Battle of Emmendingen, (19-20 October 1796)


General Moreau’s Army, passage from Germany, 1796

In the Rhine valley, 15 kilometers north of Freiburg im Breisgau in the Elz valley, Emmendingen was the site of the main Austrian victory over General Jean Moreau’s retreating French army, which forced the French to withdraw across the Rhine. It was the culmination of the Austrian plan devised in mid-July to gain local numerical superiority and defeat the two French armies individually to win the 1796 campaign in southern Germany.

News of Archduke Charles’s victory over General Jean-Baptiste Jourdan at Würzburg on 3 September had prompted Moreau to abandon his offensive in southern Germany against the Austrian Feldmarschalleutnant Maximillian Graf Baillet von Latour and retreat back up the Danube valley to the Rhine bridges. He defeated Latour at Biberach on 2 October and withdrew down the Höllental between the Black Forest and the Swiss border over 13-15 October, while General Laurent Gouvion St. Cyr’s troops on his left secured Freiburg. After his victory at Altenkirchen on 19 September, Charles had marched south up the Rhine valley with 16,000 troops to join Latour and attempt to defeat Moreau. Charles had committed 8,000 troops to besieging the Kehl Rhine bridgehead opposite Strasbourg, so Moreau, with 16,000 troops massed at Freiburg with his advance guard holding Waldkirch (just southeast of Emmendingen), decided to reopen his communications with Kehl. On 17 October Charles secured Kintzingen, while from the east Feldmarschalleutnant Friedrich Graf Nauendorff (Latour’s advance guard) had reached Schweighausen, but there was little fighting the next day, while Latour joined the archduke.

Both commanders decided to attack on 19 October, but Charles struck first: Feldmarschalleutnant Karl Alois Fürst von Fürstenburg held Kintzingen in the northwest with 4,000 men; Nauendorff with 6,000 troops headed for Waldkirch from the northeast; Feldzeugmeister Wilhelm Graf Wartensleben with 8,500 marched from the north on the Elz Bridge at Emmendingen, alongside Latour with 6,000 men. To the southeast, Generalmajor Franz Freiherr von Fröhlich and Louis-Joseph de Bourbon, Prince de Condé pinned down Moreau’s right wing under General Pietro Maria Ferino in the Stieg valley. St. Cyr’s French division made the main attack on Nauendorff around Bleibach, but the Austrian commander used his hidden detachment at Sieglau to assail St. Cyr’s left and forced the French back through Waldkirch. Wartensleben fought his way into Emmendingen and by nightfall had reached the Elz Bridge, which had been broken by the retreating French. In the meantime, Latour crossed the Elz and reached Denzlingen village. As night fell, Moreau withdrew to a position north of Minburg between Riegel and the Gundelfingen forest to the southeast. Charles renewed the general assault the next day: Wartensleben’s and Nauendorff’s columns drove the French from Langendenzlingen and the Gundelfingen forest, while after four attacks, Latour crossed the Resiam, and Fürstenburg took Riegel.

Moreau’s left wing under General Louis Desaix crossed the Rhine at Breisach the next day, and after a further clash at Schliengen on 24 October, the main French army fell back across the Hüningen Bridge near Basle two days later.

References and further reading Charles, Archduke. 1814. Grundsätze der höheren Kriegskunst. 2 vols. Vienna: Strauss. Volume 2 translated by George Nafziger as Archduke Charles’s 1796 Campaign in Germany (Westchester, NY: Self-published). Phipps, Ramsay Weston. 1980. The Armies of the First French Republic. Vol. 2, The Armées de la Moselle, du Rhin, de Sambre-et-Meuse, de Rhin-et-Moselle. London: Greenwood. (Orig. pub. 1926-1939.)


Falklands Sea Kings



Westland, Mitsubishi, and Agusta manufactured over 400 versions of the H-3 under license. Westland installed a pair of Rolls Royce Gnome H. 1400 turboshafts and a Louis Newmark Mk 31 automatic flight control system in the British Sea Kings. The RN initially ordered fifty-six HAS1 Sea Kings, with 700(S) Squadron receiving the first for test and evaluation in August 1969. Testing resulted in the more powerful HAS2, and the HAS5 with a longer cabin to accommodate the Sea Searcher radar. Westland provided the Egyptian Air Force with a twenty-one-seat Sea King utility transport, minus the external floats, called the “Commando.” The British Royal Marines also ordered this version as the HC4, which conducted extensive combat operations in the Falklands War.

Westland also produced a completely self-contained SAR helicopter that carried a crew of four, nine stretchers, a weather/search radar, smoke and flare dispensers, a flight director system with an auto hover mode, and folding blades for shipboard storage. The RAF made use of this version as the HAR Mk3 and the West German Navy as the Mk 41. Westland exported Sea King variants to India, Norway, Belgium, Pakistan, Australia, and Qatar.

On April 2, 1982, Argentinean forces invaded the Falkland Islands, touching off the Falklands War, or the Guerro Pour Los Malvinas, which lasted until June 20. Both countries possessed many of the same type of helicopters, but, despite the loss of most of their helicopters when an Exocet missile slammed into the container ship Atlantic Conveyor, the British helicopters and crews proved much more effective than the Argentineans. Operating in immoderate weather conditions, the UK machines accomplished extraordinary rescues and inflicted heavy losses on the enemy. When two Wessex HU5s crashed on Fortuna Glacier, another Wessex crew, contending with 90-mph winds and blinding snow, rescued both downed crews. During the short war, Wessex and Sea King helicopters plucked several downed aircrews from the icy waters off the Falklands, in both plane guard and SAR roles. In their baptism of fire, 20 naval Lynxes, armed with Mk 44, Mk 66, or Stingray torpedoes, or four BEA Sea Skua ASMs, scored 100 percent accuracy in the antisurface role. The Lynx HAS 2 was faster and more agile than previous British ASW helicopters and carried an updated Sea Spray search/targeting radar to locate enemy shipping and the 600-mph Sea Skua, designed to attack vessels moving at up to 50 knots. Army Lynxes, and the Chinook saved from the fire-ravaged Atlantic Conveyor, performed more than credible service in transporting troops and supplies throughout the campaign.
A number of Sea Kings were deployed during the Falklands War. They were transported to the combat zone and operated from the decks of various ships of the Royal Navy, such as the landing platform dock HMS Fearless. In the theatre, they performed a wide range of missions, from anti-submarine patrols and reconnaissance flights to replenishment operations and the insertion of special forces. Support provided by the Sea Kings in the form of transport for men and supplies has been viewed as vital to the success of the British operation. Sea Kings also protected the fleet by acting as decoys against incoming Exocet missiles, with some missions being flown by Prince Andrew, Duke of York.

Anti-Submarine Sea Kings of 820 Naval Air Squadron were embarked in HMS Invincible. With 11 HAS.5s, the squadron operated anti-submarine and search and rescue sorties with one helicopter always airborne on surface search duties. On 14 June, an 820 NAS Sea King HAS.5 was used to transport Major General Jeremy Moore to Port Stanley to accept the surrender of Argentine troops on the island. The squadron flew 1,650 sorties during the war. A Flight of 824 Naval Air Squadron embarked two Sea King HAS.2As aboard RFA Olmeda and were used to move supplies to other ships on the way south and later anti-submarine patrols. C Flight had three Sea King HAS.2As on board RFA Fort Grange which were used for replenishment duties, supplying over 2,000 tons of stores.
825 Naval Air Squadron was formed for the war with 10 Sea King HAS.2s modified as utility variants to support ground forces. The anti-submarine equipment was removed and the helicopters fitted with troop seats. Two aircraft embarked in Queen Elizabeth 2 and were later used for moving troops from QE2 to other ships, the remainder embarked in Atlantic Causeway and were used for troop movements around the islands. Embarked in HMS Hermes was 826 Naval Air Squadron with nine HAS.5s, which carried out continuous anti-submarine sorties. From the departure of Hermes from Ascension in April until the Argentine surrender, the squadron operated at least three helicopters airborne continuously for fleet protection.

On 23 April 1982, a Sea King HC4 was ditched while performing a risky transfer of supplies to a ship at night, operating from the flagship HMS Hermes. On 12 May, a Sea King operating from Hermes crashed into the sea due to an altimeter problem; all crew were rescued. On 19 May 1982 a Sea King, in the process of transporting SAS troops to HMS Intrepid from Hermes, crashed into the sea while attempting to land on Intrepid. Twenty-two men were killed and nine survived. Bird feathers were found in the debris, suggesting a bird strike, although the accident’s cause is inconclusive. The SAS lost 18 men in the crash, their highest number of casualties on one day since the Second World War. The Royal Signals lost one man and the RAF one man.

Both the British and Argentinean military lost helicopters during the war, in combat and operational accidents. Ground fire shot down British Sea Kings and Argentinean Pumas, and both sides lost helicopters when ships on which they were based sank as a result of naval combat. Argentine Pucara ground attack aircraft shot down a couple of Gazelles, killing the crews, and a friendly fire incident, when HMS Cardiff mistakenly shot down another Gazelle with a Sea Dart, cost the United Kingdom another aircraft and crew. British Sea Harriers shot down at least three Argentinean Pumas and destroyed two others plus an Agusta 109 on the ground. By the end of the conflict British forces had captured nine Bell UH-1H Hueys, two 212s, and several Pumas left on the islands.


The problem was that Curtis LeMay had become an altered man. The young colonel who had been so open-minded and keen to learn that he had risked personal humiliation by convening all-ranks, freewheeling criticism sessions in the mess hall after a raid on Nazi-occupied Europe had become the four-star general who was no longer willing to hear anything that did not fit his preconceptions. He was the classic example of a man made arrogant by power. Years of commanding with unchallenged authority had rendered him rigid. He had become a figure of obsessions and had lost his sense of proportion. His former restraint had also been replaced by a quick temper, a short fuse as it was called in the military, which further inhibited his ability to listen.

The change was conspicuously apparent in his correspondence with Nathan Twining in the mid-1950s. Formed as he was by the gruesome, no-quarter-given air battles with the Luftwaffe in 1943, he was fixated in the belief that the Soviets were also going to build an air force powerful enough to challenge his SAC in a similar death struggle for supremacy of the skies. He had such profound and unquestioning faith in the bomber that he could not imagine someone else might resort to an alternative weapon to rain nuclear fire on an opponent. The fixation resonated in a March 21, 1955, memorandum to Twining and in a covering letter of the same date. Both assessed with uninhibited criticism a plan by Twining’s headquarters that laid out a proposed structure for the Air Force through 1965. “Before 1965 Soviet Forces will probably attain a delivery capability and a [nuclear] stockpile of sufficient size and configuration to completely destroy any selected target system within the U.S.,” LeMay stated on the opening page of his memorandum. Some of this “delivery capability,” he conceded, may consist of future Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles, but he was convinced that the predominant element would be intercontinental bombers. (The prototype of the first strategic bomber of original Soviet design, not a copy of the B-29, had been detected in 1954. It was the Miasishchev Mia-4, dubbed the Bison by NATO intelligence, with swept-back wings and four jet engines.)

Therefore, he emphasized again and again in the memorandum and in the covering letter, the Air Force had to structure itself so that its “primary objective … should be to win the battle against Soviet Air Power.” This meant a bigger and better SAC because “the bomber airplane is the best delivery vehicle” to triumph in this “battle against Soviet Air Power,” a phrase he repeated constantly. He asserted that his bombers would catch the Russian planes on the ground and destroy them and their bases as well as the industries that produced them. He wanted 1,440 of the new B-52s by 1965. To keep this bomber fleet aloft with midair refueling, he asked for 1,140 of the forthcoming Boeing KC-135 four-engine jet tankers, which were to replace the propeller-driven KC-97s. (The KC-135, ample-bodied to carry as much aviation fuel as possible, initiated one of the most spectacularly successful commercial spinoffs from military hardware. The entrepreneurs in Seattle saw in its dimensions a passenger jet and with the installation of seats and other civilian accoutrements it became the famous Boeing 707 jetliner, over a thousand of which were sold to American and foreign airlines. The plane transformed international air travel.) With the cost of this stupendous bomber and tanker fleet in mind, he objected to the number of jet fighter-bombers and air superiority fighters the Air Force planned to buy to fulfill the Tactical Air Command’s mission of providing close air support over a battlefield for Army ground troops. Assisting the Army was not a mission that interested LeMay. He even argued that the bomber was the best weapon to neutralize any ICBMs the Soviets might field by 1965 because of its ability “to destroy their launching sites as a matter of high priority.” (Since it would take hours for SAC’s bombers to reach the launching sites and only half an hour for a Soviet ICBM to reach its target in the United States, the logic of bombing empty launching sites hardly seems to follow.)

LeMay’s attachment to the bomber and his fixation on winning the air battle he anticipated with a Soviet version of SAC led him to what was perhaps his most astonishing proposal to Twining. He wanted to abolish conventional armaments and go entirely nuclear. “Atomic and thermonuclear weapons have made conventional weapons obsolete, and the United States should cease stockpiling of conventional weapons,” he wrote. “The expense of developing and maintaining a limited conventional capability in the face of the critical need for skilled personnel and resources to man and equip strategic units can no longer be justified.” He proposed henceforth to use only nuclear weapons in wars both big and small. In other words, it was just as appropriate to let fly with nuclear weapons in a small-scale war like the recent conflict in Korea as it was in a full-scale one with the Soviets. “The distinction between localized and general war is political rather than military,” he said, and the United States should “always use the best weapons available in either general or limited war.”

There was a further advantage to moving straight to nuclear weapons in small wars, he maintained. They would bring quick victory and, apparently with the example of Korea in mind, avoid having the war drag out and public opinion turn against it. Therefore, “to insure the favorable outcome of a localized war in a short period of time, it was necessary that any political or psychological restraint in employing atomic weapons be erased.” Precisely what Twining thought of LeMay’s proposal is unknown and there is no record of a reply in the correspondence. Presumably he understood, as the changed LeMay did not, that for the U.S. Air Force to publicly advocate something like this would set off a political firestorm at home and abroad of nuclear dimensions.

His memory of those terrifying skies over Germany was also the root cause of LeMay’s most striking loss of a sense of proportion—his unquenchable desire for more and more megatons of nuclear explosive to drop on his Soviet opponents and more and more bombers with which to loose it. (A megaton is the equivalent of a million tons of TNT.) He feared that when war came, unnerved crews would not strike with the accuracy they attained in practice exercises in peacetime. Some planes would also not find their targets because of navigational errors, others would be shot down, still others would turn back because of mechanical failures. The answer was to make up for these errors and omissions with bigger and bigger bombs and enough planes to double and triple the number of strikes programmed for a single target.

He was extremely pleased in late 1954 to get the first practical hydrogen bomb, designated the Mark 17, a “weaponized” version of a dry thermonuclear device, fueled by lithium deuteride, which the Los Alamos laboratory had set off at Bikini Atoll earlier that year in a test called Romeo. This first “droppable” H-bomb weighed 42,000 pounds, which meant that only a B-36 in the current SAC fleet could carry it, but it exploded with a doomsday blast of eleven megatons, the equivalent of 524 Nagasaki, first-generation plutonium bombs, and 880 times the force of the smaller atomic bomb that had devastated Hiroshima. LeMay began pressing right away for lighter hydrogen bombs of equal or greater megatonnage. With them he wanted to turn his B-47s, which had a 25,000-pound payload, into thermonuclear bombers and fit more than one hydrogen bomb into the new B-52, with its 43,000-pound capacity (soon increased to 50,000), in order to obliterate multiple targets. When the Mark 21 hydrogen bomb, which weighed 15,000 pounds and yielded 4.5 megatons, appeared in 1955, he immediately mated it to the B-52 as the central component of SAC’s striking power for the next couple of years. The Mark 21’s “bang” did not satisfy LeMay, however, and so he pressed for an upgrade. This was to be the Mark 36, which would be produced the following year. It was somewhat heavier than the Mark 21 at 17,500 pounds, but yielded more than twice the force when it exploded.

In another memorandum to Twining that November of 1955, LeMay raised the ante on bombers. He now said he needed approximately 1,900 B-52s and some 1,300 KC-135 jet tankers to midair refuel these bombers by 1963. (Eisenhower was eventually to cap B-52 production at 744 aircraft by the fall of 1962, a decision the Kennedy administration was to uphold, with the comment: “I don’t know how many times you can kill a man, but about three should be enough.”) Nor did LeMay succeed in persuading the Eisenhower administration to build an H-bomb, except for the original Mark 17, beyond ten megatons, but not for lack of trying. In 1953, he asked the Nuclear Weapons Panel of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board to look into the feasibility of a hydrogen bomb of twenty megatons or greater, an idea Eisenhower is said to have vetoed as beyond common sense. The massive megatonnage and the doubling and tripling on targets was to lead to fantastic overkill. SAC was to end up programming for Moscow alone more than twenty-five megatons. Pressure from LeMay was to be the major impetus in driving the yield of the American stockpile of nuclear warheads up to the record 20,491 megatons peak it was to reach in 1960, enough to provide each of the approximately 180 million inhabitants of the United States at the time with bomb material equivalent in explosive force to 110 tons of TNT.

While LeMay wished to be absolutely certain that enough planes got through with enough big bombs to “kill” every target on his list, it is clear from his correspondence and statements over the years that he also simply wanted to blast the Soviet Union, and any targets he thought worthy of his attention in Eastern Europe and China, with as much explosive force as he could muster. He apparently did not understand how different in nature nuclear weapons were from the conventional explosives he had dropped on Nazi-occupied Europe. He seems to have thought of hydrogen bombs essentially as just vastly more powerful bombs. He had a pitiless, smug vision of what he was going to do to the peoples of the Soviet Union with them, a vision he described in a lecture to the National War College in April 1956:

Let us assume the order had been received this morning to unleash the full weight of our nuclear force. (I hope, of course, this will never happen.) Between sunset tonight and sunrise tomorrow morning the Soviet Union would likely cease to be a major military power or even a major nation.… Dawn might break over a nation infinitely poorer than China—less populated than the United States and condemned to an agrarian existence perhaps for generations to come.

What LeMay did not realize was that if he ever launched the war for which he had prepared, the result would be national suicide. It would hardly matter should the Soviet Union fail to strike the United States with a single nuclear bomb. If he dropped all of this megatonnage on the Soviets, the American people would perish too. And he would also be condemning to an agonizing perdition the peoples of Canada, Europe, and most of the rest of the Northern Hemisphere through the Middle East and Asia. The puny, by comparison, bombs that had shocked the world in demolishing Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been fused to burst in the air. (The Little Boy Uranium-235 bomb dropped on Hiroshima had been detonated at 1,900 feet above the courtyard of one of the city’s hospitals.) The air burst technique had been deliberate in order to focus the maximum pressure and heat of the bomb’s blast on the buildings and people below, obliterating both in an instant. While there was extensive radiation, it did not extend far beyond the area covered by the blast, because comparatively little dirt and debris was blown up into the atmosphere.

LeMay, however, as he wrote to Twining, was going to fuse a lot of his monster bombs for ground or near-ground bursts to be certain of crushing underground bunkers and so-called hardened targets, such as concrete revetments with thick overhead cover used to protect aircraft. These ground-level bursts would hurl massive amounts of irradiated soil and the pulverized remains of masonry and concrete structures high into the upper atmosphere. The clouds of poisoned soil and debris would spread as they were carried around the earth by the upper atmospheric winds. One result would be a nuclear winter, a catastrophic change in climate of unknown duration, with frigid temperatures at the height of summer, because the dirt in the upper atmosphere would block out the sun’s rays. Agriculture, on which human beings depend for sustenance, would become impossible. Most animal and bird life would be extinguished because the plants, shrubs, and trees on which so many of these creatures depend would also die from the cold and lack of sunlight, without which plants cannot perform the photosynthesis process that nourishes them. And as precipitation brought down the irradiated particles, humans and animals and birds would be stricken with fatal radiation sickness. The water resources would be contaminated too as this deadly residue from LeMay’s thermonuclear devices was gradually absorbed into them. Civilization as we know it in the Northern Hemisphere would cease to exist.

To give the man his due, he created a force that posed a formidable deterrent to Soviet military adventurism in Western Europe, had the Soviet dictator been so inclined. That Stalin had no intention of launching such adventures, as was revealed with the opening of the Soviet Union’s archives after its collapse in 1991, did not negate the fact that the threat was perceived as real by Americans in the early 1950s. And the promise of overwhelming retaliation from SAC undoubtedly kept Stalin’s successor, Nikita Khrushchev, from being more rash than he was. LeMay’s deterrence mission was thus a legitimate one, given the thinking of the period. Although he would later express regret that the United States missed an opportunity in the early 1950s to unleash SAC and destroy the Soviet Union at what he believed would have been little or no cost to itself, there is no evidence that LeMay actively sought to provoke what was referred to at the time as “preventive war.”

Dutch versus Spain/Portugal–the Colonial War

The Dutch were particularly fond of privateers. Piet Heyn amazingly captured the whole of the Spanish treasure fleet – complete with gold and silver booty from its American colonies – during the Battle in the Bay of Matanzas in September 1628. Heyn became a folk hero and part of a Golden Age of Dutch enterprise, which saw an expanding commercial empire buoyed by the maritime prowess of its sailors. Simultaneously, however, the Dutch were quick to punish piracy. Without sanction, and an agreed fee to the Crown, pirates would be executed.

When the Catalans continued their protests that by April 1640 had turned into armed resistance against the troops there to defend them. The troops were merely the focus of much deeper popular discontent at years of corrupt administration. The famed liberties were mainly restricted to the aristocracy that dominated the kingdom’s assembly (the Corts) and manipulated their privileges for their own ends. The right to bear arms, for example, was used to cloak widespread banditry as lords sponsored gangs to pursue feuds with their neighbours. ‘A mafia-type regime prevailed in parts of Catalonia, sustained by violence and extortion.’ Under these conditions, the protesters did not see their actions as disobedience but as an attempt to draw Philip IV’s attention to their plight.

Peasants armed with scythes entered Barcelona on 22 May 1640 and opened the jail. Alarmed, the viceroy cancelled the Corpus Christi procession scheduled for 7 June. Around 2,000 ‘reapers’ (segadors) protested anyway, triggering four days of rioting. The viceroy and a leading judge were murdered, while other officials fled or went into hiding. Madrid and the provincial authorities blamed each other for the disorder that now spread across the kingdom.

The insurrection threatened the aristocracy’s privileges, but these would also be curtailed if Philip IV were to crush the revolt. The aristocrats sought another way out, opening negotiations with France, and agreeing on 29 September to open the ports to French ships and maintain the 3,000 auxiliaries despatched by Richelieu to assist them. Olivares believed he was facing a second Dutch Revolt and summoned an emergency levy of men across the loyal provinces. The marquis de los Vélez was sworn in as the new viceroy at the head of 20,000 men in southern Catalonia on 23 November. He retook Tortosa and the important port of Tarragona, which was also the seat of the archbishop of Catalonia.

Richelieu initially regarded the revolt as a welcome diversion from the crisis in Italy as the siege of Turin reached its climax. He was prepared to recognize Catalonia as an aristocratic republic that could serve as a useful buffer between France and Spain. The deteriorating situation following Los Vélez’s advance forced him to despatch another 13,000 men to reinforce the rebels. The royalists reached Barcelona at the end of December. Their appearance compromised the provincial government that was accused of failing to defend the kingdom. Following the murders of five more judges, the survivors placed themselves under French protection on 23 January 1641, accepting Louis XIII as ‘count of Barcelona’ and effectively ceding Roussillon. Three days later, the combined Franco-Catalan army defeated Los Vélez on Montjuic hill outside the city.

The rebels had passed the point of no return, but ‘acquired the burden of power without any of the fruits’. Half the French effort was directed at conquering Roussillon where Spain still held Perpignan and other key fortresses. Only half the army was sent into Catalonia where fighting concentrated around Lérida (Lleida) to the west of Barcelona, the town that commanded the main road from Castile into the kingdom.

The Catalans were joined from December 1640 by the Portuguese, opening a new Iberian front to the west. The Portuguese had contributed a comparatively modest 1 million cruzados to Spain’s war effort after 1619. Madrid’s demand for 3 million in 1634 struck them as completely unreasonable. Tax revolts erupted in three of the kingdom’s provinces during 1637 just as key parts of the Portuguese empire were lost to the Dutch as well. These problems stirred the latent resentment at the loss of independence. Olivares’ suppression of the Council of Portugal in 1638 did nothing to help this. Anti-Hispanicism mixed with anti-Semitism as Lisbon Jews and Conversos were integrated into Spain’s financial system after 1627 to take up the slack left by the inability of Genoese bankers to manage the burgeoning debt. Anti-Semitism encouraged popular and clerical support for the break with Spain. The yearning for independence was expressed as the Sebastian myth – that the country’s last native king who ‘disappeared’ at the battle of Alcazarquivir (al-Qasr el-Kabir) in Morocco in 1578 would eventually return. Unlike in Bohemia or Catalonia, the presence of the native Braganza dynasty offered a powerful focus for the coming revolt.

Its trigger was the demand in June 1640 for 6,000 Portuguese troops to assist in crushing the Catalonians. Portuguese malcontents stormed the Lisbon palace of the vicereine, Margarita of Savoy, and threw her adviser, Miguel de Vasconcellos, out of the window in the Bohemian fashion on 1 December. The vicereine was bundled over the frontier and Spanish resistance collapsed. Apart from Ceuta in North Africa, the Portuguese colonial empire recognized the new regime in 1641.

The ensuing conflict is known in Portuguese history as the War of Restoration (1640–68). Left largely alone, the Portuguese were able to improvise an army almost from scratch and launch an offensive into Spain in June 1641. Pope Urban received their ambassador, implying recognition, in 1642, while the English agreed an alliance that was later (1660) renewed with the marriage of Catherine of Braganza to Charles II, the match that saw Bombay and, briefly, Tangiers pass to English rule. However, fighting remained limited until the 1650s because Olivares concentrated on combating the Catalan revolt, since this provided an open door to French invasion. The Portuguese opposed Spanish rule, but they still shared a common enemy in the Dutch who continued their conquests in the Portuguese colonies.

The general sense of failure was magnified by bad news from the Indies, the region that had come to symbolize Iberian wealth and power. The Portuguese held on to Goa and Mozambique, but were expelled from Japan by local opposition in 1639. A protracted struggle with the king of Kandy for control of Sri Lanka opened the island to the Dutch who joined the local campaign to eject the Portuguese after 1636. The conflict drained the resources of the Estado da India, undermining resistance elsewhere to the Dutch who had captured most of the Indonesian spice islands by 1641.

The situation in the West Indies was equally bleak. Using the Matanzas loot, the Dutch West India Company fitted out 67 ships, with 1,170 guns and carrying 7,280 men under Admiral Hendrik Loncq. This was twice the manpower and three times the number of ships deployed to defend Portuguese Brazil. Loncq captured Olinde and Recife, the principal ports of Pernambuco in February 1630. Olivares despatched Spain’s senior admiral, Antonio Oquendo, with 56 ships and 2,000 soldiers to retake the towns before the Dutch could penetrate the sugar-producing hinterland. Oquendo eventually defeated the Dutch off Abrolhos in September 1631. Battered and with no harbour in which to refit his ships, Oquendo was obliged to return to Lisbon. The Dutch extended their positions, occupying the Guianan coast between the Amazon and modern Venezuela. The subsequent capture of Curaçao island in 1634 secured the local salt trade, vital to the Dutch herring industry.

A second relief effort in 1635 similarly failed to dislodge the Dutch, in stark contrast to the successful expedition a decade before. The Brazilian planters realized they would have to collaborate with the occupiers to safeguard their incomes. Portuguese control in Brazil shrank dramatically after the arrival of the energetic Prince of Nassau-Siegen as Dutch governor in January 1637. He won local support by allowing Catholic convents and monasteries to remain open, conducted the first scientific survey of the area and extended Dutch control to 1,800km of the coast by 1641 with a force of only 3,600 Europeans and 1,000 Indians. Two further Portuguese expeditions were repulsed in 1638 and 1640. Meanwhile, the Dutch capture of Elmina on Africa’s Gold Coast in 1637 gave them Portugal’s main slaving base. The Dutch exploited Portugal’s difficulties with Queen Njinga to take Luanda and other positions in Angola by 1641. Axim, the last Portuguese fort on the Gold Coast, fell the following year. Dutch slavers had shipped 30,000 Africans to Brazil by 1654. Dutch sugar exports to Europe between 1637 and 1644 already totalled 7.7 million florins, while other colonial produce worth 20.3 million was shipped over the same period.

Spain’s transatlantic trade collapsed in 1638–41. No treasure reached Seville in 1640. The Tierra Firme fleet brought only half a million ducats the following year, while the New Spain fleet sailed too late in the season and was hit by a hurricane as it left the Bahama Channel. Ten ships went down with 1.8 million ducats. The gross tonnage crossing the Atlantic by the later 1640s was nearly 60 per cent below that during the Twelve Years Truce. Silver continued to get through, but little more than 40 per cent of that produced in the New World was officially declared in Seville, while crown receipts were less than half those of the 1630s. Part of the decline was due to the increased cost of colonial defence, but much disappeared through fraud and the fact that the war forced the colonies to become more self-sufficient and develop their own trade outside the official system.

Pre-Midway Operation

The long range of the big four-engine Kawanishi H8K Type 2 seaplanes, called “Emilys” by the Allies, encouraged Japanese planners to consider long-range raids against American bases.

Pre-Midway Operation, nearly everything had gone wrong, starting with the fact that the Japanese had failed to determine whether the American carriers they hoped to lure out to their destruction were even present in Pearl Harbor. They did have a plan to find out. Nearly three months earlier, well before the fateful conference in Tokyo at which Nagano and Fukudome had capitulated to Yamamoto’s blackmail and approved the Midway plan, the Japanese had conducted a long-range reconnaissance of Pearl Harbor using two giant Kawanishi flying boats. These remarkable four-engine seaplanes, called “Emilys” by the Allies, were 92 feet long (30 feet longer than the American Catalinas) and had an astonishing range of over 4,500 miles, which meant that, theoretically at least, they could fly from the Marshall Islands to Pearl Harbor and back without stopping. Such a flight would leave no margin for error, however, and so Commander Miyo (who a month later would strenuously oppose Yamamoto’s Midway plan) suggested that their range could be extended even further by refueling them at sea from submarines. This notion hinted at using them to bomb American cities along the continental West Coast. More immediately, it provoked discussions about a second attack on Pearl Harbor, a scheme that was code-named Operation K.

Americans were very much aware of the possibility of long-range air strikes by seaplanes refueled at sea. Three months before Pearl Harbor, Hypo analyst Jasper Holmes, writing under the pen name “Alec Hudson,” had published a story in the Saturday Evening Post about American seaplanes refueled by submarines striking enemy bases three thousand miles away. In Holmes’s fictional tale, “twelve big bombers” attacked an enemy base “with machinelike precision,” wrecking an invasion convoy. Edwin Layton later speculated that Holmes’s story might have given the Japanese the idea for Operation K, but in fact the Japanese had begun experimenting with a seaplane-submarine partnership as early as 1939. After the war began, the Japanese planned to conduct a whole series of seaplane raids against Pearl Harbor—to keep track of the comings and goings of American warships, as well as to keep the Americans on edge and off balance by bombing them periodically. In the end, however, this dual objective undermined Japanese ambitions, for it focused American attention on the program and therefore compromised it.

The first (and, as it turned out, only) seaplane attack on Pearl Harbor occurred in the first week of March 1942, before Yamamoto even submitted his Midway plan to the Naval General Staff. Two Kawanishis, each of them armed with four 500-pound bombs, took off from Wotje Island in the Marshalls on March 2 and in thirteen and a half hours flew 1,605 miles to an unoccupied atoll called French Frigate Shoals, halfway between Pearl Harbor and Midway. There they refueled from two prepositioned submarines, then flew on to Oahu, another 560 miles to the southeast, arriving just past midnight on the morning of March 4. By then the weather had thickened, and visibility over the American naval base was virtually zero. The pilot of the lead plane, Lieutenant Hashizume Hisao, could see a slight glow through the cloud layer, but not much else. Thinking that he had glimpsed the outline of Ford Island in Pearl Harbor through a gap in the clouds, he dropped his bombs. His consort did the same. Then both planes headed back for the Marshall Islands, another two thousand miles and fifteen nonstop hours away.

For all the effort and expended fuel, the raid did no damage whatever. Hashizume’s four bombs fell on the forested slopes of Mount Tantalus behind Honolulu, and the four from the other plane fell into the water near the entrance to Pearl Harbor. Moreover, the heavy cloud cover meant that Hashizume could not report with much certainty about what ships were or were not in the harbor, though he claimed to have seen at least one carrier.

The most important consequence of this raid was that it drew Nimitz’s attention to the threat. Nimitz asked Layton how the Japanese had managed to drop four bombs on Oahu (the four that fell into the harbor had disappeared altogether, and no one was even aware of them until after the war). Layton was fairly sure that they had done it with seaplanes refueled from submarines, and he told Nimitz about Jasper Holmes’s story in the Saturday Evening Post. Layton also speculated that the Japanese had used French Frigate Shoals to refuel. As a result, Nimitz stationed an American seaplane at French Frigate Shoals, sending the USS Ballard, a destroyer recently converted to a seaplane tender, there in late March.

For a variety of reasons, the Japanese did not continue their planned series of raids on Hawaii, but when Yamamoto sought reassurance that the American carriers were still in Pearl Harbor on the eve of the Battle of Midway, his staff suggested a reprise of Operation K. Again Hypo was able to alert Nimitz to the Japanese plan. On May 10, Layton informed Nimitz about an intercepted message that referred to the “K campaign” involving both aircraft and submarines, and three days later he reported that “the K campaign [was] underway.”

The Japanese committed six submarines to the project: two filled with aviation fuel, two as radio beacons, one as a plane guard, and one as a command boat. The first of them, the I-123 commanded by Lieutenant Commander Ueno Toshitake, arrived at French Frigate Shoals on May 26. When Ueno approached the atoll and peered into the lagoon through his periscope, he saw a U.S. Navy warship anchored there. When the two fuel-laden submarines showed up the next day, the American warship was still there. In fact, another converted seaplane tender, the Thornton, had joined her. The submarines were in no position to challenge them—the Type KRS submarine had been designed as a minelayer and did not have torpedoes or torpedo tubes. A surface attack would be suicidal, since each of the American surface ships boasted four 4-inch guns. Besides, the whole point of Operation K was stealth. The Japanese could only hope that the Americans would simply go away. Ueno radioed the circumstances back to his superior in the Marshalls and received orders to wait one more day. On May 31, several Catalina PBYs landed in the lagoon to join the tenders. Informed of this, Vice Admiral Tsukahara Nishizo cancelled Operation K. There would be no reconnaissance of Pearl Harbor before the Battle of Midway; the Japanese would simply have to trust that the American carriers were still there. Of course, the day before that, on May 30, the Yorktown had left Pearl Harbor to join Task Force 16 at Point Luck.

The second thing that went wrong that week was that the Japanese were tardy in establishing the submarine cordons that were supposed to track the American carriers as they left Pearl Harbor in response to an attack on Midway. Seven submarines, constituting Cordon A, were to occupy a north-south line west of Pearl Harbor. Six more would constitute Cordon B north and east of French Frigate Shoals. Another six would occupy a line near Midway. The subs were to report the carriers’ movements and then inflict whatever damage they could as a prologue to the main event. All three cordons were to be established by June 2. They got a late start out of Japan, however, and also lingered a day in Kwajalein, so that they were late in arriving. In addition, several subs were delayed by their involvement with the aborted Operation K. As a result of all this, only one sub made it into position by June 2; the others did not arrive until June 4. By then, the American carriers were nearly a thousand miles to the north. Watanabe Yosuji, Yamamoto’s loyal logistics officer, blamed the submarine commander Captain Kuroshima Kameto. Watanabe insisted that Kuroshima was simply not energetic in pursuit of his duties. Whatever the merits of that assertion, Yamamoto and Nagumo steamed eastward unaware that the American carriers—their principal quarry—had already flown the coop.

On June 2, Yamamoto’s battleships and Nagumo’s carriers, fighting their way eastward through rough seas, were blanketed by a fog so thick that the ships had to use searchlights to find one another in the formation. On the one hand this was a stroke of luck, for it hid them from the prying eyes of American long-range search planes from Midway. On the other it also prevented Nagumo from sending out search planes of his own, and it was stressful for the entire formation to execute the required zigzag course (to confuse American submarines) while maneuvering through a fog. A witness on board Akagi recalled seeing Nagumo and members of his staff on the bridge staring “silently at the impenetrable curtain surrounding the ship, … each face tense with anxiety.” Nagumo may indeed have been anxious. He had heard nothing from the submarines other than one report from I-168 off Midway, which relayed the information that, although the Americans were conducting intensive air search operations, the only vessel in sight was a picket submarine off Sand Island. Nagumo had to assume that no news was good news.

Dorchester Heights – 1776

That Dorchester Heights could decide the whole outcome at Boston had been apparent to the British from the beginning. Their initial plan, agreed to on June 15, had been to seize the high ground on both the Charlestown and Dorchester peninsulas. But then the rebels had made their surprise move at Charlestown, digging in overnight on Bunker Hill, and it had taken the bloodbath of June 17 to remove them. The morning after the battle, in a council of war at the Province House, headquarters of the commander-in-chief, Thomas Gage, it was proposed by Major General Henry Clinton to move immediately on Dorchester. Possession of the heights was “absolutely necessary for the security of Boston, as they lay directly on our water communications and more seriously annoyed the port of Boston than those of Charlestown,” Clinton later wrote, adding that he expected to lead the assault. “I foresaw the consequence, and gave it formally as my opinion at the time, that if the King’s troops should be ever driven from Boston, it would be by rebel batteries raised on those heights.”

But while Gage had kept Bunker Hill heavily armed with cannon and manned by five hundred troops, he had done nothing about Dorchester. Nor had General Howe since taking charge after Gage’s departure for home in October. Nor, indeed, had the Americans. Dorchester Heights remained a kind of high, windblown no-man’s-land, neither side unmindful of its strategic importance, but neither side daring to seize and fortify it.

Among those Loyalists in Boston who had closest contact with the British command, it was commonly understood that Dorchester was the key and commonly questioned why nothing was being done. “It had often been wished,” wrote Justice Peter Oliver, one of the most prominent Loyalists, “that this hill had had proper attention paid to it; and it had been repeatedly mentioned that it was of the last necessity to secure such a position; but the general answers were that there was no danger from it, and that it was to be wished that the rebels would take possession of it, as they could be dislodged.”

Of greater and more immediate interest to the British command was the prospect of abandoning Boston altogether, of packing up and sailing away. As things stood, it was clearly no place to launch an offensive operation. New York should be made the “seat of war,” Gage had stressed in correspondence with the administration in London, and Howe and the others were of the same opinion.

Brigadier General James Grant had said months earlier that Boston should be abandoned while there was still time. “We cannot remain during the winter in this place, as our situation must go on worse and that of the rebels better every day,” Grant had insisted in a long letter from Boston to Edward Harvey, Adjutant General of the British army in London, on August 11.

Grant, a grossly fat, highly opinionated Scot, who had served in the French and Indian War, had an extremely low opinion of Americans. (It was he who had boasted to Parliament that with 5,000 men he could march from one end of the American continent to the other.) The only step that made sense, he wrote, was to burn Boston and move on to New York. Besides, he wanted to turn the fleet loose to burn every principle town along the New England coast. “Lenity is out of the question.”

Such were the delays in communication across the ocean that by the time General Howe received orders from London to “abandon Boston before winter” and “remove the troops to New York,” it was too late—winter had arrived. Besides, there were too few ships at hand to transport the army and the hundreds of Loyalists about whom Howe was greatly concerned, knowing what their fate could be if they were left behind.

Seeing no reasonable alternative, Howe would wait for spring when he could depart at a time and under conditions of his own choosing. He expected no trouble from the Americans. “We are not under the least apprehension of an attack on this place from the rebels by surprise or otherwise,” he assured his superiors in London and further stressed the point at a meeting with his general staff on December 3. Should, however, the rebels make a move on Dorchester, then, Howe affirmed, “We must go at it with our whole force.”

Quite unlike the man in command of the army encircling the town, the British commander was not impatient for action. On the contrary, William Howe had little inclination ever to rush things. Further, it was taken as a matter of course among professional soldiers that winter was no season for campaigning.

And so the British army settled in for a long Boston winter, seeing to their comforts as best they could under the circumstances.

The notable exception was Major General John Burgoyne, “Gentleman Johnny,” an officer of distinguished record and occasional playwright who had added welcome color to the social life of the British officers and their ladies. Impatient with “supineness,” as he said, and ambitious for a command of his own, Burgoyne had sailed for England in early December.


Winter in America was a trial British soldiers could never get used to, any more than they could adjust to the incessant clamor of frogs on spring nights or American mosquitoes or the absence of decent beer. The harsh winter winds and driving snows of the bay area inflicted misery indiscriminately on both armies, of course, but for the King’s men, unaccustomed to such a climate, the punishment was all but unbearable. A young Irish nobleman, Captain Francis Lord Rawdon, wrote of the suffering of his men encamped on Bunker Hill in early December, their tents “so shattered” they could as well have slept on the open ground—“and we hear with some envy of several little balls and concerts which our brethren have had in Boston.” Soldiers froze to death standing watch. Even when the troops moved to winter quarters a few weeks later, keeping warm seemed nearly impossible.

The open sea remained the only lifeline for fuel and food for the town, but with the severity of storms on the North Atlantic, and American privateers operating offshore in increasing numbers despite the weather, fewer and fewer supply ships were getting through. (“The rebels have the impudence to fit out privateers,” wrote an indignant British officer, snug in his quarters, but the day would come, he knew, when “we shall give the scoundrels a hearty thrashing and put an end to this business.”)

British Admiral Samuel Graves, whose responsibility it was to patrol the coastline against privateers, described snowstorms at sea between Cape Ann and Cape Cod as defying the most resolute of men.

This sort of storm is so severe that it cannot even be looked against, and by the snow freezing as fast as it falls, baffles all resistance—for the blocks become choked, the tackle encrusted, the ropes and sails quite congealed, and the whole ship before long one cake of ice…. Indeed, if the severity of the winters be such in this climate that the sentinel on shore is frequently found frozen to death upon his post, though relieved every half hour, the reader may frame some idea of what the seamen of a watch, especially in small vessels, must suffer.

With firewood selling for $20 a cord in Boston, more and more trees were cut down, including the old elm at the corner of Essex and Orange streets, known as the Liberty Tree, which provided fourteen cords. A hundred or more houses were pulled apart. Old barns, old wharves, and derelict ships were chopped up, almost anything that would burn. On orders from General Howe, Old North Church was demolished for firewood.

Only a fraction of Boston’s former, peacetime population remained, thousands having long since fled the town. But others, Loyalists, had sought refuge there, and Loyalists were conspicuous, if not necessarily more numerous than those inhabitants who had chosen to stay in the hope of protecting their property, or because they were too poor or helpless to do anything else. A few, like the town’s selectmen, had been forbidden to leave. In all, there were now about 4,000 civilians under siege, at least half of whom were women and children, and they, too, no less than the redcoat army, were hurting from shortages of all kinds, the poor inevitably suffering most.

Food remained extremely scarce and dear. Young Lord Rawdon described his famished troops as looking like skeletons. Even inferior cuts of horse meat brought good prices. To put a stop to increasing instances of plunder by the troops, Howe initiated punishments more severe even than the standard for the British army. In fact, the new year of 1776 began in Boston with the public whipping of a soldier and his wife who had been caught with stolen goods.

For the British officers, however—the “redcoat gentry,” as Washington called them—life was not entirely unpleasant. They had appropriated Old South Church for a riding ring—Old South Church being odious to them because town meetings had been held there. (Pews were torn out, dirt spread on the floor. According to the diary of Deacon Timothy Newell, one particularly beautiful, hand-carved pew was taken away to serve as a hog sty.) Evening entertainments were numerous. “We have plays, assemblies, and balls, and live as if we were in a place of plenty,” wrote an officer. “In the midst of these horrors of war, we endeavor as much as possible to forget them,” explained the wife of another officer in a letter to a friend at home.

Writing again to General Harvey, James Grant said, “We must get through a disagreeable winter the best way we can. I do all in my power to keep the ball up—I have all ranks of officers at dinner, give them good wine, laugh at the Yankees and turn them into ridicule when an opportunity offers.”

Boston having no theater, Faneuil Hall, sacred to Boston patriots as “the cradle of liberty,” was converted on General Howe’s wish into a “very elegant playhouse” for amateur productions of Shakespeare and original farces, with officers and favored Loyalists taking parts. Sally Flucker, the sister of Henry Knox’s wife, Lucy Flucker, for example, took a lead part in a production of Maid of the Oaks, a satire by General Burgoyne.

On the evening of January 8, uniformed officers and their ladies packed Faneuil Hall for what was expected to be the event of the season, a performance of a musical farce said also to have been written by Burgoyne. Titled The Blockade, it was off to a rollicking start from the moment the curtain rose. A ridiculous figure, supposed to be George Washington, stumbled on stage wearing an oversized wig and dragging a rusty sword. At the same moment, across the bay, Connecticut soldiers led by Major Thomas Knowlton launched a surprise attack on Charlestown, and the British responded with a thunderous cannon barrage. With the roar of the guns, which the audience at Faneuil Hall took to be part of the show, another comic figure, a Yankee sergeant in farmer garb, rushed on stage to say the rebels were “at it tooth and nail over in Charlestown.” The audience roared with laughter and “clapped prodigiously,” sure that this, too, was part of the fun.

But soon finding their mistake [wrote an eyewitness] a general scene of confusion ensued. They immediately hurried out of the house to their alarm posts, some skipping over the orchestra, trampling on the fiddles, and, in short, everyone making his most speedy retreat, the actors (who were all officers) calling out for water to get the paint and smut off their faces, women fainting, etc.

Reportedly, it was General Howe himself who shouted, “Turn out! Turn out!”


The British Commander, an easy-going, affable man who had never been averse to taking his pleasures when he could, was openly enjoying himself through the winter with his own elegant dinners, extended evenings at the faro table, and conspicuously in the company of a stunning young woman about whom there was much talk. The lady, who was to become known as Billy Howe’s Cleopatra, was Elizabeth Lloyd Loring, the wife of Joshua Loring, Jr., a member of a prominent Loyalist family whom Howe had hired to run the commissary for rebel prisoners. In the words of a contemporary Loyalist chronicler of the war, “Joshua had a handsome wife. The general…was fond of her. Joshua had no objections. He fingered the cash, the general enjoyed madam.”

William Howe had been a professional soldier from the time he finished school at Eton and at age seventeen received a commission in the Duke of Cumberland’s Light Dragoons. Two older brothers had also chosen military careers and distinguished themselves. The oldest, George Augustus Lord Howe, had fought and died in America in the French and Indian War and was remembered in New England as one of the bravest, best-loved British officers of the time. The other brother, Richard—Admiral Lord Howe—had begun his career in the Royal Navy at fourteen. Like William, he was a member of Parliament and much admired by the King.

The Howe brothers belonged to one of England’s most eminent families. They were rich, accomplished, and extremely well connected. Their mother, still a force in London society, was said to be the illegitimate daughter of King George I. Both men were staunch Whigs and had a decided resemblance, a rather gloomy, dark look, with dark eyes, heavy lids, and a swarthy complexion. But the general was the taller, at about six feet, the heavier, and a man of fewer words. In Parliament he rarely spoke. To Horace Walpole, Billy Howe was “one of those brave silent brothers [who] was reckoned sensible, though so silent that nobody knew whether he was or not.” Nor was it clear how much real heart the general had for the war in America, given his earlier comments about having no wish to serve in it.

William Howe’s ability and courage were indisputable. As a heroic young lieutenant colonel in the French and Indian War, he had led a detachment of light infantry up the steep embankments of Quebec in the first light of dawn to make way for the army of General James Wolfe to defeat the French under Montcalm on the Plains of Abraham. Wolfe had called William Howe the best officer in the King’s service. At Bunker Hill, assuring his troops he would not ask them “to go a step further than where I go myself,” he had marched in the front line. When the men fell back, after the slaughter of the first assault, he led them up the hill twice again. After one blinding volley during the third assault, he had been the only man in the front line still standing.

But for all his raw courage in the heat and tumult of war, Billy Howe could be, in the intervals between actions, slow-moving, procrastinating, negligent in preparing for action, interested more in his own creature comforts and pleasures.

That he had been stunned by the terrible cost of British victory at Bunker Hill there is no question. “The success is too dearly bought,” he had written to his brother the admiral. Still, he was a soldier, a gifted strategist, and a fighter. He liked to tell his troops, “I do not in the least doubt but that you will behave like Englishmen and as becomes good soldiers,” and he expected no less of himself. He would be a good soldier always, whenever put to the test. He meant business, and at forty-five, or approximately the same age as George Washington, he had far greater experience than Washington, a far more impressive record, not to mention better-trained, better-equipped troops, and ships of the Royal Navy riding at anchor in the harbor.

He also had the ostensible advantage of experienced subordinate officers, professionals all, several of whom had marked ability. When, in the previous spring, Howe, Clinton, and Burgoyne had sailed from England for the war in America, they truly represented the pick of the King’s officers. All three were men of proven courage and commitment to duty. Like Howe, Clinton and Burgoyne were well-connected, well-schooled aristocrats, and, as major generals, at the threshold of the peak years of their careers. Clinton, Howe’s second-in-command, was the least impressive in appearance, a short, fat, colorless man who could be shy and petulant. But he had a keen military mind and the advantage of knowing Americans from boyhood. He had grown up in New York, where his father, Admiral George Clinton, served as governor from 1741 to 1751.

Among those of lesser rank, an outstanding example was John Montresor, an officer of engineers whose years of service and experience would seem to make a mockery of the very idea that someone like Nathanael Greene could be a major general. Montresor, too, had served in the French and Indian War, in the Braddock campaign and at Wolfe’s siege of Quebec. In 1760, at age twenty-four, he had led a winter expedition overland from Quebec to New England, and at the war’s end worked on fortifications from Boston to Detroit to New York City, where he bought an island, Montresor’s Island, in the East River. He was resourceful, energetic, probably the best engineer in the British army, and with experience in America to equal any.

But it was also true that Howe and Clinton disliked one another and did not work well together, and that John Montresor, who was not an aristocrat, was still, at nearly forty, only a captain. If the desperate American need for leaders had thrust young men like Nathanael Greene into positions beyond their experience, the British military system, wherein commissions were bought and aristocrats given preference, denied many men of ability roles they should have played. Had Captain John Montresor been a major general, the outcome of the struggle might have been quite different.

Howe’s sources of intelligence, furthermore, were pitiful, virtually nonexistent. As near at hand as the rebels were, the British commander knew almost nothing of their true situation, their perilously thin lines, their lack of gunpowder. Bunker Hill had taught Howe not to underestimate his foe. Still, he had no doubt that the “present unfavorable appearance of things” could be rectified readily enough. All that was wanting was a “proper army” of 20,000.

In mid-January, on orders from London, General Clinton and a small fleet sailed away southward to see what advantage might be gained in the Carolinas, thus reducing the British force at Boston by 1,500 men. And, as pleased as Howe may have been to see Clinton leave, Clinton had at least served as an antidote to Howe’s “supineness.”

Oddly, Howe seems to have had no interest in the man who led the army aligned against him. In all that he and others of the British command wrote at the time, officially and privately, George Washington was rarely ever mentioned except in passing. There was no apparent consideration of what manner of man he was, what his state of mind, his strengths and weaknesses, might be. Or what he might be up to, given the working of his mind. Perhaps this was indifference, perhaps the measure of an overreaching sense of superiority. Washington, by contrast, was constantly trying to fathom Howe’s intentions, his next move. Strange it was that the British commander-in-chief, known for his chronic gambling, seemed to give no thought to how his American opponent might play his hand.

Working War Plan Orange


Reappraisals of War Plan Orange in the second half of 1933 brought to a head the destiny of the flying boat. Rear Admiral Joseph “Bull” Reeves, a faithful believer in the type, insisted that the fleet could not enter Philippine waters nor even loiter in the Marshalls without a security umbrella of five to seven VProns. Op-12 dutifully incorporated them in the first attack wave. They could fly to the Marshalls via Johnston Island but would have to travel onward to Mindanao as deck cargo. Mobilization tables reserved space aboard all ship classes, yet many of the big planes were to be lashed precariously on minesweepers under tow. The absurdity of the “eyes of the Fleet” wallowing blindly along the dangerous passage helped discredit the “Through Ticket” once and for all.

In October 1933 the credibility of a mid-ocean campaign suddenly brightened. An excellent VP prototype had emerged from successful commercial types “flying down to Rio.” The Navy placed orders for the plane that evolved into the most-produced flying boat of all time, the Consolidated PBY, later dubbed Catalina for an island near the factory in California—a British practice of naming planes. The aerodynamically clean, high-winged monoplane soon achieved the long-sought 1,000-mile range—1,500 in some wartime models. War planners could look forward to delivery within three years of flocks of far-winging scouts for an ocean offensive.

Rebirth of the cautionary campaign plan after 1933 owed much to enchantment with the graceful Catalinas. Yet their arrival touched off four disputes among the war planners, operating commanders, and the naval bureaus as to their roles. Three of the disputes were decisively settled before war in the Pacific erupted. Confusion over the fourth had much to do with the tragedy of 7 December 1941.

The first dispute concerned whether the Navy should acquire as many Catalinas as possible as the workhorses of the fleet, or strive for even larger, more proficient aircraft. Projected numbers of flying boats for a Treaty Navy were modest: 184 operating with the fleet in 1935, with 30 added per year to reach a peak of 330 in 1941. But aeronautical science was advancing rapidly. The Navy funded design studies of what became the two-engine Martin Mariner, which surpassed the Catalinas in speed and altitude and usurped the key scouting role midway through the war. Giant Sikorsky and Martin civilian flying boats operated by Pan Air, and German and British models inspired the four-engine PB2Y Coronado, ultimately built in smaller numbers. In the extreme, the monstrous Martin Mars, an eight-thousand-mile range “flying dreadnought” was supposedly capable of a Hawaii-Tokyo round-trip. Only a handful were built late in the war.

In 1935 the CNO skeptically inquired whether planes of, say, five- to six-thousand-mile ranges were needed. They required long, smooth waters for takeoffs. They consumed much more fuel. They could not be carried aboard ship and cost was a major consideration. He preferred “mid-sized” Catalinas capable of haul-out on primitive shores on their own beaching gear, for service by small tenders, or carried as deck cargo or disassembled to Mandate’s lagoons beyond their range. The Commander of Aircraft Base Force thought the ideal to be a two-engine craft of 3,000 nautical miles range at 175 knots, 20,000-foot ceiling, takeoff in less than 2.5 miles of taxi lane. CinCUS Reeves and Chief war planner, Rear Adm. William S. Pye, hoped for 3,500-mile range and thirty-hour endurance. Rear Admiral Ernest J. King, Chief of BuAer, who usually championed the most excellent aircraft, agreed quantity over “utmost” quality in this case. Why was extra range needed when no naval battle had ever been fought more than a thousand miles from land? Besides, bigger planes would not be available in masses for three or four years.

There the matter rested until 1940. In February 1941 PBYs were in service (all earlier types having been retired) with 200 PBY-5s on order for rapid delivery. Only 21 PBM Mariners were on order. The General Board declared for only a few giant boats for a few extraordinary missions. Rear Admiral John Towers felt that a dozen four-engine giants would suffice; at a cost of $926,000 the Navy could procure 9 Catalinas or 4 Mariners (albeit the newer planes had not achieved cost benefits of volume production). The final prewar word was pronounced by Rear Admiral Richmond K. Turner, Chief of the WPD, in November 1941. The war in Europe showed that seaplanes could not match landplanes in range, ceiling, maneuverability, speed, or self-defense. For long-range patrolling the Navy needed big landplane bombers, 25 percent immediately and 50 percent ultimately.

In a second debate, enthusiasts of the wondrous Catalinas envisioned them as a striking force hurling bombs and torpedoes at Japanese fleets and bases. The planes were performing splendidly in exercises out to U.S. atolls. Navy leaders’ enthusiasm may seem odd but in the mid- to late 1930s nobody knew how a future air war would unfold. Leading the battle cry was Ernest J. King, an air power devotee who attended flight school in middle age and then commanded the carrier Lexington. Moffett’s death brought King to the top of the Bureau of Aeronautics. In 1935 King warned against discounting the attack role. A modern VPron could drop twenty-four tons of bombs, almost as much as the thirty tons of all planes on the two largest carriers, the Lexington and Saratoga. Such planes were “distinctly a naval weapon for use over the sea against a naval objective.” Here was an opportunity “just as positive and clear” as Army bombers over land. Like cruisers that also scouted, flying boats could also fight. Any Commander in Chief would welcome them, any enemy would fear them. To ignore such a mission would cede to the Army the most promising development in aviation.

A chorus of skeptics greeted King. The CinCUS considered combat a distinctly secondary role. WPD Director Captain G. J. Meyers noted that VP scouting released carrier planes for combat. The commander of the fleet squadrons imagined Catalinas carrying four 500-pound bombs as a secondary role, but Rear Admiral Frederick J. Horne, commander of the VP squadrons, retorted that loading bombs from rafts onto wing racks was so time-consuming as to render the force impotent for attack. Pye, the next Director of the WPD, said that aerial torpedoes were too big, costly, and delicate. The naysayers conceded only peripheral missions such as attacking submarines while on patrol, mining, or night attacks on poorly defended islands, albeit sacrificing range for ordnance. Nevertheless, when King returned to the fleet to command the VProns he soon was exercising them as bombers and asking for torpedoes. Claude Bloch, the next CinCUS, continued attack training. King was apparently vindicated when the Navy redesignated the Catalina “PBY,” the first seaplane to sport a “B” for bomber along with “P” for patrol. Commander in Chief Arthur Hepburn transferred them in 1937 from the defensive Base Force to a new offensive command, Aircraft, Scouting Force.

By early 1940, however, opinion turned negative and soon jelled into hostility. Flying boats were inherently vulnerable. Orange Plan studies had assumed attrition of 10 percent per month, even in the scouting role. Combat raids were not worth the additional sacrifice of essential scouts. Commander of the VProns, A. B. Cook, after exercises, declared that “use as an attack forces is questionable except as a last resort,” while torpedo attacks on defended ships “should not be attempted except under desperate circumstances.” Captain Russell Crenshaw, Chief of the WPD, concurred. Richmond Kelly Turner delivered the death knell in November 1941 with his plea for long-range landplanes for the attack role as well as for scouting.

A third quandary of operating VP aircraft in a Blue-Orange war involved how and where to base them far beyond the harbors of California, Panama, and Oahu. In the early stages of flying boat development some Navy officers believed they could operate effectively under the most extraordinary conditions. A few thought they might operate en masse from the open ocean, or at least in the lee of islands, if only in circumstances of utmost urgency. Experiments of refueling at sea from the specially configured tanker submarine Nautilus proved barely practicable for one or two planes at a time. An ill-advised notion to lift a VP airplane for servicing onto a cradle on the deck of a submarine that would rise to the surface beneath it was wisely squelched by acting CNO Richardson. Further experiments proved open-sea operations dangerous and impracticable (although “Dumbo” VP aircraft rescued many a downed aviator at sea during World War II). Other ideas met similar dead ends. Designs for a ship with stern gates and a ramp for hauling aboard planes with folding wings were shelved. Takeoffs were conducted using catapults mounted on towed barges that could feather into the wind, with some success in calm waters, although this left open the question of where to land on return. One outlandish scheme envisioned VP aircraft packed with Marines landing in lightly defended enemy lagoons, to defend the toehold with hand weapons until reinforcements arrived by ship.

The most successful basing idea in the late 1920s and 1930s was the seaplane tender. The VProns needed sheltered harbors for flights and for ministrations by mother ships that were hybrids of fuel, repair, and barracks vessels. The Navy considered adapting merchantmen and even yachts, but settled on converting several small, slow minesweepers with lyrical names like Swan, Thrush, and Pelican. The shallow twelve-foot draft “Bird”-class tenders were well suited for uncharted lagoons. Crews could assist in hauling out VP aircraft on beaching wheels for light repairs. However, tenders were so defenseless that they might have to be evacuated during daylight hours and return after dark. Furthermore, their sluggish speed retarded fleet mobility. Working in pairs, one tender would sail off to lay moorings at an advance base while the other stood by until takeoff, then chugged gamely after. The net rate of advance was one-third that of the surface fleet.

During the Depression so many tenders were laid up that movement with a war expedition was virtually precluded. By 1935, however, one large and five small tenders were serving the squadrons, with gasoline enough for thirty hours of flying. Throughout the 1930s CinCUS and General Board reports urged the development of large tenders as semipermanent homes for three squadrons, with far more fuel and berthing capacity and with cranes to lift a VP plane aboard for major repairs by its well-equipped machine shops. After every “fleet problem,” that is, massed annual maneuvers, the Commander in Chief and his aviation subordinate identified the “urgent necessity” of more and better tenders as their most important deficiency. CinCUS Reeves demanded that tenders receive highest priority. The Ship Movements Division called for four large and seven small tenders for the squadrons already in service. In 1939 the Greenslade Board’s “Are We Ready” studies again listed tenders as the fleet’s number one deficiency. The minesweeper types were slow, lacked stowage, and could handle only a half squadron. The converted destroyers cured only the speed problem. The larger types took three years to build.

A new solution for both defensive and offensive VP basing early in a war appeared shortly before the actual war. For mid-Pacific operations the United States possessed a few scattered atolls west of Hawaii. Beginning in 1935 some were developed, with naval encouragement, by Pan Air for its “Flying Clipper” service to the Orient. Three atolls—Midway 1,000 nautical miles northwest of Oahu, Johnston 720 miles southwest, and Palmyra 960 miles south—were envisioned as defensive bases for Pearl Harbor. Squadrons and tenders exercised at Johnston and at French Frigate Shoals halfway to Midway. VProns made record-breaking massed flights to Midway during 1935 maneuvers. In 1938, with world tensions mounting, Congress approved a huge appropriation to develop the defensive atolls as seaplane bases—and at Midway a submarine base as well—by dredging channels through rock-hard reefs and erecting shore facilities, contracted to civilian firms that had built Hoover Dam. In 1941 ground and air defense units were emplaced on the islands. With advanced island bases in the offing the Navy ordered the PBY-5A, an amphibious version of the Catalina, to fly from airstrips as well as lagoons. By 7 December 1941 Midway housed a squadron periodically rotated, and Johnston a half squadron (six planes) from time to time.

Wake Island was a different story. Situated two thousand nautical miles west of Oahu and only a few hundred miles north of the Japanese Marshalls, it was hardly a defensive outpost. In fact, the evolving Orange Plans noted Wake’s unique value for the Blue descent on Eniwetok in the northwest Marshalls, the first objective of the offensive, to be occupied six months after the start of the war. VP aircraft could cover the fleet operating nearly a thousand miles beyond Wake. They could scout and might even bomb the Mandate Islands. B-17 bombers, staging through Midway and Wake, could certainly bomb the enemy islands. In 1940 Congress belatedly approved the funding of Wake. Meanwhile VP planes visited Wake on a few training missions by using the Pan Air channel facilities. A permanent deployment was expected in 1942. The fleet now had an advanced base from which VP aircraft could cover it as it moved into the Mandate.

The hurried construction at Wake brought to a head the final, and perhaps most important, debate about the flying boats. Was their primary function defensive scouting, that is, patrolling naval bases against surprise attack? Or was it supporting the offensive as scouts fanning out ahead of the fleet’s advance across the Pacific? In the Orange Plans of the 1920s and early 1930s the defensive mission was deemed paramount because Japanese Micronesia lay undefended. U.S. forces could occupy the Marshalls and probably Truk before Japan could fortify them. The VProns’ job was to warn of a surprise Japanese counterattack on Blue ships anchored there. Security demanded continuous long-range patrols, round the clock, covering 360 degrees. The war planners expressed confidence in the protective surveillance umbrella.

Offensive scouting, serving as the eyes of the fleet as it advanced, was more problematic. Carrier planes could scout ahead two hundred miles or so, and not at night. Floatplanes of battleships and cruisers could reach somewhat farther. But fleets could close on each other by five hundred miles overnight. Only flying boats could provide information of the enemy’s whereabouts a thousand miles out to sea.

Unlike the clear solutions of the other quandaries before the war, planners deemed both defensive and offensive scouting vital. But in 1941 the number of VProns available to the Pacific Fleet was still small, and dwindled as some were sent to neutrality patrol in the Philippines and the Atlantic. Nearly 1,000 more aircraft were on order but were not expected in service until 1943 at the earliest. In an emergency, a Commander in Chief might have to decide which of his scouting functions, offensive or defensive, was most critical. As war loomed, Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet, chose the wrong option.

In May 1941 War Plan Orange morphed into the Pacific half of Rainbow Five, a plan for a two-ocean war against Germany and Japan adopted jointly by the U.S. and British governments. President Franklin D. Roosevelt had transferred most of the U.S. Fleet to Hawaii in May 1940 as a deterrent to Japan grabbing U.S. and Allied colonies in the Far East. In February 1941 he promoted Kimmel to command the newly named Pacific Fleet. Kimmel’s primary mission under Rainbow Five was to divert the Imperial Japanese Navy for seventy days from attacking the great British naval base at Singapore, long enough for King’s Atlantic Fleet to relieve portions of the Royal Navy so they could steam to the rescue of Singapore. However, to ensure that the offensive-minded Kimmel did not thrust too far out into the Pacific during an emergency, say, the collapse of Great Britain, thus requiring a recall to the Atlantic, CNO Harold Stark directed Richmond Kelly Turner’s War Plans Division to tether Kimmel’s range of action. His ships must not operate west of 166° 39’ E, the longitude of the Marshall Islands and Wake (although some units could cruise in the South Pacific as far as Australia). Kimmel’s planning dilemma was how to support Singapore without cruising within 4,500 miles of it! In July 1941 his brilliant war planner, Captain Charles H. “Soc” (for Socrates, his nickname because he was considered an extremely wise man) McMorris, provided the answer in Fleet Plan WPPac-46. When Japan attacked the Far East the fleet would sortie from Pearl Harbor immediately. Several flying boat squadrons would wing ahead to Midway, Johnston, and Wake to cover it. Vice Admiral William F. Halsey’s three fast aircraft carriers would steam through the Marshalls twice, first to reconnoiter and then to bomb. Meanwhile Kimmel’s eight powerful battleships would rendezvous at Point Tare, the point of maximum cover equidistant between the three atoll VP bases, then take up position between Wake and Midway. In analysis of Kimmel’s strategy the naval ballet made sense only as an elaborate ambush of Admiral Yamamoto’s Combined Fleet, presumably enticed by Halsey’s gambits to a fight in the Central Pacific. Kimmel, who “wanted to be the American Nelson,” almost certainly hoped for a gunnery slugfest about the third week of war, in waters densely patrolled by flying boats from Wake and Midway but far beyond reach of Yamamoto’s long-range scouting planes. VProns were the key to Kimmel’s grandiose plan. Plan WPPac-46 was no mere school exercise; CNO and Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox approved it in September 1941 and it was not materially amended before 7 December.

Aware that the Catalinas could operate at still-primitive advanced bases for only a few weeks before engine overhauls, Kimmel opted to horde most of them on Oahu in tip-top shape for the surge forward rather than wear them out patrolling in defense of Oahu, knowing the Army Air Corps lacked long-range planes for the job. He had received a war warning. At dusk on 6 December Commander Nagumo’s carriers were about 275 miles to the north-northeast, well within the normal radius of flying boats. Kimmel had sixty-eight Catalinas in six VP Squadrons afloat and ashore at Oahu that morning, but only one was airborne guarding the harbor mouth against submarines. The Japanese attack destroyed all but one of the Catalinas. None got airborne. Assigned a nearly impossible mission, Kimmel chose to ignore base defense, the original mission for which the great planes were designed, for the more glamorous role of “eyes of the Fleet” as it steamed to the attack. He made the worst choice.