A New Approach to WWII

An article in The National Interest entitled “A lot of what we think we know about WWII is wrong,” caught my attention (http://nationalinterest.org/print/blog/the-buzz/lot-what-we-think-we-know-about-world-war-ii-wrong-24656).  The basis of the article, written by James Holland, is his new book “The War in the West: Germany Ascendant,” the first of three volumes.  Most histories and commonly held beliefs about WWII are based on analysis of the battles that took place and the strategies taken by the various actors involved.  Holland claims that his approach is different and provides a new insight into the War, based on detailed analysis of production and comparison of armaments developed and used by each side.

In this “operational” analysis of WWII, the Western Allies had a great advantage.  For example,

  • It is widely believed that the Germans had the best engineered and built arms and tanks. Their “Spandau” machine gun  was considered the best, yet in actual combat it greatly overheated and became very inaccurate and jammed.
  • The dreaded and terrible Tiger Tank, that had virtually impenetrable steel, but was so heavy that it had to stop in order to fire and was grossly over-engineered with a six-speed automatic gear box that was very hard to drive and continually broke down.
  • By comparison the American Sherman tank was much simpler and cheaper to produce, could be driven easily and was robust. And then consider the production figures, the US produced 74,000 Shermans, while Germany built just 1,347 Tigers.
  • In the West, when the men went off to war, the women went off to work in the munitions and aircraft factories.  They were well-fed and committed.  But, in Germany, instead of employing their own people, to a large extent the Germans relied on slave labor to produce their armaments.  This was a big mistake because their production was extremely inefficient and although it was very cheap to employ and hardly feed slave labor, it was also very self-defeating.
  • The British gave highest priority to aircraft production, and managed to build 132,000 planes during the War, while Germany built only  ca. 80,000.
  • Another apparent mistake was that Germany under Hitler built two massive battleships, the Bismark and the Tirpitz, but neglected to build many smaller ships.  Because of their cost and  prestige, Hitler kept these battleships out of battle and when he did commit them they were surrounded by many smaller British ships and sunk.
  • They also failed to build any aircraft carriers and they were crucial since battleships were more easily destroyed from the air, as the Japanese discovered in the Pacific.
  • Also, Hitler and Doenitz put all their eggs in the U-boat submarine basket, but this too failed, not only did they sink a very small proportion of the merchant marine boats (only 1.4%), but the U-boats were destroyed by depth charges and aerial attacks.
  • One could also say that by committing a very large number of soldiers as guards and many administrators in the concentration camps and in the killing of Jews and other undesirables, the Germans failed to use their limited manpower when it was crucially needed.
  • Finally, Hitler had a penchant for super-weapons, including the V1 and V2 rockets that rained down on London and killed about 30,000 people, the first jet plane, that was developed too late and in too small quantities to influence the War, and the atomic bomb, that his scientists, for whatever reasons, failed to develop.  These major projects sapped Germany’s limited resources while failing to critically affect the outcome of the War.

In summary, the Germans produced armaments that were  over-engineered and more expensive than those of the Allies, and they lacked the production capacity to match any of the three main allied countries, Britain, the US and Russia.  This analysis indicates that ultimately the Germans were bound to lose the War.



International Women’s Day

There is no doubt that women have been discriminated against, hence the need for a day to focus attention on this issue.  In the West, the main current complaints are first inequality of pay, in general women are paid from 50-80% less for the same job done by men.  For certain tasks women seem to be better suited for the job, such as computer work, including computer assisted design, and anything requiring dexterity, careful thought and flair.  Such jobs become more available as computers and the internet expand.

The other complaint is of course sexual harassment and intimidation.  The Harvey Weinstein case has blown the lid off Hollywood exploitation of young women, as if we didn’t know.  The #metoo phenomenon has caught fire and many wealthy stars are now giving money to a fund to support legal expenses for young women who are being sexually exploited.  However, one must admit that this form of male domination is as old as man himself and it will be very difficult to stamp it out.

In the East, the plight of women is much, much worse.  In most Muslim countries, women are considered as chattel, property, to be bought and sold, more or less as slaves.  They have no rights, no education (most are illiterate) and their views are not considered.  They cannot own property, they cannot travel without the consent of their husband, they cannot even go out and shop without being accompanied by a male relative, usually a son.  In Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Salman has recently introduced two reforms, allowing women to drive by themselves, and allowing women to attend football matches and other public sporting events.  In this respect the Muslim world is about 200 years behind the West.  Also, with regard to marriage, Islam allows men to marry several women and often an older man will take a younger second or third wife, who has little or not say in the matter.  For a good example read “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini.

I have always wondered why liberal women in the West, including many Jewish women, take great exception to the way Israel treats the foreign Palestinians who are not Israeli citizens (no worse than the US treats illegal Mexicans), yet almost completely ignore the constant extreme mistreatment of women in Muslim lands.  For example, why is there no women’s movement in the West against the wearing of abominable head to toe burkas for women in many Muslim countries, which by the way is not a religious requirement of Islam.  Also why is there no movement against multiple marriages.  They prefer to join the antisemitic focus against Israel alone.

If women had more say in life and politics in the Muslim world it would not be such a  violent and uncivilized place.  That is not to say that all women are against all exploitation and war.  For example, Marie Antoinette (“let them eat cake”), British PM Margaret Thatcher (the Falklands War) and Israeli PM Golda Meir.  But, generally women have a calming and civilizing influence on men and society.

Reversal of ideology

My attention was attracted to an item near the bottom of the front page of today’s Jerusalem Post, “Grandson of Munich terrorist wins Democratic nod for Congress“.  This tells the story of Ammar Campa-Najjar, who is a US citizen living  in California, who is the grandson of Muhhamed Yussuf al-Najjar, the master-mind of the attack on the Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic games in 1972 that killed 11 athletes.  Ammar claims that he has renounced his grandfather’s extremism and indeed has been having positive interactions with the Jewish community.  He says he is committed to Israel’s security and wants peace for both sides so that they can find an end to the conflict.  His grandfather was among those terrorists assassinated by Israeli security agents.  If he knew what his grandson is doing he would be spinning in his grave.

Such reversals of extreme ideology by younger generations is not unheard of.  One example that always gave me pleasure was that the grandson of Leon Trotsky (Lev Davidovich Bronstein), who was a leading Communist and founder of the Red Army (although he was assassinated by an agent of Stalin in Mexico), returned to Judaism and made aliyah to Israel.

Another example in the Middle East was Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of the founder of the Hamas terrorist organization, Sheikh Hassan Yousef, who was an invalid and the spiritual leader of Hamas.  Mosab was recruited by Israeli intelligence and persuaded that he would be saving lives by giving information to them.  His story was dramatized in his own book and in a movie entitled “The Green Prince,” his code name used by the Mossad.  He now lives in the US where he is hopefully safe from Hamas retribution.

The children and grand-children of many leading Nazis have also renounced the views and actions of their forbears.  What do these examples prove?  Maybe that future generations will see the error involved in extremist ideologies that require the killing of large numbers of supposed enemies. If anything they point the way to future reconciliation and give hope for future generations.


The Common Thread

Here are some headlines from the International News Section of The Jerusalem Post on Sunday: “Death toll from twin Somalia suicide car bombs rises to 45“; “ISIS claims it’s behind southern Yemen attacks that kill, wound dozens“; “More than 20 Dead in latest Afghan violence“; “Rescuers: we can’t keep up with air strikes battering Syria’s Ghouta.”  What is the common thread between all these violent conflicts, as well as others in Egypt, Libya and elsewhere, the only answer is Islam.  To those who claim, like Pres. Obama and previous US Presidents claimed, that “Islam is a peaceful religion,” I say “phooey.”

Of course, there are individual local causes in each case, but basically they are subsumed under the common thread of Islam.  Islam is a violent religion, and it has been since Mohammed led an army from Mecca and forced Medina to capitulate (the hijrah in 622 ce).  Then he conquered the whole of Arabia, which included massacring tribes or towns that would not capitulate to him, many of whom were Jewish.  Then after his death in 632 ce his followers quickly expanded their conquests to Damascus (634),  Baghdad (636), Jerusalem (639) and Cairo (641).  Then a war of succession started between his followers, the Caliphs, and those who believed that a direct descendant of Mohammed should be their leader.  These were the Shia and they were defeated at the battle of  Karbala, now in Iraq, in 680 ce.

But, apart from the cause of religion, there were of course other factors involved:

  1. Tribalism:  Tribes fought each other in all parts of the world, in Europe (French, Germans, Czechs, Poles, Hungarians, Romanians, Russians, Croats, Serbs, etc.), in North America (Apache, Pawnee, Cheyenne, Comanche, etc.), China, (Han and many others), so the Arabs were intent on expanding their tribal control; they introduced Arabic wherever they conquered and eventually the peoples they conquered, Copts, Greeks, Jews, Persians, Berbers, etc. came to think of themselves ethnically as Arabs.
  2. Imperialism: There were always clashes between Empires that had imperial designs, such as the Arab, Turkish, Persian, Russian, German, British, French and so on.  Those who call Israel an “imperial state” really don’t know their history.
  3. Political: With the advent of Fascism, Nazism and Communism, the Arab world had its own flirtation with these ideologies.  At one point the Arab world was very pro-Nazi, there was a pro-Nazi regime in Iraq, and the officer’s corps that carried out the revolution in Egypt under Pres. Nasser were very anti-British and pro-German.  Later, Egypt and other Arab countries were closely allied to the Soviet Union.

But, in the final analysis, it is the concept of jihad, the violent struggle of Islam to conquer the world, that is at the base of such persistent violence throughout the Muslim world.  The comprehensive study by Andrew Bostom entitled “Jihad: Islamic holy war and the fate of non-Muslims,” clearly demonstrates that jihad is never a “spiritual” struggle as is claimed by pro-Islamists, but always a violent one.  The Sunni Arabs regard the Shia as heretics, worse than infidels, since infidels don’t know better.  This schism, parallel to the Catholic=Protestant split in Christianity that was violent for hundreds of years, has not yet run its course.



Detroit and Churchill

In the evenings I often watch movies and most of them are disappointing, especially sequels such as “Blade Runner 2049” and “Jumanji,” both of which I stopped watching.  But, a few movies are worth watching, such as “Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri,” and the amazing “Loving Vincent.

I recently watched two movies that have partly a common theme, namely racism in the USA.  “Suburbicon,” is a recent movie that shows the hypocrisy of the bland facade that was projected in the 1950’s of the supposed “American dream.”  The worst features of racism came violently to the fore and played themselves out until they exploded in the 1960’s.  The movie that had most impact on me was “Detroit” a detailed supposedly accurate retelling (in 2017) of the massacre at the Algier’s Hotel that occurred in Detroit during the race riots of 1967.

This strips away the facade off the supposed democratic process that is based on the concept that “all men are created equal.”  Even in the vaunted USA, individual policemen and even whole departments, were institutionally racist.  Policemen, who are supposed to be the protectors of the public, who pay their salary, become the judges of life and death of people of whatever color, sex or religion they dislike.  Even in the courts justice was not done, and even today the beating, shooting and killing of innocent blacks by police is common in America.  What a terrible reality.  Nevertheless, I oppose such violent movements as “Black Lives Matter.”  What really matters is to have more Black attorneys like Thurgood Marshall, as exemplified in the excellent movie  “Marshall.”

Two other movies that I watched, “Darkest Hour” and “Dunkirk” each in its own way shows how in May, 1940, the future of mankind dangled from a thin thread.  It is the merest coincidences of history that saved us.  Yet, in “Churchill” Winston is shown as opposing the D-Day invasion of France because he feared another “Gallipoli,” that he was considered responsible for, another massacre of troops on a beachhead.  Yet in “Darkest Hour” he was the mainstay of those who argued for resistance to the Nazi invasion.  How he fought Beaverbrook and Chamberlain who wanted to come to terms with Hitler is a stirring story.  Gary Oldman is excellent in the role of Churchill in this movie.  I thoroughly recommend “Darkest Hour.”



The Lamed-Heh (35)

January 16 marks the commemoration of the massacre of 35 (“lamed-heh” in Hebrew letters) young Hebrew University students who volunteered to try to relieve the siege on the Etzion bloc of settlements south of Jerusalem during the Israel War of Independence in 1948.

The Etzion land had been bought and was owned by Jews during the Turkish period and the kibbutzim established there existed for several generations.  They had very friendly relations with the nearby Arab villages.  When the State was declared several Arab armies attacked Israel, and a joint Arab force was sent to attack Jerusalem from the south, but first they had to conquer the Etzion area.  When the Etzion bloc was attacked  all the children were evacuated.  But, the adults who could fight remained to protect the kibbutzim.

At some point the area was on the verge of being overrun by the Arab forces and the defenders were running out of ammunition.  It was decided that a small force had to be sent with supplies to relieve the Etzion bloc siege.  But, there were no reserves available.  A group of students at Hebrew University volunteered to go at short notice led by a young man named Danny Mass.  They could not leave directly from Jerusalem so they went by truck at night to a rendezvous point to pick up the supplies. They left from there at 11 pm, but this was not enough time for them to travel the distance at night over unknown terrain through hostile country.  At one point they came across a pair of Arab women, who they did not kill and who fled  from them and raised the alarm.

Subsequently when it became light they were surrounded on a hill-top several kilometers from Etzion.  At no point did they consider retreating.  The Arab forces called on the nearby villagers to join  the attack and eventually after many hours the 35 were overcome and any still alive were murdered.  A new settlement was later established nearby in their name called Kibbutz Netiv Halamed-Heh where there is a monument to their courage and bravery.

This incident, although a severe defeat for Israel, was in other respects a pyrrhic victory.  Apparently after the massacre, the local Arab villagers, impressed by the fighting courage of the Lamed-Heh group, realized that if Jews fought like this then they could not be defeated.  For whatever reasons the siege of the Etzion bloc was not re-enforced for another 2 months, giving the Israeli side the opportunity to strengthen the southern approaches to Jerusalem.

Eventually with the help of the Jordanian Arab Legion the Etzion bloc was over-run, and 127 of the 131 defenders were massacred.  The kibbutz was razed to the ground by the Arabs, as if it never existed.  But, in a strange turn of events, one Jordanian officer saved a woman defender from being raped and killed by local villagers, and then he took her and a small group of other survivors with him as prisoners to Jordan where they spent the rest of the war as POW’s until repatriated back to Israel.

After the Six-Day War in 1967, the Etzion area was recaptured from the Jordanians and some of the children of the original settlers returned and today it is a thriving community.  Let those who oppose the existence of the State of Israel learn about our true and tortuous history, so they know that we are not colonialists or imperialists, but are in fact the indigenous people reclaiming our land at great cost from Arab usurpers.


The ANZAC Museum

We visited the new Australia and New Zealand Armoured Corps (ANZAC) Museum in Beer Sheva that was opened on October 31, 2017, in the presence of the PM of Australia and the Governor General of New Zealand and PM Netanyahu of Israel, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the battle of Beer Sheva on October 31, 1917.  This battle proved to be the turning point in WWI between the British and Turkish forces in the Holy Land, which was then part of the Ottoman Empire.  The ANZAC forces represented by the Australia Light Horse regiments attacked Beer Sheva unexpectedly in the famous last horse charge in history and succeeded in capturing the town with its essential wells.

This museum is situated adjacent to the British Commonwealth Cemetery that contains nearly 1,300 graves of mostly Australian and New Zealand soldiers who died in the campaign for what was then named Palestine by the British.  It tells the story of the British Expeditionary Force that sent many Australians as well as British and other forces to their deaths in the abortive attempt to capture Turkish territory at Gallipoli, with the intention of thence capturing Istanbul.  This attack was the idea of Winston Churchill, then Lord of the Admiralty, who sought to open a second Eastern Front as the Allies were bogged down in trench warfare on the Western Front.  As a result of this terrible failure he was forced to resign.

The Turks tried also unsuccessfully to capture the Suez Canal by attacking Egypt from Gaza, but were turned back. Then the British under Gen. Murray counter-attacked Gaza twice unsuccessfully. PM Lloyd George replaced him with Gen. Allenby, who decided to outflank the Turks, with their German officers, and attack Beer Sheva instead.  (There are two claimants for the origin of this idea, Aaron Aaronsohn, the famous agronomist, who advised Allenby about the water sources in the Sinai and  Negev deserts, and Richard Meinertzhagen, an Intelligence Office on Allenby’s staff, who dropped a knapsack with plans for a third attack on Gaza, that misled the Turks.)

The attack on Beer Sheva required the transfer of tens of thousands of men and horses through the desert.  The British built a railway to transport materiel part-way and also they traveled at night so as not to be seen by the enemy.  The British attacked Beer Sheva from the west and the New Zealand regiments captured Tel Sheva, but the Australian Light Horse were the ones who were sent in on a charge from the east that proved the victorious attack.  The Light Horse were not cavalry who remain on their horses during battle, but infantry who ride to the front on their horses and then dismount and attack.  In this case, the Light Horse actually jumped over the Turkish defensive trenches and caught them by surprise and won the day.

The Museum tells this story in detail, and then there is a re-enacted movie that is both historically accurate and exciting to watch.  There is no doubt that the bravery of the Australians to some extent made up for their defeat at Gallipoli.  This pivotal battle caused the outflanked Turks at Gaza to withdraw and led soon after to the capture of Jerusalem by Allenby’s forces, the first great Allied victory of the War.  Without the Australian’s sacrifice the British could not have defeated the Turks in Palestine and the State of Israel would probably not have come into existence.

When the movie is finished you exit onto a balcony that overlooks the Cemetery where these brave soldiers are buried and it is a sobering and magnificent sight.  This Museum is a gem that anyone who visits Beer Sheva should not miss.