Combat Trash Talkin’

by Fred Ray on February 25, 2010 · 0 comments

I found this amusing, from Afghanistan, about the verbal war between the Afghan Army and the Taliban.

The foes chatter with each other over their Vietnam-era, two-way radio system. It’s such an antiquated system that the Taliban and the Afghan forces share radio frequencies, and verbal barbs, as they try to kill or capture one another.

I asked Maj. Said Rahim Hakmal what they talk about. Politics, he said. “The Taliban will say things like why do you side with the Americans? Why do you sell out your country? You love Obama more than Afghanistan.”

Hakmal said the standard response goes something like, “The Americans are here to help our country function again. They don’t want to stay. They want to help, then leave. You should help, too.”

Then the shooting starts.

This was pretty common in the Civil War also, which was fought at much closer ranges, especially on the skirmish line. Here’s a Tarheel soldier describing something similar at Mine Run in late 1863.

Our boys who came in were well nigh frozen, (‘gone up the spout’ they said) and crouching round the pitiful fires related some amusing incidents. The pickets were so near each other that they could converse with all ease, and an incessant jawing was the consequence. ‘An faith to you, Reb,’ said an old Yankee, ‘wouldn’t you like to have a hot cup of coffee this cold morning?’ – with a peculiar Irish brogue. ‘Got plenty Confederate coffee,’ said Reb in reply, ‘wouldn’t you like to have a chew of tobacco?’ ‘Don’t care if I do,’ said Yank. ‘Well, here are some of old Jeff’s pills in advance’ – and away would go a volley of balls that made the Yank dig in his nails into the ground trying to lie close. Both parties were lying flat in an old field – rather an uncomfortable position in a pelting rain of five or six hours, but the slightest move was sure to draw a dozen bullets, hence it was to the interest of each that he should keep perfectly still.

And another by a Yankee sharpshooter, Private Will Green, at the North Anna the next year. Green and his mates in four companies of the 2nd U.S.S.S. “went to the front & after crawling about half a mile on our hands and knees with shovels, laid on our bellys under fire of their S.S. & throwed up some breast works….After we had got fortified we opened our battery on them & kept at them until after dark.” Greene wrote his brother that their Sharps rifles, which could be loaded and fired from the prone position, had given them a decided advantage in the fight: “we would fire into them & then lay low & it was impossible for them to get a bullet through our breast works.” The Green Coats added verbal harassment as well. “We would hallow at them once in awhile & ask them how they like Hail Columbia, Yankee Doodle, etc.”

Some things never change.

UPDATE: For those interested in contemporary sniping, Maj. John Plaster has generously made available the chapter of his book Ultimate Sniper on Iraq available for free download. Worth reading (PDF file).

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