Ufa Offensive II


Photo of Bogdan Vasko, commander of the Red Army detachment near Ufa, 1918.


Kolchak’s Army Offensive

The Whites might, on the other hand, have had a much more cautious policy, holding the Urals line and equipping their army behind it. This made sense in purely military terms; it is what Stepanov and Knox wanted. Kolchak might have waited to mount, with General Denikin’s southern White armies, a coordinated late-summer offensive against Moscow. But Denikin’s advance, which took him to Kharkov and Tsaritsyn at the end of June, could not have been predicted, and may only have occurred because Red troops had been moved from south Russia to fight Kolchak.

And there were basic political, psychological, and military factors pushing the Whites forward. Some of their leaders thought the Reds would simply fall apart if attacked – a not unreasonable assessment, given the pressures on Bolshevik Russia from several sides. Whatever Knox’s local advice, Kolchak saw the political necessity of an offensive as a means of getting Allied aid and recognition. ‘Foreign policy was made by the army,’ one of Kolchak’s advisers recalled. ‘On it depended both the scale and continuation of the Allies’ help.’ And underlying Kolchak’s dilemma was the overall balance against him: the Red Army – with its big population base – was getting stronger all the time.

Kolchak’s Ufa offensive was later described by Stalin and a generation of Soviet historians as part of the ‘First Campaign of the Entente.’ In fact there is no evidence that the Allies provoked the March 1919 offensive; the most important Allied representative in Siberia, General Knox, wanted Kolchak properly to prepare his forces before going over to the attack. The March offensive, Knox later reported to London, ‘was commenced without our previous knowledge’; the local British mission had to accept it as a fait accompli. The attack, unlike the 1918 Volga campaign, was a purely Russian affair; the Czechoslovaks, in particular, had been withdrawn to the rear to guard part of the Trans-Siberian railway. There were no Allied troops involved in the fighting. (A handful of Allied battalion-strength detachments were stationed deep behind the lines in Siberian cities, and there was a large Japanese presence east of Lake Baikal.) General Janin, the head of the French military mission, tried to assume command of all forces in Siberia, but this was stiffly rejected by Kolchak on grounds of national pride.

On the other hand Allied, and especially British, logistic support for Kolchak was most important. Rural Siberia had neither munitions factories nor arms depots. The Urals would be the arsenal of the 1941 war, but in 1918–1919 the factories there were in turmoil and starved of food and fuel. Weapons and supplies could only come from outside, and thanks to the port of Vladivostok they began to flow to Kolchak six months before they began to flow to General Denikin in south Russia (via the Black Sea). Knox stressed the British contribution in a letter to Kolchak of June 1919: ‘Since about the middle of December [1918] every round of rifle ammunition fired on the front has been of British manufacture, conveyed to VLADIVOSTOK in British ships and delivered at OMSK by British guards.’ ‘Britmiss’ (the British military mission) reported the arrival between October 1918 and October 1919 of 79 ships with 97,000 tons of supplies. The bulk arrived in Omsk between March and June 1919. Supplies included 600,000 rifles, 346 million rounds of small-arms ammunition, 6831 machine guns, 192 field guns, and clothing and personal equipment for 200,500 men. Kolchak was sent infantry weapons (rifles, machine guns, ammunition) on a scale comparable to that sent to Denikin. (He was, however, sent much less [five times less] artillery, and few if any aircraft or tanks.) One Soviet source spoke of 600,000 rifles and 1000 machine guns from the U.S. in 1918–1919, 1700 machine guns and 400 field guns from the French, and 70,000 rifles, 100 machine guns, and 30 field guns from the Japanese. Whatever the figures, the Allies, led by the British, sent to Kolchak arms and equipment roughly comparable to total Soviet production in 1919.

But the bulk of British supplies did not begin to arrive in Omsk until after the Ufa offensive had started. And there would be great problems throughout 1919 in ensuring the flow of weapons. There was hardly anywhere on the globe that was less accessible than Kolchak’s battle-front. Vladivostok was far from the military depots of western Europe and North America. And even then it was a trip of four to six weeks from Vladivostok to Omsk via the single-track line of the Trans-Siberian, a route dependent on Japanese good will and vulnerable to the looting of local leaders such as Ataman Semenov.

The Kolchak army, officially called the ‘Russian (Rossiiskaia) Army,’ was large by White standards. Kolchak’s commanders realized, however, that Siberia could not match the Reds in overall numbers and that quality could prove the key factor. Vatsetis later explained the initial success of the Ufa offensive by the Whites’ better officers and better disciplined and standardized forces. But the overall quality of Kolchak’s army was never very good, and in particular was below that of Denikin’s ‘Armed Forces of South Russia,’ which had the advantage of a larger pool of experienced and capable generals and colonels, and the officer-veterans of the ‘Ice March.’


Lebedev Dmitry Antonovich (1883-1926) the Colonel (1917). The General-major (11.1918). Siberian military school (1900). Mihailov artillery school (1903). Nikolaev academy of the Generall Staff (1911). The participant of the Russo- Japanese War 1904-1905. April, 22, 1915 awarded with St George cross for Zimgrod defensive operation A member of the Main committee of the Union of officers , 1917 Arrested by Red Revolutionaries in Nov 13, 1917,but  escaped from prison, Then join Kornilov’s army, sent out to join Kochack’s army to Siberia. 18 November 1918 year – Commander and the head of general stuff of Kolchack White army in Siberia. 6 January 1919 General-Major. 23 May 1919- military Minster. 12 August 1919 lost his minister’s rank after Cheljabinsk operation failed. Estonia in 1920 and served in Estonian army in the same rank of General-Major. Professor 1921-1926 till his death in 1926 year(due to the wounds received in WW1).

Kolchak’s defeat is often explained by his admiral’s ignorance of land warfare. On the other hand Kolchak had been a very capable and energetic admiral; he was a distinguished combat officer in both the Pacific and the Baltic, and had been selected for early and rapid promotion (he was only forty-five in 1919). In any event, while Kolchak was nominally Supreme Commander-in-Chief, the day-to-day command army was in the hands of his chief of staff. But it is just here, in his choice of subordinates, that Kolchak is most easily criticized. The de facto commander of Kolchak’s armies from November 1918 to June 1919 was General D. A. Lebedev; Lebedev was a thirty-six-year-old wartime colonel who, although a General Staff officer, was better at political conspiracy than high command. Kolchak installed Lebedev in place of the Directory’s competent commander, General Boldyrev, and passed over a number of other qualified officers. Perhaps Kolchak preferred him to a more senior man who would have challenged his own authority; in any event the poorly thought out spring campaign showed Lebedev to have been a bad choice.

Other aspects of the army’s command left much to be desired. The administrative staffs in the rear were too big, which made them ponderously inefficient and starved the active units of officers; Kolchak’s ‘Stavka,’ the former headquarters building of the Tsarist Omsk Military District, was described as a ‘military anthill.’ In addition, the quality of Kolchak’s officers was not high. There were 17,000 of them, but only 1000 had been pre-1915 cadre officers with training and experience in mobile warfare; the great mass were young ‘prapory,’ wartime ensigns (praporshchiki). None of Kolchak’s corps or division commanders had been prerevolutionary generals; the only ‘proper’ general active in the fighting of March-June 1919 was Khanzhin. Lebedev and Stepanov, commanders of the front and the rear, were former colonels in their thirties. ‘Lieutenant General’ Gajda, Commander-in-Chief of the other main front-line force, Siberian Army, was twenty-seven and an NCO deserter from the Austro-Hungarian Army. Of the other best-known Kolchak commanders Sakharov was thirty-eight, Kappel was thirty-six, and Pepeliaev was twenty-six. So in terms of experience there was little to choose between White and Red armies.

Kolchak was never able to make use of what might have been a major asset, the cossack cavalry. Cossack brigades were attached to each White corps but made little impact before September 1919; there was nothing like the successes of the Don Cossacks or the Mamontov raid on Denikin’s front. Kolchak’s potential cossack strength was much less than Denikin’s. The front-line Orenburg and Ural Hosts, with total populations (men, women, and children) of 574,000 and 235,000 respectively, were considerably smaller than those of the Don (1,457,000), the Kuban (1,339,000), and the Terek (255,000). In the steppe south of Omsk was the Siberian Host (114,000) but this was mobilized – incompletely – only in August 1919. The 58,000 Semirechie Cossacks were tied down in Central Asia. (The 258,000 Transbaikal cossacks and 96,000 Amur, Ussuri, and Irkutsk cossacks were in eastern Siberia; with leaders such as Semenov and Kalmykov they were more a liability than an asset.)

The quality of Kolchak’s rank and file was not high. He avoided older World War veterans, from a fear that they had been radicalized by the revolution. Instead he called up the youngest ‘classes,’ nineteen- and twenty-year-olds who had not been ‘infected.’ These men had to be trained (unlike the veterans conscripted by the Reds). The main French adviser thought they were puny, and drily compared them with Jules Verne’s hero: ‘the population of Siberia, particularly in the east, is rarely the Michael Strogoff type.’ Wide use was also made of captured Red soldiers, who were most unreliable. The White army began to fall apart once the Volga advance was stalled. As it was pushed back across Ufa province there were large-scale desertions and even mutinies. By the time Western Army had retreated to the Belaia its strength had fallen from 62,000 to 15,000.

In March 1919 Kolchak’s armies were the largest anti-Bolshevik forces, with a paper front-line strength of 110,000 men. (Total strength – combatants and non-combatants – grew from 160,000 in November 1918 to 450,000 in June 1919.) Siberia had been under White control and free of serious fighting since midsummer 1918; in contrast Denikin and the Don Cossacks were fighting for their lives right through the winter 1918–1919. On the other hand Kolchak’s population base was small, relative to the size of his territory and the strength of the Reds. At its greatest extent the White zone in the east – including the Urals, Orenburg, Siberia, Kazakhstan, and the Far East – contained about 20 million people. In the crucial central zone between the Urals and Lake Baikal, where Kolchak had fullest control throughout 1918–1919 (Tobolsk, Tomsk, Enisei, and Irkutsk Provinces), the population was less than 8 million.

The population of the Soviet-held zone, on the other hand, was 60 million. The total strength (combat and non-combat personnel) of the Red Army in January 1919, two months before the Kolchak offensive, was 788,000, with 120,000 in Eastern Army Group and 147,000 in the Iaroslavl, Ural, and Volga Military Districts behind it. The combat strength of Eastern Army Group in February 1919 was 84,000, and there were another 18,000 combat troops behind it in the three military districts. At this time the Reds had 372 guns and 1471 machine-guns in Eastern Army Group (plus 184 and 231 in the three districts), compared to Kolchak’s 256 guns and 1235 machine-guns.

Meanwhile, after Kolchak’s Ufa offensive, the Reds began to channel resources to the east. Special theses of the Bolshevik CC in early April said that Kolchak’s victories were creating ‘an extraordinarily threatening danger for the Soviet republic’ and demanded maximum effort. Fortunately for Moscow the situation on the other fronts appeared good in April; the French had withdrawn from the Ukrainian ports and the Don Cossacks were under siege; Trotsky could announce in April that Kolchak was ‘the last card of the counter-revolution.’ (At the start of May Vatsetis told Lenin that all reserves were being sent to Eastern Army Group.) By mid-May the total strength in Eastern Army Group was listed as 361,000, plus 195,000 in the Iaroslavl, Urals, and Volga districts. The Reds, then, had large reserves of manpower, Kolchak did not.

In May 1919 one White officer visited Ufa, which stands on a hill above the Belaia River, and looked to the west.

Beyond the Belaia spread to the horizon the limitless plain, the rich fruitful steppe; the lilac haze in the far distance enticed and excited – there were the home places so close to us, there was the goal, the Volga. And only the wall of the internatsional, which had impudently invaded our Motherland, divided us off from all that was closest and most dear.

But it was not to be. Kolchak’s Ufa offensive failed. After two months of success his armies found themselves back where they had started. They would never again threaten the Red heartland, and for the rest of their existence would be on the strategic defensive.

If the White armies had actually achieved the intermediate goal of getting back to the Volga (and they would probably have trapped large Soviet forces in the process), they would have had the benefit of a mile-wide river obstacle between themselves and any Red counter-attack, and they might have been ready for some kind of coordination with Denikin’s armies in the south. On the other hand, even if Kolchak had got to Samara and Simbirsk on the Volga in May 1919 he would still have been 500 miles from Moscow, and the Ufa campaign showed the huge difficulties to be overcome. This chapter has been about those difficulties that emerged in the first months of Kolchak’s regime. The basic reason for failure was that even the limited task involved was too difficult. By May the Whites had lost the initiative. The next chapter will be about why Kolchak’s army was unable even to hold its ground, and why, by November 1919, it had been shattered beyond redemption.

Leon Gambetta armoured cruisers (1905-1907)


Léon Gambetta underway.

The ‘Gambetta’ class were excellent steamers, able to make over 17 kts on half boilers and to maintain 18 kts for 72 hours continuously. Noted tor their very clear gun decks, the ‘Gambettas’ were better armed than their British contemporaries.

On the night of 27 April 1915, when 15 miles (24 km) south of Santa Maria di Leuca (the south-eastern tip of Italy in the Ionian Sea) in position 39°30′N 18°15′ECoordinates: 39°30′N 18°15′E, she was torpedoed twice by Austro-Hungarian submarine U-5 under the command of Korvettenkapitän Georg Ludwig Ritter von Trapp, patriarch of the Von Trapp Family Singers.

Léon Gambetta was part of the French fleet based at Malta blockading the Austrian Navy in the Adriatic, usually from a position south of the Strait of Otranto. At this time the blockade line was moved further north because of expected Austrian naval activity – the Allies were negotiating with the Italians which shortly led to them declaring war on Austria-Hungary. In spite of the growing threat from Austrian and now German U-boats in the Mediterranean, the armoured cruiser was patrolling unescorted at a reported 7 knots (13 km/h) on a clear, calm night just to the south of the Otranto Straits when she was torpedoed by the U-5.

Léon Gambetta sank in just 10 minutes. Out of 821 men on board, 684 including Rear Admiral Victor Baptistin Senes, commander of the 2nd Light Division, were lost along with all commissioned officers. There were 137 survivors. The French cruiser patrol line was moved South to the longitude of Cephalonia, western Greece. Other sources place her loss 20 miles (32 km) off Cape Leuca.


The return of armored cruisers also seemed like a favorable one to naval officials in many maritime powers owing to the ideas on naval warfare advanced by the U. S. naval strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan. His book, The Influence of Sea Power on History, was published in 1890. Mahan asserted that, contrary to the French policy of war on commerce as the chief function of a navy, a country must have a strong oceangoing fleet to win control of the sea. This object, known as command of the sea, could be won only in battles where one fleet destroyed the opposing force of another. Once that goal was attained, the power whose fleet controlled the sea-lanes could project its strength around the world. The fleet of that nation could also protect worldwide trade and guarantee its place as a world power. Armored cruisers, despite the fact that Mahan called for a force of battleships at the expense of all smaller ships, still fit into this dogma. They and the largest protected cruisers were increasingly viewed, because of the large growth in size, protection, and armament, as second-class battleships rather than traditional cruisers.

The prime example of the return to the armored cruiser was Great Britain. Faced with the threat of France, Russia, and to an ever-growing extent Germany, the British completed a tremendous number of cruisers. The vast majority were large armored cruisers; the construction of second-class protected ships was discontinued. The Cressy-class comprised six ships completed between 1901 and 1904. These ships were a response to the French Dupuy de Lome and were designed to act as fleet reconnaissance and as a fast battle wing if necessary. This latter role was partially the product of the impression made by cruisers in the line of battle during the Sino-Japanese and Spanish-American wars.

The advantage of steel armor was obvious in these ships. Instead of a narrow armored belt, the new steel extended from the main deck to a depth of 5 feet below the waterline and covered the center of the hull, where the ammunition, barbettes, and engines were housed. This belt had a maximum thickness of 6 inches. Complementing this armor was a limited protective deck. They also had steel bulkheads, essentially walls that separated the compartments of the ship, which added strength to the hull. Finally, the vessel had armor of the same maximum thickness as the belt on its turrets and the barbettes underneath them, while the conning tower had 12 inches of armor. In all respects, this ship was an armored cruiser in the literal sense of the term rather than past ships with limited belt and deck protection.


France followed much the same course as Great Britain in the years leading to 1905. Although the French built seven protected cruisers, the emphasis turned to armored cruisers. France had already been the forerunner with steel armor when its naval constructors built Dupuy de Lome, but attention was paid to reviving this type because of the British building program. It was also partially the result of a continued emphasis on the commerce-raiding ideas of the Jeune École, although the power of the school had declined as each minister of marine that succeeded Admiral Théophile Aube pursued their own policy on the best course to strengthen the navy. Indeed, the chaos that ensued from this situation led in many instances to cruisers built solely for the reason that others were doing the same. From 1899 to 1905, France commissioned 15 armored cruisers. In general terms, these vessels had good speed and sufficient protection, but they suffered greatly as a result of light armament. Some of the last of France’s armored cruisers, the Leon Gambetta-class, were large ships that displaced 12,351 tons on a hull that measured 480 feet, 6 inches by 70 feet, 3 inches, but they mounted only four 7.6-inch guns as primary armament. This deficiency was offset a bit by a secondary armament of 16 6.4-inch quick-firing guns. These weapons, however, were shorter-range ones and could not all train on a target at once, as they were mounted on the sides of the ship. In a long-range battle, cruisers such as these would be severely hampered if they faced enemy armored cruisers, whose weaponry was generally larger.

These cruisers formed the bulk of the modern French Navy because by 1906 the battleships that existed were obsolete as a result of stagnation in their construction. Indeed, the French Navy as early as 1898 was no longer a threat to British naval power. This problem resulted from the disastrous effects of the Jeune École, which created a state of flux in French grand naval strategy, and consequently the building programs, as debates continued to break out between proponents of that school and traditionalists. Lack of clear naval policy hampered the standardization of design, so the fleet comprised a collection of test ships by the turn of the century. France was still a powerful force, but it was no longer number two in the world. By 1905, French weakness and the fear of Germany had led to the Entente Cordiale, a loose defensive understanding with Britain, the year before. Part of this agreement was rough naval plans for use in case of a common war with Germany.

The ‘March Retreat’ of 1918

Deutscher Sturmwagen in Roye

Deutscher Sturmwagen in Roye

German A7V tank in Roye, Somme, 26 March 1918.



The ‘March Retreat’ of 1918 is remembered as one of the worst defeats in the history of the British army. After four years of deadlock, in their spring offensive the Germans used innovative new artillery and infantry tactics to break through the trenches of the British Fifth Army and reopen mobile warfare. Fifth Army lost large numbers of men and guns captured, and were forced into headlong retreat. Fuelled by inaccurate newspaper reports, the rumours of disasters on the battlefield were given credibility by the Prime Minister, David Lloyd George. In a speech to Parliament on 9 April 1918, Lloyd George cast some aspersions on the performance of Fifth Army, and its commander, General Sir Hubert Gough, who had been sacked on the eighth day of the battle. In Gough’s bitter words, ‘All were … clear that the real cause of the retreat was the inefficiency of myself as a general, and the poor and cowardly spirit of the officers and men.’ But this traditional picture is deeply flawed. Fifth Army was not defeated as badly as some have claimed. Overall, the German spring offensives failed, and their failure represents a British defensive victory.

At the end of 1917 the Germans were presented with a rare window of opportunity to win the First World War. Russia, beaten on the field of battle, had collapsed into revolution, thus releasing large numbers of German troops for use on the Western Front: in the spring of 1918 the Germans could deploy 192 divisions, while the French and British could only muster 156. The German policy of unrestricted submarine warfare, introduced at the beginning of the year, had backfired disastrously. Not only had it failed to knock Britain out the war by cutting her vital Atlantic lifeline, it had prompted the United States to enter the war against Germany. As yet, the vast American war machine was still gearing up for action. Substantial numbers of American troops would not reach Europe until the middle of 1918. The German commanders, Hindenburg and Ludendorff, had no desire to sit on the defensive and risk repeating the battering the German army had received at the hands of British at Passchendaele in 1917. They decided to stake everything on one last gamble: to strike in the West and defeat the British Expeditionary Force and French army before the Americans could intervene with decisive numbers. Ironically, the fateful decision was taken at a meeting held at Mons on 11 November 1917. Exactly twelve months later the war ended, in great part as a consequence of the decision taken on that day.

On 21 January the plans were finalised. Operation Michael was an attack on the British, whom the Germans correctly identified as the most dangerous of the Allied forces, in the Somme-Arras sector. Three German armies were to be employed opposite either side of St. Quentin. Opposite Byng’s British Third Army in the Arras area was von Below’s Seventeenth Army, while to their south, covering the Flesquières Salient (created as a result of the Cambrai battles at the end of 1917) and the northern portion of Gough’s British Fifth Army, was von der Marwitz’s Second Army. Both German formations belonged to Crown Prince Rupprecht’s Army Group. Facing Gough’s southern sector was von Hutier’s Eighteenth Army, also of the German Crown Prince’s Army Group. Broadly, the plan was to crack open the British defences, and then push through into open countryside, then wheel to the north and strike the BEF’s flank. Then further attacks could be launched. In the initial stages of the offensive, von Below and von der Marwitz were to capture the old 1916 Somme battlefield before turning north to envelop Arras, while von Hutier was to act as a flank-guard, dealing with any French forces that emerged from the south, and offering support to von der Marwitz’s forces.

The attackers had several advantages over the British. First, numbers. In spite of having greater reserves than the Germans, the British were now suffering from a manpower crisis that had forced divisions to be reduced from twelve infantry battalions to only nine. Haig was forced to make hard choices about where to deploy his divisions. Miscalculating the weight and axis of the German offensive and misled by German deception operations, Haig deliberately left his southernmost Army, Gough’s Fifth, weak. Haig correctly calculated that he could afford to give ground in the Somme area, while to yield territory further north would have been catastrophic. A short advance in the Ypres area, for instance, would have brought the Germans to within striking distance of the coast, which would have imperilled the entire British position. Thus Gough had only 12 divisions to defend 42 miles of front, although he faced 43 German divisions. Byng by contrast had 14 divisions on a 28-mile frontage against 19 German divisions. In the Michael area, the Germans had 2,508 heavy guns against only 976 – a 5 to 2 advantage. Haig gambled on Fifth Army holding out against heavy odds. ‘Never before had the British line been held with so few men and so few guns to the mile; and the reserves were wholly insufficient’.

The second German advantage was in ‘fighting power’. For most of the war, the morale, tactics, and weapons of the two sides were roughly equal. But in March 1918, in terms of tactics, they were not. In the previous two years of almost constant offensives, the BEF had become highly effective at the art of attack. While much play has been made of German ‘stormtroop’ infantry tactics and ‘hurricane’ artillery bombardments used on 21 March 1918, in truth there was little for the BEF to learn from their enemy in this respect. Fighting on the defensive, however, was a novelty, especially because the British had introduced a new concept of defence-in-depth, modelled on the German pattern. In place of linear trenches, defensive positions consisted of Forward, Battle and Rear Zones, utilising machine gun posts, and redoubts. But in many cases, lack of time and labour meant that the Rear Zone was never constructed. Also, the concept was misunderstood at various levels. The Forward Zone was intended to be lightly held, to do little more than delay the attacker and force him to channel his attack where it could be more easily broken up in the Battle Zone by artillery, machine gun fire and local counterattacks. But as many as one third of British infantry were pushed into the Forward Zone. ‘It don’t suit us,’ opined a grizzled veteran NCO. ‘The British Army fights in line and won’t do any good in these bird cages’.

At 4.20 a.m. on 21 March the ‘Devil’s Orchestra’, conducted by Hutier’s innovative head gunner, Colonel Bruchmuller, began the overture to the offensive.

It was still dark on the morning of March 21st [1918] when a terrific German bombardment began – “the most terrific roar of guns we have ever heard” … The great push had started and along the whole of our front gas and high-explosive shells from every variety of gun and trench mortars were being hurled over. Everyone [in 54th Brigade] realized that the great ordeal for which they had been training and planning for weeks was upon them.’

Bruchmuller’s gunners hammered the British defenders to the depth of their position. Five hours later, assisted by a dense fog, the infantry assault broke on the battered and disoriented British defenders. By the evening, the situation was critical. The BEF had lost 500 guns and 38,000 casualties, and the Germans had captured the Forward Zone almost everywhere. Worse, in the extreme south Hutier had broken through Gough’s Battle Zone, forcing British III Corps to retreat to the Crozat Canal. Yet even on the first day of the Kaiserschlact, the ‘Imperial battle’, the British had achieved a modest, but nonetheless important success: they had denied the Germans their first day objectives.

German Seventeenth Army’s attack on Byng’s relatively strong and well dug-in Third Army achieved far less than had been intended. Similarly, German Second Army had failed to achieve the breakthrough it had sought. All this was at the cost of 40,000 German casualties. These were caused partly by clumsy tactics and relentless attacking, but also the British seizing the initiative at a local level. These acts of resistance in the early days of Operation Michael ranged from 18th Division’s counterattack at Baboeuf on 24-25 March, to the action of a Lewis Gun team of 24th Royal Fusiliers, led by two NCOs, who went forward to delay the enemy advance on their sector.

22 March saw the renewal of the offensive. British XVIII and XIX Corps fell back, in part as a result of confusion among the British commanders. Third Army was still holding its Battle Zone but was now being outflanked as Fifth Army was pushed back. To the South, von Hutier’s Eighteenth Army had advanced more than twelve miles, and this led Ludendorff to make an important error. He was painfully aware that the offensive was not going according to plan. He complained of the lack of progress of von Below’s army on 22 March, which had a knock-on effect on Second Army. Ever the opportunist, on 23 March – the day that saw the Germans capture the Crozat Canal – Ludendorff decided to make Hutier’s army the point of main effort. Hutier’s Eighteenth Army had originally been given the role of flank-guard, but now, accompanied by Second Army, it was to drive west and southwest to drive a wedge between the BEF and the French. Von Below’s Seventeenth Army and German forces further north were to push back the British. Any Staff College would criticise this plan as breaking two of the fundamental principles of war: to select and maintain the aim and to concentrate force. The resistance of the British defenders had led Ludendorff – whose grasp of strategy and operational art was tenuous at best – to change his plan on the hoof. Now, the Germans were dispersing their force, rather than concentrating it, with disastrous effects.

Nevertheless, the next few days were grim ones for the BEF as the Germans continued to advance. A British soldier wrote on 23 March that ‘we had to make a hasty retreat with all our worldly possessions – every road out of the village was crowded with rushing traffic – lorries, limbers, G.S. wagons, great caterpillar-tractors with immense guns behind them, all were dashing along in an uninterrupted stream …’ He could even look back with affection on normal army rations: ‘I never thought in the days when we looked with disdain on ‘bully’ and biscuits I should ever long for them and cherish a bit of hard, dry biscuit as a hungry tramp cherishes a crust of bread.’ On 27 March Gough was removed from command of Fifth Army. He probably deserved this treatment for the way he handled his offensives of 1916 and 1917; it was Gough’s bad luck to be sacked for a defensive battle that he conducted with some skill.

Even at this stage there were glimmerings of light for the Allies. On 26 March the crisis led to the appointment of the French general Foch as Allied Generalissimo, to coordinate the activities of the Allied forces. This averted the threat of the French concentrating on defending Paris while the British watched for their lines of communications. Moreover Byng’s Third Army decisively defeated the next phase of the German offensive, Operation Mars. On 28 March nine German divisions attacked north of the River Scarpe. The attackers used much the same methods that had proved so successful on 21 March. But this time they were attacking well-constructed positions, without the benefit of fog, and the British forces were numerically stronger and conducted a model defensive battle.

In the light of the completeness of the German failure Ludendorff ordered the assaults against Third Army to halt – he had no taste for an attritional battle. His appreciation was shared by an officer of German 26th Division, who wrote in his diary on 28 March of his hope that if German ‘operations north and south of us succeed the enemy will also have to give way here’: having seen the British defences he feared heavy casualties if ordered to attack. Michael was not, however quite dead, and a few spasms of offensive action remained. Ludendorff now scaled down his objective to that of taking Amiens. But even this was beyond the German troops. They were halted ten miles short of their goal on 4-5 April, at Villers Bretonneux, by Australian and British forces. On the same day Byng was again attacked, and again the Germans were thrown back. By this stage Ludendorff the gambler was prepared to throw in his hand. On 5 April, he called off the Michael offensive and prepared to renew the attack further north.

CB Lutzow




Deutschland was the lead ship of her class of heavy cruisers (often termed a pocket battleship) which served with the Kriegsmarine of Nazi Germany during World War II. Ordered by the Weimar government for the Reichsmarine, she was laid down at the Deutsche Werke shipyard in Kiel in February 1929 and completed by April 1933. Originally classified as an armored ship (Panzerschiff) by the Reichsmarine, in February 1940 the Germans reclassified the remaining two ships of this class as heavy cruisers. In 1940, she was renamed Lützow, after the Admiral Hipper class heavy cruiser Lützow was handed over to the Soviet Union.

The ship saw significant action with the Kriegsmarine, including several non-intervention patrols, during which she was attacked by Republican bombers in the Spanish Civil War. At the outbreak of World War II, she was cruising the North Atlantic, prepared to attack Allied merchant traffic. Bad weather hampered her efforts, and she only sank or captured a handful of vessels before returning to Germany. She then participated in Operation Weserübung, the invasion of Norway. Damaged at the Battle of Drøbak Sound, she was recalled to Germany for repairs. While en route, she was torpedoed and seriously damaged by a British submarine.

Repairs were completed by March 1941, Lützow returned to Norway to join the forces arrayed against Allied shipping to the Soviet Union. She ran aground during a planned attack on convoy PQ 17, which necessitated another return to Germany for repairs. She next saw action at the Battle of the Barents Sea with the heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper, which ended with a failure to destroy the convoy JW 51B. Engine problems forced a series of repairs culminating in a complete overhaul at the end of 1943, after which the ship remained in the Baltic. Sunk in the Kaiserfahrt in April 1945 by Royal Air Force (RAF) bombers, Lützow was used as a gun battery to support German troops fighting the Soviet Army until 4 May 1945, when she was disabled by her crew. Raised by the Soviet Navy in 1947, she was subsequently sunk as a target in the Baltic.

World War II

On 24 August 1939, a week before the German invasion of Poland, Deutschland set sail from Wilhelmshaven, bound for a position south of Greenland. Here, she would be ready to attack Allied merchant traffic in the event of a general war following the attack on Poland. The supply ship Westerwald was assigned to support Deutschland during the operation. Deutschland was ordered to strictly observe prize rules, which required raiders to stop and search ships for contraband before sinking them, and to ensure that their crews are safely evacuated. The ship was also ordered to avoid combat with even inferior naval forces, as commerce disruption was the primary objective. Hitler hoped to secure a negotiated peace with Britain and France after he overran Poland, and he therefore did not authorize Deutschland to begin her raiding mission against British and French shipping until 26 September. By this time, Deutschland had moved south to hunt in the Bermuda-Azores sea lane.

On 5 October, she found and sank the British transport ship Stonegate, though not before the freighter was able to send a distress signal informing vessels in the area of Deutschland ’s presence. She then turned north to the Halifax route, where on 9 October, she encountered the American ship City of Flint. The 4,963 gross register tons (GRT) freighter was found to be carrying contraband, and so was seized. A prize crew was dispatched to the ship; they took the ship with the original crew held prisoner to Germany via Murmansk. The ship was seized by Norway when she anchored in Haugesund, however, and control of the ship was returned to the original crew. Meanwhile, on 14 October, Deutschland encountered and sank the Norwegian transport Lorentz W Hansen, of some 1,918 GRT. The same day, she stopped the neutral Danish steamer Kongsdal, though when it became apparent that she was headed for a neutral port, the prisoners from Lorentz W Hansen were placed aboard her and she was allowed to proceed. Kongsdal would eventually report to the British Royal Navy the incident and confirm Deutschland as the raider operating in the North Atlantic.

Severe weather in the North Atlantic hampered Deutschland ’s raiding mission, though she did tie down several British warships assigned to track her down. The French Force de Raid, centered on the battleship Dunkerque, was occupied with protecting convoys around Britain to prevent them from being attacked by Deutschland. In early November, the Naval High Command recalled Deutschland; she passed through the Denmark Strait on 15 November and anchored in Gotenhafen on the 17th. In the course of her raiding mission, she sank only two vessels and captured a third. In 1940, the ship underwent a major overhaul, during which a raked clipper bow was installed to improve the sea-keeping qualities of the ship. At this time, she was re-rated as a heavy cruiser and renamed Lützow. Hitler in person made the decision to rename the ship, recognizing the propaganda value of the sinking of a ship that bore the name of its country. Admiral Erich Raeder, the commander in chief of the Kriegsmarine, also hoped that renaming the ship would confuse Allied intelligence; the Admiral Hipper-class cruiser Lützow was designated for sale to the Soviet Navy, and it was hoped that the usage of her name for Deutschland would hide the transaction. The refit lasted until March 1940, after which it was intended to send the ship on another commerce raiding operation into the South Atlantic. In April, however, she was assigned to forces participating in the invasion of Norway.

Operation Weserübung

Lützow was assigned to Group 5, alongside the new heavy cruiser Blücher and the light cruiser Emden, under the command of Konteradmiral Oskar Kummetz. Kummetz flew his flag in Blücher. Group 5 was tasked with capturing Oslo, the capital of Norway, and transported a force of 2,000 mountain troops from the Wehrmacht. Lützow embarked over 400 of the soldiers for the voyage to Norway. The force left Germany on 8 April and passed through the Kattegat. While en route, the British submarine HMS Triton attacked the flotilla, though her torpedoes missed. German torpedo boats attacked the submarine and drove her off.

Shortly before midnight on the night of 8 April, Group 5, with Blücher in the lead, passed the outer ring of Norwegian coastal batteries. Lützow followed directly behind the flagship, with Emden astern. Heavy fog and neutrality requirements, which required the Norwegians to fire warning shots, permitted the Germans to avoid damage. The Norwegians, including those manning the guns at the Oscarsborg Fortress were on alert, however. Steaming into the Oslofjord at a speed of 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph), the Germans came into range of the Norwegian guns; the 28 cm, 15 cm and 57 mm guns opened fire on the invaders. During the ensuing Battle of Drøbak Sound, Blücher was hit by many shells and two torpedoes. She quickly capsized and sank with the loss of approximately 1,000 sailors and soldiers. Lützow was hit three times by 15 cm shells from Oscarsborg’s Kopås battery, causing significant damage.

Lützow ’s forward gun turret was hit by one of the 15 cm rounds, which disabled the center gun and damaged the right barrel. Four men were wounded. A second shell struck the ship’s deck and penetrated the upper and main armored decks; starting a fire in the cruiser’s hospital and operating theater, killing two soldiers and severely wounding six others. A third struck her superstructure behind the port-side aircraft crane. One of the aircraft on board was damaged, and four gunners were killed by the third shell. The ship was only able to fire her secondary battery in return. The heavy damage forced Lützow and the rest of the squadron to reverse course and exit the fjord. She eventually landed her troop complement in Verle Bay, after which she used her operational 28 cm guns to provide fire support. By the afternoon of 9 April, most of the Norwegian fortresses had been captured and the commander of the remaining Norwegian forces opened negotiations for surrender. The delay had, however, allowed enough time for the Norwegian government and royal family to flee Oslo.

The damage Lützow sustained prompted the Kriegsmarine to order her to return to Germany for repairs. The rest of Group 5 remained in Norway, so Lützow cruised at top speed to avoid submarines. Regardless, the British submarine HMS Spearfish attacked the ship and scored a serious hit. The torpedo destroyed Lützow ’s stern, causing it to collapse and nearly fall off, and blew off her steering gear. Unable to steer, she was towed back to port and decommissioned for repairs, which lasted for nearly a year. During the attack on Norway, the ship suffered nineteen dead, and another fifteen were killed by the torpedo strike. Despite the setback, KzS August Thiele, Lützow ’s commander, was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross for his actions during the Battle of Drøbak Sound, during which he took command of the task force after the loss of Blücher.

She was recommissioned for service on 31 March 1941, after which the Kriegsmarine initially planned to send the ship on the commerce raiding operation planned the previous year. Her sister Admiral Scheer was to join Lützow for the operation, and on 12 June, she departed for Norway with an escort of destroyers. British torpedo bombers attacked the ship off Egersund and scored a single hit that disabled her electrical system and rendered the ship motionless. The crew effected emergency repairs that allowed her to return to Germany; repair work in Kiel lasted for six months. By 10 May 1942, the ship was finally pronounced ready for action.

Deployment to Norway

Lützow left Germany on 15 May 1942 for Norway; by 25 May she had joined Admiral Scheer in Bogen Bay. She was made the flagship of the now Vizeadmiral Kummetz, the commander of Kampfgruppe 2. Fuel shortages restricted operations, although Lützow and Admiral Scheer were able to conduct limited battle training exercises. Kampfgruppe 2 was assigned to Operation Rösselsprung, a planned attack on the Allied convoy PQ 17, which was headed to the Soviet Union. On 3 July, the force left their anchorages, and in heavy fog Lützow and three destroyers ran aground and suffered significant damage. The British detected the German departure and ordered the convoy to scatter. Aware that surprise had been lost, the Germans broke off the surface attack and turned the destruction of PQ-17 over to the U-boats and Luftwaffe. Twenty-four of the convoy’s thirty-five transports were sunk. Lützow returned to Germany for repairs, which lasted until the end of October. She began a brief set of trials starting on 30 October. She returned to Norway in early November with a destroyer escort, arriving in Narvik on the 12th.

On 30 December, Lützow, the heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper, and six destroyers left Narvik for Operation Regenbogen, an attack on convoy JW 51B, which was reported by German intelligence to be lightly escorted. Kummetz’s plan was to divide his force in half; he would take Admiral Hipper and three destroyers north of the convoy to attack it and draw away the escorts. Lützow and the remaining three destroyers would then attack the undefended convoy from the south. At 09:15 on the 31st, the British destroyer Obdurate spotted the three destroyers screening for Admiral Hipper; the Germans opened fire first. Four of the other five destroyers escorting the convoy rushed to join the fight, while Achates laid a smoke screen to cover the convoy. Kummetz then turned back north to draw the destroyers away. Captain Robert Sherbrooke, the British escort commander, left two destroyers to cover the convoy while he took the remaining four to pursue Admiral Hipper.

Lützow meanwhile steamed toward the convoy from the south, and at 11:42 she opened fire. The harsh conditions negatively affected her shooting, which ceased by 12:03 without any hits. Rear Admiral Robert Burnett’s Force R, centered on the cruisers Sheffield and Jamaica, standing by in distant support of the Allied convoy, raced to the scene. The cruisers engaged Admiral Hipper, which had been firing to port at the destroyer Obedient. Burnett’s ships approached from Admiral Hipper ’s starboard side and achieved complete surprise. Lützow was then ordered to break off the attack on the convoy and reinforce Admiral Hipper. Lützow inadvertently came alongside Sheffield and Jamaica, and after identifying them as hostile, engaged them, though her fire remained inaccurate. The British cruisers turned toward Lützow and came under fire from both German cruisers. Burnett quickly decided to withdraw in the face of superior German firepower; his ships were armed with 6 in (150 mm) guns, while Admiral Hipper and Lützow carried 20.3 cm (8.0 in) and 28 cm (11 in) guns, respectively.

Operations in the Baltic

Hitler was furious over the failure to destroy the convoy, and ordered that all remaining German major warships be broken up for scrap. In protest, Raeder resigned; Hitler replaced him with Admiral Karl Dönitz, who persuaded Hitler to rescind the order to dismantle the Kriegmarine’s surface ships. In March, Lützow moved to Altafjord, where she experienced problems with her diesel engines. The propulsion system proved to be so problematic that repairs in Germany were necessary. She briefly returned to Norway, but by the end of September 1943, a thorough overhaul was required. The work was completed in Kiel by January 1944, after which she remained in the Baltic Sea to conduct training cruises for new naval personnel.

On 13 April 1945, twenty-four Avro Lancaster bombers attacked Lützow and Prinz Eugen without success due to cloud cover. The RAF made another failed attack two days later, but on 16 April, a force of eighteen Lancasters scored a single hit and several near misses on Lützow with Tallboy bombs in the Kaiserfahrt. The water was shallow enough that her main deck was still 2 m (6 ft 7 in) above water, permitting her use as a stationary gun battery against advancing Soviet forces under control of Task Force Thiele. She continued in this role until 4 May, by which time she had expended her main battery ammunition. Her crew rigged scuttling charges to destroy the hull, but a fire caused the explosives to detonate prematurely. The ultimate fate of Lützow was long unclear, as with most of the ships seized by the Soviet Navy. According to historians Erich Gröner and M. J. Whitley, the Soviet Navy raised the ship in September 1947 and broke her up for scrap in 1948–1949. Historians Hildebrand, Röhr and Steinmetz, in their book Die Deutschen Kriegsschiffe, state that she instead sank off Kolberg, claiming that the Lützow broken up in the late 1940s was instead the Admiral Hipper-class cruiser Lützow that had been sold to the Soviet Union in 1940. The historian Hans Georg Prager examined the former Soviet archives in the early 2000s, and discovered that Lützow actually had been sunk in weapons tests in July 1947.

Units: Deutchland (Lutzow), Admiral Scheer, Admiral Graf Spee

Type and Significance: German heavy cruisers that are popularly called pocket battleships owing to the size of their primary weaponry.

Dates of Construction: Laid down between 1929 and 1932. All were completed by January 1936.

Hull Dimensions: 610′ 3″ x 70′ 10″ x 19′

Displacement: 11,700 tons

Armor: A belt between 2.25 and 3 inches thick, a deck 1.5 inches deep, and turret armor up to 5.5 inches thick.

Armament: Six 11-inch guns in two triple-gunned turrets, one each being located fore and aft. Also armed with eight 5.9- inch guns, six 4.1-inch pieces, eight 20.8-inch torpedo tubes, an assortment of antiaircraft guns, and two aircraft.

Machinery: Diesel engines that generated 54,000 horsepower.

Speed: 28 knots

Complement: 619-1,150

Summary: Although these vessels caused a great deal of concern in other countries such as France due to their armament, the protection was that of a regular cruiser rather than a more powerful vessel suggested by the nickname pocket battleship. None survived World War II. The Admiral Graf Spee was scuttled on 17 December 1939 after the Battle of the River Plate. The Admiral Scheer was sunk on 9 April 1945 by an Allied bombing raid. The Deutchland, renamed the Lutzow, was scuttled on 4 May 1945 after being badly damaged in an Allied bombing raid.

Tuskegee Airmen

The Tuskeegee Airmen

The Tuskeegee Airmen

A famous unit of African American combat pilots who served during World War II. Despite pressure from the black press and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, African Americans were prohibited from serving in the Army Air Corps throughout the 1930s. In 1939, African Americans were admitted to the government-sponsored Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP), but no black graduates were allowed to enlist in the Air Corps. Finally, in January 1941 the Air Corps announced the formation of its first black combat unit: the 99th Pursuit Squadron. Training was to commence at a new Air Corps field to be built in the vicinity of Tuskegee, Alabama.

This location meant that black trainees would have to live and work within the heart of the unreconstructed South. Many loathed the segregationist precedent, but officials, as well as the pilots themselves, saw an opportunity to prove their critics wrong. The “Tuskegee Airmen” quickly received a flood of national media attention, and it soon became apparent that much was riding on their success or failure. They would operate under intense public scrutiny for the entire war.

Training of enlisted support personnel soon began at the Air Corps Technical School at Chanute Field, Illinois, and in July 1941 the first class of pilots began military aviation training at Moton Field. All were previous CPTP graduates, with the exception of Captain Benjamin O. Davis Jr., son of the first black general in the history of the U. S. military. The younger Davis had endured four years at the U. S. Military Academy before graduating in 1936, and in 1941 the Davises were the only two non-chaplain black officers in the regular Army.

Captain Davis was rapidly promoted to lieutenant colonel and, in August 1942, assumed command of the 99th Fighter Squadron. An AAF inspecting general reported in October 1942 that the 99th was in excellent condition and ready for immediate departure overseas, but the unit was permitted only to continue training; by early 1943 morale had suffered considerably. Finally, in April 1943 the 99th Fighter Squadron shipped out for North Africa.

By June, the 99th was operating over the Mediterranean, but Allied aircraft already dominated the area, and contact with Germans was infrequent. In July, the squadron downed its first enemy aircraft, but a long dry spell followed throughout the rest of 1943. This was not surprising given the circumstances, but opponents of the “Tuskegee experiment” recommended, based upon the supposed poor performance of the 99th, that it be reassigned to noncombat duties. This recommendation was endorsed by officials throughout the chain of command, all the way up to the commanding general of the AAF, General Henry “Hap”Arnold.

In October 1943, Colonel Davis argued before the War Department’s Advisory Committee on Negro Troop Policies that the 99th’s combat record was comparable to similar white units and, further, that it had accomplished this despite the unique pressures it had to operate under. Further attacks from AAF leadership were undercut by the obvious success of the 99th following its transfer to the more active Italian Theater.

On 16 January 1944, during intense combat in the skies over the Anzio beachhead, the 99th Fighter Squadron downed a total of eight German Fw 190 fighters, suffering the loss of two Curtiss P-40s. The squadron continued to perform well in the combat that followed, but by mid-February German air activity had again tapered off and the 99th returned to ground support. Throughout February and March, the 99th was gradually joined in Italy by the all-black 332d Fighter Group, which when fully deployed eventually comprised the 99th, 100th, 301st, and 302d Fighter Squadrons, all now under the command of Colonel Davis. The new squadrons of the 332d first deployed with obsolete Bell P-39s, but beginning in April they began to receive very capable Republic P-47 Thunderbolt. In late June, the 332d began its conversion to the top Allied air superiority aircraft of the day, the North American P-51 Mustang, and by the end of the summer the Tuskegee Airmen had assumed as their primary mission the job of escorting friendly bombers, often deep into the heart of Germany.

Throughout the rest of 1944, the 332d earned a reputation as one of the better fighter groups in Europe. Bomber crews soon coveted the protection of the “Red Tails” (as they affectionately became known, due to their P-51s’ distinctive paint jobs), and in fact by war’s end the 332d had the unique distinction of being the only fighter group to have never lost a bomber to enemy aircraft. By late 1944, it was apparent that the Tuskegee Airmen had earned the respect of their fellow white units; although individual acts of discrimination did continue, their treatment by the chain of command was on the whole fairly good. They received widespread and very positive publicity within the United States and were even visited by numerous celebrities, including Lena Horne and Joe Louis. Their success continued into 1945: During one March escort mission to Berlin, pilots of the 100th Fighter Squadron downed three of the new German Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighters; during another escort mission the following month, P-51s of the 332d downed 12 German aircraft for the loss of only three of their own. During its peak period of combat, from August 1944 through April 1945, the 332d destroyed approximately 500 enemy aircraft in the air and on the ground. Tuskegee Airmen received numerous decorations for bravery, including the Legion of Merit, Silver Star, 14 Bronze Stars, and more than 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses; in March 1945 the 332d Fighter Group received the Distinguished Unit Citation. These accomplishments did not come without a cost, however: Of the approximately 1,000 black pilots trained at Tuskegee, 66 were killed in action, 32 were taken prisoner, and some 80 pilots and support personnel were killed in training and other noncombat accidents through 1946.

The combat record of the Tuskegee Airmen is remarkable given the obstacles they had to overcome: racism in the service, segregation, lack of opportunity, and discrimination at home. Through it all Colonel Davis was their leader, the cornerstone of their success.

But the fate of the 477th Bombardment Group, many of whose pilots were also trained at Tuskegee, provides a different and instructive example. The unit was moved numerous times during 1944 and 1945 without seeing combat. In April 1945, approximately 60 black pilots from the 477th were arrested for entering a white-only officers club at Freeman Field, Indiana; later, 101 officers of the 477th were arrested when they refused a direct order to sign a document essentially acquiescing to the segregation of officers clubs. A subsequent investigation concluded that white-only facilities violated Army regulations. Due in part to the so-called Freeman Field mutiny, the 477th was never allowed into combat.

Following the end of the war, the 332d Fighter Group gradually returned to the United States, where most of its elements were disbanded as part of the general postwar demobilization; the rest were absorbed into what was now known as the 477th Composite Group. In 1946, the Army quietly closed Tuskegee Army Air Field. The influence of the Tuskegee Airmen, however, resonated for generations within the U. S. Air Force and American society in general. The 1948-1949 desegregation of the U. S. military owed much to the success of the 332d Fighter Group and the disgrace of the officers of the 477th Bombardment Group. Former Tuskegee Airmen continued to play important roles in the postwar Air Force, including most notably Benjamin O. Davis Jr., who retired as a three-star general, and Daniel “Chappie” James, who flew more than 60 combat missions during the Vietnam War and became the first African American to achieve four stars.

By the mid-1990s, African Americans represented more than 5 percent of the officer corps and 17 percent of the enlisted personnel in the U. S. Air Force. Recent years have seen an explosion of interest in the Tuskegee Airmen, and in November 1998 President Bill Clinton approved a congressional resolution authorizing the creation of the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site at Moton Field in Tuskegee, Alabama.

References Davis, Benjamin O. Jr. Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., American: An Autobiography. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991. Dryden, Charles W., with a Foreword by Benjamin O. Davis Jr. ATrain: Memoirs of a Tuskegee Airman. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1997. MacGregor, Morris J. Jr. Integration of the Armed Forces, 1940-1965. Defense Studies Series. Washington, DC: Center of Military History. Sandler, Stanley. Segregated Skies: All-Black Combat Squadrons of World War II. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992. Scott, Lawrence P., and William M. Womack Sr. Double V: The Civil Rights Struggle of the Tuskegee Airmen. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1994.




The original US nuclear-war plans were prepared at a time when bombers predominated, atomic bombs were in very short supply, and there was a lack of co-ordination of plans. The 1947 plan concentrated on destroying the war-making capability of the Soviet Union through attacks on government, political and administrative centres, urban–industrial areas and fuel-supply facilities. It was to have been achieved by dropping 133 atomic bombs on seventy Soviet cities in thirty days, including eight on Moscow and seven on Leningrad. This plan was ambitious, to say the least, primarily because the USA possessed a total of only thirteen atomic bombs in 1947 and fifty in 1948.

In May 1949 a new plan, named Trojan, required 150 atomic bombs, with a first-phase attack against thirty cities during a period of fourteen days. Then, also in 1949, came another plan, named Dropshot, in which a war in 1957 would be centred on a thirty-day programme in which 300 atomic bombs and 20,000 tonnes of conventional bombs would be dropped on about 200 targets, with the atomic bombs being used against a mix of military, industrial and civil targets, including Moscow and Leningrad.

All these plans included substantial quantities of conventional bombs and were essentially continuations of Second World War strategies. Interestingly, even as early as 1949, planners were earmarking command centres for exemption from early strikes (‘withholds’ in nuclear parlance), so that the Soviet leadership could continue to exercise control.

Up to about 1956 the US authorities based their plans on intelligence which was far from complete and, as a result, they deliberately over-estimated their opponent’s strengths. In 1956, however, the Lockheed U-2 spy plane started to overfly the USSR, and this, coupled with more effective ELINT and SIGINT, meant that a more accurate picture was obtained.

By the early 1950s the production rate of atomic bombs had increased to the point where US field commanders – both air-force and navy – began to make plans for their use, each of them planning to use them in support of his battle. There was nothing in this situation to prevent several commanders from selecting the same target; indeed, a US Senate committee was told that in the Far East 155 targets had been listed by two commanders and 44 by three, while in Europe 121 airfields had been targeted by two commanders and 31 by three.

A first attempt at some form of co-ordination was made in a series of conferences held in the early 1950s, which achieved partial success. The situation came to a head, however, when the navy’s Polaris SLBMs and the air force’s Atlas ICBMs became operational in the early 1960s, and a Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff (JSTPS) was established, with an air-force lieutenant-general at its head but with a naval officer as his deputy. The first outcome of the JSTPS’ work was the Comprehensive Strategic Target List (CSTL), which identified 2,021 nuclear targets in the USSR, China and their satellites, including 121 ICBM sites, 140 air-defence bases, 200 bomber bases, 218 military and political command centres, 124 other military targets, and 131 urban centres.5 This CSTL duly became an integral part of the first Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP), which was produced in December 1960.

There were no alternatives in this SIOP-60, which consisted of one massive nuclear attack, and it was one of the earliest targets for reform when President Kennedy took power in January 1961. US planners were now, however, aided by virtually complete satellite coverage of the USSR, giving them information on the potential enemy never previously available (and which, among other things, made it clear that the supposed ‘missile gap’ did not exist). This resulted in SIOP-63, which consisted of five categories of counter-force option: Soviet missile sites; bomber and submarine bases; other military targets; command-and-control centres; and urban–industrial targets. This received serious criticism from three separate quarters. First, from within the USA, because of what appeared to be a first-strike strategy; second, from the USSR, which denied the possibility of controlled counter-force warfare; and, third, from NATO allies, who were very alarmed by the total absence of any urban targets (the so-called ‘no cities’ strategy).

President Kennedy’s secretary of state for defense, Robert McNamara, then developed the concept of Assured Destruction, which he described in public first as ‘one-quarter to one-third of [the Soviet Union’s] population and about two-thirds of its industrial capacity’ and later as ‘one-fifth to one-fourth of its population and one-half to two-thirds of its industrial capacity’. Whatever was said in public, however, within the US armed forces SIOP-63 was not withdrawn, and thus there appears to have been a marked divergence between the public and the internal rhetoric.

Proponents of this policy of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) argued that the one way to make nuclear war impossible was to make it clear that any nuclear attack would be answered by a total attack on an enemy’s population, together with its industrial and agricultural base. While such a concept might have been valid in the early days of the nuclear confrontation, it rapidly lost its credibility when it became clear that, even after such a strike, the USSR would still have sufficient weapons to make a response-in-kind on US cities.

The strategy of ‘flexible response,’ introduced in 1967, required facing an opponent with a credible reaction which would to inflict losses out-weighing any potential gain. The deterrent power of such a strategy depended on the capacity of the proposed response to inflict unacceptable losses on the opponent, while its credibility depended upon its ability to minimize the risks of higher-order losses on the responder’s own country in subsequent rounds. This posed something of a dilemma, in that the deterrent power of the response was enhanced by escalation to a higher level, while credibility tended in the other direction, since a lower-level response carried no inherent escalatory risks. The plans implement this strategy were promulgated in a revised version of the SIOP which became effective on 1 January 1976.

It became customary for all incoming presidents to initiate a review of the strategic nuclear-war plans, and that carried out by President Jimmy Carter in 1977–9, was expected to result in major changes. In the event, however, it led only to a refinement of the previous plan, together with the introduction of rather more political sophistication. Thus, for example, targets were selected in the Far East, not so much for their immediate relevance to the superpower conflict, but because their destruction would make the USSR more vulnerable to attack by the People’s Republic of China.

A further review was conducted when the Reagan administration came to power in 1981. This resulted in a new version of the SIOP, which included some 40,000 potential targets, divided into Soviet nuclear forces; conventional military forces; military and political leadership command posts and communications systems; and economic and industrial targets, both war-supporting and those which would contribute to post-war economic recovery. The plan allocated these targets to a number of discrete packages, of differing size and characteristics, to provide the National Command Authority (the president and his immediate advisers) with an almost limitless range of options.

The new plan also included particular categories of target for other plans, for possible implementation on receipt of an unequivocal warning of a Soviet attack. These included a pre-emptive strike, launch-on-warning and launch-under-attack. The plan also included a number of ‘withholds’, but stipulated that a reserve of weapons must be retained for possible use against those ‘withholds’ if the developing scenario so dictated.

The real calculations of strategic nuclear war – known as ‘dynamic’ assessments – were extremely detailed and were far more complex than the static measurements. One such ‘dynamic’ calculation in the period following the Soviets’ fielding of the SS-18 resulted in an assessment that, under certain conditions, a Soviet counter-force first strike would appear to be a possibility. In this assessment it was calculated that the USSR, which normally had only about 10 per cent of its SSBN force at sea, would gradually, and covertly, increase that number, and, if the US command decided to ride out the attack, the Soviets would then destroy approximately 45 per cent of the US strategic forces. As a result, the ensuing US counter-military retaliatory strike on the Soviets (who would be on full alert) would leave the Soviets with 75 per cent of what had been left after their first strike. This meant that the USSR would retain not only a reserve capable of carrying out either an urban–industrial strike on US cities or an attack on US ‘other military targets’, but also a reserve for use against another opponent (the so-called ‘nth-country reserve’) – an outcome which would have been distinctly favourable to the Soviets. If the USA managed to launch all its ICBMs under attack, however, the damage ratio more or less reversed: 40 per cent damage to remaining Soviet forces versus 25 per cent damage to US strategic forces.

Thus, argued the US planners, a credible US launch-on-warning/launch-under-attack capability was a mandatory element of an effective deterrent. These results posed a problem encountered in numerous US war games: that neither side could enhance stability by pursuing its own best interests of a secure deterrent potential, but, conversely, neither side could unilaterally lower its deterrent. For the US to do the latter gambled on a US judgement of how the Soviets treated ‘uncertainty’ and what their perceptions of relative advantage might have been.

This whole area highlighted the decision to launch as one of the major problems associated with missiles. Launching bombers for possible nuclear missions was relatively easy, since crews were under firm instructions that they had to receive a positive (and encoded) order from the ground to continue before reaching specified waypoints, otherwise a return to base was mandatory. Missiles, on the other hand, received only one order – to take off; there was then no turning back. Thus the decision to launch the missile was much harder to make.

The Germanic Tribes



In the first century B. C. E., life in central Europe was transformed when the Germanic peoples, newcomers to the region, migrated into the area of modern-day Germany. Defined by their shared language, a cluster of Indo-European tongues classified as Germanic by linguists, this ethnolinguistic group seems to have originated in northern Europe. These various tribes did not form a cohesive group, waging constant warfare among themselves and living alongside and intermingling with other peoples during their extensive migrations. The most important of these interactions was with the Celts, who had dominated the region before the appearance of the Germanic tribes.

While sources are hazy for the ancient period, and archaeology has not been able to provide conclusive information, it appears that the migrating Germanic tribes moved from the area that is today southern Scandinavia and northern Germany. In the course of their migrations, they moved to the south, east, and west, coming into contact with Celtic tribes in Gaul and Iranian, Baltic, and Slavic peoples in eastern Europe. During this period, Germanic languages became dominant along the Roman frontier in the area of modern Germany, as well as Austria, the Netherlands, and England. In the western provinces of the Roman Empire, namely, in the Roman province of Gaul, situated in modern-day France and Belgium, the Germanic immigrants were influenced deeply by Roman culture and adopted Latin dialects. The descendants of the Germanic-speaking peoples became the ethnic groups of northwestern Europe, not only including the Germans, but also the Danes, Swedes, Norwegians, and Dutch.

Roman sources are often confused and contradictory in their attempts to identify the menacing Germanic “barbarians” they encountered along their borders. Thus, Roman authors such as Julius Caesar used vague terms such as Germani to describe the various Germanic tribes that settled in the area. While scholars are unsure about the extent to which these diverse peoples represent distinct ethnic groups or cohesive cultures, Roman sources mention a range of Germanic tribes including the Alemanni, Cimbri, Franks, Frisians, Saxons, and Suebi.

Caesar marched against the latter of these tribes, the fearsome Suebi, in his conquest of Gaul. In his account of this campaign, he describes these Germanic warriors, whom he compares explicitly with the Celts. According to Caesar, the Germanic tribes he encountered gave primacy to war, rather than to religion or domestic life. Their religion apparently lacked an organized priesthood and centered upon the veneration of nature, and Caesar suggested that the Germanic tribesmen devoted all of their energies to gaining renown in battle.

Caesar also describes the pastoral economy of the semi-nomadic Germanic tribes that he encountered across the Danubian frontier. Again, he highlighted the Germanic tribes’ single-minded focus on warfare, recording that-unlike the Romans-they eschewed both wealth and luxury, living off conquest and raiding. For Caesar, this warrior ethos made the Germanic tribes into formidable enemies, and he contrasted the military vigor of the Germanic tribes with that of the more civilized Celts. Accentuating the bellicosity of the Germanic peoples, he found the once formidable Celts, seduced by Roman luxury, lacking by comparison:

There was formerly a time when the Gauls excelled the Germans in prowess, and waged war on them offensively, and, on account of the great number of their people and the insufficiency of their land, sent colonies over the Rhine . . . but their proximity to the Province [the Roman province of Gaul] and knowledge of commodities from countries beyond the sea supplies to the Gauls many things tending to luxury as well as civilization. Accustomed by degrees to be overmatched and worsted in many engagements, they do not even compare themselves to the Germans in prowess. (Caesar in M’Devitta 1853: 153)

Tacitus’s Germania

Julius Caesar was not the only Roman to describe the Germanic tribes who migrated into central Europe and threatened the Roman Empire’s Rhine-Danube frontier. Another was Gaius Cornelius Tacitus (ca. 55 C. E.-120 C. E.). Tacitus was a Roman aristocrat born 150 years after Caesar, in Gaul, the province that the emperor had won. He enjoyed a successful political career, becoming senator, consul, and eventually governor of the Roman province of Asia, shortly before his death. In a work known as Germania, written in 98 C. E., Tacitus described the Germanic tribes, providing a detailed ethnographic account. Despite its polemical intent-it was written in order to contrast the virtue and vigor of the “barbarians” with the decadence and debility of the Romans-and its reliance on secondhand accounts of the Germanic tribes’ customs, his work provides an interesting picture of the Romans’ views of their “barbaric” northern neighbors. Scholars doubt whether Tacitus was ever stationed on the Roman frontier, but he made use of learned sources, including Caesar’s and Pliny’s earlier accounts of the Germanic peoples, in crafting his work. He may have even consulted with Roman soldiers or merchants who had been in direct contact with the Germanic tribes.

In one unfortunate passage, one that would have dire consequences when rediscovered by rabid German nationalists in the 19th century, Tacitus describes the physical power of the Germanic warriors, explain ing it as a function of their “racial purity.” Marveling at the imposing stature of the Germans, the Roman author maintains that the Germanic tribesmen were “untainted by inter-marriage with other races, a peculiar people and pure like no one but themselves” (Tacitus 1914: 269). Given what is known today of the contact and intermingling between Celts and Germanic peoples in antiquity, and the fluid tribal allegiances among the Germanic peoples themselves, Tacitus’s characterization of the Germans’ racial purity is doubtful.

He seems more reliable when describing the formidable military might of the Germanic tribes and the source of their remarkable cohesion on the field of battle. According to Tacitus, the Germanic tribes chose their war chieftains according to their merit as military leaders and their feats of valor on the battlefield. Furthermore, these chieftains did not exercise arbitrary authority and ruled only so long as they led their people to victory. In Germania, he writes, “They take their kings on the ground of birth, their generals on the basis of courage. These kings have not unlimited or arbitrary authority, and the generals do more by example than by command. If they are energetic, if they are conspicuous, if they fight in the front, they lead because they are admired” (Tacitus 1914: 275).

For Tacitus, the secret to the Germanic tribes’ formidable military might was the cohesion of tribal society. The Roman author maintained that unlike the imperial legions of Rome, the Germanic war-bands were composed of clans and families, and their warriors fought alongside their own kinsmen, vying for their respect. In this warrior society, individuals sought the esteem of their peers through conspicuous displays of valor, each seeking to outdo the other in feats of bravery. Young warriors sought to gain the respect of their kinsmen and the recognition of the chieftain, who doled out gifts of plunder to the bravest warriors. Likewise, according to Tacitus, the Germanic tribesmen brought their women and children to the battlefield. Consequently, the Germanic warriors gained remarkable strength from the exhortations of their women, and ferocity from the knowledge that they were defending their families from slaughter and enslavement: “The strongest incentive to courage is that neither chance nor casual grouping makes the squadron or the wedge, but family and kinship. Close by them, too, are those dearest to them, so that they hear the wailing of women and the child’s cry. Here are the witnesses who are in each man’s eyes most precious, here the praise he covets most” (Tacitus 1914: 275).

Continuing his examination of the tribal war-band, Tacitus also discusses the egalitarian nature of political life within the Germanic tribes, for him in stark contrast to the autocratic domination he endured under the Roman emperors. According to Tacitus, the Germanic tribes assembled periodically to deliberate over important matters. While chieftains spoke first, each warrior enjoyed the right to address the assembly before decisions were reached through mutual assent. The cohesion of the Germanic war-band was also maintained through lavish, drunken feasts, where tribesmen enjoyed the fruits of plunder and the largesse of their chieftain. While Tacitus’s treatment of the religious rites of the Germanic peoples, based upon earlier distorted Roman accounts, sheds little light on their beliefs, his account of their marriage customs praises their homespun morality: “the marriage tie with them is strict: You will find nothing in their character to praise more highly” (Tacitus 1914: 289). For Tacitus, the praiseworthy marital fidelity of the Germanic peoples stands in stark contrast to the decadence he perceived within the households of imperial Rome. According to the Roman aristocrat, the Germanic tribes were monogamous and punished adultery harshly. Even the dowry shared by the young couple reflected the martial spirit Tacitus discerned among the tribes, as the groom gives his bride “oxen, a horse and bridle, a shield, and spear or sword” as marriage gifts and “she herself in her turn brings some armor to her husband.” Considered their “strongest bond of union,” these gifts remind them of the primacy of war in Germanic culture (Tacitus 1914: 289).