Blue falcons are a fixture of military life. Typically, they satisfy themselves with ratting other troops out for minor offenses or being overly strict on physical training tests. Some blue falcons take the art form to a whole other level, affecting full military operations or giving away needed equipment. Here are seven instances of blue falconism that literally made history.
1. One Confederate general routinely trolls another by sending away troops during key engagements.
Lt. Gen. Edmund Smith was in charge of Confederate troops in Louisiana, Arkansas, and some of the surrounding area. He was much more cautious than a politically connected general under his command, Lt. Gen. Richard Taylor. The two butted heads and Smith would routinely take troops away from Taylor just before Taylor committed forces to seize an objective.
The worst example was in the Spring of 1864. The Union Army was moving up the Red River in Louisiana, taking territory and confiscating cotton. Taylor saw the stretched Union forces and sent his troops south to attack their weak points, ignoring orders from Smith to fall back to Shreveport.
Taylor’s advance was successful, defeating Union forces at Mansfield and Pleasant Hill before pinning them in at Alexandria. Everything was in position for Smith and Taylor to defeat the remaining enemy forces in the region. Instead Smith ordered most of Taylor’s army away, allowing 30,000 Union soldiers to escape. These troops would link up with Gen. William Sherman during his march to the sea at the end of that year.
2. George Washington tricks Congress into drastically overpaying him.
Washington famously denied a salary as commanding general of the Continental Army, telling Congress that he would do the job if America would just cover his expenses. Not so famously, he then promptly racked up a bill of expenses worth nearly $450,000, over 28 times what a major general would have made in the same period. He even staged a massive birthday bash while his army was starving in the snow. (In Washington’s defense on this count, he was trying to get food from local sources for the men.)
Of course, some of the other generals were fine with this since they dined with Washington. His close friends tipped the scales at war’s end at over 200 pounds each. Gen. Henry Knox led the way at 280. Washington himself gained 30 pounds.
3. Eisenhower’s chief of staff places a losing $230,000 bet on his boss’s behalf without permission.
After Operation Torch drastically increased the number of Allied forces in North Africa, Allied generals Bernard Montgomery and George Patton were racing each other to take key cities from the Germans. Eisenhower was still pressuring them to go faster and his chief of staff visited Montgomery at his headquarters. There, Montgomery asked if he could get a B-17 if he took Sfax quickly. Maj. Gen. Walter Bedell Smith told him that Eisenhower would give Montgomery whatever he wanted if he took Sfax by April 15.
Smith reportedly thought it was a joke. but Montgomery was famous for his gambling so this was a reckless assumption. Montgomery took the city on April 10 and immediately began demanding payment from the confused Eisenhower who was just learning of the wager. Eisenhower was screwed by Smith’s promise and gave up the bomber. But, Montgomery was being a bit of a blue falcon himself by demanding payment. It soured relations between him and Eisenhower and Montgomery’s boss would go on to berate Montgomery for the “crass stupidity” of his actions.
4. MacArthur continues to attack U.S. veterans even after ordered by the president to stop.
In 1924, Congress put together a bonus package for veterans of World War I to be paid in 1945. When the Great Depression throttled the economy, veterans got antsy for the money. 15,000 of them descended on Washington, D.C. in 1932 to demand early payment. A bill to pay out early passed the House but was soundly defeated in the Senate in a 62 to 18 vote.
The veterans continued to camp and march in the city until July 28 when the police tried to force them out. The police failed to take the camp but killed two veterans in the attempt. President Herbert Hoover then ordered the Army to evict the veterans. Gen. Douglas MacArthur and his chief of staff, Maj. Dwight D. Eisenhower, worked with cavalry commander Maj. George Patton to push the marchers and campers across the Anacostia River.
Hoover ordered the Army to halt the advance, but MacArthur pushed his force forwards anyway and attacked until a fire broke out. All 10,000 people in the main camp were pushed out and two babies died. Local hospitals were overwhelmed with the injured from the camps.
5. The Continental Army gets together to blue falcon Benedict Arnold.
Maj. Gen. Benedict Arnold was, by all accounts, an outstanding general for most of his time in American service. He won a bloodless victory at Fort Ticonderoga, got France to openly support the Americans through his victory at the Battle of Saratoga, and even once won a decisive naval battle. Throughout all this, he endured multiple wounds for his country.
The whole time though, he was being passed over for promotion due to the political connections of other generals. Also, while Arnold was clinging to life in a New York hospital bed, his boss claimed credit for a surrender that belonged to Arnold. When Arnold complained to Congress that veterans and their families weren’t being fairly treated, he was brought up on charges. A court martial acquitted him of most, but he was found guilty of two counts of dereliction of duty.
6. Benedict Arnold returns the favor by screwing over America.
Of course, Arnold’s response to this treatment set the bar for blue falcons and set it high. Arnold continued correspondence with his friend George Washington, leveraging him for appointments and preferential treatment. Meanwhile, Arnold was preparing to hand as much as he could to the enemy through British Maj. John Andre. Washington gave Arnold command of the forces at West Point, key to the defense of New York.
Arnold promptly tried to sell the fort to Andre for about $3 million in modern dollars, but the plot was discovered. Washington was personally embarrassed, the Army was shaken by the turning of a key general, and much of Arnold’s history was erased from U.S. records. Still, Arnold did get away and join the British Army as a general.
7. Bowe Bergdahl triggers massive searches.
The exact nature of what happened in the desert will probably be known to no one but Bergdahl himself. But even if Bergdahl did just want to walk away from the war and didn’t give any information to the Taliban after his capture, he was still a blue falcon in the eyes of his fellow soldiers.
His departure caused his unit to have to go on increased patrols and missions that soldiers died on. Every operation after that had to include the additional objective of “see if you can find Bergdahl” no matter what the primary objective was. Resources needed in other fights were sent to that patch of desert to search for him.
Sure, he would’ve been hazed a little if he had refused to fight and claimed conscientious objector status, but that’s still preferable to capture by the Taliban, years of imprisonment, and putting your unit in greater danger.