Last week marked the anniversary of the birth of Mata Hari, and while she is undoubtedly one of the most famous female spies in history, there have been many, many more. These women worked tirelessly to help the French resistance and Allied forces. There’s no doubt that they played an integral part in the defeat of the Nazis in WWII. In honor of Mata Hari’s birthday, we decided to take a look at a few of the brave women who refused to stand idly by while the world was on fire.
Mata Hari (Wikimedia Commons)
After her mother’s death, Mata Hari, born Margaretha Geertruida Zelle in Leeuwarden, Netherlands, married a military captain stationed in the Dutch East Indies. When their marriage fell apart in the early 1900s, Zelle moved to Paris.
Being familiar with Indian sensibilities, and capitalizing on Europe’s love for all things “oriental.” Margaretha Geertruida Zelle pegged herself as a Hindu dancer and artist, complete with veils and beaded brassieres. During this time, she also adopted her stage name “Mata Hari,” which translated from Indonesian means “eye of the day.”
At the dawn of WWI, Mata Hari became a spy for the Allies. Unfortunately, the Germans caught on quickly. They labeled her a German spy (although some claim that she may have been a double agent). Mata Hari was arrested by French authorities in Paris on February 13, 1917. Although Mata Hari maintained her innocence and loyalty to France, she was found guilty of espionage by a military tribunal and sentenced to death.
Mata Hari was executed (by firing squad) on October 15, 1917. Legend has it that she refused her blindfold and even blew a kiss to her executioners before she met her end. Mata Hari was 41.
Virginia Hall (Wikimedia Commons)
Virginia Hall was an American who dreamed of joining the United States Foreign Service. However, a freak hunting accident in which she shot her foot off, left her with a limp and a wooden leg (that she affectionately named Cuthbert) and barred her from being accepted.
Hall eventually found her way to being an ambulance driver in France but was forced to flee when France surrendered to Germany. When she arrived at the American embassy, Hall was asked to provide intelligence from her time in France. She was later recruited as the first operative for the Special Operations Executive (S.O.E.) and sent to Lyon, France.
During her time there, Hall helped smuggle information and people out of France, just as she helped and smuggle supplies and agents into France. Hall later joined the O.S.S. (the predecessor of the C.I.A), where her time was spent as a radio operator monitoring German communications and organizing drops of supplies for the war against the Germans.
In 1945, Virginia Hall was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for her efforts in France. It was the only one awarded to a civilian woman in WWII. Hall retired in 1966 at the age of 60. She and her husband moved to a farm in Maryland, where she lived until her death in 1982.
Christine Granville (Wikimedia Commons)
Krystyna Skarbek/Christine Granville
Born into Polish aristocracy, Krystyna Skarbek was determined to contribute to the war effort. However, her attempts to enlist were frequently stalled by the fact that she was a woman.
Skarbek made some headway when she devised a cunning plan to help sabotage Germany’s war efforts and their propaganda machine, a plan which she later presented to the British Secret Service. With the aid of her friends, Krystyna was to pose as a journalist based in Budapest and ski (yes, ski) over the Carpathian Mountains into Nazi-occupied Poland to deliver and spread anti-Nazi propaganda.
When Skarbek was finally recruited into the Special Operations Executive (S.O.E.), she was given a British passport and adopted her new alias as Christine Granville. As a key player in the resistance, Granville repeatedly evaded capture and smuggled information out of Poland to the Allies. Legend has it that she even bit her own tongue to a bloody mess to fake tuberculosis.
Married to a wealthy French industrialist, Nancy Wake witnessed the devastation caused by the Nazis first hand. Not one to sit idly by, Wake joined the French Resistance early in WWII.
Nancy Wake’s contributions include establishing communication between British intelligence and the French Resistance and ushering downed Allied servicemen (and potential POW’s) into England by way of Spain and the Pyrenees Mountains. Once the Gestapo caught on to Wake’s involvement, they dubbed her “The White Mouse.” Wake leapt to the top of their most-wanted list, and a price of 5 Million Francs was put on her head.
Nancy Wake eventually joined the SOE as well, where she continued her military career. And she was not to be trifled with. As one story goes, when an SS guard spotted Wake and her team, she killed him instantly with a judo-chop to the throat.
Nancy Wake became one of the most decorated servicewomen in WWII. Her honors included her appointment as a Knight of The Legion of Honor by France and the Medal of Freedom from The United States. Nancy Wake lived out the rest of her days in England; she died in 2011 at the age of 98.
Lance corporal is the most common rank in the Marine Corps. It’s the upper-most junior-enlisted Marine; the last step before becoming an NCO. It’s at this rank that you truly learn the responsibilities that come with being an NCO — and it’s when you start to shoulder those responsibilities. But Marines can be lance corporals straight out of boot camp. But how can someone with no experience possibly be ready to lead others Marines? This is why we created an unofficial rank — “senior lance corporal.”
Lifers everywhere will tell you that there’s no such thing. They’ll say something along the lines of, “being a senior was a high school thing and it ought to remain there.” But the truth is that there are very valid reasons for the distinctive title.
No matter your reason for stating otherwise, one thing’s for sure: senior lance corporals exist. This is why.
This Lance Corporal still has a lot to learn.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Catie Massey)
The “junior” lance corporal
The “junior” lance corporal is the guy who picked up rank during boot camp because they were an Eagle Scout or some sh*t. Regardless, they didn’t earn real Marine Corps experience while waiting for that rank. Hell, the only experience they have in the Marine Corps is with marching — which is important, sure, but there’s a lot more to being a Marine than marching.
There are exceptions, of course. You could have spent time in the service prior to deciding that whatever branch you were in was a group of weaklings compared to the Marines. In that case, you do have experience, but this is pretty rare. The majority of “junior” lance corporals haven’t led Marines yet — not really, anyway — nor have they been to any leadership courses.
They spent a lot of time doing things by the book, which isn’t typically how things go in a real unit.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)
They spent their time learning the basics which, if we’re being honest, are great building blocks, but your unit’s standard operating procedure may render a lot of what you learned basically useless.
Anyone who’s reached NCO before their first term and has led Marines knows that you can’t trust a junior lance corporal to clean their room the right way on their first attempt. How could that lance corporal possibly be the same as the one who went through leadership and/or advanced schools and has a deployment under their belt? Hint: It’s not.
Enter the “senior” lance corporal.
These guys have been around a minute.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
The “senior” lance corporal
When a junior Marine gets to their unit, even if they’re a lance corporal, this is the guy they refer to as “lance corporal.” The junior will quickly come to understand that, while they may hold the same rank, they are not the same. The difference, in fact, is rather large.
A senior lance corporal has been on a deployment. Regardless of whether that deployment was into combat or not, that lance corporal has real leadership experience. They went to a foreign country and they were responsible for leading Marines to success. Then, before you got to the unit, they went to leadership schools. These Marines have a lot more experience than a greenhorn fresh out of boot camp.
So ask yourself, are you treating your Marines a certain way based on experience — or rank?
(U.S. Marine Corps photo Cpl. Aaron Patterson)
Realistically, there are plenty of senior lance corporals that don’t give a f*ck anymore. But for every one of those, there are ten who strive to be good Marines and great leaders. To diminish their hard work and reduce them to the same level as some fresh boot does nothing but destroy their spirit.
The fact is, a “senior” lance corporal could be a squad leader — a job that is meant to be held by a sergeant, but is more commonly held by a corporal. You could not take a “junior” lance corporal and say the same. The difference is clear.
As a former Navy Hospital Corpsman who served in Afghanistan, treating sick and injured Marines was a daily task. So I compiled a list to help in the event you come across someone who is suffering from a fresh gunshot wound. Basically, follow these steps, and you too can help save a gunshot victim.
1. Don’t freak out.
During a traumatic event, adrenaline will enter your bloodstream, causing your heart rate to increase. You could also experience some tunnel vision. Remember to breathe. The calmer you are, the better you can maneuver your thought process during the situation.
2. Call 9-1-1
Calling 9-1-1 is free from any phone in America, even if it’s turned off for “billing issues.” As long as the battery has some juice, you can dial the popular 3-digit number (just don’t ask the operator to do you a favor and call your relative and forward them a message; not cool).
Note: It’s important to know your location. The operator may ask when you phone in.
3. Check the wound or wounds
While you’re on hold, locate the entry wound. Did the bullet exit anywhere?
A man has 7 holes, where a woman has 8. (Trust me, I was a corpsman.) If the person been shot, they’ll have 1 or 2 extra. Typically, the entrance wound won’t be as large in diameter as the exit, so it can be easily missed when you first go all Magellan exploring.
If the wound is pouring out blood or squirting out rapidly each time your heart beats you’ll want to . . .
4. Stop arterial bleeds
The location of the arterial bleed depends on what technique you’ll use to control the hemorrhage. If the victim’s arm or leg is the affected area, placing a tourniquet above the wound is the best option and only above the joint, never below. But how to make one?
Use your belt or a loose fitting shirt to tie it around the limb – never use a shoelace! Using a shoelace can damage the surrounding healthy skin tissue and just adds to the laundry list of injuries. We don’t want that. For all other areas — arterial bleeds such as neck, groin, and armpit injuries — using a pressure dressing is your last and only option.
Packing the wound with really any fabric on hand – a shirt, t-shirt or a sock (yes, I said sock) – will limit the amount of blood loss. The goal is to get the wound to clot. But what if the bullet entered the chest cavity? Then you’re going to want to …
5. Know your A-B-C’s
No, I’m not referring to the alphabet (although you should totally know it). A-B-C stands for Airway, Breathing, and Circulation. If the victim is screaming in pain, chances are, their airway is clear and they’re breathing well enough. If they’re not, the question becomes how good of a person are you? Good enough to pump oxygen into their lungs via mouth-to-mouth resuscitation?
A bullet lodged in a lung is a bad thing. Oxygen and carbon dioxide shouldn’t be able to escape out any other path than your trachea. This can cause your lung to decompress on itself and collapse it. The room air can penetrate inside the chest cavity and further compress your lungs.
Implement the use of a chest dressing with a flutter valve. By covering the wound with a thin flexible plastic covering and taping 3 sides. Air can only escape, not be brought in. If done correctly, it works every time.
The circulation test is simple. Do they carry a pulse? By checking the patient’s major pulses in their neck, wrists or in their feet. You’ll find out the strength of the heart which will inform you the amount of the blood the body has lost. The stronger the better.
How do I know if the victim has lost to much blood?
6. Is it getting chilly in here?
Blood is the bodies main source of regulating its core temperature of 98.6 degrees. The more blood the victim loses, the lower body temperature will fall and the faster the pulse will become as it increases to provide oxygen through the body. Your buddy (or the stranger you’re trying to save) could start to feel as cold as if they were running naked through the Alaskan wilderness even though it’s a hot summer day in Southern California.
This is called going into shock.
It’s time to warm up. Presuming the patient’s is laying down:
Raise their legs up above their heart. Gravity will pull the blood down their legs and send it back to the heart. Their legs will probably go numb, but it’s a small price to pay. They will either have to die or suffer from “pins and needles.”
Cover the man or woman up with a blanket if you have one.
“Spoon with them” – sounds crazy but I’ve had to spoon a few Marines in my time to warm them back up.
And don’t forget to tell them…
7. The bleeding you can’t see is the one you need to worry about
Internal bleeding to the victim and the Good Samaritan is your worse enemy… but more so for the victim. Without proper medical instrumentation, controlling internal blood loss is impossible externally. Skin bruising may occur as a hematoma sets in.
Treatment: I’ve got nothing, but good luck!
8. Check and recheck
Only the paramedics know how long it will take before they show up. Depending on what neighborhood the crime took place, you could be waiting for a while.
Just kidding, but seriously it could be awhile. So this would be a good time to check all the tourniquets and pressure dressings you literally just learned how to install. Let’s face it: like any maintenance, it takes some practice to do the treatment right.
9. Hang in there
Encouraging the victim everything is going to be okay is a huge part of making it through this horrible event. It’s not a fun situation to be in. Little words of encouragement go a long way, but avoid asking for personal items or an ex-girlfriend’s phone number “just in case they don’t make it.”
10. Pass the word
The paramedics showed up! Great. Now can you tell them what life-saving interventions you performed. Please include:
Where the injuries are located
If you put on a tourniquet, how long ago did you put it on?
Their Zodiac sign
How long ago the shooting occurred
And the most importantly, if you want to go to the hospital with them, ask for a ride – Übers and Taxis can be expensive.
Imagine you’re in a country that tends to pinch pennies when it comes to the defense budget. Now imagine that you’re looking to upgrade your armored fighting vehicles (tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, armored personnel carriers), but you’ve just been told you can’t buy new ones — even second-hand vehicles aren’t an option. Sounds like you’re stuck with obsolete vehicles, right?
Not necessarily. Believe it or not, those old tanks can be given new life, and the process is actually very simple and relatively cheap. More often than not, your real problem isn’t the armored fighting vehicle itself, it’s what goes on top: the turret.
This is where the firepower of your typical armored fighting vehicle resides. Thankfully, the great thing about turrets is that they can be replaced quite easily if you have the proper facilities and trained maintenance personnel. If you have a perfectly good hull, swapping out the turret is a great way to buy time and extend the service life of an otherwise-outdated and outmatched system.
The baseline BTR-80 has a KPV 14.5mm machine gun, but a new turret can make this a BTR-80A with a 30mm auto-cannon.
Russia is doing just this with their BTR-80 and BTR-82 armored personnel carriers. The baseline versions had a manned turret with a KPV 14.5mm heavy machine gun. However, the Russians replaced the initial turret with one that houses a 2A72 30mm auto-cannon — similar to the 2A42 auto-cannon used on the BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicle and the Mi-28 Havoc attack helicopter — thus creating the BTR-80A and the BTR-82A. According to some reports, Russia may make another turret switch for the latter vehicle, giving the BTR-82A a 57mm gun.
During Reforger 82, when this photo was taken, the M60A1 tank was still in widespread service, even as the M1 Abrams was starting to replace it.
Tanks also benefit from this upgrade treatment. For example, Turkey was able to extend the life of 170 M60 Patton tanks by going with the Israeli Sabra upgrade, which essentially puts a Merkava III turret on the Patton’s hull (a few other upgrades were made while they were at it). Egypt is also looking to do this with its fleet of M60 main battle tanks.
The centerpiece of the M60T in Turkish Army service is a new turret like that on Israeli Merkava tanks.
(Photo by Natan Flayer)
The fact is, if you have an older armored vehicle, just junking it or passing it on may not be the best option. You might find that the better bargain is in getting a new turret instead.
Sharks have a reputation for being fearsome, man-eating killers — you can thank 1975’s Jaws for that. The shark, in nature, claims dominion over the seas, but its ferocious countenance has been painted on planes since the American Volunteer Group (also known as the “Flying Tigers”) put it on noses of their P-40s.
Russia has its own aeronautical shark, and it’s one of two attack helicopters the Soviet Union was developing in the 1980s to supplement — if not actually replace — the famous Mi-24 Hind. That helicopter is the Kamov Ka-50 Hokum, a single-purpose gunship.
The Kamov Ka-50 Hokum is a very unique helicopter. Like the vast majority of other Kamov designs, it uses contra-rotating main rotors. Most of Kamov’s helicopters have been used by the Soviet Navy — and were passed on to the Russian Navy once the USSR collapsed. Mil helicopters, like the Mi-24 Hind and the Mi-8/Mi-17 Hip, have historically gone to the Soviet Army (and, afterward, the Russian Army).
Kamov’s primary customer was the Soviet — and later the Russian — Navy. They’ve delivered a high-performance attack helicopter.
(Photo by Dimitri Pichugin)
While in development, the Hokum was competing with the Mi-28 Havoc. In fact, the Russian Army first selected the Hokum, but later settled on the Havoc. The end of the Cold War delayed the programs, but now both helicopters are being procured.
This three-view graphic shows off some of the Hokum’s unique features: The main rotors and the lack of a tail rotor, for instance.
The Hokum has a number of other unique features. It is a single-seat helicopter, while most other attack helicopters require a crew of two. It has an ejection seat for the pilot, which is commonly found on fixed-wing vessels, but not on rotary-wing aircraft.
A look at some of the weapons the Ka-50 can pack. Not easily seen: the same 30mm cannon on the BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicle is mounted on this helicopter.
(Photo by Tomasz Szulc)
The Hokum has a top speed of 193 miles per hour and a maximum unrefueled range of 393 miles. It can carry AT-16 missiles, rocket pods, gun pods, and even bombs, and it packs the same 30mm cannon as the BMP-2 does.
Currently, Russia has 32 of these lethal helicopters in service. Learn more about this airborne “Black Shark” in the video below!
In 1998, Steven Spielberg put forth what’s considered one of the best war movies of all time, Saving Private Ryan. The filmmaker brings audiences inside the life of an infantry squad as they maneuver through the bloody battlefields of World War II.
Saving Private Ryan follows a squad of Army Rangers whose sole mission is to locate one soldier and bring him home after his brothers were discovered to be killed in battle.
Despite the film’s title, the movie doesn’t center around the eponymous Pvt. Ryan, but rather the men who bear the struggles of war to find him.
So, check out five reasons why we think Saving Private Ryan should have been about Pvt. Ryan.
5. The Ryan brothers getting separated
After the audience learns that 3 of the 4 Ryan brothers have died in battle, General Marshall is informed that they were all separated due to the Sullivan Act.
Watching the Ryan brothers as they get split up, knowing it might be the last time they would ever see one another, would’ve been an exceptionally powerful scene.
These Army officers discuss the news of Pvt. Ryan’s dilemma and formulate a plan to get him out. (Image from DreamWorks Studios)
4. The paratrooper’s perspective
At one point in the film, Capt. Miller learns about all of the mis-drops that affected airborne soldiers, including Pvt. Ryan. How awesome would the footage have looked with Spielberg behind the camera, capturing the paratroopers’ perspectives on inaccurate drops?
Lt. Colonel Anderson informs Capt. Miller of his new and incredibly difficult mission — find one man in the whole damn war. (Image from DreamWorks Studios)
3. The first battle over the bridge
Cpl. Henderson debriefs Capt. Miller on their bloody encounters with the Germans while babysitting the bridge. Some of us would have rather seen that intense footage as opposed to watching one of our favorite medics pass away as a result of an avoidable firefight.
2. Humanizing Pvt. Ryan
Let’s face it, Pvt. Ryan isn’t our favorite, but we understand why he didn’t want to leave the only brothers he had left. But, a few minutes before the Germans show up to fight, Pvt. Ryan tells Capt. Miller a funny story of the last night he and his brothers were together.
Actually seeing the Ryan brothers all together, causing a ruckus, would bring some comic relief to an otherwise dark film.
Toward the end of the film, Capt. Miller brings Ryan in close and tells him to “earn this.” These simple words have a significant impact on Pvt. Ryan’s life moving forward. But, outside of bringing his family to Capt. Miller’s grave, we don’t know how Ryan lived out his days.
Centering the film around Pvt. Ryan and showing a montage his successful, post-war life could help give us closure.
Through the cockpit windscreen, Capt. Robert Morgan saw flashes of light from the wings and engine cowling of a German Focke-Wulf Fw 190 at his 12 o’clock and closing at an incredible rate. Each wink of light from the fighter’s wing root meant another 20mm cannon shell was heading directly at his B-17F Flying Fortress at over 2,300 feet per second.
Having no room to dive in the crowded formation of B-17 bombers of the 91st Bomb Group, he pitched up. The Luftwaffe fighter’s shells impacted the tail of the aircraft instead of coming straight through the windscreen.
Over the intercom Morgan heard his tail gunner, Sgt. John Quinlan, yelling that the aircraft’s tail was shot to pieces and what was left was in flames.
(U.S. Army Air Forces photo)
It was January 23, 1943. Morgan and his nine crewmen aboard the “Memphis Belle” had just fought their way through a swarm of Luftwaffe fighters, dropped their bombs on a Nazi submarine base in the coastal city of Lorient in occupied France and were fighting to survive the return trip to the Eighth Air Force base in Bassingbourn, England. Morgan began calculating if the crew should bail out and become prisoners of war before the tail tore completely off the bomber trapping the crew in a death spiral culminating in a fiery crash.
A moment later, Quinlan reported that the fire in the tail had gone out. The “Memphis Belle” and its crew would survive the mission; the crew’s eighth and the bomber’s ninth.
(U.S. Army Air Forces photo)
They would have to survive 17 more missions to complete the required 25 to rotate home. All would be flown during a period of World War II when the Luftwaffe was at the height of its destructive powers.
Against all odds, the “Memphis Belle” crew flew those missions, their last to once again bomb the U-boat pens at Lorient on May 17, 1943, before returning safely to England for the final time. Bottles of Champagne were uncorked and radio operator Tech. Sgt. Robert J. Hanson collapsed onto the flightline and kissed the ground.
(U.S. Army Air Forces photo)
For the “Belle” itself, it was only mission 24 and the plane had to fly once more with an alternate crew on May 19.
The B-17 and its crew would be the first to return alive and intact to the U.S. They were welcomed as heroes and immediately embarked on a 2 ½-month, nationwide morale tour to sell war bonds. The tour was also to encourage bomber crews in training that they too could make it home. It made celebrities of both the “Belle” and its crew.
Ironically, the two and a half months of press conferences, parties and glad-handing officers and politicians was about the same amount of time during the “Belle’s” combat tour that 80 percent of the 91st Bomb Group’s B-17s and their crews were lost to German fighters and anti-aircraft fire.
“Eighty percent losses means you had breakfast with 10 men and dinner with only two of those 10,” Morgan said in an interview after the war. During the totality of the air war over Europe more than 30,000 U.S. Airmen aboard heavy bombers, like the B-17, would be killed.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
Seventy-five years to the day after that 25th mission, the Museum of the U.S. Air Force will honor the bravery of those bomber crews, some of the first Americans to take the fight to the Nazis in WWII, when they unveil for public display the largely restored B-17F, Serial No. 41-24485, “Memphis Belle” as part of a three-day celebration, May 17-19, 2018.
According to the museum curator in charge of the “Memphis Belle” exhibit, Jeff Duford, the weekend will include more than 160 WWII re-enactors showcasing their memorabilia, WWII-era music and vehicles, static displays of other B-17s, flyovers of WWII-era aircraft and presentations of rare archival film footage. The “Memphis Belle” will be the centerpiece of an exhibit documenting the strategic bombing campaign over Europe.
“The ‘Memphis Belle’ is an icon that represents all the heavy bomber crewmen who served and sacrificed in Europe in World War II,” Duford said, “In many ways the ‘Memphis Belle’ is the icon for the United States Air Force.
“You look at the U.S. Marines, they have this wonderful icon of the flag being raised over Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima and everyone recognizes that. It symbolizes service and sacrifice and tenacity and teamwork. Well, the Air Force has that symbol too, and it’s this airplane. It demonstrates teamwork. The crews had to work together. The planes in formation had to work together. The formations had to work together with the fighter escorts.”
The service and sacrifice of the young men still leaves Duford awestruck even after working on the “Belle” project for a decade.
(U.S. Army photo)
“How does one climb inside of this aircraft knowing that they are probably not going to come home? And they don’t do that one time; two times; three times; 10 times – they have to do it 25 times,” said Duford. “Once they got inside the airplane, they had no place to run. There were no foxholes to be dug. The skin on those airplanes is so thin that a bullet or flak fragment would go through it like a tin can because that’s essentially what it was.
“The odds were that every 18 missions, a heavy bomber was going to be shot down. So when you think the crew had to finish 25 missions to go home, statistically it was nearly impossible. It was one-in-four odds that a heavy bomber recruit would finish their 25 missions. Those other three crew members would’ve been shot down and captured, killed or wounded so badly they couldn’t finish their tour.”
The fact the “Memphis Belle” crew survived their tour was of great value to the U.S. Army Air Forces in maintaining support for the daylight strategic bombing campaign over Europe, which was still, in fact, an experiment.
“Back then, there was no book on high altitude strategic bombing. The generals didn’t know any more than we did. They had to figure bombing strategy as we went along,” said Morgan in a book he would write after the war, “The Man Who Flew the Memphis Belle”.
The B-17 was named the “Flying Fortress”, because it was bristling with .50 caliber machine guns covering every angle of attack by German fighters, save one. The theory was that all that defensive firepower would be amplified by heavy bombers flying in tight formations, called “boxes”, enabling them to protect each other from attacking fighters.
While the German Messerschmitt and Focke-Wulf fighters sometimes paid a price for attacking the formations, they soon developed tactics that exploited a design weakness in B-17Fs, like the “Memphis Belle”.
(U.S. Army Air Forces photo)
While twin .50 caliber machine guns in top and belly turrets and the tail and single .50 cal. gunners protected the bomber, the 12 o’clock position was covered by a lone .30 caliber machine gun – no match for the German fighters. Because the bomber formations had to fly straight and level to initiate their bombing run, the Luftwaffe fighter pilots began attacking the formations head on. The ensuing carnage was ghastly.
“The secret to the B-17 was the capability of flying in tight formations, so tight that the wings were often almost touching,” wrote Morgan. “We were able to put out an amazing amount of firepower… but, I also positively feel that was a bit of divine intervention for our crew.”
While the addition of Allied fighter escorts helped fend off some German attackers, the fact that the B-17s had to fly at 25,000 feet or lower to maintain any semblance of accuracy on target put them in the range of the deadly German 88mm anti-aircraft gun. No amount of machine guns or friendly fighters could counter the dense flak approaching targets while flying straight and level.
Bomber crews had to just grit their teeth and pray.
“They felt like they were a great crew. They were tightly knit, confident and dedicated to what they were doing,” said Duford. “However, being in those formations, flying straight and level with enemy anti-aircraft and fighter aircraft, there certainly was a little bit of luck for them too.”
Luck, both good and bad, was also a factor in the “Belle” crew, despite not being the first crew to complete 25 missions, being the one to return to the U.S. for a bond and morale tour.
The “Belle’s” selection for the morale tour was the result of a film project about the strategic bombing campaign that was the brainchild of USAAF Gen. Hap Arnold and a Hollywood director, William Wyler, who had volunteered to serve his country in the best way he knew how.
It was hoped that a film documenting a bomber crew as they successfully completed a combat tour would calm new recruits, who were hearing stories of the carnage overseas, and assuage the doubts of the public, press and politicians that strategic bombing was a failure.
Wyler, an immigrant who was born in the Alsace region of modern-day France when it was part of the German Empire prior to World War I and who would go on to win three Best Director Academy Awards, including one for “Ben-Hur”, was commissioned as a major and headed to England with a film crew to document the fight in skies over Europe.
Wyler and his cameraman flew with B-17 combat crews and began filming missions of a B-17F of the 401st Bomb Squadron of the 91st Bomb Group named “Invasion II”. His staff also began interviewing and making publicity photographs of the crewmembers, as they drew closer to completing 25 missions.
However, on April 17, 1943, the reality of war spoiled the Hollywood ending during their 23rd mission to Bremen, Germany. Invasion II crashed after being hit by flak over Borhmen, Germany, setting the cockpit and wing on fire. The crew managed to bail out, but all became prisoners of war.
Wyler regrouped and found a plane and crew with the 324th Bomb Squadron that was also close to completing their combat tour. The “Memphis Belle”, named for Morgan’s girlfriend, Margaret Polk of Memphis, Tennessee, and its crew took center stage.
(U.S. Army Air Forces photo)
While the crew of “Hell’s Angels” completed their tour on May 13, 1943, four days before the “Belle”, there was no film of that plane and crew. Consequently, it was the “Belle” and its crew that would fly mission 26 back to the U.S. and receive a hero’s welcome.
Wyler’s film, “Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress”, would be released and distributed by Paramount Pictures the following year.
(National Museum of the U.S. Air Force photo)
It was a film that came with a high price tag. One of Wyler’s cinematographers, 1st Lt. Harold J. Tannenbaum, a veteran of World War I, was killed in action during the filming when the bomber he was in was shot down over France on April 16, 1943.
Until the end of the war, the “Belle” was used as a training aircraft, but instead of being torn apart for scrap like most of the other 12,700 B-17s built during the war, the city of Memphis, Tennessee, put the aircraft on display for nearly 50 years.
The historic aircraft came to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in October 2005, when work began on a careful, multi-year conservation and restoration effort including corrosion treatment and the full outfitting of missing equipment.
Casey Simmons arrived shortly after the “Memphis Belle” as a restoration specialist for the museum.
(Photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)
From the beginning, it was apparent that priority one in the restoration was getting it right. His first assignment was to fabricate a glycol heater that was missing from inside the left wing. No visitor to the museum would ever see it.
“I know it’s there and that’s cool because it’s going to get all the parts that it needs to be a complete aircraft,” said Simmons. “When you don’t have the part you try and find a part from another airplane or you go to the blueprints and make the part completely from scratch.”
While the museum has other B-17s in its collection, the “Memphis Belle” requires a whole other level of patience and dedication.
(Photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)
“Other restoration projects are typically a general model of a certain aircraft. So it represents a lot of them. This one is a specific aircraft, so you have to get it right; exactly to the rivet,” said Simmons.
The museum specialist did not try to restore the “Belle” to how it rolled off the Boeing line, but utilized films, photos and records from its time in combat to bring the B-17F back to fighting trim, scars and all.
“There are certain damage spots on the “Memphis Belle” that were fixed over time, so we have to make sure that those show up on the aircraft the way they were,” said Simmons. “If they put five rivets in an area as opposed to the standard four that are supposed to be there, we have to get that correct… When you go through video footage, old film footage, or photographs, and you do find a little glimpse of what you’re looking for, that’s a big moment. We have to get it right for those bomber crews.”
The bravery of those bomber crews continued after all the whoopla back home died down. Even Morgan was eager to get back in the fight.
While on a morale tour stop in Wichita, Kansas, Morgan caught a glimpse of the future of strategic bombing, the still secret B-29 Superfortress. He volunteered immediately to train on the new bomber and earned command of his own squadron of B-29s that deployed to Saipan in the Pacific Theater.
On November 24, 1944, his 869th Squadron of the 497th Bomb Group was the first, other than Doolittle’s Raiders in 1942, to bomb Tokyo. He would go on to complete another 24 combat missions in the B-29 before the end of WWII. He retired from the U.S. Air Force Reserve in 1965 as a colonel.
While the restoration and display of the “Memphis Belle” will ensure the story of the dedication, bravery and airmanship of its 10 crewmembers that returned home safely in 1943 honors all the Airmen that fought in WWII, Duford is particularly enthusiastic that the exhibit will allow Museum of U.S. Air Force visitors to learn the story of the little known 11th crewmember of the “Memphis Belle”.
As much as any Airman, he embodied the spirit and sense of duty shared by all the heavy bomber crews.
“It’s the story of one of the waist gunners, Emerson Scott Miller,” said Duford. “You don’t see him in any of the war bond photos and you don’t see his name listed as one of the ‘Memphis Belle’ crew members. He came overseas as a technician repairing the autopilot systems on B-17s. He was safe. He didn’t have to fly the missions but he decided he wanted to do more and volunteered to fly in combat. He joined the ‘Memphis Belle’ crew after they had flown about nine or 10 of their missions. So he had flown 16 of his missions when the rest of the ‘Memphis Belle’ crew completed their 25th.
“Capt. Robert Morgan really wanted Scott Miller to come back on the war bond tour, but Miller hadn’t finished his 25th mission, so he had to stay. While the ‘Belle’ crew was celebrated and famous and there were parties for them, Scott Miller was still flying in combat.”
Fittingly, Miller finished his 25th mission aboard another B-17 on July 4, 1943, but for him, there were no parades, no press conferences, no meeting movie stars and no special duties.
“We got in touch with Scott Miller’s family,” said Duford. “They donated a trunk full of artifacts, and so Scott Miller has a place in the exhibit and his story will be told… He could have just simply done his duty repairing those autopilot systems and gone home safe. But he put his life on the line and then was forgotten. Now he’s going to be remembered now and for generations to come.”
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
You probably know the name James Hatch — or maybe you’ve heard of Jimmy Hatch. He’s famous for one of the worst days of his life. The Navy SEAL was on one of the ill-fated missions to rescue Bowe Bergdahl after the soldier walked off of his base in Afghanistan. This mission resulted in the death of a military canine and left Hatch with a crippling wound to his leg.
This is what happens when a SEAL brings a dog to an elementary school.
The Piper Campaign focuses on cold-weather gear and is named for a dog that kept wildlife safely away from planes, even when the snow was a foot deep on the ground. The Diesel Campaign covers medical expenses for wounded or retired working dogs. And the Krijger Campaign raises money for ballistic vests for dogs, vests that might have saved Hatch’s dogs, Spike and Remco.
The fund says that it has helped 710 dogs so far, and that’s no small feat. Ballistics vests for dogs can easily cost over ,000, and veterinary services for wounded, injured, and retired dogs can quickly become quite pricy as well. But dogs save lives in combat situations, so saving the dogs can help save police officer lives.
And the fund has had some high-profile successes, including when they convinced Anderson Cooper to not only donate himself, but also to speak and get others to open their wallets.
The video at top tells the story of a dog that was shot in the line of duty, but was able to go back to work with a vest provided by the students of an elementary school.
There’s no shortage of heroic war stories — truth or fiction — with heavy amounts of glory and honor in them, which can cause young adults to crave certain adventures. Although serving in the infantry does bring a level of individual satisfaction, many facts tend to get left out regarding what it’s really like to be a ground pounder.
So before you run to your local recruiting office to sign on the dotted line and become a hero or whatever, here are a few things you might need to know:
1. It’s a dangerous job
Movies do a great job depicting how dangerous war can be as directors add in cinematic kills and awesome camera work.
In real life, there’s no pulse-pounding theme music or slow motion effects — the sh*t is real.
Once you make a friend in the infantry, you always have that special bond no matter what.
Hopefully, you’re the “Maverick” in the relationship. (Image via Giphy)
3. It can be really, really boring
You’ve probably heard the phrase “hurry up and wait.” In a grunt unit, everything takes more time than it should and you’re going to have plenty of down time. So make sure you have games downloaded on your smartphone to play and help you stay awake while you wait for the higher-ups to “pass the word.”
It’s called a “working party.” This sounds way more fun than it actually is. Instead of plenty of beer and drunken coeds, you’ll be outside in the heat “police calling” cigarette butts or mopping your boss’s office.
If this looks fun, being a boot in the infantry may be your calling(Image via Giphy)
Four spouses and two fiancées of veterans eligible for the Department of Veterans Affairs‘ family caregiver program have filed a lawsuit against the VA for denying or improperly revoking their benefits.
In a suit filed Jan. 22, 2018, in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, the plaintiffs, led by Florida resident Zamantha Tapia, fiancée of Army veteran Cesar Silva, allege that the VA did not follow the laws and regulations governing the department’s Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers program, which provides compensation and health benefits to those who provide care for seriously injured post-9/11 veterans.
According to the suit, Silva and Tapia’s application was denied, and the benefits of the other plaintiffs were inappropriately downgraded or terminated without proper investigation or determination.
In 2017, veterans and their caregivers enrolled in the program began seeing their benefits curtailed or terminated — often with no reason given, other than that their VA providers determined they no longer needed help with their daily activities.
In August 2018, the VA Office of Inspector General found that across the VA, facilities didn’t adequately manage the program, failing to provide consistent access to it, improperly accepting ineligible veterans and declining to monitor the health statuses of nearly half the veterans it discharged from the program.
The IG also learned that the department paid out .8 million to caregivers of veterans who weren’t eligible for the program, and the VA “failed to manage the program effectively because it did not establish governance that promoted accountability for program management,” staff members wrote in the report.
In 2015, plaintiff Jennifer Wilmot and her husband George Wilmot, an Army National Guard veteran who served from October 2007 to May 2013, were booted from the program.
The Wilmots were accepted into the caregiver program in 2013 but should have received the highest level of compensation rather than the level they were awarded, according to attorneys Jason Perry and Luke Miller.
Then came the dismissal.
“After completing a comprehensive review of your medical records, it appears that you have met the intention of the program and your participation will be discontinued,” VA officials wrote to the Wilmots.
The lawsuit calls the termination “arbitrary and capricious.”
Silva was deployed to Iraq from November 2003 to August 2004, sustaining shrapnel injuries in an attack. According to the lawsuit, he received a VA disability rating of 70 percent in 2009 for rotator cuff strain and impingement and suffers from chronic headaches, degenerative joint disease, back pain and neuropathy. He also has PTSD, TBI, memory loss, depression and irritable bowel syndrome.
Tapia and Silva applied for the family caregiver program in 2014 but were denied. According to the suit, the VA found that Silva did not need assistance for physical injuries and said his mental health conditions were not service-connected. They reapplied in 2017, but following a phone assessment, VA officials said that Silva was not “receiving medical treatment” — an error, the lawsuit alleges — and that Tapia was “an enabler.”
According to Perry, an attorney in Wellington, Florida, and Miller, of Military Disability Lawyer LLC in Salem, Oregon, the plaintiffs have asked the court to certify the suit as a class action, meaning that other affected caregivers could sign on if it is approved.
They estimate that the VA received more than 100,000 applications for the family caregiver program between May 2011 and September 2018 and, therefore, thousands may be able to sign on to the possible class action.
The plaintiffs also are requesting that the VA stop what they perceive as arbitrary dismissals from the program and are seeking monetary compensation in an amount “to be determined at trial,” according to the suit.
The federal government has until March 25, 2019, to file a response in the case, and a status conference is scheduled for March 29, 2019, according to court documents.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
While barely any American helicopters served in World War II and few flew in Korea, Vietnam was a proving ground for many airframes — everything from the venerable Huey to Chinooks sporting huge guns.
One of the most dangerous helicopter assignments was a tiny scout helicopter known as the “Loach.” Officially designated the OH-6 Cayuse, these things were made of thin plexiglass and metal but were expected to fly low over the jungles and grass, looking for enemy forces hiding in the foliage.
They were usually joined by Cobra gunships — either in hunter-killer teams where the Loach hunted and the Cobra killed or in air mobile cavalry units where both airframes supported cavalry and infantrymen on the ground.
In the hunter-killer teams, the Loach would fly low over the jungle, drawing fire and then calling for the Cobra to kill the teams on the ground.
In air mobile teams, a pilot would fly low while an observer would scan the ground for signs of the enemy force. Some of them were able to tell how large a force was and how recently it had passed. They would then call in scouts on the ground or infantrymen to hunt for the enemy in the brush while attack helicopters protected everyone.
Queer John was famous not just for crashing, but for keeping the crew safe while it did so. An Army article written after John’s seventh crash credited it with surviving 61 hits from enemy fire and seven crashes without losing a single crew member.
While Loachs were vulnerable to enemy fire, they were famous for surviving crashes like John did. A saying among Army aviators was, “If you have to crash, do it in a Loach.”
In a recent study conducted by the Department of Defense and the Sleep Research Society, it turns out that the insomnia rate within troops skyrocketed 650 percent since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In other news, water is wet.
No. But seriously. This should only be a shock to civilians who’re so far removed from what the troops are actually doing. If you’re wondering why we have sleep problems, take a look at our regular schedule: wake up at 0430, PT until 0700, work until 1700 (but more likely at 1800,) fill out paperwork or college courses that couldn’t have gotten done during work hours for another few hours, maybe some personal time, and eventually sleep around midnight.
That entire cycle is then propped up with copious amounts of coffee and energy drinks. And to no one’s surprise, it’s obviously the caffeine’s problem instead of systemically awful time management skills of most troops.
I’m just saying. Don’t get on the troops’ asses about drinking coffee. There are civilians who roll out of bed at 0845 and leave work at 1500 who can’t go a moment without their vanilla spiced grande chai latte whatever. Here are some memes for those of you who earned theirs!
During World War II and the Korean War, the United States trained over 1.5 million African American soldiers. Aside from gaining the combat experience of a lifetime, the role of a soldier in patriotic America gave Black veterans an even bigger opportunity; specifically a much larger platform from which to fight for equality.
Even in the military, Black and white soldiers were segregated.
While this was mostly true of American training bases in the south, even outside of segregated spaces, Black soldiers held fewer privileges than prisoners of war and faced increased hostility throughout the U.S military. Though both Black and white soldiers weren’t subjugated to different levels of combat and violence, Black soldiers were frequently given low-status positions such as cooks or janitors.
Despite continuous discrimination, many African Americans in the military stepped up to the plate and persevered. The following are just a few of the remarkable Black vets who paved the way for a more equitable American military force.
1. Dorie Miller
Dorie Miller was a Mess Attendant, Third Class on battleship West Virginia. Miller enlisted in 1935 when African Americans were not allowed to be trained in combat, let alone wear the Navy’s insignia. During his time on the West Virginia, Miller witnessed Japanese fighter pilots attack Pearl Harbor. Despite only having trained as a cook, he manned an anti-aircraft machine gun, shooting down several enemy fighters and saving dozens of critically injured soldiers. He was one of the last three men to jump ship, continuing to seek out and retrieve injured servicemen before saving himself.
However, when newspapers reported the heroes of Pearl Harbor, the Navy’s public relations official referred to Miller as “an unnamed Negro messman.” Though the Navy’s blatant discriminatory omission of Dorie Miller’s name might never have let his heroism go unrecognized, the Pittsburg Courier, a Black-owned newspaper, officially identified him in 1942. Yet while Miller continued to be denied accolades by persistent, white conservative politicians, his actions broke barriers in the Navy; Finally, allowing Black men were eligible to receive combat training and to hold rank. Miller continued his career in active service and through persistent lobbying from the NAACP, he became the first Black man to be awarded the Navy Cross. Although he died while on active duty during World War II, he was also posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor award.
Though many African American soldiers were forced to navigate racism within the military, enlisting and being stationed in other countries also allowed them to experience new perspectives. The military provided opportunities to escape poverty and meet more open-minded people and cultures where legalized segregation didn’t exist. In addition, Black veterans were given educational opportunities many may have never gotten otherwise. Though discrimination kept a lot of Black veterans from receiving benefits, the GI Bill of 1944 gave veterans and servicemen free college tuition.
When WWII ended, Black soldiers returned home to much of the same.
Despite their accomplishments on the field, they faced the same discrimination at home as they always had. Now, however, they had something they didn’t have before they joined the military; perspective. Now that they had witnessed the ideological landscape of the rest of the world, they found a renewed determination to fight for civil rights. If other countries had civil rights, why not America?
African Americans’ combined fight against fascism and racism was referred to as the “Double V” by the famed Black newspaper, the Pittsburgh Courier. White supremacists fired back at the fight for equal citizenship, threatening Black veterans with violence if they ‘stepped out of line’. Black veterans were dissuaded from going out in uniform, as it supposedly implied they were too confident in their own presence. Several Black veterans were murdered.
2. Amzie Moore
Amzie Moore, a Mississippi native, was already an established business owner in Cleveland and had been one of the first Black men to register to vote in 1935 in the state of Mississippi. However, upon visiting Mississippi after finishing his service overseas, Moore discovered that white men had organized a ‘home guard’ as a way to protect women from African American veterans. Though Moore had already become involved in midwestern politics before enlisting, the white backlash against Black veterans pushed him to involve himself more in the blossoming civil rights movement. Moore’s success in business had put him in the spotlight for collaboration with other civil rights leaders, which ultimately led him to be elected as president of the Cleveland chapter of the NAACP.
3. Medgar Evers
In 1946, Medgar Evers, who was also from Mississippi, gathered a group of fellow Black veterans together to try and register to vote. They were forcibly ejected from the courthouse by an armed mob of white men, but this didn’t stop Evers from pursuing equality. He later attempted to integrate the University of Mississippi law school. He was rejected yet again, so rather than become a lawyer, Evers chose a career with the NAACP. There, he served as the organization’s first field secretary in Mississippi.
Evers and Moore shared past experiences working together as two of the four founders of the Regional Council of Negro Leadership. Moore and Evers continued working together, interviewing witnesses of the Emmett Till trial. The two were a perfect team and used the knowledge they’d acquired while in the military, with one NAACP organizer stating that veterans werw specifically scouted because they “don’t scare easy.”
4. Hosea Williams
Another black veteran, Hosea Williams had gone into battle under the command of General George Patton and was the only member of his unit to survive a Nazi bombing. After spending over a year in a hospital recovering from his severe injuries, Williams returned to the U.S. However, rather than being thanked for his service and respected, he was beaten “like a common dog,” for using a whites-only water fountain. Williams is quoted as saying “At that moment, I truly felt as if I had fought on the wrong side…Then, and not until then, did I realize why God, time after time, had taken me to death’s door, then spared my life … to be a general in the war for human rights and personal dignity.” It was then that Williams joined the NAACP and later became a trusted colleague of Martin Luther King Jr. He’s best known for carrying out voter registration initiatives in 1964 and marching with John Lewis on the infamous “Bloody Sunday.”
5. Grant Reynolds
One can’t talk about Black veterans and their influence on civil rights without mentioning Grant Reynolds. Reynolds was incredibly ambitious and was prepared to defend his country during WWII no matter the cost. He trained as a chaplain but soon resigned, citing “brazen racism” as his primary reason for leaving. Later on, Reynolds worked with A. Philip Randolph to record his experiences. In 1947, he also founded the Committee Against Jim Crow in Military Service and Training. Reynold’s efforts in the organization paid off, as it led to President Truman’s order to integrate the military in 1948.
All in all, Black veterans played a pivotal role in civil rights in America. They broke barriers, made strides for racial equality, and never backed down from a fight- not even when it happened in their own backyard.