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Posted on Sep 4, 2005 in Armchair Reading, Front Page Features, TIAOW

The Incorrect Art of War [Episode 10] – Over the Top

By A J Summersgill and Jim H Moreno

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Starring:

Doctor Sinister

Doctor Sinister. An evil Supervillain with an insane lust for power. From his secret island base, the Doctor plans to become future Emperor and Warlord of the planet Earth. Enjoys the company of cats and cloned genetically modified Dinosaurs.

And featuring:

General Menace. Graduated from West Point Military Academy with honours, served for twenty-five years in the US Army, reaching level of 2-star General in command of training facilities before being recruited by Doctor Sinister to command his New Model Army of World Domination. Has a penchant for cigars.

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EPISODE 10 – “Over the Top”

It is a rainy windswept night on Sinister Island. As General Menace’s customised Apache Helicopter glides onto the landing beacon he looks down below him to see vast numbers of wet and miserable soldiers picking at the muddy ground with all manner of tools.

Massive floodlights illuminate the works as patrol cars drive back and forth, guards shouting orders at the men.

Huge digging machines carve enormous gouges in the ground as the General trudges through the sticky mud towards the gleaming white control pod mounted on stilts near the main working party.

Five minutes later, onboard the Portable Command Centre…

Doctor Sinister: General! Am I pleased to see you, perhaps you can get these slobs motivated for me.

General: Slobs my Lord? That’s my finest Legion down there Sir, they are the elite of the Sinister Armed Forces, without them, our Army would be pretty pitiful.

Well they aren’t acting like an elite – it’s taken them twelve hours just to dig three miles.

I’d say that was pretty good going your Excellency. Those are fighting men, not labourers. However I’m sure that with a few incentives they could work a little harder…

Incentives? Don’t I pay them enough already?

As a matter of fact, Supremacy, your wages are most generous – however that’s not what I meant. A few creature comforts wouldn’t go amiss, some fine wine, a few cigars here and there…

Cigars? Why haven’t you mentioned this before?

Actually…

Never mind all that – I can’t be messing around with luxury provisions right now, it’s the middle of the night and we’ve got work to do!

Yes my Lord, but perhaps if you told me what exactly we were up to I could assist with the planning?

Didn’t you get the memo’?

I’ve been in Costa Rica all week Sir, bribing, erm, I mean hiring some more men – I’ve not been in my office all that time. However, from the flight over here, it looks like we’re digging a canal or something – you’ve had my men dig twenty miles in a straight line all the way from the coast – are you planning to flood the excavations?

Nope.

Oh, well then, might I ask how much further this line is going to extend?

Another four hundred miles or so, however far it is to the other coast.

Four hundred miles Sir? You mean you’re cutting a gigantic notch in the ground four hundred and twenty miles across the length of the island?

Oh yes, and then another one going from top to bottom. And then some more going in a criss-cross pattern all over the place, and then…

But, my Lord! In the middle of the night? And with such undue haste?

Undue? This is urgent!

But…but what is it that’s so urgent your Sagacity?

I’m preparing defences against invasion of course.

By cutting holes in the ground?

Not holes General – trenches!

Errr….

Yes! Trenches! The supreme form of warfare! The ultimate defence against attack! Once we have a network of trenches across the island we will be invincible!

Might I just ask – where are you getting this information from my Lord?

A science-fiction film I saw whilst you were away. It was all about this war where two sides had dug a massive network of trenches to stop the other side from attacking them – it must have been set in the future as they kept saying that it was supposed to be "the war to end all wars".

My lord, I think you’ve misinterpreted the events – that war really did happen Between 1914 and 1918 to be precise. It was known as the Great War at the time, or as we call it now, the First World War.

Impossible, General. I told you, it was the "war to end all wars". We’ve had other wars since then – this film must have been set in the future.

Well, the men fighting in the First World War really did hope it would be the "war to end all wars", but it didn’t end up like that. Instead it became a needless slaughter – a twentieth century war fought with nineteenth century tactics, men mown down senselessly in their hundreds of thousands by modern machines of death – mustard gas, machine guns…

But they lived in trenches! This film showed how the trenches protected the men from attack!

Yes, but it was a stalemate. Both sides lived in their trenches, occasionally shelling each other or sending patrols over the top, the war lasted for years with little movement either way on the front line, it just turned into a muddy, bloody morass of bones and barbed wire.

But with my genius, we could break such a stalemate – use the trenches to defend the island if we ever get invaded and then turn the tables!

I don’t mean to dismiss your undoubted genius my Lord, but it was tried, with the advent of aerial warfare, bombs could be dropped from planes, but that didn’t work very well. Massive artillery bombardments just turned the ground into slime, so that wasn’t very good for the troops following up the attack, only the invention of the Tank really affected anything, and even then the early models were pretty useless.

Tanks eh?

Yes my Lord, Tanks could cross the trenches and provide armoured support for the Infantrymen alongside, but they were new, unreliable and vulnerable, in the end only the total collapse of morale on one side secured a victory, but not until millions of men had died in their prime.

No problem then, we’ll hold firm! My Propaganda Department works very hard!

But modern warfare renders trenches beyond obsolete Sir. All it would take is a couple of tactical nukes on the island and we’re history. Or, if the enemy wanted to take us alive, they’d land paratroopers and flood the place with troops – trenches are useless if the enemy just has the ability to drop behind them.

You’re right General, this was a stupid idea and I’ll personally hold those responsible to account.

But didn’t you say that you…?

Cancel the works immediately and fill that damned hole in General! I’m off to watch another film – there’s this one called Mars Attacks! that I’ve been itching to see, I find historical movies so fascinating.

(Sigh) Yes my Lord.

trenches.jpg

A J Summersgill and Jim H. Moreno

andrew@armchairgeneral.com

jim@armchairgeneral.com

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