4 worst Russian propaganda fails - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

4 worst Russian propaganda fails

Remember that massive leak of embarrassing and damaging Democratic National Committee emails?  And it turned out that Russian Intelligence Services were most likely behind it? It wasn’t the first time.


Russia tried to pin the blame on a most likely fictional Romanian hacker named “Guccifer 2.0,” but the “Romanian” who spoke to the press couldn’t type Romanian-language sentences without making errors and avoided technical questions about hacking.

The Russian propaganda machine is sometimes stunningly effective and sometimes surprisingly stupid. The spin doctors may have convinced many people in Europe that the Ukrainian Revolution was a Fascist uprising, but they also screwed up these 4 things:

1. Malaysian Airlines Flight 17

 

4 worst Russian propaganda fails
A Malaysian Airlines plane taxis on the runway in 2011. This same plane was shot down by a Russian missile system in 2014. (Photo: Alan Wilson CC BY-SA 2.0)

 

When Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) went down in eastern Ukraine on Jul. 17, 2015, a long investigation was launched to determine what happened.  Through extensive modeling and forensics, a Dutch-led investigation determined that the plane was downed by a Russian-made Buk missile fired from the area of Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed separatists.

Russian propaganda went into overdrive to shift blame from themselves for giving the separatists the missile.

Russian state media drudged up a “satellite image” from an obscure message board and began reporting that the scene it presented, one of a Ukrainian fighter jet firing on MH17, was a fact. But, as users at the investigative journalism site Bellingcat pointed out, the planes’ relative size to each other and the ground were way off and the MH17 plane perfectly matches the first Google result for the Russian equivalent of, “Boeing top view.”

Russia had also claimed that a Ukrainian Su-25 shot down MH17. Apparently, the state media wasn’t very worried about that when they released the fake satellite imagery since the fighter in the photo clearly isn’t an Su-25.

2. Russian invasion of Crimea

 

4 worst Russian propaganda fails
Russian soldiers in modified uniforms with no national markings stand guard outside a captured Ukrainian base in 2014. (Photo: Anton Holoborodko CC BT-SA 3.0)

 

Russia repeatedly claimed that its troops weren’t in Ukraine during the invasion of Crimea, a region of Ukraine, and couldn’t understand why so many people thought they were. (Hint: It was mostly the Russian license plates, uniforms, accents and language.)

No one thought to cut off the soldiers’ access to social media, though. The Atlantic Council followed the digital footprint of a soldier and proved that he — and a lot of his closest friends and squadmates — had come from Siberia in Russia.

Worse, Putin apparently forgot to get the word out to the soldiers that they *wink* weren’t Russian. Some soldiers admitted to journalists that they were Russian while they were standing on Ukrainian soil, as Jon Stewart highlighted in a great piece for The Daily Show.

3. The anti-government protests in Kiev, Ukraine

 

4 worst Russian propaganda fails
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Mstyslav Chernov

 

Before Ukrainian protesters ousted the country’s pro-Kremlin leader and tried to join the Western world — kicking off the armed conflict with Russia and pro-Russian separatists — it held a series of large rallies and protests against the then president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych.

Russian state media covered the protests and said that they were dying out with only a few hundred people remaining in the square. They said this while their camera panned across the square and a crowd estimated to hold about 1 million people.

State media later claimed that swarms of ethnic Russians in Ukraine were fleeing the country to get to Russia, but their footage of the “Russian” border stations had clear signs identifying it as a Polish-Ukrainian border station.

4. The re-hired actors fiascos

In multiple incidents over the past few years, propaganda creators have used the same actors in different videos and photo shoots, sometimes over and over again.

One of the most prominent examples was the “Tale of Two Andreis” where multiple Russian news outlets aired footage of the same actor in the same hospital bed with the same injuries but with three different backstories. In one story he was an ordinary citizen attacked by neo-Nazis, in another he was a German spy, and in the last he was a pediatric surgeon caught in the crossfire during a violent protest.

In another series, internet watchers caught on to a female actor who had appeared in approximately five Russian propaganda videos, each time with a different story and biography. She even recycled a distinctive hat for two of the videos.

The unfortunate thing for the rest of the international community is that — despite Russia’s frequent missteps — their propaganda model does work. Rand Corporation looked at the body of evidence and found that Russia’s use of multiple channels buys it credibility even when most of its arguments can be proven false.

The effect can be even greater when they actually get a gift of real information. After all, the Democratic National Committee hasn’t released anything saying that the leaked emails were faked. So while Russia may get made fun of for trying to pass off an actor as a Romanian hacker, they’re still influencing an American election.

And this time they get to enjoy the fact that no one can debunk the kernel at the heart of the story.

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4 Reasons why the first-ever jet fighter didn’t make an impact on World War II

Legendary test pilot and World War II veteran Chuck Yeager once commented, “Nov 6, 1944: First time I saw a jet, I shot it down.” He was referring to the Messerschmidt 262, the first operational jet aircraft. 

The Me-262 first appeared in the skies over Europe in April 1944. It’s impact on the German Luftwaffe was huge, especially coming so late during World War II. In just one year, the Germans estimated that Me-262 pilots shot down  more than 500 aircraft, which isn’t bad considering the Luftwaffe was pretty irrelevant at that point. 

Nazi Germany probably hoped it would help stem the Allied advance by denying the oncontested air superiority the Allies enjoyed later on in the war. In some ways, it did but in every way that matters, it didn’t make much of a difference.

1. There weren’t enough in the air

The German air force produced around 1,400 Me-262s during World War II but due to the lack of skilled pilots, restrictions on the availability of raw materials and spare parts, and constant Allied bombing, the Luftwaffe could only get 200 or so airborne at any time. 

Major production facilities were bombed and destroyed by Allied air power, so the Germans had to move the production to more low-key areas and disparate places. As a result, the parts of the planes had to come together at another facility entirely. The Germans even started using abandoned mines to shield them from Allied attacks. Eventually, they were all overrun.

2. The Me-262 was not a durable aircraft

4 worst Russian propaganda fails
An Me-262 being shot down, seen from gun camera of a P-51 pilot
(U.S. Army Air Force)

Luftwaffe planners were not prepared for the wear and tear the jet engines would take during drawn-out dogfighting and bomber raids. The planes had a lot of quirks that would also put wear on the new engine. It had trouble maneuvering at high speeds, which was its primary attraction to the Luftwaffe.

A Me-262 jet engine would typically wear out after just 10-20 flight hours, and would need to be replaced or repaired with parts that weren’t always widely available. If they weren’t maintained well, the engines could flame out or even blow up mid-flight. 

3. Allied pilots knew when to attack the Me-262

While the initial introduction to fighting one of the Messerschmidt jets might have been a shock to the Allied air forces at first, these were some of the smartest guys in the war. It doesn’t take a fighter pilot long to assess the strengths and weaknesses of an enemy aircraft and learn when is the best time to go in for the kill. 

Once in the air, the jet fighter was a formidable opponent, so Allied airmen began targeting the Me-262 during takeoffs and landings. The best way to defeat an enemy is making sure it can’t fight in the first place. Even when the Me-262 was airborne, the much slower P-51 Mustang was still deadly against the jet. Fighter pilots learned the Me-262 had to slow down to take a turn, and the much more maneuverable Mustangs would be ready when it did. 

4. It was over-engineered 

Hitler wanted the jet to be able to perform many roles, so what it became was a jack of all trades – and a master of none. The Me-262, when compared to other fighters at the time, was not an agile airframe. It lacked agility, acceleration, and climb; all things a fighter needed when engaged in air combat. 

When used as a high-speed interceptor aircraft, there was no World War II-era equal. The top speed of a Me-262 was at least 100 miles per hour faster than anything the Allies could fly, but once engaged by enemy fighters, the Me-262 became a target like any other Luftwaffe plane. 

MIGHTY HISTORY

How this World War I doughboy was killed the day the war ended

The horrors of war are probably only fully appreciated by those who have served their countries in battles on land, at sea, or in the air. Nearly every history buff has watched Saving Private Ryan or read Unbroken, from which we glean a taste of what it might be like to kill or be killed for a cause–or to simply survive.

It’s all too easy to forget about the pure hell and random misfortunes that men and women are subjected to so that the rest of us can live free and safe. Sometimes, historical accounts from people who have experienced the burden of combat help us understand the sacrifices those soldiers and others have made. I am in possession of photocopies from a journal written by one of my wife’s relatives, a soldier who served at the end of World War I. He died in France on Armistice Day — November 11, 1918. He may well have been the last American killed in the Great War.


Private Joseph Sommers was born in Springfield, Illinois. After boot camp at Camp Logan in Houston, Texas, he was sent to fight for America and her allies on the front lines in France during the summer of 1918. What you are about to read are excerpts from Private Sommers’s journal: The soldier was my wife’s great-great uncle. Most of the spelling and grammar is presented as written, though some capitalization and periods have been added to improve readability. The images described within the 5000-word manuscript and the emotions they elicit might leave an indelible impression upon your mind, heart, and soul–they are deeply affecting.

While you read the following, try to place yourself in the French countryside walking along battle-scarred roads on a journey situated somewhere between beautiful and truly horrific. Become the imaginary comrade of Private Joseph Sommers, Company C, 124th Machine Gun Battalion, 23rd Division. A young soldier who made the ultimate sacrifice, so that others might live free.

4 worst Russian propaganda fails
Pages from the journal of Private Joseph Sommers.

Left Camp Logan 5/4/18. Sunday. We always leave on Sunday.

Arrived in Hoboken, NY. 5/16/18. Sailed on SS Mount Vernon ship, formerly the pride of the Kaiser. Ship very crowded. Mess was bad. 132nd Infantry Wolves hogged the boat.

Arrived in Brest, France on 5/24/18 and debarked.

5/26/18 Harbor filled with transports. A beautiful site coming into the harbor. Hills studded with guns. Airplanes and dirigibles guard harbor from subs. Very hot, overcoats on.

Oisemont 5/29/18. Arrived at our present camp. We are expected to be called to the front most any time. Anti-aircraft guns fired at airplanes. White puffs of shrapnel. Elusive planes. The rumble of guns very plainly heard, never ceasing, 25 miles back of the line. Bombing of towns close by continues nightly. I expect ours to be bombed most any time.

6/18/18 Going to machine gun school today for 12 days. Boche [German] planes, 10 in one bunch, 11 another bunch. Antiaircraft guns firing, very few hits made. We are now attached to the British Army. A visit to the lines on the night of July 3. We approached within 3 miles of the front line. Shells began to burst and I wished at the moment that our helmets was large as umbrellas. It is surprising how small you can make yourself when shells are bursting all around you. Ammunition dump struck by airplane bomb near Amiens. The whole heavens lighted with red flare, a wonderful thing.

7/7/18 An observation balloon high in the air, a cigar shaped affair with elephant ears, sways with the wind. It is held in position by a big cable which is attached to a motor car weighing 6 tons. The cable winds around a drum, and the balloon is either brought down or rises in the sky. The observer cuts loose his parachute, it drops. It fails to open like an umbrella. He is finished.

7/20/18 A doctor was found at the operating table standing over a patient in the act of operating on him when the gas struck both and they died. The graveyard at Biere was shelled so much by the Germans that the caskets and bodies and tombstones were scattered all over. There are quite a few soldiers graves here, from all regiments.

7/29/18 Our home in the woods was visited by Fritz’s [German] planes. He dropped about 12 bombs, luckily no one was hit. I would rather dodge 100 shells then hear one bomb whistle through the air.

8/7/18 Arrived at our positions at 12:45 A.M. On our way to this place we met some trucks and ambulances loaded with wounded and gassed, also many wounded walking to the first aid station.

8/7/18, 4:30 A.M. The British opened a terrible barrage. The sound was deafening. The shells were bursting through the air with such speed as to liken the sound of Niagara Falls. Previous to that time Fritz had been sending over gas shells by the hundreds, Mustard Gas which is one of the worst gases Jerry [Germans] uses. We had to wear our gas mask for over two hours.

9/18/18 The trees split as under their naked trunks against the skyline. Nature itself seems to be dead. In that dreary space not a living thing moves, save an occasional bird. “Dead Man’s Hill” is close by. The bones, skulls of men still thickly cover the ground. The rats are tame enough in our dugout to eat out of your hand. They sit and wink at you.

9/24/18 Turned in all our surplus stuff in the A.M. We are now traveling light. The Stunt is near being pulled off and by the looks of things it is going to be a big one. The Germans dropped some Gas and High Explosives pretty close today. We are bringing up ammunition in great quantities. We are waiting for zero hour.

9/26/18, 2:15 A.M. Gen. Jack Pershing and our Captain bid us God Speed and good luck. Up and among them soon. We opened our barrage which lasted for one hour starting at 5:30 AM. We hopped over the top amid the hell of machine gun bullets and ducking big shells. We saw plenty of dead lying on the battlefield which had been a battlefield for four different battles.

4 worst Russian propaganda fails
Sommers’s obituary

9/27/18 We advanced three and half miles yesterday. The Germans left in a hurry. The water was still in the stoves that they were making coffee. Water was still hot. The Meuse River is about 800 yards in front of us.

10/2/18 Great artillery this A.M. on both sides. It was a little stronger than the usual morning song. Heard tonight that Bulgaria and Austria had surrendered.

10/5/18 Still in the line. Artillery still hammering away and also some machine gun firing.

10/9/18 Orders to move forward. Fired a machine gun barrage and orders came to remove guns and seek shelter in a deep dugout. Still waiting for orders to go forward.

10/10/18 Still in reverse. Got mail from Sister. Beautiful day, sun shining. The sky was full of airplanes, never saw so many. The sky was full of them just like birds. Have been in the line, for five weeks now. Still looking every day for relief.

This entry on October 10, 1918 was Private Sommers’s last. He died on November 11, Armistice Day, during an attack near Bougainville, France. While the armistice took effect at 11 a.m. on November 11, family lore has it that Sommers was actually killed later that day. I’ve thought about trying to help prove he was in fact the last American killed in the Great War. I struggle with whether that matters.

All photos courtesy of Ken Cruickshank

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

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New declassified Russian documents change the history of the Cuban Missile Crisis

For 13 days in 1962, the world stood on the brink of nuclear destruction. How close humanity came to a nuclear holocaust has been well-documented in the past, but a new book from Serhii Plokhy, a professor of Ukrainian history at Harvard University, details a lot things the CIA missed about the Russian nuclear force on Cuba at the time.

In “Nuclear Folly: A History of the Cuban Missile Crisis,” Plokhy uses newly declassified documents from Russia and Ukraine (a member of the Soviet Union at the time), to show the world a list of things previously unknown about the crisis. 

4 worst Russian propaganda fails
Plokhy’s book (Available on Amazon)

After U-2 spy planes uncovered the presence of nuclear-armed missile sites on the island of Cuba on Oct. 22 1962, the United States and the Soviet Union entered a nearly two-week standoff. As diplomats and leaders wrangled to cut a deal that would end the crisis, the U.S. military went on high alert, reaching DEFCON 2 in some areas.

DEFCON 2 was the second highest state of readiness for the United States armed forces during the Cold War, one level below a full-scale nuclear exchange. The forces put on DEFCON 2 were ready to go to war with the Soviet Union within six hours. It was the highest level of readiness ever reached by the U.S. during the Cold War. 

When the CIA finally got wind of the nuclear missiles on Cuba, they were in place and ready to launch, capable of hitting targets deep inside the continental United States. They were also able to strike Washington – and the U.S. intelligence community had no idea. 

It was only through dumb luck they noticed at all. An analyst looking at the flyover photos saw soccer fields constructed on the island. Cubans didn’t play soccer, by and large, because they preferred baseball as a sporting pastime. Russians, however, loved soccer. And upon taking a closer look, they discovered the Soviet missile sites. 

What the intel agencies missed, according to the new book, was the presence of Luna short-range nuclear missiles on the island. Moreover, there weren’t just 4,000 troops from the USSR in Cuba, there were 40,000 – a much larger number than previously known. 

If the U.S. invaded Cuba, the Soviets and the Cubans were prepared to retaliate with everything available in the arsenal on the island and elsewhere. It was a strategy favored by many in the administration of President John F. Kennedy. Had Kennedy authorized the invasion, it’s estimated that 70 million Americans would have died during the exchange. 

The Soviet troops stationed on the island were living in fear of the same exchange, the new book reveals. They believed an invasion and nuclear war was imminent, especially after another U-2 spy plane was shot down over Cuba on Oct. 27, 1962. 

4 worst Russian propaganda fails
Technicians load a type A-2 camera set into a U-2’s equipment bay, or “Q-bay.” (U.S. Air Force)

There were numerous close calls during the crisis, but in every instance cooler heads prevailed. A Russian submarine nearly launched a nuclear torpedo at the blockading squadron. Two F-102 fighters armed with nuclear-tipped missiles avoided two Soviet MiG-17s in the search for the downed U-2, and another nuclear submarine nearly launched a nuclear torpedo when Americans fired off a flare into the night sky.

Kennedy himself wavered between pinpoint airstrikes and a carpet bombing campaign to neutralize the threat. In the end, at the behest of the former U.S. Ambassador to Moscow Tommy Thompson, Kennedy opted to “quarantine” the island, instituting an effective blockade (without calling it a blockade, which would have been an act of war). 

While cutting off Cuba from receiving more men and material, he talked to Soviet leader Nikita Kruschev and brokered a deal that would remove the Soviet troops in exchange for a promise from the U.S. not to invade Cuba. It was later revealed that Kennedy removed nuclear weapons from Turkey in the deal. 

At the end of the 13 Days, everyone left the deal with something they wanted. Kennedy and Khruschev both removed existential threats to their countries and nuclear war was averted. For Kennedy, the deal boosted his popularity at home. For Khurschev, it was a political disaster. The removal of missiles from Turkey remained a secret, so to the public and the Soviet Communist Party, it looked like Khrushchev balked. He was out of power two years later. 

MIGHTY HISTORY

It was a veteran soldier who perfected the ultimate bank robbery

If there’s anything people know about troops and veterans, it’s that they’re disciplined and more often than not, they plan things very well. It should come as a surprise to no one that the gangster who perfected the bank heist was a soldier who did his due diligence.


It might also surprise no one that the same soldier decided to end it all in a blaze of glory while surrounded by people trying to shoot him.

4 worst Russian propaganda fails

You can thank former Prussian soldier Herman Lamm for all the great bank robbery movies, gangster shows, and heist flicks you’ve ever seen in your life. The legend of Robin Hood-like, gun-toting gangster robbing banks and speeding away from the cops in a hail of bullets? That’s Lamm too. Machine Gun Kelly, John Dillinger, and Bonnie and Clyde owe their successes to Lamm. Known as the “father of modern bank robbery” Hamm pioneered the idea of conducting the heist in the same style as a military operation.

Lamm was born in the German Empire and later joined the Prussian Army before emigrating to the United States, where he began to rob and steal. Instead of being your average stick-up thief, he adapted the tactics and psychology he was taught by the Prussian Army to his crimes. The effect became legendary.

4 worst Russian propaganda fails

John Dillinger has Lamm to thank for his bank robbery style.

In what would later be dubbed “the Lamm Technique,” he would watch a bank, its guards, and its employees. People in his gang would map the layouts of the banks in various ways, posing as reporters or other outsider professions. He even meticulously planned his getaways, which cars to use, and cased out what routes to take at which times in the day. For the first time, it seemed, each member of the gang was assigned a specific role in the heist, hiring a race car driver to drive the getaway car.

Most importantly, he drilled his men on the action. He practiced and timed every action with every member of the gang to ensure the most German-level efficiency of the heist.

4 worst Russian propaganda fails

The movie “Heat” and other heist movies have Lamm to thank for their success.

Lamm was not as flashy as the gangsters of the era who decided to make a show of their heists, so history doesn’t remember him as fondly as his contemporaries. He died in his final bank heist, surrounded by armed cops, all trying to get a piece of history’s most efficient thief. But Lamm didn’t give them the satisfaction, ending his own life instead of getting gunned down by Indiana cops.

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The Army Chief learned about Pearl Harbor in 14 words

December 7, 1941, is a day which lives in infamy. But it dawned normally at 7:13 a.m. in Washington, D.C., and the attack on Pearl Harbor didn’t begin until the afternoon in Washington. For leaders like Army Chief of Staff Gen. George C. Marshall, the expectation would have been that it would be another tense day of preparing for war, at least until a single note was presented to him.


4 worst Russian propaganda fails
Then-Lt. Col. George C. Marshall in World War I. (National Archives and Records Administration)

 

Marshall had spent years growing as an Army officer before he was tapped in 1939 to become the chief of staff. By that time, he had 37 years of experience in the military and had served in the mud of the Philippine-American War and of France in World War I, rising to colonel and serving as the chief of staff to then-chief of staff Gen. John J. Pershing.

After World War I, he led a number of units before taking over the Army as a whole, and he was experienced in making do with short spending. But it was probably by late 1939 that the growing regional wars would become a world war. (In an odd twist of history, Marshall’s first day as chief of staff was September 1, 1939, the same day Germany invaded Poland.)

And so Marshall oversaw a large increase in military spending and re-armament. His role included deciding where the most direly needed equipment would be sent. And Marshall believed Oahu was nearly impregnable. So while he promised certain new weapons and reinforcements to Lt. Gen. Walter Short at Pearl Harbor, he also took back heavy bombers and other assets that he moved to places like the Philippines.

4 worst Russian propaganda fails
Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall in 1944. (U.S. Army Military History Institute)

 

Marshall was the only high official eligible to see “Magic” intercepts who was not alerted on the night of December 6 that Japan was going to reject a U.S. proposal that Japan withdraw its troops from China and Indochina. And so he didn’t know until he entered his office at 11:25, after his morning horseback ride, how closely America had come to an active war. He immediately ordered that the intelligence be passed to commanders in the field.

Even though the president, secretaries of State, Navy, and War, and the chiefs of Army and Navy war plans and Chief of Naval Operations had all known for hours about the building intelligence signaling war, Marshall was the first one to order the likelihood of war be briefed to the commanders in the trenches. Unfortunately, transmitting that intelligence would take over 8 hours, and Short wouldn’t receive it until seven hours after the attack began.

So when the day dawned on December 7, Marshall was likely hoping that he could keep shifting resources to where he thought they were needed most, that he had a little more time to reinforce and improve positions across the Atlantic and Pacific. By noon, he knew he was likely out of time and that December 7 would be the day.

4 worst Russian propaganda fails
A digital scan of the actual note given to Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George C. Marshall. (U.S. Army War College)

 

Within hours, he would receive a message. It was not addressed to him, though most papers destined for the chief of staff’s desk were laboriously drafted and then addressed to him. It was not typewritten or printed. It wasn’t even written with particularly good handwriting.

But it likely made Marshall’s blood run cold. In just 14 words, it confirmed that the suspected attack was underway.

To all ships Hawaiian area
Air raid on PH
This is no drill.
Urgent

Marshall would learn over the following weeks that over 2,300 Americans had died. He likely second-guessed some of his own decisions about Pearl Harbor after the stunning losses there, though it’s unclear that any of the assets he removed from the island base would have made a difference.

(One of the biggest redeployments from Pearl was nine heavy bombers which, if they had survived the attack, would have been used in the hunt for the Japanese fleet and vengeance on December 7, but American hunters had almost no idea where the Japanese carriers were.)

The air raid pulled America firmly into World War II, awakening the “Sleeping Giant.” America would chase Japanese forces all the way back across the Pacific and would pummel the island nation’s allies in Europe.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

During the launch of Operation Market Garden, a young Nelson Bryant and thousands of fellow paratroopers from the 82d Airborne parachuted into occupied Holland in an attempt to dislodge its Nazi occupiers. Bryant, wounded in a previous mission, took shrapnel to the leg as he fell to Earth. After landing, he began freeing himself from his harness. Under fire from nearby German positions, he was forced to cut it off.

Without thinking, he dropped his knife as he scrambled for cover. It seemed to be lost forever — but it was actually only 73 years.


“There were some Germans shooting at me from about 150 yards away, and they were getting damn close,” he told the local Martha’s Vineyard newspaper, the Vineyard Gazette. “As near as I can tell, what happened was I was pretty excited, and a little upset. I remember I cut some of my clothes I was so nervous. I cut out of the harness. What I think I did, I simply forgot my knife and left it there on the ground in its sheath.”
4 worst Russian propaganda fails

An American paratrooper makes a hard landing in a Dutch field during the airborne phase of Operation Market Garden, September, 1944.

More than 40,000 paratroopers from the 101st and 82d Airborne divisions were dropped into Holland to support Market Garden in 1944. The 82d was supposed to capture and defend the heights over Groesbeek, outside the city of Nijmegen. They were successful in taking the position, but were forced to defend the area from repeated, powerful German counterattacks.

The 82d was also tasked with dropping on either side of the Nijmegen Bridge to hit the bridge’s defenders from both sides and keep it operational for use by Allied forces. Unfortunately, as was the story with Market Garden, things did not go as planned. The entire strike force was dropped to the south of the bridge and would have to assault it from one side, during the day.

4 worst Russian propaganda fails

After D-Day in Normandy, in June, 1944, Nelson Bryant reluctantly strikes a pose.

(Nelson Bryant)

The fighting men of the U.S. Army is the stuff of legend in Groesbeek. One day in 2017, 56-year-old André Duijghuisen was looking through his father’s attic when he came across a very different kind of knife. There was clearly something extraordinary about it. It was still in its sheath – and carved into that sheath was a name, “Bryant.”

Duijghuisen did some digging and found a Bryant registered with the 82d Airbone, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment. He found that this Bryant not only survived the war but later became a reporter, and even wrote for the New York Times. Most importantly, he was still alive.

Bryant almost didn’t make to Holland at all.

Nelson Bryant was a student at Dartmouth College in 1943. As a college man, he was exempt from the draft but seeing so many friends and peers go over to fight the Nazis inspired him. He volunteered to join the Army. Unhappy with his stateside supply job, he soon volunteered for the 82d Airborne. He arrived in England just in time to jump into Hitler’s Fortress Europe in the wee hours before the D-Day landings.

It was there, during a reconnaissance mission, that he was shot in the chest by a .50-caliber bullet.

4 worst Russian propaganda fails

(Nelson Bryant)

“I heard machine gun fire, the next thing I know, bam,” said Mr. Bryant. “It went in the front, came out the back, 50 caliber. I thought, is this it? I could hear distant gunfire, I could hear cows mooing in the pasture.”

Bryant laid in a hedgerow for four days before making it back to a field hospital in Wales. He worked to recuperate there, first walking on his own, then running. When he found out the 82d was making another jump into occupied Europe, he asked doctors if he would be able to go with them. They thought he was nuts. He wasn’t crazy, he was just determined to finish what he started. Not even a hospital could hold him back.

“When no one was looking, I got my clothes and put them on, walked out of the hospital, and thumbed rides on U.S. military vehicles back to Nottingham, England, and got there a week before we made the jump into Holland,” he said.
4 worst Russian propaganda fails

Duijghuisen reached out to Bryant and told him that he had his “bayonet” and asked if he would like it returned.

“He said bayonet, and I knew something was wrong because I knew the gun I carried you couldn’t use a bayonet,” Bryant said of the exchange. “Then I realized I was talking to a civilian and he wouldn’t know a bayonet from a trench knife. When he said there was a leather sheath, that was a clue.”

At 56, Duijghusen wasn’t even born during World War II, but the legacy of the men who liberated Holland is still important to the people there.

“The name on the bayonet, it made, for me, something personal,” said Duijghuisen before making the visit to Martha’s Vineyard. “Because of what he did in 1944, and because we are now living in a free world. I think a lot about that. He fought in Holland for our freedom. I’m very excited about that, it will be nice to see him.”

Duijghuisen and his wife traveled to see Bryant in 2017, 73 years after the old veteran jumped into Holland, just to return the trench knife Bryant used to free himself while helping free the Netherlands.

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These were the mercy dogs of World War I

Man’s best friend has also been man’s battle buddy for as long as dogs have been domesticated. The mechanical, industrialized slaughter in the trenches of World War I didn’t change that one bit. All the belligerents let slip the dogs of war, some 30,000 in all. They were used to hunt rats, guard posts as sentries, scout ahead and even comfort the dying.

The last were the mercy dogs of the Great War.


Our canine companions can do much more than just fight alongside us in times of war. Modern-day uses of dogs include bomb-sniffing and locating the bodies of the fallen. World War I saw some uses of dogs unique to that war, especially in terms of hunting the rats that spread disease and ate corpses in the trenches. Dogs were used in scouting parties; their unique senses, especially smell, allowed them to detect the presence of enemy troops long before their human counterparts. When on guard duty, sentry dogs alerted their handlers to even the most silent of a human presence. But the dogs of mercy were truly the most unique among them.

Mercy dogs, also called casualty dogs, were first trained by the Germanic armies of the 19th Century, but their popularity only grew. The sanitatshunde were trained to find the wounded and dying anywhere on the battlefield. Sometimes they carried medical supplies to help the wounded care for themselves until they could find care from a doctor or medic. If the soldier was too far gone for medical care, the dog would stay with him as he died, to ensure he wasn’t alone.

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Mercy Dogs leave no man behind.

 

The most common kind of dog on the battlefields were German Shepherds and Doberman Pinschers, both of German origin. This was mostly due to their intelligence, endurance, and ability to be trained for even the most dangerous tasks. For the mercy dog, the most popular and able breed was the Boxer. Boxers are not only able to do what other breeds could but they were also fiercely loyal and on top of comforting the wounded and dying, they would also guard and defend them until the end.

If a mercy dog on the battlefield found a wounded man, it would return to friendly lines with its own leash in its mouth, indicating that one of their own was out there and in need of help. Most importantly, the dogs were able to distinguish between a dead and unconscious man. If he was dead, the dog would move on. If he were dying, the dog would stay with him.

Thousands of wounded troops owed their lives to these dogs.

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That time British paratroopers stole a Nazi radar station from occupied France

In the early days of World War II the Germans still had an advantage over the British. Even though the Royal Air Force had won the Battle of Britain, its bombers suffered heavy losses when they crossed the channel into occupied Europe.


British scientist believed this was due to advances in German radar technology.

Reconnaissance photos showed that the Germans indeed had a complex radar system involving two types of systems – long-range early warning and short-range precision – that allowed them to effectively guide night fighters to British bomber formations. In order to develop effective countermeasures against these radar systems the British scientists needed to study one.

Operation Biting was conceived to steal a German “Wurzburg” short-range radar.

A German radar installation at Bruneval, France, was identified as the best target to conduct a raid against.

The plan called for C Company, 2nd Parachute battalion led by Maj. John Frost to parachute into France, assault the German position, steal the radar, and then evacuate by sea back to England with their loot. Accompanying the paratroopers would be a Royal Air Force technician who would oversee the dismantling and transport of the radar.

After extensive training and briefings, the raid was set for late February, 1942, when a full moon and high tides would provide the perfect environment for the assault force.

On the last night of the mission window, the conditions were just right and the men of C Company embarked for France aboard converted Whitley bombers of No. 51 Squadron.

The company was divided into five sections each named after a famous British naval officer: Nelson, Jellicoe, Hardy, Drake, and Rodney. Three sections – Jellicoe, Hardy, and Drake – would assault the German garrison at the station and capture the Wurzburg radar. While this was taking place, Nelson would clear the evacuation beach and the area between it and the station. Finally, Rodney would be in reserve guarding the most likely approach of a German counterattack.

The drop was almost entirely successful with only a portion of the Nelson section missing the drop zone a couple miles. The rest of the paratroopers and their equipment landed on target. Frost and the three assault sections were able to rendezvous in just 10 minutes. The Germans still had no idea British paratroopers were in the area.

That didn’t last long though, as the paratroopers assaulted the villa near the radar station. The paratroopers killed the lone German defending the house with a machine gun on the upper floor. But the attack alerted the rest of the garrison in other nearby buildings who immediately began returning fire killing one of the paratroopers. Frost stated that once the firing started “for the whole two hours of the operation there was never a moment when some firing was not going on.”

As the paratroopers battled the Germans, Flight Sgt. C.W.H. Cox, the RAF technician sent along to dismantle the radar, led the engineers to the radar set to begin its deconstruction under heavy German fire. After a half hour of work they had the parts and information they needed and loaded them onto special carts to haul them to the evacuation beach. The men of C Company had also managed to capture two German radar technicians who had vital knowledge of the operation of the Wurzburg radar.

Frost then ordered the force to withdraw to the beach. This was just in time, as a column of German vehicles began to arrive at the radar station. Almost immediately upon departure the paratroopers encountered a German pillbox that should have been cleared by the Nelson task force. Due to a communications breakdown Frost had not learned about the missed drops of a large portion of the Nelson group.

A small portion of the force had arrived and was fighting to hold the beach but the remainder had been moving at double time to reach their objective. After a brief firefight with a German patrol, the remainder of Nelson arrived on the scene and cleared the pillbox allowing the rest of the force to continue to the beach.

Once on the beach, the communications problem became even worse – the paratroopers had no contact with the Royal Navy flotilla assigned to evacuate them. Frost tried to raise them on the radio and when that failed, he decided to fire signal flares. The flares worked, and just in time, as a lookout spotted a trail of headlights moving toward the beach. Three Royal Navy landing craft came ashore and the paratroopers hastily loaded themselves and their prizes onboard before setting out for home. The return trip was without incident and the raiders returned to England to a hero’s welcome.

The British losses were two killed, two wounded, and six men captured who had become separated during the fighting. But the amount of intelligence they returned to England was near priceless. The information provided by the captured Germans and the radar itself allowed the British to advance their countermeasures.

This would prove crucial in the airborne operations at Normandy two years later.

The raid received praise from all over, including the Germans and Americans. A German report from the leader of the army’s airborne forces praised the execution of the raid.

A New York Times article dated March 3, 1942, predicted that the success of the raid had “changed the nature of warfare itself” and that soon these types of commando units and actions would grow to encompass much larger formations such as the airborne divisions that the Allies formed.

As for the men of C Company and Frost, they would see action in North Africa and Italy before being a part of the ill-fated Operation Market-Garden.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Of course ‘Murphy’s Law’ was created by a veteran

The axiom we know as “Murphy’s Law” today has been kicking around for centuries. Instances of similar phrases can be found as early as 1877, and even George Orwell (himself a veteran of the Spanish Civil War) used it in his diaries. But when something truly catches on, it’s kept alive for posterity – and that’s how “Murphy’s Law” is remembered nowadays.


What was once quoted as, “It is found that anything that can go wrong at sea generally does go wrong sooner or later.” Is now – forever – the much snappier “Whatever can go wrong, will.” But who was the Murphy whose name is now synonymous with accidents and mishaps?

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A strapping young man, that’s who.

Edward Aloysius Murphy was a West Point graduate, Army Air Forces veteran of World War II and an Air Force officer. Later in life, he would continue his work with the Air Force in testing experimental vehicles. This, of course, required a degree of delicacy; not only because building rocket sleds is as incredibly dangerous as testing them, but also because testing them requires exact parameters to record exact results.

That’s science.

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*Rocket* Science. DAB.

Seriously, after World War II, Murphy became the research and development officer at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base’s Air Development Center, where they conducted rocket sled tests. A rocket sled is exactly what it sounds like: a chair, a rocket, all on a sled-like slab on which someone sits. And is then propelled forward. In order to remind his crews to plan for the worst-case scenario in every experiment, he began telling them “whatever can go wrong, will.”

This was especially true when they decided that 18 Gs was probably not the most a human could withstand and set out to test the limitations of G-forces on the human body. One Air Force officer, John Stapp, proved that humans could take at least 35 Gs and that anyone who passed out after 18 probably shouldn’t be in his Air Force. Murphy was designing new sensor setups to measure everything that would happen on these sled runs. One day, something went wrong.

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Here’s Stapp’s face as he becomes the fastest man ever, in what is essentially an open-top rocket convertible. Man, the Air Force used to be fun.

The details of the snafu that caused Murphy to remind his crews to check every detail are disputed. All we need to know is that something went wrong and Stapp’s test run did not acquire any sensor data. Basically, Stapp put his life on the line for funsies, because other than a rocket boom, nothing else was recorded. Upon realizing this, Murphy apparently yelled at an assistant, “whatever can go wrong, will.”

And it became their mantra. Then it became everyone’s mantra when Stapp told a group of reporters at a press conference that they keep fatalities at zero because everyone on their team repeats “Murphy’s Law” to prevent any oversights or mishaps. Once the press got hold of it, that was it. Murphy’s Law is now enshrined in everyone’s lexicon, not just the military’s.

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This is actual WWII footage of a tank duel

While everyone talks about D-Day, what’s often forgotten is that getting past the Atlantic Wall was only the first step. The Allies had to fight their way out of Normandy and into the rest of France — not to mention across Germany.


This wasn’t easy. Germany had some very well-trained troops who were determined to put up a fight. One of the places where the Nazis held up the Allies was Villers-Bocage — a village to the southwest of Caen, a major objective of the initial staged.

 

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This version of the M4 Sherman could take on the German Tiger tank on even terms and win. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

According to Battle of Normandy Tours, on June 13, 1944, a force of British tanks from the famous 7th Armoured Division — also known as the “Desert Rats” — headed towards Villers-Bocage. At that village, a company of German Tiger tanks, under the command of Michael Wittman, fought the British force of Cromwell and Sherman Firefly tanks.

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A German Tiger in Sicily, 1943. (U.S. Army photo)

When all was said and done, Wittman’s force had destroyed 27 Allied tanks, according to WarfareHistoryNetwork.com. The Germans had also killed, wounded, or captured 188 Allied troops.

This video shows some of the fighting that took place during the Battle of Villers-Bocage. Warning: It does show some of the consequences of when armored vehicles are destroyed.

History, YouTube

MIGHTY HISTORY

This purple medal proved everyone could be a patriot

Considered to be the first military award of the United States Armed Forces, the Badge of Military Merit is the official predecessor to the highly-respected, yet rarely-coveted Purple Heart.


In 1782, General George Washington created two badges of distinction for American troops. One was a chevron that would be worn on the left sleeve for completing three years of duty “with bravery, fidelity, and good conduct.” The other was a “figure of a heart in purple cloth or silk, edged with narrow lace or binding” and was awarded for “any singularly meritorious action.” Washington’s goal was honor all ranks, high and low, for their gallantry and service to the country.

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(Image via Society of Cincinnati)

This was a huge departure from the standards of European warfare. In England, specifically, only high-ranking officers would be decorated with pomp and circumstance — not for individual achievement, but for the hard-fought victories of their men.

“The road to glory in a patriot army and a free country is thus open to all,” wrote General George Washington on the creation of the Badge of Military Merit.

Bear in mind, the Badge of Military Merit was awarded for “not only instances of unusual gallantry in battle, but also extraordinary fidelity and essential service in any way” and not for being wounded or killed in any action against an enemy of the United States. The badge was awarded by Gen. Washington himself to Sergeant Elijah Churchill and Sergeant William Brown on May 3rd, 1783. A month later, he awarded the third and final badge to Sergeant Daniel Bissell Jr.

The award was never issued again, despite never being officially abolished. The award was the basis for the short-lived Army Wound Ribbon and the golden Wound Chevron. In 1932, the Purple Heart Medal was officially introduced and the Wound Chevron was no longer awarded. Regulations discouraged the simultaneous wear of a WWI Wound Chevron and a WWII Purple Heart, but many troops who were wounded in both did it anyway.

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Besides, no one will tell a 1st Sgt. who was wounded in both World Wars that he shouldn’t. (Image via U.S. Militaria Forum)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Hair today, gone tomorrow: When Elvis joined the Army

When Elvis Presley turned 18 years old in 1953, he registered for the draft – just like every other young American male during that time. The rules governing the draft stated that all young men that were in good health were required to serve in the United States military for a minimum of two years. When he signed his name on that line, promising to serve, he had no idea of the superstar fame that would soon be coming his way.


After signing up for the draft, he graduated high school and soon began his entertainment career. Three years later in 1956, he was a film and recording star. Presley was in the middle of filming King Creole when he received his draft notice. He requested a delay so he could finish filming, which he was granted.

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Public Domain

On March 24, 1958, with his family and friends by his side, The King reported to the Memphis draft board. Once he was sworn in and processed with others into the Army, he boarded a bus to Arkansas.

He would go on to coin the phrase “hair today, gone tomorrow” after he received his G.I. haircut.

Once Presley finished his basic training, he was on leave and managed to do a concert and recording session in Nashville. He then headed back to Ft. Hood, Texas, to complete his advanced training. His mother became ill during this time and passed away and Presley was granted leave to be with her.

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Public domain

When he returned to Ft. Hood, he was assigned to the Third Armored Spearhead Division. He soon boarded the U.S.S. Randall and sailed for Germany. Upon arrival, he served in Company C, which was a scout platoon. He was declared off limits to the press.

Presley would be right there in the thick of things alongside his unit. He completed all required duties. Some research suggested that he did more than what was required of him because he didn’t want people to assume he got special treatment. He would go on to earn a medal for expert marksmanship and rise to the responsibility of an NCO, all without seeking celebrity treatment.

He was honorably discharged from active duty in 1960.

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