How Well Do You Know The '300 Spartans' Battle At Thermopylae? - We Are The Mighty
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How Well Do You Know The ‘300 Spartans’ Battle At Thermopylae?

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Three War Army Hero

This episode tells the dramatic story of an Army veteran who served in three wars, World War II, Korea and Vietnam.  Al Ungerleider’s first taste of combat came on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day.  He went on to march towards Germany, liberating a Nazi concentration camp along the way.  Brigadeer General Al Ungerleider retired from the Army after 36 years of service.  His final active-duty assignment was commanding the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.  Al Ungerleider is a true American hero.

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Episode 220: Lieutenant General Reynold Hoover

Lieutenant General Reynold Hoover spent 35 years in the United States military before retiring as the Deputy Commander in charge of the US Northern Command – the military command responsible for protecting the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico, The Bahamas, and the surrounding air, land and sea. General Hoover joins Adam to share his insights into how to excel in a high-pressure, high-stakes role and how anyone can become a better leader. General Hoover and Adam discuss the principles of effective leadership, lessons learned from General Hoover’s ascent in the Army and why a general doubled as the official U.S. Easter Bunny.

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How Well Do You Know The ‘300 Spartans’ Battle At Thermopylae?

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Here’s the amazing story of the famed “Flying Tigers”

How Well Do You Know The ‘300 Spartans’ Battle At Thermopylae?
R.G. Smith painting of the Flying Tigers’ P-40s in formation over China.


Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek knew he had a problem. The Chinese air force was in terrible shape, beset with a lack of trained pilots and aircraft, and the war brewing with the highly professional military of Imperial Japan in 1937 made reforms a priority. His decision to bring in American experts to help led to the formation of one of the famed air groups of the war, the Flying Tigers.

Captain Claire Chennault had resigned from the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1937 over dissatisfaction with his promotion prospects. A former tactical instructor, he took an offer to help train and survey the Chinese Air Force. When the second Sino-Japanese war broke out later that year, Japanese air superiority let them bomb China with virtual impunity. The massive destruction and loss of life would presage the terrible destruction wreaked on Japan by American bombing years later, with biological weapons taking the place of nuclear ones.

Faced with the utter collapse of an already Chinese inferior air force, Chennault was sent back to the United States with a Chinese delegation in 1941 to arrange for as many planes and as much logistical support as possible. Chennault had conceived of raising a small, elite air force of American personnel to fight the Japanese directly. President Franklin Roosevelt and key members of his administration were sympathetic to the Chinese cause.

As Chennault saw it, war between the United States and Japan was all but inevitable, and unlike many of his former colleagues, believed that China could serve as a base for later offensive operations against the Japanese home islands. Many senior military leaders totally opposed the idea, seeing it as draining experienced and vital personnel during a time of large scale armed buildup.

In the end it took direct presidential intervention to make the idea a reality. Roosevelt authorized Chennault to recruit U.S. pilots and support personnel to work directly for the Chinese government. An executive order was issued allowing members of the Army, Marine Corps, and Navy to resign in order to join the group. The new organization was designated the American Volunteer group.

Despite the small size of the proposed group, consisting of a few squadrons averaging a total of 60 aircraft, getting the planes needed proved difficult. In the end, they had to settle on P40B fighters that had no modern gunsights or bomb racks, necessitating the fabrication of crude substitutes. This made their later successes all the more astonishing.

How Well Do You Know The ‘300 Spartans’ Battle At Thermopylae?
The Flying Tigers personnel pose around one of their airplanes. (Photo: U.S. Army Air Corps)

The AVG essentially operated as legal mercenaries, in the tradition of privateers operating under Letters of Marque. Recruits would operate under one year contracts and the pay, ranging from $250 to $750 a month depending on the position, was excellent for the time. It included extensive allowances and paid leave, while pilots received an unofficial bonus of $500 for each confirmed kill of a Japanese plane. This served as an excellent motivation for aggressive flying.

The lack of available infrastructure was a serious problem. Chennault arranged for the formation of a large air spotting network across much of China using radios, telephones, and telegraphs, since they had no access to radar. An extensive network of airfields was built using mass Chinese civilian labor. “All over Free China these human ant heaps rose to turn mud, rocks, lime and sweat to build 5000 ft. runways,” Chennault later said.

Chennault instituted an extensive training program for his new recruits, based off everything he had learned about Japanese tactics and aircraft over the last four years of fighting. This included Japanese flight manuals captured by the Chinese and studies of crashed Japanese aircraft. This first hand knowledge would prove to be invaluable

The AVG was first deployed on Dec. 12, 1941. It was split between the vital port city of Rangoon Burma, and the southern Chinese city of Kunming. They faced overwhelming Japanese numbers, but their preparation and experience paid off. In one lopsided example, a large Japanese air raid on Rangoon on Christmas Day led to the AVG downing 29 enemy planes with no losses. After the fall of Burma to a Japanese invasion, the AVG retreated to southern China, where they would continue to score remarkable numbers of kills. In 7 months of ferocious fighting stretching to July of 1942, the small force of often less than 40 pilots shot down nearly 300 enemy aircraft, destroyed dozens more on the ground, and took out hundreds of enemy bridges, trucks, and riverboats. This kill ratio was seldom equaled in the war, and the Chinese air minister T.V. Soong later called the AVG “the soundest investment the Chinese ever made.”

In the face of a string of defeats from the Japanese, the U.S. public and media went wild over the AVG’s exploits. The media dubbed them the Flying Tigers, even though the unit itself did not use the name and actually painted shark mouths on the noses of their planes. Winston Churchill himself stated that the Tigers achievements equaled what the Royal Air Force did in the Battle of Britain against Germany. Even a wartime movie starring John Wayne was made to celebrate their achievements. Eventually the AVG was merged back with the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1942, but they had achieved a romantic image of volunteers defending China and Burma against impossible odds.

American volunteer pilots fighting before war was actually declared stretched back to World War I and the Lafayette squadron, but the Tigers amazing performance in combat despite small numbers and extreme logistical difficulties made them a breed apart. They straddled the line between military and mercenary, something like the modern military contractors of today’s wars. Unlike the often unsavory reputation such quasi-mercenaries have today, they became national heroes and showed that such hybrid organizations could fight as well or better than their more formal military counterparts.

 

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Militants who killed US Special Forces troops were new to region

The Islamic extremists that ambushed and killed US Army commandos in Niger last week hadn’t operated in that area before, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Oct. 11, referring to what officials believe was a relatively new offshoot of the Islamic State group there.


Speaking to reporters traveling with him to Tampa, Mattis said he rejected suggestions that rescue forces were slow to respond to the assault, noting that French aircraft were overhead within 30 minutes. But he said the US military is reviewing whether changes should be made to these types of training missions in Africa.

“We will look at this and say was there something we have to adapt to now, should we have been in a better stance,” said Mattis. “We need to always look at this. We’re not complacent, we’re going to be better.”

How Well Do You Know The ‘300 Spartans’ Battle At Thermopylae?
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. DoD photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr

US Africa Command has launched an investigation into the attack that will review what went wrong and whether additional security or overhead armed support may be needed for some of these missions.

American officials have said they believe the militants belonged to a tribal group that previously may have been tied to al-Qaeda or other extremists, but more recently re-branded themselves as IS. The officials said they do not believe the militants were fighters who came to Niger from outside the region. The officials were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity.

Three Army commandoes and a soldier were killed a week ago when dozens of militants ambushed them during a joint patrol with Niger troops. The US and Niger troops were in unarmored trucks.

How Well Do You Know The ‘300 Spartans’ Battle At Thermopylae?
A US Army Special Forces weapons sergeant observes a Niger Army soldier during marksmanship training as part of Exercise Flintlock 2017 in Diffa, Niger, Feb. 28, 2017. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Klutts.

Mattis and other officials haven’t said how long it took to evacuate the troops, including several US and Niger forces who were wounded. One US Army soldier was missing for nearly two days before he was finally found by Niger troops around the area where the attack happened.

According to US officials, details about the exact timeline for the rescue effort are still unfolding. The troops were evacuated by French aircraft.

Army special forces have been working with Niger troops for some time, and that training effort has been increasing in recent years.

They are often working in remote locations well beyond what the US military likes to call the “golden hour.” That one-hour standard for medical evacuation was set during the peak war years in Iraq and Afghanistan and was aimed at getting wounded troops out within an hour of their injury, making it more likely they will get the treatment needed to survive.

How Well Do You Know The ‘300 Spartans’ Battle At Thermopylae?
French Air Force at Niamey Air Base in Niger. Photo from Twitter user @Tom_Antonov.

Mattis praised the quick response of the French and Niger support forces.

“The French pilots were overhead with fast movers with bombs on them ready to help, and helicopters were coming in behind,” he said adding that Niger forces with French advisers also responded to the attack, which took place attack about 200 kilometers (120 miles) north of Niger’s capital, Niamey.

The US and Niger forces were leaving a meeting with tribal leaders when they were ambushed. There were about a dozen US troops and a company of Niger forces, for a total of about 40 service members in the joint mission.

US officials have described a chaotic assault in a densely wooded area, as 40-50 extremists in vehicles and on motorcycles fired rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns at the patrol, setting off explosions and shattering windows. The soldiers got out of their trucks, returning fire and calling in support from the French aircraft.

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Combat Medics in Vietnam

Combat Medics courageously fought to save lives as the war raged around them in Vietnam. Helicopters became virtual hospitals in the air, buying the combat medic valuable time to heal the wounded.  Max Cleland, a future US Senator from Georgia, lost three limbs when a grenade exploded in his hand. His life was saved by four beleaguered field medics. In this dramatic episode, Max Cleland recounts his story and we also hear from Clarence Sasser, who earned the Medal of Honor for his actions as a Combat Medic in Vietnam.

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Hitler created the largest gun ever, and it was a total disaster

Eager to invade France, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler demanded a new weapon that could easily pierce the concrete fortifications of the French Maginot Line — the only major physical barrier standing between him and the rest of western Europe.


In 1941, German steelmaker and arms manufacturer Krupp A.G. built Hitler the “Gustav Gun,” the largest gun ever used in combat, according to Military Channel’s “Top Secret Weapons” documentary.

The four-story, 155-foot-long gun, which weighs 1,350 tons, shot 10,000-pound shells from its mammoth 98-foot bore.

The massive weapon was presented to the Nazi’s free of charge to show Krupp’s contribution to the German war effort, according to historian C. Peter Chen.

In the spring of 1942, the Germans debuted the mighty “Gustuv gun”at the Siege of Sevastopol. The 31-inch gun barrel fired 300 shells on Sevastopol.

However, as the Nazi’s would soon find out, the ostentatious gun had some serious disadvantages:

  • Its size made it an easy target for Allied bombers flying overhead
  • Its weight meant that it could only be transported via a costly specialized railway (which the Nazi’s had to build in advance)
  • It required a crew of 2,000 to operate
  • The 5-part gun took four days to assemble in the field and hours to calibrate for a single shot
  • It could only fire 14 rounds a day

Within a year, the Nazi’s discontinued the “Gustav gun,” and Chen notes that Allied forces eventually scrapped the massive weapon.

Here’s a video of the Gustav:

 

Also from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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How stupid-looking minisubs could sink a US aircraft carrier

While there has been a pause in tensions with North Korea — to the point where the dictatorship, led by Kim Jong Un, is taking part in next month’s Winter Olympics — that regime has always been tricky. Remember, we’re talking about a rogue nation that sank the South Korean corvette Cheonan with a minisub out of nowhere on March 26, 2010, killing 46 of her crew.


How Well Do You Know The ‘300 Spartans’ Battle At Thermopylae?
Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, and Rear Adm. Lisa Franchetti, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Korea, and Rear Adm. Park Sung-bae, commander of the Republic of Korea Navy Second Fleet, tour the ROKS Pohang-class corvette Cheonan that was sunk by a North Korean torpedo on March 26, 2010. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joshua Bryce Bruns)

Now, you might think that an American carrier isn’t at the same risk as a South Korean corvette. After all, a North Korean minisub can’t carry that many torpedoes. A Yono-class minisub, the type suspected of sinking the Cheonan, packs two 21-inch torpedoes. The larger Sang-o-class sub carries four.

How Well Do You Know The ‘300 Spartans’ Battle At Thermopylae?
A North Korean-designed Yono-class mini-sub in Iranian service. A similar sub is suspected to have sunk the Cheonan. (Wikimedia Commons photo by ThePulleySystem)

Could the United States Navy lose an aircraft carrier if attacked by one of these minisubs? It seems far-fetched at first. The United States Navy has lost only one fleet carrier, USS Wasp, to a submarine-only attack. Two escort carriers, USS Block Island and USS Liscome Bay were also sunk in submarine attacks, and USS Yorktown was finished off by a Japanese submarine after being rendered dead in the water by aircraft.

How Well Do You Know The ‘300 Spartans’ Battle At Thermopylae?
USS Wasp was the last fleet carrier to be sunk by an enemy submarine. (U.S. Navy photo)

Wasp weighed in at 14,900 tons, according to MilitaryFactory.com. By comparison, today’s Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers have a much larger displacement of over 90,000 tons. When the Soviet Union was considering how to kill a Nimitz, they designed the Oscar-class submarine for the job. That was a huge vessel, carrying 24 SS-N-19 anti-ship missiles as well as eight torpedo tubes for disabling and destroying the carrier.

Fortune plays a big role in war, however. For example, The Japanese carrier HIJMS Taiho was sunk by a single torpedo in 1944. Additionally, since the end of the Cold War, American expertise in anti-submarine warfare has declined. In 2006, a Chinese submarine surfaced near and surprised the aircraft carrier, USS Kitty Hawk.

How Well Do You Know The ‘300 Spartans’ Battle At Thermopylae?
In 2006, a Chinese Communist submarine surfaced next to the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk, showing that American anti-submarine warfare skills had atrophied. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Lee McCaskill)

While two-to-four torpedos typically wouldn’t do the job against a U.S. carrier, North Korea could get lucky and sink one, but that luck would quickly turn into bad news for Kim Jong Un.

Learn more about North Korean submarine capabilities in the video below.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rYwDjIiVf8
(Warthog Defense | YouTube)
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Flying Tigers & Silver Streaks

This Episode tells the tale of two American pilots of World War II. One, R.T. Smith, was a fighter ace in Burma flying P-40s with the legendary Flying Tigers.  He recorded 9 confirmed victories, aiding the Chinese in their conflict with Japan. The other, Al Freiburger, was a bomber pilot in Europe flying B-26 Marauders with his unit, the Silver Streaks. He logged numerous missions in the twin engine, medium bomber including key bombing runs on D-Day. Both men were engaging characters with very unique and dramatic war time experiences.  

 

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The Red Cross visited that American held by US military as ISIS captive

International Committee of the Red Cross delegates have met with a US citizen held at an undisclosed location as an enemy combatant, the humanitarian agency said Oct. 2.


The man was handed over to US forces about three weeks ago by the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-allied militia made up mostly of Kurds. His name has yet to be released, but the Associated Press reported last week, citing unnamed “senior US officials,” that the American captive was being held at a detention center in Iraq, suggesting he was perhaps in Kurdistan. A Department of Defense spokesman declined to comment.

How Well Do You Know The ‘300 Spartans’ Battle At Thermopylae?
Image from Wikimedia Commons.

“The ICRC confirms that it has been able to visit a US citizen, captured in Syria and currently held by the US authorities,” spokesman Marc Kilstein said Oct. 2. “In accordance with our confidential approach, we are not in a position to comment on the individual’s identity, location, or conditions of detention.”

The Department of Defense, likewise, has been short on details about the man — his age, name, where he is held, what would become of him — after initially disclosing the existence of the only known American citizen in US military custody who is held as an Islamic State fighter. A Pentagon statement called him a “known enemy combatant” who was handed over to US forces “on or about Sept. 21.”

The capture has created a policy conundrum for the Trump administration. President Donald Trump campaigned on a vow to load up Guantánamo with prisoners. But if the American is to be charged with a crime, he cannot go to Guantánamo, where by law only non-citizens can be tried by military commission. Moreover, if he were to be sent to the war-on-terror detention center in southeast Cuba, he could not be later sent to a federal court for prosecution under a different provision of US law enacted during the Obama administration that prevents the transfer of Guantánamo detainees to US soil.

How Well Do You Know The ‘300 Spartans’ Battle At Thermopylae?
The entrance to Camp 1 in Guantanamo Bay’s Camp Delta. DoD Photo by Kathleen T. Rhem.

On Sept. 29, a day after the ICRC said it had been notified about the captive, Anthony Romero of the American Civil Liberties Union wrote Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Attorney General Jeff Sessions that, based on reports of a US citizen in detention, “his ongoing military detention is unlawful as a matter of domestic law, and his constitutional rights to habeas corpus and to a lawyer must be respected.

“If the government has legitimate grounds to suspect the citizen fought with ISIS, he should immediately be transferred to the federal criminal justice system for criminal charges,” he added.

Romero also copied in Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on his correspondence. As of Oct. 2, he had not received a response.

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