"May I See Your Credentials?"
By 1944 Hermann-Bernard Ramcke (1889-1968) was a seasoned
veteran. During the First World War he
had served for a time in a cruiser in the German Imperial Navy, and was later sent
to the Western Front as a naval infantryman, taking five wounds and earning a
commission. Postwar he served as an
officer in the Reichswehr, but after
a short tour of duty in Poland
on the outbreak of the Second World War missed the successful German campaigns
in Scandinavia and northwestern Europe. Hankering
for more action, he transferred to the Luftwaffe,
qualified as a paratrooper at 51, and saw action in Crete,
North Africa, where he commanded a brigade,
where he commanded the 2nd Parachute Division. D-Day found Ramcke's division in the Rhineland, and it was shortly sent west to help defend Brittany.
Operation Cobra, the American breakout from the Normandy beachhead at
the end of July, left Ramcke's division cut off in Brittany.
On August 9th, he withdrew his division into the defenses of Brest, which Hitler soon
designated a fortress, under Ramcke's command, with orders to fight to the last
Fierce fighting soon developed for the city, as American
forces closed in and laid siege. On
September 18th the defenses began to crumble, and city fell. But Ramcke pulled the remnants of his
division on to the Crozon
Peninsula, just west of
the ruined city, for a last stand. The
next day, the American 8th Infantry Division closed in on Ramcke's
Hoping to avoid unnecessary bloodshed, the deputy commander
of the 8th Division, Brig. Gen. Charles D. Canham (1901-1963), went
forward under a flag of truce to demand Ramcke's surrender.
Ramcke, widely known for being a mite arrogant, demanded to
see Canham's credentials.
Pointing to some American infantrymen nearby, Canham snapped,
"These are my credentials."
Ramcke promptly surrendered.
Arrogant he may have been, but he was also practical; and had his bags
Note: Charles D. Canham enlisted in
1919, earned an appointment to West Point, and
graduated in 1926. He led the 116th
Infantry Regiment ashore at Omaha
Beach on D-Day, seeing
the toughest fighting of the landings, during which he was wounded, and earned
a promotion to brigadier general. He saw
combat as deputy commander of the 8th Infantry Division and later of
the 4th. Postwar he commanded
the 82nd Airborne and later the 3rd Infantry Division,
then a corps, before retiring as a lieutenant general in 1961.
General Spaulding's Hobby
Oliver Lyman Spaulding (1875-1947) was the son of Oliver
Lyman Spaulding (1833-1922), who had commanded the 23rd Michigan during the
Civil War, with a brevet promotion to brigadier general, and was later a noted
public servant and member of Congress. After
acquiring bachelor's and law degrees from the University of Michigan,
the younger Spaulding was commissioned in the artillery in 1898. In addition to the normal routine of garrison
and staff duty, he saw active service in China, the Philippines, on
the Mexican Border, and during World War I as a brigadier general in command of
the Artillery School and with the A.E.F. in France. After the war, reverting to his permanent
rank of lieutenant colonel, Spaulding headed the Army's historical section for
a time, then taught at the Army War College, did some troop duty, and was ROTC
instructor at Harvard from 1929-1935, before returning to the War College until
he retired in 1939, ranking as a brigadier general. During World War II he was recalled to active
duty and once more taught at the War
Now that's a pretty impressive military career. But General Spaulding also had a hobby, he
was an accomplished military historian, innovator, and translator.
Spaulding's works were many.
As an historian, he wrote Warfare:
A Study of Military Methods from the Earliest Times (1925), The
United States Army in War and Peace (1937), Pen and Sword in Greece and Rome (1937), Second Division, American Expeditionary Force in France, 1917-1918 (1937),
as well as a number of scholarly articles, such as "Bombardment of Fort
Sumter, 1861" (1915), "The Military
Studies of George Washington" (1924),
and "The Ancient Military Writers" (1933), plus several short
pamphlets recounting the experiences of various divisions in the A.E.F., such
as The Ninety-Second Division, 1917-1918.
Spaulding was also a military thinker of some ability, and
wrote The Tactics of Field Artillery (1905),
Notes on Field Artillery for Officers of
All Arms (1908 and several revisions thereafter), A Course in Tactics (1933), General
Staff and Admiral Staff: The Co-operation of the German Army and Navy (1937),
and Ahriman: A Study in Air Bombardment
And Spaulding was also a translator of some accomplishment,
turning into English a number of important works, such as Hans von Kiesling's Battle Orders (1911), Field Service Regulations
Soviet Army (1936), and Hugo von Freytag-Loringhoven's
The Power of Personality in War (1938). But two of Spaulding's translations
are probably his most important contributions to military literature in English.
In the late 1920s Spaulding developed an interest in the
Byzantine Army, perhaps the most efficient force in the world during the Dark
Ages and Medieval times. Having learned
some Greek while an undergraduate at Michigan, he undertook to study Byzantine
Greek, and then translated into English two of the most notable Byzantine
military works, the Strategikon of
the Emperor Maurice (r. 582-602) and
a work known as The Anonymous Byzantine
Treatise on Strategy, probably written around the time of the Emperor
Justinian (r. 527-565), which were
published in 1933. These were very
down-to-earth handbooks of military practice in Byzantine times, and included everything
from how to build a fortified city to how to deploy troops under various
circumstances, and from the tactics useful against various types of enemies to how
to conduct a retreat that you can turn into an ambush.
Spaulding is buried in Arlington National
Cemetery, next to his