You might know that a guidon represents a unit and its commanding officer. And you might know that when the commander is inside the office or building, their guidon is displayed for everyone to see, and when the day is done, the guidon is retired for the evening.
Guidons are part of military culture, but you might be surprised to know the history of them. Let’s take a look at how guidons came to be part of our military and their storied history.
During change of responsibility ceremonies or change of command ceremonies, the passing of the guidon is an important step and key signifier that something significant is taking place. If you’ve spent any time on a military installation, chances are you’ve seen this ceremony (or something like it):
Four people stand in formation, with a guidon bearer at the front. The guidon bearer is usually the senior enlisted member or first sergeant of a unit, and that person generally stands behind three officers. At an appointed time, the guidon bearer hands the guidon to the outgoing commander who presents it to the presiding officer after saying something along the lines of, “Sir/Ma’am, I relinquish command.”
Then there’s a quick hustle and change of positions and the presiding officer passes the guidon to the incoming commander, who hands it back to the guidon bearer and says something like, “Sir/Ma’am, I accept command.”
Listening to this kind of ceremony will undoubtedly reveal this the passing of the guidon is a ceremony which goes back hundreds of years and that the guidon itself was once an essential part of a battlefield posture. Flags and guidons proclaiming unit colors and insignia date back hundreds of years. Today’s guidons used by our military trace their heritage to the small flags used by cavalry units in Europe during the late 1700s and early 1800s.
History of the guidon and the Army Guidon
As we know it today, the guidon came to the military in 1834 with the first cavalry units called dragoons. The top half of the Hudson was red, and the bottom half was white with the letters “U.S.” stitched in white. The company letter was stitched in red.
Guidons remained unchanged for the U.S. military until 1862 during the Civil War. The shape of the cavalry guidon didn’t change, but the colors were altered to a stars and stripes pattern. This change stayed in place until 1885 when the guidon was changed back to the red over white design.
Just one year later, artillery companies were authorized use of guidons. Engineer units were allowed to carry guidons in 1904. Also, in 1904, the Army standardized the design and use of colors and branch insignia. For example, the scarlet background and yellow crossed cannons came to represent artillery, just like the semaphore flags on orange backgrounds represent Signal Corps.
Headquarters elements of Army commands, along with garrisons, centers, schools, and elsewhere are authorized guidons of specific design and color. These usually follow the design of the unit’s Organizational Flag.
Air Force Guidons
The first aviation guidon was authorized in 1916 for use by the 1st Aero Squadron while in service on the Mexican border. Since aviation was part of the Signal Corps, the first Air Force guidon was orange with the Signal Corps crossed flags stitched above an outstretched eagle. These two elements were used for early military aviator badges, and the design was officially announced in a special regulation change to the wartime uniform of WWI. A recommendation in 1919 was to make the Air Force guidon green piped in black with a wing propeller and the letters/numbers of the unit stitched in white. That change was rejected because it was feared the black flag might be associated with “piracy.” As we know it, the yellow eagle in use on Air Force guidons came into being in 1962 and has remained unchanged since.
Marine Corps Guidons
Marine Corps guidons are always rectangular with a scarlet field and gold lettering with an eagle, globe, and anchor centered in the middle. Recruit training units don’t have any branch of service indicated on their guidons. Boot camp platoons only display the platoon number. Fleet Marine Forces units have “FMF” about the Marine Corps emblem.
All non-infantry and artillery reserve units display “USMCR” on their guidons, while all infantry, artillery, and active units show “USMC” on their guidons. Regimental level numbers are displayed on the lower-left corner, unless a higher/lower command numeral provides better identification.
One of the only units authorized a second guidon is Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines. C-Company 1/7 is authorized a white guidon with a skull and crossbones. Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines are authorized white markings on a black guidon, with a crossed rifle and shattered paddle and Ka-Bar inset behind a black heart logo.
Unlike the Army, no additional attachments are authorized, like streamers or bands.
Navy ships and squadrons are authorized a unit guidon while ashore that must be swallowtail shaped with a blue background and white text. The Navy guidon shows a fouled anchor within a diamond, which is the same insignia as the Naval Infantry Flag. Before WWII, the Navy used a red flag for artillery ships. OCS companies carry blue guidons with white lettering that shows a white bulldog.
When viewing flags in a military setting, the order is important. First is the national flag, next to the U.S. Army flag, the USMC flag, the Navy flag, then the Air Force flag, and finally the flag of the Coast Guard. However, when the Coast Guard is operating as part of the Navy (as in during war), the Coast Guard flag comes before the Air Force flag.
Guidons are an integral part of the military culture, not just because they represent the commander’s presence or were once used as a sight-point on the field. They represent the shared history of our military and our culture.
By the time the Army of the Ohio joined General William T. Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign in 1864, it had already repelled Confederate attacks on Ohio and marched South through Tennessee, chasing John Bell Hood through the Battles of Knoxville and Nashville. After burning Atlanta, the Union XXIII Corps, which made up the bulk of the Army of the Ohio, stopped to create a historical wonder: the world’s best battle trophy.
It turns out that Civil War combat isn’t very kind to the remnants of battle flags, especially those of the losing side. And after years of constant fighting, and a whole lot of winning, the XXIII Corps had a lot of captured Confederate flags.
I don’t know if you see where this is going.
With all the wear and tear on their own battle flag, the Army of the Ohio decided they required a new flag to fly as they might soon be helping General Sherman March to the Sea. You don’t want to burn Savannah without looking your best. It’s a good thing Confederate battle flags decided to use the exact same colors the XXIII Corps required for its flag.
Using the best pieces of the captured enemy flags they had, the Corps decided to form a new battle flag of their own, made entirely from the shredded, battle-scarred remains of their defeated enemies’ banners. They even happened upon more of the cloth after capturing Macon, Ga. The finished product was actually made for them by the 98th Illinois Regiment.
How does one define the best anti-aircraft gun of all time? The specs on paper do not tell the whole story. That is because there are always tradeoffs to be made in this, or any field of military weapons. High performance comes with costs – not just financial, but in terms of weight, complexity, maintenance needs, and proper training of the operators – to name just a few of the things that have to be balanced.
When a system gets it right, it becomes a classic. For anti-aircraft guns, the standard is arguably the 40mm Bofors. It packed a punch – about two and a half ounces of high explosives as used by the United States. But this wasn’t an American-designed weapon. Bofors is actually a Swedish company, and Sweden was neutral in World War II. The gun is still produced today, and is still seeing action.
What did that mean? Well, this gun was bought by the United Kingdom before the war, and in 1940, the United States began to build it (the Army having tested a version in 1937, according to NavWeaps.com). And they weren’t the only users. Hungary, a German ally, built some for the Nazis, who also captured a large number of these guns in the early years of World War II. Japan also built some, copied from captured British mounts.
The typical U.S. Navy mount for the Bofors 40mm was a quad mount, which accounted for many an Axis plane.
(U.S. Navy photo)
The Bofors 40mm saw action from land and sea mounts. The land versions were usually single mounts, but twin mounts were also used in vehicles like the M42 Duster and the failed M247 Sergeant York. On sea, the primary mount – and most effective version – was the quad 40mm mount, but twin and single mounts were also used.
The Bofors gun’s shells packed about two and a half ounces of high explosives. And this gun could send as many as 120 rounds a minute at an enemy plane.
(U.S. Army photo)
The Bofors had a maximum range of 11,133 yards and could hit targets just over 22,000 feet high. It could fire as many as two rounds a second, but given the need to manually reload with five-round clips, it was more likely to fire about 90 rounds a minute tops.
The M42 Duster was built around a twin Bofors 40mm gun.
(U.S. Army photo)
The Bofors 40mm was barely enough to handle the kamikazes that the United States was facing in 1945, but the end of World War II meant its replacement by a new three-inch gun was only a partial one. The mounts hung around through parts of the 1980s with the United States Navy.
When the National Museum of the United States Army opens to the public outside Washington, D.C. in 2020; six New York Army National Guard soldiers will be a permanent part of it.
The six men who serve at the New York National Guard Headquarters outside Albany and the 24th Civil Support Team at Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn, are models for six of 63 life-sized soldier figures that will bring exhibits in the museum to life.
Studio EIS (pronounced ice), the Brooklyn company that specializes in making these museum exhibit figures, would normally hire actors or professional models as templates for figures, said Paul Morando, the chief of exhibits for the museum.
But real soldiers are better, he said.
“Having real soldiers gives the figures a level of authenticity to the scene,” he said. “They know where their hands should be on the weapons. They know how far apart their feet should be when they are standing. They know how to carry their equipment.”
Actual soldiers can also share some insights with the people making the figures, Morando added.
New York Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Nick Archibald displays the cast made of his face at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 15, 2018.
(National Museum of the United States Army)
The museum is under construction at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. The Army Historical Foundation is leading a 0 million dollar campaign and constructing the 185,000 square-foot building through private donations. The Army is providing the 84-acre site, constructing the roads and infrastructure, and the interior exhibit elements that transform a building into a museum.
The museum will tell the story of over 240 years of Army history through stories of American soldiers.
The figures of the six New York National Guard Solders — Maj. Robert Freed, Chaplain (Maj.) James Kim, Capt. Kevin Vilardo, 2nd Lt. Sam Gerdt, Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Morrison, and Sgt. 1st Class Nick Archibald — will populate two exhibits from two different eras.
Vilardo, Gerdt, and Archibald will portray soldiers who landed in Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
New York Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Nick Archibald clutches pipes representing rope as a technician prepares to apply casting material to his body at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 15, 2018.
(National Museum of the United States Army)
The figure modeled by Archibald, an assistant inspector general at New York National Guard headquarters, will be climbing down a cargo net slung over the side of a model ship into a 36-foot long landing craft known as a “Higgins boat.”
The boats took their name from Andrew Higgins, a Louisiana boat-builder who designed the plywood-sided boats, which delivered soldiers directly to the beach.
Vilardo, the commander of A Troop, 101st Cavalry, who also works in the Army National Guard operations section, was the model for a combat photographer. His figure will be in the boat taking pictures of the action.
Gerdt, a survey section leader in the 24th Civil Support Team, modeled a soldier standing in the boat gazing toward the beach.
New York Army National Guard 2nd Lt. Sam Gerdt holds a pose while technicians take a cast of his upper torso at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 14, 2018.
(National Museum of the United States Army)
The landing craft is so big that it, and three other macro artifacts, were pre-positioned in their space within the museum in 2017 — the museum is being built around them.
Kim, Morrison and Freed modeled for figures that will be in an Afghanistan tableau. They will portray soldiers from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment on patrol in 2014, each soldier depicting a different responsibility on a typical combat mission.
The figure based on Morrison, the medic for the 24th CST, will be holding an M4 and getting ready to go in first.
Freed, the executive officer of the 24th CST, modeled a platoon leader talking on the radio.
Kim, the chaplain for the 42nd Division, was the model for a soldier operating a remote control for a MARCbot, which is used to inspect suspicious objects.
New York Army National Guard Major Robert Freed holds a pose with a mock M4 and block of wood replicating a radio handset, as technicians apply casting material to his body at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 15, 2018.
(National Museum of the United States Army)
The process of turning a soldier into a life-sized figure starts by posing the soldier in the position called for in the tableau and taking lots of photos. This allows the artists to observe how the person looks and record it.
When Archibald showed up at the Studio EIS facility they put him to work climbing a cargo net like soldiers used to board landing craft during World War II.
“They were taking pictures of me actually climbing a net with a backpack on and a huge model rifle over my shoulder,” he recalled. “That was uncomfortable because I was actually on a net hanging off this wall.”
The Studio EIS experts take pictures of the model from every angle and take measurements as well, Morando explained.
Heads casted from New York Army National Guard soldiers wait to be matched with their bodies at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 15, 2018.
(National Museum of the United States Army)
Vilardo, who posed crammed into a mock landing craft corner with a camera up to his eyes, said the photography portion of this process was the most unnerving part for him.
“I’m not one to like my picture being taken and to have really close photography of your face and hands was a new experience,” he said.
Next, a model of the individuals face is made. A special silicone based material is used for the cast. The model’s nostrils are kept clear so the subject can breathe.
The soldiers were told what their character was supposed to be doing and thinking and asked to make the appropriate facial gestures.
New York Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Morrison holds his pose as technicians apply casting material to his face at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 5, 2018.
(National Museum of the United States Army)
Gerdt was told to stare into space and think about not seeing his family for two years.
“I had to hold my facial expression for about 15 minutes while they did that,” he said.
Because his character was talking on the radio, he had to hold his mouth open and some of the casting compound got inside, Freed said.
New York Army National Guard Major Robert Freed poses with a mock M-4 and block of wood replicating a radio handset, as photos of his pose are taken at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 15, 2018.
(National Museum of the United States Army)
“It was a bit nerve wracking, “Freed recalled. ” They pour the silicon liquid over your entire face and you have these two breathing holes. Your hearing is limited. It is a bit jarring.”
The material also warmed up.
“It was like a spa experience,” Kim joked. “They had me sit with one of those barber covers on. I had to be still with my head tilted back.”
The material got so warm that he started sweating, Archibald said. “As they did the upper portion (of his body) I got pretty toasty in there,” he said.
Once their facial casts were done the Studio EIS experts cast the rest of their body. The soldiers put on tight shorts and stockings with Vaseline smeared over body parts and posed in the positions needed.
New York Army National Guard Captain Capt. Kevin Vilardo poses as World War II combat cameraman standing in the corner of a landing craft at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 13, 2018.
(National Museum of the United States Army)
Kim was asked to crouch and hold a controller in his hand. When he got up to move his legs were frozen, he said. “It was four hours and a lot of stillness,” Kim said.
Archibald was positioned on blocks so that his body looked like it was climbing and they used this small little stool supporting my butt.” He also had to clench his hand around rods to look like he was gripping a rope.
Vilardo jammed himself into a plywood cutout so it looked like he was stabilizing himself on a boat. Morrison held an M-4 at the ready as if he were ready to lead a stack of soldiers into a room.
The six New York National Guardsmen and four other soldiers visited the Brooklyn studio during the first two weeks of November 2018.
New York Army National Guard Major (Chaplain) James Kim poses with the remote control for a MARCbot robot as Paul Morando, the Exhibits Chief for the National Museum of the United States Army, refines his position at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 8, 2018.
(National Museum of the United States Army)
They were the last soldiers to be turned into figures, Morando said.
Four active duty soldiers also posed during the process; Chaplain (Major) Bruce Duty, Staff Sgt. Dereek Martinez, Sgt. 1st Class Kent Bumpass, and Sgt. Armando Hernandez.
Next the artists will sculpt sections into a complete figure, dress and accessorize, and paint precise details on the face and skin; crafting it to humanistic and historical perfection. These lifelike soldier figures will help visitors understand what it looked like on D-Day or during a combat mission in Afghanistan, Morando said.
The New York soldiers got their chance to be part of the new, state of the art museum because of Justin Batt, the director of the Harbor Defense Museum at Fort Hamilton.
He and Morando had worked together before, Batt said.
Morando needed soldiers to pose and wanted to use soldiers from the New York City area to keep down costs. So he turned to Batt to help find ten people.
Batt, in turn, reached out to Freed to ask for help in finding guard soldiers.
Soldiers pose for museum exhibits.
(U.S. Army photo)
The museum was looking for soldiers with certain looks, heights, and in some cases race, Freed said.
For the D-Day scene they needed soldiers of certain height and weight who would look like soldiers from the 1940s. The design for the Afghanistan scene included an Asian American and African-American soldier, Freed said.
He recruited Kim, a Korean-American, as the Asian American and Morrison as the African-American soldier. Vilardo, Archibald and Gerdt are lean and looked more like an American of the 1940s.
The six New York Guardsmen that Freed recruited were perfect, Batt said. Not only did they look the part but also they all have tremendous military records, he added.
New York Army National Guard Captain Capt. Kevin Vilardo holds a pose as a World War II combat cameraman while technicians take a cast of his upper torso at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 13, 2018.
(National Museum of the United States Army)
Being part of the National Museum of the United States Army is an honor, the soldiers said.
While their names won’t be acknowledged on the exhibits, it will be great to know they are part of telling the Army story, they all agreed.
He was impressed to find out how much work goes into creating an exhibit and the care the museum staff is taking to get it right, Freed said.
“I have a newfound appreciation of the efforts the Army is making to preserve its history,” he added.
“I think it is pretty cool that they would get soldiers to model as soldiers,” Archibald said. “Part of it is an honor to be able to bring people down there and point at the exhibit and say that is actually me there.”
This draft of the landing craft exhibit at the National Museum of the United States Army gives a sense of what the finished result will look like when the museum opens.
(National Museum of the United States Army)
“I feel privileged to have an opportunity to be part of a historic display, “Kim said. ” To be immortalized and to be able to share that with generations of my family. It is a once in a life time opportunity.”
“It’s extremely cool. I feel honored to do it,” Gerdt said, adding that he was looking forward to taking his newborn daughter to see the exhibit.
Vilardo, who has a seven-year old daughter, said she was pretty excited when he showed her photographs of him being turned into an exhibit figure.
“I told her it would be just like “Night at the Museum”, he said referring to the Ben Stiller movie about museum exhibits coming to life, “and that we could go visit anytime.”
“It is extremely humbling to know I am going to be part of Army history, “Morrison said. “I already thought I was part of the Army Story. Now I am going to be part of the story the public gets to see.”
Editor’s Note: The National Museum of the United States Army is a joint effort between the U.S. Army and the non-profit organization, The Army Historical Foundation. The museum will serve as the capstone of the Army Museum Enterprise and provide the comprehensive portrayal of Army history and traditions. The Museum is expected to open in 2020 and admission will be free. www.thenmusa.org
The Army’s recent order of a four-bore rifle prototype made some waves. It’s a pretty exciting piece of technology, but if it gets picked up, it won’t be the first four-barrel weapon that American troops have fielded. And while this new prototype rifle fires 6mm rounds at an impressive rate, the older system packed a bigger wallop.
This older four-barrel system wasn’t a rifle, however, it was a rocket launcher called the M202 FLASH. “FLASH,” in this case, stood for FLame Assault SHoulder weapon. It packed four 66-millimeter M74 rockets that were held together by a clip.
As the full name of the rocket launcher suggests, the rockets were equipped with incendiary warheads. It replaced the traditional flamethrowers that had seen a lot of action in World War II, much to the relief of the grunts who once carried them.
Traditional flamethrowers, like this M2 being used in the Pacific Theater, were effective, but had a lot of drawbacks.
Traditional flamethrowers were backpack-mounted. The canisters on their backs were filled with what was, essentially, jellied gasoline. To make matters worse for the GI carrying a large, flammable target on their back, they had to get within 47 yards of the enemy to use a traditional flamethrower.
While flamethrowers were devastating to enemy positions and extremely effective at clearing terrain, the guy who carried it on his back was in danger of becoming a very crispy critter should his flamethrower get hit. And there’s no hiding who’s carrying a flamethrower. This made the specially-trained operators a target.
The M202 entered service in 1978 and has seen action in the Global War on Terror.
The M202A1 eliminated a lot of those drawbacks. Any number of grunts could be trained to use the system. The weapon is still distinctive but, according to U.S. Army Training Circular 23-2, it has a maximum range of just over 800 yards. While you’re not always going to be firing from maximum range, it’s a lot better than being within a stone’s throw.
Each of the M74 rockets fired by the M202 packed about 1.3 pounds of what the Army called a “thickened pyrophoric agent,” called triethylaluminum. This burned at temperatures of up to 2200 degrees Fahrenheit, similar to white phosphorus (“Willie Pete”).
The M202 has been obscured — largely because it had its share of hiccups. Still, it’s seen some action in the War on Terror — and in a few of our favorite movies and games. The M202 made an appearance in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Commando, Capcom’s Resident Evil, and Overkill Software’s Payday 2.
Many of us who join the military were once considered “couch potatoes” when compared to the amount of daily activity we do while in the service. We may be a little out of shape in the beginning, but once we start a new physical regimen, something incredible happens to our bodies biologically.
When we put our bodies through physical exertion, we start to feel pretty awesome due to an increased heart rate, which pushes extra blood and fresh oxygen into our brains. This floods our brains with those amazing endorphins — which everybody loves.
However, the next day, your body typically enters into a phase called “delayed-onset muscle soreness,” during which you’re probably not so happy anymore.
This soreness typical lasts for around 72 hours as your body rebuilds itself. The good news is that, as you continue to regularly work out, you’re less likely to experience a severe rebuilding process. So, start getting your bodies used to the process sooner rather than later.
Over the course of a few weeks, your body will produce mitochondria that convert carbs, fats, and proteins into fuel. Once you start getting into a regular workout routine, you can increase mitochondria production by nearly 50 percent.
That’s a sh*t ton!
With the increase in mitochondria production, your endurance increases and the exercises that you thought were tough three weeks ago may not feel so difficult anymore.
Exercising will also enhance your bone density, which directly lowers your risk of osteoporosis.
Other physical health benefits include lowering your chances of developing arthritis, type 2 diabetes, dementia, and various types of cancer. Many exercise fans have also noticed a decrease in mental depression as workouts tend to reduce the levels of stress hormones, like cortisol.
A perfect way to boost morale.
On the flip side, starting a workout routine is just one piece of a larger battle. Service members and veterans need to focus on maintaining a healthy diet to supply proper nutrition to the body. Eating a whole chocolate cake after a workout might feel awesome as you take the first bite, but chow down for too long and you’ll start to feel sick.
Plus, you just wasted a solid workout.
(Photo by Airman 1st Class Nathan Byrnes)
However, we understand the occasional cheat meal — we all do it.
Check out Tech Insider‘s video below to get the complete, animated breakdown of how awesome your body is at adapting once you start working out.
Video games are known for over-the-top weaponry. In the universe of games, a seemingly tiny blonde dude can easily swing around the giant Buster Sword (see: Final Fantasy VII) and a kid with a mask is given free reign to swing around a ridiculously shaped, dual-bladed sword (see: The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask).
In real life, getting your hands on these incredible weapons is a much more painstaking endeavor than simply showing up at a store and dropping a few rupees or a couple hundred gil. Tony Swatton of Burbank, California’s Sword and Stone and the crew over at Baltimore Knife and Sword take pride in forging authentic, legitimate versions of pop-culture’s finest weaponry. Together, they formed the web series, Man at Arms: Reforged, which you can find on YouTube.
Let’s set the bar extremely high right off the bat with a look at their work on a Warhammer 40K Chainsword:
Swatton is a self-taught blacksmith who got his start working on Steven Spielberg’s Hook and has been creating weapons and armor for film and television ever since. His work can also be seen on the official World of Warcraft channel in a series called Azeroth Armory.
The show expanded to Maryland and added Baltimore’s Knife and Sword crew at the start of the second season. Since then, the channel has achieved internet stardom by bringing the viewers along for the ride as they create some of the most interesting weapons from film, television, and gaming. Behind each weapon is a very long, methodical process. Each weapon takes as long as 200 hours to forge, which is distilled down into a single 10-minute video segment.
They’re also not afraid to take on historical recreations, such as a 400-year old Chinese Dandao:
Each project requires a unique approach but, in general, they employ plasma cutting to get the desired shape out of steel, mold the intricate details out of clay for a bronze cast, spend days perfecting every minute detail, and then finally assemble, sharpen, and test their new weapon.
They create content based off of YouTube comments, so if you can think of an awesome weapon that isn’t in their nearly 150-video-long catalog, leave a suggestion!
Members of the Armed Forces will be familiar with the term “contraband.” In basic training, it was civilian clothing. On deployment, it was alcohol. For the Union soldiers that occupied Jefferson City, Missouri, in 1861, contraband referred to the slaves they captured. These captured slaves were pressed into service as cooks, laundresses or nurses to support the Union war effort. Among these captured slaves was 17-year-old Cathay Williams, who worked as a cook and washerwoman and eventually, as a soldier.
In September 1844, Williams was born in Independence, Missouri, to a free man and an enslaved woman. This made her legal status that of a slave. She worked as a house slave on the Johnson Plantation outside of Jefferson City, Missouri.
Painting of Cathay Williams by Williams Jennings (U.S. Army Profiles of Bravery)
After she was pressed into service, Williams served under General Philip Sheridan and accompanied the infantry on campaigns around the country, including the Red River Campaign, the Battle of Pea Ridge, and the Shenandoah Valley Raids in Virginia. Her extensive travels during the war influenced her decision to enlist afterwards.
On November 15, 1866, Williams enlisted in the 38th Infantry Regiment (“Rock of the Marne”). Because women were prohibited from military service, Williams disguised herself as a man and enlisted under the name “William Cathay”. At the time, the Army did not perform full medical examinations on enlistees, so Williams was able to maintain her cover. Only two people in the regiment, a cousin, and a friend, knew Williams’ true identity. “They never blowed on me,” Williams said. “They were partly the cause of me joining the Army. The other reason was I wanted to make my own living and not be dependent on relations or friends.”
Williams was able to keep her secret despite a case of smallpox shortly after her enlistment. After her hospitalization, Williams was able to rejoin her unit at Fort Bayard in the New Mexico territory, helping to secure the construction of the transcontinental railroads. However, a case of neuralgia (intermittent nerve pain) sent her to the post surgeon who uncovered Williams’ secret and reported her to the post commander. On October 14, 1868, she received an honorable discharge with the legacy of being the first and only female Buffalo Soldier.
Williams went on to work as a cook, laundress, and part-time nurse in New Mexico and Colorado. Years later, her declining health led to a hospitalization from 1890 to 1891. In June 1891, Williams applied for a military disability pension. A doctor concluded that she did not qualify, and the Pension Bureau cited the fact that her Army service was not legal. It is estimated that Williams died between 1892 and 1900. Her final resting place is also unknown.
American women have disguised themselves as men in order to serve since the Revolutionary War. Williams, however, was the first known African-American to do so. She is also the only known woman to disguise herself as a man during the Indian Wars. Her fierce independence and determination to serve are hallmarks of the American spirit that she, and so many others before and after her, have sought to defend.
Bronze bust of Cathay Williams at the Richard Allen Cultural Center in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas (Buffalo Soldier Monument Committee)
Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.
“Well, they sure favor their Earth tone clothing over here; every color is … dark, dingy, and just… gray. It’s like this whole city is trapped inside a gray balloon,” my brother observed and commented. “What the hell is with all the dark clothing, seriously?” he puzzled. “I mean is there some kind of extra import tariff on $hit that is red, yellow, or orange — the longer wavelength colors — always with the shorter waves, Moriarity; ALWAYS WITH THE SHORTER WAVES!”
Sarajevo is the capital city of Bosnia and Herzegovina in former Yugoslavia. The boys and I came here shortly after a United Nations (UN)-induced cease-fire. The tide of homicide, genocide, fratricide, and suicide along the countryside… had all just become so, so, so over the top for the world theater’s pallet.
The suffering on the ground was hellish but what the real world didn’t know and we only learned on the ground was that we were here because of a doll. Yep, that’s right journalists were placing dolls in the scenes of carnage which when seen by coffee-talkers around the world sparked global outrage — time to send in some troops!
“They’re ripping babies out of mothers’ arms and then gunning both down right there in the streets… and I think that’s just wrong, you know?” bleat the crestfallen Gladys Pumpernick of Sheboygan, Wisconsin. “Oh, but what of the children??”
And so it went; that’s how me and the boys ended up in a C-130 Herc out of Germany, junked-up with body armor and helmets. Ground fire was an indeed thing in and around the Sarajevo airport. No slow shallow glide to the flight line; that would lend undue exposure of the aircraft to ground fire. Ours was a fast approach with a sudden steep dive and flare onto the tarmac.
Air Force likes to tell you that a dive gives you a chance. The Army tells you to throw on body armor. Despite both schools of wisdom, you’re still stuck in a metal tube with absolutely nothing you can do. We looked and felt stupid in our armor, with nothing protecting us from bullets coming up through the floor of the aircraft.
“In Nam the Air Cavalry sat on their steel pots!” recalled a brother, and we all quickly removed our armored vests and helmets. We lay our vests on our red nylon seats, the K-Pot helmets on the vests, then sat on top of the combo, grinning back and forth at each other the grin you grin when you have saved your testicles for yet another day.
Once on the ground, were attached to the in-country commanding general’s group of the UN-titled Implementation Force (IFOR). All soldiers from all nations wore the IFOR badge on their uniforms. Our badges, being with the command element read “ComIFOR” the Command of IFOR, a title that lent prestige in countless areas as well as free parking spots.
We wore only functionally rugged civilian clothes and carried a concealed M-1911 pistol on our person. Parking along a curb on our first day we were immediately approached by a fireplug of a hateful U.S. Military Police person. She huffed and she puffed and sought to blow us down:
“You can’t park there!”
Our team lead, D-man, neatly closed the driver’s door of our SUV as he replied: “Yes we can.”
“No you can’t — IFOR!” huffed the MP as she jammed an indicating index finger into the IFOR badge on her chest.
D-Man tapped his badge on his chest: “Yes we can — ComIFOR.”
The MP’s eyes flashed a “been-got” flash, and she stewed momentarily. “Well, don’t take all damned day!” was all she had.
“Yeah, we’ll be sure and not take all damned day, sweetheart,” was how D-Man dismissed our host.
I can tell you that it was dark in Sarajevo at night, so dark. My first night there I counted from up high a grand total of five lights coming from some sources in the city, not even bright ones. Two of them were traffic lights… just two traffic lights on main street in the entire city. It was dark in Sarajevo at night, yeah.
Night in a shopping district of modern-day Sarajevo
The country’s infrastructure was simply destroyed from the years of bombing and shelling. There was no dependable electric grid, fuel or transportation was rare. People were forced to spend long days well into night, mostly on foot just trying to take care of their basic needs.
And at night our headlights revealed the ghost people as they moved through the streets. Clad mostly in black; light black and dark black. A splash of gray to compliment the dark something-or-other, an ensemble pulled together with a black pleather jacket.
And the women, dark on dark with pallid skin, long raven hair, black lipstick, and dark eyeshadow… looking like a hoard of listless Morticia Addams’ sulking their way to somewhere. They shuffled as singletons or couples arm in pleather arm. Goth was just the untimely trend for the young there. It just made for an even more macabre ambiance in the city at night.
The original Morticia Addams
Back at our little compound, I had a chance to meet one of the ghost people face to face: Rado, short for Radovan, had been a newspaper editor before the war in just his early 20s. He was since rounded up by Serbian troops and held for many months in a barn with the other men of his neighborhood and tortured beyond logical description, to the brink of a ghost person.
Subject to his calamity he became as simple as a little child in both thought and action. He did odd jobs around the American Embassy for food and pennies. He smoked like a meat house and wore the same unlaundered pullover sweater the entire three months I was there.
The team and I really came to question the ghost people: why were they walking in the street at night in dark clothes, in the middle of the street even?! It’s like they’re begging to be killed… they’re stoned freaking crazy — all of them! Yes, it sure seemed that way to me too. I have to reckon that after all they have been through these last years nothing really lights their fuses.
What can I tell you? These souls have been treading in Lucifer’s backyard for over four years now, the longest siege of a major city in modern history. Day after day of pacts with the devil to stay alive, scratching and screaming to stay living, promising all and everything to the Creator for just one more day above ground… do we honestly expect them to worry over their dark wardrobe while they stroll the street shoulders of their peace-time home??
An American Colonel gave Rado his used New Balance running shoes the day he signed out; he just walked up and stuffed them in Rado’s chest and walked away. Rado stood stunned, gradually sinking to the ground crying and hugging his now most prized possession, his (used) American shoes. “Even and they are my number!” he cried out in fractured English, meaning they were just his size, “Even and they are my same number!”
Driving on patrol or even on the base was always a challenge for us with the Ghost people lurking in the shadows. “I swear to God “Sarajevo” is the Bosnian word for ghost people! They need to move out of the freakin’ way!!” =HONK — HONK — HOOOOOONK= “I’m going to run one of these sons-of-bitches over and it’s not going to be my fault!” Tough talk, but we would continue to always yield to the ghost people, our rage notwithstanding.
Rado got hit by an IFOR HMMWV (hummer) and died on Alipašina Ulica (street). It was night, and the street was dark. Rado was dark and too simple, the driver American and so irate, irate with the ghost people of Sarajevo.
I didn’t see the accident, but I raced there when I heard the news, as it was very close by. Rado lay still where he died, wearing his same rancid pullover sweater, and now the Colonel’s used running shoes, his same number, Rado’s, the simple child… Rado, the ghost of Sarajevo.
Radovan Bozhić served his sentence in Hades. He was finished with his sentence, and now it was time for him to live; it was someone else’s turn to stagger the green mile to death for a fair spell.
Somewhere, somehow, some clerk made an errant entry in the wrong row, the wrong column of a divine dispatch log, and mistakenly put Rado wrongfully back on the mortal path… my, but I did hate it so.
On August 19, 1941, a British bomber taking part in a raid against Germany flew over a prisoner of war camp in St. Omer, France and dropped its lightest — but possibly most historic — payload of the war: a wooden case filled with bandages, socks, straps, and an artificial leg.
The odd bombing mission was to support a particular pilot on the ground, Douglas Bader, a Battle of Britain hero and double-leg amputee.
Douglas Bader and other members of No. 242 Squadron pose in front of nose art depicting a quick kick to Hitler’s butt.
(Royal Air Force photo by S. A. Devon)
Bader’s heroic story starts in 1931 when he boldly asserted that he could fly a new aircraft but, while attempting a risky maneuver near the ground with it, crashed the plane and lost both of his legs. The Royal Air Force drummed him out as invalid, but he kept pressing to come back.
When World War II broke out, Bader finally got his chance and immediately made the best of it, getting re-certified to fly and an assignment to the No. 19 Squadron. He pushed for sending more planes up against the Germans more of the time, and was sent against the Luftwaffe over Dunkirk in 1940.
A Messerschmitt 109 like the one Bader shot down on the day that he was downed — August 9, 1941.
(Kogo, CC BY-SA 2.0)
But his last kill came at a cost. On August 9, he shot down a Messerschmidt-109F, but his own plane was damaged in the fight. Reports at the time indicated that he had collided with another German plane, but later investigations posit that he might have been a victim of friendly fire.
Either way, Bader bailed out of his plane, losing his right prosthetic in the process, and parachuted to the ground. He was knocked out upon landing, and woke up to German soldiers removing his parachute harness.
The German doctor assigned to check on him thought, at first, that Bader had suffered an amputation in the crash, but quickly realized both his mistake and the fact that he was treating a British war hero.
The Germans, to their credit, immediately tried to make him as comfortable as a full-bodied person in the prisoner of war camp, recovering and repairing his leg as best they could and letting Britain know that he had been captured and needed a replacement right leg.
Bader, to his credit, immediately attempted to use his repaired leg to escape, forcing the Germans to take his legs every night to prevent further escape attempts. Bader would try again three more times over the course of the war.
But, between the first escape attempt and the other three, the RAF put together a plan to get Bader a new leg. Germany made an offer of safe passage and landing for a single plane to deliver it, but Britain worried that the Germans would use it for a burst of positive publicity.
Instead, they put together a fairly genius plan. See, Bader had been shot down during a large bombing raid popular with the RAF at the time. Bombers flew towards their targets escorted by a large number of fighters. The German planes would take off to intercept, but would be forced to dogfight with the fighters.
This created a window where there was little or no real resistance in the air to smaller bomber formations. Typically, this was used to sneak a few bombers in on low-altitude runs against high-priority targets. But on August 19, 1941, the British aviators used this window to fly over the prisoner of war camp at St. Omer, France where Bader was being held.
To the German flight commander of the Luftwaffe at St. Omer. Please deliver to the undermentioned address this package for Wing Command Bader, RAF prisoner of war, St. Omer, containing artificial leg, bandages, socks, straps.
Bader was sent to the infamous Colditz Castle after his fourth escape attempt, but survived the war. He advocated for disabled rights the rest of his life, efforts for which he received a knighthood in 1976. He died in 1982 of an apparent heart attack.
In March 1942, the U.S. was fully engaged in the second World War, fighting against Japan and Germany. The Pearl Harbor attack had happened just months prior, and now there was a U-boat war happening right off the eastern seaboard of the United States.
Americans were understandably nervous. Then Life Magazine scared the heck out of its readers with an article about what would happen if the Nazis and the Japanese decided to invade.
In an article titled “Now the US must fight for its life,” Life shared maps of a potential invasion that must have been pretty terrifying to John Q. Public in the early days of the war.
The magazine, fortunately, was way, way off. The Germans did investigate a potential invasion of the U.S., aided by the the long-range Amerika bomber, but they eventually found such an endeavor too costly, especially as the war continued to go poorly for them.
Though German U-boats were sinking some ships off the American coast, fielding a long-range bomber against the U.S. needed a nuclear bomb underneath it to be truly effective, which the Germans never figured out. And Berlin simply didn’t have the resources or manpower to stage a feasible land invasion — a point nailed home by the fact that Germany had previously scrapped an invasion plan for England in 1941.
Regardless, it was a scary time for Americans in March 1942, and it was the heyday of military propaganda. So here is how Life imagined such an operation:
Ever since the news of the newest, and most confusing branch of the Armed forces surfaced this past year, we’ve all been enjoying plenty of memes. While the Space Force is the sixth official branch of the Armed Forces, we were all deeply let down by the news there are no plans for a fleet of Millennium Falcons (yet).
Legitimate questions still linger in the atmosphere surrounding MOS details, which feels a bit like staring into a black hole of information. Like where to drop a packet for the Space Rangers, and if Space Public Relations comes with Area 51 clearance. Instead of waiting, we thought we’d create the top list of jobs you wish the Space Force had. And hey, perhaps they might only be a light year away from existence.
Grunts across the galaxy will have to take it down a notch in their hopes for grabbing the first CIB or CAR for actions taken in space war. Fans of the so-bad-it’s-good 1997 movie Starship Troops would see their dreams of other-worldly combat possibly become a reality (but probably without the massive, bloodthirsty bugs, sorry). As it turns out, the Outer Space Treaty declares the Moon, and all other celestial bodies as peaceful space, so a war on the Moon isn’t likely to happen. Still, the Infantry slogan “Embrace the Suck” gets a whole new meaning when the only thinking protecting you from the air-sucking death of outer space is the badass helmet that ironically looks a lot like something off Halo.
Who doesn’t want to wield the first-ever commissioned laser-based 50 Cal? Will it be more of a “kksssshhhh” or a “vrau- vrau” noise when it fires? What regulations will be necessary if a bullet fired in space would theoretically continue forever- you know, to infinity and beyond?
Space public relations
While obviously necessary, and already existing here on Earth (in a different format), what we really want to know is- who gets to talk to the aliens? What are the foreign language requirements for extraterrestrial life? How exactly will they know we come in peace? All completely irrelevant to the actual mission of Space Force Public Relations, but still.
To where exactly will this elite group lead the way to? In the absence of a tan beret, will headgear be sleek or exude the classic trooper style? Will hyper-speed come standard in all Ranger vehicles, so that no man could be left behind, despite the vastness of the galaxy? Lastly, what about training? How swiftly will one be recycled from the zero-gravity phase in Space Ranger School? Will the Ranger Instructors be dressed as Storm Troopers? How will you execute burpee long-jumps in zero gravity?
Finally, Tom Cruise can unleash his inner being when Top Gun 3 is filmed on Mars (Sorry Tom, please don’t sue me). Do pilots wear aviators in space? Can you do a fly-by of the radar tower on the Moon? Will it be called Mission Control or Star Command? Will flight suits still look as sexy? These are important and we need to know. The image of streaking through the Solar System in a space fighter that may or may not resemble an X-Wing from Star Wars should be enough to enable the Space Force’s recruitment demands for the next couple of decades. Surely by then, we will have built a Death Star already, right? After all, it’s not a moon it’s a space station.
All joking aside, welcome to the neighborhood Space Force. We’re all just jealous you get to do cool space jazz while we’re stuck here on Earth as the mortal elite force to reckon with.