Monday 22 September 2014

The first real Aeronef

An interesting article regarding pre WW1 commentary on the impacts of technology, including airships. Very reminiscent of HG Wells in War in the Air

Tuesday 16 September 2014

War Plan Red: Part 4

The US Plan to defeat Great Britain, based on their assessment of the likely British plan to blockade the Atlantic and invade through New England to threaten the vital industrial heartland of the US (for more detail see here).

Having assessed the likely British plan, US planners broadly concluded that:

  • Naval situation in the Atlantic would at best be a standoff with neither side having no significant advantage, OR the British would sabotage the Panama Canal and gain a decisive advantage
  • British efforts to lodge an invasion force would likely be staged using Canada as a forward operating base
  • British Cruiser and submarine forces operating out of Canada and the Carribean would be sufficient to blockade the majority of merchant traffic, and
  • British threats to the North East of the US would likely be effective before the American industrial and manpower superiority could be mobilised.

Allied convoy assembles in Halifax: Exactly what the US planners wanted to prevent
In consideration of these factors, the US planner concluded that the answer to defeat Great Britain was to immediately go on the offensive and remove the British ability to utilise Canada and other forward operating bases, by seizing “Red bases in the western North Atlantic, the West Indies, and the Caribbean.”  The strategic priority was Halifax, Nova Scotia and its all important naval base which would be critical in supporting a forward deployed Royal Navy operating on the East Coast of the US.  The US estimated it had a maximum of 14 days before the combined RN Home and Mediterranean Fleets would be operating on their doorstep.  Use of this time would be critical.

The US Army had only limited initial resources but those available would strike north rapidly.  Within 3 days of mobilisation, a Corps of 3 Divisions (some 25,000 troops) would muster at Boston.  Depending on the situation, they could move north through Maine using the rail network to enhance their mobility, or proceed north under fleet escort to conduct an amphibious attack on Halifax.  In considering the lessons of WW1, US submarine warfare would also be waged to interdict Canada from British shipping and deny the buildup of the forces required to undertake an invasion of the US and deploy accordingly.

The best defence...
This track would also be supported by spoiling attacks along the eastern boarder.  As troops became available, an advance would be made from upstate New York against Montreal and Quebec while another force would advance to take the hydro-electric plants on the Niagara River.  Other moves would be made to safeguard the Detroit industrial region and capture other key infrastructure such as the Sault St marine canal and its locks.  The occupation of Canadian territory was a priority, weather and logistic wallowing.  Realistically, in these early stage there would be little that Canada could do without British reinforcement, though aggressive aerial attacks were expected with little that could be done to prevent them.

Back at Sea, the short period before the Royal Navy appearing in strength was critical.  The US Atlantic fleet (4 Battleships  plus cruiser support) would be used to strike British possessions.  Initial targets were Jamaica, the Bahamas and Bermuda, to be followed up if possible with attacks on Trinidad, St Lucia and British possessions in the West Indies.  These would reduce the use of these bases to interdict merchant traffic and help safeguard the Panama Canal.  On the great lakes and in the pacific Canadian ports would be blockaded.

With the British ability to invade the East Coast significantly degraded, the US Army would focus on dislocating the Canadian Eats and West coasts to prevent a buildup of Indian or ANZAC troops from the Pacific coast.  Capture of the Winnipeg rail centre, a crucial rail node, was key in this, followed by the occupation of Vancouver and British Columbia.

Overall, the US plan was to strike quickly to remove Canada as a staging point, prevent a British buildup and allow US mobilisation efforts to come to fruition.  As unlikely as the situation was deemed, it was deemed to be a valid strategy.

Should Japan enter the War on the British side, a join War Plan Red-Orange would be activated (War Plan Orange being the contingency plan for war against Japan).  British Naval strength was seen to be the biggest threat and the intent was to prosecute a "Red First" policy, analogously prescient to the 'Europe First' policy of WW2.

One point to consider - War Plan Red was developed in 1927 after the Geneva Naval Conference of that year, and was approved in 1930.  Transplant this scenario to a VSF setting and a few different aspects come into play.  The demilitarisation of the US-Canadian boarder, key to the US twentieth century plan, started in the late 1870s.  Residual infrastructure could still be present  and even be reactivated in a period of tension.  Use of such facilities for aeronef raids into the US might degrade or delay the initial thrust into Halifax.  Alternatively, an RN aquanef blockade could be established off the East Coast prior to hostilities, nullifying the initial US freedom of acton.  Lots of possibilities.

Alternatively, if it appeals to you as is then there is a board game from Avalanche Press you may wish to investigate (thanks Michael P, for the information).

Thursday 11 September 2014

War Plan Red: Part 3

The British Plan
...or at least, the US planners' assessment of the likely British plan...

The War in the Atlantic
This was assessed to be the dominant, but not only, theatre of maritime operations.  The RN would initially seize control of the North Atlantic by combining their Home and Mediterranean Fleets and operating from a forward base at Bermuda.  British cruiser and submarine forces would try to cut US Atlantic lines of communications from bases in Halifax and Jamaica.  The Royal Navy would blockade the East Coast of the US, disrupt commerce, harass coastal areas with bombardment, and conduct Air and Amphibious raids to further degrade the economy and, ultimately, popular will of the US people for the war.

The British would expect the US to immediately redeploy the bulk of their Pacific Feet to the Atlantic via the Panama canal, and generate a Fleet in being with which to contest this blockade.  If this was achieved, no decisive engagement would be sought initially as both sides were well balanced and the result could go either way.

Accordingly, the US Navy would remain in a defensive posture concentrated in the Western North Atlantic, threaten British lines of communication, wear down Royal Naval strength and await  favourable opportunity for Fleet Action.  Of course, if the Panama Canal could be disrupted or sabotaged, this would be a different story...
Panama Cana - a vital Strategic link
The War in the Pacific
The British Asiatic Fleet would be concentrated at Singapore with only light, inshore forces remaining at Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand.  Indian troops would muster and link up wight he Fleet before for assaulting the Philippines to neutralise the US naval facilities holdings in Manilla.   This would safeguard threats to British trade and commercial interests and subsequently, the Asiatic Fleet would be utilised to destroy any residual US Naval island holdings throughout the Pacific.

With the bulk of Empire assets investing the US East Coast, Hawaii was expected to remain a safe bastion and while it might be attacked to disrupt and commerce raiders operating from there, no invasion or landing was expected.

Alaska was expected to be raided from Canada, but only lightly and this was seen as acceptable.

Landings by ANZAC and Indian troops on the West Coast of the US where seen as acceptable risks
The Land War
The pivotal US territory was seen to be the industrial North East region of continental US.  Possible landings by ANZAC and Indian focus on the West Coast or striking south from Canada could and would be tolerated in order to maintain a strong defensive perimeter to safeguard the industrial heartland of the USA.

Should the Royal Navy manage to defeat the US Atlantic Fleet and establish sea control (either though battle or should the Panama Canal be disputed and the Pacific Fleet trapped) it was expected that invasion would come via sea with amphibious landings in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  These forces would then strike westward through Connecticut, disrupt the region generally and threaten New York.  This would greatly shorten the period of conflict and try to overcome the US mobilisation effort while also degrading industrial capacity.

War planners concluded that the British Empire could achieve this outcome, the US choice would be reduced to what kind of terms to ask for in their surrender...

Thursday 4 September 2014

War Plan Red: Part 2

Having discovered the 1920/30s era US Military plans to engage in hostilities with the British Empire (here), I had to delve deeper.  Admittedly, neither side considered such a war remotely probable, but it was certainly not impossible should issues regarding international trade route and overseas territories come to a head.

Archives were searched, journals read and the odd book discovered.  For the discerning strategist, the following detail is provided.  Note that the UK never committed such plan to paper, but some good guesswork assessed their likely operations.

Pre Conflict Comparison

The Royal Navy had slightly more naval power, with the main battle line spread between the Home Fleet and the Mediterranean.  It would be able to rapidly concentrate and venture across the Atlantic to have significant presence at Nova Scotia within 13 days.  In comparison, the bulk of the US Navy battlewagons were in the Pacific and the timely use of the Panama Canal was critical in being able to face off against the British fleet in the Atlantic.

                               Royal Navy         US Navy
       Battleships             16                     18 (12 in the Pacific)
       Battlecruisers         4                       0
       Aircraft Carriers     6                      3 (larger capacity than RN equivalents, all in the Pacific)
       Cruisers                  62                    18
       Destroyers              175                  221
       Submarines             57                    68

Air Force strength was significantly in favour of the British, though redeploying it to Canada would take significant sea lift capacity.  The British could muster such lift capacity but it would have to be balanced with other priorities, such as ground forces.

                                      RAF              US
Fighter Squadrons           12                3 Pursuit, 2 Attack
Observer Squadrons         5                 9
Bomber Squadrons          11                2

Manpower wise, the British Army could rapidly mobilise more soldiers from across their dominions than the US, but the US could build a greater land force over time.

                                               British Empire

       Regular Forces       100,000 man Expeditionary Force (4 Divisions, 2 Cavalry Brigades)
                                      Deployable to Nova Scotia within 30 days

       Overseas Forces     Canada: 52,000 (increasing to 120,000 in 11 Divisions in 30 Days)
                                      India and ANZAC forces: 13 Divisions available at short notice

       Territorial Army     13 Divisions available within 6 months


       Regular Forces       100,000 men at home,
                                       9 Divisions

       Overseas Forces     40,000 in Panama, Philippines, Puerto Rico and Hawaii

       National Guard       175, 000 (60 days to mobilise)
                                       18 Divisions (understrength), 9 Cavalry Brigades

More to Follow...

An exploration of debauchery, vice and other reasons to be a man!

An exploration of debauchery, vice and other reasons to be a man!