This soldier fought off a German tank with his pistol - We Are The Mighty
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This soldier fought off a German tank with his pistol

On Dec. 16, 1944, the Germans launched a massive offensive into the Ardennes Forest that caught the Allies off guard. As the Battle of the Bulge erupted, depleted American forces were rushed into the lines to shore up the defense. One of those units was the 1st Infantry Division’s 26th Infantry Regiment.


One of the veterans of the battalion, Henry Warner, was assigned to lead a 57mm anti-tank gun section in the battalion’s anti-tank company.

Warner had joined the Army at the age of 19 in January of 1943. After being assigned to the 1st Infantry Division, he fought through northern Europe with the 26th Infantry Regiment and received a promotion to Corporal.

When the Germans launched their major offensive, known to them as Operation Watch on the Rhine, Warner and the rest of his outfit were regrouping in Belgium after bitter fighting.

This soldier fought off a German tank with his pistol
U.S. troops of the 26th infantry at Butgenbach positioning an anti-tank gun. (U.S. Army Center for Military History)

The 26th Infantry Regiment had been engaged in the brutal fighting in the Hürtgen Forest. The second battalion had been particularly hard hit. The unit had been so depleted that nine out of every ten men in the battalion were green replacements — and they were still understrength. At the outset of the Battle of the Bulge, only seven officers in the entire unit had been with the battalion the previous month.

While the 2nd and 99th Infantry Divisions blunted the initial German thrust at Elsenborn Ridge, the 1st Infantry Division went south to shore up the defenses and stop any attempts of an encirclement by the Germans. Linking up with the 99th Infantry Division was the 2nd Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment. The battalion commander dispersed his understrength unit to hold the Belgian town of Butgenbach.

The defenders at Butgenbach just happened to be right in the way of the planned German assault.

Although the 2nd Battalion was short on many things, including men, machine guns, and grenades, they were determined to hold the line.

This soldier fought off a German tank with his pistol
U.S. troops defend their position near Luxembourg in Jan. 1945. (U.S. National Archives)

Stationed along a pivotal roadway was Warner’s anti-tank gun section. Thanks to the valiant efforts of the 2nd and 99th Infantry Divisions, Warner and his men had ample time to dig in and prepare their positions.

The first German attacks came on Dec. 19, but were beaten back by the American forces. The Germans then continued to probe American lines throughout the night.

On the morning of Dec. 20, the Germans came hard down the road manned by Warner and his men. At least ten German tanks supported by infantry fought their way into the American position. All along the line Americans and Germans engaged in close combat.

Anti-tank gunners and bazookas blasted the German tanks at point blank range as they tried to drive through the lines.

On that morning, three German tanks approached Warner’s position. Manning his 57mm gun, he promptly knocked out the first tank with a well-placed shot.

As the tanks continued to advance, Warner skillfully lined up another shot and put a second German tank out of action.

As the third tank neared his position, Warner’s gun jammed. He fought to clear the jam until the German tank was within only a few yards. Then, in a move that can only be deemed crazy, Warner jumped from his gun pit brandishing his .45 caliber 1911 pistol.

With the German tank right on top of him — and disregarding the intense fire all around from the attacking German infantry — Warner engaged the commander of the German tank in a pistol duel. Warner outgunned the German, killing him, and forcing his now leaderless tank to withdraw from the fight.

This soldier fought off a German tank with his pistol
U.S. troops march a German prisoner past a burning Nazi tank. (U.S. Army Signal Corps photo | Dec. 17, 1944)

Supporting American artillery broke up the German infantry assault and, along with Warner’s heroics, had repelled the German attack.

Warner and the rest of the battalion continued to resist the German onslaught, turning back numerous infantry advances. The Germans rained down mortar and artillery fire throughout the rest of the day and that night, as well.

The next morning the Germans came in force once again. And once again Warner was manning his 57mm gun. As a Panzer Mark IV emerged into Warner’s view, he engaged it with precision fire. He set the tanks engine on fire but paid for it with a blast from a German machinegun.

Not out of the fight, Warner ignored his injuries and struggled to reload his gun and finish off the German tank. A second burst from a German machine gun cut him down before he could complete his task.

For his actions in stopping the German attacks, Cpl. Warner was awarded the Medal of Honor.

The rest of the 26th Infantry Regiment, spurred on by the bravery of soldiers like Warner, held its position against repeated German attacks.

The 1st Infantry Division, along with the 2nd, 9th, and 99th Infantry Divisions, now made up the northern shoulder of “the Bulge” and the strict time table for the attack was severely behind schedule.

Articles

Hollywood’s best and worst fictional US Presidents

Not all presidents have an equal place in history (looking at you, James Buchanan), and not all fictional presidents have an equal place in Hollywood. If you were a great President, you get Daniel Day-Lewis portraying you on screen. If you were a terrible President, Hollywood would rather make up a fake President than make a movie about you.


This soldier fought off a German tank with his pistol
Suck it, Buchanan.

There are two criteria for this list. First, this about fictional U.S. Presidents, so even though Daniel Day-Lewis’ Abraham Lincoln was the greatest President to appear on screen ever, he doesn’t qualify. Also, the most consequential aspect of the U.S. Presidency to WATM’s military audience is the President’s role as Commander-In-Chief of the armed forces, so as much as we all loved Kevin Kline’s Dave Kovic’s Bill Mitchell from the 1993 movie “Dave,” America never really faced a crisis in the film.

This soldier fought off a German tank with his pistol
That sentence only makes sense if you’ve seen the movie. Pre-9/11 America was fun.

BEST

Josiah Bartlet – “The West Wing”

Jed Bartlett was Plato’s ideal philosopher king. Not content to simply make America the best country it can be on the home front, he deploys peacekeeping troops to finally take care of that pesky Israeli-Palestinian Conflict everyone has been talking about. He also confronts terrorists by assassinating their patron, ends a genocide in Africa, and deploys 140,000 troops to Kazakhstan. 140,000? That’s a lot of troops.

This soldier fought off a German tank with his pistol
President Bartlet apparently learned global military strategy from playing Risk.

Thomas J. Whitmore – “Independence Day”

Despite some early setbacks (like nuking Houston), some dubious advisors (he only learned about Area 51 because of an old widower who somehow got aboard Air Force One), and waking up for work at 10 am, President Whitmore is a Commander-In-Chief who wanted to take the fight to the enemy at the first opportunity. Sure, his administration wasn’t the best (approval rating was 40 percent before the invasion … how do you like him now?) but he sure disproved the pundits who called him a wimp when he led freaking fleets of aircraft against aliens with shields and lasers.

This soldier fought off a German tank with his pistol
It could only have been more awesome if he flew an A-10.

Tom Beck – “Deep Impact”

Yes, that guy from Armageddon hatched some cockamamie scheme to send oil rig workers to an asteroid. Morgan Freeman’s President Tom Beck did come up with a similar plan, but also planned on that first plan not working, because honestly, does it sound like the best plan for averting a global catastrophe? The answer is no. The President of the United States had to try something. He couldn’t just send 800,000 Americans underground to rebuild civilization later and bid good luck to the rest. He did that, but he tried to save everyone else too.

This soldier fought off a German tank with his pistol
I would watch every political speech if it were in this voice.

David Palmer – “24”

When confronted with the possibility that a loose nuclear weapon could be detonated in the United States, President Palmer does exactly what every other President, real or imagined, probably wishes they could do: Call Jack Bauer. He reinstates Agent Bauer, who finds the bomb and detonates it in a safe place, within 24 hours. He’s also smart enough not to start bombing countries because of some fake recordings. For all his trouble, he’s removed from office, then assassinated. We didn’t deserve President Palmer anyway.

This soldier fought off a German tank with his pistol
We were in such good hands, too.

President Henry Fonda – “Fail-Safe”

Imagine being President and accidentally ordering a nuclear attack on Moscow in response to a perceived missile attack. Now imagine that missile attack isn’t real, but you can’t call off the bombing of Moscow. When your bombers nuke the Russian capital, would you be able to make a deal with the Russians to nuke New York yourself in order to avert a global war? Could you do it while your wife is in New York? I’m guessing not. But Henry Fonda could.

This soldier fought off a German tank with his pistol
The producers of Fail Safe could at least have given the President a name.

Honorable Mention: Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho – “Idiocracy”

Some might argue that President Camacho both enabled his stupid people while being one of them, but realizing the problem of not being able to grow food while being smart enough to enlist a smart guy to fix that problem is some good Presidenting.

This soldier fought off a German tank with his pistol

 

WORST

Merkin Muffley – “Dr. Strangelove”

This soldier fought off a German tank with his pistol

If someone is the President of the United States during a time where nuclear annihilation was just a button push (or case of mistaken identity) away, one would think they might learn everything there is to know about how nuclear war could be triggered from their side. President Muffley had no idea. Granted, he tries to talk everyone down and prevent the attack on the USSR, but it would have been averted entirely if he had just known what the hell his own military was capable of in the first place.

Benjamin Asher – “Olympus Has Fallen”

 

This soldier fought off a German tank with his pistol
I sure hope he’s getting advice from a *good* President here.

North Koreans take over the White House, execute the South Korean Prime Minister, and take President Asher and some of his Cabinet hostage, looking to remove U.S. forces from the Korean Peninsula and detonate American nuclear missiles in their silos. To do this (why is this even an option?), he needs three sets of “Cerberus codes,” which he promptly orders two of his cabinet secretaries to give up in exchange for their lives, obviously not realizing there is a situation where millions of American lives are at stake, and is bigger than just what’s happening in front of him.

James Dale – “Mars Attacks”

Even in the face of unprecedented violence, a Martian invasion, and the Martians slaughtering Congress, President Dale still sought a diplomatic solution.

This soldier fought off a German tank with his pistol
America can do better. I mean, we *could* have, but now we’re enslaved by Martians.

James Marshall “Air Force One”

Harrison Ford plays President James Marshall, a Medal of Honor recipient in his previous time in the U.S. military. Now, Air Force One is hijacked by Russians posing as journalists (because anyone can get aboard Marshall’s Air Force One, apparently). After allowing many on board to get killed, he almost brings down the Air Force pararescue jumpers and C-130 crews who rescue him in the end because he just won’t leave the stupid plane. Also, for a Medal of Honor recipient, he sure doesn’t fight, move, or hold a weapon like someone trained to fight.

The President from ‘Escape from New York’

If you’re going to allow the borough of Manhattan to be a contained prison just for inmates with life sentences, why would you allow Air Force One to fly over it? Also, how are so many people taking over Air Force One in these movies? It’s so easy for people in movies to take that plane, unless you’re the good guys. Steven Seagal died trying to sneak aboard the President’s jet in “Executive Decision,” but some dudes can take it over while the POTUS is carrying secret bomb plans in “Escape from New York.”

This soldier fought off a German tank with his pistol
I hope Snake Plissken ran against him before his second term.

Dishonorable Mention – Julian Navarro – “The Brink”

Tim Robbins’ Secretary of State Walter Larsen should have been the President on this show. It was like the actual President didn’t know anything at all about the modern world’s trouble spots, his intelligence assets, or how to deal with any of it. His first response is just to bomb the crap out of everything at the suggestion of his Secretary of Defense.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why you don’t hear about the German Navy on D-Day

Think of D-Day. What do you see? Probably the U.S. Navy pounding the shores with artillery as Army soldiers landed in boats driven by Coast Guardsmen as German soldiers rained artillery and machine gun fire while Luftwaffe pilots bombed and strafed the landing zones.

Notably absent: The German Navy. You almost certainly have no idea what the German Navy was doing during the invasion, and that’s because they weren’t doing much.


D-Day: Where was the Kriegsmarine? – Normandy Landings (Neptune / Overlord)

www.youtube.com

The problems for the Kriegsmarine dated to well before the war. In fact, a lot of it dates back to the formation of the Earth as well as the last few mass extinctions. Germany doesn’t have a lot of natural resources, especially the ones necessary for large ship construction.

Germany had the iron, but most of its coal is low-quality brown coal, and their oil and natural gas reserves are very limited. Worse, they have very limited port access, so what ships they do have can be fairly easily contained with a blockade. Because of these strategic and industrial limitations, Germany has historically maintained a navy smaller and weaker than its rivals. Germany’s navy was so weak in World War II that they even pressed a sailing ship into active service.

But Germany did have a navy in World War II, and its U-boats were small but lethal, so they still should’ve had an impact at D-Day, right?

Well, they could have, but there were more issues. Britain and the U.S. had gone all out to convince German high command that D-Day at Normandy was a feint, creating an entire fake army helmed by Gen. George S. Patton, Jr. that would supposedly land later at a deepwater port on the French coast.

So, many of Germany’s D-Day decisions were made with the belief that a second, larger invasion could be coming somewhere else. And they didn’t want to risk their minuscule naval forces on what could be an Allied feint. Worse, the Allies had learned about how to kill U-boats on the surface in the Atlantic. So, any underwater boats actually deployed would be extremely vulnerable.

This soldier fought off a German tank with his pistol

All these ships, none of them German.

(U.S. Army)

So, the submarines couldn’t deploy in broad daylight as D-Day got underway, knowing that any subs spotted leaving the safety of the harbor would be quickly hunted down and killed. One group of three torpedo ships did risk Allied wrath by slipping out to attack at Sword beach, successfully sinking a Norwegian destroyer.

That night, U-boats attempted to slip out and disturb the ongoing landings at Normandy, but they were quickly repulsed with two sunk and four heavily damaged. The Allies had sub-hunting planes that could detect German subs on the surface with radar, even in the middle of a dark night.

So, only U-boats with snorkels — those that didn’t need to surface — were viable. And Germany only had 14 left within range of the beaches. That’s partially because D-Day came in 1944, 13 months after the U.S. and Britain had savaged the German vessels in Black May.

So, for weeks, German U-boats were pinned in, and most of the German Navy was similarly limited. Eventually, they broke out and were able to inflict losses on Allied landing and logistics forces. But only eight Allied ships were lost to U-boats off the coast of Normandy at the cost of 20 German U-boats.

The surface story was similar. The Kriegsmarine was simply too small and too underpowered to take on the Allied fleet, and so it was doomed to failure.

Not that it was a bad thing since, you know, they were trying to stop the invading force that would later liberate the concentration camps.

Veterans

This medic criss-crossed an IED belt for hours to save wounded Rangers

Spc. Bryan C. Anderson was part of an Army Ranger assault force sent after a high-value target in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan on Oct. 5, 2013. When the team landed, an insurgent successfully fled the target building and began running away. An element of soldiers moved to catch him but they were struck by a suicide bomber and triggered two pressure plate IEDs.


Anderson rushed to the aid of the wounded even though he knew they were in the middle of a pressure plate IED belt.

Related: This Army medic killed over a dozen insurgents with grenades and mortars during an 8-day battle

“I wasn’t concerned with my life,” Anderson said in an Army Times interview. “I was concerned that I had buddies who were bleeding out back on the compound.”

Over the next few hours, Anderson crisscrossed the IED belt treating the wounded.

During a particularly harrowing 30 minutes, seven IEDs detonated within 10 meters of Anderson, according to his official award citation. Though some of his patients from that night died, two severely injured Rangers survived because Anderson continued rendering aid despite experiencing his own traumatic brain injuries.

“The whole time I’ve been in Regiment, I’ve taken my job very seriously,” Anderson told an Army journalist. “Sometimes you are the only medical provider on the ground and when something bad does happen, all of a sudden you become the leader and everybody looks to you for what to do next. I wanted to be that calm voice in the middle of all the chaos on what the next step needed to be.”

Anderson was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and named the Army Special Operations Medic of the Year in 2014.

Watch the video below on YouTube to learn more about Anderson and his achievements as an Army ranger.

Articles

This ‘El Sal’ soldier kicked *ss with just a switchblade

In 2012, knife manufacturer Condor named a new tactical switchblade after Cpl. Samuel Toloza, one of 380 El Salvadorans who fought in Operation Iraqi Freedom.


Corporal Toloza was part of a small force of Central Americans in Najaf, Iraq in 2004. The El Salvadoran force made their way from their main base to an outpost of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps where they suddenly found themselves surrounded by elements of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army .

 

This soldier fought off a German tank with his pistol
Toloza deployed to Iraq in 2004 (via Samuel Toloza)

 

Toloza’s unit was caught by surprise when the insurgents attacked. The “El Sals” withheld using their heavier guns for fear of inflicting civilian casualties, but sniper fire and RPGs were taking its toll on the small force.

They fought the Mahdi Army for hours but soon ran out of ammunition. With one dead and twelve wounded, the four remaining Central Americans tried desperately to hold on.

“I thought, `This is the end.’ But at the same time, I asked the Lord to protect and save me,” Toloza told reporter Denis Gray in 2004.

They moved the wounded to their truck and tried to get back to their main base. That’s when insurgents tried to kidnap one of Toloza’s wounded comrades.

Bad move.

The young corporal said a prayer and pulled a 3-inch pocket switchblade, his last weapon, on the attackers. Toloza stabbed anyone who came near his friends, no matter what weapons they carried. Horrified and completely surprised by the ferocity of an El Salvadoran on a stabbing rampage, the insurgent fighters backed off.

 

This soldier fought off a German tank with his pistol
Toloza after the fighting in 2004. (via Samuel Toloza)

“We never considered surrender. I was trained to fight until the end,” the then-25-year-old Toloza told the Washington Times.

Toloza was able to keep knifing the insurgent fighters long enough for an American relief column to arrive. When the Americans saw how Toloza managed to save his entire unit, they awarded him the Bronze Star for valor.

This soldier fought off a German tank with his pistol
Toloza’s knife in 2014.

 

Toloza had just picked up the switchblade at a quick PX stop before heading out, the BBC World Service reported. It cost him a dollar.

Salvadoran media dubbed him “El Rambo Salvadororeño.”

For the records, Condor’s 6-inch “Toloza” model is 3 inches longer than the actual switchblade Cpl. Toloza used to save his entire unit from annihilation.

Articles

This is how many of some of the most heroic WW2 planes are left

According to a 2014 report by USA Today, 413 World War II vets die each day on average. However, the men (and women) who served in uniform are not the only things vanishing with time.


Many of the planes flown in World War II are also departing one by one from the skies.

In one sense, it may not be surprising – after all, World War II has been over for 72 years. But here are the production totals of some of the most famous planes: There were 20,351 Spitfires produced in World War II. Prior to a crash at a French air show near Verdun in June, there were only 54 flying. That’s less than .3 percent of all the Spitfires ever built.

This soldier fought off a German tank with his pistol
Spitfire LF Mk IX, MH434 being flown by Ray Hanna in 2005. The Spitfire served with the USAAF in the Mediterranean Theater from 1942-1944. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Of the over 15,000 US P-51 Mustangs built, less than 200 are still flyable – about one percent of the production run. Of 12,571 F4U Corsairs built, roughly 50 are airworthy. Of 3,970 B-29 Superfortresses built, only two are flying today.

Much of this is due to the ravages of time or accidents. The planes get older, the metal gets fatigued, or a pilot makes a mistake, or something unexpected happens, and there is a crash.

This soldier fought off a German tank with his pistol
Fifi, one of only two flying Boeing B-29 Superfortresses. (Photo by Ilikerio via Wikimedia Commons)

Finding the spare parts to repair the planes also becomes harder – and more expensive – as time passes. A 2016 Air Force release noted that it took 17 years to get the B-29 bomber nicknamed “Doc” flyable. Kansas.com reported that over 350,000 volunteer hours were spent restoring that B-29.

Many of the planes built in World War II were either scrapped or sold off – practically given away – when the United States demobilized after that conflict.

This soldier fought off a German tank with his pistol
P-47 P-51 — Flying Legends 2012 — Duxford (Photo by Airwolfhound)

As David Campbell said in “The Longest Day” while sitting at the bar, “The thing that’s always worried me about being one of the few is the way we keep on getting fewer.” Below, you can see the crash of the Spitfire at the French air show – and one of the few flyable World War II planes proves how true that statement is beyond the veterans.

Articles

These are the Air Force’s 10 most expensive planes to operate

1. E-4 Nightwatch

This soldier fought off a German tank with his pistol


Who knew the President’s mobile command post was an E-4? With all the latest and greatest gear to keep flying in the midst of all-out nuclear war and all its top secret countermeasures, it should come as no surprise that each of the Air Force’s four converted 747s cost $159,529 per hour to fly.

2. B-2 Spirit

This soldier fought off a German tank with his pistol
A KC-135 Stratotanker from Altus Air Force Base, Okla., refuels a B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber from Whiteman AFB, Mo., during a refueling training mission (U.S. Air Force photo)

The B-2 literally costs more than its weight in gold. The Air Force’s 20 B-2 bombers run along a similar price tag: $130,159 per hour.

3. C-5 Galaxy

This soldier fought off a German tank with his pistol
Ground crews unload a U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from a U.S. Air Force C-5 Galaxy transport aircraft at Bagram Airfield, in Parwan province, Afghanistan. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Henry Chan)

The largest of the USAF cargo haulers, the C-5 can carry two Abrams tanks, ten armored fighting vehicles, a chinook helicopter, an F-16, or an A-10 and only costs $100,941 an hour to get the stuff to the fight.

4. OC-135 Open Skies

This soldier fought off a German tank with his pistol
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Kyle Kindig, left, and U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Riley Neads, right, operate air cannons from deicing trucks to blow snow off of an OC-135 Open Skies (U.S. Air Force photo by Delanie Stafford)

This plane was designed to keep tabs on the armed forces belonging to the 2002 signatories of the Open Skies Treaty, which was is designed to enhance mutual understanding and confidence by giving all participants, regardless of size, a direct role in gathering information about military forces and activities of concern to them. At $99,722 an hour, it’s one expensive overwatch.

5. E-8C Joint STARS

This soldier fought off a German tank with his pistol
An E-8C Joint STARS from the 116th Air Control Wing, Robins Air Force Base, Ga., pulls away, May 1, 2012 after refueling from a KC-135 Stratotanker with the 459th Air Refueling Wing (U.S. Air Force photo)

The airborne battle platform costs $70,780 to keep flying. The E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, or Joint STARS, is an airborne battle management, command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform. Its primary mission is to provide theater ground and air commanders with ground surveillance to support attack operations and targeting that contributes to the delay, disruption and destruction of enemy forces.

6. B-52 Stratofortress

This soldier fought off a German tank with his pistol
A B-52 Stratofortress deployed to RAF Fairdford, England from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., prepares to air refuel with a KC-135 Stratotanker from RAF Mildenhall (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christine Griffiths)

Squeaking in just under the JSTARS cost, The B-52 BUFF (look it up) runs $70,388 per flying hour.

7. F-35A Lightning II

This soldier fought off a German tank with his pistol
A 33rd Fighter Wing F-35A Lightning II powers down on the Duke Field flightline for the first time. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Sam King)

Despite its ballooning development costs, the F-35 isn’t as expensive to fly as one might think, at only $67,550 an hour. (And that fact is one of the airplane’s selling points.)

8. CV-22 Osprey

This soldier fought off a German tank with his pistol
A 71st Special Operations Squadron CV-22 Osprey receives fuel from a 522 SOS, MC-130J Combat Shadow II aircraft, over the skies of New Mexico.

The USAF’s special operations tiltrotor will run you $63,792 per hour.

9. B-1B Lancer

This soldier fought off a German tank with his pistol
A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer aircraft banks away after receiving fuel from a KC-135R Stratotanker aircraft, not shown, during a mission over Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway/Released)

The B-1 makes up sixty percent of the Air Force’s bomber fleet and runs $61,027 per flying hour.

10. F-22 Raptor

This soldier fought off a German tank with his pistol
A F-22 Raptors from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., fly off the wing of a KC-135 Stratotanker on their way to Iraq. The F-22s are supporting the U.S. lead coalition against Da’esh. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Perry Aston)

The “best combat plane in the world” only cost $58,059 an hour to fly. Small price to pay for the best.

Honorable Mention: A-10 Thunderbolt II (aka “Warthog”)

This soldier fought off a German tank with his pistol
An A-10 Thunderbolt II, from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., approaches the boom of a KC-135 Stratotanker from McConnell Air Force Base. (U.S. Air Force photo byAirman 1st Class Colby L. Hardin)

The BRRRRRT costs a measly (by comparison, anyway) $19,051.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The paradummy that distracted the Germans on D-Day

The Chinese military strategist and philosopher Sun Tzu said, “All warfare is based on deception.” Like a trick play in football, it’s best to deceive your enemy in order to safeguard your true intentions. One of the greatest modern military examples of this principle is the allied landing at Normandy on D-Day during WWII.

Operation Overlord, the allied invasion of Nazi-occupied mainland Europe, involved the largest invasion force ever assembled. The prelude to the operation involved numerous deception campaigns including a fake army staged at Dover and the leaking of false plans to convince the Germans that the invasion would happen at Calais. However, once the invasion started at Normandy, there was one more trick that the allies had up their sleeves.

This soldier fought off a German tank with his pistol
A paradummy featured in The Longest Day (20th Century Fox)

On the evening of June 5th into June 6th, 1944, thousands of allied paratroopers dropped over the skies of Normandy. They were tasked with eliminating German positions, seizing key roads and bridges, and generally causing mayhem and confusion behind German lines in support of the beach landings. However, they weren’t the only ones riding the silk elevator on D-Day. To further confuse the Germans, hundreds of dummy paratroopers were also dropped over Normandy and Calais.

Called “Ruperts” by the British and “Oscars” by the Americans, these paradummies were part of Operation Titanic. Helping to sell the illusion that the invasion at Normandy was a feint while the main invasion was at Calais, the paradummies were dropped east of the main landing zones. The dummies came in different variants and proved to be very effective at confusing the Germans during the first few hours of the invasion.

This soldier fought off a German tank with his pistol
An unused burlap Rupert with very little detail (Air Force Museum of New Zealand)

Some Ruperts were only about the size of a child’s doll and worked best when viewed at a distance. Others were full-sized and equipped with uniforms, helmets, and boots. They were also made with varying degrees of detail from featureless forms to detailed faces and even painted eyes. To simulate a real invasion force, some of the dummies were equipped with speakers that played sounds of gunfire and mortars while others were rigged to explode upon landing. The Ruperts were made of burlap or rubber and were convincing enough to draw away part of the SS Panzer reinforcement sent to repel the British at Caen.

In the 1962 film The Longest Day, the paradummies are referred to by the Germans as “gummipuppen”. The film depicts the confusion and doubt sewn in the German command by the dummies since they couldn’t be sure if the reports of paratroopers were the real deal or simply a distraction of paradummies.

While the silk parachutes used by the allies were sought after by civilians due to the scarcity of the material from wartime rationing, the Ruperts were less so. Though burlap was a useful material, the risk of an unexploded charge going off late convinced most civilians to leave the paradummies alone. Because of this, few examples of the dummy troopers survive in museums today.

A doll-sized Oscar paradummy with a decent amount of detail (Greatest Events of WWII in Colour/Netflix)
A doll-sized Oscar with a decent amount of detail (Greatest Events of WWII in Colour/Netflix)
popular

This awesome ‘trench broom’ terrified Germans in both World Wars

A single weapon used predominantly in World War I and with a limited deployment in World War II was so effective and so terrifying that Germany lodged a diplomatic protest against its use by American forces. It wasn’t the flamethrower or the machine gun. It was shotguns, especially the Winchester Models 1897 and 1912.


This soldier fought off a German tank with his pistol
A World War II Marine carries a Winchester Model 1897 shotgun. (Photo: U.S. Department of Defense via Wikimedia Commons)

The two shotguns were first entered into combat after America realized how brutal trench warfare really was. The soldiers and Marines serving on the Western Front needed a way to clear attackers from the American trenches as well as to quickly clear defenders from enemy trenches during assaults.

The spread of a shotgun was perfect for this mission, but the Americans didn’t stop at just buying off-the-shelf weapons. The War Department contracted for standard, trench, and riot versions of most shotguns.

Standard shotguns were civilian versions of the weapon, often with a sling added for easy carrying. Riot guns were similar but with shorter barrels. The most heavily modified versions were the trench guns which featured shorter barrels — usually 20 inches or shorter, heat shields, and bayonet lugs.

This soldier fought off a German tank with his pistol
The Trench Winchester Model 1897 shotgun features a cut-down barrel, sling, heat shield, and a bayonet lug. (Catalog Illustration: Public Domain)

The Model 97 quickly became one of the most popular shotguns issued, partially because of how well it stood up to the rigorous conditions on the Western Front. Operators could quickly clean mud and water from the weapons and get them ready to fire after a mishap, and the weapon continued to function even if it was dropped or slammed against trenchworks.

But the big reason that the Model 97 became so popular was that it could be “slamfired.” Typically, an operator readies a pump-action shotgun by pumping it to feed a round into the chamber and eject any empty casing currently in it. Then, they pull the trigger while aimed at their target to fire. Repeat.

But when slamfiring, they keep the trigger held back while pumping the weapon. When the new round feeds into the chamber, it will automatically fire. This meant the weapon could be fired as quickly as the operator could pump the handle.

This soldier fought off a German tank with his pistol
A standard pump-action Winchester Model 1897 lacks military features like the heat shield and bayonet lug. (Photo: Public Domain)

The Model 97 held six rounds of 00 buckshot, each shell of which held nine pellets. A trained soldier slamfiring could fire all six rounds, 54 total lead pellets, in approximately two seconds. At the close ranges in many World War I trenches, the effect was devastating.

Shotgunners would rapidly clear German trenches, cutting away the defenders. The tactic was so effective that Model 97s picked up the nicknames “trench brooms” and “trench sweepers.”

The German government lobbed an official protest against the weapon, saying that the weapon inflicted unnecessary cruelty. America responded that the claim was hollow coming from the nation that introduced chemical weapons and flamethrowers into warfare.

There are even reports that American soldiers skilled in skeet shooting were placed along the front trenches to shoot enemy hand grenades from the air, deflecting or destroying the devices before they could hurt American troops.

The Winchester Model 97 and Model 1912 would go on to serve similar functions in World War II, again clearing German defenders from trenches and bunkers as well as operating in the Pacific. The two Winchester shotguns were deployed to Korea and Vietnam, though the U.S. was slowly transitioning to newer shotguns by that point.


Feature image: US Army photo

MIGHTY TRENDING

Be like Jim: No legs, no problem

He’s had triple bypass surgery, two leg amputations, gallbladder removal and eye surgery.

So how does Jim Jacobi feel?


“I feel healthier now at (age) 75 than I did at 50,” said the U.S. Army Veteran. “I’ve had a lot of things done to me, but I feel healthier now (because of) my attitude and the (Milwaukee) VA.

“I just have a positive attitude about everything.”

For many, the ravages of disease and age take their toll mentally as well as physically. But Jacobi, a Milwaukee native who served one year in Vietnam after being drafted in 1965, has chosen a different path.

“It’s better to be happy and friendly,” he said. “When I was 50, I said, ‘You gotta be happy. Don’t let things bother you.'”

And he has stuck by that philosophy, tackling his various physical ailments with determination and fortitude that belie his age.

“He’s unique, he’s an outlier,” said Milwaukee VA prosthetist Justin Heck. “He’s an inspiring guy.”

Sarah Mikesell, Jacobi’s physical therapist at the Milwaukee VA, agreed.

“Statistically, he’s an anomaly, being as old as he is and being able to walk with bilateral prostheses. That’s definitely against the odds.

“Jim is really super motivated. He does a good job taking care of himself and following through on recommendations. And he tries to share his good, positive attitude with everybody else.”

This soldier fought off a German tank with his pistol

Jim Jacobi, a U.S. Army Veteran, stands with the help of physical therapist Sarah Mikesell at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center after putting on his new prosthetic leg.

Born and raised in Milwaukee, Jacobi was just a few months out of high school when his number came up.

His job in the Army was ordering food for the troops — 150,000 when he arrived and 200,000 by the time he was discharged.

“Me and the captain were the two people that ordered all the food for the II Corps,” he said. “When I left, the captain and I got replaced by a whole company.”

His job took him to the front lines, and he remembers being shelled by mortar fire his very first day in the country.

Somewhere along the way – he’s not sure when or how – he was exposed to Agent Orange. And that is what led to the disease that has gnawed away at him – diabetes.

Exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides has been linked to the disease. And while heredity is also associated with diabetes, Jacobi said he’s the only member of his family to develop it.

After Vietnam, Jacobi worked in manufacturing for a number of years before opening a gas station. That eventually led to a job with a company that oversaw 13 convenience stores.

The work played to Jacobi’s strengths of being friendly and outgoing.

“I realized that in a factory, you see the same people every day,” he said. “When I was working for the convenience stores, I would be going to different stores. I had a lot of people working for me, and I got to know some of the customers. I’m more of a people-oriented person.”

It wasn’t long after Jacobi’s retirement when the diabetes began to take its toll.

He remembers getting an infection in the big toe on his right leg. A month later, all of his toes on his right foot had to be amputated.

“Since I’ve had this, I’ve downhill skied, curled and went sailing on Lake Michigan, all through SCI recreation. We play bocce ball, we bowl, we do air rifles, archery, kayaking, bicycling — I do all of that.”

— Jim Jacobi, talking about how his life changed after losing his first leg.

Three years later, the leg had to be amputated. Jacobi was fitted with a prosthetic, and within months he was walking again. But that wasn’t all. Besides hooking up with the Walk a Mile or More group of Veterans at the Milwaukee VA, Jacobi also became involved with recreation groups through the Spinal Cord Injury center.

“Since I’ve had this,” he said, pointing to his first prosthesis, “I’ve downhill skied, curled and went sailing on Lake Michigan, all through SCI recreation. “We play bocce ball, we bowl, we do air rifles, archery, kayaking, bicycling – I do all of that.”

He found a “great bunch of guys” at the SCI and WAMM, which gathers three days a week at Lake Wheeler on the Milwaukee VA campus not only to walk for exercise but also to socialize.

“You meet such wonderful people,” he said. “It’s amazing.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he also went on outings to Harley-Davidson and organized bicycle rides on the Hank Aaron Trail. He and his buddies would also serve free coffee once a week at the hospital’s South Entrance.

But diabetes wasn’t done with Jacobi yet.

A familiar scenario began last summer when the little toe on Jacobi’s left leg had to be amputated. The remaining toes were taken in succession within months.

In February, he was back in the hospital, having his remaining leg amputated.

During his recovery, his friends would drop by his room every day, doing what they could and bringing him anything he needed.

“The nurses on the seventh floor, they were amazed I would have about 10 guys visiting me before the virus shut it down,” he said. “They’re great buddies… They’re always there to help you. And I’m the same way – I’ll do anything I can to help them.”

In June, Jacobi was fitted with his new prosthesis, and physical therapy began again.

He hasn’t been able to take it home yet – it’s still being tweaked. Meanwhile, the remainder of his left leg continues to heal after the amputation.

As is his nature, Jacobi has not seen this latest amputation as a roadblock, but merely a hurdle to get over.

“My goal is to walk without any device – no walker, no cane – by the end of the summer,” he said.

And according to the experts, he’s likely to do it.

“I think he’s on track,” Mikesell said.

Heck agreed.

“It’s all him. He wants to do it,” Heck said. “How positive he is – that’s the hardest part.

“Physically, we know people can walk or stand with the prosthetics. That’s fairly simple. To do it well and stay positive and work at it every day – that’s the hard part.”

Diabetes threw Jacobi another curveball in June.

He woke up one Sunday morning and noticed his vision was impaired.

“I think everybody at the VA hospital is so caring. I have a lot of buddies, a lot of Veterans, and I’ve not heard one person complaint about VA.”

— Jim Jacobi talks about the care he receives at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center.

“It was like hair was hanging in my eye,” he said. “But I don’t have any hair.”

After talking with his primary care physician’s nurse on Monday, Jacobi walked into the eye clinic at the Milwaukee VA the next day and had laser surgery on the spot.

As Jacobi explained it, the diabetes led to the formation of blood vessels in the back of his eye.

“It looks like hair, but it’s actually blood,” he said.

Jacobi has one more procedure for the eye, scheduled in August.

Through all of this, Jacobi has continued to maintain his positive, upbeat attitude while lauding the care he has received at the Milwaukee VA.

“I think everybody at the VA hospital is so caring,” he said. “I have a lot of buddies, a lot of Veterans, and I’ve not heard one person complain about the VA.”

His health care providers at the Milwaukee VA are equally as appreciative of Jacobi.

“Jim’s a really good advocate for himself and other amputees,” Mikesell said, noting that Jacobi annually volunteers to work with students in training to be physical therapists. “He’s willing to share his knowledge and wisdom.”

“He has been an advocate for other Veterans as well as for the workers here,” Heck said.

Jacobi has a theory about people, saying 25% have “wonderful attitudes,” 50% have “normal” attitudes and the remaining 25% have “negative” attitudes.

“That’s just the way it is,” he said. “I wish we could get to that 25% who are angry.

“I see patients when I’m in the hospital, and some guys are so grumpy and negative. That’s a shame to see,” he said.

“It’s better to have a positive attitude. You make everybody else feel positive too.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

This is Russia’s ‘father of all bombs’ in response to the U.S.’s ‘mother of all bombs’

This soldier fought off a German tank with his pistol
Russian Government Photo


On September 11, 2007, Russia announced to the world that it had successfully tested the world’s most powerful nonnuclear bomb.

The “father of all Bombs,” (FOAB)named in response to America’s smaller “mother of all Bombs,” has the power of a nuclear bomb but does not produce chemical or radioactive fallout.

“The results of tests of the aviation explosive device that has been created have shown that it is comparable with nuclear weapons in its efficiency and potential,” Alexander Rukshin, deputy chief of the Russian armed forces, told Russia’s ORT First Channel in 2007.

“The main destruction is inflicted by an ultrasonic shockwave and an incredibly high temperature. All that is alive merely evaporates. At the same time, I want to stress that the action of this weapon does not contaminate the environment, in contrast to a nuclear one.”

The lack of environmental damage from the FOAB is as a double-edged sword as it makes the bomb less likely to cause the sort of massive destruction that a nuclear bomb would produce through fallout. This lack of fallout, though, also heightens the chances that the FOAB would be used in a military confrontation.

The FOAB, according to RT, is a thermobaric bomb. This sort of weapon explodes in midair, which ignites a fuel-air mixture.

This then proceeds to cause an incredibly hot and powerful outward blast that vaporizes targets and can collapse structures. The FOAB can produce blasts and aftershocks as powerful as a nuclear blast.

The blast from the FOAB is equivalent to a blast yield of 44 tons of TNT. The FOAB has a destruction radius of nearly 1,000 feet.

Everything within that area becomes superheated to the point that surfaces melt, and the ground takes on an almost moon-like quality.

In addition, the burning of gases within the vicinity by the blast produces a vacuum, which can compound damage by dragging nearby objects toward the epicenter of the explosion.

Watch:

Articles

The US Army is building a new crash test dummy

This soldier fought off a German tank with his pistol
(Photo: U.S. Army)


Over the course of fighting America’s most recent wars, troops faced the threat of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs on a daily basis. More than a decade later, the U.S. Army is building a new crash test dummy to better understand the physical risks these crude but deadly weapons pose to soldiers downrange.

In addition to registering the location of impacts and stress during tests, the new design will be coupled with an extensive database to help predict how likely an individual is to suffer a serious injury. The ground combat branch has dubbed the program the Warrior Injury Assessment Manikin, or WIAMan. As anyone in the military probably already knows, “WIA” is also the acronym for “wounded in action.”

The Army hopes that the new device will help provide more information on just what happens when a bomb goes off underneath a vehicle. “There is a wide range of test conditions and environment parameters” and “no two sets of system responses are the same,” engineers and scientists working on WIAMan explained in a briefing in June.

The individuals from the Army’s Research, Development and Engineering Command and the Army Research Laboratory sat down with defense contractors to talk about the state of the program. The service wants to start looking for a company to make WIAMan dummies by the end of 2017.

But just building a prototype machine that fits the requirements has been a long and complex process. The Army kicked off WIAMan more than five years ago as the bulk of American forces were starting to leave Iraq.

By that point, IEDs were a well-known threat. In Iraq and Afghanistan, huge bombs routinely ripped through unarmored Humvees and better-protected vehicles. The Pentagon had responded by rushing mine-resistant trucks, bomb detectors and jammers and other gear to troops in the field. Though this equipment saved lives, it did not eliminate serious injuries.

During Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, explosives had accounted for more than three quarters of all military injuries, according to a study Dr. Narayan Yoganandan, Chairman of Biomedical Engineering in the Department of Neurosurgery and Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Marquette University, led and published in Clinical Biomechanics in 2013. Explosions underneath vehicles specifically were likely to cause severe damage to the pelvis, spinal column, legs and feet, Andrew Merkle, a principal professional staff member at Johns Hopkins’ Applied Physics Laboratory, and his colleagues explained in another 2013 piece.

At that time, Army researchers had to rely on modified auto industry manikin, called Hybrid III. The manufacturer, Humanetics, only intended the original dummy for testing head on collisions in commercial cars. On top of that, the design reflected an outdated 1970s body shape.

Instruments in this surrogate person only show damage and strain in broad areas and joints. To help engineers and scientists log potential injuries, the Army’s version only has five so-called “biofidelity response corridors,” or BRCs.

By comparison, WIAMan will have more than 800 BRCs. This means that instead of simply sensing impact on a section of chest or foot as a whole, the manikin would report dangerous forces on particular ribs or the soles or heel specifically.

The prototype dummy was structured around a 50th percentile male soldier. After the Pentagon removed the last restrictions preventing women serving in combat roles in December 2015, the full production run will have to include female body shapes.

Combined with an extensive and growing knowledge-base of injury data, WIAMan should not only be able to highlight possibly dangers but predict them, too. This means that when the Army considers a new tank or truck in the future, researchers might be able to gauge the likelihood of the drivers and occupants suffering specific injuries if they run over a roadside bomb.

And capturing more data from the dummy itself means engineers won’t have to try and cram secondary cameras or sensors inside armored vehicle compartments or truck cabs to gather additional significant information. These spaces are cramped to begin with and these sensitive systems are often damaged in testing.

A “blast test of a surrogate vehicle structure … provided realism,” another one of the June presentations noted. “However, it is costly, not repeatable and occupant response cannot be fully observed.”

Unfortunately, WIAMan alone won’t be able to fill all of the Army’s research gaps by itself. The manikin will not be able to test for a slew of effects beyond an underbody blast.

In its prototype form, the soldier stand-in cannot determine whether troops might be at risk from shrapnel or burns. In Iraq and Afghanistan, IEDs often set off fuel or ammunition in vehicles leading to serious burns.

In 2006, the Marine Corps notably banned leathernecks from wearing synthetic clothing, including popular Under Armour undershirts, because of their low melting points. The Corps found evidence that the garments could fuse to skin with horrific results in a fire.

More importantly, WIAMan will not be able to help gather badly needed information about the potential for traumatic brain injuries, commonly called TBIs. Concussions and other TBIs have been increasingly linked to long-term brain damage and increased risk of serious health conditions.

Since 2000, the Pentagon has diagnosed more than 340,000 active service members with various kinds of TBIs, according to statistics compiled by the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center. Medical professionals classified 5,000 of these cases as “penetrating,” instances where an actual object pierces the skull and physically hits the brain.

By far, the majority of the instances are “mild,” a synonym for concussions.  However, research shows that people who suffer from multiple instances of these injuries suffer far from mild consequences.

While scientists are still studying the exact relationship between concussions and other health issues, there is significant correlation between the injuries and a condition known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Also seen in boxers and other professional athletes, this is a form of dementia characterized by declining memory, cognition and motor control and itself linked to depression, suicidal behavior, and aggressive outbursts.

American troops have already spent some 15 years in a state or near constant combat operations. Given the rise of new terrorist groups like Islamic State, the Pentagon’s high operational tempo seems unlikely to change in the near future.

In the meantime, soldiers and other service members will likely continue to suffer TBIs and other injuries from IEDs. Though not perfect, WIAMan will give scientists and engineers critical information to help protect our men and women in uniform.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The awesome way a Cuban defector rescued his family

In 1991, a lone Russian-built MiG-21 approached the Florida coast from Cuba. The plane began “wagging” its wings, a recognized signal for friendly intent. The pilot was Orestes Lorenzo, and he was bringing the MiG to the United States in an attempt to defect from Cuba. The only problem was his wife and kids were still in Cuba.

Not for long.


This soldier fought off a German tank with his pistol

If you want it done right…

That’s the thing about fighter pilots – no one will accuse them of being timid. Lorenzo was no different. He did fly a 40-year-old MiG straight at the coastline of the world’s lone superpower. In fact, Lorenzo was so daring, he wasn’t even in the Cuban Air Force when he took the jet. He told American officials he’d “borrowed” it to make the flight. Lorenzo didn’t even speak a word of English, he just yearned for freedom.

While he was in Cuba’s Air Force, he learned to fly in the Soviet Union and was deployed to fly air missions in Angola. After a second tour of duty in the Soviet Union, he and his family moved to an air base far from the Cuban capital of Havana. They found themselves unhappy with their situation, facing poverty, repression, and a government more concerned with itself than its people. Lorenzo and his wife hatched a plan to escape with their children, but it was only Lorenzo who landed at Naval Air Station Key West that day in 1991.

That’s where his daring comes in. Lorenzo was whisked away to Washington, where he was (presumably) debriefed, and received his asylum paperwork, as well as visas for his wife and two sons. All was almost set to go as planned, except now the Cuban government wouldn’t authorize his wife and children to leave the island nation. Orestes Lorenzo didn’t just accept his station in life like Castro wanted him to, and he sure as hell wasn’t about to accept this. Lorenzo launched a PR campaign that culminated in President George H.W. Bush giving a speech directed at Cuba, imploring Cuba to let his family go, all to no avail.

Castro refused, so the fighter pilot took matters into his own hands.

This soldier fought off a German tank with his pistol

Spoiler alert: fighter pilots are brave.

Lorenzo raised ,000 to purchase a 1961 Cessna 310, a small, simple civilian aircraft. He even took lessons to learn to fly the Cessna like an expert. He got word to his family that they should be in a certain spot they all knew well, wearing orange t-shirts. At 5:07 p.m. on Dec. 19, 1992, Lorenzo took off from the Florida Keys in his 30-year-old Cessna and flew just 100 feet above the ocean.

Flying up above a set of cliffs on Cuba’s coastline, some 160 miles from Havana, he pulled up and saw three bright orange t-shirts waiting for him by the side of a road. He landed the plane, got his family inside, and took off again, headed for Marathon in the Florida Keys. Two hours later he and his family were safe.

This soldier fought off a German tank with his pistol

The Lorenzo family lands in Marathon.

The U.S. returned the MiG to Cuba, and the Lorenzo family settled in Florida, starting a concrete business. Very few Cuban pilots were able to defect to the United States during the entire Cold War.

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