Many Ways to Be a Soldier (On My Own History)
The term fragging is now often used to encompass any means used to deliberately and directly cause the death of military colleagues. The high number of fragging incidents in the latter years of the Vietnam War was symptomatic of the unpopularity of the war with the American public and the breakdown of discipline in the U.
Armed Forces. Documented and suspected fragging incidents totaled nearly nine hundred from to Soldiers have killed colleagues, especially superior officers, since the beginning of armed conflict, with many documented instances throughout history one such attempt was on unpopular Civil War general Braxton Bragg.
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However, the practice of fragging seems to have been relatively uncommon in American armies until the Vietnam War. The prevalence of fragging was partially based on the ready availability of fragmentation hand grenades. Grenades were untraceable to an owner and did not leave any ballistic evidence. M18 Claymore mines and other explosives were also occasionally used in fragging, as were firearms, although the term, as defined by the military during the Vietnam War, applied only to the use of explosives to kill fellow soldiers.
Fragging was rare among Navy and Air Force personnel who had less access to grenades and weapons than did soldiers and Marines.
The first known incidents of fragging in South Vietnam took place in , but events in appear to have catalyzed an increase in fragging. After the Tet Offensive in January and February , the Vietnam War became increasingly unpopular in the United States and among American soldiers in Vietnam, many of them conscripts. Secondly, racial tensions between white and African-American soldiers and Marines increased after the assassination of Martin Luther King in April Morale plummeted among soldiers and marines.
By , a U. Army colonel declared in the Armed Forces Journal that "The morale, discipline, and battleworthiness of the U. Armed Forces are, with a few salient exceptions, lower and worse than at any time in this century and possibly in the history of the United States. The U. As the U. The resentment directed from enlisted men toward older officers was exacerbated by generational gaps, as well as different perceptions of how the military should conduct itself.
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Enforcement of military regulations, especially if done overzealously, led to troops' complaining and sometimes threats of physical violence directed toward officers. A number of factors may have influenced the incidence of fragging. The demand for manpower for the war in Vietnam caused the armed forces to lower their standards for inducting both officers and enlisted men.
The rapid rotation of personnel, especially of officers who served on average less than six months in command roles, decreased the stability and cohesion of military units. Most important of all, perhaps, was the loss of purpose in fighting the war, as it became apparent to all that the United States was withdrawing from the war without having achieved any sort of victory. Morale and discipline deteriorated. Most fragging was perpetrated by enlisted men against leaders.
Enlisted men, in the words of one company commander, "feared they would get stuck with a lieutenant or platoon sergeant who would want to carry out all kinds of crazy John Wayne tactics, who would use their lives in an effort to win the war single-handedly, win the big medal, and get his picture in the hometown paper. The stereotypical fragging incident was of "an aggressive career officer being assaulted by disillusioned subordinates. Attempts by officers to control drug use caused others.
Most known fragging incidents were carried out by soldiers in support units rather than soldiers in combat units. Soldiers sometimes used non-lethal smoke and tear-gas grenades to warn superiors that they were in danger of being fragged if they did not change their behavior. A few instances occurred—and many more were rumored—in which enlisted men collected "bounties" on particular officers or non-commissioned officers to reward soldiers for fragging them.
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According to author George Lepre, the total number of known and suspected fragging cases by explosives in Vietnam from to totaled nearly with 99 deaths and many injuries. This total is incomplete as some cases were not reported, nor were statistics kept before although several incidents from to are known. Most of the victims or intended victims were officers or non-commissioned officers. The number of fraggings increased in and even though the U. An earlier calculation by authors Richard A. Gabriel and Paul L. Savage, estimated that up to 1, fragging incidents may have taken place in Vietnam causing 86 deaths and injuries of U.
Fragging statistics include only incidents involving explosives, most commonly grenades. Several hundred murders of U. Fewer than 10 officers are known to have been murdered by firearms. However, rumors and claims abound of deliberate killing of officers and non-commissioned officers by enlisted men under battlefield conditions. The frequency and number of these fraggings, indistinguishable from combat deaths, cannot be quantified.
For example, in May , the U. Army in Vietnam temporarily halted the issuance of grenades to nearly all its units and soldiers in Vietnam, inventoried stocks of weapons, and searched soldier's quarters, confiscating weapons, ammunition, grenades, and knives. This action, however, failed to reduce fragging incidents as soldiers could easily obtain weapons in a flourishing black market among nearby Vietnamese communities.
All rights reserved. Little remains of the ancient city of Sparta, capital of the Laconia region, situated on the Peloponnesus peninsula in modern Greece, but the impact of its unique culture is impossible to ignore. A state run by an inflexible military regime, whose people existed almost entirely to serve the army, the Spartans were legendary for their professionalism, intense physical and mental stamina, and absolute dedication to the defense of their land. No great philosophers would ever arise from Spartan culture the way they did from Athens.
Founded around the ninth century B.
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Religion did occupy a central role in this warrior society. An efficient military machine in almost every other respect, war was only unthinkable during the festivities dedicated to Apollo Carneus.
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These were celebrated every summer, sometimes in full campaign season, and it was considered impious to interrupt them. The Athenian view of Sparta oscillated between admiration and fear, according to whether their warlike neighbors were allies or enemies. Without Spartan participation in the war against Persia at the beginning of the fifth century B. Later in the same century, however, Athens found itself at war with its ferocious former ally, a venture that greatly sapped its energy and resources.
Even as Athens experienced a Golden Age, the conflict with Sparta largely brought about its political decline. Athens was strong at sea, but the Spartans were invincible on land. Pericles knew that facing the enemy there would mean certain defeat. From birth, Spartan boys were prepared both physically and mentally for their later, inevitable combat service. Most boys lived with their families until age seven, after which time they were delivered to the agoge —part military academy, part boot camp—to be trained as soldiers.
Family ties loosened, and young recruits effectively belonged to the state.
The first-century Roman historian Plutarch details the regime to which young Spartans were subjected:. When they were 12 years old, they no longer had tunics to wear, received one cloak a year, had hard flesh, and knew little of baths.
They slept together When war loomed, the Gerousia, the council of elders, decided when to draw from this silo of young fighters. Their proposal then had to be approved by the Spartan assembly. Spartan men aged between 20 and 60 would then be called up, starting with the most experienced. There were many reasons for launching a military campaign.
For example, Sparta might face an existential threat, prompting its participation in the Battle of Plataea in B. At other times, Sparta engaged in disputes with its rival Greek city-states, especially Athens and Thebes. Slave rebellions had to be nipped in the bud—the Helots, conquered peoples enslaved by the Spartans, had to be routinely subdued.
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When facing a foreign foe, the Spartan king would first offer a sacrifice to Zeus Agetor, in order to know whether the gods approved of the campaign. If it was discerned that they did, the official fire bearer, the pyrphorus, would take up the sacred fire from the altar and carry it with him throughout the march in order to ensure divine protection. As a bonus, it also provided the expedition with a constant source of fire. The meat of the goats and sheep sacrificed to Zeus was then used as food for the soldiers.
During the march, the Skiritai, the mountain-dwelling mercenaries to the north of Sparta, and calvary were placed at the front. They carried light weapons and formed a daunting defensive and scouting force at the front of the convoy. Next came the hoplites in two long lines, flanking the cargo mules; the Helot slave porters; and the noncombatants—physicians, artisans, blacksmiths, carpenters, and tanners, bearing all the objects that the company might need. Each soldier would carry 20 days worth of provisions with him. This consisted of rye bread, cheese, and salted meat, which in the spirit of Spartan egalitarianism was distributed among soldiers and officers alike.
Most campaigns took place in the late spring, when water was scarce, so drinking water also had to be hauled. Every Spartan soldier carried his own weapons, while a Helot slave took charge of his other belongings. At night the soldiers had no more than capes to protect them from the cold. They did not sleep in tents but lay on the ground or under simple shelters.
After the army arrived at the border of the Spartan region, the king made a new sacrifice, this time dedicated to Zeus and Athena.