Sun Tzu: and the Battle of Britain

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by claidemore, Jan 22, 2009.

  1. claidemore

    claidemore Member

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2008
    Messages:
    682
    Likes Received:
    4
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Location:
    British Columbia, Canada
    I've been reading Sun Tzu and it occurred to me that a discussion of how his teachings apply to the Battle of Britain might be interesting.

    Not only can Sun Tzu's writings be compared to what actually did happen, but we can conjecture about what the different leaders might have done if they had heeded his advise.

    I see a couple things that seem apparent in pre-determining the outcome.

    First, the Luftwaffe could not direct it's attacks against a weak spot in the RAF defenses. The RAF was able to counter the Luftwaffe attacks with as strong a defense as they chose.
    Secondly, the RAF was fighting with a 'last stand/backs against the wall' mentality, which encourages bravery.
    Any thoughts?
     
  2. claidemore

    claidemore Member

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2008
    Messages:
    682
    Likes Received:
    4
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Location:
    British Columbia, Canada
  3. Amsel

    Amsel Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2008
    Messages:
    1,857
    Likes Received:
    5
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Location:
    Texas
    The deception that Dowding planned and implemented before and during the Battle of Britain certainly coincides with the "The Art of War". Dowdings strict discipline in using rotating squadrons to defend instead of an all out furball battle was very deceptive and it caused the Luftwaffe to use tactics that would not gain victory.

    All warfare is based on deception.
    Sun Tzu
     
  4. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2008
    Messages:
    15,222
    Likes Received:
    2,050
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    Public Safety Automotive Technician
    Location:
    Redding, California
    Home Page:
    It's an interesting idea to compare Sun Tzu's teachings to the Battle of Britain.

    I think that Britain did have a number of advantages in relation to the points covered in "The Art of War', but as an opponent, Germany didn't follow some of the criteria Sun Tzu outlined which gave the British a huge boost in an otherwise dire situation.

    One point would have been the better design of an offense, meaning that Germany needed to plan and execute thier attacks better. For example, while they were attacking military and strategic targets, it was demoralizing to the British. As soon as they hit London and other civilian targets, it steeled the British resolve.
     
  5. claidemore

    claidemore Member

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2008
    Messages:
    682
    Likes Received:
    4
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Location:
    British Columbia, Canada
    Another factor in favor of the RAF over the Luftwaffe would be in its leadership.
    Specifically, Sun Tzu said:
    Goerings orders to the fighter arm to provide close escort rather than fighter sweeps fits that model perfectly.

    Dowding on the other hand allowed Kieth Park to direct 11 Group as he saw fit, was wise enough to allow Leigh-Mallory a few attempts at 'Big wing' tactics, but ultimately kept him in the background and allowed Parks tactics to continue. Dowding also did not obey Churchills requests to send more Spitfires to France, disobeying his Sovereign,
     
  6. The Basket

    The Basket Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2007
    Messages:
    1,318
    Likes Received:
    26
    Trophy Points:
    48
    Did Sun Tze mention about 20mm cannon in his teachings? Or was he happy with .303?
     
  7. claidemore

    claidemore Member

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2008
    Messages:
    682
    Likes Received:
    4
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Location:
    British Columbia, Canada
    Sun Tzu teaches that there are seven attributes that must be considered in evaluating which side will win a war. One of these is superiority in arms.

    :)
     
  8. Old Wizard

    Old Wizard Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2008
    Messages:
    2,353
    Likes Received:
    187
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Location:
    Lethbridge AB
    Specifically, Sun Tzu said:

    "the General is the bulwark of the state.....there are three ways in which a sovereign can bring misfortune upon his army:.....(3) by interfering with the direction of fighting, while ignorant of the military principle of adaptation to circumstances. This sows doubt and misgiving in the minds of his officers and soldiers. "

    Which explains how the Whitehouse and the Pentagon screw up wars
     
  9. BombTaxi

    BombTaxi Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2004
    Messages:
    1,907
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    36
    Location:
    Barnsley, S. Yorks, UK
    Which means that he got that wrong, at least. Much German equipment during the war had a technological and qualitative edge over Allied equivalents (especially in terms of armour, for example), but the Allies won through force of numbers. Likewise, German a/c in the BoB carried cannon armament, and Fighter Command had MGs only, but the RAF still won.

    And just a little nitpick, Churchill was not Dowding's sovereign. King George VI was ;)
     
  10. Clay_Allison

    Clay_Allison Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2008
    Messages:
    1,203
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    36
    And why the Cowboys never win in the playoffs.
     
  11. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2008
    Messages:
    15,222
    Likes Received:
    2,050
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    Public Safety Automotive Technician
    Location:
    Redding, California
    Home Page:
    Actually, Sun Tzu had that right.

    To put it in perspective, you could have a knight take to the field with the best and highest quality arms and armor of the day, but even that invincible knight could be felled by a superior number of footmen with lesser arms. It may take some effort and cost the footmen dearly in fallen, but they will ultimately prevail.

    But back to the illustrated points Sun Tzu made about the Generals fighting the war. If the Generals have the men and material they need, and the ability to fight battles in the way that they are versed in, you'll have a force to contend with. Once you have Regents (or comparable) getting in the middle of it all, especially if they have no idea what they are doing, then you have a disaster in the making.
     
  12. claidemore

    claidemore Member

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2008
    Messages:
    682
    Likes Received:
    4
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Location:
    British Columbia, Canada
    Yup yer right, Churchill was not Dowdings sovereign. I was using the word in the context of "superior", which is kinda what the English translation of "The Art of War" does.

    Don't forget that there are seven attributes (used to forecast success), and superior weapons is only one of them. Moral influence, capable commanders, favorable weather, implementation of orders, training of officers and men, and strictness and impartiality of reward and punishment are the other six.

    I'd say the RAF would score higher in Moral influence, since they were protecting their homes. Capable commanders would again go to the RAF, Goerring vs Dowding, Churchill vs Hitler. Weather favored the defenders, the battle didn't really begin till late summer, so stormy fall weather was not very far off. Implementation of orders would probably be a tie, training of officers and men would also be close, though I suspect some would lean towards the Luftwaffe on that one for better fighter tactics (four plane vs 3 plane VIC). Reward and punishment? Probably even on the reward end, probably stricter punishment on the Luftwaffe end, particularly Goerings criticism of his fighter commanders for not protecting bombers.

    When you consider all seven attributes, I think the outcome of the Battle could be forecast quite accurately.
     
  13. Maestro

    Maestro Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2004
    Messages:
    2,890
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    36
    Occupation:
    Security Officer
    Location:
    Beaupré, Province of Québec, Canada
    I wouldn't consider Goering "ignorant of the military principle of adaptation to circumstances", since he was a fighter pilot (and officer) of the Luftwaffe in WWI. I would rather say that he knew how it worked, he was just too arrogant and confident in his fighting techniques... Just like Field Marshall Haig in WWI, who led Commonwealth forces to bloodbaths in WWI (the Somme and Paschendeale, only to name a few). The only difference is that Haig was saved by the bravery (and number) of his men.
     
  14. BombTaxi

    BombTaxi Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2004
    Messages:
    1,907
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    36
    Location:
    Barnsley, S. Yorks, UK
    Sorry to thread hijack, but I have to differ with Maestro here. Haig was absolutely NOT an arrogant butcher, and 'lions led by donkeys' is an appalling piece of revisionism which has been raised to the level of dogma.

    Haig and every other general on both sides of that war had entered on the war in 1914 expecting it to be like every recent European War - short, violent and decisive. What they got was a war which they had not learned to fight. WWI could not be fought by the art of warfare current in 1914 - commanders were forced to adapt, and they did this incredibly well. British, French, German and Russian commanders constantly refined their assault tactics, which led to some spectacular breakthroughs - the first week of Fall Gehricht at Verdun, the opening weeks of the Brusilov Offensive, and the opening weeks of the German Peace Offensive immediately spring to mind. In all of these cases, exploitation of the advance proved impossible because the technology simply did not exist at the time to keep supplies moving forward as fast as the assault troops. Nor did technology exist to allow either side to effectively flank the trench system, anchored as it was by the sea at one end and the Alps at the other.

    Haig, and the other generals who fought that war, were writing the rules as they went along - they had no other choice. There were moments of exceptionally poor judgment, particularly around the Passchedaele campaign. I won't deny that, although I would say that Market Garden is just one example of equally poor judgment being exercised in another war. I believe it is grossly unfair though to characterise Haig, or any other WWI general as arrogant and insensitive to thier losses - Haig in particular, found himself unable to visit field hospitals because of the effect the sight of his wounded men had on him. The only exception I would make is Falkenhayn - his plan for Fall Gehricht was little short of a war crime and he should have been punished for it, IMHO.

    So in conclusion, I think modern historians are too willing to put the boot into WWI generals who are not here to defend their choices, and are too willing to criticise without first understanding that the war which began in 1914 was one which simply had not been prepared for in the preceding years because no-one had foreseen it's coming.
     
  15. HoHun

    HoHun Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2006
    Messages:
    1,766
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Hi Claidemore,

    >Sun Tzu: For it is the nature of soldiers to resist when surrounded, to fight hard when there is no alternative, and to follow commands implicitly when they have fallen into danger.

    Hm, it's been a while since I read Sun Tzu, but if I remember correctly, he continues here with the advice to leave the enemy a way of retreat because it's easier to defeat fleeing troups than a coherent force drawn up with their backs to the wall.

    As it's possible to suggest that the Germans in WW2 thought that the "way of retreat" for the British would be peace negotiations, I wouldn't say they violated this particular Sun Tzu strategem (if you increase the level of abstraction far enough ;)

    Regards,

    Henning (HoHun)
     
  16. HoHun

    HoHun Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2006
    Messages:
    1,766
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Hi Basket,

    >Did Sun Tze mention about 20mm cannon in his teachings? Or was he happy with .303?

    I can offer Miyamoto Musahi's teachings here:

    "ON KNOWING THE ADVANTAGES OF WEAPONS IN MARTIAL ARTS

    In distinguishing the advantages of the tools of warriors, we find that whatever the weapon, there is a time and situation in which it is appropriate."

    Regards,

    Henning (HoHun)
     
  17. claidemore

    claidemore Member

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2008
    Messages:
    682
    Likes Received:
    4
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Location:
    British Columbia, Canada
    Musashi also said:
    and:
    My favorite bit of advice from him is to win by a technique not expected by your opponent.
     
  18. HoHun

    HoHun Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2006
    Messages:
    1,766
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Hi Claidemore,

    >and:

    Interesting - another different translation.

    The version I liked best was "Don't favour a weapon beyond its utility".

    >My favorite bit of advice from him is to win by a technique not expected by your opponent.

    "Rat's head and ox' neck", as it was called in one translation? One of my favourites too :)

    Regards,

    Henning (HoHun)
     
  19. claidemore

    claidemore Member

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2008
    Messages:
    682
    Likes Received:
    4
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Location:
    British Columbia, Canada
    Hi Henning,
    I'd agree that in the German mind this strategy was not violated, but I think they did ignore Sun Tzu's advise to 'know your enemy'. In the minds of the British, particularly after Churchills radio address about fighting on the beaches, negotiating peace was not an option. They misjudged the British resolve.
    Sun Tzu:
    Given that the Battle was so hard fought, and could clearly have gone either way (so far as air superiority, without getting into discussion about an actual invasion), this bit of teaching would seem to apply.

    On the subject of Musashi, I'd have to say that what I have read has been more paraphrased than translated, so I'm relying pretty heavily on the translators interpretation. Musashi was a bit of a rabbit trail for me while I was researching rapier and longsword treatises.
     
  20. HoHun

    HoHun Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2006
    Messages:
    1,766
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Hi Claidemore,

    >I'd agree that in the German mind this strategy was not violated, but I think they did ignore Sun Tzu's advise to 'know your enemy'. In the minds of the British, particularly after Churchills radio address about fighting on the beaches, negotiating peace was not an option. They misjudged the British resolve.

    They overestimated the effect of strategic bombing on morale, but that's what everyone did back then and some still did even later. Doesn't Sun Tzu say something on the use of fire in war?

    >On the subject of Musashi, I'd have to say that what I have read has been more paraphrased than translated, so I'm relying pretty heavily on the translators interpretation.

    Without command of the Japanese, my impression is that Musashi's writings are so compact that any translation would require an interpretation.

    >Musashi was a bit of a rabbit trail for me while I was researching rapier and longsword treatises.

    Hm, I've to admit that I couldn't figure out the meaning of "rabbit trail" in this context :)

    Regards,

    Henning (HoHun)
     
Loading...
Similar Threads
  1. acerus
    Replies:
    1
    Views:
    1,023
  2. pinsog
    Replies:
    74
    Views:
    7,088
  3. v2
    Replies:
    0
    Views:
    2,001
  4. report2me4
    Replies:
    4
    Views:
    2,586
  5. Medvedya
    Replies:
    26
    Views:
    3,187

Share This Page