Photo of US Marines Posing with SS Flag Surfaces
Via the AP: US Marines posed with Nazi symbol in Afghanistan
The Marine Corps on Thursday once again did damage control after a photograph surfaced of a sniper team in Afghanistan posing in front of a flag with a logo resembling that of the notorious Nazi SS — a special unit that murdered millions of Jews, gypsies and others.
The Corps said in a statement that using the symbol was not acceptable, but the Marines in the photograph taken in September 2010 will not be disciplined because investigators determined it was a naïve mistake.
The Marines believed the SS symbol was meant to represent sniper scouts and never intended to be associated with a racist organization, said Maj. Gabrielle Chapin, a spokeswoman at Camp Pendleton, where the Marines were based.
“Sniper scouts?” That’s a new one.
Here’s the photo, that apparently first appeared in a blog entry (url not cited) at the Knight’s Armament website:
It is impossible to know, just from the photo, what the deal is. One thing is for sure: it is a pretty shocking (and indeed, jarring) image. At best is an example of howling ignorance and at worst is suggesting something more sinister (at least in terms of one or more of the individuals in this photo). To wit: where in the world would the flag have come from in the first place? It would seem that someone would have had to have brought it with them to Afghanistan (as I can’t imagine that there is a local branch of “Neo-Nazis R Us” out in rural Afghanistan). This is suggestive that someone in this group has unsavory political leanings. It is bad enough to own such a flag and several quanta worse to think that it was sufficiently important to a person that it was something that they would have brought with them to a combat zone in the middle of nowhere.
I can’t condemn them all as I didn’t recognize the logo as from Nazi Germany, but shame on anyone who did and still posed with the flag.
There’s a few fellows in the comments on the Gawker articles on this issue who are alleging (based on personal experience as marines) the following:
(1) Marine Scout Snipers have for a while now appropriated SS symbols (not just the “SS,” but some other stuff too). In other words, this has been going on for a while and is widespread.
(2) Some of the scout snipers know that they’re appropriating SS symbols, but they don’t care. Others are clueless and just think its a cool looking symbol.
There’s been a strain of culture/race war about our Middle Eastern ventures, from chaplains attempting to convert muslims, to bible passages being stamped on Marine Corp rifles, to murder games killing “hajjis”. The extreme right having a significant foothold in our military has been an issue no one talks about for some time.
I know history isn’t taught to recruits in boot camp and the average age of those guys probably isn’t over 31/32 so they might not be aware….but still, the emblem of the Schutzstaffel…the paramilitary branch of the Nazi Party under Heinrich Himmler, who swore personal allegiance not to Germany but to Hitler himself.
Didn’t these troops have some officers who might have explained the emotional and historical significance as well as documented activities of the S.S?
To be as fair as possible, the Marines absolutely have ‘scout snipers’/.
Isn’t that the best proof that our education system is failing? They’re not nazis, they’re just morons. Talk about damage control…
I don’t know how many Marines served in europe in WW2….but they did serve in the pacific. So maybe this bunch of Marines should have chosen the emblem of the Rising Sun for their logo flag. The Japanese military even had pretty good snipers, except maybe one… whose weapon was given to me 60 years ago by its American Marine liberator.
@Rick Almeida: Sorry, I was being too glib. I was reacting to the notion that the letters SS should be naturally read as “scout snipers.”. (it is like being told that KKK just means Krispy Kreme Kruller or some such).
What the rest of you are missing, wallowing in indignation, is that the Schutzstaffel logo actually looks really cool. A reason you should hate Nazis, besides Holocaust and Fascism etc., is that they used a lot of cool imagery while in the midst of committing atrocities. Ask anyone who considers the swastika a sacred symbol how that feels.
Also, I recall my public education well enough to know this specific symbol was never covered, nor is there really a need to cover it. This is the sort of thing pop culture teaches, and only if you happen to find World War II interesting fifty years later in a country relatively untouched by it.
Anyone who is not a military history buff probably would not know that this was the Nazi SS symbol. OTOH, is this the sort of thing that Yogi Berra would have characterized as “too coincidental to be a coincidence?”
I blame the lack of Hogan’s Heroes reruns.
@Chris Lawrence: Indeed.
So far sounds like “stupid is as stupid does” and some NCO’s and JO’s are practicing “Do you want fries with that? Super size it?” while counting dunes at Twenty NIne Palms.
Everyone knows that is the SS symbol…student of history or not.
I have never been in combat…so I cannot judge.
We do not limit our recruits to Mensa members.
I’m willing to cut soldiers far more slack than our civilian leaders.
@Hey Norm: I’m not so willing as you are. On the other hand, “if you don’t wan’t a foreign policy that looks like it was planned by teenagers, then don’t put guns in their hands and send them to foreign countiies.”
I’m willing to believe this is ignorance. If someone showed me a blue and white flag with “SS” on it in Afghanistan, I don’t know that I’d think of the nazis either. It’s easy for us to see the connection now, but we all saw the pic after clicking on a link with “nazi” in the title.
But where did they get it? Whoever acquired it must have known what it was. It looks rather new too – not a historical relic.
Well, having been a Marine, I can tell you, 1) We’re not Nazis, and 2) we have, shall I say, a well-developed sense of the irreverant. I remember one onbase Christmas display that involved a, ahem, creative rearrangement of the statues composing the display. I wouldn’t get too excited about this kind of thing.
Obviously the corps aren’t Nazis but under this rationalisation you’d have no problem with other symbols of Nazism then. The Swastika, pictures of Waffen SS snipers, bodies hanging from gallows, etc. What this picture proves once again is that the American military is not without its share of morons and the officers corps seems to be asleep for much of the time.
You’d have astoundingly ignorant to be unaware that this is the symbol of the SS. However, there’s no shortage of evidence that there are a lot of astoundlingly ignorant people around so you could right I suppose.
Oh, horseshit. I’d have powerful objections to those things. In this particular instance, I’m not that exercised. Why don’t you leave the slippery slopes to right-wing cave dwellers.
Er… what exactly in terms of symbology is the difference between the Swastika and SS emblems?
Skinheads love that SS symbolism. Just sayin’.
Jesus, you people assume a lot about what others know and don’t know.
Sorry to break it to you, but no, you can find very intelligent people who, when queried about what that is, will say, “I don’t know, looks like two lightning bolts to me.” You can then correct them, saying it’s the symbol of the Stormtroopers*, and they’ll reply, “You mean those dudes in Star Wars who can’t hit anything worth a damn?”
This isn’t the Stars and Bars we’re talking about here which has cultural relevance in this country, and which is prominently displayed in textbooks concerning the Civil War. This is the emblem of a paramilitary faction in Nazi Germany. The textbooks don’t bother depicting both the swastika and the SS runes for the same reason they don’t cover every damn flag of the Confederacy.
Yeah, ’cause the Nazis were unique in history for being the only bastards to hang people.
* Hilariously, the designation “Stormtrooper” technically applies to the SA, but the SS logo resembles lightning so the two are often conflated.
@Tillman: Don’t be ridiculous. They didn’t put that flag in the photo because it was a shiny they found under a rock on the Iranian border. One if them, some of them or all of them know exactly what it is.
Sorry to break it to you but if you think most people in the army and corps have no idea of@Tillman: what the SS symbol is I can only suggest you take your wife with you when next you go to buy a car.
And as further evidence that you haven’t the faintest idea of what you’re talking about the Waffen SS, the military arm of the SS, constituted major formations of the German army.
@Donald Sensing: I wonder what the chances are that a given US military unit includes military history buffs . . .
@Brummagem Joe: I’m concerned that you don’t understand what “paramilitary” means. Or even have the foresight to check another Wikipedia article to compare the size of the German army to the size of the SS’s military arm. I’m also concerned about how you missed that sentence over Hitler not wanting to integrate the Waffen-SS with the regular army, thus strengthening the whole “paramilitary” description.
I’m also concerned about your inability to offer cogent argument against “not everyone knows what the SS symbol is” besides relying on the assumption that people in the U.S. military know it by default. Goes for @Ben Wolf as well.
I’m afraid you’ve got it backwards: you continue to make the assumption they don’t know what it is, but that’s not logical. It was placed underneath an item of cultural and nationalistic value, the U.S. flag. The only reasonable conclusion is the SS flag also has a similar significance. All you’ve done to this point is argue that Marines are ignorant and stupid.
Ben, ignorant and stupid are two different things. They do not need to be both to have made this mistake. Somebody said they are probably in their 30’s. They are probably in their early 20’s. Like as not, they had to learn about Gulf War 1 in school, being about 3-4 when it happened. WW2? Ancient history.
I know exactly what para military means but you obviously don’t. The Waffen SS was a front line formation (much of it armored) and not by any stretch of the imagination a paramilitary force. The reasons Hitler didn’t want to integrate it into the regular Wehrmacht were because he didn’t want to taint it with the ethos of the traditional military elite and of course because he didn’t trust the regular army. You really need to learn something about this subject.
Really do know how books have been published on various aspects of WW 2. You obviously never go into bookstores or libraries because the shelves groan under the weight of books on the subject.
@Brummagem Joe: I studied as much WWII history in school as anyone, have read about it since, and watched all the usual movies (which always display all sorts of nazi flags prominently). And I’m willing to admit that out of context, I don’to know that I would immediately think “Nazi!” if shown that flag. I think you’re being too harsh here.
@TexMac: It’s already pretty well known that skin heads and other white nationalist groups are encouraging their members to join the military so they can get training for the upcoming “race war”…
OK. The Marines are Nazi’s.
Believe what you wish.
With all this knowledge are you seriously telling me you didn’t recognise that as the symbol off the SS? Do you recognize the SS as Nazi organisation?
I specifically said they weren’t or can’t you read?. Just totally boneheaded for posing with a very well known symbol of the Nazi party. Don’t you have any ability to make these sort of distinctions without making up lies about what I actually said?
@Tillman: Yeah the nazis stole and tainted a lot of their imagery. You got to admit their uniforms and such were definitely “warrior cool” and their officers were sharply dressed.. I despise their ideology and the fact that at least one of my relatives spent time in one of their camps (had the tattoo from that experience even when we buried him some time ago).
I read a snarky comment about my not knowing there are a lot of books about WW2. If you don’t have the ability to tolerate sarcasm, refrain from using it yourself.
Of course it was stupid. What do you think we fight wars with? Rocket surgeons?
@Brummagem Joe: Did I recognize it on this webpage? Sure. I’m saying that I don’t know if I would have recognized it as a soldier in Afghanistan. Maybe that isn’t what you’re asking.
This isn’t sarcasm it’s outright lie about what I actually said.
OK. The Marines are Nazi’s.
Believe what you wish.
So you recognized it immediately but these guys wouldn’t because they’re in Afghanistan? Some guy produces a flag out of nowhere with a symbol that widely recognised and none of these guys recognize it, none of them say heh Joe what’s this, Joe doesn’t know what it is either he just thought it was a pretty color…..Yep all sounds entirely plausible.
All I’ve done is give the soldiers the benefit of the doubt. Brummagen Joe and you are the ones convinced they knew it was a Nazi symbol, because goddamn everyone in the world knows that or they’re ignorant and uneducated. I’m not the one assuming they’re stupid, I’m arguing that it’s perfectly plausible they don’t know what it is. I believe @Brummagem Joe said:
Notice I didn’t, or have ever, said that.
@Brummagem Joe: Boy, doesn’t really excise the whole “paramilitary” thing, now does it? I’m gonna go ahead and emphasize it for you:
So, your refutation that the Waffen-SS are not a paramilitary organization is that they were a combat branch, thirty-eight divisions strong, of a paramilitary organization.
Whereas the definition of “paramilitary” is:
And I’ve established that the regular German army, despite the thirty-eight divisions of the Waffen-SS, still existed, and was, again despite the thirty-eight divisions of the Waffen-SS, much larger.
So, could you please tell me what it is I’m missing here, or why, precisely, it is somehow insulting to the historical record to label the SS or the Waffen-SS as a paramilitary organization? ’cause, really, I’m excited at this point to learn something new about World War II that you know and I’ve obviously missed out on.
@Tillman: People tend not to give folks flashing Third Reich logos around the benefit of the doubt.
Meanwhile, none of you excuse-makers have plausibly addressed the chain-of-custody problem that others have brought up repeatedly: SOMEBODY had to buy the flag. From someWHERE. So, who could buy it from where and not realize what it was they were buying? What outlet sells Waffen SS banners without identifying them as Waffen SS banners? (Or is not an identifiable merchant of white-supremacist gear?) Can you even identify such an outlet?
@Tillman: The definition of “paramilitary” is a side issue here.
I actually heard Hitler or someone high up in the Reich hired a fashion designer to work on the uniforms. Sadly, this didn’t taint the profession of fashion design as it has Nordic runes and Indian religious symbols.
@Jim Henley: Oh yeah, but I…just really need to learn more about the nature of paramilitaries. That’s why I stayed on topic with this.
Admittedly I’m more verbose about “paramilitary” this or “paramilitary” that, but that’s because I have a burning desire to learn more about it. Brummagen Joe is just being a really crappy teacher.
That’s true. It’s so easy to condemn. I guess I’d wait until they, y’know, commit hate crimes or start killing Jews indiscriminately to label them Nazi sympathizers.
Because they don’t know what the SS symbol is? And really, someone trying to sell it probably isn’t too keen to announce what it is or signifies, assuming they themselves know. Or are you saying this was bought off Amazon with product reviews from white supremacists?
Dunno! I do know that catalogs, online or not, have to label products. Vendors have to affirmatively decide to carry merchandise. They embed the item in online or tablespace arrays of similar items. Why wouldn’t someone trying to sell an SS flag be keen to announce what it is and signifies? They’re selling a thing whose value is the association with the SS.
Meanwhile, Small Wars Journal dude admits from personal experience that US scout-snipers historically liked the SS logo both because it shares the same initials as “Scout Snipers” AND because “of a professional respect for the German military’s martial capabilities on the battlefield . . . ” Then he goes on to endorse the official whitewash memo from Commandant Amos. Presumably because Honor is everything. Or something.
Once you and others admit that the marines are unlikely to be innocents abroad on this issue we could have a real discussion, frex whether SWJ dude’s follow-up explanation, ” . . . and not the politics or actions of the Nazi fascist regime”, is a good enough excuse. But your whitewash itself lacks a respectable basis.
@Tillman: I’ll tell you what. Find me a successful internet path that gets me to an SS flag, for sale, and leaves me ignorant of what it is from search string right through the completion of the purchase. Even one. I say there aren’t any. Now you don’t have to prove a negative; just demonstrate the existence of something.
You told me I must be ignorant of the existence of library’s. The implication being there was no way these guys could have been that ignorant, as I was pleading ignorance as their excuse, who distorted who first?
@Tillman: I seriously had no clue but it makes sense.
I didn’t excise it because unlike you I’m more interested in reality than parsing dictionary definitions to prove how brilliant I am. The Waffen SS with a strength of 38 divisions (approaching 500,000 men) was the combat arm of a Nazi paramilitary organisation and the DE FACTO fourth branch of the Wehrmacht who were the formal armed forces of Germany. No one with any military knowledge would regard the Waffen SS as a “paramilitary” formation. And I’ll have to assume you don’t know what de facto means either.
I was being sarcastic about your feigned ignorance….you were right the first time. You on the other hand were actually lying about what I said.
Obviously from the debate over paramilitary you’re more interested in sophistry than reality but the excuse that none of the ten guys in the photo plus the guy taking the picture and whoever amongst them shlepped this flag to Afghanistan had no idea what this flag represented; and that none of them when the pic was being set up inquired what it was; might pass muster with a five year old but not Columbo I suspect. No one is suggesting these guys are nazis but it suggests a) at least one of them admires the nazis and b) they are all singularly stupid.
If ignorance isn’t a valid excuse, as your snarky comment about library’s implies, what does that leave?
I was being sarcastic as YOU yourself said and you were lying.You obviously can’t or more likely don’t want to recognise the difference.
You obviously are dodging my question.
Aha, so you admit I’m brilliant!
Anyway, when a “debate” gets into two people repeating the same thing over and over again, it behooves one to ask others for some impartial perspective. Since I don’t have a military historian on hand, I did the next best thing and ran a Google search. Interestingly, under the search result “Hargis: Waffen-SS Was Not Paramilitary in Holocaust & Genocide …,” which would seem to back you up, I found an insightful forum post that resolves things comfortably for me. Then again, you’re the one who balked when I referred to the SS as a paramilitary in the first place, saying “not by any stretch of the imagination a paramilitary force,” so I don’t have illusions concerning how you might react.
Also, nice line on the de facto. I considered pointing out the difference between de facto and de jure, but it seemed condescending to me. Luckily, you filled in the Internet debate quota for self-aggrandizing condescension there. All I’ve got left is sarcasm.
I have never claimed the Marines in the picture did or didn’t know what the SS symbol is. I have only claimed, repeatedly and forthrightly, that it is an assumption to say they would know it, and that it is perfectly plausible, without stretching reason or disbelief, that they didn’t know. I am arguing against the certainty of everyone who says they should know what the symbol is and what it stands for. I am not “whitewashing” anything. For all I know, every Marine in that photo is an unabashed white supremacist in the Marines to get military training for an armed insurrection against the United States and our multicultural ways. I am only asserting the limits of my knowledge, and of the knowledge of anyone who claims those Marines knew what the symbol was.
Because, oh I don’t know, they’re no longer that into neo-Nazism and just want to get rid of the thing? And vendors and such make things complicated, presuming the flag is even a relic of World War II and not stitched together later by a skinhead flunkie. Frankly, the whole talk about finding an Internet path sounds off to me, probably because my original thought was “pawned off in garage sale.” Someone recalcitrant about neo-Nazi beliefs in their youth aren’t likely to throw up an Amazon or Craigslist ad for it. And don’t tell me there aren’t people who regret that sort of thing.
Also, another selling point: the symbol is cool-looking, like I said two days ago. Nazi paraphernalia has an undeniable aesthetic, it’s just impossible for some to separate that aesthetic from the atrocities committed under it.
I said the Waffen SS was not by any stretch of the imagination a paramilitary force…a distinction you either ignored or more likely didn’t understand despite your self admitted brilliance (a subject on which the jury is definitely still out).
Holy shit, BJ, why don’t you cite the entire sentence next time?
Or can’t you even remember what you’ve typed in this thread?!
Also, my self-admitted brilliance…y’know what, nevermind. Read into anything what you like. Be happy. I’m done with this.
So guys, how do I become a Usenet Reenactor?
I wouldn’t be surprised if they simply just had it made by an embroidery / emblematic shop that are at most of the big bases (e.g. Bagram, Kandahar) They’re normally run by local nationals (or TCNs) and will create just about anything you want if you give them a pattern. (we had some bootleg command patches made up)