A HUMOROUS LOOK AT AMERICA’S MILITARY

marines-45153676275Deadliest Blogger takes a humorous look at the American military; through axioms, instructions, guidelines and various quotes.

“Aim towards the Enemy.”– Instruction printed on U.S. Army Rocket

“When the pin is pulled, Mr. Grenade is not our friend.” -U.S.M.C. Training Bulletin

“Cluster bombing from B-52s is very, very accurate. The bombs are guaranteed to always hit the ground.” -U.S.A.F. literature

“If the enemy is in range, so are you.” Infantryman’s Journal

“A slipping trigger gear could let your M203 grenade launcher fire when you least expect it. That would make you quite unpopular with what’s left of your unit.” -Army’s Magazine of Preventive Maintenance.

(To continue reading, go here)

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THE AGE OF ARTHUR: PART EIGHTEEN

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Unique among the territories of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century, Britain succeeded in holding back and even reversing the tide of Germanic conquest for nearly two centuries. This was an age of heroes… It was the Age of Arthur!

This is the Eighteenth-part of our discussion of Britain in the 5th though the mid-6th Century A.D. It is a fascinating period, with the Classical civilization of Greece and Rome giving way to the Germanic “Dark Ages”; the sunset of Celtic-Roman culture in Britain.

(Read Part Seventeen here. Or start from the beginning, with Part One!)

THE HILL OF AGNED

In the previous chapter we examined Nennius’ tenth of Arthur’s battles, that at “the River Tribruit”. We built a case for that battle to have been fought on the River Forth, eight miles above Stirling; “Gateway to the Highlands” and site of William Wallace’s famous victory over the English. Arthur,  called north by his brother-in-law, King Lot; threatened by  a band of outlaws called the cinbin. “Cinbin” (or Cynbin) translates as “dog-heads”. They are led by a savage character named Garwlwyd (possibly synonymous with the figure known as Gwrgi Garwlwyd in the Welsh Triads).

From their lair along the marches between the British Kingdom of Gododdin and the Pictish Highlands, the Dog Heads raid into Gododdin, carrying off plunder and prisoners; two of which (a boy and girl) they supposedly eat daily!

Making common cause with an Angle pirate chief named Edlfled, the Dog Heads plan to converge  upon and capture Din Eidyn from land and sea.

As recounted in the previous chapter, Arthur and his 300 mounted Cymbrogi rush north from Cornwall, a distance of approximately 515 miles; and arrive in 10 days at Dùn Èideann (or Din Eidyn).  Joining with Lot’s forces, they move against Garwlwyd, camped at the crossing of the Forth at Tribruit (the Fords of Frew). In the resulting Battle of Tribruit/Tryfrwyd the Dog Heads are destroyed; though Garwlwyd may have escaped (to be later assassinated).

Meanwhile, unaware of Garwlwyd’s defeat, his Angle ally Edlfled has landed near Din Eidyn, some 46 miles to the southeast….

(To continue reading, go here!)

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DIADOCHI: MACEDONIAN GAME OF THRONES (PART 6)

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Long before George R.R. Martin penned his tale of war, intrigue and treachery the ancient world was scene to its own version of The Game of Thrones.

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(This is the sixth in a series concerning the Wars of the Diadochi. Part 1 can be read here, and includes comprehensive biographies of the players in this drama. It is strongly advised that you start there before reading on here. The previous installment, Part 5, can be found here  . Stay tuned to this blog for future installments! Special thanks to Michael Park for his indispensable help in filling in the gaps in the sources and putting-up with my incessant questions!)

KYNANE

Philip II, the father of Alexander the Great, had married seven times and fathered at least 6 children. His first (or perhaps second[1]) marriage, contracted shortly after his accession to the throne in 359 was to an Illyrian princess, Audata daughter of Bardyllis. She took the royal queenly name, Eurydice; and was likely for a time Philip’s “queen”, not merely another wife. From this union was born his eldest child, a daughter: Kynane.

Perhaps taking after her “barbarian” Illyrian mother (and given the freedom of a first child by a proud and likely bemused father) Kynane practiced “the manly arts”. She was a fierce huntress and warrior, allegedly slaying an Illyrian queen in battle while accompanying Philip on campaign; perhaps in 344/3, when she was only 14! Had she been a boy, instead of a girl, she would likely have been groomed as Philip’s heir, and been as much a warrior as her famous brother. However, she was not; and was passed over in the succession by her half-brother Alexander, Olympias’ son, a year her junior.

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Though depicted in Greek art and featured in their mythology, true Amazon-like warrior women are exceedingly  rare in history. However Kynane, daughter of Philip and half-sister of Alexander the Great was one of these. As a young teenage girl, she slew an Illyrian warrior queen in battle. She raised her daughter to be a warrior and a huntress like herself.

At 17 or 18 she was married to her own cousin, Amyntas; whose father Perdiccas III(Philip’s elder brother) had been King of the Macedonians till he was killed by the Illyrians in 359. Too young to assume the throne on his father’s death, Amyntas had been passed over by the Macedonians in favor of his uncle. Philip had raised his nephew at court, and now married his eldest daughter to him. They had one child, a daughter, Adea; whose birth date is unknown.

Upon becoming king in 336, Alexander had his brother-in-law and cousin, Amyntas executed on charges of treason; along with two princes of Lynkestis (in the Macedonian highlands) and Philip’s last father-in-law, Attalus. Coins struck in Amyntas name (as Amyntas IV) may come from this time, and be proof of a plot by some to bypass Alexander and crown Amyntas as king after Philip assassination. In any case, Kynane found herself a widow. Alexander attempted to marry her to his friend,Langarus the ruler of the allied Agrianians; but this prince died before the wedding could be arranged. After this, Kynane retired to her own estates to raise her daughter; preferring to remain unwed as Amyntas’ widow. Her daughter Adea was brought up in the same “manly” way as was her mother. She was taught to hunt and to fight, and throughout her life was as bold and courageous as befitted one of her blood and rearing.

(To continue reading, go here.)

 

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SPARTAN INVINCIBILITY DESTROYED AT LEUCTRA, 371 BC

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A millennium-and-a-half before Frederick the Great, Epaminondas of Thebes changes the face of warfare with the Oblique Attack; and destroyed the myth of Spartan invincibility forever!

The Peloponnesian War indisputably established Sparta as the paramount power in the Greek World. Though that long conflict had been waged, ostensibly, by Sparta to free the Greek city-states of the Delian League from Athenian dominance; the Spartan victory merely replaced Athenian hegemony with Spartan.

Though superb soldiers, the Spartans were educationally and temperamentally ill-equipped to deal with the subtleties of statecraft and diplomacy necessary for managing an empire. Over the next 33 years following the end of the Peloponnesian War, Sparta faced sporadic challenges from the other leading Greek states; with coalitions forming against her and her interests. Of these, the Thebans were both the most implacable and the most dangerous.

Thebes had been an ally of Sparta against Athens; and had even pushed for the total destruction of that city after its surrender in 404 BC. However, the following year Thebes aided in the restoration of the Athenian democracy; rightfully perceiving a revived Athens as a counter-balance to Spartan power. Over the next two decades, she often found herself at odds with Sparta; culminating in defeat in the Corinthian War, after which her Boeotian League (through which Thebes exercised leadership over the other Boeotian cities) was dissolved. The crowning agony came in 382 BC, when a Spartan force treacherously seized and occupied the city; establishing once again a oligarchical government.

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Theban hoplites (drawing by James Carrozza*)

Three years later, the pro-Spartan government was overthrown by a coup, led by the dashing young Theban firebrand, Pelopidas and his friend, the philosopher-soldier,Epaminondas. A virulently anti-Spartan democracy was installed; and for the next eight years a desultory war was waged to drive the Spartan garrisons out of Boeotia and reestablish the Theban-dominated Boeotian League.

During this period Epaminondas and Pelopidas alternated command; training and improving the Theban forces. Pelopidas was particularly successful at leading small-unit operations; and in his hands the 300 strong Theban corps-de-elite, the Sacred Band became a formidable and professional body of soldiers, fully capable of facing the vaunted Spartan hoplites in battle. Skirmishing with the Spartans year-after-year, the Thebans both learned the Spartan’s method of making war; and lost their awe of Spartan military prowess.

This small cadre had started its existence as the citadel guard of the city; all chosen for their valor. Uniquely in Greek history, the entire corps was composed of homosexual couples; each man paired side-by-side with his lover….

(To continue reading, go here)

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GREAT CAPTAINS: NATHAN BEDFORD FORREST

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This is the next in a series of posts examining the “Great Captains” of military history. Unusual for Deadliest Blogger, this will be primarily in video format; posting compelling biographical material.

 

Perhaps no general in America history elicits such a mix of admiration and repudiation as Nathan Bedford Forrest. While most historians admit his untutored, natural genius for war, they are mindful of his unsavory activities both before and after the American Civil War.

Known as “The Wizard of the Saddle”, Forrest was not only the finest cavalry commander that America ever produced; he was a first-rate practitioner of mobile warfare and combined arms. His campaigns are reminiscent of (and presage) those of such panzer leaders as Guderian and Rommel; and his rapidly moving strike forces were combined-arms formations composed of cavalry and mounted infantry, supported by batteries of horse artillery. He born to be a soldier, just as John Keats was born to be a poet. His grasp of tactics, the operational art, and ability to inspire men in battle were intuitive and self-taught, as he was without any kind of military education or experience.

(To continue reading, go here)

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ATTILA IS STOPPED AT THE CATALAUNIAN FIELDS!

BATTLE OF CHALONS

On June 20, 451 on a broad plain in the Champagne region of France, Attila the Hun, “the Scourge of God”, engaged in his greatest battle. The fate of western civilization lay in the balance. 

In Chinese history, the Huns are tentatively identified as the nomadic peoples known in their histories as the Hsiung Nu (“Fierce Slaves”). In the Second Century A.D., the Chinese Han Empire drove the Huns away from their borders in a series of campaigns. The Huns then began their long migration westward, ever searching for fresh pastures for their sheep; and new peoples to plunder and subjugate.

Modern scholarship theorizes that the Huns were not ethnically one people, but a confederation of Mongolian and Turkic nomadic clans. By the time they entered European history in the 4th century, these peoples had fused into one cultural group.

The Huns were first-and-foremost mounted horse archers. From infancy, male children were taught to ride by being placed on the backs of sheep, to prepare them for a life in the saddle. They practiced daily with their primary weapon, the powerful and deadly composite bow. To make themselves appear more ferocious and terrifying to their enemies, their cheeks were slashed with knives and allowed to scar….

(To continue reading, go here!)

 

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CONFUSION AT THE CROSSROADS: THE IRON DUKE BATTLES MARSHAL NEY AT QUATRE BRAS, JUNE 15, 1815

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Napoleon’s invasion of Belgium on the 15th of June, 1815 had caught the Duke of Wellington unprepared, his army scattered in bivouacs too far to the west. The Prussians, whose staff work was magnificent throughout the campaign, were already massing to oppose him. Napoleon learned of this on the morning of June 16th (see Part One). At 9am, he moved off with his Guard towards Fleurus.

(PART ONE HERE)

Arriving, he had an observation platform constructed around a windmill. This would serve as his headquarters throughout the coming battle. From here, he surveyed the Prussian movements to the northeast. It was soon obvious that this was Blücher’s main force he was seeing; deploying southeast of Sombreffe, their position centered on the village of Ligny. With Wellington’s forces as yet scattered, Napoleon saw an opportunity to crush Blücher before Wellington’s Army could assemble. Calling upon his reserves to join him and the forces of Grouchy’s right wing, he prepared to fight at Ligny with 68,000 men.

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At Ligny Blücher’s forces were well-positioned. Their front was protected by a meandering stream, about fifteen feet wide and four deep; its steep banks heavily overgrown. Behind this natural moat was a series of habitations and hamlets: Brye, Wagnelle, St-Armand, St-Armand la Haye, and Ligny itself. Ligny contained a number of obstacles: a ruined chateau, two farmhouses, and a church surrounded by a high-walled cemetery. All these places and more around their front the Prussians had barricaded, carving loop holes in the windowless walls, and turned each into a bastion. Behind these forward positions, Blücher’ forces waited in reserve, deployed along a low ridge.

1343532View of the St-Armand, as seen from the French vantage point. The fighting here on 16 June reduced the buildings to rubble; and the fields of rye stood at eye level, blocking much of the view for Vandamme’s advancing battalions.

Surveying their positions from his command post at the windmill at Fleurus, Napoleon’s keen eye discerned their weakness: the Prussian right was hanging on open ground; disposed with the expectation that Wellington’s divisions would soon arrive down the road from Quatre Bras and form-up on this flank. In the meantime, however, that flank was insecure.

Napoleon laid his plans accordingly: while Vandamme’s III and Gérard’s IV Corps probed, assaulted and wore-down the Prussian center; and a cavalry wing under Grouchy pinned the Prussian left, he would watch and wait for Blücher to commit his reserves to that fight. Then he would commit his Guard to drive back the Prussian right. However, to form the anvil upon which this attack would crush the Prussian forces, he would need Ney.

At 2pm, Marshal Soult, his Chief of Staff, wrote Ney a message, describing the Prussian forces and of the Emperor’s impending attack on them at Ligny. It commanded Ney to attack whatever force was before him (Wellington’s) and to “push them back vigorously”. Then Ney was instructed to “turn in our direction and bring about the envelopment of the body of the enemy troops I have just mentioned to you (the Prussians)”. Ney was expected, by this order, to send whatever he could spare eastward along the Quatre Bras-Namur road and fall upon Blücher’s right-wing. A second message was sent to Ney less than an hour later. To the earlier instructions the Emperor rather dramatically added the warning, “The fate of the Empire is in your hands.”

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Marshal of France Michel Ney, Duc de Moskowa; known as “the Bravest of the Brave”. He was given the almost impossible task of defeating Wellington at Quatre Bras, and then aiding Napoleon by attacking the Prussians at Ligny.

Ney’s supporting role in the coming battle at Ligny could not have been made more clear, in the eyes of Napoleon and Soult. However, this was in contradiction of Ney’s earlier orders, which he was preparing even then to execute. By the time these messages arrived, Ney would be heavily involved in his own fight at Quatre Bras; unable to spare (in his mind) a single regiment.

That, however, was not apparent in the morning hours of the 16th. While the Prussians were deploying in force, the Anglo-Dutch army was scarcely to be seen.

CONFUSION AT QUATRE BRAS

Due to the abysmal state of staff-work in Wellington’s army (poor even by the inadequate standard of the day), and the late hour in which the orders went out (carried by a wholly inadequate corps of staff officers, galloping through the dark of night, over unfamiliar country roads, to unit headquarters scattered over a hundred square miles); the next day would witness utter chaos on the roads. Setting out from their bivouacs and marching along roads little better than farm lanes, many units soon found themselves utterly lost in the darkness. Morning light found 90,000 men and beasts clogging the two narrow dirt roads leading to Quatre Bras.

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Hannoveran infantry marching down the narrow roads leading to Quatre Bras from Nivelles.

The worst congestion occurring on the Nivelles east-west road; along which 60,000 of Wellington’s troops were attempting to march. Units became hopelessly intermixed, and interfered with each other’s movement. Others marched without their complete compliment of supplies; or even all of their constituent units. The experience of one officer is illustrative of the confusion amongst Wellington’s scattered regiments in the pre-dawn darkness of the 16th June, as they scrambled to respond to the late-night movement orders. At the village of Soignies, southwest of Nivelles, the 30th (Cambridgeshire) Regiment of Foot had departed in the night, marching east. In their haste none noticed that the regiment’s Light Company, detached on picket duty two miles to the south, had been left behind. The first inkling that company’s commander had that his regiment had gotten movement orders was when he returned to headquarters at dawn to see to his company’s breakfast; only to find the place deserted of its former British occupants! The officer, Ensign (later Major) Neville Macready, later recounted the incident:

I ran into the house and asked, “Where are the troops?” “They marched at 2 this morning”, was the chilling reply. “By what road?” “Towards Braine le Compte”. [1]

Throughout the fighting on the 16th of June, the location and arrival time of Wellington’s formations was a matter of wild speculation, beyond his control; severely hampering his ability to come to the aid of his Prussian ally or even to hold onto the crossroads at Quatre Bras against Ney’s advancing forces. The bulk of the army would, in fact, never make it to Quatre Bras, missing the battle entirely.

DEATH IN THE TALL RYE

While the Emperor prepared to destroy the Prussians at Ligny, Ney had yet to receive Soult’s order issued at 2pm; to brush aside those scant forces opposing them (in the morning only General Perponcher’s 2nd Netherlands Division, spread out in front of the crossroads); and come to Ligny posthaste. Ney was still following his original orders from early that morning: to take up a strong holding position at Quatre Bras (with, the Emperor had specified, not less than six divisions; problematic in-and-of-itself in that throughout the fighting on the 16th Ney only had available to him a mere 3 divisions of infantry and three brigades of cavalry); then to probe northwards up the Brussels Road as far as Gennape; and, finally, to prevent any movement by the Duke of Wellington to link up with the Prussians. Those same instructions, issued before Napoleon was aware of the strong Prussian concentration around Ligny, suggested that once the Emperor had pushed back the Prussian pickets before him that he would swing west to join Ney at Quatre Bras. So far from expecting to aid Napoleon at Ligny, Ney began the Battle of Quatre Bras with the misunderstanding that he was merely to seize and hold the crossroads till the Emperor arrived….

(To continue reading, go here!)

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