7 craziest commando missions of World War II - We Are The Mighty
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7 craziest commando missions of World War II

World War II was an exciting time for special operations and commandos. The advent of airborne operations gave them a whole new angle of approach, and the sheer scale of the war guaranteed that they’d have plenty of chances to use their skills.


But even accounting for those things, operators on both sides of the war distinguished themselves with daring missions.

Here are eight of the craziest:

1. A costly canoe raid against German ships

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
(Photo: Royal Marines Museum)

The “Cockleshell Heroes” were a group of British Royal Marines assigned the task of launching from a submarine and canoeing miles up the River Gironde to place limpet mines against the hull of German ships. The mission hit problems almost immediately as canoes were lost to tide and river obstacles.

Only two of the original five made it to the Bordeaux-Bassens docks. The four men who crewed the canoes placed mines on a few ships, which damaged some commercial vessels. While the material damage was limited, it boosted British morale and forced the Germans to devote more resources to defense in a way similar to the U.S. Army Air Force’s Doolittle Raid.

2. The failed attempt to kill Erwin Rommel

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
(Photo: German Federal Archives)

Operation Flipper had the lofty goal of crippling an Italian headquarters and intelligence office as well as killing Field Marshall Erwin Rommel. The mission was beset by bad weather and the assault force that hit the German officer’s headquarters was smaller than planned.

Still, the British commandos broke into the headquarters building only to learn that Rommel had been delayed in Rome by his own weather problems. Only two raiders survived, but even Rommel admitted that it was a “brilliant operation.” He had the senior officer, British Lt. Col. Geoffrey Keyes, killed and buried with full honors and photos sent to the family.

3. Norwegian resistance destroys Germany’s nuclear stockpile, twice

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
(Photo: Public Domain)

A first attempt on the Norsk Hydro Plant, where radioactive heavy water was processed and stored, failed but the survivors and their reinforcements hit the plant on Feb. 28, 1943, despite suffering from starvation and exhaustion. They were able to blow the storage facilities, setting German nuclear research back by at least months.

Months later, a new stockpile of German heavy water was being transported on a ferry when the Norwegian Resistance attacked once again, sinking the ferry and ending Germany’s last best chance at a nuclear reactor or bomb. One man, Knut Haukelid, participated in both raids.

4. German paratroopers take the world’s strongest fort

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
Fort Eben-Emael was arguably the world’s strongest fortress in May 1940, but it fell to 85 German paratroopers with the right plan. (Photo: Bundesarchiv)

In 1940, the Belgian Fort Eben-Emael was arguably the world’s strongest fort. Constructed from 1932-1935, it was heavily armed and guarded by upwards of 800 soldiers. But Germany had to destroy or negate it to get the blitzkrieg into Belgium.

They did it in a single morning with 85 paratroopers. The men landed on the fort in gliders and quickly took hold of large sections of it, destroying or capturing the guns aimed at the countryside. When the rest of the German army arrived, the remaining defenders surrendered.

5. Benito Mussolini is rescued from a mountaintop retreat by German paratroopers

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
(Photo: Bundesarchiv)

In July 1943, Italian defeats turned the country against Benito Mussolini and he was exiled to a series of locations. A German commander was able to track the dictator to Gran Sasso, a mountaintop ski resort accessible only by cable car or glider. At 6,300 feet, it was too high even for an airborne assault.

German Capt. Otto Skorzeny led the glider assault. The paratroopers brought along an Italian general in the hopes that he would prevent a shootout. It worked. The Italian guards decided not to fight when the gliders crashed into the mountains and the paratroopers stormed out. Skorzeny and Mussolini departed on a small, high-altitude plane.

6. British commandos steal a German radar station

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
(Photo: Royal Air Force Squadron Leader A.E. Hill)

The insane plan for Operation Biting called for five groups of British paras to land in German-occupied France, capture a German radar station, and then make off with key pieces of the technology. The men landed under cover of darkness and quickly captured the building. They even managed to grab two technicians with intimate knowledge of the advanced German radar.

Paratroopers who missed their drop zone arrived late to destroy a German pillbox, a situation that almost ended with the withdrawing commandos being killed. Luckily, the men arrived in time to destroy the pillbox as it swept fire on the other commandos. The British escaped with their prize.

7. The British turn an entire ship into a bomb

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
The HMS Campbeltown sits on the lip of the Normandie dock after crashing into it. (Photo: German army archives)

Dubbed the “Greatest Raid of Them All,” the St. Nazaire Raid targeted the only German-held dry dock for heavy ships on the Atlantic that was accessible without passing German defenses. But the dry dock was heavily armed and far upriver.

The British sent a small flotilla of vessels led by the converted HMS Campbeltown. Sixteen were small motorboats, twelve of which were destroyed without reaching shore. But the Campbeltown managed to ram the gates of the dry dock. The Germans captured 215 of the 600 attackers and killed 169 more, but explosives hidden in the Campbeltown exploded the next morning, crippling the facilities.

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Women who saw combat star in new play

It was less than two years ago — December 2015 — that the last barriers barring women from certain combat positions finally fell. Now, the new play “Bullet Catchers” envisions a not-so-distant future where women and men officially serve together in the same infantry unit.


“It’s been a 70-year journey for women to fully integrate into all branches, units, and occupations of the military,” said Lory Manning, who served in the Navy for 25 years, starting in the late 1960s.

For Manning, the armed forces offered a different path at a time where options were limited for women. “I did not want to be a schoolteacher and I wanted out of New Jersey,” she recalled by phone. “The Navy seemed like a good opportunity – for travel especially.”

Also read: This is how the military is integrating women

She explained that it has been a piecemeal process to lift the restrictions. For example, in 1992 women were allowed into combat aviation, said Manning, a fellow at the Service Women’s Action Network, known as SWAN. According to the organization’s website, there are “nearly 2.5 million service women in the US.”

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
USMC photo by Sgt. Tyler L. Main

The nature of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the sheer number of women deployed during those two conflicts means women (and men) who were not in combat roles saw combat, she said.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, over “300,000 women have deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq,” according to a SWAN report dated Feb. 1, 2017. More than 1,000 women were wounded, and 166 were killed during combat operations, the report noted.

“Now, even though they fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, they are officially allowed to fight,” Manning said.

Sandra W. Lee, who plays two roles in “Bullet Catchers,” saw combat in Iraq although she was assigned to civil affairs, she told Chelsea Now in a phone interview. Lee joined the army in response to 9/11, she said, and served from 2002 to 2010.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
Army photo by Cpl. Mariah Best

Civil affairs focuses broadly on rebuilding a country’s infrastructure, and in Iraq, Lee explained she worked on rebuilding schools. Her unit did train in combat, and Lee said she went along with another division as they conducted security sweeps and raids, and looked for weapons caches.

“We would fill in a lot,” she recalled. “We did a lot of missions that were not part of our job description. But being a solider, that is in the job description.”

Lee, who was in Iraq from 2003 to 2004, said that while driving in the country, her convoy was hit four different times by roadside bombs. She said she has a brain injury that stems from those incidents. She was also diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, known as PSTD. Lee said she was raped by another solider during her deployment.

Her experiences inform how she plays Até, which in the play is the goddess of war and a warrior. Being a woman in the military, Lee explained, there is a perception that females are not good enough and “you have to prove yourself in order to join their ranks.”

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
DoD Photo by Spc. Crystal Davis

Due to her brain injury, Lee was somewhat apprehensive about contributing to the writing of the play but said she put her voice into Até, whose character was a “shell” when she joined the production last December.

“The nice thing about this process it was a group effort,” she said.

Indeed, the co-creators of “Bullet Catchers,” Maggie Moore and Julia Sears, sought input from the actors for the play, which was a collaborative endeavor. “It felt like a writer’s room for a lot of the process,” Sears, who is also the play’s director, said by phone.

Related: First 10 women graduate from Infantry Officer Course

The actors were given writing assignments, Sears said, such as writing the fairytale version of their character’s arc in the play, or being challenged to write five minutes of theater within a half hour. “They have so much ownership over what they’re making,” Sears said.

Moore and Sears were the final editors but the actors had a part in shaping their characters, like Lee with Até. Moore, who is also the play’s associate director, said the actors found their voices as writers. While Moore and Sears were honored to be the leaders, she said, the play belongs to the collective. “We all jumped off the cliff together,” Moore said by phone.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
Staff Sgt. April Spilde, a pallbearer with the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, is one of two women serving in the elite unit during ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery. Photo by Paul Bello.

Neither Moore nor Sears served in the military. The genesis of the project stems from when Moore was working at the Washington, DC-based Truman National Security Project in early 2015, she explained. Sears and Moore have been friends since college, and followed the news of whether the last restrictions on combat positions would be lifted. Sears thought the story of women fighting for recognition in combat would be an excellent story, Moore said.

Sears and Moore interviewed 35 veterans and current service members – an about even mix of women and men. The veterans had fought in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, Sears said. The interview process took about three months, Sears said, with Moore and her then listening and transcribing the interviews. From there, they started to narrow down stories and characters, Sears said.

A bullet catcher is “army slang for an infantryman,” according to the play’s website, and Moore said, “It’s kind of a badge of honor to be a bullet catcher.”

Some women are going through infantry training right now, she said, and “we’re seeing the movement towards the world we built in the play becoming a reality.”

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
USMC photo by Cpl. Tyler J. Bolken

“Bullet Catchers” follows the journey of “the first official mixed gender infantry unit in the US Army, from training to deployment,” according to the play’s website. Moore said it was important to highlight a diversity of experience and so the play’s characters run the gamut from private to lieutenant colonel.

Women in the Fight: 15 women who helped pave the way in the Army

Jessica Vera plays Maya de los Santos, who, in the play, is a lieutenant colonel and the first female commander of a forward operating base, Vera explained by phone. Vera described Maya as a leader, someone who not only sees the opportunity before her, but also the weight of that level of responsibility.

While Vera has no military experience, her father was an Army Ranger, her older brother was in the Army Cavalry and is currently serving in the Air Force. Growing up in a military household has informed how she plays Maya, she said.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
Sailors participating in the Riverine Combat Skills course prepare for a field training exercise at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Oct. 24, 2012. Navy photo by Specialist Seaman Heather M. Paape

One of the play’s first scenes is Maya picking up her wife, Jordan, a civilian, and taking her over the threshold after getting married. Lee, the veteran, also plays Jordan in the play, and said Vera helped to shape Jordan’s character. While the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy has been officially abandoned, Lee said, “There’s still a stigma. It depends on who your command is.”

On the other end of the military spectrum is character Joan Boudica, played by Emma Walton. Joan is a private and is brand new to the experience, Walton explained by phone. Joan is part of the reserves and is randomly picked for special training and is deployed, she said. “It’s a coming of age story for her,” Walton, who has no military experience, said.

Walton said women have been in the military for a long time – flying planes and protecting the country like men are. “We’re excited to show it,” she said. “The rest of America thinks that they’re nurses, they’re doing paperwork. That’s just not true.”

Sears, the director, said she hopes the play spurs a myriad of conversations for the audience, including a larger discussion of women in leadership roles. “We’re hoping that this story — as specific and nuanced [as it is] – can still have reverberations for woman and anyone who has tried to move the needle of gender integration in general,” she said.

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This is what a $17 million investment in laser technology gets the US military

The US Defense Department is making another multi-million dollar investment in high-energy lasers that have the potential to destroy enemy drones and mortars, disrupt communication systems, and provide military forces with other portable, less costly options on the battlefield.


US Senator Martin Heinrich, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and longtime supporter of directed energy research, announced the $17 million investment during a news conference Wednesday inside a Boeing lab where many of the innovations were developed.

The US already has the ability to shoot down enemy rockets and take out other threats with traditional weapons, but Heinrich said it’s expensive.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
The Sodium Guidestar at the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Starfire Optical Range resides on a 6,240 foot hilltop at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. The Army and Navy is developing its own laser weapons systems. Photo from USAF.

High-energy lasers and microwave systems represent a shift to weapons with essentially endless ammunition and the ability to wipe out multiple threats in a short amount of time, he said.

“This is ready for prime time and getting people to just wrap their head around the fact that you can put a laser on something moving really fast and destroy it … has been the biggest challenge,” said Heinrich, who has an engineering degree.

Boeing has been working on high-energy laser and microwave weapons systems for years. The effort included a billion-dollar project to outfit a 747 with a laser cannon that could shoot down missiles while airborne. The system was complex and filled the entire back half of the massive plane.

With advancements over the past two decades, high-powered laser weapons systems can now fit into a large suitcase for transport across the battlefield or be mounted to a vehicle for targeting something as small as the device that controls the wings of a military drone.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
USS Ponce conducts an operational demonstration of the Office of Naval Research-sponsored Laser Weapon System. Navy photo by John F. Williams.

“Laser technology has moved from science fiction to real life,” said Ron Dauk, head of Boeing’s Albuquerque site.

The company’s compact laser system has undergone testing by the military and engineers are working on a higher-powered version for testing next year.

While the technology has matured, Dauk and Heinrich said the exciting part is that it’s on the verge of moving from the lab to the battlefield.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
A target truck disabled by Lockheed’s ATHENA laser. Photo from Lockheed Martin.

Another $200 million has been requested in this year’s defense appropriations bill that would establish a program within the Pentagon for accelerating the transition of directed-energy research to real applications.

Heinrich said continued investment in such projects will help solidify New Mexico’s position as a leading site of directed-energy research and bring more money and high-tech jobs to the state.

Boeing already contributes about $120 million to the state’s economy through its contracts with vendors.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Ranger fought in Mogadishu before becoming a country music star

On October 3, 1993, Task Force Ranger conducted a raid in the Black Sea neighborhood of Mogadishu, Somalia to capture high-ranking lieutenants of the Aidid militia. The task force was an all-star special operations team composed of elements from the 75th Ranger Regiment, 1st SFOD-D, 160th SOAR, Navy SEALs from DEVGRU, and PJs and CCTs from the 24th Special Tactics Squadron.


As Nightstalker MH-6 Little Birds inserted Delta Operators on the target building, Rangers fast-roped down from MH-60 Blackhawks to the building’s four corners to secure a perimeter. During the insertion, Pfc. Todd Blackburn missed the rope and fell to the street below. Undeterred, the rest of the Rangers fast-roped out of the Blackhawks to establish security. The last Ranger out of the Blackhawk in front of Blackburn’s was team leader Sgt. Keni Thomas. As he reached for the rope, Thomas turned to the Blackhawk’s crew chief who yelled to him, “NO FEAR!”

“SCREW YOU!” Thomas responded as he dropped into the gunfire below. In his mind, it was easy for someone to say “no fear” if they’re the ones that get to fly away from the bullets. But Thomas was a Ranger, one of America’s elite, highly trained warriors. He led his team and maintained the perimeter around the target building from the Somali militia who were shooting at them, but mostly missing by his account.

Thirty-five minutes later, the target individuals were secure, loaded up on the trucks, and everyone was ready to return to base. With everything looking good, Thomas’ thoughts drifted as he thought about how he was now a bona fide combat veteran and could qualify for a VA loan. It was then that CW3 Cliff Wolcott and CW3 Donovan Briley’s Blackhawk was shot down. What was supposed to be a quick mission on a day off had turned into a battle against an entire city; after all, an American Soldier will never leave a fallen comrade.

Super 61 went down about five blocks from the target building. As the Rangers stepped off to secure the crash site, Thomas’ squad leader was shot in the neck. As the medics treated the squad leader’s neck wound, the platoon sergeant came up to Thomas and told him, “You’re in charge now.”

“What do you mean I’m in charge sarn’t?” Thomas asked, not wanting the increased responsibility.

“Hey, hey, sarn’t Thomas,” Sgt. Watson snapped his fingers to focus Thomas’ attention. “You’re in charge.” It was then that Thomas’ NCO training kicked in and he rogered up. Taking his squad leaders’ radio, he reassigned positions in his own team and took lead of the squad. The Rangers continued to make their way to the crash site as they took fire from unseen enemies.

Suddenly, one of the Rangers spotted a hostile Somali. “He’s in the tree sarn’t! He’s in the tree!” Pfc. Floyd, Thomas’ SAW gunner, yelled out frantically.

“Well if you see him, why don’t you shoot him?” Sgt. Watson responded self-evidently. It dawned on Floyd that he had, in fact, joined the Army and was allowed to shoot at people who shot at him. But rather than firing in 3 to 5 second bursts, Floyd proceeded to let out a constant stream of cyclic fire until Thomas hit him and told him to stop.

With the barrel of his machine gun glowing from the heat, Floyd stood up, lifted his goggles, and asked naively, “Did I get him?”

As the tree fell over, cut down by Floyd’s gunfire, Thomas said sarcastically, “Floyd, I don’t know if you got him, but you got the whole tree.”

Thomas and his squad continued to fight their way to the crash site and defended it until the bodies of the crew were recovered the next day. Incredibly and in spite of their casualties, their chalk was the only one to return with everyone alive that day. Thomas credits this accomplishment to the skill of their medic and the leadership of Sgt. Watson.

After Somalia, Thomas went on to serve in the Ranger recon teams. He ended his military career in 1997 as a Staff Sergeant, having earned the Master Parachutist Badge, the Military Freefall Parachutist Badge, the Special Operations Diver badge, British and Belgian jump wings, and a Bronze Star for Valor with a “V” device.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

Thomas served in the Army with distinction (Photo from KeniThomas.com)

Upon leaving active duty, Thomas worked as a youth counselor and eventually became a motivational speaker, drawing on his experiences in the Ranger Regiment. He also served as a consultant on We Were Soldiers and Black Hawk Down where he was portrayed by actor Tac Fitzgerald. However, it was Thomas’ passion for music that he focused on most after the army.

Thomas formed the country music band Cornbread and began his music career by performing in and around Columbus, Georgia. By the late 90’s, the band started to make a name for itself, playing shows on college campuses like Auburn University. In the 2002 movie Sweet Home Alabama, Thomas and Cornbread perform a cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama as the movie’s featured song. To date, the band has released three albums as Cornbread and four under Keni Thomas’ name. Thomas has also performed several times at the prestigious Grand Ole Opry, with his most recent performance in May 2014.

Though he’s broken into the country music world, Thomas has not forgotten his military roots. He has performed overseas on USO tours during which he takes the extra time to connect with each servicemember that he meets and exchange stories. His favorite venues are the remote outposts where he performs for groups as small as a platoon. He also donates some of his proceeds to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, a non-profit that provides scholarships and financial aid to the children of wounded or deceased operators.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

Thomas performing in Kuwait on a USO tour in 2006 (U.S. Navy photo)

From the streets of Mogadishu to the music halls of Nashville, Thomas has lived up to both the Soldier’s Creed and the Ranger Creed in never leaving a fallen comrade. He continues to tell the stories of his fallen brothers in his music and his motivational talks. Rangers like Thomas lead the way…all the way!

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Vets can get their aching teeth fixed at this one-day event

Get ready to smile.


On June 24,  Practices will hold Day of Service, offering free dental work to veterans nationwide. Nearly 450 practices across 35 states will participate as part of the Healthy Mouth Movement, Aspen sites in Bluefield and Beckley in West Virginia included.

During the appointments, dentists and their teams will focus on treating the most urgent needs of the veterans by providing fillings, extractions and basic denture repair to help relieve any pain.

This marks the fourth annual event for  and is the largest single-day oral health initiative targeted at veterans. Last year,  dentists and their teams offered services totaling almost $2.1 million dollars, helping over 4,000 veterans receive dental care.

Of 21 million veterans, less than 10 million are enrolled for the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health benefits. For many, this includes dental care benefits and more than 1.2 million lack health insurance altogether.

Veterans who are interested in having dental work should call 844-ASPEN-HMM to make an appointment. Beckley  is 304-362-5862. Advanced appointments are required.

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China has commissioned its newest guided-missile destroyer

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
Screenshot CCTV News/YouTube


The largest naval exercise in the world is underway in the Pacific, and to show the world that it means business, China officially commissioned its fourth vessel of a new model of guided-missile destroyers on Tuesday.

Equipped with advanced weapons that can engage other ships and submarines, the independently developed Yinchuan will be China’s most advanced guided-missile destroyer in service. The ship will be able to engage in all manner of operations, including aerial defense, anti-sea operations, and antisubmarine missions.

The Yichuan, at more than 150 meters long and nearly 20 meters wide, has an estimated load displacement of 7,000 tons.

Although the unveiling was met with fanfare and a parade, Chinese military expert Cao Weidong told China Central Television that the Yinchuan was inferior to the US Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class destroyers in terms of size and munitions capabilities.

But other unnamed experts, according to China.org.cn, have speculated that the Yinchuan would outperform the Japanese Atago-class, the South Korean Sejong the Great-class, and the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.

The Yinchuan is the fourth ship in its class to be unveiled by China to date.

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US sets up ballistic missile defense system in South Korea

U.S. Pacific Command has deployed the first elements of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, known as THAAD, to South Korea, implementing the U.S.-South Korean alliance’s July decision to bring the defensive capability to the Korean Peninsula.


7 craziest commando missions of World War II
U.S. Pacific Command has deployed the first elements of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, known as THAAD, to South Korea, implementing the U.S.-South Korean alliance’s July 2016 decision to bring the defensive capability to the Korean Peninsula. (DoD photo)

North Korea’s accelerating program of nuclear weapons tests and ballistic missile launches constitute a threat to international peace and security and violate multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions, Pacom officials said, adding that the THAAD ballistic missile defense system deployment contributes to a layered defense and enhances the alliance’s shield against North Korean missile threats.

“Continued provocative actions by North Korea, to include yesterday’s launch of multiple missiles, only confirm the prudence of our alliance decision last year to deploy THAAD to South Korea,” Navy Adm. Harry Harris, Pacom commander, said. “We will resolutely honor our alliance commitments to South Korea and stand ready to defend ourselves, the American homeland and our allies.”

The THAAD system is a strictly defensive capability, and it poses no threat to other countries in the region, Pacom officials said. It is designed to intercept and destroy short- and medium-range ballistic missiles inside or outside the atmosphere during their final phase of flight.

Pacom joint military forces remain vigilant in the face of North Korean ballistic missile threats and provocations and are fully committed to working closely with South Korea to maintain security in the region, officials said.

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This is the Israeli version of the dogfighting wargame Red Flag

A number of elite units from multiple nations are gathered to train at an air base, with over 100 aircraft sitting on the flightline for a two-week exercise.


Sounds like just another Red Flag, right? Wrong.

This exercise is a “flag,” but it’s not at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. Instead, it’s taking place in Israel. And appropriately enough, it’s known as Blue Flag.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
F-16I Sufa (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

While several Red Flag exercises are held each year in the U.S., the Israelis hold one Blue Flag every two years. In 2013, four countries took part. This year, according to DefenseNews.com, seven will be in the skies over the Middle East nation: the United States, France, Germany, India, Italy, Poland, and of course, Israel.

One big difference between Red Flag and Blue Flag is the fact that Blue Flag doesn’t have a lot of head-to-head action between the participants. The exercise usually puts the 100 or so planes in as a multi-national “Blue Force” dealing with an external “Red Force.”

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
(U. S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)

Week one of Blue Flag is spent getting familiar with the area. The second week is the actual combat exercise, usually involving the Red Force trying to hit friendly targets. The Blue Force tries to stop them, in a variety of missions, both air-to-air, and air-to-surface.

Past Blue Flags have drawn rave reviews from the United States Air Force.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald

“The Israelis provided an excellent training environment, which offered us the opportunity to learn from each other and to take advantage of good airspace, surface threat replicators, and challenging scenarios,” said Lt. Col. John Orchard after Blue Flag 2013 in an Air Force release. “It was a real pleasure integrating with our Israeli, Italian and Greek partners who all offer unique tactical, strategic and cultural perspectives.”

While the nightlife may be very different from the Vegas strip — and it’ll be a little harder to find a good ham sandwich between sorties — Blue Flag 2017 promises to be very interesting for the participants.

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Here are 64 restaurants offering veterans free food on Veterans Day

You’ve served your country, now these restaurants want to serve you. Check out the deals they’re offering, what you have to bring to prove your veteran status, and come on out (if you like what they’re offering).


7 craziest commando missions of World War II

Related: These 7 tips will make your free Veterans Day meal more epic

Please note that not all franchise restaurants participate in the Veterans Day program. Be sure to contact your nearest restaurant for participation.

1. 54th Street Grill: The Kansas City-based chain offers veterans and active duty military a free meal up to $12. Dine-in only.

2. Applebees: Applebee’s has a special Veterans Day menu built for veterans and active duty military members. Vets can choose one item from that menu.

3. Arooga’sAll veterans and troops will receive one complimentary item from a fixed menu at Arooga’s. Although there is no purchase necessary, Arooga’s Veterans Day offer is for dine-in only and drinks are not included.

4. Bar Louie: Veterans and active-duty military will get a free appetizer or entrée on Veterans Day.

5. BJ’s Restaurant: Active duty military and veterans receive a complimentary entree under $12.95 and $5 beers.

6. Bob Evans: Veterans and active military personnel receive a free meal of choice menu options. From Nov. 12 – Dec. 31, vets will get a 10 percent discount.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

7. Bonanza SteakhousesActive duty and retired military get a free buffet.

8. Bonefish GrillAll active and retired service members with a valid military ID will receive a complimentary Bang Bang Shrimp at all Bonefish Grill locations.

9. Bruegger’s BagelsVeterans and active duty military members get a free small drip coffee on Nov. 11 at participating locations.

10. Buffalo Wild Wings: Vets will get a complimentary order of wings and a side of fries to veterans and active-duty military. Must present acceptable proof of military service, which includes: permanent or temporary U.S. military ID cards, veteran’s card, a photograph of yourself in military uniform, or dine-in at a participating location in uniform.

11. California Pizza Kitchen: Veterans and active military receive a complimentary entrée from a special menu. Please come in uniform or bring your military ID or other proof of service.

12. Cattlemens:  The California chain offers active, inactive, and retired military personnel get a free Small Sirloin Steak Dinner.

13. CentraArchy Restaurants: Veterans and active duty service members get a free entrée and 25 percent off to their accompanied family and friends at participating restaurants.

14. Cheeseburger in Paradise: Active and retired military personnel receive a complimentary burger with fries.

15. Chevy’s Fresh MexAll active and retired military personnel can select one complimentary item from a special Veterans Day menu.

16. Chicken Salad Chick: Veterans get a free Original Chick (a meal including a chicken salad scoop or sandwich, side, pickle and cookie) along with a drink (no purchase necessary).

17. Chili’s: Veterans and active military service members get a free entrée from a limited menu.

18. Chuck E. Cheese’sActive and retired military members can receive a free individual one-topping pizza

19. Cracker Barrel: Veterans get a complimentary Double Chocolate Fudge Coca-Cola Cake dessert during lunch and dinner. Must show proof of military service.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

20. Denny’s: Active, inactive and retired military personnel get a free Build Your Own Grand Slam from 5 a.m. to noon at participating locations.

21. Famous Dave’s BBQFormer and current military personnel will receive a free Two Meat Combo.

22. FATZ Café: Veterans and active military get a free World Famous Calabash Chicken meal.

23. Fazoli’sVeterans get a free Build Your Own Pasta Bowl.

24. Figaro’s Pizza: Veterans and active duty service members get a complimentary medium 1-topping pizza.

25. Fogo de Chão: Veterans and active duty personnel will receive 50 percent off their meal and up to three additional guests will receive 10 percent off their meals.

26. Friendly’s: Vets and military personnel are offered a free Big-Two-Do breakfast or All American Burger (with fries and a beverage) during lunch or dinner.

27. Golden Corral: On Monday, Nov. 14, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Golden Corral offers a free sit-in “thank you” dinner for Military veterans, retirees, and active duty members.

28. Gordon Biersch: Veterans and active military personnel receive a free appetizer.

29. Green Mill Restaurant and Bar: Veterans and active duty military get a free meal.

30. Greene Turtle: Veterans and active duty military receive a free meal from a select menu.

31. Hooters: All active-duty and retired military to stop in for a free meal from the Hooters Veterans Day Menu by presenting a military ID or proof of service at any Hooters location nationwide.

32. Hy-Vee:  The Midwestern Grocery chain is offering veterans and active duty military members a free breakfast buffet.

33. IHOPVeterans and active duty military get free Red, White, and Blue pancakes from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at participating locations.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
In case you were wondering.

 

34. IKEA: Veterans get a free entrée from Nov. 7 through Nov. 11.

35. Krispy Kreme: Krispy Kreme is offering a free doughnut and small coffee to all veterans at participating locations.

36. Krystal: Active and retired military receive a free Krystal Sausage Biscuit from opening to 11:00 a.m.

37. Little Caesars: Veterans and active military members receive a free $5 Lunch Combo from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

38. Logan’s Roadhouse: In addition to the 10 percent military discount offered every day, military and former military guests will also receive a free dessert.

39. Longhorn Steakhouse: Offers a free appetizer or dessert (no purchase required, no restrictions) to anyone showing proof of military service, plus 10 percent off for guests that dine with Veterans on Nov. 11.

40. Max Erma’s: Participating Max Erma’s locations are offering veterans and active military personnel a free Best Cheeseburger in America.

41. Menchie’sAll active and retired military personnel will receive a free 6 ounce frozen yogurt.

42. Mission BBQ: Free sandwiches and cake for active duty military members and veterans at participating locations.

43. O’Charley’s:  Veterans and active duty service members get a free meal at any location on Nov. 11. Additionally, O’Charley’s offers a 10 percent military discount all year long.

44. Old Country Buffet: Current and former service members receive a free buffet and drink all day.

45. Olive GardenAll veterans and current service members get a free meal from a limited menu.

46. On the BorderVeterans and active duty military can enjoy a free meal from the “Create Your Own Combo” menu.

47. Outback Steakhouse: All active and former service members receive a free Bloomin’ Onion and a beverage on Nov. 11. Outback is also offering active and former service members 15 percent off their meals Nov. 12 through Dec. 31.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

48. Panera Bread: A complimentary You-Pick-Two with military identification or if wearing their uniform to the participating Panera Bread bakery-cafes in the Cleveland, Akron, Canton area.  For a complete list of participating bakery-cafes, click here.

49. Ponderosa Steakhouse: Active duty and retired military get a free buffet from 4 p.m. to close.

50. Red Hot Blue: Veterans receive a free entrée with the purchase of two drinks and a second entrée of equal or greater value on Nov. 9 through 11. Coupon required.

51. Red Lobster: Veterans, reserve, and active-duty military personnel receive a free appetizer or dessert from a limited menu on Nov. 10 and 11.

52. Red Robin: All veterans and active-duty military members will get a free Red’s Tavern Double Burger and Bottomless Steak Fries. No purchase is necessary. Just show proof of service.

53. Ruby Tuesday: All veterans, active duty and reserve military service members with valid military ID can enjoy one free appetizer (up to a $10 value).

54. Ryan’s: Current and former service members receive a free buffet and drink.

55. Shoney’s: Shoney’s will offer a free All-American Burger to veterans and active duty service members. Shoney’s also offers a 15 percent everyday hometown heroes discount (military, fire, Police, EMT).

56. Sizzler: Active duty and veteran military members get a free lunch and beverage from a limited menu until 4 p.m.

57. Spaghetti Warehouse: From Veterans Day to Nov. 13 buy one entrée and get the second entrée free. Coupon required,  download it here.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
Red Lobster’s Seafood Stuffed Mushrooms.

58. Starbucks: Veterans, active duty service members and spouses get a free tall coffee at participating locations.

59. Texas Roadhouse: Texas Roadhouse locations nationwide will offer veterans a free lunch from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

60. TGIFridaysLunch is on the house for all active and retired U.S. military service members on Veterans Day. Those with military ID will be treated to a free lunch menu item up to $12 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

61. Twin Peaks: Active duty and veterans get a free menu item from the Annual Veterans Day Appreciation Menu.

62. Village InnFree INN-credible V.I.B. breakfast for veterans and active duty military. Valid on 4 INN-credible items: Cheese Omelette, Strawberry Crepe, Hickory-Smoked Bacon or French Toast.

63. Wienerschnitzel: Veterans and active duty military receive a free Chili Dog with a small fry and a 20-ounce drink.

64. World of Beer: A free select draught beer or $5 off your entire bill. Bring proof of military service.

Articles

33 insane photos from the battle for Okinawa

The Battle of Okinawa, known as Operation Iceberg by the Allies, eventually consisted of 306,000 service members assaulting fierce defenses manned by 130,000 Japanese troops and an unknown number of local civilians, including children, drafted into the defenses.


The island was critical for the planned invasion of Japan, but the losses were enormous.

Here are 33 photos that give a look inside of one of America’s most costly battles of World War II:

1. For days before the invasion, Navy ships bombarded the island with naval artillery and rockets. This photo was taken five days before the amphibious assault.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

2. A Navy Corsair fires a salvo of rockets during Operation Iceberg, the Allied effort to capture Okinawa, the largest of the Ryukyu Islands.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

3. The USS Idaho shells the island of Okinawa on April 1, 1945.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

4. Marines land on the beachhead already secured on the island. These infantrymen will continue pressing the attack against approximately 130,000 defenders.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
(Photo: U.S. Department of Defense)

5. U.S. landing ships sit beached and burning on May 4 near the mouth of the Bishi River after a Japanese air attack.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

6. Famed war correspondent Ernie Pyle speaks with U.S. Marines a short time before his death on the island.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

7. A long exposure photograph shows the crisscrossing lines of Marine anti-aircraft fire over the U.S. airfield established on Okinawa.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

8. A May 11, 1945, morning artillery barrage kicks off an all-out offensive.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

9. Japanese rockets rain down on and near U.S. positions during heavy fighting on Okinawa.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

10. The infamous battleship Yamato, sent to Okinawa to attempt to beach itself and act as a shore battery until destroyed, is sank at sea on April 7 before it can reach the island.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

11. Army Lt. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr., at right, surveys fighting just a few hours before Japanese artillery killed him.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

12. A Sherman tank drives past a burning home. The structure was set on fire to prevent its use by snipers.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

13. Marines attempt to extinguish the flames on an overturned Sherman tank. The ammo later exploded before the Army crew could be rescued.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

14. Engineers construct a causeway from the island to the sea to allow supplies to be trucked from ships to shore.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

15. American service members move supplies by horse in areas where the mud was impassable for vehicles.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

16. Okinawan civilians hired to carry supplies line up to receive their loads.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

17. A flamethrowing tank attacks Hill 60 during the Marine assault on the mound.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

18. A Japanese plane goes down in flames over the ocean.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

19. The HMS Formidable of the Royal Navy burns after a May 4 Kamikaze attack. Eight crew members were lost and 55 injured, but the Formidable survived the war.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
(Photo: Royal Navy)

20. Marine Corps infantrymen ride a tank to the town of Ghuta on April 1 to occupy it before Japanese defenders can.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

21. A Marine sprints across the “Valley of Death,” a draw covered by Japanese machine guns that caused 125 casualties in eight hours.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

22. Marines explode dynamite charges to destroy a Japanese cave on the island.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

23. The USS Bunker Hill burns after two Kamikaze strikes in less than a minute. At least 346 sailors were killed and 43 went missing.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

24. The Bunker Hill survived and returned to the U.S. for repairs. It served as a troop transport after the war before it was sent to the fleet reserve.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

25. Wounded sailors are moved from the Bunker Hill to the USS Wilkes Barre.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

26. Army soldiers move forward during the 82-day battle.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

27. A private cuts a sergeant’s hair in the Japanese city of Shuri on the island. A medieval castle in the city survived the battle.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

28. Marines rest on the side of a hill as Japanese fire prevents their further advance.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

29. A tank crewmember is relocated after suffering injuries.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

30. Wounded troops await transport to a ship hospital.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
(Photo: U.S. National Archives Catalog)

31. Marine Lt. Col. R.P. Ross, Jr. places an American flag on Shuri castle on May 29, 1945. Ross was under sniper fire at the time.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
(Photo: U.S. Department of Defense)

32. The American flag is raised over the island June 22 in a ceremony marking the end of organized Japanese resistance.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

33. A U.S. servicemember visits an American cemetery. The U.S. suffered over 12,000 killed and 50,000 wounded during the battle. Japan suffered over 150,000 soldiers and civilians killed or committed suicide.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Army Air Corps pilot stole a Nazi plane to escape from a POW camp

Jimmy Doolittle – the man who bombed Tokyo just 5 months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor – called Bob Hoover “the greatest stick-and-rudder man that ever lived.” Hoover had only been flying for five years by the time World War II broke out.


Hoover was captured by the Nazis after being shot down on his 59th mission over Europe.

The ace wasn’t about to spend the war in a prison camp, though. After 16 months as a POW, he was determined to get out and get back to the action. He staged a fight between fellow prisoners, jumped over the Stalag’s barb wire fence, and stole an unguarded Focke-Wulf 190 from the nearby airfield. He then flew it to newly-liberated Holland.

After the war, Hoover had an illustrious aviation career. He became a test pilot and Air Force legend, even backing up Chuck Yeager when he broke the sound barrier in his Bell X-1 in 1947.

A “pilot’s pilot,” Hoover continued to fly in air shows until 2000.

Sadly, Hoover died on October 25, 2016, but was fondly remembered by his admirers and friends in the aviation community, including Buzz Aldrin, who tweeted:

 

MIGHTY HISTORY

How Panama actually started its war with the United States

On Dec. 20, 1989, President George H. W. Bush launched Operation Just Cause, the U.S. invasion of Panama. The goal was to oust Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega and maintain the neutrality of the Panama Canal while protecting American citizens there. Some 27,000 U.S. troops toppled Noriega’s regime in just over a month and they started it – just like the U.S. planned.


Some people would swear that a small Central American dictatorship with a patronage-based military starting a war with a world superpower is a terrible idea. Those people would be correct, especially considering the superpower already controlled a huge chunk of the country, and staged military units from inside that zone of control.

Until 1979, it was known as the Panama Canal Zone. By 1989, that area was full of U.S. military personnel.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

Just a sliver. No big deal.

At the time, the United States still controlled the canal. The terms of the Carter-Torrijos Treaty stated that Panama would gain full control of the canal on Dec. 31, 1999. But even after the canal was given to Panama, the U.S. retained the right to defend the canal to keep it a neutral lane for all ships of all countries. So, the United States already had 12,000 combat-ready forces in the country before the invasion even began.

Still, the United States worked to provoke the Panamanians into committing overtly hostile acts toward U.S. troops. The Americans gave money to the campaign of Guillermo Endara, a politician in direct opposition to Noriega’s regime. When Endara won the national election over Noriega’s chosen candidate, the dictator ruled the vote invalid and then declared himself the sole ruler of Panama.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

Drug and human trafficker-in-chief, Manuel Noriega.

Alarmed at Noriega’s shocking display of power, the U.S. military began stepping up its provocation efforts, staging military exercises in former Canal Zone areas, driving through Panamanian territory, and challenging the Panamanian Defense Forces to stop them from moving as they pleased. The Bush Administration also expanded sanctions on Panama and even funded a coup attempt against Noriega.

On Dec. 15, 1989, Noriega even declared war on the United States — but even that didn’t precipitate the invasion. The next day, four military officers were stopped by the Panamanian military on their way to dinner at the Marriott in downtown Panama City. The four officers were driving in a private vehicle when they hit a roadblock and were suddenly surrounded by PDF troops. The Panamanians fired at the vehicle, hitting Marine Capt. Richard E. Hadded in the foot and wounding Marine 1st Lt. Robert Paz, who was rushed to the hospital, where he died of his wounds.

Two Americans, a Naval officer and his wife, witnessed the event. They were detained and beaten by the PDF. That’s when President Bush called down the thunder.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

Cue the Van Halen song.

The Panamanian Defense Forces got hit hard. In the middle of the night, tens of thousands of American troops using mechanized infantry, Special Forces, and even airborne assaults, made a move to cripple the Panamanians and capture Noriega. It was the largest combat operation since the Vietnam War, an invasion of an area the size of South Carolina.

By one in the morning on Dec. 20, 1989, U.S. troops installed Endara as Panama’s new President. Meanwhile, Army helicopter gunships and USAF F-117 Nighthawks were hitting targets around the country and the U.S. Army Special Forces, Navy SEALs, and U.S. Marines hit the ground in full force. They first captured special military targets, like the PDF’s La Comandancia and the Bridge of the Americas over the canal itself. SEALs destroyed Noriega’s personal boat and jet as the dictator took refuge inside Vatican City’s diplomatic mission in the capital.

He would not be there long.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

Netflix, here’s your next season of Narcos.

Noriega hid under the protection of the Holy See as the United State military cleaned up the remnants of the Panamanian Defense Forces. Meanwhile, the Americans blasted rock and heavy metal music at the mission in an attempt to force Noriega to leave the building and face justice.

Related: Listen to the playlist that ousted Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega

He finally did on Jan. 3, 1990. Noriega was flown back to the U.S., where he faced indictments for drug trafficking in Miami. The onetime dictator would spend the rest of his life in prison.

MIGHTY HISTORY

An old Saxon poem depicts Jesus as a viking warrior chief

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


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

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

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
“New Rule: Everyone who says anything about Valhalla gets sent there immediately.”

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

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

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
“Excuse me sir, do you have a moment to talk about our lord and savior?”

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

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

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
All I’m saying is I would read more of the Bible if all the characters were vikings.

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

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

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

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

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