The General Staff Archives

Europa Games and Military History

Author: Wolf Broszies (page 1 of 3)

Classic Europa

John Astell’s contribution to the Europa-Series is such that I would be hard pressed to find any Europa game that does not show his handwrit, be it that he designed it directly, be it that it heavily borrows from the rules canon John established over the years. Taking over from the founders of GD/W, Paul R. Banner and Frank Chadwick, John, always working in team with the relentless Europa-publisher and promoter Winston Hamilton, made Europa what it is today. In short, without John Astell, there would be no Europa-series today.

John’s “classic Europa” website is back up now after falling victim to the lamented end of “Geocities”. Of particular interest are the “Legion of Honor”, a list of people who contributed to Europa in the past, and of course the extensive designer notes, covering nearly every Europa-game ever published, and some of the game concepts and rules implemented such as abandoning equipment and “extended rage” for air units.

For more than a decade now there haven’t been any new “Europa”-games. Until and if Total War ships, John’s website is the premier source for background information on most published Europa-games.

Date: February 26th, 2013

URL: http://classiceuropa.org/

Grognard.com

The oldest gamer site on the web

For a long time Grognard.com was the place to look if you wanted to know anything about strategy games. Anything, from MS-DOS based programms to generate hex-maps to long lists of scanned counter sheets for nearly any strategy game available, Grognard.com delivered. During the Nineties and beyond Grognard was the central hub for gamers online.

It was the rise of online communities and the infabous user generated content that broke Grognard’s monopoly. The site failed to update functionality and embrace the hordes of interested geeks that wanted to contribute, and other platforms that included messaging and, most of all, forums and wiki-style contribution possibilities overtook the veteran site in terms of attractivenes and content offered. Of course it did not help that Grognard basically is still online in the design they devised in the mid-Nineties.

However, the wealth of special-interest-links and downloadable material still makes a visit worthwhile. Grognard.com may be more of an archive of developments of the past these days, but still it presents a vast amount of information on even the most obscure games of the past twenty or thirty years. So we wish the old guard the best and hope they will be around for a long time to teach youngsters about the way of cardboard wars.

Date: January 16th, 2013

URL: http://www.grognard.com

Tags: echo $keywords;

The CARL digital library

A recurring theme of pages listed under these bookmarks seems to be that their design somehow harks back to the late nineties, but their content is much richer than a first look would surmise. CARL contines this trend: benhind an awkard and slow interface lingers a host of historical documents. CARL is short for “Combined Arms Research Library” and describes the library on Fort Leavenworth, which is in turn not only one of the oldest forts in the US still operational, but also counts the United States Army Combined Arms Center amongst its tenants. Fort Leavenworth prides itself to be the “intellectual center” of the US Army, and the sheer volume of documents available online certainly dwarf the Army’s Historical Center (history.army.mil).

Amongst the documents hosted are essays and thesises prepared by the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College (CGSC), but also a lot of operational reports, old field manuals and all kinds of other documents related to the military history of the US. In these the second world war features prominently, as is to be expected. Especially the After Action Reports from the divisional and corps level make an interesting reading for EUROPA afficinados.

The cumbersome interface of the website has been mentioned already, although the collections are searchible, the structure is unintuitive and purly organisatorical, the website responds slow and makes it close to impossible to get an overview about the hosted documents. An overhaul has been announced for some time now, but even now the uniqueness and historical wealth of the documents found place CARL amongst the first websites relevant for modern military history.

Date: October 19th, 2012

URL: http://cgsc.contentdm.oclc.org/

War over Holland

How to organize armies for war is still one of the topics that fascinate me the most – probably one of the reasons why I am still loyal to the precisely researched OBs of the “Europa series”. Some time ago during reasearch I stumbled upon a now defunct blog that listed in detail all units involved in the German invasion of the Netherlands, partially down to company level. I was very exited about that find, even if, as so often, the page lacked detailed source information on individual entries. A quick email exchange with the author of the blog revealed that the site was only a preparation for a historical project on the invasion of Holland in 1940. This page is now online, and I can only recommend reading to everyone interested in the german occupation of the Netherlands in 1940. P>

“War over Holland” focuses heavily on the military events in the operational sense and disregards the misery the invasion and subsequent years brought over the Dutch. One may lament this, but it should be noted that the consequences for civilian population, and especially for the dutch Jews, have been well documented and described in other publications. Putting the focus on operational military history thus does not automatically constitute an omission. The authors intention is not to give a complete picture, but to describe the military events without which none of the subsequent times of terror and miseary can be understood. The website narrates the five days of desperate struggle Holland put up against an overwhelming superior foe, and even the most inconsequential firefights are recorded with a well founded knowledge of the source material. On the forth day, most organized resistance collapsed, leaven only capitulation and flight to exile for a few. P>

So for those the article by Alan Tibetts on landing operation in the Netherlands is not enough, you will find “War over Holland” provides an excellent analysis of the military action in unparalelled detail and depth. The only nitpicks are regular error messages the server produces currently, and which require several loading attempts for pages, plus the lack of footnotes, complicating any fact-checking from the sources. P>

Date: August 13th, 2012

URL: http://www.waroverholland.nl/

Planes, Spaceflight, and Things That Go Boom: Vectorsite

This article should be linking to two articles, too. But unlike our previous reccomendation, in which one site hosted the other, in this case the contents of “Vectorsite” have grown to a point at which the author and owner of the site decided some weeks ago to split his website into two. So http://www.airvectors.net/ contains all articles about planes now, while the vectorsite has everything else.

Before you head over to look at planes, however, I’d like to say a few words to Vectorsite itself and why I reccommend it here. The choice of topics is a big reason, of course. Greg Goebel picks interesting topics of modern military technology and presents them in an concise, entertaining and informative style. Most of the articles are more of an extended reference than a full coverage of the topic, but especially for me as an european the articles (for example about the “Caribou”) provided new insights about US military history during the cold war and its interservice relationships.

Another reason is that I actually like the websites layout, which refrains from any design elements and focuses on delivering content. The vast amount of material produced in such a short time, and the willingness of Mr. Goebel to put all of that under the GPL also deserve special praise. But most of all its the unpretentious and friendly style of writing that drew me to read even about topics I alread knew well enough – or so I thought. The joy and curiousity with which Mr Goebel approaches his topics is one I would like to pass on.

Date: June 20th, 2012

URL: http://vectorsite.net

Soviet Orders of Battle – Soldat.ru

In order to explain why I am linking with google translate to an Entry on archive.org, a little explanation is probably warranted. For a long time our knowledge about the organisation of the Red Army and its structure during World War II was fragmental at best. While the western Allies published extensive official histories, and the defeated countries of the Axis saw whole archives transferred to Washington and dissected there, the Soviet Union shrouded everything military in a veil of secrecy. Until the late Eighties, the best and most reliable information on the history of the Red Army came from captured german intelligence records.

The Collapse of the Eastern Block changed all this. For a brief period in the Nineties, archives and libraries opened their doors, and a wealth of information was suddenly available for researchers and historians. In 1995 Charles S. Sharp started publishing a series of orders of battle of the Red Army detailing the unit histories of the ground formations of the Soviet Army and NKVD. Sharp partly leaned on the research by Poirer and Conner and used some on the original German records, but the most important new source was the official order of battle of the Soviet Army as published by the Soviet Ministry of Defense from 1956 to 1990. It was relatively unknown until the early 1990s because the Ministry of Defense had classified all of them as secret. The problem with these OOBs is they only detail the combat forces and not the support forces.

A couple of years ago then information seeped out of the former USSR about a much larger series of books detailing not only the combat units, but also the combat support and combat service support units of the Army, Navy, Air Force and PVO forces. Finally, on 24th August of 2007, through his source, Igor Ivlev posted on his soldat.ru website scans of most (one is missing) of these books. It seems that they are appendices to General Staff Directives (which still remain restricted) showing every formation, unit, sub-unit, establishments and institutions in the Soviet Armed Forces and NKVD in the Operational Army during the war. The first one was published in 1956 and the last in 1973. Intermittent updates followed until 1998.

This was and is the most complete and authoritative source about the Red Armys Order of battle in Word War II.

Sometime in 2011 soldat.ru went offline, whether do to personal reasons or because the copyright paranoia has by now successfully replaced the cold war paranoia we don’t know. However, archive org thankfully saved a set of the files, so the originals are available. Additionally, the team from RKKA started the herculean task of translating this monumental work into English, and should you not be proficient in Russian, you can always start reading there. However, since the appendices are not available in any library or any other source, I thought that information to be more important at the current moment.

Date: May 15th, 2012

URL: http://web.archive.org/web/20100214135652/http://www.soldat.ru/files/4/6/216/

Tags: echo $keywords;

The Nafziger Collection

Before the advent of the Web, the name of George F. Nafziger was already a staple in wargaming circles. His work on the wars of the French Revolution and his collection of well-researched Orders so Battle, especially for the Napoleonic area, made him the first adress for anyone wargaming that time. Nafziger started to make singe OOBs available via the Internet in the Mid-Nineties, and his now rather weird looking website enabled visitors to order print-outs of selected battles and campaigns.

In 2010 Nafziger retired from publishing those OOBs and donated his whole collection to the public domain. It is currently hosted at the US Army’s CARL website. Additionally Alternatewars.com culled the complete archive and made it available as a collection of zipped archives for quicker access.

The Nafziger Collection itself contains orders of battle from 1600 to 1945 with over 7000 individual pdf files. What makes those files special is that the majority of them is based on archival sources, which are not easily accessible for mortal souls like us. Its depth and scope are unparalleled anywhere, and I can only highly reccomend taking a look, even if the access is a bit cumbersome.

Date: April, 23th 2012

URL: http://usacac.army.mil/cac2/cgsc/carl/nafziger.htm

Battalion Organisation during the Second World War

“Bayonetstrength 150” is the most knowledgeable website on bataillon sized units in second world war that we know of. Its name aptly describes focus and content: its all about organisation, training, equipment, and action of bataillion-sized units on the various battlefields of World War II. Its author, Gary Kennedy, not only manages to describe the theoretical structures of these fundamental buidling blocks of armies, but also captures the reality of their emplyoment and the subsequent changes that attrition and battle wear forced on them.

Based on a prolific bibliography on the subject Kennedy manages to describe the close interaction between organisation, equipment, and training in a way that makes it accessible even for laymen.

The page is spartan and in simple HTML, the only compromise to usability is the color coding of various sections. A host of index-pages and introductions lead to some redundancy, but ensure the reader never feels lost. A must-read for anyone interested in the topic of tactical combat in World War II.

Date: April 18th, 2012

URL: http://www.bayonetstrength.150m.com/index.htm

Update, Sep 11th, 2017: Bayonettstrength has been offline since this summer. While the Owner of the website has publicly stated that he wants to re-up the site in the future, currently it remains offline. If you need any information previously available at bayonettstrength150, you can find an offline copy in the ubiquous web archive at

https://web.archive.org/web/20160425143250/http://www.bayonetstrength.150m.com/General/site_map.htm,

or you can contact me, since I do have an offline copy.

Bibliography

Falls, Cyril, The First World War, London 1960
Farrar, L.L., The Short-War Illusion, Oxford 1973
Hardach, Gerd, The First World War 1914-1918, Harmondsworth 1987
Hart, Liddel, The Way to win Wars, London 1942
Kielsmansegg, Peter Graf, Deutschland und der Erste Weltkrieg, Frankfurt am Main 1968
Neame, Philip, German Strategy in the Great War, London 1923
Reichsarchiv (ed. M. Schwarz), Der Weltkrieg 1914-1918, vol. 4: Die Marneschlacht, Leipzig 1922
Ritter, Gerhard, The Schlieffen Plan – Critique of a Myth, London 1956
Tuchman, Barbara, August 1914, London 1962

Conclusion

The Schlieffen plan has often to be said as the ultimate formula for the total victory. A gigantic battle of annihilation would enable the Germans to defeat the French totally and afterwards deal with the Russians without the French in their backs. Despite this propaganda the advance was not a victory-securing manoeuvre, but a “over-daring gamble” (10), for the advance faced many dangers which made its outcome very insecure and doubtful. even worse, every conscious politician had to see that the attack on Belgium would inevitably bring Britain into the war. Astonishing though it seems that Schlieffen’s successor Moltke the Younger was quite aware of this.

Recent research seems to show that his intention was not to defeat the French (a task for which he thought the available troops to be inadequate) (11), but to hurt them as badly as possible in order to enable Germany to wear them down in the following stalemate (a fact which for example explains the costly occupation of the Briey-Mines in Lorraine, from whose the French had drawn 85% of their pre-war iron production, and who would have fallen in German hands anyway in case of the Plan’s success) This argument can be supported by the somewhat wavering strategy of Moltke in 1914, who rather sought to gain as much success as possible than to adhere strictly to Schlieffen’s Plan.

Furthermore it seems unlikely to assume that all of the German General Staff were so blind to totally ignore the military dangers of a continued advance over 300 miles. So it seems that the Schlieffen Plan was one of the alternatives the OHL pursued in 1914, and who’s aims were a better position for the expected or feared war of attrition. Thus the failure of the Schlieffen plan did hinder Germany from winning the war directly, but it also enabled them to hold out for four years of attrition, which would been impossible if the initial attack had been carried out in the east.


Footnotes:
10. Ritter, op.cit., p. 66
11. Herbert Mueller, Des Kaisers Paladin, in Die Zeit, Nr. 28 (1994)

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