Review of “Wedemeyer Reports” by Albert C. Wedemeyer

Isegoria recently said, “The more I learn about World War II the less sense it makes.”

I’m not sure there’s anybody who can better help us understand what happened than General Albert C. Wedemeyer. He was involved in the planning of the European strategy at the highest levels. Before the conclusion of the war in Europe, however, he was sent to China to lead the US efforts. As he puts it, “many American officers were to experience the close-up phases of warfare more intensively than I, but few were to have my opportunities to see the whole war.” And to talk strategy with Churchill, FDR, Chiang Kai-shek, the Chicom leaders, and many others.

Several other factors make Wedemeyer a particularly good source. He was an Old Rightist to some extent and he spent several years in Germany at the War College prior to WWII. Therefore, he knew a bunch of German officers and he was also less naive about Communism than the average American official (to put it . . . generously). If you don’t want to take it from me, take it from Moldbug, “if you want an accurate military history of the Second German War and its aftermath, which is also a primary source, I recommend Albert Wedemeyer’s memoir on the American side.”

The question that I’m most interested in – with respect to the Second German War – is, as Wedemeyer puts it:

how and why the United States became involved in a war which was to result in the extension of totalitarian tyranny over vaster regions of the world than Hitler ever dreamed of conquering.

Not to mention killing more people than Hitler ever dreamed of. Anyway, Wedemeyer’s is a good question, no?

Perhaps it’s best to start in Europe and then in Asia. After we’ve gone through the background we can explore the problems with US peace “strategy,” since the problems are nearly identical in both theaters.

Europe

Wedemeyer views the European war as analogous to the Peloponnesian War. In both wars, a sea power (Athens/Britain) fought a land power (Sparta/Germany) with the ultimate result being the victory of an outsider (Macedon/Russia). The outsider ended up as “the sole beneficiary of the suicidal internecine quarrel of the West.” This, of course, doesn’t explain why the US jumped into the war that only Russia won.

When I recently reviewed Senator Joseph McCarthy’s book on the aftermath of WWII, I noted that there are two possible explanations for America’s grand strategy for “peace” after the war. The first, more charitable, explanation is McCarthy’s, namely that America’s strategy was run by Communist agents. The second explanation, which is Wedemeyer’s, is that America’s leaders were really bad strategists or just, frankly, dumb. In his own words, “we were just that naive.”

I would tend to agree with Wedemeyer’s conclusion, but it’s easy to see why McCarthy relied so heavily on Wedemeyer’s book.

(Wedemeyer staunchly defends Marshall from McCarthy’s attacks. In the end, the best defense Wedemeyer can muster for Marshall is that he was very very old and very very tired by the end of the war and on into the peace. Frankly, if I was Marshall, I might have preferred McCarthy’s attack to Wedemeyer’s defense.)

In Europe, Wedemeyer’s preferred approach was a all out assault on Northern France as soon as possible. He believed this would strike a decisive blow against the Germans and allow the Allies to gain as much territory as possible in Europe (even in ’41 his plans involved minimizing Russian gains in Europe). This plan was premised on the (widely held) belief in 1942 that Russia would not be able to hold out against the Germans much long. According to Wedemeyer, it was also Marshall’s plan.

Wedemeyer was very frustrated by Churchill’s desire to attack the Germans around the periphery. Ultimately he viewed the invasion of North Africa, Sicily and Italy as unnecessary. It was not (logistically) possible to invade Germany from those point. The effect of the Churchill strategy was to delay victory for several years.

Wedemeyer blames the British for some American strategy screw-ups. On this point, I think Wedemeyer is wrong. He devotes many words to condemning Churchill’s strategy in Germany – specifically he thought Churchill should have let the German’s and the Russian’s fight each other until they were exhausted. At that point, the British should have intervened to essentially restore the pre-war status quo.

Unless I’m missing something, Churchill’s plan to attack Germany on the periphery would have the result Wedemeyer outlined. He seems to simultaneously want to condemn the Allied strategy for being overly aggressive and not aggressive enough.

Churchill’s plan was not too tentative – as Wedemeyer says, a tentative plan would have been fine (let the Germans and the Russians fight until one is about to collapse). The strategic error was seeking a middle ground between the Wedemeyer/Marshall-invade-France-now plan the the Churchill plan. The worse error would come later though.

Nevertheless – from a overall strategic standpoint – I have lots of sympathy for Wedemeyer’s position. Oddly, and perhaps coincidentally, no one seems to have planned what to do after North Africa, Sicily and Italy were taken. The result was that the Allies pursued the worst possible strategy. These Mediterranean invasions delayed decisive action in France and they didn’t lead to any decisive actions themselves. In the meantime, the Russians did not fold under German advances.

Again, I think Wedemeyer probably should have changed positions in 1943 and 1944 – at that point a Southern invasion (however logistically complicated) made more sense that his original plan from 1941/42.

Asia

Wedemeyer arrived in China to find that the country had basically nothing, despite their loyalty and the fact that they were the only ones fighting the Japanese for so long. Wedemeyer wryly notes that, “perhaps if China had followed France’s example and let herself be occupied with little resistance, waiting to be rescued eventually by the United States, her postwar fate would not have been so tragic.”

He arrived to find China in the midst of a Civil War while it was being invaded by the Japanese. Wedemeyer found the US General in charge in China, General Stilwell, was completely sympathetic to the Chicoms while totally opposed to Chiang. He also had some State Department advisers (Davies, Service, Ludden and Emerson – see here) who were also, shall we say, sympathetic to the Chicoms.

To make a very long story short, Wedemeyer believes we totally screwed the Nationalists. We promised them supplies that we never delivered. We asked them to single-handedly hold off the Japanese for years without any support from the Chicoms. We demanded that they work with the Chicoms, who in turn refused to work with the Nationalists unless the Nationalists basically gave in to the Chicoms. We then refused to sell arms to the Nationalists, guaranteeing their defaeat.

Before we end this section, we must point out that MacArthur and Nimitz believed no land invasion of Japan was necessary. In the worst case, we could starve the mainland. In other words, there was no reason for Russia to enter the war in Asia.

If you’re really into this stuff, Wedemeyer’s report to Truman on China and Korea that was suppressed by Marshall (for making his plan look like it played right into Communist hands) makes very interesting reading.

Winning the Peace

Wedemeyer believes that the US war objective:

should have been the maintenance of the Monroe Doctrine and the restoration of a balance of power in Europe and the Far East. The same holds true for England, whose national interest, far from requiring the annihilation of her temporary enemies, was irretrievably injured by a “victory” which immensely enhanced Soviet Russian territory, power and influence.

The balance of power concept is key to understanding his preferred peace strategy.

In Wedemeyer’s ideal post war world, a non-devastated Germany would have been able to ally with other European countries to hold off Russia. Similarly, a non-Communist China and a non-devastated Japan would have been able to balance (or make negligible) Russia’s power in the East.

In Wedemeyer’s telling, it was US insistence on unconditional surrender that guaranteed Russian victory in both theaters. Obviously, Russia wanted all three countries totally destroyed. The resulting power vacuums in both Europe and Asia could only be filled by . . . Russia.

Wedemeyer’s plans were discussed among all the major Allied decisionmakers. Nevertheless, the US and the British chose to demand unconditional surrender. Wedemeyer hints, a couple times, that such demands may be the consequences of democracies going to war (he avoids saying so explicitly, so I’m left wondering his thoughts might have been on this subject).

Toward the end of the war in both theaters, Allied officials knew that both countries were willing to give up long before the fighting actually ended, as long as the Allies didn’t demand unconditional surrender.

The Allies would stop at nothing other than unconditional surrender, even though doing so got more troops killed, made the enemies fight harder (“instead of encouraging the anti-Hitler Germans, we forced all Germans to fight to the last under a regime most of them hated”) and only could benefit the Russians. As Wedemeyer says:

To will or decide upon death and suffering for millions of human beings for the sole purpose of annihilating an enemy is immoral and uncivilized, and can only result in evil consequences. . . . Because we fought to win a military victory regardless of the consequences, we failed to bring about the better conditions which mights have justified our resort to war. . . . The irony of it all is that the Soviet empire is largely the result of our own creation.

And this is the good war?

Advertisements

27 Responses to Review of “Wedemeyer Reports” by Albert C. Wedemeyer

  1. Rod Carvalho says:

    The Allies would stop at nothing other than unconditional surrender, even though doing so got more troops killed, made the enemies fight harder and only could benefit the Russians.

    In the end, the Poles also benefited a bit. They got Pomerania and Silesia. Unfortunately for them, they also lost Lwów and Wilno to the Ukrainian SSR and the Lithuanian SSR, respectively.

    Empire expansion at what cost? The Russians lost over 10% of their 1939 population. The Poles lost over 15%. Their gene pools certainly suffered. Boden is good, but Blut is better.

  2. Rod Carvalho says:

    The Allies would stop at nothing other than unconditional surrender, even though doing so got more troops killed, made the enemies fight harder and only could benefit the Russians.

    In the end, the Poles also benefited a bit. They got Pomerania and Silesia. Unfortunately for them, they also lost Lwów and Wilno to the Ukrainian SSR and the Lithuanian SSR, respectively.

    Empire expansion at what cost? The Russians lost over 10% of their 1939 population. The Poles lost over 15%. Their gene pools certainly suffered. Boden is good, but Blut is better.

  3. Toddy Cat says:

    While I don’t agree with Wedemeyer on everything, I think that he probably comes closer to the truth than most commentators on the issues of WWII, and I have little doubt that, had the U.S. followed Wedemeyer’s recommendations, we would be living in a much better world today, not to mention the fact that tens of millions of lives would have been saved.

    His views on China are particularly valuable, given that the commie campaign of villification against Chiang and the Chinese Nationalists has been so successful, even many conservatives buy into it. Wedemeyer certainly didn’t try to whitewash the significant shortcomings of Chaing and the KMT, but he believed that the KMT was better than the Communists, and that Chiang was a better man than Mao. After fifty-plus years and seventy million deaths, is there anyone not on the CCP payroll who would deny that he was right?

  4. Anon says:

    In the long view hindsight Poles, given their catastrophic losses during the war, made out very well after the war. Some net loss of territory in its westward shift of boundaries, but they got a long and undisputed Baltic coastline. In terms of population, after the wartime killings and 1945 population transfers the country changed from roughly 65% ethnic Polish to 98%, an ethnic balance that’s still in place today.

    Under the relatively mild form of Communism (relative to some other Iron Curtain countries), its native population grew from 22 million in 1945 to 40 million in 1989. Under Communism, the liberalism, feminism, and immigration that afflicted the West since the war was not imposed on Poland. The 1981 martial law resulted in a significant baby boom in Poland, in unusual event for a western/white country at that point – making Poland the youngest country in Europe in 1990-on.

    • Dr. Slop says:

      Yes, this is true. That’s the problem with the “totalitarian tyranny” argument – some tyrannies are better than others. There remains a lot of nostalgia for the local, lackadaisical variety of communism in Poland today (and in most Eastern Bloc countries in fact).

    • Carinus says:

      In some point, after the US troops leave probably, Poland should spit out what it stole from Germany or risk re-partition between Germany and Russia again.

      Such is the fruit of the Poles’ sins. They are still here only because of the virtue of Sobieski.

  5. The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

    It’s almost as if the purpose of WWII was not to save the world but to enhance the power and fortunes of certain people.

  6. Alrenous says:

    The first thing to check when a question seems this baffling is whether you’re making it harder and more complicated than it really is.

    No guarantees, of course – you know more about this than I do – but, for example, Sophist America and Sophist Russia annihilated non-Sophist ruling elites in the entire world. By accident? By incompetence? Entropy being what it is, doesn’t seem likely.

    To check: Sophist American and Sophist Russian elites then essentially cooperated in the oppression of both citizen bodies, and in controlling various ancillary populations, though of course they squabbled as well once third parties were dealt with. Eventually, despite the best efforts of Sophist America, Sophist Russia then collapsed under the weight of its own sophistries.

    Churchill’s strategy was indeed inefficient for destroying Nazis. However, without it, how would the Sophists have destroyed non-Sophist Italian and African elites?

    Of course there’s a theory that is too simple. One can bite too deep with Occam’s razor. But, as per Moldbug, the simplest workable explanation is usually same ol’ same ol’ tribal or sectarian fighting.

    • Alrenous says:

      This fits way better than I thought it would.

      What was Hitler? Why is he so reviled?

      Hitler was a Sophist. He gained power in a Sophist system through Sophist means. (Hitler was elected, Mussolini was not.)

      Hitler then proceeded to revoke Sophism. Hitler was apostate.

      Of course Mussolini had to be neutralized. He wasn’t a Sophist. However, it is Hitler, the Judas, who was truly evil. He would take up the swords of angels to smite the good and the pure.

      • The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

        That must be why they are called Nazis as well, to obscure the fact that they called themselves socialists: The National Socialist German Workers Party, NSDAP.

        It would be interesting to look at the treatment of the NSDAP in the media from before and after they showed their true nature.

      • Alrenous says:

        While I mostly agree with Moldbug’s assessment, Jonah Goldberg covers exactly that in Liberal Fascism, and it’s exactly what you’d expect. Liberals loved Hitler, until they didn’t. If you want, later I’ll have the book handy and I can go look up the exact dates.

        “After being ousted by the Italian Socialist Party for his support of Italian intervention, Mussolini made a radical transformation, ending his support for class conflict and joining in support of revolutionary nationalism transcending class lines.”

        Oddly how many of these kinds of people made this kind of ‘radical’ transformation. Wikipedia is adorable.

  7. RS-prime says:

    Wow my mind is blown.

  8. […] Review of “Wedemeyer Reports” by Albert C. Wedemeyer « Foseti /* ') document.write(''); document.write('') document.write(''); document.write('') document.write(''); document.write('') document.write(''); […]

  9. dearieme says:

    It’s a long time since I saw it referred to as the Second German War. But that inspires the thought that Foseti may be unfamiliar with the journalism of “Peter Simple”. I commend it warmly to him.

  10. James says:

    When I recently reviewed Senator Joseph McCarthy’s book on the aftermath of WWII, I noted that there are two possible explanations for America’s grand strategy for “peace” after the war. The first, more charitable, explanation is McCarthy’s, namely that America’s strategy was run by Communist agents. The second explanation, which is Wedemeyer’s, is that America’s leaders were really bad strategists or just, frankly, dumb. In his own words, “we were just that naive.”

    I would tend to agree with Wedemeyer’s conclusion, but it’s easy to see why McCarthy relied so heavily on Wedemeyer’s book.

    Great review—I want to point out that these aren’t mutually exclusive.

    Take Bryan Caplan. This guy claims to be a Bayesian, and a utilitarian, yet his “six theses” are pure deontology.

    http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2012/06/six_theses_on_e.htm

    Because Obama’s semi-amnesty predictably provoked the complaint that his action violates the “rule of law.” Yet if you accept my six theses, any discussion about the rule of law is premature. The first question on the agenda has to be the justice of the laws Obama has decided to undercut.

    My position on the justice of immigration laws, not coincidentally, is already on the record.

    Compare:

    http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2012/03/the_roots_of_le.html

    The key difference between a normal utilitarian and a Leninist: When a normal utilitarian concludes that mass murder would maximize social utility, he checks his work! He goes over his calculations with a fine-tooth comb, hoping to discover a way to implement beneficial policy changes without horrific atrocities. The Leninist, in contrast, reasons backwards from the atrocities that emotionally inspire him to the utilitarian argument that morally justifies his atrocities.

    Self-styled Bayesian utilitarians can lapse into deontology, but this dissonance—fine-tooth comb utilitarian calculation vs. mystical talk about “justice”—is so blatant that naiveté seems an inadequate excuse. Yet, humans can “compartmentalise”, and “flinch” away from uncomfortable truths. I doubt that Caplan is a purely cynical liar, because very few people can handle that.

    A purely utilitarian brain, given Caplan’s state of knowledge, probably wouldn’t use deliberately misleading arguments in this context. Being human, his brain probably isn’t purely cynical in its status-seeking. Therefore, the true explanation of what his brain is doing incorporates a mixture of naiveté (lack of self-criticism, lack of self-awareness) and malign intent (advocating bad policy for the sake of hedonic egoism).

    Hazlitt’s Failure of the New Economics is a gateway drug for skepticism about “pure naiveté”. Keynes’s arguments are terrible—just word play. I don’t believe that an extremely intelligent, important person could be stupid in such a convenient way. Navrozov’s Education is another—he explains Russian communism with barely a mention of the ethical beliefs that Lenin et al might have held.

    To put it another way: can you really believe that the Americans might just as easily have “accidentally” handed Europe to Hitler?

    A live example of this perspective: minimum wage law causes youth unemployment. This follows from trivial economic theory, and real-life observations. Why else would people be taking unpaid internships?

    So, I’m not buying the idea that NMW is an innocent mistake. And I can see a likely ulterior motive: if to hire untested young people is a gamble, because they command a high wage, educational signalling becomes very important. Nu-Labour, whose stated goal was to widen participation in higher education, instituted NMW as soon as they came to power. If the ruling class wants average 18-year-olds to pass through its educational organs, instead of entering private training systems, to institute a national minimum wage is a handy trick.

    • RS-prime says:

      > If the ruling class wants average 18-year-olds to pass through its educational organs, instead of entering private training systems, to institute a national minimum wage is a handy trick.

      hmmm yes quite good, quite.

      anyway i think the time for that trick has come and gone.

  11. The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

    This is amusing

  12. Hail says:

    Wedemeyer found the US General in charge in China, General Stilwell, was completely sympathetic to the Chicoms while totally opposed to Chiang

    Most Americans had little respect for this Chiang; he seems to have had the reputation as a blowhard, a pompous buffoon, and a kleptocrat par excellence.

    A little-known factoid on the Korean War is that, in July of 1950, Chiang Kai-shek (by now on Taiwan) offered several full divisions of Chinese-Nationalist troops to General MacArthur, to defend the ROK.

    MacArthur took weeks to think it over, and finally turned the offer down in early August 1950 — right when the military situation was most desperate, and as the Americans were making plans to evacuate Korea, if the line wouldn’t hold. MacArthur considered the Nationalist troops were “untrained”, undisciplined, and had inferior equipment — more a liability than an asset. (This according to Roy Appleman’s “South to the Naktong, North to the Yalu”, the official U.S> Army history of the war).

    MacArthur refusing several full divisions in July 1950 is a more stinging indictment of Chiang than any words can be.

    • Foseti says:

      American “advisors” and others had ostensibly been training, arming and advising Chiang’s army for about 20 years at that point. MacArthur’s decision would seem to fit with Wedemeyer’s view that the US screwed the Nationalists.

      • Hail says:

        On June 30th, 1950, the Pentagon issued a directive to MacArthur (as supreme commander of all U.S. forces in the Far East). Although its main purpose was to approve the introduction of U.S. combat troops to the Korean theater, it was actually still East-Asia-wide in scope. It read, in part:

        “[Far East Command is instructed to] by naval and air action defend Formosa [i.e., Taiwan] against invasion by the Chinese Communists and, conversely, prevent Chinese Nationalists from using Formosa as a base of operations against the Chinese mainland“.

  13. RS-prime says:

    Cochran, you gave an opinion on Suvorov/’icebreaker’ which was laconic. Yet valuable. This time you are maybe being /too/ laconic.

  14. RS-prime says:

    > The 1981 martial law resulted in a significant baby boom in Poland, in unusual event for a western/white country at that point – making Poland the youngest country in Europe in 1990-on.

    Birthrates there hit the dirt after 1989-91.
    I’m not strongly opposed to the post-Stalin USSR.

    • Toddy Cat says:

      “I’m not strongly opposed to the post-Stalin USSR’

      May you get to live in a similar society someday. I’ll be interested to hear your opinion.

  15. […] definition excludes people like General Wedemeyer, Joseph McCarthy, Sisley Huddleston, John T. Flynn and perhaps even General MacArthur.  It may […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: