6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces

There is a lot to say about Israel and its Defense Forces. Like most armed forces in the world, it has a significant history, even despite its relative youth. And like all armed forces in the world, not all of this history is good (despite what some might say), and not all of it is bad (despite what some might say).


From the get-go, Israel needed a miracle — and it got plenty. They came in the form of WWII veterans, brilliant generals, and a civilian population dedicated to preserving the idea that they belong there.

 

6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces

And their operation names are freaking cool.

1. Operation Spring of Youth

Spring of Youth was part of a larger operation with a cooler name (Wrath of God. Awesome). It was Israeli Mossad’s (intelligence service) response to the 1972 Munich Massacre. Israeli agents systematically hunted down and assassinated those involved with planning the Olympic massacre.

6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces

I know this is from the movie Munich, but still – anyone who kills a bunch of Israelis shouldn’t look so surprised that they died.

In 1973, Israeli commandos from Sayeret Matkal, Sayeret 13, and Sayeret Tzanhanim – elite special forces squads – came ashore in Lebanon near Beirut. Mossad agents drove them to buildings where senior members of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and Black September terrorist organizations lived. The commandos were disguised as tourists, some even dressed as women.

6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces

All three Palestinian targets were killed in the raids, along with hundreds of bodyguards, some Lebanese troops and policemen, and an Italian neighbor. One team of paratroopers met heavy resistance attacking the PFLP building, and so ended up destroying the whole building with explosives. The Israelis lost two soldiers in the raid. The commandos were then casually driven back to the beaches for exfiltration.

2. Operation Thunderbolt

When an Air France passenger jet bound for Paris from Tel Aviv was hijacked by the PFLP in 1976, the hijackers ordered the plane to be flown to Idi Amin’s Uganda. When the dictator welcomed them to Entebbe Airport, the PFLP demanded the release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel and a $5 million ransom, due July 1st, 1976.

6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces

The hostages were separated into Israeli and non-Israeli groups. As the Israeli government negotiated the release of the hostages, the hijackers freed 153 non-Israelis. Amin and the hijackers agreed to extend the deadline for the deal to July 4th., giving Mossad time to debrief the released hostages in Paris and get information on the hijackers’ numbers and weapons. They also got a layout of the building from an Israeli firm – the one who built the airport.

On the day the hostages were to be executed, a 100-man task force took off from the Sinai (then controlled by Israel). Four C-130 Hercules cargo planes, followed by 2 Boeing 747s landed undetected at Entebbe. Then, 29 Israeli commandos from Sayeret Matkal, led by Lt. Col. Jonathan Netanyahu left the cargo planes in a black Mercedes and a squad of Land Rovers, resembling the motorcades used by Amin. Amin later told his son that the ruse was not as clever as the Israelis thought.

6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces

They approached the terminal, killed the Ugandan guards, then assaulted the airport. Three of the hostages were killed in the firefight, along with all the hijackers. Armored personnel carriers took the hostages to the waiting 747s as the commandos battled Ugandan troops and destroyed Chinese-built Ugandan fighter aircraft to prevent their pursuit. Colonel Netanyahu was killed in the firefight and five others were wounded.

In an operation lasting 53 minutes, 102 hostages were rescued, 45 Ugandans were killed, and 11 MiGs were destroyed on the ground.

One more hostage, a 75-year-old woman who had been taken to a hospital in Kampala during the crisis, was killed in her bed by Amin’s troops after the raid. Her body was found buried in a sugar plantation three years later.

3. Operation Opera

In 1981, eight Israeli F-16s and six F-15s flew right into Iraq to destroy the nuclear reactor at Osirak. Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was using the site to develop his nuclear weapons program – a potentially huge threat to Israeli security.

The fighters flew 2,000 miles from Israel to Iraq and back without refueling. The U.S. could not help them and Israel wouldn’t have in-flight refueling until 1982, when Iraq’s reactor would be online. Hitting the reactor was not a problem, it was getting back to Israel that presented the difficulty.

To this day, how Israel managed to get all her planes and pilots home is still classified.

Ten years later, Iraq fired a number of Scud missiles at Israel during the Gulf War in an effort to break the American-led coalition by inviting Israeli counterattacks. Ironically, a majority of the Scuds landed in either Haifa or the Ramat Gan area of Tel Aviv – home to many Iraqi descendants.

4. Operation Stout-Hearted Men

The Yom Kippur War touched off when Israel was attacked by an Arab coalition led by Egypt and Syria and consisting of Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Algeria. The Arabs wanted to push Israel out of the Sinai and the Golan Height and allow Egypt to re-open the Suez Canal. This war did not go well for the Arabs – both the Golan and the Sinai not only remained in Israeli hands, the Israelis pushed deep into Syria and into Egypt, across the canal.

6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces

How they crossed the Suez is the miracle.

Under cover of darkness, an Israeli paratroop brigade crossed the canal on rubber boats between the 2nd and 3rd Egyptian Armies. Meanwhile, Israeli armor fought to open a corridor in the Sinai through which more units could pass safely to the front – including a series of floating bridges. The bridges allowed two IDF armored brigades to cross into Egypt.

Within a week, the IDF destroyed Egypt’s anti-aircraft umbrella and completely surrounded the Egyptian 3rd Army. This precipitated an end to the war and led to the Camp David Accords, Egypt’s recognition and peace treaty with Israel.

5. Operation Mole Cricket 19

Mole Cricket 19 was one of the largest air battles since World War II and probably one hell of a sight in 1982. To this day, it is the IDF’s most decisive victory, so one-sided it went down in history as the “Bekaa Valley Turkey Shoot.” But it didn’t seem like such an easy win at the time. Mole Cricket 19 would be the first time a surface-to-air missile battery was defeated without ground troops.

6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces

Syria moved a number of SAM batteries into Southern Lebanon as Lebanon was in the grips of a civil war that was then seven years old. Israel had launched a number of incursions into Lebanon in support of Christian militias and against PLO positions. The Syrian SAM batteries were a threat to Israel’s ability to control the airspace near its borders.

Israel soon annexed the Golan Heights, which led Syria to condemn the act as a declaration of war. On June 6, 1982, Israel launched a full invasion of Lebanon. Israeli PM Menachem Begin told the Knesset (and Syria) that if the Syrians kept the cease fire, the IDF would too. The Syrians didn’t. They halted an IDF advance and the Israelis used that to launch Mole Cricket 19.

6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces

Within two hours, the Israeli Air Force destroyed 15 of 19 SAM batteries while shooting down 90 enemy aircraft. The Syrian defeat in the Bekaa Valley Turkey Shoot caused alarm among Soviet defense experts. It caused them to question may even have led to the Glasnost ˆ(openness) policy and to the fall of the Soviet Union.

6. Operation Focus

In 1957, Israel declared that any closing of the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping would be considered an act of war. Then the Soviet Union misled Egypt into believing an Israeli pre-emptive strike was imminent. It was when Egypt began to mass its troops at the Egyptian-Israeli border that Israel began to consider a preemptive strike. When Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser closed the Tiran Straits to Israeli ships, Israel began preparing for that strike.

6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces

Operation Focus was the Israeli Air Force operation that launched the Six-Day war in 1967. In less than four hours, 450 Egyptian, Jordanian, and Syrian combat planes were destroyed on the ground. Egypt lost some 18 airfields and was rendered largely ineffective for the rest of the war. Operation Focus used every single attack plane in the IAF and gave Israel complete air superiority on every front.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This command post flew 24 hours a day for 29 years

We’ve all seen the movie where a well-funded group of terrorists makes a threat against the U.S. government then all hell breaks loose until one man or woman steps up and saves the day by defeating the bad guys. These films often make our defensive capabilities appear powerless versus these fictional villains.

Although these storylines are entertaining, our government’s ability to protect us goes well beyond some smart computer hacker, especially in the event of a nuclear war.

The nuclear war strategy of the U.S. relies upon its capacity to communicate with and control its nuclear forces under the most hazardous of conditions. For close to 30 years, this vital defense plan was laid in the hands of 11 different converted EC-135Cs code-named “Looking Glass.”


 

6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces

 

 

Operation Looking Glass was introduced by the U.S. Air Force’s Strategic Command on Feb. 3, 1961. It was prepared to take over all operational control of nuclear forces if the ground-based command centers were destroyed or rendered unusable.

If that devastating nuclear event occurred, the general officer serving as the Airborne Emergency Action Officer (AEAO) aboard the “Looking Glass” would be required by law to assume the authority of the National Command Authority and directly command execution during a nuclear attack.

 

6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces

To avoid any potential enemy threat from jamming the unique aircraft’s signal, the specialized planes came equipped with high-frequency antennas located on the wings. Along with the AEAO, a crew consisting of approximately 15-20 airmen would man their solitary post for several hours a day.

Since its maiden flight in 1961, there has always been a “Looking Glass” plane flying somewhere above the United States in case of an emergency, 24-hours a day.

On June 1, 1992, Operation Looking Glass was grounded from service and replaced.

Check out the video below to witness just how special this flying beast was to national security.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Soldiers remember the harrowing Battle of Hue

The ferocity of the Tet Offensive, which began 51 years ago, surprised most Americans, including service members manning the television station in Hue, Vietnam.

Detachment 5 of the American Forces Vietnam Network (AFVN) was located in a villa about a mile outside the main U.S. compound in Hue, in a neighborhood considered relatively safe from attack.

After the AFVN crew had signed off the air that night and settled into their billets, they heard an explosion down the street. Some of them were already asleep, but a few were still up watching fireworks through their window, since it was the first night of Tet, the Vietnamese lunar New Year.


“Then the real fireworks started,” said Harry Ettmueller, a specialist five and broadcast engineer at the time.

Mortars and rockets began to blast the city landscape and tracer rounds could be seen in the distance.

“It was quite a light show,” said former Spc. 4 John Bagwell, a broadcaster who jumped out of bed once he heard the noise.

6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces

Spc. 4 John Bagwell broadcasts for the 1st Cavalry Division in Vietnam before he was transferred to AFVN Det. 5 in Hue during January 1968.

(U.S. Army photo)

One mortar round hit the maintenance shed next to their TV station, which was located behind the house where the AFVN team of eight slept.

The team then pulled out their weapons: World War II carbines along with a shotgun, three M14 rifles, and an M60 machine gun that jammed after two shots.

They took up positions in doorways and windows to stop possible entry. They even handed a carbine to a visiting NBC engineer, Courtney Niles, who happened to be an Army veteran.

Battle for Hue

Station commander, Marine 1st Lt. James DiBernardo, called the Military Assistance Command-Vietnam, or MAC-V office in Hue, and was told to keep his crew in place. A division-sized force of the North Vietnamese army, along with Viet Cong guerrillas, was attacking locations all across the city.

They had even captured part of the citadel that once housed Vietnam’s imperial family and later became the headquarters of a South Vietnamese division.

The NVA attack on Hue was one of the strongest and most successful of the Tet Offensive. Even though more than 100 towns and cities across the country were attacked during Tet, the five-week battle for Hue was the only one where communist forces held a significant portion of the city for more than a few days.

On the second day of Tet, the power-generating station in Hue was taken out and the telephone lines to the AFVN compound were cut. The crew became isolated.

Station background

AFVN had begun augmenting its radio broadcasting with television in Saigon in early 1967. Then TV went to Da Nang and up to Hue.

The U.S. State Department decided to help the Vietnamese set up a station for local nationals in what had been the consulate’s quarters in Hue. AFVN set up their equipment in a van just outside the same villa and began broadcasting to troops in May.

6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces

Following the Tet Offensive, not much remained of the house where members of AFVN Det. 5 held off the North Vietnamese in a 16-hour firefight.

Hundreds of TVs were brought up from Saigon and distributed to troops. Ettmueller said he was often flown by Air America to units near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) to distribute them.

In January 1968, with the 1st Cavalry Division and elements of the 101st Airborne Div. moving up to the northern I Corps area of operations, AFVN decided to add radio broadcasting to the TV station in Hue.

Broadcasters Bagwell and Spc. 5 Steven Stroub were sent from 1st Cavalry to help set up the radio operation. They arrived a day and a half before Tet erupted.

16-hour assault

For the next five days, sporadic fire was directed at the AFVN billets, Ettmueller said. The staff members remained in defensive positions at doors and windows.

Bagwell said they were hopeful MACV would send a rescue mission for them, but by the fifth day, they were running out of food and water.

As night fell Feb. 4, the North Vietnamese launched a company-sized assault against the AFVN compound. Dozens of Vietnamese rushed the house and the Americans kept up a steady fire through the windows.

Each time the WWII carbines were fired, though, the magazines fell out and had to be reinserted, Ettmueller said. But he had an M14 and put it on full automatic.

During the assault, a young boy appeared in the window where Bagwell was on guard. The boy was trembling as he pointed his weapon at Bagwell, who hesitated.

“He shot and one bullet came close to my ear and I could hear it whiz by,” Bagwell said. “The next bullet he shot came close to the other ear. I realized if I didn’t kill him, he’d kill me.”

He pulled the trigger on his M14 and the boy fell backward.

North Vietnamese rushed the house repeatedly during the night. Sgt. 1st Class John Anderson, the station’s NCOIC, was awarded a Silver Star for manning the living room door with a shotgun to turn back assault after assault.

“He personally was responsible for inflicting deadly fire on the attacking enemy force,” reads the citation, adding that Anderson held his post despite being severely wounded by enemy grenades.

At one point, a Vietnamese soldier came running toward the door with a satchel of explosives strapped around him. Ettmueller said when one of their bullets hit the soldier’s satchel, it exploded, taking him out and a couple of others near him.

During the course of the night, at least three rocket-propelled grenades were fired at the house and a B40 rocket went right through the front window and hit the back wall. The wall collapsed on Ettmueller and Marine Sgt. Tom Young, forcing both men to crawl out from underneath the debris.

“They pretty much… leveled the house,” Bagwell said.

Breakout and capture

By morning, the house was on fire and the AFVN crew was beginning to run low on ammunition.

They decided their best chance was to try and make a run for the MACV compound. NBC engineer Niles said he knew the layout of the city the best, so he volunteered to be the first one out the door. Bagwell was close behind him.

The plan called for both men to cross the road into a ditch so they could lay down covering fire for the rest of the team. However, Niles was fatally shot. Bagwell applied a quick tourniquet, but said it did not help much.

Anderson and others in the house saw the direction of the gunfire. After a brief pause, the seven of them ran out the door and turned in the opposite direction. They made it through a hole in the fence line and sneaked around a North Vietnamese team manning a machine gun on the second floor of a building under construction.

They made it through another hole in a fence into a small rice paddy, when they came up to the U.S. Information Services library next to a concrete wall topped with barbed wire.

There, the North Vietnamese caught up to them.

Young stepped out to lay down covering fire and was killed by automatic gunfire from the machine-gun position.

Ettmueller described the chaotic situation: “There we were, trapped. More rounds coming in; more grenades being thrown. Chickens running all over the place, jumping up in the air and flying. More rounds coming in.”

Stroub was shot in the left arm and had an open fracture. He passed out, Ettmueller said. Anderson was shot with a bullet that penetrated his flak jacket and grazed his diaphragm. He began to hiccup.

As the AFVN team began to run out of ammo, the North Vietnamese closed in and captured them.

The prisoners were bound with wire and had their boots removed, and then ordered to march forward. Ettmueller helped Stroub up, but it was not long before he stumbled and fell. An NVA soldier opened fire from above with the machine gun and executed him.

Sole escape

Meanwhile, Bagwell was left alone outside the station after Niles was fatally shot. The North Vietnamese had taken off in pursuit of the rest of the AFVN team.

Bagwell, who had been in Hue only a few days, had no idea which way to go and he was out of ammunition.

He wandered the streets, not sure what to do. “I was quite amazed with all the fighting going around that I hadn’t been shot.”

Then he looked down at his boot and spotted a hole. With his adrenaline pumping, he had not felt anything, but “the next thing I knew I was in pain.”

Bagwell looked up and saw a Catholic church. He knocked on the door and pleaded with a priest to help him. About 100 Vietnamese civilians were already hiding in the church.

The priest insisted Bagwell change his clothes. They buried his uniform and M14 in the courtyard. Then the priest wrapped Bagwell’s face in bandages.

“His idea was to make me look as much like a Vietnamese as possible,” Bagwell said.

Not long afterward, North Vietnamese soldiers burst into the church looking for Americans.

“They came by and started pointing their rifles right at my face,” he said. “I just closed my eyes and thought, ‘there’s no way they’re not going to know I’m not Vietnamese.'”

6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces

Broadcast Engineer Staff Sgt. Donat Gouin sits behind the television van for Detachment 5 of the American Forces Vietnam Network in Hue.

(U.S. Army photo)

But the North Vietnamese walked on past him. Bagwell was then taken by the priest up into the bell tower of the church to hide.

Other American forces, however, had been told that NVA fighters were hiding in the church, Bagwell said. So, they began to shell the church and hit the bell tower.

Part of the tower collapsed. “I just crawled out of all the mess and crawled back downstairs,” Bagwell said.

The priest then rushed up to him and said, “You know, you’re kind of bad luck. We need to get you out of here.” He pointed across rice paddies to a light in the distance and said he thought that was an American unit.

As he crawled through the rice paddies, Bagwell said a U.S. helicopter began circling him and shining its search light down, thinking he was Vietnamese, since he had no uniform.

“Actually, during that time, I counted about 12 times that I should have been shot and killed,” Bagwell said. “Six by the North Vietnamese and six by the Americans.”

When the sun came up, Bagwell was near a U.S. signal unit. He took off his white shirt and put it on a stick, yelling “Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot! I’m an American!”

They held a gun to him and asked if he was really an American.

“You can’t tell with this Okie accent?” Bagwell replied.

“Well, what were you doing out there?” a soldier asked.

“I was with the TV and radio station,” Bagwell said.

“No, I don’t think so; they’re all dead or prisoner,” the soldier insisted. “The only body we haven’t found is Bagwell.”

Aftermath

The North Vietnamese executed an estimated 3,000 South Vietnamese civilians in Hue during Tet for sympathizing with American forces. Bagwell said he learned that a Catholic priest was executed for hiding a U.S. soldier in a church, and he knew that soldier had to be him.

The prisoners of war from AFVN Det. 5 — Ettmueller, DiBernardo and Anderson, along with Marine Cpl. John Deering and Army broadcast engineer Staff Sgt. Donat Gouin — were forced to walk 400 miles barefoot through the jungle over the next 55 days.

For five years, they were tortured, interrogated and moved from one POW camp to another, until released from the infamous Hanoi Hilton in the 1973 prisoner exchange.

Bagwell and Ettmueller were inducted into the Army Public Affairs Hall of Fame in 2008. The Army Broadcast Journalist of the Year Award is named in Anderson’s honor.

Editor’s note: Bagwell and Ettmueller were interviewed this month by phone. Retired Master Sgt. Anderson was interviewed in 1983 when he was a civilian public affairs officer at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Let this Swedish metal band be your war history teacher

Even the band’s name is a reference to medieval knight’s armor – the Swedish metal band Sabaton makes music about war, history’s greatest battles, and daring feats of combat badassery. Their latest album, The Great War, features songs about just World War I. If you’ve never had an interest in military history, Sabaton might make the difference for you.

Also, their music videos are pretty great.


Their songs are poetic and thoughtful, about real historical events. From the Serbians fighting in World War I, to Poland’s legendary Winged Hussars, and even the Russians at Stalingrad – the heroes aren’t Swedish, they’re anyone who did something amazing for their comrades on the battlefield. Other songs are about the Night Witches (Russian female aviators who terrorized the Nazis), the Brazilian Expeditionary Force in World War II, and Audie Murphy’s postwar struggle with PTSD.

I know the video below looks like a broken link, but it’s really a music video for a Sabaton’s heavy metal song about the 101st Airborne at Bastogne, called “Screaming Eagles.” The music video begins with Gen. Anthony MacAuliffe’s now-famous reply to the German surrender demand – “Nuts.”

The band’s entire fourth album was inspired by Sun Tzu’s Art of War, another album is about World War II and the Finnish-Russian Winter War. They have released singles about the World War II-era battleship Bismarck and World War I’s Lost Battalion; nine companies of the United States 77th Infantry Division who lost more than half its manpower at the Argonne Forest in 1918.

Sabaton has won almost every metal award for which they were nominated, including Best Breakthrough Band, Best Live Band, and they were nominated for the 2012 “Metal as F*ck” Award for their album Carolus Rex, which actually was about the rise of the Swedish Empire under King Charles XII.

The song below is about 189 Swiss Guards who defended the Vatican during the Sack of Rome in 1527.

SABATON – The Last Stand (Official Music Video)

www.youtube.com

SABATON – The Last Stand (Official Music Video)

Heavy metal bands re-enacting famous battles is all I’ve ever wanted in life. Thank you, Sabaton.

Articles

Jackie Robinson was court-martialed for keeping his seat on a bus

The future Baseball Hall of Fame first baseman and civil rights pioneer Jackie Robinson was a young lieutenant facing court-martial in August 1944 for refusing to give up his seat on a bus near Camp Hood, Texas, while training as a tanker.


The segregation situation at Camp Hood was arguably one of the worst for black service members in the country. The civilian buses contracted to work the routes onto and off of post were fully segregated as were nearly all of the base facilities. While there for training, Robinson had fairly regular confrontations with other officers over racial issues on the base.

6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces
Army 2nd Lt. Jackie Robinson was attached to a tank unit after finishing Officer Candidate School and Cavalry School. (Photo: LOOK Magazine/Public Domain)

Robinson was assigned to a black armored unit, the 761st Tank Battalion, as a second lieutenant. He was one of the few black officers in a unit with mostly white leadership.

On July 6, 1944, near the end of a two-year training pipeline, Robinson took a seat on a civilian bus next to a white woman on Camp Hood and the driver ordered him to move to the back of the bus.

Robinson refused and the military police were called to arrest him. While waiting for the MPs and again at the camp’s provost marshall office, Robinson was called “nigger” by both civilians and military personnel whom he outranked.

6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces
Tank crews from the 761st Tank Battalion await orders to clean out scattered Nazi machine gun nests in Coburg, Germany, April 25, 1945. Army 2nd Lt. Jackie Robinson served with the battalion during its training period but accepted a medical separation after a racially-charged court martial. (Photo: National Archives)

Angry from his treatment and frustrated at the rampant discrimination on the post, Robinson refused to wait in the provost marshal’s office and was escorted to the hospital under guard and under protest.

Camp Hood commanders ordered the 761st to begin court-martial proceedings, but battalion commander Lt. Col. Paul L. Bates refused to sign the order. Unfortunately for Robinson, paperwork was already going through to transfer him to the 758th due to medical issues. When the transfer went through, his court martial began almost immediately.

The prosecution did not charge Robinson for his actions on the bus, but they did charge him for disrespecting a military police captain and for disobeying an order from the same captain.

6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces
In the days leading up to his court martial, 2nd Lt. Jackie Robinson asked a trusted friend whether he should speak to the press. (Photo: U.S. National Archives)

His trial opened on Aug. 2 and ran for 17 days. Bates testified that Robinson was an outstanding officer. Bates even told the military panel that Robinson was traveling on the bus on July 6 at his request. Robinson had reported to a civilian hospital for a medical evaluation to see if he could ship out to Europe with the 761st.

Meanwhile Robinson’s defense attorney, Capt. William A. Cline, managed to highlight inconsistencies in the prosecution’s witness testimonies and prove that Robinson’s actions only took place after he was repeatedly disrespected by lower-ranking soldiers.

6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces
Gunner Cpl. Carlton Chapman of the 761st Tank Battalion poses in his M4 Sherman tank near Nancy, France, Nov. 5, 1944.  (Photo: National Archives)

Cline even called into question whether the MP captain had properly ordered Robinson to remain in the office and got the captain to admit on the stand that he was unsure whether he had actually issued the order or simply meant to.

The defense won its case and Robinson was freed. Rather than fight to rejoin the 761st or train with the 758th, he decided to accept the Army’s assessment that he should be medically retired from service due to a bone chip in his ankle that sometimes caused the joint to seize up.

During the court martial, the 761st shipped out for New Jersey en route to Europe. It would become a legend in the final year of the war, earning 11 silver stars, a Medal of Honor, and the Presidential Unit Citation in 183 days of continuous fighting.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The ‘Angel of the Battlefield’ changed how wounded and missing troops are treated

Everyone wants to make a big deal of the fact that women now get to serve on the front line in combat units. But women participating in American wars goes all the way back to the beginning of the Civil War in 1861. As a matter of fact, women have been pitching in and helping fight for a lot longer than that.


One woman changed the way Americans handle our wounded and missing troops forever.

It was in the Civil War that Clarissa (Clara) Barton paved the way for nurses in the military and provided soldiers care, both behind and on the front lines of battle — for both the North and the South.

6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces
Clara Barton’s calling was saving lives. Period.

Clara was born in North Oxford on Dec. 21, 1821 and started studying to be a nurse at the young age of 11 while helping care for her sick brother. She decided at this young age that her calling was to help others, in any way that she could.

When she was 15, Clara continued to flourish in her humanitarianism by becoming a teacher and opened a free public school in New Jersey. Her passion for helping others extended far beyond herself. She was willing to risk her own life to help those in need of care.

In 1862, Clara provided aid in field hospitals during the Civil War, putting herself in harm’s way on numerous occasions to care for injured soldiers and bring them supplies. Barton garnered the nickname “Angel of the Battlefield” because of her remarkable compassion for the soldiers she tended.

6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces
An etching of Barton at work.

Extraordinarily, she recounted an instance where a bullet nearly took her life, stating that she “felt her sleeve move, [as] a bullet had gone through it and killed the man she was tending.” Surprisingly, the near-death experience didn’t shake her convictions or her need to help.

Related: 22 female war heroes you’ve never heard of

Clara’s work didn’t end with the Civil War. In 1865, she was appointed by Abraham Lincoln to go out and search for missing soldiers on the battlefield. She called this initiative, “Friends of the Missing Men of the United States Army.” She was able to identify a total of 22,000 soldiers that would have remained lost if not for her efforts.

6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces
Barton was unafraid of hazardous duty.

Impressively, Clara also founded the American Red Cross at the age of 60 in 1881 after her trip to Europe, where she aided in the works of the International Red Cross. Clara’s passion for helping those in disastrous situations made the American Red Cross what it is today. She spearheaded the organization for 23 years until she resigned as president at age 83 in 1904.

Today, Clara Barton’s memory lives on within the good works of The American Red Cross, in not only disaster relief, but in providing our military personnel services overseas and at home, in war and peacetime.

Articles

This is what a broom tied to a mast means in the U.S. Navy

When the USS Wahoo sailed into Pear Harbor on Feb. 7, 1943, she had an odd ornament on her periscope: a common broom. But that broom was one of the most impressive symbols a crew could aspire to earn because it symbolized that the boat had destroyed an entire enemy convoy, sweeping it from the seas.


Historians aren’t certain where the tradition originated, but the story cited most often was that a Dutch admiral in the 1650s began the practice after sweeping the British from the seas at the Battle of Dungeness.

(Video: YouTube/Smithsonian Channel)

For the crew of the Wahoo, their great victory came in the middle of five tense days of fighting. It all began on Jan. 24 when the sub was mapping a forward Japanese base on a small island near Papua New Guinea. During the reconnaissance mission, the sailors spotted a destroyer in the water.

Flush with torpedoes and no other threats in sight, the Wahoo decided to engage. It fired a spread of three torpedoes but had underestimated the destroyer’s speed. The Wahoo fired another torpedo with the speed taken into account, but the destroyer turned out of the weapon’s path.

And then it bore down on the Wahoo, seeking to destroy the American sub. The crew played a high-stakes game of chicken by holding the sub in position. When the destroyer reached 1,200 yards, the crew fired the fifth torpedo, which the destroyer again avoided.

6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces
The Imperial Japanese Navy destroyer Hayate undergoes sea trials in 1925. Destroyers are relatively small and weak ships, but are well-suited to destroying submarines and protecting friendly ships. (Photo: Public Domain)

At 800 yards they fired their sixth and last forward torpedo, barely enough range for the torpedo to arm. The risk of failure was so great that Lt. Cmdr. Dudley Morton ordered a crash dive immediately after firing, putting as much water in the way of enemy depth charges as possible.

But the last torpedo swam true and hit the Japanese ship in the middle, breaking its keel and causing its boilers to burst.

The next day, Jan. 25, was relatively uneventful, but Jan. 26 would be the Wahoo’s date with destiny. Just over an hour after sunrise, the third officer spotted smoke over the horizon and Morton ordered an intercept course.

They found a four-ship convoy consisting of a tanker, a troop transport, and two freighters. All four were valuable targets, but sinking the troop transport could save thousands of lives and sinking tankers would slow the Japanese war machine by starving ships of fuel.

6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces
The USS Wahoo was one of the most successful and famous submarines in World War II, but it wouldn’t survive the war. (Photo: Public Domain)

There was no escort, but the Wahoo still had to watch for enemy deck guns and ramming maneuvers. The sub fired a four-torpedo spread at the two freighters, scoring three hits. The first target sank and the second was wounded. Wahoo then turned its attention to the tanker and the troop transport.

The troop transport attempted a ram, sailing straight at the Wahoo. Morton ordered a risky gambit, firing a torpedo at the transport after it drew close rather than taking evasive actions.

After the torpedo was launched, the transport took its own evasive action and abandoned its ramming maneuver. In doing so, the transport presented the sub with its broad sides, a prime target.

6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces
Imperial Japanese Navy tankers steam in a convoy in World War II. (Photo: Public Domain)

The Wahoo fired two more torpedoes and dove to avoid another attack. It was still diving when both torpedoes struck home. Eight minutes later, the Wahoo surfaced and saw that the transport was dead in the water. It fired a torpedo that failed to detonate and then a carefully aimed final shot that triggered a massive explosion and doomed the Japanese vessel.

As the tanker and the damaged freighter attempted to escape, Morton gave the controversial order to sink all manned boats launched from the dying transport. His rationale was that a manned, seaworthy vessel was a legal target and any survivors of the battle would go on to kill American soldiers and Marines during land battles.

A few hours later, the Wahoo was able to find and re-engage the two survivors of her earlier action. The tanker and the wounded freighter had steamed north but couldn’t move fast enough to escape the American sub.

The Wahoo waited for nightfall and then fired two torpedoes at the undamaged tanker. One hit, but the ship was still able to sail quickly. With only four torpedoes left and the Japanese ships taking evasive action, Wahoo waited and studied their movements.

6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces
A U.S. Navy Helldiver flies past a burning Japanese tanker in January 1945. The tankers allowed the Imperial Japanese Navy to refuel ships at far-flung bases and at sea. Sinking them crippled the navy. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

When certain they could predict the Japanese ships, the crew attacked again. The first pair of torpedoes were fired at the tanker just after it turned. One of them slammed into its middle, breaking the keel and quickly sending it to the depths.

The crippled freighter was firing what weapons it had at the sub and almost hit it with a shell, forcing it to dive. Then, a searchlight appeared from over the horizon, possibly signaling a Japanese warship that could save the freighter.

The Wahoo carefully lined up its final shot at 2,900 and fired both torpedoes at once with no spread, a sort of final Hail-Mary to try and sink the freighter before it could find safety with the warship.

The final pair of torpedoes both hit, their warheads tearing open the freighter and quickly sinking it before the Japanese ship, which turned out to be a destroyer, cleared the horizon.

6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces

The American crew escaped and continued their patrol, attempting to attack another convoy with just their deck guns on Jan. 27 and mapping a Japanese explosives facility on Jan. 28 before returning to Pearl Harbor with the triumphant broom flying high on Feb. 7.

Other ships have used brooms to symbolize great success, such as in 2003 when the USS Cheyenne flew one to celebrate that every Tomahawk it launched in Operation Iraqi Freedom landing on target with zero duds or failures.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is what the Army’s ‘Iron Men of Metz’ and Attila the Hun have in common

When the 95th Infantry Division joined the struggle in Northern France, they could not possibly have imagined the enormous task they would soon face. They landed in France in September and first entered combat towards the end of October. Their first actions were in support of the larger attack on the fortress city of Metz.


The last force to conquer the city was commanded by Attila the Hun in 415 AD, more than 1,500 years before WWII.

6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces
Game recognizes game.

While the city was always heavily defended, the French updated the fortifications prior to the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. These fortifications included some fifteen forts that ringed the city.

After France’s capitulation in the Franco-Prussian War, the region of Alsace-Lorraine, which included Metz, was annexed by Germany.

Prior to the First World War, Germany enhanced the fortifications around Metz by adding an additional 28 forts and strongpoints in a second ring outside the first. When the French retook possession of the city after the war, they incorporated the new German defenses into the Maginot Line. This included upgrading many positions with rotating steel turrets housing artillery.

American forces first encountered these defenses in September 1944 after Patton’s Third Army drive across France towards Germany came to a halt.

By October, when the 95th joined the fray, little progress had been made in cracking the cities defenses.

Beginning in early November, the division’s first order of business was to secure several bridgeheads in the area. This was done under the guns of the German forts and against stiff resistance on the ground. 1st Battalion 377th Infantry Regiment reported over 50% losses after successfully making a river crossing at Uckange.

At the same time the 2nd Battalion, 378th Infantry Regiment secured a bridge at Thionville.

With the Americans approaching the forts, the Germans launched numerous counterattacks to drive them from their bridgeheads. All along the line the Americans threw the Germans back with heavy casualties.

Now with their positions across the river were secured, it was time to go to work on the forts.

6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces
Troops of 5th Infantry Division conducting a house-to-house search in Metz on Nov. 19, 1944.

Under the command of Colonel Robert Bacon, the two battalions that made the river crossing joined the division reconnaissance troop and a tank company to form Task Force Bacon.

The task force tore down the east bank of the Moselle towards Metz, capturing five towns in the first day. The next day, an additional six towns were captured by the task force. A journalist traveling with the task force described the attitude of its commander:

“Col. Bacon was given a self-propelled 155, but he didn’t use it exactly as the books say it’s supposed to be used. His idea of correct range for the big gun was about 200 yards. Result was that a considerable number of buildings required remodeling later.”

That night the task force reached the outskirts of Metz.

While Task Force Bacon was giving the Germans hell, the rest of the division was driving down the west bank of the Moselle and reducing German forts. The division then executed an assault crossing of the river under heavy fire and also made their way into the outskirts of the city.

At this point, the outer ring of forts was broken and the men now faced the formidable inner ring.

6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces
The US Army’s remodeling of Metz.

On Nov. 18, ten days after joining the fight for Metz, a patrol from the 95th linked up with elements of the 5th Infantry Division attacking from the south. They now had Metz surrounded.

The two divisions then launched an all-out attack on the city. As the men of the 5th Infantry Division stormed the forts to the south, the 95th instead decided to use deception.

Col. Samuel Metcalfe of the 378th Infantry Regiment, tasked with leading the assault, wanted to do an end run around the line of forts to his front but he needed to keep the Germans distracted to do so. A small task force of infantry and support personnel was left in front of the forts and told to make as much noise as possible. The trick worked like a charm and within several hours the regiment rolled up six of the forts from the rear.

As the onslaught continued, American forces entered the fortress city of Metz. It was an achievement unmatched in over 1,000 years.

Still the fighting continued.

6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces
Men of the 378th Infantry, 95th Division enter Metz (Nov. 17, 1944).

During the heavy fighting to take the city, the 95th Infantry Division had its first Medal of Honor recipient. Over the course of several days Sgt. Andrew Miller repeatedly led his squad in reducing German pillboxes and machine gun positions. Often single-handedly and at close range, Miller stormed the positions and captured German prisoners. At one point – outnumbered four-to-one – he convinced his would-be killers to instead surrender to him.

In a week of fighting in and around Metz, Miller was responsible for the destruction of at least five enemy machine gun emplacements, killing three German soldiers, and capturing 32. Unfortunately, Miller was killed in action a week after the capture of Metz while once again leading his men from the front.

During the valiant fighting, the war correspondents covering the battle took to calling the 95th Infantry Division “the bravest of the brave.”

However, a more fitting name came when the division captured Lt. Gen. Heinrich Kittel, commander of the German garrison, who informed them of the name the Germans had bestowed upon them – “the Iron Men of Metz.”

The division chose to adopt that as their official nickname.

6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces

The city was finally declared secure on the afternoon of Nov. 22. The Iron Men and the rest of Third Army then drove on into Germany.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Coffee alternatives that were used during the Civil War

“Nobody can soldier without coffee.” This is a statement written in the New York Times outlining just how important Joe was during the Civil War. Aside from being a source of delicious comfort and a daily norm in today’s time – 50% of all Americans indulge in coffee – it was far more than that in times of the Civil War.

It was a truth that came to light in 1832, when President Andrew Jackson dictated coffee and sugar be available as daily rations to soldiers. (Taking the place of their daily whiskey ration permanently in 1837.) Coffee was easy to transport, it didn’t spoil, and it came with many benefits. Coffee kept soldiers warm, it recharged their batteries, and it was a source of happiness in otherwise terrible conditions. The use of coffee was so common it was made with whatever supplies were nearby. That includes puddle water filled with mud that horses wouldn’t even eat.

With so much coffee consumption, however, soldiers quickly ran out of the beans themselves. Food supplies were rationed to begin with, and their over-consumption lead to java being in high demand.

How Civil War soldiers made their own coffee

First, soldiers wrote that they tried rationing their coffee supplies by mixing it with other things. In Little Rock, AK in 1861, one soldier mentioned mixing his brew with cornmeal. The concoction took half the coffee and cost 12.5 cents for the pot.

However, before long, especially in the South, coffee was not in short supply, but nonexistent. President Abraham Lincoln put a blockade on the Southern seaports, and no new coffee was brought in.

Instead, soldiers began using different items to roast, grind, and mix as a hot beverage. Some of their coffee alternatives included:

·  Almond

·  Acorn

·  Asparagus

·  Malted barley

·  Beans

·  Beechnut

·  Beets

·  Carrot

·  Chicory root

·  Corn

·  Corn Meal

·  Cottonseed

·  Dandelion root

·  Fig

·  Boiled-down molasses

·  Okra seed

·  Pea

·  Peanuts

·  Persimmon seed

·  Potato peel

·  Sassafras pits

·  Sugar cane seeds

·  Sweet potato

·  Wheat berries

·  Wheat bran

Usually the concoction at hand was determined by what was available at the time. Confederate soldiers called their homemade brews, “Lincoln Coffee,” citing the president who cut off their supply to the real stuff.

6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces
Abraham Lincoln (Wikimedia Commons)

There’s even a report of using old cigars … yuck!

“—To Make Coffee.—Take tan bark, three parts; three old cigar stumps and a quart of water, mix well, and boil fifteen minutes in a dirty coffee pot, and the best judges cannot tell it from the finest Mocha.” 

Most other recipes involved chopping or breaking up the items, roasting them, then adding hot water and boiling to allow a through steeping.

But it wasn’t just soldiers who were making due with their own homemade java blends, it was Southern families. As they too could not receive new supplies, women and others at home soon ran out of coffee and sunk to the same experimental recipes. While many soldiers reported that their recipes were good, most women wrote letters and in their diaries that the beverages were less than desirable.

A visiting British officer, wrote in 1863, “The loss of coffee afflicts the Confederates even more than the loss of spirits. They exercise their ingenuity in devising substitutes, which are not generally very successful.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

How Navajo code talkers helped win the Battle of Iwo Jima

Thomas H. Begay didn’t want to be a radio operator. In fact, up until he graduated from bootcamp, he thought he was going to become an aerial gunner for the Marine Corps during World War II.

“They sent me to a confidential area,” he said. “I walked in and there’s a whole bunch of Navajo.”

His previous MOS didn’t matter. Begay would attend code talking school.

The Navajo language had become the basis of a new code, and they were going to train to become code talkers. It was hard to see it then, but Begay and his fellow Navajo would help turn the tides of war and save countless lives.


An unbreakable code

The Code Talkers used native languages to send military messages before World War II. Choctaw, for example, was successfully used during World War I. But the Marine Corps needed an “unbreakable” code for its island-hopping campaign in the Pacific. Navajo, which was unwritten and known by few outside the tribe, seemed to fit the Corps’ requirements.

Thomas H. Begay recalls Navajo Code Talker program; Battle of Iwo Jima

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Twenty-nine Navajos were recruited to develop the code in 1942. They took their language and developed a “Type One Code” that assigned a Navajo word to each English letter. They also created special words for planes, ships and weapons.

But just because a person understood Navajo didn’t mean they could understand the code. While a person fluent in the language would hear a message that translated into a list of words that seemingly had no connection to each other, a code talker would hear a very clear message.

Here is an example:

Navajo Code: DIBEH, AH-NAH, A-SHIN, BE, AH-DEEL-TAHI, D-AH, NA-AS-TSO-SI, THAN-ZIE, TLO-CHIN

Translation: SHEEP, EYES, NOSE, DEER, BLOW UP, TEA, MOUSE, TURKEY, ONION

Deciphered Code: SEND DEMOLITION TEAM TO …

In addition to being unbreakable, the new code also reduced the amount of time it took to transmit and receive secret messages. Because all 17 pages of the Navajo code were memorized, there was no need to encrypt and decipher messages with the aid of coding machines. So, instead of taking several minutes to send and receive one message, Navajo code talkers could send several messages within seconds. This made the Navajo code talker an important part of any Marine unit.

Peter MacDonald Sr. recalls Navajo Code Talker program; Battle of Iwo Jima

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Begay did well in training and picked up the code quickly. A month after arriving at code talking school, he was given orders to his new unit and sent overseas.

“They told us we were going to Tokyo,” he said with a chuckle. “In February, we were told we’re supposed to land on Iwo Jima.”

On Feb. 19, 1945, at 0900 hours, Begay landed on the north side of the island with the 5th Marine Division. One code talker had already been killed during the first wave of attacks, and five more would be injured by the time the fighting stopped. In the face of machine gun fire and mortar rounds, Begay and his fellow Navajo Code Talkers continued to relay messages that were vital to the eventual victory on the island.

In all, nearly 800 coded messages were sent during the assault on Iwo Jima. There were zero mistakes.

“I was protected by the Marines,” Begay said. “They were protecting us; we were protecting them. I was lucky. But some didn’t get lucky – like those who got killed on the beach.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The first aerial bombing run was made by the Italian Army

In November 1911, Italy was engaged in a costly war against the Ottoman Empire in what is today Libya. It worked out for the Italians in the end, easily defeating the Ottoman Empire, who was by then a shadow of its former glory. The war brought a number of new technologies onto the battlefield, most notably the airplane. Italian pilots were the first to use heavier than air aircraft for both reconnaissance and to drop bombs on enemy positions. One pilot was also the first to fly a night sortie.


For the Turks, who had no anti-air defenses, they were the first to shoot down an aircraft with small arms fire.

6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces

The German-built Taube monoplane like the one flown by Lt. Gavotti over Libya.

On Nov. 1, 1911, Giulio Gavotti, an Italian war pilot, climbed into the cockpit of his Etrich Taube monoplane. His mission was to fly over the Ain Zara oasis, occupied by Turkish troops. Instead of just flying over the target, he decided he would throw bombs out of the plane and into the mass of maybe 2,000 enemy soldiers below. The lieutenant would later write to his father that he was really pleased to be the first person to try. His efforts earned him the nickname “the Flying Artilleryman.”

“I notice the dark shape of the oasis. With one hand, I hold the steering wheel, with the other I take out one of the bombs and put it on my lap…. I take the bomb with my right hand, pull off the security tag and throw the bomb out, avoiding the wing. I can see it falling through the sky for couple of seconds and then it disappears. And after a little while, I can see a small dark cloud in the middle of the encampment. I am lucky. I have struck the target.”

And that’s how one pilot ushered in the Air Power age.

6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces

Giulio Gavotti, the first bomber pilot.

The young lieutenant had strapped a number of grapefruit-sized grenade-like bombs into a leather pouch in the cockpit. As he flew over the target, he would toss them over the side. The official history of the Italian Army in Libya says that Gavotti screwed in the detonators and flew at an altitude of just 600 feet as he made his bombing runs. He tossed three over the side at an oasis at Tagiura and then one over the Ain Zara Oasis. No one is really sure how many (if any) he actually killed on his run.

In response, the Ottoman Empire issued a formal complaint. Dropping bombs from aerial balloons was outlawed by the Hague Convention of 1899. The Italians countered that the airplanes weren’t balloons and any heavier-than-air craft was legally allowed to drop bombs as Gavotti had.

“I come back really pleased with the result,” Gavotti wrote. “I go straight to report to General Caneva. Everybody is satisfied.”

Articles

The ‘Big Red One’ led the fight from WWI to Iraq

The 1st Infantry Division is the oldest continuously active division in the U.S. Army and has served since 1917. During that time, it has often claimed the first honors of different American wars — everything from firing the first American shell against Germany of World War I to breaking through the berm into Iraq in 1991.


In the past 100 years, it has served in almost every American war. The Big Red One was kept in Europe to prevent a Soviet attack during the Korean War, but fought in both world wars, Vietnam, Desert Storm, the Balkans, and the Iraq and Afghan Wars.

6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces
Soldiers with the 1st Division, U.S. First Army, ride on a tank, during their advance on the town of Schopen, Belgium. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Bill Augustine)

The unit was created in May 1917 when Maj. Gen. John Pershing received orders to take four infantry regiments and an artillery regiment to France. Pershing assumed that this meant he was to take a division, and he organized the force as the First Expeditionary Division which was later changed to the First Division. The unit included an additional artillery regiment.

When it sailed to France, the First Division fulfilled America’s promise to help bring Imperial Germany to its knees. They trained quickly in trench warfare side-by-side with their French counterparts and then took over a sector of the frontlines.

6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces
Soldiers of the New York National Guard march through the streets of New York city in 1917. The First Expeditionary Division launched from New York and led the way for U.S. forces headed to France in World War I. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

While in France, the First Division fired the first American shell in the ground war against Germany on Oct. 23, 1917, and suffered the first American casualty of the ground war only two days later.

(The USS Cassin had fired the first shells of the war and suffered the first casualty on Oct. 15, 1917, in battle with the German U-61 submarine.)

The doughboys of the First Division led the first American offensive of the war at Cantigny and fought on through Soissons, the St. Mihiel Salient, and the Meuse-Argonne Forest. In the Argonne, the division fought through eight German divisions despite suffering more than 7,600 casualties.

As World War I drew to a close, the division was authorized its “Big Red One” shoulder patch that it still wears to this day.

6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces
Army 1st Infantry Division troops land on Omaha Beach on D-Day. (Photo: U.S. Navy Chief Photographer’s Mate Robert F. Sargent)

For World War II, the division was re-designated the 1st Infantry Division and sent to Africa as part of Operation Torch. America’s first major offensive in the war, Torch helped bring about the Allied victory in North Africa and cut off Axis oil supplies headed into Europe.

Big Red One soldiers pushed on, taking part in Operation Husky on Sicily and Operation Overlord, the D-Day landings at Normandy. That means that the 1st Infantry Division took part in two of the larger amphibious operations of the war, Husky and Torch, and the largest amphibious assault in history, Overlord.

6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces
Soldiers with the 1st Infantry Division move up in Germany during World War II. (Photo: U.S. Army Technician 3rd Class Jack Kitzerow)

In the Normandy landings, the Big Red One was assigned to take Omaha Beach where a combination of bad water and worse terrain made the initial invasion plan untenable. Instead of fighting through the five roads leaving the beach, the men were forced to scale 100-ft. tall cliffs and attack German defenses from the rear.

The division fought its way west with the rest of the invasion force, taking Normandy’s hedgerows after weeks of bitter fighting and then making it into Germany just in time for the massive counterattack at the Battle of the Bulge. They fought their way back into Germany after the Bulge and liberated two German concentration camps.

6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces
A U.S. Army soldier with the 1st Infantry Division prepares his anti-aircraft gun during World War II. The six swastikas indicate six enemy planes killed. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Bill Augustine)

While the division did not deploy to Korea, it was called on for a number of near misses during the cold War, with units sent to Florida to support the potential invasion of Cuba during the missile crisis and to Berlin to prevent a Soviet invasion of West Berlin.

In July 1965, Big Red One’s second brigade became the first element of any infantry division to arrive in Vietnam. It fought a number of engagements over the next few years, working in early 1966 to capture supplies before an anticipated enemy offensive and capturing a massive weapons stockpile that April, removing 350 firearms and over 300,000 rounds of ammunition from Vietnamese arsenals.

In 1968, the Division helped protect key U.S. positions during the Tet Offensive but tragically lost its commanding general, Maj. Gen. Keith L. Ware, when his aircraft was shot down in September.

During Desert Storm, the Big Red One was the spearhead into Iraq. On Feb. 24, 1991, it broke through Iraq’s defensive berm, attacked the Iraqi 26th Infantry Division, and took 2,500 prisoners before allowing other coalition units to pass it. It pressed on and took out a Republican Guard division and other units.

6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces
Army 1st Infantry Division soldiers watch for enemy activity in Afghanistan. (Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Andrew Guffey)

It engaged at least 11 enemy divisions and captured more than 11,400 prisoners of war — over twice as many as any other division — before the war ended on Feb. 28.

After serving with other units in the Balkans and Kosovo, the Big Red One was once again sent to full-spectrum combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan where its forces served in task forces across both countries. Their largest contributions came in Iraq were 1st Inf. Div. soldiers helped secure the Sunni Triangle.

Interested in 1st Infantry Division History? A military museum at Cantigny Park, a public space dedicated to education and recreation by a 1st Infantry Division veteran, is looking for a Historic Vehicle Programs Manager who will oversee the First Division Museum’s fleet of tanks, personnel carriers, and other vehicles from American military history.

Candidates should have a bachelor’s degree or higher in history or a related field and a good understanding of U.S. military history as well as experience in the maintenance and operation of historic military vehicles.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time high-value POWs were rescued from Nazis by the Nazis

Nazi SS forces tasked with guarding the Nazis’ most high-value prisoners finally moved them all to a single place as the war (and the Nazi party) was nearing its end. Among those were troops with famous names, like Churchill. There were former world leaders who happened to be of Jewish descent, like Hungary’s Miklos Kallay. Prince Philip Von Hesse was there, too. And there were members of high-ranking military families, like the Von Stauffenbergs (whose patriarch famously tried to kill Hitler in the Valkyrie plot).


The group ended up in Niederdorf, in Italy’s South Tyrol region. The infamous SS guards decided to move all their high-value eggs from the infamous Dachau camp into one basket in Italy. Aside from the aforementioned famous prisoners — who were each antithetical to Nazi values — there were British and American troops there, ones known for multiple, repeated escape attempts. There were also relatives of famous foreign dignitaries, like Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov’s nephew.

In all, there were 140 of the Nazis most high-profile undesirables, each too valuable to be allowed to be captured by oncoming enemy forces. It wasn’t just for their propaganda value, but also their intelligence value. The SS had orders to keep them from being captured by the enemy — by any means necessary. One former German officer, equivalent to a colonel, was also among the prisoner population at Niederdorf. He was incarcerated for allowing a retreat on the Eastern Front against the Red Army, and he knew what the SS might do if pushed.

It was that dedicated German officer who managed to get word out to an old friend that they and the rest of these prisoners were in more mortal danger with every passing day.

6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces
Conditions at Dachau were not suitable for this small group of hostages.
(U.S. Army)

 

The prisoners could not be taken to existing concentration camps. It turns out that camp commandants were not accepting new arrivals by this time, mid-April, 1945. The war would soon be over and each was busy covering his ass and the asses of those around him. So, SS-Obersturmführer Edgar Stiller took his lot to a hotel in Niederdorf. The only problem was the hotel was occupied by three German Wehrmacht Generals, so the townspeople of Neiderdorf put them up, feeding and sheltering them.

During their stay German Oberst (colonel) and prisoner Bogislaw von Bonin managed to reach one of the generals at the hotel via telephone. He warned General Hans Roettiger that the prisoners would be massacred by the SS if the Army did not intervene. The only problem was Roettiger was accompanied by SS General Karl Wolff.

6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces
Hauptmann (Captain) Wichard von Alvesleben after World War II.

 

Not to be outdone, Roettiger ordered Hauptmann (Captain) Wichard von Alvesleben and his men stationed to the west of Niederdorf to the scene. After learning that Stiller did intend to kill his VIP prisoners using a bomb aboard their transport bus, Alvesleben and the Wehrmacht moved on the town and liberated the Allied prisoners. But the trouble wasn’t over right away.

After herding the prisoners into the town hall and reinforcing it with 15 noncommissioned officer and a heavy machine gun, the Wehrmacht troops demanded the SS guard withdraw from the town and leave the prisoners. Alvesleben even called his cousin, also a Wehrmacht Hauptmann, who reinforced the regular army by surrounding the SS in the town square with another 150 men.

Outnumbered, the SS guard left.

6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces
Colonel Bogislaw von Bonin (center) with fellow hostage and British intelligence officer Sigismund Payne Best (dark suit right) shortly after liberation by the United States on 5 May 1945.

 

The prisoners and their Wehrmacht guard marched to the nearby Hotel Pragser Wildsee where they spent the next few days, guarding against German Army deserters and Italian Partisans. They were soon liberated by the arriving American Army, who repatriated the VIP hostages back to their host country and arrested the Wehrmacht.

The hostages, of course, spoke in the defense of the German Army regulars who came to their aid against the SS. The kind-hearted Hauptmann Wichard von Alvesleben would survive the war and live for another 30-plus years.

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