Friday, December 28, 2012

No Uncle Sam

Here's the thing; I've pretty much run through all the actual decisive battles and even the engagements I'm interested in that were fought in January. Same-same for December as I'm sure you haven't noticed, but we didn't have a battle here, either.


So I'm casting about for something to discuss in the upcoming month and what's been tickling my fancy is to review the fight that took place in Bataan between December 1941 and January 1942, the so-called "Battle of Bataan".


My thoughts are that I want to discuss the Imperial Japanese Army and there are really only three places I'm interested in doing that; Khalkhyn Gol in May (IJA vs. Soviets, 1939), Kohima-Imphal for April (IJA vs. Britain, 1944),and this one, the IJA vs. the US and Philippine Army.

Any interest in that?

16 comments:

Big Daddy said...

If you have the time and energy Bataan is definitely worth the FD Chief treatment. The Bataan and Corregidor battles stand out for taking much longer than expected compared to the fall of Malaya and Singapore, and it appears that the difference is mainly on the Japanese side.
If you are tight for resources, I'd go for the other two since Khalkhin Gol is relatively unknown in the US and Imphal-Kohima is more illustrative of both Japanese failure and Allied growth.

Leon said...

My vote is for Bataan since it's rarely discussed except for the 'death march' afterwards. It'd be interesting to see what happened before it.

I've played a wargame for Kohima-Imphal (http://www.multimanpublishing.com/tabid/58/CategoryID/7/ProductID/4/Default.aspx), good god was that a nasty-nasty place to fight.

Don Francisco said...

Yes to all three! I'm sure there are lots of insights from each, and the Japanese army isn't something much explored.

EGrise said...

Yes to all three from me as well! I don't know as much about the IJA as I'd like to, and would love to read your analysis.

Ael said...

I would love a tour of the IJA.

Other things that might interest you are the Battle of Caaguazú or the Battle of Lake Trasimene.

Podunk Paul said...

Khalkhyn Gol would be quite interesting as its seems to get little attention.

Caconym said...

Yes please, to all of them. I've been looking forwards to seeing you take a closer look at the IJA.

Leon said...

Ael, I'm not sure there's much to cover on Lake Trasimene. It's only covered by Livy and Polybius and I don't think there's much conflict between their writings. Simple story of Roman general marching without scouting and getting ambushed.

I'd say Cannae is more interesting for several factors but the battle is usually done to death. Zama is interesting as it's Hannibal's last battle and I've had one scholar theorize Hanny was trying another clever ploy.

FDChief said...

Okay, so Bataan it is for January, then...

And I just finished a book called "The Ghosts of Cannae", Leon, and the author takes a very similar view about Trasimene; that there's no particularly good reportage of the engagement and that it's not much of a "whodunnit"; Hannibal does a good IPB, the Romans don't and get bushwacked and destroyed.

And overall I don't really see a point to analyzing Hannibal's Italian campaign other than from a purely historical standpoint. The military part is pretty much the same as Napoleon's central European campaigns; Hannibal/Napoleon defeats their enemy...enemy puts together another army...repeat step one.

The author of "Ghosts" pointed out that the real story there is that Hannibal was never capable of truly subduing the Italian peninsula. He controlled whatever ground his army occupied, which allowed the Romans to retool after every defeat. The real story was in Spain, where Scipio's people went about methodically destroying Hannibal's economic and political base, and in Carthage, where Hannibal couldn't get his political masters to mobilize for total war. The Romans could, and did, and in the end you come to the plains of Zama...

FDChief said...

And I should add that there WAS one point where Hannibal might have done the thing - had he marched up the Via Appia after Cannae and dictated peace terms from the Tarpaean Rock.

His brother Hasdrubal supposedly argued vehemently for doing just that and Hannibal, for once, took counsel from his fears and refused. And he is supposed to have said later that he regretted not listening to his bro's advice.

But counterfactuals are always dicey. The history is that Hannibal, like Napoleon, like Hitler's Wehrmacht, like our "War on Terror", found that without a workable political plan for success tactical victory is a chimera.

Leon said...

Marching on Rome was never an option. He lacked the siege equipment to actually take the city and his army was too small (and had taken some losses from their victory at Cannae). What his approach to Rome did succeed in doing was for the Romans to withdraw their army besieging Capua (Carthage's ally).

Plus the Romans wouldn't have surrendered. That's the thing that the Hellenistic empires and Carthage didn't get about Rome. They didn't accept anything except total surrender on their terms. To reach that goal they had masses of manpower plus the ability to incorporate conquered states effectively and get their men to fight (note how few allies Hannibal got despite spending years in Italy).

I recently read a book on Carthage that theorizes there was a huge propaganda war going on with Rome trying to unify the Greeks in southern Italy by casting Rome as being founded by Herakles/Hercules during his travels. At the same time Hannibal was using the same god (under his Punic version of Melqart) to get the Greeks on his side by pointing out the Romans claimed descent (in one of their myths) from the Trojans who were the enemy of the Greeks. Hannibal's abortive march on Rome (according to this author) was to visit the shrine of Hercules outside the city of Rome to score an important propaganda coup on top of his crushing victory. The Romans would at their first opportunity then move the shrine of Hercules inside the city.

FDChief said...

"Marching on Rome was never an option."

That was Hannibal's argument; no siege train, too few troops for too big an objective, no good options there.

Which kinda comes back to the whole problem with the Italian Campaigns; there really WAS no good option for the Carthaginians so long as Rome was determined to keep fielding armies.

You kind of get the feeling that the city fathers of Carthage never really understood that for Rome there was no "accomodation", no "deal", that the plow and the bag of salt were the only end they'd accept. The guys from North Africa were merchants, and for merchants there's ALWAYS a deal. They just never got the clue...

FDChief said...

And, interestingly enough, I DID find a battle for December at the last moment; the Battle of the Barents Sea of 31 DEC 1942.

Enjoy.

Leon said...

One of my classics prof railed against the "merchant" tag as all states engaged in trade. He felt it was a way by the victors to denigrate (or shape perceptions) since the Roman elite felt that wealth derived from agriculture was the only respectable source. And he may have a point. I'd feel more secure treating them as a typical Hellenistic oligarchic state.

FDChief said...

Interesting. I never thought of that. Though the Romans were no slouch at making money. They just liked to make it with swords and pila whenever possible...

Still, the story of Carthage v. Rome DOES seem to involve a lot of not-getting-that-the-Romans-weren't-going-to-deal in a fashion that reminds you of commercial types who just don't get it that some people don't HAVE a price...

The Roving Historian said...

Just found your blog and I really like what you're doing. My vote is for Bataan. ;-)