Grognard Wargamer Thread!


Lee’s Lieutenants is problematic as history, but fantastic as, well, I guess literature, especially if you’re a southerner! I mean, sorta like Foote’s writing, Freeman’s is evocative and definitely has a deep connection with the subject matter. Maybe too deep a connection; there’s more than a whiff of both hagiography and a “great man” view of history in Lee’s Lieutenants (something Weigley managed to avoid in his Eisenhower’s Lieutenants, inspired in part by Freeman’s work, at least in concept). I personally find reading Lee’s Lieutenants a great escapist sort of military history, because while it does have a lot of definitely good information, it’s more about capturing personalities in a time and place, a time and place that my rational side realizes is somewhat, ahem, skewed in Freeman’s presentation, but which the romantic side of me sort of engages with. Ditto for Foote; fabulous prose, great evocation, questionable history, for many students of the conflict.

So if you’re going to read Freeman, personally I’d skip the abridged version because for me the whole point is the almost fulsome treatment he gives his subjects.

Battle Cry of Freedom holds up very well, IMO. Catton, while beautifully written, is less timeless in terms of modern historiography, but Catton is sort of like the Yankee version of Foote, and just as readable, particularly his Army of the Potomac stuff. Coddington’s book on Gettysburg, OTOH, as far as I know is still one of the best on the campaign, and I do like it quite a bit.


If you want a short book on an oddball, underappreciated topic, have a look at Mr. Lincoln’s Brown Water Navy, a history of the gunboat war on the Mississippi from the start of the war through about 1863. (After Vicksburg, the Mississippi was Union territory, so not a lot happened then.)

@richardlgaines, you might try Battle of Britain 2 without hopping into the cockpit. I think the dynamic campaign stands up as a passable wargame in its own right.


I think in order to read Foote, someone should have to watch Ken Burn’s documentary first so they have that voice in their head the entire time they are reading.


I just saw this on the Decision Games site, looks like a computer version of RAF?


Yes that’s the spriit! I am looking at that now. Battle of Britain (historically) had a ton of strategic and tactical thinking. Hard to imagine a more pivotal battle in western history. In fact it may be the pivotal battle. BTW the English movie of the same name is very good.


I wouldn’t touch a Decision Games computer product with a ten-foot pole. I question whether it is even functional. The board game version of RAF (of which that is essentially a digital conversion) is quite good, though.



Here you go @vyshka, a recent guinea pig from the space game thread who took one for team with the computer version of Struggle for the Galactic Empire:


I took the plunge on one Decision Game digital product, Operation Olympic, because I was reading an alternate history novel about the invasion of Japan. The game, once I got it (took two days to get a download link, in 2017!), seems functional, if rather homely. But even at $25 it’s overpriced.


I’ll concede a battle was fought. I’m not convinced it was “pivotal” in any sense of the term. It certainly was touted as that by the British though.

See, I just don’t believe Hitler EVER intended to invade England. He made them think he was doing that, but you can’t convince me there was anything involved other than trying to pressure GB to make peace with Germany after defeat on the “Western Front”. The failure to destroy the British Army at Dunkirk, or even attack it, pretty much shows there was no intent by the Germans to conquer Britain. So was the switch in tactics in BOB to “terror bombing”. Just all political manipulation.,


That’s one interpretation, and it has some merit. Another is that Hitler was, as he seemed often to be, mercurial and inconsistent, and that he oscillated between wanting to invade and destroy the UK and being more pragmatic about it. At various times it seemed he was dead set on invasion, at others, not so much. His lack of consistency and basic irrationality seemed to be part of his character, so it’s hard to say he had any coherent strategy overall.

Certainly Germany’s ineptitude at the strategic level points to a lack of coherence and actual planning ability above the operational level.

I’ve lived and worked in Germany over the years, and my sense was that a lot of the myth of German technical superiority and precision is just that, a myth. It’s more true among some northern Germans, of a certain class, certainly, the technical elite in places like Berlin or the financial leaders in places like Frankfurt, but southern Germany has always had a very different vibe–Gemütlichkeit is cool for beer fests but not for wartime economics. And much of the German working class was, and is, just like the industrial working class anywhere else. I’ve seen enough German construction, road work, and municipal workers to realize that there isn’t some magic Teutonic efficiency pervading the nation, any more than all Americans are gun-toting Texans.


Yes, and I’m aware of the popular Hitler was fickle view that plays into most of the political narratives people like to hold. My theory on Hitler’s goals is unsubstantiated among any authors I’m aware of but based on something I feel pretty strongly about: That Hitler’s war aims were a product of his WWI experience and his belief, and that of most WWI German soldiers I imagine, that the Army actually won WWI and that weakness on the home front sabotaged their great achievements. Hitler I perceive believed Germany should have all of its WWI gains restored to her, and if you look at where Hitler was most adamant, it was for territory he felt should belong to Germany. I.e., he wasn’t out to conquer the world.

So, in WWI, Germany had no desire to invade Britain, nor to destroy France (in WWI Germany only sought to support Austria against the Russians, wasn’t set to go to war with the Western Allies). In WWII when France surrendered and Britain evacuated, that was his desired result in the West (gave him what Germany should have ended up with in WWI) and he felt the War in the West should be over. But since Britain didn’t also surrender, he had to try different strategies to induce them to do so. First feigning invasion hoping the British people wouldn’t want to face that. Then terror bombing to, well, terrorize them into peace with him. Losing that caused him to say, perhaps, “aw fuck it” and turn around to focus on restoring Germany’s WWI gains in the East.

I won’t go into it, but many of Hitler’s questionable, fickle decisions in Russia can be explained – at least to me – by thinking that he was refighting WWI, where Germany remained vastly superior to the Russians throughout the war. So… send the panzers to Kiev? Sure, no big hurry to take Moscow, we’re already far ahead of where we were in 1914 and it’s only going to get worse for the Soviets…

It’s easy to make the mistake of using hindsight to assign war goals to the various sides in WWII. Who thought in 1941 that the Soviets would emerge so powerful in just a couple of years? People like Hitler viewed the situation as not much different from 20 years earlier – much like politicians do in our age today – and looked for certain circumstances to replay themselves. Declare war on the U.S.? Sure, they were basically a non-factor in 1918, what did Hitler have to fear from a half-hearted U.S. involvement that was now faced with an arguably more pressing conflict in the Pacific? But all that was wrong in hindsight.

Anyway, I haven’t really found any weaknesses in my view though I’m sure some will point them out. Do I have answers to that? Don’t know for sure, but it seems strong to my present thinking.


No, I think your analysis is intriguing, and has a lot of merit. There is no one true version of this stuff, of course, we all have our ways of looking at it.

My take on Hitler though is a bit different. To me, Germany’s war aims were inextricably intertwined with Nazi ideology. Sure, there was a broad-based dissatisfaction with the result of WWI and with Versailles, independent of any political leanings. But the National Socialists never separated their ideological, including racial, goals from their nationalist goals. The German General Staff might have, and various individuals within the Reich may have, but as an institution the Third Reich went to war not just for easily parsed territorial and nationalist goals, but to install, secure, and spread their ideology.

Hence, a lot of the decisions that appear militarily bizarre are fully explainable when you look at the ideological component. The goal wasn’t just territory, it was territory cleansed of so-called subhumans. It wasn’t enough just to defeat the enemy armies, it was also necessary to exterminate the genetic and ideological threats to the Nazi belief system. In short, the Nazis could not win by merely making rational military choices if those choices came at the expense of ideological goals. That’s why the trains to Auschwitz kept running til the bitter end, and why so many resources were diverted from more traditional military needs to the destruction of the Jews and the others the Nazis despised.

It’s also why the Allies were of two minds about killing Hitler. At some level it was pretty clear that if the generals took control, the non-hardcore Nazis might very well fight a more rational war, and that could only hurt the Allied chances of victory. But I’m not that sure the generals as a group were all that different from the mainstream Nazis. Sure, after the war everyone hated Hitler, but during the conflict there was precious little opposition to the Nazi racial program and the rest of its odious belief system.


This is the key, and something a lot of grognards forget, as we’re just used to looking at unit status and movement points and terrain modifiers. Very, very few of us would have shoved our counters eastward with an unbeaten and defiant Great Britain still on the map; I mean, duh, most of us wouldn’t have pushed those counters east at all. But very, very few of us (thankfully) are filled with hatred toward Jews, Slavs, or other “subhumans” and driven by Wagnerian insanity to conquer for the Aryan Race.


Just wondering if you all saw any of the U.S. anti-Japanese war propaganda? Pretty much dehumanized them as well. I think that sort of thing was pretty much in vogue across the planet. They wanted people to believe it. Then forget it after the war.


Much of it made by one Theodore Geisel, a.k.a. Dr Seuss.

Always blows people’s minds when I show them what the good doctor was up to during the war years.


Wow, War in the West is finally coming to Steam. I wonder if they’ll ever put WITP over there.


An interesting discussion re: Battle of Britain. Good points on both sides. I lean towards the more conventional idea that Goering turning the bombing from the airfields to cities allowed the RAF to resupply and then develop better tactics for dealing with the bomber formations. I may find a good book on Audible about this as well, it has been years since I read a Battle of Britain history (for some reason I’ve read a lot of Pacific naval history lately).

If I find a good war game on that battle/period I’ll post it.


@Brooski mentioned Michael Korda’s With Wings Like Eagles, “a fast-reading, intelligent history of the Battle of Britain published in 2009,” if you haven’t read it yet. We went to see Dunkirk last night and I’m in a RAF mood so I’m considering reading it.


There are some surface similarities, but that’s about it, between the anti-Japanese feeling in the US after Pearl Harbor, and the systematic racist ideology of the NSDAP. Official US policy towards Japan never endorsed any of the admittedly widely tolerated and perhaps even widely felt racially motivated hatred of the Japanese. Individuals, certainly, quite a few of them, as has been well documented, but not the government as a whole. The Nazi worldview was just that, though; an officially sanctioned, fully endorsed and in fact mandated ideology of racial superiority.

I mean, within a few years of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we were working hard to help the Japanese rebuild, and forging some pretty strong economic, military, and cultural ties. And even at the worst of the Pacific fighting, Americans never denied that the Japanese were tough SOBs. The Marines may have hated “the Nips,” but they sure respected their ability to fight for all those islands.

Much of the propaganda was a variation on the usual demonization of the enemy you see in all wars. But look at the posters and ads and stuff. The Japanese are often sneaky, and aggressive, and yes they are portrayed in what would now be considered highly offensive racial stereotypes. But compare this stuff to the anti-Jewish, anti-Slav propaganda the Germans put out. There, the entire race or ethnic group is targeted, and assigned horrific and denigrating characteristics far beyond buck teeth and thick glasses. And the US propaganda didn’t highlight women, children, civilians, and Japanese culture, but focused pretty much exclusively on the image of Japanese soldiers, sailors, or airmen–military personnel.

There’s a huge difference I think between generic middle of the century racism–the US had a long history by that time of anti-Asian feelings, going back at least to the Chinese Exclusion Act, and really, most Americans didn’t separate one Asian form another with any regularity or clarity–and what the Nazis did.


Stephen Bungay tries to thoroughly debunk the “switching targets saved the RAF” hypothesis by both looking at how long the airfields were actually shut down (much shorter time than previously thought, per Bungay) and to a lesser extent how the Germans never had the capacity to transport and then supply anything near what they would have had to do to successfully invade. Within a few weeks of Dunkirk, the beaches would have been very, very tough for even a well-equipped force to invade, and the Germans were trying to make do with Channel barges.

As @orald points out, Michael Korda’s book is a short, excellent read. Bungay’ Most Dangeous Enemy is a long, comprehensive look at the development of the fighter after WWI, the structure of both air forces, the tactics and results - excellent book, IMO. In the comments section on Qt3, though, Lee Brimmicombe-Wood (!) cautions against taking the word of a “management consultant.” (see last comment)

There is a good book from 1989 by Hough and Richards that does a very nice scholarly job on the battle (one of the authors wrote the official 1939-45 history of the RAF) but the numbers differ from Bungay’s, I think because of the declassification.

Korda’s book is short and good. I might as well just post the books I have for reference - the books on the top row are generally more useful than those on the bottom row.

I really do like Bungay. Something quantitative about the book really appeals to me. He also writes extremely well.