Hardcore History Podcast

Although I don't fancy myself much of a history buff, I've been totally geeking out on the Hardcore History podcast by Dan Carlin.

His descriptive storytelling and flair for the dramatic can hold your attention for hours. I highly reccomend the Ghengis Khan series, but be warned it's incredibly gorey (and awesome).

Do yourself a favor and dive into the latest episode about the lead-up to the first world war. In it, Carlin reads from an account of an American in Brussels who witnesses the German army passing through Belgium, on their way to the front lines. I can't stop thinking about what it must have been like to witness this endless column of man and material. It must have been utterly surreal and terrifying.

The entrance of the German army into Brussels has lost the human quality. It was lost as soon as the three soldiers who led the army bicycled into the Boulevard du Régent and asked the way to the Gare du Nord. When they passed, the human note passed with them. What came after them, and twenty-four hours later is still coming, is not men marching, but a force of nature like a tidal wave, an avalanche or a river flooding its banks. At this minute it is rolling through Brussels as the swollen waters of the Conemaugh Valley swept through Johnstown.

At the sight of the first few regiments of the enemy we were thrilled with interest. After they had passed for three hours in one unbroken steel-gray column were bored. But when hour after hour passed and there was no halt, no breathing time, no open spaces in the ranks, the thing became uncanny, inhuman. You returned to watch it, fascinated. It held the mystery and menace of fog rolling toward you across the sea.

For seven hours the army passed in such solid column that not once might a taxicab or trolley car pass through the city. Like a river of steel it flowed, gray and ghostlike. Then, as dusk came and a thousands of horses' hoofs and thousands of iron boots continued to tramp forward, they struck tiny sparks from the stones, but the horses and men who beat out the sparks were invisible.

At midnight pack wagons and siege guns were still passing. At seven this morning I was awakened by the tramp of men and bands playing jauntily. Whether they marched all day or not I do not know; but for twenty six hours the gray army rumbled with the mystery of fog and the pertinacity of a steam roller.

If you've ever stood on the sidelines of a marathon, you'll know this feeling of awe as a river of humanity flows past you. If it’s visceral experience to witness a marathon, I can’t imagine what it must have been like to witness the army that would start a world war.