Posts Tagged ‘military’

Loyalty and Obedience in the Military

June 23, 2010

I watched that general on the news and commented to my wife “it takes YEARS, a lifetime, to become a 4 star general. One retired general publicly admitted that he never once voted in his entire life because he felt that any attempt at partisanship would sully his sworn duty to carry out any command of any commander-in-chief.” My wife objected that the voting is secret and one may register as an independent but I countered with the observation that even the act of choosing in ones heart is an expression of partisanship which can disfigure a spirit of unquestioning loyalty and obedience.

Objections to gays serving in the military

February 23, 2010

One middle aged man recently told me his main objection to permitting gays in the military: “If I am in a shower with a bunch of men, I don’t want some gay man casting lustful glances at me.” I am paraphrasing what he said in my own words. I did not reply to him because anything I might say would quite possibly anger him. But I began to give some thought to his reasoning. I have worked in offices with gays and lesbians over the years. I know for a fact that being gay does not mean that someone is sexually attracted to each and every male nor is a lesbian sexually attracted to each and every female. There are situations where both genders deal with nudity on a regular basis. One obvious situation is a nudist colony. I rather imagine that people who live with nudity become very accustomed to it. I doubt that they automatically desire sex with each and every person they see regardless of their sexual orientation. Two other examples of dealing on a regular basis with nudity are medical doctors and artists who sketch from live models. St. John’s offered a life class and Jeffrey Sonheim told me to join him because the model was drop-dead gorgeous. He warned me that I would have to take charcoal and paper and PRETEND to draw or they would throw me out. I confess I went initially to see the nude model, and indeed she was beautiful and sexy. But within 10 minutes I discovered to my amazement that I liked to draw, and I was no longer aroused by the model. I continued to attend the classes because I enjoyed sketching. The other thing that occurs to me regarding that man’s objection is why must all the soldiers shower together in a huge shower? Surely there must be some way to allow large numbers of people to shower with some degree of privacy. And how can you know what anyone is thinking or feeling if they see you naked. I am certain their are straight people who have occasional same-sex erotic thoughts just as there are gays and lesbians who occasionally think about having a straight experience.

This is an issue of professionalism. In the military, as in all professions, it is generally expected that people behave in a manner that facilitates the work of their profession. If someone is behaving in a sexual manner in the showers, that would be a breach of professional conduct.

I fail to see why military professionals are portrayed as … somehow so incapable of professional behavior that they would deleteriously alter their behavior if they knew one of their colleagues was gay. Give the military some credit, these are guys in whom we place a huge amount of trust and responsibility; I think they’re grown up enough to know how to treat all of their colleagues with respect.

William: Excellent points, Kyle. Some years ago I read the results of an anonymous survey of physicians defining for them what the survey would consider sexual misconduct with a patient. I was struck by the fact that two women acknowledged sexual misconduct with patients. The report did not indicate whether those two women were inappropriate with male patients or with female patients.

Obviously the vast majority of the survey who admitted misconduct of some form were males. Males are often stereotyped as people more vulnerable to sexual temptations. But sexual misconduct is not unknown among female regardless of their sexual orientation.

Change of topic: you know what happens if I forbid you to ever think of a white elephant. What is the first thing your mind does?

A Battle of Short and Long

February 13, 2010

A Battle of Short and Long

I am now age 58. When I was about 6 or 8 years old, I remember my father telling me about an ancient battle, in which one side had very long spears, and the opposing side had very short spears. My father said that one brave soldier, among those with the short spears, intentionally impaled himself upon a number of the long spears. This opening allowed the short spear warriors to get very close. Being close, the long spears were too long to be effective, and the short spear forces won a victory.

My father is now age 90. I asked him, in recent years, if he remembers telling me that story, but he has no memory of it whatsoever.

I have searched in google on various occasions, but have found nothing.

I would love to know where the story came from. What was the century of the battle? Which nations or city-states were at war? Which historian wrote of the battle?

Thanks for any light you may shed on this question.


The only example I know of of such an act took place at the Battle of Sempach in 1386. The Swiss Confederation had rebelled against the Holy Roman Emperor, and Duke Leopold III was trying to crush the rebellion.

According to legend, the troops of the Swiss Confederation was unable to break an Austrian phalanx at Sempach. In desperation, one Arnold von Winkelried led a charge of Swiss infantry arranged in a wedge formation, with him at the apex. Throwing himself on the spikes, he brought down enough pikes with his own body for the infantrymen following him to smash a breach in the Austrian phalanx, thus routing them, and securing Swiss independence.

According to the same legend, von Winkelried shouted “Make way for liberty!” as he flung himself on the pikes. Stirring stuff!
I can imagine how intriguing this must be!

While I cannot answer the question from the top of my head, maybe this helps:

Long spears vs short spears seems to point to long pike (the 5.5 metres ‘sarissa’) wielding Macedonian phalanx vs traditional (‘short speared’) Greek phalanx, but as I said I cannot come up with a single recorded battle where this incident took place.

As Macedonian – Greek battles were mostly won by the the Macedonian ‘long spear forces’ perhaps we should not be looking in this period, but to a later one: where Roman legions faced the Macedonian ‘hedgehog’ and won, though through other tactics than the one you described.

Lastly: IIRC a similar incident was discussed in the Medieval Era forum: perhaps in ‘Swiss vs. Landsknechte’? where a contingent of pikemen was broken into through a similar sacrifice by swordfighting opponents.
“You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you!” – Leon Trotsky, June 1919

Here’s a fuller account:

ABOUT seventy years later the Austrians made another attempt to conquer the patriots. They collected a splendid army and marched into the mountains. The Swiss at once armed themselves and met the Austrians at a place called Sempach. In those times powder had not been invented, and men fought with spears, swords, and [232] battle-axes. The Austrian soldiers stood shoulder to shoulder, each grasping a long spear whose point projected far in front of him. The Swiss were armed with short swords and spears and it was impossible for them to get to the Austrians. For a while their cause looked hopeless, but among the ranks of the Swiss was a brave man from one of the Forest Cantons. His name was Arnold von Winkelried. As he looked upon the bristling points of the Austrian spears, he saw that his comrades had no chance to win unless an opening could be made in that line. He determined to make such an opening even at the cost of his life. Extending his arms as far as he could, he rushed toward the Austrian line and gathered within his arms as many spears as he could grasp.

“Make way for liberty!” he cried—

Then ran, with arms extended wide,

As if his dearest friend to clasp;

Ten spears he swept within his grasp.

“Make way for liberty!” he cried—

Their keen points met from side to side.

He bowed among them like a tree,

And thus made way for liberty.

Pierced through and through Winkelried fell dead, but he had made a gap in the Austrian line, and into this gap rushed the Swiss patriots. Victory was theirs and the Cantons were free.…dle&story=tell

Here’s another account:

The Swiss at Sempach – 1386
When Leopold III of Austria led his 5,000 knights and 1,500 infantry into Switzerland in 1386, it was the culmination of numerous attempts by the Hapsburgs to force feudal claims upon the cantons. In the past, the highly respected Swiss infantry had always successfully defended their freedom. The citizens were summoned to arms, and 1,500 men assembled to meet the Austrians at Sempach. As the immediate terrain was not conducive to a cavalry charge, Leopold ordered his men to dismount and form into bristling phalanx of spearmen. Although unplanned, this trapped the Swiss. For the Swiss to attack a force that was four times larger seemed suicidal, and to withdraw they would have to retreat over ground that favored a cavalry attack. Their cause appeared hopeless until one man, Arnold von Winkelreid devised a plan.

Arnold convinced his comrades to form a wedge, and he stood at the apex of the triangle. At the command to charge, the Swiss rushed forward with Arnold at the point. As he approached the Austrians, he stretched out his arms and legs and hurled himself into the enemy line, simultaneously impaling himself on ten spears. The Swiss rushed through the gap that Arnold created and broke the Austrian line. Those Austrians on the flanks and in the reserve panicked and began to flee the battlefield. This was fatal mistake for any army to make when fighting the Swiss. They pursued the Austrians relentlessly and killed them almost to a man, Leopold included. The Austrians never attempted to invade Switzerland again.

* As Arnold von Winkelreid lunged at the Austrian spears, he is alleged to have shouted “Make way for liberty!” Although this sounds like no more than a battlefield legend and a similar incident is also said to have occurred over a century later, a man named Winkelreid is, in fact , listed in records of the Swiss killed that day, and at least one contemporary ballad records the deed as happening at Sempach.…537/stands.htm

I remembered reading about this incident when I was reading up on the Battle of Thermopylae (quite some time ago, before all this excitement about 300 )

What is it about these last stands, battles of the-few-against-the-many, or fights for freedom? They had such good lines just begging to be made into a movie!