Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Military History

I like reading good books on military history. It makes me feel good, makes me feel inspired, it challenges me.

How can any man not feel inspired when he reads about how Leonidas the King of Sparta together with his bodyguard of 300 warriors held back a Persian Army of 200,000+ for several weeks at the Battle of Thermopylae? The fact that they all perished due to treachery makes their deaths even more glorious. As an add on, their deaths were not in vain because the delay bought the divided Greek states sufficient time to mobilize their forces to face off the Persians in a climatic battle at the Battle of Plataea.

At the moment I'm reading the Yom Kippur War (1973) published by Osprey Press. Maybe its just me, but I just love reading the accounts of the battles, again and again. I love how to read how the brave Israelites fought back the hordes of Syrian and Arab armies as they simulatenously attacked the unwary state of Israel on their most Holy of Days- Yom Kippur the Day of Atonement. Caught unaware, the few Israel units fought back beating back wave after wave of Arab tanks and soldiers - until they ran out of ammunition or were killed. In several occasions, even though they ran out of ammo, they stood their ground, the Arabs seeing the piles of dead and dying in their destroyed tanks- demurred to proceed and attack. Amazing!

Something speaks to me when I read about how the survivors who had been fighting for over several days without any sleep- were rescued by their paratroopers- then the shattered units together with the paratroopers, reservists and other reinforcements were patched together to go back and drive off the invaders.

Their commanding officer who had returned from his honeymoon brought the soldiers together - then strangely he started asking them to tell their life stories- what they did, where they lived, were they married, how many children they had. One of the soldiers was puzzled but then later he realized what their CO was doing- binding them together as a unit- helping them to relate to their fellowman- creating an esprit de corps. Because in the heat of battle- when soldiers fight and risk their lives for each other - they fight not for King or Country- not for democracy or communism- but for each other.

Not so with the Arab armies- when one unit fought- the others would hold back- hoping to take advantage of the situation later on. And thus the small Israeli army was able to beat back the mighty Eqyptian, Syrian, Jordanian, Iraq armies.

Defeat for the Israelies was not an option. They all realized they weren't fighting for an ideology, religion, for money, no. They were all fighting for the lives of those they loved, for their homes, their loved ones and for each other.

How can any man not feel inspired and awed when he reads such accounts of valour and heroism?

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