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Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Churchill and FDR As Military Leaders.


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Yep, I am a former jarhead.

Responded here, since over in the General Forum, things are a little hectic. Didn't want you to think that I was ignoring you.

Interesting topic you got here.


The thing that has always amazed me about him is his ruthlessness. I look at the events over in Iraq during the early weeks and I have a better appreciation for the Russian people. Maybe they were against Stalin, but you kept your mouth shut because you didn't want the NKVD, KGB, or whomever to come knocking at night to take you away. Just like the Iraq people were worried about the Fedayeem. Once the Coalition units physically occuppied an area, than it was a different matter. Just like what I imagined happened when the Germans first arrived in Russia... and were greeted as liberators. Of course, once the Gestapo, SS arrived, it was "oh ****!" No wonder there was little lack of willing partisan recruits.

Stalin was worried about the military plotting against him (just like Hitler), so guess what... off you go to Siberia. Or the wall and a bullet.

As a military leader, he was clueless. Line them up, go forward, send the trouble makers into the Penal Battalions... all resulting in the "it takes a brave man to be a coward in the Russian Army".

What amazed me is that the military leaders he took out of Siberia actually fought the Germans. I would think they were more interested in shooting Stalin. But that is when his Commissars, NKVD, KGB, etc would have come into play I guess.

Its amazing the Russian Army became what it was. Stalin contributed nothing to that. Its just too bad that the US Army (as well as the rest of the world) was enarmored with the German successes and looked to them for role models. With one exception though, Israel. It used the German and Soviet models ... but thats another story.

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Never thought for a moment that you were ignoring me, those other guys had much more relevant things for you to respond to and the thread was suddenly swamped with their postings. I was mostly satisfied to joke about the Air Force with that other guy -- it's hard for me to remember the General Forum names because I don't post much over there.

I figured I'd start this one when we were all going at it over Hitler and Barbarossa. More fertile ground for lively debate.

Iraq had a similar effect on me as well. I used to get aggravated when western TV people would walk through Baghdad, shove a microphone in someone's face and start asking political questions -- I wonder how many of those poor bastards were immediatly arrested and how many of that number were subsequently killed.

As I've stated a few times, in my chess playing days I came to know a lot of Russian emigrees and your assessment is 100% correct. To oppose the state means death so of course you profess enthusiasm for everything it does. In Stalin's day it could mean ten years hard labor if you were caught with a newspaper on your own kitchen table that had a smear, even spilled coffee if you found it somehow, going across Stalin's photograph.

Stalin was a sociopath plain and simple. Hussein saw him as an idle and I'm sure Uncle Joe (as idiot American Journalists often called him) would have preferred Saddam to either of his actual sons. Amazingly, in both cases they achieved absolute power and indulged themselves fully.

At the end of the Second World War Stalin allowed the Russian people to thank him for saving them from the Fascists. The whole thing is preserved on film. It's sickening.

Getting back to what we opened with, I've noticed that most of the veterans in these forums are --

This statement has been edited by request of a Former Marine

-- Former Marines, which I find interesting considering the percentage of marines in the total United States military. I enjoy threads that get into Corps history as it tends to extend into areas most other branches were never involved in, innumerable actions all over the world that weren't quite war but definitely not peace.

A typical example is the Morrocan crisis of I believe 1908, the abduction of the wife of an American millionaire with their children (or perhaps it was the millionaire himself and Hollywood distorted it, I'm not sure). Anyway, it was the basis for the movie The Wind and the Lion . In the movie a young Marine Captain leads a detachment of marines and sailors to assault a palace and take a local honcho into custody. The reclining Sheik sneers at the captain, "You are a very dangerous person and your president [Teddy Roosevelt] is a madman." Without batting an eye the captain smiles, raises his sword in salute and says, "Yesss Sir!"

Of course that's only Hollywood, but I still find the Marines the most interesting branch. The ultimate compliment was said in a discussion on the History Channel as to why Germany didn't make serious plans to invade Britain. Steve Ambrose said, "Well, you have to remember there was no German equivalent of the U. S. Marine Corps."

[ April 26, 2003, 02:29 AM: Message edited by: JerseyJohn ]

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A few months ago I was thinking in terms of Hughy Long as president during the Second World War and came up with a sceanario.

It's one of my slightly doctored (okay, utterly butchered) takes of Hubert's 1939 job. The UK has Iraq and the United States starts as conquered by Germany. A couple of German corps are placed within for protection (the AI never invades it anyway, not even from Canada) and it has the twofold effect of boosting Germany's MPPs while the UK gets Iraq's output, and Germany doesn't need to worry about the U. S. entering the war. I call it, Amerika-Amerika! and have never mentioned it before. As it is I'm occasionally accused of being a Fascist -- and sometimes of being a communist -- so I figured why add fuel to it, although now I'm sure I'll be called a low down RedFascist. :confused:

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Along the way I forgot to write the following in the earlier posting:

Agreed that he didn't have a clue as to military tactics or strategy. A while back Konstantin listed the various Soviet wartime losses and it was close to 40,000,000. About 30,000,000 were attributable directly to fighting the Germans or were killed by the invaders. The rest died either from gross neglect, were killed by the Soviets themselves, or vanished without a trace. Some great leadership those poor bastards had.

I don't think it would have been possible for Stalin's generals to assasinate him, too many political officers ever present. As for going over to the Germans, he had a quick solution to that one as well, kill the family.

[ April 26, 2003, 12:05 AM: Message edited by: JerseyJohn ]

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I am going to have to correct one of your statements. Please go back and edit your post. smile.gif

There is no such thing as "ex-marines". You talking about some new member of the X-Men or something like that? If you mean members of the USMC who are no longer active, then you would be referring to former Marines or retired Marines. Please note the captial M. Then of course, you have the British Royal Marines, whom you can refer to as marines or former marines if you like. No capital M necessary for them. ;)

Wind and the Lion, Sean Connery was the Arab in that wasn't he? I loved that movie. Actually saw it again, about a month ago. Full Metal Jacket was a pretty good depiction of boot camp, except the last part where he had his rifle with ammo. Never would have happened like that. The rest of it, except for little bits and pieces, was nothing like my time, but I am not saying that it wasn't accurate. Just that my experiences were nothing like that.

As a former SAC member, I have a question. You can responsd to my e-mail if you would like, since it is off-topic. Or if you want, I can make a topic over in the General Forum if you like. I am of the opinion that the Air Force should be merged back into the Army. However, I think certain parts of it, like the Space Command and SAC should form a seperate service, for lack of a better name, the Strategic Air Service or Space Command. They can be the ones in charge of the nuc's, strategic bombers, interceptor fighters, satellites, etc. But cost wise, tactical air needs to be back where it belongs, in support of the Army. Its a shame the ground pounders don't have a replacement for the A-10, and the Air Force doesn't want anything to do with it. Your opinion?

Back on topic, I will do a piece on Mussolini. I apologize in advance cause I am sure I will butcher the Italian names of the people and units. I have some opinions, mainly cause I have spent quite some time trying to understand why the Italian army performed so poorly. I'll do it either later tonight or tommorrow.

[ April 26, 2003, 12:05 AM: Message edited by: Shaka of Carthage ]

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Okay, I went back and edited the statement.

It gave me a chuckle because I had two uncles who'd fought in WW II, one with the 101 airborne and the other was a Pacific theater marine who'd been in several of the early campaigns and built up enough points in the system they were using that he was sent stateside for the final two years as an instructor. At a wedding reception in the mid-sixties he made that same point to me, about there being no such thing as an ex-Marine and the other uncle broke in and said, "Yeah sure, well I was through as much as you were and they better never forget I'm an ex-Soldier. They ever come looking for me to go through that crap again they better come looking for a fight because that's exactly what they're gonna get!"

That same army uncle was told me how they were being given a pep talk before taking off for the Normandy drops and their CO was telling them how they were trained killers, the toughest men on earth, etc. & etc. and he said, "I know plety've 4-Fs in Brooklyn who could still kick my ass in!" Which everyone thought was pretty funny except his CO, a captain. He said the guy stopped him when they were heading for the air craft and said, "Don't think you got away with anything, soon as this thing is over I'm getting you for . . . etc & so forth. At this point he'd sip a drink and finish with, "And I never saw him again, he got killed somewhere so you should never be afraid to say something if it's true." I suppose there's a moral hidden there.

It's odd you should ask that Air Force Question because it's something I've wondered about myself.

When I was in, one of the major commands was MAC, which as you know moves equipment, supplies and men around by air. Most of it's activity back then was in relation to the Army but the Army had it's own air transports, also big lumbering things, so what gives? Naturally the army also has recon aircraft and helicopters. Why not give them jet fighters as well? That way they'd be able to protect their own helicopters and transport aircraft without haveing to call one of the other branches.

It seems realistic to me that the Army and Air Force should have a relationship like the one that exists between the Marines and the Navy since all four arms have aviation branches.

Agreed the only function that should be unique to the Air Force is Strategic Bombing. That was the only part of being in the Air Force I felt good about; that being in SAC meant I was in the real Air Force. The other Commands, including TAC, were all performing operations that could be carried out equally well by any of the other three, and often were!

Space Command should also be Air Force, as you say. To scatter it around would produce counterproductive duplication of effort and wasted resources. I remember the Army and Air Force both had long range missles -- I don't know if they still do -- and that seemed wasteful but I suppose there was some logic to it, though certainly not in terms of spending.

Then again, I'm sure most of what I remember hasn't been valid for a couple of decades at least. Even SAC is gone now, probably replaced by the same organization with a new name.

We had a relic command called ADC, Air Defense Command, which was set up in the early fifties to guard North America against Russian bombers. When I was in they were phasing that Command out because surface to air missles were considered to be a better investment.

Our SAC base had an attached relic ADC base which I heard was fairly common. Probably in the fifties they were supposed to protect the bombers, but naturally that had all changed with the B-52.

So the ADC bases were mainly used for reservists to do their two week annual stints and for odd assignments for regulars who didn't fit anywhere else. Ours had an old warrent officer and an even older major (of course, they'd both be kids by our present perspectives) running the place along with a few mechanics and two or three Korean War era Jet Fighters housed in old fashioned small hangers -- SACs hangers were gigantic by comparison. They were all twenty year guys who reminded me of the movie No Time for Sergeants. These guys just wanted to put in their last few years and wander off quietly to collect a pension, no waves on their pond brother!

But, somehow they were prone to bizarre episodes. One of the weirdest I was involved in happened on a Monday morning when I was told to bring a truckload of aviation fuel to their runway.

Normally we only brought them jet fuel -- every few months they'd consume about as much as a B-52 used during a single long flight. They didn't have anything that used avgas but I figured since they were always getting antiques they might have been sent something from the late forties or early fifties. So I went up there in my bright yellow truck hoping to see something en route to the Smithsonian.

When I arrived the old major and the old W-4 were standing together with bewildered expressions staring at an assortment of green camoflouge painted helicopters. They were varied small contraptions, a few of them loches, those little recon/observation machines. I knew almost nothing about helicopters and know even less now, so I had no idea what any of them actually were. But they were neatly parked along the side of a long and unused runway.

A very insiring sight -- like something out of Appocalyps Now, which wouldn't be filmed for years to come -- except, of course, they weren't supposed to be there. They weren't even part of the Air Force!

Probably some reserve officer had signed for them over the weekend, making a ridiculous snafu an official delivery. Then the guy probably headed home without recording it properly, making it a grand surprise on monday morning.

At which time the two old timers who wanted everything kept simple were glaring at those birds, arms folded, as though they could will them away without having to call anyone or doing any extra paperwork.

I asked the major if he wanted me to put fuel in them, something I'd never done and would have needed to figure out. He shook his head, "You do and you'll be flying them off my runway!"

I was obviously stuck somewhere I didn't want to be.

The W-4, a rank the AF wasn't giving out any longer, it was being replaced by E-8 & 9 NCO grades -- said something like "It isn't the kid's fault." And the Major said, almost forgivingly, "Yeah, you better get that truck out've here." As though the truck were part of the problem and likely to cause even more trouble. No doubt at that very moment some Air Cavalry Unit in Nam was wondering what happened to their new choppers. After a few things like that you start wondering if novels like Catch-22 are based entirely on nonsense.

The barracks having live ammo in Full Metal also had me puzzled. I didn't know for sure but it seemed unlikely they'd have it so readily available.

I'm not surprised the way things were depicted in the movie would be different from your own memories. As movies go, probably the Basic Training flick more relevant to your own era was Jack Webb's The DI , which I haven't seen in around thirty years.

Anyhow, the last time I spoke with a kid in the Air Force he gave me an incredulous look and said, "You mean they still had those old wooden barracks when you were at Lackland!" I nodded and bidn't bother to add they still had them at my SAC base too. I wonder what the hell they live in these days.

Looking forward to your entry on Mussolini. Everybody mauls Italian names so I wouldn't give it any thought.

[ April 26, 2003, 07:30 AM: Message edited by: JerseyJohn ]

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I'm a little late but here goes.

Great men surround themselves with great men, take their suggestions and make decisions. Who had the best Military Staff to support him.

Mussolini I don't think so (sorry John). Tojo..Jap Admirals were good but the Army was weak. The Japs never followed up a victory with another big punch.

Stalin was just a bully, his staff were yes men, Zhukov was good but not great, human losses were appolling.

That leaves Hitler, Churchill, and Roosevelt.

Hitler had great Generals, one good Admiral, and brilliant propaganda. The biggest problem was Hitler, stupid leader, didn't understand military strategy, economy, or common sense. He was a painter, right brained, sexually disfunctional nincompoop.

FDR had a great staff, with the greatest economy in the world. Americans at the time where not great military thinkers however. (Now is a different story)

I would have to say that Churchill, with the British staff was the best. With what they had they made it work, at great odds. The made good decisions (mostly), and knew how to prod the Americans.

Greece in '41, Churchill knew that they would loose, but wanted a token showing of power against the Germans in the Mediterranian. He never saw the paratroops taking Crete however. Crete became important to the germans in controlling the eastern half of the Med. (not well portrade in SC)

Airpower kicked the Brit's out of Norway, they couldn't defend airbase in Namsos and Narvik, so they left, had too.

With Ultra, and the British Scientist Churchill had the most creative military intel. This helped the Americans to make good decisions later.

One thing Churchill didn't have was good Generals, but the RN was outstanding(which they proved over and over..Even in the Pacific at the End of the war..not the beginning).

Germany had the best Generals, and soldiers, England had the best Pilots, ask Adolf Gandoff, America had the best logistics, and eventually Navy..and Navy Airpower, Russia had the best bloodletting (8 mil dead, 4 mil captured, 22 mil wounded..another 7 mil civilians dead),

This is just an opinion however, and everyone has an opinion like everyone has an asshole, and sometimes they get them confussed!

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well we're back from the land of slow and non-existent internet, north carolina!

mussolini ranks far above stalin. didn't stalin kill 3 out of 5 of his marshalls just prior to ww2? crippling decision.

edwin p scorched earth was done because of land mass. very few major countries couldn't be crossed without major resupply in just a week or so. the mongols had scorched earth down pat way back.

seawolf48 said --

America had the best logistics, and eventually Navy..and Navy Airpower
this is why you had to pick roosevelt at the top of the grisly group. whatever your likes or dislike for the man, he knew how to pick 'em. (marshall).good advisors, half a lifetime in the office, etc.

jerseyjohn said

Ironically, Lincoln and FDR, the two presidents who bent the most laws, were both attorneys by profession. Lincoln said Habeus Corpus was only a loophole to benefit thieves and scaliwags and of no purpose to an honest citizen!

sorry to bring this one up again,jerseyjohn, but you took the words out of my mouth here! fascist or not, you got it!

as panzer39 said,"just 1 comment on this." lincoln was "martyred" and revised into a racial savior over the decades. try this quote on for size:

"My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause." The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume V, "Letter to Horace Greeley" (August 22, 1862), p. 388.

one-minded, and anti-constitutional. no better at following the laws than mr.clinton.

policy of a dictator, but with the free-reign of an elected official to pick and chose his compadres. except for that pain in his butt stanton!

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Thanks for making the edit.

I know plety've 4-Fs in Brooklyn who could still kick my ass in! LOL!!!

Air Force... Something has got to be done. Things are getting too expensive. The "Red" menance is gone, but where are the defense cuts we should be benefitting from? Both you and I are thinking about military items that no longer exist, but the points are still valid today, just different hardware. No Time for Sergeants ... is that the one with the Hippy guy would holds the buckets of sands and eventually goes AWOL?


There is a old quote that goes something like... If the Americans were as good as they said they were, the British as bad as they said they were and the Germans as good as everyone thought they were, then the Battle for Normandy would not have been fought the way it was.

You made some good points... though I disagree with one of them. Japan had the best pilots, not the British. Problem was, once they were lost, they couldn't replace them.

Excellent point about the British Intelligence. I don't think in todays world enough of us give credit what British Intell meant to the Alliance. They were the pro's, everyone else was the amatuers who wanted to be just like the pro's. Even in today's world, there is no one better at the Intell game worldwide then the British. Amazing considering how small the Intell services are.

Americans... Logisitics, high tech. Isn't it great what being the richest country in the world will do for you? Got a problem? Throw money at it. While the Germans were First with the Best! , the Americans countered by being Second with the Most!!

Hmmmm.... from my experience, everyone is an asshole, who sometimes has an opnion. ;)

Edwin P

I am not sure if willpower is the right word. Its hard to think of anyone in the Western world doing scorched earth on thier own ground. Thats a Mongol practice. Someone else's territory, different story. Look at the opinion of Sherman people in the South have about him. One of the most important concepts to the post war Soviet empire was to never allow fighting to be done on its own land again. No one wanted to suffer the losses they did.

Brings me to another point. We as wargamers always have a hard time replicating the Battle for France '40. Even when we do the "blitz" and get in the rear of the French, those darn French units will still fight you. It gets back to the will of the French. They had sufferred enormously from WWI and in the following years there were not enough births to match the German population growth (someone should write a book about that). So here come the Germans once again, and in a few days are already in the rear area causing havoc. Is it any wonder the French gave up? But how do you adequately portray that in a wargame?

Gonna make a tastless joke, so please forgive me One can only wonder how different things would have been, if the US soldiers in WWI France were ordered not to use condoms!

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American Civil War was fought because of states rights, not slavery as you pointed out.

Maybe I have a different twist on it for various reasons, but I am of the belief that Lincoln could not openly support "freeing the slaves" because it was not a politically popular idea at the time. Once the opportunity presented itself, he jumped on it. For different political reasons (the poor voters), the South could not abolish slavery.

Politics rule politicians, not beliefs. How else can you explain our inability, after 50 years, to reduce Pork Barrel (ie military-industrial) politics? Heck, it just happened a month ago! We pay for those mistakes in blood.

And yes, I like Clinton.

[ April 26, 2003, 01:55 PM: Message edited by: Shaka of Carthage ]

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Originally posted by disorder:

one-minded, and anti-constitutional. no better at following the laws than mr.clinton.

policy of a dictator, but with the free-reign of an elected official to pick and chose his compadres. except for that pain in his butt stanton!

It is a shame he got shot though, the South was far better off with him than without him after the war. Reconstruction never would have happened the way it did.

Bringing it back to topic, what are some of yall's opinions on the Yalta conference. I think it ties in great to this discussion.

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I'm shocked and dismayed that no one else agrees with my view regarding Benitto Mussolini's Military Genius! Perhaps he was too far ahead of his time? :D

Favorite IL Duce quote: "What need has Italy for aircraft carriers; the country is itself a giant aircraft carrier!"

[ April 26, 2003, 07:31 PM: Message edited by: JerseyJohn ]

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disorder The invading allies would have found advancing on Germany a lot tougher if the Germans had adopted a scorched earth policy in France.

Bridges blown - they take time to rebuild. Train tracks torn up and train engines destroyed limit the ability to reinforce the front. Dealing with refugees from a burning Paris. Ports in shambles with no electric power or gasoline supply depots. No place for R&R. Telephone systems destroyed reduce communication. Poisoned water supplies create havoc among the populace and invading troops.

That said, the Germans were in some ways too civilized to execute such a barbaric strategy on conquered France. Stalin would not have had any aversion to executing such a strategy.

[ April 26, 2003, 08:30 PM: Message edited by: Edwin P. ]

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For different political reasons (the poor voters), the South could not abolish slavery.

yes those ignorant voters.we have to spoon it to them in drops and dribbles so they can eventually see the right(OUR) way.dont let that ol' constitution slow you down when you're on a roll. :D


Bringing it back to topic, what are some of yall's opinions on the Yalta conference. I think it ties in great to this discussion

i have to tow the archie bunker line at yalta. roosevelt sold us out. very similar to vietnam peace talks. JUST GET IT OVER WITH, OUR BOYS NEED TO COME HOME, kind of stuff. 50 years of cold war and divided berlin. what a reward there!

EDWIN P said---

That said, the Germans were in some ways too civilized to execute such a barbaric strategy on conquered France. Stalin would not have had any aversion to executing such a strategy.

i guess i take a different argument on that one. each country had it's own distinctive foibles (i.e. japan regarding honor, and taking prisoners). i think every country was TOO civilised EXCEPT ussr to do it. if you give up territory, poison your well, so it will be of no use to the enemy. the vast lands of russia were for nomads. if you run out of water, move somewhere else. i'm not putting down the russians,or saying this was bad, but it was ingrained in their battle theology. whereas the germans had to be thinking of what would happen after the war. they had a long history of combat wins and losses, including two recent previous wars with france. to use a baseball term, they were looking past their current opponent.

edwin, wouldnt you assume the u.s. would do the same thing if the chips were down and they were in a "RED DAWN" type defence of mainland u.s.a.? i know in south dakota they would. wouldnt you spike your guns and sabotage your roads, burn anything you couldn' carry with you.

doesn't that make you as uncivilized as the russians?

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No Time for Sergeants was a late fifties b&w job where Andy Griffith is a hayseed who somehow gets drafted into the peacetime Air Force -- hmmmmmmmmmmm :confused:

He becomes buddies with Nick Adams, who has also been drafted into the peascetime Air Force :confused: :confused: even though he's having kiniptions trying to get into the Army. There are typical lines like Griffith and Adams in the barracks, Adams: "They's all been battlers, every one of 'em, why my grandaddy fought with Lee at Gettysburg!" to which Griffith responds, enthusiastically Gollaally, bet he whumped him good!"

Meanwhile, the barracks Sgt, an E-7, wants nothing more than a little peace and tranquility so he can put in his remaining time and quietly retire.

He learns that Griffith believes cleaning the latrine is an important job. He's been doing it to perfection so the Master Sergeant promotes him to Permanent Latrine Orderly. Griffith is so honored and determined to make his sarge even prouder of him that he riggs all the toilet seats to snap up in salute at the Captain's entrance. He enters, and they do. Puzzled by the officer's lack of movement, Griffith calls "Attennnnnia--huttt!" a second time and hits the foot peddle, causing a dozen toilet seats to snap up as though saluting.

The whole story comes out about how the former Sergeant had the Hayseed doing all the dirty work because he was his right hand man, etc. ... A bit of farcical nonsense that you either love or hate. I happen to really enjoy it.

Anyway, my original point was that all the guys attached with ADF when I was in were all like that sergeant, just wanting to be quietly forgotten till it was time to collect their checks. Their hangers were mostly for storage, there offices were filled with all gung-ho photos from the late forties and fifties but now the Jets were mostly parked inactive somewhere, their runway space minimized, grass growing between cracks in the concrete. You could almost see them fading as they walked. The first thing one of them told me was something like, "Oh, they're phasing this whole thing out. Pretty soon it will all just be a memory."

It was kind of sad actually. They were there, but they weren't.

I'm not sure what the hippie movie was but I think I've changed the channel on it a few dozen times over the years.

The Air Force Thread you've started in the General Forum is a good idea. Not many responses but what there is of it is very interesting. I was making a mental note to ask that one guy exactly how a B-52 goes about doing close air support of ground troops, but fortunately someone else beat me to it. Just your average tactical aircraft that carries four H-bombs and holds 55,000 gallons of fuel! I ought to know, I spent enough sub-zero Maine nights standing by a ground pump, freezing while I watched that annoying meter going from 00001 up to 49997 or so -- and my wife wonders why I don't care for self service gas stations.

[ April 27, 2003, 05:36 AM: Message edited by: JerseyJohn ]

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We've all said a thing or two in this thing about Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War, so I can't quote anyone. I've enjoyed poking more than my share of fun at this greatest of men, so here's my other view of him.

The times were so different from today that I doubt any of us could really appreciate their perspective.

Sure Lincoln was against slavery. Meanwhile, he wouldn't be considered a radical liberal by today's standards. He sympathized with the Blacks but thought they were misplaced in America. He explored ideas like offering to buy all the slaves in the country and provide transportation and assistance for the entire Black population to be relocated in Liberia. The mid-ninteenth century mind, as I said, had a totally different outlook and thankfully few of us understand it today. Not that we're superior beings, only more enlightened by the passage of time and societal evolution.

He said something long before becoming president that I've always remembered: "As I would not be a slave myself, neither would I own one."

Reading about his presidency I can't help but get a real kick our of a lot of the things some of his generals and even his own cabinet members said about him. I think Stanton referred to him as "A first rate, second rate man." Coincidentally old Edwin felt he should have been president instead of Honest Abe. George McClellen, commander of his principal army, future presidential rival and appropriately the Governor of wretched New Jersey, referred to him as the "The Original Orangatan." -- and they were both working on his side! :eek:

For his part, considering all the abuse he took, I think Lincoln's sense of humor:

On Gen Ben Butler's corrupt behavior: "We ought to let Butler run this war. In a year he'd have everybody too satisfied to fight and he'd come out of it a millionaire."

On General Pope: "Sure I know all the Popes are braggart's and liars, but that doesn't mean one of them can't also be a good general."

On a dispute with Britain: "One war at a time."

And then there are the truly profound speeches such as his Gettysburg Address. Typically it was unappreciated at the time because so many people had travelled great distances to hear the President speak, and his speech was over almost before it had begun. So short that the photographer was unable to take a decent photograph of Lincoln on the podium. Hostile newspapers said it showed how little thought he put into things. The only person who appreciated it was the professional orator Edward Everett who spoke for something like an hour preceeding him. Immediately after hearing it he clutched Lincoln's hand and told Lincoln Him he had said more in that a minute than he had in all of his own speech.

Then there was his second innaugeral, a speech that was nearly booed when he said "With malice toward none . . .."

Guess they don't make them like that anymore.

I know I've misquoted him repeatedly here, his own word are infinitely better than the ones I've assigned written for him, but it would take days for me to find even a handful of his great quotes and even then it wouldn't do him justice.

The final portrait. Seeing the cracked glass, the photographer didn't think it important to have the President sit for another picture. There would be another three years to take a better one.


[ April 27, 2003, 06:35 AM: Message edited by: JerseyJohn ]

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On the theory of "better late than never" here are the Bear's opinions:

1. There wouldn't BE a US without Lincoln. Certainly the Northern Territories or whatever couldn't have intervened decisively in the world wars. Japan might extend to the Mississippi River...

2. My vote for best wartime leader is a tie: Roosevelt and Churchill. Churchill knew how to FIGHT--he was tenacious and unfair if necessary, but he fought to win. And that was needed against Hitler & Co. To have had his army's ass kicked out of Europe and into the sea and then make a speech like "we will fight them on the beaches, etc." is one of the great acts of defiance in history. And it was one of the defining moments in the war--remember Russia was virtually allied with Germany at that time.

The only problem with Winston was goofy decisions from time to time. Roosevelt, however, was spot on with diplomacy and grand strategy.

Together, they were an amazing team. Hopefully we'll get leaders like them again (Tony Blair is showing some promise as a diplomatist...we'll see).

3. And (drum roll, please) the WORST war leader had to be Stalin. The only reason he didn't kill more Russians than Hitler is that the Germans were mass murderers. Even at that, he gave Hitler a run for his money.

Besides which, he was warned of the German attack by EVERYONE--he even knew the exact time, the exact units, everything. And some troops didn't have ammunition. Huh? Even Jesse Ventura would know to give the soliders some bullets...but not "the great and wise Comrade Stalin." He also refused to believe the Germans were attacking for several hours; THEN ordered immediate counterattacks. (Excuse me please, Comrade Major, my I have some ammunition now?)

It was also very clever of him to wipe out the entire professional officer corps shortly after Hitler (Mr. "Germany must look to the vast plains of Russia for her Lebensraum") came to power. Obviously Mein Kampf did not make the NKVD reading list.

The battle for Kiev in 41 was also nice. Forbid retreat so several hundred thousand troops are killed or taken prisoner (including some of your top people), THEN blow up the city on top of the Russians still living there. Mmmm. Moral courage? I think not. He was an IDIOT. He was saved because his people understood that the Germans were worse. If Roosevelt, for example, had been in charge of Russia he would have won the war faster and with half the casualties, I believe.

4. Second worst war leader: Neville Chamberlain (I know he wasn't on the list, but come on, he was terrible). On top of everything else (one could write a book), his diplomacy in 1939 should condemn him forever. After 7 years of British foreign policy encouraging Hitler to make war on Russia in 2 weeks he guaranteed both Romania and Poland--the two countries Germany MUST pass through to get to Russia--and this less than a year after Munich. No wonder Hitler believed he wouldn't fight. Not to worry, he didn't. Let your 'ally' get wiped out, then get caught flat footed in Norway. Nothing like Germans a short boat ride away, is there? Fortunately, Germany didn't have her WWI navy.

4. I think Hitler gets an undersevedly bad rap for his decision making. He was truly evil, but dangerous because he was smart. His main problems in my estimation:

1. He was smart, but he wasn't as smart as he thought he was...

2. He was too much of a gambler. He was willing to gamble things he couldn't afford to lose. The best ones know when to take calculated risks and when to be conservative. He just went 'pedal to the metal' all the time.

5. Mussolini was bad, but just doesn't make the grade compared to Stalin and Chamberlain.

[ April 28, 2003, 09:36 AM: Message edited by: santabear ]

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santabear said

There wouldn't BE a US without Lincoln. Certainly the Northern Territories or whatever couldn't have intervened decisively in the world wars. Japan might extend to the Mississippi River...

we have to assume that w/o lincoln, the war would have not happened(or been drastically postponed).slavery as a trend was on it's way out EVERYWHERE by the late 18th century,(although a few still managed to get involved in it such as us grant in brazil).

i agree with jerseyjohn that the south would have been much better off with lincoln in charge. his was not a mission for revenge (i.e. years imprisonment for j. davis), but was simply a mission to corrupt the constitution. now if corrupting the constitution doesn't matter.....

1. slavery ends pre-1880--- has to.. international opinion, equipment, JOHN DEERE! slaves were a niche market and the niche was changing fast.

2. south grows much more industrially with loss of slaves made up for by its retaining of its manpower and resources by avoiding war.(though not near as much as north)slavery can pass away as it did everywhere else.

3. retaining their right to pass and enforce their own laws w/o federal mandates,states can each prosper on their own, with the government set up as a POSTMASTER-SHORE DEFENDER (as per constitution) and not as a TAX-TAKER, NATIONAL LAW PASSER as what currently exists.

biggest national threat would have first come from mexico and not the japs. after the nation was mobilized and attacked mexico, u.s. would then have cancun as a new state capital!

imagine a war with forrest, stuart, jackson, pickett, and lee on your(our) side!

u.s. would certainly exist w/o lincoln. but i agree it would be nothing like it is today. it would be better.

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we have to assume that w/o lincoln, the war would have not happened
Hmmm. I must have missed the US history class where they taught the war was about slavery. I always thought it was about individual states' rights vs. a unified national government.

I think your assumption is off base, especially since the south declared their independence and "fired the first [symbolic] shot."

If your scenario had played out, the war you speak of would likely have been fought by the NATION of Texas against Mexico. Possibly the US (North) and Conferate States would have allied themselves, perhaps not.

The North American continent would be like Europe--several independent nation-states--none of whom would have been able to exert much influence in world (European) affairs in the late 19th and 20th century.

1917? The US army couldn't have gone to France--it would have left the US vulnerable in North America. And Germany tried to get Mexico to declare war on the US. What if they had convinced the CSA to do so?

1939? US isolationism almost cost the allies WWII as it was. What if the US couldn't have intervened after the fall of France?

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santabear ---

Hmmm. I must have missed the US history class where they taught the war was about slavery. I always thought it was about individual states' rights vs. a unified national government.
you are correct effendi, states rights. but this issue of slavery had to be settled before any sort of unification within the u.s. because of the near-sighted and insane FREE STATE/SLAVE STATE laws, and failure of northerners to return escaped slaves, this issue could not be settled. it was an impass.

with a few better long-term thinking laws passed by congress, and no lincoln presidency, i believe the war would not have been fought. slavery was shortly destined to change, and could have done so w/o a war.

now, as for the "NATION OF TEXAS", states rights as granted by the 10th amendment does not mean 50 individual little nations. it means the government has it's powers as designated, and the states theirs as per the constitution.

this balance was destroyed by the civil war, and since that time, government power has grown incrementaly. many many politicians of the civil war time believed that individual states had the right to dissolve what they had made. you said

it was about individual states' rights vs. a unified national government.
perhaps if you would peruse the constitution itself, you would see that "unified national government" is not mentioned. your public schooling has sold you a false bill of goods!

regarding the first shot if you believed you had the constitutional right to secede, and make your own confederacy, would you allow another "country" (possibally belligerent) to retain their arms in your territory. if they had surrendered, most likely, they would have been allowed to return unarmed to their homes.

regarding 1917-1939

way before 1900,some crazy mexican would have decided to test the "NEW" us borders in the south. with all the hundreds and thousands of possible timeline variations, i doubt 1917 or 1939 would have had any particular significance today.

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I only have glanced through the previous posts, so if I reiterate something that has previously been said forgive me.

Joseph Vissarionovich Djugashvili, Comrade Stalin. Hmmmmm.... A lot has been said about him, and equally a lot written about him.

The man was ruthless and manipulating, but to call him an idiot is incorrect. Stalin understood completely the Soviet Socialist system and what he needed to do to control it.

A couple points to ponder...

The soviet union had an extreme distrust of the western powers. Namely because those powers attempted to destroy the soviet union in the Russian Civil War. Even going as far as sending troops to bleed and die in their attempt to quash the fledgling revolution.

If someone trys to help your brother kill you, would you then embrace him after he has failed?

Especially if that person kept saying you are evil and need to be destroyed? Such as the Capitalist west had been saying all along about the communist countries.

Stalins ignoring the evidence that the Germans were about to attack was not because he was stupid. He believed that the British were trying to get him involved in the war. He also made the huge mistake of trusting the Germans. He believed that since they signed the non-agression pact in 1939, they would adhere to it. At the very worst soviet planners thought there would be a actual declaration of war before the attack. Which might give them time to mobilize.

The huge soviet casualties were not directly Stalins fault. They were from a untrained mass being led by untrained officers and NCO's. Untrained officers ordered the men to frontally assault german positions over the corpses of their fallen comrades into waiting MG's. Not Stalin, he only ordered the objectives to be taken. Stalin didn't care how it was accomplished as long as it was.

As the officers gained more and more experience the casualties fell. They had to, because the USSR did not an inexhaustable pool of manpower.

Of course blame can be put on Stalin for his rapid expansion of the Red Army in the 30's that led to the promotion of untrained men.

Stalin was also smart enough to learn from his mistakes. As the war went along he allowed his generals to run it more and more.

To discount Stalin as an idiot with blood on his hands, is to discount what he did achieve. The defeat of Nazi Germany.

I'm not saying that Stalin was a warm and cuddly fellow who you'd want to marry your sister. He did what he had to do to remain in power. It was bloody, it was savage, it was most of the time morally wrong, but it did save the Soviet People from subjugation by a evil power. A power that told their soldiers that the Russian was sub-human and deserved to serve as slaves.

For those who say his generals should have risen against him, you need to understand how the system works. You couldn't trust anyone. If you plotted to rise against, would those on your side be working with you truly, or informing on you to curry the favour of those you are working against. Such is the nature of a totalitarian system.

It exsists in the west. Ever have anyone stab you in the back to get a promotion? Sure a little different because no one dies, but very similiar.

One of the important keys to being a historian is to understand the perspective of all those involved. It's difficult for a lot of people who haven't studied the USSR to understand the pyschology or nature of the system and the people.

Of course if you thinking I'm writing to positively about stalin, ponder this. I am a trotskyite, and look up what Stalin did to Trotsky.

The key to history is to write objectively, not subjectively.

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Excellent post that all of us should remember once we start to attach simplistic labels to people.

He did what he had to do to remain in power.
Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin all did what they had to do to gain power and keep it. That was the first priority and had precedence over anything else.

For those who say his generals should have risen against him, you need to understand how the system works. You couldn't trust anyone. If you plotted to rise against, would those on your side be working with you truly, or informing on you to curry the favour of those you are working against. Such is the nature of a totalitarian system.

True. But its not that simple. The "establishment" protects itself by secret police, security services, etc. But plots exist. Was the KGB/GRB/NKVD or whatever they were called then, that much more effective than the Gestabo/SS? Or was it the purge of military officers?

Interesting point abou the west. Cause you're right. Our political purges and coups exist, except we call them "losing the election".

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Originally posted by Shaka of Carthage:

True. But its not that simple. The "establishment" protects itself by secret police, security services, etc. But plots exist. Was the KGB/GRB/NKVD or whatever they were called then, that much more effective than the Gestabo/SS? Or was it the purge of military officers?

Actually it was the NKVD at the time of the second world war. They did have a very effective control of events.

One thing about the purges that many do not know, is at the time they happened, it was felt that it was a good thing. The regular army truly believed they were cleaning house of enemies of the people. The purges would have gone on longer as the army kept denoucing it's officers as fast as it could. It was Beria/Stalin and several others that said "knock it off" and put an end to it.

Don't believe me? You don't have to but read these to books "Stalins Reluctant Soldiers" - Reese and "Stumbling Colossas" - Glantz. These two books are breaking new ground regarding the purges and reading them will change the way you view it. A lot of common misconceptions are falling by the wayside as the new Russian state has opened some of it's historical archives to western scholars.

Were the purges good for the army? Hell no. It destroyed a lot of people that were gifted and truly loyal to the USSR. But it wasn't this total stalin thing that everyone seems to think. He started the ball rolling but it was the Red Army that kept it rolling and rolling and rolling.

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Shaka and Konstantin

Great combined thread about Stalin and WW II. As usual, Konstantin, I've learned a few things reading your entries on the Soviets; I didn't know the army was leading the way against it's own officers. It makes sense, in every closed inquisition, the accused always beget other victims and an hysteria of accusations ensues.

santabear and disorder

Enjoying the Lincoln examination and speculation on the World if the U. S. hadn't reunited. For one thing, there probably wouldn't have been a Spanish American War, the Phillipines would have gained their Independance -- they'd already defeated the Spanish garrison of Manilla, which actually welcomed the American fleet as it's saviors! And consequently the Japanese -- assuming all other things remain equal -- wouldn't have felt obligated to attack the United States in order to grab the Phillipines and Indonessia.

Regarding Lincoln and his role in starting the Civil War. It needs to be understood that his predecessor, James Buchanan, worked very hard at setting everything up for the Confederacy, right down to the detail of watching idly while his southern Secretary of War appointed southern officers to all the southern Federal Installations. The southern commander of Fort Sumpter in Charleston, SC screwed the scheme up by refusing to surrender. Lincoln comlicated matters by insisting on sending supplies; the war was virtually decided upon when South Carolina shore batteries fired across the supply ship's bow, forcing it to turn back. The South Carolinians became overanxious, however, by bombing the fort as it was on the verge of surrendering due to lack of food.

If Pierre Beaurogard hadn't ordered the batteries to open up, had he waited a day or two and quietly ferried Anderson's small garrison to the coast and allowed them to board transports for the north, I wonder if there still would have been a Civil War?

It's also important to remember that the final Confederate States, including Virginia, didn't seceede and join the Confederacy until after the bombing of Sumpter and Lincoln's call for mobilization in the North.

Of course the Civil War was fought over states rights. Slaver was also a major issue but not the key stumbling block.

Also, I don't necesarrily agree that if left alone the Southern States would have abolished slavery in the 1880s. While the Civil War was in progress, various southerners were discussing the south's future as expanding into South America where the cotton industry could continue to flourish as never before. I doubt those gentlemen were planning to pick the stuff themselves.

[ April 28, 2003, 04:44 PM: Message edited by: JerseyJohn ]

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