Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.

Archive for September, 2014

Queue on the opening day of the 1st McDonald’s in Moscow; ca. 1990.

Pictured: America winning the Cold War.

Pictured: America winning the Cold War.

Here’s a video:


4 year old Joseph Schleifstein, who survived the Holocaust by being kept hidden by his father, from Nazi officials inside Buchenwald concentration camp, is seen here shortly after his liberation; ca. April 1945

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“For a time, Schleifstein was hidden by his father with the help of two anti-fascist German prisoners, but he was eventually discovered. The SS guards took a liking to him and came to treat him as a “camp mascot”, having a small camp uniform made for him and having him take part in morning appells, where he would salute the guard and report, “All prisoners accounted for.”

(Source)


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Animals being used as part of medical therapy; ca. 1956.

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A group of German soldiers in a trench posing with a 24cm “Ladungswerfer Erhardt” trench mortar, ca. 1916.

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Display of different light bulb sizes between 1923 and 1929.

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American Marines during flamethrower training; ca. 1943.

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The mass infantry charges in World War One.

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Aims

Massed infantry attacks in the Great War were typically carried out for one of the following reasons:

  • To apply pressure on a certain part of the enemy’s line to prevent those troops from being able to rotate out and reinforce another sector (as in the Somme Offensive of 1916, for example; the British push in the summer was intended in part to stem the flow of German reinforcements being sent to the ongoing siege of Verdun).
  • To wear down the enemy through sheer, dogged attrition.
  • Plenty of attacks were done in hopes of taking certain ground (ridges, bottlenecks, etc.) that would make a breakthrough easier in the future.

Method

(A typical infantry assault on the Western Front from a British perspective.)

First, it had to be decided where the attack was going to take place. Not just anywhere was worth the effort. Would the ground achieved in a theoretical victory be worth holding? Would the topography of the region lead to the creation of indefensible salients? What type of troops do we have on the opposing side? Prussians? Bavarians? Saxons? Have they just rotated in, or have they been there for a while? What have they been doing themselves while they’ve been there? What’s the weather going to be like? What attacks are being planned for nearby sectors? What kind of support can we expect? These are just some of the questions that had to be asked.

Once a sector for the attack had been chosen, the preparations had to begin. Parties of men from the forward line would go out at night to ensure that there were sufficient (though not obvious) gaps at precisely-determined spots in their own line’s barbed wire installations to allow everyone to get through once the attack began. They’d also ever-so-cautiously try to creep up to the enemy wire and cut holes in it, too, for the same purpose. Ammo stores had to be checked and rechecked, equipment thoroughly inspected, all the stuff you’d expect. I won’t bore you with the cleaning protocols in the trench itself.

Now, “surprise” attacks in any sense that we might currently mean when using the term were basically impossible in the Great War, at least on the Western Front. If the enemy didn’t notice the increased bustle in your forward lines – not to mention lots of new troops being brought up to support the attack if it was going to be a large one – he sure as hell couldn’t fail to notice the artillery barrage that would typically precede the attack.

The nature and intention of such barrages varied from case to case, and there were different schools of thought as to how best to employ them even at that. They were necessary as a prelude to an infantry advance because walking into a wall of alert, functioning machine gun nests is not a way to win a war. The barrage would keep the enemy’s heads down while the troops would muster, and would throw the enemy line into a state of disruption and chaos on a practical level. Even a limited barrage of only a few minutes’ duration was useful; the machine guns employed by the Germans at the time could only effectively rotate 30 degrees, so knocking out even a couple of them could create “safe zones” towards which the infantry could proceed to punch through. They’d still have to contend with rifle and small-arms fire, but that was a reality all along the line.

Different types of barrages preceded different types of attacks. The lead-up to the Somme Offensive I mentioned above saw the German lines shelled continuously, day and night, for an entire week. Other attacks might have one lasting only a few minutes. Still others would be accompanied by what was known as a “creeping barrage,” where the shellfire was co-ordinated to fall just in advance of the attacking troops, keeping the Germans suppressed until the last possible moment. It’s worth knowing that artillery accounted for over half of all the deaths in combat throughout the war, and something like three quarters of injuries.

With the artillery roaring away, the first line would prepare to advance. The men would get up onto the firestep in the trench near their respective ladders and await the signal to go over the top. What happened next depended upon both the objectives in play and the stage of the war at which it took place.

Early on, it was more common for soldiers to move forward slowly, trying to maintain an unbroken line of advance. This owes something to the tactics of bygone centuries, certainly, but it was also a practical necessity. The war was still young enough that accomplished veterans did not exist; the entire BEF at the war’s outset was only 100,000 strong, and the need for more, more, more men, as soon as possible, everywhere, meant that the amount of rigorous, professionalizing training they could receive before being sent out was minimal. It was thought (often correctly) that expecting initiative, cunning and intuition from untested privates was a dangerous way to go about it, and the battle doctrine was adapted to the material they had at hand.

The slow line-advance kept everyone in sight of their commanding officer and aware of where they were. It allowed messages to be passed down from man to man if need be. It permitted excellent rifle-fire opportunities – in the war’s early stages, British rifle drill was still so absurdly good that it was even more dangerous than machine gun fire.

It had lots of reasons behind it. It was still awful and amazingly dangerous.

As the war went on, thankfully, everyone involved (who had lived) began to learn from their mistakes. Principles that we now take for granted were developed. With more experienced, better-trained soldiers and a better understanding of what could be accomplished by the weapons involved on both sides, infantry charges began to take on a different character. The single line was abandoned in favour of small, semi-autonomous groups – still technically in a line, I guess, but able to function well out of one as well. Advancing was done with all seemly haste, and with an eye for judicious use of terrain. Most importantly, the advance would be conducted under covering fire: one group under cover would suppress the German line while another advanced still closer. In this leap-frogging fashion, the line went forward.

Effectiveness

“Mixed” is the best term I could apply to it, unfortunately. While there was undoubtedly a learning curve (usually thought to be most pronounced from 1916 onward), early large-scale attacks were not well-managed and did not typically succeed. The methods involved were successful when measured against the first two of the three rationales I listed so far above, but in terms of the third – breaking through – they were not.

Breakthroughs were sometimes achieved all the same (the British at Cambrai, for example, or the Germans along a long front during the Ludendorff Offensive of Spring 1918), but following up on them was difficult. The idea was to establish a thoroughfare through which cavalry and more infantry could be dispatched and take the enemy in the rear. It didn’t work out, though the idea itself is sound enough.

Many have asked if it could all have been done differently, and the answer is most certainly “yes.” What that different approach might look like is another matter…

Perspectives

As with most things, it varied greatly from man to man. Certainly it was terrifying for many, as the memoirs and novels of the war amply demonstrate, but others perceived it with ambivalence or even delight.

Here are some standard accounts, if you’d like to read up on it:

  • Siegfried Sassoon – Memoirs of an Infantry Officer (fictionalized memoir; written by a veteran; trauma narrative)
  • Ernst Junger – Storm of Steel (fictionalized memoir; veteran; author seems to have positively reveled in the experience)
  • Robert Graves – Goodbye to All That (highly fictionalized memoir; veteran; very dim view of it all)
  • Frederic Manning – The Middle Parts of Fortune (novel; veteran; ambivalent; amazingly good)
  • Henri Barbusse – Under Fire (very fictionalized memoir; veteran; almost a horror story)
  • A.O. Pollard – Fire-Eater: Memoirs of a V.C. (memoir; veteran and Victoria Cross winner; greatly enjoyed the war)
  • Erich Maria Remarque – All Quiet on the Western Front (novel; veteran and fraud; deeply cynical about the experience)

Finally, if you’d like a far more comprehensive and detailed view of infantry tactics of this time, you’d do well to look into Erwin Rommel’s Infantry Attacks and Paddy Griffith’s Battle Tactics of the Western Front: The British Army’s Art of Attack 1916-18. Rommel’s views on the matter were admittedly idiosyncratic, but it’s an amazing document all the same; Griffith’s volume is far more recent (1994) and offers a detached academic overview rather than a first-hand account.


Winston Churchill’s one-man pressure chamber, used on his personal plane during WWII. It had ash trays, a telephone and an air-circulation system.

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Winston Churchill was susceptible to pneumonia and the long cold flights weren’t good for his health (none of Churchill’s planes were pressurized). He would wear an oxygen mask on some occasions (even when he slept). Sometime in 1942 they did build a pressure chamber for him, but they couldn’t get it into his plane without dissembling the tail section. The contraption was rejected out of hand – thus never used.

(Source)


A computer programming classroom in the Soviet Union; a poster on the wall reads ‘Train BASIC Everyday!’; ca. 1985

Top line says: "Programming - the second grammar. The first grants knowledge. The second enables realization of knowledge in earnest"

Top line says: “Programming – the second grammar. The first grants knowledge. The second enables realization of knowledge in earnest”

The Soviets had a very diverse and powerful set of computational hardware and languages, and having developed in relative isolation from the rest of the world (*They had to wait for it to be released, reverse engineer it, and then attempt to reproduce it), they’ve built some pretty unique stuff.

There are websites out there dedicated to documenting this fascinating subject.


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Nürnberg, Germany in ruins; June 1945.

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David Vetter (known as ’The Boy in The Bubble’ in the sterilized plastic environment that was his home from his birth until his death 12 years later); ca. 1978.

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David Phillip Vetter (September 21, 1971 – February 22, 1984) suffered from SCID, severe combined immunodeficiency.

‘The chaplain of Texas Children’s Hospital at the time, Rev. Raymond Lawrence, said of the situation: “The great scandal of the Bubble Boy was that he was conceived for the bubble. The team that did this didn’t think through this very well. They didn’t consider what would happen if they didn’t find an immediate cure. They operated on the assumption that you could live to be 80 years old in a bubble, and that would be unfortunate but okay.” Lawrence said that the original three doctors encouraged David’s parents to conceive David so that they could have a test subject for studies, a charge which is denied by the three involved doctors.’

(Source)


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A bulldog named Venus stands at the helm of the HMS Vansittart, a British Destroyer; ca.1941

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Life in the trenches:

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I have the daily schedule of one Captain Geoffrey Bowen with the 2nd Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers on September 3rd, 1917.

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I’ll be giving some context in brackets throughout for reading sake:

8.pm. Started [wake up]
9.30 p.m. Arrived. [at trench]
11 p.m. Company arrived.
11 p.m.-3 a.m. Round the line [ie: checking on men, checking positions,
maintaining quality control across the line]
3.15 a.m.-4.15 a.m. Sleep
4.15 a.m.-6.am. Stand to. [Night watch, essentially]
6 a.m.-6.30 Reports [from lower level officers]
6.30a.m.-9. Sleep
9 a.m.-9.30 Breakfast: bacon, eggs, tinned sausage
9.30 a.m.-10.10 Round the line
10.10 a.m.-12. Reports, etc.
12.30 p.m. Lunch: Steak, potatoes, beans, sweet omelette
1.45 p.m.-2.15. Daylight patrol.
2.15 p.m-2.30. Sleep.
2.30 p.m.-3.40. Gup [gossip, idle chat] with the C.O. 
4 p.m. Tea, bread, jam.
4.30 p.m.-4.35. Sleep.
4.35 p.m.-5.10. Entertain 'Bowes' 
5.10 p.m.-5.15. Sleep.
5.15 p.m.-5.25. Trench Mortar Officer reports.
5.25 p.m.-6.15. Sleep
6.15 p.m.-6.35. Entertain Brain and Padre [Chaplains, implied work on 
mental and religious health]
6.35 p.m.-7.30. Sleep.
7.30 p.m.-8. Round the line
8 p.m.-8.15. Dinner: steak, potatoes, tinned fruit and custard.
8.15 p.m.-9. Round the line
11.30 p.m.-12.30 a.m. Sleep.
12.30-2.30 a.m. Intensive sniping [under fire]
2.30-5 a.m. Sleep.
Joan - WW1

It’s not nearly as dramatic as you may think. The unfortunate truth for Hollywood is that most of WWI was sitting around improving defenses and doing basically nothing. The conditions were horrific the entire time for most parts but you were not constantly getting out of trenches and charging enemies most of the time. One of the biggest jobs of men on the front is to constantly check, repair and lay down barbed wire outside of their trenches. This was generally done at night for obvious reasons and generally required hundreds of men to cover the workers doing this. At first they had to use mallets and even if they tried to muffle the sound by putting sandbags between the mallet and the stake to hold the barbed wire down, it was still noisy business. This brought the attention of many snipers. Eventually a corkscrew type of device would be universalized which would allow men to ‘screw’ the stake into the ground silently.

German_Barrage_Fire_at_Night_(Ypres)However the amount of fighting and what fighting you got depended on your sector. There were generally two types, quiet and loud sectors. Loud sectors were ones where the trenches were extremely close to the Germans — at times less than 25 yards away but usually no further than 100-200 yards away. You are in constant threat of rifle fire but not so much artillery lest each side hits their own men. So your entire existence is painted by avoiding snipers, being under sniper fire, and having bursts of machine gun fired in your general direction in your daily life. The quiet sectors were generally very different. You could easily be 600-800 yards away from the other trench and both sides adopted a ‘live and let live’ philosophy and your greatest threat would be random artillery barrages from miles away. Capt. Dugdale described the experience:

Time passed very peacefully, as the Germans were very quiet. My battalion snipers had the time of their lives; never before had they been given such targets. We literally kept a game book of hits for hte first three days; after that the Germans did not show themselves so much; also they started to retaliate.

Wiring was carried out nearly every night, but not in the style we were accustomed to in the days of the Somme. Our men did not creep through the wire carrying coils of wire, stakes, etc.; instead, a general service wagon was driven into No Man’s Land with the materials on board, which were dumped out when required. At first we expected bursts of machine gun fire every minute, but nothing happened. It must have become a well-established custom, as the enemy did the same thing themselves; we did not interfere.

origNonetheless in the general, the Germans were very keen on disrupting workers parties; particularly with machine guns and offensive patrols. The need for quiet was imperative but not always followed by the more reckless green horns. One account by Henry Gregory describes a particularly loud worker party shouting orders and joking with each other while his company was covering their duties. After about 30 minutes of it the Germans (who were previously pretty quiet) got fed up and unleashed a massive mortar barrage and machine gun attack on the position, killing dozens of men who had no reason to.

wwi-trenchesConditions in the trenches were universally awful however. That is one universal thing that can be applied. Many trenches had water up the knees of men and you would have to wade around in this grungy, dirty mud water all day and everything you had would be almost constantly wet. When digging new trenches it was not uncommon to get a sudden and sharp scent of a dead body lying there for weeks or months as you pierced his flesh in the dirt, especially in when repairing trenches taken over from the enemy after large artillery barrages. Everything, once you got up to the front, had to be carried by hand for obvious reasons. Usually in the dark. In knee to waist high water. While being shot at by snipers consistently. You can imagine the frustration and how it could wear on a man.

That’s really what made the war so horrible. You didn’t attack all that much if you were a soldier but your life was still a miserable hellhole. You sat in a crappy trench while being shot on constantly by snipers or being bombarded constantly by artillery depending on where you were — if you were in a perfect spot both at once! You were constantly slightly hungry because of poor rations and if someone slipped and dropped a box of steak in water they were done for and you had just go without. Something that happened enough for men to justify writing about it as a part of their experience. However, for all that, the actual combat was pretty minimal and dare I say cushy, especially for quiet sectors. Your duties if you were a rifleman were essentially forward patrols from time to time and covering worker parties (usually the two duties were combined) which was a dangerous job but not really an all out attack and otherwise maintaining the trench system through constant labor. If you were a machine gunner or a sniper your life was essentially to sit in one spot for hours and harass the enemy and discourage them from performing their own maintenance or making them do it under great duress. And if you were an officer your job was basically to walk around and make sure everyone was doing their job correctly.

cf1rflcNow I’d like to talk briefly about how trench warfare worked. At first it was a crude type of deal, the Generals were literally learning on the fly. The original tactic through 1915 and 1916 was essentially bombard the enemy trench with so much firepower that they couldn’t possibly survive and then mop up the rest with your infantry. This was basically what The Battle of Somme was supposed to be — one of the biggest failures of the war where the British men advancing quickly found that the artillery barrage did nothing to the enemy barbed wire and the Germans just huddled up underground ,waited for the barrage to stop, and then just manned their machine guns again once the assault started. Things like the creeping barrage were developed as well where basically the artillery would ‘creep’ to the German trench as the infantry marched behind it. The idea was that the artillery would hit the trench and within seconds be struck by British and French troops in the immediate aftermath.

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Again, the issue was coming with that all out artillery barrages where the men were marching was a horrible strategy. This is most demonstrated at the Battle of Passchendaele, or the Third Battle of Ypres, where the British attempted to break out of the Ypres salient in Belgium by taking surrounding ridges. The British absolutely unloaded artillery on these positions and when the men went into battle the ground was so utterly destroyed the entire battlefield was composed of flooded craters. The men were literally getting stuck in the mud and could barely move and they were cut down endlessly. The battle was only a half success, only capturing a few ridges with egregious casualties no one predicted even at this stage in the war.

In many ways WWI was an artillery war, but it was a war that was won in the development of infantry doctrine. What generals realized by 1918 was that artillery can not win this war. It could not single handedly destroy the enemy like they believed and the principle of combined arms was developed. Combined arms stated that every component of the army must be used together in equal parts to support each other and win the battle and that’s precisely what happened. Artillery was used in short, concentrated bursts and barrages not meant to obliterate the enemy defense but just shock them and generally create temporary weak points. Infantry stopped being a force that charged into trenches trying to overwhelm a position “shattered” by artillery but rather began doing something we are more familiar with — squad based infiltration tactics. Small squads of men would independently infiltrate enemy weak points, neutralize key points and create an open path for friendly mortars and flamethrowers to move in to create a combined mortar, machine gun and flamethrower assault on the more fortified positions with the infiltrated elite troops attacking from all sides inside the trench as well. Combined with aerial reconnaissance, armor to shield advancing infantry, and short but sweet ‘hurricane’ barrages trenches became all but a stepping stone in the March 1918 offensive by the Germans and then for the Allies in the Hundred Days counter-offensive in August which ended the war.

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Notes:

Holmes, Richard, “Tommy: The British Soldier on the Western Front “

Simpson, Andy “Hot Blood & Cold Steel: Life and Death in the Trenches of the First World War”


Nikita Khrushchev and Richard Nixon debate the merits of communism versus capitalism at the American National Exhibition, Moscow; ca.1959.

...this the exhibition where Khrushchev didn't believe normal Americans had washing machines in their homes.

…this the exhibition where Khrushchev didn’t believe normal Americans had washing machines in their homes.

Here’s the debate:


Dragutin Dimitrijevic (known as Apis) – he killed one king, one heir and is somewhat responsible for beginning of WWI; ca. 1914.

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Dragutin Dimitrijević (Serbian Cyrillic: Драгутин Димитријевић; 17 August 1876 – 24 June 1917), also known as Apis (Апис), was a Serbian colonel. He was a leading member of a military group that organized the overthrow of the Serbian government in 1903. He personally organized and participated in the coup against King Alexander and his wife Queen Draga that resulted in their murders, though he was not present when they were killed. He was also the leader of the Black Hand group responsible for the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria in June 1914. The latter triggered the July Crisis which led to the outbreak of World War I.

(Source)


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Germans soldiers waiting for gas attack during WWI; ca.1916.

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A trained photo pigeon during WWI; date unknown.

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French infantry in a trench; ca.1914.

French infantry in a trench, 1914.

The bright uniforms worn by French infantry in the early months of the war, alongside a reckless doctrine of attack at all times, help explain the staggering losses sustained by the French Army. By the end of 1914 they had lost nearly a million men killed, captured or wounded. Lantern slide from a box of 73 lantern slides, one of two boxes associated with World War One, Western Front, 1914-1916. Published by Newton and Company, 3 Fleet Street, London. One of 29 boxes of lantern slides. Associated with World War One, Western Front (1914-1918).

(Source)


Terry Fox runs in his blood stained shorts, during his Marathon of Hope run across Canada in July 1980. He ran a marathon a day for 143 days until he died.

He knew he wasn't going to survive, but that wasn't his goal. His goal was to raise awareness and raise money, and he damn well did accomplish that.

He knew he wasn’t going to survive, but that wasn’t his goal. His goal was to raise awareness and raise money, and he damn well did accomplish that.

Terry Fox (July 28, 1958 – June 28, 1981) was Canadian who in 1980, with one leg having been amputated, embarked on a cross-Canada run to raise money and awareness for cancer research. Although the spread of his cancer eventually forced him to end his quest after 143 days and 5,373 kilometres (3,339 mi), and ultimately cost him his life, his efforts resulted in a lasting, worldwide legacy. The annual Terry Fox Run, has grown to involve millions of participants in over 60 countries and is now the world’s largest one-day fundraiser for cancer research; over C$600 million has been raised in his name.

(Source)


“The Class the Stars Fell On,” West Point’s Class of 1915; May 3, 1915.

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Out of 164 graduates, 59 earned at least one star, the most of any class in the history of the US Military Academy. Circled are the two 5 star generals, Dwight Eisenhower (left) and Omar Bradley (right).


Here is material I recommend for learning more about the Bosnian War:

The BBC documentary series Death of Yugoslavia is pretty great.

Recommended reading material (diverse explanations for the wars in the Balkans):

“I consider fiŽrst the violent conflicts in Croatia and Bosnia. These were spawned not so much by the convulsive surging of ancient hatreds or by frenzies whipped up by demagogic politicians and the media as by the ministrations of small—sometimes very small—bands of opportunistic marauders recruited by political leaders and operating under their general guidance.

  • James D. Fearon – Commitment Problems and the Spread of Ethnic Conflict (chapter in “The International Spread of Ethnic Conflict: Fear, Diffusion and Escalation” – a summary can be found here ):

Against the argument that the various ethnic groups in the former Yugoslavia had always hated each other, and that argument that ethnic elites polarized the masses, Fearon describes the polarization of the ethnic groups as driven by the commitment problem faced by Croats and Serbs in the new Croatian state. The Serb minority in this new state feared exploitation, and the Croat government had no way of guaranteeing its long-term well-being. Therefore, the Serb extremists who had been advocating for violent secession ultimately won out.

The norm of humanitarian intervention “creates moral hazard that encourages the excessively risky or fraudulent behavior of rebellion by members of groups that are vulnerable to genocidal retaliation, but it cannot fully protect against the backlash. The emerging norm thereby causes some genocidal violence that otherwise would not occur. Bosnia and Kosovo illustrate that…”

The Croatian War was the result of a Security Dilemma

“Drawing on interviews with former military leaders, local and international officials, and in-country observers, I argue that the outbreak, persistence, termination, and aftermath of the 1992–1995 war cannot be explained without taking into account the critical role of smuggling practices and quasi-private criminal combatants.”

Gagnon challenges primordialist notions of ethnic violence by arguing that ethnonationalist feelings are created and mobilized by threatened elites. Given the costs of domestic ethnic violence, elites prefer to engage in conflict that takes places outside of the borders of their state. Thus, they minimize the costs to their key supporters who are located within the state. Gagnon examines the sources of ethnic conflict in Serbia, starting with the 1960’s and leading to the breakup of Yugoslavia.


Japanese Special Naval Landing Forces with gas masks and rubber gloves during a chemical attack near Chapei in the Battle of Shanghai; August 1937.

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The Machine Gun in this picture is a Japanese Type 11 Light Machine Gun.

To understand the Type 11 you have to understand the standard issue rifle. In WW2 if you were issued a Rifle in any army except the United States and their Semi Auto M1’s then chances are you would be issued a bolt action rifle. In a semi or automatic weapon recoil or gas works the bolt, in a bolt action you do it by hand. These kind of Rifles fired slowly, they prized accuracy with long barrels and high velocity rounds. Japan used the Type-38, a 9lb, 1.2 meter rifle with a 31 inch barrel and with the 40 centimeter bayonet it was taller than the average soldier.

The reason I bring up the rifle is the loading system, the rifles magazine unlike modern Assault Rifles the magazines was internal, not detachable and usually held 5 rounds. To load it you used a charger/stripper clip, shown here andhere in a rifle. The clip holds the rounds together, to load you push down on the ammunition stripping them off the clip and into the magazine. Now most Machine Guns use detachable magazines, strips or belts in which rounds need to be loaded onto, if you are in battle and the rifles or machine guns run out of ammo then each round would need to be hand loaded onto a belt, mag or clip to share, time consuming, especially while being shot at… unless you develop a system where the rifle and machine gun can share, one like the Type 11 which is loaded with Stripper Clips.

The Type 11’s loading system is a hopper pictured here and a diagram here. The five round clips are inserted in the top to a maximum of 6, the gun eats them from the bottom. With this system any rifleman can refill the machine gun and the machine gun ammo supply can be distributed if needed. The hopper can also be continuously topped off allowing for uninterrupted fire.

The hopper system used however had three problems on the Type 11. 1. If dust and dirt got in the gun would fail, spare hoppers were carried for this reason. 2. Every 5 rounds needed to be loaded, a tedious task especially if your loader should die. 3. The gun proved temperamental to the high power munitions used by the rifles and would wear out or jam, a low pressure round was developed, this complicated supply and made sharing ammo less common and more for emergencies.

The Type 11 was first produced in 1922 it served at the squad level with 1 per and was the first Japanese gun to do so in real numbers. Most of them would serve in Chinese Theater though their appearance in the Pacific was not unheard of and the ones in the US right now are usually captured examples. The Type 11 was replaced as the main Light Machine Gun by the Type 96/99 Light Machine Gun which arrived in 1936. The 96 featured a more conventional top mounted 30rd magazine like the Bren and a quick change barrel, it used the same low pressure rounds. The Type 11 served as the main squad gun for 14 years, it would be produced for 19 before every factory switched over.

Some quick facts:

  • Approximately 30000 were made in total.
  • The gun fired a relatively slow 400rpm or about 61/2 rounds per sec.
  • It weighed about 25 pounds loaded.
  • Fired 6.5x50mm rounds.
  • It was bipod mounted and had a combination pistol grip and stock.
  • The barrel had cooling fins to absorb heat.
  • The hopper had a built in oilier to lubricate rounds.
  • There was an anti aircraft variant the Type 81
  • The Type 11 had a seldom used tripod designed for it, few pictures exist but here is one.

Bonus Fact: The Type 96 had an ammo counter on the magazine, an advantage made possible by being a top loader.


Bertrand Russell’s Message to the Future; ca. 1959.

“…in this world, which is getting more and more closely interconnected, we have to learn to tolerate each other. We have to learn to put up with the fact that some people say things that we don’t like.”

Man, this guy was just starting to see how information was being sent more quickly and at higher quality and said something so incredibly forward-thinking. That’s amazing.

Can you imagine showing this dude the fact that we can send cat-videos instantly? This would blow his mind.


An English girl comforts her doll in the rubble of her bomb-damaged home; ca. 1940

This photo and other fantastic images can also be found in Anthony Beevor's Second World War. A great read that gives a fantastic overview of the whole war from Europe to Africa to the Pacific.

These reminders are important for future generations (like us) to not take peace for granted, and to remember that it’s easy to clamor for war if it’s someone else’s house and nation that’s about to get bombed, but when the tables are turned and the bomb whizz over your head, this mechanized mass murder, or whatever watered down PC name war-hungry politicians may give it, is a whole ‘nother beast.