Nations’ armies are their pride, safety, and power. Some countries have fearsome armies while some have teeny tiny ones. In fact, not all nations have armies. Some countries spend to thrive in military power; others are peaceful with their little military.
Besides unwavering discipline, armies carry culture and history. They are communities of soldiers, who, out of battle, form close bonds which strengthens during the war. So there emerge many tales and myths which accompany them. Some are true and some are merely not. It is exciting to learn these myths and facts. But it is important that we do not alter the truth.
7. Extreme Armies:
China has the biggest of all armies by a sheer number of 2.18 million. Imagine a few hundred thousand soldiers marching toward you tenfold. You would faint within two seconds!
Leaving out Iceland and other non-militarized states, the Vatican City has one of the smallest armies. Their Swiss Guard of 135 men only protects the Pope at close range.
Iceland boasts one of the most unusual armies in the world: It doesn’t have one! Yes, Iceland has no standing (permanent) troops. It only has a handful of ships and aircraft. The USA protects Iceland actively, according to a 1951 agreement. Nauru, Palau and Samoa are other states without armies.
6. How Countries Survive Without Armies:
Countries without armies demilitarize, build alliances, and leverage the international system to secure their sovereignty. I am discussing the first two below:
This is the reducing military as much as possible. Smaller countries, especially unprotected ones, use this tactic. A demilitarized area is off-limits during war. So the country stays fairly secure. Yet a demilitarized zone must be global to have a substantial effect. Therefore, the country may need to sign some agreements. Using this strategy, countries without armies can maneuver in an international playing field. All that, without armies, impresses me.
Another strategy for weaker countries is making alliances. Powerful friends come with many benefits. With some incentive, a weak-military nation can befriend a larger country for security. For instance, such agreements bind the USA to protect Iceland.
And what do the larger states get? The answer is: economic success, geographical prowess, and/or similar interest spreading. They get money, location, and/or a friend.
“Anything can happen in politics”. In fact, intellectuals can act as the soldiers of countries with weak armies, for example, Nauru, Palau and Samoa. International relations keep these countries afloat, thus maintaining the order.
5. Children In Armies
We all know the go-to cliché: “Women and children first.” This is because they can’t defend themselves; but do children fight wars? Yes, when need arises, armies recruit youngsters too.
Despite the international laws, violent countries recruit many underage combatants. Children are more susceptible to influence for a myriad of reasons. Thus, international courts have to try children for war crimes. War causes many problems–majorly mental–in children. Thankfully, the rate of child warriors has fallen.
African wars and religious extremism see many children in armies. Though unsure, recruiters may have many reasons for this. Here is their rationale: Children are always easy pickings (suggestible), inspired by archetypes, and can carry light weapons. Besides, during wartime, some children seek revenge (for close ones); often, a militant’s glory strongly motivates them. Thus, many child fighters fought in many battles.
UNICEF says: In 1988, 200,000 kids fought wars. The number has since gone down, but is not nil. Even children as young as seven have fought. This is not the world we want to live in. When wars take place, we must secure our children; we do this not by immediate action but through law and its implementation. Children should be in schools, not armies.
4. The Youngest Military Soldier
Speaking of children in armies, Momčilo Gavrić is perhaps the most famous to get into the army at seven. Born on 1 May 1906, he was the eighth of eleven siblings.
War ruined Gavrić’s childhood. During WWI, the Croatian army brutally murdered his family: father, mother, grandmother and seven siblings. Besides, the monsters burned his home.
Now homeless and heartbroken, he joined the Serbian military by the time he was just 7. Remarkably, Gavrić fought in WWI and became a Lance Sergeant. He took part in the freezing Great Retreat of 1915, and so earned the Albanian Commemorative Medal.
This resilient fighter passed away in 1993, but multiple monuments still carry his legacy.
3. Animals In Armies
The Polish Army’s Wojtek is the most intimidating animal soldier of all armies. Actually, Polish soldiers found and adopted him. He weighed 500-600 pounds, smoked cigarettes, and drank beer. Strange, isn’t it?
Wojtek also fought in WWII. Wojtek’s primary job was boosting morale and supplying ammunition. In his honor, his division’s seal shows him carrying ammunition.
That is all the glory of Wojtek, the bear. Yes, in fact, this brown bear retired as a Corporal. He spent his post-war days in Scotland with friends; his wartime nurses.
Animals are not unusual in battle. However, in armies, it’s a unique story. The scene of cavaliers riding fearlessly into battle raising dust and locking blades is a peak cliché in modern warfare. But having animals in armies is weird, excluding canines. Yet Wojtek enjoyed the company of the most famous animals (e.g. Laika and Dolly) in being special.
2. The First Women In Armies
Deborah Sampson, born in 1760, became a first female Private of the Continental Army. It does not seem strange nowadays, but back then, only men could join the army. Despite of that fact, Sampson’s determination got her into the military.
Sampson was 5 feet, 9 inches compared to 5 feet, 6-8 inches; the then average man’s height. Besides, she lacked defining feminine features. Thus Sampson easily disguised herself as a man. For 17 months, she worked under the pseudonym “Robert Shirtliff”. Later, wounded in the American Revolutionary War, Sampson received an honourable discharge.
Later, Sampson got married and had kids. She faced discrimination throughout her life. When she had had enough, she demanded her pay, which the government had withheld because of her sex. She faced denial initially, but stayed firm. Eventually, Sampson succeeded with the help of a male friend. Sampson secured her rights and changed the thinking of powerful men regarding gender roles.
People have dedicated countless art pieces and several memorials to this pioneer lady. Sampson died in 1827. She fought for her pay till her death. Thus shattering the gender stereotypes. Particularly, every female soldier in the modern armies represent her.
1. The Deadliest Sniper Out of All Armies
In practical life, some people receive practical blessings, while the violent always impulses trouble. Let’s face it; armies welcome both. For instance, Simo Häyhä, the Finnish sniper, possessed both qualities. For regarded as the deadliest sniper, Häyhä killed 505 people during the Winter War. The war lasted from 1939 to 1940.
Simo’s luck ran out in 1940, for a Soviet soldier marked him with a special explosive bullet. Then the bullet disfigured his face. However, Häyhä still had much to accomplish. With a broken left jaw, Simo shot his attacker dead. Other than the kills, Simo had at least 5 awards under his belt. Oddly, he also had a song named after him entitled “White Death”.
Despite his violent job, Simo Häyhä never bragged. He was a gifted child. He had an impeccable aim. Trophies for marksmanship filled his home. Besides, he never expressed his kill-count in public. He was very modest by nature. Eventually; he reported 500 where his unit captain credited him with 542.
Simo died in 2002 at 96 after a living a fulfilling life. When asked about regrets, Häyhä justified his kills by the hierarchy. He said that he only did what he was told, however well he could; for that’s what a soldier should do.
Armies are handy, but not vital for a nation. From immense armies to none, nations of all varieties exist. A civilized world should exclude child participation in the armies. Momčilo Gavrić is the world famous youngest soldier. Pioneering Deborah Sampson represents the first women ever took part in the army. Simo Häyhä has over 505 sniper kills. These stories from armies should inspire good deeds, but as a nation, we must try our best to live with harmony and make friendship, not war.