Uncle Sam's Imperial Infantry
During the Second World War, the U.S. Army formed a number of units composed of men of particular ethnic groups. The most numerous of these, of course, were the many “Colored” formations, composed primarily of African-American personnel, serving mostly under white officers, in order to maintain racial segregation. But there were also the famed Philippine Scouts, who comprised several regiments of various arms and services, as well as several units of Puerto Rican men, recruited in their home island, such as the 65th Infantry in the Regular Army or the 295th and 296th Infantry Regiments in the National Guard, while the 100th Infantry Battalion (Separate) was composed of Japanese-Americans, later becoming the cadre of the famed 442nd Infantry. But there were also formations that were created in order to undertake operations in certain foreign lands, using men of the appropriate nationality, or at least intended to convince the enemy that we were thinking of such operations. So the Army formed two regiments of Filipino personnel (aside from the pre-war Scouts), as well as the 99th Infantry Battalion (Separate), composed of Norwegians and Norwegian-Americans, and the 122nd Infantry Battalion (Separate), consisting of Greeks and Greek-Americans. And then there was the 101st Infantry Battalion (Separate), composed of men of Austrian background.
Since the Allies considered Austria an occupied country, the notion of raising a unit composed of Austrian personnel, to undertake special operations or to form the cadre of a post-war Austrian army, seemed a reasonable idea.
When the Army first proposed to raise an Austrian battalion, early in 1943, the idea quickly attracted the enthusiastic support of the most notable Austrian exiles in the world, the former Empress Zita and her son, the Archduke Otto von Hapsburg, heir to the soi disant Austrian Empire.
So when the battalion was activated in March of 1943, it numbered in its ranks several unusually blue-blooded recruits, notably the Empress’ younger sons, the Archdukes Felix, Rudolf, and Karl Louis. However, despite its imperial patronage, the battalion failed to attract many volunteers of Austrian extraction. So the Army proceeded to transfer to the new unit men who had “Austria” listed as their birthplace. Unfortunately, most of these men were not actually Austrians – that is, ethnic Germans from Austria; they’d been born in various parts of the old Austrian Empire, usually Czechs, Poles, Croats, Slovaks, Slovenes, Ukrainians, or even Italians, who didn’t particularly like the notion of serving in the “Austrian Army.”
The battalion’s recruiting problems were exacerbated by the behavior of the Hapsburg princelings in its ranks, as Felix, Rudolf, and Karl Louis tried to get everyone to refer to them by their imperial titles, which not only annoyed the Ukrainians, Czechs, Poles, and so forth, but the unit’s American personnel as well.
And then there was the public relations problem.
When word of the existence of the battalion leaked out, objections began to be raised about what looked very much like American support for a monarchist restoration in Austria. Hostile responses were forthcoming from several allies, most notably from both the Yugoslav monarchist government-in-exile under King Peter II Karadordevic and the Communist-dominated Yugoslav Partisans, led by Josef Broz, better known as Tito.
In May of 1943 the 101st Infantry Battalion (Separate) was quietly disbanded.
The Lost Drummer Boy
Reportedly, during a campaign in the Seven Years (1756-1763), an English drummer of perhaps fifteen years, managed to wander away from camp one night. Straying too close to the French lines, an enemy sentry spotted him, and took him prisoner.
The young man was hauled before the French commander. Asked who he was, the lad replied, “A drummer in the English service.” Not sure that he was telling the truth, the officer sent for a drum. When the instrument arrived, he asked the lad to beat a couple of marches, which he did with some skill. Then the Frenchman asked him to beat a retreat.
“A retreat, sir!" protested the proud young man, “I don't know what that is.”
At that, the French officer was satisfied, and sent the young man back to his own lines, with a letter to his commanding officer commending his spirit and bearing.
The Escape of the Black Douglas
The "Black" Douglas, or, more correctly, Archibald, Earl of Douglas, Earl of Wigtown, Lord of Douglas, Lord of Bothwell, and Lord of Galloway (c. 1328-1400), was among the Scots knights serving with the French at the Battle of Poitiers (September 19, 1356), during the Hundred Years' War. Despite very heavy losses in the French ranks, Douglas managed to escape death or capture through the actions of a clever kinsman.
Having been captured, Douglas was being escorted to the rear by some English guards. Suddenly he was set upon by fellow-prisoner Sir William Ramsay of Colluthie. Ramsay went into a great rage, shouting at Douglas and accusing him of having stolen the armor off the real Earl's dead body, claiming that he had seen Douglas slain by an English arrow. Ramsay demanded that Douglas take of his boots. Catching on quickly, the Earl complied. As soon as he had taken off one boot, Ramsay grabbed it and started beating the Earl about the head with it.
At this, a guard intervened and stopped Ramsay, insisting that the prisoner was indeed a great nobleman. But Ramsay replied, "Not he, I tell you, he is a scullion and a rogue", and then, turning to the Earl, who was appropriately humble, shouted, "Go you rascal, and seek your master's body amongst the slain, so that we may at least give him a decent burial." Ramsay then paid the 40 shilling ransom appropriate for a servant, smacked the Early on the head once more, and sent him off.
And thus did the Black Douglas escape imprisonment and the payment of a heavy ransom.