“Deadliest Warrior” – S03E06 – Theodore Roosevelt vs. Lawrence of Arabia

Deadliest Warrior — Season 03, Episode 06 — Theodore Roosevelt versus T. E. Lawrence (a.k.a. Lawrence of Arabia)

In this episode of Deadliest Warrior we have a great match-up between two of the best military leaders  in the early 1900s:  Theodore Roosevelt and T.E. Lawrence.

When it comes to modern American history, it’s harder to think of a tougher man and leader than Theodore Roosevelt.  From a cowboy in North Dakota, to a Colonel in the U.S. Army and commander of the incredibly brave and tough Rough Riders, to President of the United States, to safaris in both Africa and South America, it’s safe to say that Theodore Roosevelt was not just an adventurer but a modern day warrior.  His battles alone against Spanish forces in Cuba during the Spanish-American War would catapult him into stardom and help him seal his attempt at the U.S. presidency.

Going against the brawn of Theodore Roosevelt is the brainpower of T. E. Lawrence, the British Lieutenant Colonel who used Arab irregular troops in guerrilla-style, hit-and-run attacks against the Ottoman Empire during World War 1.  Part of Lawrence’s success was from his extensive knowledge of the Arabia region, from field work in Middle Eastern archaeology to extensive travel throughout the Ottoman Empire and vast knowledge about the German trains in the Middle East.

Can the leader of the Rough Riders in the Spanish-American War defeat the man who led irregular Arab troops and defeated the Ottoman Empire during World War 1?

Theodore Roosevelt VERSUS T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia)


In this episode of Deadliest Warrior, Theodore Roosevelt is armed with a Bowie Hunter Knife, an 1896 Krag Carbine Rifle, and a Gatling Gun Machine Gun.  T. E. Lawrence is armed with a Jambiya Dagger, a Short Magazine Lee Enfield Rifle, and a Vickers Machine Gun.  Roosevelt’s special tactic is to suppress and slaughter (a.k.a charge!), and Lawrence’s special tactic is to hit-and-run (a.k.a phantom army).

long-range weapons:  Gatling Gun versus Vickers Machine Gun

Up first is Teddy Roosevelt’s Gatling gun, an air-cooled, multi-barrel, hand-cranked machine gun that dates back to the American Civil War and as recent as the Franco-Prussian War.  The weapon is capable of firing up to 900 rounds per minute with a muzzle velocity of 2020 fps and a range of 500-2,000 yards.

The battlefield test of this class of weapon used 250 rounds to defend the top of a hill against fifteen static troops and three advancing troops.

In 1:11, the two-man crew manning the Gatling gun fired all 250 rounds and killed 13 of the 18 targets.  All three moving targets were killed along with ten of the fifteen static targets.  As it was noted, many of the killed troops had a tight grouping of rounds throughout the chest and abdomen, making instant kills.

Going against the Gatling gun is Lawrence’s Vickers machine gun, a water-cooled, belt-fed machine gun used extensively in the British Army throughout World War 1.  The weapon has a firing rate of 450-500 rounds per minute with a muzzle velocity of 2440 fps and a combat range of 2,187 yards.

As we saw in the shooting demonstration, it took the two men manning the Vickers machine gun 1:41 to shoot all 250 rounds and kill 14 of the 18 targets.  But as we also saw, the gun jammed after firing the first round and it took a valuable moment for the gun to resume firing.

When looking at each weapon’s statistics, the Vickers machine should have destroyed the Gatling gun.  And it almost did too during the firing test except for one minor issue — something jammed inside of the weapon’s barrel.  The Gatling gun has ten barrels, and as it was mentioned in the show, should one of those barrels jam, the weapon can still fire with the nine remaining barrels.

It was also pointed out that the biggest issue with the Vickers was that it was basically brand new equipment for Lawrence and his troops.  Yes, they were able to use it effectively despite its flaws.  Teddy Roosevelt’s Gatling gun was ancient but proven technology by the time his troops used it in the Spanish-American War.  Evolution of modern warfare, including much more accurate artillery and longer range of snipers, made the large and hard to move Gatling gun and sniper-bait crew obsolete during World War 1, forcing countries to take an alternate route for crew-manned machine guns.

As far as this test, it would have been more accurate for both crews to move the weapon into position FIRST and then fired it against the targets.  Otherwise, the Vickers was the deadlier of the two weapons as it killed one more of the targets than the Vickers.  Its only issue was that it jammed for a moment at the start of the shooting.  But when you compare the two machine guns in this exact situation with no counter fire, the Gatling gun has the advantage since its ten barrels just keep firing one right after the other, not stopping until the person’s arm gets tired or they run out of ammunition.

Winner — Roosevelt’s Gatling gun

mid-range weapons:  Short Magazine Lee Enfield Rifle versus 1896 Krag Carbine Rifle

Lawrence’s Lee-Enfield rifle is a bolt-action rifle with a ten-round magazine.

Roosevelt’s 1896 Krag Carbine (a.k.a. M1896 Carbine) is also a bolt-action rifle, although it only carries a five-round magazine.  The Krag rifle was the dominant rifle in the U.S. Army from 1894 to 1903, although fighting conditions in Cuba during the Spanish-American War exposed serious flaws with the weapon.

Both of the rifles were first tested by firing a single round into a clay target while being measured in everything from the weapon’s recoil force to the amount of damage each bullet created when entering the target.  Lawrence’s Lee-Enfield rifle had the greater amount of recoil but also gave out a greater amount of damage when hitting the target.

A second test of the rifles involved the Roosevelt and Lawrence soldiers running to a firing position, firing ten round, crossing over razor wire to a second firing position, and then firing ten more rounds at targets in a simulated bunker.

In this test, the person using Roosevelt’s Krag Carbine finished the simulated battlefield shooting drill in 2:26, scoring 16 hits out of 20 shots.  As you could have guessed before the drill began, reloading the rifle was a huge factor since this rifle required reloading its rounds one at a time.  The rifle could only carry up to five rounds, so stopping to reload was a frequent event.

The person using Lawrence’s Lee-Enfield rifle finished the shooting drill in 2:15, scoring only 14 hits out of 20 shots.  The long time to complete the course and lower shooting accuracy is a bit of a surprise since the rifle was reloaded quickly (thanks to a ten-round clip), and the longer barrel gives the rifle slightly better accuracy in theory.

In theory, the Lee-Enfield field should have won the battlefield shooting drill.  This came down to man versus man and not necessarily the rifles.  In my opinion, the soldier using Roosevelt’s Krag demonstrated how a properly trained and well-disciplined soldier can prevail in combat, even when using a technologically inferior weapon.  Throw in the fact that the rifle has a much lower recoil and better accuracy, and there you go.

Winner — Tie between Lawrence’s Lee-Enfield rifle and Roosevelt’s 1896 Krag Carbine.

short-range weapons:  Bowie Hunter versus Jambiya Dagger

Also known as an “Arkansas Toothpick,” the Bowie knife is simply a big ass knife.  Most designs have a blade length between 6 and 12 inches, and the massive steel blade is perfect for stabbing, thrusting and cutting.

Lawrence of Arabia’s answer to the Bowie knife is the jambiya, a dagger with a curved blade measuring about nine inches long and perfect for slashing and cutting an opponent.

Testing of the fighting knives involved attacking a pig carcass sliding down along a rope slide and then attacking a second pig behind the attacker, making the person turn around to attack the second target.

The person using Roosevelt’s Bowie knife scored one instant kill and one mortal wound with the pig targets, having an impact velocity of 42 mph.  The reason for the mortal wound was not the fault of the weapon but rather the user for not striking an ideal part of the body.  As it was pointed out by the person wielding the Bowie knife, “The blade is heavy.  It’s made for stabbing.  It goes right in.”

The person using Lawrence’s jambiya swung over and over, scoring two instant kills against the pig targets.  The heavy slashing wouldn’t necessarily kill when striking many areas of the body, but when used in combination with stabbing, it’s a very lethal weapon.  Because of the different striking motion, the jambiya had a faster impact velocity of 51 mph.

Lawrence’s jambiya was deemed the winner because the model used had a slightly larger blade than Roosevelt’s Bowie knife (the Bowie knife used in the infamous 1827 Sandbar Fight was an inch and a half longer than the model demonstrated in the TV show), and therefore was deemed to be more intimidating.  Never mind the fact that the Bowie’s large and heavy blade makes it a perfect knife for stabbing and cutting, so perfect that many states and towns have laws specific to Bowie knives versus every other type of knife.  And never mind the fact that had the person aimed better, then the Bowie knife would have scored two instant kills along with the jambiya.

It’s a bit ironic that for a TV show that prides itself in testing as to which weapon is more lethal than the other, the show goes with the weapon better designed for slashing versus one designed for stabbing.  And not just stabbing with a little dagger, but we’re talking about a great big blade that does a massive amount of damage.  Deadliest Warrior chose the jambiya because it looked more intimidating than the Bowie?  Yeah, right.

Winner — Lawrence’s jambiya



Right off the bat I’ll say that the late 1800s and early 1900s is one of my favorite periods of world history, especially in the world of combat.

In this episode of Deadliest Warrior, Theodore Roosevelt won 2,582 of the simulated battles against T. E. Lawrence, winning 51.6% of them.  The winning device for Teddy Roosevelt?  The Gatling gun.

As far as this match-up of Theodore Roosevelt versus T. E. Lawrence, you’re looking at brawn versus brain.  This isn’t saying that Theodore Roosevelt wasn’t a smart person, but rather his battlefield strength came from his can-do and keep striving attitude along with his physical strength.  If he saw an opportunity, he took it.  T. E. Lawrence, on the other hand, was a highly educated man who knew how to deceive his opponents in combat and strike at their moments of weakness.  He would make his enemy force a mistake and then seize upon it.  Lawrence himself was a very physically tough individual, but his greatest strength came when using his brainpower.

In this episode of Deadliest Warrior, Roosevelt was the person who used dominating force to conquer his opponents.  Give him a lot of men and he’ll use them to crush the enemy.  And I’m talking a LOT of men.  Roosevelt’s assault on San Juan and Kettle hills used a force of 6,600 Americans versus the 750 Spaniards defending the hills in Cuba.  Teddy Roosevelt won the battle and claimed his victory at a cost of 1,400 casualties in the assault.  It’s a bit ironic that Roosevelt won in Deadliest Warrior when typically in these simulated situations the warrior with newer technology AND guerrilla-style tactics usually wins that episode of the show.

T. E. Lawrence’s specialty was fighting against numerically superior forces like Roosevelt’s.  Give him a chance and he’ll divide the opponent’s forces (as we saw in the battle simulation), but unlike in the simulation, Lawrence will find a way to win the battle.

If this was a true test of deadliest warrior with a man-to-man fight, Teddy Roosevelt would win.  Lawrence may be smaller and more nimble, but man-to-man, Teddy Roosevelt would kick his ass.  But when it comes to each side having a small army, Lawrence is the one who would prevail in the end.  Roosevelt may have his tough guy mentality, but Lawrence would find a way to divide Roosevelt’s forces and use his own mentality against him.

Teddy Roosevelt’s politics may have been a bit radical, but I love his leadership, winning attitude, and sense of adventure.

Next week’s episode of Ivan the Terrible versus Hernan Cortes should be really interesting.