Soviet Military Power
John Erickson, London: Royal United Services Institution for Defense Studies, 1972. 112 pp. $3.20 [sic].
Reviewed by Major General J. L. Moulton, Royal Marines (Retired)
(General Moulton, the editor of Brassey's Annual, entered the Royal Marines in 1924. He served for five years in the Fleet Air Arm, and was at Dunkirk as a general staff officer with the Army in 1940. He has served with, and commanded several commando and amphibious units of the Royal Marines, and was Chief of Amphibious Warfare until he retired in 1961. He is the author of several books on military history and defense.)
“In that Faustian fashion which he made so distinctively his own, Nikita Khrushchev tried repeatedly to achieve much too much with far too little, not least in the critical area of Soviet strategic policy,” so says John Erickson in this 112-page report Soviet Military Power.
In the post-Stalin period, Khrushchev released 1.2 million men from the armed forces, but his reliance on the single option of nuclear response—and that, at a time of nuclear inferiority to the United States—was not credible. Under the Brezhnev-Kosygin regime, nuclear and conventional forces have reached formidable levels and continue to grow. Kosygin has referred to the 25% of national resources absorbed by the military, which means at least one third in reality. Just what does that portend for the West?
John Erickson, lecturer in higher Defense studies and Professor of Politics at the University of Edinburg, with a string of academic distinctions and publications on Soviet military power to his name, applies himself to finding the answer to that question.
What it does not mean, he says, is a departure from the two fundamental principles of Khrushchev’s policy-avoidance of general nuclear war and reliance on nuclear deterrence to do so. Under Brezhnev, the Russians are doing very much the same things as under Khrushchev, but in the 1960s were doing them with a much greater backing of military force. Nevertheless, it is clear that since 1960, the Russians have been doing some thinking about the unthinkable. The complexities of the dialogue between the various civil and military authorities which has resulted, and which Erickson describes, will seem to the reader reminiscent of Herman Kahn.
Reacting from what they saw as Khrushchev’s irresponsible and disastrous meddling, the military insisted upon the need for military expertise in defense planning, and military expertise insisted that minimum deterrence would not do. But after that came the disagreement of the experts:
There were in fact two arguments going on at more or less the same time, a form of dialogue with the leadership about what was needed to secure the credibility of the Soviet deterrent and also a dispute within the military which ran on the familiar lines of inter-service rivalry.
The rivalry was between those who advocated an offensive strategy calling for conventional general purpose forces, backed by appropriate weapons, and those who wanted active nuclear defense directed primarily against the enemy’s means of nuclear attack—between soldiers of the old school and technicians of the new. But if one was old, both in tradition and often in age group—and despite subsequent sifting the age of the top Soviet command is still high by Western standards—and the other new and younger, both subscribed to the Russian tradition of large numbers. Erickson says that “Numbers are the key to this deterrence issue to which must be added the Soviet tendency to overensure.”
The doubling of ICBM strength by 1966 and the start on ABM deployment indicated that the new school was winning the argument. But attainment of rough nuclear parity in 1969 did not end it; balance demanded that the strategic deterrent be backed by a wide range of supporting capabilities and options. No one imagines that Russia could defend itself against saturation missile attack, but some believe that it has survival capacity superior to that of the capitalist world. The ABM deployment around Moscow may indicate interest in maintaining a state in being to handle the post-exchange situation.
Ground Forces were, after Khrushchev, reinstated at an independent high command—the others are Strategic Missile Forces, Air Defense Forces, and the Navy—and at nearly two million is the largest component of the armed services. It is deployed in two main theaters, Europe and the Far East. In the event of general nuclear war, the armies in the west, supported by their tactical air forces would, according to official pronouncement, deliver their own medium-range ballistic missile and air nuclear strikes to a depth of 250 to 500 miles, and take off westwards, led by high-speed armored forces, with helicoptered and parachuted divisions seizing vital points, moving by day and night and making about 70 miles in 24 hours. There has been some discussion of non-nuclear military operations, but the predominant asumption [sic] is that in the main sectors, at least, operations would be nuclear.
Like Herrick and McGuire, Erickson sees the Soviet Navy as historically involved in the defense of the coastal sea areas and still primarily concerned with the threat to Russia, poised by seaborne nuclear strike, with more recently the converse added, contribution to Soviet strategic nuclear forces of an element that can be relied upon to survive nuclear exchange. The advent of long-range carrier aircraft in the early 1960s removed the possibility that that threat could be dealt with by engaging the carriers within the range of shore-based air cover, and started to pull the Soviet Navy out to sea, where missile cruisers mark American carriers, hoping to cripple them on the outbreak of hostilities, before aircraft launch.
Polaris-Poseidon is a far more difficult problem, but it is the attempt to extend ASW capability to its increasing range that explains the continuing oceanic advance that so alarms the West. For both threats, Erickson suggests strategically mobile air forces and a network of friendly airfields along the Mediterranean coast—soon likely to extend to the Indian Ocean—may be more effective than Krestas. There remains the weakness in seaborne logistic support, the yawning gap in seaborne air cover, and the total absence of transoceanic amphibious capacity. Forward deployment will continue and will bring political by-products, but the Soviet Navy does not have enough spare capacity for political adventuring as an end in itself.
All this is familiar ground, if not universally accepted. What follows is more challenging and has, understandably, attracted more attention. The one genuine element of flexibility in Russian defense is provided by the Soviet Air Force, Erickson claims. If the Soviet Navy has weaknesses and cannot go political adventuring, this is not so with the Soviet Air Force. It is, he says, operational in a fashion unusual in the Soviet forces. Ten squadrons of MiG-21J fighters fly in Egypt from six Soviet-controlled airfields, and further south, Antonov transports ferry supplies into the Sudan. Without airlift and combat landing, the invasion of Czechoslovakia would have been much more messy than it was. The huge reinforcement lift into Egypt after the Six Day War, the airlifts of 1967 and 1968 into the Yemen, and the rush of air defense equipment to Egypt in April 1971 were further demonstrations of Soviet air power. Erickson says that “. . . while there has been much talk of where the Soviet Navy might intervene, there has been little or none of where the Soviet Air Force has intervened . . .” and accuses the capitalist press of promoting what amounts to an advertising campaign for the Soviet Navy. Added to that is the powerful range of air forces which heavily outnumber that of NATO in Europe and support the Soviet fleets at sea. This, Erickson suggests, may well provide “. . . the biggest punch of the naval threat of the coming decade . . .” in a struggle centered on the access areas.
This is not air power on the model of Douhet, Mitchell, and Trenchard. He fails to point out the distinction, but it is airlift of ground forces, air mobility of tactical air forces, and air support for land and sea forces that Erickson is talking about. For obvious geographical reasons, it suits the Russians to do it that way, and one can only admire the military and political skill with which they reaped strategical advantage without incurring the odium of military intrusion or occupation. Others may find that it suits them better to use carriers and amphibious forces, potentially even more flexible and less intrusive forms of military presence. What they have to learn from the Russians has, perhaps, more to do with political skill than with air power.
Professor Erickson has packed a vast amount of information of almost every conceivable aspect of Soviet military power into the small compass of just over 100 pages. He fully references the points made, adding an extensive select bibliography. One could quote and discuss—one hardly dares to argue with one with so much erudition—much else in this valuable work. Concentrated information on this scale is, at first approach, a little daunting, but it amply repays study by anyone who has an interest in the military power that still, despite the talk of entente and summits, lowers over the free world, and who in the Armed Forces, which confront it, has not that interest?
Compiled by Robert A. Lambert, Associate Editor
Adopted Son of Salem
Polly Stone Buck. Peterborough, N.H.: William L. Bauhan, 1971. 124 pp. Illus. $5.95.
This is the unusual story of an Italian-American sea captain, Dominick Lake Marsins, whose life spanned most of the 19th century and whose adventures took him from his birthplace, in Genoa, to Massachusetts, on voyages to Africa and South America, and finally to the West African coast where he abandoned the sea and a wife in Salem to become the U. S. Consul in Sao Tome and (subsequently) a plantation owner in the French Congo where he died.
The Amphibians Came to Conquer
George Carroll Dyer. Washington, D.C.: U. S. Government Printing Office, 1972. 1,278 pp. Illus. $14.50.
A thoroughly-detailed, two-volume biography of Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner and his contributions to amphibious warfare in the Pacific campaigns of World War II.
The Brass Ring
Bill Mauldin. New York: Norton, 1971. 275 pp. Illus. $7.95.
The irony and humor of experiences over 25 years past have not lost the original bite—the cartoons and photographs are zestful additions to a writing style that can stand on its own.
British Cut and Thrust Weapons
John Wilkinson-Latham. Rutland, Vt.: Charles E. Tuttle, 1971. 112 pp. Illus. $7.50.
This illustrated study traces the development of edged weapons and their adoption by the British Armed Forces and describes in detail the swords of cavalry, infantry, general officers, the navy, and the air force. There are chapters on bayonets, fighting knives, and pole arms, along with a review of manufacturing processes.
British Warships of the Second World War
Alan Ravan and John Roberts. New York: Arco, 1972. unpaged, Illus. $14.95.
A folio of 12 plans, in the 1/32-inch scale, for capital ships Rodney, Royal Oak, Warspite, Renown, and Repulse; cruisers Ajax, London, Manchester, and Sussex; cruiser-minelayer Ariadne; and destroyers Onslow and Lance. Each plan is accompanied by a commentary that combines a brief history with a critique on the ship’s design; altogether an outstanding piece of work which is the first of a new series.
China Station 1859-1864
Walter White. London: National Maritime Museum, 1972, 56 pp. Illus. No price given, (paper).
The author served as a painter in HMS Scout, a Pearl-class wooden-screw corvette, and during the 1870s or 1880s wrote these reminiscences for the amusement of his children. His memory was quite accurate and presents a seldom-seen picture of life in one of the Royal Navy’s small ships on a decidedly remote patrol assignment.
A Chronology of the People's Republic of China
Peter Cheng. Totowa, N.J.: Littlefield, Adams, 1972. 347 pp. Illus. $3.95 (paper).
From the inception of the present Peking regime on 1 October 1949 to 31 December 1969, this is a day-to-day profile of the significant events that have shaped the present China. Events since the last dated entry to the 21 February 1972 announcement of President Nixon’s visit are covered in the introduction. There are several indexes, but the only illustration is a poor map showing the governmental subdivisions of the country.
Les Corvettes de la France Libre
Pierre de Morsier. Paris: Editions France-Empire, 1972. 316 pp. Illus.
Used for antisubmarine and convoy duties, these ex-British Flower-class ships are the subject of this World War II history. They were reasonably successful in that they seem to have sunk as many German submarines by ramming as by depth charge, and they lost to the submarines at least as often as they won.
Diving for Science
Edward H. Shenton, New York: Norton, 1972. 267 pp. Illus. $8.95.
Basic systems and components of modern submersibles for deep ocean work are explained along with their history, design, and present scientific uses.
Joseph E. Garland. Peterborough, N.H.: Noone House, 1971. 424 pp. Illus. $12.50.
The diverse characters who settled there and the many ships that foundered on its rocks as well as the ships that sheltered in its lee are all a part of this long history (1606-1950) of the peninsula that guards the entrance to Gloucester Harbor in Massachusetts.
Martin Blumenson. New York: Ballantine, 1972. 160 pp. Illus. $1.00 (paper).
A concise military biography and appraisal of the Supreme Allied Commander, European Theater, during World War II.
Famous Tank Battles
Robert J. Icks. New York: Doubleday, 1972. 365 pp. illus. $9.95.
Thirty-two tank battles and campaigns, from the Third Battle of Ypres in 1917 to the Six-Day War of 1967, are described. The extensive introduction summarizes the principles of armored warfare, while the concluding chapter assesses the value of the tank as a casualty reducer.
Gehlen: Germany’s Master Spy
Charles Whiting. New York: Ballantine, 1972. 274 pp. Illus. $1.25 (paper).
A poor attempt at cashing in on the recent surge of books on intelligence in general, and Gehlen in particular. The alternate title for this fluff, suitable for reading only while riding on bus, plane, or train, is Gehlen: Master Spy of the Century.
The Headstrong Houseboat
William C. Anderson. New York: Crown, 1972. 243 pp. $5.95.
A retired Air Force colonel goes to “sea”—down the Mississippi from St. Paul to New Orleans and across the Gulf of Mexico to Florida, not without misadventure, but always with good humor.
A History of the Modern Age
Julian K. Prescott (pseud.). New York: Doubleday, 1971. 418 pp. $7.95.
A delightful satire on the world's history since the entry of the U. S. into World War II.
A History of War and Weapons 1660 to 1918
G. A. Shepperd. New York: Crowell, 1972. 224 pp. Illus. $7.95.
A light and lively survey of arms, their evolution, and their effect on tactics from the days of a few soldier-kings to the masses of citizen-soldiers.
HMS Campbeltown (USS Buchanan)
John Wingate. Windsor, Eng.: Profile Publications, 1971. 33 pp. Illus. 10 shillings (paper).
This fifth issue of the Profile Warship Series covers the final exploits of one of the “four-stackers” to be turned over to the Royal Navy early in World War II. Named for the first Superintendent of the Naval Academy, who also served in the Confederate Navy, this old destroyer ended her service in the raid on St. Nazaire in 1942, when she was used to destroy the lock gates of the world’s largest dry dock. The successful action prevented the Germans from docking on the west coast of France, forcing needed ship repairs to be done in German ports for the remainder of the war.
Noel C. L. Hackney. London: Patrick Stephens, 1970. 96 pp. Illus. £1.05.
The first in a series of dual-purpose books, a novel combination of history and instructions on how to build a highly detailed model using commercially available plastic kits. In this particular case, it is Nelson’s flagship, based on the Airfix Products kit.
The Last Voyage of Drake and Hawkins
Kenneth P. Andrews (ed.). New York: Cambridge University Press, 1972. 28,3 pp. Illus. $17.50.
With a variety of documents chosen from Spanish as well as English sources, new light is thrown on the financing of and the personnel involved in this expedition of royal and private ships that attempted to capture the city of Panama. There is also a short essay on the art of navigation in the late 16th century.
The Lusitania Case
Collected by C. L. Droste. W H. Tantum, IV (ed.). Riverside, Conn.: 7C’s Press, 1972. 224 pp. Illus. $8.00.
Newspaper articles, editorials, personal commentaries, and court records have been gathered concerning the German U-boat torpedoing of the Cunard liner in World War I.
The Magic War
lan Fellows-Gordon. New York: Scribners, 180 pp. Illus. $6.95.
Originally titled, in its British edition, The Battle for Naw Seng's Kingdom: General Stilwell’s North Burma Campaign and Its Aftermath, this American printing describes the little-known war in the Burmese hills which pitted Kachin tribesmen and Anglo-American allies against the Japanese. The author was a company commander during the campaign and, in some detail, continues the rough-hewn image of the famous American general.
McDonnell-Douglas A-4A/L Skyhawk in USN-US Marine Corps, Royal Australian Navy and Royal New Zealand Air Force Service
Richard Ward and Ernest R. McDowell. New York: Arco, 1971. 46 pp. Illus. $3.95 (paper).
The Navy’s trim “bantam bomber” first saw service in 1954, and 18 years later still flies with Marine and Reserve and training units. Buffs may lament that, with all the photographs included, there are none of the “specially modified” A-4Ds with their nose-mounted windup keys for extending range by “in-flight rewinding” of the well-loved, justly famous “Heineman’s Hotrod.”
The Naval Aristocracy
Peter Karsten. New York: The Free Press, 1972. 462 pp. Illus. $10.95.
The social and educational forces that shaped the evolving character of the Annapolis graduate from 1845 to 1925 is the subject of this highly detailed investigation. Of special interest is the evaluation of Mahan in relation to his fellow officers, his place in history, and the effects of his writings on history. Not the most easily read book, but certainly worth the effort.
Navies of the Second World War: The Soviet Navy
Jurg Meister. New York: Doubleday, 1971. Vol. 1, 150 pp; Vol. 2, 152 pp. Illus. Vol. 1, $4.95; Vol. 2, $4.95.
In the first volume of these pocket-format references, battleships, battlecruisers, aircraft and seaplane carriers, heavy and light cruisers, destroyers, and torpedo boats are listed. Volume Two contains light surface forces such as gunboats, minelayers and minesweepers, patrol vessels, submarine chasers, and motor launches. Both books suffer from too few and inadequate illustrations, which are more the fault of the subject than the author’s diligence. The foreword and introduction, in Volume One, backgrounds Soviet naval history for the period and tells of the grave problems in getting any degree of historical and technical accuracy.
Edward Dodd. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1972. 192 pp. Illus. $17.50.
Anthropology, folklore, theories on early celestial navigation, and a multitude of sketches and plans of canoes and catamarans are combined in a lively investigation into the hazy beginnings of man making his course across a vast, open ocean.
Roll, Chesapeake, Roll
Parke Rouse, Jr. Norfolk, Va.: The Norfolk County Historical Society of Chesapeake, 1972. 158 pp. Illus. $2.50 (paper).
Interesting tales, simplistically recounted, make up this chronicle of events connected with the Bay, beginning with the founding of Jamestown and ending with the sinking of the U-85 near the entrance to the Capes in 1942.
Scrimshaw and Scrimshanders: Whales and Whalemen
E. Norman Flayderman. New Milford, Conn.: N. Fladerman [sic], 1972. 307 pp. Illus. $19.95.
Along with a lively, informative text, nearly 500 clear, detailed photographs show the tremendous range of items encompassing this nautical folk art. There is a liberal use of quotations from log books, journals, and correspondence, and a number of illustrations show scrimshaw as it was made and as it was probably used during the whaling era. Unfortunately, only the dust cover photographs show any examples of color.
Sea Life in Nelson's Time
John Masefield. Annapolis, Md.: U.S. Naval Institute, 1971. 108 pp. Illus. $8.00.
With new illustrations and an introduction by Christopher Lloyd, this is a third edition of a nearly 70-ycar-old naval history classic, the second edition of which was published more than 50 years ago.
Silencers, Snipers and Assassins
J. David Truby. Boulder, Colo.: Paladin Press, 209 pp. Illus. $15.95.
The design and use of “sound moderators” and “noise compensators” from their invention by Hiram Maxim in 1908, is traced in photographs, sketches, and text.
Charles Whiting. New York: Ballantine, 1972. 160 pp. Illus. $1.00 (paper).
This fast-paced military biography outlines the commando operations that made Otto Skorzeny “. . . the most dangerous man in Europe . . .” during World War II.
Square Rigger Round the Horn
C. Ray Wilmore. Camden, Me.: International Marine, 1972. 224 pp. Illus. $7.95.
In 1911, the author went to sea in the four-masted, steel bark John Ena out of Honolulu bound for Philadelphia. This is a well-told remembrance of that 105-day voyage in the twilight of sail.
Joseph C. Goulden. New York: Weybright and Talley, 1972. 408 pp. $8.95.
The select world of the Washington lawyer, his business with the government, and his influence on Congressional legistlation [sic] and agency decisions is seen in this not-too-deep probing, gossipy, but quite readable, muck-raking.
Geoffrey Evans. Harrisburg, P.: Stackpole, 1971. 182 pp. Illus. $8.95.
An interesting piece of comparative military history that brings together, in lucid, concise style, the two great battles of eastern Europe.
The Turkish Straits and NATO
Ferenc A. Vali. Stanford, Calif: Hoover Institute Press, 1972. 348 pp. Illus. $9.95.
With a natural emphasis on the Montreaux [sic] Convention, the legal history of this vital passage is explored. In the last chapter, various diplomatic problems arising from Russia’s growing seapower are projected along with a series of recommendations, military and diplomatic, by which the United States could influence events.
The Underwater War
Edwyn Gray. New York: Scribner’s, 1971. 259 pp. Illus. $6.95.
An action-filled account of the Royal Navy’s Submarine Service in World War I.
Uniformed Services Almanac 1972
Lee E. Sharf (ed.). Washington, D.C.: Uniformed Services Alamanac [sic], 1972. 154 pp. Illus. $1.25 (paper).
This is the 14th annual edition of a reference containing information of value to officers and enlisted men in the military services of the United States and their families.
The Victors’ Dilemma
John Silverlight. New York: Weybright and Talley, 1970. 392 pp. Illus. $10.00.
A thoughtful history of the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War both during and after World War I.
James William Holmes. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1972. 207 pp. Illus. $8.95.
With a freshness that belies the 50 years since its writing, the memoir covers a 52-year career at sea. In this book, edited by his daughter, who twice rounded the globe with her father in a clipper, Captain Holmes recalls the excitement and hardship of a lifetime in the tall ships. As accomplished an artist as he was a seaman, 20 of his ships paintings are reproduced in full color.
War of the Vanquished
Mieczyslaw Maneli. New York: Harper & Row, 228 pp. $6.95.
A first-person account of Communist diplomacy by a Polish member of the Vietnam Commission established by the 1954 Geneva Accords.
The Wars in Barbary
Donald Barr Chidsey. New York: Crown, 1971. 165 pp. Illus. $4.50.
The birth of the U. S. Navy in its fight with Arab piracy is the subject of this fast-paced, popular history.
Warships in Profile
John Wingate (ed.). New York: Doubleday, 288 pp. Illus. $19.95.
Originally published in a magazine format, the first 12 issues of the popular Warship Profile Series have been compiled into one volume. Included in this first hard-cover publication are HMS Dreadnought, HMS Cossack, USS Hornet (CV-8), Graf Spee, HMS Campbeltown, Prinz Eugen, a Vosper torpedo boat, U-107, USS Charles Ausburne, HMS Illustrious, two chapters, and finally, IJN Kongo.
Western Window in the Arab World.
Leon Borden Blair. Austin, Tex.: University of Texas Press, 1970. 328 pp. Illus. $8.50.
First-hand experience and scholarship are combined in this fascinating study of American involvement in Morocco since the North African campaign of 1942.
Who Defends Rome?
Melton S. Davis. New York: Dial, 1972. 560 pp. Illus. $12.50.
Not Italians, just Germans, as is so amply described in this overlong, but interesting, account of the 45 days during which the ouster of Mussolini occurred in the summer of 1943. This is not a military history, but rather more a social history that is so Byzantine in the double-dealing and vindictiveness of the protagonists as to be nearly unbelievable.
Yanqui Politics and the Isthmian Canal
Lawrence O. Ealy. University Park, Pa.: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1971. 192 pp. $8.50.
The tortuous and little-known history of American involvement in Panama and Central America is the subject of this thoughtful analysis.
Collier Brigs and Their Sailors
Walter Runciman. London: Conway Maritime Press , 1971. 288 pp. Illus. £3.80.
Seattle, Wash.: Superior, 1971. Various pagings. Illus. No price given.
Volume 1, Numbers 1 to 10, November 1908 through August 1909, a facsimile reprint of the National Aeronautical Magazine.
Panzer Leader (abridged)
Heinz Guderian. New York: Ballantine , 1972. 400 pp. Illus. $1.65 (paper).
Some Principles of Maritime Strategy
Julian S. Corbett. London: Conway Maritime Press , 1972. 317 pp. £4.80.
Underwater Demolition Team Handbook
T. Dunne (ed.). Boulder, Colo.: Paladin Press , 1972. 222 pp. Illus. $7.50 (paper).