6 legends of the Army Reserve - We Are The Mighty
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6 legends of the Army Reserve

The U.S. Army Reserve celebrates its 109th birthday on Apr. 23. During more than a century of service, its soldiers have defended America in combat, added to its prestige in peacetime, and — in one case — even provided a president who led America through the end of World War II and the start of the Cold War.


Here are six of the most impressive Army reservists to ever wear the uniform:

1. Charles Lindbergh

6 legends of the Army Reserve
Cadet Charles Lindbergh graduates from the Army Aviation Cadet Program.He later rose to the rank of colonel in the Army Reserve. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

The famous pilot of the Spirit of St. Louis aircraft, Charles Lindbergh, was the first man to fly from New York to Paris non-stop. He did so in his capacity as a civilian pilot, but he was also an Army Air Service reservist. President Calvin Coolidge awarded Lindbergh the Medal of Honor.

Lindbergh later had a falling out with the Roosevelt administration over his isolationism and resigned his commission in April 1945. When America joined the war that December, Lindbergh was blocked from re-entering military service but managed to fly combat missions in the Pacific anyway.

2. Carl Eifler

6 legends of the Army Reserve
Carl F. Eifler during his promotion to colonel.(Photo: CIA.gov)

Army Reserve officer Carl Eifler was selected to lead American guerrilla operations in the China-Burma-India Theater of World War II. His force, Detachment 101, recruited, trained, and led Kachin Rangers against Japanese forces in Burma, eventually killing 5,428 enemy soldiers and rescuing 574 Allied personnel — mostly downed aircrews.

Eifler had originally joined the Army when he was only 15 and was first discharged at the age of 17 when the military found out. He became a Reserve officer years later and eventually rose to the rank of colonel. For his work with Detachment 101, he was dubbed “the most dangerous colonel.”

3. Beauford T. Anderson

Staff Sgt. Beauford T. Anderson was fighting on the island of Okinawa when Japanese forces managed to flank part of the 96th Infantry Regiment (Organized Reserves) and force them back. The Americans eventually fell back into an old tomb and Anderson slowed their assault by emptying his carbine into the attackers at point blank range.

Out of ammo, Anderson grabbed a Japanese mortar round that hadn’t exploded and threw it into the oncoming attackers. It detonated and blew a hole in the lines, so Anderson grabbed a box of U.S. mortar rounds and started throwing those. The explosions saved the unit and led to Anderson’s Medal of Honor.

He had already received the Bronze Star with Valor for rescuing wounded soldiers under fire on Leyte.

4. Harry S. Truman

6 legends of the Army Reserve
Harry S. Truman in his World War I Army uniform, 1917 Source: trumanlibrary.com

Yes, that Harry S. Truman, the one who ordered two nuclear bombs to be dropped on Japan. He was an Army Reserve colonel when America entered World War II and was excused from drilling for obvious reasons. He served in the Senate for most of the war before being selected as President Franklin Roosevelt’s running mate in the 1944 elections.

Truman entered office as the vice president in January 1945 and rose to the presidency just a few months later upon the death of Roosevelt. Truman ordered America’s two nuclear bombs dropped on Japan and helped oversee the creation of the United Nations and NATO.

5. Earl Rudder

6 legends of the Army Reserve
Then-Lt. Col. Earl Rudder on the Pointe du Hoc on D-Day.(Photo: U.S. Army)

Army Gen. Omar Bradley had a tall order on D-Day. Someone had to climb 100-foot cliffs on Pointe du Hoc and blow up the massive German guns on it. He selected Army Reserve Lt. Col. Earl Rudder and his 2nd Ranger Battalion.

The guns had a long range and threatened the invasions at Omaha and Utah Beach, but Rudder and the 2nd Rangers succeeded. Rudder later led an infantry regiment in the Battle of the Bulge. He then held off the German attackers despite being outnumbered 10 to 1.

6. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.

6 legends of the Army Reserve
(Photo: Army.mil)

The son of the popular president, Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. was a hero of two world wars and twice invaded foreign countries with his own son. He earned a Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, and a Distinguished Service Medal for actions in World War I, and a Medal of Honor and two Silver Stars for his fighting in World War II.

His World War II awards stemmed from actions at Normandy and in North Africa, both campaigns which his son Capt. Quentin Roosevelt II took part in. The younger Roosevelt received one Silver Star in the war for calling in artillery strikes while under air attack in North Africa.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What happened to the German mercenaries who fought against the American Revolution

Everyone knows about the famous crossing of the Delaware, where General Washington surprised the Hessians in the darkness of late Christmas Day. But who were the infamous Hessians that Washington and his men killed and wounded by the score? And what happened to the ones who didn’t get killed by the Continental Army? As it turns out, Hessian mercenaries liked freedom as much as any other colonial immigrant, because many just stuck around.


Which was fine after the war, but during the war they were very unwelcome – because looting people’s homes is a real turn off.

6 legends of the Army Reserve

Not the first time Americans would have to put Germans in their place. And not the last.

The Hessians were not technically mercenaries but contract armies fighting for Britain from the German states of Hesse- Cassel and Hesse-Hanau. Though German troops contracted under British control came from other principalities, they were referred to as “Hessians” as a whole by the colonists. Britain used Hessian troops to control large populations, especially in Ireland and the American Colonies. The use of these troops was one of the reasons the Americans would declare their independence from the crown. Though more than capable fighters, the British used them as guards and garrison troops, which is how they found themselves when Washington surprised them that Christmas night.

When Hessians were captured, especially after the Battle of Trenton, they would be paraded through the streets. The colonists’ anger toward their mother country using “foreign mercenaries” to subdue them was infuriating and increased military enlistments for the Continental Army. They would then be used as a source of labor while they were prisoners of war, often working on farms. The Continental Congress also offered each Hessian who would defect to the American cause 50 acres of land for their effort.

6 legends of the Army Reserve

What Hessians see when they aren’t defecting.

Many German troops ended up in Lancaster, Penn. working alongside the Pennsylvania Dutch, who, by nature, treated the Germans very well. In all, German POWs had such a great experience in American farms and fields that they would sometimes join the Continental Army. Some 30,000 men came from German states to fight against the American Revolution. While more than 7,500 of them died in the fighting, the rest did not and when it came time to go home, many didn’t want to go.

So they stayed.

Only an estimated 17,300 of the original 30,000 Hessian soldiers opted to return to their principalities in the German states. The rest decided to make their way in the new United States or head to Canada to try out a new life up there. Life in the armies of German princes was not always so good and the troops were not always well-paid for their efforts. Starting a new life in a country where their future was their own to make was a natural step for many of the well-trained, hardworking Germans.

They could finally celebrate Christmas without worrying about Americans surprising them in their sleep.

MIGHTY HISTORY

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

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

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


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

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

6 legends of the Army Reserve
Pages from the journal of Private Joseph Sommers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6 legends of the Army Reserve
Sommers’s obituary

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

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

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

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

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

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

All photos courtesy of Ken Cruickshank

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

One of the first Ironman Triathletes was a Navy SEAL who hydrated with beer

What is now considered the gold standard of endurance competitions started out with an idea from a sailor who was stationed in Hawaii in 1978. That first race had 15 competitors, and among them was John Dunbar, a former Navy SEAL who might have finished first had he had water to hydrate with. Instead, he drank Budweiser. He still finished a strong second.


Spoiler alert: the first winner of the now-legendary race was Naval Reserve Lieutenant Gordon Haller. He was just 34 minutes ahead of Dunbar.

The Ironman Triathlon was the brainchild of Naval Officer John Collins and his wife. While stationed in Hawaii, they and their friends used to talk trash about who was more fit – who was the better swimmer, biker, runner, etc., as some military members are apt to do. Collins decided he would create a competition to make everyone put their money where their mouth is. Knowing about the new triathlons that were gaining popularity in the Mainland United States, the Navy guys decided theirs would be the most fitting test of might and endurance.

On Feb. 18, 1978, 15 people showed up to the shores of Waikiki at 0700 to tackle the first Hawaiian Iron Man Triathlon, looking for the promise Collins wrote out in the first-ever rule book: “Swim 2.4 miles! Run 26¼ miles! Bike 112 miles! Brag the rest of your Life!”

6 legends of the Army Reserve

The first Ironman Triathletes enter the ocean for the swim competition.

(Ironman)

Back then, there were few monitors for the race as military personnel can usually be trusted to maintain their integrity. But times were different. The toughness of an Ironman Race is well-known today. Then, the competition was unlike anything they could have prepared for, so each participant was expected to have a crew with them to ensure their needs were met as the race progressed. Dunbar ran out of water because his team ran out of water, but he hydrated with beer and finished the race. Other participants weren’t exactly using the scientifically-formulated nutrition of today’s races, either.

One runner ate candy to get the energy he needed. Race founder John Collins actually stopped to eat a bowl of chili as the race’s lore tells us. Another runner got his sugar and caffeine fix from drinking cokes…in an Ironman Triathlon. Imagine seeing that on television today.

6 legends of the Army Reserve

The first Ironman Trophy.

(Ironman)

In the end, only 12 of the original participants finished the grueling race (no word on whether the Coke drinker made it across the finish line). Finishers received a small trophy consisting of an iron tube formed into the shape of a stick figure with a hexagonal nut for a head – an Iron Man. The next year was even more raucous, with another 15 racers and 12 finishers, but this time the winner was a bar owner from San Diego. Dunbar again finished second, but this time he did it in a Superman costume. Haller finished fourth.

Sadly, this epic origin story ends with a falling out and a legal battle. As Collins’ idea grew into a worldwide phenomenon, he would end up selling it for millions. Due to the wording of the paperwork signed by the original participants, there is a controversy over the original 15 owning a small part of the Ironman event, an interpretation that had been rejected by the courts. They never got a cut of the money from the event, which is now owned by Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group, who paid 0 million for it in 2015.

The Ironman runs some 260 races in 44 countries, and while they may be an incredible achievement for those who run it, there will never be an Ironman like the ones run by a group of Navy friends in the early years.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Holocaust survivor joined the Army and earned a Medal of Honor

Army Cpl. Tibor Rubin was not the average soldier in the Korean War.


The Hungarian Jew was a survivor of the Third Reich’s concentration camps who pledged to join the Army if he ever made it to America.

He made it to the U.S., joined the infantry, fought to his last round against a massive Chinese attack, and then refused an early release from a Chinese prisoner of war camp so that he could use his lessons from the concentration camps to save his peers.

6 legends of the Army Reserve
Army Cpl. Tibor Rubin received the Medal of Honor in 2005. Photo: Public Domain

Rubin began trying to join the U.S. Army in 1948, but he had to study English for two years before he could speak it well enough to enlist. That allowed him to enter the service in 1950, just in time for the Korean War.

Unfortunately, Rubin’s first sergeant in Korea was extremely anti-semitic. Multiple sworn statements from members of Rubin’s unit say that the first sergeant would make remarks about Rubin’s religion and then assign him to the most dangerous missions.

6 legends of the Army Reserve
Soldiers man the perimeter at Pusan in Sept. 1950. (Photo: U.S. Army Pfc. Thomas Nebbia)

In 1950, Rubin was assigned to hold a hill near Pusan as the rest of the unit fell back to a more defendable position. Rubin filled the foxholes near his position with grenades, rifles, and carbines.

When the North Koreans attacked, Rubin fought viciously for 24 hours, throwing grenades, firing weapons, and single-handedly stopping the attack. Rubin was nominated for the Medal of Honor, but the first sergeant trashed the orders.

Instead of receiving a Medal of Honor, Rubin was sent on more and more dangerous missions. In one, an American position was slowly whittled down by incoming fire until only one machine gun remained.

6 legends of the Army Reserve
A soldier of the 120th Engineer Battalion, 45th Infantry Division sets up camouflage net near the front lines in Korea in 1952. (U.S. Army photo)

After three other soldiers were killed while manning the gun, Rubin stepped forward and began firing until his last round was expended. That was when he was severely wounded and captured by Chinese forces.

In the prisoner of war camp, the Chinese offered Rubin a deal. If he was willing to leave Korea, he could return to his home country of Hungary and sit out the rest of the war.

Rubin declined, opting instead to stay with his brothers and help them survive the prisons. In the camps, he ran a makeshift medical clinic, scavenged for food, and even broke out of the camp to steal supplies and broke back in to deliver them to other soldiers in need.

6 legends of the Army Reserve

A grief-stricken American infantryman whose buddy has been killed in action is comforted by another soldier in the Haktong-ni area, Korea, on August 28, 1950. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Al Chang) (Cutline: National Archives and Records Administration)

For decades after he returned to the U.S., Rubin lived in relative obscurity. It wasn’t until President George W. Bush ordered a review of the denied recommendations for high valor awards that Rubin’s story came back to light.

In 2005, Bush placed the Medal of Honor around the old soldier’s neck during a White House ceremony.

The citation for the medal includes his solo defense of the hill near Pusan, his manning of the machine gun, his role in helping to capture hundreds of enemy soldiers, and his actions in the prisoner of war camp.

To hear Cpl. Tibor Rubin tell his story in his own words, watch the video from Medal of Honor: Oral Histories below:

Articles

These are the best military photos for the week of September 2nd

Our hearts go out to the lives lost and to everyone who were displaced and had their lives affected by Hurricane Harvey. I would like to dedicate this ‘Photos of the Week’ to all of the brave service members in Houston and the Texas Gulf Coast.


Of course, our troops are always training and are still fighting. This week, we will highlight how each branch is doing its part to aid in these troubling times.

Air Force:

Personnel from the 59th Medical Wing, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, prepare their equipment to accept patients at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas, in response to the devestation caused by Hurricane Harvey, August 30, 2017. The 59th MDW is part of a larger Department of Defense presence in an effort to aid eastern Texas following a record amount of rainfall and flooding.

6 legends of the Army Reserve
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stefan Alvarez

Brian Archibald, a rescue specialist assigned to the South Carolina Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team Delta in McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., points to a someone who may need help August 31, 2017 in Port Arthur, Texas. The SC-HART are specialized in search and rescue and are capable of recovering people in distress.

6 legends of the Army Reserve
Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel J. Martinez

Army:

Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Class Richard Call and members of New Jersey Task Force 1, assist evacuees into a Light Medium Tactical Vehicle (LMTV) to during water rescue operations in Wharton, Texas, Aug. 31, 2017, due to devastating effects caused by Hurricane Harvey’s aftermath. Harvey made landfall into the Texas coast last week as a category 4 hurricane.

6 legends of the Army Reserve
Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Robert Shelley

U.S. Army Sgt. Daniel Carnahan (front) and Staff Sgt. Tym Larson, Detachment 2, Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 238th Regiment, crew members of a UH-60 “Blackhawk”, strap down cargo, Seguin Artillery Airfield, Tx., Aug. 30, 2017. This crew is taking Meals-Ready-to-Eat to those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

6 legends of the Army Reserve
U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Joseph Cannon

Navy:

An MH-53E Sea Dragon assigned to the HM-15, Naval Station Norfolk, Va, flies over Houston, Texas, Aug. 31, 2017. Hurricane Harvey formed in the Gulf of Mexico and made landfall in southeastern Texas, bringing record flooding and destruction to the region. U.S. military assets supported FEMA as well as state and local authorities in rescue and relief efforts.

6 legends of the Army Reserve
U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Larry E. Reid Jr.

U.S. Navy AWSC Phillip Freer, assigned to the HM-14, Naval Station Norfolk, Va, guides a forklift loading a pallet of water onto an MH-53E Sea Dragon for Hurricane Harvey relief support at Katy, Texas, Aug. 31, 2017. Hurricane Harvey formed in the Gulf of Mexico and made landfall in southeastern Texas, bringing record flooding and destruction to the region. U.S. military assets supported FEMA as well as state and local authorities in rescue and relief efforts.

6 legends of the Army Reserve
U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Larry E. Reid Jr.

Marine Corps:

A Marine with Charlie Company, 4th Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, along with a member of the Texas Highway Patrol and Texas State Guard, escort a man to higher ground, Houston, Texas, Aug. 31, 2017. Hurricane Harvey landed Aug. 25, 2017, flooding thousands of homes and displaced over 30,000 people.

6 legends of the Army Reserve
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Niles Lee

Marines with Company C, 4th Assault Amphibian Battalion, 4th Marine Division, load Hurricane Harvey victims aboard Amphibious Assault Vehicles during rescue operations and immediate response missions in response to Hurricane Harvey at Galveston, Texas, Aug. 31, 2017. The Marines and Sailors with Marine Forces Reserve are posturing ground, air and logistical assets as part of the Department of Defense support to FEMA, state and local response efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

6 legends of the Army Reserve
Photo by Sgt. Ian Ferro

Coast Guard:

Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Evan Gallant, a rescue swimmer from Air Station Miami, carries a boy away from an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter in Beaumont, Texas, Aug. 31, 2017. An aircraft crew working out of Air Station Houston transported a group of people from a shelter to Jack Brooks Regional Airport in Beaumont, Texas.

6 legends of the Army Reserve
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Corinne Zilnicki

Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Evan Gallant, a rescue swimmer working out of Air Station Houston, prepares to deploy and rescue stranded people in Vidor, Texas, Aug. 31, 2017. Anderson Cooper, anchor with CNN, accompanied the aircraft crew on their rescue missions Thursday.

6 legends of the Army Reserve
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Corinne Zilnicki

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time Germany scuttled its own navy in sneaky scheme

In June 1919, the bulk of the German High Seas Fleet was sitting at anchor at Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands. The cruiser Emden sent out the message, “Paragraph 11; confirm.” Then, all 74 of the warships in the natural harbor attempted to scuttle themselves en masse, and 52 successfully destroyed themselves before British sailors were able to beach them or stop their sinking.


21st June 1919: The German fleet is scuttled at Scapa Flow

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It’s important to remember for this story that wars have two ending points. There’s the armistice that stops the actual fighting, and then a lengthy peace process will usually result in a full treaty ending the war. After the armistice ended World War I fighting on Nov. 11, 1918, a large portion of the German navy was interned for the treaty process.

The navy had been largely sidelined during the war thanks to a British blockade, so it was largely intact that November. And the Allied powers, in order to ensure that Germany went through with the peace process, demanded that the nation’s most powerful and modern fleet be sequestered at a neutral port.

But, no nearby neutral port agreed to accept the ships, and so 70 of Germany’s best vessels were sent to the British harbor at Scapa Flow, a natural harbor that housed one of the British fleets. Four other German ships would later meet them there.

6 legends of the Army Reserve

Three German ships, the Emden, Frankfurt, and Bremse, enter Scapa Flow on November 24, 1918.

(Royal Navy)

When the German ships were officially handed over on November 21, literally hundreds of ships and thousands of people were present to watch the event. Over 190 Allied ships escorted the first batch of 70 German ships to surrender, making that day the largest concentration of naval power in the history of mankind, even if 70 of the ships had breech blocks in their guns to prevent a sudden return to hostilities.

But the fleet languished there for months. Morale on the German ships was bad during the war and worse while they were confined to ships on short rations in British territory. And the German commander had an order from his superiors to prevent the seizure of the ships by any means necessary.

The German navy seems to have believed that the ships would eventually be returned, Britain wanted to see them scrapped, and the rest of the Allies wanted to divvy them up. But as the negotiations in France made it clear that Germany would not get the ships back, German Adm. Ludwig von Reuter planned for how to destroy his own fleet.

A German destroyer largely flooded at Scapa Flow in 1919.

(Royal Navy)

He knew that the deadline for Germany to sign the treaty or face a resumption of hostilities was June 21, 1919. So, at 10:30 a.m., after he saw the bulk of the British fleet at Scapa Flow depart for maneuvers, he sent out the innocuous-sounding signal to scuttle the fleet, “Paragraph 11; confirm.”

He didn’t know that the deadline had been extended to June 23, but this actually worked out well for him. The British commander had plans to seize the German ships on June 23 if the German diplomats still hadn’t signed the treaty by then.

And so the ships suddenly began to sink. The German sailors raised their German navy flags from their masts for the first time since they had arrived in the harbor. British sailors in the harbor quickly alerted their own fleet as to what was happening, and the fleet rushed back to save what it could.

The sight they met when they re-entered the harbor was surreal. As Sub-Lieutenant Edward Hugh Markham David said when he wrote to his mother of the events:

A good half of the German fleet had already disappeared, the water was one mass of wreckage of every description, boats, carley floats, chairs, tables and human beings, and the ‘Bayern’ the largest German battleship, her bow reared vertically out of the water was in the act of crashing finally bottomwards, which she did a few seconds later, in a cloud of smoke bursting her boilers as she went.

The German admiral proceeded to the British flagship and declared that he had “come to surrender my men and myself. I have nudding else.”

British sailors were quickly dispatched to the sinking ships to re-close the valves and pump water out. Some British sailors nearly drowned in this endeavor, but they saved 22 of the ships as 52 settled into the mud at the bottom.

6 legends of the Army Reserve

A salvage crew works on the largely underwater German battleship Baden after the Scuttling at Scapa Flow. The partially submerged ship at the left is the cruiser Frankfurt.

(Royal Navy)

The British sailors were under orders to only kill those Germans who refused to close valves when ordered or who resisted British actions to save the vessels. Nine German sailors were killed, but there is some controversy over whether all these sailors had resisted or not.

Still, it was the single largest loss of naval power in one day in human history, even though it was a calm day and no battle had actually taken place.

Salvage operators bought some of the ships in the later decades. One man, Ernest Cox, successfully ran the salvage of 30 ships before calling it quits. But many of the vessels sunk that day still remain on the harbor floor where they are now popular spots for divers.

Articles

How the F-35 proved it can take enemy airspace without firing a shot

An F-35B carried out a remarkable test where its sensors spotted an airborne target, sent the data to an Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense site, and had the land-based outpost fire a missile to defeat the target — thereby destroying an airborne adversary without firing a single shot of its own.


This development simultaneously vindicates two of the US military’s most important developments: The F-35 and the Naval Integrated Fire Control Counterair Network (NIFC-CA).

Also read: Before the F-35, these 10 airplanes became legends after rough starts

Essentially, the NIFC-CA revolutionizes naval targeting systems by combining data from a huge variety of sensors to generate targeting data that could be used to defeat incoming threats.

So now with this development, an F-35 can pass targeting data to the world’s most advanced missile defense system, an Aegis site, that would fire its own missile, likely a SM-6, to take out threats in the air, on land, or at sea.

This means that an F-35 can stealthily enter heavily contested enemy air space, detect threats, and have them destroyed by a missile fired from a remote site, like an Aegis land site or destroyer, without firing a shot and risking giving up its position.

The SM-6, the munition of choice for Aegis destroyers, is a 22-foot long supersonic missile that can seek out, maneuver, and destroy airborne targets like enemy jets or incoming cruise or ballistic missiles.

The SM-6’s massive size prohibits it from being equipped to fighter jets, but now, thanks to the integration of the F-35 with the NIFC-CA, it doesn’t have to.

The SM-6, as effective and versatile as it is, can shoot further than the Aegis sites can see. The F-35, as an ultra connective and stealthy jet, acts as an elevated, highly mobile sensor that extends the effective range of the missile.

This joint capability helps assuage fears over the F-35’s limited capacity to carry ordnance. The jet’s stealth design means that all weapons have to be stored internally, and this strongly limits the plane’s overall ordnance capacity.

This limiting factor has drawn criticism from pundits more fond of traditional jet fighting approaches. However, it seems the F-35’s connectivity has rendered this point a non-issue.

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Demonstration shows capability to extend the battlefront using Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA). | Lockheed Martin photo

Overall, the F-35 and NIFC-CA integration changes the game when it comes to the supposed anti-access/area denial bubbles created by Russia and China’s advanced air defenses and missiles.

“One of the key defining attributes of a 5th Generation fighter is the force multiplier effect it brings to joint operations through its foremost sensor fusion and external communications capabilities,” said Orlando Carvalho, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, said in a statement.

“NIFC-CA is a game changer for the US Navy that extends the engagement range we can detect, analyze and intercept targets,” said Dale Bennett, another Lockheed Martin vice president in the statement.

“The F-35 and Aegis Weapon System demonstration brings us another step closer to realizing the true potential and power of the worldwide network of these complex systems to protect and support warfighters, the home front and US allies.”

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Watch China launch planes from its only aircraft carrier

Carriers are awesome. Even bad carriers are awesome. They’re floating fortresses with airstrips on the roof. They’re the original man-made islands.


And that’s why, potential adversary or no, China’s single aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, is pretty cool. It’s a smaller carrier built on a rusted relic purchased from Ukraine in 1998 after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

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(Photo: YouTube/CGTN)

The former Soviet carrier was destined for a glitzy life as a floating casino, but the Chinese company that bought it gave the hull to the People’s Liberation Navy and it was treated for corrosion, given new engines and other major systems, and sent back to sea as the Liaoning, a combatant and training ship.

Now, the Liaoning is China’s only aircraft carrier in service, though another is almost ready for commissioning and more are reportedly under construction. The ship supports up to 24 J-15 fighters, though it typically carries fewer.

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(Photo: YouTube/CGTN)

The Liaoning is a darling of the Chinese propaganda effort, and its J-15 “Flying Shark” fighters are popular as well.

See China’s recent video of their launching J-15s off the Liaoning into the South China Sea below:

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Here’s how Iraqi and Kurdish forces are training to destroy ISIS

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Royal Danish Army Premierløjtnant Mads, a coalition member attached to the Building Partner Capacity team, Task Force Al Asad, practices combat movement up a flight of stairs alongside Iraqi security-force personnel during an urban combat and tactics course at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, May 9, 2015. | CJTF – Operation Inherent Resolve


Earlier this month, a spokesman from the Combined Joint Task Force’s Operation Inherent Resolve said that ISIS lost 40% of their territory in Iraq and 20% in Syria. In December, Iraq’s armed forces recaptured the western city of Ramadi, paving the way for an expected assault on Mosul, ISIS’ de facto capital in Iraq.

Behind the successes in Ramadi and elsewhere lay the efforts of the US-led coalition to train and equip credible regional forces that can reclaim their country from the scourge of ISIS.

In addition to an impressive air campaign, Australia, Belgium, Denmark, France, Finland, Hungary, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portrugal, Spain, and the UK have all contributed to the US-led effort to train and empower regional forces to defeat ISIS.

In the slides below, find out what the brave recruits go through when training with the US-led coalition to counter ISIS.

Here is a quick overview of Operation Inherent Resolve’s members and initiatives.

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CJTF – Operation Inherent Resolve

Before the training started, the coalition had to move in with supplies. The coalition arms and equips Iraqi national forces and other regional groups like the Kurds.

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Airmen from the 386th Expeditionary Operations Group and the 386th Expeditionary Logistics Squadron load two Mine Resistant Armored Personnel carriers (MRAPs) on a C-17 Globemaster III bound for Erbil, Iraq, December 30, 2014. | CJTF – Operation Inherent Resolve

A large part of the coalition’s efforts in training local forces is to build their confidence and capacity with thorough hands-on training.

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Sgt. Jeremiah Walden, assigned to A Company, 2nd Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, checks to ensure an Iraqi trainee is observing his assigned sector of fire during infantry-squad tactical training, January 7 at Camp Taji, Iraq. | Master Sgt. Mike Lavigne, 1st Infantry Division Public Affairs | U.S. Army

Virtually every phase of the training touches on marksmanship and weapons discipline. Here, a US soldier instructs an Iraqi army recruit.

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CJTF – Operation Inherent Resolve

Iraqi recruits are put in high-pressure simulations of real combat. Trainers light fires to simulate the chaos of combat.

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An Iraqi Army soldier with the 72nd Brigade, 15th Iraqi Army Division, simulates shooting at the enemy during a combined training exercise at Camp Taji, Iraq, Sunday, March 22, 2015. | Sgt. Cody Quinn, CJTF-OIR Public Affairs | U.S. Army

The training is not limited to infantry operations. Coalition forces also train the troops on proper tactics and deployment of tanks and armored vehicles.

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An Iraqi Army tank clears an obstacle while an Iraqi Army Soldier the 72nd Brigade, 15th Iraqi Army Division, looks on at Camp Taji, Iraq, Sunday, March 22, 2015. | Sgt. Cody Quinn, CJTF-OIR Public Affairs | U.S. Army

As with any military training, there is a grueling physical-training component.

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Iraqi soldiers from the Noncommissioned Officer Academy perform push-ups as part of their physical-training test at the Iraqi Military Complex, Iraq. | CJTR – Operation Inherent Resolve

But not all of the training focuses on fighting. Here Iraqi army medics are being trained to save lives on and off the battlefield.

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Iraqi army medics treat a simulated casualty during an exercise with Australian army nurses and medics at the Taji Military Complex, Iraq. | CJTR – Operation Inherent Resolve

As IEDs are a preferred method of attack for ISIS and other insurgent groups, the Iraqis are trained in the removal of improvised bombs.

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A US soldier leads a counter-IED demonstration for Iraqi troops. | CJTR – Operation Inherent Resolve

The fight against ISIS happens in a number of locations, so coalition forces train the troops for urban combat and clearing houses.

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Royal Danish Army Premierløjtnant Mads, a coalition member attached to the Building Partner Capacity team, Task Force Al Asad, practices combat movement up a flight of stairs alongside Iraqi security-force personnel during an urban combat and tactics course at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, May 9, 2015. | CJTR – Operation Inherent Resolve

As chemical warfare is a reality in Iraq and Syria, the soldiers practice operations while wearing gas masks.

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Iraqi soldiers assigned to the 71st Iraqi Army Brigade prepare to breach a door during protective-mask training at Camp Taji, Iraq, October 15, 2015. | Spc. William Marlow | U.S. Army

Should the fight get up close and personal, Iraqi troops are trained to use bayonets.

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An Australian soldier, assigned as a Task Group Taji Trainer, demonstrates the en garde position during the instructional portion of bayonet training at Camp Taji, Iraq, January 3, 2016. | Sgt. Kalie Jones | U.S. Army

By February 13, 2015, 1,400 Iraqis had graduated from the intensive six-week basic-training course. Thousands more would follow in their footsteps during the coming months.

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From left: US Army Lt. Col. Scott Allen, with 1st ABCT, 1st Inf. Division, presents a ceremonial knife to Staff Brig. Gen. Sa’ad during a graduation ceremony for Sa’ad’s brigade, February 13 at Camp Taji, Iraq. | Staff Sgt. Daniel Stoutamire, 1st. ABCT, 1st Inf. Div. | U.S. Army

Once forces like the Iraqi army reclaim a piece of territory, military police are needed to make sure the area stays safe. The Italian Carabinieri (military police) train Iraqi military police on marksmanship and search and policing procedures.

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An Italian Carabinieri officer coaches an Iraqi policeman as he fires an M16 rifle during advanced marksmanship training at Camp Dublin, Iraq, January 23, 2016. |  Staff Sgt. William Reinier| U.S. Army

In addition to the Iraqi national army and police forces, coalition troops are on the ground training the Kurdish Peshmerga, a group that has had particular success in booting ISIS out of the north of Syria and Iraq.

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Peshmerga soldiers participate in a live-fire-assault drill under the supervision of Italian trainers near Erbil, Iraq, January 6, 2016. Coalition trainers in Northern Iraq have trained more than 6,000 Peshmerga soldiers in basic and advanced infantry skills. | Cpl. Jacob Hamby/Released | U.S. Army

Ultimately, the goal of Operation Inherent Resolve is to train credible ground forces in Iraq and Syria that can defeat ISIS and reclaim their countries on their own terms, with training, assistance, and air support from partner nations all over the world.

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CJTR – Operation Inherent Resolve

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the Soviet Union’s advanced laser tank

The Cold War was the era for defense contractors and fantastical super weapons. While the Americans were building backpack-sized nuclear weapons and nuclear bombers that flew forever, the Soviets were focused on much more practical weapons. One of those was a 1970s-era tank with a laser battery mounted on the chassis. 

You might be thinking of a Star Wars-like Imperial Repulsortank or something out of WarHammer 40k but, like all things built by Communists, the reality of this laser weapon is cool in concept, but disappointing in execution.

This Soviet-built laser tank, the 1K17 Szhatie, was designed to disrupt and kill the optical and electronic equipment used by American and NATO missiles, vehicles, and aircraft – but the anti-missile element was the most important.

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A preserved 1K17 Szhatie.

Though the Szhatie was the final outcome of the USSR’s laser tank project, the idea itself was some 20 years in the making. In the 1970s, the Soviets built a simple armored vehicle with the laser on its roof. 

As time went on the laser tank and the laser itself became more sophisticated, with one model reportedly able to disable aircraft in mid-air and others at least able to destroy American optical equipment, such as cameras and scopes. 

In the late 1980s, the Soviets developed a self-propelled model based on the 2S19 Msta-S self-propelled howitzer, which itself was a T-80 tank with a T-72 engine. According to the Online Tank Museum, the gun was removed from the vehicle and replaced with 13 high-powered beam emitters, all using lab-grown red ruby cylinders as focusing mirrors. 

The emitters had an estimated maximum range of six miles, though exact information about the weapon isn’t known due to the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the fact that the weapon’s creator died the following year. 

Before all that happened, however, Soviet military leaders and scientists made great advances in combat laser technology. It came to the point where the Red Army could not generate enough electricity to charge the emitters on a Szhatie. 

Later experiments focused on downing intercontinental ballistic missiles before they could threaten Soviet territory, using laser energy equal to the explosion from an anti-aircraft missile. 

Though the USSR tried to keep the laser tank and associated technology a closely-guarded secret, defectors and spies alike gathered intelligence on tis design and development. The CIA and the Pentagon called the original tank “Stiletto,” and subsequent designs were code-named “Sanguine.”

From the 1980s on the Soviet Union was able to hit and destroy test targets as small as a coin from a range of five miles away. The final design featured a solid-state laser based on yttrium aluminum garnet, an additional power plant, an extra generator, and a specialized targeting system with two sights, one for night and day.

One a few of the prototypes were ever built and after the fall of the Soviet Union, no one knows where the Sanguine laser tanks actually went. 

One Stiletto tank was actually found in Kharkov, Ukraine in a tank repair facility. The only surviving, operational model from the late 1980s is currently in a Military-Technical Museum in the village of Ivanovskoye, Russia. 

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the legendary Memphis Belle was brought back to life

Through the cockpit windscreen, Capt. Robert Morgan saw flashes of light from the wings and engine cowling of a German Focke-Wulf Fw 190 at his 12 o’clock and closing at an incredible rate. Each wink of light from the fighter’s wing root meant another 20mm cannon shell was heading directly at his B-17F Flying Fortress at over 2,300 feet per second.

Having no room to dive in the crowded formation of B-17 bombers of the 91st Bomb Group, he pitched up. The Luftwaffe fighter’s shells impacted the tail of the aircraft instead of coming straight through the windscreen.


Over the intercom Morgan heard his tail gunner, Sgt. John Quinlan, yelling that the aircraft’s tail was shot to pieces and what was left was in flames.

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(U.S. Army Air Forces photo)

It was January 23, 1943. Morgan and his nine crewmen aboard the “Memphis Belle” had just fought their way through a swarm of Luftwaffe fighters, dropped their bombs on a Nazi submarine base in the coastal city of Lorient in occupied France and were fighting to survive the return trip to the Eighth Air Force base in Bassingbourn, England. Morgan began calculating if the crew should bail out and become prisoners of war before the tail tore completely off the bomber trapping the crew in a death spiral culminating in a fiery crash.

A moment later, Quinlan reported that the fire in the tail had gone out. The “Memphis Belle” and its crew would survive the mission; the crew’s eighth and the bomber’s ninth.

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(U.S. Army Air Forces photo)

They would have to survive 17 more missions to complete the required 25 to rotate home. All would be flown during a period of World War II when the Luftwaffe was at the height of its destructive powers.

Against all odds, the “Memphis Belle” crew flew those missions, their last to once again bomb the U-boat pens at Lorient on May 17, 1943, before returning safely to England for the final time. Bottles of Champagne were uncorked and radio operator Tech. Sgt. Robert J. Hanson collapsed onto the flightline and kissed the ground.

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(U.S. Army Air Forces photo)

For the “Belle” itself, it was only mission 24 and the plane had to fly once more with an alternate crew on May 19.

The B-17 and its crew would be the first to return alive and intact to the U.S. They were welcomed as heroes and immediately embarked on a 2 ½-month, nationwide morale tour to sell war bonds. The tour was also to encourage bomber crews in training that they too could make it home. It made celebrities of both the “Belle” and its crew.

Ironically, the two and a half months of press conferences, parties and glad-handing officers and politicians was about the same amount of time during the “Belle’s” combat tour that 80 percent of the 91st Bomb Group’s B-17s and their crews were lost to German fighters and anti-aircraft fire.

“Eighty percent losses means you had breakfast with 10 men and dinner with only two of those 10,” Morgan said in an interview after the war. During the totality of the air war over Europe more than 30,000 U.S. Airmen aboard heavy bombers, like the B-17, would be killed.

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(U.S. Air Force photo)

Seventy-five years to the day after that 25th mission, the Museum of the U.S. Air Force will honor the bravery of those bomber crews, some of the first Americans to take the fight to the Nazis in WWII, when they unveil for public display the largely restored B-17F, Serial No. 41-24485, “Memphis Belle” as part of a three-day celebration, May 17-19, 2018.

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Download the Museum Brochure Here

According to the museum curator in charge of the “Memphis Belle” exhibit, Jeff Duford, the weekend will include more than 160 WWII re-enactors showcasing their memorabilia, WWII-era music and vehicles, static displays of other B-17s, flyovers of WWII-era aircraft and presentations of rare archival film footage. The “Memphis Belle” will be the centerpiece of an exhibit documenting the strategic bombing campaign over Europe.

“The ‘Memphis Belle’ is an icon that represents all the heavy bomber crewmen who served and sacrificed in Europe in World War II,” Duford said, “In many ways the ‘Memphis Belle’ is the icon for the United States Air Force.

“You look at the U.S. Marines, they have this wonderful icon of the flag being raised over Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima and everyone recognizes that. It symbolizes service and sacrifice and tenacity and teamwork. Well, the Air Force has that symbol too, and it’s this airplane. It demonstrates teamwork. The crews had to work together. The planes in formation had to work together. The formations had to work together with the fighter escorts.”

The service and sacrifice of the young men still leaves Duford awestruck even after working on the “Belle” project for a decade.

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(U.S. Army photo)

“How does one climb inside of this aircraft knowing that they are probably not going to come home? And they don’t do that one time; two times; three times; 10 times – they have to do it 25 times,” said Duford. “Once they got inside the airplane, they had no place to run. There were no foxholes to be dug. The skin on those airplanes is so thin that a bullet or flak fragment would go through it like a tin can because that’s essentially what it was.

“The odds were that every 18 missions, a heavy bomber was going to be shot down. So when you think the crew had to finish 25 missions to go home, statistically it was nearly impossible. It was one-in-four odds that a heavy bomber recruit would finish their 25 missions. Those other three crew members would’ve been shot down and captured, killed or wounded so badly they couldn’t finish their tour.”

The fact the “Memphis Belle” crew survived their tour was of great value to the U.S. Army Air Forces in maintaining support for the daylight strategic bombing campaign over Europe, which was still, in fact, an experiment.

“Back then, there was no book on high altitude strategic bombing. The generals didn’t know any more than we did. They had to figure bombing strategy as we went along,” said Morgan in a book he would write after the war, “The Man Who Flew the Memphis Belle”.

The B-17 was named the “Flying Fortress”, because it was bristling with .50 caliber machine guns covering every angle of attack by German fighters, save one. The theory was that all that defensive firepower would be amplified by heavy bombers flying in tight formations, called “boxes”, enabling them to protect each other from attacking fighters.

While the German Messerschmitt and Focke-Wulf fighters sometimes paid a price for attacking the formations, they soon developed tactics that exploited a design weakness in B-17Fs, like the “Memphis Belle”.

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German Luftwaffe models used in fighter pilot training show the fields of fire covered by the machine guns of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress.
(U.S. Army Air Forces photo)

While twin .50 caliber machine guns in top and belly turrets and the tail and single .50 cal. gunners protected the bomber, the 12 o’clock position was covered by a lone .30 caliber machine gun – no match for the German fighters. Because the bomber formations had to fly straight and level to initiate their bombing run, the Luftwaffe fighter pilots began attacking the formations head on. The ensuing carnage was ghastly.

“The secret to the B-17 was the capability of flying in tight formations, so tight that the wings were often almost touching,” wrote Morgan. “We were able to put out an amazing amount of firepower… but, I also positively feel that was a bit of divine intervention for our crew.”

While the addition of Allied fighter escorts helped fend off some German attackers, the fact that the B-17s had to fly at 25,000 feet or lower to maintain any semblance of accuracy on target put them in the range of the deadly German 88mm anti-aircraft gun. No amount of machine guns or friendly fighters could counter the dense flak approaching targets while flying straight and level.

Bomber crews had to just grit their teeth and pray.

“They felt like they were a great crew. They were tightly knit, confident and dedicated to what they were doing,” said Duford. “However, being in those formations, flying straight and level with enemy anti-aircraft and fighter aircraft, there certainly was a little bit of luck for them too.”

Luck, both good and bad, was also a factor in the “Belle” crew, despite not being the first crew to complete 25 missions, being the one to return to the U.S. for a bond and morale tour.

The “Belle’s” selection for the morale tour was the result of a film project about the strategic bombing campaign that was the brainchild of USAAF Gen. Hap Arnold and a Hollywood director, William Wyler, who had volunteered to serve his country in the best way he knew how.

It was hoped that a film documenting a bomber crew as they successfully completed a combat tour would calm new recruits, who were hearing stories of the carnage overseas, and assuage the doubts of the public, press and politicians that strategic bombing was a failure.

Wyler, an immigrant who was born in the Alsace region of modern-day France when it was part of the German Empire prior to World War I and who would go on to win three Best Director Academy Awards, including one for “Ben-Hur”, was commissioned as a major and headed to England with a film crew to document the fight in skies over Europe.

Wyler and his cameraman flew with B-17 combat crews and began filming missions of a B-17F of the 401st Bomb Squadron of the 91st Bomb Group named “Invasion II”. His staff also began interviewing and making publicity photographs of the crewmembers, as they drew closer to completing 25 missions.

However, on April 17, 1943, the reality of war spoiled the Hollywood ending during their 23rd mission to Bremen, Germany. Invasion II crashed after being hit by flak over Borhmen, Germany, setting the cockpit and wing on fire. The crew managed to bail out, but all became prisoners of war.

Wyler regrouped and found a plane and crew with the 324th Bomb Squadron that was also close to completing their combat tour. The “Memphis Belle”, named for Morgan’s girlfriend, Margaret Polk of Memphis, Tennessee, and its crew took center stage.

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The crew of the 358th Bomb Squadron Boeing B-17F ‘Hell’s Angels’ completed its 25th mission on May 13, 1943.
(U.S. Army Air Forces photo)

While the crew of “Hell’s Angels” completed their tour on May 13, 1943, four days before the “Belle”, there was no film of that plane and crew. Consequently, it was the “Belle” and its crew that would fly mission 26 back to the U.S. and receive a hero’s welcome.

Wyler’s film, “Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress”, would be released and distributed by Paramount Pictures the following year.

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(National Museum of the U.S. Air Force photo)

It was a film that came with a high price tag. One of Wyler’s cinematographers, 1st Lt. Harold J. Tannenbaum, a veteran of World War I, was killed in action during the filming when the bomber he was in was shot down over France on April 16, 1943.

Until the end of the war, the “Belle” was used as a training aircraft, but instead of being torn apart for scrap like most of the other 12,700 B-17s built during the war, the city of Memphis, Tennessee, put the aircraft on display for nearly 50 years.

The historic aircraft came to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in October 2005, when work began on a careful, multi-year conservation and restoration effort including corrosion treatment and the full outfitting of missing equipment.

Casey Simmons arrived shortly after the “Memphis Belle” as a restoration specialist for the museum.

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(Photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

From the beginning, it was apparent that priority one in the restoration was getting it right. His first assignment was to fabricate a glycol heater that was missing from inside the left wing. No visitor to the museum would ever see it.

“I know it’s there and that’s cool because it’s going to get all the parts that it needs to be a complete aircraft,” said Simmons. “When you don’t have the part you try and find a part from another airplane or you go to the blueprints and make the part completely from scratch.”

While the museum has other B-17s in its collection, the “Memphis Belle” requires a whole other level of patience and dedication.

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(Photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

“Other restoration projects are typically a general model of a certain aircraft. So it represents a lot of them. This one is a specific aircraft, so you have to get it right; exactly to the rivet,” said Simmons.

The museum specialist did not try to restore the “Belle” to how it rolled off the Boeing line, but utilized films, photos and records from its time in combat to bring the B-17F back to fighting trim, scars and all.

“There are certain damage spots on the “Memphis Belle” that were fixed over time, so we have to make sure that those show up on the aircraft the way they were,” said Simmons. “If they put five rivets in an area as opposed to the standard four that are supposed to be there, we have to get that correct… When you go through video footage, old film footage, or photographs, and you do find a little glimpse of what you’re looking for, that’s a big moment. We have to get it right for those bomber crews.”

The bravery of those bomber crews continued after all the whoopla back home died down. Even Morgan was eager to get back in the fight.

While on a morale tour stop in Wichita, Kansas, Morgan caught a glimpse of the future of strategic bombing, the still secret B-29 Superfortress. He volunteered immediately to train on the new bomber and earned command of his own squadron of B-29s that deployed to Saipan in the Pacific Theater.

On November 24, 1944, his 869th Squadron of the 497th Bomb Group was the first, other than Doolittle’s Raiders in 1942, to bomb Tokyo. He would go on to complete another 24 combat missions in the B-29 before the end of WWII. He retired from the U.S. Air Force Reserve in 1965 as a colonel.

While the restoration and display of the “Memphis Belle” will ensure the story of the dedication, bravery and airmanship of its 10 crewmembers that returned home safely in 1943 honors all the Airmen that fought in WWII, Duford is particularly enthusiastic that the exhibit will allow Museum of U.S. Air Force visitors to learn the story of the little known 11th crewmember of the “Memphis Belle”.

As much as any Airman, he embodied the spirit and sense of duty shared by all the heavy bomber crews.

“It’s the story of one of the waist gunners, Emerson Scott Miller,” said Duford. “You don’t see him in any of the war bond photos and you don’t see his name listed as one of the ‘Memphis Belle’ crew members. He came overseas as a technician repairing the autopilot systems on B-17s. He was safe. He didn’t have to fly the missions but he decided he wanted to do more and volunteered to fly in combat. He joined the ‘Memphis Belle’ crew after they had flown about nine or 10 of their missions. So he had flown 16 of his missions when the rest of the ‘Memphis Belle’ crew completed their 25th.

“Capt. Robert Morgan really wanted Scott Miller to come back on the war bond tour, but Miller hadn’t finished his 25th mission, so he had to stay. While the ‘Belle’ crew was celebrated and famous and there were parties for them, Scott Miller was still flying in combat.”

Fittingly, Miller finished his 25th mission aboard another B-17 on July 4, 1943, but for him, there were no parades, no press conferences, no meeting movie stars and no special duties.

“We got in touch with Scott Miller’s family,” said Duford. “They donated a trunk full of artifacts, and so Scott Miller has a place in the exhibit and his story will be told… He could have just simply done his duty repairing those autopilot systems and gone home safe. But he put his life on the line and then was forgotten. Now he’s going to be remembered now and for generations to come.”

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

Articles

Vincent Viola picked as next Secretary of the Army

Florida Panthers owner Vincent Viola, a former Army infantry officer and West Point graduate (class of 1977) was announced as President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to serve as Secretary of the Army.


VIncent Viola (far left) presents the National Italian American Foundation's first Marine Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone Award for Distinguished Military Service to Gen. Ray Odierno and his son, Capt. Anthony Odierno. (Photo U.S. Army) VIncent Viola (far left) presents the National Italian American Foundation’s first Marine Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone Award for Distinguished Military Service to Gen. Ray Odierno and his son, Capt. Anthony Odierno. (Photo U.S. Army)

According to a report by the Washington Examiner, Viola, who served with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), is the executive chairman of Virtu Financial. Viola also chaired the New York Mercantile Stock Exchange at the time of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

After 9/11, he founded the West Point Combating Terrorism Center.

“Whether it is his distinguished military service or highly impressive track record in the world of business, Vinnie has proved throughout his life that he knows how to be a leader and deliver major results in the face of any challenge,” the Trump transition office said in a statement. “The American people, whether civilian or military, should have great confidence that Vinnie Viola has what it takes to keep America safe and oversee issues of concern to our troops in the Army.”

In a statement, Viola said he looked forward to serving.

“I will work tirelessly to provide our president with the land force he will need to accomplish any mission in support of his National Defense Strategy,” Viola said. “A primary focus of my leadership will be ensuring that America’s soldiers have the ways and means to fight and win across the full spectrum of conflict.”

Retired Army Col. James Hickey, commander of the brigade that captured deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, had been reported to be a front-runner for the position, along with Van Hipp, the long-time chairman of American Defense International, Inc.

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