Military History: 10 Misconceptions About Famous Historical Wars and Armies

Wars and the armies that fight them are one of the most fascinating subjects to the human race. Conquest has shaped and reshaped the globe many times, and great wars will continue to alter the future course of humanity. However, while humanity loves to study and learn about wars, many of the most accepted facts are highly inaccurate—either due to historical distortion or outright manipulation by past leaders.

As they say, history is usually written by the winners, and the winners will nearly always make sure that things are written in a way that makes them look smarter and more benevolent than they probably were. While many of these lords of conquest were quite sly in their manipulations, some historians today have managed to pierce through the fog of history and find the truth behind many of the myths.


.10. The Ending Of The Korean War

Everyone is aware of the situation going on in Korea right now. The North Koreans are becoming increasingly belligerent and moving further ahead with their ballistic missile testing programs. As they do so, they continue to make more threats about using nuclear weapons against the United States, Japan, or their neighbors in South Korea.

The situation has becoming increasingly complex and fraught with tension. To up the tension and show off their force, North Korea has also paraded captured prisoners in front of the media and sentenced them to decades of hard labor. This includes an American student who foolishly stole a North Korean flag while visiting the country.

Many people are afraid that the North Koreans’ unpredictable behavior is extremely dangerous and could cause them to take action that leads to open war with the United States. However, many people don’t realize that the United States has never stopped being at war with North Korea in the first place and that is part of the reason why tensions have always been so high.

The war between the North and South Koreans was backed by the Chinese and US governments, respectively. It was essentially a proxy war between the two countries, fighting ideologically over the spread of communism or capitalism. Although the war ended, there was no official treaty. It was just atemporary cease-fire, and technically, that is all that it has ever been. China has also remained an official ally of North Korea and even sends escaped defectors and prisoners back to their doom if they’re caught.

Although the conflict with North Korea may escalate, it never really ended in the first place. We have been in a cold war with North Korea—and by extension, a proxy war with China—since shortly after the end of World War II. This is part of the reason that the United States and other countries do not simply enter North Korea and fix the situation.

To do so would risk open war with China, which has always been a staunch ally of North Korea. If anyone were likely to have the political power to upend the North Korean government by force, it would be the Chinese government themselves—if they ever decide that they have lost patience with the North Korean administration.


.9. The Rum Rebellion Wasn’t Really About Rum

Many people may have heard about the Rum Rebellion—the only coup in the history of Australia. One day in 1808, hundreds of armed men surrounded the mansion of Governor Bligh, the installed leader of the fledgling colony of Australia. They quickly took over, removing him from power and establishing many rules of their own—as well as undoing many of the governor’s own rules. Before long, the British sent reinforcements and Admiral Macquarie, who quickly stamped out the rebellion and brought a decent state of order to the colony.

Those who know the basic facts often believe that the main reason for the coup was booze. The governor had shut down the rum trade, and this simply could not be tolerated. However, the truth was that booze was only involved indirectly, if at all.

The actual coup was planned and executed by a powerful group in the early days of Australia called the NSW Corps. They owned most of the land—on which they charged exorbitant rents—and made a killing on the rum trade. The governor’s rules had attempted to provide fair land use to all and take away the stranglehold that these men had on supplying rum. He wasn’t taking rum away from anyone; he was just messing with some powerful rich guys’ businesses.

The rebellion wasn’t actually referred to as the “Rum Rebellion” until about half a century later. At the time, the political reasons for the coup were quite obvious to everyone and there was no need to blame it all on people’s love of booze. Eventually, the good Admiral Macquarie permanently broke the power of the NSW Corps and turned Australia into a place that was more of a brand-new country than a place to send prisoners.


8. The Roman Empire Did Not Use Slaves As Soldiers

The Roman Empire was one of the most powerful and planet-spanning empires in known history. So it is understandable that people have greatly romanticized it and also made many aspects of it much larger-than-life.

The great Roman Empire has been the subject of countless movies, books, historical treatises, and speculations of many different sorts, and of them all, one of the greatest fascinations is with the Roman military. Many people think of the Romans as masters of brutal conquest, and so they imagine them using slaves in their combat force.

It is quite common to believe that the Romans would take over a new area and force the population to join their army as slaves to increase the power of the Roman war machine. However, the Roman Senate believed that using slaves as actual soldiers should be reserved for the greatest crisis or issue imaginable. The only exception allowed officers and other high officials to bring attendant slaves to provide for their needs while these officials commanded forces on the battlefield.

The likely reason for this was that slaves were simply not reliable warriors. If they fought only for the right to keep fighting for the Romans and received no compensation, they wouldn’t have the same level of commitment in a battle. In contrast, a well-paid warrior who knew that his deeds could earn glory and a promotion would always go above and beyond.

The Romans did their best to recruit soldiers from conquered peoples to keep their army varied demographically for strategic reasons. But they likely convinced these new soldiers with a pitch more similar to modern-day army recruitment commercials instead of forcing recruitment at sword point.


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