What are the steps for carrying out a military takeover (coup d'état)?

Veto F. Roley
Veto F. Roley, studied at Washington University in St. Louis Answered Aug 20, 2018 · Author has 356 answers and 598.1k answer views This answer is developed from the principles in Luttwak's Coup de E’tat: A Practical Handbook, which, as J.I. Morgan, indicates, is a very informative book on coups.

The first thing you need to understand about a coup is that it is not a revolution. As such it does not need the support of the people or the elites. Outside the government leaders that you are going to identify, no one else in the nation really matters. Also, other than to forestall an invasion to reinstate the former ruler, contact/permission with neighboring nations is not needed. Indeed, you want to keep the plot as secret as possible and that means that you only inform those who must be told of the coup.

What is a coup? Simply put, a coup can be compared to a medical transplant. You are removing the head from the body and replacing the head. A successful coup is presented de facto to the body, which, in turn, recognizes its new head. Unlike a revolution or insurrection, even an invasion from outside the country, a coup is surgical and violent only to the extent that it needs to be violent. You can even make the argument that a perfect coup has no violence.

A second consideration is the democratic culture of a country. Another reason a coup in the United States would be very difficult to pull off — I won’t say “impossible”, but the difficulty of pulling off a coup in the United States approaches impossible — is that we have a very democratic, libertarian culture. We simply are not used to someone getting on nationwide television saying, “Follow me and do what I say. I am your leader, the man in power.” Coups work best in authoritarian states where the citizens have a culture of following the man on top. Since these citizens don’t have a say in their leaders, they really don’t care who their leaders are as long as they are safe at night in their homes, have food on the table, have jobs, and the trains run on time. In these non-democratic cultures, it’s very unlikely there will be any trouble once you lift the curfew at noon, or the next morning. Instead of getting their orders from Face A, the citizens are now getting their orders from Face B and are fine with that as long as normalcy is quickly restored.

The first step, then, is to determine where power lies in a country. A multi-headed country, even if there is a strong primary head, is not a good patient for a coup. For instance, if I was to attempt a coup in the United States, I could have my forces complete a midnight takeover — and coups are almost always done after business hours when most pesky bystanders are home — of the White House, Congress, Supreme Court building, Pentagon, civilian police stations, all television stations and radio stations, and all airports. I could have my men quickly move and arrest the 20/25 or so most important members of Congress and the nine Supreme Court justices. So when Washington wakes up in the morning, I can have the television and radio stations blaring out messages that I am now in control, that all citizens are to remain in their house, that there is a free-fire zone for people moving around, I have accomplished nothing except make the governors of about 50 states — a few governors might support me — and military commanders outside Washington DC aware there is a danger to the nation inside the capitol. Why? Even though I have removed the most important head in the United States — the heads of the Federal government — there are a whole lot of very powerful heads left. You can only pull off a successful coup where the power in a nation is concentrated in the hands of one person or only a few people. Only those elites who hold real power matter. Replace the political head and the other elites, like the rest of the body, will follow.

So, first, you need to know where the political power lies in the nation and ensure that political power is sufficiently narrow that you can take it out in one night. Make a mistake here and allow a powerful head to survive the coup, and it threatens your whole enterprise. In the morning, you want to be the only real voice speaking to the body.

Secondly, you need to identify the kingmakers in the military and civilian elite. These men and women may or may not be those identified in the first step. Not every elite is equal and, in a coup, most of the elites don’t matter at all. If one of these non-significant elites makes noise after the coup, you simply have him arrested and killed. Before you start the coup, you must know which kingmakers support you and which do not, and you have to find out which kingmakers do not support you without tipping them off to the coup. If word gets out that you are planning a coup, expect to be arrested and be imprisoned (and tortured) for either a very long period of time or, most likely, a very short period of time that ends with your execution (at least, when you are executed, you won’t be undergoing daily, intense torture). For those kingmakers who are not going to support you, you need to have a plan to neutralize them by daybreak, either through their death or arrest and conversion to your cause post-coup. Whereas you don’t have to worry about the other elites, these kingmakers have to be controlled.

Thirdly, you have to figure out the means of communication. What are the television and radio stations? Newspapers are a secondary consideration, but still a consideration, since they print their news and do not broadcast. What are the Internet POPs (Points of Presence)? Where are the POTS (plain old telephone services) switches and COs? Etc. In our national transplant surgery called a coup, think of this as disconnecting the nerve connections leading from the head to the body and vice versa. For a few hours, you have to make the central government go absolutely silent — no communications in, no communications out. The government can not be allowed to contact its supporters outside the capitol until you are in control and the coup is fact accompli and it doesn’t matter anymore. Make a mistake here and you could face the armored battalion that Dear Mr. President, whom you are trying to remove, placed 10 miles outside the town to protect him against people like you. Now, and here’s the bluff, once you are in control of the levers of power the next morning and have had the television stations show either a bloodied Dear Mr. President being led away in handcuffs or his dead body covered by a sheet, that armored battalion commander will, to a very high degree of probability, support you. But, you must prevent Dear Mr. President from communicating during a coup.

Fourthly, you have to block any sympathetic reaction from military and police forces to the coup. You are carrying this out this action at night, after most people have went to bed, including most key members of the army and police forces. So, you are going to have some time as these leaders are awakened and have to shake the fog of sleep out of their heads. You need to identity the key roads and highways leading to the power center and have a blocking force set up. You don’t need to have forces to defeat the incoming armored battalion, just enough to block the battalion (aka a machine gun or two set up on the opposite end of a key bridge) and ensure it won’t interfere with the coup. You are going to need to seize all train stations, bus stations, airports, and ports near the capitol. Again, you are doing this at night, when most people are asleep, so seizing these facilities should be easier.

Next, you have to identify your team. Your team has to be large enough to carry out the missions in the first four steps, but small enough so you are reliably assured of keeping a secret. I don’t need to remind you that choosing the wrong people here probably will result in Dear Mr. President arresting you, your family, and most of your friends (in medical terms, just as you are trying to perform a transplant, he is trying to surgically remove a cancer and some healthy tissue has to be removed to ensure that all the cancer cells are removed), torturing all these people to find out what they know and comparing their stories, which is the only way torture reveals any useful information, and either executing everyone, most likely, or handing out very long sentences in a very dank and toxic prison, less likely. So, you have to be careful here. Now, not everyone involved in your coup has to be part of your team since we are talking about a nation with few, if any, democratic impulses. For instance the privates, NCOs, and junior officers in the military forces you are using to block support and seize facilities can often be treated like mushrooms: kept in the dark and fed crap. These men are going to follow their senior officers who must be on your team. In fact, many of these men can be told they are protecting Dear Mr. President from a coup attempt launched by the colonel commanding the armored battalion coming into the city. They aren’t going ask questions and if your coup succeeds, you are in charge and who cares if they feel betrayed as they are powerless to do anything about it. And if your coup fails, they are being tortured and facing execution and long prison terms along with your family and friends. Exactly how many people do you need on your team? That’s a good question and depends on the country and context of the coup. However, you need to always keep in mind that the more people you have on your team, the more likely it is for your coup to be discovered. As Ben Franklin once observed, the only way two people can keep a common secret is if one of them is dead. This problem grows exponentially as each possible team member is approached. You have to have a team to carry out your coup, but it only takes one person to betray your coup.

In this step, you may want to look at your neighbors. President Greedy leading the nation to your north may not be happy with Dear Mr. President as he will not give him favorable trade terms on export and/or import items, or have some other issues such as Johnson deciding Diem was not exactly who we needed to run South Vietnam. President Greedy may think you would be easier to negotiate with and offer you specialist assistance or even forces to help take your objectives and secure the coup. Again, you have to be really careful here as President Greedy is looking at his and, possibly, his nation’s best interest and his support today could turn to opposition tomorrow due to changing political contexts. Also, you can expect Dear Mr. President to have spies in President Greedy’s government. And while some people in your country may forgive you for plotting a coup, a lot would see your working with President Greedy as a more sinister and worse type of treason.

Next, you have to plan your coup. And, since you are a small force trying to topple a leader who has much stronger forces at his command, this step has to be very intricate and must anticipate close to 100 percent of what will happen that night. Forget a small detail and the torturer is playing with your balls and you are telling him any answer you think will end the pain. Who is going to block the major highway leading into the capitol? How are you going to bring the Internet down? Are you going to have the television and radio stations in time to announce to a waking capitol and country that you are now in control? Everything has to be planned down to the smallest detail.

Then you have to carry out your plan and it has to be executed flawlessly. In Operation Valkyrie, in World War II, the plan went almost flawlessly *EXCEPT* for an unaccounted-for officer moving the bomb-containing briefcase to the other side of a very heavy conference table. One simple mistake and, even if everything, and I mean everything, goes perfectly according to plan, and you are begging the torturer for the one thing he will not give you at that moment: death in order to end your pain. Not only must the execution be flawless, but you are not going to be able rehearse the vast majority of your plan. Further, you are relying on people not asking questions. You are relying on the public, police, military forces, and government bureaucrats simply accepting that you are in control and life going on as normal. You are relying on the privates, NCOs, and junior officers in your blocking forces and other tactical forces following orders as normal and believing your cover story. There are so many pieces that have to fall into place that it is almost like a Rube Goldberg machine and, since you can’t alert the government to your coup plans, there are only very few pieces you can test and rehearse beforehand, you have to rely on everything falling in place. If you are successful, you are the new President. If you are unsuccessful, you can only hope Dear Mr. President leaves you with a grandchild or great grandchild to tend to your unmarked grave.

EDIT (forgot to add one other item): This is implied throughout my answer, but you must have tactical and strategic surprise. The higher level of surprise you achieve, the greater chance you have in carrying out your coup. Ideally, you want Dear Mr. President dead or in handcuffs before he starts to fully figure out what is happening. (End EDIT).

Finally, stores have to open, traffic has to flow, the trains have to run on time, etc. and etc., as quickly as possible. As long as the people are ensured that nothing will really change, or change for the worse, for them, they aren’t going to be a major source of problems for you in the weeks and months following the coup. But, if they lose their jobs because of economic uncertainty and unrest, if they can’t feed their families, if stores don’t open, etc. and etc., the people lose their faith in you. If you can lift the curfew by noon or NLT the next morning and restore normalcy, you don’t have to worry about the people, nor the military — at least in the short term. But, every moment that you can’t restore normalcy, you risk civil unrest and military insurrection from the illegitimacy of your seizure of government power. You could be a hero or just another dictator overthrown by a coup in three years or less.

How Does China Enforce Its One-Baby Policy?


Most people have heard that in China, you're only allowed to have one kid. But does that apply to everyone? And how is that enforced?

How did this whole thing start?

When Mao Zedong declared the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, he envisioned China as a superpower. A great nation would need lots of manpower behind its army and economy, so Mao encouraged the Chinese to multiply. The new communist government condemned birth control and banned imports of contraceptives, and the population almost doubled under Mao's reign.

This growth quickly strained the country's food supply, and in 1955, the government reversed course and launched a campaign promoting birth control. Over the next two decades, during which China went through the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, the government flip-flopped on population control and ran propaganda campaigns promoting or condemning it, depending on their need for a labor force. The population rose and fell accordingly, but by the mid 1970s, it had leveled off, and China had a quarter of the world's people living on just 7 percent of world's arable land. Growth was just around the corner, with the majority of the population under 30-years-old and getting ready to have children. Another Mao-style population boom would have been disastrous, straining resources and threatening standards of living. Birth control propaganda wouldn't cut it, and the government sought a more forceful method of population control. In 1979 they introduced a policy that limiting some families to having only one child.

Does it apply to all 1 billion+ Chinese?

No. The one-child policy (or, translated from the Chinese name, "policy of birth planning") only applies to 40% to 63% of the population, depending on whether you're talking to China's National Population and Family Planning Commission or American academics. Specifically, the policy applies to urban married couples who are part of the nation's Han ethnic majority.

Who gets an exemption?

Wang Feng, a sociologist at UC Irvine who's studied the policy and its effects, says that the system of exemptions is about as complex as the American tax code. Among those who pretty much have blanket immunity to the policy are all non-Han ethnic groups, anyone living in Hong Kong or Macau, and foreigners living in China/

Since the policy is enforced at the provincial level, other groups can get exceptions in certain areas. In some rural areas, families are allowed a second if the first is a girl or is mentally or physically disabled. Some provinces allow couples to have two children if neither partner has siblings, or if either is a disabled military veteran. After an earthquake devastated the province of Sichuan on 2008, the provincial government extended an exception to parents who had lost children in the disaster.

Some provincial exemptions can get a little bizarre. The New York Times reports that couples in Zhejiang can have two kids if the wife has one sister and her husband lives with her family to help take care of her parents. The sister doesn't get an exception, though. Beijing makes an exception for couples where the husband’s brother is infertile and does not adopt a child and both husbands have rural residence permits. In Fujian a couple can have a second kid if the provincial population density is less than 50 people per .38 square miles, or one person per 11 acres at the time, or if each spouse farms at least an acre and a half of land.

How is the policy enforced?

Population and Family Planning Commissions exist at the national, provincial and local levels of government to promote the policy, register births, and carry out family inspections. Provincial governments are responsible for enforcing the policy and do so through a mix of rewards and punishments doled out by local officials. In most provinces, having a an extra child gets you a fine, the amount of which varies across provinces. In some places, the fine is a set amount (usually in the thousands of dollars), and in others it's based on a percentage of the violator's annual income. In some provinces, policy violators can also have their property and/or belongings confiscated and lose their jobs.

Couples who delay having a child, or who voluntarily follow the policy even if they're exempt, get some perks for playing along. Depending on the province where they live, they may receive a "Certificate of Honor for Single-Child Parents," a monthly stipend from the government, special pension benefits, preferential treatment when applying for government jobs, free water, tax breaks, or bonus points on the child's school entrance exams.

Are there any loopholes or workarounds?

Nature always finds a way, and in China, money helps nature along greatly. In many rural areas and even some urban ones, couples can pay a fee to the local government and receive a permit to have a second, third or even fourth child.

Couples can scam the government, too, and hide extra kids by registering the birth under a false name or in a different province. If a province allows second children in the event of the first being disabled, couples might be able to stretch the definition of "disabled" in their favor. In Hunan, for example, some people got exemptions because of first borns with problems as minor as nearsightedness.

Has the policy been effective?

This graph of the country's birth rate certainly suggests so, and Chinese authorities claim the policy has prevented roughly 400 million births between 1979 and 2011. The government says that the population controls have kept air and water pollution down and lessened the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by some 200 million tones (versus the amount that would have been released with an unchecked population).

When the government introduced the policy in 1979, they were shooting for a target population of 1.2 billion by the year 2000. That year's census recorded just over 1.29 billion people, which is pretty close. But studies both from China and the U.S. have suggested that the official numbers may be an underestimate because of unreported births and other policy violations and manipulation by government officials.

Over Population and the Effects on Our Economy & the Environment!

In our time it can without doubt be said that the challenges which the world faces are poverty, environmental catastrophe and a challenge to maintain world stability. There is however one underlining factor in all of these, one that our politicians and world leaders seem to avoid constantly under the blanket of human rights and political correctness – over population.

We have an unsustainable life style in the modern world that is attached to an unsustainable growth economy. As intelligent as we are, we are not wise enough to figure out a way to make the changes needed. I meet no one who privately disagrees that population growth is a problem. No one – except flat-earthers – can deny that the planet is finite. We can all see it in that beautiful picture of our earth taken from the Apollo mission. So why does hardly anyone say so publicly? There seems to be some bizarre taboo around the subject. “It’s not quite nice, not PC, possibly even racist to mention it.” And this taboo doesn’t just inhibit politicians and civil servants who attend the big conferences. It even affects the people who claim to care most passionately about a sustainable and prosperous future for our children, the environmental and developmental Non Government Organisations. Yet their silence implies that their admirable goals can be achieved regardless of how many people there are in the world, even though they all know that it can’t.

With that said, we have developed ways of growing increasing amounts of food albeit not sustainably! That has been a huge and continuing advance, a consequence of our intelligence, our increasing skills and our ability to look ahead. But none of these great achievements will be of any avail if we do not control our numbers.

The general loss of biodiversity, deforestation, extinction of species, marine & ocean pollution(which has become the human toxic rubbish dump) worldwide should be of a major concern to all of us as the decimation and destruction of our environment will cause major problems for our ever growing human population which is putting immense pressure on our natural resources and environment. Unfortunately, as long as the excessive world population continues to grow, economic growth will be needed to serve that growth. Peak oil and depletion of resources will end growth, both population growth and economic growth. All I can say is that the future does not look promising or peaceful for that matter. The reality is that we live on a finite planet with finite resources!

Africa’s population is increasing exponentially and it’s not showing any signs of slowing down. The only probable solution is to encourage a culture of learning and good education. However this is the hard way. I am not convinced that our government - in fact world leaders are heading this way, they are simply ignoring the facts. Or we can try and go the Chinese way where the government implements a one child policy and tax people per extra child, thus discouraging them from having more children. However, this has been frowned as a human rights violation and the idea would be laughed at in South Africa and other African countries. Other options would be to have widely(free) available contraceptives and rewarding a person not to have children, especially in developing countries; another option would be to reward/pay them (him) to have a vasectomy.

The human race is the only race that is expanding out of control while every other species (except the barbaric practice of factory farmed animals) is experiencing negative growth due to our increasing food and consumption demands. Unfortunately, society at large is far too sanctimonious to face up to the harsh reality of this imminent global catastrophe.

Each day it becomes more apparent that we are on a misguided mission. Pursuit of perpetual economic growth is not a winning proposition for a lasting prosperity. Building a bigger economy can make sense in some circumstances, but always aiming to build a bigger economy means taking an ever-bigger chunk out of the earth’s ecosystems and the life-support services they provide. Why, then, do so many people believe in the fantasy of infinite growth on a finite planet? Is it because we can’t come up with a better idea? Is it because the rich and powerful have trapped the rest of us in their web of conspiracy? Is it because people are hopelessly greedy and materialistic?

Ignorance is bliss for most of us. Therefore, the often the greater our ignorance about something, the greater our resistance to change.

I would highly recommend everyone to watch this video by David Attenborough https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3TMtvS8VeU I would also recommend you watch his other video called,’ How many people can live on planet earth-BBC)

Those who fail to see that population growth and climate change are two sides of the same coin are either ignorant or hiding from the truth. These two huge environmental problems are inseparable and to discuss one while ignoring the other is irrational.” Dr. Lovelock, scientist

“It's no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society" Jiddu Krisnamurti

The Death of The Unforgettable Ethiopian Hero

WASHINGTON, DC - Retired Air Force General Legesse Teferra, the most-decorated fighter pilot in his native Ethiopia, died on Wednesday October 12 2016 after losing a battle to Alzheimer’s. General Legesse rose to prominence during the 1976/77 Ethio-Somali War in which he destroyed five MiG fighter planes of Somalia in an air-to-air combat, and later destroyed a sixth plane that was on the ground along with other enemy arsenal. General Legesse was shot down and captured by Somalia in which he was held a prisoner of war for 11 years most of which time was in solitary confinement. General Legesse returned to Ethiopia during an exchange of POWs, and was promoted to the position of Brig.-General, while he was decorated with the highest order for heroism. While serving his country as an instructor at Debre Zeit Air Force base, the national hero was forced into exile when TPLF/EPRDF took over the reigns of power in 1991.

Gen. Legesse. attended the Harar Military Academy before joining and graduating from Flight Training Squadron. As an Ethiopian hero, a professional of the highest order, and a patriot, he went beyond the call of duty in the defense of Ethiopia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity during the invasion of Ethiopia by Siad Barre's forces of Somalia during late 1970s. Gen. Legesse, then a flying officer, went on a mission flying F-5 E fighter jet. He destroyed six of Somalia’s fighter jets in an air-to-air combat and on the ground. He also destroyed much of the invading army’s weaponry on the ground during that eventful and historic mission before he was shot down by enemy fire. Gen. Legesse was then captured and suffered for eleven years in solitary prison in Somalia. After eleven years , he was finally released and came to his beloved country as result of a prisoners of war exchange agreement made between the then government of Ethiopia and that of Somalia. Upon his return in 1988, Lt. Colonel Legesse was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General and awarded Ethiopia’s highest order of medal for heroism (Ye Hibretesbawit Ethiopia Ye Jegna Medalia) . For the past several years, Gen. Legesse has been a resident in the Washington Metro area with his family. The General is survived by two children, Nestanet Legesse and Lulit Legesse.

An Ethiopian Hero of The Korean War

By Alex Last

BBC World Service

25 September 2012

From the section Magazine

Sixty years ago, Ethiopia was at war. Not in Africa, but thousands of miles away in Korea. This is the story of one Ethiopian officer who won a US gallantry award. In 1951, the Ethiopian Emperor, Haile Selassie, decided to send thousands of troops to fight as part of the American-led UN force supporting South Korea against the communist North and its ally, China. They were called the Kagnew battalions and were drawn from Haile Selassie's Imperial Bodyguard - Ethiopia's elite troops. Capt Mamo Habtewold, now 81 years old, was then a young lieutenant in the 3rd Kagnew Battalion. He clearly remembers a send-off from the Emperor himself, as he was about to leave for the other side of the world. "Always when a battalion went to Korea, he came himself and made a speech and he gave each battalion a flag - and he ordered us to bring that flag back from Korea," Mamo recalls. When Ethiopia had been invaded by Italy in 1935 Haile Selassie had condemned the League of Nations for its failure to act. Now, as a staunch ally of the US, he was eager to practise what he had preached. "As you know our King, Haile Selassie, was a great man for collective security. And when the UN asked him for troops for Korea, he accepted without any question," Mamo says. Mamo was himself keen to go, especially after the first Ethiopian battalion sent to Korea returned in 1953.

"Everyone was boasting when they came back from Korea, so everybody wanted to fight," he says. We were the best fighters... no Ethiopian soldier was taken prisoner in the Korean War Mamo Habtewold The Ethiopians fought as part of the US 7th Division. At the time, the American army had only just started to become racially de-segregated. But for Mamo discrimination was not an issue. "You know Ethiopia has a 3,000-year history as an independent country. We Ethiopians were proud and boasting that we were Ethiopians. We don't care about any colour. The Americans didn't call us 'Negro' as we would be angry," he says. And Mamo is proud of their record in Korea. "We were the best fighters. The three Ethiopian battalions fought 253 battles, and no Ethiopian soldier was taken prisoner in the Korean War," he says. "That was our Ethiopian motto: 'Never be captured on the war field.'" That motto was put to severe test.

In 1953, while peace talks dragged on, the two sides hoped to strengthen their negotiating position by battling for control of the barren, rocky hills and ridges which lay in front of the main UN front line. Some of the hills had nicknames: Old Baldy, T-bone and, most famously, Pork Chop Hill. Defence of this area was assigned to the US 7th Division, which included the Ethiopian Kagnew battalion. One night in May 1953, Mamo led a small patrol down from his hilltop outpost to scout out the land below. What he didn't know was that his patrol was about to be enveloped in a major Chinese army assault. "We were 14 Ethiopians and one American in our patrol. It was written later that we were fighting 300 Chinese soldiers - one man against 20," he remembers. Four members of the patrol were killed, including the American corporal. Everyone else was wounded.

Selassie's Korean army Ethiopia sends three 1,200-strong battalions Soldiers drawn from emperor's imperial bodyguard First Kagnew battalion arrives in May 1951 Assigned to US 7th Infantry Division Ethiopians fight in a number of engagements including Battle of Pork Chop Hill Ethiopian casualties: 121 killed, 536 wounded Discover more about the Korean War Find out if your ancestors fought in Korea "They tried to take my radio operator prisoner, but I killed the Chinese soldier and saved that man. And one time they came to finish us when we were all wounded, and I was left with one hand grenade and I killed them. It was very hard." The fighting continued on and off through the night. Cut off, his men wounded, Mamo feared they could not hold out much longer.

"I was wounded several times, I was tired, exhausted and I fell unconscious twice. The most important thing was to find a radio to contact the American artillery. But my three radios were destroyed. It's like a man who is living with his family, and all the family is dead and he returns to an empty house Mamo Habtewold "I gave one soldier my pistol to cover me while I went looking for a radio. I fainted again, and I was afraid I might be captured, I wanted to kill myself. But when I ordered the soldier to give me my pistol back, he refused, and the other soldiers said 'Don't give it to him!'" So Mamo decided to fight on, after all. "I just looked for a weapon from one of the dead men, and when the Chinese attacked I would shoot, and when it was quiet, I would look for a radio," he says. In the end he did find a radio. He called in American artillery which halted the Chinese attacks. Reinforcements got through and under the cover of smoke he and his wounded soldiers were withdrawn. Back at base, Mamo was the only one of his patrol left standing. "They all went to hospital. I was the only one who went back to the bunker. It's like a man who is living with his family, and all the family is dead and he returns to an empty house - that is how I felt. I was so sorry. I was very depressed."

Cold War conflict UN poster North Korean forces invade the south - 25 June 1950 UN resolution condemns invasion - 26 June 1950 Ethiopia is among 16 countries to send troops Armistice ends fighting - 27 July 1953 For his actions, he was awarded Ethiopia's highest military honour. The Americans also gave him a Silver Star for gallantry in action. More than 3,000 Ethiopians fought in the Korean War, more than 120 were killed, more than 500 were wounded. The survivors returned to Addis Ababa as heroes. "It was really a big day, especially when we came back from Korea, we brought back our dead soldiers. In Addis Ababa it was so crowded. Half of the crowd were weeping, half were celebrating," Mamo says. After the war, Mamo was promoted to captain. He was forced to leave the army in 1960 in the aftermath of an attempted to coup by members of the Imperial Bodyguard. He went on to have a career as a businessman and administrator. This year the South Korean government announced it would give pensions to the surviving Ethiopian veterans of the Korean War. Mamo still hopes to return to South Korea one last time and see the place where he became an Ethiopian war hero.

Alex Last's interview with Capt Mamo was broadcast on the BBC World Service's Witness programme. You can download a podcast of the programme or browse the archive.

Ethiopian general who fought fascism: Jagama Kelo

Martin Plaut / 05/11/2012

Jagama Kelo was just fifteen years old when he went to fight the Italian invasion of Ethiopia, which began on the 3rd of October 1935. In an interview with the BBC’s Elizabeth Blunt (now in the Imperial War Museum in London) he described his war experiences. The Italian forces, under Generals Rodolfo Graziani and Pietro Badoglio, had steadily pushed back the ill-armed and poorly trained Ethiopian army, taking Addis Ababa, on 5th of May 1936.

Fighting the invasion

Jagama Kelo, was at that time no more than a young man. He was the son of a wealthy landlord,who owned 900 acres of farms with his uncle, in the Gimchi area of Shewa, not far from Addis Ababa. Jagama had heard tales of his brave ancestors as a boy and hoped to emulate them. When the Italian invasion took place Jagama saw his chance. With his elder brother and uncle, he took to the bush, determined to resist. At first he had no gun – only his elder brother had one. But they ambushed Italian troops and gradually armed themselves. Peasants joined the struggle and by the end of the war they had over 3,000 fighters under their command. The largest battle he recalled was at Seyoum Mariam, some 55 km from Addis. Jagama says they were told by a woman fighter where to find the Italians and in a surprise attack broke through their lines. They killed 72 Italians in the engagement, capturing some 3,000 rifles.

The Emperor returns

On 5th May 1941, after years in exile in Britain, the Emperor Haile Selassie returned to his capital. Jagama, who had received no British help during the 5 years of the war, refused to go to Addis Ababa for the ceremony. In the end the Emperor came to Gimchi. Jagama says he put his 3,500 troops on parade, to greet Haile Selassie. He was then driven in the Emperor’s own car to his palace, where he was awarded a gabardine coat and a gold watch. But the war was not yet over. Jimma was still under Italian control. The Emperor asked Jagama for help and he says he led his forces into battle. Reports suggest the area was ‘swarming with Patriots’ – many of whom may have been loyal to Jagama. He told the BBC that his forces captured some 500 Italian soldiers, whom he handed over to the British. There was one more twist to this story. Jagama became dangerously ill with malaria and was taken to hospital in Addis Ababa. But the British doctor refused to treat him until he had a haircut. But Jagama was very proud of his ‘afro’, since it had scared his enemies and he refused and went home. It was only when the Emperor came to his house and personally ordered that his hair be cut to save his life that he gave in and accepted his fate.

After the war

The war was over, but Jagama remained in the military, rising to the rank of Lieutenant General. His story, and the story of the Africans who fought in the Second World War is recounted in a BBC documentary. He remained loyal to Emperor Haile Selassie when others deserted him, and was one of a number of Oromo officers who refused to participate in the ill-fated coup of 1960. Jagama was also instrumental in crushing a rebellion in Bale in the 1960’s and was rewarded by being appointed provincial military commander.

The Weird History of the Molotov Cocktail


From Nazi Resistance to Ferguson's Unrest:

The Weird History of the Molotov Cocktail


August 18, 2014

In their tear-gassed standoffs with police in Ferguson, Missouri, some protesters have retaliated with the weapon of urban revolutionaries and improvisational militaries alike: the Molotov cocktail. Easy and cheap to make, the Molotov cocktail is thought to have been invented during the Spanish Civil War, where it was used by the Republicans against Nationalist tanks. The original design was a mixture of tar, ethanol, and gasoline in a beer bottle, creating a substance that's both sticky and flammable either an oil-soaked rag or a long, wind-proof match is inserted into the bottle’s mouth to act as a wick. When the "bottle bomb" hits its target, the sticky mixture of fuel and flame ignite, causing a large fireball and coating whatever it hits with fire. But why is the weapon named after Vyacheslav Molotov, the Soviet foreign minister who signed the secret 1939 Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact that heralded World War Two? The answer comes from Finland.

The Molotov-Ribbentrop pact divvied Europe up into “spheres of influence,” carving Poland into Nazi and Soviet territory, while ceding Finland to the Soviets, who had previously controlled it under the Russian Empire. In the winter of 1939, after seizing eastern Poland and leaving the country’s west to the Third Reich, the Soviets invaded Finland. Molotov (“Hammer” in Russian) then said in a speech, “Tomorrow we will dine in Helsinki!” After Soviet bombs began to fall on Finnish troops, Molotov insisted that the Soviets were dropping food and drink instead. Exhibiting a keen wit, the Finns thus dubbed Soviet cluster bombs “Molotov bread baskets” (the food) and named the improvised weapons that they were using against Soviet armor “Molotov cocktails" (the drink). The Finnish Alko corporation, a liquor conglomerate, mass-produced 450,000 Molotov cocktails during the war. The weapon proved instrumental in halting the Soviet advance toward the Finnish capital. The use of Molotov cocktails spread during the war, among Allied and Axis forces alike. In 1940, as Nazis threatened to invade the United Kingdom, the British armed home guard units with the weapon as a form of civil defense. So Molotov, the war-mongering Bolshevik, ended up lending his name to a bomb known for its popularity in anti-Communist protests behind the Iron Curtain. Fast forward to today in the United States. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms considers Molotov cocktails a “destructive device” under the National Firearms Act. This does not mean that the weapon is banned—only that you must register your Molotov cocktail with the ATF. Of course, you will be prosecuted for hurling one at a police car.

Correction: A previous version of this article described the Molotov cocktail as a "centuries-old weapon." In fact, it is believed to have been invented during the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s.

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