Most Americans don’t know much about General George Custer beyond the fact that he was killed — along with all of his troops — by Native American warriors at the Battle of Little Bighorn. Here are 9 other facts that illustrate there was a lot more to the man beyond the bad tactical decisions he made that day:
1. He didn’t graduate with the rest of his West Point class because he got in trouble
The night before he was supposed to graduate with the Class of 1861, he was the cadet duty officer. During his watch he came across two junior cadets having a heated discussion, and instead of breaking it up he suggested they settle it by fighting it out. He was punished by the officers on the staff for his lack of judgment and kept from getting his diploma and commission until a few months later.
2. His future father-in-law wasn’t a big fan at first
Custer had a romantic interest in Libbie Bacon, who was from a prominent Michigan family, but her father was concerned about his working class roots and excessive drinking.
3. He was given sick leave following the Battle of Antietam
Custer distinguished himself at the bloody Battle of Antietam near Maryland’s border with West Virginia on the Potomac River, but the campaign took a physical and emotional toll. He was given sick leave, which he used to return to Michigan and pursue his relationship with Libbie.
4. He pinned on his first general’s star at age 23
Custer remains the youngest general officer in U.S. military history.
5. He became a national hero after the Battle of Gettysburg (and his future father-in-law started to like him)
Custer led several charges at Gettysburg, including one where his horse was shot out from under him. On his final charge (mounted once again), Custer raised his saber and shouted, “come on, you Wolverines!” as he drove off the dismounted Rebels. His glory came at a great cost, however: 50 percent of the soldiers in his company were killed during the battle. The tales of his heroism spread far and wide, and his name was soon synonymous with victory in the war. His notoriety also shifted the attitude of Libby’s dad, and in time he was able to successfully ask for her hand in marriage.
6. He considered being a coal baron or a politician after the Civil War
Because of his celebrity Custer was well-connected, and as the military grew smaller and his sense of purpose after the war faded, he considered working in both the coal industry and politics. But before he could move on either option, Gen. Sherman summoned him to help move the country westward.
7. He was demoted to colonel for a while
As tends to happen after every major war, the U.S. Army downsized following the Civil War, which reduced the number of general officer billets. In order to remain on active duty Custer had to accept being reduced to the rank of colonel for a while.
8. While he was popular with troops during the Civil War, his men hated him while he blazed across the wild west
From his first days establishing a more permanent U.S. military presence in Texas until that fateful day on the plains of Montana he was constrained by an unresponsive military bureaucracy and limited resources, and those things contributed to a draconian, self-centered, and often hypocritical leadership style that tended to trash morale.
9. He was killed at Little Bighorn only 15 years after leaving West Point
Custer miscalculated his enemy on June 25, 1876. When his scout Bloody Knife told him there were more Sioux waiting for the Seventh Cavalry than they had bullets, he simply responded, “Well, I guess we’ll go through them in one day.” Somewhere Sitting Bull was saying the same thing, and his prediction proved to be the accurate one.
Here’s the Battle of Little Bighorn as portrayed in the movie classic “Little Big Man,” starring Dustin Hoffman as Custer’s scout and Richard Mulligan as Custer:
The only things more badass than these quotes were the actions that followed them.
1. “Just hold the phone and I’ll let you talk to one of the bastards!” – Maj. Audie Murphy, U.S. Army
In January 1945, while fighting to reduce the Colmar Pocket, then-Lt. Audie Murphy led the depleted B Company, 15th Infantry Regiment in an attack on the town of Holtzwihr. The attack quickly ran into stiff resistance from German armor and infantry. Lt. Murphy ordered his men to withdraw while he held his position to continue to call in artillery on the advancing Germans. The Germans were nearly on top of him, but he continued to call for fire. Fearful of firing on their own soldier, headquarters asked Murphy how close the enemy was, to which he replied: “Just hold the phone and I’ll let you talk to one of the bastards!” During the same engagement, Lt. Murphy mounted a burning tank destroyer and drove off the Germans with its .50 caliber machine gun and continued artillery fire. He received the Medal of Honor for his actions.
2. “I have not yet begun to fight!” – John Paul Jones, U.S. Navy
When John Paul Jones sailed the USS Bonhomme Richard against the HMS Serapis in 1779, he was already famous in the Continental Navy for his daring in the capture of the HMS Drake. Although outgunned by the Serapis, Jones attempted to run alongside and lash the ships together, thus negating the advantage. The Bonhomme Richard took a beating, which prompted the British captain to offer to allow Jones to surrender. His reply would echo in eternity: “I have not yet begun to fight!” And he hadn’t – after more brutal fighting, with Jones’ ship sinking and his flag shot away, the British captain called out if he had struck his colors. Jones shouted back “I may sink, but I will never strike!” After receiving assistance from another ship, the Americans captured the Serapis. Unfortunately, the Bonhomme Richard was beyond salvage and sank.
3. “Come on you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?!” – Sgt. Maj. Dan Daly, USMC
Then-1st Sgt Dan Daly was leading the 73rd Machine Gun Company at the Battle of Belleau Wood. He already had two Medals of Honor and cemented his place in Marine Corps history by then. Always tough and tenacious in the face of the enemy, Daly inspired his men to charge the Germans by jumping up and yelling “Come on you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?!” The Marines attacked the woods six times before the Germans fell back. Daly was awarded a Navy Cross for his actions during the battle.
4. “I’m the 82nd Airborne and this is as far as the bastards are going.” – Pvt. 1st Class Martin, U.S. Army
As Christmas 1944 approached, the American forces in the Ardennes Forest were still in disarray and struggling to hold back the German onslaught. Versions of the story vary, but what is known is that retreating armor came upon a lone infantryman of the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment digging a foxhole. He was scruffy, dirty, and battle-hardened. When he realized the retreating armor were looking for a safe place, he told them, “Well buddy, just pull that vehicle behind me. I’m the 82nd Airborne and this is as far as the bastards are going.” They would indeed hold the line before driving the Germans back over the next several weeks.
5. “You’ll never get a Purple Heart hiding in a foxhole! Follow me!” – Col. Henry P. Crowe, USMC
Henry Crowe is known in the Marine Corps for his time as a Marine Gunner and his exploits in combat. He first displayed his gallantry at Guadalcanal while leading the Regimental Weapons Company of the 8th Marines. While engaged in fierce fighting with the Japanese, then-Capt. Crowe leaped up and yelled “Goddammit, you’ll never get a Purple Heart hiding in a foxhole! Follow me!” before leading a charge against Japanese positions. He received a Silver Star and Purple Heart for his actions on Guadalcanal and later a Navy Cross for his actions on Tarawa.
6. “Retreat, Hell!” – A number of American badasses who were told to retreat
Americans troops hate to retreat and traditionally respond with “Retreat, Hell!” when told that they should. Here are three of the most badass examples:
Maj. Lloyd W. Williams, USMC
The Battle of Belleau Wood had no shortage of hardcore Marines making a name for the Corps (literally, the moniker ‘Devil Dog’ is attributed to the battle) and then-Capt. Lloyd Williams set the tone from day one. As the French were falling back in the face of a German assault, they came across a Marine officer of the 5th Marine Regiment advancing on Belleau Wood. A frantic French officer advised the American that they must retreat. Not one to shy away from a fight, Capt. Williams responded “Retreat, Hell! We just got here!” Capt. Williams was killed in the fighting nine days later but posthumously received the Distinguished Service Cross and a promotion to Major.
Col. Rueben H. Tucker, U.S. Army
After the initial assault landings at Salerno in September 1943, the Allied beachhead was in a precarious position. The 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment conducted a combat jump to reinforce allied lines and moved out to the high ground at Altavilla to shore up the line. When a strong German counterattack threatened to dislodge the paratroopers, Gen. Dawley, VI Corps commander, called Col. Tucker and ordered his withdrawal. He vehemently replied “Retreat, Hell! Send me my 3rd Battalion!” 3/504 went in support and the regiment held the line.
Gen. Oliver P. Smith, USMC
The Battle of Chosin Reservoir is a story of incredible toughness and tenacity by American forces, particularly the 1st Marine Division. Chesty Puller had his own memorable quotes during the battle, but it was 1st Marine Division commander Oliver P. Smith who reiterated American resolve and refusal to retreat when he said “Retreat, Hell! We’re just advancing in a different direction!” And he meant it – the 1st Marine Division broke through the encirclement and fought its way to evacuation at Hungnam.
On May 11, 1846, President James K. Polk asked Congress to declare war on Mexico.
Tensions with Mexico were on the rise since the United States annexed Texas and admitted it to the Union as the 28th state. Texas had received its independence from Mexico in 1936, but northern states were hesitant to incorporate another slave-state into the union.
On April 25, 1846, 2,000 Mexican cavalry attacked a 70-man patrol with the United States Army, leaving 11 American troops dead. Later, six more Americans were killed at the Siege of Fort Texas and the Battle of Palo Alto.
Declaring that Mexico had “invaded our territory and shed the blood of our fellow-citizens on our own soil,” Polk asked for Congress to declare war on Mexico. Polk operated with an expansionist mindset, believing that the United States had a “manifest destiny” to conquer the North American continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
The Mexican-American War would become America’s first war fought chiefly on foreign soil. No declaration of war ever came from Mexico.
The resulting conflict would take a year and nine months, and over 13,000 American troops would die – although the Department of Defense notes only 1,733 were killed in combat.
The United States would eventually force Mexico to cede the territory that would include Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California, and New Mexico, among other states or parts of states — nearly one third of its pre-existing territory.
Featured Image: Bombardment of Veracruz by Adolphe Jean-Baptiste Bayot. Originally published in The War Between the United States and Mexico, Illustrated, 1851.
The US Marine Corps just set forth its vision of a battle plan to take on growing threats around the world — and it calls for small “Lightning carriers” armed to the teeth with F-35s.
The 2017 Marine Aviation Plan acknowledges the burgeoning “missile gap” between the US and adversaries like China, who have a number of “carrier killers” — long-range precision weapons specifically designed to hit land bases and aircraft carriers before they can hit back.
While the US Navy is working on the MQ-25A Stingray as an unmanned refueling system to extend the range of its carrier aircraft, the Marines seem ready to press ahead with a similar concept in “Lightning carriers.”
Basically, the Marines will already have enough F-35Bs to equip several of their smaller amphibious assault ships, sometimes known as helicopter carriers, while the Navy waits on their F-35Cs to sort out carrier-launch issues for its larger, Nimitz-class carriers.
“While the amphibious assault ship will never replace the aircraft carrier, it can be complementary, if employed in imaginative ways,” reads the plan. The Marines refer to one such creative use of the smaller carriers as a “Lightning carrier,” or an amphibious assault ship with 20 F-35Bs and an “embarked, organic aerial refueling capability” to extend their range.
The Marines plan to further reduce reliance on land and sea bases with “mobile forward arming and refueling points” that employ decoys and deception to confuse the enemy and keep US aircraft spread out and unpredictable.
The F-35B with its stealth, unparalleled intelligence gathering, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities, plus extended range, can match the long range missiles fielded by Russia and China and help the Marines secure land and sea bases by allowing them to see first, and if need be, shoot first.
Additionally, the F-35 won’t just increase capabilities, but if acquired faster to replace the aging F-18s and Harriers in the Marines’ fleet, it could save $1 billion, according to the US Naval Institute.
But the Marines aren’t just waiting on the F-35B to save them. The service has big plans to network every single platform into a “sensor, shooter, electronic warfare node and sharer – able to move information throughout the spectrum and across the battlefield at light speed.”
With upgraded data sharing and command and control abilities, every asset from boots on the ground to satellites in the sky will work together to provide decision-quality information to war fighters, whether they’re on carriers, land bases, or taking a beach.
While China cements its land and sea grab with militarized islands in the South China Sea, the Marines’ aviation plan takes on a new urgency. The plan details how the first F-35B squadrons will deploy to Japan and the US’s West Coast.
A news broadcaster affiliated with the terrorist group ISIS has released an Android app that teaches children the Arabic alphabet — and it’s full of references to weapons and jihad.
Al Bayan Radio, which broadcasts ISIS propaganda on radio waves in the Middle East and through its Android apps, made the app available to supporters on the encrypted messaging app Telegram and other platforms ISIS commonly uses. The app isn’t available on the Google Play store, but can be accessed through files shared online.
This app is the latest step in Al Bayan’s expansion — the radio network broadcasts on FM frequencies in the Middle East, but has also recently released other Android apps and Telegram channels that distribute its propaganda to a wider audience.
The app has games for memorizing and how to write the Arabic letters in addition to including a nasheed (a cappella Islamic songs) designed to help teach the alphabet. The lyrics in the nasheed are littered with jihadist terminology, while other games within the app also include militaristic vocabulary with more common, basic words. Words like ‘tank,’ ‘gun,’ and ‘rocket’ are among the first few taught within the application.
The site took posted these screenshots from the app:
The website noted that this is ISIS’ first app, however, aimed exclusively at children.
But it’s far from the only example of ISIS (which is also known as the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh) trying to indoctrinate children under the pretense of educating them.
The group has also released textbooks that teach various subjects using weapons and other terrorist motifs.
Children have also featured prominently in photos and videos that ISIS has distributed through its various propaganda networks. They are shown at training camps and in schools, leading experts to worry that children living in ISIS territory are being indoctrinated with terrorist ideology at a young age, which could be difficult to reverse whenever ISIS is defeated.
Operation Inherent Resolve, the war against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, is now a year and a half old and has cost $6.2 billion. The Pentagon is asking for another $7.5 billion to continue the fight. The cost of the war against ISIS is relatively cheap (s0 far) when compared to the Iraq War, which came to almost $2 trillion over the eight years it was fought.
The war against ISIS isn’t going to get any cheaper, especially especially in light of the fact that it’s spreading to other countries like Libya and Afghanistan. Combating their forces on the ground will require more air power and more special operations units backed up by all the necessary logistics commands.
As of March 9, 2016, U.S. and coalition aircraft launched a total of 10,870 air strikes, with nearly twice as many in Iraq than in Syria. The strikes have hit a total of 21,501 targets, mostly buildings and ISIS fighting positions.
The average daily cost of the operation is $11.5 million. The most expensive ops belong to the U.S. Air Force, a whopping 69 percent of the total cost.
The Pentagon’s research and development outfit wants to stop “UAS-enabled terrorist threats” with a new system it’s calling Aerial Dragnet that would track slow, low-flying drones — or what the military calls unmanned aerial systems (UAS).
“As off-the-shelf UAS become less expensive, easier to fly, and more adaptable for terrorist or military purposes, U.S. forces will increasingly be challenged by the need to quickly detect and identify such craft,” the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency said in a news release. “Especially in urban areas, where sight lines are limited and many objects may be moving at similar speeds.”
DARPA is soliciting proposals for the program, which seeks to provide “persistent, wide-area surveillance” of multiple drones on a city-wide scale.
Drones have become a mainstay on the battlefield — especially where the US is involved — but many other countries have, or are producing, drones for use in combat. Then there are the smaller, off-the-shelf types, which have even been used for surveillance purposes and to deliver explosive devices by terrorist groups like ISIS, for example.
The proliferation of drones is going to continue, so it looks like DARPA wants a sort-of “super drone” that will tell US forces where all the other little ones are on the battlefield. That is a ways off, since the the Aerial Dragnet research program will take more than three years, after which it’s up to the Pentagon on whether any of the research is implemented in the field.
“Commercial websites currently exist that display in real time the tracks of relatively high and fast aircraft — from small general aviation planes to large airliners — all overlaid on geographical maps as they fly around the country and the world,” Jeff Krolik, DARPA program manager, said in a statement. “We want a similar capability for identifying and tracking slower, low-flying unmanned aerial systems, particularly in urban environments.”
Krolik also works on another DARPA program called “upward falling payloads” — a way of parking drones in sealed cases on ocean floors around the world, where they can be remotely activated to “fall” up and take a look around should trouble occur.
DARPA said the program is mainly designed to protect deployed troops, but the system “could ultimately find civilian application to help protect US metropolitan areas.”
The agency is hosting a proposers day on September 26, and full proposals for those interested in getting the contract are required by November 12.
Military representatives from Morocco and the United States held an opening ceremony Feb. 27 for the Flintlock 2017 exercise at the Tifnit training base [in Morocco], marking another milestone in a relationship between their nations that began in the 1700s.
More than 2,000 military personnel from 24 African and Western nations are participating in the 10th annual iteration of the exercise, which continues until March 16 across seven African host nations.
The exercise, sponsored by U.S. Africa Command, strengthens security institutions, promotes multilateral sharing of information and develops interoperability among counterterrorism partners from across Africa’s Sahara region.
Deep U.S.-Morocco Roots
African partner special operations forces and U.S. Special Operations Command Africa jointly plan and execute the exercise, highlighting the sense of shared purpose across the continent as partners strengthen themselves and their regional network against violent extremists. For Morocco and the United States, the roots run deep in this partnership.
Morocco formally recognized the United States by signing a treaty of peace and friendship in 1786 between U.S. Minister Thomas Barclay and the Sultan of Morocco, Sidi Muhammad, in Marrakesh, according to the U.S. State Department website. The relationship matured with the naming of James Simpson as the first American consul in 1797 in Tangier.
Sultan Mawlay Suleiman gifted the consulate a building and grounds to use, marking the first property owned by the U.S. government on foreign shores.
In all of American history, no other country has maintained its treaty relationship with America for as long as Morocco.
Flintlock 2017 is the most recent in a long line of actions and expressions of solidarity between the two nations.
“Morocco plays a key leadership role in Africa and we are honored by the continued partnership and friendship between our two countries. We look forward to working with you over the next few weeks,” Morocco’s special operations command exercise instructor said.
‘A Golden Opportunity’
Brig. Gen. Mohammed Benlouali, operations commander for Morocco’s Southern Zone, delivered remarks on behalf of the Moroccan Royal Armed Forces.
“These types of activities, as well as other joint combined Moroccan-American exercises, are a golden opportunity to further enhance the ties of military cooperation between our two countries,” he said. “We will stand ready and willing to take maximum benefit from this period of training to further promote our knowledge and know-how in the field of special forces,” he said.
Marines from Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command are training alongside their Moroccan peers, refining tactics, techniques, and procedures across multiple full-mission profiles. The two forces specifically are training on small-unit special operations forces tactics, weapons training and fire support, lifesaving first aid and trauma care, command and control, and force protection.
The shared training experiences will develop the two partners’ ability to plan, coordinate, and operate as an integrated team and will strengthen the bond between the two countries. The Moroccan Royal Armed Forces have contributed to United Nations peacekeeping missions around the world and provide a center of stability and security across the Sahel region.
Countering the threat posed by violent extremist organizations around the world demands proficiency, coordination and enhanced interoperability. While regional security is the main focus of Flintlock 2017, the lessons learned and investments in relationships will allow participants to share the burdens of managing conflicts and improve their ability to provide security solutions that meet threats at their origin, exercise officials said.
We can all agree that the Nazi Party was a band of terrifyingly cruel, delusional sickos. What you may not know, however, is that Hitler’s SS minions were also sometimes really, really dumb. From failed propaganda campaigns to ridiculous assassination attempts, the Germans were not short on weird.
1. Operation Holy Hitler (aka let’s kill Pope Pius XXII)
In some ways, Hitler was kind of an understated guy. He was a vegetarian, didn’t like smoking, and wore pants like this. But mostly, as we know, he was an egotistical maniac.
One of the best examples of the Fuhrer’s self-love came about in the 1930s, when he decided that local Catholic schools had a shocking lack of Adolf Hitler memorabilia on their walls. This was quickly remedied by replacing the classroom crucifixes with pictures of his face. How no one thought this was insane is pretty damning of human intelligence as a whole, but maybe the kids were just really tired of having to look at a an emaciated Christ all day.
Once Hitler had figuratively substituted God for himself, he decided to take it a step further. And since literally pulling Christ from the sky wasn’t an option, he decided to take out the next best thing: The Pope. Did we mention this was part of a larger plan to abolish all religions and declare himself as God of Germany? Because that was also a thing.
Hitler didn’t want to nix the Pope purely for vanity’s sake, however. In 1943, Pope Pius XII started to publicly denounce the Nazi’s blatant abuses of human rights. This did not fly in Germany. Eventually, the Pope’s thinly-veiled condemnations of Hitler’s activities went too far, and it was at that point that a real plan was set into action. Hitler brought SS Gen. Karl Wolff into his office, beckoned him closer, and said “I want you and your troops to occupy Vatican City as soon as possible, secure its files and art treasures and take the Pope and curia to the North.”
So far this plan sounds like something a Bond villain would cook up: Flashy, intriguing, but not completely insane. Then phase two comes into play, and all of that goes out the window. Here’s the plan in a nutshell: Once Nazi soldiers had captured the Vatican and the Pope, a second group would infiltrate the Holy City, pretending to be a rescue party. But instead of rescuing the Pope, they would claim that the first group of Nazis were actually Italian assassins, slaughter them all and “accidentally” shoot the Pope amidst the chaos if he didn’t cooperate. If he kept his head down, they would drag Pius XII back to Germany and lock him in a castle. Then the Nazis would blame the Italians, and everything would be roses.
At least, that was the plan. Luckily, Wolff realized that this was completely psychotic and tipped off the Italians, who were rightfully pissed. He wasn’t very subtle about it either, going so far as to agree to an interview with a local Italian newspaper, the Avvenire, which is owned by the Catholic Church. The Guardian writes that in the newspaper Wolff reportedly announced, “I received from Hitler in person the order to kidnap Pope Pius XII.”
The weirdest part of this story, however, is that according to historian Robert Katz, assassinating Pope Pius XII wouldn’t have benefited Germany or the Axis powers at all. Hitler was prepared to screw up everything just out of spite. Or maybe he secretly wanted the Pope hat, who knows.
2. The “degenerate art” gallery that was actually a massive success
Before the Swastika flew over Deutschland, the soon-to-be Nazi nation was experiencing an incredible art renaissance. Dadaism and the Bauhaus movement were taking the world by storm, and the art community was looking to Germany for the best in cutting-edge modern art.
Then the book burnings began. Art now had to fit the “Nazi ideal,” upholding Aryan values and praising the brilliance and prestige of the Fuhrer. Movies and plays were censored, operas canceled, paintings confiscated. The German art scene was being completely dismantled, and people were not happy about it.
The Nazis knew that people were pissed about these new “creative restrictions,” but felt that they were just misguided. People don’t actually know what they want until you show it to them, right? This was the Nazi strategy. To redirect the poor, misguided art enthusiasts of Munich, they would first show them what they shouldn’t want — by organizing an art exhibit called “Entartete Kunst,” or “degenerate art.” The gallery was supposed to showcase why modern art was actually awful and not cool at all.
Over 650 sculptures, paintings, prints and books were confiscated from public German museums to be “shamefully” displayed in the gallery. The Nazis arranged the art pieces haphazardly to make them appear less attractive, and wrote up explanations of why they were inferior, undesirable contributions to the art world and the Nazi regime in general.
Then the Nazis simultaneously opened their own art exhibit, the “Great German Art Exhibition,” one with Aryan-approved art only. This way it would be clear to the public which was the superior art genre, and settle the matter once and for all.
This did not go well.
Unimpressed with the perfectly sculpted, tasteful bronze nudes that filled the “superior” art gallery, the German art lovers ditched the stuffy exhibit and headed to — you guessed it — the degenerate art gallery. In the end, five times as many people visited the Entartete Kunst, thrilled to finally have legitimate art on display. In only one day, 36,000 visitors flooded the taboo gallery, completing ignoring the “Great German Art Exhibition” taking place just a few minutes away. After the degenerate art gallery was closed, the featured pieces were either burned, confiscated by Nazi officials or sold to museums at auction. The pieces that were saved can be found in museums all over the world today, and the Entartete Kunst is considered by many to be one of the most culturally significant art exhibits of all time.
3. That time Hitler’s “Perfect Aryan Baby” ended up being Jewish
When you establish yourself as an extremist war-mongering regime, you need to make sure you have some killer PR to, you know, convince people that you aren’t actually an extremist war-mongering regime.
Joseph Goebbels, the head of Nazi propaganda, learned this fairly early on. So, in order to make the Third Reich appear a little more cuddly (which is ironic, since the dude looked like Dracula), he began a national campaign in 1935 to find the “perfect Aryan baby” — a child so pale and Germanic it could be the measuring stick for all infant beauty.
You would think the chosen Nazi baby would fit the white-blonde, blue-eyed ideal, but for whatever reason Goebbels selected a brunette, brown-eyed baby. Mistake number one if you’re the head of Nazi propaganda.
Goebbels then set about plastering the Nazi-Gerber baby’s picture over all of Germany. She showed up in flyers, newspapers, postcards, and propaganda posters of all kinds. Most people were pretty unfazed by the doll-faced baby that was suddenly appearing everywhere, accepting her as an unusually cute edition to the militaristic landscape of Nazi Germany.
Jacob and Pauline Levinson, on the other hand, were terrified to see the soon-to-be famous photo on the cover of “Sonne in Hause,” a Nazi family magazine. Why? The Master Race baby was their daughter — and she was Jewish.
Let’s rewind six months. The Levinsons had taken their young daughter, Hessy, to get her picture taken by photographer Hans Ballin, a prominent Berlin photographer. After the quick photo shoot they thanked Ballin, paid for their prints, and headed home, thinking that was the end of it. For Ballin, it was just the beginning. What the Levinsons didn’t know was that the talented photographer secretly hated the Nazis — a lot. Like Brad Pitt in Inglorious Basterds a lot.
So when Ballin found out that Goebbels had created a photo contest designed to find the perfect Aryan child — a child that Goebbels would personally select — he couldn’t resist the opportunity to undermine the entire thing.
“I wanted to make the Nazis ridiculous,” Ballin confessed, according to The Telegraph.
So, like the rebel artist he was, Ballin submitted the photo of little Hessy to the contest, hoping that Goebbels would bite. And as luck would have it, he did.
Unfortunately, this put the Levinsons in a lot of danger, and they ended up having to flee to Latvia. The Nazis later learned of their mistake, but never who Hessy was or where her family was hidden. In an interview with Death and Taxes Magazine last year, the 80-year-old Hessy (who now lives in the United States) confessed: “I can laugh about it now. But if the Nazis had known who I really was, I wouldn’t be alive.”
And who wouldn’t laugh? With Hessy’s picture, Ballin had effectively trolled the Nazis on an international scale. The Third Reich didn’t learn from its mistake, either: They would later choose a half-Jewish man as the premiere example of what a full-blooded Aryan soldier should be.
And people wonder why they didn’t win the war.
4. The “Lebensborn” Nazi baby factory
The Nazis really had a weird thing for babies. During Hitler’s rise to power, thousands of babies were born into “Lebensborn” programs, which were basically Nazi baby breeding factories created under Heinrich Himmler. The children were raised to be in peak physical condition and were groomed to emulate the Nazi standard of beauty. They were given a strict diet, were indoctrinated into the Nazi way of thinking and even had their hair treated with ultraviolet light if the nurses suspected it was starting to turn anything but Nazi-approved white-blonde. Seriously.
Where exactly did these babies come from, you ask? A few different places. Many of the children were the product of the government encouraging SS soldiers to “get to know” the prettiest girls in the European nations they conquered during Germany’s expansion. Then if the ladies were lucky enough to get pregnant, they would be sent to a Lebensborn house, which literally means “font of life” when translated. As in these babies would be the “font” that would kick start the Aryan population of Germany and its captured lands, ensuring a smiling, blue-eyed super race. The unwed mothers were free to stay and live with their children, so long as they complied with the home’s methods and adopted a proper Nazi lifestyle. Orphaned children were adopted out by upstanding German families.
Babies were also abducted from surrounding countries, so long as they were beautiful (Poland estimates that it lost as many as 100,000 children during the war). The darker, “less desirable” children would be sent to concentration camps with their parents. The same was true of children born in the homes; if a child was particularly non-Germanic looking, or resisted Nazi teachings once he or she was a little older, they would be sent to be gassed at a death camp. The babies that made the cut grew up to be some of an estimated 250,000 children who were Nazified under the Lebensborn program during the war.
Tragically, many parents would surrender their children to the Lebensborn program in an attempt to keep them from the horrors of the concentration camps. Most of them were simply taken, however, despite their Jewish ethnicity. Looking the part was enough for the program as long as you grew up to love Hitler and despise the Jewish race like the Nazi nurses who raised you, apparently.
When the war ended and the Allies invaded, they found several Lebensborn homes still full of children. Of the estimated hundreds of thousands of children who were part of the program, only about 25,000 were reconnected with their original families. Many of the parents had been killed during the war, but some children refused to be reunited with their real families, believing themselves to be superior and racially pure after the Nazis’ brainwashing.
Netflix is on a roll this October, leading with “Patton,” which won 7 Oscars and made the case for military valor at the height of the anti-Vietnam protests. Plus a Coast Guard action picture that deserves your attention and an Oscar-winning drama about the man who cracked the Enigma code. Plus “Three Kings” is back.
This biopic about General George S. Patton won 7 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actor for George C. Scott and Best Original Screenplay for Francis Ford Coppola. Opening with a less profane version of the general’s legendary speech to the Third Army in 1944, “Patton” was an unabashed celebration of the military spirit. Even though it was released at the height of protest against the Vietnam War, the movie was a box office smash and received almost unanimous critical acclaim. (1970)
2. The Finest Hours
Chris Pine and Casey Affleck star in Disney’s action movie about the Coast Guard’s legendary 1952 rescue of the SS Pendleton off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Pine is Bernie Webber, the young petty officer who led what everyone believed was a suicide mission. Affleck is Ray Sybert, the Pendleton senior officer who tries to keep the crew focused in the face of almost certain doom. “The Finest Hours” wasn’t a box office hit, but it’s most definitely worth watching. (2016)
3. The Imitation Game
Benedict Cumberbatch plays pioneering computer genius Alan Turing, who led the effort to break Nazi Germany’s Enigma code during World War II. Turing is socially awkward, difficult and brilliant and the film details his struggles to communicate with his colleagues. After the war, Turing was prosecuted under Britain’s anti-homosexuality statues and committed suicide in 1954. (2014)
4. Three Kings
Hollywood loves director David O. Russell these days because of”The Fighter,” “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle,” but this satire about the first Gulf War is his best movie to date. George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, Spike Jonze (!) and Jamie Kennedy (!!) star as US. Army and Army reservist troops who hatch a plan to steal gold and other goods that Iraqis plundered from Kuwait. Watch it. (1999)
5. Saving Private Ryan
What can you say about this one? The D-Day invasion at the beginning is greatest military action sequence in movie history. Everything good about the entire “Band of Brothers” TV series (which is still awesome) gets distilled down into less than 3 hours. Tom Hanks has never been better and an entire generation learned to appreciate the sacrifices and heroism during WWII for the first time. (1998)
Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber star as Tuva and Zus Bielski, Jewish brothers who led a guerrilla resistance against Nazi troops in Belarus during WWII. Based on real events, it got a limited release and deserves a much bigger audience than it found in theaters. (2008)
7. Black Hawk Down
Ridley Scott’s drama is based on a real-life 1993 raid in Somalia to capture faction leader Mohamed Farrah Aidid. The 75th Rangers and Delta Force go in and things quickly go south, the troops face down enemy forces in a brutal battle and 19 men (and over 1,000 Somali citizens) are killed before the mission is complete. Scott brings a compelling visual style to the material and the cast features a host of young actors who went on to great success, including Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Tom Hardy, Orlando Bloom and Eric Bana. Sam Shepherd and Tom Sizemore also play key old-guy roles. (2001)
Sailors from the British destroyer HMS Bulldog really did capture an Enigma machine from Germany’s U-110 U-boat in 1941. Hollywood must’ve though that was boring, so they made up a story involving the U.S. submarine S-33 and the German U-571. Brits were mad about the movie, but if you can get past the made-up story, it’s a fine submarine thriller. (2000)
9. Top Gun
Is Tony Scott’s movie about Naval aviators technically accurate? No way. Is it even dramatically effective? Absolutely not. But Tom Cruise’s Maverick, Val Kilmer’s Iceman and Anthony Edwards’ Goose managed to inspire a generation of young men to pursue their flyboy dreams. It’s hard to imagine that the upcoming sequel will mean as much to people, especially if they ruin the original vibe by shifting to properly staged dogfights. (1986)
10. The Heavy Water War
This 6-episode TV series tells the story of Operation Grouse, the action by Norwegian commandos who blew up a power plant and prevented the Nazis from getting access to the deuterium oxide (a/k/a heavy water) they wanted to use in the nuclear reactors that Germany wanted to build. If you can handle the subtitles, this is yet another example of the amazing untold stories of WWII. (2015)
The High mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle (HMMWV), better known as the Humvee is the military’s modern Jeep. It’s used to carry troops, evacuate the wounded and even launch surface-to-air missiles. The light, four-wheel drive trucks saw extensive use during Operation Desert Storm and immediately gained a reputation for their off-road capability. Shortly thereafter, due to high demand, the Humvee was released to the civilian market.
The military Humvee was produced by AM General, a heavy vehicle manufacturer in Indiana. When they opened the truck up to civilian sales in 1992, its name was changed to Hummer. Built in the same factory as its military counterpart, the Hummer shared many components with the Humvee. These included brakes, axles, body panels and the frame. Hummers and Humvees even came off the same assembly line and only diverged for painting and finishing.
The Hummer saw widespread popularity in the civilian market. It was advertised with an enthusiastic campaign from Arnold Schwarzenegger. Beyond this, the Hummer was a capable off-roader in its own right. Whether a buyer opted for a gasoline or diesel engine, the Hummer had plenty of power and torque to tackle off-road trails. Of course, this came at the cost of fuel economy (not that that mattered too much in the late ’90s). The Hummer had 16 inches of ground clearance, approach/departure angles of 72/37.5 degrees, could ford 30 inches of water, and climb a 22-inch step. Most Hummers also had a Central Tire Inflation System to inflate or deflate the tires as needed from the cabin with a push of a button.
In 1999, AM General struck a deal with General Motors. GM purchased the marketing rights to the Hummer name and marketed it as the Hummer H1 in anticipation of a newer version. In the meantime, AM General continued to produce their true military-derived Hummers for sale by GM.
Although the Hummer H1 remained in production until 2006, GM introduced the Hummer H2 in 2002. While the H2 was built by AM General under contract at their Indiana facility, the truck was not based on the military Humvee like the H1 was. Instead, the H2 was built on a modified GMT820 platform. Other vehicles built on the platform were the Cadillac Escalade, Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon.
Whereas the H1 retained the recovery points in the hood and/or bumpers that allow the Humvee to be recovered and air-lifted, the H2’s recovery points were purely decorative and did not connect to the vehicle’s frame. Additionally, the CITS on the H1’s wheels was shielded by a protective cover. Although the H2 didn’t have a CITS, its chrome wheels were shaped to imitate a CITS cover. Although the H2 was still a capable off-roader, it had drifted from its military origins and was marketed more as a lifestyle off-roader and status symbol.
The H2 remained in production until 2009. However, four years prior, GM introduced the Hummer H3. This time, AM General had nothing to do with the truck. The H3 was based on a modified GMT355 platform that was also used for the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon trucks. It was also built in the same GM facilities as the compact pickups. Still, the H3 was modified to have better off-road capability than Colorado/Canyon. It retained the H2’s ability to ford 27 inches of water and had good ground clearance, approach, and departure angles. However, a struggling economy and demand for better fuel economy eventually killed off the H3 and the Hummer brand as a whole in 2010.
In 2020, however, GM announced the revival of the Hummer brand. With the GMC Hummer EV, GM aims to resurrect the Hummer as an electric pickup truck and SUV. The company invested $2.2 billion into its Detroit/Hamtramck Assembly plant for the production of the new vehicle. While GM has advertised the Hummer EV’s off-road features like crab walk, adaptive air suspension, and steel underbody armor, the electric vehicle is a far cry from the Humvees that spawned the H1 and still fill military motor pools.
Beginning in early August, the US Marines aboard the USS Wasp have conducted airstrikes against ISIS’ Libyan stronghold of Sirte from the Mediterranean. This has forced the group to retreat to a point where the Marines can now use the big guns: AH-1W SuperCobra attack choppers.
While drones and Harrier jump jets launched from the deck of the USS Wasp helicopter carrier had been attacking ISIS targets in Libya for weeks, the use of the SuperCobra represents a change in tactics.
Because helicopters can hover, loiter, and maneuver easily, they are ideal for seeking out hidden targets in urban areas. ISIS has been forced to retreat as Libyan and US forces drive the group into the “densest, most built-up part” of Sirte, a Defense Department official told The Washington Post. The birthplace of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, Sirte is an important port city in the divided nation.
The SuperCobra attack choppers are guided by US Special Forces on the ground in Libya along with other allied and Libyan forces aligned with the Government of National Accord, a UN-backed government that has requested US assistance in riding the country of ISIS.
Sirte’s position in the Mediterranean means it could be a staging point for ISIS looking to mount attacks in Europe. The power vacuum left over from the death of Gaddafi in 2011, as well as internal disagreements in Libya, has caused the country to become a hub of crime and human trafficking.
Though Libya remains divided, the ousting of ISIS can only be a good thing for the country’s stability. A recent statement from US Africom said only a few hundred or so ISIS fighters remained in Libya.