Why didn't the Persians make and use ballistas and other kinds of artillery?

Why didn't the Persians make and use ballistas and other kinds of artillery?

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In 1980 E.P.Thompson published an interesting paper called *Barbarian Invaders and Roman Collaborators *. Among other subjects he consdiers there the leakage from Rome to its enemies of technical knowledge needed to construct and deploy ancient artillery pieces:

But soldiers and others might also give the enemy technical knowledge which had not previously been available to them, especially knowledge of how to construct and use the dreaded Roman artillery, the ballistae of var-ious kinds. When Septimius Severus defeated one of his rivals in 194 numbers of the defeated troops fled to Persia; and some of these men were technicians. They settled down in Persia and not only taught the Persians how to use weapons which they had not used before but also showed them how to make these weapons for themselves. The result was that the Persians had higher hopes of victory now than formerly when they engaged the solid ranks of a Roman army; and the historian who reports this matter looks upon it with grave concern.

However, quite puzzlingly, artillery just didn't quite catch on with the Persians or others, as Thompson himself notes a bit later:

But although we hear of deserters and prisoners handing on this knowledge to the Persians and others, we never hear that the Persians and the others absorbed this skill into their general military techniques, so as to be able to apply it on their own account when there were no obliging prisoners and deserters with them to give them instruction. In spite of what had happened in 194 we never hear in later ages that the Persians could make and use ballistae on their own account. I do not know why this should have been so. Not all ballistae can have been very difficult to make and use, for we possess a letter in which a bishop tells us that he was engaged in making one and proposed to use it. If a bishop could do so, why not Alaric or Attila or their henchmen?

Perhaps with the Huns and other tribes artillery didn't fit into their notions of warfare, but it does seem very strange that the Persians neglected this arm. So I am still puzzled.

Maybe the Persians had a warrior code that precluded widespread use of artillery? (Hard to believe, as they had set so much store by arrows). Or maybe a prosaic lack of good wood is the crux of the matter?

Has the issue been studied by later historians?

Ballistae and other ancient pieces of "artillery" are siege engines. Their primary purpose is to provide fire support within the context of laying siege to a town or fortress; the heavy bolts could lay waste to wooden fortifications (especially the kind of light mobile protection against archers). Siege weapons are heavy, very slow to move, and have a low firing rate. As such, it was extremely rare for such weapons to be used for anything else than sieges.

There are very few documented uses of artillery in field battles; the most ancient is the battle of Jaxartes in which Alexander the Great ordered the use of some siege engines to clear the opposite river bank, from which archers were giving trouble to crossing Macedonian troops. The involved weapons are often designated as "catapults" but were most probably firing bolts. The first documented use of rock-lobbing weapons as field artillery is much later, under command of Mongol general Subutai, who used such engines to, again, clear a river bank from crossbowmen who were threatening crossing troops (at the battle of Mohi, in 1241). In all these cases, the same pattern is present: some army is involved in a pitched battle; it also has some catapults available, meant for an ulterior siege of some town; a brilliant general notices a situation where the catapults could be of some use, and proceeds to do it. This is always exceptional, and reported as such. Crucially, no army sets out with catapults designed for field usage.

We must make an exception for light one-man catapults like the Roman scorpio, which really is a crossbow on a tripod. Up to the Renaissance, the role of "field artillery" (as it is understood nowadays) was fulfilled by light infantry with javelins, slings and bows (and, in the Roman case, scorpios). These specialized troops would move fast across the battlefield, spread out, and harass heavy infantry or cavalry. Cannons finally replaced them, when their increased firing range began to make up for their lack of mobility.

Thus, an ancient army would not have included ballistae or equivalent unless it planned siege warfare. But siege warfare requires more than siege engines; it involves earthworks, logistics, architecture specialists… in one word, it needs engineers. Romans were famed for their expertise in that area; the same does not apply to other armies of that time. In particular, the "Persians" from the days of Septimius Severus were actually Parthians, originally a nomadic people from central Asia. The core of their army would be mounted archers. This is, again, a common strategic historical pattern: siege warfare is something that is learned from experience, after encountering an opponent who knows a good deal more on the subject.

So the lack of artillery in the Persian armies is not really a problem of building the weapons themselves; it more is a question of warfare doctrine. Persians would not have much use of catapults alone, until they knew how to conduct sieges, knowledge that they acquired, indeed, from the Romans.

Artillery was a big man's trade as much 2,000 years ago as it is now, or was in Napoleon's age. Whether it is lugging the shells around today, or winding the windlass then, strength is vital for a better rate of fire, and strength derives from physical size.

Further, in addition to a team of gorillas to man the piece, a gun layer (or two, as a spare) is required for each piece to properly range it so that the fire hits the enemy instead of harmlessly striking the ground before or behind them. This crew member would also have been the engineer responsible for maintenance and repair of the piece.

In order to have a sizeable artillery corps a nation must have a culture where it is acceptable for a big brawny man to study mathematics and architecture and tinkering instead of melee combat. It must also have educational institutions capable of properly training such individuals.

I suspect that the Persians simply didn't expend enough effort in peacetime to build the necessary infrastructure, making them permanently dependent on captured Romans and Greeks in wartime.

Update: According to this source (The Roman Army at War: 100 BC - AD 200, Goldsworthy, page 61) regarding the Parthians:

Although the king controlled the army, it was recruited on a feudal basis from the noble families and their retainers… Contingents served together under their own leaders and in most instances seem to have been loyal to them, following them into exile The greater nobles often possessed both the ability and the will to challenge the king for the throne or support one of his relatives in doing so.

References by the above:

  • The Political History of Iran under the Arsacids by A. Bivar
  • The Political History of Parthia by N. C. Debevoise
  • The Parthians by M. Colledge
  • The History of Ancient Iran and The Heritage of Persia by R. N. Frye.

The main impediment for a nation like the Persians is the relative lack of a standing army. The Persians were a feudal state. In order to go to war "big time" with the Romans, the King of Kings would have to convince his district "kings" to send contingents to join his own household troops. If the KofK's was a weak one, nobody would show up and the Romans could run rampant, as shown in the several cases of Roman armies sacking the capital, Ctesiphon.

These feudal contingents were mostly cavalry, notoriously reluctant to do heavy lifting, and were dispersed themselves between wars. Engineering requires some training and discovery, and much crafting and practice. Without a standing army, this is nearly impossible to keep going. Even Rome, with a much stronger tradition of work, limited their sieges to blockades such as the 10 year siege of Veii, or the case of Nola in the Social War. After the growth of the long term army under Caesar in Gaul, and in the Empire the amount of engineering action grows dramatically. The professional armies of the Empire had the coherency and time to develop these skills, and the work ethic to get the job done in the field.

Mughal weapons

Mughal weapons significantly evolved during the ruling periods of Babur, Akbar, Aurangzeb and Tipu Sultan. During its conquests throughout the centuries, the military of the Mughal Empire used a variety of weapons including swords, bows and arrows, horses, camels, elephants, some of the world's largest cannons, muskets and flintlock blunderbusses.


The Royal Iraqi Air Force (RIrAF) considered its founding day as 22 April 1931, when the first pilots flew in from training in the United Kingdom. [2] Before the creation of the new air force, the RAF Iraq Command was in charge of all British Armed Forces elements in Iraq in the 1920s and early 1930s. [8] The RIrAF was based at the airport in the Washash neighborhood of Baghdad, and consisted of five pilots, aeronautics students trained at the RAF College Cranwell, and 32 aircraft mechanics. [2] The original five pilots were Natiq Mohammed Khalil al-Tay, Mohammed Ali Jawad, Hafdhi Aziz, Akrem Mushtaq, and Musa Ali. [2] During the early years of the Royal Iraqi Air Force, it mainly received aircraft from the United Kingdom as well as Breda Ba.65 attack planes and SM-79 bombers from Italy. [8]

In the years following Iraqi independence, the Air Force was still dependent on the Royal Air Force. The Iraqi government allocated the majority of its military expenditure to the Iraqi Army and by 1936 the Royal Iraqi Air Force had only 37 pilots and 55 aircraft. The following year, the Air Force showed some growth, increasing its number of pilots to 127. [9]

1930s to 1950s Edit

The RIrAF was first used in combat against the revolts by tribes in Diwaniya and Rumaytha southern Iraq in 1934 under Bakr Sidqi, where it suffered its first combat loss. Its first combat against another conventional military was in the 1941 Anglo-Iraqi War when the Iraqi government made a bid for full independence following a coup by Rashid Ali against pro-British Iraqi leaders. The RIrAF was destroyed as a fighting force during the war, resulting in an alliance with the Axis which involved Luftwaffe aircraft (painted in Iraqi markings) and Italian Regia Aeronautica aircraft assisting Iraqi ground forces. The German units were Special Staff F and Fliegerführer Irak. However losses, a lack of spares and replacements resulted in their departure, following which British forces defeated the coup.

A roughly 1946 order of battle for the Air Force can be found in Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War II (p. 48).

The RIrAF was still recovering from its destruction during the Anglo-Iraqi War in 1948 [8] when they joined in the war against the newly created state of Israel in the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. [8] The air force only played a small role in the first war against Israel. From 1948 to 1949 the 7th Squadron operated Avro Anson training-bombers from Jordan from where they flew several attacks against the Israelis. [10] Some of the Ansons were replaced by modern Hawker Fury fighters operated by 1st Squadron, however these aircraft flew only two missions against Israel in Iraqi markings before most were transferred to the Egyptians. [8] Fourteen Hawker Furies had been delivered but by June 7, 1948 only 6 remained operational. [8] Despite these early problems the RIrAF purchased more Furies, acquiring a total of 38 F.Mk.1s single seaters and 4 two-seaters. [8] which equipped 1st and 7th Squadrons. The only Iraqi Fury victory was an Israeli Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bomber.

1950s and early 1960s Edit

During the 1950s, the RIrAF was affected when the monarchy was toppled in 1958, resulting in the cessation of arms imports from western countries such as Great Britain. [8] From 1950 to 1958 most of the RIrAF aircraft were from the United Kingdom. The first jet fighters, the de Havilland Vampire, were delivered in 1953. The RIrAF also received de Havilland Venoms and Hawker Hunters during the mid-1950s. [8] In 1954 and 1956, 19 de Havilland Vampire jet fighters and 14 ex-RAF Hawkers funded by the U.S. were delivered. [8] They also received four Bristol 170 Freighters in 1953. [8]

During the 14 July Revolution of 1958, the King of Iraq was overthrown and the country established diplomatic and political relationships with Warsaw Pact countries, while simultaneously severing relations with western nations. [8] The Iraqi Air Force (IQAF) dropped the "Royal" from its name after the revolution. [8] The Soviets were quick to supply MiG-17s, and later MiG-19 and MiG-21 fighters, as well as Ilyushin Il-28 bombers to the new Iraqi government. [8] They also received 13 Ilyushin Il-14 transports in 1959 from Poland. [ citation needed ] The first MiG-17s were first delivered in 1958 to replace the de Havilland Vampire. [ citation needed ] During the late 1960s and or early 1970s additional MiG-17 examples may have been purchased and then forwarded to either Syria or Egypt. [8]

Tom Cooper and Stefan Kuhn list the air force's squadrons in 1961 as: [11]

    , Venom FB.Mk.1, based at Habbaniyah AB, CO Capt. A.-Mun'em Ismaeel , Mi-4, based at Rashid AB, CO Maj. Wahiq Ibraheem Adham , An-12B, based at Rashid AB, CO Capt. Taha Ahmad Mohammad Rashid , Fury FB.Mk.11, based at Kirkuk Air Base, CO Maj. A. Latif , MiG-17F, based at Rashid AB, CO Maj. Khalid Sarah Rashid , HunterFGA.59/A/B, based at Habbaniyah AB, CO Capt. Hamid Shaban , Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-17F, based at Kirkuk, CO Maj. Ne'ma Abdullah Dulaimy , Il-28, based at Rasheed Air Base, CO Maj. Adnan Ameen Rashid , MiG-19, in process of formation.

The IQAF received about 50 MiG-19s during the early 1960s but most of these remained in their crates and were subsequently re-delivered to Egypt. Only the 6th Squadron ever operated the (roughly) 18 MiG-19P and missile armed MiG-19PMs, which it did from Rasheed Air Base in Baghdad. Iraq also received MiG21F-13 fighters in 1962 and Tupolev Tu-16 bombers after 1963.

The November 1963 Iraqi coup d'état realigned Iraq with NATO powers, and as a result, more second-hand Hawker Hunters were delivered to the IQAF. [8] Aircraft imports from the Communist Eastern European nations had been suspended until 1966, when MiG-21PF interceptors was purchased from the Soviet Union [8] after the death in an aircraft accident of Abdelsalam Aref, the Iraqi president, who was then replaced by his brother.

In 1966, Iraqi Captain Munir Redfa defected with his MiG-21F-13 to Israel who in turn gave it to the United States for evaluation under the code-name "Have Donut". [12] However, by then the MiG21-F13s had been replaced by MiG21FL and PFM in the Iraqi air force's frontline units and the MiG21-F13s were being used as operational conversion trainers.

Six-Day War Edit

During the Six-Day War, the IQAF bombed several air bases and land targets, including strikes by Tu-16 bombers on Israeli airbases. One of the striking bombers was shot down by Israelis, but the rest returned safely. The IQAF also played a significant role in supporting Jordanian troops. [2] As well, the Iraqi Air Force had one Pakistani pilot Saiful Azam who claimed two kills of Israeli fighters over H3 in an Iraqi Hawker Hunter. Iraqi pilots in Hawker Hunters made a further five claims against Israeli planes in air combat. [8] Due to Hunters and MiG21PFMs the IQAF were successfully able to defend their air bases in western Iraq from additional Israeli attacks. [8] On the same day the IQAF also were able to break through Israeli air space and destroyed five Israeli aircraft in air fighting. [2]

1970s and the Yom Kippur War Edit

Throughout this decade, the IQAF grew in size and capability, as the 20 year Treaty of friendship with the USSR signed in 1971 brought large numbers of relatively modern fighter aircraft to the air force. The Iraqi government was never satisfied with the Soviets alone supplying them, and while they were purchasing modern fighters like the MiG-21 and the Sukhoi Su-20, they began persuading the French to sell Mirage F-1s fighters (which were bought) and later Jaguars (which were however never ordered). [8]

Before the Yom Kippur War, the IQAF sent 12 Hawker Hunters to Egypt where they stayed to fight only 1 survived the war. [8] The IQAF first received their Sukhoi Su-7s in 1968 they were originally stationed in Syria. Aircraft deployed to Syria suffered heavy losses due to Israeli aircraft and SAMs. [ citation needed ] In addition, they were hit with friendly fire from Syrian SAMs. [13] A planned attack on the 8th of October was canceled due to these heavy losses as well as disagreements with the Syrian government. [ citation needed ] Eventually, all aircraft besides several Sukhoi Su-7s were withdrawn from bases in Syria. During the war in October 1973, the first air strike against Israeli bases in Sinai was composed of Iraqi planes they hit artillery sites and Israeli tanks, and they also claimed to have destroyed 21 Israeli fighters in air combat. [14] Shortly after the war, the IQAF ordered 14 Tupolev Tu-22Bs and two Tu-22Us from the USSR as well as Raduga Kh-22 missiles from Soviet Union and by 1975, 10 Tu-22Bs and 2 Tu-22Us were delivered. [15]

The 1970s also saw a series of fierce Kurdish uprisings in the north of the country against Iraq. [16] With the help of the Shah of Iran, the Kurds received arms and supplies including modern SAMs as well as some Iranian soldiers. [17] The IQAF suffered heavy casualties fighting the Kurds, so they began using their new Tu-22s in combat against them (using 3 tonne bombs from high altitude to avoid the Iranian HAWK SAM batteries that the Shah had set up near the Iraqi border to cover the Kurdish insurgents) as they were able to avoid a greater percentage of SAMs due to their higher bombing altitude and improved electronic countermeasures. [8] During the mid-1970s, tensions with Iran were high but were later resolved with the Algiers Treaty. [ citation needed ]

1980s and war with Iran Edit

Between the autumn of 1980 and the summer of 1990, the number of aircraft in the IQAF went from 332 to over 1000. [2] Before the Iraqi invasion of Iran, the IQAF had expected 16 modern Dassault Mirage F.1EQs from France and were also in the middle of receiving a total of 240 new aircraft and helicopters from their Eastern European allies. When Iraq invaded Iran in late September 1980, the Soviets and the French stopped delivering additional aircraft to Iraq but resumed deliveries a few months later. [18]

The IQAF had to instead fight with obsolete Su-20, MiG-21 Fishbeds and MiG-23 Floggers. [18] The MiG-21 was the main interceptor of the force while their MiG-23s were used for ground attack and interception. [ citation needed ] The Su-20 were pure ground attack aircraft. On the first day of the war, formations of Tu-16/22s, Su-20s, MiG-23s and MiG-21s, for a total of 166–192 aircraft, performed surprise airstrikes on 10 airbases of the Iranian Air Force, succeeding in destroying a large of number of fighter-bomber aircraft on the ground, but not enough to knock the Iranian Air Force out. [19] In retaliation for these aerial strikes, the Iranian Air Force launched Operation Kaman 99 a day after the war was launched.

During late 1981, it was soon clear that the modern Mirage F-1s and the Soviet MiG-25s were effective against the Iranians. [18] The IQAF began to use their new Eastern weaponry which included Tu-22KD/KDP bombers, equipped with Kh-22M/MP air-to-ground missiles, MiG-25s equipped with Kh-23 air-to-ground missiles as well as Kh-25 and Kh-58 anti-radar missiles and also MiG-23BNs, equipped with Kh-29L/T missiles. [18] In 1983, to satisfy the Iraqis waiting for their upgraded Exocet-capable Mirage F-1EQ5s, Super Etendards were leased to Iraq. The Iranian oil tanker fleet (see Tanker War) and gunboats suffered severe damage at the hand of the 5 Super Etendards equipped with Exocet anti-ship missiles. One of these was lost during their 20-month combat use and 4 returned to the Aeronavale in 1985. [18]

The IQAF generally played a major role in the war against Iran by striking airbases, military infrastructure, industrial infrastructure such as factories, powerplants and oil facilities, as well as systematically bombing urban areas in Tehran and other major Iranian cities (later came to be known as the War of the Cities). At the end of the war, in conjunction with the Army and special operations forces, the IQAF played a significant role in routing Iran's last military offensive. [2] (by that time, the role of the once superior Iranian Air Force had been reduced to missions in desperate situations only, performing critical tasks such as defending Iran's vital oil terminals). The air force also had a successful role attacking tankers and other vessels going to and from Iran, by using Exocet missiles on their Mirage F-1s. On May 17, 1987, an Iraqi F-1 mistakenly launched two Exocet anti-ship missiles into the American frigate USS Stark, crippling the vessel and killing 37 sailors. [2]

By 1987 the Iraqi Air Force had a large modern military infrastructure, with modern air logistics centers, air depots, maintenance and repair facilities, and some production capabilities. [20] By that time the air force consisted of 40,000 men, of whom about 10,000 were a part of the Air Defense Command. [2] Its main base was in Tammuz (Al Taqqadum), Al Bakr (Balad), Al Qadisiya (Al Asad), Ali Air Base, Saddam Airbase (Qayarrah West Air Base) and other major bases including Basra. The IQAF operated from 24 main operating bases and 30 dispersal bases, with 600 aircraft shelters including nuclear-hardened shelters, with multiple taxiways to multiple runways. [2] Iraq also had 123 smaller airfields of various kinds (reserve fields and helicopter fields). [20]

Notable Iraqi pilots of the Iran–Iraq War Edit

Unlike many other nations with modern air forces, Iraq was engaged in an intense and protracted war. The 8 year long conflict with Iran gave the Air Force the opportunity to develop some battle-tested and hardened fighter pilots. Though information about the IQAF is, at best, hard to access, two men stand out as the best Iraqi fighter aces.

Mohommed Rayyan, nicknamed "Sky Falcon," who flew MiG-21MF in 1980–81, and claimed two confirmed kills against Iranian F-5Es in 1980. With the rank of Captain, Rayyan qualified on MiG-25P in late 1981 and went on to claim another eight kills, two of which are confirmed, before being shot down and killed by IRIAF F-14s in 1986. [21]

Captain Omar Goben was another successful fighter pilot. While flying a MiG-21 he scored air kills against two F-5E Tiger IIs and one F-4E Phantom II in 1980. He later transferred to the MiG-23 and survived the war, but was killed in January 1991 flying a MiG-29 versus an American F-15C. [21]

Captain Salah I. was also a distinguished pilot during this period, achieving a double kill against two F-4Es on 2 December 1981 while he was part of the 79th Squadron. [22]

1990s – Persian Gulf War and no-fly zones Edit

In August 1990, Iraq had the largest air force in the region even after the long Iran–Iraq War. The air force at that time had 934 combat-capable aircraft (including trainers) in its inventory. Theoretically, the IQAF should have been 'hardened' by the conflict with Iran, but post-war purges of the IQAF leadership and other personnel decimated the air force, as the Iraqi regime struggled to bring it back under total control. [18] Training was brought to a minimum during the whole of 1990.

The table below shows the Iraqi Air Force at the start of the Persian Gulf War, its losses, damaged aircraft, flights to Iran and remaining assets at the end of the Persian Gulf War. A portion of the aircraft damaged may have been repairable or else used for spare parts. This is a combination of losses both in the air (23–36 aircraft) [23] and on the ground (227 aircraft) and exclude the helicopters and aircraft that belonged to Iraqi Army Aviation, Iraqi Navy and the Aviation wing of the Iraqi Department of Border Enforcement. [24]

Iraqi losses, flights to Iran and remaining aircraft after war. [24] [25]
Aircraft 1990 destroyed damaged to Iran survived
Mirage F1EQ/BQ 88 23 6 24 35
Mirage F1K (Kuwaiti) 8 2 2 0 4
Su-7BKL 101
Su-20 18 4 2 4 8
Su-22R 10 1 0 0 9
Su-22M2 24 2 6 5 11
Su-22M3 16 7 0 9 0
Su-22UM3 25 3 1 0 21
Su-22M4 28 7 0 15 6
Su-24MK 30 5 0 24 1
Su-25K/UBK 72 31 8 7 26
MiG-19C/Shenyang J-6 45
MiG-21MF/bis/F-7B 236 65 46 0 115
MiG-23BN 38 17 0 4 18
MiG-23ML 39 14 1 7 17
MiG-23MF 14 2 5 0 7
MiG-23MS 15 2 4 0 9
MiG-23UM 21 8 0 1 12
MiG-25U 7 3 2 0 2
MiG-25RB 9 3 3 0 3
MiG-25PD/PDS/PU/R/RB 19 13 1 0 5
MiG-29A 33 17 4 3 13
MiG-29UB 4 0 0 1 3
Tu-16/KSR-2-11 3 3 0 0 0
Tu-22B/U 4 4 0 0 0
Xian H-6D 4 4 0 0 0
An-26 5 0 3 0 2
Ilyushin Il-76 19 3 1 15 0
Dassault Falcon 20 2 0 0 2 0
Dassault Falcon 50 3 0 0 3 0
Lockheed Jetstar 6 4 0 1 1
Aero L-39 Albatros 67 0 1 0 66
Embraer Tucano 78 1 6 0 64
FFA AS-202 Bravo 34 5 5 0 17
Eloris trainer 12 0 0 0 12
BAC Jet Provost 20 5 0 0 15
MBB/Kawasaki BK 117 14 1 6 0 6

During the 1991 Persian Gulf War, the Iraqi Air Force was devastated by the United States, the United Kingdom and their allies. Most airfields were heavily struck, and in air combat Iraq was only able to obtain four confirmed kills (and four damaged along with one probable kill), while sustaining 23 losses. [23] All of the out of service (six) Tupolev Tu-22s that Iraq possessed were destroyed by bombing at the start of Operation Desert Storm. However, they had already been withdrawn from the inventory of the Iraqi Air Force and were simply used as decoys and do not appear on the operational list of lost aircraft from the Iraqi Air Force (like all other old aircraft which were used solely to deflect raids from operational assets).

The MiG-25 force (NATO reporting name 'Foxbat') recorded the first air-to-air kill during the war. A MIG-25PDS, piloted by Lt. Zuhair Dawood of the 84th Fighter Squadron, shot down a U.S. Navy F/A-18 Hornet from VFA-81 on the first night of the war. In 2009 the Pentagon announced they had identified the remains of the pilot, U.S. Navy Captain Michael "Scott" Speicher, solving an 18-year mystery. Captain Speicher, who was a Lieutenant Commander at the time, was apparently buried by nomadic Bedouin tribesmen close to where his jet was shot down in a remote area of Anbar province.

The second air-air kill was recorded by a pilot named Jameel Sayhood on January nineteenth. Flying a MIG-29, he shot down a Royal Air Force Tornado GR.1A with R-60 missiles. Flight Lieutenant D J Waddington piloted the RAF aircraft serial ZA396/GE, and Flight Lieutenant R J Stewart, and crashed 51 nautical miles southeast of Tallil air base. [26]

In another incident, an Iraqi Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25 eluded eight USAF F-15C Eagles, firing three missiles at a USAF EF-111 electronic warfare aircraft, forcing them to abort their mission. In yet another incident, two MiG-25's approached a pair of F-15 Eagles, fired missiles (which were evaded by the F-15s), and then out-ran the American fighters. Two more F-15s joined the pursuit, and a total of ten air-to-air missiles were fired at the Foxbats none of which could reach them.

In an effort to demonstrate their own air offensive capability, on 24 January the Iraqis attempted to mount a strike against the major Saudi oil refinery in Abqaiq. Two Mirage F-1 fighters laden with incendiary bombs and two MiG-23s (along as fighter cover) took off. They were spotted by USAF Boeing E-3 Sentry AWACS aircraft, and two Royal Saudi Air Force F-15s were sent to intercept. When the Saudis appeared the Iraqi MiGs turned tail, but the Mirages pressed on. Captain Ayedh Al-Shamrani, one of the Saudi pilots, maneuvered his jet behind the Mirages and shot down both aircraft. After this episode, the Iraqis made no more air efforts of their own, sending most of their jets to Iran in hopes that they might someday get their Air Force back. (Iran returned seven Su-25s in 2014.) [27]

During the Persian Gulf War, most Iraqi pilots and aircraft (of French and Soviet origin) fled to Iran to escape the bombing campaign because no other country would allow them sanctuary. The Iranians impounded these aircraft after the war and returned seven Su-25s in 2014, while putting the rest in the service of the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force [28] – claiming them as reparations for the Iran–Iraq War. Because of this Saddam Hussein did not send the rest of his Air Force to Iran just prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, instead opting to bury them in sand. Saddam Hussein, preoccupied with Iran and regional power balance, is reported to have commented: "The Iranians are even stronger than before, they now have our Air Force." [29]

These included: Mirage F1s EQ1/2/4/5/6, Su-20 and Su-22M2/3/4 Fitters, Su-24MK Fencer-Ds, Su-25K/UBK Frogfoots, MiG-23ML Floggers, MiG-29A/UB (product 9.12B) Fulcrums and a number of Il-76s, including the one-off AEW-AWACS prototype Il-76 "ADNAN 1". Also, prior to Operation Desert Storm, 19 Iraqi Mig-21s and MiG-23s were sent to Yugoslavia for servicing, but were never returned due to international sanctions. [30] In 2009, the Iraqi government briefly sought the return of the fighters, but they were disassembled and would have been costly to repair and return. [30] [31] [32]

Persian Gulf War aircraft losses by coalition forces Edit

Aircraft Origin No. Shot Down No. To Iran
MiG-21 Soviet Union 4 0
MiG-23 9 12
MiG-25 2 0
MiG-29 6 4
Su-7 4
Su-20 0 4
Su-22 2 40
Su-24 0 24
Su-25 2 7
Ilyushin Il-76 1 15
Mil Mi-8 1 0
Mirage F-1 France 9 24
Total Number Loss [33] 44 137

The Iraqi air force itself lists its air-to-air losses at 23 airframes [23] compared to the US claims of 44. Similarly, the Allies initially acknowledged no losses in air combat to the Iraqi air force, and only in 1995 acknowledged one loss. After 2003 the Allies acknowledged a second loss, but a further two Iraqi claims and one probable are still listed by the Allies as lost to "ground fire" rather than an Iraqi fighter. Generally at least three Iraqi pilots are relatively agreed upon to have scored victories against coalition aircraft in aerial combat.

As well as the Persian Gulf war, the IQAF was also involved in the 1991 uprisings in Iraq. Alongside Army aviation, Mi-8, Mi-24, Gazelle, Alouette and Puma helicopters were used to counter the attempted Shi'ite and Kurdish revolts between 1991 and 1993.

After the Gulf War, the air force consisted only of a sole Su-24 (nicknamed "waheeda" in the Iraqi airforce which translates to roughly "the lonely") and a single squadron of MiG-25s purchased from the Soviet Union in 1979. Some Mirages, MiG-23MLs and SU-22s also remained in use, with the MiG-29s being withdrawn from use by 1995 due to engine TBO limits, and the MiG-21s withdrawn due to obsolescence. During the period of sanctions that followed, the Air Force was severely restricted by no-fly zones established by the coalition and by restricted access to spare parts due to United Nations sanctions. Many aircraft were unserviceable and a few were hidden from American reconnaissance to escape potential destruction. In patrols of the no-fly zones, three Iraqi MiGs were lost. Despite several attacks from U.S. F-15s and F-14s firing AIM-54 and AIM-120 missiles at the Iraqi fighters, the Iraqi maneuvers ensured they were able to avoid any casualties in their dispute over Iraqi airspace. The last recorded air-to-air kill was on 23 December 2002, when a MiG-25 Foxbat shot down an armed American RQ-1 Predator. [34]

In 2008, the Defense Technical Information Center released the top-secret archives of the Saddam-era Iraqi Air Force, shedding light on the true losses and operations of the Air Force during 1991. [24]

Inventory in the 1991 Gulf War Edit

Aircraft Origin Type Variant In service Notes
Combat Aircraft
Mirage F1 France Fighter Mirage F1EQ/BQ 88
Dassault Super Étendard France Maritime Strike 2
Sukhoi Su-20 Soviet Union Ground attack 18
Sukhoi Su-22 Soviet Union Ground attack Su-22R/Su-22M2/M3/M4 133
Sukhoi Su-24 Soviet Union Interdiction/Strike Su-24MK 30
Sukhoi Su-25 Soviet Union Ground attack Su-25K/UBK 72
MiG-21 Soviet Union/China Fighter MiG-21MF/bis/F-7B 236
MiG-23 Soviet Union Interceptor MiG-23BN 38
MiG-25 Soviet Union Interceptor MiG-25PD/PDS/PU/R/RB 19
MiG-29 Soviet Union Fighter MiG-29A/MiG-29UB 37
Tupolev Tu-16 Soviet Union Bomber Tu-16/KSR-2-11 3
Tupolev Tu-22 Soviet Union Bomber Tu-22B/U 4
Xian H-6 China Bomber Xian H-6D 4
BAC Jet Provost United Kingdom Attack 20
Antonov An-26 Soviet Union Transport 5
Ilyushin Il-76 Soviet Union Cargo 19
Dassault Falcon 20 France VIP Transport 2
Dassault Falcon 50 France VIP Transport 3
Lockheed Jetstar USA VIP Transport 1
Aero L-39 Albatros Czechoslovakia Trainer/COIN
Embraer Tucano Brazil Trainer/COIN
FFA AS-202 Bravo Switzerland Trainer

2003 Invasion of Iraq Edit

By 2003, Iraq's air power numbered an estimated 180 combat aircraft, of which only about half were flyable. [35] In late 2002, a Yugoslav weapons company provided servicing for the MiG-21s and MiG-23s, violating UN sanctions. [35] An aviation institute in Bijeljina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, supplied the engines and spare parts. [36] These however, were too late to improve the condition of Iraq's air force.

On the brink of the US led invasion, Saddam Hussein disregarded his air force's wishes to defend the country's airspace against coalition aircraft and ordered the bulk of his fighters to be disassembled and buried. Some were later found by US excavation forces around the Al Taqqadum and Al Asad air bases, including MiG-25s and Su-25s. [37] The IQAF proved to be totally non-existent during the invasion a few helicopters were seen but no fighters flew to combat coalition aircraft. [38]

During the occupation phase, most of Iraq's combat aircraft (mainly MiG-23s, MiG-25s and Su-25s) were found by American and Australian forces in poor condition at several air bases throughout the country while others were discovered buried. [39] Most of the IQAF's aircraft were destroyed during and after the invasion, and all remaining equipment was junked or scrapped in the immediate aftermath of the war. None of the aircraft acquired during Saddam's time remained in service. [33]

Post-invasion Edit

The Iraqi Air Force, like all Iraqi forces after the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, was rebuilt as part of the overall program to build a new Iraqi defense force. [40] The newly created air force consisted only of 35 people in 2004 when it began operations. [41]

In December 2004, the Iraqi Ministry of Defense signed two contracts with the Polish defence consortium BUMAR. [42] The first contract, worth US$132 million, was for the delivery of 20 PZL W-3 Sokół helicopters and the training of 10 Iraqi pilots and 25 maintenance personnel. [42] They were intended to be delivered by November 2005, but in April 2005 the company charged with fulfilling the contract announced the delivery would not go ahead as planned, because the delivery schedule proposed by PZL Swidnik was not good enough. [42] As a result, only 2 were delivered in 2005 for testing.

The second contract, worth US$105 million, was to supply the Iraqi air force with 24 second-hand Russian-made, re-worked Mi-17 (Hips). [42] As of 2008, 8 had been delivered and 2 more were on their way. The Mi-17s were reported to have some attack capability. [43]

On 18 November 2005, the Coalition Air Force Transition Team (CAFTT), part of Multi-National Security Transition Command - Iraq was established to guide the recreation of the new Iraqi Air Force. [44] During this period, the Air Force primarily served as a light reconnaissance and transport operation. [45] A report of February 2006 detailed the 3rd, 23rd, and 70th Squadrons busy on these missions. [44] The air force also included the IAF Operational Air Headquarters in Baghdad with a major-general commanding and just over 100 staff in staff cells A1-A6, and A7 (Training), A8 (Finance) and A9 (Engineering) the two reconnaissance squadrons (3rd and 70th) 2nd and 4th Squadrons planned to receive Huey II helicopters 12th Squadron with Bell JetRangers (training) and 15th Squadron due to receive Mi-17 helicopters in early 2006, all at Taji Air Base and 23rd Squadron flying the C-130s.

On March 4, 2007, the air force carried out its first medical evacuation in the city of Baghdad when an injured police officer was airlifted to a hospital. [46] Also in 2007, the USAF's Second Air Force, part of Air Education and Training Command, was given responsibility to provide curricula and advice to the Iraqi Air Force as it stood up its own technical training and branch specific basic training among others. [40] [45]

During the Battle of Basra (2008) the Iraqi Air Force planned, executed, and monitored 104 missions in support of Iraqi ground security forces in Basra during Operation Charge of the Knights in the Basra area between March 25 and April 1. [47]

In 2009 the first of several Iraqi officers completed their flying training at RAF Cranwell, a development with echos of the Iraqi Air Force's early beginnings. [48]

It was reported in December 2007 that a deal had been reached between the Iraqi government and Serbia for the sale of arms and other military equipment including 36 Lasta 95 basic trainers. [49] It was speculated that Iraq might buy 50 Aérospatiale Gazelle attack helicopters from France. [50] In July 2008, Iraq had formally requested an order for 24 light attack and reconnaissance helicopters. The aircraft would either be the U.S. Army's new ARH-70 helicopter or the MH-6 Little Bird. [51]

On October 14, 2008, Aviation Week reported that two Hellfire-equipped Cessna 208Bs were spotted at an ATK facility in Meacham Airport, Fort Worth, Texas. The Iraqi air force was due to receive 3 armed Cessna 208Bs in December 2008, with two more to be delivered in 2009. This represented the first IQAF strike capability since the start of the war in 2003. [52] The Iraqi government announced in November 2008 that the Iraqi Air Force would purchase 108 aircraft through 2011. Ultimately the force was to have consisted of up to 516 total aircraft by 2015, then 550 total aircraft by 2018. Specific types being purchased included Eurocopter EC635 and Bell ARH-70 type helicopters. Additionally, 24 T-6 Texan II aircraft would be purchased for the light attack role. [53]

Over the summer of 2008, the Defense Department announced that the Iraqi government wanted to order more than 400 armored vehicles and other equipment worth up to $3 billion, and six C-130J transport planes, worth up to $1.5 billion. [54]

Iraq was due to buy 28 Czech-made L-159 training jets valued at $1 billion (770 million euros). Twenty-four of the planes would be new, while four would come from Czech surplus stocks. Later the deal fell through. However afterwards the Czech aviation company Aero Vodochody reportedly agreed to sell 12 of the jets, although the deal wasn't yet approved by both countries' governments. [55] There were talks to buy Czech made combat aircraft Aero L-159 Alca with possible sale or oil trade of either 24 or 36 aircraft from Czech Air Force surplus. [56] [57] [58] The purchase was not done and as of 2013, the Czech Republic has not been able to secure its first export deal for its L-159 Alca fighter aircraft. [59] The deal for 24/36 Czech L-159 aircraft was cancelled instead South Korea supersonic KAI T50 have been chosen (24 aircraft). But in April 2014, Iraq decided to buy 12 second-hand (conserved) L-159 for $200 million. [60]

2010s Edit

Throughout 2010 and 2011, the Iraqi government and the MoI announced intentions to buy Dassault Mirage F1 and F-16C Block 52 fighters. [61] [62] [63] The Iraqi cabinet specified a sum of $900m as a first installment of $3b worth of aircraft, equipment, spare parts, and training.

The deal to buy the F-16 fighters seemed to teeter as the GoI reversed its decision on the 12th of February and wanted to divert the initial sum of $900m to economic reconstruction. [64] [65] However, on the 12 July 2011, the GoI re-iterated its interest in the F-16s due to the pending withdrawal of American forces from Iraq, and later the number of fighters to be purchased was doubled to 36. [66] [67] [68] [69]

Iraq's air space was unguarded from December 2011 until 18 F-16IQ Block 52 jet fighters and their pilots were ready. [70] [71] [72] The first Iraqi F-16 made its inaugural flight in May 2014. [73] It was officially delivered to the IQAF in a ceremony at Fort Worth, Texas on 5 June 2014. [74]

In October 2012, it was reported that Russia and Iraq may sign a $4.2–$5.0 billion weapons contract, including 30 Mi-28N helicopters. [75] The deal was confirmed on 9 October. [76] The deal was reportedly cancelled due to Iraqi concerns of corruption, [77] but that concern was addressed, and the Iraqi defense minister stated that "the deal is going ahead." [78] [79] Despite early complications, all parts of the $4.2 billion contracts were signed, and are being executed. The first contract for 10 Mi-28NE helicopters for Iraq will begin delivery in September 2013. [80] A batch of 13 Mi-28NE helicopters was delivered in January 2014. [81]

On 26 June 2014, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said that they "should have sought to buy other jet fighters like British, French and Russian", describing the order of American F-16s as "long-winded" and "deluded". [82] The IQAF instead acquired second-hand jet aircraft from Russia and Belarus to combat ISIS militants in Northern Iraq, with the first batch arriving on 28 June. [82] [83] The Iraqi Ministry of Defense confirmed the purchase of 5 Russian Sukhoi Su-25, uploading a video on its YouTube channel of their arrival. [84] The Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force also delivered seven Su-25s on 1 July, the majority of which were ex-Iraqi aircraft that fled to Iran during the Gulf War. [85]

On 13 July 2015, the Iraqi Air Force received its first batch of F-16 fighters. [86] In addition to the F-16's which are due to be delivered to the Iraqi Air Force throughout the upcoming years, 24 KAI T-50 Golden Eagles are expected to begin deliveries by April 2016 boosting the Iraqi Air Force's defense capabilities. [87] On 5 November 2015, the first two Czech Aero L-159 light combat aircraft were delivered to Iraq. [88] [89] The first group of Iraqi pilots completed training in the Czech company Aero Vodochody on 9 February 2016. Iraq will gain a total of 15 Aero L-159s and Aero Vodochody will make 12 aircraft operable for the Iraqi Air Force. Two other planes will be used for the reconstruction of two aircraft into two-seaters, one will be used for spare parts. [90] For nearly three years, United Kingdom has blocked the sale of L-159s because they contain British radar warning receiver. However, Prime Minister David Cameron agreed to overturn the ban in February 2016 and the sale to Iraq is proceeding. [91]

In December 2014, during a meeting between leaders of Iraq and the United Arab Emirates, the UAE offered up to 10 Mirage 2000 fighters to the Iraqi Air Force. The aircraft could have been delivered by March 2015. [92]

On 6–7, April 2019, IqAF received six new F-16s. [93] According to Brigadier Yahya Rasool, Ministry of Defence (Iraq)'s Security Media Cell spokesperson, the latest delivery brings Iraq's F-16 fleet to 27. [94]

Among operating squadrons of the air force today are: 3rd Squadron 9th Squadron (F-16s) 23rd Squadron 70th Squadron 87th Squadron (B 350ER) 109th Squadron (Sukhoi Su-25) 115th Squadron (L-159) and possibly 2nd Squadron.

  • 1936, Muhammed Ali Jawad[9]
  • 1941, Mahmud Salman[95]
  • 1955, Brigadier Sami Fattah[96]
  • 1958–1963, Jalal Al-Awqati
  • February–March 1963, Arif Abdul Razzaq
  • March–December 1963, Hardan al-Tikriti[97]
  • 1963–1965, Arif Abdul-Razak
  • 1965–1966, Munir Helmi
  • 1966–1968, Jassam Mohammed Al-Saher[98]
  • unknown
  • 1973–1976, Nima Al Dulaimi
  • 1978–1983, Mohamed Jessam Al-Jeboury
  • 1985, Air Marshal Hamid Sha'aban [99]
  • 1985–1994, Muzahim Sa'b Hassan al-Tikriti[100]
  • 1994–2003, Hamid Raja Shalah[101]
  • 2005–2008 Kamal Barzanji
  • 2008–2019 Anwar Hamad Amin
  • 2019–current Shihab Jahid Ali

Iraq Air Force Officer rank insignia in use today are shown in the following table:

Is jiujitsu the best step toward police reform? One LAPD veteran thinks so

Posted On September 15, 2020 04:21:33

Several shootings involving police have occurred this year, bringing on an outpouring of civil unrest in the form of widespread protests or riots, and cries for reform to reduce police brutality and institutional racism.

“Defund the police” has become a common refrain throughout the US and has grown in popularity in several cities. New York City shifted approximately $1 billion away from the New York Police Department. The Seattle City Council approved a 14% decrease in the Seattle Police Department’s budget.

A main focus of the discussions surrounding police reform has been to call standards in law enforcement training into question. Both sides of the debate have proposed suggestions — from banning chokeholds to preventing police from carrying firearms.

Coffee or Die spoke with Mark Mireles, a veteran of both the US Marine Corps and the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), about what he believes would help law enforcement in situations that lead to the use of lethal force.

Mark Mireles by his squad car during the 1992 Rodney King riots in LA, to the rear of the Foothill police station, the epicenter of the Rodney King beating. Photo courtesy of Mark Mireles.

Mireles served as a Marine for four years in the 1980s. He worked as an LAPD police officer for 28 years before retiring and entering the private security industry.

His nearly three-decade-long career in the LAPD unfolded across Los Angeles’ most violent years. Mireles has engaged criminals in all varieties of hand fighting, less lethal deployment, and lethal deployment. Three times he earned the Medal of Valor, which is the highest award for personal bravery bestowed to LAPD’s officers.

Mireles trained under the legendary Jean Jacques Machado and is a third-degree black belt in Brazilian jiujitsu (BJJ). Mireles also holds a black belt in judo, which is the parent art of BJJ. He won the World No-Gi Championship in the masters black belt ultra-heavy division in 2019. He is also a four-time Gold Medalist in the World Police and Fire Games in both freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling, and earned All American honors in the Olympic-style Greco-Roman wrestling.

There is a movement gaining momentum for law enforcement officers to be trained in Brazilian jiujitsu. This form of martial arts has been around for centuries and has been used by a wide variety of professions, from your average security officer in a mall to the most highly trained US military special operations soldier.

BJJ is defined by GracieMag as “a martial art of Japanese origin in which one essentially uses levers, torsions and pressure in order to take one’s opponent to the ground and dominate them. Literally, jū in Japanese means ‘gentleness,’ and jutsu means ‘art,’ ‘technique.’ Hence the literal translation by which it’s also known, the ‘gentle art.'”

Mireles explained why he believes law enforcement officers should receive the best training possible in “handcuffing, arrest and control, defensive tactics, and I’m talking about outside of less lethal” because “officers — and this is nationally — put their hands on people every single day, but they get the least amount of training for that.”

He highlighted two recent examples that drew international attention: the Kenosha, Wisconsin, shooting of Jacob Blake and the Atlanta shooting of Rayshard Brooks. One major factor he pointed out in both situations is that the police officers involved failed to fully control the suspect with their first physical contact.

In BJJ, there are multiple levels of proficiency deemed by the color of belts. Beginners are white belts, followed by blue, purple, brown, and black. Black belts are considered masters of BJJ.

“If the officers were trained in tactics to a blue belt level, they would have been successful, I believe,” Mireles said about the Atlanta and Kenosha incidents. “To thwart the problem by being able to take the suspect and control them and take them down to the ground rather than getting into these extended tussles.”

Mark Mireles won a silver medal in judo during the 2017 World Police and Fire Games. Photo courtesy of Mark Mireles.

Mireles believes the primary mission of law enforcement is to “save and preserve human life, and to do everything that you can to do that.” BJJ is a practical approach to add as an additional step in the escalation of force before an officer has to resort to their pistol in a use-of-force event. Mireles specified there are obvious circumstances where an officer goes straight to their pistol or police rifle during active shooter or hostage scenarios.

In Mireles’ view, the officers involved in the Rayshard Brooks shooting did an “above and beyond job on verbalization” in their attempts to keep Brooks calm during the encounter. He added that there is a lot of speculation as to whether the officer should or should not have returned fire after Brooks shot the Taser at police, but he wants to focus on the point where the Atlanta officers could have stopped the situation from reaching the deployment of lethal force.

He believes that hand fighting — anything involving physical contact from the forearms to the hands — is critical for officers to know. Handcuffing a suspect is performed by law enforcement daily, and it’s at that point when suspects fight and/or try to run away, according to Mireles. In his opinion, BJJ teaches you how to manipulate the hand to control a person’s body, and this hand manipulation is crucial during the process of handcuffing a suspect or during other physical contact. This is when the Atlanta officers could have stopped the escalation from going further.

The Kenosha Police Department shooting of Jacob Blake is a similar situation in which the officers on scene lost control during an arrest attempt. Over his 28-year career, Mireles has implemented his experience in martial arts and has been involved in events just like those leading to the Kenosha and Atlanta shootings.

“I would offer, and I could be wrong, but these officers in Atlanta and Kenosha — in that time where they’re trying to hold on to the suspect — that they don’t have, they could have much better training in hand fighting to better control their suspects,” said Mireles.

He said his experience helped him gain control of suspects he was pursuing, preventing a further escalation of force. Mireles believes BJJ would possibly have helped these officers from having to resort to lethal force. He added that from what he could see and according to the state laws in Wisconsin and Georgia, these officers were justified in their use of lethal force.

Mireles combined his law enforcement, military, and martial arts experience to start a BJJ academy, where 70% of his attendees are either police officers or firefighters. He has received positive feedback from his trainees on how directly applicable the training is and how it has helped them in their careers. To Mireles’ knowledge, very few police academies actually train their cadets in hand fighting or BJJ.

Something that Mireles teaches at his academy is what he feels is the only way to approach a suspect who is resisting arrest. He said, “You’re trying to get a noncompliant person to become compliant through verbalization, but when it comes time to use force, that force has to be decisive and explosive.”

Mireles taking on his Russian competitor during the 2017 World Police and Fire Games. Photo courtesy of Mark Mireles.

Mireles described a blue belt in BJJ as “life insurance” for officers. “It’s going to go a long way on the street, and if it’s not your thing, do it anyway, because it’s life insurance,” he said. “If you love your wife, your significant other, your kids, you have to do everything you can to make sure that you go home safe at the end of watch, and hand-to-hand combat skills are very important to do that.”

“Going home safe” doesn’t just mean being physically safe it also means protecting your job and reputation when it comes to policing. Mireles believes the use of BJJ to prevent an escalation to less lethal or lethal force with a suspect resisting arrest is a way to ensure that.

Setting up a national, standardized level of hand-fighting training for the entirety of law enforcement would be a difficult and time-consuming task. Mireles recommends that law enforcement officers join their local BJJ gyms and start learning on their own personal time while waiting for their department to implement training procedures for hand fighting.

“If you’re a true professional, you’re going to do everything to push yourself to the highest level of proficiency, and that’s only going to occur through training,” said Mireles. “Invest in your survival rate, both literally and through civil liability, by training in hand fighting.”

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

More links we like


Did Medieval European warships ever have mounted ballistas or other siege weapons for ship-to-ship combat, or has Dungeons & Dragons lied to me?

If this wasn't a thing, what did naval battles of say, the 100 Years War look like? Was it like earlier naval combat, where it was mostly about ramming and boarding actions?

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It's hard to generalize naval action in the medieval period as a whole, because it encompasses such a wide range of circumstances, strategies, engineering elements, and doctrines that vary from place to place and from time to time the battle of Sandwich in 1217, for instance, bears little resemblance to earlier phases of northern European sea and riverborne raids, and would also differ starkly from an engagement like Lepanto in 1571.

But since you're specifically asking about naval warfare in the cross-channel engagements of the Hundred Years War we can be a little more specific! First we should talk a bit about the ships and ship-building, then the tasks expected of a squadron of ships in aid of military operations on land, and lastly on some examples of actual engagements.

Ships and Ship-building

Trade and travel connected the British isles and the English channel with traffic from all around Europe, and as such there was a large diversity of ship types and purposes. Round ships or nefs were common in the 13th and 14th centuries, built initially in France and serving primarily as transport and trade vessels. They were predominantly sail-powered, and often supported fore and aft castles if they had been built for or converted to use in war.

Nefs were similar to other, similar vessels, sail-powered trade and transport craft like cogs and carracks. The terms are sometimes interchanged and there's not necessarily a clear difference between many of them. Their construction, cross-sections, purpose, and handling were largely similar, but of course would have varied by regional practice and method of construction. But this is at least one broad category of the types of ships in use during the Hundred Years War sail-powered cargo ships that could be converted to troop ships with the installation of fore and aft castles.

The other broad category was the galley. Oar-powered with sails that could be raised or lowered, galleys were predominantly used in the Mediterranean, but could be hired in for special purposes. The French hired twelve Genoese galleys to assist their Spanish and French fleet to support its efforts against Flanders in 1304. Galleys often carried rams, but were also equipped with fighting decks or truncated fore and aft castles as well. They were more maneuverable, but much more expensive to operate, as the rowers needed pay and food, and were far more numerous than the crews of nefs.

Building ships was a large and complicated undertaking, and organizing shipbuilding for a war was even more so. To organize, combine, man, supply and actually sail the fleet required a great deal of luck and logistical skill. Ships built primarily as fighting ships were often designated as "royal" vessels and were built and manned at the expense of the crown, but this was a rarified element of most battle fleets. Instead, a form of impressment was more common the direct hiring or forced seizure of ships and crews in times of need. The History of William Marshal recounts that William had to win them over "with words and gifts and promises of rich rewards, till they were all fired with a fierce, brave will to go and engage the French" when their vessels were impressed into the fleet that eventually won the famous battle of Sandwich in 1217 (the history also repeatedly emphasizes how unhappy these pressed men were, and how many promises of booty Marshal had to make to keep them motivated).

In any case, both marshalling a fleet - that is, getting it together, armed, supplied, and waiting on favorable winds to sail - and building one were time-consuming and complicated, and this also meant that there was opportunity for raid, counter-raid, and what later might be called "cutting out expeditions" small engagements of few ships with particular purposes of destroying materiel, or sinking and capturing ships. Piracy was also a concern, but one of the overriding concerns of naval operations in this period was the weather.

Banal as it sounds, weather was king. Unfavorable winds could leave whole fleets trapped in ports or along the coast for weeks, and whole seasons could come and go without a chance to go. Infamously, a storm had wrecked the White Ship (or, in French, Le Blanche-nef) in 1120, ushering in the Anarchy, killing nearly 300 people, including the heir of Henry I. Even oar-power wasn't reliable enough to conduct any large-scale operations when the weather was against the effort, and this is one of the primary reasons that large-scale naval battles tended to be the exception rather than the rule.

The role of ships

Though it sounds rather unglamorous, most of the duty of a ship in this period was aiding forces on land. Ferrying men, horses, and supplies, and contributing to a continuing line of resupply. Armies are complicated, and even what we might consider modest or small armies require an enormous amount of supplementary equipment, weapons and ammunition, food, and fresh water. Ships were also important in maintaining sieges on cities with access to rivers or seaports. The battle with the French mentioned above, Zierikzee in 1304, took place in a riverway near a city under siege.

With the emphasis on cargo load, rather than fighting power, it makes sense that we don't see a lot of reference to stone-throwing machines or artillery. The castles at the prow and stern were typically loaded with archers or crossbowmen and other men-at-arms, whose job it was to board or repel boarders when ships came to grapple in the rare event of a battle at sea. Otherwise, the job of ships was fetching and carrying, with the occasional opportunistic raid. In dire straits, such as when William Marshal impressed the coastal mariners for the battle of Sandwich, hasty emergency fleets were organized to oppose or obstruct an enemy fleet, but that was, as we've seen, quite rare.

I'll post a follow up below, describing some actions and listing my sources but for now I have to step away from the computer

A follow-up question for when you have the time:

Do you have any clue why the navy was reduced to such a minor and supportive role in the European middle ages, compared to the (seemingly) frequent and large-scale naval engagements from before in antiquity and later in modern history? Does state centralization have anything to do with it or are there other reasons for it?


There were some, though. We've talked about about Sandwich and Zierikzee, but little about the kinds of tactics in use in either.

It's a little outside the scope of the question, but I've made use of descriptions of the Battle of Sandwich both because it's an interesting and unusual naval battle of its time and also because we have rich descriptions of the action from the History of William Marshal. The battle happened when a French supply fleet was intercepted in 1217 following the death of King John during the First Barons War. The French held London, and a fleet under Eustace the Monk was attempting to sail to London to reinforce and resupply Louis' forces. English forces caught sight of the French fleet after spending much time preparing:

It was a fine, clear day and you could see far out to sea, and the wind was soft and pleasant. Then our men caught sight of their ships as the enemy fleet approached in serried ranks, exactly like an army in the field. Driving forward at its head was the ship of their guide and leader, Eustace the Monk but he was to die that day unshriven. The French fleet, truly, numbered at least three hundred vessels.

The biographer had previously mentioned that the English fleet numbered a humble 22 - we should take these claims with a pinch of salt. In any case, the initial phases of the battle involved the English allowing the French to pass, using a single ship as a feint attack, and finally, once they had maneuvered to windward, sailing in to engage.

Sir Richard, King John’s son, was first to move to the attack, boldly bearing down on the ship with the men at his command, though he didn’t launch a proper attack till he was joined by a cog carrying soldiers and plenty of other good men. The cog sat high in the water, being not too laden, but the Monk’s ship, truly, was overfull, sitting so low that the waves were almost washing in. This wasn’t surprising: it had far too great a load, carrying the trebuchet and all the horses that were being sent to Louis. It was so heavily laden that the sides were barely out of the water. The men in the cog took advantage of the height: they had huge pots full of quicklime that they hurled on those below, creating havoc – it blinded them: they could see nothing.

Knights and other men leapt from the decks of their ships onto enemy vessels, and the fighting was hand to hand. As the biographer says:

And all the others jumped from the cog on to the ship and laid about the foe, and took the whole lot prisoner.

So in this example, there is a great deal of maneuver in the initial phases, some cagey feints and trickery, and then a general melee in which the action described resembles in word and deed the kind of chivalric fighting we see from descriptions of the battle on land. Grapples, boarding, archery were all used, but also chemical weapons, the thrown pots of quicklime. We should also remember that this was a mismatched fight, as pointed out by the biographer: unburdened by the men and materiel to support Louis' efforts in England, the English ships were lighter, higher in the water and more maneuverable, all of which gave the much smaller English fleet a number of advantages.

Though the goal was capture, not destruction, the denouement of the action is described thus:

Away they went but our fleet stuck with them all the way and created havoc, killing and capturing great numbers: whenever they managed to take a ship they didn’t hesitate to slaughter all aboard and feed them to the fishes, sparing only one or two or three at the most on each vessel – all the rest they slew. They pursued them almost to the port of Calais. Some thought they had rich and easy pickings, and went to hook great bolts of scarlet* from the sea how cheated they must have felt to find they were congealing slicks of blood. According to eye-witnesses, it’s reckoned there were at least four thousand slain, not counting those who leapt in the sea to drown, whose numbers no one knows.

The grisliness is unmatched in the rest of the History, which is a particular consequence of the sanguinity of battles at sea: killing was often unavoidable both in terms of the limited platforms on which to fight but also the weight of man and mail going overboard meant many - literally, an uncountable number - men drowned.

The mention of a trebuchet is also interesting, but note that it was packed up in the hold and contributed, allegedly, to that ship’s capture.

In 1304, the combined French and Spanish fleet, with their Genoese hired ships, encountered a fleet supporting the ongoing siege of the Flemish town of Zierikzee, in Zeeland. This battle is another interesting example of the importance of maneuver and position, but it also includes the use of "springalds," a torsion-powered stone-thrower. In the opening phases of the battle the French, organized into several subgroups, came into crossbow range of the Flemish and started the general engagement. Crossbow and archer fire, as well as the springals, engaged while the French struggled against the turning of the tide which forced them closer to the shore, where they came under fire from Flemish land forces, as well as land-based artillery constructed for the siege.

Anchoring for the night, the combined fleet was attacked by a fire ship, but the tide turned, the engagement resumed, and as a result of the Flemish fleet being cut loose from their anchoring (possibly a result of sabotage), the French were able to capture several of their ships and successfully lifted the siege.

Again the disposition of the wind and weather was paramount, but we also got a mention of the springal, or springald. Springals also show up at Sluys, in 1340, in use on both sides.

Artillery was clearly a part of naval equipment, but unlike the later use of cannons on ships of the line, torsion-powered engines like springals were not powerful enough to function as ship-killers, and were likely instead used to target crews, boarding troops, or to throw chemical or fire weapons. Ballistae were also in use, both in large form and in smaller swivel-styles, which fired thick quarrels called "flies" or "mice" according to Edward Stanton's Medieval Maritime Warfare. The limited usefulness of stone throwers and the unreliability of rams meant that ship-destroying relied primarily on fire, either as "Greek fire" fire - which was a specialized product mounted on a specialized ship - or through the use of fire pots or fire ships. But fire was also tricky, because as we've already seen, changing winds and tides could easily turn one burning fleet into two.

The use of torsion-powered artillery in the early and mid 14th century rubbed up against the first uses of cannon on board ships. Ribalds or Ribaldi, a series of small cannons mounted together on a ship, are documented to as early as 1343. The English ship All Hallows Cog mounted a small gun of some indeterminate kind in 1337. This is not to represent the gun as some sort of revolutionary weapon immediately, they were still small and incapable of destroying ships, and weren't widely used until about the mid 15th century, alongside the other types of torsion-engines already described.

So to round this all out, while it's not necessarily ahistorical for D&D to include stone-throwing machines on ships in its pseudo-medieval trappings, their use in reality was part of a larger context of naval strategy and logistics. Combat was still primarily hand-to-hand, with boarders and grappling. Torsion engines were clearly in use, and even land-based torsion artillery sometimes took part in naval engagements when chance afforded. The utility of these weapons was to support the boarding actions, either by clearing decks by firing darts, bolts, stones, pots of lime or other chemical irritants, or to hurl pitch pots and firebombs. This use was also restricted by the limited means of fleet-building and organization, but it seems likely that many purpose-built war machines would have mounted ballistae, springals, or some other type of stone-thrower.

Charles D. Stanton, Medieval Maritime Warfare

John Hattendorf and William Unger, War at Sea In the Middle Ages and Renaissance

Susan Rose, Medieval Naval Warfare

Henry Cannon, The Battle of Sandwich and Eustace the Monk

Nigel Bryant, The History of William Marshal

Side question, is marshalling named after William Marshal?

Although not late medieval (which is usually what these fantasy stories base their general understanding of the medieval world on) in the section on the Expedition(s) to Crete in the De Ceremoniis of the Roman ("Byzantine") Emperor Constantine VII, he explicitly details the equipping of ships with artillery and flamethrowers:

For fitting out 4 traction-powered stone-throwers, 4 lambda-framed stone-throwers, 4 machines:

30 rings, 15 clamps, 30 shackles, also for the large bow-ballistae, rams for the tortoises, 15 bolts, 20 large weights, and 30 smaller weights, and for the large bow-ballistae the prescribed amount of iron. 10,000 litrai of pitch, 300 round pitchers of liquid tar, 40 pitchers of cedar resin, 8000 litrai of linen, 2000 litrai of hemp, 20 skiffs, 12 iron slings, 50 extra anchor cables, 50 anchors, 100 linden cables, 100 grapnel cables, 100 spartum cables, 200 lightweight cables, 100 four-legged grates, 50 litrai of linen for the sponges, 400 mooring cables, 24 siphons for the 8 pamphyloi, 80 siphons for the 40 ousakia khelandia, 6000 decking nails.

This is not the only source, as Emperor Leo VI's Taktike Constitution 19 also gives details:

6. By all means, it should have a siphon, bound in bronze, and placed up front on the prow, as is customary, so that it can project the prepared fire against the enemy. Above this particular siphon there should be a sort of platform made of planks and walled around by planks. Station combat troops there to ward off attacks coming from the prow of the enemy ships or to shoot whatever weapons they may choose against the whole enemy ship.

7. On the largest dromons erect the so-called xylokastra (forecastles) with their wall of planks somewhere around the middle of the mast. From these vantage points our men will shoot millstones or heavy pieces of iron such as those shaped like spathia (swords). These will either break up the enemy ship or, landing with great force, crush those on whom they fall. The men may also hurl other things capable of setting the enemy ships on fire or of killing the troops on board.

59. The ancients, as well as more recent authorities, devised many weapons for use against enemy ships and against the fighting men in them, such as prepared fire with thunder and fiery smoke discharged through the siphons, blackening them with smoke.

60. Or toxovolistrai placed in both the prow and the stern and on the two sides of the dromon, discharging small arrows that are called muias ("flies"). Still, others conceived of animals shut up in pots to be hurled against the enemy ships. Among these would be snakes, vipers, lizards, scorpions, and other such venomous creatures. When the pots are shattered, the animals bite and by their poison wipe out the enemy on board the ships.

61. And other pots filled with unslaked lime. When these are hurled and shattered, the vapor from the asvestos chokes and blinds the enemy and proves to be a huge annoyance.

62. Iron trivoloi (caltrops) hurled onto the enemy ships will cause them no little annoyance and will keep them from dutifully engaging in the battle at hand.

63. but we command that the pots full of the prepared fire, according to the prescribed method of their preparation, should be hurled on shattering they shall easily burn up the ships of the enemy.

64. Make use also of the other method, that is, of the small siphons projected by hand from behind the iron skoutaria (shields) held by the soldiers. These are called kheirosiphone and have been fabricated recently by our majesty. These too will throw the prepared fire into the face of the enemy.

65. Also larger iron caltrops or sharp nails hammered into wooden spheres, then wrapped in hemp or some other substance, set on fire, and thrown against the enemy. Falling in various places, they will set the ships aflame.

67. It is possible to use the so-called cranes or similar gamma-shaped contrivances that revolve in a circle. When the enemy ships are bound to your dromons, turn the machine around against them and pour on them either burning liquid pitch or a net or some other material.

There were three kinds of machine artillery used by the Romans against enemy ships: the toxobolistra ("bow-ballista", still the classic torsion-powered engine seen in the classical and late antique Roman empire), the manganikon or alakation/elakation ("machine" or "revolver" aka a mangonel aka a traction trebuchet). These were slightly more complex than the typical machines we see in art or reconstructions, as they had pulleys as mentioned in the De Ceremoniis. These were what were used to hurl the aforementioned stones, fire grenades, and other more exotic ammunition, alongside with those hurled by hand. Finally there were the cranes, which had the same general form and function as the alakation but were used to swivel and pour or drop fire, stones, and nets directly onto the enemy watercraft.

It's also possible that the old onager, which would have simply been called a bolistra (it operates exactly the same way as bolt-thrower, but has one torsion spring which is positioned horizontally) was still around and also used to hurl small pots and anti-personnel stones. It is not directly mentioned as being mounted on the ships (just like the manganikon or alakation/elakation), but we know they were still around from various sources.

And of course, there was the siphon, the great invention of the 670's that allowed the Roman navy (which effectively hadn't had to deal with decked warship combat in

600-700 years and learned that lesson the hard way after their open-decked patrol boats were smashed to pieces at the Battle of the Masts in 654) to use liquid fire to overpower the Arabs (the liquid fire itself wasn't a new invention, the siphon was).

As far as I know, most of this technology was eventually copied by the Western Europeans, as they brought back the counterweight trebuchet (invented by the Romans in the 1000's) after the first crusade, and the ballista was adapted into the springald. But I hope u/partymoses below can provide more information on that.

Battle of Cambrai: November 20 – December 8, 1917

A Mark IV (Male) tank of ‘H’ Battalion, ‘Hyacinth’, ditched in a German trench while supporting 1st Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment near Ribecourt during the Battle of Cambrai, 20 November 1917.

The Battle of Cambrai was the first time tanks were used on a large scale for a military offensive. The objective was to take the commune of Cambrai, an important supply point for the Germans at the heart of the Hindenburg Line, in order to reduce the pressure on the French.

Nineteen British divisions were assembled for the battle, including 476 tanks and five horsed cavalry divisions.

The initial attack on November 20th was met with huge success. The British had torn through four miles of German defenses and captured up to 7,500 prisoners with low casualties.

But by the end of the day, more than half of the tanks were out of action due to mechanical failure. The German Army launched a massive counterattack, and brutal trench warfare ensued.

By the end of the battle, almost all the British gains were lost, over 100 tanks were lost or destroyed, and both sides suffered around 40,000 casualties each.

Why didn't the China utilize gunpowder?

China had invented a way to synthesize and create gunpowder which would have given them a severe warfare advantage if they had found a way to utilize and create cannons. Europe saw the potential that gunpowder had and developed cannons, a way to launch a solid projectile across the battlefield quickly with little effort, ushering more technological developments such as explosives and muskets that would later come. Why didn't China further develop ways to utilize and use gunpowder in warfare?

They did, extensively, and were in the business of gunpowder warfare centuries before Europeans -- see the Song dynasty: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science_and_technology_of_the_Song_dynasty#Gunpowder_warfare

They did, hand grenades were widely used and they had hand cannons and rockets, even before the Europeans, and they quickly adopted the arquebus and European style cannons once they got them.

They did more than anyone, with Rockets, fire lance, handgonne, European/native/vietnamese/ottoman/Japanese muskets, native and European cannons, bombs, smoke screen, sea and land mines, cart and even a working da Vinci like tank. Everything is on this blog : http://greatmingmilitary.blogspot.com/?m=0

Why didn't China further develop ways to utilize and use gunpowder in warfare?

As other have mentioned, they did. But the development of firearms in China was inconsistent, and by the 1500s had fell behind that of Europe and the Middle East.

And for good reasons. Early gunpowder weapons were only practical for a few specific roles, mostly as siege or naval armament. During periods when China was fighting a lot of siege or naval battles, use of weapons like firelances and gunpowder bombs were made worthwhile. As was the case when the Song and Jurchens - and later on, Yuan and Ming - were squaring off to dominate the heartland of China with its many fortified cities and strategic waterways. Gunpowder ordnance was useful for attacking and defending fortifications. The same applied to fighting ships on the Yangtze and Yellow rivers. In these roles, the slow rate of fire and bulkiness of these weapons were not too much of an issue relatively to their effectiveness.

But when the main military threat came from highly mobile, nomadic steppe armies like the Mongols, early firearms weren't all that useful for the Chinese and their development slowed or stalled. The Mongols and other steppe polities possessed no cities to besiege or ships to destroy, so what the Chinese could deploy against them offensively was limited. While gunpowder weapons were frighteningly loud and flashy, the nomadic warriors of the steppe soon realized how pathetically short-ranged, slow, and inaccurate most of them were compare to their composite bows, and soon devise effective tactics against them.

When these same steppe entities manage to conquer and takeover China, their cavalry-based military had little long-term need or want for clumsy, unreliable weapons that couldn't be used on horseback. At least, not when all the cities and ports of their conquered foes were already firmly in their hands. As was the case during the dynastic rule of the Mongolian Yuan and Manchurian Qing who were partial to their traditional cavalry tactics/organization both generally paid little attention in developing or acquiring better firearms after their initial conquest of China.

Europe on the other hand, had military conflicts that were fraught with large-scale siege warfare and naval engagements that provided many opportunities for early guns to make their mark, nurturing steady improvement and innovation. By the 1400s, the Europeans developed corning, which made their gunpowder more powerful and suitable for use in small caliber weapons like arquebuses and pistols.

By the mid 1500s, the Chinese openly acknowledged the superiority of European and even Ottoman guns, and were eager to acquire them through trade. A cannon foundry was even setup in the Portuguese outpost of Macau to cater to Chinese demand for good guns.

This is not entirely correct, Chinese did consider firearms to be highly effective against the nomads, and sought to have more of them, although instead of making powerful castle-breakers, the development of firearms in China took a different path, one that focused on mobility to keep up with the fast moving cavalry, i.e. smaller, more mobile guns.

That is not to say by using guns they had a definite edge over horse archers (you need at least revolver for that), but it's still a lot better than shooting the nomad horsemen with bows or crossbows.

Thats not entirely true. To put some things into perspective. People often talk about the China being regressive in terms of military technology and shunned gunpowder, but this is not true. In fact, research shows that it might actually be the opposite. At least until the 18th century, Chinese cannons were superior to European ones and their muskets were comparable.

For example, according to the 清朝文献通考 (which lists 85 different kinds of artillery), The Wei Yuan Jiangjun Pao (威遠將軍炮), weighed 280-330 jin (1 jin =

500 grams), fired ball canisters weighing 20-30 jin, and had a range of 200 paces to 3 li, or around 400 meters to 1.7 km.

If fired [at a distance of] two hundred to two hundred fifty paces, it would require three jin of gunpowder. Three hundred paces would require two additional liang of gunpowder, and two to three li would require three jin of gunpowder.

The Zi-Mu cannon (子母炮) weighs 85-95 jin, mounted on 4 wheels and fires balls weighing 8 jin at a distance of around 500 meters. This piece of artillery was advanced because of its high rate of fire due to its nature of having fixed ammunition, though it sacrificed range. It was much lighter than contemporary European cannons which fired similar weights.

Furthermore, Qing artillery was incredibly mobile. With an emphasis on light artillery, the Qing could easily disassemble their cannons and carry them on mules, horses, and even camels. Heavier cannons would be melted and recast near the battlefield. See Kai Filipiak's Civil-Military Relations in Chinese History.

This mobility meant that Qing armies had much more cannons per soldier compared to contemporary European armies. Each banner was recorded to have 9 Zi-Mu cannons, 2 Wei Yuan Jiangjun cannons, and one Dragon cannon. The size of an average banner was around 7,500. In larger campaigns, there were even more cannons. During the Siege of Albazin (1686), the Qing mobilized 15,000 soldiers equipped with 150 cannons against the Russians. In the battle of Jaomodo in 1696, Emperor Kangxi mobilized 80,000 soldiers with 300 cannons. This soldier:cannon ratio was unseen in Europe at the time.

The Chinese also reverse engineered a number of European weapons. The early Ming musket, the folanji musket, was reverse-engineered from Portuguese models after the Portuguese were defeated in battle. In their fight against the Manchus, the Ming used Dutch and Portuguese cannons, known as the Hongyipao (literally, "Cannon of the Red Barbarians) to great effect. In fact, these cannons were so effective against the Manchus that the Qing learned to cast them from Ming defectors and started making it themselves.

There were 85 different types of artillery listed during the Qianlong period, some were good and some were bad. Some had equivalents in contemporary European armies, some were exclusive to China. But virtually all Chinese military historians agree that the overall design of Chinese and European cannons followed the same principles and at least in light artillery, the Chinese were ahead due to their cannons' portability, high rate of fire, and the ability to mass manufacture them. Only during the Napoleonic War do we see Europeans fielding armies with a similar soldier to cannon ratio.

For muskets, the Qing Shi Gao noted that in the 18th century, 50% of the infantry stationed in Tibet were muskets.

According to this, out of three thousand troops, for every one thousand troops were five hundred muskets, three hundred archers, and two hundred infantry men armed with swords and spears. This was probably for the Green Standard Army. 鳥槍 is Chinese for muskets.

In 1839, a prefectural gazetteer noted that the middle battalion of Cheng Prefecture had 117 cavalrymen, 394 guard infantry, and 244 muskets. The left battalion had 115 cavalrymen, 368 guard infantry, and 235 musketeers and 32 cannons. Almost forty percent of the infantry were composed of muskets.

So we see that the Qing military actually had a large number of muskets as part of their infantry.

Picture showing Qing musketeers and cannons against the Mongols.

[Qing illustration showing the 1759 Black River Relief Army] (http://i.imgur.com/XS0dZew.jpg). Note the cannons placed on camels.

Zhongguo Jun Shi Tongshi (中国军事通史) --> Chinese

Qing Shi Gao (清史稿) --> Classical Chinese

Da Qing Hui Dian (大清會典) --> Classical Chinese

Qing Chao Xu Wenxian Tongkao (清朝續文獻通考) --> Classical Chinese

Joseph Needham's Science and Civilisation in China (the volume on Chinese military technology) --> English

Peter Perdue's China Marches West --> English

Kai Filipiak's Civil-Military Relations in Chinese History --> English

Border Walls in History: Why Were They Built? Did They Work?

Current events seem to happen so fast these days, and the topics change so quickly, that it’s difficult for a history show to do sufficient research on a topic before it is replaced by something else as the hot topic in our media-obsessed age that seems to have the attention span of a gnat. Thank goodness I’ve got squadrons of historians here at the Buzzkill Institute to do all the heavy-lifting, research-wise.

The issue of a border wall between the United States and Mexico not only continues to be a controversial, the popular discussion of that issue has been partly taken up with myths and misunderstandings and misstatements of fact regarding famous walls in history. “The Great Wall of China kept out the Mongols,” for instance. “Hadrian’s Wall kept the Roman Empire safe from ancient Celts and Picts,” and on and on. I could make lame jokes about the need for a Buzzkill wall to keep out historical myths and to keep abusers and mis-users of history at bay. But I won’t. And I won’t because the topic of Great Walls in History: Why Were They Built and Did They Work is not only crying out for clear answers, the historically-accurate answers to these questions are very complex, and provide excellent examples of why overly-simplistic responses like “yes, they always work, that’s why they were built,” or “no, they were built mainly for show and vainglory” hurt our public debate on the use of historical evidence to help us make decisions about contemporary affairs.

So strap yourselves in, Buzzkillers, for a world tour of some of the most famous border walls in history. Along the way, we’re going to address those questions of why they were built and whether they worked. And there are almost as many answers to these questions as there have been border walls in history.

Building walls to define and delineate the borders of territory is almost as old as human civilization. As students, we’re often told that “history begins at Sumer,” the ancient middle-eastern civilization (in what’s now Iraq). It’s frequently referred to as the earliest known civilization to have left behind historical and archaeological evidence. And, as far as is historians and archaeologists can tell, the Sumerians were the first to build a wall that wasn’t just around a city. They did it to repel invasions from the Amorites, a powerful nomadic tribe, as well as neighboring enemies. But, again, the evidence tells us only kept Sumer safe for a handful of years. And when the Amorites allied with some of Sumer’s other enemies, they were able to overwhelm the wall militarily.

A similar sort of thing happened in Ancient Greece. Built to protect the connection between in-land Athens and its closest harbors at Piraeus and Phalerum 5 kilometres away, the famous Long Walls of Athens were another military necessity. As the ancient Athenian empire became threatened by enemies in the 5th century BC, they built cross-country walls to protect their city’s supply routes to their essential ports. And they worked. At least for a while. But their utility during that period of time relied heavily on the the Athenian navy, which was very powerful and intimidating. The navy kept Athens secure and the Athenian empire powerful, both militarily and commercially. The Long Walls helped the city protect itself from land incursions, especially small-scale, quick attacks that couldn’t be countered immediately by the Athenian army.

The key to all this was that the Long Walls were a _part_ of Athenian defense, and that defense was built on a broad base, especially their famous navy. For the most part, the walls did their job, even during the wars against Sparta, Athens’ great military rival. But once the Athenian navy was defeated in the later stages of the Peloponnesian War against Sparta as the 5th century BC drew to a close, the walls weren’t enough to protect Athens itself. The walls were destroyed by the Spartans, but then rebuilt when Athens gained back much of its power (helped by Persian allies). Again, though, like almost everything else, they only worked in conjunction with other aspects of Athenian political and military power. When the Roman Empire expanded and eventually dominated the eastern Mediterranean world, the Athenian Long Walls provided almost no protection, and the Roman general Sulla breached and destroyed them easily in 86 BC.

And the Romans, of course, did their own wall building on at least one frontier of their empire. Hadrian’s Wall, built in the early decades of the 2nd century AD, ran across the 70-plus mile width of what is now the counties of Northumberland and Cumberia in northern England. The Roman Emperor, Hadrian, claimed that he had been “divinely instructed” to build a border to protect the Empire, to protect it from ancient Celtic tribes. But here again, there were other factors at play. The Romans needed some kind of structure to help regulate trade. They also used it as a justification for Roman taxation of provinces in northern Britain. “We’re protecting you from the barbarians in the north by building this wall,” they told the Britons and new Roman settlers, “so these taxes are for your protection.” You know the drill.

But even the impressive Hadrian’s Wall, built by the mighty Romans, didn’t work for very long. Within 20 years, they had to build the Antonine Wall further north, along what is now, roughly, the border between England and Scotland. And even those two walls depended entirely on other things, especially the Roman army and the larger Roman Imperial structure of trade and power, to keep the empire “intact.” The walls alone were not able to suffer the slings and arrows of political infighting in Rome and the increasing power and sophistication of her enemies in northern Europe.

If all these these types of complications and “yes, but….s” seem to be a running theme in our explanations of whether border walls worked as protection, it’s because that’s the one consistent theme in their history. And this theme only gets stronger when we get to more modern times. Walls and wall building gets more sophisticated, but so do military tactics and technology, as well as political sophistication. And we’ll explain why those things make it incorrect to point simplistically at historical walls and say they worked for the purposes of protecting populations and repelling invaders.

So far, I’ve been talking about how these ancient walls didn’t provide permanent protection, and how, at best, they only held out as long as the civilizations they protected maintained their power in other ways. “But, Professor”, I hear you saying,”what about this biggest, longest, most powerful wall in human history, the Great Wall of China? Didn’t that keep out the invading Mongol hordes and help make the China the most advanced civilization in the world in its heyday?”

Seasoned Buzzkills out there will recognize that what I’m about to say is perhaps our most frequent answer to historical questions. It’s as if we own stock in it. But, as we always say, “it’s complicated.” And the very complications in the history of and justification for the Great Wall of China are exactly the kinds of answers we keep using to show that history can rarely be understood to give only one simple answer.

Like most other ancient walls, the Great Wall of China wasn’t built all at once, but the started to take form when the first Chinese emperor, Qin Shi Huang [kin she huang], began to connect existing, older walls. For several centuries wall construction was not constant, but took place whenever there seemed to be treats from northern raiding groups. The Ming dynasty built the most extensive, militaristic, and well-guarded walls from the 1300s to the 1600s AD. For the most part, it’s the preserved Ming walls that are most-well known. They look like heavily-fortified barriers, run for a thousand miles, and, of course, have been the most visited and photographed by modern tourists. Despite seeming so formidable, they were not perfect. The Mongols overcame them in 1550 and attacked Beijing, the Imperial Chinese capital. And the walls were not strong enough to keep out the Manchu Qing, who toppled the Ming Dynasty in the mid-17th Century.

For the vast majority of its history, the Great Wall of China served to protect against small-scale raids by nomadic groups, but it couldn’t stand up to serious military attack. And, remember, even these large scale military attacks at this time didn’t use anything like modern artillery to create breaches in the walls. They were simply overcome by swarms of troops.

And it’s the invention of cannon, and innovations on their design, that proved to be the final elimination of walls as defensive bulwarks. For instance, the walls that had protected Constantinople as the capital of the Byzantine (Roman) Empire for a thousand years were huge fortifications, much taller and wider than the Chinese walls or any others before them. But when the Ottoman Turks used modern cannons to attack those very fortifications in 1453, they were broken and overcome.

All this while, I’ve been talking about walls as (mostly) military protection. And I’ve been emphasizing that they’ve never been a permanent or even very long-lasting protection against attack. But what about migration, trade, and “immigration”? For the most part, ancient, medieval, and early-modern civilizations didn’t build walls to “protect” against these kinds of things. And all the evidence indicates that there were two reasons behind this. The first was a fact well-known to political leaders — walls alone don’t keep out people out who are determined to get in. People tunneled under the walls around Sumer, or walked around them, in order to migrate, to work, and to trade. And every other walled area we’ve talked about so far has been the same. In fact, most of the extensive walls like Hadrian’s Wall and the Great Wall of China were also used to organize and regulate trade between the empires they protected and native populations, whose resources they needed. Walls may have kept armies out for a period of time, but it’s pretty clear that they weren’t even intended to keep “immigrants” out. This was not only because imperial rulers knew that it would have been impossible to stop migration, but also that they wouldn’t want to, for trade reasons and trying to keep the peace.

Finally, there are the walls built within the living memory of some of you Buzzkillers out there. The most recent one is the Israeli West Bank Wall, started in the mid-1990s, built to stop or reduce the effectiveness terrorist attacks and car bombings. This West Bank “Wall” is really a very complex and lengthy series of different types of barriers. These terrorist attacks have indeed, declined dramatically since it was built. But the wall has also divided a country against itself, cloistering Jerusalem, for instance, and enhancing tensions, by implying that Palestinian areas are inherently hostile and a dangerous threat. And even though they have indeed cut off many Palestinians from some economic opportunities, the flow of many Palestinian daily workers in and out of Jerusalem continues, even under these controlled circumstances.

And there is no better example of the impermanence and ultimate ineffectiveness of walls than the one in Berlin. In the 60s and 70s, it seemed, among other things, to symbolize the Cold War and all its complications and tensions. Unlike the walls we’ve talked about so far, the Berlin Wall was designed not to keep people out, to keep people _in_ East Berlin. The government of East Germany claimed they needed to wall off East Berlin to keep out westerners and other enemies, the real purpose was to prevent East Berliners from escaping East Berlin (and East Germany) by going into West Berlin. Not only did it fail to do that completely (hundreds of people were able to subvert the “wall,” especially in the early years), the Berlin Wall projected a terrible image of the Soviet bloc trying to keep a population captive. Western politicians (especially JFK) and western media played the comparisons with western freedom to the hilt. During his famous 1963 “Ich Bin Ein Berliner” speech, given within sight of the wall, JFK said, “freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in, to prevent them from leaving us.”

In addition to the President making propaganda hay out of something as stark and divisive as the Berlin Wall, newsreels celebrated escape attempts. As one example claimed, “Kruschev’s face was slapped again,” every time there’s was a successful escape.

What does all this mean? What myths am I trying to bust, correct, or contextualize? The first is that border walls in history have been been built not for migration or immigration prevention, but overwhelmingly for military and security reasons. And the second is that, for all kinds of complicated reasons — military and technological innovation of attackers, empires and powerful states eventually weakening from within, and on and on — physical, bricks-and-mortar border walls have never been a permanent, or even very long-lasting, protection against eventual invasion by determined enemies.

Anyone genuinely paying attention to immigration problems (and even drug smuggling) in the US knows that the main problem is with people overstaying their tourist visas and becoming “illegal.” And how did those “over-staying” tourists get here? They flew in ordinary jets on regularly-scheduled, perfectly legit commercial flights. They flew _over_ any walls that might have been built to keep out them out. As a country, we need to solve the problems we have, at the point where they prove to be problems. In this case, that’s not at our southern border.

And we need to call out simple-minded and ahistorical rhetoric designed to whip up nativist and anti-foreign emotions. It’s demagoguery, and, as a people, we should be better than that.

David Frye, Walls: A History of Civilization in Blood and Brick

For over ten thousand years, much of humankind has lived inside walls behind walls behind still more walls. Walls have protected us and divided us, but have they also affected the way we think, work, and create? In a brisk and compulsively readable narrative of invasions, empires, kings, and khans, David Frye presents a bold new theory: walls haven’t just influenced the course of history they have profoundly shaped the human psyche.


In early 1939, several months before the invasion, the Soviet Union began strategic alliance negotiations with the United Kingdom and France against the crash militarization of Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler. In August 1939 the USSR made an offer to the United Kingdom and France to send "120 infantry divisions (each with some 19,000 troops), 16 cavalry divisions, 5,000 heavy artillery pieces, 9,500 tanks and up to 5,500 fighter aircraft and bombers on Germany's borders". [21] Since the USSR shared no border with Germany, this would effectively mean an overwhelming, voluntary occupation of the territories of Poland by the Red Army, which was previously the site of the Polish–Soviet War in 1920. The negotiations failed. [22]

As the terms were rejected, Joseph Stalin pursued the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact with Adolf Hitler, which was signed on 23 August 1939. This non-aggression pact contained a secret protocol, that drew up the division of Northern and Eastern Europe into German and Soviet spheres of influence in the event of war. [23] One week after the signing of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, German forces invaded Poland from the west, north, and south on 1 September 1939. Polish forces gradually withdrew to the southeast where they prepared for a long defense of the Romanian Bridgehead and awaited the French and British support and relief that they were expecting, but neither the French nor the British came to their rescue. On 17 September 1939 the Soviet Red Army invaded the Kresy regions in accordance with the secret protocol. [24] [Note 7]

At the opening of hostilities several Polish cities including Dubno, Łuck and Włodzimierz Wołyński let the Red Army in peacefully, convinced that it was marching on in order to fight the Germans. General Juliusz Rómmel of the Polish Army issued an unauthorised order to treat them like an ally before it was too late. [27] The Soviet government announced it was acting to protect the Ukrainians and Belarusians who lived in the eastern part of Poland, because the Polish state – according to Soviet propaganda – had collapsed in the face of the Nazi German attack and could no longer guarantee the security of its own citizens. [28] [29] [30] [31] Facing a second front, the Polish government concluded that the defense of the Romanian Bridgehead was no longer feasible and ordered an emergency evacuation of all uniformed troops to then-neutral Romania. [1]

The League of Nations and the peace treaties of the 1919 Paris Peace Conference did not, as it had been hoped, help to promote ideas of reconciliation along European ethnic lines. Epidemic nationalism, fierce political resentment in Central Europe (Germany, Austria, Hungary) where 100% of the population had in absentia been declared universally guilty, and post-colonial chauvinism (Italy) led to frenzied revanchism and territorial ambitions. [32] Józef Piłsudski sought to expand the Polish borders as far east as possible in an attempt to create a Polish-led federation, capable of countering future imperialist action on the part of Russia or Germany. [33] By 1920 the Bolsheviks had emerged victorious from the Russian Civil War and, de facto acquired exclusive control over the government and the regional administration. After all foreign interventions had been repelled, the Red Army, commanded by Trotsky and Stalin (among others) started to advance westward towards the disputed territories intending to encourage Communist movements in Western Europe. [34] The border skirmishes of 1919 progressively escalated and eventually culminated in the Polish–Soviet War in 1920. [35] Following the Polish victory upon the Battle of Warsaw, the Soviets sued for peace and the war ended with an armistice in October 1920. [36] The parties signed a formal peace treaty, the Peace of Riga, on 18 March 1921, dividing the disputed territories between Poland and Soviet Russia. [37] In an action that largely determined the Soviet-Polish border during the interwar period, the Soviets offered the Polish peace delegation territorial concessions in the contested borderland areas, that closely resembled the border between the Russian Empire and the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth before the first partition of 1772. [38] In the aftermath of the peace agreement, the Soviet leaders steadily abandoned the idea of international Communist revolution and did not return to the concept for approximately 20 years. [39] The Conference of Ambassadors and the international community (with the exception of Lithuania) recognized Poland's eastern frontiers in 1923. [40] [41]

Treaty negotiations Edit

German troops occupied Prague on 15 March 1939. In mid-April, the Soviet Union, Britain and France began trading diplomatic suggestions regarding a political and military agreement to counter potential further German aggression. [42] [43] Poland did not participate in these talks. [44] The tripartite discussions focused on possible guarantees to participating countries should German expansionism continue. [45] The Soviets did not trust the British or the French to honour a collective security agreement, because they had refused to react against the Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War and let the occupation of Czechoslovakia happen without effective opposition. The Soviet Union also suspected that Britain and France would seek to remain on the sidelines during any potential Nazi-Soviet conflict. [46] Stalin, however, had through his emissaries, been conducting secret talks with Nazi Germany as early as 1936 and according to Robert C. Grogin (author of Natural Enemies), a mutual understanding with Hitler had always been his preferred diplomatic solution. [47] The Soviet leader sought nothing short of an ironclad guarantee against losing his sphere of influence, [48] and aspired to create a north-south buffer zone from Finland to Romania, conveniently established in the event of an attack. [49] [50] The Soviets demanded the right to enter these countries in case of a security threat. [51] Talks on military matters, that had begun in mid-August, quickly stalled over the topic of Soviet troop passage through Poland in the event of a German attack. British and French officials pressured the Polish government to agree to the Soviet terms. [22] [52] However, Polish officials bluntly refused to allow Soviet troops to enter Polish territory upon expressing grave concerns that once Red Army troops had set foot on Polish soil, they might decline demands to leave. [53] Thereupon Soviet officials suggested that Poland's objections be ignored and that the tripartite agreements be concluded. [54] The British refused the proposal, fearing that such a move would encourage Poland to establish stronger bilateral relations with Germany. [55]

German officials had secretly been forwarding hints towards Soviet channels for months already, alluding that more favourable terms in a political agreement would be offered than Britain and France. [56] The Soviet Union had meanwhile started discussions with Nazi Germany regarding the establishment of an economic agreement while concurrently negotiating with those of the tripartite group. [56] By late July and early August 1939, Soviet and German diplomats had reached a near-complete consensus on the details for a planned economic agreement and addressed the potential for a desirable political accord. [57] On 19 August 1939, German and Soviet officials concluded the 1939 German–Soviet Commercial Agreement, a mutually beneficial economic treaty that envisaged the trade and exchange of Soviet raw materials for German weapons, military technology and civilian machinery. Two days later, the Soviet Union suspended the tripartite military talks. [56] [58] On 24 August, the Soviet Union and Germany signed the political and military arrangements following the trade agreement, in the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. This pact included terms of mutual non-aggression and contained secret protocols, that regulated detailed plans for the division of the states of northern and eastern Europe into German and Soviet spheres of influence. The Soviet sphere initially included Latvia, Estonia and Finland. [Note 8] Germany and the Soviet Union would partition Poland. The territories east of the Pisa, Narev, Vistula, and San rivers would fall to the Soviet Union. The pact also provided designs for the Soviet participation in the invasion, [25] that included the opportunity to regain territories ceded to Poland in the Peace of Riga of 1921. The Soviet planners would enlarge the Ukrainian and Belarusian republics to subjugate the entire eastern half of Poland without the threat of disagreement with Adolf Hitler. [61] [62]

One day after the German-Soviet pact had been signed, French and British military delegations urgently requested a meeting with Soviet military negotiator Kliment Voroshilov. [63] On 25 August Voroshilov acknowledged, that "in view of the changed political situation, no useful purpose can be served in continuing the conversation." [63] On the same day, however, Britain and Poland signed the British-Polish Pact of Mutual Assistance, [64] which adjudicated, that Britain commit itself to defend and preserve Poland's sovereignty and independence. [64]

Hitler tried to dissuade Britain and France from interfering in the upcoming conflict and on 26 August 1939 proposed to make Wehrmacht forces available to Britain in the future. [65] At midnight of 29 August, German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop handed British Ambassador Nevile Henderson a list of terms that would allegedly ensure peace with regards to Poland. [66] Under the terms, Poland was to hand over Danzig (Gdańsk) to Germany and within a year there was a plebiscite (referendum) to be held in the Polish Corridor, based on residency and demography of the year 1919. [66] When the Polish Ambassador Lipski, who met Ribbentrop on 30 August, declared that he did not have the authority to approve of these demands on his own, Ribbentrop dismissed him [67] and his foreign office announced that Poland had rejected the German offer and further negotiations with Poland were abandoned. [68] On 31 August, in a false flag operation German units, posing as regular Polish troops, staged the Gleiwitz incident near the border town of Gleiwitz in Silesia. [69] [70] On the following day (1 September) Hitler announced, that official military actions against Poland had commenced at 4:45 a.m. [67] German air forces bombarded the cities Lwow and Łuck. [71] Polish security service personnel carried out arrests among Ukrainian intelligentsia in Lwow and Przemysl. [71]

On 1 September 1939 at 11:00 a.m. Moscow time, the counselor of the German embassy in Moscow, Gustav Hilger arrived at the People's Commissariat of Foreign Affairs and formally annunciated the beginning of the German–Polish War, the annexation of Danzig (Gdańsk) as he conveyed a request of the chief of the OKL General Staff that the radio station in Minsk provide signal support. [72] The Soviet side partially adhered to the request. [72] On the same day an extraordinary session of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union confirmed the adoption of its "Universal Military Duty Act for males aged 17 years and 8 months old", by which the service draft act of 1937 was extended for another year. [72] Furthermore, the Politburo of the Communist Party approved the proposal of the People's Commissariat of Defense, which envisaged, that the Red Army's existing 51 rifle divisions were to be supplemented to a total strength of 76 rifle divisions of 6,000 men, plus 13 mountain divisions and another 33 ordinary rifle divisions of 3,000 men. [72]

On 2 September 1939 the German Army Group North carried out a maneuver to envelop the forces of the Polish (Pomorze Army) that defended the "Polish Corridor" [72] with the result, that the Polish commander General Władysław Bortnowski lost communication with his divisions. [72] The break-through of armored contingents of the German Army Group South near the city of Częstochowa sought to defeat the Polish 6th Infantry Division south of Katowice where the German 5th Armored Division had broken through towards Oświęcim, that captured fuel depots and seized equipment warehouses. [72] To the east detachments of 18th corps of the German 14th Army crossed the Polish–Slovak border near Dukla Pass. [72] The government of the Soviet Union issued directive No. 1355-279сс that approved of the "Reorganization plan of the Red Army ground forces of 1939–1940", [72] which regulated detailed division transfers and updated territorial deployment plans for all the 173 future Red Army combat divisions. [72] In addition to the reorganized infantry, the number of corps artillery and the reserve of the Supreme High Command artillery was increased while the number of service units, rear units and institutions was to be reduced. [72] By the evening of 2 September enhanced defense and security measures were implemented at the Polish–Soviet border. [72] Per instruction No. 1720 of the border troop commander in the Belorussian Military District, all detachments were set to permanent combat-ready status. [72]

The governments of allied Britain and France declared war on Germany on 3 September, but neither undertook agreed-upon military action nor provided any substantial support for Poland. [73] [74] Despite notable Polish success in local border battles, German technical, operational and numerical superiority eventually required the retreat of all Polish forces from the borders towards shorter lines of defense at Warsaw and Lwów. On the same day (3 September), the new Soviet Ambassador in Berlin Aleksei Shkvartsev handed his letter of credence to Adolf Hitler. [72] During the initiation ceremony Shkvartsev and Hitler reassured each other on their commitment to fulfill the terms of the non-aggression agreement. [72] Foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop commissioned the German Embassy in Moscow with the assessment of and the report on the likelihood of Soviet intentions for a Red Army invasion into Poland. [72]

On 4 September 1939 all German navy units in the northern Atlantic Ocean received order "to follow to Murmansk, via the northernmost course". [72] On the same day, the Central Committee of the Communist Party and the government of the Soviet Union approved of the People's Commissar of Defense Kliment Voroshilov's orders to delay retirement and dismissal of Red Army personnel and young commanders for one month and to initiate full-scale training for all air defense detachments and staff in Leningrad, Moscow, Kharkov, in Belorussia and the Kiev Military District. [72]

On 5 September 1939 the People's Commissar of Foreign Affairs Vyacheslav Molotov received the German Ambassador Friedrich Werner von der Schulenburg. [72] Upon the ambassador's inquiry with regards to a possible deployment of the Red Army into Poland, Molotov answered that the Soviet government "will definitely have to. start specific actions" at the right time. "But we believe that this moment has not yet come" and "any haste may ruin things and facilitate the rallying of opponents". [72]

On 10 September, the Polish commander-in-chief, Marshal Edward Rydz-Śmigły, ordered a general retreat to the southeast towards the Romanian Bridgehead. [75] Soon after, Nazi German officials further urged their Soviet counterparts to uphold their agreed-upon part and attack Poland from the east. Molotov and ambassador von der Schulenburg discussed the matter repeatedly but the Soviet Union nevertheless delayed the invasion of eastern Poland, while being occupied with events unfolding in the Far East in relation to the ongoing border disputes with Japan. The Soviet Union needed time to mobilize the Red Army and utilized the diplomatic advantage of waiting to attack after Poland had disintegrated. [76] [77]

On 14 September, with Poland's collapse at hand, the first statements on a conflict with Poland appeared in the Soviet press. [78] The undeclared war between the Soviet Union and the Empire of Japan at the Battles of Khalkhin Gol had ended with the Molotov–Tojo agreement, signed on 15 September as a ceasefire took effect on 16 September. [79] [78] On 17 September, Molotov delivered a declaration of war to Wacław Grzybowski, the Polish Ambassador in Moscow:

Warsaw, as the capital of Poland, no longer exists. The Polish Government has disintegrated, and no longer shows any sign of operation. This means that the Polish State and its Government have, de facto, ceased to exist. Accordingly, the agreements concluded between the USSR and Poland have thus lost their validity. Left to her own devices and bereft of leadership, Poland has become a suitable field for all kinds of hazards and surprises, which may constitute a threat to the USSR. For these reasons the Soviet Government, who has hitherto been neutral, can no longer preserve a neutral attitude and ignore these facts. . Under these circumstances, the Soviet Government has directed the High Command of the Red Army to order troops to cross the frontier and to take under their protection the life and property of the population of Western Ukraine and Western Belarus. — People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs of the U.S.S.R. V. Molotov, 17 September 1939 [80]

Molotov declared via public radio broadcast that all treaties between the Soviet Union and Poland had become void, that the Polish government had abandoned its people as the Polish state had effectively ceased to exist. [31] [81] On the same day, the Red Army crossed the border into Poland. [1] [76]

Jimmy Carter’s Post-Presidency Career

With his wife Rosalynn, Carter established the nonprofit, nonpartisan Carter Center in Atlanta in 1982. In the decades that followed, he continued his diplomatic activities in many conflict-ridden countries around the globe. In 1994 alone, Carter negotiated with North Korea to end their nuclear weapons program, worked in Haiti to ensure a peaceful transfer of government and brokered a (temporary) ceasefire between Bosnian Serbs and Muslims.

Carter has also built homes for the poor with the organization Habitat for Humanity and worked as a professor at Emory University. He is the author of numerous books, the topics of which range from his views on the Middle East to memories of his childhood they also include a historical novel and a collection of poetry. In 2002, Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The prize committee cited his role in helping forge the Camp David accord between Israel and Egypt during his presidency, as well as his ongoing work with the Carter Center.