The winter of 1777 was disastrous. The British had successfully retaken many key locations in the 13 colonies and General Washington’s men were left out in the cold of Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. Morale was at an all-time low and conditions were so poor, in fact, that many troops reportedly had to eat their boots just to stay alive. No aid was expected to arrive for the Americans but the British reinforcements had landed. It’s no exaggeration to say that, in that moment, one cold breeze could have blown out the flames of revolution.
Then, in February, 1778, a Prussian nobleman by the name of Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben arrived. He set aside his lavish lifestyle to stand next to his good friend, George Washington, and transform a ragtag group of farmers and hunters into the world’s premier fighting force.
With his guidance, the troops kept the gears turning. He taught them administrative techniques, like proper bookkeeping and how to maintain hygiene standards. But his lessons went far beyond logistics: von Steuben also taught the troops the proper technique for bayonet charges and how to swear in seven different languages. He was, in essence, the U.S. Army’s first drill sergeant.
The troops came out of Valley Forge far stronger and more prepared for war. Their victory at Stony Point, NY was credited almost entirely to von Steuben’s techniques. He then transcribed his teachings into a book, Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States, better known as, simply, the “Blue Book.” It became the Army’s first set of regulations — and many of the guidelines therein are still upheld today.
Given the hours you spend prepping your dress blues, there’s no way in hell you’d bring it to a desert — or do anything other than stand there for inspection.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Daniel Schroeder)
Different uniforms for officer, NCOs, and troops
This was the very first regulation established by the ‘Blue Book.’ In the early days of the revolution, there was no real way to tell who outranked who at a glance. All uniforms were pieced together by volunteer patriots, so there was no way to immediately tell who was an officer, a non-commissioned officer, or solider. von Steuben’s regulations called for uniforms that were clear indicators of rank.
Troops today still follow this regulation to a T when it comes to the dress uniform — albeit without the swords.
The rifle twirling is, however, entirely a recent officer thing.
(Department of Defense photo by Terrence Bell)
If there was one lasting mark left on the Army by von Steuben, it was the importance of drill and ceremony. Much of the Blue Book is dedicated to instructing soldiers on proper marching techniques, the proper steps that you should take, and how to present your arms to your chain of command.
Despite the protests of nearly every lower enlisted, the Army has spent days upon days practicing on the parade field since its inception — and will continue to do so well into the future.
If you thought troops back then could get by without hospital corners on their bed, think again!
(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Petty Officer Susan Krawczyk)
One of the most important things von Steuben did while in Valley Forge was teach everyone a few extremely simple ways to prevent troops from dying very preventable, outside-of-combat deaths. A rule as simple as, “don’t dig your open-air latrine right next to where the cooks prepare meals” (p. 46) was mind-blowing to soldiers back then.
But the lessons run deeper than that. Even police calls and how to properly care for your bedding (p. 45) are directly mentioned in the book.
While there arestillpunishments in place for negligencetoday, the armorer would be paying far more than for a lost rifle.
(U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa)
Accountability of arms and ammo
No one likes doing paperwork in the military (or anywhere else) but it has to be done. Back then, simple accounting was paramount. As you can imagine, it was good for the chain of command to actually know how many rifles and rounds of ammunition each platoon had at their disposal.
While the book mostly focuses on how to do things, this is one of the few instances in which he specifically states that the quartermaster should be punished for not doing their job (p. 62). According to the Blue Book, punishments include confinement and forfeiture of pay and allowances until whatever is lost is recouped.
Once given medical attention, a troop would be giving off-time until they’re better — just like today.
(U.S. Army photo by Robert Shields)
Sending troops to sick call
The most humane thing a leader can do is allow their troops to be nursed back to full health when they’re not at fighting strength. The logic here is pretty sound. If your troops aren’t dying, they’ll fight harder. If they fight harder, America wins. So, it’s your job, as a leader, to make sure your troops aren’t dying.
According to the Blue Book, NCOs should always check in on their sick and wounded and give a report to the commander. This is why, today, squad leaders report to the first sergeant during morning role call, giving them an idea of anyone who needs to get sent to sick call.
“No one is more professional than I” still has a better ring to it, though.
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Maria Mengrone)
NCOs should lead from the front
“It being on the non-commissioned officer that the discipline and order of a company in a great measure depend, they cannot be too circumspect in their behavior towards the men, by treating them with mildness, and at the same time, obliging everyone to do his duty.” (p. 77)
This was von Steuben’s way of saying that the NCOs really are the backbone of the Army.
According to von Steuben, NCOs “should teach the soldiers of their squad” (p. 78). They must know everything about what it means to be a soldier and motivate others while setting a proper, perfect example. They must care for the soldiers while still completing the duties of a soldier. They must be the lookout while constantly looking in. Today, these are the qualities exhibited by the best NCOs.
They probably didn’t think we’d have radios back then…
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Thomas Duval)
The soldier’s general orders
Today, each soldier of the Army has their general orders when it comes to guard/sentinel duty. von Steuben’s rules run are almost exactly the same:
Guard everything within the limits of your post and only quit your post when properly relieved? Check.
Obey your special orders and perform your duties in a military manner? Check.
Report all violations of your special orders, emergencies, and anything not covered in your instructions to the commander of the relief? Kinda check… the Blue Book just says to sound an alarm, but you get the gist.
While the Marine Corps has developed a well-earned reputation as a fierce opponent on the battlefield, that reputation wasn’t cultivated by only recruiting tenacious warfighters. Like every branch, the Marine Corps’s new recruits represent a cross-section of the American people, with men and women of varying ages and widely diverse backgrounds funneled into a training process that can be so grueling and difficult, some have referred to it as a “meat grinder.” For the rest of us, this training process is called the “accession pipeline,” – where kids from the block enter, and occupationally proficient professional warfighters emerge.
All Marines earn a tan belt in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program before completing recruit training, and while that’s akin to earning a white belt in most martial arts disciplines, the Marine Corps is one place where your ability to actually use your martial arts training in a fight is considered the priority.
This isn’t really how most self-defense classes at the mall tend to play out.
(USMC Photo by LCpl Ismael Ortega)
Martial arts in the Marine Corps is not a means to develop one’s self-esteem, a fun way to get active, or even about learning self-defense in bar fights. The Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) is, in many ways, an abbreviated introduction to the most brutal parts of warfare: where death is the most likely outcome, and the struggle is merely to decide which of you it comes for. While the techniques taught in the earliest belts (tan and grey) may seem simplistic, the intent is to provide all Marines with the basic building blocks required to bring others to a violent end, and of course, to try to prevent others from doing the same to you.
And if you want to win a fight, one of the first things you need to learn how to do is stop your opponent from force feeding you his fists. Hands have a nasty habit of moving faster than heads, so the boxing method of bobbing and weaving away from incoming strikes isn’t a feasible introduction to defense. Instead, the Marine Corps leans on the same approach to a rear hand strike as it would an ambush: once you see it coming, you attack into it.
The rear hand punch tends to be the most devastating of upper body strikes, and it can manifest in a number of ways. The same fundamental mechanics of using your legs and torso to swing your rear fist like a hammer at your opponent can make a right cross powerful enough to send you reeling, or give a hook the weight it needs to break a jaw. So when you see it coming, the appropriate response is to step into it at a 45-degree angle, closing the distance between your opponent and yourself, muting some of its delivery and re-orienting the point of impact on both your body and the arm of your opponent.
As you step into your opponent’s extending arm, your hands should already be raised to protect yourself. Make contact with the inside of your opponent’s swinging arm with the meaty portion of your left forearm while keeping your right hand up to protect your head. Once your left arm has made contact with your opponent’s right, his punch has been defused, but worse for him, his rear hand is now extended out to your side, leaving his head and torso open and undefended on that side.
At that point you can quickly wrap your left arm around your opponent’s extended arm at the elbow joint, creating a standing armbar you can use for leverage to deliver hammer strikes to your opponent’s face and head. You can also transition toward further joint manipulations, or you may maintain control of the arm and sweep your right heel as you drive your opponent to the ground, landing him face down while you maintain an armbar or basic wrist lock. For any but the most motivated of opponents, just about each of these results could feasibly be the end of the fight.
Maintain positive control of your opponent’s wrist as you follow him to the ground to ensure he can’t scramble away.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. John Robbart III)
The important elements of this technique to master are simple, but fast moving. Look for your opponent to telegraph a rear hand or round punch with their dominant hand. As they begin to throw it, step forward and into that punch, meeting your opponent’s arm with your own (if they throw a punch on your left, your left arm makes contact, on the right, your right arm does). The force of that impact alone should be enough to knock them a bit off balance, and all there is left to do is follow up with at least three techniques meant to harm or subdue the attacker.
And of course, if you’re in a multiple opponent situation, it’s imperative that you maintain situational awareness and create separation from your attacker as quickly as possible to prepare for the next attack. But if it’s just you and him… feel free to wrench on that arm a bit as you wait for law enforcement to arrive–ya know, just to make sure it doesn’t do him any good in lock up.
Submachine guns were a staple of combat in the early 20th century. Their light weight and sleek profiles meant that they could be used in many close-quarters situations and their high rate of fire gave them a stopping power to be feared. By the 1980s, however, submachine guns were rarely seen in regular line units.
Now, this isn’t to say that the entire class of firearm is faulty or that there isn’t a use for them. In fact, many special operations units and police SWAT teams use submachine guns for their ease of control and for the very reason they’re discouraged by conventional units: a lesser stopping power compared to automatic rifles.
Created as a mix between a machine pistol and a carbine, the Italian Beretta M1918 and the German MP 18 were game-changers in the trenches of WWI. The American Thompson M1921 (better known as the “Tommy Gun”) wasn’t ready in time for the war, but served as a basis for every SMG that came after it.
In WWII, the Tommy Gun gave American troops a lot of firepower in a small package. Paratroopers could easily carry them on planes, tankers could keep them handy in case anyone got too close, and infantrymen could maneuver through cities with them with ease. It was often copied but never outdone. It and its sister weapon, the M3/M3A1 “Grease Gun,” were mainstays throughout the Korean War and into the early parts of the Vietnam War.
(Photo by SSgt. Walter F. Kleine)
The submachine gun, however, wasn’t able to hold up long in the jungles of Vietnam when the M16’s durability, range, and 5.56mm ammunition outperformed it in nearly every way. This, however, wasn’t its death rattle.
The SMG’s maneuverability in close quarters didn’t go unnoticed by law enforcement — primarily by SWAT teams. Additionally, SMGs are often chambered in 9mm or .45 ACP, meaning that targets struck by rounds are more often incapacitated than killed. In the hands of law enforcement, an armed assailant could then be taken into custody.
Though modern rifles have made the SMG unpopular in warfare, it still serves a valuable purpose in the right hands.
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.
My Delta Selection class gifted the Unit with ten U.S. Army Rangers. K2 was one of the ten. He spoke very little, but his Ranger brothers spoke for him:
“Yeah, well, there’s strong and then there’s K2 strong,” was a catchphrase among the men. I guess so… or, I mean I just didn’t get it. He was medium in every way as I saw it; medium build, personality, intelligence, spirit… I just didn’t see where the super strength part came into play.
Perhaps I would eventually.
In my day, the Unit was a very evenly split down center with 50% of the operators from the Rangers and the other half, including me, from the Green Beret groups. To us, the Rangers were rigid meatheads; to them, we were lazy cheaters. I resented but agreed with the Rangers’ assessment of us Green Beanies — in fact, it is the very reason why I left the groups to seek out Delta.
K2 and I rarely spoke at first. I remember the first time during our Selection and Assessment course. It was the night before our final test of strength and endurance. We were given a chance to sleep for almost three hours.
Twenty men hit the ground in their bags to saw logs. Another man from the groups and I sat and chatted up a host of disparate nonsense.
K2 sat up looking like a mummy in his bag, unzipped, and revealed a disenchanted expression:
“You guys mind shutting the phuq up? We’re trying to sleep here.”
He zipped and lay back down.
Army Green Berets are respected for their flexibility, broad reach, and extraordinary
ability to improvise.
“That’s the first thing he’s said to me this whole month!” I whispered to my bro. “Same here!” my bud whispered back… ah, but we whispered! You see, us lazy cheaters still caught on to the fact that we were asses for talking while the men tried to sleep, and we both felt a distinct aura coming from the man whose strength wrought an aphoristic statement from his brethren: the night is as long as K2 is strong.
We graduated and moved on to the next training phase in Delta, the advanced skill training course, one that would last for some six months. The heavy lift subject for us was Close Quarters Combat (CQB), a subject for which Delta has no known peer. It’s a subject that I claim total immersion for myself. I ran through CQB scenarios in my mind even as I walked to the restroom at Taco Bell; I didn’t just enter the restroom, I cleared it first.
Countless days and the thousands of bullets whizzing by inches from everyman rendered a couple of holes through pant legs. That was cringeworthy… but so far nobody was getting hit. That is, up until the day K2 got hit squarely in the leg from a 9 x 19mm round from a Heckler and Koch MP5 submachine gun. The stray round had rabbited along a wall and punched through K2’s leg.
9x19mm Heckler and Koch MP5 submachine gun.
“I’m hit,” he stated as flatly as he stated his name the first day of training.
K2 was hit with a flyer shot that missed its target. It was a good thing it happened in training, as a “thrown round” once assigned to a Sabre Squadron could get a man getting reassigned from the Unit. K2 looked instantly worried, not about his injury… rather his ability to remain with the class.
We returned to training K2-less, as he was taken to the compound clinic for treatment in-house. To take him to the main post hospital would raise unnecessary attention. His wound was a through-and-through one; no bone was broken, though the bullet did spank a long bone good as it passed.
Word was that K2 would remain in training for as long as he felt he could continue. That was great news — except for the bad news, which was we had a ten mile run scheduled for that Friday. It would not be possible for K2 to finish that. The collective question from the class was couldn’t K2 skip, or at least defer that run?
The answer was he had to complete all events with the class.
Bullet wound as seen from the compound clinic.
(Courtesy of MSG Carlos Sanchez)
Friday was a gloomy morning where we collected to start the run.
“How’s it going, K2?” I asked.
“Not so good, Geo… those twinkies and raisin vinegar I had for breakfast this morning are really talking to me,” the K2 responded. I laughed and slapped him on the back.
We ran, and K2 ran. He ran in the middle of the pack with his head up; he had an almost-indiscernible limp. We whispered back and forth that K2 looked great and how great it was that he looked so great…
At perhaps the six mile mark, K2 slipped to the back of the pack slowly. His head was bowed low and he was no longer paying attention to his surroundings. He ran the next couple of miles in an intermittent skip, as if he were trying to hop on his good leg. We stressed for him.
Eight miles in, K2 fell back behind the pack. Falling back is not falling out, we postured; he’s still in the run. Two men fell back to run with K2 to encourage or even pull him along.
“Get back up in formation!” warned the cadre. That was certainly the end of it, as nobody dared to disobey ANYTHING at this point long into training. The two men stayed back with K2. Another man fell back and then I stuttered my step to join the pull for K2.
“If you don’t finish with the formation you will not pass the event!” the cadre cautioned.
K2’s shoe was soaked in blood from where his wound had begun to seep. It made a wet splatting noise with each step. K2 regarded our staying back with him with pain and disbelief… and more pain still. He couldn’t run any faster; he just couldn’t do it, but we weren’t going to leave him.
And then a thing happened.
Ahead of us, the Delta cadre sergeant looped his formation back, back around and brought it up behind the K2 clan at a reduced speed. We, the mighty, ran with our heads up over the finish line. The sergeant disappeared.
In the mingling sea of back-pats and handshakes, K2 grabbed a shake from me, thanking me for what I had done. I “confessed” to him that I was lazy and a cheat and used him as an excuse to fall back and take a gravely-needed rest… a thing that made him grin a powerful K2 grin.
“Good luck in training today, Geo,” K2 bid me as we parted.
“RGR, K2… break a leg!”
K2’s run diet: vinegar and twinkies.
George Hand is a retired Master Sergeant from the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, and the Seventh Special Forces Groups (Airborne). The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own.
Throughout the bloody and horrific history of human warfare, there are tons of stories of heroism in the face of great danger. Troops all over the world have been willing to risk life and limb to ensure the safety of others and that’s worth celebrating. Everyone knows about war heroes like John Basilone, but how many of you know about Susan Travers? If you don’t, you should.
Susan Travers, quite simply, was one badass woman. She left behind a pampered life and a wealthy family to do something great. One thing led to another and she eventually became the only woman to ever be allowed to join the prestigious French Foreign Legion, which only allowed male foreign nationals.
Here’s how she went from the daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral and heiress to being one of the most badass women in all of history:
The Winter War
Travers initially joined up as a nurse, but quickly realized she didn’t like the sight of blood or sickness and subsequently became an ambulance driver with the French Expeditionary Force. She was sent to Finland to assist during their Winter War against the Soviets, but everything changed when France fell to the Nazis.
General De Gaulle’s Free French Forces
When the Nazis took France, Travers went to London to get in the fight. There, she was attached to the 13th Demi-Brigade of the French Foreign Legion. It was there she shed her disgust for blood and gore and became accustomed to the rough life of a warfighting badass. She earned the nickname “La Miss” from her male comrades. This was when she started driving for higher-ups.
1st Free French Brigade
After spending several months as a driver for senior officers and demonstrating her extreme aptitude for navigating the most dangerous conditions, including minefields and rocket attacks, she was assigned as the driver for the Commanding Officer of the 1st Free French Brigade, Colonel Marie-Pierre Koenig.
Fort of Bir Hakeim
It was in May, 1942, when Rommel’s Afrika Korps geared up to attack the Fort at Bir Hakeim. Koenig ordered all the women to evacuate, but Travers refused to leave, becoming the only woman among at least 3,500 men. Rommel assumed the fort would be taken in 15 minutes but, instead, the Free French held out for fifteen days.
Eventually, their supplies ran low, and Koenig led a breakout, trying to evade minefields and German tanks. Being the Colonel’s driver, Travers truly led the breakout; however, the convoy was discovered when one of the convoy’s vehicles ran over a landmine. Travers stepped on the gas.
A “delightful feeling”
Upon discovery, the convoy fell under heavy machine gun fire, and Travers just kept laying on the accelerator. She’s quoted as saying,
“It is a delightful feeling, going as fast as you can in the dark. My main concern was that the engine would stall.”
She broke through the German lines, creating a gap through which the rest could follow. After they made it to Allied lines, she discovered the vehicle had at least 11 bullet holes in it and sustained severe shrapnel damage. After that, Koenig was sent to Northern Africa to continue the fight while Travers remained with the Legion, seeing action in Italy, Germany, and France. She was eventually wounded when she drove over a landmine.
French Foreign Legion
In May of 1945, Travers applied to become an official member of the French Foreign Legion. She “failed” to mention her gender and they accepted her into their ranks. This made her the first — and only — woman to ever join the French Foreign Legion.
She eventually was sent to Vietnam during the First Indo-China War and, by the end of her career, earned the Medaille Militaire, the Croix de Guerre, and the Legion d’honneur (the highest French order of merit for military and civil merits).
Museums aren’t just buildings constructed to hold relics of a bygone era so that bored school kids can sleepily shuffle around them. They’re rich representations of lives once lived; they’re a way to reflect on those who came before us so that we can learn the history of the men and women who shaped the world we all live in today.
This is what the National Museum of the United States Army, currently under construction at Fort Belvoir, VA, will offer once it’s opened to the public in 2020. As a living museum, it will encompass the full military history of the United States Army, from its humble beginnings as ragtag colonial militiamen in 1636 to the elite fighting force it is today — all to inspire the soldiers of tomorrow.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say the kid’s learning center probably won’t include a “shark attack” as the very first attraction.
(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Casey Holley)
The construction of an Army museum has been a long time coming. Before ground was broken in September, 2016, the Army was the only branch of the Department of Defense without a standing national museum. It’s got a lofty price-tag of 0 million, but it’s actually paid for mostly through donors. Over 700,000 individuals and many corporations have given to museum.
The 84-acre site, where the installation’s golf course used to be, sits just thirty minutes from Arlington National Cemetery and will be open to the public. The 185,000 square-foot exterior of the building is already completed, but the interior is still under construction. The museum also has four of largest artifacts in place as the building needed to be constructed around them. It also has the potential to hold countless other artifacts, documents, and images, along with many pieces of artwork made by soldiers and veterans, or for the soldiers and veterans, on display.
Along with the historical exhibits will house the “Experiential Learning Center” for the kids. The area surrounding the museum will include an amphitheater, memorial garden, parade ground, and a trail to give the patrons a taste of life in the Army in both a fun and informative way.
This is amazing for many different reasons. First and foremost, it’s something that everyone should learn about. Every generation of soldier will have their own dedicated area of the museum and through a vast collection of artifacts, you’ll be able to see the evolution of our country’s defenders. Over 30 million men and women have served, and through the museum, all of them, across the nearly 250 years of history, will be represented on some manner.
It’ll also give veterans a place to take their kids of grandkids and say, “this is where we fought. This is why we fought. And this is how we did it.”
The museum seems to be striking the perfect balance between being light enough to keep children entertained while also being perfectly honoring all who have served in the Army.
In 2017, when Hurricane Irma, a monster Category 5 storm, barreled toward Florida’s southern peninsula and Homestead Air Reserve Base, The Air Force Reserve commander had a lot of decisions to make.
Thankfully, history – in the form of Air Force historians – was on her side.
The Air Force Reserve Command history office pulled data and information from three previous hurricanes, including Hurricane Andrew, a Category 5, which devastated the base 25 years ago. In just a few hours, the office had a timeline and a list of issues that came up in each of the three previous storms. Historians worked through the data with the Innovation, Analyses and Leadership Development directorate, or A9, and determined that the biggest issue was maintaining communications as Andrew had continued into Georgia, knocking out power to the AFRC’s battle staff.
The commander and staff then worked to prevent history from repeating itself.
The results were good communications throughout the storm, clean up and reconstitution. The base opened airfield operations and sustained 24-hour operations, offloading 112.8 short tons of cargo and relief supplies, including two UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters, cargo and personnel from the 66th and 920th Rescue Squadrons and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Those “good comms” resulted in the AFRC coordinating aircraft, relief supplies, Airmen and equipment with the right skills and the right gear to save lives. In previous years, relief efforts were delayed because nobody could talk.
“Now, did History do all that?” asked Dr. Jim Malachowski, a senior aerospace historian for the Air Force History and Museums Program at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. “No but knowing what worked and didn’t work in the past gave her a good starting point to ask the right questions.”
Malachowski explained when the right knowledge is injected with historical perspective at the right point in the decision cycle it helps commanders make better decisions.
The history of Air Force history
Located in the heart of Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, is a gold mine and although it does not contain precious metals, the Air Force Historical Research Agency is filled with the world’s largest and most valuable organized collection of original documents concerning U.S. military aviation. The more than 100 million pages of Air Force history inside the repository chronicles the evolution of American military flight and provides a treasure trove of information for researchers, authors and historians.
While touching the pages of history is unique, said Malachowski, applying the historical lessons learned from the study of past wars is fundamental to the preparation for the next. This is why it is so crucial for the Air Force’s operational and institutional memory is preserved.
Sam Shearin, a researcher with the Air Force Historical Research Agency looks through World War II unit lineage documents, June 7, 2018, at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, Ala. There are more than 70 million pages devoted to the history of the service, and represents the world’s largest and most valuable organized collection of documents on US military aviation.
(US Air Force photo by Perry Aston)
When he established the Army Air Forces (AAF) Historical Division in 1942, General Henry “Hap” Arnold, widely considered the architect of the Air Force, He assembled nine prominent historians from Yale, Princeton, Columbia, the University of Chicago, and Harvard and asked them how the Air Force should organize and run its history program. Following their recommendations, Arnold put trained historians in every unit to record history “while it is hot.” Historians had to be independent so history would be recorded accurately and factually “without an axe to grind.”
The collection of historical data for the Air Force began before the service’s inception, even pre-dating the Army Air Corps. Without a plan to preserve it, the bulk of airpower history from the First World War was lost. In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the Committee on Records of War Administration to preserve an accurate and objective account of military experiences. By 1943 the AAF Archives had been established and historians began collecting, assimilating and organizing contemporary and historical information.
The creation of this archive dedicated to receiving, organizing and preserving the information gathered by these early historians has evolved into today’s collection.
The majority of AFHRA’s library consists of unit histories, written by unit historians, which chronicle Air Force operations and activities in peace and war from World War I to the present day. These materials provide the data and historical perspective to support planning and decision-making processes throughout the Air Force.
The archive was later moved to Maxwell AFB from Washington D.C., putting it in the direct control of the Air Force and at the disposal of professional military education students, faculty, and the public.
The history kept inside of AFHRA’s walls isn’t just sitting idle – it’s continually being added to, vigorously being researched and, most importantly, actively being interpreted by Air Force historians to get valuable information to leaders and decision makers to create a more efficient and lethal Air Force.
Collecting the data
Capturing Air Force history begins with aerospace historians. Today, there are just over 200 historians placed at wings and 10 major commands, which is 75 percent less than in 1990. Air Force civilians now fill all roles in collecting the history at wings and commands.
Air Force civilian and Reserve historians also support a continuous deployment rotation as combat historians to support combatant commands and joint staff tasking across the globe.
A researcher at the Air Force Historical Research Agency, Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, Ala., looks through microfilm to track down the shipment history of bomber aircraft that were shipped overseas to fight during WWII, June 7, 2018, at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, Ala. Private researchers can visit and use the AFHRA for research.
(US Air Force photo by Perry Aston)
Dr. Bill Harris, the Deputy Director of the Air Force History and Museums Program, says whether at home station or deployed the most important aspect of a historian’s job is being actively involved in their organizations.
“What Aerospace historians bring to the table is we are the only person in the room whose sole job is to capture and preserve the institutional memory,” said Harris. “Just documenting the events of this war will not help the leaders of the next. We also interpret. So, in history professor terms, interpreting is how we help decision makers understand and learn from the past.”
Harris explains when historians are operationally integrated into situations they observe while also collecting and recording what happens, documenting the “right now for the future.” A historian will understand the organization’s history and have a deep knowledge base of the mission set. They recognize patterns and can provide a quick write-up to inject information to leadership on that highlights how other people have navigated similar situations before decisions are made this time.”
The first priority for field historians at the wing and MAJCOM level is to complete and submit an accurate periodic history report, which are the official history of an organization and serves as its institutional memory in AFHRA’s archive.
“To do the job, you have to get out there and be part of the mission, collect hundreds of important documents, reports, and emails and then figure out where the holes are., We do that with interviews.” said Malachowski. “Research interviews are more QA to find out what’s going on inside the organization. Oral history interviews are a little bit more in-depth interviews conducted with key personnel whose memories and perspectives are recorded for future generations.”
Job two for historians is heritage.
The Air Force history slogan is history makes us smart, heritage makes us proud.
In addition to a dozen field museums, historians often work within their organizations to build squadron heritage rooms and displays to showcase physical reminders of the unit’s historical past to promote morale and serve as daily reminders of a unit’s identity.
That identity is also visible in a unit’s heraldry. “Organizations use visible, enduring symbols to promote spirit de corps, morale and a sense of heritage,” said Jack Waid, a historian at Air Force Materiel Command Headquarters. “Air Force heraldry in the form of emblems gives Airmen a connection to the past and the motivation to live up to the proud lineage from which they come.”
The Air Force Historical Research Agency keeps a repository on the unit’s emblem history, including original and re-designed emblems and the paperwork approving the artwork.
(US Air Force photo by Perry Aston)
With the newly authorized transition from the Airman Battle Uniform, which did not permit the wear of unit patches, to the Operational Camouflage Pattern, Airmen will once again be to wear their units on their sleeve.
Waid explains it’s important to understand, emblems and patches are completely separate entities and authorization to display them is approved and maintained by different Air Force offices as well.
“Our office deals with a unit’s official emblem, but anything that goes on the uniform, like patches, are approved through the AF/A1 (Office of Personnel) uniform office,” said Waid. “A unit’s history and lineage goes with an emblem whereas a patch is a wearable symbol of pride, history, warrior spirit and honor.”
With more than 7,000 emblems to convert into OCP patches, there is a huge demand for the production and supply chain. The Air Force estimates it will take the full-30 month OCP transition period to manufacture and distribute all the patches. For units with approved emblems, the MAJCOM/A1 office will notify them when their patches are ready to order.
Units without an approved emblem should contact their historian.
“Since June we have been doing everything in our control to help units make sure they have an accurate emblem,” said Waid. “More than two-thirds of AFMC’s units are without an emblem or possessing one that does not meet standards.”
“It is important to make sure the time-honored Air Force unit patch returns to the uniform properly so that units can display their heritage with pride. Wearing the squadron patch completes the family group, you have your name tape and then you have the greater family, the Air Force, but now these patches give Airman an opportunity to show how extended their family is and how rich their heritage is by wearing their unit’s emblem.”
Changing the paradigm
For decades, periodic history reports were written in narrative monograph format, a print-era framework that could reach hundreds of pages. It was long and time consuming to write and worse to search for answers. “Even with academic historians, the monograph just isn’t the answer anymore. Technology has changed, but our reports haven’t.” said Malachowski.
The Secretary of the Air Force recently directed that commanders would integrate their historians in operations at the wing-level and above and ensure they had access to data and information to complete timely history reports.
With fewer historians, a high-demand deployment schedule and mountains of data to ingest, historians have little time to write long, cumbersome reports and even less time if they want to be fully involved in their organizations.
Something had to change.
“With the help of the Air Force Survey Office, we asked more than 150 wing and group commanders what they needed from historians. The commanders are very adamant that they don’t want these hundred-page tombs. They want something much, much shorter because they don’t have whole lot of time and they want something focused more on their priorities,” said Harris.
A survey of historians said the same thing. Historians want to be more involved with their units and want a better process.
“If we lock ourselves away for half of our time to write we are not out in our units doing our job. So we have to refocus the writing and we have to improve our ability to put the right things into the archives for future researchers,” said Malachowski. “So all we can really do is record the present for the future and the real funny thing is it is exactly what Gen. “Hap” Arnold told us in 1943. He wanted us to record the present for the future. So we’re going back to the future, if you will.”
General of the Air Force Henry H. Arnold was a pioneer airman who was taught to fly by the Wright Brothers, and commander of Army Air Forces in victory over Germany and Japan in World War II. He established the Army Air Forces (AAF) Historical Division in 1942, when he assembled nine prominent historians from Yale, Princeton, Columbia, the University of Chicago, and Harvard and asked them how the Air Force should organize and run its history program. Following their recommendations, Arnold put trained historians in every unit to record history “while it is hot.”
Arnold’s direction was to document the operations and activities of an organization immediately into a rough form that future historians would improve on. He believed the only reason a history program should exist is to further the operational efficiency of the Air Force.
The Air Force History program had to redesign itself in a dynamic new way and embrace change by revising their policies and revolutionizing their processes.
Now, a modular history report is being adapted that stresses accuracy, speed and relevance across the joint enterprise. It provides uniformity and consistency, which synchronizes history operations across the Air Force and focuses on unit activities and operations at the right level of warfare. This new system also creates one standard of writing for peacetime and wartime reports.
The four-part modular system reduces the writing complexity of history reports to a more short and concise process on what matters most to the commander, unit and mission. Short studies are written and published immediately, freeing up historians to be historians.
Another change is the creation of an Operational History Branch that is solely focused on war and contingency operations. All wartime history reports will be routed and evaluated through this fusion cell to write monthly and annual summaries that provide a holistic picture of combat operations.
“The way it’s designed the Operational Historian Branch will help us mature history at the Joint warfighting level, improve historical support to deployed commanders, and prevent several historians from deploying each year,” said Malachowski. “Most wings only have one historian so this saves us from turning out the lights at so many home station history offices.”
Focused on the past since its inception, the Air Force History Program has now reinvented itself by embracing its own past in order to create a more efficient future.
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
Police in Tehran have fired tear-gas at a crowd of protesters who marched to the Iranian parliament on June 25, 2018, after swarming the city’s historic Grand Bazaar in anger over the country’s troubled economy.
The spontaneous protest erupted at the Grand Bazaar on the morning of June 25, 2018, after the black-market exchange rate for Iran’s rial currency fell by more than 10 percent in a single day despite moves by the government support it.
Video footage of the unfolding demonstration obtained by RFE/RL showed hundreds of angry demonstrators marching in and around the Grand Bazaar, forcing shopkeepers to close their stalls.
Shopkeepers who refused to do so were mocked by the crowd with the chant, “Cowards! Cowards!”
The protest came a day after demonstrators forced two major mobile phone and electronics shopping centers in the Iranian capital to close.
It was not immediately clear who led the protests. The semiofficial Fars news agency reported that traders gathered at the Grand Bazaar to protest “against recession,” exchange-rate fluctuations, declining demand from Iranian consumers, and rising prices.
But in videos obtained by RFE/RL, the crowd at the bazaar can be heard in Persian chanting “Leave Syria, think about us,” while some demonstrators shouted “Our enemy is here, not in the U.S.”
RFE/RL’s Radio Farda reported that the protest at the bazaar began in a clothing market and soon spread to other markets — including a relatively more modern area where home appliances are sold.
Meanwhile, the Central Bank Governor Valliollah Seyf on June 25, 2018, responded to the rapidly falling value of the rial by announcing plans to launch “a second foreign exchange market” next week to battle black-market currency traders.
Speaking after a meeting between President Hassan Rohani and officials from the Economy Ministry, Seyf said the parallel market would operate based on different exchange rates for the U.S. dollar.
He was quoted by Iranian media as saying a rate of 42,000 rials per dollar would be set for “importing essential commodities including medicine,” and that importers and exporters would “have to agree on the rate for importing non-essential goods.”
The Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA), which is close to Rohani’s administration, reported on June 25, 2018, that a third exchange rate between 60,000 and 65,000 rials per dollar will be announced soon.
ISNA and the Mehr news agency also said that the state of confusion and ambiguity in the markets was reinforced by other officials who have spoken about plans for other foreign exchange rates.
The Tasnim news agency quoted the head of Iran’s Chamber of Guilds, Ali Fazeli, as saying that the situation at the bazaar had calmed and that protesters’ demands were being “delivered through the chamber to the government.”
He made those remarks after the demonstrators — chanting “Don’t fear, don’t fear, we are all together” — marched to the Iranian parliament building.
As the crowd filed through the streets of the capital calling on others to join them, the size of the demonstration swelled into the thousands.
Similar economic demonstrations broke out across Iran at the end of 2017 and quickly spread to some 75 cities and towns — growing into Iran’s largest protests since unrest over the disputed 2009 presidential election.
Violence at those demonstrations, which continued into early January 2018, left 25 dead and nearly 5,000 people detained by authorities.
The U.S. Army of the future needs the gear appropriate for tomorrow’s conflicts — and that means armor. Not only will that that future Army be responsible for everything it does at current, it also needs to be prepared for the unknown — situations we can’t foresee today. Who knows which country or actors will be the major threat of the coming days anyway?
The Army’s solution is the Soldier Protection System, a modular, scaleable armor that is both lightweight and adaptable to future technology and threats.
Like former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld once infamously said, you go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might wish you had. Now, the Army is prepping to go to war with the Army it wants to have. Each piece of the new armor system is designed so the wearing soldier can modify and scale it up (or down) depending on the nature of their mission on any given day.
At its most minimal, the system is a 2.8 pound vest that is capable of being worn under civilian clothing. Even at such a small weight, the new armor can still stop rounds from a sidearm. At its most protective, the armor is a mix of plates and soft kevlar that can stop blasts from explosions and shell fragments from munitions like Russian artillery shells — all without compromising the soldier’s range of motion.
Pfc. Chris Lunsford, 4-14 Cavalry Regiment, 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, communicates with local children during a presence patrol in Sinjar, Iraq, on May 30, 2006.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jacob N. Bailey)
Over the course of the last 15 years of war, body armor has evolved — but usually only getting bigger and more restrictive in the process. The total weight of armor added to a soldier’s carry topped out at 27 pounds in 2016. The Soldier Protection System, from its onset, has been aimed at curbing the weight, reducing it as much as one-quarter in some areas of protection. New systems also include hearing protection and a modular face shield, all without increasing the weight carried overall.
The old system was protective, but limiting in many ways. It had none of the included ear and eye protection the Soldier Protection System has and it was not very conducive to the terrain troops had to overcome in the mountains of Afghanistan. It also wasn’t very helpful in beating the blazing heat of Iraqi deserts. The clunky armor was protective, but often impaired mobility while maneuvering and bringing small arms to bear while in the heat of the moment. When facing lightly-outfitted insurgents, and the armor could impede a soldier’s ability when running to cover.
U.S. Army Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment conduct a halt while searching mountains in Andar province, Afghanistan, for Taliban members and weapons caches June 6, 2007.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Marcus Quarterman)
Even with the new modifications, the Army’s armor doesn’t protect much against the blast-induced brain injuries so common on the battlefields of the Global War on Terror. Even firing heavy weapons at an enemy can cause traumatic brain injuries. Some studies suggest the new, lighter-weight helmet of the Soldier Protection System can help with the issues surrounding blast damage, but cannot mitigate it completely.
The recent improvements in armor design aren’t the end of the road for Army researchers. They continue to design and redesign the armor to meet the needs of today’s (and tomorrow’s) Army operations, to protect vulnerable areas not covered by even the Soldier Protection System while continuing to drop the total weight carried by U.S. troops in combat.
Several new technologies are being developed that, once combined, will provide Soldiers an unprecedented overview of the battlefield.
That assessment came from Army personnel at Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center’s Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate here, who hosted a recent media visit.
Those technologies involve the marriage of micro-displays with augmented reality.
The Army’s preferred method of acquiring new technologies is to use what industry is already developing for consumers, or modifying that technology for its own use, said Rupal Varshneya, an electrical engineer at CERDEC.
The Army employs its scientists and research laboratories for designing needed technologies that industry is not interested in pursuing, she said. Such was the case when the Army needed a very bright, high-definition micro-display, about the size of a postage stamp.
(U.S. Army photo by David Vergun)
First off, the Army approached makers of smartphone, tablets, TVs and even the gaming industry, she said. None of them were interested in making the micro-display because they didn’t foresee consumer demand or profit potential.
So Army researchers at CERDEC went to work.
David Fellowes, an electrical engineer at CERDEC, said researchers worked in stages building displays with progressively greater capability. About eight years ago, they developed a monochrome version.
Then, several years later, researchers developed a new silicone technology and manufacturing methods that enabled the micro-display to increase in brightness, he explained.
“If you’ve ever tried looking at your cellphone on a sunny day, it’s really hard,” he said. The increase in display brightness was such that Soldiers would now be able to see the tiny micro-display in sunlight.
Although the technology was being developed for dismounted Soldiers, other program managers took notice, he said. For example the program manager responsible for Apache helicopters wanted their pilots to have them for head-mounted displays.
They are not yet fielded for the Apaches, but a contract for them has already been signed. Other program managers wanted them for night vision goggles and even for weapons sights, he added.
(U.S. Army photo by David Vergun)
The next step, he said, was to develop an extremely high resolution, 2048-by-2048-pixel display in full color. That advancement came to fruition recently, and some of them were on display.
The next phase of development had to do with taking the improved micro-display and pairing it with augmented reality, using the Nett Warrior system.
Sgt. 1st Class Justin Nelson, in charge of Soldier testing at CERDEC, was suited up in the Nett Warrior System, with a helmet-mounted micro-display attached. The media could see what he was seeing in his micro-display on a large TV screen.
Previously, Soldiers had a small radio attached to their chest, he said. Whenever they needed to get location coordinates or other data they had to look down and lost situational awareness to their front. Nelson compared it to a person walking across a busy street looking down at a cellphone. “Not good.”
The micro-display attachment to the helmet allows Soldiers to stay focused on what’s in front of them, he said.
The micro-display not only gives Soldiers a clear view of what’s ahead of them, night or day, it also can accommodate overlays such as maps and symbols showing friendly forces and enemy forces. In this way, it replaces traditional night vision goggles.
Furthermore, information that’s wirelessly fed into the micro-display, such as maps and symbols, can be shared among other Soldiers using the device, as well as leaders in the tactical operation center, he said.
(U.S. Army photo by David Vergun)
They all have the ability to share the same picture of the battlefield and can add or manipulate the symbols as needed, he said.
Researchers are also adding micro-displays on the Soldiers’ weapons and feeding that display into the one attached to the
Soldiers’ helmets via a tablet worn on the waist. That enables Soldiers to get a split view of what’s around them plus the target the weapon is trained on, he said.
So if the rifle is pointed rearward and the Soldier is looking forward, the image shows both views, he explained, adding that creates novel ways for Soldiers to fire their weapons, such as shooting over a wall without being exposed.
The entire system is currently being tested by Soldiers at Fort Benning’s Maneuver Center of Excellence, he said.
In December 1944, the United States was in the throes of World War II. The Normandy invasion of June 6 was fresh in memory but setbacks throughout Europe and bloody battles in the Pacific theater left a nation fatigued by the strains of war. As the casualty count increased and the war waged on, the air in America felt heavy. But for a moment in December, there was one thing taking everyone’s mind off the fighting: Army-Navy football.
Army was ranked #1 and Navy, #2. The media declared the match up the “National Championship” game.
Well-known sportswriter Grantland Rice predicted it would be “one of the best and most important football games ever played.”
It was Navy’s turn to host and the game was slated for Thompson Stadium in Annapolis. As global excitement around the match-up mounted, government officials considered moving it due to Thompson’s limited capacity of 19,000. On November 17, Baltimore’s Municipal Stadium was announced as the chosen venue by the Associated Press. There were 30,000 tickets available to the general public, but with a catch: you had to live within 8.3 miles of the stadium, and you had to purchase a $25 war bond through the Maryland State War Finance Committee in order to secure your seat. It was certainly a cause Americans could get behind: all of the tickets were claimed within 24 hours and the Army-Navy ticket drive raised over $58.6 million to support the war effort.
A sold-out crowd of 66,659 attended the Army-Navy game on December 2, 1944 in frigid temperatures. The teams arrived in style: the Navy, by boats sailed across the Chesapeake; the Army, accompanied by Navy destroyers, arrived on troopships.
The game didn’t disappoint. Entering into the fourth quarter, Army led just 9-7. With two touchdowns in the 4th, Army won 23-7 after five years of Navy victories.
General MacArthur sent a telegram to the Army’s head coach, Earl “Red” Blaik, saying: “The greatest of all Army teams—STOP—We have stopped the war to celebrate your magnificent success. MacArthur.”
And just like that, for a perfect moment in time, the war stopped to celebrate Army’s victory. Exactly two weeks after the game, Germany launched a surprise attack through the Ardennes Forest, later to be named the Battle of the Bulge, resulting in some 89,000 American casualties.
The Army-Navy rivalry is one of the most storied in American history. But as we watch Saturday’s game may we all remember that in the hearts of the players on the field and the cadets and the midshipmen in the stands, there is so much more than football.
The US Navy sent a guided-missile destroyer Dec. 5, 2018, to challenge Russia in the Sea of Japan.
The USS McCambell “sailed in the vicinity of Peter the Great Bay to challenge Russia’s excessive maritime claims and uphold the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea enjoyed by the United States and other nations,” US Pacific Fleet spokesperson US Navy Lt. Rachel McMarr told CNN.
The Russian Navy’s Pacific Fleet is headquartered in the eastern port city of Vladivostok, located in Peter the Great Bay, the largest gulf in the East Sea/Sea of Japan.
Pacific Fleet stressed to CNN that Dec. 5, 2018’s freedom-of-navigation operation (FONOP) was “not about any one country, nor are they about current events,” adding, “These operations demonstrate the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows. That is true in the Sea of Japan, as in other places around the globe.”
The US Navy regularly conducts FONOPS in the South China Sea, much to China’s displeasure. The guided-missile cruiser USS Chancelorsville “sailed near the Paracel Islands to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by international law.”
The Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jon Dasbach)
Two days later, the US Navy sent two warships — the destroyer USS Stockdale and the underway replenishment oiler USNS Pecos — through the Taiwan Strait. Both the South China Sea FONOP and the Taiwan Strait transit, which occurred just days before a meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Donald Trump, drew criticism from Beijing.
China has also repeatedly criticized US Air Force bomber overflights in the region.
Tensions between Moscow and Washington are on the rise in the wake of apparent Russian aggression in the Sea of Azov, where Russian vessels rammed and fired on Ukrainian vessels before capturing the ships and their crews, and US plans to withdraw from the Cold War Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, a response to Russian violations.
NATO has accused Russia of developing weapons in violation of the treaty, and the State Department has warned Russia that it has 60 days to return to compliance or the treaty is finished.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Dec. 5, 2018, that if the US withdraws from the 1987 treaty, Russia will begin developing the very nuclear weapons prohibited by it.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
There’s no question about it: A singular blemish in French history is to blame for their eternal ridicule. The moment Marshal Philippe Petain surrendered (kind of) to the Germans after being the main target of the blitzkrieg was the moment people started associating “s’il vous plaît” with “surrender.”
Ridicule against Vichy France, the German puppet state, isn’t without merit — we get it. But to overlook the storied nation’s thousands of years of badassery is laughably incorrect. Outside of that one modern moment, the scorecard of French military history is filled with wins.
Author’s Note: It’s a fool’s errand to try and rank these by historical significance or how they each demonstrate French military might, so they’re listed in chronological order:
Battle of Hastings
If you want to get technical, this battle happened before the formation of France proper. Still, it’s generally agreed that France began with the Franks. Sorry, Gauls. Their legacy of military might includes (successfully) fighting off vikings, Iberians, and, occasionally, the Holy Roman Empire.
But the single landmark victory for the Franks came when Duke William the Bastard of Normandy pressed his claim over the English crown in 1066. At the Battle of Hastings, outnumbered Normans fought English forces, led by King Herald Godwinson. The Normans, led by William, pushed through English shield walls to take out the crown. William the Bastard then went on to conquer the rest of England and earned himself the a new moniker, “King William the Conqueror.”
Siege of Orleans
At the the height of English might, during the Hundred Years’ War, they finally made an effort to end the French once and for all. The city of Orleans was put under siege — and the throne was thrust into dire circumstances. All the English had to do was starve city. That was, until a young peasant girl arrived: Joan of Arc.
Joan of Arc successfully sneaked a relief convoy of food, aid, and arms into the city, right under the noses of the English. This bolstered the strength of the defenders. With food in bellies and morale on the rise, the besieged made a stand and finally pushed the English out of France.
Battle of Yorktown
This is the battle that won the Americans the Revolutionary War, so it’s most often seen as a major victory for the Americans. But the victory would have never been if it weren’t for massive support from the French.
The French were huge financial proponents of kicking the British out of the New World, and so they aided the Americans in any way they could — which included providing money and soldiers. Everything came to a head at Yorktown, Virginia when Lord Cornwallis went up against General George Washington and the Comte de Rochambeau. It was an effort of equal parts — both Washington and Rochambeau flanked Cornwallis on each side, forcing his surrender and officially relinquishing British control over the Colonies.
Most of the Napoleonic Wars
It’s kind of hard to single out one shining example of the sheer strength of the French during the Napoleonic Wars because Napoleon was such a great military leader. If you break down his win/loss ratio down into baseball statistics, like these guys have, he outshines every general in history —from Alexander the Great to modern generals.
Let’s look at the Battle of Ligny. Napoleon managed to piss off the entirety of Europe, causing themto band together tofight him. He was cornered in Prussia andhis enemies were closing in. In a last-ditch effort, he took a sizable chunk out of the Prussian military and forced them to retreat. This all happened while the English, the Russians, the Austrians, and the Germans were trying to intervene.
Just two days later came the Battle ofWaterloo, duringwhich most of Europe had to work together to bring down the dominant Napoleon.
The Battle of Verdun
Let’s go back to Philippe Petain, the guy who gave up France to the Germans, for a second. Today, many see him as a traitor, a coward, and a weakling — but these insults can’t be made with putting a huge asterisk next to them. In World War I, he was known as the “Lion of Verdun” after he oversaw and won what is known as the longest and single bloodiest battle in human history.
For almost the entirety of the year 1916, the Germans pushed everything they had into a single forest on the French/German border. It was clear within the first six days that after the Germans spent 2 million rounds, 2 million artillery shells, and deployed chemical warfare for the first time, that the French would not budge. 303 days later, the Germans finally realize that the French wouldn’t give in and gave up.
In the opening paragraph, there was a “(kind of)” next to mention of French surrender during WWII. Well, that’s because not all of France gave in — just parts of it. France was split into three: Vichy France (a powerless puppet state), the French Protectorates (which were mostly released back to their home rule), and the resistance fighters of Free France.
The Free French resistance fighters were widespread across the French territory, but were mostly centralized in the South. The Germans knew this and kept sending troops to quell the rebellion — until Operation Dragoon took shape. Aided by Allied air power, French resistance fighters were able to repel the Germans out of Free France in only four weeks and give the Allies the strong foothold they needed in the Mediterranean until the fall of fascist Italy.