Hand Grenade of the Month October 2017

John T Kuehn's picture

Maritime Realities, Storms, and Discontent

By John T. Kuehn

This hand grenade focuses on a lack of knowledge about things like distance, weather at sea, maritime logistical capabilities, speeds at sea, heavy weather avoidance at sea (and actions to do so on islands far to sea).  The deficit in understanding these things has led to phenomenal displays of ignorance about moving stuff in situations that have military precursors.  These military and naval processes and methods have particular application in something we in the US military call humanitarian assistance operations (HAO).   The repository of this lack of knowledge is not so much everyday Americans—who should not be expected to know that 12 knots equal 12 nautical miles an hour speed--but the people who should know better, our leaders, in Washington, as well as in the public media in all its various forms as they shape public perceptions of reality.

First, military precursors.   As every aviator who has ever been based anywhere that typhoons and hurricanes regularly occur knows, one of the first items on our "heavy weather" checklists is to make a decision for a “fly away” of our aircraft, if possible.   This is because the high winds of storms easily damage aircraft on the ground, even those presumed protected in hangar, even one “hardened” for storms of such immense power.  The assumption is, the storm could knock down the hangar, so every airplane or helicopter than can fly away, should fly away.  Helicopters are a special case if the island is a long way overseas from a “safe port” ---that is a safe airfield that is well out of the way of the storm’s predicted track and can be moved if that track changes  to indicate that the new safe area is no longer safe.  Helicopters, unless refuelable, are too short range to often do a storm "fly away."

 Example, this occurred in 1985 to the author when a typhoon headed for Guam.  We flew the EP-3 and EA-3 aircraft –the ones that could fly--that belonged to my squadron to the Philippines.  The storm hit Guam but then changed track and headed toward Luzon in the Philippines, so we then flew the aircraft up to US air stations in Japan.  The distances were immense.  2100 nautical miles to the Philippines and another 2200 nautical miles to Atsugi air station in Japan.  Obviously helicopters cannot fly these distances unless there is a ship they can “lily pad” on to get away.   So helicopters, the most useful air platforms post-storm are often themselves at most risk and likely to be damaged beyond use if not removed from an island on a storm track.   This is NOT hidden knowledge.

Similarly for ships.  They go to sea when a storm threatens their safe harbor because the chances of sustaining damage in-port are much higher than if they “put to sea.”  And where do they go? As far from the storm as they can steam, and they maintain as good a plot of the storm track so they can avoid the worst.  But they need lots of room to do this sort of storm avoidance maneuvering. Sometimes they are not so successful, for example Admiral Halsey drove right into a typhoon after the battle of Leyte gulf, sustaining more damage from the storm than from the Japanese in 1944 (and he did it again a couple months later).  The movie the _Caine Mutiny_ is based on that incident.

What this means is that the tools that could help an island with destroyed infrastructure (like Puerto Rico)  the most are usually the farthest away, and possibly still at risk when the storm finally moves on.  This is especially for islands removed at great distances from continental land masses with their more resilient infrastructures.  So disaster relief in Miami or Houston is a very very different logicistical problem than disaster relief on an island hundreds or thousands of miles aways.

Ok. So far so good, right?  Do I expect every adult American to know these sorts of things? No. Do I expect that those in power, in the media to at least know WHO to ask about these things and get smart on them to?  Yes.  Most of the corporate knowledge is located in FEMA and in the US Military, but often the American public gets a filtered look, if any look, at explanations for the daunting logistics of dealing with overseas and maritime disaster operations like the one currently underway in Puerto Rico.   DOD and FEMA, in particular have contingency plans for these sorts of things and are very much the professionals.  This is not their first rodeo.  The first assumption should be that they know what they are doing.  Will mistakes be made? They always are, these are human organizations, but ships move only so fast, that is the real key to the problems here.   Ships do not move quickly, 12-15 knots is probably the best planning factor.  On top of this if the storm hits (or a previous storm hit) the ports from where relief might come (like Miami) then this adds even more delays to these problems.  Most of the US Navy capability is homeported even further north, most of it in Virginia, and often the ships do not have their air --to include helicopters--aboard if they are in port for any length of time.  These must fly in from other places.  So it might take days to get the ships out of their home ports and then weeks to get them to the disaster location in a case like Puerto Rico.  This is why contracting third parties, although more expensive, might be the better alternative to save lives…because they are closer in places like Panama, Columbia, Jamaica, etc.

But Americans add another sin to their, often, willful ignorance of these matters, they add an impatience that is in part born from this ignorance.  And those who should be helping them understand, the press, our leaders who go on television and the web, often add their own biases and impatience to the mix.

So what does any of this have to do with war?  Well, think of it this way, studying war, its friction, its uncertainty, its dangers, its requirements for intellectual as well as physical effort (and patience is an intellectual virtue), its planning,  is a valuable way to understand storms and disaster relief after them. 

Think of storms as war, and all these problems associated with the hurricane that hit Puerto Rico, Texas, Florida, etc are the same problems one finds in war…but to the case of Puerto Rico an understanding of naval warfare would help because it adds the tyranny of oceanic distances to the mix of uncertainty and friction caused by such large scale violent events.  Or talking perhaps to someone who understands these things is worth considering.

So studying war, broadly and not just on land, has application for the problems of today. And might lead to a more civilized and respectful discourse on how to ameliorate these very difficult problems that cause so much human suffering.   In other words, quit complaining and start learning, especially if you have a public pulpit.

This is off your immediate topic, but not completely. Would you be interested in weighing in, realizing the scale it vastly greater, on the difficulty of successfully pulling off D-Day itself and then sustaining the invasion? One of the things that has always irked me about the lead up to the invasion was Stalin's endless complaining about the delays and the need to open a second front to take some of the pressure of the Red Army. He and presumably his military seem to show a complete lack of understanding of what it took to successfully accomplish opening a new front. I get why it was so important to the Russians, but Russians then and now, because I've run into a few, appear to have NO concept of how difficult it was. Kind of like some of leaders and media today and their unwillingness to educate themselves before opening their mouths.

Words I never thought I'd say: I don't think that's fair to Stalin. While late imperial/early communist Russia certainly never demonstrated much skill in naval operations, by the end of World War II the Soviets were conducting amphibious operations pretty regularly.1 These were not on the same scale as Normandy, or at the vast distances as Pacific operations, but amphibious operations, with the attendant complexity, nonetheless. Furthermore, when you look at the vast scale of eastern front operations - troops numbers, materiel, distance from Russia industrial centers (which, by the way, they had to physically move in toto to keep the Germans from overruning them, something Britain and the United States never had to worry about), and the sheer distances from the northern part of the front to the south - you can't say the Soviets didn't understand complex types of war. Britain and the United States had there own reasons for delaying; Britain was still recovering from getting kicked off the continent and losing most of their materiel; the United States needed to train, equip, and then ship its forces overseas, and then get it some combat experience.

Britain and America had valid arguments. But so did Stalin, with large swathes of Russia overrun, massive losses in manpower (losses far greater than what Britain and the U.S. would ever suffer), and his country essentially tying down the bulk of Wehrmacht combat power alone. The Red Army and its commanders operated on battlefield whose vastness perhaps only the American commanders in the Pacific could appreciate. I don't think Russian impatience came from a lack of comprehension, but a pretty understandable desire to give the millions of German soldiers on the eastern front something else to focus their attention on.        

1. For example, there are several essays on Soviet World War II amphibious operations in Merrill L. Bartlett, ed., Assault from the Sea (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1983).

I have to say after reading Ian's post that I am fascinated by how these hand grenades become vehicles for discussions that have little, or nothing, to do with them whatsoever. Still, a discussion is occurring, albeit one that is more interested in near land operations from the sea that metastasized into a discussion of grand strategic leadership and Stalin. The vastness I meant to highlight were the oceans of the world. Best, John (T. Kuehn), Fort Leavenworth

I agreed with your initial post one hundred percent. But my other projects are in limbo right now waiting for action by third parties, and my keyboard was itchy for a fight. Any fight. Sorry David.

Ian, No problem. :-) best, John

I realize that the Civil War was a recent HG, but Gen. Kelly’s recent comments on Robert E. Lee, along with the larger question of whether the South won the peace (and some prompting from a book I just read) made me wonder if the following had yet been covered by a HG:

Robert E. Lee - what were his qualities as a general? Does the perception of him as a skilled commander constantly besting his foes stand up under modern scrutiny? Was his battlefield performance “honorable,” as Kelly said?

John--with an acknowledgement that it is a new month, and that our recent operations in support of Iranian allies against the Kurds certainly throws Operation Provide Comfort into stark relief, I just have to take a swing at Ian's softball:

Robert E. Lee was one of the worst, if not the worst, military commander of all time. The existence of his nation (if you recognize the South's right to secede) depended on his performance on the battlefield and as an advisor, and he failed miserably. He committed treason against his nation, the accepted political entity of his day (regardless of the current BS about how "states were much more important back then!"); he adopted an unnecessarily aggressive, attacking strategy that bled HIS armies white (in contrast to the label of "butcher" that post-war apologists hung on his opponent, Grant), most notably on the third day at Gettysburg; and he utterly ignored the decisive western theater of the war, advising his commander-in-chief to deny commanders in that vital region resources, troops and skilled leadership. Whatever battlefield success Lee enjoyed came most often at the hands of far more capable subordinates, most notably Thomas J. Jackson, and his performance declined considerably in their absence. In short, he lost numerous battles, a war, and his nation, all in a few short years. While the odds against the Confederacy were certainly long, greater commanders (George Washington and Vo Nguyen Giap among them) somehow found ways to prevail militarily against the superpowers of their day. And, perhaps worst, Lee lent whatever honor and dignity he held to a cause premised on the enslavement of fellow human beings, which Lee clearly supported, to the point that white supremacists still rally around his name and his image over 150 years later, inflicting further and continued damage to the nation that raised Lee, trained him (at no cost) in the military arts, provided him with wealth and status, and allowed him to escape any penalty for his crimes. So, no, he was not an "honorable" man, and it's time we erased 150 years of mythmaking and apology and called the man what he was: a traitor and failure.

BTW, none of these arguments are particularly new, most of them being put forth over 25 years ago in Alan Nolan's excellent 1991 work 'Lee Considered.' That Nolan's views have not gained wider acceptance among military historians is evidence of how deeply entrenched the 'Lee Myth' is in our society, and how effective white supremacists and the defenders of the 'Lost Cause' have been in protecting it.

I agree with much of what Christopher Rein says, but hope I will be allowed some "howevers." No general who earns the deep respect and affection of his troops, to the degree that Lee did, can be regarded as contemptible. His willingness to gamble tactically in desperate situations, as at Chancellorsville and, to some extent, Antietam, deserves our professional respect. He was, deservedly, censured after the Gettysburg campaign for failing to issue clear orders (to Stuart in particular) and his subsequent inability to leverage the most favorable numerical odds he had enjoyed since the Seven Days into a decisive victory, particularly on the first day. It is the South's misfortune that at the higher political-military levels the Confederacy faced such a lack of strategic acumen that Lee's insistence on repeated attack over a prudent defensive strategy prevailed until quite late in the war.

In terms of his personal character, he was assuredly a man of his own time and place, taking slavery for granted and in despicable fashion placing the interests of his home state above his Federal oath. Against this damning charge we might cite his willingness, albeit reluctant, to surrender his army at the bitter end and encourage his fellow Southerners to accept their defeat rather than continue a hopeless struggle. His modest life after the war and his unwillingness to join in the mutual recriminations of his fellow generals deserves a bit of praise.

All in all, a man with an interesting mix of the good and bad, probably undeserving of more than one or two statues and after whom no forts should have been named.

One last thought, and I will leave this thread alone and return to our regularly scheduled HG. I'll confess, I didn't lob it as a softball so much as a floater. The recent re-litigation of Civil War historical remnants made me revisit related topics I'd read about long ago, even back to childhood when my father took the family south to visit various battlefields (and I'm talking REALLY south; we lived in Canada!). Let me say at the outset while it may seem strange for a Canadian parent to turn his kids' spring breaks into staff rides, there's actually a small but strong kernel of Civil War buffs in Canada, to the point where I recall seeing a reenactment of Corinth in a farm field outside of Toronto. As a kid, my dad never really got into questions of strategy or ideology with me; and what I got out of our trips was a general sadness that a country could turn upon itself with such violence, and regarding the eastern theater where we did most of our trips, a perception that Lee was a decent general who despite constraints placed upon him, was as successful as he could of been but ultimately ran out of resources while facing increasingly competent Union commanders.

You may be surprised that the Civil War was not a common topic in the career of military officer. Or maybe you're not surprised; after I took my master's in military history a couple years ago, I found I'd learned more of military value in that program than in most of Expeditionary Warfare School and Command and Staff College. I digress. Anyway, as a Marine, I like to think we're more conscious of our history, but we really didn't have much to do in the Civil War. So the recent controversies seemed like a good excuse to dust off what I thought I knew about my childhood travels. Many magazines and newspapers offered different takes on Lee than I'd had in my younger days, but I sought out something that took on the Lost Cause head-on and found it in Edward Bonekemper's "The Myth of the Lost Cause."

Through statistical comparison and strategic analysis, Lee's story took on a very different cast in Bonekemper's book. Perhaps the greatest revelation was his assertion that Lee, in one theater of war, lost more men over the course of five years than Grant did in multiple theaters, and almost always caused his own army to have higher casualties. And so I threw out this mini-HG, or historical sub-munition if you will, to see if there was some middle ground, or whether the historiography leaned heavily on one side or the other.

Or maybe I'm just a lousy officer and should have read my own doctrine more closely. While MCDP 1-2 Campaigning does not call Lee a "butcher" or an incompetent, it does note, with what may be intentional understatement, that "Lee's strategy and operations appear to have been, at least in part, incompatible with each other." Damning with faint praise, indeed ...

I can’t agree with Christopher Rein’s assessment of Robert E. Lee. The claim that he was “one of the worst, if not the worst, military commander of all time” is wildly overstated, and to dismiss him as “a traitor and a failure” is overly simplistic.

“The existence of his nation (if you recognize the South's right to secede) depended on his performance on the battlefield and as an advisor, and he failed miserably.”

Was it possible at all to break the North’s will to conquer the South? Very likely it was; note that the “peace candidate” in 1864 got 45 percent of the popular vote. The key military result that put Lincoln over the top in 1864 was not any failure of Robert E. Lee, but Sherman’s capture of Atlanta. Lee did his job, which was to keep the North from capturing Richmond – and he did so for three years, in the face of an enemy that possessed significant human and material superiority. This does not seem like “miserable failure” to me.

“He committed treason against his nation, the accepted political entity of his day”

How did this make him a poor military commander? Every American “patriot” in the American Revolutionary War in fact committed treason against their nation (Britain). Horatio Gates, victor at Saratoga, was born in England and served in the British Army. He was manifestly a despicable traitor; was he thus a poor general? Furthermore, some Confederate generals performed better on the battlefield than others. The mere fact of their “treason” tells us essentially nothing about the quality of their military leadership.

“he adopted an unnecessarily aggressive, attacking strategy that bled HIS armies white”

The cautious, almost purely defensive strategy of Joseph Johnston also failed with heavy casualties.

“he utterly ignored the decisive western theater of the war”

The eastern theater was more decisive. It was possible to trade “space for time” in the west, but not in the east, with Richmond just a hundred miles from Washington. When the Confederates lost Richmond, the game was over. Lee kept the Union out of Richmond until April 1865, not least because he was a better general than his Union opponents prior to Grant.

“advising his commander-in-chief to deny commanders in that vital region resources, troops and skilled leadership”

Lee could only advise, not decide. He was a theater commander, not the Commander in Chief. Any blame for misallocation of resources rests at the feet of Jefferson Davis, not Robert E. Lee.

“Whatever battlefield success Lee enjoyed came most often at the hands of far more capable subordinates”

Lee’s subordinates often failed him. Jackson was late to the fight at Mechanicsville and Gaines Mill. Longstreet was late at Gettysburg. JEB Stuart repeatedly failed to provide Lee with useful, timely knowledge of Union movements. In any event, credit for victory is properly given to the commander, not his subordinates. We would quite correctly blame Lee, not his subordinates, if any of his victories had instead been defeats.

“In short, he lost numerous battles, a war, and his nation, all in a few short years.”

He won numerous battles, kept a greatly superior enemy at bay for many years, and nearly fought the North to exhaustion. His ability to fight outnumbered and win via offensive maneuver should be of interest to any student of military history. Personally I find Grant’s 1864-65 campaigns – which involved repeated frontal assaults seeking to overwhelm Lee with superior resources – far less intellectually interesting than Lee’s campaigns of 1862-63, for all that Grant was victorious.

“While the odds against the Confederacy were certainly long, greater commanders (George Washington and Vo Nguyen Giap among them) somehow found ways to prevail militarily against the superpowers of their day.”

What did Washington and Giap have that Lee did not? Enormous military assistance from foreign powers. France, Spain, and Holland aided Washington. The USSR and China aided Giap. In contrast, the South fought alone. Washington and Giap had geographic advantages that Lee did not. They were an ocean away from the homelands of their enemies, whereas Lee fought an enemy who only needed to project power across an indefensible land border. Finally, the political stakes for Britain in the American Revolution, and for France and America in their wars in Vietnam, were nowhere near as high as the political stakes for the Union in the American Civil War. Thus, it was much easier for Washington and Giap to convince their enemies to give up and go away than it was for Lee. In short, the comparison between Washington, Giap, and Robert E. Lee is hardly “apples to apples”.

“And, perhaps worst, Lee lent whatever honor and dignity he held to a cause premised on the enslavement of fellow human beings”

This has nothing to do with the original question of “his qualities as a general.” Moreover, to respond to Ian Brown’s other question, as far as I know, there are no grounds for criticism of the honor of Lee's battlefield performance.

If we are going to condemn generals who fought for regimes in which slavery was legal, socially accepted, and widely practiced, the list will be much, much longer than Robert E. Lee and his fellow Confederates.

Had thought to remain away from this subject but this last thought of Mr. Perry's deserves further:

“And, perhaps worst, Lee lent whatever honor and dignity he held to a cause premised on the enslavement of fellow human beings”
This has nothing to do with the original question of “his qualities as a general.” Moreover, to respond to Ian Brown’s other question, as far as I know, there are no grounds for criticism of the honor of Lee's battlefield performance.
If we are going to condemn generals who fought for regimes in which slavery was legal, socially accepted, and widely practiced, the list will be much, much longer than Robert E. Lee and his fellow Confederates."

Mr. Rein's comments were very much to the point. General's like others of a country must make choices also about the war to which they lend their skills and abilities.

It very much has to do with his qualities as a General. His choice of sides means exactly that.
Mr. Rein's points are well stated, exact and quite much to the substantive meaning of history not only the results of warfare.

Said list should be much longer, Lee being not the only one upon it. Will leave it here though there is much more to be said, sadly. Will await seeing what else may be presented. His inspiration, if such is a quality of skills, would have served the Southern States better had he attempted to inspire Southerners to preserve the Union. Very Sad, he chose not doing so.

Against rather poor Union Generals he did manage to hold off defeat sooner.

I said I'd stay out, but this is getting interesting, if completely unrelated to the original topic.

Sure, it's probably an overstatement to accuse Lee of being the worst military commander of all time. And for the sake of brevity, I'll leave discussion of the political goals and moral foundations of the Confederacy for another time. Let me focus on Lee, the general and military advisor. It does not impugn a man's character to acknowledge his failures in other realms (we can also talk about Lee's character later), and in the harsh metric of war, there are only two options: win or lose. Lee's side lost. That simple fact should give the military historian, or military professional, reason to apply a critical eye to the performance of the losing army's generals.

So: did Lee's performance as a military advisor and commanding general help, hurt, or indifferently impact his nation's strategic goals? That is the real question I was trying to get at. And I think the most honest assessment is that while Lee had some acumen at the tactical level, he could not see the big picture beyond his own limited theater of war, and proved incapable of effective campaigning. I mean "campaigning" in the sense of not merely fighting a string of successful battles, but looking at the long-term military goals of his nation and determining what maneuvers, battles (or avoidance of battles), and strategic goals of all participating armies should be to achieve those goals.

"Lee did his job, which was to keep the North from capturing Richmond:" as senior Confederate commander and military advisor to Jefferson Davis, was that really his job? Or was his job to achieve the independence of the Confederacy? I'd argue it was the latter; and a military advisor worth his salt should have recognized that control of Richmond was not the strategic object of the Confederacy. Indeed, a good advisor would probably have recommended that the capital be moved elsewhere, if not at the start of hostilities, then certainly after the North conducted several campaigns with its capture their object. And herein lies Lee's first, and perhaps greatest, flaw: he could never look beyond his own Virginia. The Confederacy was not Virginia, and indeed one could have sympathy for the southern states that seceded first, watching a late-comer to the cause consuming ever greater amounts of men and resources for its defense as the North dismantled the Deep South and west. A good senior commander and military advisor would have seen that Virginia was but one of many theaters, and that other theaters held more vital arteries of transportation and areas of economic production. Grant understood how to campaign, and coordinated his armies to produce the North's military goal: a reunified nation. Lee was not an effective campaigner.

"Johnston also failed with heavy casualties." Johnson's failures are not an effective endorsement of Lee's aggressive strategy. Again, the military objective of the Confederacy was independence; to not lose. Since we're comparing Lee with Washington, it's worth noting that Washington both understood this and took measures to achieve this goal, most importantly preserving his armies. Like Lee, the colonial Americans had fewer men and resources at their disposal; Washington knew those resources had to be jealously husbanded and only expended when absolutely necessary. He thus adopted the strategy of endurance, seeking to outlast the British, inflicting casualties on them as required, but mostly simply keeping them from winning outright. Lee did not adopt this strategy, engaging in offensive after offensive and spending profligate amounts of lives that the Confederacy simply could not spare.

It's here that Bonekemper's book and its statistical analysis of casualties rendered some of its most important contributions. He shows that Lee, in a single theater of war, suffered 209,000 casualties; conversely, Grant, under EVERY army he commanded across multiple theaters of war, suffered about 150,000 casualties. Who was the more efficient commander when expending the lives of his men? And this was in a war where the North, to achieve its military goal, was compelled to undertake offensive operations. The South was under no such compulsion; it just had to last, and given the advancements in weapons technology since the days of Napoleon, the defender enjoyed great advantages if they simply stayed in place and let the enemy come to them. Lee could have learned this at Fredericksburg; but he didn't. By the time his depleted numbers forced him on the defensive, during Grant's Overland campaign, Lee got ample demonstration of this fact; but by then, too many of his men were dead for a defensive campaign to work. Imagine what might have happened if Lee had adopted a defensive mindset at the outset when he had the men, and when the Union commanders facing him were vastly inferior to Grant. The slaughter among Northern armies might have turned the Northern populace against the war even sooner than the days of 1864 when Lincoln feared their fatigue might cost him the presidency. But Lee didn't have the vision to consider a defensive campaign that could have achieved his nation's ultimate goal.

"The eastern theater was more decisive." That is simply unsupportable. The west and south held the bulk of southern agriculture, key railways that allowed the Confederacy to exploit interior lines, and the ports that allowed them to export cotton and import key war materiel in return. Richmond was not the most important city in the Confederacy by any strategic criteria. Certainly, being able to threaten the Northern capital was useful, because it had the moral value of being the established capital of the country and the mechanics of federal government were long entrenched there. That was not the case with Richmond; it was the southern capital for a hot minute, and the Confederacy could just have easily picked Atlanta or some other vital city deep in the southern interior. Lee consistently "advised" and got troops sent to him from key parts of the south, whom he then spent profligately in unwise aggressive attacks. His stove-piped view of strategic objectives in the war kept his attention focused solely on Virginia as southern ports fell and southern railways were cut.

"Lee's subordinates often failed him." There's certainly some truth in that. But this forces us to consider two other issues. One: if Lee's subordinates failed him so regularly, why did they remain his subordinates? As an army commander, Lee had purview over who worked for him. Throughout the war, Lee regularly sent officers away whom he clashed with. Why did he retain those failed him? Second: Bonekemper's book is also useful for highlighting one of Lee's command weaknesses, which was issuing vague orders and then not ensuring his subordinates followed them, or not altering the orders when battlefield conditions no longer supported them. If the commander is not clear on what he wants his lieutenants to do, whose fault is it when they don't do it? Also, "credit for victory is properly given to the commander, not his subordinates." If the commander gets credit for victory, he holds responsibility for defeat. That's the price of command.

Finally, the whole "Longstreet was late at Gettysburg" narrative is part and parcel of the Lost Cause mythology which sought to cover up Lee's failures by denigrating certain generals who were less popular than Lee. You want to blame someone for the South's defeat at Gettysburg, give it to Lee, whose front assault on the Union center on day three was the height of military folly. I don't know if you've seen the ground at Gettysburg, but to think that a massed front of men could cross a mile of exposed ground uphill, subject to artillery and rifle fire the entire way, and gain anything was suicidally foolish.

Foreign intervention/geographic factors: Yes, Washington had the French, and the British were fighting an away game. Yet the South of 1861 had a larger economy and more technological advantages than colonial America. It had railways and could use them to exploit its interior lines. The vastness of the American coast meant that the Confederacy was able to regularly slip imports and exports through the Union blockade until almost the end of the war. The South was much closer to equal footing with its adversary than the North Vietnamese or American revolutionaries. As to an "indefensible land border:" have you looked closely at the topography of the various theaters? The South enjoyed innumerable natural boundaries that a skilled commander, with an eye to maximizing advantage across multiple theaters, could have used. To come to grips with the South, Northern armies had to cross large rivers, vast mountain ranges, extensive and thick forests, and unforgiving coastlines. Look at the frustration caused by Confederate forces in the Shenandoah Valley alone; to the end of the war, they skillfully used the mountains and passes to maneuver against the Union armies sent against them.

Lastly (I'm almost done): Lee's views on slavery most certainly impacted his qualities as a general. To virtually the end of the war, he gave no support to those few Southern voices who suggested that the Confederacy's manpower deficit might be corrected by freeing slaves to fight. During the Petersburg campaign, Grant offered to exchange prisoners on the condition captured black soldiers be exchanged like any other soldier; Lee refused. Such an attitude showed that Lee would rather lose the war than countenance a measure that would have admitted the South's attitude toward their chattel was wrong. He was certainly not alone in this; but his authority as the Confederacy's preeminent general gave him leverage that might have swayed the argument and stave off his goverment's extinction. That leverage remained unused.

"If we are going to condemn generals who fought for regimes in which slavery was legal, socially accepted, and widely practiced, the list will be much, much longer than Robert E. Lee and his fellow Confederates." Yes, it will. But that is still no defense.

Continued from previous comments, the South never had the right to secede and it is the 2nd of those pillars upon which Southern hostility to the Union was falsely built. This premise by the post is utterly false and meritless. The South knew that and should have known that despite early history to the Republic and its founding. It is a falsity on its face.

David Barrett raised an issue Oct. 4, in posts, about the scale and complex nature of D-Day as an invasion of Europe and France during WW II. His focus was upon the question of relevancy to Soviet relief by opening a 2nd Front in the West to oppose German military forces.

If memory serves and am thinking it does at the moment, one of my college Professors served in the US Army and landed in what was actually the largest invasion of France. He went into France in Southern France, during the follow up invasion, which was larger than D-Day. The US and Allies mounted 2 invasions in 1944. This second came closer to the 'soft-underbelly plan' for invading Europe thru Austria proposed and clamored for by Churchill. Southern France demonstrated even more so the vast resource of the Western Allies, able to sustain this second invasion. My Professor[Poly Sci] taught Public Opinion and Propaganda among his courses in the 1960s. Wonderful professor and man. He would have looked very askance at today's propaganda being accepted as truth and fact; ie, 'alternative facts', so called already being denounced as falsehoods and outright lying but also proving the willingness of people to accept and, gullible to not admitting the truth and facts which are both life and history.

This aside. further commentary upon that Allied invasion of Southern France might be well worth an effort. Consider alone, had this been the primary invasion of France, how it might have changed the outcome of WW II if Normandy was a 2nd site landing subsequently[I've a document published in 1950s, which unfortunately is now packed away and not immediately available, with discussion and maps of this history. Will retrieve them one day in distant future for posting on HW].
Thanks to David Barrett for his commentary.

Of late, I've been studying PQ17. One comment I read was that Stalin refused to believe the loss, believing that Roosevelt and Churchill had lied to him because he could not fathom such a loss. Other than that comment, I've not found anything else about Stalin's reaction, which leads me to wonder if, given such a major loss so early in their relationship, and the legitimate reasons for distrust, if perhaps Stalin's whining was because he feared his troops would be considered expendable.

The notion that Stalin didn't want Roosevelt and Churchill to treat his soldiers as expendable made me smile. If so, it would have been because he didn't want competition.

Roosevelt and Churchill would have been in line well behind Stalin and his generals in that regard.

A Soviet soldier was a cog in a machine and totally expendable in the service of the socialist state, which was demonstrated most recently by the purges of the late '30s. That's why their morale was so high early in the war.