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June 18, 2019

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Short Rounds

"Out Sabers and Board!"

In 1915 a number of British submarines bravely slipped through the Dardanelles and operated in the Sea of Marmora in support of the Allied landings on the Gallipoli Peninsula. Several of the boats, such as AE-2 or E-14, racked up impressive scores, including a couple of old battleships. No so E-11, skippered by Lt.-Cdr. Martin Dunbar Nasmith. But E-11's career in the Marmora was not as spectacular as that of her sisters, it was certainly a unique one in the history of submarine operations.

One day, whilst on patrol near the port of Rodesto, E-11 chanced upon an old paddle wheel steamer ladened with munitions and horses. The steamer gamely tried to ram the British intruder and, when that failed, fled towards shore as fast as her antique engines could carry her. E-11 gave pursuit. Considering the target unworthy of an expensive torpedo, and lacking a deck gun, Dunbar Nasmith decided to engage the target with rifle fire. As E-11 approached the panting Turkish ship, which was by then close inshore, her crew opened up. It looked like curtains for the little steamer, which would be forced to surrender under a hail of small arms fire.

And then, in the nick of time, the cavalry arrived.

A squadron of Turkish cavalrymen who chanced to be riding along the shore nearly spotted the little engagement. Putting spurs to horse, the troopers charged along the beach, deployed, and took E-11 under heavy rifle fire. Outgunned, and perhaps fearful for his boat's fragile hull, Duncan Nasmith broke off the action and retired out of gunshot range.

He decided to try a torpedo at long range, but missed. With that, the engagement was over. The little paddle wheeler went on about its lawful occasions, her crew perhaps never realizing how important a role they had played in an event of enormous historical uniqueness. After all E-11 was the first - and so far the only - submarine ever to be lose an engagement to cavalry.

As for her skipper, Duncan Nasmith, the unfortunate - and unique - experience doesn't seem to have harmed his career a bit, for many years later he retired from the Royal Navy full of honors, as an admiral.

--Richard Garczynski

 

Evolution of the Panzer Divisions, 1939-1945

Germany's panzer divisions underwent numerous changes in the course of World War II. These changes resulted for a number of reasons. Operational considerations were one, as organization was refined to reflect lessons learned. There were also technological considerations, notably when new equipment was introduced or, as the war dragged on, because of an increasing shortage of equipment. And then there was at least one instance in which Hitler's "intuition" led to a direct change in the organization of the panzer divisions when, early in 1941, he dictated the doubling of the number of panzer divisions by the simple expedient of halving the number of tanks in each and doubling the number of infantry.

Oddly, this was not so crazy an idea as has sometimes been suggested. The most expensive element in the panzer division was the tanks, which numbered 250-324 under the older tables of organization, while much of the fighting was done by the infantry, who numbered only 2,000 or so in the older divisions. What Hitler's change actually did was to replace the panzer divisions with a far larger number of what might be termed "tank heavy" panzer grenadier divisions, that is, armored infantry divisions.

Outline Table of Organization, Panzer Divisions
YearInf. Rgts.Pz. Rgts. Tanks Main Types
1939 1 2 324 Pz II
1940 1 2 258 Pz II & Pz III
1941 2 1 160 Pz III & Pz IV
1942 A 2 1 150 Pz III & Pz IV
1942 B 2 1 200 Pz III & Pz IV
1943 2 1 176 Pz III, Pz IV, & Pz V
1944 2 1 136 Pz IV & Pz V
1945 1 1 64 Pz IV & Pz V
Note: The A and B for 1942 is to differentiate between those panzer regiments that had three battalions, and those with only two. In addition, it's important to keep in mind that the number of tanks shown is what the divisions were allocated on paper; in the field most panzer divisions at rarely at more that 75-percent of establishment strength and often as low as 25% if they had been in action for some time.

 

"What Happened to General Soupta?"

During World War II the men of the 13th Medium Bombardment Squadron flew B-26s as part of the Fifth Air Force in New Guinea. Like many other soldiers, they had some mascots. Among these were three bulldogs, whom they named "General Rabaul, "General Gasmata," and "General Soupta," after Japanese air bases in the region. The dogs often accompanied their masters on missions, and were even properly listed on the aircraft manifests on such occasions.

One day, as happens in war, one of the dog-bearing bombers went down, lost in the jungle. A clerk routinely forwarded the aircraft's manifest to headquarters without thinking to scratch out "General Soupta."

At headquarters the appearance of "General Soupta" on the bomber's manifest caused quite a panic. No one knew who he was. A quick check determined that there was no American "General Soupta" in the theater, nor was there an Australian. There were some token Netherlands forces in the theater, so perhaps "General Soupta" was a Dutchman who decided to take a joy ride? But no, the Dutch didn't know who he was either.

It was some days before anyone at headquarters thought to check back with the 13th. Shortly after being informed that "General Soupta" was a dog, headquarters issued orders instructing all and sundry that pets were not to be listed on aircraft manifests.

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