These are the top 5 military-related presidential pardons - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

These are the top 5 military-related presidential pardons

The Constitution (Article II, Section 2, Clause 1) gives American presidents the power to grant full pardons. Throughout history, presidents have used this power, some more than others. Presidents Harrison and Garfield issued zero pardons, mostly because both of them died shortly after taking office. (Harrison died of pneumonia and Garfield was assassinated.) President Franklin Roosevelt issued 3,687 pardons, but a factor in that total is the fact he held office for 12 years. President Andrew Johnson either pardoned over 7,000 or just 654 people, depending on how you score it. (See below for details.)


The average number of pardons per president to date is just over 665.

Pardons have taken many forms. Some have been high-visibility because of their impact on politics and pop culture like when President Ford pardoned former President Nixon or when President Clinton pardoned publishing heir Patty Hearst following her stint as a domestic terrorist. Some have been personal like when President Clinton pardoned his brother Roger following a conviction on cocaine possession charges.

But presidents also being commanders-in-chief, naturally, some pardons in American history have had something to do with the military. Here are 5 of the most important among them:

1. James Buchanan pardons Brigham Young

These are the top 5 military-related presidential pardons
Brigham Young

In the mid-1800s the Buchanan administration grew concerned about the activities of the Latter Day Saints, led by Brigham Young. The president was afraid that Young was on the verge of creating a theocracy out west and so he sent the U.S. Army to intervene. The resulting “Utah War” was mostly without bloodshed, with the notable exception of the time some Mormons murdered 12o settlers from Arkansas. Young was accused of giving the order or, at least, not doing enough to prevent it. He was later able to prove that he’d actually sent a dispatch ordering his people to let the settlers pass in peace, but it got there two days after the massacre. As a result, Young was ultimately pardoned by President Buchanan.

2. Andrew Johnson let the Confederate military get off scot free

These are the top 5 military-related presidential pardons
Andrew Johnson

During the election seasons in the years immediately following the Civil War, it became politically expedient to get the conflict behind the country. In fact, the U.S. Senate was so disappointed in President Johnson’s Reconstruction progress that they impeached him. So on Christmas Day in 1868, Johnson offered amnesty to all Confederates. At about the same time he also pardoned Dr. Samuel Mudd, the Maryland doctor who patched up Lincoln’s assassin John Wilkes Booth. President Grant, who’d led the North to victory as a Union general, finished the process, later signing the Amnesty Act of 1872, which pardoned all but 500 of the top Confederate leaders.

3. Gerald Ford pardons ‘Tokyo Rose’

These are the top 5 military-related presidential pardons

Iva Toguri D’Aquino was an LA native Japanese-American who had the misfortune of being in Tokyo when war broke out between the U.S. and Japan. She became the voice of Japanese propaganda aimed at American servicemembers across the Pacific Theater. She was frighteningly accurate with military details from time to time, which did cause GIs some concern, but she was also a source of entertainment for them because her broadcasts were equally campy as provocative.

When the war ended “Tokyo Rose,” as D’Aquino was popularly known, was charged with treason, convicted and imprisoned until 1956. In time the facts emerged that she had been pressed into service for the Japanese war machine under duress. She was pardoned by President Ford in 1976.

4. Richard Nixon lets William Calley off the hook

These are the top 5 military-related presidential pardons
Lt. William Calley during his trial at Fort Benning. (Photo: AP)

William Calley was a community college dropout who found himself in charge of a platoon fighting the Vietnam War. His weak leadership and lack of military skill led to the systematic murder of 500 Vietnamese civilians. Life magazine broke the story over a year and a half later with a graphic photo essay that shocked the nation and did much to shift public sentiment against the war once and for all.

Calley’s court-martial was a high-visibility event, and he was eventually found guilty of 22 counts (of the 109 he was charged with) of premeditated murder. He was sentenced to life imprisonment at Leavenworth. President Nixon, reacting to another public sentiment that Calley had been made a scapegoat and that the punishments should have gone higher up the chain of command, ordered his sentence modified to house arrest. Eventually, his time was reduced from life to 20 years. He served three and a half years of that when Nixon pardoned him.

In 2009, while speaking a Kiwanis Club in Ohio, Calley issued the following apology for his role at My Lai:

There is not a day that goes by that I do not feel remorse for what happened that day in My Lai. I feel remorse for the Vietnamese who were killed, for their families, for the American soldiers involved and their families. I am very sorry…. If you are asking why I did not stand up to them when I was given the orders, I will have to say that I was a 2nd Lieutenant getting orders from my commander and I followed them—foolishly, I guess.

5. Jimmy Carter pardons the Vietnam draft dodgers

These are the top 5 military-related presidential pardons

Although Gerald Ford had been the first to deal with letting draft dodgers off the hook, his version had been conditional and only affected one-third of the population. President Carter, elected on a progressive agenda, took it the rest of the way by issuing an unconditional pardon for all of those who’d evaded the draft, about 150,000 young American men — including a number of aspiring politicians who would go on to hold the highest offices in the land.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Air Force General remembers being shot down and rescued

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein has a direct answer when asked what echoes to this day, what continues to influence his thinking and actions even now, 20 years after he found himself on the ground in hostile surroundings, his F-16 Fighting Falcon in the distance smoldering and destroyed.

“Where it echoes most for me is trying to lead with character,” Goldfein said May 7, 2019. “When I talk to young commanders I tell them, ‘As an officer, we never know when some young airman will risk everything to save our lives, to pull us out of bad-guy land, to pull us out of a burning vehicle. They risk everything they hold dear and their families hold dear to save us.’


“And the question at that moment is, am I worthy of their risk?”

For Goldfein, of course, the question and his answer are both meaningful and literal. It is especially potent this month, which marks the 20th anniversary of his shoot-down and rescue during a mission over Serbia.

These are the top 5 military-related presidential pardons

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway)

The facts of that incident are well known. Goldfein was a squadron commander for the May 2, 1999 mission to find and destroy anti-aircraft batteries. The mission was part of Operation Allied Force, which was NATO’s response to Serbian attacks on Kosovar Albanians that had risen to an ethnic cleansing. The 78-day air campaign ultimately convinced Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to capitulate.

Getting to that point, however, was difficult and dangerous. Air power made the difference.

While officially a NATO campaign with many participants and facets, the U.S. Air Force played a prominent role, flying 30,018 sorties and striking 421 fixed targets.

It was a defining moment for the Air Force in several ways. It validated the air expeditionary force concept; it was the first time a B-2 stealth bomber was used in combat and the first significant use of what today are referred to as drone aircraft.

And for Goldfein, it was a life-shaping event that forced him to eject into a moonlit night, test his training and forge a unique command outlook.

It triggered a tight bond with pararescuemen Staff Sgt. Jeremy Hardy, Senior Airman Ron Ellis and Staff Sgt. Andy Kubik, a combat controller. All three bolted from a MH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter and ran toward Goldfein as he emerged from a row of trees and brought him home safely, eluding vigorous gunfire on the way out.

These are the top 5 military-related presidential pardons

A MH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter.

For Goldfein, the memory and the lessons from that night endure.

He remembers how the training he received 20 years before that night on the proper way to safely eject, parachute to earth and evade capture, returned clearly and instantly when needed.

“What I found that was amazing in looking back was how little I had to recall,” he said, reciting the stern admonitions of his instructors for a successful “parachute landing fall” – “knees together, don’t look down, roll like a football!”

There also was something more profound that only someone who’s been shot down and rescued can fully understand.

“I wear these stars every day for somebody else,” Goldfein said. “I wear them for some young airmen who risked everything and did a great job that night. So every day you get to serve is a day to pay it forward.”

It also forces him to return to the question, am I worth it?

“The answer is, God, I hope so,” he said.

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

See the moment a military working dog is reunited with handler

Let’s be honest, “dog reunites with handler” videos are basically a genre by this point, and we know you’re here for the adorable doggo.

So, feel free to check out the video, and we’ll drop all the typing stuff below it for anyone who wants to read it.


Military Dog Is SO Happy To Finally Be Home With His Dad | The Dodo Reunited

www.youtube.com

Bakka was a military working dog assigned to Korea where he worked with handlers on a U.S. air base, but a leg injury ended his career when he was a 7-year-old, too old to be a good candidate for surgery. So, the Air Force put him in the queue for adoption, and a recent handler stepped up to try and get Bakka to his home in Boise, Idaho.

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Dustin Cain was deployed to Korea for a year and was paired with Bakka, a young German Shepherd. But Cain, knowing that he’d be returning to his family stateside in a year, was apprehensive about developing a deep bond with Bakka as his duties as a handler would be coming to an end.

But it’s hard to keep your distance from a great dog, especially when every work day is focused on conducting missions with the dog and ensuring its welfare. And so the end of Cain’s tour in Korea was bittersweet. He was returning to his family, but he would have to leave Bakka behind. But, Cain explains in the video, he did hold out hope to be reunited with the dog in the future.

And so, when he learned that Bakka was getting a medical retirement and needed a safe home, he cleared it with his family and invited the dog to Idaho, an over 5,000-mile trip. Luckily for the pair, the military is increasingly pushing to pair dogs with their handlers after service, and other organizations like the American Humane Society move mountains to help get the dogs to their new forever homes regardless of distance.

This allows a retired dog to reunite with a handler it’s likely already emotionally bonded to, but it also helps ensure that former military working dogs are cared for by people who understand their needs. The dogs are usually bred for service and trained from youth to perform work and protect their handlers, so not all domestic situations are good for them.

And that’s why it’s so great that Bakka and Cain were able to find each other. Bakka was not only headed to a home with a loving family, but he was greeted by a handler he already knew. He even hopped into the back seat and took the normal position he had held on patrols with Cain.

If you want to help make reunions like this happen, there are all sorts of nonprofits that are working to pair retiring dogs with their former handlers, including the American Human Society which helped get Bakka and Cain together. And they could use your help, because, while military working dog handlers are supposed to get the first chance to adopt working dogs, that doesn’t always happen.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Relatives of Hamilton and Burr fought the famous duel 200 years later

Hamilton and Burr are now friends. More accurately, the descendants of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr are. Burr shot Hamilton in what has become probably the most famous duel in American history — and now you can watch their five-time great-grandchildren reenact the event.


The two Founding Fathers of the United States drew down on each other on July 11, 1804 in Weehawken, New Jersey. It was rumored that Hamilton, formerly the first Secretary of the Treasury, said some disparaging things about Burr during a society dinner. After a series of strongly-worded letters were exchanged and Hamilton refused to apologize, the two decided to settle it the very old-fashioned way.

Burr wasn’t the same after that.

These are the top 5 military-related presidential pardons
Neither was Alexander Hamilton.

Burr, a former Vice-President, fled the site and infamously tried to raise a personal army and cut out a piece of the nascent United States for himself after sparking a war with Spain in Florida. President Jefferson got wind of the scheme and had him arrested for treason. Burr was acquitted and lived in self-imposed exile in Europe for awhile. Alexander Hamilton died the day after the duel.

And Vice-Presidents stopped shooting people.

These are the top 5 military-related presidential pardons
Just kidding.

If you’re ever interested in seeing just how the Hamilton-Burr Duel went down, the good news is that now you can. In 2004, 200 years later, Douglas Hamilton, a fifth-great-grandson of Alexander Hamilton and Antonio Burr, a descendant of Aaron Burr’s cousin, met to re-enact the famous duel.

These are the top 5 military-related presidential pardons
Hamilton (right) is an IBM salesman from Columbus, Ohio. Burr (left) is a psychologist from New York.

In another fun, historical aside, Alexandra Hamilton Woods, four-time great granddaughter of Alexander Hamilton, and Antonio Burr are also really good friends. They both serve as officers on the board of the Inwood Canoe Club, a club that offers kayaking and tours along the Hudson River.

Burr is the President Emeritus while Hamilton serves as Treasurer. Because of course they are.

Watch the entire duel recreation on C-SPAN.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Watch sailors fight off World War II kamikaze attacks in amazing 4K

By 1944, the tides of the war in the Pacific had turned against the Japanese Empire. The United States and its allies repelled the Imperial Japanese Navy in critical battles like Midway, Milne Bay, and Guadalcanal. The stage was set for the U.S. to retake the Philippines in 1944, but the Japanese were getting desperate. Low on ships, manpower, and material, they turned to the one thing they had in abundance — zeal for the Emperor.


That zeal led to the surprise kamikaze attacks that have come to define the war in its closing days. The amazing video producers at AARP are dedicated to keeping the memory of veterans of every American war alive and their latest offering is the story of Phil Hollywood aboard the USS Melvin at the Surigao Strait in incredible 4K video.

The Melvin was a Fletcher-class destroyer, part of the U.S. 7th Fleet Support Force moving to help the Allied landing at Leyte. But first, they had to get through the 47-mile Surigao Strait. Waiting for them was a fleet of Japanese battleships ready to halt their advance and stymie the allied landing — and the famous return of General Douglas MacArthur to his beloved Philippine Islands.

Phil Hollywood was a young sailor who enlisted after Pearl Harbor at age 17. He was aboard the Melvin at Surigao and talked to AARP about his role as a Fire Controlman 2nd Class during what would become the last battleship-to-battleship combat in the history or warfare. The Melvin was his first assignment, a ship made of, essentially, engines, hull, and guys with guns.

“It was everything I ever wanted in a fighting ship,” he said. “Facing the enemy was everything. I didn’t think of anything else.”
These are the top 5 military-related presidential pardons

Former U.S. Navy FC2 Phil Hollywood, a World War II Pacific veteran, looking at photos of destroyers from that era.

(AARP)

The Melvin was supposed to be looking for flights of Japanese planes via radar and alert the main landing area at Leyte. It was not safe to be on a destroyer in the Pacific during World War II, even by the standards of that war. Some 77 destroyers were lost in the war and 17 of those were from kamikaze attacks. Hollywood’s battle station was at the top of the director, moving guns on target.

“There were moments I was afraid, not sure if I was going to live or die,” he told AARP. “But one thing’s for certain, I wanted to fight and save our ship. The patriotism was raging in my blood.”
These are the top 5 military-related presidential pardons

World War II veteran Philip Hollywood enlisted in the Navy when he was 17 years old. He was just 19 when he took part in one of history’s greatest naval battles.

(AARP/Phil Hollywood)

Hollywood recalled what it was like to face the kamikaze pilots in battle. The pilots were not well trained. For many, it was their first and last flights, and the planes were loaded up with weapons so traditional flight profiles weren’t really able to be used by the enemy pilots. It was a frightening experience. It seemed like no matter how much they threw at the pilots, they kept coming.

“During a kamikaze attack, being in the main battery directory, we were on telescopes,” he recalled. “It looked like he was coming down our throats. I was frightened, my heart was pounding, one looked like it was gonna hit us. We kept hitting him and hitting him… until I could see the flex of his wings breaking up.”

That was the moment he looked death in the face. Luckily, the plane crashed into the ocean. For Hollywood, it was both a sigh of relief and a moment to think about. Maybe the first thought other than avenging Pearl Harbor – which says a lot for the salty combat sailor Hollywood was by this time.

“It was a new experience,” he said. “Trying to kill an opponent who only wanted to kill you and not survive. Anyone at that time who says they weren’t scared… I don’t think they’re telling the truth.”
These are the top 5 military-related presidential pardons

The Destroyer USS Melvin.

The Battle of Surigao Strait was really a part of the greater Battle of Leyte Gulf, the largest naval battle in military history. It put 300 American ships against some 68 Japanese ships. The Japanese had always believed that one great naval battle could knock the United States out of the war and win it for Japan. This was a must-win battle for both sides, and it showed. The fighting at every level was intense but only one side could come out on top, and it wasn’t the Japanese.

Surigao was just the beginning of the greater battle, and sailors like FC2 Phil Hollywood and the crew of the Melvin started off the biggest naval battle of all time, a battle that would rage on for three full days.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why a signals intelligence aircraft tried to destroy intel using coffee

On April 1, 2001, a U.S. Navy EP-3E intelligence-gathering aircraft hit a Chinese J-8II fighter in mid-air, forcing the Navy intel plane to make an emergency landing on nearby Hainan Island – on a Chinese military installation. One Chinese pilot was killed, and the American crew was held captive and interrogated by the Chinese military.

Meanwhile, a trove of Top Secret American intelligence and intel-gathering equipment was sitting in Chinese hands.


These are the top 5 military-related presidential pardons

A Chinese J-8 fighter.

The EP-3E Airborne Reconnaissance Integrated Electronic System, also known as ARIES, aircraft is used for signals intelligence gathering. Much of what these planes do is a close secret, and no one except its crew members really know how or what information they track, which makes what is now known as the “Hainan Island Incident” all the more damaging. When the crew of the EP-3E was forced to land – without permission – on the Chinese military base, it was basically handing China some of the U.S. military’s most secret equipment.

At the end of the EP-3’s six-hour mission, it was intercepted by Chinese jets near Hainan Island, itself an extremely important signals intelligence base for China. One of the Shenyang J-8 interceptors made three passes on the EP-3E, accidentally colliding with it on the third pass. The hit damaged the Navy plane and tore the Chinese fighter in two. After recovering from a steep, fast dive, the Navy crew tried to destroy all the sensitive equipment aboard. Sadly, they had not been trained on how to do that. Protocol for such an event would have been to put the plane into the sea and hope for rescue. Instead, the crew poured coffee into the electronic equipment and threw other sensitive documents out a hatch.

These are the top 5 military-related presidential pardons

The EP-3E spy plane was flown out by a third party in an Antonov-124 cargo plane, the world’s largest.

The crew conducted an emergency landing on Hainan Island’s Lingshui Airfield, where they were taken into custody by the People’s Liberation Army. They were interrogated and held for ten days as the United States negotiated their release. The Chinese demanded an apology for both the illegal landing and for their dead pilot, which the U.S. publicly announced. The plane required extra negotiation, as the Chinese wouldn’t let the United States repair it and fly it out. The Navy had to hire a Russian company to fly it away.

When the Russians came to pick up the plane, they found it torn apart by the Chinese. It was returned to the Navy in pieces months later – and the Chinese presumably learned everything about America’s most sensitive signals intelligence equipment. A later inquiry didn’t fault the crew. In fact, the pilot received the Distinguished Flying Cross for saving the crew and the aircraft. Documents later released by Edward Snowden revealed the Navy didn’t know how much sensitive material was aboard and inadequately prepared the crew for this eventuality.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What really happens at Fort Ord?

Army posts aren’t typically known for their beauty, but an exception can be made with Fort Ord. Between the rocky cliffs, the fantastic ocean views, and the excellent weather, this Army post was, well, actually pretty decent.

Located about 100 miles south of San Francisco, California on the Monterey Bay, millions of Soldiers have trained here over the years. No, we’re not exaggerating. Literally millions of Soldiers passed through Fort Ord. That’s because it used to be one of the Army’s principal training centers. As many as 50,000 soldiers trained at Fort Ord in just one year when it was at its peak.

Fort Ord Beginnings

In 1940, Fort Ord was first constructed and designated as a fort. Before that, the military used the land as a field artillery target range and maneuver area. The 7th Infantry Division was first activated at Fort Ord in 1917, during World War I, and it remained there for the majority of its history.

The 7th Infantry Division is particularly special because is it the only active-duty multi-component division headquarters in the entire US Army. It is most famous for its placement at Ford Ord in the Pacific theater of World War II to fight off US enemies. These days, 7th ID calls JBLM home. Not a far stretch from Fort Ord, but they’re definitely not getting California sunshine in Washington state.

A Booming Monterey Bay Thanks to Fort Ord

After the Vietnam War, training missions at Ford Ord were redesigned with technology in mind. Both education and physical training occurred here. Throughout the years, Soldiers all lived in town, spending a lot of their hard-earned money supporting many of the neighboring communities. You could say business was always booming thanks to the Soldiers. Often, it was the first taste of Army life as well as the last stop before deployment for many soldiers.

Fort Ord closed in 1994 after the Base Realignment and Closure Act passed in 1988. At the size of San Francisco, 28,000 acres, it is the largest army base to ever have closed in the US. Unsurprisingly, the nearby cities took an economic beating as a result.

What to Do with All That Land?

The neighboring communities received divided portions of the land, with proposals to use it for artist colonies, amusement parks, golf courses, you name it. No one could agree on how to use the ex-Fort Ord land, which caused more than a few scuttles. In the end, the State of California had to step in and make the final decision.

Their verdict was to use Fort Ord for education, the environment, and economic vitality. California State University – Monterey Bay was established on Fort Ord grounds. As of 2009, the majority of the land became Fort Ord Dunes State Park and National Monument. That was an easy choice because ot its wildlife variety and lush natural beauty. Both the educational and environmental uses of the land also helped the economy.

While thousands of acres of toxic buildings and empty lots still remain on Fort Ord land, the decisions about what to do with them and the rest of the land lie in the hands of the community. Hopefully, they will keep the best interest of the land and its rich history in mind.

Featured

Why America has always had a silly history with turkeys

Every Tuesday before Thanksgiving, there’s a ceremony held in which the President of the United States gives an official proclamation before a large crowd, pardoning a turkey for all the crimes they may have committed.

The turkey pardon is a fun — albeit goofy — ceremony that helps the country get into the holiday spirit, even if it began in ’87 as a means of distracting people from the Iran-Contra Affair. Since then, every president has kept the tradition going because, well, America seems to love turkeys this time of year.

As strange as this tradition might seem, it’s really not all that out of place. The relationship between Americans and turkeys has been weird since the beginning.


These are the top 5 military-related presidential pardons

In those days, the meal was “scraping together what they had.” By today’s standards, a feast of venison, lobster, and duck is far more fancy than a deep-fried turkey.

(“The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth.” 1914. Painting. Jennie A. Brownscombe)

Long before the Europeans arrived in the Americas, indigenous peoples had sort of domesticated the turkey and started breeding them, making them plumper so that they’d make for a better meal. And it made good sense to do so. Turkeys are simple creatures that, when nourished, develop into large birds with plenty of delicious meat and they’re covered in large feathers that are great for crafting.

Furthermore, wild turkeys can survive in a range of environments. They were found all across the New World, from the Cree peoples’ lands near the Hudson Bay in Canada to the lands of the Aztecs in Mexico. Columbus himself even once remarked on how great the birds tasted. Eventually, turkey became a staple in most settlers’ diets… which makes it all the more odd that there wasn’t any turkey served for dinner at the first Thanksgiving.

The Wampanoag people were well known for their hunting skills and brought venison because it was showcased their talents as hunters. The pilgrims brought lobster and water fowl because they were much more common. Since the settlers didn’t really leave Plymouth, turkey was of off the menu unless they ventured into native territory.

These are the top 5 military-related presidential pardons

Not going to lie, that’s kind of badass.

(U.S. Diplomacy Center)

When everyone’s gathered around the table eating turkey this Thanksgiving, you’re bound to overhear that one uncle say, “Did you know the US almost made the turkey its national bird?” in an attempt to look smart. Unfortunately for your uncle, no. That never happened. Not even close. That’s fake news. Yes, all of these links go to a different source disproving your uncle. But it’s not your uncle’s fault — this myth has been perpetuated for hundreds of years.

This myth got its start just two years after the creation of the Great Seal of the United States when Benjamin Franklin wrote a letter to his daughter about the design choices. He jokingly said that bald eagles had “bad moral character.” He also said the bird of prey was more of a scavenger (they’re not). He went on to praise the seal of the Order of the Cincinnati, a fraternity of military officers, that had a turkey on it.

In case you were wondering, Franklin’s actual recommendation for the Great Seal was of Moses parting the Red Sea with fire raining everywhere and the motto of, “Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God.”

These are the top 5 military-related presidential pardons

These loud, slow-moving, flightless birds will wreak havoc on farms in the spring time when the seeds are sewn. That’s why turkey season falls around then… in most states, anyway. Some states hold it in fall so that citizens can hunt down their own Thanksgiving dinner. Happy Thanksgiving!

(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

Soon after the United States became the United States, Americans quickly started hunting down and eating wild turkeys. They hunted them so thoroughly that pioneers would almost drive them to extinction wherever they went. The turkeys survived westward expansion and steadily climbed — then, the Great Depression hit and, for obvious reasons, they almost went extinct again in the 1930s.

After World War II, some troops returning from war went on to become game wardens, and began relocating turkeys en masse to avoid their being hunted into extinction. But how did these military veterans manage to catch large quantities of elusive turkeys in the wild? With modified howitzers shells that launched nets, of course!

No, seriously. These turkey-net cannons actually worked. The turkey populations went from just under 500,000 across the entire U.S. in 1959 to the roughly seven million that are fair game for hunting each and every year.

Articles

That time a Coast Guard icebreaker made a massive drug bust off the coast of Jamaica

Nope, that headline isn’t a mad lib. A Coast Guard icebreaker was sailing near Jamaica, the hot island in the tropics, and seized a boatload of marijuana.


The capture came in 1984 and represented the first narcotics bust for an Arctic icebreaker.

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Northwind was based out of Wilmington, North Carolina, and spent most of its time breaking ice in the Great Lakes, Arctic, and Antarctic regions. But it was known to do some cruises in warmer climes, occasionally even the tropics.

These are the top 5 military-related presidential pardons
The U.S. Coast Guard Icebreaker Northwind in 1986, assisting Greenland in repopulating musk-ox herds. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard)

In 1984, the Northwind was operating in the Atlantic. It MEDEVACed a woman from a sailboat one day, put out a fire with the U.S. Navy on another, and captured 20 tons of marijuana on its own on another day.

The seizure came on Nov. 4, 1984. The Alexi I was sailing 240 miles from Jamaica when it was spotted by the Northwind and stopped. The Coast Guardsmen found 20 tons of marijuana onboard.

That had to be rough for the crew of the CGC Glover, which had made news three days before with a 13-ton record-setting bust. At the time, the Northwind’s was the largest maritime marijuana capture in history, breaking a 1976 record established by the CGC Sherman.

These are the top 5 military-related presidential pardons
The U.S. Coast Guard Icebreaker Northwind was heavily armed for its class. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard)

The Northwind served for another five years after the incident but was decommissioned in 1989 and sent to the James River Reserve Fleet. The ship was later broken down for scrap.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Mighty Women: The disguised female soldiers of the Civil War

When we think of defining women’s rights movements, many cite women’s suffrage of the 20s or the explosion of female empowerment during the 60s and 70s. But in America, it started much sooner. 

As far back as the Revolutionary War women were found to have supported combat efforts, many alongside their husbands. Margaret Corbin was one of them and was critically wounded fighting after her husband was killed beside her. Corbin was the first female to receive a military pension for her efforts during the war. 

Women during this time were expected to relish their role in the home. It was also unbecoming for women to travel alone, unless she wanted to be thought of as “loose” or risk her safety. Historians believe there were many more instances of women disguising themselves as men than realized, for those reasons alone. 

The Civil War saw women go even farther and harder, regularly (and with increasing numbers) disguising themselves as men to fight alongside their countrymen. When the war began, thousands of women volunteered as nurses. Historians have discovered as many as a 1,000 women may have fought in every major conflict of the war itself. 

Those who were discovered were sent home, imprisoned or even institutionalized. They did it in spite of personal risk in order to serve their country. For these women, patriotism was more important than anything else.

Sarah Edmonds was one of them. Early on she used an alias and traveled as a man in order to work and earn a living. She was reportedly an ardent abolitionist and when the war broke out she was ready to risk it all. Edmonds mustered into the 2nd Michigan Infantry as Franklin Thompson on May 25, 1861.

During her time with the Union, she’d become a spy and participate in numerous battles, one which left her with life-long injuries. After a bout with Malaria two years later which left her fearful of being discovered, she made the decision to leave. Edmonds spent the rest of the Civil War as a nurse. Decades later she’d win the battle of earning her pension. 

civil war
State Archives of Michigan / 02255

Frances Clayton is another remarkable story of courage. When she enlisted as a man into the Union Army, it was alongside her husband. They traveled from Minnesota to Missouri to do so, hoping they could disguise her true identity. Posing as Jack Williams, they fought side by side for the regiment. When her husband was killed in action, reports revealed she stepped over his body to continue fighting. 

Another notable story was the one of Albert Cashier who was born Jennie Hodgers. Cashier fought in more than 40 different battles and continued to live as a man when the war was over. When his former comrades found out the truth, they rallied behind him in support. Upon Cashier’s death in 1915, he was buried in uniform and with full military honors.

civil war
Albert Cashier, formerly Jennie Hodgers

Despite the challenges and risk associated with posing as a man during these times, it was apparently easy. This was mainly due to so many underage boys who were allowed to sign up, it was easy for women to pass as bare faced teenagers. The physical fitness requirements were also minimal, at the time.  

Clara Barton is perhaps one of the most well-known women of the time. Although she would eventually become the founder of the American Red Cross, she was also known as the “angel of the battlefield.” She continually nursed the wounded and risked her life repeatedly to bring soldiers supplies. 

Barton was quoted to say that it was the events of the Civil War which pushed the women’s rights movement forward 50 years and opened the doors to the changes so desperately needed. 

The true number of disguised female soldiers will never be known but what is recognized is their undeniable impact on the war efforts. It was their courage which paved the way for women to openly serve their country. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, let us not forget the female veterans hundreds of years ago who made it all possible.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These important tools are made from sunken warships

Let’s say you need to make a very sensitive tool to detect radiation. Maybe you need to use it for medical purposes, detecting specific isotopes as they move through a human body. Or perhaps it’s for the tools to detect radiation to prevent dirty bombs and nuclear smuggling. Wherever your radiation is, if you want super accurate measurements of it, you have to make your tools out of low-background steel, and that’s hard to get.


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U.S. Navy divers extract oil from the World War II German cruiser Prinz Eugen to prevent it leaking into the environment. The steel of the hull would be worth billions for use in scientific experiments and medical instruments.
(U.S. Navy)

Here’s the problem with new steel: It’s made in a radioactive environment. The very air we breathe contains little molecules leftover from the approximately 2,000 nuclear tests conducted since 1945. Irradiated coral from Bikini Atoll tests, snow melted by the Tsar Bomba, and air particles in the wrong spots during the development of the Genie air-to-air rocket are all still radioactive.

It’s not enough to be a big threat to life around the world, but disasters like those at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island have created background radiation in the atmosphere that will last for centuries. And making steel requires that air is passed through molten steel. If that air has any radioactive molecules in it, which it often does, then the steel will be slightly radioactive.

That doesn’t make it useless for detecting radiation. But any radiation in the steel makes the resulting device less sensitive. It’s like if you’re trying to listen for a distant sound while a band plays. The louder and closer the band is, the harder it will be for you to hear a distant or faint sound. A radiation detection device with radioactive steel in it will never be able to detect radiation that’s beneath the threshold its own components put out.

But steel can last. And any steel manufactured before the first nuclear tests in July 1945 is filled with low-background radiation steel. Basically, since it has much fewer radioactive particles in it, it can detect radiation at much lower levels. So, if you need to run a radioactive dye through a medical patient, you can use a much lower level of radiation if the detector is made with low-background steel.

Same with scientific and law enforcement instruments.

But how to get low-background steel today? If you mine ore now, melt it down, and mix it with limestone, you’ll be most of the way through making low-background steel. But you also have to pass air through it. And the only air available has radiation in it.

So, instead, you could go find steel manufactured before 1945. Preferably steel that wasn’t exposed to the air during the testing or in the years immediately afterward.

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Medical scanners often require low-background steel, a material most easily obtained through World War II and earlier salvage.
(U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Miles Wilson)

You read the headline. You know where this is going.

Sunken warships have literally tens of thousands of tons of steel in them, and the water has shielded them from radiation for decades.

So, with the consent of governments, some warships have their steel removed. It’s done carefully both to prevent contaminating the metal as well as to avoid disturbing the dead. And it’s not just steel. A British warship from before the Revolution had a large amount of lead that is now maintained by the University of Chicago.

There’s even speculation that the Voyager 1 or Explorer 1 satellites may contain World War I German warship steel.

It’s even been suggested that some illegal salvage efforts were conducted by black market outfits looking to make millions by stealing entire ships off the ocean floor. And at least two British ships lost in World War II have disappeared, though some researchers think it was more likely straight steel salvage. It doesn’t appear the thieves had the wherewithal to properly protect the salvage from modern radiation, so it was probably sold as normal scrap.

So the thieves disturbed the grave of thousands of sailors and contaminated tens of thousands of tons of rare low-background steel.

And some artifacts from long before World War II are now being used for scientific experiments. Historians and scientists have a tense tug of war when it comes to lead from ancient Chinese and Roman sites and wrecks.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The first woman to lead a military operation was Harriet Tubman

The first woman to lead a military op might not meet your stereotype. Instead, envision the Civil War, and a woman who has been working as a spy for the Union Army. She has been gathering valuable information to help the Union turn the tide in the war. She has come to be relied on by generals for the information that she supplies. And with that, she is given the opportunity to lead a military operation called the Combahee Ferry Raid.

Do you have the woman pictured in your mind?


Her name is Harriet Tubman and you might have learned her story as one of the leaders of the Underground Railroad. Even referred to as the “Moses of her people,” but being a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad is just part of her story.

Harriet was born into slavery between 1820 and 1825. In 1844, even though it wasn’t allowed, she married a free, Black man named John Tubman. She was ready to escape slavery in 1849, but her husband did not want to leave Maryland. She left anyway and eventually he remarried in 1851. It was after she was freed from slavery that she began to go back countless times to help other slaves find their way to freedom on the Underground Railroad. She is remembered in history for never being caught or losing a passenger on the road to freedom.

But this is only the beginning of her story.

Because of her extensive knowledge of the South due to the Underground Railroad, Tubman became a key informant for the North (Union Army). She knew the towns and transportation routes of the South and long before GPS or reliable maps, this made her insight an invaluable tool. Not only would she dress up as an aging woman and wander Confederate streets and talk to enslaved people and gather information such as troop movement/placement and supply lines, but her work made her a respected guerrilla operative. So much so that in 1963 she began to plan a military operation under the command of Colonel James Montgomery.

The Union officers knew that the people of the South didn’t trust them, but did trust Harriet. Her demeanor and way with people were just part of the asset she provided to the military. Although she was illiterate, she was able to capture intelligence with her memory. To make the Combahee Ferry Raid a success, they traveled upriver in three boats: the John Adams, Sentinel and Harriet A Weed. They relied on Harriet’s memory where the slaves were at strategic points to collect the fleeing slaves while also using those points as places; they could destroy Confederate property. She also helped them navigate around known torpedoes.

At around 2:30 AM on June 2, they were down to two ships as the Sentinel had run aground early on in the mission. The two remaining ships split up to conduct different raids. Harriet Tubman led 150 men on the John Adams toward the fugitives. Once the signal was given, there was chaos. Slaves running everywhere. Angry slave owners and rebels tried to chase down the slaves, even firing their guns on them. As the escaped slaves ran to the shore, black troops waited in rowboats to transfer them to the ships. In the chaos, Tubman broke out into popular songs from the abolitionist movement to help calm everyone down. That night, more than 700 slaves escaped. The troops also disembarked near Field’s Point, torching plantations, fields, mills, warehouses, and mansions. Overall, it was a huge success and caused a humiliating defeat for the Confederacy.

The first story written by a Wisconsin State Journal noted Harriet as the “She Moses,” but didn’t actually include her name. A month later Franklin Sanborn, the editor of Boston’s Commonwealth newspaper picked up the story and named Harriet Tubman, a friend of his, as the heroine.

Even with the mission’s success, Harriet was not paid for her contribution. She petitioned the government many times and was denied because she was a woman.

After the war, she dedicated her life to helping impoverished former slaves and the elderly. She also continued to petition for recognition from the military with a military pension. She also remarried a Black Union soldier, Nelson Davis. And eventually, Tubman received military compensation after his death. Although she often found herself in financial constraints, she was always giving her time and money.

If you would like to learn more about Harriet Tubman you can check out these resources and books:

Articles:

Books:

  • Bound for the Promise Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero by Katie Clifford Larson
  • Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom by Catherine Clinton
  • Harriet Tubman: The Moses of Her People by Sarah Bradford
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Why America’s World War II torpedoes were horrible

During World War II, the U.S. Navy had some of the most advanced weapons available, like artillery shells with proximity fuses that detonated at set distances from their target. But they also had a secret weakness: Many of their torpedoes would explode too early, would swim under their targets without exploding, or might even circle back around to hit them.


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Submarine officers and representatives of the U.S. Navy Bureau of Ordnance pose with a Mk. 14 torpedo in 1943. (U.S. Navy)

It wasn’t the only flawed torpedo, but most of the Navy’s torpedo problems centered around the Mk. 14. It was supposed to be the most advanced and deadly anti-ship weapon in the U.S. fleet. They ran on steam and could travel over five miles and hit speeds of almost 53 mph and then detonate under an enemy ship’s hull with up to 643 pounds of high explosives.

In tests and in theory, this would break the keel of an enemy ship, ripping it in half or opening massive holes in the hull, quickly sending it to the deep.

American submarine commanders headed out with their boats filled with Mk. 14s. They were supposed to use their deck guns as much as possible, since they carried a limited number of torpedoes and each cost ,000 (about 1,000 in today’s money). But when the tactical situation called for firing a torpedo from stealth, like when facing a destroyer or launching a surprise attack against a convoy, they were supposed to fire a few torpedoes and watch the show.

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The Mk. 14 torpedo began its career as a deeply flawed weapon, but a series of changes in 1943 would get it fit to fight. (U.S. Navy)

But submarine commanders quickly began reporting problems with their weapons after Adm. Harold Rainsford Stark ordered unrestricted submarine warfare. The Navy’s Bureau of Ordnance thought the weapons should work 98 percent of the time. Submarine commanders were seeing much different results.

In one extreme case, a submarine commander fired all but one of his 16 torpedoes. Of the 15 shots he took, twelve hit the target and only one exploded. And that explosion was at the wrong time. The Japanese target got away with minimal damage.

In another instance, the USS Seawolf fired four Mk. 14 torpedoes at a Japanese transport with no results. That commander had Mk. 10 torpedoes on board, the World War I weapon the Mk. 14 was replacing. Lt. Cmdr. Frederick B. Warder ordered Mk. 10s into the tubes. The first shot hit the target’s stern and the second sank the enemy ship.

The older Mk. 10 was two for two while the Mk. 14 had failed completely. This wasn’t the Seawolf’s first issue with the Mk. 14, either. It had six previous tours under its belt, all plagued by torpedo issues, including that time it fired eight Mk. 14s, which accounted for seven misses and a dud hit.

Some Japanese vessels even reportedly pulled into their ports with Mk. 14 torpedoes sticking out of the hull. They had suffered direct hits, but the warheads had failed to detonate.

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The USS Tullibee was destroyed when it fired a torpedo at a Japanese ship in World War II only for it to swim in a circle and hit the submarines instead of the enemy in March, 1944. (U.S. Navy)

Worse, the Mk. 14s had a pesky habit of detonating properly when they circle ran, the worst possible situation. A circle run occurs when a torpedo follows a curved instead of straight path. And uneven drag, propulsion, or warping of a torpedo can cause a circle run and, like the name implies, it sends the torpedo in a circle, back to its starting point.

This fault was definitively described 24 times, sinking two submarines and forcing the 22 others to dodge their own ordnance.

The Bureau of Ordnance dragged their feet about assessing the problem, and then it took a while to get definitive solutions. So, for two years, submarines went on patrols with faulty weapons that could swim right under the target, pierce it without detonating, or even sink their own submarine.

But the Navy did eventually find the causes of the faults. The circle runs were caused by faulty gyros that failed to straighten the path. The torpedo sometimes swam right under the target because the torpedoes had been tested with faulty depth-measuring equipment and with warheads that didn’t reflect their real buoyancy. The failures to detonate were caused by faulty magnetic and mechanical initiators.

In fact, the mechanical initiator was an especially galling failure as far as submarine commanders were concerned, because they had been told for years that the real problem was them firing from bad angles while a 90-degree hit was most effective. In reality, the mechanical failures were most common at exactly 90 degrees, failing 70 percent of the time in later lab tests.

The Mk. 14 had been in the fleet for nearly 20 years by this point, so it might seem impossible that these faults hadn’t been discovered earlier. But it had been developed during the Great Depression when budget constraints severely constricted the tests and experiments scientists and engineers could do.

Changes were eventually made. The torpedoes were re-calibrated for the proper depth and the magnetic initiators were thrown out entirely. The mechanical ones were faulty thanks to heavy firing pins that couldn’t achieve the right momentum when the torpedo was at full speed, so they were replaced with a lighter metal alloy.

Ironically, the alloy chosen had made it into U.S. arsenals after it was discovered in a Japanese fighter shot down at Pearl Harbor. It fixed the Mk. 14’s mechanical initiation problems, allowing likely detonations no matter the torpedo’s angle of attack.

These changes took the Mk. 14 from one of the worst weapons of World War II to a top contender. It served until 1980, deep into the Cold War.


-Feature image: Wikimedia Commons

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