Orde Wingate


Nothing paints a struggle quite like taking a moment to. Look at casualty and lost lists. There was never a more brutal fight between two nations like there was between Japan and the United States. The environments were fetid, swampy, inundated with natural predators and configured to hide indigenous defenders. The slug fest here was the devastating raid on Pearl Harbor. Some  2,403 Americans died and 1,178 were wounded. Eighteen ships were sunk and that includes five battleships.


The Battle of Midway, is, in the opinion of this writer, the key turning point of World War II. Launched just 6 months after Pearl Harbor, it was a battle settled pretty much in 5 minutes when div e bombers from the Enterprise and Yorktown and the Hornet caught Kaga, the Akagi and the Soryu by surprise. The fact of the matter is that the Battle of Midway was another historical bellwether for the advantage being an industrial powerhouse made us. It was a bellwether for the advantage give  during warfare of any industrial powerhouse. We did most of the damage to Imperial Japan and Russia threw the knockout blows against the Third Reich. But neither Japan nor Germany could out produce the US or the USSR.


That all said, Midway was an absolute disaster. The US lost the Yorktown, a single aircraft carrier, a destroyer and 307 men and 132 planes lost. The Japanese lost four large aircraft carriers, a heavy cruiser, 3500 men and 275 planes. Of the Japanese personnel that were lost many of them were the most experienced combat pilots in the Imperial Japanese Navy.


The Japanese navy was rather large at the outset of World War II and they still possessed five additional aircraft carriers, and six were under repair. The US had the Enterprise, the Hornet and the Lexington, plus 13 under construction.


Midway’s success allowed the US to invade Guadalcanal in August 1942 to prevent the Japanese from finishing a fortified runway there interdicting operations  between Australia and US forces. During this struggle the Japanese launched a night raid on Rabaul which became the battle of Savo Island. Three US heavy cruisers, the Vincennes, the Astoria and the Quincy were sunk. The Australians lost the Canberra. US Commander Howard D. Bode shot himself later that next day.


The US had lost more than a thousand soldiers and had to give ground on Guadalcanal. The slug fest continued with a 50,000 man invasion led by Japanese Rear Admiral Tanaka and Lt. Genberal Haruyoshi Hyakutake. Thousands were lost on both sides, the Marines were the deadliest force in the tough counterattacking.


At the bitter end of it, Vandergrift was the hero of Guadalcanal. The Japanese lost 25,000 soldiers and the US lost 1,490 killed and 1,804 wounded. The Japanese lost 600 planes. In all, some 30,000 US lives and 8,000 British and Aussie and Indian soldiers died defeating Japan. After Guadalcanal, the slugfest continued on Tarawa, Saipan, Guam, Luzon, Iwo Jima.




Winston Churchill had a deep admiration of unconventional people who accomplished tasks no matter the degree of difficulty or the obstacles in front of it. For that he loved General Orde Wingate. Churchill called him a “man of genius”and a “man of destiny.” Eingate put together a combat insurgency called the Chindits comprised of Gurkha warriors, Indian warriors and British mercenaries. It was the British version of LARP.


Wingate was an odd man, unscrupulous in battle and a dig your heels in political fighter. He ate boiled python and reported that it” tasted like chicken.” Often we went nude in the jungle around his men wearing only a pith helmet. He never bathed, only scrubbed his skin with a brush. He ate onion raw and used vulgar language, and he disparaged rivals. He was described as a scruffily dressed ego maniac.”


He once tried to kill himself.


Wingate slapped his own soldiers and determined that one had to do something remarkable to succeed.


He won against the Japanese and against the Sudanese. He once quipped “ If a man has marched thirty miles in one day he can do 25 miles in his stride.” He also believed that men failed because they weren’t psychologically prepare to struggle.


Wingate led his men into swift and brutally violent encounters. He convinced 10,000 Abyssinian troops to surrender to his 2000 troops.


Wingate suffered from wild mood swings and probably was clinically depressed. Having suffered the indignities of being bullied by others as a child, he grew a thick skin and developed an acerbic tongue and extremist viewpoints. That said, he identified with Jews who refused to give in to torment and became an ardent Zionist himself.


Wingate led troops himself, especially in Abyssinia even though the British High Command felt it was needless showmanship. Despite leading a victory against the Italians, he had created deep enemies in the British government because he didn’t fit any reasonable British institution.


When he was sent from Abyssinia back to Britain, he was furious because he adored Haile Selasie and was not even allowed to say good bye to him. He said in subsequent reports that


the British NCOs who served under were “the scum of the army.” Some of his NCOs were described as “mediocre and inferior,” and Wingate called his signalers “lazy, ill-trained and sometimes cowardly.” He said Generals Cunningham and Platt were “military apes”.

 Oddly, after this he was given another reprieve and proved himself a brilliant warrior who created the Long Range Patrol guerilla technique.


Wingate died in a Mitchell B-25 crash in India



1 thought on “Orde Wingate”

  1. Two things:
    One: The text of the previous post is also in this one, so you might want to see if you can remove that. Otherwise the narative is a little disjoint.
    Two: ” the Chindits comprised of Gurkha warriors, Indian warriors and British mercenaries”. As all the Chindits were regular army units (about a brigade sized), the soldiers in it were part of the regular British and Indian Army. And as it was common policy at that time in that army there was always one British army unit, one Gurkha army unit, and one Indian army unit. The Gurkhas were indeed mercenaries, from Nepal, but their units were part of the regular British, and Indian Army. The Indian army units were all volunteers, as there was no conscription in India at that time (or sonce). The british army unit was part of the british army, and was filled with volunteers (from before and just after the start of the war) but was eventually refilled with conscript replacements, as was the case with most british army units in that army. So no, these were not mercenaries in the way, or sense, that the original Flying Tigers were. These were just regular army units who were ordered to undergo special training. They were not even volunteers, like with Airborne or Ranger units.
    One of the books i reccomend to read about the (second) Chindit operation is “The road past Manadaly” by John Masters, who was the commander of one of the Chindits collumns, and wrote an autobiography about this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Masters

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