Commandant Louis Joseph Lahure has a singular distinction in military history — he defeated a navy on horseback.
While occupying Holland in January 1795, the French continental army learned that the mighty Dutch navy had been frozen into the ice around Texel Island. So Lahure and 128 men simply rode up to it and demanded surrender. No shots were fired.
Because sometimes war is just that easy. Not often, though.
Johnnie Phelps, a woman sergeant in the army, thought, “There was a tolerance for lesbianism if they needed you. The battalion I was in was probably about ninety-seven percent lesbian.”
Sergeant Phelps worked for General Eisenhower. Four decades after Eisenhower had defeated the Axis powers, Phelps recalled an extraordinary event. One day, the general told her, “I’m giving you an order to ferret those lesbians out. We’re going to get rid of them.”
“I looked at him and then I looked at his secretary who was standing next to me, and I said, ‘Well, sir, if the general pleases, sir, I’ll be happy to do this investigation for you. But you have to know that the first name on the list will be mine.’ “
“And he was kind of taken aback a bit. And then this women standing next to me said, ‘Sir, if the General pleases, you must be aware that Sergeant Phelp’s name may be second, but mine will be first.”
“Then I looked at him, and said, ‘Sir, you’re right. They’re lesbians in the WAC battalion. And if the general is prepared to replace all the file clerks, all the section commanders, all the drivers-every woman in the WAC detachment-and there were about nine hundred and eighty something of us-then I’ll be happy to make that list. But I think the general should be aware that among those women are the most highly decorated women in the war. There have been no cases of illegal pregnancy. There have been no cases of AWOL. There have been no cases of misconduct. And as a matter of fact, every six months since we’ve been here, the general has awarded us a commendation for meritorious conduct.”
“And he said, ‘Forget the order.’”
The Gay Metropolis, page 47, Charles Kaiser (via bibliothekara)
Phelps tells this story herself in the excellent 1984 documentary Before Stonewall, which you can watch in its entirety on YouTube (she’s at 19:30, but really, watch the whole thing): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kX7AxQd82H8
This makes me laugh every time I see it.
There is a line of poetry, a sentence in a fable, a word in an essay, by which my existence is justified; find that line, and immortality is assured.
Princess Olga of Kiev had a husband, Igor, who was murdered by the Drevlyans, an Eastern Slavic tribe. Olga took over the Kievan Rus as regent for their three-year-old son. The Drevlyans wanted Olga to marry their Prince Mal, making him the ruler of Kievan Rus, but Olga was determined to remain in power and preserve it for her son. The Drevlyans sent twenty men to persuade Olga, and she had them carried by her servants on a boat to the courtyard of the castle. The boat was dumped into a giant hole and the suitors were buried alive.
Then Olga annouced to Prince Mal that she accepted the proposal, but required their most distinguished men to accompany her on the journey. When they arrived, she greeted them warmly and invited them to clean up after the long trip in a bathhouse. Then she locked the doors and burned the bathhouse to the ground. With the top men of the tribe out of the way, Olga planned to destroy the remaining Drevlians. She invited them to a funeral feast so she could mourn over her husband’s grave, where her servants waited on them. After the Drevlians were drunk, Olga’s soldiers killed over 5,000 of them.
But wait, there’s more! Olga gathered her soldiers and prepared to annihilate the survivors. When they requested her forgiveness, Olga asked the remaining Drevlyans to give her three pigeons and three sparrows from each home. When the birds arrived, she had hot coals tied to their legs and set them back home. As the city burned to the ground from the resulting fire, the people that ran out of the city were either killed, enslaved, or extorted by Olga’s army. The entire Drevlyan tribe was basically wiped out in the following years.
Olga of Kiev is a saint in the Russian Orthodox Church.