Heroes & Villains - Hubert Zemke

Pilot, Prisoner, Pugilist, Paragon

I had a lot of trouble coming up with a way to introduce Hubert Zemke. I wanted to talk about how he excelled at various things. I wanted to say some nonsense about rising above and beyond his already impressive peer group. But none of it was quite right.

I believe I have come up with an introduction that *is* quite right.

Hubert Zemke was an impossibly useful human being.

  Examining the .50 caliber machine guns on his P-47C Thunderbolt.

Examining the .50 caliber machine guns on his P-47C Thunderbolt.

Zemke was born in 1914, in Missoula, Montana. Or, to put it in 20's-40's terms, Zemke came from The-Bumfuck-Middle-of-Nowheresville. Missoula is currently a decently sized city with an airport, so we don't get to call it that anymore, despite it being in Montana. Also, he was the son of a pair of German immigrants, the irony of which was probably not lost on him.

As a kid, Zemke was bullied at school, at least according to the National Aviation Hall of Fame. Whether or not this fueled his interest in boxing is debatable. Sports explicitly dedicated to injuring other people were more popular back in the day. Still, it meant he knew how to handle bullies, boxing or not.

In 1936, Zemke entered the Army Air Corps, and a year later was a fully qualified fighter pilot, assigned to a squadron of P-40 Kittyhawks in Texas.

  I couldn't find and verify any pictures of a 37th Pursuit Group P-40, so here's just a basic picture of a P-40 to give you an idea of what it was like. The guns located in the nose indicate that this is a very early variant. Most of the variants used in WWII had 4-6 .50 caliber guns in the wings instead.

I couldn't find and verify any pictures of a 37th Pursuit Group P-40, so here's just a basic picture of a P-40 to give you an idea of what it was like. The guns located in the nose indicate that this is a very early variant. Most of the variants used in WWII had 4-6 .50 caliber guns in the wings instead.

In 1940, the United States entered a long running trend of foreign policy that hinged on not really knowing what "neutral" means. To express the nation's uninvolvement in the war, President Roosevelt sent representatives to countries engaged in combat with Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan to learn and exchange military theory. This occurred in tandem with "lend-lease", which, to keep it simple, was functionally the US giving free weapons and equipment to Allied nations.

Zemke was sent to England to act as a liaison to the RAF. He would be one of the first American pilots to see how the Luftwaffe operated, and how the Brits developed counter-tactics to those operations. Without flying a single combat mission, Zemke had become a valuable asset to the Army Air Corps.

A year later, he was sent to the USSR to do the same thing. Zemke had a certain degree of fluency in the Russian language. That and his training on the P-40 meant he was exactly the right man to go teach the Russians how to fly the P-40. Zemke would later have "мой товарищ" painted on the side of his P-47 Thunderbolt, to celebrate the connection he made through the imminent Iron Curtain.

  That translates to "My Comerade". Zemke's fluency would serve him well, even after his time in the USSR was up.

That translates to "My Comerade". Zemke's fluency would serve him well, even after his time in the USSR was up.

On December 7th of 1941, the Japanese launched a daring strike on US Navy ships stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Four days later, Nazi Germany declared war on the United States. It seemed America's weak attempts at neutrality weren't going to be enough to stop Hitler and Hirohito. Someone needed to go over there and help the the Allies wreck the Axis' shit.

In March of 1942, Zemke was assigned to the 56th Fighter Group, transferring to P-47C Thunderbolts, and deploying to Europe in January of 1943. The P-47 was a heavy bastard of a fighter, armed with 8 Browning AN/M2 .50 caliber machine guns in the wings, and capable of carrying 2500 lbs. (Just over 1100kg) of bombs and rockets for ground attack. The Thunderbolt also boasted good performance at low and high altitudes, decent range for a fighter, and exceptional durability for a fighter. The only downside was the somewhat high cost.

  Zemke's P-47C-5. Image from http://www.gaetanmarie.com

Zemke's P-47C-5. Image from http://www.gaetanmarie.com

By October, Zemke was an ace and his "Wolfpack" squadron was developing new tactics of air combat that would shape how every other fighter unit in the world operated. One of the more innovative tactics was the "Zemke Fan". The Fan was an arrangement of 3 fighter squadrons. The lead squad flew low, with the next squad flying above, and the last squad flying high as a reserve for the other two.

The positioning and doctrine of this tactic meant the Zemke Fan could cut off interceptors from all manner of approaches without leaving escorted bombers vulnerable. The stacked squadrons could reinforce any squad below them if the need arose while the other regrouped.

Later, in August of '44, Zemke transferred to the 479th Fighter Group. The 479th was being issued the new P-51 Mustang to replace their P-38 Lightnings, and he wanted to get him some of that. Unfortunately, Zemke's plane was damaged on October 30th, and subsequently caught in a thunderstorm.

He had no choice but to ditch over enemy territory. Unable to evade capture, Zemke's role in Europe's air war was over with 17..75 victories credited and over 150 missions flown. His role of being impossibly useful, however, remained unchanged.

Just as an aside, Russian wasn't the only other language Zemke knew. His German parents meant he spoke the language of his captors. This was good for Zemke. Not only could he better communicate with the guards (and interrogators), he could also endear himself to them and start building up favors for himself and the other prisoners.

Though not as imperiled as, say, Polish Jews, captured airmen in Germany had two huge burdens to deal with.

First, there was a chance they'd be caught by the SS and not the Luftwaffe or Wehrmacht. The Luftwaffe and Wehrmacht drew from the greater population, and had people who appreciated the experiences of the soldiers and pilots they apprehended. The SS drew from dedicated members of the Nazi party, and encouraged a brand of hatred as of yet unmatched by any other organization.

The second is that the US and UK were bombing the ever-loving hell out of Germany's industrial infrastructure. The collateral damage was extensive. The Nazis used this fact as propaganda against the Allies, but it was also not an unreasonable thing to be upset about. More than one captured pilot and crew-member was subjected to torture (or a mob beating) by people wanting to get even for the bombing.

 

  Zemke's mugshot while being taken into German custody. You know, he kind of looks like Tom Hanks.

Zemke's mugshot while being taken into German custody. You know, he kind of looks like Tom Hanks.

Zemke was shipped off to Stalag Luft 1. It wasn't a concentration camp, but it wasn't great by any stretch of the imagination. Stalag Luft 1 was also located in Barth, Germany. Barth is in a part of Germany that would best be described as "The shitty cold part for most of the year".

He also spent some time with Hanns Scharff, the legendary interrogator of the Luftwaffe, known for being able to get all kinds of useful information from prisoners. Scharff's technique was brutal. He took efforts to ensure prisoners were treated humanely, and then he'd get in casual and polite conversations with them, sometimes after getting them drunk. Scharff was a trailblazer in the field of interrogation, and his methods of "treating people like people" and "malt liquor" live on to this day in the form of things that are eschewed in favor of unreliable torture.

  Scharff is on the left, an American POW is in the middle, and a Luftwaffe officer on the right.     "YOU SHALL TELL US WHAT WE WISH TO KNOW, OR HERR OFFICER AND I SHALL HAVE TO... uh... make a note of that and send you back with some coffee to share with the others."

Scharff is on the left, an American POW is in the middle, and a Luftwaffe officer on the right.

"YOU SHALL TELL US WHAT WE WISH TO KNOW, OR HERR OFFICER AND I SHALL HAVE TO... uh... make a note of that and send you back with some coffee to share with the others."

Scharff knew a lot about Zemke and the 56th Fighter Group. In fact, aside from what he knew as an intelligence worker, it seemed that Scharff was a genuine fan of pilots in general. Still, underneath his amicable exterior and distinctly un-Nazi concern for his enemy's well-being, Scharff was still an interrogator.

In Zemke's own words:

"There is no doubt in my mind that he did extract something from me, but I haven’t the slightest idea what. If you talked to him about the weather or anything else, he no doubt could get some information or confirmation from it. He reminded me of the typical American insurance salesman who left you with a $10,000 insurance policy after getting his foot in the door. Though he never seemed to press for information, he’d pop an innocent remark out of the blue, making me think twice."

Whether Zemke actually gave anything away to Scharff, it definitely wasn't enough to change the balance of the war. After the war, Zemke would invite Scharff to dinner. Also Scharff would design the mosaic inside Cinderella's Castle for Disney World in Orlando. But that's a story for another time.

At the rank of Colonel, Zemke was the highest ranking Allied officer at Stalag Luft 1. Under the Geneva Convention, that meant that the US prisoners all reported to him, *and* the Germans were obligated to respect his rank in matters of prisoner interaction. To translate, that means that Zemke was only obligated to salute and hold attention for a German soldier only if their rank exceeded Colonel. In fact, Zemke technically didn't have to even speak to a German soldier of a lower rank. Most of the Allied officers took pleasure in exploiting these rules to annoy their captors. While risky, these shows of defiance were a source of inspiration to the rest of the prisoners.

In addition to shows of defiance, Zemke found other ways to boost morale. One notable example was the staging of a boxing match. Zemke's opponent was drawn from a pool of volunteers with backgrounds in boxing (or not, anyone who wanted to throw their name in was able). The name drawn for the bout was Major Cyrus Manierre. Let's talk about Manierre for a minute. Stalag Luft 1 was a cesspool of fascinating people.

Major Manierre was a captured OSS agent who had been working with the French resistance. But the Germans didn't know this. The Major had spun a convincing story of being a downed bomber pilot, and was able to back that up thanks to the fact that his brother was a bomber pilot. Cyrus's brother, Bill, was, in fact, a bomber pilot who had been downed over Germany and captured. When the Germans found out they had captured two pilots who were also brothers, they made a big point of "reuniting the brothers", then shipped them to Stalag Luft 1. If they had known Cyrus was really an OSS agent, they'd have turned him over to the SS, and he almost certainly would have been hanged.

Major Manierre outweighed Colonel Zemke by a fair margin, and also had 4 inches of height on the Colonel. Although both men had boxing experience, Zemke's greater experience  was more than enough to close the weight gap. After Manierre held his own in the first round, he began to tire and Zemke would win by a unanimous vote from the appointed judges.

  Based on the one photograph of the event, I'm guessing that what really happened is that two malnourished men put on boxing gloves they got from somewhere and traded punches, and it was the best entertainment anyone at the camp, prisoner or guard, had gotten for a long time.

Based on the one photograph of the event, I'm guessing that what really happened is that two malnourished men put on boxing gloves they got from somewhere and traded punches, and it was the best entertainment anyone at the camp, prisoner or guard, had gotten for a long time.

Soon, the year was 1945, and the Allies were closing in from the East, South, and West. The so-called "master race" was having its ass handed to it by a group of starving, scared Soviets on one front, and a huge, multinational military that was quietly starting to de-segregate on the other front. It was a bad year for nationalism and racism. It was also a bad year to be a prisoner to the Axis.

POW camps all over Germany were being liquidated, and prisoners were being forced to move hundreds of miles to alternate camps further away from the advancing armies. In April, the German officer in charge of Stalag Luft 1 informed Zemke that they were to be moved to Hamburg. Zemke refused to follow this plan. Instead, Zemke convinced the Commandant that it was in his best interest to get his 200 or so poorly armed men and bugger off before the Russians showed up.

The Commandant agreed and left the camp with his men. 9,000 Allied airmen (and at least one spy pretending to be an airman) now controlled Stalag Luft 1, under the direction of Colonel Zemke. In the event the Germans had been stubborn, Zemke had spent the past several months getting weapons smuggled in and stashed around the camp. Fortunately, it didn't come to that.

On May 1st, the Soviets finally showed up, led by General Marozil, a man I am having an astounding amount if difficulty finding any information about. The liberating Soviets immediately set about planning to move all the prisoners to Odessa. Zemke, again annoyed at the prospect of a pointless march to somewhere worse, also refused this plan. The Colonel's mastery of the Russian language meant he could better communicate the needs of the prisoners to the Soviets.

  I'm going off topic here, but someday I'm going to track down more information on General Marozil. All I have to go on currently is that he worked for Borisov, his name might be Uzbeki, and there's two photographs of him with the Stalag Luft 1 prisoners.

I'm going off topic here, but someday I'm going to track down more information on General Marozil. All I have to go on currently is that he worked for Borisov, his name might be Uzbeki, and there's two photographs of him with the Stalag Luft 1 prisoners.

Once the containment fences had been ripped down, the Soviets asked Zemke what he needed, and his first answer was food for 9000 men. The Russians went into the surrounding countryside and rounded up several hundred cows and pigs.

Actually, according to one account, the cows were more than enough, but a Soviet soldier rolled up with a couple hundred pigs and explained that he couldn't reach the goal of 1000 pigs. When a prisoner explained that the cows were enough, the Soviet replied "The General has ordered me to get you the pigs." So this prisoner went into the abandoned admin office and used a typewriter to work up a receiving message saying all 1000 had been delivered. He probably saved that Soviet a lot of grief.

  Here's Zemke with some more Soviets. Note F.LT. Delarge. Delarge also spoke Russian, so he could represent the prisoners alongside Zemke. Also note that officer on the left who didn't hold still for the camera. And finally, note General Borisov sitting to Zemke's right (viewer's left).

Here's Zemke with some more Soviets. Note F.LT. Delarge. Delarge also spoke Russian, so he could represent the prisoners alongside Zemke. Also note that officer on the left who didn't hold still for the camera. And finally, note General Borisov sitting to Zemke's right (viewer's left).

Zemke's next objective after feeding his men was to let the Western Allies know where they were. He gave this task to RAF Group Captain Weir, who went to the Russians to further convince them that moving everyone to Odessa was a waste of time, and that what they really needed was a working telephone or radio. Between Zemke and Weir, they finally convinced the Soviets to get in touch with General Eisenhower, who had several hundred B-17s sent to a nearby airfield to bring the prisoners home.

To summarize Hubert Zemke's role in the War, I'll make a bulleted list. This list can also be my TL;DR, for the impatient

  • Zemke oversaw lend-lease deliveries of P-40 fighters to the UK, USSR, and China (to a smaller extent).
  • During his time in these countries, Zemke crossed cultural and political gaps between the western and eastern Allied forces.
    • He also got a closer look at the Luftwaffe than most other American pilots would get until 1942.
  • Zemke developed and applied new tactics for bomber escort and fighter suppression that became a standard for other units in the Army Air Corps.
  • Zemke survived being shot down by God.
  • Zemke met Hanns Scharff, famous Axis interrogator and Disney mosaic designer.
  • Zemke ably represented the prisoners at Stalag Luft 1, and protected them against being put on a death march by retreating German forces. He spoke German, too.
  • He also guarded the prisoners from being shipped to Communist controlled Odessa and presumably having their souls devoured by Stalin. Zemke was fluent in Russian.
  • Hubert Zemke kind of looked like Tom Hanks.

Hubert Zemke was an impossibly useful human being.


Sources

  • W.Smith, Mary.  World War II - Prisoners of War - Stalag Luft I.  http://www.merkki.com/.
    • Just as an aside, Merkki is a site that's crammed full of fascinating stories.
  • “Zemke, Hubert A. ‘Hub.’” Atlantikwall - Batterie D'Azeville - Azeville - TracesOfWar.com, www.tracesofwar.com/persons/46544/Zemke-Hubert-A-Hub.htm?c=aw.
  • “Secrets of the Nazi Interrogators.” HistoryNet, 25 Apr. 2018, www.historynet.com/secrets-nazi-interrogators.htm.

Heroes & Villains - Franz Von Werra

The Luftwaffe's Lion-Taming, Escapist Fighter Ace!

My first H&V of the year. I'm going to be trying out some slightly different formatting for this one. If I decide I like the formatting, I may go back and revamp some older entries. First off, I'm going to dress up my articles with sensational (but true) headlines. Like a 50's stag mag. 50's stag mags knew how to get attention and interest.

  Franz Von Werra and Simba inspecting his Bf 109 E-4. They're checking out the MG FF/M cannon in the wing. I believe this was taken in August of 1940. (That's just an educated guess, however)

Franz Von Werra and Simba inspecting his Bf 109 E-4. They're checking out the MG FF/M cannon in the wing. I believe this was taken in August of 1940. (That's just an educated guess, however)

Franz Von Werra joined the Luftwaffe in 1936, and qualified as a fighter pilot by 1938. Upon the formation of the fighter group Jagdgeschwader 3 , he was assigned as an officer, and flew combat over France, scoring 4 kills by the time the invasion was over.

Von Werra maintained a reputation as an eccentric upper-class playboy. His squadron had a pet lion named Simba, and photographs of the man often feature this mascot. He often returned from missions with wild tales of impossible feats and odds. His penchant for tall tales earned him the nickname Baron, a reference to the fictional Baron Münchausen, who also spun tall tales of adventure and achievement. On August 28 of 1940, he returned from a sortie claiming to have downed 9 RAF Hurricanes after getting separated from his squad.

  Another picture with his lion cub. I wonder if it was concerned that the British Spitfire would turn out to be more than a match for the Bf 109 E series.

Another picture with his lion cub. I wonder if it was concerned that the British Spitfire would turn out to be more than a match for the Bf 109 E series.

Soon, Von Werra would have an opportunity to make his facts much more impressive than his fiction. September 5th, 1940, The Bf 109 E-4 "Black >" of Stab II./JG3 (Von Werra's fighter) crash landed in Kent.

The exact circumstances aren't entirely clear, but here's what I've determined. Von Werra's plane was damaged (possibly by friendly fire, possibly by P/O Bennions of the RAF), causing him to drop altitude over the Kent district of England. An RAF pilot named Gerald Stapleton reported engaging a wounded fighter matching Black >'s description in that area, forcing it down in a field outside Marden, Kent. Also according to Stapleton, Von Werra was apprehended by an unarmed cook who had been manning a searchlight.

  British soldiers at the "Black >" wreck. That's an annoying name, but I'm pretty sure that's how the name is supposed to be written.

British soldiers at the "Black >" wreck. That's an annoying name, but I'm pretty sure that's how the name is supposed to be written.

Actually, the Brits got some great photos out of this wreck and I'd hate to have them go to waste.

  "Commander, an extensive review of the wreck turned up suspicious amounts of pussy hair. We'll be wanting to let the folks at Bletchley know about this."

"Commander, an extensive review of the wreck turned up suspicious amounts of pussy hair. We'll be wanting to let the folks at Bletchley know about this."

The Brits put Von Werra's smug ass to work at Maidstone Barracks, digging ditches. He attempted to overpower a guard with his pickaxe, and was moved to a slightly more prison-y location, Grizedale Hall

  Everywhere in England is castles. Even their homeless shelters are castles. Hell, this image is proof that even their goddamned prisons are castles.

Everywhere in England is castles. Even their homeless shelters are castles. Hell, this image is proof that even their goddamned prisons are castles.

The Brits, in their eternal quest to be upper-class weirdos, apparently allowed the prisoners at Grizedale to have an escorted walk each day. Von Werra collaborated with the other prisoners to block the guard's view while he slipped away. And it worked! Briefly. After an extensive search, the Home Guard found him in a ditch and dragged him back to prison. This time, he was sent to Camp 13 at Derbyshire.

  Seriously? I wanna go to British war prison.

Seriously? I wanna go to British war prison.

From Camp 13, Von Werra participated in an escape attempt with four other prisoners. They created fake IDs and paperwork to leave the country, and then built a tunnel out of the camp. The plan worked, and all five of them escaped the camp. Four were quickly recaptured, but Von Werra was unaccounted for.

For his part, Von Werra had convinced a local train driver that he was a Dutch pilot, Captain Von Lott, and he needed some help getting back to his unit. During the journey, they were stopped by the police and questioned, but the cops failed to realize the passenger with the heavy accent might have been the person they were looking for.

It wasn't until he was literally in the cockpit of a fueled up British plane, running a quick check and figuring out the controls, did anyone realize he was Franz Von Werra. In the nick of time, he was pulled from the cockpit at gunpoint. The Brits were finally tired of Von Werra's shit, and decided to send him to Canada.

Once they reached Ontario, the Brits put Von Werra on a train to his new home. He and a few other prisoners hopped off the train as soon as they had a chance. Naturally, everyone but Von Werra was quickly captured and put back on the train. He was nowhere to be found.

Von Werra managed to cross the northern border of the United States and made his way to New York City, where the police planned on arresting him for entering the country illegally. I'm not making that up. However, the German embassy demanded his release, and got it. They then shipped him down south to Brazil, and from Brazil, back to the Axis forces.

In October of '41, the Luftwaffe assigned Von Werra to I./JG53, to go fight on the Ostfront. They also issued him one of the new Bf 109 F series, which he put to use downing 12 soviet aircraft (mostly bombers, but his last kill was an Il-2). Then on October 25th, Von Werra was on a practice flight when his engine failed over the North Sea. He was never seen again.

  The Ostfront, where the only thing colder than the weather was the pitch black lump of ash pretending it was Stalin's heart.

The Ostfront, where the only thing colder than the weather was the pitch black lump of ash pretending it was Stalin's heart.

He would be remembered by Germany as a vain playboy, prone to telling tall tales, but who managed the skill and guile to hold up his stories.

The Brits would remember Von Werra as "The One Who Got Away".


Sources

  • Kacha, Petr. Aces of the Luftwaffe - Franz Von Werra, www.luftwaffe.cz/werra.html.
  • http://archive.spectator.co.uk/article/12th-october-1956/16/the-thruster
  • https://ww2aircraft.net/forum/threads/done-1-48-bf-109e-4-von-werra-defense-of-britain-atlantic.43991/
  • https://forum.keypublishing.com/showthread.php?73749-Who-shot-down-Franz-Von-Werra
    • This one was a discussion of the circumstances that led to Von Werra getting shot down.
  • https://www.warhistoryonline.com/featured/franz-the-one-that-got-away-von-werra.html

Heroes & Villains - Empress Wu

Empress Wu is from a time that falls well before my typical area of expertise. Still, I wanted to try something a bit outside my comfort zone. Speaking of going beyond one's boundaries, let's talk about Empress Wu.

Traditional Confucian doctrine is pretty clear on its stance regarding women. Confucius establishes that women are naturally meant to be servile, and are unfit for esoteric and martial pursuits. His doctrine states that they are distinctly unfit to rule.

 "我接受挑戰 -  Challenge Accepted "

"我接受挑戰 - Challenge Accepted"

Born in 624 AD, Wu Zhao was steered towards the socially unconventional from the start by her father. He taught her to read, write, and refined her public speaking. If reincarnation is real, then maybe her father shared a soul with Joseph Kennedy Sr.

The talented Wu Zhao attracted the attention of Emperor Tai Tsung, and was brought into his court as a concubine. When the aging Emperor died, he was replaced by his son, Kao Tsung, who fathered several children with her.

  Portrait of what Wu Zhao may have looked like. I like the pose, she's definitely up to something here.

Portrait of what Wu Zhao may have looked like. I like the pose, she's definitely up to something here.

Wu deposed Empress Wang by rousing suspicion that the Empress had murdered Wu's infant daughter. The exact circumstances of this situation are disputed and unclear.  Some have suggested that Wu killed her own daughter to frame the Empress. Another theory is that the infant died of unrelated causes and Wu used it as an opportunity to attack the Empress. Whatever the truth, Wu Zhao became the new wife of Emperor Kao Tsung.

Within a few years, Kao Tsung suffered a stroke, abruptly ending his reign. Wu started making moves. She established her youngest and weakest son as the new Emperor and began to control China through him. Her Secret Police started spiriting away her opponents, and she commissioned scholars to challenge the traditional status of women in Confucian doctrine. In other words, Wu Zhao was starting to act like someone trying to become the Emperor of China.

In the year 690, Wu Zhao's son stepped down from the position of Emperor, and in his place, she became Wu Zetian, Emperor of China. After years of ruthless backstabbing political maneuvering, Wu Zetian started initiating positive social reform. She reduced taxation, improved public utilities and development, and began phasing out militaristic aristocrats in favor of scholars. Emperor Wu Zetian established the Second Zhou Dynasty, and as its first ruler, reigned from 690 to 705 AD.

I'd like to highlight something about Wu's status. Traditionally in Imperial China, the Emperor's wife was the "Empress Dowager", and would be granted certain provisional governance in the Emperor's wake. The Chinese word for this position was Huanghou. Wu Zetian did not take this title. Empress Wu was called Huangdi, the title of the Emperor.

In English, the distinction seems minor, but in Chinese, the difference is massive. An Empress Dowager was, by divine establishment, lesser than the Emperor. Wu Zetian was not The Empress Dowager, she was The Emperor of China.  In establishing the second Zhou Dynasty, Wu Zetian became the only woman ever to be Huangdi. (In bold because that's a pretty big goddamn deal in this context).

Wu Zetian believed she was descended from the founders of the first Zhou Dynasty, which, interestingly enough, was the dynasty that established The Mandate of Heaven.

The Mandate of Heaven dictates that the will of Heaven itself is what upholds the power of China's ruler. A just, noble, and strong leader is maintained by the Mandate, and will prosper. An immoral ruler will be diminished by the Mandate. Famine, poverty, and weakness were signs that an Emperor had lost the Mandate of Heaven.

There have been disputes, both inside and outside China, as to whether Wu Zetian's status as Emperor was legitimate. As of the time of writing this, however, it is generally accepted among historians that Wu Zetian was indeed an Emperor of China. It is my belief that Wu Zetian's success in Imperial Chinese politics both before and during her reign as Emperor firmly establishes her legitimacy under the standards of the Mandate of Heaven.

  The Tomb housing Wu Zetian as it is today.

The Tomb housing Wu Zetian as it is today.

 

Once again I am left with someone who falls into a dead zone between Heroism and Villainy.

  Wu Zetian player icon from Civilization V. Perhaps her greatest honor.

Wu Zetian player icon from Civilization V. Perhaps her greatest honor.

Wu Zhao was a cruel, manipulative social climber who was ruthless to her opposition and without morals when it came to political maneuvering, even exploiting her own daughter's death to eliminate a rival.  Emperor Wu Zetian was a constructive benevolent leader who elevated the scholar above the warrior, who instituted positive economic and agricultural reform, and who ushered in the most prolific era of Chinese Buddhism.

 

Main sources for this article:

http://www.womeninworldhistory.com/heroine6.html

http://acc6.its.brooklyn.cuny.edu/~phalsall/texts/banzhao.html

"The Mandate of Heaven." Boundless. Boundless.com, n.d. Web. <https://www.boundless.com/world-history/textbooks/boundless-world-history-textbook/early-chinese-dynasties-282/the-zhou-dynasty-291/the-mandate-of-heaven-292-13183/>.

Heroes & Villains - Lyudmila Pavlichenko

As my first article of the year, I'd like to announce the launch of a new series that I will be focusing on creating for 2017. I like how I use the term "announce", like I have a following that merits that sort of scale. But anyways, that's not the point.

When I was a young LT, my parents would read me bedtime stories. Sometimes, these were the typical fare about Mr. Grumpy and Little Miss Perfect having a mediocre day at the beach or something. Most of the time, however, they read to me from Greek and Norse mythology. I didn't See Jane Run, I saw Jane become blessed by Athena and break into a sprint towards the Minotaur, cleaving its head from its shoulders with a blade crafted by Hephaestus. I believe it is this that was the beginning of my true passion in life.

In the broad sense, my passion is History. More specifically, my passion is the Heroes and Villains of history. I love to learn and teach the stories of people who were true paragons of humanity, as well as people who highlighted our worst qualities. I especially like the people who blurred the lines between those two things.

In this first installment, however, I'll be talking about someone who pretty thoroughly falls into the "Hero" side of things. Her name is Lyudmila Mykhailivna Pavlichenko. Or, in her native Ukrainian: Людмила Михайлівна Павличенко. Though to most, she'd likely just be "Ma'am" or "Major Pavlichenko."

 THIS is what a Nazi-killing feminist looks like, in case you were wondering.

THIS is what a Nazi-killing feminist looks like, in case you were wondering.

Pavlichenko was born in the Ukraine region of the Russian Empire in 1916, which was just in time for the Russian Empire to become the Soviet Union.

While living with her family in Kiev in her teens, she focused on three main things in life. The first was working at the Kiev Arsenal Factory, where she no doubt became what kids today refer to as "swole", since you kind of had to be that to work in a Soviet munitions plant. The second was earning a degree in history at college. And the third was becoming a highly qualified sharpshooter in the Soviet equivalent of the Junior Marines.

Just as a side note, according to Pavlichenko herself, she took up shooting after hearing a boy boast about his skills. She wanted to show him that a girl could shoot, too. Soon, she'd prove that to everyone, including a personal demonstration to around 300 fascists.

In 1941, Nazi Germany decided to try and cure Russia of communism the same way a doctor might try to cure a fever with bloodletting followed by total body immolation. Pavlichenko decided to put her scholarly studies on hold and join the Red Army.

Originally, they were planning on putting her in as a nurse since that's what you did with women back in the day when they weren't considered real people. Even her marksmanship certificate from OSOAVIAKhIM (aforesaid Jr. Marines parallel) wasn't enough. Eventually, she demonstrated her skill to the Red Army's satisfaction by shooting two enemy Romanian soldiers dead.

According to Pavlichenko, her nerves did get to her in her first real engagement, in Odessa. These weren't under-trained Romanian coalition soldiers she was facing this time. These were bloodthirsty professional Wehrmacht killers fielding some of the finest military equipment in the world. When a young Russian man was shot right next to her, she found new resolve, and started shooting back with devastating efficiency. Her first Nazis killed were a pair of scouts, who were probably not terribly happy they found her.

After Odessa fell to the Nazis, Pavlichenko moved with Soviet forces to Sevastopol. There, she found herself frequently assigned the unenviable task of counter-sniping operations. Normal sniping is where the shooter makes surprise attacks against an enemy force after sneaking to covert positions. Typically, a sniper is obligated to engage high value targets above all else, focusing on Officers, emplacement and vehicle crews, machine gun operators, and so on. A sniper on the job will follow a pattern of shoot-move-shoot, never making a shot from the same position unless the situation both warrants it and still permits exfiltration before the enemy can return fire.

Counter-Sniping operations are focused explicitly on enemy snipers, so as to keep them from sniping. The sniper is obligated to engage enemy snipers, and only enemy snipers, who are themselves on the lookout for snipers. It is a duel between two units specialized in stealth, camouflage, and surprise attacks enabled by those two things. A sniper duel, especially on the Ostfront, could last several days, in which one or both snipers could spend upward of 24 hours staying in the same position, waiting for any indication of the others' presence. Pavlichenko defeated a total of 36 better equipped Nazi men in counter-sniping operations.

 Pavlichenko on the job. Well, I think she probably got a bit cleaned up for the photo. She's holding an SVT-40 semi-automatic rifle. They didn't give those to just anyone.

Pavlichenko on the job. Well, I think she probably got a bit cleaned up for the photo. She's holding an SVT-40 semi-automatic rifle. They didn't give those to just anyone.

On hitting 257 confirmed kills in May of 1942, Pavlichenko was given a citation of recognition, to which she responded with "I'll get more".  Worth noting is that the 257 did not include the two Romanians she had to kill to be let in the army in the first place. She considered them her trial run. Her final confirmed kills against the Nazis was 309.

That's 309 pieces of evidence against segregation in the military. It's also 309 pieces of evidence that Lyudmila Pavlichenko is nobody's bitch. There were many Soviet snipers with higher kill scores in roughly the same period of time. However, they were all men, and had to only deal with bullshit in the form of Nazi munitions and Stalin's logistics, while Pavlichenko had to also put up with the bullshit of people not taking her seriously because she was a woman.

 To the Soviets' credit, they were better at taking Women seriously than most at the time.

To the Soviets' credit, they were better at taking Women seriously than most at the time.

After finally getting the Nazis to take her seriously enough to wound her (only slightly seriously) with mortar fire, Pavlichenko was withdrawn from the front lines to become an instructor for other snipers. This was only partially because of her injury, which was not terribly incapacitating. The real reason for this shift was to keep Pavlichenko safe, as she had become a powerful icon of Soviet propaganda.

Around this time, the Germans actually tried to tempt Pavlichenko into defecting with, no shit, chocolate rations and an Officer position. When that didn't work, they resorted to threatening her directly in propaganda, stating they'd rip her into 309 pieces, one for every German she'd killed. Pavlichenko's response was an enthusiastic "They even know my score!"

 A slightly more formal photograph of Pavlichenko. Like most living soviets in the '40s, she didn't often put her rifle down for very long.

A slightly more formal photograph of Pavlichenko. Like most living soviets in the '40s, she didn't often put her rifle down for very long.

Pavlichenko was sent on a propaganda tour to the other allied nations. In America, she was patronized by reporters about her lack of usage of beauty products in battle, the drabness of her uniform, and her appearance. Americans have long had a reputation for being terrible at survival instincts, hence, they harassed a lady who has killed 309 harder men.

 Yes, there's lots of time to apply makeup while keeping the Fascists out of Ukraine so they don't take the rest of Eastern Europe and then the world.

Yes, there's lots of time to apply makeup while keeping the Fascists out of Ukraine so they don't take the rest of Eastern Europe and then the world.

Pavlichenko took it in stride, brushing away stupid questions and occasionally chastising the exceptionally obnoxious. She made friends with Eleanor Roosevelt, and was presented a Colt handgun by FDR. Actually, she got rather a lot of guns from foreign representatives on her tour.

 S.C. Associate Justice Jackson, Major Pavlichenko, First Lady Roosevelt

S.C. Associate Justice Jackson, Major Pavlichenko, First Lady Roosevelt

The message she carried with her was reflective of the greatest qualities of the Soviet Union.

“Our women were on a basis of complete equality long before the war. From the first day of the Revolution full rights were granted the women of Soviet Russia. One of the most important things is that every woman has her own specialty. That is what actually makes them as independent as men. Soviet women have complete self-respect, because their dignity as human beings is fully recognized. Whatever we do, we are honored not just as women, but as individual personalities, as human beings. That is a very big word. Because we can be fully that, we feel no limitations because of our sex. That is why women have so naturally taken their places beside men in this war.”

The majority of this tale references the following source:
King, Gilbert. "Eleanor Roosevelt and the Soviet Sniper." Smithsonian.com. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/eleanor-roosevelt-and-the-soviet-sniper-23585278/.