A Few Answers To Questions You Always Wondered About

May 16, 2018 | No Comments » | Topics: Answers

If a soldier steps on a landmine and doesn’t lift his foot off the landmine then it won’t detonate, but is there any way out of this scenario?

You mean after you hear that soft “click” that mine manufacturers built in out of curtesy so that a soldier knows he’ll die soon and can say his last prayer, or better even, be saved by his mates?

Sounds too good to be true? That’s because it’s not.

Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technicians commonly refer to such landmines as HSE mines – Hollywood Special Effect mines.

If you were to construct an anti-personnel (AP) mine, would you built it in a way that allows a soldier who stepped on it to get away unharmed? Probably not. At least that’s how weapon developers approach that question. And why wouldn’t they? Their job is to create a device that stops the enemy from penetrating an area (or at least to make it very time-consuming). The more casualties the deployment of the device produces, the more it will slow down or stop the enemy. Obviously, this is best achieved with a mine that instantly injures or kills a soldier rather than with one that allows him to survive unharmed.

Just to give you an idea, AP mines are usually activated by pressure, a trip wire, or remote detonation, depending on the type of mine. The most common type, blast mines, are shallowly buried and triggered by at least 5 to 16 kilograms of pressure (depending on the sensor) applied to its pressure plate. Once a soldier (or child, for that matter) steps on it, the AP mine will detonate. The blast is strong enough to severely injure or even kill a person, turning pieces of the victim’s bones into secondary fragmentation.

Again, there is no military value in creating AP mines that give victims a chance to get away unharmed. HSE mines are an invention by the movie industry to add a dramatic element to war movies. Once a soldier steps on one, the scene builds up anticipation and grows increasingly tense. It always makes for a good story, either to show the strong bonds of friendship and brotherhood between the good soldiers (like in The Monuments MenThe Boys in Company C, etc.), or of course the ruthlessness and inhumanity of the bad guys (like in Behind Enemy Lines).There is even a movie that is entirely dedicated to this topic: Landmine Goes Click. If Hollywood would show the effects of stepping on a landmine the way it actually is – a sudden, unanticipated blasts – it would leave unexploited the potential for a pretty dramatic (yet fictional) event. But regardless of how often they are depicted in movies, HSE mines are not an actual thing!

However, there are mines that function in a way remotely similar to that of HSE mines (in the sense that they don’t simply blow up if you step on them):

Sorry to say this, but Hollywood has tricked you. Once you step on a mine, it’s already too late.

– Markus Schindler


Related Viewing: Man Shows How To Disarm A Landmine



In a scenario like the Allied D-Day invasions, where troops have to run into machine gun fires, wouldn’t simple steel shields make sense?

As Patton was addressing the men before the invasion, he dropped this little nugget:

“You are not all going to die. Only two percent of you right here today would be killed in a major battle. Every man is scared in his first action. If he says he’s not, he’s a goddamn liar. But the real hero is the man who fights even though he’s scared. Some men will get over their fright in a minute under fire, some take an hour, and for some it takes days. But the real man never lets his fear of death overpower his honor, his sense of duty to his country, and his innate manhood.”

Now, let’s strap a steel shield on every soldier. Heavy enough a bullet can’t penetrate. Along with your pack and your rifle and your bandoleer of ammunition and your canteens of water and and and….

And when that bullet ricochets, where’s it gonna go? In your battle buddy’s unprotected back. Unless you’re in the front wave, in which case ricocheting bullets go into your back. So strap a shield front and back….

War is a nasty thing.

Generals like Patton see men as numbers. Expendable. Percentages. They have to. Soldiers aren’t given full body armor. A ballistic vest. A Kevlar helmet. Something is better than nothing, but they have to be able to fight, too, so “something” sometimes isn’t enough.

And sometimes something can be too much. Steel shields would have gotten more boys killed than simply “keep pushing forward” did.

– Joel Moyer



How Did The Japanese Perceive Surrendering In WW2?

Surrendering was thought to be immoral, but it was also semi-illegal.

To understand Japanese Imperial Army and it’s policy on surrender, you have to have an understanding of the series of guidelines called the “Senjinkun (戦陣訓)” issued in 1941.

Senjinkun was based on another set of guidelines issued by the Emperor to reject the fate of being a prisoner due to the cruel fate often suffered by them. This was written in 1894, prior to Geneva Convention. Senjinkun looked more like a code of behavior and was not meant to be a legally binding document. But in Imperial Japan where the military sat largely outside of civilian law, this set of guidelines based on the words of the ultimate Commander and Chief came to be treated as supreme military law. Senjinkun laid out in specific words, “do not suffer the indignation of becoming a prisoner.” Thus, being captured became synonymous with desertion.

While this document was Army issued, naval officers in a midget submarine captured in Pearl Harbor became widely known as cowards and stain on the imperial honor, and this kicked off the social rule that families of war prisoners were to be treated as family of criminals. Many prisoners of war were given rights to write back to their family in Japan by the captors but often declined, to save their family from persecution.

Side note: Japan signed but not ratified the Geneva Convention on the grounds that “since Japanese troops becoming prisoners of war was largely inconceivable, this treaty is an unfair treaty that only burdens Japan with legal obligation that does not mutually exist.”



How were captured Japanese soldiers treated back home in Japan for the first few years after the war?

It varied greatly depending on the family and the circumstances to which these men returned home. Some men came home to great fanfare, others returned home quietly and resumed with their lives. Some unfortunately though were ostracized by their family and peers. Here’s one good account that describes such a case.

Father Did Not Permit My Return Home

A half a century has passed since I received a red card draft notice and joined the military. To the villagers gathered at the train station at Yukuhashi, Fukuoka Prefecture, I pledged, “ I will die in battle protecting the Emperor by standing in front of his horse.” At the time my mother was bedridden. I left my parents and my job and devoted my entire youth to the defense of the Fatherland.

The fear, starvation and indignities of military life would have been unthinkable in normal situations. We had to endure this because of the supreme command, “Consider your superiors orders to be the direct orders of the Emperor,” which was included in the Imperial Rescript to Soldiers & Sailors. Because of this Emperor’s orders, many thousands of soldiers died at Guadalcanal, Saipan and Iwo Jima. Okinawa was devastated. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were blanketed with deadly ashes.

I was barely able to survive in North China. When I came back to Japan after the surrender, I was unable to go home. My late father was a leader in the village. He did not permit the return of his son who had been defeated in the war. . . .

Furumiya Toshio, 69 years old



Why didn’t the Japanese develop a deep-seated hatred against Americans after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

This is a more personal take. My Japanese mother is in her late 80’s now and lived through WWII as a young woman. She used to tell us bits and pieces of her experiences when we were growing up. Her village/school was bombed relentlessly, and she lost school friends. She’d talk about the B-29s coming as her mother urged them to take cover in shelters. She’d talk about how hungry they were. I recall a story she told about how much she valued her one pair of shoes so much that she ran back to get them during a bomb dropping raid. Her mother was furious at her for running back for shoes putting her life at risk. As children, we used to criticize my mom because she didn’t seem as “educated” as we’d like. She told us she didn’t get a chance for much schooling because they were pulled them out of school so they could pack parachutes for Japan’s war effort.

She remembers the day they listened to the emperor telling them to (unconditionally) surrender and that he wasn’t a god. (We used to ask her if they really were gullible enough to believe he was actually a god. The answer was yes). She told us of Japanese people who were handing out poison (cyanide?) to the younger women saying they should kill themselves now before being raped/killed by the U.S. soldiers. (It seems to me that the Japanese assumed they’d be treated by their victors as they had treated their conquered.) By that time, however, word had got out how kind the soldiers were to the civilians handing out candy/food to children. She saw firsthand how different the Americans were compared to how Japanese soldiers treated women. (Even as a child growing up, she used to watch American movies in Japan wishing she could marry an American because she saw how much better they treated their wives, compared to how Japanese men viewed women. Perhaps, it’s because her own father was an abusive drunk who beat her mother frequently.)

Anyway, her take on it was that the Japanese government fed them a lie about Hirohito being a god. She remains forever thankful to the Americans for helping her country at a time when they were literally starving. Young people are quite naive in judging the U.S. They don’t understand the big picture of things. And clearly have no understanding of the nature of war.

After the war, she worked at a store (PX?) that sold goods to American military occupying Japan. She worked in the fabric department and was intrigued by a naval officer who was extremely shy. Within a short time, they dated. She got her wish. When he went back to the U.S., he sent off for her to come and marry him— despite family objections. It was hard here, and they definitely had their struggles. She could barely speak English. Within 2 years of marrying, they had 3 babies (of which I am a twin). Even in her old age, she goes on how thankful she is to my father, America —and God— for all she has experienced at that most difficult time in Japan’s history.

– Laura Gelber