The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history - We Are The Mighty
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The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history

A joint U.S.-Peshmerga raid on an ISIS compound in Iraq freed some 70 prisoners, killed many ISIS fighters, and captured five of them. The cost was four injured Kurdish fighters and one U.S. Delta Force operator killed in action. Some would say the price of one KIA for rescuing 70 people is a fair cost, others might say a Delta Operator is an invaluable loss. No matter which side of the debate you stand, risky raids are rarely without casualties. Here are a few of the most famous raids, with what was gained and at what cost, to help determine which were worth the risk. Some are more obvious than others.


Operation Ivory Coast (1970)

The commando raid on the Son Tay prison camp in North Vietnam was one of the riskiest missions in spec ops history. Planning for the mission began in early May 1970 after Air Force aerial photos confirmed the camp’s existence, which for years had been suspected of housing more than 60 POWs. 130 Special Forces began training at a secret base in Florida over several months. Commandos and Air Force Special Operations air crews rehearsed the raid on a scale model of the camp.

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history

In the late hours of November 20, support aircraft including A-1 Skyraiders, F-4 Phantoms and F-105G Wild Weasels and the assault force of six Jolly Green Giant helicopters lifted off for the rescue from bases in Thailand and South Vietnam. At about 2:00am, 50 Green Berets deliberately crash landed their helicopter into the main courtyard of the prison camp guns blazing. After a methodical search of the prison barracks and multiple engagements with guards, the assault force boarded a second helicopter for its exfiltration, empty handed.

Though the mission didn’t recover any of the POWs (intelligence later found they had been moved in July), the raid was a major success, involving a host of joint service assets — including a Navy decoy mission using A-7 Corsairs and A-6 Intruders that tied up North Vietnamese air defense assets as cover for the raid.

POWs Rescued: 0

Guards Killed: 42

Cost: 2 wounded, 2 aircraft down

Israeli Raid on Lebanon (1973)

In response to the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics by the Palestinian terror organization Black September, Israeli intelligence (Mossad) launched the intelligence operation with the coolest name ever: Operation Wrath of God. Wrath of God was directed by Mossad to assassinate members of Black September and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) responsible.

On April 10, 1973, as part of Wrath of God, Israel Defence Forces (IDF) Sayeret Matkal (the Israeli equivalent to Delta Force) special operatives came ashore near Beirut and Sidon, Lebanon. They met Mossad agents on the beaches who drove them to their targets in rented cars. At the same time, paratroopers raided a building guarded by 100 militants and engaged in close-quarters battle as they cleared the structure. Two IDF troops were killed. Another paratroop unit destroyed a PLO garage in Sidon and Shayetet 13 commandos (IDF equivalent to Navy SEALs) destroyed an explosives workshop. Steven Spielberg recreated the raid in his 2005 film Munich.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qZHZv_jji4

All Israeli forces either returned to the beach to leave the way they came or were airlifted out by the Israeli Air Force.

Enemy Killed: 100

Cost: 2 IDF paratroopers

Raid on Entebbe (1976)

In June 1976, Palestinians from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) hijacked AirFrance Flight 139 on its way from Tel Aviv, Israel to Paris, France. Two PFLP hijackers and two Germans from the German Revolutionary Cells captured 12 crewmembers, 246 mainly Jewish Israelis, and 58 other passengers. They ended up Entebbe, Uganda, which was under the control of the notorious dictator Idi Amin Dada at the time.

Supported by Amin’s troops, the hijackers moved the hostages to Entebbe’s passenger terminal, where Amin visited them everyday and promised he was working for their release. The PFLP demanded $5 million and the release of 53 Palestinians prisoners, 40 of whom were in Israel. They promised to start killing the hostages if their demands were not met in three days.

The hijackers separated the Jewish and Israelis from the rest of the passengers. 48 sick and elderly non-Jewish hostages were released. When the Israelis agreed to negotiations, the hijackers extended their deadline by an extra three days and release 100 more non-Israeli passengers. This left 106 hostages in Entebbe. When diplomacy failed to secure their release, the Israelis launched a rescue attempt.

Israeli C-130s and a Boeing 747s flew from the Sinai Peninsula over Saudi, Egyptian, Sudanese, and Ugandan territory at 100 ft to avoid detection. The landed and offloaded a Merecedes-Benz and motorcade of Land Rovers similar to Amin’s own motorcade. they drove right up to the terminal, took out two sentries and entered the terminal shouting in Hebrew and English that they were Israeli soldiers there to rescue the hostages. Three hostages and all the hijackers were killed. the remaining C-130s launched Armored Personnel Carriers (APC) to pick up the hostages and take them back to the waiting 747s. The Israelis had to shoot their way back to their planes as Ugandan soldiers descended on them, injuring five and killing one Yonatan Netanyahu, older brother to current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

A hostage who was taken to the hospital in Kampala, Uganda due to illness was killed by Ugandan Army officers after the raid.

Hostages Rescued: 102 

Hijackers Killed: 4

Cost: 4 hostages, 1 IDF commando killed

4 IDF commandos wounded

Desert One (1979)

This is the disastrous attempt to rescue American hostages being held by Iranians at the former embassy in Tehran. To this day, President Carter maintains the biggest mistake of his Presidency was not sending one more helicopter.

Desert One was a secret staging area in Iran set up by special operators where eight Navy helicopters and Delta Force aboard three C-130 transport planes. Three more C-130s with 18,000 gallons of fuel for the helicopters were also supposed to deploy at Desert One. The Navy helicopters would refuel and fly the Delta Forces to Desert Two, another desert area South of Tehran, conceal the helicopters and hide out during the day.

The next night Delta Force would board trucks driven by Iranian operatives, drive to Tehran, storm the U.S. embassy, free the hostages, and transport everyone to a nearby soccer field, where they would be picked up by the helicopters, who would then fly everyone to an airfield secured by Army Rangers and everyone would fly to Egypt on C-141 Starlifters after the helicopters were destroyed.

During the operation, three helicopters were unable to continue, forcing the team to abort the rescue. During the evacuation, one of the helicopters crashed into a C-130 carrying fuel and personnel, destroying both aircraft and killing eight troops, five airmen and three Marines, without ever getting close to the hostages.

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history

Hostages Rescued: 0

Cost: 5 U.S. troops

Nord-Ost Siege (2002)

In 2002, 40 Chechen separatists besieged a Moscow theater holding more than 800 people captive for nearly a week, demanding the Russian withdrawal from the Republic of Chechnya. The terrorists killed two hostages after negotations failed. The Russians called up their elite Spetznaz Alpha Group to handle the situation.

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history

The Russians used a specialized gas to knock out both the terrorist captors and their hostages through the theater’s air ducts. The Spetznaz then stormed the theater, killing all 40 Chechen seprtatists, their suicide vests still strapped to their torsos, but barely conscious.

Most of the hostages were rescued, but more than 130 died from suffocating from the gas. It was the first time gas was used in such a way, but likely the last, as it also injured much of the Spetznaz response team. Welcome to Putin’s Russia.

Hostages Rescued: 700

Cost: 133 Hostages Killed, 40 Terrorists Killed, 700 injured

Neptune Spear (2011)

This is the SEAL Team Six raid which ended in the death of Osama bin Laden. In the early hours of May 2, 2011, 79 SEAL Team Six operators and a working dog flew from Jalalabad in specially designed stealth Blackhawk helicopters in nap-of-the-Earth style. They arrived at bin Laden’s compound in 90 minutes. The first Blackhawk experienced  hazardous airflow condition caused by the concrete walls surrounding the compound (practice runs used mesh fencing), causing the helicopter to softly crash land. No one was injured.

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history

SEALs entered the house, killing defenders (including bin Laden), securing noncombatants and gathering all the intelligence they could, all within 40 minutes. The SEALs destroyed the damaged helicopter to protect classified technology. A reserve Chinook was sent to extract the team from the crashed helicopter and (with bin Laden’s body) leave Pakistan for Bagram Air Base. Bin Laden would later be buried at sea.

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history
A woman in Times Square celebrates the death of Osama bin Laden (wikimedia commons)

Enemy Killed: 5 (including Osama bin Laden)

Enemy Captured: 17

Cost: 1 Stealth Blackhawk

NOW: Here’s what it’s like when special forces raid a compound

OR: An American soldier killed in Iraq while rescuing 70 ISIS hostages

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This DNC delegate joined the Army after spending 22 years as a state lawmaker

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history
Massachusetts state congressman, DNC delegate, and Army reservist Hank Naughton at the Philadelphia Convention Center for the Democratic National Convention. (Photo: Ward Carroll)


PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — Hank Naughton had been a Massachusetts state lawmaker for 22 years when 9/11 happened. Like many Americans, the horror and tragedy of that day compelled him to try and do something to support the wounded nation he loved. And in his case, even though he was 42 years old, he decided to join the Army Reserve.

“I had a great life to that point — family, political career, law practice — and I thought I needed to step up and do something,” Naughton says. “I joined the Army. It took some effort at 42 years of age. I showed up at basic 17 years older than the next younger guy.”

Since Naughton was a lawyer, the Army naturally put him into the JAG Corps. “I thought I would just do my duty at Fort Devens in Massachusetts doing wills and legal work for ‘Pvt. Snuffy,” he says. “But then things started coming down the pike.”

Naughton wound up deploying multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan, supporting the highest levels of the war effort — commands like the 3rd Army, Multinational Force Iraq, and 4th Infantry Division in Kandahar — with legal rulings on rules of engagement and the laws of armed conflict. He also started the first women’s shelter during his time in Afghanistan, an effort for which he’s particularly proud.

Following those tours in the Middle East, he served in the Congo, an effort that he sums up as “trying to teach the soldiers there that rape is not a legitimate form of warfare.”

Between deployments, Naughton mounted a bid for Attorney General in Massachusetts, but “it didn’t work out,” as he puts it, so he continued to serve in the House. In 2015, he was sent back to the Middle East as part of Task Force 2010, an anti-corruption effort in Afghanistan, and then as a law of armed conflict advisor to the war effort in Syria.

This week Naughton is in Philadelphia where, among other duties, he’s serving as a Massachusetts delegate to the Democratic National Convention. He brings with him a legal and legislative background combined with years of recent firsthand war experience that give him a unique perspective on American foreign policy, the efficacy of which, he believes, has been convoluted during the current election cycle.

“President Obama and Secretary Clinton have been dealing a hand they were dealt by the Bush Administration,” he says. “There are a series of questions as to whether or not the Iraq War ever should have happened. Without the Iraq War, ISIS — Daesh — would never have come to fruition.”

Referring to the political opposition, Naughton adds, “They can be as critical as they want, but the decisions were made based on actions taken long before Barack Obama became President of the United States. They lose sight of the fact that there are still a significant number of our military brothers and sisters still there and a growing number back in Iraq.”

He’s also concerned that the political arguments between the parties are framing the solutions to the threats in dangerously simplistic ways.

“The Syria operation in the most complicated military/political/diplomatic/personnel operation that we’ve been involved in since World War II,” Naughton says. “There are 1,1oo different militias on the ground all with varying loyalties to each other and to parties outside the country.” He adds that he was in country when the Russians came in last summer, and he says that that “incredibly complicated the situation.”

Beyond the geopolitical realities, on a more personal level as a soldier-statesman, Naughton is worried how the campaign rhetoric is affecting troops’ morale.

“When I was on the Syria mission last year deployed with CENTCOM-Forward, we were not sensing a lot of support from our congressional leaders,” he says. “They can say all they want — ‘thank you for your service’ and pat us on the back — but they need to give us the resources we need and positive suggestions. Don’t just pull down for political profit.”

In spite of those fears, Naughton feels like gains have been made in the fight. “ISIS has lost close to 50 percent of the territory they had because of our efforts in the last year and a half,” he points out. “As we’re seeing, [ISIS] — because they want to have an effect on this election — they will continue to strike out on an international basis. I think we need to be prepared for that.

“And Donald Trump and the rest of his crowd can continue to blame immigrants and everybody else about these lone wolf attacks in Dallas and Baton Rouge, but the truth is our service members and homeland security have done a tremendous job preventing attacks,” he says. “One attack is one too many, but think of all that we’ve avoided.”

Putting on his Army JAG hat, Naughton takes issue with some of the Republican nominee’s recommendations on how to deal with the enemy. “The suggestion that we go after the families of terrorists is against the law of war, and any officer in the military has to recognize a lawful order,” he says. “What he suggests is counter productive. Breaking up NATO — the most successful alliance in the history of the world? I question the sanity of that.”

Naughton points out that he served with Peshmerga and Turkish officers who’ve questioned Trump’s proposed policy of banning all Muslims from entering the United States until “we figure it out,” as he said on the campaign trail some months ago.

“These are the bravest soldiers I’ve ever seen in my life and they wonder, ‘these are our allies? They’re questioning us because of our faith?'” Naughton says.

Naughton blames a lot of the political dialectic on the fact that none of the candidates have served in the military. “When my father came back from World War II and returned to the little town of Clinton, Massachusetts they’d stop after work for a couple of pops at the local pub,” he explains. “And if you didn’t know the guy sitting on the barstool beside you, the conversation starter wasn’t ‘were you in the war?’ it was ‘where we you in the war?” because everybody served. We don’t have that anymore. That’s not good, bad, or indifferent; it’s just the way it is.

“But when supposedly knowledgeable people say ‘kill the relatives of the terrorist’ or ‘turn the desert to glass’ or ‘carpet bomb them’ they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about, and that affects the men and women downrange. It’s obscene, and it’s insulting to the members of the military. Worse, it puts lives at risk.”

Naughton continues to drill as an Army reservist with a civil affairs unit at the Newport Naval Station while serving in the Massachusetts House, representing the 12th District (Worchester) and chairing the Public Safety and Homeland Security committee.

While at the DNC he’s taken on the role of “whip” among the state delegates, making sure they’re on the floor of the convention and “voting appropriately,” as he says.

Overall, Naughton sees this as a crucial time in American history, saying, “I’m 56 years old, served four tours in war zones, I have a son at the Naval Academy who will probably have a career much more stellar than mine, and I honestly think this is the most important election of my life.”

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China may be training to overtake Japan-administered islands

Concern is rising in Japan that the Chinese military may be training for a future mission in the disputed Senkaku Islands, where Beijing has been dispatching coast guard ships at increasing frequency in recent years.

Quoting the Pentagon’s 2017 survey of the Chinese military, Japanese newspaper Sankei Shimbun reported June 8 the People’s Liberation Army could be training for a raid of outlying areas, including the Japan-administered Senkaku Islands, also claimed by China and Taiwan.


In a section on China’s amphibious capabilities, the report from the U.S. Department of Defense states the “PLA Army focuses its amphibious efforts on a Taiwan invasion while the PLA Navy Marine Corps focuses on small island seizures in the South China Sea, with a potential emerging mission in the Senkakus.”

The Japanese military also may be concerned that, according to the report, China’s PLA Navy Marine Corps brigades conducted “battalion-level amphibious training at their respective training areas in Guangdong,” or the Southern Theater.

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history
The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer JS Ashigara (DDG 178), foreground, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) transit the Philippine Sea. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Z.A. Landers)

“The training focused on swimming amphibious armored vehicles from sea to shore, small boat assault and deployment of special forces by helicopter,” the report states.

In May, Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported China’s Navy Marine Corps is in the process of building a 100,000-strong military unit.

The Pentagon report states China has used “coercive tactics, such as the use of law enforcement vessels and its maritime militia, to enforce maritime claims.”

Article 5 of the U.S.-Japan Mutual Security Treaty applies to the Senkakus, and the United States is obligated to defend the islands if they come under attack.

In May, four Chinese coast guard ships entered Japanese territorial waters near Okinawa and the Senkaku Islands and in 2016, more than 100 Chinese ships trespassed into Japan’s territorial waters, the second-largest annual number of Chinese ships entering disputed areas since Japan announced the nationalization of the Senkakus in September 2012.

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The 9 fastest piloted planes in the world

The world’s fastest manned planes are nothing short of engineering marvels.


Capable of flitting through the air at multiple times the speed of sound, these planes take the pilot to the fringe of science fiction.

Although a number of these aircraft have since been retired, they continue to be the fastest manned aircraft in history.

The designs and advances achieved with these planes have also left an immense impact upon the development of the planes that succeeded them.

Here’s a look at the world’s nine fastest manned aircraft ever flown.

F-4 Phantom II

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history
Photo: Wikimedia

Maximum speed: 1,472 mph

Maximum range:1,615 miles

First flight: May 27, 1958

The supersonic F-4 Phantom II jet was originally developed just for the US Navy and officially entered into service in 1960. In the mid-1960s, the interceptor was adopted by the US Marine Corps and the US Air Force.

The F-4 carries more than 18,000 pounds of weapons, including air-to-air missiles, air-to-ground missiles, and various bombs. The primary fighter jet during the Vietnam War, the Phantom II was gradually replaced by the F-15 and the F-18 Hornet.

Convair F-106 Delta Dart

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history
Photo: Wikimedia

Maximum speed: 1,525 mph

Maximum range:1,800 miles

First flight: December 25, 1956

First introduced into service in 1959, the Convair F-106 was designed to intercept and destroy Soviet bombers during the Cold War. The Delta Dart carried sophisticated radar, infrared missiles, and a nuclear-tipped rocket, according to the Aerospace Museum of California.

The F-106 still holds the world record as the fastest single-engine fighter at 1,525 mph. The F-106 is considered one of the most challenging fighter jets to operate because of its heavy cockpit workload.

Mikoyan MiG-31 Foxhound

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history
Photo: Wikimedia

Maximum speed: 1,860 mph

Maximum range:2,050 miles

First flight: September 16, 1975

First introduced into service on May 6, 1981, the Soviet MiG-31 remains one of the fastest combat jets ever designed. Built as an interceptor aircraft, the Foxhound continues to serve in the Russian and Kazakh air forces.

Despite its age, Russia plans to keep the aircraft in service until 2030.

Mikoyan Ye-152

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history
Photo: Wikimedia

Maximum speed: 1,883 mph

Maximum range: 913 miles

First flight: July 10, 1959

The Ye-152 was first introduced in 1959 and was an operational interceptor derived from the Mikoyan Ye-150. The Ye-152 is best known for paving the way for the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25 Foxbat.

XB-70 Valkyrie

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history
Photo: NASA

Maximum speed: 2,056 mph

Maximum range: 4,288 miles

First flight: September 21, 1964

The XB-70 was a prototype of the never-completed US B-70 nuclear-capable strategic bomber. The bomber was intended to bomb targets while traveling at over Mach 3 at high altitudes.

Soviet missile defenses and the expansion of the role of intercontinental ballistic missile systems ultimately led to the abandonment of the B-70 program. The only two completed XB-70 prototypes were then used as test vehicles for high-speed flight.

Bell X-2 “Starbuster”

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history
Photo: USAF

Maximum speed: 2,094 mph

First flight: September 18, 1955

The Bell X-2, which only flew for a brief span between November 1955 and September 1956, was a research aircraft jointly constructed by the Bell Aircraft Corporation, the US Air Force, and the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. The plane was developed to test flight between Mach 2 and 3.

On September 27, 1956, the X-2 reached its recorded maximum speed of 2,094 mph. During the flight, however, test pilot Milburn G. Apt died. He was the first man to break Mach 3.

Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25 Foxbat

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history
Photo by Dmitriy Pichugin (Wikimedia)

Maximum speed: 2,170 mph

Maximum range: 1,599 miles

First flight: March 6, 1964

The Soviet MiG-25, which was first introduced in 1970, was built as a supersonic interceptor and reconnaissance aircraft. Due to the aircraft’s large wings, the US assumed it was a highly maneuverable fighter. Instead, the Foxbat needed the large wings due to its weight.

The MiG-25’s maximum speed of Mach 3.2 is not sustainable without causing engine damage. Its top sustainable speed is 1,920 mph (Mach 2.83).

SR-71 Blackbird

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history
Photo: YouTube screengrab

Maximum speed: 2,200 mph

Maximum range:3,682 miles

First flight: December 22, 1964

The SR-71, designed by Lockheed Martin, was a marvel of a plane. It flew at altitudes of over 80,000 feet at speeds greater than 2,000 mph. The plane, engineered for surveillance, flew for more than 30 years and was capable of outrunning antiaircraft missiles lobbed at it.

For perspective, on its retirement flight from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., the SR-71 flew coast to coast in only 67 minutes.

X-15

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history
Photo: NASA

Maximum speed: 4,520 mph

First flight: June 8, 1959

The world’s fastest manned aircraft is the rocket-powered X-15. The X-15 flew for the first time on June 8, 1959, after successfully deployed at 45,000 feet from another aircraft. A few years later, on October 3, 1967, the X-15 pulverized all flight-speed records with a stunning 4,520 mph, or Mach 6.72, speed.

Three X-15s were made and flew a total of 199 flights before the $300 million program was retired.

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This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history
Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee | Airman Online


Music from a fife and drums rang in the ears of a father and son as they sat around the campfire. Brian E. Withrow and his 14-year-old son, Josh, talked with fellow re-enactors, also clad in Union blue, the night before their first re-enactment at the Battle of Cedar Creek in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.

Now and then, the discussion turned to times on the battlefield when the re-enactor could almost feel as if he was actually walking in the boots of a Civil War Soldier.

Fifteen years later, the Withrow duo are back in camp at the same Virginia battlefield, except the son is now a 29-year-old re-enactment veteran, and the father plays a commanding general’s assistant chief of staff . What hasn’t changed is their shared love of history, and the one thing that has kept them returning to re-enactment battlefields is the search for those special times when they feel almost transported back in time. They call those times “Civil War moments.”

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history
Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee | Airman Online

“An example was at the 145th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam, and we were doing the battle through the cornfield,” said Brian, a retired lieutenant colonel and munitions officer. “It was early morning, still dark, with just the glimpses of light coming up. There was a mist over the field. The artillery was firing, and I could see the blasts from their muzzles.

“In front of me, the very first wave of federal soldiers was given the command to go into the cornfield. For that brief moment, there were no telephone poles, no vehicles. There was just the cannon fire and musketry fire with one of the just-right conditions and glimpses that give you that moment of, ‘Wow! That must have been what it was like.'”

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history
Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee | Airman Online

An interest in U.S. history from his youth led Brian to consider the re-enactment hobby when he was stationed at the Pentagon in 1997, with the numerous Civil War battlefields in Maryland and Virginia. Josh shared the love of history, so the two attended re-enactments together as spectators until his father asked him if he would like to try the hobby with him. They watched the 136th anniversary re-enactment of the Battle of Chancellorsville in Virginia in 1999, and after talking to re-enactors in the 3rd U.S. Infantry, Company B, they decided to join the unit.

Josh was still two years away from his 16th birthday, so he wasn’t able to carry a weapon at their first re-enactment at Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park later that year, but as it turned out, he was right where the action was. In the Battle of Cedar Creek in the fall of 1864, forces led by Gen. Jubal Early over-ran federal forces, although Union Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan later made his famous ride to lead a rout of the Confederates, which helped the Union crush the resistance in the Shenandoah.

“I was too young to carry a gun, and I didn’t have any shoes that would fit me, so I had to stay in the tent while my dad went to take the field,” Josh said. “But, of course, the battle came to me. I was sitting there inside the tent, while there were two rows of infantry firing at each other around me, and it’s lighting up with the gunpowder. It was so dark outside, and all you could see were the flashes of the muzzles of the guns. It was just one of the coolest things I’d ever seen, and we were thinking, ‘We are going to keep on doing this.'”

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history
Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee | Airman Online

Brian’s interest in re-enacting began with a question about his ancestors’ role in the Civil War. Through his research and participation in re-enactments, he was able to correct what the family believed about an ancestor who fought and died in the war. For years, the family’s oral history showed that George Dugan, a private in the 10th Illinois Infantry, died in a Confederate prison in Andersonville, Georgia. By the time he’d participated in the 150th anniversary re-enactment of the Battle of Bentonville, North Carolina, Brian had learned he actually died in action there, a fact he didn’t know when he attended the same battle as a private 10 years earlier.

“I now have a personal connection,” Brian said. “Not only had he died there, but fortunately for my family line, he had a son who ended up being my great great-grandfather.”

A glance at the uniforms in a closet in the family home in Stafford, Virginia, shows the variety of ranks Brian portrays in his hobby. He plays the role of Union Soldiers, as well as those from the Revolutionary War, from the ranks of private all the way up to the commanding general of the Union Army. After he retired from the Air Force, Brian let his beard grow, which coupled with the cigar he often has in his mouth in camp, gives him a resemblance to a U.S. history legend, Gen. (and former President) Ulysses S. Grant.

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history
Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee | Airman Online

While on the board of directors that created the Stafford Civil War Park, Brian portrayed a colonel in the 55th Ohio Infantry at the grand opening in 2013, and spectators saw the beard and cigar and mistook him for Grant. The mistaken identity kept happening at subsequent reenactments and historical events, even to the point where Confederate re-enactment forces “captured” him, thinking they’d caught the overall Union commander. He was eventually asked to portray Grant for the 150th anniversary re-enactments in 2011 and 2012.  Brian impersonates the famous general for the Civil War Impressionists Association in annual events at the National Mall in Washington and at numerous Civil War historic sites.

“I’m still a private in Company K of the 3rd U.S. Infantry, so I still go out and do events as an infantry private,” Brian said. “Then again, I can put on three stars, and I can be the commanding general. I can play a private or the general-in-chief with equal enthusiasm.”

When he began the hobby, Brian had no interest in portraying an officer. He was still on active duty, and he wanted to experience a taste of a Union private’s daily life. However, after his Air Force retirement six years ago, he had an opportunity to join the Army of the Potomac headquarters staff as a guidon bearer for the command officer, which was appealing to him because of his love for horses, and in the past year he’s served as the commander’s assistant chief of staff.

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history
Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee | Airman Online

The night before the re-enactment at Cedar Creek, Brian was also promoted to brigadier general and will transition into the role of the staff’s commanding officer.

Serving as an officer in a Civil War re-enactment unit is obviously completely different from an active-duty career. For example, there is no Uniform Code of Military Justice to keep them bound to the unit or to commander’s orders. Still, Brian has found common ground between the two. Safety, self-aid and buddy care, and survival training, as well as his logistics knowledge from a career in munitions, have all come into play at different times in the field. Also, Soldiers in the 19th century operated on a code that wasn’t too different from the Air Force Core Values.

“From my research, I can’t say that they had what they called core values,” he said. “But clearly, in particular, the Soldiers who had been trained formally through the military academies during that time period, had a value system based on personal honor and morality. I think those attributes defined what it meant ideally to be a good Soldier then, and those traditions from our early American military experience are what evolved into what we call our core values now.”

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history
Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee | Airman Online

For just a few days, re-enactors like the Withrows not only try to help re-create historic battles, but also get a taste of the living experiences Soldiers on both sides endured in the Civil War. Along with the bonding experiences when they swap war stories and glimpses of their lives with fellow re-enactors, they also sometimes experience some harsh conditions. They faced below freezing weather at the Battle of Sailor’s Creek in April, and there was the other extreme, where they faced temperatures above 100 degrees with elevated humidity at the 150th Battle of First Manassas in July 2011.

“We got just a little taste of some of the environmental conditions these Soldiers went through,” Brian said. “The difference was we came out and may experience some of those conditions for a weekend. That gives you an appreciation for the fact that these guys did this week on end, month on end, on forced marches of 10 to 15 miles, summertime and wintertime. Again, we get this little glimpse, just a little taste of what they may have experienced.”

These days, it is difficult for both father and son to make every battle as they were able to do when Josh was younger. He’s not able to attend most re-enactments because of his schedule as a legislative affairs manager for Freedom Works in Washington. Since his father retired, his schedule as a government employee at Fort Belvoir also keeps him busy. But their love of the hobby remains as strong as it was around that campfire 15 years ago. Hearing the fife and drums still sounds sweet to their ears.

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Here’s how US fifth-generation aircraft would fare in a war against China

A recent report from the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, written by Maj. Gen. Jeff Harrigian and Col. Max Marosko of the US Air Force, gives expert analysis and never before seen detail into how the US’s fifth-generation aircraft would fare in a war with China.


The report starts with a broad overview of fifth-generation capabilities and their roles in the future of air combat, and it concludes with a hypothetical war in 2026 against an unnamed nemesis after “rising tensions in a key region abroad.”

However, the locations mentioned in the scenario are all in the Western Pacific and clearly seem to indicate the rival is China, whose advanced radar and missile capabilities make for very interesting challenges to the US Air Force’s force structure.

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history
F-35s and F-22s fly in formation. | US Air Force

As the scenario takes place ten years in the future, it is assumed that all the kinks with integrating fifth generation fighters into the force have been ironed out, and that the F-35 and F-22 work seamlessly to aid legacy aircraft via datalink.

In the opening stanza of such a conflict, the Air Force officials say that the US would send its F-35s and F-22s to a wide range of bases across the Pacific, leveraging the US’s vast network of bases and allies with some of the valuable warplanes.

Such a step denies China’s ability to land a “knockout blow” as they normally could, because typically US jets stay stationed at larger bases, presenting a more attractive target. Also, by this time, the US’s fifth-generation aircraft can find airfields on their own, without the help of air traffic controllers, allowing the force to be further spread out to present less target-rich areas.

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history
The US would avoid large masses of airpower in the event of a conflict with China. | US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth

Additionally, regional allies like Australia, who also fly the F-35, can quickly fill in for US airmen in a pinch. A US F-35 can land on an Australian airfield and receive much the same maintenance as it would at its home base, the officials claim.

With the Pacific now a patchwork of small units of F-35s and F-22s, the Chinese would seek to leverage their impressive electronic warfare capabilities, but the officials contend that the fifth-gens would weather the storm.

“Heavy radar and communications jamming confront US and coalition forces, but fifth generation aircraft leverage their networked multi-spectral sensors to detect and target enemy aircraft, while supporting a common operating picture through data links and communication architectures,” the Air Force officials write.

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history
China’s military installations in the South China Sea create a huge area that could possibly be turned into an air identification and defense zone. | CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative

Meanwhile, legacy platforms like F-16s, F-18s, and F-15s provide a critical layer of defense closer to the US mainland. China’s formidable surface-to-air missile capabilities keep these older, more visible fighters off the front lines until the stealthier platforms, like the F-35, F-22, B-2, and the upcoming B-21 do their job.

The officials recognize the need for the fifth-gen fighters to strike quickly and get out of the heavily contested air spaces. Destruction of many of the US and allied airfields is expected, however the versatile fifth-gens continue to switch up locations as China depletes their supply of ballistic and cruise missiles on low-yield targets.

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history
Some of China’s road-mobile missile batteries. | AUS Airpower

Some of China’s road-mobile missile batteries. AUS Airpower

Many of China’s SAM batteries are road mobile, so fifth-gen fighters will have to use their geo-location and electronic warfare capabilities to seek and destroy these sites.

The onboard sensors in the fifth-gens will provide vital leeway for the fighters to make decisions on the go.

From the report:

“Aircraft take off with minimal information—little more than a general target area that may be more than 1,000 miles away. On the way to target, the fifth generation aircraft receive minimal tanker, threat, and target information, but sufficient updates to enable them to ingress, identify, and prosecute targets successfully before returning to operating airfields.”

Loses of US and allied airfields and troops would naturally follow in such a conflict, however the forces are integrated and use the same platforms, so they can quickly fill in for each other in the event of loses.

All the while, F-35s and F-22s whittle away at China’s air defenses, gradually lowering the threat level from high to moderate. Eventually, the bulk of the US Air Force’s fleet —legacy fighters— can operate in the area with acceptable rates of survivability.

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history
Once the fifth-gens pave the way for legacy fighters, it’s curtains. | US Air Force photo by Jim Hazeltine

And that’s it. Once F-16s are flying over Beijing, the conflict is essentially settled. In the moderately contested airspace, fifth generation jets can essentially data-link with legacy fighters and use them as “armada planes,” leveraging their increased capability to carry ordinance to eliminate whatever remains of China’s air defenses.

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Iran’s military mastermind just gave the US the bird

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history


Iran’s military mastermind is getting defiant.

Gen. Qassem Soleimani ignored a travel ban and sanctions and flew to Russia to meet with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and President Vladimir Putin, two unnamed Western intelligence sources told Fox News.

It’s not clear what the leaders discussed at the July 24 meeting.

Soleimani is a US-designated terrorist. US Secretary of State John Kerry, as he rallies Washington support for the Iran nuclear deal, has assured American officials that Soleimani and his Quds Force would continue to face sanctions from the US Treasury even after UN sanctions are lifted under the deal, Fox reports.

Kerry told Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) on July 29 that US sanctions against Soleimani would never be lifted, according to Fox.

Soleimani reportedly traveled to Russia on a commercial Air Iran flight. He arrived on July 24, a Friday, and left on Sunday.

Fox notes the significance of his visit: “UN sanctions have not yet been lifted against Iran, and Soleimani, as head of the Iranian Quds Force is sanctioned as part of Security Council Resolution 1747. He is prohibited to travel, and any country that lets him transit or travel is defying the sanctions. (Russia is a permanent member of the Security Council and would have been aware of this restriction when meeting with him.)”

As US officials have assured Americans that money from Iran sanctions relief wouldn’t significantly affect the country’s regional activities, critics have pointed to Soleimani’s ambitions and reluctance to bow to the nuclear deal.

The Quds Force, the special forces wing of the Iran Revolutionary Guard, has been expanding its influence across the Middle East and getting involved in regional conflicts in Iraq and Syria.

Soleimani has also been spotted on the front lines in Iraq, where he has been playing a major role in commanding Shia militias that have been fighting alongside Iraqi security forces to drive the Islamic State (also known as ISIS, ISIL, and Daesh) out of the country.

The Shia militias have emerged as the most effective fighting force against ISIS in Iraq, but some say the Shia fighters aren’t much better than the ISIS terrorists they’re trying to expunge. (Others, however, have welcomed the Shia militias as the best option for helping Sunni tribal fighters drive ISIS out of Iraq.)

The militias have been accused of torching Sunni villages and barring civilians from returning to cities that have been liberated from ISIS, a Sunni terror group.

And this isn’t the first time Iranian proxies have gotten involved in Iraq — Shia militias commanded by Soleimani killed hundreds of Americans in Iraq during the US invasion.

Russia has also been involved in conflicts in the Middle East by supporting Iran and Syria, which are allies with each other and with Russia.

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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Chinese naval engineers claim they’ve developed a super quiet sub to track US ships

China is planning to install new propulsion technology on its newest classes of submarines, making them much harder for American sonar systems to detect and track.


According to a Chinese media report, Beijing is developing pump-jet propulsion for its subs. The system has been widely used on American and British submarines since it offers much more noise reduction than conventional submarine propellers.

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history
The Virginia-class attack submarine USS Hawaii (SSN 776) enters Apra Harbor for a scheduled port visit. The Virginia-class submarines use pump-jet propulsion systems. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Corwin Colbert/Released)

One of the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s top engineers, Rear Adm. Ma Weiming, told China Central Television that the Chinese propulsion technology “is now way ahead of the United States, which has also been developing similar technology.”

Ma is said to be held in very high regard by navy brass. At one point, a photo posted on social media showed the commander of the People’s Liberation Army Navy holding an umbrella over Ma’s head, a sure sign his expertise is revered in Beijing.

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history
A 1993 photo of a Chinese Han-class submarine. These vessels were very noisy, and thus, easy to track. (US Navy photo)

The Chinese are reportedly slated to introduce the technology on some of their Type 095 submarines, known to NATO as the Sui-class, as well as the Type 096 class of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines. According to GlobalSecurity.org, the Type 095 displaces about 7,900 tons, and is armed with a number of 21-inch torpedo tubes, and the ability to fire land-attack cruise missiles and YJ-83 anti-ship missiles.

China’s current nuclear submarine fleet includes a mix of Type 091 Han-class and Type 093 Shang-class attack submarines and Type 092 Xia-class and Type 094 Jin-class attach submarines. The Han-class submarines were particularly noted for their noisiness while operating, while the Shang-class submarines are considered to be comparable to the Soviet-era Victor III-class vessels.

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These kids volunteered to fight in the trenches in WWI

In this day and age, allowing a minor to enlist in the military and be sent off to war is practically impossible — especially with our modern tracking systems.


But at the start of the 20th century, an accurate method of recording individual troop movement hadn’t been invented; thousands of soldiers would eventually go missing through the course of the war, many of whom were actually children.

After WWI reared its ugly head, military recruiters were paid bonuses for every man they enlisted. Countless young men, many of them orphans or just seeking adventure, would simply lie about their ages to join up.

The recruiters saw dollars signs and looked past any age issues as they wrote the coercible young boy’s names down, signing them up on the spot. Many feared the thought of going off to war but thought they would look weak if they didn’t take part with their friends — the ultimate peer pressure.

Related: Here are the five finalists competing to design the World War I Memorial

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history
These young boys swear in to join the fight. (Source: The Great War/ YouTube/ Screenshot)

The idea was extremely controversial at the time, but it didn’t stop the boys from volunteering as they showed up to the local recruiting offices in droves. It’s estimated that 250,000 boys under the age of 18 served in the British Army alone.

Once they signed up, they were sent through some basic infantry training then whisked off the front lines.

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history
This young boy mans his post. (Source: The Great War /YouTube /Screenshot)

Most famously was John Condon, an Irishman who is believed to have been the youngest combatant killed; at the age of 14, he died during a mustard gas attack in Belgium while serving in the third battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment.

Also Read: Here’s proof that every group of military buddies mirrors the kids from the movie ‘The Sandlot’

Typically, when a soldier was “confirmed” killed in the war, his family would receive word by telegram of the passing — if the proper forms were filled out, which in too many cases they weren’t.

The military has improved in this aspect. Today, an officer and a chaplain would show up on the families’ doorstep to deliver the dreadful news.

Fun fact: The word infantry derives from Italian word “infanteria” which means “youth, foot soldier.” That is all.

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The 5 most legendary snipers of all time

Snipers are a special breed, warriors with a combination of shooting skill, cunning, and patience. Military history has shown that a single sniper in the right place at the right time can change the course of battle, even in the face of overwhelming odds.


Here are the five most legendary among them:

5. U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Adelbert Waldron

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history
(Photo: Waldron family archives)

As a member of the 9th Infantry Division, he was assigned to PBR boats patrolling the Mekong Delta, at one point making a confirmed kill from a moving boat at 900 yards. He set his record of 109 kills in just 8 months, which was the record until Chris Kyle broke it during the Iraq War and is perhaps even more remarkable considering he was fighting in a dense jungle environment that didn’t always provide easy sight lines.

4. Red Army Captain Vasily Zaytsev

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history
(Photo: Russian National Archives)

Between November 10 and December 17, 1942, during the Battle of Stalingrad, Zaytsev killed 225 soldiers and officers of the Wehrmacht and other Axis armies, including 11 enemy snipers. Before that he killed 32 Axis soldiers with a standard-issue rifle. Between October 1942 and January 1943, he made an estimated 400 kills, some at distances of more than 1,100 yards.

A feature-length film, Enemy at the Gates, starring Jude Law as Zaytsev, includes a sniper’s duel between Zaytsev and a Wehrmacht sniper school director, Major Erwin König.

3. U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Chris Kyle

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history

Navy SEAL Chris Kyle served four tours during the Iraq War, and during that time he became the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history with over 160 kills officially confirmed by the Department of Defense. Kyle’s bestselling book, American Sniper, was made into a movie directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Bradley Cooper as Kyle.

On February 2, 2013, Kyle was shot dead at a shooting range near Chalk Mountain, Texas along with his friend, Chad Littlefield. The assailant, Eddie Ray Routh, was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

2. U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Norman Hathcock

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history
(Photo: Marine Corps Archives)

During the Vietnam War Hathcock had 93 “confirmed” kills of North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong personnel, which meant they occurred with an officer present (in addition to his spotter). He estimated the number of “unconfirmed” kills to be upwards of 400.  His warfighting career ended when he was wounded by an anti-tank mine in 1969 and sent home.  He later helped establish the USMC Sniper School.

1. Finnish Army Second Lieutenant Simo Häyhä

Nicknamed “White Death,” Simo Häyhä tallied 505 kills, far and away the highest count from any major war. All of Häyhä’s kills of Red Army combatants were accomplished in fewer than 100 days – an average of just over five kills per day – at a time of year with very few daylight hours.  He was wounded late in the war when an explosive bullet shot by a Soviet soldier took off his lower left jaw. He lived a long life, however, dying in a veterans nursing home in 2002 at the age of 96.

When asked if he regretted killing so many people he replied, “I only did my duty, and what I was told to do, as well as I could.”

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This massive air offensive had an adorable name

As the Allies put their plans into action in 1944 preparing for the eventual D-Day landings, they knew that they needed to break German logistics in Normandy. As part of the process, Gen. Jimmy Doolittle and the 8th Air Force targeted the rail networks that crisscrossed France.


But while the landings would be known as Operation Overlord and the evacuation of the Dunkirk was called Operation Dynamo, the rail bombings were named Operation Chattanooga Choo Choo.

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history
The generals had a lot of choices for operation names, and they choo- choo- choosed that one. (GIF: YouTube/Simpsons Channelx)

The operation wasn’t named after the “The Simpsons” episode. That would be ridiculous, reader who apparently doesn’t understand that World War II happened before “The Simpsons.”

No, it was named after a popular song of the day. Glenn Miller had recorded the song “Chattanooga Choo Choo” in 1941 and someone on the staff must have liked it. That would be similar to the missile strikes on Syria having been named after a Katy Perry or Taylor Swift song.

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history
B-17 formation over Schweinfurt, Germany, Aug. 17, 1943. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Despite the silly name, the operation was a huge success. The air forces wanted to limit German logistics while obscuring the site of the upcoming landings in Operation Overlord. So they dropped bombs all over occupied France but stipulated that two bombs be dropped at Pas de Calais for every one that hit in Normandy.

Adolph Hitler and his cronies were convinced the landings could come at Calais. The bombs ripped through German railways, marshaling yards, wireless radio stations, and other key infrastructure, softening up Normandy for the invasion.

All thanks to Operation Chattanooga Choo Choo.

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6 new changes to expect at the Pentagon with Mattis as SECDEF

Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan rejoiced when retired Gen. James “Warrior Monk” Mattis was picked for the top job at the Pentagon by President-elect Donald Trump.


The hard-charging Marine is known for his tenacity both on and off the battlefield. He expects the same tenacity among those who serve under him (just ask Col. Joe Dowdy).

But the Mattis love can get a little out of hand.

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history
Or… right at hand. (Vato Tactical and Kinetic Concepts Design)

So we tried to come up with a few ideas of what the Pentagon employees might expect now that Mattis could be next Secretary of Defense.

1. The “Run, Hide, Fight” active shooter policy will be simplified.

The Department of Homeland Security prepares citizens to respond to an active shooter scenario using the phrase “Run. Hide. Fight.” Which is great… for DHS. James Mattis’ DoD won’t run. And they definitely won’t hide.

2. Incoming employees must submit a plan to kill everyone in their work section.

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history

One of the former General’s most colorful quotes goes:

“Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”

Mattis isn’t going to be the kind of SECDEF that won’t put his money where his mouth is.

3. No more TVs; just mandatory fun reading time.

Mattis himself has never owned a television.

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history
This man does not care about the new Gilmore Girls episodes.

He spent the time most of us spend on TV, video games, a wife, children, hobbies, etc. reading Sun Tzu, Clausewitz, Patton, and Thucydides.  That’s where he earned the nickname “Warrior Monk.”

Bring a book. And don’t think “Harry Potter” will cut it.

4. Every employee’s in-processing checklist will include getting shot at.

As the Marine once said:

“There is nothing better than getting shot at and missed. It’s really great.”

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history
Don’t flinch.

5. No more “Mad Dog.”

Now that Mattis will be in command again, the nickname so many use for him (including the President-elect) will have to be killed, slowly and deliberately, because according to NBC News, he really doesn’t like it.

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history

And it’s unwise to continue to use a nickname for someone who doesn’t like it, especially when that person is known to enjoy shooting “some assholes in the world who just need to be shot.”

6. No more sauerkraut in the cafeteria.

The place still stinks to high hell from Robert Gates’ Reuben sandwiches. From now on, everyone will be required to drink three small glasses of fruit punch-flavored pre-workout drink Mattis invented, known as “The Blood of Our Enemies.”

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history

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13 professional baseball players who became war heroes

When the American military calls, America’s pastime answers. Here are 14 men who played on the diamond before serving on the battlefield. All of them went above and beyond in either the game or combat, and some distinguished themselves in both.


1. Yogi Berra volunteered to man a rocket boat leading the assault on Normandy.

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history

Yogi Berra made his minor league debut with the Norfolk Tars in 1943, playing 11 games and earning an impressive .396 slugging average. But Berra’s draft card came in that year and he headed into the Navy.

Berra became a gunner’s mate and volunteered for a special mission to pilot rocket boats in front of the other landing craft at D-Day. The boats used their rockets and machine guns to hit enemy positions on the coast and draw their fire so the other ships could land.

After the war, Yogi Berra went on to play in the major leagues and became one of the most-feared batters in baseball. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.

2. Joe Pinder left the minor leagues and earned the Medal of Honor on Omaha Beach.

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Joe Pinder spent most of his baseball time in Class D in the minors, but he rose as high as Class B for a short period. He joined the Army in January 1942 and was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division, where he fought in Africa and Sicily. On D-Day, Technician 5th Grade Pinder was wounded multiple times and lost needed radio equipment during the struggle to reach the beach. He kept going back and forth in the surf, retrieving items despite sustaining more injuries.

“Almost immediately on hitting the waist-deep water, he was hit by shrapnel,” 2nd Lt. Lee Ward W. Stockwell said, according to Baseball’s Greatest Sacrifice. “He was hit several times and the worst wound was to the left side of his face, which was cut off and hanging by a piece of flesh.”

After refusing medical treatment multiple times and finally getting his radio equipment all back together, Pinder was killed by a burst of machine gun fire to the chest. His bravery and perseverance earned him the Medal of Honor.

3. Jack Lummus excelled at baseball, football, and being a Marine Corps hero.

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history
Photo: US Marine Corps History Division

Jack Lummus was a college football and baseball star when he signed a contract with the Army Air Corps in 1941. He then signed a contract with a minor league team and played 26 games with them while awaiting training as a pilot. Unfortunately, Lummus clipped his plane’s wing while taxiing and was discharged.

Lummus then played professional football, playing in nine of the New York Giants’ 11 games in 1941. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Lummus finished the season and volunteered for the Marine Corps. He served as an enlisted military policeman for a few months before enrolling in officer training.

At the battle of Iwo Jima, he was a first lieutenant leading a rifle platoon against three concealed Japanese strongholds. Wounded twice by grenades, Lummus still singlehandedly took out all three positions and earned the Medal of Honor. He stepped on a land mine later that day and sustained mortal wounds.

4. Bob Feller left a six-figure contract to join the Navy after Pearl Harbor.

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history
Photo: US Navy

Hall of Famer Bob Feller won 76 games in three seasons before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The day after the attack, Feller walked away from a $100,000 contract and enlisted in the Navy. He was originally assigned to play baseball for troop entertainment, but enrolled in gunnery school to join the fight in the Pacific. Feller spent 26 months on the USS Alabama, seeing combat at Kwajalein, the Gilbert Islands and the Marshall Islands.

5. Ted Williams left the majors twice to fight America’s wars.

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history
Photo: US Marine Corps

A lifetime Boston Red Sox player, Ted Williams only took two breaks from Major League Baseball. The first was for World War II and the second was for the Korean War.

In both, Williams served as a Marine fighter pilot though he didn’t see combat in World War II. In Korea, he flew 39 missions with Marine Aircraft Group 33, surviving ground fire that damaged his plane on two occasions before an ear infection grounded him for good at the rank of captain. He earned the Air Medal three times, the Presidential Medal of Freedom once, and a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

6. Warren Spahn fought in the Battle of the Bulge after his major league debut.

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Bowman Gum

Warren E. Spahn pitched his first major league game in 1942, but joined the Army later that same year. He would fight as an engineer in the Battle of the Bulge, the Bridge at Remagen, and other important battles in the European theater.

After World War II, Spahn returned to the major leagues and played into his 40s. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973 after earning 14 All-Star selections and a Cy Young Award during his career.

Spahn is commonly credited with having earned a Bronze Star at the Bridge of Remagen due to a false, unauthorized biography. The book claimed to be his biography but was mostly fabricated. Spahn sued the writer and publisher for defamation and for violating his privacy, and he won the case in the Supreme Court. Spahn did earn a Purple Heart in the war.

7. Bernard Dolan and a teammate play, fight, and earn posthumous service crosses together.

Bernard “Leo” Dolan was a minor league pitcher who conducted spring training with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1917. He wasn’t picked up by the Pirates and so continued to pitch in the minor leagues. When his team was disbanded, he finished the season with a semi-pro team before joining the U.S. Army.

In France on Oct. 16, 1918, Cpl. Dolan was wounded and took cover. He saw another soldier hit and rushed from his cover to assist, exposing himself to enemy fire and earning him a Distinguished Service Cross. He was hit again during the rescue attempt, leading to his death.

Dolan was friends and teammates with another baseball player who died heroically in the same battle, Sgt. Matt Lanighan. Lanighan was a semi-pro player who died just after capturing German machine guns and prisoners . He was also awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

8. Tom Woodruff left a promising minor league climb to earn three valor awards in the Navy.

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history
Photo: US Navy

Tom Woodruff was a shortstop climbing through the minor leagues in St. Louis when he was drafted into the U.S. Army. Initially, he served in Army Public Relations but transferred to the Navy to become an aviator.

He became a fighter pilot and served in the Pacific in 1944 aboard the USS Enterprise, seeing combat in the Pacific multiple times, most of which was in the Philippines. He earned the Navy Cross and the Distinguished Flying Cross with Gold Star as a Navy lieutenant junior grade. He was shot down over the Philippines on November 14, 1944, but his body was never recovered.

9. Pitcher Stanford Wolfson was executed by the Germans after his tenth bombing mission.

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history
Photo: US Air Force

Stanford Wolfson played for multiple teams in the minor leagues as a pitcher and outfielder from 1940 to 1942. On Oct. 15, 1942, he joined the Army Air Force as a bomber pilot, earning a commission as a second lieutenant. From December 1943 to November 1944, he flew nine bombing missions over Nazi Germany. On November 5, 1944, he flew a tenth and final mission and was ordered to bail out by the pilot after the plane took heavy damage from anti-aircraft fire.

Most of the crew bailed out, though the pilot and bombardier successfully crash landed the plane in France. Wolfson, like the rest of the crew, was picked up by German authorities. When the Germans learned Wolfson was Jewish, they executed him in the city outskirts. The suspected killer was tried in Dachau in 1947 and executed. Wolfson was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, and Purple Heart.

10. Billy Southworth, Jr. flew 25 combat missions in Europe.

The son of Baseball Hall of Famer William H. Southworth, Billy Southworth spent 1936 to 1940 playing minor league ball at various levels.

In 1940, he enlisted into the Army Air Corps and flew out of England for most of the war. He was promoted numerous times, earning the rank of major as well as numerous awards including the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf clusters. He flew 25 combat missions in Europe before returning to New York.

In early 1945, he was training B-29 pilots. While piloting one of the B-29’s, Southworth attempted an emergency landing after an engine began smoking. he overshot the runway and crashed into the water near LaGuardia Field, New York.

He had been signed to an acting contract to take effect at the war’s end, but he died just months before the war concluded.

11. Keith Bissonnette flew fighters in Burma.

The human cost of the most daring special operations raids in history
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Royal Navy

An infielder and outfielder who distinguished himself in the minor leagues, Keith Bissonnette left baseball to join the Army Air Force. He earned his commission and became a fighter pilot in the 80th Fighter Group, flying missions in P-40 Warhawks and P-47 Thunderbolts between India and China from 1944 to 1945.

He was killed in action as a first lieutenant on March 28, 1945 in a crash. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross for his service.

12. Clarence Drumm fought in America’s first battle of the Great War.

Clarence Milton Drumm was a minor league infielder/outfielder in the minor leagues from 1910 to 1914. It’s unclear what Milton did between his successful 1914 season and his entering the Army in 1917, but he was commissioned as an Army second lieutenant in 1917 and was ordered to France to serve in World War I.

Drumm was killed in action May 28, 1918 by an enemy shell in America’s first battle of World War I, the Battle of Cantigny. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Silver Citation Star, a precursor to the modern Silver Star, for his bravery and leadership in the battle.

13. Gus Bebas gave up his commission and his baseball uniform to become a Navy pilot.

Gus Bebas was a Naval Reserve Officer and minor league pitcher at the start of 1940, but he gave up both his baseball contract and his commission to pursue a career as a Naval aviator. He was selected to be an aviation cadet in early 1941 and became an ensign and aviator in September of that year.

Soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Bebas was assigned as a dive-bomber pilot aboard the USS Hornet. Bebas first saw combat on June 6, 1942 in the Battle of Midway. He pushed through extreme anti-aircraft fire to achieve a near-miss that damaged a Japanese ship, earning him a Distinguished Flying Cross. He died during a training mission in 1942.

(h/t to Gary Bedingfield and his site, Baseball in Wartime, an exhaustive look at the intersection between baseball and the military. Bedingfield is also the author of the book, “Baseball in World War II Europe.”)

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