Friday, June 12, 2015

CIVIL WAR | June 12–Jeb Stuart's Cavalry Circles the Union Army

Jeb Stuart
This day in 1862 Confederate General James Ewell Brown ("Jeb") Stuart and 1,200 troops began a four-day ride from Richmond around the Army of the Potomac. Robert E. Lee sent him to scout out Union positions. Stuart's posse rode around the entire Yankee army of 105,000 troops, collecting prisoners and information.

General George McClellan had spent the entire spring of 1862 preparing his huge Union army for a campaign against Richmond, inching forward toward the Confederate capital.

On May 31, after Joseph Johnston was wounded, Confederate General Robert E. Lee assumed command of the Army of Northern Virginia. He dispatched Stuart, his cavalry leader, to investigate the position of McClellan’s right flank.

Stuart discovered that McClellan had no topological protection from his posse, so he risked court-martial by exceeding his orders and continuing to ride around the rest of the Union army.

His troops took prisoners and harassed Federal supply lines. They rode altogether 100 miles, pursued by Union cavalry that were commanded by Stuart’s father-in-law, Philip St. George Cooke.

The Southern horses outran their Yankee chasers, and Stuart assumed the status of a legend for his bravery and calculated risk-taking when he got back to Richmond on June 15. The information Stuart obtained helped Lee drive McClellan back from his slow attack on Richmond.

The Stuart Tank

The World War II Stuart tank, the American-made middle-sized and fast tank, was wryly named by the British after Jeb Stuart. The Stuart tank came in three editions - M2, M3 and M5. The Stuart M4 was skipped to avoid confusion with the Sherman (named after Union General William Tecumseh Sherman) M4 tank.

Both the Sherman and the Stuart were produced by ACF, which at one time was so big that it was part of the Dow-Jone Industrial Average. The Sherman was produced by the American Locomotive Company, a division of ACF. The Stuart was produced mostly in Berwick, Pa. during World War II.
  • The Stuart was the first U.S. tank designed to operate independently, with a top speed of 35 mph. Previously, tanks were designed to support infantry troops, and had a maximum speed of 10 mph. The German Panzer [Panther] III and IV tanks had a top speed of 26 mph.
  • The M2A4 was the first U.S. tank built on an assembly line and the Berwick plant was the only one in the USA with its own ballistics testing range. It was also the first tank included in the Lend-Lease program.
  • The Stuart tank was used by all of the Allied armies in all the major war theaters - Europe, North Africa, Asia and Pacific Ocean (including Alaska and Antarctica).
From 1940 through April 17, 1944, ACF produced 15,225 Stuart Light Tanks for the U.S. Army, the Marines, and the lend-Lease program for the Allies.  Of these, 1,496 tanks were produced in St. Charles, Mo. The rest were produced in Berwick. The model numbers and quantities produced (all in Berwick except where indicated) were:

1940-41: 365 M2A4 tanks
1941-43: 4,526 M3 tanks in Berwick, 1,285 in St. Charles
1942-43: 4,410 M3A1 tanks in Berwick, 211 in St. Charles
1942-43: 3,427 M3A3 tanks
1943-44: 1,000 M5A1 tanks

Field Marshal Montgomery praised the tank in its use in North Africa. The Stuart was noted for its great reliability, which was essential in the desert. The weaknesses of the Stuart were its limited range, its small gun (half the diameter of the 75 mm. guns on the Sherman M4 and Panzer III and IV) and the limited protection of its armor plate. It was most useful as a reconnaissance vehicle and as troop support. It was weakest in tank-to-tank confrontations with larger-gunned and better-protected tanks.

Brigadier G. M. Ross at the British Army Staff in Detroit wrote to ACF Berwick to pass along praise from military staff in Burma:
[T]he first tank to cross the Irrawaddy west of Mandalay was "The Curse of Scotland". This gallant old Stuart was the only one belonging to the 7th Armored Brigade, which got back across the Chindwin during the retreat from Burma in 1942. ... It is now the CO's Command Tank and has participated in the advance from Imphal. ... Recent advances have enabled us to regain a number of M3A1s ... lost during the retreat. These tanks have been in Japanese hands for more than 2.5 years and exposed to three monsoons and two winter periods. ... [A]lthough there was a certain amount of rust and peeling of paint, there were no signs of exceptional deterioration.
Berwick is seeking the funds to bring a Stuart tank back to the town.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

BLOG VIEWS | 20K Views, Top Ten Posts

Thank you for reading and commenting. We just went past 20,000 page views.

These are the top ten posts, based on page views, since this blog was started in mid-2013:

7. Hiding Jews in Holland from the Nazis - Bob Boi... Dec 2, 2014 (Chapter 7 of a forthcoming book I am writing on the Dutch Resistance)

CHAMPS Closes Down Dec 10, 2014, 54 comments

D-Day Week 2014, 70th Anniversary Memorial for Dow... May 30, 2014

11. After the War - The Boissevain Family, Mengelb... Nov 2, 2014 (Chapter 11 of the book)

NAPOLEON | June 18–Waterloo, 1815

The Battle of Waterloo ended Napoleon's 100 days' comeback on his return from exile in March 1815.

Waterloo was the final end of his rule as Emperor of France.

Now in Belgium, Waterloo was then within the United Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Napoleon was defeated by an English army under the command of the Duke of Wellington supported by a Prussian army under the command of Gebhard von Blücher.

Napoleon had returned to power in March 1815. Many states joined together as the Seventh Coalition to resist his return.

Two large forces under Wellington and Blücher assembled near the north-eastern border of France. Napoleon chose to attack in the hope of destroying them before they could join in a coordinated invasion of France with other allies.

Waterloo was the decisive engagement. It was Napoleon's last. According to Wellington, the battle was "the nearest-run thing you ever saw".

Two days before the battle, Blücher's Prussian army had been defeated by the French at Ligny. Upon learning that the Prussian army had regrouped and was able to march to his support, Wellington held his line against repeated attacks by the French.

In the evening of that Sunday, June 18,  the Prussians arrived in force and broke through Napoleon's right flank. At that moment, Wellington's army counter-attacked and sent Napoleon's army into a confused retreat.

Poet laureate Robert Southey said that Waterloo was “the greatest deliverance that civilized society has experienced” since Charles Martel repelled an Islamic conquest of Europe in 732.

The New York Times today noted that Belgium has minted a new coin in remembrance of Waterloo's 200th anniversary, and noted the pleasure of the Belgians in remembering the date and figuring a way to get around the EU rules against competitive coinage (it did so by coining an unusual denomination). The Times added:
In Britain,  the new €2.50 coin aroused similar adulation. “Well done Belgium beat the French at their own game of finding ways around EU rules, the English should take note!!” Michael Dunn, from Stratford-upon-Avon, wrote on Twitter. Others were less impressed. On Facebook, Manuel Di Pietrantonio suggested that the value of the dispute was about €2.50.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

WW2 | D-Day + 71–Normandy Landing)

D-Day Assault Plan.
June 6, 2015 is the 71st Anniversary of D-Day.

The few surviving veterans from World War II are fading away with an attrition rate of about 30 percent per year. I have interviewed one survivor at length.

My wife Alice and I went to France last June to pay our respects to those who died. We were in Normandy and Mayenne (south of Normandy).

My uncle Willem van Stockum is buried in Laval, Mayenne, along with his six crew-mates on a Halifax bomber flying out of an RAF base (Squadron 10) in Melbourne, Yorks., UK. The place was shot down after its mission was completed on June 10, 1944. Another seven in crew from another Halifax on the same mission are buried next to them. A book (Time Bomber, adult or YA) about him and his mission was written by Dr. Robert Wack and has a five-star review on Amazon with seven reviewers.

In preparation for our visit last year (about which I have written hereherehere3 here4 and here5), I assembled data on D-Day and World War II in Europe. My main source was a new book targeted at young people by Rick Atkinson, D-Day: The Invasion of Normandy, 1944, published by Henry Holt. It is meant to be used in schools and is adapted from Atkinson's #1 best-selling book The Guns at Last Light. It is on Goodreads' list of the 167 best books for kids about World War II here.

The listing I found gives Atkinson's book an average rating of 4. One librarian objected to the poor quality of the photos and their somewhat haphazard placement. Also, the book is definitely for the older YA market because the language does not make much allowance for expected vocabulary in the elementary school grades.

Deaths from WWII
  • Atkinson - Total 72 million people, or 28,000 people every day of the 2,174-day war (This is also the top Wikipedia figure.) Soviet dead 26 million - military 10.7 million, civilian 15 million. U.S. dead 419,000 - military 417,000 (out of 16 million who served), civilian 2,000 UK dead 451,000 - military 384,000 (out of 6 million who served), civilian 67,000 Canadian dead 23,000, all military (out of 1.1 million who served). German dead 8.8 million - military 5.5 million, civilian 3.3 million. European Jews killed in Holocaust - 6 million. Number of American soldiers buried in Europe (25,000 U.S. pilots killed behind enemy lines) 14,000.
  • UK Source ( Total dead 50-70 million. Soviet dead 26.6 million, of which 8.7 million soldiers died in World War 2. British 700,000 military and 60,000 civilian deaths. Poland’s dead were between 5.6 and 5.8 million. USA military dead: 416,800. German total 7.4 million, of which military dead and missing are 5.3 million.
  • History Channel Total dead 35-60 million. (That's a big range from the lowest estimate, especially when Atkinson and Wikipedia go up to 72 million.)
Military Force in WWII
  • D-Day Armada Allied Troops landed - 156,000 Vehicles landed - 30,000 Planes - 11,000 Ships and landing craft - 5,000 Parachutists - 13,000
  • Most Effective Bombers Used in Europe Britain Avro Lancaster, DeHavilland Mosquito (wooden, to avoid radar). USA B-17 Flying Fortress, B-24 Liberator, B-29 Superfortress. Germany Heinkel III, Junkers 87 Stuka, Junkers Ju-88.
  • Most Effective Tanks Used in Europe USA M4 Sherman Soviet T-34 German Panther (partly copied from Soviets), PzKfw Mk. IV Panzer, Tiger I/II.
U.S. Veterans in WWII

U.S. armed forces personnel who served in WWII between December 1, 1941 and December 31, 1946: 16.1 million.

The National World War II Memorial was dedicated on May 29 in Washington, D.C. Located between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, it is the first national memorial dedicated to the men and women who served in the U.S. armed forces during World War II, including those who died in combat and the Americans who supported the war effort on the home front.

33 months The average length of active-duty by U.S. military personnel during WWII. 

73% The proportion of U.S. military personnel who served abroad during WWII. 

292,000 The number of U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines killed in battle in WWII. 

114,000 The number of other deaths sustained by U.S. forces during WWII. 

671,000 The number of U.S. troops wounded during WWII.

5.7 million The number of World War II veterans counted in Census 2000. The census identified the period of service for World War II veterans as September 1940 to July 1947.

475,000 The estimated number of WWII veterans living in California in 2002, the most in any state. Other states with high numbers of WWII vets included Florida (439,000), New York (284,000), Pennsylvania (280,000), Texas (267,000) and Ohio (208,000). See Table 529 at 

5.4 percent - The proportion of WWII veterans among the Clearwater, Fla., civilian population age 18 and over in 2000. Other large places (100,000 or more population) with high concentrations of WWII vets were: Cape Coral, Fla. (5.1 percent), Oceanside, Calif. (4.3 percent); and Scottsdale, Ariz.; Pueblo, Colo., Metairie, La., St. Petersburg, Fla.; Santa Rosa, Calif.; Mesa, Ariz.; and Independence, Mo. (all around 4 percent).

210,000 - Estimated number of women in 2002 who were WWII veterans. These women comprised 4.4 percent of WWII vets. See Table 530.

22% The proportion of all veterans in April 2000 who were WWII veterans.

Source: Release/www/releases/archives/facts_for_features_special_editions/001747.html