Mid-February, and even though tomorrow is St Valentine’s Day, we’re talking about WWII because this is the 13th of February. Oh, there was Galileo before the Inquisition in 1633, and William and Mary of Nassau being proclaimed joint sovereigns of England in 1689, and the beginning of ASCAP in 1914, and the birth of Chuck Yeager in 1923, and Andrey Chernienko was named Premier of the Soviet Union in 1984. But today we talk about massacres in war, and brave men, and clean computers.
The Germans managed to cobble together some 180,000 men under Karl Pfeffer Wildenbruch, a competent policeman untested in heavy combat against the Soviets.
By late 1945, the German Army was entirely on the defensive. In an effort to slow the Soviet drives into Germany, and above all to prevent them from linking with the Anglo-Americans, the Germans planned to hold several urban areas in Eastern Europe and to knock the Soviet mobile offensives off-balance. One of these cities was Budapest, the capital city of Hungary that had been a German ally until October 1944. The Germans managed to cobble together some 180,000 men under Karl Pfeffer Wildenbruch, a competent policeman untested in heavy combat against the Soviets. The Soviets, on the other hand, were to capture Budapest quickly before Stalin met with Churchill and Roosevelt at Yalta. To do this, Rodion Malinovski commanded something over half a million men. The fighting over Budapest started in October, 1944. The last road out was cut on 26 December. The remnants of the German Luftwaffe could barely support itself, but tried valiantly to supply Budapest until the last airfield fell 27 December. The Germans tried three separate offensives in January 1945 to break out or relieve the siege, and all failed. On 11 February a last breakout attempt resulted in tens of thousands of German and Hungarian casualties and the capture of Wildenbruch. On 13 February, the last of the German garrison in Budapest surrendered about 60,000 or so German and Hungarian troops (with an unknown number of civilians added as padding). Predictably, while the German/Hungarian casualties amounted to 130,000 in the fifty-day siege, the Soviet/Romanian casualties were somewhat more.
Official German casualty figures for Dresden at the time add up to somewhere between 22,000 and 25,000, but the Germans purposely inflated the numbers to 200,000 for propaganda purposes…
While the siege of Budapest is not well known in the West, the bombing campaign of Dresden is. Starting on 13 February 1945, the RAF and the USAAF struck the “Florence of the Elbe” three times in three days. In all over 1,300 heavy bombers dropped some 3,900 tons of high explosive and incendiary bombs on the city, destroying 2 and a half square miles of the city (in contrast, the March 9-10 1945 firebombing of Tokyo destroyed a little over 15 square miles in a single raid). Official German casualty figures for Dresden at the time add up to somewhere between 22,000 and 25,000, but the Germans purposely inflated the numbers to 200,000 for propaganda purposes, and Holocaust-denier David Irving has put them as high as 500,000 in his 1963 book The Destruction of Dresden. American author Kurt Vonnegut, who was a prisoner of war in Dresden during the bombing and wrote about his experience in his 1969 novel Slaughterhouse Five, declared that 130,000 casualties were either buried or incinerated. However, a 2010 study commissioned by the Dresden city council found that no more than 25,000 people were killed in the three raids.
Though I never met Moore, I did meet a survivor of the Ia Drang fight who was hurt and had to be evacuated. As he remembered it, Moore personally carried one leg of his litter. Sometimes, that’s as close as we can come to greatness.
Not every general gets to be better known for what he did as a colonel. Custer was one of that exclusive club; Hal Moore was another. Moore died last Friday, 10 April 2017 at the age of 94. Moore’s career before and after Ia Drang was notable only for its relative routine: he had no one of influence to help his career, and as a Kentuckian no particular hindrances, either. He graduated West Point a year early in 1945 because the Army needed replacement officers. Branched to the Infantry, he served in the 11th Airborne and 82nd Airborne divisions, and the 7th Infantry in Korea. In 1965, Moore was in command of the 2nd Battalion of the 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. In November of that year, 2/7th Cav was in the Ia Drang valley of the Central Highlands of Vietnam, short-stopping two North Vietnamese Army regiments in a long fight over Pleiku, operating out of a place called Drop Zone X-Ray. While Moore and his men were credited with “winning” the fight at the time and Moore won a DSC, the fight convinced Ho Chi Minh that he could win. After Ia Drang and a series of career progressions, Moore retired from the Army a Lieutenant General in 1977. He wrote three books, the best known being We Were Soldiers Once, and Young with Joseph Galloway published in 1992. The 2002 Mel Gibson film We Were Soldiers was based on the book. Though I never met Moore, I did meet a survivor of the Ia Drang fight who was hurt and had to be evacuated. As he remembered it, Moore personally carried one leg of his litter. Sometimes, that’s as close as we can come to greatness.
Nonetheless, a clean computer is a laudable, if relatively unachievable, goal.
Then, there’s Clean Your Computer Day, which is the second Monday in February. The day was originally sponsored in 2000 by the Institute for Business Technology, a for-profit trade school in Santa Clara, California. IBT probably once had some computer training, but at this writing they concentrate on other skilled trades, including HVAC technician, massage therapy, and various medical office jobs. Nonetheless, a clean computer is a laudable, if relatively unachievable, goal. I have two computers that I have to keep clean, and all that scrubbing and dusting does get tedious…and that bitbucket…always full. Does anyone know of a way to keep the RAM from getting so dirty and full of fleas…wait…there it is again…come back here, you ignorant herbivore…there’s no ewes over there…!