Currently viewing the tag: "war"

After the outbreak of World War II, the castle was converted into a high security prisoner-of-war camp for officers who had become security or escape risks or who were regarded as particularly dangerous. Since the castle is situated on a rocky outcrop above the River Mulde, the Germans believed it to be an ideal site for a high security prison.

The larger outer court, known as the Kommandantur, had only two exits and housed a large German garrison. The prisoners lived in an adjacent courtyard in a 90 ft (27 m) tall building. Outside, the flat terraces which surrounded the prisoners’ accommodation were constantly watched by armed sentries and surrounded by barbed wire. Although known as Colditz Castle to the locals, its official German designation was Oflag IV-C and it was under Wehrmacht control.

Although it was considered a high security prison, it had one of the highest records of successful escape attempts. This could be owing to the general nature of the prisoners that were sent there; most of them had attempted escape previously from other prisons and were transferred to Colditz, because the Germans had thought the castle escape-proof.

One lavish scheme even included a glider, the “Colditz Cock”, that was kept in a remote portion of the castle’s attic, completed in the winter of 1944–45, but following the Great Escape, in which 50 escapees were executed, all further escape attempts were officially discouraged and the glider was never used. When the camp was liberated by the Americans in late April, 1945 the glider was brought down from the hidden workshop to the attic below and assembled for the prisoners to see. It was at this time that the only known photograph of the glider was taken. For some time after the war the glider was regarded as either a myth or tall story, as there was no solid proof that the glider had existed and Colditz was then in the Soviet Occupation Zone. Bill Goldfinch, however, took home the drawings he had made when designing the glider and, when the single photograph finally surfaced, the story was taken seriously. –Colditz Castle on Wikipedia

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write an escape story set in a POW camp in a castle.

Journaling Prompt: What historic place from WWII would you like to visit and why?

Art Prompt: Escape

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience about Colditz Castle.

Photo Credit: Colditz on Wikimedia

Chemical weapons have been used for millennia in the form of poisoned spears and arrows, but evidence can be found for the existence of more advanced forms of chemical weapons in ancient and classical times.

Ancient Greek myths about Hercules poisoning his arrows with the venom of the Hydra monster are the earliest references to toxic weapons in western literature. Homer’s epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey, allude to poisoned arrows used by both sides in the legendary Trojan War (Bronze Age Greece).

Some of the earliest surviving references to toxic warfare appear in the Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. The “Laws of Manu,” a Hindu treatise on statecraft (c. 400 BC) forbids the use of poison and fire arrows, but advises poisoning food and water. Kautilya’s “Arthashastra”, a statecraft manual of the same era, contains hundreds of recipes for creating poison weapons, toxic smokes, and other chemical weapons. Ancient Greek historians recount that Alexander the Great encountered poison arrows and fire incendiaries in India at the Indus basin in the 4th century BC.

Arsenical smokes were known to the Chinese as far back as c. 1000 BC and Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” (c. 200 BC) advises the use of fire weapons. In the second century BC, writings of the Mohist sect in China describe the use of bellows to pump smoke from burning balls of mustard and other toxic vegetables into tunnels being dug by a besieging army. Other Chinese writings dating around the same period contain hundreds of recipes for the production of poisonous or irritating smokes for use in war along with numerous accounts of their use. These accounts describe an arsenic-containing “soul-hunting fog”, and the use of finely divided lime dispersed into the air to suppress a peasant revolt in 178 AD.

The earliest recorded use of gas warfare in the West dates back to the fifth century BC, during the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta. Spartan forces besieging an Athenian city placed a lighted mixture of wood, pitch, and sulfur under the walls hoping that the noxious smoke would incapacitate the Athenians, so that they would not be able to resist the assault that followed. Sparta was not alone in its use of unconventional tactics in ancient Greece; Solon of Athens is said to have used hellebore roots to poison the water in an aqueduct leading from the River Pleistos around 590 BC during the siege of Kirrha.

There is archaeological evidence that the Sassanians deployed chemical weapons against the Roman army in the Siege of Dura Europos in the third century AD. Research carried out on the collapsed tunnels at Dura-Europos in Syria suggests that the Persians used bitumen and sulfur crystals to get it burning. When ignited, the materials gave off dense clouds of choking sulfur dioxide gases which killed 20 Roman soldiers in a matter of two minutes. This is the earliest evidence of gas warfare.

In the late 15th century, Spanish conquistadors encountered a rudimentary type of chemical warfare on the island of Hispaniola. The Taíno threw gourds filled with ashes and ground hot peppers at the Spaniards to create a blinding smoke screen before launching their attack. –Wikipedia


Fiction Writing Prompt: Create a chemical weapon for your protagonist to use.

Journaling Prompt: How afraid of terrorism are you? Why do you feel that way?

Art Prompt: Chemical warfare

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience about the history of chemical warfare.

Photo Credit: Gustave Moreau on Wikimedia

TODAY WAS A day like any other day for a spy skulking behind enemy lines. Shai hid in a tangle of evergreen hedge as soldiers marched down a path skirting fields. A village lay in the distance, but not a thread of smoke or a single barking dog or laughing child gave evidence that someone might be living there. –Kate Elliott, Traitors’ Gate

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write the story of a day in the life of a spy behind enemy lines.

Journaling Prompt: How do you feel when you aren’t being completely honest about who you are?

Art Prompt: Behind enemy lines

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience the story of a famous spy.

Photo Credit: Wendell on Flickr

Imagine it’s 1942, and you’re a member of Britain’s Royal Air Force. In a skirmish above Germany, your plane was shot out of the sky, and since then you’ve been hunkered down in a Prisoner of War camp. Your officers have told you it’s your duty to escape as soon as you can, but you can’t quite figure out how—you’ve got no tools and no spare rations, and you don’t even know where you are.

One day, though, you’re playing Monopoly with your fellow prisoners when you notice a strange seam in the board. You pry it open—and find a secret compartment with a file inside. In other compartments, other surprises: a compass, a wire saw, and a map, printed on luxurious, easily foldable silk and showing you exactly where you are, and where safety is. You’ve received a package from Christopher Clayton Hutton—which means you’re set to go. –How Millions Of Secret Silk Maps Helped POWs Escape Their Captors in WWII by Cara Giaimo

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write the story about a POW who escapes.

Journaling Prompt: When you were going through a tough time, what do you wish someone would have given you?

Art Prompt: Silk maps

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience about silk maps and POWs during WWII.

Photo Credit: Joe Saunders on Flickr

During World War I (and, to a lesser extent, World War II) the Dolomites saw extremely fierce fighting. The year 1915 had Austro-Hungarian forces taking up strategic positions in the Dolomites to protect themselves from the advancing Italian army, and over the next few years both sides created and relied upon via ferrata as a method of moving through the mountains…

Italians referred to the battles in the Dolomites as il fronte vertical. Soldiers were fighting not only the enemy, but the elements as well: 60,000 World War I soldiers are thought to have died in avalanches in this relatively small mountain range. Temperatures plunged to 40 degrees below freezing for days on end as troops huddled in the mountainside huts and tunnels. –Ladders Through Time: Hiking the Dolomites’ Via Ferratas by Charlie Boscoe

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a story in which troops have to improvise  in order to survive.

Journaling Prompt: Write about the toughest hike or climb you ever did.

Art Prompt: Via Ferrata

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience about the Via Ferrata and its role in WWI.

Photo Credit: Jan on Flickr

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19th and 20th century Germans feared no one more than the Scots-the bagpipes and drums were disturbing in their ? loudness, and add to that the visual spectacle, the fearlessness of rank after rank of men wearing skirts. The Romans also feared the Scott’s in part because of their music. –The World in Six Songs by Daniel Levitin

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a story, poem or haiku about fearsome warriors.

Journaling Prompt: Write about what is fearsome to you.

Art Prompt: Fearsome Scots

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience about the tactics that Scottish warriors used to defend their lands.

Photo Credit: Peaceful Personalities and Warriors Bold on Wikimedia

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Shay, author of “Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character” (Simon & Schuster, 1995), sees moral injury in combat as an issue dating back at least to Homer’s Iliad, the epic poem about the siege of Troy that’s dated to around the eighth century B.C. The poem opens with the commander of the Greek army, Agamemnon, taking a captive woman, Briseis, from the warrior Achilles. Achilles, offended by this betrayal of “what’s right” in Greek military culture, refuses to fight. He withdraws from all but his close companion, Patroclus — until Patroclus is killed and Achilles goes mad with grief, killing Patroclus’ killer Hector and desecrating the corpse.

Achilles’ berserker rage echoes the experiences of the Vietnam War veterans. Shay worked with for 20 years at a Boston VA outpatient clinic. Many saw their ideals crumble in combat. One soldier whose story is retold in “Achilles in Vietnam” describes watching for hours as suspected Vietcong unloaded boats in the South China Sea. Finally, he and his comrades got the order to shoot. They unloaded their weapons into the boats. When daylight came, they learned they’d killed a group of fishermen and children.

To add to the horror, the military leadership assured the soldiers that everything was fine — and then gave them awards for their valor. Shay’s patient got a Combat Infantryman Badge for his participation, an award that is supposed to mark a soldier’s experience of ground combat. The betrayal of getting kudos for killing civilians shook the soldier to his core. –How Old Is PTSD? by Stephanie Pappas

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a story where the protagonist suffers a moral injury.

Journaling Prompt: How do you react when you learn that you’ve been tricked into doing something you abhor?

Art Prompt: Moral injury

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience about the history of PTSD through the ages.

Photo Credit: Achilles Slays Hector by Peter Paul Rubens on Wikimedia

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The Underground Railroad was a network of secret routes and safe houses used by 19th-century enslaved people of African descent in the United States in efforts to escape to free states and Canada with the aid of abolitionists and allies who were sympathetic to their cause. The term is also applied to the abolitionists, both black and white, free and enslaved, who aided the fugitives. Various other routes led to Mexico or overseas. An earlier escape route running south toward Florida, then a Spanish possession, existed from the late 17th century until shortly after the American Revolution. However, the network now generally known as the Underground Railroad was formed in the early 19th century, and reached its height between 1850 and 1860. One estimate suggests that by 1850, 100,000 slaves had escaped via the “Railroad”. –Wikipedia

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write the story of someone using a secret escape route and the perils he or she encounters.

Journaling Prompt: If you were living in the time of the Underground Railroad, would you help the fleeing slaves? Why or why not?

Art Prompt: Underground Railroad

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience about the Underground Railroad.

Photo Credit: Kyle J. Schultz on Flickr

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In 2015, Penn Ph.D. candidate Robert Hegwood, a scholar of Japanese/American cultural relations in the mid-20th century, purchased a rather innocuous looking “Scrap Book” at a used book store during a stay in Tokyo. Inside this commercially-produced scrapbook is a collection of postcards, welcome booklets, travel ephemera, and training documents collected by an unidentified Japanese sailor of the Renshu Kantai 練習艦隊, the Japanese Imperial Navy’s Training Fleet, during a 1936 voyage to the United States. From 1903 to 1940, the Renshu Kantai took such training deployment cruises almost every year, with graduates of the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy, the Naval Engineering Academy, and the Naval Paymasters Academy spending several months traveling around the Pacific Ocean, occasionally venturing as far as the Mediterranean Sea or the East Coast of the United States. The 1936 cruise (lasting from June 9 to November 3) saw Vice-Admiral Zengo Yoshida commanding the ships Yakumo and Iwate as they sailed across the Pacific Ocean from Yokosuka to Seattle, down along the West Coast and up through the Panama Canal as far as New York City. –Japanese Naval Cruise Books and the Renshu Kantai by Michael P. Williams

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a story about a character that finds a vintage scrapbook that uncovers a mystery.

Journaling Prompt: How do you save things that you want to remember?

Art Prompt: Vintage Scrapbook
Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience about the value of keeping memorabilia and how they can easily and inexpensively get started.

Photo Credit: Charlton Clemens on Flickr

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The garrison of the Vellore Fort in July 1806 comprised four companies of British infantry from H.M. 69th (South Lincolnshire) Regiment of Foot and three battalions of Madras infantry: the 1st/1st Madras Native Infantry, the 2nd/1st MNI and the 2nd/23rd MNI.

Two hours after midnight on 10 July, the sepoys in the fort shot down the European sentries and killed fourteen of their own officers and 115 men of the 69th Regiment, most of the latter as they slept in their barracks. Among those killed was Colonel St. John Fancourt, the commander of the fort. The rebels seized control by dawn, and raised the flag of the Mysore Sultanate over the fort. Tipu’s second son Fateh Hyder was declared king.

However, a British officer escaped and alerted the garrison in Arcot. Nine hours after the outbreak of the mutiny, a relief force comprising the British 19th Light Dragoons, galloper guns and a squadron of Madras cavalry, rode from Arcot to Vellore, covering sixteen miles in about two hours. It was led by Sir Rollo Gillespie – one of the most capable and energetic officers in India at that time – who reportedly left Arcot within a quarter of an hour of the alarm being raised. Gillespie dashed ahead of the main force with a single troop of about twenty men.

Arriving at Vellore, Gillespie found the surviving Europeans, about sixty men of the 69th, commanded by NCOs and two assistant surgeons, still holding part of the ramparts but out of ammunition. Unable to gain entry through the defended gate, Gillespie climbed the wall with the aid of a rope and a sergeant’s sash which was lowered to him; and, to gain time, led the 69th in a bayonet-charge along the ramparts. When the rest of the 19th arrived, Gillespie had them blow open the gates with their galloper guns, and made a second charge with the 69th to clear a space inside the entrance to permit the cavalry to deploy. The 19th and the Madras Cavalry then charged and sabred any sepoy who stood in their way. About 100 sepoys who had sought refuge inside the palace were brought out, and by Gillespie’s order, placed against a wall and shot dead. John Blakiston, the engineer who had blown in the gates, recalled: “Even this appalling sight I could look upon, I may almost say, with composure. It was an act of summary justice, and in every respect a most proper one; yet, at this distance of time, I find it a difficult matter to approve the deed, or to account for the feeling under which I then viewed it.”.

The harsh retribution meted out to the sepoys snuffed out the unrest at a stroke and provided the history of the British in India with one of its true epics; for, as Gillespie admitted, with a delay of even five minutes, all would have been lost for the British. In all, nearly 350 of the rebels were killed, and another 350 wounded before the fighting had finished. –Wikipedia

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a story where servants rebel.

Journaling Prompt: How do you feel about the “justice” meted out in this incident? Would you have done anything differently?

Art Prompt: Mutiny

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience about Vellore Fort mutiny and the lessons it can teach us today.

Photo Credit: Vellore Fort moat, Tamil Nadu on Wikimedia