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The Real Science Behind the "Game-Changing" Hydroxychloroquine Drug

The National Interest - Sun, 24/05/2020 - 16:30

Teresa G. Carvalho

Politics, Americas

Trump said he has “heard a lot of good stories” about hydroxychloroquine, and incorrectly claimed there is no evidence of harmful side-effects from taking it. 

The White House’s confirmation that US President Donald Trump has been taking hydroxychloroquine every day for the past two weeks, with his doctor’s blessing, has reignited the controversy over the drug. It has long been used against malaria but has not been approved for COVID-19.

Trump said he has “heard a lot of good stories” about hydroxychloroquine, and incorrectly claimed there is no evidence of harmful side-effects from taking it. His previous claims in March that the drug could be a “game changer” in the pandemic prompted many people, including Australian businessman and politician Clive Palmer, to suggest stockpiling and distribution of the drug to the public.

But the dangers of acting on false or incomplete health information were underlined by the death of an Arizona man in March after inappropriate consumption of the related drug chloroquine. It’s important to know the real science behind the touted health benefits.

How do these medicines work?

Hydroxychloroquine is an analogue of chloroquine, meaning both compounds have similar chemical structures and a similar mode of action against malaria. Both medications are administered orally and have common side-effects such as nausea, diarrhoea and muscle weakness. However, hydroxychloroquine is less toxic, probably because it is easier for the body to metabolise.

Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are listed by the World Health Organisation as an essential medicine. Both drugs have been used to treat malaria for more than 70 years, and hydroxychloroquine has also proved effective against auto-immune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis. The US Food and Drug Administration has approved both chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine for treating malaria, but not for COVID-19.

We don’t know exactly how these drugs work to combat the malaria parasite. But we know chloroquine disrupts the parasite’s digestive enzymes by altering the pH inside the parasite cell, presumably effectively starving it to death.

Malaria parasites and coronaviruses are very different organisms. So how can the same drugs work against both? In lab studies, chloroquine hinders replication of the SARS coronavirus, apparently by changing the pH inside particular parts of human cells where the virus replicates.

This offers a glimmer of hope that these pH changes inside cells could hold the key to thwarting such different types of pathogens.

Is it OK to repurpose drugs like this?

Existing drugs can be extremely valuable in an emergency like a pandemic, because we already know the maximum dose and any potential toxic side-effects. This gives us a useful basis on which to consider using them for a new purpose. Chloroquine is also cheap to manufacture, and has already been widely used in humans.

But we shouldn’t be complacent. There are significant gaps in our understanding of the biology of SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, because it is a brand new virus. There is a 20% genetic difference between SARS-CoV-2 and the previous SARS coronavirus, meaning we should not assume a drug shown to act against SARS will automatically work for SARS-CoV-2.

Even in its primary use against malaria, long-term chloroquine exposure can lead to increased risks such as vision impairment and cardiac arrest. Hydroxychloroquine offers a safer treatment plan with reduced tablet dosages and lessened side-effects. But considering their potentially lethal cardiovascular side-effects, these drugs are especially detrimental to those who are overweight or have pre-existing heart conditions. Despite the urgent need to confront COVID-19, we need to tread carefully when using existing medicines in new ways.

Any medication that has not been thoroughly tested for the disease in question can have seriously toxic side-effects. What’s more, different diseases may require different doses of the same drug. So we would need to ensure any dose that can protect against SARS-CoV-2 would actually be safe to take.

The evidence so far

Although many clinical trials are under way, there is still not enough evidence chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine will be useful against COVID-19. The few trials completed and published so far, despite claiming positive outcomes, have been either small and poorly controlled or lacking in detail.

recent hydroxychloroquine trial in China showed no significant benefits for COVID-19 patients’ recovery rate. A French hydroxychloroquine trial was similarly discouraging, with eight patients prematurely discontinuing the treatment after heart complications.

The fascination with chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine has also adversely affected other drug trials. Clinical trials of other possible COVID-19 treatments, including HIV drugs and antidepressants, have seen reduced enrolments. Needless to say, in a pandemic we should not be putting all our eggs in one basket.

Then there is the issue of chloroquine hoarding, which not only encourages dangerous self-medication, but also puts malaria patients at greater risk. With malaria transmission season looming in some countries, the anticipated shortage of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine will severely impact current malaria control efforts.

Overall, despite their tantalising promise as antiviral drugs, there isn’t enough evidence chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are safe and suitable to use against COVID-19. The current preliminary data need to be backed up by multiple properly designed clinical trials that monitor patients for prolonged periods.

During a pandemic there is immense pressure to find drugs that will work. But despite Trump’s desperation for a miracle cure, the risks of undue haste are severe.

This article was coauthored by Liana Theodoridis, an Honours student in Microbiology at La Trobe University.

, Senior Lecturer in Microbiology, La Trobe University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Image: Reuters

Shortest War Ever? The Anglo-Zanzibar War Over in Less Than 40 Minutes

The National Interest - Sun, 24/05/2020 - 16:00

Peter Suciu

History, Africa

Military leaders don't actually like wars. Wars disrupt training and no one can truly predict an outcome. But when war does come the leaders all hope for a quick and decisive victory. None was quicker or more decisive than the Anglo-Zanzibar War of 1896—from start to finish it lasted less than 40 minutes. It was a David vs. Goliath story, but in this outcome Goliath won the day.

Military leaders don't actually like wars. Wars disrupt training and no one can truly predict an outcome. But when war does come the leaders all hope for a quick and decisive victory. None was quicker or more decisive than the Anglo-Zanzibar War of 1896—from start to finish it lasted less than 40 minutes. It was a David vs. Goliath story, but in this outcome Goliath won the day.

The origins of the war could be traced not to Zanzibar or even London, but rather more than a decade earlier to Berlin, which hosted the Berlin Conference of 1884–85—also known as the Congo Conference. The goal of the conference was to formalize European claims to territory in Africa. While initially Germany's Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck didn't see much interest in a distant empire, as he was more concerned about the balance of power in Europe, he also felt Germany shouldn't be left out of expanding its influence on the global stage.

Great Britain had also been a traditional ally of Prussia throughout the 18th and early 19th centuries, and with a unified Germany, hoped to find common cause. The signing of the Heligoland-Zanzibar treaty drew up spheres of influence between the two powers in East Africa. The two powers did this despite the fact that the Sultan of Zanzibar had claimed to rule both the island of Zanzibar and the mainland territory. The British became protectors of Zanzibar when Germany was given the land east of Lake Tanganyika.

Hamad bin Thuwaini, who was a supporter of the British cause, was installed as Sultan in 1893, and things went smoothly for three years until his sudden death. Rumors have abounded ever since that he may have been poisoned by his cousin Khalid bin Barghash—who it happened moved into the palace almost immediately and declared himself Sultan.

Barghash thought he could stand up to the British Empire and declare sovereignty. While this story may sound similar to others who dared oppose the British, Barghash was no William Wallace or Mahatma Gandhi—the self-declared Sultan was a supporter of the lucrative slave trade that the British had sought to stamp out. That policy conflicted with Barghash's interests and he likely believed the British would back down after he barricaded himself in the palace with about 3,000 defenders.

The British did not back down.

Instead an ultimatum was sent, and it was a true display of "gunboat diplomacy" in the most literal sense. Three cruisers, two gunboats with 150 Royal Marines and another 900 Zanzibari soldiers mustered in the harbor.

Surprisingly, even that wasn't enough to convince Barghash the cause was a hopeless one. Perhaps he felt his superior numbers of soldiers would deter the British. Armed with artillery, a handful of Maxim machine guns, a Gatling Gun, a seventeenth century bronze cannon and two 12-pounder field guns the Sultan was determined to make his stand.

On August 27, 1896 at 8am the Sultan was once again given an ultimatum. If he didn't agree to British demands they would open fire. He refused and at just after 9am the British guns began to shell the palace. The outcome was never in doubt from that moment. Within minutes Barghash's artillery was destroyed—and all he and his men could do is wait out the British bombardment.

In addition to shelling the wooden palace, the Royal Navy also targeted Sultan Khalid bin Barghash's "fleet." It actually was just one ship, the luxury yacht Glasgow, which had been a gift to the Sultan by Queen Victoria. It was certainly no match for modern warships and was quickly sunk – while the HMS St. George rescued the crew.

After just 38 minutes, Barghash's dedicated soldiers proved they weren't so dedicated after all and they fled the palace. The Sultan's flag was pulled down and the war was over. The shortest war in history resulted in the wounding of one British sailor, while the pro-Barghash forces lost some 500 men.

That afternoon Ḥamud ibn Moḥammed was named Sultan. He agreed to the British terms, and never questioned the British demands concerning the abolition of slavery.

As for Khalid bin Barghash, he and his close circle of supporters had fled, possibly just after the shelling began, to the German consulate and requested asylum. He was smuggled off the island to German East Africa, where he received political asylum. The former Sultan, who reportedly never renounced his claims, was captured by British forces when the German colony's captured city of Dar es Salaam was surrendered in 1916. The Sultan for a day was exiled first to Seychelles and later to Saint Helena, the South Atlantic Island where the exiled French Emperor Napoleon had spent his final years, before being allowed to return to East Africa. He died in Mombasa in 1927.

Britain's control over Zanzibar continued for another sixty-seven years, until the protectorate status was terminated in 1963. A year later Zanzibar merged with the Republic of Tanganyika—which had been a British protectorate after the First World War ended Germany's control of East Africa. The combined country became Tanzania.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on

Ruger's American Striker-Fired Pistol Is Here To Stay

The National Interest - Sun, 24/05/2020 - 15:30

Kyle Mizokami


Safety is a major consideration on the American Pistol.

Key point: The Ruger American Pistol is a fully modern handgun that incorporates the best features available for a reasonable price. A young handgun with room to grow, it will almost certainly become available in other calibers and sizes over time.

One of the newest pistols on the U.S. gun market was created to compete in the U.S. Army’s Modular Handgun System. Although it would never actually compete against winner Sig Sauer, the Ruger American Pistol is now available to civilian shooters who want a reliable, safe, well-designed pistol backed up by the Ruger name.

In a field of storied American gun manufacturers, some of whom date back to the nineteenth century, one of the strongest is actually fairly new to the scene. The Sturm Ruger company was founded in 1949 by Alexander Sturm and Bill Ruger. Sturm Ruger became well known for a revolvers, including the Ruger Security Six and the Ruger Redhawk, and rifles such as the Hawkeye, Mini-14 and Ruger 10/22.

In the mid-1980s the advent of the “Wonder Nines”—large capacity polymer framed handguns—caught Ruger and many American gun makers flat footed. Although outside of the Ruger’s traditional field of expertise, the company quickly responded with the now-discontinued P-series handguns. In the mid-2010s the U.S. Army’s Modular Handgun System (MHS) contract promised sales of one hundred thousand handguns to the Army alone, and the rest of the services would likely fall into line behind the Army. Ruger designed the Ruger American Pistol for the MHS contract but ultimately declined to actually enroll in the competition. The pistol was released to the civilian market in 2015.

The Ruger American Pistol is like most pistols these days a locked breech, short recoil pistol. Unlike most pistols the serialized part—the part technically considered a firearm—isn’t the lower receiver but actually a removable chassis made of billet stainless steel that contains the fire control group. This provides strength and durability to help with higher pressure +P loads, which the pistol is rated to use on a regular basis. The billet in turn is seated in the polymer frame. This is similar to the Sig P320 chassis in execution. Theoretically, this lends itself to using different sized frames should the user want to switch things up although such frames have yet to materialize.

The Ruger is a striker-fired pistol with a 5.5 pound trigger. It is available in both nine millimeter Luger and .45 ACP, with the former taking a seventeen-round magazine and the later a ten-round magazine. The base service model has a 4.2 inch barrel, an overall length of 7.5 inches, and a weight of thirty ounces. New compact versions of both feature a slightly shorter barrel and overall length while retaining the same size magazine. The Ruger American Pistol is equipped with low profile Novak sights and a Picatinny rail underneath the barrel that allows for the mounting of lights and laser aiming devices.

Ergonomics on the American Pistol are excellent. The gun has aggressive slide serrations and checking on the front strap and backstrap for a firm grip. The pistol also comes with three different backstraps to adjust to the shooter’s hand, an increasingly common feature and a key requirement for the Army’s Modular Handgun System. Left handed shooters will appreciate that the Ruger American Pistol is fully ambidextrous, with slide stop, safety, and magazine release all fully usable by left or right handed shooters.

Safety is a major consideration on the American Pistol. Unlike a Glock, the gun can be disassembled without pulling the trigger. It also features an internal automatic sear block to prevent accidental discharge, backed up by a trigger safety that requires the trigger to be pulled for the gun to be fired. Like most striker-fired pistols, it lacks a manual safety mechanism as standard feature although a safety is available where and when required. The pistol also has a loaded chamber indicator that tilts upward to alert the user a round is in the chamber.

Ruger built the American Pistol to perform in the harsh environments a U.S. Army service pistol could find itself in, immersing it in water, sand, dust, and mud. The pistol was exposed to salt fog, humidity, high temperatures, and was even dragged from the back of a vehicle. In reliability tests, Ruger has tested the American Pistol to twenty thousand rounds without issues; an outside test ran the pistol to 5,500 rounds with only one misfeed which the user blamed on the ammunition used. One final data point: Ruger has experienced relatively few product recalls in recent years compared to other firearm manufacturers.

The Ruger American Pistol is a fully modern handgun that incorporates the best features available for a reasonable price. A young handgun with room to grow, it will almost certainly become available in other calibers and sizes over time. It will be interesting to see what new directions Sturm Ruger will push this new pistol in.

Kyle Mizokami is a defense and national security writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in the Diplomat, Foreign Policy, War is Boring and the Daily Beast. In 2009 he cofounded the defense and security blog Japan Security Watch. You can follow him on Twitter: @KyleMizokami. This article first appeared last year and is being republished due to reader interest.

Image: Wikipedia.

This Creature Could Destroy the Great Lakes Ecosystem

The National Interest - Sun, 24/05/2020 - 15:30

Oana Birceanu

Environment, North America

A single lamprey can kill up to 20 kilograms of fish in just two years.

A sea lamprey has no jaw, no proper teeth and no bones. Yet this predator can attach like a suction cup to a fish 100 times its size, use its tongue to burrow a hole into its side, liquefy its tissues and eat it.

A single lamprey can kill up to 20 kilograms of fish in just two years. On this fishy, bloody diet, a young lamprey weighing five grams will grow 40 to 50 times larger by the time it becomes an adult. And there are thousands of these vampire fish in the Great Lakes.

Are you horrified yet?

I am not, and here’s why: the Sea Lamprey Control (SLC) Program has the situation under control.

The SLC is one of the most successful invasive species management program in the world. It is so successful that those of us living in the Great Lakes basin have forgotten what a sea lamprey is. That is an extraordinary thing, because it means that the scientists are doing their job.

As a fish physiologist and toxicologist who has worked on SLC projects for many years, hearing about such a success makes me very happy. My work and that of my colleagues is having an impact! But is forgetting about the sea lamprey a good thing?

The invasion

How did the sea lamprey become such a successful invader? The first ones arrived in Lake Ontario in the 1800s, making their way from the Atlantic Ocean, through the Hudson River, following the Erie Canal. They remained in Lake Ontario for over a century because Niagara Falls barred them from moving any further.

Once the Welland Canal was modified by mid-1900s, allowing ships to circumnavigate Niagara Falls, the sea lamprey population boomed. They had finally gained access to the upper Great Lakes. Suddenly, lampreys had more space, found more food and colonized more spawning grounds. The invasion had begun.

Sea lampreys are quite fertile (like other invasive species) and have a unique life cycle — for a fish. One female can lay 40,000-67,000 eggs, and they do it in almost every stream and river that drains into the Great Lakes.

Those eggs hatch into larvae, called ammocoetes, which are eyeless, worm-like creatures that burrow in the sediment, making it impossible for predators to find them. The ammocoetes live like this for many years, feeding on algae and decomposing matter, until they are big enough to transform into the sucking predator we love to hate.

When the lamprey invaded the Great Lakes, lake trout — their preferred food and once a top predator fish — were transformed into Swiss cheese and began dying out. By the mid-1960s, the lake trout harvest in the Great Lakes had declined to less than 200 kilograms per year from 8,000 kilograms per year in the 1920s.

Alewives, small fish that lake trout ate, were no longer preyed upon. They became so abundant that every year there were massive die-offs in the lakes, and millions of dead fish would wash out on the beaches.

Imagine walking on Toronto Islands, on a midsummer’s day, and seeing a fish tsunami coming towards you from all sides. That is what the Toronto waterfront looked like at that time. Now imagine the smell that came with it.

Gaining control

In the 1950s, Canada and the United States established a partnership to tackle the sea lamprey problem. And so, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission (GLFC) came to be. Today, the GLFC helps manages the US$7 billion Great Lakes fishery through research and lamprey population control.

How do scientists control the sea lamprey population? They use barriers and dams to stop the adults from spawning in rivers and streams, release attractants or repellents during the spawning season to guide the adult lamprey into trapssterilize lamprey males and release them to compete for females, and they apply pesticides, or lampricides, to streams to kill the larvae, without harming other fish.

Without these control measures, the lamprey would be back on top of the food chain and the Great Lakes fisheries would collapse once more.

A look to the future

The Great Lakes basin is changing. The climate is getting warmer, which means that lampreys are moving to new, pristine, previously colder and sea-lamprey free habitats. Some of the barriers and dams that once kept lampreys out are deteriorating, while others are purposefully removed to improve native fish passage.

Field scientists who know the sea lamprey inside and out say that the best control measure for invasive fish species is concrete: barriers and dams. Research on novel fish passages and ladders, man-made passages designed to allow migratory fish access to rivers for spawning, is underway and the results look promising.

The new FishPass project in Traverse City, Mich., provides the best of two worlds: it keeps adult lamprey away, but lets native fish species pass through to reach spawning grounds. In addition, it provides a recreational heaven for locals, tourists and all those kayaking enthusiasts.

Next time you are out fishing on the Great Lakes, enjoying the waves and the breeze while a meter long, 10-15 kg lake trout is tugging on your line, remember that those fish almost disappeared 60 years ago and the harbour was full of dead alewives.

With new invasives like Asian carps and round gobies threatening our native fish species, it is important to not forget the past and to plan for the future.

Remember what a sea lamprey is, because those who are currently controlling their populations are the experts who will be protecting your fishing waters from those invasive species that are knocking at the Great Lakes door.

Oana Birceanu is NSERC Post-doctoral Fellow in the Department of Biology at McMaster University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. Navy's Stealth USS Zumwalt Destroyer Finally Fires Its Guns

The National Interest - Sun, 24/05/2020 - 15:00

Peter Suciu

Security, Americas

The $4 billion ship was commissioned in 2016, but broke down while passing through the Panama Canal just a month later. It has faced other delays and cost overruns, but the Navy has called the delivery of the warship a "major milestone," as it had originally planned to buy more than two dozen of the stealth destroyers, which has been reduced to just three.

It isn't actually uncommon for some military warships to never fire their guns in anger—notably the HMS Dreadnought never participated in any First World War naval battles despite being designed to engage enemy battleships. When it comes to modern warships we must hope that the need to use them in combat can be avoided, but actually testing the weapons is necessary to maintain that peace.

This is why it was a big deal that the U.S. Navy's USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000), which departed on its first operation in April, has now finally actually concluded a structural test fire of its Mark 46 MOD 2 Gun Weapons System (GWS).

Sailors aboard the stealthy destroyer, working with engineers and technicians from the Navy Surface Warfare Centers, successfully executed the test, which was conducted at the Naval Air Weapons Center Weapons Division Sea Test Range, Point Mugu last week.

The Mark 46 GWS is a remotely operated naval gun system that uses a 30mm high velocity cannon along with a forward looking infrared sensor, low light television camera and a laser rangefinder for shipboard self-defense against small, high-speed surface targets. The GWS is already a program of record that has been successfully installed and operated on LPD-17 and LCS class ships.

The test firing on board USS Zumwalt was the first large caliber weapons firing event for the new class of destroyers. It occurred just three weeks after the Navy officially accepted delivery of the combat system.

"The privilege of being a ‘first-in-class’ ship includes having the opportunity to systematically conduct testing across the breadth of systems installed onboard the ship," said Capt. Andrew Carlson, Zumwalt's commanding officer, in a statement. "The real plus is conducting those tests, such as today's live fire with the Mark 46 GWS, which provide tangible evidence of combat capability maturation."

The structural test fires were to assess the structural and electrical components of the ship against shock and vibration of the weapon firing, as well as to measure any potential hazards to personnel or degradations to adjacent equipment as a result of the firing live ordnance.

The $4 billion ship was commissioned in 2016, but broke down while passing through the Panama Canal just a month later. It has faced other delays and cost overruns, but the Navy has called the delivery of the warship a "major milestone," as it had originally planned to buy more than two dozen of the stealth destroyers, which has been reduced to just three.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) had called out the Navy for ongoing problems with the ship's originally planned 155mm deck guns. It was found that each round for the guns cost around $800,000. Since last year the Navy has explored other options for the Advanced Gun Systems. As a result the role of the destroyers has changed from land attack to offensive surface strike—and modifications to make that switch cost around $1billion the GAO noted as reported by Business Insider.

Despite the issues, the second of the Zumwalt-class, the USS Michael Monsoor, is undergoing combat system activation at her homeport of San Diego, while the third and final ship, the USS Lyndon B. Johnson, is currently under construction in Maine.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on

Image: USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) arrives at its new homeport in San Diego. U.S. Navy.

Why the Iran-North Korea Missile Alliance Is Pure Trouble

The National Interest - Sun, 24/05/2020 - 14:30

Bruce E. Bechtol

Security, Asia

Can it be stopped? How much are these two rogues states collaborating?

On January 7, 2020, Iran launched ballistic missiles at American bases located in Iraq. One set of the missiles launched were in the “Qiam” series, missiles based on the North Korean built (and proliferated to Iran) Scud C system—and likely enhanced with North Korean assistance as well. But this is only the latest example of North Korea’s deep involvement and support of Iran’s ballistic-missile programs, an activity that has been ongoing since the 1980s, wrongly assessed by some poorly informed analysts to have “declined” following the 1990s, and a very real threat that continues with the likely presence of North Korean advisors and technicians in Iran today. But the threat is probably more compelling than most analysts realize.

North Korea has either developed or assisted with the development of the majority of Iranian liquid-fueled ballistic missiles systems. In fact, the majority of Iran’s ballistic missile systems can trace their genesis back to North Korean proliferation and/or technical assistance. Some key examples include several Scud systems, the No Dong series, the Musudan series (now seen in the Khorramshahr), the “Safir” satellite launch vehicle (the first stage is a No Dong), and Unha technology—now seen in the Iranian “Simorgh.” The first stage of the Unha rocket is a cluster of four No Dong engines—which is also the first stage of the “Simorgh.” Iranian technicians were reportedly present at both the 2009 and 2012 “Unha” launches. In short, as the North Korean ballistic-missile programs advance their capabilities, these new developments are often then proliferated to Iran. But there is more, and this now involves both IRBM and ICBM advances in North Korea (and of course a new rocket).

According to press reports in 2013, the North Koreans were developing and assisting the Iranians with the development of an eighty-ton rocket booster—presumably for an ICBM.

In 2015, further developments were revealed in the press, when it was disclosed that several shipments of the aforementioned rocket from North Korea to Iran had occurred even as JCPOA talks were ongoing. In 2016, following the conclusion of the JCPOA talks, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Iranian companies and individuals for violations of sanctions imposed on North Korea. To put a finer point on it, North Korean and Iranian officials had visited both nations. This was done so that Iran could procure an eighty-ton rocket booster for a missile that North Korea was developing at the time. The names and companies (including front companies) involved are in the actual Treasury Department document

In 2017, North Korea tested what they called the “Hwasong-12.” This missile is an IRBM with a range of forty-five hundred kilometers (or more). It turns out, the Hwasong-12 is powered by a rocket engine reportedly procured from the Ukrainians (according to the Ukrainians, illegally, under the table, and unknown to officials, or not at all), known as the RD-250. This engine is reportedly powered by eighty tons of thrust at sea level, thus likely making it the system that was known (for several years) as the “eighty-ton rocket booster” that North Korea collaborated on and proliferated to Iran. Later in 2017, North Korea tested two ICBM’s. The first, the “Hwasong-14” is assessed to be capable of hitting Anchorage in Alaska, while the second, the “Hwasong-15,” is assessed by many analysts to be capable of hitting the east coast of the United States. Both ICBM’s use the “Hwasong-12” as their first stage, powered by the RD-250 engine with eighty tons of thrust.

What does this mean? It appears that it means North Korea collaborated on and then proliferated a system to Iran that was then tested in 2017—first as an IRBM and then (using the rocket from the first test as the first stage of an ICBM) as two separate ICBM systems. If this is the case—and it appears that it is—this means that North Korea has proliferated an IRBM (based on the RD-250 engine) to Iran, and if they have also proliferated the associated technology from the Hwasong-14/15, they have now given Iran both an advanced IRBM capability and an ICBM capability. It also means that when it comes to ballistic missile technology, North Korea has now proliferated Scud, No Dong, Musudan, Unha, and Hwasong 12/14/15 technology to Iran—updating Iran’s missile capabilities as they update their own. We can probably expect to see tests of this system and perhaps associated systems in Iran within the next two to five years. Let there be no doubt, if you see it in North Korea today, you will see it in Iran tomorrow.

Dr. Bruce E. Bechtol Jr. is a professor of Political Science at Angelo State University. He is also the president of the International Council on Korean Studies and a fellow at the Institute for Corean American Studies. The author of five books dealing with North Korea, his latest work is entitled North Korean Military Proliferation in the Middle East and Africa.

Image: Reuters

Why This Old Painting From 1893 Is Going ‘Viral’ All Over Again

The National Interest - Sun, 24/05/2020 - 14:30

Allison Morehead


In these 'coronatimes,' The Scream has taken on new significance, summoned once again to represent our anxieties of illness and death, of economic recession and of societal collapse.

Few works of art are as iconic as The Scream, by the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (1863–1944). The combination of an open mouth, eyes wide open and two hands raised to cheeks has become a near-universal signifier of shock and existential fear, helped along by 1990s movie franchises such as Scream and Home Alone. Not to mention the scream emoji.

In these “coronatimes,” The Scream has taken on new significance, summoned once again to represent our anxieties of illness and death, of economic recession and of societal collapse.

Versions of The Scream have proliferated online. There are Screams with face masks or even as face masks. There are Screams anxious about handwashing and face touching, and Screams with eyes drawn in the now recognizable shape of the coronavirus. Screaming figures are fleeing cities and financial institutions. They are hoarding toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

Poignant images

Most of these coronavirus Scream images tap into our collective fears and transform them through humour. But there are more poignant images as well. Consider a “social distancing” Scream created by Hrag Vartanian, editor-in-chief of the art site Hyperallergic.

Vartanian digitally altered the image so that only a single lone individual remains in the background.

Vartanian said:

“I wanted to create something jarring that reminds us to look at familiar things in new ways, just like we’re doing with our lives in the era of social distancing.”

And then there’s 2020 Plague Expulsion Rite, a photo collage by Shenzhen-based photographer Wu Guoyong. After collaborating with Luo Dawei, who runs the photo platform Fengmian, to curate a series of family portraits of Chinese New Year in quarantine, Wu gathered together 3,500 images of lockdown to create a collective Scream.

2020 Plague Expulsion Rite poses profound questions: if we are all screaming, and if we imagine everyone else screaming, is it possible to feel less alone? And if we are all screaming together, how else might we act collectively in these times?

‘Quaking with angst’

After numerous sketches and some false starts, Munch completed a first version of The Scream in 1893 while living in Berlin, where his avant-garde circle enthusiastically received it as an embodiment of modern angst bordering on mental illness.

Carefully conceived for maximum emotional effect, Munch intended the work to be a powerful image that would represent an intense emotional experience that he had while walking along a fjord in his native Norway. He also tried to put that experience into words:

“I was walking along the road with two friends — the sun was setting — I felt a wave of sadness — the sky suddenly turned blood-red. I stopped, leaned against the fence tired to death … My friends walked on — stood there quaking with angst — and I felt as though a vast, endless scream passed through nature.”

Munch created three more versions of The Scream, a lithograph and a pastel in 1895, and another painting, probably in 1910.

The Scream has a dramatic history. The 1893 version was stolen and then recovered in 1994. Ten years later, the 1910 version was also stolen and recovered, albeit damaged. In 2012, the pastel version was auctioned for the record sum of nearly US$120 million. Now, as reported by the Guardian, conservators recommend that the 1910 painting practise its own physical distancing to avoid further damage from human breath.

Staring, open-mouthed figures

Throughout his long career, Munch often represented the despair and fear provoked by deadly diseases not yet well understood by modern medicine, including tuberculosis, syphilis and influenza. A staring, open-mouthed figure, often alienated from its body, recurred in those representations.

Before The Scream, Munch produced a drawing in one of his early sketchbooks, probably a self-portrait, and captioned it “Influenca.” A figure doubled, frightened and frightening, looks back at us from a mirror. His eyes are wide open and his tongue is sticking out. Perhaps he is saying “aaahhh” and waiting for a diagnosis.

Munch suffered from lung and bronchial problems throughout his life, possibly related to the tuberculosis that killed his mother and sister when he was a child. In 1919, he was one of the few artists to respond to the worldwide flu pandemic. In a large self-portrait simply titled Spanish Flu, the artist turns his head to the viewer, eyes strangely vacant, and opens his mouth to … what? Speak? Cough? Gasp for breath? Scream?

Rise in cult status

The Scream gained its cult status only after the artist’s death in 1944.

While the full story of its emergence into popular culture remains to be told, key early moments are probably a Time magazine cover from 1961 with the banner “Guilt & Anxiety,” and a 1973 book by Reinhold Heller about Munch’s iconic painting.

In recent years, The Scream has been used to raise awareness of climate change, to critique and protest Brexit as well as the presidency of Donald Trump in the United States.

Anxiety about nuclear proliferation also speaks through The Scream. In 2009, graphic designer Małgorzata Będowska transformed the instantly recognizable nuclear hazard sign into an iconic mashup for the poster Nuclear Emergency. The striking design has since become commonplace at anti-nuclear events.

A common visual language

We might turn to the arts to soothe ourselves in times of crisis and stress. But in those same times, history has shown that art can help us to express or deal with difficult emotions, including those stemming from our experiences of illness.

The internet-enabled global circulation of The Scream is intensifying in an age of political instability and a pandemic enabled by globalization. The increasing virality of The Scream demonstrates the ongoing need for a common visual language to communicate and to cope with what many fear the most: the shared vulnerability of having a body that might become ill, suffer and die.

Allison Morehead is Associate Professor of Art History and in the Graduate Program in Cultural Studies, Queen's University, Ontario.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Don't Listen to the ‘China Covered Up the Coronavirus’ Narrative

The National Interest - Sun, 24/05/2020 - 14:00

Mitchell Blatt

Security, Asia

China made some mistakes, as did every country, in responding to the coronavirus, but China’s overall response was more effective than most countries, with domestic quarantines of inter-city travelers, widespread mask-wearing, and a testing and tracing regime with access to a vast trove of data.

Since President Donald Trump’s early optimism that coronavirus was “under control” and “within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero” has proven to be false hope, he has been trying to turn China into a scapegoat. He is attacking China and blaming them for the fact that America has 1.6 million confirmed cases of coronavirus and ninety-five thousand deaths, even though many of the reasons for the severe outbreak here have to do with mistakes by governors, government agencies, and Donald Trump himself. 

China, for example, did not decide to continue to allow 140,000 travelers to fly into the U.S. from Italy, twice as many as the amount that came in from China, and 1.7 million from the rest of Europe, for weeks after Italy had become a hot spot, without so much as temperature checks or fourteen-day quarantines upon arrival. 

China made some mistakes, as did every country, in responding to the coronavirus, but China’s overall response was more effective than most countries, with domestic quarantines of inter-city travelers, widespread mask-wearing, and a testing and tracing regime with access to a vast trove of data. And the claims of a “cover-up” are inaccurate. They are nothing but a cover for politicians and countries with antagonistic relationships towards China to defend themselves in front of their domestic publics and to pressure China internationally.

The claims of a “cover-up” are increasingly vague—Trump blamed “some wacko in China” on Twitter on May 20 but the claims typically rest on a few premises:

1.) the claim that China undercounted the number of cases and deaths 

2.) the claim that China did not respond quickly enough 

3.) the claim that China denied that the virus could spread between humans 

4.) outrage over the detention of Dr. Li Wenliang and others 

Arguments one through three are largely inaccurate, while point four is a valid criticism but not evidence of a cover-up and not relevant to the global spread of coronavirus. Overall, China’s critics are holding China to a higher degree of competence and transparency than they are holding democratic countries. 

First, there is little evidence that China fabricated or intentionally undercounted deaths in most of the country, which is what a “cover-up” would describe. It is true that the official number of deaths in China, like every other country, almost certainly is missing some people who died at home or undiagnosed.

The New York Times reported in April that coronavirus cases across the country were not being counted because tests were lacking, and many likely coronavirus deaths in February and early March were attributed to the flu. Officials in California were able to confirm the deaths of coronavirus as early as February 6, three weeks before the first recorded death. Data on Florida’s coronavirus dashboard shows people reporting coronavirus-like symptoms as early as January 1. The manager who oversaw that data was fired after protesting an order to remove some of the data.

The dismissals of many officials who were propagating information their superiors did not want to be shared shows a commonality and difference between the political systems of the United States and China. Here, there have also been attempts to downplay or hide criticisms or negative information on the government’s response, but it is dealt with through firings, reassignments, and official rebukes. Dr. Rick Bright, for example, testified to the House of Representatives that he was removed from his position leading the team involved in creating a vaccine after warning about shortages of PPE and disagreeing with the administration’s promotion of hydroxychloroquine even for people who weren’t hospitalized.

Undercounting is taking place in Europe, too. In Madrid, over three thousand people had died in nursing homes without having been tested. The Economist reported in its April 18 issue, “France’s figures include deaths that occur in care homes—nearly half the total—white Britain’s do not.” Given what we know about how the elderly are most at risk and how nursing homes have become hotbeds everywhere, not counting deaths of their residents would have a significant impact and would be something a regime could do if it wanted to artificially limit its reported numbers.

The number of cases reported by different cities and regions in China shows a strong correlation with the amount of outbound travel from Wuhan to those regions, multiple papers have found. That would indicate that the numbers reported in each region were relatively accurate and not fabricated. If the numbers were fabricated, then there would not necessarily be expected to be any correlation between Wuhan migrants and cases reported. Because coronavirus originated in Wuhan, the regions with the highest number of migrants arriving from Wuhan had the highest numbers. 

Details about the situation in Wuhan itself are probably the most hazy and would be the most likely to have been intentionally manipulated, both because local officials early on (and before knowing the severity) might have felt motivated to keep it from hurting their careers and because the most egregious mistakes would have happened in Wuhan.

Reportedly, the CIA has concluded that China undercounted its numbers, and photos of urns piling up in Wuhan were cited as evidence that many more had died in the central China city. While the CIA report has not been publicly released, the Bloomberg article reporting on it cites that, “The Chinese government has repeatedly revised its methodology for counting cases, for weeks excluding people without symptoms entirely, and only on Tuesday added more than 1,500 asymptomatic cases to its total,” which would not make China’s numbers terribly different from those of many other countries. 

Icelandic data suggests that as many as half of people with coronavirus show no symptoms, which means that they would not be tested in most countries. The Catalonia region of Spain also revised its numbers upward, doubling them, in April. The Daily Beast reported on May 13 that the Trump administration is pressing the CDC to change its reporting methodology to exclude coronavirus deaths for which the victim was not tested. 

A study by Timothy Russell, a research fellow at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, found that China’s official numbers might have only documented one-third of all its coronavirus cases, but the same study found the UK, Italy, and Spain documented about 10 percent of their cases. Yet only China is being singled out with the “cover-up” label. 

Ex-post facto, we know that coronavirus was spreading in Wuhan in December, and, as of March, the first known case was traced back to November 17. Now athletes on the French and Spanish teams have said they fell sick with what they think could have been coronavirus at the Military Games held in Wuhan in October. At the time, they thought it was the flu, indicating the difficulty of discerning a rare, unknown-at-the-time disease, which has symptoms similar to other diseases. 

Doctors in Wuhan took note of the cluster of pneumonia cases in December but attributed it to an unknown cause as the coronavirus had not been discovered at that point. American doctors could not recognize that some of their patients had coronavirus in February and March, either.  

“When I was working before we had testing, we had a ton of patients with pneumonia. I remember thinking it was weird. I’m sure some of those patients did have it. But no one knew back then,” Geraldine Ménard, chief of general internal medicine at Tulane Medical Center in New Orleans, said to the New York Times

Dr. Li Wenliang messaged colleagues about the similarities to SARS on December 30. He was detained on January 3 and released the same day with a warning but no formal charges. Virus samples were shipped to Fudan University in Shanghai on January 5, and the results of the tests, that it was SARS-CoV2, or the coronavirus, were announced to the world on January 9.  

So the detention of Li did not impact the speed of China’s response nor the global spread of the virus. It might well have put Li and his colleagues at greater risk of contracting coronavirus. There was a concerted effort by Wuhan government officials and hospital officials to deny that healthcare workers were getting sick and to even prevent doctors and nurses from wearing masks at some hospitals. Li was clearly a victim. The Chinese government did issue an apology and criticize the Wuhan Public Security Bureau. Whether the apology is sincere or meant to appease local and international anger is another matter. Either way, China’s actions to Li do not explain the spread of the virus or absolve the rest of the world for their failures. 

The timeline of China’s response is all in Caixin Global’s article, the same article that has been cited by outlets such as The National Review to push the “cover-up” case. On January 3, according to Caixin Global, China’s National Health Commission “ordered labs to transfer any samples they had to designated testing institutions, or to destroy them.” The National Review’s Tobias Hoonhout describes this as a “gag order” (in January, not “late December). But the samples arrived at the facility two days later. Is taking one week to conduct the tests—as opposed to some hypothetical time frame in a different scenario—is a slow response? 

National governments, such as the U.S. government, have taken longer than one week to respond even after already knowing that coronavirus was a threat. Even in March, Trump was comparing the coronavirus to the flu. It took him twenty days to put any restrictions on flights from Italy after Italy began locking down cities. 

Finally, China was downplaying the potential for human transmission amongst people who showed symptoms. It was not until January 20, that they announced that the virus had been confirmed through study to be communicable, although most viruses, particularly a virus in the coronavirus group, should be assumed to be potentially communicable, barring evidence to the contrary, which is exactly why Taiwanese and Hong Kongese health officials were already working on that assumption before January 20.  

At the time, however, no doctors and scientists could have been expected to know that coronavirus spreads between people who do not show symptoms of being sick. By late January, there were apparent cases of asymptomatic transmission being observed, and China’s health ministry did issue a warning about asymptomatic transmission on January 31. But it took months for the United States CDC or the Surgeon General, or health organizations in other Western countries, to recommend widespread mask-wearing.  

That—and the high R0—were the main reasons coronavirus spread so quickly and so widely. The 2003 outbreak of SARS did not spread asymptomatically or pre-symptomatically. That, also, is likely why foreign governments did not respond quickly or deliberately enough.

It could be that governments are fallible, that no government could be expected to respond perfectly to even the most trivial challenges, let alone a crisis of unprecedented scale. It could be that coronavirus is the “disease x”—the disease that both spreads extremely quickly and kills at a relatively high rate.

To hold that China could have or should have been able to know from day one that these cases of pneumonia were actually coming from a new virus, or that it should have known the virus spread through the breath of apparently healthy people, and that it should have been able to track every case of the virus, is, somewhat ironically, to hold China to higher standards than the most developed democratic countries in the world. When China mishandles a pandemic, it is ascribed to malfeasance; when the United States and Europe do, it is the ordinary, expected incompetence.

It’s not only an inaccurate narrative, and one that is being used to absolve domestic leaders of responsibility for their mistakes, but it is also in a sense an anti-democracy narrative.

Mitchell Blatt is a former editorial assistant at the National Interest, Chinese-English translator, and lead author of Panda Guides Hong Kong. He has been published in USA Today, The Daily Beast, The Korea Times, Silkwinds magazine, and Areo Magazine, among other outlets. Follow him on Facebook at @MitchBlattWriter.

Image: Reuters

Question: What Direction Do You See U.S.-North Korea Relations Heading in For the Rest of the Year?

The National Interest - Sun, 24/05/2020 - 13:30

Lucia Husenicová

Security, Asia

Fire and fury or diplomacy?

Looking at the situation in the United States, given the coronavirus crisis, it is hard to foresee any significant change in U.S.-North Korean bilateral relations. It would be difficult to plan for another summit meeting in the current pandemic-focused world, even though it was suggested at the beginning of this year. It is hard to imagine how the American public would react if President Donald Trump were to leave the country in both a time of crisis and in the middle of presidential election season.

However, coming closer to the election, if Trump feels the need to show the voters a win, he might opt for a summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. Since 2018, we know that the administration is very flexible when it comes to organizing a summit in a mere three-month period. But I would still rate the possibility of another summit as low, as North Korea’s leadership would also have a say in any plans related to a summit.

Looking at DPRK’s motivation to meet with Trump, there are two possible trajectories. In the first case, the idea of a summit would require Kim Jong-un foreseeing Trump as U.S. president for the next four years and being able to bring benefits to his country. The DPRK can evaluate how the summit could be reflected at the voters’ behaviour and decide upon that.

Alternatively, in the second case, as the previous two summits and meeting at the DMZ did not really bring any real benefit to the DPRK, the motivation for another such event would be low—especially when Kim got more out of meetings with Chinese president Xi Jinping.  

Another factor that could play a role in the DPRK leadership’s calculations is the timing of Kim Jong-un leaving the country for another summit (provided Trump is not able or willing to travel to Pyongyang), especially after the last round of rumours about his health issues and spots on his hand seen during his public reappearance on May 1.

Then there are considerations for lower level meetings. Currently it is difficult to judge how welcome Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would be in North Korea, given the most recent wave of criticism coming from Kim Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yo-jong. As for regular diplomatic meetings, there is currently a lack of information about to what extent the State Department uses the UN New York channel to talk to DPRK representatives, or what the state of Track 1.5 and 2 diplomacy meetings are.


At this point, I do not see a reason why the DPRK would conduct an ICBM nuclear test. In general, with previous tests they have either tried to attract the attention from the rest of the world, mainly the United States, and secure some benefit out of the whole affair, or, as was the case in 2017, testing to achieve a certain level of development and strengthen Kim Jong-un’s position internally.

A possible reason for testing is the September 9 anniversary of the country’s founding. However, again, the possible benefits of testing would need to be considered. Such a test could, for example, negatively impact Trump’s chances for re-election, as it will show to U.S. voters that the president’s only sort of foreign policy success—the positive relation with Kim—was anything but that.

However, we need to take into consideration the DPRK’s internal development factor in making a decision about testing. Here it would depend on how well the rumours regarding Kim’s health were contained in DPRK—it was reported that people did get some information about international news in April. A test, either of an ICBM or nuclear warhead, could be conducted in order to reassure North Korean people and some parts of the elite about the strength and decisiveness of the leader.

Naturally, looking at the existing pattern in nuclear testing, it is very possible that there would be a nuclear test sometime after the U.S. election in November or in the first half of 2021, regardless of who wins the election and is sworn in.

How will Trump seek to engage Kim—or not?

As suggested above, it is unlikely that President Trump will choose to engage Kim Jong-un as a possible part of his re-election strategy. However, that could change, depending on the polls and is not an important part of the presidential campaign. But I do admit that the president could use the Kim Jong-un card in an attempt to improve his chances.

Lucia Husenicová is lecturer at the Department of Security studies at the Faculty of Political Science and International Relations at the Matej Bel University. She is also a director of the Institute of Asian Studies.

Image: Reuters.

Should Trump Really Take Hydroxychloroquine?

The National Interest - Sun, 24/05/2020 - 13:00

Teresa G. Carvalho

Health, North America

Trump said he has “heard a lot of good stories” about hydroxychloroquine, and incorrectly claimed there is no evidence of harmful side-effects from taking it.

The White House’s confirmation that US President Donald Trump has been taking hydroxychloroquine every day for the past two weeks, with his doctor’s blessing, has reignited the controversy over the drug. It has long been used against malaria but has not been approved for COVID-19.

Trump said he has “heard a lot of good stories” about hydroxychloroquine, and incorrectly claimed there is no evidence of harmful side-effects from taking it. His previous claims in March that the drug could be a “game changer” in the pandemic prompted many people, including Australian businessman and politician Clive Palmer, to suggest stockpiling and distribution of the drug to the public.

But the dangers of acting on false or incomplete health information were underlined by the death of an Arizona man in March after inappropriate consumption of the related drug chloroquine. It’s important to know the real science behind the touted health benefits.

How do these medicines work?

Hydroxychloroquine is an analogue of chloroquine, meaning both compounds have similar chemical structures and a similar mode of action against malaria. Both medications are administered orally and have common side-effects such as nausea, diarrhoea and muscle weakness. However, hydroxychloroquine is less toxic, probably because it is easier for the body to metabolise.

Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are listed by the World Health Organisation as an essential medicine. Both drugs have been used to treat malaria for more than 70 years, and hydroxychloroquine has also proved effective against auto-immune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis. The US Food and Drug Administration has approved both chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine for treating malaria, but not for COVID-19.

We don’t know exactly how these drugs work to combat the malaria parasite. But we know chloroquine disrupts the parasite’s digestive enzymes by altering the pH inside the parasite cell, presumably effectively starving it to death.

Malaria parasites and coronaviruses are very different organisms. So how can the same drugs work against both? In lab studies, chloroquine hinders replication of the SARS coronavirus, apparently by changing the pH inside particular parts of human cells where the virus replicates.

This offers a glimmer of hope that these pH changes inside cells could hold the key to thwarting such different types of pathogens.

Is it OK to repurpose drugs like this?

Existing drugs can be extremely valuable in an emergency like a pandemic, because we already know the maximum dose and any potential toxic side-effects. This gives us a useful basis on which to consider using them for a new purpose. Chloroquine is also cheap to manufacture, and has already been widely used in humans.

But we shouldn’t be complacent. There are significant gaps in our understanding of the biology of SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, because it is a brand new virus. There is a 20% genetic difference between SARS-CoV-2 and the previous SARS coronavirus, meaning we should not assume a drug shown to act against SARS will automatically work for SARS-CoV-2.

Even in its primary use against malaria, long-term chloroquine exposure can lead to increased risks such as vision impairment and cardiac arrest. Hydroxychloroquine offers a safer treatment plan with reduced tablet dosages and lessened side-effects. But considering their potentially lethal cardiovascular side-effects, these drugs are especially detrimental to those who are overweight or have pre-existing heart conditions. Despite the urgent need to confront COVID-19, we need to tread carefully when using existing medicines in new ways.

Any medication that has not been thoroughly tested for the disease in question can have seriously toxic side-effects. What’s more, different diseases may require different doses of the same drug. So we would need to ensure any dose that can protect against SARS-CoV-2 would actually be safe to take.

The evidence so far

Although many clinical trials are under way, there is still not enough evidence chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine will be useful against COVID-19. The few trials completed and published so far, despite claiming positive outcomes, have been either small and poorly controlled or lacking in detail.

recent hydroxychloroquine trial in China showed no significant benefits for COVID-19 patients’ recovery rate. A French hydroxychloroquine trial was similarly discouraging, with eight patients prematurely discontinuing the treatment after heart complications.

The fascination with chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine has also adversely affected other drug trials. Clinical trials of other possible COVID-19 treatments, including HIV drugs and antidepressants, have seen reduced enrolments. Needless to say, in a pandemic we should not be putting all our eggs in one basket.

Then there is the issue of chloroquine hoarding, which not only encourages dangerous self-medication, but also puts malaria patients at greater risk. With malaria transmission season looming in some countries, the anticipated shortage of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine will severely impact current malaria control efforts.

Overall, despite their tantalising promise as antiviral drugs, there isn’t enough evidence chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are safe and suitable to use against COVID-19. The current preliminary data need to be backed up by multiple properly designed clinical trials that monitor patients for prolonged periods.

During a pandemic there is immense pressure to find drugs that will work. But despite Trump’s desperation for a miracle cure, the risks of undue haste are severe.

Teresa G. Carvalho is a Senior Lecturer in Microbiology at La Trobe University.

This article was coauthored by Liana Theodoridis, an Honours student in Microbiology at La Trobe University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Image: Reuters

Ulysses S. Grant Proved Himself At the Battle of Belmont

The National Interest - Sun, 24/05/2020 - 12:30

Warfare History Network

History, Americas

The "anaconda strategy."

When the Civil War started in 1861, there were only two officers in the Union Army who had commanded a force in battle larger than a brigade. They were John E. Wool and Winfield Scott. At age 77, Wool was two years older than Scott and was showing the effects of his age. However, during the war, Wool served with distinction in the Eastern and Middle Departments. Winfield Scott was the general in chief of the army.

A major difficulty at this time was finding officers who were competent enough to organize, administer, and command large armies in combat. The vast majority of young officers—who had never seen a force larger than the 14,000-man assemblage Scott had commanded in the war with Mexico—had only limited experience in commanding small units. Most of these had attended West Point and, as a result, had been trained mainly in the areas of engineering, fortifications, and mathematics. Only a small portion of their schooling had been dedicated to strategic and tactical thought. At the same time, they received very little instruction on how to effectively administer an army or how to organize a group of officers for staff work.

As the Civil War slowly expanded into a major conflict, a number of officers began to demonstrate skills that allowed them to persevere through the early period of the war. Eventually the innate qualities that are so important for good leadership began to propel these men into significant positions of command. Ulysses S. Grant was one.

When Fort Sumter was attacked by the Confederates in April of 1861, Grant was a clerk in his family’s leather business in Galena, Ill. Within one week he began helping the local militia company organize its ranks, and he instructed its officers in proper drill procedures. He even designed the unit’s uniforms. But when the men in the company tried to elect him their company commander, he refused. Grant felt that the rank of militia captain was beneath him because he was a graduate of West Point and had been a captain in the regular army with an excellent combat record in the Mexican War. Realistically, he was holding out for something more worthy of his status.

Grant Receives His First Opportunity of the War

When the Galena company moved to the militia camp of instruction at Springfield, Ill., Grant followed them. He was told at Springfield that there were no command positions available in any of the newly formed regiments. As a result, he accepted the only position he could find, that of a clerk in Governor Yates’ office.

Within a short time, Grant received his first opportunity of the war. John Pope relinquished his command of the instructional camp when a brigade he had been raising did not elect him its commander. With Pope leaving, Governor Yates did not take long to appoint Grant as the new commander of the camp.

As the newly appointed camp commander, Grant performed his duties in fine fashion. In fact, he carried out his responsibilities so well that the officers of the 21st Illinois Volunteers were impressed. The 21st Illinois was a newly formed regiment. Its colonel was incompetent, and the men in his regiment ran rampant around Springfield stealing, drinking, and brawling. Things were so deplorable that Governor Yates was forced to step in. He appointed Grant colonel of the 21st. By June Grant had been promoted to the rank of Brigadier General.

General Grant shaped the 21st into good order in a short period. In July he received orders to take his regiment to the rescue of another Illinois regiment that had become surrounded by a Confederate force in Missouri. Grant did march to the rescue, but it turned out to be a case of wrong information. There was no enemy formation. Later, Grant wrote: “My sensations as we approached what I supposed might be ‘a field of battle’ were anything but agreeable. I had been in all the engagements in Mexico that it was possible for one person to be in; but not in command. If someone else had been colonel and I had been lieutenant-colonel I do not think I would have felt any trepidation.”

Experiencing the Anxiety of Command

Grant’s anxiety about being in command may be best understood by noting that the American Civil War was very different from wars previously fought. Huge armies and advancements in technology combined to cause a tremendous number of casualties on the battlefield. At the same time, the Civil War was very similar to other wars in many ways. One was that commanders were forced to cope with the responsibilities of ordering men into battle (moral courage). Although these same commanders may have possessed high levels of physical courage (leading men into battle), many found it very difficult to send their men against the enemy and remain back to command the field. The commanders along the Illinois-Missouri border—Grant among them—were no exception. They had to come to grips with the issue of moral courage.

In a couple of weeks the 21st Illinois received orders to march again. This time Grant was told to take his regiment and attack a suspected Rebel camp 25 miles away. The enemy assembly was commanded by Colonel Thomas Harris. As Grant marched his regiment toward the enemy, he did not know exactly what was waiting for him: “As we approached the brow of the hill from which it was expected we could see Harris’ camp, and possibly find his men ready formed to meet us, my heart kept getting higher and higher until if felt to me as though it was in my throat. I would have given anything then to have been back in Illinois, but I had not the courage to halt and consider what to do; I kept right on.”

At the end of his march, Grant found that Harris had abandoned his camp. This one march, which resulted in no engagement with the enemy, had a lasting effect on Grant. Because Harris had withdrawn his force, Grant speculated that Harris was “as afraid of him as he was of Harris.” This train of thought deeply affected Grant, and it changed the way he approached battle for the remainder of the war. He would write later, “From that event to the close of the war, I never experienced trepidation upon confronting an enemy.… I never forgot that he had as much reason to fear my forces as I had his.”

As Grant wrestled with these issues, President Lincoln tried to decide who he should appoint to command Union forces along the Mississippi River. In July he decided on John C. Fremont. “The Pathfinder” had limited military experience, but he was a noted explorer of the day. Fremont, who was very well educated, was a hero to millions of Americans because of his exploits in the West. He had discovered Lake Tahoe, scaled the Sierras, named the Golden Gate, and written a book about Mormons moving into the Salt Lake Valley.

With the appointment of Fremont, the Western Department was created. It stretched from Illinois to the Rockies including all states and territories. Initially, a portion of Kentucky was included as well.

The ‘Anaconda Plan’ Aims to Strangle the Confederacy

Within days, Fremont, President Lincoln, and General Scott decided that Fremont’s main strategic objective should be to clear Rebels from Missouri. Once that was accomplished, the next objective (in accordance with Lincoln and Scott’s Anaconda Plan of strangling the Confederacy by controlling its riverine and coastal ports) would be to advance down the Mississippi River and capture Memphis, Tenn.

Grant’s early efficiency and drive had impressed Fremont. Consequently, on August 28 Fremont gave Grant command of the District of Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois with headquarters in Cairo, Ill. Fremont ordered Grant to eliminate all Confederate forces from southeast Missouri.

During the summer, Kentucky, a slave state, remained “neutral.” In other words, it had not seceded with the original seven slave states that had created the Confederacy before the war’s beginning. Nor had Kentucky left the Union following the attack on Fort Sumter. President Lincoln, not wanting to violate Kentucky’s neutrality, did not want to take any offensive action within her borders for fear of “pushing” her into the Confederacy.

As it turned out, Southern forces were the first to infringe upon Kentucky’s nonpartisan position. On September 3, 1861 General Leonidas Polk ordered General Gideon J. Pillow to capture Columbus, Ky. Many on both sides considered Columbus critical for control of the Mississippi River.

Grant had not even settled into his headquarters at Cairo when he learned of the Rebel occupation of Columbus. He became extremely alarmed by the close proximity of the enemy—Columbus was only 20 miles south of Cairo. At the same time Grant was afraid the rebels would attempt to occupy Paducah, Ky., strategically located east of Cairo where the Tennessee River empties into the Ohio River. If Paducah were occupied by the enemy, Grant knew that the Rebels would be able to interdict all Union shipping along the Ohio River.

By the evening of September 5, Grant had organized a force for advancing on Paducah. Without waiting for orders, Grant loaded two infantry regiments onto local steamships for the move on Paducah. When the Federals reached their target on the 6th, they landed unopposed. Leaving General Charles F. Smith in command, Grant returned to his headquarters to find the orders permitting him to advance on Paducah.

The Rebels Increased Their Strength Daily

Grant’s move to occupy Paducah was a masterful countermeasure to the Confederate occupation of Columbus. In response, Polk ordered Brig. Gen. Frank Cheatham to attack Paducah and drive all Union forces out. General A.S. Johnston countered the order, believing that this move would separate Rebel forces, thus making it too difficult to mass their strength when necessary. Grant believed the same thing, recalling: “They [Confederates] are fortifying strongly and preparing to resist a formidable attack, and have but little idea of risking anything upon a forward movement.”

Rebel strength at Columbus grew stronger each day. This bothered Grant, as it would any commander, but he believed that both his and Polk’s forces were equal in strength and felt that because both armies were similarly disorganized, undisciplined, and untested, the advantage would go to the commander who was the “most active.”

On September 8, Grant ordered the gunboat Lexington south from Cairo to make a reconnaissance of Confederate strength at Columbus. As the solitary Union gunboat steamed within range of the Rebel fortifications on the bluffs at Columbus, the defenders opened fire. Following an exchange of cannon fire, the Lexington withdrew northward back to Cairo.

During the weeks that followed, Grant continued to probe Rebel positions with naval and infantry forays along both banks of the Mississippi. His dislike of growing Confederate strength increased as fast as their reinforcements arrived. He wired Fremont in St. Louis for permission to strike Columbus and capture the Rebel stronghold.

140 Pieces of Artillery Trained on the River

On November 1, 1861, Grant received orders from Fremont. He was instructed to “demonstrate” against the Rebel stronghold at Columbus sufficiently to prevent Polk from sending any reinforcements to General Sterling Price in Missouri. From these orders, Grant decided to conduct full-scale offensive operations against the Confederate positions at Columbus.

Almost overnight, Columbus had grown into an overpowering Confederate position on the Mississippi River. The bluffs along the river soared nearly 150 feet high. Along the shoreline at the bottom of the bluffs, the Rebels had entrenched a number of 10-inch Columbiads and 11-inch howitzers. Halfway up the embankment the defenders had dug in a second line of artillery. On top of the heights, the Confederates had constructed a series of earthwork forts. One of the forts held the largest artillery piece in the Confederate arsenal, a 128-pound Whitworth rifled gun. The gun’s crew nicknamed the piece “Lady Polk.” These commanding bluffs became known as the “Gibraltar of the Mississippi.” There were nearly 140 pieces of artillery trained on the river, and the entire defensive position was garrisoned by 17,000 troops.

Grant’s gunboat forays against Columbus had given him a picture of his enemy’s strength. Owing to the rapid buildup, Grant decided to attack Belmont on the Missouri side of the river instead. Belmont was directly across from Columbus and was not nearly as well defended as the “Gibraltar of the Mississippi.” Grant hoped to surprise the small Confederate force there.

He decided to use two brigades of infantry for his primary attack. One brigade was under the command of Brig. Gen. John McClernand, and the other under Colonel Henry Dougherty. In support of the infantry were two companies of cavalry and a light battery of artillery. In order to transport his force down river, Grant gathered six steamers and two gunboats. In all, Grant’s force numbered 3,114 men.

Grant’s Gamble

Grant planned on implementing several secondary actions in order to try to confuse Polk. He realized he was dividing his command in the face of a formidable enemy, but he considered the reward worth the gamble.

On November 5, Grant put his plan into action. He cabled General Smith at Paducah ordering him to demonstrate toward Columbus. Grant wrote that a movement toward Columbus from Paducah “would probably keep the enemy from throwing over the river [Mississippi] much more force than they now have there, and might enable me to drive those they now have out of Missouri.” Grant believed Smith’s demonstration would prevent Polk from sending reinforcements across the river to fall upon his rear and cut his lines of communication with Cairo.

In order to coordinate his move with Grant’s, Smith prepared his command to move on the 6th. He sent one brigade commanded by Brig. Gen. Eleazer Paine toward Milburn, Ky. In order to cover Paine’s left flank, Smith directed one regiment under Colonel W.L. Sanderson to move toward Viola. Grant ordered a third diversionary force to move along the east bank of the river. These orders were sent to Colonel John Cook. His brigade was to demonstrate down the river but progress no closer than Elliott’s Mills.

On the west side of the river in Missouri, Colonel Richard Oglesby’s brigade was ordered to march his command from Sikeston south to New Madrid, which was located on the river south of Belmont. Grant directed Oglesby to “halt and communicate with me at Belmont from the nearest point on the road” as he marched toward New Madrid. To cover Oglesby’s left, Grant ordered Colonel William Wallace’s 11th Illinois to conduct the covering march.

All told, Grant’s total force numbered some 15,000 men. Virtually his entire command would be moving at once. Although his forces were separated, they were not divided so widely as to not be able to be massed together if the need arose. One thing was certain: The multiple columns that Grant put into motion certainly made it difficult for Polk to determine Grant’s main objective.

On the afternoon of the 6th, Grant prepared his force at Cairo for embarkation upon the steamboats that would transport his brigades to Belmont. By 3 pm, two of McClernand’s regiments, the 30th and 31st Illinois, began loading onto the steamer Aleck Scott. McClernand’s third regiment, the 27th Illinois, moved aboard the James Montgomery. Colonel Dougherty’s 7th Iowa loaded on the Montgomery with the 27th, and Dougherty’s second regiment, the 22nd Illinois, boarded the Keystone State. Grant’s artillery and cavalry loaded onto the steamers Chancellor and Rob Roy.

Green Soldiers Struggle to Sleep Before the Battle

Covering Grant’s waterborne force were the gunboats USS Lexington and USS Tyler. As Grant’s multiple diversionary units began to move toward their intended objectives, Grant’s force departed from Cairo for its journey south down the Mississippi.

The Union flotilla pressed south until 11 pm. Grant then decided to tie up along the eastern bank of the river about 11 miles above Columbus and wait out the night. He posted a strong guard on shore while the remainder of the men tried to sleep. Most of Grant’s men had never tasted battle; as a result, sleep for many was nearly impossible. To make matters worse, word had spread that they were on their way to assault the strong fortifications at Columbus.

On board the Belle Memphis, Grant received a message from Wallace, who was covering Oglesby’s eastern flank, that he “had learned from a reliable Union man that the enemy had been crossing troops from Columbus to Belmont the day before for the purpose of following after and cutting off the forces under Colonel Oglesby.” This message convinced Grant that he had made the correct decision in attacking Belmont.

In fact, Grant realized his campaign now had two objectives: protect Oglesby’s eastern flank and, as first understood, stop General Polk from reinforcing Price west of the Mississippi.

Grant immediately issued a Special Order. It read: “The troops composing the present expedition from this place, will move promptly at six o’clock this morning. The gunboats will take the advance and be followed by the 1st Brigade under the command of Brigadier General John A. McClernand, composed of all the troops from Cairo and Fort Holt. The 2nd Brigade, comprising the remainder of the troops of the expedition, commanded by Colonel John Dougherty, will follow. The entire force will debark at the lowest point on the Mississippi shore where a landing can be effected in security from the rebel batteries. The point of debarkation will be designated by Captain Walke, commanding Naval Forces.”

By 6:30 on the morning of November 7, the Union fleet released the lines holding them to the Kentucky shore and proceeded downriver toward the objective. Grant felt confident. He believed that any Rebel troops west of the river would be caught by surprise by his attack. If he was really lucky, Grant felt he might even take them in their flank. At the same time, Grant embraced the idea that his demonstration on the east side of the river (Paine and Sanderson) would prevent Polk from rushing too many troops across the river against him at Belmont.

Scattered Musket Shots Began Peppering Grant’s Men

As Grant’s naval force steamed southward, he went up to the pilothouse to inquire how close his landings could take place “out of sight of Columbus.” Pilot Scott replied, “About three miles north at a landing at Hunter’s Farm.” Scott emphasized, however, that the landing was out of sight, but it was not out of range of the guns at Columbus.

It was nearly 8 o’clock when the landing at Hunter’s Farm came into view, and the transports began tying up on the Missouri side of the river. Officers promptly began barking orders to disembark and form ranks on shore. Within minutes, scattered musket shots began peppering Grant’s men from a dense tree line. Heavy return fire from troops still on board the transports drove off the handful of enemy soldiers. As the unloading continued, Grant ordered Commander Henry Walke to proceed downriver with both gunboats in order to draw enemy fire away from the landings.

This Walke did by 8:30. Although heavily outgunned by the strong shore defenses, the Lexington and Tyler did draw some fire from shore. However, the majority of the Rebel fire was directed toward the transports. Concerned for the landing force, Walke withdrew back to Hunter’s Farm and ordered the transports out of range of Columbus’s guns as soon as the offloading was complete.

Soon Walke could hear firing from shore as the volume increased in intensity. He decided to make another run toward the “Iron Banks” at Columbus. This second attack lasted 20 minutes. The few shots his gunners fired at the hidden positions on shore were no match for the volume of fire Walke’s two gunboats received. Walke stated that it “would have been too hazardous to have remained long under [the enemy’s] fire with such frail vessals [sic].” Walke steamed upriver out of range once again.

The Battle of Belmont Begins

The beginning round of the Battle of Belmont had begun. Earlier in the morning, at 2 am, General Polk had been awakened and informed of Grant’s demonstrations east of the Mississippi. After dawn Polk was told that Union gunboats were on the river and that transports were unloading men on the west bank in “considerable force.” Polk decided to send General Pillow across the river with his division to “take charge of the situation.” But Polk remained convinced that the Union’s primary attack would be on the east side and that it would be directed at Columbus.

Fortunately for Pillow, there were a number of transports near Columbus available to ferry his men across the river to reinforce Colonel James Tappan, who commanded Camp Johnson at Belmont. Tappan had the 13th Arkansas, a battalion of cavalry, and a battery of artillery. Pillow was bringing across four regiments from Tennessee: the 12th, 13th, 21st, and 22nd. By 10:30 in the morning Pillow had all four of his regiments across and in formation. By that time Grant’s force had been on the move from Hunter’s Farm toward Belmont for nearly two hours.

Before moving on the Rebel camp, Grant quickly selected five companies of infantry from Dougherty’s Brigade to guard the landing and protect the line of communication. Grant had to position this force personally because he believed that he did not have a line officer with sufficient experience to command this “ad hoc” battalion.

Grant placed this group in an excellent spot. It protected his rear and flank from attack and provided cover from artillery fire from “Iron Banks.” Grant regarded this position as “a natural entrenchment” from which the battalion “could hold the enemy for a considerable time.”

Hoping that he could still achieve surprise, Grant formed his force for the march through the heavy timber and thick cornfields that stood between him and the enemy camp. As the Union forces moved through the warm morning sunshine toward Belmont, an occasional artillery round fired from “Iron Banks” would crash among the trees. Confederate gunners across the river were trying to find Grant’s column amid the dense river-bottom growth of forest and underbrush.

Except for the sporadic artillery fire, the march toward the enemy camp was fairly easy. Bits of marsh and swamp in the often-flooded terrain slowed the Union column at times; however, the road Grant’s men followed was in good shape overall.

As Captain James Dollins’ Union horsemen swept the line of march, Confederate cavalry from Lt. Col. John Miller’s 1st Mississippi Battalion engaged them and quickly broke away again. Dollins reported that the enemy seemed more interested in “observing than fighting.”

But as Grant’s force approached what appeared to be a large slough, Rebel defensive measures increased. Dollins reported that Confederate fire was heavier and that his men were seeing infantry for the first time, though he was continuing to push them as he advanced.

“My Heart Kept Getting Higher and Higher Until it Felt to Me as Though It was in My Throat.”

At this point, Grant met with McClernand and decided to deploy the column. A cornfield alongside the road was used to form the men into a battle line. At this location all that Grant’s men had to do was face left in order to face their intended objective, still about two miles away. Grant positioned Captain Ezra Taylor’s artillery pieces in the center and on the left flank of his line, which stretched for nearly half a mile.

Orders were then given to each regimental commander to deploy two companies forward as skirmishers. Specifically, they were “to seek out and develop the position of the enemy.” As the skirmishers advanced across the slough, they encountered thick woods on the opposite side. Confusion reigned. All of a sudden it became very difficult for officers to maintain alignment. Once inside the tangled woods, the inexperienced Union infantry began to hear the “long roll” of Confederate drums at the enemy camp ahead. Cautiously the Union line continued to move forward as best they could in the dense foliage. Grant himself remembered his feelings from July when he had maneuvered to attack Harris’s camp: “My heart kept getting higher and higher until it felt to me as though it was in my throat.”

The first portion of the Union line to receive heavy fire from the enemy was the right flank. Grant had assigned Colonel Napoleon Buford’s 27th Illinois to that section of the line. As the firing increased, McClernand ordered Colonel Philip Fouke’s 30th Illinois forward to support Buford’s 27th. Soon the firing became so heavy that Grant ordered his regiments on the left to alter their advance and move to “the sound of the firing.”

Within minutes, the firing became intense, despite the fact that owing to the dense underbrush and heavy woods, it remained very difficult for the armies to see each other. The fighting rapidly became very disjointed. Often command was maintained only within the smallest tactical unit within each company. Nevertheless, the nerves of Grant’s men “grew stronger” when they were told to “take trees and fight Indian fashion.”

Eventually, the fighting was so uncoordinated that McClernand stopped Buford’s advance and ordered him to maneuver farther to the right to “feel the enemy and engage him if found in that direction.” This left a gaping hole on the Union right, which was filled by the 22nd and 31st Illinois regiments and the 7th Iowa.

Pillow Attempts a Desperate Bayonet Charge

Although Pillow’s skirmishers held good positions in the dense woods, they were constantly being enveloped by the steadily advancing Yankees. By 11 in the morning Pillow’s men had all been forced to withdraw, reform their ranks, and rejoin the main Confederate defensive line along a low ridge between the heavy timber and Camp Johnson.

As the Union regiments began to advance out of the woods and toward the main enemy line, Confederate fire began to decrease. Pillow’s men began to run low on ammunition, especially along the Rebel right. As a result, Pillow ordered a bayonet charge.

General Pillow knew from his experiences in the Mexican War that the bayonet “had ultimately settled the issue on the battlefield.” But this time it did not; the Federals recoiled but did not flee. Following a brief Union withdrawal, Colonel John Logan’s 31st Illinois tried several times to turn the Confederate right flank. These determined Federal attacks forced the Rebels to drop back to their original line and forced them to use up more of their precious ammunition.

Slowly, the Union advance along the Confederate right began to push the defenders back toward their camp.

In the center of Grant’s attack, Colonel Jacob Lauman’s 7th Iowa and Fouke’s 30th began to break out of the heavy timber as well. This advance was answered by Lt. Col. Daniel Belzhoover’s Watson Battery. The Rebel artillery opened up on the advancing Union troops and forced them back into the tree line. Once back under cover, Lauman told his men to “fall on the ground.” He then shouted, “Crawl boys,” and the Union line began to advance again.

Because the Rebel artillery fire had only momentarily slowed the Union advance, Pillow rode up to the center of his line, held by Colonel Edward Pickett’s 21st Tennessee and Colonel Thomas J. Freeman’s 22nd Tennessee, and asked if “we could not charge and drive the rascals out.” The order of “Charge bayonets” filled the air.

In a rush, Rebel infantry charged the blue line and pushed them back into the woods. Although surprised and confused, the men of the 7th Iowa and 30th Illinois recovered and, through concentrated volley fire, forced the Rebels to withdraw in the center of their line.

Collapsing the Confederate Line

Beltzhoover’s guns raked the Union tree line, which allowed the 21st and 22nd to withdraw in good order. But just then Taylor’s Chicago Battery came up to the line. Within minutes, Rebel and Union artillery were engaged in a spirited exchange of gunfire that brought about the collapse of the entire Confederate line. With Pillow’s right already retiring, the heated artillery duel collapsed the remaining portion of the Confederate line.

As Pillow’s main line began to fall back into defensive positions at their camp, Buford’s 27th Illinois moved southward and came up on the extreme left flank of the Confederate camp in a classical envelopment maneuver. Slowing Buford’s advance momentarily was Company A, 13th Tennessee, which had been left back as a camp guard.

Pushing on, the 27th assaulted across the camp’s parade ground but then withdrew due to withering volley fire by the defenders. As Buford’s men prepared for another assault, the 7th Iowa and 22nd Illinois advanced and fixed themselves on his left. At the same time, Taylor positioned his battery in the center of Grant’s line and began to fire canister shot into the camp. Fouke’s 30th and Logan’s 31st advanced and began to envelop the camp on the north as well.

With Federals streaming into camp from three directions and a steady pounding by Taylor’s guns, Pillow had no choice but to order the retreat from Camp Johnson. Almost immediately, the entire camp began fleeing north along a lane that paralleled the river. As the retreating Rebels ran, they braved a gauntlet as “hundreds of Union muskets poured their deadly content.” Men from each of Grant’s five infantry regiments began chasing the Confederates in a loosely organized pursuit led by Colonel Lauman. It continued for nearly a quarter mile and then slowly stopped after Lauman was hit in a thigh by a musket ball as Rebel defensive fire increased along the riverbank.

Viewing the fight from across the river, Polk realized that he needed to send reinforcements quickly to support Pillow. One of the first units across the river was Colonel Knox Walker’s 2nd Tennessee, and it was Walker’s regiment that stopped the Union pursuit of the fleeing Rebels out of the camp. But as Walker began to pressure Logan’s 31st on the north end of the camp, Taylor’s guns came up once again and began to smash huge holes in Walker’s line of men. At the same time, Taylor’s guns began to pour their deadly fire into the Rebel steamers Prince, Hill, and Charm, which were all bringing reinforcements from Columbus.

By around 2 in the afternoon, all firing in and around the captured Rebel camp had stopped. Immediately, Grant’s men began celebrating their victory. All of a sudden, the atmosphere turned to one of hilarity with men running around searching for souvenirs, singing patriotic songs, and firing volleys into the air. General McClernand even found time to mount a tree stump and deliver an “impromptu victory speech.”

After Victory, the Union Troops Became an Uncontrollable Mob

As the minutes ticked by and the looting continued, Grant realized his fighting force had become an uncontrollable mob. In order to stop the looting and gain control once again, he ordered Camp Johnson to be burned. As the fires raged throughout the camp, officers began to organize their men into formations. Unfortunately for Grant, many of the burning tents contained sick and wounded Rebel soldiers who had gone unnoticed by Union torch bearers. Many of the Confederates burned to death. The horrible incident became a “rallying cry” for many Rebels for the remainder of the day.

On the heights across the river, General Polk had witnessed the Federal assault on Camp Johnson and the ensuing panic that had resulted in the hasty retreat northward along the river. After some thought, Polk decided to commit his reserves to the fight in order to somehow salvage the day. At the same time, he ordered a heavy bombardment upon the camp.

This accurate Confederate artillery fire from “Iron Banks” helped Grant to bring control to his force. Thinking that if they stayed around any longer, Rebel gunners from across the river would reduce their ranks in a short time, the men began to form their lines for the march out of the enemy camp.

To add to the reinforcements already sent, Polk ordered Brig. Gen. Frank Cheatham across the river with the 15th Tennessee and the 11th Louisiana in order to reinforce Pillow’s command. To avoid Taylor’s Chicago Battery, the Prince steamed upriver with Cheatham’s force to find a suitable landing somewhere between Camp Johnson and Hunter’s Farm.

“Anxious to Again Confront the Enemy”

Once across the river, Cheatham found that Pillow had organized a force, about brigade size, of elements from all his regiments. Cheatham had brought a large supply of ammunition with him, and it was quickly distributed throughout the ranks. All told, this “reconditioned” Rebel force numbered between 1,000 and 1,500 men, and they were “anxious to again confront the enemy.”

At Camp Johnson, Grant’s men were formed but still hiding in the trees from the gunners on “Iron Banks.” At a few minutes past 2 pm, a lieutenant from Fouke’s regiment reported to Grant that enemy transports were bringing reinforcements across the river. Grant, seeing the boats for himself, gave the orders to assemble and begin the march back to Hunter’s Farm.

Once assembled, McClernand’s Brigade took the lead followed by Dougherty’s Brigade. All at once, firing broke out on the Union right. The entire Federal column, almost to a man, was amazed that the Confederates could mount a determined counterattack since, only an hour before, they had been wildly running out of control along the river.

The spirited Confederate advance, organized by Cheatham, began to destroy McClernand’s hastily formed line. Shouts of “We are flanked” and “They’re surrounding us” began to ring out up and down the Union line. The 7th Iowa became nearly enveloped at the end of the Union column. Because Lauman was down with his thigh wound, Major Elliott W. Rice commanded the 7th and broke it out of the trap.

Grant Finds Himself Surrounded

Still trying to keep Rice pinned at the rear of the column, Cheatham swung his force around and tried to envelop the head of the Yankee column as well. Within minutes, cries of “Surrounded, Surrounded” filled the air throughout McClernand’s Brigade. It seemed like all eyes began to fall upon Grant. He simply stated, “We cut our way in so we can cut our way out.”

As Cheatham’s defense at the head of the Federal column stiffened, McClernand called up a battery of Taylor’s artillery. Within minutes, Taylor’s guns began pouring fire into the center of the Rebel line “with great spirit and effect.” Round after round of double canister was unleashed upon the enemy. McClernand shouted to Logan to take his regiment and “cut your way through.” With a flourish of his hat, Logan led his men forward, ordering the colors to the head of the column.

Logan’s 31st and Fouke’s 30th broke through the enemy line in good order. But as the Union men hurried onward, the column became fragmented. Grant rode to the head of the column at this point so he could personally alert the rear guard to action. They were nowhere to be found. As elements of the 30th and 31st began to hasten past, the rear guard had abandoned their position and had reembarked upon the waiting transports.

By this time, Cheatham’s men were cutting the 22nd Illinois and 7th Iowa to pieces at the end of the Union column. Taylor’s artillery tried in desperation to “make a stand” but they could not stop the pursuing enemy. Eventually, the 22nd and 7th were able to reach the Hunter’s Farm Road for their march back to the landing, but it was costly.

Most of Buford’s 27th Illinois left the retreating Union column and retraced its route from earlier in the day. Traveling on roads that the Rebels did not even know existed, Buford’s regiment came out of the woods three miles above Hunter’s Landing.

Across the river, Polk felt compelled to act further. He personally crossed the river and brought two more regiments with him to reinforce Cheatham. But not doing so earlier probably cost Polk the day. Although Cheatham and Polk got their men moving after the retreating Federals, it was not soon enough. The delay gave Grant the additional time he needed to embark his command at Hunter’s Landing.

“A Perfect Storm of Death”

But as the steamers began to pull away from the shore, the Rebels hotly increased their fire upon the departing vessels. In return the Lexington and Tyler came up and poured a murderous fire onto the bank. They “poured a perfect storm of death into the rebel masses.… whole ranks mowed down by a broadside.”

Onboard the Memphis, Grant heard the increase in fire and walked out on deck. All five transports were in line and the troops onboard were firing “with terrible effect” and “great spirit.” Even Taylor’s Chicago artillerymen had gotten into the action and were firing their guns from the deck of the Chancellor.

Except for picking up Buford’s 27th three miles upriver, the Battle of Belmont was over. During the dark trip back to Cairo, doctors onboard the transports treated the wounded as best they could. Many officers remembered the trip as “solemn.” Grant chose to remain by himself and “said not a word but to a waiter.” But when the Federal armada reached Cairo about 9:30 that night, the city was totally lit up in celebration. Later and into the next morning, Grant recalled all of his diversionary units from both sides of the Mississippi.

Both sides claimed victory following this battle along the Mississippi River. Discussions, arguments, and heated debate were to continue for many years about who won the fight.

Casualties on both sides were fairly even. Grant lost a total of 610 men killed, wounded, and missing. Polk lost 641.

Polk’s defense of Camp Johnson was deplorable. He left the most likely approaches to the camp almost totally unguarded and was not aware of other approaches used in Buford’s envelopment from the south.

There is little doubt that Grant obtained the element of surprise at Belmont. Many believe that Polk was completely confused by Grant’s diversions on both sides of the river. Whether by purpose or not, tying up on the east bank of the river the night before the attack was a masterful stroke by Grant. It was the main reason for the piecemeal reinforcement of Camp Johnson during the attack. Polk clung to the idea that Grant’s true objective was Columbus.

Artillery played a significant role. Although Beltzhoover’s Watson Battery did not distinguish itself on the field, Taylor’s Chicago Battery did. Taylor’s men demonstrated the advantage that may be gained from a highly mobile field artillery unit. During the battle, they seemed to be everywhere and were delivering decisive fire upon the enemy time and time again.

Reviewing Grant’s Mistakes

The Rebel guns at “Iron Banks” played an important role by keeping Walke’s gunboats away from supporting Grant’s attack on Camp Johnson. They also kept Walke’s gunboats from interfering while Polk sent boatload after boatload of reinforcements across the river into the fight.

Grant’s use of naval forces was good. Joint army and navy operations of transportation, embarkation, and disembarkation went as well as could be expected in these early days of the war. Perhaps the biggest mistake Grant made in the use of the navy was his failure to communicate effectively with Walke once Grant’s force had been put ashore at Belmont. If Grant had informed Walke of the heavy concentration of Rebel reinforcements coming across the river, Walke might have been able to disrupt this flow. In defense of Grant, however, Walke should have paid more attention to the fighting on shore and understood what the Confederates were doing.

Possibly the most significant outcome of the battle was bringing Grant’s name to the attention of President Lincoln. At a time when finding true leadership for his fighting forces was a definite concern, Lincoln was impressed with Grant’s initiative and speed of attack.

Grant did make mistakes, however. He violated a vital principle of the offense by not pushing through the objective (Camp Johnson) and then securing his prize. At the same time, Grant has been criticized for not maintaining tighter control over his command. For example, failing to utilize his boat guard (reserve) in the battle was a big mistake. And as already mentioned, tighter control of Walke’s gunboats could have been decisive. In addition, Dollins’ cavalry and Buford’s erratic maneuvers caused some concern during the battle. But again in Grant’s defense, Buford’s flanking move enveloped Pillow’s left at Camp Johnson and probably forced the Rebels to abandon their camp faster than any other aspect of the Union attack.

Preparing for Victory As Well As Defeat

Overall, Grant utilized his “volunteer” officers effectively, and they rose to the task many times during the battle.

General Grant came away from the Battle of Belmont with a better understanding of combined arms warfare. Although he made mistakes, he later proved he had learned from them. In addition, he discovered a new and profound understanding of himself, especially under the muzzle of his enemy’s muskets. But perhaps Grant’s greatest lesson was that a commander must always be just as prepared for victory as he is for defeat.

The battle of Belmont clearly indicated how important Columbus was. As long as the Rebels held the Iron Banks, they controlled the Mississippi. Belmont certainly served as a diversion that left the Rebels unprepared for General Grant’s attacks on Fort Henry and Fort Donelson.

When Fort Henry and Fort Donelson fell, Columbus became outflanked by the Union forces. As a result, the Confederates were forced to abandon their strong position at Columbus. Union forces moved in and occupied Columbus on March 4, 1862.

This article by Donald J. Roberts II first appeared in the Warfare History Network on October 1, 2015.

Image: Image from page 8 of "Generals and battles of the Civil War" (1891). Public domain.

8K Scam or Suprise? Does 'Upconverted' 8K Content Look Any Good?

The National Interest - Sun, 24/05/2020 - 12:00

Stephen Silver


Can technology make up for a lack of native 8K content?

8K TV is one of the stranger product categories out there. It's the next generation of ultra-high-definition TVs, which have been rolled out at CES and other electronics shows since not long after 4K TVs were announced.

Several of the major TV manufacturers, including Sony, Samsung, and LG, have 8K TVs on the market at very high-end prices, with this year's 8K Sony TV, the Z8H, topping out at $10,000 for its 85-inch model.

However high-end 8K TVs may be, the fact about them remains that there's very little content available to watch on them. Cable and other pay TV providers don't provide streams in 8K, nor do streaming services, and there's not yet any type of physical media that broadcasts in that resolution. Movies aren't even being filmed in 8K yet, for the most part, although recent Marvel movies “Captain Marvel” and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” used 8K cameras for some scenes.

"It's great in theory, but right now you'll have a hard time finding 8K content, and there isn't much point in getting a new TV if you don't have a way to really show it off," PC Magazine wrote in January, as the latest models were rolling out at CES. "The same was true when 4K emerged, and if 8K follows a similar trajectory, you'll likely be limited to demo footage and nature documentaries for a few years before you see any of your favorite movies or shows in the format.”

Therefore, the big selling point of 8K models is their upconverting capability. And it's important to note that while most broadcast and streaming content is available not in 4K but lower resolution such as 1080p, so the leap is even larger. Also, some experts say the difference between 4k and 8K is only visible when the screens are a certain size.

"To present lower-resolution material on an 8k TV, the TV has to perform a process called upscaling," RTINGS wrote. "This process increases the pixel count of a lower-resolution image, allowing a picture meant for a screen with fewer pixels to fit a screen with many more. It’s important to remember that since the amount of information in the signal doesn’t change, there won’t be more detail present.", meanwhile, cautions against buying an 8K TV, because "the extra visual quality these TVs deliver is wasted along with the extra money you’d spend on them." The site adds that "for you to even really distinguish a visual difference between 4K resolution and 8K resolution, you need to start looking at TV screens of at least 75 inches or more, and serious appreciation of the difference between the two only really fleshes out at around the 85 inch plus mark."

If the path of 4K is any indication, prices for 8K TVs will come down as the years pass, making them much more of a value proposition than they are currently.

Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist, and film critic, is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver

Image: Reuters.

America's Firebombing Campaign in Japan Was an All-Out War On the Civilian Population

The National Interest - Sun, 24/05/2020 - 11:30

Warfare History Network

History, Asia

Fire-bombing constituted the worst form of warfare imaginable.

The fire-bombing raids on Japan constituted all-out war on a civilian population.

It was a method of warfare that would have been anathema to Americans only a few short years before. A major reason for the development of high-altitude precision bombing was the belief among most Air Corps officers that deliberately attacking civilians was immoral. Even as the British turned toward area bombing of German cities, American strategists continued hazardous daylight bombing from high altitudes. Yet, many of these same officers enthusiastically embraced a policy of deliberately attacking Japanese civilians. What was their rationale for such a change in thinking?

Racism no doubt was a major factor—not to mention that quite a few high-ranking American officers were of German descent while none were Asian. Hatred of—or resentment toward—the Japanese for attacking Pearl Harbor was another, although it is important to recall that the Japanese targets in Hawaii had all been military. Fears of high casualties from an invasion was another factor, even though the costly battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa were still long in the future when the Twentieth Bomber Command began considering a change toward urban attack. Rationalization for war on civilians was also likely based on Japanese decisions to turn the entire country into an armed camp, with all Japanese males aged 17 to 60 and all women 17 to 45 subject to military service. The new policy rationalized that there were no more civilians in Japan.

Fire-bombing constituted the worst form of warfare imaginable, as incendiary bombs and napalm were dropped with the intention of creating mass conflagrations that would sweep through Japanese cities, sending thousands of men, women, and children to painful, horrible deaths. The results of the atomic bombs were even worse, compounded by the effects of radiation. “Civilized” war had become the most horrible form of warfare ever imagined and no one was off-limits to the destruction.

This article by Sam McGowan first appeared in the Warfare History Network on June 23, 2016.

Image: Boeing B-29A-45-BN Superfortress 44-61784 6 Bombardment Group G 24 BS - Incendiary Journey June 1,1945 mission to Osaka,Japan. (U.S. Air Force photo)



Article rédigé pour L'association des Jeunes de l'IHEDN

La crise sanitaire qui déferle sur le monde depuis le début de l’année 2020 contribue indéniablement à réécrire l’histoire de la pensée stratégique et à redéfinir un certain nombre de concepts des relations internationales. La vulnérabilité avérée d’un certain nombre de sociétés, plusieurs interrogations sur le rapport de force global qui sortira de cette crise, une compétition mondiale pour l’influence et la puissance, sont autant de signaux qui indiquent une reconfiguration importante.

En premier lieu, nous avons la confirmation selon laquelle la sécurité n’est pas seulement militaire, ni même économique, mais avant tout humaine. Dès lors, la capacité des États à assurer la sécurité à leurs populations est un facteur essentiel de leur crédibilité et donc un paramètre central de la définition de leur puissance. À partir du moment où la sécurité physique des populations est en jeu, à partir du moment également où la sécurité économique est en cause, c’est toute la notion de défense qui doit être repensée.


Par Frédéric CHARILLON,



La redéfinition de la sécurité


Les relations internationales ont vu progresser depuis plusieurs années le concept de sécurité humaine, qui tend à se superposer à celui de sécurité nationale, en mettant l’accent sur la préservation des populations, sur leur survie physique et économique, sur celle de leur mode de vie. On a pu constater à plusieurs reprises qu’une mise en danger de la sécurité humaine était l’un des facteurs de conflits les plus importants. La spirale « anxiété des populations, contraction économique, montée des nationalismes » est un phénomène connu.

La crise du covid-19 pourrait ne pas échapper à cette règle. Les répercussions économiques du confinement, les traces psychologiques que laissera cette pandémie au sein de populations désormais méfiantes à l’égard des échanges internationaux, pourraient provoquer un climat d’insécurité générale. Les tensions entre Pékin et Washington, les dissensions au sein de l’Union européenne, la tentative de plusieurs régimes autoritaires de tirer profit de cette crise pour faire avancer leur influence, montrent à quel point un enjeu initialement sanitaire peut devenir un enjeu de sécurité politique internationale. Bien plus encore que la situation provoquée il y a quelques années par le virus ebola en Afrique, qui n’a pas touché l’intégralité des échanges internationaux, la situation actuelle impose une réflexion stratégique sur le lien entre santé et sécurité mondiale.



La redéfinition de la puissance


Les critères pour mesurer la capacité d’un État à protéger sa population s’en trouvent également profondément modifiés. On savait déjà que la force militaire n’était pas en mesure de régler toute situation (et moins encore la détention de l’arme nucléaire). On constate aujourd’hui que la possibilité d’effectuer des tests sanitaires à une population entière, de lui fournir des équipements de protection (masques, gel hydroalcoolique…) sont des critères essentiels pour statuer à la compétence de l’État et au respect et de sa part du pacte hobbesien (assurer la sécurité d’une population en échange du renoncement de celle-ci à une partie de sa liberté). Donc des critères pour mesurer sa puissance.

La capacité d’un État à imposer sa force de négociation sur la scène internationale pour obtenir des masques fait soudainement figure d’indicateur important de son statut. Tout comme la capacité à anticiper, à augmenter une production stratégique, à monter en puissance sur le plan de politiques publiques sanitaires ou autres. L’Allemagne sort ainsi grandie de cette crise, même si son fonctionnement fédéral peut à terme lui compliquer la tâche. Plusieurs pays asiatiques ont également démontré une aptitude à gérer correctement la crise, notamment en innovant sur le plan technologique. Le fait qu’il s’agisse de démocraties (Taiwan, Corée du sud, le cas particulier de Hong Kong, et la démocratie dirigiste de Singapour) n’est pas sans conséquences politiques dans le rapport de force régional.


La redéfinition de la défense


Why Israel, Britain, And France Came To Regret Their 1956 Suez Misadventure

The National Interest - Sun, 24/05/2020 - 11:00

Michael Peck

History, Middle East

Militarily, the Anglo-Franco-Israeli plan was a success. Politically, it was a disaster.

Here's What You Need To Remember: Militarily, the Anglo-Franco-Israeli plan was a success. Politically, it was a disaster. Antiwar protests erupted in Britain from a public that was in no mood to die for the empire. Others were shocked by the sheet deceit and manipulation of the operation.

The war began with an imperialist invasion to seize the Suez Canal. It ended with the Soviet Union threatening to nuke Britain, France and Israel.

The 1956 British and French attack on Suez, and the parallel 1956 Israel-Egypt War, have to be among the strangest conflicts in history. The cast of characters includes two fading empires reluctant to admit their decline, a charismatic Arab dictator, a paranoid Jewish state, a semi-fake war and a superpower with nuclear weapons.

The crisis began over who just owned the Suez Canal, gateway between Europe and Asia. In July 1956, Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser announced he would nationalize the canal, which was controlled still by European shareholders even after Egypt achieved independence from Britain (the same situation would later apply to the United States and the Panama Canal). Nasser’s decision was prompted by the cutoff of American funding for the massive Aswan Dam, after Nasser had signed a huge arms deal with the Soviet bloc.

Nasser’s response was simple: if the Americans and British wouldn’t subsidize the Aswan Dam, then Egypt would nationalize the Suez Canal and use the toll revenues to build the dam itself. Unfortunately, he forgot a basic rule of history: there is nothing more dangerous than a declining empire.

Or two empires. In 1956, the sun had already set on the British and French imperiums, even if they couldn’t admit it to themselves. Battered and bankrupted by World War II, these former great powers were still coming to grips with the new reality of becoming supporting actors on a global stage dominated by America and Russia.

But for Britain, the Suez Canal was a symbol of imperial prestige, as well as a lifeline to its bases in the Middle East and Persian Gulf. For the French, the issue was less about the canal and more about Nasser, whom they accused of arming Algerian rebels fighting for independence from France. British prime minister Anthony Eden alluded to Munich, as if taking down Nasser would make up for not stopping Hitler in 1938.

Meanwhile, the Arab-Israeli conflict smoldered as it always does. After Israel’s victory in the 1948 War of Independence, Egypt sponsored Palestinian terrorist attacks from Sinai into Israel, to which Israel swiftly retaliated. The Israelis were convinced that another war was inevitable with Egypt, and they were eager to stop Egypt’s blockade of the Straits of Tiran, which kept Israeli ships from exiting the Red Sea to trade with Africa and Asia.

France, Britain and Israel eventually hatched a plan—the Protocol of Sèvres—breathtaking in its cynicism. First, Israel would invade the Egyptian-held Sinai Peninsula. Then, ostensibly to protect the Suez Canal, Britain and France would issue an ultimatum for Israel and Egypt to withdraw from the Canal Zone. When Egypt predictably refused, Anglo-French forces would invade and take over the canal. Nasser would be humiliated and overthrown, European control over the Suez Canal restored, and the good old days of nineteenth-century imperialism would be restored.

The war kicked off on October 29, 1956, with Israel’s Operation Kadesh, the brainchild of Chief of Staff Moshe Dayan. With typical ingenuity, Israeli P-51 Mustangs flew low over the Sinai to cut telephone wires with their propellers, severing Egyptian military communications. At the same time, Israeli paratroopers dropped on the strategic Mitla Pass through the Sinai mountains. Other paratroopers, led by Col. Ariel Sharon, raced across the desert to link up with them, as did other Israeli infantry and tank columns. Despite occasionally fierce fighting, Israel controlled the Sinai within a few days.

This gave Britain and France an excuse to issue their ultimatum. When Egypt ignored it, Operation Musketeer (Opération Mousquetaire to the French) commenced. A better name would have been Operation Mouseketeer, because the whole operation was Mickey Mouse. As pointed out by President Eisenhower, who knew more than most about planning invasions, the Anglo-French didn’t have a lot of troops compared to D-Day and other World War II landings. Some eighty thousand troops were involved, as well as more than two hundred warships (including five British and two French aircraft carriers) and hundreds of aircraft. While some of the British troops were unenthusiastic conscripts who couldn’t figure out why they were going to Egypt, the landings were spearheaded by elite British and French paratroopers and commandos.

After the Egyptian Air Force was destroyed in the opening hours of the invasion, paratroopers dropped on the Canal Zone, backed by Royal Marines coming in on amphibious landing craft. Troop-carrying helicopters from British carriers also conducted the world’s first ship-based helicopter assault.

Like the Israelis, the Anglo-French forces faced numerous but poorly trained and led Egyptian troops. Despite sporadic street fighting and sniper attacks—Nasser handed out guns to Egyptian civilians—the invasion was never really in doubt. The British suffered about a hundred casualties (compared to about four thousand at D-Day), the French lost about fifty men, and the Israelis around 1,100. Combined Egyptian losses to the dual invasions were on the order of eight thousand or so.

Militarily, the Anglo-Franco-Israeli plan was a success. Politically, it was a disaster. Antiwar protests erupted in Britain from a public that was in no mood to die for the empire. Others were shocked by the sheet deceit and manipulation of the operation.

However, what really mattered was the reaction of the superpowers. Soviet premier Nikolai Bulganin warned that the Soviet Union was ready to fire nuclear-armed ballistic missiles at Britain, France and Israel unless those nations withdrew. This, too, was a deception: the Soviet Union’s ICBM force was mostly propaganda at this time. Not to mention hypocritical, given that just a month before, Soviet tanks had brutally suppressed Hungarian rebels in Budapest.

Equally shocking was the reaction of the United States. Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles threatened economic sanctions against Israel if it failed to withdraw from the Sinai. It also threatened Britain’s oil supply (Saudi Arabia did embargo Britain and France) and considered selling off British bonds, which would have devastated the British economy. A UN resolution, spurred by the United States, called for a ceasefire and withdrawal of foreign forces.

The damage to the West was immense. U.S.-British relations were damaged, and Soviet prestige enhanced. Eden resigned as prime minister, while the British resigned themselves to no longer acting as an imperial power. The West Germans noted that the Soviets had threatened to attack Western Europe, and the United States had not protested. Israel grudgingly withdrew, and began preparing for the next war (which would come in 1967). Instead of being overthrown, Nasser became the hero of the Arab world; his comeuppance would also come in 1967.

Leaders such as Saddam Hussein and Muammar el-Qaddafi have left a bad taste in the mouth when it comes to Arab strongmen. And yet in this case, it’s hard not to sympathize a little with Nasser. Ultimately, the Suez Canal is Egyptian territory.

There have been other Western invasions since 1956, notably Iraq in 2003 and Libya in 2011. But for old-fashioned nineteenth-century imperialism, Suez was the last gap.

Michael Peck is a contributing writer for the National Interest. He can be found on Twitter and Facebook. This first appeared several years ago and is being reposted due to reader interest.

Image: Wikipedia.

How Did Stonewall Jackson Really Die?

The National Interest - Sun, 24/05/2020 - 10:30

Warfare History Network

History, Americas

Stonewall Jackson’s death in May 1863 is the stuff of legend, but its true cause remains a matter of medical dispute.

For the black-skinned, blue-clad soldiers deployed on the extreme left flank of the Union Army outside Nashville, Tennessee, the order to advance announced at dawn on December 15, 1864, was a long time coming. No unit of the United States Colored Troops (USCT), made up entirely of black enlisted men under the command of white officers, had been committed to major combat in the western theater since the bloody setback at Port Hudson, Louisiana, in May 1863. Now, almost 18 months later, two brigades of untested black troops were about to play a role in one of the most decisive battles of the Civil War.

Four miles south of the city, General John Bell Hood’s ill-fed, ill-clothed, and ill-shod veterans of the Confederate Army of Tennessee waited grimly in their defensive works. This once-proud and formidable force had never been in such dreadful condition. Still reeling from the horrendous physical and psychological trauma it had suffered in the catastrophic defeat at Franklin, Tennessee, two weeks earlier, the army was so thinned, in fact, that it had only managed to extend a line of partially completed works four miles below the city, leaving sizable gaps between both flanks and the Cumberland River.

Victory Seems to Slip Away from the Rebels

If the battle-hardened veterans under Hood could achieve victory—an increasingly remote possibility—their stalled offensive into their namesake state could be resurrected. Accustomed to facing heavy odds, the renowned Confederate infantry, if victorious, could drive their defeated foes from Nashville, reclaim the capital city, and gain access to the vast Federal supplies there. With his troops rested and refitted, Hood could then push north, threatening Kentucky and Ohio, his army’s ranks swelling with new recruits along the way. Union Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman might have to abandon his punishing march to the sea through Georgia and return to the defensive.

Threatened with removal from command of the Federal forces in Nashville for refusing to attack Hood immediately, Maj. Gen. George H. “Pap” Thomas nevertheless continued his meticulous preparations not only to defeat the Rebel host in his front but to utterly destroy it. Thomas needed time to organize and deploy his large and heterogeneous forces, find mounts for a third of his 12,000-man cavalry, and gather the necessary transports to conduct a vigorous pursuit of the enemy in the event they were driven back from the outskirts of the city.

It was now December 1. Maj. Gen. John Schofield, the victor of Franklin, was safely inside Nashville with his five divisions, 62 guns, and almost 800 wagons. Other units were arriving daily to fill out Thomas’s army. Hood had few options; he feared wholesale desertion if he retreated to regroup. He could attack Murfreesboro, 30 miles southeast of Nashville, where 9,000 Union troops under Maj. Gen. Lovell Rousseau were posted in strong works, but Thomas could reinforce Rousseau with more troops than Hood had in his whole army. Attacking Nashville, one of the most heavily fortified cities on the American continent, was out of the question. If Hood managed to bypass Nashville and push north, he risked attack from flank and rear.

“The Lines Looked More Like the Skirmish Line of a Regular Army”

When Hood arrived in front of Nashville, he adopted a tactic that Napoleon Bonaparte, the father of modern warfare, once called a form of deferred suicide: the passive defensive. Hood put his men to work putting up breastworks and waited for Thomas to attack him, while he prayed for the arrival of reinforcements. He implored his superiors in Richmond to get General Edmund Kirby Smith to send troops from the Trans-Mississippi Department, but the chances of substantial reinforcements arriving in time to help Hood were remote at best.

As the exhausted Confederate soldiers set about digging trenches and throwing up breastworks south of the city, to one private “the lines looked more like the skirmish line of a regular army, than a regular army itself.” Many of Hood’s veterans had no overcoats or blankets, and their uniforms were in tatters. Those who had shoes—and as many as one in five did not—wrapped their worn boots in rags or gunny sacks. After a fierce storm hit Nashville on December 9, many soldiers began leaving bloody footprints in the snow.

On paper, Hood’s army still looked formidable: three corps, nine divisions, 27 brigades. But after Franklin, the Confederate force in front of Nashville was down to about 23,000 infantry and 1,750 cavalry. Meanwhile, all the Federal units that would take part in the defense of Nashville had arrived safely. Three veteran divisions that made up Maj. Gen. A.J. Smith’s XVI Corps were welcomed when they arrived on November 30 after an arduous trek across Kansas from St. Louis. The garrison and quartermaster troops had now been augmented by militia units, new levees, convalescents, detached units, three corps of infantry from three separate commands, and finally by a provisional detachment under Maj. Gen. James Steedman that included two brigades of U.S. Colored Troops. Upon arrival by rail from Chattanooga, the 1st and 2nd Colored Brigades were assigned positions on Thomas’s extreme left flank along a front that stretched from Fort Negley east to the Lebanon Pike, close to the banks of the Cumberland River.

A “Great Danger in Delay”

Hood’s army had barely arrived when Thomas began receiving an almost daily barrage of telegrams from Maj. Gen. Henry Halleck in Washington and from Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, 500 miles away in City Point, Virginia, urging him to attack and destroy Hood immediately. On December 6, obviously not cognizant of the weakened condition of Hood’s army, Grant wired Thomas: “There is great danger in delay resulting in a campaign back to the Ohio.” He ordered him to attack at once. Thomas agreed, but the difficulties he faced convinced him that his army wasn’t adequately prepared, and he decided to delay until at least December 9 or 10.

Grant, worried that a Rebel thrust toward the Ohio River would embarrass him for allowing Sherman to march away from Hood’s army, decided to relieve Thomas, but then changed his mind. By that time, both armies were literally frozen in place and unable to move, the result of a fierce storm that had covered the ground with a blanket of ice and snow. The storm halted construction of a line of wood-and-earthen forts, or redoubts, that Hood had ordered built along both sides of the Hillsboro Pike to shore up his weak left flank.

On December 9, Halleck wired Thomas that Grant had “experienced much dissatisfaction at your delay in attacking the enemy.” In reply, Thomas told Halleck, “I feel conscious I have done everything in my power, and that the troops could not have been gotten ready before this. If Gen. Grant should order me to be replaced I will submit without a murmur.” Two days later, as the freezing temperatures continued to keep armies immobilized, Grant wired Thomas that he was still worried about the threat of a Rebel army moving toward the Ohio River. At that moment, Hood’s soldiers were shivering in their trenches and fortifications while bitterly cold winds howled around them and Union artillery shells rained down. The Confederates’ own artillery was silent, conserving ammunition for the battle to come. All along the line, vicious skirmishing and sharpshooting were taking place day and night.

Thomas Prepares His Attack

The weather finally took a turn for the better on December 13, and the morning of the 14th brought clear skies and a warm sun. The suffering of the Confederates in their trenches eased, but when the ice and snow began to melt, Hood’s army found itself mired in a sea of mud. Thomas was ready to launch his attack. He called his commanders together, told them the attack would begin on the morning of December 15, and meticulously explained the role of each corps. He would sally forth with a combined infantry and cavalry force of 54,000 men while leaving 9,000 to man the city’s defenses.

It would be none too soon. Grant was en route to Washington and planned to travel to Nashville by rail to personally assume command. Thomas chose a tactic favored by the other Union commanders. Steedman would move out at first light against the Rebel right and conduct a strong demonstration, tying down as many enemy units as possible in an attempt to mislead Hood about where the major attack would be made. On the far right, Brig. Gen. James Wilson’s entire body of cavalry, together with Smith’s infantry corps, would make a grand left wheel, assaulting and overlapping the enemy left. In the center, Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Wood’s corps would serve as the pivot for the wheel and threaten the enemy salient on Montgomery Hill, a mere quarter mile south of Thomas’s command post on Lawrence Hill. Schofield’s corps would be held in reserve between Smith and Wood, to be used according to developments on the battlefield. Apprised of the war council at the last second, Grant muttered to his staff, “Well, I guess we won’t go to Nashville,” and settled in to await word from the front.

The morning of December 15 broke warm and sunny, but a thick fog obscured the field until late morning. The fog and the uneven nature of the ground partially hid the first movements of Steedman’s units when they sallied forth on the left, two hours late owing to the fog. The Union vanguard consisted of the 1st Colored Brigade under Colonel Thomas Morgan, the 2nd Colored Brigade led by Colonel Charles Thompson, and a motley brigade of white convalescents, conscripts, and bounty jumpers under the command of Colonel Charles Grosvenor.

Hood’s right rested on a deep railroad cut between the Nolensville and Murfreesboro Turnpikes. Raines Hill, astride the former, was an imposing terrain feature held by veterans of Maj. Gen. Benjamin Cheatham’s corps. A concealed lunette just to the east, across the tracks of the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad, was occupied by 500 survivors of the late Brig. Gen. Hiram Granbury’s Texas Brigade. From Nolensville Pike, Hood’s line ran west across Franklin Pike, past Granny White Pike, to where Redoubt 1, the true salient of Hood’s left, lay just east of Hillsboro Pike. From there the line “refused” at a right angle to Redoubt 2, also on the east side of the pike. The Confederate line stretched diagonally across the pike to Redoubts 3, 4, and 5. A division of Lt. Gen. A.P. Stewart’s corps was set behind a stone wall that ran parallel to Hillsboro Pike, constituting the extreme left flank of the Confederate works.

Morgan’s Troops Forced to Fall Back

A little after 8 am, Steedman’s three brigades, 7,600 strong and augmented by two batteries of artillery, advanced toward Cheatham’s works, driving back the Confederate skirmish line. The brigades of Grosvenor and Thompson advanced directly on the main works, while Morgan’s three regiments of 3,200 black troops moved out to the left directly toward the hidden lunette. When Grosvenor’s columns came within range, they were shredded by withering artillery and musket fire and fled in disarray out of range, where they were content to remain for the rest of the day.

Next came Thompson’s brigade, which received the same harsh reception and also stalled. The Confederate veterans waiting inside the lunette held their fire while Morgan’s troops continued forward. When the black troops moved onto the cut and within range, the Texans rose and delivered a terrible volley of musket fire into their ranks. Southern artillery then let loose a torrent of shells, and fire coming from the works west of the cut caught Morgan’s men in a deadly crossfire.

Under such a pounding, Morgan’s troops were forced to fall back. They quickly regrouped and reformed for another advance, as did the four regiments of Thompson’s brigade. The black troops came on once more, only to be halted again. This went on for a good two hours. At 11 am further advances were halted, but the attackers remained within musket range of the Confederate works and stayed in contact with Cheatham’s right flank for the remainder of the day’s fighting. The black units had done everything asked of them, suffering severe losses in the process.

On the Union right, the corps of Wilson and Smith were delayed for some time while several divisions of infantry were being aligned properly. At 10 am the commanders began moving their two corps, seven full divisions in all, out of their works to initiate the grand movement of the day. Wilson’s troopers, 9,000 mounted and 3,000 dismounted, moved out in a westerly direction, parallel to Charlotte Pike, then they wheeled to the left, crossed the pike, and moved southward toward Harding Pike. The first Rebel forces Wilson’s men encountered were the skirmishers of the understrength, 700-man brigade of Brig. Gen. Matthew Ector (who was not present, having lost a leg at Atlanta). Hood had placed the brigade behind Richland Creek, between Charlotte and Harding Pikes, to provide some help to General James R. Chalmers’s badly outnumbered cavalry brigades. Wilson’s troopers advanced rapidly on Ector’s small force, capturing a number of prisoners and wagons, but the bulk of the defenders fired off a couple of volleys and then headed back toward the main Confederate works on Hillsboro Pike as ordered. Chalmers’s outnumbered force put up a spirited defense on Charlotte Pike, holding back an entire division of Wilson’s troopers, but it was simply too small to be much of a factor in the rest of the day’s fighting.

Can the Fort Be Held?

Smith’s corps moved out simultaneously with Wilson’s men. Bearing left, the corps moved across Harding Pike and advanced toward the Rebel works strung out along both sides of Hillsboro Pike. When reports began streaming in to Stewart about large movements on his left, he was well aware of what was happening—the enemy was trying to turn his flank. He immediately requested reinforcements. Hood ordered Maj. Gen. Stephen D. Lee, whose corps had scarcely been touched, to send one division to Stewart and ordered Cheatham to dispatch Maj. Gen. William Bate’s division to the left as well.

As the two Union corps, more than 20,000 strong, moved forward across Harding Pike and approached the mile-long extension of the Confederate left along Hillsboro Pike, three of Hood’s Redoubts—3,4, and 5—nestled along the west side of the pike, came into view shortly before noon. Each of the forts boasted a four-gun battery of 12-pounder smoothbore Napoleons, fairly accurate up to about half a mile. Inside the works, 50 cannoneers and 100 dug-in riflemen had been told to hold their positions at all hazards.

Between noon and 1 pm, while in the Union center Wood was about to get the order to attack Montgomery Hill with his corps, Wilson and Smith opened fire with their rifled pieces on Redoubts 3, 4, and 5; after a good hour’s bombardment, the blue columns advanced again. The Confederates answered with volleys of double-shotted canister, halting the blue waves at least temporarily in front of Redoubts 3 and 4. Redoubt 5 was left exposed on Stewart’s far left. Hit from front and flank, Redoubt 5 fell fairly rapidly, with the loss of its four guns, overwhelmed by a brigade of Wilson’s dismounted troopers and a brigade of Smith’s infantry.

The captured fort’s guns were quickly turned on Redoubt 4, next in line, which was already being heavily shelled by the 16 guns placed in its front by Smith and Wilson. Inside Redoubt 4, Captain William Lumsden, a Virginia Military Institute graduate and former commandant of cadets at the University of Alabama, blazed away at the enemy with his gunners and 100 riflemen of the 29th Alabama. At 11 am, Lumsden called to the officers and asked them to stay and help him hold the small fort. They replied, “It can’t be done. There’s a whole army to your front.” It took almost three hours after the commencement of the initial artillery barrage before the attackers could finally overwhelm Lumsden and his garrison. When the end was near, Lumsden cried out, “Take care of yourselves, boys,” and scrambled back with the survivors to the main Confederate works west of Hillsboro Pike. It was by now almost 3 pm; with the reduction of Redoubts 4 and 5 complete, the Union batteries displaced forward to focus their attention on the stone wall running along the eastern side of the pike.

Wood’s Soldiers Anxious to Play Their Part

Hoping that Wilson could extend his attack even further against Hood’s flank and rear and possibly even gain a foothold on the vital Granny White Pike, Thomas ordered Schofield to move up with his two divisions, held in reserve near the Union salient on Lawrence Hill, into the pocket between Smith’s corps and Wilson’s cavalry. This movement went off without a hitch, and soon Schofield’s corps of about 12,000 men was in position to join the general attack threatening to bury Hood’s left along Hillsboro Pike.

By early afternoon it was almost time for Wood’s anxious soldiers to play their part in the massive left wheel. All morning, the men of Wood’s IV Corps, the largest in Thomas’s force at 16,645 strong, had waited near Lawrence Hill while Steedman’s corps moved out to their left and Smith and Wilson’s on their right. Almost all the men were veterans of Franklin, where Wood had assumed command after Maj. Gen. David S. Stanley was wounded. Still a brigadier, Wood was trying to erase what he felt was an unfair stain on his record dating back to the Battle of Chickamauga, 15 months earlier, when he had obeyed a faulty order to pull his men out of line immediately before the massive Confederate breakthrough. Now Wood’s corps advanced on the Rebel salient on Montgomery Hill, which was nothing more than a line of nearly empty works manned by a skeleton force of skirmishers.

From his post on the near side of the valley, Wood marveled at the imposing sight of his attackers. At about 1 pm, the pickets of Maj. Gen. William Loring’s division looked out from their trenches along the crest of the hill and spotted Wood’s blue lines coming up the slope toward them. The handful of butternut-clad infantrymen fired off a few volleys and then prudently headed for the rear. In a matter of minutes, Wood’s legions came up and over the parapets and into the barren line of works, capturing a small number of prisoners. The assault, although successful, had only driven out the advanced forces of Stewart’s corps; the main Rebel salient at Redoubt 1 was still intact.

Furious Shelling from Wood’s Men

While Wood was attacking, the fighting farther west continued unabated. Under an umbrella of artillery fire, Brig. Gen. John McArthur’s division advanced on the stone wall along Hillsboro Pike, routing the defenders with surprising ease. The two brigades there were reinforcements whom Hood had withdrawn at about noon from his center, and when they arrived they had been placed on Maj. Gen. Edward Walthall’s left opposite Redoubt 4. Walthall’s three brigades had been taking a terrible pounding for several hours from the Union artillery and had been holding firm, but when the units on their left collapsed, they began to give ground as well. By now, Stewart could see disaster looming. Two more brigades from Lee had come up, but they were little help holding back the blue wave that had breached Hillsboro Pike. A brigade of McArthur’s division advanced on Redoubt 3, and, although the defenders there greeted the attackers with a fierce blast of grapeshot and canister, the Federals pushed forward and carried the fort and its four guns. When they began taking fire from the defenders on Redoubt 2, McArthur’s men stormed that fort and took it as well.

After the success of his initial attack upon Montgomery Hill, Wood realized that Redoubt 1, on a high hill to his front, was the crucial Rebel position, and he brought up two batteries of six guns each to deliver a converging fire on the salient. The vital angle in Stewart’s line, with Walthall’s division to its left and Loring’s to its right, was being held by a brigade under the command of Brig. Gen. Claudius Sears. After a half hour of furious shelling, Wood ordered Brig. Gen. Washington Elliot to attack the salient. At 4:30 pm, angry because Elliot had delayed his attack, Wood ordered Brig. Gen. Nathan Kimball to do the honors instead. With darkness approaching, Kimball promptly sent his division forward, and within minutes it breached the crest of the hill from the northeast. The men of Elliot’s division were close behind, as well as a brigade of McArthur’s coming in from the west. Four guns and a number of prisoners were taken.

Hood Counts Up His Losses

Stewart, his left overlapped by Wilson and his line along Hillsboro Pike crumbling, saw the inevitable coming and ordered Walthall and Loring to fall back. He was establishing a new line near two hills that shielded Granny White Pike. While Stewart’s corps was withdrawing in fairly good order, Colonel David Coleman’s troops, cut off during the fighting along Hillsboro Pike, fell back to Shy’s Hill, where they were met by Hood, who told them to hold at all costs. Bate’s division, which had arrived after marching over from the right flank, was ordered into a defensive position on a hill north of Coleman’s brigade. A division of Schofield’s corps, hungry for action, came up and drove Bate’s division off the hill, but when night fell the fighting ended and both armies bivouacked in place.

After Hood ordered Lee and Cheatham to withdraw their corps, Stewart pulled his various units together into a fairly solid line that connected at its northern end with Lee’s unshaken left flank. Stewart’s task was made easier by confusion in the Union lines caused by wild celebrations of victory. The intermingled units of Smith, Wood, Schofield, and Wilson, whose dismounted troopers had skirted Stewart’s left and gained a foothold near Granny White Pike, halted for the night in the open fields.

Hood’s left had taken a frightful pounding. Lost were 16 artillery pieces and some 2,200 soldiers, more than half of whom were captured when the Confederate left caved in. Thomas, believing that Hood might retreat, made plans for a pursuit, but several officers who knew Hood well, including Schofield, assured their commander that the battle was far from over. That night Hood established a new line of works along a span of hills two miles south of his original position. His men feverishly threw up breastworks along the front and heavily fortified two hills that would anchor the new line, Shy’s Hill on the left and Overton Hill on the right.

Hood instructed Cheatham, whose corps moved from the right flank to the left, to have Bate’s division join Coleman’s depleted brigade on Shy’s Hill. When the alignments were made, Hood had some 5,000 infantry on his left, 1,500 of them on Shy’s Hill. Anticipating a repeat of the first day’s tactics by Thomas, Hood told his chief engineer, Colonel S.W. Prestman, to select a line on which the reformed defenses could adequately protect the army’s left flank. The line Prestman chose was not at the military crest of Shy’s Hill, but farther down the reverse slope. If the Union attackers detected this flaw, they would be able to mass large numbers of troops in front of the hill, shielded from direct rifle fire, for a massive assault.

Wood Advances His Troops At First Light

To complete his new line, Hood put Stewart’s exhausted corps in the center and Lee’s corps on the right. Two fresh divisions, those of Maj. Gens. Henry Clayton and Carter Stevenson, which had seen only light action on the previous day and hadn’t been committed at Franklin, dug in astride the Franklin Pike and on the crest of Overton Hill. The line on Lee’s right bent back sharply to the southeast of the pike. Thomas had decided to combine Wood’s corps with Steedman’s provisional division to batter Hood’s right, in hopes of turning Hood’s flank and gaining a foothold on the crucial Franklin Pike. The assault by Steedman’s brigades would be an all-out attack, unlike the demonstrations of the first day.

At first light on the 16th, Wood advanced his corps toward Franklin Pike, pushing back the lines of Rebel skirmishers. Wood put one division on the pike and one on its left. With his third in reserve, he began moving south toward the new Rebel line. About a half mile from Lee’s new works, Wood’s corps encountered a heavy enemy skirmish line in front of Overton Hill. He brought his reserve division into line, and the entire IV Corps advanced, three divisions abreast, driving Lee’s skirmishers back into their lines under heavy musket and artillery fire. Wood then halted the column to await the major assault set for later that afternoon.

At 6 am, Steedman had moved forward to find the Rebel works to his front abandoned. He continued along Nolensville Pike, feeling for the new Confederate front, and took up position between Nolensville Pike and the left of Wood’s corps. There he remained until early afternoon, when he was ordered by Thomas to connect with Wood’s left and prepare for an assault. Meanwhile, on the Union right, Wilson went into action at 9:30 am, intending to move his dismounted troopers forward, connect with Schofield’s right flank, and hit the Rebels on the hills to his front. But the wet, muddy terrain and unexpectedly fierce resistance halted Wilson almost immediately, and when Thomas rode over to confer, Wilson suggested that his entire body of cavalry move over to Hood’s right and have a go at it there. Thomas refused.

Time to Take Overton Hill

Other than the skirmishing on the Confederate right, no serious fighting took place until late in the afternoon. The morning hours were marked by an extremely accurate and continuous Union artillery barrage along the length of Hood’s new line, with Shy Hill and Overton Hill taking especially heavy punishment. The Confederate smoothbores, fewer in number, were no match for the more than 100 Union rifled pieces that tore into the breastworks the gray-clad infantry had worked so hard to throw up the night before. Bate’s division on Shy’s Hill suffered under a particularly galling crossfire from three directions. A short distance to their front, one of Maj. Gen. Darius Couch’s batteries was firing at them from almost point-blank range, and during the course of the day delivered a staggering 560 shells onto their works.

During the morning and early afternoon hours, the Union troops on Lee’s front launched a number of probing attacks. When it seemed that the fighting on his right might escalate, endangering his hold on Franklin Pike, Hood withdrew three brigades of Smith’s division from their positions left of Shy’s Hill and sent them to support Lee on the right. This decision would come back to haunt Hood—by the time these troops arrived, the attack on Overton Hill had been repulsed and there wasn’t enough time for them to get back into position on Bate’s left.

Lee’s front had been taking heavy and accurate artillery fire, but the bulk of Hood’s artillery at Lee’s rear answered back furiously. At about 3 pm, with light rain falling, Wood felt that the time was right to overrun Overton Hill. He sent his columns forward. The brigade of Colonel Sidney Post took the lead, with that of Colonel Abel Streight in support. Steedman’s two USCT brigades, seven regiments in all, moved up on Post’s left as the assault began.

Wood’s attackers reached the base of Overton Hill and moved steadily up the slope through a hail of Confederate musket, grapeshot, and canister fire. At the outer edge of the works, Post was wounded and Lee’s infantrymen rose in their trenches and delivered a terrible volley of musket fire that brought the advance to a sudden halt. Wood recalled later, “After the repulse our soldiers, white and colored, lay indiscriminately near the enemy’s works at the outer edge of the abatis.” Steedman’s 13th Regiment, made up primarily of contrabands, suffered heavy losses in its baptism of fire—55 killed and 165 wounded. Its loss of 40 percent of its strength constituted the greatest regimental loss of the two-day fight on either side.

“For God’s Sake, Drive the Yankee Cavalry From Our Left and Rear or All Is Lost”

Meanwhile, on the Union right, Wilson’s gamble paid off. With two mounted and two dismounted divisions, he had finally forced Chalmers to give ground and had strengthened his foothold on Granny White Pike. Wilson’s troopers captured a courier who was taking a message from Hood to Cheatham that read, “For God’s sake, drive the Yankee cavalry from our left and rear or all is lost.” Wilson now felt that victory was at hand. Once he had managed to gain Cheatham’s rear, he would join Schofield in a general attack.

For two solid hours, Wilson sent couriers to Schofield, urging him to begin his attack, and finally Wilson proceeded to Schofield’s headquarters in person. By this time, the attacks on Overton Hill were subsiding, and Thomas was en route to Schofield’s headquarters as well. Schofield was being strangely hesitant. Having already received one full division of reinforcements, he was now requesting another before he would begin his attack, fearing heavy losses if he attacked Hood’s breastworks. Thomas bluntly told him, “The battle must be fought, even if men are killed.”

While Thomas was imploring Schofield to begin his advance, the group of officers suddenly witnessed a brigade of McArthur’s division, under Colonel William McMillen, advancing toward Shy’s Hill without waiting for permission. Thomas turned to Schofield and said, “General Smith is attacking without waiting for you. Please advance your entire line.” With this direct order, Schofield finally advanced.

A Quick Collapse

Cheatham’s soldiers, battered by Union artillery, now faced corps-sized attacks to their front and flank. They could also see Wilson’s dismounted cavalrymen rushing over the hills to their rear. With his left under so much pressure, Cheatham brought up reinforcements and bent his far left flank into the shape of a fishhook, until he had one line of infantrymen firing to the south and another line firing to the north. Only 100 yards separated the two lines. Hood pulled Coleman’s brigade off Shy’s Hill to set up a front on the extreme left, on the east side of Granny White Pike, to hold off Wilson when he was reinforced by another brigade. Bate had to further thin his lines on the hill to cover the position vacated by Coleman’s troops.

The brigade on Bate’s extreme left, that of Brig. Gen. Daniel Govan, was driven back down the hill and into a field behind Bate’s division. Govan’s brigade was the only one left on Bate’s flank, the other three brigades having been sent to support Lee, and had been tasked with covering a front originally assigned to an entire division. Minutes later a fatal breach occurred. Union infantry had massed in strength, almost undetected, on the steep slope to the front of Shy’s Hill, and as they came up and over the hill they encountered the 20th Tennessee under Colonel William Shy. As other units began fading away, Shy and his men stood firm, and the fighting escalated into savage hand-to-hand combat. Shy’s men continued firing until they ran out of ammunition and were surrounded. Shy was shot in the head and killed, and almost half his unit was killed or wounded. The 37th Georgia, on Bate’s left, also fought savagely until it was overrun and virtually wiped out.

With Smith to their front, Schofield to their left, and Wilson coming up from the rear, Bate’s men were buried under the weight of overwhelming numbers; all three brigade commanders were captured. “The breach once made,” Bate recalled later, “the lines lifted from either side as far as I could see almost instantly and fled in confusion.” Panic began to spread among Cheatham’s units on the left and Stewart’s in the center. Soon the bulk of Bate’s three brigades turned and headed for the rear in full retreat. On the northeastern front, the men of Steedman’s and Wood’s corps, hearing the shouts of victory coming from the Union right, renewed their assaults without waiting for orders, capturing 14 guns and hundreds of prisoners.

The Confederate artillery commander, Maj. Gen. Edward Johnson, was captured along with almost all of his division and the remaining guns. The collapse came so quickly that the batteries’ teams of horses couldn’t be brought up quickly enough to draw away the guns. Watching from horseback, Hood was astonished. Only an hour earlier his lines had been holding, his men in the center and right waving their battle flags in defiance. He had even decided on a plan to achieve victory the next morning—he would withdraw his entire army during the night and attack the Union left at dawn. Now, with full darkness approaching, Cheatham and Stewart had caved in, their men fleeing en masse for Franklin Pike, the only remaining avenue of retreat. Hood, Cheatham, and other officers tried to rally the panic-stricken troops, but it was useless. Everywhere the woods were full of fleeing soldiers, many of whom dropped their weapons and packs to lighten their loads as they ran.

Further Hardships After the Fighting for Both Sides

When the blue legions approached Lee’s corps along the pike and on Overton Hill, one division wavered and broke, and a second faltered. Lee heroically rallied a group of retreating soldiers for a stand behind the center of his line, and this small force checked the blue columns long enough to allow Clayton to withdraw his division and form it in the woods astride Franklin Pike, half a mile away. Both armies were now in motion, heading south. The drizzle turned into driving rain, mixing with the snow on the ground. Franklin Pike quickly became clogged with thousands of shaken soldiers, abandoned wagons, and riderless horses. Hood later wrote, “I beheld for the first and only time a Confederate army abandon the field in confusion.”

With the battle lost, Hood’s task was to save as much of his army as he could. He sent Chalmers with his two depleted brigades to set up a barrier near Granny White Pike. Soon Wilson’s four divisions arrived, and vicious, hand-to-hand fighting ensued in the rain and darkness, lasting long enough to enable Hood to get the bulk of his army safely onto Franklin Pike and headed south. Thomas arrived on the scene, miles in advance of the infantry. “Dang it to hell, Wilson!” cried the normally unflappable commander. “Didn’t I tell you we could lick ‘em? Didn’t I tell you we could lick ‘em if only they would let us alone?”

After two days of heavy fighting, both armies faced further hardships. In the coldest winter in Tennessee in decades, Hood’s ragged army slogged through the rain, sleet, and snow, followed closely by Wood’s infantry and Wilson’s cavalry in a race for the Tennessee River. In his retreat Hood was aided by three factors: inclement weather that turned the roads to mud; lack of forage for the Union pursuers; and the excellent rearguard actions of Lee, Chalmers, and the redoubtable Forrest, who rejoined the army at Columbia. Just as Thomas had been badgered to attack Hood without delay in the first days of December, now he was urged by his superiors hundreds of miles away to mount a vigorous pursuit to complete the destruction of the fleeing enemy. Grant, as usual, had nothing good to say—it wasn’t long before he was telling his subordinates that Thomas was “too slow to attack, not vigorous enough in pursuit.”

When Hood’s dispirited army finally crossed the Tennessee River into Alabama on the night of December 25-26, Thomas called a halt to his pursuit. The Confederate invasion of Tennessee was over, and the gallant Army of Tennessee would never again take the field as an effective fighting force. Despite what Grant and Halleck said—and would continue to say—about his alleged “case of the slows,” Thomas had won one of the most decisive victories of the entire war.


This article by John Walker first appeared in the Warfare History Network on September 6, 2015.

Image: Stonewall Jackson. Library of Congress/David Bendann.

In 1943, Russia Threw Nazi Germany Out Of The Taman Peninsula

The National Interest - Sun, 24/05/2020 - 10:00

Warfare History Network

History, Europe

The Soviet Army liberated the Taman Peninsula during a month of hard fighting in the autumn of 1943.

The charred remains of men and machines scattered through the Kursk salient in July 1943 signified the death knell of the last attempt by the German Wehrmacht to regain the initiative on the Eastern Front. On the extreme southern flank of the front, Hitler still clung to the hope of breaking through to the great oil fields of Baku on the Caspian Sea. The Taman Peninsula, wedged between the Azov and Black Seas, was the westernmost location in an area called Kuban, north and west of the Caucasus Mountains. This peninsula was conveniently positioned for the Germans as the springboard in case another offensive toward the Caucasus Mountains became possible. It also barred the back door to the Crimea, vital for holding countries of the western Black Sea rim in Hitler’s sphere of influence.

While waiting for their opportunity to materialize, the Germans turned the Taman Peninsula into a seemingly impregnable position. The Seventeenth Field Army, under General of Engineers Erwin Jaeneke, occupied the line in the vicinity of Torres Verdes. To the Soviets, these defensive positions became known as the “Blue Line.”

The 400,000 Defenders of the Blue Line

The Seventeenth Army was composed of the V and XLIV Infantry Corps, XLIX Mountain Corps, and the V Romanian Cavalry Corps, a total strength of 18 divisions and four separate regiments. The Seventeenth was one of the strongest German field armies, numbering approximately 400,000 men, 2,860 cannon and mortars, more than 100 tanks and assault guns, and 300 combat aircraft.

The landscape of the Taman Peninsula was ideally suited for defensive operations against an enemy attacking from the east. Its northern flank is anchored on the shore of the Azov Sea, east of Kurchanski Bay. It continues through a series of inlets and then follows the Kurka River south, branching off from the Kuban River. Along the roughly 35 miles that the Blue Line followed the line of the Kurka River, the Germans built a high earthen berm on the western side of the river. After crossing the Kuban River, the Blue Line briefly followed the Adagum River, a tributary of the Kuban. There the position was anchored on strongly fortified Kievskaya village. This northern sector of German defenses was fronted by a wide swath of rivers, marshes, and flooded lowlands, making frontal attack practically impossible.

The central sector of the Blue Line, approximately 20 miles long, was characterized by a low plateau, easily accessible by Soviet tanks. Therefore, the Germans paid particular attention to fortifying this region. The defensive network here consisted of two heavily fortified lines anchored on villages and low hillocks. In front of each defensive line and in the empty spaces between strongpoints, there were extensive barbed wire emplacements, minefields, and concrete bunkers bristling with guns.

The southern sector of the Blue Line ran along 15 miles of difficult mountainous terrain, terminating at the large port city of Novorossiysk located at Tsemess Bay on the Black Sea. The Germans turned whole districts of the city into miniature fortresses. Many streets were barricaded. A network of interconnected basements fortified with concrete, bricks, and timber was set up to establish in-depth defensive zones. German combat engineers blew up many buildings and built bunkers in the rubble, reminiscent of Stalingrad. The streets and the suburbs were extensively mined as well.

Fifteen to 20 miles behind the forward defensive line were multiple defensive positions, prepared with maximum utilization of advantageous terrain and narrow avenues of approach. These shorter defensive lines were given names such as Bucharest, Berlin, Munich, Breslau, Stuttgart, and Ulm. The most forward of them, running from the city of Temryuk on the Azov Sea coast southwest to the Black Sea coast and then west along it, was called the Little Gothic Line (Kleine Gotten Stellung).

The Soviet’s “Little Land”

Early in February 1943, the Soviet forces launched a general offensive to liberate the Kuban region. After several months of fighting, the Soviet Army advanced almost 400 miles before finally grinding to a halt at the Blue Line. The difficult nature of the terrain limited Soviet maneuverability, and combat actions degenerated into a costly process of pushing the Germans out rather than surrounding and destroying them.

The retreating German forces systematically destroyed bridges and railroads, collapsed wells and mined roads, using every means available to slow down the Soviet pursuit. As the Germans retreated west, their defensive lines became shorter, allowing them to create local reserves and utilize internal lines of communication. In turn, the Soviet front lines became wider, decreasing troop density.

On February 4, a small force of Soviet soldiers and sailors from the Eighteenth Army landed in the immediate vicinity of Novorossiysk and established a beachhead. Despite determined German efforts to liquidate this threat, the Soviets stubbornly hung on and slowly expanded the beachhead. By the time the general offensive ground to a halt in the first week of June 1943, the Soviet beachhead was an impregnable network of trenches and bunkers.

This small sliver of shoreline became known as the “Little Land” in the Soviet Union. In this campaign, future Soviet premier Leonid Brezhnev served as the chief political officer of the Eighteenth Army. Long after the war, Brezhnev authored a book called The Little Land, depicting the seven-month campaign on the beachhead. In his book, Brezhnev claimed to have been present on The Little Land on several occasions and in the thick of the fighting.

This book raised a large amount of controversy, which lasted for years. Many Soviet veterans claimed that Brezhnev never got any closer to The Little Land than the opposite shore of Tsemess Bay. However, until the fall of communist rule in the Soviet Union, it was unhealthy to voice this point of view.

A Campaign to Take the Taman Peninsula

While both the Germans and the Soviets took advantage of a lull in the fighting, the Soviet high command began planning a new offensive to completely clear the Taman Peninsula of German forces.

The military council of the North Caucasus front, headed by Col. Gen. I.E. Petrov, made the decision to launch the new offensive in the south against Novorossiysk. The terrain in the north of the peninsula was simply too forbidding to allow any maneuver by large forces, and the center of the Blue Line was too strongly fortified. Neither Petrov nor any of his subordinates had any illusions that Novorossiysk would be an easy nut to crack. One major factor in deciding to move against Novorossiysk was the assistance of the Soviet Black Sea Fleet with its ability to move along the southern coast of the peninsula and provide the advancing Soviet Army forces with naval gunfire.

The Soviet North Caucasus front was composed of four land armies (the Ninth, Eighteenth, Fifty-Sixth, and Fifty-Eighth), and one air army, the Fourth. The Fifty-Eighth Army was assigned to defend the shores of the Azov Sea. The other ground armies, composed of 20 infantry divisions and four naval infantry brigades, would directly participate in the attack against the Taman Peninsula. The Eighteenth Army, under Lt. Gen. K.N. Leselidze, was assigned the all-important task of liberating Novorossiysk. The Ninth Army, under Lt. Gen. Alexey A. Grechkin, was operating in the north, and the Fifty-Sixth Army, under Lt. Gen. Andrey A. Grechko, was given the central sector.

During this stage of the war, while the Soviet Air Force did not have complete air superiority, its numerical advantage over the German combat aircraft in the vicinity was daunting. Opposing the 300 German aircraft on the Taman Peninsula, the Soviet Fourth Air Army and the air assets of the Black Sea Fleet amassed more than 1,000 planes.

Fighting among the Fourth Air Army was the famed 46th Guards Night Bomber Regiment. Every single person in this unit, from cook to mechanic to pilot, was a woman, usually barely into her 20s. Flying old plywood and canvas PO-2 trainer biplanes converted into night bombers, the Soviet female fliers proudly wore the nickname “Night Witches” given to them by Germans.

The Soviet female pilots fully earned the coveted and honored “Guards” designation, paying their dues in blood. Their sacrifices were epitomized by one harrowing night mission when the slow-moving biplanes were ambushed by a German night fighter. Four Soviet aircraft were sent burning to the ground, taking eight young women fliers to their fiery deaths.

As if having a premonition of events to come, Hitler on September 3 allowed Field Marshal Erich von Manstein, commander of Army Group South, to begin the evacuation of the Taman Peninsula. The next day the orders were relayed to the Seventeenth Army, which now had only a few days to begin an orderly evacuation. Originally, the German commanders allocated eight weeks for the total evacuation of their forces from the Taman Peninsula. Coming events were to cut that time in half.

A Slow Start to the Offensive

The Soviet offensive began at 2 am on September 10, 1943. Under cover of massive artillery barrages from more than 200 cannon and air strikes by 150 combat aircraft, several small detachments of Soviet torpedo boats raced into the port of Novorossiysk and fired their torpedoes directly at jetties and German positions on the piers. Immediately following them, a small flotilla of cutters began disembarking three battalion-sized assault parties.

At 3:15 am, the main forces of the Eighteenth Army went on the offensive from two separate directions. The western group attacked from the Myskhako beachhead on the western side of Tsemess Bay. The eastern group went into action over the rugged mountainous terrain north of Novorossiysk. By now, the German and Romanian defenders were putting up a very strong defense, and the Soviet units could not make significant progress.

Throughout September 10, the Germans rushed reinforcements to the contested areas of Novorossiysk. Two of the Soviet assault groups, composed of naval infantrymen and NKVD (Soviet secret police), were fragmented and largely destroyed. Only the third group, consisting of men from the 1339th Rifle Regiment, hung onto their minor gains. It was reinforced by its sister, the 1337th Rifle Regiment, and by troops from the 318th Rifle Division during the night of September 11.

By then, the 1339th Regiment was in dire straits. The jetties and piers were recaptured by the Germans. They closed the ring around the 1339th, and the 1337th had to fight ashore. Fortunately for them, the Germans did not have time to reestablish strong defenses and the 1st Battalion of the 1337th Regiment soon linked up with the men from the 1339th.

The German Evacuation Begins

Attacking in the early morning of September 11, the eastern group of forces of the Soviet Eighteenth Army, reinforced with tanks, broke through German defenses in the vicinity of the October Cement Factory by 6 am. This allowed them to link up with the 1337th and 1339th Regiments that were advancing toward them.

At 7 am on the same day, the Soviet Ninth Army went onto its own offensive in the northern sector of the Blue Line. Limited to narrow lanes of attack, the units of the Ninth Army were not able to breach the German defenses. Still, its offensive tied down German reserves in the north and prevented them from being shifted south against the Eighteenth Army.

The Soviet Fifty-Sixth Army, deployed against the central sector of the Blue Line, conducted only limited probing attacks during September 11-13.

While the battle for Taman swung into high gear, the German Seventeenth Army began an orderly, if somewhat hurried, evacuation of the peninsula. German naval vessels were making shuttle runs from the towns of Anapa, Temryuk, and Taman to the city of Kerch on the eastern side of the Crimean Peninsula. Soviet aircraft harassed German vessels across the Kerch Straits, but the majority of the Soviet planes were busy supporting the ground forces, and the German evacuation was conducted with minimal losses in naval craft.

Fighting For the Red House

Throughout September 12-13, the Soviet command continued feeding reserves into the Eighteenth Army’s area of operations, including a division-sized tank force. In contrast, the Germans defenses, lacking further significant reserves, began showing signs of weakening.

Advancing along the northern rim of the Tsemess Bay from the October Cement Factory, the forward units of the Eighteenth Army ran into determined German resistance in Mefodievski, a northern suburb of Novorossiysk. Fighting from well-prepared positions, German defenders took heavy toll on attacking Soviet Army infantrymen. When the Soviet gunners attempted to manhandle their cannons into direct fire positions, accurate German fire caused heavy casualties among Soviet Army gun crews.

Finally, Soviet tanks and self-propelled artillery swung the balance in their favor. Methodically, the Soviet armor reduced the German strongholds to rubble and the Soviet infantrymen hunted down the German survivors among the ruins.

The German defenders put up a particularly strong fight around a large bunker complex dubbed the “Red House.” The Germans hung on for two days, subjected to point-blank fire from Soviet tanks and self-propelled artillery. The Soviets had to first reduce outlying positions in neighboring buildings before starting on the Red House proper.

At first, the Soviet cannon systematically suppressed the German heavy weapons on the lower floors. The Soviet Army infantry cleared the lower floors of the building, providing cover for their combat engineers, placing explosive charges around the main bunker. The collapse of the Red House signified the end of German resistance in Mefodievski, and by September 13 Soviet forces were in firm control of the suburb.

Defense at Wolf’s Gate Pass

On the following day came the Fifty-Sixth Army’s turn to assume the offensive. After a heavy artillery barrage at 7 am, it had the unenviable task of frontally assaulting heavily fortified and capably defended German positions. The Soviet tanks steadily advanced in the face of direct German artillery fire. They were halted just short of German forward trenches protected by extensive minefields. While the Soviet tanks traded fire with German antitank artillery, the Soviet combat engineers cleared a narrow passage in a minefield. Several tanks immediately charged through. However, just as the valiant Soviet machines exited the minefield, they were knocked out by German artillery and set on fire. The Soviet infantry was cut off from its armor early in the attack and could not make any headway.

The fighting renewed in earnest with the dawning of September 15. After a day of grinding fighting, the Soviet armor breached the forward German trenches. Soviet infantry, which this time was able to stay close to its tanks, steadily cleared the first trench line.

The Eighteenth Army was attacking on that day as well. Its western section, attacking from the Cape Myskhako area, achieved minor gains, pushing the Germans back approximately two kilometers. On the other hand, the eastern group, reinforced with tanks, captured the area of Sugar Head Mountain, opening the way into the city of Novorossiysk.

Parts of the German 4th Mountain Division defending the city were partially cut off, and the whole division was threatened with being encircled. It began falling back in the afternoon, hard-pressed by the jubilant Soviet Army. Late on September 16, the city of Novorossiysk was liberated by the Soviet Army and the Black Sea Fleet. As the German forces began withdrawing from the city, the Red Army advanced close on their heels, attempting to cut off and destroy straggling German units. A Soviet tank brigade positioned itself north of the city, ready to begin rolling up the German right flank the next day. Soviet partisan detachments, operating mainly in the forested terrain in the southwest of the peninsula, began attacking retreating German units, attempting to delay them and create panic.

As the Soviets continued pressing westward, they began running into well-prepared German defensive lines anchored on lagoons, marshes, and other difficult terrain. The German and Romanian soldiers of the Seventeenth Army put up a tenacious defense around Wolf’s Gate Pass. The Soviet offensive was slowed for two days as they had to overcome extensive defensive works placed along steep ravines. Romanian mountain infantrymen and dismounted cavalrymen gave particularly good accounts of themselves.

The Capture of Temryuk

On September 20, Soviet tanks from the Eighteenth Army reached the small town of Anapa on the coast. The Black Sea Fleet aided the ground forces by providing extensive naval gunfire support and by landing assault parties behind German lines. On the morning of September 21, the Soviet soldiers broke into Anapa, clearing it of German defenders by nightfall. The Fifty-Sixth Army continued pressing frontally and attempting flanking attacks, often bringing infantry right up to the firing lines in trucks.

All the while, the Black Sea Fleet was landing small parties along the coast to cut the narrow roads running between lagoons and marshes. After nightfall on September 25, a larger assault force of almost 8,500 men with artillery and mortars landed near Salt Lake. Its mission was to capture the city of Taman, after which the whole peninsula was named, and to cut off German avenues of retreat. The next day, supported by two regiments of combat aircraft from the Black Sea Fleet, the Soviets battled for Taman. They were not able to break through for several days.

At the same time, the Ninth Army was steadily advancing on Temryuk. This town, situated on the south shore of the Azov Sea, was a key link in German shipping between the Taman Peninsula and Crimea. Soggy ground prevented the Soviet forces from using tanks and bringing up heavy artillery. The majority of the fighting was conducted by small groups of infantrymen, fighting in a nightmarish network of marshes and lagoons studded with minefields, wire emplacements, and bunkers. To overcome the problem of moving through the chest-high water, Soviet forces used large numbers of small, flat-bottomed boats. One field- expedient solution was the use of inflated inner tubes worn by individual men as they moved through the marshes.

Again, the Soviet forces resorted to tactical naval landings behind German lines. Before dawn on September 25, more than 1,600 Soviet Army and Navy men landed in two places west of Temryuk. They were supported by cutters from the Azov Sea Flotilla and the Soviet Fourth Air Army. Simultaneously, the main forces of the Ninth Army attacked from the east. After two days of heavy fighting, Temryuk fell on September 27.

255,000 Axis Soldiers Escape

While the fighting raged on land, the Germans continued evacuating their personnel and equipment from the Taman Peninsula. Strangely, they were almost unhindered by the Soviet Air Force. Instrumental in this evacuation effort was the German 3rd Minesweeping Flotilla. This flotilla was moved to the region in 1942 from the Baltic Sea. The monumental task of moving a whole flotilla overland involved the use of special 64-wheeled transports.

By the time the last German and Romanian soldiers pulled out of the Taman Peninsula on October 9, the 3rd Minesweeping Flotilla, aided by locally procured transports, had ferried more than 255,000 Axis soldiers, 21,000 vehicles, 1,800 guns, and 74,000 horses to temporary safety. Significant amounts of war materiel and other supplies were moved out as well.

The last Axis units to leave the Taman Peninsula were the German 97th Light and 4th Mountain Divisions from the XLIX Mountain Corps. German heavy artillery placed on the Crimean Peninsula covered the pullback of the rear guard by firing heavy barrages across the Kerch Straits. General Rudolf Konrad, commander of the XLIX Mountain Corps, and General Jaeneke were among the last men to evacuate.

In 1977, a movie called Cross of Iron premiered. It starred James Coburn as the battle-hardened German Sergeant Steiner. Coburn’s character was pitted against an overzealous Captain Stransky, played by Maximilian Schell, who was out to win the highest German decoration, the Iron Cross, at all costs. This film portrayed the events of the fighting on the Taman Peninsula. Several scenes show the extensive German defensive positions and the close-in nature of fighting that developed there.

The “Kuban Shield”

The tough fighting throughout the Taman Peninsula was exemplified by an interesting feature not often seen on the Eastern Front: minimal involvement of armored forces on both sides. Difficult terrain precluded the Soviet Army from the extensive use of heavy combat vehicles, and combat operations mainly involved infantry supported by massed artillery and air attacks.

The sailors and vessels of the Soviet Black Sea Fleet and Azov Sea Flotilla proved invaluable in liberating the Taman Peninsula. Continuous amphibious landings behind German lines kept the defenders off balance. The Soviet doctrine of combined arms utilization was coming to maturity.

After the Taman operation was over, both sides could tally up successes and shortcomings. While the Soviet forces liberated a significant portion of their territory and eliminated the possibility of future German operations against the Trans-Caucasian oil fields, they failed to trap and eliminate the German Seventeenth Army.

In turn, while losing the strategically important territory, the Wehrmacht preserved the combat capability of the Seventeenth Army and prevented large stocks of supplies from falling into Soviet hands. Even before the operation was over, Hitler recognized the accomplishments of his soldiers who served on the Taman Peninsula from February 1 to October 9, 1943, by authorizing the wearing of the “Kuban Shield” shoulder patch.

“Where the Iron Crosses Grow”

German commanders placed their casualties during the Taman operation of September 10 to October 9, 1943, at more than 10,000 killed, including four division commanders, 36,000 wounded, and 3,500 missing in action. Romanian casualties were placed at 1,600 killed, 7,200 wounded, and 800 missing. Various sources estimate total Soviet casualties around 114,000 men, including more than 40,000 killed.

Neither side lacked valor. In the words of James Coburn’s Sergeant Steiner, the Taman Peninsula was the place “where the Iron Crosses grow.”

Victor Kamenir writes from his home in Sherwood, Oregon.

This article first appeared at the Warfare History Network.

Image: Wikipedia.

The Final Gamble: Why General Robert E. Lee Was Unable to Stage a Comeback

The National Interest - Sun, 24/05/2020 - 09:00

Warfare History Network

History, Americas

He did try.

Key point: The South was in bad shape. Lee had only a few more chances to push back the Union troops, but he was unsuccessful.

By the early spring of 1865, the Southern Confederacy was on the cusp of extinction. In every theater of the four-year-old Civil War, the gray-clad Rebels were getting the worst of things. In the West, the hard-fighting but poorly led Army of Tennessee had been literally eviscerated by General John Bell Hood’s useless taking of life at the battles of Franklin and Nashville. After the loss of its namesake state, Hood’s army had virtually ceased to exist as a functional military unit.

In the deep South, Maj. Gen. William Sherman’s Union army had cut a relentless swath of destruction 60 miles wide through Georgia, and was now wreaking even more havoc as it marched northward through the Carolinas to unite with General Ulysses S. Grant and the Army of the Potomac somewhere in Virginia. Confederate General Joseph Johnston, commanding the forces opposed to Sherman, admitted in a letter to General Robert E. Lee that he could do no more than “annoy” Sherman’s progress.

In the East, conditions were deteriorating just as rapidly for the Confederates. In January 1865, Fort Fisher, guardian of the port of Wilmington, N.C., fell to a combined Union naval-land assault, effectively closing off the South’s last access to the outside world.

Meanwhile, in the squalid trenches around Petersburg, Va., a key railroad center 20 miles due south of the Confederate capital of Richmond, Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia and Grant’s Army of the Potomac continued the embrace of death they had started the previous summer at the Battle of the Wilderness. Grimly and gamely the Confederates clung to their defenses, but hunger, disease, and desertion were taking an ever-increasing toll on the army’s strength, if not its continued willingness to fight. Grant’s Army of the Potomac, better fed and equipped, and increasingly confident of victory, tightened its death grip around the enemy. Each passing day brought renewed pressure as the Federals continued to extend their lines west of Petersburg in an effort to cut off the railroads supplying Lee’s nearly destitute Confederates.

The Confederacy Faces Harsh Realities

The South’s growing desperation and need for manpower led the Confederate Congress in mid-March 1865 to pass a bill that allowed the arming of slaves to fight for the Confederacy. The move, surprisingly, had the grudging support of many Southern officers. One senior officer in Lt. Gen. Jubal Early’s II Corps wrote, “I have the honor to report that the officers and men of this corps are decidedly in favor of the voluntary enlistment of the negroes as soldiers.” The measure, however, was much too little and far too late to appreciably improve the Confederacy’s chances for survival.

For Robert E. Lee, the time had come to make a painful decision. While Lee and the men who remained with him were still full of fight, and Confederate President Jefferson Davis was equally anxious to continue the struggle, military realities told both men that the end could not be far off unless something drastic was done, and quickly. What course of action offered the most promise of success? For a brief period there was hope that peace with the North might still be negotiated. Francis P. Blair, Sr., a prominent Maryland politician with connections to the Lincoln administration, visited Richmond in January 1865 on his own authority to see if some sort of accommodation could be found that would satisfy both sides. From these discussions evolved an initiative by which a delegation of three Confederate representatives met personally with President Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of State William Seward at Hampton Roads, Va., in February. The Southern delegates, however, were unwilling to accede to Lincoln’s terms for peace—complete military surrender and formal recognition of emancipation for all slaves—and in the end nothing came of the eleventh-hour discussions.

The collapse of the peace talks left Lee with a hellish, unresolved dilemma. What was his duty to the army that was literally falling apart in front of him? In an attempt to resolve this question, Lee turned to his youngest corps commander, Maj. Gen. John B. Gordon. With Lt. Gen. James Longstreet, Lee’s ever-dependable “Old War Horse,” off covering Richmond’s defenses north of the James River, and Lt. Gen. A.P. Hill, Lee’s other senior commander, increasingly indisposed due to illness, there was nowhere else for Lee to turn. Knowing Gordon to be a superior combat commander, Lee also considered him tough-minded as well as courageous. Leading the defense of the Bloody Lane at Antietam, Gordon had been wounded five times, the final wound a bullet to the face. Only the fact that his cap had a bullet hole in it kept him from drowning in his own blood. Gordon had returned from the Shenandoah Valley in December 1864, and Lee’s confidence in the young general grew even stronger as he came to personally know the 32-year-old Georgian.

“To Stand Still was Death”

On a bone-chilling morning in early March, Lee summoned Gordon to his quarters at the Turnbull House in Petersburg to discuss the deteriorating military situation. Before Gordon arrived, Lee had spread across a table all the various reports he had received from the front. These reports accurately described the parlous condition of the Confederate troops and the overwhelming enemy force arrayed against them. Lee asked Gordon to review all the documents and offer an opinion.

After reading the dispiriting documents, Gordon advised Lee that he saw only three options, which he proceeded to list in the order he felt they should be considered: make the best terms with the enemy that could honorably be obtained; abandon Richmond and Petersburg and, by rapid marches, unite with Johnston’s forces in North Carolina and strike Sherman before he and Grant could combine; or strike Grant immediately at Petersburg.

Lee concurred fully with Gordon’s assessments. Since a negotiated peace was no longer possible and the authorities in Richmond were still reluctant to abandon the capital, the only remaining option was to strike at Grant. “To stand still was death,” Lee reasoned. He directed Gordon to devise a plan by which such a blow could be struck.

A Plan of Fantasy?

Gordon and his staff spent the next several days studying the Union entrenchments around Petersburg, seeking a weak spot in the Union line. After surveying the enemy works, Gordon decided that the most promising point for a Southern attack was at Fort Stedman (named after Union Colonel Griffin A. Stedman, who had died of wounds received at the Battle of the Crater in July, 1864). It was about 100 yards from the forward Confederate position known as Colquitt’s Salient, and the picket lines were even closer, a mere 50 yards apart. Gordon was bolstered in his opinion that this was the best place for his attack when, during his survey of the Union trenches, he asked one of his subordinate officers if his forces could hold their position against a Union attack. The officer replied that he didn’t think he could hold off such an attack because of the closeness of the lines. Nevertheless, he added, “I can take their front line any morning before breakfast.”

Gordon’s plan of operation, as he proposed it to Lee, was to conduct an attack in the early-morning darkness, with a quick rush across no-man’s-land between the lines. The Union pickets would be quickly and silently overwhelmed, and 50 handpicked men with keen-edged axes would proceed to cut paths through the chevaux-de-frise, wooden obstructions with sharpened stakes laid out by Union engineers. These 50 men would be followed by three companies of 100 men each who would bypass Fort Stedman, leaving it for other supporting troops to capture, and hurry on to the second line of Union trenches. Each man in these companies would wear a white strip of cloth across his breast to identify him as friendly fire in the darkness.

When the select companies made it into the second line, they would identify themselves as Union troops fleeing a Rebel attack, using the name of a Union officer known to be serving in that sector. They would then overpower the Federals and capture three redoubts believed to be located within the works. This would serve to widen the breach in the Union lines and cause consternation among the Union troops. At this point, if all was successful, Confederate cavalry, waiting in reserve, would charge through the gap thus created and make for the Union supply and railroad lines, destroying as many men and supplies as possible.

The chief benefit of attacking in darkness, a tactic not often used during the war, would be the utter surprise of the enemy. In addition to sowing panic in the Union lines, the predawn attack would leave the Yankees confused as to exactly where and how many Confederate troops were actually involved in the assault. It would also prevent Union artillery from firing on the Confederates for fear of killing their own men.

It was hoped that the seizure of Fort Stedman and the works in its rear would convince Grant that his army was in imminent danger of being cut in half and would accordingly force him to constrict his lines. This, in turn, would allow Lee to shorten his own lines and release some of his troops to join Johnston’s army in North Carolina.

From the distant vantage of 139 years, Gordon’s plan seems like the height of fantasy, given the disparate resources and manpower of the opposing sides. At the time, however, it was believed that only an act of true desperation would have any realistic chance of success. Lee, for his part, readily approved the plan, and to carry it off he assigned the three divisions of Gordon’s corps (now reduced to about 8,000 men) and added several brigades from other units, including a division of cavalry, to exploit the hoped-for Confederate breakthrough. All told, Gordon would have at his disposal almost half the remaining strength of Lee’s army. As the ground in the rear of Fort Stedman had undoubtedly changed from its presiege appearance, Gordon requested that Lee furnish him with knowledgeable guides to lead the three assault companies over the ground. Lee agreed. The date for the attack was set for March 25.

“Look Out; We are Coming”

At 4 am on a cold, dark morning, Gordon stood on the Confederate breastworks, a single soldier by his side. The previous night all debris lying in front of the Confederate works was supposed to have been removed so that unobstructed lanes could be used by the assaulting columns. However, as Gordon stood on the breastworks he could see that some debris still remained. He ordered it cleared. The noise made by this work alerted a nearby Union picket, who called out a peremptory challenge: “What are you doing over there, Johnny? Answer quick or I’ll shoot!” Months of living in close proximity had led to an unspoken gentlemen’s agreement whereby pickets would refrain from firing at each other unless it was deemed unavoidable. Gordon hesitated when he heard the challenge, not knowing exactly what to say to allay suspicion. The quick-thinking private at his side met the unforeseen threat by replying: “Never mind, Yank. Lie down and go to sleep. We are just gathering a little corn. You know rations are mighty short over here.” The Union guard answered right away, “All right, Johnny, go ahead and get your corn. I’ll not shoot at you while you are drawing your rations.”

While this exchange was taking place, the last of the debris was cleared from the Confederate front, and the attack was set to commence. Gordon ordered the soldier to fire his musket to signal the assault. A pang of conscience tugged at the veteran—he thought it unfair, even in war, to have lied to a man who would allow him to pick his rations. Gordon, unhampered by such distinctions, repeated the order.

Before firing, however, the soldier called out to his considerate foe, “Hello, Yank! Wake up; we are going to shell the woods. Look out; we are coming.”

With that brief warning, the soldier fired his musket and the offensive began. Rebel pickets, who had crept close to their Union counterparts, overpowered them so quickly that no warning shots could be fired. Some Union reports claimed later that the Confederates had employed the ruse of pretending to be deserters, only to turn on their would-be captors. As soon as the Union pickets were rendered harmless, the 50 axmen leaped over the Rebel breastworks, closely followed by the three 100-man companies, and made haste for the bristling chevaux-de-frise. Clearings were hewn through the wooden obstructions with quick, strong blows from razor-sharp ax heads.

As the three lead companies made their way to the Union rear, the rest of the assault force, following on the heels of the spearhead, rushed Fort Stedman. Fanning out along both sides of the fort, they poured withering fire into the works. Union defenders managed to put up some resistance, firing a few shots of their own at the oncoming Rebels, but the swiftness of the onslaught and the early-morning darkness helped to neutralize any real defense.

The attack was more successful than Gordon could have hoped. Besides Fort Stedman, the Confederates were able to capture three enemy batteries on the north and south sides of the fort. These batteries were unenclosed works housing both cannon and mortars, and quick-thinking cannoneers in the attacking columns turned the guns around and began shelling Federal positions in all directions. In addition to the redoubts and guns, about 500 yards of trench line on both sides of Fort Stedman were taken, as well as some 500 Federal prisoners, including the area commander, Brig. Gen. Napoleon Bonaparte McLauglen.

Battery 9 Holds Firm

Success, however was not complete. Battery 9, north of Fort Stedman, put up stout resistance and halted the Confederate advance in that direction. Similar Confederate assaults against Fort Haskell, south of Battery 12, were also repulsed with much bloodshed. Adding to Gordon’s troubles, word soon came back from one of the commanders of the select companies that he was unable to find the redoubt in the Union rear that he had been assigned to capture as his guide had been lost in the attack. The other two companies reported a similar lack of success.

These unexpected failures jeopardized the entire operation. Without the capture of the additional works and the guns in them, Gordon would not be able to widen the breach and threaten the Union rear. This would also doom any attempts by the Southern cavalry to further exploit the breakthrough and strike Union supply lines.

As Fort Stedman and the adjoining works were being taken, the alarm was sounded in the Union lines. As luck would have it, Maj. Gen. George Meade, commander of the Army of the Potomac, was not immediately available to his men. He was away at City Point conferring with Grant, and the Rebels had cut the telegraph lines between the two points. At this point the Rebels’ luck stopped. Command of the army devolved on Maj. Gen. John G. Parke, a West Point graduate who commanded the IX Corps. Parke, a much-tested veteran of both the eastern and western theaters of the war, kept calm in the face of confused reports from the front. He immediately ordered Brig. Gen. Orlando Willcox to organize a counterattack against the Rebels. Parke also called upon Brig. Gen. John F. Hartranft’s 3rd Division, which was in reserve near the 1st and 2nd Divisions of the IX Corps, to reenforce Willcox.

John F. Hartranft: Grizzled Veteran

The Rebels could not have asked for a worse foe than Hartranft. A native Pennsylvanian like Meade and Parke, Hartranft was also a tough, battle-tested veteran. Like Gordon, he had been at Antietam, where he led the 51st Pennsylvania in its famous charge over Burnside Bridge. He also led part of the attack into the Crater the previous July. Hartranft may have been as surprised as anyone at the audacious Confederate attack, but he would not panic and he would not run.

Hartranft’s division was made up of two brigades of six Pennsylvania regiments. He knew he had enough men, about 6,000 in all, to assist in a counterattack, but he may have had some doubts as to how his men would perform. They were all one-year enlistees who had only recently joined the army, and they were still undergoing training when the Confederates attacked Fort Stedman. Green or not, these troops were all Hartranft had to work with, and events would soon test their mettle.

The immediate problem was how best to contain the Confederate attack. While the Union generals may not have known it at the time, this had already been accomplished by the defenders of Battery 9 and Fort Haskell. Not only had they repulsed the initial Confederate assaults, but their cannon fire was deadly and accurate enough to compel the Rebels to confine their forces to the ground already taken.

Years later Hartranft would comment that “great credit is justly due to the garrison of these two points [Battery 9 and Fort Haskell] for their steadiness in holding them in the confusion and nervousness of a night attack … if they had been lost, the enemy would have had sufficient safe ground on which to recover and form their ranks.”

The Yankee Counterattack

With his flanks secured, Parke could concentrate on regaining the ground the army had lost. This was the mission he now gave Willcox.

Troop movements were quickly initiated for a Union counterattack. On the left side of the line, near Fort Haskell, Hartranft placed the 208th Pennsylvania. The 100th Pennsylvania and the 3rd Michigan extended the line to the north. Connecting with these troops toward the Prince George’s Court House Road (the road to the rear of Fort Stedman that Gordon likely would have used to penetrate the rear of the Union lines) were the 207th and 205th Pennsylvania.

On the other side of the line, starting from Battery 9, the 17th and 20th Michigan hooked up with the right of the 209th Pennsylvania. Close to the center of the crescent-shaped line was the 200th Pennsylvania, along with the remnants of the 57th Massachusetts, whose camp had been overrun in the initial Confederate attack. Artillery under the command of Brevet Brig. Gen. John C. Tidball was set up behind the Union lines. In conjunction with the guns from Battery 9 and Fort Haskell, these guns began playing havoc on the Rebel troops.

As the Union infantry moved into line, Hartranft conferred with Willcox. They noticed increased musket fire coming from the Rebel lines, an indication that the enemy was again getting ready to advance. Hartranft, taking personal command of the counterattack, immediately ordered the 200th Pennsylvania and 57th Massachusetts to move against the enemy troops now advancing up the Prince George’s Court House Road. The Federals quickly attacked and plowed through the enemy skirmish line, but soon found themselves facing more Rebels in the entrenched works surrounding Fort Stedman.

Confederate musket fire was severe and, supported by the captured guns of Fort Stedman, took a heavy toll on the Pennsylvanians, causing them to retreat a short distance. Hartranft, concerned that the Rebels would try to take advantage of this withdrawal, quickly rallied the men and attacked a second time, gaining and holding the ground for about 20 minutes before retreating to the Union works. The effect of these attacks was to halt any further Confederate advance and allowed the remaining Union troops to come up in support.

The last regiment of Hartranft’s division, the 211th Pennsylvania, now made its first appearance on the field, having rushed from its camp some miles to the rear. With their arrival, Hartranft’s counterattacking force was complete.

The Confederate Plan Crumbles

It was now about 7:30 am, and the morning sun was rising higher in the cold March sky. The Confederate advantages of surprise and darkness had long since disappeared. Parke ordered Hartranft to attack the Rebels again and recapture the lost ground. Hartranft passed the word to his subordinate commanders that the attack would begin in 15 minutes. The signal would be the advance of the 211th. The Southern troops could probably see what was coming, but now they could do nothing to stop it.

At the appointed time, the 600 men of the 211th Pennsylvania rose as one and charged toward the Rebel line. They were met by Confederate cannon and musket fire, but stoutly pushed on. The other regiments took their cue from their Keystone State comrades, and the whole Union line moved forward.

Just as the full attack began, however, Hartranft received orders to halt and await reinforcements from the VI Corps. Hartranft barely hesitated a second before disobeying the order. He was sure the countermanding order would not reach all the troops in time, and he firmly believed that victory was assured. “I saw the enemy had already commenced to waver,” he remembered, “and that success was certain.”

Hartranft’s battlefield judgment would prove correct. Acting not like the green troops they were but like gray-bearded veterans, the Pennsylvanians fought tenaciously and courageously. Despite the intensity of the combat, they soon drove the Confederates out of the recently captured works.

Hartranft later wrote, “The division charged with a will, in the most gallant manner, and in a moment Stedman, Batteries 11 and 12 and the entire line which had been lost, was recaptured with a large number of prisoners, battle-flags and small-arms.”

Gordon was convinced that continued fighting would be futile. He apprised Lee of the worsening situation, and around 8 am Lee gave Gordon permission to withdraw his troops.

Collapse of the Confederate Ranks

It was an order easier to give than to obey. By the time the withdrawal order reached the front, the increasingly confident Federals were pouring a veritable storm of shot and shell over the entire length of the Confederate retreat. The added fire from the Union infantry reoccupying Fort Stedman only made the retreat more difficult. Gordon himself was slightly wounded as he ran back to the Rebel line.

The effectiveness of the Union artillery shell fire was attested to by a Union medical officer, who wrote: “The great majority of the Rebel wounded fell into our hands, and the wounds were all very severe. An unusually large number of shell wounds of the thigh and legs, demanding amputation, were seen.” Confederate Brig. Gen. James A. Walker personally attested to the deadly dangers of the retreat. “I found myself crossing the stormswept space between us and our works. At first I made progress at a tolerably lively gait, but I wore heavy cavalry boots, the ground was thawing under the warm rays of the sun, and great cakes of mud stuck to my boots; my speed slackened to a slow trot, then into a slow walk, and it seemed as if I were an hour making that seventy-five yards…deadly minie balls were whistling and hurling as thick as hail. Every time I lifted my foot with its heavy weight of mud and boot, I thought my last step was taken. Out of a dozen men who started across that field with me, I saw at least half of them fall, and I do not believe more than one or two got over safely. When I reached our works and clambered over the top, I was so exhausted that I rolled down among the men, and one of them expressed surprise at seeing me by remarking: `Here is General Walker; I thought he was killed.’”

Seeing that death would be their probable fate, many Confederates refused to even try to make it back to their own lines, preferring to surrender where they stood. A large number of skulkers in the Rebel ranks refused to obey their officers on the field, no matter what order or entreaty was made.

One Union major captured earlier when Fort Stedman was overrun commented that “the numbers of stragglers and skulkers was astonishingly large, and I saw several instances where the authority of the officers who urged them on was set at defiance.”

A Losing War

Thus, an attack that had started with such promise ended in abysmal failure. More than 3,500 Confederates were casualties, including some 1,900 who were taken prisoner. Nine stands of colors were also captured. Later that day other Union commanders assaulted the Confederate lines to the southwest. While these attacks were halted short of the main Confederate trenches, a number of fortified picket lines were captured, bringing the Union army that much closer for a final grand assault and costing the Confederates another 2,000 sorely needed men.

Robert E. Lee, who had taken many successful gambles during the war, reluctantly realized that this last throw of the dice had completely failed. As he rode away from the scene of the defeat at Fort Stedman, he knew that the end of the war could not be long in coming. On his way back to the Turnbull House, he encountered his sons Rooney and Rob. Lee, who had always been careful not to outwardly display his emotions, could not hide his manifest disappointment at this latest turn of events. Rob noted all too clearly “the sadness of his face, its careworn expression.”

While brilliant in conception and initial execution, the ultimate failure of the attack on Fort Stedman accomplished nothing except to burnish the already-formidable reputation of Confederate valor and the equally proven stalwartness of their Union foes. It would take two more weeks and much additional bloodshed at Fort Gregg, Sayler’s Creek, and Five Forks for the war in the east finally to end. If Ulysses S. Grant had mounted the breastworks at Fort Stedman that morning and looked over the backs of the retreating Rebels, far off in the distance he might have been able to glimpse the small village of Appomattox Court House and the front parlor of Wilmer McLean’s red brick home.

This article by Joseph E. Lowry first appeared at the Warfare History Network.

Image: Wikimedia

Americans Need Work, Not Coronavirus Handouts

The National Interest - Sun, 24/05/2020 - 08:00

Rachel Greszler

Politics, Americas

Federal assistance can help bridge a temporary gap in employment and incomes, but the only long-term solution is to let people get back to work.

With more than 1 in 5 Americans filing for unemployment benefits over the past eight weeks, policymakers’ top priority is clear: restoring conditions that allow workers to resume their previous jobs or find new ones.

Federal assistance can help bridge a temporary gap in employment and incomes, but the only long-term solution is to let people get back to work. After all, deficit-financed unemployment checks are no replacement for the valuable goods and services Americans produce.

Two bills, both introduced in Congress on Tuesday, take a very different approach to helping American workers.

The first, the Getting Americans Back to Work Act introduced by Reps. Ted Budd, R-N.C., and Ken Buck, R-Colo., would fix a highly problematic component of the CARES Act that Congress passed in March.

In addition to vastly expanding eligibility for unemployment benefits, CARES added an additional $600 a week on top of usual unemployment benefits. The Budd-Buck legislation would cap total unemployment benefits at 100% of workers’ previous wages.

Full income replacement is still a big increase from the usual 40% to 50% of workers’ wages that typical state unemployment benefit programs replace.

The CARES Act’s additional $600 per week in federal pandemic unemployment benefits is certainly generous. Too generous, in fact: It’s caused an overwhelming majority of unemployed Americans to receive more from unemployment benefits as from their previous paychecks. In many cases, workers are receiving at least twice their usual paychecks.

These excessive benefits are no doubt welcome to the newly unemployed workers. But in an ironic twist, businesses have factored those benefits into their decisions to furlough or lay off workers instead of keeping them on the payrolls. And those benefits are making it harder for businesses to reopen or ramp back up after temporary shutdowns and slowdowns.

In essence, businesses—especially hard-hit ones such as restaurants, hotels, and retailers—are having to compete with the federal government’s generous unemployment benefits.

When you consider that someone who usually makes $600 per week is receiving $900 from unemployment insurance, it’s not surprising that they might not want to go back to work. After all, the additional benefits amount to an extra $10,000 between April and July 31, when the $600 per week is set to expire.

Another bill, the House Democrats’ HEROES Act (a partisan laundry list that spans more than 1,800 pages), would extend those benefits through the end of next January, including additional extensions through March 31.

It’s too soon to know how long unemployment will remain highly elevated, but one thing is for sure: extending already excessive unemployment benefits won’t help. It will increase unemployment and reduce economic output.

According to a study by researchers at the New York Federal Reserve, the extension in unemployment benefit duration during the Great Recession resulted in a prolonged increase in unemployment, with 4.6 million more people unemployed in 2010 and 3.3 million more unemployed in 2011. And those consequences came with unemployment benefits averaging less than $400 per week as opposed to nearly $1,000 a week today.

Moreover, my colleague and I at The Heritage Foundation estimated that Congress’ provision of the additional $600 unemployment benefit through the end of July could increase unemployment by up to 13.9 million and reduce output by $955 billion and $1.49 trillion between May and September. An additional six- to nine-month extension would significantly exacerbate lost jobs and economic output.

It’s one thing to provide short-term and targeted unemployment benefits during forced shutdowns, but providing a year’s worth of unprecedented additional unemployment benefits—up to an extra $31,200 more per worker—would cripple small businesses as they try to get back on their feet.

It’s also incredibly unfair, and wholly un-American, to pay unemployed workers more than the hardworking Americans who continue to work each day.

Tacking the cost of excessive unemployment benefits onto future taxpayers is not only unfair, but also perilous, considering America’s already-unsustainable fiscal outlook. If unemployment averages 10%, these additional benefits could cost every household in America an extra $3,300 to $4,000 in taxes.

Policymakers should be focused on helping Americans get safely back to work, including granting new flexibilities to allow workplaces to adjust to the conditions of COVID-19.

Humans are hard-wired to be productive. They will be far better off if policymakers focus on enabling work opportunities—such as removing barriers to working, trading, innovating, and investing—than on incentivizing unemployment.

Tribune Content Agency

Originally published in the Chicago Tribune


This article by Rachel Greszler and Leave a comment first appeared in The Daily Signal on May 22, 2020.

Image: Reuters.

Why America and China Are Set to Continue Their Rivalry

The National Interest - Sun, 24/05/2020 - 07:30

Ron Huisken

Security, Asia

Things seem likely to only get more intense.

Most cultures—especially, perhaps, those in Asia—regard cycles as one of the basic rhythms of life, including international life. Great Britain was recognised as the leading world power for more than a century from 1815. The United States roared into prominence over the few decades leading up to World War I and, after leading coalitions to victory in Europe and Asia in World War II, resolved to design and manage a thoroughly refurbished international system. By that time, it had long been clear that the UK wouldn’t contest being displaced in that role.

Over the past 2,500 years, China’s fortunes reached glittering heights on three occasions, usually separated by chaos, civil war or foreign conquest and occupation. Now China sees itself as on the cusp of a fourth age ranked among the world’s leading states and possibly—because it is for the first time intimately linked to the rest of the world—the first among equals. The remaining obstacle is the US, which is now itself deeply ambivalent about continuing to take on any kind of leadership responsibilities but which has also signalled its determination to resist China (and Russia), shifting the tone of the international system away from liberal democratic values in favour of more authoritarian guidelines and constraints.

In the months before his death in 1945, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his key advisers designed their system to address the root causes of the devastating turbulence in the first half of the 20th century—specifically, ultranationalism and protectionism. Roosevelt also determined that China, with its immense population (if little else in 1945), had to be part of an inner clique of large powers tasked with holding the system together.

The advent of the Cold War between the US and USSR around 1947, and China joining the socialist bloc in 1949, meant that the existential cleavage turned out to be ideology and associated philosophies of governance. The two systems had their first conflict just a year later, in Korea, with the US and China as the core adversaries. The US-led international order therefore got off to a somewhat confused start.

The Sino-Soviet alliance imploded in 1960, and in 1972 the US and China engineered a historic accommodation. Later, after Mao Zedong’s death, the Chinese Communist Party capitalised on the de facto American security blanket to abandon socialist thinking on resource allocation and switch progressively to a market system linked to the international trading community. China’s new leader, Deng Xiaoping, made much of the proposition that the constellation of forces driving the international system provided China with a ‘strategic window of opportunity’ to attempt this hazardous transformation in comparative safety: the US stalemated the USSR in security terms and was prepared to support China’s ‘reform and opening up’ by leaving the huge US market open to Chinese products.

A decade later came the spectacular collapse of the Soviet Union and a peaceful end to the Cold War. China’s economy was beginning to flourish, but the CCP also engaged in the stunningly brutal suppression of protesters seeking greater freedom. The Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 led to strained relations with Washington for several years, but the White House’s core stance of protecting the accommodation with China survived.

One strand of logic in the American position was the broad contention that a free-market economy was likely to also have a liberalising influence politically and socially. Keeping the US economy open to countries utilising the market system therefore supported US interests. If Tiananmen Square tested this contention, so too did Japan’s emergence in the same timeframe as a state that could compete with the US even in high-technology products. Miraculously, however, although China was an order of magnitude larger than Japan and its adoption of liberal principles to guide the conduct of its affairs a much more problematic contention, the general wisdom of America’s posture towards China wasn’t really contested through the Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations.

George W. Bush’s administration came to office in January 2001 with a (neo-conservative) mindset to reposition China as a strategic rival and proclaimed a sweeping pivot to Asia centred on this assessment. These policy settings were swept aside by the events of 11 September and Washington’s disastrous determination to put Iraq at the centre of America’s response to mass-casualty terrorism.

Not long after Iraq was confirmed as a historic blunder, China was again detecting a strategic window of opportunity to continue with its export-led growth model. The global financial crisis in 2008 confirmed that this window remained open. It may well have been the case that the GFC drove a shift in the relative stature of the US and China. Key pointers included Beijing’s preparedness to simply deflect US President Barack Obama’s repeated attempts to discourage state-sponsored theft of technology and other intellectual property and its decision in 2014 to implement well-prepared plans to construct seven artificial islands in the South China Sea to try to make its extensive claims there a fait accompli.

The broad posture of engaging with and accommodating China, which emerged in 1972, wasn’t formally terminated until 2017–18 when President Donald Trump’s administration recommitted the US to strategic competition with major powers that wanted ‘to shape a world antithetical to US values and interests’, specifically, China and Russia.

For 50 years, a disciplined and focused China feasted on the fruits of Western success to accelerate its reacquisition of major-power capacities. It secured relief from the Soviet threat, access to immense markets, enduring privileges as a ‘developing economy’ and a relaxed attitude to the theft of technology. This looked like another textbook example of how the US-designed ‘rules-based order’ was supposed to work in respect of states ‘not of the West’. No one saw merit in wondering whether the American-led order could embrace a China that could readily match the US in raw economic muscle and, in the fullness of time, dwarf it.

A little interrogation would have confirmed that the CCP regarded every basic principle of democratic governance as deeply threatening and would, early in the new century, label advocacy of them as treasonous.

China’s hard power continues to converge on that of the US and will exceed it in due course. At some point, a surfeit of hard power will compensate for shortcomings on the soft power front, but until then soft power means that global leadership cannot simply be seized, it must also be bestowed.

Soft power has contributed heavily to America’s standing and influence and, although China certainly recognises this, its own progress on this front has been stunted by its government’s deep aversion to transparency in any shape or form. Transparency is inescapably associated with spontaneity, which in turn threatens the control that the CCP clearly regards as crucial to its survival. This imperative, however, makes the CCP a poor communicator, presenting China as introverted, secretive, evasive and calculating—qualities that crush those associated with soft power: confidence, integrity, legitimacy, frankness and intimacy.

Despite the spectacular economic gains of the recent past, the CCP is not doing justice to China, an extraordinary country by any measure and one that has enriched and continues to enrich our world in so many ways. Tragically, it is likely to prove simply incapable of doing so.

Australia is still searching for a posture of engagement towards the government of China that endures—not least because it involves recognising that the CCP is very unlikely to change its outlook and expectations and the means it feels entitled to employ to achieve them.

Similarly, the Covid-19 experience has propelled the US–China relationship beyond ‘distant’ to overtly hostile. If the fallout from the pandemic includes the threat of a game-changing divergence in the economic trajectory of the two states—as it well might—the relationship could degenerate to instability and outright danger. Perhaps more likely is that the power struggle between these two giants will persist and that this struggle will be both prolonged and fraught with danger. Either way, those with the capacity to make a positive difference, whether alone or in coalitions, need to get to work.

This article by Ron Huisken first appeared in the Australian Strategic Policy Insitute’s The Strategist in 2020.

Image: Reuters