Film: We Were Soldiers (2002)


We Were Soldiers is an American war film that dramatizes the Battle of Ia Drang in November 1965, during the Vietnam War. Directed by Randall Wallace and starring Mel Gibson, the film is based on the book We Were Soldiers Once … And Young (1992) by Lieutenant General (Ret.) Hal Moore and reporter Joseph L. Galloway, both of whom were at the battle.


The Battle of Ia Drang (14–18 November 1965) was the first major set-piece battle between U.S. Army forces and regulars of the Vietnam People’s Army (PAVN) during the Vietnam War. The two-part battle took place at two adjacent landing zones (LZs) west of Plei Me in the Central Highlands of South Vietnam. While being ferried to LZ X-Ray by Huey helicopters, the 450 men of 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry were attacked by a much larger force of PAVN. After two days and nights of heavy fighting (14–16 November 1965), the Americans were able to hold out and survive as a unit. On 17 November the North Vietnamese ambushed and obliterated the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry near LZ Albany. In the end, both sides suffered heavy casualties; the U.S. side had about 300 soldiers killed, and the North Vietnamese lost more than 1,000 men. Twenty-five years later, after a research trip to Vietnam with Lt. Gen Harold “Hal” Moore (USA-Ret.), the commander at LZ X-Ray, Joe Galloway (the only journalist present at the battle), published “Vietnam Story,” a detailed account in U.S. News & World Report that earned a 1990 National Magazine Award. Galloway and Moore expanded Galloway’s article into a book: We Were Soldiers Once … And Young: Ia Drang—The Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam (1992). Published a year after the stunning success of “Operation Desert Storm”—when renewed pride in American military prowess made the public more receptive to the ideological rehabilitation of the Vietnam-era soldier—We Were Soldiers sold an astonishing 1.3 million copies. Randall Wallace, a former seminarian from Tennessee turned novelist/filmmaker, read the book and was captivated by it. He approached Moore and Galloway to option the film rights in the fall of 1993, which they sold to him in 1995, some months before the release of Mel Gibson’s Braveheart, a property written by Wallace, which made him a Hollywood force to reckon with.


Having written the screenplay, Randall Wallace co-produced We Were Soldiers (with Mel Gibson’s partners at Icon Entertainment, Bruce Davey and Stephen McEveety). Wallace also directed the film—his second directorial effort after The Man in the Iron Mask (1998)—and cast Mel Gibson, the star of Braveheart, to play Lt. Col. Moore. After Wallace had his key players meet their real-life counterparts, he put the cast through a Hollywood version of boot camp at Fort Benning, Georgia. With cinematography by Dean Semler (an action movie specialist and frequent Mel Gibson collaborator), We Were Soldiers was shot between 5 March and 30 June 2001. The battle scenes were filmed at Fort Hunter Liggett, a 167,000-acre Army training reservation in Monterey County 150 miles south of San Francisco that doubled for South Vietnam’s Central Highlands. Training scenes were filmed at Fort Benning, and domestic scenes were shot in Pasadena.

Plot Summary

Prologue: during the final year of the First Indochina War (1954), Viet Minh forces ambush a French army unit on patrol and wipe it out. Cut to Fort Benning, 12 years later. U.S. Army Lt. Col. Hal Moore (Mel Gibson) is chosen to train and lead a newly created air cavalry battalion. Soon after arriving in Vietnam, Moore’s unit is ferried into the Ia Drang Valley by helicopters at a site that turns out to be the base camp for North Vietnamese Army units totaling some 3,000 men. After arriving in the area, a platoon of soldiers led by 2nd Lt. Henry Herrick (Marc Blucas) is ambushed. Herrick and several others are killed and the surviving platoon members are surrounded. Sgt. Ernie Savage (Ryan Hurst) takes over the command and utilizes the darkness to keep the Vietnamese from taking over their position. Meanwhile, helicopters constantly drop off reinforcements. On the second day of the battle, the outnumbered U.S. force keeps the enemy at bay using artillery, mortars, and helicopter airlifts of supplies and reinforcements. The PAVN commander, Lt. Col. Nguyen Huu An (Duong Don), orders a large-scale attack on the American position. On the verge of being overrun by the enemy and with no options left, Moore orders 1st Lt. Charlie Hastings (Robert Bagnell), his Forward Air Controller, to call in “Broken Arrow” (an emergency call for all available combat aircraft to attack enemy positions, even those close to U.S. lines). The aircraft strafe, bomb, and napalm the enemy, killing many PAVN and Viet Cong troops. The second Vietnamese attack is stopped, and the surviving U.S. soldiers, led by Sgt. Savage, are brought to safety. Back in the United States, Hal Moore’s wife, Julia (Madeleine Stowe), has taken on a leadership role among the soldiers’ wives on base. Meanwhile, Moore’s unit organizes, stabilizes the area, and waits at the bottom of a hill. Lt. Col. An organizes a final siege on the American troops and sends most of his own to stage the assault. The Vietnamese get in position, but Hal Moore and his men go on the offensive, charging forward with fixed bayonets. Before the Vietnamese can fire, Major Bruce P. “Snake” Crandall (Greg Kinnear) and other men in helicopters gun down the Vietnamese. An is forced to evacuate his headquarters. With their objective reached, Moore and his men return to the LZ for pickup. The film ends with the revelation that the landing zone reverted to the North Vietnamese as soon as the American troops departed.


Made at an estimated cost of $75 million, We Were Soldiers did quite well at the box office: $78 million in domestic receipts and $36.5 million in foreign ticket sales for a total of $114.6 million—a healthy profit after promotion expenses. The critical response was, however, mixed. Many mainstream film reviewers lauded the movie’s graphic simulated realism, narrative coherence, and even-handed depiction of the soldiers on both sides of the fighting. However, some critics found We Were Soldiers clumsy and ideologically suspect, that is, rife with John Wayne–era war clichés and nationalistic righteousness obviously designed to revise the image of the Vietnam War in the popular imagination and glorify the U.S. soldier—while studiously avoiding any hint that the war was misguided or, worse yet, a catastrophic exercise of American imperialism. Indeed, the film’s right-wing pedigree was amply demonstrated when President George W. Bush held a private screening of We Were Soldiers at the White House on 26 February 2002 (three days before its national release). In attendance were Moore, Galloway, Wallace, Gibson, and other cast members, spouses, and studio executives, as were Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. In all the patriotic hoopla, no one seemed to notice the exquisite irony of the occasion. Whereas Moore, Galloway, and Powell were genuine Vietnam War veterans (“heroes,” if you will), hawkish ideologues Wallace, Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld carefully avoided Vietnam, though all of them could have served.

Reel History Versus Real History

Although much of the relentless combat action depicted in the film is accurate in broad terms, the decisive, culminating bayonet charge led by Lt. Col. Moore is a total, absurd fabrication. In point of fact, the North Vietnamese broke off the engagement of their own accord but not before wiping out Moore’s sister battalion, the 2/7, at LZ Albany—a crushing American defeat expunged from the movie for obvious reasons. Historian Maurice Isserman plausibly suggests that the mythical bayonet charge in We Were Soldiers was meant to evoke Gettysburg (1993): “Actor Sam Elliott, who plays a tough and gravelly voiced master sergeant [Basil L. Plumley] in We Were Soldiers, had played a tough and gravelly voiced cavalry officer [Brigadier General John Buford] in the earlier film. As a casting choice, Elliot’s presence works at a subconscious level, and probably intentionally, to link the two films and the battles they depict in the audience’s mind” (Isserman, 2002). Isserman goes on to characterize We Were Soldiers as an “idealized, abstracted, and ultimately cynically manipulative fantasy of generic American heroism under fire.”

The Soviet Black Sea Navy

Black Sea Fleet Sinking 1918

On April 23, 1918 in the face of a threat of the Crimea seizure by the German troops the RSFSR Council of People’s Commissars (CPC) issued an order on relocation of the Black Sea fleet from Sevastopol to Novorossiysk. The Central Committee of the Black Sea Navy that was vested full power from early January 1918 decided to fulfill the order of RSFSR CPC. On April 29-30 Sevastopol was left by 2 battleships, 14 destroyers, 2 torpedo boats, 1 auxiliary cruiser and 10 patrol ships making the battle core of the fleet (in total about 3,500 men of the crew). On May 1-2 they joined in Novorossiysk. In Sevastopol the German troops seized old battleships, cruisers, submarines, some destroyers and other ships that were mostly inoperative. On May 11 the German Commander-in-chief in the East front laid down an ultimatum demanding from RSFSR CPC the return of ships to Sevastopol. In order to keep the Brest Peace Treaty in force RSFSR CPC had to agree and the People’s Committee on Foreign Affairs sent the respective notes on May 13 and June 9. However, not willing to give the ships to the enemies RSFSR CPC decided to sink them about which a respective order was given (the directive signed by V. I. Lenin on May 28). On June 18 the battleship “Svobodnaya Rossia” (“Free Russia”), 6 destroyers and 2 torpedo boats were sunk in the Novorossiysk Bay and one more destroyer was sunk on June 19 in Tuapse. Eight patrol boats were transported via railroad to Tsaritsyn and they made the core of the future Volga Navy. From December 12, 1917 to June 4, 1918 the Black Sea fleet was under command of Admiral M. P. Sablin.

Black Sea Shipbuilding Yard – in Nikolaev City (Ukraine)

In 1895, a Belgian joint-stock company commenced the building of a shipyard in Nikolaev, which was subsequently called “Society of Shipyards, Mechanical and Foundry Plants”. One of the oldest shipyards. The yard was officially commissioned on October 9, 1897 as “Naval” plant (translated from French, meaning “marine”). The plant was specialized in the manufacture of military ships and vessels, ship engines, mechanisms, boilers, ship equipment, canons and ship’s artillery turrets, railway cars, bridges, cranes. The yard had shops, slipways, piers and workshops with most advanced equipment at the time, and was the foremost plant for the building of steamship metal fleet on the Black Sea. The world’s first submarine mine-layer “Krab” (Crab) was built here, along with the main seaborne machinery of the ironclad battleship “Potemkin”. Alongside the main orders, the shipyard built barges, ship’s boilers, cranes, tram cars, steam engines, railway bridges. In 1925, the first Soviet tanker “Krasny Nikolaev” was laid down at the shipyard, in 1941, the construction of the ice-breakers “I. Stalin” and “Krasin” was completed. During the Great Patriotic War (WWII), the shipyard was evacuated and turned out products for the front. In 1949, the first postwar vessel-tanker “Kazbek” was laid down. Unique vessels, like the whaling bases “Sovetskaya Ukraina” and “Sovetskaya Rossiya”, vessels for scientific expeditions and research and fishing ships of the type of “Yu. M. Shokalsky”, “Akademik Knipovich” were built at the shipyard. At present, the shipyard is busy building dry-cargo vessels, large refrigerator trawlers, container carrying ships. Also, the shipyard manufactures the newest seaborne machinery and devices, pleasure craft, ship furniture. The ship is decorated with the Order of the Red Banner of Labor (1926), 2 Orders of Lenin (1949, 1977), Order of the October Revolution (1970).

(Ivanov) Filipp Sergeevich Oktyabrskiy (1899-1969)

Soviet Admiral

In December 1918 he volunteered to serve on the Baltic Fleet. From 1920 to 1938 he served on various ships of the Baltic and Pacific Fleet. In 1939-1943 he commanded the Black Sea Fleet. In July 1940 he participated in formation of the Danube Fleet. In 1941 he was conferred the rank of Rear Admiral. By the beginning of the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945) due to his efforts the Black Sea Fleet was ready for the war and it was the first unit that met the enemies fully armed. During the war he was responsible for laying mines, formation of sea brigades, repair of ships and evacuation of the population. He organized the aircraft and ship attacks on the oil product warehouses in Romania. At approaching of the Germans he focused his efforts on defense of Odessa and later Sevastopol. In November 1941 he was appointed the commander of the Sevastopol defense region. Near Sevastopol he organized support of the land troops by the Fleet and took part in development of the Kerch-Feodosiya operation and commanded its realization. He ensured supply of Sevastopol and actions on enemy communications. After defeat of the troops of the Crimean Fleet in May 1942 he organized their transfer to the Taman Peninsula. On 1 July 1942 he left Sevastopol on the last plane as it was impossible to defend any further. He commanded the operations of the Black Sea Fleet from the command posts in the Caucasus. After the unsuccessful attempt of landing near Novorossiysk in February 1943 he was dismissed from the Black Sea Fleet. In 1943-1944 he commanded the Amur (River) Fleet. In 1944-1948 he was again appointed the commander of the Black Sea Fleet. In 1944 he was promoted to Admiral. He took part in development of the military campaign of 1944 on the Black Sea and operation on liberation of Crimea. He commanded the actions of the Black Sea Fleet and Danube Fleet during the Yassy-Kishenev operation. In 1946 he was appointed a member of the Supreme Military Council of the Armed Forces keeping the post of a Fleet commander. In December 1948 he became Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Navy. In April 1952 he was appointed the Chief of the Navy Research Center. In 1954-1957 he retired. In 1957-1960 he was the director of the Black Sea Higher Naval School named after P. S. Nakhimov in Sevastopol. In September 1960 he was included into the group of general inspectors of the USSR Ministry of Defense. He was awarded many orders and the title of the Hero of the Soviet Union.

Gorshkov Sergey Georgievich (1910-1988) – admiral of the USSR Navy.

In 1926 he became a nondegree student of the physical-mathematical faculty of the Leningrad University. In 1927 he entered the M. V. Frunze Naval School. After finishing in 1931 of this school he served as a navigator on a destroyer of the Black Sea Fleet. In 1932 he was transferred to the Pacific Fleet. In June 1939 he was appointed the Brigade Commander of the torpedo boat squadron of the Black Sea Navy. From 1940-the commander of the cruiser brigade of the Black Sea Navy. In 1941 he finished the courses for command staff advancement at the Naval Academy. He was promoted to first Rank Captain. Commanding the detachment of assault landing ships he showed bravery during the landing operation at Grigorievka near Odessa. In 1941 he was promoted to the Rear-Admiral. He took command during the Kerch-Feodosia operation and during evacuation of the troops of the Crimean front in 1942 he commanded the defense of the Kerch Strait. After loss of bases on the Sea of Azov he organized pullout of a part of military ships and transport ships with their cargo. Using the forces of the Azov Navy, Kerch and Novorossiysk naval bases he took part in defense of the Taman Peninsula until the ships left the Sea of Azov and the troops retreated for defense of Novorossiysk. He commanded the Novorossiysk defense and was the last to leave it. In 1943-1944 he commanded the Azov Navy for the second time. In spring 1943 he commanded some landing operations. Among the major naval operations there were landings in Mariupol, Osipenko and Temryuk; support from the sea of the forces of the North-Caucasian front during liberation of the Taman Peninsula and, at last, a major operation in November 1943 on landing of the Detached Maritime Army on the Kerch Peninsula and its support on the conquered base area. In 1943 during the Kerch-Eltigen operation he commanded the preparation and landing of the marine forces and then crossing to Crimea of the troops of the 56th Army. From April 20 to December 12, 1944 he commanded the Danube Fleet that supported the Soviet troops in their attack of German Army in Eastern Europe. He commanded the actions of the fleet during forced crossing of the Dniester mouth, and the liberation of Bulgaria and Romania. In September 1944 he was promoted to the Vice-Admiral. In 1944 he was successful commanding the fleet during the Belgrade and Budapest operations. From 1945 he commanded the squadron of the Black Sea Navy. From November 1948 he was the Chief of the naval staff, in 1951-1955-the commanded of the Black Sea Navy. In 1955 he was appointed the First Deputy Commanded-in-Chief and in 1956- Commander-in-Chief of the Navy and USSR Deputy Naval Minister. In 1967 he was awarded the rank of the Naval Admiral of the USSR. G. advocated development of submarine fleet and guided-missile ships. He was the author of such books as “Naval Might of the State” and “In the Southern Maritime Flange. Autumn- Spring 1941” describing the army and naval operations near the coasts of the Black and Azov seas. For the achievements in the Navy development he was conferred the USSR State Award (1980) and Lenin Award (1985); he was twice Hero of the Soviet Union (1965, 1982). He was awarded many orders and medals of the Soviet Union as well as medals of other states. In 1990 his name was given to heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser “Naval Admiral of the Soviet Union Gorshkov” (former “Baku).

Kerch-Feodosiya Operation

The landing operation of the troops of the Transcaucasus Front commanded by General D. T. Kozlov in Kerch and Feodosia on 26 December 1941-2 January 1942. The Soviet command planned to capture the Kerch Peninsula and then liberate Crimea occupied by the German Eleventh Army of General Erich von Manstein. As the main forces of Manstein were engaged in storming Sevastopol the Soviet troops (more than 40,000 people) on 26-31 December 1941 landed near Kerch and Feodosia. The troops were supported with 43 tanks and 1,802 horses. This was the largest landing operation during the Great Patriotic War. Despite the winter storm, shortage of special landing facilities and resistance of the Germans the landing troops using the element of surprise on 29 December seized Feodosia and continued their attack in the northern direction. Commander of the German 42nd Army Corps Hans Graf von Sponeck fearing that his detachments on the Kerch Peninsula (up to 25,000 people) could be cut off gave an order to leave Kerch and retreated (for this act he was subject to court-martial and put to prison). Having seized Feodosia the Soviet command acted rather cautious and irresolutely which enabled the Germans to retreat without any problems from the Kerch Peninsula and to organize defense on the Parpachaisky isthmus. With the beginning of the Kerch-Feodosiya Operation Manstein had to stop the assault of Sevastopol (on 31 December) and to transfer some of its forces against the landing troops. On 15 January Manstein troops made a counterattack and broke through the landing troops positions and on 18 January they seized Feodosia back. The Soviet troops retreated to the Ak-Monaisk isthmus.

Kerch Military Operation

This was an assault on 8-20 May 1942 of the forces of the Eleventh Germany Army commanded by General Erich von Manstein against the Soviet troops commanded by General D. T. Kozlov. The 300,000 grouping of the troops of the Crimean front on the Kerch Peninsula that nearly twice the German forces was preparing to lift the siege of Sevastopol and to liberate the Crimea. But Manstein in anticipation of these attacks, made a preventive strike on May 8. Having the greater number of forces in the south of the Crimean Front the Germans broke the Soviet defense, also the Germans landed in the rear of the Soviet troops, thus, disorganizing Soviet situation. In spite of its domination on the sea, the Black Sea Fleet did not provide the expected support to the defending land troops, so Manstein forces moved freely along the coast. After the Crimean Front all but disintegrated, the German tanks attacked further Russian defense positions. First the attacking units moved along the coast and then turned northward and reached the dislocation of the Soviet reserve forces and destroyed them. As a result, the basic Soviet grouping in the north of the Kerch Peninsula (47th and 51st armies) was cut off and forced to the bank of the Sivash Lake. The troops of the Crimean Front went out of control and retreated in chaos to the east. On 15 May the Germans captured Kerch. The Soviet troops numbering about 120,000 troops were evacuated to the Northern Caucasus. Those who did not manage to evacuate (about 18,000 troops) found shelter in the Adzhimushkay rock quarry (catacombs) where they heroically resisted the German attacks until late October 1942. The German victory “buried” the Soviet plan of Crimea liberation and, in fact, decided the fate of Sevastopol. The success of the Germans in battle at Kerch in 1942 had opened the way to new victories, which could be attributed to low competence of the commanding staff of the Crimean Front that enabled Manstein, without much effort, to realize this well-prepared, but risky plan.

Kerch-Eltigen Operation

A landing operation of the troops of the North-Caucasian Front (commanded by General I. E. Petrov) with the seizure of the Kerch Peninsula that lasted from 31 October to 11 December 1943, during the Great Patriotic War. After success of the Novorossiysk-Taman operation the Soviet command put the task to seize the Kerch Peninsula and to create there a base for Crimea liberation from German Army. For this purpose two landing units went ashore. One of them landed to the northeast of Kerch, but could not take hold of the city because of the tough resistance of the Germans, but it managed to consolidate its positions on the seized area and to organize defense. The second landing unit got established to the south of Kerch, near Eltigen. After fierce battles in the early December the Germans liquidated the forces in this landing area. On 6 December the remaining landing troops attempted a breakthrough trying to reach the base to the north of Kerch. After marching for 25 km in the rear of the German positions they came to the southern outskirts of Kerch and seized the Mitridat Mountain and organized an all-round defense. But they failed to organize cordination with the northern unit. After receiving an order to evacuate on 10 December the Eltigen unit forced its way to the coast and was transferred by sea to the Taman Peninsula. The Kerch landing area held out till the Soviet troops launched an offensive in Crimea in spring 1944. It played a very important role in seizure of the Kerch Peninsula. The Soviet Army lost more than 27,000 killed.

Novorossiysk Landing Operation 1943

Amphibious operation on 10- 16 September 1943 organised by the Soviet Black Sea Fleet in Novorossiysk during Novorossiysk-Taman operation against German Army during the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945. As one of the largest Soviet amphibious operations, the Novorossiysk operation went down in history as one of the most well planned and prepared by the Soviet Army, and carried out jointly by the Army and Navy. It showed that with careful preparation of the landing operations their success is possible even on a heavily fortified coast.

Georgiy Nikitich Kholostyakov (1902-1983)

Vice Admiral in the USSR Fleet. In 1915 he worked as unskilled laborer. He took part in Civil War in Russia. In 1925 he finished the Naval Hydrographic College. From 1926 to 1938 he served on different submarines in the Far East. In 1938 he was arrested, accused of treason and condemned to 15 years in a correctional labor camp. He was sent to a labor camp on the Olga Bay shore of the Pacific. Later his case was reconsidered and he was returned his rank. In autumn 1940 he was appointed commander of the Third Brigade of submarines of the Black Sea Fleet. Later he was promoted to Captain first Rank. Kholostyakov was appointed the Chief of submarine division of the fleet and in July 1941 he headed the Naval Base in Novorossiysk. He supported the Kerch-Feodosiya military operation in late 1941. He took part in land-based defense of Novorossiysk. After retreat of the Soviet troops he moved to Gelendzhik from where the artillery of the Novorossiysk Naval Base shelled Novorossiysk, thus, preventing the Germans from using the port. In 1942 he was promoted to Rear Admiral. In 1943 he was in charge of the landing operation in Novorossiysk. In September under Kholostyakov command two more landing operations were conducted. The German troops left the Taman Peninsula. At night on November 1 he organized landing at Eltigen near Kerch. Regardless of the overwhelming superiority of the Germans the landing troops made strong beachhead on Ognennaya zemlya and defended this area for more than a month and then broke through the German positions and united with the main Soviet forces. In 1944 he acted as Commander of the Azov Flotilla replacing S. G. Gorshkov in this position. He organized two more landings-on the Tarkhankut Cape at night on January 10 and in the Kerch Bay on January 23. In December 1944 he was appointed to the Danube Flotilla and commanded its last operations. In 1950 he graduated from the General Staff Academy with a gold medal. In 1950-1951 he in the rank of Vice Admiral commanded the Caspian Military Flotilla and then received an appointment to the Pacific Ocean. In 1953-1969 Kholostyakov was Deputy Chief of the Military Training Department of the Navy General Staff. He took other positions of importance. In 1965 he was awarded the Golden Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union. In 1969 he resigned. The memorial museum of Kholostyakov is opened in Baranovichi, Belorussia. He was also awarded many orders and medals.

Crimean operation of 1944

The liberation of the Crimean Peninsula by the troops of the Fourth Ukrainian Front commanded by General F. I. Tolbukhin and Separate Maritime Army commanded by General A. I. Yeremenko with the support of the Black Sea Fleet commanded by Admiral F. S. Oktyabrsky and Azov Flotilla commanded by Rear-Admiral S. G. Gorshkov from German Army. This operation lasted for 36 days-from 8 April through 12 May 1944 and ended in victory of the Russian troops. They were opposed by the Romanian and German troops of the Seventeenth Army. A week after beginning of the offensive the Soviet troops came up to Sevastopol and on 5 May began the storming of the city. They fought most furiously for the Sapun Mountain-the key point of the German defense. On 9 May the Soviet assault units broke the German defense and rushed into the city. On 12 May the remaining German troops (21,000) laid down their arms on the Khersones Peninsula, as the Black Sea fleet had disrupted the enemy evacuation plans. The Seventeenth Army lost 140,000 (killed, wounded, captives, and drowned during the evacuation). If in 1941-1942 the Germans spent 250 days for seizure of Sevastopol, then in 1944 the Soviet troops needed only 5 days for the city liberation. After recovering Crimea the Soviet Union regained control of the Black Sea. The casualties of the Red Army during the Crimean operation were about 85,000.


During the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945), Odessa fought against German and Romanian troops from August 5 to October 16, 1941. Since 13 August 1941 Odessa was completely blocked from land. Despite the land blockade the enemy failed to break the resistance of the defenders-Soviet troops were evacuated and transferred to increase 51th Special Army, defending the Crimea. In 1941-1944 Odessa was occupied by Romanian troops and was part of Transnistria. In early 1944, due to the advance of the Red Army German troops entered Odessa, and the Romanian administration eliminated. On 10 April 1944 Odessa was liberated by Red Army. During the occupation, the population of the city of Odessa was actively resisting the invaders. During the years of occupation, tens of thousands of civilians were executed in Odessa.

Warship Wednesday Aug 26, 2020: Hazard Pay — laststandonzombieisland

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.- Christopher Eger Warship Wednesday, Aug […]

Warship Wednesday Aug 26, 2020: Hazard Pay — laststandonzombieisland

Rearming Austria: WWII weapons

An excellent article on a little known subject.


It is often forgotten today that, like defeated Germany, Austria was split up into four occupation zones after WWII. Just like Berlin in Germany, the capital Vienna was split up four ways as well. When the country reunified in 1955, it’s new army was equipped with an interesting mix of WWII weapons; both Allied and Axis, and both Soviet and American.

austriazones(A 1945 US Army map showing the four occupation zones, with the American zone highlighted.)

M4(A WWII-veteran M3 half-track of the Austrian army. The bumper plate states that it is a driver instructional vehicle.)

View original post 3,718 more words

Early US Amphibious Landings I

Colonel Robert W. Huntington

USMC While Colonel Robert W. Huntington had been long since retired when Marines carried out a series of maneuvers later dubbed “Advanced Base Force” exercises from 1903 to 1907, his landing at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, during the War with Spain in 1898 laid the foundation for the growth and development of the Marines’ landing doctrine during the 1920s and 1930s. Also, when Huntington’s career as a Marine officer began at the commencement of the War Between the States in 1861, a transformation was already underway insofar as the development of ironclad ships that would eventually lead to the birth of the New Steel Navy in the 1880s and inevitably affect the mission of the Marine Corps. While Huntington’s military career followed the normal pattern of sea and shore duty for Marine officers during the “Gilded Age,” technical and professional changes inside the Navy and Marine Corps ultimately led the latter service to embrace the mission as an expeditionary force-in-readiness during the early twentieth century.

While Colonel Huntington had very little directly to do with the development of the Advanced Base Force, everything he did in his career after the Civil War-including the landings during the American Civil War at Port Royal in South Carolina, off Hatteras, North Carolina, in November 1861, the landing in Panama in 1885, and a humanitarian mission in Apia, Samoa-pointed the Corps’ to its future missions. Despite the outward appearance that the Marine Corps had grown anachronistic there were events ongoing inside the Navy that directly or indirectly impacted that service during the last quarter of the 19th through the early part of the 20th centuries. Thus, through the examination of the career and era of Colonel Robert W. Huntington, one can clearly see the origins of the Corps’ future mission as an advance base force. There is little doubt that Colonel Huntington was the Marine Corps’s first expeditionary force commander.

Early Years, 1840-1865

Robert Watkinson Huntington was born on December 3, 1840, in West Hartford, Connecticut. After receiving his early education in West Hartford, Huntington entered Trinity College in 1860. On April 23, 1861, upon the outbreak of the War Between the States, he enlisted in the 1st Connecticut Regiment as a member of Captain J. R. Hawley’s Company B, a volunteer outfit comprised of young men from Hartford. While still a member of the 1st Connecticut, Huntington applied for and accepted a commission as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps with the date of rank on June 5, 1861.

During the fighting at the First Manassas or Bull Run, Huntington commanded a platoon of Marines prior to the withdrawal of Union forces from the battlefield. Detached briefly from Reynolds’s Marine Battalion, Huntington led a unit assigned to guard and transport state prisoners from Washington and Annapolis to Fort Lafayette. While he was assigned to this duty, the Marine Corps, on September 30, 1861, advanced Huntington to the rank of first lieutenant. Detached from prisoner duty, Headquarters then assigned Huntington to the Navy’s Potomac Flotilla where, acting on sealed orders, he was to escort under armed guard a captured Confederate raider and deliver him to the commandant of the Washington Navy Yard. In October 1861, Headquarters re-assigned Huntington to the seagoing Marine battalion commanded by Major John G. Reynolds, then making preparation for the expedition to seize Port Royal, South Carolina. Although this battalion spent more time at sea than in conducting amphibious forays ashore, it nevertheless “participated in the most vital naval undertakings of the war-the great blockade of the South.” The Marine battalion in fact played a minor role in the Navy’s plan to seize several strategic sites in order to utilize them as advanced bases “as soon as adequate amphibious forces could be assembled.” Reynolds’ amphibious battalion was a small portion of the force gathered to conduct the planned assaults. While serving with Reynolds’ battalion, Huntington participated in the naval expedition led by Captain Samuel F. Dupont in the capture of Port Royal, South Carolina, and a landing with a company of Marines from the USS Mohican in the seizure and capture of Port Clinch near the town of Fernandina, Florida, in December 1861.

Lieutenant Huntington was detached from Reynolds’s amphibious battalion on March 31, 1862, and Headquarters Marine Corps reassigned him to the Brooklyn Navy Yard on April 3, 1862. He remained at the Brooklyn Navy Yard until ordered to command the Marine detachment aboard the USS Jamestown, then at dock at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. On May 26, 1863, the Jamestown departed Philadelphia and took up station with the Asiatic Fleet. For the next eighteen months, Huntington, now a captain, remained at sea. From 14 July to 5 August 1864, in response to the violence aimed against the foreign legations and diplomatic personnel in Japan, Captain Huntington took charge of a mixed force of Marines and bluejackets assigned to guard the U. S. Legation and U. S. Minister’s residence in Yeddo (Tokyo), Japan. After the violence subsided, Huntington’s detachment re-embarked aboard the Jamestown and proceeded to Mare Island, California. In October 1865, Huntington reported to the Brooklyn Navy Yard to answer charges to a court of inquiry then investigating alleged mistreatment of the enlisted men under his charge during his tenure as commander of the Jamestown’s Marine detachment. At the completion of the court of inquiry, Huntington left for a brief period of leave and re-resumed his duties as assistant commander of the Brooklyn Navy Yard from November 1865 to April 30, 1866, at which time he reported for duty at the Portsmouth, N. H., Navy Yard.

Assault from the Sea: The Civil War and Amphibious Warfare

The strength of the Marine Corps never went beyond 3,773 officers and men during the Civil War, but Marines were present during several important operations that were a forerunner to its advanced base mission during the first two decades of the 20th century. The majority of operations classified as classic amphibious operations during the Civil War, were, however, carried out by the Army. While historians have correctly characterized these landings as minor operations with little or no tactical or operational significance, they were nonetheless important from the strategic point of view in that the landings were part of the Union plan to draw Confederate forces away from Richmond and thereby assist General Ambrose Burnside’s stalled offensive on the Peninsula, and to harass and if possible destroy the Confederate lines of communication in and around the Confederate capital. From 1862 through 1864, Union amphibious forays supported the main campaigns on land, with the most important one being General William T. Sherman’s “March to the Sea.”

As was the case with the majority of combined operations during the Civil War, interservice squabbling, rivalries, and institutional bickering derailed any benefit from these landings. Several of the most important operational “lessons not learned” by the Marines were those put forward during the landings at Port Royal, Fernandina, later at Roanoke Island (November 1862), and Fort Fisher, North Carolina (December 1864). During the last decade of the 19th Century when Headquarters Marine Corps established the School of Application for all newly commissioned Marine officers (1891), the landing operations carried out by the Army during the Civil War remained forgotten and insignificant to Marine officers, many of whom remained fixated on the “traditional roles” performed by Marines (i. e., as ships’ detachments and landing parties). There was a loss of what today is termed “corporate knowledge” among the vast majority of Marine officers, and it is speculative whether retention or dissemination of this knowledge would have paid off on any future Marine Corps mission. The point remained that Marines, as the War with Spain demonstrated, had to re-learn the lessons of amphibious insertion in the decades to follow. The Marine Corps’ failure to embrace what was a potentially ideal mission as the Navy’s landing force meant that the mistakes of such operations as Hatteras Island (November 1861), Port Royal, S. C., Fernandina in December 1861, and Fort Fisher would be repeated. Inept strategic and tactical leadership as well as overambitious planning hampered the U. S. Marines (and the Navy and Army) throughout the war. Perhaps the greatest contribution made by the Marines during the Civil War was aboard the ships of the Navy. Here, Marine detachments served as gun crews that bombarded the Confederate forts along the East and Gulf Coasts. Nevertheless, the War Between the States produced several lessons insofar as amphibious operations were concerned. The most important of those were the assaults on New Bern, N. C., and later Fort Fisher, N. C. For the most part, however, Marine officers failed to see the significance of those landing operations and how they could use them to redefine the role and mission of the Marine Corps during the last quarter of the nineteenth century.

Marines in the Gilded Age: Duty Ashore and at Sea, 1865-1885

At the conclusion of the war, Huntington, now a captain, served in billets ashore and afloat in a Marine Corps beset by manpower reductions, low morale among both officers and enlisted men, few officer and enlisted promotions, a high desertion rate and, most importantly, the lack of a defined mission. Despite the institutional crisis affecting the Marine Corps, however, there was on the horizon both a mission and a role that would define the Marine Corps for the next century and half. Contrary to the contention that the period from 1865 to 1898 was the Corps’ least active insofar as its institutional growth and expansion was concerned, the era was instead the commencement of the Corps’ renaissance as a fighting force.

All was not bleak during the Gilded Age, as Marines conducted several landing operations that held important lessons for their future missions. These operations were in Formosa (1867), Korea (1871), and in Panama (1885), and laid the groundwork for the Corps’ advanced base mission through the services of Captain Daniel P. Mannix to the Imperial Chinese court in the early 1880s. Captain Mannix’s attendance and training at the U. S. Army’s Coastal Artillery School at Fort Monroe, Virginia, in 1878, and his subsequent duties as an instructor in coastal defense, led indirectly to the establishment of the School of Application for all newly commissioned Marine officers in 1892 at the Washington Navy Yard and the subsequent advanced base force exercises in 1903. The lessons Mannix learned in China were later modified and taught during the early twentieth century at the Advanced Base School to a new generation of Marine officers who practiced them on the beaches of Culebra in Puerto Rico.

During the Gilded Age, Marine officers such as Captain Robert W. Huntington and others carried out missions that were to become standard Marine missions during the 20th century. These missions included diplomatic security, protection of American interests in Asia, South America, West Indies, and in the Mediterranean Sea, punitive expeditions, and the evacuation of noncombatants from troubled spots throughout the world. The landings in Formosa in 1867, Korea in 1871, and Panama in 1885, where Captain Robert W. Huntington commanded a company of Marines, led directly to the expeditionary assault missions carried out by Marines to this day.

A Punitive Expedition to Formosa in 1867

In response to the murder of the shipwrecked crew of the U. S. merchant ship Rover by the natives of Formosa, and in accordance with the accepted principles of international law concerning redress, the American Consul General C. W. LeGendre, the British Consul General, Mr. Charles Carroll, and the U. S. Minister to China ordered Commander John C. Freibeger, commanding officer of the USS Ashuelot, along with the USS Wyoming and USS Hartford, to proceed to Formosa. The U. S. Asiatic Squadron along with a landing force of one hundred and eighty-one officers, sailors, and Marines under the command of Captain James Forney set sail from a base in Hong Kong for Formosa (Taiwan) in order to punish members of the Botansha tribes who were responsible for this deed. On June 13, 1871, the leathernecks and bluejackets “fought desperately, burning a number of native huts, and chasing the warriors [who covered themselves in blue dye] until they could chase them no longer,” all at a heavy cost of men killed and wounded.

After disembarking from their ship’s boat, Captain Forney and the Marines under his command took positions ashore and formed into skirmish formation, then found themselves engaged in sustained fighting. In a report submitted to Commander Belknap after the Marines re-embarked aboard the USS Hartford, Captain Forney provided the commander of the Asiatic Squadron with a detailed description:

On the first landing, by your order, I took charge of twenty Marines, deploying them forward as skirmisher. A dense and almost impenetrable thicket of bush prevented the men from advancing very rapidly. I penetrated with them to a creek about half a mile from the beach without meeting any of the enemy, and was then recalled for further orders. You then instructed me to leave a sergeant and five men on the beach, and to advance with the main body, headed by yourself. In consequence of all further operations coming under your own observation, I have nothing further to report, except that the men behaved gallantly, and deserve credit for the manner in which they marched over such a rough and hilly country, and under such intense, scorching heat…. The entire number of Marines on shore was forty-three, thirty-one of whom were from this ship [Hartford], and twelve from the Wyoming.

By 4 o’clock that afternoon, the Marines and sailors who had chased the aborigines into the hills began to feel the effects of the hot Formosan sun and retired to the beach, where they boarded the ships’ boats and headed back to the ships of the Asiatic Squadron. After much difficulty General LeGendre was able to negotiate a treaty with the leader of the Botanshas, Tokitok, who agreed not to commit any more outrages against shipwrecked seamen. Retiring to their ships, the Marines and bluejackets set sail for their base in Hong Kong.

Lieutenant Colonel McLane Tilton, USMC

Tilton’s Landing in Korea in 1871

Upon receipt of orders from the State Department, in May 1871, the American Minister to China, Mr. Low, set out on a diplomatic mission to establish relations with the Kingdom of Korea, then under the tutelage of the Chinese throne. Accompanying the minister was Rear Admiral John Rodgers, Jr., Commander-in-Chief of the Asiatic Fleet, as well the 105-man Marine detachment commanded by Captain McLane Tilton. After assurances to the Korean officials that their intentions were peaceful, the American diplomatic mission proceeded up the Salee River. While a group of sailors made surveys and soundings of the Salee, the fortresses on the bank of the river opened fire on the Americans. While the Koreans wounded only two Americans, both Minister Low and Admiral Rodgers demanded an explanation and an apology for this attack. With neither forthcoming, Admiral Rodgers readied the fleet for action to storm and neutralize the fortresses. The admiral likewise readied the combined landing force of bluejackets and Marines. As U. S. Navy gunboats (USS Monocacy and Palos) towed the launches carrying the men, the guns from both ships fired on the enemy forts as the combined American assault force, led by Lieutenant Commander Casey, made its way toward the shore.

On Saturday, June 10, 1871, the boats carrying Captain Tilton’s battalion (105 officers and enlisted Marines) landed on a gently sloping beach two hundred yards from the high water mark surrounded by marshes and saturated with an ankle-deep, thick mud that made movement nearly impossible. After Tilton’s force struggled through the swampy terrain, the Marine officer deployed his force into skirmish order and began the tedious job of clearing the first of the offending forts. In what was perhaps up to that time one of the most successful examples of a combined Navy-Marine assault ashore, Captain Tilton’s Marines, supported by the Navy’s gunboats commanded by Commander Picking, fought their way for the next eighteen hours through a maze of fortresses heavily defended by fanatical Koreans. The Koreans, many of whom preferred death to surrender, fought the Marines with muskets, swords, spears, and rocks. Finally, after nearly two days of fighting, the last of the forts fell to the Marines and bluejackets. In his after-action report, Lieutenant Commander Casey praised the conduct of the Marines, who he said “were always in the advance, and how well they performed their part I leave to you to judge.” Commander Kimberly, who was in overall command of the operation ashore, added, “To Captain Tilton and his Marines belong the honor of first landing and last leaving the shore, in leading the advance on the march, on entering the forts, and as acting as skirmishers.”

In his report following the capture of the forts, Captain Tilton described the landings by his Marines on 10 June 1871:

On Saturday, 10 instant, the guards of the Colorado, Alaska, and Benicia, numbering one hundred, and five, rank and file, and four officers, equipped in light marching order, with one hundred rounds of ammunition and two days’ cooked rations, were embarked from their respective ships and towed up the Salee River by the United States ship Palos. Upon nearing the first of a line of fortifications, extending up the river on the Kang-Hoa Island side, the Palos anchored, and by order of the commanding officer all the boats cast off and pulled away from the shore, where we landed on a wide sloping beach, two hundred yards from high-water mark, with the mud over the knees of the tallest man, and crossed by deeper sluices filled with softer and still deeper mud. After getting out of the boats, a line of skirmishers was extended across the muddy beach, and parallel to a tongue of land jutting through to the river, fortified on the point by a square redoubt on the right, and a crenellated wall extending a hundred yards to the left, along the river, with fields of grain and a small village immediately to the rear.

While Captain Tilton’s actions ashore have been dismissed as insignificant to the Marine Corps’ gradual assumption of the advanced base force mission, they nonetheless represent one more important piece of the institutional puzzle that was a foundation for Huntington’s landing at Guantanamo Bay in 1898. While it is true that Tilton’s Marines remained ashore for only eighteen hours and that the landing was more of a punitive expedition and not an amphibious assault such as the one at Fort Fisher during the American Civil War in December 1864, the landing in Korea nevertheless represented one more step toward the Marine Corps’ advanced base force mission.

While this factor remained buried insofar as “lessons learned” at Headquarters Marine Corps, the work of Captain Daniel P. Mannix at the U. S. Army’s Coastal Artillery School (1876-78) and in China is a reminder that the Marine Corps did have a vital role to play in ongoing revolution in naval affairs that swept the country with the U. S. Navy’s acquisition of ships made from steel (the New Steel Navy) in 1883 and its evolution as a modern force. The landings in Korea in 1871 and the landing on the Isthmus of Panama in April 1885 pointed to the need for an expeditionary assault force schooled in the defense and seizure of advanced naval bases, and in the employment of torpedo and mines.

Early US Amphibious Landings II

US Marines taking charge of the trans-isthmus railway (Note Gatling gun) 1885

The Mannix Mission to China, 1881-1884

One of the most influential Marine Corps officers to serve during the Gilded Age was First Lieutenant Daniel Pratt Mannix. A graduate of the U. S. Army’s Artillery School at Fort Monroe, Virginia, (1878), as well as the Navy’s Torpedo School at Newport, Rhode Island, First Lieutenant Mannix shortly thereafter volunteered to serve as a foreign instructor to the Imperial Chinese Navy in Taku near the Peiho River. While at Taku, First Lieutenant Mannix established a School of Application “modeled after our Artillery School,” where the students studied strategy, “grand tactics” or military operations, torpedoes, musketry, artillery, mathematics, and military history-in effect, all of those subjects thought necessary to better prepare a naval (or Marine) officer for war. Mannix put his education at the Artillery School and his experience in China to good use when he returned home in 1885 after serving the customary two years at sea as an instructor at the newly organized Marine School of Application, established on 1 May 1891 by the acting Colonel Commandant Charles Heywood.

Geography: Mitchell’s Geography and Atlas

Military History: Jomini’s Art of War, Weber’s Outlines of Universal History

Tactics: Robert’s Handbook of Artillery, Heavy Artillery, Light Artillery, Army Regulations

The curriculum Mannix studied at Fort Monroe and later instructed in China served as the basis for the one later adopted by the Marine Corps’ School of Application (1892) and the Advanced Base School established at Newport, Rhode Island, in 1910.

Captain Mannix later served as an assistant to Colonel Heywood who, as the health of the Colonel Commandant Charles McCawley began to fail, had some influence on Heywood’s reform movement of the Marine Officer Corps. Captain Mannix became the school’s first director, and suggested that this new school of application should “embrace training in electricity, torpedoes, gunnery, and drill for both officers and enlisted men.” There is evidence to suggest that Major Robert W. Huntington, one of the Corps’ most vociferous advocates of reform inside the officer corps, was also an advocate of professional education. While commanding the Marine Barracks in Brooklyn, New York, Huntington approved the applications of Second Lieutenants Leroy Stafford, Eli K. Cole, and Clarence L. Ingate, all of whom had applied for the Army’s School of Application for Cavalry and Infantry at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, but were ordered elsewhere. While Colonel Heywood disapproved the orders for the three young officers, writing that their services were “needed elsewhere,” one can deduce from this and other comments made by Major Huntington that he recognized that the Marine Corps lacked a second-tier professional school dedicated to the advancement of new officers. Huntington was one of the Corps’ most vocal advocates for bringing younger, more fit (and possibly more intellectually robust) officers into the Marine Corps. Huntington admitted that the Marine officer corps had become “old and tired,” because most of its senior officers (and some company grade officers) had been commissioned at the time of the American Civil War. The Marine officer firmly believed what the Corps needed was nothing short of a “transfusion of new blood into the officer corps.” Major Huntington recognized that if the Marine Corps was to modernize, it would have to change its institutional structure and how it educated and trained its newly commissioned officers. Despite Mannix’s death on February 6, 1894, the School of Application went on to serve as the basis for the education of Marine officers and non-commissioned officers that was, in time, expanded and improved upon. Mannix’s reforms and the introduction of the course of study he developed while in China served the Marine Corps for the next three decades (1890-1920).

Esmeralda – the world’s fastest cruiser in 1884

Trouble on the Isthmus, 1885

On April 2, 1885, after months of political turmoil on the Isthmus of Panama due to the overthrow of the constitutionally elected government, Secretary of the Navy W. C. Whitney ordered Colonel-Commandant Charles G. McCawley to “detail a battalion of Marines to sail the next day on the City of Para for Colon.” Secretary Whitney instructed Rear Admiral James Jouett, commanding officer of the North Atlantic Squadron, that the mission of the Marines and bluejackets was to “open the transit on the isthmus and protect the lives and property of the Americans (and other foreigners) living there.” In turn, Rear Admiral Jouett instructed Lieutenant Colonel Heywood to “proceed to Panama with the battalion of Marines under your command, for the protection of American lives and property in that vicinity…. Panama is now in the hands of the revolutionary forces, and it is feared that if the place is attacked by the regular Colombian troops these revolutionaries will attempt to destroy the city, or portions of it, by burning. As the burning of Panama would involve the destruction of much American and other foreign property, you will prevent it if possible.”

Action in Panama, April-May 1885 After assembling Marines from the various barracks along the eastern seaboard, Heywood’s First Battalion set sail on the City of Para, a requisitioned steamer, and headed south for Colon. This first battalion of Marines (soon to be joined by a second, commanded by Captain J. H. Higbee) arrived in Panama in the early evening hours on April 11, 1885, and shortly thereafter disembarked from their makeshift transport. With the city in turmoil, Colonel Heywood’s Marines occupied strategic locations throughout Colon. As Marines of the First Battalion spread throughout Panama, Captain R. W. Huntington’s Company A, Second Battalion, was ordered by Commander Bowman H. McCalla, commanding officer of all naval forces on the Isthmus, to “proceed to Matachin, in a special train that will be provided by the Panama Railroad Company to follow the 3 P. M., with the company now under your command, and relieve Lieutenant Impey and the garrison now at that place. I have directed the commanding officers of a section of artillery and a Gatling gun to report to you as part of your command. Your duty will be to keep the transit open, to protect the lives and property of American citizens, and to have your command in the highest state of efficiency…. Take with you three thousand rounds of ammunition in excess of what has been served out.” Shortly after receipt of this order, Huntington moved out toward Matachin, where his company took up positions to defend the railroad and other vital sectors of the town.

Captain Huntington’s Marines-loaded down with two days’ rations, a breech-loaded rifled musket, forty cartridges, rolled blanket, two canteens, a haversack, and a change of clothing, and supported by a 3-inch rifle as well as Gatling gun with sufficient ammunition- boarded a special train that took them to Matachin. Commander B. H. McCalla, who was in command of the transport carrying Huntington’s Marine battalion thirteen years later off Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, informed the Marine captain that his mission was “to keep the transit open, to protect the lives and property of American citizens, and to have your command in the highest state of efficiency.” Assisted by First Lieutenant George F. Elliott, Second Lieutenant Carroll Mercer, and Navy Lieutenants (j. g.) J. C. Colwell and Alexander Sharp, along with fifty-two enlisted Marines and fifty bluejackets, Huntington’s mission was to essentially “ride shotgun” and keep the rail lines open.

Upon hearing the news that the Colombians were prepared to march on Colon, Admiral Jouett ordered the occupation of Colon. As the two Marine battalions and accompanying platoon of Navy bluejackets marched in three columns to engage the revolutionaries, the force split into three columns, each assigned a district of Colon in order overwhelm and neutralize the enemy. Lieutenant Colonel Heywood, who had established his headquarters in Panama, proceeded to carry out Admiral Jouett’s orders. For the next three weeks, Marines and bluejackets skirmished with revolutionaries, and arrested and herded them into detention areas placed near the U. S. Consulate. To guard these prisoners Heywood assigned a detachment from Huntington’s Company A.

Lieutenant Colonel Heywood shortly thereafter received orders from Admiral Jouett to prepare his forces for the evacuation of Panama. On May 7, 1885, after the arrival of three hundred Colombian troops, Lieutenant Colonel Heywood’s First Battalion boarded the City of Para and the other ships that accompanied the Atlantic Squadron to Panama and set sail for the east coast of the United States. Meanwhile, to protect the U. S. Consulate and other American interests in the area, Admiral Jouett retained a small detachment of leathernecks from the USS Shenandoah in Panama to guard the trains and maintain order. By May 25, sufficient order had returned to Panama to allow the withdrawal of this small force, which soon re-embarked aboard the Shenandoah, though the ship remained in Panamanian waters for some time to come.

The landings in Panama are significant in that it was, to date, the largest single force of Marines assembled for a military operation ashore since the landing at Fort Fisher during the American Civil War. The rapid assembly of Lieutenant Colonel Heywood’s force of 34 officers and 651 enlisted Marines, tactically organized into a brigade and augmented by Navy bluejackets, was in and of itself a remarkable accomplishment given the state of the U. S. Navy as it transitioned from sail to steam. In fact, the City of Para, a steam collier, had been contracted by the Navy to transport the Marines to Colon.

While it remains true that Marines saw this episode as part of their traditional role as part of the Navy, there was already a body of literature that suggested a permanent role for the Marines as a ship-borne expeditionary landing force. Even Rear Admiral Jouett indirectly pointed to this fact in his letter to Lieutenant Colonel Heywood, upon the latter’s departure from the Isthmus:

Your departure from the Isthmus with your command gives me occasion to express my high estimation of the Marine battalion. You and your battalion came from home at the first sound of alarm, and you have done hard and honest work. The Marine battalion has been constantly at the front, where danger and disease were sure to come, first and always. When a conflict has seemed imminent, I have relied with most implicit confidence on that body of tried soldiers. No conflict has come, but I am well aware how nobly and steadily, through weary and anxious nights, exposed to a deadly climate, the Marines have guarded our country’s interest. Please communicate to your command my grateful acknowledgment of their faithful service on the isthmus of Panama, and accept my sincere thanks for your earnest and valuable assistance.

As for Captain Huntington’s services while commanding Company A of the Second Battalion, Commander McCalla cited the Marine officer’s efficiency, and added that he had “formed a high opinion of while serving at Matachin,” as he had performed his duties there in a most “satisfactory manner.”

The expedition to the Isthmus held out the prospect that the Marine Corps did, indeed, have an important role to play in the Navy’s transformation and in the United States’ more aggressive foreign policy. Unfortunately, internal politics and an officer corps that was for the most part unfit for field service hindered the Marine Corps’ ability to capitalize on the lessons learned during the Korean and Panamanian interventions or the reforms in officer education as advocated by Lieutenant Daniel Mannix. In fact, it would take five years for the Marines to act upon the creation of a School of Application for all new second lieutenants. Finally, it took twenty-five years for the Marines to establish a school for advanced base work at Newport, Rhode Island, in 1910.

Yet there were positive results of the Panamanian intervention that were unforeseen at the time. The most important of these was relationship established between Captain Huntington and Commander McCalla. Both men would meet again during the War with Spain when McCalla’s transport, the Marblehead, would transport then Lieutenant Colonel Huntington’s Marine battalion ashore on June 10, 1898, to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Finally, the intervention on the Isthmus demonstrated the need for a “floating Marine battalion,” something that would not come about until after the War with Spain. The fact that Marines were not centrally located but spread up and down the East Coast at the various Marine Barracks meant that any intervention would have to be delayed until the forces assembled at either Philadelphia or Norfolk and were transported to where they were needed. While this situation was acceptable in dealing with rebels such as the Koreans or Panamanians, against a major military power (like Spain) it was a different story, for it could be very costly in terms of surprise or military effectiveness.

Despite the inability of the senior Marine leadership to peer into the future, the seeds for future successes had been planted. While Marine officers concerned themselves with promotions and internal reform, thoughtful Navy officers began to articulate the view that with the growth and development of the New Steel Navy, and the transition from sail to steam, there was a need for a landing force to accompany the fleet in time of war to seize and defend advanced coaling bases in distant waters. It was left to the War with Spain for Marine officers to “see the light” insofar as this new mission was concerned.


The general restoration of Europe’s monarchies that followed Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo was confirmed by the Congress of Vienna (1815), and the exiled king of Sardinia was not forgotten. He recovered his lost lands, returned to Turin, and promptly attempted the restoration of the status quo ante. Yet post-Napoleonic Europe was very different from pre-revolutionary Europe. Many of the ideas spawned and exported by the French Revolution continued to circulate, posing a near-ubiquitous challenge to the natural conservatism of the restored monarchs. The ideas of ‘the nation’, endowed with a life of its own, and of the inborn right of its inhabitants to liberty, equality and social fraternity, were particularly strong, beginning to undermine the post-Napoleonic order as soon as it was established. Three parts of Europe where ‘the nation’ felt most excluded from politics were specially susceptible; and popular demands grew for the creation of nation-states on the French model. Poland, which had been carved up by three neighbouring empires, was to strive in vain throughout the nineteenth century to win back its independence; but Germany and Italy were to succeed where Poland failed. Germany was divided by the intense rivalry of Protestant Prussia and Catholic Austria; advocates of the German national movement, the Vormärz (‘pre-March’), could at first see no easy way to do so. Italy’s divisions were still more marked. The north was dominated by the Austrian Empire, which held onto both Venice and Milan; the centre was run by a gaggle of reactionary monarchs, including the Roman pontiff in his Papal States; and the south remained in the grip of the Bourbon Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. In face of the restored hereditary rulers, the advocates of the Italian national movement, the Risorgimento or ‘Resurgence’, did not possess a common strategy.

For Italian nationalism encompassed several competing interests. One wing placed the emphasis on cultural objectives, notably on education, the promotion of a single, standardized Italian language, and the promotion of national consciousness. The central figure in this was the Milanese writer, Alessandro Manzoni (1785–1873), author of the first novel written in standard Italian, I promessi sposi (The Betrothed, 1827). Another wing was dedicated to political radicalism. Here the central role was played by the secret and revolutionary Society of the Coalburners, the Carbonari, whose activities were formally banned; one of its members, a Sicilian soldier called Guglielmo Pepe (1783– 1855), launched the first of many abortive risings in Calabria in 1820. There was even a tradition of support for the Risorgimento by ruling monarchs; Napoleon’s stepson and viceroy in Italy, Eugène de Beauharnais, had set the example, which was followed by the emperor’s brother-in-law, Joachim Murat, when King of Naples. It seemed to create the perceived need for a political patron of established authority, who could curb the hotheads while giving heart to the moderates and negotiating with the powers.


The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was widely regarded, in Italy as in the rest of Europe, as a place of sloth and squalor, of grandeur and poverty, a place where landless labourers kept themselves just alive by scratching the parched soil of distant noblemen, where street urchins in the city picked the pockets of wealthy tourists and bands of brigands roamed with impunity in the hills outside, a land exploited and oppressed by an indolent monarchy, a frivolous aristocracy and a swarm of grasping clergy.

This picture was inherited and preserved by generations of historians until recently the stereotype was re-examined. Then it transpired that the kingdom was not just a land of latifondi, of vast desiccated estates in the interior that contained little except scrub for goats and some thin soil for wheat. Naples may not have had the irrigation or the natural advantages of Lombardy, but it was not an entirely backward place; wheat yields there were higher than in the Papal States. As for the latifondisti, it emerged that they were not all absentee landlords frittering away the produce of their workers by living in luxury in the capital. The latifondo was part feudal and part capitalist, part social structure and part business enterprise. Owners used their lands to feed themselves and the people who lived there, but they often grew food for foreign markets as well. The exported produce of the Barracco family, latifondisti from Calabria, included liquorice, olive oil, fine wool and cacciacavallo cheese.

The state of industry in Naples has been similarly disparaged: travel accounts of the period leave the impression that the inhabitants had never heard of the spinning jenny or the steam engine. Yet a modernized textile industry, aided by a sensible tariff policy, existed in the Apennine foothills in the early nineteenth century; not much later, an engineering industry was established around the capital. Naples in fact enjoyed a number of industrial ‘firsts’. It possessed the largest shipyards in Italy, it launched the first peninsular steamboat (1818) and it enjoyed the largest merchant marine in the Mediterranean; it also built the first iron suspension bridge in Italy, constructed the first Italian railway and was among the first Italian cities to use gas for street lighting. Admittedly, not all these achievements were as impressive as they sound. Naples may have built the first railway, but it was a short one, and its construction did not lead to a rapid expansion of the network. Most of the other states soon caught up and overtook it: by 1860, when the whole of southern Italy had only 125 miles of track, Lombardy had 360 and Piedmont, after a slow start, possessed over 500.

A glance at its economic statistics reveals how separate Naples as a trading partner was from the rest of Italy. In 1855 85 per cent of its exports were sent to Britain, France and Austria, while only 3 per cent crossed the border into the Papal States; Neapolitan trade with Britain was three times greater than that with all the other Italian states added together. Feelings of separateness were not confined to commerce; Naples possessed its own remarkable legal system, widely regarded as superior to any other in the peninsula. Outsiders noticed that the place was different, a distinct, cosmopolitan entity, a kingdom (with or without Sicily) with an ancient history and borders which, almost uniquely in Italy, were not subjected to rearrangement after every war. Moreover, Naples itself was still by far the largest city in Italy – indeed the third-largest in Europe after London and Paris – and had been a capital since Charles of Anjou had established himself there 600 years earlier. It was the only Italian city, thought Stendhal, that had ‘the true makings of a capital’; the rest were ‘glorified provincial towns like Lyon’. Before 1860 hardly anyone contemplated the idea that the kingdom might be destroyed and its territory annexed by an all-Italian state; and little in the subsequent history of that state indicates that the Neapolitans would have been unhappier if they had been left to govern themselves.

In their propaganda Italian patriots of the nineteenth century identified the Neapolitan Bourbons as the chief home-grown tyrants and Austrian Habsburgs as their foreign equivalents. Yet even they were unable to convince themselves that the Grand Duchy of Tuscany was an oppressive state. It was governed by Ferdinand III, son of the great Peter Leopold and brother of the Austrian emperor whose armies had lost four wars against Napoleon and whose daughter had been sacrificed to the French emperor’s desire to beget an heir. Ferdinand’s return to Florence in 1814 did not lead to a persecution of bonapartists or to the abolition of reforms. As in the eighteenth century, Tuscany was a tolerant and civilized place that preferred Jews to Jesuits and welcomed exiles from Piedmont and from other states. Tariffs were low, censorship was feeble, and the armed forces were almost non-existent, though in an emergency the state could call for Austrian troops. Ferdinand was succeeded in 1824 by his son Leopold II, another benevolent ruler until the revolutions of 1848 converted him – along with Pope Pius IX and the King of Naples – to conservatism. In the early part of his reign he reduced taxes, carried out liberal reforms, encouraged science and returned to that perennially elusive project of Tuscan rulers, the draining of the Maremma marshlands on the Tyrrhenian coast.

Pope Julius II – the warrior pope

Agony Harrison

Pope Julius II (Rex Harrison) from the film The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965)


Pope Julius II, known as the warrior pope, involved himself in several wars in defense of the church and its land. Although his military actions damaged the holy reputation of the papacy, he successfully protected its interests. In addition, Julius was one of the leading patrons of the arts in the Renaissance.

Julius was born Giuliano della Rovere in Albissola, a town in northwestern Italy. He owed his career to a wealthy uncle who financed his education. In 1471 this uncle became Pope Sixtus IV, and shortly after that Giuliano became a cardinal. This new position led him to France and other countries to serve as an official representative of the pope.

In 1474 Giuliano went to war-torn Umbria, part of the Papal States, to end the fighting there. In Umbria he gained a taste for battle, which suited his energy and strength. He remained in Rome until his enemy ALEXANDER VI became pope. Feeling unsafe, Giuliano went to France and later to northwestern Italy, where he lived until Alexander’s death.

In 1503 Giuliano returned to Rome and was elected pope. His strong character and his reputation as a defender of the church helped him win the position. As Julius II he struggled to recover some lands that Venice had taken in the Romagna, a part of the Papal States. In order to defeat the Venetians, Julius joined the League of Cambrai in 1509. This alliance combined the forces of the French king Louis XII, Spain’s FERDINAND OF ARAGON, and the emperor-elect of the Holy Roman Empire, MAXIMILIAN I. The group effectively pressured the Venetians into returning the land. However, Julius continued his battle to protect papal interests. Wanting to ensure Italy’s safety from the mounting French threat, he turned against his former ally and joined the anti- French Holy League. The League, which consisted of leaders from Spain, England, and other countries, fought to drive French troops from Italy. Julius was finally victorious in 1512.

In addition to his military actions, Julius II was one of the most important artistic patrons of the Renaissance. He commissioned one of the most famous works of the Renaissance, the Sistine Chapel ceiling, painted by MICHELANGELO BUONARROTI. Julius also employed RAPHAEL to paint several frescoes*, including the famous School of Athens for his Vatican apartment. Raphael’s portrait of Julius influenced the way artists portrayed popes for centuries.

League of Cambrai, (1508-1510).

An alliance of Pope Julius II (r. 1503- 1513), Louis XII (1462-1515) of France, Emperor Maximilian I, and Ferdinand II of Spain, as well as several Italian states. In name it was a treaty that aimed at punishing the Ottomans. In fact, it was an aggressive alliance that aimed to dismember Venice and divide the carcass of that watery empire. A French army defeated the Venetians at Agnadello in 1509. The alliance quickly collapsed, however, as a result of too many competing ambitions and interests among the allies. Spain withdrew into neutrality and the Papal States switched sides upon receiving some concessions from Venice, and in order to forestall further French advances in Italy.