View the H-War Discussion Logs by month
View the Prior Message in H-War's February 2010 logs by: [date] [author] [thread]
View the Next Message in H-War's February 2010 logs by: [date] [author] [thread]
Visit the H-War home page.
1. DAVID BARRETT <firstname.lastname@example.org> 2. Palle Rasmussen <palle.rasmussen@GMAIL.COM> 3. daniel spector <email@example.com> 4. James Ward <firstname.lastname@example.org> 5. Steve Zaloga <email@example.com> 6. Robert <firstname.lastname@example.org> 7. Charles Krohn <clex@MSN.COM> -----Message from: DAVID BARRETT <email@example.com>----- The U.S. certainly did make far more use of flame-throwers against the Japanese than it did against the Germans. However, I don't think this had anything to do with racism. I believe it had everything to do with the type of environment (islands) the combatants fought over and the Japanese willingness to die to nearly the last man in every battle. Throughout the War in the Pacific the battlefields were far more confined than what our forces encountered in North Africa and Europe (with rare exceptions). As a result, the Japanese made extreme use of bunkers, pill boxes, and underground tunnels in their defenses, especially the islands in the Central Pacific that the Marines were assaulting. In each of these battles the Japanese fought to the point of death, partly because it is what they were taught to do and partly because there was no where for them to escape, i.e. they were on an island. The Americans used a number of things to destroy Japanese defenses and kill their adversary, including: satchel charges, grenades, bazookas, bulldozers (to seal entries and exits), and flame-throwers. As gruesome as it must have been to actually be hit with a flame, many of the Japanese deaths were by asphyxiation; since the flames used up all of the oxygen inside the bunkers, pillboxes, and tunnels, and because the flames could turn corners and reach deep into the tunnels, they were extremely effective. As the war progressed, the Japanese physical defenses became even more sophisticated, and the Japanese leadership (dominated by militarist) devised ever more fanatical methods to cause American casualties. Their leaders believed American morale and our willingness to continue the war to be brittle. If they could create enough casualties, they thought they could achieve a termination to the war with something better than unconditional surrender. On Iwo Jima for example, their fortifications were so well built and or so deep within the island that even after: seventy plus days of bombing by B24s, three days of naval bombardment (including by sixteen inch guns from battleships), 500,000 artillery rounds, fired from guns brought ashore during the battle, and close air-support, first by carrier based planes and later by P-51s, most of the of the island's fortifications still had to be taken out by squads of Marines a point black range. On Okinawa, a single hill, Sugar Loaf, was so well integrated (through an incredible series of internal and underground tunnels) into the Shuri Line, which stretched from coast to coast across the southern part of the island, it took the Marines fourteen attempts, almost a week, and over 2,000 casualties to finally take it from the Japanese. Despite everything we used against the Japanese, by the later stages of the war, in the battles to take Peleliu, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa, U.S. casualty rates were getting out of control, about 1 out of every 3 to 4 Marines and soldiers. In fact, it had become so bad that for the intended invasion of Kyushu, the southern most island in the Japanese home islands, operation Olympic, scheduled for November 1, 1945, that not only did the U.S. plan to make the most extensive use ever of flame-throwers, (tanks and troop carried), but General Marshall favored the use of Gas (to reach inside the Japanese fortifications, and very large stocks had already been brought forward into the Pacific Theater), and he was considering the use of atomic bombs as a tactical weapon, potentially as many as three for each of the three major invasion beaches. David D. Barrett MA History, University of Colorado at Denver DAVID BARRETT <firstname.lastname@example.org> -----Message from: Palle Rasmussen <palle.rasmussen@GMAIL.COM>----- For Mr. Barna and other interested. I took a quick tour round the net and my memory and came up with this. The US did in fact use flame tanks in the European theater of war and I am pretty certain that should you peruse a few # on Youtube (you can PM me for them) you will find footage of such, some of these fellows on Youtube has a lot of uploads, one is trying to post all German "Wochenschau" for example. However, for a quicker reference I give you ... Wikipedia; the source of all that is good and true- or at least fast to search and often ok. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flame_tank I also quote "Achtung Panzer", which we should all be familiar with, on Panzer III's Flame version <http://www.achtungpanzer.com/panzerkampfwagen-iii.htm>: "*Flammpanzer III was designed in mind with fighting in the urban areas such as Stalingrad, but it was never to reach its destination. Eventually, Flammpanzer III equipped Panzer Regiment's (Panzer Abteilung) Flame-thrower Platoons (Panzer-Flamm-Zug), each with seven vehicles. A report dated May 5th of 1941 gives the following distribution of the vehicles:28 to Panzer Division Grossdeutschland, 15 to 6th Panzer Division, 14 to 1st Panzer Division, 14 to 24th Panzer Division, 14 to 26th Panzer Division and 7 to 16th Panzer Division along with single vehicle to Schule Wunsdorf. Report from 1943, states that from March to December, Flammpanzer III tanks were serving with following Panzer Divisions: 1st, 6th, 11th, 14th, 24th and Grossdeutschland in Russia and 16th and 26th in Italy. In July of 1943, 41 flame-thrower tanks were reported in service with 6th, 10th and Grossdeutschland Panzer Divisions in preparation for the attack on Kursk.Flammpanzer III's design proved to be unsuccessful and vehicles returned for repairs (35) were rebuilt into standard combat tanks or Sturmgeschutz III assault guns / tank destroyers <http://www.achtungpanzer.com/stug.htm>. In November of 1944, only 10 out of original 100 were repaired and issued to Panzer-Flamm-Kompanie 351, which saw service as late as April of 1945 with Heeres Gruppe Sud. Today, Panzerkampfwagen III (Fl) (chassis number 77651) captured in Italy can be seen in Koblenz Museum in Germany after being transferred to the museum from Aberdeen Proving Grounds in U.S.A.*". There is the equivalent on the other Flammpanzers. If you are into wargames Shrapnell Games' SPWWII (free download and ASL basically), is a good and well-researched game, where American Engineers definately have flamethrowers available, as does the German Sturmpionere. In fact on German Wiki there is an account of Sturmpioniere in Stalingrad specifically mentioning Flamethrowers<http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Hubertus>and the English language Wiki page <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flamethrower#World_War_II>gives a start for further research on the use by other combatants. Now I have no doubt that the W. Allied troops and population at large saw the Japanese upstarts through the racist lens of the time and not so much different than the Germans saw the Russians. This is not a condenmnation, racism was a fact ot the time, everybody was in some way influenced by it and it was just the way things were (I have read a Danish book on anatomy from the thirties that was permeated by racial theories). There is also no doubt in my mind that this fuelled the widespread perception of Japanese fanaticism and led to even less PoWs being taken than might have been. It was a natural reaction and by and large justified; Japanese soldiers did not easily surrender, but the awareness of that, rumours (probably true) of surrendering Japs detonating hand grenades to take some Americans with them in death and racism might have led to killings of the few Japanese who did surrender. I have seen allegations of such, and seem to recall American vets talking of it. This however should not make us jump to conclusions. Indirectly we serve the Revisionists' cause by doing so as they would love nothing more than make the Allies equal in evil to the Axis. No, I think there is an easier explanation. Flamethrowers are most effectively used against fortified positions. In The Pacific, the Japanese relied heavily on such for defence and digging fanatical Japanese soldiers out of their holes or just burying them with bulldozers, which was often done as well, was an essential part of taking those islands that would allow a bridgehead for operations against Japan. In the time after Guadalcanal, the Japanese relied heavily on bunkers, caves, trenches, etc to make it as costly as possible to the Americans to invade and each island was honeycombed with tunnels, bunkers, etc. So, it is but natural that you see lots of footage of Americans using flamethrowers, napalm and satchel charges to dig them out or kill them. They would not even need a direct hit, if all the oxygen was consumed by flames or an explosion the defenders would die just as certainly as if they were burned to crisps. The nature of warfare and scale of the land battles (how large is Iwo Jima? 1.5 x 4 Km?) dictate the tactiv for both sides and with flammables being so central it is natural it would be filmed. In Europe however, the Germans or Russians rarely relied on fortified positions like that- except on D-Day, where flamethrowers *were* supposedly used. Rather traditional mobile combined-arms battle was the norm and in that flamethrowers are not as useful; they do not do much good against a squad of infantry hiding in a Hedgerow with an mg 42 150 m away... As for napalm, it is entirely possible that on July 17, 1944, napalm incendiary bombs were dropped for the first time by American P-38 pilots on a fuel depot at Coutances Coutances Coutances is a commune in the Manche department in Normandy in north-western France.-History:Capital of the Unelli, a Gaulish tribe, the town took the name of Constantia in 298 during the reign of Roman emperor Constantius Chlorus... , near St. Lô, France (there seem to be some controversy on where napalm was used first). And napalm probably also (with white phospherous) started many of the infamous Firestorms in the cities of Germany. It was definately used in Europe, and the US did not seem to have any qualms about "roasting" Germans by incendaries. An alternative explanation for the lack of use of flamethrowers is given here<http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/USA-TS-CS-Combat/USA-TS-CS-Combat-15.html>, I quote (or rather copy- paste" *The Portable Flame Thrower in the ETO* *Normandy** Pre-Normandy preparations included more effort directed toward the training of flame thrower operators and the preparation of tactical and logistical procedures for the weapon than had been attempted before the invasion of Italy. In October 1943 Headquarters, ETOUSA, published detailed instructions for all units under its control in the tactical use of the portable flame thrower. This training memorandum suggested the assignment of three men--operator, assistant operator, and refill carrier--to each weapon and urged that twice that number be trained. This document stressed the tactical necessity of covering the flame thrower operator with small arms and smoke, but it did not specify the exact composition of the assault party.20<http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/USA-TS-CS-Combat/USA-TS-CS-Combat-15.html#fn20> * * As the date of the invasion approached, ETOUSA increased the tempo of its flame thrower preparations. New instructions, in the form of another training memorandum, did little more than reiterate the memo which it superseded.21<http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/USA-TS-CS-Combat/USA-TS-CS-Combat-15.html#fn21>Of more help was the allocation of 150 portable flame throwers to each of the assault divisions of First Army,22<http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/USA-TS-CS-Combat/USA-TS-CS-Combat-15.html#fn22>a number far in excess of the 24 flame throwers which the theater suggested for an infantry division in normal operations.23<http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/USA-TS-CS-Combat/USA-TS-CS-Combat-15.html#fn23> * * The assignment of such a large number of flame throwers to the assault regiments naturally increased the problem of training. In general, the status of flame thrower training within the divisions in England was poor. Engineer battalions had received limited doses, but infantry division troops, even of the veteran units, were generally unfamiliar with both the technical and tactical aspects of the weapon. Divisions of the First U.S. Army conducted schools in an effort to correct this deficiency. Third Army units, slated for commitment later than those of First Army, suffered from a lack of flame throwers * *(in August 1944 Third Army's supply of the weapon was described as "practically nil"),24<http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/USA-TS-CS-Combat/USA-TS-CS-Combat-15.html#fn24>and a consequent lack of trained operators. 25<http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/USA-TS-CS-Combat/USA-TS-CS-Combat-15.html#fn25> * * These preparations went for nought; there is no record that the flame thrower was used during the Normandy landings. Many of the weapons were lost in the rough surf, and infantrymen perforce abandoned others in the struggle to get across the beaches in the face of heavy enemy fire. The 14th Chemical Maintenance Company, which landed in Normandy at the end of June, repaired and returned to depot stock over 100 portable flame throwers which it had picked up from salvage piles on the beaches. In any event, German positions encountered on the beachheads usually were not suitable flame thrower targets.26<http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/USA-TS-CS-Combat/USA-TS-CS-Combat-15.html#fn26> * * As the initial weeks of the campaign wore on and units moved inland, some flame thrower targets did appear. Cities and towns presented obstacles which occasionally called for flame thrower action, although the 1st and 2d Infantry Divisions reported that the weapon was not particularly useful in ordinary street fighting. The V Corps stated that the limited range of the portable flame thrower restricted its usefulness in fighting in the hedgerows, that ubiquitous feature of the Normandy terrain.**27<http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/USA-TS-CS-Combat/USA-TS-CS-Combat-15.html#fn27> *" I hope this helps, two alternative explanations that to me seem much more likely than racism. Best wishes, Rasmussen, Palle, Independent scholar. Palle Rasmussen <palle.rasmussen@GMAIL.COM> -----Message from: daniel spector <email@example.com>----- A couple of responses to Carl Barna's propositions. A comparison betweewn the use of flamethowers in the various theaters of operation in WWII would be useful. A start can be with one of the Army History of WWII "Green Books": Chemicals in War. The issue raised is one that should be addressed: did our use of weapons in WWII reflect a difference between how we viewed Germans and Japanese from a racial and cultural standpoint. It seems to me that the incendiary bombing (and massive destruction in both lives and buildings) of Tokyo and Dresden lends one to question whether military policy was based on "demonizing" a particular racial/ethnic group. Best wishes to all Daniel E. Spector, PhD US Army Chemical Corps Historian, Retired daniel spector <firstname.lastname@example.org> -----Message from: James Ward <email@example.com>----- As I'm doing this from home and don't have access to the standard histories of the Eastern Front (all at the office), I can't comment on the accuracy of the following, but... In Joseph Vilsmaier's 1992 film _Stalingrad_--admittedly a film, just a film, with all predictable liberties taken--I remember the German weapon of choice to be the flamethrower, along with the trench shovel, the latter used as a club. Particularly for the combat engineers, the film's protagonists, this was the preferred way to clean out pockets of Red Army resistance in the shattered factories, cellars, spillways, and sewers of Stalingrad. Presumably Vilsmaier had some basis for these combat scenes and did not simply invent them. I also seem to recall that in _Saving Private Ryan_ flamethrowers were used to clean out German artillery bunkers and machine gun emplacements--burning German soldiers trying to evacuate, only to be gunned down--but I could be confusing this with (many) other films. Comparisons with the Eastwood films on the Pacific war might prove instructive. Just movies, though... James J. Ward Professor of History Director, Honors Program Cedar Crest College James Ward <firstname.lastname@example.org> -----Message from: Steve Zaloga <email@example.com>----- The US Army did have man-portable flame-throwers on D-Day but there is little evidence of extensive use. The Germans also had fixed fortification flame-throwers in the Atlantikwall defenses, including some at Omaha Beach. The US had planned to use flamethrower tanks at Normandy based on the British Crocodile flamethrower, but they were not delivered in time (they were eventually used at the Julich fortress during Operation Grenade in Feb 1945). The British made extensive use of flamethrower tanks in 1944-45, primarily the Churchill Crocodiles with the 79th Armoured Division; the Canadians used the Wasp system on the Universal carrier. The US Army deployed manpack flamethrowers in the ETO and they were used during the Siegfried line fighting. The US Army also used tank-mounted flamethrowers in the ETO, but on a modest scale (I covered these in detail in my book "US Armored Funnies: US Specialized Armored Vehicles in the ETO 1944-45 (Concord: 2005). There are a number of official US histories of flamethrower development and use. You may find them on the Ft. Leavenworth CGSC website; I've read the paper copies at the Military History Institute at Carlisle Barracks, PA and they may be listed in their digital catalog. The Germans used flamethrowers in the 1944-45 fighting in NW Europe but not on a large scale. One of the more deliberate uses was the deployment of two flamethrower companies based on the Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer that were committed to the Operation Nordwind offensive in January 1945 to deal with Maginot Line bunkers occupied by US forces. Flamethrowers were used extensively if sporadically on the Eastern Front. The Red Army used OT-26 flame tanks in the 1939-40 war with Finland against bunkers. They had both medium (OT-34) and heavy (KV-8) flame-tanks in service with specialized engineer tank units through the war. There are several Russian histories of their flame-tank development. The Germans also used both manpack and AFV flamethrowers. Steve Zaloga Teal Group Corp. Steve Zaloga <firstname.lastname@example.org> -----Message from: Robert <email@example.com>----- At Normandy, the British Army deployed Crocodiles, Churchill tanks equipped with flame throwers. However, at Monte Cassino, I suspect that the issue was not having an incendiary weapon whether a napalm bomb or a flame projector was ruled out because of the nature of the target and the limitations on the various weapons. Obviously, flame throwers or flame projectors were eliminated because ground forces couldn't get close enough to the abbey to be effective. The air raid used heavy and I believe medium bombers which could only drop smaller more conventional incendiary bombs rather than napalm which was weaponized for delivery by light tactical bombers or fighter-bombers. While the heavy and medium bombers were able to fly above much the German light AAA weapons though still encountering heavy flak, the fighter bombers would have had to fly much lower and actually down into the lighter and much more numerous German AA artillery and machine guns. So the issues of the nature of the target, the anti-aircraft defenses, and the nature of the available weapons (especially their limitations) appear to have ruled out napalm at Monte Cassino. Of course, it turned out that the bombing of the abbey only turned what was in fact an abbey devoid of German defenders into a pile of rubble that the Germans did use and use very effectively. Robert A. Mosher The Military Philosopher.com Robert <firstname.lastname@example.org> -----Message from: Charles Krohn <clex@MSN.COM>----- Of course we used flamethrowers in ETO. I don't think there were any racial issues, witness use of fire bombs on Dresden, etc. There is some risk using flamethrowers, however--the operator's position is rather exposed. The better question is why didn't we use napalm/flamethrowers in Afghanistan, esp in the early days (2001/02)? The attacks on 9/11 with fuel-laden planes is an example of flame weapons used against us. Yes, flamethrowers can be used effectively to clear caves, and napalm used in the open in remote areas run little risk of collateral damages. They are also good psychological operations weapons. Charles Krohn Charles Krohn <clex@MSN.COM> ----- For subscription help, go to: http://www.h-net.org/lists/help/ To change your subscription settings, go to http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/wa?SUBED1=h-war -----