Command Failure in the Ardennes, December 1944

This past December 16th 2022 marked the 78th anniversary of the German Unternehmen Wacht am Rhein (“Operation Watch on the Rhine“) offensive in the Ardennes area of Europe, otherwise known popularly as “The Battle of the Bulge.”  The “official narrative” for this battle is that it was an “intelligence surprise” where “Ultra’ code breaking signals intelligence missed because Hitler kept all of the important communications on untappable telephone/telegraph land lines or special couriers. The sole exception being General Patton’s 3rd Army G-2 intelligence officer Colonel (later Brigadier General) Oscar Koch who didn’t rely upon ULTRA and put together the complete picture through a process now known as “All Source Analysis“. Which built an intelligence picture for every intelligence discipline. signals, human, photographic, geographic, combat reports plus dogged order of battle cross filing that sorted every bit of information to plot existence, location and status of enemy ground and air units. A week before the German attack, December 9th 1944, Colonel Koch briefed General Patton’s full 3rd Army staff as to German capabilities and most dangerous probable intentions of those capabilities. Based upon this briefing, Patton ordered his 3rd Army staff to put together a series of counter attack options that were immortalized in a scene from the 1970 movie PATTON.


Figure above from 1997 masters paper “Signal Security In The Ardennes Offensive 1944-1945 Laurie G. Moe Buckhout, Maj. USA

Like a lot of narratives of World War 2, it uses a couple of nuggets of truth with the German ULTRA security black out and Colonel Koch’s brief to Patton to hide and conceal more than inform. It turns out that a lot more people on the allied side than Colonel Koch foresaw the impending German offensive. And that the failure to act on these multiple sources of accurate intelligence was a Command Failure by the “Ultra Cliques” of allied officers at Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces  (SHAEF), United States Strategic Air Force (USSTAF), the American 12th Army Group, and American 1st Army.

This command failure came less from a German security induced blindness of ULTRA than from a months long manipulation of Ultra intelligence data stream by senior officials in the British government — located in the Ministry of Economic Warfare, the “Oil Lobby” through out the Air Ministry and Whitehall ‘Committee Bureaucracy’ as well as the Directorate of Bombing Operations in the Air Ministry — intent on making German oil supplies the top strategic target set over German transportation targets in the Combined Bomber Offensive.  Their motives here were not only to collapse the German economy as a “War Termination Strategy,” but more importantly, make sure Air Power was seen as responsible for the German collapse after the Russian capture of the Romanian Ploesti oil fields in August 1944.  (If you are seeing some post-war institutional motivations here…you are correct.)


These manipulations were discovered in February 1945 by SHAEF when the after action forensic analysis by Royal Air Force Deputy Chief of Air Staff (DCAS) Air Marshall Bottomley found the Combined Strategic Targets Committee (CSTC) was systematically removing messages relating to the distress of the German Railroad, and collapse of the German economy resulting from the railway problems, starting in the fall of 1944.

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Screen Size and Depth of Dialogue

Via Instapunit, here is an article about online motorcycle forums, which says that there used to be many of these but that they have been drying up and going away.  Why?

In January 2014, desktop internet use was overtaken by mobile internet use in America. This means screens got smaller, layouts moved primarily from horizontal to vertical, and physical keyboards were largely unavailable.

This means writing a longer post was more difficult. Formatting it to appear nicely with photos in line with the text became more difficult. Reading a post that was text-heavy became more onerous. As people drifted away from their desktop computers, they began to drift away from forums.

The post goes on to note that “social media sure is easy” and that many people tend to prefer getting information in social media form and “being served interesting things all the time with cross-pollination all in a one-stop dopamine hit. Do you love golf, Audi cars, retro-cafe motorcycles, and sushi? Social media can easily serve that up to you in a seemingly constant stream.”


You may be saying, “Hey, it’s easier to consume, but it’s a pain to create content on Insta or Facebook.” I’d agree with you. I’d also argue it’s going to be much harder to find great content in the future (if it even exists) because traditional social platforms like Twitter and Facebook are designed to deliver the latest content, not the deepest.

Also, these platforms seems specifically designed for distraction. If you’re trying to compose a reasonably long post on Facebook, you will likely be constantly interrupted by messages informing you that some person (who you may barely know or remember) liked or commented on some post that you did or commented on previously.

People do seem to like the Walled Gardens of social media, even though these gardens come complete with serpent.  The author of the linked article seems to feel that the eclipsing of forums by social media was inevitable, like the replacement of printed motorcycle magazines…and seems OK with it:

The forum, which was somewhat asynchronous and perhaps more demanding of users’ time, whether giving or receiving information, has been supplanted by a much faster mode of communication. Some quality of the exchange probably suffers, but the volume has probably increased by more than the quality of post content has slipped.

The issue here goes far beyond the motorcycle community.  Technologies, especially communications technologies, do affect thought processes and social interactions.  The runaway success of social media…especially as combined with the tendency for the phone to become the universal device…has discouraged connected thought and discussion in ways that cannot be good either for our political culture or for the ability of people who have grown up in this environment to do complicated work.


Anecdotes: The Exotic Airbnb

The listing looked great. A luxurious rental tent with hardwood floors, nice furniture, attached enclosed bath and other comforts of home. The luxury tent was in a remote and extremely beautiful natural location. It looked fun – why not try it for a few days? There were many mostly glowing reviews and no negative reviews. A few reviewers mentioned the rough road leading up to the place. The listing itself was circumspect on this point. I messaged the host: Was it possible to reach his place in an ordinary rental car? He assured me that this would not be a problem, he had guests arriving in all kinds of vehicles including Priuses etc. He didn’t say anything else about getting to his place, so I went ahead and booked it as a stop on a planned road trip.

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Abuse of Authority

If you are a teacher or professor, you have a legitimate sphere of authority concerning teaching methods, classroom discussion, grades, etc.  But you do not have legitimate authority to focus class time on selling students on your own personal political or social views–still less do you have authority to assign grades based on compliance with those views.

If you are Chairman or CEO of a publicly-traded corporation, you have a legitimate sphere of authority concerning organization design, business strategy, financing, people-selection, and many other things.  But you do not have legitimate authority to devote corporate resources–of which you are not the owner–to promoting your personal political views.

If you are an Intelligence Officer employed by the federal government, then certain things fall within your legitimate sphere of authority.  One thing that does not fall within your legitimate authority is using your position to influence US domestic election outcomes.

The whole concept that spheres of authority are and should be limited seems to be under assault in America today.  Not only do many people reject the idea of any limits on their own authority; many people object to the idea of limits on the authority of institutions. Indeed, here is a law school dean who seems to reject the principle that courts should be constrained by laws.

I also observe that there are plenty of people in leadership positions who, while showing very poor performance in their own jobs, are insistent that people outside their sphere of authority do things to solve their problems…a prime example being governors and mayors who blame  the skyrocketing crime rates in their jurisdictions on lack of (what they consider) proper gun control in adjacent states, when there are plenty of things they could do within their own scopes of authority and influence to address the problem.  Similarly with education–tolerate increasingly-awful performance on the part of the schools and malevolent interference on the part of the teachers unions, while blaming the problem of uneducated graduates entirely on Systemic Racism…so those politicians are off the hook because Somebody Else does something, or some set of things.

Your thoughts?



The Hill to Die On

I swear, I have never been able to understand how the loud and proud Capital-F official feminists made the ready availability of abortion the hill (for the pre-born fetal humans, mostly) to die on. Yes, I’ve pondered this in blogposts many a time. The 19th century suffragettes certainly were what we would now cast as pro-life, and so was a modern iteration, IIRC. (I used to get their newsletter.) Why that one single aspect, out of all the others which would have a bearing on the lives of females; extended maternal leave and benefits, quality childcare … practically any other concern other than that of abortion on demand at any stage of pregnancy could be a rallying ground for those affecting an intense interest in matters of a particularly female orientation. This, when birth control in so many forms (and for male and female alike) is readily and economically available. This is not the 19th century anymore, not even the first half of the 20th,. Truly, it is a mystery why this particular cause and no other animates the radical fem-fringe. I can only surmise that many of the radical and early feminists had abortions, felt horrifically guilty about it all and wished to drag other women into that particular hell with them as a matter of solidarity.

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