A Who's Who of Warriors

Amazons, Vandals, Vikings—what do they have in common? Do you know they were all warriors? Add guerrillas, kamikazes, and conquistadors and you have quite a group. Who were they? When and where did they fight?

Amazons

These female warriors of classical mythology were tall, strong, and fierce. They disfigured their bodies to perfect their skills with bows and arrows.

The Amazon River and Amazon Jungle of South America were so named because tribes of female warriors were thought to live along the riverbanks.

Buffalo Soldiers

African-American army regiments who patrolled the west after the Civil War. and showed great bravery during the the Spanish-American war and World War II.

Commandos

Elite, highly trained soldiers. In the U.S. military, these special forces include the Navy Seals, the Army Rangers, the Green Berets and Delta Force.

Conquistadors

Spanish soldiers who tried to conquer the people of the Americas, especially Mexico and Peru, in the 1500s were conquistadors. In their search for gold, they wanted to conquer and enslave the native people.

Cossacks

These skilled cavalrymen from the southern part of Russia fought for the Russian Empire in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in return for special privileges. They also fought the Bolsheviks in 1918-21 and served in World War II.

Crusaders

Crusaders were Europeans who went to the Holy Land (parts of modern Israel, Jordan, and Egypt) from the eleventh to the thirteenth century to recover Christian holy places from the Muslims. Among them was Richard the Lion-Hearted of England, who was the absent king during the days of the legendary Robin Hood.

During the Children's Crusade in 1212, thousands of children were sent to Egypt to fight. Many were sold into slavery; most died of starvation and disease.

Foreign Legion

In 1831, King Louis-Philippe of France formed the French Foreign Legion in order to keep his colonies under control. The legion was made up of mercenary (paid) soldiers from different countries. The French Foreign Legion fought in both World Wars I and II. Today it’s made up of about 8,000 soldiers from 136 countries serving around the globe. Legionnaires often join up to escape their past and live a life of adventure.

Gladiators

Gladiators were trained fighters in ancient Rome. They fought each other, usually to the death, for public entertainment.

Guerrillas

Irregular troops of soldiers who ambush and sabotage their enemies are called guerrillas. Unlike ordinary soldiers, guerrillas do not fight openly with their enemy. The first known guerrillas fought in the American Revolution, although the word guerrilla was not coined until 1809 during the Napoleonic Peninsula Wars.

Gurkhas

Nepalese fighters who have served in the British army since the 1800s. They carry an 18-inch curved knife called a kukri, and their motto was “better to die than be a coward.”

Hessians

German troops who fought with the British during the American Revolution.

Kamikazes

Japanese airplane pilots who truly fought to the death during World War II were kamikazes, diving their planes into enemy (U.S) aircraft carriers at sea. Some 1,200 kamikaze pilots died while sinking 34 American ships.

Mongol army

These powerful warriors, commanded by Genghis Khan (1200s), expanded their empire across Asia through their military prowess.

Rough Riders

During the Spanish-American War, a voluntary cavalry regiment from the U.S. led by Teddy Roosevelt became known as the Rough Riders. A rough rider is one who can ride an untrained horse. This regiment, made up of cowboys, miners, and law-enforcement officials, as well as upper-class equestrians or horse riders, became famous for its victory charge at the battle of San Juan Hill in Cuba.

Samurai

From 1100 to 1800, the samurai (Japanese for “guard”) served as the warrior aristocracy of Japan. They wore two swords as a sign of distinction.

Spartans

The ancient Greek city-state of Sparta was known for its extraordinary military superiority. The word “Spartan” has come to mean austere and disciplined.

Swiss Guard

This mercenary group was formed in the fifteenth century to guard the pope and continues this function in Vatican City, an independent state within the city of Rome, Italy.

Vandals

The Vandals, originally Europeans, occupied a kingdom in North Africa. In the fifth century, they invaded the Roman Empire and sacked Rome. Today, vandal refers to someone who destroys things without reason.

Vikings

From the eighth to the eleventh century, Viking warriors from Scandinavia raided and plundered (forcibly robbed) the coast of Europe. They also explored in their sturdy ships, traveling as far as Greenland and Newfoundland.

The Vikings' favorite weapons were catapults and battering rams.

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