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The Enigma Of Helfrich

June 4 2010 at 5:39 AM
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Tom Womack  (no login)

Response to Re: Admiral Helfrich


Hi Melmoth...

In many ways Admiral Helfrich is/was an enigma. He did tend to occasionally throw both Dutch and Allied naval counterparts "under the bus" so to speak, but he also had what I consider to be some valid points about the conduct of the war in 1941-42. I fully agree with his assessment that a Allied combined striking force should have been formed much earlier in the war.

I also agree to a large extent with his assessment of Tommy Hart. Hart was one of those peace-time USN commanders who never struck me as an particularly inspiring leader. The war in the NEI called for an aggressive leader with ingenuity and flexibility who could beat the Japanese at their own game. Hart certainly was not the man for the job.

There were many, many short-comings in the early months of the war that made victory impossible for the Allies. Those factors aside, in many ways, Helfrich had the qualities ABDA desperately needed. Namely he was aggressive (unlike Hart) and wanted to take the fight to the enemy (unlike the Brits who focused on using their remaining capital ships for convoy duty).

But then you have to temper those qualities with what we already know about the man. He (apparently) failed to gauge the impact of air power on modern naval operations, he appeared to disregard the input of his senior naval commander (Doorman) who was also an experienced naval aviator and finally, Helfrich demonstrated a near fanatical fixation to defending the NEI.

Which brings me back to my original point. Was Helfrich really all that sharp...or was he simply good at pointing out the obvious?

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  • General MacArthur; Admiral Helfrich - Nelson on Jun 4, 2010, 9:35 PM
    • Helfrich - Felix on Jul 28, 2010, 5:27 AM
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