America's first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I - We Are The Mighty
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America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I

America’s first tank unit, known as the “Treat ’em Rough Boys,” rushed through training and arrived in Europe in time to lead armored thrusts through Imperial German forces, assisting in the capture of thousands of Germans and miles of heavily contested territory.


America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I
Army Col. George S. Patton just after World War I. (Photo: U.S. Army)

The tankers were vital to the elimination of the famous St. Mihiel salient, a massive German-held bulge in the lines near the pre-war German-French border.

American forces joined the war late, participating in their first battle on Nov. 20, 1917, over three years after the war began and less than a year before it ended.

America had never attempted to create a tank before its entry into World War I. So while American G.I.s and other troops were well-supplied and fresh, most weren’t combat veterans and none had any tank experience.

Into this gap rode cavalry captain George S. Patton. He lobbied American Expeditionary Force Commander Gen. John J. Pershing to allow him to establish a tank school and take command of it if the U.S. decided to create a tank unit.

Patton also pointed out that he was possibly the only American to ever launch an armored car attack, a feat he had completed in 1916 under Pershing’s command in Mexico.

Pershing agreed and allowed Patton to set up the school in Langres, France. Patton quickly began taking volunteers into the school and establishing American doctrine and units.

The first-ever American tank unit consisted of the light tank units organized by Patton and heavy tanks with crews trained by England.

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I
America’s first heavy tank battalions were not ready and equipped in time for the St. Mihiel offensive but took part in later battles. (Photo: U.S. Army)

When it came time for the AEF to lead its first major operation, the St. Mihiel salient was the obvious target. Other allied forces had already pacified other potential targets, and the salient at St. Mihiel had severely limited French lines of communication and supply between the front and Paris since Germany had established it in 1914.

The tanks led the charge into the salient on Sept. 12 with two American light tank battalions, the 326th and the 327th, backed up by approximately three battalions worth of French light tanks and two companies worth of French-crewed heavy tanks.

Infantry units moved into battle just behind the tanks, allowing the tracked vehicles to crush barbed wire and open the way.

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I
American engineers returning from the front at the Battle of St. Mihiel. (National Archives, 1918)

Per Patton’s design, the tank companies were equipped with a mix of heavy guns to wipe out machine gun nests and other prepared defenses and machine guns to mow down infantry that got within their fields of fire. This mix allowed for rapid advancement except where the Germans had dug their trenches too deep and wide for the Renaults to easily cross.

The American infantry attacked the remaining resistance after the tanks passed and then took over German positions.

The light tanks, which could move at speeds faster than advancing infantry, sometimes pressed ahead and found themselves waiting for the infantry to catch up. At the village of Thiacourt, an important crossroads within the salient, tank units surrounded the village and cut off all entrances and exits while waiting for their boot-bound brethren.

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I
Army Lt. Col. George S. Patton with a Renault tank. He became America’s first-ever tank officer the previous year as a captain. (Photo: U.S. Army)

While the tanks received great credit in American newspapers for their success in the AEF’s first independent operation, the real story of St. Mihiel was that it was an enormously successful combined arms operations with massive amounts of artillery support, about 3,000 guns, the largest air force assembled to that date (approximately 1,500 planes), and large infantry assaults making huge contributions to victory.

Plus, the Germans had received ample warning of the AEF’s pending attack and had decided not to seriously contest it. Instead, they pulled many of their units back to the Hindenburg line to the east and left only 75,000 men defending the salient against the over 260,000-man attack.

One of the prisoners, a German major and count, reportedly was even waiting with his staff and packed bags to be captured.

Of course, the first American armored offensive was not without its hiccups. The French-made Renault tanks got bogged down in deep mud. While German artillery was only able to knock out three American-crewed tanks, another 40 were lost to mud, mechanical breakdowns, and a lack of fuel at the front.

Patton continued refining American tank deployments, ordering that U.S. tanks carry fuel drums strapped to the back of the tank. At the suggestion of an unknown private, he also began equipping one tank per company as a recovery and repair tank, leading to the dedicated recovery vehicles in use today.

The tank corps went on to fight in the Meuse-Argonne offensive through the end of the war, this time with their heavy tanks there to support the infantry alongside their light armored friends. All of the tanks continued to face greater losses from terrain and mechanical breakdown than they did from enemy forces.

The greatest enemy threat to the tanks was artillery and mines, but the Germans learned to place engineering barriers such as large trenches to slow down the advance, and early anti-tank rifles took a small toll.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why this Civil War vet marched across England with the US flag

Gilbert Bates knew what a lack of understanding between people could lead to: violence and war. Bates was a Civil War veteran of the Wisconsin artillery who knew that people were basically good, no matter what the rumors said. If there was an area that was supposed to be hostile and dangerous for Americans, Bates would set out to prove the rumors wrong.

And he did so on more than one occasion.


After the Civil War ended, Sgt. Bates returned to his Wisconsin farm. Tensions between North and South were still high, even though the war had resolved the major issues. Northerner and Southerner were still mistrustful of one another. But Bates knew the South was in the Union for good. The victory was hard-won, but won nonetheless. So when his Wisconsin neighbors began to circulate rumors that the South was rising once more in rebellion and that any Northerner was not safe down there, Bates set out to prove them wrong by marching across the South with the U.S. Flag in hand.

Bates’ march received so much notoriety at the time that even Mark Twain, the famous American author wrote of it, predicting that Bates would “get more black eyes, down there among those unreconstructed rebels than he can ever carry along with him without breaking his back.” But everyone who predicted his demise greatly exaggerated.

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I

Bates walked across the unreconstructed South, some 1,500 miles, through Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia to Washington, DC. He didn’t arrive on one leg and with an eye missing, as Twain predicted. The opposite was true, actually. Bates received genteel Southern Hospitality everywhere he went, even flying the American flag he carried over the former Confederate capital at Richmond. The only place he wasn’t allowed to fly it was over the U.S. Capitol building.

This march led to Bates taking on a bet. A wealthy friend of his bet the flag carrier that he could not do the same march across England without receiving a single insult. Bates, who had an incredible belief in the goodness of his fellow man took that bet.

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I

Relations with England at the time of the Civil War were much different from the “Special Relationship” we enjoy today. In the 1860s, the British were more interested in King Cotton than supporting the United States against its rebels. In many ways, the English Crown supported the Confederacy, if not openly, then as an open secret. Still undeterred, Bates marched on foot – in full Union uniform – across the country. He walked some 400 miles from the border of Scotland to London to great fanfare. The English could not support him enough. He never paid for a meal or a place to sleep. By the time he got to London, the crowds swelled so much he had to take a carriage to the raise the Stars and Stripes next to the Union Jack.

Upon arriving, he telegrammed his friend, canceling the bet. To Bates, the event was worth more than any sum.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This dogfight with nearly 200 jets was like the Battle of Britain on steroids

In what would come to be called the Bekaa Valley Turkey Shoot, 96 Israeli fighters and a squadron of UAVs faced off against 100 Syrian fighters backed up by 19 surface-to-air missile launchers in 1982. It was one of the largest jet battles ever fought.


 

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I
Photo: Israel Defense Forces

Israel has a history of fighting with its neighbors, especially from the 1960s through the 1980s. A series of small battles with Egypt resulted in some hard lessons learned for the Israel Air Force after they lost a number of fighters to surface-to-air-missiles.

But the IAF learned their lessons and on Jun. 9, 1982, they attacked 19 Syrian surface-to-air missile batteries deployed near their border. In the first two hours of fighting, the IAF destroyed 17 of the missile batteries with no losses. Then, things really went nuts.

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I
Israeli Air Force F-15s in an exercise. Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald

The Syrians sent up 100 MiGs to intercept the 96 F-15s, F-16s, and F-4s that were attacking the SAM sites. The Israelis were flying an E-2C Hawkeye airborne warning and control system aircraft that picked up the incoming fighters. It began feeding instructions to the IAF fighters.

The more advanced Israeli fighters, firing both Sidewinder heat-seeking and Sparrow radar-guided missiles, destroyed 29 of the Syrian Air Force fighters.

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I

One of the Syrian Air Force’s main fighters in the conflict was the MiG-21, like this one flown by the Serbian Air Force. Photo: Wikipedia/claudiu_ne2000

But the IAF wasn’t done. There were still two missile sites they wanted gone. So, they returned Jun. 10. Again, the bulk of the Syrian Air Force lifted off to greet them, and the IAF pounded them into the ground, downing another 35 Syrian aircraft with no Israeli losses.

 

The stunning victory was due to a number of factors. The Israeli pilots had benefitted from great training and a lot of combat experience, but the Syrians had also screwed themselves.

The Syrians fed their pilots instructions from a ground control station that couldn’t communicated due to Israeli jamming. In an Air Power Journal article, a Western military observer of the battle says, “I watched a group of Syrian fighter planes fly figure-eights. They just flew around and around and obviously had no idea what to do next.”

Lt. Gen. Leonard Perroots, director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency at the time, trashed the lazy deployment of Syrian missile sites. “The Syrians used mobile missiles in a fixed configuration; they put the radars in the valley instead of the hills because they didn’t want to dig latrines–seriously.”

The conflict between the two countries continued through Jul. 1982. In over a month of fighting, Israel lost only two jets while Syria lost at least 87.

(h/t Cracked.com)

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5 ‘Game of Thrones’ battles and massacres based on real history

Warning: “Game of Thrones” spoilers ahead.


  • HBO’s “Game of Thrones” includes numerous historical allusions.
  • Some of the references are more obvious than others.
  • “A Song of Ice and Fire” author George R.R. Martin has frequently expressed his own interest in history.

As they say, truth is often stranger than fiction.

That’s something that “A Song of Ice and Fire” author George R.R. Martin — whose work was adapted into HBO’s hit series “Game of Thrones — clearly understands.

Related: 7 reasons the Night’s Watch is basically the French Foreign Legion

In one interview with author Bernard Cornwell, Martin even said that “the historical novel and the epic fantasy are sisters under the skin.”

So it’s not surprising that his most famous work is chock full of historical allusions.

Here are just a few historical references included in “Game of Thrones”:

The fight between the Starks and the Lannisters should ring a bell for any medieval scholar

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I
HBO

The War of the Roses might not have a terribly intimidating name, but it was a bloody conflict that sent England spiraling into disunity and chaos during the latter part of the fifteenth century.

The war was primarily fought between the House of York and the House of Lancaster.

Sound familiar?

Like their fictional counterparts, the Lancaster faction won the war after much death and scheming.

However, ultimately, it was the House of Tudor that prevailed and won the throne. They adopted the Tudor rose as their emblem, a combination of the white rose of York and the red rose of Lancaster.

The Battle of the Bastards is a twist on a famous Carthaginian victory

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I
HBO

“The Battle of the Bastards,” which saw the noble-hearted Jon Snow face off against the wicked Ramsay Bolton, was one of the most raved-about episodes of season 6.

The numerous immersive, intense battle scenes kicked this episode into high gear for many viewers.

The whole thing also likely looked rather familiar to classical scholars.

That’s because the showrunners mirrored the whole clash on the Battle of Cannae, as Kristen Acuna wrote for Tech Insider.

That famous 216 CE battle is now regarded as one of the most impressive tactical victories of all time. After spending two years rampaging about the Italian peninsula, Carthaginian leader Hannibal Barca cemented his status as a military legend by surrounding and defeating his enemies with a much smaller force.

Ramsay’s forces used a similar pincer movement during the Battle of the Bastards. Jon was ultimately able to subvert the historical model and break free of Ramsay’s circle of death, with the help of reinforcements from the Eyrie.

In Hannibal’s case, the Roman legions were butchered, leaving up to 70,000 dead, including Roman consul Lucius Aemilius Paullus.

Paullus’ son-in-law Scipio Africanus would ultimately defeat Hannibal once and for all at Zama.

The Boltons share their habit of skinning people alive with an ancient regime

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I
HBO

Getting flayed alive is probably one of the worst ways to go out.

So it’s no surprise that skinning people was a favorite past-time of Ramsay Bolton — one of the worst characters to ever grace the small screen.

But this antagonist’s gruesome hobby didn’t simply come from the dark side of Martin’s imagination.

In fact, one ancient kingdom was famous for skinning its enemies.

According to the blog History Buff, the Assyrian King Ashurnasirpal II claimed to have “flayed as many nobles as had rebelled against me and draped their skins over the pile of corpses; some I spread out within the pile, some I erected on stakes upon the pile … I flayed many right through my land and draped their skins over the walls.”

Yikes.

Westeros’ colossal ice wall has a real-world counterpart

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I
HBO

Martin first thought of the Wall on a trip to Scotland.

“I stood on Hadrian’s Wall and tried to imagine what it would be like to be a Roman soldier sent here from Italy or Antioch,” Martin told the SF Site. “To stand here, to gaze off into the distance, not knowing what might emerge from the forest.”

Hadrian’s Wall was hardly an imposing ice wall. And it didn’t protect England from scary, winter zombies. Construction on it began in 122 CE, ostensibly to separate the Romans from the native Britons.

The blog “The History Behind Game of Thrones” explains that the Westerosi Wall and the initial treatment of the Wildlings mirrors “the Roman perception of the native Britons as the ‘Other’ — a distancing strategy employed to dehumanize, alienate, exclude and justify ill treatment of groups outside of one’s own.”

There have been several Red Wedding-style attacks throughout the centuries

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I

The Red Wedding traumatized fans, and will likely be remembered as the bloodiest, most harrowing party to ever grace television.

A strikingly similar attack took place in Ireland in 1574.

An Irish chieftain named Sir Brian mac Felim Ó Néill ruled over the kingdom of Clannabuidhe and had previously been knighted by the English Crown. When he lost the Queen’s favor, he began to fight against the English invaders. Eventually, however, he invited Walter Devereux, the Earl of Essex, to his castle to discuss peace terms over a Christmas feast, according to Wayne E. Lee’s “Barbarians and Brothers.”

At the Earl’s signal, Sir Brian, his wife, and the rest of his family were seized, while 200 of their followers were indiscriminately slaughtered.

Sir Brian Ó Néill and his family were all subsequently executed.

A similar situation occurred in Scotland, during the 1692 Massacre of Glencoe.

Captain Robert Campbell and 120 of his men were given hospitality at Clan MacDonalds’ castle. After two weeks, a message arrived ordering Campbell to attack, according to Britannica.

One winter’s night, the soldiers played cards with their victims and bid them pleasant dreams, as usual. Then they massacred all the MacDonald men they could find, including the chief.

Another Red Wedding-esque incident — the similarly-named Black Dinner — went down in Scotland in 1440. Advisers of the 10-year-old King James II grew concerned that Clan Douglas was growing too bold and powerful, according to the Week.

These advisers invited the 16-year-old Earl of Douglas and his younger brother to come over to Edinburgh Castle. The king and the Douglases had an enjoyable time. Nothing seemed amiss.

Then, at the end of the dinner, the severed head of a bull — a symbol of Clan Douglas — was tossed on the table. Like the “Rains of Castamere” at the Red Wedding, this was the signal. Much to the young king’s horror, his two friends were dragged outside, put through a mock trial, and decapitated.

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These patriotic teens are telling the stories of war vets before they’re lost forever

Recently-released data from Department of Veteran’s Affairs shows that on average, 492 World War II veterans die each day.


So a couple of California teenagers have taken it upon themselves to tell these stories before they’re lost.

Rishi Sharma of Agoura Hills, California, has set up the website Heroes of the Second World War. At the time of writing this article, he has interviewed, recorded, and published 360 interviews.

On his website, Rishi states “These men are my biggest heroes and my closest friends. I am just trying to get a better understanding of what they had to go through in order for me and so many others to be here today and to get a better appreciation for how good I have it.”

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I
Photo via GoFundMe

After just over 14 months, he has traveled all over the country and sits down with each WWII veteran for the interview. He sends the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project some of the videos. With the veteran’s permission, he posts videos on Heroes of the Second World War’s Facebook page.

He doesn’t profit off the project, nor will he ever. He has a GoFundMe page that he uses to pay for the expenses of travel, maintaining the non-profit, and production costs. Currently, he is just shy of his initial goal.

(YouTube, SoulPancake)

Meanwhile in North Texas, Andy Fancher has launched a YouTube series to also share the stories of veterans.

In his video series “Andy Fancher Presents,” Andy has published many videos highlighting the life of the veteran. He goes in detail about their service, life after the military, and the impact of battle.

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I
Photo via NBC5 Dallas Fortworth

His series doesn’t focus specifically on World War II, but he does get into the mindset of the people he interviews. The stories get emotional. He told NBC5 Dallas-Fort Worth, “I realized that I didn’t have much of a strong stomach. I’ve teared up a lot behind the camera.”

To watch his series, check out the video below.

(YouTube, Andy Fancher)

Articles

Today in military history: FDR signs the GI Bill into law

On June 22, 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the G.I. Bill into law, providing a variety of benefits for returning World War II veterans, fondly known as GIs (short for “government issue” or “general issue”).

Designed by the American Legion, the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 included education and housing expenses, low-cost mortgages and loans, and even one year of unemployment compensation. It was available to all veterans who had been active duty during the war for at least 90 days and had not received a dishonorable discharge.

Though it had its problems, the GI Bill transformed higher learning in the United States and drove an economic expansion that lasted well beyond the war. The GI Bill has evolved over the years and is still used today, serving over a million beneficiaries a year. The GI Bill benefit helps veterans — and their dependents — pay for college, graduate school, and training programs.

Honorably-discharged veterans who have served 90 days of aggregate duty after Sept. 10, 2001, or are still active duty military, are eligible for Post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefits for 36 months. The benefits can be applied to tuition, fees, and other education-related expenses.

Featured Image: A student graduating from American Military University. (American Military University, Facebook)

MIGHTY HISTORY

The 7 most notorious traitors in military history

There are a lot of hated people in military history and no one is more hated than a turncoat. Even the troops on a traitor’s new side will never trust them entirely — after all, they turned their back on their own country for personal gain.  How trustworthy can they be?


 

This list details the most notorious, most gut-wrenching, most fatal backstabs in military history. These are direct betrayals of historical figures, in alphabetical order.

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I

 

There are no abstract judgement calls (like naming Judas Iscariot), no political statements (like calling out Nixon for extending the Vietnam War), and no traitors for good causes — Rommel tried to kill Hitler, but that’s hardly “notorious.”

1. Emilio Aguinaldo

Aguinaldo fought many foes to liberate the Philippines and its people, including the Spanish and the Americans. Once captured (he was actually betrayed by his own men) and released, he would wear black to mourn lost Philippine independence. When the Japanese brutally occupied the island, you’d think he’d go right back to fighting invaders killing Filipinos.

 

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I
Just like old times.

 

You’d be wrong.

He made radio addresses and speeches, imploring the Americans and Filipinos to surrender on Bataan in the hopes of getting the Japanese to make him President of their puppet government. The people ignored him.

When the U.S. retook the islands, he was jailed as a collaborator. Although remembered as the first President of the Philippines, “Japanese collaborator” is a huge stain on his anti-colonialist résumé.

2. Benedict Arnold

The name Americans love to hate. His name is so synonymous with the word “traitor” in the U.S., calling someone a “Benedict Arnold” can still cause fists to fly over 200 years later. Arnold wasn’t a bad general — his skills were critical to early American victories, especially at Saratoga. However, Arnold felt passed over and used.

 

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I
Because no one in the military knows what that feels like…

 

Related: Benedict Arnold’s tomb is now a kindergarten classroom

Instead of pressing on and waiting for his day to come, he offered to surrender West Point to the British in exchange for money and a general’s commission in the British Army. The British didn’t get West Point, though, because Arnold’s plan was discovered and he escaped to British lines.

3. Ephialtes of Trachis

This is the guy who the historian Herodotus says betrayed the Greeks at Thermopylae. It was there the outnumbered Greeks formed a bottleneck in the pass between the Malian Gulf and the “impassable and precipitous” mountain to the west.

 

Herodotus’ account says Ephialtes showed the much-larger Persian army a “single-wheel track” that ran behind the Greek lines. Once surrounded, the Greeks were, of course, slaughtered.

4. Qin Hui

While Europe was busy obsessing with who was in charge of everyone else, in China, Jurchen raiders from the north were having their way with the Song Dynasty and running off with its emperor. That’s when a general named Yue Fei had enough. He crushed the Jurchens in fight after fight, trying to win back the emperor.

 

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I
You pay when you f*ck with Yue Fei.

Then, Qin Hui convinced the replacement emperor that a Yue Fei victory meant a much shorter time on the throne. Yue is recalled and eventually executed for treason. Predictably, losing their best general also meant losing their dynasty.

Yue Fei was exonerated after death. These days, the region where Fei was buried houses statues of Qin and his wife, bound and on their knees, so people can throw things at them for eternity.

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I
Which, let’s be honest, is the greatest idea ever.

 

5. Mir Jafar

Britain ruled India for almost 200 years. How is it possible for such a small, far-away country to invade and conquer one of the richest, most populous places in the world? The answer is Mir Jafar.

 

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I

 

At the Battle of Plassey, Robert Clive of the British East India Company bribed Mir Jafar to betray the Indians in Bengal in 1757. His mid-combat betrayal allowed 3000 British troops to best the Nawab of Bengal’s army of 50,000. The British captured Calcutta, then moved on to the rest of India.

Jafar was made the new Nawab. Today, Jafar’s name is equivalent to the American “Benedict Arnold” and the European “Quisling.”

6. Vidkun Quisling

Nothing makes a traitor more heinous than collaborating with the Nazis. Quisling was the President of Norway from 1942 until the end of WWII. While most presidents in Europe end their tenure with a wave and a smile, Quisling’s ended with a trial and execution for carrying out the “Final Solution” in Norway.

 

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I
Don’t look at me like that, Quisling. Look at yourself.

 

A former Norwegian Army officer, Quisling declared a coup during the Nazi invasion of Norway in 1940. Having already met with Hitler, he was reasonably sure this coup would put him in control. He was wrong. Eventually the Nazis made him “Minister President,” subordinate to a Nazi official.

7. Andrey Vlasov

Vlasov’s entire career in the Red Army was made by turning terrible units and armies into formidable fighting forces. He cut his military teeth in the Bolshevik Revolution and by the time WWII came around, he was the epitome of a combat-hardened veteran. So, when the Nazis invaded the USSR, Vlasov’s troops were the only ones seeing success.

 

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I
Andrei Vlasov before defecting.

It was arguably Vlasov’s direction that saved Moscow. But during his defense of Leningrad, Vlasov was captured by the Germans. It was while evading the Nazis that he realized that Bolshevism is the enemy of the Russian people.

After his capture, he detailed to the Germans how the Russians could be defeated. Using anti-Communist Soviet citizens, they created the Russian Liberation Movement, and later the Russian Liberation Army.

They were the only Eastern Front divisions with major successes against the Red Army in the closing days of WWII. If Nazis had not betrayed them over and over, they might have pushed the Red Army back.

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I
Heinrich Himmler (left) with Vlasov.

Vlasov was eventually captured by the U.S. Army and handed over to the Russians. You can probably guess what happened after that.

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Congress wants to make it easier to fire bad VA employees

Congressional Republicans and Democrats have reached agreement on a bill to make it easier for the Department of Veterans Affairs to fire its employees, part of an accountability effort touted by President Donald Trump.


The deal being announced May 11 could smooth the way for final passage on an issue that had been largely stalled since the 2014 wait-time scandal at the Phoenix VA medical center. As many as 40 veterans died while waiting months for appointments as VA employees created secret waiting lists and other falsehoods to cover up delays.

The Hill deal followed a fresh warning from the VA inspector general’s office of continuing patient safety problems at another facility, the VA medical center in Washington D.C. After warning of serious problems there last month, the IG’s “rapid response” team visited the facility again on Wednesday and found a patient prepped for vascular surgery in an operating room, under anesthesia, whose surgery was postponed because “the surgeon did not have a particular sterile instrument necessary to perform the surgery.”

The team also found “surgical instruments that had color stains of unknown origin in sterile packs,” according to the IG’s letter sent Wednesday to the VA. The IG again urged the department to take immediate action to ensure patients “are not placed at unnecessary risk.”

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I
Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the Honorable David J. Shulkin, visits the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, April 27. Shulkin, who visited the medical center for the first time, spoke with various providers throughout the facilities to learn about the medical care given at the hospital. (Photo by Megan Garcia, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Command Communications)

The new accountability measure, led by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., softens portions of a bill that had passed the House in March, which Democrats criticized as unfairly harsh on workers. Sens. Jon Tester of Montana and Johnny Isakson of Georgia, the top Democrat and the Republican chair on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, agreed to back the new bill after modifications that would give VA employees added time to appeal disciplinary actions.

House Veterans Affairs’ Committee Chairman Phil Roe, sponsor of the House measure, said he would support the revisions.

“To fully reform the VA and provide our nation’s veterans with the quality care they were promised and deserve, we must ensure the department can efficiently dismiss employees who are not able or willing to do their jobs,” Rubio told The Associated Press.

It comes after Trump last month signed an executive order to create a VA Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection, with an aim of identifying “barriers” that make it difficult for the VA to fire or reassign bad managers or employees. VA Secretary David Shulkin had urged the Senate to act quickly to pass legislation.

The GOP-controlled House previously approved an accountability bill mostly along party lines. Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., argued the House should embrace language instead from a bipartisan bill by Isakson from last year with added due process protections for workers.

The Senate bill to be introduced Thursday adopts several portions of that previous Isakson bill, including a longer appeal process than provided in the House bill — 180 days vs. 45 days, though workers would not be paid during that appeal. VA executives would be held to a tougher standard than rank-and-file employees for discipline. The Senate bill also codifies into law the VA accountability office created under Trump’s order, but with changes to give the head of the office more independent authority and require the office to submit regular updates to Congress.

Conservative groups praised the bill.

“These new measures will disincentivize bad behavior within the VA and further protect those who bravely expose wrongdoing,” said Dan Caldwell, policy director of Concerned Veterans for America, pointing to a “toxic culture” at VA.

The agreement comes in a week in which Senate Democrats are standing apart from Trump on a separate issue affecting veterans, the GOP bill passed by the House to repeal and replace the nation’s health care law. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., warned the House measure would strip away explicit protections to ensure that as many as 8 million veterans who are eligible for VA care but opt to use private insurance would still receive tax credits.

Many veterans use a private insurer if they feel a VA facility is too far away, or if they don’t qualify for fuller VA coverage because they have higher incomes or ailments unrelated to their time in service, said Duckworth, a combat veteran who lost her legs and partial use of her right arm during the Iraq war. A group of GOP senators is working to craft their own health bill.

“Trumpcare threatens to rip health care out of their hands,” Duckworth said at a news briefing this week. “The question left is what will Senate Republicans do?”

Congress has had difficulty coming to agreement on an accountability bill after the Phoenix VA scandal. A 2014 law gave the VA greater power to discipline executives, but the department stopped using that authority after the Obama Justice Department deemed it likely unconstitutional.

Critics have since complained that few employees were fired for various VA malfeasance, including rising cases of opioid drug theft, first reported by the AP.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The 8 rules for rookie combat pilots in World War I

Before the Red Baron Manfred von Richthofen was Germany’s air power hero, it was Oscar Boelcke, a German air ace and the mentor to von Richthofen and the “Flying Circus.” Boelcke was one of Germany’s first fighter aces and, when he took command of a group of fighters, he did all that he could to pass on the knowledge that would keep the men alive. He came up with eight rules that would stand for decades, and most still apply today.


There were multiple versions of the rules, all with variations in wording. But they all carried the same eight sentiments:

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I

Oscar Boelcke was once the world’s top fighter pilot, and he wrote eight rules to help other pilots survive to be like him.

(Public domain)

Try to secure advantages before attacking. If possible, keep the sun behind you.

This is one of the rules that has shifted over time, but target acquisition in World War I was done almost exclusively through pilots simply scanning the skies. For that reason, Boelcke recommended the pilot keep the sun at their backs when heading into enemy territory or when deciding on an angle of attack against an unwary enemy pilot.

This would blind the adversary to the threat until the German pilot was already letting loose with his first machine gun burst. Nowadays, it does work a little different since targets are generally acquired via radar and other sensors. Still, Boelcke would certainly recommend hiding the approach and only engaging with the advantage.

Always carry through an attack when you have started it.

This one was far from hard and fast, but it was aimed at a particular shortcoming of young pilots. While Boelcke would allow for the occasional need to bug out (more on that in a later rule), he worried for new pilots who would see an enemy and attack, but then would turn and run after the first burst. That allowed the enemy to get a good bead on the fleeing German and shoot them down.

Instead, he recommended, only engage if you’re certain you can succeed and then stick with the fight unless you lose all advantage and have no other options left to fight. In more modern terms, “Finish the fight.”

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I

A German pursuit squadron in World War I.

(German military archives)

Fire only at close range, and only when your opponent is properly in your sights.

This was another rule squarely aimed at a common mistake by rookies. Overeager pilots would fire from hundreds of yards away, giving away their position with little chance of a hit. (Aerial marksmanship is famously difficult as, even in World War I, the shooter and the target are moving in different directions at dozens or even hundreds of miles an hour.)

Boelcke insisted that pilots wait until 100 meters or so, about 110 yards, before firing if at all possible. This helped in two ways. First, the attack pilot would only give away their position when there was a chance of success. But two, it hedged against the common problem of aviation guns jamming. So withholding fire until it was most likely to kill the enemy reduced the chances of a jam on a mission because the pilot fired less overall.

Always keep your eye on your opponent, and never let yourself be deceived by ruses.

This one may feel obvious: Always keep your eye on your enemy. But American pilots, following their British counterparts, had learned to fake their deaths in the air by seemingly going into an irrecoverable spin during combat when they needed to bug out.

Boelcke wanted to make sure his pilots were ready for this and other tricks, and so he recommended that they always watch their enemy, even if the foe seemed dead or doomed.

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I

Lt. Baldamus, a German ace fighter pilot.

(German military archives)

In any form of attack it is essential to assail your enemy from behind.

Again, rookie pilots would do stupid stuff, like attack an enemy flying from one side to the other, or coming head-on, both attack angles that were extremely challenging for even a veteran pilot to accomplish. So Boelcke directed his younger pilots to always focus on getting behind their enemy and attacking from there. There was one exception featured in the next rule.

If your opponent dives on you, do not try to evade his onslaught, but fly to meet it.

Yup, no need to try to navigate to the enemy’s rear if they’ve already gotten the jump on you. Instead, treat it like an “ambush near” on the ground and immediately turn to face the threat and shoot at it. Then, if at all possible, get to the enemy’s rear.

Rookie pilots had often made the mistake of running from their enemy instead. If they weren’t close to enemy lines, this resulted in them shedding altitude and pointing away from their attacker, allowing the attacker a series of free and easy shots at the fleeing pilot.

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I

Baron Manfred von Richthofen became the top fighter pilot of World War I, following in the footsteps of his mentor who achieved 40 kills before anyone else.

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

When over the enemy’s lines never forget your own line of retreat.

This is the exception to a number of the rules above. Yes, you should always try to finish the fight against an enemy, whether you initiated the fight or were responding after they attacked you. But, you should always know which way to go if you have to run. If the guns jam, if the engine fails, if you’re hit with a potentially mortal wound, you have to know which way help is.

Attack on principle in groups of four or six. When the fight breaks up into a series of single combats, take care that several do not go for the same opponent.

This one was aimed at younger squadron leaders. Basically, try to fly in groups whenever possible so that pilots can support each other. But, when fighting one group against another, be sure that you have each enemy plane on the run. If you’re matched man-to-man, but two of your pilots accidentally go after the same target, then there’s an enemy plane free to go after one German after another.

Instead, the pilots should be aware of where each other are, and they should coordinate their attacks as best as possible to keep the enemy on their back foot.

Boelcke would employ these rules and his own skills to achieve 40 aerial victories, rising to the position of the top fighter pilot in the world. But he died in a crash on Oct. 28, 1916. One of his students would, eventually, greatly surpass Boelcke’s number of aerial victories. The “Red Baron” would achieve 80 victories before dying in aerial combat on April 21, 1918, while chasing an enemy pilot over hostile lines.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Help reunite these WWII enemies who became best friends after the war

A crowdfunding campaign has launched to reunite two World War II veterans who fought against each other during the war and became as close as brothers after the war. The mission is to bring the two World War II veterans together again for a mini-documentary in Normandy, France.

They fought each other in Tunisia, Africa; however, they reunited decades after, and became friends, even as close as brothers. Sadly, there is not much time left, it may be even the last opportunity to do so. Graham lives in the United Kingdom and Charley in Germany, with their health decreasing and them getting older each day, it may be the last opportunity to have them meet again. But with your help, they may be able to reunite one more time and have their last encounter and story told in a mini-documentary.


This is their story


In late March 1943, Allied and Axis forces prepared for one of the fiercest battles of the World War II African campaign near Mareth, Tunisia. It was here, where after four months on the run, Rommel’s Africa Corps took one of its last stands. Enclosed on one side by rocky, hilly terrain and the Mediterranean on the other, capturing Mareth proved a difficult proposition for the British Eighth Army.

In order to outflank the Axis forces, the British 8th Armored Brigade, along with New Zealand infantry swung southwest and then north through an inland mountain pass to attack the Axis troops from behind.

They ran into the German 21. Panzer Division. Karl Friedrich “Charley” Koenig, only newly arrived in Tunisia as a 19-year-old officer candidate, waited for his first combat as a loader in a Panzer IV of Panzer-Regiment 5.

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I
‘Charley’ Koenig

Across the hardscrabble Matmata hills, Sherman tanks of the Sherwood Ranger Yeomanry Tank Regiment readied themselves for the attack. In one sat machine gunner and co-driver Graham Stevenson. Graham had fought at the battle at El Alamein and bailed out of a tank as a 17-year-old. Taking part in the hard fighting all along the way from Alamein through Tunisia, he had just barely reached the tender age of 18.

On March 23rd, Panzer Regiment 5 and the Sherwood Rangers tanks stalked one another and engaged in individual tank battles. Shells whistled loudly by Charley’s tank, his experienced commander advising calm. Their Panzer IV would not be knocked out on this day, but it would not be for long.

The next day, a radio signal warned the Germans of an incoming RAF Hurricane IID tank buster attack. Scrambling out of their Panzer IV, Charley’s crew moved side-to-side as Hurricanes swept in from all directions at nearly zero altitude firing their powerful 40-millimeter cannon.

An accurate Hurricane pilot hit the rear of the tank, shortly before a lone British artillery shell, fired out of the blue, made a direct hit on their front deck. A half-track arrived in the night to tow them to the be repaired. Charley was now out of the way, while Graham and his crew took part in the Tebaga Gap battle on March 26th, the Shermans and the Maori infantry inflicting a severe mauling on the 21. Panzer-Division.

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I
Graham Stevenson

Graham survived Africa and returned to England with the Sherwood Rangers to train in Sherman DD swimming tanks for the invasion of Normandy. Due to a slight disagreement with a commanding officer that landed him in the guardhouse, he came in on Gold Beach, Normandy a bit later than his Sherwood Ranger comrades.

In his first day of hedgerow fighting, untested and frightened infantrymen escorting his tank fled under fire, leaving Graham and his tank commander to conduct their own reconnaissance. Just steps outside of his tank, Graham was hit and nearly killed by German machine gun fire. As an artery bled out, his life hung on a thread. Luckily, a nearby aid station saved his life. But his war ended there.

Charley’s career ended in May, 1943, when he was taken prisoner by the Americans and transported to camps in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Belgium, and England before returning home in 1947. Even decades later, he could never forget the war in Africa, and his honorable opponents.

In 1991, he sought out the Sherwood Rangers and found Ken Ewing, head of the southern branch of the Sherwood Rangers Old Comrades’ Association. It wasn’t long before they became like brothers. After Charley attended ceremonies for the regiment in Normandy and Holland, he was invited in as a member of the Association, where he was accepted wholeheartedly by the remaining British World War II veterans, including Graham, who was in the same tank crew with Ken.

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I
Graham and Charley in the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I
Graham and Charley in Bayeux

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I
On Gold Beach, the German bunker which stood in the way of the Sherwood Rangers’ entry into Normandy still stands sentinel. On that spot this June 6th , the Sherwood Rangers dedicated a plaque to the tankers who fought and died to take this beach.

Now, Graham and Charley are the only members of Sherwood Rangers Old Comrades’ Association left alive who fought in Africa 75 years ago. Their friendship, which has transcended the brutality of war to reveal that mutual respect, healing, and reconciliation can exist between former enemies, sends a powerful message to future generations.

Heather Steele, Founder and CEO of non-profit organization World War II History Project, has launched a $25,000 crowdfunding campaign to make this reunion and filming of a mini-documentary happen. You can help make this possible — I’ve spoken with Heather and she’s incredible passionate to make this happen. There are various perks available for your kind donations from getting personalized postcards from the Veterans to flying in a WWII bomber or riding a tank!

Click here to Donate to the Crowdfunding Campaign!

Articles

These 6 women earned medals for gallantry in World War I

The trenches and battlefields of World War I are some of the last places one would expect to read about women who were decorated for valor. Yet, in the “War to End All Wars,” six women received medals for valor. Three received the Citation Star, the forerunner to the Silver Star, and three others received the Distinguished Service Cross – second only to the Medal of Honor in recognizing valor in action.


All were with the Army Nurse Corps at the time, one of the very few outlets women had to serve in the military. While medical units weren’t supposed to come under fire, these six women were among the nurses who did come under fire – and would distinguish themselves.

1. 2. Beatrice MacDonald  Helen Grace McClelland

According to the Army Medical Department’s website, these two women earned the Distinguished Service Cross in the same action.

On Aug. 27, 1917, they were with British Casualty Clearing Station 61 in France when a German air raid hit the hospital.

MacDonald braved the fire to continue treating patients until a German bomb wounded her severely. McClelland then treated MacDonald’s wounds, despite continued German bombing.

MacDonald would survive, but lose her right eye. According to a 2012 release by Harvard University, she insisted on returning to duty despite the wound.

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I
Nurses treat a wounded soldier during World War I. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

3. Isabelle Stambaugh

Stambaugh was at a British Casualty Clearing Station on March 21, 1918, when it came under attack from German planes. The bombing attack wounded Stambaugh, who continued to treat patients despite the wound, according to a 1919 New York Times report.

4. Jane I. Rignel

According to Military Medical, the first woman to earn a Silver Star (known as the Citation Star in World War I), was Jane I. Rignel. At 7:30 AM on July 15, 1918, Mobile Hospital 2 came under attack. Rignel aided in the evacuation of the patients while under artillery fire – and kept going until the hospital itself was shelled by the Germans.

5. 6. Linnie E. Lecknore  Irene Robel

Military Medical reports that these two nurses received the Citation Star for their actions while part of an ad hoc unit known as Shock 134, attached to Field Hospital 127. When the hospital came under fire on July 29, 1918, they continued to treat wounded soldiers who were brought in.

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I
U.S. Army Reserve Nurse Linnie Lecknore with her brothers in World War I. (U.S. Army photo)

The tale of the Silver Star recipients takes an ironic turn. While the recipients of the Distinguished Service Cross got recognition at the time in publications like the Journal of Nursing, the Citation Star recipients slipped through the cracks. The Silver Stars were eventually presented to the families of Jane Rignel and Linnie Lecknore.

No relatives of Irene Robel have come forward – and her Silver Star remains unclaimed.

Articles

The Military Took These Incredible Photos In Just One Week-Long Period

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here is the best of what they shot this week:


AIR FORCE

F-16 Fighting Falcons taxi down the runway March 3, 2015, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The F-16s are assigned to the 18th Aggressor Squadron at Eielson AFB. Aggressor pilots returned after completing a mobile training team exercise.

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I
Photo: Senior Airman Peter Reft/USAF

Pilots in an F-15E Strike Eagle receive fuel from a New Hampshire Air National Guard KC-135R Stratotanker March 17, 2015, over North Carolina. The pilots and F-15E aircraft are from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C.

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I
Photo: Airman Ashlyn J. Correia/USAF

NAVY

Sailors aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) heave line during an underway replenishment and ammunition onload with the Military Sealift Command fast combat support ship USNS Arctic (T-AOE 8). Theodore Roosevelt deployed from Norfolk and will execute a homeport shift to San Diego at the conclusion of deployment.

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Anthony Hopkins/USN

EAST CHINA SEA (March 17, 2015) Sailors assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) and Marines assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (31st MEU) taxi an AV-8B Harrier assigned to Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 238.

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Matthew Dickinson/USN

ARMY

Army paratroopers, assigned to 1st Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, sit in the door of a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter as it lifts off. The airborne operation held March 19, 2015 at Grafenwoehr, Germany, is the final preparation for the unit before they conduct multinational exercises across Europe.

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I
Photo: 2nd Lt. Steven Siberski/US Army

Bach, a military working dog, takes down an Army military policeman during a demonstration at Fort Sill, Okla., March 12, 2015. The demonstration showed how Fort Sill’s K9 Unit assists with searches for narcotics, explosives and assists in apprehending suspects.

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I
Photo: Marie Berberea/US Army

MARINE CORPS

Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unitconduct a daytime boat operation exercise using Combat Rubber Raiding Crafts as part of amphibious integration training aboard the USS Green Bay, at sea, March 11, 2015. The Marines and sailors are currently conducting their spring patrol of the Asia-Pacific region.

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I
Photo: Gunnery Sgt. Ismael Pena/USMC

Marines with 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit conduct a nighttime boat operation exercise using a Combat Rubber Raiding Craft as part of amphibious integration training aboard the USS Green Bay, at sea, March 11, 2015. The Marines and sailors are currently conducting their spring patrol of the Asia-Pacific region.

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I
Photo: Gunnery Sgt. Ismael Pena/USMC

COAST GUARD

Petty Officer 1st Class Denis Butierries holds his son Jacob so he can get a view of Honolulu Harbor during a tour of the Coast Guard Cutter Rush Dec. 23. 2014. Six-year-old Jacob was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy when he was four months old and was given between four months and one year to live. His longtime wish was to see the Rush where his grandfather served as the engineering officer.

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I
Photo: Chief Petty Officer Kurt Fredrickson/USCG

Coast Guard Station Golden Gate lifeboat crews conduct surf training in Sausalito, Calif., Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014. The crews train in high surf to ensure they are prepared to respond to any maritime emergency during rough weather conditions.

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I
Photo: Petty Officer 3rd Class Loumania Stewart/USCG

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Articles

NATO saw Tom Clancy’s ‘Rainbow Six’ and decided to go bigger and bolder with ‘Spearhead Force’

In Tom Clancy’s fictional “Rainbow Six” universe, customizable teams of special operatives use intelligence from around the world to strike at threats against NATO. Designated “Rainbow,” the team was originally 30 members and is comprised of the best Delta, SAS, and other top NATO-member special operations units have to offer.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KlbLLRdg9u8feature=youtu.bet=6s

Rainbow deploys on quick notice around the world, fulfilling both a deterrent and a direct action role, mostly against terrorists.

The real-world NATO must have seen all of this and — in light of recent Russian aggression — decided Rainbow just wasn’t big and strong enough for the real world.

Instead, NATO announced in February the planned components of their Very High Readiness Joint Task Force. As part of the overall NATO Response Force, the VJTF does have special operators from around the world supporting it and an international intelligence network.

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I
Photo: US Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Meranda Keller

But VJTF doesn’t end at special operations. Dubbed “Spearhead Force,” it centers on a land brigade of approximately 5,000 troops that can hit a target and begin operations within 48 hours of notification. The primary component of the Spearhead Force will change year-to-year, coming from whichever country is in primary command of the unit. Germany is taking the first turn and leading the force in 2015 and has already taken the interim VJTF out for a spin.

In addition to their special operators and land forces, the VJTF will have air assets and naval forces on the ready. Britain has volunteered four fighter jets to the air mission already, in addition to 1,000 troops for the land component.

America’s first-ever tank unit saw heavy combat in World War I
Photo: US Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Gary Emery

What units will make up the rest of the air component, as well as the exact forces in the maritime and special operations components, have not been announced.

Of course, the special operations support could be coming from Rainbow — if you believe the government is hiding an international special operations force from the American public.

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OR: Russian soldier gets shot in the head by an AK round, sergeant pulls out the bullet

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