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How the Nazis Tried to Turn a Slow Defeat into a Propaganda Victory
Sure, the Allies are advancing... but a snail could do it quicker!
The end of Nazi Germany in two words? Pincer movement .
After it turns the tide at the bloody battles of Stalingrad (August 1942 - January 1943) and Kursk (July - August 1943), the Red Army relentlessly steamrollers westward to Berlin. The Anglo-American push eastward, also in the general direction of the Führerbunker , occurs quite a bit later. D-Day is June 6th, 1944. From their bridgehead in Normandy, the western allies rush through France, the Low Countries and Germany proper in an attempt to match the Red Army's unstoppable advance.
That's the thumbnail version of history. A close-up reveals a more complex picture. The landing in Normandy was preceded by another Allied incursion into Axis-controlled  Europe: the invasion of Italy, on 3 September 1943 . But even though the Italian Campaign turned out to be the costliest of all operations by the western Allies in Europe in terms of infantry casualties , it ultimately was inconsequential for the outcome of the war. German troops in northern Italy surrendered less than a week before V-E Day  on 8 May 1945.
Faced with the Allied invasion, the fascist state in Italy quickly crumbled. Mussolini was arrested on 26 July, and an armistice with the Allies concluded by early September 1943. The Wehrmacht took over the defence of the Italian peninsula, slowing down the Allied advance by strategically withdrawing behind successive defensive lines:
(1) The Volturno Line (a.k.a. the Victor Line) is the first, southernmost line. It ran from the Tyrrhenian coast on the west of the peninsula, at Castel Volturno, 20 miles north of Naples, up the Volturno river inland, and then down the Biferno river to where it debouches into the Adriatic, on the eastern coast of Italy, in the city of Termoli. The Germans abandoned the Volturno Line on 12 October 1943, falling back onto the Barbara Line.
(2) The Barbara Line, situated about 20 miles north of the Volturno Line, following a series of hilltop fortifications and, towards the Adriatic, the Trigno river. The line was breached in early November 1943.
(3) Next, and more prominently, was the Gustav Line (a.k.a. the Winter Line), from just north of the Garigliano river in the west to the Sangro river in the east. At its centre, in the Apennine Mountains, stood the abbey of Monte Cassino, a major obstacle on the Allied march to Rome. It took the Allies several protracted battles, great loss of life and half a year to break through. The Garigliano is reported to have run red with the blood of the thousands of fallen. A fallback line associated with the Gustav Line was called the Adolf Hitler Line, until it became clear in early May 1944 that it would soon be breached; at the insistence of Hitler himself, it was then renamed the Senger Line - after a German general  who didn't have much choice in the matter.
(4) The Caesar Line was the Germans' last line of defence before Rome, running from Ostia in the west to Pescara in the east. They fell back to a switch line north of Rome when the Allies entered the city in early June 1944.
(5) The next lines of defence were the Trasimene Line (a.k.a. the Albert Line) and the Arno Line, which were mainly used as a stalling device so the Germans could fortify the so-called Gothic Line to the north.
(6) The Gothic Line (a.k.a. the Green Line), roughly from Pisa in the east to Rimini in the west, was the Germans' last, best hope of containing the Allied march up the Italian peninsula. The Line held throughout the winter of 1944-'45 wasn't decidedly breached until April 1945.
So German stalling tactics had worked: the Allies never did break out of the Italian peninsula before the end of the war. Which of course should not obscure the fact that the Germans did lose that war. The overall German strategy in Italy was defective, premised on the objective of losing slowly. But in light of their resources, limited by the Soviet attack in the East, and the loss of their Italian ally, this was perhaps the best they could hope for.
Still, losing slowly is nothing to write home about, one might think. But this curious propaganda map does attempt to tout the accumulation of small defeats as some kind of victory: Yes, the Allies are advancing, but a snail could do it quicker!
The poster is French , except for the title: It's a Long Way to Rome refers to a marching song popular with British troops in the previous world war . The graph in the bottom left hand corner compares the record de lenteur (speed record) of a snail and of the Allied invader of Italy.
Presuming, as the legend at the bottom says, that the greatest speed achieved by a snail is 0.8 metres (i.e. 80 cm, or 31.5 inches) per minute, that would translate to a distance of 320 km (199 miles) for the period between the start of the invasion (given here as 6 September 1943) and 1 April 1944. In that same time, the Allies only managed to advance 180 km (112 miles), making the snail 1.78 times as fast as the average Anglo-American invader, plodding and slogging along in southern Italy.
The map was designed around the time when the front was still at or near the Gunther Line (see the third dot above). The stalemate at Monte Cassino would soon be followed by an Allied breakthrough, and Rome would fall a mere two months after the supposed publication date of this poster (i.e. 1 April 1944).
Even without the benefit of that hindsight, the concept of an enemy's slow, inexorable progress seems like a curious, counter-intuitive propaganda tool. Or could it be that desperation in the Axis camp at that point was already so widespread that a slow defeat seemed like the best of all remaining options?
Strange Maps #599
Got a strange map? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
 Which is ironic (if that’s not too frivolous a word for such deadly business): Germany’s military strategy for victory in both the First and Second World Wars was based on the Schlieffen Plan - a major element of which was a pincer movement intended swiftly to crush France. See #138 for a map of the plan. ↩
 An underground bunker near the Chancellery in Berlin, and the nerve centre and last holdout of the Nazi top cadre during its final months. Hitler committed suicide in the bunker a few days before war's end, with Soviet troops only a city block away. ↩
 Mussolini first called the (then still nascent) alliance between the fascist regimes in Italy and Germany an ‘axis’ in a speech on 1 November 1936, because all other states in Europe would revolve around it. The Axis Rome-Berlin would later also extend to Tokyo, earning the it the nickname Roberto, for the three capitals’ initial letters. Despite the efforts of the Jimi Hendrix Experience (which released Axis: Bold as Love in December 1967), the geopolitical term ‘axis’ hasn’t managed to shake its sinister connotation. That fact was not lost on U.S. president George W. Bush, who in his 2002 State of the Union address labelled Iran, Iraq and North Korea an ‘Axis of Evil’. ↩
 The invasion of the mainland had itself been preceded by the relatively easy conquest of Sicily, in the weeks after 10 July 1943. ↩
 320,000 Allied casualties, of which 60,000 fatal; and almost 340,000 Axis casualties, of which 50,000 fatal. ↩
 Short for Victory in Europe Day, when the Allies accepted Germany's unconditional surrender. Soviet and American troops had already met in Central Europe, but some areas remained under effective control of the German military on that day, including small parts of northern Italy. ↩
 General Fridolin von Senger und Etterlin (1891-1963) was an intriguing figure: a scion of Catholic aristocratic family, a Rhodes scholar at Oxford, a lieutenant in the First World War, a lay member of the Benedictine order, an efficient military commander, and a known sceptic of Nazism. The fact that he managed to evacuate the treasures of Monte Cassino without any of the convoy's trucks being attacked by the Allies, may result from a tacit gentleman's agreement between the opposing sides. In 1950, Senger was involved in the Himmeroder Denkschrift, a memorandum that paved the way to (West) German rearmament and the eventual establishment of the Bundeswehr. ↩
 Hence probably produced by the so-called Vichy regime, a collaborating entity in the south of France. For another example of an animal-inspired, French-language, pro-German propaganda poster, see the Churchill Octopus mentioned in #521. ↩
 It's a Long Way to Tipperary. ↩
Northwell Health is using insights from website traffic to forecast COVID-19 hospitalizations two weeks in the future.
- The machine-learning algorithm works by analyzing the online behavior of visitors to the Northwell Health website and comparing that data to future COVID-19 hospitalizations.
- The tool, which uses anonymized data, has so far predicted hospitalizations with an accuracy rate of 80 percent.
- Machine-learning tools are helping health-care professionals worldwide better constrain and treat COVID-19.
The value of forecasting<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTA0Njk2OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMzM2NDQzOH0.rid9regiDaKczCCKBsu7wrHkNQ64Vz_XcOEZIzAhzgM/img.jpg?width=980" id="2bb93" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="31345afbdf2bd408fd3e9f31520c445a" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1546" data-height="1056" />
Northwell emergency departments use the dashboard to monitor in real time.
Credit: Northwell Health<p>One unique benefit of forecasting COVID-19 hospitalizations is that it allows health systems to better prepare, manage and allocate resources. For example, if the tool forecasted a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations in two weeks, Northwell Health could begin:</p><ul><li>Making space for an influx of patients</li><li>Moving personal protective equipment to where it's most needed</li><li>Strategically allocating staff during the predicted surge</li><li>Increasing the number of tests offered to asymptomatic patients</li></ul><p>The health-care field is increasingly using machine learning. It's already helping doctors develop <a href="https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/early/2020/06/09/dc19-1870" target="_blank">personalized care plans for diabetes patients</a>, improving cancer screening techniques, and enabling mental health professionals to better predict which patients are at <a href="https://healthitanalytics.com/news/ehr-data-fuels-accurate-predictive-analytics-for-suicide-risk" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">elevated risk of suicide</a>, to name a few applications.</p><p>Health systems around the world have already begun exploring how <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7315944/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">machine learning can help battle the pandemic</a>, including better COVID-19 screening, diagnosis, contact tracing, and drug and vaccine development.</p><p>Cruzen said these kinds of tools represent a shift in how health systems can tackle a wide variety of problems.</p><p>"Health care has always used the past to predict the future, but not in this mathematical way," Cruzen said. "I think [Northwell Health's new predictive tool] really is a great first example of how we should be attacking a lot of things as we go forward."</p>
Making machine-learning tools openly accessible<p>Northwell Health has made its predictive tool <a href="https://github.com/northwell-health/covid-web-data-predictor" target="_blank">available for free</a> to any health system that wishes to utilize it.</p><p>"COVID is everybody's problem, and I think developing tools that can be used to help others is sort of why people go into health care," Dr. Cruzen said. "It was really consistent with our mission."</p><p>Open collaboration is something the world's governments and health systems should be striving for during the pandemic, said Michael Dowling, Northwell Health's president and CEO.</p><p>"Whenever you develop anything and somebody else gets it, they improve it and they continue to make it better," Dowling said. "As a country, we lack data. I believe very, very strongly that we should have been and should be now working with other countries, including China, including the European Union, including England and others to figure out how to develop a health surveillance system so you can anticipate way in advance when these things are going to occur."</p><p>In all, Northwell Health has treated more than 112,000 COVID patients. During the pandemic, Dowling said he's seen an outpouring of goodwill, collaboration, and sacrifice from the community and the tens of thousands of staff who work across Northwell.</p><p>"COVID has changed our perspective on everything—and not just those of us in health care, because it has disrupted everybody's life," Dowling said. "It has demonstrated the value of community, how we help one another."</p>
"You dream about these kinds of moments when you're a kid," said lead paleontologist David Schmidt.
- The triceratops skull was first discovered in 2019, but was excavated over the summer of 2020.
- It was discovered in the South Dakota Badlands, an area where the Triceratops roamed some 66 million years ago.
- Studying dinosaurs helps scientists better understand the evolution of all life on Earth.
Credit: David Schmidt / Westminster College<p style="margin-left: 20px;">"We had to be really careful," Schmidt told St. Louis Public Radio. "We couldn't disturb anything at all, because at that point, it was under law enforcement investigation. They were telling us, 'Don't even make footprints,' and I was thinking, 'How are we supposed to do that?'"</p><p>Another difficulty was the mammoth size of the skull: about 7 feet long and more than 3,000 pounds. (For context, the largest triceratops skull ever unearthed was about <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02724634.2010.483632" target="_blank">8.2 feet long</a>.) The skull of Schmidt's dinosaur was likely a <em>Triceratops prorsus, </em>one of two species of triceratops that roamed what's now North America about 66 million years ago.</p>
Credit: David Schmidt / Westminster College<p>The triceratops was an herbivore, but it was also a favorite meal of the T<em>yrannosaurus rex</em>. That probably explains why the Dakotas contain many scattered triceratops bone fragments, and, less commonly, complete bones and skulls. In summer 2019, for example, a separate team on a dig in North Dakota made <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/26/science/triceratops-skull-65-million-years-old.html" target="_blank">headlines</a> after unearthing a complete triceratops skull that measured five feet in length.</p><p>Michael Kjelland, a biology professor who participated in that excavation, said digging up the dinosaur was like completing a "multi-piece, 3-D jigsaw puzzle" that required "engineering that rivaled SpaceX," he jokingly told the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/26/science/triceratops-skull-65-million-years-old.html" target="_blank">New York Times</a>.</p>
Morrison Formation in Colorado
James St. John via Flickr
|Credit: Nobu Tamura/Wikimedia Commons|
Archaeologists discover a cave painting of a wild pig that is now the world's oldest dated work of representational art.
- Archaeologists find a cave painting of a wild pig that is at least 45,500 years old.
- The painting is the earliest known work of representational art.
- The discovery was made in a remote valley on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.
Oldest Cave Art Found in Sulawesi<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a9734e306f0914bfdcbe79a1e317a7f0"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/b-wAYtBxn7E?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Persian polymath and philosopher of the Islamic Golden Age teaches us about self-awareness.