5 of the world's strongest fortifications ever - We Are The Mighty
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5 of the world’s strongest fortifications ever

As the saying goes, “a man’s home is his castle.”


While this rings true for people who own a house, it was even more important for the leader in charge of a kingdom, an empire or even a republic. The reason for this is that the man in the “high castle” had much a stake. So to make sure that the country is strong, a king would build a fortress — or a wall with many fortresses — to project the centralized strength and influence of his nation throughout his realm and beyond.

Understand that a fortress is not just a building with a certain amount of walls and towers, but also can be a wall. Below is a list of the strongest fortresses ever built in the history of the world.

5. Masada, Israel

On a rocky plateau situated on a hill in southern Israel near the edge of the Judean desert, one can find the fortress of Masada. Almost all information on Masada and the siege that took place comes from the first-century Jewish Roman historian Josephus.

5 of the world’s strongest fortifications ever
The fortress of Masada withstood a year-long siege by Roman Gov. Lucius Flavius Silva. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

In 66 AD, the Kingdom of Judea was in upheaval over Rome’s prolonged occupation and revolted. In doing so, a small group of rebels known as the Sicarii captured Masada after slaughtering its Roman garrison. In 72 AD, Lucius Flavius Silva, commander of the Legio X Fretensis, laid siege to Masada.

To reach the top, Lucius gave the order to build a massive ramp that was 375 feet high and 450 feet long. Once the legionaries made it to the top, they rolled the siege engines in and battered Masada’s walls until they fell.

Once inside, the Romans didn’t find an enemy in sight. Rather, they found over 900 dead. Only two women and five children survived.

4. Great Wall of Gorgan, Parthian/Sassanid Empire

The Great Wall of Gorgan is a fortress that remains mostly unknown. Located in northeastern Iran, the wall stretches from the Caspian Sea to the Kopet Dag Mountain Range. In total, the wall was 121 miles long.

5 of the world’s strongest fortifications ever
The Great Wall of Gorgan. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The date of its construction is disputed. Some say it is 1,000 years older than the Great Wall of China. While little is known about the wall, the Parthians (247 BCE – 224 AD) who ruled Iran, are said to have built on the original remains of the wall.

The original height and width is unknown, but when the Sassanid Empire (224–651) overthrew the Parthians they repaired, enlarged, and added fortresses to the wall. The height of the Gorgan wall has yet to be determined. The width of the wall was between 20 to 30 feet wide and featured 30 fortresses.

What made this wall significant was that for many centuries it prevented nomads from the north, like the Dahae, Massagetae, Hephthalites and other various nomadic elements from getting in.

3. Hadrian’s Wall, England/Scotland

Hadrian’s Wall is well known to most casual students of history.

The Roman Emperor Hadrian in 122 AD ordered for the construction of the wall along with 16 fortresses garrisoned with static troops. The length of the wall expanded from the Irish Sea to the banks of the River Tyne near the North Sea — a distance of 73 miles.

5 of the world’s strongest fortifications ever
The author walking on Hadrian’s Wall in Great Britain. (Photo courtesy Cam Rea)

The purpose of the wall is obvious, but as to why it was constructed, remains disputed. The reason for this is that there is no clear evidence that suggests Roman Britain, south of the future wall, was under any real substantial threats — even though there had been some minor rebellions in the province and within the Roman Empire. This was probably the reason why Hadrian built the wall — as a symbol and reminder that it is best to separate one from the barbarians.

Hadrian’s Wall would provide Roman Britain security from the Celtic/Pictish tribes in the north until Rome abandoned Britannia in 410 AD.

2. Walls of Constantinople

In 324 AD, Emperor Constantine I moved the capital from Rome to the small port town of Byzantium and renamed it Constantinople. The reason for this move was to be closer to the eastern portion of the Roman Empire due to its lucrative trade.

5 of the world’s strongest fortifications ever

To ensure the safety of this second Rome, Constantine issued an order to build of a wall. The Wall of Constantine was laid out in a series of four rows, with the inner two featuring towers 50 feet apart.

While very effective in repelling invaders, the Roman Emperor Theodosius II decided to expand the walls. The Theodosian Walls consisted of two — an inner and outer wall — which consisted of 96 towers. The inner wall was 40 feet high while the outer wall stood at 30 feet high.

The walls of Constantinople paid off for many centuries and were able to throw back 12 sieges from 559-1203 AD. However, the city was captured in 1204 during the fourth crusade, but afterward was able to withstand five more sieges until that fateful day in 1453, when the Ottoman Turks bashed down the walls and captured the city.

1. Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China needs no introduction. Many assume that the Great Wall was built and finished during the lifetime of a Chinese emperor. Instead it was constructed by multiple emperors over 1,000 years.

5 of the world’s strongest fortifications ever

The height, length, and thickness of the wall — or walls — vary, depending on which emperor built it and how much they could afford.

For example, once the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) pushed out the Mongols, they set about to expand and enlarge the Great Wall. The total length of the Great Wall under the Ming was over 5,000 miles long and 25 feet high and 15 – 30 feet thick at the base. If one were to take the wall and line it up, the length would be over 13,000 miles, according to study in 2012.

While the Great Wall looks good, it provided only temporary protection. The problem was that due to its size, it was too cumbersome and too costly to man.

The purpose of the Wall was to keep nomads out from the north. Instead, it kept the people of China isolated within and the wars that came with it.

The Mongols, however, just went around it during their invasion in 1211. The Ming would later enhance the wall, but it didn’t make a difference when the Manchu invaded in 1644.

From that point on, the Great Wall was more of a monument to look upon with amazement.

 

MIGHTY HISTORY

This soldier was so daring even his captured enemies patted him on the back

There are a handful of men in military history that could accurately be described as a “one man army.” You may never have heard of Lawrence Dominic “Fats” McCarthy, but you’ll remember his story after hearing the end of it. An orphan who enlisted to fight World War I for Australian forces, he would leave the war having survived its most intense fighting and wearing the Victoria Cross – the United Kingdom’s highest award for valor in combat.


Dominic McCarthy was hard to miss. He was a large man, with a few extra pounds that earned him the nickname “Fats.” But that never held him back as a soldier. By the time he arrived to fight the ill-fated Battle of Gallipoli, he was already wearing the stripes of a Lance Corporal. Despite falling ill, he would survive Gallipoli as one of the last men of his battalion to depart the fighting.

By the time he arrived at the fighting near France’s Madame Wood, he had been promoted to corporal, then sergeant major, then second lieutenant, and now, after recovering from a wound, lieutenant – a lieutenant that was about to go down in military history with “perhaps the most effective feat of individual fighting in the history of the Australian Imperial Forces.”

5 of the world’s strongest fortifications ever

The fighting at Madame Wood may not be as infamous as the fight for Gallipoli or the similarly-named Belleau Wood, but it was just as intense and – at times – treacherous. The hazards in the fighting weren’t just in no man’s land. The English trenches themselves were muddy and full of twisted metal and refuse. Fats was ready to move his men forward toward the German lines, but the units to his left were being held up by stiff enemy resistance. He decided to do something about it.

He grabbed a sergeant and took off for the German position, moving so fast (especially for a man his size), he was able to deftly avoid the incoming German machine gun bullets. He arrived at the enemy machine gun nest well before his battle buddies, eliminated it, and moved on to the trench before the other Aussies even hit the first position.

He entered the enemy trench with just his service rifle as the sergeant, now wounded, caught up to him. The two men swept through the enemy, picking up their grenades and turning the explosive on them. The two Aussies knocked out three machine gun emplacements while inflicting heavy casualties as they moved. McCarthy then shot two more officers and used his captured grenades against another enemy position, bombing it until the Germans waved a blood-soaked white flag.

McCarthy captured more than 1,500 feet of German trench almost singlehandedly. He also knocked five machine guns out of the war, killed 22 Germans, and captured more than 50 others. The enemy troops were so impressed, the battalion historian recorded that “the prisoners closed in on him from all sides … and patted him on the back!”

5 of the world’s strongest fortifications ever

For his efforts, he was awarded the Victoria Cross by King George V himself at Buckingham Palace. The British press dubbed McCarthy the “Super VC,” but the big man demurred when given that moniker, saying he believed there was a VC inside every soldier.

He survived the war, being repatriated to England after coming down with the Spanish Flu that affected millions of others around the world, surviving until the ripe old age of 83.

Articles

Air Force advances future plans for the A-10

The Air Force is beginning to work on how fast, lethal, durable and capable a new “A-10”-like aircraft would need to be in order to provide U.S. military ground troops with effective close-air support for decades to come.


Senior service officials are now exploring “draft requirements” concepts – and evaluating the kind of avionics, engineering, weapons, armor and technical redundancy the aircraft would need, Air Force officials told Scout Warrior.

Also read: Here’s what it’s like to fly attack missions in the A-10

Many of the core technical attributes and combat advantages of the A-10 will be preserved and expanded upon with the new effort, officials said.

The performance of the A-10 Warthog in the ongoing bombing campaign against ISIS, coupled with the Air Forces’ subsequent decision to delay the aircraft’s planned retirement – has led the service to begin the process of developing a new, longer-term A-10 type platform.

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A member of the 100th Logistics Readiness Squadron refuels a 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron A-10C Thunderbolt II during forward area refueling point training at Plovdiv, Bulgaria | U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luke Kitterman

Following an announcement earlier this year from Pentagon leaders that the A-10 will not begin retiring but rather will serve until at least 2022, Air Force and DoD officials are now hoping to keep a close-air-support aircraft for many years beyond the previously projected timeframe.

Given the emerging global threat environment, it would make sense that the Air Force would seek to preserve an aircraft such as the A-10. While the aircraft has been extremely successful attacking ISIS targets such as fuel convoys and other assets, the A-10 is also the kind of plane that can carry and deliver a wide-ranging arsenal of bombs to include larger laser-guided and precision weapons.

This kind of firepower, coupled with its 30mm cannon, titantium armor plates and built-in redundancy for close-air-support, makes the A-10 a valuable platform for potential larger-scale mechanized, force-on-force type warfare as well. The A-10 has a unique and valuable niche role to perform in the widest possible range of combat scenarios to include counterinsurgency, supporting troops on the ground in close proximity and bringing firepower, protection and infantry support to a large-scale war.

Air Force officials have told Scout Warrior that the current approach involves a three-pronged effort; the Air Force may consider simply upgrading the existing fleet of A-10s in a substantial way in order to extend its service life, acquire an off-the-shelf existing aircraft or develop a new close air support platform through a developmental effort.

“We are developing that draft requirements document.  We are staffing it around the Air Force now.  When it’s ready, then we will compare that to what we have available, compare it to keeping the A-10, compare it to what it would take to replace it with another airplane, and we will work through that process,” Lt. Gen. James Holmes, Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Plans and Requirements, told reporters.

Holmes went on to explain that the service was, broadly speaking, exploring ways to achieve, preserve and sustain “air superiority” in potential long-term, high-end combat engagements. He added that considerations about a close-air-support replacement aircraft figured prominently in the strategic calculus surrounding these issues.

As a result, the Air Force will be looking for the “optimal” type of close-air-support platform by weighing various considerations such as what the differences might be between existing aircraft and future developmental platforms.

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A-10 Thunderbolt IIs break over the Pacific Alaska Range Complex and one aircraft drops a flare during live-fire training at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. | U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Robert Wieland)

Cost and affordability will also be a very large part of the equation when it comes to making determinations about an A-10 replacement, Holmes explained.

“The question is exactly where is the sweet spot as we talked about between what’s available now and what the optimum CAS replacement would be.  We are working along that continuum to see exactly what the requirement is that we can afford and the numbers that we need to be able to do the mission,” Holmes added.

Several industry platforms, such as Raytheon’s T-X plane and the A-29 Embraer EMB Super Tucano aircraft, are among options being looked at as things which could potentially be configured for a close-air-support plane.

Having the requisite funds to support this would be of great value to the Air Force; Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh recently told lawmakers that, despite the prior plan, the service did not want to retire the A-10.

Prior plans to retire the fleet of A-10s were purely budget driven, senior Air Force leaders have consistently said.

“I don’t want to retire it,” Welsh told a Congressional Committee in early March.

Air Force leaders had previously said that the emerging multi-role F-35 would be able to pick up the close-air-support mission. With its sensor technology, 25mm gun and maneuverability, there is little question about whether the F-35 could succeed with these kinds of missions. At the same time, there is also consensus that the A-10 provides an extremely unique set of battlefield attributes which need to be preserved for decades.

Articles

Watch a flying tour of Britain’s new aircraft carrier

Great Britain once had the most powerful Navy in the world, but since 2010, they haven’t had a single aircraft carrier.


That changed earlier this week.

The HMS Queen Elizabeth — the largest and most powerful carrier the Royal Navy has ever built — set sail on June 26 for the first time.

5 of the world’s strongest fortifications ever
Photo courtesy of the Royal Navy.

With a price tag of about $3.8 billion, it’s also Britain’s most expensive ship ever built. Still, the juice might be worth the squeeze.

“I think there are very few capabilities, by any country, that are as symbolic as a carrier strike capability,” commanding officer Captain Jerry Kyd told reporters on June 26. “These are visible symbols of power and power projection.”

Manned by a crew of 1,000 sailors, the ship is 919-feet long, weighs 65,000 tons, and can hold 40 jets.

Check out the aerial footage of the ship:

Articles

Special operators just rescued a high-profile prisoner from al-Qaeda

Ali Haider Gillani, the son of an ex-Pakistani prime minister, was rescued by U.S. special operators and Afghan commandos in a joint operation in Paktika province May 10.


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A U.S. Special Forces soldier patrols with Afghan Commands from the 2nd Commando Kandak. Photo: US Army

The strike force killed four enemy combatants in the raid with no reported loss to friendly forces. Gillani was unharmed in the rescue mission.

The focus of the operation, “was to go after al-Qaida-related targets in the area, and there was an indication that there may have been a hostage being held with them,” U.S. Army Brig. Gen Charles Cleveland told the AP. “So it was a nice surprise to get that.”

Gillani and his father are members of the Pakistan People’s Party, a group which has sponsored and led several major offensives aimed at Islamic militants.

Gillani was originally kidnapped in May 2013 while campaigning for the Punjab provincial assembly. Pakistani leaders are often threatened or attacked by the Pakistani Taliban, especially if the leaders are perceived as likely to threaten the Taliban.

5 of the world’s strongest fortifications ever
Then-Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani speaks with President Barack Obama in a 2012 nuclear summit. Photo: White House Pete Souza

The kidnappers had been attempting to negotiate the release of several high-profile al-Qaeda prisoners in exchange for Gillani’s safe return.

Gillani was flown to Bagram for medical evaluation and is scheduled to return to Pakistan once cleared by doctors.

The raid was conducted as part of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, the current campaign of America’s mission in Afghanistan. It is part of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission.

Articles

These small rockets can bring down buildings

Thermobaric rockets can be carried by a single infantry soldier in addition to their normal weapon, but the rockets are so powerful they can destroy some buildings in a single shot. America’s main thermobaric rocket is the SMAW-NE. The Shoulder-launched Multi-purpose Assault Weapon-Novel Explosive fires a rocket that disperses a mist of metal and fuel. The chemicals then react with the oxygen in the air before exploding.


The resulting blast is strong enough to take out many small buildings, even those built with stone and heavy beams. The weapon is mostly used by the Marine Corps and was deployed during the Second Battle of Fallujah.

Of course, America isn’t the only country with thermobaric rockets. Russians use the Shmel-M. In the Russian military, thermobaric weapons are called, “flamethrowers,” but the rockets work the same way. The Shmel-M is actually a descendant of the Schmel, the first deployed thermobaric weapon.

Thermobaric weapons also come in the form of a bomb or grenade.

NOW: The most ridiculous weapons ever designed

OR: The Navy’s new weapon system is a laser pointer on steroids

Articles

The Pentagon paid 14 NFL teams $5.4 million to ‘salute troops’

 


5 of the world’s strongest fortifications ever
Photo: Sgt. 1st Class Michel Sauret/US Army

The NFL reportedly accepted millions of dollars from the defense department over the course of three years in exchange for honoring troops and veterans before games, the New Jersey Star Ledger reports.

The Pentagon reportedly signed contracts with 14 NFL teams — including the New York Jets, the Indianapolis Colts and the Baltimore Ravens — between 2011-2012 stipulating that teams would be paid sums ranging from $60,000-$1 million each (in federal taxpayer money) to pause before the start of games and salute the city’s “hometown heroes,” according to nj.com. 

Agreements also include advertising on stadium screens and sideline ‘Coaches Club’ seats for soldiers.

Congress and the President recently imposed strict caps on military spending as part of an austere new budget.

The military has defended the funding it provides to the NFL, stating that it is an effective recruitment tool for soldiers.

“Promoting and increasing the public’s understanding and appreciation of military service in the New Jersey Army National Guard increases the propensity for service in our ranks,” National Guard spokesman Patrick Daugherty told nj.com, referring to the $377,000 the Jets received from the Jersey Guard between 2011-2014.

5 of the world’s strongest fortifications ever
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joseph M. Buliavac/USN

Other teams that received taxpayer funds include the Cincinnati Bengals ($138,960) Cleveland Browns ($22,500), the Green Bay Packers ($600,000), Pittsburgh Steelers, ($36,000) Minnesota Vikings ($605,000), Atlanta Falcons ($1,049,500), Buffalo Bills ($679,000), Dallas Cowboys ($62,500), Miami Dolphins ($20,000), and St. Louis Rams ($60,000), according to a nj.com breakdown.

New Jersey senator Joe Pennachhio has since called for the teams to donate the money to charity.

“If these teams want to really honor our veterans and service members they should be making these patriotic overtures out of gratitude for free,” Pennachhio told nj.com. “And the millions of dollars that have already been billed to taxpayers should be donated to veterans’ organizations.”

The payments are being criticized by some who say that the practice is not only unethical, but also hypocritical — citing a renewed focus on integrity and transparency, the NFL fined the New England Patriots $1 million and suspended Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for the team’s alleged role in deflating footballs before games.

Many fans are aware that the NFL is a leading recruitment tool for the military — the National Guard advertisements displayed on stadium screens are clearly sponsored content.

But few fans know that the defense department is funneling taxpayer money into the NFL in exchange for veteran tributes.

“The public believes they’re doing it as a public service or a sense of patriotism,” U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) told the Star Ledger. “It leaves a bad taste in your mouth.”

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How this Coast Guardsman earned a Silver Star at Guadalcanal

Douglas Carlton Denman was born in Tallapoosa, Georgia, in February 1922. At the age of 18, he decided to join the Coast Guard and travelled to Atlanta’s recruiting office where a Coast Guard chief boatswain filled out his paperwork. Early on, he must have shown promise as a boat driver. He was sent to New Orleans to train at Higgins Industries, builder of landing craft, and in less than a year of enlisting, he was advanced from seaman first class to coxswain.

In November 1941, less than a year after enlisting, Denman was assigned to the Number 4 landing craft aboard the fast attack transport USS Edmund Colhoun (APD-2) known as an APD or “Green Dragon” by the Marine Corps’ 1st Raider Battalion. The Colhoun was a World War I-era four-stack destroyer converted to carry a company of marines. The Navy designation of APD stood for transport (“AP”) destroyer (D”). These re-purposed warships retained their anti-submarine warfare capability, carried anti-aircraft and fore and aft deck guns, and could steam at an impressive 40 mph. Their primary mission was rapid insertion of frontline marine units in amphibious (often shallow-water) operations, so they were equipped with landing craft.


Each APD carried four landing craft designated LCPs (Landing Craft Personnel). Also known as “Higgins Boats,” the LCP was the U.S. military’s first operational landing craft. It had a snub nose bow supporting two side-by-side gun tubs with each position holding a .30 caliber machine gun. The helm and engine controls were located behind the tandem gun emplacements. Diesel-powered, the LCP measured 36 feet in length, could hold 36 men, and had a top speed of only nine miles per hour. This early landing craft carried no front ramp, so after it beached, troops debarked over the sides or jumped off the bow. The LCP required a crew of three, including a coxswain, an engineer and a third crew member that both doubled as gunners. The LCP exposed its crew to enemy fire, so its crew members braved serious upper body, head and neck wounds when landing troops.

5 of the world’s strongest fortifications ever
Douglas Carlton Denman, at age 18, in his original recruit photograph, including suit and tie.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

The Colhoun was one of four APDs that comprised Transport Division 12 (TransDiv 12). TransDiv 12 ships inserted the Marine Raiders on the beaches of Tulagi, on Aug. 7, 1942. The amphibious assault of Tulagi was the first U.S. offensive of World War II. It was also the first battle contested by entrenched enemy troops, giving the Americans a taste of the horrors to come in island battles like Tarawa, Saipan and Palau. Colhoun’s sisterships Francis Gregory (APD-3) and George Little (APD-4) took up station 3,000 yards offshore and served as guard ships marking a channel into the landing area. TransDiv 12’s slow-moving Higgins Boats plowed up the slot to land the Marine Raiders in the face of enemy fire. Within two days, the marines had taken the island eliminating nearly all its garrison of 800 Japanese troops.

5 of the world’s strongest fortifications ever
The APD USS Colhoun refueling in the Pacific. Notice this fast attack transport’s camouflage paint scheme and Higgins Boats hanging from davits on the port side.
(U.S. Navy photo)

After landing the Marine Raiders at Tulagi, Colhoun continued patrol, transport and anti-submarine duties in the Guadalcanal area. On August 15, the TransDiv 12 APDs delivered provisions and war material to the Marine 1st Division on Guadalcanal Island. It was the first re-supply of the marines since their August 7 landing. On August 30, Colhoun made another supply run to Guadalcanal. After completing a delivery to shore, the Colhoun steamed away for patrol duty. As soon as the APD reached Iron Bottom Sound, the sound of aircraft roared from the low cloud cover overhead and Denman and his shipmates manned battle stations.

A formation of 16 Japanese bombers descended from the clouds and Colhoun’s gunners threw up as much anti-aircraft fire as they could. The first bombers scored two direct hits on the APD, destroying Denman’s Higgins Boat, blowing Denman against a bulkhead and starting diesel fires from the boat’s fuel tank. Denman suffered severe facial wounds, but he returned to what remained of his duty station. In spite of stubborn anti-aircraft fire, the next bombers scored more hits. Colhoun’s stern began filling with water and the order was passed to abandon ship. Denman remained aboard and, with the aid of a shipmate, he carried wounded comrades to the ship’s bow and floated them clear of the sinking ship. He and his shipmate also gathered dozens of life jackets and threw them to victims struggling to stay afloat on the oily water.

Colhoun’s bow knifed into the sky as it began a final plunge into the fathomless water of Iron Bottom Sound. Denman managed to jump off the vessel before the ship slid stern-first below the surface. The time between the bombing and the sinking had taken only minutes, but during that time, Denman saved numerous lives while risking his own. In spite of his severe wounds, Denman survived along with 100 of Colhoun’s original crew of 150 officers and men. Coast Guard-manned landing craft from USS Little and the Coast Guard boat pool on Guadalcanal raced to the scene to rescue the survivors.

5 of the world’s strongest fortifications ever
Chart of Iron Bottom Sound showing Tulagi (off Florida Island) and location of final resting place of Colhoun off Lunga Point, Guadalcanal.

After the battle, Denman could not recall the traumatic events surrounding the bombing. He was shipped to a military hospital in New Zealand and diagnosed with “war neurosis.” However, after a month, medical authorities reported, “This man has gone through a trying experience successfully and may be returned to duty . . . .” For the remainder of the war, Denman served stateside assignments and aboard ships, including an attack transport, LST and a U.S. Army fuel ship. In early September, APDs Little and Gregory were sunk in night action against a superior force of Japanese destroyers and the fourth TransDiv 12 APD, USS William McKean (APD-5) was lost in combat in 1943.

For his wounds and heroism in the face of great danger, Denman received the Silver Star and Purple Heart medals. During his career, he completed training for port security, intelligence specialist, and criminal investigation specialist. He also qualified in handling all classes of small boats and buoy tenders and was recommended for master chief petty officer. However, he retired as a boatswain senior chief petty officer to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Georgia with a major in animal science. He was one of many combat heroes who have served in the long blue line and he will be honored as the namesake of a new fast response cutter.

5 of the world’s strongest fortifications ever
Photograph of a Fast Response Cutter underway.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

This article originally appeared on the United States Coast Guard. Follow @USCG on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how the misfit crew of ‘Old 666’ became the most decorated in history

History remembers Capt. Jay Zeamer as a tremendous pilot, but he had a rough time getting into the cockpit.


Originally commissioned in the Infantry Reserve, he later transferred to the Army Air Corps to fulfill his dream of flying. There was just one problem: he couldn’t pass the check ride to get into the pilot’s seat.

Despite many attempts, when war came to America in 1941 Zeamer was still stuck co-piloting B-26 Marauders.

Bored with life as a co-pilot, Zeamer asked for a transfer to another unit hoping to start over. Zeamer was eventually transferred to the 403rd Bomb Squadron, 43rd Bomb Group to fly B-17s.

Arriving at the 403rd, Zeamer met up with an old friend, Sgt. Joe Sarnoski, the squadron’s bombardier.

During a combat mission, Zeamer was forced to take over for another pilot, which effectively earned him the right to fly as first pilot. His cool under fire on the mission — and his expert flying skills — also earned him his first Silver Star.

Zeamer’s de facto confirmation made him a pilot, but he had no plane or crew. Through a series of events, Zeamer was able to acquire Sarnoski as both bombardier and navigator. The two began to assemble the rest of the team, testing out compatibility during various missions.

Many of the men, after just one mission with Zeamer, refused to ever fly with him again, but the crazy oddballs and renegades who could hack it ultimately rounded out the crew.

Zeamer and his crew were eventually nicknamed “The Eager Beavers” because they constantly volunteered for missions — especially the most dangerous ones. However, they were still without a plane of their own.

It just so happened that the perfect plane awaited the crew at their next assignment. As new arrivals to the 65th Bomb Squadron, they found a heavily damaged plane being used for parts.

 

5 of the world’s strongest fortifications ever
Zeamer’s B17 sure took a beating. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The B-17E had a reputation for taking heavy damage on missions and many believed it to be because of its unfortunate tail number: #41-2666.

Beamer and his crew quickly claimed the plane as their own, and though they never got around to giving it a proper name, often referred to it as “Old 666” after the tail number. The crew repaired and upgraded the plane to their specifications. The .30-caliber machine guns were upgraded to .50-caliber mounts. The waist gunners’ single guns were replaced by twin .50 calibers as well. Zeamer even had a forward-firing gun mounted in the nose so he himself could shoot from the cockpit. All told the B-17 bristled with nineteen guns.

The Eager Beavers soon earned a reputation for their daring deeds. As Zeamer’s friend Walt Krell put it, “Whenever the 43rd got a real lousy mission – the worst possible mission of all that nobody else wanted to fly – they went down to see Zeamer and his gang.”

The Eager Beavers carried out the unwanted missions and earned themselves glory along the way. Every member of the crew received Silver Stars and two more earned Distinguished Flying Crosses. Zeamer himself received a second Silver Star for strafing Japanese searchlights with his forward-firing gun. Sarnoski was rewarded with a battlefield promotion to 2nd lieutenant.

5 of the world’s strongest fortifications ever
Gen. “Hap” Arnold presenting the Medal of Honor to Zeamer as his parents look on. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Eager Beavers and Old 666 took everything that was thrown at them and always returned home.

Then in June 1943, they faced the toughest mission yet – a reconnaissance flight by a lone B-17 over Japanese-infested territory.  The mission was to map Bougainville for the upcoming Allied landings. At the last minute word came down that the crew would also need to photograph Buka Island to the north. Zeamer was livid; an already dangerous mission just became practically suicidal.

When Old 666 arrived over Buka, the lone Flying Fortress was spotted by the Japanese who scrambled 17 planes to intercept. The lead flight of Japanese Zeroes caught up to the Eager Beavers near the end of their mapping run.

Unable to stray from its course, Old 666 lumbered along, bracing as the Zeroes attacked. Five planes fanned out in front and flew headlong at the bomber. As the distance closed, the guns on both sides roared to life.

Zeamer scored a hit with his nose-mounted gun while Sarnoski downed one of the incoming Zeroes. Simultaneously, 20mm shells tore through the cockpit and nose, wounding Zeamer and blowing Sarnoski off his gun. Sarnoski dragged himself back to his gun and scored a hit on another fighter before slumping over, mortally wounded.

5 of the world’s strongest fortifications ever
DAYTON, Ohio — “Tenacity over Bougainville: Zeamer and the “Eager Beavers” display in the World War II Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)

The battle raged for almost an hour. Zeamer was severely wounded, both legs shot and his rudder pedals blown away. Four other crew members were also wounded. Still, The Eager Beavers continued to rain fire onto the Japanese fighters while Zeamer struggled to maneuver the bomber. The Japanese fighters had brutally damaged the B-17E, forcing it below 10,000 feet with destroyed instrument panels, limited controls, and no oxygen system.

Eventually, the battered Zeroes retreated home, leaving the Eager Beavers to do the same.

Determined to return with the valuable photos, Zeamer refused to relinquish control of the bomber. The rest of the crew treated each others’ wounds and did what they could to keep the stricken bomber in the air.

Just over eight hours after the mission began, Old 666 landed in New Guinea. The fuselage was riddled with holes. Zeamer was nearly left for dead by the medics. He spent many months in hospitals recovering from the mission. Both Zeamer and Sarnoski would be awarded the Medal of Honor, one of only two crews to be so bestowed in World War II.

The rest of the crew would receive the Distinguished Service Cross.

The mission to Bougainville is the most highly decorated mission ever. With their cumulative awards, the Eager Beavers are the most decorated crew in American history. General George Kenney would write in his memoirs that the mission “still stands in my mind as an epic of courage unequaled in the annals of air warfare.”

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Bob Hope entertained the troops from WWII to Desert Storm

Bob Hope entertained troops on USO tours from 1941 to 1991 — fifty years of laughter and fun. From World War II to Vietnam to Desert Storm, Bob Hope was there for our nation’s heroes.


“He brought such enthusiasm, brought your life back to you. You felt like you were renewed,” said Seabee Ron Ronning, who saw Hope perform during his final USO show of the Vietnam War. “That was one of the biggest thrills of my life.”

A true patriot who traveled to more war zones than even some of the highest-ranking military leaders of all time, Bob Hope brought laughs to the front lines for the better half of the 21st Century.

As a tribute to his lasting impact on our country, President George W. Bush ordered all U.S. flags on government buildings be lowered to half-mast on the day of Hope’s funeral.

“Bob Hope served our nation when he went to battlefields to entertain thousands of troops from different generations,” the president told reporters before boarding Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base. “We extend our prayers to his family. God bless his soul.”

Hope’s legacy endures, continuing to impact service members through the Easterseals Bob Hope Veterans Support Program, which provides one-on-one employment services and referrals to other resources to meet the unique needs of military personnel and veterans transitioning out of the military into a civilian job, starting their own small business, or pursuing higher education.

Since launching in 2014, the program has served nearly 1,100 veterans and families, placing more than 600 into civilian positions and helping 83 pursue degrees. Free to all veterans (the program is not exclusive to those with a disability), the program was launched with a generous seed grant from The Bob Hope Legacy, a division of The Bob Dolores Hope Foundation, which supports organizations that bring hope to those in need.

To date, The Bob Hope Legacy has donated more than million dollars in support of Easterseals’ military and veteran services.

5 of the world’s strongest fortifications ever

Bob Hope on stage with Miss World 1969, Eva Rueber-Staier, during a Christmas show for servicemen held on board the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Saratoga (CVA-60) in Formia Bay, Italy, Dec. 22, 1969.

(U.S. Navy)

During a week-long campaign this year (May 23-29) in observation of Memorial Day, Albertsons, Vons, and Pavilions shoppers throughout Southern California can make donations in support of the program via the pin pad at registers. 100 percent of the donations go directly to Easterseals Southern California’s Bob Hope Veterans Support Program.

MIGHTY HISTORY

An old Saxon poem depicts Jesus as a viking warrior chief

When Christianity was getting its start, the religion didn’t exactly spread like wildfire. In its early days, the world was a tough place to be spreading new ideas. To create converts, Christians had to appeal to many, many different kinds of people for centuries. Selling the “Prince of Peace” to the Germanic-Saxon tribes of Northern Europe was particularly hard, so Christians framed Jesus in a way the locals could better understand.


Saxons were pretty much forced to take on Christianity in the 8th and 9th Centuries after a guy named Charlemagne rolled across Northern Europe with a giant sword he named “Joyous” and forced everyone there to take Communion or take three feet of steel.

But that didn’t mean they were thrilled about it.

5 of the world’s strongest fortifications ever
“New Rule: Everyone who says anything about Valhalla gets sent there immediately.”

So, to make the idea of accepting the Christian god more amenable to the erstwhile pagan northerners, Jesus was recreated in a Saxon poem called Heliand, an epic poem that incorporated the Christian ideals with the Germanic warrior ethos – and that’s what caught on like wildfire. Not only did the Saxon warriors begin to accept the tenets of the new religion, the mix of cultures became the foundation of Medieval Europe and the culture of knighthood.

From there, the budding religion blossomed in the north and became widespread among the Saxons and beyond.

5 of the world’s strongest fortifications ever
“Excuse me sir, do you have a moment to talk about our lord and savior?”

But it wasn’t just that the idea of God’s son being a warrior chieftain that appealed to the northerners. It was actually just a really rockin’ good poem for the time. It was so popular, in fact, that multiple copies of Heliand still survive. If we’re being honest with ourselves, no matter what we think of the Christian religion, the stories are pretty good. Of particular interest in the Heliand are the stories of Genesis, the Revolt of the Angels, the story of Cain and Abel, and the Destruction of Sodom.

Imagining the same characters from these Biblical stories in a different setting would changes the way we see Christianity, even today.

5 of the world’s strongest fortifications ever
All I’m saying is I would read more of the Bible if all the characters were vikings.

Another reason it caught on so fast was that it was written in a way familiar to the Saxons. It’s the largest known work ever written in the Old Saxon language and it was written in the epic poem style that was already popular with those people at the time. Jesus became a chieftain, prayers became runes, and the last supper became “the last mead hall feast with the warrior-companions.”

The poem still exists in many forms, with manuscripts being held by the British Museum, the Catholic Church in Vatican City, Germany’s Bavarian State Library, and more. You can buy an English-language copy of the Heliand on Amazon, which includes lines from the life and times of Jesus like:

The Chieftain of mankind is born in David’s hill-fort.
• The three foreign warriors present their gifts to the Ruler’s Child.
• John announces Christ’s coming to Middlegard.
• Christ the Chieftain is immersed in the Jordan by His loyal thane John.
• The Champion of mankind fights off the loathsome enemy.
• Christ, the might Chieftain, chooses His first warrior-companions.
• The mighty Rescuer calls twelve to be His men.

Now admit that Christmas and Easter just got a whole lot cooler.

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Pentagon chief says military is stronger 5 years after ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal

In a statement marking the 5th anniversary of the repeal of the so-called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law that barred gay men and women from serving openly in the military, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said today’s military is stronger than ever since the repeal.


“I am proud to report that five years after the implementation of the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ our military, drawn from a cross-section of America, is stronger than ever and continues to exemplify the very best that our great nation has to offer,” Carter said. “The American people can take pride in how the Department of Defense and the men and women of the United States military have implemented this change with the dignity, respect, and excellence expected of the finest fighting force the world has ever known.”

Carter expressed optimism as the military continues to become more inclusive.

“As the memory of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ fades further into the past, and we move forward together to face new challenges,” he added, “we recognize that openness to diversity and reaching out in a spirit of renewed inclusiveness will strengthen our military and enhance our nation’s security.”

Also today, the Pentagon’s personnel chief  released a letter to service members, families and veterans, encouraging people who received less-than-honorable discharges from the military based solely on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and its precursor laws and policies to seek a correction of their records.

“If there is something in your record of service that you believe unjust, we have proven and effective policies and procedures to by which to consider and correct such errors,” acting Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel Peter Levine wrote. “‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is a vestige of our past and I encourage you to honor the 5th anniversary of the Department’s implementation of its repeal by coming forward and requesting a correction.”

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6 times American troops fought in foreign militaries

Modern Americans can join the military and go to war without too much fuss, since the U.S. still needs people for ongoing fights in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other hotspots around the world.


But our forefathers didn’t always have a place to go if they got the martial itch. Sometimes, they really wanted to join a war that the American people didn’t want to get involved in.

That’s when truly bold Americans would just join another country’s military and get to work.

1. Polish 7th Air Escadrille

5 of the world’s strongest fortifications ever
American pilots Merian C. Cooper and Cedric Fauntleroy pose with a plane of the Polish 7th Air Escadrille. (Photo: Public Domain)

As a victor of World War I, Poland grew in size, gained a border with Russia, and quickly found itself at war with the communist Bolsheviks. American volunteers were allowed to form the Polish 7th Air Escadrille and the aviation unit engaged in fierce ground attacks against Russian cavalry from 1919 to 1920.

The unit started with eight pilots but conducted more than 400 combat sorties. American Capt. Merian C. Cooper was awarded Poland’s highest military honors, the Virtui Militari, for his service there after he was shot down and escaped from a Soviet prisoner of war camp.

2. The gendarmeries and national guards of Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua

5 of the world’s strongest fortifications ever
U.S. Marines holding the Nicaraguan rebel leader Augusto César Sandino’s Flag. Nicaragua, 1932. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

In the early 1900s, Marines were sent to Caribbean nations to protect American business interests and to help shore up governments friendly to the U.S. The Marines who were dispatched to the islands often ended up holding ranks in both the U.S. military and the local forces at once. For instance, then Maj. Smedley Butler was the commandant of the Haitian Gendarmerie and then Cpl. Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller was a second lieutenant in the Gendarmerie.

3. Eagle Squadrons

5 of the world’s strongest fortifications ever
American pilots in the Royal Air Force pose in front of a Hawker Hurricane in 1941. (Photo: Imperial War Museums)

Americans who wanted to take the fight to Nazi Germany before Pearl Harbor had few legal options, but some lied about their citizenship and risked exile from America to join the Royal Air Force in 1939 and 1940. Eight Americans took part in the 1940 Battle of Britain that saw the RAF narrowly defeat attempts by Luftwaffe to open the British Isles to invasion.

Dozens more Americans arrived after the Battle of Britain and helped the U.K. hold the line until America’s entry into the war after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

4. The Lincoln and Washington Battalions

When a fascist military coup failed to topple the Spanish government in 1936, a bloody civil war erupted that saw approximately 40,000 international volunteers, including 2,800 Americans, fight on behalf of the Spanish Republic. The American volunteers formed the “Lincoln” and “Washington” battalions, that were part of a larger, international brigade known as the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.

Unfortunately, the fighting went badly for the American volunteers. Nearly one-third of them died in Spain and the Republic was overthrown by Fascist Gen. Francisco Franco.

5. The Flying Tigers

5 of the world’s strongest fortifications ever
Members of the Flying Tigers volunteer squadron maintain a P-40 in China during World War II. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

The Flying Tigers of World War II were a group of American pilots and ground crew who President Franklin D. Roosevelt secretly authorized to go to China and help that country fight the Japanese invasion. Despite the presidential authorization, the Americans had to resign their military positions and travel under assumed identities.

Once in country, they crewed Curtiss P-40 Warhawks and devastated the Japanese aviators. The Flying Tigers started with 99 planes and destroyed 297 enemy birds. The unit boasted 20 ace pilots and helped China keep Japan occupied until the U.S. could start operations in the Pacific.

6. The Lafayette flying corps

5 of the world’s strongest fortifications ever
The Lafayette Escadrille at Verdun. (Photo: Public Domain)

Soon after the onset of World War I in 1914, American volunteers began flying over the skies of France and serving on the ground against the Central Powers. One of the most famous American units in the war was the Lafayette Escadrille — a flying squadron named for the French hero of the American Revolution, Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis de Lafayette.

The pilots’ exploits were covered in U.S. newspapers and they became heroes at home and in France. Thirty-eight U.S. pilots would eventually serve in the unit and it earned 57 aerial kills before it was turned over to American control in February 1918.

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