Old Ironsides and Operation Torch: The Army’s 1st Armored Division - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Old Ironsides and Operation Torch: The Army’s 1st Armored Division

They’re the oldest and the most recognized armored division in the Army. The first division to see combat in Germany during WWII and the first mash-up of reconnaissance and cavalry units in all of Army history. Here’s everything you thought you knew but didn’t about America’s Tank Division.


Kentucky Wonders, Fire and Brimstone or Old Ironsides?

After the division was organized in 1940, commanding general Maj. Gen. Bruce Magruder was the division’s first commander. His friend, Gen. George Patton, had just named the 2nd Armored Division “Hell on Wheels,” and Magruder didn’t want to be left behind. So, he held a contest to find an appropriate nickname for the new division.

Over two hundred names were submitted, including “Kentucky Wonders” and “Fire and Brimstone.” Gen. Magruder hated all the names submitted and decided to take the weekend to find the best one. It just so happened he’d recently purchased a painting of the USS Constitution, whose nickname was, wait for it, Old Ironsides. It’s said that Magruder was impressed by the correlation between the Navy’s unwavering spirit during the war and his new division’s. It was then that he landed on the nickname Old Ironsides, and the name’s been the same ever since.

The first enemy contact was in North Africa, and it was rough.

Contrary to what many think, the Old Ironsides didn’t engage with the Germans as their first combat experience. Instead, they traveled to North Africa and participated in Operation Torch, part of the Allied Invasion.

Operation Torch was intended to draw Axis forces away from the Eastern Front and relieve pressure on the Soviet Union. It was a compromise between the US and British planners. The mission was planned as a pincer movement with the Old Ironsides landing on Morocco’s Atlantic coast. The primary objective for the Old Ironsides was to work toward securing bridgeheads for opening a second front to the rear of German and Italian forces. Allied soldiers experienced unexpected resistance from Vichy-French units, but the Old Ironsides helped suppress all resistance and were heading toward Tunisia within three days.

The invasion of Africa helped win the war

The invasion of North Africa accomplished a great deal for the Allies since American and British forces finally had the offensive against the Germans and Italians. For the first time, US and UK directives were able to dictate the tempo of events. Forced to fight on both the western and eastern fronts, the German-Italian forces had the additional burden of having to plan and prepare for attacks in North Africa.

However, the harsh conditions of North Africa were quick teachers for the new Old Ironsides soldiers. In February 1943, the Old Ironsides met a better trained German armored force at Kasserine Pass, and the division sustained heavy losses in both service members and equipment.

The division was forced to withdraw, but the Old Ironsides used their retreat time to review the battle and prepare for the next one. After three more months of hard fighting, the Allies claimed victory in North Africa.

The Old Ironsides were recognized publicly for their efforts and then moved to Naples to support Allied forces there.

The Infamous Winter Line Attack

As part of the 5th Army, the 1st Armored Division took part in the attack on the Winter Line in November 1943. Old Ironsides flanked Axis forces in the landings at Anzio and then participated in the liberation of Rome in June. The unit continued to serve in the Italian Campaign until German forces surrendered in May 1945. One month later, Old Ironsides was moved to Germany as part of the US occupation forces stationed there.

WWII to present 

In the drawdown after WWII, the 1st Armored Division was deactivated in 1946 but was then reactivated in 1951 at Fort Hood, where it was the first Army unit to field the new M48 Patton tank. Currently, the unit home is Fort Bliss, Texas, but it previously was housed at Baumholder, Germany. With the relocation, the unit went from roughly 9,000 soldiers to more than 34,000.

In 2019, the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team turned its smaller vehicles in for Abrams tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles.

MIGHTY CULTURE

EU monitors see coordinated COVID-19 disinformation effort by Iran, Russia, China

BRUSSELS — EU monitors have identified a “trilateral convergence of disinformation narratives” being promoted by China, Iran, and Russia on the coronavirus pandemic and say they are being “multiplied” in a coordinated manner, according to an internal document seen by RFE/RL.

The document, which is dated 20 April, says common themes are that the coronavirus is a biological weapon created in the United States to bring down opponents and that China, Iran, and Russia “are doing much better than the West” in fighting the epidemic.


It also states that Iranian leaders — amplified by Russian media — continue calling for the lifting of U.S. sanctions against Iran, claiming that they are undermining the country’s humanitarian and medical response to COVID-19.

The document says this is part of a wider Russian, Iranian, and Chinese “convergence” calling for a lifting of sanctions on Russia, Iran, Syria, and Venezuela — all countries that have seen U.S. economic sanctions against them increase under the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump.

In the case of Syria, the COVID-19 disinformation is used “to reinforce an anti-EU narrative that claims the bloc is perpetrating an “economic war” on the Middle Eastern country.

The 25-page document was written by the strategic communications division of the European diplomatic corps, the European External Action Service (EEAS).

It is a follow-up to an April report stating that Russia and China are deploying a campaign of disinformation around the coronavirus pandemic that could have “harmful consequences” for public health around the world.

In a March report, the EU monitors accused pro-Kremlin media outlets of actively spreading disinformation about the epidemic in an attempt to “undermine public trust” in Western countries.

The new report says Russia and to a lesser extent China continue to amplify “conspiracy narratives” aimed at both public audiences in the EU and the wider neighborhood. It further notes that official Russian sources and state media continue running a coordinated campaign aimed at undermining the EU and its crisis response and at sowing confusion about the health implications of COVID-19.

The document also states that most of the content identified by the EEAS continues to proliferate widely on social-media services such as Twitter and Facebook. It alleges that Google and other services that deliver advertisements “continue to monetise and incentivise harmful health disinformation by hosting paid ads on respective websites.”

Representatives of those companies did not immediately respond to RFE/RL’s request for comment.

According to analysis by the team, disinformation about the virus is going particularly viral in smaller media markets both inside and outside the EU in which technology giants “face lower incentives to take adequate countermeasures.”

It adds that false or highly misleading content in languages such as Czech, Russian, and Ukrainian continues to go viral even when it has been flagged by local fact-checkers.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

One of the scariest tasks for pilots is to land in rough seas

What’s the most dangerous part of the mission for a Navy pilot? Flying over enemy forces? Dodging hostile jets? Well, when the enemy isn’t ready for the full might of the U.S. Navy and what the sea state is, the most dangerous part of the mission might be landing on the ship when it’s time to go home. That’s because the sea can move the ship’s deck 30 feet.


PBS: Carrier – Landing on a Pitching Deck Pt. 1

www.youtube.com

PBS had a documentary team out on the USS Nimitz when it hit rough seas in the Pacific and got to watch pilots, many of whom had experience flying missions over Iraq and Afghanistan, get nervous when they were sent out for some peaceful training.

But it was still some of the riskiest flying that many of the young pilots had done, because the waters were so rough that the ship’s deck—the thing the pilots had to land their planes on—was heaving up and down and rising as high as 30 feet. Just dealing with that altitude is a big deal, but it also means that the angle of the deck their landing on or taking off from is changing as well.

Time it wrong, and a takeoff could throw you straight into the water.

“This is absolutely more dangerous than it was flying missions in the gulf,” an unnamed pilot told the film crew. “We got lucky in the Gulf; the seas are calm. But out here, pitching decks, this is scarier. Still gotta get back and land on the boat.”

“It’ll kill you in a second,” said a Navy commander.

But it’s still worth it to the Navy to do risky training like this, because it needs the pilots able to fly and fight in the worst seas they can possibly handle, because that reduces the types of weather that can weaken the Navy against an enemy like China.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

5 fastest military aircraft in service today

Every Air Force and Navy feels the need for speed. It’s just a fact. When trying to scramble your defending aircraft, time is of the essence and speed is a critical element of that. Aircraft developers have come a very long way since the development of the first jet engine in the mid-20th Century. These days, an airframe that can’t cruise at supersonic speeds might as well be a diesel-powered propeller plane.


It was a long and winding road human engineering took to get to the point where fighter aircraft have the radar cross section of bumblebee. Here are the fastest examples currently in service.

Old Ironsides and Operation Torch: The Army’s 1st Armored Division

 Boeing X-37

The Boeing X-37 is an unmanned space drone operated by the U.S. Air Force and boosted into space by NASA. Its mission is to test reusable space technologies, then come back to Earth. On the way down, the X-37 re-enters Earth’s atmosphere at an average speed of 16 times the speed of sound, but has come back as fast as Mach 25.

Old Ironsides and Operation Torch: The Army’s 1st Armored Division

MiG-25 Foxbat

The fastest fighter still in service today is the Soviet-built MiG-25. Mikoyan designed this fighter to be a pure interceptor aircraft. As a result, the Foxbat can sustain a cruising speed of Mach 2.8 and kick it into overdrive with a top speed of 3.2 – not a bad technology for an aircraft that first took off in 1964.

Old Ironsides and Operation Torch: The Army’s 1st Armored Division
Aug. 3 airpower summary: F-15E provides cover for disabled convoy

F-15E Strike Eagle

The F-15 has been flying for more than 30 years and is set to keep going. The reason is just good design, another aircraft initially designed to catch incoming enemies and destroy them. The F-15 can fly at a top speed of 3,017 miles per hour, then stop, hit ground targets, and fade away.

Old Ironsides and Operation Torch: The Army’s 1st Armored Division

MiG-31 Foxhound

When the Russians needed something that could try to chase down the vaunted SR-71 Blackbird, they called up the MiG-21 and its Kinzhal hypersonic missiles. The only problem is that it doesn’t handle as well as its predecessor, the MiG-25. With a top speed of 2,993 miles per hour, it also isn’t as fast.

Old Ironsides and Operation Torch: The Army’s 1st Armored Division

Sukhoi SU-27

The Su-27 is a heavy fighter, designed to be the Soviet Union’s answer to the F-15 program. First flown in 1977, it’s still used by a handful of different countries, and is relied on for its 2,496 miles per hour top speed. The United States even has four SU-27 aircraft it uses to train pilots.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of September 21st

It was the Air Force’s birthday this week — and it seems like, in terms of gifts, they got a lot: Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Keith Wright spoke about “hybrid airmen,” which would make airmen more badass and less likely to be mocked by the other branches, the “Up or Out” rule is being evaluated because it was stupid to begin with, and the Captain Marvel trailer, featuring a superhero who was a USAF pilot, dropped the morning of its birthday.

Happy birthday, ya high-flyin’ bastards. Make another trip to the chocolate fondue fountain — you guys earned it.


Old Ironsides and Operation Torch: The Army’s 1st Armored Division

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

It’s been years and I still can’t figure out whether you’re supposed to say “you’re welcome.” 

I usually just respond with, “thank you for your support” and awkwardly give them the finger guns.

Old Ironsides and Operation Torch: The Army’s 1st Armored Division

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

Old Ironsides and Operation Torch: The Army’s 1st Armored Division

(Meme via Sarcastic Memes Ruining Crewman’s Dreams)

Old Ironsides and Operation Torch: The Army’s 1st Armored Division

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

Old Ironsides and Operation Torch: The Army’s 1st Armored Division

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

Old Ironsides and Operation Torch: The Army’s 1st Armored Division

(Meme via Shammers United)

Old Ironsides and Operation Torch: The Army’s 1st Armored Division

(Meme via Disabled Marine Corps Minds)

Old Ironsides and Operation Torch: The Army’s 1st Armored Division

(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

Old Ironsides and Operation Torch: The Army’s 1st Armored Division

(Meme via US Army WTF Moments)

Old Ironsides and Operation Torch: The Army’s 1st Armored Division

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

No lie. You can hate it all you want, but you’ll eventually say “screw it” and try it. 

Then you learn it’s for a single steak and you’ll nope the f*ck out of there and take your happy ass to the greasiest, most disgusting KFC known to man — which happens to be right next door.

Old Ironsides and Operation Torch: The Army’s 1st Armored Division

(Meme via Military World)

Old Ironsides and Operation Torch: The Army’s 1st Armored Division

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

Old Ironsides and Operation Torch: The Army’s 1st Armored Division
Articles

Aerial footage of the Abraham Lincoln super carrier drifting

Considered one of the most technologically advanced ships in the Navy’s arsenal, the USS Abraham Lincoln is the fifth ship built in the Nimitz-class of aircraft carriers.


Originally costing nearly three billion dollars in the mid-’80s, the carrier was christened and launched by Newport News Shipbuilding under the command of Capt. J. J. Dantone.

Do you remember when former President George W. Bush gave a speech congratulating America for completing the mission in Iraq back in 2003? That took place aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln (and is probably a moment the former POTUS would probably like to take back for obvious reasons but let’s stay on track here).

Old Ironsides and Operation Torch: The Army’s 1st Armored Division
The mission hasn’t been accomplished, at least not yet.

In May of 2017, the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier was redelivered back to the Navy after undergoing nearly a four-year mid-life Refueling and Complex Overhaul.

Approximately 2.5 million hours of labor were committed to the overhaul and restoration of this legendary aircraft carrier.

Old Ironsides and Operation Torch: The Army’s 1st Armored Division
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) busting an epic U-turn in the Atlantic Ocean. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

The vessel’s upgrades include various repairs and replacements of ventilation, electrical, propellers, rudders, and combat and aviation support systems.

With the innovated modification to the rudders and propellers, the USS Abraham Lincoln can now tactfully turn around with minimal support.

Check out Ultimate Military Channel‘s video below to watch this impressive aircraft carrier drift for yourself.

(YouTube, Ultimate Military Channel)
MIGHTY HISTORY

Levitow is the Air Force’s lowest ranking Medal of Honor recipient

In the Air Force, few names ring as many bells as John L. Levitow. He’s had awards named after him, as well as dorm halls and roads. Levitow’s name is about as close to U.S. Air Force royalty as you’ll get.


Oddly, even though his name is emblazoned across every corner of every Air Force base in the world, many airmen have scant knowledge of Levitow’s actions. Many are more well informed of his mysterious separation than of his heroic actions. The legend of his separation is still shared by many higher-ups during various briefings as a cautionary tale, but I digress.

As the Air Force leads the way into the future, it’s important to remember who paved the way and how exactly they did it. This is how John L. Levitow became the lowest ranking Medal of Honor recipient in Air Force history.

Related: This hero was so deadly, they called him “Black Death”

Loadmaster

Airman First Class Levitow cross-trained into the Loadmaster career field after a couple of years in the Air Force. This cross-train is what ultimately placed Levitow on board the Spooky 71, an AC-47 gunship, during that fateful night.

 

Old Ironsides and Operation Torch: The Army’s 1st Armored Division
The man, the myth, the legend.

A legend born

On Feb. 24, 1969, Levitow was aboard the Spooky 71 AC-47 gunship flying missions in South Vietnam. During the flight, a mortar round struck the side of the aircraft, ripping holes all across the plane, including an approximately two-foot puncture in the wing.

After impact, Levitow, while suffering from over 40 fragment wounds, helped a fellow wounded airman away from the now-open cargo door. As he moved his comrade to relative safety, he spotted a Mark 24 flare that was seconds from igniting.

Mind you, the Mark 24 flare is a three-foot metal tube weighing roughly 27 pounds that, once ignited, generates the light of 2,000,000 candlepower and burns at 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Levitow dragged himself towards the flare, which was rolling to and fro as the Spooky 71 pilots fought to regain control, hurled himself atop of it, pushed the flare towards the cargo door, and flung it out into the Vietnam sky just before ignition.

This really happened. It is not an exaggeration or poorly documented folk tale. Levitow literally placed his body atop a flare powerful enough to turn the Spooky 71 into a crisp with no real idea of how long he had until the flare ignited. This is one of the most selfless acts ever documented.

After the amazing feats he accomplished that night, he would return to Vietnam after recuperating to fly another 20 missions.

Old Ironsides and Operation Torch: The Army’s 1st Armored Division

Awarded the Medal of Honor

Levitow was awarded the nation’s highest military honor on May 14, 1970 by President Richard Nixon. Levitow separated from the Air Force in 1970.

Also Read: This is why Killmonger is the most operator villain in the MCU

Old Ironsides and Operation Torch: The Army’s 1st Armored Division
On May 14, 1970, Armed Forces Day, John L. Levitow was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Richard Nixon

(White House photo)

Following his separation, Levitow worked diligently with the veteran community, showing up to events that honored or featured veterans. On Nov. 8, 2000, John Lee Levitow passed away after a year-and-a-half battle with an unspecified cancer. He was 55 years young.

Old Ironsides and Operation Torch: The Army’s 1st Armored Division
u200b

(Photo by Airman 1st Class Stacy Hughes)

MIGHTY HISTORY

This great Viking was killed by his dead enemy’s skull

Think of the most metal way that a Viking could go out. Leading a burning ship on a raid into an enemy hold? Sounds cool. Simultaneous ax swings to the skull with his nemesis? That’s good for an album cover. But what about cheating another warrior leader in a battle, decapitating that dude, and then dying because his infected tooth rubbed against an open sore in your leg? Slightly less metal, right?


But that’s what happened to Sigurd the Mighty, a man born as a commoner who went on to be a great military leader under Olaf the White, a Viking sea king.

It all started when Sigurd’s older brother, Earl Rognvald of Moeri, lost a son while serving King Harald in the invasion of islands of Shetland, Orkney, and Hebrides. Harald expanded Rognvald’s holdings by granting him the Orkney and Shetland islands, but Rognvald wasn’t interested in ruling those islands. So he returned to Norway and passed the title and lands of the Earl of Orkney to his brother, Sigurd, in 875.

Sigurd was pretty lucky to get an earldom all to himself, and he appears to have taken the responsibility seriously. He led troops during multiple campaigns and became known as Earl Sigurd the Powerful.

Old Ironsides and Operation Torch: The Army’s 1st Armored Division

(Peter Nicolai Arbo, Public domain)

But he had trouble controlling the lands he had captured for the king. He built a stronghold in the Moray area of Scotland to project power, but the Norse were not popular that deep into Scottish land. So a local leader, Maelbrigd, became a thorn in Sigurd’s side.

Sigurd sought to end his struggles with Maelbrigd once and for all. The men agreed to meet in honorable combat with 40 men each. But Sigurd didn’t trust Maelbrigd to fight honorably, so he did that classic thing where he cheated first. He brought 40 horses, but he put two men on each horse. Maelbrigd, on the other hand, did fight honorably.

The 80 men of Sigurd’s force won. Big surprise. And Sigurd told them to strap the heads of their enemies to the horses to celebrate. Sigurd, of course, strapped Maelbrigd’s head to his own horse.

But Sigurd had a sore on his leg. And Maelbrigd’s teeth rubbed against that sore and infected it. In one of the most unlikely kills in history, Maelbrigd killed his foe from beyond the grave with a mouth full of bacteria.

Sucks to be Sigurd.

By the way, you can learn more about the struggle between the Norse and Scottish for Orkney and the surrounding lands in The Orkeyinga Saga available here.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Check out this active cooling system for your rifle

If you’re a precision shooter, or have ever been to the range with one, you know that at some point you’re going to have to stop and let a rifle cool down. A hot barrel is a less accurate one, and usually long range shooters aren’t the type that want to turn money into noise. To reduce the dreaded waiting period, MagnetoSpeed launched an active cooling system they named Riflekühl.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen devices like this; several years ago Caldwell released their Accumax Barrel Cooler. However, there were some downsides. First and foremost it only worked with the AR-15 and then only those that used 5.56-sized receivers – that limits the application severely. MagnetoSpeed tells us they have a more efficient system that can drop the temperature of a barrel to ambient levels with an average of seven minutes. Inserted through the ejection port, the Riflekühl has a magnet to keep it snugged up against the bolt and the nozzle seals against the chamber to allow for the most efficient airflow. As a bonus, the Riflekühl has a replaceable 50-micron air filter (especially handy for those in desert environments) and the red color means it can also serve double duty as a chamber flag.


Of course, this being MagnetoSpeed, their target market is going to be for the bolt action crowd. With that said, we’re told that so far it has fit into every AR-15 and AR-10 style rifle that they’ve tried it in (.22LR not included!).

Old Ironsides and Operation Torch: The Army’s 1st Armored Division

(Recoilweb)

Here’s some more information from MagnetoSpeed:

Tired of waiting and waiting for your rifle to cool down? MagnetoSpeed’s new barrel cooler, Riflekühl, is designed to get barrel temperatures down to intended operating levels quickly. The turbocharger inspired impeller is engineered to produce great air flow in a small package. Powered by a single CR123A Lithium battery (included), ambient air is forced through the extendable nozzle down the bore of the rifle. Designed to seal and push air flow down the barrel where it’s needed to efficiently cool barrels, typically under 7 minutes. Riflekühl doubles as a chamber flag and features an exclusive built-in air filter to prevent dust and dirt from being blown into your rifle. Spend less time waiting and more time shooting with the MagnetoSpeed Riflekühl.
Old Ironsides and Operation Torch: The Army’s 1st Armored Division

(Recoilweb)

Other features include:

‣Replaceable dust filter (50 Microns)
‣Strong neodymium magnet secures device to chamber
‣Included CR123 lithium battery lasts for dozens of range sessions
‣Spring loaded retractable nozzle designed for compact and durable storage
‣Belt/Pocket clip included for easy carry
‣Chamber seal for increased cooling efficiency
‣Red body serves as an empty chamber flag

Check out the video below or visit MagnetoSpeed online here for more information.

RifleKuhl

www.youtube.com

This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.

Articles

These 4 Marines killed so many Germans, the Nazis thought they were an allied battalion

On Aug. 1, 1944, less than two months after D-Day, Marine Maj. Peter J. Ortiz, five other Marines, and an Army Air Corps officer parachuted into France to assist a few hundred French resistance fighters known as the Maquis in their fight against the Germans. Ortiz had already worked and trained with the Maquis in occupied France from Jan. to May 1944.


The mission, Operation Union II, faced a rough start. Due to the danger of the Marines being spotted or drifting away from the drop zone, the jump was conducted at low altitudes.

“Because of the limitations, we had to make this jump at 400 feet,” said Sgt. Maj. John Bodnar in a Marines.com interview. “As soon as we were out of the aircraft our chutes opened and the next thing I remember is I was on the ground.”

One Marine’s parachute, that of Sgt. Charles Perry, failed to open. At such low altitudes, using a reserve wasn’t an option, and Perry was killed when he hit the drop zone. Another Marine was injured too badly to continue. The four Marines able to perform the mission were Ortiz, Sgt. Jack Risler, Sgt. Fred Brunner, and Bodnar who was also a sergeant at the time.

“Because of the limitations, we had to make this jump at 400 feet,” said Sgt. Maj. John Bodnar in a Marines.com interview. “As soon as we were out of the aircraft our chutes opened and the next thing I remember is I was on the ground.”

One Marine’s parachute, that of Sgt. Charles Perry, failed to open. At such low altitudes, using a reserve wasn’t an option, and Perry was killed when he hit the drop zone. Another Marine was injured too badly to continue. The four Marines able to perform the mission were Ortiz, Sgt. Jack Risler, Sgt. Fred Brunner, and Bodnar who was also a sergeant at the time.

The Marines, some of the only ones to serve in the European theater in World War II, would make good use of the personnel they had. First, they recovered 864 supply crates of weapons and ammunition that were dropped after the men parachuted in. Then, they linked up with the Maquis and began training the resistance fighters.

For a week, the Marines schooled the resistance fighters on how to use the new equipment, how to conduct ambushes, and how to harass German forces. They also conducted reconnaissance and mapped prime areas to conduct ambushes.

When the fighters began conducting the ambushes, they were very successful. The exact casualty counts are unknown, but the Maquis and their Marine handlers inflicted so much damage so quickly that German intelligence believed an allied battalion had jumped in to assist the resistance instead of only six Marines and a soldier.

The Germans did not take the threat lightly. They remembered Ortiz from the Jan.-May 1944 mission and were still angry about his theft of 10 Gestapo trucks and a pass that let him drive the vehicles right through checkpoints. They began executing captured resistance members in public areas in an attempt to deter others. On Aug. 14, an entire town was murdered after the Germans found injured resistance members hiding in the church.

The Marines were on a nearby ridge and watched as the Germans destroyed the town.

“They burned the place down,” Bodnar later said in a Marines.com interview. “We just left there … they killed them all.”

The next day, the Marines were trying to move positions when a German patrol got the jump on them. They split up and tried to escape, but Ortiz, Risler, Bodnar, and a resistance member were pinned down. Fighting in a small town, Ortiz became worried that the Germans would destroy it if the Marines escaped. After his initial calls for a parley were ignored, he simply walked out while under fire to speak to the German commander.

The German finally ordered his men to stop firing and Ortiz, fluent in German, French and a few other languages, offered to surrender himself and his men if the Germans would promise to leave the town alone. The German commander, believing he was fighting a company, agreed.

(wikimedia commons)

Risler and Bodnar stepped out and the Germans captured the resistance member, Joseph Arcelin. Luckily for the Arcelin, he was wearing the uniform of Sgt. Perry and so the Germans didn’t execute him. Maj. Steven White, a Marine Corps intelligence officer and liaison to the 60th Anniversary Commemoration of Operation Union, said the Germans thought the Americans were lying about their numbers.

“Initially, the German officer was in disbelief,” White told Marines.com. “He did not believe that only 4 Marines had held off his forces for this long. He insisted that Maj. Ortiz turn over the rest of his team members.”

Ortiz was able to convince the German officer that the four men formed the entire team. He and his men spent the rest of the war in a German POW camp near Bremen, Germany.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Taiwan is ready to push back against China’s aggression

Tensions between the Peoples Republic of China and Taiwan have recently flared up as China held the largest show of naval force in its history in April 2018, and made new threats directed towards Taipei.

“We would like to reaffirm that we have strong determination, confidence and capability to destroy any type of ‘Taiwan independence’ scheme in order to safeguard the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Ma Xiaoguang, a spokeswoman for the State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office, recently said.


The Chinese also flew bombers around Taiwan in a show of force as well, and though tensions decreased a bit when promised live-fire drills were scaled back, the events are a reminder to analysts and policymakers that one of the worlds oldest Cold War-era conflicts remains unsolved, and could escalate to war.

A war of nerves

Much of that has to do with Chinese President and General Secretary of the Communist Party Xi Jinping, who has taken a much more aggressive stance on Taiwan than his immediate predecessors.

“Xi Jinping has essentially linked rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation to the retaking of Taiwan,” Bonnie Glaser, the director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider.

“We were in a period of relative quiet with the Taiwan issue, and now it’s in a more primary place on the agenda as far as Beijing is concerned,” Glaser said.

At the core of the issue is that the Peoples Republic of China wants Taiwan, known officially as the Republic of China, to return to the fold to create one country that is unified under the rule of the Communist Party of China.

Old Ironsides and Operation Torch: The Army’s 1st Armored Division
Chinese President Xi Jinping.
(Photo by Michel Temer)

But Taiwan, with the help of the US, has so far managed to resist the PRC’s attempts to isolate it politically and economically, and has even shown signs of moving further away from the PRC and towards official independence — a move that would almost certainly provoke an armed response from the mainland.

“The current situation in the Taiwan [Strait] is a war of nerves,” Ian Easton, a research fellow at the Project 2049 Institute and the author of “The Chinese Invasion Threat: Taiwan’s Defense and American Strategy in Asia,” told Business Insider in an email.

“Taiwan is winning. They have not compromised under pressure, but tensions are running high and are likely to get much worse.”

Taiwan’s military has advantages — and problems

Taiwan’s military has a few advantages if it comes to war. First and foremost, Taiwan has been training to defend the island for decades.

For a country of only 23 million people, its military is quite capable. It has an active force of around 180,000 troops, with 1.5 million reservists — putting its size on par with the militaries of Germany and Japan, despite having a much smaller population.

Some of its equipment is relatively high-end. Its air force operates around 100 US-made F-16s, and 100 indigenously made F-CK-1A/Cs. Its Army maintains a number of AH-64 Apache gunships, and AH-1W SuperCobras.

Old Ironsides and Operation Torch: The Army’s 1st Armored Division
An F-16 fighter jet

Taiwan’s navy has roughly eight destroyers and 20 frigates in service, mostly former Oliver Hazard Perry-class and Knox-class ships. But they also have six French-built La Fayette-class frigates. The navy also sails a large number of fast missile boats, and two modified Zwaardvis-class attack submarines.

On top of that, Taiwan has a lot of anti-air and anti-ship defenses, and hundreds of cruise missiles that can strike mainland China.

Taiwan’s geography also provides another advantage. Crossing the Taiwan Strait would take up to 7-8 hours by sea, and during that time Taiwan could prepare for an invasion, and use its navy and air force to attack incoming Chinese ships, and set up anti-ship mines along the Strait.

The PRC also does not currently have the capability to transport the required number of troops (once estimated to be as high as 400,000) needed to take the island.

Furthermore, Taiwan is very mountainous, and does not offer a lot of landing zones where the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) could establish solid beachheads. Roughly only 10% of its shoreline is suitable for the large-scale amphibious landing that the PLA would have to make.

All of this means an invasion of Taiwan by the PRC would be extremely costly. “China has no obvious starting move that guarantees that they don’t absorb a lot of risk from this,” Scott Harold, the associate director of the RAND Corporation’s Center for Asia Pacific Policy, told Business Insider.

But Taiwan’s military has two large problems — a lack of advanced equipment, and problems with its transition from compulsory service to a fully volunteer force.

Old Ironsides and Operation Torch: The Army’s 1st Armored Division
The ROC Army’s CM-11 Tank at the Hukou Army Base.

Much of the military equipment needs to be modernized, especially its tanks and ships, and this can’t be done for diplomatic reasons. Only around 20 nations officially recognize Taiwan, and the PRC puts a lot of pressure on other countries to not do business with the island, especially in terms of defense.

The only nation that is willing to sell Taiwan complete weapon systems is the US, but they have “been slow to provide the weapons that Taiwan has been requesting, especially over the past 10 years,” according to Easton.

The military is also having difficulty making hiring quotas, which is affecting overall capability and performance because they are trying to replace its largely conscript service with professional soldiers.

“China has a massive military, so Taiwan must maintain its advantage in quality,” Easton said.

An uncertain future

A war between the PRC and Taiwan would also risk involving the US, which, while not under legal obligation, has opposed to any use of force against Taiwan in the past.

Old Ironsides and Operation Torch: The Army’s 1st Armored Division

It deployed carrier battle groups to the Strait in 1995 to prevent war from breaking out, and relations between the two countries remain strong. One analyst Business Insider spoke to calculated that US submarines could sink 40% of a PLA invasion force.

War between the two Chinas, then, would be catastrophic. “In short, it would be extremely complex and fraught with risk for both China and Taiwan,” Easton said, adding that “both sides would stand to lose hundreds of thousands, if not millions of lives, and the U.S. would almost certainly join the fight on Taiwan’s side.”

Such a quagmire could turn into a war of attrition, and if it were it to result in failure for the PLA, it would be devastating to the Chinese Communist Party.


“It is inextricably tied to the legitimacy of the Communist Party,” Glaser said. “I think that that is the belief in the leadership — that they can never be seen as soft on Taiwan. They cannot compromise.”

She pointed to Xi’s comments at the 19th Party Congress in October 2017; “We will resolutely uphold national sovereignty and territorial integrity and will never tolerate a repeat of the historical tragedy of a divided country,” he stated to wild applause.

“We have firm will, full confidence, and sufficient capability to defeat any form of Taiwan independence secession plot. We will never allow any person, any organization, or any political party to split any part of the Chinese territory from China at any time or in any form.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 countries that tried to shoot down the SR-71 Blackbird (and failed)

The SR-71 Blackbird was developed by Lockheed Martin as a long-range reconnaissance aircraft that could hit air speeds over Mach 3.2 ( 2,455 mph) and climb to an altitude of 85,000 feet.


In March 1968, the first operational Blackbird was flown out of Kadena AFB in Japan. With the Vietnam war in full swing, the intent was to conduct stealth missions by gathering photographs and electronic intelligence against the enemy. The crew would fly daily missions into sensitive areas where one slight mishap could spark an international incident.

Related: Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever

After climbing to 60,000 feet, the crew switched off its communication system so that only a select few would know the mission’s target. The aircraft didn’t always rely on its speed for defense; it was equipped with a jammer that would interrupt the enemy’s communication between the radar site and the missile itself.

On occasion, the enemy would fire missiles without radar guidance, which would sometimes get so close that the pilots could spot the passing missiles 150-yards away from inside the cockpit.

When reaching its target area, The SR-71’s RSO (reconnaissance systems officer) would engage the high-tech surveillance equipment consisting of six different cameras mounted throughout various locations on the Blackbird.

The system could survey 100,000 square miles in an hour, with images so clear analysts could see a car’s license plate.

With so many successful missions, enemy nations did their best to blow the SR-71 Blackbird right out of the skies. Five countries attempted that near impossible feat.

Also Read: These 4 aircraft were the ancestors of the powerful SR-71 Blackbird

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cOjEeGY4QCM
(The Joint Forces Forces Channel, YouTube)
MIGHTY HISTORY

Two Red Army veterans on freedom and why it’s always worth fighting for

They call it the “Island of Death.”

At this spot on the western side of the Dnieper River in central Ukraine, some 30,000 Soviet soldiers died under Nazi artillery during World War II. Yet, on this hot June day, there’s nothing to suggest that this particular place was once on the deadliest front of the deadliest war in human history.


“What horrors happened here,” says my 55-year-old Ukrainian father-in-law, Valeriy Deriy, who is a Red Army veteran of the Cold War. “Can you imagine?”

I cannot.

We’ve hired a zodiac boat for the day, embarking from a yacht club in the riverside town of Horishni Plavni. To get to the so-called Island of Death, our captain weaves through narrow, overgrown channels that branch off the main course of the Dnieper River.

Tucked away in a dense forest on the island, there’s an old Soviet war memorial. You’d hardly notice it from the water, unless you knew what to look for. Valeriy explains that one can still find evidence of war in the surrounding woods. Old artillery pieces, bullets, rifles, and boots. That sort of stuff.

“Some people want to forget the past. But it’s impossible,” he tells me. “It’s always there.”

Between August and December 1943, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union fought the battle for the Dnieper River. It was one of World War II’s largest battles, comprising some 4 million soldiers stretched along a nearly 900-mile-long front.

After Nazi Germany’s defeat at the Battle of Kursk, the Soviets pressed their advantage and pushed the Nazis back across Ukraine. The third longest river in Europe, the Dnieper — which runs roughly north to south down the middle of Ukraine to the Black Sea — was a natural physical obstacle for the advancing Red Army.

The Nazis took to the heights on the western bank to set up their artillery, which they used to devastating effect. The Red Army crossed the river under heavy fire, improvising makeshift means to get across. Soviet losses were staggering — accounts vary, but roughly 400,000 Red Army soldiers died in the Dnieper River battle of 1943.

The Other Side

Earlier, Valeriy and I stand at a spot on the opposite, eastern bank of the Dnieper River.

“My great-grandfather said the water ran red with blood in the war,” Valeriy says as we stand on the riverbank, looking to the other side.

Valeriy explains that his great-grandfather fought in that Dnieper River battle, and he crossed the river at this very spot. Right where we’re standing. I’m left a bit speechless.

His great-grandfather couldn’t swim, Valeriy continues, but Soviet commanders would have him shot if he’d refused the crossing. So he held on to a log for flotation and kicked his way across. Somehow, he survived.

“It was October, and the water was already very cold,” Valeriy says, shaking his head. “What a nightmare.”

Today, at this spot where so many died in World War II, there’s a simple old Soviet memorial crumbling, halfway reclaimed by the forest. A dilapidated Soviet tank and artillery piece sit in the foliage, too. But that’s it. You have to rely on your imagination to appreciate what happened here.

There’s not a cloud in the sky and the hot breeze feels good on my face. On a day like this, it’s hard to appreciate what happened here about 77 years ago. I can hardly imagine the fear felt by Soviet soldiers as they stood at that same spot on the river shore, looking to the far side like lost souls about to cross the River Styx.

And then I remember what it was like to stare across no man’s land in eastern Ukraine. I remember the fear I felt under the Russian artillery and sniper shots. And I imagine, at least a little, what those Soviet soldiers must have felt.

The trench lines in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region — where Ukrainian troops have fought a war since 2014 to keep a Russian invasion force at bay — are only about five hours away by car. We could be there by dinner, if we wanted to.

True, we’re much too far from the trenches to hear the daily rumble of battle, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. The war is always there.

Standing on the riverbank, Valeriy says to me: “History has been hard on Ukraine. But things will get better. We’re fighting for our democracy, just like your country did. And we’ll win it, too. Just like you did. I still have hope that my daughter and my grandchildren will see an amazing, free Ukraine.”

Still looking across the river, facing the same divide his great-grandfather once faced, Valeriy adds: “We’ll get there.”

The Past

Valeriy never served in Afghanistan. He was posted instead to East Germany and worked in signals intelligence, a specialty that paved the way for his future civilian career as a German language interpreter.

“It was an unwritten rule in the Soviet army that only one brother would have to be in Afghanistan at a time,” Valeriy explains. “And my brother went in my place.”

Valeriy’s older brother, Sergiy, was drafted into the Red Army and served in the war in Afghanistan from 1982 to 1984.

In fact, both brothers had volunteered for the war. But their mother had secretly gone to military officials and asked that only one son be allowed to go. Sergiy ultimately volunteered without Valeriy’s knowledge. It wasn’t until their mother died in December 2012 that Valeriy learned the truth.

Sergiy was a sergeant in a signals unit deployed near the Salang Tunnel in the Hindu Kush Mountains. The combat he experienced was terrible, Sergiy tells me, but he doesn’t go into much detail about the war very often. And when he does, his eyes adopt a distinctly distant look, as if he’s looking past me, in an attempt to articulate memories that no words could ever really recreate.

Today, both Deriy brothers live in the town of Horishni Plavi — it’s where my wife, Lilya, grew up.

On a warm June afternoon, our family gathers at a park by the Dnieper River to grill shashlik — Ukraine’s version of a barbecue. Both Sergiy and Valeriy are wearing NASA baseball caps, gifts from me and my wife.

It’s the first time we’ve all been together since the coronavirus lockdown was lifted on June 5, and we’re in good spirits. We make toast after toast until our legs are a little wobbly. We’ve brought along an iPhone speaker and grill the meat while we cycle through a playlist of staple rock hits — songs by bands like the Scorpions, Led Zeppelin, Metallica. That’s my in-laws’ favorite kind of music. Mine too.

We end up cooking more meat than we could ever hope to eat in a day. And we maintain a steady pace with the cognac toasts. And, as it’s prone to do, the conversation between Valeriy, Sergiy, and myself returns to the ongoing war in Ukraine’s east.

“The Russians were never our friends. Stalin invaded us, and now Putin has, too,” Sergiy says. “The only county that ever really cared about us was the United States.”

“We’ll never forget what your country has done for us,” he adds, speaking specifically about America’s delivery of Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine.

Then Valeriy abruptly stands.

“Please,” he says, beckoning me to shake his hand, “I want to shake the hand of a citizen of the country that put a man on the moon.”

I stand and shake my father-in-law’s hand and feel proud of my country. And I’m particularly proud that he’s proud of my county, too.

A generation ago, we would have been enemies. Our countries were poised at opposite ends of the earth, ready to unleash nuclear Armageddon to destroy one another.

Today, we are a family.

No One Forgets

Located on the east bank of the Dnieper River, roughly 190 miles southeast of Kyiv, Horishni Plavni was founded by Soviet youth volunteers in 1960 as a place to live for workers in the nearby iron-ore mines.

Originally, the city’s name was “Komsomolsk,” a reference to the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League, or “Komsomol.” The town was renamed Horishni Plavni in 2016 as part of Ukraine’s decommunization laws—a set of measures that went into effect in 2015 to curb Russia’s cultural influence.

Across the country, all Soviet-era names of settlements and roads have been changed to new Ukrainian ones. All reminders and relics of the Soviet Union have been removed or made illegal — including playing the Soviet national anthem and displays of the hammer and sickle flag.

Horishni Plavni’s main thoroughfare was once called Lenin Street. Now it’s named Heroes of the Dnieper River Street. The statue of Vladimir Lenin that once stood in the city center is gone. Only an empty pedestal remains — a common sight in Ukraine these days.

Yet you can’t totally erase the past. World War II is too deeply ingrained in Ukraine’s national psyche, and its physical environment, to ever be forgotten.

Soviet-era war memorials still stand around Horishni Plavni. At a riverside park, children play on the marble ramps of a towering, Soviet-era war memorial. In a nearby field, a row of Soviet tanks are on permanent display. Teenagers sit in the shade of the turrets and drink beer and listen to music.

Despite all their years living under Soviet propaganda, my father-in-law and uncle-in-law have a surprisingly pro-American perspective on the war.

“The Soviet Union could have never won without American help under lend-lease,” Valeriy tells me, referring to the American policy from 1941 to 1945 to provide materiel assistance to the Soviet Union’s war effort.

“And thank God the Allies landed in France,” Valeriy adds. “Otherwise Stalin would have taken over all of Europe.”

No War Ever Ends

After our shashlik picnic is over, Sergiy visits his brother’s apartment, where my wife and I are staying. He brings with him a photo album from his time in the Soviet army, including his deployment to Afghanistan in the 1980s.

I’m thrilled to have a look and listen to his stories from the war.

Sergiy recalls how his commander in Afghanistan justified the Soviet war by the need to defend the Soviet Union from U.S. nuclear missile strikes.

“We were told that America was evil, and that we were fighting in Afghanistan to defend the world from America,” Sergiy tells me. “It was all a lie, of course.”

Incredibly, Sergiy bears no ill will toward the country — my country — that was responsible for the death of many of his comrades.

“The Soviet Union did the same to America in Vietnam,” Sergiy says of America’s covert effort from 1979 to 1989 to arm and finance Afghanistan’s mujahideen fighters to fight against the Soviets. “It was the Cold War, and we were enemies. And that’s what enemies do to each other.”

Now, Sergiy has welcomed me — an American veteran of another war in Afghanistan — into his family with open arms. More than that, I’d even say that Sergiy and I share a special bond because we share a common battlefield. We remember the same places, and in some cases, the same enemies. Sometimes, as I’ve learned, former enemies actually have more in common with each other than they do with their fellow citizens who know nothing about war.

As he goes through the old photos, Sergiy’s face flashes with various contradictory emotions. Pride and pain. Nostalgia and regret. For Sergiy, war was both the worst and the best experience of his life. Therein lies that great paradox that faces all soldiers who’ve home to live in peace.

If war was so terrible, why do we sometimes miss it?

Sergiy, for his part, remembers his friends from the army fondly. But there’s a dark cloud, too, that hangs over every good memory.

“The Soviet Union lied to me. They lied to all of us,” Sergiy says as he flips through the photo album’s pages.

He pinches his lips and slowly shakes his head.

“They wasted so many lives,” he adds.

Soldiers rarely fight for the reasons dictated to them by the governments that send them to battle. Rather, once the bullets start flying, a simple sense of duty to defend one’s friends, and to not disappoint their expectations, is what inspires one to act courageously.

Yet, once soldiers are separated from their wars for a while — either by time or by distance — the moral clarity of duty may erode, leading them to question the justice of their individual actions in combat. The simple kill-or-be-killed morality of combat no longer shields them from thoughtfully considering the consequences of the things they did in war.

In many ways, life in peace is much more complicated than life in war. That was certainly true for my uncle-in-law. Although Sergiy came through the war in Afghanistan physically unscathed, he was left irrevocably jaded about Soviet communism.

Hope

In 1985, just a year after his discharge from the Soviet Army, Sergiy began law studies at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Ukraine’s premier university.

“I felt so at peace. Finally, no war, no suffering. Only a bright future,” Sergiy recalls of his arrival in Ukraine’s capital city to begin his studies.

But it didn’t last. In April 1986, an explosion ripped through reactor No. 4 at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

The Chernobyl plant is located only about 60 miles north of Kyiv. And so, spooked by the threat of radiation, Sergiy was unsure whether he should stay in Kyiv to finish his law degree. The reborn optimism and happiness he’d felt just a year earlier, fresh from his wartime service, quickly gave way to feelings remembered from the war — dark feelings that he’d wanted to forget forever.

“When I was in Afghanistan, I always felt like death was chasing me,” Sergiy remembers. “And when I came back to Ukraine, I thought I could be free from that fixation on death. But Chernobyl happened, and here death finally caught me. A long and painful death. I remember I said to myself, ‘How ironic, death didn’t catch me in the war, but it did in civilian life.'”

Sergiy ultimately stayed in Kyiv to finish his law degree. After graduating from law school in 1991, he returned to his hometown of Horishni Plavni (then called Komsomolsk). The Soviet Union broke apart that year, further upending his world.

When Ukraine’s economy subsequently collapsed in the 1990s, Sergiy ultimately abandoned his law career and took up work as a hired hand. It was his only option to make a living. He never went back to practicing law.

My uncle-in-law, who is a devoutly religious man, has struggled with his demons from Afghanistan. And his family life has had its ups and downs. But he’s never given up hope for his country, even as Ukraine has gone through revolutions and an unfinished war to finally free itself from Russian overlordship.

“I try to stay positive, despite everything that’s happened to our country,” Sergiy says. “It would be so wrong not to believe in our future. I always have hope. It’s just a matter of time. Our future generations will be truly happy and free.”

Moral Courage

As young men, Soviet propaganda told Valeriy and Sergiy that America was their mortal enemy. Yet, as older men, they’ve both shown the remarkable moral courage to abandon their former worldviews and embrace the promise of democracy.

Above all else, Valeriy and Sergiy now believe in the justice of freedom and democracy rather than conformity and communism. And the two Red Army veterans wholeheartedly believe that the United States is a force for good and a beacon of hope for freedom-loving people around the world.

It’s true that history hasn’t been kind to Ukraine, and my in-laws have not led easy lives.

Yet in spite of everything, their faith in America remains unbroken. And, with America’s promise lighting the way, they still extoll the justice of their own country’s democratic path, no matter its attendant hardships.

In the end, they choose to reject their Soviet past but not forget it. When the work of building a democracy gets tough, as it so often does, they look to the past to remember what they’re working so hard to achieve.

“Democracy hasn’t been easy, but I’d rather live as a free man than go back to the way things were before,” my father-in-law says.

Freedom, after all, usually means more to people who’ve experienced the alternative.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information