Fireside 2.1 ( Danger Close Blog Tue, 22 Jun 2021 10:00:00 -0700 Danger Close Blog en-us SURPLUS ORDNANCE Episode 10: Kingdom of Heaven Tue, 22 Jun 2021 10:00:00 -0700 1fafd634-01fc-415d-b780-2cd32d39afa6 Surplus Ordnance! Research and editing notes on E10: Kingdom of Heaven ** KINGDOM OF HEAVEN**

Researcher: Dave Feldmann

Undergrad and unofficial medievalist, current practitioner of Historical European Martial Arts. I've been looking at and reading knight stuff since I could read and walk, including research into the zettel of Lichtenauer and Hans Talhoffer's Fechtbuch.

Incident(s) the film touches on?

The film takes place about 100 years after the mostly Frankish and Norman knights of the First Crusade conquered Antioch, Edessa, Jerusalem, and much of the Holy Land from the Seljuk Turks. The targets of the Crusaders were primarily everyone in the Levant who were not Roman Catholics - the massacre of Jerusalem at the conclusion of the First Crusade killed Jews, Greek Orthodox Christians, as well as the Muslim population is mentioned in the film directly. "Kingdom of Heaven" takes place after the failed Second Crusade to capture Damascus, and portrays the events that led directly to the showdown between King Richard (called the Lionhearted by the Saracens accoding to myth) and Saladin, the Sultan of Egypt and Syria.

Interesting Facts?

Ridley Scott’s 2004 medieval anti-religious yet decidedly pro-chivalry epic suffers from many of the symptoms associated with almost every film he has ever made. In his historical films, Scott typically begins designing the look of his film from 19th century romantic paintings and does his best to recreate the look, feel, and color distribution represented.1.

  1. The only time Scott has not done this forcefully is in his very fine original work “The Duelists,” which contains, along with Polish film “The Deluge,” some truly wonderful, authentic, and realistic swordplay. I can talk about combat ad nauseum, let me know if you need/ want more.a

The Englishization of most Europeans in the film. The vast majority of the Crusaders and the Crusaders states during this time were mostly all French, including the Templars. The Knights Hospitaller were known for being more generally Italian. The Teutonic Knights were not founded until after the events of the movie, in 1192 in Acre. Scott is making a movie by and large for English-speaking audiences, with English speaking actors, so why not continue the trope of all of High Medieval civilization being represented by actors from the UK, speaking in public school accents for the most part?

Military history stuff. From a medieval combat perspective, especially including gear and equipment, the film presents some weaponry and armor from the late 12th century while including other weapons and weapon systems anachronistically.

The entire forest scene from beginning to end is looked upon fairly well in medievalist circles. The sophisticated hygiene of the Saracen warrior, the maintenance of war-fighting equipment, and Balian’s initial lesson in Fiore-style longsword combat are all fantastic and historically accurate. Using the full weapon (which Godrey demonstrates to Balan “the edge isn’t the only part of the sword”) are straight out of Fiore’s manuals.

Unfortunately, Italian longsword was a weapons system developed centuries later, and knights and warriors from Europe would most likely be using an arming sword, a weapon used in one hand and another weapon, most likely a shield typically (an arming sword corresponds to types X through XII in the below diagram. The two-handed Type XIIa is from about 60 years after Kingdom of Heaven). Longswords were denoted historically (and currently) due to their longer grip intended for two hand use. Two handed words existed in the 12th century, but are extremely rare in the historical record, and most of the fechtbucher (fight books) that have survived regarding medieval combat derive from the late 13th through early 16th centuries focus on longswords at great length. Most of the modern fight choreography uses or ignores these texts in equal measure - Game of Thrones varies in quality greatly but has some high points of authenticity.

A likely inaccuracy is the style of the German warrior’s sword, which is of an amalgamation of a longsword of the late 12th century, with its two handed grip common in the 13th and 14th centuries, and a non-cruciform hilt more common in the Viking age 200 years earlier. Such swords do exist, but are comparatively rare. It's likely that the design team was looking for a way to visually distinguish him from the other warriors in a germanic way. His berserker charge with two weapons even when grievously wounded by a quarrel in the neck is also a throwback to Viking or Teutonic warrior cultures, mentioned as far back as Tacitus.

The combat itself in the fight is high quality, but many elements are slowed or lost completely, primarily because “real” medieval combat is not very cinematic - it would have been better if the warriors of both sides preferred using the tip more than the edge but that’s just something that happens in all movies. Edge-based fighting (cuts with the edge) look scarier and more impressive. The use of crossbowmen and archers to launch the ambush under the facade of parley is commonplace in the historical record.

I personally love Kevin McKidd in this scene, executing a man of the knightly classes after Godfrey refuses to ransom him. The chainmail spike on his warhammer graphically bursts through the secondary chainmail on the noble’s head, and this is a demonstration of precisely what that weapon was designed to do. Warhammers were far more common on medieval battlefields than swords, due to the increased availability of chainmail for many soldiers of all classes, and for its effectiveness. These weapons in particular were favored by the lighter-armored Turkish, Persian, Kurdish, and Egyptian Muslim armies as they developed weapons systems to face more heavily armed and armored Christian knights in close combat. Too bad it's an almost exact replica of a warhammer from the 15th century.

The brief combat between Balian and the Saracen warrior first using a scimitar and then a spear (of some kind) is curious. After the mounted exchange is over (“fight me fairly!”), the Saracen starts combat with his curved blade on his forearm. This is not uncommon in treatises on Polish or Turkish sabre, and is considered to favor defense. However, soldiers in the service of Saladin at the time did not use curved swords. It is not known when the scimitar or any other curved blade weapon gained prominence in the Middle East.

In the battle outside Kerak, the cavalry charge of the Christian knights is very close to what it would’ve looked like, except that the knights would have ridden even closer together and used lances. Their armor is an amalgam of infantry and cavalry styles from the period, which is forgivable for two reasons: 1. They are portrayed as mounted men-at-arms rather than knights and 2. Latin feudal states in Outremer had compulsory military service for all free men, at the King's discretion. Think the Riders of Rohan, sort of. In pitched battles, cavalry charges by numerically inferior Christian knights packed close together were devastating to Saracen/ Turkish/ Kurdish/ Fatimid armies for centuries before and after the event of Kingdom of Heaven. For example, the battle of Arsuf saw a mounted heavy cavalry charge rout Saladin’s army. In the movie, Baldwin reminisces about his decisive victory over Saladin at Montgisard, another battle won by numerically fewer European knights in a heavy cavalry attack. Primary sources from the time indicate that Saladin had many thousands while Baldwin had only 375 knights, however, while the numbers are inflated or deflated by sources to maximize Baldwin’s victory, there is no doubt that Baldwin had fewer soldiers in this engagement.
Balian would not have pulled his helmet off in the middle of a battle, because he would not have been that dumb.
How the Arabs take down Balian is pretty accurate. Multiple soldiers would be swarming a single knight and incapacitating him for capture, and ultimate ransom. Chainmail works very well against cutting strikes and some “thrusts” (using the tip of a hand weapon). Getting hit with metal weapons while wearing chainmail armor hurts, but is not fatal - I can tell you this from experience. The number of survivors from the battle is not unreasonable, and the idea that prisoners would be released or ransomed by one side or the other was commonplace during the constant warfare of the period.

“There is peace there.”
Nope. Liam Neeson is wrong there. Battles, raids, sieges, all forms of warfare were more or less constant, with ceasefires and peace declarations constantly being made and broken. Sybilla’s marriage ceremony to Guy was interrupted by a siege.

“Between Baldwin and Saladin, they could make a better world.”
Maybe, if lasting peace were not diametrically opposed to the two leaders’ strategic aims.
Saladin’s stated goal was the capture of Jerusalem, Islam’s third holiest city, and destroy the entire feudal structure of the Crusader states.

The goal of the Crusader states was to continue their occupation and defeat Saladin wherever possible.
On the other hand, there is also no evidence of widespread massacres, harsh treatment, mutilation,or execution of prisoners common in the First Crusade or the Third Crusade. Evidence of Saladin’s humane treatment of non-combatants and children is well-known. While Latin Christians would frequently be captured, ransomed, or enslaved, Greek Orthodox Christians, Coptic Christians, and Jews appear to be identified as outside the main Latin Christian structure and treated well by the standards of the time.
There is no evidence of Baldwin being a modern humanitarian with regards to his treatment of the non-Latin Christians.

“Saladin has crossed the Jordan with 500,000 men.”
WRONG. Saladin’s army did not number in the hundreds of thousands, but this does fall into common historiographical use. Eastern armies are regularly inflated by 10x in sources going back to Xenophon and Alexander, in order to magnify the victory, or to downplay the defeat, for propaganda purposes. Most estimates put Saladin’s army in the 50,000 range, outnumbering the Europeans, but not by orders of magnitude.

The Knights Templar and Knights Hospitaller.

The status of the knightly orders within the Kingdom of Jerusalem and the other Crusader states is enormously complicated. They functioned both as shock troops, advisors to the king and court, while also not being formally answerable to the King. Primary sources are full of impetuous Templars charging too early in battle and imperiling the crusaders as such. It is unknown whether or not this is true -- many sources of this period are based on earlier works no longer in existence. Opinion regarding the Templars in subsequent centuries certainly contaminates the record.3.

  1. _I can talk about this in significantly more detail, but suffice it say that the Templars were accused of worshiping the Devil, sodomy, renouncing Christ in favor of Mohammad, and a ton of other religious crimes when they were suppressed by the King of France in 1307 before being formally disbanded in 1314. _

While raids by both sides continued constantly and often in defiance of ceasefires and peace treaties, the Templars in particular were known to at different points trade with other Saracen lords and even support them in battle. The kingdom of Jerusalem for example militarily supported a Fatimid Egyptian faction opposed to Saladin in the years prior to those of the film. The Templars’ position as bankers and financial advisors is completely ignored.
Other than being one of the good guys, the Hospitallers are basically ignored.

Horns of Hattin.

The movie greatly simplifies this battle, primarily because the battle itself is enormously complicated, and could probably have a movie about it by itself. Most primary sources agree that King Guy either took bad advice or made a tactical error and moved away from the water source at Saffuriya. Most sources agree that the fighting was extremely bitter and went on for two days, with one European cavalry charge threatening Saladin himself. It should be noted that medieval battles were typically decided in hours, sometimes in minutes. If the sources are to be believed, the battle of Hattin is one of the longest pitched battles in medieval history, and based on the primary sources seems to be a bloody battle of attrition, similar to the battle of Zama or the Napoleonic battle of Borodino. Multiple sources agree that the count of Tiberias led a cavalry against the Muslims, who parted their entire line in front of him and his troops, and then enveloped and wiped out his entire column. There is no agreement in the sources as to who was with the count, although modern sources claim that this was a desperate attempt to reach fresh water. Most sources agree that King Guy setting up camp away from a water source was a mistake which led directly to the European army being surrounded, increasingly desperate, and to their defeat.

“I did not give the cup to you.”
The meeting of King Guy, Raynald of Châtillon, and Saladin is supported by most primary and secondary resources. Where the sources disagree are primarily Raynald and Saladin’s brief conversation, and whether Saladin killed Raynald himself entirely, or stabbed Raynald and had his Mamluk bodyguards behead him.
Christian and Muslim accounts agree that almost the entire Crusader army was destroyed, and it is unclear how Balian and a handful of Europeans escaped. Medieval accounts describe the entire host as being killed or captured, with prisoners being sold into slavery. Multiple sources, both Muslim and Christian describe the execution of 200 Templars and Hospitillars.

The Siege of Jerusalem.

There would not have been time to construct siege towers, the siege lasted a few days to just over a week. Instead of building such material, Saladin was instead accepting the surrender of towns and castles all over the Latin kingdom with the one exception of Tyre, which resisted him. Since the vast amount of the fighting forces of the Latin kingdom had been effectively annihilated at Hattin, Saladin probably believed that he could take the city by storm. Even though Jerusalem is not improbably located on a desert plain, the soldiers of the First Crusade had found only enough wood to construct exactly one siege tower a hundred years before, rather than the 20 that you see in the film. There’s no evidence of boiling oil or Greek fire being used in this siege. The Muslims dug beneath the walls of Jerusalem to bring down the wall, and according to contemporary records, Saladin’s standard had been placed there, though his soldiers had been driven off.
Balian offered terms, and only threatened the destruction of the Dome of the Rock, the execution of the thousands of Muslim prisoners he still held, the murder of their families prior to capture, and essentially the ruination of the city itself prior to its fall to Saladin. The threat that his knights would kill ten Saracens for every Latin killed is supported by multiple sources. Considering that the fighting to take the city had been bloody thus far, (few cities fell by storm in the Middle Ages), this may have been on Saladin’s mind from the beginning. According to Imad ad-Din, this was discussed in council, and it was determined that such a victory would be too costly for the Muslims. Rather than going free, the soldiers and Latin people of Jerusalem would essentially be bought out of slavery with the riches of the city. After 40 days after the surrender of the city, still considered to be an unconditional surrender by the letter of the law, 15,000 Latin Christians were sold into slavery. Balian was concerned specifically with destitutes in the city. According to Imad ad-Din, Saladin gifted Balian 500 such slaves he had taken, with the full knowledge that they would be immediately freed.
After the surrender, Sybilla and Balian led the payrolled survivors from one Crusader-held castle and city to the next, only to be denied entry. Many were robbed and killed by brigands, some of whom were directed to do so by the Latin Christian lords. According to Imad ad-Din, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem stole significantly from the Church in defiance of the agreement. Ad-Din also criticized Saladin’s decision to not destroy the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. While not violent by the standards of the time, the capture of Jerusalem was not as it was portrayed in the film, with everyone becoming friends right away. Still there is no evidence of widespread murder, looting, etc. The city certainly wasn’t burned as in previous sieges, or its population massacred. The Basileus of the Eastern Empire wrote to congratulate Saladin on his victory and thanked him for the good treatment of Orthodox Christians. Balian of Ibelin and Guy de Lusignan did not fight a duel in the marketplace of Jerusalem after the surrender of the city as shown in the Director’s Cut. King Guy would not even be released from imprisonment for years. Also, such a fight would likely be seen as a breach in the peace were it to happen and both men executed. It's also not a very good longsword fight.


Balian of Ibelin
Balian of Ibelin was a real person who did defend the city of Jerusalem. The Liam Neeson character bears more in common with the historical Balian than the Orlando Bloom version and his pretty face. Balian was an older man, and considered to be a leader of the old guard, descendants of the First Crusaders. Balian was effectively third-in-line for the throne while Baldwin lived. Balian never had an affair with Sybilla, who by all accounts was just head over heels for Guy de Lusignan. Some sources do claim that in order to replenish the ranks of knights, Balian created 60 knights from squires and raised other soldiers to squires. I have been utterly confounded as to where this comes from, it is not in any primary source that I have encountered. Balian did not return with Sybilla to France, and remained in the Holy Land, commanding the rearguard at the battle of Jaffa (the battle where Saladin sent a mount to Richard after he was unhorsed, according to legend) and served as a negotiator between Richard and Saladin. In Muslim sources, during the negotiation, Balian is said to speak with the royal “we,” which has led some historians to suspect that the Muslims treated Balian as the king of Jerusalem during the siege.

The characterization of Sybilla as an Orientalized European has more in common with Shelley, Byron, and other 19th century Romantic poets than with 12th century reality. The concept of a relationship between Sybilla and Balian is the product of a courtly love story written in the 13th century called in academic circles Old French Continuation of William Tyre. 4.

  1. No one including the author has ever read it. Highly suspect as a historical resource, it may instead be viewed as an idealized version of events of “the Latin East.” Some aspects of the work, such as Sybilla writing to Balian, offering her hand, and therefore the kingship of Jerusalem, if he frees her Saladin, bear striking similarities to much older legend of Attila the Hun and Honoria, the Roman Emperor’s imprisoned sister. It is all BS. Sybilla was indeed crowned sole regent and Queen after plots, counterplots, and royal intrigues following the death of her brother Baldwin (IV), as well as her son, Baldwin (V). His death is not traditionally attributed to leprosy. Raynald of Chatillon was one of her strongest supporters, along with the Master of the Temple, commander of the Templars. In negotiations with the ruling council of Jerusalem, she agreed to renounce her previous marriage in return for regency and queenship. She would also be granted the right to choose her own husband, and she chose Guy de Lusignan, bearing him two children. Sybilla’s choices of allies frequently place her in political opposition to the “Crusader old guard” led by Balian of Ibelin. Rather than pulling a Cersei and looking out the window the whole time, defence of the city is thought to have been led by Sybilla, Eraclius, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, and Balian. Over the centuries Sybilla has been portrayed in a negative light by many chroniclers, at turns flighty, melodramatic, unpredictable, or any of the other epithets associated with powerful women throughout history. Her demand to marry Guy de Lusignan just prior to the epic defeat at Hattin is often portrayed as destroying the Crusader kingdom in the long run by European writers. Who knows, maybe they just don’t like powerful, savvy women. What is peculiar and interesting about Sybilla in Kingsom of Heaven, is that many of the piled up negative aspects found in the historiography and romances (dalliances with dashing knights, realpoliticking over the crown of Jerusalem, ruthlessness during her regency and ultimately the euthanasia of her own son) are presented in a sympathetic light, the actions of a paradoxically powerful but trapped woman.

Imad ad-Din.
Portrayed by Alexander Siddig (Siddig El Fadil), is a real chronicler, poet, professor of law, and judge of the time period. Highly educated, highly respected, Imad ad-Din is one of the only reasons we have as much knowledge about Saladin from the Muslim side as we do. By all accounts a close friend of Saladin, he was most often placed in high administrative and judicial posts around Saladin’s empire. His work, al-Nawādir al-Sultaniyya wa'l-Maḥāsin al-Yūsufiyya, (the Rare and Excellent Life of Saladin) is unusual in that it was written near contemporary of the events it depicts. There’s no evidence to suggest that he was ever a warrior, or the engineer who suggested the weak point in Jerusalem’s walls.

Gleefully played by Brendan Gleason, this character bears little similarity to the real Raynald. He was not a Templar, instead an aggressive newcomer to the region, who found courtly support with Queen Sybilla and King Guy There’s no evidence that he was insane, or drank and ate heavily while under siege at Kerak. He did attack a caravan and break the truce that existed between Guy and Saladin. I’ve found no evidence that Raynald murdered Saladin’s sister. On the contrary, Saladin’s son engaged a force of Templars immediately after the ceasefire was broken and decisively defeated them.
Elsewhere it is noted that Raynald’s death likely occurred as depicted in the movie. Just prior to his death, it's even possible that “snow-capped water” was being drunk in his presence, as depicted in the immediate aftermath of the battle.

The sultan of Egypt and Syria is portrayed by Ghassan Massoud (غسّان مسعود). He’s awesome in this movie. Saladin and his status as a Muslim chivalrous antagonist is a noted topic among romances, histories, chronicles of the Western Medeval world. He normally comes off looking much more humanitarian compared to his Latin adversaries, certainly Guy, Raynald, or Richard in the 3rd Crusade (who personally executed a bunch of prisoners within sight of Saladin himself).
Saladin’s status as a great leader of Sunni Islam has only been discussed and studied (possibly re-discovered) over the last century or so. Movies, TV, and books have increasingly portrayed him as a hero of Syria, Egypt, or Sunni Islam in general. Saladin is buried in Damascus, in the Umayyad Mosque. He has two sarcophagi: one wooden and one marble. The wooden sarcophagus covers Saladin’s burial shroud. The marble was donated by Kaiser Wilhelm II upon his visit to Damascus in 1898. It’s located off to the side. The mausoleum is open for visitors.

Researcher: Ally Pitts

Bachelor's degree in History, including several units on medieval topics

A Kurdish general. He brutally suppressed the Shia Fatimid Caliphate in Egypt on the orders of Nur ad-Din, the ruler of Aleppo and Damascus. When Nur ad-Din died without an adult heir, Saladin took over the territories he had ruled. He survived a serious illness in 1182, and is said to have dedicated himself to the recovery of Jerusalem in gratitude to God for having spared his life. Scholars have debated to what extent this is a literary device employed by supportive chroniclers. Saladin survived several attempts on his life by literal Assassins.

Guy de Lusignan:
Guy was originally from Poitou in western France. After his wife Sybil died, he lost his claim to the throne of Jerusalem. He was given control of Cyprus by Richard I of England (AKA ‘the Lionheart’), who had captured the island in 1191.

Reynald de Chatillon:
Reynald became Prince of Antioch (one of the Crusader States) through marriage to Constance, heiress to the principality. He was called ‘the elephant’ by Saladin, a comparison with a 6th-century Ethiopian king who had tried to destroy Mecca. He was rumoured to be planning to raid the city of Medina to steal the body of the Prophet Muhammad. This rumour was used by Saladin to gain support for his war against the Frankish states.

Balian of Ibelin:
Not actually a peasant. Threatened to kill all of his Muslim prisoners & destroy all the Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem if Saladin didn’t offer terms to the Christian defenders of the city.

The Hospitallers (as represented by David Thewlis’s character):
Founded by merchants from Amalfi in the late 11th century, the St. John’s Hospital was part of a monastery near the Holy Sepulchre. It provided accommodation and medical care to Christian pilgrims visiting Jerusalem. The Hospitallers didn’t have a military role until the mid 1130s, when they began garrisoning castles across the crusader states. Following the destruction of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1291, they resettled in Rhodes. When Rhodes was captured by the Ottoman Turks, the Hospitallers were given control of Malta by Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire in 1530 in exchange for an annual tribute of a single Maltese falcon. They were eventually kicked out of Malta in 1798 by Napoleon Bonaparte when he captured the island.

Life in the Crusader States:

The Frankish rulers of the Crusader States imposed taxes on the indigenous peoples, regardless of whether they were Muslims, Christians, or Jews. According to Professor Andrew Jotischky “ the 12th century at least, there was no attempt to impose conformity of religious practice on the subject peoples. Indigenous Christians, Muslims, and Jews were by and large permitted to observe their own traditions unmolested''. However, Muslims were not permitted to enter Jerusalem.

The Crusades & Medieval Society:

According to Professor Christopher Tyerman, the first western European income tax was levied by Henry II of England in 1166 to fund crusading.

Legacy of the Crusades:

In the post-WWI carve-up of the Middle East, French Foreign Minister Stephen Jean-Marie Pichon traced France’s claim on Syria back to the Crusades. The Emir Feisal of the Hijaz, who was present at the Paris Peace Conference responded, “Pardon me, Monsieur Pichon, but which of us won the Crusades?”. Emir Feisal’s interpreter was T.E. Lawrence, aka Lawrence of Arabia.


Crusading and the Crusader States, Andrew Jotischky (incidentally, one of my lecturers when I was at university), Pearson, 2004

A Trip Down the Red Sea with Reynald of Châtillon, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society
Third Series, Vol. 18, No. 2 (Apr., 2008), pp. 141-153

The Sea Speaks Arabic, Umej Bhatia, History Today Vol. 55 (5), 2005

The Cross and the State, Christopher Tyerman, Vol. 56 (9), 2006

Researcher: Benjamin David Curley

Unsurprisingly the Crusades period of history is much more complicated than what little information about it we tend to learn either in school or via osmosis. A huge important factor that can get lost in the "Christianity vs Islam" framing we tend to get is that JUST before the Crusades period began we got The Great Schism between the Eastern and Western Christian Church that lead to the distinction we see today between the Catholic and Orthodox churches. We have to understand that for the European Christians of the day this was a massive change where now there was this huge shift in religious power, and this massive debate between the authority of The Pope vs the ecclesiastical powers of the Eastern Orthodox church. So when Jerusalem was captured by the Seljuk Turks in the late 1000s and the Byzantine Empire called for aid trying to retake it's lost territory the forces of religion, culture, economics, and politics all came together in unprecedented ways that no one factor can truly encapsulate.

The Catholic Church saw this as a chance to advance their goals of repairing the Schism by reclaiming the Holy Land thereby reuniting Christianity and undoing the fragmentation that was still fresh in everyone's memories. A Europe that still included Moorish Spain saw pressure on the Byzantines as the invaders at the gates of the last real bastion preventing another invasion of Europe, and maybe they wouldn't be able to stop them this time. And it's important to remember that with the feudal culture of the time and the difficulties faced by lesser sons of nobility the chance to have more from life than hoping your brothers die, or submitting yourself to a life of monastic servitude the opportunity to go and make a name for yourself and gain your own wealth land and titles or die trying was a tantalizing prospect. This all tied in to the very real religious zeal that many people felt where the call to retake the city of Jerusalem for God was a legitimate motivating factor for thousands of people who otherwise would likely never have left their own homes.

This lead to the First Crusade that, while successful in reclaiming Christian control of the Holy Land along the Mediteranian coast, they did not reinstate Byzantine control as the Empire would have wanted, and the many Crusader States were all controlled by people with their own goals and ambitions for the whole endeavour. This was mirrored by the Muslim powers in the region, who while not happy about this Eurpoean invasion were also not unified in their goals or ambitions. Just as in Europe the different Muslim powers jockying for land and control in the Middle East were often happy to see someone else coming to give their rivals a bloody nose and make them weaker the next time they tried to gain ground or negotiate an aliance. This also was exacerbated by the very hostile relationship between the new Catholic Crusader power structure and the Christians who had been previously living in the region. All the holy sites that had been under Eastern Orthodox control were now replaced with Catholic clergy and liturgy failing to bring about the reunification that was a goal of the Crusade, but how can you tell the zealous Christians who just fought and bled under Papal order to not then perform their own rites even if it did undermine the high minded goal of reuniting the Church, and if you're an Orthodox Christian it felt like you were just trading one occupier for another.

In the aftermath of the First Crusade we get a hundred fifty year period of The Crusader States, where the different Crusader Kingdoms and the Muslim Caliphates are in near constant warfare, but who was fighting whom was constantly in shift including some instances where Muslim states made aliances with Christians ones to fight their rivals. This all really began to change when through lots of fascinating and complicated movements Al-Nasir Salah al-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub (Saladin) was able to become Sultan of Egypt and then Sultan of Syria thereby uniting the two main Muslim powers under one banner. He was a great diplomat and generous leader but now that the Muslims were ostensibly united there was only one major enemy in the region and one target for his might to be facing and that was The Kingdom of Jerusalem and the other Crusader States. We need to remember that for all the power and authority Kings and Sultans wield the Feudal system is by its very nature fractured. A leader who is not answering the calls of their subordinates may not find themselves a leader for long. Saladin to his credit was a brilliant logistical mind and knew to pick his fights instead of just wasting the strength of his unified empire in blow after blow. When we see the Jerusalem of Kingdom of Heaven Saladin has learned his lesson from his previous war against Baldwin IV and has spent the years of truce solidifying his control of Muslim lands and making sure that he was ready to fight the next war everyone knew was coming. So the world we are entering is a world that is as divided and as contentious as the film shows us. It is a world of practical rules, of men hungry for power, of soldiers just looking to make name and fortune for themselves, and of warriors truly inspired by religious fervor who believe that God is on their side. While it may be easier to paint the Crusades with broad brushes, either as a derogatory example of the evils of religion, or as decisions made by people as secular as the modern reader looking back it cannot be overstated that for the people of the time they were not as mindlessly blindly devoted to whatever "God Wills" but also were not universally pragmatic and using that language as a cover. Many of them did believe that they were legitimately acting out the desires of God, but they were not also unaware of the other forces motivating and driving them.

Some other historical footnotes for this movie:

By all contemporary accounts Sibylla did in fact love Guy and was completely devoted to him (but then we don't get to see our lead mack with our beautiful damsel).

Reynald likely did not kill Saladin's sister, though the depiction of his death was close to the historical record. The added context there that is undercut by the "I take water for what it is" line is that it would have been known that for a captured person to receive food or drink from their captor was a sign of safety. So Saladin's note that "I did not offer the cup to you" is a very pointed "Guy is safe, not you". Muslim records of the event state that Saladin offered Reynald the chance to convert to Islam to prevent his execution for his many crimes, and when Reynald refused Saladin cut his head off. If this was a true offer, or an addition by his chroniclers to make Saladin seem more magnanimous is a matter of debate, but Saladin was known for showing mercy and being generous to a fault.

Finally my favorite anecdote, contrary to the depiction in the film, Balian was present at the Horns of Hattin and survived the battle. Knowing that Saladin's next stop would be Jerusalem he asked for and was granted permission to go back to the city to secure his wife and family. When Balian arrived he found no one of any rank there to defend the city. He sent word to Saladin saying he had to break his word to just grab his family and go, and true to his nature Saladin seemed to completely understand, and even provided Balian's family safe passage through to Tripoli before the siege started. A true moment of "yeah, I get it" when many people at the time might go into full vengeance mode for the breaking of an oath.

Finally a small nitpick as I also come from a historical combat perspective. During the attempted assassination of Balian a knight is seen with a "ball and chain" style flail. These weapons are so rare that it's iffy if they even existed. While weapons called Flails are real they were giant paddles similar to grain flails. The spiked ball on several feet of chain is an anachronism that plagues a lot of medieval films. Similarly, as much as it pains me to say as a practitioning sword fighter, the use of swords is very much overdone in medieval epics, especially the longswords depicted in the film. Most swords of the time would have been single handed arming swords meant to be used with a shield (you know, so you don't die), and all swords would have been side arms. A knight on the charge, as we see in the defence of Kerak, would have been fighting with a lance or spear and with swords held high as depicted in the film. The sword fighting demonstrated early in the film as Balian is being taught isn't bad, it's just not correct for the time, and of course Balian wouldn't be ready to go and fight 3 on 1 as he does later from a 5 minute intro to sword fighting from Liam Neeson. Finally, while we do get some great sense of the brutality and confusion of a medieval battle this film still falls prey to the "everyone wears armor, then you wack them once with a sword and they go down" trope that a lot of movie swordfights fall for (though at least we don't see anyone stab straight through a breastplate in this one". Part of the reason the European Knight was such a devastating force on the battlefield was the inherent difficulty to just kill them. Later accounts tell of gangs of men having to basically dogpile a knight while someone else found a gap to stab them, or more commonly they surrendered so you could ransom them back for a big payday.

SURPLUS ORDNANCE Episode 8: Atonement Mon, 24 May 2021 18:00:00 -0700 84f4e438-951b-4bd9-9bfe-f9bbc9b235cc Surplus Ordnance! Research and editing notes on E8: Atonement ATONEMENT

By Dennis Meyers

Relevant experience: U.S. Army, 1974-1980, BA & MA Economics, Economist for 30 for State of California,
Community College Adjunct Faculty

Historical Context:
A principal character in Atonement is Robbie Turner who is released from prison after being convicted of
rape to join the British army and ends up fighting in the Battle of France and dies at Dunkirk.

The battle of France began on May 10, 1940 when Germany invaded France, Belgium, Luxembourg and
the Netherlands.
The Allied defense plan, Plan D, called for the BEF and the First and Ninth French Armies to rush into
Belgium once it was invaded by Germany. They were to defend the Dyle Line which ran from Antwerp in
the north down to the northern end of the Maginot Line near Sedan. The rest of the French Army was
committed to the Maginot Line defenses that was believed to be the most likely invasion route.
The Ardennes was considered to be easily defended. It was thought that Its dense forests and narrow
winding roads made it difficult for a large force, particularly an armored force, to penetrate.
The Germany army did, however, quickly penetrated the Ardennes and crossed the river Meuse and
captured Sedan on May 12. From there they made a furious armored advance to the English Channel
which they reached on May 20. This split the Allied forces in two.
The German forces in the north that had invaded Belgium and the Netherlands forced the Allies back
towards the Channel. After the Netherlands capitulated, French and British forces consolidated along
the coast in Dunkirk, Boulogne, and Calais.

The retreat of Allied forces across Belgium caused the UK to initiate Operation Dynamo to
withdraw the BEF to retain its strength to defend against the anticipated German invasion of
Great Britain.
The evacuation took place from May 26 to June 4 which allowed the recovery of about 340,000
BEF soldiers.
The evacuation fleet included 860 vessels from the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium and France
including a cruiser, destroyers, minesweepers, coastal launches, yachts, fishing boats, barges,
ferries and others.
During the operation 6 British and 3 French destroyers were sunk, along with nine other major
vessels. Over 200 British and Allied craft were sunk.

A large part of the success of Operation Dynamo was due to an order from Hitler to halt the
advancing German armor which delayed the breach of the Dunkirk perimeter. It is unclear what
the exact reasons for this order were. One is that Goering requested that the Luftwaffe be
allowed to finish off the Allies from the air so that it could get more credit for the victory.
Another reason given is that the Army wanted to husband its resources in order to turn south
toward Paris and fight a still formidable French army. The least likely explanation often given
was that Hitler may have wanted to allow the BEF to escape in hopes of making a peace treaty
with Great Britain. For whatever reason, the Panzers were halted for 3 days starting on May 24.
During this respite, the Operation Dynamo fleet was assembled, Allied defenses on the
perimeter were strengthened and a large contingent of troops were evacuated.
In the first phase of Germany’s offensive, Fall Gelb, which lasted only 26 days, German forces defeated
the Netherlands and Belgium, forced the BEF off the continent and destroyed 30 French divisions.

Following the evacuation, the German army took a 6-day pause to reorient itself for the invasion of
France proper. This phase of the German operation, Fall Rot, began on June 5. Despite putting up stiff
resistance, Paris fell to the Germans on June 14. Resistance continued until an armistice was signed that
took effect on June 25, 1940.
During the Battle of France (including Dunkirk) the BEF suffered 66,000 casualties—25,000 killed or
wounded and 41,000 taken prisoner or MIA. The RAF lost over 900 aircraft and suffered 1,500
casualties. Almost all of the 445 British tanks that had been sent to France with the BEF were

[Note: I could not find specific information about pre-war British Army recruiting or enlistment policies.]
The essence of the plot of Atonement rests on Robbie being let out of prison to enlist in the army on the
eve of WW2. Given the seriousness of the crime Robbie was convicted of—rape—and the fact that
apparently Robbie had actually gone to prison, while possible, I think is somewhat implausible. The
urgent manpower needs in the runup to WW2 may have allowed this to happen. But the seriousness of
the offense has historically been a bar to enlistment in modern professional armies.
Paroling convicts to enlist seemed only possible when a service was faced with a severe shortage of
enlistees. During the pre-war buildup in the late 1930s, the British Army habitually lagged behind in
recruitment. In 1937 the Regular and Territorial Armies together were 72,000 soldiers below their
authorized levels.
In the postwar era until 1996, the British Army banned all convicted criminals from enlisting, after which
this ban was relaxed but still explicitly banned those serving sentences for rape, sex or drug offences.
For comparison, in the US during the draft era (1940 - 1973) there were instances, and stories of
instances, where prison sentences were avoided if the accused enlisted. But outside of WW2, this
seemed to be an option only in cases of minor offenses and was normally an action taken by the courts
before a conviction.

From 1877 – 1940 federal statute barred enlistment of persons convicted of felonies. This ban was
relaxed in 1940. The pressing manpower needs of WW2 led to cases where inmates were paroled from
prison contingent upon their service with the U.S. Army.
This practice was severely curtailed with the creation of the all-volunteer military in 1973 and the
waning need for manpower after the Viet Nam war and the end of the Cold War.
Currently, US military regulations prohibit military service in lieu of incarceration. Courts cannot compel
the military to accept someone. Recruiters are barred from attending trials and sentence hearings. All
enlistees are subjected to a thorough background check. Further, anyone with a criminal record could
not receive a security clearance which would effectively bar them from most military occupations.
However, it is possible for a court (judge or prosecutor) to allow an offender to avoid pending criminal
charges if they agreed to enlist in the military. Again, this seemed to be an option only in cases of minor
crimes or misdemeanors.
While a felony conviction will bar enlistment, sometime a waiver can be obtained. However, a waiver
cannot be given for a number of specific crimes including rape and statutory rape.

Alistair Horne. To Lose a Battle: France 1940. 1969. Little, Brown.
Lloyd Clark. Blitzkrieg: Myth, Reality and Hitler's Lightning War - France, 1940. 2016. Atlantic Monthly
Roger Broad. Conscription in Britain, 1939-1964. 2006. Routledge
David Dressler. Men on Parole as Soldiers in World War II. Social Service Review. 1946.
Travis Wade Milburn. Exploring Military Service as an Alternative Sanction: Evidence From Inmates'
Perspectives. 2012.
Quora. Can I join the military if I have been convicted of a felony and some misdemeanours?. 2020
Quora. Can people avoid jail by agreeing to join the military?. 2018
Houstan Chronicle. Can I Join the Army With a Felony on My Record?, 2018
The Irish Times. British army looks to the prisons for new recruits in reversal of policy. 1999
Wikipedia articles: Battle of France, French war planning 1920–1940, Battle of Sedan (1940), Dunkirk

SURPLUS ORDNANCE Episode 7: Empire of the Sun Mon, 10 May 2021 16:00:00 -0700 25b823ec-1c95-45f2-9ece-54f19ed58ac6 Surplus Ordnance! Research and editing notes on E7 - Empire of the Sun

SURPLUS ORDNANCE Episode 6: Jojo Rabbit Mon, 26 Apr 2021 14:00:00 -0700 3a750748-3244-4885-89b1-83ebd579f5da Surplus Ordnance! Research and notes on E6 - Jojo Rabbit Researchers:

Richard Stevens - BA Marine Biology, Minor in History
Dennis Meyers - U.S. Army, 1974-1980, BA & MA Economics, Economist for 30 for State of California, Community College Adjunct Faculty

Incident(s) the film touches on

End of WWII. Specific dates are never given, however there are several events mentioned that place the film. "Hitler" mentions how he dealt with von Stauffenberg, which of course alludes to the 20th of July Plot in 1944 (Operation Valkyrie to the conspirators.) Later Yorki mentions Adolf Hitler's death (30 April 1945). Based on these dates, the general tone of the town, not to mention Captain K's comments, it seems pretty clear that we're in the last 6 months or so of the war.

Historical Context

The allied landings in Normandy took place on June 6th, 1944. By the end of June the allies had captured the port of Cherbourg, and the outcome of the war was all but assured (between this, losses in N. Africa and Italy, and the Red Army advancing from the East.) Most reasonable people - civilians and the career officer classes - could see the writing on the wall. Despite Hitler's insistence that the war would be won.

Captain K (brilliantly played by Sam Rockwell) repeatedly espouses "defeatist" language. He knows the end is near. This is a glimpse into a fascinating psychology with modern-day implications. The German military aristocracy, the members of Prussian military tradition, choose to side with Nazi's over communism (in a no-win scenario if there ever was one) because at least he was talking about building up a stronger military. Many believed that if he won, then at least they could restore Germany to it's military standing in the world. They were willing to look the other way as long as the military was able to sustain itself.

Shifting gears, but stull treading into psychological waters (which I admittedly am not qualified to diagnose) is JoJo himself. It's easy to sit back now and say you never would have put up with Nazi ideology and would have resisted. However you weren't born into the system. JoJo is 10 in 1945. All he has ever known, all he as ever been taught in school, is the power of the Third Reich and to be fanatical loyal to the Fuhrer. It's hard to argue that any German kid growing up in that era would have thought/acted differently. He's "not a Nazi, he just wants to be part of a club and dress up in a funny uniform."

Which is what makes his evolving relationship with his mother and Elsa all the more powerful. Scarlet Johansson, who may be one of the best movie moms of all time, treats him like a real mom. She's not overly melodramatic or doting, she seems real. She ties his shoelaces together and shares laughs and pranks with him. She knows you can't trust a 10 year old to keep a secret, and the stakes are to high. At the same time, she has to play the part of the devoted German.

Elsa represents JoJo's first feelings of love, as well as shining a light on his ignorance. Both extremely powerful and emotional moments in someone's life. The audience is left wanting more. What happens to JoJo and Elsa in the coming years? Do they survive? Do they end up on the eastern or western side of the Iron Curtain (the town of Falkenheim is fictional.)

Of course the hook for the movie is JoJo's imaginary friend - a comical version of Hitler (who hilariously keeps offering JoJo cigarettes despite his aversion to them in real life.) Again, I hope a psychologist weighs in on this one. It's a fascinating coping mechanism played for laughs most of the time; but it's a version of Hitler as perceived by a 10 year old raised in Nazi Germany.

The film makes reference to other issues/things that were happening in Germany at the time. "The Clones" are a reference to Nazi medical experimentation. We see the kids first rounding up scrap metal for the war, then fighting in the Volkssturm as part of the last ditch effort for defense.

JoJo Rabbit references some of the most significant aspects of the German civilian experiences at the end of WW2. Civilian support for the Nazis regime was heavily influenced by the military situation and the genocide inflicted on European Jews (the Holocaust). As the prospect of victory gradually disappeared, support for the regime weakened. Consequently, as military fortunes turned against Germany, the response of the Nazis became more public and brutal, such as public hangings, and the regime’s propaganda message, which at one time emphasized German superiority and victories, came to emphasize the dire consequences of a German defeat.

Germans on the home front commonly linked their attitudes about the war with the treatment of the Jews. German civilians we well aware of the persecution and genocide of European Jews. They saw first hand the deportation of German Jews. They learned of the genocide conducted by the German military from soldiers on leave as well as from letters from soldiers at the front. Soldiers and other spectators of mass executions often took pictures of the events. The negatives had to be sent back to Germany for processing which meant that laboratory personnel and family members would see them.

With this knowledge in mind, many civilians, on the one hand, believed that military defeats were divine retribution for the atrocities and, on the other, that Germans would be severely punished by the Allies if they lost the war. This explains to some extent why many Germans continued to fight on and didn’t overthrow the Nazis long after there was no hope for victory.


In the postwar era, resistance movements have been romanticized to salve the morale of the occupied peoples. In reality, resistance activities, with the exception of Russian and Yugoslav partisans, were essentially militarily insignificant. According to Charles de Gaulle “Resistance was a bluff that came off.”

German resistance to Hitler and the Nazis regime, “Widerstand”, was fundamentally different than those in the occupied countries in that the source of oppression was home grown. Thus, German resistance groups had no popular backing. Given the total Nazis dominance of nearly all social institutions—politics, civil service, media, courts, police, industry, social groups and clubs—resistance was fragmented and took many forms.
German resistance encompassed a wide range of activities. At one end were minor acts of defiance such as not giving the Nazis salute. More serious acts were industrial sabotage, betraying state secrets, sheltering Jews, and assassination attempts.

The groups that opposed the Nazis early on were Communists, Socialists, and trade union leaders. They were also some the earliest victims Nazis oppression.

The church was nearly the only substantial social institution that maintained some independence from the Nazis state. While the leading German churches didn’t overtly oppose the Nazis regime, the clergy was the earliest source of resistance to some Nazis policies. They coordinated a low level of opposition and provided a "forum in which individuals could distance themselves from the regime". Some notable members and clergy of the German Catholic church were vocal opponents of Nazis genocidal policies.

The secular White Rose movement was a resistance group led by Hans and Sophie Scholl who used leaflets to expose and protest Nazis genocide. It eventually grew into an organization of students in Hamburg, Freiburg, Berlin and Vienna. They advocated for the sabotage of the armaments industry and after the German defeat at Stalingrad in January 1943, they urged students to rebel against the regime. Shortly after this the Scholls and some other members were betrayed, arrested and executed.

The Ehrenfeld Group (sometimes called the Steinbrück Group) was an anti-Nazi resistance group active in the summer and autumn of 1944. It consisted of rebellious teens, escaped detainees from forced labor camps, and Jews. Their goal was to end the war as soon as possible by blowing up factories and train routes. They got as far as stealing food and vehicles, selling goods on the black market and buying guns. On November 10, 1944, thirteen members of the group were publicly hanged in Cologne.

A more notable and direct form of resistance was sheltering Jews, which was punishable by death. Of the less than 15,000 German Jews who survived (out of a prewar population of over half a million), many of which were saved by about 3,000 officially identified 'silent heroes.’ There may have been as many as 20,000 Germans who offered Jews various forms of support and refuge. One of the most celebrated saviors of Jews was Oskar Schindler, an ethnic German living in Czechoslovakia, who as an industrialist saved 1,200 Jews by employing them in his factories.

The most dramatic and well-known acts of German resistance was the June 20, 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler and overthrow the Nazis regime. In mid-1944 some senior German military leaders were losing hope of winning the war. They, along with some politicians, developed a plot-- Operation Valkyrie—to assassinate Hitler and trigger a coup d’etat. After the assassination, they were going to blame it on a coup attempt by the Nazis party, use the army to seize Berlin, arrest the Nazis leadership and try to negotiate with the Allies to avoid an out-and-out military defeat. However, the assassination attempt by Claus von Stauffenberg failed as did the coup. In short order, all the conspirators were arrested and executed.


Late-war German propaganda focused on two themes; that victory was still possible and that defeat would lead to a fate worse than death for Germany. The message was that it was better to die fighting than to live in a defeated Germany.

Late-war Nazis propaganda spread the idea that new wonder weapons (Wunderwaffe), such as the V1 and V2 rockets among many others, could still turn the tide of the war. Few of these weapons were successfully developed and fielded and most of these were disappointing.

Propaganda also promoted the idea that the Allies would dismember and deindustrialize Germany and turn the German people into slaves. The Allied demand for unconditional surrender and the Morgenthau postwar plan to relegate Germany to an agrarian nation were used to encourage continued resistance even though defeat was inevitable. Henry Morgenthau, Jr. was Roosevelt’s Secretary of the Treasury. His plan was not adopted but the fact that it had been proposed was believed to have stiffened Germany Army resistance in late 1944.

Movies were the regime’s most popular vehicle for disseminating propaganda. Escapist movies were produced in quantity and were accompanied by propaganda newsreels that many moviegoers began to reject because what they depicted was extremely at odds with what they knew was actually happening. Audiences were sometimes locked in the theaters to force them to watch the propaganda films before watching the feature film.

Interesting Facts

This is a personal anecdote that really conveys the gravity of the movie. This was probably the last movie my wife and I saw in theaters before COVID hit the following spring. At the end, when JoJo is following the butterfly and the camera pans up to his mom's shoes - the entire theater gasped! My wife exclaimed "oh my God." It's probably the most powerful moment I've ever experienced watching a film. Even knowing everyone reading this has seen it, I'm afraid of spoiling that for anyone. [please mention at the top of the show that it really should be watched before listening to the episode.]

In rewatching it this time, I noticed that Captain K brings JoJo's mom's bicycle to him when the Gestapo are at the house. He knows what happened to her, and he's coming to check in on JoJo (maybe break the news?) but he can't as Steven Merchant's Gestapo is there.

In short - I love this movie, and I think it as the most "heart" of any film in recent memory.

Works Cited

What We Knew: Terror, Mass Murder and Everyday Life in Nazi Germany - Johnson and Reuband.
Collins Atlas of WWII - Smithsonian
Maus I & II - Art Spiegelman
D-Day - Stephene E. Ambrose

Nicholas Stargardt. The German War: A Nation Under Arms, 1939-1945,2015. Basic Books
Pierre Galante. Operation Valkyrie, The German Generals' Plot Against Hitler, 2002, Cooper Square Press
DW Akademie. How the film industry under the Nazis survived until the very end.
The Guardian. Berlin tribute to the Germans who saved Jews.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. NON-JEWISH RESISTANCE.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. THE WHITE ROSE OPPOSITION MOVEMENT.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. DECEIVING THE PUBLIC.
Klemens von Klemperer. German Resistance Against Hitler. 1992. Clarendon Press.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. OSKAR SCHINDLER: AN UNLIKELY HERO.
Wikipedia articles: German resistance to Nazism, Ehrenfeld Group, Themes in Nazi propaganda, Wunderwaffe, List of Germans who resisted Nazism, Operation Valkyrie.

SURPLUS ORDNANCE Episode 5: Grave of the Fireflies Mon, 12 Apr 2021 15:00:00 -0700 c907e46b-e6d8-4370-b92b-4948362b0a56 Surplus Ordnance! Research and notes on E5 - Grave of the Fireflies Mike Andrews

Bachelors in History and ongoing Masters in Teaching

Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

The film touches on the final few months of WWII from a Japanese perspective. Particularly, in Kobe, Japan surrounding its bombing and the starvation of civilians in the late war.

Background & Synopsis

• Grave of the Fireflies is a 1988 Japanese animated film based off the semiautobiographical short story of the same name by Akiyuki Nosaka in 1967. The film was animated by Studio Ghibli, among the most famous Japanese animated film companies. It was the second film they had animated since their founding in 1985. The director, Isao Takahata, is likewise well-known among anime film buffs – he would later direct such films as Pom Poko and The Tale of Princess Kayuga. It ranks as one of the greatest war films of all time and a major Japanese animated work.

• Classified as a Japanese animated war tragedy film, it takes place in the city of Kobe. It tells the story of two siblings, Seita and Setsuko – following their lives as they attempt to survive in the final months of World War II.

Experiences of Japanese People During WWII

  1. The Role of Propaganda

• During WWII, the American perspective of Japanese people was highly negative and a result of anti-human propaganda – that is to say, dehumanization of the Japanese people. They were all presented as part of the same, identical, fanatical horde. This propaganda had a tough job to do because the Japanese were ‘overtly modern, industrial, and technological’, but they had to be presented as alien, primitive, and highly dangerous. Japanese were presented as suicidally loyal to their emperor and to the Empire itself.

• The reality was more complex, as you might have guessed. Japan, unlike Germany, was not as technologically sophisticated. The government was interested in the Nazi’s ability to mass-manipulate but did not have the same means economically or infrastructurally to implement such tactics. In 1940, over 50% of Japanese people lived in rural environments. Of said 50%, only 4% owned radios. 4-6 years of schooling meant low literacy rates and income so low that newspaper subscriptions were difficult to attain for most families. To spread any kind of message, officials from the government often had to go to the locations themselves and give speeches or provide information.

• The Japanese WWII government faced a dilemma – how to motivate and mobilize your populace to wage aggressive war, especially when said individuals were much more concerned with their own family’s welfare, generally, than they were about honor of the nation and destiny of their country. And how to solve the problem of Japan’s rural, uneducated, barely-scraping-by population.

• July 1937 saw the beginning of the Second World War for Japanese people. The invasion of China. Young boys would be dressed in military costume to visit shrines; fans made using military motifs were used to cool one off, and rallies were held in celebration of military victories, such as the capture of Nanking. In August, the ‘National Spiritual Mobilization Campaign’ was launched by the government and would continue throughout the war. One goal of this move was to unite many separate, fledgling patriot movements all over the country into one unified force and guide them from the center. Some of these organizations included the Patriotic Women’s Association and the National Women’s Defense Association. The formalization of these groups and membership being made compulsory aided in stoking unified militarization across the country. Military care packages were made, preparation and care for soldiers on the front occurred, and Western traditions and values were undermined.

• Some of the celebrations for the military included a ‘Crush America and Britain’ rally on December 10th, 1941, the ‘National Rally on the Propagation of the War Rescript’ on the 13th, the ‘Strengthening Air Defense Spirit’ on the 16th, and the ‘Axis Pact Certain Victory Promotion’ rally on the 22nd, and a celebration for the fall of Singapore in 1942.

• Schools provided an important part of the dissemination of mobilization campaigns. Before the Campaign, schools already promoted a patriotic environment and reverence for the Emperor. Each school possessed a place where the students would bow to a picture of the Emperor when passing by. April of 1941 saw schools renamed to National Schools – seeking to rid them of Western influence and repurposing schools to ‘restore the former spirit of Japanese education, nurture the innate disposition of the Japanese people who are the support of the world and the leaders of the Asian league, return to the imperial way, and wholeheartedly promote the Japanese spirit’. Practically, summer vacation became a laborious volunteer experience rather than an actual vacation.

• All the aforementioned methods worked to some extent and the Japanese were willing to express love for emperor and country – and proud of the early victories they had achieved. But total war requires real change in people’s daily lives.

• Coercion, dire necessity, and… financial incentives were needed to persuade the populace to reduce consumption, introduce marginal social groups into the war effort, and the sacrifice of any able-bodied men into the war machine.

  1. Unification of the Homefront

• The government enacted the Economic Mobilization Law of 1938. A command economy was established that saw military and civilian bureaucrats set production quotas depending on the industry, ‘controlled profits and dividends, and oversaw the day-to-day activities of major industries. The limitation of consumer goods production was severe – after 1941, almost no textiles were produced for domestic use.

• One of the most successful implementations of the government was neighborhood associations. A common institution seen in Asian cultures, and the Japanese had used this method in their own neighborhoods since the 1600s. By the time of WWII, it was integral but informal. To change this, the government made it mandatory to join, and activities were formalized including distribution of rations, volunteer labor, coordination of savings, and ensuring men of able-ness went to recruitment. Neighbors could hold other neighbors accountable to aid the nation as a whole and devote themselves to the Emperor.

• Women and children were mobilized into the workforce – children through the school system and women were given work for good wages. More than a million rural citizens moved to work in the factories for war production, which the government attempted to control so that food production did not falter.

• Restrictive rationing was implemented on food, clothing, nails, needles, bandages, shoes, cooking oil, and tire tubes. Late in the war, rationing arrived late or not at all due to constrictive Allied control on Japanese shipping. Late Japanese home front life saw civilians forced to live a life of crime as food became a major issue and bare subsistence was not enough.

• Fanaticism was partly used to encourage the Japanese people – but far more effective were old fashion economic incentives, coercion, and social control.

End of the War – Japanese Perspective

In the year 1945, several major occurrences effected Japan in quick succession that would influence how the war was to end for the Japanese. Below is a compilation of said events and decisions made by the Japanese government.

  1. Major Events

• February 4th - 11th, 1945: The Yalta Conference
Japanese defeat and surrender is a major topic at the historic meeting of Churchill, Stalin, and Roosevelt. Conditions are discussed for the Soviet Union to open a second front on the Japanese from China, and surrender terms include Japan giving up their territories they took from Imperial Russia.

• February 19th - March 26th, 1945: The Battle of Iwo Jima
After months of aerial and naval bombardment, the strategic island of Iwo Jima is invaded by amphibious assault and becomes notorious for heavy casualties suffered – 7,000 Marines and more then 20,000 Japanese defenders die in 36 days of fighting. This marks the first battle on Japanese homeland – increasing the desperation for the Japanese and the casualties for the Allies.

• March 10th, 1945: Tokyo Air Raid Begins
More than 2,000 incendiary bombs are dropped on Tokyo over 2 days. Sixteen square miles of Tokyo is destroyed in the process and around 100,000 civilians die in the destruction. Tokyo is one of 64 Japanese cities to be firebombed until the end of the war.

• April 1st - June 22nd: The Battle of Okinawa
With 14,000 US troop skilled and a staggering 70,000 Japanese killed, Okinawa proved to be one of the most violent of the entire war. 150,000 Okinawan civilians are killed in the crossfire. Both Iwo Jima and Okinawa influence the decision of the President to seriously consider the use of an atom bomb to end the war over a direct invasion of Japan.

• June 1st, 1945: Interim Committee Recommends Atomic Bomb
A secret high-level group tasked with advising President Truman on nuclear issues recommends the use of the weapon on Japanese military targets without prior warning.

• June 6th, 1945: Truman Threatens Japan
Truman threatens the Japanese with complete annihilation if they do not surrender. Casualty estimates of a direct invasion of Japan are worrying: 1.2 million casualties with 267,000 deaths to 4 million casualties with 800,000 deaths.

• July 16th, 1945: Atomic Bomb Test
At Los Alamos, the US successfully detonates an atomic bomb. Authorization of use of the weapon after August 3rd, weather permitting, is issued on preselected Japanese targets.

• July 26th, 1945: Potsdam Declaration
The ‘Big Three’ Allied leaders gather in Potsdam, Germany to negotiate surrender of enemy nations. Japan will surrender their armed forces, disarm, and accept Allied occupation. Japan rejects these terms on July 28th.

• August 6th, 1945: Hiroshima
The world’s first atomic bomb is dropped on Hiroshima. 60-80,000 people die instantly, and thousands injured and thousands more dying from burns. 67% of the city is obliterated.
• August 8th, 1945: Soviet Union Enters the War
Soviet troops begin marching on Japanese occupied Manchuria (Manchukuo) and begin the march on Japanese occupied China as a whole. Many Japanese will be used in forced labor camps in the Soviet Union – some not repatriated until 1956.

• August 9th, 1945: Nagasaki
40,000 people die in the explosion of the second atomic bomb over Nagasaki. This particular bomb is estimated to be 40 percent stronger in terms of kilotons compared to the bomb over Hiroshima.

• August 15th, 1945: Surrender
Japan finally agrees to surrender to the Allies. It is Emperor Hirohito who makes this decision, against the will of the military government.

  1. Military and Civil Actions in 1945

• The strategy known as Ketsu-Go was developed ion early 1945. The idea was that despite sheer American military power, their morale was brittle. Massive ground and air forces would meet with the proposed American invasion in southern Kyushu. The second phase of the plan would obtain negotiated surrender.

• Urgent mobilization in 1945 saw Japanese military forces rise from 4.5 million to 6 million in August. Every single male from 15-60 and female from 17-40 were included, meaning a quarter of Japanese population. Many of these did not have proper uniforms or equipment and were to be used in the defense of Kyushu in Ketsu-Go.

• The United States assessed that there were ‘no civilians in Japan’ partly because of this mass civilian mobilization. From 1942 on, the United States had come to face the fact that, for Japanese military units, surrender was unthinkable. Almost every unit fought to complete annihilation. Japanese did not take prisoners. Japanese killed 2-3 million Chinese soldiers between 1937-1945. 56 Chinese prisoners were handed over at the end of the war. 8,000 of 17,000 Australian battle deaths came as a result of the Japanese. 35% of American prisoners died to Japanese compared to the 0.5% of American prisoners of the Germans.

• In Saipan, for example, many civilians killed themselves and their families. Japanese military propaganda depicted Americans as horrible monsters that would kill or rape them. 13,000 of 20,000 died on Saipan. Families jumped off cliffs and blew themselves up or drowned. American invasion plans of Japan homeland were prepared for a ‘fanatically hostile population’.

  1. Japanese Surrender and the Atomic Bombs

• Two things needed to happen to ensure Japanese surrender – someone with authority had to make the call and the military would have to comply with the government’s decision. Historically, 15 years prior to 1945, compliance from the armed forces was difficult to guarantee.

• Through May of 1945, Emperor Hirohito believed that a major Japanese military victory must proceed any peace movements. He wanted to avoid unconditional surrender. He urged a new military offensive in China – something the military leaders pushed for and spurned.

• Marquis Kido, Hirohito’s main advisor, suggested peace through the Soviet Union and a Treaty of Versailles style peace agreement – give up territorial conquests and disarm but retain control of homelands and avoid occupation. But, given the way Germany resurged after the Treaty of Versailles, there was zero chance that the Allied powers would find this okay.

• Based on Kido’s ideas, Hirohito met with the ‘Big Six’, the inner cabinet of the Japanese government. They agreed to approach the Soviets for possible peace. But this ultimately went nowhere.

• Before the bombing of Hiroshima, Hirohito failed to pursue the Soviet agreement. Reasons as to why he was inactive can be explained by his refusal to lead Japan directly since 1936 and the trust in the plan of Ketsu-Go (the planned major defense of Kyushu, the Japanese mainland).

• The Japanese government, including Hirohito, experienced terrifying anxiety that the Japanese people were ready to revolt. Mainly due to firebombing attacks on cities (as seen in Kobe in the film) and the dire situation of food in the Empire, ‘the domestic situation’ would become far more serious in the Fall, when rice crop was due.

• On August 6th, Tokyo received information that something happened to Hiroshima. Only after Truman announced the use of an atom bomb did they finally understand what had happened. The reaction of the Japanese military was key here. They would concede that it was an atom bomb only after an investigation, and the Japanese Navy was confident that the US did not have many of these atom bombs, or none were left, and refused to give in.

• Educated top officials in the Japanese atom bomb program found the creation of an atom bomb impossibly difficult. These officials refused to recognize that the scientists in the US could possibly have more of these incredibly difficult weapons. Hiroshima forced a meeting of the Big Six, but the military forced postponement of this August 9th.

• August 8th saw Hirohito meet with Foreign Minister Shigenori Togo. Togo affirmed that the war must end with this meeting. Hirohito, discussing the atomic bomb with Togo, eventually got the emperor to move for peace. But, again, the Japanese military was the real obstacle.

• The Big Six met on August 9th, after the Soviet Union had just entered the war. Nagasaki was also bombed by another atomic bomb. Movement towards peace looked more likely. The Potsdam Declaration sat before them; three members agreed to it if the emperor could keep his throne. These three were Togo, Prime Minister Kantaro Suzuki, and Navy Minister Admiral Mitsumasa Yonai.

• Army Minister General Korechika Anami, Chief of Staff of the Army General Yoshijiro Umezu, and Chief of Staff of the Navy Admiral Soemu Toyoda held out on three points they disagreed with: disarmament, war crime trials held in Japan, and occupation of Japan. Unfortunately, the Big Six had to agree unanimously on decision making. Deadlocked at a three-to-three split, and with most members disagreeing on the conditions of surrender one way or another, an Imperial Conference lead by the emperor was called and the rare occurrence of the Emperor breaking the deadlock would occur.\

• August 9th-10th saw this meeting take place. Joining the Big Six was Baron Kiichiro Hiranuma. Army Chief of Staff Umezu declared the Soviet entry ‘unfortunate’ but not invalidating the all-in Ketsu-Go strategy. Hiranuma spoke up about the increasingly difficult domestic situation problem, particularly about food.

• The Emperor finally spoke. He supported the ‘one condition’ surrender plan – that Japan would accept the surrender terms but keep the emperor intact. The Big Six and the full cabinet made this official government policy. American and Allied response accepted these terms but made it clear that the emperor would be subordinate to whomever occupied Japan.

• There was worry that commanders abroad would not comply to Japan’s surrender – particularly those in China. But the Soviet entry into the war dispelled these notions and was the real benefit of the Soviet entry. It discouraged commanders from seceding from the Japanese Empire and continuing the war.

Works cited:

Camp, Brian; Davis, Julie (August 2007). Anime Classics Zettai!. ISBN 9781611725193.
Ebert, Roger. "Grave of the Fireflies movie review (1988) | Roger Ebert". Retrieved 24 November 2020.

Frank, Richard B. “‘To Bear the Unbearable’: Japan's Surrender, Part I: The National WWII Museum: New Orleans.” The National WWII Museum | New Orleans, The National World War II Museum, 17 Aug. 2020,

Frank, Richard B. “‘To Bear the Unbearable’: Japan's Surrender, Part II: The National WWII Museum: New Orleans.” The National WWII Museum | New Orleans, The National World War II Museum, 19 Aug. 2020,

Frank, Richard B. “There Are No Civilians in Japan: The National WWII Museum: New Orleans.” The National WWII Museum | New Orleans, The National World War II Museum, 3 Aug. 2020,
Partner, Simon. “The WWII Home Front In Japan.” Duke Today, 20 Mar. 2003,

“Timeline: Last Days of Imperial Japan.” Council on Foreign Relations, Council on Foreign Relations,

SURPLUS ORDNANCE Episode 4: The Caine Mutiny Sat, 27 Mar 2021 23:00:00 -0700 3b09a900-f9aa-4193-91f6-454b97c5522c Surplus Ordnance! Research and notes on E4 - The Caine Mutiny Mike Andrews

Bachelors in History and ongoing Masters in Teaching

The Caine Mutiny (1954)

The Caine Mutiny focuses on the events surrounding the original novel The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk in 1951. Wouk wrote the book based on his experiences aboard two United States Navy minesweepers during the Pacific War, a conflict mainly between the Japanese Empire and the United States of American during WWII. After serving aboard the USS Zane and the USS Southard, Wouk created the fictional USS Caine to serve as a single vessel with which to tell his story.

  1. General Overview of Naval Actions in the Pacific Theater, with a Focus on Minesweepers

General Overview

  • 30.5% of the Earth's surface is entirely water from the Pacific Ocean - meaning, that naval engagements, marine amphibious assaults, and island hopping were the most frequent kind of militant action seen in the Theater during WWII.

  • There were around 32 surface naval battles recorded during WWII in the Pacific, with a sharp drop off in frequency in 1944 because of the almost complete and total defeat of the Japanese Navy by that time.

  • December 7th, 1941 saw Japan launch a surprise attack on the US Naval Base of Pearl Harbor. Their goal was to cripple the Pacific Fleet so totally that the United States would either severely delay its movements into the Pacific War or negotiate for a peaceful solution. That did not happen. The Japanese attack, while somewhat effective, failed to cripple or destroy any aircraft carriers nor large groups of submarines. The United States then began a steep learning curve of naval warfare against the Imperial Japanese fleet in several major engagements.

  • The Japanese boasted an expansive Pacific defensive perimeter from Western Alaska to the Solomon Islands. But at the Battle of the Coral Sea, Japan faced its first troubled encounter and stunted its attack plans. Midway in the following month saw four Japanese aircraft carriers destroyed - a stunning blow and a much-spoken about turning point in the Pacific War. This also marked the turn from naval actions to naval actions in service of combined amphibious landings. Guadalcanal and New Guinea would be the first targets.

  • The 'island-hopping' that the United States engaged in involved Allied planes and ships would isolate heavily fortified strongholds while amphibious troops hopped around to more lightly defended islands. This would essentially win the day against a much more fortified enemy without a major engagement, Of course, the Japanese proved to be masters at digging in, even on the smallest, most insignificant pieces of land like Tarawa and Iwo Jima.

  • Toward the end of the war, around October 1944, the Japanese decided that suicidal planes loaded up with explosives were superior to conventual aerial attacks. These Kamikaze pilots would succeed 19% of the time and kill over 7,000 naval personnel. Besides Kamikaze pilots, the Japanese also considered or made plans for suicidal submarines, human torpedo's, speedboats, and divers. The tradition of death before defeat was entrenched within old Japanese custom - and relates to the Bushido code of loyalty and honor until death. With the crippling of their fleet, being outpaced in creating aircraft and out of skilled pilots, the Japanese saw little alternative t these suicidal plans late in the war.

  • The Battle of Kwajalein, depicted in the novel, used hard-won lessons from invading Tarawa and successfully saw US forces penetrate the outer ring of Japanese island defenses - and saw Japanese defenders become far more determined, creative, and deadly in their defense of the Marianas, Peleliu, and Guam.

The Destroyer Minesweepers

  • The "Destroyer Minesweeper" ended up as repurposed US navy destroyers-turned minesweepers for service during the Second World War. Forty-two of such ships were converted between 1940-1945 - since, they have been decommissioned with purpose-built ships replacing them to this day.

  • These repurposed ships were obsolete WWI four-stack destroyers built in 1918 with usable power plants. The number 4 boiler and torpedo tubes were removed. Depth charge racks were repositioned forward from the stern and angled outboard, and the stern was modified to be able to retain sweep gear like winches and paravanes. 17 of these ships saw action during the war. A further 10 more destroyers were converted from Clemson class ships, and a newer model Gleaves class were used to create 24 more.

  • These particular sweepers in the Pacific Theater would use sweep wires suspended between paravanes and kites.

  • Herman Wouk worked on the USS Zane from 1943-1945. From May-October of 1945, late in the war, he worked on the Southard and based much of his work on the effects of typhoon Louise, particularly when he was run aground in Okinawa.

  • The USS Wasmuth, seeing most of her action in the Aleutians, was sunk when a gale dislodged two of her depth charges and exploded the hull in December 1942.

  • Minesweepers were tempting targets for Japanese pilots and kamikazes because they were known to have significantly less powerful anti-aircraft capabilities compared to other naval vessels. Without the proper screening, they could be pickled off. Remarkably, only one minesweeper was downed by kamikazes, occurring during the Battle of Okinawa, and it took five to bring her down.

  • The methods used to dislodge and disarm mines is complex: paravanes would be used to cut the mines from their moors (since WWII Japan did not develop its own magnetic ort pressure mines). Minesweepers generally towed paravanes from the stern - and rarely from amidships. The sweep line would catch the cable below the surface, sliding the paravane to the mine and cutting it from the cable. Then, the mines were disposed of by naval gunfire or sunk. Paravanes with blades were used most often, but sometimes the sweep line itself could be bladed or serrated. Acoustic mines could be destroyed by sound generators imitating a frequency of a passing ship, and a cable passing close by or electrical device could neutralize the odd Japanese electrical mine.

  1. Process and History of Court-Martials during WWII (United States)
  • The definition of a court-martial is as follows: trials conducted by the United States/Individual State military. Most often, they are convened to try members of the U.S. military in violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Military tribunals and martial law in occupied territories may also warrant a court-martial. Lawyers representing the government and accused present facts, legal aspects, and arguments while a military judge determines questions of law and members of the panel, or just the judge, determine questions of fact.

  • It is difficult to boil down court-martial processes during WWII. Basically, the court-0martial is the oldest system of justice in the United States, predating our own Constitution and Declaration of independence. Military law history stretches back as far as Ancient Rome, helping to establish discipline within the ranks (particularly among varied mercenary groups). Congressional Congress at the outbreak of the Revolutionary War adopted the British military code.

  • During WWII, some 2 million people were court-martialed for a myriad of offences. 80,000 of these resulted in convicted felonies. A particularly famous case resulted in Eddie Slovik, a Michigan native, executed by firing squad for deserting his unit in France in 1944. He was the only U.S. service member to be executed tin this manner since the Civil War and he was 24 years old.

  • Although generally stricter than civilian law, military law has since come to compare to civilian law since WWII. 1950 saw Congress enact the Uniform Code of Military Justice (not used during WWII). Defendants shared many of the same rights as civilians, but the jury members are chosen by the officer convening the court-martial, and appealing a military conviction is not always possible.

  • Until 1969, in fact, there was no military trial judge to ensure the accused had their rights protected, as well as their due process. Veteran's organizations were concerned with the unlawful command influence of court-martials.

  • Recently, the Army apologized for a conviction of 28 African-American soldiers during WWII - the longest court-martial during the war. They were convicted of rioting and lynching an Italian prisoner of war in 1944 - but in 2005, a book detailed misconduct by the prosecutor and the convictions were tossed out in 2007.
    Interesting Facts? A space to provide info that isn't historical in context, such as trivia about the making of the film. This should be related to the film or the topic it's covering. (Optional)1 response

  • The Caine Mutiny novel caught flak from the US Navy because of the depiction of Capt. Queeg as a crazy madman - of which, they claim, would have seen him removed since he was so clearly deranged. The film uses PTSD/Battle fatigue to skirt around this issue.

  • Personal note: apparently, the fate of the USS Hull served as a basis for the mutiny in the story. The Hull rolled over to its side during the typhoon and 202 of the crew were lost. This ship was originally stationed at Pearl Harbor during the attack. It was cut off from the power supply of the USS Dobbins and was mostly helpless during the attack. My grandfather at age 17 was stationed on the Hull and experienced Pearl Harbor first hand. He also served aboard the Hull at Guadalcanal, and was transferred off before the Hull's fate was sealed. The Commander of the Hull was blamed by some of the Hull survivors for his apparent incompetence during the typhoon. The Commander James Marks committed suicide in 1986.

Works Cited:

“Ellyson-Class Destroyer-Minesweepers (DMS) in World War II.” Destroyer History Foundation,

James, Randy. “A Brief History of The Court-Martial.” Time, Time Inc., 18 Nov. 2009,,8599,1940201,00.html.

Meirion and Susie Harries, Soldiers of the Sun: The Rise and Fall of the Imperial Japanese Army p 413 ISBN 0-394-56935-0

Michal. “The Pacific Strategy, 1941-1944: The National WWII Museum: New Orleans.” The National WWII Museum | New Orleans, The National World War II Museum, 10 July 2017,

"Mines, Mine Types, Mine Warfare, Japanese Mine Warfare". The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia, © 2007-2014, 2016 by Kent G. Budge.

Pidwirny, M. (2006). "Introduction to the Oceans". Fundamentals of Physical Geography, 2nd Edition. Date Viewed.

“Pacific Naval Surface Battles.” National Museum of the U.S. Navy, 14 Aug. 2020,

Rottman, G., 2004, The Marshall Islands 1944: "Operation Flintlock, the capture of Kwajalein and Eniwetok", Oxford: Osprey Publishing Ltd, ISBN 1-84176-851-0

SURPLUS ORDNANCE Episode 3: They Shall Not Grow Old Sun, 21 Mar 2021 17:00:00 -0700 10ed23b0-9e01-486a-9b9f-4c95c0152b5c Surplus Ordnance! Research and notes on E3 - They Shall Not Grow Old Researchers
  • Dennis Meyers
  • Mike Andrews
  • Rich Stephens
  • Kyle Pocock
  • Micah Neidorfler

Incident(s) the film touches on? Please be specific. For instance, Full Metal Jacket takes place during the Tet Offensive.

The movie chronicles the life of British infantry serving in the trenches on the Western Front (Belgium and northern France) during WW1. Rather than chronicle the exact course of the war, it presents a composite of the experiences of various typical British infantrymen that span the war on the Western Front.

The war was the result of competition and antagonism among the dominant European countries. Germany was replacing France as the leading power on the continent and had surpassed GB industrially. German politicians wanted Germany to have greater global influence. It maintained a large army and was growing its navy. Germany feared encirclement by France and Russia. Moreover, it also feared the threat of Russia’s growth and industrialization. Russia had a much larger population and many more resources. Germany wanted to deal Russia a blow that would upset this development. Austro-Hungary was an empire headed by Austria that encompassed various Balkan countries with Slavic populations. There were various separatist movements in the countries—notably in Bosnia and Herzegovina—that were supported by Russia.

Why was Britain fighting?

Britain and Germany were not historical adversaries—their royal families were related. Britain was not directly involved in the military competition on the continent. However;

  • Britain relied on naval supremacy to maintain its colonial empire. As Germany grew it wanted more global influence (colonies) that would likely come at the expense of GB and France. It feared that a dominant Germany could eventually create a navy comparable to the Royal Navy.
  • GB wanted to maintain a balance of power on the continent so that no one country became completely dominant. It allied with France to prevent Germany from becoming dominant.
  • GB had signed the Treaty of London of 1839 in which it to protect Belgium. Further, German control of Belgium’s ports would be a threat. When Germany attacked France through Belgium, Britain declared war on Germany.

They Shall Not Grow Old explores the entirety of WWI (1914-1918) through the lens of the British - specifically, stories about the experience of individuals and how the war changed them. Events include signing up to join the war in 1914, arrival to the Belgian Front, and the Battle of the Somme. However, Jackson is not so interested in the chronology of WWI as much as he is the individual experience and retellings of what actually happened on the ground for these men.

Historical Context? We are hoping to receive more specific info on the incident the film is about, rather than general info.

  • [04:13] “That Serbia business…” refers to the assignation of Austro-Hungarian heir-to-the-throne Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo by Gavrilo Princip—a Bosnian separatist—on June 28, 1914.
  • [04:21] “Lovely August the 4th morning…” Germany invaded Belgium on August 3, 1914. Britain declared war on August 4.
  • Britain starts the war with a small army; 250,000 men. Relied on naval superiority to defend its colonial empire. The army was only used in regional colonial issues. Nearly all of this army was lost in the first months of war. The survivors were used to raise, train, and lead new soldiers.
  • [06:29] poster “Come and Do Your Bit” As opposed to Germany and France, GB didn’t have universal military conscription (draft) when the war began. It relied on volunteers. Initially many young men wanted to sign up. Sometimes they were willing to pay to join.
  • [07:50] “Lots of lads were joining the local regiments” Many new units were raised by local community organizations, such as chambers of commerce. Men were encouraged to join up with their friends as a way to recruit more soldiers. It was thought they would keep each others' spirits up. They were known as 'Pals Battalions'. This had tragic consequences when during the bloodiest battles, such as the Somme, all of the young men from a village or neighborhood were killed all at once.
  • By the end of 1914, 1.2 million men had enlisted. Ultimately, 5 million Britons served in the war.
  • [19:17] “The man’s best friend is his rifle.”: The British army used the Short Magazine Lee Enfield (SMLE) rifle which could be aimed and fired more quickly than those used by Germany and France—up to 20 to 30 rounds per minute.
  • [20:00] “Above all we learned rapid fire.” British infantry could put out a much higher rate of fire than their German and French counterparts. This was a tragic surprise for the Germans.
  • [23:42] Different troops disembarking and marching. Various colonies sent over two and a half million men to fight for Britain; India sent 1,400,000; Canada, 630,000; Australia 400,000; South Africa, 136,070; New Zealand, 128,825 and other colonies: 135,000
  • The front line was a line of trench works stretching from Switzerland to English Channel.
  • [29:05] Soldiers in trench laughing at camera. “The trench was very wet.” Water drainage systems had to be developed. Duck boards (decking) was installed on the trench floors to keep help keep soldier’s feet dry.
  • [33:33] Horses being lead across a field when artillery shell lands. “At any given moment you could expect to be shelled.”
  • Heavy artillery was a relatively new weapon utilized on a massive scale for the first time in WW1. Many assaults were preceded by lengthy barrages. The initial barrage for the Somme lasted for a week.
  • [34:47] Air burst shell exploding. Shrapnel shells were anti-personnel shells which carried many individual bullets. Was the only artillery used by GB at the beginning of the war, but were eventually replaced by high explosive shells which were much more effective against personnel and fortifications.
  • [35:04] Mining was the practice of tunneling under or towards the enemy trenches to set off a large explosion.
  • [35:36] Column of cavalry being shelled. Horses were the principle means of transport on the battlefield at the beginning of war by cavalry units, and to move artillery and supplies. About 6 million horses served in the war. The life of a WW1 horse was the subject of Steven Spielberg’s movie War Horse.
  • [37:24] “And then you’ve got gas.” Gas was first used by Germans on April 22, 1915. Gas caused nearly 6,000 British deaths and 181,000 nonfatal casualties.
  • [52:00] Tanks were first used in Sept 1916 during the Battle of the Somme but had little effect. It wasn’t until late 1917 that there were enough tanks and effective tactics for their use to make a difference on the battlefield. The were called ‘tanks’, as in water tank, to keep their true purpose a secret while they were being developed.
  • Movie represents a composite trench assault, not a specific attack.
  • [1:03:20] “Machine gun bullets came at us like power stones.” Despite the deadly example of machine guns used in the Russo-Japanese war, British infantry tactics hadn’t adapted to the machine gun’s killing power.
    • Hiram Maxim, in 1884, an American inventor, produced the first automatic, portable machine gun.
    • By 1914, German forces fielded 12,000 machine guns, compared with a few hundred between the French and British.
  • [1:23:42] “We had an idea that they were beginning to crack.” After making peace with post-revolution Russia, Germany began a last major offensive in March 1918. After initial success, it was halted by the Allies in mid-April. After that loss, and with American forces making their presence known, German soldiers had lost hope for a victory and their morale crumbled. This was followed by the Allies’s Hundred Days Offensive which led to the end of the war.

  • Major British battles and casualties

    • The Second Battle of Ypres, April – May 1915, 59,000 casualties. First use of poison gas.
    • The Somme, July - November 1916, 400,000+ casualties. The first day was the deadliest day in British Army history. At the end of the first hour of the initial British attack, nearly one-half of the “first wave” were dead or injured. By the end of the day more than 20,000 were dead.
    • Passchendaele, November 1916 - May 1917, British casualty estimates range from 200,00 to 275,000.
    • Cambrai, November – December 1917, 75,681 casualties. Was the first successful large-scale offensive use of tanks.
    • Amiens (beginning of the Hundred Days Offensive), August 1918, 20,000 British casualties.

For this research, I wanted to explore what you guys suggested - the role of colonial soldiers and other gaps that were not touched on in the film. When watching the documentary, we are getting specific experiences from the British side of the war in depth. I want to explore colonial soldier training, views, and experiences, as well as other state's personal experiences with the war.

Part I: An Overview of Use and Exploitation of Colonial Troops during the Great War

Well over 4 million non-white/European men were mobilized for war in European and American armies during the length of the war. Often, modern scholarship considers battles or campaigns or experiences with these people as "sideshows" to the big, famous movements, battles, and figures of the war. By 1914, all of Africa except Ethiopia and Liberia were under European rule, with Great Britain and France controlling the largest of these overseas empires. Of these empires, India contributed the most men (1.5 million), while the British Commonwealth of Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, and Newfoundland contributed around 1.3 million men. With 100,000 men mobilized by new Zealand, in proportion to its population, the Great War would claim 5% of men aged 15-49, a massive contribution. Indian troops died alongside New Zealanders at Gallipoli, with a casualty rate of 50%. For France, 90,000 troupes indigenes were already active by 1914. Between 1914-1918, France would recruit a further 500,000 colonial troops - including West Africans, Madagascans, Indochinese, Algerians, Tunisians, and Moroccans. 10 percent of all African people who served as soldiers or, more likely, laborers, would die. Some rates are as high as 20%. The United States had 400,000 African-American troops by 1917 and 200,000 of them would serve in Europe.

The relationship between military policy and race was complex, to say the least, among the Allied nations. France deployed troop son Europe based on their assimilist model and quickly added foreign troops to their ranks. But the British were not so quick to adopt these practices:

"The Times History of the World revealed contemporary thinking on the issue when in 1914 it wrote, ‘The instinct which made us such sticklers for propriety in all our dealings made us more reluctant than other nations would feel to employ coloured troops against a white enemy.’"

Indian troops had not been allowed to fight in the Boer War (1899-1902). The worry was that "colored" troops, if not fighting other ethnicities and instead fighting offensive wars against the imperial powers, would revolt or at the very least develop seditious ideas. But the BEF, British Expeditionary Force, was suffering such devastating losses in the Great War that the British had no choice but to pull from their colonies. Indians were the only ones allowed to fight in Europe based off of British military's policy.

England and France both divided their colonized human beings in "warlike" and "non-warlike" races, militarily. Punjabi and Nepalese troops were often considered more manly and warrior by nature by the British while the French considered West Africans to be warriors by blood, primitive, and for use in 'La Force Noir', or a large African reserve to help even the odds on the Western Front. African laborers suffered some 20% casualty rates due to malnutrition and disease in working for the imperial powers. Chinese laborers were used in clearing WWI battlefields of mines and debris. Of course, racial ideology and bias meant that it did not always work out. Indian troops were removed by December of 1915 because of the problems British had with fighting next to them. Despite the ferociousness and the reputation of Senegalese soldiers, they faced extreme prejudice from both German and French soldiers.

It is easy to consider that, after the Armistice in 1918, all fighting immediately stopped. But for many other theaters, weeks of warfare continued in these "sideshow" theaters and countries. German commander of East Africa Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck kept up a guerilla fight against imperial powers. French African troops holding the Ruhr region were subject to vicious racial propaganda. European countries took WWI as an opportunity to snatch each
other colonies. African laborers saw 1 out of 5 workers in 2 million die - a higher death rate than on the Western Front. They Shall Not Grow Old is a fantastic record of a particular group's experiences, but we must not forget that WWI was a truly global war - whether it was the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire, the Japanese attacks on German colonies in Asia, or the use of African troops and laborers, there are countless examples of how lives and families suffered as their family were being killed or forgotten halfway across the world fighting for something that was barely relevant to them. Fortunately, colonial soldiers saw that there were kindnesses shown to them by French and British soldiers sometimes. They saw how people lived in Europe. Many of these people expected more from European rulers from then on and later would become involved in revolutionary independence movements.

Part II: Equipment, Training, and Experiences

Before WWI, colonial troops were generally equipped more lightly than "official" European regiments and rarely carried artillery or mechanized units. African and Indian troops had found that the climate in Europe to be debilitating - Senegalese troops had to be withdrawn from Northern France because of the harsh winters, for example. But as more and more colonial troops were being used, they were equipped in the same developing-modern fashion as regular European units.

As French military leaders realized the war would last far longer than expected, a mass recruitment drive was used for colonial troops. 93 Senegalese battalions were recruited between 1915-1918: 42 of those used in France.

A book called "Strength-Kindness" was published in 1926 by Bakary Diallo, a French Senegalese Tirailleur. Poorly received at the time as having been thought of as colonial apologist attitudes, Diallo nevertheless wrote this now very rare piece of primary source documentation to explore his and other colonial troop roles in the Western Front. The book is now seen as a potential way to understand how a Republic which values such human freedoms can reconcile with their colonial past.

French commanders used foreign troops as a way to prevent losses of white French soldiers, when possible. French War Archives show first line assault troops as African regiments, with white French troops drawn in behind them to force them forward and stay behind, if they need not engage.

What is the take away here? Warfare between Europeans over a very European concern bled quickly to affect those across the world. Those people, these colonial troops, either joined up before the war or were drafted between 1915-1917 and suffered heavy casualties as laborers and soldiers. We have very few memoirs, diaries, or primary source documents to learn their experiences - as to not take away from the sufferings of anybody. British, French, Senegalese, Chinese, Indian, German: all suffered loss, death, and abject horror during the Great War. But it must be said that these colonial troops, neglected in history, must have been some of the bravest of all. To fight and die for a people not your own in a country not your own would have a real impact on world history - and sow the seeds of competition, development, and independence movements in the next decades.

The film is a documentary with little narration. Instead presenting footage from the Imperial War Museum, overlaid with soldier interviews and vocal reenactors/sound effects. As such, the film does not have a "Ken Burns" feel documenting the big picture, but rather an intimate snapshot into the lives of the soldiers as they fought and lived in the trenches.

Per the making of doc, this was the first time most of the soldiers had ever seen a camera, so they didn't know what to do. Many just picked up what was near them and started using it - which was often an entrenching tool - while staring into the camera.
This will focus on the host of new technologies and tactics brought to bear during the war as that is my strength in history and I was unable to do much else in the way of research, especially given such a broad topic as this movie covers.

New Technologies
  • Smokeless powder in its element. Smokeless powder was developed by the French scientist Paul Vielle in 1886, revolutionizing weapons technology. This may be the most significant development in military technology ever made as it significantly reduced the amount of “fouling,” the greasy goopy substance left behind after firing black powder. This allowed repeating weapons to be more successful and to fire for longer periods of time without cleaning. Machine guns and repeating rifles could now properly be developed with reasonable reliability.

  • Artillery: By far the deadliest and most influential technology was the fast firing artillery developed before and during the war. Whereas artillery pieces were previously slow, muzzle loaded, short range black powder cannons, the weapons of WWI were able to fire repeatedly without having to aim between shots. This allowed massive amounts of firepower to be put in a concentrated spot in a short amount of time, as fast as 15 rounds a minute. Again leading the arms race, the French M1897 75mm (namesake of the French 75 champagne cocktail) led the way for this new breed of artillery with a novel hydraulic shock absorbing recoil system allowing quick follow up shots. Some heavy caliber siege guns and even gigantic rail guns were developed, one German rail gun serving as a terror weapon capable of hitting Paris 75 miles away. Aside from a massive bombardment before an attack, tactics continued to develop to include the creeping barrage, where the guns would fire ever further away from the front lines as the infantry advanced behind the “shield” of fire from the guns. No other weapon killed more soldiers in the war than artillery and its impact can’t be understated.

  • Repeating rifles: The French development of smokeless powder allowed them to develop the first repeating, magazine rifle using it, the Lebel 1886. Development was somewhat rushed as they wanted to be ahead of the game as quickly as possible compared to their black powder using European counterparts. Subsequent designs from other countries followed, including the German Mauser 98 (a basic bolt action system still in use today in hunting and sniper rifles), the American Springfield 1903 (a near copy of the Mauser system that resulted in legal fees after the war), and the British Lee Enfield (a robust rifle that remained in service until 1957, a testament to both the reliability and performance of the rifle and the lag in the procurement process). One significant advantage of these new rifles was using clips or chargers to load the ammo 5 rounds all at a time instead of single shots at a time, increasing rate of fire to rates previously unseen on the battlefield. The No 1 Mk 3 Short Magazine, Lee Enfield rifle served through all of the Great War for all the commonwealth countries. It was well liked by soldiers for being rugged, accurate, and fast to shoot. It was developed to be used both by infantry and cavalry instead of having a long and short rifle for each, leading to a short, handy rifle allowing quick shots on close in targets. A replacement was being worked on before the war but it was supplanted by the existing design already in wide-scale production, it did however serve with the Americans in a caliber conversion called the M1917, seeing heavy use by the AEF.

  • Machine Guns: Hiram Maxim, an American inventor, developed the Maxim machine gun just before the development of smokeless powder, taking advantage of the new ammunition type once it was available to him. Having been attempted for decades before, he successfully harnessed the recoil power of a bullet exiting a barrel to create a fully automatic, belt fed machine gun. His design was used by all major powers of the war in slightly different variations to devastating effect. Use of a tube of water around the barrel allowed the guns to be fired effectively indefinitely as long as there was water and ammo available. Offenses were incredibly costly and eliminating enemy machine guns was the highest priority on the attack. One solution was the light machine gun, being able to be carried into battle and operated by an individual; the infancy of the light machine gun led to clunky designs that though successful, were quickly improved or replaced by the end of the war. In British service as seen in the movie, the Vickers model of the Maxim machine gun and the Lewis light machine gun saw heavy use on the front lines throughout the war. German and Russian use of machine guns was far more advanced and ahead of their time compared to British forces, as evidenced by the significant disparity in machine guns at the beginning of the war (12,000 German vs several hundred British).

  • Aircraft: Balloons and airplanes were most effective at guiding artillery fire and coordinating movements through reconnaissance. Still in their infancy, aircraft progressed rapidly during the war, developing different type classifications as specializations emerged from recon to bombers. The first air-to-air dogfights started with handheld rifles and pistols progressing to machine guns mounted to the aircraft firing safely through the propellers by way of the interrupter gear. This amount of visibility on the ground was unprecedented and allowed for high levels of coordination between artillery and infantry. Combined arms warfare between aircraft, tanks, artillery, and infantry had finally been developed and used for the first time.

  • Tanks: The search for a weapon or tactic to break the trench stalemate was a constant goal of researchers and developers on both sides of the war. One solution, started in England in 1915, was to armor a tractor, allowing men and weapons to cross No Man’s Land and launch an armored attack on the defenders. The prototype, lovingly named the “Little Willie” Landship, was exceptionally slow and carried a few machine guns. To disguise their secretive purpose, they were described as water carriers in reports, hence the name “Tank.” Eventually, the rhomboid Mk I tank went into production in 1916 and on September 15th, in the battle of the Somme, the first tanks attacked German lines. Mechanical issues knocked out most of them but the merits of such a design were clear and further development led to the first light tanks and other variations. These early tanks were noisy, hot, cramped, and generally terrible to be inside but the promise of a swift end to the war through technological development was a tempting possibility. This possibility was finally proven in November 1917 at the battle of Cambrai where 500 MK IV (an improvement of the MK I) tanks blew a 4 mile hole in the German lines, cementing their place on the battlefield for centuries to come. France and Germany both followed suit with their own iterations with the French developing the first tank with a rotating 360 degree turret known as the FT-17 produced by Renault and the Germans creating a boxy, rectangular behemoth known as the A7V. The effect of the tank on warfare is extremely clear to anyone who’s taken a look at modern military history and their battlefield presence continues to spread fear, despite the many dangers they face on the current digital battlefield.

  • Honorable mentions:

    • Flamethrowers: Developed alongside tanks to act as a battering ram to knock through defenses or as a terrifying static defensive weapon, flamethrowers were used on all sides but were most effectively put to use by the Germans with their Sturmtruppen assault infantry in daring raids and frontal attacks with multiple specialist soldiers employing new technology.
    • Mill’s bomb: One of the first modern fragmentation grenades, the British Mill’s bomb was brutally effective at delivering deadly shrapnel as far as the user could throw it. All the other major powers developed their own hand grenades, some fragmentation based, others relying on concussive blast alone to kill like the German stick grenade.
    • Light mortars: Having access to man-portable artillery was a game changer for small unit tactics as less coordination was required to rain down explosive firepower on the enemy at close to medium range. The high angle of attack also made them deadly to soldiers caught in a trench next to a landing shell.
    • Chemical weapons: I considered making an entire section on this but didn’t have as much knowledge on the subject. The development of poison gas to be used in bombardments was not a new idea but new gas and shell types made them a frightening reality with grisly effects. Blindness, burns, and ultimately death at the hands of gas attacks were all too common among the soldiers on all fronts, with Germany leading the way in their use. The banning of any sort of chemical warfare is testament to just how terrible these weapons were and the extent of the permanent suffering they imparted on anyone in their path.
A Quick Delve Into Sniping as a Novel Tactic:

Sniping or sharpshooting has a long and murky history with the first rifles extending the range and accuracy of early black powder muskets. In a world of line battles and ranks of men firing at each other in lines to capitalize on the slow firepower of their muzzle loading weapons, killing from afar was seen as most unsporting and was severely frowned upon, especially the direct targeting of officers. As WWI devolved into trench warfare, it became clear that marksmanship would be at a premium when firing at each other’s parapets and hidden loopholes. Going into the war, the British army had some of the best trained professional soldiers in the world and their marksmanship and skill with the aforementioned Lee Enfield was legendary to the point of some German soldiers thinking they were being fired upon by machine guns as the British soldiers kept up a withering fire with their bolt action rifles. (One test of marksmanship skill, known as the Mad Minute, required getting as many shots on a 24 inch target at 300 yards as possible in one minute. The record was 38 hits by Sergt.-Instructor Snoxall in 1914!)

The Germans had a long-standing tradition of game hunting and marksmanship competitions, incorporating trained riflemen into units known as Jaegers. From these groups and others, the combination of civilian training and battlefield experience proved deadly for the Entente powers who had little to no such programs of their own. Another advantage the Germans capitalized on was their robust optical sight and telescope industry, far better than any in the world at the time (they are still known for their quality weapon scopes as companies like Zeiss, Schmidt and Bender, and Steiner continue to provide premium optics to military and civilian customers.) Culling any civilian rifle with a scope in a government-mandated round up and training as many men as they could, the Germans proved a formidable threat throughout the war, keeping the threat of death ever looming over anyone stationed on the front.

Ever lagging behind when it came to sniping, the British response was slow and clumsy at best, despite their excellent training at the beginning of the war in infantry shooting. This was partially as a result of the notion that sniping was not something to support and brass found it unconscionable but as the atrocities of total war made it clear that ethical boundaries were falling apart and the body count from enemy snipers grew, the decision was finally made to start training snipers and converting rifles to accept optical scopes. Drawing from their own sport shooting spheres and with the prodding of skilled officers like Vernon Hasketh-Prichard and Neville Armstrong, a training program was created. Despite the vastly superior Pattern 14 rifle then in development being perfectly suited for sniping, the military settled on what was actually available and in mass production, leaving the job to the SMLE yet again. A hodgepodge of small shop manufactured cottage industry optical sights were affixed to them, often offset to the left side of the rifle to allow the use of the iron sights as well as the fast clip loading of the Lee Enfield. None of these were particularly well-liked and the offset to the left made using the rifle clumsy and awkward. Some of the stranger types included extremely simplified optics like the Galilean type scopes, with two exposed lenses on either end of the rifle acting like a caseless scope, usually with rather low magnification. Eventually, and with much in the way of bloody experience, the British sniping program gained ground and became a force to be reckoned with, employing novel techniques like constructing disruptive, three-dimensional sniping smocks and suits (known as ghillie suits after the anti poaching Scottish keeper’s suits of similar design) and papier-mache fake trees and dead animals with loopholes for shooting out of to deadly effect against their enemies on the Western front.

The Americans and French followed suit, affixing scopes to their Springfield and Lebel rifles, respectively. While the Americans were even later to the game, the French saw more success and even developed and rather widely issued a semi-automatic rifle, the RSC 1917, that they issued to the best shots in platoons to make the most out of its improved firepower. Their APX scopes were taken from artillery pieces and affixed to Lebel rifles, proving a robust, yet somewhat long and heavy system throughout the war.

With the “War to End All Wars” at a close in 1918, most militaries completely stopped development of sniping rifles, with many languishing in storage until WWII, when the lessons learned in the First World War would again be put to the test in a much more dynamic war.

I apologize for the length of my submission, but I wanted to provide a lot of good research for you. I would ask that if you read anything I have here you read my last point (starting with the world "Finally"), as I imagine that you folks will discuss the nature of WWI on the Western front and the reasons for the massive loss of life and the notion that the general public has that the war was fought by old out of touch generals and didn't need to be so costly. I hope this is helpful.

  • 13:00 into the film. There is footage of soldiers conducting gear "layouts", where they lay out all of their assigned kit for inspection. These are still conducted in modern armies today. They are conducted regularly while in garrison as a form of accountability to ensure soldiers haven't lost their issued equipment and if they have to ensure those soldiers pay for their lost equipment and are issued with new equipment to replace the loss. They are also conducted prior to missions during "pre-combat inspections/checks". In these cases they are conducted to ensure soldiers have all the necessary equipment required to complete the mission at hand, so that nothing is forgotten before executing the mission.

  • 13:45 the interviewees discuss revile and physical training (PT) in the morning. Their timeline discussed in the film (revile at 0600 and PT beginning at 0630 for an hour, is still executed by the modern US Army (and the two British Army units I have worked with up to this point in my career), except whereas the soldiers in the documentary PT for an hour, we PT for 90 minutes.

  • 17:20 the soldiers discuss marching in kit for long distances. Similarly to the PT discussion above, this is still done by the modern infantry. The interviewee says it is "of the utmost importance that the infantry soldier could march with a full kit". This is absolutely true. It was not ridiculous antiquarianism that led the British army of the time to train their soldiers to march long distances with full kit, it was necessary. Later on in the film the soldiers discuss the physical and mental hardships of their experiences. It was just this physical training and conditioning that enabled them to handle these hardships. During the first (and the second) world war, infantry were required to move long distances on foot while carrying all of their required equipment.
    Large trains and roadways stable/wide enough to handle the movement of large amount of troops and equipment stopped miles from the front lines, as they were priority targets for enemy artillery and aircraft. So after disembarking from those transports, soldiers had to get themselves to the front lines. Similarly, after making advances, which were done on foot, it would take long periods of time (months) for those train lines and roadways to be built forward, crossing the ground that had been taken in the advance.

  • 20:03 the soldiers talk about the "mad-minute". The mad minute during the first world war was a British rifle drill where the soldier was supposed to fire 15 rounds within 1 minute. He would start the drill with 5 rounds already loaded into the weapons (4 remaining in the internal magazine with the fifth having been chambered). He would then have one minute from when the target appeared to fire those first five rounds and load and fire ten more rounds. This drill trained the British soldier to be able to fire his rifle rapidly while remaining accurate, as skill necessary on the battlefield.
    The nature of the British primary service rifle also lent itself to this rapid fire technique. Most service rifles of the time period functioned with internal magazines (as opposed to having a magazine which detaches from the weapon, such as the modern M4 that the US army uses, where you once you have expended your rounds, you eject the magazine and insert a new one). In a weapon with an internal magazine, you insert your rounds directly into the chamber of the weapon and push them down into the magazine (which is built into the rifle and is not removed). Therefore, once you have expended your rounds, you must take the new bullets and insert them into the rifle. This can be a much slower process than simply inserting a fresh magazine. The main way militaries of the time sped this process up was by having the bullets pre-loaded onto "stripper clips" Which were thin striplike clasps which held 5 bullets in one row. So a soldier would take the stripper clip, position it above the open chamber of this rifle and push down, inserting all five rounds into the chamber at once, instead of one bullet at a time.
    Most nations' service rifles had an internal magazine capacity of 5 bullets. For example: The 4 main German rifles: Gewehr 1888, Mauser Models 1871 and 1884, and Gewehr 1898 had 5, 8, 8, and 5 round magazines respectively. The British Lee-Enfield rifle (of where there were multiple different models used during the war), however, had a 10 round magazine, which enabled the British soldier to fire more rounds before having to reload. In a battle, compounded by hundreds or thousands of soldiers, had the effect of greatly increasing the rate of fire of the British army.
    The term "mad-minute" is still in use to this day. In the US army, it is a slang term given to the period of time during an ambush, after the ambushing unit has initiated the ambush, where the ambushers fire continuously at the ambushed unit. Once the leader of the ambush calls a cease-fire, the ambushers will wait for a short period of time, and if movement is seen within the remains of the ambushed unit, the ambushers will conduct another "mad-minute".

  • 30:03 the soldiers remark about being made to shave while on the front line. This is still a requirement today. The idea behind maintaining grooming standards while in combat is twofold. First: it is a forcing function for soldiers to maintain (or at least attempt to maintain) a healthy standard of living. Soldiers should shave, wash themselves, brush their teeth not in order to have nice breath or smell nice, but to keep themselves healthy. Not brushing ones teeth can lead to cavities, which while they might seem trivial in the life and death situation of combat, will nonetheless end up causing significant pain to the soldier in question, degrading his ability to fight and stay focused. It could also lead to his being removed from the field for medical attention. While shaving may not lead to cavities, it is among the list of common daily ablutions that will (hopefully) force a person to maintain some level of personal cleanliness. Second: it is part of enforcing discipline in the lives of soldiers. When I say "discipline" I'm not referring to the blind loyalty regardless of sound judgement type of discipline. I'm referring to basic soldier discipline. Completing required tasks is a vital part of warfare, and lack of discipline gets people killed. Falling asleep on guard duty, not cleaning your weapon because you're tired, not checking your subordinates' gear before you go out on patrol, not reporting that you heard some movement a few yards away. All of these are examples of lack of discipline. And though some of these may seem big and obvious, altogether different than shaving, they all fall into a spectrum of discipline. Enforcing grooming discipline (while in and of itself is not going to affect the safety of you or your unit) is part of enforcing overall military discipline which reinforces important steps and daily tasks that are vital to keeping yourself and your comrades safe.

  • 37:40 the soldiers talk about the use of gas. The 4 main types of German chemical weapons were (based on the German color coding system developed during the war) Yellow Cross, White Cross, Green Cross and Blue Cross.
    White Cross shells contained general tear gases, which irritated the eyes and lungs with minimal serious long term affects.
    Yellow Cross shells contained Mustard Gas, which was more sever than the tear gases and caused chemical burns upon contact and serious inflammation of the eyes leading to temporary blindness. The fatality rate of soldiers exposed to Mustard Gas was only 2-3%, but those exposed were incapacitated and generally took up to 10 days to recover. So although it was not usually fatal nor were its affects usually permanent, Mustard Gas was nonetheless incredibly effective in that it kept all those exposed incapacitated for two weeks.
    Green Cross shells contained pulmonary agents such as chlorine, phosgene and diphosgene, which seriously irritated the lungs and were far more lethal than Yellow Cross. 85% of the 91,000 gas deaths during the war were a result of phosgene and diphosgene.
    Blue Cross shells contained Chloropicrin, diphenylchlorarsine and diphenylaminechlorarsine which severely irritated the respiratory system. Most of these were not actually gases, but rather fine dust particles, and were able to bypass the Entente gas masks. It was frequent tactic for these to be used in conjunction with one of the other gas types to cause the soldiers to remove their masks as a result of the irritant and then be further affected by the chemicals which couldn't penetrate the masks' filters. Fortunately for the Entente soldiers, the explosive charge within the Blue Cross shells meant to disperse the chemicals usually proved unable to disperse the dust particles far enough to cause a large area of affect, leading the Blue Cross shells to only be effective in the immediate area of the impact.

  • 42:00 when the soldiers are discussing the trench raid. They refer repeatedly to throwing "bombs". They are referring to Number 5 Hand Grenade issued by the British Army during the war. Called the "Mills Bomb" after its designer: William Mills. It had the distinctive "pineapple" shape found in the WWII/Korea/Vietnam era American hand grenade, which was influenced by the British Mills Bomb.

  • 52:30 the soldiers talk about training while at the front. This was a common occurrence and still happens in deployed units to this day. Basic soldiers skills and tasks need to be practiced constantly to ensure they do not fade. Just because soldiers are at the front does not mean they are putting into practice all of the skills they must know. For example a soldier may never been in the situation to use his bayonet, despite having been in multiple battles. Just because he hasn't had to use it yet does not mean he will not need to use it, and if he isn't practicing it, that skill is degrading over time. Additionally, training during time away from the front keeps soldiers busy and prevents them from dwelling on the horrors that they have just seen. But mainly it is done to keep soldiers sharp and prepared for combat, as combat skills need to be practiced just like any other skill.

Finally, I just want to make a point about the way the First World War on the Western Front was fought. It wasn't discussed in the film, but I think it is likely that it will come up in the discussion. There is a general cultural understanding the the First World War was fought with antiquated tactics by old, out of touch generals who did not care about their troops, and that trench warfare and massive assaults were wasteful, ineffective and unnecessary. This is an incorrect analysis of why the war was fought the way it was.

The First World war on the Western Front was fought the only way it could have been fought given the constraints of technology and terrain, to say otherwise is a fallacy. I specify the Western front because the nature of the war changed depending on the theater. The War on the Eastern front did not look like that of the Western Front, the war in the Middle East did not look like either the Western or Eastern Front, the Mediterranean and African Theaters did not look like any of the others.

The Western Front is characterized by trench warfare, massive assaults involving thousands of infantrymen advancing over open ground, enormous casualty rates and incredibly small successes in relation to lives spent and resources expended. This is all true, yet it all happened for a reason, and those reasons were not hubris, stupidity, age, callousness or lack of ingenuity.

The fact is that the Western front saw the deployment of hundreds of thousands of troops. Over the course of the war the Entente powers brought roughly 15,900,000 troops to the Western Front and the Central powers brought roughly 13,250,000. These troops were arrayed across a front of roughly 420 miles. When you bring that much manpower to bear, across a frontage so small, your ability to defeat the enemy by maneuver (moving ships, aircraft, or land forces to a position of advantage over the enemy) is severely limited, almost completely negated. You can't flank the enemy because to the left and right of the enemy is more enemy, and the enemy can't flank you for the same reason. Certainly it was often possible for small units of infantry to bypass enemy positions and flank others. But only at the platoon or company level (were talking, at the time, roughly 100 or less soldiers). At the scale of formations that existed during WWI, what is that 100 or less unit of soldiers going to do after they have flanked the enemy? Attack an enemy force that will undoubtedly vastly outnumber them? And how will that flanking force communicate with its higher headquarters after it has left friendly lines? Radios at the time were large, unwieldy and unreliable. Units below Battalion (we're talking now 500-800 soldiers) level didn't have radios. So this flanking unit is now vastly outnumbered and has no way to communicate or coordinate with its higher headquarters. It's not going to be very effective with whatever it does.

Now, you might argue that there was much maneuver during WWII and they had large armies then as well. But the armies during WWII were far more mobile, self sufficient and had vastly superior communications technology than those during WWI. Armies during WWI were composed mainly of infantry and artillery units, with some cavalry. These infantry and artillery units were reliant upon constant and efficient supply lines to keep them supplied with ammunition and food. The only constant and efficient way to transport large amounts of supplies at the time was by rail. So large formations are forced to stick to areas of the country which have accessible rail lines. And as we've established, you can only affect the enemy with large formations.

Additionally, communication is absolutely vital in war. And the most widely available and reliable way to communicate is wired telegraph. Therefore, Battalion and larger (500 and up) units are reliant upon being able to keep telegraph contact with their higher headquarters or else they will not be able to communicate with anyone, will not know what is going on around them, will not be able to report to their higher headquarters and will not be able to receive orders in a timely manner.

So, you can't flank the enemy, you must stick close to railways, and you can't get too far away from your higher headquarters because you have to maintain telegraph contact with them in order to receive orders/intelligence and send back reports and intelligence you have gathered. You can't move fast since unless your on a train there aren't enough motor vehicles to transport your infantry and you artillery is being pulled by horses.

Both the Entente and the Central powers have large amounts of artillery and machine guns because militaries have been technologically advancing during the previous decades. The only way to defend yourself against indirect (artillery) and direct (rifles, machine guns) fires is to build fortifications, thus the use of trenches. (Even now in the 21st century when we are conducting defensive operations we dig fighting positions and fill sandbags. The only reason we don't dig trenches today is because armies aren't as large as they were in the 1st world war, so we don't need to dig a whole trench. But they definitely dug trenches in the Second World War, they dug them in the Korean War, and at large scale defensive positions they dug them in the Vietnam war.)

So you now have two very massive armies, with large amounts of infantry and artillery, dug in to defensive positions (because that's the smart thing to do). You can't flank your enemy, you don't have effective tanks like you do in later wars. You don't have precision artillery and you don't have aircraft of effectively pin-point bombing enemy positions. But your politicians have declared a war and they are telling you you have to make some headway against the enemy. What are your options? There's really only one, you have to attack the enemy head on. So you make the best you can out of a bad situation. You mass your artillery to soften the enemy before you send your infantry in. They did this. You try to use chemical weapons to defeat some enemy before you send your infantry in. They did this. You try to prevent the enemy from seeing your infantry as they advance across no mans land. They did this (by developing the technique of rolling barrages, where they would fire artillery in front of their infantry as they advanced, close enough that the explosions would mask the infantry but far enough that the infantry wouldn't be harmed). Later on, after aircraft have begun to become more applicable to warfare you send fighters to strafe the enemy and send bombers to bomb them. They did this. You have your engineers dig tunnels underneath the enemy and set explosive charges to destroy sections of their trench and kill their infantry before your infantry have to advance. They did this. You do everything in your power with the technology and resources you have at your disposal to protect your infantry so they can defeat the enemy when you reach them. They did this. But at the end of the day, you're not going to be able to defeat the enemy unless you get your infantry into the enemy's trenches. That's the only way. And the enemy knows this, so they're going to put out barbed wire, they're going to fire their own artillery at you, their infantry are dug in and most are going to survive your bombardment, and they're going to have machine gun positions dug in to fire at your infantry. Because that's what they can do given the technology and resources at their disposal.

So now you have conducted your assault, you've seized the front of the enemies lines. Perhaps you even pushed a half mile into the enemy territory. The best thing to do, the thing that would allow you to make real strategic gains and change the course of the war, would be to continue pushing into the enemy's support area: capture or destroy their supplies and trains and communications centers. But the only way to get there is to walk. No trucks could cross no-mans-land until a road has been built. Your tanks (if you have any) are almost as slow as walking, and they are very vulnerable without infantry support so you'll have to bring the infantry anyway, besides, they're now low on fuel, and the only way to refuel them is to bring fuel across no man's land (well, you'll have to carry that fuel because a truck can't make it across there until that road is built). The troops that have made the assault are exhausted and almost out of ammunition, so they can't continue the push. So you'll need to bring more troops across no man's land to keep pushing. But wait, the enemy knows your attack has been successful, and they know you're going to want to keep pushing. So to stop you, they are going to counter attack. So those fresh troops you're bringing across can't keep attacking, they have to stay and defend the captured ground, because again, those troops that made the attack are exhausted and low on ammunition.

So now all your effort has to shift to defending the half-mile deep portion of ground you've captured, because if the enemy retakes it, you'll have wasted those hundreds (maybe thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands) men you used just to take that half mile. You reinforce that half mile, but now you have to dig new trenches. You have to build those roads through the previous no man's land up to your new lines, you have to extend or repair the railroad network up to your new support area, because you have to move all of that too so it's close enough to your new front line that you can effectively support it.

In fact, WWI is really a war of innovation. It is during WWI that air forces developed, that the concept of the bomber and fighter diverged. It is during WWI that sophisticated artillery tactics developed. It is during WWI that coordination between naval gunfire and land forces became refined. It is during WWI that the radio becomes more widespread. It is during WWI that machine gun tactics became an art. It is during WWI that the modern concept of "combined arms maneuver warfare" (the modern way of fighting war) came of age. The history of WWI is chock full of inattentiveness and invention.

The story of WWI is not one of military stupidity or callousness. There were no more stupid mistakes or oversights in WWI than there are in any war. The story of WWI is one of a tragic, perfect storm. Where a global conflict coincided with a point in time when technology was beginning to grow exponentially but had not developed enough in key areas to enable militaries to achieve success without expending vast amounts of lives and resources.

Interesting Facts? A space to provide info that isn't historical in context, such as trivia about the making of the film. This should be related to the film or the topic it's covering. (Optional)

Peter Jackson is a big fan of WWI aviation and has collected numerous vintage WWI fighter planes. He founded The Vintage Aviator, a subsidiary of his movie production company, Wingnut Films. "Our primary aim is to build WW1 aircraft, engines and propellers to the same exacting standards they were originally made over 90 years ago." “Our customers are generally private collectors and museums.”

He also founded Wingnut Wings, a scale plastic model company solely devoted to 1/32 scale WWI aircraft and pilots. It produced the finest WWI aircraft scale models on the market.
[Both companies have suspended operations officially citing Covid-19 as the cause.]

"Jackson’s paternal grandfather fought on the Western Front and was wounded by a German machine-gunner on the first day of the battle of the Somme, 1 July 1916. He was taken back to a hospital in England, where he recovered. In his youth, Jackson became obsessed with the Great War and read widely on the subject." - Review by Taylor Downing

While the whole film is depicting men at war, there is one scene in particular that actually shows combat footage of an infantry charge. Men going "over the top." It looks flat, and not impressive compared to what we've come to expect from the set piece battle in action films (compare this to the climactic "trench run" scene in 1917.) [I believe this is footage from one of the Battles of the Somme.]

The making of documentary is a terrific source from both the historical and movie-making aspect. I cannot encourage the team to watch it as well as the movie itself. They really complement each other.

The blu ray and theatrical releases of the movie included a behind the scenes featurette hosted by Peter Jackson covering the extensive processes involved in bringing new life to the archive footage the film is based around. What follows is a bulleted list of key points given in the video but I would highly suggest all hosts to view it as it feels like it's required reading in understanding the why behind this important film.

Thank you for the hard work you put into this podcast I'm glad to be a part of it!

Behind the scenes featurette

  • Most of the footage in the archives were duplicates of the original and had heavy damage, wear after 100 years. The sprocket holes were warped, causing an up and down jittering to the film.

  • Determining the speed the film should be played at was difficult given they were hand operated cameras. The frames per second were all over the place, they could check find the correct speed by changing the fps until it felt like it matched.

  • They had 100 hours of film to start with.

  • The original footage was so wide and the restoration was so good they were able to create camera movement within the frame by zooming and panning around.

  • Most of the soldiers of the time weren’t used to seeing a movie camera so they’re all focusing on the camera awkwardly.

  • Some of the film wasn’t exposed well and was extremely black or bright. Using their software they were able to correct them back to their original shade.

  • Having looked at all the faces in the footage, they decided the stories of the people needed to be the focus of the story.

  • The Imperial War Museum and the BBC in the 60 and 70s had interviewed tons of veterans of the war. They collected all the audio and catalogued all 600 hours of it.

  • They narrowed down the 600 hours of audio to 100 and the 100 hours of video to about 6.

  • They found the day to day life stuff the most interesting rather than the grandiose strategy of it all.

  • The whole story was intended to be the story of the average English soldier’s experience on the Western front.

  • They had no footage of real close up combat so instead they would smash cut from a living face to a body on the ground.

  • To fill in the gaps they used Peter Jackson’s collection of The War Illustrated magazine full of pencil sketches of the war that illustrators had made during the war enabling them to use them as a sort of storyboard presentation of combat.

  • The people in the war experienced it in color so they felt that they should colorize the movie, especially as the cameramen on the western front would certainly have used color film if they had it available at the time.

  • The American company Stereo D did the colorization of the old black and white film. They came down to New Zealand to look at Jackson’s uniform collection to photograph as reference. Surprisingly the hardest thing to colorize was the grass.

  • Peter Jackson went out to the battle locations and took thousands of photos to use as reference.

  • A few shots in the movie of the Lancashire Fusiliers huddled in a sunken road waiting to attack. Some of them look terribly scared and Jackson was able to find that specific location. Most of those men were about to die in that attack.

  • Several foley artists were hard at work using all the old equipment making all the noises in the scene from scratch as there was no real original audio to work with. They shovelled and walked in mud, worked bolts and even recorded the functioning of an 18 pounder artillery gun and 6 inch howitzers that Jackson owns (“like you do”).

  • Being shelled and artillery was such an important part of the infantry experience that they wanted to capture that as accurately as they could without going to a sound bank and pulling out bangs and whistles. They were able to record live firing from the NZ Army to get all the firing, whistling, and impacts to use in the film.

  • They also needed to figure out what the soldiers were saying and record voices for them just like the foley work. They hired forensic lip readers who were able to help decipher what the soldiers were saying so voice actors could fill in the gaps. From there they’d look at what regiment they were in, what part of the UK they were from, and get actors from those parts of the country to voice the lines. Many of the voice actors were soldiers in the British army right now.

  • In one scene there’s an officer reading out of a sheet of paper to his men all lined up that they had trouble figuring out what he was saying. After figuring out what regiment it was, they found the exact speech he was reading the soldiers before the battle of the Somme.

  • Jackson didn’t want the movie to feel too modern so he wanted to find something from the period to put in. A small band threw in little bits of sound, music, instrument noises to punch up the score a little bit.

  • At the credits they needed something to add in so they used the war song Mademoiselles From Armentiers. They needed some real British voices without NZ people so they asked for some singing voices from the British High Commision (similar to an embassy) to come down and they got 6 or 7 guys to sing for a day or so for the movie.

  • They had tons of amazing footage from the Air Corps, the Navy, the women in the home front, the nursing corps, drivers, etc but ultimately decided that focusing on one aspect would tell a better story. Women’s contribution to the war was another story they excluded, along with the colonial soldier and all the other countries who fought in the war.

  • The individual experiences were so similar that Jackson reckons that most of the infantry involved would probably have been more or less the same from what we see in the film.

  • Jackson and his partner Fran Walsh had family in the war. Jackson’s grandfather was severely wounded, ultimately dying at 50. Nearly his entire battalion was killed in The Somme. He met Jackson’s grandmother while in hospital so Jackson owes his existence in part to the war.

  • Jackson implores the viewers to ask if they had any family involved in the war (I did! My mother’s grandfather was an artilleryman with the AEF. It was apparently very taxing on him and he never spoke of it to his family.)

  • If you got anything out of this research, PLEASE ask viewers to think about their family’s history with the war and reflect on how it may have shaped their own lives as well as the history of the entire world.

Works Cited? Please list your references

Jay Winter & Blaine Baggett. The Great War. 1996. Penguin Studio

David Fromkin. Europe's Last Summer: Who Started the Great War in 1914?. August, 2005. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group,

Wikipedia articles: Battle of Passchendaele, Second Battle of Ypres, Battle of Cambrai, Battle of Amiens, Chemical weapons in World War I, Treaty of London (1839), Lee–Enfield.
Combat and The Colonies: The role of race in World War I. (n.d.). Retrieved February 25, 2021, from

Creese, Miachel. Swords Trembling in Their Scabbards. The Changing status of Indian officers in the Indian Army, 1757-1947. pp. 83, 139–140. ISBN 9-781909-9828-19.

Das, S. (2013, December 09). Experiences of Colonial Troops. Retrieved February 25, 2021, from

Downing, T. (2019, January 09). They Shall Not Grow Old. Retrieved February 25, 2021, from

Goldblatt, C. (2020, July 17). Bakary diallo's Force-Bonté (1926): A Complicit critique of French humanity. Retrieved February 25, 2021, from

Lunn, J. (2008). Memoirs of the maelstrom: A Senegalese oral history of the First World War. Portsmouth (N.H.): Heinemann.

Making of Documentary
Imperial War Museum


Houghton, Steve. The British Sniper: a Century of Evolution. Swift and Bold Publishing, 2018.

McCollum, Ian. Chassepot to Famas: French Military Rifles 1866-2016. Headstamp Publishing, 2019.

McNab, Chris, et al. The Flamethrower. Osprey Military, 2015.

Pegler, Martin. The Lee-Enfield Rifle: (Wpn:17) (Weapon). Osprey, 2012.

Pegler, Martin, and Peter Dennis. Sniper Rifles: From the 19th to the 21st Century. Osprey Publishing, 2011.

Robbins, Michael W., and Hew Strachan. Lest We Forget: the Great War: World War I Prints from the Pritzker Military Museum & Library. Pritzker Military Museum & Library, 2018.
1918: A Very British Victory - Peter Hart

The Guns of August: Barbara Tuchman

The Great War And Modern Memory: Paul Fussell

Good-Bye to All That: An Autobiography - Robert Graves

Infantry Attacks: Erwin Rommel

University of Kansas Media Center:

SURPLUS ORDNANCE Episode 2: The Outpost Thu, 04 Mar 2021 13:00:00 -0800 514577bc-7c51-46fd-b81e-f71f014e6ad6 Surplus Ordnance! Research and notes on E2 - The Outpost

SURPLUS ORDNANCE Episode 1: Full Metal Jacket Mon, 22 Feb 2021 12:00:00 -0800 8c914466-e7b2-412e-91fe-753a59571f8f Surplus Ordnance! Research and notes on E1 - Full Metal Jacket We have a new segment, SURPLUS ORDNANCE, where we will post all of the research and some notes from the episode. This way, anything that didn't make it into the show can be looked up here. This is only for the TRULY nerdy, as for our first episode it was ten plus pages. But we figured some of you would like to take a look. Big thanks to Dennis Meyers and Mike Andrews for the research. If this is your thing, enjoy!