Topic: Military history/European military history
Tarrare (c. 1772 – 1798), sometimes spelled Tarare, was a French showman and soldier, noted for his unusual eating habits. Able to eat vast amounts of meat, he was constantly hungry; his parents could not provide for him, and he was turned out of the family home as a teenager. He travelled France in the company of a band of thieves and prostitutes, before becoming the warm-up act to a travelling charlatan; he would swallow corks, stones, live animals and a whole basketful of apples. He then took this act to Paris where he worked as a street performer.
At the start of the War of the First Coalition, Tarrare joined the French Revolutionary Army. With military rations, though quadrupled, unable to satisfy his large appetite, he would eat any available food from gutters and refuse heaps but his condition still deteriorated through hunger. He was hospitalised due to exhaustion and became the subject of a series of medical experiments to test his eating capacity, in which, among other things, he ate a meal intended for 15 people in a single sitting, ate live cats, snakes, lizards and puppies, and swallowed eels whole without chewing. Despite his unusual diet, he was of normal size and appearance, and showed no signs of mental illness other than what was described as an apathetic temperament.
General Alexandre de Beauharnais decided to put Tarrare's abilities to military use, and he was employed as a courier by the French army, with the intention that he would swallow documents, pass through enemy lines, and recover them from his stool once safely at his destination. Tarrare could not speak German, and on his first mission was captured by Prussian forces, severely beaten and underwent a mock execution before being returned to French lines.
Chastened by this experience, he agreed to submit to any procedure that would cure his appetite, and was treated with laudanum, tobacco pills, wine vinegar and soft-boiled eggs. The procedures failed, and doctors could not keep him on a controlled diet; he would sneak out of the hospital to scavenge for offal in gutters, rubbish heaps and outside butchers' shops, and attempted to drink the blood of other patients in the hospital and to eat the corpses in the hospital morgue. After being suspected of eating a toddler he was ejected from the hospital. He reappeared four years later in Versailles with a case of severe tuberculosis, and died shortly afterwards, following a lengthy bout of exudative diarrhoea.
In the statistical theory of estimation, the German tank problem consists of estimating the maximum of a discrete uniform distribution from sampling without replacement. In simple terms, suppose we have an unknown number of items which are sequentially numbered from 1 to N. We take a random sample of these items and observe their sequence numbers; the problem is to estimate N from these observed numbers.
The problem can be approached using either frequentist inference or Bayesian inference, leading to different results. Estimating the population maximum based on a single sample yields divergent results, whereas estimation based on multiple samples is a practical estimation question whose answer is simple (especially in the frequentist setting) but not obvious (especially in the Bayesian setting).
The problem is named after its historical application by Allied forces in World War II to the estimation of the monthly rate of German tank production from very few data. This exploited the manufacturing practice of assigning and attaching ascending sequences of serial numbers to tank components (chassis, gearbox, engine, wheels), with some of the tanks eventually being captured in battle by Allied forces.
- "German Tank Problem" | 2023-11-26 | 39 Upvotes 7 Comments
- "The German tank problem" | 2016-12-03 | 64 Upvotes 6 Comments
- "German tank problem" | 2014-02-21 | 231 Upvotes 83 Comments
- "German tank problem" | 2011-03-02 | 28 Upvotes 1 Comments
- "The German Tank Problem" | 2009-06-23 | 103 Upvotes 18 Comments
A jerrycan (also written as jerry can or jerrican) is a robust liquid container made from pressed steel. It was designed in Germany in the 1930s for military use to hold 20 litres (4.4 imp gal; 5.3 US gal) of fuel. The development of the jerrycan was a significant improvement on earlier designs, which required tools and funnels to use, and it contained many innovative features for convenience of use and robustness. After widespread use by both Germany and the Allies during the Second World War, today similar designs are used worldwide for fuel and water containers, some of which are also produced in plastic. The designs usually emulate the original steel design and are still known as jerrycans. The original design of jerrycan and various derivatives remain in widespread military use.
- "Jerrycan" | 2022-01-03 | 272 Upvotes 155 Comments
Gödel's ontological proof is a formal argument by the mathematician Kurt Gödel (1906–1978) for the existence of God. The argument is in a line of development that goes back to Anselm of Canterbury (1033–1109). St. Anselm's ontological argument, in its most succinct form, is as follows: "God, by definition, is that for which no greater can be conceived. God exists in the understanding. If God exists in the understanding, we could imagine Him to be greater by existing in reality. Therefore, God must exist." A more elaborate version was given by Gottfried Leibniz (1646–1716); this is the version that Gödel studied and attempted to clarify with his ontological argument.
Gödel left a fourteen-point outline of his philosophical beliefs in his papers. Points relevant to the ontological proof include
- 4. There are other worlds and rational beings of a different and higher kind.
- 5. The world in which we live is not the only one in which we shall live or have lived.
- 13. There is a scientific (exact) philosophy and theology, which deals with concepts of the highest abstractness; and this is also most highly fruitful for science.
- 14. Religions are, for the most part, bad—but religion is not.
The National Defence Radio Establishment (Swedish: Försvarets radioanstalt, FRA) is a Swedish government agency organised under the Ministry of Defence. The two main tasks of FRA are signals intelligence (SIGINT), and support to government authorities and state-owned companies regarding computer security.
The FRA is not allowed to initialize any surveillance on their own, and operates purely on assignment from the Government, the Government Offices, the Armed Forces, the Swedish National Police Board and Swedish Security Service (SÄPO). Decisions and oversight regarding information interception is provided by the Defence Intelligence Court and the Defence Intelligence Commission; additional oversight regarding protection of privacy is provided by the Swedish Data Protection Authority.
- "Sweden warrantlessly wiretaps all Internet traffic crossing its borders" | 2013-06-10 | 279 Upvotes 59 Comments
András Toma (5 December 1925 – 30 March 2004) was a Hungarian soldier taken prisoner by the Red Army in 1945, then discovered living in a Russian psychiatric hospital in 2000. He was probably the last prisoner of war from the Second World War to be repatriated.
Because Toma never learned Russian and nobody at the hospital spoke Hungarian, he had apparently not had a single conversation in over 50 years, a situation of great interest for the fields of psychiatry and psycholinguistics.
- "The man who did not have a conversation in over 50 years" | 2023-09-30 | 213 Upvotes 61 Comments
The Vespa 150 TAP was an anti-tank scooter made in the 1950s from a Vespa scooter for use with French paratroops (troupes aéroportées, TAP). Introduced in 1956 and updated in 1959, the scooter was produced by Ateliers de Construction de Motocycles et Automobiles (ACMA), the licensed assembler of Vespas in France at the time. Modifications from the civilian Vespa included a reinforced frame and a 75 mm (3.0 in) recoilless rifle mounted to the scooter.
The 150 TAPs mounted a M20 75 mm recoilless rifle, a U.S.-made light anti-armour weapon. It was very light in comparison to a standard 75 mm (3.0 in) cannon but was still able to penetrate 100 mm (3.9 in) of armour with its HEAT warhead. The recoil was counteracted by venting propellant gases out the rear of the weapon which eliminated the need for a mechanical recoil system or heavy mount.
The scooters would be parachute-dropped in pairs, accompanied by a two-man team. The gun was carried on one scooter, while the ammunition was loaded on the other. Due to the lack of any kind of aiming devices the recoilless rifle was never designed to be fired from the scooter; the gun was mounted on a M1917 Browning machine gun tripod, which was also carried by the scooter, before being fired. However, in an emergency it could be fired while in the frame, and while the scooter was moving.
The "Bazooka Vespa" was relatively cheap: Vespas cost roughly US$500 at the time, and the M20s were plentiful. 600 of them were produced, between 1956 and 1959. It had a cart, and also came with two cans of fuel.
The scooter themselves were original civilian produced VB1T models, 150 cc capacity engine. The engine was two stroke, top speed of 60 km/h (37 mph), enough speed to ram any vehicles if needed in an emergency, or move the user from the drop site to the area where the paratrooper was needed.
- "Anti Tank Vespa" | 2023-11-20 | 186 Upvotes 74 Comments
Guédelon Castle (Château de Guédelon) is a castle currently under construction near Treigny, France. The castle is the focus of an experimental archaeology project aimed at recreating a 13th-century castle and its environment using period technique, dress, and material.
In order to fully investigate the technology required in the past, the project is using only period construction techniques, tools, and costumes. Materials, including wood and stone, are all obtained locally. Jacques Moulin, chief architect for the project, designed the castle according to the architectural model developed during the 12th and 13th centuries by Philip II of France.
Construction started in 1997 under Michel Guyot, owner of Château de Saint-Fargeau, a castle in Saint-Fargeau 13 kilometres away. The site was chosen according to the availability of construction materials: an abandoned stone quarry, in a large forest, with a nearby pond. The site is in a rural woodland area and the nearest town is Saint-Sauveur-en-Puisaye, about 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) to the northeast.
- "Guédelon Castle" | 2020-04-11 | 202 Upvotes 40 Comments
The Wire of Death (Dutch: Dodendraad, German: Todesdraht) was a lethal electric fence created by the German military to control the Dutch–Belgian frontier during the occupation of Belgium during the First World War.
- "Wire of Death" | 2016-04-09 | 158 Upvotes 75 Comments
Operation Gladio is the codename for clandestine "stay-behind" operations of armed resistance that were organized by the Western Union (WU), and subsequently by NATO and the CIA, in collaboration with several European intelligence agencies. The operation was designed for a potential Warsaw Pact invasion and conquest of Europe. Although Gladio specifically refers to the Italian branch of the NATO stay-behind organizations, "Operation Gladio" is used as an informal name for all of them. Stay-behind operations were prepared in many NATO member countries, and some neutral countries.
During the Cold War, some anti-communist armed groups engaged in the harassment of left-wing parties, torture, terrorist attacks, and massacres in countries such as Italy. The role of the CIA and other intelligence organisations in Gladio—the extent of its activities during the Cold War era and any responsibility for terrorist attacks perpetrated in Italy during the "Years of Lead" (late 1960s–early 1980s)—is the subject of debate.
In 1990, the European Parliament adopted a resolution alleging that military secret services in certain member states were involved in serious terrorism and crime, whether or not their superiors were aware. The resolution also urged investigations by the judiciaries of the countries in which those armies operated, so that their modus operandi and actual extension would be revealed. To date, only Italy, Switzerland and Belgium have had parliamentary inquiries into the matter.
The three inquiries reached differing conclusions as regarded different countries. Guido Salvini, a judge who worked in the Italian Massacres Commission, concluded that some right-wing terrorist organizations of the Years of Lead (La Fenice, National Vanguard and Ordine Nuovo) were the trench troops of a secret army, remotely controlled by exponents of the Italian state apparatus and linked to the CIA. Salvini said that the CIA encouraged them to commit atrocities. The Swiss inquiry found that British intelligence secretly cooperated with their army in an operation named P-26 and provided training in combat, communications, and sabotage. It also discovered that P-26 not only would organize resistance in case of a Soviet invasion, but would also become active should the left succeed in achieving a parliamentary majority. The Belgian inquiry could find no conclusive information on their army. No links between them and terrorist attacks were found, and the inquiry noted that the Belgian secret services refused to provide the identity of agents, which could have eliminated all doubts. A 2000 Italian parliamentary report from the left wing coalition Gruppo Democratici di Sinistra l'Ulivo reported that terrorist massacres and bombings had been organised or promoted or supported by men inside Italian state institutions who were linked to American intelligence. The report also said the United States was guilty of promoting the strategy of tension. Operation Gladio is also suspected to have been activated to counter existing left-wing parliamentary majorities in Europe.
The US State Department published a communiqué in January 2006 that stated claims the United States ordered, supported, or authorized terrorism by stay-behind units, and US-sponsored "false flag" operations are rehashed former Soviet disinformation based on documents that the Soviets forged.
The word gladio is the Italian form of gladius, a type of Roman shortsword.
- "Operation Gladio" | 2022-10-03 | 123 Upvotes 55 Comments