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Samizdata quote of the day

The ADC is a fire-eater and longs for the fray.

– Douglas Haig, Diary entry for 20 July 1917 commenting on a meeting with American Commander-in-Chief Pershing and other members of his staff.

And the name of this fire-eating ADC?

George S. Patton.

16 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Paul Marks

    George Patton did not really have much of a chance to show his skills – he had been with Pershing before. In Mexico – where he had ridden off on his own and came back with the bodies dead Revolutionaries – who had raided an American town. Riding off on your own should be a death sentence in a counter insurgency operation – but not if you are Pattern (the monsters “you are trapped in here with us” – “no” says the man “you are trapped in here with me”).

    General Pershing himself had no experience with large scale warfare – he was out of his depth and he made the mistake of copying certain Allied commanders (such as Haig) who tended to hang back and rely on maps rather than personal observation. Douglas Macarthur was also in France during the closing stages of the First World War – and was very critical of this approach. Of course going forward risks a commander being killed – but observation is necessary so such risks have to be taken. The Earl of Cavan had taken General Rawlingson forward during the Somme Offensive to show him that an attack on a particular German position was a demented idea – having seen the situation with his own eyes (rather against his will basically “Fatty” had to drag “the Cad” forward to see) General Rawlingson cancelled the operation – only for both men to be overruled by Haig (who had no understanding of infantry tactics and refused to even and try and learn).

    However, in defence of Pershing, he and other American military commanders understood that the war had to be a carried on to a successful conclusion – making a deal with the Germans (the policy that Haig favoured by 1918) which would allow Germany to attack again in the future, was not a policy that the American Generals favoured.

    Snatching defeat (de facto defeat – official “victory”) from the jaws of victory in November 1918 was a terrible thing to do. The German army was finally cracking – but instead of going on to victory (marching into Berlin, restoring the independence of Bavaria, Hanover and so on – and ending the artificial German state created in 1871) the Allies “made a deal” – a deal that made World War II inevitable. As Marshall Foch said in despair – “this is not peace – this is a 20 year truce”.

    Almost a million British soldiers and almost two million French soldiers (and hundreds of thousands of Italians – and over a hundred thousand American soldiers) had died and had been BETRAYED.

    Sadly such ideas as a “United Germany in a United Europe” have still not been defeated.

  • Paul Marks

    By the way – in that intellectual classic “The Young Indiana Jones” young Mr Jones is shown being in the American town raided by Mexicans in 1916, the boy goes off with the Revolutionaries (and Patton is depicted as a “racist” monster).

    Hollywood firmly supports treason – even (indeed especially) in shows made for children.

    After all Hollywood stands for “Social Justice” – and that can only be achieved by the extermination of the United States and other “capitalist” powers. General Lundendorff would have agreed – although he was not shown in a sympathetic light in the recent “Wonder Woman” film (perhaps because Hollywood does not know how much he hated “capitalism”).

    Denis Winter (a man of the left) points out that, unlike Haig, Lundendorff was an intellectual – but he fails to point what sort of intellectual Lundendorff was.

    Politically I prefer Haig – better a man whose head is empty, than a man (Lundendorff) whose head was filled with evil.

  • NickM

    Paul, few arguments with you there. War without victory is utterly pointless. So are lots of things but those are things people don’t tend to die from. The only point I’d add (and I get this from John Keegan is that in WWI the “Chateau-style” generalship didn’t work. By WWII (due to advances in comms) it did but folks like Montgomery who had been officers in the trenches made a big show of being as close to the line in WWII – even dressing as a private in Monty’s case. Keegan argues that this was an (understandable) emotional reaction but not tactically sound given the the technical advances.

  • staghounds

    Why does everyone seem to accept that Haig was stupid? His society didn’t think so, it put him in charge of its greatest enterprise ever and you don’t get there by being stupid.

  • Paul Marks

    TomJ – not using a target pistol was indeed a mistake of Patton’s. However, his argument was that a man does not carry round a special target pistol with him – he should know how to shoot with his ordinary military pistol.

    By the way the 1911 Colt 45 Automatic is a fine weapon – although some people argue that the 1980s 10mm round (not the FBI version of the 10 mm round, the original version) is superior – and prefer the 1911 Colt automatic to be chambered for this round. I do not know enough to be able to judge – and so leave the discussion to those with experience in killing with these weapons.

    Nick – yes I see your point, but I still like the idea of a general who wants to see with his own eyes. However, such a commander should keep certain others well versed of his plans – for if a commander, as Wellington did, keep all his plans to himself alone then a single bullet may ruin both army and nation, and destroy most noble cause.

    Staghounds – the sort of intelligence that gains a man high office (and keeps him there) is not the sort of intelligence that make a man any good in that office. Many people gain high rank in both military, political and even business affairs – whilst being utterly unworthy of such office. We live in a fallen world – and the name of life is suffering.

    Douglas Haig was an expert wire puller – a master of office politics. He was also a terrible General and a dishonourable man. He had neither military skill (I mean skill as a commander – not skill in the military bureaucracy) nor personal good moral character.

    And I say the above with no political axe to grind – indeed in most of the political disputes before 1914 I would have been on the same side as Douglas Haig.

    Both of us are Conservatives – and we are both Unionists. Both of us are democrats with a small d (believing the people should be able to peacefully remove a government via an election) but not deomcrats with a big “D” – in that neither Douglas Haig or myself are people who believe that “it is the will of the democratically elected government” is the end of a discussion, it is an important point (one to be weighed in consideration), but not the only point that matters. If a democratically elected government is working to destroy the nation then one may have to turn to turn one’s rifle against it – there I would not argue with Douglas Haig. Although, like him, I believe the burden of proof is upon those who would argue for such radical action – they must prove their case beyond all reasonable doubt.

  • Paul Marks

    Of course the “Loyal rebel” is more a feature of Ulster culture than Scottish culture (the two started to diverge in about 1712 when the Church of Scotland was transformed into a top-down body and the dissenting Protestant churches in Ulster were not) – the sort of person who is loyal to the nation whilst utterly despising its government. What Americans call the “Redneck” which has been the core of the American military for centuries – in spite of their money and their culture (for example Patton could speak several languages) there was a streak of “Redneck” in both Macarthur and Patton – both the dark side (the love of killing – if possible personally), and the bright side – the refusal to hurt anyone weak or helpless, and the refusal to order anyone to take risks that one will not share with them.

    The “Ulster Division” of the First World War started as a private army before the First World War – and it was not raised to fight the Germans, it was raised to fight (if need be) the government in London. Douglas Haig might have agreed with them politically – but he was not really part of that culture.

    It might be summed up as the code-of-the-warrior. Specifically that weird hybrid of northern warrior violence – which Christian conscience. The sort of man who will (if need be) fight against the entire world to defend what they believe to be right – and will refuse to hurt the weak or helpless, indeed will die to protect them.

    No prices for guessing what half of this heritage that Germans such as the pagan General Ludendorf rejected.

  • Patrick Crozier

    As usual, Paul makes all sorts of claims. I have asked him on numerous occasions to provide evidence for these claims. One day he will provide this evidence but I fear today is not that day.

    @staghounds. Haig made mistakes for sure. His principal one was setting targets for offensives which no army, let alone the British, was capable of meeting. On the other hand, on strategy, logistics and inter-allied co-operation he was spot on. He understood that the Western Front was the key front, that new technology was vital and that in order to maximise the effect of offensive action it was essential to co-operate with his allies.

  • Laird

    Paul, a small correction: the Colt 1911 is not an “automatic” pistol, it is a semiautomatic. An important distinction.

  • Patrick Crozier

    I thought I’d look up what Foch thought. His objection to the Versailles Treaty was that the Rhineland was not detached from Germany. There are a couple of points to make:

    1. He believed this could be done in 1919. In other words, the Armistice was not a barrier to it happening.
    2. The Rhineland was detached from Germany. In 1923. It did not go well.

  • Rich Rostrom

    Laird @ July 20, 2017 at 11:22 pm:

    Paul, a small correction: the Colt 1911 is not an “automatic” pistol, it is a semiautomatic. An important distinction.

    No pistols are “automatic” in the sense that “automatic rifles” are automatic – they fire one round per trigger pull, like a semi-automatic rifle.

    However, the designation of all such pistols as “automatic” goes back to the initial production of them. The M1911 was chambered for the .45 ACP cartridge, where “ACP” stood for “Automatic Colt Pistol”. As of 1940, it was designated “Automatic Pistol, Caliber .45, M1911”.

  • bobby b

    [obnoxious pedantry]

    I shot a friend’s Glock 18 just last week.

    About three years ago, I sold my old Steyr 1912 pistol.

    Both are fully automatic, standard-size pistols.

    If you stand close to gun nuts and talk about semiauto pistols and call them automatic pistols, they will make fun of you, just like they made fun of me when I did that.

    The ACP designation came about when bullets were developed to function in magazine-fed pistols of both the semiautomatic and automatic types. As opposed to revolvers, which hold bullets in a rotating (revolving!) cylinder, mag-fed pistols load ammunition into the chamber by sliding them up out of the spring-loaded magazine against a sort of funneling-shaped feed ramp. The front of the bullet has to be rounded and smooth so that they don’t jam as they slide. The “automatic” designation specifically indicated the rounded tip that allowed the cartridge to automatically slide up and enter the chamber, and had nothing to do with whether the gun was semiautomatic or automatic.

    Paul: the .45 ACP and the 10mm Auto are great cartridges, for one shot. They kick so hard that making a second shot is a slow process. The FBI dealt with that fierce kick in the 10mm by removing about one-quarter of the gunpowder from the cartridge. This made the kick manageable, but left the round relatively underpowered. Now, approximately 90% of law enforcement and military pistols use 9mm NATO ammunition. Good penetration, medium kick.

    [/obnoxious pedantry]

  • Laird

    Rich, “they fire one round per trigger pull” is the definition of “semiautomatic.” Automatic weapons keep firing as long as the trigger is held back (i.e, multiple rounds per trigger pull).

    The same is true for rifles, by the way. “One round per trigger pull” is a semiautomatic rifle, not an automatic.

  • Eric

    Heh. Yeah, Patton. The kind of guy you want to read about and not serve under.

  • Eric

    Laird, 1911 style pistols have been called “automatics” from the very beginning because the comparison was to revolvers. Technically they’re semi-automatics, but it’s not incorrect to call them automatics, either.

  • fcal

    Patrick Crozier – July 20, 2017 at 11:24 pm. At Versailles the French policy towards Germany was to have the Napoleonic border on the Rhine. Belgium followed suit and even claimed 2 Southern provinces of the neutral Netherlands and the Northern Rhineland Cologne included. That was sheer lunacy.
    The Rhineland itself was occupied by the Allies in 1918 and 1919. It remained demilitarised till 1936.
    In January 1923 the French and the Belgians occupied the Ruhr-region. The occupation lasted till August 1926. According to the draconian Versailles treaty Germany had to pay 225 millions goldmarks (approx. 860 billion USD (2017)) and was unable to comply fully.

    During WW1 the economies on all sides got practically completely nationalised. The generals and many politicians did not understand anything about the economy. Their statist beliefs made them to force Germany to supply coal and steel, which then undercut their own local industries. The exactions ruined first Germany’s economy and then their own. No wonder communism and socialism blossomed after WW1.