U.S. President Donald Trump has ordered the establishment of a space command that will oversee the country’s military operations in space.
Trump signed the one-page memorandum on Dec. 18, 2018, directing the Department of Defense to create the new command to oversee and organize space operations, accelerate technical advances, and find more effective ways to defend U.S. assets in space, including satellites.
The move comes amid growing concerns that China and Russia are working on ways to disrupt, disable, or even destroy satellites on which U.S. forces rely for navigation, communications, and surveillance.
The new command is separate from Trump’s goal to create an independent space force, but could be a step in that direction.
Speaking at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Vice President Mike Pence said: “A new era of American national security in space begins today.”
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Codie Collins)
Space Command will integrate space capabilities across all branches of the military, Pence said, adding that it will “develop the space doctrine, tactics, techniques, and procedures that will enable our war fighters to defend our nation in this new era.”
It will be the Pentagon’s 11th combatant command, along with well-known commands such as Central Command and Europe Command.
Space Command will pull about 600 staff from existing military space offices, and then add at least another 1,000 over the coming years, the Associated Press quoted an unidentified U.S. official as saying.
Its funding will be included in the budget for fiscal year 2020.
As China’s naval power grows, the US military is stepping up its ability to sink enemy ships, firing missiles from land and at sea.
The Army and the Marines are both looking at striking ships from shore batteries at extended ranges, while the Navy is arming its submarines with ship-killer missiles for the first time in many years.
Determined to deploy these capabilities quickly, the Marines have launched a rapid program to develop long-range anti-ship missiles from mobile shore-based launchers.
“The Marine Corps has been looking for a shore-based capability to meet [US Indo-Pacific Command’s] demands,” a Lockheed Martin representative told Breaking Defense at the Surface Navy Association conference in Washington, DC.
“The Army is looking at this too but probably on a different timeline,” he added. “The Marine Corps wants to get after this pretty quickly.” He further commented that the Marines are looking at developing mobile launchers “that can shoot and move very rapidly.”
The Marines experimented with strikes against land targets using ship-based High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) aboard the US Navy amphibious assault ship USS Essex in October 2017. At that time, military leaders were discussing bringing this capability to bear against enemy combatants at sea.
The Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) transits the Pacific Ocean.
During the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises in 2018, Army soldiers fired multiple rockets from the rocket artillery platform at the ex-USS Racine during a combined arms sinking exercise.
The Army is reportedly preparing to carry out another missile test, one in which MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System missiles will be fired from HIMARS launchers on Okinawa. The Chinese navy regularly sails ships, including its flagship aircraft carrier, through nearby waters.
During the sinking exercise in summer 2018, Gen. Robert Brown, the commander of US Army Pacific at Fort Shafter in Hawaii, suggested that ground forces could use these capabilities to establish “unsinkable aircraft carriers” to facilitate US Navy and Air Force operations.
China uses threatening, long-range missiles to keep US forces at arms length. Were a conflict to break out, the US would likely use long-range weapons like these at its military outposts along the first island chain — a defensive line that runs south from Japan to Taiwan and then the Philippines — to limit Chinese mobility.
The Navy is reportedly arming its attack submarines with upgraded versions of the Harpoon anti-ship missile, according to Breaking Defense.
The focus on anti-ship capabilities at sea and ashore advances a strategic concept outlined by the head of INDOPACOM.
“As naval forces drive our enemies into the littorals, army forces can strike them. Conversely, when the army drives our enemies out to sea, naval firepower can do the same,” Adm. Phil Davidson said after 2018’s sinking exercise.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Nearly 40 Air and Army National Guard women gathered at the Arlington National Cemetery Oct. 21 with hundreds of active duty, retired, and reserve service members from all branches of the military to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the dedication of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial.
Honoring US Military Women
The memorial honors all women who have defended America throughout history. The gathering featured a weekend filled with remembrance, honor, service, leadership, mentorship, and inspiration.
“It just makes you reflect back on how much has changed in these 20 years, and the sacrifices that women are still making,” said Army Col. Cynthia Tinkham, the Oklahoma National Guard’s director of personnel. Tinkham is one of five of the event attendees with the Oklahoma Guard who were present at the memorial’s dedication 20 years ago.
The memorial here serves as a 4.2-acre ceremonial entrance into Arlington National Cemetery. The memorial honors the nearly 3 million women who have served or are serving in or with the US military since the American Revolution.
The group arrived here Oct. 20, touring the memorial’s long arching hall of memorabilia that covers the history of US women in military service.
“I’ve learned a lot about women’s history and the impact it has on the Air Force and every other branch,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Jaimie Haase, a member of the Air National Guard.
WIMSA’s 20th Anniversary Ceremony
Major events throughout the weekend included a celebration dinner, WIMSA’s 20th Anniversary ceremony, an honor walk, and an after-dark service of remembrance. Attendees ranged from women World War II veterans to those currently serving in all branches of the US military.
The keynote speaker of the morning’s ceremony, retired Air Force Gen. Janet C. Wolfenbarger, who’s also the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in Services chair, compared her experience at the dedication in 1997 to the 20th anniversary ceremony this year, emphasizing that each year there are more “firsts” to celebrate — the first woman to serve in a particular branch, in a particular career field, and the first to die while serving.
“There are so many firsts that the memorial represents,” Wolfenbarger said. “But, the real objective is that there are no more firsts.”
Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas Ryan emphasized the importance of honoring the past later that evening as attendees held candles honoring the lives of the 167 women who have fallen since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.
“We can never forget our history and those who have perished for the sake of us all,” said Ryan, who was asked to speak at the event in honor of the women killed in action.
“Sacrifice is meaningless without remembrance,” he added.
Among the fallen was both the youngest and only woman in the Oklahoma National Guard to die in combat, 19-year-old Army Spc. Sarina Butcher, who was killed in 2011 in Afghanistan and is honored within the memorial.
“These women represent a bridge to those that came before them,” said Tinkham who spoke on behalf of fallen women. “To those of the new and current generation and to those still to join, I implore you to keep telling their stories. Be proud of them. Honor them … and tell your own stories.”
Five years into the Syrian Civil War, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced its readiness to send ground troops into Syria to fight Islamic State forces.
“The kingdom is ready to participate in any ground operations that the coalition (against Islamic State) may agree to carry out in Syria,” Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri, the spokesman for the Saudi-led Arab coalition in Yemen, told the Saudi government-owned al-Arabiya TV.
Just days after that announcement, the United Arab Emirates announced its readiness to join the fight.
“Our position throughout has been that a real campaign has to include a ground force,” the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said at a news conference in Abu Dhabi, adding “U.S. leadership on this” would be a prerequisite for the UAE.
Big surprise there.
For those keeping track, the UAE is also part of the Saudi-led coalition fighting the religious-political faction of Houthis in Yemen, a Shia insurgent group who captured the Yemeni capital of Sana’a in 2014 and forced the fall of the Saudi-backed government five months later. Saudi Arabia’s nine-member coalition has since failed to dislodge the Iran-backed Houthis or restore the government. Meanwhile, just under one-third of the country has fallen to the resurgent al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Maybe Saudi Arabia and the Arab allies aren’t everything American politicians have said they are during the 2016 election debates. Forget for a moment how bad they are at fighting a decisive war (they can’t even capture the capital city with air superiority and and more than a year to get it done), the idea of airlifting a coalition of Sunni Arab troops into Syria is not only overly simplistic, it’s a terrible one. Saudi Arabia and Iran are expending resources to wage an all-out proxy battle in the region, and Iraq and Syria are the primary battlefields.
By now, it should come as no surprise to Westerners that there is an huge, problematic divide between the Sunni and Shia sects of Islam. The main actors in this ideological conflict today are Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran. Yemen isn’t the first example of Saudi intervention. At the height of the Arab Spring, Saudi troops crossed the King Fahd Causeway into Bahrain to put down Shia protests there.
The Saudi sphere of influence extends throughout the Arabian Peninsula while the Iranian sphere extends from Iran’s border with Afghanistan to the East and pushes West through Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. The conflicts in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon are extensions of this greater conflict. When told the Saudis and Emiratis were ready to deploy to Syria, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem gave a very expected response: “I regret to say that they will return home in wooden coffins.”
Sectarianism is only increasing and is becoming the primary reason for conflict. Until recently, major non-state paramilitary organizations on either side of the divide publicly defined their mandates in terms of either anti-imperialist, anti-Israel, and/or anti-American terms. They did not openly define themselves in terms of Shia vs. Sunni. That is changing.
In 2013, Islamic extremist violence intensified, fueled by sectarianism in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Pakistan. The rise of anti-Shia resistance, combined with the remnants of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist regime, led to the ideology behind the rise of the Islamic State, now the most aggressive and extreme group, with transnational roots in Nigeria, Libya, and Afghanistan. The sectarianism is only spreading.
A Saudi project like a crane at the Grand Mosque in Mecca. That kind of project.
Iran funds, trains, and equips paramilitary forces throughout the Middle East, including the Lebanese political-militant group Hezbollah, and has for decades. Iraq’s government has been dominated by Iran-backed Shia parliamentarians since the ouster of Saddam Hussein by the 2003 U.S. invasion. Syrian President Bashar al-Asad’s regime is propped up by the Iranian government, who are reinforcing the Asad government against rebels, ISIS, the Kurdish YPG, and the other thousand groups vying for power there. The government’s legitimacy relies on the support of the Alawite minority in Syria, a Shia group whose followers control the top tiers of Syrian society.
Sunni militant groups, financed by Gulf states like Kuwait, are seeing a rise in recruiting numbers and directing their ideology and violence toward other Muslim communities instead of Western targets. In response, Shia groups gain in strength and numbers to confront the perceived threats posed by the Sunni groups. The war in Syria is no longer a fight for control of the country but a battle in a greater ideological proxy war.
The U.S. has so far managed not to take a side. The Obama Administration’s original plan for fighting ISIS, for example, involved both Sunnis and Shia, but accomplished little in the way of real, lasting stability or security in the region. It called for air support and advisors for Iraqi troops (sometimes led by Iranian advisors and in conjunction with Iraq’s Shia militias) while training and equipping “moderate” rebels in Sunni Saudi Arabia. We know how that turned out.
At the onset of the Syrian War, thousands of fighters left their homes in Syria for various Sunni or Shia militias. Foreign fighters soon began to flood in with professional jihadis from Chechnya and Afghanistan coming to reinforce Sunni groups while Shia militias from Iraq and Lebanese Hezbollah shored up the Asad regime. At the end of 2013, there were an estimated 1000+ armed groups in Syria. Since then, the rebel groups have only fractured.
Knowing all of this, imagine how would it look to the average Shia militia if the United States began flooding a traditional Shia state with Sunni troops. The war in Syria will last at least another five to ten full years and the U.S. should be prepared for that. The U.S. only has to look at recent history when deciding how best to serve our national interest while helping bring the conflict to its conclusion.
The Lebanese Civil War ended only after the infighting exhausted itself. By the signing of the 1989 Taif Agreement that ended the war in Lebanon, the streets of Beirut looked remarkably similar to how the streets of the Syrian city of Homs look today.
That war had was much more akin to today’s Syrian conflict than other Arab Spring-related uprisings. Massacres, assassinations, and a large number of belligerents fueled the conflict for 15 years. In the end, the Taif Agreement ceded Lebanon to Syrian influence. Even so, the Taif Agreement only came about because of an anti-Saddam mindset between the Iranians and Saudis. U.S. military power was not a significant factor.
In 1983, the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut were bombed by Shia militias. The attacks killed 241 U.S. military members. Three months later, then-President Ronald Reagan withdrew all U.S. troops from the country. That turned out to be the right call. In trying to score political points, American politicians could call it a “cut and run.” Yet, in a 1991 biography of Reagan, one of the 20th century’s most brilliant military minds, Gen. Colin Powell, labeled the American intervention in Lebanon a misadventure from the start.
“Beirut wasn’t sensible and it never did serve a purpose,” Powell said. “It was goofy from the beginning.” The reversal of a bad military course, once decided, seems impossible 33 years later, considering the level of political rhetoric on the use of force against ISIS. It might even be political suicide.
Would you to tell this man he was wrong?
Yet, the same U.S. involvement that was a mistake in Lebanon in the early 80’s is a leadership necessity in Syria today. Why? It’s not because of ISIS. In Lebanon, President Bachir Gemayel was assassinated and Palestinian refugees were slaughtered in camps by Christian Maronite militias. Those events didn’t influence Reagan to keep Marines in the country for an indeterminate period of time. Once it became clear that U.S. actions would have repercussions, the President decided the nature of the mission weighed against the potential cost wasn’t in U.S. interests and left the multi-national force … and it was the right call.
American intervention and use of military force should involve a clear strategy to reach a set goal, with rules of engagement to match. A policy of dropping Sunni troops into a Shia country is misguided. It will only fuel the Syrian war and the sectarian divide. The U.S. will win the hearts and minds of neither Shia nor Sunni and will pay the cost in security across the globe.
An unmanned aerial vehicle being used by the terrorist group Hamas was shot down by an Israeli fighter today.
According to a report from ynetnews.com, the Israeli fighter shot down the drone as it was departing airspace over the Gaza Strip. Such actions are standard policy for the Israeli Defense Forces. A spokesman for the IDF told ynetnews.com that “the IDF will not allow any airspace violation and will act resolutely against any such attempt.”
An Israeli F-15 I fighter jet launches anti-missile flares during an air show at the graduation ceremony of Israeli pilots at the Hatzerim air force base in the Negev desert, near the southern Israeli city of Beersheva, on December 27, 2012. (AFP photo by Jack Guez)
Six months ago, an IDF F-16 Fighting Falcon was scrambled to intercept a similar drone, and shot it down off the coast of Gaza.
The use of drones to deliver explosives has already been seen in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIS. One attack on Oct. 2, 2016, killed two Kurdish troops and wounded French special operations personnel.
The halftime show of Super Bowl LI, in which pop superstar Lady Gaga used 300 drones for a light show, also has drawn attention from the deputy commander of United States Special Operations Command, according to a report by WeAreTheMighty.com from earlier this month. WATM’s report on those concerns also noted that ISIS was using small drones to drop hand grenades on Coalition forces.
Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip since June 15, 2007, following over a week of violent fighting with Fatah. The charter of the terrorist group, known as the Hamas Covenant, calls for the absolute destruction of Israel.
In September 2018, Russian armed forces, joined by Chinese and Mongolian troops, gathered in the country’s east for Vostok-18, an “unprecedented” military exercise that Russia said was the largest since 1981.
In October and November 2018, all 29 NATO members and Sweden and Finland massed in Norway for Trident Juncture 2018, a regular exercise that this year was the largest version since the Cold War, according to NATO officials.
Joining Trident Juncture was the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, which sailed into the Arctic Circle west of Norway on Oct. 19, 2018, becoming the first US aircraft carrier to do so since the early 1990s.
These events, plus heightened tensions between Russia and NATO and other close encounters between them, have given many the impression the world has returned to a Cold War.
The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Thomas Gooley)
According to Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that’s not the case, but there are now real challenges to US power.
“I wouldn’t suggest that it’s a Cold War,” Dunford said on Nov. 5, 2018 during an event at Duke University. “But if you think about the 1990s,” after the collapse of the Soviet Union, he added, “the United States had no competitor, and as we look at Russia and China today, we see Russia and China as peer competitors.”
Tensions in Europe have been elevated for some time.
In the early 2000s, not long after Vladimir Putin rose to power in Moscow, the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia joined NATO, bringing the alliance into a region that Russia has long considered sensitive.
A decade later, fearing NATO would be invited into strategic areas of the Black Sea region, Russia annexed Crimea in Ukraine and has remained involved in the simmering conflict there in the years since.
China, too, has grow in power over the past two decades. It has been increasingly active in its near abroad, making expansive claims over the South China Sea, which its neighbors dispute and an international tribunal rejected.
The US has played a major role in contesting those claims, leading freedom-of-navigation exercises in the region to ensure waterways remain open. That has led to confrontations with Chinese forces on sea and in the air.
But increased tensions don’t mean the world has returned to the status quo ante, Dunford said.
Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“It doesn’t necessarily equate to a Cold War. Competition doesn’t have to be conflict,” he said during the event. “But … from a military perspective, we have two states now that can challenge our ability to project power and challenge us in all five domains” — ground, sea, air, space, and cyberspace — “and that’s what’s different than in the 1990s.”
Though he described them as new challenges, he characterized the US response to each of them differently.
During meetings with his Russian counterparts, Dunford said he has tried to “make it clear that what you’re seeing in our posture, what you’re seeing in the increased forces that we have put in Europe, what you’re seeing in the path of capability development that we’re on, is in order to deter a conflict, not to fight, and in order to make sure that we can meet our alliance commitments in NATO.”
“Russia has made a concerted effort over the last 10 years to increase their capabilities,” including at sea, on land, in space and cyberspace, and with nuclear weapons, he added, “So I’ve tried to explain to them is that what we are doing is responding to that challenge that they pose.”
In contrast, in the Pacific region — where the US recently renamed its combatant command as Indo-Pacific Command in what as seen as a compliment to India and a slight to China — the US is trying to ensure everyone plays by the same rules, Dunford said.
“China is irritated by what we do, but again, [we] try to explain to them that, look, there is a rules-based international order, and we talk about a free and open Indo-Pacific based on international law, norms, and standards,” he said.
“What we are doing in the Pacific is we’re flying, operating, and sailing wherever international law allows, and the purpose of that is to demonstrate that we are standing up for those rules.”
In addition to claiming a vast swath of the South China Sea, Beijing has reclaimed land on reefs and islands there and, on some of them, constructed military outposts.
The US and others have rejected those claims and continued to treat the area as international waters, which has led to a number of close encounters.
Dunford encouraged continued diplomacy with China, and he spoke positively about his interactions with Chinese military leadership, saying they had been able to perform “confidence-building measures” and to “increase transparency and reduce the risk of miscalculation.”
But he also said a “coherent, collective response” was necessary and that, like other US officials, he had made plain to Beijing the US’s objections.
“I learned early in my career that if you see something that is not to standard or not within the law and you ignore it, you’ve set a new standard, and it’s lower,” Dunford said Nov. 5, 2018. “When I talked to my Chinese counterpart, I said, look, this is not about a pile of rocks in the Pacific. It’s about enforcing international law and a coherent response to your violation of international law.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
National Guard troops deployed to the border in Arizona are puttering around doing administrative and maintenance work in order to keep them out of potentially dangerous situations and to allow the border patrol to focus on working in the field.
Troops have been deployed to the border in the past — both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama sent troops there under similar circumstances — but the ones currently stationed in Arizona are even farther from the border than past deployments, according to a Politico report, and have no involvement in law-enforcement activity there.
President Donald Trump has called for up to 4,000 troops from various states to deploy to the border from Texas to California. Only about 200 Arizona National Guard soldiers have been put to work there, less than one-third of the 682 who have been authorized to deploy.
The troops are not allowed to join patrols or operations to detain people trying to cross the border undetected.
“There is a false narrative that we are doing ride-alongs,” Capt. Macario Mora of the Arizona National Guard told Politico. The troops also are not armed, Mora said, “and there is no anticipation that will change.”
Feeding horses and shoveling manure
Many have been pressed into service providing administrative support and doing upkeep, including feeding horses and shoveling manure out of stables, office work, and basic repairs and maintenance work on border patrol facilities and vehicles. “We fix flats,” one sergeant, a cook, told Politico.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. John Nimmo, Sr.)
Troops in Arizona are kept far from the border, though some have been given training to monitor the remote cameras the border patrol has set up along the frontier. In Texas, troops are allowed to visually monitor the border, but the ones tasked with surveillance are not allowed to look into Mexico. Those troops are also performing maintenance and doing repairs on roads and vehicles.
Jurisdictional issues and legal restrictions are part of the reason troops are tasked with such a narrow range of duties, but there is also an effort to keep the soldiers out of trouble, particularly in areas where they could encounter criminal groups along the border.
The soldiers are not really trained or equipped for law-enforcement duties, and officials are still wary of the potential risks involved in them interacting with civilians. Officials are still mindful of the 1997 killing of an 18-year-old by marines who were patrolling along the Rio Grande River in Texas as part of a drug-surveillance patrol.
Esequiel Hernandez was shot and killed within sight of his home by marines who had followed him as he herded goats along the river. The marines, who had been deployed to the area secretly days before, said Hernandez pointed his .22 rifle at them fired twice in their direction. A prosecutor and Texas Rangers doubted that story but were unable to indict the marines on a murder charge, leaving locals bitter.
Mora, the Arizona National Guard captain, told Politico that the troops were in a “much safer environment” miles away from the border. “It definitely helps mitigate the risk of the National Guard running into conflict,” he said.
The troops’ muted presence stands in contrast to Trump’s rhetoric about the threats posed by border crossers and about his administration’s response.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
Both the Border Patrol and the American Civil Liberties Union have criticized the deployments, the former regarding them as a misuse of resources and latter seeing it as unneeded. Military officials have also criticized the deployments, viewing them as a distraction and a needless strain on US-Mexico relations.
The deployments, paid for by the Pentagon, are only funded through September 2018, the end of the fiscal year. It’s not clear if funding will be extended beyond that, and other events may limit or curtail the deployments going forward.
Governors from at least eight states have said they withhold or withdraw their states’ National Guard troops from the border, many of them citing dismay over the Trump administration’s now-rescinded policy of separating children from their parents as they cross the border.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
PandaGuy5 asks: Were people ever really tortured in Iron Maidens?
The people of the Middle Ages have a reputation for wanton brutality and, as supposed evidence of this, countless instruments of torture sit in museums around the world, arguably the most famous of which being the Iron Maiden. This hellish contraption supposedly caused unthinkable pain and anguish for those unlucky enough to be sentenced to suffer its merciless sting, condemning them to a slow and agonizing death. Or, at least, that’s what the stories say, because as far as anyone can tell, the Iron Maiden didn’t exist as a real world object until the 19th century- and for reference here the so-called “Medieval Times” are generally considered to have ended around the end of the 15th century.
So who invented the Iron Maiden and why, how did it become the face of Medieval torture, and has anyone actually ever been killed in one?
As for historical examples, there are a couple references to similar devices in history, with the oldest being a device known today as the “Iron Apega”, supposedly made about 2,200 years ago. Described by Greek historian Polybius, the device was an automaton replica of the wife of 2nd and 3rd century BC Spartan leader Nabis, with the woman in question named- you guessed it- Apega.
Various neo-medieval torture instruments. An iron maiden stands at the right.
The automaton was apparently lavishly dressed up in one of Apega’s outfits, with Polybius then stating of those who were made to meet the wife replica,
When the man offered her his hand, he made the woman rise from her chair and taking her in his arms drew her gradually to his bosom. Both her arms and hands as well as her breasts were covered with iron nails … so that when Nabis rested his hands on her back and then by means of certain springs drew his victim towards her … he made the man thus embraced say anything and everything. Indeed by this means he killed a considerable number of those who denied him money.
So in a nutshell of the whole story, anyone who refused to pay their taxes would be made to give this mechanical version of his wife a hug, with at any point them being able to make the hug of death stop if they agreed to pay. If they did not, the hug continued until they died. Whether this device actually existed or not, or was just an allusion to Apega’s supposedly ruthless nature to match the reported cruelty of her husband, isn’t know.
Moving on from there, we have an account from one of the earliest Christian authors and the so-called “Father of Latin Christianity”, Tertullian, who lived in the second and third century AD. In his work “To the Martyrs”, he states of the death of Roman General and consul Marcus Atilius Regulus,
It would take me too long to enumerate one by one the men who at their own self-impulse have put an end to themselves…. Regulus, a Roman general, who had been taken prisoner by the Carthaginians, declined to be exchanged for a large number of Carthaginian captives, choosing rather to be given back to the enemy. He was crammed into a sort of chest; and, everywhere pierced by nails driven from the outside, he endured so many crucifixions.
A follow up account by Augustine of Hippo in his 5th century “City of God” elaborates on the tale of Regulus’ death,
Marcus Attilius Regulus, a Roman general, was a prisoner in the hands of the Carthaginians. But they, being more anxious to exchange their prisoners with the Romans than to keep them, sent Regulus as a special envoy with their own ambassadors to negotiate this exchange, but bound him first with an oath, that if he failed to accomplish their wish, he would return to Carthage. He went and persuaded the senate to the opposite course, because he believed it was not for the advantage of the Roman republic to make an exchange of prisoners. After he had thus exerted his influence, the Romans did not compel him to return to the enemy; but what he had sworn he voluntarily performed. But the Carthaginians put him to death with refined, elaborate, and horrible tortures. They shut him up in a narrow box, in which he was compelled to stand, and in which finely sharpened nails were fixed all round about him, so that he could not lean upon any part of it without intense pain; and so they killed him by depriving him of sleep…
That said, whether any of that actually happened or not is up for debate as 1st century BC Greek historian Diodorus claims Regulus died of natural causes, with no mention of such a torture device involved.
Regulus returning to Carthage (1791) by Andries Cornelis Lens.
Moving on from there are old European fairy tales of unknown dating and origin, in which certain individuals were killed by being placed inside casks that had nails driven in. The cask would then apparently be rolled down a steep hill, sometimes into water… which if we’re being honest almost sounds worse than the actual Iron Maiden. Sort of the spiked version of death by a thousand papercuts and then as a reward at the end, terrifying slow drowning as you writhe in agony from all the little holes in your body; no doubt also trying to reflexively break the cask to get out once it starts to fill with water, creating some more holes in the process. We suppose at least this one’s a bit quicker, if a lot more dramatic.
Other than that, there are no references to such an Iron Maiden-like device until just before the 19th century. This first reference comes from German philosopher, linguist, archeologist, and professor at the University of Altdorf, Johann Philipp Siebenkees in 1793.
According to Siebenkees, on August 14, 1515 a coin forger was sentenced to die in a casket that had metal spikes driven into various parts lined up with particularly sensitive bits of the forger’s anatomy. Writes Siebenkees,:
the very sharp points penetrated his arms, and his legs in several places, and his belly and chest, and his bladder and the root of his member (penis), and his eyes, and his shoulders, and his buttocks, but not enough to kill him; and so he remained making great cry and lament for two days, after which he died.
Of course, if this was a real method of execution used, each such cask would have had to have been custom spiked for each new victim in order to line everything up perfectly, given people come in all shapes and sizes. This creates something of a logistical problem that many other means of torturing and killing someone wouldn’t have. Nevertheless, Siebenkees claimed it happened at least this once. So did it?
Well, given the complete lack of evidence or even reference to any other such Iron Maiden-like device used elsewhere in this era, nor who this forger was or any such pertinent details other than the oddly specific date, most historians think he made it up, or that this was an exaggerated tale of the use of a device that we do know existed in Europe.
So what was this real instrument of torture? Sometimes called the Schandmantel (“coat of shame”), the “Drunkard’s Cloak”, or the “Spanish Mantle”, this was essentially a wooden cask someone who was being punished for some crime would be made to wear about town- sort of a mobile version of stocks with similar purpose- mocking someone publicly and having people throw random things at them, in this case as they trudged along.
Consider this account from Ralph Gardiner’s 17th century England’s Grievance Discovered,
men drove up and down the streets, with a great tub, or barrel, opened in the sides, with a hole in one end, to put through their heads, and to cover their shoulders and bodies, down to the small of their legs, and then close the same, called the new fashioned cloak, and so make them march to the view of all beholders; and this is their punishment for drunkards, or the like.
Jumping across the pond to the land of the free, at least some soldiers were not always so free, as noted in an article titled “A Look at the Federal Army,” published in 1862 where the author states,
I was extremely amused to see a ‘rare’ specimen of Yankee invention, in the shape of an original method of punishment drill. One wretched delinquent was gratuitously framed in oak, his head being thrust through a hole cut in one end of a barrel, the other end of which had been removed; and the poor fellow ‘loafed’ about in the most disconsolate manner, looking for all the world like a half-hatched chicken…
In another account by one John Howard in 1784 in his “The State of Prisons in England and Wales”, he writes,
Denmark- Some of the lower sort, as watchmen,coachmen, etc., are punished by being led through the city in what is called ‘The Spanish Mantle.’ This is a kind of heavy vest, something like a tub, with an aperture for the head, and irons to enclose the neck. I measured one at Berlin, 1ft 8 in. in diameter at the top, 2 ft. 11 in at the bottom, and 2 ft. 11 in high… This mode of punishment is particularly dreaded, and is one cause that night robberies are never heard of in Copenhagen.
Of course, much like the Iron Maiden, as you’ll note from the dates mentioned here, most detailed contemporary accounts of these devices of humiliation and sometimes torture seem to indicate they weren’t really a Medieval thing, despite sometimes claimed to go back to the 13th century in Germany.
In any event, whether Siebenkees’s much more elaborate cask with spikes put in was really just a tale he picked up that was exaggerating these “coats of shame”, he made it up completely, or whether some inventive executioner thought to add the addition of spikes to such a cask and a forger really was executed in this way in the 16th century isn’t known, with most leaning towards Siebenkees making it up. Even if it did really happen, however, this still is post Medieval times by most people’s reckoning.
Whatever the case, a handful of years after Siebenkees’ account, the first known actual Iron Maiden appeared in a Nuermburg museum in 1802 not far away from Siebenkees’ home in Altdorf. This device was supposedly “discovered” in a German castle in the late 18th century. Not just a cask, this killing machine was roughly human shaped, made of iron, and even had a face, supposedly based on the face of the Virgin Mary, hence the torture instrument’s name- the Iron Maiden.
This probably first real Iron Maiden was sadly destroyed during WW2 by Allied bombers, but a copy created “as decoration for the ‘Gothic Hall’ of a patrician palace in Milan” in 1828 survived and currently resides in the Rothenburg, das Kriminalmuseum (Museum of Crime). From this copy, we can see that the device was certainly designed to cause unimaginable agony in its victims. Along with having strategically placed spikes designed to pierce approximately where a person’s vital organs and sensitive nether-region dangly bits are, the face of the Maiden did indeed have spikes designed to pierce a victim’s eyes upon closing, assuming the person wasn’t vertically challenged.
This copy did a lot to help popularize the idea of the Iron Maiden as a real thing thanks to its prominent display at the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893 in Chicago, and subsequent tour across the United States to much fanfare.
Incidentally, this was the same World’s Fair that gave us the name “Ferris Wheel” for a device previously called a “pleasure wheel,” with George Washington Gale Ferris Jr.’ iconic version being rather massive compared to anything that had come before, holding an astounding 2,160 people at a time. This was also the same fair that saw famed serial killer H.H. Holmes taking advantage of the extra people in town looking for a place to stay, keeping business booming at his so-called “House of Horrors Hotel”.
Going back to the Iron Maiden, beyond the tour of one of the originals and extra exposure at the World’s Fair, another man largely credited with popularising the idea of the Iron Maiden was 19th century art collector Matthew Peacock. Among other things, he managed to collect a wide variety of historic torture devices to, as he put it: “Show the dark spirit of the Middle Ages in contrast to the progress of humanity.”
Naturally, unable to find the Real McCoy, Peacock cobbled together an Iron Maiden apparently partially from real artifacts of other means of torture, and then donated it to a museum to be displayed as a symbolic representation of the former era’s cruelty.
The public ate all of this up and the idea of the Iron Maiden slowly permeated throughout society to the point that most today assume it was a real thing used to kill people in a slow and very painful way during Medieval Times.
An open iron maiden.
This all brings us the question of whether anyone has ever actually been tortured or killed in one? The answer, surprisingly, is possibly, but not in Medieval Times, nor even apparently in historic ones, unless you consider a couple decades ago historic.
Enter Uday Hussein. The eldest son of Saddam started his murderous rampage apparently by bludgeoning to death one Kamel Gegeo, who was at the time Saddam’s bodyguard, valet and food taster. This murder was done in front of a host of party guests in 1988. The party in question was in Egypt, in honor of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s wife, Suzanne. As to what Gegeo did to incite Uday’s rage, he apparently hooked Saddam up with a woman, Samira Shahbandar. Samira was married when Saddam met her, but that was quickly taken care of, freeing him up to take her as one of his mistresses and, later, as his second wife.
While still in the mistress stage, Uday decided to kill Gegeo for the facilitation of Saddam’s illicit relationship, which Uday seems to have felt was an affront to his own mother.
Saddam did sentence his son to death for this murder, but a few months later switched to exiling him to Switzerland, with the Swiss government allowing the well-known recent murderer to enter the country for some bizarre reason. However, after frequent run-ins with the law there, the Swiss finally gave him the boot and he returned to Iraq without apparent consequence. If all that wasn’t enough of a testament of what a swell fella’ Uday was, beyond some confirmed assassination attempts and other murders by the lovable rapscallion, rumors of frequent rape of random women swirled around Uday…
This all brings us back to the Iron Maiden and Uday’s eventual appointment as the chairman of the Iraqi Olympic Committee and the Iraq Football Association. In those positions, accusations were rampant that Uday occasionally had various athletes tortured when they were thought to have either under performed or otherwise screwed up in some way in competition. These included doing things like ripping their toenails off, scalding their feet, subjecting them to extreme sleep deprivation, having them kick cement balls, and dragged across gravel roads followed by being dipped into sewage… Allegedly after a 4-1 loss to Japan in the Asian Cup in 2000, he also had three of the players deemed responsible for the defeat beaten repeatedly for a few days.
As for the Iron Maiden, after Uday’s death and the fall of Saddam’s regime in 2003, a mere twenty or so meters away from the Iraqi Football Association headquarters an Iron Maiden was found on the ground. Time Magazine’s Bobby Ghosh states of this find,
The one found in Baghdad was clearly worn from use, its nails having lost some of their sharpness. It lay on its side within view of Uday’s first-floor offices in the soccer association. Ironically, the torture device was brought to TIME’s attention by a group of looters who had been stripping the compound of anything of value. They had left behind the iron maiden, believing it to be worthless.
That said, despite this report, there is no actual hard evidence the Iron Maiden was used, nor blood found on the device or the like. But given all the rumors of Uday’s penchant for torturing people, and some of the confirmed things he did do, as well as the device’s location, at the least he is presumed to have used it as a method of terrorizing people, as was more the norm even in Medieval Times with actual real world torture devices, rather than frequently using them.
All that said, given his proclivities for murdering people who upset him, it is further speculated by many that he might have actually followed through and killed someone with it at some point. But, again, despite reports, so far there has never been any concrete evidence of this, so it’s still not wholly clear if anyone was ever actually killed by an Iron Maiden or not.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
Out of all of the troops in the Star Wars canon, no one has it worse than the Stormtrooper. The Clones of the prequel saga were beloved across the Galactic Republic despite having numbers around the same as Eritrea’s military (both at 200,000). And the rebels had somewhat stable living conditions and maintained some form of identity.
But it’s the Imperial Stormtroopers and the First Order Stormtroopers that truly embrace the suck. Still, First Order Stormtroopers have been training since they were born, which is terrible in and of itself. The Stormtroopers of the original trilogy enlisted like troops today and would then realize their Imperial recruiter lied to them.
1. Loss of comrades
With 1,179,293 deaths on the first Death Star and 2,471,647 deaths on the second Death Star, roughly 120 on-screen deaths, and god knows how many Imperials have died elsewhere in the series, it’s fair to say that if you’re a Stormtrooper, death is all around you.
Troopers who would survive would be damaged by survivor’s guilt. The deaths of their comrades, best friends, and squad mates may not mean anything on the scale of the Galactic Empire, but it would devastate the surviving trooper.
2. No identity
Every Stormtrooper dons the signature white armor. Only differences would be by rank and position.
All of this would be more apparent when officers over you keep their identity and maintain far more privileges than the average buckethead.
The lost of one’s identity can be detrimental to their mental health. Being forced to work until exhaustion, training constantly (they’d have to, right? They’re formations are impeccable), constant control by higher-ups and other rigors of being a soldier without the benefit of “off-time” would be disastrous.
3. Chain of command would be at their throat
Speaking of constant control by higher-ups, the expression “sh*t rolls down hill” would take on a whole new meaning for Stormtroopers.
While in the novels and comics, Darth Vader is seen personally earning the loyalty of his troops, the same could not be said of the rest of a Stormtrooper’s chain of command.
In the real-world military, a threat from a General officer to the next echelon down is taken seriously, even if the consequence is a stern talking to. That rolls into more dire consequences until Article 15’s are tossed around like candy. Now imagine how that would multiply if the General knew he would be force choked in a board meeting for a slight mistake.
4. Acclimatization to new planets
Being deployed to Afghanistan from Fort Campbell, Kentucky can take some time to adjust for a U.S. soldier.
Now imagine going from Tatooine to Hoth to Endor. The suit may help with the weather, but the changes in gravity, atmosphere, and day length would still take its toll on a trooper. Expect to go to a new planet many times within the span of a few weeks.
The science of Star Wars is still fairly vague. The series is more about the adventure than the theoretical physics. Throwing E=MC^2 out the window for a bit, allows nothing with mass to reach the speed of light (if not faster) without a power supply with infinite energy output — let’s keep this going.
The Galactic Empire governs the entirety of the galaxy, all 14,670 light years across. Because even if they could travel faster than the speed of light, everything on the planets would stay the same.
Getting from the capital of Coruscant to the other end of the galaxy on Tatooine would mean hundreds of lifetimes passed while you blinked. An order given on Hoth would take eons to reach Bespin.
But that doesn’t seem to be the case in the Star Wars franchise, meaning everyone is traveling faster than scientifically possible. What would that do to a body? (The answer: nothing good.)
And the most commonly attributed trait among the Stormtroopers is their terrible aim.
The first moments we see them they can gun down the rebels on the cruiser with ease. Every battle shown with nameless rebel characters, they shoot perfectly fine. Even a former General in the Clone Army, Obi-wan Kenobi, says “These blast points… Only Imperial Stormtroopers are so precise.”
You miss shooting a princess one time — a princess who is also your boss’ boss’ boss’ boss’ daughter, who your orders are to capture alive, and needs to stay alive so the tracking device can lead your moon-sized planet destroyer over the entire enemy base — you’re forever labeled as having sh*tty aim. No respect for just doing your job.
Other than that moment, they have no problem shooting Princess Leia. Once with a stun laser at the beginning of New Hope and again at the Battle of Endor.
TBILISI — The United States and Britain have joined Georgia in blaming Russia for a massive coordinated cyberattack last year that took thousands of Georgian websites offline and even disrupted TV broadcasts.
Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimer Konstantinidi told a news conference in Tbilisi on February 20 that the cyberattack was planned and carried out by Russia.
“The investigation conducted by the Georgian authorities, together with information gathered through cooperation with partners, concluded that this cyberattack was planned and carried out by the main division of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation,” Konstantinidi said.
Meanwhile, the United States and Britain said in separate statements that the attack was carried out by a unit of Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency known as Unit 74455 and Sandworm.
Sandworm is known as a single group of hackers within the GRU and security experts have linked it to such cyber breaches as the theft of 9 gigabytes of e-mails from the French presidential campaign of Emmanuel Macron, a similar campaign against the Democratic National Committee in the United States in 2016, as well as the malware that hit Ukraine’s power grid in 2015 and spread globally.
Britain has also linked the group to two attacks against Ukraine in 2017, including NotPetya and BadRabbit, which affected the nation’s financial and energy sectors as well as the Kyiv Metro and Odesa’s airport.
“The United States calls on Russia to cease this behavior in Georgia and elsewhere,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, adding that Washington would provide assistance to Georgia to help improve the country’s ability to fend off such attacks.
“We also pledge our support to Georgia and its people in enhancing their cybersecurity and countering malicious cyber actors,” Pompeo added.
Russia denied involvement in penetrating Georgian government websites.
“Russia did not plan and is not planning to interfere in Georgia’s internal affairs in any way,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko told Russian news agencies.
The Russian Defense Ministry did not immediately comment.
More than 2,000 state, private, and media websites as well as two private television stations — Imedi and Maestro — were knocked out on October 28. The targeted websites included those of the president’s office and local municipality offices.
In many cases, website home pages were replaced with an image of former President Mikheil Saakashvili, and the caption “I’ll be back.”
With the rise of cyberattacks, Navy ships are now equipped with defense from hackers.
Russia has fraught relations with its southern neighbor, which is seeking to join Western organizations, including the European Union and NATO, moves that Moscow opposes.
Russia fought a five-day war with Georgia in 2008 after which Russia recognized the independence claim of two breakaway regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which comprise 20 percent of its territory.
Russia is one of only a few countries that recognizes the two regions’ independence.
Since the US-led effort against ISIS has destroyed almost all of the terror group’s territorial sovereignty in Syria, 2,000 or so US forces remain in control of the country’s rich oil fields— something that Iran, Syria’s government, and Russia openly oppose.
But unfortunately for Russia, pro-Syrian government forces, and Iranian militias, there’s not much they can do about it.
Russia has advanced weapons systems in Syria, pro-Syrian militias have capable Russian equipment, and Iran has about 70,000 troops in the country. On paper, these forces could defeat or oust the US and the Syrian rebels it backs, but, in reality, it would likely be a losing battle, according to an expert.
US forces at risk, but not as much as anyone who would attack them
“They have the ability to hurt US soldiers, it’s possible,” Tony Badran, a Syria expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider. But “if they do that, they’ll absolutely be destroyed.”
According to Badran, even if Russia wanted a direct fight against the US military in Syria, something that he and other experts seriously doubt, the Syrian government-aligned forces don’t stand much of a chance.
“I think the cruise missile attack in April 2017 showed, and the ongoing Israeli incursions show, the Russian position and their systems are quite vulnerable,” said Badran, referring to the US’s April 2017 strike on a Syrian airfield in response to a chemical weapons attack in the country. Though Russia has stationed high-end air defenses in Syria to protect its assets, that did not stop the US when President Donald Trump’s administration decided to punish the Syrian air force with 59 cruise missiles.
Russia has just a few dozen jets in Syria, mostly suited for ground-attack roles with some air supremacy fighters. The US has several large bases in the area from which it can launch a variety of strike and fighter aircraft, including the world’s greatest fighter jet, the F-22.
Iran has a large inventory of rockets in and around Syria, according to Badran, but an Iranian rocket attack on US forces would be met by a much larger US retaliation.
“It’s vulnerable,” Badran said of Iran’s military presence in Syria. “It’s exposed to direct US fire, just like it’s exposed to direct Israeli fire.”
If Iran fired a single missile at US forces, “then the bases and depot and crew will be destroyed after that,” said Badran, who added that Iranian forces in Syria have poor supply lines that would make them ill-suited to fighting the US, which has air power and regional assets to move in virtually limitless supplies.
Badran noted that before the US entered the Syrian conflict, ISIS fighters, whose training and equipment pales in comparison to the US’s forces, had good success in disrupting Iranian-aligned militias’ supply lines “even though they’re under bombardment.”
“Imagine what it would be like” if Iranian militias had to fight against the full power of the US military, Badran added.
Syria’s military has struggled for years to take territory from Syrian rebels, some of whom do not receive any funding and backing from the US. With Syria’s government focused on overcoming the civil war in the country’s more populous east, it’s unlikely they could offer any meaningful challenge to US forces in the country’s west.
The US defending itself is a given and Russia, Iran, or Syria would be too bold to question that
“Everybody poses this question as though the US is Luxembourg,” Badran said, comparing the US, which has the most powerful military in the world, to Luxembourg, which has a few hundred troops and only some diplomatic or economic leverage to play with while conducting foreign policy.
For now, the US has announced its intentions to stay in Syria and sit on the oil fields to deny the government the funds to reconstruct the country. Syria’s government has ties to massive human rights violations throughout the seven-year-long civil war and its ruler, Bashar Assad, clings to power in the face of popular uprisings.
While the US has failed to oust Assad or even meaningfully decrease the suffering of Syrian people, it remains a force incredibly capable of defending itself.
Mike Durant is a prime example of an individual who took a terrible situation and turned it into a positive life experience.
He’s the real “Black Hawk Down” pilot shot down and captured during the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993. Today, he credits his harrowing ordeal for his success in business and his personal life.
Durant — a young chief warrant officer at the time — was part of a Special Operations aviation unit deployed to Somalia in August 1993 to assist U.S. forces during the peacekeeping mission there. The country was ripping itself apart by clans and militia groups vying for power after strongman, Mohamed Siad Barre’s downfall.
His unit’s objective was to capture Somali clan leader Mohammed Farrah Aidid and to provide security to relief organizations trying to aid the starving locals. As a result, Durant’s team had several successful operations, capturing about two dozen warlords.
But everything went pear shaped on October 3, 1993, while providing air support to the troops hunting Aidid’s senior militia leaders. A man on a rooftop fired a rocket-propelled grenade at Durant’s slow-moving UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter causing it to spin toward the earth from 70 feet in the air.
“In my mind, I died,” Durant told National Geographic. “When we crashed, I was knocked unconscious, and I think psychologically that was the end for me.”
Durant had been trained at survival, evasion, resistance and escape school, but nothing could compare to the real experience. He’s thankful to Delta Force operators and Medal of Honor recipients Gary Gordon and Randy Shughart for sacrificing their lives while attempting to rescue him. He almost suffered the same fate but was taken prisoner instead.
“I have tried to raise the bar on myself, elevate my game, do things that I probably wouldn’t have done if I hadn’t had that experience,” he said. “I’ve done a lot of things that stray outside the lines for me, but I did them because I realize I already have a second chance, I’m not going to have a third. So, I’m going to take full advantage of what’s been offered to me.”
Watch Durant explain his mission, captivity, and how it turned his life around:
The violence of the final weeks of World War II on Europe’s Eastern Front was matched only by its chaos, as exhausted and outmanned German forces withered under attacks from well-equipped and highly motivated Soviet troops.
The front line became more fluid, with Soviet forces quickly enveloping Nazi units that then made shambolic retreats and launched desperate breakout attempts.
At times, Soviet forces arrived at vacated German positions so quickly that the Russians found opportunities to taunt their reeling enemies.
The Soviet race to Berlin began on April 15 from positions east of the city, and by the morning of April 21, 1945, staff officers at the German army and armed forces joint headquarters at Zossen, south of Berlin, were girding themselves for capture after Hitler denied a request for them to relocate away from the Soviet advance.
But Soviet tanks ran out of gas south of the headquarters, and the delay allowed Hitler’s staff to reconsider, ordering the headquarters to move to Potsdam, southwest of Berlin. The officers at Zossen got the order just in time.
“Late that afternoon, Soviet soldiers entered the concealed camp at Zossen with caution and amazement,” historian Antony Beevor writes in his 2002 book, “The Fall of Berlin 1945.”
Just four German defenders were left. Three surrendered immediately. The fourth was too drunk to do anything.
“It was not the mass of papers blowing about inside the low, zigzag-painted concrete buildings which surprised [the Soviets], but the resident caretaker’s guided tour,” according to Beevor. The tour, he writes, took the Soviet troops down among the two headquarters’ maze of bunkers, filled with generators, maps, and telephones.
“Its chief wonder was the telephone exchange, which had linked the two supreme headquarters with Wehrmacht units,” Beevor writes.
“A telephone suddenly rang. One of the Russian soldiers answered it. The caller was evidently a senior German officer asking what was happening,” Beevor writes. “‘Ivan is here,’ the soldier replied in Russian, and told him to go to hell.”
Soviets troops found other ways to taunt the Germans using their own phone lines.
A few days later, as Russian armies advanced to the outskirts of Berlin, the senior officers in the Fuhrer bunker, which didn’t have proper signaling equipment, were increasingly in the dark about troop movements. In order to supply Hitler with up-to-date information, they had to turn to Berlin’s residents.
(U.S. Signal Corps photo)
“They rang civilian apartments around the periphery of the city whose numbers they found in the Berlin directory,” Beevor writes.
“If the inhabitants answered, they asked if they had seen any sign of advancing troops. And if a Russian voice replied, usually with a string of exuberant swearwords, then the conclusion was self-evident.”
In the final days of April 1945, Berliners started calling their city the “Reich’s funeral pyre,” and Soviet troops were calling them to rub their looming victory in to their nearly vanquished enemy.
“Red Army soldiers decided to use the telephone network, but for amusement rather than information,” Beevor writes.
“While searching apartments, they would often stop to ring numbers in Berlin at random. Whenever a German voice answered, they would announce their presence in unmistakable Russian tones.”
The calls “surprised the Berliners immensely,” wrote a Soviet political officer.
Amid those taunts, the battle for Berlin and the fighting that preceded it left widespread destruction and death.
Soviet forces lost about 70,000 troops in the fight for the city. Many of their deaths were caused by the haste of the Soviet operation, which was driven by commanders’ desire to impress and please Stalin and by Stalin’s own desire to seize Nazi nuclear research.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.