Even if you’re an avid student of military history, you probably haven’t heard of the Royal Air Force Eagle Squadron. Like many unusual stories that have always emerged as a result of war, they are largely lost over time, but I think they represent one of the best American heroes in history, and whatever – or was – the United States.
I can write long about these chaps, but I will control my dew-eye urge and keep it short. In short, they were Americans who volunteered to serve in the RAF before the Americans entered the war and against the will of their government. Some were pilots in the U.S. military, although they were not in the majority when recalling; Although they were all united in their belief that the right thing to do was to enlist the people who were actually fighting the Nazis.
I once asked an American Army friend why no movie was made about them. What, hot-shot pilots are fighting a good fight when their own government did not want? I have never heard of such a square-jawed, still-eyed American. My friend stared at me blankly. “Because,” he said, “they make the rest of us look bad.” And that, I can see his point.
They are very much remembered with the abundance of foreign volunteers traveling to Ukraine lately. The other – arguably more obvious – is a comparison of other people in history who fought in the Spanish Civil War, but since the issues were a little more ad hoc in that case, I’d gladly ignore it; After all, foreigners who have traveled to Ukraine are enlisted in the Kyiv government’s armed forces, not ideological militias.
The response from these brave souls – at least in Britain – has been somewhat mixed. True, I’ve seen a lot of people who have nothing but armed training at the Ukrainian embassy without military training, and thought that it would be better for them to volunteer as humanitarian aid workers or just fly cash to a reputable charity; The Kyiv authorities seem to think so, since they are only asking for people with military experience in their own country.
Yet to them, the reception was warm. The British government does not seem to be making up its own mind: Foreign Secretary Liz Truss’s encouragement is against anyone seeking enrollment in Poland, contrary to the advice of Defense Minister Ben Wallace. Yet I think the most eloquent arguments were put forward by author Gavin Mortimer The audience:
“Of the approximately 60 British volunteers who have entered Ukraine, none will remain Russia has the experience of firepower at the disposal. Among them is a former British soldier. Something May have experience in Iraq or Afghanistan, or may be served among those with chronic teeth South Armagh, but none will be hit by MiG fighter jets or targeted by Grad Multiple rocket launchers capable of launching 40 projectiles in 20 seconds. “
True in all cases. Gun warfare in Ukraine seems infinitely more horrific than anything in Afghanistan or Iraq, and of course, a Russian airstrike or artillery bombing dwarfs even the biggest IED that an Islamic insurgent can create.
Yet all of this rather ignores the fact that there are some people fighting in Ukraine who have one-hour classes on how to keep a rifle in training. Are they more prepared to deal with Russian heavy artillery than the former U.S. Army Ranger or the Royal Marines? The people of Ukraine have shown their resilience and their courage, but if I had to choose between former Western professionals who fought in Afghanistan and desperate civilians to defend their cities, I would go with the chap who gave at least basic training. .
It takes months to build a professional soldier, and while this can be offset by anger, determination and life-saving terror, they are not sustainable in the long run. Yes, no British or American soldiers have been hit by jets or artillery, but they know that the modern world has to work hard for weeks and months without any comforts and still be fit and strong enough. To fight to the end. Other than that, if you are hit by a Taliban-style small caliber mortar, Russian jet or heavy artillery, the command is, “Down” ****.
These are, you might agree, the obvious point, but Mr. Mortimer thinks the war is somewhat like a dungeon and dragon board game where Ukrainian civilians have a “+4 artillery resistance” feature that the British deny. The weakness of the former paratrooper in his essay is that he seems to use “foreign volunteers” as a blanket term for those who have served in the armed forces and those who have pretended; His anger is justified in the next section, but the lack of distinction in this writer’s view is sloping journalism *.
* A section on foreign volunteers and can be found in the American version of ‘How to Kill Putin’ The audience.
You may have noticed that Russia’s fake news is in full swing: I do not believe this story that 170 out of 200 foreign volunteers fled at the first sight of a Russian tank, especially when Moscow angrily admits that Ukrainian civilians are holding the line.
My suspicion is not just the result of Russia’s well-known persuasion to lie. A few days ago, I was shown a video from Russia Today (which will tell you everything) that seems to be strangely enthusiastic about Moscow’s victory. The clip shows a smog reporter walking around an “abandoned Ukrainian army camp”, showing tanks parked there that journalists apparently thought was a panic retreat, with unused weapons and ammunition.
Of all the mandatory things, Russia and Ukraine mostly use the same weapons and equipment just let down by this fact. Walking around an empty Russian camp (or just asking the soldiers there to stand behind that wall for ten minutes) was the simplest strategy in the book and claiming that everything was Ukrainian. After all, these are the same guys who built a “sophisticated AI-controlled humanoid robot” that later turned into a suit chap. Any reports of Western military veterans fleeing at the sight of the Russian flag could, therefore, be treated with a high degree of suspicion.
Twenty thousand of them are now reported to be fighting for the position of Ukraine, and even if this statistic is exaggerated (which I cannot be entirely sure) there has clearly been a large influx of foreigners seeking their jobs. Could they have a significant impact? I’m glad you asked, but to answer that, I’m afraid I’ll bother you with another story in military history.
It was the second-deadliest war in history, with the death toll surpassing only in World War II, between the Chinese Taiping Rebellion, imperialist China, and a religious community that preached Christianity. The Imperial Army attacked the organized rebels. The first decade of the war (it lasted fourteen years), but was given a significant backbone by the ‘Ever-Victorian Army’.
Originally founded by an American, Frederick Townsend Ward, it was occupied by Major-General Charles Gordon, later to achieve immortality through his last position in Sudan. Originally it was a mercenary force, although many of the later recruits were Chinese and were led by Western officers. The whole story is long, but the short version is that about 5,000 troops played a key role in ending the second-worst war of all time.
I am not trying to suggest that the Ukrainian army is floundering like King China; demonstrably this is quite the opposite. What I do say, however, is that even if Ukraine has half of the 20,000 Western veterans, it claims that units made up of such men will not be disbanded. After all, Russian artillery is not winning this war, and the performance of its infantry has been poor.
I would, then, tell Mr. Mortimer and all those who think like him not to think of it as a contrast between a former British soldier and a Russian airman – but rather a former British soldier standing against a Russian army. Who doesn’t know why he’s fighting or doesn’t really want to. And the conclusion of that exchange, I hope, should be very clear to disturb the recording here.
And for governments, people should not be discouraged from fighting wars that are truly important. Like the Eagle Squadrons of the 1940s, they are people who value their moral responsibility more than government caution – and as insulting to our vigilante-obsessed Western world as it may be, we should consider that there won’t be a Western one. The world without them.