Excerpts from a story at The Atlantic's Wire column:
Marine Corps officials say the Marines who posed with this Nazi SS flag did so because they had no idea those distinct S's were Nazi symbols, they just thought it was a neat font they could use to represent sniper scouts, the Associated Press's Julie Watson reports. "I don't believe that the Marines involved would have ever used any type of symbol associated the Nazi Germany military criminal organization that committed mass atrocities in WWII," Camp Pendleton spokeswoman Maj. Gabrielle Chapin told Watson. She summarized Chapin's explanation as the Marines making a "naïve mistake." The Marines will not be punished.Right. And if there are ten more U.S. Marines who are unfamiliar with the "SS" symbology, they can read about it here.
1) A U.S. military base in Afghanistan is called "Aryan" (photos and copies of supporting military documents at the link).
2) There is an interesting essay by a former U.S. Marine Corps scout-sniper, which begins as follows:
This is in reference to the recent article on Fox news re: USMC Scout-Snipers and the SS flag.Those interested can read the rest at the link.
My name is Kent Gooch. I was a USMC scout-sniper and Scout-sniper instructor from 1979-1989 as well as a US Army National Guard sniper instructor from 1995-1998. I have also written articles on the subject for multiple US magazines, co-wrote a book “The Military and Police Sniper” and conducted Police and Military competitions and training here in the US and Austria.
I am writing to tell you that the Shutzstaffel “SS” symbol has a deeper meaning than the USMC is aware of. The USMC spokesmen at Camp Pendleton have no idea of what they are talking about and the Marines that are using it aren’t probably even aware of the history of the “SS” usage, particularly with the 1st Marine Division Scout –Snipers, which is where it started.
This whole thing started with the Neo-Nazis led by Tom and John Metzger of Fallbrook, California in the 80’s. There were a few Marines at 1st Reconnaissance Battalion who were active with the neo-nazis. One of them was pretty well known as a recruiter...
When I first read this story, I assumed they made a picture with the more familiar Nazi flag. I could hardly believe the stupidity of that.ReplyDelete
Then I saw this. Honestly, I would not have known it was a Nazi flag, which makes me one of the ten, I suppose. How embarrassing!
I could see them using it as "Sniper Scout" and thinking the lightning font was neat. Talk about a major facepalm when you find out it is a Nazi flag.
Wow, I wouldn't have known this either, certainly not in my early 20s (as I assume these guys are).ReplyDelete
History is definitely a weak point for me, and I guess this symbol just slipped through the cultural cracks. I don't think I've ever seen it before, and out of context, I don't think I would even have identified it as letter Ss.
I'm not dumb, just ignorant of this, and it's not too crazy to think these kids might be the same.
Same here, had no idea,Delete
I concur. I would not recognize the symbol out of context.Delete
I have little to no interest in modern history, so I was also ignorant of this font's use by the SS.ReplyDelete
Another win for the U.S. educational system...ReplyDelete
and the kicker is- It is not the same as the nazi font. similar yes, the same, nope. I don't think the Germans were big into white fonts on navy blue fields either.ReplyDelete
But seriously, don't you kids watch "Star Trek" anymore?
I also didn't know this was a Nazi symbol. I'm in my early 40s.ReplyDelete
Put me in the 'don't buy it, they are in CYA mode' camp. Of everyone here who profess not to have known the SS symbol, were you also in the military, especially a branch of the military steeped in history and tradition? Like, y'know, the USMC?ReplyDelete
My stepson is going into the Marines after graduation. He and his JROTC buddies all read military history books and Nazi paperback novels. You can't tell me at least one of those ten guys didn't do the same.ReplyDelete
jk: speaking for myself, you're absolutely right. I was not in the military, nor was anyone in my family. None of us are history buffs.ReplyDelete
I should also clarify that I know what the SS is - I simply didn't recognize this symbol as those letters.
I do think it's strange (but not impossible) for a group of young soldiers to not recognize the symbol. I was mostly speaking to the last sentence in the post.
I saw this photo and assumed the S's were minimalist representations of Eames chairs. So the young men aren't into a mid-century Modern kick? Disappointing.ReplyDelete
In view of the responses received, I've modified the text to refer to armed forces personnel rather than the general public.ReplyDelete
One question. Where did they come up with the flag in the first place?ReplyDelete
I'm also skeptical that not one of these young guys knew this was a nazi symbol? skin heads have been tattooing this for years!ReplyDelete
A couple of things. I have no doubt that the Marines are in CYA mode right now, but I don't think it's outside the realm of possibility that these guys had no idea they were posing in front of a Nazi symbol. I blame the senior noncoms and officers who should know better. Second, if any of these fellas are from the South, they may have only ever seen the SS symbol as the logo of Southern States Cooperative. I went to college in North Carolina and every time I drove through Richmond, VA along I-95, there was a huge silo (or smokestack...I don't remember which) with a huge SS painted on it. The logo for Southern States looks remarkably similar to the Nazi SS symbol and I remember thinking that every time I drove through Richmond. You can check out their logo at www.southernstates.com. I think they've added those serifs since I last saw their logo and made the s a little more rounded. Maybe someone clued them in.ReplyDelete
I think JDJarvis summed it up best "another win for the US educational system"
And seriously, when are people going to start realizing that you need to assume anything you put online is essentially public information?
It's within the realm of possibility, but Marines respect efficient military organization(say what you will about the Nazis, they have that whole regimentation thing down), thrown in with the aforementioned history and tradition, it strains my credulity to believe otherwise. Which is where I have to beg off. I can't state any certain knowledge, so there's where I have to leave it.
But "Southern States Cooperative"? don't see it.
I did a pretty crappy job of making my point. I kind of rushed through that initial post because I was short on time. Here's all I'm saying:
1. I have learned to never underestimate the stupidity/ignorance of people or the degree to which they're uninformed. These guys should have known and some of them probably did. I just think it's possible (not probable) that some of those guys really didn't put two and two together to realize what they were posing in front of.
2. My Southern States comment bears some more explanation. The point I was trying to make was that if someone really didn't know about "The" SS, they might have seen the logo for Southern States and had a thought process like, "Well, it looks like the Southern States logo, and we're scout snipers, so it would be cool to use the two esses."
3. Ultimately, they should have known better.
Casey, I agree with you. I came upon this blog/commentary while searching for an image of the Southern States logo. I wanted to include it with a letter to my local newspaper about a bleeding-heart columnist's condemnation of the Marines. I found, as you did, that it has been changed, which probably wasn't such a bad idea. I remember the runic SS for the co-op from when I lived in VA around 1980. The only person I knew who noticed the Nazi connection was a Jewish friend who thought it was dumb, but humorously so.Delete
In a time when most high school students don't know about the Vietnam war or who we actually fought in WW2, must we assume that the Marines in question were fully aware of the Nazi SS insigna?
I was a history minor in college, and I served for six years in the Army National Guard. I have never seen that flag before in my life.ReplyDelete
The way I see it, we only have two choices here:
1) They knew it was a Nazi flag and were absolutely stupid to take this picture.
2) They were historically ignorant of the origins of the flag.
In scenario one, they are dumb in a way a simple class cannot fix.
In scenario two, they simply missed a somewhat obscure flag reference in history class.
I find scenario two more probable.
I've seen it more in the Prison Documentaries as all the white supremacists have them.ReplyDelete
What malarkey, I don't buy for a minute that people involved both there and commenting here don't know what the "SS" symbol is. So much for "personal responsibility". You know, forget just cracking a history book once in your life, I mean if only, IF ONLY there were some films or tv shows about WII or Nazi Germany. Yeesh. When Americans watch Hogan's Heroes are they confused about which guys are the Nazis and which are the allies?ReplyDelete
Hogan's Heroes? Was that a show in 1960? I've never seen it. I don't think my history book has that particular flag pictured. If you ask 100 people to draw a Nazi flag, I seriously doubt a single one of them will draw this one.Delete
"Personal responsibility" hardly includes familiarizing oneself with the flags of each nation. Try not to flip out, but this particular flag seems more like trivia than necessary education.
If Stan said that everyone knows what the symbols mean, then he was wrong. But as what it says now, that Marines especially and troops in general know about it - absolutely. Don't any of you guys play third person shooter video games???Delete
Funny, so many people claiming ignorance of pretty basic WWII history/imagery. Of course if the topic were early American government, or global warming, half of the people commenting would all of a sudden become experts on constitutional law and climate science.Delete
The vet who reported the incident doesn't buy it either:
f you ask 100 people to draw a Nazi flag, I seriously doubt a single one of them will draw this one.
Your assignment is to google image search "Nazi SS Flag" and see what you get.
Of course it will come up if you put in "Nazi SS Flag". Put in "Nazi Flag" and see what you get. I did it. The only this the "SS" flag came up was about 7 images in sixteen pages of Nazi flags. That's seven images in about 400 photos.Delete
I have a master's degree; I have a minor in history, and I served in the military for 6 years. I had never seen this flag before, and if I had, I didn't associate it with Nazis.
You're assuming all of us who didn't recognize it have enough of an interest in WWII to spend time studying it or watching media about it in lieu of other subjects more interesting to us (in my case, the Middle Ages and Late Antiquity are far more interesting eras of history).Delete
If I've seen this symbol before, it was only briefly in high school. The swastikas and arm bands I remember, but not this.
In a time when most high school students don't know about the Vietnam war or who we actually fought in WW2, must we assume that the Marines in question were fully aware of the Nazi SS insigna?Delete
I can't believe some people don't believe I (or others) could be ignorant of a historic detail. Have you not ever met a complete dumbass?ReplyDelete
I'm only half a dumbass and I simply have never seen (or retained knowledge of) this logo.
I'm not trying to explain or apologize for the soldiers' actions - they should have known, and possibly did know. But I have no reason to lie about my own personal ignorance. I got a reasonable, average American elementary education, then college, and this logo really did slip past me.
To all you naysayers:ReplyDelete
The SS insignia is on most Nazi soldiers' collars in every which Movie or TV series about them. Just google "Nazi insignia". Face close-ups, those letters are there on the _collar_ a lot of the times. You have seen them huge on a movie screens. On helmets on video games on your computer screens.
The idea that you need to be taught that the same font on flag would be connected to Nazis… …laughable. The Nazi image is perhaps the most obsessed over one in 20th century media, the plethora of movies, tv-series etc., and "never seen those letters before".
I don't believe you, it is not possible to live in a Western culture without seeing Nazi insignia in media. To be part of a western military and "not know about that", well, then you either like more than you want to admit or are in serious danger of mistaking your rifle for a toothbrush.
I am breaking my policy of only posting nice things on the web because I can not fathom the willful pretending to not know basic facts about holocaust.
What's next: "Oh, I didn't know KKK was a bad thing"? "I though it was a scary looking ghost, I am not racist".
You know what? I'm a tad bit skeptical of the folks who say they did know what it was. Especially those who make the very offensive claim that the people who say they didn't know are just pretending.Delete
If you think about it, people generally are more prone to say, "Oh, I knew that" even if they didn't than they are to admit ignorance, unless it involves a mistake they made. None of us here had our photo taken under an SS flag, after all; we have no reason to try to excuse ourselves by saying we didn't know. Some of us aren't even big fans of the military such that we'd want to defend these Marines even if we thought they were culpable.
Thomas, you should have stuck to your policy, IMHO, and perhaps made a greater effort at fathoming.
Yes, that is a great defense. "What, you have heard about these SS-troops before? I am skeptical of that. No one could know."Delete
So your argument is that everyone is ignorant of basic recent world history and that the American media is not filled with images like these, not neither you nor any of dozens of marines (that wasn't the only photo) had seen something like these:
Nor had e.g. never watched a single "Hitler gets angry video" (or the actual movie for that matter):
I know, how could anyone possible have seen ss insignia before?
And if you practise fathoming I was accusing the elite military of not knowing about their line of work's relatively recent dark history. A thing I would think would be raised at some point in the training.
We all make mistakes, it is one thing to admit that you made one, a completely other to feign ignorance and pretend you didn't make one when the mistake is posing in uniform infront of Nazi insignia.
In a time when most high school students don't know about the Vietnam war or who we actually fought in WW2, must we assume that the Marines in question were fully aware of the Nazi SS insigna?Delete
Here just a few pictures to prove my earlier point, starting from classic Star Trek for fraks sake:ReplyDelete
just Google image search "ss insignia".
Check out the Glam Rock Band KISS LogoReplyDelete
The S's are very similar.
Who knew they were sympathizers?
They knew it looked like the Nazi logo, so for their German albums and promotions, so they changed it to backwards Zs:Delete
I doubt Gene Simmons knew, but since Nazi symbols are illegal in Germany, the record company lawyers in Germany would have known.Delete
This movie is apparently the hottest ticket at the current Berlin Film Festival:
I can't wait (and it's not because I'm a Nazi).
Here's the teaser trailer from 2009 -Delete
@Bub - "I doubt Gene Simmons knew"Delete
Yeah, I bet that Gene - who was born Chaim Weitz (Hebrew: חיים ויץ) in August 25, 1949 - probably didn't give a toss about Nazis or WWII or any of that stuff his parents might've told him about.
Thanks, that site was a true TYWKIWDBI, but that Link popped up a threat on my AVG.ReplyDelete
Oh, and I agree with you the Marines should have known better.
I think you're being a little hard on the MarinesReplyDelete
Here are a few examples. One study of university students found that 40 percent could not place the Civil War in the correct half-century. Only 37 percent knew that the Battle of the Bulge took place during World War II. A national test of high school seniors found that 57 percent performed “below basic” level in American history. What does that mean? Over half of those tested couldn’t say whom we fought in World War II. Eighteen percent believed that the Germans were our allies in World War II!
Based on that, only 5 of them would have known we fought the Germans (probably fewer because a) guys who go into the Marine Corps probably weren't the best students in their high school and b) the Marines didn't fight in Europe during WWII). Expecting one of the other five to know about SS insignia is a leap.
People who think those boys are Nazi sympathizers are projecting an internal prejudice against service personnel or are afflicted with a hyper-sensitivity to antisemitism. They're willing to believe the worst about the Marines in the face of a reasonable alternative explanation (Sniper Scouts - they're all carrying sniper rifles, 99% of them didn't know and the other 1% didn't care but probably didn't have a swastika tattooed on their ankles). How is believing those boys are Nazi sympathizers different than believing that this picture ( http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_YltUXGlif0g/TRS1kANgggI/AAAAAAAAAx8/gzwMpGHSI7A/s1600/Hasidic+White_House.jpeg ) proves that the Hasidim are all Republicans (and right wing kooks to boot)?
This photo only echoes reports which have been surfacing since 2006.Delete
Of course that's not to say that all marines are skinheads - but it only takes "a few bad apples", right?
so you want idiots to be making life and death decisions on the battlefield?Delete
Bub is right. Angelus, ignorance does not make one an idiot. If you're so worried, why don't you enlist and give them the benefit of your knowledge?Delete
I don't think anyone was suggesting those boys are Nazi sympathizers... just unthinking enough to pose in front of a flag which is bound to stir highly charged emotions among the politically correct. I seem to recall a young prince of England having a similar lapse of judgement and wearing a Nazi uniform to a costume party...ReplyDelete
My initial response was "you must be kidding, no one knew what that was?!"
But as anonymous asked, where did that flag come from? Did they make it? Find it? Bring it with them? That answer might help lean the argument one way or another.
And if they were Nazi sympathizers, would they put it directly under the American flag? Lots of flags fly together, usually with the host country (or national emblem above the state emblem) at the top.
It just doesn't all fit. To me it just looks like a case of not thinking. Maybe some of those guys recognized the symbol but thought of it as "some badass symbol I've seen on some badass people". Given their circumstances, political correctness was probably not in the forefront of their minds.
I find it hard to believe, with all the war era films, (Schindler's list, Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers series, Valkyrie, etc) that NO ONE knew it was a Nazi symbol.ReplyDelete
timabobber, not everyone notices details in images. So the SS had the runic insignia on their collars - do you really think that a bunch of young guys watching a movie, probably sucking on a brew while waiting for the next explosion, actually recognized that?Delete
I'm european and read a lot about WWII... and a KISS fan, also!!ReplyDelete
Well, calling SS a criminal organization is too much... They were a special force with several divisions... some of them were connected to killing camps and other atrocities... but I'm not going to call a criminal organization to the SEALs just because they invaded an house and killed some persons, like they did with Osama Bin Laden. There is war and there is crime... and there is stuff that soldiers do just because someone above ordered.
The SS symbol are runes, stuff that existed way before nazis... They never used the SS runes with a blue backdrop... and general the SS runes were black, except in helmets or other stuff with a very dark background.
Don't see the bad of using old runes in a blue flag... I think, for an american force, it's worst use a confederate flag!
As for KISS, Gene Simmons mother was in a concentration camp as she is jewish. Gene is aware of the impact of the SS, but has no problems with it... the only problem is in Germany where their stuff has to be released without the runes. First time I knew about KISS was through a german mag and the logo was without the runes.
It's common going through roman pictures and find the solar wheel... that don't make ancient romans, nazis...
Graduated JROTC cadets would know for sure what resemblance those symbols have to SS runes - I am myself a graduate of a Navy JROTC program and can attest to a fabulous year of WWII history as part of the course. But given the very small ratio of JROTC cadets to non-JROTC cadets in any given Marine Corps unit, and yes, given the horribly inadequate nature of history education in the US educational system, I can believe that no one understood the problem with the symbols. I can also believe the USMC is in CYA mode, but really, isn't this just more proof that we need to revamp the way history is taught?ReplyDelete
Add me to the skeptic's list.ReplyDelete
13 yearold boys that want to grow up to be Marines -know- this s__t.
If US education did a better job of history, Vietnam would have been the end of it and yet, here we are....
Snipers deal death under command, not ideals. Their morale has little to do with the body count. God, country, core, mom, etc: the people in these foreign lands will suffer, regardless.
I'm a 53 year old woman. I've read quite a number of books about WWII (just this year I've read Unbroken and Sarah's Key) but I had no idea that was a Nazi Flag. I assume I've probably seen pictures of it before, but I really have no interest in flags so I don't remember. (I guess that makes me laughable.)ReplyDelete
so either they're idiots or nazis.ReplyDelete
I'm not sure which would be worse, frankly.
Angelus, as I said before, ignorance does not make one an idiot. If you're so worried, why don't you enlist and give them the benefit of your knowledge?Delete
To the others: not everyone notices details in images. So the SS had the runic insignia on their collars - do you really think that a bunch of young guys, probably sucking on a brew while waiting for the next explosion, actually recognized that? Or that they would be watching a tear-jerker like "Schindler's List" in the first place?
I have shown this image to 3 of my friends, all off them saw the SS - nazi connection, i cant belive so many people don't know the historical significance.ReplyDelete
I don't know how old you are, but I do agree with your comment. On the other hand, in a time when most high school students don't know about the Vietnam war or who we actually fought in WW2 - let alone details of their insignia - must we assume that the Marines in question were fully aware of the runic Nazi SS logos?Delete
Those who have commented in this discussion thread would probably be interested in the addenda I put on the post today, re a military base in Afghanistan named "Aryan" and re an open letter written by a former USMC scout-sniper.ReplyDelete
Well, considering that the area of Afghanistan and "Indian Subcontinent" was the home of the original Aryans, it sounds like a reasonable name to me. As for the locals getting upset about the country being referred to as an "Aryan nation", I doubt that many, if any of them have actually heard of the American neo-Nazi group, even if the liberal chatting class has. They probably would have been just as upset if someone called them "towelheads".Delete
The USMC has been using this for a while for the "Scout Sniper" badges, etc. its not the only institution that uses that design for anything relating a double-S, this isn't news. ALSO take a look at the many different designs for the german SS flag, it USUALLY features a skull and crossbones in the corner which is also one of the main symbols of the german SS. Our soldiers aren't Nazi's people. They aren't taking these pictures because they are white supremacists.. get real.ReplyDelete