Military history field trips
- Jeremy B. Raben: Nepal
- Lamont W. Harvey: USS North Carolina, docked in Wilmington, N.C.
- Lamont W. Harvey: Little Round Top
- Lamont W. Harvey: Assyrian exhibit, British Museum
- Paul Franze: Invasion of Normandy
- Jeremy B. Raben's trip to Islandwana
- War zone toilets
- Zulu shields
- Fort Washington
Jeremy B. Raben: Nepal
Photos are from an earlier trip to Cambodia.
I've got major jet-lag and a cold from all the recycled air I've been breathing on the 23 hour flight from Singapore. The Nepal trip was interesting, though not one of the all-time greats. Also no major disaster took place while we were there, though I have learned that some times it can take a while for the "Jed in foreign land curse" to kick in.
Seeing Mount Everest was a high point of the trip. The most interesting part of the trip was finding Nepal the most militarily mobilized nation I have ever been to. The last few years of political turmoil and fighting Maoist's has taken it's toll. I expected to see military visibility in Nepal, but I didn't think it would out do Greece-Turkey on their shared border, or Vietnam, or Cambodia, or China, or East Berlin in the 80's. Siat and I got quite used to having heavy machineguns pointed at us from watch towers. Any bus trip was slowed down incredibly by constant check points, obstacle barriers, and gun emplacements. Surprisingly we didn't have any trouble with the Maoist's who are well known for asking tourist for a "donation" while hiking in the Himalayan wilderness. The Maoist's are actually pro-tourism, as it brings revenue to Nepal, and to them, and they have chased off the mountain bandits that were robbing tourists and cutting in on their action. As there is a cease-f ire in place, I hope a settlement can be reached, as the Maoist's had legitimate complaints about Nepal's political corruption and poverty.
The most exciting part of the trip was when we decided to walk to the Katmandu public bus station and found the road blocked off by an anti-King riots. Away from the city there had been an incident a few days earlier were a soldier opening fire on worshipers at a shrine, killing around a dozen people before shooting himself. The high powered rifle blew off two peoples heads, and one persons knee, thatās completely off, Yipe! This incident happened near where we were staying at the time, and was a place we were thinking about possibly going. The killing and anti-army riots that followed made us decide to head back to K-K-Katmandu.
Because the unpopular King has seized control of the military, he is blamed for such incidents. You may have heard a few years ago that the royal Family of Nepal was gunned down by the 1st Prince who then fatally shot himself. Before he died the 1st Prince was still made King for two days while in a coma! The current King was the only member of the royal family to be out of town at the time of the massacre, so he got to be king. By doing away with elections, and maintaining royal control over the military he has not endeared himself to the people. Surprisingly the newspapers are quite open in their criticizing the King and the military, and encouraging the continuation of negotiations with the Maoists.
The riots in Katmandu were fought from several university's that flanked the main street with good high ground positions. The wide street was also blocked off with burning tires. The police then blocked off the street with their bodies in full riot gear, forming a Plexiglas shield wall, with meter long clubs, tear gas launchers, and shot guns. A second group of police behind them was even more heavily armed. Additional troops were on trucks held behind in reserve. The front ranks shields were getting pummeled with chunks of bricks that came down powerfully. From about 20-30 yards away, I had a good vantage point, and while looking around to make sure we were not about to get killed, I was also taking mental notes on Assyrian troops being pelted with large sling stones.
We tried going down a side street, but found that this was blocked by police and rioters as well. We went back to the main street and Siat decided to get to the bus station anyway. So we walked behind the police as they advanced through the smoke and teargas, and we got through, though it was touch and go for a while. I did take some photo's, though until I take the film in for possessing I wont know if any came out. Siat thought I put us in danger by taking photos, so I pointed out that I was against going through the riot in the first place. I told her "if your going to put us at risk of getting killed by flying bricks and shotguns, then you can expect me to try and take pictures of it". The next day all the papers had front cover pictures of the riots.
I saw some Gurkha soldiers in India in the Himalayan mountains on a previous trip. I was hoping to see some on this trip, but it turns out the Gurkhas, though from Nepal, donāt actually serve there. They work for the British and Indian armies. In the Nepal regular army we saw some soldiers who looked like ordinary young guys, but others looked real hard core. The Gurkhas are pretty interesting to research. They fought along side the British during the Indian Mutiny, WW I and WW II, the Falkland Islands, and more recently in Afghanistan. Coming from homelands of high altitude and rough terrain, they learn to shoot game, and climb mountains when growing up, and have great heart and stamina. The Gurkha have shown tremendous moral and ferocity in all theaters of war. When the Japanese would make their bayonet charges, the Gurkhas were the only troops willing to meet them "hand to hand" using their Gurkha knives.
When the British were preparing for the Falkland Island invasion they briefed the Gurkhas about a possible air drop, something the Gurkhas were not normally trained to do. They were told that they would be dropped at one thousand feet, and because of the danger only volunteers would be used. Half the troops stepped forward. The briefing continued and then one of the soldiers raised his hand. "Excuse me sir, but do you mean to say that we will get to use parachutes?" When this was confirmed the other half stepped forward.
So those are the main points regarding this Nepal trip. Flying home from Singapore, through a stop over in Japan, I saw Mount Fuji from the air. I did some research on Chinese Generals while in Singapore, and I will send an e-mail on that point later on.
Lamont W. Harvey: USS North Carolina, docked in Wilmington, N.C.Photos below from Wes Harvey's research trip to Wilmington, N.C. to see the USS North Carolina. The photos here are above deck guns and anti-aircraft weapons. If you want to see below deck information, you'll have to wait for my illustrations or make your own trip.
Little Round TopManaging editor on Little Round Top at Gettysburg. Art and I went to the battle field just before playing the SPI game "Terrible Swift Sword" to get a feel for the battlefield. I used some of the pictures as reference for the 135th anniversary poster.
British Museum Assyrian exhibitManaging editor at British Museum Assyrian exhibit.
Paul Franze's invasion of Normandy
I made a mistake in my labeling of the Islandwana site photos. I got a bit turned around. The open grassland I showed was not the area that the majority of the British retreated through on their way toward Rorkes Drift. These fields were actually the area the Zulu charged through to get to the British. They came over the distant hills, and swarmed through this valley, taking fire most of the way. The many white stone markers are from dead British cavalry that maintained withdrawing fire on the advancing Zulu. Also some individual British soldiers did later break out this way to be run down.
The majority of British died to the front and left side of Islandwana ridge, (from the perspective view of the Zulu). There were areas along here where as many as 30, 40 and even 60 bodies were found in single piles, having died in squares. These are usually the huge piles of stones in my photos. Other markers were for officers. The medium stone piles were small groups of men that died together, and the small stone piles were for individuals.
I have included a photo of the far left edge of Islandwana ridge. You can see the distant markers of British soldiers that died heading over this ridge. According to the Zulu, the majority of British that escaped the field fled in this direction down into the valley behind the ridge. I walked up there but was in a big hurry, so I did not stick around. I learned later that the "final stand" of a group of British was fought farther down there in the valley near the river, so I should have looked for it. One British soldier even held out fighting from a cave until evening. The Zulu were impressed with how the routed British kept re-forming into small squares, and fought, often in hand to hand till the end.
The majority of British died in-front and to the left side of Islandwana ridge, (the graves I photographed). Of those who ran from the field, no "European" got out alive, other then some of those who were mounted, (the British, and Native cavalry). The one acceptation was a British foot soldier who shared the horse with a cavalryman and got out alive. The horse troops had fought until they ran out of ammo, and then withdrew. As it was, they had waited too long and many of them were run down by the right horn of the Impi that came around from behind the ridge to cut off retreat.
Much has been made of the early rout of the "native" troops. This
was backed up because a number of them did escape on foot. This
seems to not be true though, as many of them were found in the
piles of dead squares. Once the whole army had routed though, the
Native troops could run faster then the British troops, and once
they discarded their red headbands they were dressed exactly as
the Zulu were. It was probably easier for them to escape without
attracting the same attention that the British did in their red
coats and light-tan helmets.
War zone toilets
Inspired by this amazing report on how to use a Chinese squat toilet, we have this reminiscence from Paul Franze, now working in Europe:
Very funny. That said, however, it did awaken some harsh memories of my time in Kuwait.
Whenever my crew went to a restaurant, store, gas station, building, etc. the first thing we did was re-con the toilet facilities. Those that were conventional toilets were simply designated as "approved" those that required the skill outlined in the attached link were "unapproved" We all had the shits, worse than you can imagine. One day we had a competition and I was in second place with 10 squirts before noon.
Well, the horror we all imagined was who would be in the situation of shitting in one of the unapproved shitters. It happened to be me. Our liason for the Kuwaiti Fire dept. inadvertantly locked us in his office for a couple of hours. There was a drop shitter in the hallway an it was the only option; and to make things worse, I could hear my crew cackling and laughing in the next room as I cursed my predicament as I was sure I would get some overspray on some part of me or my clothes. There are no handwashing facilties avaiilable with the drop zone.
The horror is pretty adequately described in the link regarding balance point and the fact that this squatting position is very unnatural for any westerner that hasn't spent a few years playing catcher in Little League.
The worst pisser I saw was also in Kuwait. It was a room you walked into and the walkway from the door was bordered by a two inch tile "curb". The other side of the curb was a 6x4 foot tiled area that gently sloped to a drain pipe in the corner. It was one giant pee zone with no flushing mechanism so the pee that accumulated in the less than spec. quality craftsmanship was beyond ripe.
Finally, the primitive toilet puts an end to potty graffiti as nobody has a free hand or free time to pen words of wit.
More from Jeremy Raben of New York, N.Y.:
OK. My effort to make you all cringe ... .
So when it comes to squat toilets I have probably encountered a few hundred. Some are worse then others. The one pictured in the article was a new "high-tech" model. It was also pristine and clean, which is quite unusual. The up-side to the squat toilet is you can still see old Chinese people, (in their 80's and 90's), squatting unassisted on the sidewalk while waiting for a lift. Most Americans would have trouble doing that maneuver past their 30's or 40's. So at least it keeps the population limber and fit. Or it just kills off all those old Chinese who are not limber and fit.
I have been on many squats in Thailand, Indonesia, China, Mongolia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Nepal, and India, and even a couple in Singapore. I may have left a few off this list. I don't remember any in South Africa, but it is getting less memorable with each squat.
When squatting, it is best to sit your thighs on your calves for support. If you are loose enough, you can do this while keeping your feet flat on the ground. "Tip-toe" is very bad for balance. The articles description of the desperate efforts to keep your underpants, pants, and shoes clear from both the ground, and from being targeted by your own crap and piss is quite accurate. One hand is constantly busy doing this job, during the whole procedure. I have found that the other "balancing hand" will be used against any object judged "least disgusting", and not just waved in the air. Snot on the wall is usually the least of your troubles, when considering the result of falling backward.
The one thing the article failed to fully capture, was the horror that fills your mind, as you consider what a backward loss of balance would entail. Falling suddenly, with your full bodyweight, to jam your clean pale fearful buttocks into the most mind-boggling filth imaginable. And then you would still have to finish crapping.
So ... the worst squat toilets are not the toilets already mentioned. The whole squat thing becomes much more interesting when you are actually moving, such as on a train or boat. With the train you have the awful filth of a neglected squat toilet, combined with the bucking and twisting as the train lurches along. Sometimes the G-forces of a hard turn can make you hang on for life. Fortunately, there are usually water-pipes from the sink, so you have something to grab onto.
On a boat I have several times seen toilets in rough waters, where on each dip in the boats forward progress, the filthy water shoots up 6 to 12 inches above the hole. The water then splashes to the floor, and runs back out a dirty drainage hole in the side of the floor. This is partly how the toilet is supposed to be cleaned! The sight is quite alarming when you have to use the toilet. On one occasion I was throwing up into one of these with a high fever from a bad case of food poisoning. This was just off the Mekong Delta, in Cambodia, on the way to see Angkor Wat. The trick is to vomit as the water is going down, and then get out of the way when it comes back up.
When it comes to stationary squat toilets, the most dreaded term is "the bus-stop toilet". These are often the most filthy, dark, and poorly ventilated, and can be swarming with flies, malaria mosquitoes, and spiders. Bus-stop toilets are also the most crowded, as you must share the space with busloads of people that have all been waiting for hours. Having swarms of these people around you, who have not seen many Westerners before, while you squat over your hole, is probably even worse then hearing your own crew cackling and laughing in the next room, (not to underestimate how bad that can be).
I have quite a few photos of toilets from my travels (see right). This bus-stop one was unusual as it was built with an overhang, so you could actually see your crap fall through the reflected daylight, to splash on the rocks below. This type of toilet also illustrates the problem with the more primitive designs. There are no raised foot platforms, so you are forced to stand in the "liquid" around the edge. Also any crap that misses the hole will stay right there with you. The smell in this bathroom was hard to believe, though not the worst ever.
I think of these toilets when I think of Concentration Camp toilets. I have heard accounts of a suicide that dove headfirst into one. The thought of that death is hard to deal with. And of course Spielberg had those kids hiding inside one.
Squat toilets are one of the things that make me happy to come back to the USA at the end of a trip. As Lamont illustrated in his e-mail about rest-stop toilets in the USA, they can be pretty awful as well. Once you get used to the whole squat thing, it is still worth putting up with the toilets, to see some of the best places in the World. And you get so many good stories!
And one more from Jed:
The wealthy throughout history, (and from nearly every nationality), probably needed a high sit-down toilet to keep their valuable garb from blotting up the fluid refuse on the floor. What good is it to be richly attired, and to smell like crap? Also the rich were often not as athletic as the common folk, and may have found frequent squatting more difficult.
I also agree, the poor of all nationalities squatted.
The point about the pre-plumbing chamber-pot is also true. Nearly all people used them, though some used those special cut-out chairs for the pot. Those might have been used for the fat and old. Those chairs still had the fun, that you got to have a servant take the pot out for you to dump out the window, on some passerby's head.
I like your inclusion of the age of sail. Imagine being in mid-crap, and finding yourself washed overboard! Oh crap! Glug! glug!
I have also seen those castles with stone toilets, facing out to the moat. The most recent one I saw was in a tower at the walls of York. It is funny to imagine, high up on a castle wall, in winter, and the cold wind forced along the wall, and up through the toilet hole. There is some poor man or woman, sitting on the cold stone, and the rain and sleet is blowing up their butt. Puts the shiver in Chivalry.
I like your image of an arrow shot up the hole during a siege.
I know there were some sit-down toilets in Japanese Castles. Also, the Japanese in each village, collected all their stool in pots, to fertilize the rice fields.
There is a true story of a Samurai Lord who was very careful to avoid assassins. A local ninja clan had been hired to kill him. The clan had a dwarf ninja, who had learned to spend days suspended in a pipe, holding himself in place with his stiffened arms and legs. At night the dwarf climbed the walls of the castle, found his way to the lords favorite toilet, and climbed in. When the guards checked, he submerged himself, breathing through a tube. Many hours later, with guards at every door, the lord sat upon the toilet, and the Dwarf ninja climbed up the sewer pipe, and used an extendable spear to stab the lord through his anus. Success!
Other toilets I have known ...
In the Royal Palace of Knossos, at Crete (see right), I saw the evidence of an actual sit-down flush-toilet with underground plumbing. That was used way back, before the destruction in 1450 BC.
Also there were a lot of public toilets in Ancient Roman cities. And there was also underground plumbing with many Roman sites. They also had heated floors in some rooms.
Me and a real Ancient Roman stone toilet. The wall was originally part of a roofed building. This is from the ruins at Ephesus in Turkey. The archeological site is preserved, so I didnāt actually leave a deposit in it. I was just testing the "feel", and getting a picture. All the other tourists were just so very happy to see me do this.
New York: Zulu shields
I visited Jed Raben at his studio while visiting New York and we posed with a couple of Zulu shields he'd carried back from his trip to South Africa.
Of course the shield he gave me was somewhat smaller than his making this battle a mismatch.
New York: Fort Washington
During a recent trip to New York, Wes visits the site of Fort Washington, built by U.S. units during the Revolution in Summer 1776 and taken by the British in November 1776.
Not much left of it except and park with a playground raised on a foundation of rocks, but worth a long walk to eat Moroccan food after failing to find a critically acclaimed tapas restaurant.
Jed and Mike both visited the military museum in Singapore, they sent photos, this is the clearest view. I will post more soon.
Scott Franze visited the George Patton Museum resently and took a few photos of some Key equipment.
The George S. Patton Museum is located one hour west of Los Angeles at Exit 173 on Interstate 10. There is an Exhibit Hall and also a Military Vehicle Park.
The Exhibit Hall displays weaponry, equipment, and uniforms from WWI through WWII, the two Wars Patton served in. Also displayed are curios from Life at the Front and Life on the Home Front including brass shell casings from WWI that had been crafted into Sculptures and WWII Ration Books and War Bond Posters. There is a 20 minute film of Patton's life including his early days as an Olympic Athlete.
The Military Vehicle Park has a limited collection of tanks and transports. There are half a dozen Vietnam Era M60A1 tanks with parts missing and also a Fire Truck! The Military Vehicle Park is less of a deliberate choice of vehicles and more of a junkyard of vehicles that broke down during the Training Ground Period. However it is well maintained and has many types.
Above: Dummy tank for training in 1942
Right: Patton Tank with photo op
Admission is $5 for Adults. There is a Museum Gift shop and other Gift Shops, Restaurants, and RV Parking in walking Distance.
Jason O'Toole's visit to Shiloh battlefield in Georgia
Jason and family went to visit Shiloh in 2010, took some photos.
Above left: Jason's family with a cannon on Grant's line
Above right: Jason at the "Bloody Pond"
Above left: Monument at the spot where Gen. Albert Sydney Johnston died.
Above right: The trench where 700 Confederate dead were buried
Andi O'Toole at the trench