33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa - We Are The Mighty
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33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa

The Battle of Okinawa, known as Operation Iceberg by the Allies, eventually consisted of 306,000 service members assaulting fierce defenses manned by 130,000 Japanese troops and an unknown number of local civilians, including children, drafted into the defenses.


The island was critical for the planned invasion of Japan, but the losses were enormous.

Here are 33 photos that give a look inside of one of America’s most costly battles of World War II:

1. For days before the invasion, Navy ships bombarded the island with naval artillery and rockets. This photo was taken five days before the amphibious assault.

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

2. A Navy Corsair fires a salvo of rockets during Operation Iceberg, the Allied effort to capture Okinawa, the largest of the Ryukyu Islands.

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

3. The USS Idaho shells the island of Okinawa on April 1, 1945.

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

4. Marines land on the beachhead already secured on the island. These infantrymen will continue pressing the attack against approximately 130,000 defenders.

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa
(Photo: U.S. Department of Defense)

5. U.S. landing ships sit beached and burning on May 4 near the mouth of the Bishi River after a Japanese air attack.

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa

6. Famed war correspondent Ernie Pyle speaks with U.S. Marines a short time before his death on the island.

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa

7. A long exposure photograph shows the crisscrossing lines of Marine anti-aircraft fire over the U.S. airfield established on Okinawa.

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

8. A May 11, 1945, morning artillery barrage kicks off an all-out offensive.

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

9. Japanese rockets rain down on and near U.S. positions during heavy fighting on Okinawa.

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa

10. The infamous battleship Yamato, sent to Okinawa to attempt to beach itself and act as a shore battery until destroyed, is sank at sea on April 7 before it can reach the island.

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa

11. Army Lt. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr., at right, surveys fighting just a few hours before Japanese artillery killed him.

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

12. A Sherman tank drives past a burning home. The structure was set on fire to prevent its use by snipers.

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa

13. Marines attempt to extinguish the flames on an overturned Sherman tank. The ammo later exploded before the Army crew could be rescued.

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa

14. Engineers construct a causeway from the island to the sea to allow supplies to be trucked from ships to shore.

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa

15. American service members move supplies by horse in areas where the mud was impassable for vehicles.

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa

16. Okinawan civilians hired to carry supplies line up to receive their loads.

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa

17. A flamethrowing tank attacks Hill 60 during the Marine assault on the mound.

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa

18. A Japanese plane goes down in flames over the ocean.

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa

19. The HMS Formidable of the Royal Navy burns after a May 4 Kamikaze attack. Eight crew members were lost and 55 injured, but the Formidable survived the war.

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa
(Photo: Royal Navy)

20. Marine Corps infantrymen ride a tank to the town of Ghuta on April 1 to occupy it before Japanese defenders can.

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

21. A Marine sprints across the “Valley of Death,” a draw covered by Japanese machine guns that caused 125 casualties in eight hours.

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

22. Marines explode dynamite charges to destroy a Japanese cave on the island.

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

23. The USS Bunker Hill burns after two Kamikaze strikes in less than a minute. At least 346 sailors were killed and 43 went missing.

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

24. The Bunker Hill survived and returned to the U.S. for repairs. It served as a troop transport after the war before it was sent to the fleet reserve.

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

25. Wounded sailors are moved from the Bunker Hill to the USS Wilkes Barre.

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

26. Army soldiers move forward during the 82-day battle.

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa

27. A private cuts a sergeant’s hair in the Japanese city of Shuri on the island. A medieval castle in the city survived the battle.

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

28. Marines rest on the side of a hill as Japanese fire prevents their further advance.

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

29. A tank crewmember is relocated after suffering injuries.

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

30. Wounded troops await transport to a ship hospital.

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

31. Marine Lt. Col. R.P. Ross, Jr. places an American flag on Shuri castle on May 29, 1945. Ross was under sniper fire at the time.

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa
(Photo: U.S. Department of Defense)

32. The American flag is raised over the island June 22 in a ceremony marking the end of organized Japanese resistance.

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa

33. A U.S. servicemember visits an American cemetery. The U.S. suffered over 12,000 killed and 50,000 wounded during the battle. Japan suffered over 150,000 soldiers and civilians killed or committed suicide.

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa

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Ecstasy to treat post traumatic stress? The FDA says MDMA research is a go

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa
Molly, the powdered form of MDMA, was a popular street drug in the 80s and 90s. Soon, it could be used to treat PTSD. Photo credit Tanjila Ahmed


The Food and Drug Administration has approved a large-scale clinical trial of MDMA to explore the possibility of using it to treat PTSD according to The New York Times.

MDMA is more commonly referred to as Ecstasy, E, X, or Molly, a street drug that gained popularity between its introduction in the 70s and its subsequent ban in 1985 as a party drug. In 1985, the Drug Enforcement Agency classified Ecstasy as a Schedule 1 drug, making it illegal in any capacity.

Chemist Alexander Shulgin, a WWII Navy veteran, was the first to notice the “euphoria-inducing traits” and originally intended MDMA to be a drug which might treat anxiety, among other emotional issues.

His dream was cut short during the height of Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign, and he died in 2014 before that dream became reality.

Charles R. Marmar, the head of psychiatry at New York University’s Langone School of Medicine, has spent much of his career focused on PTSD. While not directly involved in the small scale studies leading up to the FDA’s approval of the new study, Marmar is “cautious but hopeful,” according to The New York Times.

“If they can keep getting good results, it will be of great use,” Marmar told The New York Times. However, Marmar noted that MDMA is a “feel good drug” and prone to abuse.

The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a non-profit founded in 1986 to explore the medicinal and societal value of psychedelic drugs and marijuana, funded the six small-scale studies that lead to the approval by the FDA.

According to a report in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, subjects in the small-scale studies had previously been unresponsive to traditional therapy. They participated in psychotherapy sessions; during two to three of those sessions, they were given Ecstasy.

The studies treated a total of 130 PTSD patients, most of whom could no longer be classified as meeting the “criteria for having PTSD.”

According to The New York Times, the researchers involved in the study have applied for “breakthrough therapy status” with the FDA.

If the FDA approves that request, and the studies continue to show similar results, Ecstasy could be a viable treatment for veterans with PTSD by 2021.

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The day an 11 year-old veteran supporter became a soldier

Many kids want to be a soldier when they grow up. Michael Kelsey, an 11-year-old from Marshfield, Missouri, is one of them.


But he’s a little different since he suffers from a brain tumor.

But recently, Kelsey got to live his dream for one action-packed day.

According to a release from Fort Leonard Wood, Kelsey has not allowed his health problem to keep him from trying to support who he views as real heroes. Kelsey collected various toiletry items to donate to troops. When his mother contacted the local USO to arrange the donation, the topic turned to the 11-year-old’s health.

The Fort Leonard Wood USO then moved to make the sick child’s dream come true. Soon, Kelsey was invited to the installation, which not only conducts Basic Combat Training for new soldiers, but which also hosts the United States Army Maneuver Support Center of Excellence. He arrived under the notion that he would be dropping off the items he had collected; however, once there, he was surprised.

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa
Eleven year-old Michael Kelsey becomes a soldier for a day on Fort Leonard Wood. (Photo Credit: Dawn M Arden, Fort Leonard Wood)

Drill sergeants from C Company, 3rd Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment, issued Kelsey a uniform in the Operational Camouflage Pattern. Kelsey then got rides in military vehicles, drilled with troops, and, after a meal in the dining facility, met Brig. Gen. James Bonner, commandant of the Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear School.

Kelsey visited a number of units at the installation, receiving goodie bags and learning soldier skills at each visit. Col. Tracy Lanier, the base commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. Tyson Gooslby, though, provided the capstone event, naming the 11-year-old to the Honorable Order of “The Rough Riders” to salute his courage. Michael Kelsey is only the 11th individual to receive this honor.

“Thank you to all of the soldiers who helped make this happen,” Kelsey said. “Today was the best day of my life.”

While his future is uncertain due to the tumor, it is safe to say that for a day, the Army managed to win a fight against that medical condition.

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This is why coffee machines are banned in the Combat Operations Center

The Marine Corps operates continuously in every clime, place, day or night. The heartbeat of the battlefield is the Combat Operations Center. By design it will work with high tech machines or on the move with radios and whiteboards. The Communications Officer is in charge of setting up encryption and making sure the battalion commander has the ability to talk to his officers. Out of all the things that are a threat to readiness, the ‘Comms O’ will always ban the use of coffee machines.

Energy needs of the equipment

Combat Operations Center energy needs are strictly monitored. Every radio, from the PRC-119 (and variants) to the high-powered antennas used at the company level and above. They need a lot of energy to transmit radio waves. Different factors such as line of sight, elevation, interference, distance, and power sources dictate what cannot be used in the COC. The power output increases and decreases to match what is going on in the field. Battery charging is the priority for obvious reasons. It is easy to underestimate the drain a coffee maker can have. If a troop disregards the standard operating procedures, it can easily knock out the topology if it is running at max power to communicate with far flung platoons. The Comms Shop will adjust the power needs for what they expect. A Coffee machine is a wrench in the engine.

combat operations center
There’s no extra time or power for coffee makers here. Wouldn’t it be nice, though?

Ironically the culprits of disregarding the ‘no coffee machines’ ban in COCs are of the brass variety. The higher in the pecking order, the easier it is to dismiss a corporal watching in horror. Luckily, this is what training is for, to do the mistakes in the field and not overseas where they count. Time and time again, without fail, the first field op a battalion conducts will lose comm because an officer gave into the temptation of a hot cup of Joe.

Rock, paper, I out rank you

This one time, an unpopular Comms O, ranted for about 15 minutes to not use coffee machines during a Command and Staff meeting. Unbeknownst to him, the colonel specifically had gourmet coffee packed with the COC gear. Fortunately, the field op was an offense and defense exercise that did not require any live fire training. In the middle of the night a little red night turned on and the COC turned off. From a distance, one heard a rampaging Comms O barreling towards the tent ready to rip the perpetrator in two.

Inside he found the three of top brass fiddling with the machine. Of course, the lower enlisted got the ass chewing for not stopping the colonel and two majors from doing what they wanted. To their credit, the senior officers took the blame for what they caused. The Comms O said that ‘that is not how any of this works’. If they wanted coffee that bad, they could have told him and he would’ve fired up a new generator just for them.

This is one of those things that is learned the hard way that is never included in the ‘lessons learned’ report at the conclusion of a field exercise. It’s a womp, womp moment every unit goes through that they will not admit. The coffee maker is an EMP waiting to happen. It is unofficially accounted for when gauging the battalion’s energy needs. The good news is that it’s a problem identified, corrected, and not repeated past the first op as a unit. The coffee machine is banned unless the Comm O says so.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why the US military needs to seriously rethink ‘recruiter goals’

Each year, the United States Armed Forces projects the amount of troops that will exit the service and how many new bodies it needs to fill the gaps in formation. This number is distributed accordingly between the branches and then broken down further for each recruiting station, depending on the location, size of the local population, and typical enlistment rates of each area.

This is, at a very basic level, how recruiter quotas work. If the country is at war, the need for more able-bodied recruits rises to meet the demand. When a war is winding down, as we’re seeing today, you would reasonably expect there to be less pressure on recruiters to send Uncle Sam troops — but there’s not. Not by a long shot.


33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa

“Come show off at the pull-up bars for the low, low price of taking a business card!”

(Dept. of the Army photo by Ronald A. Reeves)

The most obvious fault with “recruiter goals,” or the quota policy, is that it makes fulfilling the quota the single most important responsibility of the recruiter. So, recruiters will go out and put their best foot forward in the name of their branch in hopes that it’ll inspire someone to enlist — despite all of the other things they need to be doing.

Recruiters generally love going to county fairs or air shows and having loads of civilians flock to their booth — otherwise, they wouldn’t be recruiters. These events give civilians, some of whom may have never interacted with a service member, a friendly one-on-one that could — maybe, just maybe — inspire them to one day serve their country.

At the end of the day, that’s all recruiters can ultimately do to bring in recruits, sow the seeds of military service. Recruiters can’t put a gun to anyone’s head to make them sign on the dotted line and they have to respect a person’s decision to turn down Uncle Sam’s offer.

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa

By all means, we should commend and praise the recruiters who go above and beyond — but the hammer that’s dropped is unjustly cruel.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Daniel Butterfield)

Still, recruiters are expected to enlist a certain amount of recruits into military service — despite the fact that it’s outside the scope of their responsibilities to direct herds of civilians to their offices. They still have to handle all the day-to-day operations of the recruiting station, the plethora of paperwork required by each new recruit, limiting the stress of and mentoring potential recruits, teaching delayed-entry recruits, and acting like a chauffeur between the recruiting depot and MEPS. You could be the most attentive recruiter the military has ever seen, constantly doing everything in your power to best prepare the recruit for military life, but the only metric that matters in the eyes of Big Recruiting is that one, big number.

To make matters worse, the pool of eligible recruits is dwindling as the criteria for service keeps getting stricter.

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa

My honest opinion? Scrap the negative consequences for not meeting quota but institute minor, but enjoyable benefits that would encourage recruiters to try harder — like a half a day of leave added to their LES for each recruit they bring in or whatever seems more applicable.

(Photo by Dan Desmet, New York District Public Affairs)

All this being said, the quota isn’t entirely without merit. It lets the higher-ups know, at a glance, that a recruiter is keeping their word to the Pentagon. Some might even say that it motivates recruiters to get out there and keep hustling bodies into their office. But the quota has caused much more undue stress than it should.

To put it as bluntly as possible, recruiters are killing themselves for not reaching an arbitrary number, set outside of their control. Recruiters are forced to work longer hours and weekends (up to 15 hours per day, seven days per week in some cases) when crunch time comes. Recently, recruiters were almost denied holiday time — not as in block leave, but spending Christmas morning with their families — because they didn’t meet numbers.

This is nothing new and the stress military recruiters face has been front and center of national discussion for ages now.

The fact is, there’s no simple solution because the numbers still need to be met — but just because it’s not a simple problem doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to fix it. Perhaps we should shift the focus on strengthening the recruits that willingly walk in the door, or we should bring more troops into recruiting stations to lighten the load of the already-overworked recruiters. Something, anything, needs to be done.

It is completely understandable that the military needs new recruits. Check roger. But we cannot sit idly by without addressing the major stressor that causes recruiters to commit suicide at three times the rate of the rest of the Army — which already has a suicide rating twice of the general population.

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Exclusive interview: Marine colonel turned Hollywood Producer Peter Barnett on The Sopranos, East Bound & Down, Narcos and the USMC

Retired Marine Colonel Peter Barnett spent 30 years in the Corps as a Naval Aviator, Intelligence Officer and a recruiter, before taking his leadership skills to Hollywood to become a successful executive. Barnett joined the Corps in 1983 and became a Naval Aviator and Huey helicopter pilot. He deployed to Desert Shield, which was the buildup for Desert Storm as an IO for the air wing and then shifted to the reserves in 1994. He started in Hollywood in the early 80s working on independent films and such productions as Con Air and The Rock. His producing work includes The Sopranos, East Bound and Down, Arli$$, and Barnett supervised the productions of Narcos and Hannibal. He credits the Corps with changing his life and providing him with great opportunities.

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa
Photo courtesy of Peter Barnett.

This is our ongoing series that features former and retired Marines that have transitioned out of the Corps into new roles within civilian society. Barnett comes to Hollywood with a unique and pragmatic Marine Corps perspective that has served him well.

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa
Barnett flew both the UH-1 Huey and AH-1 Cobra helicopters. Photo courtesy of ebay.com.

Barnett was the oldest child. He raised his two younger siblings after his parents divorced when he was 10. He was a member of the Boy Scouts and then attended Cal State Northridge for Film and TV production. He shared about the key values stressed in his home life: “Work ethic. Being on time. Education. Both of my parents were highly educated people.” Barnett sought out the Corps during the writer’s strike in Hollywood in the early 1980s. He said, “I wanted to be a pilot and fly…my attraction to the Corps was leadership, brotherhood and traditions. The other services didn’t do it for me.” The Corps was challenging for him as he shared, “If I was going to go in the service, I was going to go all the way. If you fail, you fail and if you succeed you succeed. The bravado of the Marines impressed me as well, especially the Gunny at my OSO.”

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa
The cast of The Sopranos.

Barnett’s class started out with 128 aviation candidates on June 6th, 1983, and graduated 70 aviation candidates from TBS. Only 38 of the 128 were qualified candidates, later winged as Naval Aviators. He stated, “I joined the Corps to fly, do my eight years and get out. After 10 years I had flown every helicopter there was in the Corps and ended.”

Barnett returned to Hollywood following his active-duty service and then transitioned to the reserves. From his earlier contacts made while working in the 80s in Hollywood, he was able to restart his career quickly through a friend and producer Mark Bakshi. He started at Disney working in accounting on big-budget films. He credits the experiences and training of the Corps with his successful return to the movie business with, “Leadership roles, team building, planning and keeping a cool head under fire. Be the calming force in the room and let everyone know it will be the day.” 

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa
The cast of Con Air. Photo courtesy of whiterabbitcabaret.com.

He has spent time on lots of film and TV show sets and he stated:

“Every show is different; the characters are different. Every show has its own paintbrush, everything does not apply from one show to the next where what you learned on the last show may not apply to the next. It is personality, chain of command, logistics and operations driven. You have to figure it out. Marines love solving problems and can figure it out. We have many different plans where we can get to the objective. You make the best possible show you can with the money you have.”

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa
The blockbuster hit The Rock. Photo courtesy of IMDB.com.

Barnett likes to hire fellow veterans on projects when able. He does have some insights into how Marines view the entertainment industry. He explained, “Everybody gets out of the Marine Corps and thinks they can be a technical adviser. There are about four technical advisers consistently working in the industry. You have to be current. Once you leave active service your knowledge level becomes outdated.” He elaborated, “You cannot hire an Afghanistan veteran to be an adviser on an Iraq war movie.” He does have positive words for a fellow Marine veteran and Hollywood professional, “The skills Marines bring with them with their integrity and work ethic. I have worked several times with fellow Marine Kevin Collins. We can get things done with a wink and head nod. Kevin is a great professional.” Retired Marine Major Kevin Collins is a First Assistant Director with the Director’s Guild of America. Barnett added, “I would absolutely hire a veteran if it fits what I need.”

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa
The cast of Arli$$. Photo courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter.

He has been in on lots of pitches and been a consultant on shows to get them made. He shared key insights into getting more Marine stories into Hollywood, “Selling anything in Hollywood is like winning the lotto. It is so hard to sell any story or script in Hollywood.” He offered a good point with, “The best stories Marines can write are personal stories from their life that may not always be a military story. Military stories are a niche thing at times.”  One of his best insights is, “In Hollywood, you are walking into a room where you are pitching to people that have been making shows for 30 or 40 years. If they don’t love your story, then they don’t really care. They won’t do it just because you love it.” Barnett continued, “Many times, writers write for themselves which doesn’t sell. If you want to sell your project, it better be appealing to a general audience. It’s not ‘show friends’, it is ‘show business.’ Think big and what can sell. Who is your audience?” He knows that we as Marines love to tell stories, but they must be for a mass audience to sell.

When asked about what he wants to do next, Barnett answered, “I would like to sell some of my projects and my stories. Most are based on historical fact that people don’t know about. I want to work with great people and people that I like and enjoy. We continually learn on every project that we do. We want to solve problems and get to that objective. You want to have fun though too.”

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa
The cast of East Bound and Down. Photo courtesy of screenrant.com.

Barnett does offer mentorship to Marines entering the industry with, “It’s great to meet new Marines and help them out and mentor them. If I can help others avoid the pitfalls I had then that is a success. You also have to be careful how you flash the Eagle, Globe & Anchor — sometimes we are not welcome in the industry as Marines.” He understands where and when to drop the Marine Corps card and what impact it has on the potential audience in the room. He believes that we learn continuously on every project that we do. Barnett knows Marines want to solve problems and get to the objective but want to have fun, too. That is his goal for his next projects: to make what he wants and have fun in the process.

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa
Pedro Pascal and Boyd Holbrook in Narcos. Photo courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter.

When asked about his many accomplishments, Barnett said, “I am most proud of my children and then the Marine Corps. My accomplishments and my friendships are important, especially the relationships I still have from the Marines. We are family til today, and I have been a Marine since 1983. I am the organizer of a bi-annual reunion of fellow Marines. My TV and Entertainment career is my third proudest achievement. It is fun, exciting, different and you work with great people, but there is nothing like being a Marine.”

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That time Napoleon was almost defeated by a rabbit army

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa
Wikimedia Commons | Flickr


Napoleon Bonaparte was well-known as one of the foremost military minds of his age, but there was one group he couldn’t outsmart: rabbits! One epic conflict pitted the emperor against the lusty lagomorphs, and to the Corsican-born ruler’s great surprise, the bunnies came out on top.

During his down time, Napoleon, like many wealthy men of the time, enjoyed hunting; in particular, he liked tracking down rabbits. The animals being hunted weren’t as fond of the humans’ pastime, however. According to the memoirs of a Napoleonic general, Paul Thiébault, a courtier named Alexandre Berthier devised such an amusement for his master in July 1807. “He had the idea of giving the Emperor some rabbit-shooting in a park which he possessed just outside of Paris, and had the joy of having his offer accepted,” Thiébault wrote.

But the not-so-bright Berthier had one problem: his property had no rabbits on it! So Berthier ordered one thousand rabbits “to be turned down in the park on the morning of the day” of the hunt. On the very day, Napoleon arrived to a lovely picnic and everything was going smoothly, but the bunnies had another idea. Instead of scattering across the park and making themselves targets for eager shooters, the rabbits “suddenly collected first in knots, then a body.” Then the buns “all faced about, and in an instant the whole phalanx flung itself upon Napoleon.”

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa
Wikimedia Commons

Berthier was humiliated and furious, so he turned his coachmen on the rabbit army. But although their whips initially dissuaded the hippity-hoppers, the critters soon wheeled about as a group and “turned the Emperor’s flank” and “attacked him frantically in the rear, refused to quit their hold, piled themselves up between his legs till they made him stagger, and forced the conqueror of conquerors, fairly exhausted, to retreat and leave them in possession of the field…” It was lucky for Napoleon,Thiébault quipped, that the bunnies left Napoleon intact and didn’t themselves proceed in triumph to Paris!

How did one thousand rabbits wind up defeating Napoleon? According to Thiébault, Brethier, ignorant of the differences between domestic and wild rabbits, bought the wrong kind of bunny: he purchased one thousand hutch-raised hoppers, rather than the wild buns that were afraid of humans. As a result, the rabbits “had taken the sportsmen, including the Emperor, as purveyors of their daily cabbage,” and since the bunnies hadn’t yet been fed, eagerly sprang on the humans in the hopes of food.

As funny as this incident was, Napoleon was not amused. Apparently, the upstart emperor didn’t have the greatest sense of humor. But everyone else had a pretty good laugh at his expense.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The incredible true story of how the heir to Walmart served in MACV-SOG in Vietnam

The next time you are browsing the aisles at Walmart, just think to yourself that the son of Sam Walton, the founder of the retail giant, was involved in special operations during the Vietnam War. Military Assistance Command Vietnam-Studies and Observation Group — or MACV-SOG — is a name so bland that it shielded the true nature of their top-secret work into deniable areas like Laos, Cambodia, and North Vietnam. How did the 11th richest man in the world intertwine his legacy into one of the most notorious special operations units in U.S. military history?

John Thomas Walton was born in Newport, Arkansas, the second of three sons, and excelled at athletics. He was a standout football star on their public high school football team and was more of a student of life than academics. His father, Sam, opened Walton’s 5&10 in Bentonville, a small business in a small town known for its variety of hunting seasons. Walton had a modest upbringing and after only two years of college he dropped out to enlist in the U.S. Army. “When I was at Wooster [The College of Wooster in Ohio], there were a lot of people talking about the war in the dorm rooms, but I didn’t think they understood it,” Walton said.


Walton enlisted in the Army and became a Green Beret (Army Special Forces). “I figured if you’re going to do something, you should do it the best you can,” he said during an interview with Andy Serwer for Fortune magazine. Assigned to MACV-SOG after the Tet Offensive in 1968, Walton was stationed at FOB 1 in Phu Bai where members of Strike Team Louisiana conducted deep penetration reconnaissance missions. John Stryker Meyer, a teammate and friend of Walton’s, wrote, “In August of ’68, on one such mission, Walton’s six-man recon team was surrounded and overrun by enemy soldiers.” The firefight became so intense that the team leader, William “Pete” Boggs, called an airstrike (napalm) directly on their own position to break contact.

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa

Extracted from page 119 of “On The Ground” by John Stryker Meyer and John E. Peters.

“That strike killed one team member, wounded the team leader and severed the right leg of the Green Beret radio operator Tom Cunningham Jr., of Durham, N.H. Another team member was wounded four times by AK-47 gunfire by an enemy soldier whom Walton killed,” Meyer wrote. As the team’s medic, Walton was responsible in setting up a triage point to tend to the casualties. He applied a tourniquet to Cunningham’s leg that had begun to hemorrhage. The tourniquet ultimately saved his life, but he later lost his leg. Facing hundreds of North Vietnamese soldiers (NVA) and completely surrounded, Walton called in two extraction helicopters.

The first helicopter, piloted by South Vietnamese Captain Thinh Dinh, touched down and picked up members of the team, some of whom Walton personally carried. The enemy soldiers were now sprinting to prevent their escape. Bullets clanged off the chopper and whizzed by their bodies. A second helicopter was needed to get them all out, but realizing how dire the situation had turned, the first helicopter sat back down and picked up the entire team. Their weight was too much, and they barely managed to climb over the treetops. Walton’s determination to get his teammates out of harm’s way earned him the Silver Star, the nation’s third highest award for valor.

During a poker game on the night they returned to base, one of his teammates noticed that the skin on Walton’s wrist was burnt. It was evidence of just how accurate the NVA gunfire was. Walton, Meyer, and his teammates enjoyed poker, Scrabble, and other games that require thought. They spoke about their goals and the dreams they hoped to accomplish when they returned home. Walton’s was a life of adventure.

Meyer shares how Walton had inspirations to travel domestically on a motorcycle and to Mexico, Central, and South America by plane. He earned his pilot’s license and started his own business crop-dusting cotton fields in Texas and Arizona. Crop-dusting provided Walton a new challenge that helped his transition after Vietnam. His aerial theatrics featured ingenuity, too — Walton co-founded the company Satloc in 1999, which pioneered the use of GPS applications in agricultural crop-dusting. He also served as a company pilot for his family business.

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa

John Walton, far right, is shown in uniform.

(Photo courtesy of John Stryker Meyer.)

It seemed Walton was always searching for his next greatest thrill. He briefly owned a sailing company called Marine Corsair in San Diego, and he regularly traveled to Durango, Colorado, for outdoor activities such as mountain biking, skiing, and skydiving. As Walmart’s success climbed, so too did Walton’s wealth. At one point, he was the 11th richest man in the world, with an estimated .2 billion net worth. However, despite the amount of money he made, he always stayed true to his modest roots. Meyer recalled a breakfast the pair had in Oceanside, California, and Walton arrived in a small Toyota hybrid.

Walton was also a strong proponent of education and school vouchers, helping establish the Children’s Scholarship Fund with the goal of sending low-income children to private schools. The Walton family as a whole has donated an estimated 0 million, largely due to John’s advocacy. The William E. Simon Prize for Philanthropic Leadership recognized his contributions in 2001.

John T. Walton died on June 27, 2005, when his custom-built CGS Aviation Hawk Arrow plane crashed in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. He was 58 years old. An investigation determined that loose flight control components were the cause of the fatal accident. Walton left behind a wife, Christy, and son, Lukas.

Though Walton’s name will always be immediately recognized as the heir to the Walmart empire, his legacy is also inextricably tied to MACV-SOG. Two years before his untimely death, Walton chartered his private jet to pick up the family of Thinh Dinh, the South Vietnamese pilot with whom he served decades prior. They reunited in Las Vegas, never forgetting the lasting bonds forged in war.

Embedded With Special Forces in Afghanistan | Part 2

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Sergeant Slaughter really was a sergeant of Marines

As if Robert Rudolph Remus wasn’t already a badass wrestling name on its own, upon becoming one of the now-WWE’s most beloved Superstars, Remus chose the stage name “Sergeant Slaughter.” It was appropriate at the time, even wearing his character’s trademark Smokey Bear-style campaign hat: Remus was not only a United States Marine, he was also a Drill Instructor.


Remus will now be known as “Sergeant Slaughter” until the end of time, his beloved character has transcended wrestling into areas even Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson hasn’t been able to invade. The WWE’s NCO is not only one of the Superstars that turned wrestling into mainstream entertainment worldwide, his definitive strong chin is also in the G.I. Joe universe, as well as the WWE Hall of Fame. Getting there was tough going, though.

The man we know as Sgt. Slaughter started his wrestling career way back in the early 1970s, when wrestling was little more than a regional patchwork of stunts and characters, far removed from the international spectacle we know of it today. That all changed when Vince McMahon consolidated wrestling and updated its stodgy image over the course of some thirty years or more. Sgt. Slaughter came to the then-WWF in 1980 as a villain – a “heel” in wrestling terms. But it wasn’t until just before 1984 that Remus’s character found the popularity we know of today.

He’s so popular, he still comes around the ring.

It was at this time a heel known as the “Iron Sheik” emerged as the World Champion. The Sheik is arguably one of wrestling’s greatest villains ever – and every great villain needs a hero. Or in the world of wrestling, a “face” – also known as a babyface, one of the good guys. Enter America’s Drill Instructor: Sgt. Slaughter. His feud with the Iron Sheik catapulted the two to mainstream stardom, making Slaughter the second most popular face, second only to Hulk Hogan. It was the pinnacle of his wrestling career. He would take a heel turn in the days of the 1991 Gulf War, sympathizing with the Iraqis and feuding with Hulk Hogan, even losing the World Championship as a result.

Still, it’s a long way from Parris Island to Madison Square Garden and Sgt. Slaughter packed both.

popular

11 rarely seen photos from the Civil War

Photography’s growing influence in the world during the Civil War allowed the conflict to be documented in a whole new way. There are hundreds of images that have become a lasting and well-known part of the historical record, but there are thousands of photos in archives around the country that have remained in relative obscurity.

Here are 11 from the National Archives and Records Administration:


33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

Articles

7 things ‘Hollywood’ Marines will always remember

There are only two recruit depots where U.S. Marines are made, and one of them has a reputation for being “Hollywood.”


Due to their close proximity to Tinseltown, Marines who graduate from MCRD San Diego are usually called “Hollywood Marines” by their MCRD Parris Island, S.C. counterparts and often ridiculed as having an easier training and lifestyle.

Regardless of who you think has the tougher training, here are some things only ‘Hollywood’ Marines will always remember about their initial training.

1. The Yellow Hell

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa
Photo: Marine Corps

While standing on the yellow footprints is a tradition at both locations, MCRD San Diego takes it much further. The base is a sprawling 388 acres and every building on base is yellow. The renowned architect Bertram Goodhue designed the buildings in a Spanish colonial revival style, and while there are currently 28 of those buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, the only history recruits will remember is that they are in yellow hell.

2. Planes, planes, and more planes!

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa
Photo: Flickr

No matter how long or short your flight is from your home to MCRD, the drive from the airport to base is a mere five minutes. By checking out this Google satellite view you can see that the base is literally on the opposite side of the runway fence. At first the constant deafening noise of airplanes taking off and landing every few minutes is annoying, but recruits get used to it real quick. In fact, some use it to their advantage, by counting the planes as if they were sheep to go to sleep at night dreaming about their next flight home. Recruits endure the mental kick in the stomach while running along side the runway fence watching planes take off with happy newly graduated Marines and their families.

The planes also provide a symbolic sense of comfort. I went to MCRD in August 2001 and one month later the 9/11 attacks occurred. When first told of the attacks by our drill instructors, we felt it may have been some sort of trick. However, once they pointed out the airport was shut down and no planes were taking off, the sky all of a sudden seemed desolate with an eery silence. When the planes were allowed to fly again days later, a sense of relief was felt by all.

3. Perfect Weather

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa
Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Katalynn M. Rodgers

San Diego enjoys gorgeous weather year-round with an average temperature of 70.5 degrees and minimal humidity. However, recruits don’t go there for a vacation, they go to become Marines. Drill instructors are quick to remind recruits of the many beautiful women in bikinis sunbathing at one of the several beaches within a short distance from the base. No matter how difficult things may get, recruits can find comfort in knowing tomorrow will be another beautiful day with clear skies to train.

4. Bus Trips

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa
Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Joshua Young

Not all recruit training takes place at MCRD San Diego. To complete the second of three phases, they are moved 45 minutes north to Camp Pendleton. The ride takes recruits through San Diego’s beautiful north county and it’s the first time recruits are off base since arrival. They are supposed to keep their heads down but it’s common to sneak a glimpse at the beautiful landscape around them and think about home or what’s in store for them at Camp Pendleton. Similarly, on the way back to MCRD to finish the last phase, it gives recruits a time of reflection on completing the demanding training they just endured during second phase and realize they are that much closer to graduation.

5. Mountains, hills, and ridges

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa

 

Second phase recruit training takes place at Edson Range, Camp Pendleton and includes marksmanship, rifle qualification, close combat, field training, and the gas chamber. But ask any recruit and the one memory that first comes to mind are the many hills they had to hike creating many feet blisters. Camp Pendleton is notorious for its mountains, hills, and ridges that are perfect for grueling hikes. The most famous of which is known as ‘The Reaper’, or ‘Grim Reaper’. With full packs on, it is the last and final monumental hill to climb during the 54 hour exercise known as The Crucible in which they have already climbed several with only eight hrs of sleep.

6. Padres Baseball

Although not every platoon or company at MCRD gets this luxury, those who do get a chance to be recognized by the local community for their newly committed service to this great nation. Although the seats are in the highest sections of the stadium and they are strictly guarded by their drill instructors, it’s a welcome change of pace from the intense and stressful daily training.

7. The San Diego Skyline

 

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa
Photo: Wikipedia

It’s hard to believe that just outside the gates of MCRD sits beautiful downtown San Diego. For three months, recruits have dreamt of exploring all the reasons why San Diego is called “America’s Finest City.” Now that they have graduated, it’s common for the nation’s newest Marines to proudly wear their dress uniforms as they eat and celebrate with friends and family throughout the city.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A Marine vet made a daring beer run to Vietnam for his buddies

There’s not a lot a veteran won’t do for his buddies, especially if they’re still in the service and the veteran is out. This is particularly helpful for troops who are deployed because their buddy back home knows exactly what they need. And you know what people fighting a war could use more than anything else? A beer.

John “Chickie” Donohue set out to get a few beers to his best Army buddies — while they were fighting in Vietnam. That’s one hell of a beer run.


In 1967, the war in Vietnam was heating up. Unbeknownst to the U.S., the Tet Offensive was still to come, but that didn’t mean the fighting was inconsequential. More than 11,000 American troops would die in the fighting that year. The largest airborne operation since World War II happened in February, 1967, the 1st Marine Division was engaged with the Army of North Vietnam, and the U.S. Army was chasing down Viet Cong south of the DMZ — in short, it was a busy year.

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa

M113 armored vehicles advance in Vietnam during Operation Junction City, 1967.

(U.S. Army)

Donohue had already served four years in the Marine Corps and was working as a sandhog — a kind of miner — for the city of New York. He was a native of Inwood, a Manhattan neighborhood at the very northern tip of the island. As 1967 progressed, he saw many, many funerals of Inwood natives who were killed in Vietnam. Meanwhile, he grew sick of antiwar protestors who criticized troops who were sent there.

One day, Chickie Donohue was at his local watering hole when the bartender remarked that troops over in Vietnam deserved a pat on the back and a cold beer. Donohue agreed. He agreed so much that he took a gig as a merchant seaman on a ship taking supplies and ammunition to Vietnam. He packed a bag and a supply of beer and set sail.

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa

Chickie Donohue worked as an oiler aboard the Drake Victory steamer.

(Chick Donohue)

The trip took two months and Donohue actually drank all the beer he brought along. But he grabbed more upon arrival and set out to find a half dozen of his old friends who were stationed in country. His first stop was actually where his ship docked, Qui Nhon harbor, where his friend Tom Collins was deployed with the 127th Military Police Company.

“I said, ‘Chickie Donohue, what the hell are you doing here?'” Collins told the New York Times. “He said, ‘I came to bring you a beer.'”

That wasn’t his last stop. He journeyed throughout the country to bring cold ones to his old friends fighting a war that Americans back home were increasingly hostile toward. His friends, who sometimes just happened to bump into Donohue on his trek to see them, were amazed.

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa

Beer run recipients in Quang Tri Province, 1968.

(Rick Duggan)

Donohue even took fire from the enemy a few times.

For his friends, Chickie was a sight for sore eyes. A New York Times reporter documented their reactions to the retelling of Donohue’s story when they were interviewed for the book about Chickie’s biggest beer run. It even helped some of them get through the war and work on their post-traumatic stress.

“Seeing Chick gave me a lot of encouragement that I was going to make it back,” said Bob Pappas, who was a communications NCO in Long Binh. Pappas was demoralized after hearing about the deaths of longtime Inwood friends. Donohue’s cold one gave him a little hope.

But even local residents of Inwood who knew Chickie Donohue his whole life couldn’t believe the story of his beer run. For decades after, New Yorkers and fellow sandhogs alike told him he was full of it. But in March, 2017, he released his book about the trip, “The Greatest Beer Run Ever: A True Story of Friendship Stronger Than War,” and held a book signing with recipients of the beers present.

“For half a century, I’ve been told I was full of it, to the point where I stopped even telling this story,” he said. But still “I didn’t have to buy a beer for a long time in Inwood.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

How America’s first military aviator was an Air Force visionary

When it comes to aviation, aircraft are only as good as the pilots behind them, and in the beginning, one man was instrumental in getting military aviation off the ground.

Maj. Gen. Benjamin D. Foulois was one of the first in the military to assume the mantle of aviator as manned flight was still in its infancy, and according to Bob Barlow, U.S. Army Aviation Museum volunteer and former aviator, his efforts helped shape what aviation is today.

Foulois first enlisted in the Army to serve in the Spanish-American War in 1898, but only served for five months before being mustered out, said Barlow. He re-enlisted in 1899 at just 18 years old and quickly ascended through the ranks to become a second lieutenant by 1901.


He was sent to the Army Signal School in 1908 where he wrote the thesis, “The Tactical and Strategically Value of Dirigible Balloons and Aerodynamical Flying Machines,” showcasing his foresight that the future of warfare would be in aviation.

A quote from Foulois’ thesis read, “In all future warfare, we can expect to see engagements in the air between hostile aerial fleets. The struggle for supremacy in the air will undoubtedly take place while the opposing armies are maneuvering for position.”

“He said the military dirigible and the airplane would be responsible for gaining the upper hand in the skies before the battle took place — nobody ever really talked about that before him,” Barlow said.

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa
Major General Benjamin D. Foulois

Foulois was selected as one of three Signal Corps officers to receive flying instruction to become one of the first military aviators, and on July 13, 1912, he became the fifth Army officer to be rated as a military aviator.

“He was one of the first three selected, but he was the first military aviator to stay the course,” said Barlow. “He was taken up by the Wright brothers and sent to Fort Sam Houston to complete his training on his own.

“Around this time, as aviation started taking off more and more, there were a lot of ground commanders who thought it was a lot of nonsense,” he said. “But there were visionaries like Foulois who knew that it was the next big thing.”

Throughout his testing of aircraft in 1911, which included the Wright Military Flyer, he was instrumental and innovating and providing ideas, even inventing the first seat belt, said the museum curator.

“(Later in life) when asked what his inspiration was for creating the seat belt, he said he was getting tired of being thrown out of the aircraft and hitting his head,” said Barlow.

Foulois also could see that the Wright Military Flyer was incredibly outdated and wouldn’t be able to compete on the battlefield.

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa
Lt. Foulois and Orville Wright

“The airplane at the time was a push propeller aircraft that was basically a box kite,” said Barlow. “At the same time, the French were way ahead of us with a tractor aircraft and central seating for the aircraft, which looks more like the proper airplane that we know today.”

After a series of crashes and accidents, Foulois, along with other officers in aviation. condemned the pusher propeller aircraft and began to lean toward the tractor aircraft. In 1913 he joined the 1st Aero Squadron, and by 1914 he was appointed as its commander.

In March of 1916, he reported for duty with Pershing’s Punitive Expedition, and along with Capt. Townsend Dodd performed the first U.S. aerial reconnaissance mission over enemy-held territory in Mexico.

“This was their first foray into getting their feet wet with military combat aviation,” said Barlow, adding that by the time World War I came along, Foulois was probably the most experienced officer in the military in regards to aviation.

Because of his experience, he was tasked with the procurement, production, and development and operations of aircraft.

Initially, the Army wanted several thousand aircraft, 4,800 pilots and twice as many mechanics, all within a year, but with the resources at the time it wasn’t possible.

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa
Brig. Gen. Benjamin D. Foulois, Maj. Gen. James. E. Fechet and Brig. Gen. H.C. Pratt

“That didn’t’ happen,” said Barlow. “We weren’t ready for that. Our output was barely 40 aircraft a month on a good month, so, we had to borrow from the British and the French.”

Foulois later deployed to France doing the same job, and in 1917 he become chief of air services in the zone of occupation for the Army Expeditionary Force. It was during his time in WWI that eventually the U.S. produced its own aircraft, the JN-4 Jenny.

Following the war, he was later appointed as the chief of the Air Corps in 1931, and in 1934 then-President Theodore Roosevelt tasked Foulois to head the Army Air Corps Mail Operation, which ended in the Air Mail scandal of 1934 because the Air Corps was ill equipped to take on the mission, said Barlow.

“They flew about 1.4 million miles carrying the mail and they lost a lot of people doing it,” he said. As a result, Foulois ended up taking the brunt of the blame for the program’s failure and was forced into retirement in 1935 with 36 years of service.

Despite the scandal, Barlow said Foulois was instrumental in bringing military aviation to the forefront.

“This is a man who came in the military at 18 … and became one of the first three pilots in the U.S. military. He was there through the birth of all the doctrine, the changes and the clashes with the ground force,” he said. “What we’re doing now we owe to him. He was the first military aviator to stay the course, and he was Army aviator No. 1 as far as I’m concerned.”

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

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