Ich brauche ein paar Fallschirm Hose!
In World War Two, we fought three main enemies: The Germans, The Italians and the French. I mean The Japanese, not the French. The French were on our side. In fact, the French started a new business of selling used military weapons shortly after the Germans conquered them. Their slogan was, "French guns! Cheap! Never fired and only dropped once!"
Ok....I'm kidding about the French. They have a bad reputation for surrendering, but they are actually very good soldiers. Don't forget, Napoleon and the French army conquered like, all of Europe and a third of Russia. Not to mention North Africa. And, if it weren't for the French, America wouldn't exist as a country free of British rule.
So, sorry France. I was joking.
But there are a couple of misconceptions over who our enemies and who our allies were.
Take the French. While the French that escaped the mainland with the British Expeditionary Force during the evacuations at Dunkirk were fully committed to defeating the Germans, those that were left behind, not so much. These are known as Vichy French, after the occupation government that ruled from Vichy. In their defense, it was a 'go along with us or die' type situation for them, but when it came time to invade Algiers and Morocco, the remnants of the French navy were harbored there. And make no mistake, even though the ships were turned over to the Germans, they were still controlled by the Vichy government and manned by French sailors.
As the allies, led by Eisenhower, came close, he declared that if the French wanted a fight, they would have to fire first.
Allied naval vessels fired back and allied air forces bombed the ships. The outcome was fairly predictable. The French lost. The allies had a foothold. But, for the next few days, the French fought the allies as they advanced through French Morocco. Their planes bombed the allies and their infantry did their best to stop the allies.
So, even though France was an ally, we fought the French.
But, the main protagonist in Europe was Germany. The Nazis. Except, most German soldiers weren't Nazis. Yes, they all had to take a pledge to Hitler, but for most of them, it was lip service. Just like it was for a lot of German civilians. That's not to say there weren't any Nazis in the army. There were plenty. But they tended to volunteer for the SS. The bulk of the German army fought because they were ordered to. And the Gestapo made sure you did what you were ordered to. (a good example is Erwin Romell. He was only connected to the failed assassination of Hitler in that he had heard a few people talk about it. And, although he was Germanys best general, he was forced to take poison because of it)
But, even members of the regular army that might have once been supporters of the Nazis, by 1945 had had enough. They knew they were beat. And, they didn't understand why they were fighting the Americans and British when it made much more sense to just get out of their way and let them take Berlin to keep it out of Russian hands.
But, Hitler and his Nazis were a fanatical bunch. Finally, at the end of April 1945, Hitler saved the allies the cost of some rope and killed himself.
Five days after Hitlers suicide, a small force of Americans liberated a castle in Austria called Schloss Itter, in the Tyrol region. It was serving as a prison to high level French prisoners, including a couple of ex prime ministers. Three tanks is all the Americans showed up with.
Shortly after the Americans captured it, (no fighting. The Germans just opened the gates for them and gave up), the 17th Waffen SS Panzer Grenadier Division showed up to take it back and execute the prisoners.
The Americans thought they were done for. Except, the German soldiers who had surrendered, picked up their weapons again and manned their fighting positions. They refused to fight the Americans, but here they were fighting against fellow Germans. It seems the average German soldier hated the Nazis as much as the Americans by this time, and were willing to die to stop the Nazis. The commander of the German soldiers died in the battle and is honored to this day in Austria as a leader amongst the anti-Nazis.
This battle marked the only time Americans fought alongside the Germans in WWII. It also marks the only time in history that Americans have defended a mid-evil castle against a hostile enemy. (I highly recommend reading the book, 'The Last Battle' by Stephen Harding. It goes into great detail about this American/German alliance. It's truly a good story. And 100% true)
So, you don't always know who your enemy is, do you?
Hmm. Longer post than I thought it would be.
Aw, what the hell. You guys have been good. You deserve to hear about the absolute oddest battle ever.
In 623, the Chinese commander Chai Shao had the daunting task of fighting the invading Huns. Anyone who has heard of the Huns know, they were basically unstoppable.
Until they met Chai Shao, that is.
Chai Shao and his men were sorely outnumbered. Defeat looked to be inevitable. And the Huns didn't take prisoners. Shao had only one option. He had to attack the Huns from behind. But how to keep them from noticing?
Shao, in a clear stroke of genius, left a small force facing the Huns. He then had a few, (actual number not known), women walk over to a small hill not too far from the Huns. They then stripped down to almost nothing and "performed curious and obscene dances and gestures while singing lewd songs". The Huns stood around and watched.
And, while they watched, Chai Shao moved the bulk of his forces and attacked from behind. By the time the Huns up front realized what was going on, it was too late. The Huns were routed.
By scantily clad women.
Of course, there's always the story of the Austrian Emperor, Joseph II. He decided he was going to rid the world of the Turks. So, he led his army of 170,000 into Transylvania. And promptly lost 33,000 of them to malaria. He heard the Turkish Grand Vizier was traveling close by, so he took the rest of his army and headed off to meet him. One night, some of his troops bought ale and wine from the locals. The officers heard about it and confiscated the booze and punished the soldiers. The other soldiers took offense to that. So, to get ri of the officers, they started hollering about how the Turks were attacking. The officers left, and the soldiers patted themselves on the back. Except, the officers only ran as far as the main bulk of the army. They then organized them into an attack. It was, needless to say, a confused battle.
The next morning, Joseph II realized he had another 10,000 dead soldiers, bringing his dead totals up to 43,000. And he still hadn't seen a single Turk.
Hey Joe.....where you going with that gun in your hand?