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

Posts tagged “Warfare

A German dog hospital, treating wounded dispatch dogs coming from the front; ca. 1918

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Afro-German soldier of the Nazi Germany – Free Arabian Legion; ca. September 1943

"hahahaha, but seriously guys, can I get off the catapult now?"

The Wehrmacht was an equal opportunity employer.

The Free Arabian Legion provided an opportunity for German blacks who wanted to fight for the Reich. The unit’s founder was Haj Amin Al Husseini, an anti-Semite Muslim.

The Legion included Arab volunteers from the Middle East and North Africa, war prisoners who opted to fight instead of go to prison … and blacks. In the end, the Legion saw very little combat action—and most of that during the Allies’ Operation Torch in French North Africa.


Nazi racial ideology in practice could be very inconsistent:

  • 57% of Soviet prisoners and millions of Soviet civilians die as a result of intentional Nazi policy. But a Russian volunteer battallion is raised to fight for Nazi Germany
  • Several groups of Africans fighting for France are murdered upon capture by German troops. But some African volunteers are enlisted in the German armed forces
  • Ethnic Germans in Poland are deemed superior to Poles. But these ethnic Germans, when found guilty of rape, are punished and declared as not being like “true” German men
  • Non-white colonial POWs who fought for France are treated badly and suffer worse mortality rates than white French POWs. But yet the Germans collaborate with certain groups of non-whites.

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A little Russian girl touches her dead mother just after the liberation of the Ozarichi concentration camp in Belarus; ca. March 1944

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Information on the liberation of the Ozarichi death camps.


Winston Churchill with his chiefs of staff in the garden of No. 10 Downing Street, on the day Germany surrendered to the Allies; May 7th, 1945

Original caption: 10 Downing Street garden, London, England 7th May 1945, Chiefs of Staff at Downing Street, Back Row, L-R; Major General Hollis, General Sir Hastings Ismay (1887-1965), Front Row, L-R; Sir Charles Portal, Marshal of the RAF, Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Admiral of the Fleet, Sir Andrew Cunningham

Original caption: 10 Downing Street garden, London, England 7th May 1945, Chiefs of Staff at Downing Street, Back Row, L-R; Major General Hollis, General Sir Hastings Ismay (1887-1965), Front Row, L-R; Sir Charles Portal, Marshal of the RAF, Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Admiral of the Fleet, Sir Andrew Cunningham


Crater from the “Sedan” underground nuclear test as part of Operation Plowshare in Nevada. The 104 kiloton blast displaced 12 million tons of earth and created a crater 320 feet deep and 1,280 feet wide; ca. 1962

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There’s an urban legend that says that this blast is responsible for John Wayne’s death (and most of the film crew) due to cancer:

Of the 220 persons who worked on The Conqueror on location in Utah in 1955, 91 had contracted cancer as of the early 1980s and 46 died of it, including stars John Wayne, Susan Hayward, and Agnes Moorehead, and director Dick Powell. Experts say under ordinary circumstances only 30 people out of a group of that size should have gotten cancer. The cause? No one can say for sure, but many attribute the cancers to radioactive fallout from U.S. atom bomb tests in nearby Nevada.

The Conqueror, a putative love story involving Genghis Khan’s lust for the beautiful princess Bortai (Hayward), was a classic Hollywood big budget fiasco, one of many financed by would-be movie mogul Howard Hughes. Originally director Powell wanted to get Marlon Brando for the lead, but John Wayne, then at the height of his popularity, happened to see the script one day and decided he and Genghis were meant for each other. Unfortunately, the script was written in a cornball style that was made even more ludicrous by the Duke’s wooden line readings. In the following sample, Wayne/Genghis has just been urged by his sidekick Jamuga not to attack the caravan carrying Princess Bortai: “There are moments fer wisdom, Juh-mooga, then I listen to you–and there are moments fer action — then I listen to my blood. I feel this Tartar wuh-man is fer me, and my blood says, ‘TAKE HER!'” In the words of one writer, it was the world’s “most improbable piece of casting unless Mickey Rooney were to play Jesus in The King of Kings.”

The movie was shot in the canyonlands around the Utah town of St. George. Filming was chaotic. The actors suffered in 120 degree heat, a black panther attempted to take a bite out of Susan Hayward, and a flash flood at one point just missed wiping out everybody. But the worst didn’t become apparent until long afterward. In 1953, the military had tested 11 atomic bombs at Yucca Flats, Nevada, which resulted in immense clouds of fallout floating downwind. Much of the deadly dust funneled into Snow Canyon, Utah, where a lot of The Conqueror was shot. The actors and crew were exposed to the stuff for 13 weeks, no doubt inhaling a fair amount of it in the process, and Hughes later shipped 60 tons of hot dirt back to Hollywood to use on a set for retakes, thus making things even worse.

Many people involved in the production knew about the radiation (there’s a picture of Wayne himself operating a Geiger counter during the filming), but no one took the threat seriously at the time. Thirty years later, however, half the residents of St. George had contracted cancer, and veterans of the production began to realize they were in trouble. Actor Pedro Armendariz developed cancer of the kidney only four years after the movie was completed, and later shot himself when he learned his condition was terminal.

Howard Hughes was said to have felt “guilty as hell” about the whole affair, although as far as I can tell it never occurred to anyone to sue him. For various reasons he withdrew The Conqueror from circulation, and for years thereafter the only person who saw it was Hughes himself, who screened it night after night during his paranoid last years.

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Frozen corpses of dead German soldiers during the Battle of Stalingrad; ca. winter 1942-1943

The steel hob nails seen in the soldier's boot were part of the reason the Germans were at a disadvantage in the cold. Their feet got colder much faster due to all the steel.

The steel hob nails seen in the soldier’s boot were part of the reason the Germans were at a disadvantage in the cold. Their feet got colder much faster due to all the steel.


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An American soldier demonstrates an M3 ‘Grease Gun’ that can shoot around corners; ca. 1953

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Hitler asking a frostbitten and snow ravaged soldier not to salute him, but to instead rest and recover; ca. 1941- 42

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Most likely taken sometime between November 1941 and March 1942. During the Winter Crisis, the majority of the Wehrmacht were still equipped with their worn out summer uniforms and summer boots (often stuffed with newspapers to try to make them warmer). This was a direct failure of the German High Command to properly equip their soldiers for winter combat in the inhospitable Russian terrain.

Additionally, across large portions of the front, the Germans were not able to successfully enter prepared defensive positions until late in the winter. As a result, the soldiers were literally lying in the snow in their summer uniforms while the temperature was regularly -40 degrees. For a German General’s view on this see Gotthard Heinrici’s recently published letters and diaries.


I don’t think this is a PR photo. At this point in time the German senior leadership was still trying to present events in the East in the most favorable light possible. Obviously, a photograph of this man’s injuries would shock anyone who saw it in a newspaper.

Also, this man’s injuries are directly attributable to Hitler himself. During the early autumn of 1941, he refused to ship adequate cold weather clothing to the front line as he perpetually believed that the Soviets would collapse in only a few weeks. Needless to say, this did not come to pass.


Three men of the 7th Armored Division, known as the “Lucky Seventh”, man a 3-inch Gun M5 (anti-tank gun) covering the approach on a road near Vielsalm, Belgium; December 23rd, 1944

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Dead child on the street in Tampere, Finnish Civil War; ca. 1918

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The 1918 Finnish civil war was horrible: about 37,000 people died, most of them Reds.

The war was related to the aftermath of WWI, and to the communist revolution and civil war in the neighboring Russia. In Finland the revolutionary socialist Reds were supported by the Soviets, and the anti-socialist Whites by the German Empire.

The civil war itself lasted only 3½ months with White victory, but still after that more than 11,000 Reds or suspected Reds died in prison camps due to hunger, disease, and executions.


 

The aftermath of an execution of Social Democrat sympathizers/militiamen, Finnish Civil War, 1918:

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The picture is taken May 11th, 1918 in Västankvarn, Inkoo (Ingå).

The incidence is known as Västankvarnin teloitukset (Västankvarn’s executions). During 2-26th May the whites executed over sixty of their prisoners suspected as reds including at least three women (Tekla Åhl (35), Hilja Heino (20), and Hilda Björk (32)).

They all were sentenced to death by  Erik Grotenfelt. He also did the killings himself at first, but later it was done by a white Västnyland’s Battalion commanded by Edward Ward. (Grotenfelt committed a suicide in 1919.)


 

Most of the civil war victims can be found in a searchable online database: The registry of names of the war dead between 1914-1922