The Next World War

Let’s talk about the next war, shall we. This may not be a comfortable topic, or perhaps it’s one you think is a long way away so not worth the conversation now. As a student of history, humanity, and humor, I can tell you with a straight face, we’re now facing the next major war. This will be no Brush-Fire war on the scale of Iraq or Afghanistan, but one in which we’ll be fighting for control of the air, land, and sea in multiple theaters at the same time. It is the kind of war few in the world wish to contemplate until it’s already begun. It’s the kind of war we fought twice in the 20th Century. I can’t say exactly when or where it will begin, but we can talk about how it will happen, possible ways to prevent or limit it, and what it means for all of us. So, please join me as we think through our future, what it will cost, and what we can build if we happen to survive to see the other end of this human tragedy.

First, where we are today. From North Korea, the South China Sea, Iran, NATO-Russia frontier, and maybe even Venezuela based on some recent comments, we may be close to a multi-front catastrophe. We, as a nation, don’t seek out these conflicts, though some high within the administration would like to use them to galvanize support behind an unpopular and fearful President cringing with the ever encroaching approach of the special prosecutor looking into Russian election meddling which brought him to office. Expect the closer that prosecutor gets the more belligerency we’ll see from this administration. Lessons were learned by these folks when they fired a few cruise missiles into Syria back in April: Show some bombs and missiles, and the American people will line up, form up, and fall-in. This administration is counting on that wag-the-dog Pavlovian reaction when they need it most.

NBC had the chance to stop this when he was just a TV show character who grabbed woman’s body parts because he was a star. The Republican Party had the chance to stop this when he was a joke candidate no one took seriously who attacked judges, families of fallen soldiers, and war heroes. The American people had the chance to stop this when he espoused hate-filled propaganda and called it a candidacy for the Presidency of the U.S. Now, it’s up to all of these forces, aligned with the international community of democracies, to prevent a mad-man from literally going down in a blaze of (self-perceived) glory, and taking us all down with him. If we don’t stop him, the world itself, and all within it, will suffer the wrath of his hate-filled dystopian fantasy. Yet, there is hope.

No one knows when this conflagration will begin exactly, but it will be soon. When this war does start, wherever that is, the U.S. may initially look strong in that one theater of battle. We may even resist in two theaters at once, although we walked away from that doctrine more than 15 years ago. If we move to three, four, five, etc. theaters at once, we’ll be overwhelmed, especially without our allies, but that is exactly what our potential opponents would want to see.

This is where the power to stop such a war resides today: with our friends and allies across the world. Do not align with this administration. Do not enable them. Suffer the angry tweet. Suffer the change in trade policy. Suffer the malign barbs from within our political leadership. Stay true to the foundations of democracy, to the ideals of democratic governance, and to the ideas behind the world we built together after World War II. Don’t join this war on the side of this mad-man just because you have an alliance with the U.S. As a Fulbright Fellow who focused my work on NATO-EU relations, and a strong believer in the foundation of Trans-Atlantic Security being the bedrock of global stability, I am calling on our NATO Allies to protect NATO, but not let the U.S. drag the world into another World War. This message also goes out to our allies in Asia and the Pacific. Protect your interests, but don’t get dragged along to suicide by this clearly damaged individual and his enablers.

It’s easy to see NATO rallying against an opportunistic Russia, or Japan and S. Korea working with the U.S. against a nuclear weapon yielding North Korea. Yet, let’s not get into those fights, shall we? NATO, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, other allies please work together, with the U.S. if you can, to prevent those threats from culminating into full-scale war. Remove the hostility and short-sightedness of our Commander in Chief from the equation and the world can probably work something out. Follow him down into the morass and we’ll all have to pay the price for his lack of understanding, inability to ask, and hatred of all who are not succumbing to his will.

If, despite these best efforts, the U.S. starts wars, consider where you stand. You may not feel you have the ability to stand to the side, nor may you want to see the U.S. defeated. I sure don’t, even if I don’t agree with the war. So, then think of how you’d engage without aligning with the aggressor. Think of how you’d fight if you were a co-belligerent rather than an alliance partner. Think of how you’d engage if a pretext for war was created by the U.S., but it didn’t actually fire the first shot. That is the most likely scenario, at least for the first in the chain of conflicts which will coalesce to form this new war.

Now, let’s come to the home front, a term introduced during the First World War when civilians became a key contributing factor in the outcome of that conflict. Our soldiers and (disproportionally huge numbers of civilians) will die from our having failed to prevent the rise to power of this mad-man and his sycophants, some of whom hope and want to bring about this war, having expressed such desires in the past. A nuclear exchange with North Korea, let alone China or Russia would be devastating to the United States, and any allies who join us in these conflicts. Yet, there is hope.

On the Home Front we can belatedly, although hopefully still in-time to save ourselves from any more grief, disable this mad-man from sending us down this path. We have the 25th Amendment which empowers those under the President to remove him from office. We have the process of Impeachment which, although slower, can have the same result. This path is difficult though, as the scared little boy inhabiting the body of the man titled President will strike out when he senses himself at risk and cornered. None-the-less, we cannot keep enabling him. We must prevent this disaster in whatever legal means are available to do so.

Those waffling on this idea because they would not want to see Mike Pence assume to role of Commander and Chief, I get you, but I respectfully wish to tell you to “Get off your butt!” Pence may disagree with almost everything for which I stand as a compassionate person who believes in the power of democracy to better the lives of all citizens, but I’d prefer him to the clearly disturbed individual inhabiting the oval office as I write this. Yes, he’d enact policies I’d disagree with. Yet, I’d be alive to disagree with them, fight him, over-turn them after the next election, and hopefully start rebuilding that democracy again.

If we cannot cut off this war before it starts, we then have to consider what to do once it’s over. No one knows what the world would look like after the end of such a calamitous human catastrophe. No one in July 1914 could have imagined what the world would look like in November 1918. No one in August 1939 could have imagined what the world would look like in August 1945. Yet, there is hope. Even after countless military and civilian deaths, humanity will endure. Those left will do what they can to rebuild and work together to prevent another such disaster in the future, strengthening the bonds which link like-minded nations together for the common goals of all. All of this depends on who survives. If those who led us into this human blood-bath survive then there is little hope for growth and learning from what occurred. If those who believe in cooperation, democracy, and the rule of law survive, we could again align as we did after World War II to build a better world. Therefore, plan how you’ll survive such a war. Where can you go? What can you do to secure your family, your values, and those of the country you love? How can we work together as communities to ensure everyone is cared for, safe, and able to contribute to the future we all hold dear. There is, and always will be, hope.

We will face this war, unless we can prevent it now. If we face this war alone we will lose. Whether we win or lose, many will die and suffer from what could have been avoided. None-the-less, there is hope all along the path through this difficult time. We can plan for how we’ll work to prevent, protect, then mitigate, if we have to, such human caused violence. Then, maybe, the lessons of history will compel us toward Peace.

Peace Please!

 

Jeremy Strozer

 

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THREADS OF THE WAR, VOLUME IV.

 

Into The Belly Of The Beast

Squeezing into the Enola Gay’s dark bomb bay, I am reminded of my time inside that gun-turret on the USS Idaho; a dreary confining space packing immense destructive capacity.

How did becoming an ordinance expert get me into such light-lacking tight fits?

In this case, it’s the B-29’s themselves, which are to blame.

These beasts have a tendency to crash.

Four B-29’s crashed and burned on the runway last night. This makes eleven in the short week I’ve been on Tinian.

If one of those was carrying Little Boy[1] this whole island would go up worse than Port Chicago[2].

We’ll have a seven-and-a-half ton overload. We have to arm this bomb in flight, rather than on the ground to make sure we don’t blow this whole island off the face of the earth. Even as an ordnance guy I wouldn’t want to see that!

“You ever done this before, arming it in flight?” Farrell [3]asked back in the hut.

“No sir, I don’t,” I replied. “But, I’ve got all day to try it.”

“Groves doesn’t want any tinkering in flight, but I don’t see any other way.” Before he paused.

Then, Farrell resumed, “Don’t let me get in your way. Let’s have a TJC[4] meeting when you’re done.”

“Yes sir.” I replied.

I reach out to Jeppson, my 23 year-old 2nd Lieutenant assistant, to help him squeeze himself into the bomb bay next to me.

He smiles at me, then looks down at the unarmed bomb.

While Jeppson holds his flashlight to illuminate my work area, I reach out for the primer wires.

“We’re really doing this?” He asks, already knowing the answer.

“Yep, we are.” I reply, inserting the green plugs.

 “Insertion of green plugs,” I call out.

“Green plugs,” Jeppson confirms.

I slowly insert the firing trigger into the gun assembly.

“Insertion of firing trigger,” I say.

“Firing trigger.” Jeppson confirms.

We’re safe. The green plugs will prevent the closure of the arming circuit. Now the bomb cannot prematurely detonate.

Scrunching the length of my body so my arms are up near the rear of the mounted bomb, I look down at the rear plate.

“Opening rear plate.” I let out, as I unscrew it from its comfortable setting.

This takes me a few minutes, as each screw is over an inch long.

“Removing rear armor plate as well.”

Finally, this thing comes off!

The clang of thick metal echoes off of the bomb bay floor as I drop the plate.

Jeppson calls out, “Armor plate.”

I look up at him, smile, and then turn to look back at the bomb’s innards.

“Opening cannon breech. Unscrewing,” I call out as I unscrew the top of the cannon breech where I’ll insert the cordite charges.

 What a beautiful design, forcing the trigger mechanisms to require a firing primer, rather than infusing them into the trigger. Even in massive destructive power, we were able to integrate safety.

“Inserting cordite charges,” I say.

I slowly, and meticulously, insert the four cordite powder bags in line, so all of the red ends are facing the same direction.

Each of these little bags of cordite contain enough explosive to blow off my arm, and do plenty of damage to the rest of me.

“One. Two. Three. That’s four, Jeppson.”

“Cordite inserted,” Jeppson confirms.

“Reassembling.” I let out as I close the top of the cannon breech.

I insert the last plug in the breech, calling out, “Plugging breech.” 

Then, fumbling with my right hand on the floor of the bomb bay, I find the armor plate. I pick it up, bringing it back to its resting place atop the rear of the bomb.

“Replacing armor plating.” I say, in a relieved tone.

A few minutes pass during the slow reassembly. The bolts scrape as they close tight against the metal skin of the bomb.

“Little Boy is armed. I repeat, Little Boy is armed. Firing mechanism will be prepared after the insertion of the red plugs. We are current with green plugs. Green.”

We’re done. Now to do it again.

“Let’s do it again, so I can get it memorized.”

Jeppson responds, “Yes Sir, doing it again.”

Arming plugs for a Little Boy type atomic bomb on display at the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.

 

We practice arming and defusing the bomb seven times throughout the afternoon and into the night. Finally, we’re tired, hungry, and most importantly, can do it without any hesitation.

My hands simply check that green plugs are installed, remove the rear plate, insert breech wrench in breech plug, unscrew the breech plug, place it on the rubber pad, insert the four charges, lining them up so the red ends face the breech, insert the breech plug, tighten it home, connect the firing line, reattach the armor plate, reinstall the rear plate, and remove and secure the catwalk and tools.

Then, back the other way: Check that green plugs are installed, install catwalk, remove rear plate, remove armor plate, disconnect firing line, insert breech wrench, unscrew breech plug, (about 16 turns), remove, place on pad, remove charges (4 sections), place in powder can and secure, replace breech plug in breech.

I can do this in my sleep now, which is what I need to get.

“Alright, we’re done for the day,” I declare.

 

Jeppson’s tired eyes reveal he feels the same way.

 

“Let’s clean up and get some grub.” I offer.

 

Jeppson replies, “Yes, Sir.” In a tired, yet still enthusiastic voice.

 

Good kid!

 

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[1] The name given to the first functional Uranium atomic bomb. This name was based on its skinny short design as compared to the Plutonium bomb, which was large and round, called Fat Man. The original Uranium bomb was called Tin Man, as it had a similar design to Little Boy, but did not function properly for the mission assigned.

[2] Captain Parsons investigated the Port Chicago accident, determining it to be the equivalent of approximately 1500 tons of TNT.

[3] Brigadier General Thomas F. Farrell, General Lesley Groves' Deputy for Operations. Groves told Farrell “Don’t let Parsons get killed. We need him!”

[4] Tinian Joint Chiefs - an informal group made up of Captain Parsons,Rear Admiral Purnell, who represented the Military Liaison Committee, and Brigadier General Thomas F. Farrell, General Groves' Deputy for Operations. They had decision-making authority over the nuclear mission.

Stonne

“AP” I yell.

 

Krause removes an armor piercing shell from the wicker basket, handing it to Fuchs, the loader.

 

Fuchs places the AP round gently within the open breach on our Pak-36 anti-tank gun.

 

Pohl closes the breach, making the gun ready.

 

We’re dug in, and loaded, for the inevitable French counter-attack.

 

“Now we wait” I tell my men, as we scan through the town, and up the lane on the right.

 

Armor crews rush to their idling tanks, all lined up in a column up the narrow lane in the small village of Stonne.

 

Small French houses bracket each tank in the line.

 

Those could be my house. This could be Boppard, where mom is now. What if the French offensive had broken through the Sigfried Line last year, advancing all the way through Boppard? What if mom had been in a house surrounded by French tanks?

 

Damn those French tanks!

 

Just as I think about French tanks, a Char-B1 appears up the road, on the edge of this small French town.

 

The moment I notice it, it fires two shots; one from it’s 47 mm turret gun, and the other from its hull-mounted 75 mm gun.

 

He was ready!

 

Instantly the first and last tanks in the column lined up on that narrow street burst into flames.

 

Get him, Get him!

 

“Prepare to fire at that Char-B if he comes within range” I calmly tell my crew.

 

We all stare in amazement as the French tank moves forward, rapidly firing both guns at the line of German tanks.

 

The German tanks fire back, all nine left in operation are pounding the French tank with everything they can throw at it.

 

Nothing is penetrating!

 

That thing is a beast!

 

The Char-B keeps coming, knocking down tank after tank in the German column.

 

Four German tanks are burning as they are pushed aside by the oncoming French monster.

 

“In Range!” Vogt screams above the sound of more shells firing and the eruption of our compatriots flammable armored vehicles.

 

“Fire!” I scream back.

 

At this range we’re just knocking on the door.

 

“AP” I yell, starting the loading process for my AT gun all over again.

 

The French tank simply continues forward, impervious to all the steel thrown at it.

 

Krause removes an armor piercing shell from the wicker basket, handing it to Fuchs, the loader.

 

Our shell quietly disappears into the Char’s armor, with no discernible result.

 

Fuchs places the AP round gently within the open breach.

 

Pohl closes the breach, making the gun ready.

 

The French tank is closer now.

 

May this round find its way home!

 

“Fire!” I scream, yet again launching an armor piercing shell at the French Char-B.

 

Another two Panzers explode as the Char-B thrusts its way through the small town.

 

“AP” I yell, repeating the loading process.

 

The French tank continues forward so it is now only a few hundred meters away.

 

Again, the shell is absorbed in the French tank’s thick armor, with no result.

 

It’s as if that thing is swallowing our steel, then spitting it back out at our tanks as it goes.

 

Krause removes an armor piercing shell from the wicker basket, handing it to Fuchs, the loader.

 

Fuchs places the AP round gently within the open breach.

 

Pohl closes the breach, making the gun ready.

 

Our tanks rapidly fire at the onrushing French machine, but their shots are as effective as my own.

 

Another two Panzers explode.

 

How many are dying from this one French Char-B?

 

I sure hope he’s alone!

 

“AP” I yell, hoping the closing range will help my rounds penetrate.

 

Krause slowly removes an armor piercing shell from the wicker basket, as he stares at the oncoming French beast.

 

Fuchs reaches out, taking the shell from Krause.

 

Their faces are solid with fear.

 

Is my face expressing the same thing?

 

That monster is under 100 meters away, and still coming strong.

 

“Stay focused on your duty.” I remind my crew.

 

Their faces turn back to their work.

 

Fuchs places the AP round gently within the open breach.

 

Pohl sternly closes the breach, prepping the gun.

 

“Fire!” I yell just as two more Panzers blow up.

 

That’s the last of our tanks.

 

Now it’s up to us.

 

The French tank dashes toward us.

 

Our last round ricocheting off the front armor plate.

 

We’re useless against this behemoth!

 

As he closes range we should penetrate.

 

We should!

 

“AP” I scream, knowing this will be our last round before he’s on us.

 

The French tank’s machine gun opens up on us, spitting rounds all around our position.

 

This is it!

 

Krause gingerly removes an armor piercing shell from the wicker basket, while his body trembles.

 

“Krause, stay with us.”

 

A round smashes through Krause’s left leg, crumpling him just as he hands the round to Fuchs, whose face is pale white.

 

“This is our chance to knock it down, load up Fuchs!” I scream.

 

Fuchs automatically places the round in the breach, which Pohl snaps shut.

 

They are breaking!

 

“Medic! Medic!” Fuchs screams, hoping to help Krause.

 

Am I breaking?

 

“Fire!” I scream, as I stare down the on-rushing French monster.

 

“NOTHING!” I holler before realizing anything slipped out.

 

Krause is whithering in agony on the ground with Fuchs over him.

 

We’re no longer an operational unit.

 

BCHCHCHOOOOO

 

I’m blown away from my gun.

 

Darkness surrounds my small area of remaining site.

 

That Monster bit me too!

 

Looking back toward where my gun had been set-up, I see Pohl dangling over the destroyed breach.

 

I can’t see Fuchs or Krause anywhere.

 

The French tank has already turned, making its way up the small lane to our right.

 

Hopefully the other Pak-36 over there can find a way to penetrate his armor.

 

My eyes go dark.

 

My world goes quiet.

 

My mind goes still.

 

 

 

On May 16, 1940 a single French B1 bis named “Eure” and commanded by Captain Bilotte forced its way into the town of Stonne. Hotly contested, Stonne switched sides 17 times over the course of the German invasion of France. Captain Bilotte’s Eure attacked a German column from Panzer Regiment 8, destroying 2 Panzer IV and 11 Panzer III tanks, along with 2 Pack 36 anti-tank guns. After his successful assault, Captain Billotte turned around, heading back out of the village. His tank had endured 140 shell impacts, all of which failed to penetrate the thick armor of this massive beast of a machine. After the battle Bilotte was nicknamed “The Butcher of Stonne.”

 

Contrary to popular opinion, even though France eventually fell to the German onslaught, the French put up a heck of a fight with some advanced and awesomely powerful equipment. Poor communication, tactics, and strategic leadership, as well as operational plans and some good German luck led to France’s defeat. It wasn’t their ability to inflict heavy losses on the Germans which caused them to fall.

 

Today Captain Bilotte’s Eure can be seen in the center of Stonne. His name is also given to an award in the game “World of Tanks” in which the player destroys a large number of enemy vehicles quickly. Pierre Armand Gaston Bilotte went on to serve as a military attache, a division commander, the head of France’s military mission to the United Nations, and eventually Minister of National Defense.

 

 

 

 

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Threads of The War, Volume IV.