General James Longstreet was one of the Confederate army’s most trusted and capable officers. After the Battle of Gettysburg and long after the end of the Civil War, Longstreet takes much of the blame for the southern loss at the battle – and sometimes for the loss of Civil War itself.
For many people who blame Longstreet for the loss (or show outright disdain for the man), it all goes back to the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg — specifically, Pickett’s Charge. It was an attack Longstreet didn’t order or want, but he still takes the blame for its failure.
When Gen. Robert E. Lee gave the order, Longstreet openly voiced his disagreement with it. He relayed the order to Pickett anyway, but was very unhappy to do so. Longstreet didn’t think the Confederate army should have been so far north at all. He takes a lot of blame for the failure at Gettysburg overall, because it’s said he delayed his actions during the battle.
Whether it was a good idea or not, the last day of the Battle of Gettysburg saw 12,500 Confederate soldiers charged an entrenched and fortified Union position protecting Cemetery Hill. The hill commanded a network of roads essential to command of the battlefield. The Union commanders predicted the attack and the chargers took at least 50% casualties.
The Army of Northern Virginia never recovered from the failed assault and the Confederate Army never recovered from the loss of at Gettysburg. It was the turning point in a battle that was the turning point of the Civil War. Longstreet saw it all coming and tried to talk Lee out of it, but to no avail.
No matter what the armchair historians may say, Lee is actually responsible for the failed attack, and he knew it right away. He was so personally devastated by the losses incurred in Pickett’s Charge that he offered his resignation to Confederate President Jefferson Davis (who turned it down).
Longstreet takes a lot of the blame for Pickett’s Charge (and the defeat at Gettysburg) because he, for the most part, didn’t think the Confederate Army should have been there after the first day of fighting.
It’s said that Longstreet dithered and delayed so much and so often throughout the battle that it was almost considered intentional sabotage. When it came to Pickett’s Charge, he openly disagreed with Lee, which earned him a transfer West after the Confederate retreat from Pennsylvania.
Gen. Longstreet believed that it was more important to defeat Ulysses S. Grant in Tennessee and less important to invade the North. He felt so strongly that the disagreement went all the way up to Jefferson Davis. Lee argued that moving troops to the West would force his army to stay closer to Richmond. Davis sided with Lee, so the perception was that Longstreet’s disagreement and delays during the battle were mostly sour grapes.
And since the battle – and Pickett’s Charge – was so pivotal to the Confederacy’s survival, the idea that Longstreet didn’t do his best is why he takes much of the blame.
Longstreet also takes a lot of blame in the eyes of Southern historians, especially propagators of the “Lost Cause” mythology, because of his postwar activities. Longstreet actively sought to rejoin the Union and earn a pardon. He eventually ended up working in a presidential administration – under President Ulysses S. Grant.
As for who is actually responsible for the failure of Pickett’s Charge, when asked after the war, Confederate Maj. Gen. George Pickett went on the record as saying, “I’ve always thought the Yankees had something to do with it.”
The involvement of females in the military goes back to the start of United States forces themselves. From lending a consulting ear, to helping create uniforms, to eventually being allowed to join the ranks themselves, women have undoubtedly been a big part of U.S. forces.
Join us in this trip down memory lane outlining how their roles originated and changed over time.
During the Civil War, women were not allowed to fight in the war. More than 400 got around this rule Mulan-style by disguising themselves as men and fighting anyway. This is most notable because, years prior is referred to the Cult of True Womanhood by historians. (Think Antebellum period.) This is a term that describes women who worked inside the home, wore intricate dresses, and spent their time socializing and keeping up with the housework. In other words, a far cry from helping in a war — let alone fighting within it.
They also played a huge role in helping the sick and wounded. With or without proper medical training, thousands of women worked as nurses where they helped those who were stricken with illness or who were hurt in the war. Later, in the war they did so officially with the Union’s United States Sanitary Commission. Inspired by trailblazer Florence Nightingale, they helped ensure conditions were as sanitary as possible.
Women also helped by providing food for soldiers and gathering supplies in the North and South.
This is noted as the first war in history that women held a true and significant role within the war. It’s also said that women’s position within the war advanced women’s rights by 50 years.
World War I
During the first World War, the U.S. was in “total war efforts,” meaning it was all hands on deck. As many men went overseas to participate in the war, that left many women at home to help fill their shoes. Farm work especially was taken on by women, as was household work, child rearing (alone or sharing responsibilities with family members left behind), and earning income to help supplement solider pay, which was not always enough to raise a family.
This was the first “class-less” war, where those of all income levels worked in the same jobs. Women joined efforts in which they could travel overseas, including the YWCA. Nationwide propaganda also encouraged women to get a job working in the factories. Meanwhile, one of the most popular jobs was working as a switchboard operator; they were known as Hello Girls.
The U.S. employed more than 21,000 women as nurses in hospitals stateside and overseas.
Russia was the only major country of the war to send women to the front lines. However, in the U.S., 13,000 women joined the Navy working stateside and receiving the same pay as men. They were welcomed into the ranks of the Marines as well.
World War II
This go-round, all major participating countries heavily recruited women into their respective militaries. In most cases, women held clerical or office jobs, including the majority of female soldiers. In the U.S., around 400,000 women served through these support positions. With this installment, women became seen as a permanent part of military forces, formalized by the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act in 1948.
WWII also saw the start of the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) in 1942. It began as an auxiliary unit but was converted to active duty just one year later.
Like in WWI, women were heavily relied upon to pick up duties and home and take on labor jobs. This led to the movement of Rosie the Riveter, a cultural icon representing women who worked in factories and shipyards during WWII. She is still credited today to advancing women working manual jobs and helping supply war efforts with equipment and ammunition.
Designed to blast aircraft, missiles and even drones out of the skies with deadly precision, the American-made MIM-104 Patriot missile system has been sought after by a number of countries over the last 30 years to defend their sovereign territories from threats in the air.
After expressing interest in the Patriot system for years, and failing to develop a suitably-priced medium/long range air defense missile of its own, Poland will finally get its hands on a group of eight Patriot batteries pending the signing of a deal worth billions of dollars with the United States.
Poland, a former satellite republic under the Soviet Union’s scope of influence, was previously armed almost entirely with Soviet-built hardware, including 1960s-era SA-5 Gammon surface-to-air missiles. However, in the years since the fall of the USSR, most of what was once the best Eastern Bloc military technology on the market has become almost entirely obsolete.
With the Eastern European nation formally joining NATO in the 1990s, and with a plethora of aged and below-standard military equipment in the country’s possession, Poland has begun the process of pushing its armed forces through a gradual yet massive overhaul that will see it retain a degree of relevancy against potential aggressors, especially Russia.
At the top of the country’s wishlist is a new advanced missile defense system with the ability to deal with aerial threats in a quick and effective manner. With Russian military activity ramping up near its borders, the recent forceful annexation of the Crimea, and a general distrust for all things Russian anyways, Poland has not so subtly let the U.S. know it wants the air defense umbrella the Patriot can provide.
In 2015, Polish defense officials announced their intent to work with Raytheon, the creator and manufacturer of the Patriot, to buy eight missile batteries with a percentage of the system’s components built in Poland. But the deal, projected at $7 billion at the time, didn’t really materialize until earlier this week during a state visit by President Donald Trump.
That’s when Polish officials confirmed their country’s armed forces would begin receiving the Patriots it wanted for a little under $8 billion.
Currently, 14 countries including the United States operate the Patriot system, with a number of them having actually deployed the missile in combat situations against hostile aircraft, missiles and drones. Poland will be the 15th such country pending the signing of this multi-billion dollar deal.
The Patriot, originally designed in the early 1980s, received its combat baptism during the Persian Gulf War, engaging and destroying Iraqi Scud missiles with chemical warheads aimed at Israeli cities. In more recent history, the system has seen action in Iraq during the 2003 invasion, and in Saudi Arabia and Israel to ward off missile and drone attacks.
Among Poland’s other military modernization aims are the procurement of submarine-launched cruise missiles, UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopters, and the construction of a series of watchtowers and observation posts on its border with the Kaliningrad Oblast region to keep an eye on any nearby Russian military activity.
Additionally, the country has discussed buying more F-16 Fighting Falcons and possibly brand new F-35A Lightning II stealth fighters for its air force.
The woman behind one of the most iconic photographs of World War II has died.
Greta Friedman, a woman dressed as a nurse pictured kissing a sailor in New York City as America announced its victory over Japan, passed away Sept. 1. She was 92.
It’s one of the most famous photos of the 20th Century and shows a sailor who celebrates by hugging a nurse (actually a dental assistant, who just happened to be walking by) and giving her a long celebratory kiss.
Good thing a world-famous Life Magazine photographer happened to be standing there.
Photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt called the photo “V-J Day in Times Square” and captioned it “In New York’s Times Square a white-clad girl clutches her purse and skirt as an uninhibited sailor plants his lips squarely on hers.”
In 1981, a spiritual leader named “Rajneesh,” aka “Osho,” aka Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, an Indian mystic and guru who advocated open attitudes toward sexuality, rejected Mahatma Ghandi and Indian socialism founded an “intentional community,” aka commune, aka “cult” in rural Oregon. They originally wanted to found an agricultural cooperative, but it soon became apparent to residents of what is today Antelope, Oregon, the closest town to the cultists they were up to so much more than that.
They set up a six million dollar, 64,000-acre ranch near Antelope, complete with 93 Rolls-Royce automobiles and private jets, all with money donated by his followers. His disciples dressed in red, worked all day, did drugs at night, and had sex with and in front of their leader. Rajneesh claimed the sex he taught them could cure them of their phobias and give them spiritual enlightenment.
Ummm… and now could one of our less hairy members use some healing?
The followers, called “Rajneeshees” immediately entered conflict with the locals of Antelope over the use of the massive tract of land, but with only 50 people in the tiny town, compared to the Rajneeshees 7,000, they didn’t stand much of a chance. The townspeople tried to disincorporate themselves, but the measure was voted down, overwhelmed by Rajneesh’s registered voter corps. The cultists were very aggressive, initiating lawsuits, voting to change name the town to “Rajneesh,” and even allegedly attempting to murder state politicians.
The cult began flying people into the area via their series of private jets. The cult’s de facto leader, a woman named Ma Anand Sheela (aka Sheela Silverman) exacerbated the growing conflict with her crude and inflammatory rhetoric. She was dismissive of the townspeople’s complaints. Locals began to talk openly about hunting Rajneeshees in “turkey shoots.” Things were coming to a boiling point.
Air conditioning is for winners.
Antelope wasn’t the only town targeted by the Rajneeshees. In an attempt to pack the Wasco County government with Rajneesh’s followers, the cult targeted the voting population of The Dalles, Oregon.
In order to incapacitate The Dalles voting population so only cult members would be healthy enough to make it to the polls on voting day, the cultists spread Salmonella entericaTyphimurium on salad bars and in salad dressings throughout the city. 751 people picked up salmonellosis, 45 of those were hospitalized. No one died, but the locals were immediately suspicious of the rash of food poisonings. There were too many for it to be coincidental. Local leaders and citizen suspected the Rajneeshees. The evidence was purely circumstantial, however.
If you’re eating at Taco Time or Burgerville, food poisoning is likely to happen eventually.
Rajneesh, who was in a self-imposed isolation the entire time, finally came out and spoke up as a governmental inter-agency task force was being assembled to take on the cult. He called a press conference to blame everything on Sheela, who had conveniently just fled the country.It was almost an entire year later, but once the task force was formed, search warrants were issued and the Rajneeshee ranch was raided. Law enforcement found copies of The Anarchists’ Cookbook as well as samples of the salmonella strain used in the attack.
Rajneesh blamed the running of the commune on Sheela and admitted his complicity by remaining in isolation. He was fined and given a suspended sentence before being deported.
She seems okay with it.
Ma Anand Sheela and another woman were extradited to the U.S. from West Germany, while Rajneesh himself couldn’t find a country who would take him until he ultimately ending up back in India where he started. Sheela served 29 months of a twenty year sentence. Rajneesh died in 1990.
It was the only instance of bioterrorism on American soil until the 2001 Anthrax mailing attacks. The camp is now a Christian youth camp.
Fort Bliss soldiers will be going on two major missions in the Middle East later this year, the Army announced March 29.
About 400 soldiers from the 1st Armored Division headquarters, including the Fort Bliss commanding general, will deploy this summer to Iraq. Another 200 soldiers will go to Afghanistan this spring.
“America’s tank division is highly trained and ready for this important mission,” said Maj. Gen. Robert “Pat” White, commanding general of the 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss. He will deploy on the Iraq mission along with division Command Sgt. Maj. Danny Day.
“We are proud to work alongside our Iraqi allies and coalition partners to continue the fight against ISIS,” White added. “I’m extremely impressed by the commitment and sacrifice of our military families. It is their stalwart support and resilience that gives us the strength to serve.”
Soldiers from the division headquarters, the Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion and Division Artillery will take over the role as the Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command in Iraq.
The 1st Armored Division will be responsible for mission command of coalition troops who are training, advising, and assisting Iraqi security forces in their efforts to fight the Islamic State and other threats in an ongoing operation known as Inherent Resolve.
These soldiers will replace the 1st Infantry Division headquarters from Fort Riley, Kan., which has been serving in this role.
The division headquarters recently went through the Warfighter command post exercise at Fort Bliss in preparation for this deployment. The deployment is expected to last about nine months.
Brigadier General Mark H. Landes, a deputy commanding general at Fort Bliss, will serve as the acting senior commander at Fort Bliss during the deployment.
Also, about 200 soldiers from the 1st Armored Division Sustainment Brigade and its Special Troops Battalion will go to Afghanistan this spring and serve as the logistical headquarters for the entire theater of operation.
The brigade did a similar mission from May 2015 to February 2016, with about the same number of troops.
Colonel Michael Lalor, the commander of the Sustainment Brigade, called it a demanding mission but said his troops have been training for it since last summer.
The Sustainment Brigade will oversee a task force of about 2,000 soldiers, civilians, and contractors who will provide important support for U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan. The task force will provide water, food, ammunition, transportation services, and maintenance, Lalor said.
Command Sergeant Major Sean Howard, the brigade’s senior enlisted leader, said his soldiers have been training hard, including at the recent Warfighter exercise.
“We are ready to go; there is no doubt in my mind,” Howard said.
The Sustainment Brigade’s deployment is scheduled to last about six months.
The Air Force has made the F-15 Eagle an icon of air superiority fighters. The Navy’s F-14 Tomcat has its iconic status, thanks in large part to Top Gun and JAG, among other Hollywood productions.
But the Navy could have flown the F-15 off carriers. In fact, McDonnell-Douglas, who had made the iconic F-4 Phantom, which was in service with the Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, proposed what was known as the F-15N “Sea Eagle.”
There was, though, a problem with the Sea Eagle. Aviation historian Joe Baugher notes that the design could not carry the AIM-54 Phoenix, which the Navy needed in order to counter Soviet long-range bombers armed with heavy anti-ship missiles.
The track records of both planes are nothing to sneer at. The F-14 proved to be a superb addition — it never had to face the big fight with the Soviet Union, but it nevertheless scored five air-to-air kills in United States Navy service. The F-15 scored 104 air-to-air kills with no losses across all operators, including the United States Air Force and Saudi and Israeli planes.
Here’s a video showing just what might have been, and why it didn’t happen.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they’re always capturing what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
U.S. Air Force Capt. Andrew Barth a physical therapist with the 349th Medical Squadron, Travis Air Force Base, Calif., practices weapons safety with an M4 carbine at Young Air Assault Strip, Fort McCoy, Wis., Aug. 16, 2017, as part of exercise Patriot Warrior. More than 600 Reserve Citizen Airmen and over 10,000 soldiers, sailors, Marines and international partners converged on the state of Wisconsin to support a range of interlinked exercises including Patriot Warrior, Global Medic, CSTX, Diamond Saber, and Mortuary Affairs Exercise (MAX). Patriot Warrior is Air Force Reserve Command’s premier exercise, providing an opportunity for Reserve Citizen Airmen to train with joint and international partners in airlift, aeromedical evacuation and mobility support. This exercise is intended to test the ability of the Air Force Reserve to provide combat-ready forces to operate in dynamic, contested environments and to sharpen Citizen Airmen’s skills in supporting combatant commander requirements.
A German air force Tornado and an F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the 314th Fighter Squadron fly in formation together during the last joint flying mission at Holloman Air Force Base, Aug. 17, 2017. The GAF has entered its final stage of departure, however they will not complete their departure from Holloman AFB until mid 2019.
U.S. Army Paratroopers, deployed in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve and assigned to 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, fire an M777 towed 155 mm howitzer in support of Iraqi security forces in northern Iraq, August 15, 2017. The 2nd BCT, 82nd Abn. Div., enables Iraqi security force partners through the advise and assist mission, contributing planning, intelligence collection and analysis, force protection and precision fires to achieve the military defeat of ISIS. CJTF-OIR is the global Coalition to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
Soldiers with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) participate in a division run August 16, 2017 at Fort Campbell, Ky. The run commemorated a “Legacy of Heroism” for the division’s 75th birthday.
Rendezvous with destiny, brothers!
Hull Maintenance Technician 2nd Class Richard Hill, right, welds a table leg aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). Theodore Roosevelt is underway conducting a composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX) with its carrier strike group in preparation for an upcoming deployment. COMPTUEX tests a carrier strike group’s mission readiness and ability to perform as an integrated unit through simulated real-world scenarios.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Oscar Austin (DDG 79) departs Theoule-sur-Mer, France. Oscar Austin was in Theoule-sur-Mer, France, to participate in events commemorating the 73rd anniversary of Operation Dragoon, the liberation of southern France by allied forces during World War II.
Members of the U.S. Marine Corps assigned to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa, and U.S. Airmen with the 496th Air Base Squadron, and Spanish Air Force members in a moment of silence and a show of solidarity and partnership in honor of those lost in the attack on Barcelona, Spain, at Morón Air Base, Spain, Aug 18, 2017. SPMAGTF-CR-AF deployed to conduct limited crisis response and theater security operations in Europe and North Africa.
U.S. Marines exit the MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft Aug. 18, 2017, in Hokudaien, Japan, marking the first time the aircraft has landed in northern Japan. Col. James Harp, the Marine Air-Ground Task Force commander of Northern Viper 17, and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Col. Iwana, deputy commander of Northern Army 11th Brigade, particpated in a joint interview to discuss the Osprey’s capabilities. This aircraft allows Marines to have the ability to rapidly respond to any contingency worldwide.
The Coast Guard Cutter Walnut (WLB 205), a 225-foot buoy tender homeported in Honolulu is shown coordinating search efforts with a 45-foot Response Boat-Medium boatcrew from Coast Guard Station Honolulu, for five crewmembers aboard a downed Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter off Ka’ena Point, Oahu, Aug. 17, 2017. Two Black Hawk aircrews were reportedly conducting night training Aug. 15, between Ka’ena Point and Dillingham Airfield when communications were lost with one of the helicopters.
A U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Douglas Munro small boat crew transits international waters in support of Operation North Pacific Guard Aug. 15, 2017. Operation North Pacific Guard is a multilateral effort by North Pacific rim nations to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing to include high-seas drift net fishing.
B Company, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment in Somalia, 1993 (U.S. Army photo)
On October 3, 1993, Task Force Ranger conducted a raid in the Black Sea neighborhood of Mogadishu, Somalia to capture high-ranking lieutenants of the Aidid militia. The task force was an all-star special operations team composed of elements from the 75th Ranger Regiment, 1st SFOD-D, 160th SOAR, Navy SEALs from DEVGRU, and PJs and CCTs from the 24th Special Tactics Squadron.
As Nightstalker MH-6 Little Birds inserted Delta Operators on the target building, Rangers fast-roped down from MH-60 Blackhawks to the building’s four corners to secure a perimeter. During the insertion, Pfc. Todd Blackburn missed the rope and fell to the street below. Undeterred, the rest of the Rangers fast-roped out of the Blackhawks to establish security. The last Ranger out of the Blackhawk in front of Blackburn’s was team leader Sgt. Keni Thomas. As he reached for the rope, Thomas turned to the Blackhawk’s crew chief who yelled to him, “NO FEAR!”
“SCREW YOU!” Thomas responded as he dropped into the gunfire below. In his mind, it was easy for someone to say “no fear” if they’re the ones that get to fly away from the bullets. But Thomas was a Ranger, one of America’s elite, highly trained warriors. He led his team and maintained the perimeter around the target building from the Somali militia who were shooting at them, but mostly missing by his account.
Thirty-five minutes later, the target individuals were secure, loaded up on the trucks, and everyone was ready to return to base. With everything looking good, Thomas’ thoughts drifted as he thought about how he was now a bona fide combat veteran and could qualify for a VA loan. It was then that CW3 Cliff Wolcott and CW3 Donovan Briley’s Blackhawk was shot down. What was supposed to be a quick mission on a day off had turned into a battle against an entire city; after all, an American Soldier will never leave a fallen comrade.
Super 61 went down about five blocks from the target building. As the Rangers stepped off to secure the crash site, Thomas’ squad leader was shot in the neck. As the medics treated the squad leader’s neck wound, the platoon sergeant came up to Thomas and told him, “You’re in charge now.”
“What do you mean I’m in charge sarn’t?” Thomas asked, not wanting the increased responsibility.
“Hey, hey, sarn’t Thomas,” Sgt. Watson snapped his fingers to focus Thomas’ attention. “You’re in charge.” It was then that Thomas’ NCO training kicked in and he rogered up. Taking his squad leaders’ radio, he reassigned positions in his own team and took lead of the squad. The Rangers continued to make their way to the crash site as they took fire from unseen enemies.
Suddenly, one of the Rangers spotted a hostile Somali. “He’s in the tree sarn’t! He’s in the tree!” Pfc. Floyd, Thomas’ SAW gunner, yelled out frantically.
“Well if you see him, why don’t you shoot him?” Sgt. Watson responded self-evidently. It dawned on Floyd that he had, in fact, joined the Army and was allowed to shoot at people who shot at him. But rather than firing in 3 to 5 second bursts, Floyd proceeded to let out a constant stream of cyclic fire until Thomas hit him and told him to stop.
With the barrel of his machine gun glowing from the heat, Floyd stood up, lifted his goggles, and asked naively, “Did I get him?”
As the tree fell over, cut down by Floyd’s gunfire, Thomas said sarcastically, “Floyd, I don’t know if you got him, but you got the whole tree.”
Thomas and his squad continued to fight their way to the crash site and defended it until the bodies of the crew were recovered the next day. Incredibly and in spite of their casualties, their chalk was the only one to return with everyone alive that day. Thomas credits this accomplishment to the skill of their medic and the leadership of Sgt. Watson.
After Somalia, Thomas went on to serve in the Ranger recon teams. He ended his military career in 1997 as a Staff Sergeant, having earned the Master Parachutist Badge, the Military Freefall Parachutist Badge, the Special Operations Diver badge, British and Belgian jump wings, and a Bronze Star for Valor with a “V” device.
Thomas served in the Army with distinction (Photo from KeniThomas.com)
Upon leaving active duty, Thomas worked as a youth counselor and eventually became a motivational speaker, drawing on his experiences in the Ranger Regiment. He also served as a consultant on We Were Soldiers and Black Hawk Down where he was portrayed by actor Tac Fitzgerald. However, it was Thomas’ passion for music that he focused on most after the army.
Thomas formed the country music band Cornbread and began his music career by performing in and around Columbus, Georgia. By the late 90’s, the band started to make a name for itself, playing shows on college campuses like Auburn University. In the 2002 movie Sweet Home Alabama, Thomas and Cornbread perform a cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama as the movie’s featured song. To date, the band has released three albums as Cornbread and four under Keni Thomas’ name. Thomas has also performed several times at the prestigious Grand Ole Opry, with his most recent performance in May 2014.
Though he’s broken into the country music world, Thomas has not forgotten his military roots. He has performed overseas on USO tours during which he takes the extra time to connect with each servicemember that he meets and exchange stories. His favorite venues are the remote outposts where he performs for groups as small as a platoon. He also donates some of his proceeds to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, a non-profit that provides scholarships and financial aid to the children of wounded or deceased operators.
Thomas performing in Kuwait on a USO tour in 2006 (U.S. Navy photo)
From the streets of Mogadishu to the music halls of Nashville, Thomas has lived up to both the Soldier’s Creed and the Ranger Creed in never leaving a fallen comrade. He continues to tell the stories of his fallen brothers in his music and his motivational talks. Rangers like Thomas lead the way…all the way!
The battles that marked the period of the Crusades were bloody and brutal. Medieval warfare flat out sucked; not only was it incredibly violent, but medicine was basically nonexistent, there was poor sanitation practices, and really bad tactics.
The weapons used in the fighting were about as hellish as any martial tools could get. Think about it — it’s no surprise the phrase “get Medieval on them” strikes such fear.
The warriors of the Crusades, from the late 1000s to mid-1200s, were a mix of peasants, soldiers, and knights, and their mix of weaponry reflected the means by which each could acquire arms.
Peasants often had simple weapons — mostly tools used for agriculture — since they could not afford such luxuries of destruction. Knights had more expensive swords and armor, while others had bows, arrows, and spears.
So what are the deadliest weapons to encounter during the Crusades?
1. A mace or club
The mace is a type of club with a ball at the end. When it comes to length, the mace varies between two or three feet. The shaft was made of wood while the ball was usually of iron.
The ball may be smooth and round or have flanges. While this is somewhat of an infantry weapon, some horsemen would also carry the mace. However, a cavalryman’s mace was much longer so that the rider could reach down and swipe his opponent.
The purpose of the mace was to crush bone since it is a top-heavy weapon. One blow from a mace could break a man’s bones easily. Many maces also had flanges for extra damage.
While a ball can crush, a mace with flanges can exploit and penetrate the flexible armor in order to crush the bone underneath, possibly causing the victim to bleed to death.
2. The spear
The spear may be simple in design, but it has proven itself to be an effective close combat weapon over the centuries.
The length of the spear is between six to eight feet. The purpose of the spear in combat is to keep your foe at a distance by thrusting at him, or if the infantryman in question has extra spears or a side arm he can rely on, he could throw it at the enemy.
Spears were used not only against infantry but also against cavalry charges — and to great effect.
The purpose of the spear is to pierce, not tickle. A good spear thrust can pierce and shatter bone, killing in one hit.
The arrow delivered by a bow provided a nasty punch to the enemy. Arrows used against the cavalry would have been shaped to pierce armor while arrows used against ill-equipped infantry likely had barbs to make them harder to pull out of skin and bone.
The men who fought at the Battle of Dorylaeum in 1097 during the First Crusade found this out when they fought the Seljuk Turks, who fired volley after volley of arrows into their opposition.
Even though the Crusaders won the battle, it was costly and they learned a valuable lesson about their enemy’s tactics.
The purpose of the arrow is simple: to strike an opponent from a distance. However, many Crusaders would soon learn to place padding under their chainmail. In doing so, the arrows are said to have passed through the chainmail only to lodge into the padding without piercing the soldier.
While killing is the objective, many forget that maiming is just a sufficient. However, if an archer cannot kill or maim his opponent, he can also be a nuisance and harass him by showering down arrows upon him.
The trebuchet is a siege engine first developed in China and brought westward by the armies of Islam, where it was introduced to European warfare during the First Crusade, though some historians doubt this timeline.
The trebuchet was a type of catapult and required many men to operate due to its sheer size and weight.
The purpose of the trebuchet was to weaken and bring down fortress walls. Not only could it fire stone projectiles, it also delivered incendiary objects. While stone is meant to crush, objects of a flammable nature were hurled over castle or city walls to set the various buildings on fire.
Of course, if you want to start a plague, just load up the bodies of plague victims and send them over the walls, as the Mongols did at Caffa in 1347.
What made the battle axe a fan favorite of some Crusade-era fighters was that, while being close in size to a sword, it was cheap to use and required limited skill — much like the mace.
The axe was either single or double-headed and the length of the blade was roughly 10 inches from the upper and lower points.
What makes this weapon so destructive is that not only could it crush a man’s bones wearing armor, the right hit was capable of cutting a limb off. In addition to lopping off enemy limbs, it was also used by doctors to provide amputations on medical patients (though with no guarantee of success).
Of all the weapons to inflict a considerable amount of damage to a human body, the sword was the most prestigious.
While many men could afford such a weapon, primarily nobles and those of wealth used it. Of course, over time, many more men, particularly those who were equipped by the states; i.e. the kings, used the sword.
What made the sword so popular was that it was a symbol of authority. While its design suggests power and of great importance, the judgment it could deliver onto a foe was devastating.
The sword was designed to do three different things, crush, pierce, and slice. Of course, this depends on the blade of the sword. In any case, the three functions of the sword gave its user an upper hand.
If he could not crush his opponent with a single hit (knocking him over, or breaking his arm or leg), he could try to slice him in an exposed are not covered by armor. If that failed, he could try knocking him down and aim for the areas that are vulnerable like the armpits, groin, and knee pit to name a few.
While the sword during the Crusades probably did the least amount of killing, it had the greatest impact as in being the symbol of conquest.
Don’t let the pretty little ponies fool you — the lance will mess your sh** up.
I tip my hat to the person who could survive a lance blow from a cavalryman. Yes, all weapons can kill if used properly, but of all the weapons mentioned, they either, crush, lop, slice, or pierce. In many cases, the victim survives or dies shortly after, which could be days.
The lance, which is least considered, won many of the battles during the early crusades. The lance did it all in one big swoop. As the lance made contact with the victim, it immediately crushed his torso and began to pierce through the body.
As it pierced, it began to slice through the vital organs before exiting the back. There are very few cases where the would-be receiver of the lance survived from his torso wound.
As the knights charged in with their lances, the enemy would be impaled immediately.
The length of a lance measured between 9 and 14 feet. Given the length and weight, along with the rider and his horse moving a full speed, it would not be unthinkable to suggest that two or even possibly three men could be impaled to a lance due to a swift cavalry charge into enemy lines.
The stark vision of the Four Chaplains with linked arms praying while their ship sank 78 years ago lives on. Today, we honor their courage, devotion and ultimate sacrifice.
It was two years after the United States entered into World War II. The Four Chaplains – who would leave an extraordinary legacy – boarded the SS Dorchester, all coming from completely different backgrounds but completely united in a commitment to bring spiritual comfort to their men.
Chaplain George Fox was a veteran of World War I, having served as a medic. He was highly decorated, having received the Silver Star and Purple Heart for his service. Fox had lied about his age and was just 17 years old when he left for war. When he returned, he finished high school and went to college. He was eventually ordained a Methodist minister in 1934. When war came calling, he volunteered to become an Army Chaplain. On the day he commissioned, his son enlisted in the Marine Corps.
Chaplain and Rabbi Alexander Goode earned his PhD from Johns Hopkins University in 1940, while finishing his studies to become a Rabbi – like his father before him. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he applied to the Army to become a Chaplain. In 1942, he was selected for Chaplains School at Harvard.
Chaplain Clark Poling was the son of a minister and was ordained as one for the Reformed Church in the late 1930s. After war broke out, he was called to serve. His own father had served as a Chaplain during World War I. He headed to Army Chaplains School at Harvard.
Chaplain John Washington was ordained as a Catholic Priest in 1935, having served the church all his life in some form or another. When the war began, he received his appointment as an Army Chaplain.
All four men from different corners of the country and varied faiths, met at Harvard in 1942 and became friends. A year later they’d be on a ship together, all ready to serve.
On February 3, 1943, the civilian liner SS Dorchester, which had been converted for military service, was en route to Greenland with 902 military members, merchant marines and civilian workers. It was being escorted by Coast Guard Cutters Tampa, Escanaba and Comanche. It was a chilly morning as the new day began and the water temperature was hovering around 34 degrees with an air temperature of 36 degrees.
The Coast Guard alerted the captain of the Dorchester that U-Boats had been sighted and he ordered the crew to sleep in their clothes and life jackets. Most of them ignored it though, because it was either so hot down below or they couldn’t sleep well with the life jackets on.
At 12:55am, a German torpedo struck their ship.
A large number of men were killed instantly from the blast and many more critically injured. It knocked their power and communications out, leaving them unable to radio the other ships for support. By some miracle, the CGC Comanche saw the flash of light from the explosion and headed their way to help. They had radioed the Escanaba for added support, while the Tampa continued its escort of the fleet.
According to records, panic and chaos had quickly set in. Men began throwing rafts over and overcrowding soon set in, causing capsizing into the frigid waters. But four Chaplains became a light in the dark for the terrified men. They spread out throughout the ship comforting the soldiers and civilians, bringing order to the frenzy. As the life jackets were being passed out, they ran out.
The Four Chaplains took theirs off, giving them to the men.
Engineer Grady Clark witnessed the whole thing. Each Chaplain was of a different faith, but worked in unison to serve and save the men.
Despite their orderly work, the ship continued to sink. They helped as many men as they could. When it was obvious the ship was going down, the Chaplains linked arms and began praying together. It was said that the crew in the waters below could hear hymns being sung. Survivors would later report hearing a mix of Hebrew and Latin prayers, melding together in a beautiful harmony as they went under, giving their lives to save the rest.
Of the 902 men, only 230 survived.
Before boarding the ship and leaving to serve, Chaplain Poling asked his father to pray for him. The words were poignant and a deep insight to the character of the man he was and those he died alongside. He asked his father to pray “Not for my safe return, that wouldn’t be fair. Just pray that I shall do my duty…never be a coward…and have the strength, courage and understanding of men. Just pray that I shall be adequate.”
Although many fought for these brave men to receive the Medal of Honor for their bravery and heroism, the stringent requirements prevented it from happening. They all received the Purple Heart and Distinguished Service Cross. In 1961, Congress created the Special Medal for Heroism, The Four Chaplains Medal. It was given to them and them only, never to be awarded again.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the US should be flattered that Russia plans to deploy their only aircraft carrier, the 26 year-old Admiral Kuznetsov, off Syria’s coast for its first combat deployment.
A successful deployment of a full-blown aircraft carrier represents the kind of sophisticated military task only a first-rate world power can pull off, and that seems to be exactly what Russia hopes for.
The deployment will seek to present the best and brightest of Russia’s resurgent military. The Kuznetsov, which has suffered from a litany of mechanical failures and often requires tow boats, will stay tight to Syria’s shores due to the limited range of the carrier’s air wing.
Furthermore, the carrier lacks plane launching catapults. Instead, the carrier relies on a ski-jump platform that limits how much fuel and ordnance the Russian jets can carry.
Even so, the Russian jets aboard will be some of the latest models in Russia’s entire inventory, according to Russian state-run media. The bombs they carry will be guided, a sharp departure from Russia’s usual indiscriminate use of “dumb” or unguided munitions which can drift unpredictably when dropped from altitude.
Russian media quotes a military source as saying that with the new X-38 guided bombs, “we reinforce our aviation group and bring in completely new means of destruction to the region.” The same report states the bombs are accurate to within a few meters, which isn’t ideal, but an improvement.
Indeed, the Kuznetsov’s entire flight deck will function as somewhat of a showroom for Russian military goods. China operates a Soviet-designed carrier, as does India. Both of those nations have purchased Russian planes in the past. A solid performance from the jets in Syria would bode well for their prospects as exports, even as India struggles to get its current crop of Russian-made jets up to grade.
“Despite its resemblance to the land-based version of the MiG-29, this is a completely different aircraft,” Russian media quotes a defense official as saying of the MiG-29K carrier-based variant.
“This applies to its stealth technologies, a new system of in-flight refueling, folding wings and mechanisms by which the aircraft has the ability to perform short take-offs and land at low speeds.”
But the Russian jets practice on land bases that simulate the Kuznetsov, and any US Navy pilot will tell you that landing on a bobbing airstrip sailing along at sea is an entirely different beast.
One thing Russia’s upcoming carrier deployment does have going for it will be having the world’s premier naval and carrier power, the US, at least nominally aligned with them in a recently brokered cease-fire.
In September 1944, one might think that the Germans would have had better priorities than setting up a weather monitoring station in some remote Norwegian island. They did have more important things to do, but they set up a meteorological station in the Svalbard area anyway.
As the Allies were fighting their way through the Hurtgen, German troops were setting up their weather stations in Norway. They would be the last Germans to surrender after the end of World War II.
World War II didn’t go well for Norway. The Germans invaded in 1940 and with the assistance of one of history’s most infamous collaborators, fell quickly. During the war, Norway was one of the most fortified countries in Europe.
Life in the Svalbard archipelago, though, remained largely unchanged at first. It was occupied and recaptured at times, just to be occupied again. But the Germans managed to create a number of weather stations and reporting stations on the islands. Most subsequently captured or chased away.
Occupation of the archipelago started almost immediately. The Free Norwegian government in cooperation with the Soviet Union willingly destroyed their coal mines to deny their use to the Axis. After British forces destroyed German weather stations in Greenland, the German Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine set their sights on Svalbard to replace it.
Almost as fast as they could set up the station, Allied forces sailed from Scotland to dismantle it. That convoy was bombed by the Luftwaffe, but the invaders managed to eject the weather system anyway. Germany sent another weather monitoring party but the British reinforced its position and destroyed that one too.
More Norwegian troops soon landed, backed by an American cruiser. All Allied movements were monitored by the Luftwaffe, but there was little that could be done at times. The islands were occupied by both parties at times.
The final attempt at a weather station came with Operation Broadsword in 1944. The crew was landed by the submarine U-307 on Sept. 10, 1944. This time, the station was there to stay, largely because the war ended just a few months after it was established.
The German occupants of the islands knew they’d just lost the war. They were contacted by their leadership in Norway on May 8, 1945, the day Germany surrendered to the Allies. They had to stay on the island for nearly four months after the war ended. Getting a ship to the Arctic Circle to retrieve a handful of troops just wasn’t that high on the Allies end of war to-do list.
In the end, the Germans manning the weather station had to surrender to a Norwegian seal hunting ship and its crew, which arrived on Sept. 6, 1945. They were the last Germans to surrender to Allied forces after the war ended.
They weren’t the only Axis holdouts at the end of the war. Although Japan surrendered in August 1945, some Japanese troops fought on for months or even years after the war had officially ended, believing they should fight on in the absence of orders from the Imperial Japanese military.
One Japanese soldier, Hiroo Onoda, fought on until 1974. He hid out in the jungles of the Philippines for some 29 years after the surrender was signed because he couldn’t believe Japan actually surrendered. It’s unlikely the Germans on Svalbard felt the same way, knowing how the war had progressed since 1944.
Featured photo: A member of the weather station with a slain polar bear. Photo: From the archive of Wilhelm Dege.