious and dumbfounded him. In November 1948 he wrote to Vandenberg that two dispersal bases he visited were in shocking condition and “without even primitive operational facilities such as suitable control towers, radio aids, night lighting, crash and fire equipment, etc. As we are responsible for dropping the atomic bomb, I maintain that to be unable to dispatch aircraft into and out of these fields at night during marginal weather is ridiculous.” He argued, “We must get top priority in filling the gaps in our atomic program.” It was a great help when Vandenberg put SAC and its combat efficiency at the top of his agenda, but it did not happen immediately. Not until October 1949 did the chief of staff direct that “first priority to those units comprising the Strategic Striking Force would be provided.” This move was long overdue.

For some time, airmen on the Military Liaison Committee and the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project had been complaining that the Air Force was not taking its atomic responsibilities seriously. In January 1948, Maj Gen William Kepner said the atomic energy program in the Air Force was “infirm.” He urged a service wide education program so airmen would understand the importance of the atomic mission. He also called for immediate action to “enunciate a policy giving atomic warfare an overriding priority.” Two months later, a board chaired by Gen Joseph McNarney issued a report on the subject almost brutal in its starkness. It stated that the Air Force “has not established complete strategic and operational plans for carrying out its mission of strategic atomic air warfare.” The service needed to define its primary atomic mission and make clear what forces, training, equipment, logistics support, and basing were required to carry out that mission. Taking a swipe at leadership, McNarney stated, “This can be done adequately only by the top USAF planning and intelligence staffs, with assistance as required from Air University, SAC, AMC [Air Materiel Command], the Special Weapons Group, and others as may be necessary. It is not a committee job, not a job to be deposited in any other extracurricular staff agency.” He reiterated that point: “atomic warfare must become the business of the Air Staff and the Command, not relegated to one agency such as the Special Weapons Group.” Regrettably, this report hit just as the Berlin crisis began to unfold, which was soon followed by the relief of Kenney. As a consequence, matters were still allowed to drift.

The following year another study, this one chaired by the vice-chief, General Fairchild, arrived at a similar conclusion: the central nature of atomic matters, and by extension SAC, to the Air Force mission. It was soon after this report that Vandenberg issued his statement announcing SAC was the service’s top priority. This was welcome news to LeMay and his command, but a pronouncement was only the first step.

What concerned LeMay most, and in fairness was a problem recognized by his predecessors, was that of accuracy. Crew bomb scores were inadequate and had to be improved. In a letter from General Fairchild to Kenney in mid-1948, the vice-chief had hit this point hard, noting that Airmen had become complacent about accuracy. Strategic bombing was all about putting bombs on target, but too many Airmen were reliant on atomic weapons to solve the problem for them. Fairchild argued that the paucity of atomic weapons meant a “shot-gun fashion” approach to bombing, as had been the case with ordinary bombs, would no longer work. Instead, commanders needed to think in terms of having a rifle with one cartridge and very few men; accuracy with that cartridge-the atomic bomb-was paramount. Fairchild concluded forcefully that “single bomb precision will be the measure of merit of bombing accuracy.”

LeMay agreed and was given a boost when deployments to Europe eased as the Berlin crisis ended. Instead of three bomb wings rotating to Germany and Britain, only two were required. He requested that this lightened schedule be maintained while SAC transitioned to B-36s. In addition, Arctic exercises and deployments were scaled back while the Berlin airlift was in progress and were not reinstated at its conclusion-the realization that such operations were far more difficult than anticipated was dawning on air leaders. Mapping projects also were curtailed, as were antisubmarine drills and sea searches. All of this meant that SAC could begin focusing on its primary mission, which to LeMay was bombing accurately in simulated wartime conditions. This meant that exercise targets were changed frequently, as were aim points, altitudes, and run-in headings, to prevent crews becoming too familiar with training routines and thereby gaining inflated bomb scores. At the same time, crews used detailed radar surveys of US cities as training guides. LeMay recalled these surveys as being extremely important:

The first thing we did was pick out Baltimore (the city most like European cities) and God, I don’t know how many thousands of pictures (scope pictures) we had from all directions and all altitudes and angles of Baltimore. Then you start making these plates for the trainer. You take a photograph and try to make out what the reflection is going to be like from the photographs and make a plate and compare it with the actual scope photo . . . and they kept getting better and better, so the plates were pretty good. We made a plate for all of our targets based on the photography we had or whatever information we had. Then they could make runs on their targets. Every crew had thousands and thousands of runs on his target with the information that we had, and we had a lot of photography. The Germans had photographed Russia pretty well up to Moscow, and we had all of that.

In addition, radar bomb-scoring (RBS) detachments were deployed throughout the United States using sophisticated wind-measuring instruments and radar to determine the accuracy of simulated bomb drops. The use of RBS units increased dramatically under LeMay: in 1946 SAC logged 888 radar bomb runs; in 1950 that number leapt to 43,722. These radar specialists also realized they could do more than measure results; they could assist a crew’s bombing effort. During the Korean War these teams deployed to Korea to aid B-29s on their bombing missions.

A “gross error board” was established to review the problems of bombing inaccuracy and recommend corrective action. Operational readiness tests had been instituted in early 1948, but LeMay refocused them to emphasize flying, radar bombing, the in-commission rate of aircraft, and the ability to sustain a maximum effort over a period of several days. This was the birth of the dreaded ORI-the operational readiness inspections in which teams would fly into a SAC base unannounced and tell the wing or air division commander to assume war had broken out and to execute the unit’s part of the war plan. LeMay expected every wing to score at least 90 percent on these ORIs-in 1949 only three did so, while six others rated fair, and two were deficient. Work needed to be done. In addition, the bombing competition held in June 1948 was institutionalized and held annually. Crews from each bomb group would drop a series of simulated bombs from 25,000 feet using radar. The winning crews returned home as heroes. Rivalry between the wings grew, and so did morale.

Undoubtedly, equipment problems were partly to blame for the poor bomb scores endemic throughout SAC, and LeMay directed his operations analysis division to look into the problem. As during the war, these mathematically minded problem solvers studied the situation thoroughly before concluding that radar equipment currently used was deficient; although newer versions were getting better, truly effective radars were still in the future. As a result, “we must continue to think in terms of personnel and techniques . . . and improvement henceforth will result mainly from exploitation of and concentration on many details at crew, command, and headquarters level.” The main culprit, according to analysts, was consistency. There were too many techniques and procedures being utilized by crews and instructors- SAC needed to standardize its methods. This would become a theme for the command in the years ahead.

The most significant initiative to improve SAC bombing accuracy was the Lead Crew School. LeMay had instituted such programs while a commander during World War II and decided to replicate the practice in SAC. While a division commander in England, he had noted how the crews never knew what target they were going to strike until the morning briefing. Afterwards they would scramble to prepare for the mission. The navigators and bombardiers needed more time. He began pulling certain crews aside and had them devote their entire preflight time to studying the target, its topography, landmarks, and distinguishing characteristics. That way, if weather was marginal over the target, these select crews would be better able to pick out their aiming points and targets. His technique worked; his division achieved greater accuracy, and soon the other air divisions adopted the same procedure.

In June 1949 LeMay established SAC’s Lead Crew School at Walker AFB, formerly Roswell Army Air Field, in New Mexico. There crews trained together in a standardized and uniform pattern. Each wing sent three crews to each class, where most training was in the air, although classroom academics were included. The school got off to a rocky start: half of the first class did not even graduate. Problems noted were poor aircraft maintenance on the planes-especially the radars-and crew inexperience. Although wings had been told to send their best crews, some commanders were not yet convinced of the school’s utility; they sent people who were available and not necessarily crack troops. That attitude soon changed. By the time the Lead School had moved to MacDill AFB in January 1950, it was already establishing a reputation. Each class performed progressively better, and after eight cycles, bomb scores had improved by over 50 percent. The intent was for these crews to return to their units and instruct the other crews on what they had learned, slowly but noticeably improving the performance of SAC.

In December 1949, LeMay pushed through another radical idea- spot promotions. He met with Generals Idwal H. Edwards (deputy chief of staff for personnel) and Vandenberg, convincing them to allow him to promote lead crew members temporarily “on the spot” to the next grade. Winning bomb competition crews would receive promotions as well. The intent was to improve morale, give all a heightened sense of purpose and competition, and confirm that SAC was the premier organization in the Air Force. LeMay recognized this would cause irritation within the service, so he made it clear that spot promotions would be based on merit and continued outstanding performance: “I intend to make an example of the first officer I find who has relaxed now that he has made temporary captain as a crew member.” If a crew failed a check flight, the entire crew would lose their spot promotions. The first year LeMay promoted 237 officers. In 1950 he asked for and received permission to spot-promote higher grade officers as well.

Yet, other factors outside of SAC remained sources of angst. In one of the many stories told of LeMay, during a briefing a young captain referred to the Soviets as “enemies.” The general allegedly interrupted him and said, “Young man, the Soviets are our adversaries; the Navy is our enemy.” He had some history for believing so.


China’s Expeditionary Forces and C.A.I.

In the history of China’s participation of war overseas, there were two Chinese Expeditionary Forces and one Chinese Army in India.

The first Chinese Expeditionary Force was sent from Yunnan in the spring of 1942 into Burma to participate in the defense of that country. The words “1st Route” were attached to this Expeditionary Force, as the Japanese aggressive campaign was then at the height of its fury, and it was planned that additional expeditionary forces, to be designated 2nd and 3rd Routes, would be dispatched by China to the aid of her Allies in Siam and even the South Pacific. The first force was, however, generally known to the world merely as the Chinese Expeditionary Force, the words “into Burma” being sometimes designated together. It was commanded by General Lo Cho-ying.

With the conclusion of the first Burma Expedition and the end of this mission of the first Chinese Expeditionary Force, the Chinese Army in India (C.A.I.) was created. This designation was adopted because there was no fighting in Indian territory, and an expeditionary force could not be stationed in an Allied country.

The C.A.I. was to become an important actor in the later Burma campaign which reopened the route between India and China. The New First Army, the achievements of which are recorded in this publication, constituted the major part of the C. A. I. Throughout its later activities in the successful counter-attack in Burma and until its return to China after the completion of its mission, the C.A.I. maintained its original designation.

The second Expeditionary Force sent by China into Burma was organized in 1944. This force entered Burma from western Yunnan, under the command of General Chen Cheng, and later of General Wei Lin-huang, to co-ordinate with the efforts of the C.A.I. attacking from India. The two Chinese forces eventually effected a junction at Mongyu after a brilliant campaign.

The First Force into Burma

The Pearl Harbor treachery in December, 1941, presaged a wild attempt by Japan to penetrate southwards into the Pacific. Following their capture of Singapore, the Japanese launched and intensified drive into Burma to deal a blow on our British ally and to cut off the sole surviving international route to China – the Burma Road. The combined forces of the Japanese 33rd, 55th and 18th Divisions took part in this offensive.

When Rangoon, capital of Burma, fell into Japanese hands on March 7, 1942, the Chinese Government at Britain’s request dispatched the 5th, 6th and 65th Armies, then stationed at Yunnan, into Burma – the first Chinese Expeditionary Force.

Out of this Expeditionary Force, the men of the New 38th Division and the New 22nd Division were later transferred to India to form the nucleus of the C.A.I.

The Birth of the C.A.I.

The first Burma campaign failed because of inadequacy of Allied preparedness and the lateness in the arrival of the Chinese forces. Nevertheless, during the campaign, the 5th Army inflicted a severe toll on the enemy, while the New 38th Division achieved the great feat of rescuing more than 7,000 British troops from a Japanese trap at Yenangyaung.

The withdrawal from Burma, in the face of overwhelming odds, was finally effected under great difficulties by June 8, 1942.

On June 14, 1942, a military review took place at New Delhi on the occasion of United Nations’ Day.

Advance Through Jungle

A squad from the New 38th Division represented China on the occasion, and made a plausible impression to the Allied leaders. Both British and Indian circles expressed open admiration for the Chinese achievements at the Burma expedition just concluded, and the foundations were laid for the stationing of a Chinese Army in India.

The 38th Division, which had withdrawn into Indian territory, was a month later transferred to Ramgarh for training. The division was soon joined by the New 22nd Division, originally intended to be withdrawn into Yunnan, but re-directed to India.

In August, 1942, the Chinese Army in India was officially formed. General Stilwell, Chief of staff in the China Theatre, was appointed Commander-in-Chief, with General Lo Cho-ying as his deputy.

In the spring of 1943, General Lo was transferred to a post at home. The High Command organized the New 38th Division, the New 22nd Division, and the newly created 30th Division (formed in India) into a new army – the New First Army. Lt. Gen. Cheng Tung-kuo was placed in command of the Army with Lt. Gen. Sun Li-jen as the Deputy Commander, who commanded the New 38th Division concurrently. The New 30th Division was commanded by Maj. Gen. Hu Shu, while Maj. Gen. Liao Yao-hsiang retained the command of the New 22nd Division. Artillery regiments, Engineering regiments, motor transport regiments, armored car units, anti-aircraft units, signal corps, special service units, military police units, and men and animal transportation units, either sent from home or newly organized in India, increased the strength of the Army which was subsequently further augmented by the 14th and 50 Divisions after its march into the Hukawng Valley.

The War Record in Burma

The counter-offensive in Burma really began in March 1943, when the vanguards of the New 38th Division undertook the duty of annihilating or expelling the enemy on the Indian border so that the initial engineering work on the India-Burma Road could be protected. This prelude to the actual campaign was successfully completed by the end of October, 1943, when the enemy’s 18th Division, reputed a strong force, was driven away from its stronghold. The operations at this juncture were carried out under greatest difficulties, for in addition to the obstinate enemy, our forces had to combat the reptile infested jungle, where communications were entirely underdeveloped.

On the eve of New Year’s Day of 1944, the New 38th Division successfully took Yupong Ga, and reinforcements arrived later.

By February, 1944, the New 38th Division, continuing its success, occupied Taipha Ga, while the New 22nd Division also captured Taro, and the two forces launched a combined attack against Maingkwan. The victory at Walawbum on March 9 concluded the Hukawng Valley campaign.

The enemy defense of the Mogaung Valley was aided by its geographical advantages and the Chinese progress was considerably checked by the difficult terrain. By the latter part of May, 1944, however, when a new strategy was employed we made our advance. In spite of the high water level on the river with the approach of the rainy season we succeeded in crossing the Namkawng River. This act surprised the enemy and cut off his retreat, capturing at the same time much of his supplies. The famous Battle of Seton ensued with disastrous results to the enemy. On June 16, we captured Kamaing, and on the 25th of the same month Mogaung also fell.

Simultaneous with this fighting in the Mogaung Valley, the fight for Myitkyina also raged high. A combined Chinese-American detachment, consisting of the New 38th Division, the 50th Division, and a portion of the 14th Division, with one regiment of American troops, attacked that important city. The Japanese staged a desperate defense and street fighting raged for 80 days. The city finally fell on August 4, and the first stage of the Burma counter-offensive was concluded.

During the temporary respite that followed this important victory, there were some changes in the organization and command of the Chinese Army in India. General Stilwell had been recalled to the United States and he was succeeded by Lt. Gen. Sultan, with Lt. Gen. Cheng Tung-kuo second-in-command. The Chinese Army in India was now composed of two armies – the New First and the New Sixth. The New First Army consisted of the New 30th Division and the New 38th Division. The New Sixth Army had under its command the 14th Division, the 50th Division, and the New 38th Division. General Sun Li-jen commanded the New 1st Army while General Liao Yao-hsiang commanded the New 6th.

The rainy season of Burma ended by October when C.A.I. commenced its second phase of offensive. The New 6th Army except the 50th Division which became part of the New First, had in the meantime been transferred to the home front and the New 1st Army continued its march towards Bhamo to complete the task of opening the overland road from India to China.

The siege of Bhamo reached its fiercest stage on November 17, 1944, when the Japanese resorted again to a desperate defense strategy. By December 15, enemy lines were fully penetrated, and the Chinese force pushing ahead passed Bhamo towards Namhkam. The Army was now met by the Japanese 49th Division, which had been specially transferred to Burma from Korea, only to be routed after five days of intensified combat.

Namhkam was entered by the New 30th Division on January 15, 1945. On January 27, the New 38th Division captured Mongyu, the junction between the new India Road and the former Burma Road. The following day, a ceremony was held to celebrate the junction of C.A.I. and Expeditionary Force from Yunnan, and Stilwell Road was fully opened.

To render effective assistance to our British allies fighting in lower Burma and to protect the newly opened Stilwell Road, the New First Army continued toi push southward towards central Burma. On February 20, the New 30th Division captured Hsenwi, while on March 8, the New 38th Division captured Lashio. At the same time, the 50th Division, sweeping down from Katha, also captured in succession Mwanhawn, Namtu, and Hsipaw. On March 20, Kyankme was captured, completing the chain of victories of the Chinese Army in the Burma campaign.

The campaign in Burma occupied two full years, practically all of which were fully taken up in fighting against all odds. The difficult terrain and jungle fighting will all its horrors were strenuously overcome. All these factors made up an epic episode of achievement in our military annal.

During the campaign, Chinese Army encountered the Japanese 2nd, 18th, 49th, 53rd, and 56th Divisions and the 34th Independent Brigade, as well as other special units. The enemy suffered 33,082 dead, including many ranking officers, while another 75,000 casualties were counted as wounded, and more than 300 prisoners taken. The enemy practically suffered total annihilation. Our casualties were about one-sixth of that of the enemy. Trophies which were taken included 7,938 rifles, 643 machine guns, 185 cannons, 553 motor vehicles, 453 locomotives and wagons, 67 tanks, 5 airplanes, 108 godowns, and more than 20,000 tons of metals. The area liberated cy C.A.I. was more than 50,000 square miles, in which were 646 miles of highways and 161 miles of railroads.

Chosen as the training center for Chinese Army in India, the small town of Ramgarh in the Province of Bihar soon bustled with life. The Chinese flag fluttered gaily over this part of land where Buddha was born.

Though in the winter nights the air is a bit cold, the sun remains hot all the year around. Training was usually undertaken in intense heat. Besides the daily drill by units themselves, the Army was given sunstantial training in motor driving, tank operation, artillery, anti-gas practices, signal communications, engineering, ordnance and veterinary courses.

As the ultimate mission of the Army was to recapture Burma, emphasis was placed on jungle fighting, hill and tree climbing, bridge building and similar exertions were being conscientiously gone through by both officers and men. The building up of a strong body was, of course, a primary prerequisite for all men. No time was spared in conducting a vigorous exercise as an all round activity.

Political training, morale up-lifting and general improvement on the Knowledge of the soldiers also occupied an important place in the schedule. English, Hindustani and Burmese were avidly studied in order to enable the men to cultivate a better understanding with the local people with whom they had to come in contact.

By the spring of 1943, the Army had fairly completed its training. The Burma Road had been closed for a year, and China was in dire need of a new international supply route for the importation of war supplies. The time came for launching a counter-offensive in Burma so that the supply line might be established. General Sun Li-jen, as Advance Commander, led the New 38th Division as the vanguard of the campaign. From Ramgarh the Division returned to Ledo and took up the duty in annihilating the enemy in the Hukawng Valley in order to safeguard the supply junction in India.

Ledo, a small hamlet on the edge of a primeval jungle, soon grew into a town with railroad extension from the Indian trunk lines. With the influx of troops it also became an armed camp, the operation base for launching a counter-offensive against the enemy in Burma and the springboard for an immediate campaign.

A further period of training in jungle fighting was given the New 38th Division before their actual drive into Burma.

On the path of the campaigners lay an immense tract of wild jungles and swamps infested by harmful animals, insects and brambles. Many lives had already been lost in this region during the Chinese troops’ earlier withdrawal from Burma into India. The memory of the past incited the Army to a full determination in accomplishing their task.

Eight months were spent in hewing a mountain path through this region, driving away the enemy, and allowing the engineers following in the wake of the Army to build the road.

Surmounting the almost unbelievable difficulties, the New 38th Division conquered the border jungle, and in the early winter of 1943, occupied Shingbwiyang, which served as the advance base for the push towards the Hukawng Valley.

The Hukawng Valley was one of the most strategic important areas in the Burma campaign. The 18th Japanese Division, accredited as the enemy’s “invincible” force, held sway over the area.

The Battle for Yupong Ga

The battle for Yupong Ga was the first fierce encounter in the counter-offensive in Burma. Chinese Army encountered an enemy force five times its own strength, and there was encirclement and re-encirclement of each other during the whole campaign. One battalion of the 112th Regiment was cut off from contact for 36 days, depending on supplies dropped by planes. Casualties suffered by both fighting parties were high.

On December 21, 1944, General Sun Li-jen personally led a rescue party and with courage and strategy completely routed a most obstinate enemy force, heralding other suvvesses that were to follow in the campaign. General Stilwell presented General Sun with a special pennant to commemorate this unprecedented victory.

The Battle for Taipha Ga

The enemy now entrenched himself at Taipha Ga. For the first time, the Chinese Army adopted the strategy of “swirving” fighting and divided forces to attack on all flanks. On February 1, the forces attacking the enemy’s left scored such successes that the enemy was forced to abandon his plan of defensive fighting and come out in the open, to be defeated and routed.

The Victories at Maingkwan and Walawbum

The building of the India-China Road had by this time made considerable headway, that the New 22nd Division was now able to launch forward from Ledo into the Hukawng Valley. After taking Taro in January the Division marched southwards toward Maingkwan, assisted by the 1st Tank Battalion in a joint operation. An American Regiment transferred from the South Pacific also joined in the campaign.

In the battle of Maungyang River, the 114th Regiment captured secret orders issued by the enemy and the New 38th Division was thus enabled to proceed to behind the southern lines of the enemy and cut off his retreat.

On March 4, the enemy was surprised at Maingkwan, which fell the following day.

The New 38th Division pushed on towards Walawbum, the last enemy stronghold in the Hukawng Valley. The enemy put up a stiff resistance at this point for four days, and casualties were heavy, no less than 757 corpses were left by him after the fall of the place.

With the capture of Walawbum on March 9, the campaign in the Hukawng Valley was brought to a successful end.

The Capture of Laban

Between the Hukawng Valley and the Mogaung Valley lies a 4,000-foot hill. A small path provides the only link between the two valleys. The New 22nd Division, with the Tank Corps, launched a frontal attack against the Mogaung Valley, while the New 38th Division, braving all difficulties of cliff climbing, went over to the back of the enemy.

Fourteen days’ arduous hill climbing brought the New 38th Division to a point 20 miles to the rear of the enemy, and Laban was taken immediately to cut off the enemy retreat. Meanwhile, the New 22nd Division also advanced against the enemy from the north and the two forces effected a junction at Shadazup.

Surprise Attack on Seton

The enemy took full advantage of the mountainous terrain of the Mogaung Valley in laying defense positions. The rainy season in Burma was approaching by the end of May, and advance was checked. The New 22nd Division was held by the enemy at Malakawng. General Sun Li-jen considered it necessary to employ special strategy if the Mogaung war was to be concluded before the full blast of the rainy weather. A bolder attempt to send a regiment to the rear of the enemy was made. The 112th Regiment chosen for the purpose ran the enemy blockade across the Namkawng River, and took by surprise Seton, five miles to the rear of enemy-held Kamaing on May 26. Confusion was poured into enemy ranks.

The enemy rushed reinforcements for the relief of the position, and during the fierce fighting that ensued, heavy casualties were inflicted on his troops, while the Chinese also suffered more than 300 losses.

The Forced Crossing of Namkawng River and the Capture of Kamaing

The loss of Seton sealed the fate of the enemy in Kamaing. From May 29, Zigyun on the bank opposite Kamaing was subjected to bombardment and it fell on June 9. On the morning of June 16, a forced crossing was made, the wait being occasioned by the need to obtain supplies of rubber boats. The enemy had lost his morale, and the capture was imminent.

The Fight for Mogaung City

While the 113th Regiment was still attacking Zigyun, the 114th Regiment had proceeded rapidly towards Mogaung City. By June 15, many points to the north of the city had been placed under control. At the same time, the 77th British Brigade which paratrooped into Katha two months previously was being encircled by the enemy and the Chinese came to their rescue in time. The city itself was captured after two days of hard fighting.

Enemy troops along the road from Kamaing to Mogaung still offered resistance despite the fall of both cities. They were duly taken care of.

The battle of the Mogaung Valley had been successfully concluded.

General Stilwell, in a telegram congratulating General Sun Li-jen, referred to the victory as a top-notch achievement.

The Divisional Commander of the 3rd British Indian Division congratulated General Sun and General Li-hung for the great victory, and expressed gratitude for the assistance rendered the 77th British Brigade.

Before the commencement of the battle in the Mogaung Valley, the New 30th Division of the New First Army had already been trained intoi a combattant unit. It was further reinforced by the 14th and 50th Divisions, airborne into Burma.

With the exception of the 149th Regiment of the 50th Division, the various units making up the three Divisions referred to in the first paragraph did not participate in the battle in the Mogaung Valley. They created a new battlefield for themselves.

In the latter part of April, while the fighting in the Mogaung Valley was in progress, another force consisting of the 88th Regiment of the New 30th Division, the 150th Regiment of the 50th Division, and a regiment of United States infantrymen was concentrated at Maingkwan, and pushed southeastward for a surprise attack on Myitkyina.

On May 19, the railway station was occupied for a time.

Further reinforcements arrived on May 21 from Ledo, this being the 42nd Regiment of the 14th Division.

The enemy, meanwhile, took advantage of the respite in sending for help and in consolidating his defense positions.

The combating forces were interlocked against each other from May to mid July, when the battle reached the decisive stage. On August 3, the 50th Division organized a Dare-to-Die Corps which broke down the last of the enemy’s stubborn resistance.

In the Burma Campaign, the Chinese and Americans undertook two different tasks. The first were engaged in fighting, the latter in transportation and supplies and their cooperation made success possible.

In addition to transportation and supply, the work of giving first aid was also undertaken by the service forces.

Ambulance and first aid work during the Burma Campaign was most satisfactory. From field surgeons tp field hospitals, station hospitals to base hospitals everywhere the work of giving medical attention to the needy was carried out efficiently and satisfactorily thus reducing the suffering of the wounded to a minimum.

The medical services were so satisfactory that during the Burma Campaign many soldiers returned to the front after being wounded many times over. No less than 18 men had been wounded six times. Excepting those who fell in actual fighting, a very high percentage of the wounded recovered and were fit for service after treatment.

The New First Army rested at Myitkyina for nearly two months. By October, the rainy season in Northern Burma was over, the C.A.I. launched its second major offensive. The New First Army was to launch a frontal attack on Bhamo, while the New 6th Army was to head towards Shwegu from the left. The last named post was captured on October 29, after which the New 6th Army was recalled to China Theater and the Burma Campaign thenceforth was solely undertaken by the New First Army.

From Myitkyina to Bhamo was mountainous terrain, which was helpful to the defense and provided difficulties for the attackers.

During its march towards Bhamo, the New First Army unearthed en route a stone memorial of great historical importance. It was a commemorating tablet of one of the Chinese expeditions to the district in the Ming Dynasty, and characters “Wei Yuan Ying” (Overwhelming Afar Barracks) were boldly engraved on the center of the tablet. A description of the events leading to the erection of the memorial testified to the military operations and established the strategic importance of Bhamo even in those old days.

Early in November, the New 38th Division had registered great progress in the advance. At this juncture, the Army made use of the great suspension bridge which had been built by one of the famous Chinese generals who undertook one of the expeditions into Burma during the Tsing dynasty.

The enemy made full use of the boggy nature of the terrain at Bhamo in laying his defense positions which, it was later made known, took eight months to build.

By November 16, the Chinese Army had taken the suburban regions and three of the airfields. The enemy retreated to the inner defenses within the city, and offered stiff resistance. He was immediately encircled.

Street fighting ensued and the Chinese encirclement of the enemy was gradually tightened. The city of Bhamo was completely captured on December 15. The enemy was completely wiped out, and a large booty was captured.

To commemorate this signal victory, the Allied Supreme Command in Northern Command named the road from Memauk to Bhamo the Sun Li-jen Highway, while a street in Bhamo was renamed Li Hung Road.

While the battle for Bhamo was still in progress, General Sun Li-jen ordered the New 30th Division to proceed forward beyond Bhamo, heading for Namhkam.


The Battle at Kaibtik

The enemy was given a surprise by the New 30th Division’s march on Namhkam while the New 38th Division was still fighting for Bhamo. Reinforcements were brought in hurriedly in an attempt to disperse the New 30th Division and thence to go to the relief of Bhamo. These forces, recently transferred from Korea, met the New 30th Division at the Kaibtik plateau, and the first frontal battle of Northern Burma took place.

Kaibtik is the highest salient between Bhamo and Namhkam and is of such strategic importance that its capture would be decisive in the battle for Namhkam.

After a number of battles, the enemy was completely routed, abandoning 1260 dead when they retreated by December 14.

The Crossing of the Shweli River

The approach to Namhkam is a narrow valley enclosed by mountains, and is neither easily attacked nor defended.

By this time, Bhamo had already fallen, and the forces attacking Namhkam were reinforced by two regiments from the New 38th Division.

The most eventful episode at this period of the campaign was the crossing of the Shweli River, a watercourse flanked by high cliffs offering a great risk to the undertaking.

The Capture of Namhkam

Little fighting was expected in the Namhkam Valley itself, but the problem was the securing of the mountains surrounding the valley.

After successfully crossing the Shweli River, the Chinese forces had little difficulty in breaking through enemy lines in the vicinity of Namhkam.

On the morning of December 15, the Namhkam Valley was enveloped in a thick fog. The 90th Regiment marched through the fields into the town of Namhkam, which was fully captured before noon that day.

After the capture of Namhkam, the New 38th Division did not allow the enemy breathing space, and continued to march rapidly on to Mongyu, the intersection point between the new India-China Road and the old Burma Road. The point was captured on January 27, 1945, and the historic junction of the Chinese Army in India and the Chinese Expeditionary Force from west Yunnan was effected.

The khaki-clad New First Army and the grey cotton-padded uniformed Expeditionary Force arrived at the appointed meeting place early in the morning when the ceremony was witnessed by a number of ranking Chinese and American generals. The Chinese National Flag and the Stars and Stripes were hoisted amidst the playing of the national anthems of the two countries and a salvo of gun fire.

In an address on the occasion, General Wei Li-huang referred to the junction as the most important achievement in Sino-American cooperation. The principal slogan of the day was “To Tokyo,” and the junction at Mongyu was celebrated as the prelude of the meeting of the Allies in Tokyo.

After the ceremony, the two forces parted company. The Expeditionary Force returned to China. But the Chinese Army in India had not yet completed its duties – the safeguarding of the Stilwell Road. The stalwart sons of the New First Army continued their march on Lashio.

With the junction of the Chinese armies at Mongyu, the India-China Road was cleared of the enemy. The road was officially opened and named after General Stilwell by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek.

One hundred and five vehicles participated in the ceremony for the opening of the highway – the first convoy traveling from India to China.

When the convoy passed through the Field Headquarters of the New First Army, General Sun Li-jen gave an official reception at which the guests were offered Chinese and Australian food, American cigarettes, British matches, and Indian liquor.

The official opening ceremony was held at Wanting, and presided over by President of the Executive Yuan Dr. T. V. Soong.

The opening of the Stilwell Road was soon followed by the opening of the India-China pipeline. Trucks using the highway sent supplies of arms for the improvement of the equipment of the Chinese fighting forces, while the pipeline brought into China the fuel needed for the motive power of the China war theatre. A great stride was made towards victory.

From Hsenwi to Lashio

While the enemy was cleared off from the Stilwell Road, he still maintained forces at Meng Yu and Namhakka. The New 50th and New 38th Divisions therefore continued to clear these districts of remnant enemy units, and the divisional commander of the enemy 56th Division barely escaped being taken prisoner in the engagement.

Hsenwi was captured by the New 30th Division on February 20, when the march on Lashio was launched.

The 30 odd miles separating Hsenwi and Lashio was very mountainous territory, and the progress was necessarily slow but now with the arrival of armored car units our forces were reinforced.

The old town of Lashio fell on March 6, while the new section of the town fell three days later.

From Mwanhawm to Hsipaw

The capture of Lashio completed the mission of the New 38th and the New 50th Divisions, but the 50th Division had still to effect the last act in the Burma campaign.

The 50th Division, after the Mogaung Valley campaign, was first charged with the task of affording assistance to our British Allies (36th British Division) in their attack of Katha which was successfully accomplished. The 50th Division then crossed the Irrawaddy to mop-up the remnant enemy units in that district. The battle for Mwanhawn was the fiercest engagement in this connection, and the point was captured after a series of vogorous attacks.

The 50th Division carried on its victorious march southwards and by the middle of March captured Hsipaw and on March 23 effected a junction with the New 38th Division on the Naphai Highway.

The area west of Hsipaw was virtually a British war zone but because of the swift advance of Chinese Army the British were enabled to push immediately southwards to lower Burma, leaving the Chinese forces to capture the important point of Kyaukme west of Hsipaw with which Chinese Army in India concluded its brilliant Burma campaign.

No less than six Japanese Divisions were routed by the New First Army in Burma, the casualties amounting to 100,000, with 323 taken prisoner. Trophies captured by the New First Army included 7,938 rifles, 643 machine guns, 186 cannons, 553 motor vehicles, 453 locomotives and wagons, 67 tanks, 5 planes, 108 warehouses and more than 20,000 tons of metals.

Prisoners of War  

It must be admitted that the Japanese soldier was fully imbibed with the spirit of sacrifice, which was especially demonstrated in the Saipan and Iwo Jima engagements in the Pacific where the Japanese willingly died rather than surrender. Accordingly, in the wide stretched battlefield of Burma where more than 2,000 engagements took place, only 300 odd prisoners were taken, amounting to 0.3 percent of the number of their casualties. However, a low ebb in Japanese morale was noticeable with his defeat at Yupong Ga, where the Japanese militarist hold on the rank and file began to lose his grip.

The best treatment possible was accorded the Japanese war prisoners who were subjected only to restrictions in their movements but received all the medical attention they needed. The stubbornness of these prisoners were soon won over and they were made to realize their folly in playing into the hands of their ambitious military aggressors.   The prisoners taken in Burma were ultimately transferred to internment camps kept by the Allied Command at New Delhi. Culture in Army Life   In addition to military training, spiritual training was given the Chinese Army.   During the training at Ramgarh, a campaign against illiteracy among the enlisted men was carried out.

When the men were sent into actual battle, their cultural life was not neglected. Newspapers were issued among various units.   Dramatic entertainment was also successfully carried on to benefit the men. Performances were often staged by their own members even during the progress of fighting. Motion picture squads were later also introduced as an additional recreation. The Army also undertook work in establishing good relations with the population in the war zones – a measure which proved most effective in promoting cooperation between the Army and the people.

Special Service workers of the Army visited villages to bring succour to the population suffering from the Japanese invaders. Their sympathy was soon won and they cooperated in various measures to the progress of the military operations.

The Army also took time to pay attention to the improvement of the large numbers of overseas Chinese communities in Burma. In this interaction, General Sun Li-jen was personally interested in various schemes for the betterment of the lot of the Chinese residents. After the victorious conclusion of the Burma campaign, the New First Army was assembled at Myitkyina to await orders for its triumphant return.

Towards the end of June, 1945, our Allied Air Force placed more than 30 air transports of the C-46 and C-47 models for the transportation of the New First Army back to China. The general counter-offensive in the China Theatre was to be launched, and the New First Army was to take up the task of the offensive against the enemy on the Liuchow Peninsula, to coordinate with the operations of our Allies in the Pacific.

While the New First Army was marching towards its new destination from Nanning in August, 1945, the Japanese announced their unconditional surrender. The Army was then commissioned with the new task of accepting the enemy’s surrender in the Canton area.

The Causes of Victory  

The brilliant victories scored in Burma by the Chinese Army in India were neither accidental nor sheer luck. The general conception that the success was chiefly due to the efforts of our Allies was also exaggerated. Of course, air support, efficient supply lines, and excellent first aid service by our Allies contributed much to the outcome, but the main source of success lay in the hardy fight put up by our own men.

High morale and capacity for endurance marked the principal characteristics of the C.A.I. The operations carried out over difficult terrain in northern Burma were further complicated by the roundabout movements which were employed on more than one occasion to surprise the enemy. The stamina and ability for physical endurance displayed by the Chinese troops made a great impression on the United States Medical Corps, and even on the enemy who prided his bushido.

Superior strategy and efficient command also marked the Burma campaign where the Chinese Army usually took the initiative in the engagements.

The intensive training received by the C.A.I., which was continued even during the campaign when no actual fighting took place, was another factor which ensured victory.