In what would come to be called the Bekaa Valley Turkey Shoot, 96 Israeli fighters and a squadron of UAVs faced off against 100 Syrian fighters backed up by 19 surface-to-air missile launchers in 1982. It was one of the largest jet battles ever fought.
Israel has a history of fighting with its neighbors, especially from the 1960s through the 1980s. A series of small battles with Egypt resulted in some hard lessons learned for the Israel Air Force after they lost a number of fighters to surface-to-air-missiles.
But the IAF learned their lessons and on Jun. 9, 1982, they attacked 19 Syrian surface-to-air missile batteries deployed near their border. In the first two hours of fighting, the IAF destroyed 17 of the missile batteries with no losses. Then, things really went nuts.
The Syrians sent up 100 MiGs to intercept the 96 F-15s, F-16s, and F-4s that were attacking the SAM sites. The Israelis were flying an E-2C Hawkeye airborne warning and control system aircraft that picked up the incoming fighters. It began feeding instructions to the IAF fighters.
The more advanced Israeli fighters, firing both Sidewinder heat-seeking and Sparrow radar-guided missiles, destroyed 29 of the Syrian Air Force fighters.
One of the Syrian Air Force’s main fighters in the conflict was the MiG-21, like this one flown by the Serbian Air Force. Photo: Wikipedia/claudiu_ne2000
But the IAF wasn’t done. There were still two missile sites they wanted gone. So, they returned Jun. 10. Again, the bulk of the Syrian Air Force lifted off to greet them, and the IAF pounded them into the ground, downing another 35 Syrian aircraft with no Israeli losses.
The stunning victory was due to a number of factors. The Israeli pilots had benefitted from great training and a lot of combat experience, but the Syrians had also screwed themselves.
The Syrians fed their pilots instructions from a ground control station that couldn’t communicated due to Israeli jamming. In an Air Power Journal article, a Western military observer of the battle says, “I watched a group of Syrian fighter planes fly figure-eights. They just flew around and around and obviously had no idea what to do next.”
Lt. Gen. Leonard Perroots, director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency at the time, trashed the lazy deployment of Syrian missile sites. “The Syrians used mobile missiles in a fixed configuration; they put the radars in the valley instead of the hills because they didn’t want to dig latrines–seriously.”
The conflict between the two countries continued through Jul. 1982. In over a month of fighting, Israel lost only two jets while Syria lost at least 87.
By the summer of 1953, the Korean War had raged on for three years. The back and forth maneuvers up and down the peninsula had given way to a stalemate known as the Battle of the Outposts.
All along the 38th Parallel, the belligerents attacked one another’s outposts in the hopes of affecting a breakthrough. Blocking the Communist forces from driving straight on Seoul through the Cheorwon Valley, in an area known as the “Iron Triangle,” were three lonely outposts: Tom, Dick, and Harry.
Outpost Harry was situated on a hilltop in front of the Main Line of Resistance and opposite a Chinese position known as Star Hill. Being so far out in front meant that resupply was difficult and always under enemy observation. Harry’s 1,280-foot elevation did nothing to help matters.
On the night of June 10, 1953, as negotiations to end the war took place just over 50 miles away, elements of the Chinese 74th Division attacked in force. The task of defending the outpost that night fell on K Company, 15th Infantry Regiment. Having spent the previous days improving their defenses and sighting in weapons, they were given the order to hold at all costs.
The attack began with a bombardment by mortars, rockets, and artillery. Suddenly the outpost was illuminated by enemy flares. Bugles and whistles sounded and over 3,600 Chinese soldiers rushed toward the outpost. The Americans rained fire down on the advancing Chinese. They exploded 55 gallon drums of Napalm in the midst of the attackers and blasted them with artillery. They were able to repulse two determined waves before the Chinese made it to the trenches and engaged in hand-to-hand combat. The Chinese were overrunning the outpost.
Lt. Sam Buck, Forward Observer from the 39th Artillery Battalion, was in the Command Post on Harry when it was overrun by the Chinese. As Chinese grenades exploded in the bunker and his comrades were wounded, he continued to resist, dropping any Chinese that came through the door with a burst from his carbine. Eventually wounded and unable to continue firing, he played dead while the Chinese occupied the bunker. The fighting was so intense, one of his last actions before being evacuated later that night was to put the Company Commander’s eyeball back in its socket.
With the defense of the outpost in peril the defenders were rallied by Sgt. Ola Mize. Throughout the attack Mize moved about the outpost tending to wounded, resupplying ammunition, and killing numerous enemies. Three times he was knocked down by explosions and three times he continued his mission. For his actions he was awarded the Medal of Honor.
Eventually artillery strikes called right on top of the outpost, along with reinforcements from C and E Companies, drove the Chinese out of the trenches. A diversionary attack by F Company, 65th Infantry Regiment also helped in clearing the area. The next morning only a handful of the original defenders were still in fighting shape. K Company was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for their gallantry at the outpost.
B Company, 15th Infantry Regiment relieved K Company and took up the defense of Harry on June 11. Again darkness fell, and the Chinese began bombarding the American positions. Advancing through their own artillery barrage, the Chinese were able to gain the trenches once again. The defenders threw back several attacks before being reinforced by B Company, 5th Regimental Combat Team. Together the two companies defeated a second Chinese regiment in as many nights. B Company, 15th Infantry was awarded the regiment’s second Presidential Unit Citation.
The next night it was A Company, 5th Regimental Combat Team’s turn on the outpost, and once again the Chinese sent a reinforced regiment against the American position. As before, the Chinese advanced through both their own artillery and the Americans’ before entering the trenches where bitter hand-to-hand combat took place. The 15th Infantry Regiment sent L Company to reinforce and drive out the Chinese while another unit of tanks and infantry assaulted through the valley in a diversionary attack. For their actions in the defense, A Company, 5th RCT was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation.
The following night, June 13, was relatively quiet. The main action was against a Chinese screening force that attempted to recover their dead from the area around the outpost.
On the night of June 14, a small Chinese force was able to close in on the trenches through their own artillery barrage and attack G Company, 15th Infantry from the rear of the outpost. Reinforcements from E Company, 15th Infantry and a diversionary attack by elements of the 65th Infantry drove the Chinese from the outpost once again.
The next two nights were quiet on the outpost and allowed for some much needed repairs. Men from the Sparta Battalion of the Greek Expeditionary Force were also brought into the area to reinforce the depleted and beleaguered defenders. The Chinese used this time to cobble together what was left of the 74th Division for one more attack on the outpost.
That attack came on the night of June 17. The Chinese threw everything they had left in one last desperate attempt to dislodge the defenders of Outpost Harry. That night the men of P Company, Sparta Battalion, bore the brunt of the Chinese attack. Friendly artillery pounded the slopes around the trenches while the Greeks threw back wave after wave of communist attackers. N Company, Sparta Battalion reinforced their brothers and drove off the Chinese. The 74th Division retreated from the area, combat ineffective after the battle with U.N. Forces. P Company was awarded the American Presidential Unit Citation for holding Outpost Harry the final night.
In total there were five Presidential Unit Citations given for action at Outpost Harry, as well as one Medal of Honor and numerous other personal awards for valor. Just over a month later the armistice was signed, and the defense of Outpost Harry was crucial in ensuring a favorable agreement.
There’s just something about two people in a fistfight that’s irresistible to watch. We can’t look away. There’s something about the sound of a sliding barstool, the rising tide of voices shouting, and the sudden rush of action in one spot that is just pure entertainment.
But there shouldn’t be any reason to stop and watch two soldiers fistfight in the middle of war.
That’s why it’s surprising that it actually happened. And all the onlookers were Americans – it was during the Civil War.
In May 1864, Union and Confederate armies clashed in a dense wooded area known as “The Wilderness” over the course of three days. More than 120,000 Yankees fought some 65,000 Rebels to an ultimately inconclusive result. Both sides took tens of thousands of killed and wounded, and the Union Army of the Potomac pushed further into Virginia.
Before anyone knew the outcome of the battle, however, one small skirmish captured everyone’s attention, Union and Confederate.
In the middle of the Wilderness, between the two armies’ centers, was a clearing called Saunders Field. Being the only real clearing in the area between two opposing armies meant that it was full of artillery shells and the holes made by those shells, along with bullets. Just tons of and tons of bullets.
As the two sides clashed near a gully in the field, a Union soldier hid there to avoid being captured by the enemy. Then a Confederate soldier threw himself into the gully to avoid the hail of Union bullets coming toward him. They were the only two in the gully and didn’t even see one another.
Until they did see one another. And then they started “bantering” to one another.
Eventually the two had enough of one another and decided to take it outside…of the gully. They stepped into the road for a good ol’ fashioned “fist and skull fight.” Whoever won would take the other as prisoner.
They were halfway between both sides of the battle, in full view of everyone in each opposing army. And the men in each of those armies stopped fighting the Civil War to watch a fistfight. All the other soldiers even ran up to get a better view of the fight.
Did I mention the Civil War stopped to watch this fight?
The account, written by a cavalryman of the Virginia Infantry, doesn’t mention how long the fight lasted, only that “Johnny [Reb] soon had the Yank down.” The Union soldier, true to his word, surrendered. They both returned to the gully, fighting resumed, and the man was taken back to Confederate lines.
Before the tank entered the lexicon of military history, there was horse cavalry.
The horse, like the modern day tank, provided support to the infantry and artillery. However, while every kingdom, like every modern nation today, has some sort of mobile land support designed to punch holes through enemy lines, only a handful of nations have the best trained. So here we take a look at 5 epic cavalry formations of the ancient world.
1. The Numidians (light cavalry)
The Numidians were from what is now Algeria and were known for their cavalry abilities.
The Numidian cavalry of the ancient world. (Photo Wikimedia Commons)
Hannibal used these Numidian cavalrymen during the Second Punic War. So what made the Numidian cavalry so darn good?
The Numidians saw many battles during Hannibal’s campaign in Roman Italy. The Greek historian Polybius, describes the Numidian warriors as light cavalry armed with missile weapons (javelins). The Battle of Cannae 216 BCE, showcased their abilities.
What made the Numidian cavalry so effective at Cannae is that unlike the Spaniard and Celtic cavalries that also accompanied Hannibal, the Spaniard and Celtic horsemen were heavy cavalries that fought en masse, much like the Roman cavalry. The Numidians, being light cavalry, fought in a much looser formation and because of this, they harassed the Roman cavalry with complicated tactics before disengaging.
And while the Celtic and Spaniard cavalries had the Roman cavalry fixed, the Numidians went from harassment to providing shock support once the Roman cavalry turned their back. This caused the Roman cavalry to flee once the Numidians made contact and understood that if they do not make a break for it, they would be enveloped and decimated.
2. The Scythians (light cavalry)
The Scythians may not be the original inventors of asymmetrical warfare, but one could argue that they perfected it.
(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
The Scythians were ancient nomadic horse warriors who were first mentioned by the Assyrians during the reign of Sargon II (reigned 722 – 705 BCE). What made these horsemen so powerful was that they were raised in the saddle and were typically armed with a distinctive composite bow.
The Scythian bow is unique and revered throughout the ancient world by kings, historians, and a philosopher. King Esarhaddon of Assyria had a Cimmerian bow, the Babylonian armies of Nebuchadnezzar II and Nabonidus were equipped with their bows and arrows, and even Hercules’ Greek portrait displays him armed with a Scythian bow. The Greek philosopher Plato said,
The customs of the Scythians proves our error; for they not only hold the bow from them with the left hand and draw the arrow to them with their right, but use either hand for both purposes.
When one examines the Scythian lifestyle, one can easily gain an understanding of the type of warfare necessarily carried on against more sedentary (non-migratory) people, like those in Mesopotamia. The Scythian took a guerilla approach to warfare as their method, using small bands to conduct military operations. Herodotus mentions their method of warfare when King Darius of Persia campaigned against them.
It is thus with me, Persian: I have never fled for fear of any man, nor do I now flee from you; this that I have done is no new thing or other than my practice in peace. But as to the reason why I do not straightway fight with you, this too I will tell you. For we Scythians have no towns or planted lands, that we might meet you the sooner in battle, fearing lest the one be taken or the other wasted. But if nothing will serve you but fighting straightway, we have the graves of our fathers; come, find these and essay to destroy them; then shall you know whether we will fight you for those graves or no. Till then we will not join battle unless we think it good.
The description indicates that the Scythians against whom Darius was warring had no center of gravity. King Darius’ military campaign into Scythia (modern Ukraine) went for nothing. As he could not catch them, the Scythians burnt their own their fields, destroyed Persian supplies, and harassed his forces with hit and run tactics.
In the end, Darius turned his large army around and headed home before it was annihilated.
3. The Parthians (light cavalry)
The Parthian horsemen are much like the Scythians.
The Parthians also known as the Parni/Aparni, originated from eastern Iran and like the Scythians, wore light attire, carried a composite bow and a sidearm — possibly a sword or a dagger. What made the Parthian horse archers so powerful was their ability to hit and run, and this was demonstrated at the Battle of Carrhae in 53 BCE between the Roman Republic and the Parthian Empire.
(Photo Wikimedia Commons)
The Roman general Crassus led his Roman legions into the desert wilderness thinking they were going to face a pussycat. Instead, they found themselves face-to-face with an equal foe. Once Crassus gave the order to form a square, the Parthian horse archers saw an opportunity. They showered the Romans with raining death.
The average Parthian horse archer, with a quiver of 30 arrows, loosed between eight to ten arrows a minute at Carrhae. It would take almost three minutes to exhaust his arsenal before needing to be resupplied. The amount of Parthian horse archers at the battle is estimated at 10,000. Now, if all 10,000 fired away for 20 minutes, the amount of arrows fired by an individual horse archer would have been between 160-200 arrows. Take 10,000 and the amount of arrows fired upon the Roman soldiers are estimated to have been an astounding 1.6-2 million arrows in a 20-minute timeframe.
In the convulsion and agony of their pain they writhed as the arrows struck them; the men broke them off in their wounds and then lacerated and disfigured their own bodies by trying to tear out by main force the barbed arrow heads that had pierced through their veins and muscles.
Romans could do little, for if they break formation they are dead, if they stand still they are dead but have a chance. Only nightfall saved them. While the Parthian horse archers showered the Romans with death, the Parthian cataphract was the hammer.
4. The Parthian Cataphract (heavy armored cavalry)
When it comes to heavy cavalry in the ancient world, the Parthian cataphract takes the lead.
Parthian heavy armored cataphract. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
The word cataphract comes from the Greek Kataphraktos means “completely enclosed.” The origins of the cataphract may not have started with the Parthians but with the Massagetae, who also inhabited portions of Eastern Iran three centuries before the arrival of the Parthians. If you want more info on this, click “here.”
The Parthian cataphract in many ways looked like the medieval knights of Europe. What made them so effective on the field of battle was that the rider and horse were covered in armor. The rider would carry a lance, sword, and presumably a bow.
At the Battle of Carrhae, the cataphract would charge into Roman lines once the legions locked shields to protect themselves from the arrows. According to Plutarch, the cataphracts would hit the lines with such a force that “many (Romans) perished hemmed in by the horsemen. Others were knocked over by the pikes or were carried off transfixed.”
This hit and run attack would go on for some time until the Roman broke and fled.
5. Late Roman Equites Cataphractarii and Sassanid Clibanarii (very heavily armored cavalry)
It may be an understatement to say that Equites cataphractarii were heavy cavalry as they were indeed the heaviest of the bunch.
among them were the full-armoured cavalry (whom they called clibanarii or cataphracti equites), all masked, furnished with protecting breastplates and girt with iron belts, so that you might have supposed them statues polished by the hand of Praxiteles, not men. Thin circles of iron plates, fitted to the curves of their bodies, completely covered their limbs; so that whichever way they had to move their members, their garment fitted, so skilfully were the joinings made
The Clibanarii were Sassanid. However, the Sassanids also used this term to describe the Equites cataphractarii. The description provided by Ammianus Marcellinus about the Clibanarii goes as follows:
Moreover, all the companies were clad in iron, and all parts of their bodies were covered with thick plates, so fitted that the stiff joints conformed with those of their limbs; and the forms of human faces were so skilfully fitted to their heads, that, since their entire bodies were plated with metal, arrows that fell upon them could lodge only where they could see a little through tiny openings fitted to the circle of the eye, or where through the tips of their noses they were able to get a little breath. Of these some, who were armed with pikes, stood so motionless that you would think them held fast by clamps of bronze.
The Persians opposed us serried bands of mail-clad horsemen in such close order that the gleam of moving bodies covered with closely fitting plates of iron dazzled the eyes of those who looked upon them, while the whole throng of horses was protected by coverings of leather.
So who had the best cavalry in the ancient world? Well, the answer to that question is the various nomads who dotted the Eurasian Steppe, Central Asia, and the Iranian plateau. These various nomads are the ones who not only perfected horse archery and heavy cavalry, they also brought civilization the chariot.
However, horse archers and heavy cavalry — no matter the kingdom — would come to an end once the gunpowder age arrived. Eventually new tactics took the rider off his mount and placed him into a tank.
The M247 Sgt. Alvin York was pitched to officials and lawmakers alike as a precision shooter in the same vein as its legendary namesake and the silver bullet that would stop all Soviet aircraft — especially the feared Mi-24 Hind attack helicopter — that dared fly too low and close to ground troops.
Instead, it was an expensive boondoggle that couldn’t fight, couldn’t shoot accurately, and couldn’t tell the difference between a toilet and an enemy aircraft.
The M247 came from a requirement for a “Division Air Defense” weapon, a platform that could move forward with armored and infantry divisions and protect them from air-to-ground attacks. But the program was opened when the U.S. was already in the middle of five large weapons programs, and money was tight.
Every part of the weapon had a demonstrated history of performance, and so the anti-aircraft Frankenstein monster was expected to perform. But the F-16’s radar was never designed to deal with the amount of ground clutter that the York would have to deal with. And the M48’s chassis were getting worn out after years of service.
Second, the old chassis sometimes broke down under the increased weight of the larger York turret and the engines weren’t strong enough to propel the weapon quickly.
In fact, the York weighed 62 tons, 17 tons more than the original Pattons. The extra weight slowed the M247 so much that it couldn’t keep pace with the M1 Abrams tanks and M2 Bradleys that it was designed to primarily protect.
Third, the awesome Swedish cannons on the York provided their own problems. While capable, they were mounted in such a way that a weapon pointing high in the sky would confuse the already troubled radar.
And finally, the weapon wasn’t even accurate. In some tests, it failed to hit helicopters hovering completely still.
So, it couldn’t keep up with the vehicles it escorted, couldn’t properly find low targets because of ground clutter, couldn’t find high targets because of its own gun, and then couldn’t accurately hit anything it could find.
Army and Ford engineers worked hard to iron out the kinks, but they still had to resort to gimmicks like attaching radar-bouncing panels to targets to get the system to pass basic tests.
In one important display, VIPs from the military and Congress were invited to watch the York perform. The system failed to spot its target and instead locked onto something in the stands. It swung its own gun around to track it and several visitors suffered injuries in the scramble to escape the stands.
We’ve all heard the familiar tune being blared over the intercom or performed live bright and early as the American flag is raised for the beginning of the day.
For other troops stationed on a military base, it’s the bugle call that made them dash for cover so they wouldn’t have to stand outside and salute on a cold morning or throw your pillow at the window in your barracks like it’s going to get the signal to stop — you get the point.
But the motivation behind the “Reveille” tune isn’t to just wake us up, but instead is to remind us of those who have served in remembrance.
Airmen salute the flag during reveille at the Eglin Professional Development Center. (Photo: Tech. Sgt. Jasmin Taylor)
Reveille comes from the French word “réveiller” or in English to “to wake up.”
In 1812, U.S. forces designated the iconic melody to call service members to muster up for roll call to start the work day.
It appears there is no official composer of the tune, which is used by about six countries like Denmark, Ireland, and Sweden to mark the start of the day.
The notes for each country do vary and they all have written different lyrics as well.
“Out on a hike all day, dear
Part of the army grind
Weary and long the way, dear
But really I don’t mind
I’m getting tired so I can sleep
I want to sleep so I can dream
I want to dream so I can be with you
I’ve got your picture by my bed
‘Twill soon be placed beneath my head
To keep me company the whole night through
For a little while, whatever befalls
I will see your smile till reveille calls
I hope you’re tired enough to sleep
And please sleep long enough to dream
And look for me for I’ll be dreaming too”
Click play on the video below and try to sing along.
(United States Air Force Band – Topic, YouTube)Fun fact: Reveille is also the official name of the Texas A&M mascot in the ROTC program — a dog. That is all.
The largest bombing raid of World War II was the British attack on Cologne, Germany, on May 30, 1942, when over 1,000 bombers were sent to destroy chemical and machine tool facilities there in a single-night attack.
The bombing raid took place before American forces had built up large concentrations of forces in Europe. Britain in 1942 was benefiting from American industry, but its bomber strength was still limited from the lingering effects of the Battle of Britain as well as the toll of regular combat sorties over German-held territory.
So the English forces had only 416 first-line bombers ready for missions. Air Marshal A.T. Harris, the Royal Air Force’s top officer for strategic bombing, had to decide how to use these bombers to best effect. Every mission launched resulted in lost planes Britain was struggling to replace, but every mission canceled allowed Germany to produce more of its own arms, including bombers and fighters.
Harris came up with a plan for getting more bombs on target while, hopefully, sacrificing fewer bombers. He reasoned that there were a fixed number of defenders at each target and a relatively fixed number of German interceptors that could reach a site during a bombing raid. He could trickle out his bombers over multiple missions at one target, limiting the number of bombs he would have to drop on each target, but that would allow the defenders to focus on fewer planes at once.
Or, he could change bomber doctrine and send an overwhelming number of bombers at once. Sure, this would draw the fire of every interceptor and every air defense crew within range, but they would have a limited time in which to attack the bombers. So, instead of German defenders having to fend off a few dozen or even a couple hundred planes, getting to rest and refit, and then doing it again, the defenders would have to defend against many hundreds of planes all at once.
He put together a plan to send not only the 416 first-line bombers, but also all available second-line and even training bombers, to Cologne, Germany, where workers made industrial goods and chemicals. Together, these units would send 1,046 bombers against the target in just 90 minutes. Prime Minister Winston Churchill approved the mission.
And so, on May 30, 1942, Operation Millennium was launched, and the over 1,000 planes dropped almost 1,500 tons of bombs on the target, damaging 600 acres of the city and crippling industrial output from Cologne. A bomb burst, on average, every two seconds. Britain lost 40 bombers, meaning that over 1,000 bombers made it back from Operation Millennium.
But the raid was not without criticism then or now. Strategic bombing in early-World War II was not accurate, and night raids had to be launched against cities, not against pinpoint targets. Many British bombers in 1942 were still using the Course Setting Bomb Sight from World War I, and even those with Britain’s Mark XIV bomb sight could not target an individual building.
Approximately 45,000 Germans were made homeless by the bombing raid, and 469 were killed. But, for Allied leaders, the juice was worth the squeeze. After all, Britain had suffered similar losses in single-night bombing raids against London in 1941, so they weren’t about to cry themselves to sleep over dead German civilians. And, even better for Britain, those 40 planes lost in the raid amounted to 4 percent casualties.
Royal Air Force bombing missions over Germany would, over the course of the war, result in an average of 5 percent losses per mission, so suffering 4 percent losses while wiping out the target in a single mission was an intriguing prospect. As Churchill telegraphed to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, “I hope you were pleased with our mass air attack… there is plenty more to come.”
No other single attack would have as many bombers as the attack on Cologne, but raids against targets like Dresden in 1945 would feature over 700 bombers.
When America threw its weight behind the Allies in World War I, optimistic politicians and the writers of the day predicted that, soon, tens of thousands of top-tier planes would pour from American factories to the front lines, blackening the skies over the “Huns.” In reality, American aviation was too-far behind the combatants to catch up, and so American pilots took to the air with French castoffs that gave them diarrhea and nausea, obscured their vision, and would lose its wings during combat.
A pilot in his Nieuport 28 fighter aircraft.
(San Diego Air and Space Museum)
World War I plane designs relied on a small selection of engines, and most of them were lubricated with castor oil. As the war wore on and the oil was in short supply, Germany did turn to substitutes. But most engines, especially the rotary designs that gave a better power-to-weight ratio crucial for flight, actually burnt castor oil that escaped in the exhaust.
America’s top ace of the war, Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, was famous around the aerodrome for often running around the corners of buildings after he landed so he could vomit from a combination of airsickness and castor oil exposure. He eventually got control of his stomach and could fly confidently, but it was a significant distraction for a long time.
But the bigger problem for early American pilots was that the U.S. had to buy French planes, and France kept their best models for their own pilots. So America got planes like the Nieuport 28. The manufacturers had little time to test designs before they had to press them into production and service, and the 28 had one of the worst flaws imaginable.
In rigorous aerial flight, if U.S. pilots took a common but aggressive aerial maneuver, their top wings could break away.
American pilot Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker with his Nieuport 28 in World War I.
Yup. They would lose their literal, physical wings.
It was a biplane design, meaning that it had two sets of wings, one above the other. That upper set of wings was attached with a thin spar. It would break if subjected to significant strain.
And World War I pilots attempting to escape a fight gone bad would often trade altitude for speed and distance. They did this by diving a short distance and then pulling up hard. The plane would gain speed during the fall, and the aviator could hopefully get away before the pursuer could get a bead and fire.
But the weak upper wings of the Nieuport 28 couldn’t always take the sudden force of the pull up after the dive, and so an upper wing would snap during the pull up. So the pilot, already in a dire situation, would suddenly have less lift and it would be unequal across the wings, sending the pilot into a spinning fall.
The Spad XIII didn’t have the drawbacks of the Nieuport 28, but it also had a worse power-to-weight ratio and maneuverability.
(San Diego Air and Space Museum)
Despite these handicaps, American aviators proved themselves faster learners and braver than their allies had expected, leading to a grudging respect from the other pilots.
And, eventually, America would get access to the Spad XIII, an aircraft about as quick as the Nieuport 28 but without the weak wings. But, by that point, not everyone wanted to give up the Nieuport. That was partially because the Nieuport had great handling at high speed as long as the pilot knew how to nurse the engine and not exceed the tolerances for the wings.
The Spad XIII was a little more reliable and stable in normal flight, but some American pilots felt like they couldn’t maneuver as tightly in the new planes, and they actually fought to keep the Nieuport 28s.
Ernest “Ernie” K. Tabata was born on Oahu, Hawaii in 1930. The son of Japanese immigrants, he began his military career at the age of 15 with the Hawaiian Territorial Guard. In 1949, he enlisted in the Army and completed combat engineer school at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.
In June 1950, Tabata was among the first American soldiers sent to the Korean War. During the war, he served with the 14th Combat Engineer Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division. Afterwards, he returned to Hawaii and was honorably discharged in 1952. However, his Army career didn’t end there.
In 1955, Tabata re-enlisted in the Army. He spent the next six years as a paratrooper in the 11th and 82nd Airborne Divisions. In 1961, he applied for Special Forces and made the cut. Following Special Forces training at Fort Bragg, Tabata was assigned to the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) and deployed to Southeast Asia.
As the Vietnam War heated up, Tabata volunteered for the clandestine mobile training team codenamed Operation White Star. Under the command of Green Beret legend Arthur “Bull” Simmons, Tabata and other Green Berets secretly trained the Royal Lao Army. In 1964, he was reassigned to the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne)and deployed to Vietnam where he trained the Montagnards. The next year, he was reassigned again to the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) in Okinawa. There, he served as a team sergeant on a HALO Team.
While assigned to 5th SFG, Tabata and his detachment were sent to Korea. They trained the elite Korean White Horse Division and prepared them for their own deployment to Vietnam. In November 1965, Tabata was deployed to Vietnam himself. For his third combat tour, Tabata joined the elite Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Studies and Observation Group, better known as MACV-SOG.
After completing his tour with MACV-SOG, Tabata returned to the states in August 1970. He served with the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) and 12th Engineer Battalion. Following his promotion to Sgt. Major, Tabata served as the senior enlisted advisor to the assistant division commander, 8th Infantry Division, in Mainz, Germany. In 1978, he returned to Special Forces with 7th SFG(A). He retired from active duty in 1981 after 31 years of service.
In November 1984, Tabata returned to Special Forces as a civilian instructor. Working for the Special Forces Training Group, he instructed Special Forces engineers during the specialized training. He also provided demolitions instruction to Special Forces Warrant Officers. During his time as a civilian instructor, he participated in static-line jumps to maintain his jump qualification as an instructor.
In 2014, Tabata retired from the United States Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School as an instructor. He tallied up a total of 59 years of honorable federal service. He passed away the next year. To recognize Tabata’s lifetime of service, the Special Forces Engineer Training Facility was named for him in 2018. “There is not a Combat Engineer who has not benefited from Ernie’s vast knowledge and skills,” said Donald Bennett, Jr., President of Special Forces Association Chapter 4-24. He remains one of the most well-known figures in the Special Forces community for his dedication, professionalism, and commitment to excellence.
When retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Harry Goldsworthy joined the United States military, there was no independent Air Force. He was joining to get a commission in the Army infantry. Little did he know he would serve during the Air Force’s most important moments, under one of its legends: Curtis LeMay.
Goldsworthy reflected on his life and career on his 107th birthday, April 6, 2021. To celebrate, he rode in a parade driven by the Southern California Patriot Guard Riders.
“I get asked all the time, ‘What did you do to live so long?’ I tell them I think it’s just God’s will. Sometimes I wonder whether he’s rewarding me or punishing me,” he jokingly told WCAX News.
The centenarian also says his secret to a long life is to drink a shot of vodka every night before bed. That’s just how the old timers roll – and no one is more “old timer” than Harry Goldsworthy. He and a friend joined the military in 1936 near their hometown in Washington state. Within three years, he found himself at Texas’ Kelly Field, learning to fly single-engine aircraft.
After the outbreak of World War II, Goldsworthy cut his teeth hunting German U-boats in the Caribbean Sea, using B-18 Bolo bombers, specially fitted to hunt submarines. It was his job to keep them from being able to surface.
In 1945, he was relocated to the South Pacific theater, where he was flying combat missions in support of Allied operations in the Philippines, Balikpapan and Borneo. He was forced to bail out on his last combat mission. Over the island of Luzon, his B-25 Mitchell bomber took heavy fire from the ground.
Goldsworthy landed safely in the jungles, and even kept part of the parachute that saved his life. The war eventually ended and Goldsworthy opted to stay in the newly-created U.S. Air Force. His work as a unit commander at every level was worthy of recognition – he was eventually awarded the Legion of Merit for his staff officer work.
He would soon find himself in the Pentagon, where he would help shape the new service, ushering in the era of jet-powered flight. Far from the skies above Japan, Korea or Vietnam, Goldsworthy tackled the Air Force’s biggest logistical problems, including transportation, supplies and foreign sales.
He was also instrumental in building the silos for yet-to-be-constructed nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) during the Cold War. It was Goldsworthy who made haste, with which Atlas, Minuteman, and Titan ICBMs capable of launch, countered the Soviet Union’s first-strike capability.
In his 33-year career, the retired general also flew more than 30 different Air Force aircraft, many of them instrumental to the Air Force’s air power achievements overseas, including the B-52 Stratofortress and F-105 Thunderchief. He even drew up specs for the F-15 Fighter.
Goldsworthy first retired from the military as a Lt. Gen, in 1973 before going to work for Boeing. At 107, he is believed to be the oldest living general. He told Military.com that the fighter aircraft they have today, such as the F-35 Thunderbolt II, are so advanced and technical, he’s not sure he’d be able to fly one of them.
There is a Goldsworthy at the stick of the latest generation of fighters, however. One of his great-nephews is an F-35 pilot.
Sitting in the driver’s seat with his foot on the gas, Major Gerald “Jerry” Johnson drove to the Alert Tent in the early morning hours of Oct. 13, 1943, as jeeps carrying other pilots from the 9th Fighter Squadron, 49th Fighter Group, Fifth Air Force trailed in a column behind. On his mind were the names of other pilots who were lost in a mission the night before, friends of his with whom he had shared pancakes in the mornings and gambled his valuables away in late-night poker games. They were briefed on the mission and sat around for hours in boredom at Horanda Air Field, a large stretch of land that was formerly just another patch in the New Guinea jungle.
When Johnson and his squadron of eight P-38 Lightnings were alerted, they took to the air to intercept a massive aerial convoy of 18 dive bombers supported by 20 agile fighters. They were outnumbered and outgunned, but Johnson wasn’t entirely concerned about that as all he could focus on was reaching the enemy before they dropped their payload over Oro Bay, an advanced military shipping installation.
9th Fighter Squadron, 49th Fighter Group. Squadron posing in front of a P-38 Lightning commemorating the first USAAF pilots to land and operate in the Philippines after the landing on Leyte, October 1944. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
As his plane climbed through the clouds, the bombers came closer into his sights. He maneuvered his aircraft and issued orders over the radio to communicate their approach. The Japanese were unaware that they were being trailed in the air when Johnson and his squadron ambushed the enemy, walking his rounds from the nose of the aircraft into one of the dive bombers, igniting the plane’s fuselage.
Black smoke and a flash of flames burst through the plane’s side as the bomber plummeted out of the sky. The Japanese zeros peeled off, and an all-out dogfight ensued. On numerous passes, Johnson evaded the tracers shot by Japanese fighters, diving and climbing, rolling and tilting before his rounds struck and downed a second enemy bomber. Their surprise attack netted him three aerial victories, two bombers and one enemy fighter, a solid day’s work that impeded the enemy formation from reaching its target.
A P-38 Lightning prepares to land after flying a heritage flight with the F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter April 3, 2016, during the Luke Air Force Base air show, 75 Years of Airpower. Photo by Staff Sgt. Staci Miller/U. S. Air Force, courtesy of DVIDS.
The large enemy force diverted away from their intended target as Johnson’s small but ferocious display of aerial finesse surprised and overwhelmed the Japanese. For his actions on this day he was awarded his first of two Distinguished Service Crosses. In his following tours, Johnson was a nightmare for the Japanese in the Pacific, earning 22 aerial victories with 21 probables to secure his status as a quadruple ace (five aerial victories are required to achieve “ace” status).
Sadly, while on a courier mission after the war, the B-17 or B-25 he was in entered severe weather, and a violent mixture of rain, lightning, and turbulence knocked out all radio communications. One of the passengers neglected to bring along a parachute, and knowing the consequences of giving up his own, Johnson handed it to the passenger, who then bailed out of the plane. Everyone with a parachute was rescued and survived, while Johnson fought with the controls until he perished. Accounts vary as to whether he was the pilot or a passenger on the plane.
Johnson’s remains were lost with the rest of the aircraft. Since he wasn’t on a combat mission, his heroic last act on Oct. 7, 1945, did not warrant a posthumous Purple Heart; however, he was awarded the Soldier’s Medal for heroism at the risk of life in a non-combat-related incident. A hero in the sky even on his final flight. Gerald R. Johnson is sometimes confused with Gerald W. Johnson, another ace pilot during World War II, but the latter’s aerial dominance was in the European Theater and not the Pacific.
Butch O’Hare: The Irish-American Who Became the US Navy’s First Combat Ace
By the time Nazi Germany launched Operation Barbarossa, they were already at war with the British Empire, Yugoslavia, and Greece. Poland, France, and much of Western Europe had already fallen, but governments in exile joined the Allied effort against the Axis powers. So, the natural thing to do would be invade the world’s largest country, right?
If you’re Hitler, obviously, your answer is yes.
But Hitler just secured dominance of Continental Europe and was risking it by going up against a major world power with whom he had a treaty of nonaggression. Hitler’s lebensraum theory aside, the reason he launched the 1941 attack on the Soviet Union is that he just didn’t know how strong the Soviet Union actually was.
Intel and all that.
Yeah, no big deal.
There is only one audio recording of Adolph Hitler speaking in a conversational voice, as opposed to the multitude of films of the man making incendiary speeches at rallies and events. He is speaking with the Commander-In-Chief of Finnish Defense Forces Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim, who was engaged with the Third Reich in a war against the USSR.
“If someone had told me that a country could start with 35,000 tanks, then I’d have said, ‘You are crazy!’,” the German dictator told Mannerheim in the 1942 recording. “If one of my generals had stated that any nation had 35,000 tanks, I’d have said: ‘You, my good sir, you see everything twice or ten times.You are crazy, you are seeing ghosts.’“
In the 11-minute audio clip obtained by the History Channel, Mannerheim and Hitler were recorded secretly by a Finnish engineer, since Hitler would never allow such recordings. The SS soon realized the dictator was being recorded and ordered the engineer to shut it off immediately. He was somehow allowed to keep it a secret — and he did, until 1957.
“It was unbelievable,” he said of a factory in Donetsk that was able to produce some 3,000-6,000 tanks alone before the Nazis shut it down.
But Hitler goes on to say that even if he had known about the military and industrial capacity of the Soviet Union’s massive centralized labor force and output potential, he would have invaded anyway. By the winter of 1939-1940, he says, it was clear there would be war between them. He just knew he couldn’t fight the Soviets and the Western Allies in a two-front war — saying it would have broken Nazi Germany.
Well, he got that part right at least.
The Führer goes on to admit that the Germans were poorly prepared to fight a war in the extreme weather of the Eastern Front.
“Our whole armament, you know, is a pure good weather armament,” He said. “It is very capable, very good, but is unfortunately just a good weather armament. Our weapons were naturally made for the West… and it was the opinion from the earliest of times: you cannot wage war in winter.”
I’m pretty sure this depiction of Soviet General Winter is what inspired Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.”
Hitler goes on to talk smack about the “weakness of Italy,” referring to Mussolini’s failures in North Africa, Albania, and Greece, where German army and air assets were forced to divert from the buildup to invading the USSR to instead go rescue Italian troops being repulsed by the Greeks. Three entire divisions were sent to reinforce the Italians instead of invading Russia.
He believed the Soviets had their own designs on ruling all of Europe and that he had to launch when he did to keep them from capturing the oil fields in Romania, which Hitler believed would have been Nazi Germany’s death blow — which wasn’t entirely wrong.
That’s why the U.S. Army Air Corps blew it up in 1943.
Since the recording was cut off, no one really knows what else the two men talked about in their secret meeting that day, but it’s believed that in that meeting, Mannerheim realized Hitler’s position was weak and would no longer act subordinate to him for the duration of World War II.
Airman 1st Class William “Pits” Pitsenbarger was a Pararescueman during the Vietnam War. Less than a year after receiving orders, he would go on to fly nearly 300 rescue missions and save over 60 men before sacrificing himself to aid others during one of the most brutal battles of an already harsh war. When offered the chance to escape on the last helicopter out of the combat zone, Pits stayed behind to protect the lives of others and was later killed by Viet Cong snipers.
The Last Full Measure is the long-awaited story of how the men he saved would try to procure him the Medal of Honor — and the dark reason why the American government resisted.
Check out the final trailer, released today:
“The sacrifices of the fallen will never be forgotten,” intones Christopher Plummer, who plays the father of William Pitsenbarger. The Last Full Measure, written and directed by Todd Robinson, also stars Sebastian Stan, Samuel L. Jackson, Ed Harris, and William Hurt.
“Todd Robinson’s riveting drama chronicles one man’s sacrifice and valor on the battlefield, and we believe it also highlights an aspect of American patriotism overdue for recognition. Everyone should know about William Pitsenbarger’s bravery and life, and it’s a privilege to bring this film to theaters where it should be seen,” said Roadside’s Howard Cohen and Eric d’Arbeloff, as reported by Deadline.
Pits was initially posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross, becoming the first enlisted Airman to receive it, before it was upgraded to the Medal of Honor.
William “Pits” Pitsenbarger
(U.S. Air Force photo)
Medal of Honor Citation
“Airman First Class Pitsenbarger distinguished himself by extreme valor on April 11, 1966 near Cam My, Republic of Vietnam, while assigned as a Pararescue Crew Member, Detachment 6, 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron. On that date, Airman Pitsenbarger was aboard a rescue helicopter responding to a call for evacuation of casualties incurred in an on-going firefight between elements of the United States Army’s 1st Infantry Division and a sizable enemy force approximately 35 miles east of Saigon. With complete disregard for personal safety, Airman Pitsenbarger volunteered to ride a hoist more than one hundred feet through the jungle, to the ground.
On the ground, he organized and coordinated rescue efforts, cared for the wounded, prepared casualties for evacuation, and insured that the recovery operation continued in a smooth and orderly fashion. Through his personal efforts, the evacuation of the wounded was greatly expedited. As each of the nine casualties evacuated that day were recovered, Pitsenbarger refused evacuation in order to get one more wounded soldier to safety. After several pick-ups, one of the two rescue helicopters involved in the evacuation was struck by heavy enemy ground fire and was forced to leave the scene for an emergency landing. Airman Pitsenbarger stayed behind, on the ground, to perform medical duties.
Shortly thereafter, the area came under sniper and mortar fire. During a subsequent attempt to evacuate the site, American forces came under heavy assault by a large Viet Cong force. When the enemy launched the assault, the evacuation was called off and Airman Pitsenbarger took up arms with the besieged infantrymen. He courageously resisted the enemy, braving intense gunfire to gather and distribute vital ammunition to American defenders. As the battle raged on, he repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire to care for the wounded, pull them out of the line of fire, and return fire whenever he could, during which time, he was wounded three times. Despite his wounds, he valiantly fought on, simultaneously treating as many wounded as possible.
In the vicious fighting which followed, the American forces suffered 80 percent casualties as their perimeter was breached, and airman Pitsenbarger was finally fatally wounded. Airman Pitsenbarger exposed himself to almost certain death by staying on the ground, and perished while saving the lives of wounded infantrymen. His bravery and determination exemplify the highest professional standards and traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Air Force.”
He was also posthumously awarded the rank of Staff Sergeant. Other awards and medals include the Air Force Cross, the Airman’s Medal, and two Purple Hearts. His name can be found on Panel 06E Line 102 of the Vietnam Wall.
Following the battle, Pitsenbarger’s fellow PJ’s and soldiers who he saved in combat embarked on an over 30 year effort to upgrade his Air Force Cross to a Medal of Honor. In the trailer, William Hurt, who plays a fellow PJ, describes the situation as “Justice delayed is justice denied.”
Finally, in 2000, Pitsenbarger received the Medal of Honor in a cermony attended by his parents, fellow veterans and the Secretary of the Air Force. The Last Full Measure will release in theaters on January 24th, 2020.