6 naval officers who became President - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

6 naval officers who became President

1. Lt. John F. Kennedy (1961-1963)

When America joined World War II in December 1941, John F. Kennedy, Harvard graduate and second son of the former ambassador to Great Britain, was eager to join thousands of other young men and sign up. Rejected twice for health reasons, he finally received a commission as an ensign in 1941.


Kennedy obtained a seagoing command — a patrol torpedo (PT) boat — the following year. While in and around the Solomon Islands in the Pacific, he participated in patrols and operations to block Japanese supply barges.

6 naval officers who became President
Lt. j.g. John F. Kennedy. (John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum)

The night of Aug. 1, 1943, Kennedy’s PT 109 joined 14 other boats on a patrol to intercept Japanese warships. Then, disaster struck. Around 2:00 in the morning, in the pitch darkness, a Japanese destroyer cut PT 109 into two. Two Sailors perished and the others were wounded. Kennedy himself was thrown into the cockpit, landing on his bad back. In excruciating pain, he managed to help two survivors who had been thrown into the water. Then, the men swam for a small island three miles away, Kennedy towing an injured shipmate with a life jacket strap between his teeth. They spent 15 hours in the water.

After 4 days without food, fresh water, or any sign of life, the men swam to another, larger island. Kennedy carved a message into a coconut: “NAURO ISL…COMMANDER…NATIVE KNOWS POS’IT…HE CAN PILOT…11 ALIVE…NEED SMALL BOAT…KENNEDY.” He asked one of the locals to deliver it to the PT base on the island of Rendova. Rescue finally came, Aug. 8.

Also read: The 8 new ships the Navy commissioned this year

Later, in command of another PT boat, Kennedy led the rescue of 50 Marines under heavy fire. He was eventually promoted to lieutenant and received the Purple Heart and the Navy and Marine Corps Medal before leaving the Navy in 1945.

Kennedy’s older brother, Joseph, a Navy pilot, had been killed in action in 1944, but that didn’t seem to diminish Kennedy’s affection for the service. As president in 1963, he famously told cadets at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, “I can imagine a no more rewarding career. And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think I can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction: ‘I served in the United States Navy.'”

2. Cmdr. Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969)

Already a congressman from Texas, Johnson received an appointment as a lieutenant commander in the Naval Reserve in June 1940, and was activated shortly after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. According to a 1964 New York Times article, he “waited only long enough to vote for declarations of war against Japan on Dec. 8 and against Germany on Dec. 11, then obtained the consent of the House for a leave of absence and reported for active duty.”

President Franklin Roosevelt sent him to the South Pacific on a special mission: investigate confusion and inefficiency in Australian ports, where there were reports of malingering and even sabotage by dock workers. By June, Johnson was near Port Moresby in New Guinea. On the 9th, he received permission to serve as an observer on a B-26 bomber, set to take part in an aerial combat mission over enemy positions.

6 naval officers who became President
Lt. Cmdr. Lyndon B. Johnson. (Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library)

“The two sides,” the New York Times quipped, “were taking turns raiding each other’s bases. This morning was the Americans’ turn.” The Times went on to say that reports of what happened next vary, but according to official citations and some veterans’ recollections, when Allied planes neared the target, eight Japanese Zeros attacked. At least one American plane crashed in the ensuing dogfight.

Johnson’s plane developed some sort mechanical trouble, possibly hit by cannon and machine gun fire, and turned back alone.

More: These photos show what our veteran presidents looked like in uniform

A Times war correspondent who was later killed in action, Byron Darnton, sent back a report that said, Johnson “got a good first-hand idea of the troubles and problems confronting our airmen and declared himself impressed by the skill and courage of the bomber crews and fighter pilots.”

Johnson, who reportedly climbed up to look out of the navigator’s bubble during the attack, would receive an Army Silver Star from Gen. Douglas MacArthur for the incident. According to the citation, “he evidenced marked coolness in spite of the hazards involved. His gallant action enabled him to obtain and return with valuable information.”

Roosevelt ordered all members of Congress serving in the armed forces to return to their legislative duties later that summer. Johnson headed back to Washington, but remained in the Naval Reserve until he became commander in chief upon Kennedy’s assassination, Nov. 22, 1963. His resignation was accepted by the secretary of the Navy, effective Jan. 18, 1964.

3. Cmdr. Richard M. Nixon (1969-1974)

In June 1942, Nixon, then an attorney for the Office of Emergency Management, accepted an appointment as a lieutenant junior grade in the United States Naval Reserve.

He volunteered for sea duty the following spring, and was assigned as the officer in charge of the South Pacific Combat Air Transport Command at Guadalcanal and later Green Island. His unit prepared manifests and flight plans for C-47 operations and supervised the loading and unloading of cargo aircraft.

6 naval officers who became President
Lt. Cmdr. Richard M. Nixon. (Richard Nixon Foundation)

A Navy letter of commendation praised him for “sound judgment and initiative.” His efficiency “made possible the immediate supply by air of vital material and key personnel, and the prompt evacuation of battle casualties from these stations to rear areas.”

Promotions followed, and eventually service stateside at the Bureau of Aeronautics. He was released from active duty in March 1946, but remained in the Reserve until 1966.

4. Lt. Cmdr. Gerald Ford (1974-1977)

Ford had played college football in Michigan and coached at Yale before getting his law degree. After America entered World War II, the Navy put Ford’s background as a coach and trainer to good use, and commissioned him as an ensign and instructor for the Navy’s V-5 (aviation cadet) program in April 1942. Ford taught elementary seamanship, ordnance, gunnery, first aid and military drill, and coached the cadets in numerous sports.

He was next assigned to USS Monterey (CVL 26) as the assistant navigator, athletic officer and antiaircraft battery officer in 1943. Monterey helped secure Makin Island in the Gilberts that year. In 1944, Ford’s ship supported landings and carrier strikes throughout the Pacific, including Kwajalein, the Marianas, northern New Guinea, Wake Island and the Philippines.

6 naval officers who became President
Lt. Cmdr. Gerald R. Ford. (Gerald Ford Presidential Library and Museum.)

In December 1944, a fierce typhoon with winds topping 100 knots destroyed part of Third Fleet, resulting in the loss of three destroyers and more than 800 men, as well as significant damage to Monterey. During the storm, several aircraft tore loose from their cables and collided. This started a devastating fire. The storm almost claimed Ford himself. As he left his battle station, the ship rolled 25 degrees, he lost his footing and slid toward the edge of the deck. A two-inch steel ridge proved his salvation, however. “I was lucky,” he later said. “I could easily have gone overboard.”

The ship was declared unfit for service and limped into port for repairs. Ford returned to coaching Navy recruits. He was released from active duty in February 1946, and remained in the Naval Reserve until 1963. His service stayed with him even after he became president in 1974, however:

“Whoever watched the Pacific churned by winds of wars comes to this hallowed place with feelings overcoming words,” he said when visiting the USS Arizona Memorial. “Our shipmates who rest in honor here, our comrades in arms who sleep beneath the waves and on the islands that surround us need no eulogy beyond the eternal gratitude of the land that they loved.”

5. Lt. James “Jimmy” Carter Jr. (1977-1981)

Carter, the fifth consecutive Navy veteran to become president, grew up in rural Georgia. He received an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy in 1943, after two years of study at Georgia colleges. He graduated in June 1946 with a commission as an ensign, thanks to accelerated wartime training.

“From the time I was five years old, if you had asked me, ‘What are you going to do when you grow up?’ I would have said, ‘I want to go to the Naval Academy, get a college education, and serve in the U.S. Navy,'” Carter explained during an interview for his Nobel Prize for Peace in 1991.

“My family had all been farmers for 350 years in this country. Working people, and no member of my father’s family had ever finished high school, so this was an ambition that seemed like a dream then. It was during the Depression … and a college education was looked upon as financially impossible. The only two choices we had were to go to West Point or Annapolis, where the government paid for the education. I had a favorite uncle who was in the Navy, so I chose Annapolis.”

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Midshipman James Earle Carter. (Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum)

Carter spent two years on ships — USS Wyoming (E-AG 17) and USS Mississippi (E-AG 128) — before applying for submarine duty. He reported to USS Pomfret (SS 391) in Pearl Harbor in late 1948, just in time to participate in a simulated war patrol to the western Pacific and the Chinese coast in January 1949.

Carter was getting involved in the new, nuclear-powered submarine program when his father died in 1953. In fact, he was in charge of the crew that was helping build USS Seawolf (SSN 575) and the nuclear power plant that later became a prototype. After his father’s death, Carter resigned his commission as a lieutenant and returned to Georgia to manage the family peanut business.

6. Lt. j.g. George H. W. Bush (1989-1993)

Bush enlisted in the Navy on his 18th birthday in June 1942 and began preflight training at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. When he received his commission and his wings almost a year later, he became the youngest pilot in the Navy.

By 1944, he was flying bombing missions on Avenger aircraft with Torpedo Squadron VT-51 in the Pacific off the USS San Jacinto (CVA 30). On June 19, upon returning from one of the biggest air battles of the war, the Marianas, his aircraft made a tail-first water landing after an engine failed. The crew made it safely out of the plane before it exploded.

6 naval officers who became President
George H.W. Bush (U.S. Navy)

On Sept. 2, 1944, he had an even closer call. Bush’s plane was hit by antiaircraft fire while bombing the island of Chichi Jima, about 600 miles south of Japan. Bush continued his mission with a plane that was on fire and completed his strafing run — scoring several damaging hits — before bailing out over the sea. Although Bush was rescued by a Navy submarine, the USS Finback (SS 230), a few hours later, his two crew members, Lt. j.g. William White and Radioman Second Class John Delaney, died.

Related: These are the Presidential traditions around the Army-Navy game

“We knew it was going to be a fairly dangerous mission, but this is what our duty was,” Bush, who received the Distinguished Flying Cross, later told the U.S. Naval Institute. “I felt the whole plane jolt forward. It’s when I saw the flame along the wing that I thought, ‘I better get out of here.’ I told the crewmen to get out. I dove out onto the wing. I hit my head on the tail, a glancing blow like this, bleeding like a stuck pig. I dropped into the ocean and I swam over and got into this life raft. I was sick to my stomach. I was scared. If someone didn’t pick me up, I would have been captured and killed. … Suddenly, I saw this periscope and it was the USS Finback.

“People talk about you’re a hero, but there’s nothing heroic about getting shot down, and I wondered, why was I spared when the two friends who were in the plane with me were killed? I don’t know the answer.”

Bush, remained on the Finback for a month and then saw action in the Philippines. Ultimately, he earned three Air Medals for flying 58 missions during World War II. He was discharged after Japan surrendered, then enrolled in Yale University.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Marine division never set foot in the United States

When American military units are established or disestablished, it’s usually done on American soil. There are exceptions, but, for the most part, it is done in the United States. But one Marine division has the distinction of never setting foot in the United States for the duration its service.


During World War II, the Marine Corps underwent a massive expansion. The 1st Marine Division was established in February of 1941. Eventually, the Marines grew to six infantry divisions (today, there are four – three active and one reserve). Five were formed in the United States, but the 6th Marine Division was formed on the Pacific island where Marine legends, like John Basilone, made their mark on history – Guadalcanal – on September 7, 1944, a little over two years after the invasion of that island.

 

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Marines from the 6th Marine Division on a patrol during the Battle of Okinawa. (USMC photo)

The division trained until it was sent to help take the island of Okinawa from Japan. The Japanese troops on that island didn’t give up easily. The battle spanned almost three months, leaving 12,520 Americans dead, including Lieutenant General Simon Buckner. Over 110,000 Japanese troops and at least 40,000 civilians were killed during the fighting.

During the fight for Okinawa, five Marines and one sailor with the 6th Marine Division were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions. The entire division was recognized with the Presidential Unit Citation. After Okinawa, the division was pulled back to Guam in order to prepare for the invasion of Japan — on an American territory, but not in the United States. Soon thereafter, the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and forced Japan’s surrender. The division was instead sent to Tsingtao, China, where it was disestablished in 1946.

6 naval officers who became President
With the captured capital of Naha in the background, Marine Maj. Gen. Lemuel Shepherd, commanding general of the 6th Marine Division, relaxes on an Okinawan ridge long enough to consult a map of the terrain. (Marine Corps)

 

Today, the 6th Marine Division remains inactive. To learn more about what their courageous actions on Okinawa, watch the video below.

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America’s secret supersonic spy drones flew over China in the 1960s

While we tend to think of drones as a very modern addition to the battlefield, the truth is, America’s Defense Department has long been interested in the concept of unmanned aircraft. In fact, for a short window of time in the 1960s, America’s supersonic, high-flying drones were already attempting reconnaissance flights over China.

In May of 1960, the United States was at a crossroads. A CIA pilot named Francis Gary Powers flying America’s classified U-2 Spy Plane had been shot down over the Soviet Union at the start of the month. The ensuing international incident edged the world one step closer toward nuclear Armageddon, and President Dwight Eisenhower made the decision to cease all manned flights into Soviet Airspace as a result. With reconnaissance satellite technology under development but still years away from providing actionable intelligence, Lockheed’s famed Skunkworks set to work on another possibility: unmanned flights over the Soviet Union.


6 naval officers who became President
D-21 Drone with additional rocket booster for launch from a B-52H (WikiMedia Commons)

In October of 1962, legendary engineer Kelly Johnson, whose career included designing both the U-2 Spy Plane and the SR-71 Blackbird, set to work designing what would come to be called the D-21: a long-range, high altitude drone that leaned heavily on technology developed for the SR-71’s predecessor, the A-12.

The requirements Johnson was given by the CIA and U.S. Air Force were nothing short of extreme: the drone had to reach speeds of Mach 3.3–3.5, an operational altitude of 87,000–95,000 feet, and needed a fuel range of 3,000 nautical miles. Any modern-day engineer would tell you that such a project would still be daunting today, but Johnson had made a career out of accomplishing the seemingly impossible — often with little more than a hand ruler and scratch paper for calculations.

His D-21 design could meet all the requirements set out for him, but in order to achieve such high speeds at such high altitudes, he had to use a ramjet engine that couldn’t function until it was already flying high in the sky. As a result, plans were drawn up to deploy the drone from a variant of the A-12, dubbed the M-21 Blackbird.

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Just in case you didn’t think the SR-71 could ever look cooler. (WikiMedia Commons)

With a wingspan of just over 19 feet and a length of nearly 43 feet, the D-21 looked a lot like someone had just hacked the end off of one of the A-12’s wings, making the M-21 a matching aesthetic choice, if nothing else.

The D-21 carried a single high-resolution camera that would snap photos over a pre-programmed flight path. It would then eject the film canisters, which would drift down via parachute and float in water. The plan was to capture these canisters in the air, with Navy ships positioned to retrieve them from the water as a backup. The drone itself would then self-destruct to avoid being captured and reverse-engineered.

The first three test flights of the D-21 from the M-21 Blackbird went smoothly, but on the fourth attempt, the drone experienced an “asymmetric unstart” passing through the bow wake of its M-21 mothership. The two aircraft collided in mid-air at the blistering speed of Mach 3.25. Both pilots managed to eject, but one ultimately drowned before he could be rescued. The decision was made to scrap the M-21 mothership strategy and instead deploy the D-21 from beneath the wings of the B-52H bomber.

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Modified D-21 drones on a B-52H Bomber (WikiMedia Commons)

After a number of failures, Lockheed’s D-21 completed its first successful B-52H-launched flight in June of 1968 and soon, the program moved into operational reconnaissance flights over China.

In all, four D-21s were launched from B-52Hs and sent into Chinese airspace on reconnaissance missions. Two of the drones completed their flights, but either failed to eject their film, or the film was deemed irretrievable. The other two flights were either shot down or simply disappeared shortly after launch.

Despite their failures over China, the D-21 program was significantly ahead of its time. A Mach-3 capable drone with an operational ceiling of 90,000 feet was an unheard of proposition in its day and remains impressive even in this new era of unmanned aerial vehicles.

The program was ultimately canceled on July 15, 1971, with the B-52s converted for use in the program returned to operational service.

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The time Delta burned the barracks down

Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.

The Ft. Bragg Commanding General’s office agreed to allow us to use an unoccupied barracks for an assault scenario. Something Delta was in constant search of was new floor plans for Close Quarter Battle (CQB) training. The drive for constant realistic training revealed there was diminished value in repetitions in the same structure where everyone was familiar with the internal layout.


Our Operations Cell geniuses had a decent penchant for finding structures that were either brand new and uninhabited, or marked for destruction and again uninhabited. In the case of our barracks structure, it was marked for demolition… but the general would allow no undue damage to the structure, as it had to be in good condition for it to be… uh… torn down.

This all makes sterling sense if you happen to be a general grade officer.The rest of us just need to get in step and stay in our lanes!

Delta doesn’t shoot blanks; all combat training is done with live ammunition. We used special metal structures behind targets to catch the bullets. Faith abounded that there would be no”thrown rounds,” rounds that went wild and missed targets, rendering holes in walls and such.

The breach point — the planned entrance — had its door removed from its hinges and replaced with a throwaway door that we could fire an explosive charge on. Flash-bang grenades (bangers) do not spread shrapnel so they can be used in close proximity to the user, though they are still deadly, and are understood to cause fires in some cases.

6 naval officers who became President
Yes, explosive breaching is prone to start fires.

 

Outside the building several buckets of water were on standby in case of a small fire ignition. These were just routine precautions taken by our target preparation crews. Windows all had a letter “X” in duct tape from corners to corners to help contain the glass in the event that a banger shattered the window as they were so often known to do.

6 naval officers who became President
Anti-shatter treatment with duct tape.

 

Our A-2 troop was the first in on the target. They scrambled from their assault helicopters, blew open the breach point door, and scrambled in shooting and banging room-to-room as they moved. Shouts of: “CLEAR”,”ALL CLEAR”, “CLEAR HERE” echoed from the rooms, then:

“HEY… THERE’S A FIRE IN HERE… NORTH HALLWAY… IT’S SPREADING — GRAB A FIRE BUCKET!”

An assault team member close to the south exit dashed out after a fire bucket as other members stomped and slapped at the fire. He rushed back in with the fire bucket cocked back in his arms ready to douse:

“MOVE! I GOT IT, I GOT IT!”

He snapped his arms forward and let the contents fly as the men darted to the sides. The blaze exploded into an inferno that would have made Dante Alighieri exclaim: “Woah!” The order to “abandon ship” was called out by the troop commander as the men bailed out through every nearest exit. The entire wood structure was very soon totally consumed by fire and burned to a pile of ash that wasn’t itself even very impressive.

6 naval officers who became President
Use of explosives on an assault objective can lead to fires.

 

An investigation very quickly revealed that the engineers building out the target floor plan had used a bucket of gasoline to fill and refill the quick-saws they had been using to cut plywood used in the building. That same bucket unfortunately found its way painfully close to the fire buckets. The assaulter, at no fault of his own, grabbed the bucket and doused the otherwise manageable fire with petrol, causing it to run wild.

6 naval officers who became President

The gas-powered quick or concrete saw

“Sir… do you realize what this means??”

“Yes, Sergeant… the General is going to be a very very unhappy man.”

“No, no, no… screw the General… Hand is going to blister us with a derisive cartoon!!”

“My… my God, Sergeant… I hadn’t thought of that. You clean up here and I’ll go break the news to the men; they’ll need some time alone to process this.”

And the men were afraid of what awaited them when they returned to the squadron break room, but it was senseless to delay it any longer. In they strolled, the 20 of them… their assault clothes tattered and torn, their faces long and grim, their spirits craving the Lethean peace of the night.

There pinned to the wall was a completed product immortalizing the A-2 troop’s simple brew-ha-ha for all eternity. They stood and stared stupefied and still:

“There; it is done, men… and yet we’re all still alive. Nothing left to do but wait until the next jackass edges us off the front page. May God have mercy on us all!”

The event is depicted in the cartoon with the gross exaggeration of an entire Shell Corporation tanker truck on the scene rather than just a single bucket of benzine. Cartoons often wildly exaggerate to lend to the humor of the event. Nonetheless it was inevitable that some folks in the unit did query men of the A-2 troop: “Did you guys really spray gasoline on the fire with a Shell Tanker?”

Don’t hate me; I’m just the messenger.

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6 strange military disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle

The “Bermuda Triangle” is a geographical area between Miami, Florida, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and the tiny island nation of Bermuda. Nearly everyone who goes to the Bahamas can tell you that it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll die a horrible death.


Natural explanations usually range from compass problems, to changes in the Gulf Stream, or violent weather, the presence of methane hydrates, and to a large coincidence of human error. That doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a strange amount of disappearances that let the conspiracy theories gain some traction.

From 1946 to 1991, there have been over 100 disappearances. These are some of the military disappearances that have been lost in the Bermuda Triangle.

1. U.S.S. Cyclops – March 4th, 1918

6 naval officers who became President
(Photo via Wikimedia)

One of the U.S. Navy’s largest fuel ships at the time made an unscheduled stop in Barbados on its voyage to Baltimore. The ship was carrying 100 tons of manganese ore above what it could typically handle. All reports before leaving port said that it was not a concern.

The new path took the Cyclops straight through the Bermuda Triangle. No distress signal was sent. Nobody aboard answered radio calls.

This is one of the most deadly incidents in U.S. Navy history outside of combat, as all 306 sailors aboard were declared deceased by then-Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt.

2. and 3. USS Proteus and USS Nereus – November 23rd and December 10th 1941

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Right: U.S.S. Proteus. Left: U.S.S. Nereus (Photos via Wikimedia)

Two of the three Sister ships to the U.S.S. Cyclops, The Proteus and Nereus, both carried a cargo of bauxite and both left St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands along the same exact path. Bauxite was used to create the aluminum for Allied aircraft.

Original theories focused on a surprise attack by German U-Boats, but the Germans never took credit for the sinking, nor were they in the area.

According to research by Rear Adm. George van Deurs, the acidic coal cargo would seriously erode the longitudinal support beams, thereby making them more likely to break under stress. The fourth sister ship to all three of the Cyclops, Proteus, and Nereus was the USS Jupiter. It was recommissioned as the USS Langley and became the Navy’s first aircraft carrier.

3. Flight 19 – December 5th, 1945

6 naval officers who became President
(Photo via Wikimedia)

The most well known and documented disappearance was that of Flight 19. Five TBM Avenger Torpedo Bombers left Ft. Lauderdale on a routine training exercise. A distress call received from one of the pilots said: “We can’t find west. Everything is wrong. We can’t be sure of any direction. Everything looks strange, even the ocean.”

Later, pilot Charles Taylor sent another transmission: “We can’t make out anything. We think we may be 225 miles northwest of base. It looks like we are entering white water. We’re completely lost.”

After a PBM Mariner Flying Boat was lost on this rescue mission, the U.S. Navy’s official statement was “We are not even able to make a good guess as to what happened.”

4. MV Southern Districts – 5 December 1954

6 naval officers who became President
(Photo via navsource.org)

The former U.S. Navy Landing Ship was acquired by the Philadelphia and Norfolk Steamship Co. and converted into a cargo carrier. During its service, the LST took part in the invasion of Normandy.

Its final voyage was from Port Sulphur, Louisiana, to Bucksport, Maine, carrying a cargo of sulfur. It lost contact as it passed through the Bermuda Triangle. No one ever heard from the Southern Districts again until four years later, when a single life preserver washed on the Florida shores.

5. Flying Box Car out of Homestead AFB, FL – June 5th, 1965

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Same model as the aircraft lost over the Triangle (photo via Wikimedia)

The Fairchild C-119G and her original five crew left Homestead AFB at 7:49 PM with four more mechanics to aid another C-199G stranded on Grand Turk Island. The last radio transmission was received just off Crooked Island, 177 miles from it’s destination.

A month later on July 18, debris washed up on the beach of Gold Rock Cay just off the shore of Acklins Island (near where the crew gave its last transmission).

The most plausible theory of the mysterious disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle points to confirmation bias. If someone goes missing in the Bermuda Triangle, it’s immediately drawn into the same category as everything else lost in the area. The Coast Guard has stated that “there is no evidence that disappearances happen more frequently in the Bermuda Triangle than in any other part of the ocean.”

Of course, it’s more fun to speculate that one of the most traveled waterways near America may be haunted, may have alien abductions, or hold the Bimini’s secret Atlantean Empire.

The sea is a terrifying place. When sailors and airmen go missing, it’s a heartbreaking tragedy. Pointing to an easily debunkable theory cheapens the lose of good men and women.

 

YouTube, BuzzfeedBlue

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Navy actually had a training video on how to not kill your friends

One of the single worst things that plagues military forces is the phenomenon known as “friendly fire.” Some instances of friendly fire have been momentous, like the time Stonewall Jackson was shot by Confederate troops who mistook him for a Union general.


6 naval officers who became President

There have been tragic, modern instances as well – like the case of Army Cpl. Pat Tillman.

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Former Arizona Cardinals football player Pat Tillman. (Photo from U.S. Army)

This was also a problem in World War II — reference the disastrous friendly fire incident off Sicily in July, 1943. In trying to prevent these terrible instances, the Navy put forth a very unique training film, featuring the fictional “Ensign Dilbert.”

No, this isn’t the same Dilbert that’s made Scott Adams very rich, although, Adams admits that the suggestion of the name was, in fact, inspired by a Navy character. This Dilbert is, well… an idiot. A real big one. The type whose sole purpose in life is to be a warning to others.

6 naval officers who became President

The film was called, aptly, Don’t Kill Your Friends. In the film, the main character, training to be a fighter pilot in the Grumman F4F Wildcat, looks friendly and likable enough, but he repeatedly makes bone-headed mistakes that could get people killed. It even features one disastrous incident with a supposedly “safe” dummy cartridge, which can do some very serious harm when it falls from a fighter plane.

Check out the film below, complete with a supposedly likable “Dilbert” and the chain of disasters he causes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNOKAd560wc
(Jeff Quitney | YouTube)
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The Army once considered putting the A-10’s BRRRRT! on a tank

The A-10 Thunderbolt II, popularly known as the Warthog, was originally designed as a “tank-killer”. In fact, the entire aircraft was essentially built around a 30 mm rotary cannon, known as the GAU-8 Avenger, a fearsome name for a gun capable of spitting out depleted uranium shells the size of soda bottles designed to shred heavy Soviet tanks and armored personnel carriers into metal confetti.


While the Avenger’s primary use has been as the A-10’s main weapon, seeing combat action from the Persian Gulf War onward, the U.S. Army once considered making this cannon its own by mounting it on the very thing it was created to destroy: tanks.

 

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General Electric’s concept of the M247 Sergeant York, complete with a shortened version of the Avenger (General Electric)

 

In the late 1970s, the U.S. Army began looking to replace their aging force of self-propelled anti-aircraft guns with newer, more effective systems that could do a similar job with even more lethality and effectiveness than ever before. The result of this search for new air defense artillery would be fielded alongside the Army’s newest and fighting vehicles — namely the M1 Abrams main battle tank and the M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle, as part of the service’s vision for the future.

A competition under the Division Air Defense name was thus created.

The goal of the DIVAD program was to design, build and field a self-propelled air defense gun system, able to engage and shoot down low-flying enemy aircraft with controlled bursts of shells from a cannon mounted on a turret. The system would be manned by a small crew, aided by a radar tracking system that would pick up targets and “slave” the gun to them before firing.  In concept, the DIVAD vehicle could go anywhere, dig in and wait for enemy aircraft to appear, then shoot them down quickly.

One of the various participants in the competition, according to Jane’s Weapon Systems 1988-1989, was General Electric, fresh from designing the GAU-8 Avenger for what would be the Air Force’s next air support attack jet – the A-10 Warthog. General Electric had the bright idea to take a modified version of the Avenger and place it in a turret, configured to hold its weight while moving the cannon around quickly to track and hit new targets as they appeared.

 

6 naval officers who became President
The GAU-8/A Avenger Gatling gun next to a VW Type 1. Removing an installed GAU-8 from an A-10 requires first installing a jack under the aircraft’s tail to prevent it from tipping, as the cannon makes up most of the aircraft’s forward weight. (US Air Force photo)

 

The turret, in turn, would be mated to the chassis of an M48 Patton main battle tank as per program requirements, giving it mobility. Able to spit out shells at a rate of 3900 rounds per minute at an effective range of 4000 feet, the Avenger would’ve been a major threat to the safety of any aircraft in the vicinity, sighted through its radar.

However, General Electric’s entry, referred to as the Air Defense Turret, didn’t advance during the DIVAD program. Instead, Ford and General Dynamics were given prototype production contracts to build their designs for testing, with Ford ultimately winning the competition. Known as the M247 Sergeant York, Ford’s anti-aircraft gun system was much more conventional, significantly lighter and apparently somewhat cheaper to build than the Avenger cannon concept.

However, it under-performed severely, much to the embarrassment of its parent company and the Army.

The DIVAD program soon proved to be an abject failure, with nothing to show for pouring millions into the project and the Sergeant York prototypes. The M247 couldn’t adequately track target drones with its radars, even when the drones were made to hover nearly stationary.

In 1985, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger finally put the program out of its misery, noting that missiles were the future of air defense.

The Avenger cannon nevertheless does serve in a somewhat similar role today, functioning as the core of the Goalkeeper Close-In Weapon System, found on a number of modern warships around the world. Goalkeeper is designed to engage surface-skimming missiles aimed at naval vessels and obliterate them by putting up a “wall of steel” – essentially a massive scattered burst of shells which will hopefully strike and detonate the missile a safe distance away from the ship.

Still, one can’t help but wonder just how incredibly awesome mounting a 30mm Gatling cannon to a tank could have been, had the Army chosen to pursue General Electric’s idea instead of Ford’s.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What happens when rocket and missile launches go wrong

These days, when you see a rocket or missile launch, it almost seems routine. The engines fire and the rocket starts taking off, either sending an object directly to orbit or carrying enough firepower to blow something into orbit. What looks like standard procedure from the outside masks the fact that these rockets and missiles are very complex pieces of technology — and when this routine process goes wrong, it goes wrong very quickly and very violently.


Missiles are complex pieces of technology that are surprisingly delicate (a dropped tool once destroyed a Titan missile and its silo). With so many critical details involved, there are many opportunities for things to go wrong — and occasionally, they do. For example, in the 1980s, two RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles were accidentally launched, one by the United States Navy and one by the Royal Danish Navy. Thankfully, no injuries (outside of the respective captains’ pride) occurred in either incident.

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A 2016 Trident II test for the Royal Navy is the most recent launch to have gone bad — and this test led to some disagreements between the Americans (who claimed the missile had to be destroyed) and the UK (who called the test a success). Thirty years earlier, the United States Navy had egg on its face when the first at-sea Trident II launch went out of control. Thankfully, in both of these cases, nobody was injured.

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Mitrofan Nedelin’s tenure as the Soviet Army’s chief marshal of the artillery ended when the test of a SS-7 ended in a horrific explosion.

Other failed launches, however, have not had such fortunate endings. For instance, a test of a Soviet SS-7 Saddler intercontinental ballistic missile in 1960 killed the then-chief marshal of the artillery for the Soviet Army, Mitrofan Nedelin, and at least 100 other people. In 1996, a Chinese Long March rocket crashed down in a village, with some estimates claiming as many as 500 people were killed.

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Video stills showing a Chinese Long March rocket going out of control before it crashed into a nearby village.

(United States Congress)

Today, failures are fewer and further between. One big reason for this is that many missiles now use solid fuel as opposed to liquid fuel. Liquid fuel is far more volatile and leads to explosions more frequently.

The launches you see nowadays may look routine from the outside, but remember, that’s the result of thousands of tests.

Watch the 1965 Air Force video below to see some missile launches, both successes and failures.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SOl4Jzfm6YU

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MIGHTY HISTORY

The earliest-born American to be photographed is also a veteran

Conrad Heyer crossed the Delaware with George Washington. He was also the earliest-born person, one of only a handful of Revolutionary War veterans, to be photographed. But there is one important historical inaccuracy in the legend of Conrad Heyer that may not add up.


Heyer was born an American in the Massachusetts Bay Colony (now the State of Maine) around 1749. He sat for this photo in 1852, at age 103. In that time, he saw the young republic finish the British off during the American Revolution and fight them, again, to a draw in the War of 1812. He saw President Jefferson purchase Louisiana and watched President Polk and the U.S. Army defeat Santa Anna in the Mexican-American War of 1847.

In his 107 years of life, he saw 15 Presidents of the United States, 31 colonies and territories become U.S. states, and barely missed the start of the Civil War.

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TV wasn’t around back then. He had to watch something.

Although this is not the earliest photo of an American, Heyer was the earliest-born American to be photographed (and this is actually a daguerrotype — an early kind of photography).

In the telling of Conrad Heyer’s Revolutionary War tale, however, people have been adding one detail for decades that just might not be true: that Conrad Heyer crossed the Delaware with General Washington in 1776.

Washington’s daring plan to attack Hessian mercenaries in Trenton on Christmas, 1776, was audacious and dangerous. Any troop who fell into the icy river would likely die — and two of the three flat boats set to make the crossing didn’t even make it. Somehow, Heyer was counted among those in Washington’s boat, according to the Maine Historical Society.

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Look out for icebergs, Conrad.

The Journal of the American Revolution did some digging into Heyer’s story. They went back to the sworn testimony Heyer gave years after the Revolution when applying for a veteran’s pension.

In 1818, Congress allotted funds to give pensions to veterans of the Continental Army who were struggling financially. Applicants had to prove their service either by enlistment documents or sworn testimony of those they served with. Don N. Hagist went back to the National Archives for the Journal of the American Revolution and found Heyer’s original sworn testimony, along with the support of his officers.

Heyer did serve in the Continental Army, but his testimony states he served for a year, starting in the middle of December, 1775. But Heyer says he was discharged in December 1777. This could allow for Heyer to have served at the Battle of Trenton. The records of Heyer’s unit, the 25th Continental Regiment, indicate that the unit served in Canada and was disbanded in New Jersey in 1776.

It looks like the year 1777 was a mistake made by the person who wrote Heyer’s pension deposition, as mentions of Heyer and his unit disappear into history a year earlier.

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But not the hearts of Revolutionary War re-enactors.

If he was discharged in Fishkill, New York, as records show, then there is little chance he could have been at the Delaware River crossing in time to join Washington by Christmas, even if he did re-enlist.

But by the time he died, his obituary claimed he’d served three years in the Revolution. Heyer, in reaffirming his pension claim in 1855, swore that he served those three years and was also at the Battle of Saratoga, being present to see General John Burgoyne surrender to Horatio Gates and was later part of Washington’s “bodyguard.”

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His second exploit worthy of a painting.

This is where Heyer could be correct — there is no complete list of members of General Washington’s guard corps. The guard was hand-picked from members of Washington’s field army.

But never once did Heyer ever swear that he was with Washington at the Delaware Crossing.

See Conrad Heyer’s pension statements at the Journal of the American Revolution.

MIGHTY TRENDING

4 captains who went down with the ship

“The captain goes down with the ship” is a maritime tradition suggesting that a captain is honor-bound to stay on a sinking ship until all passengers and crew members have been safely evacuated.

In 2012, Captain Francesco Schettino of the Costa Concordia came under fire for allegedly leaving the ship while passengers were still on board when the vessel crashed off the coast of Italy. Thirty-two passengers died, and Schettino was sentenced to sixteen years in prison: ten years for manslaughter, five years for causing the shipwreck, and one year for abandoning his passengers.


The expectation that a ship’s captain would stay on board until everyone had been evacuated developed in the mid-19th Century, but it could be argued that the sentiment has gone too far. What about ship captains that go down with their ship even after they’ve ordered it abandoned?

Here are four notable cases of captains who went down with the ship:

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Rear Admiral Giovanni Viglione

On May 30, 1918, the U-boat UB-49, captained by Kapitänleutnant Hans von Mellenthin, torpedoed the Pietro Maroncelli, an Italian steamer ship off the coast of Sardinia in the Mediterranean Sea. Rear Admiral Giovanni Viglione, who was on board as the convoy commodore, ordered all the survivors into the lifeboats, then chose to stay aboard and go down with the ship.

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Capitano di Corvetta Lorenzo Bezzi

On June 27, 1940, an Allied destroyer group spotted the Italian submarine Console Generale Liuzzi while she was on patrol in the Mediterranean Sea. Her captain, Capitano di Corvetta Lorenzo Bezzi, determined that the submarine was unable to flee nor fight the destroyers, so he therefore, ordered his crew to abandon and scuttle the ship. Bezzi, however, decided to go down with the Console Generale Liuzzi, for which he would be posthumously awarded the Gold Medal.

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Captain Ryusaku Yanagimoto

On June 5, 1942, U.S. naval forces launched an attack against the Japanese Imperial Navy that would turn the tide of World War II in the Pacific. The Japanese carrier fleet was crippled with multiple losses, including the Akagi and Kaga, and later the Hiryu, but it was the loss of the Soryu — and her beloved captain that would strike at the hearts of the Japanese sailors.

After Captain Ryusaku Yanagimoto gave the order to abandon the burning ship, it was discovered that he had remained aboard. When Chief Petty Officer Abe was chosen to retrieve the captain, Abe found Yanagimoto standing on the Soryu’s bridge, sword in hand. Abe reported that the “strength of will and determination of his grim-faced commander stopped him short.” Abe left Captain Yanagimoto, who calmly sang Kimigayo, the Japanese national anthem.

He watched with the other survivors as the Soryu sank along with the bodies of 718, including her captain.

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Commander Howard W. Gilmore

On Feb. 7, 1943, a Japanese gunboat attacked the American submarine USS Growler, captained by Commander Howard W. Gilmore, who gave the order to clear the bridge. Two Americans were shot dead while Gilmore and two others were wounded — and time to save the crippled sub was running short. When the survivors entered the sub, Commander Gilmore gave his final order: “Take her down.”

His executive officer closed the hatch and submerged the USS Growler to safety. Commander Gilmore posthumously received the Medal of Honor:

“For distinguished gallantry and valor above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of the USS Growler during her Fourth War Patrol in the Southwest Pacific from 10 January to 7 February 1943. Boldly striking at the enemy in spite of continuous hostile air and anti-submarine patrols, Comdr. Gilmore sank one Japanese freighter and damaged another by torpedo fire, successfully evading severe depth charges following each attack. In the darkness of night on 7 February, an enemy gunboat closed range and prepared to ram the Growler. Comdr. Gilmore daringly maneuvered to avoid the crash and rammed the attacker instead, ripping into her port side at 11 knots and bursting wide her plates.

“In the terrific fire of the sinking gunboat’s heavy machine guns, Comdr. Gilmore calmly gave the order to clear the bridge, and refusing safety for himself, remained on deck while his men preceded him below. Struck down by the fusillade of bullets and having done his utmost against the enemy, in his final living moments, Comdr. Gilmore gave his last order to the officer of the deck, ‘Take her down.’ The Growler dived; seriously damaged but under control, she was brought safely to port by her well-trained crew inspired by the courageous fighting spirit of their dead captain.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

This famous inventor designed drones before World War I

Nikola Tesla, the famed pioneer of electrical technology who rivaled even Thomas Edison, designed and displayed a working drone in 1898 — nearly 16 years before World War I — that he saw as a weapon that would end all wars.


Tesla’s drone was a 4-foot-long, remotely controlled boat that could be maneuvered via radio waves. He first displayed the craft during an 1898 demonstration in Madison Square Garden in New York.

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Nikola Tesla’s remote control boat, patented in 1898. (Photo: Public Domain via the Nikola Tesla Museum, Belgrad)

At the show, crowds were shocked to see the boat respond to Tesla’s commands without any visible connection between the control box and the small craft. When Tesla patented the invention, he billed it as a tool of exploration, transportation, and war.

Tesla’s military plan was that the drone boat would give way to other drones, each more destructive than the last. Once nations could fight wars using robots without risking their troops, the potential for unlimited destruction was supposed to stay people’s hands and bring about a “permanent peace among nations.”

Unfortunately for Tesla, military interest in the weapon was muted, and his patent expired without any serious interest from the War or Navy Departments. Drones didn’t take off as a weapon until the end of the 1900s, and their ever-widening adoption has not ended warfare.

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The Kettering Bug followed a pre-programmed flight path to its target. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Museum)

The first drones didn’t even make use of remote control technology. America’s first drone-type weapon was the Kettering Bug aerial torpedo, a plane modified to follow a pre-set course and fly into its target with a large load of explosives in World War I.

Though the Kettering Bug was based on a remote-control target aircraft, the Hewitt-Sperry Automatic Airplane, the bug had no radio controls of its own.

The Army did attempt to use remote-control aircraft as bombs in World War II in Operation Aphrodite. Engineers modified B-24s with the addition of radio controls and thousands of pounds of explosive. These flying bombs, dubbed the B-8s, would be flown to altitude by two pilots who would bail out at 10,000 feet. From there, a bombardier in a “mother ship” B-24 would fly the plane remotely to its target.

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A BQ-8 takes off. (Photo: U.S. Army Air Force)

Aphrodite was a major failure with more damage done to England by malfunctioning B-8s than was done to Germany. Some B-8 pilots were killed by premature detonations including future-President John F. Kennedy’s older brother, Navy Lt. Joseph Kennedy.

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 nations that had no problems invading Russia in the winter

If there’s one generally accepted rule of warfare, it’s that you should never invade Russia during the winter. Hitler tried it and failed horribly, Napoleon tried before that and found equally terrible results, and the Swedes who fought in the Great Northern War would tell a similar story.


Supply lines running thin in the freezing cold and enveloping mud spells doom for anyone attacking into a Russian winter — or does it? For some reason, history tends to overlook the many times Russia has lost in the cold, despite their home-turf advantage.

1. The Japanese — Russo-Japanese War

Because the giant nation’s borders have changed throughout history, it’s hard to pinpoint what exactly constitutes the “Russia” part of a “Russian winter.” Most historians would define it as invading west of the Steppes, but technically, the Japanese attacked Russia by taking Russian-controlled Korea and Manchuria.

Japan invaded and conquered the Korean peninsula in February 1904. Ironically, Tsar Nicholas II couldn’t get the supplies needed from the Western half of Russia due to intense winter weather — the same conditions that, supposedly, make Russia impregnable. As a result, the Japanese were able to fortify and held the territory until the end of WWII.

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If you want to conquer Russia, use their winters against them.

2. The Finns — Continuation War

As hard fought as the Winter War between Finland and the USSR was, the Finns managed to hold onto their independence by ceding 11% of their bordering lands to the Soviet Union. Later, Finland sought to regain these lands by making an enemy-of-my-enemy pact with Nazi Germany in 1941.

Finnish forces pushed through to Leningrad so “successfully” that it made Hitler confident he could do the same. Except, in this case, “success” meant that cannibalism wasn’t too widespread.  Though trying, the Finns were able to hold onto territory until 1944, when Finland sided with their archenemy, Russia, to fight off Nazi Germany.

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3. The Swedes — Ingrian War

Swedish invasions combined with ongoing Polish aggression (detailed below) in the early 17th century kicked off what has since been known in Russian history as “the Time of Trouble.” Sweden sought to capture the Russian throne, and they started by launching an offensive on Novgorod, which resulted in the successful installation of a Swedish monarch.

To find eventual peace, treaties were formed and broken and reformed and rebroken and finally reformed in favor of Sweden. Either way, the Swedish Kingdom pushed the Russians back to Kola and, in the process, kicked off what the Swedes call their “Age of Greatness.” Eventually, the Russians and Swedes formed an uneasy alliance because both of them were more focused on another common enemy: Poland.

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4. The Poles — Livonian War

Not to be outdone by the Swedes, Poland also got involved with conflict in the Russians around the turn of the 17th century. Swedish and Polish armies invaded Russia from different fronts and would eventually fight each other. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth get most of the credit for invading Russia because they seized and held territory in the name of Roman Catholicism.

The Polish king, Stefan Bathory, lead a widely-successful, five-year campaign against Ivan IV (or, as history knows him, Ivan the Terrible). It would take years for Russian forces to reunify under the Romanov dynasty and defend the Kremlin.

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5. The Central Powers — WWI

During WWI, the Germans managed to push the Eastern front all the way to Petrograd (St. Petersburg) and caused enough instability to forever change Russian history. Germany pressured Russia into the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918, which made Russia give up control of Poland and the Baltic States after fighting through the long winter of 1917-1918, effectively putting an end to fighting on the Eastern Front.

This was also what would sway public support for the Communist Red Army. In a way, the Czardom of Russia was completely destroyed because they lost a war fought in a Russian winter.

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6. The Mongols — The Golden Horde conquests

And, of course, the grandsons of Ghengis Khan very successfully curb-stomped the Kievan Rus’ at the height of the Mongol Empire. They cleared out Ryazan and Suzdal in December 1237 and eventually pushed their way into Kiev by December 1240. They were without supply lines (they were nomads — they didn’t rely on them) and were very much on Russian soil as winter set in. Their primary means of battle, the cavalry, were very susceptible to the rigors of winter, but still dominated.

Nearly every harsh element of harsh winters should have crippled the Mongol forces. Instead, the Mongols only stopped because they had little interest in holding territory.

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They took over castles with arrows and spears. What’s your excuse? (Courtesy Painting)

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.

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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.

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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.

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