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Elite Troops Through History Trivia Quiz
Most nations field units of standard issue troops (called GIs in the U.S.) as well as
elite or more specialized units. How many of these historical elites can you match with the culture from which they arose?
(a) Drag-and-drop from the right to the left, or (b) click on a right
side answer box and then on a left side box to move it.
8. Winged Hussars
Select each answer
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Quiz Answer Key and Fun Facts
Gurkhas are particularly fierce British units of Nepalese heritage. Since the Nepalese tribes involved were limited, Gurkha units have traditionally had strong familial bonds fighting as much for friends and family as for their officers. Though Gurkhas carry modern weapons they are known for their traditional curved knives called khukuri or simply kukri. Traditionally these knives were required to "taste blood" every time they were drawn. If they shed no enemy blood, the Gurkha was expected to cut himself before re-sheathing the weapon. Though the knives are still carried and sometimes used as intended, they are also used in cooking, etc. and the re-sheathing requirement has lapsed.
Hoplites were citizen-soldiers of the Ancient Greek city-states who were primarily armed with bronze armor and long spears and shields. Unlike the general issue foot soldiers, Hoplite soldiers utilized the phalanx formation which required extensive drilling but resulted in a more formidable foe. The modern Hellenic Army, still uses the term hoplite to refer to infantrymen.
Samurai were the Asian medieval equivalent of armored knights. Like medieval knights, samurai were bound by a code of honor and were expected to set an example for those below them. Their armor and weapons required substantial investment and training and thus were limited to the middle and upper echelons of the warrior class.
The Zulu king Shaka brought the Impi to perhaps their highest state. The primary weapon the Zulu warrior carried was the iklwa stabbing spear. It was said to have been named based on the sound it made when pulled from its victim. The Zulu typically took the offensive whenever possible in a battle, deploying in the well-known "buffalo horns" formation.
The "horns" would flank the enemy while the chest would engage in a full frontal assault with a reserve of older, more experienced warriors designated "the loins" to fill in as necessary.
France originated the Zouaves, primarily Algerian troops. These light infantry regiments were commanded by French Officers and were known for their fierceness and martial prowess. Zouave regiments were often a mixture of Berber, Arab, and black volunteers.
The distinctive uniforms of zouave regiments reflected their North African roots; short jackets, baggy trousers, sashes and oriental head gear. Zouaves were so highly regarded in the 1860s that several companies of U.S. Civil War soldiers (both Union and Confederate) were established along the same lines. Over time Zouave regiments were constituted of fewer Algerians and contained more European troops and their fearsome reputation declined.
The Ottomans created Janissaries as one of the first standing armies. The first Janissary units were made up of young Christian boys who were "levied" from the empire's Balkan provinces and forced to converted to Islam. Though they were paid and had an elevated social status, they were not allowed to marry or to father children. Over time the cost of maintaining these troops, failed attempts at reorganization, (including allowing others to join), and internal revolts led to their decline and eventual abolition.
The "Immortals" were an elite heavily-armed infantry of the Persians. The term "Immortal" came from the Persian tradition that the unit would contain exactly 10,000 soldiers. Only the best soldiers could become immortals and as soon as any Immortal was killed, wounded, or became unable to serve, a replacement was named, keeping the overall number at 10,000. Most nations military units varied in size as attrition took its toll and "green" recruits were sometimes used to fill out depleted companies resulting in under-strength units. Since the Immortals were always at the 10,000 size and pretty much all the ablest veterans, their formidable reputation was justified.
8. Winged Hussars
Winged Hussars, were one of the main types of the cavalry in Poland. Initially constituted as light cavalry, hussars soon adopted more heavy armor and became shock cavalry. The Winged Hussars were famous for their huge "wings", a wooden frame mounted at the back of the saddle, carrying feathers that made a fearsome noise and added to the intimidating look of the charging cavalry (as well as the frames serving as some rudimentary protection for the rider's back.)
Kheshig (Mongolian for favored or blessed) were the imperial guard for Mongol royalty. Though they began as a troop of bodyguards numbering no more than 1000 men, by Genghis Khan's reign they had expanded to 10,000 men and included a number of specialized units. The Khorchin, a battle guard of mounted archers, were among the most feared.
Mamluks were Egyptian non-muslim slave soldiers similar to the Janissaries mentioned earlier. Though Mamluks were originally purchased as property, their status was above ordinary slaves. They could become emancipated and marry and in the Mamluk Sultanate (1250-1517) rise to the highest ranks.