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War Stories

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Birddog View Drop Down
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    Posted: 05 Sep 2009 at 07:50

The History of warfare has always been full of myth's and stories. Many of the stories are not true, or the final facts are not known. For example....

The fate of the French 'Old Guard' at Waterloo. When defeat was inevitable and the Guard was called upon to surrender two stories are told.
1: The polite accounts say that Cambronne cried out 'The old Guard dies, it never surrenders.' Then the Guards were wiped out.
2: The more popular account say Cambronne called out 'Merde' (sh*t). Then the Guards were wiped out.
 
Both accounts ignore the fact the the 'Old Guard' surrendered like wise old soldiers should when all hope of victory is lost. After all, Napoleon could have came back again. 
 
This is just one example of military mythology that I'm talking about. Stories that have gotten into popular culture, but do not have much in the way of historic fact.
 
I was wondering if anyone wanted to discuss this one or had other 'war stories' that they have heard or read that where believed, or are still widely believed?
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rider View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Sep 2009 at 07:53
That all that were at Thermopylae were the 300 Spartans and that they *did* in fact kill a million Persians or something. Completely ignoring all the other troops there...
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Birddog View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Birddog Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Sep 2009 at 08:03

That's the kind of thing I mean Rider. And they often ignore the fact the Greeks were fighting at Thermopylae to buy time for a Greek Fleet being assembled at Artemisium. The Fleet was forced to withdraw after the Spartan defeat.

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Al Jassas View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Sep 2009 at 11:37
In Most battles of the reconquista, the "soldiers of christ" rarely lost more than a 100 men. In the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa only 12 died according to historians of that period. The fact was the battle was so bloody that almost all the commanders of all military orders in Spain at that time died in it. Both sides claim outrageous numbers of fighters although probably no more than 100k men fought in the battle on either side.
 
Same thing goes to the Ottoman conquests. According to a personal count I did on the losses the Ottomans took as reported by western sources of the day, between 1400 and 1600 nearly half a million Ottoman soldiers died in battle if not more.
 
And so I not be called biased, some outrageous claims also exist on our side. In the battle of Zulaqah for example, Al-moravids claimed to have killed 60k Castilians in battle and only 400 men survived. Of course if they did Spain would have been muslim by now. Probably a quarter died from the Castilians but the losses among the Moravids (also they claimed 3000 martyrs out of 30k participants) were also so high they had to sue for peace a year later because they couldn't fight anymore. 
 
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Birddog View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Birddog Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Sep 2009 at 13:17
Lying about battle losses is a favourite pastime for commanders. Cut your own losses by half and double the enemies. Read in a book once that after Nepoleon's retreat from Moscow he ordered than all the dancing girls in Paris were to do their dances without underwear. That way the people of Paris were talking about the rude dancing girls and not the loss of 80% of the Grand Army! I don't know if that one is true, and I can't remember where I read it. Anyone know more about that distraction from harsh reality?
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