Travels with the Pasha (On Memorial Day in America)

by Leanne Ogasawara


The year was 1683. And the Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire, Kara Mustafa Pasha, was leading one of the most organized war machines the world had ever seen, westward– toward Vienna. We know that his campaign would end in failure. The Pasha himself held ultimately responsible, he would be made to suffer the punishment of death by strangulation. The skin of his head peeled off and stuffed with straw, this gruesome “head” was then delivered to the Sultan back in Constantinople in a velvet bag.

Make sure you tie the knot right, he reportedly said with great bravado to his executioners as they prepared to tie the silken cord around his neck.

Only imagine how optimistic he must have been months earlier as he led his powerful army toward the city known to the Ottomans as the “Golden Apple.” Before the battle, Kara Mustafa had sent an official demand for surrender of the city. It was pure formality– as both sides knew this was to be a fight to the finish.

The Ottomans, for their part, had already set up camp and began digging.


The walls of Vienna were famous back then. Built during the 13th century using ransom money from the high-profile kidnapping of King Richard the Lionhearted (who had made the mistake of getting captured near Vienna whilst traveling home from the Holy Land), these walls had proved an impossible challenge the last time the Ottomans had come to town, in 1529. That was under Suleiman the Magnificent. And it wasn’t just the walls that challenged the invading army; for surrounding the walls were massive fortifications –including projecting bastions, ravelins, and ramparts. The entire city was then further fortified by wide artificial slopes (the glacis). That is why the best chance the Ottomans had was to dig under the bastions and detonate explosives to bring the fortifications down. Read more »