Chechnya Helicopters


Secessionism in the small autonomous north Caucasus republic of Chechnya led to two Russian campaigns, the first from 1994 to 1996 and the second beginning in 1999 and, in a much reduced form, continuing at the time of this writing. Of Chechnya’s land area, totaling some one hundred by eighty kilometers, about 11 percent is comprised of medium-high mountain and 8 percent of high mountains. The area of medium height is heavily forested particularly over the slopes facing north, with beech forests, oak, elders, and hornbeam. In the first Chechen war, after Russia’s violent “shock and awe” campaign had flattened Chechnya’s capital city of Grozny and cleared the lower areas of Chechnya, the insurgents withdrew to the higher ground in the south and its sixty-mile-long border with independent Georgia. The forested mountain areas with the two Argun rivers provide a route of entry into Chechnya both for supplies and foreign volunteers, such as Saudi Arabian Wahabis, Uzbekhs, Somalis, and others. In times of difficulty the forests could also serve as a route for any hard-pressed insurgent band to escape into safety. Road transport in these areas is, at best, difficult and dangerous because of limited visibility; at times, especially in the rainy season, vehicle movement is impossible. In the nineteenth century the tsar’s army had cut open some swathes of forest to provide fields of fire and some protection against ambushes. The Russians tried to follow their forebears’ tactics, together with helicopter logistic supply support for outposts and border posts.

In both Chechen wars the Russians experienced great difficulty in flying helicopters in the forest rayons. Wind conditions could vary greatly and suddenly both in direction and strength, making landings hazardous and any use of helicopters as gunships quite uncertain. In the first conflict the Russians sought to extend shock and awe, and the destruction of villages on the edges of the forests, by positioning artillery at the actual edge and firing into the forest while dropping random bombs at the same time. Some of the bombs and shells were new, highly destructive, tactical-level, thermobasic, or fuel-air explosives. In their occasional forays into the forest, poorly prepared Russian soldiers were more concerned with preserving their own lives than with attacking their opponents; the forays achieved little. The Chechen insurgents, supported by well-publicized foreign Muslim volunteers often of little military value, would then withdraw further into the forests, trying to lure the Russians into pursuit to then ambush them from all sides. Some insurgent bands either lived entirely in the woods or found shelter in remote forest villages, emerging to strike at Russian posts or headquarters. Russians initially remained prudent in the use of helicopters, keeping them airborne. One reason for this caution was the sharp differences of opinion on how, or even whether, the war should be fought and which of the many rival government services and agencies should be in charge. These differences eventually led to a cease-fire and the end of the first war.

In the second war the Russians and their Chechen collaborators again saw their priority as taking control of Grozny and the lower ground areas, hoping that, by so doing, resistance would continue for only a short time in the mountains and forests. Russian forces were by now better equipped and trained with much greater gun, mortar, and rocket-launcher firepower which they planned to use at maximum range. Artillery or mortar batteries were attached to company-level sub- units in all areas. With the aim of securing their approved Chechen leaders’ power; the Russians again launched a heavy assault on Grozny, flattening the capital city and its surrounding suburbs and towns, the areas of economic importance. Included in these assaults were units equipped with the Buratino, a 36-barreled rocket launcher capable of firing incendiary or fuel-air explosives and laser-guided projectiles from their 220-mm mortars. Having devastated the low country, the Russians moved to more proactive incursions into the forest areas in the south, particularly in the Shatovski rayons. The incursions mostly took the form of raids mounted from the forest edges preceded by artillery shelling and aircraft bombing; pursuit groups with flame throwers would seek to encircle forest bands. The Russians admitted, however, that many escaped.

Other groups were landed by helicopter in small village areas or small open clearings deep in the southern mountain forests. These groups were usually Special Forces rather than line infantry and were to meet unexpected hazards. The Russians have been reticent and have not released a full account of all the practical difficulties these missions experienced, but accounts of two disasters and other press reports pro- vide some insight.

The first disaster occurred at the end of February 2000, when airborne solders of a Parachute Desyant Company were massacred in or following a helicopter landing on a forest-covered hill near Ulus Kert. The second occurred in April 2007, when an HIP Mil Mi-8 helicopter carrying men of the 22nd Spetsnez Military Intelligence Brigade crashed near Sanoy, killing all the men aboard. The brigade had been called to help units already on the ground who were in pursuit of an insurgent group but had become bogged down in mud. The Russian HIP helicopters were old, most twenty-five years old or more, with reduced rotor thrust and other control problems. Further, in the HIP and other Russian helicopters the pilot’s range of vision was limited to the front, making landings in windy conditions in small tree-lined spaces very dangerous indeed. Between 19 August 2002 and 27 April 2007, a total of eighteen helicopters were lost in Chechnya, seven by fire from the ground, three by crashing into a mountain, and the remainder by technical problems or pilot error causing rotor blades to hit treetops. But as the Russian pursuit attacks became progressively more effective, Chechen forest and mountain resistance fell. The strategy of opposition changed to one of sporadic attacks in Russia and the neighboring autonomous republics. The death of the leading Chechen guerrilla leader led to a nominal cease-fire and the installation of a client regime. In Russia itself the small number of casualties per month continues to arouse criticism, and on a remote forest-lined stretch of the Moscow-St. Petersburg railway, North Caucasian insurgents blew up the prestigious Nevsky Express train in November 2009, killing twenty-six people and wounding at least a hundred.

References

Much useful information on the Chechnya operations may be found in Lieutenant-Colonel C. W. Blandy, North Caucasus: Problems of Helicopter Support in Mountains (Swindon, UK: Defence Academy of the United Kingdom, 2007).

Michael Orr, “Better or Just Not So Bad, an Evaluation of Russian Combat Efficiency in the Second Chechen War,” and Lester W. Grau “Technology and the Second Chechen Campaign,” both in Anne Aldis, ed., The Second Chechen War (Swindon, UK: Strategic and Combat Studies Institute, 2000)

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Johan Banér, (1596–1641)

Swedish field marshal. Johan Banér was born in Djursholm Castle, Sweden, on July 3, 1596. His father and uncle were both beheaded in 1600 on a charge of treason against the Crown. Despite the fact that Gustavus Adolphus’s father had ordered Banér’s father executed, Banér developed a close friendship with King Gustavus Adolphus when the latter reinstated the Banér family following his accession to the throne in 1611. Banér entered the Swedish Army in 1615 and fought in the Swedish Siege of Pskov that same year during the Russo-Swedish War of 1613–1617. He then participated in the Polish-Swedish War of 1617–1629. Banér was promoted to cornet in 1617, to captain lieutenant in 1620, and to colonel in 1622. During 1625–1626 he commanded the fortress of Riga, and he then took part in a number of battles against the Poles. During 1629–1630 he was governor of Memel (Klaipéda).

In 1630 when Gustavus Adolphus entered the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648) in Germany as the Protestant champion and to secure territory and influence for Sweden, Banér was a general and one of his chief lieutenants. In the Battle of Breitenfeld (September 17), Banér commanded the right-wing Swedish cavalry. Shortly thereafter he became Gustavus’s chief of staff. Banér took part in the capture of Augsburg and of Munich and distinguished himself in the Battles of the Lech (April 15–16, 1632). He was wounded in the unsuccessful Swedish assault on General Wallenstein’s camp at Alte Veste (September 3–4). When Gustavus moved on Lützen, he left Banér in command of Swedish forces in western Germany, where Banér opposed the imperial general Johan von Aldringen.

Banér was promoted to field marshal in February 1634. Acting in concert with a Saxon army, he invaded Bohemia and moved against Prague but was halted by the complete defeat of Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar and Field Marshal Gustav Horn in the Battle of Nördlingen (September 6, 1634). The ensuing Peace of Prague (May 30, 1635) placed Sweden in a dangerous position. In early 1635 Banér took command of all Swedish forces and won a victory in the Battle of Wittstock (October 4, 1636), restoring Swedish fortunes in central Germany. Swedish forces were decidedly inferior in numbers to those of their opponents, and Banér, after rescuing the garrison of Torgau, was forced to withdraw across the Oder River into Pomerania in late 1638.

In 1639 Banér’s reorganized Swedish forces again overran northern Germany, defeating the Saxons at Chemnitz (April 14, 1639) and even invading Bohemia and threatening Prague. Then, in a daring and highly unusual winter campaign in 1640–1641, Banér joined with French forces commanded by the Comte de Guébriant and attacked Regensburg, seat of the Holy Roman Empire, but was unable to capture the city. Harassed by imperial forces, Banér then withdrew to Halberstadt, where he died on May 20, 1641, probably from pneumonia contracted during the retreat. A bold general and a thorough disciplinarian who was nonetheless well respected by his men, Banér was a worthy chief of staff to Gustavus Adolphus.

Further Reading: Parker, Geoffrey. The Thirty Years’ War. New York: Military Heritage Press, 1987. Steckzén, Birger. Johan Banér. Stockholm: H. Gerber, 1939.

The Battle of Wittstock

The Battle of Wittstock. The Swedish army prepares for its assault on the wood defenses of the Allied center and left flank before Wittstock.

Initial Swedish attack and Imperial realignment.

Swedish breakthrough and Imperial retreat.

The Battle of Wittstock fought just south of the small northern German town of Pomerania on 4 October 1636-was one of the most important in the Thirty Years’ War. 1 The battle was between a Protestant Swedish Army of fifteen thousand, comprised of nine infantry brigades and fifty cavalry squadrons, and their Catholic opponents, an Allied Army of some twenty thousand that included thirteen infantry brigades, seventy cavalry squadrons, and thirty-three guns. The Swedish Army was commanded by the very able General Johan Banér. The Allied Army, an alliance between Saxony and the Holy Roman Empire, had no commander. The battle was deployed on a ridge facing south and southeast with a six-ditch earthen defense system and a wall of linked wagons in the center; on the left was a wooded hill and further east the river Dosse. On the Allied right lay a heath and the large, dense oak forest of Heiligengrab. The imperial contingent under Marazinno held the Allied right; Saxony’s Elector, John George, commanded the center with the artillery; and a brave but not very competent Saxon general, Melchior von Hatzfeldt, was in com- mand on the left. The quality of the Saxon contingents was mediocre.

The overall Swedish position in northern Germany was in serious danger. The Elector of Saxony had joined the imperial cause, and the Swedes retained only a small bridgehead in the north. The Swedish force, screened by thick woodlands, advanced on Wittstock from the south and crossed the Dosse River. General Banér, despite his numerical inferiority, launched an attack on the center and both flanks, using the tree-covered hills to best advantage. Recognizing his opponent’s strength in the center, Baner’s ploy was to approach the enemy concealed by the sandy, tree-covered hills, to mount an attack on the hill on the Allies’ left flank, and then to move in on the centre, thereby weakening the Allies right flank and the right-side detachments of the center. At the same time a quarter of his force was to be deployed in a seven-mile ride encircling the Heiligengrab Forest to mount a surprise pincer attack on the Allied center and rear. The fighting on the Allies’ left of center proved very severe, and the cavalry force, led by a Scots officer named James King, was delayed on its ride first by the marshy terrain and then by the trees and roots in the forest, arriving to save the day only in the nick of time. The Swedish cavalry, pouring out from around the edges of the forest, managed to completely surprise its opponent, first easily disposing of the screen of one thousand German musketeers and then descending on John George’s and Hatzfeldt’s center and rear, capturing their artillery. Dusk and darkness prevented the Swedes from fully following up on their success, but their achievement was nevertheless considerable. The Allied force withdrew in some disorder, losing more men in Banér ‘s pursuit the following day.

Sweden’s important position in northern Germany and its military reputation were restored; the victory, both spectacular and historic, was described with little exaggeration as a classic case of good command and control. The Battle of Wittstock thus made Sweden one of the winners in a war in which many of the other countries involved were massive losers.

HOMING OVERLAY EXPERIMENT

AN ANTI-NUKE WEAPON CONSIDERED TO BE LIKE ‘HITTING A BULLET WITH A BULLET’.

At the Cold War peak in the 1980s, the deployment of weapons and defence systems from space (or at least, extremely high altitude) became the new playthings for both Communist and Western governments. On the US side of the Atlantic, president Ronald Reagan’s opposition to the doctrine of mutually assured destruction meant that the US military was investing time into researching the means of defending America against a nuclear strike, rather than the weapons required for a retaliatory attack. Cue the Homing Overlay Experiment (HOE).

In 1984, the US Army launched two missiles at each other from either side of the Pacific. One was launched from California with a dummy warhead and a trajectory that would take it 7,242 kilometres (4,500 miles) away to a spot near Kwajalein Atoll. The army waited for the missile to pop up on Kwajalein’s radar before launching their experimental counter-measure to intercept it. This was a kinetic weapon that looked much like another missile, until it approached the nuclear dummy outside Earth’s atmosphere at more than 185 kilometres (114 miles) altitude. Here, it unfurled a huge, ribbed aluminium net to increase its lethal radius and made directly for the dummy, striking it at such speed that both were practically vaporised. This fourth test was the first to be considered a success and was likened to shooting a bullet out of the air in mid-flight with another bullet.

This was the first non-nuclear missile defence technology: prior to HOE, the only means any country had of defending against a nuclear strike was to detonate another warhead in the air to destroy everything in its blast radius. Obviously, the subsequent radioactive fallout from this method could have had dire consequences for the world. While HOE itself was, thankfully, never needed, the force-of-impact technology it pioneered has been passed down to today’s US missile defence systems.

Lockheed

TheHomingOverlayExperiment

HITTITES, ASSYRIANS, AMURRU, AND AHHIYAWA

The Hittite Chariot heavier with 3 men: driver, lancer, archer….effective but less maneuverable…..Notice the four spokes wheel.

The last kings of the Hittites—especially Tudhaliya IV (1237–1209 BC) and Suppiluliuma II (1207–? BC)—were very active during the last quarter of the thirteenth century, from ca. 1237 BC, even as their world and civilization were showing signs of coming to an end. Tudhaliya ordered that an entire pantheon of gods and goddesses be carved into the rock of a limestone outcrop at Yazilikaya (“Inscribed Rock”), along with a representation of himself, just a kilometer or so from the Hittite capital city of Hattusa.

At this time, the Hittites were at war with the Assyrians in Mesopotamia. In a discussion of Assur-uballit I, who ruled over Assyria at the time of the Amarna pharaohs, and who had sacked Babylon after a marriage alliance between the two powers went awry. The Assyrians, after a brief period of relative dormancy following the reign of Assur-uballit, had become resurgent under their king, Adad-nirari I (1307–1275 BC). Under his leadership and that of his successors, the Assyrians emerged as a major power in the Near East at the beginning of the thirteenth century.

Among his other accomplishments, Adad-nirari I fought against the Mitannians, capturing Washukanni and other cities. He placed a client king on their throne and extended the Assyrian Empire sufficiently far to the west that it now bordered the Hittite homeland and almost reached to the Mediterranean Sea. This may not have been as difficult as it sounds, however, since the Hittites under Suppiluliuma I had already inflicted a crushing defeat upon the Mitannians several decades earlier.

Following the reign of Shalmaneser I (1275–1245 BC), who continued many of the policies of Adad-nirari and may finally have brought the Mitannian kingdom to an end, one of the greatest of Assyria’s “warrior kings,” Tukulti-Ninurta I, who ruled ca. 1244–1208 BC, stepped onto the world stage. He followed in the footsteps of Adad-nirari but was perhaps also emulating his predecessor of the previous century, Assur-uballit, when he decided to attack Babylon. However, Tukulti-Ninurta I surpassed Assur-uballit’s achievements: not only did he defeat the Kassite Babylonian king Kashtiliashu IV in battle and bring him to Assur in chains; he also took over their kingdom by ca. 1225 BC, ruling as king himself before installing a puppet king to govern on his behalf. But this was not a particularly successful move, since the puppet king, Enlil-nadin-shumi, was almost immediately attacked and overthrown by an Elamite army marching from their eastern homelands on the Iranian plateau, in what is now southwestern Iran. It would not be the only time that this happened, for we shall encounter the Elamites again soon.

In addition to his other achievements, Tukulti-Ninurta I, the Assyrian warrior king, also defeated the Hittites under Tudhaliya IV, thus dramatically changing the balance of power in the ancient Near East. It has even been suggested that he became so powerful that he sent a mina (a Near Eastern unit of weight, probably the equivalent of a little more than a modern American pound) of lapis lazuli as a gift to the Mycenaean king in Boeotian Thebes on mainland Greece, all the way across the Aegean.

Consequently, by the time of the first Sea Peoples attack on the Eastern Mediterranean in 1207 BC, just one year after Tukulti-Ninurta was assassinated by one of his own sons, Assyria had been one of the major players on the international scene in the ancient Near East for nearly two hundred years. It was a kingdom linked by marriage, politics, war, and trade over the centuries with the Egyptians, Babylonians, Hittites, and Mitanni. It was, without question, one of the Great Powers during the Late Bronze Age.

Assyrian Chariot.

During the reign of the Assyrian king Tukulti-Ninurta, the Hittites were faced with an obvious and serious threat to their empire and were intent on stopping anyone attempting to move inland from the coast to Assyrian lands in the east. One strategy involved a treaty signed in approximately 1225 BC between Tudhaliya IV, king of the Hittites, and Shaushgamuwa, his brother-in-law by marriage. Shaushgamuwa was the king of Amurru, who controlled the coastal regions of northern Syria that provided potential access to the Assyrian lands. In the treaty, the homage with which we are now familiar is invoked: the enemy of my friend is also my enemy; the friend of my friend is also my friend. Thus, Tudhaliya IV (who refers to himself in the third person as “My Majesty”) declared to Shaushgamuwa:

If the King of Egypt is the friend of My Majesty, he shall be your friend. But if he is the enemy of My Majesty, he shall be your enemy. And if the King of Babylonia is the friend of My Majesty, he shall be your friend. But if he is the enemy of My Majesty, he shall be your enemy. Since the King of Assyria is the enemy of My Majesty, he shall likewise be your enemy. Your merchant shall not go to Assyria, and you shall not allow his merchant into your land. He shall not pass through your land. But if he should come into your land, seize him and send him off to My Majesty. [Let] this matter [be placed] under [oath] (for you).

In our study of the ancient world, there are two items of special interest in this mutual-appreciation treaty. The first is that Tudhaliya IV says to Shaushgamuwa: “[You shall not allow(?)] any ship [of] Ahhiyawa to go to him (that is, the King of Assyria).” This is thought by many scholars to be a reference to an embargo. If so, although the embargo is usually thought to be a fairly modern concept, it seems that one may have been put in place by the Hittites against the Assyrians more than three thousand years ago.

The second is the fact that, a few lines earlier, Tudhaliya IV had written, “And the Kings who are my equals in rank are the King of Egypt, the King of Babylonia, the King of Assyria, and the King of Ahhiyawa.” The strikethrough of the words “King of Ahhiyawa” is not a misprint in this book; it is a strikethrough found on the clay tablet of Tudhaliya IV. In other words, we have here a rough draft of the treaty, in which items could still be deleted, added, or edited. More importantly, we are in possession of an item that indicates that the king of Ahhiyawa was no longer considered to be equal in rank to the other major powers of the Late Bronze Age world: the kings of Egypt, Babylonia, and Assyria, and of the Hittites.

It is reasonable to ask what had happened in the Aegean, or on the western coast of Anatolia, to cause this state of affairs. It must have been a fairly recent occurrence, for recall that in the reign of Hattusili III, Tudhaliya IV’s father, the king of Ahhiyawa had been referred to as a “Great King” and as a “brother” by the Hittite ruler. Perhaps a clue can be found in one of the Ahhiyawa texts, known as the “Milawata Letter.” Dating most likely to the time of Tudhaliya IV, the letter makes it clear that the city of Milawata (Miletus) and its surrounding territory on the western coast of Anatolia, which had once been the main footprint of the Mycenaeans in the area, no longer belonged to the Ahhiyawan king but was now under Hittite control. This may have meant that the king of Ahhiyawa was no longer a Great King in the eyes of the Hittite king. However, we should consider the possibility that the Hittite king’s “demotion” of the Mycenaean ruler may have been the result of some event of even greater magnitude, perhaps something that had happened back in the Aegean—that is, on the Greek mainland.

THE HITTITE INVASION OF CYPRUS

In the meantime, while all of this was going on, Tudhaliya IV decided to attack the island of Cyprus. The island had been a major source of copper throughout the second millennium BC, and it is possible that the Hittites decided to try to control this precious metal, so essential to the creation of bronze. However, we are not certain about his motivation for attacking Cyprus. It may instead have had something to do with the possible appearance of the Sea Peoples in the area or with the drought that is thought to have occurred in the Eastern Mediterranean at this time, as indicated by new scientific discoveries as well as long-known texts that mention an emergency shipment of grain sent from Ugarit in north Syria to the port city of Ura in Cilicia (located in southeastern Turkey).

An inscription, originally written on a statue of Tudhaliya but then recopied onto a tablet from the time of Tudhaliya’s son Suppiluliuma II, reads: “I seized the king of Alashiya with his wives, his children, … All the goods, including silver and gold, and all the captured people I removed and brought home to Hattusa. I enslaved the country of Alashiya, and made it tributary on the spot.” Suppiluliuma II not only recopied Tudhaliya IV’s inscription but also conquered Cyprus himself for good measure. The inscription regarding his own military takeover of Cyprus reads: “I, Suppiluliuma, Great King, quickly [embarked upon] the sea. The ships of Alashiya met me in battle at sea three times. I eliminated them. I captured the ships and set them afire at sea. When I reached dry land once more, then the enemy from the land of Alashiya came against me [for battle] in droves. I [fought against] them.”

Clearly, Suppiluliuma was successful in his naval attacks and perhaps in the invasion of Cyprus, but it is unclear why he had to fight and invade the island again, after Tudhaliya IV had already captured it. His attempt might simply have been to gain (or regain) control of the sources of copper or of the international trade routes in increasingly tumultuous times. But we may never know. It is also unclear where the final land battle was fought; scholars have suggested both Cyprus and the coast of Anatolia as possibilities.

Upon assuming the throne following the death of his father, Suppiluliuma II had taken the name of his famous fourteenth-century BC predecessor Suppiluliuma I (though the new king’s name was actually spelled slightly differently: Suppiluliama rather than Suppiluliuma). Perhaps he hoped to emulate some of his predecessor’s successes. Instead, he ended up presiding over the collapse of the Hittite Empire. In the course of doing so, he and the Hittite army, in addition to invading Cyprus, campaigned in western Anatolia once more. One scholar notes, in a recent article, that many of the documents dated to the time of Suppiluliuma II “point to a growing instability within the Hittite capital and a growing sense of mistrust,” though perhaps “unease” would be a better word to use, given what was soon to come.

Josip Broz Tito

Tito the Partisan leader, his arm in a sling, is pictured with fellow Partisan Ivan Ribar on June 13, 1943, during the Battle of Sutjeska in German-occupied Yugoslavia (today southeastern Bosnia).

Born Josip Broz in the Croatian village of Kumrovec, near Zagreb, on May 7, 1892, Tito—it was a pen name he began using in 1934 in his writing for Communist Party journals—was one of fifteen children in a peasant family. His father, Franjo Broz, was a Croat, and his mother, Marija Javeršek, a Slovene. Both the regions known as Croatia and Slovenia were, at the time, part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The family’s farm was not successful, and Josip spent his preschool years mainly in the care of his maternal grandparents. He began school at the age of eight but completed only four grades—repeating the second grade—before leaving school in 1905 when he was thirteen. He moved about sixty miles north, to the town of Sisak, where he worked briefly in a restaurant before apprenticing himself to a locksmith. The Czech who owned the shop, Nikola Karas, encouraged his young apprentice to celebrate May Day and to read a socialist newspaper, Free Word. Broz not only read it, he began selling it.

Broz completed his three-year apprenticeship in 1910 and found work in Zagreb, where he joined the Metalworkers Union and became a labor activist and a member of the Social-Democratic Party of Croatia and Slavonia. After returning briefly to his hometown, he traveled about central Europe as a metalworker and sometimes organized labor actions at major factories, including the Skoda Works in Pilsen, Bohemia, and the Benz auto factory in Mannheim. In October 1912, he lived for a time in Vienna, staying with his older brother, before going to work for Daimler at Wiener Neustadt. Here he gained considerable experience with automotive technology, and he became a notable fencer—as well as a dancer. More important, he expanded his cultural outlook, learning both German and Czech.

Broz was conscripted into the Austro-Hungarian Army in the spring of 1913 and was granted permission to serve with a unit of the Croatian Home Guard, garrisoned in Zagreb. The army sent him to learn to ski during the winter of 1913-1914, at which he became skilled, and he was sent for training at a school for non-commissioned officers in Budapest. He was promoted to sergeant-major of his regiment, the youngest soldier to achieve that rank in the history of the regiment. He further distinguished himself by winning fencing championships in Budapest in the spring of 1914.

The outbreak of World War I in 1914 interrupted his socialist activism, and he accompanied his regiment in a march to the Serbian border—to fight Serbia, against which the Austro-Hungarian Empire had declared war. While on the march in August, Broz was arrested on charges of sedition for disseminating antiwar propaganda. He was imprisoned in the Petrovardian Fortress at Novi Sad but was released in January 1915 when the charges were dropped. The details of this incident are unclear, since Broz, in later life, told three distinct versions: he had threatened to desert to the Russians, he was overheard expressing the hope that the Empire would be defeated, he was the victim of a simple clerical error.

He was sent back to his regiment on the Carpathian front and then to the Bukovina front, where his regiment saw heavy action. He showed talent and initiative in action behind enemy lines when he led a scout platoon that captured eighty Russian soldiers. But on March 25, 1915, he was severely wounded by a Circassian cavalryman’s lance, which penetrated his back. Captured, he was held in various Russian POW camps after spending thirteen months in a makeshift hospital in a monastery at Sviyazhsk on the Volga. He survived his wound as well as pneumonia and typhus, and he took the opportunity to learn Russian with the help of two schoolgirls, who had volunteered to nurse the wounded.

Broz was at hard labor in a camp near Perm, working on the Trans-Siberian Railway, and was put in charge of his fellow POWs. When he discovered that Red Cross parcels sent to the camp were being stolen by the Russian staff, he protested, was brutally beaten, and put in a separate prison. At this point, the February Revolution (March 8-March 16, 1917) broke out, and an insurgent mob liberated Broz and returned him to the labor camp. There he met a Bolshevik, who helped him to escape to Petrograd (today St. Petersburg). Later, as Tito, Broz explained that he wanted to join the communist revolution, which he regarded as also a revolution against Austro-Hungarian domination of Croatia. Some historians claim, however, that Broz was simply looking to sit out the war. He did join in the July Days uprising against the Russian Provisional Government that followed the overthrow of the Czar Nicholas II, after which he attempted to escape to Finland, from which he planned to make his way to the United States. Apprehended by agents of the Provisional Government, he was imprisoned in Petrograd and then sent back to the labor camp near Perm but escaped at Ekaterinburg and made his way, by train, to Omsk in Siberia, which he reached on November 8, 1917. Police questioned him there but were deceived by his flawless Russian accent. He joined the Bolsheviks and fought in the Red Guard during the Russian Civil War (1917-1922) before making his way back home in 1920.

The Croatia to which Josip Broz returned was now part of Yugoslavia, the independent nation created by the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I. He identified himself as a confirmed Communist, and he joined the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (CPY). In contrast to many of his counterparts in Russia, however, he was a political moderate. This differentiation between his concept of communism and the more radical and absolutist communism promoted by Vladimir Lenin would mark his increasingly profound differences with the Soviet Union throughout the rest of his life and career. He never lost his independence of thought.

The CPY was outlawed in August 1921, Broz was fired from his job as a metalworker because of his overt communist activities, but he continued to work—illegally—for the party. Installed in the CPY district committee, he was arrested in 1924—but acquitted, because the prosecutor, an anti-Catholic, hated the priest who had turned him in. From this point on, however, he and his family were continually harassed by government authorities. He began working in a shipyard in Croatia but was arrested again in 1925 and sentenced to seven months’ probation. The ceaseless government harassment only strengthened his resolve, and he now began a rapid climb up the communist hierarchy, gaining membership in the Zagreb Committee of the CPY in 1927, and in 1928 becoming deputy of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the CPY, as well as secretary general of the Croatian and Slavonian committees. In August 1928, Broz was again arrested. At trial, he defiantly declared that the tribunal had no right to judge him. As if by way of response, he was sentenced to a prison term of five years.

After his release in 1934, Broz traveled throughout Europe on behalf of the party and wrote for communist journals using the pen name Tito, which, for security reasons and in an effort to protect his family, he adopted and used thereafter. He moved to Moscow in 1935 and was assigned to the Balkan section of the Comintern, the organization of international Communism. In August 1936, Tito was named organizational secretary of the CPY Politburo.

The next year, 1937, was the midpoint of the Moscow Trials (1936-1938), the infamous show trials by which a ruthlessly paranoid Joseph Stalin purged the Soviet communist party. Prominent Yugoslav Communists were among those marked for “liquidation,” some eight hundred Yugoslavs disappearing in the Soviet Union. Action by the Comintern saved the hard-hit CPY from total dissolution, and Tito, a member of the Comintern staff, not only escaped the purge, but, by the end of 1937, was named secretary general by the Executive Council of the Comintern. He returned to Yugoslavia to reorganize the CPY there and was formally named secretary general of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia in October 1940.

The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact—a non-aggression alliance between Stalin and Hitler—was signed on August 23, 1939, stunning the international communist movement, which saw it as a betrayal of communism’s unshakable opposition to fascism and Nazism. Yugoslavia itself was officially neutral when Hitler’s invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, began World War II, but the religious and ethnic gulf dividing Croat and Serb widened. The Serbs, who made up the majority of the armed forces, were pro-Allied, but the Croats and others, although not opposed to the Allies, were unwilling to challenge the Axis. Ultimately, the issue of Yugoslav neutrality became moot because Germany not only dominated the country’s foreign trade, it also owned a controlling share of its important non-ferrous mines. Early in the war, Yugoslavia’s head of state, Prince Paul (who served as regent to the underage King Peter) repeatedly gave in to German demands for the cheap export of agricultural produce and raw materials. Paul also yielded to Hitler on the matter of Jewish policy, instituting a government program of anti-Semitic discrimination and persecution.

Yugoslavia was in a poor position for opposing Hitler’s juggernaut. Its neighbors, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria, had already entered the Axis orbit, and neither Britain nor France could offer military aid for a resistance movement. Yugoslavia was surrounded by Axis powers, continuing to exist at the mercy of Hitler and his fascist ally Benito Mussolini. Indeed, Hitler saw in Yugoslavia an important source of agricultural produce and strategic ores, including copper, chrome, lead, zinc, and bauxite (aluminum ore). Moreover, the nation was geographically positioned to serve as a route of rapid traverse across the entire Balkan region. On March 25, 1941, Prince Paul added his signature to the Tripartite (Axis) Pact, making Yugoslavia an official German ally.

Signing onto the Axis Pact hardly stabilized the country. Serbian nationalists took to the streets and joined various elements of the military to stage a coup on March 27. Prince Paul was overthrown, and a new government was formed under the presidency of General Dušan Simović. The coup, however, failed to end the alliance with Germany, as the Croats, who were part of the new coalition government, demanded that Yugoslavia continue to adhere to the Axis Pact. Fearing a German invasion, the Serb majority agreed—only to be confronted by Hitler, who issued “Directive 25,” ordering an end to Yugoslavian sovereignty.

On April 6, 1941, Germany invaded Yugoslavia, starting with the bombing of Belgrade and followed by ground operations. Government-organized resistance rapidly crumbled, and Yugoslavia surrendered on April 17. Hitler appointed General Milan Nedić to head a puppet government, which administered a program to “Germanize” Yugoslavia, beginning with the genocide of Croatia’s Serb minority as well as Jews, Gypsies, and others the Nazis deemed “undesirable.” Hitler suborned Croats to carry out these programs—an action that instantly and at last galvanized the Serbian will to resist the Axis. A Serb uprising erupted, which was soon organized into a widespread and quite effective Partisan movement.

While the Partisans began their military resistance, King Peter (now free of Prince Paul’s regency) arrived in London in June 1941 and proclaimed a government in exile. Winston Churchill, however, recognized that neither Peter nor his government-in-exile had popular support. Someone on the ground was needed, and, guided by Churchill, the Allies threw their support not behind Peter but behind the communist Partisan leadership of Tito. Churchill intervened to create a coalition between Tito and King Peter by broadly hinting to Tito this would put him into position to take control of most of Yugoslavia after the Germans had been ejected. Churchill was anti-communist to the core, but the war made strange bedfellows indeed, and he knew an effective leader when he saw one. He had no compunction about buying Tito’s cooperation.

It was a spectacularly good bargain for both the Allies and Tito, who led—personally and from the field—his followers in a well-coordinated campaign of sabotage and resistance against the occupying Germans. Not only charismatic and politically astute, Tito was a well-trained military leader and a natural tactician, well-practiced in working behind enemy lines. His Partisan-conducted sabotage and outright combat missions in a political and military movement was so successful that, in the summer of 1942, Tito was able to organize an offensive into Bosnia and Croatia. This forced Hitler to commit disproportionately large numbers of troops in an effort to disrupt the Partisans. Against this counteroffensive, Tito’s Partisans held their own, so that, in December 1943, he was able to credibly announce the formation of a provisional Yugoslav government, with himself as president, secretary of defense, and marshal of the armed forces. By this time, Tito’s forces were a substantial army of about 200,000 men, far larger than the military assets of any other anti-German resistance force in any other occupied European country. This army had succeeded in pinning down thirty-five Axis divisions, about three-quarters of a million soldiers, who would otherwise be fighting the Western Allies in Italy or the Soviet Red Army on the Eastern Front.

With the defeat of Nazi Germany in May 1945, Tito went about the business of establishing his government on a permanent basis. He formed a Politburo within the CPY and held Soviet-style elections in November 1945. In the manner of Lenin and Stalin, he promulgated a Five Year Plan for economic recovery and development. In these efforts, he was greatly aided by his nearly universal popularity as a war hero and patriot. It was, however, the very qualities Stalin both envied and feared. Unlike communist leaders in other countries adjacent to the Soviet Union, it became abundantly clear to Stalin that Tito had no intention of governing Yugoslavia as a Soviet satellite. Tito defined himself as, first and foremost, a Yugoslav nationalist. Only secondarily was he committed to communism.

Tito’s clear defiance of Stalin further enhanced his popularity, not only in Yugoslavia, but in the democratic West. “Titoism” became a new postwar coinage to describe opposition by Iron Curtain countries to Soviet domination. When he died on May 4, 1980, just short of eighty-eighth birthday, he was a living legend in Yugoslavia and around the world. He guided Yugoslavia to economic and ideological coexistence with capitalist nations, which resulted in a standard of living higher than elsewhere in the communist sphere of influence. Nevertheless, his death brought the rapid dissolution of Yugoslavia, as the former ethnic, religious, and local nationalist drives brought about a series of brutal conflicts—especially the Bosnian War (1992-1995) and the Kosovo War (1998-1999)—which were characterized by “ethnic cleansing” and outright genocide.

Royal Naval Division (RND) at Helles

GALLIPOLI 1915 Two Rolls-Royce cars of the Armoured Car Section of the Royal Naval Division, under Lieutenant Commander, Wedgwood, in the shelters dug to minimise the risks from shell fire.

Vice Admiral Carden received orders to begin his campaign against the defenses guarding the Dardanelles Straits on February 5, 1915. Churchill ordered two battalions of the Royal Marine Light Infantry—the Chatham and Plymouth Battalions—to join Carden’s fleet on February 6 for service ashore. The plan was for them to land and demolish any guns in the Turkish forts that the battleships could not.

An Admiralty memorandum was issued on February 15 that stressed the need for ground troops if the Royal Navy was unsuccessful. Thus, Kitchener agreed to make the army’s Twenty-Ninth Division available. This was the army’s only regular division not yet engaged on the western front, and his decision was a controversial one. Field Marshal Sir John French, commander in chief of the British army in France and Flanders (the British Expeditionary Force [BEF]), had been promised the division as a reinforcement, and he argued strenuously for it. His argument went unheeded, but he persisted, and on February 19 Kitchener reversed his decision. At the same meeting he suggested that the First Australian Division and the New Zealand Infantry Brigade should be sent to support the fleet instead.

On February 18 Churchill ordered the Royal Naval Division (RND) to the Aegean, and the French government dispatched a division of French and Colonial troops—to be called the Corps Expéditionaire d’Orient (CEO)—to assist. The divisions sailed for the Greek island of Lemnos, fifty miles from Gallipoli. There, what would become known as the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force (MEF) established its forward base at Mudros, which has a natural harbor capable of handling a large number of ships. Two days later troops from the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) that were training in Egypt were also ordered to Mudros. It was a surprise for them because they thought they were going to fight in France. Kitchener had no faith in the ability of either the RND or the “Anzacs,” as the Australians and New Zealanders were called. In fact, when Prime Minister Asquith asked him if he felt it would be wiser to use these colonial troops to support the navy instead of the Twenty-Ninth Division, he replied, “Quite good enough if a cruise in the Sea of Marmora was all that was contemplated.” The coming campaign would prove that his lack of faith was unwarranted. The Anzacs and naval infantrymen would be every bit as capable as the professional soldiers of the Twenty-Ninth.

The Royal Naval Division was an anomaly. It was Churchill’s brainchild. As first lord of the Admiralty, he found himself with more marines and reservist sailors than he had ships on which they could serve. So, he decided to turn them into infantrymen. The division consisted of twelve infantry battalions: four of Royal Marines and eight of men from the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, strengthened by stokers already serving in the navy and veterans recalled from the Royal Naval Reserve, who would serve as the battalions’ non-commissioned officers. The Royal Marine battalions were named after their home stations—Chatham, Deal, Plymouth, and Portsmouth. The RN battalions were named after admirals of the Napoleonic Wars—Anson, Benbow, Collingwood, Drake, Hawke, Hood, Howe, and Nelson. The battalions were supported by units of the Royal Marines—cyclists, medics, and engineers—but had no artillery directly assigned to them. Few of the men had seen action, and most of the sailors, having enlisted after the outbreak of war, had never even been to sea. Many had never even seen it. The division first saw action during the siege of Antwerp in October 1914, but far more men were captured by the Germans than were killed in combat. In fact, roughly half of the men in the division were taken prisoner and interned for the duration of the war. Those who made it out of Antwerp returned to England, and the division was hastily strengthened with new recruits.

The Landings of April 25, 1915—Helles

The landings at Helles were planned on a smaller scale than those at Anzac, but their combined objective was no less grand. The ultimate goal was the capture of a six hundred-foothigh hill called Achi Baba, north of the village of Krithia. As at Anzac, a covering force was to secure the ground ahead of the main landing areas, and the main body would advance through it to secure the hill.

The plan called for a covering force consisting of the British army’s Eighty-Sixth Brigade to land at the three beaches in the center of the landing area: V on the tip of the peninsula, W along the western edge, and X to the north of that. Two battalions and one company of the Eighty-Seventh Brigade, along with one battalion of Royal Marine Light Infantry (RMLI), were to capture Y (two miles north of X) and S Beaches (northeast of V). The Eighty-Eighth Brigade would then land at V Beach. With the covering force, it would advance north until its flanks linked up with the troops at Y Beach on its left and S Beach on its right. When this was accomplished, the other two battalions of the Eighty-Seventh Brigade would land at X Beach. After linking up with the two battalions from Y and S, they would move through the Eighty-Eighth Brigade to capture Achi Baba. The division’s only reserve was two infantry battalions that would land behind the covering force at X. In an effort to fool the Turks into thinking that a landing was also occurring on the other side of the peninsula, part of the Royal Naval Division (RND) would make a diversionary landing there, at a place called Bulair. The French would land at Kum Kale on the Asiatic side, both as a diversion and to keep Turkish troops there from reinforcing their troops on the peninsula. They also wanted to keep the mobile guns and the guns collectively referred to as “Asiatic Annie” from firing into the backs of the British landing at V Beach.

According to the plan, the landings would begin at five in the morning, and the area surrounding the beaches would be secured by eight. By noon the British would arrive at Krithia, and by evening Achi Baba would be theirs. This low hill, with its commanding view of the area, was important because as long as the Turks held it, they would be able to look down on the invaders and guide their artillery onto them.

This plan incorporated some major deficiencies. First, it allowed only for success; no consideration was given to the possibility of a delay at any of the beaches or that any of the landings might fail. Second, the planners did not believe that the Turks could mount a serious, coordinated defense. They did.

V Beach

While the assault on S Beach was a rapid success, V Beach was just the opposite. The defenders nearly drove the invaders back into the sea, and the Royal Navy did little to help the vulnerable infantry.

V Beach is a natural amphitheater. A cliff is on the right of the beach, high ground lies in front, and, perched on a rise to the right, is Fort Sedd-el-Bahr. The enemy covered the beach from this higher ground. The British knew it was heavily defended and that their only hope of success was to get a large number of men ashore quickly following a naval bombardment. For that reason Cdr. Edward Unwin, commanding officer of the communications yacht Hussar, made a novel suggestion. He proposed converting the collier River Clyde into a kind of Trojan horse in which troops could be moved quickly to shore. The idea was an ingenious one and would provide the necessary means for conveying a large number of men to the largest of the three main beaches. They could reinforce the first wave of a covering force, which would land before them from tows. According to Unwin’s plan, two large sally ports would be cut into either side of the ship, aft of the port and starboard bows. From these openings gangways lowered with ropes would provide the soldiers with their means of egress. Because the collier would ground a short distance from shore, a steam hopper called the Argyll would provide a bridge from the Clyde to the beach. This vessel was towed alongside the collier, and its momentum, once released, was meant to carry it to shore. As it glided forward, its crew of six Greeks, under the direction of Midshipman George Drewry and Seaman George Samson, would steer it in front of the Clyde. Once there, the gangways would be dropped, and the twenty-one hundred soldiers inside would rush across the Argyll and onto the beach. In the event Unwin’s calculations were off, he arranged for the Argyll to tow three modified rowboats to make up for any gap between ship and shore. He seemed to have thought of everything.

Among the units that landed at V Beach was the First Battalion, the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. Half of the men of W Company were detailed to land at the Camber, a piece of dead ground below Sedd-el-Bahr Village, directly across the peninsula to the east. Their goal was to capture the village. At V Beach proper the first wave consisted of three companies of the First Dublins, along with fifty men of the Royal Naval Division’s Anson Battalion. These two groups would land first, from five tows pulled toward shore by the minesweeper Clacton. Each tow consisted of four rowboats pulled by a steam pinnace, each rowboat manned by a midshipman and six sailors from the battleship Cornwallis. After this group landed, the Clyde would be grounded and its troops landed. The soldiers would be covered by eight Maxim machine guns operated by men of No. 3 Squadron of the Royal Naval Air Service’s Armoured Car Division, who were stationed around the collier’s bridge. On board were the other half of W Company and the entire First Battalion, Royal Munster Fusiliers. The Dublins, along with Z Company of the Munsters, were to help the Dublins who landed at the Camber take Sedd-el-Bahr Village. They would then move on to take Hill 114, which stands behind the village and had a small fort and barracks on top. These men would exit the Clyde from the starboard (right) side, which would face the village. X Company of the First Munsters would exit from the port side. They were to take Fort No. 1, which stood atop the cliffs to the left of the beach and had been destroyed in the earlier naval bombardments. The Munsters’ other two companies, W and Y, were to remain in reserve. Also in reserve were two companies of the Second Battalion, the Hampshire Regiment and the 1/1st West Riding Field Company of the Royal Engineers. No. 13 Platoon of the Anson Battalion was to carry stores to shore once a successful landing had been made. Medical treatment would be provided by men of the Royal Army Medical Corps’s Eighty-Ninth (1/1st Highland) Field Ambulance.

The troops destined for V Beach began their journey to Gallipoli on the afternoon of April 23, when they moved to Tenedos. They were tense and displayed none of the joviality that some of the others felt as they departed for their meeting with destiny: “We left [Mudros] at 5.30 p.m. on April 23rd for the great adventure … A perfect evening, as we steamed stealthily out on H.M. [sic], H.M.T. ‘CALEDONIA,’ an incident memorable for its solemnity and one might say grandeur. Men-of-war, transports and ships of every sort ‘Dressed Ships.’ All the crews cheering us on our way, and those with bands playing us a farewell … What struck me most forcibly was the demeanour of our own men, from whom, not a sound, and this from the light-hearted, devil may care men from the South of Ireland. Even they were filled with a sense of something impending which was quite beyond their ken.”

The next day the Dublins and Ansons who would land in the open boats transferred to the Clacton, and those who would land on the Clyde boarded it. Early on the morning of the twenty-fifth the Ansons and Dublins were awoken and given a hot meal, then they climbed down the rope ladders and into the rowboats tied to the sides of the pinnaces. The sailors from the Cornwallis were already onboard, having spent a cold night sleeping in their boats. The men on the Clyde were also awoken and given a cup of hot cocoa before the vessels sailed for Gallipoli.

The rowboats were supposed to land first, following an hour-long bombardment by the battleship Albion. The pinnaces towing the rowboats met with the same problem as those that landed at S Beach: a stronger-than-expected current. They did not arrive until after 6:30 a.m., so the Albion continued firing on the area behind the beach. And there was another problem. At 6:10 a.m. the Clyde, which should have grounded after the tows had landed, found itself far ahead of them. Unwin thus decided to circle the Argyll in an effort to follow the original plan. In doing so, the khaki-painted vessel lost some of the momentum necessary to propel it forward to form the bridge. The collier grounded at 6:22 a.m. without so much as a jolt, eight minutes before the rowboats arrived. But it grounded much farther out than Unwin had planned—one hundred yards—and the Argyll beached fifteen yards away, too far to be of any use. The men onboard waited anxiously for the first wave to land.

The pinnaces cast off their boats fifty yards from shore, and the starboard tow headed for the Camber. As the remaining tows neared shore, Albion shifted its fire farther inland to avoid hitting the infantrymen. It ceased firing before they landed. The Turks, who had deserted their positions when the bombardment began, filed back to their trenches, unseen, and held their fire until they saw the boats cast off. Most of their positions did not appear on British maps and were so well concealed that Albion’s observers missed them. The two forts, which had been partially destroyed in the March bombardments, provided excellent cover for some of the defenders. The thick barbed wire—there were three strong belts in front of the trenches—was also visible. Yet Albion was stationed too far out to sea—approximately 1,450 yards—to be able to target the defenses accurately. When it did fire, its gunners were further hampered by the smoke and debris thrown up by the explosions. They were firing blind but managed to knock out two of the Turks’ four pom-poms. Unfortunately, the barbed wire was largely untouched, and the Ottomans were anything but demoralized by the bombardment. The damage was slight, and the invaders would pay for it with their lives.

When the pinnaces released their boats, all hell broke loose: “At this moment the Turks, whom everyone had thought were dazed and routed by the preceding naval bombardment, opened fire with everything they had, the range was short—something like one hundred yards frontally and up to three hundred yards on the flanks—for the cove where the landing was taking place was roughly bow shaped and quite small.”18 The Turks opened fire on the boats and took an awful toll. The heavily equipped soldiers, packed tightly into the narrow wooden craft, slumped forward and back as they were hit, making it difficult for the sailors to row. Some were burned as their boats caught fire. Craft were holed and began to sink. Others drifted aimlessly, the men inside all dead or wounded. One of those hit as his boat moved toward shore was the First Dublin’s second-in-command, Maj. Edwyn Fetherstonaugh. The commanding officer, Lt. Col. Richard Rooth, was killed instantly as the boat he was in hit the beach.

In some cases the men leaped out of their boats as they neared land. Many either slipped or failed to gain a footing and went under. They sank like stones in the three-foot-deep water under the weight of their equipment. Some jumped out of the boats as they grounded and hid behind them in the shallows. One of those was Stoker 1st Class William Medhurst. When the boat he commanded grounded, he yelled, “Jump out, lads, and pull her in!” All but one of the other sailors in his boat had been killed and all but three of the Dublins. Medhurst leaped out one side and the other sailor out the other. Both took cover, the seaman with two of the soldiers. As the tide pushed the boat’s stern, Medhurst was exposed to the Turks’ fire and was killed. He left a wife, already a widow with three children. Eighty years later the only memory their daughter had of her daddy was seeing him off at the train station at the outbreak of war. Of the soldiers it was estimated that more than half of the seven hundred men were killed or wounded in their boats. The surf was literally red with blood, and bodies and boats moved aimlessly with the tide: “As the RIVER CLYDE came inshore a very heavy fire from rifles, machine guns & pom poms was directed at her & also on the boats’ tows that ran in alongside soon after. This fire was so accurate that those in the boats were practically wiped out & very few got ashore. Wounded men jumped from the boats & took cover on the far side but were all eventually shot down & drowned.”

Among the casualties was Father William Finn, Catholic chaplain to the First Dublins. The morning before the landing he heard his men’s confessions, said Mass, and gave Holy Communion while their transport was anchored off Tenedos. On April 25, before the Dublins destined to land in the first wave departed, he asked Rooth for permission to join him so that he could minister to the casualties. Rooth reluctantly agreed, and a place was found for the padre in his boat. It was a fatal request. The brave chaplain was wounded in the right arm just after jumping out of the boat, but he continued on to the beach. After making it to land, he began ministering to the wounded but had to hold his injured arm with his left hand in order to give absolution. He was suffering great pain. While blessing a dying Dublin, he was hit in the head by a piece of shrapnel and killed. He had joined the army the previous November from his tiny parish in Market Weighton, Yorkshire, and his were brave actions for a man who was not a career soldier. Days later, when the fighting was over, he was buried. A simple cross was made from the slats of an ammunition crate with the inscription “To the memory of Father Finn” and placed over his grave.

Finn was popular with the other chaplains. In 1916 his friend the Rev. Oswin Creighton, the Eighty-Sixth Brigade’s Church of England chaplain, wrote:

I have … heard that Father Finn asked to be allowed to land with his men, and had been put into one of the first boats, and was shot either getting off the boat or immediately after getting ashore. The men never forgot him and were never tired of speaking of him. I think they felt his death almost more than anything that happened in that terrible landing off the River Clyde. I am told they kept his helmet for a very long time after and carried it with them wherever they went. It seemed to me that Father Finn was an instance of the extraordinary hold a chaplain, and perhaps especially an R.C. [Roman Catholic], can have on the affections of his men if he absolutely becomes one of them and shares their danger.

At a chaplains’ meeting held some weeks later, two, a Presbyterian and an R.C., undertook to see that Father Finn’s grave was properly tended. He was buried close to the sea on “V” beach, and a road had been made over the place. I think they managed to get the grave marked off with a little fence.

The survivors made for a five-foot-high sandy bank, a few yards from the water’s edge, that ran for several yards along the beach. At about that time the River Clyde lowered its gangways, and the Royal Navy Air Service (RNAS) machine gunners opened fire against targets they could not see. Drewry and Samson on the Argyll began dragging the lighters towed by their vessel toward the bow of the Clyde. The collier had beached to the left of a rock spit. So, Unwin ordered one of the pinnaces to maneuver the boats into position next to the spit to form a bridge. When the pinnace backed off for fear of grounding, Unwin and Able Seaman William Williams dived in to finish the job. Drewry, who had made it to shore, removed his belt, revolver, and tunic and waded out to help. Together Unwin and Williams pulled on a rope to steady the lead lighter. After forming a precarious bridge with two of the boats, a ship’s cutter, and some planks, Unwin called for the disembarkation to begin: “Within five minutes of the ‘CLYDE’ beaching ‘Z’ Coy. [Company] got away on the Starboard side. The gangway on the Port side jammed, and delayed X Company for a few seconds, and out we went, the men cheering wildly, and dashed ashore with Z Company.”

As the Munsters stepped onto the gangways, they were met with a hail of fire from the ruined forts on their flanks and the trenches in front. Those who were hit fell into the sea or in heaps on the lighters. Bullets also entered the ship through the portals, ricocheting off the steel plates. Some of those hit on the gangways fell backward, knocking the heavily laden men behind them into the sea to drown in the shallow water below: “I sent out my first 2 companies, X under Capt GEDDES & Z under Capt HENDERSON, X on the port side & Z on the starboard. Z got away a little before X. They were to go out by platoons so that there should be no crowding on the lighters. These companies were very gallantly led by their officers. The fire directed on the exits from the vessel being very accurate & men were hit before they left the vessel.”

Capt. Eric Henderson was hit twice on the gangway. Geddes made it to the beach unscathed, but the forty-eight men behind him were felled by machine gun fire. The few who survived made their way to shore to join the Dublins. Together they huddled in a mass under the burning sun, without food and only the tepid water in their quart-sized water bottles to slake their thirst: “We all made, Dublins and all, for a sheltered ledge on the shore which gave us cover. Here we shook ourselves out, and tried to appreciate the situation, rather a sorry one. I estimated that I had lost about 70 percent of my company, 2/Lieuts. Watts and Perkins were wounded and my CQM Sgt. [company quartermaster sergeant] killed. Henderson was wounded. He died from his wounds later. Lieut. Pollard killed, and 2 Lieuts. Lee and Lane wounded, all of Z. Company. Capt. Wilson, the Adjutant, and Major Monck-Mason were wounded on the Clyde itself.”

The plight of those unfortunate Irishmen was watched by men on the transports that were waiting to come ashore. The sight was a distressing one, even from a distance of a thousand or more yards. At 8:30 a.m. on that terrible day, Maj. John Gillam, destined to land at W Beach that afternoon, noted in his diary: “It is quite clear now, and I can just see through my glasses the little khaki figures on shore at ‘W’ Beach and on the top of the cliff, while at ‘V’ Beach, where the River Clyde is lying beached, all seems hell and confusion. Some fool near me says, ‘Look, they are bathing at “V” Beach.’ I get my glasses on to it and see about a hundred khaki figures crouching behind a sand dune close to the water’s edge. On a hopper [Argyll] which somehow or other has been moored in between the River Clyde and the shore I see khaki figures lying, many apparently dead. I also see the horrible sight of some little white boats drifting, with motionless khaki freight, helplessly out to sea on the strong current that is coming down the Straights [sic].”

After an hour of maintaining the floating bridge, a shell exploded, and Williams was hit by a piece of shrapnel. He released his grip on the rope, and Unwin was no longer able to steady the lead boat. It began to drift. He dropped the line in an attempt to save Williams, who died in his arms. Later Unwin would have to be pulled out of the water, the fifty-one-year-old mariner totally exhausted from his exertions. Both men, along with Midshipman Drewry, were awarded the Victoria Cross for their actions that day. For the time being no more troops would leave the collier. It was not until 8:00 a.m., after Drewry and a few others managed to form a bridge between the lighters and the stranded hopper, that men were able to begin landing again. Maj. Charles Jarrett led half of Y Company of the Munsters out of the Clyde and across the new bridge. So many of his men were hit, however, that he sent one of his officers, Lt. Guy Nightingale, from the beach back to the collier to request that Tizard cease the operation. He agreed, and no more troops were sent ashore.

Inside the River Clyde those who had so far been spared the hell of almost certain death on the gangways were not safe either. Despite the navy’s best efforts to silence the guns on the Asiatic side, they failed to hit at least one:

Three shells hit the ship, and then one of the battleships put the gun out of action. The first shell went in the boiler room without killing or wounding anyone; the second hit the ship aft, crashed through No. 4 hold, came through the upper deck, then on the main deck, port side, and took off the legs of two soldiers. They died after about twenty minutes. I was only two yards away from these dear men. The hold was packed with troops as thickly as ever you could stow men together, and the terrible sights and the cries of the wounded will never be forgotten by those who are alive to tell the tale. I often think it was good that one like myself was there, as I did not lose my nerve under fire, and helped to prevent the men from being panic-stricken. I now went down to my men, who were in No. 4 lower hold, and I addressed them, and told them to keep cool, to try and keep their heads as I did …

While I was talking to the platoon another shell came in and killed three of them. This was the second shell I had seen explode within a few minutes; it was rather bad, especially for young lads like these, but I knew I was there to show them an example and take care of them. I have often wondered since what would have happened had that gun not been put out of action when it was; they had the correct range.

Although no more troops landed from the River Clyde that morning, casualties continued to occur. The Dublins who landed at the Camber had done so unopposed, but they were nearly wiped out when they moved into Sedd-el-Bahr Village. The survivors were forced to retreat. With all of their officers gone, most were evacuated by a boat from the Queen Elizabeth. A party of fourteen unwounded survivors linked up with Captain Geddes and two men approaching from the left, but they found that the ruined Fort Sedd-el-Bahr was heavily defended by riflemen and machine guns. They did not attempt to attack. Instead, they moved back to the little bit of cover afforded by the sandy bank on the beach.

At 10:00 a.m. the gun firing on the Clyde was silenced. It was then possible to evacuate wounded off the ship’s stern and for reinforcements to board. At that hour the second wave also started to come ashore. It was composed of men of the Fourth Battalion, the Worcestershire Regiment, and the other two companies of the Second Hampshires. With them was the commanding officer of the Eightieth-Eighth Brigade, Brig. Gen. Henry Napier, and his brigade major, Maj. John Costeker, Distinguished Service Order (DSO). They traveled in the same boats used by the Dublins three hours earlier, and the awfulness of their journey was clearly evident: “The four boats had already been used that morning. From them some of the Dublin Fusiliers had landed. The boats were much damaged by fire, and blood mixed with sea water ran over the boots of the troops as they sat packed in the laden boats.”

The boats were towed toward the Clyde by a steam launch, which steered toward the starboard side of the collier and the bridge of lighters. As they approached the shore, bullets pierced the sea around them. Men were hit, but not so many as in the first wave. As they neared the lighters, they could see the heaps of dead and dying Munsters piled on them, the mounds of flesh being repeatedly riddled as the Turks fired at the gangways and sally ports. Lt. Col. Herbert Carrington Smith, the commanding officer of the Second Hampshires, called down from the bridge of the River Clyde for the pinnace to take the boats over to the port bow. There they were tied to the lighter nearest the collier. The boats carrying the Hampshires tied up on the starboard side, and the men made it to cover behind the sandbank with only fifteen hit out of fifty.

Arriving at the makeshift bridge, Napier, Costeker, and the Worcesters climbed out of their boats and onto one of the lighters. But they encountered a problem. The lighter nearest the shore had drifted with the current, and the bridge was broken. They were stopped short of landing, and as they stood in the open, wondering what to do next, the Turks took advantage of the inviting targets. The Englishmen could only lie flat and hope to avoid the hail of bullets. Many were hit, including Napier and Costeker. They had gone first into the River Clyde, then returned and tried to cross to shore via the Argyll: “I saw General Napier killed. He went down the gangway just in front of me followed by his Brigade Major Costello [sic]. He was hit in the stomach on the barge between our ship and the beach. He lay for half an hour on the barge and then tried to get some water to drink but the moment he moved the Turks began firing at him again and whether he was hit again or not I do not know, but he died very soon afterwards, and when I went ashore the second time, I turned him over and he was quite dead. Costello was killed at the same time.” So many of the Worcesters were hit that the remainder of the battalion was diverted to W Beach. Those who were not killed trying to land on V were led into the Clyde by their senior surviving officer, Maj. H. A. Carr.

Although the Hampshires suffered only a few casualties and those on the River Clyde were relatively safe, they did suffer two fatalities that day, most notably Carrington Smith. He was hit by a Turkish bullet at about 3:00 p.m. as he stood on the bridge: “Colonel Carrington Smith, who took over command of the Brigade when General Napier was killed, was looking round the corner of the shelter of the bridge through glasses [binoculars] at the Turkish position on shore when he was caught by a bullet clean in the forehead and died instantly.”

The landing at V Beach was ultimately successful, but the loss in men was staggering. What had begun as a creative endeavor turned into a rescue operation by late morning. Men from the Clyde worked to recover the wounded under fire, and more were killed. Sub-Lt. Arthur Tisdall, a platoon commander in the Anson Battalion, led some of his men and RNAS machine gunners into the water to bring in the wounded. Tisdall survived the day and was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery. He would be killed on May 6, however, when he exposed his head over the top of a trench. He never knew that he had won Britain’s highest gallantry decoration.

Darkness allowed those still on the Clyde to join the men already ashore, still sheltering behind the sandy bank. It also allowed the wounded to be evacuated. Many would die in the overcrowded, understaffed hell of the hospital ships. First, they were moved to the holds of the Clyde, then evacuated off the stern of the ship. The night was an awful one. Men continued to fall to Turkish bullets, and they had almost nothing to eat or drink. To make matters worse, it rained.

The men of the Twenty-Ninth Division hailed from all over the United Kingdom. They were missed not only by their families and friends but also by the municipalities in which they had been trained and housed. Places such as Coventry and Nuneaton, where the Munsters and Dublins had respectively trained, were particularly hard hit by the V Beach massacre. The colorful career soldiers were popular with the locals and were mourned for years afterward. One story, which appeared in Coventry’s Evening Telegraph of March 7, 1985, epitomizes the feeling of loss that was felt:

Mrs. Procter has unearthed photographs of that time [when the First Royal Munsters were billeted in Earlsdon, Coventry, before departing for Gallipoli] because this year is the 70th anniversary of the disastrous Gallipoli landings of the First World War.

Two of the soldiers became friendly with her parents, who gave them hospitality. They had come in tropical kit straight from Egypt, and found Coventry cold and bleak.

Mrs. Procter, who still has a photograph of the two men, Martin O’Malley and his friend (whose name she cannot recall) and remembers the day they were issued with new boots, when Martin regarded them and said quietly: “I expect they are for my grave.”

Shortly afterwards, the soldiers, who had become part of the Earlsdon scene, having been made welcome by the people with whom they were billeted, marched away.

Everyone waited for news of the Fusiliers, and then came the tragedy of the landings.

Yes, their friend Martin was killed and among his effects was found a photograph of 10-year old Elsie on her cycle.

It was returned to the family with a covering letter and her father had the letter and photograph framed.

Mrs. Procter concludes: “Rather a sad little story serving to illustrate the horror and futility of war.”

Pvt. Martin O’Malley of the First Battalion, the Royal Munster Fusiliers, was from Limerick and was eighteen years old. He was one of those who landed with Major Jarrett and was likely buried in the mass grave filled in by men of the Anson Battalion. After the war his was one of many thousands whose graves could not be identified.

Due to the threat of Turkish snipers and because the men fit for action were needed for the fighting inland, it was not possible to collect the dead for burial until April 28: “I remember that on Wednesday, April 28th, I and a party of men picked up all the dead on the beach and from the water; we placed in one large grave two hundred and thirteen gallant men who gave their lives for their country.”

Maj. John Gillam visited V Beach two days after the landings and arrived there as the Ansons’ burial party was at work:

We dip down to “V” Beach, a much deeper and wider beach than “W,” and walk towards the sea. Then I see a sight which I shall never forget all my life. About two hundred bodies are laid out for burial, consisting of soldiers and sailors. I repeat, never has the army been so dovetailed together. They lie in all postures, their faces blackened, swollen, and distorted by the sun. The bodies of seven officers lie in a row in front by themselves. I cannot think what a fine company they would make if by a miracle an Unseen Hand could restore them to life by a touch. The rank of major and the red tabs on one of the bodies arrests my eye, and the form of the officer seems familiar. Colonel Gostling, of the 88th Field Ambulance, is standing near me, and he goes over to the form, bends down and gently removes a khaki handkerchief covering the face. I then see that it is Major Costeker, our late Brigade Major. In his breast pocket is a cigarette-case and a few letters; one is in his wife’s handwriting. I had worked in his office for two months in England, and was looking forward to working with him in Gallipoli.

It was cruel luck that he was not even permitted to land, for I learn that he was hit in the heart shortly after Napier was laid low. His last words were, “Oh Lord! I am done for now.” I notice also that a bullet has torn the toe of his left boot away; probably this happened after he was dead.

I hear that General Napier was hit whilst in the pinnace, on his way to the River Clyde, by a machine gun bullet in the stomach. Just before he died he said to Sinclair-Thomson, our Staff Officer, “Get on the Clyde and tell Carrington Smith to take over.” A little while later he apologized for groaning. Good heavens! I can’t realize it, for it was such a short while ago that we were all such a merry party at the “Warwick Arms,” Warwick.

The River Clyde remained at V Beach until long after that fateful April day. Later it was towed off and repaired and went on to sail again after the war. The valiant ship’s life ended in 1966, when it was sold for scrap. It was an unfitting end for one of the heroes of the campaign.

 

1916: Change of OHL’s Leader[s]

German casualty figures for World War I remain notoriously difficult to reconstruct. The sheer scale of losses challenged record-keeping at every level. The problem was further exacerbated by, let us say, flexible standards for defining a wound. Those points made, it can reasonably be stated that almost a million German soldiers were killed in action or died of wounds in 1916, at Verdun, on the Somme, and everywhere else from East Africa to Lake Naroch that the tides of war carried them.

Casualties do not of themselves determine who is winning or losing a war. Nor do they determine the competence of commanders or the effectiveness of governments. But neither can they be dismissed as collateral damage, the cost of doing business. As early as midsummer 1916, Falkenhayn was showing signs of stress. The vultures in Berlin and at OHL headquarters were beginning to circle. And the Russian high command tried once more for a conclusion in the field. Russia had made an unexpected recovery from the debacles of 1915. Domestic production of weapons and ammunition reduced dependence on Allied imports. Grain reserves had more than doubled. Over six million men were under arms. And as the French calls to relieve the pressure at Verdun grew more strident, a new general offered a new plan. Alexei Brusilov, commanding the Southwestern Front, proposed to attack along the entire 350 miles of his four-army sector, each army in a particular zone. This would give the enemy no idea of which was the main effort or where the next blow would be struck. An overextended and demoralized Austro-Hungarian defense collapsed almost immediately. Falkenhayn scraped up ten divisions and enough artillery to stabilize the front, taking de facto charge not merely of the immediate fighting but virtually the entire Habsburg war effort.

The military and economic responsibilities accompanying that shift had little time to manifest before they were compounded by Romania’s August entry into the war on the Allied side. That kingdom hoped to gnaw the Dual Monarchy’s carcass in the wake of Brusilov’s successes. Its army proved spectacularly ill-prepared for the kind of war the Central Powers had learned how to wage, but it was Germany that was constrained to provide the bulk of the forces and planning for the Central Powers’ offensive against Romania. It furnished the commander as well.

The initial success of Brusilov’s offensive had led to increasing pressure from Bethmann-Hollweg and the Foreign Office, and within the High Command, which had relocated to Pless in Silesia, to turn over full command in the East to Hindenburg/Ludendorff. Falkenhayn resisted successfully-as long as he had the support of the Kaiser and those of his immediate advisors who as late as mid-July saw Falkenhayn as “a card . with which one either wins or loses,” whose sacrifice meant the end of William’s remaining credibility. Romania’s decision for war tipped the balance. At 11 pm on August 28 Falkenhayn received Imperial notice of his relief. The next morning Hindenburg appeared at High Command headquarters. At precisely 1:26 pm Erich von Falkenhayn boarded a train out of Pless.

He did not exactly vanish into obscurity. As a consolation prize and an opportunity for rehabilitation, Falkenhayn was given command of the Ninth Army, the assignment of driving the Romanians back across the border, and the constraint of completing the campaign before winter. Falkenhayn responded by emphasizing “speed and relentless attack.” Movement and assault would keep the Romanians so off balance that they could neither plan nor react before the next sequence shifted the paradigm again. This proto-blitzkrieg, implemented in one case by an improvised mechanized force, ranks with the Serbian campaign of 1915 as a tactical and operational cameo: the German Army at its best. On the other hand, like its predecessor, its scale was small. Its enemy was even more obliging in terms of decisions taken and blunders made. Nor did Falkenhayn’s cauterizing of a single running sore proffer guidelines to the comprehensive military and political challenges confronting Germany’s new command team.

The Hindenburg-Ludendorff appointment reflected and projected Germany’s situation. They were worked in as a command and planning team. Hindenburg described their relationship as like a successful marriage: neither party consistently dominant, each bringing something vital to the mix. Ludendorff was a manager and an organizer, talents reflected in his official title of First Quartermaster-General. Intelligent and industrious, a master of detail yet able to maintain a sense of general situations, he was at his best as a problem-solver with no time left over to indulge the irritability and anxiety that were the negative sides of his character. To an army badly shaken by Verdun, the Somme, and their aftermaths, Erich Ludendorff provided a sense of grip as welcome as it was badly needed.

If Ludendorff was a serious version of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “model major general,” Hindenburg modeled a traditional Prussian general, arguably to the point of caricature. Solid of body, with a near-literally square head and appropriate facial hair and facial expression, he looked the part-a point to be neither overlooked nor mocked in an era of photography and newsreels. He projected an air of imperturbability: nothing seemed able to bring him out of countenance. And Hindenburg was popular, both as a public figure and in the corridors of power.

But were they hommes connetables, capable of fulfilling the military responsibilities they were assigned and the economic and political ones they would assume? The overwhelming consensus is that their inheritance was poisonous, nurturing an already potential combination of militarism and expansionism at the expense of wisdom and caution. Too often overlooked is a counterpoint: Germany in 1916 had no one else. When the army is specifically considered, there is an obvious void in the second generation, the mid-levels of staff and command. A first-rate crop of third-generation figures were emerging: Seeckt, Lossow, Rohr, Leith-Thomsen, and those yet unidentified, like the recycled reservist who would revolutionize artillery tactics in the next year, and the infantry captain whose feint-and-strike tactics in the mountains of northern Italy prefigured the methods of a later, greater war. But these were junior ranks: majors and lieutenant colonels. Their counterparts among the movers and shakers in the High Command, officers like Max Bauer and Gerhard Tappen, suffered from over-tempering: an involvement in situations beyond their maturity and judgment that began in the war’s early weeks. With the exception of Max von Gallwitz, it is difficult to identify, much less recall, any field commanders who began the war as colonels or Generalmajoren and had risen, or would rise, much above the level of what the British called “good plain cooks” and “safe pairs of hands.” Germany’s war was unlikely to end well in safe pairs of hands.

Though it took time and lives, Britain and France eventually produced significantly deeper pools of senior military leadership that were unspectacular but able to shape the situation they confronted. Some, like Pétain, Foch, and Douglas Haig, grew incrementally into their responsibilities. Others-Fayolle and Mangin, Currie, and Monash-emerged from the ruck of war. Even Italy came out of the Caporetto disaster militarily revitalized, with Armando Diaz succeeding Luigi Cadorna. The parliamentary states, Britain and France, developed as well a body of effective second-generation political leaders. Lloyd George and Clemenceau had no counterparts in the Second Reich. Italy’s Vittorio Orlando is less familiar, but he rallied Italy and oversaw the destruction of an enemy army-something neither of the transalpine premiers achieved.

None of these men were especially pleasant-intriguers, manipulators, and schemers all, often with private lives to match. They were, however, competent relative to circumstances. In contrast, compared to Britain’s George V, William II cut an abysmal figure as a figurehead. Bethmann-Hollweg’s successors as chancellor remain obscure even to doctoral students. And so it goes. Wherever one looks in Germany after 1916, the images are of cut-and-paste, of second- and third-rate people with first-line responsibilities. The structural reasons for that phenomenon are outside the scope of this book, except to note the development of similar phenomena in the other war-making empires, and suggest it was hardly coincidental. For present purposes, a case can be made that the Hindenburg-Ludendorff team filled vacuums as well as arrogated power in what was in good part a response to a comprehensive emergency that bade fair to escalate into a general crisis.

The new command team turned first to the Western Front. Hindenburg and Ludendorff had been too focused on events in the east-and on intrigues within the High Command- to be au courant with recent details and developments in what, mirabile dictu, was proving after all to be the war’s vital theater. It was his duty, Ludendorff stated, to adapt himself to the new conditions. He and Hindenburg began with a tour of inspection, visiting as many front-line units as possible, contacting others by phone, and demanding accurate information rather than eyewash and whitewash. Ludendorff came away convinced that the first months of the coming year would bring a battle deciding “the existence or nonexistence of the German people.” To meet that challenge, Ludendorff asserted, it was necessary to begin with the basics. German tactics must be revised on two levels: a general shift in emphasis to the defensive, and a specific set of coping mechanisms to check the increasingly effective Allied infantry and artillery team. In early September the High Command began systematically collating and evaluating recent frontline reports. On December 1, it issued Principles of Command in the Defensive Battle in Position Warfare. Ludendorff credited two relatively obscure and even more junior staff officers with constructing the manual that shaped German doctrines of defense in every theater for the rest of the war. But the fundamental ideas were Lossberg’s. Max Bauer and Hermann Geyer had previously served under him and absorbed his ideas. This was General Staff procedure at its best. Ludendorff’s ego was as large as anyone’s who held his kind of post is likely to be, but he applied it to generating and sustaining a corporate effort that had been less evident under Falkenhayn, who preferred keeping his own counsel. Bauer, a difficult man and a difficult subordinate, noted that Ludendorff’s style “lifted a great weight” from his working group. That opinion was as general in the High Command as any was likely to be among strong-willed men. It owed something to the Hawthorne effect generated by “an iron will and a firm determination.” It owed more to abandoning definitively the increasingly costly, increasingly futile, policy of holding and regaining the forward line at all costs.

The objective of defense was described in the new Principles as making the attacker exhaust himself by establishing positions in depth, defended in echelons. As the Allied infantry advanced it would become disorganized. Its communications would be disrupted. It would eventually outrun the range of even its heavy artillery, to find itself caught in a combination maze and net. A complementary accompanying manual on Principles of Field Construction gave details: a three-tiered system with a lightly held outpost zone as a tripwire; a battle zone that could be as much as three thousand meters deep with a forward trench position, a network of strong points; and a second trench line protecting the artillery and the reserves in the rear zone which would mount the final counterattacks to destroy or throw back the enemy before he could consolidate his temporary gains and restore the original position, or as much of it as made no difference.

Firepower was the revamped system’s framework: machine guns in the battle zone, artillery underwriting the counterattacks that were “the soul of the German defense.” Flexibility was the principle: “resist, bend, and snap back.” “Elastic defense” is a good capsule definition. So is “offensive defense.” But the system’s key and its core was human: “stout hearted men with iron nerves”-and individual initiative. Since 1914 falling back from a position had been defined as defeat, and carried an aura of disgrace. But by August 1916 it had become standard German operating procedure on the Somme to establish machine-gun positions outside the trench lines, in shell holes, to provide some protection from Allied barrages. Withdrawal was becoming instrumental, pragmatic: a means to the immediate ends of evading shell fire and wearing down attacking infantry, and to the ultimate one of setting the stage for the counterattacks that would reverse enemy gains.

Promulgating the doctrine did not mean its automatic implementation. Senior officers and their chiefs of staff were expected and accustomed to think for themselves, and the circumstances of the Western Front in 1916 fostered coping more than conformity. Lossberg himself believed the new regulations gave front-line troops and junior officers too much leeway in deciding when and how far to fall back. Ludendorff responded positively to that kind of criticism, asserting that the new system was a work in progress, to be modified when the Allies attacked again. Arguably more important to the reform’s credibility was the extent that it codified and systematized much of what was already being done, and proving effective, on the Somme. The point was reinforced in mid-December, when the final French offensive at Verdun owed part of its success to the failure of German sector reserves to respond effectively because they were held too far behind the front.