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Tactical bias in generals popularity?

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Category: GENERAL HISTORY
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Forum Description: Military personalities, famous generals, theorists, warlords and individual warriors
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Topic: Tactical bias in generals popularity?
Posted By: hugoestr
Subject: Tactical bias in generals popularity?
Date Posted: 29 Jul 2009 at 11:32
There it goes:

The other day someone was saying how Rommel was the greatest general, he never retreated, he never lost a battle, he never surrendered. Since I didn't know anything about Rommel, I went to the wikipedia entry and, lo! He was defeated, and he did retreat. Even more, he seemed to have been very weak on long term strategy by consistently weakening his supply lines due to his aggressive advances. The article said that he was a very strong tactical general.

This made me noticed that many highly esteem generals tend to be great tactician yet they suck at long term strategy.

Strategic generals, the guys who, you know, actually win wars, tend to be dismiss by statements like, "well, he had overwhelming power and resources." Well, yeah. Many tactical generals don't seem to think too much in these terms. If they did, they wouldn't engage larger forces unless it was unavoidable.


So why is there this bias to like more tacticians over strategists? Is it the romance of war showing his deceitfully beautiful head once again?



Replies:
Posted By: Seko-
Date Posted: 29 Jul 2009 at 14:53
I think I hear what you are saying. A good tactical general will reap the glory of victory, whereas a long term strategist will look at the bigger picture and take in his laurels on the political field. Ike versus Patton for instance are representative of their ilk. The 3'rd army had it's limitations till it was given the green light with full backing of allied might. That alone would not provide success unless it was in capable hands. Which it was. Both men had success within the roles they performed. In essence, and in comparison, Command and Control is as important in Rommel's time as it was with his era's predecessors. Cut off from resources and the best tactician will be left to devise a plan of limited potential capabilities. Even under such duress sometimes that can make or break the man. Perhaps that is why Rommel is remembered with fondness. He had interruptive support in his field of operations and had still endured. Hitler had been known to stub his armies in the dirt due to his lackluster strategical qualities. In the future, as in now, tactical moves may end up in the hands of computer nerds at HQ with tons of robotic drones at their finger tips.

As for bias and prestige doled out for the tactician instead of the strategist, I'm not so sure. Everyone likes a victor. It's the general on the field that reaps such glory - from his men. If not he becomes a scapegoat. Heads get chopped. Despite the full weight of a strong economy and solid backing of Kings, Sultans and Presidents, when the tactician failed he felt the brunt of their dismay. No one remembers a loser.

In a sense the tactician and Strategist are each invaluable to their cause. Both must accel in order for consistent victories to be produced.


Posted By: DSMyers1
Date Posted: 29 Jul 2009 at 16:37
This is absolutely the case.  Read some of the recent conversation on the http://forum.paradoxplaza.com/forum/showthread.php?t=266934&page=31 - Paradox Interactive version of the Top 100 generals thread ....  Suppose a general out-maneuvers an enemy in the Napoleonic Wars... is he remembered?  Or the general that fought a great battle to gain the same ends, but lost 15% of his army?  The ones who fought are remembered.

A more recent example is the comparison of Patton to George Marshall...  Who was in charge?  Who is remembered more?  Patton wasn't even as good as most people think...

An old example is Turenne vs. the Great Conde.  One fought the great battles; the other won the wars....



-------------
- The Top 100 Generals

God is my Judge


Posted By: pikeshot1600
Date Posted: 29 Jul 2009 at 16:38
Of course this is one of those topics that can be argued forever, and has a hundred points of view.
 
Part of the issue is the differences in warfare before and after 1815.  Part of that is technological, and part (a great part) is social - the view of the general by the "nation."  Yes, Bonaparte was an agent of the French Revolution, but he was also quite reactionary in some of his ambitions.  Actually, he was more like Frederick the Great - a monarch who led his armies in the field; was fully responsible for strategic thinking as well as the tactical orders on the day of battle.  In that sense, Napoleon Bonaparte was not a "modern" general at all, but the same as monarchs before him.
 
However, even though he was ultimately a loser, his luster is not diminished by that.  The years before 1815 exhausted France and she was never the power or political factor she had been before.  (Indian summer in the mid 19th c. notwithstanding.)  Napoleon's brilliance, tactically, and strategically, overshadows the decline of France as a power.
 
Conversely Wink, Charles XII of Sweden, although among the most brilliant tacticians of all time, is understood as a complete failure strategically, and lost Sweden's position in the Baltic for good.  (That probably was inevitable because of the disparity with Russia, but that is another argument.)
 
(This is gonna be longer-winded than I wanted, but...)
 
After 1815, and the long peace, the nature of the military profession changed; society had started to change.  Successful generals sometimes were elected to political positions (Wellington, several US generals) or became technocrats who never led armies at all (von Roon, Moltke).
 
The tactician is the glamor boy, and also a lighning rod.  In the 19th century the newspaper correspondent, and then later the signal corps photographer, made him known to a wider public, and he more often rose or fell because of publicity.  U.S. Grant (a notorious drinker) became President of the United States - Geo McClellan (a far more military man) failed in war and consequently in politics.  Henry Halleck (an accomplished intellectual of note) failed in the field and became obscure.
 
Occasionally, before the 19th century, an unsuccessful tactical general might be guillotined in France or strangled in Turkey.  Later he just got fired or commanded a desk.  Seko is right though.  There is rarely a substitute for winning.  It is pretty obvious that the more you win, the better you are, so it seems a valid standard.
 
The seemingly inevitable example of E. Rommel will not go away, even though he was a flash in the pan.  Strategically he was doomed in Africa from the beginning.  He didn't win in Normandy either,
did he?
 
EDIT:  Anyone out there think Rommel would have been a success in Russia?  (Not!)
 
 


Posted By: drgonzaga
Date Posted: 29 Jul 2009 at 16:51
How about: Generals do not win wars, supply and organization does. After all, can not "tactics" be reduced to that old apocryphal maxim said of Nathan Bedford Forest, "get there the fustest with the mostest"? 

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Honi soit qui mal y pense


Posted By: DSMyers1
Date Posted: 29 Jul 2009 at 16:54
Originally posted by drgonzaga drgonzaga wrote:

How about: Generals do not win wars, supply and organization does. After all, can not "tactics" be reduced to that old apocryphal maxim said of Nathan Bedford Forest, "get there the fustest with the mostest"? 


Ah, but in most cases the generals were/are in charge of supply and organization.  Logistics.  It's just... there's no glory in that!


-------------
- The Top 100 Generals

God is my Judge


Posted By: pikeshot1600
Date Posted: 29 Jul 2009 at 16:56
Originally posted by drgonzaga drgonzaga wrote:

How about: Generals do not win wars, supply and organization does. After all, can not "tactics" be reduced to that old apocryphal maxim said of Nathan Bedford Forest, "get there the fustest with the mostest"? 
 
"An army marches on it's stomach."  -  Napoleon.  Smile
 
Anyone familiar with Montgomery C. Meigs?
 
 


Posted By: Seko-
Date Posted: 29 Jul 2009 at 17:01
Logistics is important. Maybe the key factor in winning a prolonged war. Yet, by and of itself,  insufficient in producing positive results. An outstanding commander is also handicapped if not given resources to finish the job. Osman Pasha would hold out innumerable times against overwhelming odds but the cards were still stacked against him at Plevna. I would agree that the best bet would be a combination of the two, as all of you have already attested to. With supply and skill, in sufficient quantities and qualities (enough to bare fruit at the bargaining table) such an army can dictate terms on the field and in peace. Sometimes a great will come along bringing both spheres of command (startegy and tactics) under his leadership. Napoleon, Ataturk, and Cengiz Khan come to mind. 


Posted By: Seko-
Date Posted: 29 Jul 2009 at 17:01
Meigs? Not at all. Who was he? Smile


Posted By: gcle2003
Date Posted: 29 Jul 2009 at 17:27
I'm interested in Pikeshott's choice of words in saying McClellan was a 'far more military' man than Grant.
 
I'd be willing to bet his leatherwork shone brighter and his brasses were more blinding and he stood more erect. But is that what 'military' means?
 


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Citizen of Ankh-Morpork.

Never believe anything until it has been officially denied - Sir Humphrey Appleby, 1984.



Posted By: pikeshot1600
Date Posted: 29 Jul 2009 at 17:52
Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

I'm interested in Pikeshott's choice of words in saying McClellan was a 'far more military' man than Grant.
 
I'd be willing to bet his leatherwork shone brighter and his brasses were more blinding and he stood more erect. But is that what 'military' means?
 
 
Actually, McClellan had strategic understanding, and his plan for the 1862 Peninsula Campaign was sound.  The army (and the navy) did not as yet have either the experience or the organizational sophistication to make the campaign effective.  It was also of necessity an amphibious operation which is difficult even for experienced forces.  McClellan was also reluctant to fight in Virginia (never sure why).  At Antietam/Sharpsburg later that year he fought a huge battle and deterred Lee's move north onto Union soil.
 
 


Posted By: pikeshot1600
Date Posted: 29 Jul 2009 at 18:58
Originally posted by Seko Seko wrote:

Meigs? Not at all. Who was he? Smile
 
Montgomery Cunningham Meigs was a career soldier - Quartermaster General of the U.S. Army from 1861 til after the Civil War. 
 
Google him.  An extremely important general who never commanded in the field.
 
 


Posted By: Al Jassas
Date Posted: 29 Jul 2009 at 19:18
George "I want more soldiers" McClellan was a disgrace to the good name of generalship. He already had more than twice the troops of the enemy. He had his enemy's capital at gun point and yet he did nothing. As one union soldier said later "if he had 1 million men in the field he still would say "I want another million" even if he was facing a damn company".
 
As for tactical generals vs Strategic ones, well, without sound tactical performance having the strategic brains will be of no use. Battles are one on the battalion and division levels not the field army or army group levels. This is why Russia lost so much in Barbarossa. They simply had few qualified soldiers who could command battalions and brigades. It was on this level where the Germans excelled in the early stages of WWII.
 
Plus many of the "strategic" moves are nothing but tacitcal moves but on a macroscale. Rommels moves in France with his division were of the same shape as Soviet field armies piercing through the German AGC lines during Bagration. The only problem is that some generals go too far with what they have and this is what Rommel did. He was just 30 km from Alexandria, just one last sprint and he is where the oil and food is. But this didn't happen. He failed and this is why he lost. He gambled like many other soldiers. I am certain that had he won the story would be different and those damning him would be praising his "military genius".
 
Al-Jassas


Posted By: rider
Date Posted: 29 Jul 2009 at 19:35
Even I have to concur that McClellan was an ass if we've ever seen one in the role of a general.
 
Now, I'd suspect that we can only rate the people who brought in the victories since no matter how good the base back home is, then if the chap in the head of the armies is a loser the possibilities that the home staff has organized do not materialize. Therefore, it is all upon the tactical chaps if we want to get the job done.
 
Note that for some reason, it would seem that speaking of WWI then the strategic people are more well known.


Posted By: pikeshot1600
Date Posted: 29 Jul 2009 at 19:40
Al Jassas and rider,
 
Don't be too hard on George.  There is always a learning curve in war, and he happened to be on the front end of the curve.  Richmond had been well entrenched with field works, and the CSA would need fewer troops than the USA to defend the city.  Johnston knew a prolonged siege would put Richmond in danger, so he took the initiative and gambled on an offensive.  It worked.
 
The restricted area of the James River peninsula worked against a Union offensive as much as it protected the Union flanks.  There was neither enough room for any flanking movement, nor enough troops for a frontal assault.  The army simply was stretched too thin at the time. 
 
At Antietam, McClellan fought a strong battle and gained a tactical victory.  He was criticised for not pursuing - with an exhausted army.  The same criticism was laid on Meade after Gettysburg.  There is only so much that tired troops can do (like after a three day battle in stifling heat with little rest and little time for nourishment).
 
In the last year of the war, when the US army was a million strong, Richmond-Petersburg were still entrenched well enough to make siege work very costly for Grant.  (Of course the Army of the Potomac was about 105,000 in that theater.)
 
I am just stating that everyone was still learning to fight a war on that scale, and whatever early reverses were experienced, someone had to get the blame for it.  McClellan had a reputation for caution in re casualties; Grant took them by the bucket full.  By 1864, it was obvious that the latter approach was the one needed to win the war.  
 
   


Posted By: Seko-
Date Posted: 29 Jul 2009 at 20:27
Originally posted by pikeshot1600 pikeshot1600 wrote:

Originally posted by Seko Seko wrote:

Meigs? Not at all. Who was he? Smile
 
Montgomery Cunningham Meigs was a career soldier - Quartermaster General of the U.S. Army from 1861 til after the Civil War. 
 
Google him.  An extremely important general who never commanded in the field.
 
 


Impressive man and credentials. Quartermaster general, Union logistics tsar, and picked the location for the Arlington National Cemetery. I found this next tidbit of info interesting. As McClellan was feigning illness while commander of the Potomac, Meigs told Lincoln to consult with McClellan's divisional commanders instead and thus engage the enemy. Soon, a jealous McClellan miraculously rebounded.


Posted By: gcle2003
Date Posted: 29 Jul 2009 at 20:42
Originally posted by pikeshot1600 pikeshot1600 wrote:

Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

I'm interested in Pikeshott's choice of words in saying McClellan was a 'far more military' man than Grant.
 
I'd be willing to bet his leatherwork shone brighter and his brasses were more blinding and he stood more erect. But is that what 'military' means?
 
 
Actually, McClellan had strategic understanding, and his plan for the 1862 Peninsula Campaign was sound.  The army (and the navy) did not as yet have either the experience or the organizational sophistication to make the campaign effective. 
Then his strategy was wrong wasn't it? Good strategy takes account of available resources. Actually my reading of the Peninsula campaign was simply that he was afraid of losing.
Quote
 It was also of necessity an amphibious operation which is difficult even for experienced forces.  McClellan was also reluctant to fight in Virginia (never sure why).  At Antietam/Sharpsburg later that year he fought a huge battle and deterred Lee's move north onto Union soil.
 
At Antietam he should have crushed Lee and failed to do so, even though he had teice the manpower, though whether you would call that a tactical or strategic failing I'm not sure.  He also failed to follow-up and push after Lee across the Potomac, a definite strategic error. If McClellan had handled his forces properly, instead - again - of preferring to avoid combat, there would possibly never have been a Gettysburg.
 
In the climate of the day, it's true it was enough of a 'victory' - since it wasn't actually a defeat- to enable Lincoln to make the Emancipation Proclamation, but that was politics, not strategy or tactics. And also not McClellan's doing.


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Citizen of Ankh-Morpork.

Never believe anything until it has been officially denied - Sir Humphrey Appleby, 1984.



Posted By: pikeshot1600
Date Posted: 29 Jul 2009 at 21:04
Graham,
 
The strategy was sound.  Secure communications; protected flanks; the turning out of Johnston from his position south of Richmond and forcing him back upon the capital.  The decision to advance both in the west down the Mississippi and also upon Richmond was due to the demand for "quick victory."  That was a reflection of the demand of the nation for results which characterized post 1815 warfare.  The Union forces in 1862 did not have sufficient troops to do both and also to occupy territory - the country was too vast.
 
McClellan sought a determination in the field that was characterized by his training as an engineer - siege work to reduce the enemy.  This wasn't fast enough for the press, and consequently for Lincoln.  I am not even sure if the 1862 US army had sufficient siege artillery to conduct the campaign in that way, but I am saying the strategic conception was sound. When Grant and Meade made their approach to Richmond later, it was from the same direction.  
 
This is the difficulty the tactician has in modern times.  He is often expected to win fast, regardless of resources readily available; no excuses allowed.  Experience gained from the learning curve is at a premium due to....inexperience.  Lack of immediate success causes the tactician's superiors to lose confidence (political pressures).  McClellan withdrew from the Peninsula on orders from his superiors, not because he wanted to.  Archer Jones makes the point in How the North Won that McClellan's plans were beginning to make headway, but it was not fast enough for Lincoln.
 
So George failed.  That is true.  He may have been too concerned with the welfare of the soldier and the army.  Grant succeeded by chewing up Union soldiers and Confederates alike because he had far more to lose.  He, like Sherman, understood modern warfare.
 
The successful general became president; the failure is made fun of on AE.
 
   


Posted By: drgonzaga
Date Posted: 29 Jul 2009 at 22:03
Any attempt at curing McClellan from the "slows" either through History or just simple rationalization is doomed to failure, specially if one fully understands the impact of M.C. Meigs. He along with another Southerner loyal to the Union, Winfield Scott, were the actual elaborators of what did produce victory: the Anaconda Plan. In effect, Pike, your "endorsement" of McClellan's "on to Richmond" mentality is akin to the German rush to Paris in 1914, which in effect generated the bloody stalemate of 1915-1917. Naval blockade and seizure of the strategic (as well as commercial) foci of the Confederacy proved far more effective as the catalyst for Southern collapse than the carnage in Virginia.
 


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Honi soit qui mal y pense


Posted By: Panther
Date Posted: 29 Jul 2009 at 22:15
Originally posted by pikeshot1600 pikeshot1600 wrote:

Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

I'm interested in Pikeshott's choice of words in saying McClellan was a 'far more military' man than Grant.
 
I'd be willing to bet his leatherwork shone brighter and his brasses were more blinding and he stood more erect. But is that what 'military' means?
 
 
Actually, McClellan had strategic understanding, and his plan for the 1862 Peninsula Campaign was sound.  The army (and the navy) did not as yet have either the experience or the organizational sophistication to make the campaign effective.  It was also of necessity an amphibious operation which is difficult even for experienced forces.  McClellan was also reluctant to fight in Virginia (never sure why).  At Antietam/Sharpsburg later that year he fought a huge battle and deterred Lee's move north onto Union soil.
 


It's a rare occasion, but i will have to disagree with you here pikeshot. General Winfield Scott was the ultimate strategist the US had ever had in the 19th century. But was viewed as too old to serve in the field and what with command given to the younger generation of generals that made up the civil war era. It goes without saying that it was his anaconda plan that was ultimately and eventually used to bring the war to it's final conclusion.

In my view, McClellan was neither a strategist nor a tactician. In a word, he was a better business man than general. But granted, he was a most able organizer who eventually made the army more of a cohesive fighting unit then what it was as a mob with guns prior to his taking of command. He was what the Army needed at that time, but once it became organized, he became it's worst advocate of getting on with the job at hand.

What made McClellan most most nervous about fighting in Virginia was his unfortunate paranoid belief that there were rebels behind every tree waiting too destroy his army. His primary intelligence officer, Pinkerton (Who was no military man), certainly did not help matters very much by always inflating rebel forces that he would be facing. McClellan never knew that he always had the rebels outnumbered at least 2-1 and sometimes even more than that.

Even during the battle of Antietam/Sharpsburg and with General Lee's battle plans in his hands (A gift given to him by fortune, but with a curt dismissal of luck), McClellan could have destroyed Lee's Army. But at best was only able too fight him to a draw and then further let Lee leave the field unmolested, living to fight another day. That is what ultimately proved the end of his career in the military as far as Lincoln was concerned, which in the end his view is what mattered the most!

It eventual took Three Northern Generals who understood and finally implemented Gen. Scott's Anaconda plan. Grant in overall charge. Gen. Sherman implementation of his plan to march to the sea. And with Gen. Sheridan in overall command of the Grant's US Calvary arm had proved the end of Confederate dominance over the Union army.


Posted By: pikeshot1600
Date Posted: 29 Jul 2009 at 22:41
Gentlemen,
 
Please re-read my posts.  I am not claiming George McClellan was a success.  The thread is about tactical vs strategic generals.  I stated that the peninsula strategy was sound.  It was.  I said McClellan fought a battle at Antietam and blunted a Confederate advance into the north.  He did.
 
He was not the man for the job because the nation demanded more than West Point training.  It demanded someone who would fight and win battles, no matter what the cost.  These were modern times.  Maneuvering and strategic pussyfooting would not suffice. 
 
At least Panther recognizes that the Army of the Potomac was benefitted by McClellan's organizational ability and his effect on morale.  He was better suited to staff duty but that is not what fell his way.  He was not a fighting general, but "Fightin' Joe Hooker" had no more success than Little Mac.  The commander the army needed was Grant.  He understood that the way to fight a war was to come to grips with the enemy and fight him.  The nastier it was, the sooner it would be over.
 
It is out of the scope of this thread, but that US approach to war followed through to the 20th century, especially in the Second World War and also in Viet Nam.....sucessfully in the first; not so much in the second.
 
 


Posted By: gcle2003
Date Posted: 30 Jul 2009 at 11:04
Originally posted by pikeshot1600 pikeshot1600 wrote:

Gentlemen,
 
Please re-read my posts.  I am not claiming George McClellan was a success.  The thread is about tactical vs strategic generals.  I stated that the peninsula strategy was sound.  It was. 
Overlooking the points above about whose strategy it was, timing is as important a factor in strategy as geography. The drive up the peninsula was only strategically sound if it was done fast, forcing the South to bring down whatever troops it could to Richmond's defence, with McDowell hard on their heels.
 
McClellan's dilatoriness gave Jackson time to do his famous vanishing trick with the sudden reappearance in the Shenandoah, leading to his threat on Washington, and absolutely preventing any reinforcement from McDowell coming south, as well as panicking Washington into giving McClellan the ultimatum to attack Richmond or pull out.
 
That can hardly be dismissed as 'tactics'; it was a failure to recognise the strategic importance of time. 
Quote
I said McClellan fought a battle at Antietam and blunted a Confederate advance into the north.  He did.
He was not the man for the job because the nation demanded more than West Point training.  It demanded someone who would fight and win battles, no matter what the cost.  These were modern times.  Maneuvering and strategic pussyfooting would not suffice. 
'Modern times'? 'Manoeuvring and strategic pussyfooting' were hardly sufficient for Nelson or Napoleon.
 


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Citizen of Ankh-Morpork.

Never believe anything until it has been officially denied - Sir Humphrey Appleby, 1984.



Posted By: rider
Date Posted: 30 Jul 2009 at 17:44
Well, Napoleon's (or one of his) key element(s) was the speed by which he manouvered. Also, he was always ready to fight battles (because, I suspect that not doing so would have played into his disadvatage). Therefore, I'd say that Napoleon was quite modern a general (even if his basis for beign such was different).
 
However, if we look before Napoleon, then the wars were all about manouvering -- J. Churchill is critized because he engaged in battle and suffered (high) losses; he would have been the general that could have won the Civil War due to his means at any point though.


Posted By: hugoestr
Date Posted: 30 Jul 2009 at 18:25
Quote 'Modern times'? 'Manoeuvring and strategic pussyfooting' were hardly sufficient for Nelson or Napoleon.


I may be wrong, but I thought that maneuvering is the basis of modern nation-to-nation warfare. Trying to force a quick direct confrontation between two armies create trench warfare conditions with modern defense technology.


And to use the U.S. Civil War as an example, Lee seemed to be only to happy to maneuver back and forth and to delay any confrontation that wasn't necessary, since he had less forces and resources.

Lee is probably one of the worst strategic generals of all time since many narratives say that he knew that the war couldn't be won for the South. Then why fight it in the first place? Why commit treason and desertion for a cause that was lost to begin with?




Posted By: gcle2003
Date Posted: 30 Jul 2009 at 18:44
Originally posted by hugoestr hugoestr wrote:

Quote 'Modern times'? 'Manoeuvring and strategic pussyfooting' were hardly sufficient for Nelson or Napoleon.


I may be wrong, but I thought that maneuvering is the basis of modern nation-to-nation warfare. Trying to force a quick direct confrontation between two armies create trench warfare conditions with modern defense technology.
I said they weren't sufficient, not that they weren't necessary or advisable. In the end though, as Nelson sort of said, you put your ship alongside the enemy and board her.
Quote
And to use the U.S. Civil War as an example, Lee seemed to be only to happy to maneuver back and forth and to delay any confrontation that wasn't necessary, since he had less forces and resources.
Which as I tried to piint out was where McClellan's strategy was weak: he gave Lee the time he wanted to build a pre-emptive attack in the north (of Virginia).
Quote
Lee is probably one of the worst strategic generals of all time since many narratives say that he knew that the war couldn't be won for the South. Then why fight it in the first place? Why commit treason and desertion for a cause that was lost to begin with?
Sometimes you fight for a cause that is lost because you figure you owe it to the people you are fighting for. Bruce Catton for one at least is anyway convinced Lee thought he could win, certainly up until Gettysburg. You don't actually have to defeat an enemy in the field to win a war: you just have to break his will to fight. That I think is what Lee was relying on.


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Citizen of Ankh-Morpork.

Never believe anything until it has been officially denied - Sir Humphrey Appleby, 1984.



Posted By: rider
Date Posted: 30 Jul 2009 at 21:48
HUGO! Lee didn't commit treason. He stayed loyal to his country and fought for it like any patriot and man should.


Posted By: hugoestr
Date Posted: 31 Jul 2009 at 00:18
Koit,

He was a commissioned officer of the U.S. Army when the civil war started. He had just been promoted a few weeks before he deserted to aid the enemy. In other countries, after the war, he would have been hanged for treason. It is outstanding about the U.S. that the victors didn't do this.

But if we want to explore more this issue, we can start a new thread


Posted By: drgonzaga
Date Posted: 31 Jul 2009 at 01:37
Hold it a second, folks. Loyalties were a bit more complicated in the political landscape of "America" prior to the 1850s. Recall the outcome of the famous "Treason Trial" Jefferson planned for Burr. The loyalty to one's country was a bit more complicated than an identity with the national government and it did take the Civil War to resolve the "sovereign state" issue--although the theory behind Reconstruction did not help matters as a consequence of its de facto recognition that Secession did take place. Yet, Lee did not "desert" his military command in the US Army, he resigned his commission. In contrast, Scott, another Virginian, did not resign his commission, but he was a political paladin of the generation before Lee.

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Honi soit qui mal y pense


Posted By: Emperor Barbarossa
Date Posted: 31 Jul 2009 at 03:51
I'm surprised Hannibal has not been mentioned. A great tactician, could destroy Roman armies time and time again, but never really did anything with his victories. He won the battles, but lost the war. 

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Pittsburgh, City of Champions


Posted By: Al Jassas
Date Posted: 31 Jul 2009 at 07:19
Hello to you all
 
Actually Hannibal was probably one of the greatest strategists ever. The problem is, he didn't recieve any help from politicians back home.
 
He went on a systematic rampage throughout Italy, managed to convince several cities to abandon Rome or be neutral and some even to ally themselves with him and only need more troops to finish the job. But he never got those troops and the funding never came so I don't blame him for what happened.
 
 
Also, Lee didn't desert, he knew better. He resigned his post and joined the Virginia militia, which if I am not mistaken he was a member of before the war. The Virginia militia was the main part of the confederate army.
 
Al-Jassas


Posted By: rider
Date Posted: 31 Jul 2009 at 09:04
Originally posted by hugoestr hugoestr wrote:

Koit,

He was a commissioned officer of the U.S. Army when the civil war started. He had just been promoted a few weeks before he deserted to aid the enemy. In other countries, after the war, he would have been hanged for treason. It is outstanding about the U.S. that the victors didn't do this.

But if we want to explore more this issue, we can start a new thread
 
Not counting the posts below which show already you are wrong, please tell me if all the commissioned officers who were in the Imperial Russian army committed treason when they joined the Finnish, Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Ukrainian national forces against the Russians?


Posted By: Emperor Barbarossa
Date Posted: 31 Jul 2009 at 18:30
Rider, Lee led an armed insurrection against the Constitutional Government of the United States of America. This is in its very definition treason. The Confederate "government" was not formed constitutionally, and sought to largely deny blacks their simple Constitutional right to not be slaves. Fighting in the army of that illegitimate government is by definition treason.


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Pittsburgh, City of Champions


Posted By: Al Jassas
Date Posted: 31 Jul 2009 at 19:56
Lee resigned his post, his state where he was a member of its militia seceeded from the union officially and responded to the invasion of the US government forces by fighting it. There is no law to my knowledge preventing a state from seceseding from the union which means the guy was not a traitor.
 
Al-Jassas


Posted By: rider
Date Posted: 31 Jul 2009 at 20:09
Actually, it would seem that today a state does not have the right to secede, but just as well, every citizen must be guaranteed his chance to happiness. Therefore, I'd argue that the CSA had the right to secede based on it doing what it's citizens wanted and since their constitutional rights could not be fulfilled in the Union.


Posted By: pikeshot1600
Date Posted: 31 Jul 2009 at 20:11
Originally posted by Al Jassas Al Jassas wrote:

Lee resigned his post, his state where he was a member of its militia seceeded from the union officially and responded to the invasion of the US government forces by fighting it. There is no law to my knowledge preventing a state from seceseding from the union which means the guy was not a traitor.
 
Al-Jassas
 
As far as I am aware, no charges of treason were brought against any Confederate official or officer.  Such action would have been contrary to the approach President Lincoln wanted to take toward the post war South.  It has been said that his articulation of how the nation should act in peace was to give validation to his chosen approach in order to head off the Radical Republicans (and others) who wanted revenge on Southerners.
 
Davis and Lee and Longstreet were denied the return of their citizenship (Lonstreet was restored later), but there were no firing squads or any of that.  I am sure there were bitter persons who looked upon Confederate officers as traitors, but that passed.  Also, so many of these men had friends in high places in the North, particularly the army.
 
  


Posted By: pikeshot1600
Date Posted: 31 Jul 2009 at 20:12
Originally posted by rider rider wrote:

Actually, it would seem that today a state does not have the right to secede, but just as well, every citizen must be guaranteed his chance to happiness. Therefore, I'd argue that the CSA had the right to secede based on it doing what it's citizens wanted and since their constitutional rights could not be fulfilled in the Union.
 
Well, a war was fought over that, and it only cost 2% of the population of the country.  It was a pretty definite decision.
 
 


Posted By: drgonzaga
Date Posted: 31 Jul 2009 at 23:41
Originally posted by pikeshot1600 pikeshot1600 wrote:

Originally posted by rider rider wrote:

Actually, it would seem that today a state does not have the right to secede, but just as well, every citizen must be guaranteed his chance to happiness. Therefore, I'd argue that the CSA had the right to secede based on it doing what it's citizens wanted and since their constitutional rights could not be fulfilled in the Union.
 
Well, a war was fought over that, and it only cost 2% of the population of the country.  It was a pretty definite decision.
 
Not so fast there, pilgrim. Even today, the concept of "secession" remains a possibility (specially if one resides in Texas)Wink Even the Constitution presupposes the elemental right of the people to call for a "convention" to resolve political issue. Recall, that ultimate sovereignty resides not on any institution or charter but in the "people" themselves. Now you know why most current politicians defecate in their pantaloons whenever someone utters the possibility of a "convention" to amend the Constitution! After all, the current document did enter by the "back door" so to speak since the pols that gathered in Philadelphia back in the summer of 1787 were only charged with the "correction" of the Articles of Confederation.


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Honi soit qui mal y pense


Posted By: pikeshot1600
Date Posted: 01 Aug 2009 at 01:15
Originally posted by drgonzaga drgonzaga wrote:

Originally posted by pikeshot1600 pikeshot1600 wrote:

Originally posted by rider rider wrote:

Actually, it would seem that today a state does not have the right to secede, but just as well, every citizen must be guaranteed his chance to happiness. Therefore, I'd argue that the CSA had the right to secede based on it doing what it's citizens wanted and since their constitutional rights could not be fulfilled in the Union.
 
Well, a war was fought over that, and it only cost 2% of the population of the country.  It was a pretty definite decision.
 
Not so fast there, pilgrim. Even today, the concept of "secession" remains a possibility (specially if one resides in Texas)Wink Even the Constitution presupposes the elemental right of the people to call for a "convention" to resolve political issue. Recall, that ultimate sovereignty resides not on any institution or charter but in the "people" themselves. Now you know why most current politicians defecate in their pantaloons whenever someone utters the possibility of a "convention" to amend the Constitution! After all, the current document did enter by the "back door" so to speak since the pols that gathered in Philadelphia back in the summer of 1787 were only charged with the "correction" of the Articles of Confederation.
 
The Constitution is silent on secession.  The Civil War established the precedent, confirmed by the result, that secession is not a constitutional principle.  Neither you nor I want to go through the process again. 
 
In 1787 the "political nation" consisted primarily of the personages who "corrected" the Articles of Confederation.  It seems the political nation knew best.  The people in the late 18th century were those who were in a position to deal and compromise.  It was not 1860.  The backwoodsman and the farmer in 1787 didn't know the difference between confederation and confection.  A half century of available schooling began to change that.
 
In the modern era, the political nation includes 24 hour news programs that afford viewers the opportunity to "vote" on whether someone on trial is guilty, or whether the US should abandon it's position on top of a sizeable portion of the world's oil with all the leverage that affords.  As if......
 
So you would be in favor of a constitutional convention that would have pressure to.....ban flag burning; sanctify a biblical definition of marriage; institute pro-life? - all those really weighty vital national interests.    Or...balance the budget?  If we tried to do that, the economy would totally collapse.  You know and understand the single-interest pin heads who don't see past their current fund raising.  No, too many problems with a constitutional convention.  We are better off as is. 
 
   
 
  


Posted By: pikeshot1600
Date Posted: 01 Aug 2009 at 01:32
We are getting away from hugo's topic (which I think deserves better).  Let's think more about the tactical vs the strategic general.
 
 


Posted By: pikeshot1600
Date Posted: 01 Aug 2009 at 02:32
In an era of universal conscription and mass armies (roughly 1870 to 1970)  How many really successful tactical generals have there been?  Mass armies tend to take up virtually all available area in a theater of operations leaving little room or opportunity for strategic maneuver.  Flanking movements are difficult if not impossible; strategy has tended to be reduced to war by means of attrition - the one with the most resources wins.  This has been one of the reasons for the enormous casualties in modern war.  The tactician has little influence in this type of warfare. 
 
Frederick the Great might win battles against numerically superior forces; Bonaparte might annihilate huge armies that should have been better able to stand against him.  Jackson could move with speed and appear in force at places that surprised an enemy.
 
In the successful stages of the American Civil War, the US army put itself against the enemy by taking casualties, because it could, in restricted geography in eastern Virginia and won with tactics that were in large measure by frontal assault.
 
In the Franco-Prussian War, German casualties were remarkably high in a decisive campaign that lasted one month.
 
In the First World War, there basically was no strategic maneuver possible.  Stalemate and frontal assault were the order of the day.
 
In the biggest of the two biggest land campaigns of WW II, the Red army fought on an almost continuous front from the Baltic to the Black Sea with very little opportunity to outflank it's emeny strategically.  The cost was 10 or 11,000,000 dead.  In France, Normandy has been referred to as an indirect approach to invading Europe.  I disagree.  Overlord was a frontal assault with massive resources, and the following 10 months were attritional warfare although less murderous than in the East.
 
Because of the enormous sizes of these armies (even in the later 19th century), the organizer was the more successful general.  Strategy had become a matter of management.  The tactical commander could not control such large forces to as much advantage as had Frederick or even Napoleon.
 
I know it is heresy in some quarters, but R. E. Lee imo cannot be considered a successful tactical general.  In very costly battles from Antietam to Gettysburg, Lee fought napoleonic battles that resulted mostly in the unacceptable loss of precious, experienced Confederate troops.  By 1863, the Confederate leadership (including Lee) should have been seeking the best peace terms they could get.
 
Tactical leadership in the Franco-Prussian War tended toward recklessness (Prince Frederick Charles), insubordination (von Steinmetz) and over caution (von der Tann).  The French did little of note except prolong the war with the nation refusing to give in.
 
The tactics of the First World War seem to be concentrated in the delivery of high explosives by increasingly huge amounts of artillery.  By the second war, losses did not seem to matter to the larger belligerants (except Britain) after the first year or two, so strategy devolved into attritional warfare characterized by repeated frontal assaults.  The most successful tacticians were those who were able to conduct withdrawals in the face of strong offensives (Kleist; Manstein).
 
Tactics seems to have been reduced to company and battalion level leadership, and higher military art became the successful application of overwhelming force in attritional warfare.
 
A number of the campaigns of the Israeli army might be exceptions in some degree because they had to be accomplished quickly with economy of casualties.
 
Thoughts?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


Posted By: rider
Date Posted: 01 Aug 2009 at 10:11
Hmmh. Would you not consider the flanking manouvers carried out by anyone in the First and Second War against not the entire enemy army but a portion of it (a division or ten) to still be a successful example that flanking is possible? The only difference is that the flank won't fold (since it has no where to fold, flanking becoming essentially an envelopment) but collapse completely.


Posted By: DSMyers1
Date Posted: 01 Aug 2009 at 14:50
My favorite overrated (because of battles) general is the famous but not particularly good Frederick the Great....  Rather a butcher of his own troops; fought battles whenever he could.  Had he not gotten very lucky, he would have finished Prussia off for good...

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- The Top 100 Generals

God is my Judge


Posted By: pikeshot1600
Date Posted: 01 Aug 2009 at 15:13
rider,
 
Of course you can make a case for flanking maneuvers in a few cases, but once the nature of modern military operations became established (at least in the first half of the 20th century), either 1) the size of forces deployed to a theater, or 2) restricted geography resolved themselves into attritional struggles with minmal tactical options.
 
The Marne in 1914 may of course be a tactical flanking example, but it's result was the stalemate of the Western Front and four years of attritional warfare.  The size of the armies involved reduced tactical flexibility.  
 
On a strategic level, Gallipoli was conceived as an outflanking of the Central Powers, but the restricted geography did not allow sufficient flexibility for maneuver on the part of troops disembarked, and amphibious capability was not yet well understood or developed.  (The same was true in the Crimea in the 1850s - restricted geography and pre-modern naval doctrine.)
 
In Poland, where there was more room for maneuver, after Tannenberg and Masurian Lakes and Lodz in 1914, the front settled mostly into stalemate.  Yes, there was an Austro-German breakthrough in spring, 1915, but there was no decisive result and 1915 cost about 3,000,000 casualties (all sides) in the east for no real results - attritional warfare.  All summer in 1916 the Russians battered the Carpathians and lost another 1,000,000 men.
 
In the Second War, there seemed to be a move toward a war of movement in Poland and in France in 1940, and up until Moscow in 1941.  However, after outrunning of their supply capabilties and exhausting their manpower, the Wehrmacht was doomed to an attritional war in the east that it could not win.  The Red Army took casualties because it could.  As in the First War, flanking movements were difficult because of the size of the forces involved (and the primitive state of roads in many areas).
 
Italy was attrition from the beginning, and really so was northwestern Europe in 1944-45. 
 
Well, we can go on, but that is my point.  Tactics had been delegated down to lower echelons, and general staffs had become so occupied with providing food, fuel and ammunition to their millions of troops that they had little time to give attention to tactical ops.  An exception might well be Inchon in 1950, but only the US had the amphibious capability, and the recent experience, to do that.
 
 


Posted By: pikeshot1600
Date Posted: 01 Aug 2009 at 15:33
Originally posted by DSMyers1 DSMyers1 wrote:

My favorite overrated (because of battles) general is the famous but not particularly good Frederick the Great....  Rather a butcher of his own troops; fought battles whenever he could.  Had he not gotten very lucky, he would have finished Prussia off for good...
 
I am more favorably disposed toward Frederick than you are, but he was something of an anachronism in the later 18th century.  Some of his foibles seem to be in the precarious situation of Prussia and the other Hohenzollern territories.  Of course he had made an enemy of Austria by 1740 and was doomed to walk a tightrope for the rest of the reign because of all his more powerful neighbors.
 
The decline of the Prussian army began not long after the Seven Years War.  It was Frederick's army, not the state's.  When he had an army of 80,000 men, he could personally approve the senior NCOs in his regiments.  Once the army was several times that size, it started to outstrip his abilities.
 
The "oblique order" required iron discipline, not initiative; many better educated bourgeois officers were dismissed from the army.  So while Austria and France were modernizing their armies (especially the French), Prussia's was a mirror of an ageing, misanthropic king who controlled most everything himself.  The regiment was what he understood, and there were no mechanisms for anything other than very temporary higher formations, unlike the 1770s reforms in France.
 
The cantonal system of recruitment began to work against Prussia as well.  Furloughing large proportions of the army for 10 months of the year suited the state since it was poor, but over time, the erosion of readiness was beginning a slow rot.  The army in the 1790s and at Jena reaped the effect.
 
So, I guess he doesn't look that good from this, but from 1740 til 1760, he was the best tactical commander in Europe, no doubt.  (Possible addition - Maurice de Saxe)
 
    


Posted By: DSMyers1
Date Posted: 01 Aug 2009 at 15:49
Originally posted by pikeshot1600 pikeshot1600 wrote:

So, I guess he doesn't look that good from this, but from 1740 til 1760, he was the best tactical commander in Europe, no doubt.  (Possible addition - Maurice de Saxe)


And that is my point.  An excellent tactical commander, but a weak strategic commander... He hazarded battle at every opportunity.  He very nearly destroyed Prussia by throwing her army into the meat grinder battle after battle.  Victories, yes, by Pyrrhic ones once they started adding up.  If the Empress hadn't died....


-------------
- The Top 100 Generals

God is my Judge


Posted By: pikeshot1600
Date Posted: 01 Aug 2009 at 15:57
Originally posted by DSMyers1 DSMyers1 wrote:

Originally posted by pikeshot1600 pikeshot1600 wrote:

So, I guess he doesn't look that good from this, but from 1740 til 1760, he was the best tactical commander in Europe, no doubt.  (Possible addition - Maurice de Saxe)


And that is my point.  An excellent tactical commander, but a weak strategic commander... He hazarded battle at every opportunity.  He very nearly destroyed Prussia by throwing her army into the meat grinder battle after battle.  Victories, yes, by Pyrrhic ones once they started adding up.  If the Empress hadn't died....
 
I can agree with that.  Some people are lucky.  The chief asset of Prussia was it's (the king's) army, before the 1840s Prussia was really, really poor - hence the larceny of Silesia.  But, as said, while it benefitted the king's treasury, it made an enemy of a vastly more durable and wealthy power that always had more leverage in European affairs.
 
Had it not been for the Emperor, there would have been no "King in Prussia" in 1701.  Had Frederick not been a consummate tactician when he did fight battles (with the only asset he had) there would likely have been no King of Prussia after 1763.
 
 


Posted By: pikeshot1600
Date Posted: 01 Aug 2009 at 16:10
DSMyers1,
 
Just a comment on Frederick's hazarding of battle.  Actually he did not fight a battle after 1762.  The "Bavarian Succession" war was more posturing than anything, and the annual reviews of the Prussian army up to 1786 were more for deterrant effect than anything else. 
 
Again, part time soldiers were becoming an anachronism, and mercenaries were harder and harder to find.  Prussia was falling behind in terms of military proficiency and could not afford to reform important arms such as the artillery as did the French and Austrians.
 
 
 
 


Posted By: gcle2003
Date Posted: 01 Aug 2009 at 17:27
I don't think France and the Low Countries in the second half of 1944 represented a war of attrition. Not many wars have seen so much territory gained in so short a time - without the surrender of the enemy.  

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Citizen of Ankh-Morpork.

Never believe anything until it has been officially denied - Sir Humphrey Appleby, 1984.



Posted By: pikeshot1600
Date Posted: 01 Aug 2009 at 18:08
Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

I don't think France and the Low Countries in the second half of 1944 represented a war of attrition. Not many wars have seen so much territory gained in so short a time - without the surrender of the enemy.  
 
There was not so much maneuvering on the "broad front" in France/Belgium as there was head-to-head battering of the Germans, and them giving it back into 1945.  The big tactical conception to turn the flank of the Siegfried Line was Market Garden, which did not work, and the Siegfried Line was penetrated at Aachen by US First Army after very heavy fighting.  No outflanking there.   
 
There was little or none of that "pussyfooting" we mentioned before.  It was hard fighting all the way, and the nearer to Germany it got, the harder they fought.  After Christmas, 1944, they had almost nothing left to fight with, and they kept it up for some months.
 
I don't know how you want to look at it, but that 10 months of warfare was pretty intense, and after the breakout from Normandy in late July, the German army didn't give up ground easily.
 
As far as territory gained, etc., Russia from June to December, 1941 easily rivals the campaign in NW Europe, and probably surpasses it in terms of troops, etc. 
 
  


Posted By: Al Jassas
Date Posted: 01 Aug 2009 at 18:31
Hello to you all
 
The reason why modern warfare lacks large scale tactical operations is because its modern warfare!
 
In the olden days, the lack of mobility and numbers meant that enemies had to fight in set piece action to end the war. Wars were simply a series of major battles and almost the entire war can be attributed to such battles.
 
However since the American civil war and especially the Russo-Turkish war, things changed dramatically. The massive number of troops (800k Russians and 1 milion with Serbian and Romanian allies vs 400k Turks and militia) was too big. Now all bases could be covered and thus tactical maneuvers were limited. War became just one single front. It took the Russians almost 5 months to break the Turks at the Danbube and finally commense the march and use the numbers to their advantage. The Russo-Japanese war of 04-05 demonstrated how bloody the modern wars can be yet people didn't realise this until WWI came.
 
Al-Jassas


Posted By: gcle2003
Date Posted: 01 Aug 2009 at 21:12
Originally posted by pikeshot1600 pikeshot1600 wrote:

Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

I don't think France and the Low Countries in the second half of 1944 represented a war of attrition. Not many wars have seen so much territory gained in so short a time - without the surrender of the enemy.  
 
There was not so much maneuvering on the "broad front" in France/Belgium as there was head-to-head battering of the Germans, and them giving it back into 1945.  The big tactical conception to turn the flank of the Siegfried Line was Market Garden, which did not work, and the Siegfried Line was penetrated at Aachen by US First Army after very heavy fighting.
I don't know why you call Market Garden a 'tactical' conception. It certainly came under the heading of strategy when I was in the army. It certainly wasn't based on the concept of attrition, nor did it depend on attrition.
Quote
No outflanking there.   
It's what you are trying to do that makes it a strategic or tactical concept, not whether you succeed or not.
Quote
There was little or none of that "pussyfooting" we mentioned before.  It was hard fighting all the way, and the nearer to Germany it got, the harder they fought.  After Christmas, 1944, they had almost nothing left to fight with, and they kept it up for some months.
 
I don't know how you want to look at it, but that 10 months of warfare was pretty intense, and after the breakout from Normandy in late July, the German army didn't give up ground easily.
I specifically cited the six months July-December 1944: 1945 isn't relevant to my point. Arnheim may have been a failure but Eindhoven and Nijmegen weren't: and the fact that Arnhem failed doesn't make it a war of attrition: it was a splendid strategic move that failed. In addition the advance up the coast of France and Belgium to neutralise the V-2 launching sites was purely strategic, involving the defence of London itself. So in fact were the landings in the south of France, and the decision to ignore, not deal with, the various pockets of German resistance in the west and noth-west.  
Quote  
As far as territory gained, etc., Russia from June to December, 1941 easily rivals the campaign in NW Europe, and probably surpasses it in terms of troops, etc. 
I only said it was a rare occurrence, not that it was unique.  As well as those six months in Russia, the six month period December-June 1941/2 in the Far East is also in the same league: and neither of those periods were wars of attrition either.
 
Moreover they were in the same war: and what I said was 'there are not many wars that have seen ...'.
  


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Citizen of Ankh-Morpork.

Never believe anything until it has been officially denied - Sir Humphrey Appleby, 1984.



Posted By: gcle2003
Date Posted: 01 Aug 2009 at 21:26
Originally posted by Al Jassas Al Jassas wrote:

Hello to you all
 
The reason why modern warfare lacks large scale tactical operations is because its modern warfare!
I think what you are talking about as 'modern' warfare is in effect 'pre-modern' or at least pre-contemporary. Aircraft, fixed-wing and helicopters, tanks and other armoured vehicles, missiles and above all nuclear weapons have kind of changed things.
 
Contemporary actual warfare is usually a matter of fast outward success of one side turning into almost eternal asymmetric warfare where the concept of territory 'won' is somewhat fragile.
 


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Citizen of Ankh-Morpork.

Never believe anything until it has been officially denied - Sir Humphrey Appleby, 1984.



Posted By: pikeshot1600
Date Posted: 02 Aug 2009 at 01:20
Graham,
 
Market Garden was as close to an outflanking movement as occurred in northwest Europe in 1944.  The attempt at outflanking the Siegfried Line was a tactical operation in an overall strategy.  The non-success of Market Garden returned northwest Europe to a strategic theater of attritional warfare where the weight of resources was the determining factor.
 
Market Garden was worth the chance, but as it did not work, resources were redirected to more direct frontal assault into Germany and then on to the Rhine.  The conception of the landings in the south of France, while reasonably well conceived, did not really impact the result of the European theater.  The major campaign in the west, with the hardest fighting, was in France/Belgium and west of the Rhine.
 
  


Posted By: Seko-
Date Posted: 02 Aug 2009 at 04:40
The more I read some of these posts the more I want to pull my hair out. You've all denatured the whole point of tactics in modern warfare. Large scale or small scale. Every war, modern or ancient made use of tactics. World War Two was no exception and the use of tactics not only exists in the realm of a flanking maneuver.

Attacking by Stratagem. Defending existing positions until you can advance them and how you must recognize opportunities. Maneuvering. Openings in the environment caused by the relative weakness of an enemy in a given area. Flexibility of your military's responses. Use of terrain and spies. Compliments of Sun Tzu, these tactics never get outdated.

Tactic- a method of employing forces in combat
         -
a plan, procedure, or expedient for promoting a desired end or result.
         - a system or a detail of tactics.

WWII examples.

 Operation Cobra and Goodwood were all allied attempts to dislodge panzer divisions that had stalled their advance after Normandy. Being pinned in the hedgerows the allies needed a diversion and got it with the bombing of Cannes. Freed them up when the majority of panzer divisions in the area fell for the bait and moved in on Cannes. A diversionary tactic!

Kursk was a method in tactical defense and resistance followed by Soviet counterattacks.

German Platoon and Tank formation tactics - Picure the German tank platoon as a triangle. When in defense two tanks, for example, were up fron and one in back. This present the majority of force up front with a reserve out back. Tactic!

Also, what is the bliztkreig if not one big coordinated land and air offensive strategy that turned tactic on a smaller scale every time a platoon needed air support?

American Pacific tactics - The US Navy kept her carriers within supporting distance.  At Midway, the two carrier task forces were kept 25 miles apart - far enough away to make it unlikely that they would be be detected by the same scout plane, but close enough so that each group's fighter screen could support the other. In contrast, the Japanese would sometimes spread their carrier task forces out over vast stretches of ocean. Submarines were seen as important screening vessels for the carrier fleet, as were destroyers and battleships. And there is always the winged formations of aviation. Air tactics were shaped by the war as well. the distance between you and your wing man was of prime importance. Also, the Kamikaze was a suicidal tactic.



Posted By: gcle2003
Date Posted: 02 Aug 2009 at 14:19
Originally posted by pikeshot1600 pikeshot1600 wrote:

Graham,
 
Market Garden was as close to an outflanking movement as occurred in northwest Europe in 1944.  The attempt at outflanking the Siegfried Line was a tactical operation in an overall strategy.  The non-success of Market Garden returned northwest Europe to a strategic theater of attritional warfare where the weight of resources was the determining factor.
 
Market Garden was worth the chance, but as it did not work, resources were redirected to more direct frontal assault into Germany and then on to the Rhine.  The conception of the landings in the south of France, while reasonably well conceived, did not really impact the result of the European theater.  The major campaign in the west, with the hardest fighting, was in France/Belgium and west of the Rhine.
 
I don't see the relevance of how important something was, or whether it succeeded or failed to the general point. Also I think you're ignoring the essetial relativity of the terms strategic and tactics. Tactics are what you adopt within a strategy: in order to achieve a strategic goal you pose a series of tactical goals. That view applies all the way down the hierarchy: one person's tactic is his subordinates's strategy.
 
Deciding to fight a campaign of attrition is in itself a strategic decision. It is in effect a decision that any commander can make depending on how great a scope you give the word 'campaign'.
 
You can blockade Germany or you can besiege a fort. Both are campaigns of attrition.


-------------
Citizen of Ankh-Morpork.

Never believe anything until it has been officially denied - Sir Humphrey Appleby, 1984.



Posted By: pikeshot1600
Date Posted: 02 Aug 2009 at 14:51
While Seko is not wrong in his observation (and criticism), I doubt it is possible to carve out a meaningful World War II delineation between tactics and strategy at the level of a commanding general - the topic hugo brought up.  It also is difficult to satisfy opinion on an Internet site where a lot of communication is one liners.
 
Of course tactical methods were (and are) still employed, but moreso at lower echelons than that of a commanding general.  The point has been, I think, that in warfare since the advent of mass armies, tactical initiative has been relegated to, and tactical expertise expected from, the leadership of smaller units that are more efficiently controlled because of their more manageable size.  Battalion, brigade and even divisional size units have more flexibility, and can respond more quickly than army formations of multiple corps, or army groups of multiple armies.
 
Gustav Adolf or Frederick II or even Bonaparte (a special case) could still dominate a battlefield tactically or a theater strategically, but the former two rarely led armies on a battelfield larger than 50 or 60,000 - often smaller.  All these "great captains" had an advantage strategically in that they were not only the commanders of their armies, but the sovereign authorities of their states.  Different issue, but still...
 
Even in the ACW, the resource advantage of the Union led to new and unfamiliar issues of how to utilize 100 - 120,000 troops in a single operation.  Perhaps the tactical flexibility of the CSA had something to do with the smaller size of their armies.  However, even Lee had to fight enormously costly battles that would often have been avoided a century or two before. 
 
A great part of that was the new firepower - rifled musketry and artillery with deadlier effect at longer range.  The advantage to a defensive position caused any offensive tactic to result in large losses.  Gettysburg for the CSA and Cold Harbor for the Union were examples.  The issue had to be decided by a frontal assault.  Unknown to the theorists as yet, warfare was becoming a butcher's yard.  The best chance for a tactical movement on a battlefield, such as turning a flank, was only possible for the side that could absorb the losses required of modern war.
 
Aside from the effect of ballistics and firepower, the social-political nature of war had changed as well.  Frederick or Napoleon could effectively make war, fight and make peace as he chose.  By the latter half of the 19th century, and going forward, the nation state demanded success, no matter the cost - in order to justify that cost.
 
ACW     618,000 dead in 4 years.
 
WW I    10,000,000 or so in 4 years
 
WW II   20-25,000,000 (not counting civilians)
 
It is hard to wrap this stuff up in a few paragraphs.
 
 
 
  


Posted By: pikeshot1600
Date Posted: 02 Aug 2009 at 14:55
Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

Originally posted by pikeshot1600 pikeshot1600 wrote:

Graham,
 
Market Garden was as close to an outflanking movement as occurred in northwest Europe in 1944.  The attempt at outflanking the Siegfried Line was a tactical operation in an overall strategy.  The non-success of Market Garden returned northwest Europe to a strategic theater of attritional warfare where the weight of resources was the determining factor.
 
Market Garden was worth the chance, but as it did not work, resources were redirected to more direct frontal assault into Germany and then on to the Rhine.  The conception of the landings in the south of France, while reasonably well conceived, did not really impact the result of the European theater.  The major campaign in the west, with the hardest fighting, was in France/Belgium and west of the Rhine.
 
I don't see the relevance of how important something was, or whether it succeeded or failed to the general point. Also I think you're ignoring the essetial relativity of the terms strategic and tactics. Tactics are what you adopt within a strategy: in order to achieve a strategic goal you pose a series of tactical goals. That view applies all the way down the hierarchy: one person's tactic is his subordinates's strategy.
 
Deciding to fight a campaign of attrition is in itself a strategic decision. It is in effect a decision that any commander can make depending on how great a scope you give the word 'campaign'.
 
You can blockade Germany or you can besiege a fort. Both are campaigns of attrition.
 
Well I did say Market Garden was a tactical operation in an overall strategy.  The strategy was to access and control the industrial areas of Germany and to destroy Germany's ability to make war.  The Siegfried Line, regardless of it's strength or weaknesses, had to be crossed.  The turning of it's flank didn't work out, so it had to be done head on.
 
Allied resources were far stronger and the decision for attrition was favored by the US generals partly because of that, and partly because they thought it would shorten the war.
 
 


Posted By: Seko-
Date Posted: 02 Aug 2009 at 15:38
Originally posted by pikeshot1600 pikeshot1600 wrote:

While Seko is not wrong in his observation (and criticism), I doubt it is possible to carve out a meaningful World War II delineation between tactics and strategy at the level of a commanding general - the topic hugo brought up.


Glad you agree with the observation. Now if we are to delineate between the actions of a  general's strategic versus tactical abilities then we probably would be better off making a list of examples for each.

Lee at Gettysburg. His strategy was to initially to invade Penn. and stir up sympathy, or at least make the Union lose popular support. Plus, he wanted respite from pressure on Virginia. He could have ignored Brandy Station for what it was. Once the skirmishing started, Lee's lack of clear orders (tactical mistake?) made Pittigrew nervous. When the Federalists were stationed on hills (Culp to Cemetery) for prime defensive positioning, Lee was screwed. He threw in attack after attack to dislodge an enemy that kept getting stronger in number, climaxing with the disaster of Pickett's charge. Instead of stubborn tactics, he could have withdrew towards Washington. The Feds would have but no choice to follow and lose the upper hand. Anyway we all know what happened. Lee didn't listen to Longstreet and this plan. He could have used a flanking maneuver, feigned retreat and dug in at his own choosing instead of suicidal direct assaults.

Whether by local command or higher up at HQ tactics will never go out of style.

Vietnam. Le't examine a few tactics from both sides. Westmoreland versus Nguyen Giap.
The Viet Cong were adept at ambush, hit and run, hunkering down, deception, and guerilla insurgencies tactics to where the US was winning most of the individual battles but were losing hearts and minds and land. America responded with search and destroy tactics. Then Giap responded with tunnels, ambushes and fighting on his own terms - timing of counterattacks. The US would carpet bomb or call in firepower to a designated area of attack. This gave a heads up to the Cong so they had a choice to fight back or hide out some more at their own choosing. Whatever, since the locale was telegraphed there was no surprise of being overrun without warning.

In Vietnam the Strategic goal was to break the will of the enemy. Looking back we all know who flinched and eventually had to pull out. The field general and commander will always have numerous uses for diverse battle tactics. Another example, the Tet offensive was one big massive diversion away from Khe Sanh (even though it got hit), every other major stronghold was under attack. Tactic - deception!. In this case direct attacks were good for engagement but indirect attacks at numerous locations were good for surprise and chaos.

Overall, whatever the strategy in war there is room for the creative commander to make the best use of his forces at any given time and place.


Posted By: Al Jassas
Date Posted: 02 Aug 2009 at 16:37
Hello to you all
 
Actually the last real war between two equal enemies was the Iraqi-Iranian war. Ever since the big powers picked on little countries or countries with no will to fight where the only way to fight is to fight asymmetrically.
 
Also some wars have actually been dubbed asymmetric while they were not like the 2006 summer war where there were real lines and attacks and counter attacks albeit on the battalion level but set piece battles did occure.
 
The idea that asymmetric warfare is the "new wave" of warfare is untrue. Asymmetric warfare has always been the case when big powers fight little ones from the time of the Egyptian invasions of the levant until today.
 
I think here a good explaination between what is strategic and what is tactical should be done because an operation like Market-Garden can be seen as both according to the perspective you apply to see the operation through it (wether it be an attempt to circumvent the sigfried line or End the war by christmas).
 
Al-Jassas


Posted By: drgonzaga
Date Posted: 02 Aug 2009 at 17:44
The "tactical" within the concept of contemporary warfare--and for that matter the strategic outside the context of foreign policy--have been rendered anachronistic by modern technology. Asymetric Warfare is possible absent the presence of the nuclear expedient. The term "war games" has more resonnance today than when employed at military colleges. Be scared, very scared.

-------------
Honi soit qui mal y pense


Posted By: AnchoriticSybarite
Date Posted: 17 May 2017 at 09:25
Both of you seem to miss the point regarding Rommel's leadership.

When he arrived in N Africa he had 2 choices. Go on the defensive or offence. If he went defensive he would be giving every advantage in the world to the Brits. It would have been simple mathematics for the British to use their numerial and material superiority to steamroller over the Germans and their erstwhile allies the Italians.

Or he could take advantage of mobility against a plodding opponent. He chose to go on the offense keeping the Brits off balance. Even when they seized the advantage he was quick to find a way to reverse a temporary setback and go on the offensive.

His defeat lies more in the realm of logistics and the advantage the Britsh had with Enigma. They go together as they allowed the British to concentrate on his supply lines at the critical moments.

The greatest--NO WAY. That would only happen when little 5'6" me gets into the ring with Mohammad Ali at his prime and takes him out in less than a minute.



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