AP Photos: Stiff-legged marching's long tradition

The Associated Press
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FILE-North Korean female soldiers march during a mass military parade in Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang to celebrate 100 years since the birth of the North Korean founder Kim Il Sung on Sunday, April 15, 2012. The high-stepping precision marching on display, is the latest in a long tradition of goose-stepping, performed to varying degrees by militaries around the world. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

The high-stepping precision marching on display by North Korean soldiers in recent photos is the latest in a long tradition of goose-stepping, performed to varying degrees by militaries around the world.

European historian Norman Davies writes that the stiff-legged step originated in the Prussian Army in the 17th century. In "Europe: A History," Davies wrote that the march was meant to send "a clear set of messages" through the synchronicity of the marchers, their high kicks and their chins held high, a message that "Here, quite literally, was the embodiment of Prussian militarism." He said critics were the ones who dubbed it the goosestep.

Different armies varied the height of the kicks in their marching as the precision step made its way around the world. Perhaps the most well-known example of its usage is by the Nazis in Germany.

Its authoritarian display has also been parodied, as in Mel Brooks' musical "The Producers," which featured goose-stepping in the song "Springtime for Hitler."

The precision and height of the steps can be challenging. In 2010, India said it was modifying its nightly marching ritual at the border with Pakistan because the impact was harmful to soldiers' joints.