Fritz Bayerlein knew war — modern war — better than almost anyone. The 45-year-old general had served in Hitler’s army his entire adult life. He had fought on all major fronts — in Poland, North Africa, Russia and France.
By 1944, he was getting tetchy. At first, the idea of a German Empire, stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific…from the Baltic to the Mediterranean…had made him feel proud. After all, he was a professional soldier and Germany’s men-in-arms could make it possible. The Wehrmacht had not lost WWI…it had been stabbed in the back, everybody knew that. Bayerlein, who had fought in WWI too, could hold his head up. He was a general in the army…and captain in Germany’s leading industry, the military. On paper, France had the world’s largest military in 1939. But Bayerlein knew that Germany’s fighting men were the best.
But something had gone wrong. The finest fighting force the world had ever seen had lost North Africa…was being mauled in Russia…and was now facing annihilation in France.
The Wehrmacht in Normandy was up against a different kind of enemy. The Russians could throw what seemed like an unlimited number of troops against it. German soldiers mowed them down…but they just kept coming.
The Allies were different. They didn’t like to waste men. But they had what appeared to be an unlimited supply of firepower. From the air. From the sea. From the ground. The poor German soldier was taking it from every direction.
Where did all this firepower come from? America.
At the time WWII began, the US had a tiny army — number 16 in the global lineup — smaller than Roumania’s army. The US had few soldiers, few weapons, and experience that — compared to the Europeans and Japanese — was minimal. Its soldiers were poorly paid and poorly trained.
But at least it had one thing — the world’s top economy. Despite the Great Depression and the New Deal, America’s private, profit-seeking businesses could still produce. And when the orders came in for weapons and ammunition, they worked day and night to fill them. The result was the biggest arsenal ever created.
Now, after this Independence Day, we can take a moment to reflect on how far the US military has come…from the cold, ragged force at Valley Forge…to the unprepared army of 1940…to the world’s biggest and most expensive fighting force. It has its troops all over the world, in 200 different countries, according to one report. It has all the latest equipment…and a budget more than 10 times greater than total US government spending in 1940.
In the winter of 1777-78, the troops at Valley Forge weren’t paid anything. They had to beg food from local farmers. Now, US soldiers are among the best paid people in America.
Hey, dear reader, want to earn more money? Join the army!
Military Pay Higher Than Ever Compared to Civilian Wages
As private sector salaries flattened over the last decade, military pay climbed steadily, enough so that by 2009 pay and allowances for enlisted members exceeded the pay of 90 percent of private sector workers of similar age and education level.
That’s one of the more significant findings of the 11th Quadrennial Review of Military Compensation report released last week, given its potential to impact compensation decisions by the Department of Defense and Congress as they struggle to control military personnel costs.
Officer pay by 2009 exceeded salaries of 83 percent of civilian peers of similar age with bachelor and masters degrees. Enlisted are compared to workers with high school diplomas, some college or associate’s degrees.
To make its pay comparisons, the QRMC used Regular Military Compensation, which combines basic pay with Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) and Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS) plus the federal tax advantage on the tax-free allowances.
By 2009, the report says, average RMC for enlisted exceeded the median wage for civilians in each comparison group — high school diploma, some college and two-year degrees. Average RMC was $50,747 or “about $21,800 more than the median earnings for civilians from the combined comparison groups.”
For officers, average RMC was $94,735 in 2009. That was “88 percent higher than earnings of civilians with bachelor’s degrees, and 47 percent higher than earnings of those with graduate-level degrees,” the report says.
Excluded from its pay comparisons with civilian workers are other elements of compensation that would make the military advantage appear wider. The military pays no FICA payroll tax on BAH and BAS, for example. Also, active duty receive free health care for themselves and family members if enrolled in TRICARE Prime, while health insurance costs for civilian workers have increased steadily over the decade.
If health benefits were compared, says the report, the take-home pay advantage over civilians would grow by $3000 and $7000 per year for enlisted, depending on family size, and by $2000 to $4800 for officers. The officer advantage is smaller because more of their peers in the private sector have employer health coverage.
Pentagon boosters will say people who risk their lives to protect the nation deserve to earn more than other people. But first, the nation is in no danger; it has no serious enemies other than those the Pentagon creates. It hardly needs such expensive protection.
Second, as to the risks they face, it was recently reported that the number one danger for America’s fighting forces in Iraq and Afghanistan is themselves. Suicide takes down more soldiers than the enemy.
Popular films glorify the US military. Airlines offer soldiers free upgrades. Not since Germany in the ’30s have military men been held in such high regard. And while the US sinks towards bankruptcy, no candidate from either party suggests serious cuts to the Pentagon budget. Nor does any candidate recall the July 4th grievances against George III:
“He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power.”
But shifting resources from the productive sectors to the military machine may some day be fatal. You can’t fight a real war with an over-paid, boondoggle-ridden army. You need firepower. And you get firepower from a dynamic, free economy, not one burdened by a pampered military industry.
Fritz Bayerlein had no doubt about the superiority of his men and his equipment. In an equal fight, he would win. But the Allies had so much firepower; the playing field was tilted so far against him he had no chance. If he moved in daylight, American planes would soon be diving towards him…bombing him, strafing him, napalming him. And at night, the artillery continued…churning the ground, blowing up his supplies, and burying him alive.
Bayerlein’s division had lost 5,600 men in 48 days of straight fighting. The replacements were boys, often under the age of 18 who had little training. There was no real hope that they would be able to hold the line against Omar Bradley’s attempt to break out from the Allies’ Normandy beachhead. The landings had succeeded. More than 600,000 troops and 80,000 vehicles had been unloaded, with firepower such as the world had never seen. But they had not been able to advance on Paris. Bradley had seen the English and Canadians get bogged down trying to get around Caen to the East. Since the English had drawn German forces to Caen, he would break through their lines elsewhere…which happened to be right where Fritz Bayerlein was in command.
Bradley put his firepower to work on July 25th. The planes went into action first. American war correspondent Ernie Pyle was an eyewitness:
“They came in groups, diving from every direction, perfectly timed, one right after another. Everywhere you looked separate groups of planes were on the way down or on the way back up, or slanting over for a dive.”
The Germans went to ground. But the ground itself gave way. Hardly a square foot of it was untouched. The Wehrmacht couldn’t dig itself in deep enough to get away. And the deeper it went, the more it got buried in the next wave of attacks. When the bombing was over, survivors pulled themselves out of the dirt and saw a “landscape of the moon.” Many had been driven crazy or were numb from the noise. A thousand lay dead.
It was on the following day, July 26th 1944, that a lieutenant arrived with orders from Bayerlein’s commanding officer, Gunter von Kluge. He was ordered to ‘hold out.’ He was not to allow “a single man to leave his position.”
At that moment, perhaps, if not before, the general’s enthusiasm for world domination must have flagged:
Don’t worry, he told the lieutenant, “everyone is holding out. Everyone. My grenadiers and my engineers and my tank crews — they’re all holding their ground. Not a single man is leaving his post. Not one. They’re lying in their foxholes mute and silent, for they are dead. Dead. You may report to the field marshal that the Panzer Lehr Division is annihilated. Only the dead can now hold the line.”
Bayerlein survived the war and died 25 years later. Von Kluge did not. He committed suicide in 1944. Omar Bradley’s breakout headed south…and then wound back to the north to encircle 2 German divisions, in the “Falaise Pocket.” Fifty thousand German troops were captured.
Bill Bonner,for The Daily Reckoning
Since founding Agora Inc. in 1979, Bill Bonner has found success and garnered camaraderie in numerous communities and industries. A man of many talents, his entrepreneurial savvy, unique writings, philanthropic undertakings, and preservationist activities have all been recognized and awarded by some of America's most respected authorities. Along with Addison Wiggin, his friend and colleague, Bill has written two New York Times best-selling books, Financial Reckoning Day and Empire of Debt. Both works have been critically acclaimed internationally. With political journalist Lila Rajiva, he wrote his third New York Times best-selling book, Mobs, Messiahs and Markets, which offers concrete advice on how to avoid the public spectacle of modern finance. Since 1999, Bill has been a daily contributor and the driving force behind The Daily Reckoning. Dice Have No Memory: Big Bets & Bad Economics from Paris to the Pampas, the newest book from Bill Bonner, is the definitive compendium of Bill's daily reckonings from more than a decade: 1999-2010.
Where did you learn that USA had the 16′th largest army in the world at the start of WWII. Thanks
Now we see why the gold window was closed. What is built from thin air; will return there.Hence we see suicide taking down more soldiers than the”enemy”.The enemy is just an illusion.The real enemy is the concept of unhindered freedom and justice. We compell with firepower ,which has no real power, whereas there should be no compulsion. Closing the gold window tilted the playing field and is now tilting the human brain to suicide.
Excellent post Bill! Thanks. I was enlisted ’75 – ’81 and my last years pay was $11,600. Not complaining though as my USAF computer electronics training & experience helped launch a stable career in IT with last year’s gross salary at $146,000. It’s doubtful that will continue however as the economy continues to weaken and affect my employer’s ability profit. My hope is to invest wisely with Agora Financial insights while I can. I just hope it’s enough because at 55 it will be difficult to find a replacement job at my current pay.
I was paid $78 per month, cash when I enlisted in 1967.
The pay and benefits today are grotesque but they ensure obedient servants.
Reeyas, get a grip.
You say in regards to the firepower America created
“Now we see why the gold window was closed. What is built from thin air; will return there.”
That is absolutely wrong, the firepower was built from real steel and real gun powder and other inputs, it was built in real factories by real men. The men were paid is dollars taht allowed them to buy real houses and real food and all.
You are correct to to think that paper money is not the real economy, but neither is Gold. What is real is the actual buildings and cars and roads and services and so much more.
“the general’s enthusiasm for world domination must have flagged:”
The Germans were not out for world conquest. That is a long debunked myth. Hitler’s dream was an empire in Eastern Europe.
The irony is that nowadays for all the firepower, wars are never really won. The Vietnamese proved that you can be poisoned and bombed back to the stoneage and still your enemy will hate you and fight you to the death.
Think of the poor b–t-rds of Afghanistan. And mighty USA can’t win there either.
Bill the turning point in WWII happened in 1942 by 1943 germany had lost the war to the USSR, the War in the west was mainly a concern for taking spoils and not necessary to the outcome of German defeat.
Please read some history, it does get so tiresome listening to American bravado and selfcentred expectionaist claprtrap.
There are some contradictions in the article but the main point remains true.
The American economy is slowly on the decline, and thereby the military will slowly decline.
One will follow the other, naturally.
Just look at Britain, folks. Yes, America is not Britain and it will take longer, but the destination is the same.
The ivfriend.Where do dollars come from? Gold is the standard which holds the entire economy together.
Le Petomane.No need to be derogative.
Reeyaz, the point really is not where do dollars come from, but where does real wealth come from?
Real wealth comes from braun and brains applied to the resources of the earth to produce food, clothing, shelter, transportation, entertainment, intoxification and all other things desired. Dollars are just an invention to share the real wealth and incent more production of real wealth. Fiat money works perfectly well unless a government prints it to excess. Are we there yet? Maybe but if so, where is the inflation?
Bonner is right on again. Best anti-military hegemony rant I’ve come across including my own rant(military mafia sapping the resources of the neighborhood).
I hope he sends this to congress!
Phoney Obama is a Brezinski TRIlATERAL COMMISION GROUPIE. Romney is another war monger. the USA is doomed to finacial, fiscal, and economic oblivion.
The ivfriend.You are correct. With the gold standard no government can print in excess.In Bill’s article today he says the dollar is worth about 3 cents of its value in 1913′…and dissappearing fast’.This is inflation.
US can’t win wars because we don’t really “try”. Vietnam was an example of playing basketball only on your half of the court-never invaded North V.-couldn’t possibly have won. Why? I think scared of Chinese-remembered Korea.
How to win in Afgan. Simple take over the gov’t,pacify province by prov.-give women arms & training to work over Taliban
I used to respect your posts Bill, but as a Vet that left as a Sergeant in the U.S. Army November 1991, my annual pay was about 16,000. I live in a veteran town in Colorado Springs and I have not heard of any soldier acquiring the pay you claim unless they were an officer. Maybe your disgust of the defense of your free speech rights from the standing military is clouding your diatribe? I do agree the use of our military is overused and I do know they have wasted our money for years. I do respect your opinion and I would still defend your right to speak out of turn and with ignorance. No different than the OWS crowd.
Bill, your ignorance of the current military condition is glaringly Pollyanna.
Since Clinton, the military budget has been slashed and slashed, reduced to near nothing, while playing politics-for-profit with military lives is the order of the day. You say that the current military is praised and lauded – are you blind or just falling for the artificial hype of the MSM? As a daughter, wife, and mother of veterans, the pay has not kept pace with the economy. Medical care was crap in the 50′s, where removing the wrong limb was commonplace stateside – and is still commonplace today. Denials that Agent Orange and other warfare contaminants have left vets broken, sick, and uncared-for, leaving them untreated and permanently damaged, are commonplace. Most homeless in America today are veterans; volunteers go out to cities and bring them into Veterans’ homes to be cared for by volunteer monies, because the military budget kicks them to the curb. Americans eat sushi and watch endless reality shows at home, work in service jobs that serve no one, and create nothing, they sacrifice NOTHING – while their soldiers die on battlefields in countries that have not been declared by Congress to be at war with them.
Having “A Soldier Minute” on a morning TV show does not honor these veterans! It insults their intelligence, dedication and efforts by ignoring the fact that they are put into the field with p-poor equipment, zero support, zero direction, and, when they come back, zero support for their lives and sacrifices. A parade and fanfare doesn’t mean crap when you can’t support your family, or are too sick to work, when – and if – you come home at all.
Stick to your rants about money and gold, and stay out of the military praise choir. You have literally no idea about the reality of the latter. Meanwhile, the Chinese have built up their military to be the strongest force in the world (using American investment money to do it) – but they’ll hardly need it, with our military, impoverished, short-sheeted, and sick, scattered to the ends of the earth for the carpetbagging investors’ and politicians’ profiteering on their dead and dying backs.
When you've got a room full of 200 oil insiders scratching their heads at current high prices, something's gotta give.
For most investors, it’s weird to think of stocks as their go-to investing option.
The petropoly has bills to pay and setting the price of oil was a simple way to balance their budgets.
Investors don’t seem to care that what's propping up their investments is what will ultimately destroy them: government monetary policy.
For the next decade the energy revolution will be likely confined to the US, displaying the robustness of American entrepreneurship.
Why the Sage of Baltimore’s commentary persists through America’s changing times.
After attending Platt’s oil conference in London I want to relay two important themes you need to know.