History, like this title, can be ambiguous; indeed, the ambiguity of history belongs to those who write and their interpretations of events.
One of the most inspiring historical events was the Battle of Thermopylae. A battle story first told to this author by his grandmother, a children’s librarian, when he was small enough to sit on her lap while she sat in her rocking chair.
Of all the battles of history, why did she select this 2,500 year old battle?
People who have only the faintest knowledge of history, know of the 300 Spartans and their heroic stand against insurmountable odds, why?
All boys hope to have courage and integrity, when they become men; Leonidas and his Spartans displayed the courage and integrity that most of us can only dream of having.
The Greeks defeated the Persians in 490 BC at the Battle of Marathon. Consequently, a larger expedition was planned to conquer and subjugate Greece by Darius I, but he died in 486 and the planning of the expedition was inherited by his son Xerxes. Assembling and training the invasion force took several years.
The Persian army planned to march across Asia Minor, cross the Hellespont, and attack Greece through Thrace, while supported by a huge fleet moving along the coast.
An earlier fleet was wrecked off Mount Athos, to decrease this potential danger, Xerxes planned to build a canal across the mountain’s isthmus.
The Greek city-states became aware of the land and sea invasion and prepared for war. Although Athens had a weak army, they built a fleet of triremes under the direction of Themistocles, this was a fortuitous decision.
In 481, Xerxes sent emissaries to ask for token tributes of earth and water from the Greek city states, to show loyalty and subjugation. Leonidas, king of Sparta, responded by killing the emissaries; supposedly, by throwing them down a well.
Although dramatic, those who live in the country know the value of a well, and it seems improbable that men of the soil would poison a well with multiple bodies, but history belongs to those who write.
The Greek city-states formed an alliance with a congress, under the leadership of Sparta and Athens, to resist the Persians with a comosite army.
In the spring of 480, the Thessalians recommended a defensive position at the Vale of Tempe, but this plan became hopeless when Alexander I of Macedon revealed that the position could be flanked through the Sarantoporo Pass.
When the congress learned that the Persians had crossed the Hellespont, Themistocles suggested they make their stand at Thermopylae. There was tactical advantage to Thermopylae, a narrow passage of beach with cliffs on one side, the sea on the other, and a previously built wall, it was a good defensive position. The Greek fleet could also provide support in the Straits of Artemesium. Thermopylae was also the gateway to Greece, to give the Persians free access to the pass would allow them easy access to Greece.
The Greeks agreed, the approach was the logical defensive position. During August, the Greeks learned the Persian army was advancing. Unfortunately, at this particular time of the year, the feast of Carnela was held to celebrate the Olympic truce. Spartans, the leaders of the alliance, were forbidden to engage in military activities during the feast of Carnela, but the leaders of Sparta decided the situation was dire enough to send one of their kings, Leonidas, to face the Persians.
Leonidas moved north with 300 men and gathered additional troops along the way. Upon his arrival, Leonidas set up his defensive position at the “middle gate,” where the Phocians had built a wall in the past at the narrowest part of the pass.
Leonidas was informed of a mountain pass that could be used to flank his position, and sent 1,000 Phocians to guard the pass that made his position vulnerable.
In mid-August, the Persians army was sighted across the Malian Gulf.
Xerxes sent an emissary to negotiate offers of freedom and better land for obedience. Leonidas rejected the offer, and Xerxes ordered the Greeks to lay down their weapons. Leonidas countered with, “Come and get them.” Thus battle was inevitable. The Persian emissary boasted that Persian arrows would soon block the sun and darken the sky, one of the Spartan captains replied, “Good, we will fight in the shade.”
Xerxes waited four days, perhaps hoping the Spartans would lose their nerve over time, while contemplating their deaths by overwhelming forces. The scouts of Xerxes were allowed to advance unmolested to the perimeter of the Greek camp, and reported the Spartans were unconcerned with their presence and seemed occupied with grooming and oiling their hair. Xerxes’ ploy of waiting seemed to be working against himself, rather than the Greeks.
On the fifth day, Xerxes mounted a frontal assault against the Greeks, it was the only option he had in the narrow confines of Thermopylae.
The Greeks met the assault in a tight phalanx, in front of the Phocian wall. The Persians suffered severe losses, while Leonidas alternated his men to give them time to rest and refresh themselves before rejoining the slaughter of Persians.
Feeling the frustration of not being able to overcome a numerically inferior force, Xerxes committed his elite Immortals in the afternoon. They were unable to rout the Greeks and were defeated like the rest of the attackers.
At the conclusion of the first day’s fighting, Xerxes was convinced the Greeks were compromised and vulnerable. The next morning, Persian attacks continued and were neutralized after sustaining heavy casualties.
On the afternoon of the second day, a Trachinian traitor, Ephialtes, informed Xerxes, of the mountain trail that would allow the Persians to flank the Greeks. Xerxes ordered Hydarnes, to take a large group, including the Immortals to flank the Greeks by taking the trail over the mountain.
The Phocians guarding the trail, saw the advancing Persians at daybreak of the third day, and sent a runner with the news. The Phocians set up a defensive position on a near-by hill, but the Persians bypassed the Greeks and continued on with their flanking movement.
Leonidas called a council upon learning their defensive position was soon to be compromised. Most of the senior men favored an immediate retreat. Leonidas elected to stay with his 300 Spartans. He was supported by 400 Thebans and 700 Thespians; while the bulk of the army retreated.
As the morning progressed, Xerxes launched another frontal assault, the Greeks met the Persians at a wider point in the pass, to allow more men on line and thus inflicting the maximum amount of casualties on the Persians.
Leonidas was killed in this early fighting with both sides trying to claim his body. Eventually, the Persians won the body of Leonidas and put his head on a stake.
This type of behavior worked against the Persians; since, it was considered a major breach of battlefield honor and etiquette.
The surviving Greeks were pushed back to the Phocian wall and eventually to a small hill where they made their final stand.
The Thebans surrendered, but the remaining Greeks fought to the death.
There are many theories concerning the heroic last stand of Leonidas, but setting up a rear guard for the retreating army seems to be the most logical. Without the rear guard, the Greek army would have been annihilated.
The Persians gained control of the pass, and the way south into Greece was open. The Persians paid dearly for this victory; they lost well over twenty-thousand troops out of a half million. Although the casualty and troop numbers are surmised, it is assumed the Greeks lost two thousand.
The Persians advanced southward and captured Athens.
The Greek army made a stand at the Isthmus of Corinth with the fleet providing support.
In September, Themistocles won a critical naval battle at the battle of Salamis. Without its naval support, there were no logistics to feed the Persian army. They were forced to withdraw most of the army through Asia Minor. The remaining Persian force was destroyed by the Greeks at Plataea and the invasion came to an ignoble end.
If grandmothers rock their grandsons in the future and try to instill visions of duty, honor, and integrity; perhaps they will mention Seal Team 6 and the assassination of Bin Ladin. They performed an heroic mission, against immeasurable odds, but will these grandmothers include the part where they were betrayed and ambushed at a hot landing zone, and of how our duplicitous government lied to the American people. We were to assume the obsolete chopper they were flying, a relic from a bygone era, was shot from the air with a rocket propelled grenade.
We expect our government to lie as a matter of course. Actually, we wonder if they are capable of the truth or whether the importance of carrying on a myth outweighs the truth, honor, and integrity, but we don’t expect them to betray our finest warriors.
The families of Seal Team Six and Americans know our government betrayed the Seals, but they are now asking about the extent of the betrayal.
Vice President Biden, the blithering buffoon who characterizes himself as a presidential candidate, has the media portraying him as a lovable buffoon, but he was the first to betray the Seals. Biden, overwhelmed with giddiness after the success of the Bin Ladin assassination, told the world it was Seal Team Six that carried out the raid.
Now, unlike politicians who are often media whores, part of the reason Seal Team Six is successful is because they operate in secrecy. Spiking the football like the loud mouth boor who gloats while he holds up a winning lottery ticket is not part of their program, but Biden was more than willing to bask in their glory.
President Obama, not to be outdone by America’s court jester, joined in the chorus and proclaimed the scoop on Seal Team Six to the world, and while these two were bragging of their inside knowledge, like three balled roosters strutting in front of hens; meanwhile, the Seals were calling home to warn their families to delete all social network references to the elite unit.
“I saw Mike’s dead body,” Mr. Strange, the father of a slain SEAL, said in an interview. “It was clearly recognizable. He was clutching his gun. He wasn’t burned to a crisp. Why did they cremate my boy? They didn’t need to do that. Something’s not right.”
Aaron Vaughn, one of the SEALs eventually killed in the ambush, told his mother, Karen Vaughn, to delete every reference to SEAL Team Six from her Facebook and Twitter accounts.
“I never heard Aaron this concerned and worried in his entire life,” Mrs. Vaughn said in an interview. “He called me and said ‘mom, you and dad have to take everything down. Biden has just put a huge target on everybody.’ ”
Tragically, Aaron Vaughn was right. Mr. Biden is often portrayed in the liberal media as an amiable buffoon. His gaffes are written off as Joe simply being Joe — a loveable uncle figure, who has a tendency to shoot his mouth off. That is pernicious nonsense. Mr. Biden is a cynical opportunist, who will say — and do — anything to advance Mr. Obama’s agenda.
We now know, the attack on SEAL Team Six was a carefully orchestrated ambush from three sides by guerrillas. The statement issued by our government was a blatant lie, an attempt to cover-up a tragic betrayal.
The government insisted that the bodies were burned beyond recognition and had the group cremated; however, Charles Strange, whose son, Michael was killed in the ambush, says he has viewed photos of the crash site. Mr. Strange, in an interview:
“I saw Mike’s dead body. It was clearly recognizable. He was clutching his gun. He wasn’t burned to a crisp. Why did they cremate my boy? They didn’t need to do that. Something’s not right.”
The Chinook’s black box was never found; apparently, it was washed away in a flash flood, according to our government, but there is a slight problem, flash floods in this area are extremely rare, almost unheard of in this particular area.
There are more questions to be answered: why didn’t the team have aerial back-up? A standard operational procedure when deploying special forces.
Why were the seven Afghan soldiers who boarded the Chinook with the SEALs not the same ones who were on the flight manifest, serious breach of protocol. Were these Afghan suicide bombers? Were they there to sabotage the raid?
Why were our SEALs deployed into battle with specific instructions not to fire at Taliban snipers?
We ask our heroes to fight a war without a chance of victory, and knowing they will be compromised by our politicians. Is it too much to ask, that we find out the extent of betrayal and who in our government is responsible for the deaths of the SEAL Team Six members?
The Democrats would never launch an investigation into the duplicity of Obama’s government, no matter how many servicemen were killed, but Jason Chaffetz of Utah and Darrell Issa of California have launched an investigation into why our most noble and elite warriors were betrayed. It is up to us to support them in their efforts.
We can expect stonewalling and non-compliance from the Obama administration, they haven’t cooperated on any of the investigations, but this is different. This isn’t just political or financial corruption: this is about the betrayal of our finest young warriors and avoiding more treachery and betrayal in the future.
A professional horseman for over 50 years, Skook continues to work with horses. Skook has finished an historical novel, Fifty Thousand Years, that traces a mitochondrial line of DNA from 50,000 years ago to the present. The story follows a line of courageous women, from the Ice Ages to the present, as they meet the challenges of survival with grit and creativity. These are not women who whimper of being victims, they meet the challenges of survival as women who use their abilities without excuses or remorse, these women are winners, they are our ancestors.