“The Real-Life D-Day Commandos Who Inspired Hollywood’s ‘Dirty Dozen'”

“Filthy Thirteen” member Clarence Ware applies war paint to Charles Plauda, June 5, 1944. The idea was McNiece’s, to honor his Native American heritage and to energize the men for the danger ahead. (National Archives)

Officially designated as the 1st Demolition Section of the Regimental Headquarters Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR), 101st Airborne Division, the Filthy Thirteen earned the name while training in England. Instead of using their daily water rations to bathe and shave, they instead used it to cook wild game poached from the manor house next to their training area. It didn’t help that they were also “the most difficult, insubordinate, and undisciplined individuals in the U.S. Army while in garrison,” as a 2022 article in the U.S. military’s NCO Journal described them.

“We never took care of our barracks or any other thing, or sanitation, and we were always restricted to camp,” recalled the unit’s leader, Jake “McNasty” McNiece. “But we went AWOL every weekend that we wanted to and we stayed as long as we wanted till we returned back, because we knew they needed us badly for combat. And it would just be a few days in the brig. We stole jeeps. We stole trains. We blew up barracks. We blew down trees. We stole the colonel’s whiskey and things like that.”

The Filthy Thirteen were dropped into Normandy on June 6, 1944, with the mission of destroying bridges over the Douve River to protect the assault forces’ move inland from Utah Beach. When the day came, they dropped with the 3rd Battalion, 506th PIR, but half of the 13 were killed, captured or wounded during the jump, including their officer, Lt. Charles Mellen. What was left was led by McNiece, then a private, whose American Indian heritage inspired the men to cut their hair in a “mohawk” homage before making the jump.

The Army Air Forces, assuming the demolition team was dead, bombed the bridges anyway. The Filthy Thirteen then went on collecting stragglers and aided with the capture of the key French town of Carentan. But that wasn’t the end of their role in World War II Europe. They would jump into occupied Holland during Operation Market Garden, where their mission was to secure three bridges near Eindhoven. They were split up after that.

Fearing Market Garden might be their last combat jump, some of the Filthy Thirteen joined the Pathfinders, specialized units that set up drop zones in occupied or disputed territory for resupply missions. McNiece and others found themselves being dropped in on a Pathfinder mission during the Battle of Bastogne.

Although there were 13 original members, with alternates and replacements, there were more than 13 members of the unit by the end of the war. The nickname caught the public’s imagination after Stars and Stripes reporter Tom Hoge wrote about them in a June 1944 issue. Newspapers back home began repeating the nickname, and it eventually stuck. From there, legends about the Filthy Thirteen, mostly rumors, began to spread into mainstream media. Some of those legends formed the basis of author E.M. Nathanson’s book, “The Dirty Dozen,” which became the movie loved by so many film buffs. Just how much of “The Dirty Dozen” is real can only be known by the Filthy Thirteen. Agnew’s daughter Barbara claims her father said it was about 30% — which is still a lot.


Comment: Soldiers like the Filthy Thirteen sound like my kind of soldiers. I often commented on my first rifle platoon with so many rehab transfers from throughout the brigade. These hooligans were pure hell in garrison, but in the field they could not be beat. I wouldn’t have traded them for all the tea in China. God bless every one of them. 

The Army often says they admire this kind of soldier. I think the brass would rather have an Army of goody two shoes. In WWII the Filthy Thirteen were tolerated and later admired in spite of their Article 15s and restrictions to barracks. We had rehab transfers in the mid-70s because the Army couldn’t afford to loose all those young troublemakers. If we were flush with recruits, those troublemakers would have been chaptered out. A decade later, my Company First Sergeant told me of how he would spot a potential NCO by their ability to get at least one Article 15. It was a sign of initiative. At the time, the Army was willing to expunge most Article 15s from the records of senior NCOs to clean up their records. My First Sergeant refused citing his youthful transgressions as a badge of honor.

In 2022, the NCO Journal published an article on the Filthy Thirteen exploring the principles of mission command. It explains how the Army admires and needs the initiative and risk taking of soldiers like the Filthy Thirteen, while bemoaning their hooliganism. I feel that’s wishful thinking. It’s extremely rare to have one without the other. It’s just not natural and maybe even un-American.



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36 Responses to “The Real-Life D-Day Commandos Who Inspired Hollywood’s ‘Dirty Dozen'”

  1. babelthuap says:

    I’ve found the worst Soldiers in garrison make the best in combat. I think it may have something to do with finding a real purpose for once and getting away from a bad environment in the states.

    I had many that within weeks of returning were immediately in trouble with the law, one for murder. I felt horrible about it but I did try months before our tour ended to make everyone start thinking about a game plan, either enrolling in a trade school or college. Some did. I had a feeling they would get lost without that level of commradery.

  2. leith says:

    Best NCO I ever served with was an Corporal who had been busted down from Staff Sergeant. Plenty of American servicemen had article 15’s or Captain’s Mast, myself included, and yet the military was lucky to have us. Those are not even considered felonies, let alone violent crimes. Returning late from leave or liberty or a barracks fistfight used to be considered no worse that a traffic ticket.

    No way that the so-called filthy thirteen had that same criminal background as the murderers and rapists in Hollywood’s dirty dozen. None were anywhere near as bad as in that piece-of-sh*t film. Worst movie ever made IMHO. No US officer would ever condone releasing violent criminals and putting them in uniform.

    The Soviets used convicts in WW2. Putin still does it today tolerating Prigozhin’s Wagner Group releasing murderers, thieves, rapists, wife beaters and child sex abusers to fight in Ukraine. MGM needs to do a movie about them, especially the re-offenders.


  3. English Outsider says:

    D-Day is referred to by General Breedlove in a recent interview as an argument for confronting Russia more forcefully:-

    (33 mins 30)


    Breedlove is a more attractive figure than most in the States who are “Hawks”. I can get on with him and and can see why they made him SACEUR, but I find those hawks in the States contemptible, just as I find those hawks in the UK contemptible, who put forward the argument that keeping Ukraine in the fight enables us to kill Russians at little cost to ourselves. The “It’s a cheap investment” argument. Armchair chickenhawks, I call them, who want to fight Russia, don’t have the guts to do it themselves, but are content to see great numbers of Ukrainians die to kill Russians for them.

    Similarly with the argument that the Ukrainians are fighting for all of us in the name of Freedom and Democracy. Well, if they truly believe that’s what it’s all about why aren’t they fighting themselves? Also contemptible chickenhawks, I always think. We’ll let the Ukrainians do all the work while we sit on the sidelines safe. Ugh.

    Breedlove’s not of that way of thinking. He truly believes the Russians are a serious and worsening threat to the West. They are out to do us harm. Given that he believes that, he follows through logically and more importantly, honourably, and says we have to put ourselves on the line, not just leave it to the Ukrainians.

    At last, I think whenever I listen to Breedlove. A hawk who’s prepared to put his money where his mouth is. A rare breed in England, such people. Don’t know how many such there are in the States.

    That’s not to say I agree with Breedlove. I think he’s a fool. Gets his history wrong and gets his facts wrong. Was doing that in 2015 and is still doing it. But there’s less shame in being a fool than in being a chickenhawk.

    So a man who is truly prepared to act, as he sees it, correctly. To really put his money where his mouth is. And looking at the interview as a whole, a man who believes his President should also put his money where his mouth is. Who should take much more positive action to curb Russia. Biden, says Breedlove, and the rest of the Western leaders, should stop being so hesitant, stop “taking counsel of their fears”, and act. Go for it, just as Ike did on D-Day.

    That’s as far as I can go with my attempt to sympathise with Breedlove. Like him or not, and I think I do like him a lot, I can’t have any patience with a man who’s living in fantasy land.

    Because he’s got no money to put down. It’s all imagination, fantasy. The Europeans have little military force they can deploy in that theatre and the Americans nothing that amounts to much. Where are the half million men they’d need over there? Where’s their equipment? Where, even, is their ammunition?

    If they based their formidable air force in Europe what do they think would happen? The Europeans, chickenhawks to a man, would be squealing like stuck pigs as soon as the Russians started attacking bases and Command Centres. No, General Breedlove, proxy war is all the West is good for in this theatre and that proxy war has been lost. Ike had some real money to put down. We don’t.

    • English Outsider says:

      TTG – I Ignored the nuclear dimension up above and was reminded on an English site that I’d done so.

      One cannot ignore that dimension. When I read various accounts of the current condition of American ground forces – “boutique army” and all the rest of it – I sometimes feel we are stuck in the thinking of those D-Day times.

      In a couple of years, no more, the American Air, Naval and Ground Forces and the industrial capacity to back them up shot from being a neglected backwater – third rate in most respects – to being the military superpower. Able to cope with heavy and prolonged fighting in two theatres with enough to spare to deal with anything else that came along. I doubt there’s ever been a military revolution like it.

      We still assess military capability in those terms. We’re still stuck in those times. Big is best and with near a trillion dollar budget, no matter how much is eaten away by the pork barrel, big still means American. And for minor wars big certainly is best, if that big can get deployed right. But for existential wars does that massive armoury mean anything? One man with a rusty rifle standing on a frontier somewhere will do. If it’s recognised that he is the tripwire that will trigger nuclear war.

      For the same reason I look with wonderment at what the Russians are doing. Extensive mobilisation, armaments industry gearing up – for what purpose? Plenty of work for them to do in minor wars, certainly, as we’re seeing at the moment, but for what purpose is shell production being ramped up to five million shells a year for the indefinite future if, in a major war in the European theatre, far less is needed to trigger nuclear?

      From the very start, in 2022, we’ve seen the Russians holding back the bulk of their forces, building them up now to a great degree, in case NATO came in in force. Do the Russians not understand that if NATO did come in in force it wouldn’t matter who had the best generals or the best logistics or the best army. It wouldn’t matter because the inevitable consequence would be mushroom clouds. Do the Europeans not understand that that would work the other way too?

      Developments in missile technology mean that even in conventional warfare it’s possible to devastate a country without ever needing to set foot in it. But even ignoring that, there can be no more titanic battles for Berlin, or massive enterprises like those D-Day operations, if whichever of the sides is losing can unleash a nuclear response that will destroy both.

      Not so much tripwire forces, perhaps. It would in reality take more than the man with the rusty rifle to set off Armageddon. But threshold forces. For the major wars of today you need no more than sufficient force to be able to say, “Defeat this lot and it’s curtains for both of us.” And that threat is enough, as it has been since the 50’s, to ensure that the two major nuclear powers never go toe to toe in full scale conventional warfare.

      Zelensky’s only chance ever was to get the Americans to deploy that threat. He failed. Now the Europeans are seeking the same end. The only chance the Europeans had to bring this war to the conclusion they want is to get the Americans, finally, to deploy that threat for them. To risk nuclear war for them.

      The Europeans’ll fail too. The American President, no matter who he is, will not risk Chicago frying in order to give the Europeans, or indeed his own hawks, the chance of winning a scrubby little war thousands of miles away. That’s too big a risk by far, for too small a gain, for any American President to take.

      If you’ll allow me, TTG – we’re a way away from the Filthy Thirteen now and maybe too far away for this comment section – I’ll set out the reasoning that led me to that conclusion. I’ve thought for a couple of years now that the Americans would never go all the way to win this Ukrainian war. And that barring the Americans risking going all the way – isn’t that what Breedlove’s really asking for – there was no other way to win it.

    • English Outsider says:

      It boils down to nuclear.

      The Europeans are a dead loss militarily and have also lost the substantial moral and diplomatic credibility they possessed until quite recently. Not so much a busted flush. More politicians who’ve now been revealed always to have been a busted flush.

      So they can posture to their heart’s content. They are like the scrawny man in a pub fight bellowing “let me get at him” while being grateful enough to his companions holding him back so he can’t.

      The Americans are a different kettle of fish. They have sufficient military power to give the Russians a hard time, if they chose, even though they have no forces over here to speak off. And they have credible nuclear. That shuts off escalation to any serious extent. Were the Americans to engage in full scale conventional war with the Russians, and were the Russians to start losing – unlikely in the extreme but consider the case – the Russians would use nuclear weapons.

      A revealing interview with Colonel Trukhan confirms that. He’s talking of the attempt to breach the “Surovikin Line”. He states matter of factly – almost in passing – that had we put in sufficient armour and CAS and all the rest of it to breach that line, the Russians would have repelled the attack with tactical nuclear as a matter of course. The recent tactical nuclear exercises underline that point. There is no winning against the Russians even if we could put credible forces in the field.

      Works the other way. If the American forces were fully committed and were losing, they’d do the same. There is no winning against the Americans, not if they go for it hard. No winning for anyone, really, which is the basis of MAD and has been since the ’50’s.

      So the Americans are not going to escalate past pinpricks such as we’re seeing now. And we know that, as in Syria, there are comprehensive deconfliction arrangements in place in order for both sides to ensure serious escalation is avoided in this theatre.

      So why the posturing? Why Macron’s arm waving or ours?

      Partly a hope the Americans will put a tripwire force in. Partly in preparation for the post-war blame game.

      On the post-war blame game, all will wish to say “We could have won but our Allies didn’t back us up. So it’s their fault, not ours.” We’ve seen hints that the Americans in particular are being criticised for holding back and sometimes the Germans come in for some stick on that count too. Probably the Italians will as well, given they’ve disassociated themselves from escalation.

      The blame game’s not a trivial consideration. This is going to be, as both Stoltenberg and Johnson have emphasised recently, a serious blow to the credibility of NATO and of the EU/UK. Being able to blame others will be a lifeline the respective politicians will clutch at so we’ll see, are seeing, a lot of it. And the respective electorates will need to believe them if they are to be kept acquiescent for the coming Cold War II. “For as long as it takes” will remain the spur even after Ukraine itself is neutralised.

      The blame game is also a consideration in the States. There we already see one party blaming the other for not agreeing to escalate. “x is the man who lost Ukraine” is a reproach none will wish to suffer. We see that even in the interview linked to.

      But there is perhaps more to the arm waving that that. We could be hoping, probably are, that the Americans will put a tripwire force in, We could put troops in overtly in the hope that when those troops get wiped out the Americans, for very shame, would be forced to come in overtly themselves. Or we could provoke the Russians with deep strikes in the hope the Russians would do the escalation for us. In the hope that the Russians would strike at our military installations in Europe or knock out our ISR assets. That could also bring the Americans in.

      As said, the Americans have nothing of substance in the theatre but they do have tripwire forces. The 101st Airborne, already positioned, could be sent in as a tripwire force – in the expectation that the Russians would not dare to attack them for fear of the Americans using nuclear.

      That’s Macron’s Hail Mary, and of the others talking that way. It’d be a gamble that the Russians would be scared to attack overtly deployed American troops directly – something that is never done – for fear the Americans would be pushed to that final escalation.

      But this time it would be done. Putin made that clear at the Tashkent press conference. He reinforced that warning just now at the St Petersburg press conference. It’s more than likely the warning was also given to the Americans directly during deconfliction arrangement contacts. The gamble that the Russians would not dare to attack an American tripwire force for fear of escalation to nuclear is therefore not a gamble Biden will be prepared to take.

      He made that clear recently. Brussels/HMG will therefore not risk escalation in the hope of getting the Americans to follow suit. MAD will continue to operate even as this proxy war comes to its end.

    • Bill Hatch says:

      I believe that the US & NATO are willing to fight to the last drop of Ukrainian blood.

      • English Outsider says:

        Looks like it. It’s been a tragic sight from the start, watching the Ukrainian soldiers fed into pointless slaughter. I used to make a nuisance of myself on Colonel Lang’s site protesting it. But I do regard what we let our proxies in for as a crime and particularly in this case.

        It wasn’t supposed to be like this. We were supposed to break the Russians with the sanctions war. The military stuff was always secondary to that. But we got the military stuff wrong too. Tried to explain that recently as well.

        We got it wrong from the start of the SMO, or invasion if that term’s preferred. Either will do except that the SMO started off as a limited police action rather than a true war.

        We never understood that, nor anything else about the war.. We expected the Russians to win fast and dramatically. “Kiev in three days” was the intention we attributed to them.

        Apart from the fact that with the forces at their command taking a major city like Kiev against stiff opposition would have scarcely been possible, such an attempt would have entailed heavy casualties. Avoiding casualties has been the Russian watchword from almost the start. Maybe if the Kiev government had crumbled Kiev could have been more or less peacefully taken, but no other way.

        And had they taken Kiev? Had they done what we confidently expected them to do?

        There were large Ukrainian forces, NATO trained in small unit fighting, over much of the country. They had been supplied with arms well suited to guerilla warfare and impromptu attacks. The “Ultras” were numerous and determined. In behind the regulars and the “Ultras” they had a large force of territorials.

        The Russians would have been faced with a long and wearing insurrection, supplied by the West, and with Western ISR assets at the disposal of the Ukrainians.

        That was what we expected. Many stated explicitly in those early days that Ukraine would become “Russia’s Afghanistan”. When the Russians didn’t “take Kiev in three days”, we attributed to them failure. We’ve done so ever since.

        None stopped to think that the Russians had quite other plans. They sidestepped the guerilla war trap. Instead of chasing around all over Ukraine seeking the enemy and getting shot at from every hedge or alleyway by the Ukrainian forces, they conducted a lighting attack – very competently organised and for once casualty heavy because of the tight ROE – and then sat back and waited for the Ukrainian forces to come to them to be destroyed.

        Which the poor devils have been doing ever since and are doing even now. More so. This is a war that was never there to be won and we have inflicted grievous harm on the Ukrainians by ever pretending it was.


        That taken from a recent reply to an Englishman who still believes the Ukrainians are in with a chance. He’s being misled by the English media that is still attempting to talk up the possibility of Ukrainian victory – though now starting to go down the fatuous blind alley of a negotiated Two Germany solution or some such.

        Your American media is now more realistic. The difference is marked. I’m glad the American media is, at least in parts, more au fait with the true circumstances over there. If there is a chance of avoiding fighting “to the last drop of Ukrainian blood” that chance can now only come from regime change in Kiev or through American acceptance of defeat. We Euros are out of it.

        • TTG says:


          Your view of the Russian military and their war in Ukraine remains bewilderingly rosy. At least you express your views well. I’m thinking about raising some of your earlier comments on nuclear war and MAD to a stand alone post.

          It’s funny you characterize Ukrainians as being fed into the war. You seem to forget that the Ukrainians live in Ukraine. They are fighting for their country and their homes. It is the Russians and assorted others from Central Asia and Africa who are being fed into a war in a foreign land and dying in droves.

          You are right about our belief that the war would last less than a week and that an extended guerrilla war would ensue. I’m sure the Russians would rather face a guerrilla war instead of what they’re experiencing now. Their army is getting badly chewed up in the current attritional war and they are gaining very little for those casualties. Their high water mark was back in early 2022. The casualties on both sides would be far lighter in a guerrilla war, but even if that happened, the Ukrainian guerrillas would suffer horrendous casualties. Guerrillas always do. Russian losses in both men and material would be far lighter in such a war.

          One thing the Russian Army is getting from this war is a wealth of knowledge, but the Ukrainians are gaining the same knowledge and their passing that knowledge to NATO armies. It will be up to us to learn those hard earned lessons.

          • English Outsider says:

            TTG – it’s a guess I can’t back up with any solid references but I think, apart from Bakhmut, and apart from the very start of the invasion, it’s been the LDNR forces as were rather than the Russian regular army that has taken the brunt of the casualties. There weren’t that many Russian regulars to be deployed earlier. Also that given the casualties are mostly caused by artillery fire the ratio has been heavily the other way.

            But solid proof will have to wait until afterwards, I suppose, and as for Bakhmut, it’s still not clear what Wagner was up to with their prison recruits. Sent them forward in order to get enemy firing points identified, is the story one hears.

            Is that true? If so then there would have been heavy losses among those recruits, probably not identified in full by the BBC/Mediazone survey. That survey, imperfect as it is, is the only attempt I’ve seen to estimate Russian casualties: and men who’ve been in prison are less likely to get the funerals and death notices that the survey uses.

            That must surely also apply to the foreign volunteers serving on the Russians side. Also to the Ukrainians from the other side of the line who came over to fight with the LDNR forces. The BBC/Mediazone survey did not extend to Ukraine. In any case the families of people killed serving on the “wrong” side of the line – wrong entirely from the Ukrainian point of view – would scarcely have put out such notices in the Ukrainian media or blogs.

            But you’re right. I’ve never been able to understand how anyone in England could believe the Ukrainians would win. President Biden’s initial declaration of no American boots on the ground, which I took to mean no large formations of openly declared American forces, had to be made in order to rule out nuclear. Once it was made, and as soon as it was clear that the sanctions war was lost, defeat was the inevitable conclusion.

            Why then, has been my question since the start, insist that the Ukrainians keep fighting a lost war? All they could do, have done and will do, is lose more lives and territory for nothing.

            You as an American will not perhaps understand this. The American case is different. But the spectacle of my fellow Englishmen – many fellow Europeans too! – cheering on the Ukrainian PBI as they went to inevitable death was to me repugnant.

            More so since it was said to be English politicians who blocked or assisted in blocking the early peace negotiations. Whatever happened in the background it was us who led Zelensky down the garden path by encouraging him to keep fighting. Insisted, in fact, by refusing security guarantees and promising him assistance we in England or in Europe were in truth never capable of giving.

            They say that Boris Johnson was merely the messenger boy when Zelensky was told to keep fighting. Maybe. But what was a British politician doing as party to such a message? Because he knew that the UK itself, with armed forces and arms supplies insignificant in this context, could never make good on such a promise.

            Wallace’s subsequent “We are not Amazon” at Vilnius, with all that that implied, will go down in history as the most shameful utterance ever from a British politician. To set the Ukrainians on such a course and then to leave them high and dry when they most needed the assistance we had promised was vile. And none of the arm waving we’re seeing from British politicians now can expunge that shame.

            Breedlove knows that. He sees it so clearly. He is, my view, adrift on most of the facts of this war but he gets to the guts of it. I think he also knows, for all his attempts to urge one, that there is now no remedy for this betrayal.

          • F&L says:

            Well said TTG. I am quite pessimistic about the Russian predicament, as much as it troubles me to admit it. Unprepared bunglers from the get-go. The best that can be said for them is that they have very seriously diminished Ukraine’s war making capabilities. Is that victory? According to Mearsheimer, who said that rather than allow Ukraine into NATO Russia would simply wreck the place, maybe it in fact is. But my sense is that this goes on for a long time. That they are back to trading nuclear threats is not IMO a typical sign of military progress.

          • Eric Newhill says:

            Should you guys have surrendered to the Nazis after Dunkirk or when the Battle of Britain was looking grim for the beleaguered RAF?

            Every time it looks like the Russians are going to crush Ukraine and enjoy victory, they don’t. IMO, the Russians are terrible at war fighting – and that fact should encourage Ukraine + NATO to continue to resist. Russia will tire out one of these days if they keep screwing around as they have been for more than two years.

            I say all of that as one who really doesn’t care about Ukraine, prefers the US not “print more money” to fund this and who doesn’t think that Russia is going to go marching across Europe. Even if they dream of it, they can’t because they can’t fight a real war worth a damn.

            Nuclear? That has been my concern all along. What happens when Russia realizes its blunder (i.e. that it can’t finish what it started)? Or if Ukraine becomes too depleted and NATO enters direct combat?

            Other than that, Johnson, Ritter, Martyanov, and the rest of the anti-US peanut gallery have proven themselves to be utter fools – fools without the integrity to admit when they’re wrong. I guess they are paid to stick to a Kremlin produced narrative. I recommend not taking them seriously.

            I also note that Russia has joined the ranks of punks like the Arabs/Palestinians who want to believe they can attack another country and expect to not be attacked in their own in return (or to lose land captured by their enemy). My respect for Russia declines materially with each passing month.

          • Eric Newhill says:

            Agree with you, except we can be sure that Ukraine doesn’t have to pass lessons learned to NATO armies. Those NATO forces have people right there directly absorbing the lessons, testing new approaches and learning more. I like the plausible deniability reflex 🙂

          • English Outsider says:

            Can’t go with you there, F&L. But find it difficult to go against you either!

            You see, we know very little about the initial Russian incursions across the LoC in February 2022. A highly coloured account from Chirkin from which we at least can gather that the ROE for the incursion were tight and that led to a high death rate for the Russian regulars involved. (seems it was regulars) Some comments from Rudskoy. Some fairly explicit remarks from Putin at the airwoman’s meeting. Later photos from the Ukrainians of the destruction of a key AD/command centre in or before the first few minutes. A map showing a multitude of penetrations all along the line but no provenance to the map I could find. That’s about it

            (One of the Rudskoy refs. “Main objectives of first stage of special operation in Ukraine generally accomplished – Russian General Staff”)


            .I’ve asked around the sites and even those who followed events closely in those first few days have come up with no more detail. Trukhan, of course, sets out the general approach and did at the time, I’ve since found, but again no details.

            Putting what we do know together, and looking at the results of that very early period, we’re looking at what appears to have been a highly competent operation that prevented for good any incursion of the Kiev forces into the Donbass and demolished the Ukrainian army as a coherent fighting force. A picture dead against that given to us by Western commentators and Western military authorities at the time or now.

            A similar conflict of pictures with the Ukrainian Kharkov and Kherson advances. Given that the Russians went to considerable trouble to evacuate both areas before they withdrew, not the rout portrayed. A Russian withdrawal causing few Russian casualties, done by the book, and horrendous losses for the advancing Ukrainian forces.

            And of course leading to the Russian “losses of territory” that were celebrated so exuberantly in the Western Press. As if this were WW2 and success measured by the ground gained as the victorious armies approached their ultimate objective.

            Success was measured by quite another yardstick for the Russians. Don’t forget that for us in the West this was a Russian land grab against a weaker neighbour. That’s how it was portrayed to us. But for the Russians this was a war of defence against the West. You, with your forays into Russian popular culture, will know better than I that for them this war was portrayed, and by many Russians was felt to be, nothing less than a continuation of the Great Patriotic War. You’ll remember the Russian film, “The White Tiger”, that could not have made that point more explicitly.

            Ihe Russians were up against NATO forces greatly superior in number to the forces they themselves put in the field. Greatly superior in number in the early days and until recently. The Ukrainian army was partly NATO trained and, proxies or no, they were in practice the largest military force in Europe by far that NATO had at its disposal. The Russians were also up against whatever the West could put up in the way of equipment, particularly since the Ukrainians were losing the old Soviet era equipment they started out with. Though quite a lot of the arms supplied, even today, look more like clearing out the back shed than provision of useful kit.

            After Istanbul, if the Russians wanted to defeat the West they could only do so by disposing of the forces and equipment the West had at its disposal. Territory didn’t come into it, except in that the Donbass provided the location, conveniently close for logistics and the inhabitants fired up with determination, in which this disposal operation could take place.

            Back in 2022 I looked up a WWI disposal operation that seemed to be similar in intention at the Imperial War Museum. Their records laid out what Falkenhayn had hoped to achieve. Using his artillery superiority he had intended to grind down the French army at Verdun at little cost in German casualties and great cost in French.

            That’s what the Russians have been doing since early 2022. Territory, even now, doesn’t come into it as the primary consideration. Attrition does.

            The Ukrainians are trapped. If they retreat in the face of this brutal disposal operation there’s no reason why they should not keep retreating all the way to the Polish border. If they stay and fight it out they get ground down,

            Were it not for the superb fighting quality of the bulk of the Ukrainians caught in this trap, we’d have seen an end to this long ago. Now they’re running out of such men and are having to send in old men and unwilling conscripts Raw conscripts the Ukrainian commanders are even now complaining about. And here I do again criticise the Western politicians as a whole.

            The European politicians are at their wits end to avoid the odium of having taken us into a lost war. Why should thousands more die to save face for them? The American politicians in power are hoping to defer defeat until after the next presidential election.

            Nothing illustrates the moral bankruptcy of those Western politicians more that that. For such reasons insisting that this Carnival of Death continue.


            Patrick Armstrong laid out the dilemma facing those who see this war differently in his De Caulaincourt essay. In Canada and Europe, though not in the States, any attempt to examine this war objectively is rejected as assisting or sympathising with the enemy. Unpatriotic, probably deliberately subversive, and all who engage in such an attempt are “Putin shills”.

            But there is, or should be, more to examining this war than automatically getting behind the politicians. The proxy war hysteria that swept Europe and the Commonwealth in 2022, and that lingers to the present day, prevented any rational examination of this doomed Western attempt to defeat Russia.

            But once one does examine it objectively, as even the American press is now starting to do, it’s clear that we should now accept this war is lost. That, F&L, whether we agree with the account above or not! If you continue fighting lost wars you simply end up with more dead.

          • English Outsider says:

            TTG – Rudskoy reference here:-

          • TTG says:


            That Rudskoy reference smacks of the story of the fox and the grapes. It contrasts sharply with the story erroneously released a few days after the start of the invasion crowing about a successful regime change in Kyiv at the hands of a victoriously Russian Army. It was pulled quickly when the planned regime change of the SMO didn’t occur. The Sputnik editorial by Petr Akopov is still available on the Wayback Machine.


          • English Outsider says:

            Note – on the section above on the Bakhmut Russian prisoner casualties, I cam across confirmation just now that, if genuine, shows that those casualties were indeed heavy:-


            It does seem that the prisoner recruits were used in the way described (“Sent them forward in order to get enemy firing points identified, is the story one hears.”)

            These casualties would explain the spike the the Mediazone figures at that time.

      • Barbara Ann says:

        Bill Hatch

        The last drop of Ukrainian blood, then the last drop of Moldovan blood, then the last drop of Georgian* blood and quite possibly at some point the last drop of European blood.

        *The Georgians’ seem extraordinarily keen to ensure they are not ‘Ukrained’, so we’ll see.

        Most commentators simply have the terms of reference for this war wrong. Russia is not fighting Ukraine, she is fighting NATO (read the US) in Ukraine. In fact the war is nothing less than the opening phase of a titanic struggle between Pax America and an aspirant Pax Sino-Russia. If anyone doubts this they should listen to Sergei Glazyev’s speech at the recently concluded SPIEF – or to the recent speeches of any number of other top level Russian politicians. Russia and China’s concrete plans to end the US-led world order that has stood since 1945 are now being discussed quite openly in front of the world’s press. The Western press does not cover events like Russia’s Davos of course and so the vast majority of Americans & Europeans will remain blissfully ignorant of this, the biggest story of our time. Be assured that TPTB running Pax Americana are not ignorant of the challenge that has been thrown down.

        Strategic analysis of the war in Ukraine that misses this, the big picture, is likely to be well nigh useless. There is no way Pax Americana is going to go quietly into the night and there similarly seems to be no way the American exceptionalists running US FP will deign to accept a new multipolar order. I fear the sea of blood in Ukraine may shortly be followed by an ocean.

        • Fred says:

          Barbara Ann,

          This is just Mackinder’s Great Game and GB+EU are playing the US (via the borg) like a fiddle. Whoever controls Eastern Europe –the Heartland—will control the world! We should say a pox on them all and leave GB and EU’s (NATO) to fend for themselves.

  4. Eric Newhill says:

    “Take me to the Brig. I want to see the “real Marines”.
    – Major General Chesty Puller, USMC – while on a Battalion inspection.

    • Kilo 4/11 says:

      Never heard that one. It would have been a real morale booster when I was in 3rd MAF Brig in ’68. Chesty’s son was terribly wounded about that time.

      • Eric Newhill says:

        Hey K/4/11,
        Sheesh, I was vaguely aware that Chesty’s son was seriously wounded in VN. However, I didn’t know how badly – double amputee and more. Worse, I see that Lewis Puller, Jr committed suicide in 1994. That sucks well beyond the usual embrace.

  5. Condottiere says:

    YouTuber The Fat Electrician’s take on Jake “McNasty” McNiece. He is the Steven Ambrose of my generation.


  6. F&L says:

    Sgt Alvin York these guys were not.

  7. mcohen says:

    Hey they rescued some tribe members in gaza.Good news if true.Also the floating pier is back just in time.
    Surreal you know.A floating pier on gazan soil.What’s next said Alice in wonderland

    Hey baby lets go to the big city
    In your new fine and shine
    You will look so pretty
    On the one oh nine

    There’s a new band in town
    They play all night
    Let’s get on down
    In a flash of light

    We can dance all night
    I have new shoes
    They are a little tight
    Need to loosen up my blues

    I will buy you a rose
    From the corner shop
    For the picture pose
    At the bus stop

    Now I know you’re hurting
    So give me your hand
    I hear music playing
    Down in boogie wonderland.

    • English Outsider says:

      That’s brilliant! Had to look up 109. But mccohen! Please not “tribe”. It looks innocent enough but it has a whole raft of associations behind it that are not only objectionable in themselves but also lead one into false analysis.

      But the poem. I’ve now got the hang of your deliberately asymmetric metre. Haunting stuff. Thanks.

  8. walrus says:

    Ahhhh! That reminds me of one Private Nahas, a conscript who didn’t want to be there. He was dirty, disorganised, insubordinate and useless. Even our standard collective punishment tactics failed to work – his fellow s hated his guts because he kept getting all of them in trouble. Nothing seemed to work, he was headed fof a discharge and he knew it and liked the idea.

    Until we got to field exercises and it transpired that this Turkish peasant was a crack shot and a born stalker. He could get behind you even if you were standing in the middle of an empty football field. His colleagues admired that.

    In the end we kept him off parade unless absolutely necessary and then he had “minders” detailed to keep him under control.

  9. English Outsider says:

    TTG – shut me up if I’m submitting too much. Shan’t take it amiss since I’ve just been looking over your comment section and there are already several feet of English Outsider up above!

    But somehow the Breedlove interview, for me, pulled a lot into place. The Ukrainian war is a complex multi-dimensional subject and Breedlove’s direct no nonsense approach cut through it all and forced questions about practicalities.

    Practicalities. Could I say to Eric and Fred, those practicalities don’t add up. Yes, you want to back up the Ukrainians to the full as Breedlove does. And unlike me, you live in a country whose politicians can do more than arm waving and have at their command real military clout. But there is no way that military clout can be used to any effect in this theatre.

    Practicalities. Breedlove’s former SACEUR. And not one of the Milley/Cavoli/ Radakin comedy act, by the sound of it. Thinks practicalities are important. Just look at one of those practicalities. As said above, you base your air force in Europe. Probably still the most powerful in the world for all I know. Certainly enough to make the Russians sit up and take notice. But also as said above – and the recent EP elections give a hint of this – the Europeans wouldn’t wear it. And if they did, and you got anywhere, then escalation no American President would countenance.

    Obama had it right. In this theatre the Russians have “escalatory dominance”. That message reinforced by that Rand study. Neither you nor Breedlove have any way of putting your money where your mouth is. Not in Ukraine.

    And as Barbara Ann states, there’s more in play here than Ukraine. Rubio remarked recently that if countries stopped using the dollar there’d be no way of sanctioning them. Cruz on much the same tack. Boris Johnson came straight out with it recently and said Western hegemony is at stake. Well, if that Western hegemony depends on last gasp Ukrainian forces sitting in makeshift trenches and getting mashed up by overwhelming shell fire, the politicians had better find some other way of guarding it, is all one can say.

    And I’m not that wild about the famous “Western Hegemony” anyway, TTG. Nor “Resisting Fascist Aggression, Defending Freedom and Democracy, Maintaining the Rules Based International Order” and the rest of the catchphrases the politicians throw at us in the hope we’ll believe in them though they don’t. From where I’m sitting all that grand talk means is that the politicians get to rob us blind and screw up our countries.

    • Eric Newhill says:

      Take a step back. Take a deep breath. Close your eyes and clear your head. Let all biases and preconceived notions dissolve. Then look at this situation with virgin eyes.

      I used to be in your camp. I admit I was wrong.

      Something about life, if I may with sincere humbleness……there are no good 100% guys and few truly evil guys (except Muslim scum who are evil barbarians). There are only men competing for what they can get out of what they see as a gigantic game.

      Just because you might not think that way doesn’t mean that others don’t. At best we, as regular citizens, can try to mitigate the wild strivings of our type A leadership and the hordes of government funded midwit sycophants that kiss their asses. But don’t think, ever, for a moment that the other guys aren’t the same. In such a world as ours it is best for us to support our own side, as long as that works for us. Better to be a taker than a giver on the world stage. Kindness is weakness in this world and decision making along the lines of global ethics and justice for all is a fool’s mission. The dogs will bite the hand that feeds them.

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