Thursday, August 26, 2010

Conquistadors

I've recently been reading a book about the Conquistadors, with its focus specifically on how Hernan Cortez conquered the Montezuma and the Aztecs. It is an almost unbelievable account of how an army of hundreds brought down the most powerful empire of what is now called Central America. The population of Tenochtitlan, the island city at the center of the Aztec empire, had been as much as 200,000. So the Cortez expedition was audacious in the extreme.

A week or so ago I came across an interesting document assembled by the U.S. Marines called Elements of Combat. I had been intending to blog it and make comments on how it applied to Viet Nam (I had just finished watching Hamburger Hill) and World War I (I had just finished Kubrick's Paths of Glory, also) and then see how it applied to the Civil War as well.

As I read through this list, I thought about the men whom Cortez was leading into the heart of the continent back then in 1519-20. Their eyes might have been mesmerized by the prospects of gold, but their hearts were undoubtedly set on home.

According to the NAVMC 2767, “User’s Guide to Marine Corps Leadership,” the nine elements of combat are:
• Violent, unnerving sights and sounds
• Casualties
• Confusion and lack of information (fog of war and friction)
• Feelings of isolation
• Communications breakdown
• Individual discomfort and physical fatigue
• Fear, stress and mental fatigue
• Continuous operations
• Homesickness

Pray for our young people in Afghanistan today. You can be sure it's no cakewalk.

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