Bayonets, entrenching tools, and ammo are just some of the pieces of gear troops carry into battle. Over the years, as technology’s progressed and missions have evolved, the gear we use to fight the enemy has changed.
Some gear goes from concept to development to testing but never make it to the frontlines — often for good reason.
During World War I, “turkey peeking” was one of the only ways allied troops could spot the enemy from across the way. However, when a soldier glanced over the parapet, he risked getting shot right in the dome by the opposition’s marksmen. As you can imagine, this made the helmet extremely important in trench warfare.
Since steel helmets were absolutely needed to save troops’ lives in the field, allied forces turned to Dr. Bashford Dean to help lead the design process to create newer, more advanced protection.
Some of the designs, however, may have been a little too crazy.
Based on helmets used by Greeks and Italians in the 15th century, this steel contraption was designed to shade wearers’ eyes like a ballcap. This style of helmet saw limited field-testing during the war, but it was shut down before major production started as it looked too similar to the German Model 1916 helmet.
2. The aviator’s model
A few designs were drafted specifically for aviators, but very few made it to the field testing phase.
3. The tank operator model
This helmet showcased a padded-silk curtain and visor. Its main purpose was to guard against lead splashing onto the operator’s face.
4. The machine gunner’s model (take 1)
The knight-style helmet featured a narrow eye slit and, reportedly, was incredibly challenging to communicate through.
As they’re now America’s two top rivals, it’s easy to forget that China and Russia aren’t allies and actually have decades of regional rivalry and have been at each other’s throats more than once. In fact, in 1970, the Soviet Union started asking around about whether or not anyone would really care if they launched a preemptive nuclear strike against China.
Ya know, for world security and all that.
China’s first nuclear test in 1964 set off a series of dominoes that almost convinced Russia to nuke it.
Russia and China try to smooth over their regional troubles in the common interest of trying to constrain America, even when Russia was the Soviet Union and the year was 1950. Russia and China sent pilots to North Korea to help fight American air power, downing and killing U.S. pilots. It was a real high-point for Soviet-Sino Relations.
But at the time, China was basically to the Soviet Union what North Korea is to China today. The Soviet Union was much larger and stronger, and it was embroiled in a battle of superpowers with the U.S. China was welcome on the playground as long as it was playing by the rules and backing up Soviet interests. But China wanted to become a nuclear power just like its big brother.
And so, in 1964, China detonated its first device, becoming the fifth country to become a nuclear power.
Russian boats try to knock a Chinese man off of his craft in the Wasuli River during the 1969 border clashes between the two countries.
(China Photo Service, CC BY-SA 3.0)
This combined with already simmering tensions over border conflicts and brought the two countries’ relations to a low boil. Their troops fought skirmishes against one another on their shared border while both sides greatly built up their troops and their stockpiles of less-than-nuclear weapons like biological and chemical threats.
In 1969, this grew into the Sino-Soviet border conflict, a seven-month undeclared war between the two sides from March to September of that year. Moscow seemed to hope that internal divisions in China would distract Mao Zedong and Liu Shaoqi, the top leaders of China’s Communist Party at the time.
China and Russia agreed to bilateral talks in 1970 that eventually restored peace, so it’s possible that this was a bluff from the Soviet leaders. Maybe they believed that the threat of nuclear war could end the border clashes with no need to actually send any missiles or bombers up.
But it’s also quite possible that the threat was real. While we in the West like to think of the Cold War as an all-consuming grapple between America and the Soviet Union, the Soviets were actually holding three times as many military exercises focused on their eastern border with China in the 1960s as they spent practicing for war with the U.S. and Europe.
So, yes, the world’s first nuclear war could’ve been a clash between the Soviet Union and China, but that was thankfully averted. Unfortunately, China watched for weaknesses in the Soviet Union and, as the bloc started to crumble in the late 1980s, China made its move. While the Soviets tried to hold themselves together and America was preoccupied with finishing the fight and planning the post-Soviet world, China began an arms buildup.
The Marine Corps has historically found itself on short end of the stick when it comes to aviation. In fact, during World War II, the planes they got were either obsolete (like the F2A Buffalo and SB2U Vindicator) or unwanted by the Navy. The latter case, though, gave the Marines one heck of a plane. One so good, the Navy eventually flew it, too.
That plane was the Vought F4U Corsair, probably best known for its appearance on the show Baa Baa Black Sheep, starring Robert Conrad as Maj. Gregory “Pappy” Boyington, the top Marine ace of all time. So, why didn’t the Navy want what would prove to be one of the great planes of World War II?
According to MilitaryFactory.com, the Corsair had a top speed of 416 miles per hour, could reach a maximum range of 1,016 miles, and had six M2 .50-caliber machine guns. But this plane, originally designed to operate off U.S. Navy carriers, was just too hot.
Vought had taken the powerful R-2800 engine and tried making a compact fighter with it. They succeeded, but the Corsair proved to be a tricky beast to fly. It soon earned the nickname, “Ensign Eliminator.” As a result, the Navy went with the F6F Hellcat — an awesome fighter in its own right — and pawned the Corsair off on the Marines.
The Marines took to the Corsair like a duck to water. The plane gave them something that could go toe-to-toe with the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, but also carry a powerful load of bombs and rockets, making it a multi-role fighter.
The British acquired some, too, and operated them off of escort carriers. By the end of World War II, the United States Navy began to operate Corsairs from carriers to counter the kamikaze threat. The Corsair served through the Korean War, and even saw combat action in the Soccer War of 1969. Watch a video about this Navy reject turned Marine Corps legend below:
Young Oak Kim was born in Los Angeles, California in 1919. He was raised with a strong Korean cultural identity instilled in him by his father, a strong opponent to the Japanese occupation of Korea. After high school, Kim attended Los Angeles City College for a year. However, he dropped out to work and support the family. Racial discrimination against Asians prevented him from holding any one job for too long.
In 1940, as war loomed on the horizon, that same discrimination prevented Kim from enlisting. However, after Congress passed a law including Asian Americans in the draft, Kim was drafted into the Army. He entered the service on January 31, 1941.
Kim served for half a year as an Army engineer before he was selected for Infantry Officer Candidate School. He graduated the school at Fort Benning, Georgia in January 1943. Afterwards, he was assigned to the 100th Infantry Battalion, a unit of Japanese Americans from Hawaii. Fearing racial tensions between Japanese Americans and a Korean American, Kim’s commander offered him a transfer to a different unit. “There [are] no Japanese nor Korean here,” Kim responded. “We’re all Americans and we’re fighting for the same cause.” His sentiment of patriotism was a constant throughout his life.
The 100th was soon deployed to North Africa. However, racial discrimination and the belief of Asian inferiority meant that the Army had no plans to send them to the front. By its own request, the 100th was redeployed to Italy in the hopes of seeing combat.
Kim’s first action was in Salerno, Italy. He was wounded near Santa Maria Olivetto where he received a Purple Heart and his first Silver Star for bravery in combat. For his actions, he was also promoted to 1st Lt. and later fought in the Battle of Monte Cassino.
During the planning phase of Operation Diadem, the fourth assault on Monte Cassino, allied planners needed to know if German tanks were in the way of their intended route. On May 16, 1944, Kim and Pfc. Irving Akahoshi volunteered to capture German soldiers to gather information. The two men snuck into enemy territory and captured two Germans in broad daylight. The prisoners divulged that there was no German armor in the way of the planned assault and the allies succeeded. Kim later led troops in battle at Belvedere and Pisa. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Italian Bronze Medal of Military Valor, and the Italian War Cross for Military Valor.
In France, Kim served as the battalion operations officer. He fought at Bruyères and Biffontaine where he was wounded again. His wounds were more severe and he returned to Los Angeles for a 6-month leave. Germany surrendered before Kim could return to Europe and he was honorably discharged as a captain. He received a second Purple Heart, the French Croix de Guerre, and had a plaque dedicated to him on the Biffontaine church wall.
Despite his service during the war, there were few job opportunities for Asians like Kim. He started a self-service laundry, a rarity at the time, which turned out to be quite successful. In fact, he made five times his Army captain salary. However, when the Korean War broke out in 1950, Kim returned to the Army. “As a Korean, the most direct way to help my father’s country even a little, and as a U.S. citizen, the most direct way to repay even a little the debt owed to Korea by the U.S. was to go to Korea, pick up a gun and fight,” Kim later said in an interview.
Any U.S. soldiers who spoke even a bit of Korean were eligible to serve in the Army Security Agency. However, Kim didn’t want to work in an office; he wanted to fight at the front. By pretending not to know any Korean, and with some help from connections he made during WWII, Kim rejoined the infantry.
In April 1951, Kim was assigned as the intelligence officer of the 31st Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division. Kim was personally scouted by Lt. Gen. William J. McCaffrey. At the general’s request, Kim also worked as a operations officer. Despite his staff positions, Kim fought in several battles and is credited with rescuing both American and Korean soldiers on the frontlines.
When the 31st Infantry stopped the Chinese offensive and pushed them back across the 38th parallel in May 1951, Kim’s battalion was the first to cross the line. In August, Kim’s unit was so far north that they were mistakenly shelled by American artillery who believed they were too far north to be friendly. Kim was seriously injured and evacuated to Tokyo for medical treatment. After two months of recuperation, he returned to the Korean front.
Kim’s return included a promotion to major and a new job. McCaffrey put him in command of the 1st Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, making Kim the first Asian American to command a U.S. battalion. Under Kim’s command, the battalion adopted an orphanage in Seoul where over 500 orphans were raised. After nearly another year of combat, Kim left Korea in September 1952. In 2003, the Korean government recognized Kim and his battalion for their social service during the war.
Kim remained in the Army after Korea. He served as an instructor at the Infantry School in Fort Benning, Georgia and as a staff officer in Germany. In 1959, he was promoted to Lt. Col. and became an instructor at the Command and General Staff College. In the early 1960s, Kim returned to Korea where he served as a military advisor to the South Korean army. During this time, he was promoted to Colonel. After 30 years of service, Kim retired in 1972.
In 1973, Kim joined the Special Services for Groups in Los Angeles, a non-profit health and human service organization that served vulnerable multi-ethnic communities. He furthered his community service as a 10-year board member of United Way, an international network of over 1,800 non-profit fundraising affiliates. Kim was a founding member of the Korean American Coalition, an organization that continues to promote the civil rights of the Korean American community today. Kim championed a number of other causes including healthy lifestyles for the elderly, care for violence and sexual assault victims, and the sheltering of the homeless in Southern California.
On December 29, 2005 Kim passed away from cancer. He is buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii. The Young Oak Kim Academy in Los Angeles is named for him, as is the Young Oak Kim Center for Korean American Studies at the University of California, Riverside. In 2016, Kim was posthumously nominated for the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his decades of selfless service. Although President Obama did not sign off on the medal, the push to recognize Kim’s work continues. On March 26, 2021, a bipartisan bill was introduced in congress to posthumously award Kim the Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of his extraordinary heroism, leadership, and humanitarianism. “His service to our country and the Asian American community only continued further after his military service,” said Rep. Young Kim (CA-39). “I am proud to have called him a good friend, and remember his friendship and service each day, especially as we bear the same name.” The bill, H.R.2261, is yet to be considered by committee. Regardless of its outcome, Kim’s legacy of patriotism and service stands as an example to all Americans.
Alright, that headline is a bit misleading. The knights were depicted fighting giant snails. But the mystery remains – why? And were snails really that big back then?
Apparently, it’s a common sight in English scrolls dating from the 13th and 14th centuries: armored knights engaging in medieval combat with giant snails. Medievalists at the British Library began to wonder the same things we all are – WHY.
Two reasons might explain the ubiquitous depictions (but not fully). The first is that the snails are the enemy of the person writing the manuscripts. Many famous families and villains could have fit the bill. The only problem is that this doesn’t explain why the knights are always losing to the villain. If this was propaganda, shouldn’t the good guy win?
Another reason is that it could be a depiction of the common folk rising against an unwilling aristocracy. These slimy creatures from the garden weren’t welcome guests in the manor houses and castles of the Middle Ages. Neither were peasants.
There’s no way it could be a depiction of actual knights fighting real giant snails, right?
There were, in fact, snails as large (perhaps larger) than humans. But not in the middle ages. Fossils of Pachydiscus Seppenradensis – giant cephalopods – have been found in temperate climates from the USA and across Europe. This puts the snails in the area where they could have fought medieval knights, but the timing doesn’t work out.
Fossil records date Parapuzosia back to the early-to-late Cretaceous period of Earth’s history. This means these snails walked with dinosaurs like the Ankylosaurus and some species of dinosaur bipeds.
As far as history is concerned, knights couldn’t have been fighting giant snails because snails just didn’t grow that big back in the middle ages. Not even close. These days, the max size a “giant” snail grows can still fit in your hand.
So if they’re not fighting actual giant snails, what’s up with all the imagery of knights fighting giant snails?
If you have the answer, I’m sure the British Library would be interested in knowing.
A good speech from a great leader can change the world. After the Battle of Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address, a speech that strengthened the resolve of the Union to continue fighting battles like that for another two years. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt told the American people that day would live in infamy, and it has ever since.
But it might surprise you to discover that some of history’s greatest lines were improvised by the speaker, instead of written into the script of the age.
President Bush’s Ground Zero “Bullhorn Speech”
George W. Bush has been accused of a lot of things, but being one of history’s greatest orators is not one of them. Still, in the days following the Sept. 11 attacks, the United States needed its fearless leader to show up at the center of it all and encourage the nation to stand tall, and George W. Bush was able to do that. What started out as an impromptu, unprepared remark about empathy turned into one of the most memorable speeches of modern presidential history when a worker in the back shouted, “we can’t hear you,” referring to the president’s bullhorn.
President Bush, contrary to what some might believe, is quick on his feet and responded with the legendary line “I can hear you. The whole world hears you. And whoever knocked down these buildings will hear all of us real soon.”
Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” Speech
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. walked to the podium on Aug. 28, 1963, intent on sticking to the script. His prepared remarks mentioned nothing about the dream King had. He’d mentioned the dream speech before, but was convinced the speech wouldn’t have the same effect on such a gathered crowd for such a long speech. In the middle of the speech, Gospel singer Mahalia Jackson shouted to Dr. King, telling him to use the “dream” line.
At around 12:00 above, you can see the shift in Dr. King’s face. He stops looking down at his notes as he had for the previous 12 minutes and begins to address the crowd directly, flawlessly delivering the “dream” portion of the speech. This part of the speech is much less measured and more emotional than a banking analogy.
Winston Churchill’s “The Few” Speech
By August 1940, Britain stood alone in Europe against the Nazi war machine. Poland and France had already fallen, and the only things protecting England was the English Channel and the Royal Air Force. British airmen were giving everything they had to defend the island nation from the relentless attacks of the Nazi Luftwaffe, day and night, and they were running low on planes and pilots. Churchill was moved by the pilots who survived the bombing of an RAF airfield just days before and told the assembled men that ‘never in the history of mankind has so much been owed by so many to so few.’
He delivered a speech on that to Parliament on Aug. 20, 1940.
George Washington “Grows Blind”
The Continental Army was growing restless in 1783. Victory in independence was just around the corner, but they didn’t know that. They were upset at having not been paid by Congress. Officers and soldiers of the army decided to meet in Newburgh, N.Y. to draw up a letter to Congress. Their demand was to be paid or warn the body of a coming mutiny. When George Washington heard about it, he decided to address the men on a day of his choosing.
When he entered the hall, he entered through a side door instead of the main door and proceeded to give a nine-page speech warning them against such a mutiny. He also expressed support for their sentiments and went to share a letter from a Congressman who shared it too. As he pulled out the letter, he also pulled out his glasses and said the immortal words:
“Gentlemen, you must pardon me. I have grown gray in your service and now find myself growing blind.”
It was that improvised line that prevented the mutiny, reaffirmed their loyalty to their graying commander, and won the war.
One American officer made the bold proclamation that “a braver man than Colonel McIntosh never lived.” Few could argue with this assessment when evaluating the deeds of James Simmons McIntosh.
Born in Georgia in 1787, James Simmons McIntosh came from a long line of soldiers. His great-uncle, General Lachlan McIntosh, served with Washington at Valley Forge. His father, John McIntosh, was the American commander who taunted the British to “come and take it” when they demanded the surrender of Fort Morris in 1778. It was only appropriate that James enter the army when of age.
He received an appointment to the First United States Rifle Regiment as a lieutenant at the age of 25 in November 1812. Like his forefathers, he had a chance to fight the British, and fought at the Battle of Scajaquada Creek in August 1814. McIntosh received a serious wound and was left for dead on the field of battle. An American burial party discovered McIntosh still breathing and transferred him to New York to recover. The House of Representatives of Georgia later presented Lieutenant McIntosh with a dress sword for his “gallantry and intrepidity” in the war that he carried until his death.
Left for Dead: The Battle of Palo Alto
At the conclusion of the war, he opted to stay in the army for the next 30 years. McIntosh rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel of the Fifth United States Infantry Regiment by 1839. In October 1845, he reported to General Zachary Taylor in Corpus Christi, Texas, when war clouds loomed over Mexico. He played a leading part in Taylor’s operations when war broke out in 1846. On May 8, 1846, at the Battle of Palo Alto, his regiment held the extreme right of Taylor’s line and beat back a fierce Mexican lancer charge to save the army’s baggage train.
The Mexican army fell back to a strong defensive position situated at Resaca del la Palma after their defeat at Palo Alto. McIntosh and his regiment were ordered to conduct a frontal assault on the left of the entrenched Mexican line the next day by General Taylor. McIntosh rode forward as Mexican bullets cut through the air. He was one of the first Americans to set foot inside the Mexican position, but had to dismount due to the uneven terrain.
In the chaos of the assault, McIntosh was waylaid by six Mexican infantrymen before he could unholster his pistol. One of the six assailants bayoneted McIntosh’s arm, breaking the bone. As he fell to the ground, two other soldiers attempted to skewer him with their bayonets. McIntosh grabbed the barrel of one of the Mexican muskets with his bare hand and stopped the infantryman’s bayonet within inches from his face. While preoccupied with warding off this attack, the other Mexican infantryman drove his bayonet into McIntosh’s mouth, forcing his front teeth inward, and piercing the back of his neck.
The Mexican infantrymen left the American colonel for dead. McIntosh found the strength to lift his mangled body from the ground and stagger in the direction of the American line. His shattered arm dangled at his side, and his face and neck were a bloody mess. Lieutenant James Duncan of the Second Artillery noticed McIntosh staggering across a small pool of water, and ordered his men to assist the colonel.
Duncan asked if he could do anything for McIntosh. The veteran colonel somehow managed to get off the words, “Yes! Give me some water, and show me to my regiment!”
He collapsed soon after and was transported back to Point Isabel, Texas, to recover. Most American newspapers reported he had died during the battle. In twelve months, the old Spartan recuperated from his ghastly wounds and headed back to join Winfield Scott’s army on its march against Mexico City. McIntosh again assumed command of his beloved Fifth United States Infantry Regiment. He distinguished himself in command of the regiment at the Battles of Contreras and Churubusco.
A Final Stand: The Battle of El Molino del Rey
On the night of Sept. 7, 1847, General William Worth called together the senior officers of his command and broke the news to them that General Scott had ordered a forlorn assault on the strongly fortified Mexican position at El Molino del Rey. That night these officers, including McIntosh, poured over a battle map under candlelight in preparation. Most of those present would be dead before noon the next day.
At dawn on Sept. 8, 1847, three American columns of 3,447 men were arrayed shoulder to shoulder for the assault on El Molino del Rey. With his superior ill, McIntosh took command of the Second Brigade. He was ordered to concentrate his brigade’s assault on the center of the Mexican defenses anchored by the strongly fortified Casa Mata. In his usual manner, he made his way out in front of his men conspicuously mounted on his horse and carried the sword presented to him by the citizens of Georgia.
The Mexican defenders sat motionless until the McIntosh’s men advanced to within 100 yards of the Mexican position. The American infantrymen were nearly swept to pieces over the open ground. They pushed through the storm of bullets and made it to within 25 yards of the Mexican position.
McIntosh remained mounted through the hail of bullets to inspire his men to continue forward. A musket ball suddenly hit him in the thigh, causing him to crash to the ground. While lying wounded, another ball tore through his knee and painfully lodged into his groin. Lieutenant Ralph W. Kirkham of his staff ordered two American infantrymen to carry the wounded colonel to the rear. They grabbed McIntosh by his coat and began to drag him to the rear.
McIntosh refused to be dragged any further until he received word that a second American assault broke through the Mexican position. He kept probing those nearby, “Is that fort taken yet?” The Americans suffered 20 percent casualties that day, making it the bloodiest day of the U.S-Mexican War for the United States.
McIntosh lingered in a makeshift hospital for over a month. His most recent wounds healed well, and it appeared for a time that the resilient colonel would recover. His health took a turn for the worse when his old War of 1812 wound broke open and became infected. He died on Sept. 26, 1847, and was buried in a nearby Mexican cemetery.
Members of his native Georgia raised enough money to cover the expenses of bringing his remains back home for reburial. His sword and uniform, pierced by eight bullet holes, were placed upon his coffin during his funeral. He was reburied in the Colonial Park Cemetery on March 18, 1848, resting in immortality alongside those members of his family that fought so valiantly in the service of their county.
Weighing in at approximately 120 pounds, Allen said in an interview he had to carry a grocery list of munitions like Claymore mines, trip flares, hand fragmentation grenades and at least 2,000 rounds of M60 ammo, just to name a few.
With all that gear strapped to his back, Mike humorously said, “you didn’t want to run short in case you hit the sh-t.”
Like most grunts, Mike had to live in the hot and muggy jungles and wore his first set of clothes for roughly 80 days, with only four 0r five changes to last during the deployment.
Allen earned an Air Medal for surviving at least 25 operational flights into unsecured landing zones.
“You were scared but you couldn’t feel scared because it would overtake you,” Mike said. “You know they’re watching you, and you try to keep your distance.”
Check out Wisconsin Public Television‘s video below to watch Mike Allen’s patriotic story of what life was like for the “little kid” of Vietnam.
(Wisconsin Public Television, YouTube)Fun Fact: According to the National Archives, 27 million American men were eligible for service and only 2.2 million were drafted between 1964 and 1973. That is all.
Spend any amount of time on or around an Army or Air Force post and you’ll be sure to find a number of beret-wearing service members around you.
Hell, you’re going to be greeted by a blue beret each and every time you get to an Air Force gate (SecFo HUA!) and, if you were on any Army post between 2001 and 2011, you saw black berets everywhere you went, as they were a part of standard Army uniform.
Got it — but what about the less commonly seen berets? The green, the tan, and the maroon?
This is what berets of all colors mean in the Army and Air Force.
Black — U.S. Army
A black beret is worn by all soldiers in service dress unless they are otherwise authorized to wear a different, distinctive beret.
Black — U.S. Air Force Tactical Air Control Party
A black beret is the official headgear of the Air Force TACP. They’re about as operator as you get in the Air Force without becoming pararescue or combat control.
Blue — U.S. Air Force Security Forces
The most common beret across all branches of service as of writing. Security Forces (the Air Force’s version of Military Police) wear the blue beret with every uniform whenever not deployed or in certain training.
Green — U.S. Army Special Forces
This is the cream of the crop of the U.S. Army. The green beret is the single most recognizable sign of a badass.
Grey — U.S. Air Force Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape
These guys teach most of the other badasses on this list how to survive in the worst conditions. That definitely qualifies them for their own beret.
Maroon — U.S. Army Airborne
Aside from the Army’s green beret, the maroon beret of Army airborne is one of the easiest to recognize.
These guys drop into any situation with complete operational capability.
Maroon — U.S. Air Force Pararescue
In the Air Force, the maroon beret means something completely different. While being Army Airborne is an amazing distinction, the Air Force Pararescuemen are truly elite.
The introductory course has one of the highest failure rates of all military schools and the ones that do complete it go on to become the kind of guy that you do not want to fight in a bar.
Pewter Grey — U.S. Air Force Special Operations Weather
These guys do weather in the most undesirable conditions. I know that may not sound very operator, but just take a quick look at the training they endure and the types of operations they conduct and you won’t ever question their beret again.
Tan — U.S. Army Rangers
The Army Rangers began wearing tan berets in 2001 when the Army made the black beret the standard headgear for the entire Army.
Prior to that, they owned the black beret.
Scarlet — U.S. Air Force Combat Control
The scarlet beret is the headgear of the U.S. Combat Controller. Their beret is one you’ll rarely see because they’re always on the go, doing what they were trained to do… which is classified.
“No one left behind” is an often-heard mantra in military units. Popularized by feats like the ‘Black Hawk Down’ operation, it enhances esprit de corps in a unit. It also emboldens warriors to perhaps go a step further during combat, assured that they wouldn’t be left alone in case things turn sour. But how far would a unit go to recover one of its own?
Helmand Province, Afghanistan, January 15, 2007.
Royal Marines Commandos from Z Company of 45 Commando launch an assault on a Taliban fort. The 200 Commandos enjoy armor and 155mm artillery support. Overhead, U.S. B-1 bombers and British Apache Longbow AH-64 helicopters provide a silent assurance with their potent arsenal and infrared cameras.
The Jugroom Fort, a strategically vital position in Garmsir, Southern Helmand, overlooks the Helmand River. Today, it’s packed with Taliban fighters.
The Marines ford the river in their Viking APCs and assault the fortified structure. Heavy combat ensues. Despite their overwhelming firepower, the Commandos are forced to withdraw. Once back in their launching position, a muster goes around, and a grim discovery is made: Lance Corporal Mathew Ford is missing.
Using its infrared camera, one of the AH-64 Apaches spots a lone figure pulsing with a weak heat-signature tucked away in a corner of the Fort. The Taliban all around seem impervious to its existence—but for how long?
A rescue operation must be shift before the insurgents realize what’s going on.
The Commando officers argue for a ground rescue operation, but the higher-ups back in Camp Bastion waiver fearing more casualties. Meanwhile, LCpl. Ford’s brothers-in-arms fume. They decide to take the situation into their own hands. Alongside some of the Apache pilots, they devise a bold rescue plan. Four Commandos strap themselves to the wings of two of the Apaches. A third chopper will follow and try to suppress any Taliban.
The Army Air Corps’ pilots fly their Apaches just 20ft above the ground, at 60mph.
The British Commandos land within the Fort’s walls. The Commandos jump from the wings and begin searching for the missing comrade. A few of the pilots join them armed with their personal sidearms.
They find LCpl. Ford—he is unconscious.
Recovering their fallen comrade, they re-mount the choppers and safely fly back to their positions.
It was later discovered that the 30-year-old Ford was dead when the rescue force arrived. But the grimmest discovery came in the autopsy. Ford had been zipped by friendly-fire. It later became known that one of his buddies mistook a hand-grenade flash close to Ford’s position for gunfire and shot him.
Despite rumors of a court-martial for their actions, the whole rescue team was honored. Two of the Apache pilots received the Distinguished Flying Cross, one of the highest military awards. The rest of the pilots alongside the four Commandos received the Military Cross.
So, if you find yourself alongside Royal Marines Commandos or any British Apache pilots, you can rest assured that they won’t leave you behind.
When you look at the Iowa-class battleships, in a way, you are looking at the ultimate in a surface combat platform. They are huge – about 45,000 tons — they carry nine 16-inch guns and have an array of other weapons, too, from Tomahawk cruise missiles to Phalanx close-in weapon systems.
Looking at them, could you imagine diluting that surface-combat firepower for some Harriers? Well, the U.S. Navy did.
According to the 13th Edition of “The Naval Institute Guide to the Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet,” the Navy kicked around the idea of turning the Iowa and her three sisters into a combination battleship-carrier. The after turret would be removed, and the space would be turned into a flight deck. WarisBoring.com noted that the plan called for as many as 20 AV-8B Harriers to be carried on the ship.
There was also a consideration for adding vertical launch systems for Tomahawks and Standard surface-to-air missiles.
It wasn’t as if the battleships hadn’t operated planes before, as in World War II the battleships operated floatplanes – usually for gunfire spotting. The Iowas kept their planes in an on-board hanger in the aft section of the ship.
That section was later used to land helicopters when they were in service during the 1980s. The New Jersey even operated a UCAV, the QH-50 Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter, while blasting Viet Cong and North Vietnamese positions during her one deployment in the Vietnam War.
That said, the project never went forward. One big reason was at the end of the Cold War, the Iowa-class ships were quick to go on the chopping block — even as the USS Missouri and USS Wisconsin provided outstanding fire support to the Marines during Operation Desert Storm.
Another can be ascribed to history. Late in World War II, Japan was desperate for carriers. And when they tried to convert the battleships Ise and Hyuga to carrier, the effort wasn’t successful.
It is open to debate whether 20 Harriers would have been a fair trade for a third of an Iowa’s 16-inch firepower. What isn’t open for debate is that the Iowa-class fast battleship has never truly been replaced a quarter-century after their decommissioning.
By the time Nazi Germany launched Operation Barbarossa, they were already at war with the British Empire, Yugoslavia, and Greece. Poland, France, and much of Western Europe had already fallen, but governments in exile joined the Allied effort against the Axis powers. So, the natural thing to do would be invade the world’s largest country, right?
If you’re Hitler, obviously, your answer is yes.
But Hitler just secured dominance of Continental Europe and was risking it by going up against a major world power with whom he had a treaty of nonaggression. Hitler’s lebensraum theory aside, the reason he launched the 1941 attack on the Soviet Union is that he just didn’t know how strong the Soviet Union actually was.
Intel and all that.
Yeah, no big deal.
There is only one audio recording of Adolph Hitler speaking in a conversational voice, as opposed to the multitude of films of the man making incendiary speeches at rallies and events. He is speaking with the Commander-In-Chief of Finnish Defense Forces Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim, who was engaged with the Third Reich in a war against the USSR.
“If someone had told me that a country could start with 35,000 tanks, then I’d have said, ‘You are crazy!’,” the German dictator told Mannerheim in the 1942 recording. “If one of my generals had stated that any nation had 35,000 tanks, I’d have said: ‘You, my good sir, you see everything twice or ten times.You are crazy, you are seeing ghosts.’“
In the 11-minute audio clip obtained by the History Channel, Mannerheim and Hitler were recorded secretly by a Finnish engineer, since Hitler would never allow such recordings. The SS soon realized the dictator was being recorded and ordered the engineer to shut it off immediately. He was somehow allowed to keep it a secret — and he did, until 1957.
“It was unbelievable,” he said of a factory in Donetsk that was able to produce some 3,000-6,000 tanks alone before the Nazis shut it down.
But Hitler goes on to say that even if he had known about the military and industrial capacity of the Soviet Union’s massive centralized labor force and output potential, he would have invaded anyway. By the winter of 1939-1940, he says, it was clear there would be war between them. He just knew he couldn’t fight the Soviets and the Western Allies in a two-front war — saying it would have broken Nazi Germany.
Well, he got that part right at least.
The Führer goes on to admit that the Germans were poorly prepared to fight a war in the extreme weather of the Eastern Front.
“Our whole armament, you know, is a pure good weather armament,” He said. “It is very capable, very good, but is unfortunately just a good weather armament. Our weapons were naturally made for the West… and it was the opinion from the earliest of times: you cannot wage war in winter.”
I’m pretty sure this depiction of Soviet General Winter is what inspired Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.”
Hitler goes on to talk smack about the “weakness of Italy,” referring to Mussolini’s failures in North Africa, Albania, and Greece, where German army and air assets were forced to divert from the buildup to invading the USSR to instead go rescue Italian troops being repulsed by the Greeks. Three entire divisions were sent to reinforce the Italians instead of invading Russia.
He believed the Soviets had their own designs on ruling all of Europe and that he had to launch when he did to keep them from capturing the oil fields in Romania, which Hitler believed would have been Nazi Germany’s death blow — which wasn’t entirely wrong.
That’s why the U.S. Army Air Corps blew it up in 1943.
Since the recording was cut off, no one really knows what else the two men talked about in their secret meeting that day, but it’s believed that in that meeting, Mannerheim realized Hitler’s position was weak and would no longer act subordinate to him for the duration of World War II.
Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, the World War II Commander of the Pacific Fleet, delivered remarks at Golden Gate National Cemetery on the 10th Anniversary of V-J Day, August 14, 1955. The remains of many men who died under his command had been repatriated and rested before him. Nimitz took the loss of life made by his decisions personally and carried the burden with him throughout his life. He spoke directly to his fallen men on this occasion and promised them that the survivors of the war would honor their memory by maintaining military strength to deter future calamity.
Over the next decade, Admiral Nimitz decided that, in death, he wanted to join his men at Golden Gate with a standard military funeral and regulation headstone. He took steps to assure that the shipmates closest to him during World War II could join him as well.
Admiral Nimitz was a humble and no-frills type of man; still, his funerary and burial decisions surprised some. He was the third of four admirals promoted to the rank of Fleet Admiral of the United States Navy during WWII. All were entitled to a state funeral and three accepted.
Fleet Admiral Nimitz’s family standing outside of Golden Gate National Cemetery’s chapel, February 24, 1966. Mrs. Nimitz is seated in front of her son and daughters. (U.S. Navy Photo 1115073, NARA II, College Park, Md.)
When the Kennedy administration approached Nimitz—the last of the surviving Fleet Admirals—about planning his own state funeral and burial in Arlington, Nimitz balked. He told his wife Catherine that “He did not love Washington, he loved it out here, and all of his men from the Pacific were out here.”
Instead, Nimitz had only one special request: that the five stars of his Fleet Admiral insignia be placed in the space reserved for an emblem of belief on his headstone. His biographer, E.B. Potter, speculated that Nimitz, a religious man outside of denominations, made the decision to show that “He had done his best in life.”
There were spaces for six graves in Nimitz’s designated burial plot at Golden Gate. When asked if he had preference for who went into the other four graves, Nimitz said, “I’d like to have Spruance and Lockwood.”
Admirals Raymond Spruance and Charles Lockwood were two of Nimitz’s closest friends during the war and after. Their competency as warfighters and leaders contributed greatly to victory in the Pacific. Spruance delivered key victories, such as Midway, the Philippine Sea, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Lockwood commanded the successful U.S. submarine operations in the Pacific.
Admiral Chester Nimitz (CINCPAC) gives a dinner party in Hawaii for First Lady Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt on September 22, 1943. (L-R): Rear Admiral Charles Lockwood, Mrs. Roosevelt, Admiral Nimitz, Vice Admiral Raymond Spruance. (NH 58521, Naval History and Heritage Command, WNYD)
As a bonus, another close friend and architect of all major Pacific amphibious landings, Admiral Richmond Kelley Turner already occupied a grave very close to the Nimitz plot. When Nimitz posed the idea to Spruance, he “took to the thing like a duck to water,” as Mrs. Nimitz recalled. Lockwood agreed with the plan as well.
A friend in death
Nimitz died February 20, 1966, with his wife Catherine at his side. He was laid to rest on the cold and blustery afternoon of February 24 (his 81st birthday). Admiral Spruance, recovering from the flu, respectfully stood at attention in his uniform throughout. Mrs. Nimitz found some humor in the day when an uninvited sailor who had served in the Pacific Fleet arrived at the grave dressed in his best cowboy boots and hat. He refused to leave because “This was his commander, [and] he was going to be there come hell or high water.”
While this circumstance would likely have annoyed many, this type of admiration from those who served under him embodied the leadership style of Nimitz. Two nineteen-gun salutes, a 70-plane flyover, and the playing of “Taps” concluded the service.
Funeral of Fleet Admiral Nimitz. Procession about to begin journey from the chapel to the gravesite at Golden Gate National Cemetery, February 24, 1966. (U.S. Navy Photo 1115072-B, NARA II, College Park, Md.)