By 1941, the Texas native was in the Battle of Britain, flying his Spitfire fighter over London and the English Channel, taking down Hitler’s Luftwaffe one plane at a time. In 1942, Ash was shot down over the Pas-de-Calais.
He only ever managed to shoot down one bogey.
After his capture in northern France, he would spend the rest of the war as a prisoner, but he wouldn’t make it easy on the Nazis. Instead, Ash became something of an escape artist, attempting to break out of Nazi prison camps so many times, he lost count.
His schemes were as simple as running away from a work detail to more complex plans like digging a 100-yard tunnel through a latrine hole.
Here are five of his ballsiest POW escape attempts.
1. The Tourist.
The best way to avoid detection is to simply pretend you belong in whatever place you’re in. After Ash was first shot down, he made his way to Paris with the help of the French Resistance.
Instead of evading into the woods, the pilot attempted to hide in plain sight — by visiting museums, bathhouses, and galleries as if he were simply a tourist.
He was eventually captured by the Gestapo, who brutally beat the pilot and almost executed him. Luckily for Ash, the Luftwaffe intervened and claimed him as its prisoner, considering his RCAF status.
2. The Latrine Tunnel.
A BBC Magazine story about Ash’s time in camp Oflag XXIB in Poland details this complex escape plan. For three months, a team of diggers would crawl through a trap door in a toilet seat attempting to dig a 100-yard tunnel from the latrine to the woodline.
It was March 1943 when the POWs made their move through the tunnel. Disguised in modified uniforms and carrying forged passports, 35 of the men escaped the camp. Unfortunately, most were hastily recaptured.
3. Trading Places.
The daring Ash traded identities with another POW, Don Fair, as Fair was being transferred to Stalag Luft IV in modern-day Lithuania. Since the guards of Stalag Luft IV didn’t know he had a record of trying to escape, so they wouldn’t be ready for his many escape attempts.
He immediately escaped his new camp and made his way to a beach, where he found a boat. Ash ran into a few guys in the middle of a field, and after telling them he was a downed American pilot, they informed him that they were German soldiers growing cabbages.
4. The shower drain.
Ash’s first major escape attempt involved a shower drain. The idea was to stay put for a while, living under the shower huts until life outside the camp went back to normal. Then he and another prisoner planned to leave without anyone sounding the alarm for missing POWs.
He and his fellow escapee filled their pants full of a high-calorie mixture of chocolate and nuts from Red Cross packages and slipped into a manhole in the shower. When the other POWs emerged to be counted, the Germans noticed the missing men and found them in the manhole.
Ash and his partner couldn’t let the Nazis know about the survival food the men used to prepare for an escape, so they ate it all. They were pulled from the shower with their faces covered in chocolate.
5. Walking Out the Front Door.
At one point, he joined up with a group of Soviet detainees on a slave labor detail. As they walked out of the prison on their way to work, Bill Ash worked his way into the group and attempted to make his exit from from the front gates.
Ash denied the character was supposed to be him. He maintained that even though the escape from Stalag Luft III depicted in the film was real, he could not have joined it – he was in the cooler at the time.
Green Berets, SEALs, MARSOC — these are all well-known operator groups in the United States military. But not many know much about the Rhodesian Selous Scouts.
Named after the famous hunter Fredrick Selous, they possess the teamwork mindset of the Rhodesian Light Infantry and the skills of the Rhodeisan Special Air Service; but with harder training requirements than both, the Selous Scouts became monumental in anti-terrorist operations.
The selection process was so difficult that the recruits wouldn’t believe the instructors when they were informed they had passed.
Their boot camp was named “Wafa Wafa Wasara Wasara” which is Shona for, “Who dies — dies, who survives — remains.”
4. Extensive Training
The Selous Scouts were raised as a special forces regiment when Rhodesia was facing a terrorist threat that was armed by the Soviet Union to eliminate many European colonies in Africa. The Scouts’ mission was the clandestine elimination of these threats both in and out of Rhodesia.
For this purpose, they were not only taught tracking and survival, but they were also trained by former terrorists in the language, songs, and mannerisms of their enemies on top of learning to parachute.
3. Expert survival skills
Selous Scouts were trained to hunt and forage for their own food and water supplies.
Their survival skills allowed them to operate without external support.
2. Could shoot targets in rapid succession — without looking
Trained to shoot well-known enemy hiding spots, they eventually became so skilled that they no longer needed to look at their targets in order to hit them.
Selous Scouts went out in 5-10 man teams, which meant they were always outnumbered against their enemies, but their training proved to be more efficient, allowing them to inflict a high number of enemy casualties.
*Bonus* Infiltrated enemy units just to eliminate them
After being trained by former terrorists, Selous Scouts were capable of infiltrating enemy terrorist units by joining their factions. These scouts would eventually turn on the terrorists, capitalizing the elements of surprise and shock to mitigate the cells.
Other times, Selous Scouts would infiltrate enemy encampments and “expose” themselves by leaving clues behind of scout hiding places and encampments, ultimately leading terrorist troops into deathtraps.
While Rhodesia ultimately fell to the Zimbabwe African National Union, the Selous Scouts remain a monumental example in the world of anti-terrorist operations and helped write the book on being operator AF.
Notorious former Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has held talks with government representatives in eastern Afghanistan after years outside the country, his first public meetings with officials from the Western-backed government since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.
The meetings on April 28 came after Hekmatyar’s Hezb-e Islami militant group signed a peace agreement with President Ashraf Ghani’s government in September. Under the deal, he was granted amnesty for past offenses in exchange for ending his violent 15-year insurgency against the government.
The controversial peace deal has been criticized by many Afghans and by Western rights groups, which accuse Hekmatyar’s forces of gross human rights violations during Afghanistan’s civil war in the 1990s and cite their deadly attacks on U.S. and Afghan forces since 2001.
The war in Afghanistan began in 2001 with the aim of removing the Taliban from power. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dexter S. Saulisbury/Released)
Hekmatyar met on April 28 with Laghman Province Governor Abdul Jabar Naimi and Ghani’s security adviser, Juma Khan Hamdard.
He arrived two days earlier in the province, which lies between Kabul and the border with Pakistan, where he is believed to have been in hiding.
Naimi said Hekmatyar had “promised full cooperation” with the government and added that he hoped the peace deal would “revive hopes for enduring peace in Afghanistan,” according to a statement.
Hekmatyar had been expected to make a public appearance in Laghman on April 28, marked in Afghanistan as the 25th anniversary of the defeat in 1992 of the formerly Soviet-backed government by armed insurgents known as the mujahedin.
But the event was canceled without explanation.
A Hezb-e Islami spokesman told RFE/RL that Hekmatyar’s appearance had been rescheduled for April 29.
Hekmatyar’s supporters have erected large billboards across Kabul in anticipation of his first public appearance.
Hekmatyar founded Hezb-e Islami in the mid-1970s. The group became one of the main mujahedin factions fighting against Soviet forces following their invasion in 1979, and then one of the most prominent groups in the bloody civil war for control of Kabul after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989.
Hekmatyar, a former prime minister under the mujahedin government, was one of the chief protagonists of the internecine 1992-96 war. Rights groups accuse Hekmatyar of responsibility for the shelling of residential areas of Kabul in the 1990s, as well as forced disappearances and covert jails where torture was commonplace.
He was designated as a terrorist by the U.S. State Department in 2003.
Under the peace agreement, Hekmatyar will be granted amnesty for past offenses and certain Hezb-e Islami prisoners will be released by the government. The deal also includes provisions for his security at government expense.
In February, the UN Security Council lifted sanctions on Hekmatyar, paving his way to return to Afghanistan.
The controversial peace deal was a breakthrough for Ghani, who so far has had little to show for his efforts at ending the country’s 16-year war.
While the military wing of the Hezb-e Islami led by Hekmatyar has been a largely dormant force in recent years and has little political relevance in Afghanistan, the deal with the government could be a template for any future deal with fundamentalist Taliban militants who have also fought Kabul’s authority.
US Army Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of US forces in the Middle East, said on Wednesday that he believes Iran was behind missile strikes on US Navy ships fired from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen.
“I do think that Iran is playing a role in some of this. They have a relationship with the Houthis, so I do suspect there is a role in that,” said Votel at the Center for American Progress, The Hill’s Kristina Wong reports.
Iran does have a history of harassing US ships in the Persian Gulf. In January, Iran even went to the extreme length of taking US sailors captive after their ships broke down in Iranian national waters.
While experts have indicated to Business Insider that Iran likely supplied the Houthis with the missiles used in three separate attacks on US Navy ships, Votel’s comments mark perhaps the first time a US official has laid the blame on Iran.
After the US struck the radar sites used by the Houthis, an armed uprising battling the internationally recognized government of Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour al-Hadi,Iranian vessels rushed to the waters off of Yemen under the premise of protecting “trade vessels from piracy.”
If Iran does prove to be behind the missiles attacks, it’s possible that the US’s limited and defensive strikes have not addressed the larger problem.
Not all acts of heroism take place on the battlefield. Here are 6 times when troops jumped into harm’s way:
1. Sgt. George Long helped protect his leaders during a Fort Hood shooting
On Apr. 12, 2014, Sgt. George D. Long was in a meeting with leaders in his battalion at Fort Hood when shots broke out in the building. When the shooter approached the conference room, Long and Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Ferguson sprinted to the door and held it shut, continuing even when shots began coming through the door. This saved the lives of the other soldiers in the room.
2. A Fort Drum soldier pulled people from a burning tour bus
On the New York State Thruway in 2011, Then-Sgt. Jacob Perkins spotted a burning tour bus that had struck a semi-truck. He rushed into the blaze and began pulling out the survivors. 53 people were on the bus when it hit and 30 were injured but everyone survived thanks to Perkins’ quick actions.
“This is a momentous occasion,” said then-Maj. Gen. Mark A. Milley, now the Army Chief of Staff, at the Soldier’s Medal ceremony for Perkins. “If there were bullets flying and it was the Taliban, Sergeant Perkins would be getting the Medal of Honor.
3. Two sailors and an airman rescued the crew of a crashed helicopter
A resupply helicopter carrying mortar rounds and other munitions crashed on the flight line of Forward Operating Base Kala Gush, Afghanistan on May 3, 2010. Immediately, troops sprinted to rescue the aircrew. Air Force Staff Sgt. Steven R. Doty arrived in seconds and avoided the still-spinning rotor blades while he forced an opening into the wrecked bird. Once the crew began evacuating, Doty climbed inside and attempted to shut down the engines.
After Burditt, DeSeta, Jaquez, and others got the crew safely away, Doty finally gave up on shutting off the engines and escaped the crash site. All four heroes received Soldier’s Medals.
4. An airman lead a rescue attempt in the middle of burning jets
On Jan. 26, 2015 a Greek F-16 crashed into French jets at a refueling point during an exercise at Los Llanos Air Base, Spain. The flames from the wreck killed two Greek pilots and nine French troops, but U.S. airmen moved in to save everyone they could.
One of the first on the scene was U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Greggory Swarz who rushed into the flames to start pulling out the wounded. Swarz actually burned his own hands while pulling others from the fire, according to another airman at the scene. As Swarz was doing his work, other airmen used mobile fire extinguishers to put out people and loaded the wounded into a van.
5. An Air Force master sergeant saved dozens after Haiti earthquake
Master Sgt. Keith M. O’Grady was on the first plane to land in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake there. O’Grady and his team pulled 13 people from the rubble by tunneling into fallen debris with bare hands, concrete breakers, and digging bars. O’Grady voluntarily climbed through miles of these unsupported tunnels to rescue survivors, often burrowing past the remains of people who didn’t survive.
The team also provided advanced medical care to 27 patients and transferred 18 patients to trauma centers. O’Grady received the Airman’s Medal for his work and valor.
6. A soldier in Germany evacuated most of a burning apartment building before police arrived, then helped pull out two final survivors
Spc. Willie Smith was returning from a night out in Stuttgart, Germany when he saw flames rising from a wooden apartment building. His friend called emergency services and Smith began moving through the building, sounding the alarm. Smith’s warnings allowed approximately 30 people to escape before the flames grew too large.
But when the German police arrived, they discovered that an elderly couple was missing. So Smith rushed back in with them. Smith helped the man out while police woke and escorted out the woman. He received the Soldier’s Medal for his actions.
December 7, 1941 is a date which will live in infamy. The Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor took the lives of 2,403 Americans, wounded 1,178, and served as the catalyst for America’s entry into WWII. Multiple factors like Japanese misinformation, American focus on the war in Europe, and the fact that the attack took place on a Sunday contributed to the high loss of American life that day. Despite the surprise nature of the attack and the low state of readiness of American military forces in Hawaii, American servicemen fought back valiantly. With the sky littered with Japanese aircraft, American aviators did their best to get airborne and repel the attack. Though 14 Army Air Corps pilots tried to take off, most were shot down as they taxied. However, a few of them managed to get airborne and take the fight to the skies.
2nd Lt George Welch and 2nd Lt. Kenneth Taylor spent the evening of December 6th at the Wheeler Field officers club and an all-night poker game. The next morning, as the two men discussed the idea of an early morning swim, they were alerted to the attack by the sound of distant gunfire and explosions. Miles away from their airfield at Haleiwa, they phoned ahead to have their Curtiss P-40 Tomahawk fighters fueled and armed before they hopped into Taylor’s Buick and raced toward the fighting. Reaching speeds of 100mph on their dash to the airfield, the two men were attacked by Japanese planes who attempted to strafe them on the ground.
When they reached the airfield, their P-40s were only partially loaded with ammunition. Despite this, and with Taylor still wearing his tuxedo pants from the night before, the two men took off. They engaged a formation of Nakajima B5N2 Kate torpedo bombers and shot down two each. However, one of Welch’s .30-caliber guns jammed and Taylor was hit in the arm and leg by a tail gunner, and the two returned to the airfield.
As they refueled and rearmed, their mission was debated. “We had to argue with some of the ground crew,” Welch recalled. “They wanted us to disperse the airplanes and we wanted to fight.” As their planes were refitted and Taylor was advised to remain grounded to have his wounds treated, a second wave of Japanese planes appeared. With Welch’s jammed gun still not cleared and Taylor refusing medical treatment, the two men took off again. Soon after, Taylor caught the attention of a flight of Mitsubish A6M2 Zero fighters. Welch managed to shoot one of the Zeros off of Taylor’s tail before pursuing an Aichi D3A Val dive bomber out to sea and shooting it down.
Welch and Taylor are officially credited with six kills during the attack on Pearl Harbor. “We went down and got in the traffic pattern and shot down several planes there,” Taylor recalled. “I know for certain I shot down two planes or perhaps more; I don’t know.” Taylor later appeared before Congress to testify during an investigation into the attack.
For their actions, Welch and Taylor both received the Distinguished Service Cross. Though General Henry “Hap” Arnold recommended both men for the Medal of Honor, the honor was denied by their commanding officer because they had taken off without permission.
The other three aviators who managed to take off, 1st Lt. Lewis Sanders, 2nd Lt. Philip Rasmussen (who was still in his pajamas), and 2nd Lt. Gordon Sterling, were at a slight disadvantage compared to Welch and Taylor. Though their Curtiss P-36 Hawk fighters were very similar to Welch and Taylor’s P-40s, the P-36 had a less powerful radial engine. Still, the three men managed to get airborne. “We climbed to 9,000 feet and spotted Japanese ‘Val’ dive bombers,” Rasmussen recounted in a 2002 interview. “We dived to attack them.” Sanders is credited with one enemy aircraft kill. Sadly, after this initial attack, Sterling was shot down and drowned after getting out of his plane.
Rasmussen, who witnessed Sterling’s death, charged his guns only to have them malfunction and begin firing on their own. In an incredible stroke of luck, a Japanese plane flew into the uncontrolled burst of fire and exploded. Rasmussen got his guns back under control and, after shaking two Zeros off his tail, managed to score one more kill. That was when he felt his aircraft get hit.
“There was a lot of noise,” Rasmussen recalled. “He shot my canopy off.” Rasmussen’s P-36 had lost its hydraulics and tail wheel. Nursing his badly damaged plane back to the airfield, he managed to land without his brakes, rudder, or tail wheel. It was later discovered that two 20mm cannon shells had lodged themselves in the bulky radio behind the pilot’s seat which saved Rasmussen’s life.
2nd Lt. John Dains, 2nd Lt. Harry Brown, and 2nd Lt. Malcolm Moore also managed to get airborne at Pearl Harbor. Moore did not score any kills during the attack and Dains’ suspected kill remains unconfirmed. Brown, however, is credited with the final American kill of the attack.
Of the 29 Japanese planes shot down at Pearl Harbor, these men were responsible for 10. Though America’s war in the Pacific began with a badly bloodied nose, men like Welch, Taylor, Sanders, Rasmussen, and Brown gave the Japanese a taste of what was to come.
Last month’s massive breach of federal employees’ data allegedly at the hands of Chinese hackers, made public Thursday, indicates a treacherous new reality in the global cyber game.
“It’s very serious indeed,” geopolitical expert Ian Bremmer, the founder of Eurasia Group, told Business Insider.
“China’s offensive cyber capabilities have consistently surprised the United States in terms of breadth and sophistication of attacks.
“The latest attacks revealed yesterday show millions of existing and former US government employees with their private data now in the hands of the Chinese state.”
The Obama administration has refrained from making any official statements about China’s role in the attack on the Office of Personnel Management, since it is still so difficult to trace a data breach back to its original source.
An unnamed official told Reuters that information taken includes security clearance information and background checks going back decades.
“This is deep. The data goes back to 1985,” the official said. “This means that they potentially have information about retirees, and they could know what they did after leaving government.”
Reuters notes that the Office of Personnel Management “conducts more than 90% of all federal background investigations, including those required by the Department of Defense and 100 other federal agencies.”
The data includes details about the private lives of more than 4 million US government workers.
These federal employees “are the people who hold US secrets,” national security expert Douglas Ollivant explained to Business Insider, referring to the employees’ varying levels of government security clearance.
“And now the hackers likely have access to blackmail-able levels of information, such as the employees’ passports, Social Security numbers, history of drug use or psychological counseling, foreign contacts, etc.”
Whether the attack was state-sponsored remains to be seen, but few doubt that the stolen personnel data will ultimately end up in the hands of the Chinese government.
“This is a really big deal,” Ollivant added. “Some might consider it an act of war.”
Further, the alleged hack is part of Beijing’s evolving cyber-espionage operation.
“Having a large database of personal information on key individuals that have access to critical infrastructure or classified information gives China an advantage in whatever agenda they have,” Mark Wuergler, a senior cybersecurity researcher at Immunity Inc., told Business Insider.
“By breaking into one organization it points in the direction of the next juicy target to siphon data from, or add to, an arsenal of leverage over a superpower,” Wuergler said.
The Chinese are masters of the long game, Wuergler added, and Chinese hackers have been known to infiltrate servers and maintain their access for a year or more to quietly spy on their targets.
“They are really good at what they do, and when they break into something it’s not just smash and grab,” Wuergler said, noting that hackers in the OPM network had been there for months before they were even detected.
According to Wuergler, a “complete overhaul” of the network and systems we use today would be needed to deter attacks like this in the future.
As Bremmer sees it, however, such efforts at deterrence would be largely futile given China’s determination to remain embedded in American networks.
“There’s no effective defense against these attacks and, as we’ve seen, there’s also no effective deterrence,” he said. “China isn’t trying to engage in ‘integrity’ attacks against the US — they don’t want to destroy American institutions and architecture as, after all, they’re hugely invested in American economic success.”
That said, Bremmer added: “We should be very clear: China is at virtual war with the United States, and the threat is far higher than that of terrorism, which gets the lion’s share of attention — and, in the post-9/11 world, funding.”
The Second World War gave us all a lot of crazy ideas that turned out to be really great things for the United States and, after a few years, the world. It gave us microwaves, the mass production of penicillin, and, later, Batman.
The idea all started in California, already a central hub of America’s most creative types. Those creative minds were focused on repelling what seemed like an imminent invasion of Japanese troops at the time, and no idea was deemed too crazy at the brainstorming sessions — as long as it meant pushing Japan back into the Pacific Ocean when the time came. Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson of the California State Guard came up with the idea of “Bat-Men,” modified paratroopers who could avoid enemy ground fire by gliding through the air and into the coming fight.
Major Nicholson conceived the idea while watching free-jumpers at air shows who used wingsuits to control their descent before opening their parachutes. He enlisted (not literally) the aid of a famous wing suit jumper named Mickey Morgan to spearhead the new paratrooper unit idea.
The Major, as he came to be called, was a U.S. Army cavalryman who served under Gen. John J. Pershing during the Punitive Expedition in Mexico and fighting Moros in the Philippines. During World War I, he was sent on diplomatic and intelligence missions in Siberia, documenting the movements of Russian and Japanese troops.
Nicholson had a long history of publishing, writing his first two books in the 1920s. During the Great Depression, he realized that with so many people out of work, books were just out of reach of most people, so he devised a way to sell printed material at an affordable price: the comic book.
Before World War II, Nicholson founded one of the first-ever comic book companies, called National Allied Publications in 1934. With titles like Fun Comics and New Fun Comics, Nicholson published an entirely new concept in comics. Rather than reprinting funnies from daily newspapers, he introduced new characters and continuing storylines. In 1935, the Major hired Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, who sent him the concept of a superpowered hero on butcher paper – it was the blueprint for Superman.
Later on, National Allied Publications would morph into what we know today as DC Comics. The company’s first sensational character came in Detective Comics #27, featuring the new character, Batman.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
Survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialists wait before performing static line jumps as the door of a C-130 Hercules, assigned to Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga., opens over the Nevada Test and Training Range, Nev., March 11, 2016. SERE specialists lead the Air Force emergency parachuting program and conduct extensive testing of parachuting systems. They are uniquely suited to analyze the operating environment to plan for evasion, captivity and recovery considerations.
Airmen, carrying 35-pound rucksacks, participate in the 2016 Bataan Memorial Death March with 6,600 other participants March 20, 2016, at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. The 27th annual march was 26.2 miles long and served as a reminder for today’s generation of the harsh conditions World War II veterans endured during their 60-mile march to a prisoner-of-war camp in the Philippines.
A Soldier rushes to his next position during the third day of testing at the Expert Infantry Badge qualification held on Fort Jackson, S.C. March 31, 2016.
A Soldier, assigned to 1-2 SBCT, 7th Infantry Division, conducts aerial radiological survey training from a 16th Combat Aviation Brigade UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., March 24, 2016.
SOUDA BAY, Greece (March 25, 2016) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75), departs Souda Bay, Greece, following a scheduled port visit. Donald Cook is forward deployed to Rota, Spain, and is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe and Africa.
NORFOLK (March 30, 2016) An MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter from the Blackhawks of Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron (HM) 15 conducts an aerial refueling exercise with a Lockheed Martin KC-130 tanker. Navy and Marine Corps aviators regularly conduct training in order to maintain mission readiness.
A U.S. Navy Corpsman assigned to Field Medical Training Battalion East (FMTB-E), checks on members of his squad during a final exercise (FINEX) at Camp Johnson, N.C., March 1, 2016. FINEX is a culminating event at FMTB-E which transitions Sailors into the Fleet Marine Force.
U.S. Marines with the Marine Corps Engineer School (MCES) at Courthouse Bay, participate in tug of war competition during a field meet at Ellis Field on Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, March 17, 2016. The MCES holds a field meet annually in order to promote camaraderie and competition.
Chief Petty Officer Mark Wanjongkhum and Chief Warrant Officer Michael Allen, both from Surface Forces Logistics Center, walk around the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy while in dry dock at Vigor Shipyard in Seattle, March 31, 2016. Healy will return to the water this week after three months of maintenance.
A C-27J Medium Range Surveillance airplane sits on the runway at Coast Guard Aviation Logistics Center in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, Thursday, March 31, 2016. The C-27J is the newest Coast Guard aircraft to join the fleet and will be used in maritime patrol, drug and migrant interdiction, disaster response, and search and rescue missions.
Accurate Chinese snipers, the brutal cold, and a lack of food were just some of the rough aspects allied forces faced while occupying the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea.
As the grunts moved into the frozen grounds of their defensive positions, every two men received a case of hand grenades, extra ammunition, and an encouraging hand shake from a superior officer as he passed through.
As the Marines dug into their icy fighting holes, they knew they needed to hold the line at all costs.
Once the Chinese assault commenced, thousands of enemy troops appeared over the top of the hill and dashed down the ravine toward the thin line of armed Marines who began to pull every trigger in their limited arsenal.
“I was standing right there looking at a thousand damn men just going, ‘Oh my God we’re in it,'” one retired Marine recalls. “You knew when you fired your rifle you were killing somebody.
Soon after, the outnumbering Chinese Army made their way toward the wall of Marines manning the front lines and an all out hand-to-hand brawl initiated.
The Marines pulled their knives from their sheaths and started to cut down the enemy force.
“I shoved my Ka-Bar straight through, and it came out the back of his neck,” another retired Marine emotionally explains. “He naturally squirted blood all over me, and the blood burned my eyes.”
After the first wave of attack, the Marines cleaned the blood from their faces and eyes with the cold snow that surrounded them. They quickly proceeded to an embankment near a stream to reorganize themselves and form a perimeter, protecting one another.
The injured Marines had expended most of their hand grenades and ammunition, but they still managed to hold the line. No enemy combatant made it through.
Everyone who is a fan of veteran Marine Corps General and onetime Secretary of Defense James Mattis knows of his affinity for reading, for consuming as much knowledge on a subject as he can before giving his opinion. His lifestyle of eschewing a family in favor of a lifetime of learning and dedication to duty even earned him the moniker “The Warrior Monk.” This well-known devotion to knowledge makes it all the more interesting to discover Mattis was “obsessed” with the date August 1914.
From the Iraq War to the Trump Administration, Mattis is always the man for the job.
In journalist Bob Woodward’s book, “Fear: Trump in the White House” one Trump Administration official who spoke highly of then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis told Woodward that the former general was “obsessed with August 1914… the idea that you take actions, military actions, that are seen as prudent planning and the unintended consequences are that you can’t get off the war train.”
Specifically, Mattis was “obsessed” with historian Barbara Tuchman’s World War I history book, “The Guns of August,” which has a spot on every reading list he ever published for the troops.
In June 1914, as we should all know by now, Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was shot by an assassin in Sarajevo. Austria-Hungary issues an ultimatum to Serbia as European allies began to muster their troops throughout the continent during July of 1914. At the end of July, the Austro-Hungarian Empire declares war on Serbia, shelling Belgrade just days later. As July turns to August, Serbia’s ally Russia begins to mobilize for war. That’s when Germany demanded Russia stop preparing for war, which Russia ignored.
On Aug. 1, 1914, Germany declared war on Russia. Russia’s allies began preparing for war in response to their mutual defense treaties. Germany then declared war on France and invaded neutral Belgium, forcing Great Britain and its Empire to declare war on Germany. Austria-Hungary declared war on Russia. By Aug. 7, 1914, much of the world was at war. By the end of August, the fighting had spread to Africa and the Chinese mainland. What started as a regional dispute that could have been mediated led to millions of lives lost in a brutal, industrialized war machine.
German defenders of Tsingtao, China, who were fighting against the Japanese invaders because a Serbian shot an Austrian archduke in Bosnia.
In this context, Mattis was trying to keep the United States and NATO out of a war with Russia, which (according to Woodward’s book) seemed like a real possibility if the Trump Administration had enacted some of its more sweeping changes to American defense policy. Mattis was also trying to convince Trump that the U.S. needed to be in NATO, and if NATO didn’t already exist, it should be created – because Russia could not win a war against NATO, in Mattis’ opinion.
Russia had privately warned Mattis that if a war broke out in the Baltics, the Russians would use tactical nuclear weapons against NATO forces. Mattis and Gen. Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, began to think Russia as an existential threat to the United States. Even so, Mattis was determined to keep Russia and NATO from sliding into a similar war via a web of alliances.
On September 20, 1958, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. arrived at the Blumstein’s department store in Harlem, New York for a book signing. His new book “Stride Toward Freedom” chronicled the Montgomery bus boycott that began when Rosa Parks refused to surrender her seat on a public bus to a white passenger. The boycott had come to a close in December of 1956, when the Supreme Court ruled that the segregation of public buses was indeed unconstitutional. It was a watershed moment for both the Civil Rights movement and for America itself.
As a crowd formed in the shoe section of Blumstein’s, King took his seat behind a roped-off section of the store. Soon, eager readers were lining up to catch a moment of the influential figure’s time and his signature for their book. He exchanged brief pleasantries with each person as they approached the table, and as a 42-year-old woman in a stylish outfit and sequined cat’s eye-glasses took her turn, King’s demeanor was no different.
“Are you Martin Luther King?” The woman reportedly asked through a notable southern accent.
“Yes,” King replied, but before he could go on any further, the seemingly ordinary woman threw herself at the table and the man behind it, plunging a seven-inch pen knife into King’s chest.
Bystanders responded by pulling the woman away from King and pinning her on the floor as she shouted, “I’ve been after him for six years. I’m glad I done it!”
King, a man who was no stranger to threats, seemed somehow stoically calm, despite the serious bleeding from his chest. As his fans and supporters surrounded him, ushering him toward medical help, he was heard counseling them, soothing their collective anxieties as though he knew everything was going to be okay.
“That’s all right. Everything is going to be all right,” King was heard saying.
Of course, King couldn’t know it would be all right. Maybe it was just in his nature to ease the burden on others. With the knife still in his chest, King was lifted in his chair and carried out to an ambulance that would rush him to Harlem Hospital. Shortly thereafter, the police would march the same dangerous woman back into King’s company. This time there were no books to sign. The police wanted him to confirm that the women they had in custody was indeed his attacker. When they’d placed her under arrest, they also recovered a loaded .25 caliber pistol from her bra.
Despite the terrible attack, King was lucky. The seven-inch knife had punctured his chest just a fraction of an inch away from his aorta, or the main artery that carried blood from his heart to the rest of his body. King, who remained conscious and soothing throughout the ordeal, had only narrowly escaped death, but the risk hadn’t passed. He was rushed into surgery, where he had two ribs removed from his side to allow the knife to be pulled out without causing further damage.
“The X-rays revealed that the tip of the blade was on the edge of my aorta, the main artery,” Dr. King later said in his famed ‘I’ve been to the mountaintop’ speech.
“And once that’s punctured, you’re drowned in your own blood — that’s the end of you.”
He would leave the hospital days later with a new scar in the shape of a cross over his heart. Despite the brutal attack, he was resolute when questioned by the press: He bore no ill will toward the woman who had stabbed him and reaffirmed his position that non-violence is the only way to manifest the type of positive change he sought for his country.
The attacker, whose name was Izola Curry, didn’t look like the sort of person most would expect to attack Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Curry was a fashionable middle-aged Black woman, but beneath her polished exterior laid a turbulent and troubled mind. Curry was a paranoid schizophrenic who had struggled with her mental health for years. In her confused state, she’d grown convinced that King and the NAACP were conspiring with communists against her. To King, however, the attack was a symptom of a greater illness than even Curry’s schizophrenia.
“A climate of hatred and bitterness so permeates areas of our nation that inevitably deeds of extreme violence must erupt,” he said at the time.
“The experience of these last few days has deepened my faith in the relevance of the spirit of nonviolence, if necessary social change is peacefully to take place.”
King would continue to change the world for another decade, before yet another act of violence would rob him of the remainder of his life. It could be argued that, as of that fateful day in 1958, he was acutely aware of the risk his efforts posed to his safety. If he did feel fear somewhere beneath the obvious empathy he felt for the woman who attacked him, however, it never showed. King did not shy away from his work, nor his beliefs, no matter the risk.
Now, as we prepare to honor the memory and the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. some 63-years after his death, the story of the near fatal attack offers some uncomfortable parallels with today’s America. As rhetoric about race, mental illness, and the danger of radicalized beliefs permeate our national discourse today just as it did in 1958, we could all learn something from King’s ability to find a catalyst for positive change in even the darkest of places.
In King’s final public speech, he recalled the 1958 attack and how close he came to death… but even amid telling the story, King’s focus was not on his own mortality, but rather on the goodness he found in others as a result of the experience, and the progress he envisioned for America to come.
He told the story of a 9-year-old white girl who wrote to him to say that she’d read that if he had sneezed while the blade was in his chest, he almost certainly would have died.
“And I’m simply writing you to say that I’m so happy that you didn’t sneeze,” King recounted.
King went on to echo the young girl’s sentiment, using it to remind the audience about the important steps the Civil Rights movement had made in the years that followed. King didn’t recount these events like he was listing his own victories, but there was an air of pride about his statements. King, like so many great Americans before him, saw each victory and failure as another part of the struggle that has defined America since its very inception. America, he knew, has always been defined by the aspiration for a better tomorrow, the drive to become a more perfect union.
“If I had sneezed — If I had sneezed I wouldn’t have been here in 1963, when the black people of Birmingham, Alabama, aroused the conscience of this nation, and brought into being the Civil Rights Bill.
If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have had a chance later that year, in August, to try to tell America about a dream that I had had.
If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been down in Selma, Alabama, to see the great Movement there.
If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been in Memphis to see a community rally around those brothers and sisters who are suffering.
I’m so happy that I didn’t sneeze.”
For all of his philosophical wisdom, King was, at his heart, a pragmatic man. He saw the complexity, the hate, the love, the anger, and the joy all woven into the fabric of his nation. He knew his goals were grander than one man, no matter his eloquence and empathy. He knew that the progress he helped usher in was delicate, and that the fight for our nation’s soul was far from over. King knew America would never be perfect… but importantly, he knew that it was in the effort, in the aspiration, that America’s true greatness had always, and will always, lie.
In a way, it’s deeply tragic that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was able to look out over the crowd of supporters that had gathered on that April day in 1968 and know that he wouldn’t be there to see America embrace the equality he longed for… but King was a great American. Like our Founding Fathers, King knew that a society grows great when men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit. Progress, like a tree, needs time to take root.
Today, our nation continues to struggle with some of the same issues it faced during King’s days of fighting for equality, as well as daunting new ones that stretch beyond the horizon. America has always been imperfect, but our greatness doesn’t lie in what we are. The real America has always been found in what we, its people, strive to become.
“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!”
Burke Waldron is U.S. Navy veteran who participated in the invasions of Makin and Saipan in the Pacific during World War II. He left the Navy in 1946 at the rank of Petty Officer 2nd Class.
On Memorial Day 2016, the Seattle Mariners asked Waldron to throw out the first pitch in their game against the Padres. With veteran pride, Waldron took the mound in his dress uniform and hurled a left-handed heater to Mariners’ catcher Steve Clevenger.
See Waldron’s awesome game-opening throw in the video below: