WWII: A Fascinating period of History
February 24, 2011 3 Comments
World War II is a fascinating period of history. Looking back, it all seems so organized and well thought out – at least on the good guy side. Those stupid Nazi’s what could they have been thinking? They never had a chance. Alas that is not the case at all.
The truth is the minute Germany invaded Russia the war was lost, but up until then the Nazi’s had it won. Hitler was really stupid, throwing away a winning hand.
By the middle of 1940, the invincible German Army had swept across France and driven the British off the continent of Europe. England was in dire peril. The British army had left most of its heavy equipment behind on the beaches of Dunkirk. The Royal Air Force was equipped with obsolete aircraft, the exceptions being the Hurricane and Spitfire fighters defending against the Luftwaffe bombers coming at the island daily, and the Royal Navy had a big ship mentality and actually believed that battleships would be the decisive weapons of the war at sea.
Meanwhile, the Nazi’s were busy planning and organizing Operation Sealion—the invasion of Great Britain even though it was necessary for them(?) to win the war with England.
At sea the German navy was sinking British merchant shipping faster than it could be replaced, which meant the UK would lose the war if that continued. Logistics is a science. Since England is an island that receives the bulk of her necessities by sea, there was a mathematical equation that spelled out the exact number of tons of supplies she needed to keep her people from starving.
Hitler could do the math.
In the United States our tiny army was dramatically under funded coming out of the Great Depression. We were not in the war yet, but our troops were getting ready to join the fight, training with broomsticks for rifles and wooden toy machine guns for lack of the real things. Even when we did declare war it was going to be a long time before were ready to field an effective fighting force.
If Hitler could knock out England before the Unites States ever got into the battle then he would be free to carry out his war against Russia and not have to fight a two front war against an enemy that had a giant industrial capacity Germany could not compete with. And in 1940, that is exactly what he set out to do.
The British had to hang on.
The English had an unquenchable will to fight. The question was -how to get started? This is where the story in my novel Those Who Dare picks up. The British Commandos were formed and a series of hit and run pinprick raids were launched against the coast of Enemy Occupied France.
Some of the early operations had a comic opera atmosphere to them because the Commandos were learning on the job, but the English never gave up.
Parachute training commenced, only there were no troop transports so the jumpers exited through a hole in the bay of a Whitley bomber. If he leaned too far forward, the paratrooper hit the metal on the far side of the hole performing the “Whitley Kiss”. If he leaned back too far to avoid that unpleasantry, the jumper clipped the back of his head on the near side of the metal hole resulting in “Ringing the Bell”.
The early days of World War II when England stood alone makes for very interesting reading and is a lot of fun for a historical fiction writer to explore. That’s what Those Who Dare is–historical fiction, which means it’s all true except for the parts I made up.
Phil Ward enlisted in the United States Army as an Airborne Volunteer and graduated from Infantry Officers Candidate School, Jump School and Ranger School at Fort Benning, Ga. At the age of 19, he became one of the youngest officers ever to earn the Ranger tab. He served in Vietnam as a member of an airmobile strike force that operated throughout the Mekong Delta in 1968. As a result of his service in Vietnam, Ward received the Silver Star, the Soldier’s Medal, the Bronze Start with Valor Device (three awards), the Army Commendation Medal with Valor Device (three awards), the Purple Heart (two awards), the Air Medal, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry and the Combat Infantry Badge. His unit was the recipient of the Presidential Unit Citation.
Continuing his military career Ward served with the 71st Brigade (Airborne) of the Texas National Guard. A former instructor at the Army Ranger School Ward also taught tactics to ROTC cadets at UT, TSU and the TNG OCS. He retired after 26 years of service. Ward’s thorough understanding of combat leadership and tactics are reflected in both the accuracy and passion of this story about the lives of soldiers in battle.