Monday, June 26, 2017

Ike, Strategy Rant #2

You can read the start on Eisenhower's strategic mind here and here. Sadly, international events unfold with such speed that I sometimes can not ignore (as much as I want to) them and have to react in some form or fashion, instead of concentrating on a host of subjects which give me a degree of comfort and even joy while discussing them. Eisenhower, certainly, is part of it. So, I am ranting again:

As was stated in the previous rant, Marshall and Ike were not alone in understanding a decisive importance of European Theater. As early as ABC-1 conference--American, British and Canadian strategy consultations early 1941--even before United States were officially involved in WW II, it was clear that British intent was to guard the Empire, not to face Nazi Germany on Continent. The issue of Singapore and Ducth Indies was extremely important for London, it surely was not for the US. As Marshall noted in his rather abrupt rejection of British plan during consultations at Singapore :

While the two summaries were under study by Staff officers, who saw in this final paragraph the extent to which ABD had soared beyond American desires, further pressure for American aid to Singapore was being applied. A paper prepared by Stanley K. Hornbeck of the State Department and forwarded to the War Department suggested that the United States further Singapore's security by keeping three-quarters of the fleet based in Hawaii, sending more planes and submarines to the Philippines, and equipment to China, the Netherlands East Indies, and Singapore. To these suggestions General Marshall announced his opposition. He found nothing new in the facts cited, and no satisfaction in the conclusions. His own view was that "Collapse in the Atlantic would be fatal; collapse in the Far East would be serious but not fatal." 
It is easy today, having a luxury of a hindsight, to review those documents and decisions--it was not easy to make them then. It is to the highest credit of American officers from Marshall, Eisenhower to Embick and Gerow that they recognized real strategic importance of European theater even before Operation Barbarossa unfolded. With Germany's invasion of USSR it became crystal clear what theater has become decisive and by far. It would take Cold War, of course, to completely obfuscate or, when impossible to obfuscate--dull, a massive scale of the events and the nature of that war which had nothing to do with "survival of democracy" and was the war of annihilation. In 1989 late Paul Fussell, himself a  veteran of WW II and literary critic of some standing, in his Wartime: Understanding And Behavior In The Second World War, paraded pervasive general Western ignorance and kindergarten self-righteousness when stated:

Even the relative impurity of the Allied ethical cause once Joseph Stalin joined in seemed easily accommodated to the general high-mindedness. 
This certainly was not the attitude of Ike, especially when the first reports of staggering losses and atrocities committed by Nazis in USSR started to pour in Allied Camp. But how truly "allied" was this camp is a matter for serious debate. As ABC and ABD conferences have initially shown abundantly--Churchill's objectives were not to fight Wehrmacht on Continent. Hence, while debatable from the point of view of practical realization, a vigorous Sledgehammer was buried at the  Second Washington Conference in 1942 and was replaced with Operation Torch whose dubious strategic worth was debated ever since and played not a small part in developing later serious Cold War suspicions. What preceded this decision, however was completely devoid of any finesse and actual allied spirit. 

As many American officers noted, British behavior at the conference was arrogant, officers of British General Staff looked down at their American counterparts, and their opinions, with contempt. After all, what could those Americans suggest to people who at that time fought Nazis for two years. Americans complained but to no avail. Churchill persevered and ensured a dispersal of Allied resources to the strategically secondary theaters of operations. Secondary to the main political objective of defeating Axis forces, which could have been done only in Europe in general, and in Germany in particular. Especially when agreement on unconditional surrender of Germany was worked out between Russians and Allies--due to mostly FDR's fear of USSR cutting a separate deal with Hitler, a possibility which was debunked by Allied intelligence in 1942 against the background of appalling losses on both sides and of German atrocities on occupied territories. But Churchill needed Allied forces to guard Imperial possessions, up to the point of discussing a possibility, a rather dubious one, of Germans making it to India from their bases in North Africa. As I already pointed out in previous rant--with the burial of Sledgehammer, and, by implication, of the  Roundup, another Ike's plan, Ike's reaction to it, his passionate thrust in trying to realize war plans which could have eased substantially immense pressures under which Red Army was fighting in 1942, had an enormous human dimension, which in Russia's/Soviet case could not have been ignored. It was, and still is, impossible not to sympathize with Eisenhower and his both human and professional position, especially when one considers a strategic situation in Soviet Union with Battle Of Stalingrad approaching and a rather vigorous reporting on the events on the Eastern Front and Soviet people waiting for the real Second Front by nationally syndicated Leland Stowe. Obviously, today Stowe's first rate war reporting would be construed a "collusion" with Stalin, NKVD and devil himself. Yet, this was not a rarity in US then:
Soviet Union fought for more than just freedom--for survival.
Allied general staffs were aware of the situation on the Eastern Front. In layman's lingo Allied strategic discussion looked like this:

1. FDR was ambiguous, his officers, apart from naturally Pacific firsters, wanted to go in (Europe) decisively ASAP;
2. Churchill's calculus was drastically different and was revolving around impossibility of landing in Europe in 1942 and in 1943. 

In what would become one of the most controversial (a euphemism for military crime) attempts to discredit the very idea of viability of European landing, a sacrifice of 5000 Canadians was made at Dieppe in August of 1942. In early 1990s, the CBC made a hour long documentary in which placed the blame for failure squarely on Churchill and Dudley Pound (not the first time Pound's name will appear in connection to "controversy"), Russians, understandably, were livid but so were many in American camp. As was reported by National Post at 70th anniversary of Dieppe Raid:
What remains to be answered is if there was another element at play shaping events. The late Brigadier General Forbes West of Toronto thought so, identifying a political reason for the raid’s launch. “I feel that from the day planning began, it was intended to be a failure,” he revealed to me in his home 23 years ago. “Perhaps not as costly a failure, but a failure nevertheless. The British were being pressed by the Russians and Americans to open a second front, so we were put in with the firm intention of being destroyed. Men at the Chiefs of Staff level would consider 4,000 casualties a small price to pay for convincing the Russians and Americans an invasion would be a disaster.”
Dieppe debacle took place when the Battle of Stalingrad began, Casablanca Conference was held in January 1943, when the fate of the Stalingrad was decided, with it the fate of Wehrmacht at the Eastern front was sealed and with it--the outcome of war in Europe. And it will be there, at Casablanca, where the "primrose path" memorandum by US General Stanley Embick of Marshall's OPD would openly accuse Churchill of sabotaging any real attempts at fighting Germany where it mattered most. Italian Campaign would prove this point unequivocally when all facts would be collected properly after Battle of Kursk, they would show Ike's foresight and will explain why Stalin wanted American general officer leading Overlord...  

To be continued.... 

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