8 Mar 07
From a friend in the security business:
“To be frank, exciting incidents I can do just fine without, but, due to the nature of my work, such things are prone to occur, which is why I think it important to have a plan ready to activate instantly.
It happens to me each time we have a potentially violent incident here. I go from great relief after the incident is successfully resolved, followed by a short-lived sense of euphoria. Once I am at home, I involuntarily, and repeatedly, replay the incident in my mind, from start to finish, analyzing each segment, trying to determine if a better approach could have been employed or if I could have done something differently and achieved an improved result. For the next few days I am tense and restless, sometimes even snappy. Elements of the incident appear in my dreams for several weeks.
Our ‘incidents’ here range from actual shootings to close calls, and I am apprehensive and disdainful when asked, ‘what was it like?’ There is nothing ‘gloriously exciting’ about being personally involved such encounters, save the quiet satisfaction of knowing that, through my actions, I managed to prevent others from getting hurt. Such experiences and my personal feelings about them fall under the heading of ‘private,’ as much of it I will likely never share with anyone.
I am beginning to understand why you, when talking about Vietnam, only speak to make an instructional point and nothing more, as I sense that such things are also private to you, and will be forever.
Among warriors, that is The Way.”
8 Mar 07
I love it when a Plan comes together! This from a student in WA:
“Last weekend, I took my wife and eleven-year-old son to a large shopping mall. My wife soon broke-off in order to look over merchandise in department stores, and my son and I made our way to the hobby shop.
As my son and I were walking, I noticed a uniformed, mall-security guard digging through a trash can. Soon, he was joined by more guards who were now furiously going through several trash cans in addition to some indoor shrubs.
At that instant, I concluded there was a bomb threat. I grabbed my son by the shoulder, turned him and myself around, and said, ‘We’re leaving the mall, now!’ My son was confused, but, from the tone of my voice, understood that there was some kind of emergency. We had discussed all this over dinner on several occasions.
On the way out, I called my wife and alerted her to the threat, instructing her to take the nearest exit and meet us at the car as soon as she could. She, too, understood the seriousness of the situation, dropped what she was doing, and executed our action plan.
On our way out of the mall, I was surprised that there was no general announcement. Even so, mall guards were soon joined by municipal police and firemen. We hurriedly passed several on our way to the exit. Once out of the building, we had to dash around several beat cars and fire trucks that were just arriving.
We drove away, never knowing what had happened. There was no news story on the incident, and next days’s local paper was devoid of a report or comment.
When reflecting on our rapid egress from the mall, I remember seeing people casually window shopping, walking aimlessly with cell phones stuck to their ears, and chatting nonchalantly. All (except us) were oblivious to the drama that was unfolding right in front of them.
I was gratified at the way my wife and son executed our plan, even though we had only talked about it.”
Comment: It is often only alertness and a plan of action that separates live professionals from dead amateurs!
8 Mar 07
Back in January at the SHOT Show, my friends at SIG showed me their new “short-reset” trigger. I tried it and considered is a significant improvement over the conventional SA/DA trigger found on SIG pistols.
Now, my SIG friends tell me that SIG’s 229, 226, 220, and 239 pistols in the manually-decocking (DA/SA) version are now all coming with the short-reset trigger, which has become the new standard. Second shots are now available via a significantly shortened reset, and the reset itself is distinct and crisp.
Retrofits are available from SIG’s Custom Shop.
My personal preference is SIG’s DAK trigger system, to which the forgoing-described improvement does not apply. However, SIG traditional SA/DA system is still immensely popular, both in and out of law enforcement, and I’m delighted to see them go system-wide with this wonderful product improvement.
10 Mar 07
Safety Lesson, from a friend in SA:
“I recently attended a local Urban Rifle Training Course, and we witnessed an incident that, once again, demonstrates how important it is to use safety gear when shooting.
Of course, we were all required to wear safety glasses, ear muffs, and baseball caps. After we finished shooting and finished packing everything away, one of the instructors realized that he still had rounds left in one of his R4 (SA copy of the Israeli Galil) magazines. He went back to the shooting point and readied his rifle to discharge the remaining ammunition. However, he did not put his safety glasses back on, because they were already locked away in his vehicle.
Other instructors reminded him to put on his safety gear back on, and he replied that it was ‘only a couple of rounds.’ After all rounds were discharged and the rifle cased, he was walking towards us. He started rubbing his right eye. When asked about it, he replied that it was ‘nothing.’ By the time we got to the gate, his eye was turning red and he was rubbing it continuously. By the time we all got to where were going to have dinner, his eye was colored deep red. We decided to take him to a local clinic.
When the surgeon inspected his eye, he found embedded a tiny, crescent-shaped sliver of brass, from the last round’s case. It had to be removed, via surgery, that evening. Prognosis is that no permanent disability is likely, but the incident surely served as a lesson for all of us.
We can’t say it too often: When shooting, everyone needs to wear safety glasses. This instructor was, not so gently, reminded!”
Comment: It is often difficult to enforce this important rule when half the magazine ads for guns and ammunition, and much of the industry’s glossy advertising literature, depicts sexy models happily shooting away, without the benefit of safety glasses and without baseball caps!
Sometimes this industry is its own worst enemy!
13 Mar 07
Comments on eye protection from an LEO friend and instructor:
“Persuading our officers to wear eye protection during the day is an easy sell. What self-respecting patrolman doesn’t routinely appear in sexy Gargoyles or Oakley’s latest, trendy offering?
Yet, how many of us regularly wear eye protection while on patrol at night? Between suspects trying to stick fingers in your eyes (when they’re not spitting in your face) not to mention OC spray gone astray, and flying glass shards from broken windshields, there’s all kinds of good reasons to wear eye protection any time we’re working, but few of us do.
It is, I’m sure you’ll agree, completely illogical to religiously wear soft body armor while failing to wear safety glasses!”
Comment: Hard to counter-argue!
13 Mar 07
During WWII, Winston Churchill sent this desperate memo to his Chief of Air Staff. From its tone, one notes that the UK at that time was in the middle of an unfortunate and self-inflicted shortage of individual small arms, dating from the British Royal Family’s paranoid over-reaction to the brutal murder of the Russian Royal Family by Bolsheviks during the Revolution twenty-five years earlier. At the time this memo was written, what few small arms that were in the hands of British home-security folks and civilians had been hurriedly imported from the USA. It all contributed to a rather sorry state of affairs, considering that a German amphibious assault on the island nation was regarded as imminent:
“Everyone in uniform ought to be armed with something: rifle, Tommy-gun, pistol, pike, or mace. And, everyone, without exception, should do at least one hour’s drill and practice every day… Every airman should know his place in the defense scheme. It must be known and understood, by all ranks, that they are expected to fight and die in the defense of their airfields. Every airfield must be a stronghold of fighting airmen, and not merely the abode of uniformed civilians, ‘protected’ by a minuscule detachment of ‘real’ soldiers.
Never forget that the purpose of an Army is to fight. And, to fight effectively, it must be headed by inspired leaders. ‘Managers’ can put the most modern and well-equipped force into the field.
They cannot, however, ‘manage’ an infantry unit into enemy fire to seize an objective!”
Comment: The world, then and now, is filled with adolescent grasseaters (many even in uniform), who naively think that someone else is going to protect them from harm and that they need not make any preparations nor take any personal responsibility for their own safety. Desperate periods of history, such as the one described above, periodically put the lie to such stupidly superficial thinking.
In times of national crisis, most politicians and bureaucrats will think only of protecting themselves. We peons had better be well practiced and equipped to look after our own home and hearth, as we’ll be on our own. As Winston reminds us, all citizens, in and out of uniform, should be armed, all the time. We need to get used to it!
14 Mar 07
Confirmation of what we all know. Sloppy dressing reflects sloppy thinking. This from a friend who is chief of security at a big gentlemen’s club in TX:
“After an exhaustive review of violent events that have taken place on our property over the past five years, I strongly recommended to our general manager that we upgrade our customers’ attire code, so that undesirable elements can be consistently denied entry.
He was reluctant, because he thought a strictly-enforced dress code might degrade the club’s income through loss of business. I was able to show that sloppily dressed, heavily tattooed, sunglass-wearing, gang-associated people were responsible for nearly every violent event we’ve had on property. In addition, our research confirms that these trouble-makers don’t spend money with us anyway! Finally, their slovenly presence and violent gestures, gang-signs, language, and innuendos tend to drive away decent people, who do spend money with us, and are the very customers we want most to attract. When routinely granted entry, such low-life take it as an indication that their sloppy dress, foul language, and threatening behavior are ‘acceptable.’ This generates real issues when my people have to confront them!
In any event, I was instructed to go ahead and upgrade our dress code for three months and then report back. Results so far have been remarkable!
In the past, just about anyone with a cover charge in hand had been granted admission. Now, our new policy specifically prohibits all hip-hop attire, flip-flops, heavy/ostentatious jewelry, sunglasses, baseball caps, et al. At our main entry there is now a list of attire that is not acceptable and well as a caveat that the management reserves to right to determine the appropriateness of any attire not specifically addressed and refuse admission to anyone deemed inappropriately dressed. We don’t require jackets and ties, but now, to get in, you’re going to have to be well-groomed, clean, and kempt.
Thus far, those turned away at the door have sniveled, whined, and threatened to take their money elsewhere. ‘This is who I am, and I ain’t changing anything,’ is the typical response. We politely but firmly reply that we want neither them nor their business and openly encourage them to look somewhere else for a place to hang out! They simply leave, and we don’t see them again.
Results are in: (1) Violent incidents on property have dropped to zero. (2) People who have to be forcibly ejected from the property have dropped to virtually zero. (3) Well-dressed, big-spending clients have increasingly chosen our place to bring their out-or-town guests (4) Club income is way up!
Call it ‘profiling’ if you want. We’ve discovered here that you can judge a book by its cover and that doing so is just good business!”
Comment: There are many people who, for reasons known only to them, make it a point to always appear as slobs, to be ever unkempt, and constantly dirty. There may be establishments who want this kind of trash as customers, but one surely can’t blame businesses when they deliberately screen them out, nor can one argue with the positive results when they do. Personal decency is incompatible with slovenliness.
20 Mar 07
On iron sights, from one of my instructors:
“Making the rounds of the local gun stores, I am seeing the beginning of a dangerous trend. Defensive/military rifles like XCRs, Sigs, and FNs are currently being sold without iron sights (the FN has rudimentary back-up sights). I know this practice keeps costs down, and most new owners want to shoot with optics anyway. In fact, many recreational/non-serious hobbyists tell me that they don’t like iron sights, because they ‘obstruct the view through the optic.’ Of course, that ‘obstruction’ is a vital piece of gear on any serious rifle.
However, the inconvenient fact is that there is no substitute for basic rifle skills. We can’t become so enamored with technology that we are helpless and unable to proceed when batteries die, optics break, mounts become loose, et al. Similarly, just because we have GPS doesn’t mean we can forget about learning to read a map and use a compass.
Serious rifle optics should be:
Mounted well forward of the shooter’s face.
Rugged and dependable, as well as the mounts
Mounted so that they can be jettisoned quickly.
Equipped with clear, clutter-free reticles.
Basic rifle skills must be preserved. Betting one’s life on a single battery and circuit, with no backup, is the dominion of fools!”
20 Mar 07
Comments of Rifle Sights, from a friend in Africa:
“On a recent hunt in a remote area of Zimbabwe, I had the experience of picking up the 375H&H bolt gun I was using only to hear the scope rattle like a jar-full of pennies. It was a high-end, European model. Yes, it was broken and totally useless. I have no idea what caused it to break. It was working fine when we left camp that very morning.
In any event, we dug around in my PH’s tool box, found an allen-wrench key, and pulled the broken scope off the rifle. Our hunt continued (further interrupted solely by my confirming the iron-sight zero) only because the rifle had iron sights on it.
I know you were talking about military rifles, but I am equally distressed to see how few hunting rifles are wearing legitimate iron sights these days. It is a foolish omission!”
Comment: Yes it is! I think manufacturers of military rifles, like RA, FN, and SIG, offer the ‘no-sight option’ mostly because all their rifles now come with Picatinny rails, and they want owners to select for themselves what kind of iron sights they will put on it, and where on the rail they will go, as they are easy to install at the user level. Trouble is, some naive owners never get around to putting them on. Foolish omission indeed!
20 Mar 07
New from Novak:
My long-time friend and master pistolsmith, Wayne Novak, recently worked on one of my Commander-sized, lightweight 1911s. He performed several modifications I had seen at the
SHOT Show, specifically:
“Next” rear sight, with a notch that makes reciprocating the slide on clothing much easier than before the notch was added.
Wayne’s version of the gold-bead front sight
“Answer” one-piece backstrap and mainspring housing
Wayne’s version of the late Chuck Kelsey’s (Devel) slide/safety modification that allows the shooter to load the pistol, and perform a chamber check, all with the manual safety remaining in the “on” position.
Wayne’s new rear sight is surely among the best. Low profile and rugged, it is hard to beat.
The “Answer” backstrap is one piece and eliminates the grip safety. The backstrap now has no gaps.
Chuck Kelsey was wonderful friend of both of us and a real innovator. He invented the slide/safety modification, and I’ve always wanted to use a 1911 pistol with it. It works just fine, and I’m carrying the pistol now..
Like fellow masters, Jim Garthwaite and Colby Adler, Wayne Novak is a professional gunman, carries every day, and knows what real guns are for. I admire men like these, because they don’t cater to the shallow, gadget, kiddy market. They make purposeful guns for those of us who need and use personal guns for serious purposes.
Good show, Wayne!
20 Mar 07
In our Art, some concepts are difficult to explain in words and equally difficult for the new student to grasp. An example is the concept of “continuous trigger contact,” where students learn to reset the trigger between shots, “catching the link” as it were.
A new product from my friend Mike Allen, a mock pistol called “Dry-Fire,” has been created as an aid in this difficult process. It is a plastic, prop pistol with a functional trigger that has generous take-up, a distinctive break, normal creep, normal over-travel, and a distinctive, mid-travel reset. It is really handy when showing students how to correctly manipulate a trigger, and students can take if off by themselves during breaks and work with it in private. Using it does not require a range, and the product is inexpensive.
Allen’s Law ESP
P.O. Box 170
Hansville, WA 98340
800 419 2300, 360 638 2128
360 638 2176 (Fax)
22 Mar 07
Today, a friend called and wanted my advice on a sling for his new DSA/FAL. When I provide such advice, the question I usually ask first is: “What is the rifle for?” Put another way: “Whom are you trying to impress: your friends, or your enemies?”
Quite often, new purchasers have failed to think that one through. Assuming your rifle is for serious, rather than recreational, purposes, we need to know the context. In most of our Urban Rifle Classes, the context is “Domestic Policing/Domestic Personal Defense.” We also instruct classes in “Military Rifle,” but that context is not the same.
In Military Rifle classes, the emphasis is (1) functioning as a part of a team, (2) long-range, lethal engagement of enemy soldiers, who may or may not represent an immediate threat (3) aggressively confronting, at gunpoint, persons of unknown intent, and (4) fire superiority.
In Urban Rifle classes the emphasis is on (1) functioning as an individual operator, (2) constructively interacting in a non-threatening manner, while armed, with persons of unknown intent, (3) relatively close-range, lethal engagement of VCAs who represent a direct threat to innocents, and (4) careful, individual shots, keeping in mind that the our ammunition supply is limited, resupply is unlikely, and errant shots, by definition, are going to hit something we didn’t want to hit.
Within the later context, I have the best luck with a two-point sling. The one made by Blue-Force is excellent. Three-point slings may work fine in some military situations, but they do not lend themselves to a “grab-and-go” circumstance, as they take too long to climb into and get adjusted. One-point slings are fast, but the rifle tends to “dangle.” The best one-point sling currently available is made by my friend and colleague, Henk Iverson, at Strike Tactical.
When using a two-point sling, attachment points need to be on the top side of the rifle, rather than on the under side. That way, the rifle will hang right-side-up when carried in front. The front attachment point needs to be near the front sight, but it may have to be on the left side, rather than directly on top, as attachment points on top obscure the sighting plane. Any good gunsmith can get this set-up installed.
At the end of the day, you should be able to comfortably sling your rifle in front, or to the rear, and still be able to quickly mount it from any starting posture. Also, while the rifle is mounted, you should be able to quickly shift shoulders without the sling getting in your way or preventing you from moving the rifle from one shoulder to the other.
Without a suitable sling, your serious rifle is handicapped. And, even after properly equipping yourself, you still need to get into an Urban Rifle Course, with us or any other competent instructor, where you can run yourself and your equipment hard. Only then can you be relatively sure that you have respectable gear that is going to hold up and serve you adequately when it has to.
24 Mar 07
The trouble with “ambidextrous” controls on carry pistols, particularly manual safety levers and magazine-release buttons:
I recently acquired a copy of SA’s little EMP as a carry/backup pistol. I like the size, and it runs fine, but it comes from the factory with “ambidextrous,” manual safety levers. That is, there is an identical safety lever on both the right and left side of the slide. I know these are trendy, and many sing their praises, but I think they are a bad idea in a carry pistol. Accordingly, I’m having a gunsmith remove the lever on the right side of the pistol, as I am right-handed.
When you carry the pistol in a waist holster, or even in a shoulder holster, there should be no safety lever exposed to the outside. Such exposed levers are inadvertently knocked into the “off” position with great regularity as the gun is carried, all without the carrier being aware of what has just happened. It typically happens when one sits down in cushy chairs, accidentally bumps into something, or stumbles and falls.
When compelled to shoot the pistol left-handed (the ostensible reason for ambidextrous safety levers), I’ve learned to manipulate the manual safety lever with my left thumb. All right-handed 1911 carriers need to learn this trick anyway, as you never know which pistol you’ll get to use in your next gunfight!
The same caveat applies to “ambidextrous” magazine-release buttons. A magazine-release button facing to the outside as the pistol is carried is an invitation to a missing magazine at a painfully inconvenient moment! Again, this button should only face to the inside where an inadvertent release of the magazine is much less likely.
In their unrestrained enthusiasm to be “everything to everyone,” gun manufacturers often discover, as is the case here, that the “cure” is worse than the disease! As professional gunmen, the last thing we want is surprises, as an exciting “adventure” usually follows.
Don’t set yourself up for disaster. Leave “ambidextrous” controls to Nimrods.
25 Mar 07
Comments on manual safeties and holsters, from holster-maker, Dave Elderton:
“While this may be true for most holsters, it is not true of my BraveHeart model. I’ve made several for the SA/EMP, and countless copies for various other 1911s, and I specifically design the holster so that the manual safety lever is locked into the ‘on’ position any time the pistol is holstered. Thus, when holstered, the manual safety lever, on either side, cannot be inadvertently bumped into the ‘off’ position, as described in your last Quip.
In fact, when one mistakenly holsters an EMP, or any other 1911, with the manual safety ‘off,’ it will be forced into the ‘on’ position as the pistol is seated into the holster.”
Comment: Excellent feature!
408 Ryan Wy, Ste 1911
Edmond, OK 73003
405 844 6040
25 Mar 07
From a friend in the LA area:
“Last night, the home of one of our LAPD officers was invaded by three armed-robbery suspects. The officer was roughed up, and his car, a television set, and at least one of his guns was stolen.
Our officer, alone in his home at the time, answered a knock at his front door at 11:00pm. One of three suspects sprayed him with OC, and then all three pushed their way into the house. The selection of the house was random, so far as anyone knows.
It is fortunate indeed that the officer’s wife and family were not home at the time.
The newspaper headline read: ‘LAPD Officer is victim of robbery at home’”
The headline should have read: “Three home-invasion suspects shot to death as they attempted break-in at LAPD officer’s house”
It should be a standard rule: Don’t open your door to people you don’t know, particularly at night. When people come to your house claiming to need help, keep the door closed and locked as you tell them you are calling the police, who will provide them with all the help they need.
Many of us who routinely carry guns concealed naively think we only need to carry when we’re out and about. Upon arriving home, many, like the officer in this incident, immediately take their gun(s) off and promptly render them impotent and/or inaccessible the moment they cross the threshold, somehow believing that no personal danger could possibly exist within their own dwelling.
This officer found out, the hard way, that such habits represent delusional, foolish, and self-deceptive thinking. When you carry a gun, it needs to be carried every waking minute of the day, no matter where you are! The only time you should be separated from it is when you’re asleep or in the shower, and, even then, it needs to be nearby and in a reasonable state of readiness.
For one, I don’t see our world, not just LA, moving toward Nirvana very quickly! VCAs, with the enthusiastic assistance of sleazy politicians who lust after their votes and support, can show up unexpectedly any place you can name, even places you would never expect!
26 Mar 07
223 Performance, from a friend in Dallas, TX:
“One of our patrol officers was murdered here Friday. The suspect fired at him from within a stopped vehicle. Other nearby officers responded by firing at the suspect, who remained inside the vehicle (Chevy Caprice) the entire time. Suspect eventually surrendered after being wounded. He is currently hospitalized.
The point of this is that at least one responding officer was armed with an EOTech-equipped AR-15. Both rifle and optic ran just fine. The ammunition did not! The police rifle was loaded with WW 55gr Ballistic Silvertip. Range was less than fifty feet. With over fifteen rounds fired at the suspect, penetration of the vehicle door and glass was poor, with every bullet fired breaking up upon impact and failing to penetrate intact. Only fragments came through and did merely superficial damage to the suspect. In fact, it was police handgun rounds fired at the suspect, particularly 357SIG, that did penetrate and subsequently wounded him severely enough to persuade him to stop fighting.
I am convinced that even 55gr hardball would have performed better.”
Comment: For over forty years, the unsatisfactory penetration ability of the 223 round, at all ranges, has been well known within both the military and the law-enforcement communities. In fact, it is “poor penetration” that we have actually used as a selling point while persuading politicians to allow us to equip beat cars with rifles, rather than shotguns.
Unfortunately, in American law enforcement, we get into a lots of our gunfights in and around cars. Most pistol rounds do a poor job of penetrating car doors. Buckshot from a shotgun does not penetrate car doors either. Slugs from a shotgun do penetrate, but most police shotguns are not routinely equipped with them. Rifles were supposed to address this issue, but, as we see, light, frail, crumbly bullets, at any speed, fail to penetrate car doors, even car glass.
Departments that equip their officers with 223 rifles need to look at Cor-Bon 62gr DPX and Federal 223 Tactical. Both these rounds will reliably penetrate car doors without breaking up. I routinely carry DPX in my RA/XCR, which is one of my car-guns.
It is high time we stop playing games with friable bullets and start equipping our officers with up-to-date, fight-stopping technology!
27 Mar 07
I’ve been carrying my copy of Beretta’s PX4 Storm Pistol (40S&W) with their “Constant Action” trigger since July of last year. Many thousands of rounds, of every brand imaginable, have been through it, as it has been used extensively by students and me. Despite hard use and only marginal maintenance, this pistol has performed wonderfully! I’m unable to persuade it to malfunction. It just runs and runs! I think Beretta now has a viable competitor that they can market along side Glock, SIG’s DAK, and S&W’s M&P. Make no mistake, I still love my G38, SIG 229/DAK, and my M&P, but this rotary-barreled pistol by Beretta takes its rightful place beside them.
Taurus makes an excellent five-shot snubby revolver that actively competes with S&W’s. In the past, I have been hesitant to recommend Brazilian pistols, but I have to say, the little Taurus runs and runs! We can’t seem to break them.
We see many of SA’s XD pistols in courses, and, in all fairness, they run fine! We’ve broken a few, but we’ve broken most other pistols too.
Finally, my Detonics Combat Master has also been carried regularly, as a backup, in my wonderful Lou Alessi shoulder holster, since May of 2005. Despite digesting many full-house, high-performance rounds it has rendered flawless service. Wonderful backup pistol.
Next week, I’ll be doing a Course with a big retailer in OK, and I’m sure he’ll have comments to
29 Mar 07
On Patrol Rifles, from an LEO friend in VT:
“I carry a 45-70 stainless Marlin Guide Gun (lever action) in my beat car. It is routinely charged with 405gr hard-cast, flat-point, lead bullets. These bullets will penetrate any car door with ease and still have plenty of energy to spare. This rifle is an omnipotent fight-stopper, car doors notwithstanding! Years ago, the 45-70 was a universally-loved military cartridge, and it is still used by many in my part of the country, with great confidence, when hunting moose and bear.
The Marlin Guide Gun is short, slick, handy, and easy to use. I believe it to be an excellent, but much-overlooked, patrol rifle. Ideal for us in rural law enforcement.”
Comment: My friend is right! The Marlin Guide Gun is surely not suitable for general issue, but, for certain individuals, it make a great candidate for the role of “Patrol Rifle.”
29 Mar 07
The Holdout at “Admin-Box,” Burma, 6-25 Feb 1944
In private conversations (never in public!) Both Doug Mc Arthur and Chester Nimitz often observed that British soldiers and their Indian allies, while never good shots (at least by American standards), were nonetheless always good soldiers. However, their record against the Japanese in jungle campaigns since the beginning of the War had been dismal indeed. British commanders were inhibited, consistently lacking audacity, personal initiative, and a willingness to adapt and improvise. The swift and brilliantly successful Japanese drive down the Malay Peninsula and ultimate capture of Singapore in early 1942 had surprised, indeed flabbergasted, the British, and they had never really recovered. Ever since, their record in opposing uninterrupted Japanese offensives in Southeast Asia had done little to inspire confidence. The only thing they were really good at, it seemed, was retreating! Not surprisingly, the Burmese Campaign is referred to as the “Forgotten War” in most Western literature.
To add to their misfortune, precious little help was forthcoming from the Americans. Churchill had persuaded Roosevelt that it had to be a “Europe-First War.” Although it was the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that had catapulted the United States into the growling, global conflict, American forces would fight first in Africa and Europe before they would get around to the Pacific. Everyone knew and understood: the British were on their own in Southeast Asia!
Happily, things began to turn around in early 1943 with the arrival of new British Spitfire fighter aircraft, flying from Allied bases in Rangoon. Almost overnight, Japanese air superiority began to slip away, as Spitfires relentlessly shot down Japanese bombers and Zeros alike. Japanese air support of ground troops quickly evaporated, and the ubiquitous offensive spirit of Japanese forces began to break down, as isolated British units, now resupplied by air, began to hold out, rather than retreat.
The amazing and mysterious ability of the Japanese to move so quickly while on the offensive was rooted in Japanese logistics philosophy. Japanese troops were supplied with only one commodity, ammunition! When they needed medical supplies, they were expected to use those seized from the enemy or from local civilian sources. Similarly, they were expected to feed themselves with captured food, run their vehicles on captured fuel, etc. Engineering projects were completed with captured building materials and local, slave labor or slave labor provided via captured troops.
Actually, it all worked pretty well, so long as the Japanese stayed on the offensive and continued to overrun British positions (which were all-to-quickly abandoned with supplies intact) and well-supplied, civilian cities and towns. The whole System broke down, however, once the Japanese found themselves stalled, or even retreating, against inspired and stubborn resistance. They knew all-too-well they would have to quickly return to the offensive or literally wither on the vine. It took the British entirely too long to figure this out, but figure it out they did, and that signaled the turning point for the Southeast-Asian Theater. British were flexible enough to alter their tactics to fit the circumstances. Japanese were not!
Japanese General Tadashi Hanaya initiated a large offensive, called “Ha-go,” in Burma in late 1943. His intent was to relentlessly drive the British before him, on the old Malay-Peninsula model, all the way to India.
The term, “Admin-Box” had been conferred by the British, almost as a joke, upon a one-mile square of flat land used by the British as a massive supply base. It was chock-full of ammunition dumps, various administrative headquarters, communications centers, fuel tanks, rows or trucks and other vehicles, and medical facilities. It was surrounded on every side by hills and jungle and defended only by a smattering of poorly-organized, lightly-armed, inexperienced, rear-echelon troops. It was the last place in the world anyone thought there would ever be a battle, much less a decisive one! When it became obvious that the capture of Admin Box was one of Hanaya’s prime objectives, British General Geoffrey C Evans decided that this time there would be no retreat. The Admin Box would be reinforced as much as possible and enthusiastically defended, so that critical supplies did not find their way into Japanese hands.
During one Japanese probe into the Admin Box, they came upon a field hospital and, in typical Japanese style, promptly bayoneted nurses, doctors, and bedridden wounded alike. Few escaped the massacre. The Japanese unit involved was overrun during a counterattack the very next day, and British, viewing the pitiable carnage, showed the Japanese scant mercy! Up until that moment, individual Japanese soldiers enjoyed at least the respect, if not the affection, of the British. It was war after all, and they were just soldiers doing their job. That all changed after the “Hospital Incident.” British began to see their Japanese opponents as nothing more than vicious, bestial vermin that needed to be annihilated. That stark philosophical shift would carry through to the end of the War and would infect both British and Americans alike. In retrospect, it is astonishing that the Japanese were unable to foresee the groundswell of righteous indignation in Western Culture their policy of abject cruelty, toward captives and civilians alike, would generate. For the duration, the unofficial, but widely practiced, Allied response bordered on genocide!
The siege of the Admin Box raged for nineteen days, and Hanaya surely inflicted significant damage. Burning ammunition dumps and trucks were everywhere, as were collections of wounded, but a decisive victory continued to elude him, and would forever. Hanaya was too timid to commit to a coordinated, all-out attack. His offensive was piecemeal and unsystematic. Evans took advantage of Hanaya’s indecisiveness and moved his reserves around at will, effectively countering Hanaya’s every move. In the end, Hanaya’s troops, with no food, medicine, nor resupply of any kind, save ammunition, were played out. Desperate subordinate commanders, fighting to save face, initiated several suicidal, frontal charges and were quickly mowed down. It was all too little, too late!
On Friday, 25 Feb 1944, Hanaya called off the siege. What few of his men who were still standing were clad only in disintegrating, rotting rags. All were cadaverous, malnourished to the point of starvation, full of untreated wounds, disease-ridden, and bug-infested. As a fighting force, they were finished. It was now the Japanese who lapsed into disorganized retreat, never to go on the offensive again.
Comment: When you find yourself at the bottom of a hole, the first thing you do is stop digging! Boldness, daring, and tenacity will defeat rote obedience every time. Who constantly “fears to fail” will, in the end, fail without even trying.
“We have to accept this conclusion: a commander cannot escape battle when his adversary intends to engage him no matter what… But, when he makes a bold attempt, holding nothing back, he may yet surprise and conquer.”
Men of Harlech, march to glory,
Victory is hov’ring o’er ye,
Bright-eyed freedom stands before ye,
Hear ye not her call?
At your sloth she seems to wonder,
Rend your sluggish bonds asunder,
Let your war cry’s deaf’ning thunder,
Ev’ry foe appall.
Your foes on ev’ry side assailing,
Forward press with heart unfailing,
Till invaders learn with quailing,
Cambria ne’er can yield.
Thou who noble Cambria wrongest,
Know that freedom’s cause is strongest
Freedom’s courage lasts the longest,
Ending but with death!
Freedom countless hosts can scatter,
Freedom stoutest mail can shatter,
Freedom thickest walls can batter,
Fate is in her breath.
See they now are flying!
Dead are heaped with dying!
Over might has triumphed right,
Our land to foes denying;
Upon their soil we never sought them,
Love of conquest hither brought them,
But this lesson we have taught them,
Cambria ne’er can yield.
Welch Battle Song