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Strategic force moves in Europe
Secretary of Defense Esper recently announced new changes to the US basing posture in Europe that would result in more than 10,000 troops returning to the United States from bases in Germany, followed by a relocation of military personnel to Poland, Romania and Mons, Belgium. While most of the media attention has focused on the redeployment of forces from Germany back to the United States, a new strategic decision was made by the US that will result in an increased military presence in NATO’s new front yard: the Black Sea and Poland.
The globalists and Trump haters have been railing against the withdrawal and repositioning of US forces from Germany. These repositionings should be looked at in a strategic context, not the concerns of the Germans and their lobbyists.
Strategic realities have changed since the Cold War ended and NATO expanded to the east. Germany is no longer the frontline between NATO and the Russian bear. Germany is also no longer a staging area for deployment to the Middle-east. For the first Gulf War the US deployed an entire armor corps from Germany. It was reinforced by troops for the US. Today there is no need for such deployments as the Trump administration does not anticipate fighting another Gulf War.
Why should US troops be deployed for German security? What is the threat? Why can’t the Germans defend themselves? The Germans obviously felt that they could save on defense marks (dollars) by having US troops providing for their security. Following World War II troops were deployed in Germany to prevent another world war—the re-emergence of Nazism. This threat no longer exists. Since my time in the Pentagon in the 1970s US presidents have been trying to get NATO and Germany, specifically, to pay more for its own security.
President Trump claims that NATO has increased its defense spending by over $100 billion. This is part of his stated goal to stop being the world’s policeman. Conversely, the US does seek to maintain a deterrent posture vis-à-vis Russia (and in Asia against China). This deterrent posture requires different stationing schemes. So where are the troops from Germany being restationed?
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Polish Minister of National Defence Mariusz Błaszczak signed an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between their two countries in Warsaw on 15 August. President Trump and his Polish counterpart, Andrzej Duda, agreed to the overview of the provisions of the agreement in 2019. In addition, the US presence in Poland will be increased from 4,500 to 5,500 troops and infrastructure will be built to accommodate up to 20,000 US soldiers. Poland will cover some of the costs, such as those for infrastructure and logistics that are estimated at $136 million a year.
Esper announced that a US Stryker brigade would be sent to the Black Sea in what will be the first significant US military ground forces deployment to the region. The Black Sea has been the epicenter of Russia’s revisionist ambitions since its 2008 war with Georgia and its 2014 invasion and occupation of Ukraine’s Crimea and invasion of Donbass. To highlight the changes in US defense posture in the Black Sea, Esper described the move in the following strategic terms: “Look at what we’re moving. What we’re doing is … we’re moving forces out of central Europe — Germany, where they had been since the Cold War, and we’re now moving — we’re following, in many ways, the boundary east, where our newest allies are. So into the Black Sea region … That’s why it’s a strategic laydown that enhances deterrence, strengthens the allies, reassures them.”
These forward deployments enhance deterrence and realign forces to reflect the realities that is the new European of today. For globalists this is disturbing, for true strategists it is a final reflection of new realities. The US is putting the US first.
Renaming of camps and forts
The cultural change movement is seeking to erase our history rather than understand it and learn from it. As part of this these “progressives” have launched a full scale, frontal attack on our heritage, our history, and the traditions of the US Army. I was born at Fort Benning when my father was stationed there in the days leading up to World War II. When I was several months old, we moved to Fort Bragg from which the 82nd Airborne Division deployed to North Africa to fight Nazism and fascism. Today, we face a form of domestic intellectual and cultural warfare that is potentially more dangerous than many of the other threats that we have faced.
What do you think of when you hear the following names: Camp Beauregard and Fort Polk in Louisiana; Fort Benning and Fort Gordon in Georgia; Fort Bragg in North Carolina; Fort A.P. Hill, Fort Lee and Fort Pickett in Virginia; Fort Rucker in Alabama, and Fort Hood in Texas? For this old soldier, I think of National Guard and reserve training centers, a national training center, the Army Signal Center, the home of the 18th Airborne Corps, birthplace, Airborne and Ranger school, the Army Logistics Center, the Army Aviation Center, an armored corps, etc.
It would be interesting to poll past and present members of the US Army and to ask them if they ever even thought about the source of the name of the fort or camp where they were stationed or training. I, for one, did not. I related a specific fort to the activities on that fort and the units traditionally stationed there. Allegiance was not to a fort but the unit I was assigned to.
On the other side of the equation are those who point at the individual Confederate generals for whom these ten forts and camps in the south are named. Some argue that each of these generals was a traitor, an incompetent, and a slaveholder. Their treachery is a fact, but in many cases, their military genius is widely studied to this day. We should have this debate, but a wholesale rewriting of history to serve political or pseudo-cultural ends is dangerous and decidedly un-American. In the current zeitgeist, not only do these former generals come up for attack, but in recent days mobs have defaced memorials honoring Abraham Lincoln, the Great Emancipator himself, and abolitionist Matthias Baldwin. So let us have a debate, but never give in to the mob.
This is a watershed moment in our nation’s history. I was in high school when the National Guard was called in to enforce the Supreme Court’s Brown decision to end segregated schools. I was a cadet and young officer when the Army again acted to put down riots in the late 1960s. Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson were all correct in using military power to enforce civil rights and protect civilians and property. Similarly, President George H.W. Bush was right to use troops to end the riots in Los Angeles after the acquittal of the cops who beat Rodney King. Today, when politics and ideology seem to trump nearly all other considerations, support for ending riots and looting appears to require you first declare your political allegiance to the movement that is creating this grief.
I urge our elected and appointed leaders to resist the temptation to give in to the loudest, angriest elements of the citizenry. The evils of slavery, segregation, and racism constitute the original sin of America. The US Army, from the freedman and former slaves who fought on the side of the Union to the Buffalo Soldiers and the Nisei, have time and again showed that the brotherhood of soldiers is larger and more open-minded than any college campus. There is much to be proud of in our history. Erasing the ugly parts will do nothing to solve the challenges ahead of us as a military and as a country.
USMA graduates letter to the class of 2020
It was brought to my attention by a classmate that a letter, signed by almost 700 graduates of West Point, was sent to the class of 2020. This article is a response to that letter.[i]
Interestingly, a number of graduates did not have the courage to reveal their names rather they took the moniker of “anonymous”.
The letter is critical of a number of issues related to the use of the military in recent events throughout the country. Regarding that, it is my understanding to this point that only police and some National Guards have been used to suppress riots, looting and the general mayhem we have seen recorded that have followed peaceful protests.
There are those of us who wish that the military had been used to stop the damage in Minneapolis and other places—but they weren’t because the mayor and governor were weak kneed.
Before we start on this topic, lest there be any misunderstanding, I want to go on record about the killing of George Floyd, which allegedly has sparked the protests and some/much of the subsequent violence. The use of force observed in the killing of Mr. Floyd recently was clearly tragic and unnecessary. It has been rapidly taken to the authorities who have remanded the officer who killed Mr. Floyd and his associated officers for arraignment and subsequent trial for their actions.
George Floyd has been portrayed as a “good man”. However, let us not forget that the aforementioned Mr Floyd had a long record of violence and criminality and died with fentanyl (86 ng/mL of “free morphine”) in his system, had recently ingested methamphetamine and only came to light to the authorities when he allegedly attempted to cash a counterfeit $20 bill. This in no way justifies the treatment and the tragic manner in which he was killed. Perhaps he had been trying to turn his life around as has been stated.
We have been endowed by our Creator with free will. Sometimes we make poor choices but no one today wants to recognize that choices have consequences.
I would like to address just two of the highlights of this letter below.
One premise is that “Sadly, the government has threatened to use the Army in which you serve as a weapon against fellow Americans engaging in these legitimate protests. Worse, military leaders, who took the same oath you take today, have participated in politically charged events,”
“The oath taken by those who choose to serve in America’s military is aspirational. We pledge service to no monarch; no government; no political party; no tyrant,” the group wrote, adding that they were “concerned that fellow graduates serving in senior-level, public positions are failing to uphold their oath of office and their commitment to Duty, Honor, Country.”
It would appear that the signers of the letter failed to read and understand a number of things.
First is the officer’s oath of allegiance which states: I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.
Second is the Constitution Article III Section III of the United States which addresses Posse Comitatius. It states, “Whenever the President considers that unlawful obstructions, combinations, or assemblages, or rebellion against the authority of the United States, make it impracticable to enforce the laws of the United States in any State or Territory by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, he may call into Federal service such of the militia of any State, and use such of the armed forces, as he considers necessary to enforce those laws or to suppress the rebellion.”
“The President, by using the militia or the armed forces, or both . . . shall take such measures as he considers necessary to suppress, in a State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy, if it—(1) so hinders the execution of the laws of that State, and of the United States within the State, that any part or class of its people is deprived of a right, privilege, immunity, or protection named in the Constitution and secured by law . . . . ”
Unfortunately, peaceful (legitimate) protests, which I think everyone believes are just, have had a tendency to turn violent. It seems to me that the use of violence in protests which have turned into riots against legitimate authority, violence against the police, property owners and others is infringing upon others right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These events clearly deprive a class of people of their right to protection under the law.
The author(s) of the aforementioned letter further have perhaps failed to recognize that the both national guards and military forces have been used multiple times in the past, to include the recent past by both Republican and Democratic presidents.
Do you feel as a citizen that it is your right to feel safe in your abode, your car or place of business?
If yes, who do you expect to protect your life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness against riot, looting, mayhem physical assault and possible death? If not the states, who cannot or will not protect people, then the United States government?
As inspirational as Duty, Honor, Country is, the oath taken by officers would appear very clear. “…support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic“. Are those who would cause destruction and mayhem an enemy?
So I am puzzled by their lack of understanding of the oath they took and the Constitution of the United States. They were required to study it as cadets!
Is it the inability to read and understand the English language? The failure of our educational system? A failure of the values of West Point? Or perhaps the unmitigated hatred of a president they cannot abide flamed by a media and press who have lost their sense of justice and integrity.
Maybe it is their disloyalty that the writers so passionately desire to attribute to others. It should be said that if the writers had not targeted two members of the class of 1986—Secretary of State Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Esper—that what they wrote could be said about any group of graduates serving in any administration by those who did not like the policies of that administration.
In my opinion, the originators of this letter have taken Trump derangement/hate syndrome to an extreme and in so doing have sullied the reputation of West Point—shame on them! Most likely the idea of the letter originated from a Biden staffer or a wanta be Biden staffer. The originator most likely is looking for a downstream payoff and does not worry about sullying the reputation of West Point. Unfortunately he must have almost failed law as a cadet, as pointed out above.
I am sure that both the President of Association of Graduates and Superintendent of West Point believe that being a graduate of West Point is a sacred honor and the comradeship of fellow graduates is a most critical bond. If they had their way this issue would go away and the signers return to the fold of graduates whose solemn duty is to defend the constitution.
Maybe the originator and signers should file Duty, Honor and Country off of their class rings if they choose to not repudiate the letter.
Contrary to the letter almost all graduates still support the constitution and the academy motto of “Duty, Honor, Country.”
[i] I am very grateful for the input of several West Point classmates whose thoughts have been incorporated into this response.
New Howitzer Range
The Army’s improved Paladin 155 mm howitzer recently impressed officials at Yuma Proving Grounds. The tests sent an improved projectile to an altitude of 50,000 feet and a distance of over 40 miles. The goal is a range in excess of 60 miles.
Each armored or mechanized brigade includes a battalion of 18 such howitzers. However brigades are currently hard pressed to acquire targets independently out to 60 miles away. This suggests that other changes need to follow in intelligence acquisition and overall doctrine of how divisions and brigades will fight the battle.
I would ask my readers for their ideas/suggestions on changes on doctrinal and equipment that the new artillery capability will necessitate. Let’s hear from you.
The news reports today that additional 70 staffers have been reassigned away from the NSC staff. The reported goal is to do two things:
- Reduce the NSC staff to about 100 people–the same size as it was during George H W Bush’s conduct of the Gulf War.
- Eliminate the Obama holdovers–potential dwellers of the swamp
So much as the Democrats want to paint LTC Vindman as a hero,the reality is that his reassignment was just the leading edge of the NSC restructuring. The news is reporting that Vindman is on the list for attending the Army War College is this coming August. This surprises me! Attendance at the War College is usually reserved for former battalion commanders and other LTCs that are upwardly mobile. As pointed out, Vindman’s career, based upon reported adverse reports, should be on hold. More to follow.
Will we be receiving notification of similar housecleaning throughout the rest of the bureaucracy?
Army–Navy (and USMC) roles and missions vice system conflict
As we previously reported on 20 October, “the Army is looking at extending the range of its Precision Strike Missile to 800 KM. This come following the dissolution of the INF Treaty which had limited ground based missile ranges to 500 KM. The Army’s Precision Fires Cross-functional team will ill conduct its first flight tests from two competitor companies before the end of the year. After the tests the Army will talk to the competitors about pursuing the extended ranges.”
This range extension is specifically oriented towards the ability to conduct operations in the Pacific from land based sites. Recently Jane’s has reported that the Navy and the USMC are looking at developing shore based Naval Strike Missiles. The concept is to take an existing sea based system and develop it so that it could be deployed on the land in support of USMC operations.
Inherent in the above are several inter-service conflicts.
- Do the naval strike missiles have the same capability as the Precision Strike Missiles that the Army is developing? If so are we seeing a duplication of effort and waste of resources?
- Is the island defense and land based missiles to assist in this an Army or USMC role and mission?
Presently the USMC does not contain any long range missile units while the Army does. It would thus appear that this is an Army mission—not a USMC mission. BUT
It would also appear the Naval Strike Missile could at least provide a start point for the Army Precision Strike Missile.
We would hope that the secretary of Defense will have these conflicts in roles and systems examined to save resources.
INF Treaty Update
The Army is looking at extending the range of its Precision Strike Missile to 800 KM. This come following the dissolution of the INF Treaty which had limited ground based missile ranges to 500 KM. The Army’s Precision Fires Cross-functional team will ill conduct its first flight tests from two competitor companies before the end of the year. After the tests the Army will talk to the competitors about pursuing the extended ranges.
Remarks at Ponte Dirillo–75th Anniversary of Operation Husky
Ladies and Gentlemen:
I am honored to join you today for the third time. I am proud to be joined by my wife, our three children, and all three of our grandsons.
I want to thank Senore Ventura and all of our Sicilian friends for the warm hospitality extended to my family and all who celebrate freedom. In our 3 visits to this hallowed ground we have been warmly received and we appreciate the friendship that has not only been developed here but also that exists between our two nations.
I speak to you not only as a former warrior myself, but as the son of a true warrior: LTC Arthur F. Gorham. My father gave his life while leading his paratroopers against a determined foe at the beginning of the effort to rid Italy and Europe of the scourge of Fascism’s two evil dictatorships. I am reminded of a saying I learned while a cadet at West Point that is attributed to General Douglas MacArthur: “There is no substitute for victory.” The brave men and women from many countries who valiantly fought here 75 years ago knew that victory, even in the face of long odds, was the only option.
The Allied invasion of Sicily, codenamed Operation Husky, was a major World War II campaign, in which the Allies liberated Sicily from the Axis. It was a coordinated large scale amphibious and airborne operation, followed by six weeks of intense land combat. Husky set the stage for freeing the rest of Italy and later Europe.
Husky began on the night of July 9,1943. The initial airborne landings took place in extremely strong winds, which made the landings difficult but also ensured the element of surprise. Later, beach landings were made on the southern and eastern coasts of the island, with British forces in the east and Americans towards the west. Spearheading the sledgehammer blow to crack open Hitler’s Festung Europa, for the first time, would be paratroopers of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division and glidermen and parachutists of Britain’s 1st Airborne Division. My father led the 1st Battalion of the 505th. Despite the high winds which scattered the paratroopers into small groups all over the island, the airborne troops took the initiative wreaking havoc on the Axis lines of communications so that the landings could occur on the beaches near Gela uninterrupted by counter attacks. The seizure and holding of the bunkers and top of the hill to your rear was key to this effort.
Strategically, Husky achieved the goals set out for it by Allied planners. The Allies drove Axis air and naval forces from the island; the Mediterranean’s sea lanes were opened and dictator Benito Mussolini and his fascists were later toppled from power. The success of the Allied effort here in Sicily opened the way to the destroying Nazism in Europe.
They fought right here near this monument. My friend, Senore Ventura, on whose farm we are at today, remembers observing as a young boy the fighting and dying that occurred at this place.
Today, we celebrate the feats of those brave warriors and their struggle for freedom. Warfare today is vastly different than what the soldiers who fought here 75 years ago knew. In the current climate, it is unclear what constitutes victory and worse, some refuse to even admit there are enemies whom we must defend against. In some cases, we fight against terrorists who know no rules of war and seek to deny us our freedoms. In other cases, old enemies appear eager to re-fight a war I thought was settled with the fall of the Berlin Wall nearly three decades ago. In this climate, it seems like we need to be reminded of what Winston Churchill said in 1940 before the United States entered World War II: “Victory at all cost. Victory in spite of all terror. Victory no matter how long and how hard the road may be; for without victory there is no survival.”
As we contemplate the sacrifices made 75 years ago, let us insure that the warriors who died freeing the world from Facism and later communism will continue to be relevant in our search for freedom. We must remain resilient to the forces who would seek to suppress our individual freedoms to their preferred political or religious views.
Let me close by reassuring those who gave their lives for freedom that we understand their sacrifice by reciting The Absent Legions by – Edgar A. Guest
Somewhere, far away, ‘they heard us
When the word of Victory stirred us.
Safe within God’s Holy keeping,
Heard us cheer and saw us weeping;
Shared in all we did or said-
Freedom’s glorious, youngest dead.
Never doubt it, there was gladness
Where the dead are done with madness,
Hate and hurt, and need for dying.
As they saw our banners flying
On our day of joyous pride,
” ‘Twas for this,” said they,
“We died!” What if tears our eyes had blinded.
As of them we were reminded?
Never doubt it. they were voicing
Somewhere. songs of great rejoicing;
Glad to look on earth and see
Safe our country. still. and free.
Thank you for the warm hospitality extended to my family and all who celebrate freedom.
Colonel Gavin, Commander 505th PIR’s summary of battles near Ponte Dirillo
“Elements of the 1st Battalion of the Regiment landed exactly where they were supposed to: on and off the high ground overlooking the airfield about 5 kilometers northeast of the city of Gela. The 1st Battalion, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Arthur F. Gorham, accompanied by elements of the 3rd Battalion of the 504th, engaged a Kampfgruppe[i] of the Hermann Goering Panzer Division at once. There were supposed to be no Germans (except a few technicians) on the island, and I could not believe the first reports that were coming in; the German Panzers were everywhere in large numbers. The troopers went to work and in a short while learned that the Panzer Infantry was quite manageable and our Infantry could stop them. The Tiger Tanks, though, were something else. Equipped with 4-112 inches of armor that on a slant amounted to 6 inches, and 88 MM. guns that the Germans used against the Infantry, and which was probably the most formidable antitank weapon in the world at that time; with an overall weight of 60 tons the Tiger Tank was something that one would never forget after the first encounter. The Germans launched their counterattack in two columns: the western column from the vicinity of Niscemi, and the eastern column from the vicinity of Biscari. This column contained a company of Tigers. It was this battalion that I became engaged with on the morning of July 11th. It was about 10 kilometers east of its planned objective and, from the outset, the German Panzer battle group was astride the road that we needed to get to our objective area where the 1st Battalion had landed. At the end of the day’s hard fighting we made a last counterattack, and the German Infantry broke and ran from the battlefield, and, thus, we were able to join with the 1st Battalion near Gela.”
[i] 1. The Kampfgruppe was an ad hoc combined arms formation, usually employing combination of tanks, infantry, and artillery (including anti-tank) elements, generally organiz1ed for a particular task or operation.
A Kampfgruppe could range in size from a corps to a company, but the most common was an Abteilung (battalion)-sized formation. Kampfgruppen were generally referred to by either their commanding officer’s name or the parent division.
75th Anniversary of Operation Husky (Allied invasion of Sicily during WW II)
On July 9, Allied convoys came together near the British-held island of Malta, and from there they made for the southern coast of Sicily. The landing craft were slightly delayed in reaching the island because of a storm, but in fact this also helped the Allies: the Italian defense forces had been placed on a lower than usual state of alert because it was thought that the poor weather would have made an attack unlikely. Simultaneously airborne troops of the US 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) and the British 1st Airlanding Brigade.
The location of the planned paratrooper landings was the vicinity of the U in the above map of the landing bases.
The first landings were made by the British, using more than 130 gliders of the Airlanding Brigade. Their task was to take control of a bridge, the Ponte Grande, some distance to the south of Syracuse. However, the landings were fraught with problems: 200 men were drowned when their gliders crashed into the sea, many more landed in areas away from their target, and only 12 landed in the right place. Even so, the British were successful in taking and holding the bridge.
Meanwhile, the American paratroopers were attempting a landing in the south west part of Sicily (just east of the port of Gela. This operation, too, went far from smoothly. Many of the pilots used had little experience of combat and a combination of this inexperience, dust being thrown up from the dry ground, and fire from anti-aircraft guns meant that the American paratroopers ended up quite widely spread, some landing as much as 50 miles away from their targets.
The planned and actual landing zones for the US paratroopers. (From Ready thde history for the 505th PIR in WW II.)
On Tuesday July 10, 2018 there will be several ceremonies celebrating the American assault on Sicily. The first will be at Ponte Dirillo where some of the paratroopers commanded by LTC Arthur F Gorham fought off 2 German counterattacks over the following several days near there. LTC Gorham was killed during those battles. (Ponte Dirlllo is located just south of where elements of 1-505 actually landed.) There will also be ceremonies in Gela and a reenactment of the naval invasion on the evening of 10 July. We will report from the scene.
The main assault on the Sicilian coast was a joint effort between British and U.S. forces, with American divisions attacking the western coasts and the British the east. Warships were based off the coasts in order to provide covering fire. The British forces had the easier time of the two groups, with relatively little fight being put up by the Italian defenders. This allowed the Allied guns and tanks to be landed quickly, and Panchino was in British hands by nightfall.
Meanwhile, the U.S. divisions on the other coast of the island had a much harder time of things, with both Italian and German airplanes offering strong resistance to the invasion. Later in the afternoon, a Panzer division of heavy Tiger tanks joined the defense, but the Americans managed to land 16th Regimental Combat Team and the 2nd Armored Division by evening. The U.S. forces succeeded in holding their ground until covering fire from the Navy drove off the tanks. The beach head was also protected by the brave paratrooper lead by LTC Gorham near Ponte Dirillo. Subsequently LTC Gorham’s small paratroop element was place under the command of the 16th Regiment of the 1st Infantry Division.
The Axis were misled by the widely scattered Allied paratroopers into thinking that the invasion was on a massive scale, and requested reinforcements. However, these did not make a difference to the eventual outcome. On July 12, Augusta had come under British control, and General Bernard Montgomery ordered his men to mount an attack on Messina to the north. Lt. General George S. Patton, who commanded the American 7th Army, did not agree with this change in emphasis and told his troops to head west instead.
The U.S. soldiers advanced steadily toward Palermo, a strategically important seaport. They met relatively little serious resistance and, by the time they had occupied the port on July 22, more than 50,000 prisoners had been taken. Control of Palermo allowed the 9th Division of the U.S. Army to make a landing there, rather than having to repeat a riskier southern assault; it also opened up a useful supply line for the Allies. Once this had been achieved, Patton was ordered by Alexander to go forward to Messina.
Many analysts have credited the planning and operational approach to operation Husky as making Normandy a success. Normandy was an invasion on a much larger scale and with many more troops but the approach was the same. The paratroopers’ mission in both operations was to isolate and protect the beach heads from enemy attacks so that there was time for the beach heads to be consolidated and the landing forces assuming the brunt of the battle.
The activities around Gela will be reported right after they happen.