Lloyd Fredendall

Lloyd Fredendall was a general in the American Army in WWII, serving in North Africa.

He is known primarily for being a fuck-up. His early career may have been a sign: he dropped out of West Point twice.

He commanded II Corps in its advance into Tunisia, so his relative competence mattered.

He had a weird habit of talking in his own private slang. He called infantry units “walking boys” and  artillery “popguns.” Instead of using the standard military map grid-based location designators, he made up confusing codes such as “the place that begins with C.”  His subordinates had trouble understanding what the hell he was talking about.

He spent lots of effort building an underground fortress ( his headquarters) 70 miles behind the front lines  and spent most of  his time inside it, rather than visiting the front lines and talking with his commanders.

Tactically, also a mess: he split up units and scattered them widely. Which turned out poorly (Kasserine Pass).

After Kasserine Pass, Ike fired him. But how did Fredendall get anywhere in the first place, and why did removing him take so long?

Well, the most talented people didn’t much go into the American armed forces in those days, least of all the Army.  The Army wasn’t prestigious, wasn’t well-funded, wasn’t very meritocratic.  Promotion was slow, pay was lousy. The  US Army was about the size of the German Army while it was still obeying the Treaty of Versailles – but the Black  Reichswehr was an elite, taking only the best, secretly preparing for der Tag. Every sergeant was ready to be a captain.  The US Army was not like that.

The Army leadership all knew each other.  Most were West Pointers.  It was fairly easy-going.

Put to the test in WWII, we found out that our generals often weren’t very good. Ike himself had to learn an important lesson: how to fire people, including old friends. After a while American leadership became fairly good at that, for example when Nimitz fired Ghormley.

The Soviets already knew how to fire people ( sometimes with extreme prejudice) but Stalin learned to judge by performance and fire people intelligently: promote the winners, fire ( and sometimes execute) the losers. Act as if winning is the most important thing.

Generally, the governing classes in the US, for the last generation or two, has not acted as if they think that winning, actually achieving your goal,  is very important. Promotion follows failure: indeed, being right when almost everyone else is wrong just shows how undesirable you are.  Iraq is a good example.

Covid-19 is another example. The professionals weren’t very good, aren’t very good. They didn’t know a lot of important, knowable things. Probably the most talented people were going into something other than epidemiology or virology.

We don’t have to make them unpersons, don’t have to send them to Kolyma. We don’t have to pull out their teeth and fingernails.  There’s no reason to put on a black leather jacket and shoot them in the back of the head. That would be wrong.

But we can fire them.  And we should.

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71 Responses to Lloyd Fredendall

  1. megabar says:

    I agree with this post. There are a few parts of human nature that are fundamentally at odds with building societies and organizations that last:

    The topic in this post. That is, the inability to be tough and goal-oriented when there’s no obvious threat. Broadly, this applies both to promoting incompetents, and failing to point out obvious but hurtful truths (i.e. races are not equal in traits).
    The inability to have an easy test for deception. Any organization that promotes value A, and becomes successful because of that, will eventually attract people who don’t believe in A, yet mask that fact. They often displace those that do believe in A, because their skill, above all else, is climbing through organizations.

    There are other aspects of human nature that appear at odds with society, such as tribalism and the limited capacity for reason that the average person has, but it isn’t true. It’s just that instead of accepting those as fact, and building a society that works with them, we pretend that they can be eliminated with proper education.

    You can create a small group of people who initially have the right values and are willing to defend them. But because of the above 2 problems, eventually they’ll lose control.

  2. Smithie says:

    MacArthur seems to have been fairly incompetent, as judged by his defense of the Philippines. Perhaps, not a great China-reader either.

    • gcochran9 says:

      He did better than the Brits in Singapore, but that’s a low bar.

      He was hard to get rid of because the American public had imagined him a hero, because they wanted one to exist.

      • magusjanus says:

        The entire Southwestern Pacific front under MacArthur seems in hindsight (and I’m sure at the time for some Naval guys with foresight) like a massive waste of time. Incredible stories, heroism, interesting battles, accomplishments, etc. sure. But a massive waste of time and resources and lives, distracting from the real goal as I see it: taking out Japan’s fleet, planes, then blockading Japan which effectively meant a won war. The real front was King’s Pacific front. Once Japan surrendered, other than some wackjob holdouts in jungles, the troops largely obeyed and went home. No need to conquer every patch of earth. Philippines would have been ‘retaken’ most easily by defeating Japan proper.

        After Midway, the island hopping was where it was at, and frankly they could have been even more aggressive with it (Could have skipped Tawara, Peleliu, and Iwo JIma and instead done Okinawa far earlier, ’44 heck maybe even ’43 if no SW front distraction). Might have shortened the war by a year at least, particularly if allied with more aggressive earlier harbor air mining. Completely wiping out Japan’s ability to conduct war in Pacific.

        Interesting butterflies would follow from that (a ’44 Japan surrender): probably no commie China or Korea for instance.

        • Pincher Martin says:

          To be fair, I doubt anyone in the U.S. military knew about the potential lethality and effectiveness of U.S. bombing campaigns until they began to be perfected under LeMay, and even then the Japanese did not give up when most of their large cities had been incinerated. It took two atomic bombs and the Soviets entering the war to complete the task.

          But if you’re running the war in 1942 or 1943, and you don’t fully comprehend the ability to use bombers as effectively as LeMay would later show it could be done, and you don’t know about the atomic bombs, then part of your strategy has to be killing at least some of the IJA troops who are scattered around Asia.

          Military thinking and weaponry evolved a lot during WW2. You can’t really assume that a general or admiral should’ve fully understood how to beat the enemy in 1942 because even the smartest of them didn’t understand how details under their command would change by 1945.

          • gcochran9 says:

            People were definitely aware that Japanese cities were highly flammable. partly because of this: 1923 Great Kantō earthquake

            • Pincher Martin says:

              U.S. military planners didn’t look seriously into firebombing Japan’s cities until 1943, and then incendiary bombs still had to be shipped out to the Pacific theater. The B-29 did not enter service until 1944, when LeMay began using them to such devastating effect. Nor was LeMay acting under orders when he began firebombing Japanese cities. He took the initiative to do so on his own with little oversight from his superiors, who might have been worried about the consequences of directly killing so many civilians.

              Most of the following I’m sure Greg knows, but for other readers our there: Even after the Japanese had been firebombed for nearly half a year and a good portion of most of their major cities had been burned to the ground, they were still not preparing to give up. LeMay was even running out of targets when the atomic bombs finally did what incendiary bombs could not. Firebombing was great at destroying Japan’s capacity to wage war, but didn’t significantly damage the Japanese willingness to wage it.

              • Earplugs says:

                I remembered reading a book in high school that had a chapter about the US military designing incendiary weapons targeted towards both typical German & Japanese construction, which were obviously very different, so what you said didn’t sound right.

                So I looked it up for 5 minutes, and it definitely isn’t right: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_Village

                They tested a wide selection of possible designs in the middle of 1943. Which implies this started back in 1942, for sure.

                So when was the US military supposed to look seriously into firebombing Japanese cities? 1941?

                Huh.

                https://www.marshallfoundation.org/library/digital-archive/robert-l-sherrod-memorandum-for-david-w-hulburd-jr/

                George Marshall might be not be the best judge of generals like Frendendall, but he nailed this:

                “If war with the Japanese does come, we’ll fight mercilessly. Flying fortresses will be dispatched immediately to set the paper cities of Japan on fire. There wont be any hesitation about bombing civilians—it will be all-out.”

                3 weeks before Pearl harbor.

          • magusjanus says:

            Even without the notion of bombing damage (which rest assured was well recognized by ’43), it doesn’t make any sense how conquering the Philippines would lead to Japan surrendering. Following that logic, then why didn’t US also land in mainland China and Taiwan? Why not push Japanese out of Korea? Why island hop at all? There are still troops there! It’s ridiculous.

            Once Japanese fleet is neutralized, then blockading Japan makes the war effectively over. Japan loses ability to project power in the Pacific in any meaningful way, and now it’s just a matter of either accepting a conditional surrender, or if pushing for unconditional either bombing them into dust or invading the mainland. Which is what ended up happening anyways!

            My point stands: the Southwest theater was mostly a distraction. It didn’t really contribute to Japan’s surrender, and said surrender would have likely been accomplished faster had MacArthur drowned while leaving Philippines and US focused on Pacific theater and more aggressive hops across islands.

            • Pincher Martin says:

              Even without the notion of bombing damage (which rest assured was well recognized by ’43), it doesn’t make any sense how conquering the Philippines would lead to Japan surrendering. Following that logic, then why didn’t US also land in mainland China and Taiwan? Why not push Japanese out of Korea? Why island hop at all? There are still troops there! It’s ridiculous.

              If the value of strategic bombing was so well-recognized by the U.S. military early in the war, then why in hell would they send their best Army Air Corps general, Curtis LeMay, to the China-Burma-India (CBI) theater in 1944 for long-distance attacks of little value?

              LeMay used his time in CBI to good effect. He learned more about the buggy, unreliable B-29; he learned that bombing Japan was quite different than bombing Europe; and he realized that high-altitude daytime bombing wasn’t the best tactic for delivering ordnance on Japanese targets.

              But LeMay’s time spent there was still mostly a waste. It’s clear that as late as the end of 1944, almost no one in the U.S. military understood clearly what LeMay would soon be doing to Japan with little more than bombers and firebombs once he left for the Marianas. If they had realized it, they would’ve never sent him to CBI in the first place.

              As for why the U.S. didn’t land large number of troops in mainland China to fight he IJA, I think it’s pretty obvious. Fighting the IJA in China was supposed to be the job of our ally, the Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. We tried giving him help, including LeMay’s services for a period. “Peanut,” as Stilwell called the Generalissimo, didn’t use those resources very effectively.

              The Philippines were also a highly important symbolic target, since those islands (unlike China, Korea or Taiwan) had been an American ward for nearly forty-five years before the war began. It’s bad form to leave your allies under occupation when you were responsible for their security before the war. I also don’t believe it extended the war as much as you seem to believe.

              • Mark Pontin says:

                Here’s the timeline —

                With Churchill’s consent, Bomber/Butcher Harris started ‘area bombing’ of Germany in 1942, with Operation Millennium becoming the first RAF “thousand bomber raid” against Cologne/Köln on the night of 30/31 May 1942. The Operational Research Section (ORS) of RAF Bomber Command, which included folks of the caliber of a 19-year-old Freeman Dyson, had put serious thought into what could be done with such mass raids, including the possibility of creating firestorms that would raze German cities.

                LeMay became a part of that effort from October 1942, when he commanded the U.S. 305th Operations Group till September 1943, and then commanded the 3rd Air Division in the European theatre until August 1944, when he was moved to the Pacific theater.

                Only those Americans who’d participated with the RAF — foremost among them, LeMay — in the massed bomber attacks on Germany fully understood in late 1942 what could be done in that line.

                That understanding didn’t fully percolate back to Washington till LeMay and those Americans who’d been on those raids brought it back with them. I suspect there was no way to fully grasp what had been done to whole cities in Europe unless you were one of those pilots destroying them from above at night. Recall that this was a different world, where all the recording sensors, cameras and telemetry we take for granted simply didn’t exist, crude radar had only just been developed, and D-Day had to be delayed for three days because the Allies couldn’t see the ground in Normandy through thick cloud cover.

          • saintonge235 says:

            Before Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Army was already talking about vulnerable “the paper cities of Japan” were to fire bombs. The problem was getting the bombers in range of Japan.

        • saintonge235 says:

          In 1942, Admiral King was VERY concerned with the South West Pacific. The Japs were threatening to break the link with Australia, something King considered absolutely not acceptable.

      • marcel proust says:

        My father was a seebee in new Guinea and the Philippines during The War. On more than one occasion I heard about the time that MacArthur’s triumphal return had to be filmed a second time. Sailors camped on shore, having observed the planting of small explosives shallow water by the beach (so that MacArthur could be shown marching ashore under apparent fire) had prepared clotheslines and other domestic accessories to be rapidly raised from the ground into camera sight lines. They did not have a second opportunity.

    • syonredux says:

      He had his moments (i.e., the “hit them where they ain’t” strategy).

    • dearieme says:

      His reconquest of the Philipines was rather pointless. Lots of death and damage when all that was necessary was to wait for a successful assault on Japan.

      On the same grounds the British reconquest of Burma in late-1944 to mid-1945 was unnecessary but at least the casualties and destruction overwhelminghly happened to the Japanese.

      In both cases the reconquered territory was granted independence five minutes later. Speaking figuratively.

  3. teageegeepea says:

    I was unfamiliar with Fredendell. Thus I was surprised to read that after Kasserine Pass, he was promoted to lieutenant general.

  4. Craken says:

    The financiers’ strategy of privatizing gains and socializing losses is the paradigm deployed by the American elite in every one of its endeavors. The public good has not been pursued competently in various domains–immigration policy, trade with China, recent military invasions/occupations, the GFC, Covid mismanagement, social media effects on social life–but, the rich continue to get richer, big business gets bigger, the Federal government expands its powers. From the perspective of the power structure, are these even failures? Most of them were driven by the greed of some elements of the elite. The facts of the matter, in each case, are smothered under the quasi-religious globalist rhetoric that is now the only acceptable currency–or sunk under some archival ocean whose floor is littered with innumerable lies of omission. The elite has become a kind of special interest group that happens to run the country; they’re frighteningly monolithic in thought and language; and judging by actions–not words–they’re only interested in taking their cut.

  5. Coagulopath says:

    Instead of using the standard military map grid-based location designators, he made up confusing codes such as “the place that begins with C.”

    That reminds me of J Edgar Hoover, who received a memorandum from internal security and sent it back with a vague and alarming “watch the borders! H.” scrawled on it. The FBI went into a kerfuffle. What did Hoover mean? The Mexican border? The Canadian border? Both of them? What were they supposed to watch for? Did they dare ask for clarification?

    Days later, they learned that he’d meant the borders on the memorandum itself – the margins were too narrow, and he found it hard to read.

    Put to the test in WWII, we found out that our generals often weren’t very good

    The War Nerd one said that nothing selects for competence like wartime and nothing selects for incompetence like peacetime. When all hell breaks loose you often see a bunch of career soldiers and nomenklatura just suddenly go splat against the wall.

  6. Eded says:

    Greg, what fields do you think the most talented people tend go into today?

    • Barry O'Bamaugh says:

      Not Greg but I am a recent graduate of a good university. Of talented engineering students, a few go work in engineering, a few to grad school or professional schools, but a large majority go into consulting (ideally MBB – McKinsey / BCG / Bain) and investment banking. People respond to incentives, or at least smart ones do. Computer Science is relatively unusual in that top talent actually stays in that field and works at one of the tech giants.

      Now, different people have different talents – those financial engineers wouldn’t necessarily have made good generals – but they do at least have heads on their shoulders. I can’t speak to what top talent in, say, psychology does or means.

      • Patrick L Boyle says:

        My undergraduate degree is in psychology. I can give you an insight into why psychology makes sense for some. I was the best math student in my college (George Mason) also the best in chemistry and economics. Yet I chose psychology as my final undergrad major. I had gone to Catholic Military High School. I was lagging in my social development. That means I was horny. When I went into economics it got worse – no women in sight in any class.

        So I switched to psychology. Lots of attractive women. That’s it. Mystery solved. There are three academic subjects famous for stupidity – Psychology, Sociology, and Education. All crammed with young women.

        BTW I completely agree with your conclusion about the need to fire the marginally competent. Any boob can hire – check your own Human Resources Department. But firing the weak is more important. Good people go stale if they see weak colleagues prosper. Getting rid of the untalented cheers everyone one up. Morale rebounds. Their respect for you soars – but no one will admit it.

        • dearieme says:

          A pal of mine chose to do a geology course because not only did it contain pretty girls but you got to sally forth together and chip at rocks.

          He married one though eventually their plates drifted apart. A pretty girl, that is, not a rock,

  7. quickly burn the boats says:

    “We don’t have to make them unpersons, don’t have to send them to Kolyma. We don’t have to pull out their teeth and fingernails. There’s no reason to put on a black leather jacket and shoot them in the back of the head. That would be wrong.”

    You are a stick in the mud and no fun whatsoever.

  8. James Anthony Thompson says:

    Some systems protect the incompetent. A UK National Health Service physiotherapist told me he had a staff member who did nothing. He tried to sack her. She appealed to an internal tribunal, and was re-instated. She then continued doing nothing. He said that he could cope with her being a sullen passenger, but could not counter the demotivating effect it had on the rest of his team.

    In contrast, I once went in to a consultancy headquarters where I was working with the boss, and found all his staff extremely cheerful. When I asked what had happened, they said he had sacked a secretary. “She was awful, so we are all pleased”.

    Where do bright STEM people go, even leaving interesting lab work and medicine to do so? Consultancy. The work is interesting, and if you can’t go up you get thrown out.

    Here are some number from a particular London office: 5000 applicants a year, 50 appointed, four years later, only 3 or 4 still employed.

    • quickly burn the boats says:

      In contrast, I once went in to a consultancy headquarters where I was working with the boss, and found all his staff extremely cheerful. When I asked what had happened, they said he had sacked a secretary. “She was awful, so we are all pleased”.

      I wonder if cultures that practiced human sacrifice noticed a similar salutary effect on morale. Assuming they selected the right folks to be human sacrifices.

      By this logic, the Aztecs were the happiest society to have ever existed.

      • James Anthony Thompson says:

        By some error, this is a continuation of my previous comment! James Thompson

        • Alex says:

          Maybe Rene Girard’s take on scapegoating as a way to prop up group morale and reduce frictions was real and did stand even at the basis of many religions, especially sacrifice oriented ones.

  9. Steven Wilson says:

    Fredenhall was the blue ribbon winner or gold standard for incompetence. It appears he will be resurrected from time to time in the capacity of his most useful purpose–the bad example.

    I seem to recall an ancient Roman having said that “Luxury is more destructive of society than war.” An observation that has aged well.

  10. dearieme says:

    “an American ward “: what an amusing word to apply to a country that had been conquered with piles of locals dead, for no obvious advantage to the USA.

    “even leaving interesting lab work”: I rather enjoyed some lab work but some can be repetitive and tedious. I have an impression that this can be particularly true in the biosciences.

  11. JMcG says:

    I’d say that the governing class of the US has acted very definitely as if achieving its goals has been very important. It’s just that those goals don’t align with mine or with those for whom I have any regard or fellow-feeling.

  12. David Chamberlin says:

    My grandfather was a colonel in World War Two. He was in the army reserves between the wars which he loved. One month every summer he got to go camping with the boys, play army games, and otherwise have a great time. At least he was competent enough to hold a good job the other 11 months of the year. The army full timers was comprised of people that by and large could not. Pay in the army during the depression was terrible. Money for real training was non existent.

    The US Army grew from 175,000 in 1939 to 11 million at it’s peak so everybody was promoted incredibly rapidly. My grandfathers military skill set comprised of shooting an antiquated cannon in World War One and camping with the boys and running around in the woods playing games.

  13. Pincher Martin says:

    Mark Pontin –

    Thanks for your excellent post.

    The important question here is less a matter of “when did strategic bombing begin in WW2?” than it is “when did the American command realize that firebombing Japan might have a chance by itself to win the war in the Pacific to the exclusion of other strategic goals like reconquering the Philippines?”

    I happened to read three books on Curtis LeMay last summer as part of an interest I had in researching the evolution of SAC during the 1950s and 1960s. Those books were LeMay: The Life and Wars of General Curtis LeMay, 15 Minutes: General Curtis LeMay and the Countdown to Nuclear Annihilation, and LeMay by Barrett Tillman. They were all interesting books because LeMay is such an interesting character.

    I was surprised to see, though, that LeMay was not particularly influential in U.S. strategic decisions. He was trusted by his military superiors because he always got the job done, not because his advice was influential in war councils. LeMay was not a talker. He wasn’t the kind of officer to send his pensées up the chain of command.

    LeMay’s success in Europe also had nothing to do with firebombing. LeMay improved B-17 bomber tactics by ditching the quick runs (ten seconds over target, usually), the every-bomber-is-on-its-own flight tactics (which broke the tight formations), and the zig-zag motions of previous bomber runs (which made it hard to hit the targets) for the more effective tight groupings that were told to fly slow, steady and straight over the targets. It was previously feared that such tight, slow groupings would make them easy pickings for German fighter planes defending the targets, but LeMay understood that the interlocking fields of defensive bomber fire provided by tight formations actually kept many German fighters from taking on those B-17 bomber groups. Few German pilots wanted to fly at such a tight bomber grouping when it was returning fire. That left only the German flak as a serious threat.

    When LeMay first explained what he wanted his men to do in late November, 1942, many of them groaned. They thought slow and tight bomber formations flying straight over the target were a death sentence. They were wrong. LeMay’s new tactics revolutionized how bomber runs were made in WW2. They made strategic bombing possible against a determined and capable opponent (as opposed to against a defenseless target or city).

    LeMay’s future promotions in WW2 depended in large part on his tremendous success in Europe, but this had nothing to do with firebombing a city or enemy into submission. When LeMay was later sent to Asia, he was not sent with any plan in mind that he was about to destroy most of Japan’s large cities by incinerating them.

    • Earplugs says:

      “When LeMay was later sent to Asia, he was not sent with any plan in mind that he was about to destroy most of Japan’s large cities by incinerating them.”

      Maybe exclusively reading books about Lemay isn’t the best preparation to properly argue this thesis?

      Because you might want to deal with how the Chief of Staff of the US Army said, before Pearl Harbor, the following:

      ” But if the leak is confined to Japanese officials, these officials can say to the cabinet: “Look here. These people really mean to bomb our cities, and they have the equipment with which to do it. We’d better go slow.””

      “If war with the Japanese does come, we’ll fight mercilessly. Flying fortresses will be dispatched immediately to set the paper cities of Japan on fire. There wont be any hesitation about bombing civilians—it will be all-out”

      ” Flying weather over Japan is propitious now. The rainy season is ended, and high-flying big bombers could wreak havoc. The Japanese have no pursuit planes that can reach the B-24’s, which could bomb the islands at will.”

      “Marshall indicates that he believes U.S. bombers can do the trick against Japanese Naval strength and against Japanese cities.”

      https://www.marshallfoundation.org/library/digital-archive/robert-l-sherrod-memorandum-for-david-w-hulburd-jr/

  14. dearieme says:

    How sane were WWII generals? I can see a case for McArthur and Patton being bonkers. And there’s always the odd case of a brave man breaking down when he’s exhausted his reserves of courage. Or just overworked and overstressed without sign of relief.

    Ike didn’t trust Patton with a role in the Normandy invasion. He was later trusted to lead a great cavalry charge, almost unopposed, across France. Horses for courses I suppose.

  15. Calvin Hobbes says:

    The problem of a military coming to be dominated by worthless fuck-ups during long periods of peace is probably not easy to overcome.

    In Dementia Joe’s America, though, it’s not a problem, it’s the policy.

    Navy unveils 57 recommendations from Task Force One Navy to promote diversity, inclusion in the Fleet

    https://www.navytimes.com/news/your-navy/2021/02/03/navy-unveils-57-recommendations-from-task-force-one-navy-to-promote-diversity-inclusion-in-the-fleet/

    The report pitches multiple strategies to attract sailors from a variety of backgrounds, including modifying marketing and advertising strategies for Generation Z minorities — which the Pew Research Center defines as those born in 1997 or after. Another idea floated is to craft a “whole person” evaluation blueprint that avoids relying too heavily on standardized tests, and instead focuses on character and other leadership attributes.
    Likewise, the report advises potentially nixing the Officer Aptitude Rating test requirement for some officer fields. The OAR has sections on math, English and mechanical comprehension.

  16. Eoan says:

    “Between 160 million and 214 million people in the United States could be infected over the course of the epidemic, according to a projection that encompasses the range of the four scenarios. That could last months or even over a year, with infections concentrated in shorter periods, staggered across time in different communities, experts said. As many as 200,000 to 1.7 million people could die.”

  17. Eoan says:

    There was a post last year, by a self-described liberal who ranked close to the top of a compilation of scientists and related professions with the most Twitter followers. They speculated that the conservative political party in the US might not suffer consequences for what they felt was responsibility for coronavirus spreading, as “2~3k deaths per day might just become the new normal”. For a long time, during the middle of last year, the US remained below this level, but it is about where it is at now and people are not talking much about coronavirus.

    In decreasing order of relevance, a collection of quotes by Terry Pratchett that illustrate this attitude or are funny (some quotes are edited slightly from original text):

    “It’s a popular fact that 90 percent of the brain is not used and, like most popular facts, it is wrong. . . . It is used. One of its functions is to make the miraculous seem ordinary, to turn the unusual into the usual. Otherwise, human beings, faced with the daily wondrousness of everything, would go around wearing a stupid grin, saying “Wow,” a lot. Part of the brain exists to stop this from happening.”

    “Humans! They lived in a world where the grass continued to be green and the sun rose every day and flowers regularly turned into fruit, and what impressed them? Weeping statues. And wine made out of water! A mere quantum-mechanistic tunnel effect, that’d happen anyway if you were prepared to wait zillions of years. As if the turning of sunlight into wine, by means of vines and grapes and time and enzymes, wasn’t a thousand times more impressive and happened all the time…”

    “And what would humans be without love?”
    RARE, said Death.”

    ​It was amazing, this mystic business. You tell them a lie, and then when you don’t need it any more you tell them another lie and tell them they’re progressing along the road to wisdom. Then instead of laughing they follow you even more, hoping that at the heart of all the lies they’ll find the truth. And bit by bit they accept the unacceptable. Amazing.

    Rincewind rather enjoyed times like this. They convinced him that he wasn’t mad because, if he was mad, that left no word at all to describe some of the people he met.

    “HUMAN BEINGS MAKE LIFE SO INTERESTING. DO YOU KNOW, THAT IN A UNIVERSE SO FULL OF WONDERS, THEY HAVE MANAGED TO INVENT BOREDOM. (Death)”

    ​‘It’s like people care more about their pride than about what’s correct, about the truth. What kind of sense does that make?’

    This one’s too long:

    “All right,” said Susan. “I’m not stupid. You’re saying humans need… fantasies to make life bearable.”
    (9 lines omitted)
    https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/66591-all-right-said-susan-i-m-not-stupid-you-re-saying-humans

    I, personally, am just hoping that China’s numbers do not start to spike up (as has happened in multiple countries that seemed to have it under control, like France), since it would ruin the narrative that China is better than the US. https://youtu.be/Q5BZ09iNdvo

  18. Pincher Martin says:

    Saintonge235 and Earplugs,

    Talk is cheap. One can find any quote saying just about anything. (See my two examples below.) But a quote is not a war strategy. To carry out a war strategy, you need a sound logistical plan. You need to get the relevant weapons and supplies to where they are needed. You also need a military command which understands the purpose of those weapons and supplies and is prepared to use them for that purpose.

    A General George Marshall quote from 1941 ain’t going to do it.

    If the U.S. Army knew before Pearl Harbor that it was going to burn Japan’s cities when it got the chance, why did it spend nearly as much time bombing them in 1944 and 1945 with precision attacks than not?

    The area fire bombing didn’t begin until mid-March 1945 and ended that August. That’s about five months. But the targeted bombing of the Japanese mainland had commenced in November of 1944, which means there were four months of highly-ineffective targeted bombing Japan that did not include the use of incendiary bombs on Japanese cities.

    If the U.S. Army knew before Pearl Harbor that it was going to incinerate Japan’s cities, why did LeMay’s bombers have to take a short break because they ran out of incendiary bombs after just five bomber runs in March 1945?

    I can tell you it wasn’t because U.S. manufacturers lacked the industrial capacity to mass-produce M-69 incendiary bombs. The reason for the shortage, which was quickly filled, is because LeMay’s command was not prepared to go on a sustained run of fire-bombing Japan until they actually did it and saw how destructive it was.

    You want an early quote?

    Claire Chennault, former freelance leader of the “Flying Tigers” translated into a U.S. general commanding the Fourteenth Air Force in China, was among the early advocates of intensive bombing of Japan. With five hundred aircraft, claimed this considerable charlatan, he could “burn out the industrial heart of the Empire with fire-bomb attacks on the teeming bamboo ant-heaps of Honshu and Kyushu.” U.S. air chief Gen. “Hap” Arnold responded sternly that “the use of incendiaries against cities was contrary to our national policy of attacking military objectives.”

    Retribution: The Battle for Japan 1944-45, Max Hastings

    General Arnold later changed his mind, becoming one of LeMay’s biggest champions as he was firebombing urban Japanese cities into oblivion. But Arnold’s early attitude against firebombing was still found in other areas of the U.S. military in 1945. There were even fears among the bomber command at the time that if MacArthur or Nimitz replaced the ailing Arnold – who was in charge of LeMay, but had just suffered another heart attack – that the firebombing of Japan’s cities would be stopped.

    Conrad Crane, among others, has speculated about the possible consequences, had Nimitz or MacArthur been given authority over LeMay. Nimitz would have insisted that much more effort should be devoted to support of naval and ground operations. MacArthur, who perceived himself as a gentleman soldier, was implacably hostile to bombing civilians. In a staff memorandum of June 1945, one of MacArthur’s closest aides, Brig. Bonner Fellers, described American air raids on Japan as “one of the most ruthless and barbaric killings of non-combatants in all history.” Whatever the general might have ordered LeMay to do, he would not have permitted him systematically to raze enemy cities.

    When looking at serious military objectives, it’s best not to mine the past for selective quotes. Generals often speculate, just like the rest of us. Look instead to specific plans and how military resources are produced, deployed and used.

    • Pincher Martin says:

      BTW, I realize that even before Pearl Harbor Marshall had ordered a study of firebombing Japanese cities. Earplugs makes reference to it in his posts. The fact remains that we were not firebombing Japan in late ’44 and early ’45, and we could’ve been. General Haywood Hansell, who commanded the Pacific-based bombers before LeMay took over, even argued that his precision bombing on Japanese targets was slowly improving.

      But the USAAF command, from Arnold on down, realized that dramatically better results must be shown if the high investment by the Pentagon in bombers were to continue after the war.

      LeMay was told to get those results. So he had to come up with new tactics and a new design to remake the B-29 into a weapon for which it had not been designed – a low-flying, night raider carrying ten tons of fiery destruction.

      • saintonge235 says:

        Ah, the old Unintentional Intellectual Bait and Switch ®, which occurs when people switch arguments in the middle of a discussion without realizing they’re doing it.

        Yes, it took a while to start the firebombing of Japan. The U.S. spoke of firebombing Japan before the war, but didn’t study the problem seriously. (The Army Air Forces didn’t study lots of things seriously till well into the war). And lack of bases meant there was no way to get at Japan till well into ’44. (Had there been high-capacity rail connections from the Gujerat to Western China, the whole Pacific War might have been different. Operation Matterhorn might have worked.). But by mid-1943, with Japan still out of reach, the AAF was seriously studying incendiary raids on Japan, and designing the necessary bombs.

        Saipan was attacked in June of ’44, Guam and Tinian in July. It wasn’t till October that rudimentary air fields were ready, and it was late November before there were 100 B-29s available https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XXI_Bomber_Command#Initial_B-29_Operations.

        The bombing of Japan was assigned to the XXth Air Force, with the XXth Bombardment group in India and China, and the XXIst Bombardment Group in the Marianas. Twentieth Air Force was supposed to be under Hap Arnold’s personal command, with Hayward Hansell, as the chief of staff. Then Arnold suffered a heart attack, and Hansell became de facto commander.

        Hayward Hansell was adamantly opposed to area bombing. He was sure he could precision bomb Japan to its knees. Wrong. Successful pre-war efforts by the Japanese to hide the locations of factories meant that the locations of factories weren’t known, the forgotten jet stream scattered the bombs too widely, and persistent cloud cover made the targets almost invisible. And there were problems in getting the bombing operational, such as ” teething problems with the B-29, tardy delivery of aircraft, aircrews untrained in high altitude formation flying, primitive airfield conditions, lack of an air service command for logistical support, no repair depots, a total absence of target intelligence, stubborn internal resistance to daylight operations by his sole combat wing, subordinates in the XXI Bomber Command who lobbied for his removal, and Hansell’s inferiority in rank in dealing with other AAF commanders in the theater.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haywood_S._Hansell#B-29_commander) But Hansell was in command, and he was given a chance to show that daylight precision bombing would be the most militarily effective use of 20th AF. Hansell sent his first daylight strike on Japan which occurred on 1944 November 24th, and a few more in December.

        From the beginning, there was opposition to Hansell’s plan, including by Arnold. But Arnold was reluctant to overrule Hansell, for personal reasons. Still, siix weeks after his first raid, Hansell was informed he would be relieved of command, though it took another two weeks till he was actually replaced. Le May came to Tinian in mid-January and found firebombs waiting for him. But he spent the first month and a half getting his feet under him (facilities were still very inadequate, to name only one thing, maintenance was still poor, and the crew training inadequate.) LeMay also had to figure out how to firebomb Japan succesfully. He was under orders not to start the firebombing campaign till he’d gotten the planes working well and had proved the M-69 bomblet and E-46 cluster bomb would work. Arnold was determined that when the firebombing campaign began, it must leap to high-intensity immediately, to deny the Japanese time to work out countermeasures. LeMay carried out one test firebomb raid on February 3rd, and firebombed Tokyo on February 23-24th. The tests were successful. He also concluded that stripping out most defensive weapons, sending the planes off individually, and flying at lower altitudes would allow increasing the bomb-load to around six tons. On March 9th-10, Tokyo got it.

        As for the effectiveness of Hansell’s campaign, he may well have been right about it improving. See the Wikipedia cite. And LeMay continued honing techniques and tactics throughout ’45. The use of the B-29 to lay mines is one example. Another is his willingness to try a daylight campaign aimed at Japan’s land transportation systems, decided on as a result of the Strategic Bombing Survey, Europe. Japan surrendered before it could be used.

        So yes, the U.S. intended to firebomb Japan before the war started, and might have started a month or two earlier, if LeMay had been in command from the start, instead of Hansell. The fact that there was opposition by some people, Hansell especially, caused only a short delay in the campaign. And the campaign’s pause was due to LeMay’s unexpected success in increasing the actual bomb loading.

        • Pincher Martin says:

          Ah, the old Unintentional Intellectual Bait and Switch ®, which occurs when people switch arguments in the middle of a discussion without realizing they’re doing it.

          There’s been no “bait and switch.” I’ve advanced two separate arguments.

          First, the U.S. military did not have a settled strategy for firebombing Japanese cities until late in the war precisely because U.S. military commanders didn’t have a settled strategy as to how to win the war. By the time LeMay took over the bombing campaign, the USAAF only knew it wanted results to justify the huge expenditure made on the B-29 bomber. They left the details to LeMay. He chose firebombing.

          Two, no one in the U.S. military was clear what effect firebombing would have on the war’s end. A couple of insightful men (like Henry Tizard) thought area bombing might be destructive [to Germany] without being decisive, which seems to be the consensus today about firebombing Japan. It was highly destructive to the country without being decisive to the war effort.

          Even the U.S. proponents of firebombing, like LeMay and Norstad, were happily surprised by the results of their campaign. The level of destruction surpassed their expectations. Heady with success, the USAAF made the argument after the war that the damage inflicted on Japan by the B-29s proved the most ambitious claims of those advocating a U.S. strategic bomber force, that it had essentially won the war against Japan.

          That’s highly doubtful. The damage was impressive, but there’s no evidence Japan was closer to surrender because of it. Five months of firebombing later, and with LeMay running out of targets, it still took two atomic bombs and a Soviet declaration of war to get Japan to surrender.

          Nor is there much evidence that Japan’s industry was damaged any more by firebombing than it was by the blockade. Nimitz, in fact, wanted LeMay’s bombers to spend more time dropping mines near Japan’s port cities – a request that LeMay resented.

          Why is this important? Because there’s a silly perception among some here that if U.S. bombers just had access to runways close to Japan, we would have ended the war much sooner.

          But let’s say we have those runways in late ’42 or early ’43 instead of late ’44. I have my doubts that the firebombing of Japan’s cities would’ve happened at that time or anytime soon thereafter. It was too early in the war. Exhaustion, including moral exhaustion, hadn’t set in yet. Too few Americans were dead at that time. The U.S. probably would’ve taken the course it did in Germany with precision bombing followed only much later by area bombing.

          Japan, too, could’ve adapted. One feature of bombing the Japanese mainland so late in the war was that their homeland air defenses were almost nonexistent and their industry had already collapsed. It had no way at that time to protect itself. Good luck with that bombing campaign in ’42 or ’43 before the collapse of Japan’s wartime production. Japan would’ve put up a far stouter defense than it later did. Certainly there would’ve been no low-flying bombing sorties that LeMay would later use to great effect.

          • Anonymous says:

            There’s been no “bait and switch.” I’ve advanced two separate arguments.

            …at separate times.

            Which is what?

            As to your overall high-handed and inaccurate approach, see my other recent reply.

    • Earplugs says:

      You originally said this:

      “To be fair, I doubt anyone in the U.S. military knew about the potential lethality and effectiveness of U.S. bombing campaigns until they began to be perfected under LeMay”

      Now you’re saying the opposite: They absolutely did know, but it was contrary to “policy!” Your cite juxtaposes Hap Arnold to Claire Chennault, which functions as a rhetorical rebuke. Chennault says he can burn them out, Hap Arnold says, roughly, “we don’t do that”

      This is a good illustration of what you only accuse me of: Quote-mining.

      Both of those quotes are at second-hand, and the narrative provides no chronological context. I don’t know when either of them said that, if they really said in relation to each other, or if they did, at what remove?

      For instance, if Hap Arnold said that before George Marshall’s remarks in November 1941, the “policy” could have changed. If he said it after the US was already dropping incendiaries on the Japanese, it loses a lot of its force. And that’s just considering Japan in exclusion, because we were also strategically bombing Germany with incendiaries.

      But, at the end of the day, all you’ve done here is further illuminate my point: Yes, of course they knew: Claire Chennault said it too, in even clearer terms: “fire-bomb attacks on the teeming bamboo ant-heaps”

      All you’re doing is demonstrating that this idea was such a commonplace that all the key people were effectively rhetorically competing to vary the theme with as much flourish as possible!

      • Pincher Martin says:

        Rather than look at quotes, look at what the USAAF did.

        It did not begin to firebomb the Japanese mainland until March 1945.

        That single fact upends your argument that the U.S. intention to firebomb Japan was long-standing U.S. policy that only required runways close enough to Japan in order to implement.

        As for my seeming contradiction, I don’t think anyone in the U.S. military knew that firebombing Japan would end up being the single most lethal and devastating military tool ever used in warfare. I take that from the happy and surprised reactions of the USAAF officers who were promoting the firebombing. Even they seemed (happily) surprised at the results.

        They knew it would much more lethal and devastating than precision bombing, of course, but everyone knew that. They did not anticipate that it would be as lethal and devastating as it turned out to be. But they also exaggerated the benefits of the bombing to ending the war.

        As for LeMay’s critical role, here is Max Hastings quoting an air force historian:

        One of the most remarkable aspects of the Twentieth Air Force’s 1945 campaign was the degree to which LeMay, a mere major-general of thirty-eight, was permitted to run his offensive out of the Marianas almost untrammelled by higher authorities. Washington sometimes interposed tactical advice or instructions—for instance, about the importance of diverting some aircraft from hitting cities to mining Japanese inshore waters—but never about strategic direction.

        As it was, however, the Twentieth Air Force pursued its fire-raising campaign until the very last day of the war, with overall campaign losses of only 1.38 percent. Dr. Crane has written: “The course and conduct of the air campaign against Japan were primarily a product of one innovative air commander who took advantage of vague direction and a disjointed chain of command to apply his own solutions…Even today, viable alternatives to the fire raids seem unclear.” There is no evidence that Arnold was ever less than wholly satisfied with his young star’s conduct of what he allowed to become LeMay’s private air force.

        So much for those long-standing U.S. plans to incinerate Japan.

        To be fair, I suspect that part of this distancing from LeMay’s strategy was just in case there was a public outcry over targeting Japanese civilians. But the U.S. media was enthusiastic about the bombing, the American public just wanted the war over, and civilian leaders like Stimson and FDR were silent (unless, in Stimson’s case, LeMay’s rhetoric got out of hand, which it did on occasion).

        • Earplugs says:

          “Rather than look at quotes, look at what the USAAF did.

          It did not begin to firebomb the Japanese mainland until March 1945.

          That single fact upends your argument that the U.S. intention to firebomb Japan was long-standing U.S. policy that only required runways close enough to Japan in order to implement.”

          OK. Let’s do that: Let’s look at what they did! So I looked at Wikipedia for five minutes, and once it again it flatly contradicts your silliness!

          In fact, if one simply types your own words: “It did not begin to firebomb the Japanese mainland until March 1945” into google the FIRST RESPONSE is this:

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_raids_on_Japan

          Which says this:

          “The next American raids on Japan were not successful. XXI Bomber Command attacked Tokyo three times between 27 November and 3 December; two of these raids were made against the Musashino aircraft plant while the other targeted an industrial area using M-69 incendiary cluster bombs, specifically developed to damage Japanese urban areas”

          The second link is:

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombing_of_Tokyo

          “Tokyo was hit by incendiaries on 25 February 1945”

          If you read the actual Operation Meetinghouse sub-article, which is where you get your whole “MARCH 1945!” argument, it gets even more bluntly direct:

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombing_of_Tokyo_(10_March_1945)#Early_incendiary_raids_on_Japan

          “The overall plan for the strategic bombing campaign against Japan specified that it would commence with precision bombing raids against key industrial facilities, and later include firebombing attacks on cities”

          “The first target directive issued to the XXI Bomber Command by its parent unit, the Twentieth Air Force, on 11 November, 1944 specified that the main target was Japanese aircraft and aviation engine factories. These targets were to be attacked by precision bombing. Japanese cities were specified as the secondary target, with area bombing being authorized for use against them. The directive also indicated that firebombing raids were likely to be ordered against cities to test the effectiveness of this tactic”

          “Several raids were conducted to test the effectiveness of firebombing against Japanese cities. A small incendiary attack was made against Tokyo on the night of 29/30 November 1944, but caused little damage. Incendiaries were also used as part of several other raids.”

          “USAAF planners began assessing the feasibility of a firebombing campaign against Japanese cities in 1943. Japan’s main industrial facilities were vulnerable to such attacks as they were concentrated in several large cities, and a high proportion of production took place in homes and small factories in urban areas. The planners estimated that incendiary bomb attacks on Japan’s six largest cities could cause physical damage to almost 40 percent of industrial facilities and result in the loss of 7.6 million man-months of labor. It was also estimated that these attacks would kill over 500,000 people, render about 7.75 million homeless and force almost 3.5 million to be evacuated.[17][18] The plans for the strategic bombing offensive against Japan developed in 1943 specified that it would transition from a focus on the precision bombing of industrial targets to area bombing from around halfway in the campaign, which was forecast to be in March 1945.[19]”

          You insist on rudely down-talking to me, and all I’m doing is taking 5 minutes to google and check your claims.

          I would politely ask that you proactively take the same amount of care before making them, and refrain from denigrating me as somehow ignorant simply because someone from absolute ignorance could just easily easily present the same exact case as I have.

          But, you see, that’s not exactly an indictment of me or my method, is it?

          • Pincher Martin says:

            I didn’t know they used incendiaries to precision bomb Japan from high altitudes, but since they rarely worked (they hit the target less than five percent of the time and apparently caused no great conflagration even when they missed the targets), what does it matter? We were talking about the effective strategy of mass firebombing of Japanese cities – the incineration of Japan you showed General Marshall forecasting before the war – and that began in mid-March.

            LeMay did not even practice his strategy for firebombing Tokyo until early March – and his first practice run with incendiaries was a dud, which made the success a week later all the more surprising.

            LeMay introduced a stringent training programme, and also threw himself into devising new tactical methods, focusing especially on the use of incendiary bombs. In his first few weeks, the XXth Bomber Command flew eight missions against Japan, including two experimental incendiary attacks. On three of these, not one bomb hit the primary target, though he increased each aircraft’s load to three tons by dumping armament and equipment.

            Max Hastings, Retribution

            The March 9–10, 1945, napalm firebombing of Tokyo remains the most destructive single twenty-four-hour period in military history, an event made even more eerie because even the architects of the raid were initially not sure whether the new B-29 tactics would have much effect on a previously resistant Tokyo.

            Victor Davis Hanson, The Second World Wars

            You insist on rudely down-talking to me, and all I’m doing is taking 5 minutes to google and check your claims.

            Is this coming from the same guy who wrote me in his first post that “[m]aybe exclusively reading books about Lemay isn’t the best preparation to properly argue this thesis?” and “Huh?” before I had even responded to him?

            I’ve given you back the exact same tone you’ve sent my direction. If you don’t like it, I suggest you work on improving your style to make it less dismissive. Perhaps then you will get polite responses.

          • Pincher Martin says:

            I did just find one interesting nugget in one of the LeMay biographies I read last summer that I missed when first reading the book. I present it here in the interest of fair play:

            LeMay found no answers to the problem of failing to strike the Japanese in front of him except for using an alternative weapon. Though LeMay preferred high explosive ordnance, in India General Chennault pressured him into trying the recently introduced incendiary bombs. LeMay sent almost 100 B-29s against the large Japanese supply base in Hankow, loaded with 500 tons of incendiaries. What became clear soon afterwards was that the massive fires created by the new bombs knocked out Hankow as a base of operations for the Japanese. He realized he had been wrong. The attack left an impression on LeMay.

            Warren Kozak, LeMay: The Life and Wars of General Curtis LeMay

            This happened when LeMay was in India in 1944.

  19. Earplugs says:

    “The fact remains that we were not firebombing Japan in late ’44 and early ’45, and we could’ve been.”

    We weren’t really bombing Japan at all until mid 1944, and the logistical complications of bombing from China meant it was like a raid a month.

    You’ve gone from “they had no idea” to “there were 4-5 raids where they tried something else first”

    • Pincher Martin says:

      We weren’t really bombing Japan at all until mid 1944, and the logistical complications of bombing from China meant it was like a raid a month.

      We started bombing the Japanese mainland in November of 1944. We began firebombing them in mid-March 1945.

      You can do the math, can’t you?

      And the logistical problems remained even on the Marianas islands. It was still a fifteen-hour round-flight which was mostly over water. Over 90% of the precision bombs missed their targets. The high altitude, weather and jet stream made it also impossible to hit them.

      At least in China, bomber crews had a chance to bail out over land when their plane went down.

      The expressed strategy of General Haywood Hansell, who LeMay replaced as the commander of the coordinated bombing attacks on Japan in early 1945, was high-altitude precision bombing. Look him up on Wikipedia if you don’t believe me. You don’t even need to read a book for this information.

      While all the command problems factored into his relief, the main reasons were Hansell’s persistence in daylight precision attacks, reluctance to night firebombing, Norstad’s view that Hansell was an impediment to instituting incendiary attacks, and a perception by Arnold and Norstad that the public relations effort by XXI Bomber Command had been unsatisfactory in preparing the American public for such attacks.[93]…

      Hansell outlined an alternate strategy for defeating Japan, using precision bombing as its basis, that he believed would have also succeeded by November 1945 while obviating the need for area bombing using incendiaries or the atomic bomb.[98] He did not find fault with the incendiary strategy per se, but rather with the premise that fire-bombing was necessary because otherwise Japan could not be defeated except by invasion of her home islands.[99] Historian Michael Sherry concluded that the case he presented was “powerful”.[100] Arnold by implication had erred in changing AAF strategy, especially taking into account the “deep and pervasive revulsion among the American people against strategic bombing of all sorts” that was a consequence.[101]

      Some of the above is probably self-serving pap by a general who was unhappy to be replaced, but the point is that there was nothing inevitable about fire-bombing Japan. It wasn’t a plan set in stone by Marshall before the war began. Even after it was implemented and shown to be highly destructive in ways that appeared to help war aims, there was still resistance to it. By MacArthur and Stimson, who thought it uncivilized. And by Nimitz who wanted to use the bombers to help with his naval blockade.

      After LeMay took over the bomber command from Hansell, it took him another two months before he could carry out the firebombing of Tokyo. LeMay had to reconfigure the B-29 for low-altitude flights and dump a lot of what he felt was unnecessary armament on the planes. He replaced most of that weight with more incendiaries. The lighter bomber also flew faster, which was important at low altitudes despite almost nonexistent Japanese resistance.

      • Earplugs says:

        Somehow the other reply I made got lost.

        Long story short: You are mutating your claims.

        You stated, flatly:

        “To be fair, I doubt anyone in the U.S. military knew about the potential lethality and effectiveness of U.S. bombing campaigns until they began to be perfected under LeMay”

        That isn’t fair or accurate: They talked about it glibly. You actually brought up someone else blatantly stating it: Chennault.

        I was disputing a singular claim. You’re now lecturing about a bunch of other stuff I never had any comment on.

        • Pincher Martin says:

          “To be fair, I doubt anyone in the U.S. military knew about the potential lethality and effectiveness of U.S. bombing campaigns until they began to be perfected under LeMay”

          Yes, and I stand by that claim. Even the proponents of firebombing were happily surprised at the results of firebombing Tokyo. When LeMay took a practice run at Japan in early March with incendiaries, the results were not impressive.

          Basically, you guys are arguing that “wood burns.” Well, of course, but that doesn’t tell you much. It doesn’t tell you how many of your bombs can hit the targets, how low the bombers can fly, what kind of resistance your bombers will meet at that low altitude, whether the Japanese made adequate defensive measures on the ground (like fire breaks and water channels) that will limit the damage of the bombs, whether the bombers you have are suited for this kind of mission, etc.

          That stuff matters to the lethality and effectiveness of a bombing campaign. Many pilots thought LeMay was giving them a death sentence by making them fly so low. Turned out it was far less deadly for them flying at low altitude than it was at higher altitude, where the jet stream gave their bombers so many problems despite the fact it was designed to fly at that altitude, because Japanese resistance was so minimal.

          • Earplugs says:

            “Basically, you guys are arguing that “wood burns.” Well, of course, but that doesn’t tell you much.”

            No, the basis of my claim is that you won’t even read wikipedia but feel comfortable talking to down to people whose complicated research method is:

            Take claim that sounds inaccurate
            Type claim as stated into google
            Click “I feel lucky”
            Read the link, which is a wikipedia article about the general subject
            Discover that the claim is indeed inaccurate

            I even did optional step 6: “find the primary material the tertiary (at best) summary source is based upon” the initial time, because I don’t like relying on indirectly sourced quotes. You know, as a courtesy and in the interest of comity and finding probative truth.

            For my efforts you said I was “quote mining” and have dripped with condescension ever since and have started making all sorts of other claims that I never had any comment on.

            Curate’s egg. I don’t enjoy the dish, perhaps as seems likely, you do.

            • Pincher Martin says:

              You’re taking a lawyer’s approach to this question now that you understand you have little support for your claims that the firebombing of Japan was a long-term strategy that the U.S. military was committed to from the beginning of the war and that our generals understood from the start there would be a big payoff to it.

              I do appreciate the google tips, though.

  20. Eoan says:

    Specifics of World War II are incidental to this post. It was about the competence of a particular officer and the that he was replaced.

    But it may be worth noting: the US was surprised when Japan refused to rearm after WWII as a counter to northern Korea, etc. As a result, the US has maintained significant forces in Korea and Japan. 60 years later, can we say that the US has benefited from its decision to break the laws of war to force an unconditional surrender from Japan? Does the US benefit from its deployments in this region, when (unlike northern Korean military) its troops mostly do military stuff, and not things like construct buildings and farm? If the US does benefit, are there any ways to theoretically accrue the same benefits at lower cost, or with greater efficiency? (Consider the scenario posited by Keynes, of filling bottles with money and burying them in mines for people to dig out.)

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