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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These 6 photos show how 21 countries invaded Jordan

The Eager Lion exercise doesn’t have the long history of Cobra Gold or Team Spirit, nor does it have the immense scale of RIMPAC. But is still important, particularly with the Syrian Civil War raging – not to mention having to deal with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.


According to a CENTCOM release, 21 countries, including the United States, Italy, the United Arab Emirates, and Poland are invading Jordan for the Eager Lion 2017 exercise.

“As brothers in arms, we fully understand how much our nations have paid in blood and treasure over the years to address security, particularly in this region,” Maj. Gen. William B. Hickman, deputy commanding general of operations for U.S. Central Command, told reporters at a press event launching the exercise. “For much of the past two decades our militaries have operated in the grey zones of military confrontation … where misunderstanding and miscalculation can easily escalate into a larger conflict.”

Here are some photos showing just what is going on with this friendly multi-national invasion:

1. They travel there by sea and air

It is said that half the fun is getting there. It’s a safe bet that the CO of USS Bataan (LHD 5) got tired of hearing 2,000 Marines ask, “Are we there yet?”

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
A U.S. Marine V-22 Osprey ascends the USS Bataan in Aqaba, Jordan, to begin a demo flight in support of Eager Lion 2017. Eager Lion is an annual U.S. Central Command exercise in Jordan designed to strengthen military-to-military relationships between the U.S., Jordan and other international partners. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mickey A. Miller)

2. The gear gets set up

Exercises like Eager Lion are not thrown together on a whim. Support troops like these help make the multi-national wargame run smoothly.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
The 67th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, out of Camp Buehring, Kuwait, is participating in Exercise Eager Lion 2017 at the Joint Training Center in Jordan. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Zoe Morris)

3. They prepare for the worst

This includes being sure that the medevac people are fully spun up in case there is an accident during the training. Hopefully, they are very, very bored during Eager Lion 2017.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
US Navy and Jordanian Armed Forces service members evacuate a simulated casualty into a AS332 Super Puma Helicopter during a medical evacuation drill during Eager Lion 2017 at King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center Amman, Jordan on May 6, 2017. Eager Lion provides bilateral forces with an opportunity to promote cooperation and interoperability among participating units, build functional capacity, practice crisis management and strengthen our relationship with potential regional threats. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jessica Y. Lucio)

4. They hit the ground running

Fast-roping from helicopters helps to secure the LZ.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
Airmen secure a landing pad during a fast-roping exercise as part of Eager Lion 2017 in Amman, Jordan, May 7, 2017. The airmen are assigned to the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron. (US Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Christopher Lange)

5. They move out to their objectives

Now that their way out has been secured, the troops are off to happily go about the day’s work of dropping tangos.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
Members of the Air Force Special Operation’s 23rd Special Tactics Squad and Jordanian Special Forces participate in small unit tactics at the King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center in Amman, Jordan during Eager Lion 2017. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Christopher Lange/Released)

6. They achieve the objective…

…Which is for the last thing the bad guy sees to be something like this:

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
A member of the Italian Special Forces participates in small unit tactics at the King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center in Amman, Jordan during Eager Lion 2017. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Christopher Lange/Released)

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If the battle of Thermopylae was fought today with 300 Marines

The legendary defense of the Spartans at the “hot gates” of Thermopylae has gone down in military history as one of the greatest last stands.


But what if 300 Marine infantrymen, along with a couple thousand other fighters, had to repeat what Leonidas, 300 Spartans, and their Greek allies did in 480 B.C. against a modern foe?

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
(Photo: flickr/Guillaume Cattiaux)

First, the battlefield at Thermopylae in 480 B.C. was very friendly to defenders. The mountains pressed close to the sea, leaving only a thin gap of land through which Xerxes could press his army. This gap was further constricted by the Spartans when they repaired a low wall.

For the modern Marines, the gap could instead be narrowed with fighting holes, barbed wire, machine gun positions, and mines. Similarly, the fatal back path that Xerxes marched his “Immortals” through to doom Leonidas and his men could be blocked the same way, forcing an attacker to pay for every yard in blood.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Aaron S. Patterson

Unfortunately for the Marines, their enemy can afford a few bloody engagements. While the Marines would boast 300 infantrymen and 6,000 other combat arms Marines, their enemy would number somewhere around 100,000.

The first thing the Marines would want to do against an enemy attack is copy the advantage that the Spartans used at Thermopylae, greater infantry range and stronger defenses. The Greek Hoplite carried a spear with slightly better range than the Immortal’s swords, and Hoplite armor was constructed of bronze strong enough to protect from Persian arrows.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
The M16 is bulkier than the M4, but boasts greater range. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Katelyn Hunter)

The Marines would need to reach back in their armories for a similar range advantage. While the M4 has an effective firing range of 500 meters, the same as the AK-74 and other common infantry weapons, the M16 has a 550-meter range against a point target, a 10 percent boost. And the Marines’ body armor and defensive fortifications would give them an advantage over attackers similar to the Hoplites’ bronze armor.

Unfortunately for the Marines, modern warfare isn’t limited to infantry fighting infantry, and so they would need to reckon with enemy artillery and air assets.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Zachery C. Laning)

While the U.S. faces an artillery range gap in relation to Russia and China, the Marines defending the pass could use the mountains on their west to place their guns at greater altitude. This would give their guns greater range and force the enemy to come within the envelope of the U.S. cannon to try to take out Marine artillery positions.

Air defenders would also need to position themselves up the mountains to provide an effective screen to protect their troops from enemy air attacks.

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

Luckily for the Marines, the Corps is one of the few military organizations that has invested heavily in short takeoff, vertical landing aircraft — meaning that Ospreys and Super Stallions can deliver supplies to the besieged Marines while F-35s and Harriers provide air support either from small, forward refueling and rearming points near the front or from a nearby ship.

All of this adds up to a Marine force enjoying much of the same successes during the early days of the battle as the Spartans did. Enemy infantry and cavalry would be forced to maneuver into a narrow gap and be cut down by Marine rifles and missiles.

Even better, their artillery could force the enemy guns to fire from afar and break up forces massing for an attack, advantages that the Spartans lacked.

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

But, like the Spartans before them, the Marines would eventually be overcome by their numerical limitations. Even with approximately 6,000 other Marines, the 300 infantrymen simply could not hold out forever.

Enemy assaults would make it deeper into the pass each time as engineers whittled away at the Marines’ defenses and artillery crews braved American guns to get rounds onto the defenders’ heads.

After a few days, the Marines would have amassed a stunning body count, possibly even as high as the 20,000 Persians credited to Leonidas and his forces, but they would be burned out of Thermopylae.

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

But if they could buy enough time, it’s unimaginable that the Navy and Marine Corps would not be able to get follow-on forces to Greece. And, using the Marine Corps’ amphibious capabilities, reinforcements could be rushed to the beaches just south of the battle.

Meanwhile, the Navy could press its jets into the fight, ensuring air superiority and providing a reprieve for the defenders.

Thanks to the mobility of America’s sea services and Thermopylae’s location on a coast, the battle could end much differently for the Marines standing where the Spartans once fell.

Articles

This group has launched a fellowship program to put more veterans in Congress

7 craziest commando missions of World War II


HillVets has announced a new Congressional Fellowship program exclusively for veterans seeking to begin careers in Washington, called HillVets House. Phase I of the program will feature six Congressional Fellows to be hosted and placed in staff positions on Capitol Hill and is set to begin with the first cohort in July 2016.

HillVets is a bipartisan group of veterans, service members, and supporters focused on empowerment through networking, community involvement, and education. HillVets strives to increase veterans involvement in government and advocacy. This is the first time the effort is being made to get more veterans onto Capitol Hill.

The program is the result of a survey taken by the organization in 2014 in an effort to connect vets on Capitol Hill. The surveyors found that not many veterans were active in Congress. The veterans organization says if they were to rank agencies by number of veterans, the Federal legislative body would be dead last. They are making this effort to change that with the help of the Atlantic Council and the Bob Woodruff Foundation.

Capitol Hill experience is largely considered a key component and invaluable experience for a long-term career in government and politics. Currently, less than three percent of staff members working for the United States Congress are military veterans. As hundreds of veterans continue to come to the Washington, D.C. area, they are often frustrated by an inability to quickly build an adequate network and open the initial doors necessary for long-term success.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

HillVets House is designed to help veterans overcome the many challenges they face beginning second careers by providing a comprehensive introduction to government, politics, and advocacy. HillVets says this program will provide the first premiere access point for veterans wishing to continue their service in unique roles across all government agencies and branches.

Veterans with honorable discharges, Bachelor’s degrees, or who will be in their final semester at the time of the fellowship, and are ready and able to take permanent employment will receive preference. HillVets will focus on recently-separated vets or those who just completed school.

The HillVets Fellowships will start twice a year, with the first class to start in July 2016 and the second in January 2017. Fellows will have a mandatory commitment to their host offices for a period of three months, the second three month period is to focus on finding a permanent, paid position on Capitol Hill, while continuing to work in the Congressional Host office. The placement will be sensitive to the individual’s political party affiliation.

In addition to full-time placement, Fellows will receive housing and/or a living stipend, educational and career development programs, and extensive networking opportunities.

Look for the program application on the HillVets House website by November 17, 2015. All applications are due by March 25, 2016 and should be sent to contact@hillvets.org.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Project Pluto: The craziest nuclear weapon in history

On August 29, 1949, the Soviet Union conducted its first-ever atomic weapons test, ending America’s monopoly on the most destructive weapon system ever conceived by man. An arms race that had already begun immediately kicked into high gear, with both nations working frantically to develop new weapons and capabilities that were powerful enough to keep the opposition in check.

From our modern vantage point, the Cold War between America and the Soviet Union seems like an exercise in overblown budgets and paranoia, but it’s important to remember the context of the day. Many senior leaders in both D.C. and Moscow had seen not one but two World Wars unfold during their lifetimes. After the uneasy alliance between the Soviet Union and the rest of the Allied Nations failed to last beyond the final shots of World War II, many believed a third global conflict would be coming in short order. And terrifyingly, most believed it would begin with a nuclear exchange — including those with their fingers on the proverbial nuclear buttons.

Although the destructive force of the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been so monstrous that they changed the geopolitical landscape of the world forever, both the U.S. and Soviet Union immediately set about developing newer, even more powerful thermonuclear weapons. Other programs sought new and dynamic delivery methods for these powerful nukes, ranging from ballistic missiles to unguided bombs.

Project Pluto and the SLAM Missile

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

One such effort under the supervision of the U.S. Air Force was a weapon dubbed the Supersonic Low Altitude Missile or SLAM (not to be mistaken for the later AGM-84E Standoff Land Attack Missile). The SLAM missile program was to utilize a ramjet nuclear propulsion system being developed under the name Project Pluto. Today, Russia is developing the 9M730 Burevestnik, or Skyfall missile, to leverage the same nuclear propulsion concept.

As Russian President Vladimir Putin recently pointed out, nuclear propulsion offers practically endless range, and estimates at the time suggested the American SLAM Missile would likely fly for 113,000 miles or more before its fuel was expended. Based on those figures, the missile could fly around the entire globe at the equator at least four and a half times without breaking a sweat.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
Project Pluto The Alien looking SLAM Missile from Project Pluto (YouTube)

The unshielded nuclear reactor powering the missile would practically rain radiation onto the ground as it flew, offering the first of at least three separate means of destruction the SLAM missile provided. In order to more effectively leverage the unending range of the nuclear ramjet, the SLAM missile was designed to literally drop hydrogen bombs on targets as it flew. Finally, with its bevy of bombs expended, the SLAM missile would fly itself into one final target, detonating its own thermonuclear warhead as it did. That final strike could feasibly be days or even weeks after the missile was first launched.

Over time, the SLAM missile came to be known as Pluto to many who worked on it, due to the missile’s development through the project with the same name.

Nuclear Propulsion

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
Tory II-A engine developed by Project Pluto

The nuclear ramjet developed for SLAM under Project Pluto was designed to draw in air from the front of the vehicle as it flew at high speed, creating a significant amount of pressure. The nuclear reactor would then superheat the air and expel it out the back to create propulsion. This ramjet methodology is still in use in some platforms today and plays a vital role in some forms of hypersonic missile programs.

The onboard nuclear reactor produced more than 500-megawatts of power and operated at a scorching 2,500 degrees — hot enough to compromise the structural integrity of metal alloys designed specifically to withstand high amounts of heat. Ultimately, the decision was made to forgo metal internal parts in favor of specially developed ceramics sourced from the Coors Porcelain Company, based in Colorado.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
Ramjet propulsion (WikiMedia Commons)

The downside to ramjet propulsion is that it can only function when traveling at high speeds. In order to reach those speeds, the SLAM would be carried aloft and accelerated by rocket boosters until the missile was moving fast enough for the nuclear ramjet to engage. Once the nuclear ramjet system was operating, the missile could remain aloft practically indefinitely, which would allow it to engage multiple targets and even avoid intercept.

The nuclear-powered ramjet wasso loud that the missile’s designers theorized that the shock wave of the missile flying overhead on its own would likely kill anyone in its path, and if not, the gamma and neutron radiation from the unshielded reactor sputtering fission fragments out the back probably would. While this effectively made the missile’s engine a weapon in its own right, it also made flying the SLAM over friendly territory impossible.

A missile carrying 16 hydrogen bombs

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

While the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction has since made the launch of just one nuclear weapon the start of a cascade that could feasibly end life on Earth as we know it, Project Pluto’s SLAM Missile was practically apocalyptic in its own right. The nuclear powerplant that would grant the missile effectively unlimited range would also potentially kill anyone it passed over, but the real destructive power of the SLAM missile came from its payload.

Unlike most cruise missiles, which are designed with a propulsion system meant to carry a warhead to its target, Project Pluto’s SLAM carried not only a nuclear warhead, but 16 additional hydrogen bombs that it could drop along its path to the final target. Some even suggested flying the missile in a zig-zagging course across the Soviet Union, irradiating massive swaths of territory and delivering it’s 16 hydrogen bombs to different targets around the country.

Doing so would not only offer the ability to engage multiple targets, but would almost certainly also leave the Soviet populace in a state of terror. A low-flying missile spewing radiation as it passed over towns, shattering windows and deafening bystanders as it delivered nuclear hellfire to targets spanning the massive Soviet Union, would likely have far-reaching effects on morale.

How do you test an apocalyptic weapon?

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

Project Pluto’s nuclear propulsion system made testing the platform a difficult enterprise. Once the nuclear reactor onboard was engaged, it would continue to function until it hit its target or expended all of its fuel. Any territory the weapon passed over during flight would be exposed to dangerous levels of radiation, limiting the ways and the places in which the weapon’s engine could even be tested.

On May 14, 1961, engineers powered up the Project Pluto propulsion system on a train car for just a few seconds, and a week later a second test saw the system run for a full five minutes. The engine produced 513 megawatts of power, which equated to around 35,000 pounds of thrust — 6,000 pounds more than an F-16’s Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229 afterburning turbofan engine with its afterburner engaged.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
Project Pluto engine “Tory II-C” during testing (WikiMedia Commons)

However, those engine tests were the only large scale tests Project Pluto would ultimately see, in part, because a fully assembled SLAM missile would irradiate so much territory that it was difficult to imagine any safe way of actually testing it.

A weapon that’s too destructive to use

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

Ultimately, Project Pluto and its SLAM missile were canceled before ever leaving the ground. The cancellation came for a litany of reasons, including the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles and the introduction of global strike heavy payload bombers like the B-52 Stratofortress. There were, however, some other considerations that led to the program’s downfall.

Because the SLAM would irradiate, destroy, or deafen anyone and anything it flew over, the missile could not be launched from U.S. soil or be allowed to fly over any territory other than its target nation. That meant the missile could really only be used from just over the Soviet border, whereas ICBMs could be launched from the American midwest and reach their targets in the Soviet Union without trouble.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

There was also a pressing concern that developing such a terrible weapon would likely motivate the Soviet Union to respond in kind. Each time the United States unveiled a new weapon or strategic capability, the Soviet Union saw to it that they could match and deter that development. As a result, it stood to reason that America’s nuclear-spewing apocalypse missile would prompt the Soviets to build their own if one entered into service.

Project Pluto and its SLAM missile program were canceled on July 1, 1964.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Let this Swedish metal band be your war history teacher

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

Also, their music videos are pretty great.


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

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

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

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

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

SABATON – The Last Stand (Official Music Video)

www.youtube.com

SABATON – The Last Stand (Official Music Video)

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

How America’s first military aviator was an Air Force visionary

When it comes to aviation, aircraft are only as good as the pilots behind them, and in the beginning, one man was instrumental in getting military aviation off the ground.

Maj. Gen. Benjamin D. Foulois was one of the first in the military to assume the mantle of aviator as manned flight was still in its infancy, and according to Bob Barlow, U.S. Army Aviation Museum volunteer and former aviator, his efforts helped shape what aviation is today.

Foulois first enlisted in the Army to serve in the Spanish-American War in 1898, but only served for five months before being mustered out, said Barlow. He re-enlisted in 1899 at just 18 years old and quickly ascended through the ranks to become a second lieutenant by 1901.


He was sent to the Army Signal School in 1908 where he wrote the thesis, “The Tactical and Strategically Value of Dirigible Balloons and Aerodynamical Flying Machines,” showcasing his foresight that the future of warfare would be in aviation.

A quote from Foulois’ thesis read, “In all future warfare, we can expect to see engagements in the air between hostile aerial fleets. The struggle for supremacy in the air will undoubtedly take place while the opposing armies are maneuvering for position.”

“He said the military dirigible and the airplane would be responsible for gaining the upper hand in the skies before the battle took place — nobody ever really talked about that before him,” Barlow said.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
Major General Benjamin D. Foulois

Foulois was selected as one of three Signal Corps officers to receive flying instruction to become one of the first military aviators, and on July 13, 1912, he became the fifth Army officer to be rated as a military aviator.

“He was one of the first three selected, but he was the first military aviator to stay the course,” said Barlow. “He was taken up by the Wright brothers and sent to Fort Sam Houston to complete his training on his own.

“Around this time, as aviation started taking off more and more, there were a lot of ground commanders who thought it was a lot of nonsense,” he said. “But there were visionaries like Foulois who knew that it was the next big thing.”

Throughout his testing of aircraft in 1911, which included the Wright Military Flyer, he was instrumental and innovating and providing ideas, even inventing the first seat belt, said the museum curator.

“(Later in life) when asked what his inspiration was for creating the seat belt, he said he was getting tired of being thrown out of the aircraft and hitting his head,” said Barlow.

Foulois also could see that the Wright Military Flyer was incredibly outdated and wouldn’t be able to compete on the battlefield.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
Lt. Foulois and Orville Wright

“The airplane at the time was a push propeller aircraft that was basically a box kite,” said Barlow. “At the same time, the French were way ahead of us with a tractor aircraft and central seating for the aircraft, which looks more like the proper airplane that we know today.”

After a series of crashes and accidents, Foulois, along with other officers in aviation. condemned the pusher propeller aircraft and began to lean toward the tractor aircraft. In 1913 he joined the 1st Aero Squadron, and by 1914 he was appointed as its commander.

In March of 1916, he reported for duty with Pershing’s Punitive Expedition, and along with Capt. Townsend Dodd performed the first U.S. aerial reconnaissance mission over enemy-held territory in Mexico.

“This was their first foray into getting their feet wet with military combat aviation,” said Barlow, adding that by the time World War I came along, Foulois was probably the most experienced officer in the military in regards to aviation.

Because of his experience, he was tasked with the procurement, production, and development and operations of aircraft.

Initially, the Army wanted several thousand aircraft, 4,800 pilots and twice as many mechanics, all within a year, but with the resources at the time it wasn’t possible.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
Brig. Gen. Benjamin D. Foulois, Maj. Gen. James. E. Fechet and Brig. Gen. H.C. Pratt

“That didn’t’ happen,” said Barlow. “We weren’t ready for that. Our output was barely 40 aircraft a month on a good month, so, we had to borrow from the British and the French.”

Foulois later deployed to France doing the same job, and in 1917 he become chief of air services in the zone of occupation for the Army Expeditionary Force. It was during his time in WWI that eventually the U.S. produced its own aircraft, the JN-4 Jenny.

Following the war, he was later appointed as the chief of the Air Corps in 1931, and in 1934 then-President Theodore Roosevelt tasked Foulois to head the Army Air Corps Mail Operation, which ended in the Air Mail scandal of 1934 because the Air Corps was ill equipped to take on the mission, said Barlow.

“They flew about 1.4 million miles carrying the mail and they lost a lot of people doing it,” he said. As a result, Foulois ended up taking the brunt of the blame for the program’s failure and was forced into retirement in 1935 with 36 years of service.

Despite the scandal, Barlow said Foulois was instrumental in bringing military aviation to the forefront.

“This is a man who came in the military at 18 … and became one of the first three pilots in the U.S. military. He was there through the birth of all the doctrine, the changes and the clashes with the ground force,” he said. “What we’re doing now we owe to him. He was the first military aviator to stay the course, and he was Army aviator No. 1 as far as I’m concerned.”

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

Articles

4 things you need to know about North Korea’s missile program

Early Monday morning on the Korean peninsula, Kim Jong-Un and the North Korean military launched four ballistic missiles into the sea, with some landing in Japanese-operated areas.


Related: Navy fleet commanders warn of potential fight in North Korea

The North’s missile program goes back decades, and includes secessions by the country, and then blatant ramp-ups of nuclear proliferation.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
A North Korean propaganda poster depicting a missile firing at the United States. | Via Flickr.

1. They signed a NPT under President Clinton

In 1994, the U.S. and North Korea agreed to a non-proliferation treaty, aiming, among other things, to normalize political and social relations between the two companies, and requiring the North to convert their graphite-moderated 5MWe nuclear reactor and two others under construction into light water reactors within 10 years.

Under the agreement, the U.S. was to provide 500,000 tons of heavy fuel oil per year, until the first of the light water reactors could be built.

Also read: 4 other ways the US could shoot down a North Korean ballistic missile

The agreement broke down in 2003, ending with North Korea withdrawing from the NPT. Officials in both countries widely speculated the U.S. only entered into the agreement because they assumed, after the death of Kim Il-sung 1994, the North Korean government would collapse.

2. They use the offer of drawing down as a bribe

Beginning with the NPT agreement in 1994, and as recently as 2012, North Korea has dangled the idea of backing down from their effort to create nuclear weapons in exchange for aid—food, money and energy being the top requests.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
In addition to its long-range missiles and nuclear programme, North Korea has a line of shorter-range Hwasong missiles capable of hitting Japan.

3. Their missile tests often happen around the same time each year

During the spring, South Korean and U.S. military troops conduct joint drills on the Korean peninsula, something the North Koreans have always found to be threatening. Officials in the North have said the drills are an obvious threat, and practice for eventual invasion of the country. It is often during these annual drills in South Korea that the North makes grand statements about their capabilities, or launches some sort of missile as a show of force.

4. They have become more aggressive under Kim Jong-un

After the death of the former North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, the country became more aggressive with missile launches and nuclear expansion. Jong-il’s son, Kim Jong-un, assumed power as supreme leader of North Korea in late 2011, and since then, the country has forged ahead with nuclear warhead developments, has launched more missiles and is less responsive to negotiation tactics than past leaders.

Articles

In a surprising twist, US agrees with Russia over Ukraine

The US on Sept. 6 offered cautious optimism for Russia’s call to deploy a United Nations peacekeeping force in Ukraine while disagreeing with Moscow over its scope.


A State Department official told Anadolu Agency in emailed comments that the option is “worth exploring” in order to protect civilians and as a possible means to restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Sept. 5 that Moscow will call on the UN Security Council to send peacekeepers to eastern Ukraine, where fighting has raged between government forces and Russia-backed separatist rebels.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

Putin insisted during remarks to reporters that the peacekeepers be deployed between government forces and rebel-controlled areas in Ukraine’s east.

But Washington and Kiev worry that deploying the peacekeeping force solely along a line dividing the warring parties would help cement the rebels’ territorial claims.

The State Department official, who spoke on condition that she not be named, said if UN forces are deployed, they should have a broad mandate that would include all Ukrainian territory up to and including the Russian border “in order to avoid deepening or institutionalizing the divisions inside Ukraine.”

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
Pro-Russian rebels shoot in the air at funeral of a fellow fighter killed in a battle for Marinka near Donetsk. Eastern Ukraine, 6 June, 2015. Photo by Mstyslav Chernov

“Our goals are simple: restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity and protect Ukrainians no matter what their religion, ethnicity, or language,” she said.

The US has long accused Russia of fomenting separatist violence in eastern Ukraine, including arming and training rebel groups fighting government forces.

More than 10,000 people have died in the fighting since it began in 2014, according to the UN.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Marine survived a shot from a .50-cal at point-blank range

After volunteering to deploy to Iraq four times, the Marine Corps finally sent Cpl. Jared Foster to Baghdad in February 2005. He was assigned as a personal security detail driver for VIPs in the Baghdad area when tragedy struck.


Just a month later after being sent to Iraq, Foster was just sitting down in his tent after a fire watch when a weapon discharged. With all the smoke in the tent, Foster thought a grenade had gone off. He was wrong.

“I saw smoke,” he told AZCentral in a 2007 interview. “Then I looked down because I felt something really cold, and when I lifted my hand up, it had blood all over it.”

Foster couldn’t move and couldn’t hear, but tried to yell for help. A .50-caliber rifle discharged from just five feet behind him. The shot should have torn him in half. Instead, it missed his spine and exited through his stomach.

 

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
U.S. Marines man an M2 Browning .50-cal machine gun. (U.S. Marine Corps)

His friends cut off his blouse to tend to his wounds and his intestines fell out. When they told him he was shot by a .50-cal, he didn’t believe them.

“Nah, that would rip your head off, he told them.” He lost consciousness shortly after.

What kind of BMG round went through Foster’s body isn’t clear but the various types of 50-caliber ammunition are commonly used to penetrate vehicle armor or chew through protective cover – like concrete.

Two years later, the Marine told AZCentral that he was evacuated to the Bethesda Naval Medical Center and subsequently underwent some 45 surgeries. He lost his tailbone and suffered damage to his large and small intestines. He was even told he would never walk again.

“I say I don’t have a butt to sit on now, and I really don’t,” Foster is quoted as saying in a Marine Corps Safety Corner. “The only thing that saved my life is I was maybe five to 10 feet away from the .50-cal when it went off, and it didn’t have time to tumble and pick up speed and velocity. It went through me, three feet of wood, four feet of a dirt berm, went another 300 yards and hit another dirt berm.”

Not only did Foster survive the wound, but he was also on his feet and walking within two years of being shot.

“The doctors said they didn’t know if they could save me,” he told the Marine Corps Safety Corner. “They didn’t know how to put me back together because they’d never seen anyone shot by a .50-caliber. The hole in my back was huge. But whatever they did worked.”

Articles

These 4 Marines killed so many Germans, the Nazis thought they were an allied battalion

On Aug. 1, 1944, less than two months after D-Day, Marine Maj. Peter J. Ortiz, five other Marines, and an Army Air Corps officer parachuted into France to assist a few hundred French resistance fighters known as the Maquis in their fight against the Germans. Ortiz had already worked and trained with the Maquis in occupied France from Jan. to May 1944.


The mission, Operation Union II, faced a rough start. Due to the danger of the Marines being spotted or drifting away from the drop zone, the jump was conducted at low altitudes.

“Because of the limitations, we had to make this jump at 400 feet,” said Sgt. Maj. John Bodnar in a Marines.com interview. “As soon as we were out of the aircraft our chutes opened and the next thing I remember is I was on the ground.”

One Marine’s parachute, that of Sgt. Charles Perry, failed to open. At such low altitudes, using a reserve wasn’t an option, and Perry was killed when he hit the drop zone. Another Marine was injured too badly to continue. The four Marines able to perform the mission were Ortiz, Sgt. Jack Risler, Sgt. Fred Brunner, and Bodnar who was also a sergeant at the time.

“Because of the limitations, we had to make this jump at 400 feet,” said Sgt. Maj. John Bodnar in a Marines.com interview. “As soon as we were out of the aircraft our chutes opened and the next thing I remember is I was on the ground.”

One Marine’s parachute, that of Sgt. Charles Perry, failed to open. At such low altitudes, using a reserve wasn’t an option, and Perry was killed when he hit the drop zone. Another Marine was injured too badly to continue. The four Marines able to perform the mission were Ortiz, Sgt. Jack Risler, Sgt. Fred Brunner, and Bodnar who was also a sergeant at the time.

The Marines, some of the only ones to serve in the European theater in World War II, would make good use of the personnel they had. First, they recovered 864 supply crates of weapons and ammunition that were dropped after the men parachuted in. Then, they linked up with the Maquis and began training the resistance fighters.

For a week, the Marines schooled the resistance fighters on how to use the new equipment, how to conduct ambushes, and how to harass German forces. They also conducted reconnaissance and mapped prime areas to conduct ambushes.

When the fighters began conducting the ambushes, they were very successful. The exact casualty counts are unknown, but the Maquis and their Marine handlers inflicted so much damage so quickly that German intelligence believed an allied battalion had jumped in to assist the resistance instead of only six Marines and a soldier.

The Germans did not take the threat lightly. They remembered Ortiz from the Jan.-May 1944 mission and were still angry about his theft of 10 Gestapo trucks and a pass that let him drive the vehicles right through checkpoints. They began executing captured resistance members in public areas in an attempt to deter others. On Aug. 14, an entire town was murdered after the Germans found injured resistance members hiding in the church.

The Marines were on a nearby ridge and watched as the Germans destroyed the town.

“They burned the place down,” Bodnar later said in a Marines.com interview. “We just left there … they killed them all.”

The next day, the Marines were trying to move positions when a German patrol got the jump on them. They split up and tried to escape, but Ortiz, Risler, Bodnar, and a resistance member were pinned down. Fighting in a small town, Ortiz became worried that the Germans would destroy it if the Marines escaped. After his initial calls for a parley were ignored, he simply walked out while under fire to speak to the German commander.

The German finally ordered his men to stop firing and Ortiz, fluent in German, French and a few other languages, offered to surrender himself and his men if the Germans would promise to leave the town alone. The German commander, believing he was fighting a company, agreed.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

(wikimedia commons)

Risler and Bodnar stepped out and the Germans captured the resistance member, Joseph Arcelin. Luckily for the Arcelin, he was wearing the uniform of Sgt. Perry and so the Germans didn’t execute him. Maj. Steven White, a Marine Corps intelligence officer and liaison to the 60th Anniversary Commemoration of Operation Union, said the Germans thought the Americans were lying about their numbers.

“Initially, the German officer was in disbelief,” White told Marines.com. “He did not believe that only 4 Marines had held off his forces for this long. He insisted that Maj. Ortiz turn over the rest of his team members.”

Ortiz was able to convince the German officer that the four men formed the entire team. He and his men spent the rest of the war in a German POW camp near Bremen, Germany.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Children’s books to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Black History Month

Military families are often better positioned to learn the history of our country as they move to new communities with different museums, landmarks, and parks. As parents, we can take advantage of our nomadic lifestyle to expose our children to the complex, beautiful, and ugly stories of our nation. And a diverse bookshelf is a great place to start.  

Below are a few books for preschool through high school to add to your collection or library pickup list as we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January and Black History Month in February. These stories will help kids understand Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and impact and the continued struggle for equality for all Americans. 

Children’s books for Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Black History Month

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Inspired 

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
7 craziest commando missions of World War II
7 craziest commando missions of World War II
7 craziest commando missions of World War II

Several young readers’ biography series have covered Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., including the “Ordinary People Change the World” series for preschoolers with “I Am Martin Luther King, Jr.”  by Brad Meltzer. “National Geographic Readers: Martin Luther King, Jr.” and “Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr.?” are both for elementary school-aged children.  

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

There are many children’s books that use the backdrop of Dr. King’s famous speeches. For younger readers “Let the Children March” by Monica Clark-Robinson demonstrates children’s participation in Civil Rights marches. “I Have a Dream” illustrates Dr. King’s famous words for children, with art by Kadir Nelson.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
7 craziest commando missions of World War II

Several stories on award lists inspired by the memory of Dr. King include “Martin’s Big Words” by Doreen Rappaport, which focuses on his speeches; “Martin Rising: Requiem for a King,” poetry by Andrea Davis Pinkney with illustrations by Brian Pinkney for middle schoolers; and for teenagers, “Dear Martin” by Nic Stone, where a modern teenager starts a journal to Dr. King.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

Civil Rights History for Young Children 

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

“A Ride to Remember” was written by Sharon Langley and Amy Nathan. This book explains segregation and the impact of the Civil Rights movement on children at the time by telling the story of the day Gwynn Oak Amusement Park in Maryland became desegregated. Langley was the first Black child allowed to ride the carousel, on the same day as the March on Washington.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

“The Undefeated” is the 2020 Caldecott Medal book by prolific author Kwame Alexander and illustrated by Kadir Nelson that lovingly demonstrates the endurance and strength of African Americans throughout history and into the future. 

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

“She Was the First”  is a new picture book written by Katheryn Russell-Brown and illustrated by Eric Velasquez that tells the story of the first African American woman elected to Congress in 1968. 

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

To further celebrate Black women in politics, consider Kamala Harris’ picture book “Superheroes are Everywhere,” illustrated by Mechal Renee Roe.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

“Lillian’s Right to Vote,” which tells the story of an elderly African American woman who recalls the history of voting rights through her family’s eyes, is by Jonah Winter and illustrated by Coretta Scott King Award-winner Shane W. Evans. 

“The Story of Ruby Bridges,” a picture book by Robert Coles and illustrated by George Ford, is a must-have for any children’s bookshelf to tell the story of school desegregation, however, for slightly older independent readers (recommended for ages 8-12), Bridges herself wrote an award-winning autobiographical account of her experiences in “Through my Eyes.” 

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
7 craziest commando missions of World War II

Military History 

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

“You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen,” written by award-winning author Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by her son Jeffrey Boston Weatherford, tells the story of African American pilots during World War II. Weatherford has written many children’s books on African American history.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

Published by Scholastic for upper elementary and middle school, “Forgotten Heroes: The Story of of the Buffalo Soldiers” delves into the history of this regiment and the complicated history of the American government using one oppressed group to fight another. 

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

The Red Summer of 1919 was impacted in large part by returning World War I soldiers. The violence of this time period is important to understanding the continuing fight for equality. While more books for young readers are needed on the subject, “A Few Red Drops: The Chicago Race Riot of 1919” is an award-winning young adult book. Teen Vogue also has a series of articles and links to resources looking at these events that can be a starting point for parents to read with their teens. 

Children’s classics

7 craziest commando missions of World War II
7 craziest commando missions of World War II
7 craziest commando missions of World War II

A few favorites that deal with growing up during the Civil Rights movement are “Brown Girl Dreaming” by must-read children’s author Jacqueline Woodson, “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry” by Mildred D. Taylor and its sequels, and “The Watsons Go to Birmingham” by Christopher Paul Curtis. Each is a Coretta Scott King and Newberry honoree. The Coretta Scott King Award is given to Black authors and illustrators to honor Martin Luther King, Jr.’s wife “for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace and world brotherhood.” 


For more suggestions, several organizations and websites offer diverse book lists as part of their mission.  For more books on Martin Luther King, Jr., Black History, social justice issues, or books by Black authors and illustrators, check out: We Need Diverse BooksMoreDiverseThe Brown Bookshelf, and Rich in Color

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The most ‘Murican moments of every presidency, part three

Not every President of the United States has a memorable administration. And, for some of these presidents, it’s probably best that people forget their time in office. That being said, no president is trying to be remembered as the worst president of all time. They might not even be thinking about being the best of all time – many are just playing the hands they were dealt, for better or for worse. How they play that hand determines their legacy.

Some are just better players than others.


7 craziest commando missions of World War II

No matter what their legacy ends up being in the annals of American History, each Presidency had its high points, whether it be a moment of patriotism, like James Madison’s administration, or a moment of love of country, like Andrew Jackson’s. They might even have, simply, the less-celebrated “holding it together and not freaking out while keeping a straight face,” like John Tyler’s administration.

The point is, they all have their moments that truly embody the American spirit — and these are those moments.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

Fat-president jokes are so 1880s.

Grover Cleveland #2

Cleveland is the only President of the United States to serve two non-consecutive terms. This would be like George H.W. Bush coming back and taking the White House from Bill Clinton in 1996 — unthinkable in our day and age, but technically possible. It wasn’t so improbable in Grover Cleveland’s era. The Democrat’s first term saw him get badly-needed upgrades to coastal defenses and the U.S. Navy through a Republican Congress, which was no small feat, even back in 1885. But it was his skill as Commander-In-Chief that got him re-elected in 1892.

This time, he wasn’t just thinking about the defense of the United States. He wanted American ships that could take the U.S. Navy on the offensive and commissioned five battleships and 16 torpedo boats, effectively doubling the battleship capability of the U.S. Navy. These ships would later be used to defeat Spain in the Spanish-American War.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

Every photo of William McKinley makes him look like he’s disappointed in you.

William McKinley

The president that built the bridge to the 20th Century, William McKinley was the last Civil War veteran — and the only enlisted Civil War veteran — to ride his military service to the White House. He was elected to two terms in the nation’s highest office but was assassinated just six months into his second. It was a tragic end to a good career but, fortunately, he was able to start the American Century with a bang.

Actually, it’s more like a lot of bangs. McKinley sent the USS Maine into Havana harbor to protect U.S. interests in the middle of a Cuban slave revolt against Spanish rule. When the Maine exploded in Havana harbor, he commissioned a court of inquiry to determine if the Spanish were at fault. Even though modern evidence later revealed that an onboard accident destroyed the American ship, McKinley’s court determined a Spanish mine was at fault. McKinley asked Congress for a declaration of war against Spain, which the United States won in less than a year, capturing Guam, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and for a while, Cuba as American territories.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

It’s difficult to choose the most American moment from the presidency of the most American man who ever lived.

Theodore Roosevelt

President McKinley is more often than not overlooked by history, not because he was inconsequential (he wasn’t) but rather because he’s in the shadow of one of the giants of history. In the U.S., there was only one man who could do what TR did – regulate monopolies while taking on big business, preserve national parks, and clean up our food and drugs while instituting the income tax and the inheritance tax — aka the “Death Tax.” These ideas seem counter to today’s right-left politics, but Roosevelt could do it and if you called him a flip-flopper, Teddy would have words (and probably fists) with you.

Roosevelt’s most American moment came as part of his “Big Stick” foreign policy and was an addendum — corollary, actually — to the Monroe Doctrine. When Venezuela refused to pay its foreign debt in 1902, Italy, Germany, and Britain blockaded its ports and tried to force payment through an international court. Where the Monroe Doctrine warned Europe to stay out of the United States’ backyard, the Roosevelt Corollary warned Europeans that the United States military would be the guard dog keeping them out.

At Roosevelt’s order, the U.S. Navy met the blockade around Venezuela and forced them to back down. The parties then settled into arbitration.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

You see, this cat Taft is one bad mother.

William Howard Taft

Taft and Roosevelt were close friends and saw eye-to-eye on most issues facing the United States at the time of Taft’s election. Taft was pretty much Roosevelt’s hand-picked successor to the office and, even though the two men were different in tone and constitution, much of what Roosevelt started was picked up under Taft. One of the first uses of the Roosevelt Corollary was in Nicaragua, under Taft’s orders.

Nicaragua was quickly falling into total chaos. The government was facing a powerful rebellion backed by American diplomats. Meanwhile, the elected government was heavily indebted to Europeans. When the government executed two Americans, the U.S. cut ties and aided rebel forces in the capture the capital of Managua. The U.S.then forced Nicaragua to take a loan so Europeans couldn’t get their hands on a potential new canal site (the Panama Canal was under construction at the time). American troops essentially took control of the entire country for the next 20 years.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

“He kept us out of war.” Lolz

Woodrow Wilson

As the first professor elected to the U.S. Presidency, Wilson was a far departure from the days of Roosevelt and Taft. History is beginning to question some of Wilson’s decisions regarding domestic policy, but one thing we can’t question is his resolve to protect Americans and American interests. When Pancho Villa killed Americans while raiding new Mexico, he ordered America’s premiere military man to follow him into Mexico. Then, Germany started messing with the U.S.

In the ultimate series of boneheaded provocations, Germany, in the middle of World War I kept poking the United States. After British spies intercepted a telegram from the German Ambassador to the leaders of Mexico promising an alliance if the United States entered the European War and the torpedoing of the Lusitania liner that killed hundreds of Americans, Germany sunk a number of American ships. Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war and the United States entered World War I.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

He wasn’t nicknamed “The Regulator,” but it would’ve been cool.

Warren G. Harding

The United States helped win the war in Europe but was left with many, many questions in its wake. Harding’s administration was determined to get the United States back in order in the post-WWI years. Beyond the drawdown of American troops from Europe and Cuba, a reduction in the overall military, and arms reduction agreements with major world powers, Hardings most American moment has to be the rejection of the League of Nations.

The United States did not sign the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I because of the agreement to the creation of the League of Nations. Instead it conducted separate agreements with Germany, Austria, and Hungary. Harding was elected on a platform of opposing the League. In the end, the League was a failed body — but was it because of the lack of U.S presence or despite it?

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

Meanwhile, nothing about Calvin Coolidge’s look is all that cool… but stick around.

Calvin Coolidge

“Silent Cal” really believed that most things, from flood control to business, would work itself out and the Federal government wasn’t there to handle every single problem faced by the states. What Coolidge did believe in was the rights of Americans, regardless of race — a big deal for 1923. The 30th President didn’t care what color anyone was and let it be known that Americans were Americans. Period.

He granted Native Americans citizenship and used his first inaugural address to remind the government of the rights of African-Americans and that the government had a public and private duty to defend those rights. He even thanked immigrants for making the United States what it was and called for the U.S. to welcome and protect immigrants.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

One of the few presidents whose major life achievements came before and after being president.

Herbert Hoover

Everything great about Herbert Hoover (and there’s a lot. Seriously, look it up) happened outside of his Presidency. Hoover was a tireless, dedicated public servant who spent much of his life in service to others both before and after taking office. Unfortunately for Hoover, history will forget everything but his response to the Great Depression, which was abysmal and engulfed most of his time in office. His critics had a point.

Internationally, Hoover was the last U.S. President who didn’t really need to pay close attention to the rest of the world. His most American moment was winding down the interventionist wars in Latin America which began at the turn of the century. Troops from Nicaragua and Haiti were finally coming home.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

Franklin Roosevelt ran his Presidency like he had the Konami codes to the White House.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

If only every leader could as capable as FDR, the only President to serve more than two terms. If there’s one President that had the biggest effect in shaping the United States to look like the country it is today, it would be Franklin Roosevelt. The reason new administrations are judged on their first 100 days in office is because the Roosevelt Administration implemented New Deal reforms to end the Great Depression while ending Prohibition within its first few months.

It wasn’t just his oversight of World War II that made for a great patriotic moment. There are so many moments to choose from throughout his four terms in office. The most exciting moment came in 1943 at the Casablanca Conference where he told Winston Churchill he would only accept the unconditional surrender of each Axis power. In hindsight, it doesn’t seem so powerful a statement, but in 1943, victory for the Allies was far from assured.

7 craziest commando missions of World War II

If you f*cked with America while Truman was in charge, he probably sent some guys after you.

Harry S. Truman

Truman prosecuted the end of World War II, the reduction in size of the U.S. Armed Forces, the rebuilding of post-war Europe, the formation of the United Nations, the integration of armed forces, and so much more. It’s hard to believe people thought so little of Truman after he left office given everything we know his administration really did.

His most American moment was the highly-unpopular move of firing General Douglas MacArthur during the Korean War, asserting civilian control of the military and his status as Commander-In-Chief, telling Time Magazine later,

“I fired him because he wouldn’t respect the authority of the President … I didn’t fire him because he was a dumb son of a b*tch, although he was, but that’s not against the law for generals. If it was, half to three-quarters of them would be in jail.”
7 craziest commando missions of World War II

The face when someone who already oversaw the destruction of global fascism threatens the Communist way of life.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Of course the man who presided over victory in Europe during World War II is going to ascend to the presidency. But when Ike took office as Chief Executive, the United States was in the middle of a bloody stalemate, leading United Nations forces against the communists in Korea. His solution wasn’t to make a speech at the UN General Assembly or take advice from others. The onetime Supreme Allied Commander would go see for himself.

Eisenhower was barely President-elect when he arrived in Korea after two brutal years of fighting there. He immediately concluded that it would forever be a stalemate no one would really win and then threatened the Chinese Communists with nuclear war if they didn’t hammer out an agreement. The Communists, rattled by Ike’s WWII reputation, believed him and concluded an agreement within 8 months.

Looking to go back in time? Check out part two.

Looking to visit the future? Part four is coming soon!

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