Widgets Magazine
MIGHTY HISTORY
Christopher Woody

Here's what US Army soldiers said in a WWII uncensored survey

In September 1940, World War II was a year old. The US was still a noncombatant, but it was preparing for a fight.

That month, the US introduced the Selective Training and Service Act — the first peacetime draft in US history. Mobilizing the millions of troops was a monumental task and essential to deploying "the arsenal of democracy" that President Franklin D. Roosevelt called on Americans to provide.

Inducting millions of civilians and turning them into effective troops — and keeping them happy, healthy, supplied, and fighting — was also a daunting challenge.

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What happened when the VC attacked a Special Forces base

In 1967, Viet Cong forces launched a 10-day assault on the Irregular Defense Group base at Loc Ninh in an attempt to wipe it out and to prepare for the Tet Offensive. The town of 6,000 bore witness to the battle as an entire communist division descended on a base with 11 Green Berets and a couple hundred South Vietnamese forces.

It was a small airbase on the border with Cambodia. It bordered a town of 6,000 that survived on the proceeds of local rubber plantations. The airbase was guarded by a few hundred South Vietnamese regulars supported by 11 U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers. But it would host a 10-day battle that would see hundreds of North Vietnamese forces killed while that tiny force held the ground.

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The Navy's F11F was so fast it could shoot itself down – and did

By the 1950s, the Cold War was in full swing, and the Soviets appeared to have an edge in fighter plane technology. The USSR debuted a new plane, the MiG-15. This new fighter had a design that no one had yet seen flying. Its swept-back wingspan allowed it to achieve speeds approaching the speed of sound. It was also incredibly effective against all the fighters of that age. The Navy needed to figure out how to beat it to protect its carrier.

They turned to defense contractor Grumman, who soon turned its designs inside-out and trying to take the new MiG down.

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The 'Kilted Killer' forced a surrender while outnumbered 23,000 to one

Tommy Macpherson was known to his enemies as the "Kilted Killer." The Scotsman fought with the British 11 Commando during World War II, roaming the countryside with French Resistance fighters and causing so much havoc and damage that the Nazis put a 300,000 Franc bounty on his head.

No one ever collected.

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Why an airman had to shoot down his own plane – while flying it

At the height of the Korean War, Air Force pilot A.J. D'Amario was on his first solo flight since arriving in country. Luckily for him, it wasn't a combat mission, he was just on a routine sortie to "have fun boring holes in the sky." Things got a lot more interesting for D'Amario immediately upon taking off. He would have to put a few rounds from his sidearm in the plane before he could bring it down.

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This Canadian war hero was a one-man army in two wars

Leo Major earned notoriety in World War II by liberating the town Zwolle all by himself. For many amazing heroes of the world's most destructive and widespread war, that might have been where their story ends. Not so for Leo Major. Major remained in the service of the Canadian Forces and soon found himself in the Korean War.

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The Soviet Moose Cavalry almost rode into World War II

At the Battle of Krojanty in the early days of World War II, Polish cavalrymen famously charged a Nazi mechanized infantry unit, disbursing them and allowing an orderly retreat for other Polish units in the area. It was one of the last-ever cavalry charges, and perhaps the last truly successful one. But cavalry was still very much on the minds of some Soviet war planners – especially in the brutal fighting the Red Army saw in Finland.

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The childish origins of the word 'infantry'

In the days of antiquity, being in the cavalry was a privilege specifically reserved for those who ranked higher in the social order than the common people. Those who were too young, too inexperienced, or too poor to have a horse, usually ended up in a type of combat unit specifically named for them: the infantry.

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This is an actual Army guide to creating an entire arsenal

We're not talking how to drive a nail through a board or fold a newspaper into a shank. The Army's Improvised Munitions Handbook tells you how to make things like remotely fired mortar tubes, a shotgun, and even improvised explosive devices from supplies and trash. Oh, and it has been available online for decades.

Where should you turn if you want to bring down the man? If you want to destroy the pillars of an oppressive society, one of the best places you could turn is, ironically, the U.S. military. It has a guide on how to make land mines, mortar tubes, and even propellants for rockets right at home. TM 31-210 can help you become a full-on anarchist or, as the government would prefer, a resistance fighter in another country.

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