Happy 241st birthday to the finest force the world has ever known…the United States Marines!

Semper Fi, Devil Dogs! Ooh-Rah!!

Much has been said about “The Corps”. Here are some of the best quotations about the U.S. Marines:

“The safest place in Korea was right behind a platoon of Marines. Lord, how they could fight!” [MGen. Frank E. Lowe, US Army; Korea, 26 January 1952]

“Marines know how to use their bayonets. Army bayonets may as well be paper-weights.” [Navy Times; November 1994]

“Why in hell can’t the Army do it if the Marines can. They are the same kind of men; why can’t they be like Marines!?” [Gen. John J. “Black Jack” Pershing, US Army; 12 February 1918]

“The United States Marine Corps, with it fiercely proud tradition of excellence in combat, its hallowed rituals, and its unbending code of honor, is part of the fabric of American myth.” [Thomas E. Ricks; Making the Corps, 1997]

“The raising of that flag on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next five hundred years.” [James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy; 23 February 1945; in response to the flag-raising on Iwo Jima, immortalized in a photograph by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal.]

“I have just returned from visiting the Marines at the front, and there is not a finer fighting organization in the world!” [Gen. Douglas MacArthur, US Army; Korea, 21 September 1950]

“We have two companies of Marines (520 men) running rampant all over the northern half of this island, and three Army regiments (3600 men) pinned down in the southwestern corner, doing nothing. What the hell is going on?” [Gen. John W. Vessey Jr., US Army, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; during the assault on Grenada, 1983]

“Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. The Marines don’t have that problem.” [Ronald Reagan, U.S. President; 1985]

“Marines I see as two breeds, Rottweilers or Dobermans, because Marines come in two varieties, big and mean, or skinny and mean. They’re aggressive on the attack and tenacious on defense. They’ve got really short hair and they always go for the throat.” [RAdm. “Jay” R. Stark, US Navy; 10 Nov. 1995]


“They told (us) to open up the Embassy, or ‘we’ll blow you away.’ And then they looked up and saw the Marines on the roof with these really big guns, and they said in Somali, ‘Igaralli ahow,’ which means ‘Excuse me, I didn’t mean it, my mistake.’” [Karen Aquilar, U.S. Embassy; Mogadishu, Somalia, 1991]

“No finer military organization than the Marine Corps exists in the world.” [Admiral George Dewey, US Navy, 1898]

“I am convinced there is no smarter, handier or more adaptable body of troops in the world.” [Winston Churchill writing about US Marines, 1917]

“In 150 years they have never been beaten. They will hold.” [Col. Preston Brown, US Army speaking of the Marines replacing routed French units in a desperate last-ditch effort to stop the German advance on Paris during WWI, June 1918. The Marines stopped the Germans]

“Do not attack the Marines. They fight like devils. Leave the Marine yellowlegs alone. Strike the American Army.” [a captured Chinese Army Headquarters directive to Chinese troops in Korea, 1951]

“The eyes of the Nation, the eyes of the entire world and the eyes of history itself are on that brave little band of Marine defenders who hold the pass at Khe Sanh.” [President Lyndon B. Johnson during the 77 day siege of the US Marine bastion at Khe Sanh, 19 February 1968. The Marines held, Khe Sanh did not fall]

“Retrieving wounded comrades from the field of fire is a Marine Corps tradition more sacred than life.” [Robert Pisor, The End of the Line, 1982]

“Panic sweeps my men when they face the American Marines.” [captured North Korean major, Korea 1951]

“I’d give a million dollars to be a US Marine.” [former heavyweight boxing champ of the world Riddick Bowe who completed only 11 days of USMC boot camp at Parris Island before dropping out, The Detroit News, 16 April 200]

“Apparently the Marine Corps has a training program that can knock out even a former heavyweight champion of the world.” [Sgt. Kevin Robinson, US Army, Army Link News speaking of former heavyweight boxing champ not being able to make through Marine Corps boot camp, 3 March 1997]

“You cannot exaggerate about the Marines. They are convinced to the point of arrogance that they are the most ferocious fighters on Earth. And the amusing thing about it is that they are.” [Kevin Keaney, US Navy chaplain, Korea 1951]

“There is the finest body of troops in the world, those gallant Marines who are ever ready to devote themselves to the interests of their country.” [Benjamin Disraeli, Prime Minister of England, 1879]

“A ship without Marines is like a garment without buttons.” [Rear Admiral David Porter, US Navy, 1863]

“The Marines are at all times prompt in the execution of any duty.” [Col. Robert E. Lee, US Army (prior to the Civil War) after the capture of abolitionist John Brown, 18 October 1859]


“The deadliest weapon in the world is a Marine and his rifle.” [Gen. John J. Pershing, US Army]

“There is no better group of fighting men anywhere in the world than in the United States Marine Corps.” [Sen. Irving M Ives in the Congressional Record, April 1951]

From the “Halls of Montezuma”: Marines enter Mexico City, 1847

“The more Marines I have around me, the better I like it. The Marines have pride and benefit from it. They are tough, cocky, sure of themselves and their buddies. They can fight and they know it.” [General Mark Clark, US Army]

“The Marines will never disappoint the most sanguine expectations of their country—never! I have never known one who would not readily advance in battle.” [Capt. C.W. Morgan, US Navy, 1852]

“The Marines have landed and the situation is well in hand.” [Richard H. Davis, war correspondent, Panama, 1885]

“Before the Marines are through with them, the Japanese language will be spoken only in Hell.” [Admiral William “Bull” Halsey, US Navy, 1943]

“They are quite brave.” [a Japanese staff officer describing the victorious US Marines on Guadalcanal in a dispatch to Tokyo, 4 March 1943]

“Guadalcanal is no longer merely the name of an island. It is the name of the graveyard of the Japanese Army.” [MGen. Kiyotake Kawaguchi, Imperial Japanese Army, 1943 after the US Marines handed the Imperial Japanese Army its first military defeat in over 1,000 years]

“The American Marines are terribly reckless fellows. They would make very good storm troopers.” [German Army report. Belleau Wood, France, 1918]

“Their fiery advance and great tenacity were well recognized by their opponents.” [LtCol. Ernst Otto, Imperial German Army, writing of the repeated US Marine onslaughts in Belleau Wood, France, 1918]

“In the Army, shock troops are a small minority supported by a vast group of artisans, laborers, clerks and organizers. In the Marines there are practically nothing but shock troops.” [John Lardner, combat correspondent, Iwo Jima, 6 March 1945]

“I cannot say enough about the two Marine divisions. If I used words like brilliant, it would really be an under-description of the absolutely superb job they did in breaching the so-called impenetrable barrier. It was a classic—absolutely classic—military breaching of a very, very tough minefield, barbed wire, fire-trenches type barrier.” [Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, US Army, speaking in Saudi Arabia after the battle for Kuwait, 27 February 1991]

“I have respect for the Marines. God bless them, every one.” [Sgt. William Stuart, US Air Force, Afghanistan, 27 September 2002]

“Thank God for the Marines!” [an Army Air Corps B-29 crewman after his crippled bomber made an emergency landing on Iwo Jima after the Marines captured the island, May 1945]

“The {expletive} Marines have killed every living thing except the snakes and lizards!” [Capt. James A. Smith, US Army viewing the carnage after US Marines battled through Nasiriyah, Iraq, 24 March 2003]

“There are only two kinds of people that understand Marines: Marines and the enemy. Everyone else has a second-hand opinion.” [Gen. William Thornson, U.S. Army]

“Freedom is not free, but the U.S. Marine Corps will pay most of your share.” [Ned Dolan]

“For over 221 years our Corps has done two things for this great Nation. We make Marines, and we win battles.” [Gen. Charles C. Krulak, USMC (CMC); 5 May 1997]

“Come on, you sons of bitches! Do you want to live forever!” [GySgt. Daniel J. “Dan” Daly, USMC; near Lucy-`le-Bocage as he led the 5th Marines’ attack into Belleau Wood, 6 June 1918]

“Gone to Florida to fight the Indians. Will be back when the war is over.”
[Col. Archibald Henderson, USMC (CMC); in a note pinned to his office door, 1836]

“Don’t you forget that you’re Marines! Not all the communists in Hell can overrun you!” [Col. Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller, USMC; rallying his First Marine Regiment near Chosin Reservoir, Korea, December 1950]

“They are in front of us, behind us, and we are flanked on both sides by an enemy that outnumbers us 29:1. They can’t get away from us now!”[Col. Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller, USMC; when the Marines were cut off behind enemy lines and the Army had written the 1st Marine Division off as being lost because they were surrounded by 22 enemy divisions. The Marines made it out inflicting the highest casualty ratio on an enemy in history and destroying 7 entire enemy divisions in the process.]

“Marines die, that’s what we’re here for. But the Marine Corps lives forever. And that means YOU live forever!” [the mythical GySgt. Hartman, USMC; portrayed by GySgt. R. Lee Ermey, a Marine Corps Drill Instructor using his own choice of words in Full Metal Jacket,1987]

“You’ll never get a Purple Heart hiding in a foxhole! Follow me!” [Capt. Henry P. Crowe, USMC; Guadalcanal, 13 January 1943]

“We are United States Marines, and for two and a quarter centuries we have defined the standards of courage, esprit, and military prowess.” [Gen. James L. Jones, USMC (CMC); 10 November 2000]


“I have only two men out of my company and 20 out of some other company. We need support, but it is almost suicide to try to get it here as we are swept by machine gun fire and a constant barrage is on us. I have no one on my left and only a few on my right. I will hold.” [1stLt. Clifton B. Cates, USMC; in Belleau Wood, 19 July 1918]

“I love the Corps for those intangible possessions that cannot be issued: pride, honor, integrity, and being able to carry on the traditions for generations of warriors past.” [Cpl. Jeff Sornij, USMC; in Navy Times, November 1994]

(Thanks to Chris Pangalos, Spartan warrior and US Marine!)

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Henry V leads the original “Band of Brothers” to a bloody triumph against all odds on Saint Crispin’s Day, 1415

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he to-day that sheds his blood with meShall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile, This day shall gentle his condition; And gentlemen in England now-a-bed Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here, And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.”

The St. Crispin’s Day speech, which the Immortal Bard places in the mouth of his hero, King Henry V of England, is one of the great battle speeches in literature. Though likely Shakespeare’s own invention, it brilliantly portrays a young, inspiring commander attempting to hearten his starving and dispirited soldiers, in desperate straights as the face battle against (seemingly) hopeless odds. Whatever (if anything) Henry may have actually said that fateful morning in October is lost to history. But what is not lost is how he, and his tiny force of desperate men, stood firmly on the muddy field of Agincourt and defeated five-times their number, which included the flower of French chivalry.

Henry V (center), and as portrayed by Lawrence Olivier (L) and Kennth Branagh

Soon after coming to the throne in 1413, the 26 year old Henry proclaimed his intention to renew the century-old Plantagenet claim to the crown of France, the original casus belli for the Hundred Years War, which had lain dormant for a generation. This was a particularly audacious move, in that France had defeated the English and largely driven them from France in the previous century; and were widely considered a much stronger kingdom. However, the King of France at this time, Charles VI, suffered from bouts of madness (a trait he would perhaps pass on to his grandson, Henry VI of England). As often when the monarch is weak or infirm, powerful nobles had maneuvered to fill the power vacuum the king’s incapacity created. Factions had come to blows, and France was a nation whose nobility were divided against each other.

Henry, whose own claim to the English throne was questionable (his father had usurped the crown from his weak cousin, King Richard II), understood that nothing so unites a nation like a foreign war and a common enemy. The glorious victories of Edward III and the Black Prince sixty-and-more years earlier were hardly forgotten; and many an Englishman of all classes in society had benefitted from the pillage brought off from frequent campaigns across the Channel during their campaigns in France. What Henry needed to cement the loyalty of his subjects was success in battle against the hated French; and to gain a reputation as a warrior king.

Map depicting area of Henry’s 1415 campaign; from the estimable Bernard Cornwell’s “Agincourt”

On 11 August, 1415 Henry crossed to Normandy to begin a grand raid across northern France, following the same strategy Edward III and others had used before. However, a short and successful raid was not in the cards. Henry’s first target, the port town of Harfleur, at the mouth of the River Seine, held out for much longer than expected. By the time the town was stormed, on September 22, it was too late in the season to exploit the gain. The delay had also allowed the outraged nobles of France to assemble a large army near Rouen, under the command of the greatest magnates in the realm. These were marching north to punish Henry for his effrontery.

Henry’s army lost precious time besieging Harfleur.

Merely embarking his army and returning to England would do little to improve his reputation, and might well be seen as cowardly; potentially fatal to a young king seated insecurely on an ill-gotten throne. So, instead, Henry decided to extend the campaign with a raid through Picardy; perhaps consciously following in the footsteps of Edward III and his Crecy campaign of 1346. Defiantly marching through northern France, he could end this chevauchée at the sanctuary of English-held Calais; the only lasting fruit of Edward III’s great victory of Crecy.

As with any Medieval armies which sat down in one place too long, Henry’s army at Harfleur was racked by dysentery. So it was a sick and slow English force that set out, marching through a largely bare and (with winter approaching) an increasingly wet countryside. The English soon discovered that a dauntingly-large army, led by the greatest lords of France, were following close on their heals and looking to bring them to battle. Worse, arriving at the River Somme, Henry found his way across blocked by a second French force of several thousand on the opposite bank; looking to block his crossing and trap him on the western bank.

This was exactly the same situation his great grandfather had faced almost 70 years earlier. At risk of being hammered against the river by the pursuing French main army, Henry marched upriver; seeking an unopposed crossing point. All the time, the blocking force across the river shadowed his march, prepared to stop any attempt to cross. However, at a bend in the river, one that bulged northeast for many miles, Henry was able to cut across the base while the blocking force had to travel around the outside circumference. This allowed the English to find a crossing place unopposed.

However, this delay in getting across the Somme allowed Henry’s pursuers to cross down river and join the blocking force. The French, now north of Henry, moved to cut him off from Calais and force him to battle. The English halted near the castle of Agincourt, not far from where the French sat across their line of march. Here, the terrain narrowed between two woods; offering Henry a place where his smaller army could fight with both their flanks secure. The English camped and prepared for battle.

(To continue reading, go here)

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Harold Godwinson had won a great victory at Stamford Bridge, defeating a Norse army and killing its storied leader, Harald Hardrada, the mightiest warrior in the north. But for the English king, there was no time to celebrate: his erstwhile friend, William “the Bastard”, Duke of Normandy, had crossed the Channel, and landed in Kent!

(To read Part One, go here)

In the absence of the English naval levies (the Sea Fyrd) that had been dismissed back to their home ports with the coming of autumn, William had but to await good sailing weather and his rival’s distraction in the North to pounce upon England like a leopard upon his prey. Taking advantage of the opportunity the late season and the Norwegian invasion had given him, William crossed the channel on the 28th of September, just two days after Stamford Bridge.

Images of the Norman invasion preparations: Armor, weapons, and supplies being carried to the waiting ships. Note the distinctive Norman “helm-cut” hairstyle. Below, the Bayeux Tapestry depicts the scene.THE NORMANS

The Norman invasion Army of 1066 was a true combined arms force, comprised of heavy cavalry, close order infantry, and supporting archers. The mounted knights and their retainers, the elite strike force of the army, came from all across northern France: Normandy, Brittany, and Flanders. The “Age of Chivalry”, during which the armored knight on horseback was king of battle, was just dawning. The coming struggle would pit the new against the old, as mounted knights (supported by archers and heavy foot) would face an army trained in the Viking Age tactics of the “shield-wall”.

The Norman knights who followed Duke William wore a long shirt of mail, which covered from shoulder to knee, called a “hauberk”. Though the richest lords wore strong, well-riveted mail hauberks that included long sleeves and perhaps even leggings (“chausses”) of mail; the average knight’s hauberk ended at the knee, and had short sleeves and no protection below the knee. Instead, leather strips gartered the shins from ankle to knee.

The helmet worn by both the Norman knight and the elite among his English opponents were conical shaped capes of steel, sporting a nasal that protected the wearer’s nose from glancing sword strokes. Under this the knight wore a hood of mail or leather. Sometimes this mail “coif” covered the knight’s chin and jaw as well.

The Norman invasion force has variously been estimated as high as 60,000 (William of Poitiers) and as low as 7,500 strong. Though Oman suggests a figure of 12,000 cavalry and 20,000 infantry [1]; Christopher Gravett of the Royal Armories more plausibly places their number at the lower end of the spectrum: 2,000 chivalric horse, 4,000 heavy foot, and 1,500 bowmen. Transportation and supply of an army much larger than this would have been problematic for William in the extreme.

William knew his rival was in the north. He also knew that time was against him: if the full English levy could be reconstituted, the numbers against him would preclude a successful battle; and his invasion force would be easily contained and would wither from starvation in Kent. With winter coming on, the Channel crossing would be closed and his supply line from Normandy cut. These strategic factors considered, William needed to bring his foe to battle, and soon.

To lure Harold south, William employed a strategy of devastation. Spreading out from a fortified base established at Hastings, Norman mounted detachments pillaged deep into Sussex; lands that were once part of Harold’s demesne as the Earl of Wessex. This was more than just a raid to replenish supplies: it was a personal insult and challenge to King Harold, to come defend his people if he dare!

(To continue, go here)


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The Battle of Brunanburh in 937 is largely unknown today, but it is a battle that deserves to be remembered. For it was the largest and bloodiest battle fought in Anglo-Saxon England prior to Hastings (and likely surpassing that later battle in the numbers of combatants involved). It left its victor, King Athelstan of Wessex the first Anglo-Saxon ruler to be called “King of England”.

Athelstan was the son and heir of Edward the Elder, and grandson of Alfred the Great. Upon his father’s death in 924, Athelstan was acclaimed first King of Mercia (central England); and then King of Wessex (the dominant Saxon kingdom, encompassing all the area south of the Thames) the following year. Continuing the ambitious, anti-Danish policies of his father and grandfather, in 927 Athelstan conquered York; which had been in Danish hands for 60 years, since captured by Ivar the Boneless and the “Great Heathen Army” in 867.

After this, Constantine II of Alba (Scotland) and Owen I, ruler of British Strathclyde (Cumberland) submitted to Athelstan’s over-lordship. This effectively placed all of “England” under Saxon rule for the first time in history. (Prior to the Danish invasion of 866, England had been comprised of four rival kingdoms: Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia, and Wessex. The first three of these were Anglish; with Wessex the sole Saxon kingdom.)

After seven years of peace, Athelstan invaded Scottish territory. It has been suggested this was on account of Constantine’s attempt to renounce his submission to Athelstan’s over-lordship. A coalition was formed to oppose Wessex/English domination, which included the Hiberno-Scandinavian [1] ruler of Dublin, Olaf Guthfrithsson (called Anlaf in the Old-English poem “The Battle of Brunanburh“; and possibly a great-grandson of Ivar the Boneless); Owen of Strathclyde, and several “petty kings” and jarls; joining Constantine of Alba in opposition to Athelstan.

Olaf crossed the Irish Sea with a Hiberno-Scandinavian army; and marched through Cumberland, joined along the way by a force of Strathclyde British. In Northumberland they united their forces with that of Constantine’s Scots, along with various Danish jarls of northern England eagerly taking the opportunity to rise against their new Saxon overlord. This allied army met in battle the Northumbrian Fyrd (freeman-levy), commanded by Athelstan’s ealdorman, Gudrek and Alfgeir. The English were routed, with Gudrek slain. Alfgeir fled south to Athelstan, leaving Olaf and the allies in possession of Northumbria.

Athelstan realized the enormity of the danger he faced, which threatened to undo all he had thus far achieved. He acted quickly, raising an equally large army from his lands in the south; and hired Scandinavian mercenaries to strengthen his forces.

Athelstan’s army was comprised of the Fyrd of Wessex, East Anglia, and Mercia. These farmers and townsmen came armed with spear or axe. They had little armor, but two generations of wars against the Danes had created a battle-experienced force of veterans. Strengthening the Fyrdmen were the professional warriors of Athelstan’s hearth-weru(“Hearth-troops”, or household guards) and the armed retainers of the leading Ealdormen of the shires. Since the days of Alfred, such Saxon armies had bested one Viking army-after-another; and would have come to Brunanburh filled with confidence.

The numbers involved at Brunanburh are unknown; only that the armies were approximately the same size. Considering that this battle involved major forces from throughout the British Isles, with levies on either side drawn from as far afield as Ireland to Scotland, and all of England from the Cheviots to the Channel (and even a strong force of Viking mercenaries, primarily from Norway and Iceland): a figure of 15,000 per side seems reasonable.

The only complete account of this campaign and the climatic battle is found in the IcelandicEgils Saga. According to this source, a force of 300 veteran Norse/Icelander Vikings joined Athelstan’s guardsmen. These were led by two recently arrived Icelander brothers, the sons of Skallagrim (also referred to in the Saga as Skalla-Grímr, or “bald Grim”): Thorolf and Egil. It has been suggested that Athelstan hired several thousand such mercenaries, putting them all under the command of the experienced Skallagrimsson brothers.

The opposing forces met at a place called Brunanburh; or, according to Egils Saga, on a moor called Vin-heath. The location of the battle is not known for certain. But there are three leading contenders.

The first, popular today, is Bromborough in western England district known as the Wirral; southwest of modern Liverpool. Apparently the name of Bromborough may be derived from Old English Brunanburh (meaning ‘Brun’s fort’). There are also locations nearby that some have attempted to identify with the Dingesmere, a place mentioned in both the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and the Old English poem, The Battle of Brunanburh; in connection with the battle. But this location in the Wirral seems too far southwest for a Scot and Strathclyde army to be operating, so far from their respective home bases (particularly as there were no good north-south roads connecting this area through Cumberland to Strathclyde and Scotland in the north). It also seems too far in the west to be the location for the decisive battle of a war fought over the control of Northumbria and Yorkshire, on the other (eastern) side of the Pennines.

The second contender is Burnley, a market town in Lancashire; where local folklore tells of a great battle on the moors. Local tradition holds that five kings were buried under tumuli on these same moors. Perhaps after the defeat of the Northumbrian Ealdormen, Olaf and the allies regrouped nearer their power centers in the north. But this makes little strategic sense. Having driven Athelstan’s forces out of Northumbria, why would the coalition army then pull out, marching back north? For the same reason, I dismiss another contender, Burnswark, situated near Lockerbie.

A final, strong, choice for the battle site is in Lincolnshire, east of the Pennines, along the Great North Road between Derby and Rotherham. Historian Michael Wood suggests Tinsley Wood near Brinsworth as a plausible location. Wood notes that there is a hill nearby, White Hill, observing that the surrounding landscape fits the description of the battlefield contained in Egil’s Saga. Geographically, this location makes sense. It is in the southern part of Northumbria, where one would expect the allies (who had recently overrun Northumbria) to contest with the English for control of that region.

Wherever the battle may have been fought, it seems that the opposing armies agreed to meet at Brunanburh; the winner to take all “England”. Egils Saga portrays this arrangement of a fixed battle as the result of a ruse posed by Athelstan’s Norse captain, Egil Skallagrimsson; to stop the allies from looting English territory while the King gathered his forces. A challenge was issued to meet on a field “enhazelled”.

This was a version (writ large) of the Scandinavian dueling custom called a holmgang; in which combatants met to fight on an appointed field, the boundaries of which were marked out with hazel rods or branches. There is no other example I know of where this custom was expanded to encompass battle.

According to Egils Saga, a messenger was sent to Olaf challenging him to bring his army to meet Athelstan in battle:

(they sent) messengers to King Olaf, giving out this as their errand, that king Athelstan would fain enhazel him a field and offer battle on Vin-heath by Vin-wood; meanwhile he would have them forbear to harry his land; but of the twain he should rule England who should conquer in the battle. He appointed a week hence for the conflict, and whichever first came on the ground should wait a week for the other. Now this was then the custom, that so soon as a king had enhazelled a field, it was a shameful act to harry before the battle was ended. Accordingly king Olaf halted and harried not, but waited till the appointed day, when he moved his army to Vin-heath.

King Olaf, commanding the allies, accepted the challenge. Accordingly, he halted his army at Brunanburh (which Egils Saga say was at Vin-heath by Vin-woods); ceased ravaging the countryside about; and waited for Athelstan to arrive by the appointed day.

To the north of the heath, there was a village where Olaf made his headquarters. He sent a force of Scots and Strathclyde British commanded by two brothers, Jarls Hring and Athils, up to the heath to camp on the battleground, and stake out the allied position. They found the hazel rods already in place along the edges of the field; and an English force camped in place to the south.

As the appointed day for the battle approached, Athelstan was still gathering his forces, and needed more time. He had sent Egil and his brother Thorolf, commanding the English vanguard comprised of their own 300 Norse hirthmen, along with the remnants of the Northumbrian forces defeated earlier, under Ealdorman Alfgeir, to Brunanburh. This was the force Hring and Athils found camped on the south end of the heath.

To make their numbers appear larger, the English vanguard disguised their small numbers by pitching more tents than they had men for; and arranged for a large portion of their men to occupy themselves outside the camp in view of the enemy, as though the camp were over-flowing. When these were approached by Olaf’s men (there being a truce in place till the battle day), Athelstan’s men claimed that these tents were all full, so full that their people had to sleep out on the open heath!

When the appointed day of battle came, Olaf marshaled his army and prepared to march onto the heath. Athelstan had yet to appear. Thorolf and Egil found yet another clever way of delaying the enemy and buy the English more time: They sent an envoy to Olaf, feigning a message from King Athelstan; offering to avoid battle and pay “Danegild” to Olaf and his allies.

Instead of attacking that day, Olaf called a conference of his allies to discuss the offer. Athelstan’s supposed offer was rejected as insufficient, and the allies countered with a demand for more. The English envoys begged for time to bring this offer to King Athelstan, who they claimed was a day’s journey to the south with a “mighty host”; and for their king to consider and respond. Olaf agreed to a three day truce.

At the end of this period, the Skallagrimsson’s sent another envoy across the heath to Olaf’s camp; again claiming to be from King Athelstan. They offered the original amount; plus an additional “shilling to every freeborn man, a silver mark to every officer of a company of twelve men or more, a gold mark to every captain of a king’s guard, and five gold marks to every jarl” [2]. Again Olaf took this offer to a council of his allies, who after deliberation agreed that if Athelstan would also cede to Olaf the overlordship of Northumbria, the allies would withdraw to their homes. Another three days were granted for Olaf’s emissaries to accompany the English envoys back to Athelstan and await his answer.

Thus the clever Skallagrimsson brothers, wily Viking freebooters, stretched out negotiations and gained the English monarch an additional week to marshal his forces. Athelstan arrived with his army south of the heath at the end of the negotiations. They took Olaf’s offer to the King, explaining their ruse and their offers on his behalf as well.

The king took no time in rejecting Olaf’s terms; instead demanding that the coalition withdraw from Northumbria and return to their own lands; after first returning the booty they had thus far taken on the campaign. Adding insult to injury, Athelstan further demanded that the cost of peace would be that Olaf (and perhaps the other coalition rulers) become his vassals, ruling their lands as “under-kings”.

“Go now back”, he told Olaf’s emissaries, “and tell him this.”

According to Egils Saga:

At once that same evening the messengers turned back on their way, and came to king Olaf about midnight; they then waked the king, and told him straightway the words of king Athelstan. The king instantly summoned his earls and other captains; he then caused the messengers to come and declare the issue of their errand and the words of Athelstan. But when this was made known before the soldiers, all with one mouth said that this was now before them, to prepare for battle.

Realizing he had been hoodwinked all along and now enraged, Olaf sent his Jarls, Hring and Athils, back to their troops encamped on the heath, with orders to attack the English advance guard under the wily Skallagrim brothers at first light. He promised to marshal the army and move to support them as soon as his forces were ready.

(To continue reading, go here)

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My ever-loving girlfriend pointed out that it would be uber-useful to have a reference guide to all of the various pieces Deadliest Blogger has written over the years; placing each in it historical order. Well, her wish is my command!

Here is a list of all of my historical pieces, placed within a chronological timeline:


The Art of War: Warriors of the Pharaohs: 16th-12th century BC, a look at the warriors of ancient Egypt, focusing upon depictions in art; part of series, “Art (work) of War”



The Art of War: Heroes of Troy and Mycenae: 15th-12th century BC, a look at the warriors of the Greek “Heroic Age”, focusing upon depictions in art; part of series, “Art (work) of War”

05 Pyrrhus 2The 25 Greatest Commanders of the Ancient World: 1475 BC- 476 AD, the Deadliest Blogger’s list of the top commanders of the era, with brief bios




Spartans: Elite Warriors of Ancient Greece: 6th-4th century BC, a multi-part series on the warrior-heroes of Ancient Greece



1417290-aGreat Warships of History: The Greek Trireme: 5th century BC, the “wooden walls” that allowed the tiny Greek city-states to fend off the mighty Persian Empire, and for Athens to establish a maritime empire of its own; part of the “Great Warships of History” series

The Lion at the Hot Gates: Thermopylae 480 BC: Sparta’s finest hour  came in 480 BC, when a brave king led 300 volunteers to a narrow pass in the north of Greece; to buy time with their lives while their countrymen prepared for war

Greece is Save By Its Wooden Walls: 480 BC, as the Great King Xerxes watches from the cliffs above, the Persian invasion of Greece is checked in the narrow straits of Salamis; in one of history’s greatest galley battles


1551560Spartan Invincibility is Destroyed at Leuctra: 371 BC, the Spartan dominance of Greece is broken and a Spartan king slain by the Thebans; who are led by the brilliant Epamonidas



Great Captains: Alexander the Great: 4th century BC, examination of perhaps history’s greatest general; part of series on the “Great Captains of War”


Granicus: Alexander’s Most Perilous Battle: 334 BC, Alexander the Great’s first battle against the Persians nearly ends in his death


Diadochi: Macedonian Game of Thrones: 321 BC – 281 BC, war and intrigue follow the death of Alexander the Great, as his family and generals struggle over his empire; multi-part series


Armies of the Successors: The Antigonids: 4th-2nd century BC, the army of Macedonia following Alexander the Great


Armies of the Successors: The Seleucids: 4th-2nd century BC, the army of the Macedonian empire of the near east established by the general of  Alexander the Great


Armies of the Successors: The Ptolemies: 4th-1st century BC, the army of the Macedonian-Egyptian kingdom of Cleopatra and her ancestors


Great Captains: Hannibal Barca: 3th century BC, examination of the great Carthaginian general who challenged Rome in the Second Punic War; part of series on the “Great Captains of War”

Breaching the Alps: Hannibal’s Icy Ordeal: 218 BC, the Second Punic War, Hannibal beats the odds and gets his army of tens-of-thousands across the frozen Alps


Cannae: Hannibal’s Masterpiece: 216 BC, Second Punic War leads to one of Rome’s greatest defeats, and a establishes Hannibal as one of history’s greatest generals


Phalanx vs Legion: Closing the Debate: 3rd-1st Century BC, historians and military gamers argue endlessly over the relative merits of the two competing tactical systems: the Macedonian-style phalanx and the Roman legion. How each worked, why, and which was superior

Mad Kings and Maccabees: the First Hanukkah: 2nd century BC, a mad king threatens to extinguish Judaism; and in the struggle to maintain their identity the Jews find a mighty champion: Judah “the Hammer”


Disaster In the Desert: Crassus at Carrhae: 54 BC, and the conqueror of Spartacus and co-ruler of the Roman Republic leads an army into Mesopotamia; in an effort to replicate the conquests of Alexander the Great. Instead, he meets his doom beneath the desert sun at the hands of the nomadic Parthians

caesar-bustGreat Captains: Julius Caesar: 1st century BC, examination of one of histories greatest generals, the “noblest Roman of them all”; part of the series, “Great Captains of War”



Adrianople: Twilight of the Legions: 378, the battle often blamed for the fall of the Roman Empire is reexamined



The Age of Arthur: 5th-6th century Britain; the “historical” King Arthur, his world and the creation of Anglo-Saxon England.  Multi-part series.


Attila is Stopped at the Catalaunian Fields: 451, the Hunnish invasion of Gaul comes to a climax near Chalons, as the Roman Empire nears its end


belisarius-2Belisarius at Darus: 530, Byzantium’s greatest general wins his first and perhaps greatest victory over the Sassanid Persians; giving the world a masterly demonstration of the use of interior lines to outmaneuver an enemy



1432785aDark Ages Elite: The Bucellarii of Belisarius: 6th-early 7th century, the first in a multi-part series on the elite warriors of the Dark Ages (476-1066 AD). Belisarius’ household retainers led the Byzantine military conquests of Justinian, and were the model for Byzantine kataphractoi in the subsequent centuries


Great Warships of History: Byzantine Fire Dromon: 7th – 12th century, Byzantium is protected at sea by swift galleys bearing one of history’s most secret weapons, “Greek Fire”; part of the “Great Warships of History” series

Dark Ages Elite: Caballarii of Charlemagne: 8th-9th century, the elite Frankish horsemen who were the prototype for the chivalric heroes of the Medieval legend; part of the “Elite Warriors of the Dark Ages” series


The Vikings: An Enduring Fascination: 793 – 1066, a brief history of the most ferocious warriors of the Dark Ages, and why they continue to engage our interest to this day


England is Born at Bloody Brunanburh: 937, the Anglo-Saxons are united under the rule of Athelstan, grandson of Alfred the Great, the first king of “England”. At Brunanburh he faces a challenge from by a Viking and Scottish army and the Danish lords of the north

Dark Ages Elite: The Jomsvikings: 10th-11th century, continuing the multi-part series on the elite warriors of the Dark Ages (476-1066 AD). The Jomsvikings were an elite Viking brotherhood that was the progenitor of late elite units

Carnage at Clontarf: Ireland’s Darkest Day: 1014, Irish unity is shattered with the death of her greatest national hero, Brian Boru, High King of Ireland; as he stops a Viking army at Clontarf

Dark Ages Elite: Anglo-Saxon Huscarls: 11th century, continuing the multi-part series on the elite warriors of the Dark Ages (476-1066 AD). The Huscarls were the professional warriors who warded the last Anglo-Danish kings of England



1408160Elite Warriors of the Dark Ages: Norman Knight: 11th-12th century, the elite armored horsemen who conquered England, Ireland, and led the First Crusade; part of the “Elite Warriors of the Dark Ages” series



1066: A Bloody and Momentous Year: Three men contend for the crown of England; and change the course of British history


Elite Warriors of the Dark Ages: Varangian Guard: 11th-14th century, the elite axe-bearing Viking and later English guard of the Byzantine emperors; part of the “Elite Warriors of the Dark Ages” series




Manzikert.jpgThe Terrible Day: Disaster at Manzikert: 1071, Christian Byzantium is betrayed and Muslim Turkey is born on a remote battlefield in Armenia




22853_Otto-IThe 25 Greatest Commanders of the Middle Ages: 475-1453, the Deadliest Blogger’s list of the top commanders, with brief bios of each.

The Crusades: A Politically Incorrect View: 1095 – 1204, a look at the Crusades, their cause and effect, without the lens of multi-cultural “PC” nonsense that has so distorted the history in recent tellings; a multi-part series


Great Captains: Chingis Khan: 13th century, history’s greatest conqueror, creator of the largest land empire; part of series on the “Great Captains of War”


Legnicia 1

Legnica: The Mongol Terror Reaches Poland
: 1241, the Polish and Teutonic knights face the Middle Ages greatest war machine as the Mongols invade Europe



End of the Caliphate: The Mongol Sack of Baghdad: 1258, the last of the ancient Abbasid Caliph’s of Baghdad dies at the hands of the heirs of Genghis Khan


Slaughter in the Mud:Henry V at Agincourt: 1415, the original “band of brothers” make a heroic stand on St. Crispins Day


A Most Sanguinary Affair: Bloody Towton: 1461, the War of the Roses reaches a climax in the largest and bloodiest battle ever fought on English soil


The War of the Roses Ends at Bloody Bosworth: 1485, the battle that established the Tudor Dynasty, and ended the Plantagenet



The 25 Greatest Commanders of the Renaissance: 1453-1650, the Deadliest Blogger’s list of the top commanders, with brief bios



panipat_main-bMughal: “The Tiger” Founds an Empire at Panipat: 1525, the Mughal Empire of India is established by Babur’s use of cannons to defeat the Sultan of Dehli



Great Warships of History: Korean Turtle Ship: 1590s, the Japanese Samurai invasion of Korea tis thwarted by history’s first ironclad warships; part of the “Great Warships of History” series

Gustave_Adolphe_at_Breitenfeld-Johann_Walter-f3706497The Lion of the North Roars at Breitenfield: 1631, The Thirty Years War and Gustavus Adolphus wins his greatest victory


revenge-2Great Warships of History: Revenge, Race-Built Galleon: 16th century, the radically redesigned English warships that helped Britain rule the seas; part of the “Great Warships of History” series



The Last Hurrah of the Winged Hussars: 1683, Europe is saved as the Siege of Vienna ends in history’s greatest cavalry charge



18th – 19th CENTURY

Great Warships of History: The Ship of the Line: 17th-19th century, the king of the high seas in the Age of Sail; part of the “Great Warships of History” series


fritzGreat Captains: Frederick the Great: 18th century, a look at Prussia’s “Old Fritz”, one of history’s greatest soldiers; part of series on the “Great Captains of War”



article-0-183b67b900000578-145_640x816Great Captains: Napoleon Bonaparte: Late 18th-early 19th century, examination of France’s greatest conqueror  and one of history’s greatest generals; part of series on the “Great Captains of War”



Sabres in the Snow: Murat at Eylau, 1807! Napoleon reverses impending defeat by ordering his cavalry Marshal to lead a titanic charge against the Russian center


Napoleon’s Last Campaign: 1815, the “Waterloo Campaign” series, and final fall of Napoleon. Could “Le Emperor” have reversed his fortunes and saved his Empire?


alamo-213 Days of Glory: the Alamo, 1836:  the true story of the heroic siege and Texas’ struggle for independence


gandamuck-2Massacre in the Passes: Elphinstone’s Disaster: 1842, the First Afghan War comes to a climax with the calamitous death of an army in the frozen passes


Great Captains: Nathan Bedford Forrest: 1861-1865, the greatest natural military genius in American history, the “Wizard of the Saddle” was the Civil War’s most feared and hated general; part of series on the “Great Captains of War”


Zulu: Death and Redemption in the African Sun: 1879, the British Empire suffers a humiliating defeat at the hands of Africa’s greatest warriors; but redeem their honor with a glorious stand at the mission station at Rorke’s Drift


The British Face the Fuzzy Wuzzies at Abu Klea: 1885, the British expeditionary force in the Sudan is attacked by Dervish forces near the well at Abu Klea. For a few desperate minutes, the British square was breached and the army in deadly danger


Juramentado: Moro Suicidal Assassins: First decade of the 20th century, American forces in the Philippine Islands faced targeted attacks from suicidal Moro (Muslim) assassins “running amok”

Germany’s Schlieffen Plan: A Study in Economy of Force: 1914, the Chief of the German Imperial Staff comes up with a bold plan to end the impending war on the Western Front in rapid fashion, before it could stalemate; what went wrong?

Great Captains: George Smith Patton, Jr: 1940-1945, America’s most flamboyant and brilliant general of World War Two, “Old Blood and Guts”; part of series on the “Great Captains of War”

Great Warships of History: The Bismarck: World War Two, the storied German raider that led to the greatest sea-chase in history; part of the “Great Warships of History” series

The Devil’s Guard: Hitler’s Waffen SS: World War Two, a multi-part examination of the most hated and feared military organization in modern history, Nazi Germany’s elite SS


Great Warships of History: The Yamato: World War Two, the Imperial Japanese Navy’s super-Battleship, sporting the larges guns ever mounted on any ship; part of the “Great Warships of History” series


God Sides With the Big Battalions: When it comes to war, a great general once said that God sides with “whichever side has the biggest battalions”. While nations fielding smaller, higher-quality forces sometimes win battles; history shows that ultimate victory usually goes to the larger power

300: Rise of An Empire Review: Deadliest Blogger reviews the sequel to “300”. If you liked 2006’s blockbuster film, “300”, with its hyperbolic and highly stylized fantasy retelling of historical Battle of Thermopylae, you will likely enjoy this 2014 sequel.

Deadliest Bloggers’ Greatest Quotes on War: Part One

Deadliest Blogger’s Greatest Quotes on War: Part Two 

Deadliest Blogger’s Greatest Quotes on War: Part Three

Deadliest Blogger’s Greatest Quotes on War: Part Four

Deadliest Blogger’s Greatest Quotes on War: Part Five

Deadliest Blogger’s Greatest Quotes on War: Part Six

Deadliest Blogger’s Greatest Quotes on War: Part Seven

“History Bites”: The Fork, “a Hateful Vanity”



“History Bites”: Son of a Gun



If World War One Were a Bar Fight!




If World War Two Were a Bar Fight!







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The 30 Years War had raged for ten years, and for the Protestant cause it had been a string of disasters! Then a new champion took-up the sword to defend the faith against the Catholic armies of the Empire: Gustavus Adolphus, the “Lion of the North”! In his first battle against the ever-victorious army of Catholic League General Tilly, the Swedish king would prove his name and renown!

In 1628, the Hapsburg dream of a united Catholic Germany, ruled from Vienna, seemed nearly realized. Ten years into what would become known as the Thirty Years War, Catholic-Imperialist forces had crushed all opposition from Bohemia to Denmark. The Protestant Electors of the Rhine principalities had been humbled, the Czechs brought back into the Catholic fold, and the Danes defeated and humiliated. By 1630, the Imperial armies of Tillyand Wallenstein were camped along the Baltic shores, with Germany seemingly pacified behind them.

Only Protestant Sweden, across the icy waters, remained defiant.

When King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden crossed the Baltic and landed in Germany with a mere 13,000 men, the Hapsburg Emperor Ferdinand II sneered, “So, we have another little enemy!”


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“We saw it! The hussars let loose their horses: God, what power! They ran through the smoke and the sound was like that of a thousand blacksmiths beating with a thousand hammers. Jezus Maria! The lances bent forward like stalks of rye driven by a great storm, bent on glory! They crash into the Swedish reiters…Overwhelming them! They sliced without effort through the whole army…”

This breathless account of a 17th century battle from Potop (“The Deluge”), by Henry Sienkievich captures well the furious charge of the famed Polish “Winged Hussars”. For roughly a century (1576-1683) they were the premiere cavalry in Europe, if not the world. In battle-after-battle, their crushing charge dealt the coup-de-grace to every enemy they faced. While suffering the occasional (even crushing) defeat, their century-long record of success is unsurpassed in the annals of cavalry warfare.

The towarzysz (“comrades”) of the Polish Husaria were armored lancers, their primary weapon the very long (and light) kopia. This differed from the standard lance of the Medieval knights in that it was hollow, thus allowing greater length without commensurate weight. Many writers have opined as to the reason for the great length of the 18-21 foot kopia; suggesting that it was to give the lancer greater reach in order to defeat the pike-armed infantry formations of the day. But its use in such an action is only apparent in one battle of the many the Husaria engaged in; and accounts differ as to wither or not on that occasion the enemy square was broken by flank or frontal attack.

As backup weapon, the Hussar carried a variety of weapons: sabre, long sword, mace and even war-hammer (“nadziak”). Pistols, musketoons, and even composite bows could be carried as well.

The most famous piece of a Hussar’s equipment was his wings.

These varied over the heyday of the Husaria, from mere wings painted on or hanging from the Hussars shield; to two large “skoklosters“, hooped wooden frames onto which eagle feathers were attached. These latter were mounted on the Hussars back, or the back of his saddle.

The purpose of the wings is controversial. Some writers suggested that the wings made a frightening noise when the Hussar was at a gallop. This is almost certainly apocryphal: modern reenactor Rik Fox of the Los Angles-Based Suligowski’s Regiment Husariareenactment group assures me that no such sound is apparent; or would be heard above the din of battle, in any case. Others have put forth the theory that the fluttering wings frightened enemy horses unaccustomed to the sight; which might cause the mounts of enemy cavalry charging against the Hussars to balk. This is more plausible: the fluttering lance pennants and feathers might indeed “spook” an enemy horse unaccustomed to the sight. It has also been suggested that the wing-frames may have acted to deflect Tartar lassos or enemy sabre cuts.

All that we know for sure is that they lent the Hussars a unique and spectacular appearance.

Though for a time the strongest state in Eastern Europe, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was beset by a plethora of enemies. Though its Hussars could tip the scales and win battles, these were a relatively small, elite force; never exceeding 3,000 armored lancers. Despite such battlefield successes as they enjoyed, the far-flung kingdom was beset on all sides by aggressive neighbors. Ultimately Poland was for time overrun and on the verge of collapse (the “Deluge”, 1648-1667).

But Poland reemerged, and in 1683 under its heroic king, Jan Sobieski, the Hussars enjoyed their most celebrated success; riding forth to save Europe one last time from the tide of Islam!


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