World War Propaganda Posters

World War 1 Propaganda Posters
“We Beat ‘Em Before” (Source)

WW1 propaganda posters, and WW2 propaganda posters, are an essential component of psychological warfare in their involved time periods.

World War 1 and 2 were the first Great Wars, and the testing ground for new types of warfare, on a scale never seen before. Acolytes of history are familiar with the advancements in weapon technology and conventional (and unconventional) battlefield tactics, but the advancements made in the realm of psychological warfare are ever so present amongst the pungent scent of carbon and earth-shattering sounds of artillery blasts in the forests and fields of Europe and beyond. 

Propaganda posters are a profoundly important fixture of the nations involved in both power blocs. Their impact on civilian populations and militaries is of great importance in the grand scheme of things in the same degree that memes are in modernity.

Propaganda in history

It is no surprise that propaganda as a concept lacks a universally agreed upon definition. Different disciplines have different interpretations of it, and underneath those live even more variations of said interpretations. Brevity calls, however. To breathe coherent life into World War propaganda posters, it would be beneficial to view it as communication–one with roots in ancient civilization–but a linguistic start in the 17th century AD. 

Historians date the first use of the word propaganda back to 1622 and credit its usage to Pope Gregory XV. The Catholic Church was embarking on a proselytizing campaign in non-Christian nations, albeit not with unity. Although Rome was the power center of the church, missionaries from Portugal and Spain led their own evangelizing movements with limited direction from the Pope. In order to counter this, Gregory XV created the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, which became the ecclesiastical authority over missionary work in heathen nations. [source

Propaganda, as a term, propagated from the Catholic Church’s affairs, under the enforcement of Gregory XV’s committee. Through its work, the church could use methods of communication to evangelize and convert in unreached lands. Ralph D. Casey would argue that propagandas prior use was honorable and associated with what “commanded the respectful attention of mankind.” [source]  

Fast forward to the dawn of the 20th century, where manufacturing and production technology entered its most advanced stage since the Gutenberg printing press. Mass media was in a new era, with mediums of communication influencing large swaths of civilian populations. That brings us up to 1914, and the start of WWI, which will be the next significant milestone in the history of propaganda. 

Propaganda in World Wars

The role of propaganda in the First World War was multifaceted. It came in various forms with various goals. WWI would end up being the quasi-trial grounds for the effectiveness of this new form of mass communication, similar to other advancements in military hardware and tactics:

Patriotism & Nationalism

As a tool of mass media, governments often used propaganda in the First World War for promoting a strong national identity and rekindling the spark of patriotism amongst the populations. The First World War was unique for many reasons, one of the most prolific being the sizes of the involved military forces. Instead of cities fighting cities, or smaller forces fighting for land or resources, the scale was at a national level. 

An entire nation being at war requires a supportive citizenry, willing to either enlist in the service or fulfill a supporting role in factories, hospitals, or other areas. Not only that, but an energized sense of patriotism raises morale. High morale was a strain of lifeblood in the veins of First World War powers. The clever use of propaganda was one way the pulse of the war machine could continue its rapid frequency. 

Atrocity/weaponized propaganda 

WW1 propaganda posters had a potent offensive use, requiring no bullets or artillery barrages to inflict damage. Psychological warfare is a now commonly used term to describe the more “weaponized” use of propaganda, including its “atrocity” form. 

The United States and Britain were the WW1 benefactors that primarily used atrocity propaganda. Its primary goal was to use propaganda as a tool of emotional manipulation to gain public support for the war and foster hatred for the enemy. Unlike patriotic propaganda, however, the atrocities committed by the Austro-Hungarians and Germans turned into mass media messaging. [source]

Outside of atrocities, weaponized propaganda could garner support in countries who were neutral to the war, yet could be beneficial to have as an ally. This happened covertly and overtly using news media and the spreading of books and pamphlets in target populations. [source]

Overall, WW1 and WW2 propaganda posters proved themselves as a worthy component of military campaigns on a global scale. The same principles and forms of propaganda mentioned above crossed into the Second World War mere decades later. 

World War Propaganda Posters

WW1 propaganda posters, and WWII are some of the most famous and prolific pieces of visual art from each period. They cover the different arenas of propaganda and its forms of use, including patriotism, recruitment, and as an active measure. 

WW1 Propaganda Posters

WW1 Propaganda Posters
Field Marshal Lord Kitchener [source]

This poster is one of the most well-known ones to come from the First World War. It originated in Britain, and features Field-Marshall Lord Kitchener, who was a seasoned war hero prior to the start of the war. The primary goal of its messaging was recruitment, using Lord Kitchener as an inspirational figure. His celebrity was a resource that could influence men to enlist, with a stern and inviting look captured by the artist Alfred Leete. The extent of the posters’ actual success remains contested, but it spawned myriads of similar formats used in propaganda and art later on. [source]

WW1 Propaganda Posters
American propaganda targeting civilians [source]

This poster seems to target both the female and civilian population of the US during the war effort. It’s messaging is likely a recruitment drive for help in the production of domestic goods, including in the agricultural sector, as illustrated. The “only men go to war” stereotype is thankfully in the ash-heap of history amongst armed forces personnel in the West, but the idea of “the girl left behind” was surely prominent in this generation. The messaging within the poster likely seeks to recruit females whose partners are off at war to fulfill the masculine roles left vacant. [source]

World War 1 Propaganda Posters
“Remember Scarborough!” [source]
World War 1 Propaganda Posters
“Remember Scarborough!” [source]

Atrocity and Imagery

These two posters are an excellent example of atrocity propaganda (particularly the bottom one). The famous British painter, Luck Kemp-Welch, is the artist behind this propaganda, the subject being the Raid on Scarborough, which took place on the 16th of December, 1914. German battleships opened fire on the British town of Scarborough early in the morning, killing 17 citizens, injuring more and inflicting massive damage on the town’s infrastructure. The first poster includes Britannia, the personification of Britain. Her forceful presence on the poster was likely included to inspire citizens to fight for the nation. The second poster appeals to the pathos with an emphasis on German atrocities in the raid, including the death of women and children. [source]

World War 1 Propaganda Posters
“And you?” [source]

Austrian artist Alfred Roller is the designer of this piece of German WW1 propaganda posters. The tagline “Und Ihr?” translates to “And you?” which signifies the arts message, a rhetorical question posed towards the population, asking them to evaluate their own support for the German war effort. Here, the goal was to achieve more subscriptions to Austrias Seventh War Loan (“7. Kriegsanleihe”). The underlying idea is for a citizen to see an injured German soldier, and then ask themselves what they are contributing. If not with life and limb in the trenches, the fiscal option is the next best thing. [source]

WW2 Propaganda Posters

World War 2 Propaganda Posters
Rosie the Riveter [source]

WW2 propaganda posters were the next evolution of mass propaganda.

The same predicament that plagued the US homeland during WWI had a resurgence in WWII. Once again, most military enlistees were male, meaning the workforce back home suffered a myriad of gaps. It would be a grave misfortune to leave out the role women played during this time, and the famous Rosie the Riveter poster above is symbolic of the strength and bravery those women displayed.

J. Howard Miller designed the Rosie poster in 1942, with the goal of inspiring women to join the war workforce. A sizeable increase in employed women surged, despite female workers being paid around 50 percent less in wages than males. The role women played in WWII was monumental, as they produced crucial hardware, such as munitions and aircraft parts. [source] WW2 propaganda posters such as Rosie would become some of the most recognizable images of the war.

Robert James Nichol is the artist behind this piece of Canadian WWII propaganda. The beaver is symbolic of the Canadian spirit, and is chopping away at a tree containing Adolf Hitler. The message is clear: join the war effort, and “get your teeth into the job.”

Making an enemy

World War 2 Propaganda Posters
Racist propaganda [source]

This piece of propaganda uses a racist caricature of a Japanese soldier in order to promote war bonds. There are likely a few different layers beneath it that made it effective. For one, there is the stereotypical “helpless woman” trope, which can have an emotional appeal towards the population.

Similarly, the Japanese soldier has a grotesque and almost monster like illustration, and is labeled a “horror”, sowing hatred in the population towards the enemy, and drawing citizens to buy the product. Racism was a prominent feature of some WW2 propaganda posters and helped capture the hate expressed during the time.

“Beware of Spies” (Source)

This is a German World War 2 propaganda poster, illustrated by Theo Matejko. The message reads “Beware of Spies–Be Cautious in Conversations!”, signaling espionage awareness as its main purpose.

Russian propaganda [source]

Russian propaganda in WWII was on the nationalistic side. It was common to see similar themes throughout the posters, including a larger-than-life portrayal of Joseph Stalin commanding his masses of troops, all for the glory of mother Russia.


Propaganda posters were an invaluable medium for all nations during the First and Second World Wars. They would capture the national fervor of these countries, the plights that their people had to endure, and the goals they all sought to achieve. By capturing the essence of these times, propaganda posters served not only to change the minds of the people in the time of use.


Native Americans in World Wars: Bravery and Sacrifice

World War II Navajo Code Talker Veteran by Cpl. Bryan Nygaard for the USMC

Native Americans fought in foreign world wars because they wanted to belong.

All humans want to belong. It’s an objective reality, and a universal desire of our species.   

Belonging comes in many forms. Some forms align vertically, with a connection to the divine, nature, and the universe. There is a sense of majesty to take part in something larger than self. It helps some find meaning in a chaotic existence. It broadens a narrow scope.

Horizontally lies other layers of belonging, such as relationships, tribes, ideologies, and groups. We are social beings at heart. We must cooperate for our survival, however that may look.

Nature is another point on the horizontal axis of belonging.

“There is an ancient faithfulness in nature. Mountains, fields, and shorelines are still to be found in the same places after thousands of years”, writes the late Irish poet, John O’Donohue.

It is a lost art in Western society: to cherish nature and feel connected to it in an enriching way.

Native Americans master the art. They always have, for millennia.

Long before European colonizers forcefully took indigenous land, tribes in North America belonged. They belonged to the forests, mountains, plains, and deserts, to regions, territories, and hamlets, and amongst the animal kingdom in the wilds.  

Strong in Spirit

Spirituality is at the core of Native American culture. Diverse theologies and pantheons of spirits exist among the many populations. Tribes are the social breakdown of indigenous peoples, and the idea of community itself is borderline divine.

An emphasis on community is a stark change from the glorification of the individual that has ideologically colonized the indigenous lands of North America over the centuries.

Native American wisdom says,

“Honor the sacred. Honor the Earth, our Mother. Honor the Elders. Honor all with whom we share the Earth: -Four-leggeds, two-leggeds, winged ones, swimmers, crawlers, plant and rock people. Walk in balance and beauty.”

Native Americans in World Wars
Navajo tribesmen portraying war gods

Wisdom of the ancients

What does any of that have to do with the relationship between Native Americans in the World Wars? Ruminating on esoteric ideas of belonging doesn’t really mesh well with the brutal nature of global conflict.

It’s important though. Esoteric thought is a tenet of Native American culture. We can learn much from the wisdom of the tribes that can help understand their inclinations towards patriotic servitude.

Native Americans embody the warrior spirit, but also act as sages, known for profound storytelling, and living poetically. Allegory and written wisdom reflect both nature and nurture. There are proverbs of war, of appreciation for nature, and of the importance of living in harmony.

They were free of outside cultures and ideologies. There were no foreign occupiers forcing them to conform to a societal structure devoid of their timeless traditions.

That changed after the European conquest in the 16th century. It was then that belonging began its descent into obscurity.


In the 16th century, European settlers formed colonies along the East coast of America. These colonies were extensions of the British empire. They ended up collectively rebelling against the crown, planting the seed of liberty that eventually grew into the United States – the self-proclaimed “land of the free” – which sounds good on paper, but is far from accurate with the nation’s treatment of indigenous people.

The all-encompassing history of Native Americans is dense, and not the intended subject of focus. It is important to note, however, the way indigenous people have suffered, from the signing of the Declaration of Independence to the 21st century.

Between the late 1700s and late 1800s, the Indian Wars took place, spanning across the entire country. These wars were not the first of their kind post-European colonization. Far from it, but still unique, in the sense that they were some of the last conflicts before the industrial age fought between Native Americans and white settlers.

Pushed Beyond the Brink

Western expansion and war drove ancient indigenous populations out of their sacred land. There were few options given: either assimilate to American culture or perish.

Some chose the former outcome; many faced the latter. History writes:

“By the early 20 century, the American-Indian Wars had effectively ended, but at great cost. Though Indians helped colonial settlers survive in the New World, helped Americans gain their independence and ceded vast amounts of land and resources to pioneers, tens of thousands of Indian and non-Indian lives were lost to war, disease and famine, and the Indian way of life was almost completely destroyed.”    

Perspective leads to sorrow when imagining that reality. Cemeteries of history are abundantly filled with the mass graves of conquered empires. It is almost inescapable, and even the United States is not immune.

As it stands, the conquest of the Native Americans is a cataclysmic betrayal of the values and ideals embedded in the Constitutional framework. It would be hard to imagine the indigenous populations that survived into the 20th century would ever want to help the nation that took their land and decimated their people and culture, especially through the act of military service.

That is why it is mesmerizing to picture Native Americans in the World Wars.

Native Americans in World Wars
An artistic take on the Jamestown Landing in Virginia, location of the first English colony in America

Native Americans in World War I

An assassination was all it took to propel the world into its first large-scale conventional conflict.

In 1914, an already primed powder keg in Europe was lit following the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, the Archduke of Austria.

What followed was four years of conflict between two power conglomerates.

The Central Powers comprised Bulgaria, Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire. The Allied Powers included the United States, Romania, Japan, Russia, France, and Great Britain.

That is a dramatically oversimplified explanation of World War I, which was an event that ushered in a new age of military technology and mass destruction. Battlefields raged across Europe and the Middle East. Nothing was linear in the way it played out.

According to History,

“Thanks to new military technologies and the horrors of trench warfare, World War I saw unprecedented levels of carnage and destruction. By the time the war was over and the Allied Powers claimed victory, more than 16 million people—soldiers and civilians alike—were dead.”

Race relations during WWI

During the WWI era, the United States had a grotesque level of deeply rooted racism within its culture. The overwhelming majority of US service members were Caucasian, and overt racism was still a serious issue, both domestically and in the armed forces.

It is refreshing to know that the concepts of valor and duty do not discriminate, and there are myriads of accounts involving people of color and colored units, who had some of the greatest achievements in both World Wars.

Native Americans were a marginalized community in the World War I era, and one of the last communities one would imagine voluntarily fighting for the US in a foreign conflict. Strangely enough, that wasn’t the case. Patriotism infected the Native American community.  

Beyond the Call of Duty

The National Museum of the American Indian writes,

“When the U.S. entered World War I in April 1917, many Native Americans welcomed the opportunity to serve in the armed forces. By September, nearly 12,000 men had registered for military service. Native women also volunteered and served as army nurses in France. Approximately 10,000 American Indians joined the Red Cross, collecting money and donating supplies to support the war effort.”

To add another extraordinary layer to that, over half of the Native American population at the time were not US citizens. According to John J. Pershing at the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History,  

“More than 11,000 American Indians served with the American forces during World War I. Nearly 5,000 Native men enlisted and approximately 6,500 were drafted—despite the fact that almost half of American Indians were not citizens and therefore not eligible for conscription.

By the end, roughly one quarter of all indigenous men served in the US armed forces during the war.

Native Americans in World Wars
Native American soldiers with the 2nd Battalion, 358th Infantry, 90th Division, WWI (flickr)

Uncommon Valor Exemplified

Private Calvin Atchavit hailed from Walters, Oklahoma, and was a member of the Comanche tribe. He was eventually awarded the prestigious Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest military honor in the United States Army.

As cited,

“Calvin Atchavit, private, Company A, 357th Infantry, 90th Division. For extraordinary heroism in action near Fey-en-Haye, France, September 12, 1918. During the attack of his company, though he had been severely wounded in his right arm, Pvt. Atchavit shot and killed one of the enemy and captured another.”

Amado Garcia and Lauriano Martinez hailed from New Mexico and members of the Pueblo tribe. In a preserved newspaper clip, D.J. Ryan writes,

“A crawl three hundred yards in front of the lines and through the enemy’s wire was a part of the preliminary work in an attack on a hostile machine-gun nest by three members of Co. K, 110th Infantry, 28th Division, on August 26, 1918, near Fismes.

The party included Amado Garcia and Lauriano Martinez from New Mexico, reported to the Catholic records through parishes at Albuquerque and Watrous. Doubtless, their Indian ancestry was a point considered in selecting them for a tour through the wire.Ten yards from their objective, they were fired on by the enemy. In the action that followed, the enemy crew resisted stubbornly-but scored poorly. The invading Americans dispatched three and drove off the others with clubbed rifles.”

Both men earned the French Croix de Guerre with a Gilt Star, and the Distinguished Service Cross for their valor.

Native Code

Native Americans resonate with legend and story. Both are an essential cultural stratum. Indigenous oral traditions preserve their chronicles, to be passed down from generation to generation. Accounts of men who demonstrated prowess and valor in war.  

The first American warfighters strove to mirror those indigenous warriors, who were not merely relics of the past, but examples to emulate in the present.

 Native American bravery moved beyond the front lines. Conflict is not purely violence, and a well-oiled conventional force has multiple components, with specialized units supporting the ground combat elements.   

One particular unit became a prototype that was replicated and built upon in the global conflict that took place a few decades after World War I ended.

A major problem Allied Powers faced was not as bullets or incoming fire, but the interception of radio traffic and code-breaking by the enemy. In particular, the Germans used cracked radio code to their advantage. This occurred in key flashpoints like the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in 1918.

A solution to the German code-breaking challenge was needed with urgency.

No Such Thing as Chance

By chance, an Army captain, walking through a camp, overheard a pair of soldiers talking in a language unfamiliar to him. The soldiers were from the 142nd Infantry Regiment, and were of Choctaw descent, whose tribes language the officer overheard.  

The indigenous men informed the captain native soldiers at the company headquarters also spoke the Choctaw language. He quickly called his command and relayed a message in Choctaw that was translated by the natives on the other end.

Choctaw language is unique, in that it’s relatively internal to the Native American community. According to BBC,

“It was a largely unknown language. Only a few American Indian tribes had more than 20,000 people so their languages weren’t widely spoken, and most weren’t written down. Even if they were, it was usually only the Bible and hymns, which were consumed locally.”

A prospective solution turned into practical action and the Choctaw Telephone Squad formed. Commanders would tactically position native American men in the unit around the battlefield where they could transmit messages back and forth in Choctaw over the hook, which eased the threat of German detection.

The Choctaw Telephone Squad were instrumental in future victories, and the precursor to the fabled Code Talkers in World War II.

Native Americans in World Wars
Soldiers from the Choctaw Telephone Squad (flickr)


We traditionally meet troops returning home from war with celebration and reverence from the public.

Parades, media attention, and a heightened patriotic atmosphere. We as a society give thanks to those who came back, and mourn the lives lost.

Overall, returning from war symbolizes the conclusion of an experience that transcends normal life for those who experience it. One would imagine all service members receive the same treatment when they cross over domestic lines, but that far from the case for the Native Americans who fought in World War I. John Maynard writes,

“Indigenous contributions to the Great War and a genuine lack of acknowledgment of that contribution have long aggrieved Indigenous families and communities. Thousands of Indigenous men fought for their country in World War I, many making the ultimate sacrifice. On returning home many of the Indigenous veterans were disillusioned and frustrated that their courage and bravery were not rewarded with due recognition of their service for their country.”

Not only were their achievements overlooked, but fighting and bleeding for the nation wasn’t even enough to gain citizenship.

The federal government made some progress eight years after the war when the Indian Citizenship Act took effect on the 2nd of June 1924. The act gave citizenship and the right to vote for all Native Americans in the United States, but with some exceptions. According to the Library of Congress, they gave states the right to enforce their own laws, and some did until 1957.

World War I was a pivotal moment in Native American culture, and the warrior spirit that was shown in Europe re-surged mere decades later.

Native Americans in World War II

“The Indian is the best damn soldier in the Army.”

Major. Lee Gilstrop

World War II. From 1939 to 1945, most of the world found itself in another conventional conflict, primarily between the Axis and Allied Powers. Battlefields were in Europe, Africa, and the Pacific. So on and so forth…

Domestically, the Native American population was continuing to suffer the effects of post-World War I. Economic hardship, lack of jobs, and limited educational opportunities were some issues effecting indigenous peoples. Societal structures limited tribes to life on reservations, surrounded by a growing American culture that was nullifying their own.  

On the 7th of December 1941, an unprecedented catastrophic event transpired on American soil: Pearl Harbor.

Japan’s aerial strike in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, brought the US into the war effort, starting with the Pacific Theater, and later joining other Allied Forces in Europe. The nation became energized, and its once isolationist posture towards the war changed overnight.

Answering the Call

Mirroring World War I, Native Americans once again felt called to join the fight. After all, the United States is, in theory, their rightful land. For them, it was less about fighting for the United States—not nullify that aspect, for it was prevalent—but to fight on behalf of their ancestors, and the soil that was once theirs.

As aforementioned, the ancestors of indigenous service members were the antecedent for their zeal and prime performance on the battlefield. Accounts claim Native Americans were some of the best recruits in basic training and were already proficient in the survival skills that were lacking in most non-indigenous citizens enlisting or being drafted.

Not only that, but the indigenous way of life bred them to be commandos. Historian Thomas Morgan writes, “Native Americans endured thirst and lack of food better than the average soldier. They had an acute sense of perception and excellent endurance, along with superior physical coordination.”

Over the duration of the war, 25,000 Native Americans served among the various branches in the US Armed Forces.

Native Americans in World Wars
Attack on Pearl Harbor, 7th of December 1941 (flickr)

The Machita Incident

Patriotism and duty didn’t reach all corners of the Native American community. Some (albeit a rather small percentage) resisted service and did not forget the sins of the nations past towards their people.

One lesser known instance of Native American resistance is “The Machita Incident”, or as some call it “Arizona’s last great Indian war”.

Pia (translating to “man without a grindstone”) Machita was a leader in the Tohono O’odham tribe of Arizona. An anti-establishment attitude was prominent amongst the members of Pia’s smaller community within the tribe, who rejected the Gadsden Purchase, and opposed government or “Anglo” intervention in their people’s affairs.

On the 16th of December 1940, Washington D.C. put the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 into effect. At first, all men between the ages of 21-36 faced a mandate to register for the draft, but the low age dropped to 18 after the start of World War II.

Resistance and Confrontation

With Native Americans being considered US citizens at this point (mostly), the Act applied to them as well. Pia Machita viewed this as a repetition of government oppression and formed an insurrectionist movement amongst the draft eligible men in his tribe. Their intent was to refuse registration.

The US government sent representatives onto the Tohono O’odham reservation to conscript eligible men on the 13th of October 1940. It isn’t much of a surprise, but they resisted, and refused to sign the paperwork.

In response, on the 16th of October 1940, the government sent more representatives, except this time, instead of pens and paper, they wielded firearms and tear gas.

As written by scholar Elmer W. Flaccus, federal law enforcement conducted a raid on Pia Machita and his resistance. There were no casualties, and Pia fled the area with some of his men, beginning a seven-month long search conducted by federal law enforcement. Eventually, the law found Pia in Arizona and sentenced him to an 18-month prison sentence. The judicial system later granted Pia a reduced sentence after advocacy from his tribe.

Native American Women in World War II

Native American women showed the same level of sacrifice and bravery as the men.

Although their enlistments were fewer, they stood right alongside indigenous men in the recruiting station lines. A 1943 quote from a Lakota Sioux student named Margie Williams is powerful in explaining why women would willingly serve in the war. She writes,

“It is with much pride that the Indian woman dons the uniform of her country . . . The Redman is proving to his white brother that he can make an outstanding contribution, both on the home front and behind the firing lines. With the same pride and devotion, the Indian woman is proving herself to be one of Uncle Sam’s priceless daughters”

There is a reason that is a reoccurring theme throughout this article. It’s hard to ignore how profound the above sentiment is. The women wanted to prove themselves to be considered an American, even at the risk of life and limb. Patriotism was something very real to them. It was one act to fight for the values of the United States. It’s a higher one to do so for your ancestral homeland.

Service at Home

They did not limit native American women to the military in terms of service. Many of them contributed to the domestic war effort, which was a popular industry for women of all ethnicities during that period. One in four Native American women worked in factories, in cities off the reservation. That experience exposed them to a different life and culture, that lacked familiarity.

Native American women also found themselves active on the reservations and took leadership roles given up by the men who were overseas. With a such a large percentage of the tribe populations being men who were away, indigenous women had to step into traditionally male roles, such as manning fire lookouts, chopping wood, and farming. The role Native American women played in World War II embodied the idea of duty and sacrifice.

Native Americans in World Wars
African American women in WWII, another example of women from a marginalized community serving the nation that failed them

Changing gears, it’s time for an expose on one Native American warfighter. “Epic” isn’t even the proper term to describe this, as you will see.

Everything you are about to read happened. No fabrication, and no hyperbole included for dramatic effect. War Chief Medicine is more than a legend. He was a living god of war.

War Chief Medicine Crow

Joseph Medicine Crow was born on the 27th of October 1913, on the Crow Indian Reservation in Lodge Grass, Montana.

He grew up hearing oral stories from tribe elders who were present at the battle of Little Bighorn, making him one of the last members of his nation to have a firsthand account.

Life on the reservation was difficult, and the Crow Nation was suffering great calamity during his youth. Young Joseph could discern what needed to be done to help change his tribe’s circumstances in the future. He wanted to pursue an education – something that uncommon within his community, and that could transfer into skills to help it.

Medicine Crow excelled through school, graduating from Linfield College in 1939, and then completing a graduate course in anthropology at the University of Southern California. He was the first member of the Crow Nation to be awarded a master’s degree.

Like other Native Americans, Pearl Harbor influenced Medicine Crow. In 1943, he left behind a job working at the naval shipyard in Bremerton, Washington, and enlisted in the US Army, eventually being assigned to the 103rd Infantry.

The Trials of the War Chief

As is common amongst indigenous service members, Medicine Crow wanted to fight in the name of his ancestors, harnessing the stories and accounts of their heroism and strength passed down during his tribal upbringing.

The 103rd Infantry deployed to Europe to fight the Germans, which is when Medicine Crow’s story turns into legend.

For context, there are four qualifications a tribe member must meet in order to earn the title Chief of Tribe:

  1. Touch or strike an enemy without killing him
  2. Wrestle a weapon away from an enemy warrior
  3. Command a war party successfully
  4. Enter an enemy camp at night and steal a horse

Earning the Title

Medicine Crow knocked out the first two qualifications in one event. According to the National Park Service,

“His unit hit a little town with just one main street. He did not want to participate in such a raid but instead asked his superior’s permission to have a little extra time to accomplish a deed.

The Commanding Officer (C.O.) sent him around the street and down an alley. He saw an opening in a gate and a German was doing the same thing. They bumped heads and Joe gave him a butt stroke with his rifle and knocked the enemy’s rifle out of his hand.”

For the third qualification, Medicine Crows company was behind enemy lines, devoid of ammunition, and locked in fierce combat. He bravely led a squad of men through heavy fire and obstacles back to Allied territory. After loading up some ammunition, Crow led his squad back across German lines and successfully resupplied his company.

While conducting a scouting mission under the cover of darkness, Medicine Crow carefully stalked horse-mounted German soldiers. When the opportunity arose, he stole a horse, gathered the rest, and took off into the distance. That act fulfilled all the requirements needed to earn the title.

With all the qualifications complete, Joseph Medicine Crow became the Chief of Tribe: the last living member of the Crow Nation to carry that title.

His accolades from World War II include the Bronze Star, French Legion of Honor, Gold Congressional Medal of Honor, an honorary doctorate from the University of California. He was and also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2008.

Chief Joseph Medicine Crow passed away on the 3rd of April 2016, in his home state of Montana.

Native Americans in World Wars
Chief Joseph Medicine Crow and President Barack Obama (wikicommons)

The Navajo Code Talkers

The Navajo Code Talkers are a revered unit of Native Americans in World War II, and the spiritual successors of the World War I Choctaw Telephone Squad.

Like World War I, the threat of enemy interception of communication was prevalent. The former wars after-action reports highlighted the effectiveness of the Choctaw speakers. That inspired a recruiting effort directed at Native American men who could speak their tribe’s unwritten language.

There were multiple different code talker units, but the Marine Corps Navajo Code Talkers are arguably the most famous one to operate in World War II.

A New Language of War

Navajo language is complex and unwritten. Outside of the tribe, there is a disproportionate number of non-Navajo people who can understand it. Complex dialects, syntax, and tone fluctuations are the perfect blend of linguistic attributes for verbal cryptography.

Also participating in the Bougainville operation in December 1943 were (left to right, front row): Pvt Earl Johnny, Pvt Kee Etsicitty, Pvt John V. Goodluck, and PFC David Jordan. Rear row, left to right: Pvt Jack C. Morgan, Pvt George H. Kirk, Pvt Tom H. Jones, Cpl Henry Bake, Jr.

Philip Johnson, a World War I veteran, was one of the few people speak fluent Navajo outside of the tribe. He was also aware of the defense departments’ ongoing search for a Native American language suitable for communications code. According to the Naval History and Heritage Command,

“Early in 1942, Johnston met with Major General Clayton B. Vogel, the commanding general of Amphibious Corps, Pacific Fleet, and his staff to convince them of the Navajo language’s value as code. Johnston staged tests under simulated combat conditions, demonstrating that Navajos could encode, transmit, and decode a three-line English message in 20 seconds. Machines of the time required 30 minutes to perform the same job. Convinced, Vogel recommended to the Commandant of the Marine Corps that the Marines recruit 200 Navajos.”

The Corp honoured Johnson’s recommendation and began recruiting Navajo men who went through the same boot camp as other Marine enlistees. Upon completion, the first wave of 29 Code Talkers began developing a code. They used Navajo words in replacement of individual English letters, akin to the phonetic alphabet system used by the contemporary armed forces.  

Navajo Code Talker, Chester Nez, was present. In his own words,

 “This major took us into a great big room and he said, ‘you guys are going to have to make up a code in your own native language,’ that’s all he said. He left, closed the door behind him, and locked the door.”

Past Meets Future

The result was two codes. The first code, “Type 1”, comprised 26 Navajo terms that stood for individual English letters. For instance, the Navajo word for “ant,” wo-la-chee, was used to represent the letter “a” in English, writes the National World War II Museum.

Type 2 code expanded on Type 1, resulting in a larger dictionary. This version included new combinations of Navajo words to translate English words foreign to the language.

For example, “besh-lo” is a Navajo word for “iron fish”, which translates to submarine, and atsá translates to eagle, which is code for a military transport plane.

A later dictionary contained over 600 words is accessible in digital form, courtesy of the Naval History and Heritage Command.

Native Americans in World Wars
The first 29 Code Talkers swearing into service, Fort Wingate, NM (wikicommons)

Baptised by fire

On the 7th of August 1942, The Navajo Code Talkers stormed the beaches of Guadalcanal with the First Marine Division.

This was their trial by fire – the first time they performed their role in a battlefield setting, where kinetic warfare and the fog of war could impede the performance of an already difficult mental task. They ultimately persevered and conducted translations throughout the battle without the Japanese decoding their communications.

Following Guadalcanal, the Marine Corps deployed the Navajo Code Talkers to every operation in the Pacific Campaign, with continuous success.

Some men from the unit endured harrowing instances, like Fleming Begaye Sr, who experienced his landing vessel being struck by enemy fire during a beach assault. That resulted in him having to swim to the beachhead under fire, receiving life threatening wounds along the way.   

The Code Talkers’ work directly affected the success of the Battle of Iwo Jima. According to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence,

“six Navajo Code Talker Marines successfully transmitted more than 800 messages without error. Marine leadership noted after the battle that the Code Talkers were critical to the victory at Iwo Jima.”

No Axis Power was able to crack the Navajo Code Talkers encryption for the duration of World War II.

By the end of the war, roughly 400 indigenous Marines served in the unit. That number only accounts for the Navajo personnel. Multiple other similar units existed throughout the armed forces.

Native Americans in World Wars
Marine Corps Cpl. Henry Bake Jr with Code Talker Pfc. George H. Kirk operating in the Pacific Campaign (flickr)

Aftermath II

The Navajo Code Talkers received many awards, including all 29 original members being presented the Congressional Gold Medal in 2001 by President George W. Bush. As of this year, only four men who served in the program remain alive.

Native Americans struggled after World War II. It was like the post-World War I era all over again. Once again did they return from the greatest war in world history to be forgotten by the public they so valiantly served. Thomas D. Morgan writes,

“The wartime economy and military service took thousands of Indians away from the reservations. Many of these Indians settled into the mainstream, adapting permanently to the cities and to a non-Indian way of life. Moreover, thousands returned to the reservation even after they had proved themselves capable of making the adjustment to White America. Those who left traditional cultures did not necessarily reject their heritage. Instead, they forged a new Pan-Indian identity to cope with the differences they perceived between themselves and whites.”

A cultural crisis ravaged the reservations. Already suffering tribes were being pushed further and further away from their ancient ways of living and being forced to assimilate to “White America”. Indigenous veterans did not receive the same star treatment another service members, and many came home and fell into alcoholism, poverty, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

There were some benefits for some indigenous participants of the war. The GI Bill and other Department of Veterans Affairs programs were available to them. Some Native American veterans traded reservation life for college and other professional sectors. Many became leaders, using the warrior spirit that drove them in war to lead people in their communities, both on the reservation and off.


It is an act of supreme grace Native Americans would want to help the United States in virtually any foreign war, yet they did.

They did with patriotism and selflessness; honor, courage, and commitment, as the Marine Corps so elegantly preaches.

At first, they had to depart from their land, as European colonizers moved in, starting the decline in their culture, and the forced assimilation into a Western way of life.

Then, they departed once again, off their reservations and across the sea, taking part in something far greater than self, fighting for the nation that betrayed them, and doing so with the same level of bravery and courage as their white brothers and sisters in arms.


Thomas Morgan writes,

“They left the land they knew to travel to strange places, where people did not always understand their ways. They had to forego the dances and rituals that were an important part of their life. They had to learn to work under non-Indian super visors in situations that were wholly new to them.”

To Wars Beyond

Although the conclusion of World War II ushered in a new era for the United States, and for the native American community, large-scale conventional warfare was far over. Native Americans continued to volunteer in the Korean War, Vietnam War, Desert Storm, and the recently concluded Global War on Terror.

In the words of Sitting Bull,

“I am a red man. If the Great Spirit had desired me to be a white man he would have made me so in the first place. He put in your heart certain wishes and plans, in my heart he put other and different desires. Each man is good in his sight. It is not necessary for Eagles to be Crows. We are poor… but we are free. No white man controls our footsteps. If we must die…we die defending our rights.”

Dying defending their rights, they surely did, for freedom, that they deserved more than any other community in this nation.

May their legends and stories from the Great Wars live on forever.

May the remaining survivors rediscover their sense of belonging

Native Americans in World Wars
Native American veterans participating in a 2017 ceremony, South Dakota (wikicommons)


The Dragon against the Snake: Conceptualising Drone and Motorcycle Warfare

Falling Stars

The skies are no longer exclusively ruled by jets and stealth. Innovations in drone and motorcycle warfare have bred a revolution in doctrine. Now, small countries that are usually militarily behind or not as technologically advanced can level the playing field in the skies.

The most recent and surprising case of this instance occurred when Azerbaijan invaded Armenia. Azerbaijan had invested in Turkish and Israeli unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and these UAVs or “drones” in common parlance, effectively allowed Azerbaijan to inflict high casualties while keeping its low (Source). Azerbaijani drones effectively won the conflict against the Armenians. Ethiopia was also able to keep rebels from seizing Addis Abada with the help of Iranian and Turkish drones (Source).

The Turkish Bayraktar Akıncı armed drone in 2019. (Source)

Historical Cases

Resonating with the Spanish Civil War’s cases of blitzkrieg tactics taught by the Germans and the equipment they provided, this conflict provides a look at how future wars may look. The great powers before World War II saw the SCW as a testing bed for new doctrines and equipment.

Germany’s infamous Kradschützen Truppen motorcycle units served as a lynchpin of World War II movies post-war. An anonymous Allied trooper said this in a 1941 Motorcyclist issue on the effectiveness of motorcycle warfare.

“The power of the motorcycle troops is due to the fact that they, to the highest degree, fulfill the fundamental requirements of the combat unit. In the first place they have speedy mobility and freedom of action and secondly they have terrific fire-power. The rider carries besides his pistol a complement of grenades, an automatic rifle and a submachine gun. If he has a companion in a side-car the armament is more than doubled.”

Modern Cases

The same could be said for Azerbaijan and Armenia, as larger regional powers gave the Azerbaijanis technology, but they were not able to produce it domestically.

Drone warfare is clearly here to stay. However, it is no longer just the indiscriminate strikes from UAVs. Remember “Swarms” from Call of Duty: Black Ops 2? They are real and they are already here. Iran has released the drone system “Shahed-136” which is can be mounted on a pick-up truck and launch multiple drones that can drop ordinance or commit suicide strikes onto forces. The photos below show the Shahed system as well as the damage it wreaks. The importance of these drones is mainly their cost-effectiveness as well as their small size, making them effective in urban areas.

Suicide drones present a threat to literally every target one can think of. Infantry, vehicles, aircraft, communications equipment, etc. It presents a unique challenge to infantry units since these drones can be launched quickly and move fast once in the air.

Scythian Horse Archers

The question that remains is how to combat these types of drones and the new forms of drone warfare. In terms of their mobility and speed, it needs to be matched. Luckily the answer may already be in use by insurgents and recon forces already: motorcycle units!

Drone Warfare
JNIM insurgents on their motorcycles during a press release. (Source

Modern units have already adopted motorcycles as a vital part of their doctrine already, particularly in the Sahel. Malian SOF units use motorcycle warfare, as well as their JNIM-(Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin) insurgent counterparts (pictured above) effectively. Their speed and manoeuvrability are unparalleled in dense and rocky terrain. Their speed also allows them to disperse and hide from enemy aircraft quickly.

Modern unconventional motorcycle troops, like Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM), who launch large scale hit and run attacks on villages and their enemies have mastered the mechanised art of warfare. Thereby, quickly overwhelming and outrunning enemy forces in the blink of an eye. Ground reconnaissance capabilities are heightened, and in daring situations, motorcycles can be used to mount large weapons as a firing position.

Drone Warfare
What appears to be a Chinese W85 HMG mounted to a motorcycle in a firing position against a wall in Syria. (Source)

Recent developments in technology have led to motorcycles possibly being used in the recent war in Ukraine. The commander of the Georgian Legion, fighting on the side of Ukraine, told outlets that they are seeking electric motorcycles. (Source) The Eleek Atom electric motorcycle has reportedly been manufactured for Ukrainian troops already, as well as Delfast electric bikes. (Source & Source) The reasoning for this is to be able to move quickly and quiet, aided by an electric motor that is nearly silent. This presents a new arm of stealth and small motorised operations being used in tandem, and gives purpose to electric vehicles on the battlefield.

Ukrainian SOF troops on a Delfast electric motorcycle and NLAW anti-tank guided missile system. (Source)

The Unstoppable Force and the Immovable Object

This new trend in steppe-style fighting has shown that it can be effective against drones for the aforementioned reasons. France has used drones against JNIM and other motorcycle-based insurgent groups for years and it has offered no concrete resolution of the hostility or shown any sign of diminishing motorcycle units’ effectiveness.

Drone warfare, the black sheep of modern warfighting, has made immense headway in conflict alteration. Motorcycles, like Scythian horse archers, are great for quick, cost-effective, and hit and run style attacks and insurgencies. For the time being, using the Sahel as an example, they can “outwit” drones and their operators.

Future of the Battlefield

Warfare has obviously evolved from horses and bows, but not fully evolved away from physical battlefields. However, history has shown that conventional war is usually won through speed and fast manoeuvring. This is alluding to not only the individual soldier, but the command and support structure of the force.

Both of these forces, drones and motorcycles, rely on speed and adaptability. When poised against a ground force with equal speed, anti-air support, (mounted HMGs) and increased manoeuvrability, drones may have trouble adequately dealing with motorcycle-based forces.

Motorcyclists can hide in forests, cramped city blocks, or ride along a cliff face to avoid detection, and do so with speed. These factors will most likely see armies and insurgencies possibly adopt a more rapid motorcycle warfare doctrine to outmanoeuvre the growing army of autonomous drones.


Energy Weapons: From Science Fiction to Real World

Before new technology even becomes a concept, it often exists in the realm of science fiction or is simply unknown entirely. Experimental technology often evolves from a theory, to a credible concept, to a prototype and then finally to a real world creation. When one says the words “energy weapon”, one might think of lightsabers, plasma rifles, or any other myriad of sci-fi weapons that have yet to leave the realm of movie screens and imagination. While we are by no means arming our soldiers with the same armaments of an imperial Stormtrooper, energy weapons are not strictly science fiction anymore. 

Make no mistake, energy weapons are not a standard weapon at all, they still exist at the periphery of both theoretical and practical battlefield application. However, developments in energy generation, micro-electronics and large national defense budgets have allowed the technology to make substantial gains. This comes in a few forms, including Directed-Energy Weapons (DEW), Active Denial Systems (ADS), sound weapons and other highly experimental devices.

Power to the Machine

A massive prerequisite to making energy weapons more usable and viable is, unsurprisingly, energy. In the 1950s, the advent of nuclear power gave rise to ideas that soon, society would be flooded with technology like flying cars and ray guns given the near infinite power mankind had tapped into. However the efficiency and resource requirements of these technologies is the main reason that this tech has only recently begun its journey into reality. In order to power and use energy weapons, an immense amount of power is required, making a system that can generate such amounts of power an essential component.

The most notable example of this is Shiva Star. Shiva is a large pulsed-power system developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory that stores nearly 10 million joules of energy. (Source) Since its inception in 1975, it has become more and more efficient in its power generation, leading to developments in not only theoretical pulse propulsion, but also energy weapons based on high energy plasma. (Source

Energy weapons
Image of Shiva Star conducting an energy yield test. Image via Wikimedia commons (source)

The Magnetically Accelerated Ring to Achieve Ultra-high Directed Energy and Radiation project, or MARAUDER, utilized the energy made by Shiva Star to power its tests. MARAUDER’s goal was to create a weapon that would compress toroids to high mass density, which would then be accelerated and used as a plasma projectile. (Source) The system yielded a number of successful tests, but since a project report in 1995, there has been no word as to the project’s status.

Energy weapons of today are noticeably smaller, yet still quite large. Their graduation from a reliance on experimental, building sized generators has led to them having a number of new applications and deployments.

Directed Energy Weapons

Of the energy weapons that exist today, directed energy weapons are perhaps the closest we have come to a real “laser cannon” or similar sci-fi weapons. These systems are large, bulky and require a substantial amount of power to operate, making the ways they deployed and used limited.

Directed energy weapons are made of multiple types of weapons, including laser, radio based, microwave and particle beams. As the U.S. Department of Defense outlines, these weapons can be used “primarily as a direct means to disable, damage or destroy adversary equipment, facilities, and personnel.” (Source) This more generally outlines what directed-energy weapons could be used for, and these systems have already been visibly used in the field. Laser and particle beam weapons in particular have seen consistent and even reliable usage in a number of theaters of war. 

Lines in the Sky

There are a few different contemporary deployments and usages of direct energy weapons. The US has conducted some of the most extensive research and integration of these systems in its military, with usage in both the Army as well as the Navy.

The US Army has begun testing a prototype version of the M-SHORAD system, which provides aerial and munitions protection to mechanized ground divisions of the US Army. This version, the DE M-SHORAD, featured a directed energy weapon system designed to overload and destroy incoming smart ordnance, as well as destruction of UAVs in the field. (Source) Despite the tech still being in its relative infancy in the field, LTG L. Neil Thurgood, Director of the Hypersonic, Direct Energy, Space and Rapid Acquisition says “The technology we have today is ready. This is a gateway to the future” (Source)

Image of a GLDS IM-SHORAD, a system that will soon more frequently feature Directed Energy Weapon systems. Image via Joint Forces (Source)

Additional uses of such systems can be observed in a number of projects, including ones designed to guard military bases, protect forces in the field through other systems and even are being tested to guard planes from smart projectiles. (Source)

The usage of directed energy weapons to destroy aerial threats and protect personnel is perhaps even more common in the naval sphere. Due to directed energy weapons requiring such a substantial amount of power, they often rely on large tactical platforms to support them. Naval vessels are some of the largest possible weapons platforms, allowing direct energy weapons to have a special place amongst naval weapon systems. Lockheed Martin in particular has developed the HELIOS integrated weapon system, one that provides laser weapon capabilities to any ship it is mounted on. (Source) The HELIOS system can be used against UAVs, incoming projectiles (similar to a Phalanx system) as well as strikes on small surface craft. 

Energy weapons
Image of a Laser Weapon System (LaWS) – KTM Prototype, an example of Directed Energy Weapon intended for naval deployment. Image via Wikimedia commons (Source)

These systems are also used outside the US military, and have been successfully used in a number of theaters. One of the most recent uses is by the Turkish military against a drone in Libya in 2019. The Chinese made Wing Loong II experienced critical failure after its central chassis was burned by a ground based direct energy weapon system and it crashed. (Source)

There are a number of other systems utilized around the world, including ones deployed by France, Russia and Turkey to name only a few. Though still in its infancy, direct energy weapons are very likely going to become increasingly common in developed militaries and in a range of theaters.

Active Denial Systems

Energy weapons are not limited just to lethal directed energy weapons; other less lethal, but somewhat more sinister systems exist as well. The Active Denial System, or ADS, is an innovation of energy weapons aimed at crowd control and combatant disabling rather than lethal solutions.

In 1997, the US military funded the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Program, in an effort to provide non-lethal field solutions to their soldiers. (Source) Among the bean bags, tear gas and pepper spray emerged a system that would utilize energy to disable and control crowds. Since its inception, the ADS has undergone a few different iterations, but the general principle of the system is the same. An ADS generates a focused millimeter-wave radio frequency beam, which it directs from a large radio dish. (Source

Energy weapons
Image of a larger, base based ADS mounted on the back of a large transport vehicle. Image via Wikimedia commons (Source)

The effect of the Active Denial System is a unique one. According to testing records, volunteers in the ADS program describe the sensation of being hit by the ray as extreme heat, or like opening an oven door. (Source) The sensation is so uncomfortable that it causes an almost instant reaction to those hit by it. Other participants who have been hit by the device describe it as even more intense, like a “blast furnace” that overwhelms the target’s nervous system. (Source)

The science behind the system is disturbing yet effective. Because the waves the device is sending out don’t penetrate the skin past the top 1/64th layer of the dermis, it doesn’t cause permanent damage. (Source) Within this layer however, nerves are attacked directly and blood is heated, causing an extreme level of discomfort. 

Ray Guns for Peace

The ADS is deployed primarily inside military bases in areas that may face civilian crowds and potential protests. The system allows crowds to be rapidly dispersed, without any lethal force being used. Studies on the system’s long term physiological effects surprisingly conclude that there are no lasting effects on a person’s body. (Source

The system of course is not without its faults. It is noticeably less effective in rain, dust and snowing conditions. It also faces the notorious issue among energy weapons of energy demand. It is noted that many ADS, particularly ones deployed to military zones, can take a long time to get up and running, and cost a tremendous amount of power to operate. (Source)

Despite all these shortcomings, a device that can render an entire crowd completely disabled may seem a bit dystopian, but ultimately can save a lot of lives. An ADS can be deployed into a contentious combat zone or even in a domestic upheaval, and essentially remove the need for lethal force.

A New Era of Weapons

Energy weapons are a science fiction idea made reality. Directed energy weapons bring defense systems to land, air and naval forces to defend against ordnance, UAVs and even direct engagements with enemy forces. ADS has a wide range of life saving applications despite its painful method of disabling combatants. 

We are a long way until soldiers are running into the field with E-11s or Ray Guns, but energy weapons are going to be an increasingly important component of many modern forces. 


An Introduction to Fifth Generation Warfare

Graduates of the 80th Training Command PSYOP class receive regimental crest pins at the end of their field exercise at Fort Hunter Liggett, California, Feb. 6, 2019.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love 5GW

We type these words travelling through the Swiss Alps on high-speed rail. As the world becomes
smaller, we at The Radio Research Group have witnessed firsthand how nearly everything we knew
about modern conflict is changing, under the shadow of Fifth Generation Warfare. The incredible, exponential, accelerating pace of technology has overturned centuries of standard operating procedure. Diplomats and military leaders alike have been thrust into uncharted domains, disrupted by an invisible enemy that makes us question our reality.

Darkness descends upon us as a tunnel envelops our train. Terrestrial GSM goes dark, satellite
tracking loses sync. We enter the Gotthard Base tunnel, the longest tunnel in the world.

Our world is evolving so quickly that classical frameworks of thought around modern warfare have become irrelevant. Our GSM modem connects to a cell tower deep within the tunnel. We reconnect
to the world, deep underground, at the speed of light. Pre-existing notions believed to be impossible
beforehand have now become commonplace.

Our train exits the tunnel, sunlight envelops the train as GPS returns back online. Incredible
mountains open up all around us as we enter an incredible new world.

What is 5GW?

William Lind’s generations of warfare model goes something like this:

GenerationDescriptionMade Irrelevant By
1stAncient melee battleMuskets
2ndOrganized battle with gunpowderBlitzkrieg
3rdMechanized warfare focused on speed and manoeuvrabilityTerrorism
4thDecentralized warfare is led by state actors (Primarily Kinetic)The Mobile Internet, Network Effects
5thInformation and Perception (Primarily Non-Kinetic)TBD?

The concept of Fifth Generation Warfare itself is controversial, with Lind arguing against it saying that
4GW “had yet to fully materialize”. We argue that what is happening in modern conflict today is
so radically different from the 4th generation framework that it’s time to enter the fifth
generation. (We were so convinced that we had to write the Wikipedia article on it ourselves,
despite it now being heavily redacted. Many of the key elements we have added here.)

Our favourite definition of Fifth Generation Warfare is featured in Abbot’s “Handbook of 5GW”,
2010, stating that “The very nature of Fifth Generation Warfare is that it is difficult to define.”
Besides the fact that defining a subject based on it being difficult to define is counterintuitive, Abbot
adds that 5GW is a war of “information and perception”.

5GW is a war of information and perception.

We at Radio Research have evolved the definition, stating that Fifth Generation Warfare is defined
by data-driven, non-kinetic military action designed to take advantage of existing cognitive
biases and create new cognitive biases. Or as Abbott and Rees/Herring describe, “the deliberate
manipulation of an observer’s context in order to achieve a desired outcome.”

Fifth-generation warfare technologies have advanced to the point that when applied correctly, their
very use has been concealed. As we will describe further below in the Attribution Problem, in many
cases simply understanding who is behind a 5GW attack is impossible.

This means that a Fifth Generation Warfare conflict can be fought and won without a single bullet being fired,
or even most of the population knowing that a war is taking place. The following technologies and
techniques are often associated with 5GW. What’s important to note is that these technologies may
be used to heavily influence, or completely remove the need for kinetic combat:

  • Misinformation (Data Driven)
    • Deepfakes
  • Cyberattacks
    • Honeypots
  • Social engineering
  • Social media manipulation (Data Driven)
    • Decentralized and highly non attributable psychological warfare (memes, fake news)
  • Mass surveillance
    • Open-source intelligence
    • Commercially available Social media analytics
    • Open source and grey market Data Sets
    • Commercially available Satellite / SA imagery
    • Commercially available Electromagnetic intelligence
    • Cryptographic backdoors
  • Electronic warfare, with the rapid reduction in cost and availability thereof
    • Open source encryption/ DeFi / Community technology
    • Low cost Radios / SDRs
    • Quantum computers? (unclear if being used yet at scale)

Abbot finished his description of 5GW quite elegantly, quoting Clarke’s third law; “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

In Summary 5GW:

  • Is a war of information and perception
  • Targets existing cognitive biases of individuals and organizations
  • Creates new cognitive biases (social engineering)
  • Is different from classical warfare for the following reasons:
    • Focuses on the individual observer / decision maker
    • Is difficult or impossible to attribute
    • Nature of the attack is concealed

Below we will describe where current frameworks for warfare begin to unravel, and what we can do next.


The origins of 5GW as mentioned before are hotly contested, as data driven warfare combined with
propaganda date back at least to the end of WWII. Some of the best work in the space happened
around this time.

For our analysis, we focus on how networked mobile computing and big data analytics are being
used to drive decision making on a societal scale. While the “Handbook of 5GW” alludes to early
examples, the book was published before one of the most disruptive societal events had happened
since 9/11.

Fifth Generation Warfare
Egyptian protestors shine high powered lasers at a helicopter, disrupting its optics. (Source)

Precursors to 5GW: The First Accidental Fifth Generation Conflict

The Arab Spring represents a key turning point in warfare, emerging in Tunisia in 2008, and erupting
across North Africa in 2010. The Arab Spring was the first conflict to be driven by Social Media,
primarily Facebook and Twitter.

We had witnessed first-hand that a revolution or protest would show up first in the data, then on BBC
a few hours later. The conflict was manifesting itself online, and generating tremendous amounts of data
before any kinetic action would take place.

The Arab Spring lacks a few key elements of Fifth Generation Warfare, most notably the ambiguity of the opposing force. (Despite having some ambiguity as to who was fueling it. An interesting side note is that one of the main organizers of the Egyptian Revolution, Wael Ghonim, worked at Google at the time).

From our interactions with people involved during those early years of mostly privatized data
collection, the use of social media to cascade into a regional conflict was almost entirely accidental.
Because of that, we like to call The Arab Spring the first accidental fifth-generation conflict.

The societal echoes of the Arab spring continued to bounce around the planet, focusing a few years
later on Hong Kong and Taiwan during democratic protests in 2014. At this point, we begin to see a
new technology beginning to emerge: Decentralized technologies (or “zero trust systems” for those
of you who work in more conservative organizations like the DoD). During the Sep 2014 Hong Kong
protests, encrypted messaging apps were used heavily. When local cellular infrastructure was
“overloaded” protesters employed a decentralized Mesh networking app called Firechat- completely
bypassing Great Firewall restrictions. Governments were so disturbed by the event, Russia began
deploying its own electronic warfare units to protests.

Decentralized currencies like Bitcoin began to see popular use, For example during Occupy Wall
Street, 2011). While decentralized warfare is a key element of the 4GW definition, the coming
ambiguity of attackers and the use of big data and media as a weapon reinforcing one another takes us
into new realms.

Fitting a Fifth Generation Warfare puzzle piece into a Fourth generation playing field

While warfare has a long history of psychological operations and propaganda, conflict going online
has accelerated psychological warfare, reducing the feedback loops to milliseconds. Facebook
product teams have a word for this: “Dopamine Loops”. In the world of big tech, you can build, test,
deploy in a matter of minutes. Military, advertising, and political strategists are beginning to think
about how they can leverage over a hundred years of teachings in psychological warfare and combine this knowledge with data-driven, psychological feedback loops to influence behaviour.

We call this the Social Engine, Facebook (sorry “Meta”) calls it “business as usual”. The creation of
data-driven cognitive biases has already defined the past decade, everything from “swinging”
elections, to determining a Netflix script, or which celebrity will be in an advertisement for makeup.

In fact, we used GPT-3, an AI algorithm to write the italicized section of this paragraph. GPT-3 is a
predictive text entry program, which allows people to type words on their keyboard by predicting
keys that are likely to be typed. This allows us to influence cognitive biases by sneaking certain
ideas into peoples’ text, bypassing their critical thought processes altogether. People will then
replicate these messages in their own texts, and the spread of the content will be a reflection of the
users’ natural cognitive biases.

These capabilities are unseen in traditional warfare and do not fit well into the 4GW framework.

One of the main areas where 4th generation warfare begins to break down is the ambiguity of the
attacking force, in particular, “the cyber attribution problem”. This is related to the fact that software
engineers are actively hiding or misconstruing their identity while writing lines of code. In some
cases, hackers are even using modified cyberweapons leaked from NSA servers (see EternalBlue,

In a Fifth Generation of cyberwar, simply knowing who your enemy is can be nearly impossible.

The Attribution Problem

The cyber attribution problem has highlighted the problems of traditional warfare, as almost all
modern military doctrine requires knowing the identity of your enemy. This is where modern conflict
begins to get outright frightening. Governments have routinely stated that cyberattacks can and will
be responded to with kinetic force.

In the 2018 edition of the “U.S. Dept. of Defense Nuclear Posture Review” the U.S. government
states that they reserve the right to respond to “non-nuclear strategic attacks” with “the employment
of nuclear weapons”. The fatal flaw of nuclear deterrence is that it does not apply only to nuclear

“The United States would only consider the employment of nuclear weapons in extreme
circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States, its allies, and partners. Extreme
circumstances could include significant non-nuclear strategic attacks.” (Insert Citation)

The Nuclear Posture Review itself mentions “Cyber” sixteen times. Considering some of the largest
cyberattacks in history was started by teenagers, (Mirai botnet, 2016) the impact of The Cyber
Attribution Problem on modern nuclear deterrent theory is quite literally insane.

“We used to be able to get into a room with an enemy, now they’re just floating in the ether,”
-M speaking to Bond in No Time to Die, 2021

A new era begins.

The Birth of Fifth Generation Warfare

Social media in its essence (along with most of the internet today) is driven by for-profit cognitive programming, also known as advertising. Ads along with the exponentially growing set of “Advertising” data generated by billions of people have now been weaponized. The amount of data that can be collected on an individual is increasing exponentially.

We argue that the first compelling case of Fifth Generation Warfare was the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. This includes complete ambiguity of the opposing force, wide-scale societal engineering using data (see Cambridge Analytica), organized counterattacks between government and social media companies, censorship, and the direct attack on the decision making process of billions of people.

We encourage you to read the leaked internal Facebook report detailing precisely how this is taking place from the perspective of a computer scientist. It’s fascinating and very scary: “Stop the Steal and Patriot Party: The Growth and Mitigation of an Adversarial Harmful Movement”).

Unfortunately, the 2016 presidential election gets too political for most readers, as their own cognitive biases prevent the creation of a subjective Fifth Generation Warfare framework. We may update this section in the future, and continue our story of 5GW with something far less controversial.

Israel, May 2021: Operation Guardian of the Walls

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) are masters of information warfare. Israel even has their own propaganda division of the military, the IDF Spokesperson Unit. They have a pretty cool logo, representing the propagation of radio waves.

The first 5GW conflict to evolve into a kinetic battle (excluding the storming of the U.S. Capitol a few months before) took place during the 2021 Israel–Palestine conflict. On May 13th, 2021, the IDF announced falsely on Twitter, and on the record to The Wall Street Journal, that “IDF air and ground troops are currently attacking in the Gaza Strip”. The IDF had announced that an Israeli invasion of Gaza had begun.

The New York Times then reported the following day that the announcement had been a deception, that no Israeli troops had stepped foot into Gaza. IDF further clarified the statement declaring that the intent of the announcement was to expose opposing Hamas forces (presumably using unmanned ISR) and destroy tunnel networks with precision-guided munitions.

Katz and Bohbot describe separately in their book “Weapon Wizards, 2017”, how IMSI-catchers and cellular network analysis were used to previously identify and destroy Hamas tunnels. If an IMSI “teleports” from one place to another, it’s a tunnel. A single fighter (likely many) forgetting to turn off their cellular transmitters after the news reports may have resulted in massive, heavy bombing attacks. There is so much data in our corner of the universe, that the absence of data can even provide information.

The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit announced two weeks after operation “Guardian of The Walls”, that the conflict was the “First AI war”. IDF continued to describe a system built by Unit 8200 that fused “signal intelligence (SIGINT), visual intelligence (VISINT), human intelligence (HUMINT), geographical intelligence (GEOINT)”. While such battlefield management systems (BMS, or C5ISR) have existed for years before the 2021 Gaza crisis, the announcements themselves combined with social media deception and precision-guided munitions represent a stark contrast to the Lind definition of fourth-generation warfare.

The IDF example does however lack “ambiguity of the opposing force”, but does include many unprecedented techniques and technologies- most notably using media as a weapon combined with unmanned ISR.

From here take a quick coffee break, before we dive even deeper into the strange, mind-bending and brain-frying world of Fifth Generation Warfare.

A Syndrome in Havana: A Symptom of Fifth Generation Warfare?

Our last example, Havana Syndrome, includes the purest form of Fifth Generation Warfare we have witnessed to date. It is also one of the weirdest. Havana Syndrome checks all of the 5GW boxes:

  • Ambiguity of the opposing force.
  • Ambiguity of attack vector.
  • Dopamine loops.
  • Triggering existing cognitive biases in target.
  • Creating new cognitive biases.

In fact, Havana Syndrome is so obscure there is significant debate within the U.S. DoD on whether or not it even exists.

Havana Syndrome was first reported in and around the Cuban embassy in 2016 and has since been reported all around the world including Guangzhou, Hanoi, Berlin, and most notably Vienna, Austria.

Diplomats report hearing strange noises and headaches, resulting in significant neurological damage. The US Army Mad Science Lab interviewed Dr James Giordano, one of the doctors involved in researching the cases.

You should read the deleted report, it is extremely interesting: (Link to report)

As Dr James Giordano describes to the U.S. Army Mad Science Lab:

“To date, there are over 100 validated cases of personnel being afflicted with the subjective symptoms and clinically validated objective signs representative of Havana syndrome…

“ The acute symptoms are relatively ambiguous, in that some individuals report sensations of pressure in the head, ringing or buzzing in the ears, and feelings of confusion…

“The majority of the originally affected individuals, and many of those subsequently affected have shown long-lasting, discernible neurological features that are evident upon physiologic testing and imaging…”.

To make things even more interesting, the State Department recently declared that 5GW was no attack at all, simply a cricket, Anurogryllus Celerinictus, and that psychogenic effects were the primary cause of reported health issues.

The Army report has since been deleted. We do love 5GW!

The last we checked, there is no Anurogryllus Celerinictus in Vienna or Berlin, but go read the DoD report for yourself. The very nature of the attack being ambiguous, and the heated debates between DoD and even CIA officials over causes and existence make “Havana Syndrome” fit perfectly into our 5GW framework.

Take a look at the DoD report on crickets: (Source)

We surely have not seen the last of our friend Anurogryllus Celerinictus, and expect to see more attacks like this play out in the future. (We think it is a Massive MIMO attack using modded cell towers, but that’s story for another day)

History of Fifth Generation Warfare Summary:

5GW Checklist:

  • Ambiguity of the opposing force.
  • Ambiguity of attack vector.
  • Dopamine loops.
  • Triggering existing cognitive biases in target.
  • Creating new cognitive biases.
  • Emerges from The Arab Spring.
  • Solidified during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
  • The 2021 Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the first example of 5GW in kinetic battle.
  • Havana Syndrome is pure 5GW.

From here, the future is incredibly uncertain. We lie at the brink of WWIII in Europe. Deep Fakes are being created by both sides. It is more important now than ever to begin thinking about 5GW. We have attempted to organize a framework of thought.

Our thinking on this is evolving rapidly, as cognitive bias plays a role in influencing each section of the OODA loop. Here are some recommendations:

Observe: What’s happening. Understand the battlespace, attempt to single out the opponent or describe key attributes. Get as much data as you can and hire the best people who can work with that data. China is doing this by building a network of “AI consultancies” around the earth, along with backdooring apps for kids to feed massive amounts of data back to Beijing. The U.S. does this by working with Facebook, ISPs, and controlling Android. Hedge funds have a lot of this data as well. Maintain caution when developing your own mass surveillance tools, as this may accelerate the systemic issues in your society, and the enemy will target these weak points within your own team. Mass surveillance generally poses more risks to civilization than benefits. Is mass surveillance a deterrent technology? This is open for debate and becomes increasingly relevant in 5GW.

Orient: Attempt to understand any pre-existing cultural biases you may have. 5GW attacks the decision-making ability using the biases as cognitive tools of influence. What memes do you like or political groups you do prefer, what are your fetishes and dislikes? What skeletons do you have in the closet? How do you use social media? How’s your relationship going with a loved one? All of this data is being harvested from your internet history and the spatial web and will be used against you in a world of Fifth Gen targeted warfare. (Most of this data is commercially available on the grey market).

Once you establish a psychological baseline, we can try to separate cultural biases from cognitive biases. A meme you viewed the day before can certainly impact decisions you are going to make today. The only recommendation we have here so far is to reduce your digital attack surface, go spend time in nature, and meditate. Meditate on your pre-existing cultural biases to build a baseline and understand where your ego will play in your subconscious decision-making processes. Humans really haven’t progressed very far in understanding this front, and some of the best work on this is thousands of years old. We recommend starting with the Bhagavad Gita.

Decide: We now have to choose the best strategy to recover faster, move forward, and act with minimal damage. See if you can test your hypotheses, and watch out for making the same decision over and over again. In many cases, you simply have to “move fast and break things”, and make sure that when you do Act that you get data. Have the means to analyze this data at scale and a plan for a complete breakdown in communications. Ideally, you have some insanely large supercomputers to help you, the latest Facebook Graph, and that you watch out for biases in your own algorithms. In many cases the Fractional Orbital Bombardment System will already be orbiting, your servers will be on fire, your comms backdoored, and you won’t have the pleasure of testing your theories.

Act: Pull the trigger, and get as much possible data as you can in the aftermath. In the end, we’re all human, this is what will be used against us.

We Are only at The Beginning of 5GW

Hopefully, we could give you a quick overview of what the hell 5GW is, its history, and how we can begin thinking about it. Our definition of a 5GW framework is evolving, and we encourage you to contribute to the conversation and challenge our thinking.

Denying that 5GW exists is incredibly dangerous, and we see a tremendous divide between the hackers and cryptographers we speak to and officials in the public sector. Most people we speak to at the DoD think we’re completely crazy.

The attacks that we will begin to see will quickly evolve beyond “crickets” and into the bizarre and seemingly impossible. It’s easy to get rather depressed about a future of biological and nuclear deterrence, massive social engineering attacks, and hypersonic proliferation concerns. But we must always remain positive.

Thinking about the world in regards to limited resources, (a war of “us” vs. “them”) is the root of much of the world’s issues. Our economy is moving digital, and incredible technologies are coming online that solve most of the resource-driven conflicts that we have seen historically:

  • Petrochemical – Nuclear
  • Drought – Desalination
  • PetroDollar – DeFi
  • Disease – mRNA/ CRISPR
  • Advertising – Web3

Civilization requires a fundamental shift in our organizations and institutions towards a perspective of abundance, with a strong focus on defence based deterrence (e.g. password managers or the Iron Dome). Data is going to help us. Understanding and mastering 5GW is going to be key.

And to finish, we once asked a DARPA program manager how they stay optimistic about the future, having witnessed so many technologies that could wipe civilization off the face of this earth. The ex-program manager responded, “Civilization has been through a lot, they always get through!”

The future is going to be incredibly interesting, and we’re excited to see it.

5GW Recommendations:

  • Use the OODA loop to build a framework of thinking.
  • Defensive:
    • Understand basic cybersecurity: Use a password manager and hardware security keys. Understand your own biases, culture and those that have inflicted you (media, memes)
    • Meditate and understand your own biases
    • Map your electronic attack surface and Work to limit your digital footprint (e.g. who has access to your location data?)
    • Attain complete technology awareness on your domain
    • Map and visualize filter bubbles
    • Assume your entire network is going to get attacked, taken offline and have a plan
    • Do not underestimate blockchain, learn about zero knowledge proofs and DAOs. Read the Blockchain And Decentralized Systems by Pavel Kravchenko for everything you need to know technically. Read The Sovereign Individual for a good understanding on the societal implications.
    • Assume all commercial cryptography is either backdoored or will be broken during the next great conflict
    • Map your cryptographic roots or trust and have a key management plant
    • Invest in modern communications equipment and “zero trust systems”
    • Pay for security audits and Red teams if you are an organisation
    • Red team your systems.
    • Red team your people, perform simulated phishing exercises.
  • Offensive:
    • 5GW is mostly defensive, but there are a few things to be done.
    • Inoculation Theory. A fairly new concept for resisting social engineering, but a focus on reinforcing an idea by presenting the intended target with weak counterarguments. A recommendation from Over The Horizon: (Link)
    • Surveillance, Controversial but effective, at least in understanding a baseline.
    • Censorship. Social media companies are a business of influencing cognitive bias.
    • Generation of fake and alternative profiles and data, hide in the randomness. See Sybil attack, sock puppet accounts.
    • Meme warfare.
    • Make social media algorithms accountable and open. This is a major problem today as social media reinforces cognitive biases, generally for profit.

Essential reading on the history and future of propaganda, and information warfare:

  • Massenpsychologie (Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego), Sigmund Freud, 1921.

  • Propaganda, Edward Bernays, 1928 (heavily inspired Propaganda Minister Goebbels).

  • The Ultra Secret, F.W. Winterbotham, 1974. The first “tech leak”, the book goes into detail in the breaking of the Enigma Codes at Bletchley Park, along with the propaganda campaigns organized by Churchill and Special Liaison Officers to hide Ultra’s use.

  • Berlin Diary William L. Shirer, 1941. Describes the compelling account of WWII breaking out in Europe as it’s happening, as described by a CBS news correspondent. His descriptions of Nazi propaganda and arguments with censors is fascinating.

  • Black Swan, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, 2007. Just read it.

  • Snow Crash Neal Stephenson, 1992. (Science Fiction) An extremely entertaining account on information warfare, literally defined the “MetaVerse” and “Avatar”


Ratnik: Russia’s Modern Warrior Program


Modern warfare

Ratnik is not just a force development program, it’s a reaction to a contemporary global trend.

In the words of comedian Dave Chappelle, “modern problems require modern solutions”.

Warfare is no different, and as new geopolitical threats emerge, and relevant world powers rise in strength and influence, military modernization is paramount for success on future battlefields.

China and the United States, two of the top three world superpowers, understand the requirement of military modernization. Both nations have begun to take active steps in the research, development, and practical application of new technology for their defence forces.

Clash of the titans

China currently has sights set on dominating the Asia-Pacific region, accompanied by an ambitious plan to possess a top-tier military force within the next thirty years, as noted by the Council on Foreign Relations. Both of those goals cannot be accomplished with outdated hardware, which Beijing understands, resulting in a current military budget trailing second to the US.

For the US, the future of the military has a more uncertain outlook.

Despite consistently ranking top in defence spending, the US currently finds itself in an obscure space. Former President Trump ran for office with a strong stance towards rebuilding the military in preparation for future conflicts, which he claimed was a dramatic shift in tone and policy from his predecessor’s administration.

Defence spending did increase under the Trump administration – although not as dramatically as oval office rhetoric suggested – but the incumbent Biden administration has already taken a change of course in its infancy.

Between pulling out of the decade’s long wars in the Middle East, and a voiced desire to reduce military spending, the Biden administration finds itself in a tough position. The oversimplified question to ask may be, “downsize and cut military spending, or pay the price in future conflicts against a stronger and more advanced enemy?”  

In a report for the American Enterprise Institute, authors Mackenzie Eaglen and Hallie Coyne write: “There’s no getting around that the modernization portion of the defence budget must still grow significantly for a number of years, or the forces deployed each day around the world will lack adequate equipment to accomplish their mission.”

That mission will likely not be carried out in the dusty and austere lands of Iraq or Afghanistan, but in a conventional modern battle-space against a professional soldiery.

China is one potential adversary, but there is another that is not only ranked third on the superpower list but has already begun its own modernization.

Let’s all give a round of applause (or slow clap), for Mother Russia.


The Ratnik program

Ratnik, translated to “warrior”, is Russia’s answer to the modernization problem, or at least a potential solution to one aspect of it. The system is focused on the infantry and ground combat elements of the Russian Armed Forces, seeking to convert the force into combat renaissance men.

RIA, a Russian state-sponsored media company, reported on the Serbian special forces utilizing Ratnik equipment back in 2015. According to them, “Ratnik is a modular system, consisting of 10 different subsystems, which can change depending on the combat situation, climatic conditions and other parameters”.   

Now, at this point it is key to note, that like anything regarding Kremlin and adjacent affairs, there should always be an exercise of caution when consuming information from any state aligned media. The lack of abundant source material on the Ratnik program and selective state reporting does complicate the research of it, but nonetheless, there is enough information out in the ether to get a decent grasp on the modules, types of gear, and even some instances of its battlefield utilization.

The program itself is currently in its third generation, the first generation reported being distributed in 2013 and the second generation in 2016.

Research, development, and production are primarily spearheaded by Manufacturer Central Research Institute for Precision Machine-Building (TsNIITochMash), which is a subsidiary of Rostec – the State Corporation for the Promotion of the Development, Manufacture, and Export of High-Tech Products, or to simplify, the Russian military-industrial complex.

A basic systematic breakdown

It is important to keep in mind, that the fielding of Ratnik gear is not uniform force-wide. Individual soldiers and units may or may not possess the latest generation, and it is common practice to see an assortment of items from multiple generations among the men.

As aforementioned, the Ratnik system is modular, with an array of components underneath each main category. Those categories include:

  • Small arms
  • Body armor
  • Communication equipment
  • Navigation equipment
  • Life support/medical
  • Power supply

The gear within each main category is supplemented by various accessories, including:

  • Knee and elbow protection
  • Entrenchment tool
  • Shelter
  • Binoculars
  • Water system with filtration
  • Night and thermal sights
  • Eye protection/goggles
  • Hearing protection
  • Multitool

Ratnik’s modular composition allows for dense customization options that can alter the gear to fit the needs of specialized units, such as basic ground soldiers, marine infantrymen, airborne soldiers, snipers, and reconnaissance personnel among others.   

Battle fatigues consist of a multilayer system with digital patterns, following in suit with the types worn throughout the US armed forces. Patterns are available to match multiple settings, including desert, woodland, and snow.

Reduction in gear weight and efficiency is a significant attribution of the gear, with an emphasis on a movement and mobility design that matches the fast-paced nature of ground combat in a conventional theatre. “Shoot, move, communicate” is the core doctrine of infantry operations, and a unit that can maintain tactical prowess without sacrificing the ability to move fast is lethal. The system can adapt to that challenge with an interchangeable Load Bearing Vest (LBV) and armour carrier suite.

The system essentially covers the soldier’s entire body and is designed to function seamlessly in concert with the entire Ratnik ecosystem.  

Battlefield application

Ratnik made its first public appearance during the 2014 annexation of Crimea. The infamous “little green men” who crossed into Ukraine were bonafide models, making a fashion statement on behalf of the Kremlin for the world to see. The move, although highly problematic from a geopolitical standpoint, signalled a new type of Russian soldier, a breakaway from the longtime negative view of an undisciplined and underequipped post-USSR military.  

A few years later, Russia used the Syrian war as a testing ground for its latest Ratnik generation, where state-sponsored media claimed its fielding was met with great success, an important caveat being the fact that Russia’s opponents in Syria were not a well-equipped force, thus the gear has not yet been field-tested in an all-out war scenario.

Recently, Ratnik gear has shown up in Tajikistan, with a reported 200 sets being equipped by troops as part of a large joint exercise on the Afghan-Tajik border. The complete US withdrawal in Afghanistan has resulted in a rapid Taliban takeover of the country, leaving surrounding nations in a state of panic given the uncertainty of how much of the conflict will spill over their borders.

Future projections

TsNIITochMash has already started research and development into the next generation of Ratnik equipment, including the name. The advanced system will be called “Sotnik”, or centurion in English.

Rostec CEO Sergey Chemezov stated that “According to our plans, the third-generation gear Sotnik will replace Ratnik already in 2025. This will be a fundamentally new kind of equipment integrating the best high-tech designs of Russian enterprises, including those of Rostec. Thanks to the use of innovative materials and combining the functions of individual elements, the weight of the set will be reduced by 20%, amounting to about 20 kilograms.”

Upgrades to the system include anti-thermal/radar technology on the camouflage, a tactical system suite utilizing micro-UAVs, electric goggles that can project relevant data to the soldier, and others.

Similarly, to China, a passive carbon fibre exoskeleton is also in development which will add layers of protection to the joints and spine and enhance the physical capabilities of soldiers, allowing for greater loads to be carried more efficiently over long distances and during heavy combat without sacrificing endurance or mobility.

In essence, Russia understands the importance of military modernization in the face of geopolitical uncertainty. The widespread fielding of Ratnik gear may not be uniform across the entire force, but active measures are being taken to expedite the process. The Ratnik system and its generations give Russia a strong advantage in both its defence industry and the view of its military on the world stage.

With China following in goosestep, and the US finds itself in an unknown posture for future military modernization, the contender for the most advanced military may look different in years to come.

This report was first published on 06-08-2022


The Swiss Guard: the Smallest and Oldest Army in the World

The Swiss Guard, or Pontifical Swiss Guard, is an armed force that has the main goal of protecting the Pope and his residence, the Apostolic Palace. The Swiss Guard is the oldest and smallest active army in the world.

Swiss Guard

History of the Swiss Guard

In October 1478, Pope Sixtus IV made an agreement with the Swiss Confederacy. This agreement allowed him to recruit Swiss mercenaries during his pontificate, until 1479.

The Swiss mercenaries were known to be some of the best for their loyalty, courage and their ability to fight and win against large armies.

After Pope Sixtus VI, Pope Innocent VIII decided to renew this pact and so did his successors.

In 1505, the Swiss bishop Matthäus Schiner proposed the creation of a Swiss contingent under the control of the pope.

On the 22nd of January 1506, 150 Swiss mercenaries, led by Commander Kaspar von Silenen, entered for the first time in the Papal States through the “Porta del Popolo” to serve Pope Julius II.

The number of the Swiss Guard’s members varied during the years. The Pope employed them as personal escorts, but they also took part in various fights.

The Sack of Rome

The first major engagement, that highlighted the Swiss Guard abilities and dedication to the cause, took place on the 6th of May 1527. During the Sack of Rome, while fighting against Emperor Charles V and his troops, 147 Guards died in order to save Pope Clement VII.

Clement VII managed to escape with only 42 Guards through the Passetto di Borgo, the passageway which connects the Vatican and Castel Sant’Angelo.

After eight days Pope Clement VII had to surrender and accept hard terms, such as handing over various fortresses and cities.

The Swiss Guard was dismantled, and the Pope swapped them with 200 mercenaries from Germany and Spain.

In March 1548, Pope Paul III reinstated the Swiss Guard, under the leadership of Jost von Meggen.

After the end of the Italian Wars, around 1560, the Pope decided to employ the Swiss Guard not as a military combat unit but only as a protection unit.

Between 1560 and 1849, the Swiss Guard was dismantled various times, due to a Pope’s death or loss in battles.

In the late 19th century, the unit declined to low standards, and the Pope employed it only as a ceremonial body.

The Restructuring of the Swiss Guard

In order to restore the Swiss Guard and bring it back to its original prestige, Jules Repond, the commander from 1910 to 1921, established a restructuring reform. The Swiss commander introduced modern weapons to the Swiss Guard armoury. He also proposed to recruit only men born and raised and Switzerland.

On the 11th of February 1929, the Italian State and the Holy See signed the Lateran Treaty, creating a new state, the Vatican City. With this treaty, the Swiss Guard became the official army of the Vatican City.

Since the attempted murder of Pope John Paul II, on the 13th of May 1981, the Swiss Guard is more oriented and active on the Pope’s protection. The ceremonial guard role is still important, but modern times required the Swiss Guard to take upon new roles and responsibilities. 

Sometimes the military unit is described as the Vatican City police. There is actually a different police force in charge of the overall security of the nation, which is the Pontifical Gendarmerie.


Before the 1914 restructuring, the Swiss Guard consisted of men born in Rome with Swiss descendent that could only speak Roman dialect. The guards only received training on ceremonial parades. At that time, not more than 100 men were part of the unit, nonetheless, the limit was 133.

The modern Swiss guard comes from the reform created by Jules Repond and Pope Pius X.

On the 13th of March 1914, the new regulation came into force.

The recruits could only be natives from Switzerland and many military exercises were introduced. Repond also tried to introduce modern arms, but Pius X only allowed them if they were not functional.

The unit consisted of:

  • One chaplain
  • Six officers
  • 15 non-commissioned officers
  • 110 guards (Halberdiers)

Repond also launched a new uniform. The tunic was, and still is, characterised by dark blue, red, and yellow, the colours of the Medici and Della Rovere families. While wearing the traditional dress, the Swiss Guard carry swords and pikes and wears white ruffs and high plumed helmets.

Swiss Guard


Candidates have to be:

  • Roman Catholic men with Swiss citizenship
  • Single
  • In good health
  • Between the age of 19 and 30
  • At least 5 feet 8 inches (1.74m) tall.

They also need a high school degree, and they have to complete basic training with the Swiss military.

The minimum period of service in the Swiss Guard is two years.

According to Pope Francis reform, introduced on the 29th of April 2018, the number of men will have to be 135, instead of 122.

In the last years, the number of recruits decreased. Averagely, in order to maintain a full unit, the Vatican City has to recruit 35 men every year.

Since the late 2010s, in order to attract more men to join the Swiss Guard, the Vatican allows the members to get married after five years of service, regardless of the military rank.

According to Swiss media, the new Swiss Guard barracks will be ready in 2026. They will be planned to welcome also female members. However, as of now, the Swiss Guard does not accept female recruits.

Responsibilities of the Swiss Guard

The Swiss Guard primary role has always been a ceremonial role during official receptions in the Vatican City. However, in the last years, due to the changing times and the rise of new threats, the Swiss Guard provides security and protection to the Pope.

The Swiss Guard main responsibilities are:

  • Protecting the Pope and his residency.
  • Accompanying the Pope during his apostolic travels, within the Vatican City and in foreign countries.
  • Guardin the entrances to the Vatican City.
  • Performing honorary and security services.
  • Protecting the College of Cardinals when the Holy See is vacant.


The training consists of a five-week induction training in Rome. When the recruit accomplishes it, the Swiss soldiers, called Halberdiers, which derives from the name of the weapon used in the 15th century, take the oath before the Pope.

Swiss Guard recruit drills

The training to become a Swiss Guard is very long and harsh and it consists of:

  • How to handle a weapon and how to shoot.
  • Surveillance.
  • Crowd control.
  • VIP protection.
  • Martial arts and judo.
  • Counterespionage and counterterrorism courses.
  • Tactic behaviours.
  • Personal safety.
  • Handling of swords, spears, and halberds.

The ceremony takes place on the 6th of May of every year. During the ceremony, the left hand of the Swiss soldier is on the flag of the Swiss Guard. At the same time, the Halberdier raises his right hand with three fingers open, symbolising the Trinity.

Swiss Guard


The armoury of the Swiss Guard consists of weapons from every century. From vintage armours to submachine guns, almost everything can be found there.

The vintage weapons are Swiss T59 muskets, Vetterli Model 1871, M1867 rifles, Hisso MP43-44 sub-machine guns, Schmidt Rubin K31 bolt-action rifles.

Swiss Guard
Swiss Guard armoury

As personal defence weapon (PDW), the Swiss Guard has the Heckler & Koch MP7. This weapon is very popular among elite units such as the US SEAL Team. It is compact enough that the Guards can hide it.

As for sidearms, the Swiss Guard use to carry the Dreyse Model 1907 pistol. After the attempted murder of Pope John Paul II in 1982, the Sig P220, a semi-automatic pistol, became the official weapon of the Swiss soldiers. Besides that, the Swiss Guard has with the Glock 19 pistol. These guns are engraved with the letters AG, from “Ausruestung der Guarde”, which means “Gear of the Guards”, and the Vatican seal.

As heavy weapons, the Swiss Guard has a range of Sig SG550 assault rifles. They can be used both in close-quarters battles and in extended-range engagements.

Other entities in the Vatican City

Within the Vatican City, there is also the Gendarmerie Corps of Vatican City State. The Gendarmerie Corps is the local police and security force. It is responsible for criminal investigations, traffic and border control, and other police duties.

The Gendarmerie Corps includes two special units: the Anti-Sabotage Unit (Unità Antisabotaggio), which monitors suspicious envelopes and packages and intervenes in case of possible threats. The second one is the Rapid Intervention Group (Gruppo Intervento Rapido), which is responsible for countering subversive activities.


Pegasus Software and the Rise of Spyware

Representation of a Data Breach by Pegasus malware. [source]


Pegasus is a spyware malware existing since 2016 created by the Israeli company NSO Group, operating since 2010. Its role is to provide full access to a smartphone to track criminals and terrorists by exploiting 0-day vulnerabilities. New study highlights great improvement in the malware technology, requiring no manual intervention contrary to the past. Serious breach in its ethical use led to important geopolitical and civil-rights consequences.

Key Judgement 1

Pegasus technology has highly likely progressed, making it a dangerous instrument both for national security and for the safety of victims targeted.

  • A media investigation reveals widespread and ongoing exploitation of Israel-based NSO company hacking software Pegasus. The corporation claims is only meant to be used against criminals and terrorists. Only military, law enforcement, and intelligence organizations in 40 unspecified countries are technically allowed to use the business’s espionage capabilities.
  • Clients, which can only be countries, should be approved both by the NSO and the Israeli minister of defence responsible for issuing individual export licences. 
  • Countries that have very likely used this kind of technology for other purposes that the one specified are Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Morocco, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Hungary, India, and the United Arab Emirates. [source]
  • The malware requires no manual intervention and infects iPhones and Android. It allows users to extract texts, photographs, and emails, as well as record calls, activate microphones and access GPS and encrypted apps such as WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal. 

Key Judgement 2

The spyware will likely lead to more targeting of journalists and dissidents as well as breaches in sensitive data in the next 12 month

  • Mexico is one of the main users of the software with more than 15 000 numbers. Among them, the one of Cecilio Pineda Birto recently murdered in a carwash. Even if his phone has not been found after the homicide, it is very likely that Pegasus’ system was central in founding its location. [source]
  • It is very luckily that Washington Post’s Saudi columnist, Jamal Khashoggi, had been another of the victims of the software. Its monitorition by the Saudi services thanks to Pegasus led to his assassination in the Istanbul consulate on October 2, 2018. The Turkish prosecutor investigating his killing was also a target, as well as its relatives and friends. 

Key Judgement 3

Targeted countries and entities will likely curtail the illicit use of the malware in the next 12 months.

  • The Pegasus project might spark debates over government monitoring in other countries accused of using the technology.
  • Several countries have opened independent investigations compared to those of NSO and the Israeli government. Indeed, it is likely that breach of devices of Heads of state and members of the government have been committed. [source]
  • The US authorities blacklisted the Israeli group NSO, creator of Pegasus. This will likely complicate its relations with potential US partners, particularly those that allow it to launch attacks. Indeed, NSO Group has used, until this summer, Amazon Web Services.  [source]
Fake Amnesty International Website containing Sarwent RAT. [source]

Key Judgement 4

Private Hacking Firms will try to replicate and develop more sophisticated and discreet spyware like Pegasus malware in the next 12 months.

  • An attack group very luckily based in Russia is attempting to spread malware. He is using the concerns about the deployment of the Pegasus spyware. It created a hoax version of the Amnesty International website with a malicious download that claim protect their devices. 
  • Users downloaded instead a lesser-known RAT (Sarwent) capable of stealing a wide range of sensitive data. Sarwent appears to be similar to a standard antivirus tool. It gives the attacker the ability to upload and run any additional malicious software. It can also access any type of data from the victim device.
  • Cisco Talos discovered and analysed the malware. They state that the actor might not be only trying to easily monetize. Indeed, the low amount of targets on the one hand and the high level of customization of the malware on the other hand, may point to a more experienced character not driven by profit but more grey means [source].

PMCs: The future frontier of warfare in Afghanistan?

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – NOVEMBER 13, 2005: Private security contractors (L to R) Mike Stocksett, 32, Neil Gary, 26, Kyle Kaszynski, 39, and Pat Scott (Front) pose for a photograph in a tank graveyard in Kabul, Afghanistan. Photo by Matt Moyer

Afghanistan is one example of how PMCs are becoming more important in international conflicts. PMSCs saw a revival in the post-Cold War era due to a drastic increase of unexploited soldier capabilities. PMCs are active in many aspects of 21st-century conflicts from logistical support to high-intensity operations.

Key Judgement 1

PMSCs almost certainly were a large part of the Afghan Campaign efforts

  • The Pentagon has spent $107.9 billion on contractual services in Afghanistan since 2002. Nearly $1 billion in contracts for the next couple of years were given by the US Department of Defense to 17 PMCs in Afghanistan in 2021. [source]
  • Afghans had an advantage over Taliban fighters since PMCs operated the Afghan Air Force’s Black Hawk helicopters and C-130 cargo planes for the past 20 years. The military progressively disintegrated without ground maintenance contractors. The departure of PMCs is often blamed for the Afghan military’s quick collapse.

Key Judgement 2

The presence of PMSCs is highly likely to remain in the next 12 months.

  • In April 2021, the US Defense Department had 16,832 contractors in Afghanistan, of whom 6,147 were U.S. citizens vs. 2,500 American troops. [source]
  • However, the September 11th 2021 retreat didn’t addressed the future of contractors in the country. The length of their contract is longer than the previous deadline for withdrawal.  Some contractors will almost certainly join ongoing programs outside Kabul, as in Bagram airbase. [source]
  • The Pentagon has implemented remote aid to Afghan forces in recent months. Nevertheless it is unlikely to prove effective given the complexity of usage and administration of military equipment still in the field.
  • Contracts with PMC connected to the Pentagon’s “over-the-horizon” counterterrorism activities will almost certainly continue.
  • It’s likely that CIA operatives and contractors will continue to headquarter inside the US Embassy as the United States does not have any basing arrangements with countries in the region of Afghanistan.
“Group R” (Fort Defense Group Corporation, FDG Corp.) — was founded in 1996 by Marines A. Rodriguez. [source]

Key Judgement 3

Deployment of Russian and Chinese PMSCs in Afghanistan will high likely grow in the next 12 months to advance economic and regional security goals.

  • US military equipment billion dollars’ worth is still on the battlefield now in the hands of the Taliban. Some observers fear the group may seek help from Russia and China to maintain and operate it. [source]
  • In terms of political influence and prospective power, Russia and China are the primary benefactors of the Western withdrawal from Afghanistan. However, they recognize the risk of a “spill-over” impact.
  • Both kept their embassies open and already negotiating for economic and security matters with the Taliban.
  • Future threats in the regions are: radical Islamic terrorism, drug influxes, and the security situation in Central Asia.


Social Media Influencers and Cyber Warfare

(Cyber operations specialists of the 780th Military Intelligence Brigade. Image retrieved via Fort George Meade Flickr)


As the number of influencers grow on social media and the internet, countries are recruiting them for a new dimension of cyber warfare. Governments are utilising new forms of psychological operations and censorship of dissidence via social media, by recruiting influencers or flooding pages with post. (Source)

Key Judgement 1:

It is highly likely that nations are utilizing social media influencers to crush dissent and spread state-approved views and messages.

  • Modern intelligence continues to grow into the digital world, and nations see that social media is increasingly important. As most political dissidence occurs online, nations are rushing to control their own populations through any means. 

  • Social media manipulation is observable in countries across the world. Vietnam had a psychological warfare unit known as “Force 47”, who pose as pro-government pages and profiles while leading civilians to report antigovernmental posts. Furthermore, Kenya was also found to have paid social media influencers to use hashtags that promote government policies. (Source)

  • In the coming future, it is likely that more countries will recruit military units or civilians to communicate government-approved messages and narratives. This power will be used to thwart dissidence online.

Key Judgement 2:

It is highly likely that nations will use social media influencers in other nations abroad to stir dissent or curry favor to one side before or during a hybridized conflict. 

  • Warfare has now evolved to the fifth generation of itself. Hybridized warfare is used in power projection and psychological operations. Social media influencers are another tool used in this new capacity of warfare. 

  • Russia has been found doing so in Ukraine, where media-groups that are controlled by Russian entities favor Russian separatists. Also, Russia leaked a phone call between Putin and Petro Poroshenko to propagate the idea that Ukraine’s leader was not in favor of their own sovereignty. (Source)

  • The United States also has measures deployed in Latvia called “techcamp” – a combination of government and civilian assets to empower Russian-speaking Latvian social media influencers to speak out against Russian measures in the region. (Source)

  • There is a high incentive for countries to use hybridized techniques and modern psychological tactics. This is to either diminish sovereign authority in rival nations, or to strengthen another country’s authority against another. Regardless, countries will continue this soft cyberwar to win hearts and minds and to curry opinions in other societies and nations. (Source)

(Headquarters of the Internet Research Agency, a Russian online social media influence operation. Image retrieved via Politico)

Key Judgement 3:

It is likely that many nation’s population will be a “collateral damage” in terms of these types of operations. 

  • Recent flare-ups in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have garnered celebrity support for both populations, however most of these influencers and celebrities are not from either country. Many celebrities in the United States and United Kingdom took stances against either side on social media. (Source

  • While this does not seem deliberate from the Israeli government, in the future other governments may use this ability to garner support for a cause in another nation and possibly lead to division and instability within other nations, or to garner a response from a more powerful nation to intervene on their side. This conflict in particular has caused violence indirectly in other parts of the world already. (Source)  

  • With social media and its algorithmic design becoming increasingly prevalent, countries are bound to illicit debate and favor their side in third-party nations. This favouritism is done to broaden their cause, or force an intervention by another country.