Nazi Commando Otto Skorzeny Continued His Life of Intrigue After the War
Otto Skorzeny was Nazi Germany’s most notorious commando. His missions included rescuing Italian dictator Benito Mussolini from imprisonment and sending German troops in American uniforms to conduct sabotage during the Battle of the Bulge. Hitler favored Skorzeny, though many of his colleagues disliked him. Admittedly a brave man, he... Read more
The Forgotten Angels of Dien Bien Phu
In November 1953 the French army began building a base in the mountains around Dien Bien Phu in Vietnam, hoping that it would lure the Viet Minh guerrilla fighters into an open battle. Eventually, 16,000 French personnel each manned the six fortified outposts named, as legend has it,  after... Read more
Niels Bohr’s Flight From the Nazis Was a Science Drama
Danish physicist Niels Bohr was a scientific genius who also displayed a coincidental penchant for espionage and intrigue. He employed these skills, along with a bit of science, to foil the Nazi at several turns. His small crusade began in 1933 after the Nazis came to power in Germany.... Read more
The Soviet Ampulomet Launched Glass Bombs
As German troops invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, the Red Army scrambled to arm itself with anti-tank weapons. One system the Soviets hurriedly developed was the Ampulomet, a mortar that launched a glass projectile filled with an incendiary mix. The Ampulomet, named for the Greek ampoule, or... Read more
The French Military Recruited Colonial Sex Workers
The French army procured prostitutes for its troops in the field throughout the 20th century. And it was hardly alone in doing so. During and prior to World War II, Japan and Germany were infamous for large-scale state-organized military brothels that often included unpaid or captive sex slaves. France’s... Read more
Jimmy Carter’s Options in Iran Were All Bad
The passing of former U.S. president George H.W. Bush in December 2018 left Jimmy Carter as the oldest living American president. The 39th commander-in-chief and former governor of Georgia was elected in 1976 and served one term, giving way to Ronald Reagan, whose vice-president was Bush, in January 1981.... Read more
This 1964 Swiss Army Propaganda Film Got an Oscar Nod
Dutch director John Fernhout’s short film Wehrhafte Schweiz — that’s Fortified Switzerland in English — is a magnificent depiction of the Swiss armed forces in action in the early 1960s. Filmed at a cost of between one and three million Swiss Francs, the 20-minute-long film features the combined arms... Read more
The Blacker Bombard Spigot Mortar Was ‘Fearsome’
In the early years of World War II with a German invasion seemingly imminent, the British army scrambled to equip Home Guard units with defensive weapons. Some of these weapons were … less than ideal. Case in point, the Blacker Bombard, a spigot-launched mortar. “A fearful homemade weapon,” is... Read more
In 1998, Turkey and Syria Narrowly Avoided War
Sick and tired of Syria sheltering its arch-enemy the Kurdistan Workers Party, more commonly known by its acronym PKK, in 1998 Turkey threatened to invade. In the end, diplomacy prevented a potentially bloody war. On Oct. 4, 1998, a top Turkish commander declared that the two countries were in... Read more
Why Eastern European Soldiers Wear Ski Masks
In April 2018 I interviewed five Ukrainian soldiers who were fighting against Russian-backed separatists in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. “Why do Russian and Ukrainian soldiers always wear balaclavas?” I jokingly asked one young soldier, who called himself Myhalych. “I mean no disrespect, Sergeant O’Donnell, but that is a... Read more
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