Archive for July, 2008

31
Jul
08

American Civil War Marines 1861-65

The first significant action by the Marine Corps took place during the battle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861. When MajGen Irwin McDowell’s hastily prepared 35,000-man Federal army marched south to attack Confederate forces gathered around Manassas Junction in northern Virginia on July 16, Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles volunteered the Marine battalion at the Washington Navy Barracks for service during the campaign. The unit was a product of the “call to arms” and the expansion of the Corps, and only the commander, Maj John G.Reynolds, Capt Jacob Zeilen and three other officers were experienced through “length of service.” Of the enlisted men, only nine non-commissioned officers and two musicians were veterans; the remaining 336 enlisted men were raw recruits, some of whom had onlyjust been issued weapons. Attached to Col Andrew Porter’s 1st Brigade of the 2nd Division, the Marines were assigned to follow Capt Charles Griffin’s Battery D, 5th US Artillery an all-mounted regular Army unit. After jogging and stumbling along in “double quick time” behind Griffin’s guns for several hours on July 21, the Marines were exhausted before the battle commenced. Porter’s brigade was part of the Federal right wing deployed to cross Bull Run at Sudley Springs, in order to deliver a flank attack on Confederate positions northwest of Manassas. As such, it was not heavily involved in the early fighting. The Marines had difficulty keeping sight of Griffin’s battery as it advanced into action, but eventually found the guns on Matthews Hill north of the Warrenton turnpike, from which point they were shelling the Confederate lines to the south.
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31
Jul
08

Austrian Commanders of the Napoleonic Wars 1792-1815

Taking command of the Lower Rhine Army in 1796, the archduke directed the whole army in Germany after Latour, commander of the Upper Rhine Army, submitted his command. His greatest campaign, based on the ‘manoeuvre of the central position’, enabled him to use his numerically inferior forces in four groups (under Wartensleben, La tour, Nauendorff and himself) Lo turn first against Jourdan, defeat this army at Amberg and crush it at Wurzburg on 3 September, before turning south to defeat Moreau at Emmendingen, forcing the French to evacuate Germany. Too late, Emperor Francis finally ordered his brother to Italy in early 1707, but Charles could do nothing to halt the victorious march of Bonaparte to Leoben. Charles became drawn into Vienna’s politics, and tensions with his brother would grow over time. Taking command in Germany again in 1709, Charles twice defeated Jourdan at Ostrach and Stockach in March, before being ordered to remain inactive in southern Germany, Alter the murder of the French ambassadors at Rastatt, and with an enquiry underway, Charles marched south into Switzerland to defeat Massena at First Zurich in June.
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31
Jul
08

Britain’s Air Defences 1939-45

In the spring of 1939, RAF Intelligence officers produced their assessment of the threat the Luftwaffe long-range bomber force posed to targets in Great Britain. They estimated that the force possessed about 1,600 modern bombers and, in the event of a war, these might attempt to deliver an aerial ‘knock-out blow’ on London. If there were no effective countermeasures, it was calculated that in the first two weeks of such an attack the capital would receive about 700 tons of bombs per day. From German records, we know those RAF figures were unduly pessimistic. When World War II opened in September 1939, the Luftwaffe possessed only 1.180 twin-engined bombers – about a quarter less than the British estimate. Of those, about a thousand bombers were serviceable. The bulk of the bomber force, nearly 800 aircraft, comprised Heinkel 111s. Most of the rest were Hornier 17s. An attack on London mounted from north-western Germany meant a round trip of 760 miles living round neutral Holland, or 720 miles firing over it. With fuel allowances to cover formation assembly, route flexibility and safety margins, neither German bomber type could reach London carrying its full load of bombs. Nor could such an attacking force receive fighter protection.
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31
Jul
08

Heroes of the Soviet Union 1941-45

Both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union embarked on a frenzied period of war production. While Hitler thought of future conquests, Stalin was preoccupied with national defense. The Bolshevik leader feared an attack from the West, and believed that in order to win militarily, he had to protect his industrial capacity. His planners worked to decentralize production, establishing factories in the Soviet Far East – a wise strategy, as later events proved. Hitler saw the spread of communism with alarm; likewise, Stalin saw the fascist states of Germany and Italy as equally threatening, and encouraged the spread of communist ideology and supported left-wing coalitions. The two ideologies clashed violently in Spain. In 1936, rebellious Spanish army officers began plotting to overthrow the leftist, pro-Soviet government. The Spanish Civil War erupted in July 1936, and Hitler sided with the anti-government faction (Nationalists), providing military aid. Fearful of losing Spain to fascism, Stalin countered by sending in Soviet “volunteers.” Thus, the Germans and the Sonets fought and tested each other’s military capabilities in this dress rehearsal for the Great Patriotic War.
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31
Jul
08

Santa Anna’s Mexican Army 1821-48

Flintlock Mexican cavalry carbine, C1790-1847. According to the label pasted to the butt, it was captured at the battle of Churubusco in August 1847, and presented to Capt John H.Jackson, 9th US Infantry. The weapon has no maker’s marks; Mexico had no arms manufacturers and depended upon imports, especially from Great Britain. However, this piece bears a marked resemblance to late 18th century Spanish carbines; although it conforms to no exact Spanish army model, points of resemblance include the distinctive miquelet lock, brass trigger guard and butt plate. The fairly crude wooden stock appears to be of Mexican make with the metal parts fitted locally. Trooper, Active Militia cavalry, c1826, wearing a new uniform imported from England. Several British banks, which had loaned money to Mexico and arranged this, improved on the Mexican regulation uniform by adding white tape and buttons – this extra lacing was later omitted. The helmet is black; the coat is green with red cuffs edged white and a white collar edged red (possibly a colorist’s error); gray trousers have leather strapping and a red stripe; green saddle cloth and valise are edged white, and there is red binding on the horse’s tail. From a print by Claude Linati. Active Militia cavalrymen at Guazacualco, south of Vera Cruz, C1826, from a print by Claude Linati. They wear broad hats and white linen clothing in this tropical region. Some were not as well appointed in January 1832, when they formed part of Santa Anna’s rebel army.
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31
Jul
08

Vietnam ANZACz – Australian & New Zealand Troops in Vietnam 1962-72

The first Australians to deploy to Vietnam in 1962 were, like the first Americans, military advisers tasked with training the fledgling South Vietnamese Army. The Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (AATTV) – soon abbreviated to The Team’ – would serve in Vietnam for more than ten years, and would become Australia’s longest serving and most decorated unit for its small size. Members of the AATTV were all career officers and senior NCOs, mainly from the infantry, SAS and the Commando companies, with a leavening of signallers, engineers and other specialists. All were hand-picked for the task, being experts in the newly defined art of ‘counter-revolutionary warfare’ (CRW). Most had served in Malaya, and within the unit was a reservoir of experience and practical knowledge that the Americans were keen to exploit. As well as being an unquestionable military asset, the Team also represented a visible reminder of the spirit of the ANZUS Treaty, and members were encouraged to wear ‘Australia’ titles on uniform and to fly the Australian flag at their Saigon headquarters.
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31
Jul
08

Wehrmacht Combat Helmets 1933-45

Beginning in 1942, manufacturers were required to adopt an eight-digit national business number (Reichs Betriebs Nummer – often abbreviated ‘RBNr.’). This code number – intended to mask company trademarks from Allied intelligence – replaced manufacturing marks on all forms of military clothing and equipment until May 1945 (e.g. see Table 6B). Many Luftwaffe chinstraps were also marked with a military supply office (Luftwaffe Bekleidungs Amt – L.B.A.) stamp for tracking purposes. This mark was generally impressed into leather articles by both stamp and ink; on chinstraps it was placed centrally on the inside of the long end of the strap. In the early years a letter designating the location of the supply office that approved the requisition and the year of issue often followed the mark. For example, the Luftwaffe office in Stuttgart marked equipment with L.B.A.S., and that in Berlin with L.B.A.B.; in most cases these markings were discontinued from standard application after 1940.
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