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Jutland: The Decisive Battle that Wasn’t

 

British Dreadnoughts at Jutland, the “castles of steel” did not achieve a Nelsonian victory – Source: History.com

World War I came to a seemingly natural crescendo in 1916. The fact that the war had not been finished by Christmas, 1914 had shocked the warring powers. 1915 had seen haphazard, poorly planned, and executed offensives, and an attempt to expand the war; into the air, under the sea, and by drawing in nations like Italy, and the Ottoman Empire. This is the first installment in a four part series on the titanic battles of 1916: Jutland, Verdun, the Somme, and the Brusilov Offensive.

Two weeks ago was the one hundredth anniversary of the largest naval battle the Atlantic had seen since the days of sail. Between May 31st and June 1st, 1916, the British Royal Navy, and the German Imperial Navy dueled for supremacy in the North Sea. At the end of the battle both sides would claim victory. The Battle of Jutland was the quintessential naval battle of the First World War. It was large. It was industrial. It costs thousands of lives, and destroyed large amounts of material. And it accomplished almost nothing.  Read more…

D-Day and Millenials

My grandfather - Michael Schmitz, United States Navy Reserve, 1945-47 - Source: Author

My grandfather – Michael Schmitz, United States Navy Reserve, 1945-47 – Source: Author

My grandfather worked at a John Deere plant for over twenty-five years. He turned 18 in June of 1945, and enlisted in the Navy, by the time he arrived in California for deployment into the Pacific, the war was over. He, however, knew men who had fought throughout the war. The one that I remember him talking about when I was kid was a gentleman who had fought at “Omaha Beach” at Normandy. My grandfather called him a “bundle of nerves,” who “jumped at his own shadow.” He had what we now would consider post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and the triggers were the horrible images he had witnessed on the beaches of Normandy. Read more…

Orlando, a Well Regulated Militia, and George Washington

Yesterday, a man walked into a nightclub in Orlando, Florida and opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle. When the carnage ended, fifty people were dead, and another fifty-three were wounded. It is the worst massacre the United States had seen in either the twentieth or twenty-first centuries. In the aftermath of such events, inevitably our nation will debate what place firearms have in our society, and what regulations of those weapons are reasonable. This debate is difficult, because guns are enshrined in our founding document’s second amendment.

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

I am not going to attempt to resolve our nation’s struggle with gun violence, but rather to put the Second Amendment in the context of the military situation of America in the 1780’s and 1790’s after the achievement of independence. Read more…

Star Wars and The First Indochina War

Retaliate, Thirteenth Floor Designs - Source: Thirteenth Floor

Retaliate, by Thirteenth Floor Designs – Source: Thirteenth Floor

A ragtag insurgency has continued to defy one of the greatest imperial, military powers in history. Isolated in small bands from one another, they stage hit and run attacks upon an occupying force that wishes to stamp out their bid for freedom in the name of order, stability, and security. In the end, after a fierce battle, the rebels defeat a garrison of imperial troops, flung far from their home bases and the possibility of resupply, and achieve their independence. I am referring to, of course, The Alliance to Restore the Republic from Star Wars. Either that, or I am referring to the Viet Minh’s attempt to throw off French imperial rule in the 1940’s and 50’s. The similarities between the two conflicts are striking (George Lucas did state that Star Wars was an anti-Vietnam War movie, a separate war to be sure, but the two are related), but they are incomplete. One most take care when comparing actual events to fictional ones, and to not use fiction as a substitute for history in the development of strategy.

However, today is May 4th, which is celebrated by nerds like me as Star Wars day. Therefore allow me to indulge as other authors have, in analyzing the Star Wars movies in a military and historical fashion. I believe that the Battle of Endor at the end of Return of the Jedi bears a striking resemblance to the ultimate battle of the First Indochina War between France and the Viet Minh; the Siege of Dien Bien Phu.  Read more…

Sherman, Grant, and Depression

Gen. William T. Sherman, ca. 1864-65. Mathew Brady Collection. (Army)

Gen. William T. Sherman, ca. 1864-65. Mathew Brady Collection. (Army) – Source: Wikipedia

William Tecumseh Sherman is remembered as a fierce warrior, a force of nature, who once famously stated that “war is cruelty.” However, he was a man who harbored intense doubts about his own abilities at the beginning of the war, and suffered a mental breakdown related to what we would now term clinical depression. Through his family and friends, he managed to overcome his doubts and fears to become one of the most important men in the Union. Read more…

Ten Army Bases that Need New Names

I was reading the Atlantic this morning, and came across an article that was staggering in its strangeness. Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia state employees had yesterday off. What was the occasion? Confederate Memorial Day.  A few paragraphs into the article there was a link to a Time article about ten United States Army bases that are named for Confederate army officers. It is my opinion that it makes almost no sense for federal army bases to have the names of men who fought the federal army in the bloodiest war in our nation’s history. Thus, I submit the list of bases, with alternative names. For the purposes of this list, I have attempted to – as much as possible – exclude Union Army leaders, as that could be seen as needlessly antagonizing, and to avoid names that are already in use.  Read more…

Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, and Life

Julius Caesar - First Emperor of Rome - source: Wikipedia

Julius Caesar – First Emperor of Rome – source: Wikipedia

Last November, I wrote a three part series on the Romans Republic during its dark times in the Second Punic War. The purpose was to illustrate how the Republic had the required grit and determination to fend off the military genius of Hannibal and his Carthaginians. This made me think of two things. First that comparing oneself to a country might not be the most useful, but also of one of my favorite anecdotes of another great Roman: Julius Caesar, and his relationship to Alexander the Great. It is a story that I remember when life does not seem to be moving as fast as I would like. When I feel that I have somehow failed, and when I compare myself to others my age. Read more…

Some Apparent Good News from Iraq

The Peshmerga - those who face death

The Peshmerga – those who face death

It appears that the Kurdish Peshmerga  (a Kurdish militia under the command of the Iraqi Kurdistan government) have taken the city of Sinjar in northern Iraq. This was accomplished through the use of American and coalition air-strikes and the use of 7,500 troops. After a day of fighting, the Kurdish Regional government has stated that their troops have liberated the city. Read more…

Livy and the Long Game: Part III – Scipio takes the War to the Enemy

Sorry about the lateness of this post, it has been difficult finding the time to write it, also it is a long one, so bear with it, it’s good, I promise.

Scipio Africanus - Greater than Napoleon

Scipio Africanus – Greater than Napoleon

When we last left Livy, the Roman Republic, fighting for its life, had turned to Fabius Maximus, in an effort to delay Hannibal. The Romans needed a way to strike at the Carthaginians without giving battle to Hannibal. A strategy had to be developed that would allow the Romans to continue their long game, without bringing Rome into direct danger. The Roman Senate thus hit upon a strategy that is not dissimilar to the Union’s strategy during the American Civil War, but it was most similar to Britain’s strategy towards Napoleon from 1805 to 1814: striking at Hannibal’s base in Spain, before going for his army itself. Read more…

Some Reading for Veterans Day

Armistice Day Parade,1919 - Salem Massachusetts

Armistice Day Parade,1919 – Salem Massachusetts

For the past week, I’ve been trying – in vain – to think of something meaningful to write for Veterans Day. I’ve written on the disconnect between the military and civilians before, and I do not wish to repeat myself. I also want to honor and respect veterans, but I do not want those actions to take the form by “liking” and “sharing” a photo on Facebook. I want to contribute to a conversation, and yet I do not know if I have the words. However, in the course of my searching today, I found some others, whose words have affected me greatly. I will share the links, and excerpts that I found especially meaningful. Read more…

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