Confessions of an Aging Student

Intro

Today is my first day back in-school in almost twenty years. I am at the local community college trying to get an Associates of Applied Science in Information Technology. A fancy title for learning to work with computers.

Needing a Job

I tried unsuccessfully for a year to become a “professional writer.” I posted on guest boards, wrote peer reviewed articles for history magazines and even tried (still trying) to write my first book.

At the end of the year all I had was a manila envelope filled with rejection slips. It was not a waste of time. I learned a lot and I can honestly say I followed through with a childhood dream of trying to become a writer.

I love saying “I am a writer,” when people ask what I do for what a living. I hate having to say, “… I am just not a very good one because I can’t make a living at it.” But, if this is your life’s greatest problem, then life is good, right?

No matter what I have tried to be in my life, a writer is what I always wanted to be. I am an avid book reader. I love books, words and emotions. I just can’t seem to make any money at it.

A New Plan

In June, just before leaving for my Annual Training at Fort Dix, I submitted my last articles for publication. If they were published, I would keep going. If not, it was time for a new plan. They weren’t published.

At least this time I got a nice letter from the magazine- “Nice article, just not what we’re looking for right now.” At least this time I had heard something back. Most times all I heard was crickets with no feedback.

Vagabond

In 1999, I got my bachelor’s degree in History from Oregon State University. My parents asked, “What will you do with that?” I didn’t know, so I went into the army. The decision was part necessity, part lack of momentum.

Things happened. I traveled- I spent a year sabbatical on the army’s dime climbing up and down the hills of Korea. There aren’t many of them, but they are constant.

I ended up in a series of remote army posts doing different things. I liked the army, but I didn’t love it. My last year on Active Duty was spent in Iraq.

I got out and joined the National Guard. I kept moving around doing different jobs- I moved to Colorado, I lived in Washington State, and finally moved back to Oregon.

Years of crisscrossing the country provided me with lots of adventure and interesting experiences but no real foundation.

Some of my adventures including trying out for Special Forces, teaching elementary school at the foothills of Rocky Mountain National Park, running a successful campaign for a State Senator, working for a brief time as a carpenter’s apprentice, doing a Human Resources job for the Oregon Army National Guard, moving to Kentucky and finally settling in North Central Indiana.

Along the way I went to Afghanistan (3 times), met a great girl, got married and owned two different businesses.

My freewheeling days as a self-styled American vagabond were fun. If nothing else I can always say I tried a lot of stuff. After moving to Indiana I tried to become a “professional writer.”

Again, I learned a lot, but nothing happened. I threw up my hands. It was time for a new plan. My almost twenty year hiatus from school was over.

A Master’s Degree

I got a Master’s Degree on-line in 2012. It was loads of fun, but not very profitable. I got a Master’s Degree in Military History.

I specialize in mid-20th Century American wars. My real love is the National Guard in World War II. But what do you with that? You ran an obscure website that five people in America read, that’s what!

Again, loads of fun, but I hardly make any money at it. It is fun to let my geek flag fly. But I needed a real plan. Being married, changed everything.

Going Back to School

I got married last month. I promised myself and my lovely new bride that I would provide us. I decided to go back to school.

I admit I was nervous. I thought I knew about college. My wife works at Purdue University. I would take her to campus and all I saw was lots and lots of young people.

When I arrived at our local community college, I didn’t know what to expect. I realized there was a trend of older students returning to college. They even have a name for us- “non-traditional” students, lol!

I thought I would be the old man in the room compared to the 18-19-year-old, fresh faced, freshman. I was wrong.

Computers

I decided to go back and pursue a degree in computers. With emerging media and me running my own website computers are something I know a little bit about. I thought it would be a great to channel my creative impulses.

I worked for the army as a Tier One/Tier Two computer help guy. This is a field I feel comfortable with and even like. Technology can be a great equalizer. For some of us geeky folks, it can be a gateway to another world on-line.

There are a lot of young, competitive smart kids who grew up on the Internet here. I see them here on campus interfacing with their technology devices as easily as ordering as Starbucks.

Luckily, I am not alone. As I look around I see some folks around my age, some younger and some older.

I know that this will be no easy task but I always love learning something new.

The classes are small. The instructors are committed. Even though the student body population is much younger than me, no really seems to care about the “old man” in the back.

My Classes

Here is a rundown of my classes with a brief description.

– Hardware/Software- This is a hands-on class where you learn entry-level stuff about Information Technology. You install, configure, and maintain devices and software for end users.

– Informatics Fundamentals- You learn about human and technology interface. There is a brief history of trends in computers and how operating systems are used.

– Network Fundamentals- In this class you learn about networking communication. The functions and services of Open System Interconnection and Transport Control Protocol. This class teaches you how data goes across a network of computers.

– Computing, Logic- Here we look at algorithms, logic development and flowcharts to document computer logic. We focus on simple coding.

– German Level I- Here I learn basic German. I love this language and always wanted to learn it for no other reason than it sounds cool.

The Routine

The best thing about this whole thing is the routine. I am like Raymond in “Rain Man.” I need a set routine to function well. A daily regimen that I can set my clock too is where I do my best work.

Going back to school allowed for that. I am surprised and at how stimulated I am. I spent three hours on Friday organizing my notebooks, materials and computer for class.

I feel directed in my purpose.

Is returning to school in my 40s an unwise choice? I am not sure. Right now, it seems just right.

I’ll keep you posted. Right now, I gotta go, I am late for my first class!

VA Resources

Intro

This week I am going to try to give you the lowdown on the special benefits you are eligible for as veterans.

There are many benefits available for those who our country. It can be frustrating to look for information about specific benefits, who qualifies for it and you end up with endless paragraphs you have to decipher reams of paper and legal paragraphs full of government rules.

You shouldn’t have to hire a lawyer to have your veteran’s benefits explained to you. What you do need is a couple of resources that explain veterans benefits in clear, simple, everyday language.

I hope today’s emails does that for you. I am a disabled veterans and almost all my buddies are veterans. Most of them know about veterans benefits, but don’t know how they qualify or why.

The worst thing is the horror stories they’ve heard about the Veterans Administration (VA) screwed up the paperwork so badly it made it impossible to apply for benefits.

I won’t lie to you. I have lived some of those horror stories but I learned some important lessons I want to pass on. The VA’s record of handling some cases has been dismal.

But there’s good news. Most benefits claims are delayed or denied because the veteran didn’t fully understand the qualification criteria or failed to provide the correct documents and supporting evidence for their claim.

That’s not the veteran’s fault. Wading through pages and pages of legal language to submit a simple benefit claim can seem like an impossible task. I have a master’s degree and worked for years as a human resources professional and I have trouble understanding the complexities of the legal jargon of veterans’ benefits law.

Full-Disclosure

I am not an “expert” on veteran benefits, I don’t know everything and learn something new every day. I am a disabled veteran and have dealt with the VA for years. I don’t any new or secret information. What I will do in each email is provide you web sites for more information, as well as various federal laws, regulations, and other publications that are available on the internet.

My goal is to try to explain things in a logical way without giving you a headache. I want to save you time and give you access to resources you are entitled to because of your service.

Many people, both veterans and just kind friends, along the way. This is my lame attempt to pay it forward.

I am not going to waste your time by pointing out what’s wrong with the system or complaining about the government should do it to fix it. My goal here to help you understand veteran benefits, what you qualify for and work within the current system so you get the benefits you deserve.

State Veteran Programs

Each state has a veteran affairs agency. I will use Indiana as an example. Indiana provides several veteran benefits. This section is a brief description of the following benefits:

Indiana Financial Assistance Benefits:

Property Tax Abatements

Property tax deductions are available to disabled Hoosier Veterans under the following conditions:

  1. A $24,960 dollar deduction is available to veterans who have at least a 10% disability, wartime service, and an honorable discharge.
  2. A $12, 480 deduction is available to 100% disabled veterans or veterans over 62 years of age that are at least 10% disabled.

It is possible that a veteran could be eligible for one or both the deductions

Note: This deduction is not available if the assessed value of the real property owned by the veteran is in excess of $143,160.

If an otherwise eligible veteran owns no real property, then a deduction may be made on the excise tax for a vehicle for up to $70.

Indiana Education Benefits

Free Tuition Program

Indiana offers free tuition at state schools to children of disabled veterans, Purple Heart Recipients and their children, and children of former POW/MIA. The veteran must have:

  • been a resident of Indiana for 36 consecutive months
  • served in a wartime period (including August 2, 1990 – Present) or
  • received a Purple Heart Medal

The benefit includes free tuition and fees for 124 credit hours and is good at most state funded schools, including Purdue University- West Lafayette.

Each state varies but I listed Indiana and Oregon where most of readers live.

Some Resources

Vantage Point:

Official Blog of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Archives

Veteran Law Blog:

http://www.veteranslawblog.org/content-on-the-veterans-law-blog/

Oregon State Veteran’s Benefits:

http://www.military.com/benefits/veteran-state-benefits/oregon-state-veterans-benefits.html

Indiana State Veteran’s Benefits:

http://www.military.com/benefits/veteran-state-benefits/indiana-state-veterans-benefits.html

I hope this email has been helpful. I tried to organize it to be general and useful. I will arrange each of these according to subject matter. This one more of an introduction to resources.

I will do other posts in the future on education, employment, pensions and finances.

Remember the most dangerous thing in America is a veteran with a library card.

 

The Excellence of the German Army

The German War Machine

Two years ago I read book called “A Genus for War: The German Army and General Staff, 1807-1945” by Trevor N. Dupuy. The book was written in 1984 by a retired American infantry officer.

Dupuy believed that the German military performance in both World Wars was superior to the Allied Armies of both wars.

He looked at several aspects of the German experience- historical, sociological, political, cultural and economic.

He says the Germans, uniquely discovered the secret of “institutionalizing” military excellence. In areas like management, training and decision made the German army one of the greatest armed forces in the world.

Historical Examples

1944, was a disaster for Germany. They had been bombed day and night for months. The Anglo-Americans controlled the skies over Germany. In the sea they lost the Battle of Atlantic.

On the Western Front the Allied Forces were breaching sitting on the Rhine. In the East the Germans seemed unable to stop the sustained Russian offensive.

By December 1944, the Germans were almost defeated, almost. They re-established a strong defensive line in the East, in Italy and along the Siegfried Line in the West.

In December 16, against all odds, German tanks and foot soldiers began a westward sweep through the Ardennes. With surprise and power they pushed through Luxembourg and deeper into Belgium.

On the brink of defeat, the German army almost split the Allied armies. The German counteroffensive nearly made it to the Meuse River. It was halted and thrown back. They suffered horrible losses.

It is not surprising the German offensive failed. What is surprising is that Germans did it at all. They rallied to drive nearly 80 kilometers into the lines of an enemy that outmanned and outgunned them on the ground and in the air.

It is doubtful any other army in history, under the same tough conditions, could have done it at all. When I was in Belgium this summer I asked a question.

How did the Germans do that?

 

Life of a Nazi Soldier

Intro

I love to write about people in a variety of settings, circumstances, and time periods. By reading and writing about different cultural groups in a particular historical time period you learn about the people.

If you want to really learn about a culture you read and write about their armies. Armies a microcosm of the societies they come from. A culture’s values are put on display in the way they fight a war. It’s the culture at its most extreme.

To really understand any culture you have to strip your minds of notions or old ideas. Old ideas that are positive or negative stop learning. Stereotypes are confining and tight. Removing them is tough.

Ideas that don’t fit templates are unwelcome, smelly guests in the houses of our minds. They shock and challenge us. In this series I will try and flesh out the traditional, two-dimensional views we have the German Army.

The things I learned studying the army of Nazi Germany shocked and challenged me.

Using a wide variety primary sources- some of the them firsthand accounts and stories I live will try to make the German Army something we can understand.

After visiting Dachau a month ago I was left with a lot of questions about the horrible things I saw there. The answers I found surprised me.

I will try to show you how German soldiers really lived, how they died and why they fought.

Early Victory

Adolf Hitler and his armed forces achieved some of the greatest conquests in military history. The German Army did things militarily the world thought impossible.

Between 1939 and 1941, the German military forces conquered a huge part of Europe. From Paris to Moscow the Germans overran most of the armies in Europe. Not since Napoleon had the world since such military power.

The Germans were humiliated in World War I. They felt justified in their quest for power.

Universal Service

Under the Third Reich (1939-1945), Germany became a military society. Everybody underwent military training. Young children in the Hitler Youth trained as soldiers. It was mandatory for both sexes.

Young men wore uniforms, played sports, did war games and learned Nazi ideology. Young women were taught home economics and about motherhood.

All able-bodied young men from ages eighteen to twenty-five faced mandatory conscription into the German armed forces. They served in three armed, military-style organizations:

– The “Wehrmacht” which was the army, navy and air force.

– The SS (Schutzstafflen- meaning “protection squad”) This began as Hitler’s bodyguards but was expanded to become a powerful military force. It had the General SS (Waffen- meaning “weapon”) which was almost a separate army of the German army. The Death’s Head SS ran the concentration camps.

– The Order Police (Ordnunpoizei) brought all local and regional police forces under the direct control of the Nazi regime.

The SS and the Order police got military training. They were uniformed, armed and put in barracks like the regular army. They did engaged in political repression, the political repression of Jews and other minorities.

They were deployed in Germany and conquered countries. They were an integral part of military operations and an important element of maintaining control of occupied lands.

The overall idea of the Nazi regime was to create a perfect Germanic race that would rule Europe. In the end the Germans were responsible for the death of 6 million non-combatants.

Most historians think that number is low, especially on the eastern front (Russia). Many of the official numbers were lost in the fog of battle.

The New German Army

Nazi ideology changed the German Army, an army humiliated after WWI. It emphasized unity and equality for the German people. This belief was demonstrated best by the German Army.

Before the Nazis the army was regulated. The officer corps was made up mostly wealthy and educated men from old, Prussian military families. The Nazis opened up the officer corps to any who showed leadership abilities.

The true qualification for an officer’s career was exemplary ability, the true authority in military leadership. Everyone who led a unit had to be best man in the unit. Leadership by example was the rule.

The German Army taught all soldiers should take responsibility for the outcome of each mission. This produced a dynamic leadership structure that the soldiers respected and were loyal to.

Propaganda

Propaganda helped to create a culture of military service and sacrifice. Most German soldiers were willing to commit themselves to the army and fight. Not all Germans were Nazis.

A former artillery officer, Siegfried Knappe, explains in his haunting memoir “Soldat” (Soldier): Those of us who were soldiers in the German Army during World War II were young men fighting for their country. We were not ‘Nazi’ soldiers; we were just German soldiers.”

A major recruiting tool for the German Army was something called Greater Germany (Großdeutschland). Ethnic Germans from the conquered countries like Austria and the Sudetentland in Czechoslovakia joined and fought for the German Army.

The idea was to create a German Army of German-speaking people in a single nation-state army.

In the book “Forgotten Soldier” the author Guy Sajer writes about his experiences on the Eastern Front during World War II. Sajer is part German and part French. He says he”…has a disastrous love affair with the war and with the army.” It is a striking book.

Whether the soldiers were citizens of Germany, or one of the occupied countries made little difference. Soldiers of the Third Reich shared a commitment to Hitler and the idea of a better Germany through service.

The motto was “Fuhrer (Leader-Hitler), Folk (German People) and Deutschland (Fatherland). Hitler was viewed as the savior of Germany. In the 1930s the average German soldier felt they were superior to all others and they could accomplish anything.

The German success early in the war enforced this belief.

Operation Barbarossa- The Invasion of the Soviet Union

Intro

The Allied armies did not beat Rommel decisively in North Africa. They did it by their industrial might, mainly that of the United States.

Rommel could not sustain his blitzkrieg tactics without a continuing supply of tanks and planes. If would have unlimited resources, the desert war might have been different.

Four months after Rommel landed in Tripoli, Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa- the invasion of the Soviet Union. From then on, the bulk of men and material went to the Eastern Front.

Background

On a fateful Sunday in June, Hitler sent 148 divisions, 3,350 tanks, 7,100 cannons, 2,000 airplanes and 3 million men rumbling into the Soviet Union. From the Baltic Ocean to the Black Sea, German forces attacked along a 1,800 mile long front.

Hitler hated Communists. He justified the need for the invasion for “Lenbensraum”-living space for Germans in the vast fertile plains of western Russia. Hitler wanted to copy the American idea of expansion like his own personal “Manifest Destiny.” Instead of pushing west, he pushed east.

His last words to his officers on the eve of the invasion was something truly evil. He said, “Wiping out the very power of Russia to exist! That is the goal!”

Hitler’s war plan for the Soviet Union was Barbarossa. He named it after the German king and Holy Roman emperor Frederick I, whose family name was Barbarossa.

Frederick drowned while leading the Third Crusade in 1190. Legend had it that he would rise from his death sleep and lead Germany to conquer Europe.

As yet, Fred failed to awaken. Hitler got no help from the dead. He gambled everything on the Wehrmacht (German Army). He wanted to use the same blitzkrieg tactics that worked in Poland and France. The plan was flawed.

The Plan

Hitler wanted to go in May to make the most out of good fighting weather. He had to send troops to the Balkans and Greece. This put his invasion schedule closer to winter.

Hitler’s top military advisors warned him about the dangers of a late start. Hitler would hear none of it. He felt sure he could conquer Russia in six months. Barbarossa began a month later under the command of Field Marshall Walther von Brauchitsch.

The plan called for Army Groups North, Center and South to attack all at once along a vast eastern front.

Starting in Finland and Poland Army Group North would attack Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Its target was Leningrad. Army Group Center was to start in East Prussia and Poland. It would thrust east to Minsk and Smolensk.

From Czechoslovakia, Army Group South would assault the Ukraine towards the Caucasus Mountains. A tactical air force would support each army group.

The Attack

At first, the Germans met with astonishing success everywhere. By July 2, they destroyed 1,000 Soviet planes, 1,200 tanks and 600 big guns. They captured 150,000 Russian soldiers. The Nazis were elated.

In the second week of July, Heinz Guderian captured 500,000 prisoners. Smolensk fell on August 5, giving up 310,000 more. Kiev surrendered on September 16, adding 500,000 more.

The German blitzkrieg appeared unstoppable. It rumbled toward the Soviet capital of Moscow. Then reality set in.

The fast advance across such a broad front spread the German ranks too thin. Their exposed flanks came under counterattacks. The Soviets became experts at exploiting German weakness.

The Germans had underestimated the strength of the Soviet army. In the beginning they estimated 200 enemy divisions (a division has 20,000 soldiers). Later they identified 360.

The Soviets had 6,590 tanks compared to the 3,750 of the Germans.

Flaws

Soviet forces began to gather between Smolensk and Moscow. German military leaders urged Hitler to combine his forces and attack Moscow without delay. Hitler refused.

He wanted to conquer Leningrad in the north and Stalingrad in the south. He called them the “twin cities of Communism.” He believed their fall would cause the Soviet Union to collapse.

He wanted and needed the industry of oil, and grain fields of the south. The psychological and economical aspect of the German offensive caused Hitler to lose sight of the original and most important goal- the destruction of the Soviet army.

The plan ran into more problems. After surrounding huge numbers of Soviet soldiers, his panzers had to slow down to either kill or capture the prisoners. Then the fall rain came. It turned the roads into mud. It made the open fields impassable. The blitzkrieg ground to a halt.

Logistics became a huge problem. The invasion launched with only a month supply of fuel for the tanks. Supplies had to be shipped from German depots over the muddy roads or primitive railroads more than 300 miles. Soviet rails had to be converted to German gauges (distance between rails).

Tanks require huge services- fuel, maintenance and ammo to work. Each panzer division needed 300 tons of supplies a day to stay operational. Some only got seventy tons.

In only a few months the blitzkrieg was reduced to a slow slog. On October 2, Field Marshal Fedor von Beck’s Army Group Center launched fourteen panzer divisions and three infantry armies in a final thrust at Moscow.

Winter Comes

Then first snowflakes fell. This was the Soviets’ greatest weapon- the awful, bitter Russian winter had arrived. Almost overnight the temperatures dropped.

Conditions grew grim. German tankers had to light fires under their tanks to start them. Hitler’s generals wanted to halt until spring. Hitler wanted to advance over frozen terrain.

The German soldiers struggled. They pushed forward through rain and snow. They were ill-clothed and ill-equipped for the plunging temperatures.

By November 27, Guderian’s panzers were within nineteen miles of Moscow. They could see the Kremlin’s gilded towers loom into view. German hopes were still high despite the cold weather and tough conditions.

Suddenly temperatures dropped below zero. Automatic weapons froze and fuel turned to sludge and ice. Soviet forces counterattacked along the front. Von Brock wanted to treat fifty miles to a defense line. Hitler said no. He ordered his armies to stand fast.

Counterattack

On December 6, 1941, Soviet General Georgi Zhukov unleashed a furious counterattack along the 200 mile Moscow front. Without warning 100 Soviet divisions attacked the Germans hard and fast. The Germans never fully recovered.

The myth of the invincibility of the German Army was broken.

The next day the Japanese bombed the Americans at Pearl Harbor. On December 11, Hitler- allied with the Japanese- declared war on the US. It was a decision he would regret.

General Heinz Guderian flew to Hitler’s field headquarters 500 miles from the fighting in East Prussia. Guderian tried to get Hitler to fall back before it was too late. Hitler refused his advice and dismissed Guderian on Christmas Day, 1941.

Zhukov offensive drove the Germans back. Along the 200 mile front they got driven back anywhere from 50 miles to 200 miles from Moscow. The German offensive turned into a rout. The Germans would never come so close to the Soviet capital again.

Bitter fighting raged for two more years. The Soviets lifted the German siege of Stalingrad in February 1943.

Kursk

In the spring of 1943, Soviet attackers forced a large bulge in the German lines. It was located just outside the Russian city of Kursk.

Hitler wanted a great battle of annihilation in central Russia at Kursk.

On July 5, 1943 the Germans pressed forward with 2,400 tanks and 2,500 aircraft. Soviet General Zhukov countered with 3,000 tanks and 2,600 aircraft.

The battle raged for more than a week. On July 12, the Panzer Army attacked with 700 against 850 tanks against the Soviet Fifth Guards Army. Both sides lost 1,500 tanks in the greatest tank battle in history.

The battle broke the will of the Germans. The Soviets seized the initiative on the eastern front. The German Army crumbled and the once-proud Wehrmacht had to retreat westwards on all fronts.

On the western front, the military situation turned dire for the Germans. On June 6, 1944 Allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy, France and began their march towards Germany.

 

 

 

The Desert Fox In North Africa

Intro

After the fall of France in June 1940, the German offensive in Western Europe stopped at the English Channel. The German army got ready for its next move- the invasion of Great Britain.

Hitler told Mussolini of his plan. Mussolini decided to expand his Libyan colony in North Africa.

Battle of Britain

In the summer and fall of 1940, the Royal Air Force turned back the Luftwaffe (the German Air Force) in the Battle of Britain. The RAF victory forced Hitler to scrap the idea of invading Britain.

North Africa

Mussolini sent five divisions (a division is 20,000 soldiers) into British-held Egypt. He attacked the coastal village of Sidi Barrani. Italian forces outnumbered the British by 200,000 to 40,000 soldiers.

The British Army retook the city and captured 38,800 Italian soldiers and four generals. After the raid to re-capture Sidi Barrani, the Brits went westward. They captured the Libyan province of Cyrenaica and another 130,000 Italian soldiers.

Mussolini asked for help. Hitler sent newly promoted Lieutenant General Erwin Rommel.

Rommel Arrivals

Rommel arrived in Tripoli, the capital of Libya, on February 14, 1941. Rommel had under his command two German divisions- one light and one panzer (tank)-with two Italian divisions. Together they made up the Afrika Korps.

He led the fast-moving Afrika Korps in a blistering blitzkrieg campaign against the British. He wasted no time in taking back Mussolini’s losses. By mid-April he’d taken back all the land except for Tobruk, a port city on Libya’s eastern Mediterranean coast, near the border with Egypt.

The Desert Fox

The British had not expected a German counterattack until June. Rommel had “outfoxed” them. His daring and cunning actions earned him the nickname the “Desert Fox.”

In May and June 1941, Rommel beat back two British counterattacks. Short supplies were becoming a problem.

On June 22, 1941, Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa- the invasion of the Soviet Union. The new offensive drew arms and supplies that should have gone to Rommel.

In November, a third British counterattack forced him back into Libya, but not for long. The Afrika Korps got reinforcements and fresh supplies. It became the Panzer Army or “Panzerarmee.” The seesaw desert began again in January 1942.

Pushing Eastward

Rommel drove eastward in another desert-style blitzkrieg to the Gazala Line. The line was a zone of “fortified boxes” set up by the British.

The boxes were linked by minefields. It went from Mediterranean port of Gazala to the southern strongpoint at Bir Hacheim.

With his latest offensive, Rommel’s reputation grew. He was promoted to the rank of colonel (full) general. He was awarded the Swords of the Oak Leaves of the Knight’s Cross (Swords and Oaks Leaves are a higher order of the original medal).

On May 26, he sent a small force to feint an attack on the British Eighth Army’s Gazala Line. At the same time he circled around the southern end of the line with his main force of 10,000 vehicles.

He planned to seize Bir Hacheim, knock off the string of strong boxes one by one, and mount an assault on Tobruk in a northward sweep. After three weeks of intense fighting he did it.

On June 17, Rommel captured a huge British supply dump east of Tobruk. Four days later, Tobruk and its 30,000 defenders fell to Rommel’s Panzer Army.

“The booty was gigantic,” Rommel’s chief of staff said later. “It consisted of supplies for 30,000 men for three months.” Rommel was promoted to field marshal for this remarkable achievement.

At forty-nine, Rommel was the youngest- and most famous- field marshal of the German army. He was now ready to drive the British back to Egypt.

Desert Warfare

Rommel explained the North Africa desert was ideal for the mobile offensive tactics of panzers. He explained for panzars, “…for whose employment was flat and obstruction-free desert offered hitherto undreamed-of possibilities. It was the only theater where the theory and principles of motorized and tank warfare could be applied fully and developed further. It was the only arena in which pure tank battle between major formations could be fought.”

Rommel was at the high point of his military career.

El Alamein

After the fall of Tobruk, the British withdrew to a line at Mersa Matruh, then back to the El Alamein.

El Alamein represented the last-ditch defense for the British of Alexandria. Rommel pressed forward. He arrived in El Alamein on July 1.

He ran short of supplies. He was weakened by RAF along the way. He could not penetrate the British defenses in the First Battle of El Alamein. The fighting ended in a standoff on July 27.

Montgomery

Lieutenant General Bernard L. Montgomery took command of the British Eighth Army in Egypt. On October 23, 1942, Montgomery launched his first offensive. In the Second Battle of El Alamein, he faced Rommel’s Panzer Army.

Montgomery organized his tanks and artillery pieces to fight a “crumbling” battle. His idea was to switch the focus of his attack from point-to-point along the line. He forced Rommel’s armor to react.

Rommel got sick and returned to Germany for treatment. He was absent for part of the battle. He resumed command of the Panzer Army at dusk on October 25. By then, his reserves were committed.

It was too late to make any decisions to might turn the tide of the battle. In several furious tank battle Montgomery prevailed over Rommel.

On November 4, Rommel withdrew his army to the west. Four days later he received news that American and British troops were pouring ashore at nine different places in Morocco and Algeria.

The jaws of an Anglo-American vise were closing. Later he wrote in his diary,”This spelt the end of the army in Africa.”

Kasserine Pass

In February 1943, Rommel achieved his last victory in North Africa. He defeated the green troops of the US II Corps at Kasserine Pass, Tunisia. Rommel’s glory days of Blitzkrieg triumphs in North Africa were over.

With guts, cunning and some luck Rommel wrote a new chapter in the book of lightning warfare. Hitler awarded him with Oaks Leaves with Swords and Diamonds to his Knight’s Cross (a diamond was the highest award of the medal).

He was exhausted after two years of fighting. He suffered from severe desert sores (bacterial infections that you get from hot, dry conditions) and deep depression.

Rommel’s Genius

Rommel’s genius was in understanding the nature of desert war. It was a war of swift movement.

Rommel didn’t care in where the ‘front line’ was. ‘”in a vast ocean like desert,” one soldier of Rommel’s Afrika Korps said, “we were taught that there can never be a front line.”

Rommel led armored raids. He practiced the same tactics he had used in the German invasion of France the previous year.

Rommel believed that motorized units should attack with all guns blazing. It didn’t mattered if the enemy knew what they were aiming at. It created an effect of “shock and awe.”

Rommel was defeated in Africa and then in Normandy. His bright, if brief, flash of brilliance in the Libyan desert continues to attract our gaze even to this day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beyond Band of Brothers Tour- Battle Buddy Ron May

Intro

I would love to make a living out of traveling and then writing about it. By re-creating some of my old trips of my youth I am able to travel my inner thoughts and emotions, shallow as they are, lol!

Traversing Europe this summer was the trip of a lifetime. I want to go again- it’s the siren call of the open road of being a gypsy.

This trip was positive proof that the journey “is” the destination. I hope to give you a personal memoir about discovering a new love for history, something I thought I lost.

It’s the chronicle of being on the trail of a handful of brave Americans in one of the biggest and most awful events in human history. I’ll talk about the people who created it and the places it passes through.

Whether you plan to make a trip like this one yourself or only enjoy reading about it, I hope I can tell you how much fun I had. I will share what I learned about myself, the men of Easy Company and World War II.

Beyond Band of Brothers

In the fall of 2015, my friend, Ron Mays called me. He was taking a tour of the battlefields of Easy Company from “Band of Brothers” the following July.

I loved the book ““Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest.” I’ve read it several times since high school. The book is the reason I became a historian.

It was an incredible story of heroism and sacrifice of brothers-in-arms who fought and died in World War II. The book and mini-series came to symbolize the bravery of the greatest generation.

I told Ron yes without even thinking about it.

World War II

Almost everyone has seen the “Band of Brothers” miniseries. It focuses on the actions of one outstanding light infantry company during World War II.

The war was so big, with so many characters and outstanding heroes that you can get lost in strategy and personalities.

Easy Company’s story is about individual soldiers. During World War II, it fought in Western Europe.

What brings Easy Company’s actions to light is the individual stories of the men of the unit. Easy Company’s legendary exploits was the narrative vehicle to explore the larger story of the American Army in Western Europe in WWII.

The Tour

Now we would cross an ocean and continent to follow in the footsteps of these brave men. The story of the men of Easy Company allowed the tour group to live the history of the places where they men went into action.

It revealed what makes their story meaningful to us today.

We saw the European Theater of Operation (ETO) of World War II, through the eyes of Easy Company. From their jump into Normandy, France on the eve of D-Day, to their defense of the besieged Bastogne, Belgium to their capture of Hitler’s Eagle Nest in Germany.

We saw it and walked it all with expert military historians- one them an eyewitness to the Battle of the Bugle.

Along the way we saw some of the most breathtaking terrain in Europe- majestic mountains of the Alps in southern Germany, sparkling lakes in Belgium, and the rolling hills of France.

Pastor Ron

A trip this size takes a lot of planning. If you’re going to go, it’s best to take a person you get along with. I got along with Ron really well. Thank God, because we ended up spending a lot of time together.

He can be described with three words: integrity, humor, and kindness. He always acts the same in public as he does in private. He never does anything he would ever be ashamed of.

Ron’s tall, with blond hair going gray. He has a lean build. He is an avid cyclist.

Ron is an easy man to like and respect. A retired Navy Chaplain, he is never preachy about religion. He lives his values. What he says is what he does.

He is the sort of man who blushes when he hears a dirty word, but he is the last man to correct someone who says it. He is used to the salty language of Marines.

He once said, “The old adage, ‘There are no atheists in foxholes’ remains true today for anyone going into harm’s way. If folks want to pray, I’m there. If they want to talk, I’m there. My job is provide counsel and solace. An ear for those in-need.”

Ron loved being a Chaplain. Out of his twenty-two year career he had served on several Navy ships and a handful of shore installations including a tour with the Marines.

Ron is a natural and easy listener. He is willing to re-think his position on any issue. Ron’s quiet courage shows up in his personal integrity. He’s always fair, even with people he doesn’t agree with.

Ron’s most annoying trait is that he’s an excellent writer. I would give my right arm to write like him. He’d already published a book on WWII. His book is called “Our Service, Our Stories – Indiana Veterans Recall Their World War II Experiences.”

Here is the link: https://www.amazon.com/Our-Service-Stories-Veterans-Experiences/dp/1604148659

Talking to Ron

I’ve had a few “close calls” in my life. A few moments when I knew I was only a breath or few inches away from death. Almost all soldiers have these stories.

My own relationship with God is personal. It’s not something I talked about easily.

Ron was okay with that. Over time we talked about those things.

No matter what the subjects was from life, death, marriage and history he listened and gave great advice. He is a good man to have around when you need a sensitive and sincere ear and are about to get married.

Ron is a great man. He is the kind of man and friend I want to be.

Ron was the pastor who married Muna and me. We were honored to have him be a part of the biggest day of our lives.

Walking in Easy Company’s Footsteps

Ron hauled my out-of-shape, middle-aged butt all over the battlefields we visited.

I was awed by the history I encountered. I did my best to plunge into the whys and hows the war happened.

The Story of “Band of Brothers”

Stephen Ambrose tells the story of how he wrote “Band of Brothers” in his last book “To America.”

In the fall of 1988, the veterans of E Company had a reunion in New Orleans. Ambrose and his assistant went to their hotel to interview them about their D-Day experiences.

Dick Winters read the transcript of the interview and wanted to get a couple of things straight. He arrived at Ambrose with Walter Gordon, Carwood Lipton and Forrest Guth- all men who would be in “Band of Brothers.”

They spent all afternoon looking at maps and talking. Ambrose invited them dinner at his house. Ambrose’s wife made roast beef dinner.

Over dinner Winters suggested a book about the history of Easy Company. Ambrose was looking for a new subject. He wanted his next book to be about men in combat focusing on junior officers and enlisted men.

He wanted to write another book about D-Day as the fiftieth anniversary drew closer. He thought a standalone book about a unit of group of rugged paratroopers who leapt into battle in the middle of the night was just the answer.

The one thing that Ambrose really liked was the closeness of the men that lasted over the fifty years since the war. The men of Easy, knew each other’s children and grandchildren. What happened in their lives over the next half century.

Two years later the company had another reunion in Orlando, Florida. He videotaped eight hours of group interviews. He spent days at a time interviewing the men one at a time.

In July, he spent a couple of weeks interviewing Winters and a group of men from the East Coast. He flew to Carwood Lipton’s home in North Carolina where Bill Guarnere joined them.

He spent a weekend with Don Malarkey and other West Coast members of Easy. He interviewed nearly all living members of the company.

In November 1990, he toured Easy’s battle sites in Normandy and Belgium. The next summer he traveled through Europe with Winters, Lipton and Malarkey.

After he was done writing the manuscript he gave it to the men of Easy Company to look at. He got corrections and suggestions. The book was a smash hit.

A decade later Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg bought the rights to the book. They made a ten-part miniseries for HBO of Easy Company’s story.

The rest is history- pun intended, lol!.

Now Ron and I were going to see the places Easy Company fought.

Man at War- Bronze and Iron

Intro

In about 3500 BC, in the Middle East, it was discovered a type of rock that became very hot turned to liquid. When the liquid was cooled it could be set hard again.

Copper was the first metal used. It was too soft to make good weapons.

Bronze

It was discovered that if a little tin was mixed with copper, it made a new metal- bronze. Bronze was much harder.

Over time, metal smiths learned how to make furnaces. In the furnaces they could mix metals and fashions molds of clay and stone.

The hot liquid metal was poured into the molds and left to cool and set hard. The mold was opened and the metal shape carefully turned out and polished.

Bronze was in use in Egypt and South West Asia by 3500 BC. It reached Britain about 1500 BC.

Swords of Copper and Bronze

Ancient flint workers were skilled, they could not make swords. The trouble was the long, thin pieces of flint broke easily.

When metal smiths learned how to make bronze they were able to cast long blades. For the first time warriors had long, powerful swords.

Weapons made of copper or bronze were better and stronger than weapons made from flint. Both copper and bronze were soft metals. If used, often they became blunt.

Iron

Over time, metal workers discovered the secret of working with a new metal, iron. At first the secret of working of iron was known only to the Hittites. The Hittites were an ancient group of people living in what is now Turkey.

Gradually other races learned the secret of knowledge of iron. It became widespread by 1200 BC. The use of iron reached Britain by the fifth century BC.

Iron was a difficult metal to work with. It needed higher temperatures to melt it. It was worth it. It was much tougher, harder and kept a sharp longer.

Often the early swords had blades of iron and hilts of bronze. Although iron was used for weapons, bronze was still used for the manufacture of arrow heads and armor. Bronze was an easy metal to work and shape.

 

Boyhood Home of Sam Clemons- Tom Sawyer

FLORIDA, MISSOURI- August 1, 2016

Driving back to Indiana from Fort Leavenworth, KS I stopped at the birthplace of one of my favorite writers.

Intro

I have always loved Mark Twain.

I would love to write a study about his life and works. Not a best seller, but something that was critically acclaimed.

In college, between a part-time job, my national guard weekends, and my classes I didn’t have time for anything other than textbooks.

After Afghanistan, I didn’t have anything to do except read. I found an old, much-thumbed book of Mark Twain’s quotes.

One passage I read made an impression on me by one of America’s unique and best-loved personalities- Mark Twain speaking:

“Patriotism is patriotism. Calling it Fanaticism cannot degrade it; nothing can degrade it. Even though it be a political mistake, and a thousand times a political mistake, that does not affect it; it is honorable-always honorable, always noble- and privileged to hold its head up and look the nations in the face.”

As an American soldier home from an unpopular war those words made me smile. I have been reading and re-reading Mark Twain ever since.

Mark Twain

Samuel Clemons-Mark Twain is one of the great literary figures of American history. He is still popular today. He has a great ear for dialogue. He captured how Americans talked and put it down on paper.

He is a rough, self-taught, go-getter who knew how to write to the common man in a witty, folksy way. He was a wise political voice, an admired lecturer who was a sharp-eyed traveler.

Clemons was also a brilliant storyteller. His books are some of the greatest achievements in fiction. He wrote about how people felt, the human condition.

Ernest Hemingway said, “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn. American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since.”

His books are timeless. I think his best novel is Tom Sawyer.

Tom Sawyer

 

Tom Sawyer is a nostalgic tale about American boyhood. Throughout the book I always pictured a hot, muggy Missouri day. The kind of sticky, humid heat you can only find in the Midwest in the middle of summer.

I see Tom as a barefoot boy, in coveralls and a straw hat walking down a country road with a piece of straw in his mouth. I see Tom as Clemons, as maybe he saw himself as a boy.

Tom Sawyer is a look back at what it means to be a boy in the 19th century. Clemons writes about what America was like when pioneers are moving west and being settled. Tom Sawyer is a boy with questions, but so is America.

Tom is not a bad kid, but he is a wily con artist. He knows how to work people and get away with things. He’s always working a scheme.

His entire reason for being is about rebellion. He wants to do everything he’s not supposed to do. He uses the people around him to do what he wants, when he wants, and gets away with it.

That is the fun of reading Tom Sawyer. I think Tom was the boy that Clemons wanted to be.

Twain House

Samuel Langhourne Clemons was born on November 30, 1835 in a very small, two-room rented cabin. The cabin sheltered eight people after Clemons was born. The cabin was one of the first frame structures in the community.

The cabin sat about one-fourth of a mile from the small town of Florida, MO. Florida is a little riverfront village, a tiny speck on the map. Even today, you’d almost miss it if you blinked.

The cabin is now preserved inside the museum at the Mark Twain Birthplace State Historic Site. Along with the two-room cabin, the museum has displays of Twain’s life and times.

Hannibal

In 1839, the Clemons family moved to Hannibal, MO. Young Clemons would return to Florida to spend summers on his Uncle John Quarles’ farm. There he listened to wild tales told by Uncle Dan’l, a slave who was the model for Jim in “Adventures of Huckberry Finn.”

To this day Hannibal is a small cluster of civilization on the great American prairie, it’s not near anything.

In Clemons stories you can hear that, but in his story he makes Hannibal sound majestic. Even today, there’s not a lot there and not much to do. Clemons makes this a theme to why Sawyer gets into so much trouble.

His childhood is spent in Hannibal. Hannibal is the setting for St. Petersburg in “Tom Sawyer.”

Riverboat Pilot

Young Twain left school at the age of 12, to work on a Hannibal, MO newspaper. Over the next couple of years he became an itinerant printer.

While on a steamboat trip, he persuaded Horace Bixby, a riverboat pilot, to teach him the Mississippi River and how to pilot a steamboat. He spent four years piloting until his riverboat days ended with the outbreak of the Civil War.

Clemons loves the sounds of the Mississippi- the steamboat whistles, the spinning wheels of the big boats, and the rushing of the water. He is deeply affected by the mournful songs of the slaves on his uncle’s farm when he is a young boy.

The publishing of “Tom Sawyer” was in 1876, the centennial of America’s birth. In Tom we see a model for the American character.

Conclusion

Sam Clemons allows us to run away with him in Tom Sawyer. Everybody wants to be a pirate and live a life of carefree adventure.

Tom and Huck feel the danger of nature, the pleasure and the pleasure of breaking society’s rules. There is the adventure of leaving home and yearning for home.

Clemons was a witty writer. He was born in a time when America was going through the growing pains of becoming a nation. Like Tom, America wanted to be free and to be sophisticated. The two natures are always in competition with one another.

This same restlessness led to the Civil War. The idea of the old way of doing things clashing with the future and progress. The old way is memories, nostalgia and romantic notions- being a boy. The new way is progress and the boring responsibility of being an adult.

It’s an attitude that is strictly American, two halves into one.

Clemons later years were marked by painful loss. During the last 14-15 years of his life, almost everyone he loved died.

His son died. Then two daughters died. His beloved father-in-law a little after than followed by his wife. At the end of his life only one daughter was left.

By the time he wrote Tom Sawyer he had retreated into the character of Mark Twain. Real life was too painful and almost impossible to bear.

Humor saved his life. He loved it and understood it. He said, “… the real source of all humor is not joy, but sorrow. There is no humor in heaven.” One his great gifts was his ability to convert grief and anger into humor.

Tom Sawyer is filled with it. It’s a boy’s novel for adults about boyhood. Like every book written by Clemons it’s about human nature.

There is something very American about Tom Sawyer. The American soul fears the coming of autumn, a chill in the woods, the beginning of school, and worst of all, the end of summer.

Tom Sawyer is about an endless summer that doesn’t have to end.

Seeing his childhood home really allowed me to understand where Tom Sawyer came from. It added another level to a favorite book.

 

Blitzkrieg- The German Invasion of France

Nazi War Machine

In 1940, in six weeks the German war machine conquered France and evicted the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) from the Continent of Europe at the port of Dunkirk.

It was the most complete military victory in modern times.

There are two kinds of conventional warfare: static and maneuver. The First World War was an example of static war. You achieve victory by massive firepower, slow advances and a solid linear front.

The German Army was badly defeated in World War I. The men of all armies were used as cannon fodder. Wave after wave of men were thrown against heavy artillery bombardments and machine guns. Blitzkrieg changed that.

In May 1940, static war was replaced by the war of maneuver.

Maneuver war is a system of rapid movement where the enemy does not have time to establish a front to fight. The enemy is defeated by being overwhelmed, surrounded and forced to surrender.

The Stuka dive-bombers allowed the tanks to break through almost anywhere. They provided aerial artillery so the tanks could continue to move as they attacked.

Operation Yellow and the Fall of France

After the defeat of Poland in September 1939, WWII settled a lull until the following spring.

On April 9, 1940, German armies shattered Europe’s calm. It invaded Denmark and Norway.

Denmark fell in twenty-four hours. Norway was conquered in twenty-three days. Denmark and Norway were only stops along the way in the plan called “Fall Gelb” (Case Yellow).

Case (or Operation) Yellow was the plan for blitzkrieg in the Low Countries- Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg and France.

On May 10, 1940 German Army Group B under General Fedor von Brock launched a limited assault on the Low Countries.

At the same time, German Army Group A under General Gerd von Rundstedt launched a German thrust. It went through the Ardennes region of Belgium, Luxembourg and northeastern France.

Meanwhile, German Army Group C under General Wilhelm von Leeb held the front line along the Rhine River opposite France’s Maginot Line. The Maginot Line was a complex system of fortifications linked by pill boxes, minefields, tanks traps and barbed wire.

The Germans simply drove around it.

Panzer divisions led by Generals Erwin Rommel and Heinz Guderian, crossed the Meuse River at Dinant, Belgium and Sedan, France.

Luxembourg had no defense force and offered no resistance. German paratroopers struck deep into Holland. Dutch resistance collapsed before the British and French could arrive. Holland surrendered after five days.

The Belgians took up defensive positions at the Albert Canal at Fort Eben Emael. German troops landed on the roof of the almost impregnable fortress. Explosive charges were dropped down observation slits. The guns of Eben Emael were silenced.

German Army Group B swept into Belgium. The Belgians fought hard but were no match for the might of the Germans. Belgium surrendered on May 28.

In the south, Army Group A skirted the Maginot Line. They roared through the Ardennes. The French thought the hills and gullies of the densely wooded area were impassable to tanks. They were wrong.

German infantry poured through the “Panzer Corridor.” They held it until German tanks crossed the Meuse at Sedan and elsewhere.

The French and British tried to knock out the Gaulier Bridge at Sedan to slow the flow of tanks into France. The British and French did not stop the Germans.

Guderian’s panzers rumbled across the northwestern France. They relied on speed to protect their flanks. The tanks reached the English Channel at Abbeville on May 21.

Their drive extended the Panzer Corridor. It cut the Allied armies in two. It isolated a large pocket of British and French troops near the French port of Dunkirk.

Heinz Guderian

General Heinz Guderian was one of the first Germans to recognize the potential of tanks in modern warfare. Tanks and motorized support vehicles in fast moving mobile formations evolved into Blitzkrieg tactics.

In the 1920s, he studied British and French tank enthusiasts and built on upon their ideas. By 1928, he’d developed his own theories. He wanted to employ tanks in mass formations in combined arms attacks.

He rehearsed his theories in peacetime with bicycles and later cars. He wrote about them in his book “Actung- Panzer!” (Attention, Tank!). It heavily influenced the German army in World War II.

Guderian describes the technological developments for tanks. His book was written in 1937, two years before the outbreak of WWII.

Things like radios, gunnery skills, operating in small and large formations and operating with airplanes and artillery changed the way tanks were used. The Germans saw the tanks as a way to disrupt enemy formations from the rear.

The idea was to punch through static defenses. Tanks could take advantage of the enemy’s limited mobility by making fast, deep penetrations into the enemy’s rear area.

His theories show why the Germans dominated land warfare in the early stages of the war. Guderian was promoted to general in 1938.

In the campaigns for Poland and France, he led his armor units into action. They proved the deadly accuracy of his ideas.

Erwin Rommel

North of Sedan, France, another panzer leader was trying his skills out for the first time. Erwin Rommel was new to armor command. He had only been the commander of the 7th Panzer Division since February, 1940.

Rommel was a decorated infantry officer who fought in WWI. He wrote a book called “Infanterie Greift An” (Infantry Attacks). Rommel describes his “Stoßtruppen” (shock troops) tactics. Using speed, deception, and deep penetration into enemy territory to surprise and overwhelm the enemy.

In the book, Rommel uses small numbers of men to approach enemy lines from the direction the attack is expected. The raiders would yell and throw hand grenades to simulate a large attack. At the same time a larger body of men would attack the flanks and rear of the defenders.

The defenders would surrender. This avoided the use of lots of men and ammunition in a useless frontal assault.

The book was published in 1937. It helped Adolf Hitler to give Rommel high command in WWII. This was rare. Rommel was not from an old military Prussian family. This mold dominated the German officer corps.

Rommel was a quick learner. He applied his infantry tactics to tank warfare.

Now, twenty-two years later, Rommel crossed the Meuse River at Dinant. He led his Panzers across Flanders in a blazing assault. He moved faster and farther than any other division in military history.

His unit became known as the “Ghost” or “Phantom” division. They appeared out of nowhere. They spread confusion and terror everywhere.

On May 20, Rommel reached Arras. He turned northeast toward Lille, just southeast of Dunkirk. He arrived on May 26.

For his actions in France Rommel was awarded the Knight’s Cross (the same as the Medal of Honor)- the highest degree of the Iron Cross. He got it for his valor during the armored drive across Belgium and France.

Dunkirk

Two days earlier, most of the German armor massed for a final attack on the southern perimeter of Dunkirk. Hitler ordered the panzers to halt.

He wanted to the infantry and slower units to catch up with the fast-moving tanks. It would be one of the biggest mistakes of WWII.

The Allies threw up defenses around Dunkirk. From May 26 to June 3 the Allied Army evacuated Dunkirk. They used every boat they could including destroyers, fishing boats, yachts, motorboats and more.

The evacuation saved 338,000 British, French and Belgian troops. There is much debate among military scholars what would have happen if the Germans would have pressed the attack.

The German Army could have crushed the remaining Allied armies if they had pushed to Dunkirk. It would face that army again in the invasion of Normandy, adding in the Americans, three years later.

France Falls

After Dunkirk, the Germans turned south to deal with the remnants of the French Army. The Germans sliced through the defensive line of Paris. On June 10, Italy invaded southern France.

Paris fell on June 14. On June 20, the Germans captured Lyon. Marshall Philippe Petain, France’s new Prime Minister, called for the guns to fall silent.

On June 22, the French signed a humiliating armistice with the Germans at Compiegne.

France, a country the size of Texas, had fallen to the German Army’s lightning war in a little over five weeks. Operation Yellow ended in a shocking German victory.

Conclusion

The key to the battlefield victories of the German army in the French Campaign was mass, fast attacks.

The most important was the concept Heinz Guderian insisted upon- all tanks must by concentrated in panzer (armored) divisions. Guderian followed a long-standing maxim by Napoleon Bonaparte:

“The art of warfare can be boiled down to a single principle: concentrate a greater mass than the enemy at a single point.”

Guderian preached that massed tanks could break through anywhere. He knew the Allies had more tanks along the battle lines.

French general Charles Delestraint said, “We had 3,000 tanks and so did the Germans. We had 3,000 packs of three, the Germans had three packs of a thousand.”

The massed panzer attack spread like a flood into the Allied rear. This was main line of Allied resistance.

Rommel described as, “We must view today’s war from the cavalry viewpoint- we must lead panzer units like cavalry squadrons; we must issue commands from the panzers as they race along, just as commands were given out in earlier days from the saddle.”

This concept of massing tanks is called “Schwerpunkt” (center main line of effort).

Along with aerial artillery and cover from the Stuka dive-bombers allowed the tanks to break through almost anywhere.