What happened to the dead bodies after big battles in history - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

What happened to the dead bodies after big battles in history

Given we know that even Neanderthals would bury their dead (even including objects with the bodies) and various human hunter-gatherer groups likewise used to bury or cremate people at specific sites that functioned as sort of pilgrimage locations for these nomads, it should come as no surprise that since the dawn of known warfare soldiers have pondered the question of what to do with the bodies of their fallen comrades and enemies. So what did various groups actually do throughout history?


A thing to note before we continue is that there is a definite gap in the memory of history in regards to this one specific matter and historians only have sparse reports of what happened to the dead of many groups after battles. You might think solving this problem would be simply a matter of locating famous battle sites and doing some digging to glean a little more insight, but it turns out even this is notoriously difficult as we’ll get into shortly.

What happened to the dead bodies after big battles in history

That caveat out of the way, on the more definitive front, it’s noted that the ancient Greeks made an effort to respect the usual burial customs of the dead after a battle and collecting the bodies of the fallen wasn’t uncommon. For example, following the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC between Philip II of Macedonia and the Athenians, both sides buried their dead in accordance with the religious customs of the period; this was seemingly done both out of respect for the valor the dead showed in battle and to appease the gods.

With the exception of the Spartans, most ancient Greek societies also made efforts to bury their dead near the city they hailed from if time allowed it, though for the sake of practicality, mass graves or the like were sometimes utilizedinstead. In this case, cenotaphs were sometimes erected near their home city in honor of the fallen.

As noted, an exception to this are the Spartans who often buried fallen soldiers on the battlefield they were killed. Also somewhat unique was that rather than stripping the dead of valuables, as per Spartan tradition, each fallen Spartan was buried with their weapons and armor and their final resting place was marked by a simple tombstone with their name and an inscription that read (translated) “In War”.

What happened to the dead bodies after big battles in history

This was a special honor among the Spartans. If one were to die outside of battle, no such tombstone would be given and the person would simply be buried in an unmarked grave. The one exception to that was if a woman died in child birth, she too would be given the honor of a tombstone.

As for the Romans, most soldiers paid a small stipend each month to pay for funeral expenses should they fall in battle. As you might expect from this, the Romans made a conscious effort to recover the bodies of those who died and, if time allowed it, would bury or cremate them individually. If this wasn’t possible, the bodies of soldiers killed in battle would be collected and given a mass cremation or burial. In the event the bodies couldn’t be recovered, a cenotaph would be erected to serve as a monument to the individual.

The same cannot be said of later wars where there seems to have been an almost callous disregard for the fallen, and looting of the dead and dying was commonplace. For example, the Bayeux Tapestry depicting the Battle of Hastings in 1066 shows soldiers piling up the bodies of the dead and stripping them of their valuables. It’s believed that following this the bodies were quickly cremated or buried in nearby mass graves.

It should be noted here, however, that with the rise of Christianity, mass cremation, at least for a time, seems to have gone the way of the dodo in some regions, in favor of mass graves.

That said, despite the countless battles that occurred throughout Medieval Europe, archaeologists have had an extraordinarily difficult time actually finding any of the bodies. As one paper published in the Journal of Conflict Archeology, aptly titled “Where are the dead of medieval battles?“, notes:

Only a handful of mass graves from late medieval battles in Western Europe have been subject to large scale excavation to modern standards. The principal reason is that these, and indeed even early modern battlefield graves, have proven extremely elusive, most being identified by chance. Despite a few successes, no combination of prospecting techniques yet provides a consistently effective method of locating such small archaeological features set almost anywhere within a site covering many square kilometres…

Looking at much better documented times, looting of the dead was also extraordinarily common during the extremely deadly Napoleonic Wars, with soldiers and locals alike pilfering what they could find after battles. For example, consider this account from a British general following the Battle of Heilsberg in 1807:

The ground between the wood and the Russian batteries, about a quarter of a mile, was a sheet of naked human bodies, which friends and foes had during the night mutually stripped, although numbers of these bodies still retained consciousness of their situation. It was a sight that the eye loathed, but from which it could not remove.

And yes, as noted there, the severely wounded weren’t spared the indignity of being robbed of their worldly possessions as they lay dying. And worst of all, this was done not just by their enemies, but comrades as well. In fact, there are firsthand accounts from wounded soldiers who went on to survive their injuries detailing the shock of waking up completely naked.

What happened to the dead bodies after big battles in history

Illustration of Battle of Heilsberg.

Here’s a snippet of one such quote from a French soldier called Jean Baptiste de Marbot:

Stretched on the snow among the piles of dead and dying, unable to move in any way, I gradually and without pain lost consciousness…. I judge that my swoon lasted four hours, and when I came to my sense I found myself in this horrible position. I was completely naked, having nothing on but my hat and my right boot. A man of the transport corps, thinking me dead, had stripped me in the usual fashion, and wishing to pull off the only boot that remained, was dragging me by one leg with his foot against my body. The jerk which the man gave me no doubt had restored me to my senses. I succeeded in sitting up and spitting out the clots of blood from my throat. The shock caused by the wind of the ball had produced such an extravasation of blood, that my face, shoulders, and chest were black, while the rest of my body was stained red by the blood from my wound. My hat and my hair were full of bloodstained snow, and as I rolled my haggard eyes I must have been horrible to see. Anyhow, the transport man looked the other way, and went off with my property without my being able to say a single word to him, so utterly prostrate was I.

After being stripped of their belongings the dead, and occasionally still barely living, would often be buried in mass graves (sometimes with bodies from both sides unceremoniously thrown in). In general, this was either accomplished via the soldiers themselves doing it, or in many cases members of the local populace given the gruesome task. However, there are accounts of battles where thousands of bodies were simply left to the elements. For example, General Philippe de Ségur states in 1812:

After passing the Kologa, we marched on, absorbed in thought, when some of us, raising our eyes, uttered a cry of horror. Each one instantly looked about him, and there lay stretched before us a plain trampled, bare, and devastated, all the trees cut down within a few feet from the surface, and farther off craggy hills, the highest of which appeared misshapen, and bore a striking resemblance to an extinguished volcano. The ground around us was everywhere covered with fragments of helmets and cuirasses, with broken drums, gun-stocks, tatters of uniforms, and standards dyed with blood.
On this desolate spot lay thirty thousand half-devoured corpses…

It should also be noted here that beyond any possessions the bodies may have had on them before being stripped, the bodies themselves were also of value. For example, human scavengers would come through and rob the dead of their teeth, which would then be used to make dentures.

The Napoleonic Wars, and in particular the Battle of Waterloo, were such a boon to the British dental industry in this way that dentures were known as “Waterloo teeth” in the UK over a decade after it ended. Teeth from soldiers were highly sought after owing to predominately coming from relatively young men who still had reasonably good teeth, unlike many others that came from the more wizened dead.

In one account, one Astley Cooper met just such a tooth hunter and noted:

Upon asking this Butler, who appeared to be in a state of great destitution, what might be his object, he said it was to get teeth…but when I came to question him upon the means by which he was to obtain these teeth, he said, ‘Oh Sir, only let there be a battle, and there’ll be no want of teeth. I’ll draw them as fast as the men are knocked down.

Even more grimly, the bones of the dead of some of these battles were later collected and pulverized into fertilizer which was sold for a modest price across Europe. To quote an article from the The Observer written in 1822:

It is now ascertained beyond a doubt, by actual experiment on an extensive scale, that a dead soldier is a most valuable article of commerce; and, for aught known to the contrary, the good farmers of Yorkshire are, in a great measure, indebted to the bones of their children for their daily bread. It is certainly a singular fact, that Great Britain should have sent out such multitudes of soldiers to fight the battles of this country upon the continent of Europe, and should then import their bones as an article of commerce to fatten her soil!

The remains of soldiers were also sometimes collected for use in souvenirs of major battles. For example, poet Eaton Stannard Barrett wrote, “I know one honest gentleman, who has brought home a real Waterloo thumb, nail and all, which he preserves in a bottle of gin.”

What happened to the dead bodies after big battles in history

Battle of Waterloo, 1815.

Moving across the pond and slightly more recently in history, markedly more respect was shown for the dead during the American Civil War where teams of soldiers were tasked with burying the dead of both sides in simple mass graves, with great care being taken to ensure most soldiers received a proper burial.

Finally, to discuss WW1 and WW2, individual units were largely responsible for the disposal of their own dead with both Axis and Allied forces having their own rules for how this should be handled. For example, during WW2 Colonel Walther Sonntag of the Wehrmacht’s Casualty Office issued a comprehensive guide for military graves officers detailing how mass graves should be constructed.

Amongst other things the guidelines indicated that mass graves should be made as close to railway lines as possible and feature pathways with the intention being that they’d eventually be turned into war cemeteries. As the war raged on, these guidelines were largely ignored for the sake of practicality, leading to, as Der Spiegel puts it, “a surfeit of grave steles”.

As for the Allies, during WW2 burying the dead largely fell to individual soldiers, but some units dedicated to the task did exist, for example the United States Quartermaster Graves Registration Service. Tasked with finding and burying every fallen American soldier, the Quartermaster Graves Registration Service have been hailed as some of the unsung heroes of the War due to the general lack of recognition they’ve received since it ended.

Graves Registration units were exceptionally committed to their task and undertook their duties with a solemn sense of duty and determination, going to extraordinary lengths to identify bodies and perform the appropriate burial rights depending on the fallen soldier’s religious affiliation. When appropriate, GRS units would bury civilian, allied and axis casualties they came across, making sure to bury them in well-marked graves, the locations of which would be passed onto the relevant authorities.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Pentagon has plans for its own mini-space station. Here’s what it would do

Among defense experts the world over, there’s little doubt that warfare in the 21st century will be an orbital affair. From communications and reconnaissance to navigation and logistics, you’ll be hard-pressed to find an element of any modern nation’s military that operates without the use of space-born satellites, and as such, many nations are developing weapons aimed specifically at causing trouble high above our heads.

While the U.S. government may be no exception, as the reigning space-race champ, America has the lead, and as such, much more to lose in orbit than its national competitors. At least one element of the Pentagon has a plan to help keep it that way: an orbiting space station purpose-built to support a fleet of defensive space drones.


What happened to the dead bodies after big battles in history

Which beats out my proposal to just start dropping bombs from the ISS, I suppose.

(NASA Image)

You might be imagining a space station equipped with the latest defense gadgets, science experiments meant to usher in the next era of orbital weapons, and of course, enough utility to support a wide variety of Pentagon directives in the dark skies around our pale blue dot… and you’d be right on all counts… but where this new initiative breaks from fantasy is in its size. The Pentagon’s proposed space station wouldn’t be built to sustain any kind of manned presence whatsoever, at least for now.

The proposed orbital outpost received a great deal of media attention recently thanks to an industry solicitation posted by the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit (DIU). Put simply, the solicitation is seeking companies that want to compete for a chance to help launch a self-contained orbital facility that’s “capable of supporting space assembly, microgravity experimentation, logistics and storage, manufacturing, training, test and evaluation, hosting payloads, and other functions.”

What happened to the dead bodies after big battles in history

“Rock, paper, scissors. Winner gets a new space station.”

(Courtesy of NASA)

The DIU envisions an orbital outpost that’s equipped with robotic arms to manage assembly and even potentially repair duties for other orbital assets. That means this unmanned installation could feasibly be used to build autonomous satellite drones in space meant to help protect America’s large and rather undefended constellation of satellites.

The tiny outpost would have a payload capacity of just 176 pounds (or 80 kilograms if you live in a nation that’s never sent people to the moon), and would offer only a small 3 foot by 3 foot by 4 foot enclosure. That may not be enough room to house any members of the space infantry, but it would be enough to work on things like cube-sats, which are small, inexpensive satellites built to serve specific purposes in orbit and beyond.

Because the reality of war in space could be as mundane as simply nudging a satellite out of its orbit, cube-sats and other small platforms could actually play a massive role in orbital combat operations. A fleet of inexpensive satellites could provide system redundancy by temporarily filling service gaps as other assets are destroyed or interfered with by enemy platforms. They could also engage with or deter enemy systems (be they satellites or weapons themselves).

What happened to the dead bodies after big battles in history

The X-37B sits on the Vandenberg Air Force base runway after spending months in space without any grubby human mitts changing the radio station.

(U.S. Air Force photo/ Michael Stonecypher)

Thanks to advances in 3-D printing and a rash of commercial interest in orbital manufacturing in recent years, it seems entirely possible that an orbital outpost like the one proposed by the DIU could eventually support a broader space defense initiative, but it also seems unlikely that this specific enterprise would ever expand far enough to add human support to the equation, but then, humans may need to be present anyway.

Russia and China are both already believed to operate orbital weapons platforms that behave like autonomous satellites and the Air Force’s secretive space plane known as the X-37B operates in orbit for months at a time without any use for human hands. Star Wars may indeed eventually come to fruition, but at least for now, it looks like the fighting will be up to R2-D2, with all of us Skywalkers just watching anxiously from the ground.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Macedonia has to change its name before joining NATO

NATO approved its newest member on Feb. 6, 2019, after Macedonia agreed to change its name to secure admission.

All 29 members of NATO signed the accession protocol for Macedonia, beginning a process of ratification that is likely to result in the Balkan state joining the world’s most powerful military alliance.

Macedonia has been trying to join NATO since it became independent 28 years ago. But every application had been blocked by neighboring Greece because of a regional dispute over Macedonia’s name.


Greece agreed to stop blocking Macedonia if it formally renamed itself the Republic of North Macedonia. Lawmakers in both countries in June 2018 agreed to the deal, known as the Prespa Agreement, which is due to take effect soon.

What happened to the dead bodies after big battles in history

Permanent representatives of the 29 members of NATO signed the Accession Protocol for the future Republic of North Macedonia in Brussels.

(NATO)

Greece objected to the name Macedonia — which the country adopted in 1991 when Yugoslavia collapsed — because Macedonia is also the name of a region of Greece. Politicians in Greece argued that the name suggested the country had ambitions to one day rule Greek Macedonia as well.

Greece also argued that Macedonia was wrongly associating itself with the historical figure Alexander the Great, also known as Alexander III of Macedon, even though he came from modern-day Greece.

Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov told the Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak in January 2019 that the name change could happen in “a matter of days.”

What happened to the dead bodies after big battles in history

The name Alexander spread through Europe in the 4th century thanks to Alexander the Great.

According to NATO’s processes, all 29 members, including Greece, would need to ratify the accession.

Any country could technically veto it. But that’s unlikely, as the only one to object had been Greece until the Prespa Agreement:Macedonia would change its name, and in return Greece would stop blocking its NATO membership.

If the other 29 members ratify the accession, Macedonia would then pass its own ratification legislation, at which point it would become a NATO member.

The decision to change the name split the country. An advisory referendum in late 2018 was rejected because of low voter turnout. The country’s parliament later agreed to the change.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg described Feb. 6, 2019, as “a historic day.”

The latest country to join NATO was Montenegro in 2017. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, and Ukraine have expressed interest in joining.

Countries aspiring to join NATO have to demonstrate that they are in a position to further the principles of the 1949 Washington Treaty and contribute to security in the Euro-Atlantic area.

They are also expected to meet certain political, economic, and military criteria, including spending a minimum proportion of gross domestic product on their militaries.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The American howitzer you never heard much about

Some artillery pieces become very famous. Some of the most notable are the French 75 of World War I, or the Napoleons used during the Civil War, or the German 88. But some are less well-known, but packed a big punch – or long range – of their own.


One such artillery piece is the M107 self-propelled howitzer. This 175mm artillery piece entered service in 1962, alongside the M110, an eight-inch self-propelled howitzer. It could fire shells as far as 25 miles away – and this long range proved very handy during the Vietnam War.

What happened to the dead bodies after big battles in history
SGT Max Cones (gunner) fires a M107, 175mm self-propelled gun, Btry C, 1st Bn, 83rd Arty, 54th Arty Group, Vietnam, 1968. (US Army photo)

The M107 is not like the M109 self-propelled howitzer in that it is open, and lacks both a turret and on-board ammunition storage. As such, it needed its ammo vehicles nearby to provide shells. The M107 was fast for an armored vehicle, with a top speed of 50 miles per hour, and could go almost 450 miles on a single tank of fuel.

The M107s used the same chassis as the M110s. In fact, Olive-Drab.com reported that the two self-propelled howitzers could exchange guns, thus a M107 could become a M110, and vice versa. This was used to good effect in Vietnam, where the barrels could be swapped as needed at firebases. Israel also used the M017 for decisive effect in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, destroying a number of Syrian and Egyptian surface-to-air missile batteries, and even shelling Damascus.

What happened to the dead bodies after big battles in history
A gun crew member from 1st Battalion, 83rd Arty, takes a short break on top of the loading mechanism of his self-propelled 175 while waiting for further instructions. (US Army photo)

According to GlobalSecurity.org, the M107 fired only one type of conventional round, the M347 high-explosive round. The gun didn’t see service long past the Vietnam War. The M107 had a long reach, but it was not accurate – rounds like the laser-guided Copperhead or the GPS-guided Excalibur had not been developed yet.

An extended barrel for the M110 was developed, and in the late 1970s many M107s were converted to the M110A2 standard. The M110s eventually were replaced by the M207 MLRS.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Zimbabwe is the first African country to reject China’s influence

Zimbabwe’s opposition leader has pledged to rid the country of investment from China if he wins the nation’s upcoming July 2018 elections.

Nelson Chamisa, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change told crowds at a rally in the capital city of Harare on May 1, 2018, that China was “asset-stripping” the country’s resources.


“I have seen the deals that Ngwena [President Emmerson Mnangagwa] has entered into with China and others, they are busy asset-stripping the resources of the country,” he said.

Chamisa promised to change the country’s current relationship with China pending a victory.

“I have said, beginning September 2018, when I assume office, I will call the Chinese and tell them the deals they signed are unacceptable and they should return to their country.”

The 2018 elections will be the first since the relatively-peaceful coup and subsequent resignation of former president Robert Mugabe in 2017. Mugabe was effectively ousted as president after serving for more than 30 years, with former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa stepping in to take his place.

What happened to the dead bodies after big battles in history
Robert Mugabe

Chamisa took lead over the opposition party following the February 2018 death of their former leader Morgan Tsvangirai, and will challenge Mnangagwa in July 2018.

China and Zimbabwe have maintained strong economic ties under Mugabe’s rule.

Since 2003, Zimbabwe’s “Look East” policy has focused on expanding bilateral trade with Asia, and it has become increasingly focused on China over time.

China is Zimbabwe’s largest source of investment, investing billions into the country’s economy over the last decade.

China has also heavily invested in projects including extensions to airports, construction of a new parliament building, and repairing water supplies between Harare and surrounding town, according to The Herald.

But China has faced growing criticism for its foreign investments projects.

China has spent billions in Africa as part of its Belt and Road Initiative, and often seeks collateral in the form of natural resources.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY FIT

Why you should be training, not exercising

Though the distinction between training and exercising might seem unimportant — it isn’t. How you label your physical activity says more about you, your mindset, and your probable rate of success than any PFT score ever could.

I first saw this difference at The Basic School in Quantico. Some of my peers were former college athletes, and a few were training in our off-time for an upcoming marathon. These peers had goals and a plan to achieve them. The rest of us were just doing what I now call “exercising,” random workouts on random days, inconsistently.


What happened to the dead bodies after big battles in history

I’m on the far left, standing and squinting.

(Photo by Michael Gregory)

The Marines who were actually training were the only ones I knew who could keep a solid schedule and maintain their fitness levels during The Basic School. The rest of us got by on an ever-dwindling fitness reservoir that was nearly empty by the time I finally finished the school.

I finally started applying this training mentality to fitness during the Marine Corps Martial Arts Instructor Course. The course itself was a constant physical beat-down, but in the few classroom lectures, we were taught how to set up a MCMAP and combat conditioning plan for our units. It was then that I realized I could design a plan to become progressively more difficult as fitness levels increase, the same way a pre-deployment workup gets more complicated as the deployment date nears.

What happened to the dead bodies after big battles in history

A classic case of the slay fest.

(Photo by Cpl. Brooke C. Woods USMC Recruit Depot San Diego)

How I loathed unit PT…

I used to think I hated PT just because I disliked being told what to do.

I have come to realize I actually hated unit PT because it is exercise and not training.

Most units plan solid workups to prepare each member of the unit to the max extent possible with all the skills and proficiencies needed for when they are actually ‘in country.’ This is training, a clear plan that progressively increases in difficulty and complexity with an end state in mind.

I have rarely seen physical fitness approached in the same logical way in unit PT.

Most units approach PT in one of two ways: as a slay fest or a joke.

  1. A Slay Fest: (n) from the ancient Greek Slayus Festivus, meaning make as many people puke or stroke out as possible in an effort to assert physical dominance and make less-fit service members feel inadequate.
  2. A Joke: just going through the motions and checking the quarterly unit PT requirement box.

Neither one of these has the intention of making better the members of the unit. In fact, slay fests often lead to injuries which have the opposite effect on unit readiness, while potentially initiating a hazing investigation because a junior NCO decided to play drill instructor.

What happened to the dead bodies after big battles in history

Is this a training session or exercise? …Seriously though, what is this?

(Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash)

The difference between training and exercising

In the Marine Corps, I saw what could be accomplished when a proper training plan is followed to the most minute detail. I also saw what type of chaos or indifference towards fitness can result from no plan and/or unchecked egos.

This is why you should be training. The most successful athletes are those that have a plan in place that works them towards a goal. I’m a firm believer that everyone is an athlete no matter what your job or current station in life.

Marines are constantly reminded that it doesn’t matter what your MOS is, you could find yourself in combat and you better be prepared for it. Even though some roll their eyes at the idea of a finance technician lobbing grenades in a firefight, they still have an underlying feeling of pride that this is a potentiality.

What happened to the dead bodies after big battles in history

Promotion on Iwo Jima. I swore to not waste anyone’s time with exercise on that day.

(Photo by Jeremy Graves)

I carry that with me to this day. Constantly thinking about what I would do if a fight breaks out — or if ‘patient zero’ of the zombie apocalypse strolls into my part of town — doesn’t keep me awake at night in dread. It keeps me awake at night in giddy anticipation because I’m training for that sh*t every. Damn. Day.

Of course, your reason for training doesn’t need to be so heavy, violent, or world-altering. Simply wanting to be able to throw a perfect spiral with your future son is a perfect reason to be training. If you need a more immediate time frame, choose a challenge: sign up for an adventure race, a marathon, an adult sports league, or a powerlifting meet (I just took second in my first meet and got a free t-shirt #winning #tigerblood). Train for the on-season or the event day.

As a member of the military community, it’s in your blood to conduct work-ups. Now it’s your turn to determine where and when that “deployment” is and how you train for it. Exercise is a word for people who throw out their back trying to get the gallon of Arizona Iced Tea off the bottom shelf and into their grocery cart. They need exercise; you need to be training.

What happened to the dead bodies after big battles in history
MIGHTY HISTORY

This WWII soldier went rogue and fought until 1974

Some legends are strange enough to be true, like this Japanese soldier who fought for nearly three decades after the war had ended. Hiroo Onada was a commando class “Futamata” intelligence officer for the Imperial Japanese Army. Originally enlisting in the infantry at 18 years old, by 1944 — at 22 — he made it to the rank of lieutenant and was deployed to the Philippines. 

Onada’s official orders were to do “all he could” to prevent allied attacks or advancements on Lubang Island. In addition, he was ordered not to surrender or take his own life. Some of his tactics included destroying an airstrip and seeking out enemy propaganda and covert operations. 

His last order was received in 1945 and it said to keep fighting. And he did. 

Hiroo Onada
Profile photo of Hiroo Onoda as a young officer.

At first, Onada didn’t get the memo. Most Japanese soldiers on the island had been captured or killed. But he remained with a few other soldiers — as Onada was the highest-ranking among them, he ordered everyone to take to the woods.

Then he didn’t believe the memo. Soldiers continued to use their guerilla training to survive, evading attempted rescue missions, assuming they were enemy attacks. They were approached by Japanese soldiers with newspaper headings about the end of the war, but having studied propaganda, Onada believed them to be false. 

With the mindset that the war was ongoing, they attacked people on walks or who neared the area, often killing them. They, too, were injured and killed by local authorities, until only Onada survived.

The soldiers lived off of bananas and coconuts, as well as food that they stole from locals, mainly rice and killing nearby cows for meat. They lived in bamboo huts but dealt with rough elements, like tropical heat and mosquitos. 

However, the soldiers kept their rifles working, mended their uniforms and maintained accountability of their ammunition. 

Onada surrenders 

In 1959, he was officially declared dead … until a student went out on a hunch, searching for the missing man. Norio Suzuki found Onada and pleaded for him to return to Japan with him. Onada refused, but Suzuki had taken photos for proof and sent them to the Japanese government. The Emperor himself sent Onada’s brother and his commanding officer to officially relieve him of duties. The latter was, by-then, elderly and working as a bookseller. 

It’s said that Onada saluted and wept upon hearing he was relieved of duty. He officially surrendered to the Philippines and was pardoned for the crimes he committed, as they were made under the assumption of war.

The soldier was returned to Japan and was named a wartime hero. He was deeply regarded for his extreme loyalty and commitment to his country. At 52, he was met by his aging parents and crowds of cheering citizens who celebrated his return home. 

Only one soldier held out longer than Onada, fighting the war decades after it had ended; he was captured later that year in 1974 in Indonesia. 

Life after the war

Determined to be in excellent health, Onada went on to live a long life. He got married, raised cattle, took dancing lessons, but ultimately struggled with modern materialism. 

He passed away in 2014 at 91 years of age. 

MIGHTY HISTORY

What happened to the German mercenaries who fought against the American Revolution

Everyone knows about the famous crossing of the Delaware, where General Washington surprised the Hessians in the darkness of late Christmas Day. But who were the infamous Hessians that Washington and his men killed and wounded by the score? And what happened to the ones who didn’t get killed by the Continental Army? As it turns out, Hessian mercenaries liked freedom as much as any other colonial immigrant, because many just stuck around.


Which was fine after the war, but during the war they were very unwelcome – because looting people’s homes is a real turn off.

What happened to the dead bodies after big battles in history

Not the first time Americans would have to put Germans in their place. And not the last.

The Hessians were not technically mercenaries but contract armies fighting for Britain from the German states of Hesse- Cassel and Hesse-Hanau. Though German troops contracted under British control came from other principalities, they were referred to as “Hessians” as a whole by the colonists. Britain used Hessian troops to control large populations, especially in Ireland and the American Colonies. The use of these troops was one of the reasons the Americans would declare their independence from the crown. Though more than capable fighters, the British used them as guards and garrison troops, which is how they found themselves when Washington surprised them that Christmas night.

When Hessians were captured, especially after the Battle of Trenton, they would be paraded through the streets. The colonists’ anger toward their mother country using “foreign mercenaries” to subdue them was infuriating and increased military enlistments for the Continental Army. They would then be used as a source of labor while they were prisoners of war, often working on farms. The Continental Congress also offered each Hessian who would defect to the American cause 50 acres of land for their effort.

What happened to the dead bodies after big battles in history

What Hessians see when they aren’t defecting.

Many German troops ended up in Lancaster, Penn. working alongside the Pennsylvania Dutch, who, by nature, treated the Germans very well. In all, German POWs had such a great experience in American farms and fields that they would sometimes join the Continental Army. Some 30,000 men came from German states to fight against the American Revolution. While more than 7,500 of them died in the fighting, the rest did not and when it came time to go home, many didn’t want to go.

So they stayed.

Only an estimated 17,300 of the original 30,000 Hessian soldiers opted to return to their principalities in the German states. The rest decided to make their way in the new United States or head to Canada to try out a new life up there. Life in the armies of German princes was not always so good and the troops were not always well-paid for their efforts. Starting a new life in a country where their future was their own to make was a natural step for many of the well-trained, hardworking Germans.

They could finally celebrate Christmas without worrying about Americans surprising them in their sleep.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia’s new spy drone is disguised as a snowy owl, and its purpose is deadly

Russia has developed a new combat surveillance drone disguised as a bird of prey, in this case an owl, The Moscow Times reported June 25, 2019.

The drone, a Technopolis Era project resembling a snowy owl choking on a mouthful of electronic equipment, appeared at the defense ministry’s annual military expo. The unmanned aerial vehicle is reportedly equipped with a laser that gives it the ability to guide artillery and laser-guided bombs.


Weighing only 5 kilograms, it can be carried and launched by one person, the developers told TASS, a Russian state-owned news agency. The company has also developed a falcon drone. It is said to be able to fly for up to 40 minutes and cover distances up to 20 kilometers, or 12 miles.

Creating drones that look like birds is a concept Russian unmanned aerial systems developers have been looking closely at for a while. The Zhukovsky-Gagarin Air Force Academy, for instance, presented a owl-shaped design last year.

“What’s interesting is that Russian designers are thinking creatively about UAV applications,” Samuel Bendett, a research analyst at the Center for Naval Analyses, told C4ISRNET at the time, explaining, “Biomimicry allows UAVs to operate in areas where a ‘regular’-looking UAV would have been sighted and eliminated.”

“In Russia’s part of Eurasia where hunting birds like owls, falcons and eagles are very common, a UAV that looks like a bird can become an invaluable ISR asset,” he added. “It can basically ‘hide’ in plain sight.” Up close, it is easy to see that the drone is, in fact, a machine, but at a distance, it becomes much harder to tell it apart from a bird in flight.

The stated purpose of the design showcased last year was to track tanks and other vehicles and then direct fire to those positions.

Drones with biomimetic designs, while strange, are not all that new.

A few years ago, a crude drone resembling a bird and believed to be the property of the Somali government crashed in Mogadishu. Robotic birds have been tested in Canada to scare birds away from airports. And China has designed recon drones that fly, move, and look like doves for domestic surveillance operations.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why war with Iran might be a lot more difficult than the US thinks

If the U.S. experience in Iraq and Afghanistan should have taught us anything, it’s that no war can be expected to just be that easy, especially if the ultimate goal is regime change. This is something that military leadership generally recognizes—especially since those conflicts are still going on after more than a decade. For those who have not experienced it, however, it can be easier to forget.


What happened to the dead bodies after big battles in history

And we might have been fighting Iran for a significant chunk of that period.

The Iranians are definitely outgunned, as the Washington Post reported on June 21, 2019. But as the Post reports and as the Millennium Challenge Exercises go to show, a war with the Islamic Republic could be a very costly one. In the Millennium Challenge, Retired Marine Gen. Paul van Riper was tasked with leading the fictional Iran against a U.S. carrier force. The short version is that Van Riper wiped the floor with the U.S., using only assets Iran had in the real world.

Read: That time a Marine general led a fictional Iran against the US military

Iran’s numbers are substantial, more than a million men in arms against an invader, not counting the Revolutionary Guards, which numbers around another 150,000 troops.

What happened to the dead bodies after big battles in history

That’s just in terms of manpower. Keep in mind Iran used human waves very well during the eight-year Iran-Iraq War. While Iran is pretty much using the same planes, F-4 and F-14 fighters, as it did against Iraq in the 1980s, they do operate with a powerful anti-air missile screen. Even with their best pilots, however, this may not be enough to keep the U.S. from getting total air superiority, and Iran has a plan for that.

In order to keep naval forces at bay, the Islamic Republic Army is expected to use small-boat tactics for use against a much larger enemy, swarming around and laying mines while hassling international shipping, which could be the most dangerous casualty of such a war. The biggest issue is still yet to come.

What happened to the dead bodies after big battles in history

Iranian proxies like Hezbollah are another region issue.

Iran has tens of thousands of unconventional troops and fighters with proxy forces in the region, projecting Iranian power and influence from its borders with Afghanistan in the east all the way throughout Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon in the west and beyond. These proxy forces have been harassing American and allies positions for decades. Any outbreak of open hostilities will only embolden those forces to step up their attacks against U.S. troops and ships in the Persian Gulf region.

The United States enjoys a superior technological and numerical advantage over Iran, but the Iranians aren’t going to just crumble and surrender to helicopters the way Iraqi forces have done in the past.

MIGHTY HISTORY

World War II vets rebuilt an APC to drive through the Iron Curtain

On July 25, 1953, seven Czechoslovakians rolled across one of the most heavily guarded borders in the world to freedom in the West. They rolled over three rows of barbed wire, land mines, and guard towers on their way into West Germany. The Czech border guards didn’t even try to stop them. No one fired a shot. They all just watched in stunned disbelief as the Nazi armored personnel vehicle just tore its way across the Iron Curtain.


The story of Vaclav Uhlik is a success story for American soft power, specifically the Cold War-era broadcasts of Radio Free Europe. Uhlik was an engineer in the new, Soviet-dominated Czechoslovakia following the end of World War II. He was a concentration camp survivor, a fighter for the Czech Underground, and mechanic who hid a big secret from the new Communist authorities in his country: there was an armored vehicle in his backyard – and he was rebuilding it.

For three years, he listened to the broadcasts of Radio Free Europe as he gathered parts and materials needed to get the APC operational again. The broadcasts gave him hope. His progress gave him patience. He was assisted by former Czech soldiers Walter Hora and Vaclav Krejciri in his efforts, and they were rewarded by riding in the vehicle the night it was to drive to the West.

What happened to the dead bodies after big battles in history

The Czech-West German Border in 1980.

(Photo by Alan Denney)

Starting nearly from scratch, the men slowly reconstructed a battered Nazi Saurer RR-7 Artillery Tractor. Vaclav Uhlik, the engineer, rebuilt the vehicle as an armored personnel carrier. He made it large enough to carry himself, his wife and two children, the two veterans, Josef Pisarik, and Libuse Hrdonkova, a Czech woman who married an American after the war. Since he could only stay with her for three months, she decided to come to him in Iowa.

After years of tinkering and preparation, the modified RR-7, covered in the brush and foliage that hid it from Czechoslovakian authorities for so long, rumbled its way to the West German border. They drove through the Bavarian forest to the Wald-München (near Nuremberg) border crossing. And he did cross the border, except he didn’t go through the gates, instead opting to go right through the rows of barbed wire between guard towers and minefields.

The border guards just watched in awe, as they thought the APC was a friendly army vehicle. The Czechs inside had only what they wore with them, but they were on the right side of the Iron Curtain.

What happened to the dead bodies after big battles in history

The seven Czechs drove the APC for several miles into West Germany and away from the border until they were stopped by West German police, taken to an American installation to be interviewed by intelligence officers, and then welcomed to their new home in the West. They would eventually be resettled in Springfield, Mass. – all except Hrdonkova. She would move to Sioux City, Iowa, to be with her long-separated husband.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia absolutely hates these American weapons in Europe

The U.S. Navy’s Aegis Combat System is primarily a defensive weapon (Aegis was first used in English as a synonym to “shield”), but it can also be used to attack enemy land and sea targets. Many American allies have sought to have Aegis installed on their ships or land installations, a trend that Russia hates and often protests.


What happened to the dead bodies after big battles in history

The Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex fires during a flight test in December 2018.

(Missile Defense Agency Mark Wright)

Aegis is a bit of a legend in the military community, especially air defense. The core of the system is an extremely capable radar that can operate through a months or even years-long cruise at sea if properly maintained. This, of course, allows the operators to track threats from ballistic missiles to navy vessels to surfaced submarines. But, when properly wedded to missiles, the Aegis gets the ability to attack these targets on land, at sea, or in the air.

For America’s allies around the world, this can be a godsend. Japan has to constantly worry about the possibility of a Korean nuclear missile attack. So, a package deal for highly capable radar and compatible missiles is highly desirable. But when Japan bought two of them for use ashore, Russia lodged protests.

Russia is a regional power. While it doesn’t have the might or clout of the Soviet Union, it did inherit a lot of the Soviet treaties and nearly all of the Soviet nuclear weapons when that nation collapsed. And so it doesn’t want to see its own missiles made obsolete in the unlikely chance of war with Japan, especially when it can lodge protests under treaties like the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

But when it comes to Europe, Russia is even more sensitive. The Soviet Union used to hold sway over all of Eastern Europe, but American diplomatic expansion after the Soviet collapse has allowed the U.S. to find friends in places like Ukraine, Poland, Estonia, and more that border Russia or its enclave at Kaliningrad.

And for the past few years, an American and European agreement has seen Aegis systems deployed on land in places like Romania and Poland with more sites to come. But Aegis Ashore has one huge difference from the Aegis systems at sea: what missiles its launchers can house and fire.

While Aegis ships at sea can be equipped with everything from Tomahawk Land-Attack Missiles to the entire family of Navy Standard Missiles, Aegis Ashore was initially equipped with just the ballistic defense missile known as Standard Missile-3. But some American leaders have floated the idea of adding the missiles SM-2 and SM-6, missiles capable of killing enemy cruise missiles, jets, and helicopters.

What happened to the dead bodies after big battles in history

Aegis Ashore Site in Poland under construction in August 2019.

(U.S. Navy Lt. Amy Forsythe)

For Russia, this creates obvious problems. While it has sought to fight in the so-called “grey zone” just short of open warfare in the last few years, it has previously invaded neighbors like Georgia and would like the option of doing so again. A network of missiles that could shred its jets would make the situation worse.

But Russia’s diplomatic protests against Aegis are all aimed at the Tomahawk missile, a potential treaty-violating weapon that would truly terrify Russia if deployed near its borders in large numbers. Aegis at sea can control these missiles and rain them down on America’s enemies like it did against Syria.

When America fired Tomahawks in the recent Syria strikes, Russia declined to engage the missiles or American bombers with its own air defenses, possibly because it isn’t certain it can actually take down the Tomahawks in significant numbers. Though, again, Aegis Ashore is specifically configured to be incapable of firing Tomahawks.

Russia is so against Aegis Ashore installations that it deployed strategic bombers to Crimea earlier this year to threaten the installations and NATO.

But as long as Aegis systems are going in across the world, Russia is going to be protesting. The Tomahawk problem is just the part they can protest against. It’s likely that the real problem for Russia is its missile threat being negated and its bombers and fighters threatened.

But, you know, sucks to be you, Russia. Get on our level.

MIGHTY SPORTS

The Seahawks have a Navy grad and JAG officer on their roster

Keenan Reynolds is living a double life. The breakout NFL wide receiver was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the sixth round in 2016 but eventually found himself in Seattle, taking passes from quarterback Russell Wilson. In his other life, however, he goes by the title Lieutenant Junior Grade Reynolds.


Reynolds is currently on the practice squad for the Seahawks, but the onetime Navy QB made his big league debut this year for Baltimore and later, Seattle. Except in the pros, he’s a wide receiver.

On the days when Reynolds isn’t wearing the Seahawks uniform, he’s decked out in another uniform: the U.S. Navy’s.

What happened to the dead bodies after big battles in history

Right now, Keenan Reynolds’ Navy work is as a cryptological warfare officer. He’s not allowed to go into further detail.

I can’t really give the details, to be honest with you,” the first-year wideout told the Seattle Times. “Just… we’ll just say cyber.”

His previous work with the Navy saw him as the starting quarterback for the Midshipmen in a stellar football career that saw him break the career rushing touchdown record, the NCAA touchdown record, and career total touchdowns along with the career passing yards records.

Most importantly, he was the only Navy QB to go 4-0 against Army.

What happened to the dead bodies after big battles in history

U.S. Naval Academy quarterback Keenan Reynolds was awarded the 86th AAU James E. Sullivan Award on April 10, 2016 at the New York Athletic Club. He shared the award with UConn women’s basketball player Breanna Stewart, who was not in attendance at the ceremony.

Reynolds was the last service academy football player to enter the NFL draft under Obama-era rules regarding academy exemptions. The Department of Defense used to offer elite athletes from its service academies a waiver to defer their active duty service and go into the ready reserve instead.

It allowed players like Keenan Reynold the chance to pursue NFL careers at a time when their chances are the best at being drafted. The rules granted these exemptions on a case-by-case basis. Those waivers were rescinded by the Trump Administration. Now, academy athletes will no longer have the option of a two-year service waiver.

Unfortunately for Reynolds, it was uncertainty about his service obligation that kept him from being invited to the 2016 NFL Combine.

What happened to the dead bodies after big battles in history

Reynolds was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in 2016.

“I’ve got eight years in the reserves,” he told the Baltimore Sun. “I am two years in. So, basically, I owe a certain number of drills a year, and a certain number of active-duty days.”

He went on to say that he was humbled to know he was the last of his kind to be granted a service waiver to pursue his football dreams, but he knows that his fellow academy grads will never give up on their own dreams. They’ll just go for it as soon as they can.

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