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Tuesday, January 17, 2017


Steve Cole's thoughts on military history:

1. On June 1, 1940, thousands of British, French, Polish, and Norwegian troops held the Norwegian city of Narvik, the port from which 50% of Germany's iron ore was loaded. (No irion, no steel; no steel, no tanks.) The German troops in the area had been defeated and pushed back along the railway line to Sweden. Even after France surrendered, there would have been nothing Germany could do to take back the port, and it would have taken a year or two to build new rail lines in Sweden to move the iron ore to Baltic ports. Then, suddenly, the British pulled their troops (and the Poles) out, abandoning the port to the Germans. World War II might have ended much sooner if Germany had only half as much steel to build weapons.

2. Before World War II, Japanese children were taught that civilization began in the mountains of central Japan (not in India or Mesopotamia). Soldiers of the divine emperor had, the children were taught, spread out across all of Asia and Europe, turning hunter-gathers into civilized people who farmed the land and built cities. (Attila and the Huns were said to have been ethnic Japanese and one of the divine emperor's armies. Japanese teachers were vague on the date all this happened since none of their historical data points held together.) Plague (centuries after Attila) caused the collapse of the far-flung Japanese empire and the Japanese of World War II were only restoring what was the Emperor's territory by historical right.

3. In late 1941 and early 1942, the US Navy was able to read only bits and pieces of Japanese coded messages, but this included the address block that said who sent the message and for whom it was intended. This "traffic analysis" provided a wealth of data on where the Japanese would make their big push. The codebreakers (Magic) were able to tell Admiral Nimitz that the Japanese fleet had moved into the Indian Ocean, giving the American aircraft carriers under Admiral Halsey a chance to launch some nuisance raids on Japanese islands closer to Hawaii. After the first raid, the codebreakers noticed that the Japanese radio bases became very active, and the codebreakers gained a valuable "map" of all of the Japanese bases (and their radio addresses). Nimitz and Halsey were only too happy to "poke" the Japanese base network, generating more copies of Japanese messages Thanks to these raids, they had a lot of messages (which they knew were about the US attacks) which allowed them to crack the code in time to prepare for the Battle of Midway.