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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  August 15, 2014 6:01am-7:01am EDT

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how effective can aerial interdiction be? turns out it's a mixed bag. the germans are extremely resourceful. you cut a rail line and the next day the germans have fixed it. they did that in part because they've got millions of slave laborers. when you're using 7 million slave laborers, you can do a lot of fixing in europe. but, yeah, it's -- i mean, the germans have ultimately fatal supply problems. fuel is their achilles heel. and fuel in the winter of '44-'45, on into the spring of '45, is what will bring the germans really to their knees. that and of course the russians. thanks, sir. >> thank you. >> sir? >> good morning mr. atkinson. just wanted to ask you about -- you say, as we know, the central tenet or one of the central
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tenets is to hold the high ground. and the terrain of italy, wasn't there significant reconnaissance or intelligence to find out about, say, not even just the fortifications around them but simply the geography as well as the geology of the area going up the boot? >> yeah, we knew a lot. for one thing, when the italians switched sides we had a lot of italian informants. body the italian military, italian military provided lots of maps. needless to say they had lots of experience in areas around casino and the other german fortifications. we had aerial reconnaissance that was pretty good. we had extraordinary abilities to eavesdrop on german radio communications. at the highest level there was an operation called "ultra," the
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british had been able beginning fairly early in the war to intercept radio communications that germans thought were sufficiently encoded to be indecipherable. and the british were deciphering almost all of them by 1944. that gave a very detailed picture of what the germans were doing, particularly at the highest levels. and you could find out how many gallons of gasoline kesselring had in this place or that place. it was very illuminating. but even if you know, you know, there's a german battery here, there's a german battery there, we may be wrong about whether they're germans in the casino or not, but we have pretty well identified where those german units are. we know them by name, we know who the commanders are. we know what reinforcements are
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coming. we know all that stuff. knowing is not the same as being able to do something about it. you know, you say, well, if you know where the artillery batteries are, why can't you bomb them? well, it's really tough bombing mountains. mountains really suck up bomb loads. and you can bomb till the cows come home and you don't necessarily -- first of all, the germans are very good at camouflage, they are very good at fortifying, they're very good at moving. >> did they take that into consideration though when they were planning the campaign? >> well, yes and no. i mean, they know all you have to do is look at a map and you can see that it is one damn mountain after another. >> that's exactly -- >> there are people saying, look, the old bromide is, if you're going to invade italy, don't do it from below, if you get into a boot you get into it from the top.
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i think only general bellisarius, he was the last one tone vade italy from the south, that was the sixth century or something like that. napoleon knew if you're going to invade italy, come from the north. but that was not an option, really. the options are, as we've discussed, you can forego italy altogether, you can stop at sicily, you can stop in southern italy, or you can try and occupy as many german forces as possible. this is a war of attrition. it has its own logic. you're not really -- i mean, liberating rome is a political feat. but the rest of the campaign is really about killing germans and occupying germans. that is what they're doing. and there's not a lot of fun in that. wars of attrition are almost never glorious. thanks, sir. >> thank you.
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>> sir? >> yes. my name is joe antonuccio. i enjoyed your talk very much. >> thank you. >> my question is specifically about anzio. while it's true that we were pinned down about three or four months there, was that not avoidable if general john lucas, instead of -- he found no opposition, according to the reports, no opposition at all from the germans. there were no troops there. as a matter of fact, one of our patrols, i think, made it all the way to the outskirts of rome at that point. that lucas i think decided to dig in and handle a counterattack, from where that was going to come is mysterious, and that he was eventually replaced. and not only replaced from his post, he was sent back to washington. >> yes. that's right.
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well, good question. hotly debated then, hotly debated for 70 years since then. you're fundamentally right, general lucas is the core commander. he goes ashore at anzio netuno on january 22nd, 1944, with a force that is too small. it is a small corps. there's one british division, there's one american division. as often happens in allied amphibious operations it's too small. now, opposition is minimal. there are a few startled germans who are -- shoot away as the landings occur. but lucas recognizes that, to thrust toward the alban hills that i talked about, then to get from there to rome that he needs more combat force. in part because, for every mile you move inland, you're adding
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seven miles of perimeter. george marshall, who almost never got involved in tactical disputes, actually defends lucas. you're right, he is relieved of command. but it's not because he has made an insupportable tactical decision. it's partly because -- i showed you his picture earlier -- he has no combat presence. you're pinned down at anzio. you're getting shelled every day. your casualties are mounting. you're stuck in italy in the admit of the winter. and lucas is like a grandfather. one brit describes him as constantly getting out of endless layers of overcoats. there is no panache when he walks into a room. and it becomes infectious. there's a feeling that this guy -- i'm going to die for this guy? could lucas have pushed farther
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inland right as the invasion attance i don't took place? yes. and they are several miles inland where he waits for the inevitable ver man counterattack. one thing that had not been anticipated by churchill -- this is a churchill brainstorm. the whole anzio thing, churchill is driving that train. and alexander feld and clark feld appreciate the alacrity with which the germans respond. kesselring, within an hour of learning there's a landing at anzio, is bringing german forces not only from southern italy, he's bringing them from northern italy, he's bringing them from france, he's bringing them from yugoslavia. and the germans respond much more vigorously and with greater force and depth than had been anticipated. >> what do you think patton would have done in that
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circumstance? landing an army on the beach with no opposition? would he -- do you think he might have dug in? >> you know, that's a counter factual and historians always love counter factuals because i can't be wrong. i can say, yeah, he would have dug in just like lucas did. . or no, he would have raced to rome and the story of the anzio landings would have been considerably different. my belief is had general lucas taken that small core and pushed inland they would have been destroyed, that they would have been annihilated. not only would we have had the agony of four months at anzio, but that we would have probably had the agony of an entire corps being annihilated. so i'm a defending of lucas even though i recognize he's the wrong man for the job. he's replaced by general trusscot, the one who was born to lead men in the dark of night. >> he was reliesed by lucian.
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>> yes, sir. thank you, sir. >> rick, i wanted to commend you on that d-day program that you were both on brian williams' show at 8:00 in the evening and during the day on msnbc. you added immeasurably to our knowledge. i can't use the word enjoyment. but the commemoration of such a solemn day. >> thank you. >> and i do recall when charles de gaulle got on his high horse and wanted nato taken out of paris, eventually to settle in brussels, that lbj said, does he want us to take our cemeteries as well? and what i loved about the entire trilogy, your opening lines, an army at dawn, is the american cemetery in carthage, a stone's throw from the ancient punic city. >> right. >> and how you then use the names and dates of death to surmise what happened to these soldiers, who were killed by french resistance, for example,
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or at casstoring pass. and general trusscote, what he did. what i'd like to ask is did you visit the cemeteries at carthage and nettuno where the general said to the chaplain, get rid of the stars of david. they mar the cemetery. and the chaplain told him basically to go to hell, because my boys have title to this land. >> yeah. >> can you tell us about those visits, if any? >> yeah, i spent a lot of time not just in the cemeteries but in all the battlefields that i write about. it's i think quite critical. because for one thing i'm an amateur, i need to see with an amateur's eyes, the terrain, to understand why they went left, not right. so i've been to castoring pass a number of times and it is in the middle of nowhere, it's out
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there on the algerian border. and to virtually every battlefield i've written about. some of them i've been to a number of times. most recently earlier this month at normandy. other major reason, is not only does the ground speak to you but the dead speak to you. and when you go to that magnificent cemetery at carthage, which is run by the american battle monuments commission, and kept up beautifully by the tunisians i must say, you don't have to listen very hard to hear those young men, they're mostly men, talking to you. and the same is true at nattuno or the cemetery at hom, luxembourg where patton's buried, that magnificent cemetery above omaha beach. and, you know, what we are all doing is keeping faith with the
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dead. 317 million of us today keeping faith with those who fought, in some cases died. part of that keeping faith i think is going and listening to what it is they have to say and having some kind of a sense of communion with them 70 years after the fact. walking through that cemetery in normandy on june 6th, absolutely gorgeous day in normandy, and -- you know, i cry every time. i don't know who doesn't. because you just see, okay, well, he was 22. he was 19. he was 26. and it kind of reminds you the essence of the story. thanks, sir. yes, ma'am. >> good morning. this question comes to you from my 93-year-old father-in-law who was an officer in the 361st infantry. i will relay your answer to him.
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so please be careful. >> okay. all right. >> on behalf of my father-in-law and the thousands of allied troops who fought their way up the boot, through the gothic line, and up to the pogh river, can you elaborate on why you did not more fully describe their endeavors in your book? >> yeah. okay. well, tell him i'm sorry, first of all. >> i will. tell him that when you sign his book, please. >> i'll tell him that. right. tell him to write his own damn book. >> i'll tell him that too. [ laughter ] >> as an author you're constantly making narrative decisions. and yes, i know there's a big bloody campaign that goes on after the liberation of rome on june 4th, 1944. i also know that i cannot get distracted by it. tell him that i write not a word about the pacific. tell him i write not a word about the eastern front.
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that there are many things that i don't write about because i can't. and do the kind of writing that i want to do. and yeah, i think that there is a legitimate grievance that those who were stuck in italy for that last year of the war have had for 70 years, that they kind of get the short end of it from historians and the public at large. because it remains awful and their sacrifices are no less substantial than those of young soldiers who fought before that or in the more "glamorous" campaign in normandy. but for my purposes as an author, i cannot go off with them. i'm telling a story that is a story. and that has a chronology and a through-line to it.
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and it starts in north africa and it goes to sicily and southern italy and then the center of the story moves to northwest europe for that decisive campaign. so, yeah, you know. guilty as charged. but there it is. >> i'll ask him to write his own book. he's alive and well and he'll probably do it. >> that's good. good. >> thank you. >> thanks. my father is about to turn 90. he's a career army officer, enlisted in 1943. and i get the same questions from him all the time. sir? >> yeah, i have a question. are there any examples in which we couldn't act on ultra information for fear of giving away the fact that we had that information? >> yeah. ultra was the deepest, darkest secret of the war. it did not become public until 1974. and it was so intensely guarded that first of all, there were
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relatively few people who knew about it. i think the ultimate -- i found the ultra distribution list at the national archives. and there were about 500, ultimately, who knew about ultra, who were privy to the take from the decrypted intercepts. there were rules for when you could act on ultra information that you had. and the rules were pretty strict. they did not want the germans to put two and two together, because the germans were really good at figuring out stuff like this. but in the main, i think you have to say that, although there were times when senior guys -- ultra did not go below army level. so if you were a corps commander, you didn't get ultra. you weren't even supposed to know about it. so at army level, which is a
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very high tactical level, you got ultra and you had an ultra officer there, he would bring the stuff in, he'd say, this is what we got from blechly park today, where they were decrypting this stuff in england. he'd say, this is what we got today, this is what we know. sir, you probably can't do anything about this because the germans would figure out that we got this through a radio intercept. and they would err on the side of caution. rarely, and i'm hard pressed to think of a time when they knew that something was going to happen and they let men get killed instead. and there were times -- ultra was possible. two examples. kaserim pass, the battle of the bulge. the germans did their planning not by radio communication, but they did their planning basically over the roof of a jeep, their equivalent of a jeep, over the hood. and so there was nothing to
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intercept. and so when the attack came on february 14th, 1943, it led to that disastrous retreat at kasterim pass. then again on december 16th, 1944, in the ardennes, the battle of the bulge, we're completely surprised. part of it is the intelligence officers have become too -- they lean on ultra too much. if you don't have it from ultra, it didn't happen. eisenhower relieved his senior intelligence officer after castoring pass, he was a brit, and eisenhower fired him. first of all, you need a scape goat. second, he felt that he was too enamored of ultra and not using other sources as fully as he could. sir? >> i'm howard crook. my wife and i have really enjoyed your speech this morning. and i've read all three of your books on the war. the thing that i've often
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thought from reading it, actually, is that we -- how much did we need those early battles in north africa and sitly and italy to learn how to fight the germans? >> well, that's a very good question. and that is -- that's kind of the essence of the campaign in the mediterranean. look, the mediterranean campaigns in general are a proving ground. and you are learn iing a lot of things. you're learning how, for example, to put a force onto a hostile shore. and to do that, you realize that you need various kinds of amphibious landing craft. so the biggest and the baddest of them was the lst, the landing ship tank, which can carry 20 tanks on it, it has clamshell doors, it has a shallow draft,
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it can land right on the beach. and they're absolutely fundamentally critical to normandy. and they have been critical earlier, and they're first used in the mediterranean. so that's one small example. more important is probably you are learning who is capable of the stresses of combat. you're learning things about leaders at all levels. from a platoon-leading lieutenant who's perhaps 19 years old, or at most 22, leading 40 infantry men, up through corps command and army command. and you're learning who has got the ability to lead other men in the dark of night. who has got the physical and mental stamina. they underestimate the physical rigor of it as we go into the
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war. who is -- and what is the trait napoleon most cherishes in his generals? anybody know? luck. luck. luck! who's lucky? who's not lucky? americans are always uncomfortable with this concept. you know? people kind of squirm in their seats. you know? don't you make your own luck? not in war. sometimes it's made for you. for good or for ill. and this is absolutely critical. who among those commanders -- again, at all levels -- is lucky, and who is unlucky? and we talked about some of the unlucky ones. john lucas. earnest dally at salerno. we've talked about some of the lucky ones. dwight eisenhower being first among them. there's nobody luckier -- by the way he keeps seven lucky coins in his pocket, he takes them out and rubs them all the time. mark clark, the four leave clover, his wife sends it to
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him, keeps it in his wallet through the italian campaign. so yes. the answer to your question is yes. we have to about through this, we have to -- we have to -- you're looking for killers.throe to -- we have to -- you're looking for killers.gthrough th have to -- we have to -- you're looking for killers.othrough th have to -- we have to -- you're looking for killers. through th have to -- we have to -- you're looking for killers. and we're breeding killing divisions. we get four of them out of north africa. and they're really good. 1st division, 3rd division, 34th division, 1st armored division. and they are full of killers. because that's how you win. you find men who are willing to kill other men and leaders who are willing to lead them to kill other men. and that's a painful part of the whole process then and always has been, since the days of fucidies, and is taed oday in 2. thank you, sir. with live coverage of the u.s. house on c-span and the senate on c-span2, here on
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