Humvees with Chimneys

Monday, July 25th, 2011

The obvious way to protect Humvees from roadside bombs is to add armor, but the military is looking at a new design that protects them with chimneys:

The chimney was designed by a small Maryland firm, Hardwire L.L.C., which is working with AM General, an Indiana company that has built 270,000 Humvees since the mid-1980s. Hardwire is run by a colorful group of aeronautical engineers who say they took a fresh approach to evaluating how to make the vehicles safer.

George Tunis, the company’s chief executive, likened the chimney to an exhaust vent on a rocket.

He said that rather than just piling on more armor to absorb the blasts, as has been typical in the past, the idea was to disperse as much of the explosive energy as possible.

Tests show that the explosive gas from a roadside bomb can accelerate to speeds as high as Mach 4 in less than a millisecond, Mr. Tunis said, or far less time than it takes to blink an eye.

Mr. Tunis said the chimney, which is hidden next to a gunner’s turret atop the Humvee, is the biggest change. But like the mine-resistant vehicles, the Humvee prototypes have V-shaped steel bottoms to deflect parts of the blasts.

All Ideologies Are Wrong

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

I recently mentioned that Anders B. Breivik may have seemed like a potential terrorist from his Twitter profile, but his blog posts sounded like the work of a run-of-the-mill cultural conservative.

His manifesto lies somewhere between those two extremes. It starts with a dreadfully boring and somewhat desperate exhortation to spread the word, to translate his manifesto, to make it available in multiple formats, etc. — signed as follows:

Sincere and patriotic regards,
Andrew Berwick, London, England – 2011

Justiciar Knight Commander for Knights Templar Europe and one of several leaders of the National and pan-European Patriotic Resistance Movement

With the assistance from brothers and sisters in England, France, Germany, Sweden, Austria, Italy, Spain, Finland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, the US etc.

So, yeah, that part’s pretty nutty. (The Anglicized pseudonym is the least nutty part.)

Then he switches to an introduction — What Is “Political Correctness?” — that sounds awfully familiar.

In fact, his introduction is an edited version of William S. Lind’s “Political Correctness”: A Short History of an Ideology, a product of the Free Congress Foundation — which obviously does not endorse mass-murder to kick off a violent (counter)revolution:

As Russell Kirk wrote, one of conservatism’s most important insights is that all ideologies are wrong. Ideology takes an intellectual system, a product of one or more philosophers, and says, “This system must be true.” Inevitably, reality ends up contradicting the system, usually on a growing number of points. But the ideology, by its nature, cannot adjust to reality; to do so would be to abandon the system.

Therefore, reality must be suppressed. If the ideology has power, it uses its power to undertake this suppression. It forbids writing or speaking certain facts. Its goal is to prevent not only expression of thoughts that contradict what “must be true,” but thinking such thoughts. In the end, the result is inevitably the concentration camp, the gulag and the grave.

While some Americans have believed in ideologies, America itself never had an official, state ideology  up until now. But what happens today to Americans who suggest that there are differences among ethnic groups, or that the traditional social roles of men and women reflect their different natures, or that homosexuality is morally wrong? If they are public figures, they must grovel in the dirt in endless, canting apologies. If they are university students, they face star chamber courts and possible expulsion. If they are employees of private corporations, they may face loss of their jobs. What was their crime? Contradicting America’s new state ideology of “Political Correctness.”

But what exactly is “Political Correctness?” Marxists have used the term for at least 80 years, as a broad synonym for “the General Line of the Party.” It could be said that Political Correctness is the General Line of the Establishment in America today; certainly, no one who dares contradict it can be a member of that Establishment. But that still does not tell us what it really is.

One of the Great Problems of Defensive Warfare

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

One of the great problems of defensive warfare, von Mellenthin notes, is traffic congestion:

The difficulty was that the rear services of all front-line formations congregated at  the road junctions. During a Russian offensive these places became centers for people who were not keen to fight, and of masses of vehicles impossible to disentangle. If the Russians broke through, hundreds of thousands of vehicles were lost and had to be burnt; moreover, important movments of armor were drowned in this quagmire of men and vehicles. The root of the trouble was that life in the towns was easy and soft, and that the open country was dominated by guerrillas. It was perhaps the most effective, but least recognized consequence of guerrilla warfare, that all rear services crammed together in traffic centers.

The lesson of Zhitomir as afterwards applied by the 48th Panzer Corps in other towns; we simply declared such road junctions out of bounds to all troops and ruthlessly enforced this order. The rear services were spread out and accommodated in villages, a practice which automatically put an end to guerrilla warfare. Moreover, Russian air attacks on these traffic centers became relatively ineffective. The rear services had certainly to put up with a number of inconveniences so far unknown to them; in particular they had to find more guards and perform security duties.


Folk Activism

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

We do need to remember that terrorism, left or right, is a legitimate military tactic, Mencius Moldbug says:

But by the natural law of war, which no man made and no man can unmake, 9/11 was far more legitimate as a military act than the Utoye massacre. ABB is worse than OBL.

Why? Because the law of war is that all war’s carnage, whether it affects “soldiers” or “civilians” (a completely arbitrary distinction) is legitimate if and only if it serves a military purpose. What is a military purpose? Since the purpose of all war is the transfer of political power, a military purpose is a political purpose.

Slaughter that serves no purpose is sadistic, insane, terrible. Slaughter for purpose is the very nature of war, and cannot be separated from it. Since right-wing terrorism does not work, it is illegitimate as a tactic of war. Since left-wing terrorism does work, it is perfectly legitimate. Thus, OBL is legitimate and ABB is not.

Islamic terrorism (which is in every case left-wing) is legitimate because it’s effective. It’s effective because its political result is to expand the political power and privilege of Muslims and their progressive sponsors. Right-wing terrorism is illegitimate because it’s ineffective. It’s ineffective because its political result is to contract the political freedom and influence of conservatives (extremist or moderate).

If it was militarily possible to free Norway from Eurocommunism by killing a hundred communists, or a thousand communists, or ten thousand communists, we might have an interesting moral debate over whether this butcher’s bill was worth paying. Since it is not possible to free Norway from communism by killing a hundred communists, ie, roughly 0.01% of all the communists in Norway, leaving the other 99.99% with a permanent raging hard-on, no debate is possible. The verdict is clear: illegitimate, ineffective and wrong. I condemn Anders Behring Breivik! So there.

Of course, there are plenty of historical contexts in which right-wing terrorism did work — for instance, Germany in the 1920s. In these contexts, it was legitimate. Conversely, left-wing terrorism was ineffective in the fascist nations, and hence illegitimate.

Why does left-wing terrorism work, and right-wing terrorism not? As Carl Schmitt explained in Theory of the Partisan, terrorist, guerrilla or partisan warfare is never effective on its own. While an effective military strategy, it is only effective as one fork of a pincer attack. The terrorist succeeds when, and only when, he is allied to what Schmitt called an interested third party — either a military or political force.

Left-wing terrorism succeeds as the violent arm of a political assault that would probably be overwhelming in any case. In every case, the terrorist plays Mutt in a Mutt-and-Jeff act. Right-wing terrorism in the modern world is cargo-cult terrorism: Mutt without Jeff. Indeed, in historical cases where right-wing terrorism has been successful, in every case we see it aligned with powerful forces within the state. Right-wing terrorism worked in Weimar Germany, for instance, or prewar Japan, because it aligned with fascist conspiracies in the security forces. Somehow I don’t see a lot of that in 2011 Norway.

Thus, we note that there are two responses to terrorism: the natural response and the unnatural response. The natural response is to take revenge on the terrorist and everyone even remotely resembling him. If he is a Muslim, the natural response is to chastise the Muslims. When Grynzspan, a Jew, kills the German vom Rath, the German people must chastise the Jews. And, of course, when a right-wing piece of filth slaughters the cream of the Norwegian Komsomol, all racists and reactionaries are automatically suspect.

The unnatural response — which will not happen by itself, but can be made to happen by a sufficiently powerful psychological-warfare machine — is to look instead at the grievances of the attacker. After all, no one commits terrorism unless he has some complaint. No complaint — no terrorism. Thus while the Nazi response to the terrorism of Grynzspan is to collectively punish the Jews, the Atlantic response to the terrorism of Grynzspan (ineffective and thus illegitimate) is to attribute it to the injustices suffered by the Jews. This of course is also our response to the terrorism of Mandela (effective and thus legitimate).

In more typical cases, however, the political movement allied with a successful terrorist campaign adopts a strategy of dualism. Here is our Mutt-and-Jeff act: the unnatural response. We can always tell a Mutt-and-Jeff strategy because Mutt and Jeff have the same demands. Mutt tells you to satisfy these demands, or die. Jeff tells you to satisfy these demands, to “take the wind out of Mutt’s sails.” Also, Jeff and Mutt are frequently found at the same parties, enjoying the hell out of one another’s company.

Thus, Islamic terrorism is productive, because it results in increasing communal deference to the Islamic community and its progressive allies. Fascist terrorism is counterproductive, because it results in increasing communal intolerance toward the fascist community — which of course has no conservative allies. Rather, the community — whose information source consists almost exclusively of progressive organs — adopts a monist approach, ascribing guilt by association to everyone even remotely resembling a fascist. Ie, everyone to the right of Mitt Romney. Since this is the natural response, it is not at all difficult to orchestrate. The story writes itself.

This gets us to the essence of what’s wrong with ABB‘s thinking. The error of ABB goes far beyond his decision to run wild with a Glock. This is just his specific error. His general error is what Patri Friedman calls folk activism — a broad pattern of ineffective or counterproductive political action which extends across the entire right-wing spectrum, from moderate libertarians to hardcore neo-Nazis. It’s not just that running wild with a Glock is stupid. Almost everything the right does is stupid. Very few rightists are running wild with a Glock, but most are in some way or other guilty of folk activism.

Why did ABB think right-wing terrorism could work? Because ABB grew up in a leftist world, he thinks like a leftist. His heroes are leftist heroes — Max Manus, not Vidkun Quisling. Terrorism works for leftists — and so do many other forms of democratic activism.

Terrorism is anarchism: a shattering of order. Is there such a thing as right-wing anarchism? Of course not: the concept is retarded. If the word “right” means anything, its goal is not to shatter order, but impose it.

Who governs Norway? The Norwegian Labor Party? If an ABB wanted to accomplish something useful, he shouldn’t have decimated the Norwegian Labor Party. Rather, he should have joined the Norwegian Labor Party. After all, Chinese communism became fascist — why can’t Norwegian communism? ABB could have been Norway’s Deng Xiaoping, not its Timothy McVeigh. That’s the difference between action and folk activism.

Allowed to Keep Killing People Day and Night

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

Ilkka describes an absurdity that practically defined the twentieth century:

[I]f you take the 94 million kulaks, capitalists, dissidents and other groups of people that socialists murdered in the twentieth century, and punch the numbers into a calculator, the average number of victims per hour equals almost exactly the one-hour kill count of Anders Breivik. Just imagine how absurd it would be if, instead of being captured and neutralized, Anders were simply allowed to keep killing people day and night until the twenty-second century dawns.

Anders B. Breivik

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011

Anders B. Breivik does sound (and look) like a potential terrorist from his Twitter profile, with its single tweet (and mildly crazy-eyed portrait):

One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100 000 who have only interests.

His (translated) blog posts, on the other hand, sound like the work of a run-of-the-mill European cultural conservative, not someone who believes in leading a violent revolution.

Problems of Withdrawal

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011

Of all operations of war, von Mellenthin notes, a withdrawal under heavy enemy pressure is probably the most difficult and perilous:

Indeed it is recorded of the great Moltke, that when he was being praised for his generalship in the Franco-Prussian War, and was told by an admirer that his reputation would rank with such great captains as Napoleon, Frederick, or Turenne, he answered, “No, for I have never conducted a retreat.”

Turenne, by the way, became Marshal of France in 1643 and helped to bring an end to the Thirty Years’ War.

The Anti-Harless

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

Officer Lyons with the Oceanside Police Department is apparently the Anti-Harless:

Scorched Earth

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

The Russians had certain logistical advantages, von Mellenthin (Panzer Battles) believed:

As is well known the Russians make very limited use of supply columns, and their troops live mainly on the country. Their method is not new; it is essentially similar to that of the Mongols of Genghiz Khan, or the armies of Napoleon. The only means of slowing down armies of this kind is to totally destroy everything that can be used to feed and house them.

I can see where this is going:

In th autumn of 1943 the German Army deliberately adopted this policy, and R.T. Paget remarks very appropriately:

Some five years lat, lawyers were to argue for hours as to the legality of the demolitions and requisitions carried out by the Germans during their retreat, but I am afraid that no law that conflicts with an army’s capacity to survive is ever likely to be effective.

We certainly did not relish the idea of destroying all food supplies and putting a zone of scorched earth between us and the pursuing Russians. But the existence of an entire army groups was at stake, and if we had not adopted such measures, many thousands of troops would never have succeeded in reaching the Dnieper and establishing an effective defense line under cover of the river.

Police and Concealed Carry

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

Ohio issues concealed-carry permits, and it requires permit holders to inform police “promptly” that they’re carrying a gun if they get pulled over. Sounds reasonable.

Of course, most of us haven’t been pulled over for anything much worse than speeding, so we haven’t been on the receiving end of police who reasonably believe they’re dealing with common criminals and should control the situation through strict orders and intimidation.

Watch this video:

(Hat tip to Jacob Sullum at Reason.)

The Debut of the Dazzler

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

Jim Shooter explains the debut of the Dazzler, a third-tier Marvel Comics character:

Sometime in early 1979, Marvel’s in-house counsel and V.P. of business affairs Alice Donenfeld proposed that we create a super-heroine/singer character. She was hoping to set up a joint venture with a record company — we’d produce comics featuring the character and they’d produce and market music using studio musicians, as was done with the Archies.

Disco was big at the time. Virtually every bar with a dance floor played disco, from upscale nightclubs like the Ice Palace and Studio 54, to dance halls like the one seen in Saturday Night Fever to local joints.

I assigned Tom DeFalco and John Romita, Jr. to take a shot at creating the character. In my initial discussions with them, I believe, we came up with the notion of giving her light powers, and therefore, being able to provide her own light show. Hence the “Dazzler” part of the name “Disco Dazzler.” I don’t remember who came up with which parts of the above. I was the one who came up with the energy-transmutation rationale to explain her powers.

John did some nice design sketches — performer’s attire that looked just super-hero enough. The part that Tom delivered was pretty standard. She was a young woman who dreamed and struggled to become a star, born with a “gift,” like the X-Men. She found she could use her powers openly while performing, under the pretense that it was some kind of stage magic, a closely guarded trade secret. [...] Dazzler debuted in X-Men #130.

And nothing much happened after that….

Until one day, later in 1979, I was called to an impromptu meeting upstairs. Present were Alice Donenfeld, President Jim Galton and our Hollywood rep whose name escapes me. They seemed pretty excited.

Alice and the rep had met with Neil Bogart of Casablanca Record and Filmworks who not only was interested in the “Archies” type recording venture, but wanted to launch it with a half-hour animated special. Cool.

Bogart wanted lots of Marvel heroes in the special and he wanted the stars he had under contract to provide voices for the non-Marvel characters. There had to be, therefore, characters to play for Robin Williams, Cher, Donna Summer, Rodney Dangerfield, Lenny and Squiggy, the Village People and KISS.

They had a follow up meeting already scheduled with Bogart. They needed a treatment for the story in four days. [...] So, I did it. For free, by the way, over a weekend. If I was going to be the fool who blew the deal, I didn’t want to be handing in a bill at the same time. What I wrote is posted below.

The treatment was presented to Casablanca and Neil, and the verdict came back, quoted to me by our rep, “This isn’t a half-hour special. This is a FEATURE FILM!”

And it would have been.

However, around that time, Bogart had health issues, Casablanca was being bought out and accounting improprieties were being alleged. The project fell into limbo.

But Marvel owned all rights. Casablanca had no investment, no stake whatsoever in the property or my treatment.

Alice went to the Cannes Film Festival in May of 1980 with my treatment in hand.

She managed to take a meeting with Bo Derek, and got her to read my treatment. On the basis of my treatment, Bo agreed to become attached to the project. She wanted to play Dazzler.

There’s a picture of Bo and her Husband John taken at Cannes that was featured on the cover of People Magazine, shown below. If you look closely, you can see that John is holding a stack of Marvel Comics. That’s the first issue of She-Hulk on top.

Russian Reactions to Bombardment

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

Russian reactions to bombardment puzzled von Mellenthin (Panzer Battles):

Experience shows that the Russian soldier has an almost incredible ability to stand up to the heaviest artillery fire and air-bombardment, while the Russian Command remains unmoved by the bloodiest losses caused by shelling and bombs, and ruthlessly adheres to it preconceived plans. Russian lack of reaction to even the heaviest shelling was proved though not explained during Operation Citadel. The question is worth considering, and the following factors may influence their attitude.

The stoicism of the majority of Russian soldiers and their mental sluggishness make them quite insensible to losses. The Russian soldier values his own life no more than those of his comrades. To step on walls of dead, composed of the bodies of his former friends and companions, makes not the slightest impression on him and does not upset his equanimity at all; without so much as twinkling an eyelid he stolidly continues the attack or stays put in the position he has been told to defend. Life is not precious to him. He is immune to the most incredible hardships, and does not even appear to notice them; he seem equally indifferent to bombs and shells.

Naturally there are Russian soldiers of a more tender physical and psychological structure, but they have been trained to execute orders to the letter and without hesitation. There is an iron discipline in the Russian army; punishment meted out by officers and political commissars is of a draconian character and unquestioned obedience to orders has become a feature of their military system.
Russian indifference to bombardment is not new; it was apparent during World War I and Caulaincourt comments on it in his description of the Battle of Borodino in 1812. He describes how the Russians “stood firm under the fire of a devastating bombardment,” and says that, “the enemy, smashed by the guns, and pressed simultaneously on all points, massed their troops and held firm despite the ravages made in their ranks by the guns.” He quotes Napoleon as saying that, “it was quite inexplicable to him that redoubts and positions so audaciously captured and so doggedly defended should yield us so few prisoners,” and he gives the Emperor’s comment, “these Russians let themselves be killed like automatons; they are not taken alive. This does not help us at all.”

Can a Playground Be Too Safe?

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

Can a playground be too safe? Of course, it can:

After observing children on playgrounds in Norway, England and Australia, Dr. Sandseter identified six categories of risky play: exploring heights, experiencing high speed, handling dangerous tools, being near dangerous elements (like water or fire), rough-and-tumble play (like wrestling), and wandering alone away from adult supervision. The most common is climbing heights.

“Climbing equipment needs to be high enough, or else it will be too boring in the long run,” Dr. Sandseter said. “Children approach thrills and risks in a progressive manner, and very few children would try to climb to the highest point for the first time they climb. The best thing is to let children encounter these challenges from an early age, and they will then progressively learn to master them through their play over the years.”

Sometimes, of course, their mastery fails, and falls are the common form of playground injury. But these rarely cause permanent damage, either physically or emotionally. While some psychologists — and many parents — have worried that a child who suffered a bad fall would develop a fear of heights, studies have shown the opposite pattern: A child who’s hurt in a fall before the age of 9 is less likely as a teenager to have a fear of heights.

And “safer” playgrounds often aren’t:

“There is no clear evidence that playground safety measures have lowered the average risk on playgrounds,” said David Ball, a professor of risk management at Middlesex University in London. He noted that the risk of some injuries, like long fractures of the arm, actually increased after the introduction of softer surfaces on playgrounds in Britain and Australia.

“This sounds counterintuitive, but it shouldn’t, because it is a common phenomenon,” Dr. Ball said. “If children and parents believe they are in an environment which is safer than it actually is, they will take more risks. An argument against softer surfacing is that children think it is safe, but because they don’t understand its properties, they overrate its performance.”

Reducing the height of playground equipment may help toddlers, but it can produce unintended consequences among bigger children. “Older children are discouraged from taking healthy exercise on playgrounds because they have been designed with the safety of the very young in mind,” Dr. Ball said. “Therefore, they may play in more dangerous places, or not at all.”

All Sail and No Anchor

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

Patri Friedman points to a sadly prophetic letter from 1857 on the long-term perils of democracy — from Lord Macaulay to Henry Randall of New-York (with a hyphen!), author of The Life of Jefferson:


HENRY S. RANDALL, ESQ. — Dear Sir: You are surprised to learn that I have not a high opinion of Mr. JEFFERSON, and I am surprised at your surprise. I am certain that I never wrote a line, and that I never, in Parliament, in conversation, or even on the hustings — a place where it is the fashion to court the populace — uttered a word indicating an opinion that the supreme authority in a State ought to be intrusted to the majority of citizens told by the head; in other words, to the poorest and most ignorant part of society. I have long been convinced that institutions purely democratic must, sooner or later, destroy liberty, or civilization, or both.

In Europe, where the population is dense, the effect of such institutions would be almost instantaneous. What happened lately in France is an example. In 1848 a pure Democracy was established there. During a short time there was reason to expect a general spoliation, a national bankruptcy, a new partition of the soil, a maximum of prices, a ruinous load of taxation laid on the rich for the purpose of supporting the poor in idleness. Such a system would, in twenty years, have made France as poor and barbarous as France of the Carlovingians. Happily the danger was averted; and now there is a despotism, a silent tribune, an enslaved Press. Liberty is gone; but civilization has been saved. I have not the smallest doubt that, if we had a purely Democratic Government here, the effect would be the same. Either the poor would plunder the rich, and civilization would perish; or order and property would be saved by a strong military government, and Liberty would perish.

You may think that your country enjoys an exemption from these evils. I will frankly own to you that I am of a very different opinion. Your fate I believe to be certain, though it is deferred by a physical cause. As long as you have a boundless extent of fertile and unoccupied land, your laboring population will be far more at ease than the laboring population of the old world; and, while that is the case, the Jeffersonian policy may continue to exist without causing any fatal calamity. But the time will come when New-England will be as thickly peopled as Old England. Wages will be as low, and will fluctuate as much with you as with us. You will have your Manchesters and Birminghams; and, in those Manchesters and Birminghams, hundreds of thousands of artisans will assuredly be sometimes out of work. Then your institutions will be fairly brought to the test. Distress everywhere makes the laborer mutinous and discontented, and inclines him to listen with eagerness to agitators who tell him that it is a monstrous iniquity that one man should have a million while another cannot get a full meal.

In bad years there is plenty of grumbling here, and sometimes a little rioting. But it matters little. For here the sufferers are not the rulers. The supreme power is in the hands of a class, numerous indeed, but select, of an educated class, of a class which is, and knows itself to be, deeply interested in the security of property and the maintenance of order. Accordingly, the malcontents are firmly, yet gently, restrained. The bad time is got over without robbing the wealthy to relieve the indigent. The springs of national prosperity soon begin to flow again; work is plentiful; wages rise, and all is tranquillity and cheerfulness. I have seen England pass three or four times through such critical seasons as I have described.

Through such seasons the United States will have to pass, in the course of the next century, if not of this. How will you pass through them? I heartily wish you a good deliverance. But my reason and my wishes are at war, and I cannot help foreboding the worst. It is quite plain that your Government will never be able to restrain a distressed and discontented majority. For with you the majority is the Government, and has the rich, who are always a minority, absolutely at its mercy. The day will come when, in the State of New-York, a multitude of people, none of whom has had more than half a breakfast, or expects to have more than half a dinner, will choose a Legislature. Is it possible to doubt what sort of Legislature will be chosen? On one side is a statesman preaching patience, respect for vested rights, strict observance of public faith. On the other is a demagogue ranting about the tyranny of capitalists and usurers, and asking why anybody should be permitted to drink champagne and to ride in a carriage, while thousands of honest folks are in want of necessaries. Which of the two candidates is likely to be preferred by a working man who hears his children cry for more bread?

I seriously apprehend that you will, in some such season of adversity as I have described, do things which will prevent prosperity from returning; that you will act like people would, in a year of scarcity, devour all the seed-corn, and thus make the next year, a year not of scarcity, but of absolute famine. There will be, I fear, spoliation. The spoliation will increase the distress. The distress will produce fresh spoliation. There is nothing to stay you. Your Constitution is all sail and no anchor. As I said before, when a society has entered on this downward progress, either civilization or liberty must perish. Either some Caesar or Napoleon will seize the reins of government with a strong hand; or your Republic will be as fearfully plundered and laid waste by barbarians in the twentieth century as the Roman Empire was in the fifth; with this difference, that the Huns and Vandals, who ravaged the Roman Empire, came from without, and that your Huns and Vandals will have been engendered within your country by your own institutions.

(Thinking thus, of course, I cannot reckon JEFFERSON among the benefactors of mankind. I readily admit that his intentions were good and his abilities considerable. Odious stories have been circulated about his private life: but I do not know on what evidence those stories rest; and I think it probable that they are false, or monstrously exaggerated. I have no doubt that I shall derive both pleasure and information from your account of him.

I have the honor to be, dear Sir, Your faithful servant, T.B. MACAULAY.

Addendum: I’ve mentioned the letter before, as has Mencius Moldbug.

Armored Tactics during Citadel

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

In Panzer Battles, von Mellenthin discusses the armored tactics put in to use during Operation Citadel, the swan song of the German armored forces:

The light and medium tanks used during the first three years of the war had done a splendid job during that period. However, as Russian antitank weapons had become more effective and Russian tanks bigger and stronger, the earlier models were now obsolete. Heavy and super-heavy tanks had come to the forefront, and armored tactics had to be changed accordingly. Panzer leaders were in the best position to watch these developments, as they had to adapt their tactics to the new weapons.

German antitank tactics of 1941 were no longer effective, for they did not provide for the massive Russian attacks with great numbers of tanks. It soon became apparent that a single antitank gun, or a cluster of them operating independently, was quickly discovered and knocked out. For this reason a new method was developed, which the German panzer troops called the Pakfront. Groups of guns up to a total of ten were put under the command of one man, who was responsible for concentrating their fire on a single target. Groups of antitank guns were thus welded into one unit, the groups were organized in depth and strewn all over the defended area. The idea was to draw the attacking armor into a web of enfilade fire. Fire discipline was of the first importance, and to open fire too early was the gravest mistake that could be made.

The Russians copied these tactics and soon became past master of them, as we learned to our cost in Citadel. It was a Russian specialty to fortify these Pakfronts with minefields or antitank ditches, and to scatter mines haphazard among the minebelts. The rapidity with which mines were laid by the Russians was truly remarkable. Two or three days and nights were quite sufficient for the Russians to lay more than thirty thousand mines and it was no rare thing to have to lift forty thousand mines a day in the sector of a German corps. During the Kursk offensive, and after penetrating to a depth of twelve miles, we still found ourselves in the midst of minefields and opposed by Pakfronts. In this connection mention should be made again of the masterly camouflage work of the Russians. Neither minefields nor Pakfronts could be detected until the first tank blew up, or the first Russian antitank gun opened fire.

How did the Germans make any progress? By shooting back:

During Citadel the German armor moved and fought in wedge formation, the Panzerkeil, which up to then had proved very effective indeed; the spearhead of the wedge was formed by the heaviest tanks, and the Tigers proved their worth against the Russian antitank fronts organized in depth. The Tiger’s 88-mm gun was superior to anything the Russians had, but as I have mentioned, the Panthers were still in their infancy and were a failure. Our Mark IV’s were not good enough to effect a breakthrough against a deep antitank front, and the capture of so many Russian positions was due to the perfect co-operation of all heavy weapons.

Citadel and other operations proved that the fire of the antitank front can be neutralized by the concentric and expertly conducted fire of the attacking armor. To put this theory into practice called for changes in armored formations and tactics. The tank-wedge was replaced by the Panzerglocke (tank bell). The Panzglocke, with super-heavy tanks in the center, medium tanks to the right and left rear in a widening arch, light tanks behind the center and held ready for pursuit, was the best formation to bring to bear against a wide fire front.

The Panzer commander, together with observers for all the heavy weapons, travel led in the Glocke immediately behind the leading medium tanks. He had to be in wireless communication with the commander f the fighter-bombers, and other aircraft supporting the ground-troops. Engineers in armored vehicles traveled just behind the forward tanks of the Glocke, ready to clear gaps through minefields. An attack along these lines was generally successful if the attacking formations practiced close co-operation of all weapons.

Night attacks also helped — but they needed a road or sand track to follow, because they had no compasses suitable for tanks. (Who knew?)

The success of armor against antitank fronts depends on the following conditions:

  1. Every opportunity must be taken for reconnaissance in the air and on the ground.
  2. The armored formation carrying out the attack must be made as strong as possible by super-heavy tanks, brought to bear in the Schwerpunkt.
  3. Fire concentration by tank guns must be rapid and effective; the armor must keep moving and tanks should only stop to fire their guns.
  4. Observers for all heavy weapons supporting the attack must travel with the armor. Wireless communication between the tank leader and the air is most essential.
  5. Engineers in armored vehicles must follow the armor.
  6. Light tanks must be at hand to exploit success.
  7. Fuel and ammunition supply for the armor must be assured during the battle by armored supply carriers. Much experience is needed to carry out this difficult operation.
  8. Thanks should be supplied with smoke gear to blind enemy antitank weapons, and with colored-smoke grenades for unit commanders to indicate direction.
  9. For night attacks tanks should be supplied with direction-finding equipment.