Category Archives: Biographies

Alexander the Great

Alexander was born on July 20, 356 B.C., in Pella, capital of Macedonia. He was the son of king Philip II of Macedonia and Olympias, the king’s fourth wife. Physically, Alexander was of medium height for his time (short for today’s standard). He had straight nose, which followed the line of the forhead, and fair hair, with a ruddy tinge to his face and chest. Although Alexander liked drama, the flute and the lyre, poetry and hunting, what he truly wanted in life was glory and valor, rather than easy living and riches. When he was ten years old, Alexander was given a horse called Bucephalus, which he himself broke and tamed.
Education
In his early years, Alexander was raised by his nurse Lanike, who was Cleitus’ older sister. Later, Alexander was educated by a strict teacher: Leonidas, himself a relative of Olympias. Leonidas was a strict disciplinaria n who instilled in Alexander his ascetic nature which became famous during his Persian and Indian expeditions, where he would live simply, very much like his troops. Leonidas was replaced with Lysimachus who taught Alexander to play the lyre, and an appreciation for the fine arts of music, poetry, and drama. When he was 13, his parents hired Aristotle from Athens to be his personal tutor. The two of them spent time at Mieza, a temple about 20 miles from the palace at Pella. Under Aristotle, Alexander learned philosophy, ethics, politics, and healing, all of which became of the utmost importance for Alexander in his later life. The two later became estranged, due to their difference of opinion on the status of foreigners; Aristotle saw them as barbarians, while Alexander sought to merge Macedonians and foreigners.

 

Alexander As Boy Regent
In 340 B.C., when Philip went to Byzantium to fight rebels, Alexander, a mere 16 years old, was left in charge of Macedonia as regent, with the power to rule in Philip’s name in his absence. That Alexander was given such a position at such a young age indicates that he was already accomplished in battle, i.e., he had made his first kill and most likely several others. During his time as regent, the Maedi of northen Macedonia revolted. Alexander traveled up there, put down the revolt, captured the city, drove the survivors north, and established a Greek colony, naming it Alexandroupolis.

 

Ascent of Macedonia
In 338 BC Alexander fought under his father at the decisive Battle of Chaeronea against the city-states of Athens and Thebes. Phillip entrusted Alexander with the left wing of his army, which entailed facing the Sacred Band of Thebes, an elite hoplite corps hitherto regarded as invincible. Though few details of the battle survive to us, what is known is that Alexander annihilated this corps. After the battle, Philip led a wild celebration; Alexander is notably absent from the accounts describing it. It is speculated that Alexander personally treated Demades, a notable orator of Athens, who had opposed Athenian alignment against Philip. He went on to draw up and present a peace plan, which the assembled Athenian army voted on and approved. Philip was content to deprive Thebes of its dominion over Boeotia and leave a Macedonian garrison in the citadel. A few months later, the League of Corinth was formed, and Phillip was acclaimed Hegemon of the Hellenes.
Philip’s military innovations created the fighting power that Alexander inherited, making it a force to be reckoned with. Philip introduced 6 meter sarissa, a wooden pike with metal tip, for use by his infantry in the phalanx. The sarissa, when held upright by the rear rows of the phalanx (there were usually eight rows), helped hide maneuvers behind the phalanx from the view of the enemy. When held horizontal by the front rows of the phalanx, it was a rather brutal weapon. People could be run through from 20 feet away, giving quite an advantage to the phalanx in hand-to-hand combat.
Philip made the military a way of life for many Macedonian men. In the past, soldiering had only been a part-time job, something the men would do during the off peak times of farming. When the fighting season ended at the start of the harvest, the men would return to the farms. Philip made the military an occupation that paid well enough that the soldiers could afford to do it year-round.
By making the military a full-time occupation, Philip was able to drill his men regularly, building unity and cohesion within the army. Alexander fought with the finest military machine that Asia or Greece had ever seen, primarily because of the amount of time and effort spent on maneuvers.
In addition to the basic phalanx, Philip and Alexander used light auxiliaries, archers, a siege train, and a cavalry. With all of these working well together, both Philip and Alexander rarely, if ever, lost any battle.
In 336 BC, Philip II was assassinated at the wedding of his daughter Cleopatra to her uncle King Alexander of Epirus. Thus, when he was twenty years old, Alexander took the crown of Macedonia.
Alexander’s Greek Conquests
Greek cities like Athens and Thebes, which had been forced to pledge allegiance to Philip, saw in the relatively untested new king an opportunity to regain full independence. Alexander moved swiftly and Thebes, which had been most active against him, submitted when he appeared at its gates. The assembled Greeks at the Isthmus of Corinth, with the exception of the Spartans, elected him to the command against Persia, which had previously been bestowed upon his father.
The next year (335 BC), Alexander felt free to engage the Thracians and the Illyrians in order to secure the Danube as the northern boundary of the Macedonian kingdom, driving the rebelling barbarians beyond the Danube River and out of the way. While he was triumphantly campaigning north, the Thebans and Athenians rebelled once again. Alexander reacted immediately and while the other cities once again hesitated, Thebes decided this time to resist with the utmost vigor. The end of Thebes convinced Athens to surrender.
Alexander’s Conquest of Persia

 

Alexander’s army crossed the Hellespont with approximately 42,000 soldiers from Macedon, various Greek city-states, and mercenaries and tribute soldiers from Thrace, Paionia, and Illyria. After an initial victory against Persian forces at the Battle of the Granicus, Alexander accepted the surrender of the Persian provincial capital and treasury of Sardis and proceeded down the Ionian coast.
At Halicarnassus, Alexander successfully waged the first of many sieges, eventually forcing his opponents, the mercenary captain Memnon of Rhodes and the Persian satrap of Caria, Orontobates, to withdraw by sea. Alexander left Caria in the hands of Ada, who was ruler of Caria before being deposed by her brother Pixodarus. From Halicarnassus, Alexander proceeded into mountainous Lycia and the Pamphylian plain, asserting control over all coastal cities and denying them to his enemy.
From Pamphylia onward, the coast held no major ports and so Alexander moved inland. At Termessos, Alexander humbled but did not storm the Pisidian city. At the ancient Phrygian capital of Gordium, Alexander “undid” the hitherto unsolvable Gordian Knot, a feat said to await the future “king of Asia.” According to the most vivid story, Alexander proclaimed that it did not matter how the knot was undone, and he hacked it apart with his sword.

 

Alexander’s army crossed the Cilician Gates, met and defeated the main Persian army under the command of Darius III at the Battle of Issus in 333 BC. Darius was forced to flee the battle after his army broke, and in doing so left behind his wife, his two daughters, his mother Sisygambis, and a fabulous amount of treasure. He afterwards offered a peace treaty to Alexander, the concession of the lands he had already conquered, and a ransom of 10,000 talents for his family. Alexander replied that since he was now king of Asia, it was he alone who decided territorial divisions.
During 332–331 BC, Alexander was welcomed as a liberator in Persian-occupied Egypt and was pronounced the son of Zeus by Egyptian priests of the deity Amun at the Oracle of Siwa Oasis in the Libyan desert. Leaving Egypt, Alexander marched eastward into Assyria (now northern Iraq) and defeated Darius once more at the Battle of Gaugamela. Once again, Darius was forced to leave the field, and Alexander chased him as far as Arbela. While Darius fled over the mountains to Ecbatana, Alexander marched to Babylon.

From Babylon, Alexander went to Susa, one of the Achaemenid capitals, and captured its legendary treasury. Sending the bulk of his army to the Persian capital of Persepolis via the Royal Road, Alexander stormed and captured the Persian Gates (in the modern Zagros Mountains), then sprinted for Persepolis before its treasury could be looted. It was here that Alexander was said to have stared at the crumbled statue of Xerxes and decided to leave it on the ground—a symbolic gesture of vengeance. During their stay at the capital, a fire broke out in the eastern palace of Xerxes and spread to the rest of the city.
Alexander then set off in pursuit of Darius anew. The Persian king was no longer in control of his destiny, having been taken prisoner by Bessus, his Bactrian satrap and kinsman. As Alexander approached, Bessus had his men murder the Great King and then declared himself Darius’ successor as Artaxerxes V before retreating into Central Asia to launch a guerrilla campaign against Alexander. With the death of Darius, Alexander declared the war of vengeance over, and released his Greek and other allies from service in the League campaign, although he allowed those that wished to re-enlist as mercenaries in his army.
Alexander had adopted the Persian style of dress, rather than his traditional Macedonian clothing, and his troops were unhappy with him. They gradually became more reluctant to follow him, but his charismatic personality persuaded them not to abandon him. The change in Alexander’s attire was but one part of his grand effort to reconcile Greek and Persian culture. He established training programs to teach Persians about Greek and Macedonian culture, and he even married a Persian dancer named Roxane.

Alexander’s Invasion of India
In the spring of 327 B.C., Alexander and his army marched into India. Before Alexander crossed into India in 327 B.C.E., he felt the necessity to trim down the army that he had led through Persia to accommodate the different climate and terrain that they would face. He burned all of the baggage wagons of Persian booty that hindered his mobility, and he dismissed a large number of his soldiers, reshaping his army with several thousand Persian cavalrymen.
The most important battle fought in India was against Porus, one of the most powerful Indian leaders, at the river Hydaspes in July 326 B.C. Alexander’s army crossed the heavily defended river in dramatic fashion during a violent thunderstorm to meet Porus’ forces. The Indians were defeated in a fierce battle, even though they fought with elephants, which the Macedonians had never before seen. Alexander captured Porus and, like the other local rulers he had defeated, allowed him to continue to govern his territory. Alexander even subdued an independent province and granted it to Porus as a gift.
Alexander’s next goal was to reach the Ganges River, which was actually 250 miles away, because he thought that it flowed into the outer Ocean. His troops, however, had heard tales of the powerful Indian tribes that lived on the Ganges and remembered the difficulty of the battle with Porus, so they refused to go any farther east. Alexander was extremely disappointed, but he accepted their decision and persuaded them to travel south down the rivers Hydaspes and Indus so that they might reach the Ocean on the southern edge of the world. The army rode down the rivers on the rivers on rafts and stopped to attack and subdue villages along the way. During this trip, Alexander sought out the Indian philosophers, the Brahmins, who were famous for their wisdom, and debated them on philosophical issues. He became legendary for centuries in India for being both a wise philosopher and a fearless conqueror.
One of the villages in which the army stopped belonged to the Malli, who were said to be one of the most warlike of the Indian tribes. Alexander was wounded several times in this attack, most seriously when an arrow pierced his breastplate and his ribcage. The Macedonian officers rescued him in a narrow escape from the village. Alexander and his army reached the mouth of the Indus in July 325 B.C. and turned westward for home.

Back From India
Alexander found out that many of his satraps and military governors had misbehaved in his absence. So, he executed a number of them as examples on his way to Susa. As a gesture of thanks, he paid off the debts of his soldiers, and announced that he would send those over-aged and disabled veterans back to Macedonia under Craterus, but his troops misunderstood his intention and mutinied at the town of Opis, refusing to be sent away and bitterly criticizing his adoption of Persian customs and dress and the introduction of Persian officers and soldiers into Macedonian units. Alexander executed the ringleaders of the mutiny, but forgave the rank and file.
In an attempt to craft a lasting harmony between his Macedonian and Persian subjects, he held a mass marriage of his senior officers to Persian and other noblewomen at Susa, but few of those marriages seem to have lasted much beyond a year. Meanwhile, upon his return, Alexander learned some men had desecrated the tomb of Cyrus the Great, and swiftly executed them. For they were put in charge of guarding the tomb Alexander held in honor.
Death of Alexander
On June 11, 323 BC, Alexander the Great died in the palace of Nebuchadrezzar II of Babylon. He was just one month short of attaining 33 years of age. His death is still shrouded in mystery to this day. Various theories have been proposed for the cause of his death which include poisoning by the sons of Antipater or others, sickness that followed a drinking party, or a relapse of the malaria he had contracted in 336 BC.
It is known that on May 29, 323 BC, Alexander participated in a banquet organized by his friend Medius of Larissa. After some heavy drinking, immediately before or after a bath, he was forced into bed due to severe illness. The rumors of his illness circulated with the troops causing them to be more and more anxious. On June 9, the generals decided to let the soldiers see their king alive one last time. They were admitted to his presence one at a time. Because the king was too ill to speak, he confined himself to moving his hand. The day after, Alexander was dead.

Heinz Guderian

Heinz_GuderianHeinz Wilhelm Guderian (1888-1954) was a German General and military theorist who fought during World War II, commanding German Army’s armoured units. The Wehrmacht’s panzer forces were conceived and then fought according to his best-known work, “Achtung— Panzer!,” a book on military tactics based on the use of armored vehicles. Although he was promoted to the rank of full general, he never became field marshal. Guderian was one of the best generals of World War II, participating as commander of the XIX Corps in the Polish Campaign and the Battle of France, and as commander of Panzergruppe 2 in Operation Barbarossa.

Heinz Guderian was born on June 17, 1888, in Culm, West-Prussia, south of Danzig. He was educated in military schools and in the Military Academy of Berlin from 1901 to 1907. In 1907, as an ensign cadet, Guderian joined the JÃgger Battalion Nr. 10, which was commanded by his father. In 1908, he attended the War Academy at Metz; then he was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant. In 1911, Heinz wanted to marry Margarete Goerne, but, as his father thought he was too young for marriage, he was sent for special instruction to Telegraphen-Battalion Nr. 3 instead. Nevertheless, after finishing the course in 1913, Heinz married Margarete. They had two sons, who fought in World War II with the Panzertruppen.

During the Great War, Guderian served as a General Staff officer, which allowed him to get an overall view of battlefield conditions. Sometimes, he disagreed with his superiors and as a result he was transferred to the army intelligence department. After the war, he was appointed company commander of the 10th Jägger Battalion. Then he joined the ‘General Staff’-in-waiting, “in waiting” because the German General Staff was explicitly forbidden by the Treaty of Versailles. In 1927 Guderian rose to the rank of major and was transferred to the Truppenamt group for Army transport and Overseer of motorized tactics based in Berlin. This appointment put him at the center of the development of what would later become known as the blitzkrieg.

Between 1936 and 1937, Heinz Guderian wrote “Achtung- Panzer!.” It was an explanation of Guderian’s theories on the role tanks and aircraft should play in modern warfare. It was a compilation of Guderian’s own theories and the ideas of other proponents of armored and combined-arms warfare within the general staff. The panzer force he devised would become the core of the German Army’s power in World War II and perform the fighting style known as blitzkrieg, lightning war.

When World War II broke out, Guderian first served as the XIX Army Corps commander during the invasion of Poland, leading the German forces during the Battle of Wizna and testing his theories for the first time in the reality of war. In May 1940, during the invasion of France, he personally led the attack that plowed through the Ardennes Forest, crossed the Meuse River and broke through the French lines at Sedan. Guderian commanded his panzer forces in quick blitzkrieg-style advances, earning the nickname “Schneller Heinz”, which means “Hurry-Up Heinz” among his troops. Guderian’s panzer group led the “race to the sea” which split the Allied armies in two and deprived the French armies and the British Expeditionary Force in Northern France and Belgium of their fuel, ammunition , and food. Guderian’s column was famously denied the chance to destroy the Allied beachhead at Dunkirk by Hitler’s orders.

In 1941, during Operation Barbarossa, Heinz Guderian commanded Panzergruppe 2 and received the 24th award of the Oak Leaves to his Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross on July 17. From October 5, 1941 he led the Second Panzer Army. His armored divisions spearheaded the capture of Smolensk in a remarkably short time and was poised to launch the final assault on Moscow when he was ordered to turn south instead towards Kiev. He protested against this decision and, as a result, lost the Führer’s confidence. He was relieved of his command on December 25, 1941, and transferred to the reserve pool of the army command. Thus, his chances of being promoted to field marshal, which depended on Hitler’s personal decision, had been ruined forever. After the German defeat at Stalingrad, Guderian was appointed Inspector-General of the Armored Troops on March 1, 1943. At this new post, his responsibilities were to determine armored strategy and to supervise tank design and production and the training of Germany’s panzer forces.

After the failure of the July 20 Plot in which he had no involvement, Heinz Guderian was appointed chief of staff of the army, replacing Kurt Zeitzler on July 21, 1944. During his tenure as chief of staff he had a long series of violent rows with Hitler over the way in which German Army should handle the war on both fronts. Guderian was finally dismissed on March, 28, 1945, after a shouting-match over the failed counterattack of General Theodor Busse’s 9th Army to break through to units encircled at Küstrin.

Heinz Guderian surrendered to American troops on May 10, 1945, and remained in U.S. custody as a prisoner of war until he was released on June 17, 1948. He was not charged with any war crimes during the Nuremberg Trials, for his actions and behavior were considered to be consistent with those of a professional soldier. After the war he was often invited to attend meetings of British veterans’ groups, where he analyzed and discussed past battles with his former foes.

Heinz Guderian died on May 14, 1954, at the age of 65, in Schwangau near Füssen and is buried at the cementery on Hildesheimer Street, in Goslar, Germany.

Hans-Ulrich Rudel

Hans-Ulrich Rudel (1916-1982) was a WWII, Luftwaffe pilot. Although he never flew a fighter aircraft in his military career, he became a well-known German ace and the most decorated pilot of the war. Flying his Junkers Ju 87G, a ground-attack aircraft, he carried out 2,530 sorties as he destroyed more than 2,000 military targets of all sorts; artillery pieces, ammunition depots, tanks, bunkers, trains, command posts, radio stations, etc. Thus, Hans-Ulrich Rudel is not considered a top ace in terms of enemy aircraft shot down, but in the number of successful combat missions he flew. Furthermore, he was the most highly decorated soldier of the war. He was a very skillful pilot who had unwavering self-control and steely determination in the most dangerous combat circumstances. Rudel’s motto was “you are only lost if you give up on yourself”.

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Hans-Ulrich Rudel was born on July 2, 1916, in Konradwaldau, eastern Germany. In 1936, when he was twenty years old, he inlisted in the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) and became a pilot. When World War II broke out, he flew reconnaissance aircraft during the Polish Campaign in September 1939, and the German invasion of France in 1940. Having been assigned to Sturzkampfgeschwader 2, he performed his first combat mission on June 23, 1941, during Operation Barbarossa. In September 1941, he sank the Soviet battleship Marat, delivering simultaneously four bombs that hit the target. In February 1945, a 40mm AA gun round partially destroyed his aircraft, forcing him to crash land. He was wounded and lost his leg, but he kept flying sorties until the end of the war. On May 8, 1945, he surrendered to US troops in Germany. After the war, he lived for a while in Argentina, but he went back to Germany where he died in 1982.

He had been decorated with the Iron Cross, the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds, among other awards. He had destroyed a battleship, a destroyer, more than 220 tanks, 50 military trains, and a great number of artillery pieces.

Hans-Ulrich Rudel in Action (footage)

Charlemagne

Charlemagne was king of the Franks (768-814) and the founder of Holy Roman Emperor, of which he was the first emperor (800-814). He was the greatest of medieval kings who expanded the Frankish kingdom into a Frankish Empire that comprised much of Western and Central Europe. His grandfather was Charles Martel, the Mayor of the Palace that defeated the Muslim army, under Abdul Rahman Al-Ghafiqi, at the Battle of Tours in 732. Through his foreign conquests and internal reforms, Charlemagne helped define both Western Europe and the Middle Ages. He is numbered as Charles I in the regnal lists of France, Germany, and the Holy Roman Empire.

Charlemagne was born in 742, at a place unknown. He was tall, powerful, and tireless. He was described as being intelligent and stern. His tastes were simple and moderate. He liked hunting, riding, and swimming. He wore the Frankish dress: linen shirt and breeches, a silk-fringed tunic, hose wrapped with bands, and, in winter, a tight coat of otter or marten skins.

Antecedents

By the 6th century, the Franks were Christianized, and the Frankish kingdom, ruled by the Merovingians, had become the most powerful of the kingdoms which succeeded the Western Roman Empire. But following the Battle of Tertry, the Merovingians declined into a state of powerlessness, for which they have been dubbed do-nothing kings. Almost all government powers of any consequence were exercised by their chief officer, the mayor of the palace or major domus.

In 687, Pippin, the Middle, mayor of the palace of Austrasia, ended the strife between various kings and their mayors with his victory at Tertry and became the sole governor of the entire Frankish kingdom. Pippin the Middle was eventually succeeded by his illegitimate son Charles, later known as Charles Martel. After 737, Charles governed the Franks without a king on the throne but desisted from calling himself “king”. Charles was succeeded by his sons Carloman and Pippin the Short, the father of Charlemagne. To curb separatism in the periphery of the realm, the brothers placed on the throne Childeric III, who was to be the last Merovingian king.

When Carloman resigned his office, Pippin the Short remained the sole mayor and had Childeric III deposed with Pope Zachary’s approval. In 751, Pippin was elected and anointed King of the Franks and in 754, Pope Stephen II again anointed him and his young sons, now heirs to the great realm which already covered most of western and central Europe. Thus Merovingian dynasty was replaced by the Carolingian dynasty, named after Pippin’s father Charles Martel.

Charlemagne’s Reign

When Pippin the Short died in 768, Charlemagne and his brother Carloman inherited the throne. But in 771 Carloman died, and Charlemagne became sole ruler of the kingdom. At that time the Franks were falling back into barbarian ways, neglecting their education and religion. The Saxons of northern Europe were still pagans. In the south, the Roman Catholic church was asserting its power to recover land confiscated by the Lombard kingdom of Italy. Europe was in turmoil.

Charlemagne was determined to strengthen his realm and to bring order to Europe. In 772 he launched a 30-year campaign that conquered and Christianized the powerful pagan Saxons who were led by Widikind. He subdued the Avars, a huge Tatar tribe on the Danube. He compelled the rebellious Bavarian dukes to submit to him. When possible he preferred to settle matters peacefully, however. For example, Charlemagne offered to pay the Lombard king Desiderius for return of lands to the pope, but, when Desiderius refused, Charlemagne seized his kingdom in 773 to 774 and restored the Papal States.

In 778, Charlemagne went south on a military expedition. Crossing the Pyrenees, he besieged and took the town of Pamplona, then retreated northwards. An incident of some kind took place at a pass (traditionally identified as the pass of Roncesvalles), where either Basques or Gascons attack the rearguard of his army. Paradoxically, in the heroic fantasy of the Chanson de Roland, this minor failure becomes the most famous moment in the whole Charlemagne legend.

In Spain, the struggle against the Moors continued unabated throughout the latter half of his reign. His son Louis was in charge of the Spanish border. In 785, his men captured Gerona permanently and extended Frankish control into the Catalan littoral for the duration of Charlemagne’s reign (and much longer, it remained nominally Frankish until the Treaty of Corbeil in 1258). The Christians chiefs in the northeast of Spain were constantly revolting against the Muslim rule and they often turned to the Franks for help. The Frankish border was slowly extended until 795, when Gerona, Cardona, Ausona, and Urgel were united into the new Spanish March, within the old duchy of Septimania. The Franks continued to press forwards against the emir as they took Tarragona in 809 and Tortosa in 811. The last conquest brought them to the mouth of the Ebro and gave them raiding access to Valencia, prompting the Emir al-Hakam I to recognise their conquests in 812.

In 800 he sent his troops to Italy to help the new Pope Leon III who had been ousted through a conspiracy. When the Leon III was on the papal throne again, Charlemagne went to Rome to judge the conspirators. On Christmas Day in 800, while Charlemagne knelt in prayer in Saint Peter’s in Rome, Pope Leo III seized a golden crown from the altar and placed it on the bowed head of the king. The throng in the church shouted. Charlemagne is said to have been surprised by the coronation, declaring that he would not have come into the church had he known the pope’s plan. However, some historians say the pope would not have dared to act without Charlemagne’s knowledge.

While extending his territories, Charlemagne needs to improve the administration of the empire. Christian clerics (the only literate group in the barbarian north) are enlisted as his civil servants at Aachen, where the emperor also establishes a programme of education and cultural revival. Charlemagne never stopped studying. He brought an English monk, Alcuin, and other scholars to his court. He learned to read Latin and some Greek but apparently did not master writing. At meals, instead of having jesters perform, he listened to men reading from learned works.

Charlemagne tried to divide his territory equally between his sons. But the two eldest die, in 810 and 811, leaving only Louis, who succeeds as sole emperor in 814 upon Charlemagne’s death. His subsequent name, Louis the Pious, reveals a character different from his father’s; he is more interested in asserting authority through the medium of church and monastery than on the battlefield. Charlemagne’s great empire remains precariously intact for this one reign after his death. Its fragmentation begins when Louis dies, in 840. Louis’s three quarreling sons split the empire between them by the Partition of Verdun in 843.

Gavrilo Princip

Gavrilo Princip (1894-1918) was a Bosnian-Serbian nationalist and member of the Black Hand, which was a secret Serbian society founded in 1911 by Serbian Army officers to fight for the liberations of Serbs from Austria-Hungary domination, using terrorist methods. Gavrilo Princip carried out the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir apparent to the Austro-Hungarian empire throne, in Sarajevo, on June 28, 1914, triggering World War I.

Gavrilo Princip was born in Obljaj, Bosnia-Herzegovina, on July 25, 1894. Although the town where he was born was part of Austria-Hungary, ethnically, he was a Serbian. When he was young, he moved to Sarajevo to study at a secondary school. However, having participated in a demonstration against the city government in 1912, he was expelled from school, As a result, he traveled to Belgrade, Serbia, where he enrolled at a grammar school. It was then, in 1912, that he became a member of the Black Hand. After he killed Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, he was immediately captured and hauled off to prison. He received a life setence, but died of tuberculosis in April 1918 while he was in jail.

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Alfred von Schlieffen

Alfred von Schlieffen (1833-1913) was a German field marshal that served as Chief of General Staff in Germany between 1891 and 1905. He was born in Berlin, Germany, in 1833. He joined the army in 1854 at the age of twenty. Between 1858 and 1861, Alfred von Schlieffen attended the Berlin War Academy, and he was a staff officer during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871.

In 1884 Schlieffen became head of the military history section of the general staff, and in 1891 he replaced Alfred Graf von Waldersee as Chief of General Staff. In 1905, Alfred von Schlieffen presented the Schlieffen Plan, which would stipulate that fighting a two-front war should be avoided by first defeating France in a lightning campaign and then throwing its full weight against Russia. The rest of Schlieffen’s career was spent inculcating the operational ideas required to make this strategy work.

After fifty two years of service, Alfred von Schlieffen retired as Chief of General Staff of the German Army in 1906 and died in 1913, one year before the outbreak of World War I. Schlieffen was perhaps the best known contemporary strategist of his time. Schlieffen’s operational theories were to have a profound impact on the development of maneuver warfare in the twentieth century.

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