Insight of the Archdruid . . .

MIDNIGHT INSIGHTS - THE LESSONS OF WAR



A strategic analysis from the Archdruid:


Berkeley, January 5, 2000

Last night I spend most of my sleeping time refighting World War II, trying to see if anything I remembered from then could be useful now in our attempt to drain Powell and restore Glen Canyon.
I hope I can remember some of the midnight insights.


Insights Sought in Slumber

Since no one else in the Glen Canyon effort was a combat intelligence officer in the Tenth Mountain Division in World War II, I thought I ought to let you know about what it taught me that we could conceivably make use of in the battle to restore Glen Canyon.

I had models: generals; Montgomery and Eisenhower. I had a clear preference then and now. Montgomery wanted everything carefully thought out in advance. Eisenhower, wanting action now, fortunately prevailed or we'd still be fighting that war. Patton got the a job in upper Europe and Mark Clark could save us in Italy. With Clark, General Hays would command our 10th Mountain Division.

I had one direct contact with him. I was in the usual rear position as S-2 ("Blue 2"), 3d Battalion, 86th Mountain Infantry when he passed by my lower position on his way to a higher one, direct contact with troops under fire. He had previously told us, as we went into combat, there "Will be bad times and good times." I was not yet prepared to think of the dread I felt as a good time. I hadn't talked to him before, and wouldn't again, but so make passing conversation I said, "Things are rough up there". I was not ready for his severe response: "I don't ever want to hear you talk like that again" as he moved up the tortured slopes of Monte Della Torraccia, about which more later.

Perhaps there should be a little flashback about what got a Berkeley boy to Italy who had previously said he'd rather go to jail than go to war. Mountain climbing did it. The U.S. had had no mountain troops, unlike other countries. As World War II took over, the Army wanted to catch up, and skiers and climbers were in demand. I had a minor role and creating the demand and ended up an almost willing victim. and in October 1942 was in Camp Carson Colorado assured that I would get basic draining in the mountain troops, further training in officers candidate school, return to the mountain troops, help train them, ten thousand of them in Colorado and West Virginia, then learn a little bit about handling flat terrain, for a change, in Texas, and finally then get some combat experience wherever, which got a bunch of us in
Naples on Christmas Eve, 1944 . They told us we were going to Asia and disguised us in suntans and sent our mules, without suntans, to Asia. In Texas they gave me an emergency leave to visit Ken, our first born, who had just arrived in San Francisco before I was to arrive in Italy.

I was expecting a few days' peaceful orientation around Naples, where ladies of enterprise were exchanging their service for a pack of cigarettes, but the Battle of the Bulge was underway up north and posed the threat of coming down the north Italian coast. We were speedily shipped to Livorno and readied in Pisa for northerly combat. To get in shape we were marched along a coastal road, singing one of the best known German songs, Lili Marlene, and ran into some German mines and sustained several casualties. Among the medics who rushed in to save the injured was Robert Allen, who was thereupon himself injured, whom I would next encounter when he was directing the Kendall Foundation, which would invest half a million dollars in conservation work I would by then trying to do for the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, the League of Conservation Voters, Earth Island Institute, and attempts to rescue Grand Canyon, , the Redwoods, North Cascades, and Yosemite. You can never tell what opportunities you will run into in Italy.

We thought the Germans didn't know we were in Italy. We were ordered to capture Monte Belvedere, where earlier troops had already failed three times, including the Brazilian Expeditionary Force. When we were passing through it in the dark of the night the German PA system come on with "Welcome to the U.S. Tenth Mountain Division." Our disguise had failed.

But they weren't ready for us yet. We knew that to take Belvedere we must get Germans off their critical observation position on Riva Ridge, from which they looked down our throats. Our 3rd Battalion was put in reserve while the 1st and 2nd, in darkness, climbed the hairy ridge and surprised the Germans in the middle of a relief, before we arrived on top and took over ­ those who made it..

Our strategy for cutting through the North Apennines to the Po Valley, was to avoid the main heavily fortified highway over the mountains. We would travel the backroads instead. With Riva Ridge ours, we could take Belvedere and move on toward Torraccia.


Our Battalion was still in reserve and the 85th Mountain Regiment was assigned to getting the Germans off Torriccia. My former Sierra Club skiing and climbing friend, Charlie Hanks, told me what happened next. As night came on, the regimental commander, deciding that his troops were tired, told them to rest in the forest approaching the mountain, whereupon the Germans fired tracers to define the edge of the forest, blanketed it were artillery, and the resulting tree bursts slaughtered our troops.

The 3d Battalion was pulled out of reserve and went to work, with no rest in the forest, and it was indeed rough, on both sides. Jack Hay, our battalion commander, had us using 50 caliber machine guns, not 30s. The difference was devastating. We took over the top and improvised a poorly protected command post just on the lee side of Torraccia. Preparing to counterattack us, the Germans showered our position with artillery ­ about three thousand rounds. I assumed that mortar fire was included, which would mean that our defilade was useless and we could expect a mortar shell to end our war any moment.

Good news is not to be expected at times like this, but it came. Ernie Mareski, who headed my S-2 squad, was out on the exposed side of the mountain, dutifully observing, and called me on the phone: "What they're firing at us are 75s." Not mortars. Our defilade would save us. That didn't mean we could relax. We could just be less tense.

To be prepared for some of this a month earlier, my assistant S-2 and I had spend two weeks of intelligence training in Pozzuoli, just north of Napoli, to get brushed up on German tactics and strategy, including some military German. It has been a restful period in which I learned how effective the OSS (Office of Strategic Services, later to become the CIA) could be. They had rescued an American pilot who had parachuted in Yugoslavia and was in Italy where I could hear his story, almost daily. One officer at the school was a British captain who drummed very well, and could gave my occasional piano playing more discipline than it had previously been troubled with. Being groped at a movie by a native was fun, too, but I was not ready to exploit it. I was, however, about to be ready to exploit my smattering of military German.


[Dave Brower, Po Valley, Italy, 1945 by Arthur Argiewicz]

As I could now expect, the artillery barrage on Torraccia was immediately followed by the first counterattacking troops, who were to divert our attention from the major ensuing attack on our flank. Their initial effort yielded some prisoners, one of them a lieutenant who forgot to discard the battle order and map he had in his inside parka pocket. I called in a German-American from "I" Company to help me understood what that parka pocket had to say. He didn't understand the military German. I'd better settle down and figure it out for myself.

What I was supposed to do instead, I knew, was send the prisoner back to higher, brighter authority. But I was Dutch enough to be naturally stubborn, and of course I wouldn't send anybody back yet. Besides, by the time he got back and they got around to doing anything about him, all I needed to know right now would be of little further use. I had no reason to expect to survive their full counterattack.

So I told my commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Jack Hay, with map in hand, "This is where they are. And we're next."

He immediately called artillery, gave the coordinates, they responded instantly, and we weren't next.

Years later Marlowe Hurting, who I had wanted to bolster our S-2 section who but wanted to stay with his friends in "I" Company, described the havoc the Germans had suffered instead of what they had intended for us. Their counterattack had a failed, and my only chance to fire a weapon in combat in World War had been usurped. It didn't bother me. And we were free, sort of, to move on to the Po Valley.

By now much "Montgomery" military-strategy thinking had decided that progress on the Italian front could wait until the necessary force had assembled on the eastern coast of Italy, not our central front. Actually no logistics had been worked out to exploit our success on Torraccia. So it would be a month before we moved on. That gave me a chance to be better than I had ever intended on the telephone. I persuaded Army telephone operators in Italy to let me work my way down the several echelons of telephone circuitry and back up the other side. I got through to the adjoining division without wearing out the operators' patience. I forget now what military purpose this achieved, but it felt good at the time. So did my finding ways to avoid calling on various battalion squads to carry out routine risky patrols to provide details other sources already provided me, such as the depths, within vertical inches, of newly placed mine fields. It was better to find out about them by means available at our command post rather than expect troops to discover the mines on foot. And Italian partisans knew where the German troops were and told us. I preferred getting information that way rather than sending out scouts in the night, hoping they would return intact. There were better recreational opportunities for them later if I didn't expect suicidal missions of them that weren't needed. They could be, and we, heroes later. I didn't ask how General Montgomery would react to this, and he can no longer explain. I like having been that conservative then, but feel no need now to continue the practice.

Meanwhile, Eisenhower thinking was at work in General Hay's mind, and was underway in mid-April. Tenth 10th Mountain Division, operating essentially as a combat patrol, would emerge from the North Apennines, cross the Po River, and head for the Alps and Hitler's last redoubt. There would be Germans ahead of us, on both sides, and behind us. Could our boldness create enough confusion? Yes, and it did.

Our first pause in the Po Valley was at Bomporto, but we only paused. Had we stayed, it could well have been our last pause. Months later I passed by Bomporto. It had been devastated, shortly have we were out of there. And soon after we left Bomporto the Germans were bringing supplies to where their troops had been but we now were.

We crossed the Po River at night in rowboats. Higher headquarters had not known we'd be there so soon, needing better craft. We liberated Verona and headed to Lago di Garda and walked up the east side highway, through tunnels the Germans had tried to obliterate before we could use them, succeeding so well that we had to bring in "ducks," amphibious craft that could bypass the tunnels. Once again, we were too successful. The ducks were late arriving, and German 88s, their super antiaircraft weapon, based at the head of Lake Garda to harass our aircraft, were lowered to fire on our ducks. They missed me.


One lucky 88 shell pierced the north end of one of the tunnels. Fortunately, I was at the south end at the time, to learn what had happened in the north from Lieutenant Butterwick, he emerged with a shell fragment in his helmet, but happily not in his head. Our casualties in that tunnel were heavy, but so were the Germans. One of their attempts to blow the tunnel blasted them instead. This, the worst World War II carnage I was to witness, included a captain I had often played touch football with in Berkeley, and he had usually won. His color had left him now. Mine could have, but had not.

From the Lake and along its steep slopes we reached Garda's head at Riva. My best World War II friend, Dick Emerson, came down that slope, noting that the Germans' shots "missed by a good six feet." Including him. A little more chaos and the MPs were ready to take charge. A German division that had been retreating along Garda's west shore gave up when they found our MPs already there, directing traffic.
Next day we were bivouacked at San Alessandro and in our improvised office. Captain Everett Bailey, of L Company, picked up the phone, listened for a moment, turned, and looked over and caught my eye. "Dave, the war is over in Italy."

 

Almost over. Actually, it had ended four days earlier and the church bells had rung in Verona, but the word didn't get to us, or the Germans at Lake Garda, and my own favorite story had not run out yet.

Our regimental task force was directed to move from Garda to Passo de Resia, at the Austrian border, to observe what the Germans would do next. Our four-mile-long parade of vehicles headed up the winding Alpine road, past Germans who still had their weapons but were relieved that the war was over and weapons were no longer needed. We trusted them. Turning right before Bolzano we drove into the night just past Merano, where out of habit we turned on our useless blackout lights.

I phoned John Hay to object: ''Jack, the war's over. Why are we driving blackout?" He said "Dave, You've got a point," and radioed the order "Men, turn on your lights." But the story isn't over yet. We were headed up a fifteen-mile stretch of Alpine meadow devoid of any shelter, totally exposed, any opportunity to dig in negligible, and learned from our scouts that the Germans at the pass did not know the war was over, had their artillery on us, and were ready to fire. When our lights went on they guessed we knew something they didn't and held their fire. I was among the many who lived because I had asked for light. Now and then it's a good idea.

 

So this is what I learned:

The army runs on its stomach, plus five numbers: 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.

1  is about people: replacing, reorganizing, rewarding, and r & r.

2  is for intelligence: imagining enemy capabilities, forestalling as necessary.

3  is for operations: developing strategy, tactics, and action.

4  is supply: food, equipment, transportation, removing the dead if any.

5  is for leading from the top: boldly.


And it helps to develop and keep in touch with support, with thanks.

Whatever success I've had took boldness, timely action, and thanks.

 

I question Science, remembering that it has given us, with no apology, nuclear power, bioengineering, mindless growth, and a weary Earth.

Though admiring itself generously, science didn't save Dinosaur, the Grand Canyon, the national parks and the National Wilderness System, wildlife ranges, the World Heritage, endangered species or cultures, human rights, lasting peace, or invent democracy and capitalism, add music and dance.

Science has miles to go and promises to keep, It could use a time line or two, and could use a little humility, unless they're from Harvard, where you don't need it. Sometimes I wonder if they know what to do with their hearts when their minds get tired.

Who else could use this tireless advice? Who will?


--D.R.B.