Topic: Military history/French military history
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Battle for Castle Itter
The Battle for Castle Itter was fought in the Austrian North Tyrol village of Itter on 5 May 1945, in the last days of the European Theater of World War II.
Troops of the 23rd Tank Battalion of the 12th Armored Division of the US XXI Corps led by Captain John C. "Jack" Lee, Jr., a number of Wehrmacht soldiers led by Major Josef "Sepp" Gangl, SS-Hauptsturmführer Kurt-Siegfried Schrader, and recently freed French prisoners of war defended Castle Itter against an attacking force from the 17th SS Panzergrenadier Division until relief from the American 142nd Infantry Regiment of the 36th Division of XXI Corps arrived.
The French prisoners included former prime ministers, generals and a tennis star. It is the only known time during the war in which Americans and Germans fought side-by-side. Popular accounts of the battle have called it the strangest battle of World War II.
- "Battle for Castle Itter" | 2019-07-30 | 55 Upvotes 9 Comments
Battle of Alesia
The Battle of Alesia or Siege of Alesia was a military engagement in the Gallic Wars that took place in September, 52 BC, around the Gallic oppidum (fortified settlement) of Alesia, a major centre of the Mandubii tribe. It was fought by the army of Julius Caesar against a confederation of Gallic tribes united under the leadership of Vercingetorix of the Arverni. It was the last major engagement between Gauls and Romans, and is considered one of Caesar's greatest military achievements and a classic example of siege warfare and investment. The battle of Alesia marked the end of Gallic independence in France and Belgium.
The battle site was probably atop Mont Auxois, above modern Alise-Sainte-Reine in France, but this location, some have argued, does not fit Caesar's description of the battle. A number of alternatives have been proposed over time, among which only Chaux-des-Crotenay (in Jura in modern France) remains a challenger today.
At one point in the battle the Romans were outnumbered by the Gauls by four to one. The event is described by several contemporary authors, including Caesar himself in his Commentarii de Bello Gallico. After the Roman victory, Gaul (very roughly modern France) was subdued and became a Roman province. The Roman Senate granted a thanksgiving of 20 days for his victory in the Gallic War.
- "Battle of Alesia" | 2020-01-08 | 77 Upvotes 91 Comments
The Dreyfus affair
The Dreyfus Affair (French: l'affaire Dreyfus, pronounced [lafɛːʁ dʁɛfys]) was a political scandal that divided the Third French Republic from 1894 until its resolution in 1906. "The Affair", as it is known in French, has come to symbolise modern injustice in the Francophone world, and it remains one of the most notable examples of a complex miscarriage of justice and antisemitism. The role played by the press and public opinion proved influential in the conflict.
The scandal began in December 1894 when Captain Alfred Dreyfus was convicted of treason. Dreyfus was a 35-year-old Alsatian French artillery officer of Jewish descent. He was sentenced to life imprisonment for allegedly communicating French military secrets to the German Embassy in Paris, and was imprisoned on Devil's Island in French Guiana, where he spent nearly five years.
In 1896, evidence came to light—primarily through an investigation instigated by Georges Picquart, head of counter-espionage—which identified the real culprit as a French Army major named Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy. When high-ranking military officials suppressed the new evidence, a military court unanimously acquitted Esterhazy after a trial lasting only two days. The Army laid additional charges against Dreyfus, based on forged documents. Subsequently, Émile Zola's open letter J'Accuse…!, stoked a growing movement of support for Dreyfus, putting pressure on the government to reopen the case.
In 1899, Dreyfus was returned to France for another trial. The intense political and judicial scandal that ensued divided French society between those who supported Dreyfus (now called "Dreyfusards"), such as Sarah Bernhardt, Anatole France, Henri Poincaré and Georges Clemenceau, and those who condemned him (the anti-Dreyfusards), such as Édouard Drumont, the director and publisher of the antisemitic newspaper La Libre Parole. The new trial resulted in another conviction and a 10-year sentence, but Dreyfus was pardoned and released. In 1906, Dreyfus was exonerated and reinstated as a major in the French Army. He served during the whole of World War I, ending his service with the rank of lieutenant-colonel. He died in 1935.
The affair from 1894 to 1906 divided France into pro-republican, anticlerical, Dreyfusards and pro-Army, mostly Catholic "anti-Dreyfusards". It embittered French politics and encouraged radicalisation.
- "The Dreyfus affair" | 2013-06-23 | 13 Upvotes 2 Comments
Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior
The sinking of the Rainbow Warrior, codenamed Opération Satanique, was a bombing operation by the "action" branch of the French foreign intelligence services, the Direction générale de la sécurité extérieure (DGSE), carried out on 10 July 1985. During the operation, two operatives sank the flagship of the Greenpeace fleet, the Rainbow Warrior, at the Port of Auckland in New Zealand on its way to a protest against a planned French nuclear test in Moruroa. Fernando Pereira, a photographer, drowned on the sinking ship.
France initially denied responsibility, but two French agents were captured by New Zealand Police and charged with arson, conspiracy to commit arson, willful damage, and murder. As the truth came out, the scandal resulted in the resignation of the French Defence Minister Charles Hernu. The two agents pleaded guilty to manslaughter and were sentenced to ten years in prison. They spent a little over two years confined to the French island of Hao before being freed by the French government.
Several political figures, including then New Zealand Prime Minister David Lange, have referred to the bombing as an act of terrorism or state-sponsored terrorism.
- "Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior" | 2015-07-10 | 18 Upvotes 2 Comments
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.
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 Boirault machine (French: Appareil Boirault), was an early French experimental landship, designed in 1914 and built in early 1915. It has been considered as "another interesting ancestor of the tank", and described as a "rhomboid-shaped skeleton tank without armour, with single overhead track". Ultimately, the machine was deemed impractical and was nicknamed Diplodocus militaris. It preceded the design and development of the English Little Willie tank by six months.
- "Boirault Machine" | 2021-04-25 | 40 Upvotes 3 Comments
NATO Bombing of Yugoslavia
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) carried out an aerial bombing campaign against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia during the Kosovo War. The air strikes lasted from 24 March 1999 to 10 June 1999. The bombings continued until an agreement was reached that led to the withdrawal of Yugoslav armed forces from Kosovo, and the establishment of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo, a UN peacekeeping mission in Kosovo. The official NATO operation code name was Operation Allied Force whereas the United States called it Operation Noble Anvil; in Yugoslavia the operation was incorrectly called Merciful Angel (Serbian: Милосрдни анђео / Milosrdni anđeo) as a result of a misunderstanding or mistranslation.
NATO's intervention was prompted by Yugoslavia's bloodshed and ethnic cleansing of Albanians, which drove the Albanians into neighbouring countries and had the potential to destabilize the region. Yugoslavia's actions had already provoked condemnation by international organisations and agencies such as the UN, NATO, and various INGOs. Yugoslavia's refusal to sign the Rambouillet Accords was initially offered as justification for NATO's use of force. NATO countries attempted to gain authorisation from the UN Security Council for military action, but were opposed by China and Russia, who indicated that they would veto such a measure. As a result, NATO launched its campaign without the UN's approval, stating that it was a humanitarian intervention. The UN Charter prohibits the use of force except in the case of a decision by the Security Council under Chapter VII, or self-defence against an armed attack – neither of which were present in this case.
By the end of the war, the Yugoslavs had killed 1,500 to 2,131 combatants, while choosing to heavily target Kosovar Albanian civilians, with 8,676 killed or missing and some 848,000 expelled from Kosovo. The NATO bombing killed about 1,000 members of the Yugoslav security forces in addition to between 489 and 528 civilians. It destroyed or damaged bridges, industrial plants, hospitals, schools, cultural monuments, private businesses as well as barracks and military installations. In the days after the Yugoslav army withdrew, over 164,000 Serbs and 24,000 Roma left Kosovo. Many of the remaining non-Albanian civilians (as well as Albanians perceived as collaborators) were victims of abuse which included beatings, abductions, and murders. After Kosovo and other Yugoslav Wars, Serbia became home to the highest number of refugees and IDPs (including Kosovo Serbs) in Europe.
The bombing was NATO's second major combat operation, following the 1995 bombing campaign in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was the first time that NATO had used military force without the expressed endorsement of the UN Security Council, which triggered debates over the legitimacy of the intervention.
- "NATO Bombing of Yugoslavia" | 2022-03-25 | 13 Upvotes 1 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
The Zone Rouge (English: Red Zone) is a chain of non-contiguous areas throughout northeastern France that the French government isolated after the First World War. The land, which originally covered more than 1,200 square kilometres (460 sq mi), was deemed too physically and environmentally damaged by conflict for human habitation. Rather than attempt to immediately clean up the former battlefields, the land was allowed to return to nature. Restrictions within the Zone Rouge still exist today, although the control areas have been greatly reduced.
The Zone Rouge was defined just after the war as "Completely devastated. Damage to properties: 100%. Damage to Agriculture: 100%. Impossible to clean. Human life impossible".
Under French law, activities such as housing, farming, or forestry were temporarily or permanently forbidden in the Zone Rouge, because of the vast amounts of human and animal remains, and millions of items of unexploded ordnance contaminating the land. Some towns and villages were never permitted to be rebuilt after the war.