They were veterans before they started

Friday, May 24th, 2019

No ordinary military organization, Dunlap says, whether regular unit or of conscript personnel, can stand against one of the special units of anywhere near equal strength:

Among the special forces themselves, I doubt if any is much better than any other. Germany had Storm Troops or shock troops, England had her Commandos and the U.S. had the Rangers, and Marine Raiders. All had paratroopers. The universal characteristics of these organizations are the physical and mental conditions of the men. Almost all members were young and very good physical specimens. Practically all were volunteer units, appealing to the athletic and adventurous personality. They received incredibly strenuous and dangerous training, learning far more about warfare and weapons than the average combat soldiers. Because they were picked men, knowing they were good, their spirits were always higher than those of comparable ordinary forces. Intensely practical specialized courses of combat training toughened them before they even went into action, so that for all purposes, they were veterans before they started. Had casualties, too — of 500 Commandos who went through a special training range at Benghazi, 17 were killed in that training.

Some of the records these selected-man outfits set in the war are almost unbelievable. A German unit, on foot, in the invasion of Poland in 1939 averaged 40 kilometers (about 25 miles) advance per day for 12 days, with full equipment. I cannot locate the number of the outfit, but remember they were know as the “Foot Panzers” afterward because of that march. In North Africa the U. S. 1st Rangers covered 16 miles in two hours and ten minutes, (including a ten-minute break) with full field equipment, on foot. Parachutists in training were never allowed to walk, even for a few steps between buildings in camps. Had to run.

One of the characteristics of these special units was their ability to fight an action and suffer far fewer casualties than an ordinary unit in similar circumstances. The men were just more alert and better trained, I guess, as well as being better physically. They were tough. The German paratroopers who defended Cassino made a stand that stopped the Allies cold. American bombs knocked the town down; the British could not take what was left, even with Ghurka and American help; The New Zealand Division could not take it; and finally, when it was completely surrounded and cut off, fanatical Poles overwhelmed the survivors. The fighting lasted months. Nobody can tell me that a German regular army unit would not have surrendered early, when the situation became hopeless, but Goering’s boys were ordered to hold up the advance and they held it up. The four U. S. Ranger Battalions were the equivalent of a regular division in infantry power.

Even the Italian selected units, such as the Folgore Parachutist Division, were good soldiers. The rank and file of the Italian army were poor fighters, but it is hard to actually say how poor, because the majority of the men thought they were on the wrong side and did not try very hard! Most of them favored England and America more than Germany, so they did not work hard at the war, even when their side was apparently winning. Some of the Fascist units, hopped up politically, did fair fighting, comparable with good average work anywhere. The closest thing Italy had to special units comparable with other nations’ were the San Marco Marines, a semi-naval force, somewhat like our own Marines.

My opinion of our U.S.M.C. is not very flattering. The prewar permanent Marine was a lot different from the war type, who was essentially only a better physical class of army man. He received somewhat better training as a fighting man, but the best thing about the Marine Corps is its spirit. The men have much higher morale and regard for their organization than either Army or Navy. Their fighting tactics stink. The usual Marine landing operation was a Purple Heart expedition from start to finish. They did not seem to use good sense. Naturally, I was not along on any of their beachheads, but I am satisfied that my information is straight. It comes from individual Marines, sailors and official pictures.

If a cavalryman had acted like they did on an invasion, his own pal would have shot him as being too damn dangerous to have around. Marines went in standing up; they bunched on beaches; charged machine guns; ran up on caves with flame-throwers; threw grenades like rocks; and in general acted like characters in a movie rather than trained soldiers who might do better if they lived longer. I saw countless true combat moving pictures where Marines got themselves knocked off needlessly (I can tell the difference between phony and real “action” pictures pretty well — I was a “German” in a phony war news-reel once in Africa). To anyone who was ever mixed up in the Pacific war, the Marine casualty lists are understandable. The guys were always getting medals for having both hands blown off while saving the general’s lunch or something else just as sensible.

Marines were mixed up in a lot of screwy operations, too. Betio, called “Tarawa” after the atoll it is a part of, was a fine example. To a lot of people besides myself that scrap looked as though the Nips built up a strong point and dared the Marine Corps to try and take it, and the Marines could not take the dare. Just what the hell the importance of taking Tarawa was, no one can really find out. It was not worth a hoot to either the Japs or ourselves for either defense or offense on anything except the smallest possible scale. In the whole Gilbert Islands the only one of importance to us was Makin, the northern key of the chain, which was taken without too much trouble. As an outer-perimeter Japanese seaplane base, Tarawa could have been easily neutralized from Makin by air. According to the Navy grapevine, General MacArthur was against the operation, but as it was a Navy show and they insisted, he could not stop it.

He learned in the tropics that medicine must be injected into the veins

Thursday, May 23rd, 2019

One thread of Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich — which, again, is on sale for just $2.99 on Kindle — describes how Blitzkrieg was made possible by Pervitin, or methamphetamine. Another thread explores Hitler’s own drug use under the “care” of his personal doctor, Dr. Theodor Morell, who gave up his own practice for the opportunities offered by becoming a trusted crony.

Morell had built his practice on cutting-edge treatments, like vitamin injections:

For male patients he might include some testosterone with an anabolic effect for muscle building and potency, for women an extract of nightshade as an energy supplement and for hypnotically beautiful eyes.

He first joined the Nazi party for protection. He was swarthy and thus under suspicion. Then he got the call to help the party by handling a delicate problem for the Official Reich Photographer, Heinrich Hoffmann:

Hoffmann, who owned the copyright for important photographs of the dictator, published large numbers of picture books called things like Hitler as No One Knows Him or A Nation Honors Its Führer and sold them by the millions. There was also another, more personal reason that linked the two men: Hitler’s lover, Eva Braun, had previously worked as an assistant for Hoffmann, who had introduced the two in his Munich photographic shop in 1929.

That led to a meal with the Führer:

His only chance of acceptance lay in his injections, so he pricked up his ears when Hitler, in the course of the evening, talked almost in passing about severe stomach and intestinal pains that had been tormenting him for years. Morell hastily mentioned an unusual treatment that might prove successful. Hitler looked at him quizzically — and invited Morell and his wife to further consultations at the Berghof, his mountain retreat in the Obersalzberg near Berchtesgaden.

[...]

That was, he claimed, due to the bad treatment given to him by his previous doctors, who couldn’t come up with anything but starving him. Then if there happened to be an abundant dinner on the program, which was often the case, he immediately suffered from unspeakable bloating and itchy eczema on both legs, so that he had to walk with bandages around his feet and couldn’t wear boots.

Morell immediately thought he recognized the cause of Hitler’s complaints and diagnosed abnormal bacterial flora, causing poor digestion. He recommended the preparation Mutaflor, developed by his friend the Freiburg doctor and bacteriologist Professor Alfred Nissle: a strain of bacteria that had originally been taken from the intestinal flora of a non-commissioned officer who had, unlike many of his comrades, survived the war in the Balkans without stomach problems. The bacteria are kept in capsules, alive, and they take root in the intestine, flourish, and replace all the other strains that might lead to illnesses.

That opened the door to more treatments:

The dictator always hated being touched by other people and refused treatment from doctors if they inquired too invasively into the causes of his ailments.

[...]

For Hitler it made sense: “Morell wants to give me a big iodine injection as well as a heart, liver, chalk and vitamin injection. He learned in the tropics that medicine must be injected into the veins.”

[...]

The glucose, administered intravenously, gave the brain a blast of energy after twenty seconds, while the combined vitamins allowed Hitler to address his troops or the people wearing a thin Brownshirt uniform even on cold days without showing signs of physical weakness.

Morell was rewarded:

The elegant villa, surrounded by a hand-forged iron fence, at 24–26 Inselstrasse, wasn’t a complete gift: the Morells had to buy it themselves, for 338,000 reichsmarks, although they did receive an interest-free loan of 200,000 reichsmarks from Hitler that was later converted into a fee for treatment.

Morell had to employ domestic servants and a gardener, and his basic expenses soared, even though he wasn’t automatically earning more.

Dr. Morell was even directly, if rather oddly, involved in the defeat of Czechoslovakia:

On the night of March 15, 1939, the Czech president, Emil Hácha, in poor health, attended a more or less compulsory state visit to the new Reich Chancellery. When he refused to sign a paper that the Germans laid in front of him, a de facto capitulation of his troops to the Wehrmacht, he suffered a heart attack and could no longer be spoken to. Hitler urgently summoned Morell, who hurried along with his case and his syringes and injected the unconscious foreign guest with such a stimulating medication that Hácha rose again within seconds, as if from the dead. He signed the piece of paper that sealed the temporary end of his state. The very next morning Hitler invaded Prague without a fight.

Dr. Morell didn’t quite fit in:

It didn’t do him any good that he had himself made a fantasy uniform based on his own designs, with gold rods of Asclepius on its light grey and green collar, so that he didn’t have to go walking around in plain clothes anymore. His ridiculous outfit only earned him mockery from the generals. When he added an SS buckle to his black belt, objections were raised immediately because he wasn’t a member of the SS, and he had to get rid of it. He then, rather helplessly, chose a gold buckle that looked like something out of an operetta. He was envious of his rival, Hitler’s surgeon, who had a proper Wehrmacht rank.

Dr. Morell had to find a way to use his position to make money, so he started making Vitamultin bars — first for the Führer, then for the people under him:

For the senior officers of the Wehrmacht and important members of the staff he made a brand stamped “SRK” — Sonderanfertigung Reichskanzlei (“special product for the Reich Chancellery”) — wrapped not in gold but in silver. Soon the senior officers were fighting over the moderately tasty sweets, which were ostentatiously consumed at military briefings. Morell wrote contentedly from the Führer’s headquarters to his wife: “Vitamultin is proving a great success here. All the gentlemen are very appreciative of it, and recommend it to their families at home.”

[...]

At a personal discussion with Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS, Morell touted the usefulness of Vitamultin in Scandinavia: it was demonstrably clear that an increased intake of vitamin C improved night vision, and up there it was often dark.

After the war U.S. agents got very little out of Morell:

He is communicative, often gets lost in meaningless trivia when making his statements, and tries to replace the very obvious gaps in his memory with fictions, which often leads to contradictory information…. At different times the patient’s psyche shows a completely different picture…. In the case of Professor Morell this is plainly a mild form of exogenous psychosis, caused by the fact of his imprisonment. This in no way limits his accountability. On the other hand, his credibility should not be viewed as complete because of the presence of memory gaps which he attempts to bridge with fictions.

Dr. Morell clearly kept busy throughout the war, treating “Patient A”:

From August 1941 until April 1945 the doctor treated his patient on a more or less daily basis. There are accounts for 885 of these 1,349 days. Medications were recorded 1,100 times, as well as almost 800 injections, about one per recorded day. Every now and again the needles themselves are cleanly stuck on to the notes, as if to give an outward appearance of transparency and conscientious documentation. Morell was afraid of the Gestapo; he knew that personal physicians have always lived dangerously.

[...]

This time vitamins and glucose didn’t work as they had done before. Nervously and with excessive haste Morell prepared a mixture of Vitamultin and calcium, and combined it with the steroid glyconorm, a hormone preparation that he had manufactured himself, which consisted of extract of cardiac muscle, adrenal cortex, and the liver and pancreas of pigs and other farm animals.

[...]

To combat the stinging pains caused by the mishap Hitler was given twenty drops of dolantin, an opioid whose effects are similar to those of morphine. But the dysentery-like diarrhea persisted.

[...]

This soon included such diverse substances as Tonophosphan, a metabolic stimulant made by the company Hoechst, chiefly used nowadays in veterinary medicine; the hormone-rich and immune-system-boosting body-building supplement Homoseran, a by-product of uterine blood;23 the sexual hormone Testoviron to combat declining libido and vitality; and Orchikrin, a derivative of bulls’ testicles, which is supposed to be a cure for depression. Another substance used was called Prostakrinum and was made from seminal vesicles and the prostates of young bulls.

[...]

Morell proudly described the unusual pit stop: “Train stopped mid-journey for glucose i.v. then Tonophosphan forte and Vitamultin Calcium i.m. to the Führer. All done in eight minutes.”

[...]

The injections increasingly determined the course of the day: over time the Führer’s medical mixture was enriched by over eighty different, and often unconventional, hormone preparations, steroids, quack remedies, and balms.

[...]

This polytoxicomania, which developed in the second half of 1941, sounds bizarre, even for an age in which steroid and hormone research could not begin to guess the effects of the complex interactions of these highly potent substances on the human constitution. Hitler understood less than anyone what was going on in his body.

[...]

A week later Patient A asked his personal physician for advice. Göring had told him he took a medication called Cardiazol when he felt weak and dizzy. Hitler wanted to know “whether that would also be good for him, the Führer, if he felt a bit funny at important occasions.” But Morell refused: for him, Cardiazol, a circulatory stimulant for which it is difficult to give precise dosages, and which also raises the blood pressure and can easily lead to seizures, was too risky for Hitler, who now had heart problems. But the doctor had understood the message: his boss was asking for stronger remedies to help calm his nerves over the intensifying crisis in Stalingrad. Morell would soon rise to the challenge.

[...]

For the second quarter of 1943, in the bottom right corner of file card “Pat. A,” a substance is listed and underlined several times: Eukodal. A drug manufactured by Merck in Darmstadt, it came on to the market as a painkiller and cough medicine in 1917, and was so popular in the 1920s that the word “Eukodalism” was coined. Its extremely potent active ingredient is an opioid called oxycodone, synthesized from the raw material of opium.

[...]

A U.S. Secret Service report written after the war and all eyewitness accounts confirm that Hitler was hyped up at his meeting with Mussolini in the Villa Gaggia near Feltre in the Veneto. The Führer talked for three hours without a break in a dull voice to his beleaguered fellow dictator, who didn’t get a single opportunity to speak but just sat impatiently with his legs crossed on the edge of a chair too big for him, frantically gripping one knee.

[...]

Hitler’s closest colleagues, like the members of his High Command, who were not au fait with these drug fixes, often reacted with incomprehension and disbelief to their Führer’s unrealistic optimism. Did Hitler know something they didn’t? Did he have some kind of miracle weapon up his sleeve that could turn the war around? In fact it was the immediate high of the injections that allowed Hitler to feel like a world ruler and gave him a sense of the strength and unshakable confidence that he needed to make everyone else keep the faith in spite of all the desperate reports coming from every front. A typical Morell entry from this period: “12.30 p.m.: because of talk to the General Staff (c. 105 generals) injection as before.”

[...]

On his birthday Patient A’s personal physician injected him with a cocktail of “x,” Vitamultin forte, camphor, and the plant-based coronary prophylactic Strophanthin,117 followed the next morning by an injection of Prostrophanta, a concoction for heart conditions made by Morell’s company, Hamma. There were also intravenous injections of glucose, more Vitamultin, and, as the cherry on the cake, a homemade preparation of parasite liver, whose intramuscular injection would immediately brand a medical practitioner today as a quack, and possibly put him behind bars.

When Hitler was almost assassinated, he hardly noticed the damage the bomb blast had done to him. He was then treated by a specialist:

But Hitler wasn’t bothered. His two burst eardrums were bleeding, but even that didn’t trouble him, and he impressed everyone with his apparent courage.

[...]

In reality Hitler had been more severely affected than it at first appeared. He had lost his hearing almost entirely and he began to have severe pains in his arms and legs as the effects of “x” abated in the evening. Blood was still flowing uninterruptedly from both ears.

[...]

Examining Hitler’s burst eardrums, Giesing found a marked sickle-shaped tear in the right ear and a smaller injury in the left. When treating the sensitive tissue with acid, he admired Hitler’s extraordinary impassivity. He felt no pain any more, Patient A boasted. And, in any case, pain only existed to make people harder. Giesing couldn’t have guessed that perhaps he didn’t feel the pain because he had been given drugs by his personal physician shortly beforehand.

[...]

But Giesing didn’t come to his Führer empty-handed either. His favorite remedy for treating pains in the ear, nose, and throat area was cocaine, the very substance the Nazis abhorred as a “Jewish degeneration drug.” This choice is not as unusual as it might seem as not many alternatives for local anesthesia were available at the time, and cocaine was stocked as a medicine in every pharmacy. If we can believe Giesing, the only source in this case, between July 22 and October 7, 1944, on seventy-five days, he administered the substance over fifty times in the form of nose and throat dabs, a highly effective surface application.

[...]

According to Giesing’s report he claimed that “on cocaine he felt considerably lighter and carefree, and that he could also think more clearly.” The doctor explained to him that the psychotropic wave was the “medicinal effect on the swollen nasal mucous membrane, and that it was now easier to breathe through the nose. The effect usually lasted between four and six hours. He might have a slight cocaine sniff afterward, but it would stop after a short time.”

[...]

“It’s a good thing you’re here, doctor. This cocaine is wonderful, and I’m glad that you’ve found the right remedy. Free me from these headaches again for a while.”

[...]

“Please don’t turn me into a cocaine addict,” he said to his new favorite doctor, to which Giesing replied, reassuringly, “A real cocaine addict snorts dry cocaine.”

[...]

Giesing obeyed and administered the drug, this time in such a dose that Hitler is believed to have lost consciousness and for a short time there is supposed to have been a danger of respiratory paralysis. If the account given by Giesing is accurate, then the self-described abstainer almost died of an overdose.

[...]

In late September 1944, in the pale light of the bunker, the ear doctor, Giesing, noted an unusual coloration in Hitler’s face and suspected jaundice. The same day, on the dinner table there was a plate holding “apple compote with glucose and green grapes” and a box of “Dr. Koester’s anti-gas pills,” a rather obscure product. Giesing was perplexed when he discovered that its pharmacological components included atropine, derived from belladonna or other nightshade plants, and strychnine, a highly toxic alkaloid of nux vomica, which paralyzes the neurons of the spinal column and is also used as rat poison.

The side-effects of these anti-gas pills at too high a dose seemed to correspond to Hitler’s symptoms. Atropine initially has a stimulating effect on the central nervous system, then a paralyzing one, and a state of cheerfulness arises, with a lively flow of ideas, loquacity, and visual and auditory hallucinations, as well as delirium, which can mutate into violence and raving. Strychnine in turn is held responsible for increased light-sensitivity and even fear of light, as well as for states of flaccidity.156 For Giesing the case seemed clear: “Hitler constantly demonstrated a state of euphoria that could not be explained by anything, and I am certain his heightened mood when making decisions after major political or military defeats can be largely explained in this way.”

They love the U.S. now

Thursday, May 23rd, 2019

Dunlap had strong opinions about Japan and the American occupation:

Japs always talked, once they were resigned to capture, for in their army, no man was ever supposed to be captured or surrender, hence no instructions regarding security of information could be issued. Our Counter-Intelligence Corps men, the Japanese-Americans, could find out everything the Nips knew — even to persuading them to draw maps for us! Incidentally, those men did a job, and no white American soldier ever said anything against them, or against the magnificent 100th Infantry, who made such a great record against the Germans in Italy, all members of that unit being of Japanese ancestry.

[...]

They love the U.S. now. Sure, they are a hypocritical batch of little monkeys and can bow without straining their honor, but I do not believe they are being so insincere. After all, we went into Tokyo wide open for anything, and met not even mental resistance. The Emperor was head man and his wish was law but even his personal instructions could not have restrained every single individual Japanese who had suffered at our hands had they been disposed to start trouble. Hundreds of thousands of the people of Tokyo had died under our fire bombs — probably the majority of those still alive had lost relatives and friends. In spite of this, they seemed to wash out their feelings and start clean. They wanted our sympathy for damage done to them by ourselves, but leaned over backward assuring us that they did not really blame us and held no hard feelings about it! They could not lick us so they want to join us, and want very much to have the U.S. on their side, in any role we want to play.

I think General MacArthur has been a wonderful administrator for Japan and that he has left little to be desired as a governor. His very name symbolizes American power and determination to the Japs and his aloof, impersonal decisions are just the thing for the Japanese mind to accept. So far as Japan is concerned, he is Mr. United States, in person.

Compared with the German government by the Allied commissions, our Japanese set-up has been 99.44% perfect. Of course, the Nips are easier to deal with — their basic government was not changed — they do as they are told, etc. Ito would like to be honorary American, please.

No nation or race had a sole claim to courage

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2019

Dunlap shares some miscellaneous thoughts on men, officers, and war:

Someone a long time ago said that no nation or race had a sole claim to courage, or words to that effect, and how right he was. As to soldiering, the Germans are probably the best, because they seem to enjoy the regimentation and cooperation necessary in most military endeavors. A German soldier remembered his training and used it, while most others kept their thoughts on home or the past until they were in the mill. They were inclined to pretend all military operations were on a high military plane, professionally, you know, and as a rule treated prisoners well enough. Many a wounded Allied soldier received the finest medical care from them. British Eighth Army men told of German medical corps men working side by side with their own during and after battles.

There was a little cruelty in German POW camps. Also, more than one British soldier, wounded badly, was booby-trapped by Afrika Korps men. American and British prisoners were sometimes shot (few soldiers feel angry about this — Americans probably killed more prisoners than all the rst of the others combined). Most of the atrocity stuff was confined to civilians and done more by the Nazi political SS political units than regular army men.

But do not fall for that “Good German-Bad Nazi” line — they were all for Hitler and his plans, whether they belonged to the Nazi party or not. SS men did not fly the bombers over Rotterdam or Coventry. The German leaders were not all screwballs, as our propagandists painted them. Goering was one of the most intelligent organizers and leaders they had, even if he acted like a clown and was not always backed up by the ground forces. Rommel was a top-notch field commander, and Guderian just about as good. Von Runstedt has been called the ablest army commander in the war by nonpartisan observers.

A Britisher once told me that they considered the Scots regiments the best fighting men in the world, because they were not only courageous, intelligent and cold-blooded fighters, but also because they seemed to actually enjoy combat. Next to them he rated the Ghurkas, saying they openly enjoyed fighting but were not as coldly calculating as the Scots. And he thought as a nation, the Germans produced the best armies.

I will go along with him, for with two wars to judge by, even I can see that it has been necessary to outnumber them and outweigh their equipment three to one, giving us the best of it. If they did not mix their military genius with a good percentage of stupidity, we would probably be speaking German now. They win the battles and lose the wars, always failing to see when they could win. Bad sense of timing, I guess. Their equipment and development work was of course very good, and production methods as good as ours in most cases. Item for item, their artillery was the best in use — but they did not have enough of it. Their tanks were better than ours in most respects. Their aircraft were good, but they did not have enough. Spread out and outnumbered in Russia, they lost millions of men, yet it was still a battle to take Germany. I can respect the German Army, but I do not like any part of it. It came so close to winning I hate to think about it.

As for the Japanese, he had just one strong point — he was not afraid to die. He was also patient and had plenty of physical endurance for his size. Many Nips were intelligent, but most were rather backward when it came to heads-up fighting. On a man-to-man basis in jungle work they were pretty good, but when equipment and large-scale teamwork entered the picture they did not have much or know what to do. They considered themselves better hand-to-hand fighters than Americans, which was the motivation behind most of their banzei charges (given up as a basic tactic about the middle of 1944). I will compliment them by saying I think they were about the ablest of all night prowlers, although they did not know enough about efficient exploitation of their training and ability. They seemed to think they could win the war if they could only scare us a little and a good deal of their effort went to that end rather than to real fighting. They were hard up for a lot of equipment. Good as they were at infiltration, they seldom had knives to fight with at night! What jobs of that kind turned up they had to use their long bayonets on. How they cut the grass and vegetation for their ever-present camouflage is beyond me. Once in awhile we would find one with a pocketknife. I saw one hara-kiri knife and one knife so oddly shaped it may have been a special equipment tool of some kind, and that is all the Jap cutting equipment I did see in a year in the Pacific fighting areas, excepting swords. Even in Japan in their army storehouses I found nothing at all in the way of machetes or sheath knives.

[...]

When they began their aggression against the U. S. they mistakenly tried frightfulness as a war tactic, on the childish assumption they could “dishearten” American soldiers. The result was for us to declare them out of bounds as humans and our combat soldiers destroyed Japs as they would vicious animals, exterminating divisions.

The adversary he was determined to defeat was fatigue

Tuesday, May 21st, 2019

A recent comment reminded me of Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich, which I just read — and which I just realized is now on sale for just $2.99 on Kindle.

I had naively assumed, from the tidbits I’d picked up over the years, that the Germans had used amphetamines in small quantities, near the end of the war, in the same way that they’d used any number of experimental weapons, but Germany was a drug-producing powerhouse going into the war, and methamphetamine was an important ingredient in Blitzkrieg, a drug that was seen as largely beneficial, unlike heroin and cocaine, which had been abused in the decadent Weimar Republic:

Under the trademark Pervitin, this little pill became the accepted Volksdroge, or “people’s drug,” and was on sale in every pharmacy. It wasn’t until 1939 that its use was restricted by making Pervitin prescription-only, and the pill was not subjected to regulation until the Reich Opium Law in 1941.

[...]

In Darmstadt the owner of the Engel-Apotheke, Emanuel Merck, stood out as a pioneer of this development. In 1827 he set out his business model of supplying alkaloids and other medications in unvarying quality. This was the birth not only of the Merck Company, which still thrives today, but of the modern pharmaceutical industry as a whole. When injections were invented in 1850, there was no stopping the victory parade of morphine.

[...]

In drugstores across the United States, two active ingredients were available without prescription: fluids containing morphine calmed people down, while drinks containing cocaine, such as in the early days Vin Mariani, a Bordeaux containing coca extract, and even Coca-Cola, were used to counter low moods, as a hedonistic source of euphoria, and also as a local anesthetic.

[...]

On August 10, 1897, Felix Hoffmann, a chemist with the Bayer Company, synthesized acetylsalicylic acid from willow bark; it went on sale as Aspirin and conquered the globe.

[...]

Eleven days later the same man invented another substance that was also to become world famous: diacetyl morphine, a derivative of morphine — the first designer drug. Trademarked as Heroin, it entered the market and began its own campaign.

[...]

In 1925 the bigger chemical factories joined together to form IG Farben, one of the most powerful companies in the world, with headquarters in Frankfurt.

[...]

In 1926 the country was top of the morphine-producing states and world champion when it came to exporting heroin: 98 percent of the production went abroad. Between 1925 and 1930, 91 tons of morphine were produced, 40 percent of global production.

[...]

The local alkaloid industry still processed just over 200 tons of opium in 1928.

[...]

The Germans were world leaders in another class of substances as well: the companies Merck, Boehringer, and Knoll controlled 80 percent of the global cocaine market.

[...]

Merck’s cocaine, from the city of Darmstadt, was seen as the best product in the world, and commercial pirates in China printed fake Merck labels by the million.

[...]

Peru sold its entire annual production of raw cocaine, over five tons, almost exclusively to Germany for further processing.

[...]

When Germany’s currency collapsed — in autumn of 1923 one U.S. dollar was worth 4.2 billion marks — all moral values seemed to plummet with it as well.

[...]

The icon of the age, the actress and dancer Anita Berber, dipped white rose petals in a cocktail of chloroform and ether at breakfast, before sucking them clean.

[...]

Forty percent of Berlin doctors were said to be addicted to morphine.

[...]

In Friedrichstrasse Chinese traders from the former German-leased territory of Tsingtao ran opium dens.

[...]

An early form of sex-and-drugs tourism from Western neighbors and the United States began, because everything in Berlin was as cheap as it was exciting.

[...]

1928 in Berlin alone 160 pounds of morphine and heroin were sold quite legally by prescription over the pharmacist’s counter.

[...]

The chairman of the Berlin Medical Council decreed that every doctor had to file a “drug report” when a patient was prescribed narcotics for longer than three weeks, because “public security is endangered by chronic alkaloid abuse in almost every case.”

[...]

“For decades our people have been told by Marxists and Jews: ‘Your body belongs to you.’ That was taken to mean that at social occasions between men, or between men and women, any quantities of alcohol could be enjoyed, even at the cost of the body’s health. Irreconcilable with this Jewish Marxist view is the Teutonic German idea that we are the bearers of the eternal legacy of our ancestors, and that accordingly our body belongs to the clan and the people.”

[...]

Expansion was also on the cards at Temmler. The head pharmacist, Dr. Fritz Hauschild, had heard how the Olympic Games in Berlin in 1936 had been influenced by a substance called Benzedrine, a successful amphetamine from the United States — and still a legal doping product at the time.

[...]

Hauschild turned to the work of Japanese researchers who had synthesized an extremely stimulating molecule called N-methylamphetamine as early as 1887, and crystallized it in its pure form in 1919.

[...]

The drug was developed out of ephedrine, a natural substance that clears the bronchia, stimulates the heart, and inhibits the appetite. In the folk medicine of Europe, America, and Asia, ephedrine had been known for a long time as a component of the ephedra plant and was also used in so-called Mormon tea.

[...]

Hauschild perfected the product and in autumn 1937 he found a new method of synthesizing methamphetamine. A short time later, on October 31, 1937, the Temmler factory patented the first German methylamphetamine, which put American Benzedrine very much in its shadow. Its trademark: Pervitin.

[...]

The molecular structure of this pioneering material is similar to adrenalin and so it passes easily through the blood and into the brain. Unlike adrenalin, however, methamphetamine does not cause sudden rises in blood pressure but works more gently and lasts longer.

[...]

Methamphetamine does not only pour neurotransmitters into the gaps but also blocks their reabsorption. For this reason the effects are long-lasting, often more than twelve hours, a length of time that can damage the nerve cells at higher doses as the intracellular energy supply is drawn into sympathy.

[...]

It was marketed as a kind of counter-drug to replace all drugs, particularly illegal ones.

[...]

“We live in an energy-tense time that demands higher performance and greater obligations from us than any time before,” a senior hospital doctor wrote. The pill, produced under industrial laboratory conditions in consistently pure quality, was supposed to help counteract inadequate performance and “integrate shirkers, malingerers, defeatists, and whiners” into the labor process.

[...]

Ranke, the leading defense physiologist in the Third Reich, had one main enemy. It wasn’t the Russians in the East or the French or the British in the West. The adversary he was determined to defeat was fatigue — a strange antagonist, hard to grasp, one that regularly knocked out fighters, put them on the ground, and forced them to rest.

[...]

In Ranke’s words: “Relaxing on the day of fighting can decide the battle…. Often in combat perseverance in that last quarter of an hour is essential.”

[...]

A claim preyed on his mind: supposedly this substance helped subjects achieve a 20 percent increase in lung capacity and absorb greater amounts of oxygen — standard measurement parameters at the time for increased performance. He decided to explore the subject in depth, testing a rising number of medical officers — 90 at first, then 150; he organized voluntary blind tests, giving them Pervitin (P), caffeine (C), Benzedrine (B), or placebos (S, for Scheintablette). Test subjects had to solve math and logic problems through the night until 4 p.m. the following day. The results seemed unambiguous; at around dawn the “S men” had their heads on their desks, while the “Pervitin gang” were still manically working away, “fresh-faced, physically and mentally alert,” as the experimental record has it. Even after over ten hours of constant concentration they still felt “that they wanted to party.”

But after the test sheets were evaluated, not all of Ranke’s findings were positive. Procedures that demanded greater abstract achievements from the cerebellum were not performed well by consumers of Pervitin. Calculations might have been carried out more quickly, but they contained more mistakes. Neither was there any increase in capacity for concentration and attention during more complex questions, and there was only a very small increase during less high-level tasks. Pervitin kept people from sleeping, but it didn’t make them any cleverer. Ranke concluded without a trace of cynicism that this made it ideal for soldiers, according to results gathered from what was probably the first systematic drug experiment in military history: “An excellent substance for rousing a weary squad…. We may grasp what far-reaching military significance it would have if we managed to remove natural tiredness using medical methods…. A militarily valuable substance.”

[...]

Less than a week before the start of the war he wrote to a military general surgeon at High Command: “Of course it’s a double-edged sword, giving the troops a different medicine which cannot be restricted to emergencies.”

[...]

The reports by the medical service on methamphetamine use in the attack on Poland, which began on September 1, 1939, and sparked the Second World War, fill whole dossiers in the Freiburg Military Archive.

[...]

War was seen as a task that needed to be worked through, and the drug seemed to have helped the tank units not to worry too much about what they were doing in this foreign country, and instead let them get on with their job — even if the job meant killing: “Everyone fresh and cheerful, excellent discipline. Slight euphoria and increased thirst for action. Mental encouragement, very stimulated. No accidents. Long-lasting effect. After taking four tablets, double vision and seeing colors.”

[...]

“The feeling of hunger subsides. One particularly beneficial aspect is the appearance of a vigorous urge to work. The effect is so clear that it cannot be based on imagination.”

[...]

A medical officer from the IX Army Corps raved: “I’m convinced that in big pushes, where the last drop has to be squeezed from the team, a unit supplied with Pervitin is superior. This doctor has therefore made sure that there is a supply of Pervitin in the Unit Medical Equipment.”

[...]

“An increase in performance is quite evident among tank drivers and gun operators in the long-lasting battles from 1 to 4 September 1939 and the reconnaissance division, which has used this substance with great success on tough long journeys at night, as well as to maintain and heighten attentiveness on scouting patrol operations,” another report read.

[...]

“We should particularly stress the excellent effect on the working capacity and mood among severely taxed officers at divisional headquarters, all of whom acknowledged the subjective and objective increase in performance with Pervitin.”

[...]

“Among the drivers many accidents, mostly attributable to excessive fatigue, could have been avoided if an analeptic such as Pervitin had been administered.”

[...]

“These contradictory reports make it clear beyond any doubt that Pervitin is not a harmless medication. It does not seem at all appropriate for it to be handed out at random to the troops.”

[...]

Alarmed at its prophylactic use, Ranke wrote: “The question is not whether Pervitin should be introduced or not, but how to get its use back under control. Pervitin is being exploited on a mass scale, without medical checks.”

[...]

How casually Pervitin was thought of, and how widespread its use was, is also apparent in the fact that Ranke himself took it regularly and freely reported the fact in his wartime medical diary as well as in letters. He eased an average working day with two Temmler tablets, using them to overcome his work-related stress and improve his mood. Even though he knew about the dangers of dependency, he, the self-appointed expert on Pervitin, drew no conclusions about his own use of the substance.

[...]

“It distinctly revives concentration and leads to a feeling of relief with regard to approaching difficult tasks. It is not just a stimulant, but clearly also a mood-enhancer. Even at high doses lasting damage is not apparent…. With Pervitin you can go on working for thirty-six to fifty hours without feeling any noticeable fatigue.”

[...]

As coffee had hardly been available since the start of the war, methamphetamine was often added as a substitute to pep up ersatz versions of the drink.

[...]

In November 1939 Conti made Pervitin available “on prescription only, in every case,” and a few weeks later delivered a speech in the Rathaus in Berlin to members of the National Socialist German Association of Doctors, warning against the “big, new threat of addiction, with all its side-effects, which faces us all.” But his words were not taken seriously and consumption continued to rise.

[...]

The “sickle cut” only had a chance if the Germans could drive day and night. No stopping, and, above all, no sleeping.

[...]

The so-called stimulant decree was sent out to a thousand troop doctors, several hundred corps doctors, leading medical officers, and equivalent positions in the SS.

[...]

“The experience of the Polish campaign has shown that in certain situations military success was crucially influenced by overcoming fatigue in a troop on which strong demands had been made. The overcoming of sleep can in certain situations be more important than concern for any related harm, if military success is endangered by sleep. The stimulants are available for the interruption of sleep. Pervitin has been methodically included in medical equipment.”

[...]

The recommended dosage was one tablet per day, at night two tablets taken in short sequence, and if necessary another one or two tablets after three to four hours. In exceptional cases sleep could be “prevented for more than twenty-four hours” — and was an invasion not an exceptional case? One possible negative side-effect according to the decree was “a belligerent mood.” Should that be seen as a warning or an inducement? “With correct dosage the feeling of self-confidence is clearly heightened, the fear of taking on even difficult work is reduced; as a result inhibitions are removed, without the decrease in the sensory function associated with alcohol.”

[...]

Eight hundred thirty-three thousand tablets could be pressed in a single day. An adequate amount; the Wehrmacht had ordered an enormous quantity for the army and the Luftwaffe: 35 million in all.

[...]

Methamphetamine was one such unusual means, and the men desperately needed it when General Guderian ordered: “I demand that you do not sleep for at least three days and nights, if that is required.”

[...]

The first battle began in the morning. The Belgian defenders had entrenched themselves near Martelange, a small border community, in bunkers on a hillside. In front of them lay a slope, several hundred yards of open terrain: impossible to take except by a frontal attack, which was apparent suicide. But that’s exactly what the pepped-up infantrymen of the Wehrmacht did. The Belgians, shocked by this fearless behavior, retreated. Rather than securing their position, as military practice would normally have decreed, the completely uninhibited attackers immediately chased after them and set their enemies unambiguously to flight. This first clash was symptomatic.

[...]

Until their capitulation the French were no match for Germany’s chemically enhanced dynamism. They kept acting too slowly, were surprised and overrun, and continually failed to grab the initiative. A Wehrmacht report dryly states: “The French must have been thrown into such confusion by the sudden appearance of our tanks that their defense was carried out very weakly.”

[...]

“We encountered the Germans everywhere, they were crisscrossing the terrain,” Bloch writes, describing the crazed confusion that the attackers were sowing: “They believed in action and unpredictability. We were built on immobility and on the familiar. During the whole campaign the Germans maintained their terrible habit of appearing precisely where they shouldn’t have been: they didn’t stick to the rules of the game…. Which means that certain, hardly deniable, weaknesses are chiefly due to the excessively slow rhythm that our brains have been taught.”

[...]

Contrary to later accounts, it had never been conceived consistently as a Blitzkrieg, but had, after the breakthrough at Sedan, boosted by the large-scale use of Pervitin on the German side, developed a dynamic of its own that was countered only by Hitler, who didn’t understand its speed.

[...]

Ranke’s superior, Army Medical Inspector Waldmann, also traveled to the warzone and praised Pervitin without directly specifying it: “Maginot Front broken through. Extraordinary marching achievements: 60–80 km! Extra supplies, increased performance. Evacuation — all much better than 1918.” In this war the German troops dashed over the summer countryside with unparalleled speed. Rommel, who by now was avoiding roads to go round the last French defense positions, often drove cross-country, and on June 17, 1940, traveling 150 miles, established a kind of “military world record.” The head of the Luftwaffe staff noted: “The marching achievements are incredible.”

[...]

Ranke, who was driving with Guderian and who had traveled over three hundred miles in just three days, was given confirmation by a medical officer of the Panzer troop that units were using between two and five Pervitin tablets per driver per day. German propaganda, however, tried to depict the surprisingly fast victory as proof of the morale of the National Socialists, but this had little bearing on reality.

The Moisin-Nagant is distinctly third-rate

Tuesday, May 21st, 2019

Dunlap gets around to describing Russian small arms:

In the rifle line, the U.S.S.R. used Moisin-Nagants, and M95 Winchesters in 7.62mm (.30 caliber); Pattern ‘14 Enfields and 1905 Ross rifles in .303 British caliber, and Mauser 98’s and M29’s in 7.9mm. The English arms were taken from Latvia in 1939 (England had given them to Latvia in 1918) and the Mausers were captured when Russia and Germany split Poland in 1939. The Winchester 95’s and a large percentage of the Moisin-Nagants were made in the U.S. during World War I. The Winchester is, I believe, the only lever-action rifle used in either War I or II as a military arm by any of the belligerents.

[...]

The Moisin-Nagant is distinctly third-rate — meaning not as good as the Mauser or Mannlicher systems, but it was apparently a cheap weapon to make, for Europe was flooded with them; also parts of Wisconsin.

[...]

Back in the old days in Russia, the peasant conscripts were usually completely illiterate and ignorant of the metric system, so their weapons were sighted on the old Russian system based on paces. Since the U.S.S.R. has worked up a fair education program in the past 25 years, they began marking their gun sights in the more efficient meters.

[...]

To explain, the Old Russian distance measuring method is based on the “arshin” (meaning “pace,” or step, equaling 28″ or .71 meters). Three arshins make one “sazhen” and 500 sazhens equal one “verst”; now you know what a verst is.

[...]

The Russians really concentrated on the autoloaders and they had some good ones — the Simonev 36 using the curved 15-round magazine, and the Tokarev 38 and 40 models, 10-shot repeaters.

[...]

That carbine is really an infantry weapon — only seven pounds. These guns of course use box magazines and can be clip-loaded as can Mauser and Lee-type rifles. They are gas-operated, as explained in the section of German semi-automatic rifles.

[...]

Several submachine guns, including .45 caliber lend-leased U.S. Reisings were used, the best being the M41 described under German guns. The Models 34 and 38 (Federofs) were simple blowback types, using 25-round straight magazines, and all were for the 7.63mm Russian pistol cartridge which is approximately the same as the Mauser 7.63 pistol cartridge in dimensions and ballistics.

[...]

The Nagant 7.62mm revolver was seven-shot, and used a cartridge case longer than the cylinder, with the bullet seated below the mouth of the case. When the cylinder revolved it moved back and then forward, placing the protruding end of the cartridge case in the rear of the barrel, the idea being to keep gas from escaping. The gun was smallbore and not very effective, but fairly reliable, and, as previously indicated, popular enough to be used by several other nations.

[...]

Personally, I think the diameter too small, though, of course, I would hate to be shot with a .30 caliber pistol.

[...]

The greatest asset of the Degtyarov is its ability to operate with an absolute minimum of lubrication, an important point in a cold country, and a point which caused the Germans to send quite a few of the guns to Africa in an effort to test them in desert conditions, where oil meant picking up sand and grit and dry guns were desirable.

The Norwegians are riflemen

Monday, May 20th, 2019

The Norwegians are riflemen, Dunlap notes:

Both the 1912 and 1895 models [of Norway's service rifle, the Krag-Jorgensen] are very well-built guns, with excellent stocks. The Norwegians are riflemen and know what stocks should be like for accurate shooting. All their rifles excepting the old Remington “Lund” have full pistol grips and high-comb buttstocks.

The payoff comes on the 1930 Model, probably the highest development in European military bolt-action rifles. It corresponds to our old DCM Springfield Sporter, though longer and undoubtedly a target model. This rifle was made for accurate shooting, with its semi-heavy barrel and aperture sights. The stock was true sporter length, with short forend, but it did have finger grooves. A full pistol grip buttstock with scant drop made for ease of sighting and American-type loop slings were used. The rear sight was a receiver aperture type, appearing very like our target sights, and very close to the eye. Elevation was from 100 to 1,100 meters, and provision was made for windage adjustment. Overall length of this 6.5mm deluxe job was 47.5″; barrel 30″; weight 11 pounds. No mention was made of its use with telescopic sights.

This was the only metallic-sighted rifle the Germans rated effective at 600 meters. They considered 400 meters the effective range of all other rifles used against them (including our Springfields), rating the telescopic-sighted sniper rifles good to 600 meters.

The French infantryman was considered a bayonet specialist

Sunday, May 19th, 2019

Dunlap can’t resist poking some fun at the French:

The French infantryman was considered a bayonet specialist rather than a rifleman and as such was equipped with long bayonets and lousy guns.

[...]

The Lebel was one of the better-known bayonet handles of its day.

[...]

There were modifications of stocks and sights on all, and at least some carbines had an unusual front sight, which was a double blade affair, with open center — the mark was caught between the blades rather than over a single sighting point. It simplified holding over on stationary targets, but I do not think it would be much good on moving ones, or in bad light.

Above the bolt rifles, France had a semi-automatic rifle left over from World War I, the M1918, which I suspect would have caused a furor in infantry tactics had they perfected it a year or so earlier and if they had had the sense to use it as a rifle rather than a supporting weapon. For 1918 it was good; for 1940, not so good. It was a gasoperated five-shot autoloader, caliber 8mm Lebel.

[...]

I do not believe either was ever made in numbers, and they were dropped after World War I because they were too expensive! The French have always been “thrifty” folk.

On submachine guns the French were hopeless.

[...]

French machine guns were quite sad.

Shooting in the army is discouraged

Saturday, May 18th, 2019

Dunlap shares some of his thoughts on pistols:

In the Pacific pistols were chiefly valuable against infiltrating Japs sneaking into our areas at night, and in foxholes or close-quarter fights handguns were easy to point and shoot in a hurry. I saw dozens of .45’s carried loaded and at full cock at all times in front areas of the 1st Cavalry Division, with the thumb safety in place. The men claimed that in a pinch it took too long to cock the hammer. It is a fact that the Colt type .45 is not too handy to cock with the thumb of the gun hand. For that reason I believe that the German P.38 was a desirable military arm because of its double-action feature.

My greatest objections to the U.S. .45 pistol were that it was both hard to shoot and inaccurate. For some reason — size of butt, psychology — I don’t know exactly what, it is much harder for the average man to hit a mark with a .45 autoloader than with almost any other handgun. He may take a .45 revolver and do fairly well, but give him the pistol and he is a lost ball in high weeds. With only a little practice (and some intelligent instruction) the pistol can be mastered well enough to be an effective short-range weapon, but as a rule, the soldier does not get practice. Shooting in the army is discouraged. Too much bother handling the range; use too much expensive ammunition; dangerous anyhow — may shoot somebody.

A lot of people will be insulted by my stating the gun is inaccurate. Most of them will probably be either target shots or ex-soldiers who had experience with good pistols. I am talking about service pistols, the kind of production-line tool issued to the military personnel, not a Colt commercial arm or a gunsmithed prewar Colt Army gun. The average issue .45 pistol will shoot about 20″ groups at 50 yards, and that is not good enough for me. Include the human error in the deal and the result is even worse.

None of the military pistols is perfect. The Polish Mod. 35 is probably the most rugged gun; the Luger the most accurate; the P.38 Walther the fastest to get into action; the Belgian GP the best-fitting and most effective for battle use because of its 13-round magazine; and the U. S. M1911 & 1911A1 the largest caliber, if you consider that an asset. I do not — I think .36 caliber big enough, which is a personal opinion only.

The Polish pistol should have a slightly smaller butt; the Luger is unreliable and the weakest of the 9mm high powered pistols; the P.38 has its butt proportions not so perfect, and its safety-hammer release is liable to breakage; the grip tang on the Browning is not large enough to protect large hands; the Colt has too many parts in the recoil system — link, floating guide, etc.

The .45-caliber 1911 now has a reputation as an extremely easy-to-shoot pistol with good accuracy — and carrying the gun loaded, with a round in the chamber, and cocked, with the safety on, is standard practice.

I cannot think of a better way to screw up a road junction

Friday, May 17th, 2019

Dunlap discusses .50-caliber Brownings:

For destroying thin-skins (unarmored vehicles) it was really the ticket, and often the boys used them on Nips in fairly open country, spraying tracers and the explosive incendiaries over the landscape at a great rate. Machine gunners told me that they could do phenomenal shooting at great ranges, using optical sights or firing indirectly, as do artillery pieces, but I do not know of any place in the Pacific where such use was made of these guns. Europe was much better suited to that sort of gun work, for I cannot think of a better way to screw up a road junction than to work a .50 up to within a couple or three miles, set it in a hollow, camouflaged, and every so often throw a few armor piercers or incendiaries over to the crossing. The blue-tipped incendiaries explode on contact, with flash, report and puff of smoke. All ground guns could fire single shots at choice and very accurate fire was possible. Even full auto-fire was not hard to control.

It can really mow things down

Thursday, May 16th, 2019

Dunlap felt that the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) was a good gun, but it required too much shop maintenance for use as a field weapon:

The BAR should not be considered a light machine gun, such as the Bren or the Breda 30 or the Degtyarov, but rather an automatic shoulder weapon, a flexible infantry arm only a half-step above the M1. I believe Browning intended it to be this kind of arm.

[...]

It fires from an open bolt and its strong spring jolts the gun enough to make accuracy rather a matter of hope than holding. Beyond 200 yards the BAR is mainly valuable as a harassing weapon; up to 200 it can really mow things down, in the hands of a good man. That is important, too; I think it takes longer to make a good BARman than a good rifleman. He needs plenty of practice with live ammunition.

[...]

One thing sure, if a man has any tendency to flinch, a Browning will intensify it. It took me two years to get used to shooting BARs, but I finally was able to master them, being able to completely control them.

There were times when real machine guns paid off:

Too, there were times in the early Pacific warfare when watercooled .30s paid dividends, but after the Nips woke up to the fact that nine out of 10 of their banzai charges ended with them running out of soldiers, business was not so booming.

[...]

For aircraft use, the faster a gun fires, the better.

The bazooka is a fine example of the Ordnance procedure

Wednesday, May 15th, 2019

The bazooka is a fine example of the Ordnance procedure, Dunlap says:

In its original form it was light, cheap and simple. If it worked, fine. If it did not, you threw it away and forgot it. Then the modifications began; a tube let go somewhere so henceforth they were wire-wrapped for strength. I don’t think that would help much if a rocket did pop in the barrel, but the ammunition was bettered also, and they seldom did. That was not very bad, for an alteration (wire-wrapping, I mean!). Then the battery holes in the wooden stocks had to be drilled out for standard size flashlight batteries rather than make the boys carry smaller ones as originally specified. So after that batteries were always stuck in the wood. Then a plastic optical sight was put on, it becoming opaque in three days. Extra guards were put on the front to keep some of the rocket trail from the operator and several types of front sights appeared. Then it was redesigned completely, into a two-piece type, coupling in the middle and with a magneto-principle trigger mechanism doing away with batteries. And a strap-iron shoulder piece. By now it was so heavy and cumbersome no soldier could carry the damn thing more than 50 yards on level ground. The last I heard was that they were trying to make it out of aluminum in order to get the weight down to a reasonable one-man load again. The intervening one-piece jobs were useful though, and the cavalry appreciated them. When they short-circuited and became helpless, they still served until repaired; being just the right length for corner poles on pyramidal tents.

The one great fault of American ordnance is that it can never let well enough alone

Tuesday, May 14th, 2019

As designed, the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) weighed less than 16 pounds, Dunlap notes, and was semi- as well as full-automatic. That was back in 1918:

When World War II broke, the gun weighed 19.4 pounds, was full-automatic only, and called the M1918A2 (between the two were three or four experiments in remodeling, including the 1922 machine rifle, one of the worse abortions). The one great fault of American ordnance is that it can never let well enough alone on any item. Rather than redesigning or adopting a new type, the original model is “modified” time and again. With each improvement the BAR got heavier and harder to handle, until even the boys up high began to blush (they got the weight below 20 pounds for the books by forgetting to count the adjustable butt rest, or monopod, a holdover from the machine-rifle job, and used for holding the guns nice and pretty for field inspections).

NATO’s material inadequacies were matched by a lack of will

Monday, May 13th, 2019

NATO began dropping bombs on Serbian forces in Kosovo on March 24, 1999:

America and NATO went to war in Kosovo for humanitarian reasons. There was no vital national interest at stake. The Serbs, already responsible for the lion’s share of the atrocities during the Bosnian war, were to be punished and deterred from further mass killings in their restive, majority-Albanian province of Kosovo. Proponents of intervention compared ethnic cleansing in Kosovo to the Holocaust, sometimes inflating the death counts of Serbian atrocities by a factor of 10. That the ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army was considered “without any questions, a terrorist group” by President Bill Clinton’s own special envoy to the Balkans was hand-waved away.

Kosovo gave birth to the idea of the responsibility to protect—“R2P” in international relations shorthand. R2P cast aside the Westphalian state system by declaring that when a government proved unwilling or unable to protect its people from crimes against humanity, it was the duty of other nations to intervene. British Prime Minister Tony Blair declared that Kosovo was “a battle between good and evil; between civilization and barbarity.” Established during America’s decade of unipolarity and hyperpower status, R2P thus implicitly called on America to be a force of intervention for global good.

Proponents of this doctrine unabashedly cast aside state sovereignty for the sake of humanitarianism. As would later come in Iraq, with no United Nations Security Council mandate, the war’s backers proclaimed that it had “legitimacy if not legality,” an argument that would be repeated a few years later in Iraq. R2P was celebrated by internationalists and interventionist human rights activists. After sitting on its hands for too long in Bosnia, America was now acting swiftly to prevent a potential genocide in Europe. At home as abroad, that “moral arc of the universe” was bending toward justice.

[...]

R2P proponents helped carry water for America’s disastrous wars in Iraq and Libya. R2P was not explicitly used by the Bush administration when it made the case for invading Iraq, but humanitarianism and Saddam Hussein’s undeniable brutality were used as rhetorical cudgels against those who dissented from this war of choice. In Libya, R2P was the casus belli. Intervention was explicitly and indeed solely justified by the responsibility to protect Libyan civilians in Benghazi from the coming wrath of dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Of course, the goal posts were quickly moved, as NATO airpower helped the rebels to win the civil war and Gaddafi was murdered in the street. Libya sank into further strife, with militias battling in the cities, foreign militants flooding in, and even slave markets appearing.

In Syria, humanitarian concerns only led the United States to arm jihadis and conduct a few feckless cruise missile strikes, rather than launch a full-scale invasion of yet another Arab country. One of the primary architects and apostles of R2P, then-UN ambassador Samantha Power, was left to sputter and rage about the atrocities of one side in the civil war.

The Kosovo campaign exposed the hollow force that NATO had become less than a decade after the end of the Cold War. All Western nations rightly took a peace dividend after the Soviet Union collapsed and the fearsome Red Army became the farcical Russian Army that (initially) couldn’t even subdue tiny Chechnya. The Europeans cut far more deeply than the United States, however. The vaunted Royal Air Force nearly ran out of bombs and spare parts in Kosovo. U.S. aircraft ended up conducting about two thirds of all sorties during the 78-day war and carried far more of the load in the early days of the campaign. Eighty-three percent of all munitions dropped were American.

American generals were unpleasantly surprised by the state of NATO air assets. The European NATO states were most lacking in the most critical capabilities: ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) and strike. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld initially rejected European assistance in the wake of the September 11 attacks, so struck was he by European military impotence in Kosovo two years prior.

The limits of NATO’s smart bombs and precision strike capabilities also became clear in Kosovo. Despite overwhelming technological superiority, including the first combat use of the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber and the now standard GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munition, coalition attrition of Serbian forces turned out to have been more limited than early reports indicated. Poor weather, Serb cunning, and legacy air defense capabilities combined to limit the air campaign’s effect on Serbian materiel. The Serbs built dummy tanks with wood, plastic sheeting, and camouflage netting; metal plates and even hot water were used to spoof NATO thermal sensors. It took NATO the first 12 days to conduct the same number of strike sorties that the U.S.-led coalition had achieved during the first 12 hours of Operation Desert Storm. When Serbian troops withdrew from Kosovo at the end of the campaign, they left in good order, having suffered perhaps 20 percent of the casualties the coalition had originally claimed to have inflicted.

NATO’s material inadequacies were matched by a lack of will. European member states demurred from an aggressive U.S. plan to bomb Belgrade from the outset, likely prolonging the air war. When they did sign on to a broader air campaign, European leaders insisted on micromanaging the target list, in the manner of President Johnson in Vietnam 30 years before. This centralization, risk aversion, and fixation on preventing civilian casualties would become familiar to those who served with NATO troops in Afghanistan a few years later.

Americans were right behind Europeans in risk aversion, however. Much of the indecisiveness of the air campaign was due to keeping NATO planes at high altitude to avoid the remaining Serbian air defense assets. Decoy tanks and dummy artillery pits were much tougher to spot at 15,000 feet than at 500. No pilots in body bags trumped operational effectiveness and decisive victory.

The biggest legacy of the Kosovo war came in its immediate aftermath. Russia had tried to position itself between its Western economic benefactors and its traditional Serbian ally. Russian mediation offers were rejected by the U.S., and air strikes on Belgrade inflamed Russian public opinion. Even Boris Yeltsin, who owed his reelection in 1996 to U.S. intervention (the original, reverse Russiagate), could not stand for this level of shame.

When Serbia capitulated, Russian troops rushed into Kosovo from neighboring Bosnia to seize the airport in the capital, Pristina. Elite Norwegian and British troops met the Russians at the airfield, but General Clark insisted on trying to block the runway to stymie Russian attempts to reinforce their 250-man company at Pristina. His more level-headed British subordinate, General Mike Jackson, refused to carry out Clark’s orders and reportedly told the hyper-ambitious Arkansan, “I’m not going to start the Third World War for you.” Cooler heads prevailed, no shots were fired, and Clark left his post early, headed for eventual irrelevance in the 2004 Democratic presidential primary. But the ailing and humiliated Yeltsin resigned six months later, giving the Russian presidency to Vladimir Putin.

The war had left Kosovo as an autonomous region of Yugoslavia and then Serbia, policed by NATO’s Kosovo Force (KFOR). But Serbia’s continuing authority over Kosovo was still internationally recognized. The Kosovars, frustrated with the pace of final status negotiations, unilaterally declared independence on February 17, 2008. The international community was and is divided on recognizing Kosovo’s sovereignty, but Russia’s reaction was unequivocal. Vladimir Putin described the recognition of Kosovo’s independence by the U.S. and many European nations as “a terrible precedent, which will de facto blow apart the whole system of international relations, developed not over decades, but over centuries.” He warned the West: “they have not thought through the results of what they are doing. At the end of the day it is a two-ended stick and the second end will come back and hit them in the face.”

Putin explicitly invoked Kosovo after his incursion into Georgia in 2008 and his annexation of Crimea in 2014. Speaking to the Russian State Duma on March 18, 2014, Putin quoted America’s April 2009 Written Statement to the UN International Court in support of Kosovo’s independence, and asked what made Kosovo a special case. He told the Duma’s deputies, “This is not even double standards; this is amazing, primitive, blunt cynicism. One should not try so crudely to make everything suit their interests, calling the same thing white today and black tomorrow.” Turnabout is fair play. America’s ill-considered endorsement of Kosovo’s independence not only deepened tensions with Russia, it quickly provided justification for Russian land grabs and wars on both sides of the Black Sea.

Regardless of America’s laudable intentions and aims, the Kosovo war proved a handmaiden of two decades of disastrous interventions abroad. American hyperpower hubris, set free in a tiny corner of the Balkans, would unleash far more disastrous interventions in far more important regions of the world. Then-secretary of state James Baker had said of Yugoslavia in 1991, “We don’t have a dog in that fight.” Since Kosovo, America has found fights wherever it looked for them.

What if he stops running the instant the gun goes off?

Monday, May 13th, 2019

Dunlap didn’t have much faith in long-range rifle fire:

Beyond 450 or 500 yards effective rifle shooting at humans is at the very least half luck, and do not believe anything else. Slight mistakes in range calculation mean considerable variation in points of impact. If the guy is moving at all, he can move enough to make you miss him during the time the bullet is in the air! I know all about leading a running mark, etc.; what if he stops running the instant the gun goes off?

[...]

The Springfield was considered the most accurate rifle we had, even though the average service rifle was no bargain as issued. Using M2 ball ammunition I was never able to make a Garand shoot better than 8″ groups at 200 yards, and, frankly, two-thirds of the Springfields would not do much better. I do believe, however, that if I had at least 10 new M1s to cross-check against each other, and switch parts here and there to change tolerances, it might be possible to get groups close to 4″, or two minutes of angle, although it might be necessary to experiment with handloaded ammunition or M1 ball service or National Match government loadings.

[...]

They all change their points of impact fast, as the thin barrel heats up, and the fact that the handguards and gas cylinder assembly are fastened to it and interfere with its vibration or whip, does not make for high accuracy.