4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did - We Are The Mighty
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4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did

We can all agree that the Nazi Party was a band of terrifyingly cruel, delusional sickos. What you may not know, however, is that Hitler’s SS minions were also sometimes really, really dumb. From failed propaganda campaigns to ridiculous assassination attempts, the Germans were not short on weird.


1. Operation Holy Hitler (aka let’s kill Pope Pius XXII)

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
Photo: concordatwatch.eu

In some ways, Hitler was kind of an understated guy. He was a vegetarian, didn’t like smoking, and wore pants like this. But mostly, as we know, he was an egotistical maniac.

One of the best examples of the Fuhrer’s self-love came about in the 1930s, when he decided that local Catholic schools had a shocking lack of Adolf Hitler memorabilia on their walls. This was quickly remedied by replacing the classroom crucifixes with pictures of his face. How no one thought this was insane is pretty damning of human intelligence as a whole, but maybe the kids were just really tired of having to look at a an emaciated Christ all day.

Once Hitler had figuratively substituted God for himself, he decided to take it a step further. And since literally pulling Christ from the sky wasn’t an option, he decided to take out the next best thing: The Pope. Did we mention this was part of a larger plan to abolish all religions and declare himself as God of Germany? Because that was also a thing.

Hitler didn’t want to nix the Pope purely for vanity’s sake, however. In 1943, Pope Pius XII started to publicly denounce the Nazi’s blatant abuses of human rights. This did not fly in Germany. Eventually, the Pope’s thinly-veiled condemnations of Hitler’s activities went too far, and it was at that point that a real plan was set into action. Hitler brought SS Gen. Karl Wolff into his office, beckoned him closer, and said “I want you and your troops to occupy Vatican City as soon as possible, secure its files and art treasures and take the Pope and curia to the North.”

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
Pope Pius XII looking pretty displeased with this plan. Photo: paxtv.org

So far this plan sounds like something a Bond villain would cook up: Flashy, intriguing, but not completely insane. Then phase two comes into play, and all of that goes out the window. Here’s the plan in a nutshell: Once Nazi soldiers had captured the Vatican and the Pope, a second group would infiltrate the Holy City, pretending to be a rescue party. But instead of rescuing the Pope, they would claim that the first group of Nazis were actually Italian assassins, slaughter them all and “accidentally” shoot the Pope amidst the chaos if he didn’t cooperate. If he kept his head down, they would drag Pius XII back to Germany and lock him in a castle. Then the Nazis would blame the Italians, and everything would be roses.

At least, that was the plan. Luckily, Wolff realized that this was completely psychotic and tipped off the Italians, who were rightfully pissed. He wasn’t very subtle about it either, going so far as to agree to an interview with a local Italian newspaper, the Avvenire, which is owned by the Catholic Church. The Guardian writes that in the newspaper Wolff reportedly announced, “I received from Hitler in person the order to kidnap Pope Pius XII.”

The weirdest part of this story, however, is that according to historian Robert Katz, assassinating Pope Pius XII wouldn’t have benefited Germany or the Axis powers at all. Hitler was prepared to screw up everything just out of spite. Or maybe he secretly wanted the Pope hat, who knows.

2. The “degenerate art” gallery that was actually a massive success

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did

Before the Swastika flew over Deutschland, the soon-to-be Nazi nation was experiencing an incredible art renaissance. Dadaism and the Bauhaus movement were taking the world by storm, and the art community was looking to Germany for the best in cutting-edge modern art.

Then the book burnings began. Art now had to fit the “Nazi ideal,” upholding Aryan values and praising the brilliance and prestige of the Fuhrer. Movies and plays were censored, operas canceled, paintings confiscated. The German art scene was being completely dismantled, and people were not happy about it.

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did

The Nazis knew that people were pissed about these new “creative restrictions,” but felt that they were just misguided. People don’t actually know what they want until you show it to them, right? This was the Nazi strategy. To redirect the poor, misguided art enthusiasts of Munich, they would first show them what they shouldn’t want — by organizing an art exhibit called “Entartete Kunst,” or “degenerate art.” The gallery was supposed to showcase why modern art was actually awful and not cool at all.

Over 650 sculptures, paintings, prints and books were confiscated from public German museums to be “shamefully” displayed in the gallery. The Nazis arranged the art pieces haphazardly to make them appear less attractive, and wrote up explanations of why they were inferior, undesirable contributions to the art world and the Nazi regime in general.

Then the Nazis simultaneously opened their own art exhibit, the “Great German Art Exhibition,” one with Aryan-approved art only. This way it would be clear to the public which was the superior art genre, and settle the matter once and for all.

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
And here we have yet another sculpture of the perfect Aryan woman. Photo:

This did not go well.

Unimpressed with the perfectly sculpted, tasteful bronze nudes that filled the “superior” art gallery, the German art lovers ditched the stuffy exhibit and headed to —  you guessed it — the degenerate art gallery. In the end, five times as many people visited the Entartete Kunst, thrilled to finally have legitimate art on display. In only one day, 36,000 visitors flooded the taboo gallery, completing ignoring the “Great German Art Exhibition” taking place just a few minutes away. After the degenerate art gallery was closed, the featured pieces were either burned, confiscated by Nazi officials or sold to museums at auction. The pieces that were saved can be found in museums all over the world today, and the Entartete Kunst is considered by many to be one of the most culturally significant art exhibits of all time.

3. That time Hitler’s “Perfect Aryan Baby” ended up being Jewish

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did

When you establish yourself as an extremist war-mongering regime, you need to make sure you have some killer PR to, you know, convince people that you aren’t actually an extremist war-mongering regime.

Joseph Goebbels, the head of Nazi propaganda, learned this fairly early on. So, in order to make the Third Reich appear a little more cuddly (which is ironic, since the dude looked like Dracula), he began a national campaign in 1935 to find the “perfect Aryan baby” — a child so pale and Germanic it could be the measuring stick for all infant beauty.

You would think the chosen Nazi baby would fit the white-blonde, blue-eyed ideal, but for whatever reason Goebbels selected a brunette, brown-eyed baby. Mistake number one if you’re the head of Nazi propaganda.

Goebbels then set about plastering the Nazi-Gerber baby’s picture over all of Germany. She showed up in flyers, newspapers, postcards, and propaganda posters of all kinds. Most people were pretty unfazed by the doll-faced baby that was suddenly appearing everywhere, accepting her as an unusually cute edition to the militaristic landscape of Nazi Germany.

Jacob and Pauline Levinson, on the other hand, were terrified to see the soon-to-be famous photo on the cover of “Sonne in Hause,” a Nazi family magazine. Why? The Master Race baby was their daughter — and she was Jewish.

Let’s rewind six months. The Levinsons had taken their young daughter, Hessy, to get her picture taken by photographer Hans Ballin, a prominent Berlin photographer. After the quick photo shoot they thanked Ballin, paid for their prints, and headed home, thinking that was the end of it. For Ballin, it was just the beginning. What the Levinsons didn’t know was that the talented photographer secretly hated the Nazis — a lot. Like Brad Pitt in Inglorious Basterds a lot.

So when Ballin found out that Goebbels had created a photo contest designed to find the perfect Aryan child — a child that Goebbels would personally select — he couldn’t resist the opportunity to undermine the entire thing.

“I wanted to make the Nazis ridiculous,” Ballin confessed, according to The Telegraph.

So, like the rebel artist he was, Ballin submitted the photo of little Hessy to the contest, hoping that Goebbels would bite. And as luck would have it, he did.

Unfortunately, this put the Levinsons in a lot of danger, and they ended up having to flee to Latvia. The Nazis later learned of their mistake, but never who Hessy was or where her family was hidden. In an interview with Death and Taxes Magazine last year, the 80-year-old Hessy (who now lives in the United States) confessed: “I can laugh about it now. But if the Nazis had known who I really was, I wouldn’t be alive.”

And who wouldn’t laugh? With Hessy’s picture, Ballin had effectively trolled the Nazis on an international scale. The Third Reich didn’t learn from its mistake, either: They would later choose a half-Jewish man as the premiere example of what a full-blooded Aryan soldier should be.

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
Werner Goldberg: Half-Jewish soldier turned Nazi poster boy. Photo:

And people wonder why they didn’t win the war.

4. The “Lebensborn” Nazi baby factory

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
Two nurses weigh children at a Lebensborn house.

The Nazis really had a weird thing for babies. During Hitler’s rise to power, thousands of babies were born into “Lebensborn” programs, which were basically Nazi baby breeding factories created under Heinrich Himmler. The children were raised to be in peak physical condition and were groomed to emulate the Nazi standard of beauty. They were given a strict diet, were indoctrinated into the Nazi way of thinking and even had their hair treated with ultraviolet light if the nurses suspected it was starting to turn anything but Nazi-approved white-blonde. Seriously.

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
Nazi nurses wear goggles as they administer the light treatment. Photo: Daily Mail

Where exactly did these babies come from, you ask? A few different places. Many of the children were the product of the government encouraging SS soldiers to “get to know” the prettiest girls in the European nations they conquered during Germany’s expansion. Then if the ladies were lucky enough to get pregnant, they would be sent to a Lebensborn house, which literally means “font of life” when translated. As in these babies would be the “font” that would kick start the Aryan population of Germany and its captured lands, ensuring a smiling, blue-eyed super race. The unwed mothers were free to stay and live with their children, so long as they complied with the home’s methods and adopted a proper Nazi lifestyle. Orphaned children were adopted out by upstanding German families.

Babies were also abducted from surrounding countries, so long as they were beautiful (Poland estimates that it lost as many as 100,000 children during the war). The darker, “less desirable” children would be sent to concentration camps with their parents. The same was true of children born in the homes; if a child was particularly non-Germanic looking, or resisted Nazi teachings once he or she was a little older, they would be sent to be gassed at a death camp. The babies that made the cut grew up to be some of an estimated 250,000 children who were Nazified under the Lebensborn program during the war.

Tragically, many parents would surrender their children to the Lebensborn program in an attempt to keep them from the horrors of the concentration camps. Most of them were simply taken, however, despite their Jewish ethnicity. Looking the part was enough for the program as long as you grew up to love Hitler and despise the Jewish race like the Nazi nurses who raised you, apparently.

When the war ended and the Allies invaded, they found several Lebensborn homes still full of children. Of the estimated hundreds of thousands of children who were part of the program, only about 25,000 were reconnected with their original families. Many of the parents had been killed during the war, but some children refused to be reunited with their real families, believing themselves to be superior and racially pure after the Nazis’ brainwashing.

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US Defense Chief says nukes still ‘bedrock’ of American security

Defense Secretary Ash Carter kicked off a visit to DoD’s nuclear deterrence enterprise, telling airmen at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, that DoD will invest, innovate and sustain to rebuild that enterprise’s capabilities that remain the bedrock of U.S. defense strategy.


The secretary spoke at a hangar on the flightline of the base. He thanked the airmen at the base, and by extension, thanked the thousands of other technicians who man, maintain, guard and operate the bombers, ICBMs, ballistic missile submarines and the command-and-control systems around the world.

“As you know, everyone has their role to play,” he said, “and while each physical piece is important, it’s really the people who make the whole greater than the sum of the parts.”

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
An unarmed LGM-30G Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test at Launch Facility-4 on Vandenberg Air Force Base Calif. The Minuteman III ICBM is an element of the nation’s strategic deterrent forces under the control of the Air Force Global Strike Command. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Lael Huss)

The secretary emphasized throughout his talk with the airmen that America’s nuclear deterrence is the bedrock of U.S. security and the highest priority mission in the Defense Department.

“Because while it is a remarkable achievement that in the more than seven decades since 1945, nuclear weapons have not again been used in war, that’s not something we can ever take for granted,” he said. “And that’s why today, I want to talk about how we’re innovating and investing to sustain that bedrock.”

Carter has a long history with the nuclear mission, working in the 1980s on basing for the MX missile system. He speaks from experience when he says the deterrence mission has both remained the same and changed.

“At a strategic level, of course, you deter large-scale nuclear attack against the United States and our allies,” he said. “You help convince potential adversaries that they can’t escalate their way out of failed conventional aggression. You assure allies that our extended deterrence guarantees are credible — enabling many of them to forgo developing nuclear weapons themselves, despite the tough strategic environment they find themselves in and the technological ease with which they could develop such weapons.”

The nuclear deterrent also provides an umbrella under which service members accomplish conventional missions around the world, the secretary said.

But the nuclear landscape has changed and it will continue to pose challenges, Carter said.

“One way the nuclear landscape has changed: we didn’t build new types of nuclear weapons or delivery systems for the last 25 years, but others did, at the same time that our allies in Asia, the Middle East, and NATO did not,” the secretary said, “so we must continue to sustain our deterrence.”

Russia has modernized its nuclear arsenal, and there is some doubt about Russian leaders’ strategies for the weapons.

“Meanwhile, North Korea’s nuclear and missile provocations underscore that a diverse and dynamic spectrum of nuclear threats still exists,” Carter said. “So our deterrence must be credible, and extended to our allies in the region.”

North Korea is building nuclear warheads and the means to deliver them, the secretary said. The North Korean threat spurs spending on missile defense in the United States and the deployment of systems to South Korea, he added.

“We back all of that up with the commitment that any attack on America or our allies will be not only defeated, but that any use of nuclear weapons will be met with an overwhelming and effective response,” Carter said.

India and China are behaving responsibly with their nuclear enterprises, the secretary said.

“In Iran, their nuclear aspirations have been constrained and transparency over their activities increased by last year’s nuclear accord, which, as long as it continues to be implemented, will verifiably prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” Carter said. “The last example I’ll cite is Pakistan, where nuclear weapons are entangled in a history of tension, and while they are not a threat to the United States directly, we work with Pakistan to ensure stability.”

Despite the changes since the end of the Cold War, the nature of deterrence has not changed, the secretary said.

“Even in 2016, deterrence still depends on perception — what potential adversaries see, and therefore believe — about our will and ability to act,” he said. “This means that as their perceptions shift, so must our strategy and actions.”

A large-scale nuclear attack is not likely, the secretary said. The most likely scenario is “the unwise resort to smaller but still unprecedentedly terrible attacks, for example by Russia or North Korea, to try to coerce a conventionally superior opponent to back off or abandon an ally during a crisis,” Carter said. “We cannot allow that to happen, which is why we’re working with our allies in both regions to innovate and operate in new ways that sustain deterrence and continue to preserve strategic stability.”

NATO is reexamining the nuclear strategy to integrate conventional and nuclear deterrence to deter Russia, he said.

Meanwhile, across the Pacific, the United States engages in formal deterrence dialogues with its allies Japan and South Korea, Carter said, “to ensure we’re poised to address nuclear deterrence challenges in Asia.”

Carter said the U.S. is taking steps to ensure that its nuclear triad — bombers, ICBMS and ballistic missile submarines — do not become obsolete.

“We’re now beginning the process of correcting decades of under-investment in nuclear deterrence,” the secretary said.

The Pentagon has underfunded its nuclear deterrence enterprise since the end of the Cold War, Carter added.

“Over the last 25 years since then, we only made modest investments in basic sustainment and operations, about $15 billion a year,” he said. “And it turned out that wasn’t enough.”

The fiscal year 2017 budget request invests a total of $19 billion in the nuclear enterprise, Carter said. Over the next five years, he said, plans call for the department to spend $108 billion to sustain and recapitalize the nuclear force and associated strategic command, control, communications, and intelligence systems.

The budget also looks to modernization, the secretary said. Plans call for replacing old ICBMs with new ones that will be less expensive to maintain, keeping strategic bombers effective in the face of more advanced air defense systems, and building replacements for the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines, the secretary said.

“If we don’t replace these systems, quite simply they will age even more, and become unsafe, unreliable, and ineffective,” Carter said. “The fact is, most of our nuclear weapon delivery systems have already been extended decades beyond their original expected service lives. So it’s not a choice between replacing these platforms or keeping them. It’s really a choice between replacing them or losing them. That would mean losing confidence in our ability to deter, which we can’t afford in today’s volatile security environment.”

While these plans are expensive, they are only a small percentage of total defense spending, the secretary said.

“In the end, though, this is about maintaining the bedrock of our security,” Carter said. “And after too many years of not investing enough, it’s an investment that we as a nation have to make, because it’s critical to sustaining nuclear deterrence in the 21st century.”

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The 13 best examples of technology civilians got from the military

The U.S. spends a lot of money on military research, but a lot of things civilians use everyday were designed or commissioned for military projects. Here are 13 of the best.


1. Portable fire extinguisher

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Rachel McMarr

The portable fire extinguisher was invented by a captain in the Cambridgeshire Militia. Capt. George W. Manby was obsessed with safety, inventing at least five safety devices. He invented the “extincteur” in 1819, a copper container filled with three gallons of pearl ash and some compressed air. Modern extinguishers are based on his design, though different metals and chemical compounds are used.

2. Epipens

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
Photo: flickr.com/Greg Friese

The Epipen, used to quickly administer adrenaline in patients experiencing anaphylactic shock, was invented in the 1970s by Dr. Sheldon Kaplan who based the design upon Cold War-era auto-injectors. The auto-injectors allowed troops to quickly and precisely administer antidotes if they were struck with nerve agents. Before auto-injectors, troops had to carry kits with syringes, rubber bands, and vials of medicine that could kill when used incorrectly and were tricky to administer in the field.

3. Blood banks

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
Photo: US Mission Uganda

Though they are now generally associated with aid organizations like the Red Cross, blood banks were originally designed for military field hospitals. Then-Capt. Oswald Robertson suggested the use of preserved blood at casualty clearing stations at the Battle of Cambrai in 1917. He had proven preserved blood would work in transfusions and knew that the battle would create too many casualties for doctors to transfuse directly from a donor to the patient, a method popular before blood banks.

4. Drones

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
Photo: US Army

Now used by civilians for everything from surveying fires to paintball to filming weddings, drones were originally attempted by the U.S. military in World War I as remote-controlled dive bombers — sort of like a long-range missile.

Of course, actual missiles and rockets were developed in World War II that made this unnecessary, so drones sat on a shelf until the 1980s when they began a limited surveillance role. After drone technology became cheaper and more accessible, they made the jump to the civilian world.

5. Vehicle navigation

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
Photo: flickr.com/mroach

The military famously led the way in GPS, developing positioning satellites for the U.S. Navy in 1960. The program was opened up to civilian use by President Reagan after a Korean jet was shot down by a Russian fighter when it accidentally wandered into Russian air space. Today, GPS is everywhere, especially in cars.

GPS wasn’t the first in-car navigation system though. That was an inertial guidance system from Honda that descended from World War II navigational aids for aviators.

6. The Space Program

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
Photo: NASA Kim Shiflett

The first American satellite was created by scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Caltech and included instruments designed by a professor at the State University of Iowa. But, that equipment was riding on the Jupiter-C, a missile created by the Army Ballistic Missile Agency headed by Dr. Wernher Von Braun. Von Braun also designed the V-2 which put the first manmade object in space.

In 1958, NASA was created and became the primary American body for exploring space. Now, civilian corporations like SpaceX are moving into the market as well.

7. Hemostatic bandages

Hemostatic bandages quickly control severe bleeding. They can work through a few different mechanisms depending on the hemostatic agent that is used. Some pull water from a wound and leave clotting agents behind in a higher concentration, some form a sticky substance atop a wound and reduce bleeding that way, and others are a protein-covered lattice that a clot can quickly form on.

All the major types were created for controlling extreme trauma on the battlefield. While most of the hemostatic bandages making their way to the civilian world are coming from recent breakthroughs, military doctors have been working on hemostatic bandages since 1909.

8. Duct/Duck tape

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
Photo: US Navy Safety Center

The Permacell company developed Duck Tape for the military in World War II as a way to quickly repair cracked windows, seal ammo cans and other cases, and repair trucks. When the war ended, it was quickly realized that the tap also worked well for air ducts and the tape changed from green to the iconic gray most people associate with it.

9. Computers

The first true electronic computers were invented by British and American scientists for use in World War II. The British Colossus was used to crack German codes during World War II. The American ENIAC wasn’t completed until just after the war, but it was the first programmable computer and would go on to aid in the creation of the hydrogen bomb.

10. One-handed tourniquets

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
Photo: US Army Visual Information Specialist Markus Rauchenberger

While civilian medical services have typically been wary of tourniquets, they’ve been coming back around after seeing the outstanding performance of tourniquets in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Recently, important groups of doctors have begun advocating for tourniquets as required equipment in ambulances. Predictably, the best designs have been those catered to the military needs.

The popular Combat Action Tourniquet and Special Operations Forces Tourniquet were some of the first designs that allowed one-handed application. A new tourniquet designed for the Department of Defense is gaining attention for being easier to apply while still effectively controlling bleeding.

11. Microwave

Microwave ovens were a byproduct of World War II radar research. The original radars in England told the general direction enemy aircraft were coming in from, but it wasn’t detailed or mobile. Britain wanted radars that could pinpoint attackers and that could be installed on fighters. They got their wish with the invention of the cavity magnetron.

The microwaves from the magnetron could also excite particles and cook food, as discovered by Perry Spencer, a Raytheon employee. He invented the microwave oven after a magnetron melted a chocolate bar in his pocket.

12. PTSD treatments

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hlbh5fJ00sc

Civilians get post-traumatic stress disorder too, and military breakthroughs in treatment will be used to help non-military patients. The VA lists the current therapies they offer in their facilities, but they also use video games and dogs to treat service members and veterans.

13. The Internet

The ARPANET was created in 1969 as a decentralized communications network, meaning a bomb attack at one node would do minimal damage to the network as a while. It was formally shut down in 1989 since the growing civilian internet was already making it redundant.

So next time you’re watching that funny cat video on YouTube, be sure to go ahead and thank the troops.

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This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross

On April 6, 2008, two Special Forces operational detachments and more than 100 Afghan commandos began an air assault into a mountain fortress above the Shok Valley.


Six and a half hours later, two members of the assault were killed and nine seriously wounded, over 100 enemy fighters were dead or captured, and eleven men had earned some of the nation’s highest awards for valor. This is what happened.

Entering Shok Valley

The assault was to capture leaders in Hezeb Islami al Gulbadin, a regional insurgent group in Afghanistan. The targets were holed up in a mountain top village surrounded by farm terraces and tall cliffs, providing tough ground for an assaulting force to cover. The village itself was made of strong, multistory buildings that would provide defenders cover while allowing them to fire out.

The American and Afghan force flew to the valley in helicopters. Their initial plan called for a quick insertion close to the village so they could assault while they still had the element of surprise. Their first landing zone was no good though, and so they were dropped into a nearby river and forced to climb up from there. The delay allowed insurgent forces to set up an ambush from the high ground.

Combat breaks out

After the helicopters departed, enemy fighters directed automatic weapon and rocket fire on the American and Afghan National Army soldiers. Their interpreter was killed almost immediately and the communications sergeant, Staff Sgt. Dillon Behr, received a life-threatening wound to his leg. He continued fighting, attempting to suppress some of the incoming fire.

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eli J. Medellin

Meanwhile, the assault team had already reached the village, and so found themselves cut off when the forces behind them began taking fire. Despite the precarious position he and the lead Afghan commandos were in, Sgt. David Sanders began relaying the sources of incoming fire to the Air Force joint tactical air controller on the mission.

The mission commander, Capt. Kyle Walton, told an Army journalist later that year about the initial bombings on the target. They were all danger close, meaning friendly forces were within range of the bombs’ blast.

“I was standing next to the combat controller, and when we got to a place where we could talk, he called in close air support, and the F-15s rolled in immediately. I knew my guys were up there, and I know that when you call in danger close air, you are probably going to get injured or killed. I called back to Sanders and asked if he was too close. He said, ‘Bring it anyway.’ Bombs started exploding everywhere. When I called to see if he was still alive, all I could hear him saying was, ‘Hit them again.’ ”

The Air Force JTAC, Airman Zachary Rhyner, would go on to call over 70 danger close missions that day, using eight Air Force planes and four Army attack helicopters to achieve effects on the target.

Three-story explosion and sniper warfare

As the battle continued to rage, both sides were using controlled, focused fire to wound and kill enemies. But a massive explosion after an American bomb hit a three-story building in the village brought on a brief lull in the fighting.

“Good guy or bad guy, you’re going to stop when you see that,” Staff Sgt. Luis Morales, a Special Forces intelligence sergeant, told the Army. “It reminded me of the videos from 9/11 — everything starts flushing at you, debris starts falling — and everything gets darker.”

The Americans and Afghan commandos used this time to consolidate some of their forces.

Enemy fighters began closing on the command node, eventually drawing to within 40 feet of it. Walton had the tip of his weapon shot off and was struck twice in the helmet by enemy rounds.

Both before and after the explosion, snipers on each side were playing a key role. For the Americans, one of their top assets was Staff Sgt. Seth E. Howard, a Special Forces weapons sergeant.

Near the command node, Howard was well-positioned to see the enemy fighters draw close to Walton and the JTAC. To prevent them being killed or captured, Walton stepped away from his position and moved into the open to engage the advancing fighters. He halted their advance, allowing Rhyner to continue calling in bombs.

Rhyner’s bombs would also be instrumental in protecting the command node. He sometimes had to order bombs within 100 meters of his and Walton’s position.

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
Airman Zachary Rhyner in an undated Air Force photo from another operation.

Planning to leave

American forces and Afghan commandos had more problems as the day wore on. The weather at the outset of the mission had been tricky, but the team was getting reports that a dust storm was getting worse and would stop air support before nightfall. That would leave them without bombs, helicopters, or an exit strategy. Meanwhile, surveillance platforms showed another 200 enemy fighters moving to the battlefield.

Walton had requested medical evacuation multiple times, but enemy fire made it impossible. And with six seriously wounded men, a closing window to exit the battlefield, and the serious danger of being overrun, Walton began looking at pulling the team out. But there was a problem. The initial plans had called for the team to leave by descending back down the terraces, a route now closed due to intense enemy fire.

Sanders had managed to break out of his besieged position in the village when another green beret forced a route open. Now, Walton asked him to recon a route down the sheer cliffs to the north of the village.

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Betty R. Chevalier

Sanders told the commander that the route was bad and it was possible that some climbers might break their backs or necks attempting it, but they’d probably live. The situation was so dire, Walton approved it as an exit strategy.

Leaving Shok Valley under heavy fire

Team Sergeant Master Sgt. Scott Ford led the organization at the top of the cliffs. He had less wounded team members carry the more seriously wounded down. One team member made the climb while carrying his leg that had been amputated by a sniper round early in the battle. Others were nursing wounds sustained from both insurgent fire and the effects of all the “danger close” bomb drops.

Ford was defending the top of the cliff other soldiers were climbing down when he was struck in the chest plate by a sniper round. He jumped up and continued fighting, but he was struck again. This time, his left arm was nearly amputated. Ford then finally began his own climb down the mountain, continuing to lead his men as he did so.

Howard, the sniper from above, stayed until all the other Americans and the Afghan commandos had left the mountain. He defended the top of the cliffs with his last magazine before pulling out.

One Afghan commando and an interpreter died, but all of the Americans survived the battle. The Army estimated the insurgents suffered over 150 dead and an untold number of wounded, according to an Army article. Eight insurgents were captured.

After the battle

Many of the wounded members of the team returned to service, including Ford and Sgt. 1st Class John Walding, the team member who lost his leg early on and carried it down the cliffs. Walding is attempting to return to his team, an ambition he describes near the end of this Army video about the battle. He later became the first amputee to graduate the Special Forces Sniper Course.

In a ceremony on Dec. 12, 2008, 10 members of the team were awarded Silver Stars. Rhyner was awarded the Air Force Cross during a separate ceremony in 2009.

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The 13 funniest military memes of the week

Block leave is coming up and you’re standing outside the orderly room praying that your request gets approved. Fingers crossed, bud. In the meantime, enjoy these 13 memes:


1. How admin. folks remember their training:

(via Devil Dog Nation)

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did

2. Did you know less than 1 percent of dogs will ever serve in uniform?

(via Military Memes)

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
Here’s to the good boys.

SEE ALSO: The mastermind of the Paris attacks was killed in a raid

3. Because wrecking a vehicle is an awesome profile pic (via NavyMemes.com).

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did

4. The most adorable puddle pirate in history:

(via Coast Guard Memes)

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
Admit it, you’d pay to see that dog wearing an eye patch and tiny sword.

5. Moses knew how to police his troops (via Team Non-Rec).

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did

6. And you guys think annual training is a joke (via Air Force Nation).

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
There’s a reason everyone has to be green across the board before they go home for the holidays.

7. That gnawing uncertainty:

(via Team Non-Rec)

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
Don’t worry, you locked it. Maybe. I’m sure it’s fine. Probably.

8. Are they haze gray heroes in the Coast Guard?

(via Coast Guard Memes)

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
They got their own little raft and everything.

9. When your section chief is Mickey Mouse and your skipper is Yensid (via Sh-t My LPO Says)

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
Just don’t use magic for the mopping. It never ends well.

10. Airborne problems:

(via Do You Even Airborne, Bro?)

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
Airborne: total bad-sses as long as they have 800mg ibuprofen.

11. The Air Force reminds everyone who the fighting-est general of all time was:

(via Air Force Nation)

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
Few service chiefs openly supported a nuclear first-strike policy.

12. They get you with the candy and swag …

(via Team Non-Rec)

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
… then hold you there with your contract.

13. “Where’s your cover? Or pants? I see you didn’t shave today.”

(via Team Non-Rec)

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
These stolen valor morons are getting lazier and lazier.

Lists

4 ways you can tell the firefight in Afghanistan is over — for now

There are two types of firefights that ground troops experience: fun ones and others that suck.


The fun ones consist of taking enemy contact, maneuvering in on them, and clearing them out with tons of firepower without any good guys injured.

The ones that suck are the few that we don’t see coming — the ones where we take casualties. Although predicting when a firefight is going to happen is semi-possible, it’s a different skill altogether to know when they’re about to end.

Related: 14 images that portray your first day on a field op

So, check four ways you can tell when the firefight in Afghanistan is over — for now.

4. After an A-10 performs a perfectly executed gun run

During a firefight, it’s common for the platoon sergeant to call for air support if there is “air-on-station,” especially when the enemy is firing at you from a well-fortified position.

Witnessing the power of the A-10 nose-diving toward the enemy with its guns blazing is an excellent way to end the firefight for a while.

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
We love that song.

3. When the local kids come back out to play

We’re not exactly sure how this one works, but right before rounds start flying, the locals tend to seek cover. Again, we’re not sure how it happens, but somehow the kids know when the area is clear and they come back outside and resume playing.

It’s crazy!

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
Afghan children play soccer with multinational service members outside the Bazaar School at Kandahar Airfield, Kandahar, Afghanistan, Sept. 25, 2010. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Tracy Hohman)

2. When the intel troops arrive to conduct a BDA

Most of the military’s intel offices have access to satellites and view enemy activity from space. Typically, when a grunt unit is assigned to conduct a BDA, or Battle Damage Assessment, after a firefight, that means the coast is clear.

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
U.S. Army Capt. DeShane Greaser stands in a crater caused by a bomb dropped during an air strike conducting a Battle Damage Assessment outside a combat outpost in Afghanistan. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Also Read: 6 questions you asked yourself after your first firefight

1. When it’s getting close to prayer time

Islam is a beautiful religion and the men and women who loyally follow the practice pray five times. Since prayer takes place throughout the day, ground troops commonly schedule missions and patrols according to those times.

It’s been frequently noted that firefights come to a quick halt if they overlap with prayer schedules.

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
Muslim Soldiers bow down in prayer during the celebration of Eid-Al-Fitr Sunday at the Joe E. Mann Center. Eid-Al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan, the holy month for Muslims worldwide. (Photo from U.S. Army)

Articles

Here’s a friendly reminder of how big the A-10 Warthog’s gun is

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
The GAU-8/A Avenger Gatling gun next to a VW Type 1. Removing an installed GAU-8 from an A-10 requires first installing a jack under the aircraft’s tail to prevent it from tipping, as the cannon makes up most of the aircraft’s forward weight. | US Air Force photo


On Thursday, we saw for the first time the brand new F-35B/C variant’s GAU-22 25 mm gun pod firing, and as impressive as it was, it’s not even close to the best gun on the force.

What you’re looking at above is the biggest asset for, and the biggest argument against, the A-10 Warthog. You can plainly see how the massive, 4,000 pound (including ammo), almost 20-foot long GAU-8 Avenger dwarfs the classic VW bug next to it. The firepower of that gun has become the stuff of legend over the last decades.

But that’s the problem; this picture was taken in the late 1970s. As big and awesome as this gun is, much has changed in aviation, in the battle space, and in the world since it was first fielded. Case in point — you just don’t see VW bugs on the road anymore.

So while the A-10 still holds the title of best and biggest gun, the close air support of the future makes different demands on a weapons system. Even though it may still have useful days ahead, the A-10’s days at the top are numbered.

Articles

US commandos want full-color night vision and silent drones

The Pentagon office in charge of outfitting America’s secret warriors is asking industry for new technologies that will allow commandos to target and track bad guys through goggles or a head’s up display in their weapon sights, see colors at night and fly small surveillance drones that are nearly undetectable.


The new technologies sound like something from science fiction, but the spec ops gear buyers want to see what industry has in the works that could get to troops behind enemy lines in places like Syria, Iraq and Libya.

According to an official industry solicitation, U.S. Special Operations Command will hold a so-called “Military Utility Assessment” at Camp Blanding, Florida, in mid-November to see what capabilities are out there to enhance special operators’ ability to see the enemy in adverse conditions, surveil bad guy positions at great distances and tag and track targets without detection.

Current night vision equipment either enhances available light like stars or the moon or uses thermal imaging to see heat. Both technologies can be digitally modified to present the images in limited color, but the detail is usually poor.

The special operations community wants to see if there are options out there that help commandos identify objects and people in the dark with better resolution.

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
Afghan and coalition force members provide security during an operation in search of a Taliban leader in Kandahar city, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, April 21, 2013. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Matthew Hulett)

The command is looking for night optics “that aid in target discrimination, mobility, combat identification, identify friend or foe, or situational awareness via a natural appearing manner.”

“The need is from clear sky no moon to daylight conditions,” USSOCOM says. “A capability that allows true color at higher illumination and switch or transition to black and white at the lowest illumination is of interest.”

The special operators will consider systems that either attach to existing goggles, scopes or optics or entire new night vision equipment that can replace them. The key is keeping down the weight and increasing battery life, the command says.

SOCOM also wants to see if there are options out there for passive targeting scopes that will allow commandos to move a cursor to their target and share that data with other assaulters and snipers. They even want to be able to call in air strikes using the embedded targeting capability.

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
U.S. Army Rangers from 75th Ranger Regiment shoot at targets on Farnsworth Range, Fort Benning, Ga., July 27, as part of a stress fire competition as one of the events of Ranger Rendezvous 2011. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Marcus Butler, USASOC Public Affairs)

Clearly, unmanned aerial vehicles have become an important part of warfighting these days, and SOCOM wants to see how it can take advantage of the bleeding edge of technology for unmanned systems. The command has asked industry if it can field drones that are unseen and unheard above a target and can see details like vehicle license plates or the types of bombs loaded on a parked plane.

The special operators want “technologies that can be programmed to orbit or perch and stare at an area or object of interest,” it said. “Technology should be visually and acoustically undetectable by persons or systems resident at an observed area or object of interest, while providing users VNIIRS 9 or better video quality in real time.”

SOCOM is asking for technology proposals that are either on the drawing board or have prototypes ready for field testing.

Articles

Coast Guard vet Arnold Palmer transformed golf

Arnold Palmer, legendary professional golfer and Coast Guard veteran, died Sunday afternoon from complications of a heart condition. He transformed the game of golf with his aggressive, magnetic playing style and he later transformed the world of business and sports marketing with a similar passion.


After dropping out of Wake Forest in 1950, Palmer enlisted as a Yeoman in the Coast Guard and served until 1953. The Coast Guard allowed Palmer to compete in amateur golf tournaments. After his service, he returned to Wake Forest and promptly won the U.S. Amateur Championship in 1954.

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
Arnold Palmer, 23, played in the North and South Amateur Golf Championship held at Pinehurst Country Club, Pinehurst, N.C., April 20, 1953, while on leave from his yeoman duties in the 9th District Auxiliary office. | US Coast Guard historical photo

Palmer was a working-class kid from Latrobe, PA who took the pro golfing world by storm, transforming a game that had previously been popular with the elite country club set to the massively popular pastime that it is today. His charisma and devoted fan base (dubbed “Arnie’s Army” because “Arnie’s Yeomen” wasn’t quite as catchy) inspired networks to broadcast golf tournaments in hopes they could cash in on the excitement. He won 7 major tournaments, 62 overall and was the first golfer to win a million dollars in prize money on the tour. His 1960s rivalry with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player brought fame to all three men.

And, yet, it was Palmer’s early embrace of sports marketing that truly transformed the sports world. An early alliance with lawyer Mark McCormack, whom he met in the Coast Guard, led to the creation of the International Management Group, which became the most prominent sports agency in the world.

Palmer aggressively pursued endorsements, putting his name on lines of golf clubs and clothing. Millions of Americans who knew nothing about golf knew him as the guy on the tractor who trusted Pennzoil in dozens of commercials in the ’70s and ’80s. He worked on the development or redesign of more than three hundred golf courses.

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
AriZona Beverages

His most lasting legacy may be the drink that bears his name, the half-lemonade-half-iced-tea off-menu order known as the Arnold Palmer. He eventually made a deal with Arizona iced tea and now practically every convenience store in America is stocked with cans that bear his likeness.

Arnold Palmer paved the way for every athlete business tycoon that followed: Jack Nicklaus, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Peyton Manning, Tiger Woods and Lebron James all owe a debt to the Coastie from Latrobe, PA.

Articles

The first woman to receive the Soldier’s Medal saved 15 patients from a fire

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
Lt. Edith Greenwood after receiving her Soldier’s Medal. She was the first woman to receive the medal. (Photo: Public Domain)


The Army’s highest award for noncombat valor, the Soldier’s Medal had been bestowed exclusively to men since its creation in 1927.

But in 1943, a female nurse who braved a raging fire to save her fellow Joes was given the award at the explicit order of then President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Edith Greenwood was  a lieutenant in the Army Nurse Corps in World War II, and in 1943 she was serving patients at a hospital on the massive California Arizona Maneuver Area.

The CAMA served as a practice stage for troops headed to the battle front in North Africa and stretched from Southeast California into Arizona and Nevada. Across this expanse of desert and mountains, troops practiced all aspects of deployed life.

The hospital where Greenwood worked had an attached  kitchen where cooks prepared the meals for all the patients and staff. Greenwood oversaw a 15-bed ward near the kitchen.

On the morning of Apr. 17, 1943, a cooking stove exploded and started a fire in the ward. Greenwood tried to fight the flames but quickly realized the building was lost. So Greenwood and her assistant, Pvt. James F. Ford, grabbed the 15 patients and ferried them outside to safety.

With the flames racing through the wooden structure, the entire ward burned down in about 5 minutes. But thanks to the quick actions of Greenwood and Ford, all of the patients made it out alive.

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
The US Army Soldier’s Medal is awarded for noncombat valor. (Photo: Public Domain)

When the story of the fire reached Roosevelt, he ordered that both Ford and Greenwood receive the Soldier’s Medal, the highest award that he or the military could recommend under the circumstances.

On Jun. 10, 1943, Greenwood became the first woman to receive the medal. She survived the war and died of old age in 1999. The synopsis of her medal citation is below:

By direction of the President of the United States, The Soldier’s Medal is awarded to Lieutenant Edith Ellen Greenwood, Army Nurse Corps, United States Army. At 0630 on April 17, 1943, a stove exploded in the 37th Station Hospital’s diet kitchen, setting fire to the nearby ward where Lieutenant Greenwood was responsible for overseeing the care of 15 patients. Greenwood sounded the alarm and attempted to extinguish the blaze, but the fire quickly spread, with reports indicating that the ward burned down within five minutes. Greenwood safely evacuated all of her patients with the assistance of a young ward attendant, Private James F. Ford. By direction of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, both Greenwood and Ford were awarded the Soldier’s Medal on June 10, 1943.
Articles

These 7 tiny details changed the outcomes of wars

Sometimes the smallest thing can mean the difference between nations emerging triumphant or collapsing in defeat. Here are 7 moments from military history where the outcomes hinged on a minor detail:


1. A colonel didn’t read a note, and his men were slaughtered by Washington

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
Public Domain

Col. Johann Rall was the commander of Hessian soldiers in Trenton, New Jersey, on Christmas Day in 1776. Rall was partying with his officers when someone handed him a note that he shoved in his pocket without reading it. A few hours later, he and his men were effectively wiped out by Patriots fighting under Gen. George Washington.

The note Rall warning him of the attack was found in his pocket after he was killed. If he had read and believed it, the Hessians could have conducted an ambush on Washington’s attacking forces, possibly ending the war. Instead, it was a huge Patriot victory that helped led to America being a thing.

2. A weather report and a birthday party changed World War II

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
The Seabees land at Omaha Beach on D-Day. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

Nazi and Allied planners had forecasted potential dates for a summer invasion based on tides, phases of the moon, and weather trends. The best window for the Allies was June 4 to June 6, 1944. June 4 started with clear skies but Allied meteorologists believed it would turn nasty, which was true.

Allied Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower postponed the invasion, and Nazi commanders left their coastal defenses for war games. German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel even left for home to celebrate his wife’s birthday. But the Allies had more Atlantic weather stations and found a lull in the bad weather that the Nazis didn’t know about. The invasion was launched into rough seas and winds Jun. 6, but the weather cleared early in the day.

The Allied invasion was a success partially because a single meteorologist believed the weather would clear. Hitler slept in, Rommel went to the birthday party, and other senior leaders played war games because none of them knew the weather had broken and the invasion was underway.

3. World War I began because of bad driving directions

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
The Archduke and Archduchess before they were killed. Their assassination kicked off World War I. (Photo: Public Domain by Henry Guttman)

Conspirators attempted to kill the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914 by attacking his car during a parade. One assassin threw a grenade but it bounced off the Archduke’s vehicle before the royal was rushed to safety.

Reports vary about whether the royal couple attempted to leave the city after the attack or continue the parade, but they definitely were driving back along the route when they were spotted by another assassin, Gavrilo Princip. The car stopped directly in front of Princip as the occupants argued about the proper directions.

Princip took two shots, killing both the Archduke and his wife, which set off the powder keg that was 1914 Europe and began World War I.

4. Germany lost the Battle of the Marne (and maybe World War I) because of a rumor

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
(Photo: Public Domain)

Early in World War I, Imperial Germany was marching quickly towards Paris after forcing British and French forces into a series of retreats. At the Battle of the Marne in Sep. 1914, the British and French barely stopped the Germans through a series of desperate actions like using taxis to ferry troops to the frontlines.

Germany might have won if it had the two divisions it had sent to the Belgian coast. The Germans had believed rumors that Russian soldiers were forming in Britain for an amphibious assault. This false rumor was later traced by historians to either a shipment of 100,000 Russian eggs that was noted in a train report as “100,000 Russians now on way from Aberdeen to London” or a group of soldiers from Ross Shire being misheard by local train officials.

Either way, the rumor began circulating that large numbers of Russian soldiers were entering the fight on the Eastern Front and Germany redeployed troops to deal with them. Those troops then weren’t available for fighting near Paris, and France was able to hold on, prolonging the war and allowing an Allied victory.

5. A slight time miscalculation ended the Bay of Pigs invasion

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
Fidel Castro became a close friend of the Soviet Union, something JFK tried to stop with the Bay of Pigs invasion. (Photo: Keizers)

On Apr. 17, 1961, 1,400 Cuban exiles invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs and attempted to overthrow the Castro regime. If successful, this invasion would have led to the downfall of Communist Cuba and allowed America more influence over its southern neighbor. It also would’ve cut off Soviet access to the island, preventing the Cuban Missile Crisis and giving American a stronger hand in the Cold War.

The Bay of Pigs invasion went badly from the start, and America was quickly outed as a backer of the invasion. To save the botched operation, President John F. Kennedy authorized fighter cover for bombing missions on Apr. 18 but the bombers arrived an hour late, missing the protective cover of the fighters and leaving them exposed to the Cuban Air Force.

Later investigations showed that the bombers probably arrived late because someone miscalculated the time difference between the base and the destination. The bombers were shot down, the Cuban exiles were captured, and Castro was still in power a month later when the Soviet Union asked if he would be interested in hosting nuclear missiles as a deterrent to future U.S. aggression. That meeting led to the Cuban Missile Crisis.

6. Nagasaki was destroyed because of a single cloud at the original target

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
The nuclear cloud spreads over Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945. (Photo: Hiromichi Matsuda via Public Domain)

There are two cities that are synonymous with the destruction from atomic bombs: Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But, America’s target list actually included Kokura. On Aug. 6, Hiroshima was the primary target and Kokura was the backup. Since Hiroshima was clear, the bomb was dropped there.

On Aug. 9, Kokura was the primary target and Hiroshima was the backup. The B-29 crew (bomber nicknamed Bock’s Car) flew over Kokura multiple times but had orders to only drop the bomb if they could physically see the targeted weapons factory beforehand. A single cloud kept blocking their view, and so they moved on to Nagasaki, sparing the city of Kokura.

7. Constantinople fell because of an unlocked gate

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did

Constantinople in 1453 was facing serious problems. The skilled conqueror Mehmed II was hammering at the walls with his cannons while the defenders fought among themselves about whether the Roman Catholic Church or the Orthodox Church of Byzantium was the true Christian faith.

These troubles got worse when somebody left an outer gate open and Mehmed’s soldiers were able to pour into the city. If the gate had remained closed, slow-to-arrive reinforcements may have been able to break the siege and relieve the city. Instead, Constantinople was conquered and became Istanbul, and Islam gained a permanent foothold in eastern Europe.

Lists

The most famous battles fought by Gen. George Patton

A list of all important battles fought by George S. Patton. This battles list includes any George S. Patton battles, conflicts, campaigns, wars, skirmishes or military engagements of any kind. This list displays the battles George S. Patton fought in alphabetically, but the battles/military engagements contain information such as where the battle was fought and who else was involved. List items include Battle of the Bulge, Allied invasion of Sicily and many additional items as well.


If you are looking to answer the questions, “Which battles did George S. Patton fight in?” and “Which battles was George S. Patton involved in?” then this list has got you covered.

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‘The weaponization of everyday life’ is making traditional counterterrorism tactics obsolete

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
The aftermath of the attack in Nice, France. | YouTube


At least 84 people, including at least 10 children, were killed in the southern French city of Nice when a man drove a truck into a crowd celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday late Thursday night.

Authorities are now trying to determine how the attacker — who has been identified as a 31-year-old Tunisian national residing in Nice — evaded French counterterrorism efforts, as France grapples with its third major terrorist attack in the past 18 months.

The country’s counterterror measures were ramped up after the Charlie Hebdo shootings in January 2015 and heightened even further after November’s Paris attacks.

A question that has emerged in the immediate aftermath of these attacks is whether anything more could have been done to detect and preempt them — or whether so-called lone-wolf attacks such as that of Nice, Dallas, and Orlando, Florida, have long since exceeded the capabilities of current counterterrorism tactics.

“We have moved into a new era,” French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said in a statement. “And France will have to live with terrorism.”

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel echoed Valls’ sentiment from Brussels, which was attacked by terrorists affiliated with the Islamic State in March.

“Zero risk does not exist,” he said. “We are now faced with a different modus operandi.”

Terrorism analysts seem to agree.

Also read: ISIS and Al Qaeda have specifically called for the type of attack that just happened in France

“Current counterterrorism capabilities are not designed to prevent attacks like these,” The Soufan Group, a strategic security firm, wrote in its daily briefing on Friday. “Absent tell-tale communications or travel — or alerting behavior beyond the merely ‘suspicious’ — there is little authorities can do to detect and deter attacks of this nature.”

It continued: “Such attacks can be considered intentionally spontaneous, in that they take some forethought, but little to no planning or training. The results are mass-casualty terrorist attacks.”

Antiterror prosecutors have taken over the investigation into the attack, which occurred at about 10:30 p.m. local time Thursday as pedestrians were dispersing after watching Nice’s Bastille Day fireworks.

“What can you do against this?” Andre Jacob, a former head of counterterrorism at Belgium’s State Security service, told Reuters. “It’s impossible to prevent. Even if there were clues.”

The French “can add more counterterrorism resources — the numbers of people actually tasked with monitoring those on the terrorist watch list,” geopolitical expert Ian Bremmer, president of the geopolitical risk firm Eurasia Group, told Business Insider on Friday.

“Short of that, near term, you’re talking about measures that would truly change the nature of a liberal and open democracy — the sorts of automatic detentions being discussed by the Front Nationale,” he added, referring to France’s far-right, nationalist party known for its anti-immigrant, anti-Islam, and eurosceptic policies.

“Long term the only real fix is true integration … or a move to a selective police/surveillance state. There’s little appetite for either at present.”

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
YouTube

‘The weaponization of everyday life’

France has become a target for Islamic State sympathizers and militants for many reasons, including the war France declared on the Islamic State, which is also known as ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh, in Iraq and Syria last year.

“Today, France is clearly the most threatened country,” the head of France’s General Directorate for Internal Security (DGSI) said on Friday. “The question about the threat is not to know ‘if’ but ‘when’ and ‘where’.”

On Friday, French President Francois Hollande said France would “reinforce” its actions in Iraq and Syria in response to the violence.

“We will continue striking those who attack us on our own soil,” he said.

France declared a state of emergency after November’s Paris attacks, which were carried out by ISIS militants who had trained with the jihadist group in Syria. The mandate was still in place — set to expire on July 26 — when the Nice attacker carried out Thursday night’s rampage. It will now be extended for another three months, Hollande said.

The Soufan Group said the “heavy-handed” policies that inevitably accompany a nationwide state of emergency are necessary but damaging — and probably futile — in the long run.

“Persistent states of emergency are unhealthy for democratic societies, yet the nature of the threat yields a slippery slope of well-intended but heavy-handed policies,” the group wrote. “The uncomfortable reality is that few counterterrorism laws or measures can address the weaponization of everyday life due to the unrelenting call to terror .”

Andre Jacob of Belgium’s state security service echoed that sentiment, saying “you can’t turn everywhere into a ‘fan-zone,’ behind barriers and police checkpoints.”

“This seems like the act of an isolated individual where it’s impossible to prevent anything in the sense that terrorists will adapt to their targets,” Jacob told Reuters.

Alan Mendoza, executive director of the conservative think tank The Henry Jackson Society, put it even more bluntly.

Mendoza said: “France has been on high terror alert for months with troops on the street yet still could not prevent this atrocity.”

‘Operate within France’

US officials told The Daily Beast that ISIS is a top suspect in the latest attack. As Business Insider’s Pamela Engel has noted, both ISIS and Al Qaeda have publicly called for supporters to use vehicles as weapons.

“If you are not able to find an IED or a bullet, then single out the disbelieving American, Frenchman, or any of their allies,” ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani said in a statement in September 2014. “Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or throw him down from a high place, or choke him, or poison him.”

“If you are unable to come to Syria or Iraq, then pledge allegiance in your place — pledge allegiance in France,” a French ISIS member said in a video released in 2014. “Operate within France.”

As Bremmer of Eurasia Group said on Twitter, “1,700 French citizens have gone to fight in Iraq and Syria. 250 have returned.”

Last year, the French department of Alpes-Maritimes, which contains Nice, began training “teachers, social workers, doctors, policemen, prison officers and others to watch for signs of radicalisation and sound the alert,” according to The Economist. The program was called Entr’Autres.

“The objective is to bring someone back from the edge  from the point at which the radicalised mind turns to terrorism,”   Patrick Amoyel, a psychoanalyst and co-founder of Entr’Autres, told The Economist.

Still, Bremmer noted, ” France is already arresting as many Islamist terrorist suspects as the rest of the EU combined.”

That may actually be part of the problem, however. France’s prison population was estimated last year to be 70% Muslim, and many of them, initially arrested for petty crimes, are radicalizing while behind bars.

4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did
Amedy Coulibaly, one of the gunmen behind the worst militant attacks in France for decades, declares his allegiance.

Amedy Coulibaly, for example — an ISIS militant who attacked a kosher supermarket in Paris in January 2015 — met Chérif Kouachi, one of the two Charlie Hebdo shooters, in a French prison in 2006.

To respond to and combat this trend, France enacted a compulsory re-education program in four prisons earlier this year, the Economist reported.

Bouhlel, the suspect in the Nice attack, has not yet been linked to a terrorist group and was alone in the refrigerated truck that was used to carry out the attack. He was, however, on law enforcement’s radar, having been previously accused of assault with a weapon, domestic violence, threats, and robbery, according to reports.

Dozens of bodies covered in blue sheets still lined the pavement next to the Promenade des Anglais on Friday morning as the police continued to investigate the scene of yet another attack in their country.