Before the Civil War, the major holiday that came at the end of November wasn’t Thanksgiving. It has nothing to do with turkey, pilgrims or pumpkin pie. Instead, it had everything to do with kicking the British out of the Eastern seaboard.
The big holiday before the Christmas season some 150 years or so ago was Evacuation Day, and every November 25, groups of Americans tacked on sharp, specially-made cleats and climbed a greased-up flag pole.
All because the British Army thought they were hilarious, but were actually just sore losers.
In September 1783, the Treaty of Paris was signed between representatives of King George III of the British Empire and representatives of the newly-formed United States of America. That treaty not only recognized the new country’s independence, but also set the boundaries between the two dominions in North America, as well as settling a lot of other issues.
The British were so salty about losing the war for American independence that they refused to pose for the official treaty-signing portrait, and the painting was just left unfinished. Today, the 1783 painting “Treaty of Paris” by Benjamin West is a monument to the massive British butthurt that was so strong in the days following the war’s end.
In New York City, Gen. George Washington was set to enter the city on November 25, 1783, but was delayed until the last remaining British flags were taken down. Before departing, British regulars went out to Manhattan’s Battery Park and nailed the Union Jack to the top of a flagpole.
Then, they greased up the flagpole in an effort to ensure the flag would still be flying by the time they departed and the city was lost over the horizon. It didn’t work. Quick-thinking Americans crafted some heavy-duty cleats and ascended to the top of the pole to remove the old British flag and replace it with the new Old Glory.
In fact, it was Continental Army veteran John Van Arsdale who climbed to the top and removed it – while the British troops were still in the harbor. Ever the salty sore losers, the British fired a single cannonball towards people gathered on Staten Island. Luckily, it didn’t hit anyone.
Van Arsdale’s epic ascent up to the top of the lubricated flagpole was so inspirational that it sparked a repeat annual performance, complete with a celebration that included food, booze and everything else that comprised a good old-fashioned 1700s ruckus.
Every November 25 for the next 80 or so years was “Evacuation Day,” centered around a re-enactment of Van Arsdale’s ascent, sometimes featuring a competition of multiple poles for who could rip down the Union Jack the fastest.
After the Civil War Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the official holiday of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving has been celebrated for decades before Lincoln’s recognition, dating back to George Washington’s call for a national day of Thanksgiving and prayer. Washington’s day of Thanksgiving wasn’t a regular annual holiday.
Lincoln wanted to bring the country together in the spirit of national unity and called for the fourth Thursday of every November to be an official Thanksgiving holiday to thank God and the Union Army for its victory at Gettysburg.
As time went on, the British butthurt subsided and relations between the United States and its erstwhile mother country warmed up considerably. People soon forgot about Evacuation Day and focused more on the Thanksgiving holiday.
Lawmakers and advocates are calling for a detailed review of the battlefield valor of African-American troops in World War I, saying many were denied the Medal of Honor due to racism.
Sens. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland and Roy Blount, R-Missouri, announced April 18, 2019, that a bipartisan effort had begun in both houses of Congress to pass bills authorizing the review.
It’s a matter of simple justice, said Dr. Timothy Westcott, a historian who would lead the review if Congress approves.
“We should not be determining their valor based on the color of their skin or the circumstances of their birth,” said Westcott, director of the George S. Robb Centre for the Study of the Great War at Park University in Missouri.
On the House side, the legislation is sponsored by Rep. J. French Hill, R-Arkansas.
“To require the review of the service of certain members of the Armed Forces during World War I to determine if such members should be awarded the Medal of Honor,” the bills read.
Soldiers of the 369th (15th N.Y.) who won the Croix de Guerre for gallantry in action, 1919.
The bills would waive the statute of limitations to ensure that any veterans of World War I recommended by the review to receive the Medal of Honor would be legally eligible for it.
If this effort is successful, a Valor Medals Review Task Force for World War I would become part of the annual National Defense Authorization Act, set to be debated this summer.
The effort has been endorsed by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion and the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission.
“While the United States military has studied Medal of Honor awards to minority service members in WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and subsequent American conflicts, no such systematic review has ever been conducted for minority veterans of the First World War,” commission officials said in a release. “Under current law, the exact same act of heroism completed by the exact same veteran would be eligible for review if it occurred in 1941, 1951, 1971, 1991, or 2001, but not 1918.”
“We at the U.S. World War One Commission, established by Congress in 2013, are aiming to rectify that and ensure our World War One heroes are forgotten no more,” the release added.
In a statement, Van Hollen said “Hundreds of thousands of minority veterans served their country during World War I, and their sacrifice was essential to our victory. But for far too long, their heroism has not received the recognition it deserves.”
Blount said the review was essential to making sure “those who were denied the Medal of Honor because of their race or religion finally receive the recognition they have earned.”
U.S. Army African American soldiers of the 369th Infantry Regiment learn from French mentors in trench warfare in an undated photo during WWI.
Of 400,000 minority veterans who served during World War I, about 40,000, the vast majority African-Americans, saw combat in France, according to the Department of Defense.
No African-American was awarded the Medal of Honor during World War I or its immediate aftermath, but two were posthumously honored many years later after limited investigations.
In 1991, Army Cpl. Freddie Stowers, who was killed in combat while serving in a unit under French command, was awarded the Medal of Honor by then-President George H.W. Bush.
President Barack Obama awarded the Medal of Honor in 2015 to Army Sgt. Henry Johnson, who fought in France with the New York Army National Guard‘s famed 369th Regiment, known as the “Harlem Hellfighters.”
In his statement, Van Hollen singled out the case of Army Sgt. William Butler, an African-American veteran from Salisbury, Maryland. Butler received the Croix de Guerre with Palm from France, as well as the Distinguished Service Cross from the U.S. military and a recommendation for the Medal of Honor.
“But he never received that medal before his death,” Van Hollen said.
At an Association of the U.S. Army event last October to promote the review of World War I awards, Jeffrey Sammons, a history professor at New York University, said his research discovered that Butler, who also served with the 369th Regiment, had been nominated for the Medal of Honor but the award was denied.
Sammons also found that Butler had been nominated for the nation’s highest award for valor on the same day as 1st Lt. George S. Robb, the namesake of the Robb Centre at Park University. Robb, who received the Medal of Honor, was a white officer who commanded an all-black platoon on the Western Front.
Officers of the United States Army’s segregated 366th Infantry Regiment on board the Aquitania, enroute home from World War I service.
“George Robb had written a glowing treatment of William Butler’s exploits, in which he saved his commanding officer, 1st Lt. Gorman Jones, and a number of men from being captured by the Germans, who had actually infiltrated their trench,” Sammons said at the AUSA event.
Westcott and Zachary Austin, adjunct director of the Valor Medals Review Task Force, said the intent was to begin the research with African-Americans who served in World War I and then extend it to other minorities.
“There’s never been systematic approach to this,” Westcott said of the review.
He and Austin said the research would be conducted with the aid of donations and at no cost to the government.
The main focus for possible upgrades to the Medal of Honor would be on those who were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the French Croix de Guerre with Palm, and those who were recommended for the Medal of Honor but never received it, Westcott and Austin said.
Once the review is complete, the findings would be presented to the Department of Defense for a determination on whether the Medal of Honor should be awarded, Westcott said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
By this November, thousands of Americans will have exercised their right to vote for the next president of the United States. With just over half of that population as female (50.8%), women have a huge say in how that election turns out. But as we all know, that wasn’t always an option. Who has had the right to vote has changed over time, including those of different races, genders, and those who had certain assets.
Go back in time with us as we look at some of the most important events that led to women’s voting rights.
1776: The New Jersey Constitution Grants Women the Right to Vote
These trailblazers provided women with the right to vote via their state constitution through 1807.
1838: “School suffrage” voted into effect in Kentucky
This special amendment was created for widows who had school-age children, it allowed them to vote on school-related issues.
1848: First convention to discuss women’s rights
After a two day meeting held in New York, a convention was called for women to talk about their rights. Held in Seneca Falls, New York, the event was considered successful with signatures from 68 women and 32 men on the “Declaration of Sentiments.” It included the country’s first “formal” demand for women’s voting rights, with:
“It is the duty of the women of this country to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise.”
1850: The first National Woman’s Rights Convention takes place
After taking over conventions for themselves — men were kicked out of planning or helping with events — this largest event to-date took place in Worcester, Massachusetts. It was attended by more than 1,000 people.
National conferences were held annually through 1860, with the exclusion of 1857.
1853: The first feminist newspaper is printed
The Una, “A paper devoted to the elevation of woman” was printed in Providence, Rhode Island.
1861: Kansas allows school election votes
The state of Kansas allowed women to start voting in school board elections.
1866: Documents are presented to Congress
After receiving 10,000 signatures, suffragist leaders presented the document to Congress, requesting women’s votes.
1868: The 14th amendment is ratified
With the 14th amendment, more Americans are given the right to vote, but it includes the word “male,” prohibiting females from securing their rights.
1870: Wyoming grants female votes
Citing territorial status, Wyoming is the first state — or future state — to allow women to vote. When it became a state in 1890, it was the first official state to grant female votes.
1871: The Anti-Suffrage Party was created
Wives of prominent men, including those of Civil War generals, gather to found this movement.
1872: Women head to both sides of the ballot
The first female presidential candidate, Victoria Woodhull runs for president. Later that year, 16 women voted in New York, including Susan B. Anthony. She was arrested and fined, but refused to pay.
1878: A suffrage movement is introduced
An amendment addressing women’s suffrage was first brought to congress. It wasn’t passed until 1920 as the 19th amendment.
1910: Washington state grants women’s rights
In its third attempt, the amendment was passed, granting rights to Washington women. Washington is followed in subsequent years by many states.
1915: The largest women’s suffrage parade
The year hosted the largest suffrage parade of its kind. Some 40,000 women marched down Fifth Avenue to as much as a half-million viewers. It’s still known as the largest parade in NYC.
1918: President Wilson addresses Congress
After having personal petitions dropped on him, President Wilson personally stands up to Congress for women’s votes?
1920: The 19th amendment is passed
After being sent to the states for ratification in 1919, the amendment granting women’s rights was finally passed into law.
In the early 1960s, international communications were limited to transmissions through undersea cables or occasionally unreliable radio signals bounced off of the ionosphere. As you might imagine from this, many in the Western world weren’t too keen on the state of the situation given that were to someone, say, the Soviet Union, cut those cables before launching an attack, international communications with overseas forces and foreign allies would have to rely on the mood of said ionosphere.
For those unfamiliar, the ionosphere is a layer of the upper atmosphere about 50 to 600 miles above sea level. It gets its name because it is ionized consistently by solar and cosmic radiation. In very simple terms, X-ray, ultraviolet, and shorter wavelengths of radiation given off by the Sun (and from other cosmic sources) release electrons in this layer of the atmosphere when these particular photons are absorbed by molecules. Because the density of molecules and atoms is quite low in the ionosphere (particularly in the upper layers), it allows free electrons to exist in this way for a short period of time before ultimately recombining. Lower in the atmosphere, where the density of molecules is greater, this recombination happens much faster.
What does this have to do with communication and radio waves? Without interference, radio waves travel in a straight line from the broadcast source, ultimately hitting the ionosphere. What happens after is dependent on a variety of factors, notable among them being the frequency of the waves and the density of the free electrons. For certain types of radio waves, given the right conditions, they will essentially bounce back and forth between the ground and the ionosphere, propagating the signal farther and farther. So clearly the ionosphere can potentially play an important part in the terrestrial radio and communication process. But it is the constantly shifting nature of the ionosphere that makes things really interesting. And for that, we’ll have to get a little more technical, though we’ll at the least spare you the math, and we’ll leave out a little of the complexity in an effort to not go full textbook on you.
To begin with, the ionosphere’s composition changes most drastically at night, primarily because, of course, the Sun goes missing for a bit. Without as abundant a source of ionizing rays, the D and E levels (pictured right) of the ionosphere cease to be very ionized, but the F region (particularly F2) still remains quite ionized. Further, because the atmosphere is significantly less dense here then the E and D regions, it results in more free electrons (the density of which is key here).
When these electrons encounter a strong radio wave of certain types, such as AM radio, they can potentially oscillate at the frequency of the wave, taking some of the energy from the radio wave in the process. With enough of them, as can happen in the F layer, (when the density of encountered electrons is sufficient relative to the specific signal frequency), and assuming they don’t just recombine with some ion (which is much more likely in the E and D layers in the daytime), this can very effectively refract the signal back down to Earth at sufficient strength to be picked up on a receiver.
Depending on conditions, this process can potentially repeat several times with the signal bouncing down to the ground and back up. Thus, using this skywave certain radio signals can be propagated even thousands of miles and, most pertinent to the topic at hand, across oceans.
Of course, given the unpredictability of this form of communication, and potentially even times when communication would be impossible, military brass during the Cold War wanted another option.
Developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Labs, the project was initially called “Project Needles” by Professor Walter E. Morrow in 1958 when he first dreamed up the idea. It was later re-named “West Ford”, presumably after Westford, Massachusetts, a nearby town. The idea was to place potentially even billions of tiny (1.78 centimeters 0.7 inches long and microscopically thin) copper antennae or dipoles in a medium Earth orbit to be used for communication signals at 8 Ghz.
The first set of well over a hundred million needles was launched on Oct. 21, 1961, but unfortunately this test failed when the needles didn’t disperse as planned.
On a second attempt in May 9, 1963, a batch of 350 million needles was placed on the back of an Air Force satellite and sent into orbit. Once dispersed, properly this time, the needles spread to form a sparsely concentrated belt with approximately 50 dipoles per cubic mile.
Needles from “Project Needles” compared to a stamp.
While you might think surely this wouldn’t be dense enough to be effective for use in communication, in fact early results of the experiment were extremely promising, with communication established using the needle array from California to Massachusetts, some 3K or so miles or 4,800 km apart. As such, there were reports that the Air Force was considering launching two more belts to be placed more permanently in orbit.
There was a problem, however. Beyond the Soviets, allies and even Americans opposed the further deployment and continuance of this program.
Why? Astronomers, in particular, were afraid that the belt would interfere with their observations. The outrage of scientists and the reason for it was perhaps best expressed by Sir Bernard Lovell of the Jodrell Bank Radio Observatory who said: “The damage lies not with this experiment alone, but with the attitude of mind which makes it possible without international agreement and safeguards.” After all, the space above the Earth is not the United States’ alone to do with as it pleases without consulting other nations of Earth.
While you might consider this a bit of an overreaction, it’s important to understand the context here, with the U.S. up to and around this point having done a series of things in space without oversight that the international community was more than a little upset about. For example, consider that also smack dab in the middle of this time, the United States was busy accidentally nuking Britain’s first satellite, among many, many others.
The satellite in question was the Ariel-1, which was developed as a joint-venture between the United States and Britain, with Britain designing and building the core systems of the satellite and NASA launching it into orbit via a Thor-Delta rocket.
Around nine months after the launch of the first batch of needles, on July 9, 1962, mere weeks after Ariel-1 was put into orbit and had successfully begun transmitting data about the ionosphere back to Earth, British scientists were shocked when the sensors aboard Ariel-1 designed to measure radiation levels suddenly began to give wildly high readings.
As it turned out, as Ariel-1 was happily free-falling around the Earth, the US military had decided to detonate an experimental 1.4 megaton nuclear weapon named Starfish-Prime in the upper atmosphere as part of Project Fish Bowl.
The explosion, which happened on the other side of the planet to Ariel-1, sent a wave of additional radiation around the Earth that ultimately damaged some of the systems on Ariel-1, particularly its solar panels, killing it and about 1/3 of the rest of the satellites in low-Earth orbit at the time.
Most pertinent to the topic of communications, this famously included the Telstar satellite, which was the first commercial communication relay satellite designed to transmit signals across the Atlantic and managed around 400 such communications before the U.S. accidentally nuked it. Funny enough, the Telstar actually wasn’t in orbit at the time of the explosion, being put there the day after the Starfish-Prime detonation. However, the additional ionizing radiation created by the explosion took years to dissipate and was not anticipated by the designers of this particular satellite. The immediate result being the degradation of Telstar’s systems, particularly the failure of several transistors in the command system, causing it to stop working just a few months after being placed in orbit. They were eventually able to get it back online for a short period via some clever software workarounds, but it didn’t last thanks to the extra radiation further degrading its systems.
It’s also noteworthy here that The Starfish explosion was actually supposed to have happened a couple weeks earlier on June 20th, but the rocket carrying it failed at about 30,000 feet. Once this happened, the self-destruct on the nuclear warhead was initiated and it broke apart, raining its radioactive innards down on Johnston and Sand Islands, as well as in the ocean around them.
It should also be noted that the effects of Starfish-Prime weren’t just limited to low orbit.
The electromagnetic pulse created by the blast ended up being much larger than expected and, in Hawaii some 900 or so miles away from the blast, the pulse ended up knocking out a few hundred street lights and damaged the telephone system. Today in our digital world, of course, a similar electromagnetic pulse would have much more catastrophic effects, especially if near more populated centers, potentially even revealing the Lizard people’s Matrix, which would be catastrophic to our Draconian overlords’ (may they reign forever) plans…
The flash created by The Starfish explosion as seen through heavy cloud cover from Honolulu 1,445 km away.
Needless to say, this, the needles in space, and other such projects had many in the international community concerned with the lack of any oversight on the United States’ activities in space. (Presumably it would have been even worse had everyone realized the United States had, a few years before this, planned to nuke the moon, more or less just because they could…)
Going back to the needle issue, a compromise measure was reached thanks to incorporating a sort of planned obsolescence; that is, none of the needles would remain in orbit longer than five years. (Or so they thought, more on this in a bit.)
Thinking more long term, several groups of scientists, including the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) of the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) demanded access and consultation in this and other such projects in the future. Ultimately an agreement was reached which granted the scientists the ability to participate in the planning and evaluation of space projects.
Of course, this particular issue quickly became moot as shortly after the second group of needles was dispersed, the military deployed its own first communication satellite system in 1966, making the needle system, while effective, obsolete. With this deployment of one object instead of hundreds of millions, the furor died down and people, for the most part, forgot about West Ford.
That said, while the project is largely forgotten, its effects are not with the consultation provisions of the original West Ford agreement with the IAU included in the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, an agreement entered into by ninety-nine countries, that was designed to protect against the militarization and degradation of outer space. Among other things, in a nutshell, it provides that no country can claim ownership of space nor any celestial bodies; all countries will avoid contaminating both and are liable for any damage they cause; no weapons of mass destruction (WMD) will be deployed or placed in orbit or on any celestial body; and no military bases may be placed on any celestial bodies, including the Moon, something that unfortunately saw a planned military installation by the U.S. fully scrapped, as we covered in our article: That Time the U.S. was Going to Build a Massive, Death Ray Equipped, Military Moon Base.
On the bright side, the treaty also includes a Good Samaritan law that provides that astronauts are “envoys of mankind in outer space and [all] shall render to them all possible assistance in the event of accident, distress, or emergency landing.”
Going back to the needles, in case you’re wondering, despite the planned obsolescence, as of 2019, a few dozen clumps of them remain in orbit and are closely tracked to make sure they don’t cause any problems with all the other stuff floating around our little beautiful home space craft known as Earth.
Given AM radio signals can propagate for thousands of miles via the aforementioned skywaves, particularly at night, this can become a major problem as there are only a little over 100 allowed AM radio frequencies (restricted to keep signals interfering too much with one another), but around 5,000 AM radio stations in the United States alone. As a result, at night, AM stations in the United States typically reduce their power, go off the air completely until sunrise the next day, and/or possibly are required to use directional antennas so their specific signal doesn’t interfere with other stations on the same frequency. On the other hand, FM stations don’t have to do any of this as the ionosphere doesn’t greatly affect their signals, which has the side benefit (or disadvantage, depending on your point of view) of severely limiting the range of the FM signals, which rely on groundwave propagation.
Speaking of Radio and space, while not a job ever mentioned by my school career counselor, it turns out “Space DJ” is a thing, if you work at NASA, going all the way back to 1965 during the Gemini 6 mission on December 16th, likely initially as a joke. During this mission, astronauts Walter Schirra and Tom Stafford were woken up by a recording of singer Jack Jones and Hello Dolly. This musical wake-up call quickly became a regular occurrence intended as a way of bolstering morale while allowing astronauts a few minutes to wake up slowly before having to respond to ground control. Over the years, wake-up calls became one of NASA’s most beloved traditions, with the role of picking the songs given to the mission’s Capsule Commander (CAPCOM)… Yes, just to be clear, not only do these people get to put CAPCOM for NASA on their resume, but they can also add in “Space DJ”. Thanks Career Councilor… If you’re wondering, the songs chosen over the years have been wildly eclectic, ranging from classical music by composers like Bach and Beethoven to Metallica and the Beastie Boys. Thanks to the extensive records NASA keeps, we not only know every song played for astronauts in orbit since 1965, we also have the astronaut’s responses to some of the more unusual choices played. For example, for a 2008 mission aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis, officially designated as STS-123, CAPCOM played a brief snippet of the theme song from the presumably epic film Godzilla VS Space Godzilla as well as part of the Blue Oyster Cult song, Godzilla, for Japanese astronaut Takao Doi, signing off by saying:
Good morning Endeavour. Doi san, ohayo gozaimasu, from mission control here in Houston, take on today like a monster.
An amused Doi responded that he was “happy to hear Godzilla,” before himself signing off to get to work. According to Fries’ extensive archives, Godzilla’s iconic theme song is apparently a popular choice for Japanese astronauts, as are the themes from other well-known films like Star Wars, Star Trek and Rocky.Predictably, songs with a space theme are also popular choices, with David Bowie’s Space Oddity and Elton John’s Rocket Man being noted as some of the most commonly played.In addition to songs, NASA has, at various points, played private messages recorded by the astronauts’ loved ones (including the occasional singing of “Happy Birthday” where applicable) and even occasional messages from celebrities. Notable examples of the latter include personalised greetings from William Shatner, Paul McCartney and Elton John, a skit performed by Jim Henson involving Miss Piggy, and even a song sung by Darth Vader set to backing music from The Beatles.Perhaps best of all was the crew of Atlantis on November 25, 1991 being woken to none other than Patrick Stewart stating (with Star Trek: The Next Generation theme music playing in the background),
Space: the final frontier. This is the voyage of the Space Shuttle Atlantis. Its ten-day mission: To explore new methods of remote sensing and observation of the planet Earth… To seek out new data on radiation in space, and a new understanding of the effects of microgravity on the human body… To boldly go where two hundred and fifty-five men and women have gone before!Hello Fred, Tom, Story, Jim, Tom, and especially Mario — this is Patrick Stewart, choosing not to outrank you as Captain Jean-Luc Picard, saying that we are confident of a productive and successful mission. Make it so.
As for today, with the retirement of the Space Shuttle program, this wake-up call tradition has partially been left in the dustbin of history, though occasionally is still observed on the International Space Station, and presumably will be reinstituted as a regular activity once NASA begins sending people to space themselves again.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
When the Cold War was at its peak, America began spying on the Russians from space with the Corona Program. Corona used a system of satellites that flew over Russia, taking photos of sensitive and classified areas.
The problem with the early spy satellites was that digital photography had not been invented yet and digital scanning was in its infancy. The earliest spy satellites had to take their photos with film and then send the film back to earth.
So, the Air Force set up the 6593rd Test Group and then the 6594th Test Squadron at Hickham Air Force Base, Hawaii. These units flew under the path of the satellites and caught the film that the satellites dropped to earth. Some of the first objects ever designed to re-enter the atmosphere, the canisters were about the size of a garbage can and carried large parachutes to slow their descent.
When they first entered the atmosphere, the canisters would resemble falling stars as the air around the fast-moving object compressed and began to burn. After the chute deployed, the canister slowed down and 6594th and 6593rd pilots would have to spot the canisters and snag them with a recovery system installed on modified cargo planes. They originally used the C-119 Flying Boxcar but switched over to C-130s.
The canisters used a Mark 8 parachute with a cone that up from the center of the parachute. The pilots would spot the canisters and crews would then deploy a “loop” made of nylon rope with brass hooks. The loop trailed beneath the aircraft as the pilot flew directly over the chute, hopefully catching the chute. Using a winch, the crew would then pull the chute and canister into the modified C-119 or C-130 aircraft.
“I liked to recover a parachute close up to the belly of the airplane,” said Lt. Col. Harold E. Mitchell, pilot of the first successful midair film recovery, Discoverer 14. “They didn’t like that because you could invert the parachute… Many times when the parachute went through, though, it passed close under the belly of the airplane, and went over the top of the loop and it wouldn’t deflate. It became a drag chute.”
When the pilot missed the chute or it slipped off the hooks, the canister would fall into the Pacific ocean. For these instances, the units employed rescue swimmers who would deploy off of helicopters to retrieve the capsules.
Each successful recovery provided a treasure trove of imagery. The first successful recovery documented 1,650,000 square miles of the Soviet Union, more than 24 U-2 missions provided.
Over the course of the Cold War, the Corona Program was key in tracking Russian military developments. One of their most important discoveries was showing that the “missile gap” worried over by U.S. planners, a belief that the Soviet Union had drastically more missiles than the U.S., was backward. The U.S. had the larger and more capable stockpile.
The 6593rd deactivated in 1972 and the 6594th followed suit in 1986.
On Sep. 17, 1862, Confederate rebels and Union troops fought the Battle of Antietam.
President Abraham Lincoln charged Major General George B. McClellan with the defense of Washington D.C. against Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s first invasion of the North.
Earlier in the month, Lee had divided his men, sending General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson to capture Harper’s Ferry. After Jackson’s success, Lee decided to make a stand in Maryland at Antietam Creek. While nothing about Antietam Creek, located near Sharpsburg, Maryland, was of true strategic value, both commanders knew that the moment was crucial. Keeping France and England on the sidelines required a Union victory, while the Confederates needed a huge win to influence the Union elections.
The road to Antietam began when Lee marched his troops across the Potomac and into Union-aligned Maryland while attempting to influence the midterm elections of 1862. He was hopeful that a few decisive Confederate victories on Union soil could cause a surge in votes for candidates opposed to the war, potentially leading to the start of peace negotiations at home. He also had a shot at diplomatic recognition of the Confederacy from European powers, like England and France.
After two days of posturing, fighting began early in the morning on Sep. 17 and lasted well past sundown, with staggering casualties on both sides and no ground gained. The next day, both armies gathered their dead and wounded and Lee retreated south.
It was the bloodiest one day battle in American history. When night finally fell, the two forces had suffered approximately 23,000 casualties with an estimated 4,000 killed, the worst loss of American life in a single day in history. To put that in perspective, approximately 2,500 Americans were killed taking Utah and Omaha beaches on D-Day.
Featured Image: The bridge over Antietam Creek where much of the bloodiest fighting took place. (Library of Congress)
In the roughly seven months since the 2nd Brigade deployed, the unit’s numbers have swelled to more than 2,100 paratroopers deployed to Iraq.
It is the largest contingent among the thousands of Fort Bragg soldiers serving as part of an international coalition to defeat ISIS. That coalition is led by Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, commanding general of the 18th Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg.
On July 10, Work said the Falcon Brigade can be proud of its efforts to defeat ISIS through advising and assisting its Iraqi partners.
A few years ago, officials said the Iraqi army was largely defeated — broken, dispirited, and pushed to the gates of Baghdad. Today, it is celebrating a major victory.
“Our mission, the reason we matter, is to help the Iraqi Security Forces win,” Work said. “The fight continues, but they have dominated ISIS in Mosul. The key now is establishing a durable security that enables governance to extend its reach.”
While Iraqi forces have been at the forefront of the victory, American paratroopers have played no small role in the success.
“It’s been hard, violent work every day,” Work said of fighting in Mosul. “The Iraqi Security Forces have fought doggedly to take terrain from ISIS and liberate the people of Mosul. ISIS had years to prepare its defense, and it gave nothing away. Our partners took it from them, and we’ve been helping them attack. At the same time, we are extraordinarily proud of our partners. They assume the lion’s share of the physical risk, but we attack a common enemy together. Their success is our success.”
When the brigade’s soldiers arrived in Iraq, the battle to defeat ISIS was still raging in east Mosul, Work said.
Now, that part of the city is thriving “despite being just over five months removed from intense ground combat.”
Work said the brigade’s paratroopers gave invaluable support to their Iraqi counterparts, advising and assisting ground commanders and providing artillery fires, intelligence, and logistical support.
As the fight moved to west Mosul, the paratroopers moved with their Iraqi counterparts, inching closer to the embattled city.
“We helped decimate a formidable ISIS mortar and artillery force in west Mosul,” Work said. “We helped destroy ISIS infantry, logistics, and suicide car bombs so that our partners could continue to attack on the hard days. We were with the commanders calling the shots, delivering fires that helped them dominate, and we always put them first. Every day and every night.”
Townsend congratulated Iraqi forces on July 10 for their “historic victory against an evil enemy.”
“The Iraqis prevailed in the most extended and brutal combat I have ever witnessed,” he said.
As commander of Combined Joint Task Force — Operation Inherent Resolve, Townsend is the top general overseeing the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. He’s one of several hundred 18th Airborne Corps soldiers who form the core of the anti-ISIS headquarters.
Several other Fort Bragg units, including the 1st Special Forces Command, are also deployed in support of the campaign.
Townsend spoke to members of the media via a video feed from Baghdad.
He said ISIS has now lost its capital in Iraq and its largest population center held anywhere in the world. That’s a decisive blow to ISIS and something for Iraqis to celebrate.
Townsend said forces also are making progress against ISIS in Syria, where partner forces working with American and coalition troops have surrounded ISIS’s capital of Raqqa.
The general said ISIS would fight hard to keep that city, much as it did in Mosul.
“Make no mistake, it is a losing cause,” he said.
Townsend said Iraqi forces have a plan in the works to continue to pursue ISIS in other parts of the country. He said he doesn’t anticipate any decrease in US troops in Iraq following the liberation of Mosul.
American forces, including those from Fort Bragg, are expected to play a key role in those efforts.
While the city of Mosul is now firmly under the control of Iraqi forces, Work said, no one will be celebrating too long.
“A lot of hard work remains. The Iraqi Security Forces will continue to attack the remnants of ISIS, search for caches, and free the people of west Mosul,” he said. “The transition for the Iraqis to consolidate their gains is critical now. It requires detailed intelligence, organization, and logistics. Our paratroopers will continue to give our best advice, help our partners attack ISIS, and keep enabling their operations.”
The 2nd Brigade deployed seven battalions to aid in the anti-ISIS fight. Most of the soldiers are involved in providing security or advising their Iraqi counterparts.
But, Work said, all soldiers contributed to the efforts and successes of the unit.
“All seven of our battalion teams have been tremendous. 37th Engineer Battalion has run a major staging base that is the hub of all logistics for a very decentralized coalition adviser network,” he said. “407th Brigade Support Battalion assists the Iraqis with advancing their own logistics while also sustaining and maintaining our adviser teams. Finally, the 2nd Battalion of the 319th Field Artillery devastated ISIS’s once-formidable mortar and artillery battery.”
Work also said the brigade has relied on junior soldiers to step up and fill important roles in the fight.
“We have a junior intelligence analyst, Spc. Cassandra Ainsworth, who is brilliant. We rely heavily on her thinking, on her analysis, and synthesis when we are making major recommendations to Iraqi generals,” he said. “We also have a junior signal soldier, Spc. Malik Turner, whom I count on daily to keep us connected securely in very austere environments. He is exceptional.”
Work said the brigade was the “right team at the right time” to help in Iraq.
“There is a lot of hard work ahead, but the Falcons — some of the best trained, best equipped, and best led paratroopers in the world — helped the Iraqis win in Mosul,” he said.
With the city liberated, Work said, the soldiers’ attention will turn to securing those gains, improving the Iraqi forces, and taking the fight to ISIS forces in other parts of the country.
“The first priority is helping the Iraqis sink in their hold on west Mosul, helping them set conditions that allow the government to start delivering services and political goods,” he said. “Mosul is also a major battle in a much broader campaign to eliminate ISIS, and the fight continues. We will continue to give our best military advice, but the government of Iraq will decide the next objective. Whatever they decide, we are confident that we will continue to help them attack our common enemy.”
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they’re always capturing what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer assigned to the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, deployed from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, taxis on the flightline July 26, 2017, at Andersen AFB, Guam. The normal/routine employment of continuous bomber presence (CBP) missions in the U.S. Pacific Command’s area of responsibility since March 2004 are in accordance with international law are vital to the principles that are the foundation of the rules-based global operating system.
U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Josean Arce, 33rd Helicopter Maintenance Unit weapons section weapons expediter, conducts a systems post-load check on a GAU-18 50-caliber machine gun attached to an HH-60 Pave Hawk from the 33rd Rescue Squadron July 26, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Airmen in the weapons section maintain, install, remove, and safeguard all armaments and items associated with the HH-60 gun mounting and ammunition handling systems for the 33rd Rescue Squadron.
Paratroopers from 1st Battalion, 143rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade conduct Squad Live Fire in Cincu, Romania during Exercise Swift Response 17.
U.S. Army paratroopers assigned to Company A, 307th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, load into the back of a C-130 Globemaster III assigned to the 8th Airlift Squadron during Operation Panther Storm 2017 at Fort Bragg, N.C., July 24, 2017. Panther Storm is a deployment readiness exercise used to test the 82nd Airborne Division’s ability to rapidly deploy its global response force anywhere in the world with only a few hours’ notice.
Seaman Tanoria Thomas from Shreveport, La., signals an amphibious assault vehicle, attached to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, into the well deck of the amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48) after the completion of Talisman Saber 2017. Talisman Saber is a biennial U.S.-Australia bilateral exercise held off the coast of Australia meant to achieve interoperability and strengthen the U.S.-Australia alliance.
Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Christian Prior prepares to raise the ensign on the fantail aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) during morning colors. Iwo Jima is in port conducting a scheduled continuous maintenance availability in preparation for their upcoming deployment.
A Marine documents a call-for-fire during a live-fire range at Camp Lejeune, N.C., July 26, 2017. The purpose of this field operation is to test and improve the unit’s capabilities by putting the Marines into a simulated combat environment. The Marine is with 1st Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment.
Marines with “The Commandant’s Own” U.S. Marine Drum Bugle Corps perform “music in motion” during a Tuesday Sunset Parade at the Marine Corps War Memorial, Arlington, Va., July 25, 2017. The guest of honor for the parade was the Honorable Robert J. Wittman, U.S. Representative from the 1st Congressional District of Virginia, and the hosting official was Lt. Gen. Robert S. Walsh, commanding general, Marine Corps Combat and Development Command and deputy commandant for Combat Development and Integration.
U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Patrick Armstrong (left), commanding officer of U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Maple, rides aboard a Canadian Coast Guard small boat near Barrow, Alaska, after meeting with members of the Canadian Coast Guard aboard ice breaker Sir Wilfrid Laurier, July 24, 2017. The crews of Sir Wilfrid Laurier and fishing vessel Frosti, a Canada Department of Fisheries and Oceans-commissioned boat, went on to lead the way through the ice east of Barrow, Alaska, in support of U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Maple’s transit through the Northwest Passage to the Atlantic Ocean.
Crew members aboard a Coast Guard 24-foot Special Purpose Craft-Shallow Water boat from Station Chincoteague, Virginia, ignite orange smoke signals to mark slack tide and the beginning of the 92nd Annual Chincoteague Pony Swim in Assateague Channel, July 26, 2017. Thousands gathered to watch Saltwater Cowboys swim a herd of wild ponies from Assateague Island to Chincoteague Island.
The beginning of World War II started with a brutal Nazi war crime.
On Sep. 1, 1939, German soldiers began their invasion of Poland, triggering the outbreak of World War II. The shelling of a Polish garrison at Westerplatte is commonly believed to be the first shot fired in the war, but the beginning actually happened five minutes prior, according to Deutsche Welle.
At 4:40 a.m., the town of Wieluń was bombed by the Luftwaffe as most of its 16,000 residents slept. There were no anti-aircraft, military, or economic targets of any importance, in the sleepy town just 13 miles from the German border. The target of the bombing was civilians.
Overall, 380 bombs fell on Wieluń, weighing a total of 46 tons. The first ones hit the All-Saints Hospital. 32 people died there – patients and staff. These were the first victims of the German air raids during World War II. The next target was the oldest parish church in Wieluń, St. Michael the Archangel, built in the beginning of the 14th Century. The Piarist building was the only surviving structure on the old square.
In total, as a result of the attack on Wieluń by the German air force, which lasted until 2pm, over 1200 people died. Certain sources note as many as 2,000 victims. Bombs dropped by the Stukas (Junkers Ju 87) destroyed 75% of the city. 90% of the city center was destroyed.
The people of Wieluń were the first to experience the German tactic of “blitzkrieg” (lightning) war, which was later used during the invasions of Belgium, North Africa, the Netherlands, and France. Just minutes after the bombing of the town began, the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein began its bombardment of Westerplatte.
Two days later, Britain and France declared war on Germany, and the conflict lasted for six years at the cost of millions of lives. When it was all over in 1945, it ended with the surrender of the Nazis, and the exposure of the most shocking and brutal war crime the world had ever seen.
While everyone talks about D-Day, what’s often forgotten is that getting past the Atlantic Wall was only the first step. The Allies had to fight their way out of Normandy and into the rest of France — not to mention across Germany.
This wasn’t easy. Germany had some very well-trained troops who were determined to put up a fight. One of the places where the Nazis held up the Allies was Villers-Bocage — a village to the southwest of Caen, a major objective of the initial staged.
According to Battle of Normandy Tours, on June 13, 1944, a force of British tanks from the famous 7th Armoured Division — also known as the “Desert Rats” — headed towards Villers-Bocage. At that village, a company of German Tiger tanks, under the command of Michael Wittman, fought the British force of Cromwell and Sherman Firefly tanks.
When all was said and done, Wittman’s force had destroyed 27 Allied tanks, according to WarfareHistoryNetwork.com. The Germans had also killed, wounded, or captured 188 Allied troops.
This video shows some of the fighting that took place during the Battle of Villers-Bocage. Warning: It does show some of the consequences of when armored vehicles are destroyed.
The father of a Muslim American soldier who was killed in Iraq more than a decade ago joined other military speakers on Thursday at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia to deliver impassioned remarks on diversity.
Khizr Khan, father of the late Army Capt. Humayun S. M. Khan, 27, who was killed in Iraq in 2004, criticized the Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for his proposal to bar Muslims from entering the country.
“Donald Trump, you’re asking Americans to trust you with their future,” he said. “Let me ask you, have you even read the United States Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy,” he added, pulling the document from his breast pocket and raising it in the air.
“In this document, look for the words liberty and equal protection of law,” Khan said. “Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery? Go look at the graves of brave patriots who died defending the United States of America. You’ll see all faiths, genders and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing and no one.”
The younger Khan, of Bristow, Virginia, died June 8, 2004, in Baquabah, Iraq, after a vehicle packed with an improvised explosive device drove into the gate of his compound while he was inspecting soldiers on guard duty, according to a Pentagon release announcing the casualty.
Assigned to Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 201st Forward Support Battalion, 1st Infantry Division, in Vilseck, Germany, Khan was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.
Before Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton took the stage on the final day of the convention, Khan appeared on the platform with his wife, Ghazala. He was among a few speakers with military connections.
Florent Groberg, a medically retired soldier who received the Medal of Honor for his heroic efforts to stop a suicide bomber in Afghanistan in August 2012, and retired Marine Corps Gen. John Allen, the former commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, both said Clinton would help to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.
“Hillary Clinton has been training for this moment for decades,” Groberg said. “In the Senate, she worked across the aisle to support wounded warriors and our families. As president, she will reform the VA, not privatize it,” he added.
Last week at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Trump called the Veterans Affairs Department a “public trust” and vowed to keep it a “public system” but also promoted a plan to allow veterans more access to private health care.
Groberg said Clinton “will help heal the invisible wounds that lead to suicide and as commander in chief, she will defeat ISIS. When Hillary’s moment comes, she will be ready — ready to serve, ready to lead.”
Allen said, “with her as our commander in chief, America will continue to lead the volatile world. We will oppose and resist tyranny and we will defeat evil. America will defeat ISIS and protect the homeland.”
The bazooka was World War II’s answer to the American soldier’s need for portable firepower that could inflict serious damage on the enemy.
Simple enough for use by rifle squads, powerful enough to shoot high-explosive rounds into bunkers and pillboxes, the bazooka put more bang farther away on the battlefield than the average G.I. could throw in the form of a grenade.
True, Gen. George Patton praised the M-1 Garand rifle as the greatest battle implement ever made. But Gen. Dwight Eisenhower ranked the humble bazooka with the atom bomb, the jeep, and the C-47 transport and cargo plane as one of the four “Tools of Victory” that allowed the Allies to prevail over Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.
“The bazooka is one of those weapons that has become iconic in spite of its limitations and problems,” said Alan Archambault, former supervisory curator for the U.S. Army Center of Military History. “Even today, most people recognize the name and the weapon.”
Rockets on the battlefield are nothing new. History is full of examples of militaries harnessing explosive force to rocket power with many kinds of results.
The 13th Century Chinese fired rockets at their enemies. The Star-Spangled Banner mentions the “the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air” – Congreve rockets fired at Fort McHenry during the War of 1812 in an effort to burn the fort to the ground.
American space pioneer Dr. Robert Goddard, inventor of the liquid-fuel rocket, even developed a prototype recoilless rocket launcher that he demonstrated to the U.S. Army in November 1918. Unfortunately for Goddard, the Great War ground to a halt just a few days later and the U.S. military lost interest in rocket-powered weapons for a while.
But when the U.S. entered World War II in 1941, the only anti-tank weapons in its arsenal were the guns on its tanks and specific kinds of anti-tank artillery. That was a problem considering the U.S. Army faced an enemy in North Africa, later Europe, who relied heavily on Panzer divisions.
U.S. Army Ordnance innovators Capt. Leslie Skinner and Lt. David Uhl experimented with shaped-charge grenades that packed an armor-piercing punch but were too heavy for soldiers to throw. One day, Uhl apparently spied a steel tube on a scrap pile and decided a smooth-bore launch tube was the perfect companion to the grenade/rocket combination he recently developed.
Tube, fin-stabilized rocket, grenade: By May 1942, the combination became known as “Launcher, Rocket, 2.36 inch, Anti-Tank, M-1.”
But nobody called it that – the contraption looked like one of the novelty musical instruments of Bob Burns, a popular comedian of the era. Burns called his tubular noisemaker a “bazooka” – from Dutch slang for “loudmouth” – and the name for the joke instrument became the name of the weapon.
Optimally, the bazooka needed two men for proper use: a gunner who aimed and fired the rocket-propelled rounds and a loader who carried the rounds in a cloth bandoleer before loading the bazooka through the back end of the launcher’s tube.
An electric charge from a dry-cell battery ignited the powder charge in the rocket, which sent the round hurtling out of the tube and on its way to the target.
However, early models of the weapon could be downright dangerous. Occasionally, the rocket would fire but get stuck in the tube, leaving the soldier with a live bomb in his shoulder-mounted launcher.
All models of the bazooka produced significant “back-blast”– discharge from the firing rocket that streamed out of the rear-end of the tube – and an obvious smoke trail that often gave away the position of the shooter.
However, improvements to the weapon produced the far-more reliable M-9. It had a light warhead, but it was capable of destroying many armored vehicles because the round could penetrate five-inch armor.
Although intended as an anti-tank weapon, the bazooka could also fire white phosphorous and incendiary warheads for anti-personnel and anti-material use.
For example, Wilbur “Bill” Brunger was an engineer with the U.S. Army during World War II when he received orders in 1945 to demolish three underpasses on the Autobahn near Dortmund, Germany, so the rubble would block any advancing enemy vehicles.
Brunger was with a squad of men trying to take control of those underpasses when they encountered German half-tracks coming their way.
His squad had an M-9 and Brunger fired a round at one of the half-tracks. The round was so efficient he got more than he bargained for.
“It must have had ammunition because it blew, I’d say, a hundred feet in the air,” Brunger said in an 2004 oral history prepared by the Douglas County History Research Center, Colorado. “But it blew up. I was glad we weren’t any closer than we were.”
In fact, the weapon was so effective the bazooka received the sincerest form of flattery: The Nazis copied captured bazookas and also created their Panzerschreck anti-tank rocket launcher using the American bazooka’s basic design.
Although it went through different variants, the bazooka remained in use through the early stages of the Vietnam War. Then, the M-72 LAW (light anti-tank weapon) eclipsed the bazooka and became the rocket-weapon of choice among infantrymen.
However, the bazooka has one remaining cultural influence in American history. According to some sources, Bazooka bubble gum (first introduced to the gum-chewing public in 1947) owes its ordnance-inspired name to the World War II weapon that made a big bang.
A U.S. Army Reserve officer was among those killed in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
Antonio Davon Brown, 29, was a captain in the Army Reserve and slain in the attack Sunday at an Orlando nightclub, Cynthia Smith, a spokeswoman at the Defense Department, confirmed in an interview with Military.com.
The Pentagon plans to release more details about Brown’s service record on Tuesday, according to Smith.
Brown was a member of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) while a student at Florida AM University.
“We are especially saddened by the news that one of the victims was part of the FAMU family,” the university said in a statement.
“29-year-old Antonio Davon Brown was a criminal justice major from Cocoa Beach, Florida and a member of ROTC during his time on the Hill. He graduated from FAMU in 2008 and is being remembered fondly by classmates and fellow alumni on social media. We will continue to update you about plans for a memorial or service of remembrance for alumnus Brown,” it said.
“In the meantime, the Florida AM University community stands with the entire Orlando community in the wake of tragedy,” the university said. “Our thoughts, and prayers for peace, are with everyone in central Florida and across this nation.”
The gunman was identified as Omar Mir Seddique Mateen, a 29-year-old U.S. citizen and Muslim who lived in Fort Pierce, Florida, and whose parents were of Afghan origin. While he was apparently acting alone, he had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.
The incident was the deadliest mass shooting in American history, with at least 50 individuals confirmed dead, including the gunman, who was killed in a shootout with police, and another 53 injured. Several remain critically injured.
The shooting began around 2 a.m. Sunday morning at a packed Orlando nightclub called Pulse, which caters to the lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender, or LBGT, community and lasted until around 5 a.m., when a SWAT team raided the building.
The shooting is also the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001, when al-Qaeda militants crashed airliners into the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon near Washington, D.C., and a field in Pennsylvania, killing nearly 3,000 people.
One Twitter user said she and Brown served in the same ROTC class and that he served tours of duty in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I can hardly breathe,” she tweeted. “I never thought any one of us from Class of 08 would die young. We all came back from war safely.
“He killed my friend, my battle buddy,” she said of the shooter. “CPT Antonio Brown survived Iraq and Afghanistan to die like this.”
She went on to describe an incident during her senior year. After she was unsuspectingly dropped from her parents’ health insurance, she got sick with the flu and passed out during class. Brown and his roommate carried her to his car and drove her four hours from Tallahassee to Fort Stewart, Georgia, so she could receive treatment from the Army.
“Antonio saved my life when no one else could be bothered to care,” she said.