Cold War Aircraft overflights

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U-2S New redesignation for the TR-1A; updated with a General Electric F118 engine, improved sensors, and addition of a GPS receiver; 31 converted. The U-2 remains in front-line service more than 50 years after its first flight despite the advent of surveillance satellites. This is due primarily to its ability to direct flights to objectives at short notice, something that satellites cannot do. The U-2 has outlasted its Mach 3 SR-71 replacement, which was retired in 1998.

One of the less visible forms of foreign military presence, also one which involves movable and transitory presences, is that of aircraft overflight privileges. It is a form of external access.

This occasionally crucial matter of aircraft overflight privileges involves a complex range of practices and traditions, some of which were, in an overall sense, altered by time in an era of increasingly “total” warfare, diplomacy and ideological rivalries. In parallel with – and closely bound up with – what has been wrought by nations’ increasing insistence upon extension of sovereign control further outward from coastlines (now more or less institutionalized by 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zones – EEZs), the trend here during the Cold War was towards tightened restrictions on overflights.

In the past – and in some cases continuing to the present – some nations have allowed others more or less full, unhindered and continuous overflight rights (perhaps involving only pro forma short-term notices, i. e., filing of flight plans). In other cases, however, where political relations are weaker or not based on alliances, ad hoc, formal applications for permission to overfly must be made well ahead of time, which may or may not be granted depending upon the purpose and situation, be it routine or crisis.

It is to be stressed that the day-to-day diplomacy of overflight rights is a very closed and obscure matter, albeit of often crucial importance. We have little data – the subject periodically emerges to prominence during crises such as the 1986 U. S. raid on Libya. Of course, it is precisely when urgent military operations are involved that the subject acquires the most importance.

Nowadays, of course, well past the introduction of radar and its widespread global distribution, few overflights can be made on a covert basis, as was common before World War II, when detection depended primarily on visual observation from the ground. Not only “host nation” radar, but now also the superpowers’ satellite reconnaissance makes such “covert” activities almost impossible, particularly if a small nation has access to information from one of the superpowers, be it on a regular or ad hoc basis. This in turn may have had important ramifications for intra-Third World rivalries, specifically, regarding the balance of diplomatic leverage involved. Nations inclined, for instance, to provide overflight rights in connection with a U. S. airlift to Israel knew that Soviet satellite reconnaissance would provide information about that to Arab governments. That was a powerful deterrent.

Some overflights were made without permission (as with the respective use by the United States and the USSR of U-2 and MiG-25 reconnaissance flights), overtly or with a tacit or resigned wink by the overflown nation. Often a nation whose airspace is violated will not openly complain for fear of international or domestic embarrassment over its impotence, or untoward diplomatic repercussions with a strong power. Hence, the USSR is thought to have overflown Egypt and Sudan, among others, without permission in supplying arms to Ethiopia during the 1977-1978 Horn War, earlier, its MiG-25 and Tu-95 reconnaissance aircraft apparently flew with impunity over Iran’s airspace. The United States is thought to have threatened overflights in some places for future arms resupply of Israel, if it should be utterly necessary.

More recently during the Gulf War, and the Afghan and Iraq wars, this became a big issue in numerous places. During the Gulf War, the U. S. and its allies were allowed overhead access almost everywhere, including ex-Warsaw Pact states in Eastern Europe. In the Afghan war, the U. S. had good overhead access all over Europe, in the Caucasus and Central Asia and in and around the Persian Gulf excepting, of course, Iraq and Iran. Pakistan, politically cross-pressured, allowed U. S. overflights by bombers coming from Diego Garcia and from aircraft carriers stationed in the Arabian Sea. During the Iraq war, however, the U. S. did have some problems with Switzerland, Syria and Iran.

Lothar Von Arnauld De La Periere

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The leading U-boat ace of all time was Lothar Von Arnauld De La Periere. His family was French until 1757, when his great-grandfather, a 26-year-old artillery lieutenant, cut down a prince of the House of Bourbon in a duel and fled the country one step ahead of the police. Jean-Gabriel Arnauld de la Periere then joined Frederick the Great’s army and rose to the rank of full general. The Arnaulds served Prussia and Germany from then on.

Lothar was born in Posen, Prussia (now Poznan, Poland), on March 18, 1886. He attended the cadet schools at Wahlstatt and Gross-Lichterfelde, and joined the Imperial Navy in 1903. After eight years service on three different battleships, Arnault became a torpedo officer aboard the light cruiser Emden in 1911. After that, he was adjutant to Admiral Hugo von Pohl, the chief of the Admiralty Staff and an early advocate of U-boat development and unrestricted submarine warfare. Arnauld transferred to the U-boat branch in 1915, and assumed command of U-35 in November. He sank a record 194 ships (453,716 Gross Registered Tons) during World War I, and received the Pour le Merite in 1916.

Most of Arnauld’s “kills” were undramatic. He would stop a merchant vessel, inspect its papers, allow the crew to board lifeboats, and then sink it with his 88mm deck gun. Sometimes this procedure was not practical. Arnauld fired a total of 74 torpedoes during the war and scored 39 hits.

Arnauld remained in the navy during the Weimar era, where he served as a navigation officer on old pre-dreadnoughts and as commander of the Emden (1928–1930). Promoted to captain, he retired in 1931, and then taught at the Turkish Naval Academy from 1932 to 1938. He also briefly joined an anti-Nazi political party in the early 1930s.

Captain von Arnauld was recalled to active duty when World War II began. Promoted to rear admiral on June 1, 1940, he was naval plenipotentiary for Danzig and the Polish Corridor (September 1939–March 1940). He became Naval Commander, Belgium-Netherlands (May–June 1940); Naval Commander, Brittany (June–December 1940); and Naval Commander, Western France (December 1940–February 1941). He was promoted to vice admiral on February 1, 1941.

Admiral von Arnauld was named naval commander south on February 19, 1941. He was en route to his new command when he was killed in an airplane accident at the Paris-Le Bourget Airport on February 24. He is buried at the Invalidenfriedhof

Before Stamford Bridge

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Unnamed and unarmoured Norwegian warrior, wielding an axe, who according to the Anglo-Saxons sources killed 40 warriors on the Stamford bridge inn 1066.

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Modern British Viking reenactment group demonstrates a skjaldborg (shield-wall)

Harald of Norway certainly had more than enough experience and the necessary temperament to undertake an invasion of England. He had a battle-hardened army and fleet at his command, which despite their recent failures in Denmark had just spent two years restoring its fighting strength and its morale in a series of local campaigns in Norway. Tosti would have had little difficulty in contacting Harald from his base in Scotland and there can be little doubt that he did so. It is unlikely that Tosti actually visited Norway, but not impossible. A late source speaks of Tosti’s Northumbrian ally Copsi visiting the Orkney’s to recruit troops for Tosti, and perhaps he also acted as his ambassador to King Harald in Norway. Certainly in some form or other, contact was made, as Chronicle C and John of Worcester make it clear that Tosti had a prior agreement with King Harald of Norway to join him in an invasion of England.

It has been suggested that Harald of Norway’s invasion was a long-term plan of his which Harold of England should have foreseen, and that Tosti only attached himself to it. Indeed, the attack on England in 1058 by Magnus, son of King Harald, has been seen as a forerunner of his father’s 1066 invasion, but there is no direct evidence for this. The Irish Annals of Tigernach do say that Magnus intended to take the kingdom, but this probably reflects the fact that although primarily an Irish Sea expedition, it had actually been directed against England rather than the Celtic lands. It is unlikely that Harald would have sent a boy to do a man’s job. In addition, no other recent Viking expedition of conquest against England came from this isolated quarter, which provided no direct access to the centres of English power. Moreover, the contemporary English sources make it clear that Harald’s invasion was very much a surprise. Therefore, it seems unlikely that it could have been a long-term plan, as such would inevitably have been the subject of rumour on the trade routes, as was Magnus’s planned invasion of 1045. It is more likely that Tosti’s plea for aid acted as a spur to Harald, and indeed William of Poitiers seems to confirm this when he states that Tosti brought alien arms against Harold. Harald probably saw the invasion of England as a fitting substitute for his failure to take Denmark. England was a very wealthy kingdom, which could provide him with gold in plenty to replenish his treasury. For a man like Harald, this was reason enough to invade. He required no elaborate legal justification such as William of Normandy had adopted. The later saga story that, as successor to King Magnus, Harald had inherited a claim to England that was supposedly derived from a treaty King Magnus had made with Hardecnut, was, to Harald, simply irrelevant.

The reasons for Harald joining up with Tosti are perhaps less obvious; with their trading links to Northumbria, the Norwegians must have been well aware of the former earl’s unpopularity there. Certainly, Tosti had local knowledge, which would be useful, and in spite of his fall he may have retained some local supporters. He had ruled the area for ten years, after all, and, for example, the young Gospatric, to whom he had shown favour, may still have been sympathetic to him. In addition, Harald of Norway may have intended to use Tosti as a figurehead in opposition to his brother, King H arold. He perhaps hoped that Tosti could help rally support in southern England against his brother and so assist the Norwegian campaign. Indeed, Tosti may have played up his influence over his younger brothers and other English nobles in order to persuade Harald to support him. In Harald’s mind, once the expedition had succeeded Tosti could be suitably rewarded or disposed of, as the situation required.10

An alliance was made, with Tosti very much the subordinate according to the English sources, and in the late autumn of 1066 King Harald summoned a large army and crossed the North Sea in 300 ships. The Norwegian fleet sailed down the east coast of Scotland, using the same northerly winds which confined William of Normandy to port. The fleet joined up with Tosti’s small force, either off the Scottish coast or at the mouth of the Tyne. The two allies then sailed down the coast and up the Rivers Humber and Ouse, before landing at Riccall. John of Worcester alone names this as the landing place, but it fits with the location of the subsequent battle at Fulford. After disembarking, Harald led his forces north directly towards York but just outside the city he encountered opposition from Earls Edwin and Morcar on the left bank of the Ouse at Fulford. Via reports of the Norwegian progress down the east coast, the northern earls had been given just enough time to gather as large a force as they could from their earldoms and bring it to York. The speed of these events is emphasized by Chronicle C, which contains the fullest account.

The statement in Chronicles D and E that Harald’s army ‘went up the Humber until they reached York. And there Earl Edwin and Morcar his brother fought against him’, has been seen as implying that the Norwegians took York without opposition and then fought against the earls. However, this seems to be simply the result of the brevity and compression of these accounts and the fact that the battle took place just outside York, at a location not named until later. This is confirmed by the fuller account in Chronicle C, which makes it clear that the Norwegians were forced to fight for the city. More importantly, if the Norwegians were already in occupation of York when the army of the earls came against them, the location of the battle at Fulford is confusing. If they had needed to do so, the army of the earls could only have advanced against an occupied York from the right bank of the Ouse, and hence the battle could not have taken place near Fulford. Instead, the battle took place because the northern earls sought with their forces to prevent the Norwegian army from taking the city.

This decision by the inexperienced earls to accept battle at Fulford, before King Harold could join them, has been seen by some as an act of folly. However, we must remember the initial confusion resulting from Harald of Norway’s surprise assault. The northern earls reacted to this in a natural way by calling up their own forces and perhaps those of Earl Waltheof also. A Norwegian poem suggests that Earl Waltheof was present at the battle and, although he is not referred to by the English sources, this is not impossible. The earls had sent word to King Harold of this new menace, but until he could arrive with support, obviously they had to act on their own. If the Norwegians had entered York unopposed they would have been able to consolidate their position, while at the same time undermining the morale of the Northumbrians. Consequently, the earls chose to make a stand outside York. They selected Fulford, an estate owned by Earl Morcar, where they could bar both the road and the river, and marshes provided protection for their flanks. They appear to have taken all possible precautions to give themselves the best chance of success.13

The battle of Fulford took place on Wednesday 20 September, and appears to have been long and bloody. It may not have been as one-sided as the final result implies, as Chronicle C speaks of the battle causing ‘heavy casualties’ among the invaders as well as the English. John of Worcester expands on this, claiming that the English had some initial success before finally succumbing to the Norwegians. The heavy losses among the English are reflected in the poems contained in the later Harald’s Saga, which record that ‘warriors lay thickly fallen around the young Earl Morcar’. In the end, the Norwegians’ greater experience appears to have given them the edge and the earls were defeated and their army put to flight. Earls Edwin and Morcar had had no previous experience of war and while some of their Northumbrian and Mercian troops had probably fought in earlier campaigns in Scotland and Wales, this could not compare with the Norwegian army’s sixteen years of experience in the wars against Denmark. The earls themselves managed to escape the carnage, but many of the English troops were slain or drowned in the nearby marshes.

The victorious Norwegians now entered York ‘with as large a force as suited them, and they were given hostages from the city and also helped with provisions’. This statement has been interpreted as evidence of a willingness by the men of York, and Northumbria in general, to submit to the Norwegians. However, few, if any, citizens faced with a foreign army at their gates, having just lost their defenders and with no help immediately to hand, would dare to oppose that army openly. In this situation, the Northumbrians bowed to the inevitable and accepted Harald of Norway’s terms for peace. Besides calling for provisions and hostages, the latter perhaps selected by Tosti, these terms also provided for the citizens to assist the Norwegians to conquer the kingdom. It seems doubtful that the Northumbrians would actually have provided such help without compulsion. The hated Tosti was Harald’s ally, and few could contemplate his restoration without fear. In addition, there is evidence to show that the Northumbrians at this time considered themselves very much a part of the English kingdom, and the contemporary scribe of a text called the Law of the Northumbrian Priests ends it with a prayer that the land might have ‘one royal authority forever’. In the event, the Northumbrians were never put to the test, as King Harold of England came north to their aid.

The northern earls had probably sent word of the Norwegian invasion to King Harold sometime before 20 September, as soon as the Norwegian fleet was first sighted off the north-east coast of England. Chronicle C suggests that Harold received the news not long after he returned from his watch on the Channel coast about mid-September. At once, the king began to gather troops in what was probably the third summons of that hectic year. That he found them at all reflects both his firm grip on the reins of power and a willingness among the English to support their king. Men came to join his ‘very great’ army from many areas of England. Evidence of only a few of these men survives, but it is sufficient to provide an indication of the wide reach of Harold’s power. According to Domesday Book, an uncle of Abbot Aethelwig of Evesham came from an estate at Witton in Worcestershire ‘to die in Harold’s war against the Norse’, and his presence may signify that Harold was attended by the men of Evesham Abbey on this campaign. This man presumably fell at the battle of Stamford Bridge on 25 September because the same entry goes on to say that his death occurred ‘before William came to England’ on 27 September. An unnamed thegn, with land at Paglesham in Essex, gifted it to St Peter’s at Westminster before ‘he went to battle in Yorkshire with Harold’. In addition, a later source speaks of Harold being cheered on his march north by Abbot Aelfwine of Ramsey, who informed him of a vision he had had of the late King Edward, who prophesied Harold’s victory. Beneath the hagiographical elements in this story may lie the possibility that men of Ramsey Abbey were also present in Harold’s army. Indeed, it is not impossible that Abbot Aelfwine himself accompanied the army as Abbots Leofric and Aelfwig did later at Hastings.

Unfortunately, there exists only a little evidence as to how Harold was able to raise large forces and move them rapidly to York. The army that Harold collected, in common with that which later faced the Normans at Hastings, would have consisted of two main elements. The first of these was the force of huscarls, which on this occasion probably included those who served Harold himself, those royal huscarls who had previously served King Edward, and perhaps those of Earl Gyrth, who is said in one late source to have accompanied Harold on this campaign. These men were household troops who served a lord in war and peace and received pay in return. They fought for their lord in war and at other times performed the duties of garrison, tax collection and law enforcement. The second element of Harold’s army was the fyrd, which consisted of a select levy of men summoned from the population of the shires. This was not a summons to all men to defend the land but a call to relatively well-equipped representative troops who had been nominated by their communities to serve. It also included men who represented religious houses, whose monks were naturally not able to serve in person. It also seems likely that a single summons did not command all fyrd men to appear but rather that they were called up in relays. This was surely not beyond the power of the English kings of this period, and it is difficult otherwise to see how Harold could have called up four such levies in 1066.

It seems likely that most of Harold’s forces were mounted for the advance north, otherwise it is difficult to account for them reaching York so quickly. There is certainly sufficient evidence that the English used horses in this way, though not that they were used in battle itself. The rates of travel offered for mounted troops of this period, of around 25 miles per day, would bring Harold’s forces to Tadcaster by 24 September and to Stamford Bridge by the afternoon of 25 September, if they left London early on 16 September. It is certainly possible that Harold received word of the Norwegian fleet by this last date, and Chronicle C confirms that he began his march north before the battle of Fulford had taken place. If this is correct, then the journey would have been completed by riding during the day and resting overnight. It is known from the Laws of Cnut that earls, thegns and their followers were each expected to attend for military service with an extra horse. This would have allowed for one horse to be rested on alternate days during the journey. The comparable rates of travel for infantry of around 15 miles per day would make the journey almost impossible in the time allowed.

If Harold had set out on 16 September, this would not have allowed sufficient time to collect any forces, apart from his attendant huscarls, before leaving London. Therefore, he must have collected the fyrd as he went north, although we cannot prove this. It is known that Domesday Book records the existence of royal messengers, who could have ridden on fast horses to summon the necessary troops from the shires and arrange for them to ride to named points on the route north. If these troops travelled at similar rates to Harold’s own force they could have joined him en route to York, from Essex, Ramsey Abbey and even Worcestershire. It was during his journey north that Harold learnt of the disaster at Fulford on 20 September. This news must have come as a severe blow as he would now have to face the victorious Norwegian’s without the help of the forces of the northern earls. Nevertheless, he continued his progress northward undaunted, trusting in his own abilities and those of his men.

Harold’s plan in undertaking this rapid journey seems clear; he intended to reach York as soon as possible in order to prevent the Norwegians from consolidating their hold on the north. The consequent plan, to catch them unawares when they thought they were safe after their recent victory, probably only arose after Harold’s arrival at Tadcaster on Sunday 24 September. There, he stopped briefly to marshal his troops and gather information. He learned that the Norwegians were 8 miles beyond York at Stamford Bridge and some 13 miles from the safe refuge of their ships at Riccall. They were ideally positioned to be caught and destroyed, and it was probably at this point that Harold decided to attempt to surprise them. This plan depended, of course, on no word of his arrival reaching the Norwegians and, according to the sources, this appears to have been the case, even though King Harold’s army passed through York itself, en route to meet the Norwegians at Stamford Bridge. This surely refutes suggestions that the Northumbrians were only too eager to throw off Harold’s yoke and accept the Norwegian king in his place. It seems rather that, in common with the rest of the English, they recognized Harold as their king, so that Chronicle D speaks fondly of Harold as ‘our king’, and Chronicle E of him ‘valiantly’ overcoming ‘all invaders’.

On Monday 25 September, with his army rested and regrouped, Harold advanced through York to meet the Norwegians at Stamford Bridge. The latter had moved to this small village on the river Derwent to await the arrival of further hostages from the rest of Yorkshire. This need to collect hostages from the shire would appear to indicate that the Norwegians did not trust their Northumbrian hosts. The location also offered the Norwegians the opportunity to live off King Harold’s own nearby estate at Catton, which would avoid the possibility of their troops, or more probably Tosti’s, plundering York itself. There is no direct evidence for this last threat, but it would not be surprising if Tosti had scores to settle with the local thegns as a result of his expulsion in 1065. Following their recent victory, it appears that the Norwegians considered themselves safe from any immediate reprisal; at Stamford Bridge they could easily find themselves cut off from their ships at Riccall. If they had been aware of Harold’s approach they would surely have sought to oppose him at York, where they could bar the river Ouse against him. Perhaps they considered that King Harold would remain in the south to face the threatened Norman invasion, or perhaps they felt he would not risk attacking them after the defeat suffered by his earls at Fulford. Most probably they were surprised by the speed of his reactions and did not expect his arrival yet. Whatever the reason, they were completely unprepared for Harold’s sudden arrival at Stamford Bridge on 25 September.

Before Hastings

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Anglo-Saxons vs Vikings

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As a monarch Edward the Confessor made singularly little impression on the English chroniclers. He also made hardly any impression at all upon the course of English life. Of his character and nature, very little is known. The fact that he survived at all in such a ruthless and violent society suggests that he possessed shrewdness as well as resilience. He was called ‘the Confessor’ because he was deemed to have borne witness to the efficacy of the Christian faith, but in life he was not a particularly pious king. In one eulogistic poem he is described as ‘claene and milde’: he was ‘claene’ because he was not licentious, and he had no child; he was ‘milde’ because he was merciful. But he was not devout. His grants to the abbeys and monasteries were no more than what was expected. He showed no particular talent for diplomacy or administration. He had no grand plan; he worked by hazard and necessity, responding to each crisis in a measured manner. He had no principles other than those of self-interest and survival. Chance, and fortune, were his mentors. In this he was not unlike any other English king. It is perhaps the most important lesson of the nation’s history.

With his death the life of England passes to a new stage. In the period from the eighth to the eleventh centuries, the identity of the nation was formed. Edward the Confessor had been rex Anglorum, ‘king of the English’, and his people were the anglica gens; he controlled Anglorum exercitus, ‘the army of the English’, and anglicanum regnum, ‘the kingdom of the English’. In this period, too, the fundamental components of the English state – the shire, the hundred and the tithing – were complete. England was unique and distinctive in its possession of a strong state. English law was propounded and drawn up in elaborate codes, with laws on property and inheritance that remained fundamentally unaltered for many hundreds of years. The art and literature of the period, including Beowulf (tentatively dated to the eighth century) and the Lindisfarne Gospels (early eighth century), have become part of the English heritage. Most importantly, the customs of the land were maintained and its traditions were preserved. The essential continuities of the English nation were passed on.

To whom did Edward leave his crown? The question has never been satisfactorily resolved. It is reported that on his deathbed he pronounced Harold, son of Godwin, as his successor. Harold was not in fact the rightful heir; that honour was held by the king’s great-nephew, Edgar Atheling, who was only fourteen years old. In turn William, duke of Normandy, claimed that Edward had offered him the crown and that Harold had sworn on the relics of the saints to submit to William. Since history is written by the victor, that account became generally accepted. It is likely to be completely untrue.

In any case Harold believed himself to have the greater claim, even though he was not part of any royal dynasty. He was the senior earl in the country, earl of East Anglia and earl of Wessex, possessed of vast estates and a great fortune. He was brother-in-law to the dead monarch and in Edward’s lifetime he was deemed to be a sub-regulus or ‘under-king’. The chroniclers report that he was of a free and open nature, and his own acts prove that he was skilful and brave in matters of war. With his brother, Tostig, he subdued Wales in 1063. So on 6 January 1066, the day of Edward’s burial, Harold was crowned as king of the English; it was the first coronation in the newly consecrated Westminster Abbey. Yet this happy precedent did not necessarily augur well. His reign, lasting nine months and nine days, was one of the shortest in English history.

Two threats were raised against his kingdom. One came from the Scandinavian kings of northern Europe, eager to restore Canute’s empire, and the other now came from Normandy, where Duke William seems to have felt himself slighted or humiliated by the choice of Harold as king. It is alleged that, on hearing the news, he was much agitated. He could not sit still. He raged. He was driven by greed and desire for power.

William was a child of violence and of adversity. In his earlier years he was known as William the Bastard, being the illegitimate child of his father’s relationship with the daughter of a tanner. He himself said that ‘I was schooled in war since childhood’, when he succeeded to the duchy at the age of seven or eight. He came to power in a region that was noted for private feud and vendetta with ensuing public disorder. But by force of character he subdued his enemies. He won his first victory on the battlefield at the age of nineteen, and reduced the neighbouring regions of Maine and Brittany to feudal dependency. He was a man of formidable power and ruthlessness, greedy for lands and for money. But he had one great gift; he had the power of command and was able to bend men to his will. If they refused to be persuaded, he broke them.

That is why he was able to recreate the Norman state in his own image. It was still essentially a Norse state, fashioned from the early tenth century when Norwegian invaders forced their way into the territory and were allowed to settle there. The Normans were indeed the North men. They were part of a warrior aristocracy, their culture and society far less sophisticated than those of England. But they were learned in the new arts of war, which the English armies had not yet mastered. Duke William took the disparate regions of his duchy and, through a potent mixture of bellicosity and cunning, forged them into a centralized state under his leadership. He is a pre-eminent example of the ‘strong man’, the maker of the state, who emerges in all periods of the world’s history. He was 5 feet and 10 inches in height (1.7 metres), corpulent by middle age, with a harsh and rough voice. He had enormous strength and physical stamina. It was said that he could bend on horseback the bow that other men could not even bend on foot.

This was the enemy that King Harold most feared. William had no possible claim to the English throne except by right of conquest. And that is what he set out to achieve. It was in many respects a hazardous enterprise. The Normans had no fleet; the ships for the invasion, more than 500, would have to be built. William was also confronting a formidable adversary; the English state was wealthier and more powerful, with the potential of raising far more soldiers for the fight. The fortunes of battle were in any case uncertain, which was why the pitched conflicts of armies were avoided at all costs; it was better to harass, and to ravage, than to rely upon the outcome of one event.

Yet the force of the duke’s will was insurmountable; he persuaded the lords of Normandy, and certain French allies, to follow him across the sea. He promised in return innumerable riches from a country as prosperous as it was fruitful. William also enlisted the help of a higher power. He persuaded the pope to give his blessing to the enterprise, on the dubious grounds that Harold had violated a sacred oath taken in his submission to the duke. The pontiff sent William a ring containing one of the hairs of St Peter. In the same period William placed his daughter, Cecilia, into a nunnery at Caen. He had in effect sacrificed his daughter to God in the hope of a victory, just as Agamemnon sacrificed Iphigenia before sailing to Troy.

William made preparations for the great fleet to be collected on the Channel coast at Dives-sur-Mer by the middle of June 1066. 14,000 men were summoned for the onslaught. Harold, knowing of the naval threat, stationed his fleet at the Isle of Wight and posted land forces along the Channel coast. Yet the French army was kept in port by contrary winds. On eventually taking sail for England it was blown off course and was obliged to take shelter in the port of Saint Valéry-sur-Somme. There it remained until the last week of September. Never has an invasion been so bedevilled by bad luck, and it must have seemed to William’s commanders that divine help would not necessarily be forthcoming.

Meanwhile, Harold waited. For four months he kept his forces prepared for imminent attack. Then on 8 September, he disbanded them. Provisions were running out, and the men needed urgently to return to their farms. He may have been informed of the abortive sailing of William’s fleet and calculated that, with the season of storms approaching, there would be no invasion this year. Soon after his return to London, he learned of a more immediate danger. As the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle puts it, ‘Harald, king of Norway, came by surprise north into the Tyne.’ On 20 September, Harald Hardrada descended upon York. On hearing this unwelcome news Harold mustered his retainers; he marched north very swiftly, riding night and day, picking up local forces as he went forward. The first that the Danish army knew of his arrival was the sight of the dust thrown up by the horses. On 25 September he engaged the enemy at Stamford Bridge where he obtained a complete victory. It was a measure of his competence as a military commander. Harald Hardrada was killed in the course of the battle, marking the end of the Viking interest in England. ‘A great man,’ Harold said of Hardrada, ‘and of stately appearance. But I think his luck has left him.’

Harold’s own luck was soon dissipated. He was, in effect, the last of the English kings. As soon as he had celebrated the victory over the Norwegians, he received news that William had launched his invasion force. The duke had put a lantern on the mast of his ship, leading the way across the Channel. The Norman force landed in Pevensey Bay at nine o’clock in the morning on Thursday, 28 September 1066. It was the most fateful arrival in England’s history. From Pevensey Bay the Normans rowed around the coast to Hastings, which they considered to be more favourable terrain. William built a makeshift castle here, and proceeded to ransack the adjacent villages. But he did not march along the road to London; his position was essentially defensive, close to his ships.

Battle of Zusmarshausen

Spain’s partial recovery in 1647–8 limited what France could do in the Empire, where the exact outcome of the war remained unclear. It was obvious the emperor was losing, but even a local victory could still upset the two crowns at Westphalia. They had gained ground, but still lacked a decisive preponderance and reports that they outnumbered the imperial and Bavarian forces two-to-one at the end of 1648 are exaggerated.

The proportion of Swedish nationals in that country’s army was now much higher, at 18,000 out of 63,000, due to mistrust of the Germans. A major effort was made to improve the cavalry as these represented 22,000 of the 37,500 field troops. The eleven German cavalry regiments that defected from Turenne were reorganized into four larger units, while 14,000 horses were rounded up across Lower Saxony as remounts. The ratio of horse to foot was now the reverse of that in 1618. Logistical reasons continued to propel this, but the Swedes also needed to be mobile to assist their negotiators in Westphalia.

Nearly a third of the garrison troops were left to secure the Baltic bridgehead, while 1,000 held Benfeld in Alsace for political reasons, as the only Swedish outpost in the province coveted by France. Others were spread across the remaining bases, while 7,500 field troops were positioned in Franconia and Thuringia, with Wittenberg and another 5,700 in Silesia and Moravia. Other detachments left only 12,500 cavalry and 6,000 infantry in the main strike force under Wrangel, with an additional 1,500 cavalry under Königsmarck as the advance guard. The Hessians, still numbering around 10,000, were fully occupied holding their existing positions. This greatly increased the significance of Turenne’s return to the Upper Rhine at the end of 1647 with 4,000 horse and 5,000 foot. A further 8,000 French held Breisach and other posts in the Rhineland.

Melander’s hardest task for the emperor in 1648 was to prevent a conjunction of Turenne and Wrangel, since he mustered only 10,000 Imperialists and 14,000 Bavarians. Around half his army were cavalry, and there were other imperial and Bavarian detachments in south-west Germany and Bohemia. He ended the 1647 campaign between the upper Weser and the Main, between Wrangel on the lower Weser and Turenne on the Upper Rhine. His position was not only exposed, but also in a region already exhausted by the fighting in 1645–7. He could not move against either enemy without endangering his communications with Bohemia and Bavaria. It was more important politically to confront the Swedes, so Melander planned to draw them towards Bohemia while Lamboy and the Westphalian army advanced up the Rhine to threaten Turenne’s communications with France. Cologne autonomy helped frustrate this, because Elector Ferdinand refused to let Lamboy out of Westphalia. Instead, Lamboy continued his fruitless war against Geyso’s Hessian outposts for the rest of the year.

French possession of the middle Rhine gave them bridges nearer the Swedish position. Turenne crossed at Mainz with 6,000 men on 15 February and marched east up the north bank of the Main while Wrangel moved south up the Weser to join him. Melander escaped their clutches by retreating south east to Nuremberg. The allied onward march was temporarily blocked by snow and disagreement between their commanders. Eventually they advanced south over the Main into Franconia, picking off minor garrisons. Melander retired slowly, while Gronsfeld positioned the Bavarians at Ingolstadt. The allies captured Donauwörth together, but then parted; the arguments over the Swedes’ incorporation of Turenne’s mutinous cavalry into their army the year before masked deeper political disagreements about the direction of the war. Mazarin was still reluctant to fight Bavaria and Turenne withdrew north-west to the Tauber valley to benefit from the spring grass and recuperate while the dispute was resolved.

Wrangel meanwhile marched north-east to capture imperial posts in the Upper Palatinate and relieve Eger, which had been blockaded since the autumn. His shift of focus was in line with Sweden’s overall strategy of delivering a substantial blow to the Habsburg hereditary lands to force Ferdinand to make peace. However, Swedish generals also saw a renewed attack on Bohemia as their last chance to plunder that country before the inevitable peace. As Wrangel was unable to break through from Eger, he won Turenne’s agreement to further joint operations intended to knock out Bavaria and invade Austria along the Danube instead.

The Battle of Zusmarshausen

Melander was too weak to exploit his enemies’ brief estrangement, and had received secret instructions not to risk the army. Ferdinand recognized that a victory would now bring only modest benefits at the congress, whereas a defeat could be catastrophic. Melander moved westwards to between Ulm and Augsburg to ease the supply situation and was joined reluctantly by Gronsfeld and the Bavarians. Their combined effective strength had dropped to 15,370 and around 2,000 of the 7,220 cavalry were now without horses.

The allies marched south-west to Württemberg, before swinging back east to Lauingen, a French-held outpost on the Danube downstream from Ulm. They crossed on 16 May and headed south to cut Melander off from Bavaria. Already aware of their approach, Melander had withdrawn eastwards through Burgau to Zusmarshausen. Nonetheless, news that the enemy was actually across the Danube caused alarm when it reached him that evening. He rejected Gronsfeld’s advice to march north to confront them, because it was unclear how many were already over the river. Instead, he continued eastwards heading for Augsburg to escape over the Lech into Bavaria. The decision placed him in a position similar to Mansfeld’s at Mingolsheim or Duke Christian’s at Höchst and Stadtlohn of having to retreat encumbered with baggage in the face of the enemy. He had to cover a 20km stretch through wooded hills between the Zusam and Schmutter streams to reach the Lech valley. Raimondo Montecuccoli was left with 800 musketeers and 2,000 cavalry and Croats as a rearguard, while Melander set out with the rest of the army at 4 a.m. on 17 May.

Wrangel and Turenne had a considerable numerical superiority at 14,500 cavalry and 7,500 infantry, but were hindered by the terrain from deploying this to full effect. The action developed as a running battle with Montecuccoli’s rearguard as it fell back along the narrow route through the forest. The allied vanguard of three French and six Swedish cavalry regiments attacked around 7 a.m. Montecuccoli held for more than an hour, before retiring over the Zusam stream once it became clear the entire enemy army was arriving. He fell back to where the forest narrowed at Herpfenried village, intending to resist until Melander could establish another position further on at Horgau. The French cavalry worked their way along the easier southern side of the road and outflanked Montecuccoli. Melander dashed back with his bodyguard to rescue him. The rush to get going that morning had left Melander no time to put his armour on and he was hit in the chest by a pistol shot and killed shortly before midday. Imperial detachments continued to resist, but the fighting became confused as the French and Swedes pushed up the road, capturing part of the baggage.

Montecuccoli’s resistance nonetheless bought time for Gronsfeld to get the bulk of the army across the Schmutter just east of Biburg and to dig in on the Sand Hill on the other side. The Bavarian entrenchments had already reached knee height by the time Montecuccoli crossed with the survivors of the rearguard at 2 p.m. Bavarian pioneers then destroyed the bridge before the allies could appear in strength. The French used six captured cannon to support an attempted crossing, but were beaten back. Their infantry were still toiling along the road, denying them the advantage of numbers. Gronsfeld was able to slip away at night to Augsburg, having lost 1,582 casualties, but only 315 prisoners and 353 wagons. Melander’s objective had been achieved, but it could have been done with less cost had the baggage been sacrificed.

The allies had failed to destroy the emperor’s last army and it continued to repulse probes along the Lech. Gronsfeld had learned from Tilly’s experience in 1632 and remained well back from the river, ready to pounce as the enemy crossed. Wrangel wanted to win fame by repeating Gustavus’s feat and began sending cavalry swimming across on 26 May. One of Gronsfeld’s patrols encountered them and mistakenly reported that the entire enemy army was already across. Gronsfeld retreated to Ingolstadt, exposing southern Bavaria to the enemy as in 1632–3 and 1646. The main imperial army dissolved in the retreat, falling to only 5,000 effectives, with the Bavarians numbering not many more. Gronsfeld had been shaken by Zusmarshausen and the constant alarms of the previous two weeks. This final retreat cost him Maximilian’s confidence and he was arrested along with two subordinates on 3 June and replaced by General Hunoldstein, who was followed in turn by Enkevort in August.

The elector vented his frustration on the army, and commandants of minor positions like Windsheim found themselves executed if they surrendered. More realistically, the crisis prompted him to drop his objections to Werth who was ordered to collect 6,000 imperial cavalry from Bohemia to reinforce the Bavarians. Ferdinand meanwhile entrusted imperial command to Piccolomini who had been without a position since resigning in the Netherlands in 1647. They were all competent officers, but it would take time to reorganize the demoralized army behind the river Isar. In the meantime, Maximilian joined 12,000 of his subjects and fled to Salzburg, where he had already placed his archive and treasury for safe keeping two years before.

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The First Jet War

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In Korea, jets fought jets for the first time in history. The world’s first actual jet encounter took place near the Yalu River on November 8, 1950, when MiG-15s, the best and newest Soviet frontline fighters, attacked a formation of American B-29s escorted by F-80 jets. Lieutenant Russell Brown brought down the first Communist jet to be lost over Korea. “As Communist troops swept across the Yalu … and sliced through overextended and overconfident U.N. ground forces,” Dennis E. Showalter writes here, “the MiG-15 seemed poised to reverse the course of the air war.” It never did, largely because it soon came up against a fighter that was its equal, the F-86 Sabrejet. For the next two and a half years, the planes would duel over the area of North Korea south of the Yalu and bordering the Yellow Sea that U.N. pilots nicknamed “MiG Alley.”

The first MiG-15 pilots were mainly Soviets and Poles. Chinese pilots did not show up until the spring of 1951, and there were never many North Koreans. (We sometimes forget how genuinely international the Korean War was.) “Incidents” may have occurred during the Cold War, but this was the only instance in those four decades and more when Americans and Russians traded shots in anger over a prolonged period. According to a CIA report in the summer of 1952, “a de facto air war exists over North Korea between the UN and the USSR.” Apparently, as many as seventy-two thousand Soviet air personnel rotated in and out of Chinese airfields, those frustratingly “privileged sanctuaries” that U.N. airmen were forbidden to attack. (There were times when U.N. pilots violated this order.) The original Soviet airmen belonged to elite units that had been stationed around Moscow. Their initial mission was to intercept and destroy the B-29 bombers, propeller-driven behemoths from World War II, that were destroying what little transportation and manufacturing infrastructure North Korea possessed, much of it in MiG Alley. But the Soviet pilots, many of whom were Eastern Front veterans, regarded Korea as an opportunity for a refresher course in aerial combat; younger men made it their finishing school. Although their MiG-15s bore the red wing stars of the Soviet air force, the pilots otherwise took elaborate precautions to conceal their identities. They dressed in Chinese uniforms, refrained as much as possible from speaking Russian in radio transmissions, and never (except through the rare mistake) flew over U.N.-held territory or over the sea. It is recorded that one MiG-15 pilot, downed behind U.N. lines, shot himself rather than be captured and interrogated. Another, who crashed in the sea and managed to swim free of his sinking aircraft, was strafed and killed by fellow pilots as a U.N. patrol boat rushed to rescue him. Stalin did not want to present the West with a pretext for starting World War III. American leaders were just as wary. Even after he learned of the Soviet involvement, President Dwight D. Eisenhower kept quiet, out of fear that conservatives in Congress might push for retaliation if they got wind of it.

Though Stalin came to believe that his unleashing of the North Koreans had been a mistake, the old man still took consolation in contemplating the huge U.N. air losses, which his lieutenants led him to believe were mostly the handiwork of his MiG-15s. The losses, as Showalter acknowledges here, were indeed great; ground fire, not the dogfights of MiG Alley, accounted for most of them. As for air battles with MiG-15s, Sabrejets actually earned a respectable advantage in kill ratio—and did even better at the end of the war, as Chinese and North Korean pilots took over from the Soviets.

Korea may have been the first jet war, but piston-driven propeller planes still had their pride of place, including some famous names out of World War II, such as YAKs, Sturmoviks, Mustangs, Corsairs, B-26 Invaders, and B-29 Superfortresses. In the last year of the Pacific War, the B-29 had ranged over the Japanese Home Islands, practically unopposed by enemy fighters. That was not the case in the Korean War when these ponderous targets were jumped by MiG-15s; they were forced to begin flying only at night. That did not prevent the B-29s from turning much of North Korea into a vast crater field. They firebombed cities like Pyongyang with napalm, something that gave Prime Minister Winston Churchill pause. “I do not like this napalm bombing at all,” he told an acquaintance, adding, “We should make a very great mistake to commit ourselves to approval of a very cruel form of warfare…. I will take no responsibility for it.” As Stanley Sandler points out in his excellent summation, The Korean War, “In light of the death tolls of the Tokyo fire raids, the two nuclear bombings, and of similar raids on Pyongyang and Sinuiju, the B-29 can be said to have killed more civilians than any other aircraft in history.”

American bombs may have come close to rending the social fabric of North Korea, but they did not keep supplies from the front or otherwise help to end the war. By the time a truce was signed in July 1953, the Communist armies were better fed than they had ever been and were able to lay down mass barrages that even a World War I artilleryman would not have disparaged.

In Korea, the past may have been recaptured on the ground. But in the sky, the future took shape.

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On the afternoon of June 27, 1950, eight Soviet-built, piston-engined IL-10 attack planes of the North Korean Air Force were attacked over Kimpo Airfield by four American jet fighters, F-80 Shooting Stars. Within minutes, four of the North Korean planes were down. Lieutenants R. E. Wayne—who shot down two planes—and R. E. Dewald and Captain Raymond Schillereff had scored the first jet kills of the U.S. Air Force. But this historical milestone was not the first American victory of the air war. That same morning, five North Korean fighters had tangled with an equal number of U.S. planes and lost three of their number to an aircraft that was little more than a footnote in aviation history. The F-82 Twin Mustang, essentially two P-51 fuselages linked by a stub wing and a tail section, had been cobbled together in the aftermath of post-1945 budget cuts as an interim night fighter and long-range escort.

These two very different encounters reflected the ambiguous nature of the air war over Korea. Jet aircraft had made their first appearances during the final stages of World War II. Nazi Germany’s Messerschmitt 262 jet fighter was not the potential war winner of legend. Nevertheless, it shocked the U.S. Eighth Air Force even in the small numbers the Luftwaffe finally deployed. The Allies were slow to react. Britain managed to send a single squadron of Gloster Meteors, roughly similar to the Me 262, into combat before V-E Day, but the German jet’s only losses came when two of them collided while returning to base. The United States began designing and ordering jets during the war, but none came into service until after 1945. The Soviet Union was even further behind. Both superpowers depended heavily on German jet technology once it became available.

Were jets the wave of air power’s future? In principle, it seemed so—until the shooting started over Korea. On the one hand, jet fighters, by now entering a second design generation represented by the swept-wing MiG-15s and F-86 Sabres, dominated the peninsula’s skies whenever they were present. But at the same time, piston-engined veterans of World War II like the Mustang, the F4U Corsair, the B-26 light bomber, and the B-29 Superfortress played vital roles in the air campaign from the Pusan Perimeter to the armistice at Panmunjom. Nor were these old warhorses kept in service merely for want of more modern alternatives. The U.S. Navy’s propeller-driven AD Skyraider saw its first combat in Korea. Fifteen years later, it was to play a major role in Vietnam.

Brandenburg and the first Nordic War 1655-60

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Frederick William, the “Great Elector”.

As Frederick William finally took possession of East Pomerania, his interest in the Baltic intensified. In 1654 Queen Christina of Sweden abdicated in favour of her cousin, Charles X. The new king showed every sign of emulating Gustavus Adolphus in his desire to make the Baltic a Swedish lake. The Elector was alerted to the prospect of another war between Sweden and Poland when Charles approached him with a demand for the towns of Pillau and Memel as the price of a Swedish-Brandenburg alliance (1654). Frederick William was reluctant to make quick concessions even to gain a powerful ally. He was wary of being drawn into another conflict which might result in the loss of his hard-won Westphalian gains; but more to the point, his instinct was to secure the maximum advantage from the situation by selling his military support to the highest bidder. Meanwhile, to protect his own position he turned to the Dutch Republic, whose vital trading interests would also be affected by Swedish occupation of the Baltic ports. A defensive treaty was concluded at The Hague in 1655, by which the Elector hoped to retain his independence.

However, within a matter of weeks Sweden’s armies swept across the plains of Poland, capturing all the leading cities. They then wheeled round against Polish Prussia, and after taking all the towns except Danzig, moved on to the duchy of Prussia. Backed into a corner at Königsberg, the Elector avoided battle to save his army and accepted the Swedish terms (1656). Charles X appeared to have brought Brandenburg-Prussia to heel. Ducal Prussia became a Swedish fief and Frederick William promised military and financial aid to his overlord, and the use of Pillau and Memel, along with half the port dues. As a modest reward to his new vassal, Charles allowed Frederick William to take the bishopric of Ermland, an enclave within East Prussia.

The Treaty of Königsberg (1656) exemplified the Elector’s dilemma. Armed neutrality was an obvious strategy for a second-class state, but there would be situations in which the ruler would be forced to take sides. By arming his state in order to sell its military capacity, he had to ask himself whether it was better to take the initiative and negotiate with the superior power in the hope of winning an ally’s prize. Or was it wiser to support the weaker of two major powers in the expectation that the aggressor would eventually be defeated by a hostile coalition? Over the years Frederick William turned to both these strategies and switched from one alliance to another. If he was flexible and inconsistent in his diplomatic and military strategies, he was unwavering in his overall objective, which was to enhance his possessions and the status of the dynasty he embodied. This impelled him to take every possible step to defend and consolidate his patrimony.

Later in 1656, as the Poles recovered much of their lost ground, the Elector found himself courted by both sides. But it was too early to desert Sweden, which still appeared the dominant power. In return for a promise of territorial booty in the west of Poland, he agreed by the Treaty of Marienburg (1656) to fight alongside the Swedes. Leading his army of 8,500 troops, Frederick William joined in the three-day battle of Warsaw, where he proved his military prowess. The victory caused Sweden’s enemies to reform. The Dutch fleet came to the defence of Danzig, the Russians took Ingria and Livonia and Ferdinand III sent help to John Casimir, the Polish king. Frederick William saw his chance to turn the diplomatic tables on his ally, Sweden. He had also clarified his war aims, for the war had already shown how elusive territorial gains and promises could be. But there was an important constitutional matter to be rectified: the Elector wanted to be freed permanently from Swedish and Polish suzerainty. In the Treaty of Labiau (1656) Charles X agreed to this demand and recognized Frederick William as the sovereign ruler of ducal Prussia. In addition, Sweden surrendered her claims to the customs dues levied in Prussian ports. With these concessions secured, a small Brandenburg force joined in Charles’s latest campaign against Poland (1657).

The hostilities in Poland, however, turned into an inconclusive guerilla campaign. When Denmark declared war against Sweden and Charles X decided to decamp from the mainland to concentrate on fighting his oldest enemy, Brandenburg returned to a state of armed neutrality. To conserve his army, Frederick William withdrew circumspectly into Prussia (1657). Sweden was now on the defensive against a coalition of powers and Frederick William no longer felt the need for the Swedish alliance. Charles X’s departure and Poland’s relative weakness gave him an opportunity to make further political capital. He expressed his readiness to come to terms with the Poles on the key condition which he had won from the Swedes at Labiau: recognition of his sovereignty in Prussia. As it happened, the Emperor had his own dynastic reasons for wanting to detach Brandenburg from the Swedish alliance. In the ensuing negotiations he put pressure on the Polish king to match the Swedish bid and accept Frederick William’s sovereign rights over ducal Prussia. In the Treaty of Wehlau (1657) John Casimir reluctantly made this substantial concession, and in return Brandenburg returned Ermland to Poland. Frederick William followed this triumph with a total turnabout when he agreed terms with the Austrian Emperor and the King of Denmark.

By 1658 the Nordic War was in its last phase. The fighting had concentrated on Denmark, where the spectacular gains made by Charles X in 1657 were partly countered by the armies of the anti-Swedish coalition, to which Frederick William contributed a Brandenburg force. The possibility of territorial gains at Sweden’s expense now opened up. At the head of 30,000 men, the Elector drove the Swedes from Schleswig and Holstein (1658) before turning his attention to Swedish Pomerania and the ports of Stralsund and Stettin in particular. Although Stettin withstood his attacks, by the end of 1659 Brandenburg forces were in control of most of Pomerania. In the event of peace, the Elector’s bargaining position against Sweden looked stronger than it had ever been. His main goal was Swedish Pomerania, which he had failed to achieve at Westphalia.

It was the intervention of another superior power which blocked Frederick William’s strategy. The French minister, Mazarin, was reluctant to see Sweden lose her prime position in the Baltic. Brandenburg’s allies in the anti-Swedish coalition- Poland, Denmark and the Austrian Emperor-had grown weary of the war, despite the fact that Sweden’s position was suddenly weakened by the death of Charles X (1660) and the advent of a regency for his 4-year-old son. However, Frederick William learned again the harsh reality of politics, that a second-rate power is unwise to abandon neutrality and fight alone. At the Peace of Oliva (1660) the Elector’s recent allies had no reason to support him against French diplomacy, which carried the day. He had to accept a compromise. He secured his first war aim, the recognition by all the signatories that he was the sovereign Duke of Prussia. But to his deep disappointment he had to withdraw his army from western Pomerania and accept Sweden’s possession of the Baltic province.