Inside Afghanistan: Politics, war and buzkashi

From the Legion Magazine.


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Inside Afghanistan: Politics, war and buzkashi

Inside Afghanistan:
Politics, war and buzkashi

Story and photography by Stephen J. Thorne

Few can claim a national game as violent or influential as Afghanistan has in buzkashi.

The country in which Canadian soldiers fought for 13 years is home to a deceptively complex society. And buzkashi (pronounced ‘BOO-skeh-shee’), which dates to the times of Genghis Khan, is a deceptively complex game that over the centuries has become woven into the fabric of Afghanistan’s warrior culture, its politics and power.

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Military Milestones
The sinking of U-211

The sinking of U-211

The crew of German submarine U-211 was very lucky under the captainship of Korvettenkapitän Karl Hause, who took command after it had been commissioned in March 1942. It would eventually be a member of eight different wolf packs wreaking havoc in the North Atlantic.

On its first patrol in August 1942, U-211 torpedoed and damaged three ships, and on its second, as part of wolf pack Raufbold, was credited with sinking the British destroyer HMS Firedrake, which was escorting a convoy in the mid-Atlantic.

The luck carried on even on the third and fourth patrols in 1943, when it was attacked, first by an American B-24 Liberator, which dropped six depth charges, and three months later by a Royal Air Force Armstrong Whitworth Whitley, which dropped three depth charges. Both times the U-boat was repaired and shortly returned to service.

But its luck ran out on the fifth patrol west of Portugal.

Canadian Flying Officer Donald F. McRae of 179 Squadron, flying a Vickers Wellington, was escorting a convoy east of the Azores when radar picked up the U-boat. The aircraft had been fitted with 120-million candlepower Leigh Lights. After flying close to the target, and at a altitude of only 100 feet, the lights were turned on, allowing dead accuracy for the depth charges.

U-211 sank. All 54 aboard, including Hause, 27, died.

U-boats suffered the highest casualty rate of all German forces during the Second World War. Of nearly 1,200 submarines produced by Germany, nearly 800 were lost, along with 28,000 submariners, while 5,000 were taken prisoner—a casualty rate of more than 75 per cent. Half were taken out by Allied aircraft.

More than 36,000 Allied sailors, soldiers and aircrew, along with 36,000 merchant sailors, lost their lives in the war. Canadian losses were about 2,000 members of the Royal Canadian Navy, 1,600 merchant seamen and more than 700 aircrew.

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