Archive for September, 2008

30
Sep
08

US Marine Corps Tank Crewman 1965-70 Vietnam

In World War II the divisional tank battalions provided armored firepower in amphibious assaults, protection against enemy armored counter-attacks, and served as assault guns in protracted infantry battles at places like Iwo Jima and Okinawa. The Pacific campaigns also demonstrated the value of tanks in jungle warfare. The tanks further proved themselves in Korea, and by the 1960s were a fundamental part of the Corps’ combined arms team. The Marines routinely deployed tanks with expeditionary units to places like the Lebanon and the Dominican Republic, so when the Marines were ordered to Vietnam in March 1965, they took along their tanks. That decision created a political furor. The presence of the tanks became a lightning rod for accusations of an “escalation” of the war. The Marine Corps operated in I Corps area, the extreme northern part of the Republic of Vietnam. There they faced not just the indigenous Viet Cong (VC) guerrillas, but conventional units of the North Vietnamese Army (NVA), a highly trained and motivated foe. In the Tet Offensive of early 1968 the VC and NVA seized control of major urban centers, including the cultural and spiritual center of the nation, the ancient capital at Hue.
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30
Sep
08

US Cavalryman 1891-1920

Soon after the failure of the Mexican Punitive Expedition, the United States entered World War I. During the war most American cavalrymen served either as dismounted infantrymen in the trenches of Europe or on continued garrison duty along the Mexican border. An exception was the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, which participated in the Aisne-Marne, St Mihiel, and Meuse-Argonne offensives. However, no additional American cavalry regiment saw combat during World War I. On 2 June 1920, less than two years after the end of World War I, Congress passed the National Defense Act, thereby creating a chronically underfunded US Army – merely the skeleton for future wartime buildups. The Act created a bleak period of almost two decades for the US Army as a whole and the cavalry in particular. Nevertheless, many cavalrymen were more than happy to return to the garrison-duty routines that they had enjoyed during America’s other brief times of peace. The overall theme of this period, however, is the dichotomy between the concept of the “cavalryman” and the actual experiences of the men. The cavalrymen were a force that on many occasions fought on foot, were involved in conflicts which were minor or did not need a major contribution from them, and were increasingly overshadowed by the development of mechanized warfare in World War I.
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30
Sep
08

Mau-Mau Warrior

As in most wars against colonial rule, the Man-Man warriors had a political philosophy that gnided their actions. It is, however, ironic that despite the extensive and sometimes complex nature of their struggle, the Mau-Mau warriors did not have this philosophy written down in any clearly defined document. There are a number of possible reasons for this. First, as stated earlier, the movement saw itself as the armed wing of a broader struggle that had a political agenda. Consequently, the task of propagating a political philosophy seems to have been left to the Kikuyu Central Association (KCA), with the Mau-Mau informing its members only that the movement and the KCA were the same, and that the guerrillas should consider the political philosophy of the KCA as corresponding to that of the Mau-Mau. Second, as in most struggles against colonial rule, caution may have been exercised in giving out too much information about the political agenda of the movement, such as could have been disclosed by the publication of a clearly stated manifesto. Although it was widely known that the movement was lighting for land and political freedom, other details that might need to be included in a clearly written political document may have been considered to place the movement’s activities at risk, especially when considered in the light of the political atmosphere of the late 1940s and the early 1950s, when the propaganda effects of political manifestos of popular struggles were not fully appreciated. Despite all this, the movement did have a definite political philosophy that guided its activities and underlined its actions. It also had rules and regulations which often reflected these political principles.
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30
Sep
08

Hittite Warrior

Some 3,700 years ago, at the dawn of the Late Bronze Age, a kingdom arose in central Anatolia (modern Turkey), which became one of the great superpowers of the ancient Near Eastern world. It was called the kingdom of Hatti. Today, we refer to the inhabitants of this land as the Hittites. In their own day, the Hittites simply called themselves the people of the Land of Hatti. From their royal capital Hattusa, the rulers of Hatti embarked on a programme of territorial expansion that took their armies westwards across the face of Anatolia to the Aegean Sea, south-eastwards through northern Syria and then across the Euphrates river into Mesopotamia. In the 14th and 13th centuries BC, the Hittites controlled the most powerful empire of the Late Bronze Age. By the 1320s BC, under their warlord emperor Suppiluliuma, they had destroyed their most dangerous rival, the kingdom of Mitanni. Egypt, Babylon and Assyria were the other great powers of the age. Their rulers formed with Suppiluliuma a kind of elite, highly exclusive club. They corresponded regularly with one another, exchanged gifts and addressed one another as ‘My Brother’ and ‘Great King’. But their diplomatic communications, their often lavish gifts, their marriage unions and their profuse expressions of mutual love and devotion barely concealed their distrust of one another and the underlying tensions in their relationships, which sometimes erupted into open conflict.
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30
Sep
08

Highlander in the French-Indian War 1756-67

Initially, resistance to such a scheme was predictable and emanated straight from the top. Neither the British king, George II, nor his son, the Duke of Cumberland, could countenance the addition oJ am more Highland regiments to the army’s establishment – the unpleasant memories of Culloden and the 1745 Uprising under Bonnie Prince Charlie just a decade earlier were still fresh in their minds. The Duke of Argyll, (or the “governor” of Scotland as the Duke of Newcastle styled him), was the principal lobbyist for the creation of new Highland battalions, Argyll had astutely bided his time, realizing that the foreign policy direction taken in December 1756 by the recently installed Secretary of State, William Pitt the Elder (1708-78), would soon support rather than hinder his proposals, as Pitt’s policies called tor the vigorous acquisition and defense of colonies. The Duke of C umberland, not noted for his quick-wittedness, was bright enough to realize that it he did not readily acquiesce to the raising of at least a few new Highland regiments, he might lose some of his beloved “Flanderkin” regiments to the North American theater. He quietly withdrew his objections. Orders and warrants for two new Highland battalions for service in North America were quickly issued.
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30
Sep
08

Condottiere 1300-1500 – Infamous Medieval Mercenaries

While several mercenaries were later credited with the title, according to the Florentine chronicler Giovanni Villain the ‘father of all condottieri’ was Roger di Flor, who was born in Brindisi in the mid-13th century. He initially enlisted in the service of the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II, before serving with the Knights Templar. Around 1302 he travelled to Constantinople with his ‘Catalan Grand Company’ and signed a condotta to serve the Byzantine emperor Andronicus II. Like so many condottieri that followed him, he was soon more powerful than his employer and embarked on a campaign of self-enrichment. In 1306, in a fatal lapse of caution, he allowed himself to be lured to a supposedly friendly meeting with his employers, where he was assassinated along with his escort. In many ways it could be argued that this ‘proto-condottiere’ set the tone for the men who followed in this profession; not only in his methods but also in his relations with his employer.
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30
Sep
08

Byzantine Infantryman – Eastern Roman Empire c.900-1204

Throughout late antiquity and the earlier middle ages the primary cultural influences on the empire came from the East, especially from Persia, despite the wars and the destruction of the Sassanian Empire, and notwithstanding Iran’s incorporation into the new Muslim caliphate. The extent of these influences cannot be underestimated, they took in religion, and diverse aspects of everyday life, especially clothing. After 976 Basil (Vasileios) II, who had been co-emperor since 963, occupied the imperial throne as the sole or senior emperor. Over the course of 50 years on the ‘golden throne’ he stabilized imperial administration and campaigned effectively to expand the empire’s borders to the greatest extent they had achieved since the 7th century. His most notable success was in defeating the Bulgarians at the battle of Kleidon in 1014, where he is said to have captured 15,000 of the enemy. The story that he blinded 99 out of 100 and left the remaining man with only one eye to lead them home is doubtful, and his nickname of ‘Bulgar-slayer’ (Bulgaroktonos) was not invented until the 12th century. Basil was not an innovator by any means. His contribution was to consolidate and consistently implement policies and practices developed or codified in the earlier 10th century.
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