Category Archives: Unrelated Historical Ramblings

The untitled Memorial Day Article

 

Ahh memorial day. When we remember the members of our armed forces that gave their life to defend their country. That’s it, no need to be controversial today and as a vet myself I know what it feels like to lose someone close to you in battle ,but I don’t like to talk about that so we’re not going to, instead we’re going to talk about another thing close to my heart, my lungs, full of hot air and constantly inflating, deflating, actually no, one of the things I care most about is Historical Accuracy for if we are going to remember those who gave their lives I feel it’s best to remember them correctly.

So without further ado here is some more WWII Facts that are Bullshit.

 

  1. The Sherman Tank was the worst tank ever made, it had paper thin armour, caught fire every-time it was hit and was known as a Ronson Tank because it “Lights first time”.

Firstly the worst tank of the Second World War was debatably the British Valiant tank, which could not be operated without the driver injuring themselves and was pulled from trails before production could even begin, or perhaps the Churchill Ardeer Aggie ,an attempt to attach a 300mm recoilless cannon to a British Churchill tank, which could only fire once and concussed most of it’s crew in the process. Or perhaps the Ferdinand a German Tank destroyer which had a tendency to catch fire for no reason and explode when moving up inclines.

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The much criticized American Sherman Tank was actually a very good tank for the age, highly versatile, mobile and cheap both to build and repair.

It also had a secret. While other tanks made use of levers and bars to control motion and took an average of six months to train a man to drive the Sherman had a steering wheel, a pedal for breaking,a pedal for accelerating, a clutch and one simple gear level, arranged as you might find on a car. Basically if you could drive a car you could drive a Sherman.

As for mobility, the Sherman could go between mud, ground, tarmac, sand and snow without any extensive modification. It could cover terrain most other tanks could not, cross old bridges and ford streams. In comparison the German PnzIV needed extensive modification to handle the rough terrain it encountered in both Russia and in Africa. Mobility was never an issue for a Sherman tanker and while his counterpart in a Panther could boost better armour protection and a bigger gun but the Panther could only be deployed in certain area’s where they could handle the terrain, a Sherman could be deployed anywhere.

Thirdly, that gun the Sherman has gets a lot of stick. Adapted from the French 75mm ‘Canon de 75 MLE’ the Shermans main gun is often unfairly criticized for it’s lack of stopping power and it’s suitability for Infantry support, not anti-tank support. This is often blamed on people like McNair who, we are told, believed that a Tanks job was to support infantry and the job of taking out tanks should be left to the Tank Destroyers who were better equipped.

This is a quote from the American Tanker field manual “Tank vs Tank Action (cfm 1710) Attacking Tank units frequently encounter hostile tank units unexpectedly and other times may be required to attack hostile tanks deliberately“. The Americans were not so stupid as to think that just because they didn’t want to fight hostile Tanks the enemy wouldn’t bring any. While it is true that the role of the Sherman tank was envisioned as being an infantry support weapon, part of the infantry support role was taking down enemy tanks that might be supporting enemy infantry.

The 75mm gun the Sherman employed was not useless against all German tanks. Most ‘documentaries’ regarding the Sherman take their statics by firing a replica Sherman gun loaded with solid shot ammunition over a range at a solid steel plate roughly the thickness of a Tiger’s frontal armour and wet their pants with excitement when it creates nothing but a lovely dent. Solid Shot ammunition was only used very early on in the war and was almost completely phased out by the time the Sherman was being fielded.

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By 1943 the Americans had developed a very sophisticated AP round called M61 APCBC which could penetrate the frontal armour of a Tiger at about 500 meters. To put that in perspective that is a distance of two sims, or five football fields. The Tigers side armour could be penetrated from nearly twice that distance.

Fourthly let’s discuss that ‘paper thin’ armour. The Sherman is often highly criticized for having very little Armour protection while the Russian tank the T-34 is praised for having an incredible amount of protection thanks to it’s slopping armour. To people who say stuff like this I always ask “have you ever actually seen a Sherman tank?”.

The Sherman offered around 50mm (60mm for a late war M4) of frontal armour at a 45 degree angle, offering 70mm (or 80mm) of armour in relative thickness. The T34 offered about 40mm of armour at a 45 degree angle, or 65mm of relative thickness. This meant that ,though it was still nothing compared to the 100mm offered by the Tiger, the Sherman was still better protected than the T-34. In comparison the PnzIV Ausf G had 50mm (later 80mm but at the loss of it’s side armour) on a 90 degree angle giving it a relative thickness of only 55mm (or 87mm for later models of the G), the Panther supported 80mm at a 55 degree angle giving a relative thickness of 97mm. Still well within the Shermans capabilities to destroy.

This would also mean a Pnz IV Ausf G equipped with it’s 75mm KwK 40 could destroy a Sherman at 1,500m, the same distance a Sherman could destroy a PnzIV. It is a complete Myth to believe the Average German tanker enjoyed any level of superiority in equipment in compared to his American rival.

Lastly that slogan “lights first every time” Ronsan didn’t use that slogan till the 1950’s. The Shermans caught fire just as much as every other WWII Tank, not because it was magically more able to do so but because if you shoot at anything enough times it will catch fire. This was a common tactic in WWII to prevent the Tank from being recovered, repaired and used again. About 50-80% of Shermans caught fire, and the Myth was largely generated because of inexperienced American tankers leaving dirty oil rags around the interior, not because the Sherman used a petrol engine.

After the US introduced Wet Stowage boxes for their ammunition, cases of fire dropped to around 15%, for the PnzIV it remained around 80-95% for the entire war.

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2. The French were idiots in thinking the Ardennes was tank proof because of ‘Trees’ lol

Ah yes the silly Cheesy Eating surrender monkies quite literally gave up the entire war by thinking that Trees could stop a Tank and during any WWII Documentry the footage often enjoys cutting to German propaganda reels of German tanks pushing tree’s over. ha! Silly French.

What most people don’t realize is that, they were right. Firstly have you ever been to the Adrennes? Let me throw you some pictures.

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It’s miles and miles and miles of impassible rivers, jagged hills and endless forests, the tree’s themselves are packed pretty dense and some of them with trunks larger than that of the typical German tank at the time which was the Chez built Pnz 38(t). When Germany launched it’s attack on France it’s initial “flank through the Ardennes” plan, known as the Manstein Plan, 41,000 vehicles attempted to squeeze through the Ardennes region. They were given four separate routes and expected to take no less than two days. In actuality they took two weeks.

The massive traffic jam of men and equipment almost led to Hitler calling off the entire attack. The Germans consistently found themselves struggling through difficult, muddy terrain, up the side of hills, along narrow cliff edges and through centuries old overgrown forests. Their position led them to be increasingly vulnerable to French bomber attacks, which never came.

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The German Traffic Jam was spotted, first by Belgium who had correctly anticipated when and where the Germans would attack from, then by the Swiss and finally by the French, who’s spotter planes picked them up on the 11th of May. At this point a squadron of French bombers could have ended WWII right there and then, the problem was that the French Air Force was not doing so well against the Luftwaffe, it’s Bomber force had been reduced from 135 to 72 in little under a few weeks and it’s fighters in their MS.406’s found themselves outmatched by Germany’s 109’s. The French did have a fighter superior, the D.520 but these were available in too small a number.e3739d8b0fc3c7952d22a6a711d74e16

The British were more concerned about keeping the coast in Allied hands, fearing any threat to their Naval Supremacy. The Belgians didn’t have to equipment nor men to take the Germans head on, they had spent the past year carefully turning their country into a formidable fortress and had hoped to last it out. The French were preparing to fight a second First World War, it’s static army was trained to dig trenches and build defences and were unprepared for the fluid rapid attack the Germans would unleash, which combined Tank, Aircraft, Artillery and infantry moving and attacking as one.

The Germans didn’t even need to fight the French. The French army still communicated through messenger, the French commander in chief, Gen. Gamelin, did not even have a telephone in his HQ outside Paris. So the Germans outflanked the immobile French, cut off their communication and supply lines which left two massive armies unable to feed themselves, unable to communicate and under attack from every direction. Panic set in and retreat became the only option.

When the Germans finally escaped the Ardennes forests they came face to face with six platoons of the 55th Infantry Division, mostly combat engineers which had been sent to construct Pillboxes in anticipation of the German advance. These units were already heavily de-moralized and weakened after an eight hour non-stop bombardment from heavy elements of the Luftwaffe, lacking AA support in response. In Spite of this for three days the French held, fighting off three German Panzer Divisions including the elite Großdeutschland infantry regiment.

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Eventually crippling moral, a break down of communications and a false rumour that German tanks had already flanked their position and were attacking Artillery units behind them finally caused the French to break down and retreat. Fearing the worst General Gaston-Henri Billotte, commander of the 1st Army Group demanded every remaining Allied bomber attack the bridges on the Sedan river in an attempt to delay the Germans long enough to organise a counter-attack. This plan failed and the French lost a further half of it’s remaining bombers.

In conclusion of this it would be unfair to claim the French immediately surrendered. The French lost 217,000 men with a further 400,000 wounded in combat. Compare that to America’s loss of 416,000 dead during four years of war in the Pacific and Europe. Germany lost 46,000 men with a further 121,000 wounded. The Luftwaffe had lost over 1,000 of it’s planes and it’s Panzer divisions were now short of 800 tanks. The losses in irreplaceable men and equipment had been staggering, 36% of Germany’s fighting force had been lost and while Hitler applauded the “acceptable” loss of men ,having expected to lose almost a Million men, it was the loss of equipment that had dealt the killing blow.

With such a high loss of equipment operation Sea-lion, the invasion of Britain, could never truly take place. It’s armies attacked Russia vastly under strength and it’s policing force had been severely depleted, leading to numerous resistance forces none of which would ever be fully supressed.

German Economy, which had been preparing for a war of attrition, could not replace it’s loses fast enough and would eventually collapse under the strain. While the French leaders ultimately were to blame for the loss of the Battle of France, becoming struck down with a case of hopelessness and forcing France to Surrender rather than fight on. What France achieved was the beginning of the end for Germany.

The French continued to Fight on, giving way to the single greatest gorilla resistance movement even seen without which the D-day landings could not have been possible, or certainly not as successful.

 

3. Germany Was Superior, specially in 1940

Sticking with the battle of France let us examine the state of the German army of 1940. If you went back in time you would supposedly be looking at one of the most modern armies of the age. Fully Mechanised in preparation for Blitzkreig, with superior weapons, equipment, tanks and Aircraft.

Or was it?

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Sub – German troops marching through occupied Warsaw during World War Two, Poland, circa 1939. 

One of the most persistent Myths regarding WWII has always been the superiority in both numbers and quality of German equipment, mostly Tanks.

The sheer of the complexity of the Second World War and the impressive scale of Germany’s victories requires, in the average mind, a simplistic answer. Superior numbers, training and technology undoubtedly satisfies that requirement and while public opinion regularly views the German Army of WWII as a High-Tech modern army using advanced new technologies invented in Germany this is nothing but a testament to the continuing effectiveness of Nazi propaganda, captured by German Film makers over 70 years ago.

Surprising as this may sound at the start of the war the most modern Army was France and the most mechanised was the British. 50% of the French army equipment was under 30 years old while 25% of the British army was Mechanised. This may not seem much but in comparison only 10% of the Germany army ,at the time, was mechanised. Around about 45% of it’s forces were using equipment over 40 years old and half it’s infantry had only two weeks training.

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Hitler’s Elites the SS and the German Paratroop Fallschirmjäger divisions were the only division to be fully supplied with new equipment but even they were supplemented by second rate divisions and horse drawn Artillery. This would never changed and General Rommel’s Afrika Korp would be the only German Army to become completely mechanised, without use of horse drawn carts or bicycles and this was entirely through necessity.

Granted as the war progressed the German Army became increasingly more Mechanised yet at the height of it’s power, 1942, the German army only really ever achieved roughly 26% Mechanisation. It’s economy, still recovering from France, simply couldn’t cope with the production of new and replacement vehicles at the ever increasing rate which Hitler demanded.

Not even German Tanks, famous for being superior to their allied counterparts, were actually superior in anyway. Firstly it is wrong to assume that Allied tanks were inferior to Germany’s because they had been designed with the idea of Infantry support and not to take on other tanks whereas all German tanks were designed to fill Anti-Tank roles. As I stated earlier in the discussion regarding the Sherman the role of Infantry Support includes dealing with other tanks, otherwise all allied Tanks would have been fitted with Howitzers as opposed to AT guns.

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While early war Nations, most notably the British, commonly accepted this required two types of Tanks, a small fast moving Tank to exploit breakthroughs and a large, heavily armoured tank to support and move with infantry. The German’s believed in exactly the same. Out of all 2,500 German tanks to enter France only 348 were the Panzer III, the only tank Germany had constructed to purposefully deal with other tanks, the StuG was a dedicated Infantry support filling a Mobile Artillery role and the Panzer IV was multi-rolled. Even then the Panzer III had only been equipped with the 37mm Pak 36. A gun outdated and outclassed by almost every other Tank gun on the Allied side and already christened as the “Armies Door Knocker” by German troops as it couldn’t penetrate the armour of the heavier French tanks being encountered all along the Western front.

Eventually these tanks would be up-gunned and upgraded but, in contradiction to popular opinion, would never match the level of technical superiority posed by the allied ‘inferior’ tanks. As the understanding of a Tanks role on the battlefield began to shift, both the British, the Americans ,and to a lesser extent the Russians, placed heavily emphasis on the development of a Multi-rolled Medium Tank that could support infantry, carry out breakthrough attacks as well as engage armour.

Post-war trails done by the Americans and the Russians found that German Tanks had only been superficially Superior, while having bigger guns and thicker armour than most Allied vehicles all ,save for the Panther, were still based on their original late 1930’s concepts with additional upgrades hastily bolted on. Lack of refinement had left most German tanks, most notably the Panzer IV a Frankenstein’s monster which limited their effectiveness as opposed to the Sherman which went through several major re-designs in it’s lifetime.

 

4. The Amusing tail of the Breda Ba.88 “Lynx” the most beautiful and useless plane of the war.

While not exactly a Myth I am always surprised at just how few people know about this Aircraft.

Mussolini hailed the Lynx as a triumph of Italian air design, the sleek black all metal shoulder-wing twin engined monoplane was a heavy advancement in aero-technology compared to what else had been achieved in the 1930’s. It was beautiful, stunning almost and when it took off on it’s maiden flight in October 1936  it proved itself a lot more than just a pretty face.

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By the following year it has smashed two world Speed-over-distance records, averaging 321.25 mph over a 62 mile distance and by December of the same year it has raised these speeds to 350 mph.

However, when military equipment began to be placed on the aircraft numerous problems began to raise.

In 1940 during Italy’s raids on southern France two groups with 12 BA.88’s began strafing runs on the French Airfield of Corsica. They found the aircraft lacked power and the addition of the bombs and machine guns slowed the aircraft down and caused it to steer like a brick.

However with no real air resistance the raids took no losses and the Ba.88 was pushed into service in Africa. During the initial stages of the assaults on British positions two of the three aircraft couldn’t take-off, the third couldn’t turn and had to move in a straight line until it found another airfield to land at. When these issues were fixed it was found the sand filters fitted to the engines caused them to overheat, slowing the craft down to nearly half it’s top speed and forcing it to remain low some only achieving a pathetic flying height of 150m while others couldn’t take-off even with half the weapons, all the bombs and most of the fuel stripped out.

After this the Aircraft were stripped of all useful components and left scattered around Airfields as Decoy aircraft.

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A sad, sad end to one of the war’s most powerful and beautiful aircraft.

In late 1942 the Agusta plant identified it’s main issues. The Frame was too heavy and the engines were underpowered and unreliable. Extensive modification on three aircraft was undertaken with new engines being fitted, the wingspan increased by a further two meters and the addition of Dive brakes. These aircraft never saw service, being ready only after the Italian armistice in 1943. They were handed over to the Luftwaffe for evaluation and promptly disappeared.

 

So that’s all I have right now. I’d say have a happy Memorial day but that always seems a little distasteful to me. So have a good day, enjoy spending time with those you love, don’t light any fireworks, if you know someone who is alone go check on them, invite them to the BBQ, there might be a reason they are so isolated and bitter. Always remember to wash your butt and try to remember that war is a vast and complicated thing, just because someone claims all war is pointless doesn’t mean those who died sacrificed their lives for nothing, but that is an argument for a different day.

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Why we have Terrorists: Explaining it like you are Five years Old

On the Night of Friday the 13th I was out drinking with friends, I’d been hanging out in a bubble filled with drink, music, terrible attempts at flirtation and arguments regarding the ability for people in High heels to run away from a T-Rex. Or as the rest of the world may know it, Table Top gaming in the world of Bolt Action, a 28mm chess-like replica of World War Two.

After staggering home I flipped on the TV fully prepared to doze off into casual slumber, but for that night as the details of the Terrorist attacks in France began to emerge I spent the entire night more Angry than I’ve ever felt in my life. Not at the people who did the attacks, but at stupid Americans who poured from the woodwork screaming “Nuke the Terrorists!”. It seems that since 2001 when the Twin Towers were destroyed in one of the most devastating attacks of terror ever known; the world has learned nothing.

The exact reason we have terrorists and why they do what they do is such a vastly complicated and exceedingly long explanation that the average mind cannot comprehend it, either through lack of understanding or lack of patience to hear the full explanation. The Average person needs a simplistic answer and when the average person looks at Terrorists they inevitably see, not brain washed angry youths, but Muslims. Muslims attack us, they are evil, they live in the Middle East ergo the Average Joe’s reaction is to nuke the Middle East, invade with the full might of the US’s impressive Military and make those Muslim terrorists see fear like they have never understood before.

Of course when you lump all Muslims into the same “terrorist” category you inevitable end up with a lot of innocent people in the same barrel, rather like assuming all Americans are Christians and therefore members of the KKK. In doing so you give average Muslims, who suffer from the same lack of hindsight as their American counterparts, a reason to hate Americans and western values and thus, create terrorists.

let me explain it to you:

In 2001 a terribly tragedy happened in New York. A Terrorist group called Al-Qaeda were to blame, links were made to Governments in the Middle East and calls to “nuke them Arabs” were heard all over America. so in 2003 America did just exactly that, Iraq was chosen as the Target thanks to a successful lobbing campaign directed from Saudi Arabia and the US and it’s allies Invaded.

At the time a Man called Saddam Hussein, a brutal dictator, ruled the country. He was part of the Sunni Minority of Muslims who oppressed the Shia majority. Iraq was conquered fairly quickly, but the US had no plan for the country. The until-then suppressed Shia majority took over and began to suppress the remaining Sunni population as revenge for several hundred years of complicated, bloody history.

Unsurprisingly a Sunni uprising began, terrorist forces such as Al-Qaeda trickled into Iraq attracting former Sunni’s into their ranks and local forces, often former Sunni Military, beginning a series of attacks against Occupying US forces and and newly formed Iraqi state peeking in a mass civil war in 2006. Since then people in Iraq have been basically separated by religion. So in a ironic twist of tragedy, the US invasion of Iraq lead to the foundation of the very terrorists the US had invaded to eliminate in the first place because Iraq was now the perfect training ground for terrorism.

To understand this complicated conflict better, we need to understand the relationship between the two main branches of the Muslim faith: Shia and Sunni Islam.

Sunni’s make up about 80% of the Muslim population and Shia’s about 20% and the hard-liners on both sides don’t like each other very much. Saudi Arabia and Iran are the two most powerful players in the Game of Faiths, they both have no separation of state and religion, Domestic Problems and a lot of Oil money and they use this money to support groups that fight the other religious orientations.

One of the Terrorist organisations supported by the Sunni’s and Saudi-Arabia was the Islamic State or ISI.

In 2010 the Arab Spring happened and changed the whole situation in the Middle East. In Syria, dictator Bashar al-Assad didn’t think much of resigning and started a gruesome civil war against his own people, the longer this went on the more groups joined the fight, mostly for religious reasons and with the goal of building an Islamic state in the region based on their idea of the perfect Muslim world i.e Sunni or Shia, and one of them was the now infamous ISI which became the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or ISIS. They had fought in Iraq for years and had thousands of well trained and fanatic soldiers, they already controlled parts of Northern Iraq and were very determined to build their religious state.

When they turned their attention to Syria it changed the game like no-one had ever expected. ISIS was so unbelievably violent and radical that soon it was at war with almost every other faction in Syria. They attacked and killed other Muslim terrorists groups and in the territories they controlled they built an “Islamic State” with rules so strict that even the hard-liners of Al-Qaeda and Saudi-Arabia were shocked and withdrew their support.

ISIS has been accused of multiple atrocities including multiple massacres of children, civilians, countless suicide bombings, hostage taking of woman and children and their consequent execution via live beheading. Recently they have decided it was time to take more territory in Iraq.

Since the US left Iraq  the Shia Prim Minister, Nouri al-Malild has monopolised power and discriminated against Sunni’s wherever possible. The Government of Iraq is widely regarded as being corrupt, incapable and is hated by a large part of it’s population. The Iraq army, consisting of about 300,000 soldiers was created using $25 Billion of US tax money but it is not loyal to it’s government and has been giving up or disbanding city after city as ISIS advances because ISIS has announced that everyone who opposed them will be killed, they have proven they mean business.

By June 2014 they’d conquered a big chunk of Iraq, including Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. They’d stolen hundreds of millions from captured banks making them the richest terrorists organisation in the world currently and they are constantly working on establishing a super-medieval religious state.

Iran and the US are even considering work together to stop them. That’s just how gruesome ISIS are.

The Iraq situation shows that exploiting people you’ve defeated in a war, denying them power and a stake in the rebuilding of their country is just sowing the seeds for the next group of violent dick heads to try and seize power. Somehow we have to breaks this cycle as invading Iraq again, or another Middle Eastern country without a plan of action to re-build the country after the war has been won would simply create more terrorists and lead to an even larger crises than we already have.

This is however exactly what the terrorists want, to force the US to come crashing down in another ill-thought out Military intervention acting as the “World Police” and creating more hostility towards the US and in due process, more terrorists or people willing to support terrorists. So when you stand there and wave an American flag demanding the Nuclear annihilation of the Middle East or the rampant extermination of Muslims, you are basically supporting the Terrorists and giving them what they want.

 

Things that people think are true that are in fact Nonsense

When I was younger and taking my first baby steps into the world of Modern History I always imagined myself visiting Museums, old dusty Archives, rustling through piles of ancient documents and squelching through fields with a metal detector, I was perhaps even nieve enough to imagine I might one day get a job working in an archive, perhaps a Museum or I might dive headfirst so far into the History Knowledge hole I would ascend to the greatest of all Historian Jobs, being a Guest Star on Channel 4’s Time Team.

I never would have imagined that most of my life from that point on would involve sitting with my face buried into my hands while yet another tea drinking beardy man in a Cardigan tells me the fascinating story of how the Russians Strapped landmines to dogs and how ironic it was that the dogs immediately turned round and blew up the Russian Tanks. Oh how I laughed, the first 40 odd times.

It didn’t do to well for my character I must admit, I became somewhat loathing of my friends everytime they would mention to someone that I was into History. I would look over with a mixture of Fear, loathing and pure hatred and sure enough, there was the casual nod and that slow smile spreading across their face as they began “Well did you know….” and like the silly polite British person I was I would sit there and listen patently pretending this was the first time I’d heard the story.

It wasn’t always the Landmine dogs. Sometimes they would mix it up, I kept a tally. Sometimes it would be the American Pigeon Bomb, other times it was the Fritz X or the Incendiary Bat Bomb, a few times it was the Horton Ho 229 and ,on more occasions that I would like, a lecture on the Nazi Space exploration and the possibility that Germany could have launched a rocket to the moon in 1945 or had built a working UFO using advanced technology that even we ,70 years later, cannot replicate.

In short, every idiot with a collection of books thinks they are a Historian, every dumb ass who’s played Total War or any WW2 Shooter immediately thinks they know something and the second they learn you’re a Historical Enthusiast they just can’t wait to share what they’ve learned with you.

So with that in mind I’d like to present a list of just a few things everyone thinks is Factual that is actually compete bullshit. Enjoy.

1. Thomas Edison invented Electricity.

Because America likes to think it rules the world and invented everything I get this splashed a lot in my face, specially as a die hard Nicol Tesla fanboy, the great and powerful Thomas Edison, true American, who invented everything including Electricity to which without we would have nothing. heck even if you type “who invented electricity” into Google Thomas Edison just appears in giant bold letters as the first result, and as amazing as this would seem, it’s a lie.

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Electricity cannot be invented, it already existed so it could only be discovered, a few like to point to Benjamin Franklin for his Kite experiment, but all he did was prove that lightning was made from Electricity and there is significant doubt if or not he actually did the experiment being that anyone who has attempted to re-create his experiment has found old Benjy would have been immediately killed if lightning had actually struck his kite.

Electricity was known to the Ancient Greeks around 600 BCE, about 2,400 years ago, who were able to generate static electricity by rubbing Amber against animal fur, ontop of that since the 1930’s scientists have been digging up clay pots with sheets of copper inside that work somewhat like Batteries, these have been found in Ancient Roman Cities as well as ruins of the former Persian Empire as well as several Egyptian ruins. These batteries were most likely used in place of “electric fish” such as the lamprey eel which was used in Ancient Egypt as a pain relief or as a very early defibrillator. The Romans also potentially could have invented a short use Lightbulb due to several Roman legionnaires accounts of “Pots of Zues’s Fire which lit the way” though there is no evidence to their existence.

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By the time Edison was born; electrical generators, as well as the discovery of AC/DC current, had been known about for at least 100 years.He didn’t even invent the lightbulb a British chap named Joseph Swan invented it in 1850, Edison wouldn’t start working on his version until 1878, granted Edison’s was greatly improved over Swan’s the two sent lawyers at each other and eventually decided to go into business together to avoid the costly expense of suing each other.

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2. People only use 10% of their Brains.

ahhh and if only we could tap into that other 90% we could all be super geniuses able to remember Pi to it’s 200th decimal point, do complex Math and problem solve faster than modern computers. Bullshit.

Despite it being the plot of several films including the classic Sci-Fi Flight of the Navigator, the hundreds of self-help books and Hippie-cult frauds and it even being a question in Trivial Pursuit the whole thing is utter nonsense.

134742 Humans use all of their brains, but for different things at different times mostly unconscious thought like maintaining your Heart beat, your sense of balance and remembering to Breath and various other body controlling functions that you’re probably quite happy not to have to deal with, imagine living in a world where you had to constantly remind your Liver what it was supposed to be doing.

The 10% is supposedly conscious thought, actually it’s more like 30%, possibly higher, Mythbusters even did a show on this where they proved that humans use at least 15% of their brain while asleep, thus blowing the whole 10% bullshit out of the water. The Myth has been traced back to a few people; mostly various intellects from History such as Albert Einstein who always quirked that the rest of Humanity wasn’t using as much of their brain as he was.

There is a way to fully stimulate your brain and use all 100% of it, it’s called having a Seizure.

3. Einstein was a Mathematical Idiot at School


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Let’s just admit it right now, Maths is insane, it’s complicated and can reduce even the strongest willed of men to tears, unless you’re some kind of genius of course and that genius could be you? After all, Albert Einstein was a true Genius of our time and he sucked at maths at school, he was so bad he thought Maths was something you could eat, his teacher commented that he would never amount to anything great in life. Boy didn’t he prove him wrong.

My School had these little feel good info sheets at the start of every text book, I guess it was there to make you feel better when you failed at something, good thing no-one paid attention to it because as I’m sure you’ve already guessed, it’s nonsense.

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Einstein was a Mathematical prodigy, by the age of 12, Einstein was already self-teaching himself geometry and algebra. His parents subsequently bought him textbooks and, in one summer, he mastered both subjects, while coming up with his own proofs to prove the various mathematical theories he was studying, including his own way to prove the Pythagorean Theorem. by 13 he was learning calculus putting him about three years ahead of his classmates who were only just qualifying to learn that calculus was actually a thing.

No-one is quite sure how this rumor started or why people still cling to as a gospel but it first showed up in 1955 at a Ripley’s Believe it or not Convention. Einstein was still alive at the time and upon learning of their mistake he laughed so hard he never bothered to correct them.

4. Micheal Wittman was the greatest Tank commander of WWII

To which most of the people mentioned above smile slowly and put their hands on their hips and state with authority “of course not, it was Kurt Knispel right?” to which I slowly sigh and facepalm, not the point.

US General George Patton, Simo Häyhä the “White Death”, Vasily Zaytsev and his German counterpart Major Erwin Koing, Micheal Wittman, the entire Soviet “Elite” regiments from Siberia. As people all existed (aside from Koing) but as Legends they quite simply, don’t exist.

People always get very confused and a little butthurt at this one so I’ll explain them all one at a time.

-Patton:

There are three things that urk me about the film “Patton” firstly it’s suggestion that the failure of the US forces in the first active engagement of WWII (aside from the often forgotten exploits of Big Red One) at the Kasserine  Pass was due to US Soldiers being under the command of British Generals[1], the idea that the Germans laughed at the idea of facing British troops but cowered behind their bunkers when they learned the Americans were on the way [2] and lastly is the overall portrayal of Patton himself.patton

Patton is ,and probably always will be, the man who led America to victory, using overwhelming firepower and dramatic tank charges to his advantage he ignored direct orders to hold position and instead orchestrated his own American-Brand Blitzkreig on the Germans, constantly thwarting them at each turn and terrifying the legendary Erwin Rommel.

A shame none of it is actually true. Patton was hated by his underlings and by his troops and while Patton did ‘shake up’ the demoralized US II Corps his actions placed considerable strain on the men, who would arrive on the battlefield exhausted, under equipped and running low on supplies while completely unable to retreat nor re-supply due to Pattons love of out-running his own supply lines and ending up miles behind enemy lines.

Thankfully his Adversary, a rather handsome chap by the name of  Hermann Balck Hermann Balck(not Rommel as the film claims) was given command of the German 1st army to which he described in a letter he wrote to von Rundstedt, “I have never been in command of such irregularly assembled and ill-equipped troops.” talking about the reserves of men considered too old, injured or insane to fight which was filling up his ranks as well as the badly maintained and often cheaply mass produced equipment they were supplied with. Balck never knew the name of his American counter-part, in fact it wasn’t until a report in 1945 did the Germans actually address Patton by name, even when talking about fighting Patton Balck stated his ability to slow the enemy advance had little to do with him or the troops he had been supplied “The fact that we have been able to straighten out the situation again and release the 3rd Panzergrenadier Division for the Northern front can only be attributed to the bad and hesitating command of the Americans and the French…” Later he said “Within my zone, the Americans never once exploited a success. They are constantly forced to stop to wait for their trucks to catch up. They seem to spend more time looting than fighting and are quick to retreat when challenged.” There was no “Patton Panic” in the German Army, they had already considered the British as the bigger threat and units facing the Americans were often undervalued and had to make do with what little could be spared.

So while the Legend of Patton is more a myth created by Propaganda, it is however a very clever one almost entirely orchestrated by the man himself. Consider yourself a US Citizen living in 1940’s America when the Balloon goes up, how do you feel about your friends and family being rushed off to another continent, to fight a war for a former enemy against a country who’s idea’s you actually agree with[3] while every day the newspapers bring yet more horror and casualty reports. Most Americans were confused as to why they had to be involved in this war while Japan loomed over them, they considered the European theater to be a largely British Show and were none to in favor of sending people off to die for those slimy Red Coats.

What the Americans needed was a Hero and Patton gave them just that. A brave, smart looking, bad ass tank commander who led from the front, who gave outrageous speeches, who swore and who didn’t listen to the British “superiors”. The propaganda reels loved him and his image of smart looking professional american soldiers, it gave the Americans hope both at home and in the US Army, it made them feel like they were actually part of the war and fully capable of kicking some ass as opposed to just “helping out the limeys”.

And THAT is Patton’s true Legend

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Simo Häyhä the “White Death”:

A legendary Finnish sniper who upon hearing of the war with Russia, left his farm, grabbed his trusty rifle and headed out into the woods. Using nothing but a bolt action rifle with ironsights Simo dispatched over 500 Soviet troops single handed, creating one of the biggest man hunts of the War as thousands of Soviet troops were committed to flushing him out, going as far as even setting the forest on fire, but they never found him.

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One at this point may question the thought process going through a Soviet Generals mind when he commits thousands of troops to take down a lone sniper hiding out in a forest that apparently has no tactical advantage. Several facts are also omitted in the official story such as when did Simo start doing this, was it during the Finnish/Russian Winterwar or actually during the Second World war, what did Simo do between wars and did he turn around and start shooting Germans when Finland switched sides?

Supposedly he was only active during the winter war, finally getting hit in the face by a Soviet Explosive Bullet and only regaining conciousness once peace was declared, apparently doing nothing else despite Finland being at War with Russia almost a year later. Several other details are often omitted from the official story including exactly where Simo’s forest was however great detail is gone into the tactics he used and specifically the gun he carried.SimoHayha

On the opposing side the Russians do have numerous reports regarding Finnish Snipers and the problem they faced, but no one sniper is singled out and the only mention made of forests being set on fire is to act as a smoke screen to prevent Finnish snipers from harassing their troop movements. The locations given by the Soviets for these notorious sniper spots would require Simo to be in several places at once, often hundreds of miles apart.

While Simo “may” have certainly been an elite sniper his actual “kill count” is most likely a total fabrication created by attributing the credits of other snipers to Simo, much like our second famous sniper duo.

Vasily Zaytsev and Major Erwin Koing:

The Film enemy at the gates “historically” portrays the famous sniper duel between Vasily at Koing in the ruins of Stalingrad. The story goes that Vasily “the greatest sniper of all time” was causing so many problems for the Germans that they wouldn’t leave their trenches for fear of being snipped by him and was forced to deploy their own Sniper Elite, one Majoy Koing to route him out. The two came to blows in the ruins of an old shoe factory with Vasily pulling off a close victory when Koing mistook one of Vasily’s spotters for Vasily himself and popped his head up to confirm the kill.

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Course as I suppose you’ve worked out by now this sniper duel never happened. The only record of this duel is a book Vasily wrote himself which has been looked over by a number of Historians as well as a number of Army Sniper vets who happily pointed out hundreds of tiny mistakes that show if Vasily even was a sniper, he was not a very good one.

There are no records of any Major Konig nor the sniper school he supposedly ran, plus the German Heer did not operate snipers as lone wolf units until well after Vasily’s supposed duel plus the German’s never considered any sniper as “elite” status nor was any Specific sniper priority shipped to Stalingrad.erwin-konig

Vasily himself may also be a bit of a show boater, during his exploits he claims hundreds of kills but mentions few other snipers other than his small group, his diaries are also full of inaccuracies not only regarding his local knowledge of Stalingrad but also simple things such as his claim he would operate mainly at Dusk as the sun was setting, in Stalingrad the German lines faced East, meaning if he was looking down at them the sun would be in his eyes.

Russia was exceptionally aggressive with their Snipers and deployed far more of them than any other faction of the war especially in Stalingrad where ,at one time, there was close to 300 Snipers operating, most of them untrained and unsupported, moving as lone wolves and scavenging food wherever they could.

Vasily is more likley the creation of Propaganda, the Soviet Unions desperate for People’s Hero’s to disguise the true reality of war. To them he was more than a sniper. He was a symbol of hope to the Russians. In a time when millions were being thrown to slaughter, he showed them that each and every man can make a huge difference on his own, and that each fighter had his value to the motherland.
If or not he actually did what he claimed remains a topic of debate.

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Micheal Wittman: 

In 1944 the British Armed forces land at Sword beach and Assaulted the City of Caen, after weeks of heavy fighting the British realize the “day one” objective is going to be a harder nut to crack than first anticipated. To try and make the job easier for themselves the 7th Armoured, equipped with their new Cromwell Tanks, flanks the city of Cean. However as they pause in the village of Villers-bocage they come face to face with Tank Ace Micheal Wittman. Armed in his own superior Tiger Tank he single handed defeated the British and secured himself a place among the Tank legends of History.

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Or did he….

Quick, think of something else Wittman did to earn his Ace title…..

Exactly

People get so caught up in the romanticism of this Myth they fail to notice the obvious holes every time the story is told. Wittman supposedly spots the British from a Hill, coming towards him and entering the Village, he immediately starts up his Tiger and ambushes a Convoy leaving the Village before hurtling into town. Now question yourself, if this is true, that convoy is loaded up with Ammunition and food supplies, it’s leaving town and going…where? If what Wittman claims is true it’s heading towards the German front lines with only two light tanks supporting it, secondly A massive Tiger Tank hurtles down a ancient French village street, destroys three Tanks, gets taken out by an AT gun hiding in a Shop and the British…run away.

The Legendary 7th Army who suffered thousands of losses in Both Africa and Italy ran away after the loss of three tanks? Really?

Buckle in Ladies, because the popular version of this story is quite simply the biggest horde of bullshit ever conceived.

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Firstly it was not the Famous 7th Army Wittman faced but the 4th, secondly Wittman was not alone, he had around three other Tiger Tanks and Several Panzer IV’s. He planned his attack to come down on the southern end of the town, opposite where the British were preparing defences, a pretty sensible flank attack on Wittman’s part. His approach was heard by the convoy[4] and the escorting Light Tanks moved to engaged Wittman in a tactic called “buttoning”[5] unfortunately for them Wittman was not alone and the Lights were quickly dispatched. Hearing the sounds of gunfire several other Tanks start their engines, the main Vanguard of the British forces had already left and were probing the road ahead, what was left was reserve forces, tanks under repair or with injured crew.

What was available set off around the village, not thinking the Tigers would attempt to push through, but they did. In ignorance of everything learnt in Stalingrad Wittman drove his tanks into the Village. His tanks made good progress, taking the British off guard, but even as they outclassed almost anything the Brits had; the range made them vulnerable, within the first few minutes Wittman’s group had already lost a Tiger and a Panzer IV, as Wittman stormed down the main street he passed a British Tank crew sitting down to breakfast, quickly they mounted up and drove after him.

Wittman came across another British Medium but was able to take it down, as he emerged in-front of a bridge crossing into the north side of town he came face to face with a British heavy tank called a Churchill, the two opened fire but couldn’t damage one another. In a desperate gargle to his driver the Churchill commander ordered “reverse” but for some reason the Driver miss heard and the Churchill surged forward. Fearing that the Heavy was moving closer into range Wittman reversed and turned, just in time for the Second British Medium, known as a Cromwell Tank, to come into range.

Villers-Bocage, zerstörter Cromwell-Panzer

Image showing the Second Cromwell, the plate where the round hit has buckled and the tank appears to have caught fire.

The Cromwell was already loaded and managed to fire off two shots, putting a small gash along Wittman’s Turret, but not enough to penetrate. Wittman returned fire, the shot smacked the Cromwells frontal armour, bounced and sent the round through the main drive wheel. The force of the impact span the Cromwell around blocking off the street. Wittman held fire and allowed the Crew to bail unharmed but it cost him time, even more so when he now had to drive around the immobile Cromwell. By this time the other British forces in the area have been alerted, a small group who had witnessed the Cromwell shoot out grabbed their Six Pounder AT gun and hid in a shop, preparing to ambush Wittman as he drove passed. Wittman passed the tank and hurtled back down the street, as he passed the shop the hidden gun opened fire, penetrating the side armour and ripping off several drive wheels, as well as the tracks. Wittman and his crew were able to escape the Immobile Tiger and make an ,admirably heroic, escape back to the German front lines.

Villers-Bocage, zerstörte Panzer VI und IV

The Second Tiger, you can make out a PnzIV in the background next to a Sherman. The Sherman appears to have rammed the Panzer.

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Wittman’s Tiger, you can see the damage caused by the earlier Cromwell, the rear drive wheel is missing, presumably this is where the six pounder hit. The Third Tiger can be seen in the background.

The British, now aware their sneak flank attack had been rumbled and that the Germans would be preparing defences ahead of them, pulled back, the Germans arrived the next day to re-take the village the the Micheal Wittman Myth was born.

While it was not the heroic charge often described it was impressive that a group of Tanks acting on impulse was able to exploit a major weakness in British battle planning and this battle did go onto become a focal point for the re-structuring how the Brits planned their Tank defences.

So why does this Myth exist, like everything else it’s a work of pure Propaganda, but not one aimed at the Allies, while the Germans took every opportunity to promote the idea their tanks were superior[6] the Myth of Wittman was in truth an answer to the growing number of Tank Aces emerging from the Wehrmacht. The SS was supposed to represent the very elite of the German fighting machine, the idea that the regular German Army outperformed them was too embarrassing so it became common to artificially create “Tank Aces” by attributing the kills of the entire squad to one individual or by inflating kill scores by counting Trucks and AT guns as ‘Tank’ kills.

Regardless a total of twenty seven vehicles were destroyed that day including six Cromwells, one Sherman Firefly and three Stuarts, alternate theories to the stories include the first tiger to be knocked out in the attack was actually Wittman’s Tiger and to avoid embarrassment they claimed he had been commanding the second Tiger. Regardless if you believe or not, I think I’ve ranted enough about this topic.

The Soviet “Elite” regiments from Siberia:

Ahh Siberia, a cold harsh desert of endless winter where temperatures rarely rise above freezing, a place where only the hardest, most brave, most manly of men live. here is a picture of this harsh, desolate Russian region.

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Terrifying.

According to current historical wisdom, large numbers of veteran and well equipped Siberian divisions, and of course they are elite because they come from Siberia, were deployed protecting Russia’s eastern borders against a possible attack by Japan. They were then apparently transferred west sometime in 1941 just in time to have a decisive influence on the battle for Moscow and later Stalingrad. According to the same historical wisdom these divisions were released from October to November 1941, after Stalin had learned from his spy network in Japan, run by Richard Sorge, that the Japanese had no intention of attacking the USSR. Apparently by November 1941 these same Siberian divisions were being encountered all along the front protecting Moscow.

The following quote typifies the current common perception,

“The Siberians are coming! It was a cry that spread terror through the ranks of the German Wehrmacht in the winter of 1941. Since June 22, the Red Army had lost millions of dead, wounded and captured soldiers, while the Wehrmacht had advanced to the very gates of Moscow itself. Now, however, new armies seemed to be springing out of the Russian soil as if by magic as the Germans prepared their final thrust toward the Soviet capital. The ever distrustful Josef Stalin had primarily put his faith in the word of one man (Richard Sorge), and had ordered division after division of his armies in the Far East to be transported as quickly as possible to the west to blunt the German advance”.

Did this really happen?

Short answer…….no.

The the 91st, 119th, 166th, 107th, 133rd and 178th Rifle Divisions attached to the 24th army were the only units coming from Siberia, these units were already in transit before Operation Barbarosa had began. The 91st and the 166th had been completely wiped out before the Germans had even reached Moscow and the remaining divisions were mere skeletons of their former selves. Of the divisions actually sent to Moscow (the 32nd, 93rd, 78th and 238th Rifle Divisions) only two had significant personal from Siberia.

So where exactly were these “Siberian units being encountered all across the Eastern front”? For this to even be remotely true there would have had to have been at least 20 units of rifles, not two.

Truth is it was the vast hordes of freshly recruited units from all across Russia, quickly conscripted then rushed to the front as a sheer weight of personnel, eventually halted the German advance, stagnating it until it was eventually overrun. The term ‘Siberian’ as well as ‘Guards’ or ‘Elite’ was often applied to newly formed regiments as a way of boosting moral and was rarely an indication of combat proficiency.

Oh Boy that was a lot of ranting, I did plan to do a lot of these but I think I’ve rambled enough for now.

[1]In fact the US soldiers were extremely grateful for the experience passed to them by the more experienced British troops, so much so a British Field manual titled ‘how to be bombed’ showing troops how to prepare for and survive Artillery and Air bombardments was mandatory reading for US soldiers.

[2] Actually it was the other way round, the Germans considered Britain to be the bigger threat hence why British troops faced against 21 Panzer divisions while the Americans only faced 3

[3] Before the horrors of the Holocaust was discovered the Nazi Ideology enjoyed a great deal of support in the US

[4] If you’ve ever heard a Tiger Tank overturn it’s engine you’ll understand

[5] rapidly shooting with MG fire at the Tanks viewports and sights in order to blind it

[6] Note the famous propaganda video showing the performance of the Panther vs the M3Lee, rumour has it the Germans tried it first with a Sherman but were dumbstruck when the Sherman outperformed the Panther.

td;dr Thomas Eddison didn’t invent Electricity