The P-38 Lighting was a superb long-range fighter in all theaters of the war. The plane is best known for the “Zero Dark Thirty” operation of the Pacific Theater – the shoot-down of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto by Capt. Tom Lanphier.
But the P-38 didn’t get there right away.
In fact, given its ground-breaking design, it was going through a lot of teething problems.
According to AcePilots.com, one of the biggest problems was compressibility. The P-38 was one of the first planes to deal with it due to its high speed (up to 420 miles per hour), especially when they dove.
This P-38 compressibility chart is taken from a USAAF P-38 pilot training manual. Pilots of early P-38s (ones without the 1943 dive flap retrofit) were advised against steep dives as compressibility would force the plane to dive more steeply as well as immobilize the controls, a situation that could prove fatal if initiated below 25,000 feet. (U.S. Air Force graphic)
What would happen is a shock wave of compressed air would form, keeping the plane’s elevators from working. The P-38s would be caught in a dive, and unable to pull out until they got to lower altitudes.
As a result, German fighters knew that diving was a way to escape. One pilot who had a close call was Air Force legend Robin Olds, who described his incident in an episode of “Dogfights.”
After a lot of work, Lockheed designed some flaps that would help address the issue by changing the airflow enough so the elevators would be able to function.
A number of kits were put together to be installed on P-38s in the field, but those destined to go to England never got there, hamstringing the P-38s there.
A Royal Air Force pilot mistook the United States Army Air Force Douglas C-54 Skymaster cargo plane carrying the kits for a Luftwaffe Fw 200 Condor maritime patrol plane. Given the Condor’s reputation, they were prime targets. The C-54 was shot down, and the kits were lost.
As a result, the P-38s went into combat unable to pursue a German fighter diving to escape the “Fork Tailed Devil” and fight another day.
It wouldn’t do much good for a wounded World War I veteran trying to reintegrate into society to have a passersby gasp in shock and horror every time they saw him. The town of Sidcup in England attempted to ameliorate this shocked, audible response by attempting to warn the locals about the tenants of a nearby soldiers hospital.
Seeing a man on a blue bench when all the other benches in town were a different color warned the locals the image of a man sitting on it might come as a shock – and the veterans were grateful.
WARNING: Some of these images might be disturbing to even modern eyes.
A World War I veteran who was treated at Sidcup
World War I was an entirely different kind of warfare than the world had ever known previously. With that new, modern, and mechanized destruction, came new wounds and scars that would mark its veterans forever. Few in any military had ever seen anything like the gruesome scars of war left on World War I vets, so it’s safe to say that few civilians had either.
The Great War was packed with horrifyingly disfiguring weapons similar to wars past. Bullets are nothing new, neither was shrapnel. But the new weapons of war were able to unload hundreds of bullets in a minute and fire high explosives and poison gas from places the soldiers on the ground couldn’t even see. Soldiers on both sides suffered disfigurement at an astonishing rate. For the lucky ones who survived, that meant coming home to a population that wasn’t entirely prepared to see the horrors of the war.
The effects of the earliest plastic surgery on World War I veterans, this work done in London.
Sidcup, England had a hospital devoted to such soldiers. The hospital held hundreds of troops whose facial features were an object of terror to the unprepared. The benches of Sidcup were a warning to passersby that a veteran sitting on the bench might be disfigured, and it’s best not to stare. While this may seem offensive to us these days, for veterans who suffered from these afflictions, it was a blessing. Sidcup became the one place in the world where wounded, disfigured vets could walk around without the gasps and cries found everywhere else.
More than that, such hospitals featured pioneering medical techniques to attempt to mitigate the physical damage and return some kind of normalcy to the subject. World War I veterans were essentially the world’s first plastic surgery recipients. For those who couldn’t get that kind of work done, masks were an option – a painted replica of an unwounded face, covering the wounds of war that marked their daily lives.
Masks for WWI-era wounded soldiers were usually specially designed for the individual, created for the subject’s unique injury or war wound, and then painted one by one to ensure the look and fit of the mask matched the person wearing it. There are many occasions where (albeit in black and white photos) it’s hard to distinguish the masked face from what might be the soldier’s undamaged face.
They were remarkably accurate and allowed the soldiers a degree of freedom, walking around without the horrors of war written upon their faces.
In Afghanistan’s turbulent Helmand province, US Marines are rekindling old relationships and identifying weaknesses in the Afghan forces that the Trump administration hopes to address with a new strategy and the targeted infusion of several thousand American forces.
Returning to Afghanistan’s south after five years, Marine Brig. Gen. Roger Turner already knows where he could use some additional US troops. And while he agrees that the fight against the Taliban in Helmand is at a difficult stalemate, he said he is seeing improvements in the local forces as his Marines settle into their roles advising the Afghan National Army’s 215th Corps.
Turner’s report on the fight in Helmand will be part of a broader assessment that Gen. Joseph Dunford will collect this week from his senior military commanders in Afghanistan.
Dunford landed in Kabul Monday with a mission to pull together the final elements of a military strategy that will include sending nearly 4,000 more U.S. troops into the country. He will be meeting with Afghan officials as well as US and coalition military leaders and troops.
The expected deployment of more Americans will be specifically molded to bolster the Afghan forces in critical areas so they can eventually take greater control over the security of their own nation.
The Taliban have slowly resurged, following the decision to end the combat role of US and international forces at the end of 2014. The NATO coalition switched to a support and advisory role, while the US has also focused on counter-terrorism missions.
Recognizing the continued Taliban threat and the growing Islamic State presence in the county, the Obama administration slowed its plan to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by the end of last year. There are now about 8,400 there.
But commanders have complained that the sharp drawdown hurt their ability to adequately train and advise the Afghans while also increasing the counter-terror fight. As a result, the Trump administration is completing a new military, diplomatic, and economic strategy for the war, and is poised to send the additional US troops, likely bolstered by some added international forces.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will be in Brussels later this week and is expected to talk with allies about their ongoing support for the war.
While Turner said he has already seen improvements in the Afghan’s 215th Corps, he said adding more advisers would allow him to pinpoint problems at the lower command levels, including more brigades.
“The level and number of advisers you have really gives you the ability to view the chain on all the functional areas. The more areas you can see — you can have a greater impact on the overall capability of the force,” he told the Associated Press in an interview from Helmand Province. “If we had more capacity in the force we would be able to address more problems, faster.”
He said that although the Afghan forces have improved their ability to fight, they still need help at some of the key underpinnings of a combat force, such as getting spare parts to troops with broken equipment.
The seemingly simple task of efficiently ordering and receiving parts — something American forces do routinely — requires a working supply chain from the warehouse to the unit on the battlefield.
And Turner said that’s an issue that could be improved with additional advisers.
Other improvements, he said, include increasing the size of Afghanistan’s special operations forces and building the capacity and capabilities of its nascent air force.
The Afghan ground forces in Helmand, he said, have been able to launch offensive operations against the Taliban, including a recent battle in Marjah.
“I don’t think last year they could have taken the fight to Marjah like they just did,” he said. “They’re in a much better position that they were a year ago.”
But they are facing a resilient Taliban, whose fighters are newly financed, now that the poppy harvest is over.
“Once they draw their finances, they start operations,” said Turner. “What we’ve seen so far since the end of May, when they made that transition, is a steady grind of activity across a number of places in the province.”
What has helped a lot, Turner said, is his Marines’ ability to renew old relationships with Afghan tribal elders, provincial ministers, and military commanders they worked with six or seven years ago.
Battalion officers they knew then are now commanders, and many government leaders are still in place.
“We obviously have a long commitment here in Helmand. It’s been good for the Marines to come back here,” he said. “This is a really meaningful mission. I think people realize that we don’t want to get into a situation where the kinds of pre-9/11 conditions exist again.”
Stranded on a beach; 400,000 lightly armed soldiers; fully-loaded enemy fighter planes bearing down on you — there’s a word for that: Dunkirk.
It’s a moment in history that gives every veteran that sinking feeling in the pit of their stomach, a sense of utter helplessness staring straight at death spitting from the wings of an enemy attacker with no way to fight back.
But the story of Dunkirk is much more than that, and the latest trailer released by Hollywood moviemakers who tell the story of that fateful episode demonstrates that hope, courage and tenacity played as much a role in that historic moment as fate.
In this modern adaptation, Christopher Nolan has now applied his moody and precise visual style on World War II. The “Inception” and “The Dark Knight” director tells the story of the “Miracle at Dunkirk,” a large-scale evacuation that saved around 338,000 Allied troops.
“Dunkirk” features frequent Nolan collaborator and “Mad Max: Fury Road” star Tom Hardy, Academy Award winner and “Bridge of Spies” star Mark Rylance, and Shakespeare master and robot-spider enthusiast Kenneth Branagh.
“Dunkirk” opens July 21, 2017. Watch the trailer below.
Come April 1st, it’s time to keep your ears opened and your eyes peeled, ready for whatever mischief might come your way. It’s a day where folks of all cultures plan and perform their best tricks, service members from all branches included. From physical pranks, to things that are somehow out of place, to flat-out destructive jokes, April Fools’ Day is known for mischief. There are even historical events, including elaborate and heart-stopping examples of how soldiers took advantage of this day of lighthearted fun.
Take a look at these fun pranks among the military community for a good laugh and possibly some ideas for weeks to come.
German Camp, 1915
On this day in 1915, the Geneva Tribune reported a French plane dropped a large object over a German camp. From a distance, the object appeared to be a huge bomb. Upon seeing it, soldiers ran for cover, though no explosion took place. Eventually, they approached the object, which was actually a giant football. On it was a tag that read, “April fool!”
Europe, 1943, the 30-Day Furlough
In a newspaper article in Stars and Stripes, a European publication for overseas soldiers, readers learned of a 30-day furlough available for overseas service members. They were said to be brought home by the newly refurbished ship, Normanie, which would be manned by Women’s Army Corps. What’s more is it stated on-ship entertainment provided by Gypsy Rose Lee and Betty Grable, two big names at the time.
Did you know that Irish bearskin helmets grow hair, so much so that it became a problem wherein they needed trimming? Specially requested by the staff of Buckingham Palace. That was the subject of an April Fools’ article in Soldier, a British magazine published in 1980. They even included scientific evidence on how the hair was able to grow once removed from the animal.
While members on the USS Kennedy suspected nothing more than a delivery of mail during a six month deployment in the Mediterranean, jokesters had other intentions. Navy members planned a surprise drop off on April Fools’ Day in 1986. The helicopter landed and released three greased piglets — each painted red, white and blue — who ran across the deck. The event was even filmed for future generations to see!
Old Guard Virginia, 2013
There are working dogs in the military, so why not working cats? Back in 2013 an announcement was made via the U.S. Army that they were launching a trained cat program, wherein felines would help the military moving forward. Specifically, their duties were to help Military Police track narcotics and catch criminals in their tracks.
Okinawa, Japan 2019
In perhaps one of the most widespread pranks in history, on April Fools’ Day, 2019, the Marine Corps base in Okinawa announced via social media that service members could grow facial hair openly … and have pets in their barracks rooms. Putting safety first, the post even mentioned that pets would need to wear reflective belts to ensure their visibility, likely during early morning hours of PT. Funny enough, right? The problem is people believed it! Some went as far as to throw out razors or take on pets, not realizing the whole announcement was a joke.
Traditionally, April Fools’ Day has been a time to bring in jokes and laughter, often with creative pranks. It’s a look back at how military members still saw the bright side of things, whether in time of war, deployment or simply in everyday situations.
Do you have a favorite military-related April Fools’ Day prank? Let us know about it!
Rose says Men of War was inspired by John Keegan’s 1976 classic “The Face of Battle: A Study of Agincourt, Waterloo and the Somme,” which tells the story of British soldiers by examining three of the most critical battles in English military history. Rose has the advantage of being an engaging writer. This is properly distilled military history for readers who don’t have the patience to wade through original sources and long-winded academic treatises on American history.
Sure, most people end up in one nice, consolidated grave. But these five generals were not “most people”:
1. Gen. “Mad” Anthony Wayne’s skeleton and flesh were buried 400 miles apart.
When Isaac Wayne arrived at the Army blockhouse in Erie, Pennsylvania, he expected to exhume his father’s bones and take them the 400 miles back to his hometown of Radnor, Pennsylvania for re-burial. His father was Gen. “Mad” Anthony Wayne, a Revolutionary War and Northwest Indian War hero.
When the remains were exhumed, the body was found to be in good condition despite 12 years having passed since Gen. Wayne’s death in 1796. Isaac’s cart was too small to move a complete body though, and so Isaac had the body dismembered and the flesh boiled off of it. Then, he took the bones the 400 miles back to Radnor. The boiled flesh and the tools used in the “operation” were reburied in Erie.
2. Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell was buried 640 miles from his leg.
A Confederate leader in the Civil War, Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell was seriously injured at the Second Battle of Manassas. His leg was amputated and buried in a local garden. Ewell returned to combat after a one-year convalescence and was taken prisoner near the end of the war.
3. Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Sickles’ leg is in the Smithsonian.
Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Sickles led his men to their doom at the Battle of Gettysburg when he ignored his orders and marched forward of his designated positions. Exposed, he and his men were brutally attacked and Sickles himself was wounded by a cannonball to the leg.
After his amputation, he decided against having his leg buried and instead sent it to the Army Medical Museum where Sickles visited it every year. It now resides at the Smithsonian Museum while Sickles rests in Arlington National Cemetery.
4. Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood’s leg was buried somewhere by an army private.
Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood lost his right leg after it was struck by a Minie ball during the Battle of Chickamagua in Georgia. His condition after the surgery was so bad that his physician, assuming he would die, ordered Pvt. Arthur H. Collier to take the leg to a nearby town where the general was being treated.
5. Stonewall Jackson’s left arm has a famous grave.
The grave of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s left arm is well known. Jackson was returning from a reconnaissance of Union positions in 1863 when his own soldiers mistook him for the enemy. Pickets fired on him and injured his left arm which was later amputated.
Stonewall’s chaplain buried the arm near Chancellorsville while Jackson was taken to Fairfield Plantation, Virginia. Jackson was expected to make a recovery, but he died of pneumonia eight days after his injury. He is buried in Lexington, Virginia, 44 miles from his arm.
Some aircraft carriers are legends – either from long service like that of USS Enterprise (CVN 65) or with an unmatched war record like that of another USS Enterprise (CV 6).
They have either heroic sacrifices, the way USS Yorktown (CV 5) did at Midway, or they simply take a ton of abuse as USS Franklin (CV 13) did.
But some carriers just stink. You wouldn’t wish them on your worst enemy… or maybe you would, simply to make the war easier. There’s arguments on both sides of that. Here are the carriers that would prompt such an internal debate.
6. USS Ranger (CV 4)
When America was down to one carrier in the South Pacific in 1942, re-deploying America’s first purpose-built carrier, the USS Ranger (CV 4) was not considered as an option.
That tells you something about the ship. Her combat career was relatively brief, and she eventually was relegated to training duties. Still, she had a decent air group (mostly fighters and dive-bombers), so she is the best of this bad lot.
5. Admiral Kuznetsov Class (Kuznetsov, Liaoning, and unnamed Type 001A)
If you’ve read a lot of WATM, then you know about the Kuznetsov Follies. The crappy engines (the Russians send tugs along with her in case of breakdown), the splash landings, and the fact the Russians ended up using her as a glorified ferry all speak to real problems. In her favor, though, is the presence of 12 long-range anti-ship missiles on the lead ship, and she can fly MiG-29K and Su-33 Flankers off her deck. China’s versions carry J-15 fighters, but not the missiles.
4. Kiev class (Kiev, Minsk, Novorossiysk)
The Russian Kiev and her sisters are on here for a crap air wing.
The Yak-38 Forger was one of the worst planes to ever operate from a carrier. The Kiev gets a higher ranking largely because she had a lot of firepower, including eight SS-N-12 Sandbox missiles as well as a lot of SA-N-3 Goblets and point-defense systems, which were arguably more of a threat to the enemy than the planes she carried.
Yeah… that kinda has the whole purpose backwards. Now, a modern version with F-35Bs or even AV-8B+ Harriers and the Aegis system could be interesting.
3. HTMS Chakri Naruebet
The Chakri Naruebet from the Thai navy is on the list not so much for inherent problems, but because of substantial air wing neglect during the reign of King Bhumibol Adulyadej (aka Rana IX). Worse, the Thais officially call her an “offshore patrol helicopter carrier.”
They did buy some second-hand AV-8S Matadors from Spain. But most flunked the maintenance, and soon Thailand had one flyable jet. At least the Kievs had heavy firepower to make up for their crap air wing!
That said, his successor, King Vajiralongkorn, was a former fighter pilot, and hopefully will be able to turn things around.
2. Ise Class battleship/carrier hybrid conversions
Okay, in some ways, this is understandable. After the Battle of Midway, Japan needed carriers in the worst possible way. Ise and Hyuga are perfect examples of getting those “carriers” — in the worst possible way.
Initially built as battleships with a top speed of 23 knots, they got turned not into full carriers, which might have been useful. But a half-battleship/half-carrier holding 22 seaplanes (okay about 50 percent more than Hosho) that they could launch and recover wasn’t totally awful.
Remember that’s seaplanes, not Zeroes for fighter cover or strike planes. Granted Japan had the A6M-2 Rufe, a seaplane Zero, but this was a rush job, and it showed. At least they each had eight 14-inch guns.
1. HIJMS Hosho
This was the world’s first purpose-built aircraft carrier. But let’s be honest, the Japanese boat was a dog. It had a top speed of 25 knots, and it carried all of 15 planes. During the Battle of Midway, it had eight biplanes.
By comparison, USS Langley (CV 1), America’s first aircraft carrier, could carry 36 planes. Even with a top speed of 15 knots, she would have been useful escorting convoys in the Atlantic – if America hadn’t turned her into a seaplane tender to satisfy an arms-control treaty Japan violated anyhow.
Are there any bad carriers we missed? Let us know in the comments!
Medical treatment is a crucial element on the battlefield, helping keep troops in the fight and boost morale with the knowledge that if you’re hurt by the bad guys, someone’s got your back and will get you out of harms way.
While past wars featured medical evacuations draped over the shoulder of a comrade or on the back of a horse, technology has progressed to include a more effect way to get the wounded back to hospitals through the air.
In one of the first true MEDEVAC operations during the Siege of Paris in 1870, balloons were used to rescue civilians and soldiers in the Franco-Prussian war.
It’s reported that another of the first aerial MEDEVACs took place during World War I when an unknown Serbian officer flew a French Air Service plane with an injured comrade to a hospital. Back then, an injured soldier’s mortality rate decreased from 60 percent to 10 percent using aircraft to get them to medical care.
At this point, all documented MEDEVACs had involved fixed wing airplanes.
In April 1944, an Army Air Forces aircraft carrying Army Staff Sgt. Ed “Murphy” Hladovka and three wounded British soldiers was forced to land deep behind enemy lines near Mawlu, Burma. Then a brave Lt. Carter Harman flew his defenseless Sikorsky YR-4B into harms way, rescuing the four stranded men. The helicopter was so small it took four trips to lift everyone to safety.
Acclaimed aeronautical engineer Igor Sikorsky once said, “If a man is in need of rescue, an airplane can come in and throw flowers on him, and that’s just about all. But a direct lift aircraft could come in and save his life.”
During the Korean War, helicopters were more widely used in medical transport, spawning the growth of auxiliary surgical hospitals — later renamed to Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals, or “M.A.S.H.”
With this medical expansion considered a huge success, the U.S. began beefing up its medical wards on Navy ships, adding dozens of beds and expanding the number of surgical rooms to handle the incoming patients. An estimated 20,000 Americans had been successfully evacuated and treated during the war.
It wasn’t until Vietnam where things kicked into high gear. The UH-1 Huey was big enough that it could carry medical personnel and the wounded on the same bird. This reduced the mortality rate to one dead per 100 causalities.
Entering service in the 1970’s, the UH-60 Black Hawk provided even more room for medical personnel render more complicated medical treatments while in flight on multiple patients. Today, the Black Hawk is the go-to helo for MEDEVACs.
Equipped with the latest in defensive technology and maneuvering capabilities, the UH-60 Black Hawk has the ability to head out into some pretty dangerous situations and land on rough terrain to secure those men and women in need of top medical care.
Today, with the average response time decreasing, the survival rate for the wounded troops has reached an all-time high of a 92 percent.
The development of aerial refueling was one of the greatest leaps in fighter lethality. A fighter, just like any aircraft, consists of hundreds of tradeoffs—cost, payload, speed, stealth, size, weight, maneuverability, the list goes on and on. But, the Achilles heel of fighters has always been their fuel consumption.
At the heart of a modern jet like the F-16 or F-35 is an afterburning turbofan engine. The turbofan part is similar to an airliner, however the afterburner is a special section fitted to the aft-tailpipe that injects fuel and ignites it, similar to a flame thrower. This rapidly increases thrust, however the tradeoff is that it burns fuel at an incredible rate.
Members of the 18th Component Maintenance Squadron engine test facility, run an F-15 Eagle engine at full afterburner while checking for leaks and any other issues. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Omari Bernard)
I remember flying in an F-16 in afterburner while supersonic over the Yellow Sea and looking down to see a fuel-flow rate of over 50,000 lbs per hour. To put that into perspective, that’s similar to a fire-hose operating fully open—and that’s just a single engine, a twin-engine jet such as the F-15 or F-22 can double that. The problem is, topped off, I could only carry 7,000 pounds of fuel which was enough for me to fly at that fuel-setting for less than 10 minutes.
The reason we’re able to sacrifice fuel for incredible speed and maneuverability is because we can refuel in the air. The Air Force has over 450 airborne tankers, which are specially modified passenger aircraft that are filled with fuel. The backbone of our tanker fleet, the KC-135 Stratotanker is based on the Boeing 707, which amazingly has been flying aerial refueling operations since the 1950’s.
A 401st Tactical Fighter Wing F-16C Fighting Falcon aircraft refuels from a KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft as another F-16 stands by during Operation Desert Storm. (USAF Photo)
When we need fuel, we’ll pull up slightly behind and below the tanker. The tanker will then extend it’s boom, which is a 50 foot long tube with small flight control surfaces on it. The boomer, who sits in the back of the aircraft, then steers the boom using those control surfaces into the refueling receptacle of our aircraft.
Once contact is made, a seal forms and fuel starts transferring at several thousand pounds per minute. We’ll then continue to maintain that precise position using director lights on the bottom of the tanker until we’re topped off. The amount of time it takes depends on how much fuel is transferred, but generally takes about 5 to 10 minutes.
A U.S. Air Force pilot navigates an F-35A Lightning II aircraft assigned to the 58th Fighter Squadron, 33rd Fighter Wing into position to refuel with a KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to the 336th Air Refueling Squadron over the northwest coast of Florida. (USAF photo by MSgt John Nimmo Sr.)
Aerial refueling is a common part of most missions. When we take our jets to different exercises around the country, we’ll use tankers so we can fly nonstop. Tankers also allow us to double our training during a flight—we’ll fly our mission, refuel, and then fly it again. When we deploy, tankers allow us to cross vast swaths of ocean in one hop—I remember topping off 10 times on my way to Afghanistan. But, the most critical benefit of air refueling is it allows us to project and sustain air power.
Tankers allow us to fly indefinitely. Even if I was running my power settings as efficiently as possible, I could only stay airborne for about two hours, which translates into a combat radius of just a few hundred miles. That’s not nearly enough range to project power into another country and return home. With a tanker though, our combat radius can extend into the thousands of miles—we’re primarily limited by pilot fatigue.
By breaking the fighter range problem into two components—a fighter and a tanker— engineers were able to massively increase the performance and relevance of fighters in combat. A single formation of fighters can have a near strategic level impact on the battlefield.
Make sure to check back in two weeks for an in-cockpit play-by-play of how we rejoin with the tanker and refuel at 350 mph.
Want to know more about life as a fighter pilot? Check out Justin “Hasard” Lee’s video about a day in the life of a fighter pilot below:
Air Force Fighter Pilots | Ep. 5: A Day In The Life Of An Air Force Fighter Pilot
In 1939, the U.S. Coast Guard had been turning away recruits for years during the Great Depression. But, the Seattle office found itself with seven openings in September of that year and admitted seven new men to the force. One of them was future Signalman First Class Douglas Munro who would go on to earn a Medal of Honor at the Battle of Guadalcanal. He is the only Coast Guardsman to earn the award to date.
Douglas Munro was born to American parents in Vancouver, Canada in 1919, but grew up in Washington State. After one year of college, he enlisted in the Coast Guard. He volunteered for service aboard a Coast Guard cutter and was promoted. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the Coast Guard to man certain positions on Navy ships, Munro volunteered for service on the USS Hunter Liggett.
Munro saw service on different Navy ships, gaining rank and changing commands until becoming a signalman first class aboard the USS McCawley. Meanwhile, U.S. military planners had their eyes set on Guadalcanal, a strategic island chain in the Pacific that was part of the Solomon Islands. Guadalcanal was especially important because Japanese forces were building an airstrip on the island.
The Marines began their campaign on August 7, 1942. The airstrip was quickly captured but Japanese defenders maintained control of the westernmost portion of the island. A river separated most of the U.S. and Japanese territory. Repeated attempts by the Marines to cross the river were rebuffed by Japanese forces.
The Marines adopted a new plan, commanded by none other than then-Lt. Col. Chesty Puller, for three companies of Puller’s Marines to land at Port Cruz, a position north of the Japanese forces, and push their way south.
Munro commanded the ships for the assault, and things initially went smoothly. The Marines landed with no resistance and quickly pushed 500 yards inland without major incident. After dropping off the Marines, all but one ship returned to the American base.
But the Marines had walked past hidden Japanese positions, and their counterattack was brutal. A friend of Munro was in the landing craft that remained at the beach. Then-Signalman Raymond Evans described what happened next in a Coast Guard video.
“In the meantime, all our boats had gone back to the base except the major had requested we leave one boat behind, for immediate casualties. And so I stayed, I elected to stay behind and I had a coxswain named Sam Roberts from Portland, and the two of us were laying to in this LCP. Unfortunately, we laid too close to the beach and the Japanese fired an automatic weapon at us and hit Roberts, hit all the controls, the vacuum controls on the boat. I slammed it into “full-ahead” and we tore out of there and I tore back to the, to the base, four miles, and when I got to the base, I pulled it out of gear, but it wouldn’t come out of gear, so we ran up on the beach, which is a long sloping sand beach. Ran up on the beach the full length of the boat before it stopped.”
Roberts died during a medical evacuation. Soon after Evans returned to the American base, word came down that the Marines at Port Cruz were to be evacuated. Puller headed out to sea to personally supervise the Naval artillery fire covering the evacuation while the Coast Guard hopped into their boats to go and pick up the Marines. Evans moved into Munro’s boat for the return mission.
When the Coast Guard arrived at the beach, it was clear that the Marines were in a desperate position. They had 25 wounded and were under heavy fire. The beach was only five to six feet wide from the water to the jungle, and the Japanese were using the jungle for cover and concealment while firing on the Marines.
All of the Coast Guard boats were made of plywood and were susceptible to enemy fire. To allow the other ships time to load Marines and move out, Munro and Evans began laying cover fire with the .30-cal. machine guns, the heaviest weapons the small landing force had. Under the cover of the Naval bombardment and the Coast Guard machine guns, the Marines were able to scramble onto the small craft.
When the other ships were clear, Munro and Evans began their own slog back to the American parts of the island. On their way, they saw one of the landing craft stuck on a sand bar. Munro again ordered the ship stopped to assist the beached craft even though the nearby shoreline was controlled by Japanese forces.
Munro, Evans, and an engineer managed to pull the ship back into the water so it could make good its escape. Once Munro’s craft was finally headed out, Evans spotted Japanese forces placing a machine gun. He yelled a warning to Munro, but the engines drowned out his yell. Munro was struck in the base of the skull by a single bullet and died before reaching the operating base.
Leadership is paramount to the success of any army. Leaders not only make life and death decisions but directly control the climate and quality of life of their subordinates.
But what is the real definition of leadership? Field Manual 6-22, Leader Development, defines leadership as “the process of influencing people by providing purpose, direction, and motivation to accomplish the mission and improve the organization.”
We will discuss 12 fundamental leadership principles, as well as several educational and inspirational historical examples. Experienced leaders should already practice these principles; however, I have learned through personal experience never to assume anything. Therefore, we will start the series by examining the first four leadership principles — lead from the front, self-confidence vs. egotism, moral courage, and physical courage.
1. Lead from the front
Taught to lead by example, leaders inspire their soldiers to perform deeds of heroism and sacrifice, which often requires suppression of natural feelings such as fear. Leaders do not encourage their soldiers by saying, “onward,” but rather, “follow me,” the very apropos motto of the U.S. Army Infantry School.
To inspire troops, leaders must instill a pervasive attitude to motivate their troops to advance under withering fire or hold a seemingly untenable position. To accomplish this, leaders must be present at the forward edge of the battle area so their soldiers will follow their example and respect their judgment, leadership ability, and tactical knowledge.
2. Have self-confidence, not egoism
“As I gain in experience, I do not think more of myself but less of others.” -Gen. George S. Patton Jr.
While a platoon of soldiers is wary of going into action with an inexperienced leader, a smart platoon leader can mitigate this problem by seeking instruction and mentorship from the platoon sergeant, a role that noncommissioned officers have embraced since the rise of professional armies.
Any leader worth his stuff has confidence, but excessive egotism is usually indicative of a lack of assurance. A show of bravado in advance of a mission or the face of the enemy is acceptable; however, an abundance of cockiness is liable to portend a horrible day for all concerned. Below are examples of egotism that not only affected the leaders but their troops as well.
Gen. George S. Patton
-Gen. George S. Patton knew a thing or two about projecting confidence. He could change at will and put on his “war face,” followed by a speech, filled with “blood and guts,” to motivate his men.
Patton believed he was the most distinguished soldier who ever lived. He convinced himself that he would never falter through doubt. This faith in himself encouraged his men of the Second American Corps in Africa, and the Third Army in France, to believe they could achieve ultimate victory under his leadership.
3. Moral courage
“It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.”
Doing the right thing, regardless of the consequences, is moral courage. An outstanding example is Gen. George Washington, whose legacy as the commander of the Continental Army and the first President of the United States remains among the greatest in American history.
Washington was one of the most experienced military leaders in the Thirteen Colonies, having served with the English during the French and Indian War in 1755.
Selected as a delegate to the Continental Congress, he was selected as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army in 1775. Although Washington lost most of the battles during the Revolutionary War, he kept the Army together and built a strong coalition with the French when they intervened in the war.
According to historian Gordon Wood, Washington’s most significant act was his resignation as commander of the armies — an act that stunned aristocratic Europe. Many believed Washington could have been a dictator if he had chosen so.
4. Physical courage
“There were all kinds of things I was afraid of at first, ranging from grizzly bears to ‘mean’ horses and gun-fighters; but by acting as if I was not afraid, I gradually ceased to be afraid.” -President Theodore Roosevelt
Because the life of a soldier is fraught with danger, courage is a requirement for every military leader. soldiers, who do their duty regardless of fear and risk to life or limb, perform bravery on the battlefield. As a result, there are numerous examples of the American soldiers’ courage.
For instance, during World War II, 2nd Lt. Audie L. Murphy became (at the time) the most decorated soldier in American history. Ironically, he had been turned down for enlistment by the Marines, Navy, and Army paratroopers because of his physique.
On January 26, 1945, at Holtzwihr, Germany, Murphy ordered his men to withdraw from an attack of enemy tanks and infantry. During the withdrawal, he mounted a burning tank destroyer and fired its .50 caliber machine gun for more than an hour, killing 50 Germans, stalling the attack, and forcing the enemy to withdraw. Although wounded, he led his men in a counterattack and was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.
As role models, leaders must lead from the front and display courage to motivate their soldiers. However, it is important to maintain an acceptable level of confidence without it turning into excessive egotism. There is no “I” in team and success comes as a result of the soldiers’ trust in their leader and their ability to work together.
5. Foster teamwork
“It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” -President Harry S. Truman
When accomplishing the mission, teamwork is more important than personal recognition, thus the famous quote, “There is no ‘I’ in team.” Today’s military often functions in joint operations, which consist of other branches as well as coalition partners. Therefore, an experienced leader cannot favor individuals but must foster cooperation with all team members.
An excellent example of such leadership is General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, who despite the challenges of making multiple countries’ militaries work together during World War II, built a coalition of U.S., British, French, and Canadian forces.
“I could never face a body of officers without emphasizing one word — teamwork,” he said.
6. Have fitness and energy
“Utterly fearless, full of drive and energy, he was always up front where the battle was fiercest. If his opponent made a mistake, Rommel was on it like a flash.” -Lt. Gen. Sir Brian Horrocks
If leaders follow the principle of leading from the front, then they must be physically fit and energetic to meet the demands of leadership on the battlefield. Leaders who possess such endurance can lead a platoon of hard chargers to fix bayonets and take the high ground.
Former Olympic athlete Gen. George S. Patton advocated for fitness long before it became a standard requirement for the modern day soldier. Assuming command of the I Armored Corps on January 15, 1942, Patton laid out his expectations.
“As officers, we must give leadership in becoming tough, physically and mentally,” he said. “Every man in this command must be able to run a mile in fifteen minutes with a full military pack.”
When an overweight senior officer guffawed, Patton angrily resumed, “I mean every man. Every officer and enlisted man, staff and command, every man will run a mile! We will start in exactly thirty minutes! I will lead!”
7. Be aggressive and bold
“An army of deer led by a lion is more to be feared than an army of lions led by a deer.” -Phillip of Macedonia
A leader must be bold and aggressive. Many of history’s most triumphant generals, such as Frederick the Great and Adm. Horatio Nelson, to name a few, embodied these qualities.
-Frederick the Great
Frederick the Great built his army into the one of the most formidable in history. He was a bold general and used his infantry’s swift maneuvering to confound and crush his enemies. This was the case at three of his most significant victories: the Battle of Hohenfriedberg in 1745 and the battles of Rossbach and Leuthen in 1757.
The Battle of Prague (1757), in which Frederick invaded Bohemia during the Third Silesian War (Seven Years’ War) is a prime example of his audacity. With England as his only ally, he faced Austrian, French, Russian, Saxon, and Swedish forces, and though he came close to defeat many times, he finally won the war.
-Adm. Horatio Nelson
Considered one of the most historically audacious naval leaders, Nelson faced the “Armed Neutrality,” made up of the Russian, Prussian, Danish, and Swedish fleets, at the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801.
The battle started badly for the British and the fleet commander, Adm. Sir Hyde Parker, ordered Nelson to withdraw. Nelson was informed of the signal by one of his officers and angrily responded, “I told you to look out on the Danish Commodore and let me know when he surrendered. Keep your eyes fixed on him.” He then turned to his flag captain, and said, “You know, Foley, I have only one eye. I have a right to be blind sometimes.” He raised the telescope to his blind eye and said, “I really do not see the signal.”
In the end, the British fleet won, thus making the Battle of Copenhagen one of Nelson’s greatest victories.
8. Take care of your soldiers
“The badge of rank that an officer wears on his coat is really a symbol of servitude to his men.” -Maj. Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor
A competent leader preserves combat power by putting his soldiers first and doing the most to improve their situation. You will gain soldiers’ trust by making sure they are well equipped, fed, and rested. Beyond meeting their basic needs, it is also essential to be an advocate and ensure they receive proper recognition for their achievements. The U.S. Army prioritizes this as “the mission, the men, and me.”
One of Alexander the Great’s leadership qualities was the ability to place his men first.
After covering more than 400 miles in 11 days, Alexander and his soldiers were nearly dead from thirst. Some Macedonians had brought back a few bags of water from a distant river, and they offered Alexander a helmet-full. Although his mouth was so dry that he was nearly choking, he gave back the helmet with his thanks and explained that there was not enough for everyone, and if he drank, then the others would faint. When his men saw this, they spurred their horses forward and shouted for him to lead them. With such a king, they said, they would defy any hardships.
Training and caring for your soldiers ultimately leads to unit success. It is crucial to remember there is no “I” in team and even the most well-known leaders, such as Eisenhower, needed to foster teamwork and unit cohesion to accomplish goals that would have been impossible to achieve otherwise. However, to create unity, leaders must have the determination and decisiveness to overcome challenges they and their units experience.
The General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award.
(U.S. Army photo by Maj. Brett Walker)
9. Be a student of the past
“The only right way of learning the science of war is to read and reread the campaigns of the great captains.” -Napoleon
History offers a wealth of information to those who have the foresight to examine it. In addition to obtaining vital technical and tactical knowledge, soldiers can learn by studying how past leaders performed in the fog of war.
Gen. George Patton was a consummate warrior, known for studying history and acquiring an impressive library of professional military books during his lifetime. At an early age, he chose to become a soldier. His father nurtured him in the classics, as well as the lore of the Patton family, which was composed of military leaders, including two uncles who were Confederate officers killed in battle.
Unfortunately, Patton had dyslexia, a learning disability not well known or diagnosed at the time. He realized, however, that with determination and constant effort, he could pursue military studies and achieve his goal of becoming a great leader.
He understood the military profession required immense technical competence, knowledge of weapons and equipment, tactics and operations, and maneuvers and logistics. Therefore, he expended vast amounts of time and energy in reading and making copious notes in the pages of his books, making him not only familiar with the field and technical manuals of his time, but also knowledgeable about history.
10. Be decisive
“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” -President Theodore Roosevelt
In war, lack of decisiveness can have fatal consequences. Once you make up your mind, stick to your decision. Never show yourself to be indecisive.
When Julius Caesar refused to lay down his military command and return to Rome at the end of Gallic Wars, he said, “The die is cast,” thus making it clear that his choice was irrevocable.
In 1805, during the Napoleonic Wars, Napoleon’s empire was threatened by England, Russia, and Austria. During this period, Napoleon was able to compel the Austrian army to surrender without firing a shot through rapid marching and maneuvers.
As a final example, in 1862, at the Battle of Mobile Bay during the American Civil War, Confederate mines blocked Union Adm. David Farragut’s path during an attempt to attack a Confederate Navy squadron to seize three forts guarding the bay entrance. In a decisive statement, Farragut said, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.”
11. Show determination
“You are never beaten until you admit it.” -Gen. George S. Patton Jr.
A leader must show determination even when others do not. This “never say die” attitude is necessary for your soldiers to be tirelessly persistent during desperate, bleak, or challenging situations.
Brig. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe, acting commander of the 101st Airborne Division during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, is an excellent example. In December 1944, at Bastogne, Belgium, the Germans sent a demand for his surrender. He responded by saying, “Nuts.”
To articulate the resolve and determination of his countrymen, Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister, gave a number of inspiring speeches during World War II:
-Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat
“I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this government: I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering.
You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory. Victory at all costs — victory in spite of all terror — victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory, there is no survival.”
-We Shall Fight on the Beaches
“We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”
-Their Finest Hour
“Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.'”
12. Be strong of character
“Duty, Honor, Country. Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be.” -Gen. Douglas MacArthur
Gen. of the Army Douglas MacArthur was a historical leader who embodied the definition of strong character. He was a renowned general who won many battles against numerically superior and better-equipped foes and was awarded the Medal of Honor for defending the Philippines during World War II.
MacArthur did not accept anything but the best, even during times of peace, which was evident when he trained the 1927 American Olympic team. With his commanding presence, he pulled together a strong team, retorting, “Americans never quit,” in response to the U.S. boxing team manager who wanted to withdraw from the competition due to an unfair decision.
In his acceptance speech for the Sylvanus Thayer Award, one of the most eloquent expressions of leadership principles ever delivered, MacArthur’s words speak to today’s soldiers, especially NCOs who are “warrior-leaders of strong character”:
“Duty, Honor, Country. Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be … They build your basic character. They mold you for your future roles as the custodians of the Nation’s defense. They make you strong enough to know when you are weak, and brave enough to face yourself when you are afraid.”
It is a tremendous honor, as an NCO, to lead soldiers and along with this honor comes the responsibility to do it well. An ideal Army NCO has a sharp intellect, physical presence, professional competence, high moral character, and serves as a role model. He or she is willing to act decisively, within the intent and purpose of those appointed over them and in the best interest of the organization. They recognize organizations built on mutual trust and confidence accomplish peacetime and wartime missions.
An NCO, who is proficient in some of these 12 principles, but deficient in others, will have a detrimental effect on mission success, morale, and the efficacy of leadership. It is therefore imperative that all leaders build competency in all principles and become well rounded.
The men and women of the U.S. military have made countless sacrifices in the service of our great nation. They deserve the best leadership that we can offer, and it is our sacred duty to give it to them.
But as YouTuber “Bloke on the Range” shows in the video below, it’s actually very unlikely that the enemy would gain any real advantage from the M1 Garand’s sound.
And many veterans of World War II interviewed after the wars said they actually preferred to have the sound as a useful reminder to reload.
To get a grip on the controversy, imagine being a young G.I. in combat in World War II. You’re moving up on a suspected Japanese position with a fully loaded M1 Garand. You catch a bit of movement and realize the small mounds on the ground in front of you are actually enemy helmets poking up from a trench.
You drop into a good firing position and start throwing rounds down range. With seven shots, you kill one and wound another. Your eighth shot reinforces the man’s headache, but it also causes the ping, telling the attentive third Japanese soldier that you’re completely out of ammo.
The theory states that that’s when the third soldier jumps up and kills you. But there are a couple issues with the theory.
First, in the chaos of combat, it would be uncommon for an enemy to hear the clip ejecting over the sound of the fight. Second, soldiers typically fight as a group, so the G.I. in the hypothetical should actually have five to nine other soldiers with him, and it’s unlikely that more than one or two of them would be out of ammo at the same time.
Third, as the Bloke demonstrates, it doesn’t take long for the shooter to reload, putting them back in the fight and ready to kill any enemy soldiers running to take advantage of the ammo gap.
ArmamentResearch.com found a 1952 Technical Memorandum where researchers asked veterans who carried the rifle what they thought of the ping. Out of 315 responders, 85 thought that the ping was helpful to the enemy, but a whopping 187 thought it was more useful to the shooter by acting as a useful signal to reload.
An article by a Chief Warrant Officer 5 Charles D. Petrie after he reportedly spoke to German veterans of D-Day who found the idea of attacking after a ping laughable. They reported that, in most engagements, they couldn’t hear the ping at all, and the rest of the time they were too aware of the rest of the American squad to try to take advantage of it.