Funny military tech history: Genesis of the "Fritz" helmet (PASGT)

This study describes a part of the research, development and testing effort that led to the typical German shape of the more recent U.S. standard helmets (since mid-80's).

It's amusing to see the effort involved (and the duration, apparently - the PASGT helmet wasn't introduced until almost a decade later).

In the end, they arrived at a well-known shape that was basically a simple gut feeling product, created during WWI.

Sometimes a lot of effort and deliberation simply doesn't yield a superior product. Access to decades of advances in material and production technology often does the trick more easily.



Risk management and Sacrifice

Recently I got into an argument with some people on another blogs' comments. 
I offered a certain argument/assertion among others; that a (small) unit (a platoon or company) should march divided, with some spacing. This would leave some elements free to respond by manoeuvre once contact with opposing forces has been made - one possible alternative to airstrikes and other huge material superiorities in the event of an ambush.

The response flabbergasted me, because it was from such a different world of thought: Some elements - moving and difficult to track or not - would still be overwhelmed and a flank attack would follow (or maybe he meant that a flank attack on the elements would happen - doesn't matter).

This made no sense to me. He seemed to prefer that the unit as a whole gets flanked instead of only a fraction. He also seemed to assert that the early warning of an element getting overwhelmed would not negate the "flank" characteristic of the attack.
Well, it's not exactly a secret that surprise is amongst the huge drivers of battlefield success, and having security details with some spacing has thus been utterly self-evident for a long time. Until recently, I guess.

The same discussion opponents brought forward the claim that Western military forces knew that Afghanistan is only a small war and would keep this in mind.

Well, that's the problem. People who get it wrong rarely get it that they get it wrong. They keep their confidence. This applies to me, too - no doubt. All humans suffer from this defect as far as I can tell. I still happen to think they were wrong, of course.

So what's the problem exactly?
I think that we -in the broad sense- have lost too much of old wisdom in recent small wars. To expose a fraction of a force to extreme risks in order to reduce the overall risks (and overall losses) has been a successful concept for thousands of years. Pickets, reconnaissance patrols too weak for a real fight, vanguard, rearguard, decoy forces - it has been self-evident, standard practice.

The entire idea that high risks may be acceptable and even the utterly correct choice if they apply only to a fraction of the force was lost. We reduce risks, without discrimination between useful and wasteful risks. We up-armour, we add support, we hesitate, we hunker down in bases, we throw more and more money at cheap problems, we mandate minimum patrol strengths that suffice for a firefight against local opposition if support is available (not a necessary characteristic of classic recce!), we don't expose decoy forces - we have lost much of the art of war.

This goes so far that quite often people cannot grasp basic and time-proven concepts any more - said concepts are too far away from how our forces do their business today.

I would love to buy into the optimism that we're oh-so competent and oh-so aware of the difference between small and great wars. I can't.

My professional experience has included contact with many different professions. Soldiers, engineers, economists, managers, lawyers, bureaucrats, workers, clerks - and they all had their profession-typical pattern of thinking. Their pattern of thought is often coined by their professional education at a university or by their social upbringing.
In the case of army troops I suspect that their pattern of thought forms within years of experience as well, and many junior leaders of Western armies had their formative years not in basic or in a NCO course, but in Afghanistan and Iraq. Their pattern of thought is a small wars pattern. They may believe that they understand the difference between small and great wars, but I suspect that all-too-often they only understand the superficial differences. They cannot switch to a great war pattern of thought.
They probably really lost this mental capacity.
"They" being of course only a majority or loud minority, for no military bureaucracy is 100%  homogeneous.

Small wars are much more expensive than most accounts suggest: They badly reduce the efficiency of our spending on great war capability by manipulating our thinking into the small wars pattern of thought, and might even lead to eventual defeat in a great war.



French armoured reconnaissance prototypes

I wasn't a 100% fan of the French Pahnhard SPHINX armoured recce car when it was unveiled. It was smaller (more a good thing than not) than its predecessor, appeared to have a sensible protection and good armament. The almost evenly spaced 6wd promised a decent off-road mobility, albeit not one that's especially noteworthy.

Overall, it was nice to see that the French appeared to take armoured recce seriously and did not go down the route towards mobile observation posts.
The one probable substantial mistake in the Sphinx concept was in my opinion the lacking dismount element.
Armoured recce needs to negotiate difficult terrain, drive over bridges, move through possible ambush sites and move into building compounds for temporary hiding and resting. One thing common to this is that it's an extremely good idea to dismount one man and let him scout ahead on foot. You cannot see if a bridge is rigged with explosives without leaving the vehicle and look at its underside. You better don't drive into a compound to see if it's clear - you rather send dismounted scouts forward to check it.
This is an often neglected part of armoured reconnaissance. You simply don't find an entry in data sheets about whether leaving and entering the vehicle is quick and comfortable enough to do it every couple hundred metres if necessary.

Now the French (Panhard) went towards a less well-protected, less well-armed and smaller yet at the same time more agile vehicle; the 4wd Panhard CRAB.

(Hat tip to Think Defence for the video.)

This, too, appears to be influenced by the specific French idea of armoured reconnaissance: Scout AFVs are to Frenchmen at the same time intervention AFVs for Africa. This means they're supposed to pack a punch and have decent protection.

Early descriptions of the Panhard CRAB focused less on high-res photos than on the concept, so let me refer to this article:
Le buggy blindé CRAB est un engin de reconnaissance d'un type nouveau : léger, puissant, rapide et peu cher.

Now I wouldn't emphasise the "buggy" thing about a 8+ ton vehicle, but the characterisations are interesting.
Panhard CRAB artist's impression

léger - light
puissant - powerful
rapide - quick
peu cher - ~affordable

"léger" is relative - half the weight of an already not really heavy SPHINX, but at 8 tons or more it's on the limit for 4wd off-road mobility. "puissant" may refer to the armament and depends a lot on what armament choice to make. The turret with 25 mm gun (see artist's impression and video) is impressive, but not the only choice. "rapide" - well, top speed is rather unimportant. What's more interesting is the acceleration. No combat vehicle drives much close to its top speed unless it's really, really slow by design. The power/weight ratio of about 35-40 hp/metric ton is excellent for combat vehicles (they already followed this route with SPHINX). For comparison; a Stryker ICV would have more than 570 hp instead of only 350 if it had such a ratio.

"peu cher" - well, that's what the industry always says.

CRAB does appear to offer quick and comfortable exit and entry, so it's more suitable for the aforementioned use of a dismount. I'm not sure if the three-man crew (only) is really meant for this, though. It sounds a lot like commander, driver and gunner to me. Well, let the commander dismount then.

Another thing about CRAB does irritate me, though: The large windows. SPHINX had them too. Armoured glass has two principal problems: (1) It's very heavy for a given protected area (25 mm thickness at the very least, usually much more - and glass is quite dense).(2) It becomes practically intransparent if hit. Even modern sandwich techniques cannot keep the fractures from spreading, scattering the light on a substantial area even if the hit was merely about a petty AK bullet.
The volume and weight as well as the size and difficulties of replacing make it unlikely that such vehicles have many spare windows (unlike tanks and their spare mirrors for telescopic optics).
Vehicles with large glass surfaces will be a pain in the ass in a conflict with much fast-moving lead and iron in the air.
Again; the French probably think more about using such vehicles in African interventions than anyone else.

Overall, it's nice to see the French paying attention to more than just sensors on masts in regard to armoured reconnaissance - they keep the fighting part in mind. Their prototypes aren't flawless even in a superficial consideration, though.

S Ortmann


The three faces of cohesion

Cohesion was understood to be of great importance for combat units' abilities long before Martin van Creveld added it to the more academic debate with his book "Fighting Power" in 1982.

The many different remarks, observations and descriptions of cohesion and its role from different sources didn't fit together in my mind, though. Something was missing, it was more an ill-defined cloud than something well-understood.

Well, yesterday I remembered how Franz Uhle-Wettler in his (recently re-read) book "Gefechtsfeld Mitteleuropa" favoured the USMC rifle squad of 13. He had remarked (also about 30 years ago) how the fire teams in this U.S. style squad were the embodiment of the much-praised "kleine Kampfgemeinschaft" (~small combat companionship), after all. "Kleine Kampfgemeinschaft" is a German keyword for the pursuit of small unit cohesion.

Not sure why, but this was the final trigger for me to understand the whole thing (or to believe I do), and I want to share it:

There are -according to my impressions from literature and practice - three different faces of cohesion. They exist on different levels and serve different purposes. "Cohesion" as an over-arching buzzword is being used for all three, in many sources only for one or two. This explains why it was such a foggy thing to me.

The low-level cohesion is really the "kleine Kampfgemeinschaft". This applies to buddy team (2), fire team (4) and squad (6-13) levels.
This low-level cohesion helps against the stress stemming from hardships. Hardships of field work, environment, sleep deprivation, the dangers of combat and the horrors of combat and its aftermath.

The middle-level cohesion applies to platoon and company levels.
This kind of cohesion is for social cohesion. The troops eat together, have common low-level administration, the same company sergeant ("Spieß") - this forms a small community.
The best example for this kin of cohesion that I know is the observation that lightly wounded or sick soldier preferred to stay with their company whenever possible, trying to avoid the social isolation in a field hospital.

Finally, there's the high-level cohesion. This applies to the range from battalion up to corps. It's often being built by having military recruitment districts. The old German army system knew "Wehrkreise", each of which raised a corps. The Italian mountain troops (Alpini) regiments recruited their personnel from their very own Northern Italian recruitment area until a couple years ago.
The utility of this kind of friction is very different; it's about reducing friction and reducing the tendency towards harmful egoism.
Common nationality (ethnicity), language, training, methods, terminology and (regional) culture are its drivers.

I hope this will help readers to navigate through whatever they'll read about cohesion in the future, allowing for more clarity and utility.



Digging the grave III

Lay back, relax and try to remember the typical features of oppressive, authoritarian police states in Sci Fi since the 80's.

What are commonalities of different such portrayals?

I think it's dark-clothed anonymous 'security' personnel, 'shock' ticks used to maltreat people into submission, flying surveillance drones, domestic spying and people getting snatched and arrested without the right to challenge this treatment in a fair court.

It's probably the greatest and most surprising tragedy of the past ten years how easily and silently Western nations moved towards this horror. I began to warn about the import of warzone population control methods for domestic policing five years ago.
No, I did not expect to make any impression of note. Still, it's frustrating.

The US military and CIA have used drones armed with lethal weapons to target militants overseas for years. The prospect of having “lite” versions of those remotely controlled killer-machines circling over America gave some second thoughts to rights groups.
It's not like Tasers, black or militarised-look SWAT teams and equivalents, Patriot act etc weren't enough. Some think the time is ripe to get the drones, too. Not only for surveillance, but even with armament.

The good news is that this crap doesn't develop in all Western countries in a synchronised way.
The bad news is that those which 'advance' a lot on this appear to inspire followers, for there are enough authoritarian-minded people out there, and they're clearly over-represented among police personnel.

Again my position: We MUST NOT build up the arsenal of dictatorship in a democracy for supposed "security" reasons. Effective police, that's crime scene investigation and detective work, in case of major crimes a committee of up to 40 detectives. Such committees ("SOKO") have almost 100% success rate in Germany.

Good policing - that's having the resources and allocation of resources to actually investigate instead of administrate crimes. It is NOT about spying, surveillance, weapons or tasers. The German police uses almost no tasers and pepper spray only very rarely. Still, all German policemen combined did shoot only 85 bullets in conflict with humans during 2011, 58 of which were warning shots. (Germany has about 81.8 million inhabitants!).

So don't fall for the bullshit arguments for such new and police state-ish things. Whenever there's a security challenge - be it organised crime, errorists, pedophiles or other idiots - demand proper funding and allocation of funds to conventional police work first. Make sure that the police actually has the resources and (if necessary) the political backing to actually investigate crimes properly first. We should only pay attention to police state-ish stuff only when this is already accomplished and still insufficient.

Trust me, there's almost no place where this has been accomplished so far. Politicians are much too populist and prefer to let the police show off too much, not investigate enough.
Germans: Remember my words when you read the next time about some police chief sending his men out on patrol in groups with bulletproof vests and submachine guns. That's -next to the excessive stationary object security-  among the most useless police activities ever.

S Ortmann



Missed survivability opportunities in WW2 (army-related)

The Second World War was the most deadly war so far, exceeding even the Taiping Rebellion, the First World War and probably even the 1918 flu pandemic with its death toll.

The death toll would likely not have been changed much by improvements to the survivability of ground troops, but such improvements would have affected the chance of not coming out of the war as losing country (I won't call that "winning"). The high attrition rates especially of infantry were a major concern and had a huge impact on the course of almost all longer campaigns.

Surprisingly (or not; depends on how much you believe in mankind's intelligence), several opportunities for increasing the survival chances (= increasing the days in combat until permanent incapacitation or death) were somewhat to entirely neglected. I attempted to compile a list here, admittedly with a huge bias towards criticising the Wehrmacht, for my sources are most detailed about this one:

(1) Dig quick, deep and often: German post-War (50's, 60's) military literature was not short of criticism regarding the diligence of German troops in fortifying, especially in comparison to the "Russians" (Soviets). German troops were often caught by indirect fire while resting.

(2) Camouflage well: Quite the same can be said about the German inclination towards shoddy camouflage. This neglect is already evident in imagery from pre-war exercises*. Again, the "Russians" served as example.

(3) Make use of microterrain: I am amazed by the quantity of pre-war and wartime photos that depict an anti-tank gun on open ground, such as on a street. There's not even a hint of trying to become less visible. the only advantage was probably that running away was no option on such terrain, so the crew had to fight (or surrender).
Infantry survival against competent opponents depends largely on the skilled use of microterrain (small elevations and depressions, shadows, concealment and above-surface cover).

The German army - supposedly champion of the exploitation of microterrain since the introduction of Stoßtrupp tactics in 1916 - did not maintain a high standard in this regard.

(4) Use fragmentation protection vests. practical vests had been developed during the First World War already, the lack of even basic torso protection was a horrible negligence. Fragmentation protection vests are usually credited with a 50% reduction in overall personnel losses after introduction of the steel helmet.

(5) Use more lightly armoured personnel carriers: The typical APC of WW2 was a half-track vehicle with 6-14.5 mm thick armour plating. This was meant to be machine gun-proof and the German experience was apparently a 50% reduction of infantry losses on the attack (German SdKfz 250 and 251 APCs were more elaborate, more off-road-mobile and more reliably bullet-proofed than the U.S. M3 half-tracks) on top of enabling attacks where normal infantry couldn't attack.
The production cost was about 1/5th to 1/3 of a normal tank, the fuel consumption was even smaller and in worst case normal trucks could be equipped with half-track drive and some armour plating to further reduce the costs. Germany neglected this as much as the production of normal trucks - and even wasted many half-tracks on specialist functions instead of focusing their employment on the APC role.

(6) More mobile, elusive infantry tactics. Infantry had to fight from field fortifications or with armour support if it was to succeed on open, flat ground as in the Ukraine. The same does not apply to terrains with short lines of sight. German infantry doctrine was well into the 1960's too rigid and too oriented towards field fortification. The Soviets understood this and exploited it in their breakthrough battles of 1943-1945 by application of incredible artillery fire densities. No detected field fortification was of any use against this avalanche unless leaders were skilled and lucky enough to shift between a primary and a secondary position in time to dodge the fires.

(7) Shortcomings regarding anti-tank gun quality up to 1942 and quantity from 1942-1945 as well as the rather late introduction of shaped charge-based portable anti-tank stand-off munitions was an obvious survivability problem. Tank commanders usually did not dare to close in with infantry late in the war; early on there was nothing keeping them at bay.

(8) The lack of radios at company and platoon level was pandemic. Only the U.S. Army had a somewhat decent radio equipment. Early portable radios were far from reliable, long-ranged or trouble-free, but they were extremely useful whenever they functioned. A platoon with radio contact could cooperate with another platoon instead of fighting alone. it could also call for indirect fires instead of being forced to solve tactical challenges with riskier tactics. It is a great disappointment that Germany - a county with a very good electrical industry and many electrical tech pioneers - wasn't able to supply its army with enough portable practical radio sets.

(9) Insufficient infantry training. The German army insisted successfully on a thorough education and training of its officers and non-commissioned officers. It did not manage to follow its better judgement in regard to infantrymen training. Six weeks training for infantry was simply inadequate. Poorly-trained infantry replacements were hardly a major relief for the front troops. These largely incompetent infantrymen (actually rather infantryboys) had little combat value, but required much attention and leadership by the veterans and NCOs. They died quickly, too. It would clearly have been better to insist on a thorough infantry training. This would have reduced the quantity of NCOs available at the front and would have delayed all infantry replacements by a few weeks to a few months, but the advantage would still already have set in by late 1942.

(10) Insufficient winter equipment. I suppose there's no real elaboration necessary.

(11) Individual weapon quality. Taking the German example, which was the most egregious; Germany had a practical, reliable and effective assault rifle ready by 1938 (Vollmer Maschinenkarabiner M35). Of course, it didn't introduce such a near-optimal infantry weapon until 1943 in any noticeable quantity.

(12) Emphasis on flanking fires. The German army has understood the superiority of flanking fires ever since 1915, but it did not include this fully into its doctrine until, well, let's better not get agitated about it again. Details are here.

(13) Sniper training. Snipers are not really 100% infantry, but they're a huge threat to it, and shortcomings in both sniper training and sniper equipment (no good sniper scope available until about 1942, not enough available ever during WW2) meant that there weren't enough effective snipers to counter hostile snipers.

(14) Neglect of artillery. Both production of field howitzers and production of their ammunition did cost German infantry dearly. The huge production of heavy anti-air guns was part of the reason, but the neglect went beyond this. Too much attention was wasted on inefficient heavy artillery and not enough attention was paid to the potential of artillery fire support in general. Field artillery was well established, but nowhere near in doctrinal importance to U.S. or Soviet field artillery. Germans did not solve tactical problems with much artillery fire often until there wasn't enough infantry left any more. Post-war it was understood that spending more iron was smarter than spending more blood, and the German army clearly had underestimated the virtues of brutish indirect firepower. The "3rd generation warfare" crowd around Lind et al enshrined this mistake as a virtue, but that's an exaggeration meant to combat an exaggeration of the importance of firepower over small unit action in the U.S. army. There's not just one mistake possible, the balance was delicate and changing depending on the campaign situation.

15) Stupid creation of ever new formations, even air force field formations. The creation of Waffen-SS and Luftwaffe divisions for employment as regular army divisions was stupid. neither had the mid-level or low-level leadership competence for this. The regular army could have created much better formations with most of the same personnel because of its better competence pool. The Waffen-SS had excessive casualty rates during 1941-1942 and its divisions became effective only later, when its leaders had gained experience and approximated the army's better tactics. The Waffen-SS's reputation of an elite force is nonsense. It had dropped its high recruitment standards by 1943, was more (overly) aggressive on the tactical level and the only truly powerful Waffen-SS divisions were merely counterparts of a couple of similarly lavishly equipped and reinforced army divisions. Preferred access to personnel and material in an army of shortages = elite division - no matter Waffen-SS or not.
The Luftwaffe field divisions were even worse. their senior commanders had served as army officers more than a decade ago and some troops were trained by some of the few surviving old paratroopers, but the competence for land warfare was still marginal. thee divisions broke easily, were quite useless on the offence, usually poorly equipped (often times with captured weapons dating back to WW1) and generally a waste of personnel. The army suffered from a shortage of good age (18-30) and good intelligence personnel, the air force had it - and wasted it in incompetent formations. The reasons were entirely of political nature.
Finally, the army itself was forced to raise far too many divisions. There were 35 waves of new divisions overall. To put this in context: Even as early as 1940, creating the 5th to 9th wave of new divisions faced serious criticism because of the huge drop in quality due to age structure, short training and the inadequate leader pool.

In short: It would have been possible to prolong the misery of the common infantrymen for operational-level gains if less mistakes were made.

*: Hence my occasional insistence that a good ground combat demo can be heard, but not seen. Sadly, our army still demonstrates ground combat with lots of visible troops doing stuff in line of sight of VIPs who in turn get a completely wrong picture of what competent ground combat looks like. This is an international shortcoming, of course.


A subtle hint for bureaucracies

Many military bureaucracies wonder how to better motivate their troops and especially potential recruits.
I embedded this video as a subtle hint about the "how to".

Of course, they won't listen.
Bureaucracies, after all.



We like to organise problems away

I've observed with some degree of fascination how Mr. Krugman - an economics Nobel laureate - discussed the Western economic troubles. It's fascinating to see a macroeconomic position with such a huge preference for the short term over the long term. It was also fascinating to see him fail to understand the German position on the economic troubles.
Mr. Krugman is no doubt a smart man - probably 20-30 IQ points superior to myself - but he appears to lack the cherished multi-disciplinary approach and the necessary wide angle of view. His look at the 'German' position (there is domestic dissent, most notably in the Financial Times Deutschland) is purely about macro. He misses the point.

Being a busy man promoting a book, having a newspaper column, having a blog and doing research all at once he'll 150% not look at this text. Still, I'd like to share my thoughts on this 'German' position with my readers. After all, it does provide some insights into German military history and doctrine (to some extent).

The following is merely my opinion and I cannot cite social science study reports as backup:

Germans have a lower than average tolerance for imperfections, and their preferred countermeasure to imperfections is to organise them away. This "organising" may be about creating an institution, enacting laws, enforcing laws or simply entering a treaty or other agreement. We don't wait for a glorious performance of a single person either - our preferred reaction to intolerable imperfection is a collective one.
We do not develop a convenient hypothesis (such as "lower taxes solve economic problems") and expect to get rid of an intolerable imperfection the comfortable way. Well, not as often as some other countries. It should be mentioned that almost all imperfections are intolerable to us.
An example; back in the late 19th century the socialist movement picked up steam in elections and became a major political force. The arch-conservative chancellor Bismarck reacted by introducing the anti-socialist social insurance system. Yes, social insurances are anti-socialist, even though many in the United States call them socialist. Fact is, people from the U.S. have on average no clue about all things socialist anyway.

To Germans, all major imperfections would be intolerable at home. The economic crisis directed our attention on the Southern European partners (mostly Greece, Spain, Italy) while we keep ignoring most of Eastern Europe. The Austrians look at Eastern Europe - most Germans don't. Eastern Europe - that's to us the non-allied Russia and our neighbour Poland. Poland is the place where we park our cars if we want to get the insurance money for our car because of theft. Such a dangerous life for cars would be intolerable to us at home, of course.

So we look at Greece and we see a country where nobody really pays attention to red lights in street traffic. A place where tax dodging is a national custom. A place where the government is a booty to be plundered, not an institution to address imperfections in society.
What we see when we look at Greece (or with other imperfections; Italy, Spain) is a country with intolerable imperfections.

It's inconceivable to us that these imperfections could be tolerated. It's likewise inconceivable that these imperfections will be addressed successfully once the pressure from the crisis' symptoms is gone. After all, this would imply that the pressure of the crisis' symptoms didn't suffice to force an organisational countermeasure!
So basically it's inconceivable to us that these countries address the short-term problems (symptoms) in a way people like Mr. Krugman advise - and then just go on. That's simply not our way of doing things, and we're not all that flexible in our way because after all, they kinda work well.
A superficial repair as strongly promoted by Mr. Krugman doesn't address the imperfections, and living with said imperfections is inconceivable. We couldn't.

Well, Germans and even Germans with access to widely distributed media are no macroeconomic geniuses. It doesn't matter that said imperfections are likely responsible for the economy having a lower natural gross domestic product growth path as opposed to being responsible for the short-term slump below said growth path.

Still, what Mr. Krugman doesn't get is that we don't care all that much about what he cares about. He doesn't care all that much about what we care about either. He would probably not be so flabbergasted by the 'German' position on the economic troubles if he understood this. All the macroeconomic data graphs and formulas he can throw against our position are not all that relevant to us - they're designed to be powerful arguments for someone who shares his preferences.

Mr. Krugman discusses how to apply a medication against the short-term problem (the slump far below the potential GDP growth path). The 'German' position mistakes reasons for a lower potential GDP growth path with roots of the current slump below it. Assuming a long-term focus, 'we' demand that the imperfections be addressed, for they won't be addressed any time soon if not under the current pressure. Thus the readiness to apply additional pressure.
'We' simply cannot understand how -even under huge pressure- tolerance for major imperfections could prevail over the desire to get rid of them through some organisational response.

Besides, we won't accept any fix of symptoms that includes major transfers from Germany to South Europe. We had that experiment with Western and East Germany and it sucked. Well, we won't accept it until our notoriously U-turning chancellor does a U-turn on the topic.

- - - - -

So what's the connection to military affairs or at least security policy?
Well, the tolerance for imperfections is low, so solutions need to be found - solutions of the community. This is a natural advantage for the improvement of an organisation and its capabilities. That being said, the post-Cold War Bundeswehr (and to a great extent already the Cold War-era Bundeswehr) is stretching the (small) tolerance of Germans for imperfections a lot.

I advise readers to keep this kind of typical German response to imperfections in mind when they read about German military history. I don't mean battles, but the development of military organisations and doctrines.

S Ortmann

P.S.: Yes, things can turn really ugly with the German way of doing things once people get confused about what's an imperfection. After all, the reaction will likely be effective.



[Deutsch] Generalleutnant d. Reserve Hyazinth Graf Strachwitz von Groß-Zauche und Camminetz: Vom Kavallerieoffizier zum Führer gepanzerter Verbände

(Book review of a German language book. The book is useless to you if you cannot read German, thus this is written in German, too.)

Buchbesprechungen sind nicht gerade der Kerninhalt dieses Blogs, doch vor einiger Zeit begann ich einige Recherchen zu den speziellen Methoden erfolgreicher Führer von Bodentruppen seit dem 1. Weltkrieg. Dabei stieß ich auch auf den "Panzergrafen" Strachwitz, einen erfolgreichen Führer von Panzertruppen bis hinauf zu einem Truppenumfang, den man heutzutage Brigade nennen würde. Darüber kamen seine Talente offenbar nicht so recht zur Geltung.

Zu solchen Spezialfällen zu recherchieren ist gar nicht so einfach, wenn die Person sich nicht zufällig in der Nachkriegszeit den dokumentationswütigen Amis angedient hat, nicht zu den Top 20 Stars der Szene gehörte und man obendrein noch auf die diversen mäßig verlässlichen ("unkritischen") Quellen verzichten möchte.

Zu meinem großen Erstaunen hat sich ein Autor, Hans J. Röll, sich die Mühe gemacht, ein recht umfangreiches Buch speziell zum "Panzergrafen" zu recherchieren und zu bebildern (fast 200 Seiten). In einem Anfall von Geiz bat ich (überraschenderweise erfolgreich) um ein Rezensionsexemplar und bekam es sogar nach der Veröffentlichung.

Der große Umfang des Buches zu einer eigentlich ja fast vergessenen Persönlichkeit mit einem entsprechend wohl sehr kleinen Leserkreis war beinahe erschreckend. Das Buch kann als Biographie bezeichnet werden und trägt klar die Spuren gründlicher Recherchen (owohl mir vorher ein paar Details bekannt waren, die sich im Buch nicht wieder fanden).

Der Werdegang und die Persönlichkeit des Herrn von Strachwitz werden umfänglich dargestellt, die militärischen Einsätze werden dargestellt, es werden sogar hier und da mehr als nur Andeutungen zu den Gründen des Erfolges gemacht. Mehr noch von dem Letzteren findet man zwischen den Zeilen. Insgesamt ein eindrucksvolles Buch.

Wer zu den Wenigen mit derart speziellem Interesse gehört wird wohl nicht enttäuscht werden. Eine bessere Quelle zur Person von Strachwitz habe ich jedenfalls nicht aufgespürt.

Kritikpunkte gibt es allerdings auch zwei.

Zum Einen ist es einfach nicht mehr dem Geist der Zeit entsprechend, Nazi-Verstrickungen (die sogar formell bis vor 1933 zurückreichen) bei einem Buch dieses Gesamtumfanges nur in ein paar Zeilen abzutun. Der Mann mag ja mehr katholischer Konservativer als Nazi gewesen sein, aber zu einer Gesamtdarstellung gehört auch, dass man mehr als nur die Andeutung von Schatten sieht.

Die andere Schwäche ist allgemeinerer Natur und wird wohl auch andere Werke des Autors betreffen: Man sollte besser alle militärtechnischen Angaben darin einfach überlesen. Von Missverständnissen und irreführenden Angaben zu Panzergeschützen bis hin zur völlig unnötigen Wiederholung der alten (falschen) Legende des StG 44 als Ursrpungsversion des AK hat Herr Röll klar demonstriert, dass sowohl er als auch sein Lektor ihre Stärke in der Darstellung von Personen der Militärgeschichte haben, nicht in der Darstellung von Militärtechnik.

S Ortmann


Questions to readers

As mentioned before, I'm writing a book.
The primary problem isn't the content, but to write a book instead of something much, much shorter.
I tend towards a very concise style (or I think so) and ended up writing a few chapters in 17,800 words (~20 pages) after planning to allocate 60 pages to the content. It's obvious that I need to add some more flesh to it.

Thus questions to my long-time readers: What would you say about my (blog) writing style?

(A) More sources needed

(B) More explanations of thoughts needed

(C) More examples needed

(D) More repetitions of thoughts needed

(E) More historical references needed

(F) More graphics needed

(G) More fun (tongue in cheek, humour between serious remarks) needed

(H) More of a guiding thread needed ("Roter Faden")

(I) Shorter sentences needed

(J) More breaks

(K) More revisiting of what's been written earlier after adding some more info

(L) More explanations of abbreviations

(M) Easier topics in between difficult ones desirable

(N) other

S Ortmann

edit 7th June:
12.1k words count now. The 17.8k word count mentioned before was a typo. I calculate with 420 words per page based on samples from other books, so 12.1k words ~  almost 29 pages already. This is no doubt a considerable drain on my blog writing.