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What portion of the finance industry was British prior to WWI?

What portion of the finance industry was British prior to WWI?

It's sometimes stated that Britain was the financial capital of the world prior to the First World War, and that it took extraordinary war spending like that in the Great War to shift the capital to America. Example:

While exact estimates of British overseas investment in the 19th century vary, there is general agreement that by 1914 Britain acquired a historically unprecedented position as a global creditor. Cornell

However, this statement is not backed up by hard data. What portion (as a percent) of the world's finance was British? More specifically:

  1. What portion of global governmental reserves was in the British pound?
  2. What portion of global governmental reserves was in British bonds?
  3. What portion of finance workers globally worked for British banks?
  4. What portion of global wealth was held in British banks?

I'm not sure if the data is available to answer the enumerated questions very adequately. I'm also unsure on whether those are most historically relevant indicators of Britain's global financial power. That said, here are a couple of quick data points from sources you may find helpful, to start with.

This online encyclopedia article points out that:

In 1912 the City of London financed over 60 percent of the world's trade through its discount markets for bills of exchange… [and] two thirds of global maritime insurance contracts were handled in Britain.

A chapter published by the World Bank states that:

British capital exports averaged 5 percent of GDP [from 1880 to 1914] and reached nearly twice that level toward the end of the period. The capital exports of the other leading creditor countries, France and Germany, were about half British levels.

Keep in mind that estimates of GDP for this period show that Britain was one of the largest economies overall.

Regarding the importance of British exports of capital before World War I, "by 1913, about 50 percent of the capital investment throughout the world had been raised in London."

Austria-Hungary before World War I

Austria-Hungary was the first nation to declare war in 1914. Prior to this, it was a large and powerful empire that occupied a sizeable portion of Europe and included many different ethnic and language groups.

Europe’s largest entity

Before World War I, Austria-Hungary was the largest political entity in mainland Europe. It spanned almost 700,000 square kilometres and occupied much of central Europe – from the mountainous Tyrol region north of Italy to the fertile plains of Ukraine, to the Transylvanian mountains of eastern Europe.

Eleven major ethno-language groups were scattered across the empire: Germans, Hungarians, Polish, Czech, Ukrainian, Slovak, Slovene, Croatians, Serbs, Italians and Romanians.

Like Germany, the Austro-Hungarian empire was a new state comprised old peoples and cultures. It was formed in 1867 by a compromise agreement between Vienna and Budapest.

A dual monarchy

The empire’s political organisation was complex and unusual because of its origins as two separate kingdoms (it was also known as the Dual Monarchy). The Austro-Hungarian emperor was also the crowned king of both Austria and Hungary.

Austria-Hungary was overseen by an imperial government responsible for matters of foreign policy, military command and joint finance. This government was comprised of the emperor, both prime ministers, three appointed ministers, members of the aristocracy and representatives of the military.

Each of the empire’s two monarchies continued to exist in their own right. They had their own parliament, prime ministers, cabinet and a degree of domestic autonomy. As one might expect in a political union of this kind, there were lingering dissatisfactions and frequent disagreements.

Franz Joseph

Franz Joseph had ruled the empire since its inception in 1867. In theory, the emperor’s power was absolute – but he usually ruled in the manner of a constitutional monarch, relying on the advice of his ministers.

Franz Joseph had a difficult relationship with Franz Ferdinand, his nephew and (from 1889) heir to the throne. The old emperor disliked Ferdinand’s more liberal political views. He considered him wishy-washy, too easily influenced and ill-equipped for holding together the fragile Dual Monarchy.

While Franz’s politics were undoubtedly conservative, he was no warmonger and certainly nobody’s fool. He often rejected demands for strong action or the deployment of the imperial army, the interests of which he guarded jealously.

Historians like Lewis Namier suggest that Franz Joseph was a reluctant ruler he was afraid of big decisions and decisive orders, in case they turned out to be wrong:

“Lonely, never sure of himself, and very seldom satisfied with his own performance he worked exceedingly hard from a compelling sense of duty, but without deriving real satisfaction from his work. Shy, sensitive and vulnerable, and apprehensive that he might cut a poor or ridiculous figure, he took refuge in a still and lifeless formalism, which made him appear wooden, and in a spiritual isolation, which made him seem unfeeling or even callous. He could not, and would not ‘improvise’: everything had to be fixed beforehand and no freedom was given to thought or to impulses.”

Economic development

Economically, the 1800s had been a beneficial period for Austro-Hungary in terms of its economic and financial development.

The empire shed its final feudal remnants and began developing and expanding capitalist institutions such as banking, industry and manufacturing. The National Austro-Hungarian Bank was formed, supplying credit and investment funds, as well as forming a vital financial link between the two halves of the empire.

Manufacturing and industrial production increased rapidly in the western half of the empire, while the east remained its agricultural heart, producing most of the Dual Monarchy’s food. Austro-Hungary’s annual growth was the second-fastest in Europe, behind that of Germany.

The imperial government invested heavily in railway infrastructure, chiefly because of its military benefits. By 1900, the empire had one of Europe’s best rail networks. Industrial growth and modernisation also led to improvements in trade, employment and living standards.

Military strength

The Dual Monarchy’s military force was essentially comprised of three armies: two belonging to the kingdoms of Austria and Hungary and a third newly created force called the Imperial and Royal Army.

There were considerable differences between the three. The two older armies were protected by their respective parliaments so received more funding and better equipment and training. The imperial army, in contrast, was perpetually short of qualified officers – and most of its officers were Austrian.

This onesidedness created problems because Austrian officers spoke German but the majority of soldiers were Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks and others. To combat the language gap, enlisted soldiers were taught a set of 68 single-word commands. This allowed the Imperial and Royal Army to function, though with considerable difficulty in communication.

Most soldiers were conscripts, which did not help morale. Despite these difficulties, the Austro-Hungarian imperial army was as professional as could reasonably be expected. Its high command and its officers drew on Prussian military methods, and most regiments were comparatively well-equipped with modern small arms, machine-guns and artillery.

A historian’s view:
“Most would say that the Austro-Hungarian government decided to act as it did in 1914 because the monarchy’s ruling elite came to believe the monarchy’s interwoven external and internal problems and challenges, especially those in its South Slav regions… had become unmanageable and intolerable, calling for drastic action to change Austria-Hungary’s situation – and that the special nature, interests strongly influenced the choice of a violent rather than a peaceful solution.”
Holger Afflerbach

1. The Austro-Hungarian Empire was, in fact, a dual monarchy. It was formed by a merger of the two older kingdoms in 1867.

2. Though Austrians were dominant in the royal family, aristocracy and military command, the empire housed many different ethnic and language groups.

3. Like Germany, Austria-Hungary went through a significant period of industrial growth and modernisation in the second half of the 1800s.

4. The Austro-Hungarian government, which was led by Emperor Franz Joseph, was autocratic and dominated by aristocrats and militarists.

5. Austria-Hungary had a powerful modernised army, though its effectiveness was undermined by internal political and ethnic divisions, such as language barriers between officers and their men.

What portion of the finance industry was British prior to WWI? - History

Dr Stuart Parkinson, SGR, examines how technological innovation contributed to one of the most devastating wars in human history – and asks what lessons we should take from this.

Article from SGR Newsletter no.44 online publication: 5 April 2016

2016 is the centenary of two of the bloodiest battles of World War I: the Somme and Verdun. And WWI itself is one of the most destructive wars in human history. As an example of the carnage, the total death toll of the war has been estimated at over 15 million people between July 1914 and November 1918 – an average of about 3.5m per year. Only the Russian Civil War and World War II had higher annual death rates. [1] [2] The centenary is therefore an important opportunity to reflect on a conflict in which rapid developments in technology led to a huge increase in the devastation that could be caused by war.

In this article, I examine which technological developments led to the most casualties and what lessons we can draw about science, technology and the military today.

Harnessing the Industrial Revolution for war

The late 18th and 19th centuries saw a rapid development in technology which we now, of course, refer to as the Industrial Revolution. Starting in Europe, major developments transformed a wide range of industries. Growing exploitation of minerals like coal and iron were especially important, as was the advent of the steam engine – especially in ships and trains.

It was not long before the military started harnessing some of these inventions. Mass production in factories churned out not only large numbers of standardised guns and bullets, but also boots, uniforms and tents. [3] The guns were more reliable and hence more accurate. A bullet was 30 times more likely to strike its target. Developments in transport were also utilised, with steel becoming standard in battleships and trains starting to be used to quickly ferry large numbers of troops to war zones. Advances in chemistry led to new high explosives.

The first wars in which these new military technologies were used on a large scale included the Crimean War (1854-56) and the American Civil War (1861-65). Both of these provided a taster for the carnage of WWI, being characterised by trench warfare in which frontal assaults against well-defended positions led to massacres of infantry soldiers.

Pre-1914 arms races

In the years running up to the outbreak of WWI, there were several key developments in military technologies that would lead to high casualties during the war itself.

Arguably the most important were new high explosives. Gunpowder had been the explosive of choice in war for around 500 years, but new developments in organic chemistry by Alfred Nobel and others led to new materials, initially used in mining. Further work in the late 19th century especially in Prussia/Germany, Britain and France refined the materials for use in hand-guns and artillery. Most successful were Poudre B and Cordite MD which burnt in such a way as to provide the required directed pressure needed to propel a projectile, without blowing up the weapon. [4]

Developments in gun manufacture were also crucial. Muskets were being replaced by rifles, which were more accurate. Machine guns were also brought onto the scene, first invented in the USA. By 1914, the most widely used machine gun was the British Maxim, capable of firing a shocking 666 rounds per minute. [5]

New artillery was also developed to use the new explosives. By the outbreak of WWI, a single shell weighing one tonne could be propelled more than 30 kilometres. However, smaller and more mobile guns were preferred as these could accurately fire a shell every three seconds. [6]

The development of weapons using poisonous gases was limited by the Hague peace conference of 1899. However, this only limited the development of the delivery systems rather than the gases themselves, in which Germany, Britain and France all had active research programmes. [7]

The development of the submarine and the torpedo would also prove to be crucial. Work in France and the USA led to the first successful military submarines, with Britain, Germany and Italy quickly commissioning their own. At the start of the 20th century, there were about 30 military submarines. This number would rapidly grow. The main weapon of the submarine immediately became the torpedo, invented in Britain. An early demonstration of the effectiveness of this weapon was in a Japanese attack on the Russian fleet in 1904. It was then rapidly deployed by all the major powers. [8]

The other major development in military technology that occurred in the years running up to 1914 was the steam-driven battleship. The first was the Dreadnought, launched by the British in 1906. Heavily armed and fast, it helped to cement Britain’s naval dominance. However, other naval powers, especially Germany, developed their own more powerful battleships during a rapid naval arms race in the pre-war years. [9]

Helping to fuel these arms races were not just competition between national militaries and technological innovation, but also international commerce. Major private corporations such as Vickers and Armstrong in the UK and Krupp in Germany made huge profits from arms sales, including major contracts with governments which would later become the ‘enemy’. [10]

Key technological developments during the war

After WWI broke out, in summer 1914, the pressure rapidly grew for the warring nations and their scientists and engineers to try to create ‘military advantage’ through innovation. The main areas were diverse, including trench construction, artillery and its targeting, poisonous gases, submarines, tanks and planes.

In terms of artillery, perhaps the most important development during the war was the scaling up of production of the heavy guns which had begun to be deployed by militaries before 1914. Many thousands of these weapons, such as the British 18 Pounder and the French 75mm, were produced. [11] Also important was the development of improved targeting – such as ‘sound-ranging’. These developments led to artillery use on an unprecedented scale. For example, during the Meuse-Argonne campaign – part of the final Allied advance in 1918 – US forces were firing an incredible 40,000 tonnes of shells each day. [12]

Mass production also led to the machine gun being a widely used and devastating weapon, especially in defending trenches. For example, the British favoured the Lewis gun whose numbers increased nine-fold between 1915 and 1918. [13]

German research resulted in the first use of lethal gas in the war – in this case, chlorine – in April 1915. [14] Further development work led to Germany deploying phosgene and mustard gas later in the war. Britain’s first use of lethal gas was in September 1915, although it never used it on the scale that Germany did. However, poisonous gases proved to have limited military value – due to their dependence on weather conditions and their countering through, for example, gas masks. Gases also proved to be significantly less lethal than more conventional weapons. [15]

There was rapid development of military aircraft during WWI, although their role in the conflict remained largely marginal. [16] Planes and airships were adapted to drop bombs, but their main role was reconnaissance, especially spotting the location of enemy artillery.

Submarine development also proceeded quickly during WWI. Germany, in particular, favoured this sort of weapons system, given British superiority in surface warships. By the war’s end they had built 390 ‘U-boats’, and used them to devastating effect, especially from early 1917 onwards when they resorted to ‘unrestricted’ submarine warfare to try to cut off Britain’s maritime supply routes. About four million tonnes of shipping – much of it crewed by civilians – was sunk in little over a year. [17]

In military terms, arguably the most decisive new technology of the war was the tank. First deployed by Britain in 1916 with the aim of overrunning trenches defended by barbed wire and machine guns, it did not initially prove effective. However, further innovation and mass production led to Britain and France each deploying several hundred from the summer of 1918. They proved critical in driving back German forces. [18]

Which weapons were the biggest killers?

Estimating casualty rates in war is a notoriously difficult exercise, especially when analysing data from a century ago. Nevertheless, World War I historians and other researchers have uncovered a range of information which allows some assessment to be made of the most lethal technologies.

Overall, based on a range of sources, researcher Matthew White has estimated that approximately 8.5 million military personnel and around 6.5m civilians died in World War I. [19] Wikipedia researchers have provided comparable estimates. [20]

Within the military totals, the overwhelming majority of deaths (and injuries) were borne by armies, with naval deaths being only a few percent of the total. [21] Of land-based deaths, the evidence points to artillery being by far the leading cause, followed by machine guns. For example, historians Stephen Bull, [22] Gary Sheffield, [23] and Stephane Audoin-Rouzeau [24] quote a range of official figures that indicate between 50% and 85% of casualties on the battlefield were due to artillery fire.

Civilian deaths – which are much less certain – were overwhelmingly caused by malnutrition and disease, as a result of shortages due to the effect of battlefields, blockades and damage to infrastructure caused by the war. Hence, no single weapons system can be identified as the cause in those cases. Nevertheless, artillery and machine gun fire still resulted in large numbers of civilian casualties.

Drawing on sources already quoted, I estimate the following overall numbers of deaths due to different weapons systems. I must emphasise these have high levels of uncertainty.

  • Artillery: 6m (5m military and 1m civilian)
  • Machines guns: 3m (2m military and 1m civilian)
  • Submarines rifles: 0.5m each
  • Tanks chemical weapons warships planes: 0.1m each

A further 5m civilians are thought to have died due to malnutrition and disease.

Some lessons

Lessons from the carnage of the World War I continue to be hotly debated, but I want to offer some especially related to science and technology.

Historian John Keegan points out that there was rapid technological development in weapons systems in the years before WWI, in contrast to that in communications. [25] As such, the means to wage war on an unprecedented scale was readily at hand when the international political crisis struck in summer 1914, whereas technologies which political leaders could use to clarify and defuse the situation (e.g. high quality person-to-person phones) were not.

Today, the rapid pace of development in communications technologies is outpacing much in the military field – indicating that perhaps some lessons have been learned about the importance of communication in helping different peoples understand and trust one another. However, militaries are harnessing some of those communications technologies to help revolutionise warfare, an obvious example being the remote piloting of ‘drones’. New international arms controls are urgently needed in this area.

This brings me to another key lesson. 100 years on from the Battle of the Somme, artillery is still being used to devastating effect in many parts of the world – with the carnage of the Syrian war being an obvious example. Campaigners are attempting to get their use restricted under existing international disarmament treaties, but governments are currently showing little interest. [26]

A further lesson concerns the international arms trade. A lack of controls in the years before WWI allowed private corporations to profit from arming both sides. While a new international Arms Trade Treaty was agreed in 2013, its currently weak provisions still allow a major trade which fuels war and repression across the world. [27]

The overarching conclusion is that allowing militaries to play a significant role in scientific research and technological development was a major driver of world war 100 years ago, and it still creates major dangers today. We need to prioritise using science and technology to support and strengthen disarmament processes across the world – that would be the best way of commemorating the fallen from the century past.

Dr Stuart Parkinson is Executive Director of Scientists for Global Responsibility, and has written widely on the links between science, technology and militarism.

Thanks to Daniel Cahn for valuable help with research for this article.

[1] Figures and calculations based on data from: White M (2011). Atrocitology. Canongate, London. Death rate of World War II (1939-45): approx 6.5m/y Russian Civil War (1918-20): approx 4m/y.

The Serbian Army in the Great War ↑

The events in the summer 1914 caught the Serbian army wholly unprepared for war. According to Nikola Pašić’s estimates, Serbia and its army needed at least three years for rearmament and for the development of new military formations in the south. The inflow of the new contingent of conscripts from the south had not started until April 1914. Serbia needed a much longer period for the development of a new railroad network in the southern and western parts of the country, as well as for the construction of a bridge over the Danube to establish a rail connection with Romania. These views were shared by the General Staff and Prince Alexander. [35] The Serbian army lacked at least 120,000 rifles, heavy and mountain artillery, ammunition, means of transportation, camping equipment, some 300,000 complete sets of uniforms, medical equipment, medical staff, newly trained men to replace some 50,000 deceased and handicapped from the Balkan Wars, and some 6,000 horses. [36]

Prime Minister Pašić, fully aware of those weaknesses and the threats to security from neighboring areas, looked for loans in France and Russia in order to purchase the armaments on time. First he turned to Russia (in January 1914), and demanded 120,000 rifles, twenty-four howitzers 105mm, thirty-six mountain guns, and equipment for 250,000 men. His demand was declined in January, again in April and once more at the peak of the July crisis. The basic motive for the Russian government to turn down this quest was an attempt to minimize a possible pretext for the Austrians to blame Serbia and Russia for their alleged intentions. [37] Pašić was more welcome in France. There he managed to secure a loan of 130 million Francs, but not before May 1914. However, only small quantity of artillery ammunition, black powder and some other materials reached Serbia through the port of Salonika before the outbreak of the war. Rifles and howitzers, badly needed by the army, could not be transported in time. [38] Finally, when the export ban was removed in September, Russia sent 119,980 rifles, 90 million cartridges, 1,280 shells 120mm and 1,140 horses. [39]

In spite of its weaknesses, Serbia was determined to defend itself in the event of an attack. The Russian Chargé d'Affaires hesitated to deliver a message from St. Petersburg that suggested Serbians should not set up resistance but instead withdraw southward and appeal to the Great Powers for mediation. [40] A general mobilization was declared in the evening of 25 July, soon after the Austro-Hungarian Plenipotentiary in Belgrade had declared a break-off of diplomatic relations. Mobilization commenced on 26 July. Everyone obeyed the government’s appeal so it took merely three days to accomplish the mobilization goals. More than 400,000 reservists enrolled in the ranks. The Serbian operational army had some 250,000 combatants distributed across eleven infantry, one cavalry division and several detachments. In total it had 213 battalions, fifty cavalry squadrons, and was equiped with 200 machine guns and 528 cannons. [41] The rest of the men included recruits, cadets or non-combatants (almost 250,000) were on various duties including logistical support, post office, policing, working on the railways or in the war industry. The complete concentration was developed by 10 August. The First Army (three divisions) was situated in the Morava Valley the Second (four divisions) in Central Serbia the Third (2.5 divisions) along the Drina and Sava rivers the Užice Army (one division) on the Upper Drina and a Braničevo detachment was distributed along the Danube banks (1.5 divisions).

For the quick “punishment” of Serbia, the Austro-Hungarian High Command employed three of its armies (part of the Second, and the entire Fifth and Sixth): in total some eleven infantry divisions and six brigades of the first class, one cavalry division, Landsturm brigades, Marsch brigades and regiments, frontier protection battalions, etc. [42] In the period from 12 to 18 August, the Second Army was deployed across the Serbian northern border along the rivers Sava and Danube, that is to say, the Balkan Army had sixteen infantry divisions around Serbia. [43]

It took several weeks after the declaration of war (28 July) for Austria-Hungary to rally the troops for a full-scale offensive. The Fifth and Second Armies were directed toward Loznica and Šabac, and launched the attack on 12 August. The Sixth Army did not develop full-scale action toward Užice. The northwest corner of Serbia with Tser (Cer) Mountain in the center soon became the stage for the first Allies’ victory. The main Serbian force, its Second Army, had stopped the invaders, pushing them back over the borders (from 16 to 20 August). [44]

The Allies overestimated the capabilities of the Serbian Army, since it was still awaiting the promised 120,000 rifles, artillery ammunition, horses, tents and sufficient pontoons for floating bridges, [45] and firmly insisted on its offensive over the Serbian borders. Reluctantly, Serbians agreed and pushed their First Army and part of the Second across the River Sava. The Užice Army, in close cooperation with the Montenegrin Army, crossed the Upper Drina and pursued the Austro-Hungarian Sixth Army toward Sarajevo and eastern Bosnia: but not for long. After recovering and regrouping its armies General Oskar Potiorek (1853-1933) launched his second offensive on Serbia by the end of September. After fifty-five days of fierce, entrenched battles during which its artillery ammunition ran out, [46] the Serbian Army began a slow retreat some fifty to sixty kilometers south leaving even the capital Belgrade. When no one, especially Potiorek, expected it, the Serbian Army launched a counteroffensive on 3 December. The Serbian First Army led by General Živojin Mišić (1855-1921) made an astonishing breakthrough. The Austro-Hungarian troops were pushed out of Serbia for the second time within ten days. [47]

The Serbian government and the High Command were, with good reason, concerned about the attitude of Young Turks in North Albania and the Austro-Hungarian clandestine endeavor in encouraging Albanian uprising and attacks from the rear. After several appeals for assistance by Essad Pasha Toptani (1863-1920), the Serbian government decided to support him and sent the troops in June 1915 to occupy important communications posts along the River Drin and the towns of Elbasan and Tirana. This mission was carried out in spite of advice against it and even some threats by the Allies. This Serbian move proved helpful six months later during the retreat through Albania. [48]

After ten months of “ceasefire,” in October 1915, the Third Austro-Hungarian, Eleventh German and two Bulgarian armies, as well as General Stephan von Sarkotic’s (1858-1939) troops from Bosnia and Herzegovina (forty-seven battalions, 148 guns), invaded Serbia for the third time since the outbreak of war. The Central Powers had assembled twenty-six divisions (eight German, eight Austro-Hungarian, ten Bulgarian, in total 493 battalions, sixty-six cavalry squadrons, 483 batteries, 492,000 rifles, 9,430 horsemen, and 1,717 artillery pieces). [49] The Commander-in-Chief was Field Marshal August von Mackensen (1849-1945).

Serbia pursued its war efforts through anything and anyone it could mobilize. It finally assembled 8,897 officers and 411,700 men (288 battalions, 250,000 rifles, forty cavalry squadrons, and 678 artillery pieces). The Montenegrin Army assisted with 48,244 men (eighty-two battalions and 134 guns). [50] Some Allied assistance was also available. The Russians sent marine engineers, gunners, cannon, mines and torpedo batteries. The British and French sent assistance in the form of guns, men and ammunition. Their primary task was to improve the defense of Belgrade and the right bank of the Dunube by introducing heavy coastal guns, mines and torpedos. The French were engaged in establishing an air force. They came with one squadron and soon incorporated the small Serbian forces into the French Military Aviation Mission. [51]

The Austro-Hungarian and German armies launched an offensive over the Danube on 6 October 1915. The principle targets were Belgrade and the Morava Valley where the Central Powers would establish direct contact with Bulgaria and Turkey, push Serbia out, and cut off the supply route to Russia from Salonika. On 12 October, the Bulgarians joined the Central Powers.

After two weeks of fighting, von Mackensen’s armies had advanced only thirty kilometers into Serbia, far less than had been planned, due to the tremendous tenacity of the Serbian First and Third Armies. The Serbian Second Army successfully halted the Bulgarian First Army from the east. After hearing about this, the German High Command concluded that in spite of shortages on other fronts, it had to move its Alpine Corps from the Western front to Serbia to reinforce von Mackensen’s army. In addition, Austria-Hungary sent its Tenth mountain brigade. By the end of October, they pushed forward strongly once again. The Serbs continued fierce resistance and gradually withdrew, desperately hoping for the Allies’ promised aid. Unfortunately, the French and British arrival in Salonika was far too slow to create a strong army of 150,000 men on time, and match Bulgarian advancement in South Serbia. However, the Allies for many reasons did not engage in larger-scale action. Meanwhile, the Second Bulgarian Army managed to cut off the Serbian escape route to Salonika by taking Skopje on 22 October and then pushed northwestward to Kosovo. Finally, the Serbian Army, followed by a large number of refugees, withdrew to the Kosovo Valley, thus escaping on several occasions the enemy’s attempts to cut it off and force surrender. On 25 November, the Serbian High Command issued the order to retreat through Montenegro and Albania, to join the Allies and continue the war out of the country. The Serbian High Command emphasized that its army was not in a favorable condition for a counteroffensive, but that capitulation was viewed as a worse choice. [52] The epic retreat through high, snowy mountains, in poor clothes, with no food and medical supplies, sometimes through the hostile Albanian villages, claimed thousands of soldiers’ lives and left many wounded. The sufferings were similar for the civilians and prisoners of war (POW) who moved alongside their once victors. [53]

France led the Allies in organizing a rescue mission and help save the Serbian Army on the Albanian littoral. General Piarron de Mondésir (1857-1943) was head of the Mission beginning 12 December. An Inter-Allies commission was set up in Rome to help coordinate joint efforts. The Greek island of Corfu was occupied for this purpose as the most suitable spot for the endeavor. The first phase was evacuation from Albania. Some eighty-seven liners and hospital ships were engaged, along with seventy war ships. The second phase was recovery and reorganization. Some 169,828 soldiers and civilians were transferred to Corfu, Bizerte, Italy, and France. After several months of recovery, some 125,000 Serbian troops were shipped to Khalkidhiki nearby Salonika. [54] They were soon reinforced by 4,641 volunteers from overseas as well as by 14,626 Yugoslavs from Russia, mainly Serbs. They joined the Serbian Army in 1918 after a long journey from Vladivostok or Archangelsk. They were once part of the 44,851 men strong Serbian (Yugoslav) voluntary corps in Russia. Austro-Hungarian prisoners of war in Russia, if they were of South Slav origin, were granted the opportunity to switch sides and join the Allies. Serbia had sent officers from Corfu for this purpose. [55]

The Serbian Army became part of the Allied East Army (L’armée d’Orient) and was given the central part of the Salonika front. The reorganized army was smaller, but possessed more fire power than before. The sudden Bulgarian offensive on 17 August, south of Monastir caught the Allies’ Supreme Commander, and the Serbian forces by surprise, while on a march in a difficult position. Soon, they halted the Bulgarian offensive and took over dominant mountain peaks, pushing the enemy back on the second mountain chain. Monastir (Bitolj) was liberated, becoming the first Serbian ground. Within next two years, the front was basically peaceful with no large-scale operations.

The next successful offensive, in September 1918, had far-reaching consequences. It proved the advocates of the Balkan front right and legitimized their farsighted view on its strategic significance. Among them were Generals Franchet d’Espèrey (1856-1942) and Noël de Castelnau (1851-1944), in 1914 commanders on the Western front. They were later joined by some Americans who developed the very same ideas: no mention of the Serbs who had in vain suggested the same in 1915. [56]

The Serbian Second Army reinforced by two French divisions in the first line made a major breach across the mountains of Dobro Polje. The blow was so tremendous that enemy could not regroup. Both Serbian armies continued to pursue the demoralized Bulgarian troops and crushed all attempts made by reserves. The Bulgarians quickly faltered and concluded a truce at the end of September. The rapid penetration of the Serbian First Army and French Cavalry into the Morava Valley and the liberation of Niš destroyed all hopes by the German High Command of organizing a new Balkan front and thereby saving Austria-Hungary from collapse. The entire territory of the former Kingdom of Serbia was liberated by 1 November 1918.

It was not only a military collapse. The breach near Salonika supported the belief that Germany and Austria must capitulate, as had Bulgaria previously. This contributed to an upswing of liberal ideas in central Europe. In response to the news of the Serbian advancement, the South Slav movement started to gather momentum. The press spread optimism, foreshadowing great events ahead - the collapse of Austria-Hungary and Yugoslav unification. [57] The Supreme Allied Commander in the east, General D'Espèrey issued orders for the Serbian Army that had not only military significance, but also political. The first included instructions for crossing the rivers Drina, Sava and Danube with smaller detachments, to enable him to declare that his troops had advanced into Austria-Hungary. His instructions on 3 November assigned the Serbian Army to the general support of and organization of Yugoslav movement in Bosnia, Croatia and Vojvodina. The latter was in line with the Chief of the Serbian High Command Mišić's instructions to his army commanders, and also his response to demands of the National Council of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs based in Zagreb for military assistance on the Adriatic against Italian claims. In addition, General d'Espèrey had demanded troops to protect order and security along railroads and in the principle cities. In the meantime, the National Council organized several military detachments with former Serbian POWs in Austria-Hungary (Ljubljana, Maribor, Zagreb, Novi Sad). D'Espèrey was also entitled to determine the boundaries of the occupation zones for each ally. Politicaly it was a very sensitive topic since it involved questions about the secret treaties between the Allies and Italy and Romania, as well as future questions on delimitation between Albania and its neighbors, Hungary and Austria. [58]

What Was the Arms Race During WW1?

Before World War I, many European nations grew their military powers and produced new military technology dramatically as a result of direct competition over potential colonies. Countries such as Germany and Britain engaged in a race to produce the most powerful armies through invention and mass production of weapons. This arms race is often cited as a leading cause for World War I.

In the decades leading up to World War I, many European countries began to place more focus on their military might. The European powers invested significant amounts of money and production time to designing and building new weapons or mass producing vast quantities of offensive and defensive weaponry. Between 1870 and 1914, the military budget for Britain, France, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia and Italy more than quadrupled. Some nation's budgets increased more radically than others. Germany, for instance, increased its military spending by 73 percent between 1870 and 1914. The growth of these armies did not happen in secrecy or isolation. Each nation was aware of the growing military power of their neighbors and responded by growing their armies in turn. When Germany began growing its naval fleet, policy makers in Britain became concerned. This resulted in Britain growing its own fleet and inventing new and more powerful naval vessels such as the dreadnought class of ships. Eventually, fear and competition in the arms race led to various military alliances, which contributed greatly to the start of World War I.

The Shadow of Gallipoli: How Britain’s blunder haunted Dieppe and D-Day

73,485 British and Irish troops lay dead and the Ottoman Empire still stood firm. There can never be conflict without consequence, and although the Gallipoli campaign may now be 100 years behind us, its legacy lives on. The operation is well known for the brave Australian and New Zealand (ANZAC) soldiers who arrived from Australasia to serve the Triple Entente. These men have been written into history, but what about the British?

This disastrous loss of life and objectives shattered the opinions of British military minds on the ‘Sick Man of Europe’ and the effectiveness of amphibious landings in war. As the war raged on, what was the outcome back in Blighty? Would Prime Minister Asquith pay for the ill-fated expedition and would the commanders be punished for their poor leadership?

Asquith’s military leadership was by no means outstanding but there are theories that Kitchener censored the information that got through to the prime minister

Changes in command and cabinet
There is a theory that Gallipoli was lost before it even began. The political crisis in Britain sidelined the campaign meaning key decisions could not be made quickly or correctly. Winston Churchill was the driving force behind the idea but he soon lost confidence as his colleagues became uninspiring and unhelpful. David Lloyd George distanced himself from Churchill, while Lord Kitchener, vulnerable and unfocused since the shells scandal, maintained his silence. General Hamilton, who led the majority of the campaign, was too timid to press Kitchener for the amount of men and arms he needed while Asquith was distanced from the decision-making. This melting pot would result in disaster.

The generals responsible for the diabolical venture were not treated lightly. Hamilton and Lieutenant General Frederick Stopford were recalled to London and both effectively dismissed, Lieutenant General Aylmer Hunter-Weston was given another chance while Kitchener was deemed too popular to be punished and let off scot free. He, however, became increasingly sidelined and would die aboard HMS Hampshire in June. Churchill, who had put forward the idea of this supposed ‘easy option’, lost his highly regarded political reputation and was attacked for ignoring the advice of military experts.

For years afterwards his speeches were punctured by cries of “What about Gallipoli?”, but Churchill did have his allies, and some believe that if his methods were followed more closely, the campaign could have succeeded.

Lord Slim gave the most scathing remark, describing the generals as the worst since the Crimean War. The defeat was seen as so catastrophic that an organisation was set up specifically to debrief over what had happened. The Dardanelles Commission was established and reported that the operation was badly planned and the difficulties of such a gamble underestimated. It highlighted the shortage of ammunition and the personality clashes between the commanders.

Hamilton in particular felt that the Commission was out to get him and firmly believed that his mistakes could and would have been made by anybody. Even the prime minister himself, HH Asquith, was not spared in the wake of Gallipoli. Consistently the focal point for the blame, he delayed the evacuation and politically was often outmanoeuvred by Andrew Bonar Law and old sparring partner Lloyd George. ‘Squiffy’ was increasingly sidelined in military matters and the disaster along with the shell crisis were more nails in the coffin for his failing government. By the end of 1916 he had resigned.

In the years since Gallipoli, some veterans were convinced that the press used Hamilton as a scapegoat for the entire cabinet’s mistakes

Effect on the British war effort

Forever remembered as a complete failure, the fighting at Gallipoli actually came quite close to breaking the back of the Ottomans who themselves had lost 87,000 men to a combination of disease and bullets. However, the facts couldn’t be ignored, Gallipoli was lost and every regiment sent to reclaim it was one less on the Western Front. After evacuation, the regiments regrouped in Egypt and planned their next move. The ANZACs were sent to the Western Front and the remaining men were incorporated into an all new Mediterranean Expeditionary force (MEF) and an Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF) and sent for duty in both the Middle East and Europe.

With the Ottoman Empire reeling but still in the war, they were still a threat to the Entente. Joining with Bulgaria, they continued to wage war until 1918 when Constantinople was occupied by a combined effort of British, French, Italian and Greek forces. The failure to win at Gallipoli essentially made the war last longer for the British and strengthen Turkish morale to fight on. However, the death toll on Ottoman forces cannot be underestimated, and the loss of 86,692 was a hammer blow to their already perilous military position.

Gallipoli was the largest amphibious military operation in history until D-Day

The legacy continues

The ghosts of Gallipoli rose again after the withdrawal from Dunkirk in June 1940. All in the British military hierarchy were aware that an eventual return to the continent to break down Fortress Europe would be through a landing not too dissimilar to Gallipoli. Churchill was once again in charge and a repeat of 1916 simply wouldn’t do. He was determined to make amends, especially after his 1922 book The World Crisis was dominated by the memory of Gallipoli.

The failure of Dieppe in 1942 aside, the attack was planned much more carefully than Gallipoli ever was and only considered when the Soviets opened up a second, Eastern Front. It was made sure that all three services, army, navy and air force, were to play a part and communicate effectively with correct and up-to-date intelligence. Nothing was left to chance – accurate maps, sea currents, ground and weather conditions and the strength of the enemy were all taken into account. When D-Day got under way in the summer of 1944, mortars and rocket ships kept the German fortifications at bay while the men stormed the beaches.

A secure floating dock known as Mulberry Harbour was created to ferry men and supplies ashore. These were just some of the aspects not heeded at the slaughter of Gallipoli. The eventual success of Operation Overlord ensured that Churchill had mended his broken reputation. As well as D-Day, the 1944 Battle of Anzio in the Italian Campaign showcased the improvements made in amphibious landings since Gallipoli.

Contemporary study on the campaign generally agrees that the expedition was a classic instance of ‘great idea, poor execution’

Gallipoli was still at the forefront of military minds as recently as the 1982 Falklands War. During one of the amphibious landings during the war, one commanded remarked that the coming landing might be just like Gallipoli. As well as the British, other powers such as the USA and Japan studied the campaign closely to analyse the potential capabilities of amphibious attacks. It undoubtedly influenced many of the landings in the Pacific war and the memory of the campaign weighed heavily on the Australian troops during the 1943 Huon Peninsula Campaign.

Lesson learned

Gallipoli was an experiment that went badly wrong. It was a shock to the system for the British and inadvertently led to the doubling up of planning on future amphibious operations. It did not shorten the war by a single day and the loss of life for the soldiers was frighteningly high. That said, the awful conditions endured by the British shook the cobwebs off the colonial ways of old and introduced a new breed of general and military thought that would help Britain emerge victorious in the two world wars of the 20th century – heroism alone doesn’t win battles.

For more critical and engaging dissection of the world’s greatest battles, pick up the new issue of all About History here or subscribe now and save 25% on the cover price.


  • http://www.gallipoli-association.org/content/gallipoli-campaign/the-aftermath
  • http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/media/interactive/gallipoli-casualties-country
  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/wwtwo/gallipoli_dday_01.shtml#three
  • http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/world-war-one/battles-of-world-war-one/gallipoli/
  • http://sthistorygallipoli.weebly.com/consequences-of-the-campaign.html
  • http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052970203771904574175763132225506
  • http://www.iwm.org.uk/history/a-short-guide-to-h-h-asquiths-first-world-war
  • http://www.firstworldwar.com/atoz/dardanellescommission.htm
  • Hamilton and Gallipoli: British Command in the Age of Military Transformation by Evan McGilvray
  • Churchill and Australia by Graham Freudenberg

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How Nazi policies of expansion led to World War II

On September 1, 1939, the Wehrmacht invaded neighboring Poland without warning. Hitler had been planning the Blitzkrieg since 1933. DW takes a look at the events leading up to WWII.

The war did not come as a surprise. Hitler was not secretive about his aggressive expansion policies.

But again and again, says Klaus Hesse from the Topography of Terror Documentation Center in Berliner, he maintained publicly that he was taking the peaceful route.

"Everything Hitler did was geared toward war ever since he came to power in 1933. From the very beginning, his aim was to revise the post-war order ordained in the Treaty of Versailles - to regain hegemony in Europe through an enlarged Germany. Everything was aimed at creating a large-scale economy that would allow Germany to wage a vast and long-term war in Europe."

Domestic war

The Treaty of Versailles in 1919 forced Germany and its allies to accept sole responsibility for causing the First World War and committed it to making territorial concessions, disarming and paying reparations. As Hitler saw it, this was a great humiliation, and he made it his mission to rectify it.

The so-called "stab-in-the-back" conspiracy theory was particularly convenient for Hitler's plans. And it wasn't very difficult to convince the public that the Social Democrats and the Jews had "stabbed the Reich in the back." And so a new war began within the country's own boundaries.

The extent of Nazi brutality became obvious after the progrom of 1938

Just a few days after he gained power, Hitler called for a country-wide boycott of Jewish shops on April 1, 1933. After that he passed the "Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service," which forced all non-"Aryans" and those not loyal to the National Socialist (NS) Party to retire from civil service.

From the very beginning, it was also about securing the financial means to wage war. Before the Nazis created a legal framework to regulate the pillaging of Jewish property and possessions, Jewish businesspeople were put under pressure to make profits off others fleeing the country. Emigrants had to pay 25 percent of their taxable assets to the German government, which in the first two years of NS rule alone earned the government 153 million reichsmark. On all bank transfers abroad, there was a fee that had to be paid to a state banking institution, the "Deutsche Golddiskontbank."

By September 1939, that fee had risen to 96 percent of the transfer sum.

Berlin 1936 - Olympic Games and war plans

Up to 1939, the majority of Germans saw Hitler as someone who could fix the country. His dictatorship brought about a positive change in the economic situation for many people. Unemployment sank, consumerism increased.

"So in this sense, Hitler was quite a populist - he knew you had to give the people butter along with guns," Hesse told DW.

But weapons were, in fact, more important for the government.

While Berlin was hosting the Olympic Games, Hitler was busy solidifying his war plans. In four years, the Nazi armed forces, the Wehrmacht, were to be fit to carry out the war in the east. Hitler's plan as noted in his classified "Four-Year Plan" was to make Germany self-sufficient in many areas so it could isolate itself from the world market and invest all its resources in arms and military buildup. Soon, half of the state's expenditures were going towards weapons.

The same year, the Wehrmacht occupied the demilitarized Rheinland in the west of the country - in clear violation of the Treaty of Versailles. In November 1937, Hitler told his secret plans to a select circle of the Wehrmacht's top generals: Germany needs more space, or "Lebensraum," for the "preservation and growth of the German people."

Berlin won the bid to host the '36 Summer Olympics two years before the Nazis came to power

September 1938 - war postponed

In the year 1938, Hitler annexed his birth country Austria. Shortly thereafter, he threatened to invade Czechoslovakia because the local German population there supposedly suffered from discrimination.

British and French politicians feared a European war - and tried to avoid one through politics of appeasement. By giving Hitler what he understood to be his nation's right, he would calm down - that was the hope.

In the Munich Agreement, the Sudetenland, the German-speaking border regions of Czechoslovakia, were ceded to Germany.

"Chamberlain let Hitler get away with a whole lot of territorial expansion without letting it come to war," says historian Antony Beevor.

As for the what would have happened had an anti-appeasement Winston Churchill already been prime minister at the time, the historian can't say.

"Would the British and the French have been in a stronger position in September 1939? We will never know."

Hesse says the fear of war was palpable in Germany in 1938. "It became evident that the transformation from a weak Germany to a strong one was not going to be possible without war."

The Munich Agreement was packaged by Nazi propaganda and sold to the German public as one of Hitler's successful peace policies. But in reality, Hitler was upset about the agreement because he would have preferred to go to war then.

In September 1939 - no coup

The Munich Agreement gave German-speaking parts of Czechoslovakia to Germany

What is tragic about the events around this time in history was that, as of September 1938, Hitler was very alone with his plans for war. His generals wanted to avoid a war at any cost. Chief of the German General Staff Franz Halder, who was a top commander in and around Berlin, along with Berlin's chief of police had already formed a new government with civil service workers critical of the NS and former Social Democrat politicians. A secret brigade of assault troops was prepared to overrun the Reich Chancellery as soon as Hitler declared war.

But a year later, a coup was no longer on the agenda. Though no one cheered on September 1, 1939, most Germans stood behind Hitler nonetheless. And they were prepared to wage war for their "Führer."

Sixty million people lost their lives in the Second World War. The National Socialists killed six million Jews. For Antony Beevor, the Second World War was the "biggest disaster caused by man in all of history."

DW recommends

What portion of the finance industry was British prior to WWI? - History

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Torpedo Bombers, 1900–1950 ePub (60.7 MB) Add to Basket £15.59
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The torpedo-bomber was a very short-lived weapon system, operational for scarcely half a century from just prior WWI to the 1960s. Yet during its brief existence it transformed naval warfare, extending the ship-killing range of ships and coastal defences to hundreds of miles. The Royal Navy and Fleet Air Arm led the way, recording the first sinking of a ship by aerial torpedo in August 1915 but all major navies eagerly developed their own torpedo bomber forces.

The torpedo-bomber reached its zenith in WWII, particularly from 1940-42, with notable successes at the Battle of Taranto, the sinking of the Bismarck and Pearl Harbor. It was the weapon of choice for both the US and Japanese in the big Pacific battles such as Midway. In the latter stages of the war, increasingly effective anti-aircraft fire and interceptor aircraft started to render it obsolete, a process completed post-war by long-range anti-ship missiles.

Jean-Denis Lepage traces the development of torpedo bombers worldwide, describing their tactics, operational history and the aircraft themselves, including such well-loved types as the Swordfish, Beaufighter and Avenger. Over 300 aircraft are beautifully illustrated.

Read the full review here

Clash of Steel

An interesting and curious guide as it uses drawings instead of photographs.

Read the full Spanish review here

Miniaturas JM

This volume is a must-have for anybody with a general interest in naval aviation.

Society of Friends of the Fleet Air Arm - reviewed by Malcolm Smith

The story of the torpedo bomber has never been told before in the clear and comprehensive manner of this new book. The air-launched torpedo claimed its first victims in the early part of |WWI, in WWII at Taranto and Pearl Harbour it decimated the might of two navies, but by 1945 it was a weapon system on its way out . – Most Highly Recommended.

Torpedo Bombers 1900-1950 is a little bit more than just a survey of warplanes in a bygone era. Lepage handles his material well, offering valuable insight into not just the machines but how they were used as fearsome weapons in the arsenals of multiple airforces. These type of books usually have photographs, but the abundance of illustrations in Torpedo Bombers makes up for that deficiency. All in all, this is an interesting reference book and an enjoyable read.

Read the full review here

Beating Tsundoku

This in an excellent reference work, covering a remarkable number of aircraft from an impressive range of countries.

Read the full review here

History of War

This offering from Pen and Sword is a one stop offering covering the aircraft used in the torpedo attack role by the Navy’s and Air Force’s around the globe. The development and advances of the torpedo weapons system is covered to my satisfaction where aircraft dropped weapons are concerned. The aircraft all look to be there as everyone I thought of was in the title and so I believe it will be a rare aircraft that is missed.

A fascinating look at a particular type of aerial warfare, the Torpedo Bomber stretches from its beginnings in 1900 through to the 1950’s when it was superseded by other aircraft. This is a fantastic book, it’s like the holy bible of the subject and is very comprehensive in its text and drawn artwork. The book takes you through the various conflicts and then further separates the planes into those from each country and as I said the text is so comprehensive and detailed it is excellent. But in the text it goes into great detail and technical plans but not too much as to be over technical, your average reader will get a lot of enjoyable interest from reading this.

The illustrations that also dominate the book are hand drawn in black, white and grey they really do look beautiful and really do make the book the fine book it is. This book has over 300 planes illustrated along with the torpedo weapons they used. If anything it’s nice to see from the drawings how much the planes changed that were used over time. This was an excellent book and very good read. 4.5 stars out of 5.

UK Historian

A book that is a small encyclopedia on torpedo bombers, easy to consult and with drawings instead of photos that make it very original.

Read the full Italian review here

Old Barbed Wire Blog

About Jean-Denis Lepage

Jean-Denis Lepage was born in 1952 at Meaux (France) near Paris. After studying English at the University of Angers (Maine-et-Loire), Jean-Denis worked in the UK before moving to Groningen in The Netherlands. He now works as a free-lance translator, illustrator and author. He has published several books with the accent on fortifications and WW 2.

Depth Study 2 – Making a Nation (6 Weeks)

Duration Overview Statements Content Focus Learning Intention/s Resources/How it will be learnt Assessment Task
Week 1 The extension of settlement, including the effects of contact (intended and unintended) between European settlers in Australia and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.Aboriginal historyCultural interactionInvasionColonies

– The spread of European diseases.

Are these effects intended or unintended?

  • Aboriginal language map
  • Stories of first contact from both white settlers and Aboriginals

– The practices and laws that were in place

  • Construct a letter from one of the children of The Stolen Generation, outlining their experiences to their family.
  • Bendigo Excursion
  • Creative or imaginative narrative encompassing the living conditions, relations and hopes or dreams of non-European immigrants. OR
  • Creation of own propaganda poster based on the attitudes towards the Chinese.

What was Australia like in at 1900? Identify the main features of: – Housing- Sanitation- Transport

How did these influence living and working conditions in Australia at this time?

  • Waltzing Matilda and the sunshine harvester factory
  • Waltzing Matilda and the sunshine harvester factory worksheets.
Chronology, terms and concepts
  1. Use chronological sequencing to demonstrate the relationship between events and developments in different periods and places
  2. Use historical terms and concepts
Historical questions and research
  1. Identify and select different kinds of questions about the past to inform historical inquiry
  2. Evaluate and enhance these questions
  3. Identify and locate relevant sources, using ICT and other methods
Analysis and use of sources
  1. Identify the origin, purpose and context of primary and secondary sources
  2. Process and synthesise information from a range of sources for use as evidence in an historical argument
  3. Evaluate the reliability and usefulness of primary and secondary sources
Perspectives and interpretations
  1. Identify and analyse the perspectives of people from the past
  2. Identify and analyse different historical interpretations (including their own)
Explanation and communication
  1. Develop texts, particularly descriptions and discussions that use evidence from a range of sources that are referenced
  2. Select and use a range of communication forms (oral, graphic, written) and digital technologies

For more than 25 years, Project Syndicate has been guided by a simple credo: All people deserve access to a broad range of views by the world's foremost leaders and thinkers on the issues, events, and forces shaping their lives. At a time of unprecedented uncertainty, that mission is more important than ever – and we remain committed to fulfilling it.

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Nuclear madness

What Jeremy (and his anti-nuclear ranting friends like Duncan Campbell) needs to remember is, as we proved statistically in a previous post, simply "hiding under a stout table" saved 97.5% of lives in completely collapsed homes in World War II, and modern concrete city buildings with simple fire bucket countermeasures worked to save lives within the firestorm area near ground zero in Hiroshima, and simple civil defence Anderson shelters, trench shelters, and concrete buildings to deflect blast and absorb thermal and nuclear radiation were proved at nuclear tests such as Britain's first test, Operation Hurricane, Monte Bello, 1952. I agree that the reports should have been published to defend civil defence against Duncan Campbell and CND's ranks, but we all know that UK Government is a patronising, secretive, and over-simplifying group of bureaucrats (that doesn't disprove the scientific evidence). Corbyn's exaggerated nuclear threat and ignorant hatred/"ridicule" of civil defense is a contrived populist myth, based on covering up the credible military capabilities of tactical nuclear weapons to deter invasions. It is nuclear madness, not sanity.



Let's do a full analysis of the key points Herman Kahn makes about nuclear deterrence and civil defence in his badly misrepresented 1960 On Thermonuclear War, which contains many important points but is poorly organized. It is composed of lightly edited lectures, first delivered at Princeton University in March 1959, but sadly omits some key arguments that Kahn made in his lengthy 26 June 1959 testimony to the U.S. Congressional Hearings before the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, Biological and Environmental Effects of Nuclear War. I first read On Themonuclear War twenty five years ago after reading James R. Newman's provocative (sneering and ignorant) attack on it in the March 1961 Scientific American (which was on the shelf in the university library), while I was a physics undergraduate.

The objective approach to resolve any "controversy" by debunking myths using relevant facts:

1. Search for "sacred cows" that are irrationally defended and protected from objective criticism. Slay them, since they are proof of a lack of evidence based objectivity in mainstream dogma.

2. Play devil’s advocate politely but objectively, to unearth and expose deep rooted prejudices and biases.

3. Break key taboos by introducing heresies that are factually defensible but which produce irrational "let’s close this debate now" style censorship from the dogmatic status quo, not objective discussion.

4. Use evidence of paranoid censorship as proof that you have won the argument because you have exposed irrational bigotry over the key facts that underpin the mainstream arguments.



The next thing Kahn should have done on page 1 is to review the lessons of historical wars, which he defers to Lecture III, beginning on page 311. James R. Newman and other "critical" reviewers ignored this material, taking offence with the some of the relatively poor presentation in the earlier chapters. For example, Newman attacked Kahn table of casualties versus recovery times for different sizes of wars, which Kahn labelled "provocatively" with the rhetorical question: "Will the survivors envy the dead?" It was a poorly thought out idea. What Kahn should have done was probably to have stuck to actual historical wars in the table, listing the total linear megatonnage, the equivalent nuclear megatonnage (based on damage area scaling, as we showed earlier in this post), as well as the casualties and economic recovery times, labelling the table: "Few survivors envy the dead." In particular, some examples of counterforce wars that did not involve city bombing should have been included (like World War I), to make the wide range of possibilities clearer, and to prove that conventional war is not preferable to credible tactical nuclear deterrence.


Kahn adds: "The chronicle Morte d' Arthur is quite specific about the point that the slaughter was excessive chiefly because the battle took place without preparations or premeditation."


Since we have a protected second-strike nuclear deterrent, with ICBMs in nuclear weapon effects-resistant trench type silos, or SLBMs and cruise missiles hidden at sea in nuclear submarines, we don't to be trigger-happy and rush into a full scale retaliation as soon as an enemy accidentally launches a single missile. We can await the outcome, and proceed cautiously. The usual picture of rapid escalation in nuclear war is debunked by the existence of protected retaliation capabilities, that make sure we don't have to rush into escalating a accident into a full scale thermonuclear war.

Kahn finds that most cases in history where escalation did occur are therefore irrelevant to the situation existing now, where the nuclear deterrent we have developed is specifically designed to not be trigger-sensitive. All of the other "accidental wars" actually fall into the category of "contrived accidents", where relatively minor incidents or accidents are seized on and deliberately exploited as an ad hoc excuse to "justify" a pre-planned agenda, which would otherwise be very hard to defend at that time. For example, Hitler used the Reichstag Fire incident in 1934 as an excuse to declare a state of emergency and turn the democracy into a dictatorship. In another example, the Spanish-American war of 1898 was triggered off by the sinking of the American battleship Maine off Havana, Cuba, by a Spanish mine. Some critics claim that this was contrived by America as an excuse to have a war with Spain, just as the Reichstag Fire was alleged to have been started off by Nazis. Regardless of who was responsible in either case, the point is that the accidents or crises were exploited and escalated by a trigger-happy agenda to justify aggression. Our nuclear deterrence is deliberately designed to avoid rapid escalation to war, triggered by crisis or accident.


"I do claim that the problems with which the major European powers contended may arise again in some modified form - particularly if we do not make preparations to prevent this from happening." - Kahn, On Thermonuclear War, page 416.

Before WWI, there was a dangerous trigger-happy deterrence in Europe, based on immense stockpiles of bulky conventional weapons and the conscription of millions into massive armies prior to the declaration of war. The problem was, as Herman Kahn explains, that this conventional arms involved a heavy militarization of society, right down to the printing of railway timetables to transport troops to borders in the event of a crisis. All conventional weapons are relatively bulky compared to the equivalent megatonnage in nuclear warheads, so all conventional weapons carry - in some degree or other - the same general problems of highly visible mobilization in an effort to defend frontiers, as those which led to rapid escalation and war in August 1914, since the highly visible deployment of immense, credible conventional arms in a crisis situation itself becomes seen by potential adversaries as tantamount to a provocative act of aggression. In 1960, Britain ended conscription (National Service), thanks to reliance of credible nuclear deterrence. Many countries in the world that rely on conscription and conventional arms instead of credible nuclear deterrence have had major wars since then.

Lecture I of Kahn's On Thermonuclear War is very badly organized with no clear narrative, allowing critics to pick bits out of the weakly-defined context to sneer at, but in a nutshell Kahn argues that most mainstream media dialogue on nuclear war is bogus because it is biased in favour of nuclear disarmament and/or world government, and with that agenda it too readily accepts massive exaggerations of not only the effects of nuclear war, but also the rate of escalation and loss of control that occurs.

The problem with world government is basically that it is sophistry, just a case of remaking "wars" as "civil wars" or "rebellions", and in history we see the failure of the kind of groupthink that results from the loss of autonomy when diversity and freedom was suppressed using aggressive tactics by the Soviet Union's dictators, the Nazis, Prussian Empire, Roman Empire, European Union, British Empire, (non)United Nations, etc. Those who hate meaningful democracy and want to give up freedom for the sake of big government bureaucracy always sell it with peace propaganda, and it always creates war. The push of the European Union towards Ukraine by the European Union's unelected former anti-neutron bomb CND fanatic baroness Cathy Ashton has killed many thousands of innocent civilians, and the annexation of Crimea by Russia. The (non)United Nations has failed to send peacekeepers into Syria because pro-Assad Russia has vetoed such peacekeeping, resulting in more deaths occurred in Hiroshima. The 1930s League of Nations failed likewise to resolve the Spanish Civil War, or to prevent Germany rearming prior to WWII. As Clausewitz stated, war is born of politics. Put another way, if you want peace, don't try dialogue to resolve a controversy, because actions speak louder than words and wars are therefore the products of intractable arguments.

Herman Kahn's Table 1, page 4 of On Thermonuclear War, lists the usual array of failed utopian "Alternative National Postures" ranging from "International Police Force plus World Government" to "Dreams". It's probably what gave Kahn such a bad press, because lawyers like Kahn's reviewer James R Newman can be biased in favour of some kind of legalistic or police solution to war. James R. Newman drafted the disastrous 1946 Atomic Energy Act for Senator McMahon, which made nuclear energy an American state secret and thus broke the wartime Roosevelt-Churchill agreement for postwar collaboration on nuclear science. Newman's Atomic Energy Act held up progress because, as a mere piece of paper didn't stop Russian spies, but it did stop allies, so Russia ended up with more nuclear secrets than Britain.

Kahn argues on page 6 that the 1958 book, World Peace Through World Law, by Grenville Clark and Louis B. Sohn, leads to regional autonomy problems: "the underdeveloped nations are going to resent any real or fancied hindrances". The conditions throughout the world are naturally unequal to begin with, due to climatic variations (needs for air conditioning or heating fuel), varying local resources (energy fuels, mineral resources, agriculture, recreation, ethnic traditions, ease and cost of transportation) so some regions need different rules to compensate for differences, and this then causes complaints from others about "inequality", or it creates excessive migration and overpopulation in some areas, until either the central government eventually collapses like the Soviet Union or Roman Empire, or else is overthrown by coup d'etat or civil war, which in a world government is equivalent to world war.

(We already see some of these problems on a smaller scale in say the European Union, which is being forced to give repeated bail outs to extravagant, debt ridden states like Greece, in order to maintain political "unity". UK, where Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have regional parliaments, creating differences in health care policy in different regions, and endless complaints some medicines being unavailable in certain areas where the authority has decided on a different spending priority to elsewhere, creating "postcode lottery" unequal, luck-based social system. This complaint is the exact opposite of the original motivation for autonomy, decentralizing power to lower levels, to give them the freedom to form their own policies.)


One of the worst errors Kahn makes in On Thermonuclear War is to fragment his arguments on the dangers from the exaggeration of nuclear war, preventing a compelling narrative discussion of the evidence that nuclear war exaggerations are analogous to the 1930s gas, high explosive, and incendiary firestorm, and "knockout blow" exaggerations by the massive media hyped united peace/disarmament/appeasement/pro-Nazi/anti-Jew propaganda lobby, led by popular figureheads such as Professor Cyril Joad, author of the 1939 Why War, which tried to ridicule Winston Churchill by pointing out that, prior to WWI, he watched Churchill's lecture call for an intense arms race to deter the German Kaiser being ridiculed by anti-war The Great Illusion author Sir Norman Angell. Angell simply asked Churchill, rhetorically, if he would also give his advice to Germany? Angell's argument was that modern civilization cannot afford war because war involves only financial losses, and even a country invades and annexes another, the costs of providing for that additional country will cancel out any gains. Angell's simplistic argument ignored exploitation and slavery.

It turned out that all of the situations where Angell's anti-war economics argument holds are where both sides are well-established democracies, which never have wars anyway, as proved by the statistics in Dr Spencer R. Weart's Never at War: Why Democracies will NOT fight one another.

So Angell's argument fails to apply to the entire class of situations where wars can occur, where one side is not a well established democracy. Furthermore, not only does Angell's argument absurdly fail to apply to the very situation (war) that is supposed to be about, his basic thesis is also totally inverted from the real world facts. Instead of Angell's fears of economic ruin helping to deter WWII, fears of economic ruin motivated the socialist state dictators to launch their invasions, Italy in Ethiopia and Germany in Europe. They invaded to seize resources. Angell's simplistic economic ideas at best only applied to democratic states behaving fairly, and were totally misleading for the case of dictatorial states with large budget deficits. Such dictators did not worry about recompensing annexed countries according to Angell's formula. It was taboo for "warmongers" like Churchill to argue with Angell, just as it is taboo to argue with a religious leader over the evidence for the dogma, and this situation catered to the popular appetite for peace following WWI. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and a knighthood for a contrived dismissal of Churchill's argument.

Kahn on page 9 states that in the era of secrecy over widespread H bomb effects following the 1 March 1954 fallout accident in the Pacific (where fallout from the 15 megaton Castle-Bravo bomb contaminated the skin and water of outdoor Marshallese islanders and Japanese tuna trawler personnel), the Mainau Declaration was issued by a lot more Nobel Laureates:

"In 1955, fifty-two Nobel Laureates signed a statement (the Mainau Declaration) which included the following: 'All nations must come to the decision to renounce force as a final resort to policy. If they are not prepared to do this they will cease to exist'."

Kahn adds, on the same page, that this simplistic stance was echoed by: "Neville Shute's interesting but badly researched book On the Beach, which presumes and describes the total extinction of humanity as a result of . radioactivity coming from a thermonuclear war."

Where I disagree is that he then fails to address - on page 9 at that point in the opening of his book - the 1930s exaggerations of a similar sort which led to repeated peace handshakes between Hitler and British Prime Minister Chamberlain, and the world war. Instead, Kahn defers that until page 375 and thereafter, and gives a more fragmentary discussion in his 1960 book than his more impressive, harder hitting testimony on peace propaganda weapons effects exaggerations in his 26 June 1959 testimony to the Congressional Hearings on the Biological and Environmental Effects of Nuclear War. Instead of displaying the awful consequences of war exaggerations in the 1930s, Kahn chooses to launch into an interesting but lengthy discussion of some simple countermeasures against strontium-90 fallout in food after a nuclear war. This has doesn't address Shute's cobalt-60 fallout poisoning scares in On the Beach, and we see the same kind of bad response to cobalt-60 fallout fears in Cresson Kearny's Nuclear War Survival Skills, where Kearny raises the question of Shute's cobalt-60 fallout scare mongering, but tries to answer it by discussion the decay of fission product fallout (not the specific cobalt-60 issue that often arises from people who read the Shute book or the film of the novel).

The simple answer is that even with 100% capture efficiency, it takes at least one neutron to convert an atom of cobalt-59 into cobalt-60 and its emission of two gamma rays totalling 2.5 MeV (mean energy 1.25 MeV) is spread out at a low dose rate due to with its half life of over 5 years (allowing time for decontamination before receiving a large dose), but if you use a U-238 jacket on the bomb, you get about 200 MeV of energy for each high energy neutron fission, including more residual radioactivity than cobalt-60 gives, and at a higher initial dose rate that creates more casualties. In other words, a thermonuclear weapon with a natural uranium jacket creates the largest fallout hazard, and a cobalt jacket actually reduces the hazard. In addition, cobalt is refractory (cobalt melts at 1,495 C), so much of it ends up concentrated on large fallout particles, or small pellets, mostly deposited near ground zero, as proved at a British nuclear test of Operation Antler, in Maralinga, 1957. By contrast, many important fission products, including iodine, strontium and cesium, end up dispersed over much larger areas since they are either volatile themselves (like iodine) or else have gaseous precursors that don't allow them to condense on to large particles in the fireball, before those particles are quickly removed by gravity. Thus, due to chemical fractionation, a much larger fraction of the fission product activity ends up in global fallout, being deposited with rain in distant thunderstorms, than is the case for cobalt-60. Thus, you can't enhance the fallout hazard simply in the way Shute imagined in his novel.

Some anti-nuclear scaremongering in the 70s and 80s recognised this and attempted to use another argument, exaggerating long-lived fallout dangers in computer models assuming that a deliberately ground burst nuclear weapon on a nuclear reactor or nuclear waste plant would convert 100% of the radioactivity encountered into fallout. This is extremely naive, because we know from determinations of the specific activity of surface burst nuclear test fallout that only about 1% of the mass of the crater actually becomes fallout. Moreover, although you get large craters in dry sand, the nuclear reactor core and fuel elements are encased in tough concrete, similar to hard rock, which shield neutrons (which might naively be expected to overheat a nuclear reactor) and are resistant to the high overpressures and fireball heat. It would be more predictable for an enemy to try a nerve gas attack or even a conventional bombing of a city.

On pages 23-72 of On Thermonuclear War, Kahn debunks a claim made the March 1959 Congressional Hearings on military preparedness in the Berlin crisis, that long-term fallout hazards from food contaminated by strontium-90 and carbon-14 would "ruin" farmland for "40 years". Kahn remarks sensibly on page 24 that "those waging a modern war are going to be as much concerned with bone cancer, leukemia and genetic malformations as they are with the range of a B-52 . " before giving a long-winded debunking of those risks.

On page 46 Kahn argues by neglecting apoptisis and DNA repair due to P53 and other natural anti-radiation mechanisms that operated in Hiroshima, that even in the worst assumption a mean 250 R fallout dose to each survivor will increase the risk of a major genetic defect from the natural 4% by just 1% to a nuclear war result of 5%, debunking also on page 48 that J. B. S. Haldane's 1931 theory that minor defects to "future generations" are a real risk. Firstly, if someone is killed by a bullet, mathematically you can also argue that an infinite number of possible future descendants have been wiped out of existence, but that's just sophistry.
Secondly, small genetic defects at least allow a possibility of a descendent: if all the future deaths occur in the first generation, the total number of descendants are minimised, so you gain from spreading out genetic damage in time, because it becomes more tolerable and survivable (the opposite of Haldane's flawed idea).

On page 65, Kahn notes that although the peacetime ICRP strontium-90 bone dose limit was then 67 strontium units (SUs), bone cancers have only been observed to occur (e.g. in the radium dial painters) above a threshold "equivalent of 20,000 to 30,000 strontium units". One million square miles was then used for growing crops in America, and Kahn estimated that just 13 megatons of fission fallout spread uniformly over it would result in the peacetime limit of 67 SUs. However, in reality the fallout is deposited in a non-uniform pattern with little upwind, so by increasing peacetime standards and by grading the food by strontium content, the contaminated food crisis can be averted without any significant bone cancer risks (in table 13, Kahn recommends that food with under 200 SUs is fed to kids, while that with over 25,000 is fed to adult animals which are soon to be consumed, where the strontium-90 will enter the inedible bone, not the meat). In table 15, Kahn finds that even a large nuclear war will not produce a carbon-14 dose of over 5 R/year.

Of more importance are the gamma radiation fallout doses. In table 8, Kahn defines a smaller (1,500 fission megatons) and a larger nuclear attack (20,000 fission megatons), giving the computed fallout distributions over North America in tables 23 and 24, respectively. For the smaller nuclear attack of 1,500 megatons, Kahn shows in table 23 that the outdoor gamma dose in the first 48 hours (during which the majority of the dose is received) is less than 6,000 R over 99% of the area of North America, requiring easily improvised shelter (basements, concrete/brick building ground floors with windows blocked, or simple tornado shelters) with a protective factor of no more than 40. For the 20,000 fission megaton attack, table 24 shows that 50% of North America gets that dose, requiring better shelters to avoid radiation sickness. However, as Kahn argues, there is no strategic threat of such a large attack of local-fallout creating ground bursts. For the smaller attack, evacuation of the most heavily contaminated hotspots is feasible. "Z Zone" downwind heavy fallout areas, with outdoor dose rates in excess of 1,000 R/hour at 1 hour after burst, were simply scheduled for evacuation at 48 hours after burst by the British Civil Defence Corp in the 1960s.

The absurdity of fallout scaremongering calculations by idealists, neo-Marxists, and also openly pro-Soviet Union politically biased fanatics also lies in the strategic assumptions, in which not only is the "knockout blow" delusion (which preceded both WWI and WWII) maintained, but civil defence evacuation, sheltering, and decontamination are neglected or downplayed, because of a bias about any nuclear explosion escalating uncontrollably and irrationally to complete stockpile use against civilian targets, in fear of surprise first-strike:

"The Nobel Laureates who authored the 'cease to exist' statement probably . would be willing to go before a technical audience with a defense of the 'end of history' position as a sober estimate . there are 'experts' who believe in world annihilation . vehemently [Linus Pauling and fellow folk] . sober study shows that the limits on the magnitude . seem to be closely dependent on what kinds of preparations have been made, and on how the war is started and fought. While the notions . may strike some readers as being obvious, I must repeat that they are by no means so. The very existence of the irreconcilable group predicting total catastrophe is proof."

- Herman Kahn, On Thermonuclear War, pages 10-11.

Kahn comments naively on page 286: "It is particularly hard to understand why this is so when almost all who write on this subject were adults during the later part of the Hitler era . with the record of the 1930's plainly before us, we should all be able to realize . the capabilities for such blackmail . "

The exaggeration of gas/aerial explosive bombing/incendiary war effects was rife in the media in the 1930's for the same reason as the nuclear threat, and the real capabilities of conventional and nuclear are similar, since as we have shown above, Hitler's 188,000 bombs which were dropped on London in 1940 caused damage equivalent (using valid scaling laws) to four 1-megaton nuclear air bursts. The evacuation of children from London in Operation Pied Piper before war was declared in September 1939, as well as shelter provisions, made that nuclear-war-magnitude Blitz survivable and indeed preferable to surrender or collaboration, which Hitler called for "in the name of sanity". At that time, in 1940, there were pacifists calling for surrender, but after the war began, the more belligerent pacifists lost popular appeal because they were increasing perceived as enemy sympathisers, fellow travellers, and defeatists. In effect, the mainstream media quickly switched into an anti-appeasement mode once the war started, far too late to deter the war.

Kahn on page 286 argues that any political declaration that a real threat is "unthinkable" acts as a magnet for coercive thugs to do precisely that "unthinkable" act in an effort to call the bluff of the democracy:

Kahn is often attacked for correctly having drawn attention to failures in the spectrum of deterrents. E.g., Fred Kaplan's book Wizards of Armageddon attacks warnings of a "missile gap" after the first satellite, Sputnik, was launched by Russia in October 1957, which seemed to prove their earlier August 1957 claim to have developed ICBMs. However, Kahn demonstrates on that the risk of a missile gap was a real possibility in his figure 3, "Could the missile gap have been dangerous?", which shows that if Russia had 150 ICBMs each with 50% reliability in 1957, it would have had better than 50% probability of destroying the entire 25 Strategic Air Command nuclear bomber bases in America, preventing American retaliation. This risk could therefore tempt enemy into launching a Pearl Harbor type surprise attack in a crisis situation.

After Kahn's book was published, U2 spy plane data was disclosed by President Kennedy, finally indicating that at no time did Russia have sufficient ICBMs to do that. But until then, it was a risk that American planners needed to take seriously, because having a nuclear "deterrent" that is vulnerable to being wiped out in a surprise attack is not a deterrent, but a magnet for crisis instability. Similarly, there was a risk that if we rely for deterrence on the threat to destroy Moscow, in a crisis the city simply could be evacuated. The existence of civil defence therefore has an effect on the credibly of nuclear deterrence in extreme crisis situations, precisely the situations where the war risks are greatest and deterrence is most important. This is the fact that Fred Kaplan (and others) tried to ignore in their specious, simplistic Cold War attacks on civil defence plans by stating that in peacetime such plans exist "largely on paper" (like the plans for the British 1939 Operation Pied Piper prior to the declaration of war on Germany - the evacuation of kids from London to deter a knockout blow and to mitigate the effects if it did occur). (See also more specious anti-civil defense propaganda from Kaplan in part 2 of his 1978 Bulletin rant that simply ignores all the detailed nuclear test data proving civil defense.)

What the anti-nuclear, anti-civil defense propaganda of (non)United Nations people like Ward tries to do is firstly to restrict the scope of nuclear deterrence to only extreme all-out nuclear attacks, rather than the deterrence of conventional tank invasions by tactical Mk 54 and W79 warheads as in the 1960's under Kennedy and the 1980's under Reagan, and then to claim that because they have restricted nuclear deterrence to World Wars that have not occurred since 1945 for some (conveniently unspecified) reason, nuclear weapons are obsolete and are only needed to deter other nuclear weapons.

That's a false argument because the reason nuclear weapons have not "been needed" to deter World War since 1945 is that they have been used successfully for precisely that purpose! You don't need to actually explode your entire stockpile to "use" nuclear weapons to deter world war, any more than you have to burn your house down to get "peace of mind" from paying for home fire insurance that includes smoke detectors to reduce fire risks. The specious argument that people lose out on a a disaster insurance policy if it helps to avert a disaster is silly. This is why nuclear war scale-of-attack and destructive exaggerations are used: they are designed to paralyse the faculties, preventing objective discussions and making the relevant facts taboo.

Nuclear deterrence needs low yield tactical warheads to deter major provocations such as conventional invasions and wars by the enemy, which otherwise end up causing more casualties than a nuclear war would:

"In spite of (or possibly because of) the many words that are lavished . most discussions of the conditions needed for such [all out war] deterrence tend to be unrealistic. They rely more on assumption and wishful thinking than analysis. Typically, discussions of the capability of the United States to deter a direct attack compare the preattack inventory of our forces with the preattack inventory of the Soviet forces . This is a World War I and World War II approach. It can look very impressive in the columns of the Sunday newspaper or speeches . "

- Herman Kahn, On Thermonuclear War, pages 127-8.

In fact, the total size of nuclear stockpiles are irrelevant to most war scenarios, the exception being the all-out surprise attack with with all-out instant full retaliation, where both sides completely disarm themselves in a single afternoon by fully expending all their weapons, as in President Carter's much quoted January 1981 farewell address which seemed to predict that President Reagan would destroy the world by accident.

In addition, Kahn points out in On Thermonuclear War, direct nuclear war threats from an enemy is not the primary threat, as proved by events in 1914 and 1939. It was not the Germans in either year who directly threatened Britain. The enemy argued instead: "do you want peace, or not?" In other words, it was indirect provocations not direct threats, that provoked all the world wars in human history from Britain's standpoint! From the American standpoint, the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 or the bombing of a naval base at Pearl Harbor in 1941 (together with the British base at Singapore shortly thereafter in early 1942, see my interview with an eyewitness here) were not a direct attacks on the American homeland. They were final straws, breaking the camels back. They were thus triggering points, just as the invasion of Belgium in 1914 or the invasion of Poland in 1939 were triggering points for British declarations of war. In both cases, appeasement and a policy of non-intervention had undermined deterrence with heavy ambiguity, leading to provocative actions by the enemy that finally broke down pacifism and led to war. So Kahn argues that the deterrence of a direct attack was successful in Britain in 1939. Britain did deter Hitler from bombing London in 1939. But that deterrence of a direct attack was no use, because we could not credibly deter Hitler from major provocative actions, such as invading Poland. CND and people like (un)UN-hyped Ward Wilson today insist on trying to repeat the mistakes of the past, by using Stalin's method of simply airbrushing out the books the actual facts of history. No, we don't have nuclear weapons to prevent other people from dropping nuclear bombs on London and New York. Nuclear weapons are not useful for that purpose in modern concrete skylines (unlike civil defense and ABM, which mitigate the consequences), and even if they were useful for that purpose, neither world war broke out because of air raids on civilian cities: they broke out because of military invasions of other countries, or bases far from the main homeland. What we need to do is deter provocative actions short of nuclear war, which risk escalating. Only then are we learning the real lessons from the past.

In reality, the "myths of nuclear deterrence" are debunked by Herman Kahn in his book On Thermonuclear War the "myths of nuclear weapons" Ward Wilson claims to debunk are specious arguments, based on taking populist myths and proving them wrong, rather than taking the reality. For example, Herman Kahn's On Thermonuclear War debunks the myth of deterrence through overkill by showing that such a "doomsday machine" (Kahn's term) has no deterrent capability because it's incredible as a deterrent. In a sense, Wilson's argument at best is just a repeat of this fact, with the true evidence and implications edited out. Kahn argues that, sure, if we drop thousands of megatons on cities without any civil defense, as Hiroshima, we will get large casualties. However, that is not a credible deterrent that's why we need tactical nuclear weapons to deter the kind of provocations - invasions of small countries or bombing of naval bases or torpedoes on ships - which set of both world wars. It's no use trying to deter Russia from invading Poland again (with Germany, it jointly invaded Poland in 1939) by threatening innocent people in cities. That is not a credible deterrent. The result is that to prevent another world war, we need the neutron bomb.

Take an error made by Professor Hans A. Bethe in his April 1982 presentation to the Americal Physical Society, We are not inferior to the Soviets (publishedin Bethe's 1991 book, The Road from Los Alamos, pages 90-98). Bethe claims falsely that although in 1982 the Soviets had twice the equivalent megatonnage of the United States: "The Soviets have put larger-yield weapons on their missiles, an advantages that is cancelled out by the lower accuracy of their missiles."

This is false because you don't need high missile accuracy if you are using high yield warheads on cities. Even an error of a mile or two for a city the size of London has relatively little effect on the damage. Where missile accuracy is crucial is for hitting missile silos where very high overpressure or cratering action is needed. A dictatorship can credibly deter a democracy with less accurate missiles than a democracy needs, since the democracy is more concerned about protecting the people from retaliation than the dictatorship. (The Hitler "bunker mentality".)

Bethe's error is in assuming a moral equivalence in the strategy of each side, exactly the same error that Great Illusion author Normal Angell made when he ridiculed Winston Churchill's lecture on peacekeeping by deterrence prior to WWI (as quoted by Cyril Joad who attended and was won over by Angell, in Joad's pre-WWII appeasement book Why War?).

Bethe also falsely claims in his ignorant article that the neutron bomb to deter masses tank invasions is unnecessary if you have over 10 hand held anti-tank rockets per Russian tank. The problem is that Russia knows all about your anti-tank rockets which are most effective used against isolated tanks: because a barrage of fire from a mass of enemy tanks very soon knocks out the brave guys with the anti-tank rockets on their shoulders. This is precisely why you also need to neutron bomb, in order to deter attacks by forcing the enemy to disperse tanks, thereby making handheld anti-tank rockets effective. Additionally, Bethe quotes Brezhnev propaganda speech which claims that there are no winners in nuclear war: "I am quoting Brezhnev to counter the claim by some influential people in the U.S. Government that the Russians consider nuclear war winnable."

Kahn's criticisms of disarmament begin with E. J. Gumbel's study of how 1920s disarmament effectively encouraged German violations and then coercion, sparking off world war two, Disarmament and Clandestine Rearmament under the Weimar Republic (published in the book Inspection for Disarmament, edited by Seymour Melman, Columbia University press, New York, 1958, pages 203-219). Disarmament helps law breakers it doesn't protect you from a world war.

The point Kahn then makes is that larger stockpiles help to decrease the probability of war by enemy calculation, since they make it less certain the enemy could "win". If you have general disarmament to reduce risks of a large nuclear war occurring through an escalation after an accident or miscalculation (very unlikely if both sides have a protected second-strike nuclear deterrent), a dictator is more likely to believe he could "win" because the potential devastation is reduced, and therefore, you increase the risk of having a calculated nuclear war.

The whole reason for having a large nuclear stockpile is deter a calculated attack by an enemy, so if you disarm or reduce the stockpile "to make the world safer", you actually make the outcome of any attack less certain, and thus you increase the risk that a dictator will take a Russian roulette gamble that may cause a war. That war may then escalate into a world war, as occurred twice in the twentieth century. We could do deter with the same threat of devastation using immense conscription and a vast, more expensive stockpile of conventional weapons, but that increases the risk of accidental gunshots triggering war (prevented in nuclear weapons by technological safeguards).

Cheap trenches used in the American Civil War to counter machine guns and mortars, preventing a knockout blow and forcing a protracted war of attrition, are ignored by Germany in 1914

"The mobilization is the declaration of war."

- General Boisdeffre, assistant chief, French General Staff, to Tsar Nicholas (quoted by Sidney B. Fay, The Origins of the World War, Macmillan, 1931, v2, p480).

This is often quoted as if to prove that war through accidental mobilizations was easy. But the opposite inference is that, as Tsar Nicholas was told by General Boisdeffre, everyone knew that mobilization was likely to lead to war, so countries only mobilized when they were prepared to go to war: war is no accident.

Both World War I and World War II arose in large part because of simplistic historical analyses that drew misleading "lessons" from the previous wars. In starting World War I by invading Belgium (which drew Britain to declare war due to the 1839 Treaty of London), Germany was applying the "lesson" it learned from its experiences of success when it quickly and efficiently ceased Alsace-Lorraine from the French in 1871. The problem was that between 1871 and 1914 the machine gun and high explosive shells had been developed and hyped (by both weapons manufacturers and pacifists like Norman Angell) as being spectacular, unanswerable, offensive "knockout blow" technology (akin to nuclear weapons today), which would overcome any opposition, annihilating any enemy forces instantly.

Such "knockout blow" technology had however been disproved in the trench warfare during the Siege of Petersburg, Virginia, which lasted from 9 June 1864 to 25 March 1865, near the end of the American Civil War. Machine guns and heavy mortars were easily held up by simple earth trenches, as predicted by Bloch (who was ignored by Germany). Germany in 1914 ignored lessons of the trenches in preventing a "knockout blow" and forcing a war to dragged out in attrition. The same error was again made in the 1930s, when the simple trench type shelters and gas masks of WWI were ignored by writers of next war fiction who assumed that obvious countermeasures would be neglected in the next war. Again, the same error was made during the Cold War, when America published pictures of houses blown up by 5 psi peak overpressure, but kept secret in Capabilities of Nuclear Weapons the fact that simple WWI or American Civil War type trenches exposed at early Nevada nuclear tests withstood 20 psi and shielded out most of the thermal and nuclear radiation, too. Instead, there is a repeated historical obsession with expensive, immobile concrete fortifications, the Maginot Line delusion:

"'Fine concrete', he kept on muttering . they'll never get through this! . We left the hot sun and went down into the Maginot Line . we walked for a mile along a tunnel, meeting occasional soldiers on bicycles or an electric train bringing up ammunition . The troops ate, slept and worked underground . As I drank Pernod in the officers' mess, also underground, I said: 'It certainly seems impregnable'. 'It's impregnable all right,' they said. All the same there was one form of attack they were nervous about, and that was an attack by parachutists . if anyone had suggested to the French military staff . resolute Germans, dropped from the sky or infiltrating through under cover of the night, could put the guns of the Maginot Line out of action, he would have been ridiculed or arrested as a defeatist."

- Gordon Waterfield, What Happened to France, John Murray, London, 1940, pages 14-19. (Quoted by Herman Kahn, On Thermonuclear War, pages 333-4.)

Hitler found a way around the Maginot Line. The lesson drawn by historians and military strategists from WWI had been that some way had to be made to stop Germany invading France via Belgium in the precise way used in August 1914. France found a way to stop that threat. But by 1940, German tanks were capable of going through the rough terrain of the Ardennes Forest, and additionally German troop carriers were capable of flying over the Maginot Line to drop parachutists, despite the special anti-aircraft guns they had. In other words, it's very easy to draw misleading "lessons" from military history. Just as the German "lessons" of success from a fast surprise attack in 1871 were misleading in 1914, so the French "lessons" of invasion in 1914 were misleading by 1940. Historical analysis has itself caused complacency and tragedy, because learning from experience is fraught with problems when circumstances like technology change:

"Most of the [1914] experts argued that the Austro-Prussian war (seven weeks) or the first phase (five weeks) of the Franco-Prussian war would be the model of the future. . that as soon as one side had been beaten in a significant battle, it would admit defeat. . In particular, both military and political lessons of the American Civil War were ignored . the Civil War, being a civil war, did not seem to be a good analogy to an international conflict between civilized nations. . Both sides enormously underestimated the impact of the machine gun [for keeping troops heads down in trenches], barbed wire and trenches, and most important of all, the resilience and staying power of their soldiers and civilians . to paint the enemy as inhuman and of making a total commitment to defeating him . to justify past casualties and sacrifices and to preserve morale . "

- Herman Kahn, On Thermonuclear War, pages 350-1.

Thus, the Germans put the Schlieffen Plan with its objective of knocking France out in six weeks (based on the war of 1870), into action in 1914, with tragic results for everyone once it degenerated into trench war. The main difficulty in learning the "lessons of history" is that history is like science, a poorly defined academic discipline with many definitions and arguments over its role. Some purist historians eschew the notion of trying to deduct any lessons from past events for current use, because even if past successes can be fully correlated with the circumstances that are associated with them (i.e. a perfectly complete historical record), that doesn't prove that circumstances actually caused the events (random chances are involved, too). Like an electron in the ground state of hydrogen, it may be impossible even in principle to make deterministic predictions. In addition, as Kahn remarks on page 354, "there are so many more ways to making mistakes than of being right." In other words, learning from experience is analytically a lot easier if that experience is a success, rather than a failure.

This is why exam successes are rewarded more than exam failures, and generally why success is held in greater esteem than failure, although it is popular to pass off failure as "experience". If you fail, you do not definitely know exactly how some of the many factors involved (from random bad luck to preparation and planning) should be changed in order to produce success. It is not even as simple as using a "fault finding tree", because often failure results from a combination of factors. If a car won't start and you find the battery is flat, that doesn't prove that charging the battery will cure the problem. The battery may be flat because of repeated efforts to start the car when the spark plugs are dirty the gasoline tank is empty, the tyres are flat. In electronics, a typical fault like an failed capacitor dielectric or an overheated resistor may quickly cause a chain of other component failures, before the system shuts itself down. Merely finding a defecting component and replacing it is therefore not a cure: the fault almost immediately recurs. Failure is therefore very hard to rectify because there are a very large number of combinations of circumstances that cause it.

Success on the other hand is easier to learn from, because at least it proves that one combination of circumstances at a particular time can (with a probability which depend on the size of the role played by random chance, luck) lead to success. Nevertheless, military success can lead to the other side "learning its lesson" and taking defensive countermeasures to try to prevent a recurrence of that success by the enemy.


Kahn explains on page 352 that after trench warfare had led to stalemate in North East France during 1915, Churchill's tanks were developed to try to make a breakthrough. The designers wanted a kind of Manhattan project to secretly manufacture thousands of tanks, and suddenly use them in a tremendous surprise attack to break through the German lines and to end the war pronto. Bureaucracy instead insisted that they were trialled in September 1916 in small numbers, thereby gaining little and losing the advantage of surprise. (This was due to the fact that Churchill lost his Cabinet position in November 1915, losing control of tanks.) The American Air Force's Colonel Billy Mitchell similarly wanted to use the aircraft to carry paratroopers to overcome trench defences like barbed wire and machine gun posts, but this was never utilized in WWI. The first use of chlorine gas by Germany on 22 April 1915 at Ypres had terrible effects and opened a five-mile long gap in the front, but this was just an experiment and was not exploited, so they lost the factor of surprise (a million simple hyposulphite of soda gas masks were issued by Britain to every soldier at the front within 14 days, thereby largely negating future German gas attacks).

German submarines nearly won the war for Germany because they were good at sinking merchant ships, cutting off logistics (supplies of food and munitions to the front and also to mainland Britain). But because Germany had predicted and planned for a six-week knockout blow of the 1870 variety, ignoring the effects of trenches in protracting the war and turning it into a long war of attrition, they had too few submarines for a quick success and a complete blockade of all ports. As a result, the original 110 German submarines were only able to sink 25% of the ships that left British ports, and so Britain had time to able to develop and deploy anti-submarine convoys of ships, protected by hydrophone submarine detectors and depth charges. If Germany had taken the American Civil War lesson of trench defences seriously, it would have built more submarines and could have sunk or penned into port all allied shipping, thus winning the war. Instead, the allies were given the time to develop anti-submarine defences. (In WWII, Hitler had 1,162 submarines, which sunk 4 million tons of British ships a year in 1941-2, but Britain simply rationed food and turned gardens into farmland, enabling it to survive with fewer imports.) Likewise, German General Ludendorff deployed the SAS/marine type infiltration tactics against British lines in March 1918 and again at Chemin des Dames in May 1918, where small groups of specially trained, heavily armed fanatically motivated troops would force through the lines in surprise raids. Kahn points out on page 356 that this infiltration tactic was borrowed from the experiences of the French Captain Laffargue, whose handbook was ignored by Britain and France, but upon falling into German hands it "was at once translated into German and issued as an official German training manual, eventually becoming the basis for General Ludendorff's textbook . "


17 February 1958 CND meeting poster displaying names of founders, including the WWI historian A. J. .P Taylor. Taylor possibly exaggerated the risk of an all out nuclear war by his manipulative interpretation of the history of the outbreak of WWI, which in fact was due to the Kaiser's obsession with defeating France again as per the 1870-1 war, using the Schlieffen Plan.
"July, 1914, has produced more books than any other month in modern history. . Most of the nonsense has sprung from the very human conviction that great events have great causes."

- A. J. P. Taylor, The Observer (Sunday edition of the Guardian newspaper), 23 November 1958.

Kahn relies on historian A. J. P. Taylor's claim in the Observer (later expanded into his anti-arms race book, War by Timetable) that WWI had small causes in accidents which escalated arms race into world war, not a large cause in the form of the Kaiser or the great German Schlieffen Plan for the invasion of France. The large cause, Kaiser's obsession with achieving a repeat of the short victorious war of 1870-1871, using the 1912 Schlieffen plan, had been planned for many years by Germany (much of their state funded railway system had been built for mobilization for the war of 1914). A. J. P. Taylor instead tried to portray all of these big causes as "nonsense" and to emphasise the role of trivia.

A. J. P. Taylor belittled this "great cause" and tried repeats Sir Edward Grey's false old claim that WWI was caused essentially by an accident during an arms race (the assassination of the Austrian-Hungarian Archduke on 28 June 1914). However, the resulting crisis was exploited by Germany as an excuse for war. On 3 August 1914, Germany declared war on France. Then on 4 August, Germany invaded Belgium, which was under British protection due to the 1839 Treaty of London. This forced Britain to declare war on Germany. However, some share for responsibility rests on the shoulders of British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey, for failing to make it crystal clear to Germany in advance of its invasion of Belgium, that this would trigger World War. Grey was in a very difficult position politically, since the British Liberal Government was overwhelmingly pacifist and weak (apart from Churchill, in Cabinet as First Lord of the Admiralty), and feared making threats to Germany in case the strong language were used as an excuse for war. In this sense, the Liberal Party in 1914 appeased the Kaiser and thus encouraged enemy risk-taking and aggression, just as the Conservatives did twenty five years later in the prelude to WWII. Sir Edward Grey later excused himself for failing to stop WWI, tragically, by blaming the arms race made war inevitable in 1914. As John F. Kennedy points out in his 1940 book Why England Slept, Grey's blame on the arms race was then quoted throughout the 1930's by pacifists and appeasers to try to prevent an arms race with Germany.

In fact, the arms race prior to WWI was what delayed the outbreak of war until 1914, and it was the weakness of the arms in Grey's hands, due to his Liberal Party Cabinet colleagues (his colleagues in a Cabinet meeting on 24 July, blocked Grey from making a statement to Germany supporting France). Grey could and should have made clear to Kaiser than an invasion of Belgium would lead to the declaration of war on Germany, because without such a declaration Britain's arms would not play any role in deterring Germany from starting WWI. To have a deterrent and then not to use it to try to deter war is the worst of all worlds. "Speaking softly while carrying a big stick" was proved in both 1914 and 1938 to undermine the credibility of the big stick. This policy was loved by the pseudo-pacifists like Norman Angell who wanted to make deterrence fail to "prove" pacifist rants right, winning Nobel Peace prizes and rewards like Knighthoods.

It is dangerous that this solid fact is still obfuscated by mainstream history, much in the way that the role of field quanta in physically causing electron indeterminancy in the atom is still obfuscated by groupthink physics. A. J. P. argument is that only the Serbs and Austrians really wanted war in August 1914, and that the relative slowness of the Russian mobilization plan as compared to Germany (Russia had fewer railways) caused it to mobilize on 30 July 1914 on the basis of the crisis, which automatically set off a German ultimatum to Russia on 31 July and to France on 1 August. The reason for Germany's ultimatum to Russia was its mobilization, while the German Kaiser's War Minister von Moltke refused to mobilize against Russia without also mobilizing against France, on the basis that the Schlieffen Plan did not allow for mobilization purely against Russia. Germany was tied to a railroad timetabled mobilization plan which ensured that France would be invaded in the next war.

This is the failure in A. J. P. Taylor's argument, for it proves that Germany was from 1905 when Schlieffen first developed his plan, tied to a plan which would trigger a world war in an event of a crisis. Furthermore, Germany could even have invaded France without invading Belgium (which under the 1839 Treaty of London would trigger war with Britain). It did invade Belgium on 4 August, triggering the pacifist Liberal government of the UK into having to declare war on Germany. There was no accident here, any more than the Prussian invasion of France in 1870 was an accident. It was a deliberate plan to occupy Europe, kept in a draw ready for use whenever the opportunity arose (as occurred after a gunshot Sarajevo on 28 June). A. J. P. Taylor's revisionist history that it was all an accident was not the view taken by the UK government's afternoon Cabinet meeting on 4 August 1914, which would not have chosen war if it believed the crisis was purely an accident. Instead, it was clear that even if the 28 June assassination was an "accident", Germany was exploiting that "accident" for its own ends - the conquest of Europe by force. Taylor ignores this factor.

Sir Edward Grey failed to make it clear to the Kaiser what Britain would do if Germany invaded Belgium on 4 August 1914. Grey was uncertain himself, since it was a Cabinet decision in the afternoon that resulted in the declaration of war, but it was Grey's duty as Foreign Secretary to communicate effectively and avoid a muddle. While some responsibility is down to the Liberal Cabinet as a whole, Grey not only failed but also - in blaming the arms race - gave the appeases the excuse to avoid an all-out arms race with Germany in the 1930's, which was financially more damaging to Germany than to Britain. Historians by and large follow A. J. P. Taylor's lead. He taught many leading historians and imparted his dogmatic viewpoint that the war was an accident in an arms race, rather than dictatorial plan of invasion, instigated in August 1914 by opportunism, with the accident used as camouflage. Lloyd George's War Memoirs make clear Edward Grey's responsibility and failings, but Lloyd George was partly responsible too, as well as others in the Cabinet, including Winston Churchill, who always wrote lucrative, best-selling, poetically wise books full of "lessons" after a war, despite having personally failed to use his eloquence to overcome popular pacifism and deter the war the way he wanted. Winston Churchill on Liberal complacency over war during a 1911 crisis:

"It is too foolish, too fantastic to be thought of in the twentieth century. . No one would so such things. Civilization has climbed above such perils. The interdependence of nations in trade and traffic, the sense of public law, the Hague Convention [the First Hague Peace Conference successfully outlawed gas warfare on paper agreements in 1899, agreements which weren't worth the paper they were written on during WWI], Liberal principles, the Labour Party, high finance, Christian charity, common sense have rendered such nightmares impossible."

- Winston Churchill, The World Crisis, Charles Scribner's, New York, 1923, page 33.

"The [August 1914 Liberal Party UK Government]Cabinet was overwhelmingly pacific. At least three-quarters of its members were determined not to be drawn into a European quarrel, unless Britain were herself attacked, which was not likely. . They did not believe that if Germany attacked France, she would attack her through Belgium . "

- Winston Churchill, The World Crisis, Charles Scribner's, New York, 1923, page 211.

(To emphasise the point being made, a deterrent and even an arms race may be no use, if the government is not clear about using that deterrent in a crisis. In any crisis, the liberal or conservative government is going to want to do the exact opposite of being firm, as proved by Edward Grey in 1914 and Neville Chamberlain before September 1939. The liberal or conservative government in a crisis is going to prefer appeasing diplomacy, for fear starting a war by being firm, because it is afraid that the other side will deliberately misinterpret the firmness as a threat, for propaganda purposes to justify some kind of first strike. In short, in order to be able to credibly use the deterrent to prevent an extremely provocative action in a crisis situation, such as the invasion of Crimea by Russia, you need civil defence to mitigate retaliation. If you don't have the stomach to have civil defence for fear of CND Vice Chair Jeremy Corbyn, deterrence fails. Eventually, the other side goes too far in exploiting your weakness, starting off an unnecessary war.)

The liberal-pacifist dogma that international economics, banking and trade, prevents international war was dismissed by future British Prime Minister, Robert Cecil in 1862, during the American Civil War:

"A few years ago a delusive optimism was creeping over the minds of men. . It was deemed heresy to distrust anybody, or to act as if any evil still remained in human nature. . we were invited to believe that . exports and imports had banished war from the earth. . that we were permanently lifted from the mire of passion and prejudice . The last fifteen years has been one of long disenchantment and the American Civil War is the culmination of the process." (Quotation: R. Taylor, Lord Salisbury, Allen Lane, 1975, p. 21.)

Kahn makes the additional argument on page 350 that the "knockout blow" Schlieffen Plan (which called for Germany to invade and defeat France in six weeks and then do the same to Russia), in ignoring the lessons of trenches cheaply and quickly stopping the over-hyped new offensive technology (machine guns and mortars) during the American Civil War of the 1860s, was partly justified by the populist theories about the economic independence of free trade preventing long wars of attrition (for instance Norman Angell's 1908 pacifist book, The Great Illusion): "most people . argued that the economic independence of nations was so great that the sheer interruption of normal commerce would cause a collapse after a few weeks or months . ". Thus, the Great Illusion-type deceptive pacifist anti-war propaganda reduces deterrence, causing war. Those few people like I. S. Bloch who did predict on the basis of sound reasoning that trenches of the American Civil War type would prevent a knock out blow in 6 weeks were ignored by war planners:

I. S. Bloch in 1899 predicted in his book Is War Now Impossible (a summary of his The War of the Future) that trenches ("everybody will be entrenched in the next war") would negate machine guns and mortars, making it: "impossible for the battle of the future to be fought out rapidly." Unfortunately, he buried that fact-based prediction within a lot of speculative, grandiose pacifist-biased propaganda which naively and false claimed that such problems made war an actual impossibility.
"The most spectacular military event of World War I, the development of two parallel lines of trenches from the Swiss frontier to the English Channel, while predicted by Bloch, came as a complete surprise. . given the examples of such warfare in the American Civil War . it is hard to see how military experts could have overlooked the possibility that the widespread availability of machine guns and barbed wire might result in static trench warfare, but the military planners on both sides completely overlooked the possibility."

- Herman Kahn, On Thermonuclear War, 1960, page 354.


Pacifist Professor Cyril Joad's sneering attack on Winston Churchill's call for deterrence, on page 71 of the September 1939 reprint of his book Why War? Professor-pacifists who dominated the anti-war scene hated the idea of ending war by the use of overwhelming deterrent force, which means they downplayed Nazi genocide dangers and launched paranoid and silly attacks on Winston Churchill. Churchill was an egotist, a capitalist, and made many military errors that cost lives, such as his failed assault on Turkish forces at Dardanelles in March 1915, and then the similarly disastrous Gallipoli tragedy the same year, led to Churchill's forced resignation from the Cabinet in November 1915.

"The British people were still generally ignorant of, and apathetic to, the dangers of the situation in central Europe, despite the eloquent efforts of Mr Churchill [who was easily dismissed as a stupid warmonger by powerful, media-dominating, populist anti-deterrence "pacifists" such as professor Cyril Joad] to enlighten them. Mr Chamberlain alternatively lulled them into a sense of false security by statements in the House of Commons as to the satisfactory progress of British rearmament, or endeavoured to infuse them with his own sincere belief that in war there are no winners. . The fundamental and salient weakness of the Opposition was that, in the majority of cases, they evaded the issue . because no Member of the house was sufficiently assured that the people of Britain [misled by one-sided pacifist media hyped weapons-effects-exaggerating propaganda directed against civil defence and thus against credible, strong deterrence, which was not opposed in a full blown democratic debate with government experts due to official secrecy] would have endorsed such a rejection [of Hitler's demands, thus making deterrence credible at the risk of having a war with Germany while the chances of success were still reasonably good]. They said, which was not true, that there would have been no war, because Hitler was bluffing . they would not say that, at Munich or at Godesberg, Mr Chamberlain, in the face of what certainly was not bluff, should have taken a determined stand, saying 'Very well, we shall fight'."

- John Wheeler-Bennett, Munich: Prologue to Tragedy, pages 62-4 and 184-5.

This situation of heavily rearmed but nearly bankrupt dictator invading nearby countries on the pretext, at first, that his own nationals in those countries want succession or are under threat from the states involved, is analogous in some respects to Russia's annexation of Crimea in January 2014, while Russia's decision to start bombing anti-Assad forces in the Syrian Civil War is analogous to the Germany's air support for the forces of the dictator Franco in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939. The existence of nuclear weapons and chemical weapons on Russia's side may seem to knock this analogy sideways, but it is in fact makes the analogy stronger, when the exaggerated air bombing fears of the 1930s are examined realistically.

Kahn makes the point in the Preface of On Thermonuclear War that the "bad choices" of history arise not necessarily through ignorance or stupidity, but due to the paucity of alternatives, for example Hitler offered his opponents a clever version of "Hobson's choice": you can have peace, or you can reject peace. The first defence of anyone making a "bad decision" is always the claim: "there was no alternative." It is therefore a big business enterprise for politicians to try to find excuses to ignore or dismiss sensible solutions to crisis situations, in order to justify following their dogmatic agenda, whether that is pacifism at any price, or war. Kahn writes on page xv:

"The final outcome of benevolent, informed, and intelligent decisions may turn out to be disastrous. But choices must be made . the current and future reality of vast military power concentrated in the hands of several unpredictable countries, accompanied by the past reality of expansionist doctrine . had brought Americans and Europeans face to face with the sobering thought that this triumph of material progress and human security may be reversed. . we have to be prepared for the possibility that we have chosen wrongly or that events may nevertheless continue to unfold in a thoroughly relentless way in spite of our choices."

It is a fault of unfortunate editing of On Thermonuclear War that this comment on the nature of choice in the Preface is so separated from Kahn's discussion of the irrationality of human choices chapter IV, Conflicting Objectives, particularly pages 119-125. In brief, Kahn there proves that traditional approaches to trying to find the "best choice" have been completely illogical. Committees of experts are always apt to make unpredictable groupthink decisions for options that nobody on the committee really wants (this occurs because of tactical voting by all "sides" in an almost-balanced controversy to save face by ensuring that no side really "wins"). Additionally, Kahn explains that even the rules of mathematical logic had been misapplied in computer based systems analysis by the RAND Corporation, by seeking an optimal result for the most probable set of circumstances, instead analysing the system's response for under unlikely circumstances which of course are often the circumstances where poor performance has spectacular results:

"In the early days at RAND, most studies involved an attempt to find the 'optimum' . The emphasis was on comparing thousands, sometimes tens of thousands, of different systems under idealized conditions then the 'best' one would be picked. . The new viewpoint is different. We now tend to compare a rather small number of different systems under widely varying circumstances and objectives. . A system is preferred when it performs reasonably well under probable circumstances . and yet hedges against less probable or even improbable situations . "

The reason is simple: disasters and world wars rarely occur under the most probable set of conditions that everyone expects. Enemies exploit the factor of surprise, engineer secret weapons, and so on.

Kahn then debunks the idea that by a committee of experts can vote for a simple consensus or circumstance risk template that adequately predicts revolutionary new threats or unexpected disaster mechanisms. Committees of course easily reach good decisions where the choices are uncontroversial, where you don't really need experts, but bad decisions result from the very controversial situations which the committee is supposed to act rationally. First, Kahn discusses the groupthink "paradox of voting" which was first pointed out by E. J. Nanson and elucidated by Kenneth J. Arrow in his 1951 book Social Choice and Individual Values (Wiley, New York, page 3). This paradox of voting is due to the fact that given a set of multiple options to choose from, each individual may have a different set of prejudices so that if there is a deadlock over the primary choices, the committee will likely to end up only being able to agree for choices nobody wants, and even then the end result is unpredictable from the laws of logic even if you know the preferences of each individual, as Kahn explains on page 121:

"It turns out that it is perfectly proper to be disturbed because, even after analysis, there seems to be no way in principle (and very often in practice) to make this committee act reasonably - unless we accept a rule of autocracy and delegate the decision making to one of them, a dictator."

Secondly, Kahn on page 122 examines a situation (from Leonard J. Savage's 1954 book The foundations of statistics, Wiley, New York, page 207) which explains precisely how a committee (in a deadlock over a controversy) can end up taking a "tactical voting" decision for something that is nobody's preferred option:

"They want some meat for a picnic so they ask the butcher what he has available. He tells them he has turkey and ham. They . decide on turkey. The butcher then notices that he also has chicken . The committee decides that if he has chicken available, they no longer want turkey, they want ham. That is the way committees often act . The reason the committee changed its mind was that one member . really liked chicken and 'sort of' preferred ham to turkey. Once chicken was available and he could not have it, he forced his colleagues to concede to him on the ham."

This committee based tactical-voting explains how sudden reverses of policy can occur in Cabinets under pressure. Minority-viewpoint members who cannot get the preferable option they want, end up coercing through a "compromise" that is nobody's preferred option a poorly-researched policy that can trigger war.

The situation which caused WWI was far more similar to the peace-mongering, war-hatred and general war ignorance that preceded WWII. Britain in 1914 had a military deterrent, but Liberal politics effectively weakened its credibility and thus prevented it from being used to deter the German invasion of Belgium on 4 August 1914. The situation in 1939 differed only in that, as a result of Grey's false vague blame on the arms race for WWI, Britain's deterrent in 1939 was undermined militarily in addition to politically (appeasement). Britain's late 1930s "rearmament" wasn't gaining any time (as Chamberlain and his apologists still dogmatically claim in non-quantitative historical analyses of the Zeno Paradox sort today as soon as you look at the actual numbers you can see why Chamberlain was wrong). By spending less each year than Germany, Britain was losing advantage and losing relative strength. In any race you lose advantage with each second that passes while you run slower than an opponent, because the gap is widening, not decreasing:

Sir John Slessor, Marshall of the RAF, proves we were losing the arms race, not "buying time" by appeasement, on page 161 of in his 1957 autobiography, The Central Blue (Praeger, New York):

Not only were Britain's Hurricane and Spitfire actually inferior to German Me-109, but they were outnumbered. Germany had over 700 superior Me-109s and 227 Me-110s, compared to Britain's inferior 650 Hurricanes and Spitfires. This disproves Chamberlain's claim. It was civil defence evacuation and shelters that won the Battle of Britain when German bombers on 7 September 1940 stopped bombing RAF air fields and instead bombed cities. By reducing casualty rates and panic, civil defence then gave the RAF the time for fighter attrition to cut the Luftwaffe down to size. On 15 September, 60 German bombers were shot down and on 17 September Hitler postponed the invasion of England, Operation Sea Lion, and turned his attention to planning the June 1941 invasion of Russia instead. (His invasion of Russia failed because it turned into another WWI type dispersed front, 1,720 miles long in June 1941, increasing to 1,900 miles long by 1942, a logistics nightmare that sucked in massive resources.)

Historian Andrew Roberts has actually claimed in his Storm of War that Churchill deliberately coerced Hitler into bombing London in the Blitz, killing 30,000. Roberts argues that Churchill used the excuse of a lone Heinkel-111, which accidentally got lost and dropped some bombs on London's East End on 25 August 1940, as an excuse to "retaliate" with a full scale bombing of Berlin. This, Roberts claims, was aimed at provoking Hitler into stopping his bombing of the RAF fighter bases, and instead ordering the bombing of London. Hitler's plan called for bombing Britain's fighter aircraft bases out of action before invading by sea (Operation Sealion). Churchill realized that the concrete runways of most RAF fighter bases had been badly cratered by bombs and needed a breathing space - time for repairing, time for concrete to set - or else Germany would invade England and mass slaughter commence. This was 1940, before any American air bases had been set up in England, and when shipping was being sunk by German submarines, preventing imports of concrete and other essential materials. If this is true, then the escalation of WWII to city bombing and killing civilians, was done deliberately by Britain, not by the enemy, for tactical military advantage. America wasn't in the war yet and although Roosevelt's "Lend-Lease" was supplying arms and ammunition to Britain, no actual American air bases were set up here until after Pearl Harbor, so Britain was still was facing an invasion (millions of lost lives plus Third Reich domination).

The point is that pacifist propaganda today falsely claims escalation in war is rapid and automatic, or else that it is an enemy action, and this lying deception obfuscates the city area bombing reasons in WWII. The reality is that Hitler wanted to invade without war. It was, as Kahn has the guts to point out, Britain that made the declaration of war on Germany in both 1914 and in 1939, not the other way around as the "disarm or be annihilated" breed of lying "pacifists" claim. If they can't tell the truth, why listen to them? Oh, yes, I know. It's rude to call people who don't tell the truth "liars". But it was pacifists in the Cabinet in 1914 and 1933-9 who stopped the "rude" or frank use of deterrence from preventing world war. Tens of millions died!

Winston Churchill, Blood, Sweat and Tears, Putnam, New York, 1941, page 60, writes with some bitterness of the Munich crisis of September 1938: "It is the most grievous consequence of what we have done and of what we have left undone in the last five years - five years of futile good intention, five years of eager search for the line of least resistance, five years of uninterrupted retreat of British power, five years of neglect of air defences . We have been reduced in those five years from a position of security so overwhelming and so unchallengeable that we never cared to think about it. We have been reduced from a position where the very word 'war' was considered one which would be used only by persons qualifying for a lunatic asylum."

Kahn, On Thermonuclear War, page 378: "neither the British nor the French had the resolve to use their superior military power or their superior resources to check German aggression until it was too late. . The longer they put off using their superior power, the less credible it became that it would ever be used. Finally, their power became inferior, so that even when its use was seriously threatened, the German government was no longer impressed."

The popular and official exaggerations of aerial warfare effectiveness which led to appeasement were based on unprotected civilians bombed in WWI and in the Spanish Civil War, leading to roughly the same scale of error as Richard Rhodes makes in his discussion of Hiroshima's casualties: British official estimates were 50 casualties per ton of bombs dropped on cities, plus a further 150 additional hysterical psychiatric casualties who would riot against the government to try to make it surrender to the enemy in order to stop further bombing and destruction (Kahn, page 376). This is a total of 200 casualties per ton of bombs, an exaggeration by a factor of 100 of the 2 casualties per ton which actually resulted even where most people did not use outdoor shelters in winter in Britain. Similarly, the 1.3 mile radius for 50% mortality outdoors in Hiroshima is preferred to the 0.12 miles radius for people in concrete buildings, again showing that surprise attack on people outdoors in low skyline cities with nuclear weapons produces over one hundred times as many casualties as occur for people in modern concrete buildings. In the 1930's, the official mixture of facts from surprise air raids against unprotected people, and speculative fantasy from a consensus of psychiatric experts who are influenced by reading "next war fiction" about bombing neuroses and shell shock, was horrific and toxic to anyone trying to have a rational debate on the need for an arms race to deter a war:

". it is difficult for those who have survived the blitzes and V-bombings to understand or to recapture the sense of fear and apprehension which oppressed Britain in those days. Our imagination had been whetted by the works of those uninhibited writers of 'next war' fiction, who had assured us that within a week of the outbreak of hostilities, London would be rendered uninhabitable by bombings and by gas. . In Paris they were fighting for seats on trains, and the roads out of the city were choked with traffic in London they were digging trenches."

- John Wheeler-Bennett on the Munich crisis of 30 September 1938, Munich: prologue to Tragedy, 1948, pages 158 and 167.

(After Chamberlain had appeased Hitler by forcing the Czechs to accept a Nazi occupation of the Sudetenland, outraged historian Wheeler-Bennett flew there to organize the rescue of Jewish refugees from the Nazi annexed territory. Hitler apparently responded by having an agent place a time-bomb in the luggage of the aircraft, which exploded on the next flight after Wheeler-Bennett's, blowing up that aircraft. Critics may say that Wheeler-Bennett's history is prejudiced by first-hand involvement, but the same "personal bias" argument applies to the history written by many others involved in wars, e.g. the war histories written by Winston Churchill. But, in a sense, this makes them primary sources.)


We showed in previous posts that political cartoonist David Low almost stood alone in condemning the Nazis as a threat, and in response, Hitler - who read British newspapers to check how well appeasement was going - coerced the British government into putting pressure on Low's newspaper publishers and editors to stop printing cartoons critical of Hitler. Similar coercion occurred when Captain W. E. Johns criticised the British government's weak rearmament and appeasement tactics while editor of the popular weekly and monthly magazines, Flying and Popular Flying Johns was fired. This is vitally important: Hitler was not merely a distant threat, far away in Germany, but was actually able to coerce the British government into trying to suppress criticisms of the Nazis by threatening the jobs of critics! This is never admitted in mainstream pacifist histories, which portray critics of Nazis as cowardly warmongers. The mainstream of the the British media was still trying to ridicule the threat of Nazi rearmament long after Hitler's election as Chancellor of Germany in January 1933. For instance, see the following Punch cartoon by Bernard Partridge, published 27 September 1933 (Punch was a popular anti-establishment political satire cartoon magazine, similar in some ways to Private Eye today our point is that they took the wrong side):

Bernard Partridge's 27 Sept 1933 Punch Cartoon ridiculing German threat to peace after Hitler election as Chancellor in January 1933. Note the Nazi Swastika on the angry-looking German civilian's haversack!
Partridge shows French gendarme and a British policeman ("P.C. John Bull") having a disagreement over whether to search a suspicious German, suspected by the French gendarme of carrying hidden weapons. The British policeman replies to a gendarme that it is "very likely" the German has some concealed weapons, but then negates that threat with a high-handed sneer that the French are provoking trouble by being heavily armed. In other words, Partridge - and most people in Britain - did not see the problem with Germany having a few secret weapons in 1933. The problem Partridge saw was that the heavy deterrent arms of France were likely to provoke conflict, and the most sensibly way forward was to set a good example by being unarmed. It is vital to make this fact clear, because pacifists are forever trying to reinvent the wheel by misunderstanding the past. Churchill's early warnings of German rearmament were seen as silly provocation by a warmonger. That was their context. Bernard Partridge's later Punch cartoons even during the Munich crisis of September 1938, continued to play down the danger, firstly on 7 September 1938 by making Hitler look like a crazy busker who attracts both the wild dogs of war and the doves of peace, and then on 22 September 1938 by presenting Hitler as statesman who achieved victory using diplomatic "bluff" as opposed to the blood used by his predecessor:

Bernard Partridge's 7 September 1938 Punch cartoon ridiculing Hitler as a singer who attracts wild dogs of war and doves of peace. He completely misunderstood the danger of the man, like most pacifists who saw rearmament and war as the lethal danger, not appeasement of a coercive thug who was apparently desperate to conquer Europe.

Bernard Partridge's 21 September 1938 Punch "Bluff and Iron" cartoon, contrasting Hitler's bloodless "bluff" method (threatening war to achieve "peaceful" coercion and invasions without bloodshed, until 1939 anyway) to the force used by his predecessor. The message seems to be that Hitler is a successful statesman who doesn't actually start wars, although Herman Kahn and John Wheeler-Bennett argue that in September 1938 Hitler was not bluffing but was really prepared to go to war if a peaceful Nazi invasion of the Sudetenland was prevented. British Prime Minister Chamberlain and French President Daladier were not simply "outbluffed" at the Munich conference by Hitler. They could see he was willing to go to war, and they were not prepared to go to war over Czechoslovakia. There was no "bluff" involved. However, as both Kahn and Wheeler-Bennett point out, the few members of the House of Commons who were critical of the appeasement of Hitler in September 1938 all argued falsely that he was bluffing (the rest accepted he wasn't bluffing and were grateful to Chamberlain for helping to "avert" - or rather delay until the arms race gap was even worse - war). Nobody dared to earn the "Churchill warmonger" badge from the "pacifists" by arguing for using force to stop German rearmament, thus preventing a world war. By closing down sensible options, the "pacifists" contributed to the war.

World War II was really due to the "false alternative" or "no alternative" dilemma, that we also see in modern physics today. The official opposition in the House of Commons to the Chamberlain's Conservative Party appeasement was the even more pacifist Labour Party, led from 1935 by the disarmer and lawyer Clement Attlee, who had first-hand seen the horrors of Winston Churchill's war policies: Attlee was personally in the firing-line of Winston Churchill's disastrous Gallapoli Campaign back in August 1915. Churchill's warnings of German rearmament could easily be dismissed by the men he had sent to hell in WWI. Clement Attlee as Labour Party Leader stated in the House of Commons "Defence Policy" debate on 22 May 1935:

"We reject the use of force as an instrument of policy. We stand for the reduction of armaments and pooled security . Our policy is not one of seeking security through rearmament, but through disarmament. . the creation of an International Police Force under the League."

Therefore, there was no really democratic debate about how to deal with Hitler: both sides of the House of Commons wanted appeasement. The "International Police Force" was just as farcical an idea under the League of Nations as today under the United Nations, where vetoes from Russia and fears of escalation or another Vietnam prevent international peace keeper from being send into Syria and Ukraine. The whole idea of an "International Police Force" is debunked by the fact that the police even under the best circumstances only succeed in catching a small percentage of offenders, and in any case they have to wait until a crime has been committed before acting. By the time an invasion has occurred in the international arena, it is too late to stop bloodshed, and as Vietnam proved, attempts to police large areas of the real world against determined ideological fanatics causes an escalation of violence, at enormous cost in human lives and money. This is why "International Police Forces" are worse than useless. What is needed instead of policemen trying to catch culprits after invasions, is credible deterrence and the ability to use force to prevent the attacks and invasions from occurring in the first place (e.g. neutrons bombs to deter, stop or disperse the massed tank barrage columns as they try to pass the frontier, plus non-nuclear anti-tank rockets which can to stop individual tanks if they are dispersed in response to the neutron bomb deterrent).

Japan distracted international attention away from Germany, just as Attlee averted an arms race:

"In 1933 it was not Germany but Japan that seemed to pose the greatest threat . In September of 1931 the Japanese army in Korea had invaded the north Chinese province of Manchuria . a flagrant affront to the League of Nations and the principle of collective security. . the League merely dispatched a commission of inquiry under Lord Lytton. The end result was the most ineffective sanctions possible . The menace in the Far East was to play a vital part in encouraging appeasement of Germany. . Britain could do nothing [when Japan launched a full invasion of China in 1937] without the USA, who would not budge from her self-imposed isolation. . fear of upsetting the USA was paramount. . The conduct of the Labour opposition was marked by a head-burying exercise that outdid the average ostrich in skill. Attlee wanted the weight of 'the whole world's opinion' to restrain potential aggressors and condemned rearmament. . There was . desperate anxiety to avoid an arms race."

- Malcolm Pearce and Geoffrey Stewart, British Political History 1867-1995, Democracy and Decline, Routledge, London, 2nd ed., 1996, pages 313-314.

The disastrous financial and human costs of WWI started under the pacifist government of Britain's Liberal Party, killed the Liberal Party after the war:

"The Liberal party . was involved in an encounter with a rampant omnibus (the First World War), which mounted the pavement and ran him over. After lingering painfully, he expired. A [contrived, specious, spurious, propaganda-based] controversy has persisted ever since as to what killed him."

- Professor Trevor Wilson, The Downfall of the Liberal Party, Collins, London, 1966, page 20.

Germany has been reduced officially to having an army of just 100,000 soldiers with no General Staff, no air force, and just 6 battleships under the Versailles Treaty following WWI. This disarmament, together with hyperinflation in 1923 in response to the French demands for massive war reparations, infuriated German military patriots into starting militant underground movements like the National Socialists that Hitler had joined, who claimed that the armistice in 1918 had been a sell out by a small number of Jews, and sought to secretly rearm Germany:

". in spite of the tremendous scale of the violations it still took five years, from January 1933 when Hitler came in to around January 1938, before they had an army capable of standing up against the French and the british. At any time during that five-year period if the British and the French had had the will, they probably could have stopped the German rearmament program. . it is an important defect of 'arms control' agreements that the punishment or correction . is not done automatically . but takes an act of will . As late as 1934, after Hitler had been in power for almost a year and a half, Ramsey MacDonald still continued to urge the French that they disarm themselves by reducing their army by 50 percent, and their air force by 75 percent. . probably as much as any other single group I think that these men of good will can be charged with causing World War II. . Much of the current discussion about arms control strikes me as being very similar . October 14, 1933, when Germany withdrew from a disarmament conference and the League of Nations . the British and the French contented themselves with denouncing the action. . On March 16, 1935, Hitler decreed conscription in Germany."

- Herman Kahn, On Thermonuclear War, pages 390-392.

The 19 members of the League of Nations, the precursor to the (un)United Nations, could not agree to stop Hitler by force, just as recently the (un)United Nations failed to agree to stop civil wars in Ukraine and Syria due to Russian veto, so as Kahn explains on page 393, the League of Nation's protest:

"simply strengthened Hitler by showing both the Germans and their potential victims that he could safely ignore public opinion and moral outcries. It is simply not true that a potential aggressor is likely to be restrained from preliminary actions by foreign public opinion [especially where in 1930's Germany or today's Russia, the media is effectively under indirect state control and turns foreign hostility into a propaganda tool to bolster support for war] - particularly if he can justify his action by . reasonable-sounding excuse, or even better, make the charge uncertain by making the action ambiguous."

The League of Nations was also undermined when it failed to stop Italian fascist Mussolini from invading Abyssinia (located in Eritrea and North Ethopia today) in October 1935, and blistering the local populace with mustard gas. Hitler's reoccupation of the Rhineland in March 1936 was preceded by, and encouraged by, the experience of the apathy of League of Nations. Two years later, on 11 March 1938, he annexed Austria. No international police force was hastily convened to stop him either time, for fear that such a police type action would escalate into world war there and then (this is precisely the whole problem with the simplistic/idealistic idea of somehow "policing" world peace every "arrest" risks turning into a world war):

"At several points the democracies seemed willing to fight - when Hitler relaxed the pressure ever so little and dropped some straws which the drowning democracies desperately grasped. The more often Hitler presented the choice of war or peace as a real choice, the more the democracies were demoralized. At no time did Hitler threaten to initiate war against France and England. He simply threatened to 'retaliate' if they attacked him. The Munich crisis had an incredible sequel in March 1939. In spite of . the guarantees of Chamberlain and Daladier . Hitler occupied the rest of Czechoslovakia. The technique he used is such an obvious prototype for a future aggressor armed with H-bombs that it is of extreme value to all who are concerned with the problem of maintaining a peaceful and secure world . "

- Herman Kahn, On Thermonuclear War, page 403.

Kahn then quotes from Daniel "pentagon papers" Ellsberg's March 1959 Lowell Lectures, The Art of Coercion, which describes how WWI Iron Cross recipient Adolf Hitler in Berlin on 14 March 1939 personally coerced Czech President Hacha and his Foreign Minister Chvalkovsky to surrender his own country to the Nazis for the sake of peace. Ellsberg quotes Hitler's interpreter Paul Schmidt:

"The invasion would begin at 6 a.m. that morning: in five hours. There were, said Hitler, 'two possibilities. The first was that the invasion of the German troops might develop into a battle. . The other was that the entry . should take place in a peaceable manner . The Fuhrer advised him to telephone Prague. . Hitler signed the [peaceful invasion authority] documents, left the room. . at that moment the telephone line to Prague was out of order. . Hacha and Chvalkovsky . turned from the documents and refused to sign. . But the Germans [Goering and Ribbentrop] pursued them around the table, thrusting the documents before them and pressing pens into their hands, shouting 'Sign! If you refuse, half Prague will lie in ruins from aerial bombardment within two hours'. . Hacha [fainted but] was revived by Morell, with injections. He continued to resist, fainted again, and was revived again. . At 3:55 Hacha signed the documents. He called Prague, Schmidt finally having gotten through, and ordered that there should be no resistance. . The agreement that the Czechs signed told the world: 'The conviction was expressed on both sides that all endeavours must be directed to securing tranquility, order and peace in that part of Central Europe."

Notice the "peace" propaganda message of Hitler, forever presenting himself as the pacifist, the moralist, the disarmer, the lover of order, so closely interwoven with gradual erosion of liberty by Hitler's salami tactics, cutting into his enemies slice by slice, then allowing the furore to die away, then taking another slice, until the whole cake is gone. Kahn makes the point on page 407, that Hitler's original plan for WWII was a simply repeat of the Schlieffen Plan used 25 years earlier in August 1914, but in 1940 he modified it slightly with a detour through the Ardennes Forest, to bypass the Maginot Line, a tactic suggested by the innovator von Mannstein, who had to bypass the General Staff to talk directly to Hitler, who immediately saw the light. The officialdom of the German General Staff objected to von Mannstein's idea of using the Ardennes Forest, because their data was a few years obsolete, and they thought it was still impassable by tanks.

Kahn draws an analogy of the French Maginot Line delusion to the American belief in 1941 that Pearl Harbor was safe from Japanese attack. Japan was in 1941 under strong pressure from American sanctions after Japan invaded China, a situation analogous to the sanctions on Russia after it invaded Crimea last year. Pearl Habor is only 30-40 feet deep, whereas the admiralty textbooks of 1941 stated that torpedoes need 75-150 feet depth of water to operate reliably. Therefore, Naval expert William D. Puleston confidently guaranteed in 1941 that Pearl Harbor would never become a byword for vulnerability to surprise attack:

"The Pacific Fleet is at one of the strongest bases in the world - Pearl Harbor - practically on a war footing and under a war regime. There will be no American Port Arthur."

- William D. Puleston, The Armed Forces of the Pacific, Yale University Press, 1941, page 117.

Puleston's complacency was disproved soon after his textbook's publication by the Japanese Admiral Onishi, who developed special torpedoes that are effective in 30-40 feet of water.

Kahn in Figure 9 on page 481 analyzes whether the American Minuteman ICBM silo based missile system is vulnerable to a Pearl Harbor style surprise attack. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara finally authorized that 1,000 Minutemen be built as Kahn in 1960 (prior to the Kennedy administration) assumes, although some in the USAF wanted more Minutemen. Today, only 450 of those 1,000 are still in operation but Kahn argued that 99% of the original 1,000 Minutemen ICBMs could be wiped out by 6,000 Russian warheads, each having a 50% silo kill probability:

"Figure 9 shows that having a retaliatory capability distributed over a thousand fixed points, such as some proposals for Minuteman, may not be sufficient to deter a determined enemy."

In Figure 8 on page 469, Kahn relates missile accuracy (CEP radius) to warhead yield, reliability and target kill overpressure. Since then, missile accuracy has improved but MIRV technology has reduced yield, while silos have had improved shock absorbers to reduce vulnerability, increasing silo survival the 1960 value of 100 psi, which is near the edge of the crater, to today's many thousands of psi, so that a surviving silo sticks up like a concrete chimney, well inside the excavated bowl of the crater (silo doors and hydraulics are designed to take the impact from the debris crater fall-back, as well as surviving all other nuclear effects). Kahn's figure 10, based on Dr Harold Brode's RAND Corporation report P-1951, Ground Support Systems Weapons Effects, shows that a silo hardened to withstand 1,000 psi has a 90% chance of surviving a 5 megaton surface burst, if the missile accuracy CEP = 1 nautical mile. Most MIRV warheads now are less one tenth of that yield (i.e. under 500 kt), and silos have been hardened to withstand higher pressures, which largely offsets the improvements in missile accuracy.

For hard targets that withstand peak overpressures over about 100 psi - note that 1 psi = 6.9 kPa in metric units - peak overpressure is directly proportional to yield. Therefore, reducing a weapon yield from 5 Mt to 500 kt is equivalent to reducing the peak overpressure at the CEP radius by a similar factor of 10. For very high peak overpressures, the most probable overpressure on the target is inversely proportional to the cube of the CEP radius. Therefore, doubling the missile accuracy, i.e., halving the CEP radius, causes the target to be most likely subjected to an 8-fold increase in peak overpressure. This is simply due to the fact that such high peak overpressures are inversely proportional to the cube of distance from ground zero: the peak overpressure at 10 feet from a nuclear explosion is 1,000 times higher than at 100 feet radius (ignoring minor effects from the loss of energy by thermal radiation from the shock front, and the changing relative contributions from the bomb case debris shock and pure air blast shock) . The actual survival probability is:

where S is survival probability, n is number of warheads actually detonating on the target, R is the radius of the peak overpressure that is sufficient to destroy the target, and C is the CEP (Circular Error Probability) radius for the warhead's delivery system.

Nuclear disarmament, such as the decrease from 1,000 to 450 ICBMs, even taking account of similar verified Russian stockpile disarmament, is increasing the statistical uncertainty of a war. Disarmament to give a smaller nuclear stockpile increases the uncertainty in the number of missiles that survive a first strike (since the standard deviation in percent is 100 divided into the square root of the sample size), so nuclear war increasingly becomes a gamble like Russian Roulette, undermining the credibility of our deterrent policy.


It's a poorly edited book, nearly 700 pages of hard to read, disorganized or badly fragmented nuggets, which could be cut down to less than 70 pages of well-organized, readable analysis to defend the validity of the cost-effective, nuclear deterrent against provocations that escalate into conventional war (not just a deterrent against other nuclear weapons), and more especially, a defence for making the nuclear deterrent credible for military rather than civilian purposes, by using effective, low-cost civil defense.

Unfortunately, Kahn's muddled presentation allowed lawyer James Newman of Scientific American to take bits of the book out of context and then falsely condemn it as warmongering evil. For example, Kahn's defense for his controversial and poorly designed Table 3, Tragic but distinguishable postwar states, which correlates casualties to recovery times, and includes the question "Will the survivors envy the dead?" was attacked by Newman's March 1961 review of the book.

Kahn defends that chapter 1 table effectively only in an appendix near the end of the book (on page 626) of On Thermonuclear War, not on the page that carries the table, and Newman later confessed to only reading the first 200 pages of the book when writing his review, so he ignored the defense Kahn gives!

Kahn's effective and damning defense of the inclusion of Table 3 which Newman so hated, only occurs much later ,on page 626 of On Thermonuclear War, within Appendix IV, A proposed civil defense program:

"There should be the creation of feasible evacuation measures, improvisation of fallout protection . Are these things worth the effort? Anybody who can make the distinctions in Table 3, Tragic but Distinguishable Postwar States, will think they are ." (This should have been printed directly under Table 3 to avoid confusion. But then, I guess Newman would have ignored the truth, as he did with the rest of his reckless and civil defense damaging tantrum.)

This Appendix IV also recommended $100 million expenditure on radiation meters for fallout shelters in the basement of public buildings made of concrete or masonry, $150 for identifying and ultilizing such existing structures for fallout protection in nuclear war, and research on decontamination, etc., and was based on Kahn's 1957 RAND Corporation report RM-2206-RC, Some Specific Suggestions for Obtaining Early Non-Military Defense Capabilities . . The problem was that although President Kennedy's administration implemented Kahn's proposals for fallout shelters with radiation meters in public buildings in 1961, he did not implement the first demand of Kahn, which was for sensible plans for the pre-war evacuation of cities. This error of judgement soon contributed to a crisis in October 1962, because it limited Kennedy's options and forced him to concede that there was no evacuation plan available on 22 October 1962 for cities within reach of the Russian IRBMs shipped to Cuba. Thus, Kennedy was forced - by the paucity of options at his disposal - into his TV speech that day which threatened an all-out nuclear war if just a single IRBM was fired from Cuba by accident. By preventing passive defense, Kennedy was forced into committing to a more risky offensive threat to bolster deterrence, in the hope it would coerce the Russians into reducing the risk of an accidental or unauthorized IRBM launch from Cuba.

See, for example, Dr William Chipman's Defense Civil Preparedness Agency report, Civil Defense for the 1980s - current issues, page 47, Civil defense and the cuban missiles crisis, where Kennedy's concern during the Cuban Missiles Crisis that there was no effective Kahn type evacuation plan, limited his options to offensive threats:

The point Kennedy made was that, with a temporary civil defense evacuation of Miami and other cities within range of the SS-4 (or R-12 in Russian nomenclature) missiles, he could have ordered an invasion of Cuba without risking civilians in the event that some nuclear missiles were launched during the invasion. By ruling out this civil defense possibility, Kennedy felt forced into threatening an all-out retaliation against Russia if a missile was launched. Thus, in part because James Newman and his Scientific American publishers, and their anti-debate, anti-liberal friends (cloaked in the false, lying colours of liberalism!), had falsely dismissed or ignored the Kahn's argument as taboo warmongering, the Cuban missiles crisis risked escalating into WWIII rather than just a limited invasion of Cuba. Kahn explains on page 369 of On Thermonuclear War that the use of dogmas to close down discussions of taboo alternatives like civil defense leads to rigid war plans of the sort in place in Germany in 1914 when WWI broke out:

"The rigidity of the war plans. In 1914 this occurred because they were so complicated that the general staffs felt that they could not draw up more than one. This single war plan was then made even more rigid because it depended on such detailed railroad schedules. . They [groupthink planners] want to examine and plan for only the most obvious one, and ignore the others. . Even more than in 1914, governments of our day are likely to be ignorant of the technical details of war . it is almost impossible to get people interested in the tactics and strategy of thermonuclear war."

Furthermore, even when there is an interest in nuclear war effects, it is constrained to follow set paths like either a Church service or quantum field theory seminar, in which objective injections and even mere questions from free thinking individuals of the congregation are automatically censored or ignored on some false grounds such as alleged rudeness (often just a lack of respectful worship or of diplomacy) or heresy:

"There is another way in which we can have too narrow a focus. We can refuse to entertain or consider seriously ideas which seem to be 'crack-pot' or unrealistic, but which are really just unfamiliar. In more casual days one could dismiss a bizarre-sounding notion with a snort or comment about being impractical or implausible. Things moved slowly, and no real harm was done if a new idea took several years to prove itself. Indeed, allowing a notion to stay around for several years . meant that most of the 'half-baked' ones got scuttled and never had to be considered seriously at all. The consequent saving on the use of both time and 'gray matter' must have been enormous." (The bigoted, abusive and LAZY folk are recklessly incompetent and must be fired if we are to make progress, rather than simplistically killing off ideas that need work.)

- Herman Kahn, On Thermonuclear War, page 125.

Kahn also makes the point on page 414 that even if you have adequate warning and sensible plans, they can backfire under realistic conditions. His example is the Japanese attack on the Philippines, 9 hours after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, 7 December 1941. General MacArthur was warned immediately after Pearl Harbor was attacked, and responded by getting the entire fleet of B-17 bombers airborne to resist bombing on their air bases. Unfortunately, the Japanese attack on the Philippines, which was scheduled for dawn (which occurs 3.5 hours after dawn in Hawaii) was unexpectedly delayed for 6 hours due to fog at the Japanese home base. By the time the Japanese bombed the American air bases in the Philippines, the American B-17s had returned for refuelling, and were caught on the ground. This demonstrates that straightforward countermeasures can sometimes fail, due to bad luck (fog in this case). A similar situation occurred in Hiroshima, where the air raid warning was not sounded before the bomb went off, because the commander was away at breakfast. There were plenty of air raid shelters in Hiroshima which survived the effects of nuclear weapons, deflecting the blast and absorbing most of the radiation.

Kahn also points out how secrecy can backfire, as in the case where poorly designed American torpedoes were protected from demands for rapid improvement by official U.S. Navy secrecy during WWII:

Similar questions were raised against the secrecy of the design and capabilities of "clean" nuclear weapons, undermining their usefulness when the facts about the reduction of fallout dose rates were secret in nuclear weapon test report WT-1317, Characterization of Fallout, Operation Redwing:

"As the nation's most famed weapons expert, Teller had access to secret atomic data which greatly enhanced his ability to be persuasive in public, while not disclosing the data pertinent to his argument. He could always, if challenged, retreat to a sanctuary of nondiscussable information."

- Dr Ralph E. Lapp, The New Priesthood: The Scientific Elite and the Uses of Power, Harper, New York, 1965, page 138.

Lapp's 1965 book The New Priesthood begins (page 1) with the following quotation from President Woodrow Wilson, on the dangers of dictatorship by secretive expert advisers, like a Manhattan project:

"What I fear is a government of experts. God forbid that in a democratic society we should resign the task and give the government over to experts. What are we for if we are to be scientifically taken care of by a small number of gentlemen who are the only men who understand the job? because if we don't understand the job, then we are not a free people."

Lapp then points out how he saw science change during WWII from a poorly funded, low-prestige business of struggling individuals pursuing unpopular technical questions to find the truth, into today's "big science" of groupthink-dominated government (taxpayer)-funded teams of aim-biased technicians, seeking wealth and prestige, paying only lip-service to freedom and objectivity:

"Today . the lone researcher is a rara avis (rare bird) most scientists team up to work together toward agreed upon objectives [not an unbiased agenda]. . A single experiment may involve a hundred scientists . the research is no longer unspecified as to objective . democracy faces its most severe test in preserving its traditions in an age of scientific revolution. . scientists in key advisory positions wield enormous power. The ordinary checks and balances in a democracy fail when the Congress, for example, is incapable of intelligent discourse on vital issues. The danger to our democracy is that national policy will be decided by the few acting without even attempting to enter a public discourse . our democracy will become a timocracy. . Even if no formal secrecy is invoked by the government, an issue might as well be classified 'secret' if the people in a democracy are incapable of carrying on an intelligent discussion of it. . The danger is that a new priesthood of scientists may usurp the traditional roles of democratic decision-making"

- Dr Ralph E. Lapp, The New Priesthood: The Scientific Elite and the Uses of Power, Harper, New York, 1965, pages 2-3.

Lapp on page 8 quotes President Thomas Jefferson:

"To furnish the citizens with full and correct information is a matter of the highest importance. If we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education."

Education in fact, not groupthink indoctrination nor the propaganda substitutes for fact used by dictatorships.

Lapp on page 14 quotes President Dwight Eisenhower's 17 January 1961 farewell address:

"Today the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists . In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution . Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. . The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present - and is gravely to be regarded."

Lapp on page 16 quotes Dr Alvin Weinberg (director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, 1955-1973):

"I do believe that big science can ruin our universities, by diverting the universities from their primary purpose and by converting our university professors into administrators, housekeepers and publicists."

Alvin Weinberg expanded on his critique of "big science" in his 1967 book, Reflections on Big Science.

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