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.


  1. Alistair says:


    He said a good word about Rommel.

    Comment bombardment imminent.

  2. TRX says:


    The War Production Board laid out its main plan early in 1942, establishing requirements for “enough of what will do the job” and turning a deaf ear to the entreaties of the scientists and engineers who kept coming up with the Next New Great Thing.

    The B-24 was obsolete before the first one rolled off Ford’s Willow Run production line, but every hour after that a shiny new B-24 lined up on the runway, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

    The Germans simply didn’t have the resources to match that, plus their materials planning and production, due to the way the Reich was run, depended on who last had the ear of Todt, Speer, Goering, or Hitler. The Germans had excellent armor and artillery because most of it came from Krupp, which basically operated as a feifdom directly under Hitler, who mostly let them run without interference. Anything else… often, by the time a factory managed to tool up and go into production on some critical item, their resources, employees, and factories were then broken up and reassigned to some other critical project, depending on who held political power at the time.

    On the Japanese front… alas, Yamamoto’s plan was similar to that of the Confederacy’s in 1861 or the Kaiser’s in 1914. They expected to bitch-slap their opponents, who would then fold rather than dig in and fight, so while they entered the war with some very advanced equipment, they didn’t have the production capacity to build enough more once they ran into determined opposition. And while their decision not to upgrade made sense, the rate of progress during the war put them at a disadvantage later in the war.

  3. TRX says:

    “their artillery was the best in use — but they did not have enough of it.”

    Speer lamented that the anti-aircraft guns deployed around German cities would have been far more effective had they been sent to the Eastern front. Well before the time of the “aluminum overcast” the Americans were sending more new bombers than were shot down.

    “Their tanks were better than ours in most respects.”

    True. The US and Britain had a hard time getting a grip on the “tank” thing. But we not only had more tanks, they were at the apex of a global supply chain of ammunition, spare parts, and fuel.

    Churchill knew logistics backward and forward. His massive 6-volume history of WWII is mostly logistics. But even he had a hard time coming to grips with the sheer volume of stuff America was able to throw into combat; he complained about the amount of space “wasted” on trucks in the D-Day invasion, and only belately realizing the mobility they provided. Rommel had faced something similar in Africa, but his subordinates got caught with their pants down time after time, their tactics coming apart when the Allied forces moved far faster than they were prepared for.

  4. Noel says:

    Good thing he didn’t mention von Manstein.

  5. Kirk says:

    I’ll just say this, vis-a-vis the German military leadership: They knew how to win battles and campaigns, but the larger issue of how to win wars was beyond them.

    Without a Frederick or a Bismark to do the strategy, the German armed forces were excellence without purpose. What’s sad is that so much of what they did was wasted in service of a despicable cause, and that that cause discredited all too much of the advances they made in the military arts and sciences.

    One wonders what history would look like, had the German war machine been headed by someone with a grasp on strategy and the actual potentials of the German nation, and a decent set of morals. We would undoubtedly be living in a far better world than the one we live in.

    Of course, that’s like the usual “If only…” sort of thinking about the Nazis in general. “If only they hadn’t…” or “If only they did…” boils down to one thing and one thing only: If only they weren’t Nazis. To make significant changes to what they did, they’d have had to be warped out of recognition from what they actually were.

  6. TRX says:

    “If only they weren’t Nazis.”

    That pretty much sums it up. The more I learn about the Reich’s internal operations, the more apt the old claim “gangster government” seems. It was a cross between the old-style Chicago patronage system and old-style Chicago Mob structure… not that those were all that different.

  7. Kirk says:

    There’s somewhere out there an article or book that I read where the author dug out some approving notes from Hitler, vis-a-vis Al Capone and his activities. Something to the effect that in Al Capone, there was a guy who understood the Fuhrerprinzip

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