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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.

Maskirovka2022-05-12T12:39:55-06:00

If You Are…You Need a Gun

The “typical” gun owner is often characterized by non-gun-owners as a right-wing, red-neck, beer-guzzling, low-IQ Neanderthal who is just itchin’ to unleash his trigger finger.  But times have changed, and now a whole lot of those non-gun-owners – who used to be dismissive of guns — truly need a firearm, whether you are a Pabst or an Armand de Brignac Brut kind of person.

Because now, it might be a matter of life or death.  Recently in Decatur, Illinois, a teen was arrested for allegedly breaking into his 60-year-old neighbor’s home and trying to kill him because that neighbor is gay.  So if you identify as LGBTQ…you need a gun for protection.  LGBTQ people are nearly four times more likely than non-LGBTQ people to be victims of violent crime. You may never actually have to shoot in self-defense, but then again, why take a chance?

If you identify as a woman…you need a gun for protection.  19.3 million women in the U.S. have been stalked in their lifetime.  1 in 4 have been victims of severe physical violence (e.g. beating, burning, strangling) by an intimate partner in their lifetime.  1 in 7 have been stalked by an intimate partner during their lifetime to the point in which they felt very fearful or believed that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed.  1 in 5 have been raped in their lifetime.  You may never actually have to shoot in self-defense, but then again, why take a chance?

Smith & Wesson Model 19

Smith & Wesson Model 19

If you live in a rough neighborhood… you need a gun for protection.  In 2021, 701 men and 90 women were murdered in the Windy City.  640 were black, 29 were white, 105 were Hispanic, and the major determinant was where they lived.  The City of Chicago is installing 426 “Bleeding Control Kits” in 269 buildings across the city.  Officials say the kits could help save lives in an emergency such as falls and penetrating injuries.  Let’s get real; the kits are there to treat gunshot wounds, a tacit admission that the powers that be cannot prevent you from being shot; they have retreated to a position where they “hope” that you will not die from a gunshot wound.

If you live in a rich, safe neighborhood…you need a gun for protection.  875 South Bundy Drive, Brentwood, Los Angeles; case closed.

If you know one or more males in your neighborhood who have violent tempers… you need a gun for protection.  Almost half of all male killers are younger than 25.  Less than one-third of male killers rely on firearms as their weapon of choice.  That means that two-thirds of male murderers use some other means of killing – not firearms.  You can defeat that attempt with a firearm.  Why take a chance?

If you identify as male…you need a gun for protection.  Almost 80% of all murder victims in the U.S. are male.  You may never actually have to shoot in self-defense, but then again, why take a chance?

If you are an Asian-American…you need a gun for protection.  Hate crimes targeting people of Asian descent in the U.S. have skyrocketed, especially in large urban areas, where the legal gun ownership process can be especially onerous.  Determining motivation of a criminal – who is never apprehended – is almost impossible: did the perpetrator rob and kill a Chinese-American store owner because of race or because of the cash register?  You may never actually have to shoot in self-defense, but then again, why take a chance?

If the proponents of gun control ever get their way, it will not be the rich political elites who are murdered; they talk a good game, but live in gated communities, in exclusive neighborhoods, and either have personal security details, or flaunt the law and have their own firearms on the sly.  By denying the means to defend everyone else, the anti-2nd Amendment mob expose themselves as homophobes, anti-woman, racists of all stripes, and whatever fancy term applies to setting up elderly people living alone to be victimized.

A society, country and culture can be measured, in part, by how well it protects the most vulnerable among them, whether they are unborn babies, children, or people who look different, think differently, believe differently or come from different backgrounds.  The right to life; the right to self-defense; are inherent rights of every human being.  No government can legitimately deny you that right.

But they try to.  So if you own a firearm, great.  Make sure you keep it secured.  And help everyone you know learn how to shoot and how to legally obtain a firearm.  Because: man, woman, gay, straight, black, white, Hispanic, Asian-American, atheist, religious, young adult or senior citizen …you need a gun for protection.

If You Are…You Need a Gun2022-04-17T14:16:53-06:00

New Book on Waffen-SS Tiger Crews at Kursk 1943 Published !

This man knocked out 77 enemy armored vehicles in World War II as a panzer gunner.  Do you really want to take him on in tank combat?

I always wanted to write about Kursk, and not have “just another” recount of the fight.  Not a rehash of Tiger tanks at Kursk but a whole new treatment of the machines and men at this pivotal battle: Waffen-SS Tiger Crews at Kursk: The Men of SS Panzer Regiments 1, 2 & 3 in Operation Citadel, July 5-15, 1943 which is published by Schiffer.

They were as hard as Krupp steel and as swift as greyhounds, the men who crewed the Waffen-SS Tiger tanks at the Kursk Offensive in July 1943.  Primarily enlisted men, not only did they fight – and fight well – at one of the largest tank battles in history, they also later formed the nucleus of Tiger operations in key future battles.  Franz Staudegger, Michael Wittmann, Bubi Wendorff and Bobby Woll became household names as the men who rode the Tigers to victory, but over 200 other crewmen had fascinating careers as well.

The SS men who fought in these Tigers were not ten feet tall, although the Russians may have believed that during those few days that the Tigers shook the earth at the attack on Kursk in central Russia.  No, these men were far more ferocious than huge physical goliaths.  These soldiers had no concept of defeat.  This is their story.

At Kursk, often described as the “Greatest Tank Battle in History,” the Wehrmacht fielded a total of just 120 Tiger tanks, including 35 operational Tigers from the 2nd SS Panzer Corps in its powerful Leibstandarte, Das Reich, and Totenkopf divisions.  The Tiger became a legend, but any tank is only as good as its crew.  For the first time, we know the identities of over 220 Waffen-SS Tiger crewmembers at Kursk – not just the few dozen officers, but the enlisted men as well.

Their biographies are stunning: some were veteran panzer men; others were previously in the infantry and a few had just transferred from the Luftwaffe.  Eight would win the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross; others would receive very few medals.  Eighteen would die at Kursk, while thirty-five would be wounded.  And the survivors?  Unfortunately for many an American, British, Russian tank crew, these SS Tiger men in their black uniforms would go on to form the deadly nucleus of the Waffen-SS Heavy Panzer Detachments that fought at Normandy, the Battle of the Bulge, and the Battle of Berlin.

Daily battle maps show the location of each of the three Tiger companies in the 2nd SS Panzer Corps.  Original German Luftwaffe aerial photos show the terrain taken within days that the Tigers rolled over it.  Over 110 photographs of Waffen-SS Tiger tanks, crewmen, award documents, anti-tank ditches, including many from private archives never before published show you what life was like from combat to eating a meal.

Before the offensive, German Colonel General Heinz Guderian, one of the “fathers” of modern armored warfare, who wanted the offensive postponed, dramatically chided the Führer, Adolf Hitler, to his face with this acerbic question: “How many people do you think even know where Kursk is?”

You are about to find out.

Waffen-SS Tiger Crews at Kursk: The Men of SS Panzer Regiments 1, 2 & 3 in Operation Citadel, July 5-15, 1943

New Book on Waffen-SS Tiger Crews at Kursk 1943 Published !2021-05-15T12:26:51-06:00

American Hangman Published!!!

American Hangman

(September 23, 2019)  American Hangman: MSgt. John C. Woods: The United States Army’s Notorious Executioner in World War II and Nürnberg is published and you can start ordering now.  The book is fabulous; the price of $29.99 is an excellent buy considering that it has 108 black and white photos from the period, several of which are from the family with their kind permission, and where he resided that I guarantee you that you have never seen before.  The work is 256 pages, with endnotes and sources that dispel all the myths surrounding this fascinating character.  Most importantly, this is what I call a “one off” book.  Once you read this, you will know everything you would want to know about the “American Hangman.”  There are no other books about him.  There are a few magazine articles, first published in 1946 and continuing occasionally to today, but most of the information in them is extremely inaccurate which you’ll see.

But don’t worry; his actual life is more interesting than the myths about him were.

You will be able to read, from primary official documents, the details of every man for which John Woods was the assistant or primary hangman.  He did not, as magazines claimed, hang 347 men, nor did he hang, as he once claimed, 200 men.  Some were American soldiers; others had been  German or Austrian war criminals.  Then there were the last ten men Woods would ever hang, the top Nazi war criminals that had been condemned to death at the International Military Tribunal at Nürnberg.  Only Hermann Göring cheated Woods as he took poison just hours before his schedule execution.  You’ll read about that too and also about how Woods hanged Julius Streicher, one of the ten men, after Streicher had “disrespected” Woods on the scaffold!

But the story goes much deeper and reveals his young days, his short stint in the United States Navy about 1930, almost missing his wedding ceremony just after Prohibition was lifted, his brush with the law bouncing checks, driving a truck for a hearse company, joining the United States Army in 1943 and fighting at the Easy Red sector of Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944 as men died in bunches around him.

Did you know that John Woods could smoke a cigarette and blow smoke out of his ears?  Well, his nieces remembered that and a great deal of additional information about a man who adored his wife, loved dogs, liked to make officers uncomfortable, had an affinity for Wild Crow bourbon whiskey, had a storehouse of entertaining stories to tell his friends and who botched more than a few hangings, the reports of which made it back to the War Department in Washington, DC.

After reading this book, you will feel that not only do you know about John C. Woods but that you would have enjoyed having a beer with him.  In fact, one of the characters in this book used to do just that in various pubs at Le Mans, France almost every day for six months in 1945.  He’ll fill you in on details that the US Army never knew about the “American Hangman.”

But beware, it might not stop with a beer; as John might tell you: “I never saw three quarts of whiskey disappear so fast in my life.”  (Said to True: The Man’s Magazine at Fort Dix, New Jersey in November 1946, concerning his team having a few drinks after the Nürnberg hangings.)

An easy read, in deference to my Army Buddies, American Hangman sheds crucial light on the death penalty in the US Army in Europe in World War II, the execution of Nazi war criminals, and the effects of participating in an execution on the part of those ordered to carry it out.  And his mysterious death?  Well you’ll just have to hold off reading that last chapter till you get through the rest of the book!

For much of World War II, history books have described the influence that commissioned officers have had on shaping significant events.  Now it’s time for you to meet the man that went from private to master sergeant in one day and who had officers, from lieutenant to brigadier general, dancing to his tune.

 

 

American Hangman Published!!!2020-10-28T14:10:51-06:00

New Book Distributor for Europe

(March 12, 2014)  Schiffer Publishing has hired Gazelle Book Services to sell and distribute Schiffer publications in Europe.  This will shorten delivery time and reduce postage costs.  The information on this distributor is:

Gazelle Book Services     White Cross Mills      Hightown      Lancaster   Lancashire      LA1 4XS      UK Tel: +44 (0) 1524 68765    Fax: +44 (0) 1524 63232     E-mail: sales@gazellebooks.co.uk

For those readers in Germany or those travelers fortunate enough to be able to visit Munich, Germany, another bookstore can also assist you in finding the books found on this website.  In my 40 years experience, the Christian Schmidt bookstore is one of the best military bookstores in the entire world.  You can spend hours in there browsing!  Ask for Gabi; they speak perfect English.  You can take the U6 U-Bahn from the center of the city in the direction of the Klinikum Grosshadern and get off at Grosshadern, one stop before the end.  It is marked in blue on U-Bahn maps.

Christian Schmidt Buchhandlung
Sauerbruchstrasse 10
D-81377 Muenchen
Germany

Email: info@christian-schmidt.com
Web Page: www.christian-schmidt.com
Phone: (49) 89 703227

 

New Book Distributor for Europe2014-03-12T20:14:52-06:00

US Army Executions World War II in Europe and Africa Data

(March 9, 2014)  Due to numerous requests by readers, we have added a table showing the names, dates of execution and places of execution for all 96 American soldiers executed in World War II in Europe and North Africa, the subject of The Fifth Field.  Included at the top of the table, which is found in the published work section for The Fifth Field, is a photograph of the last face that probably 34 American soldiers ever saw before they were hanged — that of US Army hangman, Master Sergeant John Woods.  Previously published biographical information on Woods has been mostly incorrect, as until two years ago, Woods’ official personnel records had never been released to the public.  The Fifth Field is the first work to incorporate those files and shows that Woods had been in the US Navy in 1930 but had been discharged for psychological reasons.  He also had never been an assistant hangman in Texas and Oklahoma — as he had claimed in 1944 to help secure the position as hangman, which took him out of a combat engineer unit slated for frontline duty, and also elevated him from the rank of private to master sergeant in just one day!

US Army Executions World War II in Europe and Africa Data2014-03-09T19:28:25-06:00

Kudos for Stalingrad

(November 8, 2013)  Distinguished Stalingrad author Jason Mark, who has written such classics as Island of Fire: The Battle for the Barrikady Gun Factory in Stalingrad, Death of the Leaping Horseman: 24. Panzer-Division in Stalingrad, Into Oblivion: The Story of Pionier-Battalion 305, Angriff: The German Attack on Stalingrad in Photos, and An Artilleryman in Stalingrad, now offers Stalingrad: The Death of the German Sixth Army on the Volga, 1942-1943 for purchase on his website (www.leapinghorseman.com).  Jason writes on his site:

“Leaping Horseman Books gives this two-volume set its highest recommendation. The level of detail is astounding.  For every day of the battle there is map and an account of the actions and casualties of every corps and division in 6. Armee, followed by a closer look at an individual soldier who died on that day.”

Check out his website for this book and for many of Jason’s excellent offerings.

Kudos for Stalingrad2013-12-12T17:01:04-06:00

Fifth Field Responses Arriving

(November 6, 2013)  Responses to the publishing of The Fifth Field are starting to arrive.  A Supreme Court Associate Justice, an Army 4-star and Deans of two east coast “Ivy League” Law Schools and one California Law School have written that they each have a copy of the book and look forward to reading it.

Fifth Field Responses Arriving2013-11-07T08:59:30-06:00

The Fifth Field Published

(September 17, 2013) Schiffer Publishing has sent out the author advance copy, which indicates that The Fifth Field has been published and should be available for shipment next month.  The book is fabulous; it came out at 370 pages, with 42 photographs, almost all of which have never been published before.

Five special photographs show moments from the executions of Louis Till, Fred McMurray, Charlie Ervin and Mansfield Spinks at the Peninsular Stockade at Aversa, Italy in 1945.  These unique photographs, which had remained hidden in private hands for 67 years after the war, and unknown to be in existence by the Army, are believed to be the first photos of U.S. Army executions of U.S. personnel since the hanging of the Lincoln Assassination Conspirators in 1865.  The book additionally has five photographs of Army hangman Master Sergeant John C. Woods; we feel certain that you have not seen at least three of them before.

Each of the cases is covered in great detail through trial records, witness statements, investigator notes, review findings and execution reports.  For those historians and legal scholars wishing to do additional research you will find 56 pages of endnotes with specific document citations and the archives in which these documents can be found.  There is an additional appendix that provides over 100 short biographies of detention center personnel, hangmen (such as Thomas and Albert Pierrepoint,) key Judge Advocate General — JAG — officers and commanders from Dwight Eisenhower on down who approved General Court-Martial results.

This is a book about the death penalty.  No matter what you believe your opinion to be on this important subject, you need to read this book before making up your mind for the final time.  The information within these pages has never truly been considered before as we address this significant national issue.  But do not worry.  This is not a legal text; it is written by a regular Army officer, using standard English, not “legalese.”  Having said that, there is a section where a trained lawyer, with over 50 years experience and who has participated in death penalty cases, examines several of these courts-martial and analyzes them from his own perspective.

For historians of the Second World War, this is the first definitive account of every capital case ending in death for an American soldier in Europe and North Africa during the conflict.  For past, present and future Judge Advocate General officers, non-commissioned officers and civilian personnel, this is a history of your Corps during its most significant hour.

 

The Fifth Field Published2013-10-06T19:53:23-06:00

Stalingrad Two-Volume Set Published!

Stalingrad: The Death of the German Sixth Army on the Volga, 1942-1943

Volume 1 – The Bloody Fall

Volume 2 – The Brutal Winter

(August 9, 2013)  The advanced copies of the long-awaited set of books detailing the demise of the German Sixth Army have arrived at the publisher and more should arrive in a few weeks.  You can order a set now.  Bound in a sturdy black case, the two volumes have a total retail price of $69.99.   If you are a historical aficionado of the battle, a “grognard” wargamer, or a military collector of German World War II Stalingrad memorabilia – especially documents , this is a set of books you will pore over time and again in your library.

Stalingrad Two-Volume Set Published!2013-08-10T11:38:44-06:00
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