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Al Nofi's CIC
  Issue #7, February 1, 2000  
  This Issue...
  • Infinite Wisdom
  • la Triviata
  • Short Rounds
    • The Merchants of Death?
    • The Strange Military Career of Ezekiel Polk
    • British Harrier “Jump Jet” Losses during the Falklands War, 1982
    • Comparative General Officer Ranks, The Waterloo Campaign, 1815   
  • Briefing - The Quasi-War with France
  • Soldier’s Story - Leonard Wood, Surgeon, Soldier

 

Infinite Wisdom

No language can describe adequately the condition of a large portion of the Balkan Peninsula – Serbia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, and other provinces. Political intrigues, constant rivalries, a total absence of all public spirit, hatred of all raves, animosities of rival religions, and absence of any controlling power – nothing short of an army of 50,000 of the best troops would produce anything like order in these parts.

D’Israeli, Prime Minister of Great Britain, August 1878

La Triviata

  • A suit of Milanese armor formerly belonging to King Henri II of France (reigned 1547-1559) was sold several years ago for over $2,900,000.
  • Stalin's favorite drink appears to have been vodka spiced with pepper, red pepper presumably.
  • In 1846, Marine Corps Commandant Archibald Henderson was informed that he had been erroneously overpaid since 1837, and would have to return the overpayment to the treasury, until some friendly Congressmen intervened to forgive the debt, which amounted to $12,000, well over $275,000 in money of 1999.
  • By one estimate, of some 16 million battle deaths during World War I, “only” 91,000 were caused by poison gas.
  • The 12,000 British troops who occupied Boston in the winter of 1775-1776, during the American Revolution, consumed an officially attested 468,750 gallons of porter and another 95,000 of rum.
  • On November 1, 1943, the USS Borie> (DD-215) sank in heavy seas off the Azores, hours after she had sprung a severe leak while sinking the German submarine U-405 by ramming.
  • During the 1973 Arab-Israeli War overall losses averaged one tank every fifteen minutes and one airplane every hour.
  • Mourning their lack of coffee, in January of 1862 some soldiers of the Confederacy’s Washington Light Artillery formally cremated the last of their overused coffee grinds, while jokingly claiming that they "had no grounds for complaint."
  • George S. Patton was the only American ever granted the title "Master of the Sword" by the French Army Cavalry School at Saumur.

 

Short Rounds

The Merchants of Death?

At the end of World War I, Krupp and Deutshce Waffen, two German armaments firms, sued Vickers, their British counterpart.  The two German arms manufacturers claimed Vickers owed them money as license fees for the use of various of their patents in the production of munitions during the Great War.  Krupp wanted £260,000, Deutshce Waffen £75,000.  Vickers contested the claims on the basis of a wartime measure adopted in 1917 which canceled all patents held by enemy nations.

After a long an acrimonious legal battle, in 1926 a British court ruledthat Vickers was under no obligation to pay anything to the German firms.  However, with peace restored Vickers wanted to be able to continue to use German patents, and so the firm agreed to make token payments.

Thus, after years of litigation Krupp received £40,000 and Deutsche Waffen £6,000.  This amounted to about 15-percent of Krupp’s original claim and about 8-percent of Deutsche Waffen’s.

Now, the munitions that Vickers had produced during World War I were used to fight Germany and her allies.  So in effect, Krupp and Deutsche Waffen were paid a royalty for every shell fired by the British at German troops. Of course not all German casualties in the war had been inflicted by the British using technology protected by German patents, nor was every British round fired necessarily aimed at German troops.  Nevertheless, in effect Krupp received about 4.8  pence for each German killed during the war, while Deutsche Waffen got about 0.7 of a penny.  Had the two firms realized the full amount of their claims Krupp would have made 30 pence per dead German, and Deutsche Waffen and about 9 pence. 

Despite the fact that neither German firm secured the full amounts to which they laid claim, both came away with tidy pieces of change.   Krupp’s £40,000 was about $200,000 at the time, and is easily the equivalent of around $2 million today.   So the merchants of death made out nicely, despite Germany’s defeat.

What the families of the German soldiers and sailors thought about the deal is unrecorded.

 

The Strange Military Career of  Ezekiel Polk

In the spring of 1775, Ezekiel Polk, a young man from a landed family, joined the North Carolina militia to do his bit for the American Revolution.  On June 17th his comrades elected him captain of their company.    However, within two months Polk and his entire company deserted to the British.   Then, little more than two months later, in November, they all deserted back to the American side!

Surprisingly, despite this display of a certain degree of inconstancy, Polk was allowed to retain his command.   In fact, by the end of the Revolutionary Warhe had risen to lieutenant colonel of militia and regimental commander. 

Ezekiel Polk lived long and prospered, and eventually had a grandson who attained some degree of fame, and for a time resided at 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, in Washington, D.C.

 

British Harrier "Jump Jet" Losses during the Falklands War, 1982

Great Britain sent 42 of her Harrier "jump jets" to help retake the Falkland Islands from Argentina in 1982.  Of these, 28 were Royal Navy aircraft, and 14 belonged to the R.A.F.

Harrier losses were heavy, understandable given the fact that they were the only fixed wing aircraft available to the Falklands Task Force, and had to operate not only against the Argentine Air Force but also against Argentine ground forces, in an environment which was hardly conducive to safe flying, the campaign being conducted during the sub-arctic autumn.

Nearly a quarter of the aircraft were lost, 10.   Of these, six belonged to the R.N. and four to the R.A.F.  Enemy action accounted for only half of the lost aircraft, while the weather accounted for 20%, two Harriers – one from each service – apparently having collided in the air during a fog. 

Causes of Harrier Loss The Falklands Campaign
R.N.R.A.FTotal
Crashed on Takeoff202
Crashed on Landing010
Crashed due to Weather202
Lost to Ground Fire123
Lost to SAM Fire112
Total6410

Despite their losses, the Harriers gave a very good account of themselves, particularly so when one considers that four of the R.A.F. aircraft were never committed to combat, but maintained as a fleet reserve.   In the course of the Falklands Campaign, the Harriers appear to have destroyed at least 32 Argentine aircraft of all types in air combat, nearly 70% of Argentine aircraft losses.   Of the aircraft downed, at least 21 of which were technically superior Mirage and Sky Hawk fighters and fighter-bombers.  This is a testimony to the professional skill and training of the British pilots, albeit that they engaged the Argentine aircraft at the end of their operational tether.

 

Comparative General Officer Ranks, The Waterloo Campaign, 1815

There were a lot of generals involved in the campaign in northern France and Flanders that began on June 14, 1815, and culminated in the memorable Battle of Waterloo on June 18th.    Altogether there were 240 of them, to command nearly 360,000 troops.  And since the troops came from a lot of different armies – British, French, Prussian, Netherlands, Hanover, Brunswick, and a few others, telling the generals apart can be a bit confusing.  

Comparative General Officer Ranks
BritishFrenchNetherlandsPrussia
Field MarshallMarechal de l'Empire FeldmarschaalGeneralfeldmarschall
General--GeneraalGeneral*
Lieutenant-GeneralGeneral de DivisionLuitenantgeneraalGeneralleutnant
Major GeneralGeneral de BrigadeGeneraalmajoorGeneralmajor
--Marechal de Camp----
* Officers holding this rank had appended to it their arm of service, thus General der Kavalerie or General der Infanterie.

Note that the rank structure is not really comparable to that prevailing today in the U.S. Army.  The functional equivalent of a British major general or a French general de brigade or marechal de camp would actually be brigadier general based on their commandsThe French rank system was actually much more complicated than may appear from the table.  To begin with, the highest actual rank in the army was general de division.    Marechal de l’Empire was technically a distinction, not a rank.  Now it gets really complicated.  A corps commander who was officially a general de division might by courtesy be designated a general de corps d'armee.  However, a general de division might also sometimes be referred to as a lieutenant-general, particularly if he was functioning in a staff position.   Meanwhile, the chief-of-staff of the army was designated major general.  In addition, an officer commanding a brigade was more likely to be designated a marechal de camp (i.e., "field marshal") rather than general de brigade, which was reserved for officers with special duties, such as the commanders of the regiments of the Garde Imperial.   This complexity had developed as a result of the Revolution, which favored functional titles for military officers, chef de battailon for example, rather than major.  Unfortunately, staff personnel often required rank, so the old Royal hierarchical titles of rank survived for a long time alongside the functional Revolutionary ones.  

Further complicating matters was the fact that in all the armies an officer's social rank was often used rather than his military rank.   Thus, although Wellington was a Field Marshal  he was usually referred to as "His Grace, the Duke" without his military rank.   In Wellington's case this could become quite complicated, as he was a duke thrice over, the Portuguese and Spanish having created him such even before the British, and he was also a Prince of the Netherlands.  As each of these gave him a different title, references to him in Portuguese, Spanish, or Dutch works can easily become obscure.  For example, to the Portuguese he was the Duque de Douro, and one Portuguese language history of the Peninsular War nowhere uses any other name for him.   Then there is the problem of multiple ranks.  Wellington, for example, was a field marshal in the British, Prussian, Netherlands, and Portuguese armies, as well as being a Capitan General in the Spanish Army.  Although none of the other officers in the campaign had so many different ranks, several held more than one.  For example, the Prince of Orange was a Dutch field marshal and a general in the British Army, while the Duke of Brunswick, who commanded his division in his capacity as duke, was also a lieutenant-general in the British Army.

 

Briefing - The Quasi-War with France

The outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789 was greeted with great sympathy by most Americans, a sentiment that only deepened when a coalition of European monarchies undertook to crush the new government in 1792.   But by 1794 most Americans were much less enthusiastic about the French Revolution.  Leadership of the Revolution had been seized by a radical faction, which instituted the "Reign of Terror" and undertook a series of aggressive wars against France's neighbors.  Resenting America's neutrality, France's radical leaders attempted to retaliate, meddling in domestic politics, stirring up Indian troubles, and interfering in American maritime commerce.  Attempts to negotiate the differences between the two countries were rebuffed by the French, who demanded bribes in return for cooperation.   When these were refused, the French intensified attacks on American shipping.  In the 12-months from July of 1796 through June of 1797, French warships and privateers captured 316 American merchant vessels.   In July 1798 Congress abrogated existing political and commercial treaties with France and authorized retaliation by the infant U.S. Navy. In effect, the United States effectively declared war on France. 

The "Quasi-War with France" lasted nearly two years (1798-1800).   The new U.S. Navy – essentially consisting of six new and powerful frigates, plus some smaller vessels – wholly outclassed its foe.  American warships took 85 French vessels – mostly privateers but including two frigates – in often fierce sea fights, for the loss of only one ship, the USS Retaliation, a 14 gun sloop that had itself recently been captured from French.   The two most notable fights both involved the new 38-gun frigate Constellation.   On February 1, 1799, she took the slightly more powerful French frigate L’Insurgent in a fierce fight.  Exactly one year later, to the day, under the redoubtable Capt. Thomas Truxton, Constellation took the very powerful Vengeance, a 56-gun ship, in a spectacular five-hour night battle. 

In addition to clashes atsea, there were two memorable operations on land, both involving landing parties composed largely of marines and sailors.   On May 11, 1800, marines and sailors from the fleet effected a landing at Puerto Plata, on Hispaniola, and liberated a British merchantship from some French-inspired Haitian pirates.  Later that year, learning that a French expedition was gong to attempt to capture Curaçao, in the Netherlands Indies, a party of sailors and marines assisted elements of the Royal Marines and Dutch forces in defending the place, September 10-24, 1800

Although virtually all of the action in the war was at sea, at the time, it was believed that more extensive land operations might be necessary as well.  After all, France controlled Haiti, and was allied with Spain, which controlled Florida and Louisiana, still largely populated by French people.   So in addition to greatly expanding the Navy and Marine Corps, Congress authorized a considerable expansion of the army.    

 

Strength of the Army, 1797-1802
17971798Raised1802
Artillery Battalions*4885
Dragoon Regiments**440
Infantry Regiments441.5***162
Troop Strength3,35951,69114,4213,287
Note:Years indicate what would today be known as "year end authorized strength." Raisedis the number of units and personnel activated by late 1800.
* Each had four batteries, primarily for coast defense, plus some engineers.
** Two companies, about a quarter of a regiment.
***Including a half regiment of rifles.

Years indicate what would today be known as "year end authorized strength."   Raised is the number of units and personnel activated by late 1800.  *  Each had four   batteries, primarily for coast defense, plus some engineers.    ** Two companies, about a quarter of a regiment.  ***  Including a half regiment of rifles.

Now an army of just under 52,000 officers and troops might not seem like much nowadays.  But it was an enormous host in terms of the population of the United States at the time.   Indeed, during the Revolutionary War the infant United States had rarely had as many troops on active duty at any one time. 

To command this host former president George Washington was called out of retirement and on July 3, 1798, commissioned a lieutenant general (a come-down from his Revolutionary War rank, which was plain "general").  Assisting Washington was Alexander Hamilton, commissioned a major general, and a modest flock of brigadier generals.   Washington worked hard to raise the forces Congress authorized in July of 1798, but ultimately had only marginal success.  He was still technically on active duty at the time of his death on December 14, 1799, and was succeeded by Hamilton as effective general-in-chief.

Despite this humiliating record of failure at sea, the French government pursued its confrontational policies until shortly after Napoleon Bonaparte seized power.   All issues between the U.S. and France were resolved in February of 1801. 

Aside from losses among merchant seamen, some dozens of whom were killed or wounded when the French seized their ships, American casualties in the Quasi-War had totaled 14 sailors and six marines killed in action, as well as 44 men wounded.   French losses are unknown.

Almost as soon as the crisis was past, Congress reduced the armed forces, slashing the army to about 4,400 men, laying up much of the fleet, and cutting the Marine Corps by about 40-percent.  The following year, in 1802, the Jefferson Administration effected even greater cuts, slashing the army a further 20-percent and laying up most of what was left of the navy, thus insuring that in a period of significant international tension, the United States was wholly unprepared.

 

Soldier’s Story - Leonard Wood, Surgeon, Soldier

Leonard Wood (1860-1927) received an M.D. from Harvard in 1884, and was commissioned in the army two years later as an assistant surgeon, in effect a first lieutenant.  He served in a number of Indian wars, including the Geronimo Campaign, during which he won a Medal of Honor for services as a combatant, having led a patrol on an important mission.  In 1895, by then ranking as a surgeon (i.e., captain), he was appointed White House physician by Grover Cleveland, retaining the post when McKinley became president. 

During the McKinley administration Wood became a close friend of Theodore Roosevelt, who was Assistant Secretary of the Navy.  When the war with Spain broke out, Roosevelt was offered command of the newly authorized 1st Volunteer Cavalry, but expressed a willingness to serve as second-in-command if Wood was given the regiment.  Commissioned a colonel of volunteers, Wood organized and trained the regiment, and led it to Cuba.  He commanded it during the Battle of Las Guasimas, but shortly afterwards assumed acting command of the 2nd Cavalry Brigade, a post which was shortly made permanent when he was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers.   After the surrender of the Spanish forces at Santiago, Wood was appointed military governor of the city, largely on the strength of his medical credentials.  Demonstrating considerable administrative skills, he quickly brought order to the city's chaotic public services, improved sanitation, restored the municipal water supply, opened hospitals, and soon had the death rate from disease under control.  As a reward he was promoted to major general of volunteers and made military governor of Santiago province. 

In 1899 Wood was promoted to brigadier general in the regular army, and made military governor of Cuba.   He performed his duties energetically, greatly improving public health in the island, while overseeing the demobilization of the Cuban insurgent army, a task made difficult by the fact that some of the former rebels preferred brigandage to peace.   Relinquishing control of Cuba to an elected government in 1902, Wood spent several years as military attaché to Germany.  He then was given a district command in the Philippines.  Promoted to major general in the Regular Army, he served for two years as commander of the Philippine Department.  In 1910 Wood was appointed Chief of Staff of the Army. 

Wood’s tenure as chief of staff post was acrimonious, as he pressed to strengthen the power of the chief at the expense of the bureaus.  In winning this battle he effectively established the authority of the chief of staff as the senior officer in the army.  After his term as chief of staff he held various administrative posts.   With the sinking of the liner Lusitania by a German submarine in 1915, Wood joined Teddy Roosevelt in advocating American intervention in World War I, and was a staunch supporter of the Plattsburgh Program, in which upwards of 40,000 young men voluntarily underwent officer's training, while becoming a major advocate for preparedness. 

When the U.S. entered World War I, Wood – by then the senior-most officer on active duty in the army – and Roosevelt proposed raising a volunteer division, an idea that was vetoed by John J. Pershing, with the enthusiastic support of Woodrow Wilson.   Although he tried repeatedly to get overseas, Wood spent the entire war stateside, first as commander of the 89th Division and then, when that unit shipped out, as commander of the 10th Division.

After the war Wood attempted to secure the Republic nomination for the presidency in 1920, losing to Warren Harding.  Harding gave him the civilian post of governor of the Philippines, which he still held at the time of his death.

Wood was an excellent soldier, both administratively and combat.  He actually walked through Spanish fire to the top of San Juan Hill, pausing now and again to tend the wounded while directing the battle. In action he wore khaki breeches with a gray shirt and no insignia, carrying no weapon except a riding crop and his medical kit. 

 

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