Sunday, July 23, 2017

Dunkirk, the movie, the real thing

I haven't seen the movie yet but it is getting good reviews.  Dunkirk was one of the decisive moments of WWII.  Hitler could have won the war that day.  As it was, Guderian's panzers had broken British resistance and were closing in for the kill until Hitler, fearing that his panzer spearhead was getting too far in front of the bulk of the German army, ordered Guderian to halt for two days.  That gave the British time to retreat to the small fishing port of Dunkirk and get evacuated back to England by the Royal Navy and a fleet of small civilian craft, yachts and fishing boats.  The British Expeditionary Force (BEF)  was 250,000 strong, the flower of the British Army.  Had they been captured by the Germans, it would have been a horrendous blow to British morale, and would have deprived the British of the experienced men needed to train up a new British army. 
   British morale was pretty low in the summer of 1940.  The British establishment, MP's, the press, academia, business, the aristocracy, even some members of the royal family, feared doing the trench warfare of WWI all over again, feared that the Germans were stronger than they were, and were ready to cut a deal with Hitler.  Something like, "We keep our fleet and empire, you keep all of Europe".  Hitler made noises about accepting such a deal that summer. 
   Churchill, newly elected Prime Minister, faced a lot of up hill sledding to convince the British to resist Hitler.  He just barely made it.  Had the men of the BEF been lost in 1940, the resulting downer for England might well have made Churchill's task impossible.  Had Britain signed some sort of pusillanimous deal with Hitler, the United States would stayed out of Europe, and minded its own business.  Pearl Harbor would have set our country on a path to annihilate Japan.  Without a friendly Britain to serve as a base,  it would have been difficult-to-impossible to apply American military force again the Third Reich. 
   So it's good to have a heroic movie about Dunkirk, even though the Wall St Journal criticized it for lacking any shots of Churchill. 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The City is the Battle Field of the Future

Title of an Op-Ed in Thursday's Wall St Journal.  The author, John Spencer,  an Army infantryman and deputy director of the West Point Modern War Institute, is calling for specialized training in urban warfare, and implies that the month battle for Mosul would have gone better if the troops had been trained in  specially built exercise city where they could practice tossing grenades in windows and shooting their way up stairways.  Mr. Spenser argues much of the world's population lives in big cities so the Army ought to train to fight in big cities.
   I gotta wonder if Mr Spenser has any knowledge of history at all.  Cities have been highly defensible strong points since ancient times.  Although modern cities lack walls (the invention of artillery made city walls obsolete) they still offer zillions of strong and hidden firing positions, stout masonry buildings that can resist all but the heaviest artillery fire, basements and subways and sewers and all kinds of bomb proof underground places, tall building from which to throw Molotov cocktails on enemy tanks, which are confined to city streets, and more. 
   The traditional way to subdue a city is to starve it out.  Surround the place, cut off all food and supplies, water if you can manage it, and wait them out.  Siege it's called.  In ancient times, siege was undependable, the besiegers often ran out of food before the besieged city did.  In modern times, with trucks and rail to bring up besieger's supplies, the siege can last longer than the city's supplies will. 
   The German's tried to take Stalingrad by frontal assault.  They spent six months at it.  A mere 60,000 Russians managed to hold off 250,000 Germans, and their tanks, artillery and aircraft.  The Russians fought house to house, floor to floor with grenades and sub machine guns.  When the Germans seized a building by daylight, the Russians counterattacked at night and took it back.   Paulus, the German commander, should have put his army across the Volga River, surrounded Stalingrad and starved it out.  He didn't, he threw his men into the teeth of Russian defenses and lost.
   No amount of special training in urban warfare is going to change the facts, cities are tough strong points, and assaulting them is very costly, and often fails.  Don't do frontal assault.  Surround the place and starve it out.  

Friday, July 21, 2017

John McCain

Back in 2000 John McCain was campaigning for the Republican nomination up here.  It was late winter.  The crowd gathered at the Littleton VFW was wearing parkas and snow boots, looking shaggy and upcountry, and leaving muddy footprints on the floor.  The McCain bus was more or less on time, maybe only ten minutes late.   As Senator McCain entered the room, everyone stood up in his honor. 
   I've seen a fair number of presidential candidates blow thru here, looking for votes.  McCain is the only one of 'em where the voters respected him enough to stand for him. 
   God Speed John McCain.  I wish you the best possible luck in the face of your dreadful diagnosis. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Slow News Day. OJ parole hearing all day.

That's all Fix has been showing, the OJ parole hearing, then hours of chit chat about it, replay of OJ's white SUV humming thru LA back in the 1990's.  Me, I don't care, OJ was a news item from the 1990s.  It's now the 2010's, and I just don't care about OJ any more. 

Old Glory still waves

Color photo inside today's Wall St Journal.  Shows a small convoy of US fighting vehicles on the move in northern Syria.  Five MRAPS and Strykers on wheels, and a white pickup truck bringing up the rear.  All six vehicles mount flagstaffs with good sized American flags flying from them.  Clearly the vehicle crews think letting every one know that they are Americans will  assist in a friendly reception by the locals.  If the crews thought the flags would draw fire, they would not fly them. 
   America, and what we stand for, still has friends in Syria. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Stupid Party commits Hari-kari, in public

We voted for Republicans last year to get rid of Obamacare.  Now, nearly a year later, the Stupid Party has been unable to get its act together and vote for anything.  We are stuck with Obamacare, double and triple premiums, $6000 deductibles, 30 hour work weeks, less that 2% GNP growth.  Guess where your Congressional majorities will go in 2018.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Do Airbus and Boeing have competition in the airliner business?

Wall St Journal thinks so.  They cite China's Comac C919, Canada's Bombardier CS300, and Russia's Irkut MC-21-300, all coming on line shortly.  Very shortly, the Comac C919 and the Irkut
MC-21-300 just made their first flights in May this year.  They both have at least one year, probably more, of flight testing and certification paperwork to do before they can sell them.  Bombardier is farther along, their first flight was back in February of 2015, the flight testing and paperwork is done, and they are delivering them.
   We are talking standard single aisle airliners, seating 160 to 200 passengers, selling for $100 million each, the bread and butter airliner.  The bigger flashier planes  787, A380 and such don't sell nearly as many.
   So what happens?  Right now the Boeing and Airbus planes are a little more fuel efficient, have excellent reputations, and cost a tad more than the new comers.  Reputation counts.  Aeroflot was pleased to announce a few years ago, that all their international flights now used western built aircraft.  They retired most, perhaps all, of their fleet of Russian built Ilyushins, mostly because they scared the passengers.