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Thread: What Are You Currently Reading? 2014

  1. #101
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    In part:
    Quote Originally Posted by ganulv View Post
    Am I right to assume that some of the (indeed, deeply shocking) loss of life was of a piece with pre-War Stalinist political purging, economic reorganization, and social engineering?
    The scale of the purges is incredible:
    The purge of the .... removed three of five marshals (then equivalent to five-star generals), 13 of 15 army commanders (then equivalent to three- and four-star generals), eight of nine admirals (the purge fell heavily on the Navy, who were suspected of exploiting their opportunities for foreign contacts),50 of 57 army corps commanders, 154 out of 186 division commanders, 16 of 16 army commissars, and 25 of 28 army corps commissars.


    At first it was thought 25-50% of Red Army officers were purged, it is now known to be 3.7-7.7%. Previously, the size of the Red Army officer corps was underestimated, and it was overlooked that most of those purged were merely expelled from the Party. Thirty percent of officers purged in 1937-9 were allowed to return to service
    From:http://http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Purge

    My recollection is that the German military closely followed the Stalin era purges of the Red Army, which reduced its effectiveness, but as the Japanese learnt @ Khalkhin Gol they could still fight. See:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battles_of_Khalkhin_Gol

    After a disasterous start in the 1939 war with Finland, the Red Army gathered up its might and defeated the Finns. I assume the Germans altered their assessments.
    davidbfpo

  2. #102
    Council Member Firn's Avatar
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    What the book makes perhaps clearer is the impact of the purges and the executions of high ranking officers during Barbarossa. The flow of informations up ranks to Stavka seemed to work worse the worse the massage was. It seems that a relative strict hierachic system was put in place which meant that an urgent alarm had often to be checked and re-checked practically at every level with many along the command ladder understandably clearly not being happy to report bad news. Given a false one could result in being at best accused for spreading panic if not something worse.

    If one takes into account the 'blitz'* speed of some German armored thrusts in the more then usual chaos and friction of war this slow and erratic process with little mutal trust resulted in one particular instance described in the book, in which the Stavka was unaware of a German advance to the depth of a 100-120 km...

    In simplistic terms in some cases thousends of lives were thrown away because it was far safer to not achieve success by following strict (and outdated) orders from far away instead of risking success and one's life by fitting them to the specific (often completely changed) circumstances. Auftragstaktik it wasn't.

    P.S: It should have been 600,000 dead among the Finns, Romanians and Hungarians fighting against the Soviets during WWII. What surprised me was the quite strong reversed relationship of the Italians, Romanians and Hungarians compared to German when it came to KIA and MIA and deaths in Soviet hands. Of course MIA is a 'grey field' between KIA and deaths as POW and in the Italian case most were captured early in the war during that Winter offensive in an often sorry state by exhausted, often badly supplied troops sometimes unwilling to 'burden themselves'. Both sides are known to have shot, more often then not, prisoners unable to walk. All that greatly reduced the chances of many an Italian Alpini mentioned in 'Il sergente nella neve' to come home alive.

    P.P.S: It is of course important to keep in mind that a far larger part of the German (and German occupied) war ressources, especially capital and 'high-tech', was directed towards the Western allies then the manpower employed in the East might suggest. Wages of Destruction is an essential read.


    *I know, I know...
    Last edited by Firn; 10-28-2014 at 09:00 PM.
    ... "We need officers capable of following systematically the path of logical argument to its conclusion, with disciplined intellect, strong in character and nerve to execute what the intellect dictates"

    General Ludwig Beck (1880-1944);
    Speech at the Kriegsakademie, 1935

  3. #103
    Council Member AmericanPride's Avatar
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    ganulv,

    Am I right to assume that some of the (indeed, deeply shocking) loss of life was of a piece with pre-War Stalinist political purging, economic reorganization, and social engineering?

    Which is to say, being a Soviet citizen meant you had been dealt a bad hand, a situation that Operation Typhoon only exacerbated?
    Why qualify it as 'pre-war'? Even with the start of the war, the purges and repression did not slow down. The targets only shifted from kulaks and class enemies to 'traitors' and 'cowards'. Unfortunately from a historiography point of view, the periodization of the 20th century with the start of WWII disguises the continuation of Soviet democide (and genocide) among the exigencies of invasion.

    OTOH, it seems difficult to imagine a counterfactual Tsarist Russian economy turning back the Third Reich as did the centralized Leninist/Stalinist USSR’s.
    I suppose that depends on what we attribute to eventual Soviet victory or German defeat.
    When I am weaker than you, I ask you for freedom because that is according to your principles; when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is according to my principles. - Louis Veuillot

  4. #104
    Council Member mirhond's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ganulv View Post
    OTOH, it seems difficult to imagine a counterfactual Tsarist Russian economy turning back the Third Reich as did the centralized Leninist/Stalinist USSR’s.
    From The Cambridge Economic History of Europe, v.2, p. 147 (I'am currently reading it)
    More than a decade earlier, Stalin and his associates had drawn the appropriate lesson
    from Russia’s defeat in the First World War: small-scale peasant farming was
    Russia’s Achilles heel in wartime (Simonov 1996). Stalin had launched a drive
    to secure state control over the peasant farmers and their food surpluses by
    collectivizing the farms.The campaign was carried through at huge cost in lives,and the farming system that resulted was hated and inefficient (Davies and Wheatcroft 2004). But it achieved its goal in the sense that,when war broken out again, the peasant farmers no longer had the freedom to withdraw from the market.When food was critically short, when there was absolutely not enough food in the country to keep everyone alive and millions starved, the soldiers and war workers had enough to eat (Barber and Harrison 1991; Harrison 1996).
    Last edited by mirhond; 11-04-2014 at 09:49 PM.
    Haeresis est maxima opera maleficarum non credere.

  5. #105
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    "Journals of ROBERT ROGERS of the Rangers"

  6. #106
    Council Member ganulv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BushrangerCZ View Post
    "Journals of ROBERT ROGERS of the Rangers"
    I wrote a short online piece about RR last winter. If you’re interested, I started a thread around it after it went up: http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ad.php?t=19656

    I’m neither a military professional nor a trained military historian, but my understanding is that there were better than Rogers, but few better self-promoters.
    If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed. – Mark Twain (attributed)

  7. #107
    Council Member Backwards Observer's Avatar
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    Default it's funny 'cause it's true

    The Men in the Jungle by Norman Spinrad

    Songs from the Stars by Norman Spinrad

  8. #108
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    Quote Originally Posted by ganulv View Post
    I wrote a short online piece about RR last winter. If you’re interested, I started a thread around it after it went up: http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ad.php?t=19656

    I’m neither a military professional nor a trained military historian, but my understanding is that there were better than Rogers, but few better self-promoters.
    Thanks mate... will check it out

  9. #109
    Council Member Firn's Avatar
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    To understand the latter books about WWII better from the tactical side I'm slowly making my way through Taktik im Russlandfeldzug and 'Handbuch der Taktik' by the same author. A hat tip to Sven or Fuchs for both, it clarifies a lot (and creates a lot of new questions). Cross reading is sometimes quite fertile, helping you to see different angles.

    Interesting comment on the German Amazon page, about a Danish officer scoring best in class after it's study. The German (officer?) acquaintance bought it afterwards for his serving son.

    Taktik im Russlandfeldzug: Eike Middeldorf
    Von Klaus Veltz am 16. April 2014
    Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
    Ein daenischer Offizier, Bekannter von mir war, nach dem Studium dieses Buches, der Beste seines Lehrganges.
    Deshalb habe ich das Buch fur meinen Sohn, OLt, beschafft.
    P.S: In the 'Human Face of War' Jim Storr cites and incorporates some German experiences. When you start to recognize passages you have probably read to much...

    P.P.S: An Italian movie classic contains a famous scene with perhaps a nod to Stern's book. Many Russian dead were also ploughed over, with grain growing it.
    Last edited by Firn; 11-07-2014 at 10:15 PM.
    ... "We need officers capable of following systematically the path of logical argument to its conclusion, with disciplined intellect, strong in character and nerve to execute what the intellect dictates"

    General Ludwig Beck (1880-1944);
    Speech at the Kriegsakademie, 1935

  10. #110
    Council Member Firn's Avatar
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    An Italian movie classic contains a famous scence with perhaps a nod to Stern's book. The communista asks feebly why the Soviets, having so much land couldn't leave this little piece in peace. Don Camillo answers, quite harshly, that who suffered twenty million deaths can not preoccupy itself with some 50,000 or 100,000 which the enemy left in his home. Keep in mind that many Soviet dead were also ploughed over to grow grain.

    IIRC in the Viaz'ma Catastrophe a local farmer tells the author that while ploughing they tried hard to fix their eyes on the birch trees in the distances to see as little of the Soviets remains they moved.
    Last edited by Firn; 11-07-2014 at 10:33 PM.
    ... "We need officers capable of following systematically the path of logical argument to its conclusion, with disciplined intellect, strong in character and nerve to execute what the intellect dictates"

    General Ludwig Beck (1880-1944);
    Speech at the Kriegsakademie, 1935

  11. #111
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default One helluva tale: Welsh Guards in Helmand

    In June 2014 I posted a short review of 'Dead Men Risen', as below in Part B and a new review by a British Army veteran, with two tours in Helmand, appeared today on WoTR hence Part A:http://warontherocks.com/2014/11/the...ad-in-helmand/

    The book has now been released in the USA, minus any reviews:http://www.amazon.com/Dead-Men-Risen...Dead+Men+Risen

    Here is one poignant passage:
    And yet it is only now – four years later and reading a publically available book — that I am now fully aware of things like: the intent of previous commanders in that area of operation; why troops and patrol bases were laid out as they were; how the battle for Babaji had been fought and the casualty figures associated with it. Similarly, I do not remember ever being briefed that “this is spot where Lt Col Thornloe died” during the several instances when I drove straight over it. I do feel genuinely upset by this “new” revelation and I can’t help but think that we desperately need to get better at passing down the stories of previous deployments as they are quite obviously relevant to the people that follow them on the same spot of land.
    He ends with:
    Overall, I would strongly recommend (this book); it is as accurate and as full and frank a description of a UK Battle-Group deployment as you will find....
    Amazon link (UK) with 127 reviews:http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dead-Men-Ris...1712629&sr=1-3


    Part B

    In 2011 'Dead Men Risen:The Welsh Guards and the Defining Story of Britain's War in Afghanistan' by Toby Harnden was published, winning plaudits and prizes. The author is an accomplished journalist and writer. His book 'Bandit Country': The IRA and South Armagh (Hodder, 1999), was excellent and so I sat down expecting a similar read.

    'Dead Men Risen' was far better, harsh at times in portraying the campaigning, including the loss to an IED of the Welsh Guards CO. It combines interviews of a large number who served, with a good, balanced measure of criticism tactically and beyond.
    davidbfpo

  12. #112
    Council Member Backwards Observer's Avatar
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    Default the path of most resistance

    The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout Ph.D

    The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision by Fritjof Capra, Pier Luigi Luisi


    "Now only an expert can deal with the problem
    'Cause half the problem is seeing the problem." Laurie Anderson, Only An Expert

  13. #113
    Council Member mirhond's Avatar
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    Ed Macy. Apache

    The book of AH64D pilot on his mission in Afghanistan.

    I like to cite one good quotation which shows how the real power works:

    Back at the squadron’s place in the line, Geordie and Darwin had opened a book on who could get the longest handshake with the PM. It would mean holding on for as long as you could, even if he tried to tear himself away. They were also challenging the rest of the team to see who could ask him the oddest question and still get an answer.
    ‘Just make sure it’s all respectful, please. I still want a career in the army.’ The Boss hated every second of this.
    ‘I’ve got a belter,’ said Darwin. ‘Who’s got a camera?’
    A few of the boys had brought one down.
    ‘Right, here’s what Geordie and I are going to do. We’ll ask Mr Blair if he doesn’t mind a picture. When he says, “Yeah, sure, chaps, where do you want me?” we’ll say, “Just there’s fine thanks, sir,” and hand him the camera. I bet he’ll be so embarrassed he’ll take the picture anyway.’
    <...>
    Someone did ask for a photograph, but instead of pulling Darwin’s cheeky prank we all [people with the mindset of a professional assassin, by author's words] gathered sheepishly round Blair instead – Darwin included. The most rebellious we got was slipping the odd thumbs up to the camera behind Blair’s back as we posed up for the group snaps.
    Last edited by mirhond; 11-25-2014 at 10:25 PM.
    Haeresis est maxima opera maleficarum non credere.

  14. #114
    Council Member Firn's Avatar
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    I think looking at history moral courage, standing up against more powerful ones at one's risk, even if it is just for a prank, doesn't necessarily come easy (even) for people with a record of bravery on the battlefield. It's just not a very common human behaviour compared to toeing the line.
    Last edited by Firn; 11-28-2014 at 08:48 PM.
    ... "We need officers capable of following systematically the path of logical argument to its conclusion, with disciplined intellect, strong in character and nerve to execute what the intellect dictates"

    General Ludwig Beck (1880-1944);
    Speech at the Kriegsakademie, 1935

  15. #115
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  16. #116
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    Fukuyama's book http://www.amazon.com/The-Origins-Po..._bxgy_b_text_y

    I am only at chapter 5, so cannot say what the final impression will be, but it is a very ambitious work and until now, every chapter has added to my knowledge or made me think a little more. Looks good...

  17. #117
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Firn and I exchanged posts awhile back here on the WW2 campaigning in the Crimea and WoTR has a eeview of a new Osprey book:http://warontherocks.com/2014/12/a-l.../?singlepage=1

    Strangely the review hardly tells you about the book itself

    Amazon reviewers rate it highly:http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/178...EJY7TFI3PEYODC
    davidbfpo

  18. #118
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    Default freedom with colonial characteristics

    To the Far Right Christian Hater...You Can Be a Good Speller or a Hater, But You Can't Be Both by Bonnie Weinstein


    Colonialism and the Emergence of Science Fiction by John Rieder


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  19. #119
    Council Member Red Rat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Firn View Post
    The Human Face of War (Birmingham War Studies) by Jim Storr. For me so far a very insightful 'dense' read which takes more time then usual, which is a good sign. Got the kindle edition, which seems cheap for the value you get.
    Jim Storr is heavily involved with the Journal of Military Operations. The British Army senior leadership seems to regards him as part of the 'awkward squad', somewhat of an accolade I think.

    If you enjoyed The Human Face of War another book that is worth reading is:

    Brains and Bullets
    RR

    "War is an option of difficulties"

  20. #120
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    Default An Intimate War

    Simply a book to read and discover what Helmandis thought of the ISAF visit to their land. A second read is probably needed. Short of time? Read the introduction and the conclusion.

    Mike Martin's book 'An Intimate War: An Oral History of the Helmand Conflict' attracted publicity just before publication this year, when officialdom (UK MoD) sought to stop it; the author being a reserve Army officer, commissioned to conduct the research for a doctorate @ Kings War Studies.

    This is not a book about combat in Helmand Province, though fighting does appear, before 9/11 and after US / UK / ISAF appeared. Using numerous face-to-face interviews with Helmandis the author creates a narrative to explain what is both a simple tribal society and a complex operating environment. Minus the conflict, notably since the UK's arrival in 2006, some powerful Helmandis have made a fortune and the main US$ earner, opium poppy production has increased.

    The official legend that ISAF was fighting an insurgency for Afghanistans as represented by their government was not the reality Helmandis experienced.

    It is fascinating to read and learn that to Helmandis the terms 'government' and 'police' for two notable examples do not mean what we think they mean. Those two are privately-run enterprises to make US$ from enabling commerce - by 'protecting' road traffic and the drugs trade.

    That the Helmandis thought the British were allied with the Taliban (a factional, local coalition; with limited external ties and ISI support) took me by surprise. It seemed so illogical and was based on their long held hostility to the British, who in the First and Second Afghan Wars had invaded their homeland (not then called Helmand Province). The British were there for revenge and sadly repeated the Soviet approach to COIN. The Helmandis noticed that the small Estonian contingent included Soviet-era veterans.

    Within this confused, barely understood situation - one Helmandi told the author, even with his studying, he only knew 1% of what was happening on the ground - ISAF had various approaches. The use of SOF is criticised, partly as their targeting was based on rivals accussing them of being 'Taliban'.

    This book is similar to Carter Malkasian's book and if read together would give anyone a guide to what intervention in Afghanistan really faced. (My review of Carter Malkasian's book see Post 68 on:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=3192 ).

    No wonder the UK's former senior Army commander, General Sir David Richards writes this is THE book on Helmand.

    UK Amazon has many reviews:http://www.amazon.co.uk/An-Intimate-...pr_product_top

    Amazon.com has only one:http://www.amazon.com/Intimate-War-H...n+intimate+war
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 12-20-2014 at 05:02 PM.
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