Before it became a catchphrase for the National Rifle Association and a battle cry for modern-day vetbros, ‘come and take it’ was a belligerent turn of defiance, a catchphrase perfect for a martial last stand against the dying light of a smoking battlefield. Today, it’s a phrase that’s finally found its perfect home: emblazoned on the main gun of an M1 Abrams tank.
The official Twitter account of Task Force Spartan — the Army component of Operation Spartan Shield based out of Camp Arifjan, Kuwait — on Tuesday dropped a batch of photos of U.S. soldiers rolling around with their counterparts from the United Arab Emirates’ land forces on M1 Abrams battle tanks during a training exercise.
Among those photos is this shot of an Abrams with ‘Come And Take It’ lovingly stenciled on the side of its 120 mm smoothbore main gun:
Now it’s worth noting that, despite the term’s modern-day association with aggressive opposition to gun control legislation, this is a delightfully appropriate addition for a battle tank assigned to Task Force Spartan given the historical connotations of the component name. In fact, the only thing that would’ve been more appropriate would be the application of the original Greek ‘Molon Labe,’ the message of defiance delivered from King Leonidas I in response to Xerxes’ demand that the Spartans surrender their weapons on the eve of the legendary Battle of Thermopylae.
Aside from the Spartan association, the phrase also has deep roots in American military history. Consider the Battle of Fort Morris in Nov. 1778 during the throes of the American Revolutionary War, when British commander Lt. Col. Lewis Fuser demanded the base’s surrender in a written note to the American rebels. Continental Army Col. John McIntosh famously responded, “We, sir, are fighting the battle of America — as to surrendering the fort, receive this laconic reply — come and take it.” (The British declined to do so.)
For this particular M1 Abrams, however, the ‘Come And Take It’ stencil may have more to do with a small dose of Texas heritage, especially considering that the Texas National Guard’s 36th Infantry Division currently maintains command authority of Task Force Spartan. During the Battle of Gonzales in March 1831 — the first land battle of the Texas Revolution against Mexico — a group of Texans slapped together a banner as a symbol of defiance against incoming Mexican forces, a banner that featured the phrase above an image of a cannon they’d taken years previously from Mexican officials.
Whatever the origin of this particular tank name, to those soldiers operating ‘Comes And Take It’ downrange, well, we salute you. Consider this right up there with ‘diplomacy failed’ and ‘bye Felicia’!