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This Date in History: July 5

 

The Fifth Field, the location northeast of Paris of the remains of U.S. soldiers executed in World War II

On Thursday, July 5, 1945, U.S. Army official executioners hanged U.S. Army Private John T. Jones and Private Henry W. Nelson for the crime of rape and Private Charles H. Jefferies for the crime of murder at the Peninsular Base Section Stockade in Aversa, Italy.  (The Fifth Field: The Story of the 96 American Soldiers Sentenced to Death and Executed in Europe and North Africa in World War II)

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Peter Cremer

Peter Cremer, Navy Lieutenant Commander, born March 25, 1911 in Metz, commander U-333, commander 31st U-Boat Flotilla, winner Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross, author of U-Boat Commander: A Periscope View of the Battle of the Atlantic, died on July 5, 1992 in Hamburg, said of courage:

“A fighting man will allow matters to come to the crunch and accept the risks – and is usually buoyed by the feeling: it won’t happen to me.  But once he has been marked…and, barely recovered, returns to the fight, then things look different: he has experienced wounds and pain and knows he can suffer the experience again at any moment.  He knows that imminent death is not merely possible but indeed probable.”  (2,000 Quotes From Hitler’s 1,000-Year Reich)

This Date in History: July 52022-06-23T08:31:03-06:00

In many World War II death penalty cases, military psychiatrists, using intelligence tests, found that the accused were substantially below average.  Such was not the case with Private First Class Paul M. Kluxdal.

Paul Kluxdal

Born on July 17, 1907 in Merrill, Wisconsin, Kluxdal was a radio operator in his unit, an occupation that required some real skill.  From November 19, 1924 to July 14, 1927, he had served in the Wisconsin National Guard; he also attended the University of Wisconsin for two years.  Prior to enlisting, Kluxdal, who was white, was married and lived in Oak Park, Chicago, Illinois; he was a construction foreman, building commercial chimneys.  His wife worked for the War Department in Chicago; the couple had no children.  Then Private First Class Paul Kluxdal did two stupid things.  For several months, he made threatening statements against his first sergeant.  Then, on August 12, 1944, he shot and killed his first sergeant.  Despite his intelligence, that combination of events would get him hanged.

Master Sergeant John C Woods, US Army Hangman

Master Sergeant John C. Woods hanged Paul Kluxdal at the Seine Disciplinary Training Center on October 31, 1944, Halloween.  And just like some of the scary visions of that holiday, the hanging was botched and it appears that it took eighteen minutes for the condemned man to die.

The Fifth Field analyzes the entire Kluxdal case and its contradictory evidence, as well as the execution (which is also discussed in American Hangman) and you can come to your own conclusion as to what should have happened in this case.

British historian Paul Johnson kindly found this photograph of Paul Kluxdal and sent it to me, so now you can put a face to a name.

2022-06-27T17:09:41-06:00

This Date in History: June 12

Erich Marcks

Erich Marcks, Army General of Artillery, born June 6, 1891 in Berlin-Schönberg, commander 101st Light Infantry Division, 84th Army Corps, winner of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, killed in action by a strafing Allied fighter plane about 9:45 a.m. on June 12, 1944 near Hébécrevon près de Marigny, several kilometers northwest of Saint-Lô in Normandy, said as his last words: “Leave me here.  I’d rather have it that way.”  (2,000 Quotes From Hitler’s 1,000-Year Reich)  Marcks is buried at the German War Cemetery at Marigny, France, in Section 2, Grave 1478.

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Artur Privatzki; 9th Heavy Company, at time of Kursk Offensive

On May 6, Hitler delayed the start of Operation Citadel until June 12, 1943, the rationale being that this would give more time for the panzer units involved to receive the new Panther and Tiger tanks.  On May 10, Colonel General Heinz Guderian was in Berlin to attend a conference with the Führer concerning Mark V Panther production.  After the meeting, the panzer expert asked to speak with the German leader.  Reiterating his previous arguments, Guderian finally asked the Führer: “Why do you want to attack in the East at all this year?”  (Waffen-SS Tiger Crews at Kursk: The Men of SS Panzer Regiments 1, 2 & 3 in Operation Citadel, July 5-15, 1943)

This Date in History: June 122022-05-31T18:30:01-06:00

This Date in History: June 11

Werner Schmiedel

Werner Schmiedel

On Monday, June 11, 1945, U.S. Army official executioners hanged U.S. Army Private Werner Schmiedel, of Breinigsville, Pennsylvania, at the Peninsular Base Section Stockade in Aversa, Italy for the crime of murder.  The Army buried Schmiedel at the U.S. Military Cemetery at Naples, in the General Prisoner plot, in Grave 2-17.  Exhumed in 1949, the remains of Werner Schmiedel are buried at the American Military Cemetery at Oise-Aisne in Plot E, specifically in Row 3, Grave 53.  (The Fifth Field: The Story of the 96 American Soldiers Sentenced to Death and Executed in Europe and North Africa in World War II)

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John David Cooper and J.P. Wilson committed one of the worst crime sprees of the war, a two-night assault violently raping two 14-year-old girls, one 18-year-old girl and one 40-year-old woman.  Two of the rapes took place on September 19, 1944 at Lérouville, France; the second two rapes happened two days later at Ferme de Marville, France.  The men also assaulted and wrongfully imprisoned several Frenchmen in a cellar.  Born in Dover, Georgia on June 11, 1922, John David Cooper was inducted at Fort Benning, Georgia on December 26, 1942.  As a civilian, he was a coal truck driver, earning $25 a week.  The Third U.S. Army convened a general court-martial at Nancy, France on October 25, 1944.  The two men, assigned to the 3966th Quartermaster Truck Company, were tried together; they pled not guilty, but the court convicted them and sentenced them to death by hanging.  (The Fifth Field: The Story of the 96 American Soldiers Sentenced to Death and Executed in Europe and North Africa in World War II)

This Date in History: June 112022-05-31T18:26:50-06:00

This Date in History: June 10

 

Generalfeldmarschall Erich von Manstein

Erich von Lewinski, genannt von Manstein, Army Field Marshal, born in Berlin on November 24, 1887, winner of the Iron Cross 1st Class in World War I, commander of the 11th Army, commander Army Group South, winner of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords, dismissed by Hitler in 1944, author of memoirs, Lost Victories, died on June 10, 1973 in Ebenhausen, said about field commanders: “Intelligence, knowledge and experience are telling prerequisites.  Lack of these may, if necessary, be compensated for by good general staff officers.  Strength of character and inner fortitude, however, are decisive factors.  The confidence of the men in the ranks rests upon a man’s strength of character.”  (2,000 Quotes From Hitler’s 1,000-Year Reich)

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Colonel General Heinz Guderian, chief of the panzer forces, recorded in his notes that as of May 3, 1943, Army Group South had fifty-three Tiger tanks, while Army Group Center had twenty.  By May 9 sixteen more Tigers were enroute to Army Group South.  By June 10, a further twenty-eight Tiger tanks were on trains headed to von Manstein, while thirty-one Tigers were enroute to Army Group Center.  Therefore, according to Guderian’s calculations, by the start of the Kursk Offensive, Army Group South would have ninety-seven Tiger tanks on hand while Army Group Center would have just fifty-one.  (Waffen-SS Tiger Crews at Kursk: The Men of SS Panzer Regiments 1, 2 & 3 in Operation Citadel, July 5-15, 1943)

This Date in History: June 102022-05-31T18:23:43-06:00

This Date in History: June 9

Kurt Zeitzler

Kurt Zeitzler, Army Colonel General, born on June 9, 1895 in Cossmar-Luckau, chief of staff for XXII Motorized Corps, the First Panzer Army, and Army Group D, Chief of the General Staff of the Army (on September 24, 1942,) winner of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross, died on September 25, 1963 in Hohenaschau-Chiemsee; on commanders: “If the troops are bad, the commander is either dead or he’s a bad commander.”  (2,000 Quotes From Hitler’s 1,000-Year Reich)

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American Hangman: MSgt. John C. Woods, The United States Army’s Notorious Executioner in World War II and Nürnberg

Sergeant Thomas J. Ward served as the Supply Sergeant of the Loire Disciplinary Training Center.  Born on June 9, 1925 at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, he enlisted on September 2, 1943 and was assigned to Company I, 23rd Infantry Regiment in the Second U.S. Infantry Division.  Wounded in action four times, he fought in France, Belgium and the Siegfried Line before transferring to the Loire DTC in February 1945.  Ward subsequently witnessed twelve executions at the DTC.  At Le Mans, he was John Woods’ closest friend, often going downtown in the evening for a beer together.  He recalled that the day before each execution, Woods would walk to the supply room to get the rope and black hood that would be used in the upcoming event; a new rope was used for each hanging, although Woods would use each black hood several times.

On the first occasion before a hanging, Woods openly carried the rope from the supply room through the stockade and the observant prisoners ascertained what was happening and began to throw rocks at the hangman; in the future, Woods wore a trench coat, rain or shine, and concealed the rope and hood under it.  Ward later recalled that concerning the trap door, Woods had both a lever and a backup rope that could be cut to release the trap door.  Tom Ward remembered that many of the executions occurred just before noon, when many of the men in the stockade – not involved in the execution – were standing in line outside the mess hall for lunch, and when the trap door opened, the motion was so violent and unique that the loud noise could be heard throughout the DTC and this distinctive sound spoiled many a man’s appetite.  (American Hangman: MSgt. John C. Woods, The United States Army’s Notorious Executioner in World War II and Nürnberg)

This Date in History: June 92022-05-31T18:20:57-06:00

Henry U.S. Survival AR-7

In an iconic scene in From Russia with Love, James Bond assembles an ArmaLite AR-7 takedown rifle, removing the barrel and receiver from their storage slots in the weapon’s buttstock.  Attaching a small scope, he scans for his quarry, the dastardly Krilencu, a Bulgarian assassin who works for SMERSH.  Bond is about to take the shot when his ally, Kerim Bey, whom Krilencu had recently wounded in the shoulder, asks to pull the trigger, which he does with success.  The scene ends with Kerim Bey remarking, “That pays many debts.”

Good enough for Bond, James Bond

Today, the Henry U.S. Survival AR-7 has replaced the older ArmaLite model, and while the .22 rifle may not repay the type of debts Kerim Bey was referring to, it will accomplish many tasks and just might keep you alive in the process.  Henry says, “Don’t Leave Civilization Without One”, and while that is excellent advice, you may also need it when some elements in your day-to-day life become positively  “uncivil”.  It is a deadly rat gun.

Since 1959, when it was designed for U.S. Air Force flight crews that might have to bail out over rugged terrain, the AR-7’s reputation for portability, ease of operation and reliability has carried over to the civilian world, around the world.  It is a favorite of bush pilots, backpackers and backcountry adventurers around the world who, like their Air Force counterparts, need a rifle that’s easy to carry, but also has the accuracy to reliably take down small game as food sources.

An eight-shot semi-automatic, it is lightweight (3.5 lbs.) and highly portable.  At just 16.5″ long, when all the components are stowed, it easily fits into the cargo area of a plane, boat or in a backpack.  Younger generations call some of these a “Bug Out Bag”, but whatever your term, an AR-7 should really be in there.  And stowed in your backpack, no one would ever have a clue that you are carrying a rifle.  It’s almost as if you can make a rifle appear out of nowhere. Chambered in .22 LR, you can also carry a large quantity of ammunition without adding much weight to your gear.

When disassembled the pieces fit inside the impact-resistant, water resistant stock, which can float for a while, but get it out fairly quickly in case the back cap leaks; one reviewer tested that and the package remained waterproof for six minutes.  Henry says, “Assembly is as easy as attaching the receiver to the stock, inserting the barrel, and screwing on the nut. In a few seconds, without any tools, the Henry AR-7 is ready for action.”  That’s not quite accurate.  It is easy, but it will take at least a minute, not just a few seconds.  But, remember, no tools are needed!  The weapon comes with two eight-round magazines; order two more as the buttstock storage area will accommodate three loaded magazines.

To fire, you first attach the receiver to the stock by fitting it into the slot and turning a fixed little bolt until the two are tightly mated.  This bolt is in the bottom of the handle and cannot come out when you unfasten the receiver, so it can’t get lost.  Then you line up the barrel, and tighten the screw collar.  Put in a magazine (and since you can store it with a magazine already in the receiver, you may want to consider that), pull the bolt back using the little charging handle, and release it; the bolt assembly slams forward, loading a round in the chamber.  Unlike most other rifles, there is no bolt assembly stop to hold it to the rear, so after you fire your last round the bolt remains forward.  You must pull the charging handle to the rear a bit to visually inspect the chamber to ensure there is no live round there, because it is blowback-operated.  Fully assembled, it’s 35 inches long.  With fifteen minutes of practice, maybe less, you can assemble it fully in the dark.  The safety is a simple thumb lever that flips on and off easily.

The Henry AR-7 is available in three finishes; Black, True Timber Kanati Camo Pattern, and True Timber Viper Western Camo Pattern.  There are two schools of thought on camo; one is you may want the rifle to hide along with you, but in the dark, if things go awry, you want to be able to find it quickly and easily.  Either way, all models are equipped with an elevation-adjustable rear sight and a blade front sight that is windage-adjustable.  The steel barrel covered in tough ABS plastic with a protective coating for complete corrosion resistance.  Trigger pull is six-pounds and breaks cleanly.  It’s made in Rice Lake, Wisconsin.

I’m 70 and wear bifocals. If I can do this at 50 feet, you can do even better!

MSRP is about $290; for one of the two camouflage models, add another $60.  I have tested one in black.  The receiver has a narrow 3/8-inch groove design for rimfire rings.  So I got a small, 4-power scope and rings, thinking I could increase accuracy.  I shouldn’t have bothered.  Since a scope-mounted receiver will not fit inside the butt compartment, you have to removed the scope before packing, and mount it again later for firing.  This causes you to have to confirm the zero, which is often needed.  The rabbit, rat or other target will not simply sit there waiting while you reconfirm the zero with a few shots, so clearly that won’t do.  However, at fifty feet the front sight blade is easy to see through as it is orange.  And the rear aperture peep sight is remarkably accurate; you should be able to hit the head of a squirrel, rabbit, duck or goose on the ground, to put in the cook-pot.  That’s what the weapon is designed to do.

But the AR-7 can do much more.  There is almost no recoil.  You can fire all eight rounds in under four seconds and keep all eight on target.  Sure, that won’t stop a bear, but it will drop or deter most mean-ass dogs.  And in a pinch, my guess is that a two-legged predator isn’t going to like a face-full, or neck-full of CCi Stinger 32-grain hollow points.  The advertised velocity is 1640 fps, but the AR-7, with its 16.125″ barrel gets 1496 fps, which is about 159 foot-pounds of energy.  That’s not much as self-defense rounds go, but remember, the average shooter will be far more accurate with the AR-7 at fifty feet than they are with almost any pistol.  At least that’s true in my case.  And with that extra magazine you can stow, you’ve got 24 rounds for the fight.  The AR-7 magazine release is located along the trigger guard, on the left side of the weapon.  The shooter can use their trigger finger to push it forward to release the magazine, or your non-firing-hand thumb.

Mean-ass dog

Even without a silencer, the AR-7 doesn’t make that much noise, and sometimes you don’t want every Tom, Dick or Harry to know you’re around, or blowing out your eardrums if you fire an emergency shot without hearing protection (although if at all possible, have some protection.)  The Henry AR-7 isn’t a death ray.  However, does a lot of things well-enough to get you by, and that’s exactly what this rifle is intended to do; get you by until you are back home to safety.

Henry U.S. Survival AR-72022-05-18T10:00:44-06:00

Maskirovka

For centuries, the Russian empire, especially her military, have brought deception to a fine art.  The Russian word maskirovka, translating to “masking something”, is designed to manipulate the enemy’s decision-making process so it does, or doesn’t, take actions, which therefore enhance the likelihood of Russian success.  These actions might be reinforcing a certain sector of the front, thinking the Russians will attack there, when the Russians all along were going to attack somewhere else – and where the Russians really do attack, now has few enemy troops.  Effective deception – maskirovka – often results in achieving surprise, one of the key principles of war.

Soviet reinforcements

It is not enough to just fool the enemy; there must be actual actions that the enemy takes in response to that deception.  At Stalingrad in 1942, the Russians portrayed the situation in the Soviet city as on the edge of falling for several months, by only bringing in relatively small reinforcements across the Volga River from Soviet positions east.  The Germans, in turn, pulled additional German units in from the flanks north and south of Stalingrad for a final push, and let Romanian, Hungarian, and Italian units take over those flank defensive sectors.  Then in mid-November 1942 – wham, the Russians attacked those flanks, surrounding Stalingrad, where the German Sixth Army died on the vine over the next 75 days, a major turning point in the war.

Inflatable “jet aircraft”

The first precept of maskirovka is to “give the enemy the smell that he likes,” an Israeli army colonel once told me.  Every enemy has a preconceived notion of how the battle is probably going to unfold; identify that and use that as the deception story – the false scenario and how it will play out.  The enemy wants to believe that they guessed right, so all deception measures should reinforce those enemy’s biases.  In World War II, the Germans believed the Western Allies would invade France from England at the Pas-de-Calais area of France.  First, because the English Channel is at its narrowest at this point, but more importantly, because it was from Pas-de-Calais that Germany intended to invade England in 1940.  Therefore, all Allied deception measures were designed to “sell” a Pas-de-Calais invasion, hiding the real invasion at Normandy, where the distance across the Channel was five times that of Pas-de-Calais, and in German minds you’d have to be crazy to try that.

Conceal the real; portray the unreal is the second guide.  Not only does good maskirovka depict false operations, but includes tight operational security to hide what is really going on, because if the enemy obtains evidence of your legitimate plan, they may not fall for the deception to hide it.  Disseminating battle plans on a strict “need to know” reduces the possibility that those plans get “leaked.”  Anything that is leaked, should only be the false battle plans – and then disclosed only in a believable manner.  That is sometimes done by double agents – an enemy agent that has been apprehended, threatened with death, and “turned”, so the agent, in addition to feeding inconsequential true intelligence to keep credibility with his original clients, is fed elements of the deception story: “Joe has always given us good information, so this must be good too.”

It isn’t just human intelligence (spies) that is necessary to execute maskirovka effectively; you have to “fool” all the battlefield sensors of the enemy.  This includes radar and other electronic detection devices, and aerial photography – and in World War II there were no satellites to fool; now there may be 8,000 in orbit.  Audio sensors listen for certain sounds; sensors on the Internet monitor everything from what kind of mouthwash you buy online, to actions that indicate you are probably a firearms’ owner.  Motion sensors can measure the movements of deer, or movements of military tanks.  If you attempt to shoot down every enemy drone in an area, your opponent may believe correctly that you are up to something in that area.  But if make no attempt to shoot down any drones over an area, because you want them to pick up indicators of activity, the enemy might ask themselves why you are allowing those drones to operate.

How do you know what to look for concerning maskirovka?  An enemy can portray tank columns moving in certain directions that have nothing to do with the real attack.  They can drop leaflets warning citizens to evacuate a certain area when no attack is actually going there.  What are difficult to hide are logistical functions.  Show us where the fuel points are, and we can determine how many armored vehicles that supports and the area they will operate.  Sure, the enemy could deploy empty 55-gallon drums of ‘fuel” at a fake fuel depot as deception, but an empty drum will have a different thermal signature from one filled with diesel.

Follow the Money

For discovering maskirovka operations in the field of political tricks remember the old adage: “follow the money.”  But with money now measured by electrons (there are no actual greenbacks in what your bank calls your checking account), that can be difficult, and of course hacked and an account made to look larger or smaller with a couple of keystrokes.  But there’s always some idiot that drops off a damaged MacBook laptop at a Delaware computer store to be repaired, and on that computer are various trails of money paid for nefarious deeds, with money trails up to the highest levels possible.  Maskirovka?  Or real?  Constructing fake dossiers (portray the unreal) is another element of maskirovka, and one that was done successfully by the Germans against the Russians, providing Stalin’s intelligence services with fake “evidence” that his generals were about to overthrow him.  Stalin bit, and had hundreds of loyal generals shot.

Deception plans of maskirovka are some of the most sensitive, tightest “need to know” restrictions of all.  Even knowing that some type of deception is going on is tightly controlled to the point that often high-level decision-makers are in the dark.  While it was not part of the deception plan, Vice President Harry Truman was not told about the Manhattan Project – the development of the atomic bomb – until hours after he became President after FDR’s death.

Today, the Russians are still at it with respect to maskirovka, whether that is in the Ukraine, or whether that is interfering with foreign economies and politics by injecting false stories into news cycle, or even potentially manipulating U.S. election results.  Can’t happen here?  Nobody’s that smart.  If you think the Russian aren’t good at maskirovka, ask the roughly 250,000 Germans at Stalingrad who never came home.

Or just watch Operation Mincemeat on Netflix to see the depths of details that have to be accomplished to sell a deception effort.

Maskirovka2022-06-27T07:44:25-06:00

Losers Fight the Last War Late; Winners Fight the Next War Early

You may be wondering why the pundits in the media always seem to get it wrong predicting winners and losers in wars or how long these wars will last.  It’s because they only look at the rational factors in war, like how many aircraft each side has, the strength of their armies, levels of technology and so forth that can be measured.  These “armchair admirals” and “barstool brigadiers” wouldn’t understand Clausewitz if the old boy came back from the dead and personally instructed them.  But you can get a National War College education right here and right now.

Carl Clausewitz

“Dead Carl” Clausewitz, his nickname at the US Army’s School of Advanced Military Studies, knew that wars are influenced by rational factors, and also by irrational and arational factors.  Irrational factors are emotional.  Had Santa Anna not killed all the defenders at The Alamo, maybe the rest of Texas wouldn’t have gotten so mad that they unified and kicked his butt.  After the Japanese did their sneak attack at Pearl Harbor, and compounded that later at the Bataan Death March, the U.S. became so driven by emotion that we ended up nuking them.  So irrational emotions have to factor in, but what weight do you give them?

Arational factors can be all kinds of chance events, like the weather, or the natural death of an enemy leader.  You can predict the weather, but you never get it completely correct.   Typhoon Cobra in December 1944 in the Pacific killed 790 US sailors, sank three destroyers, and heavily damaged nine other US warships.  In 1762, Frederick the Great of Prussia was about to get whipped by the Austrians and Russians when Russian Empress Elizabeth suddenly died and her successor not only ended the war with Prussia but also offered Frederick the use of a Russian corps for the remainder of his war against Austria!  Predict that!

Grant (left) and Lee (right)

Then there is the nature versus the character and conduct of war.  The nature – that wars are bloody and governed by rational, irrational and arational factors – is constant.  But weapons, tactics and strategies are always changing.  Those that anticipate these changes have a better chance of winning, hence “Losers Fight the Last War Late; Winners Fight the Next War Early.”  Bobby Lee fought the Civil War the way Napoleon would have fifty years before – concentrating on out-maneuvering the Union Army and being tactically superior in every battle.

That worked until Abe Lincoln brought Sam Grant and his sidekick Uncle Billy Sherman on board to “fight the next war early”; ironclads replaced sailing warships, railroads allowed for rapid troop movement, arms-producing factories in the North became more important than horse-raising farms in the South, and the new battlefield lethality meant that through attrition Grant might indeed lose more men than Lee, but he and “War is Hell” Sherman would not only bleed the South dry in the process, but also conduct a scorched-earth campaign through Georgia  destroying the South’s ability to produce weapons.

Finally, pundits often fail to understand the Law of Unintended Consequences – those results of an action that aren’t anticipated.  Sometimes unintended consequences can be avoided by more rigorous analysis; others are truly random or unpredictable.

Take the British Royal Navy before World War I when battleships and battlecruisers were king.  Battleship admirals insisted that gun crews on these ships concentrate on shooting faster than their potential rivals the Germans.  Fast gun crews were rewarded; slow-pokes were punished.  So wise old Chief Petty Officers, many of whom had been in the Royal Navy over ten years, decided to cut a corner here and there to be faster.  Shells and highly-combustible cordite propellent were usually stored deep in a ship’s armored magazines and brought up to the turret on hoists through fireproof doors closed until the moment of transfer.  These CPOs figured they could shave valuable seconds off their times by keeping those doors open.  And then, another other old seadog thought if you stored the cordite inside the turret, you wouldn’t waste time hauling it up.  So they did.

Jutland 1916

Then came the 1916 Battle of Jutland, and despite having twice as many ships, the British lost a whole bunch of them, when – after they had been hit in the turrets by enemy shells – the fires spread to the magazine causing catastrophic explosions, in some cases killing everyone aboard.  I wonder why that happened?

So the next time some retired old general, who commonly relied on smart majors and lieutenant colonels to conceive his battle plans, or a Harvard geek, tells you what’s going to happen in a war, bet the “over” on duration, and that it won’t likely unfold the way they prognosticate.

 

 

Losers Fight the Last War Late; Winners Fight the Next War Early2022-04-19T16:23:27-06:00

What Happened to the Moskva?

Talking heads and “experts” on television drive me crazy.  Many have no true experience or subject matter expertise; they also demonstrate no system to assess accuracy of their conclusions.  You can do better in assessing accuracy by assigning levels of certainty to it.  The highest category of accuracy is one with a “100% certainty” to it.  The sun comes up in the East is one of them, most events aren’t this certain.  A little less certainty, but still a great deal, is “beyond a reasonable doubt” used in criminal trials.  While I’ve never seen a judge assign a numerical value to that, it seems that “beyond a reasonable doubt” is in the 85% to 99% category of certainty.  It does not mean there is no doubt, only that it is so small as to be unreasonable.

The lowest category of certainty is “more likely than not” to be accurate, the standard used in many civil trials, and for military Inspector General investigations.  Think 51% or more certainty and it is “more likely than not” it occurred.  On the other end, if you assess a 50% chance something happened, you’re flipping a coin; the further less than 50%, the more likely it is to be inaccurate.

Let’s apply that to the Russian cruiser Moskva, flagship of their Black Sea Fleet, that sank in the Black Sea off the coast of the Ukraine (at 45°10’43.39″N, 30°55’30.54″E.) on Thursday, April 14, 2022.  Ukraine says it hit the Moskva with anti-ship cruise missiles which sparked a fire that detonated the ship’s ammunition.  On the other side, Russia’s Defense Ministry says a fire of unknown origin detonated the ship’s stored ammunition; the resulting explosions left the Moskva with structural damage; and then the warship sank amid rough seas as it was being towed to a nearby port.

Is this the Moskva after the missile attack, burning and seriously damaged?

So the central question to analyze is this.  Was it poor air defenses on the Moskva that allowed Ukrainian anti-ship missiles to hit, and cause a fire and/or explosion which was made fatal in scope by inefficient damage control?  If so, we can rule out an accidental fire caused by lax safety procedures.

I am not a naval expert, but I know a lot of people who are, including some who served on U.S. destroyers and cruisers similar in some degree to the Moskva, others who were submariners who were trained to hunt ships like the Moskva, and even one who was actually on a Russian ship very similar to the Moskva.  Here is an educated take.

Russian ship defense systems have major inadequacies.  While they do have a varied number of anti-missile systems, and they do have a battle center in the ship to control these weapons, they have never achieved the degree of systems-integration that US Navy ships have in a fast-response system such as a Combat Information Center (CIC), which collates thousands of pieces of information, using really sophisticated tracking and info-processing, and determines the best solution to neutralize any threat at the most advantageous distance from the ship, with backups in case of a miss, and not allowing a threat to slip through because it had not been tracked.

Combat Information Center of the “Battlestar Galactica”.  CIC on today’s US Navy ships put this one to shame

If the Ukrainians fired multiple missiles, maybe up to four or so, and used decoys or electronic warfare to confuse the Russian defenders, and given that these missiles fly really low (9 to 30 feet above the water), have a cross-section of about 16 inches (and a radar cross-section of even less with stealth “paint” when seen from the front), and all that makes it really hard to detect and then hit them, given Russian inadequacies in this area, it is “more likely than not” that at least one missile struck the Moskva.

If so, now the Russians have problems.  The warhead weighs 350 pounds; add in some of the fuel left in the 1900-pound missile and you are going to get “beyond a reasonable doubt” that a large explosion occurred per missile strike.  Both accounts conclude “100% certainty” a number of volatile and flammable explosives were nearby such as anti-ship missiles below.  But a lot of warships in history have had explosions or large fires and have not sunk.

Nearby sources for more fire and secondary explosions (Vulkan missiles, with their 750-pound warheads, in their firing containers; unless the missiles were armed with nuclear warheads!)

Except the Russians have major problems in damage control.  US Navy ships have many watertight compartments to limit the spread of toxic gases, fire and flooding in case of accident or attack.  Officers touring the Moskva saw no such extensive compartmentalization.  There were few watertight hatches between compartments.  Unless watertight hatches later were installed, it is “beyond a reasonable doubt”, probably approaching “100% certainty”, that the Moskva did not have adequate watertight integrity.

But it gets worse.  On many warships, painted areas on which sailors walk have special grip surfaces to prevent slipping.  That’s an added expense and Russian ships like the Moskva substituted tar for special “rough” paint.  Tar is highly flammable, and is easily tracked to other areas of the ship, so instead of trying to limit the spread of flame damage, it is “more likely than not” that cutting corners on Russian ship design made their warships even more susceptible to spreading fire damage.

Moskva heavily damaged; note two sprays of water; one pointing left is to put out fires; one pointing right toward the rear is getting water off , so the ship does not take on too much and capsize

However, a ship is only as good as its crew.  The Russian navy, and its ships, are run by commissioned officers.  They have very few non-commissioned officers (like petty officers).  US warship skippers swear by the professionalism, bravery and common sense of the corps of non-commissioned officers.  What if you didn’t have many on a ship?  Could just the officers have saved the ship, racing around and conducting necessary damage control?  What about the junior enlisted men?

Well, the crew size should have been about 510.  Because of a lack of non-commissioned officers, about 20% of the crew are officers, so about 100.  The enlisted sailors are conscripts, not volunteers.  How many who want to be there is unknowable. What is known is that their military service is 12 months.  It is “more likely than not” that the majority of the enlisted men can only accomplish basic damage control tasks, because 12 months is not enough time to get trained up and develop experience.  It is at least “more likely than not” that the 100 officers — assuming none had been killed in the attack and none were strap-hanger staff officers just along for the ride to get “combat time” and not part of the team — would have been an insufficient strength to save the ship.

Finally there is the bravery factor.  Every American Navy veteran I have ever met says that from the first day in service they have drilled into them, “Don’t Give Up the Ship,” the dying words of Commander James Lawrence during the War of 1812.  It takes a ton of bravery to run toward raging fires on a badly-damaged warship.  I do not know the Russian translation of “Don’t Give Up the Ship.”  But I do know that if a great number of conscripts on the Moskva did not want to be there, they may have known the translation, but it is “more likely than not” they wouldn’t have followed its meaning, because 12 months is not enough time to overcome a fear of fire.

Access to classified information would increase our certainty one way of the other, but using good, old-fashioned logic and observation, and you can reach a better solution than a talking head – or an “expert” with an agenda.

The Moskva — in all her Motherland Glory

What Happened to the Moskva?2022-05-12T12:34:54-06:00
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