Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs

Photographical journey through the Allied snipers of World War II. Most are British and, or Canadian Snipers using the British Lee Enfield.


The first photograph shows a sniper demonstrating his camouflage (note: German Waffen-SS Camo Pattern: named unofficially “Early Plane Tree”) at a sniper school in a French village, July 27, 1944. The lesson here was probably “Know Your Enemy” to demonstrate how German Snipers were clothed.

 

Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs

A sniper applying camouflage face cream at a sniper school in a Normandy village, July 27, 1944.

Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs

A British sniper takes aim through the telescopic sights of his rifle on the range at a sniper training school in France, July 27, 1944.

Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs

Snipers training at the same sniper school as the photographs above, somewhere in a French village, July 27, 1944.

Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs

A 6th Airborne Division sniper on patrol in the Ardennes, wearing a snow camouflage suit, January 14, 1945.

Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs

A British sniper, Private Sutcliffe, seated at a window of a house in Caen watching for enemy snipers through telescopic sights.

Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs

A camouflage suit for a sniper of the British Army.

Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs

A sniper from C Company, 5th Battalion, The Black Watch , 51st (Highland) Division, in position in the loft space of a ruined building in Gennep, Holland, February 14, 1945.

Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs

Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs

A sniper from the Seaforth Highlanders takes aim from behind a carrier as 15th (Scottish) Division troops deal with German resistance in Uelzen, April 16, 1945.

Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs

Lance Corporal A P Proctor, a sniper with 56th Division, cleaning his rifle, November 24, 1943.

Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs

Canadian Sniper, Pte. L. V. Hughe in World War II.

Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs

Sergeant H.A. Marshall of the Calgary Highlanders Sniping Platoon. Kapellen, Belgium.

Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs

 

Image Credits: Imperial War Museum and Canadian War Archives under C.C. License

 

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Who is ‘Roger?’ Military lingo explained

Between colloquial humor and slang, the military says some weird stuff (don’t even get me started on acronyms), but some of the lingo has origins in so-called “voice procedure” and actually kind of makes sense.


Voice procedure is a set of techniques, protocols, and phrases used in two-way radio communications to reduce confusion and maximize clarity.

Here are a few of the big ones:

1. Roger

Saying “Roger” over the radio is shorthand for “I have received your message or transmission.”

If you’ve ever tried spelling your last name over the phone with someone, you know that the English alphabet has letters that sound the same, so phonetic or spelling alphabets were created to convey letters.

Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs

In the ’50s, this alphabet was standardized to the alphabet NATO militaries use today (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, etc), but when the radio use in the military became prevalent, the word ‘Roger’ was used for “R.”

The “R” in “received” was conveyed with “Roger” — and even though today “Romeo” stands for “R,” good ol’ “Roger” stuck.

2. Mayday

“Mayday” is a signal word used to convey distress. It was deliberately chosen for this purpose in 1923 by Frederick Stanley Mockford, a senior radio official in England.

At the time, much of the radio communication was between French and English speakers, so Mockford needed a word that would be understood in both languages and wouldn’t be commonly spoken.

“Mayday” is a rather unique phrase in English, but is also similar to the French word for “help me.”

Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographsThis is an appropriate time for the use of ‘Mayday.’ (Painting by Pierre Dénys de Montfort, 1801)

To further reduce confusion, “Mayday” is used three times in the beginning of a distress call. It is reserved for incidents where loss of life or craft is imminent — misuse is considered a serious crime.

3. Copy

“Copy” has its origins in Morse Code communications. Morse Code operators would listen to transmissions and write down each letter or number immediately, a technique called “copying.”

Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs
(Image via Public Domain)

Once voice communications became possible, ‘copy’ was used to confirm whether a transmission was received. Today it still means “I heard what you said” or “got it,” similar to “roger.”

4. 10-4

10-4″ does not actually have its roots in military-speak. Then ten-codes are used primarily by law enforcement to communicate common situations with brevity. For example:

10-4 Message Received

10-9 Repeat

10-10 Fight In Progress

10-32 Person With Gun

Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs
Be careful: ’10-4′ has…alternative meanings…according to Urban Dictionary. (Image via imgflip)

What are your favorite or most baffling military terms?

Feature image: U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Mozer O. Da Cunha

MIGHTY TRENDING

6 things you didn’t know about the DEA

The Drug Enforcement Administration is the premier law enforcement agency on the front lines fighting the War on Drugs. The mission of the (DEA) is to enforce the controlled substances laws and regulations of the United States and bring to the criminals involved in the growing, manufacture, or distribution of controlled substances appearing in or destined for illicit traffic in the United States.

This Federal Law Enforcement Agency recruits, trains, and deploys America’s elite agents into the world’s harshest environments to combat cartels and disrupt their operations. Due to the dangerous nature of their job, 85 agents have sacrificed their lives in service to the United States. Here are 6 things you didn’t know about these clandestine operators fighting the evils of narco-terrorism.


Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs
No one:
Nixon: That’ll teach those hippies!

It was founded by President Richard Nixon

On July 1, 1973, President Nixon merged the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD), the Office of Drug Abuse Law Enforcement (ODALE) and over 600 Special Agents from the Customs bureaus into the consolidated force we know today.

Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs
“Why is the DEA storming the lobby, Karen?” (U.S. Air Force photo)

They provide oversight of legal drugs too

The Drug Enforcement Administration licenses anyone who prescribes or dispenses drugs. However, the license must be renewed every three years. The DEA has strict rules on prescription authority and record keeping. Prescribing personnel who, in the view of the DEA, abuse their privilege, are subject to the full extent of the law and loss of said license.

To date, over 60 doctors and counting have been charged with pushing opioids and healthcare fraud by the Department of Justice. This greed is the root cause of today’s opioid epidemic exacerbated by secondary and tertiary problems as well.

You can rest assured, when medical professionals behave like drug dealers, the Department of Justice is going to treat them like drug dealers. – Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski

Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs
Operation Albatross in Afghanistan, 2007 (usdoj.gov)

 

They were trained for combat by the Army

The drug trade also funds actual terrorists in the middle east, and their source of income had to be destroyed. The U.S. expanded its counter-narco mission in Afghanistan in 2005 with the DEA at the helm. The U.S. military provided air support and cargo planes to the DEA, as well as intelligence and logistics support.

The Army trained agents in spotting IEDs, combat maneuvers, and weapon systems.

 

Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs
“Leyenda” means legend in Spanish. (Wikimedia Commons)

 

Enrique S. Camarena was a Marine

If you’re familiar with the hit Netflix series Narcos, you’ll remember that one of the main characters in season 4 is Enrique S. Camarena, also known as Kiki. The series did not emphasize that he was a U.S. Marine. Oorah.

Prior to joining DEA, Special Agent Camarena served two years in the U.S. Marine Corps. He worked in Calexico as a fireman and then as a police investigator, and was a narcotics investigator for the Imperial County Sheriff Coroner. Special Agent Camarena was survived by his wife, Geneva and three children, Enrique, Daniel and Erik. – dea.gov

This special agent was part of the DEA’s Guadalajara Mexican cartel investigation. He was kidnapped and tortured by drug traffickers on February 7, 1985, for over 30 hours. He was also injected with drugs to ensure he remained conscious. He was a tough one, but even Marines aren’t immortal.

In the wake of his death, Operation Leyenda was formed to solve his murder and was the largest homicide investigation ever conducted by the DEA.

Kiki Camarena was posthumously awarded the Administrator’s Award of Honor, the highest award given by the DEA.

Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs
“I don’t know but I’ve been told, Eskimo p-“
“-STFU CARL!” (U.S. National Guard)

 

They have Spec Ops all over the nation

Special Response Team (SRT) program was created in 2016. The SRT was designed to bridge the gap between tactical operations conducted by field agents and those requiring specialized tactics due to elevated mission risks. SRT operators are highly trained in breaching tactics and an array of weapon systems.

Considered one of the most covert outfits in federal law enforcement, very little is known about DEA SRT capabilities and its operator selection process. – dea.gov

Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs
“This is your new partner, Special Agent Dogg.” (Tech Crunch via Flickr)

The DEA wants to double marijuana production…for research

The agency has increased the amount of marijuana from 978 pounds in 2017 to more than 2,500 pounds in 2018. In 2019, the agency proposed a cannabis quota to more than 5,400 pounds — that’s a lot of weed.

This move is to support federally-sanctioned research in preparation for nationwide legalization — whenever that will be is uncertain.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A Korean War POW escaped from captivity after 55 years

In June 2008, a 74-year-old North Korean farmer and former coal miner was swimming across the Tumen River, where it makes the border between the reclusive North Korean regime and Communist China. He was escaping the Hermit Kingdom like many North Koreans before him, except Kim Jin-Soo wasn’t North Korean.


The onetime South Korean Army soldier was born in the South, but enlisted in the Republic of Korea Army during the 1950-1953 Korean War. That’s how he ended up in the North.

Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs

Suwon Airfield being evacuated by South Korean troops as North Korea advances in 1950.

The young South Korean was just 17 years old when he signed up to fight the Communist advance in 1950 but was wounded in action by small arms fire. That’s how the young soldier was captured. He was taken by his captors North to recover from the wounds, but his own army, believing him dead, stopped looking for him. When prisoners were exchanged after fighting stopped, no one thought to look for a dead man.

The definitely not dead Kim Jin-Soo did eventually recover from his wounds, only now he was trapped in the North’s Stalinist “utopia.” Unfortunately for him, he was still a prisoner and was sent to work in the coal mines in North Korea’s North Pyeongan Province for nearly 40 years.

Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs

North Korean troops prepare for battle in 1950.

In the time that passed, the captive’s parents in the South both passed away. He even had four daughters and one son while living in the North. His surviving brothers in the South had no idea he was alive, let alone that they now had a nephew and a handful of nieces.

In the early 1990s, around the time of North Korea’s deadly and disastrous famine, Soo was sent to another province to work as a farmer. The harsh life of a North Korean POW had taken its toll on his body. He shrunk by nearly six inches over 55 years of captivity and weighed barely 105 pounds when he escaped to China.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The 10 weirdest military mysteries

The world is full of mysteries and the military world is no exception. Each war has been accompanied by strange stories, potential double agents, secret messages and unsolved disappearances. Scary? Intriguing? You tell me! Keep scrolling to learn about the top 10 mysterious events in military history.


1. The foo fighters were more than a band name. 

Almost everyone has heard of the foo fighters, but few realize the origins of the 90s rock band name. In WWII, the foo fighters were a genuine concern. At night, American and British aircraft pilots frequently spotted bright lights in the distance. At first, they assumed the lights were Russian or German flyers. Until they began to move, that is.

The lights would change direction and speed away faster than any aircraft possibly could. Hundreds of reports were recorded, with some pilots even reporting dogfights with them. Since no one was able to figure out what the crafts were or who piloted them, they were given the nickname “foo fighters.” To this day, it’s one of the biggest military mysteries of WWII.

2. The Red Baron’s killer was never found. 

The Red Baron, a German fighter pilot during WWI, was so famous that even Snoopy knew of his aerial prowess. He was one of the most lethal fighters in history, with over 80 confirmed kills. He was a serious threat to the Allied forces throughout the majority of WWI, until he was mysteriously shot down.

A Canadian pilot named Roy Brown claimed to have shot down his plane, but the details of his story didn’t quite make sense. No one knows for sure who killed him, but whoever it was would have had their name in the history books. The Red Baron was such an amazing pilot that the Allies helped to give him a decent burial in France in honor of his skill.

3. A Hungarian soldier turned out to be a serial killer…and he was never found. 

During WWI, a man named Bela Kiss enlisted in the Hungarian army. He notified his landlord that he would be away for some time, and left for war. Some time later, the landlord heard that Kiss had died in combat, so he decided to rent the house to someone else. When he arrived to clean it out, however, he walked into a house of horrors. Several bodies were inside preserved in alcohol, all belonging to women who had disappeared.

It turns out, Kiss had been tricking women into marriage before killing them and taking control of their finances. Despite an extensive search, and a few reported sightings, he was never found.

4. A plane vanished out of thin air, starting the legend of the Bermuda Triangle. 

It’s hard to imagine that six planes could straight up disappear, but that’s what happened. On December 5, 1945, five Grumman TBM Avenger torpedo bombers, collectively known as Flight 19, stopped responding to the control tower while on a training flight. A Mariner flying boat was deployed to search for the missing planes, but the Mariner soon vanished too. While no bodies or wreckage was ever found, 27 men and six aircrafts were never seen again.

While many rumors cropped up over the years, the disappearance probably has nothing to do with the supernatural. The most likely explanation is that Flight 19’s leader, Navy Lieutenant Charles Taylor, got so disoriented that he led the planes out to sea until they ran out of gas and crashed into the Atlantic. The rescue sea plane is likely to have exploded, as flying boats were prone to catching fire. Still, after all these years the resting place of the planes have never been found.

5. A strange ad was placed in the New Yorker magazine. But who published it? 

Anyone can put an ad in the paper, but one published in the New Yorker was more than a little suspicious. The ad was for a real game called “Deadly Double,” but the copy gave a not-so-secret message: “We hope you’ll never have to spend a long winter’s night in an air-raid shelter, but we were just thinking … it’s only common sense to be prepared. If you’re not too busy between now and Christmas, why not sit down and plan a list of the things you’ll want to have on hand. … And though it’s no time, really, to be thinking of what’s fashionable, we bet that most of your friends will remember to include those intriguing dice and chips which make Chicago’s favorite game: THE DEADLY DOUBLE.”

A similar ad for the same product included the phrase, “Warning! Alerte! Achtung!” Okay, then. The dice shown in the ad’s images were even more strange. Instead of numbers 1-6, numbers like 7, 20 and 12, were shown. Some believe these bizarre ads were really a hint to American spies that an attack on Pearl Harbor was on the horizon. The creator’s widow has denied any suggestion that the game had any connection with spy activity, but it still seems a little fishy.

6. Lieutenant Colonel Pete Ellis predicted the bombing of Pearl Harbor over 20 years before it happened.

In 1920, Lieutenant Colonel Pete Ellis was a bit of an oddball in the Navy. He was known for being pretty solitary and working late into the night. When asked what he was doing in his office so late, he said he was working on “a special project.” A year later, he appeared to go mad. He gave a lengthy prediction of the future, including Japan’s attack on several islands on the Pacific, the targeting of Pearl Harbor, and the use of torpedo planes. Considering torpedo planes hadn’t been invented yet, he sounded crazy…except he was right.

All his predictions were dead on. After his prediction, he asked for a 90-day leave, which was personally approved by the Secretary of the Navy. He was given a sealed envelope and sent off to Europe, but he never arrived. He went to Japan instead, where he mysteriously died. A man who knew him travelled there to search for him…but he was found dead too! It’s a strange story with many loose ends, but it’s unlikely that we’ll ever know the details.

7. Ralph Sigler’s death doesn’t seem like an accident. 

Ralph Sigler, an immigrant from Czechoslovakia, arrived in America when he was eight. He enlisted in the Army in 1947 and got married to a German woman shortly after while he was stationed abroad. When his tour was over, he brought her back to the states and the couple had a child. Over a decade later in 1966, FBI agents arrived at his doorstep to let him know he had been randomly selected to participate in counterespionage. The family’s ordinary life was turned upside down overnight.

In the following years, Sigler fed a great deal of false information to the SVR, Russia’s intelligence agency. When he met Russian officials in person, he quickly earned their trust. He identified 14 SVR agents and over time grew worried that the Russians were starting to suspect something. The FBI approached him by this time, but Sigler made plans to retire from the Army

His first contact with Russian officials came in 1968 in Zurich, and he soon earned their trust. Authorities have speculated that Sigler’s work led to the identification of 14 SVR agents. He was given an estimated 0,000 in compensation, every last penny of which he gave to the Army.In the mid-1970s, Sigler worried that he was “getting in too deep” and the Russians were becoming suspicious, which may have led him to offer extra information under pressure. By this time, the FBI had approached him.

The situation grew complicated, and some American intelligence officers were suspicious of his loyalties too. He was forced to take a polygraph test, which showed he was extremely on edge. Concerned, the Army arranged for Sigler to stay at a motel. Sadly, he never left. His body was found in the motel room after he had been electrocuted by two motel lamps. While the Army ruled his death a suicide, most believe he was killed and possibly tortured by Soviet agents. In his last call to his wife, he ominously told her, “I’m dying. I never lied.” He was later awarded the Legion of Merit cross for his sacrifices.

8. During the Vietnam War, troops on both sides claimed to be attacked by large, ape-like creatures. Vietnam doesn’t have apes.

The Vietnam war was chaotic to say the least, but there’s one mystery that has never been explained. Troops from both sides often reported exchanging blows with a group of human-like creatures who had reddish hair and ape-like features. Strangely, there isn’t a single known species of ape in Vietnam.

Other soldiers reported an enormous snake around 100 feet long with a massive, three-foot head. In Vietnamese folklore, such a creature was known as a “Bull Eater.” For comparison, the largest snake ever recorded is a reticulated python named Medusa, who’s 25’2″ long. Either that was a massive exaggeration or a tall tale…or a 100-foot mystery monster is lurking in the jungle.

9. A Revolutionary War hospital dealt with plenty of death, yet no one knows where the dead were laid to rest.

During the American Revolution, there were obviously a lot of injuries. To serve these wounded soldiers, a hospital was built in the new town of Easton, Pennsylvania. Needless to say, 18th-century medicine wasn’t the best. While medical records were poorly kept, it’s safe to say that hundreds or thousands died there. The strange part is that there’s no record at all of where they were buried. Since there was no formal grave yard nearby, the easiest assumption is that somewhere around Easton, there’s a mass grave from the Revolutionary War that has yet to be found. If I lived in Easton, I might move.

10. What happened to Paul Whipkey?

Fast forward a few years to the 50s. Lieutenant Paul Whipkey was working in the Air Force at Fort Ord, California. He was one of the first to witness an atomic bomb test, and he was doing pretty well. When 1957 arrived, however, things began to go awry. Whipkey stopped acting like himself, dropped weight, and appeared to be constantly ill. He developed black moles all across his body and lost all his teeth. While he was at work, two men in suits frequently arrived to speak with him, and colleagues reported that he always appeared tense when the men left. On July 10th, he left on a trip to Monterey, but he was never seen again.

The events following are shrouded in secrecy. The army cleaned out his apartment almost instantly, and he was classified as a deserter. The army seemed reluctant to search for Whipkey, and in 1977 they destroyed all files on him, yet his status was updated from “deserter” to “killed in action.” Some believe he died on a secret CIA mission, but most people believe he suffered from radiation poisoning due to the atomic bomb detonation he witnessed. I guess we’ll never know!

MIGHTY TRENDING

There was a special word for Confederates who joined the US Army

Being a POW was not a great way to spend your enlistment in the Civil War, no matter which side you fought on. Depending on which POW camp you ended up locked into, your chances of survival were only slightly better. And if you did die, you probably died of some terrible disease.

So it makes a little sense why some Confederate troops had no problem turning around and joining the U.S. Army. They were called “Galvanized Yankees.”


By 1863, Union lines were becoming stricken by desertions. Coupled with the death rate and the number of wounded and missing men, the U.S. Army in 1863 needed a solution for this coming manpower shortage in a hurry. But with draft riots already happening and enlistments drying up, where could the Union Army find a source of able-bodied men who could fight but were just sitting around, waiting? In the POW camps. And it wasn’t just the Army fighting the Civil War who needed the help. Troops fighting Indian bands in the West needed augmentees as well.

So the Union formed the 1st Volunteer Infantry Regiment; former Confederate soldiers who had been captured, taken the oath of loyalty to the United States, and enlisted in the U.S. Army. It sure beat dying of dysentery or exposure at Camp Douglas.

Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs
Camp Douglas, Ill. where 17 % of inmates never returned. (Wikimedia Commons)

 

Starting in 1863, the former Confederates stared down the Sioux tribe in Missouri while the war back home raged on. But they weren’t the only ones who were needed. Ultimately four regiments of Confederate volunteers were formed for the Union. When the Confederates heard of this, they dubbed the POWs who took the deal “Galvanized Yankees,” covering themselves and their deeds in the blue of the Union, the way a metal object is galvanized with a coating of zinc.

For most Southern troops, the choice wasn’t all that hard – and it wasn’t just about the conditions in POW camps. Many average Southern men weren’t too keen on the strict Confederate class distinctions in the South, where poor whites were little more regarded than slaves. Add on the desire for the war to end, and the terrible conditions for Confederate troops, and the choice becomes more and more clear.

Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs
Gen. Benjamin Butler raised two regiments of Confederate POWs to invade Bermuda, but it never came to be. (National Archives and Records)

 

The Galvanized Yankees were sent to the American Plains, the Dakotas, Minnesota, and Missouri. The winters were not kind to the Southerners, who suffered from frostbite, scurvy, and other forms of malnutrition. To make matters worse, on top of enduring temperatures as cold a minus 29 degrees, the Lakota suddenly attacked on Nov. 27, 1863. The natives killed and wounded the new Army members throughout the winter and into the Spring of 1864. They would be able to hold out until the war’s end, however.

In 1865, the men had held their soldiers’ discipline, followed orders, and remained true to their oaths. Even after constant Indian attacks, brutal winters, and poor food, the Galvanized Yankees stayed at their posts. After two years, however, they were at their wits’ end. The war was over, and so was their enlistment. They demanded to be mustered out. Two years after arriving in the Missouri region, they finally were.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The US military once successfully used a psychic to locate a lost plane

During the Cold War, pretty much anything that would give the U.S. the upper hand vs. Communist Russia was considered worthy of research. Everything from catching satellites with airplanes to full airbases carved into Arctic ice. With this in mind, would it really surprise anyone that the CIA was concerned that a psychic gap existed between the U.S. and Soviet Union?


In 1972, the Agency started funding paranormal research in a program that would last more than 23 years. Called “remote viewing,” it was an ability some people supposedly posses enabling them to psychically “see” events, sites, or information from a great distance. The psychics were gathered to perform parapsychic intelligence and research operations.

A young airman named Rosemary Smith was given a map of Africa. She was told that sometime in the past a Soviet Tu-22 bomber outfitted as a spy plane crashed somewhere in Africa. U.S. intelligence services wanted to recover the top secret Russian codes and equipment the Tu-22 carried.

The plane went down in the Central African Republic. Despite orienting multiple satellites to locate the plane, the DoD kept coming up short. Using her remote viewing, the psychic pinpointed the wreckage, even though it was completely covered by the jungle canopy.

President Jimmy Carter admitted to U.S. media that that the CIA, without his knowledge, had consulted a psychic to find the missing plane. He told them the plane had been Russian, not American.

“The woman went into a trance and gave some latitude and longitude figures.” The former President said. “We focused our satellite cameras on that point and the plane was there.” When asked how he processed the news that a psychic located the plane, Carter replied: “With skepticism.”

The “Remote viewing” venture was part of the Stargate Project, a secret Army unit at Fort Meade, Maryland set up in 1978 in an effort to bridge the purported “psy gap.”

Overall, the project never gave the CIA any other real, meaningful information but was still funded until 1995 when the American public found out about the project from an episode of ABC’s news magazine show “Nightline.”

The finding of the Tu-22 is the only instance of a successful remote viewing. The project was the subject of the 2004 book and 2009 movie The Men Who Stare At Goats.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These are the 7 finest moments in Air Force history

The Air Force is now aged well into its seventies and the branch that started as an offshoot of the U.S. Army is looking at having a child of its own — the U.S. Space Force. Even though the mere need for the U.S. Air Force is one that is still debated in some circles, it’s pretty safe to say the service is here to stay, and for good reason. The men, women, and aircraft of the U.S. Air Force have accomplished some of the most incredible feats in military history.


When you look back at the legacy of the USAF, there are so many important, pivotal events that either established the Air Force as one to be reckoned with, cemented the legendary status of some great American heroes, or made the difference when it was needed the most. There’s a reason these moments will live forever in our collective imagination. Like the mythological tales of great heroes setting out to impress the gods, these are the Air Force’s finest moments.

Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs

You have to admit, it’s ballsy to go into combat in a rig made of canvas and popsicle sticks.

(U.S. Air Force)

1. The St. Mihiel Offensive – World War I

For four years, the St. Mihiel Salient was a giant bulge in the lines of the Western Front. In 1914, the German Army managed to create a 250-square mile indentation on the front while trying to capture the fortress at Verdun. When the United States joined World War I in 1918, General John J. Pershing demanded an area of the front that was exclusively the responsibility of American forces. He got it.

An important aspect of that battle was the air war over St. Mihiel, the largest air battle of the entire war. 1,476 allied aircraft took on 500 German aircraft over four days in September 1918. The First U.S. Army Air Service took command of air elements from the United States, France, Italy, Great Britain and Portugal. Combined force air power destroyed enemy aviation, achieved complete air superiority, and aided ground forces while denying enemy air reconnaissance assets.

The Salient was itself crushed by American ground troops within those four days.

Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs

From the USAF’s raid on the Ploesti Airfields in Romania.

(U.S. Air Force)

2. World War II

An essential element to early Nazi successes in World War II relied on the new tactic of blitzkrieg, which required large but very fast movements of concentrated forces and massive air firepower. Before entering the war, the U.S. Army Air Forces saw the importance of air power in the skies over London and were shown that power in force at Pearl Harbor. After entering the war, the Air Forces were tasked with gaining air superiority, crushing the Germans’ ability to wage war, and prepare Fortress Europe for an allied invasion.

During World War II, being on a bomber crew was deadlier than even landing on the beaches of the Pacific with the U.S. Marines. As the war came home to Germany, the Air Force only stepped up the intensity of the bombing campaign while proving that American airmen and technology were more than a match for the Luftwaffe. By the end of the war, the Nazi air forces struggled to put up a fight as fuel, pilots, and ammunition were in such short supply against the overwhelming air power of the USAAF.

In the Pacific theater, the Air Force immediately brought the pain as fast as they could after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The daring Doolittle Raid started out the war with Japan by reminding them that they weren’t out of the United States’ long reach. The Air Force fought alongside the Navy in as many pitched air battles as were needed, but the real strength of the Air Force came at the end of the Navy and Marine Corps’ island-hopping campaign. As air bases were set up closer and closer to the Japanese Home Islands, Army Air Forces bombers pummeled mainland Japan with firebombs, crippling Japanese industry until two days in August 1945 changed the world forever: the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended the Pacific War for good.

Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs

In all your life, you’ll never be this cool.

(U.S. Air Force)

3. The Tuskegee Airmen – World War II

In the days before the integration of the Armed Forces, African-Americans served primarily in support roles, and usually as enlisted men. That all changed in the lead up to World War II when President Roosevelt ordered the Army to begin training black pilots at Tuskegee Army Air Field – in the heart of the segregated South. It was a time when Americans widely believed that black people could not be trained to use advanced technological equipment, especially aircraft.

Not only were the college-educated Tuskegee Airmen able to fly and operate aviation technology, they were really, really good at it. Tuskegee Airmen flew some 15,000 sorties in the skies of Europe and North Africa during World War II, risking their lives and the reputation of their entire race on their performance. Their success rate on bomber escort missions was twice as high as other groups in the 15th Air Force and, over the course of the war, they took down hundreds of enemy planes, thousands of enemy railcars, and even sank an enemy destroyer.

The massive successes of the more than 14,000 Tuskegee Airmen led to the integration of the Armed Forces after the war and Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., one of the first black Amy Air Force pilots, became the first African-American general of the newly-created U.S. Air Force.

Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs

The Original Grubhub.

4. The Berlin Airlift – Cold War

The first battle in the ideological war that pit Western Capitalism against Eastern Communism wasn’t fought with guns or bombs, it was fought with food. After WWII, Berlin was divided into four zones, each administered by one of the victorious European Allies. The area surrounding the city was entirely Soviet-dominated. The German capital was, effectively, nestled deep inside Soviet-occupied East Germany. As Cold War tensions mounted, the USSR cut off all land routes to the Western-occupied parts of the city in an effort to starve out the capitalist allies. Any help to Berlin could only come through a dedicated air corridor.

In the days before massive cargo planes, like the C-5 Galaxy, the U.S. Air Force and the Western Allies launched what became known as the Berlin Airlift, a massive coordinated cargo hauling campaign that (at its height) saw an aircraft land in Berlin every single minute. German ground crews were soon able to unload an aircraft within 20 minutes in order to make sure the city was nurtured with the 394,509 tons of food, coal, and other supplies the city would need to survive the almost year-long Soviet siege of the city.

Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs

5. MiG Alley – Korean War

During the Korean War, the Air Force was again put to the test. The Nazis developed jet-powered fighters by the end of World War II, but even then, it was an imperfect technology. By the time the Korean War saw Communist forces engage the United Nations Coalition on the Korean Peninsula, both sides were still flying propeller driven aircraft. That soon changed. As the war ground on through December of 1950, the United States still had no jet-powered answer to the Soviet-built MiG-15 jet fighter.

Then, finally, came the F-86 Sabre. The swept-wing design and the skill of UN and American pilots were able to make short work of MiG-15 fighters. In the infamous “MiG Alley” – the Northern area of North Korea, near its border with China – where Soviet, Chinese, and North Korean fighters waited at high altitudes to come down raining death on UN fighters, featured massive jet vs. jet air battles. Air Force F-86 pilots had a stunning 10-1 kill ratio.

Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs

Robin Olds is the reason for the Air Force’s “Mustache March” tradition.

6. Operation Bolo – Vietnam War

The early days of the air war over Vietnam didn’t go so well for the USAF. The Vietnam War’s kill ratio is a dismal but disputed 2-1. Air Force sorties coming to the landward side of Vietnam from bases in Thailand were picked up by superior North Vietnamese early warning radar and intercepting Communist planes were able to wait for the incoming Air Force planes. Once inside North Vietnam, Air Force pilots had only their eyes to help guide them. Air Force pilots would always end up on the defensive against skilled North Vietnamese pilots and surface-to-air missile batteries.

Air Force legend and triple ace Robin Olds devised a way to take advantage of the increasing boldness of Vietnamese pilots. In “Bolo,” Olds created what looked like a standard USAF F-105 bombing run to North Vietnam’s radar. Enemy MiG-21s made a beeline for what they thought were the usual F-105 Thunderchief bombers only to find Olds and his fleet of F-4 Phantoms ready for air-to-air combat. Without suffering a single loss, the Air Force downed seven enemy MiG-21s, changing the way the Air Force fought in the air. In the weeks that followed, North Vietnam lost half of its combat planes to U.S. airmen.

Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs

Behold: The reason the movie “Jarhead” has no climactic battle scenes.

(U.S. Air Force)

7. Operation Desert Storm

The air war of Operation Desert Stom was one of the most massive and successful air campaigns ever. Since Coalition aircraft could roam the skies in the region virtually unopposed. The buildup of men, materiel, equipment, and aircraft was one of the largest airlift operations in military history (even bigger than the Berlin Airlift). By the time the deadline for Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait came and went, the U.S. Air Force was more than ready to take the initiative.

Now Read: 21 facts about the First Gulf War

Starting Jan. 17, 1991, the Air Force launched more than 100,000 sorties against Iraqi targets and dropped more than 88,000 tons of ordnance. Like a modern-day Noah’s Ark story, the Air Force pummeled Iraq for some 40 days and 40 nights. After the U.S. Air Force smashed some 38 Iraqi aircraft, those pilots still in the air fled to Iran (who they just finished an eight-year war with) rather than face the U.S. Air Force in combat. The Gulf War ended in Iraqi defeat on Feb. 23, 1991.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time a Soviet citizen defected across the Korean DMZ

Just recently, a North Korean soldier made a mad dash under heavy fire to freedom on the south side of the Korean Demilitarized Zone. His escape made headlines all over the world – but he isn’t the first person to defect successfully across the DMZ.


On the day after Thanksgiving 1984, a Soviet citizen on a tour of the DMZ suddenly abandoned his group and sprinted to freedom in South Korea.

Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs
Kinda like that, yeah.

Vasilii Matuzok long dreamed of fleeing the oppression of Communism. He even obtained a job in Pyongyang as a means of making his escape attempt.

But despite its name, the Demilitarized Zone is anything but. The four-kilometer wide area is heavily mined and guarded by armed soldiers from each side. A crossing there was as near suicidal during the Cold War as it is today.

However, at a small village named Panmunjom (the site of the Korean War Armistice signing), the North and South created a Joint Security Area. This area is heavily guarded but it contains no minefields or other the deterrents to crossing that can’t be said for the rest of the DMZ.

Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs

When Matuzok’s tour group was distracted, he made a break for it.

Immediately realizing what was happening, some 30 North Korean soldiers pursued him and fired wildly in the hopes of bringing him down before he could reach the other side.

This immediately created a significant incident. As the two sides were still technically at war – having never signed a peace agreement – the North Korean soldiers pursuing Matuzok instantaneously became an armed incursion. The UN guards quickly alerted the United Nations Quick Reaction Force at nearby Camp Kitty Hawk.

The United Nations had a Joint Security Force company comprised of Americans and Koreans stationed at Camp Kitty Hawk to respond to any incidents at the Joint Security Area and provide the guard detail.

As the incident developed into a full-on firefight between the North Korean soldiers and the UN’s JSA guards, Capt. Bert Mizusawa got the call at Camp Kitty Hawk. He told his men to load up while he got as much information as he could from the Tactical Operations Center.

As his group sped the quarter mile to the JSA, Mizusawa was unaware of the defection. His sole purpose was to restore the Armistice conditions. The North Korean soldiers, invaders at this point, had to be turned back, he said, “with no concern for proportionality… we were going to win no matter what.”

When Mizusawa and the QRF arrived with three infantry squads augmented with three machine gun teams, the UN guards at the JSA had the intruding North Koreans pinned down in an area known as the “Sunken Garden.” It had been only fifteen minutes since Matuzok defected.

Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs
U.S. soldiers from the QRF can be seen advancing through the Sunken Garden area of the JSA in the last stages of the 1984 JSA shootout.

Mizusawa sent one squad east to reinforce the men at Checkpoint 4, who were engaged against the North Koreans there while he personally led the other two squads on a flanking maneuver to the southwest. During their movement, the men came across Matuzok hiding in the bushes.

Captain Mizusawa immediately realized the urgency of the situation. If the North Koreans were able to kill or recapture Matuzok, they controlled the narrative of the day’s events.

After confirming Matuzok’s intention to defect, Mizusawa put him in the personal custody of the QRF Platoon Sergeant who raced him to safety at Camp Kitty Hawk.

With the defector now secured Mizasawa was in a tactically perfect situation. He had his enemy pinned down on low ground and was in position to move in from the flank. The Americans executed a textbook example of Battle Drill 1A. As the lead fire team bounded into the Sunken Garden under accurate suppressive fire, the North Koreans attempted to flee.

Caught in the open, they chose to surrender rather than be gunned down.

Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs
The allied US-ROK forces suffered one killed, one wounded.

The elapsed time since the defection was approximately 20 minutes. It only took six minutes after the arrival of the QRF platoon to defeat the North Korean threat.

During the fighting, a South Korean KATUSA soldier was killed and an American soldier wounded when they drew heavy fire from the North Koreans protecting the escape of Matuzok.

The North Koreans lost three killed, five wounded, and eight captured during the incident.

One of the dead was thought to be the leader of the infamous Axe Murder incident in 1976.

However, for the North Korean soldiers, failure in this situation would be costly. It is believed that the leader of the North Korean troops and his subordinate were summarily executed immediately after the incident.

Despite being one of the worst instances of violence on the DMZ in some time, further bloodshed was avoided.

Hoping to keep the incident quiet, the Army choose to withhold some awards immediately after the firefight. It would not be until the year 2000 that the Army recognized the service and awarded or upgraded seventeen decorations to participants on that day.

Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs
Mizusawa was recognized with a Bronze Star medal after the 1984 JSA Shootout.

Matuzok, the defector that started everything, eventually was allowed to resettle in the U.S. as a refugee under an assumed name.

MIGHTY HISTORY

10 reasons everyone in the military community should watch Hamilton

Hamilton, the phenomenal Broadway musical, landed on Disney’s streaming service, Disney+ on Friday. Here are 10 reasons why every service member and veteran should watch it.


1. It tells the story of an unlikely American Hero

How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore
And a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot
In the Caribbean by providence impoverished
In squalor, grow up to be a hero and a scholar?

The ten-dollar founding father without a father
Got a lot farther by working a lot harder
By being a lot smarter By being a self-starter
By fourteen, they placed him in charge of a trading charter

(Song: Alexander Hamilton)

The opening lyrics to the now legendary Broadway musical call out to all history buffs, patriotic Americans, hip-hop fans and lovers of culture and just takes off from there.

When Lin-Manuel Miranda first floated the idea of doing a hip-hop concept album about Alexander Hamilton, people scoffed. There is even a famous video of him performing the opening (and only song at that point) at the White House for President Barack Obama. Everyone laughs, but by the end he got a standing ovation.

Lin-Manuel Miranda Performs at the White House Poetry Jam: (8 of 8)

www.youtube.com

Miranda likened Hamilton to a hip-hop artist. A young man who came from an impoverished background and worked his way to the top. Growing up in the Caribbean, he worked his way off the British West Indies and ended up in New York City.

2. If you love American history, you will love Hamilton

Raise a glass to freedom

Something they can never take away
No matter what they tell you
Raise a glass to the four of us

Tomorrow there’ll be more of us

Telling the story of tonight

(Song: The Story of Tonight)

The play starts off while America is in the throes of Revolutionary fervor. Hamilton meets several men that will be his brothers during the Revolution (Aaron Burr, Marquis de Lafayette, John Lawrence and Hercules Mulligan). He also meets the women that will shape his life (Eliza, Angelica…. And Peggy)

The songs that follow take us on the journey that Americans felt while championing for their rights to be free.

3. You like to poke fun at the British

Oceans rise, empires fall

We have seen each other through it all
And when push comes to shove
I will send a fully armed battalion to remind you of my love!

(Song: You’ll Be Back)

Yeah, there are a lot of jokes at England’s expense, especially the Monarch we despise; King George III. Hamilton makes him a fool instead of a villain, a king from afar that is very out of touch with his colonies. He comes off like a bad boyfriend and just to make sure we know the English are different; he sings his songs in a Beatles-like style.

4. It’s got a great love story

So, so, so
So this is what it feels like
To match wits with someone at your level
What the hell is the catch?
It’s the feeling of freedom
Of seein’ the light
It’s Ben Franklin with a key and a kite!
You see it, right?

(Song: Satisfied)

Hamilton takes on its namesake’s love story by being as honest as possible. His love for his wife Eliza, his connection with her sister Angelica and his affair with Maria Reynolds. That affair was one of the first political scandals in the young United States’ history and would be pivotal in shaping Hamilton’s career and his marriage to Eliza.

5. We win our independence

We negotiate the terms of surrender.

I see George Washington smile.
We escort their men out of Yorktown.
They stagger home single file.
Tens of thousands of people flood the streets.
There are screams and church bells ringing.
And as our fallen foes retreat
I hear the drinking song they’re singing

The world turned upside down

(Song: Yorktown – The World Turned Upside Down)

The play’s most thrilling moment is the Battle of Yorktown. Hamilton and his buddies rally together and beat the British, under the leadership of General George Washington. The thrill of victory and, later King George’s agony of defeat, make this such an amazing moment.

6. You love politics

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness

We fought for these ideals we shouldn’t settle for less
These are wise words, enterprising men quote ’em
Don’t act surprised, you guys, ’cause I wrote ’em (ow)

(Song: Cabinet Battle #1)

In the second act, we meet two of the men that would be a thorn in Hamilton’s side as a new country finds its footing. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison make their appearance and Miranda famously portrays their bitter Cabinet arguments as rap battles. Nothing like learning about big government vs small government with two men spitting lyrics at each other.

7. If you want to know why our country is set up the way it is

No one else was in

The room where it happened
The room where it happened
The room where it happened

My God

In God we trust
But we’ll never really know what got discussed
Click-boom then it happened

And no one else was in the room where it happened

(Song: The Room Where it Happened)

Ever wonder why we had a strong central bank? Ever wonder why Washington D.C. ended up being the capitol instead of New York? Ever wonder who made those decisions? Hamilton does an amazing job of bringing up political intrigue and quid pro quo. Hamilton has a closed-door meeting with Jefferson and Madison to discuss how the country should be organized. The event spurs Hamilton’s acquaintance Aaron Burr to seek more political power as he now wants to be “In the room where it happens”.

8. It has heartbreak

There are moments that the words don’t reach

There is suffering too terrible to name
You hold your child as tight as you can
And push away the unimaginable
The moments when you’re in so deep
It feels easier to just swim down

(Song: It’s Quiet Uptown)

In a precursor to his own fate, Hamilton deals with the death of his son Philip who dies after a duel while defending his father’s reputation. Hamilton and his wife (who were on the rocks after his affair) find solace with each other as they grieve for their son together.

9. It has duels

It’s the Ten Duel Commandments
Number one

The challenge, demand satisfaction
If they apologize, no need for further action

Number two

If they don’t, grab a friend, that’s your second

Your lieutenant when there’s reckoning to be reckoned

Number three
Have your seconds meet face to face

Negotiate a peace

Or negotiate a time and place

This is commonplace, ‘specially ‘tween recruits

Most disputes die, and no one shoots

(Song: The Ten Duel Commandments)

Of course, you know that Alexander Hamilton, our first Secretary of the Treasury, and Aaron Burr, a Vice President under Thomas Jefferson, have a duel which results in Hamilton’s untimely death. Can you imagine if Timothy Geithner dueled with Dick Cheney? Yeah, crazy times back then. Miranda, over the course of the whole play builds up the relationship with Burr and Hamilton from their days pre-Revolution to political rivals. Unfair of not, it makes Hamilton to be Mozart while Burr is his Salieri. It comes to a head on that fateful day in New Jersey.

10. It is our story and we shouldn’t forget it

President Jefferson:

I’ll give him this: his financial system is a work of genius
I couldn’t undo it if I tried
And I’ve tried

Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?

President Madison:
He took our country from bankruptcy to prosperity
I hate to admit it
But he doesn’t get enough credit for all the credit he gave us

(Song: Who lives, Who dies, Who Tells Your Story)

Before the play Hamilton came out, there was actually a movement to replace Hamilton on the bill as many didn’t know the impact he had on our country’s foundation. That plan was scrapped after the play was released as Miranda did bring awareness to the complexities of our Founding Fathers. They weren’t perfect, they weren’t without sin and they were perfectly human. But when you hear their words, you find that regardless of your background, political beliefs, race, religion, gender or sexual orientation, you have a lot in common with the men that founded the United States. There is a reason why many younger people have been inspired by the musical.

Check it out on Disney+ and let us know what you think!


MIGHTY HISTORY

These are the ways Beetle Bailey spoke for every troop

Mort Walker, famed comic strip writer and former Army First Lieutenant, passed away on Jan. 27, 2018. His most famous work, Beetle Bailey, changed the way comics are enjoyed daily in 1950 and it continues to touch lives today. It fostered acceptance of the comic strip as an artistic medium by an older crowd and showed American military service in a new light.


The comic drew its humor from the realities of service, spotlighting both the good and the bad, and gave audiences around the world a more relatable soldier than any other in pop culture. Walker served on the Italian front of WWII and knew exactly how privates, sergeants, and officers all acted: kind of funny, sometimes.

Here’s how the comic strip spoke for all of us.

Privates will be lazy

The longest-running gag in the series is Pvt. Beetle Bailey trying to skip out of work. Given the opportunity, he’ll sleep. If he has to work, he’ll need a kick in the ass to get going — sometimes literally.

This is not unlike a large portion of the lower enlisted in the real-world military. As much as every NCO and officer would love to pretend like their troops are the pinnacle of perfection, they’re much more like Pvt. Bailey than they are Captain America. In a way, that humanizes the military. Civilians can relate to the “work” ethic of Bailey and, in turn, some of our troops.

Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs
The lower enlisted will master every rule and regulation just to find the one loophole they need. (Comic by Mort Walker and King Features Syndicate)

NCOs still have a good heart

Sgt. 1st Class Snorkel is a mix between an alcoholic, an asshole, and, in his own, unique way, Beetle Bailey’s friend. He’s got anger issues, but they’re never unjustified. He has to constantly burst Bailey’s bubble, but only because he’s got a job to do.

Non-commissioned officers in the real military are much the same way. Underneath their rank and loud voice, they’re still human. Caring humans who still have a job to do.

Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs
For reference on how dedicated Mort Walker was at his craft, this comic was released a day before his passing. (Comic by Mort Walker and King Features Syndicate)

Officers’ ideas aren’t always the best

Brig. Gen. Halftrack is a goofy and inept General who sticks his nose where it doesn’t belong. The gears will already be turning properly when he comes in and throws everything off kilter.

There’s a misconception among civilians and even in the military itself (especially from the officers) that their generals are near-mythical geniuses. Turns out, they’re just as flawed as everyone else. In the military, we call this the “Good Idea Fairy.”

Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs
Rest in peace, 1st Lt. Mort Walker. The military and veteran community lost one of its funniest voices. (Comic by Mort Walker and King Features Syndicate)

MIGHTY HISTORY

A fake smokestack made this German ship an unstoppable predator

The SMS Emden was supposed to be a nice ship, but not all that crazy important in war. It was a light cruiser, a utilitarian ship type that is quick, capable, but not all that robust or rugged. These ships are typically designed for low-level conflict or serve as a guard or screening force for larger ships like battleships or, later, carriers.


But the Emden would steam into Allied controlled waters in early 1914, attacking literally dozens of enemy ships and counting on its speed and a little trickery to let it hit and then withdraw in a series of daring raids.

Sea Raider

youtu.be

Sea Raider

It all started in 1913 when the young SMS Emden received a new commander, Korvettenkapitän Karl von Muller (Korvettenkapitän is roughly equivalent to America’s lieutenant commander rank). Von Muller was the son of a German army officer, and he had risen to his rank by performing well in front of Germany’s elite, including the German emperor’s brother.

One of von Muller’s distinguishing traits was a sort of cunning shrewdness, something that would serve him well on the Emden. In 1914, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria quickly dragged the major European powers toward war, and von Muller ordered the Emden to sea to prevent its capture in the largely British and Japanese-controlled Pacific islands where the ship was based.

This proved prescient as raiders quickly came for the German fleet. The Emden reported to a rallying point where most of the German navy would meet up to head east to South America, around Cape Horn, and on to Germany. On his way to the rally, von Muller captured the Russian ship Ryazan. When Emden reached the German fleet with its prize, von Muller had a proposal for the admiral.

The SMS Emden was a short-lived but still amazingly successful light cruiser that saw glory in World War I.

(German Federal Archives)

Instead of heading home to Germany, von Muller said, the Emden should head west and raid Allied shipping, especially that of British ships, for a few months and create chaos in the enemy logistics chain.

Light cruisers lacked the armor or heavier guns common on heavy cruisers or larger ships, but they were still more than a match for destroyers and merchant vessels. And the Emden had torpedo tubes that would allow it to tackle even heavier combatants if it could get the jump on them.

Despite the risk of losing the Emden, a modern and valuable cruiser even if it was light, the admiral agreed to the plan. So von Muller led his crew of about 360 men into the Indian Ocean.

The Emden would need some sort of edge to survive. It was fast, so it could close with enemies quickly, partially negating any range advantages that heavier combatants would have against it. But it would still be vulnerable for crucial seconds or minutes while closing with an enemy.

So von Muller turned to subterfuge. Most British ships had two or four smokestacks, and the Emden would be one of the only ships in the area with three smokestacks. So, von Muller had a fourth, fake smokestack installed on the Emden, making it look a lot like the British cruiser HMS Yarmouth.

This might seem like a minor ploy, good for a few minutes of distraction at best, but that momentary hesitation on the part of the enemy gave von Muller and his crew all the time they needed. In just a few days of fighting in September 1914, the Emden captured or destroyed 15 British ships, forcing many merchant vessels to stay in port.

Suddenly, the British ability to resupply vulnerable islands was crippled, and valuable ships would have to be sent to the Indian Ocean to reinforce the naval effort there.

Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs

Oil tanks burn in India after an attack by the SMS Emden, a German light cruiser.

(National Library of France)

But the sudden lack of targets at sea did not stop the Emden. The crew simply started going after shore targets like the oil depots at Madras. The Emden fired 125 shells in a short engagement on September 22, busting open many of the Burma Oil Company’s tanks and setting them aflame while also destroying a ship in the harbor.

Between this and earlier attacks, the British decided to cut the number of ships, and potential targets, in the Indian Ocean by 40 percent. This slowed the bleeding of the Royal Navy and merchant vessels but also further slowed the movement of needed war supplies.

But the Emden had taken damage and was running low on supplies by this point, and so it made a risky trip to Diego Garcia where it could attempt to raid needed supplies from the British installations there. But, surprisingly, the Germans found that the locals had no news of the young war when the Emden pulled into harbor, so the German crew simply contracted for repair and supplies without incident.

Freshly resupplied and repaired, the Emden went after British installations at Penang in Malaysia, initiating a short battle there. The primary target was the Russian warship Zhemchung which the Emden hit with torpedoes and cannon fire after approaching under false British colors and with the fake smokestack up.

The Emden sank the Russian vessel and then beat a hasty retreat, but not so hasty that the ship neglected sinking the Mousquet, a French destroyer, while exiting the harbor. This was late October, and the little cruiser had already more than proved its worth in the East, but von Muller wasn’t willing to call it quits.

Other German cruisers had successfully snipped undersea wires in their own raids, and von Muller went after the telegraph wire connecting British troops in South Africa to those in Australia. The wire had a major junction at Direction Island in the Cocos Islands.

Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs

The German light cruiser SMS Emden sits beached after a determined attack by the HMAS Sydney.

(State Library of Victoria)

The Emden landed a shore party there and quickly went after the two cables. But as it pulled into the harbor, the Morse operator sent off a quick burst via the station’s wireless system, alerting a nearby cruiser to the unfamiliar ship in the harbor.

The Emden’s shore party was working the destruction of the cables and the wireless antenna when the Australian HMAS Sydney arrived to investigate, forcing the Emden to turn and face her. This effectively marooned the shore party on land, but the Emden was in a fight for its life.

The Sydney was also a light cruiser, but it was roughly a quarter larger than the Emden and slightly more modern, and it quickly gained the upper hand in the fight. The Emden was doomed, and von Muller quickly beached it on a reef. The German ship had suffered over 100 hits in about 90 minutes of fighting. It only stopped after von Muller surrendered.

The shore party would slowly, laboriously make its way back to Germany by sailing to Indonesia, then to the Ottoman Empire, then traveled across the desert in a failed overland bid for safety, then ran a British blockade on the Red Sea, then, finally, overland to Constantinople. It was a six-month journey, but 43 men made it back to Germany.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time ‘Fighting Dick’ fought ‘Fightin’ Dick’ at Antietam

High-ranking officers often have monikers that accompany them for their military prowess in battle or how they conduct themselves. General “Mad Dog” Mattis was given his by the press after his “be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet” speech. Colonel “Mad Jack” Churchill got his when the British Expeditionary Force moved in on France and he became the only Brit to score a long bow kill in WWII.


Rarely will a moniker be used for more than one military leader, especially within the same time or military. Even more rare is when they two meet on opposite ends of the battlefield. This is exactly what happened when Maj. Gen. “Fighting Dick” Richardson fought Maj. Gen. “Fightin’ Dick” Anderson for the “Bloody Lane” at Antietam during the Civil War.

Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs
Bloody Lane was smack-dab in the middle of the battle. (Image via Wikicommons)

Israel B. Richardson was a United States Army officer who fought in the Mexican-American War and eventually promoted to Major General while serving in the Union Army during the Civil War. He was nicknamed “Fighting Dick” after his last name. He lead the 1st Division of the II Corps into the Battle of Antietam.

And in the other corner, Richard H. Anderson was a United States Army officer who fought in the Mexican-American War and was eventually promoted to Major General while serving in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. He was nicknamed “Fightin’ Dick” after his first name. He lead the appropriately named “Anderson’s Division,” who were tasked with defending the Sunken Road.

Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs
The Sunken Road would later be known as Bloody Lane after the fighting ended. (Image via History)

On Sept. 17, 1862, 87,000 Union troops met the 38,000 Confederates near Sharpsburg, Maryland. Richardson’s men charged the road to pierce through the Confederate defenses. For nearly four hours, both sides fought until Union troops finally took the hill. However, Union troops were not able to hold the new ground and were forced back. The battle was declared tactically inconclusive but was a strategic victory for Richardson.

Both “Fighting Dicks” were critically wounded in battle; Anderson was wounded in the thigh and Richardson was struck by a shell fragment. Anderson would recover and continue on fighting into Gettysburg and Appomattox, but Richardson’s wound became infected and he passed of pneumonia nearly a month later.

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