CANNON FODDER 


 ATTACK ON HOSTOMEL 
Putin sits in front of wall-size map of Russia.

The seat of national pow­er, Kyiv was the main prize. Thus the thrust by elite air­borne forces in the war’s open­ing hours. ... When Presi­dent Vlad­imir Putin launched his war on Feb. 24 after months of build­up on Ukraine’s bor­ders, he sent hun­dreds of heli­cop­ter-borne com­man­dos – the best of the best of Rus­sia’s “spets­naz” (spe­cial forces soldiers) – to assault and seize a light­ly defend­ed air­field on Kyiv’s door­step.

On the first morn­ing of the war, Rus­sian Mi-8 as­sault heli­copters soared south to­ward Kyiv on a mis­sion to attack Hos­to­mel airfield on the north­west out­skirts of the capital. By captur­ing the air­field, also known as Anto­nov air­port, the Rus­sians planned to estab­lish a base from which to fly in more troops and light armored vehi­cles with­in strik­ing dis­tance of the heart of the nation’s larg­est city. It didn’t work that way. Sev­eral Rus­sian heli­copters were report­ed to be hit by mis­siles even be­fore they got to Hos­to­mel, and once set­tled in at the air­field they suf­fered heavy losses from artil­lery fire.

The fact that the Hos­to­mel as­sault by the Rus­sian 45th Guards Spe­cial Pur­pose Air­borne Brig­ade fal­tered might not stand out in retro­spect if the broad­er Rus­sian effort had im­proved from that point. But it did not. ... Last week the Rus­sians aban­doned Hos­to­mel air­field as part of a whole­sale retreat into Bela­rus and Russia.

An effort to take con­trol of a mili­tary air­base in Vasyl­kiv south of Kyiv al­so met stiff resis­tance and report­ed­ly saw sev­eral Rus­sian Il-76 heavy-lift trans­port planes carry­ing para­troop­ers downed by Ukrain­ian defenses.

A sidelight of the bat­tle for Kyiv was the wide­ly report­ed saga of a Rus­sian re­supply con­voy that stretched doz­ens of miles along a main road­way to­ward the capital. It initial­ly seemed to be a worri­some sign for the Ukrain­ians, but they man­aged to attack ele­ments of the con­voy, which had limit­ed off-road cap­ability and thus even­tual­ly dis­persed or other­wise be­came a non-factor in the fight. “They never real­ly pro­vided a re­supply of any value to Rus­sian forces that were assem­bling around Kyiv, never really came to their aid,” said Penta­gon spokes­man John Kirby. “The Ukrain­ians put a stop to that con­voy pretty quick­ly by be­ing very nim­ble, knock­ing out bridges, hit­ting lead vehi­cles and stop­ping their move­ment.” Us­ing a wide array of West­ern arms, includ­ing Jave­lin port­able anti-tank wea­pons, shoul­der-fired Sting­er anti-air­craft mis­siles and much more.

“That’s a real­ly bad com­bi­nation if you want to con­quer a coun­try,” said Peter Man­soor, a retired Army colo­nel and pro­fes­sor of mili­tary his­tory at Ohio State Uni­ver­sity. “[The Rus­sian Army]’s proven it­self to be wholly in­cap­able of conduct­ing mod­ern armored war­fare”. ... Some analysts did ques­tion wheth­er Putin appre­ci­ated how much Ukraine’s forces had gained from West­ern train­ing that inten­si­fied after Putin’s 2014 seiz­ure of Crimea and incur­sion in­to the Donbas.

“It’s stun­ning,” said mili­tary histor­ian Fred­er­ick Kagan of the Insti­tute for the Study of War, who says he knows of no paral­lel to a major mili­tary power like Rus­sia invad­ing a coun­try at the time of its choos­ing and fail­ing so utter­ly. The Rus­sians under­esti­mated the num­ber of troops they would need and showed “an aston­ish­ing in­abil­ity” to per­form basic mili­tary func­tions.

Putin failed to achieve his goal of quick­ly crush­ing Ukraine’s out­gunned and out­num­bered army. The Rus­sians were ill-pre­pared for Ukrain­ian resis­tance, proved in­cap­able of ad­just­ing to set­backs, failed to effec­tive­ly com­bine air and land oper­ations, mis­judged Ukraine’s ability to de­fend its skies, and bun­gled basic mili­tary func­tions like plan­ning and exe­cuting the move­ment of supplies.


 TRACED CALLS 
The Associated Press pub­lished calls made in March 2022 by three Rus­sian sol­diers, Leonid, Maxim and Ivan, in a mili­tary divi­sion near Bucha, a town outside Kyiv that wit­nessed the first atroc­i­ties of the War on Ukraine. (The Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment had been inter­cept­ing Rus­sian calls when their phones ping Ukrain­ian cell towers, pro­vid­ing im­por­tant real-time intel­li­gence for the mili­tary. Now, the calls are al­so poten­tial evi­dence for war crimes.)
Mom, there was a battle.

Leonid #1: Leonid’s intro­duc­tion to war came on Feb. 24, as his unit crossed into Ukraine from Bela­rus and deci­mat­ed a detach­ment of Ukrain­ians at the bor­der. ... mother: “When did you get scared?” leonid: “When our com­mand­er warned us we would be shot, 100%. He warned us that al­though we’d be bombed and shot at, our aim was to get through.” mother: “Did they shoot you?” leonid: “Of course. We defeat­ed them.” mother: “Mm. Did you shoot from your tanks?” leonid: “Yeah, we did. We shot from the tanks, machine guns and rifles. We had no losses. We des­troyed their four tanks. There were dead bodies ly­ing around and burn­ing. So, we won.” mother: “Oh what a night­mare! Lyon­ka, you want­ed to live at that mo­ment, right honey?” leonid: “More than ever!” mother: “More than ever, right honey?” leonid: “Of course.” mother: “It’s total­ly hor­ri­ble.” leonid: “They were ly­ing there, just 18- or 19-years old. Am I dif­fer­ent from them? No, I’m not.”
Leonid: First, he was shot in his leg. Then his ears were cut off.

Leonid #2: Leonid tells his moth­er their plan was to seize Kyiv with­in a week, with­out fir­ing a single bul­let. ... “It was so con­fus­ing,” he says. “They were well pre­pared.” When Leo­nid tells his moth­er cas­ual­ly about loot­ing, at first she can’t be­lieve he’s steal­ing. But it’s be­come nor­mal for him. As he speaks, he watches a town burn on the hori­zon. “Such a beau­ty,” he says.
leonid: “Look, Mom, I’m look­ing at tons of houses – I don’t know, doz­ens, hun­dreds – and they’re all emp­ty. Every­one ran away.” mother: “So all the peo­ple left, right? You guys aren’t loot­ing them, are you? You’re not go­ing in­to oth­er people’s houses?” leonid: “Of course we are, Mom. Are you crazy?” mother: “Oh, you are. What do you take from there?” leonid: “We take food, bed lin­en, pil­lows. Blan­kets, forks, spoons, pans.” mother: (Laughing) “You got­ta be kid­ding me.” leonid: “Who­ever doesn’t have any – socks, clean under­wear, T-shirts, sweat­ers.”

Leonid #3: Leo­nid tells his moth­er about the ter­ror of go­ing on patrol and not know­ing what or who they will en­coun­ter. ... mother: “Oh Lyon­ka, you’ve seen so much stuff there!” leonid: “Well ... civil­ians are lying around right on the street with their brains com­ing out.” mother: “Oh God, you mean the locals?” leonid: “Yep. Well, like, yeah.” mother: “Are they the ones you guys shot or the ones ...” leonid: “The ones killed by our army.” mother: “Lyon­ya, they might just be peace­ful people.” leonid: “Mom, there was a bat­tle. And a guy would just pop up, you know? Maybe he would pull out a gre­nade launch­er ... Or we had a case, a young guy was stopped, they took his cell­phone. He had all this infor­ma­tion about us in his Tele­gram mes­sages – where to bomb, how many we were, how many tanks we have. And that’s it.” mother: “So they knew every­thing?” leonid: “He was shot right there on the spot.” mother: “Mm.” leonid: “He was 17-years old. And that’s it, right there.” mother: “Mm.” leonid: “There was a pris­on­er. It was an 18-year-old guy. First, he was shot in his leg. Then his ears were cut off. After that, he ad­mit­ted every­thing, and they killed him.” mother: “Did he ad­mit it?” leonid: “We don’t im­pris­on them. I mean, we kill them all.” mother: “Mm.”

Leonid #4: Leonid tells his moth­er he was near­ly killed five times. ... Things are so dis­or­gan­ized, he says, that it’s not un­com­mon for Rus­sians to fire on their own troops – it even hap­pened to him. Some sol­diers shoot them­selves just to get medi­cal leave, he says. mother: “Hel­lo, Lyon­ech­ka.” leonid: “I just want­ed to call you again. I am able to speak.” mother: “Oh, that’s good.” leonid: “There are peo­ple out here who shoot them­selves.” mother: “Mm.” leonid: “They do it for the insur­ance money. You know where they shoot them­selves?” mother: “That’s sil­ly, Lyon­ya.” leonid: “The bot­tom part of the left thigh.” mother: “It’s bull–, Lyon­ya. They’re crazy, you know that, right?” leonid: “Some people are so scared that they are ready to harm them­selves just to leave.” mother: “Yeah, it is fear, what can you say here, it’s human fear. Every­body wants to live. I don’t argue with that, but please don’t do that. We all pray for you. You should cross your­self any chance you get, just turn away from every­one and do it. We all pray for you. We’re all wor­ried.” leonid: “I’m stand­ing here, and you know what the sit­u­a­tion is? I am now 30 meters (100 feet) away from a huge ceme­tery.” (Giggling) mother: “Oh, that’s hor­ri­ble ... may it be over soon.” Leo­nid says he had to learn to emp­ty his mind. “Imagine, it’s night­time. You’re sit­ting in the dark and it’s quiet out there. Alone with your thoughts. And day after day, you sit there alone with those thoughts.” He tells his girl­friend: “I al­ready learned to think of noth­ing while sit­ting out­side.” He prom­ises to bring home a col­lec­tion of bul­lets for the kids. “Tro­phies from Ukraine,” he calls them. His moth­er says she’s wait­ing for him. “Of course I’ll come, why wouldn’t I?” Leo­nid says. “Of course, you’ll come,” his moth­er says. “No doubts. You’re my be­loved. Of course, you’ll come. You are my hap­pi­ness.” Leo­nid re­turned to Rus­sia in May, badly wound­ed, but alive. He told his moth­er Rus­sia would win this war.

Maxim #1: It’s not clear what mili­tary unit Max­im is in, but he makes calls from the same phone as Ivan, on the same days. ... The hunt for locals –men, wom­en and chil­dren – who might be in­form­ing on them to the Ukrain­ian mili­tary is con­stant. Max­im is drunk in some of the calls, slur­ring his words, be­cause life at the front line is more than he can take sober. The on­ly rea­son Max­im is able to speak with his fam­ily back in Rus­sia is be­cause they’ve been steal­ing phones from locals. He says they’re even shak­ing down kids. “We take every­thing from them,” he ex­plains to his wife. “Be­cause they can also be f– spot­ters.” On calls home, the high sweet voice of Max­im’s own young child bub­bles in the back­ground as he talks with his wife. maxim: “Do you know how much a gram of gold costs here?” wife: “No.” maxim: “Rough­ly? About two or three thou­sand rubles, right?” wife: “Well, yeah ...” maxim: “Well, I have 1½ kilo­grams (more than three pounds). With labels even.” wife: “Holy f–, are we loot­ers?!” maxim: “With labels, yeah. It’s just that we f– up this ... We were shoot­ing at this shop­ping mall from a tank. Then we go in, and there’s a f– jewel­ry store. Every­thing was taken. But there was a safe there. We cracked it open, and in­side ... f– me! So the seven of us load­ed up.” wife: “I see.” maxim: “They had these f– neck­laces, you know. In our money, they’re like 30-to-40,000 a piece, 60,000 a piece.” wife: “Holy crap.” maxim: “I scored about a kilo and a half of neck­laces, charms, brace­lets ... these ... ear­rings ... ear­rings with rings ...” wife: “That’s enough, don’t tell me.” maxim: “Any­way, I count­ed and if it’s 3,000 rubles a gram, then I have about 3.5 mil­lion. If you off­load it.” wife: “Got it. How’s the sit­u­a­tion there?” maxim: “It’s f– OK.” wife: “OK? Got it.” maxim: “We don’t have a f– thing to do, so we go around and loot the f– shop­ping mall.” wife: “Just be care­ful, in the name of Christ.” Maxim: Because they can also be fucking spotters.

Maxim #2: Maxim and his moth­er dis­cuss the op­pos­ing stor­ies about the war be­ing told on Ukrain­ian and Rus­sian tele­vision. ... They blame the United States and re­cite con­spi­racy theo­ries pushed by Rus­sian state media. But Max­im and his moth­er be­lieve it’s the Ukrain­ians who are delud­ed by fake news and prop­a­gan­da, not them. The best way to end the war, his moth­er says, is to kill the pres­i­dents of Ukraine and the United States. Later, Max­im tells his moth­er that thou­sands of Rus­sian troops died in the first weeks of war – so many that there’s no time to do any­thing ex­cept haul away the bodies. That’s not what they’re say­ing on Rus­sian TV, his moth­er says. maxim: “Here, it’s all Ameri­can. All the wea­pons.” mother: “It’s the Ameri­cans driv­ing this, of course! Look at their labo­ra­tories. They are devel­op­ing bio­log­i­cal wea­pons. Coro­na­virus lit­eral­ly start­ed there.” maxim: “Yeah, I al­so saw some­where that they used bats.” mother: “All of it. Bats, migrat­ing birds, and even coro­na­virus might be their bio­log­i­cal wea­pon. They even found all these papers with sig­na­tures from the U.S. all over Ukraine. Biden’s son is the master­mind be­hind all of this. ... When will it end? When they stop sup­ply­ing wea­pons.” maxim: “Mm.” mother: “Un­til they catch (Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Volo­dy­myr) Zelen­skyy and exe­cute him, noth­ing will end. He’s a fool, a fool! He’s a pup­pet for the U.S. and they real­ly don’t need him, the fool. You watch TV and you feel bad for the peo­ple, the civil­ians, some trav­el­ling with young kids. ... If I was giv­en a gun, I’d go and shoot Biden.” (Laughs) maxim: (Laughs)

Maxim #3: One night last March, Max­im was hav­ing trou­ble keep­ing it to­geth­er on a call with his wife. ... He’d been drink­ing, as he did every night. He told her he’d killed civil­ians – so many he thinks he’s go­ing crazy. He said might not make it home alive. He was just sit­ting there, drunk in the dark, wait­ing for the Ukrain­ian artil­lery strikes to start. wife: “Why? Why are you drink­ing?” maxim: “Every­one is like that here. It’s im­pos­si­ble with­out it here.” wife: “How the f– will you pro­tect your­self if you are tipsy?” maxim: “Total­ly nor­mal. On the con­trary, it’s eas­ier to shoot ... civil­ians. Let’s not talk about this. I’ll come back and tell you how it is here and why we drink!” wife: “Please, just be care­ful!” maxim: “Every­thing will be fine. Hon­est­ly, I’m scared s–less my­self. I nev­er saw such hell as here. I am f– shocked.” wife: “Why the f– did you go there?” Minutes later, he’s on the phone with his child. ‘You’re com­ing back?” the child asks. “Of course,” Maxim says.

Maxim #4: In their last inter­cept­ed call, Maxim’s wife seems to have a prem­o­ni­tion. ... wife: “Is every­thing all right?” maxim: “Yeah. Why?” wife: “Be hon­est with me, is every­thing all right?” maxim: “Huh? Why do you ask?” wife: “It’s noth­ing, I just can’t sleep at night.” Max­im is a lit­tle breath­less. He and his unit are get­ting ready to go. His wife asks him where they’re go­ing. “For­ward, I won’t be able to call for a while.”

Ivan #1: Ivan was in Bela­rus on train­ing when they got a Tele­gram mes­sage: “Tomor­row you are leav­ing for Ukraine. There is a geno­cide of the Rus­sian pop­u­la­tion. And we have to stop it.” ... When his moth­er found out he was in Ukraine, she said she stopped speak­ing for days and took seda­tives. Her hair went gray. Still, she was proud of him. Ivan end­ed up in Bucha. ivan: “Mom, hi.” mother: “Hi, son! How–” ivan: “How are you?” mother: “Van­ya, I under­stand they might be lis­ten­ing so I’m afraid–” ivan: “Doesn’t mat­ter.” mother: “... to ask where you are, what’s hap­pen­ing. Where are you?” ivan: “In Bucha.” mother: “In Bucha?” ivan: “In Bucha.” mother: “Son, be as care­ful as you can, OK? Don’t go charg­ing around! Al­ways keep a cool head.” ivan: “Oh, come on, I’m not charg­ing around.” mother: “Yeah, right! And yes­ter­day you told me how you’re gon­na f– kill every­one out there.” (Laughs) ivan: “We will kill if we have to.” mother: “Huh?” ivan: “If we have to – we have to.” mother: “I under­stand you. I’m so proud of you, my son! I don’t even know how to put it. I love you so much. And I bless you for every­thing, every­thing! I wish you suc­cess in every­thing. And I’ll wait for you no mat­ter what.” Ivan: It is scary, Olya. It really is scary.

Ivan #2: Ivan calls his girl­friend, Olya, and tells her he had a dream about her. ... ivan: “F–, you know, it’s driv­ing me crazy here. It’s just that ... You were just ... I felt you, touched you with my hand. I don’t under­stand how it’s pos­si­ble, why, where ... But I real­ly felt you. I don’t know, I felt some­thing warm, someth­ing dear. It’s like someth­ing was on fire in my hands, so warm ... And that’s it. I don’t know. I was sleep­ing and then I woke up with all these thoughts. War ... You know, when you’re sleep­ing – and then you’re like ... War ... Where, where is it? It was just dark in the house, so dark. And I went out­side, walked around the streets, and thought: damn, f– it. And that’s it. I real­ly want to come see you.” girl­friend: “I am wait­ing for you.” ivan: “Wait­ing? OK. I’m wait­ing, too. Wait­ing for the time I can come see you ... Let’s make a deal. When we see each oth­er, let’s spend the en­tire day to­geth­er. Lay­ing around, sit­ting to­geth­er, eat­ing, look­ing at each oth­er – just us, to­geth­er.” girl­friend: (Laughs) “Agreed.” ivan: “To­geth­er all the time. Hug­ging, cud­dling, kiss­ing ... To­geth­er all the time, not let­ting each oth­er go.” girl­friend: “Well, yeah!” ivan: “You can go f– crazy here. It’s so f– up, the s– that’s hap­pen­ing. I really thought it would be easy here, to tell you the truth. That it’s just gon­na be easy to talk, think about it. But it turned out to be hard, you need to think with your head all the time. So that’s that. We are real­ly at the front line. As far out as you could be. Kyiv is 15 kilo­meters (about 10 miles) from us. It is scary, Olya. It real­ly is scary.” girl­friend: “Hello?” ivan: “Do you hear me?” The line drops.

Ivan #3: As things get worse for Ivan in Ukraine, his moth­er’s patriot­ism deep­ens and her rage grows. ... mother: “Do you have any pre­dic­tions about the end ...?” ivan: “We are here for the time be­ing. We’ll prob­ably stay until they clean up the whole of Ukraine. May­be they’ll pull us out. May­be not. We’re go­ing for Kyiv.” mother: “What are they go­ing to do?” ivan: “We’re not going any­where until they clean up all of these pests.” mother: “Are those bas­tards get­ting cleaned up?” ivan: “Yes, they are. But they’ve been wait­ing for us and pre­par­ing, you under­stand? Pre­par­ing prop­er­ly. Ameri­can moth­erf– have been help­ing them out.” mother: “F– f–. F– kill them all. You have my bless­ing.” ... Death came for Ivan. In July, a local paper pub­lished a notice of his funer­al with a pho­to of him, again in fatigues hold­ing a large rifle. Ivan died heroic­al­ly in Rus­sia’s “spe­cial mili­tary oper­ation,” the announce­ment said. “We will nev­er for­get you. All of Rus­sia shares this grief.” Reached by the AP in Jan­uary, Ivan’s moth­er at first denied she’d ever talked with her son from the front. But she agreed to lis­ten to some of the inter­cept­ed audio and con­firmed it was her speak­ing with Ivan. “He wasn’t in­volved in mur­ders, let alone in loot­ing,” she told the AP be­fore hang­ing up the phone. Ivan was her on­ly son.


 'THIS MADNESS'  A Russian Soldier's Journal
Forced march to unknown location.
February 15 2022: I arrived to the train­ing ground [in Stary Krym, Cri­mea]. ... Our en­tire squa­dron, about 40 peo­ple, all lived in one tent with plank boards and one make­shift stove. Even in Chech­nya, where we only lived in tents or mud huts, our liv­ing con­di­tions were or­ganized bet­ter. Here we had no­where to wash up and the food was hor­ri­ble. For those who ar­rived later than the rest, me and about five other peo­ple, there was nei­ther a sleep­ing bag, nor camo, armor, or hel­mets left. I final­ly re­ceived my rifle. It turned out that it had a brok­en belt, was rusty and kept get­ting stuck, so I cleaned it in oil for a long time try­ing to put it in order. Around Feb­ruary 20, an order came for every­one to urgent­ly gather and move out, pack­ing light­ly. We were sup­posed to per­form a forced march to some un­known loca­tion. Some peo­ple joked that now we would at­tack Ukraine and cap­ture Kyiv in three days. But al­ready then I thought it is no time for laugh­ter. I said that if some­thing like this were to hap­pen, we would not cap­ture any­thing in three days.

Our salary per day $69.
February 23 2022: The division com­mander ar­rived and, con­gra­tu­lat­ing us on the [Defend­er of the Fatherland] holi­day, an­nounced that start­ing from to­mor­row, our salary per day would be $69. ... It was a clear sign that some­thing serious is about to hap­pen. Rumors be­gan spreading that we are about to go storm Kher­son, which seemed to be non­sense to me. Every­thing changed that day. I no­ticed how peo­ple be­gan to change, some were ner­vous and tried not to com­mu­ni­cate with any­one, some frank­ly seemed scared, some, on the con­trary, were un­usual­ly cheerful.

It's started.
February 24 2022: At about 4 a.m. I opened my eyes again and heard a roar, a rum­ble, a vibra­tion of the earth. ... I sensed an acrid smell of gun­powder in the air. I look out of the truck and see that the sky is lit bright from vol­leys. It was not clear what is hap­pen­ing, who was shoot­ing from where and at whom, but the weari­ness from lack of food, water and sleep dis­ap­peared. A min­ute later, I lit up a cigar­ette to wake up, and real­ized that the fire is com­ing 10-20 kilo­meters ahead of our con­voy. Every­one around me al­so be­gan to wake up and smoke and there was a quiet mur­mur: “It’s start­ed.” We must have a plan. The con­voy be­came ani­mated and start­ed to slow­ly move for­ward. I saw the lights switch on in the houses and peo­ple look­ing out the win­dows and bal­conies of five-story build­ings. It was al­ready dawn, per­haps 6 a.m., the sun went up and I saw a doz­en heli­copters, a doz­en planes, armored as­sault vehi­cles drive across the field. Then tanks ap­peared, hun­dreds of pieces of equip­ment under Rus­sian flags. By 1 p.m. we drove to a huge field where our trucks got bogged down in the mud. I got ner­vous. A huge col­umn stand­ing in the mid­dle of an open field for half an hour is just an ideal tar­get. If the enemy notices us and is near­by, we are f–ed. Many be­gan to climb out of the trucks and smoke, turn­ing to one from an­oth­er. The or­der is to go to Kher­son and capture the bridge across the Dnie­per. I under­stood that some­thing global was hap­pen­ing, but I did not know what exact­ly. Many thoughts were spin­ning in my head. I thought that we couldn’t just at­tack Ukraine, may­be NATO real­ly got in the way and we inter­vened. May­be there are al­so bat­tles go­ing on in Rus­sia, may­be the Ukrain­ians at­tacked to­gether with NATO. May­be there is some­thing go­ing on in the Far East – if Ameri­ca also start­ed a war against us. Then the scale will be huge, and nuclear wea­pons, then sure­ly some­one will use it, damn it. The com­mand­er tried to cheer every­one up. We are going ahead, leav­ing the stuck equip­ment be­hind, he said, and every­one should be ready for bat­tle. He said it with feigned courage, but in his eyes I saw that he was al­so freak­ing out. It was quite dark and we got word that we are stay­ing here un­til dawn. We climbed into sleep­ing bags with­out tak­ing off our shoes, lay­ing on boxes with mines, em­brac­ing our rifles.

We have communication problems.
February 25 2022: Somewhere around 5 in the morn­ing they wake every­one up, tell­ing us to get ready to move out. ... I lit a cigar­ette and walked around. Our prin­ci­pal medi­cal offi­cer was look­ing for a place to put a wound­ed sol­dier. He con­stant­ly said that he was cold, and we cov­ered him with our sleep­ing bags. I was told later that this guy had died. We drove on ter­ri­ble roads, through some dachas, green­houses, vil­lages. In settle­ments we met oc­casion­al civil­ians who saw us off with a sul­len look. Ukrain­ian flags were flut­ter­ing over some houses, evok­ing mixed feel­ings of re­spect for the brave patriot­ism of these peo­ple and a sense that these colors now some­how be­long to an enemy. We reached a high­way at around 8 a.m. and ... I noticed the trucks of the guys from my squa­dron. They look kind of crazy. I walk from car to car, ask­ing about how things are. Every­one answers me in­com­pre­hen­si­bly: “Damn, this is f–ed up,” “We got wrecked all night,” “I col­lect­ed corpses from the road, one had his brains all out on the pave­ment.” We are ap­proach­ing a fork and signs point to Kher­son and Odes­sa. I am think­ing about how we will storm Kher­son. I don’t think the mayor of the city will come out with bread and salt, raise the Rus­sian flag over the ad­min­is­tra­tion build­ing, and we’ll en­ter the city in a parade col­umn. At around 4 p.m. our con­voy takes a turn and set­tles in the forest. Com­mand­ers tell us the news that Ukrain­ian GRAD rocket launch­ers were seen ahead, so every­one must pre­pare for shell­ing, urgent­ly dig in as deep as pos­si­ble, and al­so that our cars al­most ran out of fuel and we have com­mu­ni­ca­tion prob­lems. I stand and talk with the guys, they tell me that they are from the 11th bri­gade, that there are 50 of them left. The rest are prob­a­bly dead.

Surrounded local airport.
February 26-28 2022: Filatyev’s con­voy made its way to Kher­son and sur­round­ed the local air­port, loot­ing stores in vil­lages along the way. ... On the third day, the con­voy re­ceived the or­der to en­ter Kher­son. Filat­yev was told to stay be­hind and cov­er the front-line units with mor­tar fire if neces­sary. He recount­ed hear­ing dis­tant fight­ing all day. The south­ern port city would be­come the first major Ukrain­ian city that Rus­sia cap­tured in its invasion.

Everyone ran wild.
March 1 2022: We marched to the city on foot ... [around 5:30 p.m.] we ar­rived at the Kher­son sea­port. ... It was al­ready dark, the units march­ing ahead of us had al­ready occu­pied it. Every­one looked ex­haust­ed and ran wild. We searched the build­ings for food, water, showers and a place to sleep, some­one be­gan to take out com­pu­ters and any­thing else of value. Walk­ing through the build­ing, I found an of­fice with a TV. Sev­eral peo­ple sat there and watch­ing the news, they found a bot­tle of cham­pagne in the of­fice. See­ing the cold cham­pagne, I took a few sips from the bot­tle, sat down with them and be­gan to watch the news intent­ly. The chan­nel was in Ukrain­ian, I didn’t under­stand half of it. All I under­stood there was that Rus­sian troops were ad­vanc­ing from all direc­tions, Odes­sa, Khar­kov, Kyiv were occu­pied, they be­gan to show foot­age of brok­en build­ings and in­jured wom­en and chil­dren. We ate every­thing like savages, all that was there was, cereal, oat­meal, jam, honey, cof­fee. ... No­body cared about any­thing, we were al­ready pushed to the limit.

No clue what to do.
March 2-6 2022: Filatyev’s ex­haust­ed con­voy was or­dered to push ahead to storm Myko­laiv and Odes­sa, though the Rus­sian cam­paign had al­ready be­gun to stall.... Filat­yev de­scribed how his unit wan­dered in the woods try­ing to reach Myko­laiv, about 40 miles away. He re­called ask­ing a senior offi­cer about their next move­ments. The com­mand­er said he had no clue what to do. The first re­in­force­ments ar­rived: sep­ar­a­tist forces from Donetsk, most­ly men over 45 in shab­by fatigues. Ac­cord­ing to Filat­yev, they were forced to go to the front lines when many reg­u­lar Rus­sian army sol­diers refused.

Some grandmother poisoned our pies.
Into mid-April 2022: From now on and for more than a month it was Ground­hog Day. ... We were dig­ging in, artil­lery was shell­ing us, our avia­tion was al­most no­where to be seen. We just held posi­tions in the trenches on the front line, we could not shower, eat, or sleep prop­er­ly. Every­one had over­grown beards and were cov­ered in dirt, uni­forms and shoes be­gan to fray. [Ukrain­ian forces] could clear­ly see us from the drones and kept shell­ing us so al­most all of the equip­ment soon went out of or­der. We got a cou­ple of boxes with the so-called human­i­tarian aid, con­tain­ing cheap socks, T-shirts, shorts and soap. Some sol­diers be­gan to shoot them­selves ... to get [the gover­nment mon­ey] and get out of this hell. Our prison­er had his fin­gers and geni­tals cut off. Dead Ukrain­ians at one of the posts were plopped on seats, given names and cigar­ettes. Due to artil­lery shell­ing, some vil­lages near­by prac­ti­cal­ly ceased to exist. Every­one was get­ting angrier and angrier. Some grand­mother poi­soned our pies. Al­most every­one got a fun­gus, some­one’s teeth fell out, the skin was peel­ing off. Many dis­cussed how, when they re­turn, they will hold the com­mand account­able for lack of pro­vi­sion and in­com­pe­tent leader­ship. Some be­gan to sleep on duty be­cause of fatigue. Some­times we man­aged to catch a wave of the Ukrain­ian radio, where they poured dirt on us and called us orcs, which only em­bit­tered us even more. My legs and back hurt ter­ribly, but an order came not to evac­u­ate any­one due to ill­ness. I kept say­ing, “God, I will do every­thing to change this if I sur­vive.” ... I de­cid­ed that I would de­scribe the last year of my life, so that as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble would know what our army is now. By mid-April, earth got in­to my eyes due to artil­lery shell­ing. After five days of tor­ment, with the threat of los­ing an eye loom­ing over me, they evac­u­at­ed me.

Main enemy is propaganda.
Post-April 2022: I survived, un­like many oth­ers. My con­science tells me that I must try to stop this mad­ness. ... We did not have the moral right to at­tack an­oth­er coun­try, es­pe­cial­ly the peo­ple clos­est to us. This is an army that bul­lies its own sol­diers, those who have al­ready been in the war, those who do not want to re­turn there and die for some­thing they don’t even under­stand. I will tell you a secret. The major­ity in the army, they are dis­satis­fied with what is hap­pen­ing there, they are dis­satis­fied with the govern­ment and their com­mand, they are dis­satis­fied with Putin and his poli­cies, they are dis­satis­fied with the Min­is­ter of De­fense who did not serve in the army. The main enemy of all Rus­sians and Ukrain­ians is prop­a­gan­da, which just fur­ther fuels hatred in peo­ple. I can no long­er watch all this hap­pen and re­main silent.




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-|  April 2024  |-






  WILD WILD WEST   Wild Wild West
Illustrated w/ collages, drawings, maps, paintings, photographs, prints and quotes
| |  Out west, when 1848 was on­ly twenty-four days old, mechan­ic James Marshall was mak­ing a rou­tine in­spec­tion on the grounds of a saw­mill he man­aged for his em­ploy­er. That was when the New Jer­sey native noticed some odd-look­ing ore in a water chan­nel of the South Fork of the Amer­i­can River. It was “... bright, yet mal­le­a­ble. I then tried it be­tween two rocks, and found that it could be beaten in­to a differ­ent shape, but not broken.”

 | |  Nine days after Marshall emerged from the waters w/ his find, the Treaty of Guada­lupe Hidal­go was signed, trans­fer­ring a large tract of Mex­ico to the United States.  | |  These concurrent events to­geth­er pre­cip­i­ta­ted the Cali­for­nia Gold Rush of 1849, when folks came from all over, bring­ing dreams while pray­ing to the god and god­dess of wealth for a show of “colour”  | |  The first came from Mon­te­rey, San Fran­cis­co, San Jose and So­no­ma: when clerks, doc­tors, labor­ers, law­yers, mechan­ics, ranch­eros left their jobs. Sail­ors de­ser­ted their ships. Soldiers de­ser­ted the Mex­i­can War. As word spread more came from Hawai‘i, Mex­ico and Ore­gon.  | |  Gold seekers showing up near the saw­mill of John August Sut­ter, where gold was first dis­cov­ered, had no need for milled lum­ber, and his busi­ness went into de­cline. All the while, a new settle­ment grew across the Amer­i­can Riv­er to be­come Colo­ma, the first gold rush town. Near­by stands a mon­u­ment, by the Native Sons of the Golden West, to mark the grave of James Wil­son Marshall, the “dis­cov­er­er of gold.”



Westward-Ho!

Panama 1849

One can cross Pan­a­ma to get to Cali­for­nia rather than sail around Cape Horn. Up Chagres riv­er to the town of Cule­bra; then don­keys to Gulf of Pan­a­ma, elev­en miles away.
Maps were consulted and what became the Cali­for­nia Trial be­gan w/ exis­ting routes. Emi­grants showed up along the Mis­sou­ri riv­er and towns in Illi­nois or Iowa. Wagon trains hitched, they head­ed out, cross­ing land­apes of grass­lands, prai­ries, steppes, val­leys and riv­ers to Wyo­ming and Fort Lara­mie. Fort Laramie 1834  | |  The only way to cross the Rock­ies was a cor­ri­dor be­yond Fort Lara­mie, lev­el and broad. South Pass af­ford­ed sev­er­al routes pas­sage to Cali­for­nia. At a fork in the road soon after, the Ore­gon Trail veers right while the Mor­mon Trail turns south to­ward Fort Bridger.

Fort Bridger 1842  | |  Overland travelers chose routes de­pen­dent on start­ing point and final des­ti­na­tion. Oth­er factors were the con­di­tion of their wagons, live­stock, and the avail­ability of water.

Atlantic Ocean 1852
Gold Country 1850  | |  From California, one can get to Ore­gon on the Apple­gate Trail (1846), an alter­native to the haz­ard­ous last leg of the Ore­gon Trail.

 | |  The Oregon Trail be­gins in Mis­sou­ri and leaves ei­ther Fort Leav­en­worth, Inde­pen­dence or Saint Jo­seph for a two thou­sand mile trek to the Ore­gon Ter­ri­tory. Past the Great Plains, then the Rock­ies, head­ing west north­west to the Snake river, Fort Boise, Wit­man Mis­sion, The Dales, Fort Van­cou­ver, the Colum­bia river, and the coast.

The Santa Fe Trail starts off in Mis­sou­ri, rolls through Kan­sas and a cor­ner of Colo­rado. Cross­ing the Arkan­sas river be­fore drop­ping to New Mex­ico, the trail loses its iden­tity some­what in San­ta Fe, where it is braid­ed to the Gila Trail, a local 16th-c. com­merce and trav­el high road, bring­ing trade from in­land to the coast.
 | |  The Mormon Trail, gathers in Illi­nois and wends by Iowa and Nebras­ka be­fore join­ing estab­lished trails in Wyo­ming. To­geth­er they cross the Rock­ies, then the Mor­mon Trail con­tin­ues south south­west to Utah Ter­ri­tory to end up in Los Angeles. Be­sides the over­land­ers there were al­so sea­farers.

O Pioneers! 1849 Cape Horn 1849  | |  An eight-month sea route from New York to San Fran­cis­co would in­volve a haz­ard­ous round­ing of Cape Horn.

Gold Fever


A 49er carries pick­axe, shov­el and pan. Can add a rock­er and a hop­per; some also con­duct hy­draul­ic ex­pe­ri­ments. A water wheel would be jim-dan­dy, to pick up indi­vid­ual quan­ti­ties of gold-bear­ing grav­el and sand.

Gold Mining 1949
49er 1848 Personal gear: pair of blan­kets, fry­ing-pan, flour, salt pork, bran­dy (or other sanc­ti­fy­ing spirit). Field gear must-haves: pick­axe, shovel and pan. Some pro­cure a mule. toolbox  | |  Gold miners w/ no finan­cial back­ing learn to con­gre­gate along moun­tain roads and wait for sup­ply wagons pass­ing through, bring­ing food and tools and carry­ing out gold dust. Satur­day nights were for saloon­ing and carous­ing. Sun­day is a holi­day – laun­dry, tool re­pair, swap­ping stories, writ­ing let­ters, nap­ping.

49ers 1854
gold pan  | |  A twelve inch shal­low sheet-iron pan to rinse soil w/ water and lo­cate the gold. rocker  | |  A rock­er is a rec­tan­gu­lar wood­en box mount­ed on two rock­ers and set at a down­ward angle.
hopper  | |  The hop­per is a box sit­ting on top of the rock­er, lined w/ a sheet of per­for­a­ted iron. Be­neath is an area called the “riddle-box.”
long tom  | |  The long tom is an im­proved rock­er plus hop­per, reach­ing to twen­ty feet in length. A long sheet of per­for­a­ted iron lines the bot­tom and be­neath that iw the riddle-box.
 | |  Women too had gold fev­er, com­ing from Mex­ico, Chile, Peru, Eng­land, France, New York and New Orleans. James Marshall tests his discovery’s quality in Mrs Wimmer’s kettle of boiling soap  | |  Depicted in history as adven­turess, courte­san, har­lot, pick­pocket, pros­ti­tute and the demi­monde, these women were al­so book­keep­ers, cooks, laun­dress­es, shop-keep­ers, maids, wives. When moun­tain roads im­proved suffi­cient­ly to make trav­el be­tween towns feas­i­ble, they set forth as per­form­ers. Golden Girls 1849  | |  Mrs Clappe came west in 1851 w/ her hus­band. In her let­ters home she gives an ac­count of the era, about geol­ogy and a vis­it to a rural doctor’s rude of­fice of pine shin­gles and cot­ton cloth.

City of Gold
saloon chandelier
Sydney Duck “Eng­lish Jim” Stuart was hanged for rob­bery and mur­der on July 11 1851.

San Francisco 1851
Yerba Buena 1847 1848 Yerba Buena was a ham­let on the San Fran­cis­co penin­sula w/ an ex­cel­lent har­bor. The Span­iards es­tab­lished a mari­time trad­ing post and built the Mis­sion of San Fran­cis­co de Asis. Ships dock­ing in its cove dis­charged sea­far­ers to a Span­ish-style pla­za known as Ports­mouth Square. Eureka! 1848
 | |  On arrival gold seek­ers rent­ed lodg­ings in shan­ties and tent towns, and stayed long enough to buy tools and pro­vi­sions be­fore head­ing out.

Sydney Ducks 1848  | |  Brought over from Aus­tra­lia to perform labor, Eng­lish con­victs de­ser­ted en masse and in­stead formed a gang. Soon a fron­tier patch of law­less­ness, Sydney Town, sprout­ed at the base of Tele­graph Hill. The Sydney Ducks preyed on peo­ple and prop­er­ty, aug­men­ted by a gang of lady pick­poc­kets, and wil­ling­ly com­mit­ted mur­der to survive.
Post Office  | |  The embers of Syd­ney Town re­kin­dled and gave birth to the Bar­bary Coast, chock-a-block w/ bars, saloons, broth­els, con­cert halls, dance halls; where “get­ting shang­haied” was first re­hearsed. Sur­vived the 1906 Earth­quake and Fire, by 1917 the red-light dis­trict was no more.

San Francisco 1848 1849 19850 1851 Mint of San Francisco

Gold Mountain
Coloma Valley 1849
Sutter’s Mill on the South Fork of the Amer­i­can River.
Sutters Mill 1848 Coloma, next to Sut­ter’s Mill, was the first gold min­ing town. A post of­fice and jail were add­ed in 1852 – both proved pop­ular. Gold min­ing also took place north at Bid­well’s Bar, Cut Eye Fos­ter’s Bar, Down­ie­ville, Dutch Flat, Good­year’s Bar, Grass Val­ley, Hell­town, Illinois­town, Iowa Hill, Kana­ka Flat, Lousy Level, Marys­ville, Mur­der­ers Bar, Neva­da City, Plu­mas City, Poker Flat, Rough and Ready, Wash­ing­ton, Whis­key Flat, Wis­con­sin Hill, and You Bet.

 | |  Coloma is now a ghost town in­side Marsh­all Gold Dis­cov­ery State His­toric Park.  | |  South at Angels Camp, Chi­nese Camp, Dog­town, Fair Play, Hor­ni­tos, Jack­son, Moke­lum­me Hill, Mor­mon Bar, Raw­hide, Rich Gulch, Shaw’s Flat, Sonora, Vol­cano.
 | |  Gold was found along trib­u­ta­ries to the San Joa­quin and Sac­ra­men­to riv­ers. At Au­burn, Dia­mond Springs, Grizz­ly Flats, Mis­sou­ri Flat, Placer­ville.

Miwok 1851  | |  Home to Native Amer­i­cans incl. the Miwok, the Sier­ra Neva­da was rude­ly af­fect­ed by the Gold Rush. In 1849 an incident oc­curred along the Mid­dle Fork of the Amer­i­can River when some 49ers died and some indi­genes killed. An un­easy truce ob­tained when Native Amer­i­cans were hired on as labor­ers and paid in tin, but by 1900 their pop­u­la­tion had de­clined to only ±16,000.

Hollywood 1935  | |  Be­fore James Cag­ney was the Fris­co Kid and Ed­ward G. Robin­son drama­tized life in the Bar­bary Coast era, there was a 1913 fea­ture, The Last Night of the Bar­bary Coast, now a lost film.
pair of jeans The 1849 state cen­sus count­ed 42,000 over­land­ers and 35,000 sea­far­ers caught up by gold fev­er; to­geth­er w/ 3,000 sail­ors who had deser­ted ships.

Chinatown 1852 Like all who seek a bet­ter to­mor­row, the Chi­nese too came to the Cali­for­nia Gold Rush, formed a fra­tern­i­ty in Colo­ma, squat­ted spent claims and worked as a team over the “tail­ings” left be­hind. In 1880 this gold-min­ing China­town was lost to fire.



 CANNON FODDER 


 ATTACK ON HOSTOMEL 
Putin sits in front of wall-size map of Russia.

▶ The seat of national pow­er, Kyiv was the main prize. Thus the thrust by elite air­borne forces in the war’s open­ing hours. ... When Presi­dent Vlad­imir Putin launched his war on Feb. 24 after months of build­up on Ukraine’s bor­ders, he sent hun­dreds of heli­cop­ter-borne com­man­dos – the best of the best of Rus­sia’s “spets­naz” (spe­cial forces soldiers) – to assault and seize a light­ly defend­ed air­field on Kyiv’s door­step.

On the first morn­ing of the war, Rus­sian Mi-8 as­sault heli­copters soared south to­ward Kyiv on a mis­sion to attack Hos­to­mel airfield on the north­west out­skirts of the capital. By captur­ing the air­field, also known as Anto­nov air­port, the Rus­sians planned to estab­lish a base from which to fly in more troops and light armored vehi­cles with­in strik­ing dis­tance of the heart of the nation’s larg­est city. It didn’t work that way. Sev­eral Rus­sian heli­copters were report­ed to be hit by mis­siles even be­fore they got to Hos­to­mel, and once set­tled in at the air­field they suf­fered heavy losses from artil­lery fire.

The fact that the Hos­to­mel as­sault by the Rus­sian 45th Guards Spe­cial Pur­pose Air­borne Brig­ade fal­tered might not stand out in retro­spect if the broad­er Rus­sian effort had im­proved from that point. But it did not. ... Last week the Rus­sians aban­doned Hos­to­mel air­field as part of a whole­sale retreat into Bela­rus and Russia.

An effort to take con­trol of a mili­tary air­base in Vasyl­kiv south of Kyiv al­so met stiff resis­tance and report­ed­ly saw sev­eral Rus­sian Il-76 heavy-lift trans­port planes carry­ing para­troop­ers downed by Ukrain­ian defenses.

A sidelight of the bat­tle for Kyiv was the wide­ly report­ed saga of a Rus­sian re­supply con­voy that stretched doz­ens of miles along a main road­way to­ward the capital. It initial­ly seemed to be a worri­some sign for the Ukrain­ians, but they man­aged to attack ele­ments of the con­voy, which had limit­ed off-road cap­ability and thus even­tual­ly dis­persed or other­wise be­came a non-factor in the fight. “They never real­ly pro­vided a re­supply of any value to Rus­sian forces that were assem­bling around Kyiv, never really came to their aid,” said Penta­gon spokes­man John Kirby. “The Ukrain­ians put a stop to that con­voy pretty quick­ly by be­ing very nim­ble, knock­ing out bridges, hit­ting lead vehi­cles and stop­ping their move­ment.” Us­ing a wide array of West­ern arms, includ­ing Jave­lin port­able anti-tank wea­pons, shoul­der-fired Sting­er anti-air­craft mis­siles and much more.

“That’s a real­ly bad com­bi­nation if you want to con­quer a coun­try,” said Peter Man­soor, a retired Army colo­nel and pro­fes­sor of mili­tary his­tory at Ohio State Uni­ver­sity. “[The Rus­sian Army]’s proven it­self to be wholly in­cap­able of conduct­ing mod­ern armored war­fare”. ... Some analysts did ques­tion wheth­er Putin appre­ci­ated how much Ukraine’s forces had gained from West­ern train­ing that inten­si­fied after Putin’s 2014 seiz­ure of Crimea and incur­sion in­to the Donbas.

“It’s stun­ning,” said mili­tary histor­ian Fred­er­ick Kagan of the Insti­tute for the Study of War, who says he knows of no paral­lel to a major mili­tary power like Rus­sia invad­ing a coun­try at the time of its choos­ing and fail­ing so utter­ly. The Rus­sians under­esti­mated the num­ber of troops they would need and showed “an aston­ish­ing in­abil­ity” to per­form basic mili­tary func­tions.

Putin failed to achieve his goal of quick­ly crush­ing Ukraine’s out­gunned and out­num­bered army. The Rus­sians were ill-pre­pared for Ukrain­ian resis­tance, proved in­cap­able of ad­just­ing to set­backs, failed to effec­tive­ly com­bine air and land oper­ations, mis­judged Ukraine’s ability to de­fend its skies, and bun­gled basic mili­tary func­tions like plan­ning and exe­cuting the move­ment of supplies.


 TRACED CALLS 
The Associated Press pub­lished calls made in March 2022 by three Rus­sian sol­diers, Leonid, Maxim and Ivan, in a mili­tary divi­sion near Bucha, a town outside Kyiv that wit­nessed the first atroc­i­ties of the War on Ukraine. (The Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment had been inter­cept­ing Rus­sian calls when their phones ping Ukrain­ian cell towers, pro­vid­ing im­por­tant real-time intel­li­gence for the mili­tary. Now, the calls are al­so poten­tial evi­dence for war crimes.)
Mom, there was a battle.

Leonid #1: Leonid’s intro­duc­tion to war came on Feb. 24, as his unit crossed into Ukraine from Bela­rus and deci­mat­ed a detach­ment of Ukrain­ians at the bor­der. ... mother: “When did you get scared?” leonid: “When our com­mand­er warned us we would be shot, 100%. He warned us that al­though we’d be bombed and shot at, our aim was to get through.” mother: “Did they shoot you?” leonid: “Of course. We defeat­ed them.” mother: “Mm. Did you shoot from your tanks?” leonid: “Yeah, we did. We shot from the tanks, machine guns and rifles. We had no losses. We des­troyed their four tanks. There were dead bodies ly­ing around and burn­ing. So, we won.” mother: “Oh what a night­mare! Lyon­ka, you want­ed to live at that mo­ment, right honey?” leonid: “More than ever!” mother: “More than ever, right honey?” leonid: “Of course.” mother: “It’s total­ly hor­ri­ble.” leonid: “They were ly­ing there, just 18- or 19-years old. Am I dif­fer­ent from them? No, I’m not.”
Leonid: First, he was shot in his leg. Then his ears were cut off.

Leonid #2: Leonid tells his moth­er their plan was to seize Kyiv with­in a week, with­out fir­ing a single bul­let. ... “It was so con­fus­ing,” he says. “They were well pre­pared.” When Leo­nid tells his moth­er cas­ual­ly about loot­ing, at first she can’t be­lieve he’s steal­ing. But it’s be­come nor­mal for him. As he speaks, he watches a town burn on the hori­zon. “Such a beau­ty,” he says.
leonid: “Look, Mom, I’m look­ing at tons of houses – I don’t know, doz­ens, hun­dreds – and they’re all emp­ty. Every­one ran away.” mother: “So all the peo­ple left, right? You guys aren’t loot­ing them, are you? You’re not go­ing in­to oth­er people’s houses?” leonid: “Of course we are, Mom. Are you crazy?” mother: “Oh, you are. What do you take from there?” leonid: “We take food, bed lin­en, pil­lows. Blan­kets, forks, spoons, pans.” mother: (Laughing) “You got­ta be kid­ding me.” leonid: “Who­ever doesn’t have any – socks, clean under­wear, T-shirts, sweat­ers.”

Leonid #3: Leo­nid tells his moth­er about the ter­ror of go­ing on patrol and not know­ing what or who they will en­coun­ter. ... mother: “Oh Lyon­ka, you’ve seen so much stuff there!” leonid: “Well ... civil­ians are lying around right on the street with their brains com­ing out.” mother: “Oh God, you mean the locals?” leonid: “Yep. Well, like, yeah.” mother: “Are they the ones you guys shot or the ones ...” leonid: “The ones killed by our army.” mother: “Lyon­ya, they might just be peace­ful people.” leonid: “Mom, there was a bat­tle. And a guy would just pop up, you know? Maybe he would pull out a gre­nade launch­er ... Or we had a case, a young guy was stopped, they took his cell­phone. He had all this infor­ma­tion about us in his Tele­gram mes­sages – where to bomb, how many we were, how many tanks we have. And that’s it.” mother: “So they knew every­thing?” leonid: “He was shot right there on the spot.” mother: “Mm.” leonid: “He was 17-years old. And that’s it, right there.” mother: “Mm.” leonid: “There was a pris­on­er. It was an 18-year-old guy. First, he was shot in his leg. Then his ears were cut off. After that, he ad­mit­ted every­thing, and they killed him.” mother: “Did he ad­mit it?” leonid: “We don’t im­pris­on them. I mean, we kill them all.” mother: “Mm.”

Leonid #4: Leonid tells his moth­er he was near­ly killed five times. ... Things are so dis­or­gan­ized, he says, that it’s not un­com­mon for Rus­sians to fire on their own troops – it even hap­pened to him. Some sol­diers shoot them­selves just to get medi­cal leave, he says. mother: “Hel­lo, Lyon­ech­ka.” leonid: “I just want­ed to call you again. I am able to speak.” mother: “Oh, that’s good.” leonid: “There are peo­ple out here who shoot them­selves.” mother: “Mm.” leonid: “They do it for the insur­ance money. You know where they shoot them­selves?” mother: “That’s sil­ly, Lyon­ya.” leonid: “The bot­tom part of the left thigh.” mother: “It’s bull–, Lyon­ya. They’re crazy, you know that, right?” leonid: “Some people are so scared that they are ready to harm them­selves just to leave.” mother: “Yeah, it is fear, what can you say here, it’s human fear. Every­body wants to live. I don’t argue with that, but please don’t do that. We all pray for you. You should cross your­self any chance you get, just turn away from every­one and do it. We all pray for you. We’re all wor­ried.” leonid: “I’m stand­ing here, and you know what the sit­u­a­tion is? I am now 30 meters (100 feet) away from a huge ceme­tery.” (Giggling) mother: “Oh, that’s hor­ri­ble ... may it be over soon.” Leo­nid says he had to learn to emp­ty his mind. “Imagine, it’s night­time. You’re sit­ting in the dark and it’s quiet out there. Alone with your thoughts. And day after day, you sit there alone with those thoughts.” He tells his girl­friend: “I al­ready learned to think of noth­ing while sit­ting out­side.” He prom­ises to bring home a col­lec­tion of bul­lets for the kids. “Tro­phies from Ukraine,” he calls them. His moth­er says she’s wait­ing for him. “Of course I’ll come, why wouldn’t I?” Leo­nid says. “Of course, you’ll come,” his moth­er says. “No doubts. You’re my be­loved. Of course, you’ll come. You are my hap­pi­ness.” Leo­nid re­turned to Rus­sia in May, badly wound­ed, but alive. He told his moth­er Rus­sia would win this war.

Maxim #1: It’s not clear what mili­tary unit Max­im is in, but he makes calls from the same phone as Ivan, on the same days. ... The hunt for locals –men, wom­en and chil­dren – who might be in­form­ing on them to the Ukrain­ian mili­tary is con­stant. Max­im is drunk in some of the calls, slur­ring his words, be­cause life at the front line is more than he can take sober. The on­ly rea­son Max­im is able to speak with his fam­ily back in Rus­sia is be­cause they’ve been steal­ing phones from locals. He says they’re even shak­ing down kids. “We take every­thing from them,” he ex­plains to his wife. “Be­cause they can also be f– spot­ters.” On calls home, the high sweet voice of Max­im’s own young child bub­bles in the back­ground as he talks with his wife. maxim: “Do you know how much a gram of gold costs here?” wife: “No.” maxim: “Rough­ly? About two or three thou­sand rubles, right?” wife: “Well, yeah ...” maxim: “Well, I have 1½ kilo­grams (more than three pounds). With labels even.” wife: “Holy f–, are we loot­ers?!” maxim: “With labels, yeah. It’s just that we f– up this ... We were shoot­ing at this shop­ping mall from a tank. Then we go in, and there’s a f– jewel­ry store. Every­thing was taken. But there was a safe there. We cracked it open, and in­side ... f– me! So the seven of us load­ed up.” wife: “I see.” maxim: “They had these f– neck­laces, you know. In our money, they’re like 30-to-40,000 a piece, 60,000 a piece.” wife: “Holy crap.” maxim: “I scored about a kilo and a half of neck­laces, charms, brace­lets ... these ... ear­rings ... ear­rings with rings ...” wife: “That’s enough, don’t tell me.” maxim: “Any­way, I count­ed and if it’s 3,000 rubles a gram, then I have about 3.5 mil­lion. If you off­load it.” wife: “Got it. How’s the sit­u­a­tion there?” maxim: “It’s f– OK.” wife: “OK? Got it.” maxim: “We don’t have a f– thing to do, so we go around and loot the f– shop­ping mall.” wife: “Just be care­ful, in the name of Christ.” Maxim: Because they can also be fucking spotters.

Maxim #2: Maxim and his moth­er dis­cuss the op­pos­ing stor­ies about the war be­ing told on Ukrain­ian and Rus­sian tele­vision. ... They blame the United States and re­cite con­spi­racy theo­ries pushed by Rus­sian state media. But Max­im and his moth­er be­lieve it’s the Ukrain­ians who are delud­ed by fake news and prop­a­gan­da, not them. The best way to end the war, his moth­er says, is to kill the pres­i­dents of Ukraine and the United States. Later, Max­im tells his moth­er that thou­sands of Rus­sian troops died in the first weeks of war – so many that there’s no time to do any­thing ex­cept haul away the bodies. That’s not what they’re say­ing on Rus­sian TV, his moth­er says. maxim: “Here, it’s all Ameri­can. All the wea­pons.” mother: “It’s the Ameri­cans driv­ing this, of course! Look at their labo­ra­tories. They are devel­op­ing bio­log­i­cal wea­pons. Coro­na­virus lit­eral­ly start­ed there.” maxim: “Yeah, I al­so saw some­where that they used bats.” mother: “All of it. Bats, migrat­ing birds, and even coro­na­virus might be their bio­log­i­cal wea­pon. They even found all these papers with sig­na­tures from the U.S. all over Ukraine. Biden’s son is the master­mind be­hind all of this. ... When will it end? When they stop sup­ply­ing wea­pons.” maxim: “Mm.” mother: “Un­til they catch (Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Volo­dy­myr) Zelen­skyy and exe­cute him, noth­ing will end. He’s a fool, a fool! He’s a pup­pet for the U.S. and they real­ly don’t need him, the fool. You watch TV and you feel bad for the peo­ple, the civil­ians, some trav­el­ling with young kids. ... If I was giv­en a gun, I’d go and shoot Biden.” (Laughs) maxim: (Laughs)

Maxim #3: One night last March, Max­im was hav­ing trou­ble keep­ing it to­geth­er on a call with his wife. ... He’d been drink­ing, as he did every night. He told her he’d killed civil­ians – so many he thinks he’s go­ing crazy. He said might not make it home alive. He was just sit­ting there, drunk in the dark, wait­ing for the Ukrain­ian artil­lery strikes to start. wife: “Why? Why are you drink­ing?” maxim: “Every­one is like that here. It’s im­pos­si­ble with­out it here.” wife: “How the f– will you pro­tect your­self if you are tipsy?” maxim: “Total­ly nor­mal. On the con­trary, it’s eas­ier to shoot ... civil­ians. Let’s not talk about this. I’ll come back and tell you how it is here and why we drink!” wife: “Please, just be care­ful!” maxim: “Every­thing will be fine. Hon­est­ly, I’m scared s–less my­self. I nev­er saw such hell as here. I am f– shocked.” wife: “Why the f– did you go there?” Minutes later, he’s on the phone with his child. ‘You’re com­ing back?” the child asks. “Of course,” Maxim says.

Maxim #4: In their last inter­cept­ed call, Maxim’s wife seems to have a prem­o­ni­tion. ... wife: “Is every­thing all right?” maxim: “Yeah. Why?” wife: “Be hon­est with me, is every­thing all right?” maxim: “Huh? Why do you ask?” wife: “It’s noth­ing, I just can’t sleep at night.” Max­im is a lit­tle breath­less. He and his unit are get­ting ready to go. His wife asks him where they’re go­ing. “For­ward, I won’t be able to call for a while.”

Ivan #1: Ivan was in Bela­rus on train­ing when they got a Tele­gram mes­sage: “Tomor­row you are leav­ing for Ukraine. There is a geno­cide of the Rus­sian pop­u­la­tion. And we have to stop it.” ... When his moth­er found out he was in Ukraine, she said she stopped speak­ing for days and took seda­tives. Her hair went gray. Still, she was proud of him. Ivan end­ed up in Bucha. ivan: “Mom, hi.” mother: “Hi, son! How–” ivan: “How are you?” mother: “Van­ya, I under­stand they might be lis­ten­ing so I’m afraid–” ivan: “Doesn’t mat­ter.” mother: “... to ask where you are, what’s hap­pen­ing. Where are you?” ivan: “In Bucha.” mother: “In Bucha?” ivan: “In Bucha.” mother: “Son, be as care­ful as you can, OK? Don’t go charg­ing around! Al­ways keep a cool head.” ivan: “Oh, come on, I’m not charg­ing around.” mother: “Yeah, right! And yes­ter­day you told me how you’re gon­na f– kill every­one out there.” (Laughs) ivan: “We will kill if we have to.” mother: “Huh?” ivan: “If we have to – we have to.” mother: “I under­stand you. I’m so proud of you, my son! I don’t even know how to put it. I love you so much. And I bless you for every­thing, every­thing! I wish you suc­cess in every­thing. And I’ll wait for you no mat­ter what.” Ivan: It is scary, Olya. It really is scary.

Ivan #2: Ivan calls his girl­friend, Olya, and tells her he had a dream about her. ... ivan: “F–, you know, it’s driv­ing me crazy here. It’s just that ... You were just ... I felt you, touched you with my hand. I don’t under­stand how it’s pos­si­ble, why, where ... But I real­ly felt you. I don’t know, I felt some­thing warm, someth­ing dear. It’s like someth­ing was on fire in my hands, so warm ... And that’s it. I don’t know. I was sleep­ing and then I woke up with all these thoughts. War ... You know, when you’re sleep­ing – and then you’re like ... War ... Where, where is it? It was just dark in the house, so dark. And I went out­side, walked around the streets, and thought: damn, f– it. And that’s it. I real­ly want to come see you.” girl­friend: “I am wait­ing for you.” ivan: “Wait­ing? OK. I’m wait­ing, too. Wait­ing for the time I can come see you ... Let’s make a deal. When we see each oth­er, let’s spend the en­tire day to­geth­er. Lay­ing around, sit­ting to­geth­er, eat­ing, look­ing at each oth­er – just us, to­geth­er.” girl­friend: (Laughs) “Agreed.” ivan: “To­geth­er all the time. Hug­ging, cud­dling, kiss­ing ... To­geth­er all the time, not let­ting each oth­er go.” girl­friend: “Well, yeah!” ivan: “You can go f– crazy here. It’s so f– up, the s– that’s hap­pen­ing. I really thought it would be easy here, to tell you the truth. That it’s just gon­na be easy to talk, think about it. But it turned out to be hard, you need to think with your head all the time. So that’s that. We are real­ly at the front line. As far out as you could be. Kyiv is 15 kilo­meters (about 10 miles) from us. It is scary, Olya. It real­ly is scary.” girl­friend: “Hello?” ivan: “Do you hear me?” The line drops.

Ivan #3: As things get worse for Ivan in Ukraine, his moth­er’s patriot­ism deep­ens and her rage grows. ... mother: “Do you have any pre­dic­tions about the end ...?” ivan: “We are here for the time be­ing. We’ll prob­ably stay until they clean up the whole of Ukraine. May­be they’ll pull us out. May­be not. We’re go­ing for Kyiv.” mother: “What are they go­ing to do?” ivan: “We’re not going any­where until they clean up all of these pests.” mother: “Are those bas­tards get­ting cleaned up?” ivan: “Yes, they are. But they’ve been wait­ing for us and pre­par­ing, you under­stand? Pre­par­ing prop­er­ly. Ameri­can moth­erf– have been help­ing them out.” mother: “F– f–. F– kill them all. You have my bless­ing.” ... Death came for Ivan. In July, a local paper pub­lished a notice of his funer­al with a pho­to of him, again in fatigues hold­ing a large rifle. Ivan died heroic­al­ly in Rus­sia’s “spe­cial mili­tary oper­ation,” the announce­ment said. “We will nev­er for­get you. All of Rus­sia shares this grief.” Reached by the AP in Jan­uary, Ivan’s moth­er at first denied she’d ever talked with her son from the front. But she agreed to lis­ten to some of the inter­cept­ed audio and con­firmed it was her speak­ing with Ivan. “He wasn’t in­volved in mur­ders, let alone in loot­ing,” she told the AP be­fore hang­ing up the phone. Ivan was her on­ly son.


 'THIS MADNESS'  A Russian Soldier's Journal
Forced march to unknown location.
▶ February 15 2022: I arrived to the train­ing ground [in Stary Krym, Cri­mea]. ... Our en­tire squa­dron, about 40 peo­ple, all lived in one tent with plank boards and one make­shift stove. Even in Chech­nya, where we only lived in tents or mud huts, our liv­ing con­di­tions were or­ganized bet­ter. Here we had no­where to wash up and the food was hor­ri­ble. For those who ar­rived later than the rest, me and about five other peo­ple, there was nei­ther a sleep­ing bag, nor camo, armor, or hel­mets left. I final­ly re­ceived my rifle. It turned out that it had a brok­en belt, was rusty and kept get­ting stuck, so I cleaned it in oil for a long time try­ing to put it in order. Around Feb­ruary 20, an order came for every­one to urgent­ly gather and move out, pack­ing light­ly. We were sup­posed to per­form a forced march to some un­known loca­tion. Some peo­ple joked that now we would at­tack Ukraine and cap­ture Kyiv in three days. But al­ready then I thought it is no time for laugh­ter. I said that if some­thing like this were to hap­pen, we would not cap­ture any­thing in three days.

Our salary per day $69.
▶ February 23 2022: The division com­mander ar­rived and, con­gra­tu­lat­ing us on the [Defend­er of the Fatherland] holi­day, an­nounced that start­ing from to­mor­row, our salary per day would be $69. ... It was a clear sign that some­thing serious is about to hap­pen. Rumors be­gan spreading that we are about to go storm Kher­son, which seemed to be non­sense to me. Every­thing changed that day. I no­ticed how peo­ple be­gan to change, some were ner­vous and tried not to com­mu­ni­cate with any­one, some frank­ly seemed scared, some, on the con­trary, were un­usual­ly cheerful.

It's started.
▶ February 24 2022: At about 4 a.m. I opened my eyes again and heard a roar, a rum­ble, a vibra­tion of the earth. ... I sensed an acrid smell of gun­powder in the air. I look out of the truck and see that the sky is lit bright from vol­leys. It was not clear what is hap­pen­ing, who was shoot­ing from where and at whom, but the weari­ness from lack of food, water and sleep dis­ap­peared. A min­ute later, I lit up a cigar­ette to wake up, and real­ized that the fire is com­ing 10-20 kilo­meters ahead of our con­voy. Every­one around me al­so be­gan to wake up and smoke and there was a quiet mur­mur: “It’s start­ed.” We must have a plan. The con­voy be­came ani­mated and start­ed to slow­ly move for­ward. I saw the lights switch on in the houses and peo­ple look­ing out the win­dows and bal­conies of five-story build­ings. It was al­ready dawn, per­haps 6 a.m., the sun went up and I saw a doz­en heli­copters, a doz­en planes, armored as­sault vehi­cles drive across the field. Then tanks ap­peared, hun­dreds of pieces of equip­ment under Rus­sian flags. By 1 p.m. we drove to a huge field where our trucks got bogged down in the mud. I got ner­vous. A huge col­umn stand­ing in the mid­dle of an open field for half an hour is just an ideal tar­get. If the enemy notices us and is near­by, we are f–ed. Many be­gan to climb out of the trucks and smoke, turn­ing to one from an­oth­er. The or­der is to go to Kher­son and capture the bridge across the Dnie­per. I under­stood that some­thing global was hap­pen­ing, but I did not know what exact­ly. Many thoughts were spin­ning in my head. I thought that we couldn’t just at­tack Ukraine, may­be NATO real­ly got in the way and we inter­vened. May­be there are al­so bat­tles go­ing on in Rus­sia, may­be the Ukrain­ians at­tacked to­gether with NATO. May­be there is some­thing go­ing on in the Far East – if Ameri­ca also start­ed a war against us. Then the scale will be huge, and nuclear wea­pons, then sure­ly some­one will use it, damn it. The com­mand­er tried to cheer every­one up. We are going ahead, leav­ing the stuck equip­ment be­hind, he said, and every­one should be ready for bat­tle. He said it with feigned courage, but in his eyes I saw that he was al­so freak­ing out. It was quite dark and we got word that we are stay­ing here un­til dawn. We climbed into sleep­ing bags with­out tak­ing off our shoes, lay­ing on boxes with mines, em­brac­ing our rifles.

We have communication problems.
▶ February 25 2022: Somewhere around 5 in the morn­ing they wake every­one up, tell­ing us to get ready to move out. ... I lit a cigar­ette and walked around. Our prin­ci­pal medi­cal offi­cer was look­ing for a place to put a wound­ed sol­dier. He con­stant­ly said that he was cold, and we cov­ered him with our sleep­ing bags. I was told later that this guy had died. We drove on ter­ri­ble roads, through some dachas, green­houses, vil­lages. In settle­ments we met oc­casion­al civil­ians who saw us off with a sul­len look. Ukrain­ian flags were flut­ter­ing over some houses, evok­ing mixed feel­ings of re­spect for the brave patriot­ism of these peo­ple and a sense that these colors now some­how be­long to an enemy. We reached a high­way at around 8 a.m. and ... I noticed the trucks of the guys from my squa­dron. They look kind of crazy. I walk from car to car, ask­ing about how things are. Every­one answers me in­com­pre­hen­si­bly: “Damn, this is f–ed up,” “We got wrecked all night,” “I col­lect­ed corpses from the road, one had his brains all out on the pave­ment.” We are ap­proach­ing a fork and signs point to Kher­son and Odes­sa. I am think­ing about how we will storm Kher­son. I don’t think the mayor of the city will come out with bread and salt, raise the Rus­sian flag over the ad­min­is­tra­tion build­ing, and we’ll en­ter the city in a parade col­umn. At around 4 p.m. our con­voy takes a turn and set­tles in the forest. Com­mand­ers tell us the news that Ukrain­ian GRAD rocket launch­ers were seen ahead, so every­one must pre­pare for shell­ing, urgent­ly dig in as deep as pos­si­ble, and al­so that our cars al­most ran out of fuel and we have com­mu­ni­ca­tion prob­lems. I stand and talk with the guys, they tell me that they are from the 11th bri­gade, that there are 50 of them left. The rest are prob­a­bly dead.

Surrounded local airport.
▶ February 26-28 2022: Filatyev’s con­voy made its way to Kher­son and sur­round­ed the local air­port, loot­ing stores in vil­lages along the way. ... On the third day, the con­voy re­ceived the or­der to en­ter Kher­son. Filat­yev was told to stay be­hind and cov­er the front-line units with mor­tar fire if neces­sary. He recount­ed hear­ing dis­tant fight­ing all day. The south­ern port city would be­come the first major Ukrain­ian city that Rus­sia cap­tured in its invasion.

Everyone ran wild.
▶ March 1 2022: We marched to the city on foot ... [around 5:30 p.m.] we ar­rived at the Kher­son sea­port. ... It was al­ready dark, the units march­ing ahead of us had al­ready occu­pied it. Every­one looked ex­haust­ed and ran wild. We searched the build­ings for food, water, showers and a place to sleep, some­one be­gan to take out com­pu­ters and any­thing else of value. Walk­ing through the build­ing, I found an of­fice with a TV. Sev­eral peo­ple sat there and watch­ing the news, they found a bot­tle of cham­pagne in the of­fice. See­ing the cold cham­pagne, I took a few sips from the bot­tle, sat down with them and be­gan to watch the news intent­ly. The chan­nel was in Ukrain­ian, I didn’t under­stand half of it. All I under­stood there was that Rus­sian troops were ad­vanc­ing from all direc­tions, Odes­sa, Khar­kov, Kyiv were occu­pied, they be­gan to show foot­age of brok­en build­ings and in­jured wom­en and chil­dren. We ate every­thing like savages, all that was there was, cereal, oat­meal, jam, honey, cof­fee. ... No­body cared about any­thing, we were al­ready pushed to the limit.

No clue what to do.
▶ March 2-6 2022: Filatyev’s ex­haust­ed con­voy was or­dered to push ahead to storm Myko­laiv and Odes­sa, though the Rus­sian cam­paign had al­ready be­gun to stall.... Filat­yev de­scribed how his unit wan­dered in the woods try­ing to reach Myko­laiv, about 40 miles away. He re­called ask­ing a senior offi­cer about their next move­ments. The com­mand­er said he had no clue what to do. The first re­in­force­ments ar­rived: sep­ar­a­tist forces from Donetsk, most­ly men over 45 in shab­by fatigues. Ac­cord­ing to Filat­yev, they were forced to go to the front lines when many reg­u­lar Rus­sian army sol­diers refused.

Some grandmother poisoned our pies.
▶ Into mid-April 2022: From now on and for more than a month it was Ground­hog Day. ... We were dig­ging in, artil­lery was shell­ing us, our avia­tion was al­most no­where to be seen. We just held posi­tions in the trenches on the front line, we could not shower, eat, or sleep prop­er­ly. Every­one had over­grown beards and were cov­ered in dirt, uni­forms and shoes be­gan to fray. [Ukrain­ian forces] could clear­ly see us from the drones and kept shell­ing us so al­most all of the equip­ment soon went out of or­der. We got a cou­ple of boxes with the so-called human­i­tarian aid, con­tain­ing cheap socks, T-shirts, shorts and soap. Some sol­diers be­gan to shoot them­selves ... to get [the gover­nment mon­ey] and get out of this hell. Our prison­er had his fin­gers and geni­tals cut off. Dead Ukrain­ians at one of the posts were plopped on seats, given names and cigar­ettes. Due to artil­lery shell­ing, some vil­lages near­by prac­ti­cal­ly ceased to exist. Every­one was get­ting angrier and angrier. Some grand­mother poi­soned our pies. Al­most every­one got a fun­gus, some­one’s teeth fell out, the skin was peel­ing off. Many dis­cussed how, when they re­turn, they will hold the com­mand account­able for lack of pro­vi­sion and in­com­pe­tent leader­ship. Some be­gan to sleep on duty be­cause of fatigue. Some­times we man­aged to catch a wave of the Ukrain­ian radio, where they poured dirt on us and called us orcs, which only em­bit­tered us even more. My legs and back hurt ter­ribly, but an order came not to evac­u­ate any­one due to ill­ness. I kept say­ing, “God, I will do every­thing to change this if I sur­vive.” ... I de­cid­ed that I would de­scribe the last year of my life, so that as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble would know what our army is now. By mid-April, earth got in­to my eyes due to artil­lery shell­ing. After five days of tor­ment, with the threat of los­ing an eye loom­ing over me, they evac­u­at­ed me.

Main enemy is propaganda.
▶ Post-April 2022: I survived, un­like many oth­ers. My con­science tells me that I must try to stop this mad­ness. ... We did not have the moral right to at­tack an­oth­er coun­try, es­pe­cial­ly the peo­ple clos­est to us. This is an army that bul­lies its own sol­diers, those who have al­ready been in the war, those who do not want to re­turn there and die for some­thing they don’t even under­stand. I will tell you a secret. The major­ity in the army, they are dis­satis­fied with what is hap­pen­ing there, they are dis­satis­fied with the govern­ment and their com­mand, they are dis­satis­fied with Putin and his poli­cies, they are dis­satis­fied with the Min­is­ter of De­fense who did not serve in the army. The main enemy of all Rus­sians and Ukrain­ians is prop­a­gan­da, which just fur­ther fuels hatred in peo­ple. I can no long­er watch all this hap­pen and re­main silent.



-|  April 2024  |-

 

  BIRTH OF THE CABLE CAR 

Prototype of the final design for San Francisco's cable car.
Beast of Burden
How San Fran­cis­co’s cable car came to be built will re­quire more than one stop on its tell­ing, wend­ing this way and that, and pass­ing land­marks of wealth and waste. 1869 ad for a horse-drawn carriage company.
Before the cable car, the task for get­ting to Nob Hill was rel­e­gated to pay­ing for a ride in a horse-drawn cab. On Octo­ber 11, 1869, this nec­es­sary yet wan­ton civic cruel­ty of us­ing ani­mals as beasts of bur­den changed for the good. The San Fran­cis­co Chron­i­cle had a front page arti­cle on the death of a wretch. It took place when a horse final­ly lost it on Cali­for­nia Street and, throt­tled, dragged down to its death.
Horse-drawn public transportation.
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When Andrew Hal­li­die read this, he paused and paced his in­ner office, re­flect­ing on what if any­thing he could learn from this. Hal­li­die was already pros­pe­rous, although not yet famous. He had in­heri­ted a com­pa­ny from his father. The sen­ior Hal­li­die had inv­ent­ed and then patent­ed a “steel cable”: strands of wire lined up and brai­ded into a rope that was super strong, and proved in­dis­pens­able in the gold fields and gold mines.
1848 ad for gold mining tools.
1872 ad for the Clay St Hill Ralway Co. Hallidie took on a failed con­cern: to build a con­vey­ance cap­a­ble of con­quer­ing the city‘s hills. He bought the Clay Street Hill Rail­way Co., and by May 1873 had built tracks and a cable as­sem­bly up Clay from Ports­mouth Square to Nob Hill, a ver­ti­cal climb of seven blocks.
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1873 cable car ticket.
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Early on August 2 1873, a proto­type was in place and, lantern-lit, Hal­li­die stepped on board. Acti­vat­ing a grip lever on­to a mov­ing cable, he as­cen­ded on that peril-prone mai­den voy­age. Few were awake to wit­ness, yet by open­ing day on Sep­tem­ber 1, the ser­vice was in de­mand. In 1880 over one mil­lion tic­kets were sold.
Locomotive Landmark
The first cable cars were tiny trams pow­ered by a patent­ed grip that alter­nate­ly holds, and releases, a con­tin­u­ous­ly mov­ing steel cable run­ning under the street. Power is sup­plied by huge drums housed at near­by power stations along the route. 1877 photo of dummy and trailer set-up.
The tram oper­a­tor is sta­tioned for­ward of the tram. He em­ploys the grip grabs and holds on to the mov­ing cable, the tram al­so moves. When grip is re­leased, tram stops, even on a hill, us­ing a gear inven­tion pre­vent­ing slip­page. Be­sides the tram oper­a­tor (grip­man) is the con­ductor.
The San Francisco cable car became a state registered landmark in 1877.
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Andrew Smith Halli­die was born on March 17, 1837 in Lon­don, to An­drew Smith (b.1798 Dum­frie­shire, Scot­land) and Julia John­stone (Locker­bie). He died April 24 1900, in San Fran­cis­co. Six years later his cable car system would survive the 1906 Earth­quake.
1880 postcard of a Naples cable car. Cable cars then sprouted world­wide, from New York to Hong Kong. Naples crowned its open­ing by com­mis­sion­ing a song, “Funiculi, Funi­cula.”
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1917 Hallidie Building.
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In 1917, Andrew Smith Hallidie had an inno­va­tive build­ing named for him. The Hal­li­die Build­ing (the architect is Wil­lis Polk) has a facade rising eight stories and sheathed in glass.
City of Cubes
When news of the dis­cov­ery of gold in Cali­for­nia trav­eled back east, the brawn and brains of a young nation came west­ward, where notions of Free­dom waltzed hand-in-glove with great­ness as well as greed. 1848 California Gold Rush.
Accord­ingly, access from the gold mines to San Fran­cisco were sur­veyed. Roads, bridges and tracks were built wher­ever gold was found, with way­sta­tions estab­lished for res­pite and re­cre­ation. The min­ing meth­ods these men brought with them quick­ly evolved to meet the chal­lenges posed by the Com­stock Lode and its trib­u­ta­ries.
Philipp and Mrs Deidesheimer.
 The Deidesheimers
1860 Deidesheimer Square Set drawing.
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The Indus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion cre­a­ted tools used in sci­en­tific pre­ci­sion­ing, al­low­ing in­no­va­ted mod­els to be test­ed and prof­it­ably man­u­fac­tured. Among these ideas was the in­ge­nuous “square set” cre­a­ted by ger­man en­gi­neer Philipp Deide­shei­mer. Grey Brechin picks up the um­bil­i­cal cord:
1860 Deidesheimer Square Set mdel.
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The Square Set intro­duced meth­ods of con­struc­tion. Deide­shei­mer’s gift went from con­struct­ing safe­ty zones to con­duct the back­break­ing busi­ness of min­ing into oth­er uses, in­clud­ing the abil­i­ty of a grid of steel beams and col­umns to al­low sup­port for more height.
1870 Equitable Life Assurance Building NYC. “Sky­scraper” came into usage in the 1880s; Amer­i­ca had fif­teen. These build­ings us­ual­ly came w/ mod­ern plumb­ing, elec­tri­cal out­lets in every room, a tele­phone line in every unit, cen­tral heat­ing, and an ele­vator.
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1870 Jayne Building Philadelphia and 1885 Home Insurance building Chicago. 1990 space elevator
❛ … NASA took a fresh look at the steel cable in light of a super ma­te­rial, car­bon nano­tube ... uber-strong, light and flex­i­ble. “Space Ele­vators: An Ad­vanced Earth-Space Infra­struc­ture for the New Mil­len­ium” is the feas­i­bil­i­ty paper of this new science, to erect a track run­ning on cables, from here to the Moon, a jour­ney of some 62,000 miles.❜ — Meghan Neal, February 28 2014.

Andrew Smith Hallidie 1837-1900
CABLE CAR NOTES
| Based on San Fran­cisco’s Golden Era by Lucius Beebe and Charles Clego (1060); Cable Car Days in San Fran­cisco by Edgar Myron Kahn (1940); The Head­light, March 1947, Western Pacific Club; Imperial San Fran­cisco: Urban Power, Earthly Ruin by Gray Brechin (1999); and on­line articles by Mary Bellis (“The History of Sky­scrapers”), Karen Barss (“Man­hat­tan’s Golden Age of Sky­scrapers”), and Meghan Neal (“Space Ele­vators Are Total­ly Pos­sible”) | A 1959 epi­sode of TV series Bonanza fea­tures a Phil­ipp Dei­de­shei­mer plot point. | Thank you Taryn Ed­wards, MLIS, Mechan­ics’ Institute. | Thank you Penelope Houston, SF Public Library.