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Numbers Racket

January 06, 1991

I hope that "Brute Force" by John Ellis is not as inaccurate and unfair as Duncan Spencer's review thereof, in your Nov. 18 issue, would indicate.

Your headline should have been "Primarily by the Numbers" rather than "Strictly by the Numbers." Important factors other than numbers were key Allied superiorities in intelligence and technology. Data about enemy intentions and deployments were important--perhaps indispensable--to the victories of Midway, Kursk and the North Atlantic. Radar was crucial to winning the Battle of Britain, as was the T-34 tank to the defense of Moscow.

Most grossly unfair is Ellis statement that "The Russians attacked throughout without counting the cost." The U.S.S.R. did win by greater numbers, but this includes numbers of tanks, guns, aircraft, overcoats and other materiel as well as men. There were pressures on Russian generals to take the offensive . . . but generals who wasted lives did get sacked, and when appropriate, they concentrated on defense (as in the four months before Kursk). Also, anent numbers, more important than Detroit was Magnitogorsk: Russian tank production always stayed ahead of the German by almost 2 to 1.

Also unfairly denigrated is the effect of the strategic bombing. More important than "to lure out . . . the Luftwaffe . . ." was to seriously distort the German production effort: By the end of 1943, (German industry) was one-third directed to homeland defense--anti-aircraft, interceptors, etc.--rather than to supporting the Wehrmacht.

Finally, attention must be paid to psychological factors. What would have happened if the Germans had acted as benign liberators in occupied Russia, rather than as ruthless conquerors, scornful of the untermensch ? This may have been the greatest of several Nazi errors.

WILLIAM M. KAULA

LOS ANGELES

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