The underground work of Belle Boyd and how she changed the Civil War - We Are The Mighty
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The underground work of Belle Boyd and how she changed the Civil War

One of the most prominent Confederate spies of the Civil War was none other than Belle Boyd. Credited for reshaping the Rebel’s war efforts, Maria Isabella Boyd AKA Belle, was born in modern-day West Virginia to a Southern family. Her father fought as a Confederate soldier and at least three additional family members were listed as spies for the South. 

At just 17, she got a rocky start into the profession when she gunned down a drunk Union soldier. The man had spoken unkindly to her and her mother, and in anger, she grabbed a pistol and fatally wounded him. She was not reprimanded for the shooting, and instead, used the event to become a “rebel spy” in 1861. However, after the event, she was watched by soldiers, which taught her not only how to live under surveillance but how to charm enemy forces. She soon made friends with one of her first guards, who is said to have provided her with flowers and key war secrets. 

The underground work of Belle Boyd and how she changed the Civil War
Belle Boyd. Wikimedia Commons

From there on, Boyd was hooked. She began passing information and finding new ways to get secrets from soldiers. Her biggest tool was flirtation, using her beauty and flattering wardrobe choices in her favor. However, she was caught during one of her first spy missions, causing her to find more secretive ways to pass data. She then began using her slave, Eliza Hopewell, who traveled with information in a hollowed watch case. Hopewell would deliver the secrets, allowing Boyd to continue in the shadows. 

Over the next two years, Boyd traveled between battles, earning the trust of Union soldiers through flirtation and friendship. Her efforts were so prolific she was soon known by the Union forces, with descriptions of her attire published so leaders could be on the lookout. 

Her biggest claim to fame is passing along key info to Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, just before he went into battle. She told him the Union force was small and to forge ahead toward triumph. It’s said Jackson wrote to her and thanked her personally for helping the cause. The event also earned her the Southern Cross of Honor. 

The underground work of Belle Boyd and how she changed the Civil War
Stonewall Jackson. Wikimedia Commons

Boyd was arrested six times before she was finally put into prison in 1862. She served a month before being released, then was imprisoned again the following year. This time she was imprisoned for five months, where, behind bars she sang Dixie — the de facto national anthem of the South, waved Confederate flags from her window, and continued to pass messages. By receiving a rubber ball via bow and arrow, she would sew messages inside the ball that was then received by other spies. 

By the end of the year, Boyd was released from prison after coming down with typhoid fever. A stipulation of her release remained that she not return into Union territory. However, she, with the help of her future husband, a Union soldier, traveled to Canada, then to England where the two were married. 

While in England, Boyd wrote her memoirs, which are seen as highly sensationalized to this day, Belle Boyd in Camp and Prison. The stories were performed on stage and listed as The Perils of a Spy, starring Cleopatra of the Secession. 

After the death of her first husband, she returned to the United States where she married twice more and traveled the country giving dramatic performances of her involvement within the Civil War. 

The underground work of Belle Boyd and how she changed the Civil War
Boyd’s grave. Wikimedia commons.

Boyd died June 11, 1900 in Wisconsin.

Featured photo: Civil War illustration/Canva; inset Belle Boyd/Library of Congress – Public Domain

MIGHTY HISTORY

A fake smokestack made this German ship an unstoppable predator

The SMS Emden was supposed to be a nice ship, but not all that crazy important in war. It was a light cruiser, a utilitarian ship type that is quick, capable, but not all that robust or rugged. These ships are typically designed for low-level conflict or serve as a guard or screening force for larger ships like battleships or, later, carriers.


But the Emden would steam into Allied controlled waters in early 1914, attacking literally dozens of enemy ships and counting on its speed and a little trickery to let it hit and then withdraw in a series of daring raids.

Sea Raider

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Sea Raider

It all started in 1913 when the young SMS Emden received a new commander, Korvettenkapitän Karl von Muller (Korvettenkapitän is roughly equivalent to America’s lieutenant commander rank). Von Muller was the son of a German army officer, and he had risen to his rank by performing well in front of Germany’s elite, including the German emperor’s brother.

One of von Muller’s distinguishing traits was a sort of cunning shrewdness, something that would serve him well on the Emden. In 1914, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria quickly dragged the major European powers toward war, and von Muller ordered the Emden to sea to prevent its capture in the largely British and Japanese-controlled Pacific islands where the ship was based.

This proved prescient as raiders quickly came for the German fleet. The Emden reported to a rallying point where most of the German navy would meet up to head east to South America, around Cape Horn, and on to Germany. On his way to the rally, von Muller captured the Russian ship Ryazan. When Emden reached the German fleet with its prize, von Muller had a proposal for the admiral.

The SMS Emden was a short-lived but still amazingly successful light cruiser that saw glory in World War I.

(German Federal Archives)

Instead of heading home to Germany, von Muller said, the Emden should head west and raid Allied shipping, especially that of British ships, for a few months and create chaos in the enemy logistics chain.

Light cruisers lacked the armor or heavier guns common on heavy cruisers or larger ships, but they were still more than a match for destroyers and merchant vessels. And the Emden had torpedo tubes that would allow it to tackle even heavier combatants if it could get the jump on them.

Despite the risk of losing the Emden, a modern and valuable cruiser even if it was light, the admiral agreed to the plan. So von Muller led his crew of about 360 men into the Indian Ocean.

The Emden would need some sort of edge to survive. It was fast, so it could close with enemies quickly, partially negating any range advantages that heavier combatants would have against it. But it would still be vulnerable for crucial seconds or minutes while closing with an enemy.

So von Muller turned to subterfuge. Most British ships had two or four smokestacks, and the Emden would be one of the only ships in the area with three smokestacks. So, von Muller had a fourth, fake smokestack installed on the Emden, making it look a lot like the British cruiser HMS Yarmouth.

This might seem like a minor ploy, good for a few minutes of distraction at best, but that momentary hesitation on the part of the enemy gave von Muller and his crew all the time they needed. In just a few days of fighting in September 1914, the Emden captured or destroyed 15 British ships, forcing many merchant vessels to stay in port.

Suddenly, the British ability to resupply vulnerable islands was crippled, and valuable ships would have to be sent to the Indian Ocean to reinforce the naval effort there.

The underground work of Belle Boyd and how she changed the Civil War

Oil tanks burn in India after an attack by the SMS Emden, a German light cruiser.

(National Library of France)

But the sudden lack of targets at sea did not stop the Emden. The crew simply started going after shore targets like the oil depots at Madras. The Emden fired 125 shells in a short engagement on September 22, busting open many of the Burma Oil Company’s tanks and setting them aflame while also destroying a ship in the harbor.

Between this and earlier attacks, the British decided to cut the number of ships, and potential targets, in the Indian Ocean by 40 percent. This slowed the bleeding of the Royal Navy and merchant vessels but also further slowed the movement of needed war supplies.

But the Emden had taken damage and was running low on supplies by this point, and so it made a risky trip to Diego Garcia where it could attempt to raid needed supplies from the British installations there. But, surprisingly, the Germans found that the locals had no news of the young war when the Emden pulled into harbor, so the German crew simply contracted for repair and supplies without incident.

Freshly resupplied and repaired, the Emden went after British installations at Penang in Malaysia, initiating a short battle there. The primary target was the Russian warship Zhemchung which the Emden hit with torpedoes and cannon fire after approaching under false British colors and with the fake smokestack up.

The Emden sank the Russian vessel and then beat a hasty retreat, but not so hasty that the ship neglected sinking the Mousquet, a French destroyer, while exiting the harbor. This was late October, and the little cruiser had already more than proved its worth in the East, but von Muller wasn’t willing to call it quits.

Other German cruisers had successfully snipped undersea wires in their own raids, and von Muller went after the telegraph wire connecting British troops in South Africa to those in Australia. The wire had a major junction at Direction Island in the Cocos Islands.

The underground work of Belle Boyd and how she changed the Civil War

The German light cruiser SMS Emden sits beached after a determined attack by the HMAS Sydney.

(State Library of Victoria)

The Emden landed a shore party there and quickly went after the two cables. But as it pulled into the harbor, the Morse operator sent off a quick burst via the station’s wireless system, alerting a nearby cruiser to the unfamiliar ship in the harbor.

The Emden’s shore party was working the destruction of the cables and the wireless antenna when the Australian HMAS Sydney arrived to investigate, forcing the Emden to turn and face her. This effectively marooned the shore party on land, but the Emden was in a fight for its life.

The Sydney was also a light cruiser, but it was roughly a quarter larger than the Emden and slightly more modern, and it quickly gained the upper hand in the fight. The Emden was doomed, and von Muller quickly beached it on a reef. The German ship had suffered over 100 hits in about 90 minutes of fighting. It only stopped after von Muller surrendered.

The shore party would slowly, laboriously make its way back to Germany by sailing to Indonesia, then to the Ottoman Empire, then traveled across the desert in a failed overland bid for safety, then ran a British blockade on the Red Sea, then, finally, overland to Constantinople. It was a six-month journey, but 43 men made it back to Germany.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the deadliest insurgent sniper in Iraq

The name struck fear in the hearts of U.S. and coalition troops during the war in Iraq. A sharpshooter who could unleash his deadly round in an instant and melt away unscathed.


He was almost like a ghost — a hyper accurate sniper that built a legend around his stealth and lethality. Videos peppered YouTube and LiveLeak that reportedly chronicled his exploits, adding to the growing legend.

In fact, “Juba,” as he was known, became a media sensation in his own right, his lethal skills were condensed into the character “Mustafa” that fought a sniper duel with Chris Kyle in the popular “American Sniper” film. And he’s the central villain in the sniper thriller movie “The Wall.”

Insurgent propaganda credited Juba with 37 kills and he became well known among American troops in Iraq during the height of the insurgency in 2005 and 2007.

“He’s good. Every time we dismount I’m sure everyone has got him in the back of their minds,” Spc. Travis Burress, an sniper based in Camp Rustamiyah, told The Guardian newspaper in 2005. “He’s a serious threat to us.”

Videos purported to show several of Juba’s kills are a vivid reminder of why he was so feared by American troops. With pinpoint accuracy, the insurgent sharpshooter was able to target the gaps where heavily-armored U.S. service members remained vulnerable, dropping coalition forces with heartbreaking deftness.

And when he killed, he proved difficult to track.

“We have different techniques to try to lure him out, but he is very well trained and very patient,” a U.S. officer told The Guardian. “He doesn’t fire a second shot.”

Insurgent videos taunted U.S. troops — and even President Bush —that Juba was everywhere. (YouTube screen shot)

To hunt Juba, the U.S. dispatched the notorious Task Force Raptor, an elite unit of Iraqi special operators akin to Baghdad’s version of Delta Force. The Raptors harried Juba on his home turf of Ramadi, chasing him around the insurgent hotbed until the trail went cold. Most analysts at the time argued that Juba had fled Ramadi for another battlefield.

Though Juba became a well-known name among American troops on patrol in Iraq, there are some who argue the insurgent marksman was a myth — a composite of several enemy snipers that was built into a legend by the insurgency to frighten coalition troops. At Juba’s height, about 300 American troops had been killed by gunshots in Iraq, and one video of Juba’s exploits claimed he’d killed more than 140 soldiers and Marines.

“Speculation is [that] there was more than one Juba,” said former Special Forces and Iraq war vet Woody Baird. “My estimation is the bad guys were running a psychological operation attempting to terrorize the conventional forces by promoting a super sniper.”

It’s unclear what happened to Juba, though most agree that he was killed in action — either by American or Iraqi sharpshooters or even ISIS terrorists.

But some believe Juba is a made up insurgent meant to strike fear in U.S. troops at checkpoints and in vehicle hatches.

“Juba the Sniper? He’s a product of the U.S. military,” Capt. Brendan Hobbs told Stars and Stripes in 2007. “We’ve built up this myth ourselves.”

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Navy Secretary said the F-35 will likely be the last manned strike fighter

The underground work of Belle Boyd and how she changed the Civil War
Photo: Wikimedia


Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will likely be the last manned strike fighter ever bought or flown by the Navy.

“Unmanned systems, particularly autonomous ones, have to be the new normal in ever-increasing areas. For example, as good as it is, and as much as we need it and look forward to having it in the fleet for many years, the F-35 should be, and almost certainly will be, the last manned strike fighter aircraft the Department of the Navy will ever buy or fly,” said Mabus, speaking to the Navy League’s 2015 Sea Air Space symposium at National Harbor, Md.

Citing unmanned systems as a key element of needed innovation in a fast-changing global technological environment, Mabus said he plans to stand up a new Navy office for unmanned systems and appoint a new Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Unmanned Systems. The new office, called N-9, will seek to streamline various unmanned systems efforts and technology, Mabus told the crowd.

Mabus specified 3-D printing as an example of encouraging progress in innovation, holding up a small hand-held drone called the Close-In-Autonomous Disposable Aircraft, or CICADA.

“This Close-In Autonomous Disposable Aircraft can be made with a 3-D printer, and is a GPS-guided disposable unmanned aerial vehicle that can be deployed in large numbers to ‘seed’ an area with miniature electronic payloads, such as communication nodes or sensors,” he said.

“The potential for technology like this- and the fact that we can print them — make them – ourselves, almost anywhere, is incredible.  This is going to fundamentally change manufacturing and logistics, not just in the Department of the Navy, but also in the entire U.S.”

The creation of a new Navy UAS office could carry implications for a handful of high-profile developmental programs for the service. For instance, it could impact the ongoing debates about needed requirements for the Navy’s carrier-launched drone program, the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike program (UCLASS).

Some members of Congress are demanding the platform have maximum stealth and weapons capability so the drone can penetrate advanced enemy air defenses and deliver weapons as well as conduct long-range intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, or ISR, missions.

In addition, Mabus’ comments seem to indicate that the Navy’s conceptual developmental effort to envision a new carrier-launched fighter to replace the F/A-18 Super Hornet – called the F/A-XX program – may wind up engineering an unmanned platform for the mission.

Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., Chairman of the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee, told Military.com he supported Mabus’ announcement to create a new UAS office and Deputy Secretary of the Navy for Unmanned Systems.

“Creating a senior post focused on unmanned aviation is an important recognition by the Navy that this technology will do much to determine the service’s future and requires senior leadership within the Department to ensure its successful utilization. The future of the Carrier Air Wing is linked with the development of an unmanned system able to execute long-range, penetrating strike missions in anti-access environments. I am hopeful that whoever fills this new post will take a holistic, strategic look at the Navy’s unmanned portfolio and be a strong advocate for that vision moving forward,” Forbes said in a written statement.

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This article originally appeared at Military.com Copyright 2014. Follow Military.com on Twitter.

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The A-10 is getting a new mission in Europe: Countering Russia

The underground work of Belle Boyd and how she changed the Civil War
Photo: US Air force Chief Master Sgt. David L. Stuppy


PARIS — U.S. allies are happy to have the A-10 Warthog attack aircraft back in Europe to counter a resurgent Russia, airmen here at the Paris Air Show said.

The Defense Department brought the Cold War-era tank busters stateside in 2013 as part of a consolidation of bases and equipment in Europe. But it sent them back to the continent as part of a theater security package earlier this year — including countries in the former Soviet bloc — in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and support for pro-Russian separatists.

The planes have been a welcome sight during training exercises involving NATO forces in the Czech Republic, Poland, Estonia and Romania, among other countries, according to crew members.

“It’s pretty amazing because that’s what this jet was designed for — Russian tanks — so it’s pretty wild that we’re helping them out for the original cause,” Air Force Staff Sgt. Marcus Nugent, a crew member who works on the aircraft’s avionics systems, said on Tuesday at the Paris Air Show, held at the historic Le Bourget airfield outside the city.

“They’re small countries, they’re small forces, so seeing us out there with them,” he added. “They love it just as much as we love it — maybe a little more — so it’s pretty awesome. The way Russia’s been acting — it keeps people at ease on both sides.”

Tech. Sgt. Teddy McCollough, an A-10 weapons maintainer with the 355th Air Force Maintenance Squadron, agreed. “They absolutely love our presence there,” he said. “You can feel how gracious they are for us being there.”

About 300 airmen and 12 A-10s with the 355th Fighter Wing in February departedDavis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona for Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany as part of a security theater package. The Air Force also deployed 12 F-15Es in March in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve.

The units have traveled across Europe taking part in a wide range of exercises and working with NATO partners. U.S Air Forces in Europe Commander Gen. Frank Gorenc said Monday at the Paris Air Show that the additional airmen and aircraft have helped reassure our NATO allies in the face of Russian aggression.

NATO EXPERIENCE

A-10 pilots Capts. Joseph Morrin and Paul Wruck with the 354th Fighter Squadron said they have benefited from the time training with joint terminal air controllers from across NATO on calling in airstrikes.

“We get to do close air support training with our allies and get to see how they do business and show them how we do business, and all of us together as an overall CAS team get better,” Morrin said.

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James this week at the show said the U.S. may also deploy a squadron of F-22 Raptor fighter jets to Europe in response to Russia’s actions.

“I would say the biggest threat on my mind is what’s happening with Russia and the activities of Russia, and indeed that’s a big part of why I’m here in Europe and having those discussions,” she said. “It’s extremely worrisome on what’s going on in the Ukraine. We’ve seen the type of warfare, which someone dubbed it hybrid warfare, which is somewhat new. So I would put that at the top of my list.”

The A-10 is known as the pre-eminent close air support aircraft in the U.S. fleet with its low, slow-flying gunship’s snub-nose packed with a seven-barrel GAU-8/A Avenger Gatling gun that fires 30mm rounds designed to shred the armor on tanks, combat vehicles and other targets.

As a weapons maintainer, McCollough is responsible for maintaining all weapons on the aircraft, including the gun, air-to-air AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles and air-to-ground AGM-65 Maverick missiles.

“I love this aircraft,” he said. “I love the gun system. It’s reliable. It has few hiccups. When it does, it’s usually minor. It holds a lot of rounds, 1,150 rounds — that’s a lot. It’s a beast.” He added, “When they go and fly day-to-day missions, they usually do shoot, do some target practice. I just make sure it’s clean, lubed up and ready to go.”

A-10 RETIREMENT

The Air Force has proposed retiring its fleet of almost 300 Warthogs by 2019 to save an estimated $4.2 billion a year and free up maintainers for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a stealthy multi-role fighter jet and the Pentagon’s most expensive acquisition program.

Congress rejected the service’s request to begin the process of divesting the A-10 this year and approved $337 million in funding to keep them in the inventory. While lawmakers did allow the Air Force to move up to three dozen of the planes to back-up status, they blocked the service from sending any to the bone yard in Arizona.

Morrin said his unit tries not to get caught up in the debate and the politics surrounding the issue.

“We let them do the debating and we keep flying,” he said.

Morrin explained that the A-10 pilot community is still not sure what the potential retirement of the A-10 would mean for their careers. A-10 pilots have not been told what aircraft they would fly next, but there is hope that many would fly the F-35, Morrin said.

“We might have to go back to flight training for a while. We just really don’t know,” Morrin said. “They haven’t told us because it’s not official yet. It’s sort of the expectation though that since the F-35 is the future that we’d go there and then take our CAS knowledge to the table and make sure that community is well versed in it.”

BONE YARD

As the Air Force pushes to retire its fleet of A-10 attack aircraft, Boeing Co. doesn’t want the planes to waste away in the Arizona bone yard — it wants to sell them abroad.

The company has begun discussions with the service about potentially selling the Cold War-era gunship to U.S. allies, according to Chris Raymond, a vice president at the company.

“We need to see what they want to do first, and then we’d certainly want to try to help market some of those around the world, if they choose to want to do that,” he said.

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This article originally appeared at Military.com Copyright 2015. Follow Military.com on Twitter.

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Here’s what it would look like if a modern Army fought the Battle of Gettysburg

The Battle of Gettysburg was one of the bloodiest in American history with over 7,000 soldiers killed in three days of fighting.


(A single civilian, Mary Virginia Wade, was also killed.)

But if the modern military fought the battle, the costs could easily be much higher as today’s artillery, mortars, jets, and helicopters make every exchange more costly. And the increased range and firing rate of the M16 instead of Civil War rifles would make the missteps of generals even more catastrophic.

The underground work of Belle Boyd and how she changed the Civil War
A squad designated marksman scans his sector while providing security. (Photo: U.S. Army)

When the two sides first clashed at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863, it was largely an accident. Union Brig. Gen. John Buford, the head of cavalry for the North, had sent men to scout the area around the city and they ran into a group of men commanded by Gen. Harry Heth heading into the city to find supplies.

While many Union leaders thought there were only a few rebels in the area, and many rebels thought the Union forces were just a militia group, Buford and a few others suspected the truth. The two major armies in the eastern theater had just stumbled into one another.

The underground work of Belle Boyd and how she changed the Civil War
Mounted infantry is now known as mechanized infantry. (Photo: U.S. Army)

But Buford was a pioneer of mounted infantry tactics and ordered his subordinates to prepare for a pitched battle the following day. He spent the bulk of that night getting the lay of the land and planning his attack. But, if he had been in command of modern, mechanized infantry, he wouldn’t have needed to.

Instead, he would have sent his dismounts forward to search out the enemy encampments and would have brought his Strykers up with them. Meanwhile, any UAVs he could wrangle up would be flying ahead, searching out the enemy.

The underground work of Belle Boyd and how she changed the Civil War
An MQ- Reaper remotely piloted aircraft performs aerial maneuvers over Creech Air Force Base, Nev., June 25, 2015. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Cory D. Payne)

But Rebels with modern communication equipment would have reported the chance engagement in the city to their higher headquarters. Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, who knew that the Union was pursuing them north, would likely have sent out his own scouts and drones to search for enemy forces.

When each side learned that their enemy was nearby, heavily armed, and deployed near the vital strategic crossroads of Gettysburg, they would have surged all assets to take and hold the key ground.

Buford’s mechanized infantry would likely have taken the same heights that it did in 1863, but this time it would have positioned Strykers with TOW missiles behind cover and sent those armed with machine guns to cover the approaches to the heights. Most infantry squads would dismount and take up defensive positions on the heights.

The underground work of Belle Boyd and how she changed the Civil War
A U.S. soldier engages enemies during a training exercise. (Photo: Commonwealth of Australia)

Meanwhile, each side would begin calling up close air support and alerting the Air Force that they needed air battle interdiction immediately. Unfortunately, when the jets arrived, they would be too busy trying to establish air superiority to start hitting ground targets.

As the duel began to play out in the sky, artillery units on the ground would begin lobbing shells at precision targets and using rockets and howitzer barrages to saturate areas of known enemy activity.

This is what makes it unlikely that Mrs. Mary Wade would be the only civilian casualty of a modern Gettysburg.

The Union forces would likely congregate in a similar fishhook that first night as they did in the actual battle on the second day.

But here is where things would go wrong for the Union. When Maj. Gen. Daniel Sickles made his ill-fated move into the peach orchard, the Confederates would have been able to pin his men down with machine gun fire and then concentrate their artillery fire, wiping out Sickles and most of his men.

The underground work of Belle Boyd and how she changed the Civil War
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Ismael Pena)

Unfortunately, that would mean that U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command at Fort Detrick, Maryland, would not receive Sickles’ leg as a permanent display.

Down most of a corps and under fire, the Union would fall back to the heights once again and move forces to defend the flank where Sickles once was.

But Lee might once again make his great mistake of the battle. With a corps ground under his heel and the Union center losing men to guard the flank, he would order Maj. Gen. George Pickett, newly arrived on the battlefield in transports, to push against the seemingly weak Union center.

The underground work of Belle Boyd and how she changed the Civil War
Like this, but with even more destruction. (Scan: Library of Congress)

But as Pickett leads his men across the 1-mile of open ground to the Union center, his men would be cut down. The Union Strykers and Abrams would fire from behind cover and, while a few of them would be taken out by Confederate Javelins, TOWs, and other weapons, they would still wreak havoc.

Gunners on the ridge would open up with M2 .50-cals and M240Bs, walking the rounds on incoming Confederate infantry as they bounded into range. Union artillery would, once again, saturate the area. Fisters would identify command vehicles and pass their locations to helicopters and artillery crews for concentrated destruction.

The underground work of Belle Boyd and how she changed the Civil War
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Reece Lodder)

Missiles would arc back and forth across the Gettysburg fields in the wee hours of July 1. The whole Battle of Gettysburg, fought over a three-day period in real life, would have played out on an advanced timeline with modern-day weapons of war.

But the outcome would likely be the same: Lee’s undersupplied, outnumbered troops would attempt to force the high ground against defenders who reached most of the important terrain first; a false sense of confidence after the Confederates took advantage of Sickles’ mistake would have led them to gamble much and lose it all.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This wooden jet fighter showed just how desperate Germany was

By early 1944, the Germany and the Luftwaffe were in a bad state. Allied bombing had a devastating effect on oil supplies and the new P-51 Mustang was killing German pilots faster than they could be trained. Though Germany was developing the twin-engined Me 262 jet fighter to combat the allied bombers, Hitler’s constant interference and the strain on resources delayed the program. Luftwaffe Supreme Commander Reichmarschall Hermann Göring and Armaments Minister Albert Speer proposed the alternative solution of a single-engined jet fighter that was cheap and easy to produce and could be flown with very little training. Their idea was approved and a contract was issued for the Volksjäger, or “People’s Fighter”.

The Volksjäger requirements called for a single engine to reduce cost and construction complexity. Its airframe would be made primarily of wood and non-strategic metals since Germany’s reserve of war materials was dwindling. Moreover, the design had to be simple and able to be constructed by semi and non-skilled labor, including slave labor. The contract also required that the plane be easy to fly with very little experience, though this was more a sign of Germany’s desperation. “[The] unrealistic notion that this plane should be a ‘people’s fighter,’ in which the Hitler Youth, after a short training regimen with clipped-wing two-seater gliders like the DFS Stummel-Habicht, could fly for the defense of Germany, displayed the unbalanced fanaticism of those days,” recalled the plane’s designer, Dr. Ernst Heinkel, after the war.

Heinkel’s design, the He 162 Spatz (Sparrow), was selected on September 25, 1944. Incredibly, the first prototype flew less than 90 days later on December 6. Though the first flight was successful, it was noted that some of the glue holding the wooden frame together started to fail. The second test flight on December 10 saw a similar glue failure that caused the aileron to separate from the wing and resulted in a crash that killed the pilot. Still, Germany was desperate and testing pressed on without addressing the glue issue.

The underground work of Belle Boyd and how she changed the Civil War
The Hinterbrühl facility was captured in April 1945 (German Federal Archives)

Though the He 162 was supposed to be flown by Hitler Youth, the aircraft turned out to be too complex and required a more experienced pilot at the controls. A small number of training gliders were built and delivered to a Hitler Youth squadron at Sagan. However, the unit was in the process of forming when the war ended and did not undergo any training.

Despite the need for trained pilots, production of the He 162 began at Salzburg and the underground facilities at Hinterbrühl and Mittelwerk. The first operational unit received the He 162 in February 1945. Despite heavy allied bombing of German industry and air bases, I./JG 1 (First Fighter Wing) began training on the new jet in March and saw their first action with it the next month.

On April 19, the He 162 scored its first kill when Feldwebel Günther Kirchner shot down an RAF fighter. While on approach to land, the vulnerable jet fighter was shot down by another RAF fighter. Both the plane and pilot were lost. Though more victories were scored in April, I./JG 1 lost 13 He 162s and 10 pilots. However, only two were actually shot down. The other planes were lost due to mechanical failure, structural failure, or running out of fuel.

The underground work of Belle Boyd and how she changed the Civil War
A captured He 162 in France and later brought to the U.S. (U.S. National Archives)

On May 5, the squadron was grounded following the surrender of German forces in the Netherlands, Northwest Germany, and Denmark. Unlike other German squadrons with experimental aircraft, I./JG 1 did not destroy their planes. Rather, they turned them over to the British on May 6 who distributed them among the other allied nations for evaluation.

After the war, allied research found that the He 162 was actually a capable and well-designed fighter. Its inherent problems were the result of its rushed production. If the Germans had the time and resources for proper testing and evaluation, the plane could have been a serious threat to allied air superiority.

Today, many examples of the He 162 survive in museums including the RAF Museum in London and the Smithsonian Institute’s Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

The underground work of Belle Boyd and how she changed the Civil War
The He 162 at the National Air and Space Museum (Smithsonian Institute)
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This is how the US would defend against North Korean nukes

After North Korea shocked the world on July 4 by launching an intercontinental ballistic missile, the US has picked up the pace and urgency of ballistic missile defense despite major flaws in existing systems and tactics.


US plans in the event of a North Korean missile attack would center around spotting the launches early on and preparing to intercept them.

The US has had plans since 2013 to have 44 missile interceptors stationed in Alaska and California by the end of 2017, and North Korea would need at least that long to perfect the missiles for its attack.

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A long-range ground-based interceptor. (Missile Defense Agency photo by Leah Garton.)

But missile interceptors are far from a guarantee, Lauren Grego, the senior scientist in the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said on Twitter last week.

The “single shot kill probability” of an ICBM is unknown, according to Grego,  but is unlikely to be higher than a 50% even in “optimistic conditions.”

Of course, the US wouldn’t fire a single interceptor. Missile Defense Agency previously told Business Insider that in a real-world combat scenario, the US would fire multiple interceptors at a single threat.

Grego further calculated that, assuming that 50% probability, if the US shot 4 interceptors at a single threat, it would have a 94 percent chance of taking down the missile.

But North Korea would be foolish to commence nuclear war with the world’s foremost nuclear power by firing a single missile. Grego said that if North Korea fired 5 missiles, the probability that the US can defend against them all shrinks to 72 percent, even in a best-case scenario, which she called “uncomfortably high.”

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The first of two Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptors is launched during a successful intercept test. (DoD photo courtesy of Missile Defense Agency.)

Multiple missiles aren’t the only issue. North Korea could send decoys or employ countermeasures, which could confuse or disrupt US missile defenses by presenting multiple, false targets for each launch. This would effectively make missile defenses useless and allow all warheads to hit US targets unhindered.

Increasing the US’s number of interceptors beyond 44 does little to erase the fundamental problems with hit-to-kill missile defense.

“Discrimination of warheads from decoys is an unsolved but clearly fundamental issue,” wrote Grego, who sees “little point” in spending more on the already $40 billion ground-based midcourse defense before addressing its clear, conceptual limitations.

So while missile interception doesn’t promise much by way of defense yet, the best defense in nuclear war remains a good offense.

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An unarmed LGM-30G Minuteman III ICBM launches during an operational test Feb. 20, 2016, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. (USAF photo by Senior Airman Kyla Gifford)

By the time the US detected the launches and verified their origin and bearing, a salvo of more reliable, more powerful missiles would streak across the sky towards North Korea before its missiles even landed.

Moments after US cities rose into mushroom clouds, the entirety of North Korea would do the same. North Korea has no missile defenses, and could do nothing to stop the US from flattening every inch of its sovereign territory.

This assured destruction of the entirety of North Korea has a deterrent effect, making it far less likely that North Korea would ever strike the US.

Not only would the US bomb North Korea into oblivion, the US would hunt down North Korea’s leadership from hidden bunkers and caves before bringing them to justice.

For these reasons, a North Korean missile attack on the US remains unlikely, but nearly impossible to stop.

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F-35s may fly with loaded up B-52s as ‘arsenal planes’

The Pentagon’s emerging “Arsenal Plane” or “flying bomb truck” is likely to be a modified, high-tech adaptation of the iconic B-52 bomber designed to fire air-to-air weapons, release swarms of mini-drones and provide additional fire-power to 5th generation stealth fighters such as the F-35 and F-22, Pentagon officials and analysts said.


It is also possible that the emerging arsenal plane could be a modified C-130 or combined version of a B-52 and C-130 drawing from elements of each, Pentagon officials said.

Using a B-52, which is already being modernized with new radios and an expanded internal weapons bay, would provide an existing “militarized” platform already engineered with electronic warfare ability and countermeasures designed to thwart enemy air defenses.

“You are using a jet that already has a military capability. The B-52 is a military asset, whereas all the alternatives would have to be created. It has already been weaponized and has less of a radar cross-section compared to a large Air Force cargo plane. It is not a penetrating bomber, but it does have some kind of jamming and countermeasures meant to cope with enemy air defenses. It is wired for a combat mission,” said Richard Aboulafia, Vice President of analysis at the Teal Group, a Virginia-based consultancy.

Flying as a large, non-stealthy bomber airplane, a B-52 would still present a large target to potential adversaries; however, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said part of the rationale for the “Arsenal Plane” would be to work closely with stealthy fighter jets such as an F-22 and F-35, with increased networking technology designed to increase their firepower and weapons load.

An “Arsenal Plane” networked to F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters would enable the fighter aircraft to maintain their stealth properties while still having substantial offensive bombing capability. If stealth fighters attach weapons to their external pylons, they change their radar signature and therefore become more vulnerable to enemy air defenses. If networked to a large “flying bomb truck,” they could use stealth capability to defeat enemy air defenses and still have an ability to drop large amounts of bombs on targets.

Such a scenario could also likely rely upon now-in-development manned-unmanned teaming wherein emerging algorithms and computer technology enable fighter jets to control the sensor payload and weapons capability of nearby drones from the cockpit of the aircraft. This would enable Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance assets to more quickly relay strategic or targeting information between fighter jets, drones and “Arsenal Planes.”

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China’s J-20 | Chinese Military Review

Aboulafia explained that air fighters being developed by potential adversaries, such as the Chinese J-20 and other fighters, could exist in larger numbers than a US force, underscoring the current US strategy to maintain a technological edge even if their conventional forces are smaller.  An “Arsenal Plane” could extend range and lethality for US fighters, in the event they were facing an enemy force with more sheer numbers of assets.

“There is a concern about numbers of potential enemies and range. When you are dealing with a potential adversary with thousands of jets and you’ve got limited assets with limited weapons payloads, you have got to be concerned about the numbers,” he said.

An effort to be more high-tech, if smaller in terms of sheer numbers, than rival militaries is a key part of the current Pentagon force modernization strategy.

“In practice, the “Arsenal Plane” will function as a very large airborne magazine, networked to fifth generation aircraft that act as forward sensor and targeting nodes, essentially combining different systems already in our inventory to create wholly new capabilities,” Carter told reporters. Aboulafia added that an idea for an “Arsenal Plane” emerged in the 1980s as a Cold War strategy designed to have large jets carry missiles able to attack Soviet targets.

Carter unveiled the “Arsenal Plane” concept during a recent 2017 budget drop discussion at the Pentagon wherein he, for the first time, revealed the existence of a “Strategic Capabilities Office” aimed at connecting and leveraging emerging weapons and technology with existing platforms. This effort is aimed at saving money, increasing the military’s high-tech lethality and bringing new assets to the force faster than the many years it would take to engineer entirely new technologies.

“I created the SCO (Strategic Capabilities Office) in 2012, when I was Deputy Secretary of defense to help us to re-imagine existing DOD and intelligence community and commercial systems by giving them new roles and game-changing capabilities to confound potential enemies — the emphasis here was on rapidity of fielding, not 10 and 15-year programs,” he said.

Carter said “Arsenal Plane” development would be funded through a $71 billion research and development 2017 budget request.

While Carter did not specify a B-52 during his public discussion of the new asset now in-development, he did say it would likely be an “older” aircraft designed to function as a “flying launchpad.”

“The last project I want to highlight is one that we’re calling the “Arsenal Plane,” which takes one of our oldest aircraft platforms and turns it into a flying launchpad for all sorts of different conventional payloads,” Carter added.

The Air Force is already surging forward with a massive, fleet-wide modernization overhaul of the battle-tested, Vietnam-era B-52 bomber, an iconic airborne workhorse for the US military dating back to the 1960s.

Engineers are now equipping all 76 of the Air Force B-52s with digital data-links, moving-map displays, next-generation avionics, new radios and an ability to both carry more weapons internally and integrate new, high-tech weapons as they emerge, service officials said.

The technical structure and durability of the B-52 airframes in the Air Force fleet are described as extremely robust and able to keep flying well into the 2040s and beyond – so the service is taking steps to ensure the platform stays viable by receiving the most current and effective avionics, weapons and technologies.

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Did you bring enough for the rest of the class?

Weapons Upgrade

Aboulafia said the new B-52 “Arsenal Plane” could, for the first time, configure a primarily air-to-ground bomber as a platform able to fire air-to-air weapons as well – such as the Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile, or AMRAAM.

The integration of air-to-air weapons on the B-52 does not seem inconceivable given the weapons upgrades already underway with the aircraft.  Air Force is also making progress with a technology-inspired effort to increase the weapons payload for the workhorse bomber, Eric Single, Chief of the Global Strike Division, Acquisition, told Scout Warrior in an interview several months ago.

The 1760 Internal Weapons Bay Upgrade, or IWBU, will allow the B-52 to internally carry up to eight of the newest “J-Series” bombs in addition to carrying six on pylons under each wing, he explained.

B-52s have previously been able to carry JDAM weapons externally, but with the IWBU the aircraft will be able to internally house some of the most cutting edge precision-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions and Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles, among others.

“It is about a 66 percent increase in carriage capability for the B-52, which is huge. You can imagine the increased number of targets you can reach, and you can strike the same number of targets with significantly less sorties,” said Single.

Single also added that having an increased internal weapons bay capability affords an opportunity to increase fuel-efficiency by removing bombs from beneath the wings and reducing drag.

The first increment of IWBU, slated to be finished by 2017, will integrate an internal weapons bay ability to fire a laser-guided JDAM. A second increment, to finish by 2022, will integrate more modern or cutting-edge weapons such as the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, or JASSM, JASSM Extended Range (ER) and a technology called Miniature Air Launched Decoy, or MALD. A MALD-J “jammer” variant, which will also be integrated into the B-52, can be used to jam enemy radar technologies as well, Single said.

IWBU, which uses a digital interface and a rotary launcher to increase the weapons payload, is expected to cost roughly $313 million, service officials said.

The B-52 has a massive, 185-foot wingspan, a weight of about 185,000 pounds and an ability to reach high sub-sonic speeds and altitudes of 50,000 feet, Air Force officials said.

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B-52s in the Pacific. | US Navy photo

Communications, Avionics Upgrades

Two distinct, yet interwoven B-52 modernization efforts will increase the electronics, communications technology, computing and avionics available in the cockpit while simultaneously configuring the aircraft with the ability to carry up to eight of the newest “J-Series” precision-guided weapons internally – in addition to carrying six weapons on each wing, Single said.

Eight B-52s have already received a communications (coms systems) upgrade called Combat Network Communication Technology, or CONECT – a radio, electronics and data-link upgrade which, among other things, allows aircraft crews to transfer mission and targeting data directly to aircraft systems while in flight (machine to machine), Single explained.

“It installs a digital architecture in the airplane,” Single explained. “Instead of using data that was captured during the mission planning phase prior to your take off 15 to 20 hours ago – you are getting near real-time intelligence updates in flight.”

Single described it key attribute in terms of “machine-to-machine” data-transfer technology which allows for more efficient, seamless and rapid communication of combat-relevant information.

Using what’s called an ARC 210 Warrior software-programmable voice and data radio, pilots can now send and receive targeting data, mapping information or intelligence with ground stations, command centers and other aircraft.

“The crew gets the ability to communicate digitally outside the airplane which enables you to import not just voice but data for mission changes, threat notifications, targeting….all those different types of things you would need to get,” Single said.

An ability to receive real-time targeting updates is of great relevance to the B-52s close-air-support mission because fluid, fast-moving or dynamic combat situations often mean ground targets appear, change or disappear quickly.

Alongside moving much of the avionics from analogue to digital technology, CONECT also integrates new servers, modems, colored display screens in place of old green monochrome and provides pilots with digital moving-map displays which can be populated with real-time threat and mission data, Single said.

The new digital screens also show colored graphics highlighting the aircraft’s flight path, he added.

Single explained that being able to update key combat-relevant information while in transit will substantially help the aircraft more effectively travel longer distances for missions, as needed.

“The key to this is that this is part of the long-range strike family of systems — so if you take off out of Barksdale Air Force Base and you go to your target area, it could take 15 or 16 hours to get there. By the time you get there, all the threat information has changed,” said Single. “Things move, pop up or go away and the targeting data may be different.”

The upgrades will also improve the ability of the airplane to receive key intelligence information through a data link called the Intelligence Broadcast Receiver. In addition, the B-52s will be able to receive information through a LINK-16-like high-speed digital data link able to transmit targeting and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, or ISR information.

The CONECT effort, slated to cost $1.1 billion overall, will continue to unfold over the next several years, Single explained.

Twelve B-52 will be operational with CONECT by the end of this year and the entire fleet will be ready by 2021, Single said.

B-52 History

Known for massive bombing missions during the Vietnam War, the 159-foot long B-52s have in recent years been operating over Afghanistan in support of military actions there from a base in Guam.

The B-52 also served in Operation Desert Storm, Air Force statements said.  “B-52s struck wide-area troop concentrations, fixed installations and bunkers, and decimated the morale of Iraq’s Republican Guard,” an Air Force statement said.

In 2001, the B-52 provided close-air support to forces in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, service officials said. The B-52 also played a role in Operation Iraqi Freedom. On March 21, 2003, B-52Hs launched approximately 100 CALCMs (Conventional Air Launched Cruise Missiles) during a night mission.

Given the B-52s historic role in precision-bombing and close air support, next-generation avionics and technologies are expected to greatly increase potential missions for the platform in coming years, service officials said.

WATCH: B-52s are blasting ISIS targets

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This is who the US thinks just tried to hack its most secure nuclear sites

American officials have concluded that hackers working on behalf of a foreign power recently breached at least a dozen US nuclear power sites, Bloomberg reported July 6.


Bloomberg cited multiple US sources who said they had zeroed in on Russia as the primary suspect behind the most recent attacks, including one at Kansas’ Wolf Creek nuclear facility.

Officials believe the attacks may be related to a separate hack that happened late last month, in which unidentified hackers infiltrated the business-associated end of the power plant. The name and location of that site were not released, but EE News reported that federal investigators were looking into cyberattacks on multiple facilities at the time.

When reached for comment about the latest hacks, government officials and a spokesperson for Wolf Creek said the operational side of its network had not been affected.

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Salem nuclear power plant. Photo by Peretz Partensky

“There was absolutely no operational impact to Wolf Creek,” Jenny Hageman, a spokeswoman for the nuclear plant, said in a statement to Bloomberg News. “The reason that is true is because the operational computer systems are completely separate from the corporate network.”

But the hacks have raised red flags for investigators who worry Russia may be gearing up to levy an attack against the US power grid.  If that were the case, it would fit into a pattern adopted by Russia in the past, particularly as it relates to Ukraine.

In 2015, a massive cyberattack leveled against the country’s power grid cut electricity to almost 250,000 Ukrainians. Cybersecurity experts linked the attack to IP addresses associated with Russia. Since then, Wired magazine’s Andy Greenberg reported, Ukraine has seen a growing crisis in which an increasing number of Ukrainian corporations and government agencies have been hit by cyberattacks in a “rapid, remorseless succession.”

Ukraine is now host to what may turn into a full-blown cyberwar, Greenberg reported. Two separate attacks on the country’s power grid were part of what Greenberg called a “digital blitzkrieg” waged against it for the past three years, which multiple analysts have connected to Russian interests.

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Lights out. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

With respect to the recent cyberattacks on US nuclear facilities, the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation said they were aware of the intrusions.

“There is no indication of a threat to public safety, as any potential impact appears to be limited to administrative and business networks,” the agencies said in a statement.

But cybersecurity experts say that once a system is breached in any way — even if it’s not on the operational side — nuclear safety could be at risk down the road.

“If a nuclear power facility is attacked on the business side, that might actually serve as a way of information-gathering” for hackers, Paulo Shakarian, founder of the cybersecurity firm CYR3CON, told Business Insider. In some cases, hackers will try to “see if, by reaching that system, they can get more insight into what the facility is using on the operational side,” Shakarian said.

Though nuclear power providers have rigorous practices in place to divide business and nuclear operations in their networks, experts say an attack on one could inform an attack on the other.

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Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

Greg Martin, the CEO of cybersecurity firm JASK, said that while it was “wonderful” that network segmentation prevented hackers from being able to attack critical infrastructure directly, “the business side has tons of information about the more vulnerable infrastructure side of these types of plants.”

That information can include emails, communications involving design plans, information about security assessments, emails or documents that contain passwords, and more. Martin echoed Shakarian’s assessment and added that some information that can be gleaned from a breach like this can open up a window that “can be used to set up for future, more damaging attacks just based on the proprietary information they’re able to steal.”

These latest suspicions towards Russia come on the heels of a colossal cyberattack that crippled countries and corporations across the globe, which cybersecurity experts said Russia may have perpetrated.

Russia was also found to have hacked the 2016 US election in an effort to damage then-candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign and tilt the election in favor of Donald Trump. Russia has so far denied all the charges against it.

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This is why ‘General Butt Naked’ was the most feared warlord in Liberia

To oust a dictator as terrible as Liberia’s Charles Taylor, some warlords committed even more heinous crimes. Taylor is now serving a 50-year sentence in the UK after being convicted of 11 war crimes in the Hague in 2013.


Joshua Milton Blahyi went by a different name when he controlled the streets of Liberia’s capital of Monrovia during its 14-year civil war. Going into urban combat wearing nothing but sneakers and a crazed look, he earned the title “General Butt Naked.”

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Warlords in the streets of Liberia from 1989-2003 were given names based in popular culture. It spawned such nicknames as “General Bin Laden” and “General Rambo.”

While “General Butt Naked” may sound laughable as a nom de guerre, the warlord’s methods were anything but funny. Of the 250,000-some Liberians killed in the conflict, Blahyi estimates he is responsible for at least 20,000.

The crimes he freely admits to don’t stop there. He recruited children to act as his street enforcers, teaching them that killings and mutilations were all part of a game. And so they would also fight naked in the streets of Monrovia. Blahyi himself was a teenager when the conflict broke out.

Anecdotal evidence of the atrocities committed by “General Butt Naked” is numerous and graphic.

When Taylor was finally ousted in 2003, the man once known as “General Butt Naked” began a new life as a pastor. These days, when he isn’t preaching, he visits the families of his victims and begs for forgiveness — complete forgiveness. He doesn’t want lip service; he wants the biblical forgiveness that comes from the victim’s heart.

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Those victims don’t want any part of it. Only 19 of the 76 families he has visited heard him out. The remainder goes about as well as one might expect.

Blahyi built a mansion where he houses former child soldiers. It’s a place where he says he teaches them skills like farming and bricklaying. According to German newspaper Der Spiegel, he also feeds them.

At least one former soldier will attest to the work of Blahyi’s NGO, “Journeys Against Violence.” Luke Barren told Reuters that he earned his job as a mason because of Blahyi’s effort. Other say Blahyi’s whole enterprise is a farce combined with a cash grab.

The former warlord walks free where Taylor is imprisoned because of jurisdictional rules in The Hague. The court can only prosecute war crimes committed after its founding in 2002. There was never a special tribunal for prosecuting war crimes in Liberia, as there was from Rwanda, Cambodia, and the former Yugoslavia.

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This is the future president who forced troops into combat with curses and anger

President Harry S. Truman was a no-nonsense kinda guy. He called 5’4″ Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin “a bit of a squirt.” He threatened to beat the snot out of a music critic who panned his daughter’s performance. He called Gen. Douglas MacArthur “a dumb son of a bitch” and President Nixon a “shifty-eyed goddamned liar.”


There was a reason he was known as “Give ‘Em Hell Harry.”

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Truman (second from left) as a newly-commissioned officer.

Truman was the last President to take office without a college degree and started his military career as an enlisted man in the Missouri National Guard. He wanted to join so bad, he memorized an eye chart to pass the Army physical – he couldn’t see well enough to get in on his own. He first enlisted in 1905.

This is a man who would rather have earned the Medal of Honor than be elected President.

By the time WWI rolled around, Truman re-enlisted and had been elected an officer. It was on the battlefields of France that he was given command of Battery D – dubbed “Dizzy D” for its bad reputation. The onetime Pvt. Truman was now Capt. Truman, in command of 194 men.

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Those men tried to intimidate him at every turn, even giving him the “Bronx Cheer” after formations. But a guy like “Captain Harry” wasn’t about to take that garbage in his command. He began to hold his NCOs responsible for the junior enlisted behavior – and the discipline changed in a hurry.

His men began to obey him loyally, especially in combat, and Truman enjoyed his command. The only time they faltered was during an artillery exchange with the Germans in the Vosges Mountains, where both sides exchanged gas and high explosive shells for more than 30 minutes.

Truman was tossed from his horse, which fell on top of him into a shell crater. Panic and disorder gripped his company when they were supposed to fall back, but they had no horses to pull the artillery. The guns were getting stuck in the mud as German shells rained on them.

The company first sergeant ordered the men to make a run for it.

That’s when Capt. Truman was pulled out from under his horse. He stood on the battlefield and unleashed a string of curses so profane it actually shocked his enlisted men to turn around and run back into the hail of chemicals and explosions to man their guns.

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Not a drill sergeant, but still making the Smokey Bear hat proud.

Maybe it was his time as an enlisted artilleryman, or maybe the future President picked that language up while working on the Santa Fe rail lines and sleeping like a hobo. He sure didn’t pick it up at West Point – because he couldn’t get in.

His artillery battery fired more than 10,000 shells in the war and did not lose a single man under his command.

That’s leadership.

During his presidency, Truman kept his spot as a U.S. Army reserve colonel, leaving after 37 years of service. When his presidency ended, he and his wife Bess drove back to Missouri, not to a corporate boardroom – which he considered it a black mark on the office of the president.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time ocean liners fought an old-time naval battle

It was a classic naval deception move. In 1914, just after the outbreak of WWI, the German navy cruiser Cap Trafalgar hid its figure and flew under a false flag, pretending to be the British armed merchant HMS Carmania. The goal was to lay in wait for other British ships, lure them in close, then fly the German flag and wreak havoc.


It worked, she was soon face-to-face with… the actual HMS Carmania.

Admittedly, it would have been a great tactic if they pulled it off.

Cap Trafalgar and Carmania were both converted ocean liners with orders to raid enemy shipping. Carmania’s skipper knew the Cap Trafalgar was operating in the area, though he may not have known the German ship was disguised as his own. What can be certain is that once he encountered the fake Carmania, a ferocious naval battle ensued.

Ships’ guns in The Great War had a lot more range than in previous conflicts, especially those in the age of sail. These converted liners could have fought from a distance, and in fact the battle began with the two ships four miles apart. These two ocean liners were vicious.

 

But as each tried to gain the advantage on the other, they ended up much closer than they had to. Cap Trafalgar realized it fared much better at closer ranges as Carmania took more and more damage.

The German captain moved to close the gap.

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He probably should have started sooner.

Blasting into each other’s hull from distances more akin to cannon from the age of sail, Carmania and Cap Trafalgar went to work. Carmania took 79 shots, causing 304 holes, nine dead, and 26 wounded. Cap Trafalgar fared much worse, even though she took fewer hits. Hit by 73 shots and having 380 holes, the ship began to list to the starboard (right) and sank ten minutes after the captain gave the order to abandon ship.

The German cruiser lost 16 sailors, including her captain, and more than 270 were captured by the Royal Navy for the duration of the war.

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Carmania lost use of her guns and, with her bow in flames, had to be escorted into a nearby Brazilian island by the HMS Cornawl.

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