7 light tanks the Army used to operate - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

7 light tanks the Army used to operate

With the Mobile Protected Firepower program in the testing and evaluation phase, the Army is getting closer to adding a light tank back into its inventory. The XM8 Armored Gun System was the last tank to come close to filling the role. However, it was cancelled in 1997 before it left the experimental phase. Here are 7 light tanks that did see service with the Army.

1. M1 Combat Car

7 light tanks the Army used to operate
Civil War veterans inspect an M1 Combat Car at the 1939 New York World’s Fair (Public Domain)

The introduction of the tank during WWI changed the face of war forever. However, America didn’t have a tank of its own during the war. Instead, U.S. soldiers like George S. Patton crewed French tanks like the Renault FT-17. After the war, America got to work developing its own armored doctrine and vehicles. Light tanks were defined as weighing five tons or less so that they could be carried by trucks. Then-Chief of Staff of the Army General Douglas MacArthur promoted the mechanization of the Army to equip cavalrymen with armored fighting vehicles as well. Designated as combat cars, these light tanks allowed cavalry units to exploit opportunities on the battlefield rather than being tied to the infantry in a support role. Despite its name, the M1 Combat Car was a bonafide light tank. Developed and built by the Rock Island Arsenal, it had tracks, light armor and a turret. Armed with just one .50-cal M2 Browning machine gun and two .30-cal M1919 Browning machine guns, the M1 was not well-suited for direct combat. By the time WWII started, the M1 was obsolete. Still, it paved the way as America’s first light tank.

2. Light Tank, M2

7 light tanks the Army used to operate
A Marine Corps M2A4 on Guadalcanal (Public Domain)

Another inter-war design, the M2 went through a number of variants before WWII. However, the most common was the M2A4 equipped with one 37mm M5 gun and five .30-cal M1919 Browning machine guns. Before WWII, the most common variant was the M2A2. It was only equipped with machine guns. The Spanish Civil War showed that tanks armed only with machine guns were ineffective, so the U.S. added the 37mm M5 gun. By the time WWII broke out, the Army had moved on to the M3 light tank. The only American unit to field the M2 in combat was the Marine Corps’ 1st Tank Battalion.

3. M3/M5 Stuart

7 light tanks the Army used to operate
An M5 of Company D, 761st Tank Battalion in Coburg, Germany (Public Domain)

An evolution of the M2, the M3/M5 Stuart was the main American light tank of WWII. The tank was also supplied to British forces under the Lend-Lease Act. It was British forces who named the tank Stuart after American Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart. The M3 featured thicker armor, modified suspension, and an upgraded 37mm M6 gun over the M2. The M5 was given an updated engine and an automatic transmission. It was also quieter, cooler, and more spacious inside than the M3. Initially designated the M4 light tank, it was redesignated the M5 to prevent confusion with the M4 Sherman tank. In the African and European theaters, the Stuart was outgunned by the heavier German tanks and deadly anti-tank units. However, it excelled at traditional cavalry missions like scouting and screening. In the Pacific theater, the Stuart saw more direct action. Japanese tanks were a rare sight and were generally outgunned by American tanks. Moreover, the dense jungles of the Pacific islands were more easily navigated by the smaller M3/M5 than the larger M4 Sherman.

4. M22 Locust

7 light tanks the Army used to operate
One M22 Locust that was successfully deployed during Operation Varsity (Public Domain)

Officially designated the Light Tank (Airborne), M22, the Locust was the first light tank of its kind. In 1941, the British War Office requested that America develop a light tank that could be transported via glider to support airborne troops. The result was an exceptionally small tank. Weighing just 7.4 metric tons and measuring 12 feet 11 inches long, 7 feet 1 inch wide, and 6 feet 1 inch tall, the Locust was truly a light tank. Crewed by 3 men, it was equipped with a 37mm M6 gun and one .30-cal M1919 Browning machine gun. However, the Locust was not ready to fight as soon as it landed. The turret was removed during flight in order to fit inside a glider. Upon landing, it took six men about 10 minutes to unload and assemble the Locust. As a result of this, its light armor, and small gun, the M22 performed poorly in British service during Operation Varsity in 1945. Of the eight tanks flown in to support the airborne operation, only four made it to the rendezvous point. Of those four, only two were undamaged and fit for service. Although a small number of Locusts were delivered to U.S. Army units, they never saw combat.

5. M24 Chaffee

7 light tanks the Army used to operate
An M24 Chaffee on guard duty outside the 1945 Nuremberg Trials (Public Domain)

Officially designated the Light Tank, M24, the Chaffee also owes it name to the British. While serving with the British Army, the M24 was named after U.S. General Adna R. Chaffee Jr. who is often referred to as the Father of the Armored Force for his work in developing the use of tanks in the U.S. Army. The British use of the M3 in North Africa demonstrated the shortcomings of its 37mm gun. However, the larger 75mm gun proved to be a more capable anti-tank weapon. In 1943, the Ordnance Corps started a project to develop a new light tank equipped with a 75mm gun. In order to keep the new tank under 20 tons, its light armor was heavily sloped to maximize its effectiveness. First delivered in October 1943, the M24 was equipped with a 75mm M6 main gun, one .50-cal M2 Browning machine gun, and two .30-cal M1919 Browning machine guns. The tank first saw action during the Battle of the Bulge and entered widespread use in December 1944. It was well-received for its improved off-road performance, reliability, and firepower over the M3/M5 Stuart. The M24 went on to serve during the Korean War where it suffered in direct combat but excelled in the reconnaissance and support roles alongside heavier tanks.

6. M41 Walker Bulldog

7 light tanks the Army used to operate
An M41 Walker Bulldog supports infantry during a U.S. exercise in Europe during the 1950s (Public Domain)

The M41 is unique in that is was developed independently by Cadillac and marketed to the U.S. military to replace the M24. First produced in 1951, the M41 was capable both as a reconnaissance vehicle thanks to its high speed and mobility, but also as a support tank with its 76mm M32A1 rifled cannon. The tank was named for the late General Walton Walker who was killed in a jeep accident in 1950. It was also the first American postwar light tank to see worldwide service and was heavily exported. Although the M41 was adopted too late to see use in the Korean War, five M41s were given to democratic Cuban forces for use during the Bay of Pigs Invasion. The Cubans received training at Fort Knox in March 1961 and were transported to Playa Girón on April 17. Despite heavy resistance, all five tanks made it ashore. Although they had initial successes, knocking out several communist T-34/85 tanks, heavy armored counterattacks meant that the tank crews expended all of their ammunition by noon. The surviving tanks were abandoned on the beach when the invasion failed.

7. M551 Sheridan

7 light tanks the Army used to operate
An M551 Sheridan of the 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry in Vietnam (Public Domain)

Entering service in 1967, the M551 Sheridan was a light tank developed for armored reconnaissance and airborne operations. Named for Union Civil War General Philip Sheridan, the M551 was designed to be dropped from a plane via parachute. It was also amphibious and capable of crossing rivers before heavy bridge-laying vehicles could be driven onto the battlefield. The Sheridan also featured a unique gun. Its 152mm M81 gun could fire conventional tank rounds. However, it also doubled as a launcher capable of firing the new MGM-51 Shillelagh guided anti-tank missile. The Sheridan performed well in Vietnam. Its light weight meant it was less prone to getting stuck in the mud compared to the heavier M48 Patton. The tank also excelled in direct-fire support of infantry. With its M657 High Explosive and M625 Canister rounds, it was an effective anti-personnel weapon. The Sheridan saw limited use during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. It saw its first combat air drop during Operation Just Cause in Panama where it also saw limited use. The Sheridan was retired from service in 1996 without a replacement. However, it did see limited use as a training aid for the Armored Officer Basic Course and as a simulated Soviet armored opposition force at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin until 2003.

Articles

Nazi Germany tried to counterfeit its way to victory

The Third Reich attempted a number of unconventional plots to win World War II, including counterfeiting U.S. and British currency to destabilize the Allies’ wartime economies.


Not surprisingly, the Nazi plan relied on Jewish slave labor. Operation Bernhard recruited Jewish artists, printers, bankers, and others from concentration camps and pressed them into creating engraving plates and physically counterfeiting money and important documents.

7 light tanks the Army used to operate
Nazi leaders organized a counterfeiting ring that created British bank notes. (Photo: Public Domain)

Prisoners pressed into counterfeiting who survived the war described an initial test where they would be asked to print greeting cards. Prisoners who printed it well enough or who had a strong background in art or printing were then sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

Adolf Burger, a printer who survived the war and wrote memoirs detailing his experiences, was personally congratulated by Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Hoss when he was selected for the program.

“Herr Burger!” Hoss reportedly said. “We need people like you. You’ll be sent to Berlin. You will work as a free man and I wish you every success.”

The men were granted special privileges not afforded to other prisoners, but they were not free.

7 light tanks the Army used to operate
Starved prisoners, nearly dead from hunger, pose in the Ebensee, Austria, concentration camp. Prisoners forced to create counterfeit English bank notes were sent here for execution but survived thanks to a prisoner revolt. (Photo: U.S. Army Lt. A. E. Samuelson)

“I always said I was a dead man on holiday,” Burger told a historian. “We never believed we would get out of there. But in the block we had everything — food, white sheets on the bed. Each one of us had his own bed; not like Birkenau, where six of us slept under a single lice-ridden blanket.”

The plan to print American currency was scuttled quickly due to problems with getting the necessary papers and inks, but the Nazis were able to collect all the proper supplies to print British bank notes.

While the Nazis destroyed most of their records and the counterfeit notes after the war, Allied investigations into the scheme estimate that nearly 9,000 banknotes with a total value of over 134 million British pounds were printed, though as little as 10 percent may have been usable.

7 light tanks the Army used to operate
The original plan for Operation Bernhard called for the counterfeit currency to be dropped by bombers. (Photo: Imperial War Museum)

The initial plan called for the Luftwaffe to airdrop the illicit currency into Britain and other Allied areas to get it into circulation, but a shortage of aircraft led to them distributing the money through a network of agents.

Surprisingly, they actually got some of the money into circulation by using it to pay unsuspecting intelligence sources and agents, a move that could have caused their intelligence networks to collapse if it had been discovered.

Britain learned about the plot from a spy in 1939, three years before the printing got underway in earnest. By 1943, it was finding some of the notes in circulation. Some of the first counterfeits were caught when people tried to redeem bank notes for pounds sterling using serial numbers that had already been redeemed at the bank.

7 light tanks the Army used to operate
American troops ride a captured German tank during the Battle of Hurtgen Forest. The Allied advance in 1945 ended the German counterfeiting operation and resulted in the liberation of the printers. (Photo: U.S. Army)

As the Allied war machine bore down on Berlin, the counterfeiting operation was moved two times before the Nazis running it made the decision to destroy the equipment and records and kill the printers.

Luckily, the order was given to kill all the printers at the same time at the Ebensee prison camp, but a prison riot occurred while a truck was ferrying the printers to the site of their execution.

The printers escaped into the Ebensee prison population and were liberated by the Allied armies on May, 6, 1945.

Today, few of the counterfeit notes remain, though a large quantity was recently recovered from where it was dumped in Lake Toplitz. The lake has little to no oxygen below a depth of 65 feet, preserving the bank notes.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The man who set himself on fire to stop Russian tanks

In 1969, during the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia, a student protester set himself on fire and triggered mass protests across the country, slowing Russian consolidation and setting off a slow burn that would eventually consume the occupying forces.


7 light tanks the Army used to operate

Soviet tanks roll into Czechoslovakia in 1968.

(U.S. National Archives)

Czechoslovakia was firmly democratic for decades before World War II, but German forces partially occupied it during World War II and, in 1948, it was conquered by the Soviets. The Communists had supporters in the working class and a stranglehold of government leadership, but students and academics kept fomenting the seeds of unrest.

Even when most of the Soviet-aligned countries went through soul searching in 1953 after the death of Stalin, Czechoslovakia basically just marched on. But in the 1960s, leadership changes and an economic slowdown led to a series of reforms that softened the worst repressions of the communist regime.

The leader, Antonin Novotny, was eventually ousted in 1968 and replaced by Alexander Dubcek who then ended censorship, encouraging reform and the debate of government policies. By April, 1968, the government released an official plan for further reforms. The Soviet government was not into this, obviously.

7 light tanks the Army used to operate

Czechoslovaks carry a national flag past a burning soviet tank in Prague.

(CIA.gov)

The biggest problem for the Soviets was the lack of censorship. They were worried that ideas debated in Czechoslovakia would trigger revolutions across the Soviet Bloc. So, in August, 1968, they announced a series of war games and then used the assembled forces to invade Czechoslovakia instead. The tanks crossed the line on August 20, and the capital was captured by the following day.

Initially, the citizens of Prague and the rest of Czechoslovakia were angry and energized, but they eventually lost their drive. But one 20-year-old student, Jan Palach, wanted to revitalize the resistance. And so he penned a note calling for an end to censorship, the cessation of a Soviet propaganda newspaper, and new debates. If the demands weren’t met, he said, a series of students would burn themselves to death. He signed the note “Torch Number One.”

The Soviet leadership, of course, ignored it, but on Jan. 19, 1969, he marched up the stairs at the National Museum in central Prague, poured gasoline over his body, and lit his match.

7 light tanks the Army used to operate

Jan Palach

Bystanders quickly put him out, but he had already suffered burns over 85 percent of his body. He died within days. He was not the first man to burn himself in protest of the Soviet invasion, but his death was widely reported while earlier protests had been successfully suppressed by the Soviets.

Other students began a hunger strike at the location of Palach’s death, and student leaders were able to force the Soviets to hold a large funeral for Palach. Over 40,000 mourners marched past his coffin.

While the Soviets were able to claw back power through deportations and police actions, the whispers of Palach’s sacrifice continued for a generation.

On the 20th anniversary of his protest, mass demonstrations broke out once again in Czechoslovakia, and the weakened Soviet Union could not contain them. By February, 1990, the Soviets were marching out of the country, a process which was completed amicably in June, 1991.

Palach’s protest had taken decades to finally work, but in the end, Czechoslovakia was freed of the tanks Palach and others resented so much.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the US Navy captured its first enemy ship in 129 years

In the early days of the U.S. Navy, boarding and capturing enemy vessels was common practice. As naval firepower increased, the practice became to sink the other ship rather than capture it. Then in 1944 with some daring actions–and a stroke of luck–the U.S. Navy captured a German U-boat, its first such accomplishment since the War of 1812.


The German U-boat, U-505, was known as a hard-luck case, though it could also be said that it was a boat that wouldn’t sink. On her fourth patrol of the war, a British Hudson bomber scored a direct hit in an attack run so low that the explosion caused the plane to crash as well. The captain gave the order to abandon ship but the technical crew insisted on staying aboard to save the vessel. After two weeks of repairs, the U-boat was able to limp back to Europe and had the honor of being the most heavily damaged submarine to ever return to port.

Despite numerous abortive cruises due to French saboteurs, U-505 finally sailed for another patrol; this time, however, it earned another dubious honor when her skipper became the first–and only–known submarine commander to crack and commit suicide while under attack.

Finally, in the spring of 1944, fully-repaired and under the command of a new captain, U-505 set a course for the coast of West Africa for an 80-day war patrol.

Also heading towards West Africa during that time was Task Group 22.3, commanded by Captain Daniel Gallery from his flagship, the escort carrier USS Guadalcanal. Task Group 22.3 was employed as an anti-submarine Hunter-Killer group as part of the Battle of the Atlantic. Along with Guadalcanal the group also consisted of five destroyer escorts.

 

7 light tanks the Army used to operate
Hunter-Killer Task Group 22.3 had one mission: take out German U-boats. (Museum of Science+Industry Chicago)

 

During Task Group 22.3’s second Hunter-Killer cruise, Captain Gallery had an important revelation. A long-running battle with U-515 ended when the U-boat was too heavily damaged to continue and surfaced so its crew could abandon ship. As the Germans abandoned ship, the task group blasted it until it finally sank. Gallery realized that if he had a trained boarding party ready they could quickly board a scuttled U-boat and save it from sinking. As the task force returned to port, Gallery began making preparations for just such an event during the next sortie.

On June 4, 1944, Task Group 22.3 found the perfect prey. As U-505 was returning from its war patrol, it inadvertently stumbled right into the middle of the task group. The sub tried to dive but the clear waters allowed the Guadalcanal’s aircraft to maintain visual contact and use their guns to mark the submarine’s location in the water. The task group’s destroyer escorts then moved in for the kill.

USS Chatelain began its attack by launching its Mark 4 Hedgehog anti-submarine weapon at the U-boat. When those failed to score a hit, Chatelain repositioned and dropped a pattern of depth charges against the sub.

 

7 light tanks the Army used to operate
Task Group 22.3 attacks the German U-505. (Museum of Science+Industry Chicago)

 

A U-505 surviving crewmember, Hans Goebeler remembered the attack vividly. “They really gave it to us,” he said. “The explosions were the biggest I ever heard.” The depth charges caused severe internal and external damage to the U-boat. With all hope seeming lost, the commander gave the order to surface and abandon ship–just as Gallery had anticipated.

As the sub came to the surface, the American ships and aircraft raked it with gunfire, hoping to quickly drive off the German sailors before they could properly scuttle the ship. The fire had the intended effect. The Americans killed one German and wounded two others as the rest of the crew quickly jumped overboard to escape the maelstrom of bullets.

Normally the American destroyer escorts would have moved in to finish off the U-boat and send it to Davy Jones’ Locker but Captain Gallery’s decision to try to capture a German submarine called for a different action. As the Germans fled the sinking sub, a nearby destroyer escort, the USS Pillsbury, launched a boarding party to rescue the stricken vessel. The other ships picked up their new German POWs.

Led by Lt. Albert David, the boarding party plunged through the conning tower and into the submarine. It was a race against time–the ship sinking beneath them was rigged with scuttling charges that could explode at any moment. The boarding party quickly found the open sea strainer, an 11-inch pipe pouring water into the submarine, and capped it. To their relief, the party found that in their haste to abandon ship, none of the Germans had taken the time to arm the scuttling charges. Most of the submarine was below the water with just the front portion and most of the conning tower still visible. The sub was hanging on by an air bubble in one of the dive tanks.

The boarding party quickly secured the biggest prize of all: U-505’s log books, charts, codes, and its Enigma machine. The ship was still in danger of sinking, however, and with little working knowledge of German submarines, the task of salvaging U-505 fell on the task group’s chief engineer, Commander Earl Trosino. As Gallery would later say when the situation was the most precarious, “thanks to Trosino’s uncanny instinct for finding the right valves, and his total disregard for his own safety, we succeeded in saving U-505.”

 

7 light tanks the Army used to operate
Task Group 22.3 takes great risk to capture U-505–and the wealth of intelligence on board. (Museum of Science+Industry Chicago)

 

With the submarine secured, the task group took it under tow and headed for Bermuda. The intelligence gained from the capture of U-505 was invaluable. By maintaining strict secrecy of the operation, the Germans were never aware that the Americans had captured their U-boat intact with its precious cargo of information. The entire task group was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for their actions. Lt. David was awarded the Medal of Honor for his part in leading the boarding party.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The time Colonel Sanders shot a man in a gunfight over a sign

The world of American small business was a very different place a hundred years ago. Business in America has always been a sort of fight to the death, but in the days before we were all connected by things like the internet, television and the rule of law, things could go south in a hurry.

That fact is especially true in the South, which has always moved at its own pace. Back in the 1920s, taking a guy to court to stop painting over your business’ sign wasn’t the easiest way to get things done. Shooting him wasn’t either, but that’s what happened to Harland Sanders. 

Kentucky Colonel Sanders in the 1970s, in character
Kentucky Colonel Harland Sanders in the 1970s, in character. (Dan Linsay, Wikipedia)

Everyone’s favorite chicken mascot used to be a real guy and yes, he did served in the U.S. military — only he wasn’t a colonel. He was an enlisted teamster who lied about his age to join at 16. After a year in Cuba, he returned home and was discharged. 

Like many veterans, he bounced around from job to job before finding his true calling: entrepreneur. He opened a Shell station in North Corbin, Kentucky. This is where he first started serving food to hungry travelers and locals. But he found competition in the oil business could be a little bit aggressive. 

A competing gas station owner named Matt Stewart ran the local Standard Oil station in North Corbin. As a business tactic, he would paint over Sanders’ Shell Oil sign that told motorists where to find the station. He repeatedly warned Stewart to stop, until one day Sanders caught his competition in the act. 

Maybe you’ve heard about the hot tempers of old time Southerners. Harland Sanders was no different. He threatened to shoot Corbin for painting over the sign, which is a nicer way to say what Sanders actually said, which was that he would “blow [his] g-d head off.” 

But when Sanders approached Stewart that day accompanied by two Shell Oil managers, it was Stewart who opened fire on Sanders. Stewart killed one of the managers, while Sanders retrieved the dead man’s gun. Sanders and the remaining manager returned fire, wounding Stewart. 

When the dust settled, Stewart would survive getting shot by Sanders, but he was on his way to prison for murder. Sanders, acting in self-defense, was not charged. With his competition eliminated, Sanders’ business thrived. He was able to pursue his true passion, the one that would soon involve 11 herbs and spices. 

He became a Kentucky Colonel by Gov. Ruby Laffoon in 1935 for founding the restaurant next to his gas station. His colonelship was later reaffirmed in 1949. In the 1950s, he was able to found and grow Kentucky Fried Chicken, his claim to fame. The days of shootouts with the competition long behind him.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The awesome way this military family honors their grandfather will make you smile

During World War Two, Wilfred Hann, a U.S. Army soldier, cut his own hair with Wahl clippers. After his military service, he taught his children, and their children, to do the same thing.


In 1997, his grandson, Justin Pummill joined the Air Force and bought clippers of his own, staying sharp and ready for combat no matter what came his way.

7 light tanks the Army used to operate

Today, he continues his grandfather’s legacy, cutting his own son’s hair and keeping the family tradition alive:

www.youtube.com

We Are The Mighty is proud to partner with Wahl, the leader in the professional and home grooming field.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The ‘Kitten Marine’ of the Korean War passed away at age 90

Frank Praytor, the U.S. Marine photographed nursing a kitten during the Korean War, recently passed away at the age of 90.


In the heat of the Korean War, Sgt. Frank Praytor was a combat correspondent in the 1st Marine Division. He had previously got into journalism in 1947 with the Birmingham News and, eventually, the Alabama bureau of the International News Service. In 1950, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and soon found himself in Korea.

7 light tanks the Army used to operate

He was a well-respected and highly successful journalist for Stars and Stripes. His many accomplishments include reporting firsthand accounts of PoW exchanges, the truce-signing at Panmunjom — which brought the ceasefire on the Korean War, and photographing a Navy corpsman treating a wounded Marine on the battlefield — which won an award from Photography Magazine.

All of this pales in comparison to the stardom he received when he was photographed by a fellow combat cameraman, Staff Sgt. Martin Riley, tenderly caring for a kitten in the middle of a battlefield. Praytor adopted two baby kittens after their mother was killed. The kitten in the photograph was named Miss Hap because, “she was born at the wrong time and wrong place.” He nursed them both back to full health, feeding them meat from his rations, and they served as the unofficial mascots of the Marine press office in Korea.

7 light tanks the Army used to operate
Praytor is the second to the left. Miss Hap is probably gnawing at something. (Image via Stars and Stripes, 1953)

Riley sent the photo to the Associated Press as a sign of the “goodwill” the Marine Corps represents. Time passed and he snapped his previously mentioned award-winning photo. Soon after, he was brought on court-martial charges for releasing a war photo without the consent of superior officers. When he was called into the commander’s office, he had accepted his fate — then the commander ripped up the condemning papers.

The photograph of him and Miss Hap was picked up by over 1,700 newspapers across the United States. He had become a celebrity back home. A handsome Marine caring for a two-week-old kitten brought favorable eyes upon the Marine Corps from all across the United States. Hundreds of letters were sent, addressed to “Kitten Marine, Korea.” “I got letters from girls all over the country who wanted to marry me,” Praytor told the U.S. Naval Institute in a 2009 interview.

7 light tanks the Army used to operate
Marines still take care of cats, if any girls are still interested. (Image via Reddit)

He was reassigned to Tokyo and had to leave Miss Hap with a fellow Marine, Cpl. Conrad Fisher. During his visit to report on the truce at Panmunjom, he visited Fisher, who was still taking care of Miss Hap. Fisher was happy to bring her back home stateside. Praytor would continue his life as a freelance journalist well into his 80s.

Also Read: 7 tales of heroism for cat people sick of all the military dog stories

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Space Force can learn from this NASA spacecraft mutiny

Just before New Year’s Eve 1973, NASA’s mission control center in Houston lost contact with the crew of Skylab 4. For 90 minutes, no one on the ground knew anything about what was happening in Earth’s orbit. The three crew members had been in space longer than any other humans before them. The astronauts were all in orbit for the first time.

All NASA knew is that the rookie astronauts had a tremendous workload but roughly similar to that of previous Skylab missions. They didn’t know that the crew had announced a strike and had stopped working altogether.


7 light tanks the Army used to operate

Skylab 4 Commander Gerald P. Carr, floating in Skylab.

(NASA)

The Skylab crew had been up in space for six weeks, working a particularly rigorous schedule. Since the cost of a days work in space was estimated to be million or more, there was little time to lose. NASA didn’t see the problem, since previous crews had worked the same workloads. The crew of the latest – and last – Skylab mission, however, had been there with a rigorous schedule for longer than anyone before.

Skylab missions were designed to go beyond the quick trips into space that had marked previous NASA missions. The astronauts were now trying to live in space and research ways to prevent the afflictions that affected previous astronauts who spent extended time in weightless orbit. Medical and scientific experiments dominated the schedules, which amounted to a 24-hour workday. On top of that, there was the cosmic research and spacewalks required to maintain the station.

7 light tanks the Army used to operate

Skylab 4

(NASA)

NASA had purposely pushed the crew even harder than other missions when they fell behind, creating a stressful environment among the crew and animosity toward mission control. Mission control had become a dominating, stressful presence who only forced the crew to work excruciatingly long hours with little rest.

So after being fed up with having every hour of the stay in space scheduled, they decided to take a breather and cut contact with the ground. Some reports say they simply floated in the Skylab, watching the Earth from the windows. After the “mutiny” ended and communications were restored, the astronauts were allowed to complete their work on their own schedule, with less interference from below. They even got a reduced workload.

But none of the astronauts ever left the Earth again.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These are the only father-son pairs to receive Medals of Honor

At only two times in American history have father-son pairs both earned Medals of Honor. One pair was based in the Civil War and then World War II combat, and the other pair in the Spanish-American War and World War I combat. All four would make their last names famous for generations to come.


7 light tanks the Army used to operate

Arthur MacArthur earned his fame rushing the Confederate defenses on Missionary Ridge.

(Images: Public domain; Graphic: WATM)

Arthur MacArthur receives the medal for actions in 1863

First Lt. Arthur MacArthur was only 18 and an adjutant in the 24th Wisconsin Infantry when the regiment was arrayed against stiff defenses on Missionary Ridge in Tennessee near the border with Georgia. The Confederates had used this position to harass and attack Union forces for some time, and it was the last great barrier to the invasion of Georgia.

But the Confederate forces had a line of rifle pits at the base of ridge and trenches and other defenses at the top. The Union attack was ordered against the ridge, and confused orders led to a successful melee in the pits, but then a sporadic and faltering attack up toward the trenches.

It was during this attack up that MacArthur saw the Regimental color bearer go down, and he leaped forward to get the colors back up so the men would continue attacking. He was wounded twice while rushing the colors up the hill, but he still planted the flag and then fought to defend it, effectively leading an attack that took the ridge as well as the land 2.5 miles past it in a single day. He was awarded the Medal of Honor, promoted to major, and later took command of the regiment.

7 light tanks the Army used to operate

Gen. Douglas MacArthur returns to the Philippines in World War II.

(Public domain)

Douglas MacArthur defends the Philippines until all is lost

Arthur would retire as a lieutenant general, but one of his sons would eclipse him in valor awards and rank. Douglas MacArthur was already a full general, and the recipient of seven Silver Stars and three Distinguished Service Crosses when Japan invaded the Philippines in December 1941.

It was quickly apparent that Japan would have the upper hand, but Douglas was at least as tenacious as his father. He had his men establish defensive line after defensive line, conducting a controlled withdrawal that soaked the ground in blood for every inch they gave up. Eventually, he was forced to pull back to the Bataan Peninsula, allowing his men to defend themselves in more mountainous terrain, but also cutting off further escape and giving up the cities.

This whole time, Gen. MacArthur was often at the front, often under enemy fire. But his calmness under fierce attacks helped his men keep their cool in their desperate defense. It was only after President Franklin D. Roosevelt was forced to order the general off of the islands on February 22, 1942, to prevent his capture that Douglas withdrew. And he did so with a promise to return. He would receive the Medal of Honor in April for his tenacity, but his men would suffer a death march.

7 light tanks the Army used to operate

Col. Theodore Roosevelt as the commander of the Rough Riders.

(Public domain)

Teddy Roosevelt leads the Rough Riders up San Juan Hill

Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt campaigned hard for war with Spain, and when the U.S. declared that war in April 1898, he wasn’t about to leave the fighting to everyone else. But, he knew the war might be short and that he was not yet ready to command a regiment. So he agitated for the creation of the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment, but he used his connections to be the second-ranking officer, not the commander.

He got his wish and was brought into the Volunteer Army as a lieutenant colonel and sent to Cuba, but only 8 of the 12 companies were able to get space on the ships, and none of their horses were brought over. Still, they performed well and, on July 1, 1898, were sent against the defenses on San Juan Hill at Santiago de Cuba. By this point, Roosevelt had been promoted to commander.

The attack plan said they must move slow, but the unit was coming under heavy fire, and Roosevelt felt the battle would be lost to attrition before it could take the heights. So he rushed his men forward in a series of bursts despite the fierce defense, and they succeeded. He posthumously received the Medal of Honor for these actions in 2001.

7 light tanks the Army used to operate

At left, Maj. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., he would later serve in World War II as a brigadier general and earn the Medal of Honor.

(Library of Congress)

His son, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., would never attain the presidency like his father did, but he would fight in World Wars I and II. He earned the Distinguished Service Cross and two Silver Stars in World War I, and then came back into service in World War II as an almost 60-year-old man. But still, he earned another two Silver Stars in combat in North Africa near one of his own sons (who also earned a Silver Star, there).

In the preparations for D-Day, he pushed repeatedly for permission to go ashore with the first wave, but his division commander kept denying it on the basis of the brigadier’s rank and age. So, Roosevelt, Jr., wrote to his distant cousin, then-President Franklin Roosevelt. Before the reply came back, the division commander finally relented and gave Roosevelt, Jr., permission, certain he would never see him again.

The 4th Infantry Division, like nearly everyone else that day, landed out of position, but they were lucky to have their deputy commanding general there to take charge. Roosevelt, Jr., personally led infantry waves into position under fire multiple times while walking with a cane. His re-making of the division landing plan was credited with keeping Omaha Beach open, and the commanding general gave his compliments when he landed with a later wave.

Roosevelt Jr. was nominated for promotion to major general, the Medal of Honor, and command of the 90th Infantry Division, but he died of a heart attack just hours before Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower called to give him the news. The medal was awarded posthumously.

Articles

This failed secret mission changed special ops forever

Nearly four decades ago, America’s fledgling counter-terrorism force launched a daring operation to a remote desert outpost to rescue Americans held hostage. The mission failed, but its repercussions were felt for years, and the flames and death of that day forged the special operations force that was able to successfully execute even more daring — and successful — missions in the decades to come.


On Nov. 4, 1979, approximately 3,000 Iranian militants took control of the U.S. embassy in Tehran, holding 63 Americans hostage. An additional three U.S. members were seized at the Iranian Foreign Ministry for a total of 66.

This was in response to President Jimmy Carter allowing Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, the recently deposed Iranian ruler, into the U.S. for cancer treatment. New leadership in Iran wanted the shah back as well as the end of Western influence in their country.

After a few weeks, 13 hostages, all women or African Americans, were released but the remaining 53 would wait out five months of failed negotiations.

President Carter, originally wanting to end the hostage crisis diplomatically and without force, turned to alternative solutions as he felt the political pressure to resolve the problem. On April 16, 1980, he approved Operation Eagle Claw, a military rescue operation involving all four branches of the U.S. armed forces.

The two-day rescue mission consisted of eight Navy RH-53D helicopters and multiple variations of C-130 aircraft. All aircraft were to gather together at Desert One, a salt flat about 200 miles outside of Tehran. There, the helicopters would refuel through the C-130’s and then transport assault units into a mountain location near Tehran where the rescue mission would begin. Unfortunately, the mission never made it that far.

On April 24, 1980, Operation Eagle Claw began. All aircraft proceeded to Desert One but a strong dust storm complicated traveling. Two of the eight helicopters were unable to complete the mission and had to turn around. Another helicopter broke down at Desert One, leaving a total of five working helicopters. Mission commanders and leadership needed a minimum of six to complete the mission. The decision was made to abort the operation and return home.

During departure from Desert One, one of the helicopters collided with a C-130, killing eight U.S. service members. The remaining members all left in the additional C-130 leaving behind numerous helicopters, a C-130 and the eight dead Americans. The failed mission, in addition with loss of life, was a humiliating blow for the U.S. However, this tragedy put a magnifying glass over the inadequacies of joint operations, forever changing the future of the U.S. military and special operations.

The need for enhanced capabilities between more than one military service was the prediction for the future of the Armed Forces. Significant military reforms, such as the Goldwater-Nichols Act and Joint Doctrine, addressed the readiness and capability issues demonstrated in Operation Eagle Claw. It pointed out the necessity for a dedicated special operations section within the Department of Defense with the responsibility to prepare and maintain combat-ready forces to successfully conduct special operations.

Today, the different branches training alongside each other is common practice. Planning for missions consist of specific details with back up plans to the back up plans. Ultimately, the lives lost as Desert One weren’t in vain. The lessons learned from that mission made special operations into what we know them as today.

Articles

This Komet was the fastest combat plane of World War II

The P-51 may have been the plane that won the skies over Europe, and the Me-262 and Gloster Meteor may have been the first operational jet fighters on the sides of the Axis and Allies.


But those planes weren’t the fastest. That honor goes to the Me 163 “Komet.”

The Me 163 was short (about 19.5 feet long), with a wingspan of about 30 feet and looks like a miniature version of the B-2 Spirit. It was armed with two Mk 108 30mm cannon intended to rip apart Allied planes and it had a top speed of almost 600 miles per hour.

7 light tanks the Army used to operate
Me 163 at the Udvar-Hazy National Air and Space Museum. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

So, why isn’t it more well-known? Well, for starters, the way the plane got its speed — by using a rocket engine — tended to burn up a lot of fuel. That gave it a little over seven minutes of powered flight. The short flight time meant the Me 163 really didn’t have much range — about 25 miles.

After the fuel ran out, the Me 163 was an armed, fast glider. When it landed, it had to be towed. That meant it was a sitting duck until help arrived, and Allied pilots would just wait for the plane to start gliding down before putting a burst into it.

7 light tanks the Army used to operate
A P-47’s gun-camera footage shows a Me 163 just prior to being shot down. (USAF photo)

According to MilitaryFactory.com, despite operating for about 10 months, the Me 163 just didn’t get a lot of kills – anywhere from nine to 16, depending on the estimate. That’s less than one pera month. Furthermore, only one fighter group ever operated the plane, which was also hobbled by a shortage of rocket fuel.

AcePilots.com notes that the Me 163 was also dangerous to fly. The rocket fuel ingredients were very nasty – and when they leaked through the suit, it did bad things to the pilot. It wasn’t unheard of for Me 163s to just explode on landing as residual amounts of fuel would mix.

7 light tanks the Army used to operate
This Me 163 in Australian hands shows what a Komet looked like after landing. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

For all intents and purposes, the Me 163 was a manned, reusable surface-to-air missile that could make two attacks. Eventually, the Nazis decided to just use an expendable rocket instead of a manned plane for these types of missions.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the only woman to join the French Foreign Legion

Throughout the bloody and horrific history of human warfare, there are tons of stories of heroism in the face of great danger. Troops all over the world have been willing to risk life and limb to ensure the safety of others and that’s worth celebrating. Everyone knows about war heroes like John Basilone, but how many of you know about Susan Travers? If you don’t, you should.

Susan Travers, quite simply, was one badass woman. She left behind a pampered life and a wealthy family to do something great. One thing led to another and she eventually became the only woman to ever be allowed to join the prestigious French Foreign Legion, which only allowed male foreign nationals.

Here’s how she went from the daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral and heiress to being one of the most badass women in all of history:


7 light tanks the Army used to operate
A Finnish ski patrol, lying in the snow on the outskirts of a wood in Northern Finland, on the alert for Russian troops, January 12, 1940.
(Imperial War Museums)
 

The Winter War

Travers initially joined up as a nurse, but quickly realized she didn’t like the sight of blood or sickness and subsequently became an ambulance driver with the French Expeditionary Force. She was sent to Finland to assist during their Winter War against the Soviets, but everything changed when France fell to the Nazis.

7 light tanks the Army used to operate
Parade of the 13th DBLE through Roman ruins in Lambaesis, Algeria.

 

General De Gaulle’s Free French Forces

When the Nazis took France, Travers went to London to get in the fight. There, she was attached to the 13th Demi-Brigade of the French Foreign Legion. It was there she shed her disgust for blood and gore and became accustomed to the rough life of a warfighting badass. She earned the nickname “La Miss” from her male comrades. This was when she started driving for higher-ups.

7 light tanks the Army used to operate
General Dwight D. Eisenhower with Gen. Pierre Koenig, Military Commander General of Paris, and Lt. Gen. Omar N. Bradley. August 27, 1944.
(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

 

1st Free French Brigade

After spending several months as a driver for senior officers and demonstrating her extreme aptitude for navigating the most dangerous conditions, including minefields and rocket attacks, she was assigned as the driver for the Commanding Officer of the 1st Free French Brigade, Colonel Marie-Pierre Koenig.

7 light tanks the Army used to operate
Free French Foreign Legionnaires “leap up from the desert to rush an enemy strong point”, Bir Hacheim, June 12, 1942.
(Photo by Chetwyn Len)

 

Fort of Bir Hakeim

It was in May, 1942, when Rommel’s Afrika Korps geared up to attack the Fort at Bir Hakeim. Koenig ordered all the women to evacuate, but Travers refused to leave, becoming the only woman among at least 3,500 men. Rommel assumed the fort would be taken in 15 minutes but, instead, the Free French held out for fifteen days.

Eventually, their supplies ran low, and Koenig led a breakout, trying to evade minefields and German tanks. Being the Colonel’s driver, Travers truly led the breakout; however, the convoy was discovered when one of the convoy’s vehicles ran over a landmine. Travers stepped on the gas.

7 light tanks the Army used to operate
Susan Travers in Northern Africa.

 

A “delightful feeling”

Upon discovery, the convoy fell under heavy machine gun fire, and Travers just kept laying on the accelerator. She’s quoted as saying,

“It is a delightful feeling, going as fast as you can in the dark. My main concern was that the engine would stall.”

She broke through the German lines, creating a gap through which the rest could follow. After they made it to Allied lines, she discovered the vehicle had at least 11 bullet holes in it and sustained severe shrapnel damage. After that, Koenig was sent to Northern Africa to continue the fight while Travers remained with the Legion, seeing action in Italy, Germany, and France. She was eventually wounded when she drove over a landmine.

7 light tanks the Army used to operate
In 2000, she published her memoirs.

 

French Foreign Legion

In May of 1945, Travers applied to become an official member of the French Foreign Legion. She “failed” to mention her gender and they accepted her into their ranks. This made her the first — and only — woman to ever join the French Foreign Legion.

She eventually was sent to Vietnam during the First Indo-China War and, by the end of her career, earned the Medaille Militaire, the Croix de Guerre, and the Legion d’honneur (the highest French order of merit for military and civil merits).

MIGHTY HISTORY

The last of Teddy Roosevelt’s ‘Rough Riders’ died in 1987

The people who live through the world’s most historic events are the best connection to our past. Today, as we lament the growing losses of veterans who fought in World War II and the Korean War, it can still be a surprise that we are so close in time to the wars of the 19th Century. Just 34 years ago, we lost our only connection to the “Rough Riders,” the volunteer cavalry regiment that famously stormed San Juan Hill with Col. Theodore Roosevelt.

Ralph Waldo Taylor, who enlisted at age 16, wasn’t the last veteran of the Spanish American War, but he was an important connection to its memory. 

Now Read: These were the last surviving veterans of every major American war through WWI

The Spanish-American War broke out in 1898 after the USS Maine exploded in Havana Harbor, which was then occupied by Spain. Tensions had been mounting between the United States and Spain for decades between the two countries, inflamed by the “muckraker” journalism popular at the time.

Sensational stories, not all of them exactly true, filled newspapers as each competed for bigger and bigger circulation. Finally the powder keg blew (literally) when the Maine was destroyed. The newspapers claimed the ship struck a Spanish mine in the harbor and President McKinley was pressured to ask Congress for a declaration of war. 

Among the most excited to see action was Theodore Roosevelt, who resigned from his position as Assistant Secretary of the Navy to help raise a regiment of volunteers. The unit he formed was the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry. Originally under Col. Leonard Wood, Roosevelt soon found himself in command. 

The Rough Riders
Colonel Roosevelt and his Rough Riders at the top of the hill which they captured, Battle of San Juan. (Wikipedia)

The Rough Riders, as they were called after Roosevelt assumed command, was made up of  Western frontiersmen, Ivy League athletes and Native American tribesmen, among others. One of its volunteers was a young, 16-year-old named Ralph Waldo Taylor.

The young man deployed with the Rough Riders to Cuba in 1898 and though it was supposed to be a cavalry unit, its horses were not deployed with them. The 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry was in reality fighting like an infantry unit. 

Teenage Taylor was with Roosevelt and the Rough Riders when they marched to the base of San Juan Hill, a heavily-defended high ground that seemed impregnable from their vantage point. They took cover at the base of nearby Kettle Hill to avoid sniper and artillery fire, but quickly found themselves pinned down. 

After the attack began, the unit’s orders forced them to hold their position, even under heavy enemy fire. Roosevelt grew frustrated with the situation and, disregarding orders, led a charge up San Juan Hill. Within 20 minutes the hill belonged to the Americans. 

Taylor lied about his age to enlist in the New York National Guard. He eventually told his wife, Bessie, about what happened that day.

“They charged up the hill in waves, trying to knock out the Spaniards in a blockhouse at the top,” she told UPI in 1987. “Ralph was in the second or third wave and he used to tell how some members of his company were killed as they ran up the hill beside him.”

For Roosevelt, the victory meant election to the governor’s mansion in New York and eventually being named Vice-President of the United States. When McKinley was assassinated in 1901, he assumed the office of President. For Taylor, life carried on the way it does for many war veterans: he took a job. 

In 1986, Taylor was informed by the U.S. government that he was one of a few surviving combat veterans of the era, and that he was the only survivor of San Juan Hill still living. 

“He could visualize all the thousands who fought with him and it overwhelmed him that he was the only one left,” she said.

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