Military History

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Aug 1, 2009
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I can't believe how knowledgeable you people are on history. It is very interesting to read.
 
Jul 28, 2009
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I love it, particularly ancient + medieval military history. I once gave a presentation on the Battle of Gaugamela, Alexander the Great vs Darius of Persia.

I stopped the presentation at the decisive point of the battle when things were looking very bad for Alexander. I asked the group, how they would win the battle? Gave them some hefty hints, and let them discuss it for 2 minutes. No one figured out how to win it, when I told them how he did it, they woz impressed.

The battles of Alesia and Cannae are also really interesting. Along with hundreds of others and the First Crusade I find pretty fascinating.

The problem with modern military history is it is polluted with contemporary imperialism, it's ideologies and propaganda. A case in point is the inability to differentiate between a principled opposition to a war vs a pragmatic one.

Saying "we could never win that war" is not a principled objection. Saying "that war was a monstrous crime that devastated 2 countries and saw the use of chemical weapons to destroy food crops", that's a principled objection. (Which war am I referring to?).

Hear this man speak before he dies:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUUkwmTmYqM#t=27m38s
 
cromagnon said:
I love it, particularly ancient + medieval military history. I once gave a presentation on the Battle of Gaugamela, Alexander the Great vs Darius of Persia.

I stopped the presentation at the decisive point of the battle when things were looking very bad for Alexander. I asked the group, how they would win the battle? Gave them some hefty hints, and let them discuss it for 2 minutes. No one figured out how to win it, when I told them how he did it, they woz impressed.

The battles of Alesia and Cannae are also really interesting. Along with hundreds of others and the First Crusade I find pretty fascinating.

The problem with modern military history is it is polluted with contemporary imperialism, it's ideologies and propaganda. A case in point is the inability to differentiate between a principled opposition to a war vs a pragmatic one.

Saying "we could never win that war" is not a principled objection. Saying "that war was a monstrous crime that devastated 2 countries and saw the use of chemical weapons to destroy food crops", that's a principled objection. (Which war am I referring to?).

Hear this man speak before he dies:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUUkwmTmYqM#t=27m38s
What did you numbet Dariuses army as? Some sources said it was 1 million, while modern historians say it was more likely 80 000 vs 15 000, still bad odds, but obviously far better.
 
May 24, 2010
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Don't believe I've missed this thread....anyway better late than never.
I can't call myself a Historian but I have studied a lot of the background, demography, politics and actual battles in European conflict from the time of Napoleon to the present day, much of it was cirriculum at staff college.

Anyway, can I recommend the work of Professor Iain Kershaw to you all, his Biography of Hitler is the seminal work in my view and takes you inside the head of the man, Hubris and Nemesis a two part biography. Laurence Rees' series on the Nazis are facinating and a must for anyone who want's to try and understand the why's.

I've noticed the word Appeasement coming up and perhaps the specific views on appeasement are influenced by your individual locations. Appeasement has happened twice; in the escalatory stages to the final invasion of Poland and in the aftermath and escalation to the Cold War.

Through the Global depression in the 30's successive British PMs, MacDonald, Baldwin and Chamberlain primarily were responsible both for allowing the rearmament of Germany to happen and for their redolence when the Anschlus with Austria occurred and the German recovery of the Czech Suddetenland. By allowing the Nazi's the scope to make these moves in the chess game they left themselves open to be played. What nmeeds to be remembered is that back the Britain was THE great superpower, Brittannia Ruled the Waves and the globe sought their leadership in the fight against Nazism and the general rise of Fascism. Communism even in 30's Europe was not considered a great threat other than in Germany and it was for those reasons that Hitler allied himself with Stalin. Iosef Vissaronovich did not want the fight so the fragile peace that Hitler offered was a godsend, again a loose form of appeasement. These appeasements gave Hitler and the Nazi Party the confidence to Invade Poland in the face of threats from everywhere else, the Brit's had backed down often enough before Austria, Suddetenland, the rearming of the Rhineland, they may have threatened to back Poland, Hitler never thought they would stand by that for a second.

Secondly, similar mistakes were made by Churchill and Roosevelt by their appeasement of Stalin as 44 and 45 drew to a close. They ceded the east to Stalin though there were plenty of warning signs of what was to come.

There are parallels today, Iraq, Afghanistan etc etc. 9/11 brought a new breed of terrorism to the world appease that at your peril.

From earlier posts, I think the people of Europe owe a huge debt of gratuitude to the Poles, they stood up to be counted in the face of not just overwhelming odds but much worse. After the Katyn Massacre, peasants led peasants. Where possible they stood shoulder to shoulder with the Allies fighting against those who had destroyed their country and their people. Unfortunately our global leaders decided to stab the Poles in the back and gave the coutry to Stalin.

Good Thread
 
Military History? There's also an economic component. Adam Tooze makes in interesting point that the German expansion from 1938 was needed to sustain the economy since the foreign exchange reserves were depleted by that point. Further expansion to the East was needed to sustain the war in the West against the combined economic might of Britain and the USA. Giving up Czechoslovakia without a fight helped Germany gain access to production capabilities and gold reserves which made the war easier.
 
Jul 28, 2009
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The Hitch said:
What did you numbet Dariuses army as? Some sources said it was 1 million, while modern historians say it was more likely 80 000 vs 15 000, still bad odds, but obviously far better.
80,000 for Gaugamela, outnumbering Alexander by more than 2:1 also Darius recruited the fearsome Bactrian horsemen to try to counter Alexanders heavy cavalry. They would have done too but Alexander sprung what amounted to a mobile infantry ambush on them as a distraction, long enough to do his hammer + anvil on the persian infantry flank with his Companion cavalry and turn the tide of the battle. History has Darius down as a weak and stupid leader but really he was pretty decent and up against a genius.

You might be thnking of the invasion force assembled by Xerxes to crush Greece which was supposed to have had at least a third of a million, 100,000 combatants + logistic and engineering corps. This force as we know was famously help up for a number of days by the 300 Spartans at a bottleneck. If that happened now the clinic would be full of posts about spartans :D.

Xerxes did accomplish one mission objective - to destroy Athens - but Themistocles wiped out so much of the Persian navy (against ridiculous odds) that they had to pull out. Interestingly, Alexander on his campaign was said (by some) to have destroyed the Persian capital Persepolis in retribution for the destruction of Athens by Xerxes about 150 years earlier.

Some cool vids

Ancient Period

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xe84t1_romans-julius-caesar-ep-01-13_shortfilms
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w4NoAmatwYs
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H74Am3oeFwY&feature=related

Medieval

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqK-RuntywY
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=7378684390083851646# <--- this
 
cromagnon said:
80,000 for Gaugamela, outnumbering Alexander by more than 2:1 also Darius recruited the fearsome Bactrian horsemen to try to counter Alexanders heavy cavalry. They would have done too but Alexander sprung what amounted to a mobile infantry ambush on them as a distraction, long enough to do his hammer + anvil on the persian infantry flank with his Companion cavalry and turn the tide of the battle. History has Darius down as a weak and stupid leader but really he was pretty decent and up against a genius.

You might be thnking of the invasion force assembled by Xerxes to crush Greece which was supposed to have had at least a third of a million, 100,000 combatants + logistic and engineering corps. This force as we know was famously help up for a number of days by the 300 Spartans at a bottleneck. If that happened now the clinic would be full of posts about spartans :D.

Xerxes did accomplish one mission objective - to destroy Athens - but Themistocles wiped out so much of the Persian navy (against ridiculous odds) that they had to pull out. Interestingly, Alexander on his campaign was said (by some) to have destroyed the Persian capital Persepolis in retribution for the destruction of Athens by Xerxes about 150 years earlier.

Some cool vids

Ancient Period

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xe84t1_romans-julius-caesar-ep-01-13_shortfilms
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w4NoAmatwYs
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H74Am3oeFwY&feature=related

Medieval

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqK-RuntywY
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=7378684390083851646# <--- this
The spartan battle you mention was the battle of thermopylae. While the greeks were outnumbered the number 300 was used for the purposes of selling the film, as were the images of 10 feet tall emperors covered in earings, and elite squads of super ninjas ;). There were 300 spartans but they were supported by others.

Also i did a dissertation on Thucudides vs Herodotus once, and Herodotus, who is one of the major sources for Thermopylae, is not to be trusted.

When i said 1 million Persians, I was talking about Gaugamela. Sources for antiquity are few and far between, especially compared to recent history so i cant really offer you anything more concrete than wikipedia (though i have heard the 1 million figure being touted around elsewhere.
Anyway according to wikipedia 3 ancient sources numbered Darius at 1 million

According to Arrian, Darius's force numbered 40,000 cavalry and 1,000,000 infantry,[13]; Diodorus Siculus put it at 200,000 cavalry and 800,000 infantry,[15]; Plutarch put it at 1,000,000 troops[16]
 
Jul 28, 2009
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Thracians, thespians, Spartans and reserves amounted to 10,000 at Thermopylae, the 300,000 persians is widely accepted. However in a strange twist, there really were 300 spartans, they really did send their reserves away when their position was compromised and their sacrifice really did serve to unite a very divided Greece. The "300" was already a tradition before the persian invasion where 300 veterans who had contributed to society by having sons (and who in my opinion would have questionable mental health from repeated battle-shock and a brutal existence, PTSD is as old as human cognitive function), would be sent on just such a mission.

The movie 300 is merely another example in a long line of the retelling of that story through the millenia in many nations, there is nothing new about embellishing the military feat. The trick is not to fall into the trap of dismissing everything, but reading between the lines.

Regarding Gaugamela numbers, I try to avoid cherry picking trimary sources, as how does one decide "I will accept this, but I won't accept that". People do it, but it makes me uncomfortable but...

I will say that at the battle of Issus (at which Darius was defeated prior to Gaugamela) there were nowhere near 1,000,000 combatants on the Persian side. You would wonder why Darius did not amass such a force there if he could at Issus, where he lost so many of his best troops in a pretty closely-fought battle. Logistically that would have been easier than doing it at Gaugamela. Additionally in both cases, Darius played a waiting game. That is not a position a commander having to feed so many troops would usually take. Just seems so out of whack from so many other campaigns. Also Alexander had his own "Historian" of the mission...
 
Mar 18, 2009
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The Hitch said:
The spartan battle you mention was the battle of thermopylae. While the greeks were outnumbered the number 300 was used for the purposes of selling the film, as were the images of 10 feet tall emperors covered in earings, and elite squads of super ninjas ;). There were 300 spartans but they were supported by others.
cromagnon said:
The movie 300 is merely another example in a long line of the retelling of that story through the millenia in many nations, there is nothing new about embellishing the military feat. The trick is not to fall into the trap of dismissing everything, but reading between the lines
Did anyone else go into that movie thinking it was based on Pressfield's Gates of Fire only to discover it was based on a comic book? I did...:eek:
 
cromagnon said:
Thracians, thespians, Spartans and reserves amounted to 10,000 at Thermopylae, the 300,000 persians is widely accepted. However in a strange twist, there really were 300 spartans, they really did send their reserves away when their position was compromised and their sacrifice really did serve to unite a very divided Greece. The "300" was already a tradition before the persian invasion where 300 veterans who had contributed to society by having sons (and who in my opinion would have questionable mental health from repeated battle-shock and a brutal existence, PTSD is as old as human cognitive function), would be sent on just such a mission.

The movie 300 is merely another example in a long line of the retelling of that story through the millenia in many nations, there is nothing new about embellishing the military feat. The trick is not to fall into the trap of dismissing everything, but reading between the lines.

Regarding Gaugamela numbers, I try to avoid cherry picking trimary sources, as how does one decide "I will accept this, but I won't accept that". People do it, but it makes me uncomfortable but...

I will say that at the battle of Issus (at which Darius was defeated prior to Gaugamela) there were nowhere near 1,000,000 combatants on the Persian side. You would wonder why Darius did not amass such a force there if he could at Issus, where he lost so many of his best troops in a pretty closely-fought battle. Logistically that would have been easier than doing it at Gaugamela. Additionally in both cases, Darius played a waiting game. That is not a position a commander having to feed so many troops would usually take. Just seems so out of whack from so many other campaigns. Also Alexander had his own "Historian" of the mission...
For the record, i do not believe for a second that there was anywhere near a million people at Gaugamela. My point has simply been that there are some sources which say there was a million. The figure of 100 000 is far more likely, or maybe even less.

I asked because you said you did a presentation on gaugamela and said listeners were impressed by Alexanders tactics. I myself did a presentation of Alexander of Macedon a while back (when i was still at school, wasnt serious, just a off lesson) and for the battle of Gaugamela i used the 1 million figure for Darius, for no one listening would know any better. I said Darius had 800 000 troops and 200 000 cavalry. No wonder they were impressed that Macedon won:p
 
Military kit at the end of WW2

Why didn't anyone round-up a bunch of cool Nazi kit, some Panzer's, a bunch of FW-190's and store them in a warehouse for 65 years so that I could have one of each now, which I'd keep in my back yard? :confused:
 

Barrus

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Apr 28, 2010
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joe_papp said:
Why didn't anyone round-up a bunch of cool Nazi kit, some Panzer's, a bunch of FW-190's and store them in a warehouse for 65 years so that I could have one of each now, which I'd keep in my back yard? :confused:
Try e-bay:p

But don't go to Europe searching for it, in many states it is illegal to sell Nazi stuff
 
Aug 31, 2011
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Got directed here from The Hitch posting it in the Britain doesn't get road racing thread. What a fantastic thread! I have just finished studying History at uni - mainly focussed on political and social history, but have a keen interest in the Napoleonic wars and WW1.

Ferminal said:
I know that Australia only awarded the first VC since Vietnam a couple of years ago (Afghanistan). NZ has been a bit more generous in handing them out I believe, not sure about UK.
The awarding to the VC in the UK has become a lot less common in recent times. I think the criteria was tightened up - basically to ensure that it is as prestigious as possible. Only thirteen have been awarded since WW2.

The Hitch said:
No way would Hitler have a border with the French. Not after the humiliation of Versailles. Hitler by all accounts fought bravely in that war. It was probably the humiliation Germany recieved, for which Clemenceau pushed hard, which got Hitler accross the moral event horizon.
Hitler was awarded the Iron Cross in WW1, Germany's equivalent of the VC.
Arguably, the treaty of Versailles was not crushing enough, as it provided the scope for Germany to rebuild. This cartoon appeared in 1920: http://www.johndclare.net/images/cannonfodder.jpg showing that some at least realised that another war was on the horizon (note the weeping child is from '1940 class'. The Tiger is Clemenceau)

flyor64 said:
Someone mentioned a desire to see Normandy, and I would wholeheartedly recommend that. From any of the beaches going inland through the layered defense of the Germans paints a strong picture. Alot of the terrain is ontouched other than what nature has done these past years. Specifically coming to mind is Point du Hoc, where the craters and fortifications are still there. A sobering experience.
Different war but a trip to both the Somme area and Ypres (especially the service at the Menin gate each night) are a must in my view. A truly eye opening, incredible and humbling esperience.


Libertine Seguros said:
war was almost inevitable in the climate of 1914, with all of the intertwining treaties and the power struggle in Europe.
jon_anders said:
Exactly. I mobilize, you mobilize, my friend mobilizes, etc. I still find the Schlieffen Plan very interesting .
Fritz Fischer's theory published in 1961, Griff nach der Weltmacht argues that Germany had been specifically planning for a war for most of the previous decade. War was certainly inevitable in 1914 - Fischer adds an interesting perspective on things, namely that Germany manipulated the circumstances of the assassination to put their own war aims into practice.
Interestingly however, they didn't think Britain would get involved. Britain, France, and Russia were only bound by an Entente Cordiale, rather than an official treaty, and Germany were surprised when Britain declared war - especially given the links between the two royal families and so on. There is also a school of thought that argues that the Schlieffen plan never actually existed as an operational idea. It was more a memorandum, that had been written in 1905 and never really amended or updated to take technological advances into account, hence why it came unstuck from the word go.
 
Mar 18, 2009
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Dancing On The Pedals said:
Hitler was awarded the Iron Cross in WW1, Germany's equivalent of the VC.
Hitler was actually awarded the Iron Cross second class, similar to the Distinguished Service Order (or what is now known as Conspicuous Gallantry Cross). Interestingly, Hitler actually wore the Iron Cross first class when he was Chancellor of Germany.

Dancing On The Pedals said:
Arguably, the treaty of Versailles was not crushing enough, as it provided the scope for Germany to rebuild.
Paris 1919 by Margaret McMillan is a fascinating book that details the Treaty of Versailles and its failings.

Dancing On The Pedals said:
Different war but a trip to both the Somme area and Ypres (especially the service at the Menin gate each night) are a must in my view. A truly eye opening, incredible and humbling esperience.
+1. I visited Belgium for the third time earlier this year, attended services at Menin Gate and toured the Somme, Ypres Salient, Vimy Ridge, and Fromelles (I am an Australian living in Canada, so a nod to both nations). Very, very moving and something all Australians should do if they get the chance IMO.
 
Dancing On The Pedals said:
Got directed here from The Hitch posting it in the Britain doesn't get road racing thread.
Where did you study?

This cartoon appeared in 1920: http://www.johndclare.net/images/cannonfodder.jpg showing that some at least realised that another war was on the horizon (note the weeping child is from '1940 class'. The Tiger is Clemenceau)
A similarly prophetic statement came from Marshall Foch.

"This is not a peace. It is an armistice for twenty years
 
Foch wanted the Rhineland occupied. No treaty would have been crushing enough for him, unless it totally destroyed Germany as a power. Just like there were some who pushed for harsher terms, there were others that thought softer terms would be better for everyone involved.
 
hrotha said:
Foch wanted the Rhineland occupied. No treaty would have been crushing enough for him, unless it totally destroyed Germany as a power. Just like there were some who pushed for harsher terms, there were others that thought softer terms would be better for everyone involved.
The reparations and limitations imposed on Germany at Versailles were overwhelming. Renunciation by Germany was inevitable unless Britain and France were resolute in policing the terms of the treaty. After Hitler sent his troops into the Ruhr, the inevitability of war should have been evident even to Chamberlain, Daladier and the appeasers. But it wasn't.

In '39, Hitler thought he could pull off Poland, like he pulled off the Ruhr, Austria, and Czechoslovakia. Sure the British and French declared war, but did they take any military advantage of the futile Polish resistance? No, they waged Phoney War until May, 1940.

So tragically foreseeable.
 
MarkvW said:
.

In '39, Hitler thought he could pull off Poland, like he pulled off the Ruhr, Austria, and Czechoslovakia. Sure the British and French declared war, but did they take any military advantage of the futile Polish resistance? No, they waged Phoney War until May, 1940.

So tragically foreseeable.
A counter theory is that he wanted war and kept invading neighbour states until he got it. I think somewhere he said something about how Britain couldnt let Czechoslovakia go without war, so he was going to antagonize them into doing it.

Its difficult to know what he thought. Germany were in no position to fight at the time byt Hitler wasnt exactly a great military strategist.
 
The Hitch said:
A counter theory is that he wanted war and kept invading neighbour states until he got it. I think somewhere he said something about how Britain couldnt let Czechoslovakia go without war, so he was going to antagonize them into doing it.

Its difficult to know what he thought. Germany were in no position to fight at the time byt Hitler wasnt exactly a great military strategist.
I think it must be both. He was a compulsive gambler. He was going to keep pushing until war came. Once war came he was going to continue until he was killed.

He was a terrible strategist. The 1941Balkan Campaign critically delayed the life or death war with Russia. His dithering over Sea Lion. His resource commitment to capital ships. The "festung" defense strategy. These just come first to mind.

I liken hitler to the boor sitting next to you at the dinner table who outrageously grabs food off of other people's plates. He gets away with it for awhile because it is daring and unexpected, but it catches up with him relatively quickly.
 
Jul 17, 2009
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Thoughtforfood said:
Yea, I have a degree in history, and love the history of WWII particularly. I love Ambrose's books, and the first two of the Liberation Trilogy by Atkinson (An Army at Dawn, and The Day of Battle, the third is yet published) are fantastic books. Past that, The Third Reich by Burleigh is great too, and many, many more.

We had a fairly spirited discussion on here some time back about whether or not the US entering the war was necessary. I thought there were some really silly suggestions proffered regarding the fact that it was not needed, but still, it was an interesting debate.
I did my undergrad as a History Major. I like to think I got my degree is Pessimism.

spent a lot of time studying the Bureaucracy that was the 3rd Reich.

Any time you wish to discuss functionalism vs intentional-ism I am game.
 

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