Thursday, June 18, 2015

"Stopping the Panzers" - a review of Marc Milner's thesis

As gathered together in large groups called 'nations', none of us humans would win any medals in the eyes of future historians and ethicists for our moral behavior during WWII.

But as WWII individuals and small groups, some of us would definitely win their approval -- but that is a post for another day.

I tend to think of 'bad faith', as opposed to outright bad and evil behavior (bullies like Hitler, Mussolina, Tojo and Stalin spring to mind), as something not done.

Above all, not done by bystanders, as they witness these bullies descending upon the hapless small and the weak.

To take but one example, the whole Allied world generally approved of their forces merely starving and bombing the women, children and elderly of Germany and all its occupied nations.

They clung to the faint hope that this would make the well fed male troops/leaders of Germany quietly give up and surrender without a fight.

About the only Allied civilians fervently demanding that the Allies open up a Second Front in occupied Europe (Right Now ! ) were post June 1941 communist sympathizers.

And morally, they were more concerned about helping the Russian communists than in stopping the long slow bleeding death of most of the urban civilian population of western Europe.

I personally believe a Second Front landing in France in the Summer of 1942 would have been at the French-German border by the end of the Fall of 1942.

But that would have required a wholesale Allied shift in military spending and in conscription practises.

Away from slowly killing Europe's civilians from the air and by sea blockade with a few large expensive machines and relatively few men in uniform, turning instead to a much larger infantry-and-artillery-oriented army, with lots of the best anti-tank guns and shells that money and science could arrange.

A landing in Europe in strength, with plenty of artillery pieces clearly the superior of the German 88mm as antitank weapons (the British 17 pounder instantly springs to mind) and occupying a relatively tight perimeter, would be the anvil to destroy all of Germany's mobile panzer divisions.

One only has to look at the role assigned to Canada's 'gunned-up' Third Division at Normandy, as Canadian military Marc Milner did in his recent book "Stopping the Panzers" to see how this works so successfully two years later.

This obscure Canadian division was given all the American's new self propelled artillery while the Americans were left with slower, less mobile towed guns. And the Third was given far more corp and army level artillery support than normal, together with plenty of big navy gun support as well.

All this long gun power was designed to form an artillery anvil against which the well known propensity of the Germans to launch instant, constant but piecemeal counterattacks by mobile forces was to be the hammer.

It worked like a charm --- the piecemeal Panzers counterattacks totally fail to break open the invasion perimeter.

And when the Allies did break out, there were no longer any big enough German armoured forces left to stop them - the way to the Rhine was wide open !

A war ending in early 1943 in Europe would have greatly reduced the total death WWII count - among Allied as much as Axis and Occupied - and perhaps saved half of Europe's Jews from the gas chambers.

An early invasion was the proper world moral response when it was clear that Germany was killing Jews and Slavs about as fast as it could.

Milner deserves much credit for showing how such an early invasion would have worked in practise : showing that destroying the enemy's capacity to fight, not merely in gaining miles of empty territory, is always and only, Job One in War.....

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