Has an armed gang ever taken a medieval city?

Has an armed gang ever taken a medieval city?

We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

Are there any instances of a medium small armed gang (<100 men) entering and taking over a medieval city (in any part of the world)? How well did medieval city defenses work against medium-small groups of armed robbers?

It seems like this would be a more common threat than an army laying siege to a city.

Let me see if I can be more specific. I am aware that pre-gunpowder cities around the world often had walls. It makes sense that you could hide behind walls if an army showed up. But cities had to be open for business: people have to come and go from a city. A lesser force (which I call a gang in the OP) might catch the gate guard by surprise, or walk in one at a time. Or 2-3 confederates in the city might catch the gate guard at night and open it.

That all sounds fine. I wonder if it has ever happened. I see mention of incidents in the comments about gullible bishops etc.

A good answer would recount 1 or more incidents (with links if you do not want to go into detail in the answer) and then deduce a trend or pattern for such things. Or, if it is nearly impossible for such a thing to have happened, lay out why.

Yes, the vikings did just that. A longship can have to about 100 crew/warriors on board. (Different type of ships had a smaller or larger crew on board.) A raid often was done with one or two ships. Laying siege was of course impossible. But having the element of surprise might give them the edge. Storming the walls was suicide. Favorable circumstances (fog, bad weather, etc.) might give viking raiders enough time to assault before the defenses were ready.

Surprise is everything. The city of Breda in The Netherlands was in 1590 taking from a well armed Spanish garrison with a ruse: 70 soldiers hid in a peat barge and took the city from within. So it worked very well, also after the middle ages.

Such a surprise raid wouldn't work with 1 or 2 ships on large coastal towns with harbors and fortifications. Not all towns were that large or had fortifications. Plenty of cloisters too that were close to the coast. Those could (and were) fair game to individual raiders.

The Siege of Candia (now called Heraklion) in Crete was easily the longest siege in recorded history, lasting 21 years. In other words those born in the first few years of the siege were old enough to fight in its final battles.

In 1644, after the Knights Hospitaller attacked an Ottoman convoy, the Turks responded by sending 60,000 men to assault Candia, which was controlled by the Knights&rsquo allies in Venice. The siege began in 1648. Attempts to lift the siege in 1666 and 1669 both failed. However, the Ottoman efforts to breach the walls also failed. There were no further attempts to lift the siege and Captain General Morosini of Candia was left with only 3,600 fit men. In 1668, he accepted honorable surrender terms which allowed Christians to safely leave the city.

How France Defeated the Islamic Empire—1,300 Years Ago

Before ISIS took on France, perhaps they should have studied their history better.

When the ISIS terrorists murdered 130 victims in Paris, they did so in the name of history. ISIS—the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria—seeks to recreate the medieval Islamic caliphate that once stretched from Spain to Baghdad. And so they attacked France, which they perceive as yet another Western obstacle to their grand ambitions.

But before they took on France, perhaps they should have studied their history better. They would have learned that it was the French who stopped the Islamic empire from overrunning western Europe 1,300 years.

In 732 CE, at the height of the Dark Ages after the fall of Rome, Islam seemed unstoppable. Boiling out of the Arabian desert just a century before, the Muslim armies conquered North Africa, Spain, the Caucasus and the Middle East with astonishing speed in what must have seemed like a medieval blitzkrieg. The tough, bold and highly motivated desert warriors plundered the decaying corpses of the ancient empires: the Roman, the Byzantine and the Sassanid (Persian). And as the victorious armies of the Umayyad Caliphate surged out of the Iberian peninsula into southern and then central France, they must have savored the prospect of adding the Christian lands of western Europe to their domains. If they accomplished that, the Islamic empire might have become the superpower of its day, the medieval equivalent in military and economic power of the modern United States.

But they had not reckoned with the Franks, a Germanic-speaking people who took advantage of the decaying Roman Empire to settle in France and Belgium (and as you can guess, from whom the name "France" derives). It was the Franks who stopped the Islamic empire's advance at the Battle of Tours, a city in the middle of modern-day France.

As with many medieval battles, hard numbers and facts are scarce. It appears that Abdul Rahman al-Ghafiqi, governor of Muslim-occupied Spain, entered southern France with perhaps 80,000 soldiers to extend the domains of the Islamic empire, and perhaps more important in that era, plunder the rich Gallic countryside (a practice that ISIS continues today).

The Muslim forces were composed of Moorish (Arab and Berber) light cavalry "who fought from horseback, depending on bravery and religious fervor to make up for their lack of armor or archery, " writes historian Paul Davis in his book 100 Decisive Battles: From Ancient Times to the Present. "Instead, the Moors fought with scimitars and lances. Their standard method of fighting was to engage in mass cavalry charges, depending on numbers and courage to overwhelm any enemy it was a tactic that had carried them thousands of miles and defeated dozens of opponents. Their weakness was that all they could do was attack they had no training or even concept of defense."

Facing the Umayyad army was an army of possibly 30,000 Franks led by Charles Martel, who confronted the invaders near Tours. The Frankish way of war was the antithesis of their opponents. "The Franks were hardy soldiers that armed themselves as heavy infantry, wearing some armor and fighting mainly with swords and axes," Davis writes.

Does this sound familiar? A heavily armed and armored Western army versus lightly armed but more mobile Arab troops? In some ways, Tours was a precursor to the fighting we have seen in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the sort of tactics that ISIS has successfully used today.

But this time, those mobile tactics didn't work. Islamic cavalry repeatedly charged the Frankish lines, but the Franks held firm against the lightly armed Moorish horsemen. More significantly, one Arab chronicler of the battle wrote that fear for their plundered loot induced the Muslim army to retreat: "But many of the Moslems were fearful for the safety of the spoil which they had stored in their tents, and a false cry arose in their ranks that some of the enemy were plundering the camp whereupon several squadrons of the Moslem horsemen rode off to protect their tents."

The Islamic army returned home, their dreams of glory and wealth unfulfilled. But the consequences were far more momentous than lost plunder. "Had the Moslems been victorious in the battle near Tours, it is difficult to suppose what population in Western Europe could have organized to resist them," Davis writes. By the nineteenth century, the Western empires had carved up the Muslim world had the Battle of Tours turned out differently, ISIS could be ruling the Western world.

This is not to glory in Frankish victory Christian Europe showed neither mercy nor morality when it terrorized, murdered and pillaged its way to Jerusalem during the Crusades 400 years later.

However, the fact remains that the westward expansion of the Islamic empire had been halted. The caliphate had been defeated by the French.

Something that ISIS would do well to remember.

Michael Peck, a frequent contributor to TNI, is a defense and historical writer based in Oregon. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, WarIsBoring and many other fine publications. He can be found on Twitter and Facebook.

10 Largest Robberies in History

Most men have probably had a fantasy or two about pulling off a &ldquoonce in a lifetime&rdquo kind of heist worth millions. Fortunately, most of us are sane enough not to let it get further than a thought. Below are a few men who were not. The only criteria for entry on this list is that they must have gotten away with it, at least temporarily. Anyone caught in the act does not qualify for this list. Whether it be cash, jewels, art or anything else worth big bucks, you can bet there is someone, somewhere, planning on stealing it. All values are in US$ or UK£, which bear in mind, are worth more than US dollars. I have roughly adjusted for inflation of some of the older robberies to show where they compare to some of the modern monster hauls. Incredibly, no one was killed during any of the below robberies (as far as I can tell), the mark of true professionals. Feel free to add any others I may have missed in the comments section. This list was originally sent in as a top 20, but it has been broken up due to the size of the items &ndash the second installment will appear in the future.

Four armed men entered the upmarket jewelry store (&ldquoJeweler to the Stars&rdquo) shortly before closing time, 3 of whom were dressed in wigs and women&rsquos clothing. After cleaning out the display cases, they forced staff to loot the storage area, as the millions worth of jewels in the display cases just wasn&rsquot enough for these guys. They cleaned the place out, without firing a shot. Harry Winston stock fell 9% the next day after word of the robbery got out. The store had been robbed the previous year, where thieves netted 10 million euros worth of jewels. One would think that perhaps it would be cheaper hiring some armed guards than getting robbed on a yearly basis. 25 people have since been arrested for the crime, aged 22 to 67. Good to see there is no age discrimination among thieves.

80% of the world&rsquos uncut diamonds go through Antwerp, and don&rsquot thieves know it! The city has seen its fair share of heists, but this one was incredible in both dollar value and the method with which it was executed. This haul was so large that the thieves literally couldn&rsquot carry all their booty out of the vault, but still managed to empty an impressive 123 of 189 deposit boxes. Leonardo Notarbartolo, a 30 year career thief, was the leader of this stylish gang. The robbery was years in the making, with at least 4 people involved. They had rented office space in the building 3 years earlier, where Leonardo posed as an Italian diamond merchant to gain trust and credibility. He set up meetings and did small deals, no one ever suspecting a thing. When it was finally time to move, they inserted fake tapes into the security cameras to cover their movements. The vault was protected by 10 layers of security, including infrared heat detectors, Doppler radar, a magnetic field, a seismic sensor, and a lock with 100 million possible combinations. The robbery was called the heist of the century, and even now the police can&rsquot explain exactly how it was done. Notarbartolo was caught after one of his accomplices failed to burn a garbage bag of evidence. The $100 million worth of gems has never been found and Notarbartolo is currently serving a 10 year sentence. Interestingly, Notarbartolo has claimed that a Jewish diamond merchant hired them for the heist and that they actually only stole roughly $20 million worth, with many of the deposit boxes already lying empty. He believes that he and his gang were used as part of a huge insurance fraud. Police have denied this possibility. To read his version of events, outlining how they did it, go here.

Whilst $30 million may not seem like much compared to the other monsters on this list, bear in mind that this occurred back in 1972. By today&rsquos standards, it would be worth more than $100 million. At the time, it was a world record amount. A group of 7 men from Ohio, led by Amil Dinsio, broke into a branch of the United California Bank in Laguna Niguel, California, and looted the safe deposit vault. Due to the nature of safe deposit boxes and their undeclared contents, only an estimate is possible. They were eventually apprehended by the FBI. One of the men involved, Phil Christopher, has written an account of the robbery in the book Superthief. I couldn&rsquot dig up too much information on this robbery, as even the FBI website does not have an account of the robbery or investigation, so if anyone wishes to add more information in the comments, feel free.

This haul is the largest diamond heist in history. $118 million is the estimate, as many of the stones were uncut, which make them much harder to value (and trace.) Whilst many of the other robberies on this list involve elegant planning and flawless execution, this was more akin to a smash and grab. 2 weeks prior to the robbery, 4 men stole a KLM cargo truck and KLM uniforms to divert suspicion until the last moment, so that they could move around the secure areas of the airport unhindered. (KLM is a major Dutch airline.) On February 25th, the thieves drove right up to a KLM truck that was carrying a large haul of uncut diamonds intended for delivery to Antwerp. In full view of many witnesses, they ordered the drivers out at gun-point and simply got in the truck and drove it away. Due to the fact that they knew exactly which truck to target, police suspect an inside job. It was the second time in 6 months that the airport terminal had been breached. Several men have been arrested in connection to the robbery.

The 1970s saw the rise of the PLO, a terrorist group led by Yasser Arafat, whose aim was to carve out a homeland for the Palestinian people. They were at war. And wars cost money. Lots of it. Lebanon was in the midst of a civil war, and amid the chaos, a group associated with the PLO broke into a dozen banks, the largest of which was the British Bank of the Middle East. The group made off with a staggering £25 million worth of gold, jewels, stocks and currency, valued at much more than $100 million in today&rsquos money. The group blasted the wall of the bank that was shared with the Catholic Church next door. With the assistance of Corsican locksmiths, they opened the vault and plundered the contents over the course of 2 days. Some of the stocks were later sold back to their owners.

Valerio Viccei migrated to the UK from Italy in 1986, where he was wanted for over 50 armed robberies. He decided to continue his successful trade in his new homeland, where he and an accomplice entered the Knightsbridge Safe Deposit Centre and asked to rent a Safe Deposit Box. After being led into the vault, they subdued the manager and the guards. Valerio hung a sign outside stating that the Deposit was temporarily closed to deter more customers, and then went about letting in more accomplices. The gang then plundered the safe deposit boxes at will and netted an estimated £60 million, which translates approximately into a whopping $174 million in today&rsquos money. The police were not alerted until an hour after the robbery, giving the team plenty of time to flee the scene. Valerio fled to Latin America whilst his accomplices were arrested, then foolishly returned to England sometime later to retrieve his beloved Ferrari, where he was subsequently caught. He was sentenced to 22 years in prison. One would think that with the better part of $174 million, you would just buy another Ferrari. Or two. He was killed in 2000 while on day release in Italy, as a result of a gunfight with police.

Employees of the Dar Es Salaam bank showed up to work one morning to find that the doors were unlocked, the vault open, and all the money was gone. It is believed that 3 guards at the bank made off with a staggering $282 million in this whopping haul. Yes, more than a quarter of a billion dollars! That&rsquos more money than the entire economies of some small countries. It is unclear why the bank had such a large amount of cash on hand, but it was all in US currency. It is suspected that the guards had the assistance of militias, to avoid detection at security checkpoints around Baghdad, as having a lazy $282 million in the boot of your car might raise suspicions. No one has been brought to justice for this brazen crime and none of the money has been recovered. The robbery received surprisingly little media coverage.

Number 3 on our list is also considered the biggest art heist in history. Two men dressed as police officers convinced 2 inexperienced security guards at the Gardner Museum that they were responding to a disturbance. Contrary to museum policy, the 2 guards let the &ldquoofficers&rdquo into the premises, where they quickly learned that they had been duped after being handcuffed by the men in the basement. Amazingly, the 2 men managed to do this despite having no visible weapons whatsoever. The men spent the next 81 minutes calmly selecting 12 pieces of art with a combined value of over $300 million, and this was 20 years ago. Among the paintings stolen were 3 Rembrandt&rsquos and a Vermeer. The two then took the surveillance tapes and departed, never to be heard from again, though in 1994 an offer was made to return the paintings for $2.6 million and immunity from prosecution, but the writer was never heard from again. The men appear to possibly be amateurs, as they made no effort to avoid damaging the paintings and left even more valuable works behind. The case has never been solved and there is a $5 million reward for any information pertaining to the return of the artworks. Also, authorities have announced that they will not prosecute anyone who has the paintings and offers to return them. More on the details of this interesting robbery can be read here.

John Goddard was a 58 year old messenger working for broker Sheppards, who was mugged whilst carrying a briefcase on a quiet London side street. However, the contents of that briefcase contained £292 million in bearer bonds. Goddard was delivering Bank of England Treasury bills from banks and building societies. Due to the nature of bearer bonds, whoever is carrying them is deemed the owner. They are as good as cash. He was held at knifepoint, whilst his assailant made off with 301 Treasury bills, most valued at £1 million each. Keith Cheeseman was arrested in connection to the crime and received a 6 and a half year sentence. Police believe that the mugging was carried out by Patrick Thomas, but he was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head before he could be charged. All but 2 of the bonds were recovered after police and the FBI infiltrated the gang responsible. It&rsquos amazing that the second largest robbery in history was carried out by a low level thief brandishing only a knife on an insignificant back street.

Some robberies require careful planning. Others use brute force. But the largest in history was as simple was it was effective. Saddam Hussein treated Iraq as his own personal fiefdom, so it&rsquos no surprise that he would feel that the Central Bank of Iraq was his personal bank account. The day before Coalition forces began bombing Iraq, he sent his son Qusay to make a withdrawal on his behalf with a handwritten note. Qusay oversaw the withdrawal of boxes stuffed with $100 bills in a five-hour operation which netted the dictator about $1 billion in US dollars. It didn&rsquot get him very far, as he was caught sometime later hiding in a hole in the ground whilst his son was killed by US forces. Approximately $650 million was later found by US troops hidden in the walls of one of his palace&rsquos, though the remaining $350 million has never been recovered and is considered lost.

The Secret 'White Trains' That Carried Nuclear Weapons Around the U.S.

At first glance, the job posting looks like a standard help-wanted ad for a cross-country trucker. Up to three weeks a month on the road in an 18-wheel tractor-trailer, traveling through the contiguous 48 states. Risks include inclement weather, around-the-clock travel, and potentially adverse environmental conditions. But then the fine print: Candidates should have 𠇎xperience in performing high-risk armed tactical security work𠉪nd maneuvering against a hostile adversary.”

The U.S. government is hiring “Nuclear Materials Couriers.” Since the 1950s, this team of federal agents, most of them ex-military, has been tasked with ferrying America’s roughlyਆ,000 nuclear warheads and extensive supply of nuclear materials across the roads and highways of the United States. America’s nuclear facilities are spread out throughout the country, on over 2.4 million acres of federal real estate, overseen by the Department of Energy (DOE)𠅊 labyrinth of a system the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists called “highly scattered and fragmented…with few enforceable rules.”

Some sites are for assembly, some are for active weapons, some are for chemicals, some are for mechanical parts. What this means in practice is that nuclear materials have to move around𠅊 lot.

For as long as the United States has had nuclear weapons, it has struggled with the question of how to transport America’s most destructive technology throughout the country without incident. “It’s the weak link in the chain of nuclear security,” said Dr. Edwin Lyman of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Today the United States relies almost entirely on million-dollar, Lockheed Martin tractor-trailers, known as Safeguard Transporters (SGTs) and Safe Secure Trailers (SSTs) to move nuclear material. But from the 1950s through the 1980s, the great hope for safe transit was so-called “white trains.”  

These trains looked entirely ordinary, except for a few key details. They featured multiple heavily armored boxcars sandwiched in between “turret cars,” which protruded above the rest of the train. The turrets had slit windows through which armed DOE guards peered out, prepared to shoot if they needed to defend the train. Known in DOE parlance “safe, secure railcars,” or SSRs, the white trains were highly resistant to attack and unauthorized entry. They also offered 𠇊 high degree of cargo protection in event of fire or serious accident,” the DOE assured a wary Congress in 1979.

Though nuclear trains staffed by snipers guarding powerful weapons sounds like something out of an action-adventure film, the trains were far from glamorous. They moved slowly, maxing out at 35 miles per hour𠅊 virtual crawl compared to the average Amtrak train. This meant very long cross-country journeys for their seven-member crews. One of the most common routes for the train took nuclear bombs from Texas to Bangor, Washington, delivering the weapons at a submarine base on the banks of the Puget Sound. Another frequent route took bombs from Texas to Charleston, South Carolina, where a set of submarines sat poised for missions in the Atlantic.

The Pantex Plant near Amarillo, Texas, 1996. It was constructed by the U.S. Army in 1942. (Credit: Remi Benali/Liaison)

The epicenter of nuclear transit was the Pantex Plant, about 17 miles outside of downtown Amarillo, Texas, a maze-like complex of dozens of buildings located on 10,000 acres of land. Amarillo was the final destination for almost all of America’s nuclear trains and the Pantex Plant was the nation’s only assembly point for nuclear weapons, a role it maintains to this day.

The United States built Pantex in 1941 as a World War II munitions base, and in 1951, it was quietly refurbished to serve a new Cold War role. Soon, a growing portion of Amarillo’s 100,000 citizens were employed in bomb assembly and disassembly. “Inside Gravel Gertie bunkers designed to contain explosions and contamination, moonlighting farmers and silent young mechanics bolt together the warheads for Trident missiles and delicately dismantle older weapons,” wrote the Washington Post in 1982.

While the site received materials like uranium and plutonium from around the country, only Pantex had the heavily shielded cells where the bombs’ mechanical parts could be joined to nuclear material. Assemblers of nuclear warheads, clothed in blue overalls, thick gloves, and safety shoes with rubber slipcovers, worked in pairs to attach the nuclear material and the explosives. From these cells, the bombs were taken to bays where workers would add firing components, casings and tails.

Each day trucks and trains rolled in, carrying plutonium from Georgia and Washington, bomb triggers from Colorado, uranium from Tennessee and neutron generators from Florida. They rolled out on white trains, carrying fully assembled nuclear weapons.

These trains quietly snaked along America’s railroads for 30 years, a top-secret project with an impeccable track record. Yet today, every white train sits in a junkyard or a museum. Why did America abandon its nuclear trains, which many Cold War nuclear experts considered to be the safest mode of transport for sensitive weapons material?

A “white train” at the Amarillo Railroad Museum. (Credit: Don Barrett/Flickr Creative Commons/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Derailing the White Trains

Anxieties about nuclear war loomed heavily in the national psyche at the turn of the 1980s, and as a growing roster of cities became involved in U.S. nuclear development, Americans began to express (often very justified) fears about the materials being stealthily moved around amid the backgrounds of their lives.

In his first term in office, President Reagan quadrupled defense spending and suggested that the United States was willing to use nuclear strength against the Soviets if necessary. In March 1982, Time Magazine published a cover featuring a billowing red mushroom cloud and the phrase “Thinking the Unthinkable.”

One American reckoning with the “unthinkable” was Jim Douglass, a Catholic theologian affiliated with a nuclear resistance group called Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action. In 1981, Douglass purchased a home in Washington, overlooking the Naval Submarine Base Bangor on the coast of the Puget Sound. Each day Douglass and his wife would look out their front window onto the bay, and again and again they saw the same thing: a white train entering and exiting the heavily secured base.

“It was an awesome sight,” Douglass told People. “You feel the reality of an inconceivable kind of destruction. Anybody who sees this train experiences the evil of nuclear arms, because it looks like what it is carrying — a white night.”

Jim and Shelley Douglass, with the aid of the Ground Zero Center, launched a controversial fight to stop the white trains, what Mr. Douglass called “the most concentrated symbol we have of the hell of nuclear war.” With the aid of a train-buff friend, they determined the most likely route from Amarillo to Washington. They then contacted peace and religious groups on the route, asking them to watch for the train, to organize a prayer vigil or a nonviolent protest when the train appeared, and to inform local newspapers about the train’s arrival.

Actions against the white trains took place throughout the United States, with vigils occurring in more than 300 communities. In Memphis, a white train came inches away from hitting a nun who stood in the middle of the tracks. In Washington, D.C. activists laid a section of railroad in front of the DOE building, and surrounded the track with a blown-up photograph of a white train, a map of its known routes, and a large banner reading, “The Nuclear Train Starts Here.”

The nuclear resistance movement posed serious problems for the DOE. Not only did it generate terrible press, it also directed public attention to what the agency had carefully designed to be a classified process. The DOE wasn’t just worried about angry pacifists, it was worried about someone learning the routes and hijacking a train𠅊 worst case scenario for American nuclear security.

The DOE’s first attempt to thwart protesters involved rerouting the trains. From the DOE command center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, officials issued last minute directives to the engineers to take “the tracks of least resistance.” But as the network of anti-nuclear activists grew, they became increasingly adept at tipping off the community if they saw an unmarked white train plow down their railways. The agency proposed new regulations that would make it illegal to pass information about the routing of the white train, but got little traction.

So the DOE undertook a logical next step: changing the color of the trains. A July 1984 memorandum titled 𠇌olor Change of Safe-Secure Railcars” noted that “the painting of these railcars will not stop dedicated protesters from identifying our special trains. However, it will make tracking our trains more difficult, and we believe, enhances the safety and security…” The DOE painted the trains red, green, grey, and blue, but anti-nuclear activists continued to track the trains with relative ease�ter all, not many commercial trains had turrets for snipers.

The battle against the white trains reached its peak in 1985, when 146 people were arrested over the course of one train’s journey from Amarillo to Bangor. Jim and Shelley Douglass, as well as many of their closest collaborators were charged with trespassing and conspiracy. But surprisingly, a Washington jury returned a not-guilty verdict for the 20 activists who sat on the train tracks and county officials announced they would no longer arrest people for protesting and obstructing the weapons trains.

Public pressure, activist interference, and a growing constellation of nuclear sites in the U.S. triggered the demise of the controversy-ridden trains. Shortly after the Washington lawsuit, the U.S. government began exclusively using Safeguard Transporters for moving nuclear materials. The DOE expressed confidence that a system of trucks would be easier to obscure and would provide a practical solution to reaching the many nuclear sites far away from train tracks.

A special truck for transporting nuclear weapons at the Pantex Plant March, 1996. (Credit: Remi Benali/Liaison)

The Future of Nuclear Rail

While the white trains came to an unceremonious end in 1987, the Department of Energy didn’t abandon all hope for using trains in experimental national security measures. In 1986, President Reagan approved a system for launching intercontinental ballistic missiles from railways, an initiative known as Peacekeeper Rail Garrison. The plan would park 25 trains carrying two missiles apiece at military bases throughout the U.S. In the case of Soviet agitation, the locomotives would move onto the nation’s railroad network, where missiles could be launched from the train.

Though a group of protesters had effectively brought down the white trains, officials appeared confident that the nation’s rail network could provide an effective means of hiding weapons. By the late 1980s, the United States had 120,000 miles of available track, 20,000 locomotives, and 1.2 million railcars. At any given time, there were more than 1,700 trains on the tracks military representatives insisted this would make it almost impossible for the Soviets to track where in the U.S. these 50 missile-laden trains had gone. “Rail-garrison will be the mainstay of our strategic defense well into the 21st century,” predicted one Texas Senator.

The Cold War ended before a single missile could roll onto the tracks. When the Soviet Union similar system, which would move missiles around the tracks of an underground subway system. The Air Force’s rationale remained much the same: if you could keep the missiles moving, you would deter attackers and make it be nearly impossible to pinpoint the weapons’ exact location. Critics have dismissed this proposal as a pie-in-the-sky idea, and even its proponents conceded it would likely take another 50 years to make such a project operational.

Today’s nuclear infrastructure—much of which is focused on decommissioning rather than building weapons—is reliant on Safeguard Transporters and their armed drivers. Much like the rest of the America’s nuclear arsenal, most of the trucks are antiquated about half of the SSTs are over 15 years old. The trucks, which log over three and a half million miles each year, are accompanied by unmarked escort vehicles and their only easily recognizable feature is their U.S. Government license plates.

“I never had a sense there was a fear about moving things,” said Dr. Robert Rosner, former director of the Argonne National Laboratory, who oversaw the lab’s nuclear waste disposal efforts from 2005 to 2009. “The drivers knew what they were doing. They were accompanied by state police. We had confidence in the physical robustness in the transportation itself,” Rosner recalled, pointing to videos showing how the materials respond to a train crash, a truck flipping, and other potential catastrophes.

Transportation of nuclear materials is currently overseen by the Office of Secure Transportation (OST), an agency that has attracted only minimal attention in the years since the fall of the Soviet Union. But a 2017 Los Angeles Times investigation suggested problems may lurk beneath the surface. OST is understaffed, with the average courier working about 75 hours a week. Turnover is extremely high. In 2010, a਍OE investigation found “widespread alcohol problems” within the agency, including incidents that occurred while couriers were on secure transportation missions. The DOE conceded that these episodes “indicate a potential vulnerability in OST’s critical national security mission.”

Major challenges remain for nuclear transportation in America. Plans to “modernize” America’s nuclear arsenal, supported by both the Obama and Trump administrations, means that weapons will be taking more trips than ever on American roads. Beginning in 2010, around one thousand W76 warheads traveled from Bangor, Washington back to Amarillo, Texas, for upgrades to extend the life of the weapon by 30 years𠅊 massive undertaking, entirely dependent on the OST’s fleet of Safeguard Transporters. 

Whether waste or weapons, trains or trucks, the United States has been remarkably fortunate in avoiding major transportation mishaps. Since the days of the white trains, the government has insisted that nuclear materials are being moved across the American landscape in the safest possible way, persisting through crashes, fires, and interfering nuns. Yet public fears endure about whether moving such materials can ever truly be “safe.”

“We’ve been moving this stuff since the Cold War, and we’ve never had a major accident,” said Rosner. 𠇋ut the system depends on secrecy. If we have an accident, that veil will be lifted.”

Top Ten Highest Value Bank Robberies in American History

#10 Wells Fargo, West Hartford, Connecticut, 1983

The Wells Fargo bank robbery was named White Eagle by the guerrilla groups responsible for the Crime. Los Maceteroes name of a guerrilla group who was seeking independence of Puerto Rico from the United States of America who broke in and stole $7 Million (which would total $16.9 Million in today's currency) from Wells Fargo in West Hartford, Connecticut. The group claimed that apart of the money was sent to a poor communities of Puerto Rico to fund education, food, clothing, housing and toys for children. Those prosecuting him stated that the money was used to finance Maceteroes. The FBI got their hands on around $80,000 of what was believed stolen when they conducted their searches of Boston and Puerto Rico. $1 Million was spent between the group, $2 Million was sent to Cuba, and $4 Million was secured in safety deposit boxes, savings accounts and farmhouse cellars across Puerto Rico. One of the leaders of the group, Juan Segarra Palmer was one of the leaders was sentenced to 65 years in prison. In 1999 he was one of the FLAN members who had their sentence commuted by President Bill Clinton. Filberto Ojeda Rios, another of the leaders and not physically present at his hearing, was sentenced to 55 years in prison. It is stated that Ojeda jumped bail because he didn't believed he would get a fair trial. Apparently Victor Manuel Gerena is still at large and has made it atop the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives.

#9 JFK International Airport, New York, New York, 1978

Known to history as the Lufthansa Heist the robbery took place December 11 th , 1978 at the JFK International Airport in New York, New York. An estimated $5. 9 Million was stolen (which translates to $21.6 Million today). $5 Million of it was stolen in cash while $875,000 was in Jewels and at the time of the crime made it the largest cash robbery to happen in American History. The heist inspired three films: 10 Million Dollar Getaway, the Big Heist, and Goodfellas. It was rumored that American gangster, Jimmy Bruke, was the mastermind of the heist though was never formally charged. It has also entered history by being the longest crime to ever be investigated with the latest of the arrests being made in 2015.

#8. The Manhattan Company, New York, New York, 1935

The theft of $1.5 Million ($25.6 Million today) from the Manhattan Company in January of 1935 was linked to the $590,000 ($4 Million today) by then FBI Director J Edgar Hoover who also linked it to an international bank robbery ring that was based out of Southern France. Five were arrested in July of 1936 and four more were arrested between then and December of 1939. It ended with the arrest of John Philipp Spanos who had fled and eluded capture for four years as a fugitive in Greece.

#7 Loomis Fargo, Charlotte, North Carolina, 1997

Loomis Fargo in Charlotte, North Carolina found itself the target of a robbery on October 4 th , 1997 by one of their vault security guards, David Ghantt and his girlfriend, Kelly Campbell who had been a former employee at the time. Along with Ghantt and Campbell were eight others including a former high school friend of Campbells, Steve Chambers and his wife, Michelle. Chambers had approached Campbell earlier in the summer of 1997 about pulling off a $17.3 Million Dollar heist (which translates to $25.9 Million today) at her former place of work. Campbell then brought the idea to the attention of her boyfriend. The plan was that Ghantt would commit the actual robbery and then flee to Mexico City where he would stay until he felt enough time had passed for him to reenter the United States, he would leave the majority of the money with Campbell and split it evenly when he returned with Campbell wiring him enough money to live on. When Loomis Fargo employees could not open the vault the next morning they called the authorities and because 95 % of the money handled at Loomis Fargo was money owned by banks it made the crime a federal offense. Ghantt was a prime suspect from the start and connecting him to Campbell was easy the hard part came connecting him to Chambers. Initially it was decided that they should spend the money frugally for a year or two to avoid suspicion, but Chambers believing that the FBI could not connect him to Ghantt choose to disregard that. They were apprehended when his wife made her bank suspicious by asking questions regarding how large a deposit has to be before they would alert the FBI. Ghantt was arrested March 1 st ,1998 when the FBI successfully traced a phone call. He was arrested at Playa del Carmen which is a resort near Cozumel. The next day the Chambers and Kelly Campbell were arrested. 95% of the money taken was recovered by the FBI.

#6 Sentry Armored Couier, New York, New York , 1982

On the evening of December 12 th , 1982, 25-year-old Cristos Potamtsis, a guard for Sentry Armoured Courier, and a friend attempted to pocket a cool $11 Million ($27.4 Million today) while Christo was on shift that night. Christo was arrested February 2 nd 1983 in San Juan while he vacationed at a private resort. Christo's partner in crime, 21 year old George Legaki's was arrested when he voluntarily showed up for questioning. The Police said that Legaki and Potamtsis were not alone in the crime.

#5 Brinks Building, Boston, Massachusetts, 1950

The $2.8 Million armed robbery of the Brinks Building in Boston Massachusetts on the evening of January 17 th , 1950 consisted of $1,218,211.29 in cash and $1,577,183.83 in checks, money orders and other securities. It also went down in history as the "crime of the century" and was the work of an eleven member gang. Joseph “Big Joe” McGinnis was the leader of the gang and the one who came up with the idea to begin with. Doning clothing to the bank's uniform they also added rubber Halloween masks, gloves and rubber soled shoes. With their copied keys the gang came to the second floor of locked doors and bound, gagged and surprised those who were working at the time. Except for a box of Payroll for the General Electric company McGinnis and his gang took everything, including revolvers from the employees they had bound and gagged. They agreed to not spend the majority of the money for two years when the statue of limitations ran out. The majority of the gang was arrested five days before the statute of limitations ran out. Eight of them received maximum life sentences, all were paroled in 1971 except for McGinnis who had died in prison. Only $58,000 of the $2.7 Million was ever recovered

#4 Loomis Fargo, Jacksonville, Florida, 1997

On March 29 th , 1997 Philip Noel Johnson, who worked as an armored car driver for Loomis Fargo, pulled off an $18.8 Million ($28.1 Million today) robbery after over powering two of his co-workers and leaving them at different areas. He hid most of the money in a storage shed in Mountain Home, North Carolina and then moved to Mexico City. He was arrested when attempting to re-enter the US and gave the customs worker need for suspicion. He was found with multiple passports. Almost all of the money was recovered and Johnson was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

# 3 Dunbar Armored Facility, LA California, 1997

The Dunbar Armored Car robbery has the honor of being named the largest cash robbery to have occurred in the United States with $18.9 Million ($28.3 Million today) being taken. It happened September 12, 1997 and was engineered by Allen Pace, who had been a regional safety inspector for Dunbar. While working he had time to take photographs and inspect the Armored Car depot and after recruiting 5 of his childhood friends they attempted the robbery. Upon realizing it was an inside job the police looked at Pace closely but found nothing, and the remainder of the gang were careful to keep their new wealth a secret. The error came when one of them paid a real estate associate with a stack of bills in their original binds. The associate went to the police. Pace was convicted and was sentenced to 24 years in prison and some of the money has never been recovered.

#2. Pierre Hotel, New York, New York, 1972

Samuel Nalo and Robert Comfort have gone down in history with their ability to pull of 1972's robbery of the Peirre Hotel in New York. The crime has been dubbed the “most successful hotel robbery” by Guinness World Records by pocketing $27 Million (which is $155.2 Million today). Both Comfort and Nalo had stolen $1,000, 000 in jewelry and cash from the Sherry Netherlands Hotel. Nalo was the main planner but Comfort was the main organizer. Along with Robert “Bobby” Germaine, an associate of the Lucchese crime family, Ali-Ben, a contract killer for the Turkish mafia, Al Green, Ali-Ben's brother in law who was also a jewel robber, Nick “the cat” Sacco, Alan Visconti, another associate of the Lucchese crime family, and a freelance, contracted killer named Donald Frankos the heist was pulled off at 3:04 among January 2 nd , 1972 and 19 hostages were taken. Frankos apparently threatened to kill Nalo for ripping him off but was cheated of that chance by an unknown gunman in 1988, Comfort was killed by the mafia bosses he fenced some of the jewels to when he tried to retrieve them. Ali-Ben and Al Green escaped to Europe.The only survivor of the heist is Nick “The Cat” Sacco, who is currently imprisoned for another matter entirely. And that brings us to top of our list.

6 Lords Could Build Them Where They Wanted

The laws around castle building and owning didn&rsquot stop there. We may be tempted to think that any lord who had the money and the means could build a castle on his land, but this, too, was untrue. Any landowner who decided to build a castle suddenly became a much bigger threat to the monarch. Because of this, the English Crown made it a point of law that to legally fortify a residence, a lord had to hold a License to Crenellate. [5]

Much like obtaining planning permission for a housing extension today, if a medieval lord wanted to build a castle, he had to apply to the royal court for a License to Crenellate. The monarch only issued a handful of these each year, so to be successful in applying for one was a big deal. They could also take a long time to be issued: As with many important documents at the time, the License to Crenellate had to be issued personally by the king, who was more often than not very busy. It would then pass through several rings of the royal administration, being recorded on the Patent Roll for the royal records and then issued as a formal document, stamped with the Great Seal, for the knight&rsquos personal records&mdashin case a royal official asked for proof years down the line.


Located about 75 miles (120 km) south of Milan on the Gulf of Genoa, the city occupies a narrow coastal plain and the western slopes of the Apennine Range. The city has a mild Mediterranean climate.

Shipbuilding is the major industry other industries produce petroleum, textiles, iron and steel, locomotives, paper, sugar, cement, chemicals, fertilizers, and electrical, railway, and marine equipment. Genoa also is a major centre for finance and commerce. The port of Genoa leads all other Italian ports in volume of passengers and freight traffic and is the main source of city income. It handles imports chiefly of coal, crude oil, and grain and exports mainly of cotton and silk textiles, olive oil, and wine.

Genoa was the birthplace of Christopher Columbus (1451), who embodied the active maritime tradition of the city. It is noted for its many examples of medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, and Gothic architecture. The Ducal Palace, San Lorenzo Cathedral, Church of San Matteo, and Palazzo San Giorgio are some of the most important historical monuments. The Palazzo Bianco and the Palazzo Rosso are the two largest picture galleries Edoardo Chiossone Museum of Oriental Art and the Cathedral Treasury have extensive medieval collections. The Strade Nuove (now Via Garibaldi) and the Palazzi dei Rolli, the first European examples of an urban development project with a unitary framework, were designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2006. The University of Genoa (founded 1471) is an important centre of higher learning in northern Italy. The city also has several commercial colleges and a school of navigation.

Genoa is linked with the major cities of Italy, France, and Switzerland by railway and highways. Its port serves as the chief outlet for the agricultural and industrial products of northern Italy and much of central Europe. Cristoforo Colombo International Airport, situated 4 miles (6.5 km) west of the city, provides domestic and international flights.

Before the Riots

During the late 1930s, Los Angeles had become home to the largest concentration of Mexicans and Mexican Americans living in the United States. By the summer of 1943, tensions between the thousands of white U.S. servicemen stationed in and around the city and the zoot suit-wearing young Latinos were running high. Although nearly half a million Mexican Americans were serving in the military at the time, many of the L.A.-area servicemen viewed the zoot-suiters—many of whom were actually too young to be eligible—as World War II draft dodgers. These feelings, along with racial tensions in general and local Latinos’ disgust over the Sleepy Lagoon murder, eventually boiled over into the Zoot Suit Riots.

Racial Tensions

Between 1930 and 1942, social and political pressures contributed to the growing racial tensions that formed the underlying cause of the Zoot Suit Riots. The number of ethnic Mexicans living legally and illegally in California shrank, then swelled drastically as the result of government initiatives related to the Great Depression and World War II.

Between 1929 and 1936, an estimated 1.8 million Mexicans and Mexican-Americans living in the United States were deported to Mexico due to the economic downturn of the Great Depression. This “Mexican Repatriation” mass deportation was justified by the assumption that Mexican immigrants were filling jobs that should have gone to American citizens affected by the depression. However, an estimated 60% of those deported were birthright American citizens of Mexican ancestry. Far from feeling “repatriated,” these Mexican American citizens felt they had been exiled from their homeland.

While the U.S. federal government supported the Mexican Repatriation movement, the actual deportations were typically planned and carried out by state and local governments. By 1932, California’s “repatriation drives” had resulted in the deportation of an estimated 20% of all Mexicans living in the state. The anger and resentment due to the deportations among California’s Latino community would linger for decades.

After the United States entered World War II in 1941, the federal government’s attitude toward Mexican immigrants changed drastically. As droves of young Americans joined the military and went to fight abroad, the need for workers in the U.S. agricultural and service sectors became critical. In August 1942, the United States negotiated the Bracero Program with Mexico, which allowed millions of Mexican citizens to enter and temporarily remain in the U.S. while working under short-term labor contracts. This sudden influx of Mexican workers, many of whom ended up working on farms in the Los Angeles area, angered many white Americans.

Conflict Over Zoot Suits

First popularized during the 1930s in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City and worn predominately by African American and Latino teenagers, the flamboyant zoot suit had taken on racist overtones by the early 1940s. In Los Angeles, zoot suit-wearing Latino youths, calling themselves “pachucos,” as a reference to their rebellion against traditional American culture, were increasingly viewed by some white residents as menacing juvenile delinquent thugs.

The zoot suits themselves further fueled the coming violence. Barely a year after entering World War II in 1941, the United States began rationing various resources considered essential to the war effort. By 1942, the commercial manufacture of civilian clothing using wool, silk, and other fabrics was strictly regulated by the U.S. War Production Board.

Despite the rationing laws, “bootleg” tailors, including many in Los Angeles, continued to turn out the popular zoot suits, which used copious quantities of rationed fabrics. As a result, many U.S. servicemen and civilians viewed the zoot suit itself as harmful to the war effort, and the young Latino pachucos who wore them as un-American.

The Sleepy Lagoon Murder

On the morning of August 2, 1942, 23-year-old José Díaz was found unconscious and near death on a dirt road near a water reservoir in East Los Angeles. Díaz died without regaining consciousness shortly after being taken to the hospital by ambulance. The reservoir, known locally as Sleepy Lagoon, was a popular swimming hole frequented by young Mexican Americans who were banned from the then-segregated public pools. Sleepy Lagoon was also a favorite gathering place of the 38th Street Gang, a Latino street gang in nearby East Los Angeles.

In the ensuing investigation, the Los Angeles Department questioned young Latinos only and soon arrested 17 members of the 38th Street Gang. Despite a lack of sufficient evidence, including the exact cause of José Díaz’s death, the young men were charged with murder, denied bail, and held in prison.

The largest mass trial in California history ended on January 13, 1943, when three of the 17 Sleepy Lagoon defendants were convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. Nine others were convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to five years to life. The other five defendants were convicted of assault.

In what was later determined to have been a clear denial of due process of law, the defendants were not allowed to sit with or talk to their attorneys in the courtroom. At the request of the district attorney, the defendants were also forced to wear zoot suits at all times on the grounds that the jury should see them in clothing “obviously” worn only by “hoodlums.”

In 1944, the Sleepy Lagoon convictions were overturned by the Second District Court of Appeals. All 17 defendants were released from prison with their criminal record expunged.

Brynhildr, the Valkyrie Who Was the Original Sleeping Beauty

This relationship between Valkyrie and mortal can be seen in the Volsung Saga with the tale of Brynhildr and Sigurd. In this German and Icelandic tale, Brynhildr was a strong and beautiful princess who was deceived by her lover.

Brynhildr, in most of the adaptations, was a Valkyrie, but because she was disobedient to Odin she was punished. Odin caused her to fall into an everlasting sleep surrounded by a wall of fire. The hero, Sigurd, crossed through the flames and woke the maiden with a kiss. They instantly fell in love and were then engaged, but Sigurd left her to continue his heroic travels.

‘Brünnhilde and Siegfried’ by Arthur Rackham. ( Public Domain ) In the Volsung Saga the Valkyrie Brynhildr fell in love with the mortal Sigurd.

Later in his travels, he was given a potion to make him fall out of love with Brynhildr and in love with a rival, Gudrun. This was a plot by Gudrun and her brother, Gunnar, because Gunnar wanted Brynhildr for himself. Sigurd was talked into disguising himself as Gunnar and he pursued Brynhildr.

Later realizing she had been tricked into marrying Gunnar, and not Sigurd, Brynhildr arranged to have Sigurd murdered. However, when she learned of his death she was overcome with grief and threw herself onto his funeral pyre. With some major modifications, this is where the story of sleeping beauty originated.

Brunhild and Sigurd's Funeral (1909), C. Butler ( Public Domain ) When the Valkyrie learned of her beloved’s death she threw herself on the funeral pyre.

Top Image: Representation of a Valkyrie with a winged helmet. Source: Fernando Cortés /Adobe Stock