The SS Tattoo

So, I had to run by the grocery store before the evening started and there, walking up and down the aisles with me was some jackass with a huge SS tattoo on his arm.

I have nothing snarky to say.  I just don’t like it.

63 thoughts on “The SS Tattoo

  1. i don’t know why but this brought to mind, way back in the day when i used to drink, and never, ever kept my mouth shut….i would have had plenty to say and yes had a physical fight ensued from said mouthiness…well i might have lost the fight but he would have known i was there. sorry…a bit of fond memories from an old woman :)

  2. Okay, this cracks me up. Some white supremacists have 88 tatoos that represent Heil HItler as H is the 8th letter in the English alphabet. But it is the 9th letter in the German alphabet. Big dummies.

  3. Not making excuses, but it could have been a military or police sniper.

    The Scout Snipers in the Corps often wear the SS runes along with “meat tags.”

    Sniping, as a military “art”, can arguably be traced to the Schutstaffel but most public school kids wouldn’t know that. Did ANYONE ever manage to get to WWII in school? I have met several guys wearing the SS who didn’t have a clue about the runes. They thought it stood for “Scout Sniper.”

    So blame it on the school system.

  4. JL,

    All white supremacist tatoos are verbotten in the U.S. military. Soldiers can be courtmartialed for sporting them.

    Your overall point is well taken, not only do most history instructors not get to WWII, war is rarely taught in the college classroom now. I’m a military historian and I always make to WWII and eve teach a class juston the subject, but most kids never learn anything about it.

  5. I don’t know, JL, I think sniping as an art can be traced to the Russians–Pavlichenko’s three hundred kills during WWII are nothing to sneeze at–but I don’t think there’s a whole lot of question as to why wearing a couple of sowelos is less problematic for a military man than wearing whatever it is that might remind one of Pavlichenko and her peers.

    Anyway, military folks, even ex-military folks are usually pretty easy to recognize in public by the way they carry themselves. Likewise, white supremacists, who skulk around the grocery store looking at anyone who looks at them like they’re daring you to make something of it, are also pretty damn easy to spot.

    (p.s., Casey, I threw Pavlichenko in there just for your benefit. I don’t actually know anything about snipers.)

  6. Aunt B,

    One can go back to Patrick Cleburne, Irish-born Confederate general who died at the Battle of Franklin. He used British Whitworth longrange rifles to try and make up for his lack of artillery.

    He even held yearly shooting tournaments to find his best shooters and used them in special units as early snipers.

    The Russians were way ahead of us in allowing women to be citizen soldiers. Iraq has changed that. I’m getting ready to read “Band of Sisters” about the experience of female soldiers and Marines in Iraq. I’m proud of them.

  7. Personally, I’d probably take it back to the Mohawk. General Washington was distressed to learn that neither the Stockbridge nor the Oneida were inclined sit up in trees and shoot at people marching past, so he recognized the military value of what Indian allies did.

    The Miami and Shawnee also were pretty good shots in defense of their trade routes and homelands. Their snipers decimated the American artillery positions during the Battle of the Wabash in 1791.

  8. I’m a utility infielder. My research is in trans-Appalachian frontier, 1750-1850, women’s history, and legal history, but I teach everything from the first half of the US survey to environmental to colonial sexualities to Indian history to comparative slavery to a hardcore American Revolution class (complete with battlefield walks and stuff). I also teach grad classes in historiography, colonial, early republic, and legal. I used to teach a lot more straight up borderlands history when I was west of the Mississippi, but my current department is more Atlantic world in orientation so I haven’t taught those classes in a while.

  9. It means “Schutzstaffel”. The Schutzstaffel, or the SS, were this elite military organization during World War II in Germany. They were kind of seen as the Best of the Best of the Nazis, so, you know, in reality, they were the worst. That’s the short version.

    Now, obviously, there are very few of the original SS left, or they’re very old.

    So, nowdays, when you see people with SS tattoos, they’re advertising that they are neo-Nazis of one sort or another, violent white supremacists who believe that non-white people aren’t quite human and who often run around doing bad things to people who don’t believe that white people are better than everyone else.

    As you know, there are a lot of racists in the world, but most racists aren’t looking for people to beat up or kill. But the kind of person who would get an SS tattoo usually is. So, when I see someone with a tattoo like that, it makes me nervous and angry.

  10. The reunion above is for Waffen SS veterans. That is the military branch of the SS. Only the best, most ruthless, soldiers to march since Rome fell. They will claim to be meeting to discuss their days as fighting men, which is understandable. But they’ll bring out the old “Sieg Heil” and recall those days of conquest and rapine. Oh the “good old days” as they often refer to it. Seriously, the old shits call Nazi Germany the “good old days.” I think of the good old days, it’s all pop top coke cans and my uncles sweet as “four in the floor.” These boys trip on memories of Einsatzgruppen and killing for Hitler.

    They too have a tatoo, by the way, on their ist. It is their SS id number. Most still wear it.

  11. You are right, my error. But the net is repleat with more current events. Clearly many more are dead now, but the events continue, including a French Waffen SS meeting planned for this summer in Italy.

  12. Coming from a Marine Sniper:

    About 80 percent of us have the SS runes tattooed or branded on us (or a variation of) Even African American and Jewish Marine Snipers……gasp….
    We even use the deaths head in unit insignia and use the term Kopfjaeger. (headhunter in german) We built alot of our tactics from German snipers and is part of our history and progression in our skillset. Its not well advertised to the public nor do we expect the public to understand. We quite simply dont care. Its kind of an underground insignia, Since the Marine Corps is not big on insignia. There is even a variation on the SS runes with an arrow through it that is widely accepted as Scout Sniper insignia Marine Corps wide and is part of Quantico Sniper Schools official insignia. An S with an arrow through it is the military map symbol for a sniper position. I know an African American First Sergeant with it branded on his loin. Its respect among brothers and the effort involved in becoming MCSS and maintaining the community. Even in the Marines its the community that maintains us and not the Marine Corps as a whole.

  13. Come now. Let’s be straight about why you don’t advertise it. First, because the people you’re supposed to be protecting are not going to understand your glorification of any part of Nazi culture and you know it. But second, you don’t advertise it because you’re violating the Marine Corps uniform regulations. You’re not allowed to have brands of any sort and you’re not allowed to have tattoos that might bring discredit to the Marines. And let’s be clear, if it became well known that U.S. snipers were emulating the Nazis, it would discredit you.

    In other words, I wouldn’t go confessing to this nonsense, because the rest of us aren’t going to understand.

    And let’s not even get into it from a religious perspective. Why would snipers invoke the sun? Doesn’t a successful sniper need to remain hidden? Then why would you inscribe on your body a call for light?

  14. First, I respect the training it takes to bea sniper. And as a military historian I get on a purely academic level that a sniper “sacrifices” his/her self in a sense by taking on one of the most violent tasks in the military. As I’m sure that anonymous knows, some snipers have killed in the thousands.

    But perhaps you should learn a little more history. More importantly, meet some World War II vets who fought to end Nazism and ask them what they think of your tatoos and brands. My uncle Earl, a hero at Bastogne, would spit in your face for wearing the death’s head insignia. Several of his buddies were tortured by Waffen SS soldiers and he helped to execute one who killed a friend of his after the war ended.

    Look up the atrocities of the Waffen SS and tell me that is it appropriate for honorable U.S. service men to wear such insignia.

    And you are breaking the code of military conduct as White Supremacist tatoos and brands, even on a black dick, are verboten. You should be proud of your service to the nation, but are just wrong for wearing such vile imagery.

    Note that ALL Nazi imagery is illegal in Germany. That should tell you something.

  15. Casey, you bring up a good point. I cannot imagine what men who fought in World War II against the Nazis would make of such a development. I think my grandpa would be deeply insulted.

  16. i immigrated to the USA from Finland. all three of my grandfathers fought in WW2 — one of them died on the front; my grandmother remarried another veteran long before i came along.

    Finland was allied with Germany in that war. not because any serious number of Finns particularly wanted to ally with the nazis, but it seemed nobody else would help us fight off Stalin. (there are stories there, as WW2 history buffs know.) i’ve had to explain to foreign visitors why soldiers’ graves from that era sport a swastika — the Finnish army, German-influenced since well before the third reich, had used an upright-standing swastika as an insignia long before the nazis came to power. (they obviously had to change that, post-war.)

    dunno if that gives me any particular right to speak on matters of seventy-year old symbolism or not, but i suppose it doesn’t take any such right away from me, either. and, y’know, if marine scout snipers really want to wear some fancy controversial insignia of their own that the people of their homeland won’t understand why they’d wear it — let’s see them brand on a hammer and sickle underneath a tattoo of Lenin, Stalin and Marx in socialist-realist profile. maybe surround it all with the outline of a red star, while they’re at it.

    think your average jarhead would much appreciate that? no? well, let’s not get me started on the sigrunen, then — much less the totenkopf. for heaven’s sake, the godsdamn totenkopf, what the fuck kind of illiterate morons are my tax dollars paying to feed anyway…

  17. Nomen,

    You should be proud of your ancestors who fought with Mannerheim against the Russians, and by the end of the war, against the Germans. What they accomplished during the Winter War of 1940 is one of the most amazing feats in military history. I teach a class on World War II and my students end up admiring the Finns for their audacity and bravery.

    I really hope that we are dealing with young men here who are like most American kids: they have no idea about our history. Over 50% of American college graduates in 2006 thought that the U.S. and Germany were allies against the Russians in World War II. What a farce.

  18. Yep. I’ve had my share of “World War II was when the US and the Japanese fought the Russians and Koreans” responses. I’ve also had students who really didn’t know that the British didn’t win the American War for Independence “which is why we all speak English now.” I’m not discounting ignorance by any means.

    On the other hand, it could be that they know and just don’t give a fuck. (As the man says…) After all, snipers drill people in the head for a living and they have to get used to operating outside the conventions of civil society. Willingly adopting an offensive tat would be just another way of demonstrating brotherhood among outsiders.

  19. Bridgett,

    As always, well said. Perhaps this is little more than an elite unit, which has to get it’s hands very dirty, trying celebrate it’s otherness. I can understand that. It would be cool, though, if they sought an American image for doing so. Maybe a long-rifle toting American guerrila fighter from the revolution.

    Maybe a bloody tomahawk from the King’s Mountain massacre, that should be sufficiently violent and American to boot.

  20. Hey, one of my great-greats (a son of James Williams, for whom my father was named) got grievously injured at King’s Mountain and was never right again, according to his pension app. Long-lived but useless…that’s just how we roll…

  21. I had an ancestor at King’s Mountain too. I’ve often wondered if he participated in the massacre after the battle. Those crackers were mean as hell.

  22. Yeah, I’ve been trying to think about how this might function like the Rebel flag functions–yes, it’s racist. But it doesn’t function for most of the people who fly it primarily as a racist image. Primarily, it functions for them as a way to say “Fuck you, we are apart from you” and I don’t see much evidence for it being always, “fuck you, black people, we are apart from you,” though it can be.

    So, yeah, Bridgett, in consideration of what you said, I can see how the tattoo functions to say “We are what you would find abhorrent and we take pride in that.”

    Nomen, I think one problem we as Americans have is not so much that we don’t get WWII, but that we don’t get WWII and we don’t get what was going on in Europe right before, during, and after. My WWII education consisted of being shown slides of concentration camps full of almost dead and dead people one class period in junior high, and being told in high school that Germany had suffered terribly during the Great Depression (forget WWI–all we were taught about that was that someone had been shot and the world went to hell) and was somewhat leaderless and Hitler was able to rise to power by giving the Germans a scapegoat to blame their problems on–the Jews–and he then proceeded to try to exterminate all the Jews in Europe.

    I’m embarrassed to admit that, until I took a history course devoted to the Holocaust in college, I didn’t understand that Hitler was actually trying to conquer all of Europe. The way it was presented to me in high school was purely that Hitler was trying to exterminate all of the Jews in Europe. So, why the Germans were, say, in Africa? We never touched on it. As far as we knew, he was going into countries, taking them over, exterminating the Jews and then… I don’t know… handing the countries back over to the non-Jews? Except Poland, which we were lead to believe was a country full of idiots and colluders who couldn’t even put up a good fight against Russia.

    Again, thanks to that history class in college, I got that the Poles saw Russia as helping to liberate them from the Germans.

    All this messy stuff that has implications for the next 50 years, and we never got much of it.

    Casey and Bridgett, if it turns out that you’re related, I’m going to be so jealous.

    Oh and Nomen, my favorite thing about the Finns is that even my gods seem to be a bit in awe of you. They are frequently running off to learn magic from y’all and then insulting each other about what happens on those trips.

  23. It’s pretty clear that my progenitors arrived early, liked sex , and were extremely healthy and long-lived. They also had hugeass families (legitimate, up the country, in all colors and combinations). I’m pretty much related to everyone with any genealogical roots in the Appalachian southeast, if you go back far enough, even leaving aside that ape some call Eve.

    Yikes, one fifty-minute junior high class on World War II. Last night, we talked longer at our dinner table about Edward I and his campaigns in Wales and Scotland…

  24. Well, I’m the proud scion of three great southern families: the Cobbs of Georgia and Alabama, the Walls of the Carolinas, and the Nantahala Cherokees. 2/3s old school Anglo Saxon, 1/3 Cherokee. My family has lived in Robbinsville, NC for 200 years and have fought in every war our nation fought. Although we bushwacked both sides during the Civil War and robbed banks. In fact, we still own an entire valley purchased with our ill gotten gains.

    Lleweyn was Welsh badass. He used long bows. Maybe our fascist sniper friend should have a Welsh long bow branded on his balls.

  25. But, you know, I have enormous trouble conceptualizing a Jew who could pull off the particular set of mental gymnastics that would be necessary to get such a tattoo. Unless he was trying to pass. I mean, no matter how it might function as a generalized “fuck you” for others. And even there … B, the people who (claim to) use the Confederate flag as a symbol of fuck-youism but not racism are the descendants/inheritors of the people who flew that flag. They’re not the descendants/inheritors of the people who were enslaved by the people who flew that flag, or even of the people who fought against the people who flew that flag. There’s a sense of inheritance, ownership, proprietary rights in that use, somehow. But how can US Marines feel inheritance, ownership, or proprietary rights in the symbol of some of the worst stuff their ancestors/predecessors fought against? It’s not at all the same thing.

  26. NM, I don’t know. The truth is that I can’t understand it. I get, I do, I get the desire to set yoruself apart and indicate that you are dangerous and badass, but the SS tattoo is first and foremost in this country a symbol of neo-nazi nutjobs who frequently terrorize people and who right now think that non-whites (however they’re defining ‘white’ at the moment) are subhuman.

    If I see some dude in my grocery store sporting an SS tattoo on his arm, I am going to assume he’s a dangerous, evil racist. And if folks who are not dangerous, evil racists want to get SS tattoos, they’re going to just have to live with the fact that people are going to think that they’re dangerous, evil racists or were attacked by dangerous, evil racists with a tattoo gun or branding iron.

  27. NM,

    There was a Neo Nazi group of Jewish fascists arrested in Israel a few years ago. They were racially jewish, but had grown up in Russia outside of their ethnicity. They immigrated to Israel to find work and didn’t fit. They turned to fascism and wanted to kill Jews. What fascinating times. Here is a BBC article on the subject:

    And only a further aside. Most Europeans look down on the “Stars and Bars,” but the Czechs adopted it as their “battle flag” during the Velvet Revolution that ended Soviet rule. And at least one Congolese Rebel group flew it as well, but with green, black, and yellow colors. Obviously, in both cases it was the image of rebellion in the face of great odds that prompted them to use Confederate imagery.

    Really, it isn’t the Confederate flag, it is a variation on St. George’s Cross,which was part of many European national and battle flags. Much like the swastika has an ancient history previous to Hitler’s cult.

    Damned if it ain’t spring break and I started lecturing anyway. I’m supposed to be conquering the world on my new Empire Total war game. See you folks in later.

  28. Casey, you’re just reinforcing the idea that Nazi symbols still stand for hating Jews. And you should catch Jason Ringenberg’s take on Europeans using Confederate symbols: “Rebel Flag in Germany,” it’s called.

  29. NM,

    Thanks, I’ll google right after posting. My opinion of European conceptions of the Confederate flag come from time spent at colleges overseas and from grad school mates from Wales. All were uber liberal and might not represent the fullness of European opinion.

    But, I am confused as to how Nazi symbology would no longer represent hatred of Jews. Race relations is an academic obsession of mine and might well be for you as well. It seems to be that Jew hating is alive and well and Nazi symbology is still key to the movement.

  30. I am agreeing that Nazi symbology continues to represent hatred of Jews to the point of wanting to wipe them out. Which is why I say that I find it incomprehensible to suggest, as anonymous does, that anyone identifying as a Jew* would wear an SS tattoo to identify as a Marine sharpshooter.

    *The article you link to points out that the group you refer to above didn’t identify as Jews, but considered themselves Russians.

  31. I agree. I didn’t actually throw it out as criticism of your stance, it is just very interesting that these ideas could crop up in Israel. Clearly, the message has a long-term appeal across many cultures.

  32. I will say that this is a group of educated and passionate people. I can’t even disagree with much of what has been said thus far. But I think there is a huge ( and I mean very, very big ) gap of understanding.

    I am a Marine Scout/Sniper.

    There are many reasons why we get these tattoos and brands. Most of all, I think it is because of the distinction it offers. Bridgett you are very close to the mark. Not completely, but close.

    Aunt B: It is very hard to understand why we do this. I agree. But so is the reason why other cultures do things outside the “norm”. And a culture is how you should think of us. Our lives are so far detached from yours that normal has no meaning.

    Casey: You bring up the most formidable arguments with which I mostly agree. Unfortunately, there are cases of which snipers take the symbols of SS to an extreme. In fact, any representation of the SS is extreme in your view. I do not agree, condone, or rejoice in the actions of Nazis or the Waffen. I do like the symbol SS. Do you think my brothers and I are a disgrace to the USMC? Or this country? And no Mr. Casey, I am not your average illiterate kid in America with no sense of history. None of us really are. In fact, we consist of the top 1/4% in the Marine Corps. There are under 500 of us in a force of over 210,000.

    Mr NM: I, for one, find the last part of your first post disrespectful. Jarhead huh? Trust me, the movie wasn’t that good. I sympathize for your family’s lost. I too had two grandfathers in WWII. And Korea. Uncles in Vietnam. Disgracing them would be worse than disgracing myself. I don’t feel as if I have. And no… I am not a moron (the food really sucks too!). If you think I am unaware of the realities of war or combat think of this; Three tours; two to Iraq and one to Afghanistan, being injured, having friends die, having killed (sometimes unjustly) and suffering for this country I believe makes me the resident expert to speak of the subject… Don’t you? But don’t worry. Even without your tax dollars, I am here to serve and protect you.

    Our job is one of little gratitude. No one knows what we do, when we do it, or where we do it. And this is alright with us.

    “We the willing, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much for so long with so little, that we are now qualified to do anything with nothing.

  33. Someone seems to be conflating me and Nomen. Possibly a lack of attention to little details like that is what makes a person say that s/he likes the symbol of things s/he doesn’t condone.

  34. None,

    I will say this, I don’t pretend to understand what you have gone through in combat. And I admire you for your service and am uncomfortable saying you disgrace the Marine Corps. You’ve served and earned my respect. I’m a civilian and regret having never served. So, thanks, sincerely, for your service to our nation.

    I do wonder what Chesty Puller would say. He didn’t fight Nazis, but would he condone the tatoo? I asked my Uncle what he thought about it just yesterday and he said it got his “blood up,” which is old school hillbilly for wanting to fight.

    I will also admit that it is hard, as a military historian, not to admire the fighting acumen of the Waffen SS. Some of the greatest defensive fighting in history was put up by Sep Dietrich with a handful of Waffen SS and Volkstrum troops in the closing days of the war. Their sacrifice allowed millions of German soldiers and refugees to escape the Russians and enter American conquered territory.

    If I were German, I would have a complicated understanding of the Waffen SS as I do with our Confederate ancestors here in the South. Probably something like, “man am I proud of how hard and well they fought for Germany, but I’m equally disgusted with the dishonor they’ve brought my nation for fostering such a terrible cause.” Aunt B, Bridgett, NM and I have chosen to politely disagree on that subject. Note that statues of David Farrugat and Nathan Bedford Forrest glare at each other from either side of the entrance to the Tennessee State Congressional chamber. Andrew Jackson, Sam Houston, and John Sevier participated in Indian massacres. So, we have our own history of Waffen SS style tactics.

    I take students to Normandy each summer. One of the sites we visit is a last stand by 60 boys of the 12th SS Panzer Grenediers near Vimoutiers, France. Along with a sniper and 4 tiger tanks, they held off thousands of Allied troops for three days, allowing tens of thousands of their fellow German soldiers to escape. They fought to the last boy, play on words intended, as they were mostly under 18 year old. The shear bravery is astounding. The waste fighting for a bastard such as Adolf is sickening. Those boys never had a chance at a good life.

    SS Captian Michael Wittman once held off a BRIGADE of Russian soldiers with one tiger tank during a retreat on the Eastern front. He is one of the bravest soldiers in all of history and is admired by tankers the world over. He died on August 8, 1944 in Normandy, again covering the retreat of other German soldiers. Wittman, by the way, refused to participate in a Jewish killing action on the Eastern front in 1941, calling it cowards work.

    When I study war, I leave my own ideology out. I can find honor in Roman soldiers who are responsible for hundreds of holocausts. I know the scale was often smaller, but the world was much smaller then as well. I admire the Spartans, despite the fact that they killed their own babies if they were thougth unworthy.

    Perhaps the problem with Nazi symbology is how fresh it is in our collective minds. Remember, you defend people with your bravery who are Holocaust survivors. Could you look one of them in the face and explain your tatoo? That was very much Nomen’s point. Maybe you don’t understand what if felt like to be on the other end of the Totenkopf, or Death’s Head insignia.

    Again, thank you for your service and please, if you can, choose American symbols of courage and valor. Maybe the bloody tomahawk of the Independence War.

  35. This is a Waffen SS soldier. Marines protect civilians. You decide for yourself if you want to share symbols with this guy.

  36. This is as poisonous an issue as religion or politics. I apologize for my off-the-cuff response. In all honestly I was looking of Sniper terminology and found this blog. I was engrossed by the conversation and started typing without thinking about what I was really saying.

    NM, I am sorry for the confusion.

    Casey. Your comments and insight are very appreciated. I am sitting here in a room full of snipers, and you have our respect.

    We want to point out; Our respect and admiration for “SS” and other such warrior ethos doesn’t stem from a political or moral alliance with them. No one agrees with the slaughtering of millions of Jews. We respect the fighting spirit the comes from such intense warriors as themselves. How different do you think they were from us today? 19, 20, 21 year old young men fighting for their country is nothing new. And, like you said before, being young, we develop our own sense of distinction.

    Many years from now, we may feel differently. But I think we have earned the right to disagree.

  37. Yeah, you’ve certainly earned the right to disagree. But the whole situation is really upsetting me. I realize we’re at an impasse, but I just want to say it anyway.

    1. It’s hard for me to not see American servicemen putting the insignia of our enemy on their bodies as a slap in the face of the men who died fighting that enemy. I realize that’s not how you guys see it and I respect that, but I truly hope you guys have enough respect for what your fellow Marines and people in other branches of the service went through that you never, ever display that insignia in front of a WWII vet. It’s making me tear up to even imagine what that would be like, for a man who fought the Nazis to discover that the Marines who came after him now idolize them.

    2. I really hope you understand that almost no one is going to see that insignia on you and think “Oh, those must be snipers.” As you surely know, the vast majority of people who have SS tattoos are violent racists and proud of it. Very few people are going to withhold judgment long enough to discover that you’re actually the good guys. They will just treat you like you are like the majority of people with SS tattoos, violent racists that people should, at the least, avoid.

    3. I know that, when you’re 18, 19, 20, you’re not thinking about what it’s going to be like when you’re out of the military. And you’re also too young to have witnessed when the folks who came back from Vietnam went through. But I can tell you that, in general, making the switch back to civilian life isn’t easy and that you are not going to get the support you need. I wish with my whole heart more than you can know that this wasn’t the case, but I see my friends’ fathers even now struggling with what they went through in Vietnam and I see my brothers’ friends who’ve been to Iraq (and are going back again, in some cases) struggling to get what they are owed and it is fucked up.

    It’s so fucked up.

    So, I just want to be frank with you. We, your fellow Americans, owe you a great debt. We rely on you to do things we can’t or won’t do ourselves and we ask you to give up a big chunk of your life (sometimes you give up your life). And in return, I think you deserve respect and jobs and health care and support and the gratitude of your communities.

    You are probably not going to get it. That is just a fact.

    I have known vets who served in every war in the 20th century and only the World War II vets felt that they got what they needed when they got back in order to make a place for themselves (and certainly not all of them felt that way).

    If how America has treated her veterans before is any indication, you guys are going to have to fight for everything you need when you get home. You’re going to have to raise enormous stink after enormous stink.

    Look at the guys I went to high school with who fought in Desert Storm who knew they’d gotten sick over there and were called liars and fakers and who are only just now getting the government to acknowledge that they were poisoned.

    Oh god, I’m rambling, but I do have a point. Here it is. You’re not going to get what you deserve when you get home without fighting for it, hard. And you will have to do it. You will have to be your own best advocates.

    If you have inscribed yourself with Nazi symbols and civilians come to know of it, people who would otherwise be sympathetic to your plight are not going to feel like helping you is that important. They are not going to understand. They will not give you the respect you deserve.

    Look at what you’re reading here–people who deeply appreciate the job you’re doing and who are thinking deeply about this symbolism and even we are split about whether it’s understandable. People who have lost family members to Nazis? People who have had violent encounters with neo-Nazis? They will not understand. They will just assume you are scary racists or too stupid to understand the evil you seem to be celebrating.

    And that will be your loss and your families’ loss when you need the government to come through on its promises to you, because you will not have the civilian support you need and deserve, because the civilians will be afraid of you.

    And most of all, I don’t like it because it seems like you’re dissing America, that there’s nothing in our own history that’s cool enough for you. And I feel like that’s kind of bullshit. You shouldn’t have to go to some other country’s past to find people to emulate. We have heroes. What’s wrong with our brave warriors?

  38. None,

    I’ll speak to your kind words to me later. I hope you notice how important what is happening here is. How often does someone as liberal as Aunt B. and a combat veteran such as yourself get to have a rational discussion like this in modern America?

    For one thing, note that she is super liberal and still loves you guys. Almost all Americans have understood from teh beginning that you are doing your duty with grime determination. We also know that you go where you are told to go and that politics don’t enter into it. What is often heartbreaking for liberals is that many soldiers think we hate you and that is not at all true. Actually, I’m one of those freaks that don’t fit totally in any political camp, but I hope you stay and let folks like Aunt B. just talk to you a bit.

    I, too, had a rough start here and now am almost a daily poster–is that like decider–Aunt B brings together a wild cross section of people. You would add much to this site and will laugh your fucking ass off too.

  39. I fully appreciate all comments given. Please don’t think I’m so hard headed that I can’t sympathize with others point of view.

    I think of it like this:

    What a slap in the face it is to have a countries war symbol taken by those who conquered you and used to their own advantage.

    Aunt B: you obviously love this country, and I would never question that. But it takes rough men and women to do what those won’t. We are not pretty, politically correct, or completely moral. Rarely do we expose these marks for people to see. The original poster probably did see a Neo-Nazi. Ours are personal in a way I can’t explain. Know this: nothing in our lives is sugar coated for public consumption, nor will it ever be. We live in the gray area of civilization. It’s not a defense or an excuse. I’ll be honest, this is the first negative reaction I’ve received over something we view as trivial.

    But I respect your view. I am not blind. I know it is offensive to many people out there no matter what our intentions. Nor am I ignorant of consequences of my actions. I do not, however idolize Nazis. You took my admiration of a warrior culture the wrong way. I can not explain this easily. A good solider is a good solider. Many years ago, it was an honor to be killed by a worthy opponent. I respect those from all sides of war, because in the end, they were people like me.

    I would never equate my experience at home to those of the Vietnam war. That is a shameful time in American history. My support has been outstanding from all sides. I don’t ask people to understand because they can’t.

    I agree Casey. This is a good place to share opinions and observe others views. Don’t mistake my view as that of all U.S. military. I do not speak for them. Just me.

    I love this country as much as any of you. No matter how immoral or wrong we are viewed, we do what we think is best for this country. As sappy as it may sound, We bleed on the Flag to keep its stripes red. Warriors and heros of the past may disagree with those of the present, but who do you think they assimilate better with? Those who comment from the side, with an education and opinion, or those who share a bond deeper than most will ever know? I will make my peace with those who came before me because that is my privilege. Ultimately, I answer to God.

    Make no mistake. We are a messed up bunch of guys. We are hated, despised, envied, admired, and feared. Things are not the same to us. I will ask for forgiveness of those her

  40. Well, I just want to thank you just on the level of this being a good discussion. It’s been hard but it’s given me a lot to think about. I hope it’s been that way for everybody.

    Here’s my request. Y’all be as safe as you can and in 50 years, if I’m still around (and I should be, 84 is completely do-able for the women in my family), I will buy you guys a round of beer, every sniper with an SS tattoo who is reading this thread and wants to come. We will go out for a beer and we will invite with us some young snipers who are the age you guys are now.

    And if they have on their bodies Al Quaida tattoos or brands (or Bin Laden or the mark of anyone who is on the other side of your scope right now), y’all will let me laugh long and hard for a few minutes before we start up this same discussion with them.

    I will gladly pay for all of the alcohol necessary to get to be there for the moment when y’all are like “Hey, that’s pretty damn dumbass, son.”


    Seriously, please be safe and come home. We need y’all here, for a good long time, once you’re done there.

  41. I think of it like this:

    What a slap in the face it is to have a countries war symbol taken by those who conquered you and used to their own advantage.

    I wasn’t aware that our Marines were doing a lot of sniping in Germany these days. So I don’t think that the people whose war symbol that once was (who, as Casey has already pointed out, now revile the symbol) are the ones getting the message.

    It’s your fellow-citizens who see and recognize it. And we are, most of us, aware that it wasn’t a symbol for war and warriors alone, but was, in fact, a symbol of personal loyalty to a vicious leader, and of (mostly) willing participation in great crimes against civilian populations. The Waffen-SS can be kind of-sort of analogized to the Marines, if you kind of-sort of analogize the Marines to the worst of the scum taking pictures at Abu Ghraib, only worse. The original SS, of course, were Hitler’s personal bodyguard/militia. Marine snipers may view this as trivial, but most of the folks who see your tattoos won’t.

    And, I dunno, speaking as someone whose father enlisted in the Army, only to be given the nickname “Goddamn kike” by his sergeant in basic training and to get beaten up by a fellow-soldier for being a Jew, speaking from that perspective, there’s this little bit of my consciousness that suggests that maybe the people wearing that tattoo actually do sympathize with what it means. You say that you personally don’t, and I believe you, but in my eyes that just makes you an idiot and a bit of an asshole for wearing the tattoo. A brave, tough, dedicated, loyal, skilled, and competent idiot and asshole, to be sure, and one to whom I’m grateful and all, but an idiot and asshole all the same.

  42. aunt B. seems to be making the point that a bunch of warriors setting themselves so completely apart from the country and citizenry they’re supposed to serve and protect is… not smart of them.

    or maybe i’m misreading her. well, if she isn’t, then i will.

    quoth none:

    Our lives are so far detached from yours that normal has no meaning.

    i read that, and something in the back of my brain goes “hang on one goddamn minute…” the person who’s saying that is supposed to be on my side, yet here s/he is, claiming to be so different from me that there can be no comparison between us.

    how is that not frighteningly dangerous to everybody involved?

    why then should not we, the people who’re sponsoring and subsidizing that band of warriors, decide to simply disband them and start up another organization of fighters instead, see if the next group of snipers we train might be better able to remember where they came from?

    i realize that calling a marine a “soldier” might be taken as an insult, but i’ll have to risk that in order to remind y’all that you’re supposed to be citizen soldiers. you’re not supposed to be apart from the American public so far that we can’t understand each other. you’re supposed to be us, just wearing uniform and carrying weapons. why would you take any pride in failing to be that?

    and if somehow you do take pride in failing to be at all like me, why should i trust you to defend me?

    perhaps i’m misreading your words and misinterpreting your feelings on the matter. it’s not always easy to get the full measure of one’s intentions into, or out of, letters on a computer screen. but on re-reading your postings so far, i think i could be forgiven for interpreting what you’ve said so far as meaning you do take pride in your otherness. if that’s so, please take a moment to ponder just what and who it is you’re othering yourself from.

    (full disclosure: i’ve worn uniform too, in conscripted service to my other, native, homeland. i hated it, but that was just me; i’m not cut out for a military life. one thing about being a conscript, though… one surely does remember one is a citizen soldier, when that service is part of a citizen’s duty. maybe going to an all-volunteer military wasn’t as smart of a move for America as was thought at the time?)

  43. Well, this was a learning experience for me. I had no idea that snipers in the U.S. military wore SS brands and tats. It has really made me think and on spring break to boot.

    A few last things. None, I hope in the fullness of time that you no longer look upon yourself as an outcast. You are, and always will be, an American citizen first. And I take your point that my Uncle who hated the Waffen SS so will still tell you that they were “goddamned tough fuckers,” in his words. Clearly we arm-chair generals will never fully understand the bond created by seeing combat. The British idealize Erwin Rommel, as do I. Rommel was Waffen SS, even commanding the Lifestandarte Division–HItler’s personal guards–before the war. He never wore the black SS uniform as he commanded Weirmacht troops, but he was SS.

    You boys keep you heads down, powder dry and come back alive, please.

    One last thing: The SS symbol isn’t actually the letter S. They are ancient Nordic runes of power.

  44. Yes, but once we start talking about them actually being sowelos and not being “s”s and having supernatural purposes as well as symbolic, we’re opening up a whole other can of worms.

    Because someone who needs to remain hidden would not put a call for the power of the sun on his body, I wouldn’t think. That would go against common sense.

    Though, again, this is another area in which the Nazis just made random shit up to suit them, since they changed the rune from sowelo (the sun) to sig (victory).

  45. You mean there’s supposed to be some durable relationship between signifier and the signified? That’s where the magic comes in…

  46. I know. I’m so old-fashioned that way, but by gods, in my day, when a person painted a picture of a man killing a deer, it was because she wanted her man to have good luck killing a deer. And when a man put a call for sun on his body, he wanted the sun to shine on him.

    Kids these days.


  47. Aunt B,

    You crack me up. This has been my all time favorite blogging discussion of all times. Even better than arguing with Terry Frank.

  48. I myself am many things one is a 25 hispanic irish male from south texas so i have seen acts of hate and disrespect in my life another thing i am is a 4 time combat veteran and a USMC scout sniper. i have the runes tattooed on me aswell as the 2d marine division school house logo tattooed on me. When you enter the ss program and graduate school it is a choice to get the tattoo it is you will not get a courtmartial and you will not get njp as long as you follow 1020.34g and any othe tattoo/uniform order as set forth by the marine corps so if you have a problem with it im sorry we snipers mean no disrespect it my body and im the one who graduated one of the hardest schools in the military and the hardest sniper school in the world when you do you can get it or not but until then i really dont think the people who havent should get a fucking vote

  49. Yeah, as I said before in this thread, you come see me in 50 years when kids are tattooing Osama Bin Laden on themselves, because they respect how ballsy he was, and tell me how much you like it.

  50. Or get yourself a KKK tattoo — they’ve been really good killers too, ya know — and explain how you mean no disrespect. You could do that one right now.

  51. Not all The ss were evil soldiers as told. even though the ss special units under the command of himmler murded jews, the waffen ss was an elite fighting force. which had nothing to do with it, and the waffen ss wanted nothing to do with it, if they made a mistake, they were sent to gas chambers to execute the jews as a punishment, they had the choice to execute. or quit the waffen and then be executed.

    I have an SS tattoo along with a couple ss soldiers and panzers, (no swastikas) not because i am a racist, (because i am not), but that i respect how superior their army was and well trained.

    Alot of the methods used by the nazis in ww2 are still in use today. same as their training methods.
    do some research and compare the nazi stormtroopers to the modern day marines.

    My tattoo is just history illustrated. not a sign that im a “skinhead” or a “white supremacist” .

    And a message to all you skins out there.. Who are racist toward Japs. If you do some research you will find that they are an Aryan race.

  52. All right. I’m sorry. We have perhaps reached the nadar of stupidity and I have to close this thread. Now we’re arguing that the SS were VICTIMS of the Nazis? Who didn’t really want to kill Jewish people?

    “I’m not a racist, but I throw around terms like ‘Japs'”?

    Let me be clear. If you have an SS tattoo, at the least, you are an asshole. If you are in the military, imagine how you’d feel in 50 years if you discovered our troops were getting Osama bin Laden tattoos or tattoos of Al Quida slogans, how insulted you’re going to feel, how you and your buddies are going to want to wipe the floor with those punk kids’ faces. You will have no moral standing, because what you are doing is just as insulting to ever man who gave his life to defeat the Nazis.

    You’re right. I don’t understand. I can’t understand.

    But believe me. Neither would my grandfather. And he was one of you.

    Also, you should know, if you are a sniper, that those ruins have a historical meaning older than the one the Nazis made up for it. It does not mean “victory,” it means “sun.” Putting it on your body is a direct prayer for the sun to shine on you. You may want to consider that before tattooing in permanently on yourself–if you want to be constantly marked for illumination.

    If you are not in the military and you have an SS tattoo, and you think you can make some, “but it doesn’t make me a racist” argument, you are a dumbass.

    If you have an SS tattoo, people will think you are a flaming dangerous racist nutball or were brutally attacked and marked by one. And there is no argument that you can make that will make most people think, oh, okay, they’re really good guys.

    That’s just the truth.

    That’s the end of the discussion here.

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