Tuesday, April 7, 2020
Quest: Learning from the past
Quinn “Corn Dog” Spackle, Chernovsky, Gimp and John Wilder were sharing a libation or three in Quinn’s headquarters. It was after hours although the term was almost nonsensical in what could become an active war-zone in a matter of minutes.
At one-drink-per-hour, the liquor softened inhibitions that might otherwise keep a useful thought unsaid or a critical observation unshared.
Dysen was the proverbial fly-on-the-wall, taking notes and freshening drinks as required.
Wilder and Gimp were arguing about why the Maginot Line had fallen. They were mostly in agreement and quibbling about minor details.
Wilder was arguing that the Maginot Line’s fatal flaw was its inability to shift resources along the length of the defense. If it had been possible to shift resources from the east to the defenses facing the attack from the western lowlands, Wilder contended that France may have been able to thwart the NAZI blitzkrieg.
Gimp’s argument was the opposite. He contended that the Maginot Line failed because it lacked depth of defense. Once the line was breached and the mechanized German forces were ravaging deep behind the lines, the hundreds of thousands of French defenders were cut off from retreat and supplies. They had no choice but to surrender.
Quinn felt compelled to add “Things might have been different if the defense-in-depth also extended toward the enemy. They might have seen the NAZI coming in time and been able to make adjustments. Distance is time and time is everything.”
Dysen had passed word to her cousin Janelle, Chernovsky’s wife, that Quinn was suffering from violent mood swings. One moment he would be as happy as a chickadee. A half hour later he was in the depths of despair.
The men had come together to plumb the reasons for Quinn’s angst. Hence the libations.
Bit-by-bit it came out. Most of the band that Quinn was tasked with defending was five miles deep. The opportunities for defense-in-depth were limited. A mechanized unit traveling at thirty miles an hour would be in his rear in ten minutes.
Even with harrying them with Improvised Explosive Devices and massive, mortar barrages Quinn could not see a way to slow them down by more than two hours. And that would come at a high cost in casualties.
The situation stank. It looked as if the cosmos was programming for him to fail.
Failure meant that men would die. Quinn’s friends and maybe even his wife would die.
Quinn shared his plans-to-date. After looking at the sand table Quinn had in his HQ, Wilder asked if he could comment.
“That is why you are here” Quinn reminded him. If it was incongruous that Wilder, who was over sixty, was asking Quinn who was just barely twenty-two for permission to comment...then it was just a sign of the times that competence trumped all else.
“My read of WWII history is that the NAZI didn’t so much defeat the Maginot Line as spill around the end of it” Wilder said. “If they had tried to punch through the middle then French resources would have flowed in from both sides of the attack to shore up the line.”
“I agree that I-96, which is at the north end of your defenses is the most likely place for them to attack. But I think you are underestimating the possibility that they will attack along M-36 at your south end” Wilder said.
“It doesn’t matter how far south I extend. It has to end somewhere, and there is always the risk they will simply sweep around me” Quinn said, irritated. This was not the first time the thought had been called to his attention.
“If attackers go too far south, they start infringing on Hard Timers’ turf*. That would trigger a two-front war for the attackers.” Chernovsky said.
“And if I extend too far south, then I risk infringing on the Hard Timers. Damned if I do and damned if I don’t.” Quinn said. He had been going round-and-round on the issue.
“Maybe we are looking at the wrong war” Wilder said. “Maybe WWI is a better fit for most of our technology.”
“Whaddya mean?” Gimp asked.
“Let’s cut to the chase” Wilder said. “Being able to see ten, even twenty miles behind enemy lines would solve a lot of Quinn’s problems. That means going into the third dimension...UP.”
“So what are the options, besides tall trees?” Gimp asked.
Wilder ticked them off on his hand as they occurred to him: “Hot air balloons, sail-planes, drones, small planes...maybe ultralights, commercial planes if we can get them flying.”
“You know, Dmitri had seismic sensors. Maybe those would be useful” Chernovsky said.
Quinn cocked his head. “Yeah. Maybe. They aren’t precise enough to spot mortar fire but they could certainly give us a heads-up and let us know when we need to send a better set of eyes somewhere to look things over.”
Chernovsky continued “You gave us quite a shopping list. I am not sure we will be able to deliver everything on it.”
Quinn nodded. He didn’t really expect them to.
“You need to give us a priority list” Chernovsky said. “Much of what you want is limited by the same bottleneck. Giving you one means we cannot give you the other.”
“If we could only give you one thing, what would it be?” Chernovsky asked.
“The high-explosive in the forty, 2-liter bottles” Quinn said without hesitation. “I would use it to mine the spans over I-96 and to mine the east side of the spans we already blew.”
“Why would you mine bridges you already blew?” Wilder asked.
“Because that is where attackers will erect temporary, combat bridges” Quinn said. “Setting the demo means that we not only take out the replacement bridge, but if our timing is good we can take out their vehicles and combat engineers.”
“What is your second choice?” Chernovsky asked.