Worst Roman emperors, from incompetent to insane - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Worst Roman emperors, from incompetent to insane

Ancient Rome is credited with major contributions to modern day language, religion, law, art, and government. Indeed, the Roman Empire was filled with breathtaking architecture and an intricate and fascinating socio-economic culture. But it was also full of drama.

Most people know at least a few key facts about Julius Caesar and his infamous assassination on the Ides of March. But as the Roman Republic crumbled with him and the Roman Empire rose in its place, the rulers that came after him were no less controversial. Extravagance, executions, and extreme religious persecution stand at the forefront of many Roman emperor’s legacies. And that’s not mentioning the sex scandals.

So here’s a list of the absolute worst Roman emperors, in order from the mildly incompetent to the devastatingly unstable.

Worst Roman emperors, from incompetent to insane

Diocletian, 284-305 CE

Emperor Diocletian deserves some credit, as his rule marked the end of the Crisis of the Third Century. His governmental reforms are cited as being one of the main contributors to the Roman Empire’s longevity for the next millennium. Diocletian regained control over a wild military force, suppressed enemy threats along the Empire’s borders, and revised the tax system in a broken economy.

However, he’s also credited with one of the most brutal attempts to purge Christianity in history, which definitely resides in the “cons” column. Diocletian revoked the legal rights of Christians, trying to encourage his citizens back to a more traditional worship of the old Roman gods. He razed churches and destroyed religious scriptures, and went even further to prohibit Christian’s from even gathering to worship. After a suspicious fire within the imperial palace, Diocletian’s belief in a Christian conspiracy led to a spree of scourging, torture, and beheading.

In 305 CE, after becoming greatly weakened by a severe illness, Diocletian resigned from his rule, passing the torch to someone with the strength to bear the Empire’s burdens. The first person to willingly abdicate from the role, the former Emperor spent the rest of his days tending a vegetable garden—sounds like a pretty fulfilling retirement.

Worst Roman emperors, from incompetent to insane

Elagabalus, 218-222 CE

Elagabalus became Emperor at the tender age of 14, kicking off a reign that would be known for sex scandals and religious controversy—not exactly the sort of things you expect from someone fresh out of puberty.

Emperor Elagabalus started out in life as a high priest serving the Syrian sun god he shared a name with. When he came to rule over Rome, his devotion to the god drove him to try and elevate him to the same status as Jupiter, a move which greatly displeased the Empire. He even insisted upon marrying a Vestal Virgin, Aquilia Severa, which was in direct opposition to not only Roman tradition, but to the law.

On the more salacious side, it’s said that Elagabalus prostituted himself throughout the palace. He was married to five different women, and took on countless lovers of all sexes. He sent servants out into the city to procure lovers for him, and even opened the imperial baths up to the public to enjoy the spectacle of watching others bathe.

Some historians say that Elagabalus might have been one of the first transgender historical figures, offering large amounts of money to any physician who would be able to successfully administer gender reassignment surgery. This was regarded as wholly scandalous by the people of Rome, casting him in a negative light he couldn’t hope to overcome.

Elagabalus’s general incompetence on the throne led to the devaluation of the Roman currency. Showing his immaturity further, he began appointing lovers to crucial political positions. So while history tends to be unfavorable towards him for his personal choices, it does seem likely that he was unfit as an emperor mostly due to the fact that he was a literal child.

The Emperor’s youth did him no favors in the end, however. At 18 years old, Elagabalus and his eccentric behavior were brought to an end by the Praetorian Guard. After Elagabalus stripped his cousin’s titles and wealth, the Guard, who much preferred said cousin, rebelled against Elagabalus, killing both him and his mother in the violence.

Worst Roman emperors, from incompetent to insane

Tiberius, 13-37 CE

There were plenty of things that Emperor Tiberius did right. He avoided needless and financially draining military campaigns and instead relied heavily on diplomacy. He reinforced the borders of the Empire. He even kept the Empire’s treasury generously stocked.

However, Tiberius never really wanted to rule as emperor, and that was very apparent. He left many responsibilities to the Senate and was otherwise distant and reclusive. He left Rome in the middle of his reign—a decision widely regarded as the worst one he could possibly make—and opened himself up to a reputation fully up to interpretation.

Whether these claims are rooted in truth or based fully in fabrication is impossible to know at this point, but either way, Tiberius was hated enough to get tongues wagging with the most vicious of talk. During his stay on the island of Capri, Tiberius was accused of flinging people off of cliffs for minor slights and engaging in disturbing sexual acts with very young boys. While that doesn’t have very much to do with governing an empire, it’s pretty much the last thing you want out of a ruler.

Tiberius earned a reputation as a bloodthirsty emperor after a mess grew out of a man named Sejanus making a grab for power. Sejanus tried to set himself up as Tiberius’s next heir by assassinating Tiberius’s son. Tiberius, of course, called for the death of not only Sejanus, but of those who were associated with him—including his children.

It seems likely, too, that much of his bad reputation comes from his connection to Caligula, who you’ll hear much more of later.

Worst Roman emperors, from incompetent to insane

Caracalla, 211-217 CE

For the first 13 years of his reign, Caracalla ruled as a co-emperor alongside first his father, Septimius Severus, and then his brother, Geta. In 211 CE, he had his brother assassinated by the loyal members of his Praetorian Guard. Not satisfied, Caracalla went a step further to slaughter most of his brother’s supporters as well. In a further act of insult, Caracalla removed Geta’s image from paintings, coins, and statues, struck him from record, and made it an actual crime to utter his name.

On top of being generally regarded as a tyrannical and cruel emperor, Caracalla wasn’t all that effective in other aspects of his rule. He put into effect an edict which declared all free inhabitants of the Empire to be official citizens… so he could collect taxes from a wider base of people. He depleted much of the Empire’s funds trying to keep his army happy and often engaged in ruthless and unnecessary military campaigns.

Caracalla had an obsession with Alexander the Great, and in a fit of erratic behavior went on to persecute those philosophers of the Aristotelian school based solely off the legend that Aristotle poisoned Alexander. His behavior only got worse when, after discovering a play mocking him in the city of Alexandria, he dispatched his troops to massacre, loot, and plunder the city.

In 217 AD, Caracalla was stabbed to death by a defected soldier—an almost ironic end, considering his adoration for his own army.

Worst Roman emperors, from incompetent to insane

Maximinus Thrax, 235-238 CE

Emperor Maximinus Thrax was a very large man, and he was also largely hated. In direct contrast to Emperor Diocletian, he’s often considered to be the ruler who caused the Crisis of the Third Century. He brought Rome to near ruin with his exhaustive military campaigns, overextending his soldiers by dispatching them to multiple fronts at once.

His distrust and distaste for anyone apart from his army did him no favors and caused social instability. Maximinus even had members of his own family put to death. He was a man who preferred to rule by conquest rather than favor and became known for wrecking public property and setting fires to any village he passed through.

His short three-year rule ended in 238 CE, when members of the Imperial Roman army assassinated him alongside his son and advisors.

Worst Roman emperors, from incompetent to insane

Nero, 54-68 CE

Nero’s 14-year reign had some significant successes, including the negotiation of peace with the Parthian Empire and the quelling of Boudica’s revolt. While the upper class considered him overly extravagant and undignified, the lower classes of Rome actually had a strong positive opinion towards their ruler. This was true despite the fact that some of his methods leaned toward tyrannical madness. Seeing as he was only 16 years old when he took the throne, that’s not all that surprising—adolescence is hard.

In the beginning of his reign, Nero’s rule was closely guided by his mother, Agrippina the Younger, much as she had orchestrated Nero’s rise as emperor. Agrippina married his great-uncle and previous emperor, Claudius, and arranged for Nero to marry his new stepsister, Octavia. By 59 CE, an unexplained falling out caused Nero to order his troops to have her killed. This wouldn’t be the last time he organized a death.

In 62 CE, Nero divorced Octavia, citing that she was incapable of producing an heir. When his subjects looked negatively at this decision, he had Octavia exiled. Not long after that—either to further change public opinion or to solidify his claim to the throne—he accused her of adultery and had her put to death. His second wife, Poppaea Sabina, died in 65 CE. Some writers of ancient times say that Nero was responsible for this death, too, though others disagree.

Nero’s legacy as a madman is most closely tied to the Great Fire of Rome in 64 CE, which completely destroyed three of Rome’s 14 districts, leaving another seven heavily damaged. Many myths surround the terrible tragedy which killed hundreds of citizens, including the dramatically evil story of Nero fiddling as Rome fell to ashes.

In actuality, the fiddle wasn’t even in existence at the time. While some classical sources cite that Nero was on the roof of his palace singing from “The Sack of Ilium,” others place him dozens of miles away from the flames.

While it’s impossible to know the truth of the fire’s origins, many people blamed Nero directly for the destruction. It was believed that he was intentionally making way for a new city aesthetic. Whether out of genuine belief or a desperate attempt at scapegoating, Nero blamed the fire on followers of the growing Christian religion.

Nero set out to cruelly persecute the Christians, implementing an array of creative tortures and deaths, including wrapping them in animal skins to be torn apart by dogs.

After that, Nero’s rule started to crumble. Reconstruction efforts had stretched the Roman currency thin, and Nero’s indecision in dealing with further revolts caused widespread instability. In 68, his Praetorian Guard renounced their loyalty and declared Nero an enemy of the people. In one last dramatic flair, Nero committed suicide before he could be executed.

Worst Roman emperors, from incompetent to insane

Caligula, 37-41 CE

There aren’t many reliable surviving accounts of Caligula’s reign. Even if the myriad stories surrounding him are fabrications, he’d have to be pretty unpopular to generate that kind of libel in the first place.

To be fair, Caligula had a bit of a rough start in life. He was the sole survivor after his entire family perished either in imprisonment or directly at the hands of Emperor Tiberius. He was then taken in by the emperor and indulged in all of his worst whims, until Tiberius passed and Caligula took to the throne at 25 years old.

In the first six months of his rule, things actually went pretty well. He cut unfair taxes, recalled those sentenced to exile, and granted military bonuses to soldiers. However, after a strange illness overtook him, his recovery was shrouded in a madness that gave way to sadistic and perverse tendencies. He became known for uttering the phrase, “Remember that I have the right to do anything to anybody.”

Any perceived mockery from his subjects was met with the punishment of death. In fact, in his infinite paranoia, Caligula began sending those closest to him off to exile or death—including his adopted son. His cruelty led to him gaining a sense of satisfaction out of making parents watch as their children were killed.

His arrogance rose to new heights as he declared that he was an actual living god. Caligula even had the heads of statues of gods and goddesses replaced with his own.

Further accounts of his insanity include throwing an entire section of a gladiatorial audience into the arena to be eaten by beasts for his own amusement, planning to appoint his horse as a consul, and turning the palace into a veritable brothel.

Caligula was assassinated by the Praetorian Guard after only four years as emperor. The man was so hated by the Senate that they even rallied to have him erased from the record of Roman history. Thanks to this campaign, it remains unclear to this day what is fact and what is fiction in the Caligulan reign.

Worst Roman emperors, from incompetent to insane

Commodus, 180-192 CE

Commodus was appointed as a co-ruler by his father, Emperor Marcus Aurelius, in 177 CE. Marcus Aurelius died in 180 CE, leaving his narcissistic and self-indulgent son as the sole Emperor of Rome.

Because Caligula couldn’t be the only one to have all the fun, Commodus also thought himself to be a god, referring to himself as Hercules reborn and forcing others to follow suit. He swanned around the city in lion skins and participated in gladiatorial events—an act in which was considered scandalous for a ruler to partake.

What’s worse: He often chose to compete against weak soldiers who were sickly or maimed from the war, sometimes tying two of them together to club them to death with a single strike. To add insult to the already grave injury, he also exorbitantly charged Rome for his arena appearances.

Commodus’s self-love knew no bounds. He changed the calendar months to reflect his own self-bestowed epithets. He shamelessly exiled and executed his wife and proudly kept a harem of hundreds. He forced his advisors to take the fall for political blunders and had entire families slaughtered on suspicion of conspiracy.

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

New photos illustrate the large shows of force in disputed skies

The US military put on a show of force in China’s backyard on Sept. 26, 2018, as a US B-52H Stratofortress heavy long-range bomber linked up with Japanese Air Self-Defense Force fighter jets in the contested East China Sea.

US bombers have been increasingly active in both the East and South China Sea recently following a pattern of behavior set in August 2018, when the US sent B-52 bombers through the disputed seas four times in total.

These flights come at a time of increased tension between Washington and Beijing over both economic and military matters.


Worst Roman emperors, from incompetent to insane

A B-52H Stratofortress bomber and two JASDF F-15 fighter jets.

(PACAF photo)

The flight through the East China Sea was flown in support of Indo-Pacific Command’s Continuous Bomber Presence, Pacific Air Forces said in a statement on Sept. 27, 2018.

Source: Pacific Air Forces

Worst Roman emperors, from incompetent to insane

A B-52H Stratofortress bomber and two JASDF F-15 fighter jets.

(PACAF photo)

Worst Roman emperors, from incompetent to insane

A B-52H Stratofortress bomber and two JASDF F-15 fighter jets.

(PACAF photo)

Worst Roman emperors, from incompetent to insane

A U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bomber takes off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, for a routine training mission in the vicinity of the South China Sea and Indian Ocean, Sept. 23, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Quail)

B-52 bombers flew through the South China Sea once on Sept.23, 2018, and again on Sept. 25, 2018, showing off America’s capabilities over tense tides. Beijing warned the US against “provocative” military behavior in response.

Source: Business Insider and Reuters

Worst Roman emperors, from incompetent to insane

B-52H Stratofortress bomber taking off from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Quail)

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis says that these flights are only an issue because China made these seas global hot spots. “If it was 20 years ago and had they not militarized those features there it would have been just another bomber on its way to Diego Garcia or wherever,” he explained on Sept. 26, 2018.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This flawed government report triggered nuclear panic in Cold War

Anyone who survived the Cold War likely remembers the fear that, with almost no notice, an endless rain of Soviet missiles and bombs could begin that would end the war. Even if your city wasn’t hit, the number of nukes that America and Russia would have exchanged would have ended the war. But there was a problem: the Soviet Union had a tiny fraction of the missiles necessary. The confusion can be traced back to one flawed report.


In the early 1950s, rumors were growing that the Soviet Union was developing better ballistic missiles, massive weapons that took off, reached a high altitude, and then fell on or near a specified target. Early ballistic missiles were used in World War II, and they were unguided and crude weapons.

But the U.S. and Russia had seized as many German scientists as they could in the closing days of World War II, and the U.S. and the Soviet Union were each suspicious of what the other was doing with the co-opted scientists. If the Soviet Union was concentrating on missile research, they could beat America to space, and they might get a massive missile arsenal that could deliver nuclear warheads by the dozens.

And then the Soviets launched a missile test, sending a ballistic missile 3,000 miles across Siberia and other Soviet territories.

Worried about the possibility of Soviet attacks, President Dwight D. Eisenhower assembled a panel to try and figure out how many nuclear warheads, bombs, and ballistic missiles the Soviet Union might have, as well as how to defend against them. Two brilliant scientists led the research into the ballistic missile numbers.

Worst Roman emperors, from incompetent to insane

Intercontinental ballistic missiles are a highly inefficient way to deliver warheads, but they’re also hard to defend against and you don’t have to risk the lives of your own troops to attack your enemy.

(National Museum of the U.S. Air Force)

Herb York was part of the scientific director at Livermore Laboratory, a nuclear research lab. And Jerome Weisner was a science adviser to the president. They were both capable men, but they had to do their research with very little information.

They figured out how much factory floor space the Soviet Union had and then tried to work out how many rockets they could build per year. But they didn’t know how much of that factory floor space was actually dedicated to rocket production, whether sufficient quantities of materiel was dedicated to the cause, or how efficient the Soviet’s manufacturing methods were.

So York and Weisner prepared a worst-case number to the president. Basically, if the Soviets were as efficient as America in rocket production, dedicated most of their available factory space to the effort, and gave sufficient labor and materiel to the project, they could produce thousands of missiles in just a few years. That was at least one new missile a day, and potentially as many as three to five missiles, each capable of taking out an American city.

Now, this wasn’t a complete stab in the dark. York and Weisner had looked at Soviet factory output, and there was a curious gap between America and the Soviet Union on the production of consumer goods and some war materials. Basically, Soviet factories were either drastically under producing, or else they were producing something hidden from America.

And what America did know of Soviet re-armament after World War II indicated a nation that was preparing for war. They had rapidly developed an arsenal of atomic and then nuclear bombs, produced hundreds of heavy bombers, then developed capable jet engines and re-built their air force for the jet age, all while churning out thousands of radar systems and armored vehicles and tanks.

So, if you thought the Soviet Union had a lot of unused factory space and wanted to create a massive missile capability, you would probably assume that they were going to churn them out by the thousands, just like they had with radar and other capabilities.

Worst Roman emperors, from incompetent to insane

Explosions like this, but in American cities. It’s a problem.

(U.S. Navy)

And York and Weisner’s numbers were included in the document Deterrence Survival in the Nuclear Age, better known as the Gaither Report in November 1957. It was supposed to be secret, but it quickly leaked, and the American people suddenly learned that the Soviets might already have hundreds of missiles with thousands on the way.

Oh, and Sputnik had just launched, so it was clear to the public that Soviet missile technology was ahead of American. Eisenhower tried to play down the report, and might have comforted some people, but plenty of others saw it as a sign that he was hiding an American weakness.

And so the idea of a “missile gap,” that the U.S. was far behind the Soviet Union in terms of missile technology and numbers was born. This set off a short-lived panic followed by years of anxiety. It also underlined the importance of two other aspects of the Gaither Report: deterrence by America’s nuclear arsenal and survival through shelters and, later, civil defense.

America would drastically increase its missile development and other aspects of its nuclear arsenal, seeking to close the gap from the Eisenhower through the Kennedy administrations. But, under Kennedy, the U.S. would learn through improved spy satellite and plane imagery that the missile gap actually went the other direction.

America’s arsenal was massively larger than the Soviets’. At the time of the Gaither report, the Soviet Union only had four intercontinental ballistic missiles, the really capable ones.

And, instead of building thousands by 1960, they constructed about 100 more in the first few years after 1957.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This ‘Nasty Nick’ obstacle course is part of SF Heritage

North Carolina’s Camp Mackall is not your average US Army training facility. It is home to the Nasty Nick Special Forces Obstacle Course, one of the toughest obstacle courses ever created. In order to complete Special Forces training, men and women must pass Nasty Nick, and it’s no cakewalk.

Who was Nasty Nick?

Nasty Nick is named after its creator, a Vietnam War veteran, the late US Army Special Forces Colonel James “Nick” Rowe. Col. Rowe was a Prisoner of War during the Vietnam War. He was held captive for over five years. Col. Row is one of only 34 American POWs to make it out alive. 

After that brutal experience, Rowe took all he knew about what it’s like to be a POW to make an obstacle course. Today, it serves as a survival, evasion, resistance and escape training program – SERE school. Since its creation, all Special Forces Soldiers have had to complete Nasty Nick before they are officially able to be sworn in. 

US Army photo

Phobias and the Special Forces don’t mix 

Nasty Nick includes 25 obstacles that span across two miles. They are specifically designed to confront candidates’ fear of confined spaces and heights, not to mention test strength and stamina overall, both physically and mentally. Additionally, without upper body strength, coordination, and balance, making it through the course is nearly impossible. The idea behind this training is to prove that they’d be reliable in real-life situations that those in the Special Forces are likely to encounter. 

One of Nasty Nick’s obstacles is a 50-foot wall that Special Forces candidates have to climb over with no safety rope. A fall could be deadly, but this is exactly the kind of test needed to make sure all Special Forces officers are prepared for the things they will inevitably have to face on the job. Fear of heights is just not compatible with the Special Forces. 

US Army photo

They don’t call it ‘Nasty Nick’ for nothing

Special Forces operations often occur in urban environments, meaning that Soldiers have to be ready for anything that comes at them. For instance, their hands should be on a weapon instead of holding on to something for balance. After all, there might be bullets flying at them, and they’ll need to defend themselves. 

Nasty Nick tests many of these more subtle abilities. Not only do Soldiers have to make it through the course, but it’s also timed. That means simply getting through isn’t enough. The method of getting through is important too. Crawling out of fear when you could be walking won’t cut it. Yet it’s all necessary to prove that any and all Special Forces will be able to perform accordingly when they need to.

Related: The intriguing history of the term special operator

MIGHTY HISTORY

7 craziest moments in Army history

The U.S. Army is the oldest American military branch, tracing its lineage back to when the Continental Congress stood up its first riflemen in June 1775. But in over 240 years of Army history, you’re bound to end up with some insane moments.


Here are seven of the U.S. Army’s craziest:

1. When it teamed up with Nazis and prisoners of war to defeat the SS

 

Worst Roman emperors, from incompetent to insane
Schloss Itter (Itter Castle) in July 1979. (Photo: S.J. Morgan. CC BY-SA 3.0)

In May 1945, Germany was collapsing and it was obvious that the war in Europe was almost done. As it ended, Allies raced to secure evidence of war crimes and the Nazis worked to destroy it. This led to what has been dubbed World War II’s “strangest battle.”

American tankers rushed to where high-profile prisoners of war were held in Itter Castle in Austria. As a group of drunk SS soldiers marched on the castle to kill the POWs, the Americans offered to help the Wehrmacht defend themselves so that the SS couldn’t kill the POWs and all witnesses.

So, U.S. soldiers, German soldiers, and local resistance fighters fought side-by-side and saved the lives of the prisoners. The friendly German commander was killed in the six hours of fighting before U.S. reinforcements arrived and pushed back the surviving SS members.

2. When it created an imaginary division with inflatable tanks

Worst Roman emperors, from incompetent to insane
Plate of Peas Production | YouTube

While the D-Day landings themselves were quite possibly the Army’s finest hour as multiple divisions landed next to its British and Canadian counterparts, the top-secret mission to mislead German intelligence during the Normandy Campaign and invasion of Germany may have been crazier.

Almost immediately after D-Day, the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops began deploying artists, actors, designers, and audio-technicians who were tasked with setting out inflatable equipment and patterns of movement that would make the Nazis think an entire combat division was in the area.

And it worked. The ruse was used on more than 20 occasions, often causing the Germans to redeploy forces to counter the fake division, likely saving thousands of lives during World War II.

3. When it promoted a 12-year-old to sergeant after he shot the Confederate colonel attempting to capture him

Worst Roman emperors, from incompetent to insane
Photo: Library of Congress

John Lincoln Clem unofficially joined the Union Army at the age of 10 as a drummer boy. He fought a few times before becoming a national celebrity at the age of 12 in the Battle of Chickamagua. It was there that he was nearly captured by a Confederate colonel, but Clem used a sawed-off musket to shoot the officer and escape.

As he evaded other pursuers, his hat was reportedly hit three times by enemy fire. When he made it back to Union lines, he was promoted to sergeant and became America’s youngest-ever non-commissioned officer. He was later captured in another battle, traded in a prisoner exchange, and then was wounded twice before accepting discharge in 1864 at the age of 13.

4. When it fought America’s longest battle on its own

Worst Roman emperors, from incompetent to insane
German mortars fire towards American positions during the Battle of Hurtgen Forest. (Photo: German Army Archives)

From September 1944 to February 1945, the Army fought the longest single battle of the nation’s history, a five-month meat grinder for control of the Hurtgen Forest during the drive into Germany.

The 9th Infantry Division marched into the forest on Sep. 12, 1944 to root out German defenders. The thick trees and impassable roads created a nightmare for the attackers. Mortar and artillery shells turned trees into explosions of long splinters that speared into American troops.

The 9th pressed forward while suffering heavy losses, and it was reinforced with 3rd Armored Division tanks. Another nine divisions, a tank battalion, and a Ranger battalion fought on the front lines before the battle finally ended in February 1945.

5. When one of its greatest generals attempted to sell the country out to the British

Worst Roman emperors, from incompetent to insane

Army Col. Ethan Allen, partnered with then-Col. Benedict Arnold, demands the surrender of Fort Ticonderoga. (Photo: New York Public Library Digital Library)

There’s a reason “Benedict Arnold” is used as another word for “traitor.” He literally tried to sell the defenses he commanded to the British, threatening a strategically important position in the Revolutionary War. What made it so crazy was how important Maj. Gen. Arnold was before he became a traitor.

He had led the forces that won the Battle of Saratoga and led to diplomatic recognition and increased military assistance from the French. He also helped capture a major fort and its guns, and created America’s first purpose-built naval fleet (then sank it).

The closest modern equivalent would have been if Patton had fought his way through North Africa and half of Germany but then changed sides during the Battle of the Bulge because his new wife was German.

6. When all the Army gunners in an entire city fought off an imagined attack

 

Worst Roman emperors, from incompetent to insane

The Battle of Los Angeles in 1942 saw the city’s sky lit up with searchlights and anti-aircraft fire as every gun crew in the area attempted to shoot down the Japanese planes bombing the city.

Except there was no air attack. A series of blinking lights had been spotted in the sky near the city and some unknown objects were spotted on radar, leading some military leaders to worry an air raid was coming. Skittish gun crews began firing, and the exploding shells left clouds of smoke that other gunners then fired at as they were illuminated by spotlights.

Over 1,400 rounds were fired in the one-hour “engagement.”

7. That time it rescued over 2,000 prisoners of war with a daring paratrooper raid

Worst Roman emperors, from incompetent to insane

Filipino guerrillas worked with the U.S. troops across the Pacific during WWII. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

The Imperial Japanese were famously hostile towards prisoners of war, and a concerted effort was made in 1944 and 1945 to rescue prisoners before Japanese troops could kill them. On Feb. 23, 1945, a group of Americans and Philippine guerillas launched a daring paratrooper raid to liberate over 2,000 prisoners at Los Baños, Philippines.

The raid was shockingly effective, suffering no paratroopers killed and few American and Filipino casualties while freeing 2,147 prisoners. Future-Secretary of State Colin Powell said that he doubted “that any airborne unit in the world will ever rival the Los Baños prison raid.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian military tells soldiers ‘no more smartphones on duty’

Russian lawmakers have approved a bill banning the armed forces from carrying smartphones, tablets, and other gadgets capable of recording and keeping information while on duty.

According to the bill, approved in its third and final reading in the lower house on Feb. 19, 2019, only regular phones with no cameras and without an Internet connection are now allowed in the Russian armed forces.


The bill also bans military personnel from sharing information online about their military units, missions, services, colleagues, former colleagues, and their relatives.

The bill says that “information placed on the Internet or mass media by military personnel is … in some cases used to shape a biased assessment of the Russian Federation’s state policies.”

Worst Roman emperors, from incompetent to insane

(Photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin)

The bill was approved by 408 lawmakers with no vote against.

The legislation was necessary because military personnel were of “particular interest for the intelligence services of foreign governments, for terrorists, and extremist organizations,” the Duma said.

In recent years, photos and video footage inadvertently posted online via smartphones by members of the Russian military have revealed information about the location and movements of its troops and equipment.

Human rights activists were also sometimes able to obtain from the Internet video and photographic proof of the hazing of young recruits in the Russian military.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

This is how the Germans beat the British in one of the biggest naval battles of WWI

The First World War was the peak of the age of the battleship as dreadnoughts from Germany and the United Kingdom, including the actual HMS Dreadnought that all similar ships are named for, faced each other across the North Sea and the world’s greatest empires duked it out on land.


In the 1916 Battle of Jutland, the German and English fleets fought in what was — when measured by the tonnage of the ships involved — the largest naval battle in history. Approximately 100,000 sailors and 250 ships took part.

And, though the British fleet was larger and enjoyed training and technological advantages, the Germans achieved a clear tactical victory.

In May 1916, the British and German fleets were each looking for a major triumph over the other. An ongoing British blockade of Germany was damaging, but neither side had clear control of the North Sea.

The Germans devised an ambush a few hundred miles off the coast of Denmark, but the British intercepted the plans.

So a massive British fleet with 151 ships, including 28 battleships and nine battlecruisers, set forth on May 30 with knowledge of the German positions and intent. The next afternoon, the scouting parties from each force sighted each other and began a running gun battle.

Worst Roman emperors, from incompetent to insane
The battle cruiser scouting parties clash at the opening of the Battle of Jutland. (Screenshot: Vimeo/NIck)

Five German battlecruisers fired on six British ships and the two raced in parallel lines while maintaining fire on one another. But the British had made two big mistakes.

First, they waited to fire even though they had a range advantage. Second, they allowed the Germans to set the conditions of the fight.

The German scouting party sank two of the British cruisers while drawing the British scouts towards the main German fleet with another 94 ships. The British ships realized their error just in time, turning back north while suffering fierce fire from German pursuers.

The British had already lost thousands of sailors and two large ships, but they were about to hold the advantage. The British cruisers fleeing north failed to properly communicate with the main fleet, but they were still drawing the German ships towards the larger British concentration.

And while the British main fleet commander wasn’t given the needed intelligence to properly prepare, he was able to swing his ships into a single line that he curved into an ambush position that the Germans sailed right into. The British semi-circle saturated the German fleet with fire.

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The SMS Seydlitz limps home after the Battle of Jutland. (Photo: Naval Historical Center)

The Germans broke contact and circled back around, but the British were again able to position themselves “crossing the T,” where a line of British ships presented their broadsides with their main guns towards the front of a German line which could only present a few guns in response.

And the British were positioned to prevent a German escape while they also enjoyed a visibility advantage thanks to the sun behind the German ships.

But the desperate Germans had already inflicted heavy damage, causing fires and leaks that would sink more ships throughout the evening. And the German commander managed to turn the fleet about and escape west.

But the Germans needed to get east and south. One attempt to break east failed under heavy British fire, so the Germans launched a massive torpedo barrage that forced the British to turn away and allowed the Germans to escape. None of the torpedoes hit, though.

Still, Germany held the advantage at night, as the darkness would limit Britain’s range advantage and allow German torpedo ships to draw close.

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The HMS Queen Mary sinks during the Battle of Jutland. (Photo: Public Domain)

Throughout the night, Germany tried to fight its way home, frequently winning small clashes and eventually punching through to head home.

The Germans had inflicted losses of over 6,000 sailors and 14 ships in less than 24 hours of fighting, while suffering 2,551 sailors and 11 ships lost. Germany claimed its tactical victory, but the strategic situation was dire.

Many more German ships had been heavily damaged and would need weeks for repairs while plenty of British ships remained to enforce the blockade. Germany was forced to turn to submarine warfare to break down British supply lines across the Atlantic.

But even that strategy would fail when America entered the war with new technologies and equipment for hunting submarines.

popular

This Revolutionary War battle was fought in lard with swords

When a revolution starts, there eventually comes a time for everyone to start picking sides. For the southern colonies in the American Revolution, the time to choose came in 1776. Both loyalist and patriot armies began recruiting drives for soldiers to fight for their respective goals – would the colonies free themselves from tyranny or would the unruly Americans be put in their place?

In the months that followed the revolution’s start, the British hoped to recruit brave Scotsmen who were still loyal to the crown in North Carolina. The patriots weren’t going to just let that happen.


After the shooting battles at Lexington and Concord touched off the powder keg that would eventually become the United States of America, patriot and loyalist leaders scrambled to shore up their supporters, whether they were providing money, arms, or soldiers. In 1776, almost a full year after the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World,” North Carolina’s governor raised a militia of loyalist Scotsmen to join a force of British regulars in the Carolinas, then led by Gen. Henry Clinton. They were successful in raising the men, but the local committee of correspondence – the patriot shadow government and intelligence network – got wind of the plan and was determined to prevent the two groups from linking up.

North Carolina’s loyalist governor managed to raise an army of about 6,000 strong, which was no small feat. This militia force was supposed to meet 2,000 regulars and then march to the sea in preparation for fighting the patriots. But when the British didn’t make the rendezvous, loyalists began to desert the army rather than fight patriot militias every step of the way.

Historical marker drawing attention to the location of a rendezvous of Tories, or British loyalists, just prior to the battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge in February, 1776, during the American Revolution. (Wikimedia Commons)

When the Committee of Correspondence got wind of the loyalist plans, they put a similar plan of theirs to work. The Continental Congress raised a force of Continental Army regulars while North Carolina raised forces of patriot militia – each in a hurry. Their goal was to meet the mixed British force before it could reach the coast. After some maneuvering, the two met at Moore’s Creek Bridge, a battle across a creek the British tried to avoid.

For both sides, that meant a war council to determine if fighting in that place was really the best course of action. They both decided that it was, but the patriots took it a step further. After night fell, they sabotaged and greased up the bridge, coating it with a layer of lard that the Scottish loyalist militia wouldn’t soon forget – those who would survive, anyway.

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What the bridge likely looked like during the 1776 battle (Pender County Public Library)

The Scottish troops approached the bridge and decided to identify themselves in the mists of the early morning. The only reply they received was a patriot sentry firing a shot to warn the patriot army that the British were on the move. The battle was on for the patriots, and the Scottish snipers’ leadership also decided this was the time and place. A force of 100 or more swordsmen hopped off their mounts and rushed the bridge.

When the Scots got within 30 paces of the bridge, a body of colonials hiding behind earthworks on the other side opened up on the loyalists, ripping through formations and devastating the army’s ranks. The leaders of the swordsman militia were torn to shreds by the musket fire, and the Scotsmen retreated in a hurry. The entire army dissipated and broke, never fighting another battle.

Moore's Creek Bridge
Moores Creek National Battlefield, North Carolina, USA. The picture shows the restored earthworks of the patriotic militia in the Battle of Moores Creek Bridge (Wikimedia Commons)

Even if the Scottish conscripts actually made their way to the Atlantic coast, there would have been no reinforcements to meet them. The British forces that were supposed to link up with them didn’t even make it to the Carolinas until May of 1776, a full three months later. As for the Scottish loyalists in North Carolina, their support was only vocal from that point forward. Never again would they answer the call to arms for the British.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 things soldiers should expect, now that we’re all recruiters

The U.S. Army recently released a video in which Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey implores all of those serving to get out there and share their reasons for enlisting — to, ultimately, recruit their friends. The video is entitled, Everybody is a recruiter.

So, ladies and gents: it’s official. Each and every soldier within the United States Army is now a recruiter. Who knew that we’d all manage to get in without even going through the recruiting course at Fort Knox? Now all we need to do is get our recruitment numbers up and we can all sport a recruiting badge!

If you can’t read between the sarcastic lines, SMA Dan Dailey probably has no intentions of shipping everyone into USAREC and crowd shopping malls across the country. First off, that’d be a logistical nightmare. And secondly, if we were all recruiters, then there’d be nobody left to mop the motor pool when it rains or perform lay-outs for the eight change-of-command ceremony this month.


What SMA Dailey was trying to convey is that everyone had their reason for joining and everyone should share their stories with civilian friends and family members in hopes of inspiring them to follow suit. But that’s not as fun as imagining a ridiculous situation in which we all become actual recruiters.

Here’s the video for the full context. For a look into the daily lives of Army recruiters through the lens of a joke that’s (mildly) at the expense of the most senior enlisted soldier (from one of his biggest fans), read on:

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We can’t let them realize the Army isn’t all rainbows and sunshine until they get to Basic, now can we?

(U.S. Army photo by Lt. Col. Matthew Devivo)

1. We’ll all learn to smile through unpleasant situations

One of the biggest challenges a recruiter faces is keeping their military bearing at all times of the day. After all, recruiters, to many civilians, are the face of the military. As much as you’ll want to choke-slam that particularly obnoxious teenage applicant through your desk because they referred to you as, “bro,” you can’t. Not even once.

We’ll all have to quietly smile, correct them, and hope we don’t scare them into checking out the Navy’s recruiter instead.

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The paperwork doesn’t even stop when you finally get them to swear in. It only ends when they’re the drill sergeant’s responsibility.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Brandy N. Mejia)

2. We’ll all become experts at doing mountains of paperwork by close of business

So, you’ve managed to get someone interested in enlisting — great work! Your job here is done. Just kidding — you’ve only just begun.

Think back to when you enlisted. Remember all that paperwork that was shoved in your face? That’s nothing compared to the paperwork recruiters have to complete. As a recruiter, you’ll have to scrub through every piece of paper that the applicant has touched to make sure they’re the right fit for the Army. Birth certificates, diplomas, arrest warrants — you name it. You’ll get so good at reading SAT scores that you’ll be able to sense which MOS a recruit is suited for well before they do.

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It’d be great if all the people coming to the Army booth at the fair actually wanted to enlist — instead of just wanting to fail to impress their friends on the pull-up bar.

(Dept. of the Army photo by Ronald A. Reeves)

3. We’ll all learn to motivate lazy applicants who can barely do a single push-up

There’s nothing more disheartening than finding yourself staring down some scrawny kid who’s probably never broken a sweat in their life after spending the last twelve business days filing out their paperwork. You’re going to have to force out a smile and give a rousing, “you can do it!” when they start trembling after just one push-up.

But, hey, they don’t have any neck tattoos or active arrest warrants, so they’re the best chance you’ve got at getting your numbers up. God forbid you ever let your numbers slip near the end of the quarter…

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But hey! At least you get your own snazzy business cards!​

(Photo by Steven Depolo)

4. We’ll all judge our lives based on how “incentive points”

Oh, yeah. The incentive points. We couldn’t forget to include the primary reason why every recruiter drinks heavily when they get off duty. Recruiters need to get a certain amount of potential applicants to walk through their doors or else they face a stern talking-to. On one hand, the recruitment quota (or “goals”) isn’t as bad as most people make it out to be. On the other hand, it’ll likely become the single-most important thing in your life.

Getting those nice, little stars on your badge is basically the infantry equivalent of shooting better at the range. The better you shoot/recruit, the better your chances of winning impromptu pissing contests that have nothing to do with the situation at hand.

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“What’s life like in the Army?” — Well, at first you’ll hate it. Then you won’t. Then you’ll miss it about two weeks after you get your DD-214.

(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Andrew J. Czaplicki)

5. We’ll all have to deal with the worst questions at all hours of the day

At some point in your recruiting career, you’ll get so tired of answering so many stupid questions that you’ll just stop sugarcoating everything. Now, it’s not out of some moral footing, but mostly because lying takes too much creative effort by the time you’re answering that question for the 87th time.

“So, I won’t be able to become a Delta ranger sniper and do James Bond sh*t?” — Not with that attitude you won’t!
“What options are available for my ASVAB score of 25?” — Night school.
“If I don’t like it, can I just quit at any time?” — Technically, you can quit whenever you feel like, but legally? F*ck no.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s the Air Force’s response to the viral event to ‘storm’ Area 51

To those who are about to run straight into Area 51 in Nevada September 2019, the US Air Force would like you to think again.

In the “X-Files” event of the century, over 1 million people have responded to a Facebook event titled, “ Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us.”

What do they have in mind once they get into the highly confidential area? “Lets see them aliens,” the event description says.

But in a statement provided to the Washington Post, Air Force spokeswoman Laura McAndrews said the Air Force was aware of the event and warned against it.


“[Area 51] is an open training range for the U.S. Air Force, and we would discourage anyone from trying to come into the area where we train American armed forces,” she said. “The U.S. Air Force always stands ready to protect America and its assets.”

For what it’s worth, the event remains scheduled for Sep. 20, 2019 — and it appears they know what they’re in for.

“We will all meet up at the Area 51 Alien Center tourist attraction and coordinate our entry,” the event’s description says.”If we naruto run, we can move faster than their bullets.”

A “Naruto run” refers to the popular anime, in which a person runs very fast with their torso forward, and arms back. Faster than their bullets, if you will.

September’s event does even seem to be a bit tongue in cheek. Now megaviral, it was organized by the group Shitposting cause im in shambles and a popular game streamer SmyleeKun.

The event even spawned its own meme cycle and, reader, it’s good.

Also read:

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Ukraine says 3 dead in new fighting against Russian-backed separatists

Ukraine says one of its soldiers has been killed and three wounded as a result of clashes with Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The Defense Ministry said on Oct. 16, 2018, that separatist fighters violated a cease-fire 37 times during the previous 24 hours by firing machine guns, grenade launchers, and mortars.

It said Ukrainian government forces killed two separatists and wounded six.


MIGHTY TRENDING

Why ‘sheepdog’ really is the most proper analogy for veterans

The analogy is simple. There are three types of people in this world: sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs. The vast majority of people are sheep — nothing wrong with that. They move about their day carelessly, are loving and compassionate beasts, and only rarely, accidentally hurt each other. The wolves want to devour the sheep. They’ll cause as much harm as they can with little remorse. These are the terrorists, despots, dictators, and other types of villains in this world.


Which brings us to the sheepdog, the guardian of the sheep against the wolves. Their capacity for violence is frowned on by the sheep. Their capacity for love is frowned on by the wolves. The sheepdog is bound by duty in that middle ground. They are the troops, first-responders, and anyone willing to take a stand against the evils of this world.

The quote gained much traction after the release of American Sniper, during which these different types are explained to a young Chris Kyle. While the phrase doesn’t appear in his memoirs, it was used by his friends-and-family-run Twitter account. The actual source of the speech comes from Lt. Col. David Grossman’s book, On Combat. In it, he credits the analogy to an old war veteran.

Many people misattribute the “sheepdog” as a badge of honor that proves they’re better than sheep. Thinking a sheepdog is defined by their capacity for violence while waving a good-guy banner, however, is as counter-productive as it is flat-out wrong. Yeah, a gun-toting sheepdog might make a great t-shirt, but it goes against the rest of Grossman’s book, which largely covers coping strategies for the physiological and psychological effects of violence on people who have had to end enemy lives in the line of duty.

The goal of the sheepdog is to prevent violence and keep the blissful sheep safe. The sheepdog isn’t actively seeking to harm others — that’s the work of a wolf. The sheepdog is defined not by his hatred of wolves, desire for violence, or any similarity that blur the line between wolf and sheepdog. They are not defined by the reasons why they’re not sheep.

It’s the love and compassion for those who cannot defend themselves that truly defines a sheepdog. It’s what makes us different from the wolves.

MIGHTY MOVIES

These are your picks for the best fictional infantry squad ever

Serving in the Marine Corps infantry is one of the toughest jobs there is. From deploying every other year to completing the rigorous training required to hold the “03” MOS, the infantry is full of badasses. In the Marines, each infantry squad typically consists of a platoon leader, a squad leader, three fire team leaders, three SAW gunners, six riflemen, and a hospital corpsman.

A while back, we ran a similar story in which we hand-picked our top choices from fiction for each role and made a squad. You guys had a lot to say about our selections. The response was so freakin’ epic that we decided to create this article in your honor, using the choices you made in the comments.

So, check out all the great characters that made the cut. You guys picked some incredible, iconic badasses — well done!

Your platoon leader: Maj. Payne

This Marine leads from the front and has an extremely effective method for taking your mind off a physical ailment — he’ll break your finger.

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(Universal Pictures)


Your company gunny: Bob Lee Swagger

He’s an ace sharpshooter with a sniper rifle and will go through hell or high water to defeat corruption. That’s why he made your fictional infantry squad.

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(Paramount Pictures)

Your squad leader: Carwood Lipton

This soldier was a real-life badass. His on-screen depiction in HBO’s Band of Brothers showcased his heroics and landed him in the hearts of our audience.

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(HBO Films)

Also Read: We made the best fictional infantry squad ever

Three fire team leaders:

1. Dutch

If you can single-handedly kill an alien hunter deep in the jungle, you can lead “a few good men” with no problem.

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(Fox Pictures)

2. Johnny Rico

This badass jumped up on a monster bug and blew it up with a hand grenade. It’s pretty easy to see why he made the list.

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(Sony Pictures)

3. Cpl. Hicks

Because he’s not afraid of f*cking an Alien’s ass, that’s why!

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(Fox Pictures)

SAW gunners:

1. Sgt. Barnes

He’s not a leader but, like all SAW gunners, he doesn’t take any sh*t from anyone.

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(Orion Pictures)

2. Bane

He a backbreaking brawler like any dependable infantryman SAW gunner. Plus, he looks like he can carry the massive weapon system around all day.

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(Warner Brothers)

3. “Dirty Harry” Callahan

Anyone who can fire a .44 Magnum and handle the killer recoil with one hand can carry a machine gun while serving the grunts.

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(Warner Brothers)

Riflemen:

1. Axel Foley

He’s f*cking funny — and infantrymen need a good laugh to survive the stress.

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(Paramount Pictures)

2. Forrest Gump

He’s all heart and will follow your orders exactly as you give them.

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(Paramount)

3. Bryan Mills

He’s got a “particular set of skills” that will have the enemy running away when he shows up.

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(Fox)

4. John Wick

He’s on your list because Wick is an old-fashioned badass who loves puppies.

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(Lionsgate / Summit)

5. Casey Ryback

Who wouldn’t want a Navy SEAL to serve in the infantry? The only training he needs is how to render a proper hand salute.

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(Warner Brothers)

6. Bones Conway

This Californian is quirky as hell — and he can help purify your drinking water.

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(Buena Vista)

Hospital corpsman: Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce

Hospital corpsmen are highly-trained and treating their men seriously. Despite that, readers wanted this humorous doctor in their infantry squad.

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(20th Century Fox)

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