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image In 1945 did Charles De Gaulle really say to Winston Churchill, in reference to the military aid that the Allies provided to France to defeat Germany, that "We shall stun you with our ingratitude"? Monday, November 22 was the birthday of De Gaulle, and a number of right-leaning blogs marked the occasion by posting this quotation (they seem to have picked it up from an article in the Belfast Telegraph). So did De Gaulle really say this?

Even though the tense verbal exchanges between De Gaulle and Churchill are well known, this particular remark sounded hoaxy to me. A quick google search didn't turn up any source that could verify the remark, though it did pull up an essay noting that Churchill once quoted to De Gaulle a passage from Plutarch: "ingratitude towards great men is the mark of a strong people." So it's possible that De Gaulle responded to this comment by saying that the French would stun Churchill with their ingratitude (in which context, the remark would be a compliment).

However, a second, more thorough google search revealed that the 'stunning ingratitude' quotation has been attributed to a number of other people besides De Gaulle. This 2003 article in theage.com.au attributes it to the prime minister of the Hapsburg Empire: When, in 1848, Tsarist Russia intervened to put down an insurrection in Hungary, thus saving the Hapsburg Empire which was then in deep trouble, the Hapsburg prime minister commented that: "We shall astonish the world with our ingratitude."

But quite a few other people (including the conservative columnists Pat Buchanan and George Will) credit the remark to the Italian statesman Camillo Benso Cavour: The Sardinian minister who guided his country to the unification of Italy in the mid-1800, Cavour, did so with French help in a war with Austria. Without the French Army the Austrians would probably still have been ruling Northern Italy in 1914. Cavour's comment was that someday the Italians would astonish the world with their ingratitude to France.


I suspect that Cavour is the true source of the saying. In which case, it's ironic that a remark originally referring to ingratitude towards France has now come full circle and is being used to demonstrate (supposedly) the ingratitude of France.
Categories: History, Military, Politics
Posted by Alex on Sat Nov 27, 2004
Comments (7)
Ted Wallace thought it was a little odd when he received orders to report for duty at Fort Irwin. Odd, because Ted is 70 years old. Everyone knows that the army is relying heavily on reservists to fight the war in Iraq, but has the situation really become so desperate that they're rounding up the septuagenarians? But Ted was ready to go. He only asked that his call-up be deferred until after his knee-replacement operation. Luckily for Ted, he won't be shipped out to Iraq. The orders turned out to be a practical joke engineered by his son-in-law, who confessed only after Ted and his army orders had been featured on local TV.
Categories: Military
Posted by Alex on Mon Oct 25, 2004
Comments (4)
Here's an interesting article about Iraqi urban legends regarding the American forces. Here's a few of the more popular beliefs:

  • that the bulletproof vests American soldiers wear actually contain air-conditioning units (I'm sure the soldiers wish this were true)

  • that the sunglasses worn by almost all American soldiers allow them to see through clothing

  • And that American armored vehicles are protected by electrical fields that detonate RPG rockets before they strike, but that this protection can be defeated by wrapping the rockets in electrical tape.

Categories: Military, Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Thu Oct 14, 2004
Comments (18)
image A picture of a soldier cutting a small square of grass outside his tent is making the rounds. It's accompanied by this text.

Sometimes the little things we take for granted - Priceless
Here is a soldier stationed in Iraq, stationed in a big sand box he asked his wife to send him dirt, fertilizer and some grass seeds so he can have the sweet aroma and feel the grass grow beneath his feet.  If you notice, he is even cutting the grass with a pair of scissors.
 Sometimes we are in such a hurry that we don't stop and think about the little things that we take for granted.  Upon receiving this, please say a prayer for our soldiers that give (and give up) so unselfishly for us.


Someone who left a comment on the Utah VVA site where I came across the image noted that they had found a larger version of the image on which a date is clearly marked: November 2000. On this date the soldier could not have been stationed in Iraq. Of course, the date could be photoshopped in. Or maybe that's not even the date. I can't figure out what the numbers after '2000.11' mean. Also, I'm not sure how long this picture has been floating around.
Update: The soldier has been identified as Warrant Officer Brook Turner in Iraq. For more info see this update from Dec. 31, 2004.
Categories: Military, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Sat Oct 09, 2004
Comments (19)
Captain Bill Jewell, the British submarine commander responsible for carrying out Operation Mincemeat, died last month. Operation Mincemeat was the top-secret WWII military subterfuge that, many argue, helped to ensure the success of D-Day the southern invasion of Europe. A dead soldier's body was launched overboard by Captain Jewell with Allied plans for an invasion of Corsica and Sardinia chained to his wrist. The Nazis found the body (and the plans) when it washed up on the coast of Spain, and believing the plans to be real proceeded to beef up their defenses in the wrong place, thereby diverting attention away from the true site of the invasion (Sicily). The covert operation was turned into a movie in 1955, The Man Who Never Was, which I've never seen. But I'm sure that sooner or later Hollywood will do a remake of it.
Categories: Military
Posted by Alex on Thu Sep 02, 2004
Comments (16)
image Bruce Simpson is advertising that for a very modest sum he'll show you how to build your very own cruise missile. As he says on his website: "Whether you're a very small nation looking to extend its military capabilities while perhaps creating a highly profitable export industry, or an entrepreneur seeking to enter the massive market low-cost UAVs, RPVs and other pilotless vehicles, or whether you just want a single missile to mount on your SUV as a roof ornament -- I'm your man."

Is he joking? Is this just a hoax? Well, I suspect (hope) he's bluffing, but it is true that he could show someone how to build a cruise missile, if he wanted to. About a year ago he was quite widely covered in the news after he built a cruise missile in his garage for under $5000. He got a lot of the parts for it on eBay. He also appeared on the British tv show Scrapheap Challenge, where he built a pulse-jet out of trash in ten hours. But ever since then he's been harassed by the New Zealand Inland Revenue Service for unpaid taxes. So as payback he now claims that he's offering his rocket-building skills to the highest bidder. I just hope he doesn't next figure out how to build an ICBM in his garage.
Categories: Military
Posted by Alex on Fri Jul 23, 2004
Comments (0)
While I was away in Virginia I got behind on posting and didn't note some terror/war related hoaxes occurring in the news. So for the sake of completeness, here's a quick rundown of these stories.

  • First we had Marine Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun, a soldier in Iraq suspected of faking his own abduction (tip: if you're going to fake your abduction, don't call your family on your cellphone while you're supposed to be abducted).

  • Then there was the bizarre case of American soldier-of-fortune types in Afghanistan who set up a fake prison in order to interrogate people they grabbed off the street whom they thought might be al-qaeda members. Instead of going all the way to Afghanistan, these guys should have simply stayed in America and attended the Abu Ghraib Prison Fantasy Camp.

  • Finally, France has been shocked by the case of a woman (known in the media only as 'Marie') who reported that she was attacked on a train by a gang of Arab youths who thought she was Jewish. Marie later confessed that her report was a hoax.

Categories: Hate Crimes/Terror, Military
Posted by Alex on Fri Jul 16, 2004
Comments (0)
image Birdman Weapons Systems offers "unfriendly products for an unfriendly world." For instance, they sell the ShotCaller2000 9mm Telephone (it'll fire one shot into the ear of whoever answers it), the Mountain Dew Shotgun (in case you have the urge to fire cans of Mountain Dew at high velocity), and, of course, the Nuke 50 Micronuclear ("a mind bending MicroNuclear blast  in a tiny, convenient and affordable package"). Definitely check out the video of the Nuke 50 in action. Unfortunately it looks like their site hasn't been updated in a while. (Submitted by Sam)
Categories: Military, Websites
Posted by Alex on Mon Jun 14, 2004
Comments (4)
image A guy calling himself Eric Bruderton has some dramatic footage up on his website of people (soldiers or mercenaries? It's hard to tell) being attacked by unseen assailants wielding rocket-propelled grenades. Bruderton himself admits he doesn't know what the footage is about. As he writes, "I don’t know these people, I don’t know who’s shooting at them and I don’t know why they are being targeted. I don’t even know where they are. Maybe the Middle East." But he insists that the footage is important, and that he has somehow put himself in danger by making the footage publicly available. The whole thing reeks of a Blair-Witch-style publicity stunt. But the footage, if it is staged (which I'm guessing it is), is pretty high production value. (the video takes about 20 or 30 seconds to load). (via Chapel Perilous)
Categories: Conspiracy Theories, Military
Posted by Alex on Fri Jun 04, 2004
Comments (26)
Lots of media outlets have been reporting that Rumsfeld has decided to ban camera phones in Iraq, in the wake of the photos of prisoner abuse coming out of Abu Ghraib. For instance, the story is on Yahoo! news, the Washington Times, and The Sydney Morning Herald. The Register, at least, points out that there are doubts about the story, while also noting that it would be almost impossible to actually enforce such a ban. But what's the source for this news. The Sydney Morning Herald refers to some British newspaper called The Business. But what's that? Is there such a paper? The story actually seems to come from The Daily Farce, an online satirical magazine who printed the story (as a joke) about two weeks ago. Apparently yet another example of satirical articles being treated as real news. (via The Prison Blog)
Categories: Journalism, Military
Posted by Alex on Tue May 25, 2004
Comments (1)
While the British military is dealing with fake abuse photos, the Indian military is dealing with a growing scandal involving fake enemy casualty photos. Last week I noted the case of Indian army officers posted on the Siachen glacier inventing fake battles. Now there's another similar case (though in a different location) involving an Indian Colonel. According to the Statesman: The Colonel and a Major are allegedly responsible for filing a false report saying the regiment’s soldiers had killed five militants and asking for medals. Later, they sprayed tomato ketchup on three civilians employed by the army to “forge” a photograph.
Categories: Military
Posted by Alex on Sun May 16, 2004
Comments (0)
The photos of British soldiers torturing Iraqi prisoners published by the Daily Mirror turn out to have been staged, as was speculated since the photos first saw the light of day. The board of the Daily Mirror has apologized for printing them and fired its editor, Piers Morgan. Tip-offs that the photos were fake included:
  • One soldier was carrying a type of rifle not issued to soldiers in Iraq
  • The soldiers were wearing the wrong type of hat
  • One of the vehicles shown in a photo was a type not deployed in Iraq
  • There was no sweat or injuries on the prisoner who had supposedly been tortured for eight hours
  • The people in the pictures looked like they were standing still and posing
The BBC also has an interesting, short article detailing other famous cases in which newspapers have been hoaxed, the most famous instance probably being the 1983 case of the Hitler Diaries.
Categories: Journalism, Military
Posted by Alex on Sun May 16, 2004
Comments (0)
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