RANGER AGAINST WAR: Totenkopf <

Monday, January 07, 2013

Totenkopf

--Marine Reconnaissance Division patches

Peace is for Queers 
--Seven Psychopaths (2012)

We're not fantastic motherfuckers,
but we play them on TV
It's a dirty word Reich,
say what you like
 --The Golden Age of Grotesque,
Marilyn Manson 

Here’s the smell of the blood still:
all the perfumes of Arabia
will not sweeten this little hand.
Oh! oh! oh! 
--Macbeth (V, i) 

But when I swing my swords
they all choppable
I be the body dropper, the heartbeat stopper
Child educator, plus head amputator 
--Liquid Swords, GZA
 _________________

Ranger recent piece on the video game "Assassin's Creed" received a reply regarding the perception that assassins kept democracy free form the forces of evil.  Despite the glorification of assassinations in pop culture productions like video games and Tarantino's film Kill Bill (a glorified video game), democracy is not promulgated at the tip of an assassin's sword.

Assassination is not a democratic principle.


Yesterday, while cruising eBay for some sterling silver jump wings Ranger came across a Special Forces crest with its noble-minded motto (De Oppresso Liber) -- sporting a death's head over the logo; talk about cognitive dissonance. Yet it took him back to the day that he wore a death's head on his uniform.

He also remembered another memento of his SF time, the Zippo lighter with a death's head MACVSOG crest which was presented to graduates of the One-Zero Combat Reeconnaissance School (B53 May '70). Ranger has written of the death's head before, but each time he encounters it on United States military paraphernalia he considers the matter anew.

Soldiers must kill to perform their combat mission, but why does the military and civilian leadership allow such symbolism our patches?  Such gruesome heraldry is understandable on an SS Nazi uniform, but how can he accept this on a U.S. uniform?  Yet at one time Ranger wore one, just as do present day military men.

Despite the ubiquity of the symbol on U.S. unit patches, Ranger has never seen the image on a Vietcong or North Vietnamese Army patch ... weren't they the bad guys who did not value human life?  The U.S. used body counts as a gauge of success during most of the Vietnam war -- doesn't this "poundage of death" metric of success indicate a slip between the theory and reality of winning hearts and minds?

Death is never a measure of a successful operation, as a Commander may not kill his way into a successful victory -- so why the proliferation of nasty death's heads in the service of a liberal democracy?  Oddly, the hooah military sites celebrate these death-oriented symbols while at the same time calling our adversaries barbaric and inhuman.

And we remain surprised when another member of our society revels in another bloodbath worthy of an assassin, a person who would celebrate the symbology of the death's head.  These wayward "nutters" hold the mirror up for us, all members of a violent society.  The neo-assassins are us, externalized.

The champions of the death's heads would say, their violence is controlled, is targeted at those who deserve the wrath of a democracy, but there is no controlling the murderous impulse once out of Pandora's Box.  How is a kindergarten shooting spree more doleful than the violence applied with alacrity (from der Homeland) in the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©)?

Are dead kids bad in the Continental U.S. but acceptable when killed by a Hellfire missile in some foreign land we ostensibly bless with our democratic principles?

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14 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim, Those are USMC *division* patches.

4th,5th and 6th div.s were deactivated after WW2, so I guess the corresponding patches are from that era.

avedis

Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 11:33:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

Thanks for keeping us strac :)

[I found them and their description on the internet, so thanks for the correction. lf)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 11:45:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger FDChief said...

Not sure if the USMC Force Recon battalions skull-and-crossbones is any kind of recent bad-attitude development. It seems to have been picked up some time ago; maybe even in WW2?

But I tend to agree that this sort of death's-head/ace-of-spades kind of symbology seems a bit out there for U.S. units in general.

OTOH the skull doesn't have a particularly Nazified connection in Europe. The Prussian cavalry, especially their hussars, used it as far back as the Napoleonic Wars. Among the other European outfits that have used some version of the totenkopf are:

The Italian Arditi used a skull with a dagger between its teeth as a symbol during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.

The British Army's Queen's Royal Lancers (originally 17th Lancers) use a death's head, and the words 'Or Glory' in honor of the death of their original patron, GEN Wolfe.

The ROK 3rd Infantry Division (백골부대) has a skull and crossbones in their emblem.

Portugal's 2nd Lancers Regiment use a skull-and-crossbones image in their emblem, similar to the one used by the Queen's Royal Lancers.

When Sweden had hussars (in the 19th Century) they wore it in the Prussian Style on the front of the Mirleton.

Estonia's Kuperjanov Infantry Battalion continues to use the skull and crossbones as their insignia today.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 4:12:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A little better, Lisa.

But those aren't recon division patches, they are the three existing USMC div.s (yep only three in the whole corps - the few the proud......) + three (4th,5th,6th) that were raised during WW2 due to the large number of Japanese, spread throughout the vast area of the pacific, that needed to be turned into good Japanese .

Force recon company patches are actually rather benign. There's a rocker not unlike the ranger tab and a logo patch that reads Force Reconaissance over some jump wings in the middle of which is a dude in a scuba suit swimming; under which reads, Semper Fidelis. No deaths heads.

The force recon T/O is a little confusing. Now, The individual recon battalions do report up to their parent division (the 1st, 2nd or 3rd divisions - whose patches you have displayed). 1st recon battalion reports up to 1st div, etc, etc.

The individual recon battalions DO HAVE DEATH HEADS on their patches (i.e. 1st recon patch is the 1 and southern cross of the 1st div patch WITH A DEATH HEAD SKULL & CROSSBONES OVERLAYING THE 1).

At any rate, those yo have displayed are standard div patches that *any* regular active duty Marine would have on a shoulder. There are recon battalion patches and at least the 1st and 2nd have some kind of skull motif.

avedis

Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 4:40:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

I love our informed military men shoring things up for me :)

I (Jim, too) knew that the death's head is a fairly ubiquitous presence at least in unofficial patches across nations. That does not ameliorate the offense, however. The question is profound: What is the impulse behind the display?

Certainly in literature throughout the ages, the images of danse macabre and momento mori have been used to recognize our unity as we stand in the midst of our mortality. Does the same human understanding gird our military men's employment of such patches?

Is it a (vain) attempt to co-opt the role of the Grim Reaper as the slayer of men? Again, a hard question, and fighting men do what they must to steel themselves, but is the insignia necessary, and how does it affect his (our) view of the adversary?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 7:25:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"What is the impulse behind the display?"

To remind others and yourself that you are a special mutant killer.

"Is it a (vain) attempt to co-opt the role of the Grim Reaper as the slayer of men?"

Yep, IMO.

"and how does it affect his (our) view of the adversary?"

Who cares other than he is going to be the reapers' harvest.

Sometimes I wonder about Jim. He's always got these big stragety ideas and tactics and philosophy stuff like killing doesn't win wars. Must be an SF O thing. Down in the enlisted rifleman's world, killing is the name of game.

Does SF not instill a blood lust in the men? Seriously, is it all of that quiet professional culture?

avedis



Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 9:42:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

Thanks as always, avedis, for your straight up reply.

Your lasts statement deserves a considered reply from Jim. I shall be interested to hear the response. lf.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 10:39:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yeah. Me2, Lisa.

I am particularly interested in reality on the ground (i.e. RVN) versus ideals.

My son is home from A-stan as of yesterday - back with his parent outfit (he was in country with a detachment). 4 blast concussions during deployment and apparently saw the worst that war has to offer. I knew he was having it rough, but I didn't know it was that bad. He will be resigning his commission and receiving an honorable D/C with disability (initial paper work is in and approved) - about 5 months to outprocess. In the meanwhile light duty. He is very happy to be getting out of the Army.

I am working on getting things squared away here so I can go down there and see him. he seems ok, but some things that he saw there are bothering him.

Re; resigning commission - Apparently prisoners captured by his team were routinely brutalized and killed by ANA partners. His CO's response was to round file all AARs. Missions never happened, so no prisoners gone missing. He will tell me more in person - but no toten kopf for him. He did NOT approve of the wrongs he witnessed. For that I am grateful and proud.

avedis

Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 12:19:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

avedis,

I pray your son's re-entry to U.S. will allow for a healthy re-integration into (an albeit not totally well) society.

Yes -- the ground reality vs. the ideals. I want to know more about that.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 12:30:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To clarify, what I am thinking is that Jim, as an SF Officer, would necessarily have to deal with higher level strategies and his missions would require relatively more finess. OTOH, grunts in a rifle company are looking at things differently. Afterall, someone has to close with the enemy and kill him.

avedis

Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 1:54:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Avedis,
It's simple.
You can't kill your way to victory.
Witness the Wehrmacht in WW2.
The CSA of which you mat have more than a passing knowledge killed the hell out of US troops, but they lost in the end.
We killed millions in the rvn war but lost only 58+/-thousand. They're still there and we're long gone to quote Springsteen.
My unit in rvn had a documented 150 to 1 kill ratio only exceeded in later wars with better J level coordination, but once again all that bravery and killing meant squat.
Killing is not the final determinant of success.
That's my view.
It's rather a simple conclusion.
jim

Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 2:03:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Avedis,
Further cmt needed .
Let's use your son's experience.
The Army ain't even gonna consider those dead and wia in the aar's that they shit canned.
Obviously those deaths were meaningless as is/was the entire war.
PERSONAL NOTE-DO NOT LET THE LT ETS W/O A PEB.(Phy Eval Bd).
He'd be well advised to collect names etc of all witnesses to his actions , plus sick slips etc to prove his claims.
Once he's gone all the stuff has a way of disappearing.
He needs his PH and cib to have presumption of service connection for ptsd issues.
jim
Remember Tillman.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 2:09:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Chief,
Of course all those countries use deaths heads.
Isn't that why we initially severed ties with old Europe.
Weren't we tired of their wars?
Isn't that why we feared standing armies?
Avedis,
I'd guess that todays SF is more full of blood lust than is any Marine rifleman.
jim

Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 2:33:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the pesonal note - The Lt is all over it. All will be in order.

I think you are right re; SF blood lust, but only from personal distant impressions.

I completely get your point about killing not = victory. I am not so sure that war is about victory anymore. It's morphed into something else; almost war for its own sake.

avedis

Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 6:00:00 PM GMT-5  

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