Why the Siege of Bastogne was the defining moment for the 101st Airborne - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Why the Siege of Bastogne was the defining moment for the 101st Airborne

One battle truly showed the world the fire that burns in the hearts of these soldiers. Put up against unfathomable odds and pushed to their absolute limit, the 101st stood their ground and turned the tides of war. This was the Siege of Bastogne.

There’s no unit in the United States Army that can boast an impressive relationship with destiny like the Screaming Eagles of the 101st Airborne Division. The invasion of Normandy, the Battle of Hamburger Hill, the left-hook of the Persian Gulf War, and Operation Dragon Strike in Afghanistan would each make for a pretty feather in the cap of any unit — but it’s the 101st who heroically fought at all of them.


It had been six months since the invasion of Normandy. U.S. troops had mostly pushed the Germans out of France and back to the Ardennes Forest. The same soldiers who landed on D-Day found themselves still fighting, day-in and day-out. The tempo of war had pushed them much further than originally anticipated and supplies were running low.

It wasn’t a secret that the only hope for the Allies was the tiny shipping village of Antwerp, Belgium. Without it, any continued assault against the Germans would end immediately. Knowing this, the Germans devised a plan that would effectively cut the Allies off from Antwerp in one massive blitzkrieg through the Ardennes. If they could cut the Americans off from each other and their supplies, they’d be forced into a peace treaty in favor of the Axis. And the only thing stopping them was the collection of battle-weary soldiers sparsely populating the forest.

On December 16, 1944, after two hours of constantly artillery bombardment, the Germans sent in 200,000 fresh troops. So far, everything was going in the Axis’ favor, from the weather to the landscape to the element of surprise. The only thing the Americans could do was to hold up in Bastogne and St. Vith.

Why the Siege of Bastogne was the defining moment for the 101st Airborne
Since Bastogne had large open farmlands around it, this wasn’t much… But it was something.
(U.S. Army)

Two days later, on December 18, the soldiers of the 101st were completely surrounded in the town of Bastogne. They had little ammunition, barely any food, and most soldiers didn’t even have cold-weather gear. Reinforcements were inbound, but it would take a week for Patton to arrive. Most of the senior leadership was elsewhere, leaving the task of holding ground entirely on the shoulders of the troops.

A night-time raid by the Germans on the Division Service Area took out almost the entirety of the 101st medical company. By the time of the morning of December 19, Americans were outnumbered five to one — and so the Germans moved in.

On paper, this was a completely uphill battle. The only thing Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe could do was have his men form a 360-degree perimeter around the 333rd Artillery Battalion’s guns. Ultimately, this tightly controlled circle was the advantage they needed.

Why the Siege of Bastogne was the defining moment for the 101st Airborne
The funniest part of this battle was that the Germans spent hours trying to decipher the hidden meaning behind McAuliffe’s message. It was just a politely worded, “f*ck you.”
(U.S. Army)
 

As the Germans prodded, trying to find a hole in Allied defenses, troops were be able to communicate with each other and quickly adjust, fortifying areas to meet their attackers. When the Germans pivoted and believed they’d found a new approach, the protected artillery guns opened fire. They’d regroup and try another approach, only to be met by American troops once again. This pattern continued on through the battle.

The fighting was intense but McAuliffe’s defense held like a charm. On December 22, General von Lüttwitz, the German commander, gave the Americans their demands:

“There is only one possibility to save the encircled U.S.A. troops from total annihilation: that is the honorable surrender of the encircled town. In order to think it over a term of two hours will be granted beginning with the presentation of this note.”

McAuliffe’s response, in its entirety, was as follows:

To the German Commander. NUTS! The American Commander.

Why the Siege of Bastogne was the defining moment for the 101st Airborne

“This is undoubtedly the greatest American battle of the war and will, I believe, be regarded as an ever-famous American victory.” – Churchill

(U.S. Army)

This riled the Germans up even more. The Germans put all of their efforts into trying to wrest Bastogne from the 101st Airborne — at the expense of securing Antwerp. The American line was broken several times by panzers, but artillery shells would effectively pluck German armor out long enough for Allied infantrymen to retake their position.

On December 23, the skies finally opened up and the 101st started to bring in reinforcements and supplies via airdrop. It’s not an understatement to say that they were only holding on by the skin of their teeth. American P-47 Thunderbolts came to the rescue, relieving artillery who’d almost entirely run out of ammo. The panzers, which had been painted green and brown for summertime, stuck out like a sore thumb against the snow. The narrow passageways the tanks had to travel meant the tanks couldn’t escape the wrath of the Thunderbolts.

Throughout it all, the Battered Bastards of Bastogne endued. Patton arrived on December 26th, finally evening the odds and breaking off the Ardennes Offensive. But all of that couldn’t have been done without the ferocity of the Screaming Eagles holding down Bastogne.

Articles

This Confederate regiment was nearly wiped out in minutes

The 1st Texas Infantry Regiment was a group of veteran soldiers by the time they took part in the Battle of Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862. That day still stands as the bloodiest single day for American soldiers in history, and the hardest hit was the 1st Texas.


Why the Siege of Bastogne was the defining moment for the 101st Airborne
The Battle of Antietam. (Photo: Public Domain)

Antietam was the disastrous end to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s attempt to liberate Maryland from the Union ahead of the 1862 midterm elections. Lee’s advance north was initially successful as the Southerners hit Union garrisons in Maryland and forced the surrender of 13,000 Union soldiers at Harper’s Ferry.

But Union Gen. George B. McClellan had found a copy of Lee’s strategic plans and used them to maneuver into position on the Confederates, and Lee’s army was woefully undersupplied and had low morale.

The two armies finally came together on Sep. 16 and began scoping out each other’s positions. By that night, small skirmishes were breaking out as forces maneuvered for better position for the following day.

On Sep. 17, the 1st Texas Infantry was part of a defensive position near a church. A Union advance through a nearby cornfield was overzealous, and the Union forces were relatively scattered when a Confederate brigade that included the 1st Texas suddenly leaped up from the ground and began firing on the soldiers in blue.

Union Maj. Rufus R. Dawes would later say, “Men, I can not say fell; they were knocked out of the ranks by dozens.”

Dawes and his men retreated, and the Confederates gave chase, led by the 1st Texas Infantry.

But the 1st Texas made the same mistake that the Union soldiers had. The men advanced too fast and became disorganized.

“As soon as the regiment became engaged . . . in the corn-field, it became impossible to restrain the men, and they rushed forward,” 1st Texas Commander Lt. Col. Philip A. Work later said.

The 1st Texas had advanced until there were Union soldiers not only to their front, but also to their flank and rear. Its flanks were especially hard hit as Union 12-pound guns began firing into it.

Work ordered a retreat and the regiment began a disorganized withdrawal, but three Union regiments chose that moment to hit the 1st Texas with volleys.

Why the Siege of Bastogne was the defining moment for the 101st Airborne
The Burial of the Dead on the Antietam battlefield. (Photo: U.S. Army)

The regimental colors were dropped at least twice as the men carrying them were shot. The colors were lost and the 226-man regiment suffered 186 men killed.

That was a loss rate of 82.3 percent, most of whom were killed in those few minutes in the cornfield. This was the greatest casualty rate suffered by any infantry regiment in the entire war, and most of the men were lost in the 45 minutes between the counterattack at the church and the retreat from the cornfield.

The regiment’s Company F was wiped out. Companies A, C, and E combined had only six men. In total, the regiment had only 40 men.

The 1st Texas was later partially rebuilt. It was one of the Confederate units that attempted to take Little Round Top at Gettysburg and then helped break the Union lines at the Battle of Chickamagua.

The lost colors were found by Union soldiers and taken as a trophy, but were returned to Texas in 1905 by President Theodore Roosevelt.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the first ‘night vision’ scope turned the tide against Japan on Okinawa

It’s the little things in life that make life worth living. During World War II, those little things literally made life worth living, allowing American GIs to survive in situations they may not have otherwise. It helps that they also wreaked havoc on the enemy.

Sergeant Stanley G. Tiemann of the U.S. Army’s 546th Engineer Detachment at Ft. Lewis, Wash sighting a T3 carbine with an M2 infrared vision scope.

Even as late as 1945, as the United States’ “island hopping” campaign was in full swing, the Americans weren’t too keen on night fighting. With some exceptions, notably U.S. Army Rangers in Europe, the Americans didn’t operate at night until the development of early types of night vision. The game changer in the Pacific was the .30-caliber T3 Winchester carbine with infrared night sight.

Other belligerents in the war had different policies. The Soviet Union, for example, was just fine fighting at night, a fringe benefit of having so many people to throw at the enemy. The Red Army was like the U.S. Postal Service: Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stayed those couriers of death from putting rounds downrange.

On the Axis side, the Germans pretty much had to move at night, otherwise Allied air superiority would strafe them into oblivion. Japanese troops loved night combat, and they were very, very good at it. 

Japanese forces in the Pacific Theater used night combat tactics to even the score against larger, better equipped forces. Sneakily infiltrating enemy camps and slitting throats was a favored method of not just taking out enemy troops, but also causing mass fear among the ranks. 

Night attackers were usually carried out by small Japanese units to achieve some objective. Surprise and secrecy was their key to success in these operations. Infantry assaults were often conducted with no artillery support, as the units normally targeted the enemy’s softest points. The main strategy for a Japanese night assault was to close with the enemy as fast as possible and overwhelm them in hand-to-hand combat. 

As the war ground on and Japanese combat veterans were replaced by raw recruits, the Americans gained the upper hand in night fighting. Early warning systems such as microphones became used in the field, along with other warning devices. But nothing took a toll on the Japanese like the infrared night sight. 

night vision scope
An infantryman armed with an M16A1 rifle and an AN/PVS-2 Starlight scope for use at night.

In late 1943, American scientists were studying ways to shine infrared light on objects in the dark while developing a telescope device that could see the infrared light. They were able to develop a six-volt, rifle-mounted scope that could illuminate objects up to 70 yards away, visible only through the telescope. 

It took two years to perfect the technology, build it onto an infantry weapon and get it to the front lines, but they did it. By the time the U.S. Army and U.S. Marines were ready to invade the island of Okinawa, the Japanese nighttime advantage was lost. 

The Battle of Okinawa was one of the fiercest battles of the entire Pacific War. It took an estimated 250,000 American troops to dislodge more than 70,000 Japanese troops and 40,000 Okinawan draftees. Though the battle for the island took around three months, the fighting took a heavy toll on the Japanese  – partly due to the infrared scope on the Army’s T3 carbine. 

A later development in night vision technology, the AN/PVS-7 Cyclops 3rd generation goggle. 

An estimated 30% of Japanese forces killed by small arms fire on Okinawa were sighted and shot by soldiers equipped with the night vision scope. It was an astonishing feat, considering only 200 of the scopes ever made it to the Pacific. 

When Japanese night infiltration was effective, it was often due to inclement weather, such as monsoon-level winds and rains. 

Infrared technology for small unit combat continued into the Korean War, mounted on other .30-caliber rifles, eventually evolving into the helmet-mounted goggles enjoyed by U.S. troops and their allies today.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Old Guard marks 70 years of ‘Flags In’ to honor Memorial Day

Almost seven years ago, Spc. Dakota Williams lost more than his stepbrother. He lost his hero.

His stepbrother, Spc. Dylan Johnson, had been deployed in Iraq’s Diyala Province just north of Baghdad for less than a month when a bomb detonated next to his vehicle. The explosion killed him.


Inspired by his service to the country, Williams later joined the Army to follow in his footsteps.

On May 24, 2018, he personally honored his stepbrother when he placed an American flag at his headstone in Section 60 of the Arlington National Cemetery during the annual Flags In event.

“He’s not here, but he’s here,” said Williams, 23, of Salina, Oklahoma. “He’s still such an important part of my life.”

All Soldiers, including Williams, in the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, known as “The Old Guard,” participated in some way in 2018’s Flags In. The regiment has conducted the event before every Memorial Day since 1948. It was then when the regiment was designated as the Army’s official ceremonial unit.

Why the Siege of Bastogne was the defining moment for the 101st Airborne
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Lane Hiser)

Over a course of four hours, more than 234,000 small flags were laid in front of headstones across the 624-acre cemetery. Flags were also placed inside the Columbarium as well, where the cremated remains of service members reside. In all, enough flags were placed to account for the more than 400,000 interred or inurned within the cemetery. Regiment Soldiers also placed about 11,500 flags at the nearby Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery.

“It’s a great commitment by these Soldiers to do this, to place them at the hundreds of thousands of graves here,” said Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper. “What it does is it pays respect and homage to those who served before them, going all the way back to the Civil War and signals the importance of their service and that they will never be forgotten for what they did. So that they know, these young Soldiers today, much as I knew when I was in uniform, that should I have to pay that ultimate price, I would not be forgotten either in America’s hearts and minds.”

Why the Siege of Bastogne was the defining moment for the 101st Airborne
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Lane Hiser)

Col. Jason Garkey, the regiment commander, said Flags In is also a time of reflection for the Soldiers who participate.

“For every one of those headstones where we put a flag at, we have the solemn honor to put that flag in for a family member who can’t be here to do it themselves,” he said. “That’s a privilege.”

Each Soldier who took part in the event had the opportunity to place hundreds of flags into the ground, about 1 foot centered in front of every headstone.

When doing so, Garkey encouraged his Soldiers to read the name engraved onto the headstone.

“I tell them that the cemetery is alive,” Garkey said. “If you pay attention, it will tell you things.”

Buried throughout the cemetery are Medal of Honor recipients, young service members who were killed in war, retirees and spouses — all with a story to share.

Garkey, who took part in his sixth Flags In, recalled one time seeing two graves next to each other with the same last name. From the dates on the headstones, he believed they belonged to a father who had served much of his adult life in the military and his son who had died in combat years before him.

Why the Siege of Bastogne was the defining moment for the 101st Airborne
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Lane Hiser)

“There’s no worst thing than for a parent to bury their child,” he said. “But they ended up there for eternity.”

When his Soldiers recognize those sacrifices, he said, it helps put things into perspective while they perform their ceremonial duties.

“You realize there are many stories in the cemetery and that brings the cemetery to something more than just a place where we go to work,” the colonel said. “It makes it a living, breathing entity where we honor our fallen.”

For Sgt. Kevin Roman, who serves with Williams in the regiment’s Presidential Salute Battery that is responsible for firing blank howitzer rounds during ceremonies, Flags In gives him the chance to appreciate those who came before him.

“Memorial Day is a day to pay your respects to the [service members] who have made the ultimate sacrifice or who have served honorably,” said Roman, 23, of Bronx, New York. “For some people, it’s just a holiday and the unofficial start of summer.”

Before he participated in his fourth Flags In, he said every time he gets to place flags it is still meaningful to him.

“When you get out there and start reading tombstones, you gain that respect back that you may have lost during those hard days in the cemetery,” he said. “Everything comes flooding into you and you get that sense of proudness and that American spirit.”

Some gravesites are even more significant to other Soldiers in the regiment, whether they belong to a family member or a service member they once served with.

Garkey places a flag at the headstone of retired Lt. Col. Toby Runyon, a Vietnam War veteran and a family friend who died two years ago.

“I’ll take a photo and send it to his spouse just to say that we were thinking of Toby today,” he said.

Meanwhile, he said, the regiment’s sentinels who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier will stop at the gravesites of former sentinels.

Why the Siege of Bastogne was the defining moment for the 101st Airborne
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Lane Hiser)

“Everybody has got their specific places that they go to,” Garkey said. “There’s a healing aspect that goes into it for us. It’s more than just a task, it’s an experience.”

Esper also placed flags at gravesites in the cemetery. A former Soldier himself, he said, he knows comrades in arms who have died in service to their country.

“On a day like this, I think about also my West Point classmates,” Esper said. “I know one for sure who passed away during my war, Desert Shield/Desert Storm. I had another one who was killed when the Twin Towers were felled on 9/11. And another one killed in Afghanistan. And I think about them as well, because they are peers, and like me, I can relate more to their point in life, where they got married or had children, or maybe never had the opportunity to do either. I think about them especially.”

Over Memorial Day weekend, Esper said, he hopes that Soldiers, family members, and Americans across the country will be thinking about those who fought for and died to secure freedom for the United States.

“Hopefully they will all reflect upon the great sacrifices that America’s Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines make in defense of our country and in defense of our liberties,” Esper said. “Particularly those fallen heroes that are here in Arlington National Cemetery.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Uncle Sam is a real guy and his poster is a self-portrait

In 1917, artist James Montgomery Flagg created his most famous work, a recruiting poster for the U.S. Army featuring a white-haired, white-whiskered man in an old-timey (even by the standards of the day) top hat, coat, and tie in bold red, white, and blue colors. Inspired by similar recruiting posters in Europe at the time, the poster was adapted to appeal to everyday Americans, along with their sense of individuality and patriotism. It has become one of the most enduring symbols of the United States military.

And it’s basically a portrait of Flagg himself.


Why the Siege of Bastogne was the defining moment for the 101st Airborne

And that’s how you achieve immortality.

Flagg’s stock in trade was creating cartoons, illustrations, and drawings for publications of all sorts. He worked for advertising firms, newspapers, book publishers, and other creators who required illustrations such as Flagg’s. He was commissioned to create the cover for Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper in 1916. It was a weekly publication that pioneered the use of early photography to illustrate American life during its 70-plus year run, and he used himself as a model. Hearkening back to the early days of the magazine, he chose to depict himself as an older gentleman in an outdated, if colorful outfit.

The headline of that week’s issue was “What Are You Doing For Preparedness?” He decided to make the poster a reference to a then-famous recruiting poster for the British Army, one that depicted the famous Field Marshal Lord Herbert Kitchener, pointing at the viewer and telling them they’re wanted in the British Army, using the likeness of Uncle Sam in the place of Kitchener.

Why the Siege of Bastogne was the defining moment for the 101st Airborne

As for the origin of Uncle Sam, the true origin is disputed. A resolution from Congress in 1961 declared that an Upstate New York meat inspector named Sam Wilson was the original Uncle Sam. Wilson was a Continental Army veteran from Troy, New York, who provided rations to the Army during the War of 1812. It’s not known whether Wilson’s appearance was the inspiration for the rest of Uncle Sam’s appearance, but Flagg’s depiction of himself as Uncle Sam certainly stood the test of time.

Flagg’s painting was reused again as a recruiting tool during World War II, and the notoriety from his work earned him a place as one of the top illustrators of the day, working for the best magazines and newspapers who could afford work like his. He even went on to paint portraits of famous Americans that would end up in the National Portrait Gallery, such as Mark Twain and boxer Jack Dempsey. Flagg died in 1960, the year before Congress decided to honor Sam Wilson as the true “Uncle Sam.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

These 7 American legends were pilots for the Flying Tigers

The “Flying Tigers” (formally known as the American Volunteer Group or AVG) were famous for being in the fight very early in World War II. They were recruited to fly for the Republic of China — with the quiet approval of the United States government.


Despite the fact many had no flight experience in fighters like the P-40s made famous by the AVG, they were able to inflict heavy casualties on the Japanese — even as they had to fall back due to being badly outnumbered.

So it’s not surprising that some of the Flying Tiger pilots became legends later in the war and beyond.

1. Gregory Boyington

Probably the best-known Flying Tigers alum (due to the TV series “Baa Baa Black Sheep” or “Black Sheep Squadron”), Boyington claimed six kills while with the Tigers — although CAMCO gave him credit for only 3.5.

Some historians dispute that total, but what is beyond any doubt is the fact that Boyington would later become the top Marine ace of all time with 28 kills. He would also receive the Medal of Honor for his service.

 

Why the Siege of Bastogne was the defining moment for the 101st Airborne

 

2. James H. Howard

Howard was recruited for the Flying Tigers from the Navy. His kill total with the Flying Tigers was six and a third, per CAMCO bonus records (pilots received a $500 bonus for every confirmed kill).

Not bad, but his real moment of glory came when the son of American missionaries in China was all that stood between 30 German fighters and a group of B-17 Flying Fortresses on Jan. 11, 1944.

At least three of the Nazi fighters were shot down in that incident, and Howard probably put lead in more. He would receive the Medal of Honor for his actions.

He modestly said, “I seen my duty and I done it.”

 

Why the Siege of Bastogne was the defining moment for the 101st Airborne
James H. Howard, after returning from combat duty in Europe. (USAAF photo)

 

3. Robert L. Scott

The Georgia native unofficially flew with the Flying Tigers before he took command of their successors, the 23rd Fighter Group, and was known as a “one-man air force.” Scott ultimately scored 13 kills with the 23rd Fighter Group, but was better known for writing the book “God is My Co-Pilot,” which later became a movie.

 

Why the Siege of Bastogne was the defining moment for the 101st Airborne

 

4. Robert W. Prescott

A 5.5-kill ace with the Flying Tigers, Prescott was best known for being among those who founded the Flying Tigers Line. While that aviation firm is now part of Federal Express, it did gain a measure of immortality in an episode of the 1960s iteration of Dragnet.

 

Why the Siege of Bastogne was the defining moment for the 101st Airborne
A 747 with the Flying Tigers airline founded by Robert Prescott, an AVG veteran. The airline was later bought by FedEx. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

 

5. Robert Neale

Neale scored at least 15 kills with the Flying Tigers, per AVG records. Had he accepted a commission from the United States Army Air Force, he could have racked up a much higher total.

Instead, he stayed on, and was the first commander of the 23rd Fighter Group — while still a civilian — until Robert Scott officially took command. Neale then became a civilian ferry pilot for the duration of the war.

6. David “Tex” Hill

Hill was born in Korea — like Howard, the son of missionaries.

Prior to joining the AVG he served in the Navy, where he flew two planes that were notable during the Battle of Midway: The TBD Devastator torpedo bomber (notable for the losses suffered by torpedo squadrons) and the SB2U Vindicator (the plane flown by Richard Fleming, the only Medal of Honor recipient for the Battle of Midway).

Hill scored 10.25 kills with the AVG, then stayed on afterwards with the Air Force.

Hill ended the war with 18.25 kills, and not only commanded the 23rd Fighter Group, but later commanded an Air National Guard fighter group during the Korean War.

 

Why the Siege of Bastogne was the defining moment for the 101st Airborne

 

7. Charles Older

Older wasn’t only a double ace with the Flying Tigers, he scored eight more later in World War II.

Then he flew a night intruder bomber in the Korean War before graduating from law school and becoming a judge, presiding over the Manson trial.

Manson took a swing at the former Flying Tiger, but bailiffs restrained him. Probably lucky for Manson…with his experience of fighting against long odds, Older probably could have taken the punk down.

 

Why the Siege of Bastogne was the defining moment for the 101st Airborne
A Flying Tiger in front of Charles Older’s P-40. Older had 10 kills with the Flying Tigers, and added eight more later. (AVG photo via Wikimedia Commons)

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how WWII, G.I. Joe and a decorated U.S. Marine shaped Transformers

Today, the Transformers IP has a world-wide presence in toys, comic books, video games, TV shows, movies and even amusement park rides. Just hearing the name cues the iconic jingle or robotic transforming noise in the heads of even the most casual fans. It’s incredible to think that this franchise that dominates the globe owes its existence to the Second World War, G.I. Joe action figures and one very special Marine.


Why the Siege of Bastogne was the defining moment for the 101st Airborne

Transformers is still going strong with a new Netflix original series (Netflix)

Following the end of WWII, American troops occupied the Japanese islands as the nation entered into the process of reconstruction. A key element in reviving the Japanese economy was its once prominent toy industry. However, with few raw materials available after the war, toy makers were forced to resort to unconventional sources.

American GIs occupying Japan were fed heavily with canned rations. It was the metal from these cans that was recycled and used to craft Japanese robot toys. To highlight Japanese craftsmanship, these toys were often motorized with clock mechanisms that allowed them to walk and roll.

The popularity of Japanese robot toys increased through the 1960s and 1970s. With the expansion of television, the robot toys were paired with manga comics and anime cartoons that engaged children and promoted toy sales. Japanese robot-based entertainment like Astroboy, Ultraman, Shogun Warriors and Gigantor became increasingly popular in America.

Why the Siege of Bastogne was the defining moment for the 101st Airborne

Robot shows like Gigantor were also successful in Australia (Eiken/TCJ)

However, even the robots from the east couldn’t compete with “A Real American Hero” like G.I. Joe. High sales of the action figure in the states were enough to convince Japanese toy maker Takara to license G.I. Joe for the Japanese market.

Having gained respect in the Japanese toy world for their toy dolls, Takara wanted to branch out and make a toy line for boys. However, G.I. Joe’s iconic scar and grimacing expression were a bit too harsh and aggressive for post-war Japan. To market the toy to Japanese boys, Takara decided to make G.I. Joe into a superhero with superpowers. When the designers realized that G.I. Joe’s body wasn’t conducive to a superhero build, they resorted to type and made him into a robot. With a clear plastic body displaying his metal computer-like internals, G.I. Joe became Henshin Cyborg. Henshin meaning “transformation”, this was the first step towards what we know today as Transformers.

Following the 1973 oil crisis, the 11.5″ tall toy and all of its accessories became prohibitively expensive to produce. Like G.I. Joe in the states, Takara introduced the 3.75″ tall Microman. A mini version of Henshin Cyborg, the Microman toy line focused even more on transforming toys with robots that could change into sci-fi spaceships. Microman was so popular that it was marketed in the US under the name Micronauts.

By the 1980s, robot toys that transformed into exotic spaceships were losing popularity. To rejuvenate the robot toy concept, Takara introduced the Diaclone Car Robo and Microman Micro Change lines. Diaclone toys transformed from robots into 1:60 scale vehicles like cars and trucks while Microman toys transformed into 1:1 replicas of household items like cameras, cassette players and toy guns.

At the Tokyo Toy Show, Hasbro executives took notice of Diaclone, Microman Micro Change and the plethora of other Japanese transforming robot toys and wanted to develop their own toy line. A deal was struck with Takara and Hasbro lifted almost every one of their toy lines for the US market, including Diaclone and Microman Micro Change.

Why the Siege of Bastogne was the defining moment for the 101st Airborne

Diaclone transforming robot truck Battle Convoy (Takara)

To review, Hasbro licensed G.I. Joe to Takara in the 1970s. Takara turned G.I. Joe into Henshin Cyborg. Henshin Cyborg was shrunk down to Microman. Microman evolved into Diaclone and Microman Micro Change, both of which were licensed back to Hasbro. Things had really come full circle.

With all of these transforming robot toys, Hasbro turned to Marvel Comics to develop a backstory for the new toy line. Over a weekend, Marvel writers came up with the names and backstories for the first 26 Transformers as well as the plot for the first comic book issue.

Diaclone and Microman Micro Change robots were renamed and became Transformers as we know them today. Micro Car became Bumblebee, Cassette Man became Shockwave, Gun Robo became Megatron, Battle Convoy became Optimus Prime and the War for Cybertron between the just Autobots and the oppressive Decepticons was born. The first commercial for the Transformers toys introduced the now iconic jingle and the phrases, “Robots in disguise” and, “More than meets the eye.”

The 1984 release of Transformers was a huge success netting Hasbro 5 million in sales. The popularity of the franchise was due in large part to the Transformers cartoon, the star of which was the venerable Optimus Prime.

Peter Cullen, the original voice of Optimus Prime, became so iconic that he was brought back to reprise the role of the Autobot leader in the 2007 Transformers film and its many sequels. Cullen, also known for voicing Eeyore in the Winnie the Pooh franchise, crafted the voice of Optimus Prime with inspiration from his older brother.

Marine Captain Henry Laurence Cullen, Jr., known as Larry, was a decorated veteran of the war in Vietnam. While serving with Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, Capt. Cullen was awarded a Bronze Star with a V device as well as two Purple Hearts for his actions during Operation Hastings in June 1966.

Why the Siege of Bastogne was the defining moment for the 101st Airborne

Capt. Cullen was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery (Cullen family)

When his younger brother told him he was going to audition for the role of a hero in a cartoon series, Capt. Cullen said, “Peter, if you’re gonna be a hero, be a real hero. Don’t be one of those Hollywood heroes pretending they’re tough guys when they’re not. Just be strong and real. Tell the truth. Be strong enough to be gentle.”

With his older brother’s words echoing in his mind, Peter Cullen delivered the strong yet gentle voice performance that Transformers fans today will always hail as the one, true Optimus.

“He had a lot of influence on me, you know, and especially coming back from Vietnam. I noticed somebody different,” Cullen remembered of his older brother. “Going into that audition, Larry was with me. I mean, he was right there beside me. When I read the script, Larry’s voice just came out. He was my hero.”

From recycled ration cans, to a classic American action figure and an inspirational leader of Marines, the Transformers franchise has had a lot of American military influence to get to where it is today.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Fanys: The nurses who became commandos during World War II

As members of England’s First Aid Nursing Yeomanry, or FANYs, during World War II, Odette Sansom, Violette Szabó, and Noor Inayat Khan might have worked in hospitals, driven ambulances, sent coded radio signals, fixed trucks, or even, as one FANY did during the war, taught the future Queen Elizabeth to drive.

But when British Prime Minister Winston Churchill instructed the nation’s clandestine spy agency, the Special Operations Executive (SOE), to “set Europe ablaze,” the three FANYs merged their nursing roles with espionage. The SOE, which carried out audacious sabotage plots across Europe, recruited 2,000 FANY members to the secret service. But only 39 went into the field to conduct commando operations, including Sansom, Szabó, and Khan.

Each brought her unique upbringing to her missions. Sansom (pictured above) and Szabó were both born in France; Sansom to a French man killed in World War I, whereas Szabó’s father had been an English soldier. Khan was a Muslim from India descended from a sultan. But their French fluency and familiarity with military skills like marksmanship caught the eye of England’s spy masters.

The commandos working for SOE in North Africa, the Far East, and particularly across Europe were the No. 1 targets of the Gestapo and the Abwehr, German military intelligence. “From now on, all men operating against German troops in so-called Commando raids in Europe or in Africa, are to be annihilated to the last man,” read Adolf Hitler’s secret Commando Order (Kommandobefehl) issued on Oct. 18, 1942. If members of the SOE were discovered, man or woman, they’d be hunted, tortured, and executed. 

Why the Siege of Bastogne was the defining moment for the 101st Airborne
Noor Inayat Khan was a Muslim princess who volunteered for the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) during World War II. She became one of the first women awarded the George Cross, the United Kingdom’s highest civilian honor. It was accepted posthumously on her behalf. Photo courtesy of the Soefi Museum.

Sansom, Szabó, and Khan had to be discreet and keep their identities secret. They carried false papers with fake names, home addresses, and occupations. Virginia Hall, famously known as “The Limping Lady,” who served with the SOE early in the war, used a cover as a French American stringer for the New York Post writing under the public persona of Brigitte LeContre. The FANYs received training in weapons handling, fieldcraft, and sabotage, and assumed their own disguises.

Sansom took the code name Lise as a courier for the Spindle spy ring, or “circuit” under the SOE’s F Section (France). Circuits were generally composed of three officers: a circuit leader, a courier, and a radio operator. A wife and mother of three children, Sansom transported messages and money to associates in the French Resistance. After seven months of clandestine fieldwork, she was captured by the Nazi officer Hugo Bleicher, a notorious spy catcher who personally arrested more than 100 agents and officers. Sansom was interrogated for hours at Fresnes Prison in Paris, subjected to techniques including the removal of her toenails. 

When she wouldn’t confess, the Nazis sent her to Ravensbrück, the most feared concentration camp for women in Europe. Her cell was in an underground prison infamously known as “The Bunker.” For three months and eight days she lived in solitary confinement next to a furnace, in total darkness, starving. Her hair and teeth fell out. She even lapsed into a mini-coma but ultimately survived the war. Many of her fellow FANYs, however, did not, including Szabó and Khan.

Why the Siege of Bastogne was the defining moment for the 101st Airborne
Odette Sansom at the FANY memorial at St. Paul’s Church in Knightsbridge, London, in 1948. She is holding Tania Szabó, daughter of SOE officer Violette Szabó. Photo courtesy of FANY.

On her second mission in France, Szabó parachuted behind German lines the day after D-Day and established contact with resistance forces in the area. On June 10, 1944, she joined Jacques Dufour in a car to Salon-la-Tour. Along the route the Germans set up a roadblock, and Dufour stopped the vehicle 50 yards away. He instructed Szabó to dash into a field as he provided covering fire. Szabó instead pulled out her Sten submachine gun and joined the fight before the pair fled into the field. She fought until she had fired all her ammunition and was captured. She joined Sansom in Ravensbrück but was executed in January 1945.

Khan’s fate was equally senseless. The Muslim princess was a direct descendant of Tipu Sultan, an 18th-century Muslim ruler of Mysore state — today, a part of India — who pioneered rockets used as military weapons. Khan worked as a wireless radio operator in Paris. At one point she was the only SOE wireless operator in the city, operating under the code name Madeleine, and was critical in communications with the Prosper resistance network and the outside world. A Frenchwoman betrayed Khan to the Gestapo, and she and three other female SOE officers were sent to the Dachau concentration camp. There, they were executed.

All three women — Sansom, Szabó, and Khan — were awarded the George Cross, Britain’s highest civilian honor. Among the 39 FANY and SOE commandos who went into the field, 13 died as German prisoners or were killed in action. On May 7, 1948, Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, unveiled a plaque at St Paul’s Church in Knightsbridge, London, dedicated to all 52 FANYs who died during World War II. In attendance was Odette Sansom. In her arms she held Tania, the only daughter of Violette Szabó, who would later accept her mother’s medal and write a book about her famous mother’s life. Khan became the first Indian woman in history to be honored with a memorial and a permanent Blue Plaque awarded by the English Heritage charity. These Blue Plaques honor notable people and organizations connected with particular buildings across London — and Khan’s can seen at 4 Taviton Street in Bloomsbury, where she lived before joining the SOE.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The US accidentally built a fort to repel Canada… in Canada

The War of 1812 was a conflict between the United States and Great Britain, though it could be argued that Canadians and Native Americans were most affected by it. The northern theater of the war, especially near the border of Canada and the Great Lakes, saw some of the most intense fighting — so much so that, after the Treaty of Ghent, President James Madison decided to build a fort at the northern end of Lake Champlain to prevent future invasion.


The only problem… was that the fort was built on the wrong side of the border.

The Americans didn’t discover the error until two years later, when a surveyor found the fort was being built north of the 45th parallel.

 

Why the Siege of Bastogne was the defining moment for the 101st Airborne
Oops.

Construction halted on the fort, which earned the moniker “Fort Blunder,” until 1842, when the U.S. moved the boundary line north (see the current boundary in the image above) — because pride.

Also read: This War of 1812 veteran saw the Battle of Gettysburg from his porch – then joined it

The Webster-Ashburton Treaty resolved a number of border issues between what would one day become Canada and the United States, who promptly began to build another fort — this one named for revolutionary war hero General Richard Montgomery. The fort was built from the same limestone slabs that helped raise the Brooklyn Bridge, and, though it was never fully garrisoned, it was armed and ready for action.

As the United States’ relationships with Great Britain and Canada flourished, Fort Montgomery’s function dwindled. In 1926, it was auctioned off by the U.S. government and sold to a private bidder.

War of 1812: This is the only time since the War of 1812 that enemy forces occupied US soil

Today, it’s actually for sale… but no one wants it (except for me — I absolutely want it and I am currently looking for a $3 million donation for this cause. The parties there will be epic. Bring your boat and everyone you know…), though in 2009, it was placed on The Preservation League of New York State’s list of Seven to Save.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Coast Guard took the first Nazi prisoners of World War II

Built in the early 1930s, the 165-foot “B”-Class cutters were often referred to as the Thetis-Class. The Thetis-class cutters proved good sea boats becoming the backbone of the Coast Guard’s coastal patrol and convoy force during World War II.


Among these cutters was the Argo, which escorted Nazi Germany’s last surrendered U-boats into captivity and the Thetis, one of 11 Coast Guard cutters credited with sinking a U-boat. However, the most honored of these cutters was Icarus, which sank U-352 and captured its crew at the beginning of World War II.

Icarus and its sister cutters were designed for Prohibition enforcement, specifically tracking down rum running ships outside U.S. territorial waters. These cutters required excellent sea-keeping qualities, long-term accommodations for crew, and greater fuel capacity. Icarus was built by Bath Iron Works in Maine and commissioned on April 1, 1932.

The cutter reported for duty at Stapleton, New York, on Staten Island, and served as part of the New York Division’s Special Patrol Force, which conducted law enforcement patrols in support of Prohibition regulations. After passage of the 21st Amendment repealing Prohibition, Icarus continued sailing out of Stapleton on law enforcement and search and rescue patrols.

Why the Siege of Bastogne was the defining moment for the 101st Airborne
Official photograph of Lt. Cmdr. Maurice Jester and his family. (Coast Guard Collection)

After war erupted in Europe in 1939, the Coast Guard assigned Icarus to Neutrality Patrols protecting merchant vessels from attacks by European combatants. With the 1941 U.S. entry into World War II, Icarus joined its sister cutters in escorting coastal convoys and anti-submarine patrols in American waters.

On the morning of Friday, May 8, 1942, Icarus departed Staten Island for Key West, Florida. On Saturday at about 4:20 p.m., while off the coast of North Carolina, Icarus’s sonar operator picked up a “mushy” contact 2,000 yards off its port bow. The cutter’s crew went to general quarters and assumed battle stations.

Ten minutes after the first sonar contact, an explosion believed to be a torpedo rocked the cutter about 200 yards off the port side. Reversing course, Icarus sped toward the contact, which was heading toward the spot where the explosion had occurred. The underwater contact sharpened and, for the first time, propeller sounds were heard by the sonarman. The contact was lost at 180 yards but, after a calculated interval, Icarus dropped five depth charges in a diamond shape with one charge in the center.

The sonar operator next determined that the contact was slowly moving west, so the cutter altered course to intercept it. Two more charges were dropped in a “V” pattern at a point leading the contact’s underwater track and, as roiling water from the explosions subsided, large bubbles were observed on the surface. Icarus reversed course again and dropped a single charge on the spot where the air bubbles had surfaced. Six minutes later, the cutter dropped a second charge in the same location.

Now Read: This is how the Coast Guard got its stripes

At 10 minutes past 5:00 p.m., shortly after the last charge had been dropped, a U-boat broke the surface 1,000 yards from Icarus. The heavily armed sub emerged bow first and down by the stern. The cutter’s crew was ready, opening fire with all machine guns that could bear on the sub. Meanwhile, the U-boat’s crew began abandoning ship. Icarus’s commanding officer, Lt. Maurice Jester, altered course to ram and the cutter’s 3-inch main battery was brought to bear on the submarine. The first 3-inch round fell short ricocheting off the water and through the conning tower. The second round overshot the sub, but the next 12 rounds hit the U-boat or came close, with seven of them hitting home. Minutes later, the damaged U-boat began to subside into the sea.

Why the Siege of Bastogne was the defining moment for the 101st Airborne
Coast Guard Cutter Icarus disembarking U-352 crew members at the Charleston Navy Yard in Charleston, S.C. (Coast Guard Collection)

As the submarine sank, Icarus ceased firing, but the cutter circled the spot where the U-boat had disappeared. Icarus re-established sonar contact with the submerged sub and the cutter’s sonarman heard propeller noises again. Taking no chances, Jester ordered one last depth charge dropped over the U-boat, which brought a large air bubble to the surface. No further noises were heard from sub; the vessel had finally been vanquished. Meanwhile, 35 Germans were struggling on the surface to avoid the cutter’s path and its deadly depth charges. Expecting to be machine-gunned in the water, many yelled, “Don’t shoot us!”

At 5:50 p.m., the Icarus crew began rescue operations and retrieved Germans from the water. Except for the wounded survivors, the prisoners were placed under guard in the cutter’s forward crew compartment. The U-boat’s commanding officer, Kapitänleutnant Helmut Rathke, was among the survivors. At this point, it was learned that the submarine was U-352, carrying a complement of 48 men. Seven of the crew went down with the U-boat while others died in the water after abandoning ship. By 6:05, 33 survivors had been rescued and the cutter proceeded to Charleston Navy Yard as ordered.

Also Read: How Hitler terrorized the seas with U-boats during World War II

The German prisoners exhibited good discipline and were surprised by the fine treatment they received on board Icarus. Several of the U-boat’s crew spoke English and talked freely on personal matters, but disclosed no military information. Three of Icarus’s crew also spoke German and conversed with the prisoners. The prisoners wished to know how much money the Coast Guard crew would receive for sinking a submarine and if crewmembers received promotions for doing so. The Germans related that they received medals and bonuses for sinking ships, the amount depending on the size and tonnage of their victims. Four of the prisoners also mentioned they had relatives living in the U.S.

Why the Siege of Bastogne was the defining moment for the 101st Airborne
Hellmut Rathke (bearded, standing left) and a junior officer after disembarking in Charleston, S.C. (Courtesy of the U.S. Navy)

On Sunday morning, Icarus arrived at the Navy Yard. There, the cutter delivered 32 prisoners and one prisoner who died of his wounds en route to Charleston. To keep the enemy in doubt about the U-boat’s fate, naval authorities did not disclose the sinking of U-352 until almost a year later, on May 1, 1943. For the remainder of the war, Icarus continued its convoy escort work, search and rescue duties and anti-submarine patrols. In the fall of 1946, the ship was placed in reserve status and stored at Staten Island. The Coast Guard decommissioned Icarus in 1948 and sold it to the Southeastern Terminal and Steamship Company.

Icarus was the second American warship to sink a U-boat and the first to capture German combatants. For his command of Icarus in the attack and sinking of U-352, Jester received one of only six Navy Cross Medals awarded to Coast Guardsmen during the war. Icarus was one of numerous combat cutters that served the heroic Coast Guardsmen of the long blue line during World War II.

MIGHTY HISTORY

‘The Fighting McCooks’ were the Civil War’s largest military family

Few states were as pivotal to the Union victory in the Civil War as the state of Ohio. Ohio lent 320,000 soldiers to the cause, among them Generals Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman and Philip Sheridan. After the big names, one Ohio family famously lent more of its flesh and blood than any other family in the Union. Known as “The Fighting McCooks,” Daniel and John McCook were the sons of George McCook, a Pennsylvanian and veteran of the Whiskey Rebellion who immigrated from Ireland. As young adults, Daniel moved his family to Carrollton. John raised his sons in Steubenville.

As older men, the two would join the Union cause – along with 13 of their sons and numerous other family members. 

The elder brother, Daniel McCook, was already 62 years old when South Carolina Confederates began shelling Fort Sumter. Advanced in age, he volunteered to be a Union paymaster. His brother James, a physician, was also in his 60s. He volunteered his services as a doctor with the Union. 

George, another McCook brother and surgeon, also joined the Union army along with his son, George. The father and son surgical team donated their time to the cause, working for free. But it was the other two brothers and their “tribes” who would earn the McCook family their belligerent nickname. 

Daniel McCook was killed during Morgan’s Raid, the largest battle to take place in Ohio. Nine of his sons joined the U.S. military, most becoming officers and many did not survive either. Three from the “Tribe of Dan” (as they came to be called), died in combat.

John and his five sons were known as the “Tribe of John” – and all of them survived the war.

The McCooks
The McCook Family

The Tribe of Dan

The oldest son of Dan McCook, Latimer, joined as an infantry officer and fought in General Sherman’s March to the Sea. Though wounded on two separate occasions, he survived the war. George Wythe McCook was already a former Attorney General for the State of Ohio and a veteran of the Mexican War. He led the 157th Ohio infantry and after the war, he ran for governor (he lost). 

One of the middle children, Robert Latimer, raised his own regiment of infantry, trained them, and then led them into combat. He was soon transferred to the Army of Ohio. He would later lead troops in an attack against Confederates in Alabama, where he died from a gunshot wound. 

Alexander McCook spent his entire adult career in the U.S. Army. A graduate of West Point, he was a veteran of the Indian Wars and the Mexican War when the Civil War started. He fought at the First Battle of Bull Run, Nashville, Shiloh, and Chickamauga. He stayed in the Army long after the war ended. 

Daniel McCook, Jr. also became a Union general. A former law partner of William T. Sherman’s, he would end his career as a brigade commander under Sherman. It was Sherman who appointed him to lead a frontal attack on Confederate positions on Kennesaw Mountain. Daniel died in the assault. 

Edwin Stanton McCook was a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy who also raised his own infantry regiment. He joined Sherman’s March along with his other brothers and fought a Vicksburg, Chattanooga, and Atlanta. The youngest McCook was John James, who started his adult life as 1st Lt. McCook, fighting at Chattanooga and Chickamauga, among other places. Both of these brothers died after the war. 

Charles Morris McCook was the only brother to enlist as a private in the Union Army. He died at age 18 at First Bull Run. It was his first engagement of the war.

The Tribe of John

Though the patriarch of the tribe died shortly after the war’s end, all of John’s tribe lived at least 20 years after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House. His eldest son Edward joined a regiment of cavalry in Indiana and led them throughout the war, moving south and gaining rank, going from lieutenant to brigadier general in three years. It was Edward McCook that read the Emancipation Proclamation in Tallahassee, securing the Florida capital for the Union.

Just after becoming a lawyer, Anson McCook joined the Union Army. – twice. He fought under Sherman in Atlanta and was discharged after his term of service ended. He was later called to serve under Philip Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley, a call he answered.

There were two members of the “Fighting McCooks” who did not actually fight. Henry McCook was a Presbyterian chaplain in a volunteer infantry regiment.  John James was also a Presbyterian chaplain for a three-year infantry unit. 

The only McCook who fought the Civil War in the Navy, Roderick McCook was out capturing slave ships before the war started. During the war, he harassed Confederate shipping and naval forces in South Carolina and Virginia, most notably aboard a newly-mined Union ironclad warship.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A look at one of the most inspiring speeches in history

Throughout World War II, Winston Churchill gave a number of speeches that galvanized the British public in the face of extreme hardship and convinced them to keep fighting that good fight against Adolf and his cronies.

Perhaps the most famous speech Churchill ever gave was the one he spent the longest time agonising over — “This was their finest hour,” where he stated in part,


What General Weygand has called the Battle of France is over … the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilisation. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be freed and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands.
But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new dark age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.”

The speech was delivered just a month after Churchill became Prime Minister and at a time when the UK was reeling from the news that France had fallen (effectively leaving the British Empire to fight the Nazi war machine alone, until Hitler turned on the Soviet Union in 1941 and the Yanks joined in about six months after that). The speech had to somehow rally the entire country during what Churchill would eventually come to call “The Darkest Hour.” This is a goal the speech is generally accepted as having accomplished and then some, with Churchill’s words deeply resonating with the British public. In particular, Churchill’s sentiments about the British Isles standing strong in the face of what appeared to be impossible odds.

THEIR FINEST HOUR speech by Winston Churchill [BEST SOUND]

www.youtube.com

The speech, which lasted around 36 minutes, was first given in private to Parliament on June 18, 1940, and later to the British public via radio and it’s noted that Churchill was making revisions to it until quite literally the last possible moment. For example, when the Churchill Archives Centre dug up the very same copy of the speech Churchill used when he addressed Parliament, they found that it was covered in random annotations, some of which appear to have been made leading right up to just before he gave the speech.

Impressively, some of these literal last minutes additions ended up being amongst the most memorable lines from it. For example, the line “All shall be restored” which was noted as inspiring many a Britain to do their bit for the greater good of Europe, was a line Churchill scribbled in the margins of the speech when he sat on a bench in the House of Commons waiting to be called to speak.

It’s also noted that Churchill simply winged it at some points, making up some of the lines in the speech on the fly. This was something that was facilitated by Churchill’s insistence on printing the speech in blank verse format, which some experts believe allowed Churchill to read and visualise the speech as a piece of poetry, allowing him to better improvise and more comfortably find a natural rhythm when speaking.

Why the Siege of Bastogne was the defining moment for the 101st Airborne

Winston Churchill

Of course, no matter how good something is, even in the days before internet comments there’s always someone to criticize and, despite “This was their finest hour” being considered one of the finest oratory performances ever given, Churchill’s own secretary, Sir Jock Colville, was wildly unimpressed. Among other things, he noted in his diary that the speech was too long and that Churchill sounded tired when he read it. Given that the speech is often ranked alongside things like the Gettysburg Address, Sir Colville’s opinion evidently wasn’t one shared by many others, however.

Finally, because we kind of have to mention this, when Churchill delivered the speech to the British public via radio, he reportedly did so while smoking a comically large cigar which he kept burning in his mouth for virtually the entire time he was speaking…

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

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MIGHTY HISTORY

Why soldiers called this military chocolate bar ‘Hitler’s Secret Weapon’

When the U.S. Army quartermaster called on Hershey’s chocolate to create a chocolate bar designed especially for the military, it had very specific specifications. One of these might have seemed at odds with the way most people think about chocolate, but there are a lot of things about military service that defy common expectations. 

Called the D-Ration, the chocolate bar was intended to be an emergency source of calories for American soldiers deployed overseas. So it had to be lightweight, high in calories, and able to withstand higher than normal temperatures when carried. 

Naturally, as an emergency ration, they couldn’t have troops breaking into these things when not in an emergency, so the last requirement was that it taste “just a little better than a boiled potato.”

Hershey’s current offering would not pass the temperature test, so the chemists at the corporation got down to business. Using chocolate liquor, sugar, skim milk powder, cocoa butter, oat flour, and vanillin, they created a chocolate bar that was roughly the weight of two C batteries but packed 600 calories. To make it less tasty, they used less sugar and more liquor. 

The resulting chocolate was so dense it wouldn’t melt enough to be poured, so the company had to use molds to form the bars. Quartermaster Capt. Paul Logan approved, so Hershey went about mass producing what would be known as Field Ration D.

This cookies and creme bar sounds a lot better.

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the company had to package the bars like any other field ration, protecting them from the effects of poisonous gas. They were stored in sealed cellophane, packaged in cardboard boxes, dipped in wax, and shipped in a wooden case boxed with steel nails. 

Producing the chocolate bars for the military might have saved Hershey’s chocolate entirely, as the federal government considered shutting down the entire U.S. candy industry as a nonessential business and rationing sugar and cocoa for the war effort. Milton Hershey was able to show the D-Ration as proof that his business was supplying vital calories for the American troops fighting overseas. 

He was definitely making the chocolate, as records show billions of the bars were produced between 1939 and 1945. But the troops weren’t exactly loving them. This was the intent, of course, but having to carry whatever they needed to fight in the field, a disgusting “chocolate” bar wasn’t going to top the list. Most troops would ditch the D-Ration for a decent kind of ration or, better yet, more ammunition. 

When they did take the bars with them, they found them almost inedible. Soldiers with poor teeth couldn’t chew them and those with good teeth had to whittle slices off the bar to consume. Those who tried to eat the chocolate bars began calling them “Hitler’s Secret Weapon” because it absolutely wrecked their intestines – a situation today’s U.S. troops often refer to as “bubbleguts.”

It stands to reason that, with flavor being an important sticking point for the Army quartermaster, Capt. Logan did eat some of the bar before approving them for mass production and consumption. Logan may not have had the same bubbly reaction in his gastrointestinal tract later experienced by the troops deployed in World War II. 

This is why some soldiers evolved trust issues when it comes to Army food.

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