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.

Submachine guns did a lot of work in the jungles

Sunday, May 12th, 2019

The Thompson .45 submachine gun underwent three or four changes during the war, in the interests of production manufacture and simplification, but essentially remained the same, Dunlap explains:

Like the M1, it was a weapon I did not like but ended up respecting. Here again, weight was the drawback — the original M1928 model went 10.8 pounds without magazine and the simplified M1 and M1A1 models ran 10 pounds even, without clips (the M1A1 was the same as the M1 except that it had its firing pin machined on the face of the bolt, integral with it, while the M1 had the older style movable firing pin and “hammer”).

The stocks of all three had too much drop, which made accurate automatic fire from the shoulder almost impossible, since the guns could climb up an off the mark easily.

[...]

Effective range of these guns was about 75 yards in the hands of the average soldier. This because the trigger-pull on the gun was 14 pounds maximum, 10 pounds minimum, and it fires from an open bolt, making accurate semi-auto fire very difficult.

[...]

Submachine guns did a lot of work in the jungles where often only the approximate direction of an enemy would be known and it was desirable to rake an area with bullets. For investigating the tops of coconut palms it was a highly useful tool, and good for hosing dugouts or clearing bunkers at times, but grenades were smarter and safer for the latter jobs.

Insects ruined more carbine barrels than rust

Saturday, May 11th, 2019

The weight of the M1 Garand rifle was to a great extent responsible for the popularity of the .30-caliber carbine. The carbine had other strengths, too, Dunlap explains:

The carbines’ best feature was their non-corrosive ammunition. Because of it the barrels and gas pistons and cylinders could take a lot of neglect and still keep the arm operating perfectly. M1 rifle barrels were always pitted, but the carbines usually looked good inside.

Insects ruined more carbine barrels than rust or lack of cleaning did together. It is a fact! In the Pacific land areas lives a kind of wasp we called mud-daubers, and they love to set up an apartment in a .30 caliber barrel — they will take a .45 or .50, but prefer .30’s. By carrying in mud and secreting some sort of liquid they plug a barrel and if that plug is not discovered and removed within 12 hours, a ring starts to eat into the barrel steel at its top; in 36 hours it will be the depth of a land, cutting both lands and grooves equally, which meant classification as unserviceable by ordnance when inspected or reported. Oil in the barrel made no difference. If the plug was not discovered and the rifle or carbine fired, the barrel usually bulged and was unserviceable anyway.

[...]

In the Pacific the carbines were more reliable and gave less trouble than the M1’s, although in North Africa and in Italy they were not rated so highly.

[...]

The troopers often complained that it took all 15 shots to down a Jap, but I suspect that this was usually because they always shot the Nip 15 times anyway, whether he went down on the first or last round.

The non-expanding bullet would not do much damage unless it hit a vital spot, which was not always easy. Heck, you can kill a man with a .22 Short if you can shoot him in the brain, heart, or spine.

[...]

A military load should render a man hors de combat with almost any hit.

[...]

If our carbine cartridge had been the .38 Super Automatic Colt pistol case, using a .35 or rather, .36 caliber 125-grain bullet at about 1,500 FPS — the soldier would have been a lot better off in battle. Such a bullet would carry a great deal more shocking power than the 1,975 FPS 110-grain .30 caliber carbine bullet.

Killing the enemy is not always as desirable as merely making a casualty out of him. Even the Japs realized this, if a special military report I read is true. According to it, a non-com or two from a 24th Division unit on Leyte stated his outfit suffered many casualties at one location, encountering Japanese riflemen who shot them up. Most of the Americans were shot in the hip or upper leg with 6.5mm bullets, not a fatal wound but one which called for a minimum of two persons to evacuate, besides getting the shot-up soldier out of the battle for months, if not permanently. The opinion was that the enemy was deliberately attempting to cause such serious wounds in order to tie up the additional personnel necessary to care for the men, thereby delaying our advance. Each such hit removed from three to five men from the immediate opposing force, while a man killed was just one less.

[...]

Our officials scoffed for years at the Italians and Japs for putting bayonets on everything and claimed everyone else’s automatic weapons had too high a rate of fire (our carbine now can empty itself at about 850 to 900 RPM — is definitely much faster than the Thompson, comparing cyclic rates). The bayonet business is silly, except for guarding prisoners, for which a repeating shotgun with 00 Buckshot loads is better, and the regular military shotguns have bayonet studs themselves for full-size prodders.

So far as the automatic feature is concerned, I am for it. We really have something, but I am not sure what. The guns were a lot of fun to shoot and came out just a little too late for real use in combat. The full-automatic feature did not affect the ballistics of the cartridge any but did increase the effectiveness of the arm by allowing it to deliver three or four bullets close together on one squeeze of the trigger, rather than one. I think these models would have been ideal for jungle fighting, where the heavier Thompsons were popular.

The cartridge remains a full-jacketed, fairly high-velocity .32-20, which has not been considered a suitable deer cartridge for years. I consider a man in the class of a white-tailed deer as a meat target, taking about the same amount of energy to stop. Except that deer usually get shot with expanding bullets which mess up more flesh. A man is tougher game physically than he thinks. I am no big-game hunter so maybe I will get a lot of argument. As in killing deer, men seldom suffer identical wounds and results always vary somewhat. I have two friends who received Jap bullets in their chests on Luzon; one recovered and went back to his outfit in a very few weeks and the other was discharged after spending about eight months as a sick boy. Just 1″ or 2″ or a change of angle made the difference, though both were uncomplicated lung punctures so far a simple description goes.

One of the clumsiest singleshot arms since muzzleloading days

Friday, May 10th, 2019

“In my opinion,” General Patton once said, “the M1 rifle is the greatest battle implement ever devised.” Roy Dunlap did not share the General’s opinion:

I do not like the M1 rifle and never have, but it proved a much better weapon than I thought it would.

Any gas-operated arm must be kept reasonably clean to reliably operate and the majority of malfunctions in the field proved due to either worn gas cylinders or worn (undersize) pistons on the end of the operating rods. The cylinders are rust-proof, but the pistons rusted if not cleaned daily, wearing undersize rapidly and allowing gas to leak so that the operating rod would not move far enough to the rear to correctly function the action. Barrels did not last long. Noncorrosive ammunition would have been a godsend in the Pacific War. I never saw an M1 barrel shot out but saw thousands rusted out.

The Garand has two faults, to my mind — it is too heavy and it must be loaded with the eight-round charger clip. The latter means you either load it with a full eight-round clip or you have one of the clumsiest singleshot arms since muzzleloading days. I admit that with the complete dropping of our bolt-action rifles using the fiveround Mauser clip and the issue of all U. S. rifle ammunition in the M1 clip this objection is practically nullified, but the fact remains that it is very difficult to keep the M1 rifle fully loaded when firing sporadically. If, say five cartridges of a clip are fired, three remain in the gun, and the five expended ones are well-nigh impossible to replace in the rifle. In action, soldiers simply released and ejected partially-emptied clips and reloaded with full ones in an attempt to keep full effectiveness as long as they could. In some outfits it was customary to empty the rifle — blazing away the remaining cartridges — after the sixth round was fired. It is of course easier and faster to empty the rifle by firing than by stopping to use two hands to hold the bolt back and press the clip release. Infantry fighting is not always correctly pictured, and a lot of people have very little understanding of some phases. Often it was almost man-to-man scale on a life and death basis game of hide-and-seek. In jungle warfare visibility usually was limited and sound played an important part. Japs on Guadalcanal learned that the “ping” of an ejecting M1 clip meant a momentarily-empty rifle and American infantrymen died because of it. Aberdeen was in a slight furor for awhile, trying to silence the noise, make plastic clips, etc.

Probably in Europe such ammunition and loading troubles were not so important, for conditions were different and supplies more plentiful and accessible. The boys could burn out a clip whenever they saw something move, and have another always handy. In the Pacific a lot of the island fighting was in patrol activity where combat conditions could be likened to nothing except big-game hunting — with the game liable to shoot first. Engagements were often short skirmishes or ambushes — exchanges of a few shots, where rifles were used to back up automatic weapons, reversing the usual roles of the weapons. Against a number of scattered, camouflaged targets the Thompsons and BARs were uneconomical, but they could drive the enemy to cover or make him reveal himself getting cover, to be eliminated by riflemen. Where automatic arms in numbers existed, it was of course possible to simply spray the landscape with bullets and relegate the rifle to mopping up on running Nips, or distant shots.

The weight of the blasted rifle got me down — 10 pounds is about two and a half too much for an army rifle if the soldier is to carry it under his own power. Gun writers are always harping on the subject of keeping hunting rifles light in weight, but nobody ever seems to worry about the infantry rifle avoirdupois. The average deer hunter lives a life of ease compared to a combat soldier, yet he wants seven-pound rifles and would be aghast at the thought of going out wearing heavy boots, a three-pound hat, a belt loaded with assorted pouches and 80 rounds of ammunition, and probably a 30-pound pack.

[...]

The Garand’s sights and stock are in my opinion better than those on any other standard military rifle in existence. One of its best points is that it is very easy to teach a man to shoot with; far easier than with the 1903 Springfield.

[...]

Garands did not like the desert, but no other arms did either.

[...]

In the Pacific islands it was naturally necessary to keep the sand out of M1’s around the beaches, but inshore in the jungles and mountains they did OK.