6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History

Just getting to the Gettysburg Museum of History means walking through the scene of significant events in America’s past. The house that is now the museum sits on Baltimore Street in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the road on which Abraham Lincoln arrived to deliver the Gettysburg Address. When a team from Coffee or Die Magazine knocked on the door recently, Erik Dorr emerged from his home and invited us in. Instead of furniture, exhibits featuring pieces of American history were everywhere we looked.

Dorr, the curator of the Gettysburg Museum of History, transformed the interior of his home in 2009 with war relics. His collection includes items from the Civil War, as one might expect in a town so closely associated with the conflict, but also his impressive World War II collection and even modern artifacts like Saddam Hussein’s dinnerware.

Dorr’s family once lived on a farm in Ziegler’s Grove, which is now part of the Gettysburg National Military Park managed by the National Park Service. Most of his Civil War collection is made up of items collected by family members through time.

“[My ancestors] found items on their farm such as bullets, artillery shells, belt buckles, and other accoutrements of war,” Dorr said. “And they would move those items off of their land more for farming reasons than for historical reasons. It’s not good to have lead, iron, and heavy metals in your soil if you’re a farmer. They had a box of Civil War relics in their barn that they found. And the local farmers sold those items to museums, but my family kept those items.”

Here are a few mind-blowing artifacts from Coffee or Die Magazine‘s inside look at Dorr’s collection.

Colt revolver from the Battle of Gettysburg

6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History
Why a soldier left behind this Colt revolver after the Battle of Gettysburg is lost to history. Photo courtesy of Erik Dorr/Gettysburg Museum of History.

When troops left after Gettysburg, a soldier left behind a Colt revolver on the kitchen table of the Pfeffer Farm in Freedom Township.

Hitler’s pistol

6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History
One of four or five documented pistols once owned by Adolf Hitler. Photo by Matt Fratus/Coffee or Die Magazine.

A gun that Dorr says is one of four or five documented pistols owned by Adolf Hitler, it was discovered by Russell Dysert, an American soldier from the US Army’s 3rd Infantry Division. Dysert was with the first American unit to reach Hitler’s Berghof residence in Obersalzberg in the Bavarian Alps near Berchtesgaden, Bavaria, Germany, in 1945.

“That home was bombed by the Allies right before the Americans got there, so the whole west wing of the Berghof was destroyed. It was on fire, and a lot of the items were destroyed, but there was a huge air raid shelter underneath,” Dorr said“Before that air raid, a lot of items were taken down there for safekeeping. That pistol was found down in the tunnel and it has Hitler’s initials and a Nazi party eagle on the back inlaid in gold.”

“Rupert” the British paradummy

6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History
“Rupert” the Paradummy was discovered unused, but many like him “jumped” over Normandy during D-Day. Photo by Matt Fratus/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Operation Titanic was an elaborate deception plan that occurred during the D-Day invasion. It was broken into four stages: noisemakers, chaff to fool radar, paradummies, and real SAS commandos. The paradummies, or dummy paratroopers, were dropped from four Royal Air Force squadrons flying over four separate drop zones over Normandy.

“They were diversionary devices and were dropped in Normandy to try to fool the Germans into thinking there was a parachute jump going on somewhere else,” Dorr said. “They’re one-third the size of a real man and a real parachute. From the ground looking up you can’t tell because it’s the same perspective, it looks like real guys coming out.”

A single lot of two dozen of them were found in England in the 1980s, Dorr said, making them extremely rare.

Atomic bomb clock

6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History
A clock frozen at just after 9:15 a.m. of Aug. 6, 1945, when the American B-29 bomber Enola Gay dropped the world’s first deployed atomic bomb over Hiroshima, Japan. Photo by Matt Fratus/Coffee or Die Magazine.

This clock was found following the destruction of the Japanese city of Hiroshima caused by one of the two atomic bombs dropped during World War II. The clock is symbolic because the hands were stopped at the exact moment the bomb exploded.

“The face is so melted that you can no longer see the hands, but they are in there,” Dorr said. “I also obtained the watch worn by one of the guys in the Enola Gay who dropped the atomic bomb. On the anniversary of the atomic bomb drop in Hiroshima, I put them side by side and call it ‘The Tale of Two Clocks.’ One’s a wristwatch that was worn in that plane when the bomb was dropped, and the other one was on the ground and took the burn of the atomic bomb blast.”

Keys to the “Eagle’s Nest”

6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History
These keys were a souvenir for a 101st Airborne soldier. Photos courtesy of Erik Dorr/Gettysburg Museum of History.

The Band of Brothers HBO series depicted “Easy Company” of the 101st Airborne Division looting Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest. Dick Frame was a soldier from the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR), 101st Airborne Division, when he was given the task of guarding a pair of metal doors. These doors were between the large tunnel cut into the middle of the mountain and the elevator that leads to the Eagle’s Nest.

“On the edge of that tunnel that goes in are two giant blast doors and they had big locks on them,” Dorr said. “Dick Frame was one of the guards and he decided to put the keys in his pocket. The keys are neat because they fold. They’re 8 or 9 inches long, and they have a hinge in the middle so you can put them in your pocket.”

Dick Frame came home with a symbolic war trophy, which was brought to 501st PIR reunions. The paratroopers in his platoon would tell the story of how they had taken the keys to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest. The historian of the 101st Airborne Museum provided these keys that are now on display at the Gettysburg Museum.

Ghosts of the Ardennes

6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History
Both American and German artifacts make up the Gettysburg Museum exhibit “The Ghosts of the Ardennes.” Photo by Matt Fratus/Coffee or Die Magazine.

The Ghosts of the Ardennes is a unique exhibit on display in the hallway of the Gettysburg Museum of History. During the Battle of the Bulge, the 101st Airborne Division fought in a region known as the Bois Jacques outside Bastogne near the village of Foy in Belgium. After World War II, the founders of the 101st Airborne Museum in Belgium used a metal detector to find many artifacts in the Bois Jacques region.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Dorr conducted tours to Europe and visited those relic hunters.

“I call it the ‘Ghosts of the Ardennes’ because it’s bits and pieces that were left behind there,” Dorr said. “If you’ve ever been to the Bois Jacques, it’s a spooky place. It’s real dark, the woods are thick, and you can still see the remains of the foxholes. […] You can really feel the spirit of what happened.”

Half of the exhibit is American artifacts, and the other half is German. There is an MG42 German machine gun, an American M1 Garand rifle, an American canteen with three bullets in it, a German mess kit with several bullet holes in it, and other remnants found on the battlefield.

Dorr sees a connection between the relics of Gettysburg and those found from WWII.

“We have so many similar items for the Battle of Gettysburg here,” Dorr said. “We have all the items my ancestors found on their farm, so I really appreciate stuff that came out of the ground, that came from historic, sacred spots on the battlefield. To me, those items really tell the story. They were there.”

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

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 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History
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 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History
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 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History
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 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History
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.”

6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History
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 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History
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

46 years later: Reviewing the timeline of the Watergate Scandal

This week in 1974, the country saw both the Watergate scandal come to an end and Richard Nixon’s presidency come to a close. The scandal that began on June 17, 1972, took two long years to unfold. In the end, the sitting President was impeached and subsequently resigned the office of the presidency, making him the first and only President ever to do so.

It’s been 46 years, but to this day, Watergate remains one of the most infamous political scandals in American history, complete with intrigue, cover-ups, money trails, secret informants and proverbial smoking guns.

For today’s history lesson, here’s a quick refresher and a timeline of events in the Watergate Scandal leading up to the resignation of former President Richard M. Nixon.


June 17, 1972

Five men — James McCord, Frank Sturgis, Bernard Barker and two accomplices — were arrested while trying to bug the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters at the Watergate hotel. Among their possessions were rolls of film, bugging devices and thousands of dollars in cash.

Bob Woodward, a young Washington Post reporter, was sent to the arraignment of the Watergate burglars, and another young reporter, Carl Bernstein, starts to do some digging of his own.

June 20, 1972

Bob Woodward had his first contact with “Deep Throat,” his source and informant for the story. Deep Throat’s identity remained hidden for 30 years. In 2005, (at the age of 91) Mark Felt, the Associate Director of the FBI (as the scandal played out), admitted that he was, in fact, Deep Throat.

June 22, 1972

At a press conference regarding the incident, President Nixon denied that the White House was involved in the incident, stating unequivocally, “The White House has no involvement in this particular incident.”

June 25, 1972

Alfred Baldwin, a former FBI agent involved with the scandal, agreed to cooperate with authorities in the investigation. Baldwin names E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy as two of Nixon’s campaign aides who were involved in the burglary.

Aug. 1, 1972

The Washington Post reported that a ,000 check (funds intended for Nixon’s 1972 re-election campaign) was deposited in the bank account Bernard Barker — of one of the Watergate burglars.

August 29, 1972

Nixon continues to deny any involvement in the Watergate Burglary, telling reporters, “I can say categorically that his investigation indicates that no one on the White House staff, no one in this administration, presently employed, was involved in this very bizarre incident.”

In the same news conference, Nixon insists that there is no need for a special Watergate prosecutor.

September 1972

Deep Throat told Bob Woodward that the money for the burglary was controlled by assistants to Former Attorney General John Mitchell, who incidentally was now serving as the chief of Nixon’s re-election campaign. In words that would become Rule #1 in any good investigation, Felt told Woodward to “follow the money.”

September 29, 1972

The Washington Post reports that John Mitchell did, in fact, have control over that secret fund, while he was serving as Attorney General. When they reached out to Mitchell for comment, instead of cooperating, an enraged Mitchell threatened the reporters and Katherine Graham (publisher of The Washington Post). Woodward and Bernstein did not back down; instead, they printed Mitchell’s threat in the Post.

Oct. 10, 1972

Woodward and Bernstein report that the FBI made the connection between Nixon’s aides and the Watergate break-in.

November 7, 1972

Richard Nixon is elected to a second term in office; winning by a landslide against George McGovern.

Jan. 8, 1973

The Watergate break-in trials begin. Seven men go on trial, five of whom plead guilty.

Jan. 30, 1973

G. Gordon Liddy and James McCord were convicted for their roles in the Watergate break-in.

March 23, 1973

James McCord wrote a letter to Judge Sirica, who presided over the Watergate trial. The letter points to a conspiracy and a cover-up in the White House. The letter is read in open court.

April 30, 1973 

President Richard Nixon accepted responsibility for the scandal but maintained that he had no prior knowledge of it.

May 17th, 1973

Senate Watergate Committee begins public hearings that were nationally televised. During these hearing, Senator Howard Baker, R-Tenn., (Vice-Chairman of the committee) famously asked, “What did the President know, and when did he know it?”

May 18, 1973

Archibald Cox was appointed as a special prosecutor to lead the investigation into both Nixon’s re-election campaign and Watergate.

July 23, 1973

President Nixon was known to have recorded his calls in the Oval Office. It was believed he was in possession of dozens of tapes that proved his involvement in the cover-up; those tapes became known as the “Nixon Tapes.” The Senate Watergate Committee issues subpoenas for The Nixon Tapes after the President refused to turn them over.

July 27 -30, 1974

The articles of impeachment were approved by The House Judiciary Committee and proceedings begin. The articles of impeachment included obstruction of justice (impeding the Watergate investigation), abuse of power and violating public trust, and contempt of Congress by failing to comply with congressional subpoenas.

August 5, 1974

Folding under intense pressure, President Nixon finally releases the transcript of his conversations with then chief-of-staff, H. R. Haldeman. These transcripts proved that the President ordered a cover-up of the burglary at the Watergate Hotel on June 23. 1972, six days after the burglary.

August 8, 1974

In a nationally televised speech, the 37th President of the United States formally resigned, making him the first and only President ever to do so.

August 9, 1974

Richard Nixon signed his letter of resignation, and Gerald Ford was sworn in as the 38th President of the United States.

Articles

Army Legend Hal Moore Dies at 94

Legendary retired Army Lt. Gen. Harold “Hal” Moore of “We Were Soldiers” fame died Feb. 10. The commander of 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment at the Battle of Ia Drang was days short of his 95th birthday.


6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History

According to a report by the Opelika-Auburn Tribune, Lt. Gen. Moore had suffered a stroke on the evening of Feb. 9 and was “hanging tough,” according to a family member.

6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History
Then-Lt. Col. Hal Moore and Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Basil Plumley in Vietnam. Plumley died in 2012.

Moore gained immortality from the book, “We Were Soldiers Once, and Young,” co-written with reporter Joe Galloway, about the battle of the Ia Drang Valley in Vietnam. The book was used as the basis for the 2002 film “We Were Soldiers,” in which Academy Award-winning actor Mel Gibson portrayed Moore.

Moore served 32 years in the Army after graduating from West Point, and his decorations included the Distinguished Service Cross and four Bronze Stars.

According to an official after-action report, the three-day battle left 79 Americans killed in action, and another 121 wounded. None were left behind or missing after the battle. American forces killed 634 enemy troops, and wounded at least 1,200.

6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History
Soldiers of the U.S. Amry 1/7th Cavalry disembark from a Bell UH-1D Huey at LZ X-Ray during the battle of Ia Drang. (US Army photo)

While preparing to film the epic movie — which made over $78 million at the United States box office, according to Box Office Mojo — Gibson would develop a deep friendship with Moore. This past summer, while headlines noted that Gibson and Vince Vaughn had eaten at Hamilton’s, an Auburn-area restaurant, what hadn’t been known then was that Moore’s family had recommended the eatery to the A-list superstars.

Below, here are some of the more iconic moments from “We Were Soldiers,” starring Mel Gibson as Hal Moore.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The paradummy that distracted the Germans on D-Day

The Chinese military strategist and philosopher Sun Tzu said, “All warfare is based on deception.” Like a trick play in football, it’s best to deceive your enemy in order to safeguard your true intentions. One of the greatest modern military examples of this principle is the allied landing at Normandy on D-Day during WWII.

Operation Overlord, the allied invasion of Nazi-occupied mainland Europe, involved the largest invasion force ever assembled. The prelude to the operation involved numerous deception campaigns including a fake army staged at Dover and the leaking of false plans to convince the Germans that the invasion would happen at Calais. However, once the invasion started at Normandy, there was one more trick that the allies had up their sleeves.

6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History
A paradummy featured in The Longest Day (20th Century Fox)

On the evening of June 5th into June 6th, 1944, thousands of allied paratroopers dropped over the skies of Normandy. They were tasked with eliminating German positions, seizing key roads and bridges, and generally causing mayhem and confusion behind German lines in support of the beach landings. However, they weren’t the only ones riding the silk elevator on D-Day. To further confuse the Germans, hundreds of dummy paratroopers were also dropped over Normandy and Calais.

Called “Ruperts” by the British and “Oscars” by the Americans, these paradummies were part of Operation Titanic. Helping to sell the illusion that the invasion at Normandy was a feint while the main invasion was at Calais, the paradummies were dropped east of the main landing zones. The dummies came in different variants and proved to be very effective at confusing the Germans during the first few hours of the invasion.

6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History
An unused burlap Rupert with very little detail (Air Force Museum of New Zealand)

Some Ruperts were only about the size of a child’s doll and worked best when viewed at a distance. Others were full-sized and equipped with uniforms, helmets, and boots. They were also made with varying degrees of detail from featureless forms to detailed faces and even painted eyes. To simulate a real invasion force, some of the dummies were equipped with speakers that played sounds of gunfire and mortars while others were rigged to explode upon landing. The Ruperts were made of burlap or rubber and were convincing enough to draw away part of the SS Panzer reinforcement sent to repel the British at Caen.

In the 1962 film The Longest Day, the paradummies are referred to by the Germans as “gummipuppen”. The film depicts the confusion and doubt sewn in the German command by the dummies since they couldn’t be sure if the reports of paratroopers were the real deal or simply a distraction of paradummies.

While the silk parachutes used by the allies were sought after by civilians due to the scarcity of the material from wartime rationing, the Ruperts were less so. Though burlap was a useful material, the risk of an unexploded charge going off late convinced most civilians to leave the paradummies alone. Because of this, few examples of the dummy troopers survive in museums today.

A doll-sized Oscar paradummy with a decent amount of detail (Greatest Events of WWII in Colour/Netflix)
A doll-sized Oscar with a decent amount of detail (Greatest Events of WWII in Colour/Netflix)
MIGHTY HISTORY

This long-forgotten unit was the direct predecessor to Delta Force

The US Army’s highly secretive counterterrorist unit, 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment Delta, is without a doubt among the best counterterrorism units in the world. But it wasn’t the first.


While Delta is extremely well known, if only by its name, it wasn’t actually the first American counterterrorist force in existence. That honor goes to a different unit — now long lost to history — known as “Blue Light.”

Colonel Charlie Beckwith, a former Green Beret and the brains behind 1st SFOD-D, discussed the parallel history of Blue Light in his co-written book, “Delta Force.” Beckwith, after serving an exchange tour with the British Special Air Service, returned to the US with an idea for a dedicated counterterrorist unit, similar to the SAS.

With terrorism on the rise throughout the 1970s, it became imperative for the US military to create a force that would deal with terror threats with precision and extreme effectiveness.

 

6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History

The firebrand colonel would go on to outline his concept to the Pentagon, particularly Army generals and fellow colonels with enough sway to allocate funding for such a unit. Beckwith encountered resistance — especially from “old guard” officers who disagreed with allowing Delta to exist on its own with its own funding.

Rather, they felt that Delta needed to remain within an already established pecking order in the asymmetric warfare community — the US Army’s Special Forces.

Despite its official title, Delta Force had absolutely nothing to do with Army Special Forces Operational Detachments, also known as “A-Teams.” The title was just another vaguely-misleading cover for the unit’s real purpose.

Delta, instead, would have a direct line through the Department of Defense to the president’s office, circumventing Special Forces altogether. Further incensing the brass was the fact that Delta would be given free rein to recruit whoever interested them, including experienced Green Berets from the groups.

6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History
Graduates of one of Delta Force’s Operator Training Courses in 1978. Blue Light would be disestablished that same year (Photo US Army)

Inner-Army politicking quickly led to Special Forces brass deciding it would create a counterterrorist unit of its own, ostensibly as an interim solution while Delta was getting up to speed, but with the inward hopes of it being a more permanent fixture.

The new unit — Blue Light — was staffed with commandos brought in directly from 5th Special Forces Group’s 2nd Battalion into a subordinate unit. There, they would be trained in an array of skills necessary for counterterrorist mission and be readied for real-world operations. Colonel Bob “Black Gloves” Mountel would be responsible for helming the new unit in its infancy.

Blue Light would only be equivalent to a company-sized element of troops, but would still draw its funding from Special Forces, and would push its members through further airborne and dive training, weapons courses and more.

It was assumed that because Green Berets were already highly-trained for asymmetric warfare, they would be ready to fight far quicker than Delta.

6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History
Members of 5th SFG with ARVN troops in Vietnam (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

In the meanwhile, Beckwith and his cadre got to work designing and training the founding members of Delta Force, still very aware of the potential for Blue Light to completely take over their mission and tank 1st SFOD-D before it could even get off the ground.

Blue Light was beefed up with the presence of veteran operatives with significant combat experience under their belts, including Joseph Cincotti, a Vietnam-era Green Beret who would later go on to head up the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, and who was responsible for creating the curriculum all Special Forces candidates undergo today.

In their book, “Special Forces: A Guided Tour of US Army Special Forces,” authors Tom Clancy and John Gresham claim that Blue Light was somewhat handicapped from the start. While Delta was designed to operate in every conceivable environment, using a multitude of mission-relevant skills, Blue Light was, in reality, only prepared for a few contingencies.

6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History
Members of 10th Special Forces Group training alongside Lithuanian counterparts (Photo US Army)

Little by little, Delta Force took shape at Fort Bragg, NC, and by the end of the 1970s, Delta was ready for action. Bragg was also the home of Blue Light, and the rivalry between the two counterterrorist units was palpable. Former operator Eric Haney discusses the animosity between Blue Light and the 1st SFOD-D in his book, “Inside Delta Force.”

When Delta was declared fully operational, Blue Light faded into the shadows, eventually being disbanded in 1978. Its former members were either transferred to other units within the Army’s various Special Forces groups, or decided to retire altogether.

Beckwith, not willing to let an opportunity pass, extended invites to Blue Light commandos to try out for Delta Force, and at least four of the former counterterrorist unit’s operatives successfully passed selection and the arduous Operator Training Course to become Delta Force operators.

Former Blue Light officers would later play a part in planning Operation Eagle Claw, the failed mission to rescue American hostages in Iran in 1980.

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4 outstanding things you didn’t know about Dan Daly

If you’ve joined the Marine Corps or if you’ve studied military history, then you’re likely very familiar with the legendary Dan Daly. For the uninitiated, he’s known for being one of the most decorated service members of all time. He coined an expression that will forever live on in books, movies, and among troops,

“Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?”

Sound familiar?

Although Marines of all ages are taught many incredible things about the career of this bold war hero, there are few things you probably didn’t know about Sgt. Maj. Daniel Joseph “Dan” Daly.


Daly wasn’t the bigger guy ever

The New York-native joined the Corps in January, 1899, expecting to see action during the Spanish-American War. Unfortunately for him, the war was over before he had finished his training.

Sgt. Maj. Daly stood 5 feet, 6 inches tall and reportedly weighed about 135 pounds. Regardless of his size, the prideful Marine was well-respected within the ranks and was seen as a tough, fearless man.

6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History
U.S. Marine Cpl. Gregg Alvarez takes a drink from devil dog fountain in Belleau, France. The Memorial Day ceremony is held in honor of the 97th anniversary of the Battle of Belleau Wood. More than 1,800 Marines from the 5th and 6th Regiments lost their lives in the 21-day battle that stopped the last German offensive in 1918.
(Photo by Marine Lance Cpl. Akeel Austin)
 

He earned two Medals of Honor — and almost got a third.

Sgt. Maj. Daly was one of only two Marines to be awarded two Medals of Honor during two separate conflicts. He earned the first one during the China Relief for killing numerous enemy combatants on his own. He received his second for heroic actions done during the invasion and occupation of Haiti. Alone, he crossed a river to retrieve a machine gun while under intense enemy fire.

He almost earned a third for his part in a counterattack against the enemy in the famous Battle of Belleau Wood. Instead, Daly was given the Distinguished Service Cross and, later, the Navy Cross.

Bummer.

Daly turned down an officer commission

For his outstanding leadership, the Marines offered Daly a commission. He turned it down by saying,

“Any officer can get by on his sergeants. To be a sergeant, you have to know your stuff. I’d rather be an outstanding sergeant than just another officer.”

That’s so badass!

6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History

The USS Dan Daly (DD-519)in honor of the Marine Corps legend.

Daly’s retirement

On February 6, 1929, Daly hung up his rifle for good and received a hero’s parade that marched from Bedford Ave. to the Williamsburg Plaza in Brooklyn in honor of his decorated military service. From then on, Daly led a quiet life as a guard at a Wall Street bank.

He never married. It just goes to show that if the Corps wanted you to find a spouse, they’d issue one.

 

MIGHTY HISTORY

When did having a prisoner’s last meal be anything they want start?

If you happen to ever find yourself slated to have society as a whole decide it would be best if they killed you, the silver lining is that in many parts of the world where this is still a thing, the last meal you ever eat is likely to be significantly better than the ones you’ve been consuming up to that point in prison. So how did this rather odd meal tradition come about and is it actually true death row inmates can get anything they want to eat?


To begin with, while it’s commonly stated that the whole idea of the last meal request came about due to Christ’s famed last supper, there doesn’t seem to be any direct evidence of this.

So how did the tradition actually start?

While history is absolutely littered with various cultures having feasts associated with death, such as the public feast for Roman gladiators the night before their potential date with death, called the coena libera, it wouldn’t be until slightly more modern times where we start seeing those being executed widely granted such a courtesy en masse. Once this did start to become a thing, in the early going, while wealthy individuals slated for execution, as ever, could generally request whatever they wanted any time, and were even often allowed servants to attend them as they awaited their execution, common things granted to the poor before their execution seem to have been at best a swig of some alcohol or the like.

Things began to pick up steam considerably on this front around the 16th century, however. Or, at least, things appear to have. It is entirely possible that such courtesies were widely granted before this to even the poor, with documented evidence of it simply not surviving. On that note, things like the printing press’ invention in the 15th century began making documented history of rather mundane events like the executions of random Joe Citizens more, well, documented. Thus, it may or may not be coincidence that accounts of such courtesies started to pop up more and more around the 16th century and progressing from there.

Whatever the case, by the 18th century, particularly in places like England, such practices were definitely around and relatively common. For example, in London it was common to allow the condemned to enjoy a meal with various guests, generally including the executioner, on the eve of the execution. Further, there is record of Newgate Prison death row inmates being allowed to stop at a pub on their march to their death at the Tyburn Fair gallows. At the pub, they would typically share drinks with their guards and executioner.

Over in Germany, perhaps the best documented case of the food practice around this time was that of Susanna Margarethe Brandt of Frankfurt. On January 14, 1772, Brandt, a poor servant girl, was executed for allegedly killing her newborn child. Eight months before this murder, she’d become pregnant by a journeyman goldsmith who she never saw again after they had sex. She subsequently successfully hid her pregnancy all the way to the eighth month when she gave birth secretly and alone in a laundry room on August 1, 1771. Unfortunately, when the baby came out, whether because newborn babies are insanely slippery or she just failed to realize it was about to drop, it fell from her and smacked its head against the stone floor. The child then, according to her, wheezed momentarily and then ceased to breathe. Brandt subsequently panicked, hid the baby in a stable and fled the scene. However, having no money or means to support herself, the next day she returned to Frankfurt where she was eventually arrested for murdering the child. Whether she did or not, and even if it would have survived anyway given it was premature, is a matter of debate even today, but she was nonetheless convicted of the murder and sentenced to death.

Shortly before her execution, however, she was the guest of honor at what has been dubbed the “Hangman’s Meal”- a rather large feast prepared for the condemned and various officials who had condemned her. If you’re curious, the meal in this case supposedly was “three pounds of fried sausages, ten pounds of beef, six pounds of baked carp, twelve pounds of larded roast veal, soup, cabbage, bread, a sweet, and eight and a half measures of 1748 wine.” Of course, the young Susanna reportedly ate none of it, merely drinking a little water as the officials feasted around her. Not long after, her head was lopped off.

Moving over to the United States where the idea of the “last meal” is perhaps best known today, it would appear this tradition did not initially jump across the pond when Europeans began setting in the Americas. Or, at least, surviving accounts of executions don’t seem to mention such courtesies, with some exceptions usually having to do with drink or something to smoke. For example, in 1835, the New York Sun reported shortly before his execution, murderer Manuel Fernandez requested and was granted a bit of brandy and some cigars, courtesy of the warden at Bellevue prison.

As the 19th century progressed, this sort of thing became more and more reported, as did eventually the practice of granting last meal requests, which by the early 20th century became quite common.

This all leads us to why. Well, as far as more historic cases, such as the early known instances in Europe, it’s generally hypothesized that people did it as a way for officials and executioners to more or less say to the prisoners “We’re going to kill you, but it’s nothing personal.” In essence, offering a bit of kindness to the condemned before their death with the prisoners themselves seemingly appreciating the courtesy, at least when it came to the alcohol.

On that note, it’s widely reported from this that the practice was instituted as a way to ensure the ghosts of the executed would feel friendly towards their condemners and executioners and thus not come back and haunt them, but we couldn’t find any primary documentation backing such a notion.

Whether that’s true or not, moving on to more modern times, the underlying reason why prison officials started doing this is not any better documented and there doesn’t ever seem to have been any laws requiring it, for instance. It’s just something people did on their own and the idea spread, presumably thanks to the media’s then love of reporting everything about the last hours of those being executed, and the general public eating it up across the nation.

Whatever the case, law professor Sarah Gerwig-Moore, co-author of Cold (Comfort?) Food: The Significance of Last Meal Rituals in the United States, posits of all this,

Last meals may be an offering by the guards and prison administrators as a way of seeking forgiveness for the impending execution, signaling that ‘it’s nothing personal.’… There are standard operating procedures that put up a wall between guards and prisoners, but nevertheless, there is a fondness between them… The last meal as a tradition is really a way of showing humanity between the caregivers of people on death row who are completely powerless and who come to care about these people — they feel complicit, and conflicted. The last meal is a way to offer, in a very, very small way, a show of kindness and generosity.

On this point, she also notes from her research, “The most generous meals correlate to the states that execute the most people — except for Texas…”

Texas, of course, having executed about 1,300 people in the last two centuries and trending the opposite of everyone else- actually increasing the number of executions in recent decades. For reference here, they’ve conducted 562 executions (almost half their couple century total) since 1982- apparently doing their best to adhere to the supposed 13th century Papal decree at the Massacre at Béziers, “Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius.” This translates to, “Kill them. For the Lord knows those that are His own.” Or to put it in the form that is apparently Texas’ state motto- “Kill ’em all and let God sort ’em out.” (Joking asside, Texas’ state motto is actually the single word- “friendship”, owing to the fact that the name of the state derives from the Caddo word for “friends” or “allies”.)

On the note of Texas, last meals, and being friendly, in 2011 Senator John Whitmire very publicly pushed for an ultimately got the special meal requests for those about to be executed abolished, at least officially. He noted of this, “It is extremely inappropriate to give a person sentenced to death such a privilege… enough is enough… If you’re fixing to execute someone under the laws of the state because of the hideous crime that someone has committed, I’m not looking to comfort him… He didn’t give his victim any comfort or a choice of last meal.”

That said, proponents on the other side of that argument generally state that part of the point of offering such courtesies is to demonstrate that while the state is killing someone on behalf and with the express consent of the public as a whole, if it’s not done in a humane way, the public and the state are no better than the person being killed. As Professor Kathy Zambrana of the University of Florida sums up, “It comes down to how do you treat one human being when you’re about to take someone’s life.”

History professor Daniel LaChance of Emory University further chimes in, “These last meals — and last words — show the state is democratic and respects individuality even as it’s holding people accountable. As horrible as the deed they’ve been convicted of [is], the person still has some kind of dignity that we’re acknowledging.”

As to what drew the ire of Senator Whitmire to come against the then almost century old Texas tradition of the last meal, it was the meal request of death row inmate Lawrence Russel Brewer, who was sentenced to death for taking part in the rather horrific and senseless racially motivated murder of James Byrd Jr in 1998. So what did Brewer ask for? A couple chicken fried steaks, a triple decker bacon cheeseburger, a beef and cheese omelet, fried okra, a full pound of BBQ, a half loaf of bread, three fajitas, and a meat lover’s pizza. For dessert, he requested a container of Blue Bell ice cream and peanut-butter fudge. To wash it all down, he asked for three root beers.

When the time came, however, he ultimately ate nothing.

This all brings us to whether inmates can actually request and receive basically anything they want. While the media widely reports this is the case, including with this specific example of Brewer, this isn’t correct at all. In fact, in the vast majority of cases where inmates request something elaborate like this, what they actually get is just a simple, one-person version of it.

As famed “death row chef” Brian Price, who prepared well over 100 such meals, states, “The local newspaper would always say they got 24 tacos and 12 enchiladas, but they would actually get four tacos and two enchiladas… They only get items in the commissary kitchen. If they order lobster, they get a piece of frozen pollack. They quit serving steaks in 1994. If they order 100 tacos, they get two or three.”

That said other states and prisons sometimes do it differently. For example, in nearby Oklahoma, they allow the meal to be purchased from a local restaurant if desired, though capping it at … Other states that allow similar, such as Florida, are more generous, allowing for a budget of .

Of course, as you might have guessed from all we’ve said so far, those actually involved in making or acquiring the last meal may or may not pitch in if they so choose to go beyond. For example, in Cottonport, Louisiana, when one unnamed death row inmate requested lobster, the warden at the Angola prison, Burl Cain, went ahead and paid for a full lobster dinner, with Cain then dining with the inmate. You see, much like many historical instances of this sort of thing, before Cain’s recent retirement, he would always extend an invitation to the condemned to have their last meal with him and sometimes other select guests.

Of course, as with Susanna Brandt and Lawrence Brewer, it’s quite common for death row inmates to forgo eating their “last meal”, as the whole impending death thing generally leaves many without an appetite. To try to get around the problem, the so-called last meal is sometimes not actually the last meal at all, with it generally designated the “special meal” by prison officials. Even when it is literally the person’s last meal, it is usually scheduled far enough ahead that they might still be able to eat, but not so far away that they’ll have to go an extended time without eating before their execution. For example, in Virginia the rule is the meal must be served at least four hours before the execution. In Indiana, they go even further with the special meal often coming a few days before the big show, in a time when the person can actually enjoy it on some level.

For those who don’t have an appetite, they often share. For example, in places like Florida, in certain cases family or friends may be allowed to enjoy the meal with the condemned. Some inmates instead donate it to others. For example, in 1951, Raymond Fernandez, one of the “Lonely Hearts Killers” along with his lady love Martha Jule Beck, made a request that his meal be given to another inmate to enjoy.

On a similar note, in the early decades of this tradition in Texas, it was relatively common for the condemned to order and be given large portions of food for their special meal precisely so they could have enough to share with every other inmate on death row in the prison. This extra food request was usually honored by prison officials because it was seen not just as a mercy, but something that helped keep all those on death row in line directly before executions.

That said, not all inmates have trouble eating. Perhaps the most famous case of this was murderer Rickey Ray Rector. After committing two rather senseless murders, he attempted to kill himself by shooting himself in the head. However, he ended up living through the ordeal owing to shooting himself in the temple- a common way to kill one’s self in the movies, but in reality very survivable if medical aid is nearby, with the person effectively having just given themselves a lobotomy.

Despite his rather deficient mental faculties as a result of the whole bullet through the brain thing, Rector was controversially sentenced to death. The issue became even more of a media sensation after the fact when it was learned that while he happily ate his last meal, he chose not to eat the pecan pie that he got with it. Why? He told the guards he was “saving it for later.”

Once again showing the humanity of the guards involved, they went ahead and saved the piece of pie just in case there was a last minute stay of execution.

This all brings us to what prisoners actually usually request for their last meal. While exact fare is rather diverse (for example in one case a person simply requested a “jar of pickles” according to the aforementioned Brian Price), if categorizing this into groups, it often comes down to either things you’d find at McDonald’s or KFC (or literally McDonald’s or KFC meals in many cases), something fancy, or a favorite home cooked meal from the person’s childhood or the like.

As for the first two categories there, it’s noted that the vast majority of death row inmates come from rather impoverished backgrounds, and thus often go with favorite food items they are accustomed to and haven’t gotten while in prison- things like fried chicken, cheeseburgers, french fries, and soda, or the like. That said, some go the other way, picking foods they couldn’t really afford when in the land of the free, or may have never even tried at all, like lobster or filet mignon. As for favorite home cooked meals, the aforementioned Brian Price states when he prepared these meals, he always did his best to make it just as the inmate described, or even potentially getting a specific recipe from the condemned’s loved ones.

Regardless of what camp one goes with, some choose their last meal not on what they necessarily intend to eat, but rather to make a statement.

As for such statements, going back in time a bit in 1963, murderer Victor Feguer requested nothing more than a single solitary unpitted olive for his last meal. He then requested the seed be buried with him in the hopes that it would grow an olive tree as a symbol of peace and rebirth.

On a similar note, one Jonathan Wayne Nobles, who apparently had been on drugs since he was 8 years old living in foster homes, as an adult murdered two women while high on a cocktail of substances. In prison, however, he got off the drugs and became a devout Catholic and, not just model inmate, but model person. As one example, at one point he attempted to save the life of a random woman he heard about who was dying from kidney failure. However, while he did successfully find a doctor willing to perform the procedure to take one of his kidneys out and give it to the woman, it ultimately turned out the pair were did not have matching blood types and the woman died. Doubling down, Nobles later attempted to have all his organs donated after his execution, but this request was denied as Texas did not allow death row inmates to donate their organs. Going back to his last meal request, he simply asked for the Eucharist (communion).

To end on a lighter note- well… relatively speaking…- in the 1940s Wilson De la Roi, who murdered a man while in prison, was slated to be killed via a somewhat newly minted poison gas chamber in San Quentin. When asked what he wanted for his last meal, he merely requested a bunch of indigestion tablets. When asked why, he stated that he felt sure he was soon to have rather severe case of gas…

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

See the uniforms and kit that armies took to war in 1914

When World War I broke out in 1914, European armies rushed to war with the armies they had, not the armies they wanted to have. Some soldiers, lucky enough to serve in forces that had recently seen combat, were well equipped for an industrial war with camouflaged uniforms and modern weaponry.

Others shipped out wearing parade gear.


Historian Dan Snow made a video with the BBC that shows the common kit of British, French, and German forces at the start of the war. These are the items most of the forces wore during the chaotic first days of the war, from the Battle of Liege to the Taxis of the Marne to the first diggings of the trenches that would characterize World War I.

Germany, which had fought six wars of varying sizes from 1899 to 1914, was well served with modern weapons and uniforms, though Snow points out that their pointed helmets provided easy targets for enemy marksmen. Britain, similarly, had fought in the Boxer Rebellion and the Venezuelan Crisis, and their troops were wearing brown uniforms and modern kit.

The British even carried multiple bandages into battle, allowing them to quickly provide first aid for themselves and others on the battlefield.

6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History

Historian Dan Snow models a German army uniform from World War I in a BBC segment.

(YouTube/BBC)

France, though, had been involved in only the Boxer Rebellion in the years leading up to the war, and their troops started the conflict in bright red pants and deep blue jackets, colors which likely added to the stunning number of French dead in the Battle of the Frontiers. France’s bloodiest day came during that battle as 27,000 soldiers died on August 22.

They were still wearing those uniforms when Germany nearly captured Paris and the French command was forced to commandeer taxis to ferry troops to the fighting during the Battle of the Marne. The French troops likely looked dashing riding the taxis to the fighting, but they still would’ve been better served with colors that provided camouflage.

6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History

Historian Dan Snow models a French army uniform from early World War I in a BBC segment.

(YouTube/BBC)

As the war progressed, the uniforms changed. France was the first to add helmets, and they adopted a uniform cloth that would incorporate red, white, and blue threads. A lack of red dye — it was manufactured in Germany — made the resulting fabric light blue instead of purplish-brown.

Britain followed suit on helmets, using them to replace the cloth caps used at the start of the war. Germany began the wear with leather helmets, but the leather was typically imported from South America, and the British blockade forced the military to turn to other materials. In 1916, steel was adopted, a better material for stopping the shrapnel from exploding artillery and mortar shells.

6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History

A model stands in a replica World War I U.S. Army “Doughboy” uniform.

(YouTube/LionHeart FilmWorks)

When the U.S. joined the war, it changed the color and simplified the cuts of its uniforms, allowing them to be produced more quickly and without the olive-drab dye which had been purchased from Germany until 1917. It also adopted British steel helmets as producing them in America ran into manufacturing slowdowns.

World War I was also when the U.S. adopted division shoulder-sleeve insignias, the unit patches nearly all soldiers wear today. Only three divisions — the 81st, 5th, and 26th divisions — made wide use of them during the war. Most other units only adopted them for general use after the armistice.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The legendary engines that won World War II

Jay Leno has a truly historic engine that he wants to show you: A Merlin 1650-1 engine used in fighters like the P-51 Mustang and Lancaster Bombers used across Europe to drive Germany back toward Berlin.

The engine got its start before the war. It underwent initial testing in 1933 and first took to the skies in 1935. Early models generated about 800 horsepower but increasing requirements in the pre-war years caused Rolls Royce to keep redesigning it, giving it more power and reliability.


6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History

The De Havailland Mosquito was powered by two Merlin engines.

(Photo by Wallycacsabre, CC BY 2.0)

Aircraft manufacturers in England kept reaching for the Merlin for their new designs. In 1939, the first production Spitfire rolled off the line packing a Merlin Mk. II engine capable of 1,030 horsepower.

This engine would go on to be used in everything from the Lancaster bomber, which sported four of these beasts, to the De Havilland Mosquito and the P-51 Mustang.

The engine was constantly upgraded with new superchargers and designs, increasing horsepower to 1,150 then 1,480 then 1,515. More importantly, the engines got upgrades in reliability and airflow, helping pilots win fights in altitudes low and high.

6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History

The Lancaster bomber boasted four of the massive Merlin engines.

(Royal Air Force photo by Fleet Lt. Miller, IWM)

The low-altitude upgrades would prove essential during the Battle of Britain where English and German planes clashed in fights as low as 6,000 feet.

As it was, the Merlins suffered one big problem that came up during the Battle of Britain and other struggles: it used a carburetor while contemporary German engines were fuel-injected. This meant that the Merlin had a tendency to cut out during dives while the fighters they were opposing did not.

Still, the engine was a literal lifesaver for RAF pilots, and both the Brits and Americans wanted to buy more of them.

6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History

A P-51 flies over Virginia. The P-51 was first built with an Allison engine but quickly transitioned to the Merlin with great results.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Ben Bloker)

Britain inked a deal with Ford motor company to start mass producing the engine on the American side of the Atlantic, but Ford later backed out of the deal. The offer was made to Packard, then a luxury car brand in the U.S., who turned out their first Merlin engines in August 1941.

It’s one of these early Packards that Leno is showing off in his garage. They were delivered across the Atlantic both in boxes and already installed in planes like the P-51.

The P-51 was originally ordered by the Royal Air Force in 1940 and sported an Allison engine that produced 1,200 hp, but proved unreliable above 15,000 feet. Since it was supposed to escort bombers, that was a huge issue. The switch to the Merlins greatly increased their power and altitude ceilings.

And, in a lucky coincidence, the Merlin changed the center of gravity of the plane, shifting it slightly back. The engineers added a fuel tank to the front to level it out, also increasing the plane’s range.

World War II buffs love the engine for its effect on the war, but gearheads like Leno can find a lot to love in the engine’s massive power output and throaty sound. As Leno points out in the video below, he actually bought two cars built around the Merlin engine — and both are massive hotrods.

www.youtube.com

Articles

How the WW2 bomber Memphis Belle got its wings back

For the first time in 14 years, one of the most iconic planes in American history has earned its wings.


Restorers have reattached the wings to the B-17F Memphis Belle, under restoration at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. Wednesday, the museum provided a behind-the-scenes look as aircraft workers reattached more pieces to the bomber’s wings in preparation for a public unveiling next year.

6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History
(Photo: NASA)

“It’s amazing,” said Casey Simmons, a restorer who has labored on the project since 2008 . “I don’t know if there’s words that really say it because you’re little and you build this kit as a little model (airplane) and now you’re actually doing the real thing.

“My favorite part about working on it is just the fact that I get to work on it,” added Casey, 36, of Dayton. “It’s the Memphis Belle. It’s one of the most famous planes. Everything about it, it doesn’t seem like a job. It’s what I’d be doing in my free time if I got to do whatever I wanted to do.”

Related: This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again

The Army Air Forces plane is set to make its debut among fabled aircraft inside the World War II gallery at the museum on May 17, 2018, the date that marks the 75th anniversary of the 25th and final wartime mission of the storied bomber that battled Nazi Germany.

The final crew and the bomber gained fame on a nationwide wartime bond tour, which stopped in Dayton, and for a 1944 movie “Memphis Belle” that documented its combat exploits over Europe.

“The big significance of the Belle is it’s an icon and it represents those heavy bomber crews that helped win the war against Germany,” said Jeff Duford, a museum curator.

The Memphis Belle will sit as the centerpiece of a large-scale exhibit on strategic bombing. Archival footage of the historic plane’s missions retrieved from the National Archives, crew artifacts flown in combat and interactive screens will tell the tale of thousands of bombers and their crews in the bloody aerial battles that killed more airman than any war American airmen have fought in.

Crews have roughly 13,000 hours of work left, said Greg Hassler, restoration supervisor. The museum was not able to provide a cost estimate or how many hours workers and volunteers labored so far to bring the Belle back to its former end of combat luster.

Also read: This is why the F-4 Phantom II had so many fans

Restorers have labored to meticulously off and on to scrape paint, bend metal and fabricate parts since the Boeing built-bomber arrived in 2005 hauled in on a truck from near Memphis, Tenn.

“You get lots of parts and boxes and things that aren’t marked and it’s trying to figure out where things go (you) look at the drawings and it’s like a puzzle,” Simmons said.

The plane will be repainted to reflect how it looked at the end of its combat bombing runs and before flying across the nation on the war bond tour, Duford said. The paint on the plane today is not the original markings, he said.

“The skin all over the the fuselage is engraved with the names when it went on its war bond tour so you want to try and keep all that as much as you can because if you replace that, that’s history gone,” Simmons said.

The reborn Belle will have a woman in a red dress on one side of the plane and in a blue dress on the other side of the nose to reflect the original look. A row of swastikas added for the war bond tour will be removed because they weren’t on the bomber immediately after it finished its days in combat, Duford said

The wings were last attached in 2003, officials said.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The 17 most bizarre jobs of American presidents

Picture the résumé of an average US president.


It likely starts off with a degree from a top school, and includes a stint working in law or Congress. It might even feature some military service.

But the presidents on this list have a few unconventional gigs to add to their experience. At some point in their lives, these 17 presidents tended bars, crafted toys, and even personally hung criminals. Whether or not these odd jobs helped prepare them to take on the White House remains to be seen.

Here are the 17 weirdest jobs of US presidents:

Andrew Jackson was a 13-year-old militia courier during the Revolutionary War.

6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History
Portrait of Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States by Ralph Eleaser Whiteside Earl.

The turbulent, controversial seventh president of the US was actually the last head of state to serve in the Revolutionary War, in some capacity. Andrew Jackson joined the fighting at the age of thirteen and served as a courier, according to a report from CNN.

His position with the local militia was informal, but that didn’t stop the British from imprisoning the teenager, along with his brother Robert. Some accounts say that when Jackson refused to clean an officer’s boots, the enemy soldier slashed his face with a sword, leaving a permanent scar.

Abraham Lincoln owned a bar

6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History
Lincoln in his late 30s as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Photo taken by one of Lincoln’s law students around 1846.

Did you know that Lincoln was the only licensed bartender to rise to the position of chief executive?

According to Amy Cavanaugh’s article in the Chicagoist, the future president launched a business in New Salem, Illinois. The joint, known as Berry and Lincoln and co-owned by an old militia friend named William F. Berry, functioned as both a store and a drinking establishment. In 1833, Berry and Lincoln received a liquor license and began selling brandy, wine, and whiskey. Later on, the future president would leave the business to become the postmaster of New Salem.

Unfortunately, Berry’s alcoholism caused the duo to fall into debt — which Lincoln wouldn’t fully pay off until he became a congressman.

Andrew Johnson worked for his mom as an apprentice tailor

6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History
Andrew Johnson in 1875. (age 66)

Johnson — who was vice president at the time of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, and became the country’s 17th president as a result — started off as an apprentice tailor for his mother while he was still a teen, according to CNN. Later, he moved up to a tailoring position in South Carolina and Tennessee.

James Garfield tended to mules

6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History
Garfield as a brigadier general during the Civil War. (Brady-Handy Photograph Collection.)

James Garfield’s tenure as the 20th president of the US was cut short by an assassin’s bullet in 1881. His presidency was so brief that most historians exclude him from presidential rankings.

However, there was a time when Garfield’s career was on the rise. According to the “Erie Canal” by Ralph Andrist, the “Ohio farm boy” got his start working for his cousin who owned a canal boat. Garfield made $8 a month driving the boat’s mules.

Also read: This is how US Presidents almost got to choose their own entrance music

Benjamin Harrison yelled for a living

6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History
1896 Pach Brothers studio photograph of United States President Benjamin Harrison.

In 1888, Benjamin Harrison was elected as the 23rd president of the US — following in the footsteps of his grandfather, William Harrison.

Years earlier, when he had yet to establish a law career, Harrison began a rather archaic side hustle — working as a court crier for $2.50 a day, according to his official presidential website.

Grover Cleveland executed people

6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History
Official Gubernatorial portrait of New York Governor (and U.S. President) Grover Cleveland.

Today, Cleveland is perhaps best known for serving as both the 22th and 24th president of the US.

Few people know about the somewhat morbid turn his career path took early on in his professional experience.

While serving as sheriff of New York’s Erie County from 1871 to 1874, Cleveland personally hanged two criminals instead of delegating the gruesome task.

According to a 1912 article in the New York Times, Cleveland argued that he had “insisted that he had no moral right to impose upon a subordinate the obnoxious and degrading tasks that attached to his office.”

However, this incident came back to haunt him. According to the White House Historical Association, Cleveland was lambasted as “the hangman of Buffalo” during the 1884 presidential election.

Warren G. Harding was a teenage newspaperman

6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History
Warren G. Harding. (Harris Ewing)

Before ascending to a scandal-marred stint in the White House, Harding enjoyed a sterling reputation as the editor of The Marion Star.

Harding bought the struggling paper when he was only 18-years-old and immediately began poaching journalists at the 1884 Republican National Convention.

He always had a soft spot for the paper. After he became president, he even planned to stay on as an associate editor, according to the Marion Star. Harding died before that could happen.

Calvin Coolidge was a toy maker

6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History
Calvin Coolidge, photo portrait head and shoulders, seated. (Copyright by Notman Photo Co., Boston, Mass.)

As the 30th president of the US, Calvin Coolidge became known as a man of few words and an advocate of laissez faire policies.

Coolidge had followed a fairly conventional path to the White House, becoming a lawyer and governor. Before that, however, he took on a rather unusual weekend job in high school.

According to the Southwest Times Record, Coolidge crafted doll carriages at the Ludlow Toy Manufacturing Company.

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

Herbert Hoover worked in the geology and mining field

6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History
Hoover’s official White House portrait painted by Elmer Wesley Greene.

Hoover — the 31st president of the US — worked as a geologist and mining engineer to pay for his living while he explored the Western Australian gold fields in the late 1890s, according to CNN.

At the tender age of 23, he was promoted to mine manager and worked in various gold fields until taking a well-earned less physical job as an independent mining consultant.

Harry Truman opened a haberdashery

6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History
President Harry Truman. Image from United States Library of Congress.

As Careercast notes, long before he lead the country as the 33rd president during WWII, Truman ran a haberdashery in Kansas City. Truman co-owned the short-lived store with a military buddy he met during WWI. The haberdashery shut down during a recession in the 1920s, forcing Truman to seek a new career in politics.

Lyndon B. Johnson worked as a shoe shiner and a goat herder

6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History
Lyndon Baines Johnson in navy uniform.

When Johnson was just 9, he shined shoes during summer vacation for extra pocket change and later used these skills to buff shoes in high school, as well, according to The Week. Later, the 36th president of the US worked as a goat herder on his uncle’s farm.

Richard Nixon worked as a chicken plucker and ran a game booth

6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History
Lt. Cmdr. Richard M. Nixon. (Richard Nixon Foundation)

While visiting family in Prescott, Arizona, in 1928 and 1929, Nixon — the 37th president of the US — plucked and dressed chickens for a local butcher, according to The Week. Later, he worked a “Wheel of Fortune” gaming booth at the Slippery Gulch carnival and said it was his favorite job.

Gerald Ford was a park ranger

6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History
Lt. Cmdr. Gerald R. Ford. (Gerald Ford Presidential Library and Museum.)

The 38th president of the US said working as a park ranger at Yellowstone National Park was “one of the greatest summer of my life,” according to the Yellowstone Park Foundation.

The feeling is mutual: his supervisor at the park, Canyon District Ranger Frank Anderson, said Ford was “a darned good ranger.”

His most dangerous duty was working as an armed guard on the truck that fed the bears in the park. This high-risk job later became fodder for impressive stories to share with his kids.

Related: From cheeseburger pizza to custard pie: the favorite foods of US presidents

Jimmy Carter grew peanuts

6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History

Before he entered the realm of politics, Carter operated a peanut farm in Georgia. According to Careercast, this rustic gig ” helped Carter appeal to voters throughout his time in politics.”

Ronald Reagan was a circus worker, a superstar lifeguard, and an actor

6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History
Official Portrait of President Ronald Reagan.

At age 14, Reagan briefly worked for the Ringling Brothers circus as an unskilled laborer for $0.25 an hour, according to The Week.

A year later, he took a summer job as a lifeguard at Rock River outside of Dixon, Illinois, according to PBS. There he worked 12 hour-days, seven days a week, for seven summers.

The “lean, tall, and tan” teenager became somewhat of a hero here after pulling 77 people from the danger of the swift river over the course of those seven summers, according to Heritage.

Later, Reagan went into show business. He starred in a few productions and even earned the lifelong nickname “Gipper” from his memorable turn in “Knute Rockne, All-American,” according to Careercast.

In 1981, he became the 40th president of the US at age 69.

Bill Clinton was a grocer and a comic book salesman

6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History

At age 13, Clinton started working as a grocer in Arkansas, according to Convenience Store News. Ever the businessman, he persuaded his boss to let him sell comic books at the store, too, and was able to rake in an extra $100 for his tenacity.

In 1993, Clinton became the 42nd US president.

George W. Bush was a landman in the oil industry and the part-owner of the Texas Rangers

6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History

After graduating with his MBA from Harvard, George W. Bush, the 43rd president of the US, took a job as a landman for an oil company, in which he scouted potential sites to drill for oil, according to the Miller Center

It wasn’t glamourous, according to The Week: “It was hard, hot work,” he said. “I unloaded enough of those heavy mud sacks to know that was not what I wanted to do with my life.”

Later on, Bush became part-owner of the MLB’s Texas Rangers, according to Careercast.

The nation’s 43rd President was born into a political family, with father George H.W. Bush serving as the 41st President, Vice-President to Ronald Reagan, and Director of the CIA under Gerald Ford.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What exactly is Iran’s shadowy Quds Force?

For many Americans, it can be tough to understand exactly how Iran’s military apparatus stacks up against our own. Both nations manage their defense efforts in fundamentally different ways due to necessity, cultural differences, and internal politics. The U.S. Military does not operate within America’s borders except under very specific circumstances, it receives its funding through Congress, and perhaps most importantly, there’s no question as to where its loyalties lie.


The Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran, however, function in a very different way, with its elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) overlapping many of the roles occupied by the nation’s formal Army and garnering the vast majority of the nation’s defense budget. The IRGC also operates a number of legitimate Iranian businesses, securing alternate funding sources while compounding power and influence over the nation’s economy and government. When Iranian citizens take to the streets to protest, it’s the IRGC that suppresses their efforts with brutal precision.

In April of this year, the United States chose to designate the IRGC as a terror group, but deep within the organization’s structure, a small sect of the IRGC has already carried that distinction for over a decade: the IRGC’s secretive foreign intervention arm, the Quds Force.

6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History

Quds Force operations are divided into 8 directories, shown here in different colors.

(WikiMedia Commons)

The Quds Force are tasked with clandestine operations outside of Iran

Because Iran isn’t capable of fielding a large and modern military that can stand toe to toe with giants like the U.S., the IRGC’s Quds Force has adopted a unique approach to projecting the nation’s power beyond Iran’s borders. The Quds Force operates entirely within the shadows, supporting foreign terror groups and militias, conducting attacks and assassinations, gathering intelligence, and doing anything else Iran needs to keep hidden behind a veil of plausible deniability.

Some Quds Force operatives could be compared to CIA handlers tasked with developing local intelligence assets. Others are more like American Green Berets, tasked with training and equipping foreign military forces. These troops are also known to engage in unconventional warfare operations themselves, often in the form of terror attacks, assassinations, and kidnappings.

6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History

Quds Day celebration in Iran, 2017.

(Mohammad Ranjbar via WikiMedia Commons)

They get their name from the city of Jerusalem

Iran’s long-standing beef with Israel permeates throughout the nation’s military apparatus, but none so directly as the Quds Force, also commonly referred to in Iran as Al-Quds. In Arabic, Al-Quds actually means Jerusalem, or literally translated, “The Holy One.” They didn’t adopt this name as a respectful nod to the ancient city under Israeli control, but rather as a lasting reminder of their long-standing goal to recapture Jerusalem for the Arabic People.

Iran also celebrates Quds Day, though not as a direct affirmation of support for the military unit. Quds Day, which has now spread throughout like-minded groups of the Middle East and even as far off as London, is a day dedicated to parades, fiery speeches, and other demonstrations meant to denounce Israel and Zionism. This year, Iran’s Quds Day celebrations also included burning American flags and effigies of President Donald Trump.

6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History

Iran can’t go toe to toe with the U.S. and they know it, so they found a way around it.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Clayton Cupit)

They specialize in asymmetric warfare because they know the U.S. is stronger

Asymmetric warfare is, in a nutshell, a war between opponents with vastly different levels of resources or capabilities. Iran lacks the technological, diplomatic, and financial strengths the United States leans on to both deter and win armed conflicts, and as a result, they’ve opted not to fight on those terms.

In the modern era, this asymmetric approach has earned the Quds Force close friends in the form of terror organizations with similar extremist goals. Some, like Hezbollah, were even founded through Quds Force interventions. Even the Taliban, a group the Quds Force once fought side by side with American force against, has become an ally, bolstering Iran’s defenses along Afghanistan’s Western Border.

6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History

We’re pretty sure they make their ghillie suits out of confetti though.

(Javad Hadi via WikiMedia Commons)

No one is sure exactly how many troops are in the Quds Force

America’s Special Operations Command (USASOC) maintains a total force of about 33,000 troops, but it’s nearly impossible to tell how those numbers stack up against the Quds Force. Because of the secretive way in which subset of the IRGC operates, estimates have ranged from the low thousands to as many as 50,000 total troops, but to a certain extent, either number would be misleading.

Because a primary role of the Quds Force is to establish friendly militias and fighting forces inside the borders of other nations, the Quds Force total number doesn’t actually reflect the group’s force projection capabilities. With operations ranging from Syria to Venezuela, Iran’s influence over loosely affiliated fighting organizations the world over makes the danger presented by the Quds Force more difficult to quantify than conventional, or even many unconventional, military units.

6 wild artifacts at the Gettysburg Museum of History

Specialized IEDs purpose built to penetrate armor began appearing in Iraq as a result of Quds Forces.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

The Quds Force is already responsible for hundreds, if not thousands, of American deaths

Declassified defense documents have linked the Quds Force to a rash of IED attacks in Iraq that claimed the lives of hundreds of U.S. service members during combat operations in recent years. These attacks utilized an explosively formed projectile, or EFP, designed specifically to be effective against armored vehicles like American troops utilize in combat zones. Iran’s special operations troops have also been involved in a number of insurgent attacks against U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq since 2003.

The Quds Force was implicated in the bombings of the U.S. Embassy, annex, and Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983 and 1984, along with a long list of other terror attacks. It’s important to note, however, that the Quds Force tends to advise and support rather than directly participate in these operations, granting Iran the deniability they need to avoid open war with the United States.

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