Friday, May 31, 2013

Behind the Curtain


The Lion finds his courage, the Tin Man a heart, the Scarecrow has a brain after all and Dorothy returns to Kansas with a new appreciation for her roots.  What of the Wizard?  What of the man behind the curtain?  Is he relieved at no longer having to play a role?  Does he no longer feel the need to portray the grand and glorious Wizard of Oz?  I think the discovery of his fraud meant only for him to move onto a new stage.  He will endlessly need the recognition from others that he is what he intends himself to be.  Yet, there are the moments of reflection when he admits while alone with himself, “My life is little more than a wonderfully, orchestrated show, produced for the benefit of others to believe.” 

What a wonderful story about yearning.  Our individual lives reveal a quest specific to ourselves.  What a burden it is to live with our shame.  How ridiculous it feels to be a cowardly lion.  If only I could love.  If only I were smart.  If only I could live happily in the moment.  The goals I’ve set for myself remain always out of reach.  This must remain a secret, known only to myself.  We greet with a smile the faces about us while we tug and fuss at our nagging chains that are caused by mistakes in DNA, all too human parents or the mystical doings of fate and the obscure role orbits play with our lives from deep outer space. 

The good news is that we are not alone.  We all roll boulders endlessly up hills, only to have them always crash downward to the point of our start.  We never seem to learn and we take up our futile task ever again.  God has, indeed, done us in for the sin of our conceit.

We all face death alone.  Give me relief, Jesus.  I’m sorry.  The number you have dialed is no longer in service.  If you feel you have dialed in error please hang up and try again.  I’m sorry…  No!  This can’t be.  Everything depends on my getting through.  I’m melting.  I must speak to Jesus.  Oh, God.  I am forsaken.

Hello.  You are now rapidly approaching a lifeless state.  I have for you a bit of reassuring news.  Billions of people have died prior to your demise.  Now that you are mostly gone billions more will follow you into death.  The great and small alike all die and are eventually forgotten.  Think of it this way.  You are about to join the fate of Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope and Dinah Shore.  Can extinction really be so bad if it overtakes even those who were, in life, so fortunate?  Even the entire earth will eventually be consumed and, with it, all our monuments to our ingenuity and industriousness.  Our art and great thoughts will all be rendered meaningless.  The sun itself will wither.  All that is created is destroyed.  But for now it is your turn.  Your last thought ends in three, two, one.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Good Morning Justin...

Letter to my Son
Sunday, 26 May

Time Piece

Good Morning Justin…

A car starting at point A moves 65 mph towards point B and a truck, starting at the same time, moves 55 mph from point B towards point A.  The distance between points A and B is 125 miles.  How many miles does the car travel before passing the truck?  I think the answer requires a bit of calculating that I don’t feel is worth the effort to know. 

I think about the issue of immigration and I feel insecure about my job.  I’m going to evaluate the various aspects of a problem while having a possible financial stake in determining its solution.  I am emotionally invested in its outcome.  Were I the judge making the decision here I should recluse myself because I have a finger on the scale of justice.  This is as it should be when discovering what’s best in a court of law.  Politics, though, is not antiseptic when deciding the public’s welfare.  It vigorously shakes the beaker that holds both rational thought and emotion-bound motive.  In this context a vote of up or down on a measure never decides the debate in a democracy.  For the loser there are clear signs of villainy at work in the process.  Money has been passed.  A congressman’s career has been set among the chips being gambled.  Voices have filled the airwaves with warnings and scurrilous charges.  Mud is slung from all directions.  Making law in a democracy requires a good scrub down afterwards by all involved. 

Where are the men of marble now when we need them most?  The fact is they never were.  It’s impossible to function when carved of pure gleaming stone.  Our statues commemorate what’s admirable about those that have made our history.  Their human failings are among the discarded chips of marble tossed on an ash heap, lost from sight.  Our memory of past heroes has been carefully selected for us.  Our current view of future heroes is not well choreographed.  Petty weeds distract us.  We feel the jostling elbows and choke on dry, kicked up dust.  Shirts cling from effort, no longer fresh.  We’re penned in a corral.  There is no dignity here.

What a wondrous vista I see described before us.  A gentle breeze rustles the leaves of a distant tree lost in a sea of grass.  I hear the sparkle of a stream.  The air is honeysuckle.  Bees mingle among the clover.  This is our future as it can be, I am told.  If only the hearts filled with darkness could see what we see, know what we know, and feel what it is we feel with all the passion that comes with our love of truth and beauty. 

Get out your eraser.  This too was never true.  Human progress requires nature be put in its place.  An inspiration derived from the occasional brilliant mind must find its reality through endless keyboard taps, staff meetings and battling memos swirling amidst a vast, trudging bureaucracy.  These are the gears of our truly glorious civilization.  We are the new culmination in the long line of progressing vertebrates - primates that ate from the Tree of Knowledge.  Forced from the Garden of Eden we killed animals for food and clothes.  We tamed the majestic horse for our own purposes.  We organized cows into feedlots, turned black ooze into fire, contained it within metal and drove this contraption about the landscape.  We devised a scheme to capture electrons, turning our life into a magic show of light in the midst of night, pictures drawn from the air and machines to do much of our thinking for us.  We’ve gone to the nearest planet and safely brought back some of its rocks even though it doesn’t much matter.  We’re smart.  We’re stubborn.  We find ourselves endlessly fascinating and we might just punch you in the gut if you look at us cockeyed.  We won’t be here forever.  Maybe our epitaph could read, “On the whole it was worth it.”


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Good Morning Fred...

Letter to Fred

Romance Anonymous

Thanks for the recipe.  It looks very promising.  I particularly appreciate the fact that it does not call for eight pounds of animal parts.  I've never been charmed by the sight of blood vessels in my food.

I know nothing of astrology, not even enough to be puzzled by it.  The stars, orbits of planets, the pull of gravity; it is all there.  This is evidence.  So is the Periodic Table.  We thought we discovered something fundamental in atoms.  Oh, look!  Here are the basic mechanisms of physical reality.  Eureka, cries the ancient man.  Gather round as I tell you of the essential components of existence:  earth, wind, water and fire.  There it is.  No, wait.  We better also include spirit - the mystery behind life itself.  Yes, now we have it.  I think.

It doesn't end.  What are these things revealed as components of atoms?  Currently I am in love with the God Particle - the mechanism that gives physical matter the talent of attraction?  Can I breathe easy now, knowing we have identified a new element of the lower, more fundamental level of It?  Oh, that I should know more of It before life leaves me.  Forget about it.  It doesn't end.  What was the nature of existence prior to the Big Bang?  Why would  such an event occur? Did someone just mention God?  OK, what was God doing prior to creation?  Maybe God was wondering why adding one more number to infinity didn't make the number set bigger.  God was driving himself crazy with such thoughts.  Better to create a physical realm.  Place within it a creation driven to find answers to everything that occurs to it.  Watch with amusement as it eventually drives itself crazy probing the puzzle pieces worth stumping even God.  For every church, synagogue and mosque there is reserved an exhalation, a passport to give in and give up.  I can’t handle the challenge of my own mind.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention.  Here is your horoscope.  You discover It is itself a mere circular question, teasing you into an endless quest.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Good Morning Jacob...

Letter to my Son
Sunday, 19 May


Good Morning Jacob…

As you well know the Carolinas start to get steamy this time of year.  It might have something to do with the equatorial bath water to the south, the Gulf of Mexico.  More likely, though, it is the fact that summer is fast approaching and anyplace not near a cool ocean breeze is bound to feel sticky.  Over the last several days the temperatures have been in the upper eighties and the tens of thousands of trees in this area and all the other plant life here, represented in numbers beyond the ability to count, have from their leaves released to the surrounding air what might be termed a profusion of sweat.  The many rivers and streams that drain the area and the lake size pools of captive water nestled about its low slung hills have all relinquished to the heavens a tidal measure of vapor, in submission to the wilting gaze of an unblinking sun.  No wonder then that something soon would have to give.

From the first light of day Saturday’s air smelled of the promise of rain.  It permeated the house, whose windows were all full open to welcome in the coolness from the previous night.  I savored the moment and was somewhat slow getting around.  The morning’s coffee was a bit stale, microwave reheated from the previous day.  Let nothing be wasted.  As I gathered up the dog leash for Jake’s morning walk the sky was a ceiling vague with clouds.  Nowhere did I see the troubled patch of darkness that would hint a need for imminent release.  As always, Jake danced about, making the clasp of leash to collar a game of snatching the moving target.  Nearby, a woodpecker gave off a staccato of machine-like thuds, pelting the trunk of wood with industrial strength stabs, and in the process, battering his brain to early senility. 

Mornings are filled with life as everything wild probes their surroundings for breakfast.  Beetles walk about the forest litter and are quickly snatched up by sharp eyed robins.  Mockingbirds pick apart assorted flying insects and bristle at any intrusion of their hunting ground by another bird intent on stealing from them a quick meal.  Squirrels use their exquisite snouts to discover acorns thinly buried, then break apart the earth with sharp claws to reveal the dormant nugget, and quickly dispatch it in a rapid sequence of nibbles.  Swallows swoop overhead, vacuuming from the air the graduating class of novice flies, mosquitoes and gnats that most recently earned their wings.  It is all a pattern of life that has carried forth unchanged from a time when human forest dwellers of this area gathered together broken remnants of wood, hoping to recreate the magic of cooking with fire. 

Jake and I follow a path that runs parallel to tracks that regularly direct trains north through Virginia and south towards Atlanta.  We are nearing the halfway point of our walk.  I hear the first heavy plinks of water striking the metal roof of a building sitting alone in a field.  The rain quickly overtakes us.  The drops are first like individual coins breaking into liquid on my shirt.  Soon their numbers mount into dense, rattling streaks.  Jake shakes his fur furiously.  It is of little use.  We make our way forward toward a grey cinder-block building and the blue metal awning above its slender door.  From there we watch the first deluge pass.  Except for the occasional barking of dogs our walk back to the house is uneventful.  Once home I scratch Jake’s neck and give him his treat and head inside.  It will be a day fitful with cool sessions of rain.  It is a moment of happiness.  The weatherman says expect more for tomorrow.  After Sunday, though, the mercury pops its cork and breaks into the sweltering territory of heat beyond reason, when everyone experiences life as a hothouse tomato.


Friday, May 17, 2013

Strategic Bombing


The rapid development of airborne machines following the end of the First World War soon enabled a military force to circumvent its enemy’s ground defenses in order to destroy industrial targets critical to any modern army’s success.  The concept of strategic bombing was developed during the course of the Second World War, first over the skies of Britain and, later by bombers of the Western Allies, whose strikes on German industrial choke-points attempted to strangle that nation’s war effort.  Success required knowing the economic vulnerabilities of one’s opponent and the optimal order of attack.  Obtaining sensitive information about an enemy’s infrastructure proved nearly impossible during wartime.  Sketchy data obtained by Allied intelligence sometimes led to targets like the ball-bearing factor at Schweinfurt, a costly effort with dubious results.

The strategic role of air power to force the defeat of an enemy, without having to gain a decisive victory in battle, requires understanding the economic basis of military power.  The easy questions seem obvious.  What industries have military importance?  Where are they?  Are they well defended?  In other words, is the cost worth the effort?  Strategic targets must be prioritized to achieve meaningful and timely results using the limited resources at hand.  There is no point in bombing a factory that is part of a surplus of industrial capacity for that commodity.  Even if the factory is critical to production the question that must be asked is, “How easy will it be to repair or replace?”   Another question important to planners of strategic bombing has to do with how quickly results affect battlefield performance.  The reward for destroying a manufacturing facility may be negligible if there is already available a sizable inventory of its product.  The Allied bombing of the Ploiesti oil refinery in Romania was delayed until August, 1943 due to the mistaken belief that Germany sat on an oil inventory of several months.

Successful strategic decision-making requires accurate and timely information that is often unavailable.  Even intelligence breakthroughs such as the British Ultra project, which tapped into German military communications, proved of little value because it contained almost no references to German economics.  Information related to targeting is only part of the equation.  You also need information to evaluate the effectiveness of your operations in relation to your overall strategic objectives.  Are your efforts providing the needed results?  If not, what alternative options should you be considering?

German documents made available to the Allies following the conclusion of the Second World War revealed the limited effectiveness of a campaign whose design relied on scarce information and often incorrect assumptions.  Mistakes in planning are understandable given the fog of war and the use of disinformation by one’s enemy.  What is less forgiving is to distort fundamental principles of military planning in order to adhere to preconceived assumptions based on ideological agendas or untested political goals that often result from wishful thinking.  An easy example that comes quickly to mind is the air campaign waged over North Vietnam by then Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara.  He was considered a hard data man, someone who believed decisions should be based on objective cost-benefit analysis.  With this in mind it is hard to comprehend McNamara’s contribution in the air war over the heavily defended North.  
Operation Rolling Thunder had little to do with achieving military objectives and more to do with bringing leaders of the Communist North to the negotiating table through political pressure.  Had US goals for the air war been otherwise it would have been difficult to justify risking pilots and jets in order to place bomb craters in dirt roads or to destroy the occasional, pesky truck rambling along, kicking up dust.  Even highly sophisticated jets are vulnerable to withering ground fire coming from all directions when they make their close to earth bombing run.  The US dispersed its effort in the air beyond the 17th parallel in order to gain marginal results militarily in the South.  An appropriate alternative to this strategy might have been to focus one’s military weight on shutting down the North’s distribution channel to its forces in South Vietnam – the various jungle highways through Laos known collectively as the Ho Chi Minh Trail.  Shutting off the supply spigot south would have made political considerations by Northern leaders irrelevant to the hard fact that military impotence would prevent them from working their will.

The military argument over whether the US had the capacity to cut the North’s supply channel south seems preferable to the political task of justifying waging war on civilian targets in the North.  Warfare is never clean and neat, no matter how one may choose to cook the numbers.  The choice to achieve one’s political goals by way of coercive military force requires decision makers to make an honest attempt at scrubbing clear the ideological tint in which they normally view issues and adopt the hard, unsentimental stare required of anyone attempting to analyze and unravel the competing scenarios to find the most truthful version possible of the real world.

Related Topics:

Early Industrial Warfare

Confronting Nuclear War 

21st Century Air Force

Pacific Theater:  1941

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Good Morning Jack...

Letter to my Son
Sunday, 12 May

Mother's Day

Good Morning Jack…

Mother’s Day is a big deal for your Mom because you’re a big part of it.  I know you and your brothers and sister will make this a wonderful day for her.

Of all the magic chests available for opening this day I choose the one labeled “It’s a bird, it’s a plane…”  Ah!  I feel like I’m falling.  Are these clouds?  I should have worn my jacket.  You never know with these things.  They never come with warning labels.  OK, now this is better.  We've broken into sunlight.  Oh, breathtaking.  I can see for miles.  Look… sand dunes.  A large body of water, true blue, with waves, breaking frothy white.  Looks like summer with all those barbecues down below.  Let’s drop in closer.  Nothing unusual here.  People tossing the football.  Dads playing catch with kids using gloves.  There’s a dog racing beneath the lazy arc of a Frisbee.  Some kid in a playpen is putting up a fuss.  It just feels like Sunday somewhere, doesn't it? 

Let’s head this way.  I see a roller coaster close to the horizon.  You can just hear the sound of screams over the crash of waves.  There must be a merry-go-round nearby, as well.  What else sounds like a calliope, besides a calliope?  Yeah, we’ve got a real carnival going.  There’s the Midway.  Carnival barkers, pink cotton candy, a boy throwing up getting off the Octopus.  Yummy.  Looks like he had popcorn and fried candy bars for lunch.  At least it’s not on the seat.

Hey, grab that balloon.  It’s OK.  They go by fast.  There will be others.  Tie them on the kid’s wrist and they still find ways of getting away.  No.  We’re not getting another.  Wave good bye to the balloon.  Bye, balloon, bye.  See, it’s going home.  They all live in the sky, you know.  Their mom is calling them home for dinner.  Yes, they are light eaters.

I think we’ve tipped past midday.  More people are making their way to the parking lot than coming to the park.  The trash barrels are stuffed to overflowing.  Hot dog wrappers blow across the grass everywhere.  Old men sitting at picnic tables have undone their top pants button.  Grandma is crabbing at them.  For heaven’s sake, Frank.  You’re not at home.  Poor Frank.  He didn’t leave room for dessert.  He loves cherry pie and a scoop of half melted ice cream.  Now all he can think about is finding somewhere comfortable for taking a nap. 

Its purple evening twilight.  The carnival lights have just blinked on.  You can hear the electric buzz.  There’s the pop, pop, popping of a shooting gallery, of darts piercing balloons and breath-filled junk food bags exploding between the slap of hands.  Hear the clanging of assorted game bells, the slap of doors shutting behind the screams of teenagers riding carelessly into The Haunted Pit of Doom and the blare of mountain yodels coming from the Alpine Slalom as it races backwards at death-defying speeds.  We’ve used up our role of tickets and it’s time to go.  It’s time to make way for a whole new flood of teens arriving with their dates, laughing, carrying on as they do, knowing full well they’re here to take ownership of all the future tomorrows.  It’s time to go.  It’s time to make way.  Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Ardennes Plan

Hitler's Ardennes Plan

If you’re the leader of Germany heading into the autumn of 1944 you might want to work a diplomatic deal bringing the war to its end.  During the previous summer more than a million German troops have been lost to the approaching Allied forces.  550 Soviet divisions are mopping up your overstretched eastern front.  In the west American and British armies loom dangerously near the Rhine River, threatening the Ruhr valley, where much of your war-making industry is located.    An objective look at the situation brings most in the German high command to the conclusion that the nation can only prolong the war, plugging a leaking defense with increasingly scarce men and material.  The bomb that nearly ended Hitler’s life in July was intended by members of his own military to rid the nation of the one man believed standing in the way of reaching a peace settlement with Germany’s enemies.

As of September 1 the German Army has lost 3.3 million men since the invasion of Poland in 1939.  The retraction of the Third Reich from across Europe following a string of battlefield setbacks in 1944 has left its military capability anemic in key strategic resources:  nickel, copper and molybdenum from Finland and Norway, manganese from Russia, bauxite from France, mercury from Spain, high grade iron ore from Sweden, and the most crucial immediate blow, the loss of oil from Rumania.

The war is lost without a dramatic new military stroke capable of breaking the political bonds that hold Britain, Russia and America together in alliance against Nazi Germany.  Adolph Hitler believes he needs only a victory large enough to demoralize the home front of America, in his view a decadent democracy, unable to tolerate the large casualties resulting from a stunning military setback.  He believes American victories over German troops are the result of air superiority, massed artillery and lavish logistics.  The American soldier, in Hitler’s assessment, is no match for German infantry when these advantages are removed.  Accordingly, his plan for a surprise winter attack, exploiting a thinly held American line near the Ardennes forest, has a slim but plausible chance of success.

Hitler plans an armored dash, splitting the seam between American and British forces, with the military objective of taking Antwerp.  It is a not too distant Belgium port capable of sustaining 50 combat divisions in the field.  Antwerp’s capture would disrupt the Allied goal of invading Germany, physically divide its military forces and, potentially, create a political rift between the English speaking coalition of Britain and the United States.  Were this scenario to hold true then German divisions on the western front could be freed to reinforce its beleaguered eastern defenses and, hopefully, would stymie the Soviet spring offensive.  Military stalemate could result, creating an environment for a peace treaty more favorable to Germany than total defeat and unconditional surrender.

For Hitler’s game plan to succeed a number of events must all break in his favor.  American resistance must quickly give way to the German armored thrust.  Eisenhower and Allied generals must be slow to react to this developing crisis.  Thirsty German tanks will require capturing Allied fuel supplies to continue running.  The German spearhead towards Antwerp will end at the Meuse River, well short of its goal, if a bridge is not captured intact.  Allied planes must be grounded for several consecutive days if destruction of German forces from the air is to be avoided. 

Many German generals are appalled by Hitler’s gamble.  Defeat of the Ardennes counteroffensive will leave Germany’s remaining armor destroyed and her most effective combat divisions depleted.  The once vaunted Wehrmacht will be left a brittle shell, crumbling under the weight of sustained assault coming from all directions.  Argument will not sway Hitler from his decision.  His penchant for audacity brought him early success:  taking the Rhineland through bluff; the bloodless capture of Czechoslovakia; the lethal thrust out of the Ardennes in 1940 that brought the quick collapse of France.  The only solutions for Hitler now are high risk and he must place his trust in an almost mystical sense of personal destiny.  Any appeal to reason from this point forward can only include the Fuhrer’s demise through execution, assassination or suicide.

Related Topics:

Objective:  France, 1940

10 May, 1940 - Flanders

Early Industrial Warfare

Strategic Bombing

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Good Morning Jessicca...

Letter to my Daughter
Sunday, 5 May

Moon Glow

Good Morning Jessicca…

“I never thought that just being myself would lead to cannibalism.”
“Yes, a culinary interest in one’s friends raises a number of ethical issues.  It isn’t fattening, I suppose, when prepared properly.”
“Maybe I left home too soon.  I miss evenings with the family gathered round the TV eating pizza and French fries.”
“Don’t get me started.  Have you ever tried munching on a bowl of refrigerated marshmallows, drizzled in chocolate syrup?  Ice cream is good here, also, but sometimes it’s just not available.”
“Sounds interesting.  Would that work at a dinner party?”
“Not by itself, of course.  You need something to go with it.  A baked pie crust is nice.  You have friends over for dinner?”
“Yes, but never only one.  It’s just too tempting.  With a couple of friends over for dinner they can sort of watch out for each other.  Still I can’t help looking at guests without seeing them smiling beneath a lump of melting cheese.”
“Is there any other way?”

Hello.  I’m someone speaking with authority.  As this conversation suggests, living a life true to ourselves can pose difficulties.  Fortunately, enjoying our friends for a meal is extremely rare.  Chances are it hasn't even occurred to you until now.  Just the thought of smiling lips concealed in a grilled cheese sandwich would make most anyone shudder. 

Still, acting out who it is we truly are can be discouraging.  Some people, for instance, have quirky ideas about clothing.  There are those among us that find delight in making rude sounds in grocery check out lines.  Maybe you have an unnatural obsession with your nose.  It’s always a relief to realize that characteristics such as these, while possibly annoying to others, are not really harmful.  In fact, just being our secret selves in full view of the world can make for marvelous conversation among those watching us.  We might well serve as their cherry topping on an otherwise listless day.  After all, isn’t reality TV fascinating because we can safely view people revealing their own ridiculous nature?  Would I rather see Tom Cruise in another action movie or watch someone have a melt down in a pawn shop?  One gets twenty million dollars or so for just showing up for work.  The one getting my vote has had all the bleeping bleep she’s going to take for one day.  She wants to see the bleeping manager.  I’m with you sister.  I know exactly how you feel.  Bleep them anyway.

Did anyone notice she had a green streak in her hair?  Actually it looked pretty good, didn’t it?  She’s making a statement.  This is who I am.  I’m a lucky charm… usually.  Pity you caught me at a moment such as this.  I meant well.  Look!  I have shamrocks on my shoes.


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Early Industrial Warfare

Industrial Revolution and Global War

Steel Mill

Technological advances brought about by the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century enabled the civilized world’s prosecution of two world wars during the 20th century that, together, brought an end to Europe’s political and economic global dominance.  The destructive power unleashed by the mechanization of warfare, together with the entire energies and resources of a society focused on the pursuit of total victory over opposing societies, would leave Western Europe both exhausted and bankrupt.  The 19th century’s miracle of unprecedented growth, optimism and wealth set the stage for forces of barbarism that would reduce great cities to rubble and turn millions of Europeans into refuges in search of a country.  During these years of war mankind’s accomplishments were mostly limited to expending great effort and baring enormous sacrifice in order to destroy decades of painstakingly assembled human achievement.

Machine Gun

Foremost among the industrial factors of the 19th century was the development of the steam engine.  Its power energized great manufacturing facilities where mass production techniques were developed, freeing society from the expense of needing skilled craftsmen for the assembly of widely sought utensils.  From these factories relatively cheap firearms and rapid fire breech loading artillery were produced in great number.  The truly mechanized infantry weapon, the machine gun, was introduced into European armies by the turn of the 20th century.  The chemical discoveries of Alfred Nobel brought enormous advances in propellants and magnified the power of explosive devices.  Machine guns could now level an infantry assault, leaving men dead and wounded, gathered in large numbers on the field in front of them.  Artillery was now able to rain ordinance down on people and both military and civilian targets from a safe distance beyond the horizon. 

Steam Locomotive

Steam generated power made the rapid distribution of people and supplies possible over a steadily expanding network of railways.  Transport by train freed troops from long, exhausting marches and delivered them and their provisions onto the battlefield in short order.  Armies were freed from reliance on previously stocked provisions and from having to round up food from the farms of invaded territories.  Improved railroad logistics enabled a nation’s army to expect their country’s economic resources to keep them well fed, battle ready and resupplied with a steady stream of replacement troops.  Warfare was no longer limited to an army’s tactical maneuvers and strategic goals.  It was an industrial competition and the civilian home front was a legitimate military target in the 20th century philosophy of total war.

Mechanized Warfare

The hundred years leading up to the outbreak of the First World War saw an unprecedented improvement in the social welfare of industrialized nations.  The populations of European countries doubled, and even tripled, during this century of economic progress.  Great commercial wealth was able to finance the billeting of armies of historic size.  The increased use of conscription by governments to match the growing manpower of opposing armies made possible the devastation of an entire generation of Europeans drawn into the conflict that began in 1914.  It was supposed to be a quick war but the shocking toll in human life led to a fervid determination in popular will that nothing less than an absolute, unconditional victory over one’s enemy could avenge the nation’s sacrifice and grief.  An era of modern, industrial warfare had come of age.

Related Topics:

Strategic Bombing

Confronting Nuclear War


Between Wars in America