RÖSSELPRUNG

After 1941, the Balkans provided a much-required supply of natural resources for the Reich. One source, citing post-war reports from the Nuremberg trials, stated the Balkans provided “50% of petroleum, 100% of chrome, 60% of bauxite and 21% of Copper” for the German war machine. To protect both this vital source of resources and the lines of communication for its substantial occupation forces in Greece, Germany had some 18 Divisions in Yugoslavia, along with numerous other independent formations. This was an ulcer in the side of Germany as they sought to find troops to bolster their deteriorating position on the Eastern Front. These forces were still not sufficient to dominate the country and consequently they occupied the major urban areas and important communication nodes, while Partisan forces controlled the rugged countryside and were free to attack at will. The resulting situation for the Germans was dismal. In fact, in some areas morale was so low amongst German troops that many thought their prospects were better against the Russians and took the extraordinary move of volunteering for transfer to the Eastern Front rather than take their chances against the Partisans.

To Field Marshal Maximilian Freiherr von Weichs, who was not only the Commander of Army Group F responsible for Yugoslavia and Albania but also oversaw Luftwaffe General Alexander Löhr’s Army Group E in Greece, it was very apparent that he lacked the manpower and equipment to gain total victory in the field over the Partisan masses. The terrain was extremely well suited for guerrilla operations and very much favored the Partisans. He believed that the elimination of Tito, the personification of the Partisan movement and its center of gravity, would eliminate their will to fight. Hitler, who had personally ordered the elimination of Tito, shared this belief.

The task to locate Tito was assumed by several German intelligence organizations, including SS special operations expert Major Otto Skorzeny, operating independently on Hitler’s direct orders, and elements of the Brandenburg Division, the Abwehr’s special operations arm. The Brandenburgers had been involved on the attack on Jajce and now had their agents looking for clues as to Tito’s new location. The detailed task went to the Brandenburg Lieutenant Kirchner and his troops, and in a series of events to be discussed later, Tito and his headquarters were discovered from several sources to be in Drvar.

Planning and Preparation

Planning for the operation began in earnest. Field Marshal von Weichs signed the order on 6 May, and balancing synchronization of the operation with operational security, General Lothar Rendulic issued the Second Panzer Army order for Operation RÖSSELPRUNG two weeks later, on the 21st of May, allowing only three full days for subordinates to conduct battle procedure. Given potential security leaks in the form of Partisan agents, this was a prudent move. Rendulic, whose Second Panzer Army paradoxically did not include any panzer divisions, directed that the XV Gebirgs (Mountain) Army Corps, commanded by Lieutenant-General Ernest von Leyser, was to execute the operation.

A heavy bombardment of Partisan positions in and around Drvar by Fliegerführer Kroatien (Air Command Croatia) aircraft was to precede a parachute and glider assault by 500 SS Fallschirmjäger Battalion whose task it was to destroy Tito and his headquarters. Concurrently, XV Corps elements would converge on Drvar from all directions, in order to linkup with 500 SS on the same day, 25 May 1944. Speed, shock and surprise were key for the paratroopers of 500 SS to accomplish their mission.

500 SS Fallschirmjäger Battalion was a relatively new unit. It was formed in the autumn of 1943 by direction of Hitler’s headquarters for the purpose of performing special missions. Sometimes referred to as a penal unit, it included many volunteers but for the most part initially, the enlisted ranks came from ‘probationary soldiers’. These were soldiers and officers who were serving sentences for minor infractions of a disciplinary instead of a criminal nature, imposed in the draconian environment of the Waffen SS. Dishonored men of all ranks of the SS could redeem themselves in this battalion and once joined had their rank restored. The unit conducted parachute school at the Luftwaffes’s Paratroop School Number Three near Sarajevo, Yugoslavia in November and finished in Papa, Hungary, early in 1944, as the school relocated there. After training was completed the unit participated in several minor Partisan drives before returning to its training grounds on the outskirts of Sarajevo in mid-April and remained there under strict security measures. While there, the 27-year-old SS Hauptsturmführer (Captain) Kurt Rybka took command of the battalion.

Rybka received an outline of the operation on 20 May and more detailed orders the following day. Realizing there were not enough gliders or transport aircraft to deploy 500 SS in one lift, he devised a plan where 654 troops would conduct the initial assault at 0700 hours, and a further 220 would reinforce as a second wave some five hours later. The intelligence picture that was portrayed to him was based on available sources, and recent air photos were used to aid in the planning. The suspected location of Tito’s headquarters, a cemetery on dominating ground, was given the codename ‘Citadel’ and the important crossroads in town was entitled the ‘Western Cross’.

The town was to be secured by 314 parachute troops. They were split into Red (led by Rybka), Green, and Blue Groups and were based on elements of the unit’s three rifle companies. Another 354 troops, based on remaining members of the rifle companies and the heavy weapons company, were split into six assault groups for specific missions. Panther Group of 110 soldiers, the largest, was to capture Citadel and destroy Tito’s headquarters. Greifer Group of 40 soldiers was to destroy the British military mission. Sturmer Group of 50 men was to destroy the Soviet military mission. Brecher Group of 50 men was to destroy the U.S. military mission. Draufgaenger Group was to capture the Western Cross and the suspected nearby Partisan communication facility. Of the 70 personnel in Draufgaegner Group, 40 belonged to the Brandenburg Benesch Group (some of whom were Chetniks and other local Bosnians) and six came from an Abwehr detachment commanded by Lieutenant Zavadil. These attachments were given specific intelligence collection, translation and communication tasks. Beisser Group of 20 soldiers was to seize an outpost radio station, then assist Greifer group. Finally, the second wave, base on the Field Reserve Company (basically the training company) and the remainder of the unit was to insert by parachute at 1200 hours.

For security reasons, the Battalion’s soldiers were not briefed on the operation until several hours before it was launched, but preliminary moves began on 22 May as the unit, dressed in non-descript Wehrmacht uniforms for security reasons, was transported by truck to three assembly areas, Nagy-Betskerek, Zagreb and Banja Luka. There they linked up with their Luftwaffe transport from Fliegerführer Kroatien, some of which had been brought in from France and Germany specifically for the operation. The 1st and 2nd Squadrons of Towing Group 1, and 2nd and 3rd Battalions of Air Landing Group 1, all with 10-passenger DFS 230 gliders and towed by either Hs 126 or Ju 87 (Stukas in a towing role) aircraft, would transport the glider-borne force. The 2nd Battalion of Transport Group 4, with about 40 Ju 52 transports, would deliver the parachute force. By 24 May, battle procedure was complete.

Partisan Disposition

German intelligence claimed about 12,000 Partisans were active in the area of operations, but Yugoslav sources place this number around 16,000, not including auxiliary support, schools, or members of the SKOJ (Communist Youth League of Yugoslavia). Immediately surrounding Drvar were the First (Nikola Tesla) and Six Proletarian Divisions of the First Proletarian Corps, with the Corps HQ based six kilometres to the east in Mokronoge. Of immediate concern was the Third Lika Brigade of the First Division stationed five kilometers south of Drvar in Kamenica, whose four battalions of were the most potent reaction force.

Within Drvar itself there was a mixed bag of military liaison missions, support and escort troops and both the Supreme Headquarters of the NOVJ and the Central Committee of the Yugoslav Communist Party. The Central Committee of the Communist Youth League of Yugoslavia was located in town, and had just held a congress of over 800 youths in attendance, some of whom were still in the process of departing. As well, the AVNOJ (Anti-Fascist Council of the National Liberation of Yugoslavia) had their headquarters on the outskirts of town and in the nearby village of Sipovljani there was the Partisan officers’ school with about 130 students. The Soviet Union, Britain and the United States all had military missions to Tito’s headquarters in some of the adjoining small villages. Finally, Tito’s Escort Battalion of three companies, two of which were with him, was present to provide personal protection to the Marshal and the various headquarters and missions.

Tito’s personal headquarters was initially located in a cave immediately north of Drvar and overlooked the town. When rumors surfaced that this location had become compromised, he moved his main headquarters to another cave in the town of Basasi, some seven kilometres to the west. His Drvar cave was used primarily during the day and he would return to Bastasi at night for security reasons. The location the Germans believed housed his headquarters, the cemetery at Slobica Glavica (Objective Citadel), was, in fact, sparsely manned.

Tito’s birthday was the 25th of May. On the evening of the 24th, a celebration was held in Drvar, and, due to the festivities finishing late, Tito decided to spend the night in his Drvar cave. Despite his initial concerns that caused him to relocate to Bastasi, he felt confident all would be quiet. It almost proved to be a fatal error.

The Battle

Tito, still somewhat sluggish from the previous evening’s celebration, awoke to the attack on Drvar. Operation RÖSSELPRUNG began according to plan on 25 May with a preparatory aerial bombardment of suspected Partisan location in Drvar, including the cemetery. This bombardment was to begin at 0635 hours and consisted of five squadrons of Ju 87 Stuka dive-bombers, older He 46 medium bombers, and Italian made Ca 314 and Cr 42 medium-bombers. It appears that the plan was closely followed. P-Hour began at 0700 hours. Although dense smoke from the bombardment reduced visibility, most pilots were able to orient themselves on the Western Cross and land gliders or drop their paratroops relatively close to designated objectives. Several gliders did land off course, including one in front of the main headquarters cave in Bastasi, where members of the Escort Battalion immediately killed the occupants before they could exit. Between two and four others landed in Vrtoce and the occupants had to fight their way into Drvar. German sources claim the parachute jump was made at 60 to 75 metres above ground level, but pictures taken from the ground of the jump indicate the it was somewhat higher.

Once on the ground, the Fallschirmjägers quickly seized control of Drvar. Panther Group, supported by Red Group, rapidly overcame token resistance at the cemetery and Rybka established battalion headquarters behind its walls. The only forces of consequence located there were the crews manning three anti-aircraft machine guns, of which two escaped. Needless to say, neither Tito nor his headquarters were found. Greiffer and Brecher Groups came up empty handed as the British and American missions were not present in their accommodations. Elements of Sturmer Group landed in a field immediately south of the cave and came under fire from Escort Battalion members positioned in the high ground surrounding Tito’s location. The most intense fighting was with Draufganger Group in the area of the Western Cross who assaulted what they believed to be the Partisan communications center, but was in fact the office building for the Communist Party’s Central Committee. After intense close quarter combat against fanatical resistance, the building was basically leveled with satchel charges.

Also subject to very fierce fighting were Blue and Green Groups, who were attempting to establish a cordon in the eastern part of town, where most of the population was located. Although not mentioned in German reports, Yugoslav accounts proudly cite a Partisan counter-attack by four captured Italian CV-34 tanks. Not inflicting any noteworthy damage, three tanks were quickly disabled and the remaining one escaped to Bastasi. Also creating a problem for the Germans, especially in the more populated areas, was resistance from the members of the Communist Youth League of Yugoslavia who remained in Drvar and whose enthusiasm in taking up arms (whatever were available) against the attackers could explain some accounts of spontaneous uprisings.

Immediately upon realizing the nature of the attack, the candidates from the officers’ school marched to the sound of gunfire. Armed with only pistols and the odd rifle, they split into two groups. The smaller group crossed to the north side of the Unac River and advanced west along the rail line with the aim of protecting Tito’s headquarters. The larger group, bolstered by the retrieval of several misdirected drops of German ammunition and arms, attacked Green and Blue Groups in their eastern flank beginning at approximately 0800 hours. Although the officer candidates suffered severe casualties, the pressure of their attack on this flank was maintained throughout the day.

By about 0900 hours, the Germans had secured the majority of Drvar, but they still had no trace of Tito. Before the operation, every Fallschirmjäger was issued with a picture of him[36] and they now went door to door, brutally questioning those civilians they could find. There are many Yugoslav based stories of German atrocities against the civilian population at this point in the battle, including herding people into houses to be burned alive, but it is difficult to determine where the Germans would find the time to do this based on the influence of other events.

By mid-morning it became apparent to Rybka that Partisan resistance was concentrated to the north in the area of the headquarters cave. He surmised that there must be something to protect in this area, and if Tito was in Drvar this would be his likely location. Launching a red flare as a pre-arranged signal, he rallied his soldiers for an attack on the new objective. Around 1030 hours he launched a frontal attack across the Unac River, supported by at least one MG-42 medium machine gun firing into the mouth of the cave. They made it as far as the base of the hill leading up to the cave, less than fifty metres from its mouth, before being repulsed. The Fallschirmjägers from 500 SS, already parched from a lack of water, had suffered severe casualties.

Concurrent with the mounting and execution of this attack, more Partisan forces were beginning to converge on Drvar. From the west and southwest came three of the battalions of the Third Brigade of the Sixth Lika Division. One battalion attacked directly towards the German position at the cemetery while the other two swung around to the west through Vrtoce to hit the Germans in the western flank with a view to relieve pressure on the cave area.

At approximately 1115 hours, during a lull in the fighting and after the attack had been repulsed, Tito managed to escape from the cave. This act has been inaccurately described in many accounts. After the first attack failed, Tito, escorted by several staff, climbed down a rope through a trap door in a platform at the mouth of the cave. He then followed a small creek leading to the Unac River, then diagonally climbed the heights to the east of the cave, a route which would provide cover for most of the way. From the Klekovaca ridge overlooking Drvar, he began his withdrawal east to Potoci.

1200 hours was P-Hour for the reinforcing second wave of 220 Fallschirmjägers who jumped in two groups just to the west of Objective Citadel. Their drop zone was situated within Partisan fields of fire and thus the wave suffered many casualties as they hit the ground. Newly armed with the remaining reinforcements, Rybka attempted another assault, but by now the pressure on his flanks was too great and the attack again floundered. Fighting continued throughout the afternoon with both sides taking heavy casualties. By late afternoon Rybka, realizing that the capture of Tito was improbable at this point and that the linkup with ground forces would not happen as planned, ordered a withdrawal. He initially planned to have a defensive perimeter encompassing both the cellulose factory and the cemetery, but after realizing the extent of his casualties and his consequent inability to hold the large perimeter, he reduced his defensive position to include just the cemetery. At about 1800 hours, while withdrawing under fire, he was injured by a grenade blast and was out of the battle.

The withdrawal to the cemetery was done under considerable pressure. At least one group of Fallschirmjägers was cut-off and wiped out. By about 2130 hours, the remnants of the Battalion had consolidated in the cemetery. Partisan forces had the remnants of 500 SS completely surrounded. Throughout the night attacks against the German position continued. The fourth battalion of the Third Lika Brigade, which had arrived later than the other three and been kept in reserve, was launched with the remnants of the other three battalions against the cemetery. Elements of the Ninth Dalmatian Division joined the attacks at some point during the night, increasing the pressure. The Fallschirmjägers continued to hold their ground, but casualties were mounting. At 0330 hours the final Partisan attack was launched, breaching the cemetery wall in several locations, but the German defence held.

Throughout the day, the progress of the converging elements of XV Mountain Corps was not as rapid as had been planned. Unexpected resistance from I, V, and VIII Partisan Corps along their axis of advance greatly hindered their movement. Most post-operation reports cite extremely poor radio communications amongst the different elements, causing a plague of coordination difficulties. It would also appear that Allied aircraft, based in Italy, attacked the linkup forces with several sorties throughout the day, however air support from the Luftwaffe was also present throughout. In fact, an unarmed Fiesler Stork reconnaissance plane, initially intended to whisk Tito away once taken, was able to land and extract casualties, including Rybka.

After the last attack failed to penetrate the German defences and knowing that relief in the form of XV Mountain Corps was on the way, Tito ordered the Partisan forces to withdraw, and then made good his escape. Escorted by elements of the Third Krajina Brigade, he first went to Potoci, where he met up with a battalion from the First Proletarian Brigade, and, after discovering German troops in force in the area, made his way to Kupres. In the Kupres Valley, a Soviet Dakota aircraft stationed at a Royal Air Force base in Italy and escorted by six American Aircraft picked him up on 3 June and took him to Bari, Italy. On 6 June, a Royal Navy destroyer delivered him to the Island of Vis, along the Dalmatian Coast, to re-establish his headquarters.

The remnants of 500 SS were to spend the rest of the night of 25/26 May in their hasty defensive positions. They received some support at 0500 hours as a German fighter-bomber formation attacked the withdrawing Partisans. At 0700 hours, the unit finally established radio contact with the Reconnaissance Battalion of the 373rd Division but physical linkup in Drvar with XV Mountain Corps did not occur until 1245 hours when the lead elements of the Second Battalion of the 92nd Motorized Grenadier Regiment arrived.

Despite not eliminating Tito, the Germans were unwilling to admit defeat and viewed this operation as a success with blind arrogance. According to a self-congratulatory report from Second Panzer Army:

“The operation against the partisans in Croatia [this area of Bosnia was included as part of Croatia at this time] enjoyed considerable success. It succeeded in 1) destroying the core region of the communist partisans by occupying their command and control centers and their supply installations, thereby considerably weakening their supply situation; 2) forcing the elite communist formations (1st Proletarian Division and the 3rd Lika Division [incorrect designation] to give battle and severely battering them, forcing them to withdraw due to shortages of ammunition and supplies, and avoid further combat (the 9th, 39th and 4th Tito Divisions also suffered great losses); 3) capturing landing fields used by Allied aircraft, administrative establishments, and headquarters of foreign military missions, forcing the partisans to reorganize and restructure; 4) giving the Allies a true picture of the combat capability of the partisans; 5) obtaining important communications equipment, code keys, radios, etc. for our side; 6) achieving these successes under difficult conditions that included numerous enemy air attacks.”

The future commander of 500 SS was even more sanguine: “Overall the operation with its jump and landing was a success. Unfortunately Tito and the Allied military delegations managed to escape.” With an understanding of the German mission, this becomes a rather contradictory statement.

The overarching intent of Operation RÖSSELPRUNG was the elimination of Tito, the man who personified the Partisan movement. To the German high command, Tito was the center of gravity for the Partisans and his elimination would greatly diminish the resolve of the movement to continue. “Tito is our most dangerous enemy,” Field Marshal von Weichs was to claim before the operation. Despite the words of praise, the costly operation only netted the Marshal’s uniform, in for tailoring, a Jeep, which was a gift from the American mission, and three British journalists, one of whom later escaped. Even the intelligence information gathered, contrary to the above report, was not of much use. When the operation failed to eliminate Tito, it failed to achieve its underlying intent for being launched, and thus by no stretch can be considered to have achieved its purpose.

Ironically, Tito’s dramatic escape further solidified his deity-like stature amongst the Yugoslav population, and became part of the mythology surrounding this cult of personality. Although NOVJ headquarters, along with several other Partisan organizations, had their operations temporarily disrupted and several higher level personnel killed, they were quick to recover and set up in different locations. Drvar reverted to Partisan control within weeks.

Many accounts of `Rösselsprung’ state that SS-Fallschirmjäger-Bataillon 500 was `destroyed’ in the fighting, claiming that of the 874 men that had landed at Drvar only some 200 survived fit for service at the end of the battle, but this assertion needs to be differentiated. According to official German after-action figures dating from June 10, the battalion had 61 killed, 114 seriously and 91 lightly wounded and 11 missing, making for a total of 277 casualties. An earlier report from June 7 quoted even lower figures: 50 killed, 132 wounded and six missing, i. e. a total of 188. Even if one allows for the casualties suffered by the attachments (of the 36 glider pilots five had been killed and seven wounded; of teams Zawadil and Benesch two men had been killed and 24 wounded, etc) this is far from the reputed 650 casualties.

It continued throughout the rest of the war as the sole SS parachute unit, with its designation later changed to 600 SS Fallschirmjäger Battalion, but Operation RÖSSELPRUNG was to be its only combat jump of the war.

US Army at Anzio: The Long Wait I

Of the six German divisions that had been in the Albano road salient February 19, 1944, none was fit for further offensive action. Fighting—bitter, bloody fighting—continued, but now the German High Command had no real hope of destroying the Anzio beachhead. Along the perimeter some of the action was dramatic and bloody.

On February 16, Lieutenant Colonel Laurence C. Brown’s 2nd Battalion, 157th Infantry, 45th Division, had held a front some fifteen hundred yards wide astride the Albano road south of Carroceto. The first waves of the massive German attack overran both flanks of the battalion. All contact with adjacent units was lost. In this situation, some units would have considered surrender.

But not Colonel Brown’s 2nd Battalion, 157th Infantry. It was in rugged terrain—ground with a series of caves to the west. Brown ordered a withdrawal into the caves, and there 2nd Battalion began a fight for its life.

Sergeant Booth Rawlings, former Pennsylvania State Trooper, got into the Battle of the Caves by accident. An MP, he had been on the road, checking stragglers, when Germans had punched through on each side, and there had been nothing else to do but retreat into the caves with the 2nd Battalion. Now, sighting his rusting M-1 rifle down the ravine his squad covered, he was wondering how the devil they were going to hold out much longer.

A medium-sized, straw-haired man of twenty-five, with a serious face and a competent, deliberate way of moving, he was glad he wasn’t married, because he didn’t think many of these men besieged in the caves were going to get out. Wave after wave of Krauts had been pouring against the battalion—the Germans knew better than to leave a strong force in their rear—and it had been a bad three days. Once, when the 1st Armored attack disrupted the enemy, they had gotten the wounded out. But then the steel ring had closed about them again. He rubbed his bearded face, feeling the rain mist drip from his dirty fingers. He had fifteen rounds for his M-1, and when those were gone, that was it.

With the weather like it was, there was no hope of aerial supply either.

With a scrape of boots, his squad sergeant, Jorrie, sank down beside him, squinting down the ravine. “They’ll be back, after dark,” Jorrie grunted. The Krauts had learned they couldn’t barge in against American positions in daylight, but when the light failed . . . Jorrie took off his helmet, ran a hand over his filthy, matted straight hair. He was a dark-eyed, weather-beaten man, part Indian. “Rawlings, if I catch one, you’re to take the squad—”

“Nuts,” Booth said. “I’m no infantryman.” He moved his wet legs, groaning at the discomfort of lying in a shallow hole in the hard, cold ground.

“Hell you’re not,” Jorrie grunted. “You’re a sergeant, and you been here three days. If you weren’t a good dogface, you’d be dead. I cleared it with the lieutenant.”

“Okay,” Booth said. “But don’t go wishing trouble on me.”

“Not likely,” Jorrie said, with a tight smile, and moved off. Like Booth, he was beat, hungry and miserable, but he was not whipped yet. “Don’t give out no tickets now,” he called back.

It was growing dark now, and night was the bad time. Booth had trouble keeping his eyes open. He kept seeing things—rocks and bushes seemed to move; he saw shadows where there were none.

Whisk-whish-whish-bram! Bram!

Kraut mortars, softening up the area again. Day or night, the Krauts kept lobbing mortars in. And the mortars were the things that got you, if you weren’t careful. If they spotted you, they could drop a mortar shell in your hip pocket.

Booth huddled deeper in his rocky pit. Pretty soon now, Krauts would be pouring up this ravine, Schmeissers ready, and—what was that?

He heard a rifle bolt click in the next hole. Over there, PFC Jungmann had heard it, too. He took the safety off his own piece. Okay, you bastards—

Someone was coming up the ravine, scuffling and banging.

Booth aimed carefully into the darkness. When you had only fifteen rounds, you had to let them get close. Now!

“Hold it, Yank! British officer—British officer!” the words rang anxiously along the ridge. “Hold your fire, Yanks—British troops coming in!”

Thank God, Booth thought. General Templar has sent help.

The young English subaltern crawled up to him, grinning in the murk. “Leftenant Murff, 2/7 Queens. My men are coming in behind there.”

Booth could have kissed him. “Get your men up here quick, Lieutenant. The Krauts are about to start something—they’ve been mortaring us—”

That was the moment the Krauts chose to attack with everything they had. The dark was split by gunfire, the red flame of shell bursts, the scream of bullets. Halfway into the American lines, the British battalion was in no position to fight.

“For God’s sake, come on!” Booth yelled. “Move! Move!” By ones, twos and sections, the British infantry raced past his hole, moving deeper into the caves area. But back in the direction from which they came, a big fire fight flared. The British officer, who lay beside Booth, looked back anxiously.

“Jerry’s hit us in the rear—”

But Booth was firing down the ravine. He hoped they were Krauts—but when men shot at him, he could take no chances. Brrp-Brrp!

They were Krauts, all right. The British Stens and Brens made a different sound.

Crack! crack ! The whole squad opened up, and in the gulley a man screamed shrilly.

It was a bad hour. But while the fire fight raged along the whole perimeter, the 2/7 Queens came in. At last, the Krauts broke off their assault, but their shelling continued.

A British sergeant crawled up to Booth. Jorrie had disappeared during the fire fight, probably hit. “You’re to pull out, Yanks,” the Britisher said.

An American officer crawled along the line. “Let’s go,” he called. “One fifty-seven’s pulling out. We’re relieved, men. Turn over your weapons to the British—they lost all their supply and mortars, coming in. Give your food and ammo, too. They’re staying, to cover us.”

“Hell,” Booth Rawlings said. One of the British non-coms had told him a hundred men of the 2/7 Queens were missing after the link-up. “These poor bastards are in as bad a shape as we are.”

“Orders,” the officer snapped. “We’re taking the wounded, too.”

Booth was surprised at how few American dogfaces there were. Over eight hundred men had gone into the caves, he knew. Now only a little over two hundred were coming-out. And half of these were hospital cases, by any standard you used.

Limping, crawling, fighting, decimated but unconquered, 2nd. Battalion of the 157th came out of the caves, reaching their own lines the night of February 22. They brought the injured with them, while the British covered the withdrawal.

Once, bringing up the rear, Booth Rawlings looked back. He was wondering how the British were going to get out.

Later, he learned the British never did get out. General Templar ordered the 2/6 Queens, the 2/7’s sister battalion, to resupply the trapped unit. But they couldn’t get through—the Germans had tightened the ring.

After dark February 23, the Krauts overran two of the 2/7’s companies. Its colonel called a conference. “We’ve had it, lads. Break up into small groups, make it back the best way you can—and good luck.”

Less than half the surviving members of 2/7 Queens made it back.

The Battle of the Caves was over. A long time later, when Booth Rawlings pinned on the blue and gold Presidential Unit Citation Badge, awarded to all who had been with 2nd Battalion in the caves, he was thinking of the men of the 2/7 Queens, who had stayed behind.

He never heard whether the men who survived got anything or not.

Now, across the Anzio perimeter, fighting died in intensity. On February 29, the Germans again pushed out from Cisterna, against the 3rd Division. The attack struck a brick wall, failed. The Allies had no strength, however, with which to counterattack.

The battle of Anzio was still stalemated.

During the evening of February 22, 1944, while the 2nd Battalion, 157th Infantry, was being relieved by the 2/7 Queens, General Mark Clark, Fifth Army Commander, called the Deputy Vl Corps Commander to his CP, which was in the cellars of Prince Borghese’s villa at Anzio. The square-jawed Truscott reported calmly.

Abruptly, Clark said, “You are to relieve General Lucas as Corps Commander tomorrow morning.”

Truscott frowned. He reminded Mark Clark of what he had said earlier, that he didn’t want the corps. He said, “The situation is more stable now. Relieving Lucas may have an unfortunate effect on other officers. Lucas has a host of friends, and they may feel he is being sacrificed to British influence. They could come to think that they’ll be thrown to the wolves, too, if they get in difficulties.”

Clark listened patiently, then said, “The decision is already made. But Johnny Lucas is also a friend of mine, and I’m going to see to it that he is not hurt. I’m going to appoint him Deputy Army Commander, for the time being.”

There was nothing for Truscott to do, but return to his quarters with the knowledge that he would soon be in command of the beachhead.

Clark sent for Lucas and told him: “I can no longer resist the pressure from both Alexander and Devers.”

Alexander wanted Lucas relieved, not because of his failure to take the Alban Hills, but because Alexander thought him exhausted and defeated, and General Devers thought him tired. The relief was without prejudice.

Lucas was deeply hurt. What bothered him most was that he thought, not without truth, that he was winning something of a victory. Subdued, he returned to his quarters.

Immediately, Truscott reported to Lucas to express his regrets. Lucas greeted him warmly; he had nothing against Truscott. But Lucas was bitter toward Clark, and he blamed his relief upon the British.

This last visit between Truscott and Lucas was for Lucian Truscott one of his saddest experiences of the war. A few years later, Major General John P. Lucas would die, worn-out and bitterly hurt.

Generals, as well as privates are casualties of war.

Now Truscott was in command at Anzio, and he was one of the finest fighting generals in the Army. He took charge at once, and from this moment forward, he planned only for the breakout, for only on that day would the Anzio operation justify its cost.

But a breakout from Anzio had to be coordinated to coincide with a breakthrough on the southern Italian front. The two fronts had to link. And in the south, Graf von der Schulenberg’s fanatical German paratroops still clung to a place called Cassino, and General Fridolin von Senger had not withdrawn Hitler’s order that the Gustavstellung be held to the last.

At Anzio, the long wait began. In many ways, this was the worst period of all for the men on the bloody beachhead. German artillery massed. Heavy guns were dug into the slopes of the Colli Laziali, from where they ranged any gun on the beachhead. Two great 280-mm. railroad guns—”Anzio Express” or “Anzio Annie”—were brought up, and fired from railway tunnels near Campolene and Castel Gandolfo. No single inch of the beachhead was safe from German shellfire.

The Luftwaffe still had teeth. Nightly, there came the drone of planes, the crump of exploding bombs.

Men continued to die.

PFC Corey Hamilton, big and strong and blue-eyed, nineteen years old and not mad at anybody, arrived on the Anzio beachhead as a replacement the first week in March, 1944. The large-scale fighting might be over, but Corey, sent to help fill the frightful gaps in the 45th Division, soon learned that, in its way, position warfare can be the most horrible of all.

Along a twenty-mile perimeter, Germans and Allies faced each other, and neither side was happy about the other’s being there.

All ten of the replacements who had come in with Corey were sent to Lieutenant Howie Cresap’s platoon, which held a small area that had been swampland before Mussolini drained the Pontine Marshes. Now the swamp was coming back.

That first day, when Technical Sergeant Musko, the platoon sergeant, brought them to Cresap’s bunker, the platoon leader had set them straight. Cold, wet, scared and miserable in the rain, they had listened to his no-nonsense briefing.

Cresap was a well-muscled young man, brown-eyed, firm-chinned and up from the ranks. He spoke in a slight Southwestern accent. The gold bar on his collar, like the crossed muskets on the other side of the OD shirt, was a musty green. But he was clean-shaven, and his manner crisp.

He showed them the platooon area, pointing his finger down the gullies, across the bare, blasted earth. “Our lines run along here, and here, across to there. See those buildings up ahead? The Krauts are in them. From there, and from their OPs up on those hills, the Alban Hills, they can see you anytime you get out of a hole. Got that?”

The replacements got it. Now they understood why everyone at Anzio walked bent over, scuttling along like scared crabs. “The Anzio Gait,” they called it. You never knew when a Kraut OP had you spotted, or a round was coming in—you only knew that sooner or later one would come in.

“The war’s bogged down here,” Cresap continued in his precise manner. His uniform was stained and filthy, and there were huge shadows under his eyes. But though he looked like an old man, he was only a little older than Corey Hamilton’s nineteen years. “We hold our lines, the Krauts hold theirs. We patrol, so do they. The one thing we can’t do is sit on our asses. The water table is high here, only a foot or so under the ground. This is bad for trench foot, but it is good in that it keeps us mobile, on our toes. We can’t dig deep holes or build fancy trenches to hide in. And we’ve got to stay mobile, because sooner or later, we’ll get orders to attack. When we start next time, we won’t stop.”

Cresap had paused a moment, blinking his bloodshot brown eyes wearily. Then they were sharp again. “Men, for crissakes, watch your feet. We’ll get fresh socks up to you two or three times a week. Be careful. Listen to your squad sergeants; they know the score. In the meantime, remember you’re members of the best damn platoon in the best damn company in the best battalion in the Army! Now get lost.”

Later, Moody, a tall, rangy Texan, and Corey’s best friend, had asked their squad leader, Gumpertz, “This Lieutenant Cresap a pretty good Joe?”

And Staff Sergeant Gumpertz, a bearded wrinkled, old man of twenty-eight, who had three children back in Wisconsin, spat. “Who gives a good crap? He knows his job, and you can thank God for that. What you want out of an officer is that he knows his business. The hell with the rest of it. That good Joe stuff goes with the rear echelons. They got things to worry about other than stayin’ alive.” Gumpertz spat again, and shook his head. “An officer can’t cut the mustard, he don’t last long up here. Me, I wouldn’t be an officer for anything they could give me.”

Years later, Corey Hamilton remembered that. After the war, when the Doolittle Board was meeting, he noticed one thing: the men who were complaining about the caste system never came from the front line companies. When an officer lay in the same dirty water you did, and took twice the chances, because he had to move about, what kind of a caste system was that?

Gumpertz assigned Moody and Corey to positions in the squad, which meant they each got a hole, half-full of icy water.

So began two weeks of hell for PFC Corey Hamilton, Rifleman, 45th Division.

Corey, big and strong and blue-eyed, had played football in high school before his mother had made him quit. He had a tough, resilient body, and he had a steady nature, not the kind to get upset easily. He was to find a strong body and a mind that did not anger quickly were not enough. Not if you were only nineteen and had never had it tough before.

The first trouble came his first week, when the squad had scouted across the ravines, close to the German lines. A limited attack, just to keep the Krauts honest, Lieutenant Cresap had said. Corey had been scared as hell when he fixed his bayonet, but Moody, the lean, dark kid from Amarillo, grinned at him.

“Just a turkey shoot, Corey, old lad,” the green-eyed Texan drawled. “Only difference, you can’t eat Krauts, even with sauerkraut.”

Nothing seemed to bother Moody, though Corey thought his face was pale, too, when they set out, after dark.

They followed Gumpertz into the gullies, stepped carefully across a small feeder creek. The fringe of brush that shielded the creek was blasted and torn; a lot of shell fire had churned this area.

Then they crawled on their hands and knees over the ridges, until they came in close to the German lines. They could hear men talking over there, in low voices. Corey heard a man laugh, deep-toned and natural.

Then Gumpertz, watching Lieutenant Cresap, waved his arm. The second squad, which was to be the base of fire, opened up on the Krauts, the BAR and M-1s, filling the night with strident noise. Behind Gumpertz, Moody and Corey and the other men crowded forward.

Blam! A German fired at Corey from a hole just in front of him. Orange-lavender streaks split the night in all directions. Somewhere, the deep-voiced Kraut was bellowing orders.

“Let ’em have it!” Gumpertz screamed. His rifle flamed again and again, from the hip. Then he wavered in the darkness, fell over.

Corey saw the indistinct shape of the German running toward Gumpertz. He saw the Kraut lift his bayoneted rifle, saw the faint gleam of the steel as it came down.

Gumpertz, as the steel pierced him, made a terrible, anguished sound. Corey, standing with his rifle in his hands, could not move. He could only stare, sickly, stupidly.

The German wheeled toward him, the bayonet, not gleaming now, whipping forward viciously. Then the Kraut cried out and went over on his back. Beside Corey’s head, Moody’s rifle blast had almost taken an ear off.

“Get in those Kraut holes!” Moody yelled. He disappeared into the ground, began firing into the demoralized German squad from the side. Corey tumbled after him, his rifle gripped in shaking hands. But he could not shoot. It never occurred to him to shoot.

Then, Lieutenant Cresap’s whistle blast cut through the firing. “Let’s make tracks!” Moody snapped. He leaped up out of the hole, bent over Gumpertz. “Dead,” he said angrily. “Corey, you take him—he’s too big for me!”

US Army at Anzio: The Long Wait II

Ernie Pyle with a tank crew from the 191st Tank Battalion, US Army at the Anzio Beachhead in 1944.

Corey carried Gumpertz back, losing his rifle in the process. All the way, Gumpertz’ blood ran down Corey’s neck, under his OD shirt, until his whole torso was stained and reeking.

When they got back into their own lines, another man besides Gumpertz had been wounded. This man sat holding his stomach, moaning, while the blood bubbled through, until the medics came and carried him away.

Corey vomited for a full five minutes, before he could go back to his hole. Then he went back without his rifle, and Cresap gave him a real chewing out over that.

A few nights later, the Krauts came to pay them back. Suddenly a wave of men burst out of the ravine, screaming and shooting and hurling long, potato masher grenades. For a minute, even though they had been ready, it was touch and go for Howie Cresap’s platoon.

This time Corey fired his rifle. He saw the dark, fuzzy shape of a lean German soldier blown backward by the blast, heard the man crawling about and crying out in the darkness. When the, attack had been beaten off, the German raiders melting into the night under the savage hammering of the platoon’s weapons and the artillery they had called down, the man Corey had shot continued to scream and moan out in front of the platoon position. Cresap’s men didn’t care—they had five of their own wounded to care for.

The German continued to cry out sporadically all night. None of them knew German, and they didn’t know what he was saying. About an hour before dawn, he died, and the front was quiet.

That day, sweeping the area, Corey found his bullet had blasted away the attacking German’s genitals, tearing, a deep hole in his crotch. Before he died, the German had bit his thin lips to bloody shreds.

At that moment, in Corey Hamilton, Rifleman, something gave way.

The first time you saw a man get it, something happened to you. Especially if you had never seen death before. Inside a man there are a lot of little dams. It takes a great deal to break them all down, if the man is solid to begin with. But cold helps, and hunger, and misery, and lack of sleep. And fear. Fear helps most. And each time you see a man get it, a new little dam bursts, and you are closer to the rawness that is inside every man.

In some men, these dams are stronger than in others. They take longer to break, but if they do, there is nothing left to hold the man together.

The rain fell. The holes were always full of water. Food was C rations, cold and greasy, and who wanted hash for breakfast? And it was always cold.

Day and night, the platoon was shelled. H & I, they called it—harassment and interdiction. Both sides fired it from dark to dawn. How much interdiction was done was anyone’s guess—but there was no doubt about the harassment.

Sleep Corey forgot about. Until he could doze off standing up, in the rain, with his feet in dirty water. After a few days, he found he could. And then he worried, because if he went to sleep at the wrong time, he might never wake up.

There was fear. On line, every man is afraid, has been afraid, or will be afraid, except the liars. Fear, insidious, acid, too-long prolonged, does things to a man, in time.

And men died. Not many, but one here, one there, and always bloodily, brutally, in pain and fear. Mostly, it was the new men, the replacements. The old men, the veterans, had lived to learn that sixth sense which now permitted them to survive. They heard the click as a mortar round went into its tube over there; they hit the ground a split second sooner. They never forgot to keep heads down. The ones who couldn’t learn died.

The new squad leader, Quitman, put Moody and Corey on outpost, out in front of the main platoon position, Corey’s fourteenth day on line.

Their foxholes were a few yards apart. Corey could see Moody’s indistinct shape in the dark, though they could not talk. If they heard anything, it wouldn’t be dark long. One call to the artillery would douse the area with parachute flares.

God, Corey thought, I’m sleepy! I got to keep my mind on something, so I can stay awake. One of the fellows in the third squad had showed him how to rig up a bayonet under his chin, so that the point pricked him when he nodded. But Corey hated the sight of a bayonet. He could still hear Gumpertz’ scream, feel his warm blood down his back. He shuddered.

He didn’t seem able to think about girls any more, and vaguely, this worried him.

Back at Benning, even when his young body was tired from slogging along Hour Glass Road and Black Hawk Trail, at night he dreamed of women. Hell, he even thought of girls while he was running the obstacle course!

He tried to think of Elizabeth, his girl back home. It was hard to think of her—even though he had her letters in his pocket. Her letters, when they came, now and then, were nuttier than ever. I don’t mind your not making OCS, she had written, because privates do all the fighting, anyway. You know dear, you have never said anything about medals—have you won any yet?

Corey Hamilton felt giddy. He shook his head to clear it.

He remembered his mother’s last letter. Don’t get your feet wet, you know how it always gives you a cold.

It had been a mistake, writing his mother. Now he had her all worried, because he had said it rained a lot. If she were here, she’d be raising hell. She had always raised hell, with his Dad, with the high school principal, with the dean at college before the draft got him. He wondered idly how much hell Lieutenant Cresap would take, if his Mom got hold of him. Not very much, he decided.

Pop! A flare burst whitely, throwing wavering light over the blighted area across the gully. Somebody was nervous in the next platoon. Buckabuckabuckabuck. That was a friendly machine gun; the Kraut guns had a higher cyclic rate.

He thought of Elizabeth, her firm, tanned skin against white sheets, holding a bottle of fresh milk. He wondered which he’d take first, the fresh milk or Elizabeth, then decided he’d just go to sleep on the clean sheets.

Then he thought about his mother coming out here to raise hell with Howie Cresap, and he started to laugh. He laughed, and laughed, until he felt a tear trickle down his fuzzy cheek.

Mrs. George Hamilton couldn’t do much about Lieutenant Cresap. She might push Dad around, but not the lieutenant!

Spang!

There was old Joe, the friendly sniper, again. That lousy Kraut had been trying to plug somebody for a week. Corey hadn’t heard the bullet pass, so he must have shot at Moody. Corey hunched lower in his hole, shifting his numb feet in the icy water.

He wished he could take off his boots, but he knew he’d never get his feet back in them again. Change your socks, his mother had said. What the hell good does that do, Mother, since I have to put my feet back in the water again? Huh?

He began to laugh again, this time out loud.

That was pretty good; he’d have to tell it to old Moody.

Moody would get a kick out of it; Moody, with his drawl, and his calm, cool, green eyes, was quite a boy. Nothing ever bothered Moody—Moody said that was because of the inherent superiority of Texan manhood.”

“Hey, Moody,” he whispered. “You awake?”

Moody didn’t answer. In the dark, Corey could see Moody’s head leaning forward, his chin blending into the front of his dirty field jacket.

Corey sloshed out of his hole and crawled the six yards to Moody’s position. He grabbed Moody’s shoulder. “Hey!”

Moody’s head fell forward. Even in the murky light, Corey saw the gaping ruin where Moody’s jaw had been, the white teeth gaping skull-like from the frothy horror. The sniper’s bullet had ripped most of the lower face away.

Inside Corey Hamilton, Rifleman, the last tiny dam broke, all at once. He ran screaming and crying all the way back to the platoon.

Corporal Bran Brainerd, a small man with a pug nose and tough, lined face, brought the big fellow, Hamilton, to the aid station. He was thinking, If they’d shoot a few more of these damn psychos, there wouldn’t be so many around.

“Come on,” he snapped. His rough voice was out of the southern Indiana hills, and he moved with a farmer’s deliberate gait.

The big fellow just looked at him. But at least he had quit bawling. Brainerd shoved him inside the dugout that served as battalion aid station. They said that Hamilton had sat at the company CP for a solid hour, bawling and raising hell over someone called Moody.

“Another one for you, Doc,” Bran said to the first lieutenant, who was drinking a steaming cup of coffee. You didn’t have to worry about medical officers; they didn’t give a damn about rank, like some officers Bran knew.

The surgeon moved forward. “Where are you hit, son?”

“He ain’t,” Brainerd said. “He’s a damn faker.”

The doctor took the big man’s shoulder, wheeled him over to the light of the Coleman lantern. He took something and looked into the big blond kid’s eyes.

The kid wouldn’t say anything at all.

“How long’s he been on line? You know?” The medical officer snapped at Brainerd. “Is he brand-new, or has he been around?”

“I remember when he come in. About two weeks ago,” Bran told the medic.

The young surgeon rubbed his face. “Combat-induced,” he muttered. “Well, you don’t get much of the other kind up here—the men who were psychoneurotic when they came in the Army get weeded out in training.”

“Well, does he get a Section Eight?” Bran asked.

The doctor looked at Bran sharply. “He’ll be all right. All he needs is rest. I’ll send him back to the port hospital—though God knows there isn’t much rest to be found there.”

“Ought to shoot a few of ’em, Doc,” Bran said. “They’re faking.”

The medical lieutenant said, “That’s enough, Corporal.” Then, angrily, he said, “Look, Brainerd. All men are not alike. Their backgrounds—when did you first see blood?”

“Shoot,” Brainerd said. “My Maw used to get me to pull chicken heads off when I was five or six, afore she plucked ’em. They’d flop and throw blood all over the place. Ever see a chicken with its head pulled off?”

“No, but I’ve seen worse,” the lieutenant muttered. “And I suppose your old man belted you a few times now and then?”

Bran grinned. “Hell, yes!”

“You realize some of these kids never saw blood in their lives before they came out here? This kid—” he looked at the dog tags—Hamilton, his mother probably tucked him into bed every night. I don’t see how some of them stand it so long.”

He filled out a tag and pinned it on Hamilton’s field jacket, which was covered with blood.

Corporal Brainerd went back into the dark. He turned once and looked back into the dugout. Still oughta shoot ’em, he thought. What do these New York doctors know about it?

Corey remembered getting back to the hospital. Most of all he remembered the sheets. Clean, white sheets. But he couldn’t sleep. He just lay and shook sometimes, until the doctor gave him something.

He kept seeing Moody, with his head blown off.

Once, he heard two doctors talking. One was upset about the rate of psychoneurosis that was showing up on the beachhead. “There’s something wrong with the whole generation! No excuse for this. We ought to do like the Russian Army—do you know they don’t officially recognize battle fatigue?”

“Then they’re blind,” the other doctor snapped. “They’ve got it, too, even though they have a different kind of population, bred a hell of a lot tougher than ours. They just don’t give a damn about the individual.”

“Maybe we pay too much attention to the individual, in a war like this—”

“So now you want us to be like the Nazis, bring up our boys prepared to die for the Vaterland? Is that it? That the kind of conditioned, brainless, insensitive individual you want to produce? Listen, Stein, there are other values besides the military—”

The two doctors moved off, and Corey could not hear them any more.

All the time he was in the hospital, Corey could hear the shells come in. The Krauts kept plastering the port area. He heard the snorting roar, then the sort of whizzing sound as Anzio Annie came in. Every so often, the ground shook.

New men kept coming into the hospital all the time. But Corey knew the Nazis wouldn’t shell the hospital. There were rules against that.

The American field hospital area wasn’t dug in. It stood in bare fields about a mile east of Nettuno, with the red crosses plainly visible to the enemy observers. Shells went over the hospital daily, but none had dropped close.

On March 22, the third day of Corey’s stay, it happened.

Early in the morning, the shells screamed into the hospital. One shell ripped into Corey’s tent and struck the stove, exploding at bed level. There were fifty men in the tent.

The other shells, fifty or sixty of them, plastered the area. They were 88s, high-explosive, anti-personnel projectiles.

Five patients in Corey’s tent died. Eleven others had new wounds. The nurse was the worst of all. She clutched at her breast and went to her knees. When they got to her, she was dead.

Several doctors, more nurses and a dozen corpsmen were hit. The hospital was in a sort of panic, with the wounded men screaming from their beds.

“Get us out of here! Get us out of here!” the helpless men cried. Corey went stumbling into the shambles. He saw the young, short-haired nurse sprawled on the floor of the tent, her breast a bright smear of blood; he saw the patients, with the blood of fresh wounds streaming through their bandages, screaming and trying to move about.

Corey began to shake. He could feel the tremors start in his legs. The doctor and the corpsmen who had been untouched were running about, in something like panic.

Bram-Bram-Bram! A new stonk of explosive shells roared in, shaking the tent with mud and steel fragments.

A nurse, gray hair flying, ran into Corey, almost knocking him down. She looked at his strong body, free of bandages, and snapped, “Here! Give me a hand, soldier! Get these men back into their beds!”

She wasn’t panicked; she was mad, her eyes napping, as hard as the brass leaf on her collar. Corey suddenly felt the tremors halt, felt the cool reason sweep into him. Hell, he’d been on the line; head been shot at before.

“Yes, ma’am,” he said.

He turned, grabbed one of the corpsmen who was jittering about, still shocked. “Here—help me with these men on the floor.”

The corpsman went with him. Together, they lifted half a dozen moaning men back to their cots. The seventh man was dead, but they put him in his bed anyway. More doctors arrived, and the medical officers took charge, bringing some order to the chaos. The wounded were treated, the dead carried out. Corey was too busy to think.

The shelling ceased, and General Truscott, the beachhead commander, came into the tent. His face was grim and his jaw was set. The same chief nurse who had bumped into Corey marched up to him. She waved a huge, jagged shell fragment under the general’s nose.

“General, these came through my tent while I was in bed. We can’t take care of our patients unless we can get some rest around here. What are you going to do about it?”

The men in the wards were crying out to Truscott, recognizing his bright leather jacket, “General! Get us out of here! For God’s sake, let us go back to the front. We’re better off up there!”

General Truscott was mad, too—and sick, looking at the carnage wreaked on the already injured bodies of the men who had been in the hospital. But all he could do was to say he’d have corps artillery counterbattery every spot from which the Germans could fire on the hospital, and to order the hospital dug in a foot or two. Below that level, there was water.

Corey would never forget the gallantry of the Army nurses, who from that day forward worked under intermittent shelling. For the shelling of the tents with red crosses was deliberate, and repeated. But Corey did not stay there to see it. At noon, Corey Hamilton, battle fatigue casualty, went to the surgeon and said, “I’m ready to return to my unit.”

It had taken only a little rest, after all. Under the broken dams, the man was solid. Corey Hamilton, Rifleman, would not break again.

Recruiting in the Roman Republic

A reconstruction of the battle of Pydna, by Peter Connolly, demonstrating how the broken ground disrupted the Macedonian phalanx, allowing the Romans to close with the phalangites and use their superior swordsmanship to good effect.

At various stages in its history the Roman army comprised a militia, citizen soldiers, mercenaries and professional troops, both conscripts and volunteers, although there was no clear linear development. The earliest Roman army will have consisted of the king, his retainers, nobles and whatever clan members could be organized to fight, largely in raids against neighbouring communities. This was a citizen militia habituated to seasonal warfare, in which we may guess that soldiers were motivated by ideas of survival, self-defense and patriotism. By protecting themselves, their families and their smallholdings, they also ensured the survival of the Roman state. Of course, peer pressure will also have been important, as they saw other small farmers in the ranks with them.

As Rome developed politically and militarily, the will of the upper classes usually prevailed in decisions on war and peace, and the government regularly conscripted its citizens, though preferring those who could equip themselves. This, however, did not mean that the Roman people were unwilling soldiers. On the contrary, they were apparently quite belligerent. The levy for Rome’s legionary army around the mid-third century BC suggests that a large proportion of eligible men with property (assidui) were enlisted. Citizens were apparently willing to serve in large numbers at least down to the mid-second century BC. In 225 BC perhaps about 17 per cent of the adult male citizens were in the army, rising to more than 25 per cent at the climax of the war with Hannibal. Furthermore, after 218 BC campaigns were no longer seasonal but could last all year. It is difficult to see how, even with the use of conscription, the senate could have pursued an active foreign policy without a significant measure of popular support and cooperation. The comic playwright Plautus, who was writing between c. 205 and 184 BC, certainly assumes that his audience is familiar with war. He often uses specifically Roman military metaphors, puts a famous battle narrative in a Roman context, and, in a stock feature of his work, the Prologues, commonly ends by wishing the audience well in war.

Roman warfare in this period was often brutal. The troops’ methods for dealing with captured cities caused the Greek historian Polybius, who had military experience, to comment that they were more violent than Hellenistic armies. Indeed, Roman fighting methods and the ferocity of Roman troops apparently intimidated Macedonian soldiers. It has been suggested that the Romans had a pronounced willingness to use violence against alien peoples, and `behaved somewhat more ferociously than most of the other politically advanced peoples of the Mediterranean world’. Perhaps therefore in a violent and warlike society men readily accepted the idea of going into battle to kill those whom they saw as enemies.

Nevertheless, hope of personal gain probably had greatest weight in encouraging men to serve. The introduction of a daily cash allowance in the early fourth century shows that the state itself recognized the need to recompense its soldiers for their service. Soldiers in a victorious army expected to acquire booty and slaves, and this is best illustrated by the increasing generosity of donatives distributed at triumphs. Soldiers might therefore have been attracted by the reputation of a previously successful general, under whose command they could expect victory and profit. Thus Scipio Aemilianus was able to raise 4000 volunteers for the siege of Numantia in 137 BC, relying on his prestige and popularity and clientela connections.

After c. 150 BC enthusiasm for military service declined. The long war in Spain was proving difficult and unpopular; there was little booty, and reports of frequent battles, high casualty rates and the courage of the enemy unnerved many men of military age. Consequently, there were attempts to evade the levy. Moreover, the slave war in Sicily and unprofitable garrison duty in Macedonia created more recruiting problems for the government. Indeed, the property qualification for service had been reduced in 214 and was reduced again in the second century. As men were required to serve for longer or were called up on more occasions, life became harder for small farmers without resources or powerful protectors. Six or more years’ continuous absence from Italy could bring the ruin of a farm, and all this was a disincentive to serve which the government would have to overcome or face a crisis of morale among its soldiers.

In 107 BC the consul C. Marius raised additional forces for the troublesome war in Africa against Jugurtha by accepting as volunteers men who did not possess the requisite amount of property (proletarii). Given the decline in the property qualification in previous years, it is likely that they were not markedly poorer than the kind of soldier recruited in earlier times, but potentially the way was open for the recruitment of more soldiers who had no land and no means of support other than military life. There was now a more mercenary element, in that eventually more soldiers sought a profitable military career, served for longer periods, and tended to be loyal to commanders who were successful and looked after their interests.

In the political turmoil of the late Republic there was no longer a single army of the Roman state, but individual armies serving under competing leaders. About 250,000 Italians, many of whom will have been conscripts, were under arms. Legions were also raised outside Italy from Roman citizens, and often from non-citizens. Julius Caesar enlisted the legion V Alaudae from Transalpine Gaul, while Pompey and Antony, too, were also active in this way. In addition, Caesar employed non-Romans as mercenary troops in a specialist capacity, notably Gallic and German cavalry. Military leaders probably took what they could get in the way of recruits, and the chief incentives to bravery in battle were donatives, booty, and the allure of individual generals whose record promised continued success. Julius Caesar was famous for his close personal relationship with his men, which he had built up over ten years’ successful and lucrative campaigning in Gaul. His troops’ loyalty and devotion were undiminished by military setbacks or harsh conditions, and it was said that Pompey, on seeing the bread made from herbs and grass that Caesar’s army was living on at the siege of Dyrrachium, ordered that it should be hidden from his men in case the enemy’s resolution undermined their own spirit. Soldiers such as these swore their oath of service personally to their commanders, and were in fact virtually mercenaries, supporting their paymaster leaders not because of the compulsion of the law but because of personal inducements, and fighting not against the enemies of Rome but against private adversaries and fellow-citizens. Military service was now a kind of financial package, involving long service in return for regular pay and other benefits. The Roman army therefore did not necessarily have any strong patriotic sentiments or political ideals, or a clear idea of loyalty to the senate or Rome. It had sharpened its skills in warfare against other Romans, and had developed a strong expectation of success. With a professional approach in military preparations, and a tradition of robust leadership from its officers, especially the centurions, it had also developed a strong sense of military community.

Lynx Infantry Fighting Vehicle to the U.S. Army

Here’s a short video of the KF41 at the recent NATO Brave Warrior exercises in Hungary, literally driving circles around the M2 Bradleys it might soon replace. The KF41, of which only one is currently in existence, was in Hungary where it had won a competition for 218 new infantry fighting vehicles.

The latest version of the M2 Bradley, the M2A3, 2018.

The U.S. Army’s next-generation infantry fighting vehicle could feature German DNA. German defense contractor Rheinmetall is teaming up with American defense contractor Raytheon to offer the company’s KF41 Lynx infantry fighting vehicle to the U.S. Army. The Army is looking to replace its thousands of M2 Bradley fighting vehicles with a newer design that is not only better in every way, but also has the ability to be remotely controlled on the battlefield.

The M2 Bradley was first used by the U.S. Army in the 1980s. The vehicle not only could carry infantry, but also offered enough protection to allow them to remain mounted during an attack. This preserved the momentum of an armored assault, ensuring that the attack did not slow down and that dismounted infantrymen didn’t need to be rounded up and board the vehicle to continue an offensive.

The Bradley first saw combat in the 1991 Gulf War, then the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the 2014 war against the Islamic State. Along the way the Bradley has gotten heavier with the introduction of new armor, electronics, and other systems that allowed the vehicle to pace battlefield threats.

After 30-plus years, however, the Army has decided it’s time to start over with a new vehicle that incorporates new tech from the ground up.

German defense contractor Rheinmetall, which developed the M256 gun on the M1A2 Abrams tank, is tossing its hat into the OMFV ring with the KF41 Lynx. KF41 is a tracked vehicle with a crew of three and the ability to carry eight infantrymen and women in the rear. Lynx is armed with a Lancer 2.0 turret incorporating a 35-millimeter autocannon, and the step up in caliber will allow Lynx to engage light armored vehicles and enemy troops at longer ranges at the expense of less onboard ammo.

The Rheinmetall LYNX KF41 (KF stands for “Kettenfahrzeug”, or tracked vehicle in German) is a German-made next-generation family of vehicles that offers state-of-the-art firepower, mobility and protection. The LYNX consists of a modular design that comes in two primary versions: the KF31 and KF41. Both versions have a driver in the hull and a two-man crew in the turret. The engine is in the front and the exhaust in the rear. Weighing up to 38 tonnes, LYNX KF31 can seat 3+6 soldiers.

LYNX KF41 is slightly larger and can carry 3+8 soldiers. Rheinmetall’s LANCE turret for the KF41can support a 30mm or 35mm cannon and the turret ammunition is separated from the crew for added protection. Both versions can be configured for IFV, C2 (command and control), reconnaissance, repair and recovery, and ambulance variants. The vehicle interior has a spall liner, decoupled seats, and mine and IED protection packages that can be exchanged in the field. The KF41 does not have a V shaped hull, but its mine protection is highly effective against heavy blast mines, explosively formed projectile mines and IEDs. The KF41 also has passive and reactive systems to defeat rocket-propelled grenades and antitank guided missiles and provides roof protection against cluster munitions. Rheinmetall’s SOLAR SIGMA Shield Mobile Camouflage System can also be fitted to the entire vehicle to reduce heat loading as well as thermal and IR signatures.

The KF41 weighs 44 tons, significantly more than the 30-ton Bradley. The KF41 is bigger but it’s also more agile, with a horsepower to weight ratio of 26 to 1. The Bradley’s, by contrast, is about 21 to 1.

The KF41 in U.S. Army service would probably look a little different than the vehicle seen in Hungary as the U.S. may want the turret to be equipped with two long range anti-tank missiles, giving OMFV the ability to take on tanks by itself. It may also want an active protection system capable of detecting and shooting down incoming rockets and anti-tank guided missiles. Lastly, KF41 may need the ability to be operated remotely.

Rheinmetall is competing for the Czech IFV contract with their LYNX vehicle that was first shown at Eurosatory in 2016. Two main variants are available: LYNX KF31 with three crew and six dismounts or LYNX KF41 with three crew and eight dismounts. Both are fitted with the Rheinmetall LANCE turret system. The turret will accommodate the MK30-2/ABM 30×173 mm cannon; it can also be fitted with a launcher for the Rafael SPIKE-LR missile system. The Czech Land Forces already use SPIKE-LR on their PANDUR II vehicles.

The new OMFV program will probably run into 2021, or even 2022. It may even fail, yet again, to produce a replacement for the Bradley. If the KF41 does win however it could produce a vehicle that will be the main heavy infantry carrier for the U.S. Army to 2050 and beyond.

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The Lives of Continent Army Soldiers

In the battle of Eutaw Springs, South Carolina, the last major action of the Revolutionary War before Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown, over 500 Americans were killed and wounded. Nathanael Greene had led some 2200 men into the Springs; his casualties thus represented almost one-fourth of his army. More men would die in battles in the next two years, and others would suffer terrible wounds. The statistics, although notoriously unreliable, show that the Revolution killed a higher percentage of those who served on the American side than any war in our history, always excepting the Civil War.

Why did those men—those who survived and those who died—fight? Why did they hold their ground, endure the strain of battle, with men dying about them and danger to themselves so obvious? Undoubtedly the reasons varied from battle to battle, but just as surely there was some experience common to all these battles—and fairly uniform reasons for the actions of the men who fought despite their deepest impulses, which must have been to run from the field in order to escape the danger.

Some men did run, throwing down their muskets and packs in order to speed their flight. American units broke in large actions and small, at Brooklyn, Kip’s Bay, White Plains, Brandywine, Germantown, Camden, and Hobkirk’s Hill, to cite the most important instances. Yet many men did not break and run even in the disasters to American arms. They held their ground until they were killed, and they fought tenaciously while pulling back.

In most actions the Continentals, the regulars, fought more bravely than the militia. We need to know why these men fought and why the American regulars performed better than the militia. The answers surely will help us to understand the Revolution, especially if we can discover whether what made men fight reflected what they believed—and felt—about the Revolution.

Several explanations of the willingness to fight and die, if necessary, may be dismissed at once. One is that soldiers on both sides fought out of fear of their officers, fearing them more than they did battle. Frederick the Great had described this condition as ideal, but it did not exist in ideal or practice in either the American or the British army. The British soldier usually possessed a more professional spirit than the American, an attitude compounded from confidence in his skill and pride in belonging to an old established institution. British regiments carried proud names—the Royal Welch Fusiliers, the Black Watch, the King’s Own—whose officers usually behaved extraordinarily bravely in battle and expected their men to follow their examples. British officers disciplined their men more harshly than American officers did and generally trained them more effectively in the movements of battle. But neither they nor American officers instilled the fear that Frederick found so desirable. Spirit, bravery, a reliance on the bayonet, were all expected of professional soldiers, but professionals acted out of pride—not out of fear of their officers.

Still, coercion and force were never absent from the life of either army. There were, however, limits on their use and their effectiveness. Fear of flogging might prevent a soldier from deserting camp, but it could not guarantee that he would remain steady under fire. Fear of ridicule may have aided in keeping some troops in place, however. Eighteenth-century infantry went into combat in fairly close lines and officers could keep an eye on many of their men. If the formation was tight enough officers might strike laggards and even order “skulkers,” Washington’s term for those who turned tail, shot down. Just before the move to Dorchester Heights in March 1776, the word went out that any American who ran from the action would be “fired down upon the spot.” The troops themselves approved of this threat, according to one of the chaplains.

Washington repeated the threat just before the Battle of Brooklyn later that year, though he seems not to have posted men behind the lines to carry it out. Daniel Morgan urged Nathanael Greene to place sharpshooters behind the militia, and Greene may have done so at Guilford Court House. No one thought that an entire army could be held in place against its will, and these commands to shoot soldiers who retired without orders were never widely issued.

A tactic that surely would have appealed to many soldiers would have been to send them into battle drunk. Undoubtedly some—on both sides—did enter combat with their senses deadened by rum. Both armies commonly issued an additional ration of rum on the eve of some extraordinary action—a long, difficult march, for example, or a battle, were two of the usual reasons. A common order on such occasions ran: “the troops should have an extraordinary allowance of rum,” usually a gill, four ounces of unknown alcoholic content, which if taken down at the propitious moment might dull fears and summon courage. At Camden no supply of rum existed; Gates or his staff substituted molasses, to no good effect, according to Otho Williams. The British fought brilliantly at Guilford Court House unaided by anything stronger than their own large spirits. In most actions soldiers went into battle with very little more than themselves and their comrades to lean upon.

Belief in the Holy Spirit surely sustained some in the American army, perhaps more than in the enemy’s. There are a good many references to the Divine or to Providence in the letters and diaries of ordinary soldiers. Often, however, these expressions are in the form of thanks to the Lord for permitting these soldiers to survive. There is little that suggests soldiers believed that faith rendered them invulnerable to the enemy’s bullets. Many did consider the glorious cause to be sacred; their war, as the ministers who sent them off to kill never tired of reminding them, was just and providential.

Others clearly saw more immediate advantages in the fight: the plunder of the enemy’s dead. At Monmouth Court House, where Clinton withdrew after dark, leaving the field strewn with British corpses, the plundering carried American soldiers into the houses of civilians who had fled to save themselves. The soldiers’ actions were so blatant and so unrestrained that Washington ordered their packs searched. And at Eutaw Springs, the Americans virtually gave up victory to the opportunity of ransacking British tents. Some died in their greed, shot down by an enemy given time to regroup while his camp was torn apart by men looking for something to carry off. But even these men probably fought for something besides plunder. When it beckoned they responded, but it had not drawn them to the field; nor had it kept them there in a savage struggle.

Inspired leadership helped soldiers face death, but they sometimes fought bravely even when their leaders let them down. Yet officers’ courage and the example of officers throwing off wounds to remain in the fight undoubtedly helped their men stick. Charles Stedman, the British general, remarked on Captain Maitland who, at Guilford Court House, was hit, dropped behind for a few minutes to get his wound dressed, then returned to the battle. Cornwallis obviously filled Sergeant Lamb with pride, struggling forward to press into the struggle after his horse was killed. Washington’s presence meant much at Princeton though his exposure to enemy fire may also have made his troops uneasy. His quiet exhortation as he passed among the men who were about to assault Trenton—”Soldiers, keep by your officers” remained in the mind of a Connecticut soldier until his death fifty years later. There was only one Washington, one Cornwallis, and their influence on men in battle, few of whom could have seen them, was of course slight. Junior and noncommissioned officers carried the burden of tactical direction; they had to show their troops what must be done and somehow persuade, cajole, or force them to do it. The praise ordinary soldiers lavished on sergeants and junior officers suggests that these leaders played important parts in their troops’ willingness to fight. Still, important as it was, their part does not really explain why men fought.

In suggesting this conclusion about military leadership, I do not wish to be understood as agreeing with Tolstoy’s scornful verdict on generals—that despite all their plans and orders they do not affect the results of battles at all. Tolstoy did not reserve all his scorn for generals—historians are also derided in War and Peace for finding a rational order in battles where only chaos existed. “The activity of a commander in chief does not at all resemble the activity we imagine to ourselves when we sit at ease in our studies examining some campaign on the map, with a certain number of troops on this and that side in a certain known locality, and begin our plans from a given moment. A commander in chief is never dealing with the beginning of any event—the position from which we always contemplate it. The commander in chief is always in the midst of a series of shifting events and so he never can at any moment consider the whole import of an event that is occurring.”

The full import of battle will as surely escape historians as participants. But we have to begin somewhere in trying to explain why men fought rather than ran from Revolutionary battlefields. The battlefield may indeed be the place to begin since we have dismissed leadership, fear of officers, religious belief, the power of drink, and the other possible explanations of why men fought and died.

The eighteenth-century battlefield was, compared with the twentieth, an intimate theater, especially intimate in the engagements of the Revolution which were usually small even by the standards of the day. The killing range of the musket, eighty to one hundred yards, enforced intimacy as did the reliance on the bayonet and the general ineffectiveness of artillery. Soldiers had to come to close quarters to kill; this fact reduced the mystery of battle though perhaps not its terrors. But at least the battlefield was less impersonal. In fact, in contrast to twentieth-century combat, in which the enemy usually remains unseen and the source of incoming fire unknown, in eighteenth-century battles the foe could be seen and sometimes even touched. Seeing one’s enemy may have aroused a singular intensity of feeling uncommon in modern battles. The assault with the bayonet—the most desired objective of infantry tactics—seems indeed to have evoked an emotional climax. Before it occurred, tension and anxiety built up as the troops marched from their column into a line of attack. The purpose of their movements was well understood by themselves and their enemies, who must have watched with feelings of dread and fascination. When the order came sending them forward, rage, even madness, replaced the attackers’ anxiety, while terror and desperation sometimes filled those receiving the charge. Surely it is revealing that the Americans who ran from battle did so most often at the moment they understood that their enemy had started forward with the bayonet. This happened to several units at Brandywine and to the militia at Camden and Guilford Court House. The loneliness, the sense of isolation, reported by modern soldiers was probably missing at such moments. All was clear—especially that glittering line of advancing steel.

Whether this awful clarity was harder to bear than losing sight of the enemy is problematical. American troops ran at Germantown after grappling with the British and then finding the field of battle covered by fog. At that time groping blindly, they and their enemy struggled over ground resembling a scene of modern combat. The enemy was hidden at a critical moment, and American fears were generated by not knowing what was happening—or about to happen. They could not see the enemy, and they could not see one another, an especially important fact. For, as S.L.A. Marshall, the twentieth-century military historian, has suggested in his book Men Against Fire, what sustains men in the extraordinary circumstances of battle may be their relationships with their comrades.

These men found that sustaining such relationships was possible in the intimacy of the American battlefield. And not just because the limited arena robbed battle of some of its mystery. More important, it permitted the troops to give one another moral or psychological support. The enemy could be seen, but so could one’s comrades; they could be seen and communicated with.

Eighteenth-century infantry tactics called for men to move and fire from tight formations which permitted them to talk and to give one another information—and reassurance and comfort. If properly done, marching and firing found infantrymen compressed into files in which their shoulders touched. In battle, physical contact with one’s comrades on either side must have helped men control their fears. Firing the musket from three compact lines, the English practice, also involved physical contact. The men of the front rank crouched on their right knees; the men of the center rank placed their left feet inside the right feet of the front; the rear rank did the same thing behind the center.

This stance was called—a revealing term—”locking.” The very density of this formation sometimes aroused criticism from officers who complained that it led to inaccurate fire. The front rank, conscious of the closeness of the center, might fire too low; the rear rank tended to “throw” its shots into the air, as firing too high was called; only the center rank took careful aim according to the critics. Whatever the truth of these charges about accuracy of fire, men in these dense formations compiled a fine record of holding their ground. And it is worth noting that the inaccuracy of men in the rear rank bespoke their concern for their fellows in front of them.

British and American soldiers in the Revolution often spoke of fighting with “spirit” and “behaving well” under fire. Sometimes these phrases referred to daring exploits under great danger, but more often they seem to have meant holding together, giving one another support, re-forming the lines when they were broken or fell into disorder, disorder such as overtook the Americans at Greenspring, Virginia, early in July 1781 when Cornwallis lured Anthony Wayne into crossing the James with a force that was heavily outnumbered. Wayne saw his mistake and decided to make the best of it, not by a hasty retreat from the ambush but by attacking. The odds against the Americans were formidable but, as an ordinary solider who was there saw it, the inspired conduct of the infantry saved them—“our troops behaved well, fighting with great spirit and bravery. The infantry were oft broke; but just as oft rallied and formed at a word.”

These troops had been spread out when the British surprised them, but they formed as quickly as possible. Here was a test of men’s spirits, a test they passed in part because of their disciplined formation. At Camden, where in contrast the militia collapsed as soon as the battle began, an open alignment may have contributed to their fear. Gates placed the Virginians on the far left apparently expecting them to cover more ground than their numbers allowed. At any rate they went into the battle in a single line with at least five feet between each man, a distance which intensified a feeling of isolation in the heat and noise of the firing. And to make such feelings worse, these men were especially exposed, stretched out at one end of the line with no supporters behind them.

Troops in tight lines consciously reassured one another in several ways. British troops usually talked and cheered—”huzzaing” whether standing their ground, running forward, or firing. The Americans may have done less talking and cheering, though there is evidence that they learned to imitate the enemy. Giving a cheer at the end of a successful engagement was standard practice. The British cheered at Lexington and then marched off to be shot down on the road running from Concord. The Americans shouted their joy at Harlem Heights, an understandable action and one for most of 1776 they rarely had opportunity to perform.

The most deplorable failures to stand and fight usually occurred among the American militia. Yet there were militia companies that performed with great success, remaining intact under the most deadly volleys. The New England companies at Bunker Hill held out under a fire that veteran British officers compared to the worst they had experienced in Europe. Lord Rawdon remarked on how unusual it was for defenders to stick around a redoubt.18 The New Englanders did it. They also held steady at Princeton—”They were the first who regularly formed” and stood up under the balls “which whistled their thousand different notes around our heads,” according to Charles Willson Peale, whose Philadelphia militia also proved its steadiness.

What was different about these companies? Why did they fight when others around them ran? The answer may lie in the relationships among their men. Men in the New England companies, in the Philadelphia militia, and in the other units that held together were neighbors. They knew one another; they had something to prove to one another; they had their “honor” to protect. Their active service in the Revolution may have been short, but they had been together in one way or another for a fairly long time—for several years in most cases. Their companies, after all, had been formed from towns and villages. Some, clearly, had known one another all their lives.

Elsewhere, especially in the thinly settled southern colonies, companies were usually composed of men—farmers, farmers’ sons, farm laborers, artisans, and new immigrants—who did not know one another. They were, to use a term much used in a later war, companies of “stragglers” without common attachments, with almost no knowledge of their fellows. For them, even bunched tightly in line, the battlefield was an empty, lonely place. Absence of personal bonds, and their own parochialism, coupled to inadequate training and imperfect discipline, often led to disintegration under fire.

According to conventional wisdom the nearer the American militia were to home the better they fought, fighting for their homes and no one else’s. Proximity to home, however, may have been a distraction which weakened resolve. For the irony of going into battle and perhaps to their deaths when home and safety lay close down the road could not have escaped many. Almost every senior American general commented on the propensity of the militia to desert—and if they were not deserting they seemed perpetually in transit between home and camp, usually without authorization.

Paradoxically, of all the Americans who fought, the militiamen best exemplified in themselves and in their behavior the ideals and purposes of the Revolution. They had enjoyed independence, or at least personal liberty, long before it was proclaimed in the Declaration. They instinctively felt their equality with others and in many places insisted upon demonstrating it by choosing their own officers. Their sense of their liberty permitted, even compelled, them to serve only for short enlistments, to leave camp when they liked, to scorn the orders of others—and especially those orders to fight when they preferred to flee. Their integration into their society drove them to resist military discipline; and their ethos of personal freedom stimulated hatred of the machine that served as the model for the army. They were not pieces of a machine, and they would serve it only reluctantly and skeptically. At their best, at Cowpens, for example, they fought well; at their worst, at Camden, they fought not at all. There, they were, as Greene said, “ungovernable.” What was lacking in the militia was a set of professional standards, requirements and rules which might regulate their conduct in battle. What was lacking was professional pride. Coming and going to camp as they liked, shooting their guns for the pleasure of the sound, the militia annoyed the Continentals, who soon learned that most could not be trusted.

The British regulars were at the opposite pole. They had been pulled out of society, carefully segregated from it, tightly disciplined and highly trained. Their values were the values of the army for the most part, no more and no less. To be sure, the officers were in certain respects very different from the men. They embodied the style and standards of gentlemen who believed in service to their king and who fought for honor and glory.

With these ideals and a mission of service to the king defining their calling, British officers held themselves as aloof as possible from the peculiar horrors of war. Not that they did not fight. They sought combat and danger, but by the conventions which shaped their understanding of battle, they insulated themselves as much as possible from the ghastly business of killing and dying. Thus the results of battle might be a long list of dead and wounded, but the results were also “honourable and glorious,” as Charles Stedman described Guilford Court House, or reflected “dishonour upon British arms,” as he described Cowpens. Actions and gunfire were “smart” and “brisk” and sometimes “hot,” and occasionally a “difficult piece of work.” They might also be described lightly—Harlem Heights was “this silly business” to Lord Rawdon. To their men, British officers spoke a clean, no nonsense language. Howe’s terse “look to your bayonets” summed up a tough professional’s expectations.

For all the distance between British officers and men, they gave remarkable support to one another in battle. They usually deployed carefully, keeping up their spirits with drum and fife. They talked and shouted and cheered, and coming on with their bayonets at the ready “huzzaing,” or coming on “firing and huzzaing” they must have sustained a sense of shared experience. Their ranks might be thinned by an American volley but on they came, exhorting one another to “push on! push on!” as at Bunker Hill and the battles that followed. Although terrible losses naturally dispirited them, they almost always maintained the integrity of their regiments as fighting units, and when they were defeated, or nearly so as at Guilford Court House, they recovered their pride and fought well thereafter. And there was no hint at Yorktown that the ranks wanted to surrender, even though they had suffered dreadfully.

The Continentals, the American regulars, lacked the polish of their British counterparts, but at least from Monmouth on, they showed a steadiness under fire almost as impressive as their enemy’s. And they demonstrated a brave endurance: defeated, they retired, pulled themselves together, and came back to try again. These qualities—patience and endurance—endeared them to many. For example, John Laurens, on Washington’s staff in 1778, wanted desperately to command them. In what amounted to a plea for command, Laurens wrote: “I would cherish those dear, ragged Continentals, whose patience will be the admiration of future ages, and glory in bleeding with them.” This statement was all the more extraordinary coming from Laurens, a South Carolina aristocrat. The soldiers he admired were anything but aristocratic. As the war dragged on they came increasingly from the poor and the propertyless. Most probably entered the army as substitutes for men who had rather pay than serve, or as the recipients of bounties and the promise of land. In time, some, perhaps many, assimilated the ideals of the Revolution. As Baron von Steuben observed in training them, they differed from European troops in at least one regard: they wanted to know why they were told to do certain things. Unlike European soldiers who did what they were told, the Continentals asked why.

Continental officers aped the style of their British counterparts. They aspired to gentility and, often failing to achieve it, betrayed their anxiety by an excessive concern for their honor. Not surprisingly, like their British counterparts, they also used the vocabulary of the gentleman in describing battle.

Their troops, innocent of such polish, spoke with words from their immediate experience of physical combat. They found few euphemisms for the horrors of battle. Thus Private David How, September 1776, in New York, noted in his diary: “Isaac Fowls had his head shot off with a cannon ball this morning.” And Sergeant Thomas McCarty reported an engagement between a British foraging party and American infantry near New Brunswick in February 1777: “We attacked the body, and bullets flew like hail. We stayed about 15 minutes and then retreated with loss.” After the battle, inspection of the field revealed that the British had killed the American wounded—”the men that was wounded in the thigh or leg, they dashed out their brains with their muskets and run them through with their bayonets, made them like sieves. This was barbarity to the utmost.” The pain of seeing his comrades mutilated by shot and shell at White Plains remained with Elisha Bostwick, a Connecticut soldier, all his life: A cannon ball “cut down Lt. Youngs platoon which was next to that of mine[;] the ball first took off the head of Smith, a Stout heavy man and dashed it open, then took Taylor across the Bowels, it then Struck Sergeant Garret of our Company on the hip [and] took off the point of the hip bone[.] Smith and Taylor were left on the spot. Sergeant Garret was carried but died the Same day now to think, oh! what a sight that was to see within a distance of six rods those men with their legs and arms and guns and packs all in a heap[.]”

The Continentals occupied the psychological and moral ground somewhere between the militia and the British professionals. From 1777 on their enlistments were for three years or the duration of the war. This long service allowed them to learn more of their craft and to become seasoned. That does not mean that on the battlefield they lost their fear. Experience in combat almost never leaves one indifferent to danger, unless after prolonged and extreme fatigue one comes to consider oneself already dead. Seasoned troops have simply learned to deal with their fear more effectively than raw troops, in part because they have come to realize that everyone feels it and that they can rely on their fellows.

By winter 1779–1780 the Continentals were beginning to believe that they had no one save themselves to lean on. Their soldierly qualifications so widely admired in America—their “habit of subordination,”28 their patience under fatigue, their ability to stand sufferings and privations of every kind—may in fact have led to a bitter resignation that saw them through a good deal of the fighting. At Morristown during this winter, they felt abandoned in their cold and hunger. They knew that in America food and clothing existed to keep them healthy and comfortable, and yet little of either came to the army. Understandably their dissatisfaction increased as they realized that once again the suffering had been left to them. Dissatisfaction in these months slowly turned into a feeling of martyrdom. They felt themselves to be martyrs to the “glorious cause.” They would fulfill the ideals of the Revolution and see things through to independence because the civilian population would not.

Thus the Continentals in the last four years of the active war, though less articulate and less independent than the militia, assimilated one part of the “cause” more fully. They had advanced further in making American purposes in the Revolution their own. They had in their sense of isolation and neglect probably come to be more nationalistic than the militia—though surely no more American.

Although these sources of the Continentals’ feeling seem curious, they served to reinforce the tough professional ethic these men also came to absorb. Set apart from the militia by the length of their service, by their officers’ esteem for them, and by their own contempt for part-time soldiers, the Continentals slowly developed resilience and pride. Their country might ignore them in camp, might allow their bellies to shrivel and their backs to freeze, might allow them to wear rags, but in battle they would not be ignored. And in battle they would support one another in the knowledge that their own moral and professional resources remained sure.

The meaning of these complex attitudes is not what it seems to be. At first sight the performance of militia and Continentals seems to suggest that the great principles of the Revolution made little difference on the battlefield. Or if principles did make a difference, say especially to the militia saturated with natural rights and a deep and persistent distrust of standing armies, they served not to strengthen the will to combat but to disable it. And the Continentals, recruited increasingly from the poor and dispossessed, apparently fought better as they came to resemble their professional and apolitical enemy, the British infantry.

These conclusions are in part askew. To be sure, there is truth—and paradox—in the fact that some Americans’ commitments to Revolutionary principles made them unreliable on the battlefield. Still, their devotion to their principles helped bring them there. George Washington, their commander in chief, never tired of reminding them that their cause arrayed free men against mercenaries. They were fighting for the “blessings of liberty,” he told them in 1776, and should they not acquit themselves like men, slavery would replace their freedom.30 The challenge to behave like men was not an empty one. Courage, honor, gallantry in the service of liberty, all those words calculated to bring a blush of embarrassment to jaded twentieth-century men, defined manhood for the eighteenth century. In battle those words gained an extraordinary resonance as they were embodied in the actions of brave men. Indeed it is likely that many Americans who developed a narrow professional spirit found battle broadly educative, forcing them to consider the purposes of their professional skill.

On one level those purposes had to be understood as having a remarkable importance if men were to fight—and die. For battle forced American soldiers into a situation which nothing in their usual experience had prepared them for. They were to kill other men in the expectation that even if they did they might be killed themselves. However defined, especially by a Revolution in the name of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, this situation was unnatural.

On another level, one which, perhaps, made the strain of battle endurable, the situation of American soldiers, though unusual, was not really foreign to them. For what battle presented in stark form was one of the classic problems free men face: choosing between the rival claims of public responsibility and private wishes, or in eighteenth-century terms, choosing between virtue—devotion to the public trust—and personal liberty. In battle, virtue demanded that men give up their liberties and perhaps even their lives for others. Each time they fought they had, in effect, to weigh the claims of society and liberty. Should they fight or run? They knew that the choice might mean life or death. For those American soldiers who were servants, apprentices, poor men substituting for men with money to hire them, the choice might not have seemed to involve moral decision. After all, they had never enjoyed much personal liberty. But not even in that contrivance of eighteenth-century authoritarianism in which they now found themselves, the professional army, could they avoid a moral decision. Compressed into dense formations, they were reminded by their nearness to their comrades that they too had an opportunity to uphold virtue. By standing firm they served their fellows and honor; by running, they served only themselves.

Thus battle tested the inner qualities of men, tried their souls, as Thomas Paine said. Many men died in the test that battle made of their spirits. Some soldiers called this trial cruel; others called it “glorious.” Perhaps this difference in perception suggests how difficult it was in the Revolution to be both a soldier and an American. Nor has it ever been easy since.

The first contact that a new recruit had with the army could only have left him with the need for reassurance. The army was a bewildering collection of men, strange rules, and new routines. The recruit, fresh, say, from a Maryland farm where he worked for wages and his keep, had enlisted after a good deal of persuasion by local officers who had a quota to fill. He signed up for three years in return for a ten-dollar bounty and the promise of one hundred acres at the end of his service.

When the recruit made it to camp near Annapolis, he was told that the Maryland line would soon set out for Pennsylvania where the main army lay, its officers busy speculating about General Howe’s intentions. Officers thought about such matters; enlisted men had other things to do. There were others to get to know. Some, the recruit learned, had entered the army for reasons very different from his own—and under very different terms. The army, in fact, consisted of several sorts of organized units: the militia, usually serving for a few months at most, owed its origins to the English Assize of Arms. More directly, long before the Revolution each colony had approved legislation requiring military service and depended upon towns and counties to supervise it. In actuality, not everyone served in local communities, but the principle of service was well established. And when Congress created the Continental Army in June 1775, the militia formed its core.

During the remainder of the war, after designating militia regiments from the New England states as Continentals, Congress relied on all the states to raise Continental units, as well as militia. Congress contracted to pay for the recruitment and service of Continentals while the states continued to meet expenses of local units. This system introduced competition for men—at the cost of corrupting soldiers and of impairing morale. Competition took the form of bidding for men, with bounties serving as bids. As the Congress and the states tried to exceed one another, bounty jumpers made their appearance, cheerfully collecting bounties for repeated enlistments. This practice disturbed honest men who, if they were unfortunate enough to enlist when bounties were low, felt somehow doubly betrayed.

When the Maryland recruit arrived, the veterans questioned him about the bounty he had received. His experience matched many others, and as the ante went up he found himself among the discontented. Washington attempted to soothe these men by urging Congress to add one hundred dollars to their pay as a one-time reward for early service. Congress delayed until 1779, when it passed the necessary legislation.

Not even the payment of inflated bounties filled the Continental and militia regiments. Congress created twenty-seven Continental regiments from militia already in service at the opening of 1776; in September, after the disaster on Long Island, it authorized the raising of eighty-eight battalions, adding another sixteen in December. None of these quotas was met, and in 1779 a major reorganization was approved calling for eighty regiments. The next year the number was reduced to fifty-eight.

The recruit knew little of these plans. Most of his fellows, he discovered, had been drafted, or “levied,” as conscription was sometimes called. The states appointed the conscription officers who worked through local authorities. Substitutes for those drafted were accepted, and the practice of hiring such men became common. Epping, New Hampshire, once met its entire quota by hiring substitutes from nearby towns. The result was, of course, that those on active service came increasingly to be drawn from the poor and propertyless.

Such men, including the Maryland recruit, probably did not expect much in the way of food, clothing, and pay from the army. They did not get much. Congress intended that they receive a generous ration of meat, vegetables, and bread every day. This good intention remained nothing more than an intention for most of the war, as men in the army went hungry and often nearly naked. The bloody tracks at Valley Forge made by men without shoes appeared in later campaigns as well. The hunger may have been worse at Morristown in winter 1779–80 than at Valley Forge. That winter was the coldest of the war and made Valley Forge look almost balmy by comparison. Early in the winter, Lt. Colonel Ebenezer Huntington wrote of the sufferers there—”Poor fellows, my heart bleeds for them, while I Damn my country as void of gratitude,” a curse that must have been repeated in January, when the cold and hunger were older.

Care of the American Revolutionary Soldiers

There was not much money invested in medicine in the American colonies before the Revolution, and the practice of the art had not achieved either distinction or prestige. The lack of investment and low public regard may have discouraged Congress from giving much attention to problems of providing for the health of the soldiers. Whatever the reasons, it did not get around to establishing a hospital department until fully a month after it had created the army, late July 1775. Congressional neglect, however, did not preserve harmony in the department. Those commissioned by Congress to organize and run the service proved able to entangle themselves in controversy without external assistance—to the point of affecting adversely the care of sick and wounded soldiers.

In a sense Congress inherited its first director general and chief physician. He was Benjamin Church, and he ran the medical service of the New England army around Boston before Congress took over. Unfortunately he was also a traitor, having sold himself to General Gage several years before, apparently because he had grown fond of the fashionable and expensive life. No one in Congress knew of Church’s extracurricular activities in July when he was appointed, and no one learned until September. During the summer of 1775 Congress went about ignorant of medical organization, calling for regimental surgeons to work closely with line outfits and the general hospital to do something more.

Just exactly what the general hospital was to do was not altogether clear, and just exactly what the relation of the regimental surgeons was to it was no clearer. No clearer to outsiders, that is. Both the director general and the surgeons always maintained that they understood perfectly what Congress intended. They did not agree among themselves, however, on what their relation should be.

Before confusion grew into open disagreement, the army discovered Church’s treason and put him under arrest. That took place in September 1775, and in October Congress named John Morgan to succeed Church. Morgan did not reach Cambridge until the end of November.

Morgan did not take up his commission with many cards in his hand. Church had not done badly as director general, but he had not really done very much. In particular he had not begun to sort out the organizational lines soon to trap Morgan in struggles that distracted him from the main business—the health of soldiers. The regimental surgeons gave him his first taste of difficulty, and after he left the service in January 1777 they gave the same treatment to his successor William Shippen, who hung on until January 1781. John Cochran, the director who performed the best and who succeeded in asserting some control over the regiments, followed Shippen and served until the end of the war.

The regimental surgeons possessed a clear notion of how they should deal with the general hospital and its director—aloofly, except when they needed something. They wished to use the hospital as a supply house that would provide them with food, instruments, medicines, and bandages. They had a point; the troops preferred the regimental hospitals to the general hospital. The regiments’ facilities were always smaller, probably healthier, and nearer to comrades. And the regimental surgeon, who had usually been named by the colonel or the state assembly, was a known quantity.

The director general saw things differently. His situation may have been ambiguous, but Congress, from Morgan’s time on, had authorized him or his staff to inspect regimental hospitals and to transfer patients if conditions seemed to warrant such action. Washington had strengthened Morgan’s hand by giving him permission to determine the fitness of regimental surgeons and aides by examinations, which proved strenuous exercises. They so annoyed the surgeons of the regiments that when the army left Boston for New York, Morgan gave them up.

The strain between the regimental and general hospital surgeons did not really ease off until Cochran took charge. Morgan was relieved of his post by Congress at the beginning of 1777, and William Shippen, his successor, resigned early in 1781. Both men, and Samuel Stringer of the northern department, felt betrayed by Congress and the army. In fact, Shippen had connived shamelessly to get Morgan’s post, and Morgan, aided by Benjamin Rush, helped to force Shippen to resign. Shippen endured court-martial during his tenure and, though he was acquitted, his reputation was shattered.

These wars within the war contributed to years of shoddy medical services. Just how badly they undermined the health care of soldiers cannot be known, though the organizational weakness persisted until the end of the war. Had the institutional arrangements been first-rate by the standards of the day, the actual medical service provided soldiers would have left something to be desired, for America did not brim with physicians or medical knowledge. Recent estimates hold that there were some 3500 medical practitioners of various sorts in America when the war began. This figure probably includes quacks as well as reputable physicians and a great number of indifferently trained men who treated the sick and worked at other occupations as well. Probably fewer than four hundred had a medical degree.

Although generalizations about such a motley group cannot be reliable, it is unlikely that any theory of disease or therapy found wide acceptance among them. The physicians among them probably believed that sickness generally represented some variation from the normal patterns of the human system, an old idea which persisted through the eighteenth century. There were diseases identified as diseases, smallpox, syphilis, and tuberculosis, for example, but both theory and practice usually dealt with body conditions, such symptoms as fevers, fluxes, and dropsies. The assumption behind this practice was that a fever indicated that the state of the system was off, not that the body was afflicted by a disease. To be sure, some physicians had come to recognize that diseases were objectively real. While treating their patients, they had observed that a medicine might be effective against one set of symptoms but not another. From this experience they inferred that they faced two different diseases.

These physicians easily reconciled this inference with the ancient assumption that there was one basic cause of all disease. The most common theory held that the body’s humors were somehow awry, perhaps impure or out of balance, with one or more present in excessive or insufficient amounts. The treatment followed from the diagnosis, with bleeding, purging, and sweating all calculated to reduce excessive amounts, and diets and drugs intended to build up volume. Another basic cause of sickness, it was widely thought, might be a chemical imbalance, with body fluids showing an improper blend of acidity and alkalinity. The treatments in such cases often resembled those prescribed to restore humoral balance.

The ordinary soldier, of course, lived largely oblivious to theory, though he, his officers, and the regimental surgeons may have shared a good deal of common lore about health and medicine. Judging from the orders that came down from on high in every American camp, one belief they did not share was that cleanliness was next to godliness. Away from home, the American soldier did not mind the filth that piled up in crowded camps—or if he minded, refused nevertheless to follow rudimentary practices which would have kept them cleaner. Soldiers throughout the war apparently disdained use of the vaults, as latrine pits were called, preferring to void whenever taken by the urge. They also scattered food scraps, carrion, and garbage throughout the camps. They had to be forced to change the straw that served as bedding. And some had to be ordered to bathe. The British, professionals in this sort of thing as in all things pertaining to military life, kept clean camps and probably suffered less from disease.

Dysentery troubled the American army throughout the war. The filth the army created accounted for some of it and so did the low standards of cleanliness in cooking. Most of the time soldiers cooked for themselves, though there might be bakeries which served a brigade. Diets ran to fat meat and bread when they were available, but on the whole the army suffered more from a lack of food than an unbalanced diet.

Good officers did what they could to make camp life healthy. Washington set the standard with a flow of orders about sanitation, diet, bathing, all the concerns of a responsible commander who wanted to lead into battle men who were fit. At Valley Forge, for example, when the worst of winter had passed, he ordered renewed attention be paid to the cleanliness of troop quarters. Common opinion held that the air in each hut might be purified each day by burning the powder from a cartridge. A small amount of tar might be substituted if gunpowder were short. Tents were to be taken down daily and the ground around them scoured. Soldiers in Washington’s and Greene’s armies were encouraged to bathe—moderately. Immersion in water for too long a period might weaken the body, according to the folklore that made its way into regimental orders.

Good junior officers and noncommissioned officers could do much to protect the health of their charges. The memory of a Connecticut sergeant building a fire for his soldiers when they were cold and hungry stayed with one of his men for fifty years after the Revolution. No manual of leadership or of army medicine prescribed that sort of performance, but it undoubtedly contributed to the health of soldiers. Charles Willson Peale, serving as the captain of a Philadelphia militia company, found beef and potatoes for his company’s breakfast two days after the battle of Princeton. His men, so fatigued they could not look for food, had gone to bed without eating. Peale shook off his exhaustion and rambled from door to door at Somerset Court House until he had collected rations for his men. A few days later, Peale found that he had a sick Ensign, one Billy Haverstock, on his hands. Peale first got some sugar for Haverstock, a remedy that did not prove effective. Next he tried “a puke of Doctor Crochwin,” an emetic given to feverish patients. His final entry in his diary about the case described the use of an old standby, tartar emetic, a mixture of antimony and potassium nitrate, which he gave in a double dose. Haverstock apparently survived this treatment.

Had a physician treated Haverstock, he might still have recovered. Physicians followed just about the same lore as laymen, though they may have been more inventive in their uses of medicines. What made most of them so dangerous was their fondness for bleeding patients. When they did not bleed them, they often resorted to purging and sweating, techniques not certain to cure dysentery, malaria, typhus, typhoid, pneumonia, and smallpox, the diseases which afflicted American troops in their camps.

When surgeons were available they took care of the wounded. Bleeding the wounded sometimes served as treatment and not always with fatal results. Dr. James Thacher, who was taken into the medical department of the army as a surgeon’s mate, reported that one of his senior colleagues, a Dr. Eustis, once treated a “dangerous wound” of the shoulder and lungs by bleeding. While dilating the wound, Dr. Eustis “recommended repeated and liberal bloodletting, observing that in order to cure a wound through the lungs, you must bleed your patient to death.” Thacher reported that the wounded man recovered; the principal reason, Thacher believed, was the treatment he received.

Perhaps the best guide for surgeons, Plain, Concise, Practical Remarks on the Treatment of Wounds and Fractures by Dr. John Jones, advocated rather different procedures. Jones was a professor of surgery in King’s College, New York; he had received his medical degree from the University of Rheims in 1751 and shortly after served in the French and Indian War. The first concern in the case of a wound inflicted by a musket, he wrote, should be to extract the ball and, second, to stop the hemorrhaging. Jones’s manual divided wounds into categories; each sort required its own treatment. But in treating all kinds, Jones urged that care be used to clean the wound and to dress it carefully. He had a sense of the limits of surgery, noting, for example, the danger of amputation when the wounded man was reduced to a “low and weak state.”

Whatever the effects of Jones’s prescriptions, the treatment of wounds remained a most problematic enterprise. Soldiers who survived serious wounds doubtlessly did so through a mixture of luck and their own strong constitutions. Most surgeons tried to give their best to their patients. In the Continental army, chronically short of medicine, bandages, nurses, and food, the “best” often could not prevent death.

No disability from either wounds or illness caused more concern than smallpox. In fact smallpox frightened everyone in the eighteenth century. Battles left men wounded, sometimes disabled for life, and of course sometimes dead. Battles were frightful events, but in the Continental Army some soldiers probably feared smallpox even more.

A wound could be dressed and bandaged up; there was agreement about that. There was no such agreement about what to do about smallpox, which found quarantine and isolation of the afflicted competing with inoculation, itself a treatment that produced the disease. No one knew this better than General Washington.

Washington contracted smallpox in 1751 in Barbados while accompanying his brother Lawrence, who had traveled to the island in search of relief, if not a cure, for an ailment that was destroying his lungs. Lawrence Washington had what the eighteenth century called consumption; the modern name is tuberculosis. He died in 1752. George Washington of course survived his affliction, but he never forgot his own experience with smallpox and may have been especially sensitive to its rigors when he took command of the army in 1775 outside Boston. Smallpox lurked nearby in the city and in many of the surrounding towns. Some 13,000 civilians lived in Boston—several thousand had fled by early 1775, when the war broke out, and, cooped up by the siege, those remaining proved vulnerable to the spread of the disease.

Smallpox was an old and familiar visitor to the American colonies. New Englanders had attempted early in the eighteenth century to meet it head-on using a procedure called inoculation or variolation. In 1721, Cotton Mather, the great Puritan divine, persuaded Zabdiel Boylston, a medical practitioner in Boston, to inoculate those willing to undergo the operation. There was an epidemic in the town and the attempt to halt it with a method untried before in America kicked up an enormous storm. The reasons are not hard to understand. Inoculation entailed making an incision on the body, usually the arm but occasionally the hand, and inserting infected matter, pus, extracted from a pustule on a sufferer from the disease. The inoculated contracted the disease a few days afterward, but surprisingly, in a form less severe than usually experienced when the infection was transmitted naturally. The tumult over inoculation in 1721 was understandable, though Cotton Mather considered the bomb thrown through his window an extreme expression of discontent.

The years following Boston’s first experience with inoculation saw the practice slowly take hold. But it was frequently condemned, barred by law in cities and towns throughout the colonies. Americans learned more about the disease and about treating it in these years before the Revolution. To stop the incursion of smallpox from reaching epidemic proportions, communities resorted to quarantine, and some attempted a modified form of inoculation. Medical wisdom gradually came to the conclusion that inoculees should prepare themselves before allowing the infection to be inserted; preparation included a special diet (of doubtful value) and isolation from those free of the disease. That infected matter taken from a person who had smallpox contracted through inoculation produced illness less severe than that contracted from someone who had taken the disease naturally was recognized by mid-century. Still the use of inoculation remained controversial even when coupled with isolation and quarantine. It also sometimes proved dangerous. There is no evidence that Washington knew of Boston’s history with inoculation, but he must have heard of some parts of it.

Faced with smallpox in Boston in 1775, Washington pondered his choices, knowing that he would have to decide soon whether to use inoculation or depend upon isolation and quarantine. Most soldiers in Washington’s army had never had the disease, and he feared that if he ordered inoculation he would weaken his army temporarily to the extent of destroying its ability to maintain the siege. The inoculated were sometimes so sick as to be unable to fight. Done carefully and in stages, and without the enemy’s knowledge, inoculation would reduce the risk. Still the danger remained that one inoculee released from quarantine too early could disable troops bivouacked in tight lines around the city. In the end Washington decided against inoculation. He would quarantine troops who caught the disease naturally and civilians already infected who escaped Boston and entered his lines. Washington’s prudence paid off; most of his soldiers avoided the infection.

By January 1777, with his army at Morris Town, New Jersey, he had reason to make a different decision. Smallpox had struck his troops heavily, and other American forces as well, and he feared that it might render his army useless. He knew that inoculation would arouse opposition of the sort he had heard earlier. One example of such opposition had come to him in August of 1776, when he was told that the Governor of Connecticut, Jonathan Trumbull, had described inoculation as “pernicious” and predicted that “ ‘if it is not timely restrained it appears to me it must prove fatal to all our operations and may ruin the country.’ ”61 Washington saw ruin of another kind: an army overwhelmed by the disease. The orders therefore went out to begin immediately to inoculate soldiers who had not had the disease. He did not act recklessly but organized the process with care, making certain that the sick were isolated and that the newly inoculated were kept in quarantine.

Since recruits to his army usually came through Philadelphia, where the disease was common, the possibility was strong that they would arrive in Morris Town carrying the infection. Washington therefore issued a second set of orders instructing William Shippen, the director general and chief physician of the army, then in Philadelphia, to inoculate all recruits before sending them on to Morris Town. Soldiers who might be carriers of the disease were to be kept out of the city until they had received a change of clothes—new clothes “if possible,” and if none were available, the old clothes were to be “well washed, aired and smoaked.”

Once under way in 1777, inoculating the troops continued well into the next year when the army was in camp at Valley Forge. The medical committee of the Continental Congress gave its approval—an important action because Benjamin Rush, a medical doctor trained in Britain, chaired the group. Soon inoculations were being given wherever sizable numbers of troops were located. In many cases these soldiers were headed for the main encampment. In the year 1777, thousands were inoculated in at least three camps in Virginia, one in Maryland, two in New York, and one in Connecticut.

Unhappily, though Washington’s policy worked and almost all of those inoculated survived, a similar effort had to be undertaken again after the army settled in at Valley Forge. Washington estimated that some three or four thousand men needed protection against smallpox. The veterans had undergone the procedure, but more recently recruited troops had not, a fact that should not have occasioned surprise since the turnover rate in the army was disturbingly high. Life at Valley Forge was difficult even without inoculations, but smallpox was a serious threat in these winter quarters. By this time the army’s leadership felt confident of the efficacy of inoculation, and little time was lost before the medical branch swung into action. The troops survived the rigors of inoculation as they had every other sort at Valley Forge, and in the spring when their general ordered them into action against a British army then pulling up stakes and setting out for New York, they were ready.

Looked at from a later perspective, it is hard not to conclude that the attack on smallpox through inoculation saved the army from disintegration. The procedure seems harsh, and was, but in its absence, smallpox took many lives. With it, the army survived in fairly good shape and maintained a combat strength that would not have been possible without General Washington’s medical policy.

THE RHODESIAN SECURITY FORCES I

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The armed forces of Rhodesia won virtually every battle and skirmish they ever fought against the guerrilla armies, yet they lost the war. In July 1977, Foreign Minister P K van der Byl said of white Rhodesians’ resolve never to live under a guerrilla regime: ‘We will contest every hill and every river, every village and every town, every crossroad and every bridge.’ Van der Byl’s penchant for Churchillian rhetoric was renowned, but his declaration epitomized the objectives of the Rhodesians’ war against the nationalists: never to surrender their political, social and economic power to black majority rule. Yet the war was lost, and in April 1980 the guerrillas grasped the reins of power for which they had fought so long.

The story of the Rhodesian armed forces during the civil war is one of tactical brilliance and strategic ineptitude. Rarely in military history have such thinly stretched troops, hampered by chronic manpower, training, equipment and financial constraints achieved such consistent successes against enemy forces which enjoyed the tactical and strategic initiative for most of the war, and often reached numerical parity in the field. But the Rhodesian obsession with successful tactics created a fatal blindness to the strategic imperatives of a protracted revolutionary war such as the guerrillas were waging.

The early stages of the war were fought with the armed forces much the same as they had been at the break-up of Federation. The rashness of the guerrillas’ early strategy and tactics required no expansion of the armed forces or mobilization of reserves much beyond peace-time levels. Until 1972 the brunt of the counterinsurgency operations was borne by the British South Africa Police, the RAR, the Rhodesian Light Infantry and the Royal Rhodesian Air Force (the ‘Royal’ was dropped in 1970 when Rhodesia became a republic). Reserve forces assisted from time to time, but did not assume the importance of later years.

The counter-insurgency operations were originally conceived of as a ‘police action’, with the army aiding the civil power against what were characterized as politically motivated criminals. Guerrillas were tried and convicted through the civil courts and were imprisoned or executed through the same machinery as common criminals. This preserved the fiction that the government was waging a campaign against violent criminal elements rather than an incipient civil war, but despite its political usefulness this attitude ignored the realities of the conflict. The police were responsible for the painstaking collection of evidence and the preparation of criminal dockets. It was only in 1978-9 that disaffected areas were placed under martial law and tribunals empowered to deal with captured guerrillas.

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REGULAR FORCES

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In a sense it was natural that the BSAP should be involved in counter-insurgency operations from the start. The unit (formed partly from the earlier British South Africa Company police) was raised in 1896 to combat the Shona and Ndebele insurgents, and in 1897 was almost solely responsible for mopping up the final stubborn pockets of resistance. The Rhodesian authorities liked to boast that, after 1897, the police did not shoot and kill a single African until 26 July 1960, during serious rioting in Bulawayo. The force was structured as a cavalry regiment and its military ethos remained with it until the 1980s. Although its functions became increasingly civil in succeeding decades after its foundation, it never entirely lost its paramilitary role nor its military spirit, signified by the force’s nickname, ‘The Regiment’, and its status as the ‘senior service’.

The regular police, numbering about 2,000 whites and 6,000 blacks at the height of the war, received long periods of counter-insurgency training during their recruit courses. Although most active policemen served in a civil capacity, most white junior ranks were required to serve periodic tours in the Police Anti-Terrorist Unit (PATU), otherwise essentially a reserve element.

As the war intensified, so the combat role of the regular police expanded. The Support Unit, nicknamed the ‘Black Boots’, was formed as a regular counterinsurgency unit and eventually expanded into a light infantry battalion of black constables officered by whites. The unit was highly successful and at times scored a higher kill rate than regular army formations. A widening war encouraged the proliferation of other specialist police units. The Special Branch, initially responsible for the investigation of political crime and undercover surveillance, diversified into the collection of field intelligence when it absorbed the police ‘Ground Coverage’ network of operatives and informers. A Special Branch section, the SB-Scouts, was a small unit of Special Branch agents, Selous Scouts and captured guerrillas which carried out more dangerous and esoteric intelligence-gathering, as well as conducting clandestine operations against the enemy’s political and military infrastructure. A Police Mounted Unit, formed in 1976, was an attempt to increase the mobility of police COIN forces, but it was a gimmicky formation which remained limited in size. The explosion of stock theft, which was part of the guerrilla strategy of undermining the white economy and its logistics system, brought the creation of specialized anti-stock theft teams. Their high mobility and ruthlessness in dealing with stock thieves, as well as a mandatory nine-year gaol sentence for cattle theft, were only partly successful in controlling this chronic problem for the white farming community. The spread of the war to the urban areas in the latter stages of the conflict was countered by the Urban Emergency unit, a ‘special weapons and tactics’ (SWAT) group, which was highly successful in rooting out and deterring urban terrorism.

Like all the armed forces, the police suffered from a shortage of quality manpower. This was partly alleviated by the allocation of part of the national service intakes for each year from 1973, and the greater responsibility of reserve units to assist in preventing and detecting crime in urban areas and the safer rural districts. Increasing reliance was also placed on black recruits, who made up the rank and file, and the stretching of white officers’ responsibilities.