Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you've never heard of - We Are The Mighty
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Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of

When most people think of World War II, they probably think of soldiers fighting in Europe or Marines island-hopping in the Pacific. But it truly was a World War, and that included combat in some of Earth’s most frigid and inhospitable waters in the Arctic Circle.

The Soviets needed plenty of supplies to fight off the Germans, and it was up to the Allies to make it happen. Beginning in 1941, the Allies began sending convoys of merchant ships packed with food, ammunition, tanks, and airplanes, along with warship escorts.

 

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of

But the freezing waters of the Arctic — and the German navy — didn’t make it easy.

Via the World War II Database:

The cold temperature in the arctic region also posed a risk in that sea splashes slowly formed a layer of ice on the decks of ships, which over time, if not tended to, could weigh so much that ships would become top-heavy and capsize. Of course, given the state of war, the German military also posed a great danger by means of surface warships, submarines, and aircraft. The threats, natural or otherwise, endangered the merchant ships throughout the entire length of the supply route. British destroyer HMS Matabele and Soviet trawler RT-68 Enisej of convoy PQ-8 were sunk by German submarine U-454 at the mouth of the Kola Inlet near the very end of their trip, British whaler HMS Sulla of PQ-9 capsized from ice build-up three days into her journey in the Norwegian Sea, while PQ-15 suffered the loss of three merchant ships on 2 May 1942 to German torpedo bomber attacks north of Norway.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
HMS Duke of York in heavy seas

Initially the ships met little resistance, as the Nazis were unaware of the resupply route. This quickly changed after Operation Dervish, the first convoy from Iceland to Archangelsk, Russia.

“After Dervish, the Germans did wake up to what was happening,” Eric Alley, who was on the first convoy, told The Telegraph. “The Luftwaffe and U-boats moved 
to northern Norway, so the convoys had to keep as far north as possible.”

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of

The convoys were dangerous due to the unpredictable nature of the frigid waters and threat of Nazi U-boats and land-based aircraft. And summer made things much worse, which left ships completely exposed since the area had 24 hours of daylight.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of

“That was hell. There is no other word I know for it,” wrote Robert Carse, in an account of an attack on his convoy that lasted for 20 hours. “Everywhere you looked aloft you saw them, crossing and recrossing us, hammering down and back, the bombs brown, sleek in the air, screaming to burst furiously white in the sea. All around us, as so slowly we kept on going, the pure blue of the sea was mottled blackish with the greasy patches of their bomb discharges. Our ship was missed closely time and again. We drew our breaths in a kind of gasping-choke.”

The convoys delivered more than four million tons of cargo, though at a heavy cost: 101 ships were sunk and roughly 3,000 Allied sailors lost their lives, according to The Telegraph.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of

Here are more photos of what it was like:

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of

NOW: Hitler’s secret Nazi war machines of World War II

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time US troops found 200 tons of stolen Nazi gold

In the closing months of World War II, the defeated Nazi Army scrambled to hide the hundreds of tons of gold they had despicably stripped from various nations during their occupation. As they hurriedly stashed their ill-gotten gains, they were unaware that the Allies were drawing near.


Operation Safe Haven was well under way. Allies were on the hunt to locate the enormous amount of looted wealth the Germans viciously seized and stored and put it into the hands of humanitarian groups who would, hopefully, send the wealth to its rightful owners. U.S. troops were trained to search for assets in the form of paper money, coins, and gold bullion.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Troops from the Army’s 90th Infantry Division as they push their way through enemy lines.

On April, 6, 1945, MPs from the 3rd Army’s 90th Infantry Division were on a foot patrol in the town of Merkers, Germany when they discovered a useful clue. They spotted two women walking down the street and soon found out that the ladies were French DPs, or “displaced persons.”

These DPs were taken from their French home and transported to Germany to do forced labor. They informed the MPs about a salt mine that hid a surplus of gold — and that the Germans would frequently bring in truckloads of precious metals. The MPs quickly relayed this information to higher command.

Soon after, Generals Eisenhower and Patton traveled to the mine and discovered years’ worth of stolen gold.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Generals Eisenhower and Patton inside the Merker’s mine.

U.S. troops found roughly 7,000 sacks of gold bullion neatly piled in the underground area, measuring approximately 75-feet deep and 150-feet wide.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of

Additionally, the mine contained 98 million French Francs. However, that enormous sum of cash wasn’t the most shocking thing found down there. Allied troops found luggage containing gold fillings extracted from those forced into the concentration camps.

It’s believed that the gold fillings were to be used in the dental care of several SS officers.

Check out American Heroes Channel’s video below to see incredible footage of this opulent discovery.

Articles

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of


During one of the final and most important sieges of the Civil War, a combination of racism towards black troops, concern for appearances, and sheer blinding incompetence and cowardice led to the bloody disaster that was the Battle of the Crater.

The Confederate Army was engaged in a last ditch defense of Petersburg, Va., the logistics and rail hub that supplied the forces defending their capital at Richmond, against the Union Army under command of General Ulysses S. Grant. Once Petersburg fell, the war was as good as over.

The siege had turned into trench warfare that presaged World War I. Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s mastery of field fortifications and defense in depth had made offensive operations by the Union against entrenched Confederate troops a terribly bloody endeavor. The siege was at a stalemate, and new tactics were called for.

The Union 48th Pennsylvania Regiment was largely drawn from coal country, and its commander, Col. Henry Pleasants, was convinced they could dig a long mine under the rebel lines and use blasting powder blow to a large hole in their fortifications. A four-division assault force would then seize the heights overlooking Petersburg, greatly shortening the siege. His corps commander, Gen. Ambrose Burnside, endorsed the plan.

The operation was conducted with a strange mix of brute force labor and a strategic lassitude from higher command, and suffered from a chronic lack of logistical support. Most of the Union leadership, from Grant on down, was skeptical of the plan, and saw it as a way to keep the soldiers busy at best.

The 4th United States Colored Troops (USCT) under Gen. Edward Ferraro was specially trained to lead the assault, specifically to flank the crater on both sides. But Gen. George Meade, commander of the Union Army at the battle of Gettysburg, thought little of the plan and the abilities of the black troops to carry it out.

He also voiced concerns to Grant that if the attack failed, it would look as if black soldiers had been thrown away as cannon fodder. Grant agreed, Burnside inexplicably had his division commanders draw lots, and Brigadier Gen. James Ledlie drew the short straw.

It was bad enough that the last minute change brought in badly unprepared troops for a tricky attack, but Ledlie had the distinction of being one of the most drunken cowards in the Union officer corps. This was to have terrible consequences.

Union troops operating north of Petersburg had drawn off most of the Southern troops, leaving the line weakened, and the time was ideal for the assault. After months of labor and the emplacement of more than four tons of blasting powder under the Confederate fortifications, the attack began with triggering the explosives at 4:45 a.m. on June 30, 1864.

The resulting blast was the largest man-made explosion in history up to that point. A massive mushroom cloud, which sent men, horses, artillery, and huge amounts of earth flying into the air, left a crater 130-feet long, 75-feet wide, and 35-feet deep. The explosion killed a full third of the the South Carolina unit defending the strongpoint, over 200 men, in an instant. The concussive force of the explosion left the rest of the brigade stunned for at least 15 minutes.

Despite the spectacular success of the mine blast, the assault started to go wrong from the beginning. Ledlie was drunk and hiding in a bunker in the rear, and his leaderless division ran into the crater instead of around it, milling about uncertainly.Other units pouring into the attack only added to the chaos.

The recovered Confederate troops laid a kill zone around the crater, keeping the Union troops pinned down, and fired everything from rifles to mortar shells into the packed troops stuck in the blast zone. The 4th USCT, despite being relegated to the second wave, penetrated farther than anyone, but suffered severely in the process.

After holding out for hours, a final counterattack by a Confederate brigade of Virginians routed the still numerically superior Union forces, which suffered appalling casualties, and many were taken prisoner.

There are many Southern eyewitness accounts of black prisoners being summarily shot down by Confederate troops, and the particularly severe casualty rates suffered by the black units seem to bear this out. Even some Union soldiers were reportedly involved in the killings, driven by fear of the Confederate warnings of reprisals for fighting alongside black soldiers. The shouting of “No Quarter!” and “Remember Fort Pillow!” by the black troops during their charge was also later cited as a justification for the executions by the Confederacy.

Burnside and Ledie were both relieved of duty after the disaster, though Burnside was later cleared by Congress since it was Meade who decided to replace the USCT at the last moment. Burnside never held a significant command again.

The supreme irony of the battle was that despite the efforts to spare the lives of black troops from politically inconvenient slaughter, the utter failure of the lead wave to force the breach lead to terrible casualties for the black units they had replaced. Gen. Grant later said “it was the saddest affair I witnessed during the war.”

The siege would drag on for another eight months, and Petersburg’s fall led to the prompt surrender of Richmond, precipitating Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse. The Crater remains a prime example of a brilliant plan spoiled by incompetent execution.

Articles

Inside the Navy’s high-tech stealth destroyer

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
U.S. Navy photo courtesy of General Dynamics Bath Iron Works


The Navy’s new stealthy high-tech destroyer has begun “Acceptance Trials” to assess, refine and further develop its many technologies including navigation, propulsion, auxiliary systems, fire protection and damage control capabilities, service officials said.

The ship, called the DDG 100 or USS Zumwalt, departed Bath, Maine, with a crew of assessment professionals on board called the Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey, or INSURV.

“This underway period is specifically scheduled to demonstrate ship systems to the Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey and the ship will return to port upon conclusion of the demonstrations,” Navy spokesman Matthew Leonard told Scout Warrior in a written statement.

The USS Zumwalt, the first in a series of three next-generation destroyers planned for the fleet, is slated to be operational by 2019, he added. The new ship will formally deliver to the Navy later this year.

“DDG 1000 delivery is expected after successful Acceptance Trials and will include fully capable Hull Maintenance and Electrical (HME) systems.  Following HME delivery, and a brief crew certification period at Bath Iron Works, the ship will sail to Baltimore for commissioning (which is scheduled for Oct. 15) and then transit to its homeport in San Diego where Mission Systems Activation will occur,” Leonard added.

Before beginning Acceptance Trials, the DDG 1000 went through a process known as “Builder Trials” during which the contract building the ship, Bath Iron Works, tests the ship’s systems and technologies.

New Ship Technologies

Once operational, the Navy’s first high-tech Zumwalt-class DDG 1000 destroyer will pioneer a handful of yet-to-be seen destroyer ship technologies, service officials have explained.

Not only does the ship have a new electric drive system for propulsion as opposed to diesel or steam –but the ship is configured with sonar, sensors, electronics, computing technology and weapons systems which have not previously been engineered into a Navy destroyer or comparable ship, said Raytheon officials said.

The Zumwalt-class destroyers will have unprecedented mine-detecting sonar technologies for destroyer through utilization of what’s called an integrated undersea warfare system, or IUW; IUW is a dual-band sonar technology which uses both medium and high-frequency detection, Raytheon developers explained.

Medium sonar frequency is engineered to detect ships and submarines, whereas high-frequency sonar adds the ability to avoid sea-mines, they added.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
USS Zumwalt, first of three commissioned DDG-1000 Destroyers | U.S. Navy

It makes sense that the DDG 1000 would be engineered detect mines because the destroyer is, in part, being developed for land-attack missions, an activity likely to bring the vessel closer to shore than previous destroyers might be prepared to sail. The ship is engineered with a more shallow-draft to better enable it to operate in shallower waters than most deep-water ships.

The DDG 1000 is built with what’s called a total ship computing environment, meaning software and blade servers manage not just the weapons systems on the ship but also handle the radar and fire control software and various logistical items such as water, fuel, oil and power for the ship, Raytheon officials said.

The blade servers run seven million lines of code, officials explained.

The ship is engineered to fire Tomahawk missiles as well as torpedoes, Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile and a range of standard missiles such as the SM2, SM3 and SM6.

The ship also has a 155mm long range, precision-capable gun called the Advanced Gun System made by BAE Systems. The weapon can, among other things, fire a munition called the Long-Range Land Attack Projectile which can strike target at ranges out to 64 nautical miles.

Additionally, as a survivability enhancing measure, the total ship computing environment also ensures additional layers or redundancy to ensure that messages and information can be delivered across the ship in the event of attack, Raytheon officials said.

Many of the blade servers and other technical items are housed in structures called electronic modular enclosures, or EMEs. There are 16 EME’s built on each ship, each with more than 235 electronics cabinets. The structures are designed to safeguard much of the core electronics for the ship.

The ship’s integrated power system, which includes its electric propulsion, helps generate up to 58 megawatts of on-board electrical power, something seen as key to the future when it comes to ship technologies and the application of anticipated future weapons systems such as laser weapons and rail guns.

The ship is also built with a new kind of vertical launch tubes which are engineered into the hull near the perimeter of the ship.  Called Peripheral Vertical Launch System, the tubes are integrated with the hull around the ship’s periphery in order to ensure that weapons can keep firing in the event of damage.  Instead of having all of the launch tubes in succession or near one another, the DDG 1000 has spread them out in order to mitigate risk in the event attack, developers said.

In total, there are 80 launch tubes built into the hull of the DDG 1000; the Peripheral Vertical Launch System involves a collaborative effort between Raytheon and BAE Systems.

The DDG 1000 also has an AN/SPY-3 X-band multi-function radar which is described as volume-search capable, meaning it can detect threats at higher volumes than other comparable radar systems, Raytheon officials added.  The volume search capability, which can be added through software upgrades, enables the radar to detect a wider range of missile flight profiles, he added.

As the first Zumwalt-class destroyer gets ready for delivery to the Navy, construction of the second is already underway. The DDG 1001 is already more than 75-percent complete and fabrication of DDG 1002 is already underway, Navy officials said.

Articles

9 times when troops said what they really felt

Your average civilian may look at the military and think it’s like the movies, with highly-motivated soldiers doing their job without complaint, saluting smartly, and marching around a lot.


But of course, that’s not really the case. Just like with any other job, military members have good days and bad days, and often air those grievances with each other. Sometimes, they let it slip in public, and tell everyone how they really feel.

Here are 9 of those times.

1. When a soldier tells you how he really feels about his post, through Wikipedia edits.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
via Reddit

2. This soldier on Yelp doesn’t really like the “Great Place” of Fort Hood, either.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of

3. A Marine writing a review on Amazon challenges your manhood if you don’t want to wear ultra-short “silkie” shorts.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
via Amazon

4. The British Marine who makes a hilarious video poking fun at his officers.

5. When a sailor on Glassdoor compares Navy life to drinking sour milk.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of

6. This anonymous service member using Whisper to confess his or her love for marijuana.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of

7. The Marine who tells you over Yelp that Marine Corps Base 29 Palms will definitely steal your soul.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of

8. The British soldiers in World War I who printed a mock newspaper filled with gallows humor satirizing life in the trenches.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

9. When real-life Armed Force Radio DJ Adrian Cronauer (portrayed by Robin Williams in “Good Morning Vietnam”) gives the troop version of a weather report in Vietnam.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time the British ate dinner and burned the White House

A few years after the onset of the War of 1812, the British Army marched into Washington D.C and set it ablaze as many Americans fled. The Redcoats then hiked their way to one of the most historic buildings in the world, the White House, and torched it to avenge an American attack on the city of York in Ontario, Canada, just a few years prior.

Before the British arrived, President James Madison had left the area to meet with his military officials. While many fled in terror of the anticipated Redcoats, First Lady Dolley Madison bravely stayed behind, ready to retrieve important documents and irreplaceable valuables.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
President James Madison (left) and his wife, Dolley.

As dawn broke, Dolley and some of the White House staff kept a close eye out as they waited for either Madison or the British to return. Once the British Army came into view, Dolley made preparations to leave.


Instead of taking her personal belongings, Dolley Madison made it her priority to retrieve a full-length portrait of George Washington — to keep it out of British hands. Since the painting was screwed to the wall, members of the White House staff broke the frame and rolled the canvas up.

Dolley managed to escape safely and later met up with her husband at a secondary location.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
The original plans for the White House.

Soon after Dolley’s departure, the British stomped their way to the White House. They went up the iconic front steps and through double doors. Upon entering the house, British troops were surprised to discover that dinner had been laid out for about 40 patrons. So, like any hungry set of soldiers, they sat down to eat. They enjoyed a civilized meal before setting the presidential manor on fire.

President Madison and his wife returned a few days later; the British had already moved on, leaving only ashy rubble in their wake. Most of the walls survived the brutal heat of the flames, but the majority of the President’s home had to be rebuilt.

This historical act of destruction is the first and only time the enemy has successfully brought harm to the White House.

Articles

How this brave Marine saved the day at Tarawa Atoll

“If you are qualified, fate has a way of getting you to the right place at the right time – tho’ sometimes it appears to be a long, long wait,” professed Marine Col. Dave Shoup.


Fate was certainly on Shoup’s side at Tarawa Atoll, and he didn’t shrink from the occasion.

The 38-year-old Indiana native was one of the four Marines awarded the Medal of Honor for their deeds at Tarawa Atoll in November 1943, one of the most brutal engagements fought in the Pacific during WWII.

Shoup was the only recipient to survive the battle and receive this honor in person.

The battle as a whole was plagued by bad planning and poor decision making, but individual acts of heroism and the sheer willpower of the troops engaged in combat won the day for the Americans.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
General David M. Shoup (1904-1983), Medal of Honor recipient and 22nd Commandant of the United States Marine Corps (1960-1963). (Photo courtesy of the United States Marine Corps)

Shoup was born in December 1904 on a farm in Battle Ground, Indiana, near the site of General William H. Harrison’s victory at Tippecanoe in 1811. Shoup would mirror the same bold leadership qualities of the leader of that battle fought in his backyard 90 years before.

Upon completing high school, Shoup desired to attend college and not remain as an “Indiana plowboy” for the remainder of his life. He attended DePauw University as an ROTC student and successfully graduated in 1926. He transferred to the Marines in the same year after spending only one month in the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant.

Leading up to 1943, Shoup spent time on a number of assignments in the United States, China, and Iceland. He slowly climbed up the ranks in his 15 years of service leading up to WWII, when he was promoted to colonel.

He had a reputation of being a straightforward officer, earning the praise of the men under his command for sharing in their hardships on and off the battlefield. One correspondent described him as “a squat red-faced man, with a bull neck,” known by those who surrounded him as a “profane shouter of orders.”

The greatest trial of Shoup’s life came during the invasion of the Japanese-held Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands.

Tarawa Atoll consisted of a series of islands surrounded by a large coral reef stretching up to 1,100 yards from the shoreline. The Japanese occupied Tarawa Atoll in December 1941 and spent two years leading up to the battle turning it into a formidable obstacle. They fortified the islands with barbed wire and a network of trenches and built an airfield.

The Japanese garrison consisted of about 5,000 men, all willing to die to the last man. Occupation of the island was critical for the U.S. to establish forward operating bases in the Pacific, and the Japanese continued to fortify it up to the day of the invasion.

Shoup was one of the 20,000 Marines of the 2nd Marine Division to land at Tarawa Atoll on November 20, 1943. The Marine division — meshed with veterans of Guadalcanal and raw recruits — made their way to the beach transported by amtracs and landing craft.

The small perimeter of the beachhead became cluttered with bodies and debris as parties of Marines attempted to gain a foothold and power their way inland, while exposed to a barrage of Japanese machine gun and mortar fire. Chaos reigned supreme as the some of the vehicles loaded with reinforcements became bogged down on the reef.

For a time, it appeared the attack on Tarawa Atoll would falter, as many men were pinned down in the shallow water near the reef, either unable or unwilling to move to reinforce the beachhead.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
U.S. Marines storm the beach at Tarawa Atoll, November 1943. (U.S. Archives)

Shoup ordered his men to advance forward from the reef to the beachhead as Japanese artillery, machine gun barrages, and rifle fire rained down on them. Suddenly, a Japanese mortar round exploded nearby, flinging shrapnel into his legs.

He refused to be evacuated despite the severity of the debilitating wound.

At one point, the defiant colonel shouted to his men, “Are there any of you cowardly sons of bitches got the guts to follow a colonel of the Marines?” The Marines were inspired by his valor and selflessness, and followed him forward.

Shoup assumed command of all land troops upon reaching the beachhead. He ignored the agony of his wounds, and marched up and down the line with his pistol unholstered, coolly directing the advance of Marines further inland.

Success was measured in yards, and the Marines methodically overcame the Japanese defenses.

By the time the battle ended, less than 200 of the original 4,000-man Japanese garrison remained to surrender. They had inflicted a staggering 3,000 casualties on the Second Marine Division. Shoup remained on his feet directing the fight for about 50 hours, finally relinquishing command to be treated for his wounds only when most of Tarawa Atoll was in Americans hands.

Without Shoup’s direction and valor, Tarawa Atoll may well have been a catastrophic defeat. Shoup lived for another 40 years until his death in 1983 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Articles

These are 6 of the worst places American troops fought during Christmas

American troops have never shied away from taking the fight to the nation’s enemies, no matter the season.


But it’s a particular downer when U.S. forces are deployed to battlefields during the holidays. Here are six of the worst places the American military had to fight during Christmas.

1. Valley Forge (1777)

Just a year earlier, on Christmas Day 1776, Washington had led his troops across the Delaware and won a decisive victory at the Battle of Trenton.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Washington at Valley Forge. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

When Washington marched that same army into Valley Forge on December 19, 1777, the 12,000 Continentals were weary, under-fed, and under-equipped. Only about one in four still had shoes after the many long marches had literally worn them right off their feet.

The weather was also bitterly cold, which combined with the other problems facing the army led to over 2,500 soldiers dying due to starvation, disease, and exposure.

The bright spot of the army’s stay at Valley Forge was the training received by the Prussian drill master Baron Von Steuben. Thanks to his efforts, the Continentals began 1778 a much more professional fighting force than they had been.

2. The Winter Line (1943)

Central Italy may not be known to most for terrible winters. But for the American and Allied troops facing the German Winter Line at the end of 1943, it was far from favorable.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Fighting in the Italian Alps during Christmas during World War II. (Photo from 10th Mountain Division history page)

Stiff German defenses in the Apennine Mountains had brought the Allied advance to a standstill with tremendous numbers of casualties. To make matters worse, bitter winter weather had moved in dumping snow on the weary troops and dropping visibility to near zero.

Despite the weather conditions and determined German resistance the men of the 36th Infantry Division, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, and the 1st Special Service Force fought on — particularly on Christmas Day, when the 1st Special Service Force captured a strategic hill on the Winter Line with heavy casualties.

3. Bastogne (1944)

When American troops think of a terrible Christmas this one usually tops the list.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Photo: US Army

The Battered Bastards of Bastogne (the 101st Airborne Division, elements of the 9th and 10th Armored Divisions, and other support elements) had arrived to hold the key crossroads against the German onslaught just in time for Christmas 1944.

As the Battle of the Bulge progressed, the paratroopers and soldiers were surrounded, short of supplies, and desperately lacking in winter gear to battle the freezing temperatures they had to endure. Despite the conditions they faced when the Germans requested the Americans’ surrender Gen. Anthony McAuliffe simply responded with “Nuts!”

After fending off a German attack on Christmas Day the defenders were relieved by elements of Patton’s Third Army.

4. Basically anywhere in Korea (1950)

Christmas 1950 in Korea was an ignominious affair. After the brilliant victory at Inchon and the drive towards the Yalu River, China had entered the fray and handed the UN Forces their first defeat since breakout of Pusan.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of

In response, MacArthur launched the Home-by-Christmas Offensive to bring a quick conclusion to the war. But the Chinese were ready for it and decisively defeated American forces.  The 1st Marine Division had narrowly avoided annihilation at the Chosin Reservoir, but many other units weren’t so lucky.

For the Eighth Army in Korea morale was low and the temperatures were even lower. Not only were they not going to be home by Christmas, but New Year’s didn’t bring better tidings either.

Another Chinese offensive sent the demoralized Americans reeling and recaptured the South Korean capital of Seoul. Christmas 1950 was one of the lowest points in the war for the Americans.

5. Operation Linebacker II (1972)

By the end of 1972 the war in Vietnam was supposed to be all but over. President Richard Nixon’s program of Vietnamization had allowed large numbers of U.S. troops to withdraw from the country.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
A U.S. Air Force Boeing B-52F Stratofortress drops bombs over Vietnam. (U.S. Air Force photo))

However, negotiations in Paris were not going well for the Americans, so Nixon ordered a massive bombing campaign against the North in order to extract concessions from North Vietnam. Massive formations of B-52’s escorted by fighters took to the skies over North Vietnam in what became known as the Christmas Bombings.

From December 19 to December 29, 1972 the bombers flew 729 sorties against targets around Hanoi and Haiphong.

Unfortunately these bombings claimed 16 B-52s and numerous fighter aircraft, with the surviving crewmembers being interred as POWs just in time for Christmas. In all 43 airmen were killed and another 49 captured with a total of 28 aircraft lost to enemy action in the span of just over a week.

For a war that was drawing to a close flying into highly-contested airspace was a miserable way to spend the war’s last Christmas.

6. The lonely Combat Outposts of Afghanistan and Iraq (2001 – present)

As the War on Terror approaches its 15th Christmas with who knows how many more ahead, the soldiers stationed in the remote reaches of those war torn countries have to be included on any list of worst places to spend Christmas.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Gilliand Hudson, a carpenter with FLOUR, acts as Santa Claus and poses alongside U.S. soldiers with 4th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, on Forward Operating Base Clark, Afghanistan, Dec. 25, 2013. Hudson dressed as Santa Claus to spread holiday cheer for soldiers away from home for the holidays. (U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Amber Stephens / Released)

With the unprecedented length of these wars, there are likely American troops spending yet another Christmas overseas. In World War II even the first units to deploy would have only spent three Christmas’s in a combat zone; there is a good chance that thousands of troops have spent more than that at this point since 9/11.

Those holidays are even more difficult at the tiny combat outposts in the middle of nowhere. If the troops are lucky, there might have been something resembling a Christmas dinner flown in that they can eat while standing guard in a cold little shack or tower.

If they aren’t so lucky, Christmas dinner is just another MRE and the best gift they can hope for is a quiet day.

Articles

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing

The Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing Thursday on whether to confirm Gen. James Mattis as the next defense secretary, and plenty of interesting bits came out of the roughly three-hour session.


The retired four-star general gave frank and concise answers on everything from cybersecurity policy to what he expects will be the biggest threats to the United States.

Also read: 6 new changes to expect at the Pentagon with Mattis as SECDEF

Shortly afterward, he was approved for a waiver for the requirement of having a seven-year gap between being active-duty in the military and serving in the civilian role at the Pentagon.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, commander, U.S. Central Command visits with Marines stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait on Feb. 26, 2011. | DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeleyMattis thinks the US needs to be more aggressive going after ISIS

When asked whether the US can confront the terror group in its capital of Raqqa, Mattis said he believed the US could, but he added that the anti-ISIS strategy needed to be reviewed and “energized on a more aggressive timeline.”

He told members that “we have to deliver a very hard blow against ISIS in the Middle East so there is no sense of invulnerability or invincibility there.” For the US, according to Mattis, that means attacking ISIS’ main areas of strength so they cannot pop up elsewhere.

He mentioned Russia as the biggest threat

Despite President-elect Trump’s restraint on calling out Russian aggression and cyberwarfare, Mattis didn’t pull punches in his assessment of Moscow.

“Since Yalta, we have a long list of times that we’ve tried to engage positively with Russia,” Mattis said. “We have a relatively short list of successes in that regard.” He praised NATO and its effectiveness, and added that Russian President Vladimir Putin was “trying to break” that alliance.

In some areas Russia and the US can work together, but in many others, Mattis said, Putin remained a strategic competitor or an outright adversary.

“I have very modest expectations about areas of cooperation with Mr. Putin,” he said.

Mattis says he wouldn’t roll back the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell or the change on women in combat roles

In the past, Mattis has not really been a fan of women being integrated into combat roles, such as infantry. He was asked about this repeatedly — at times having his speeches quoted to him — and asked whether he would reverse the 2013 policy change.

“I’ve never come into any job with an agenda, a pre-formed agenda of changing anything,” he said. “I assume the people before me deserve respect for the decisions they’ve made.”

That answer did not satisfy Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), however, and she continued to press him. In the end, Mattis told her: “I have no plan to oppose women in any aspect of our military. In 2003, I had hundreds of Marines who happened to be women serving in my 23,000 person division … I put them right on the front lines with everyone else.”

He was also asked about protections for LGBTQ service members, and he had a very blunt answer to that. “Frankly, senator, I’ve never cared about two consenting adults and who they go to bed with.”

He says the Iran deal isn’t perfect, but it should remain intact

Mattis called the Iran deal an “imperfect” one, but still supported the US keeping its end of the bargain. The answer was a break from the President-elect, who has promised to “rip up” the deal with Tehran.

“I think it is an imperfect arms control agreement — it’s not a friendship treaty,” Mattis said. “But when America gives her word, we have to live up to it and work with our allies.”

Later, he said, “It’s not a deal I would have signed.”

Mattis says cyberwar is a big problem that still has no clear doctrine in place

Mattis was asked interesting questions on cyberwarfare, which were especially pertinent in the wake of Russian hacks of Democratic party officials and their affect on the presidential election. Unfortunately, he said he did not believe the US has anything resembling a sophisticated cyber doctrine.

In other words, there is no strategy in place for the US to respond to cyber attacks, like there is for other physical examples, such as a nuclear strike or an attack on a NATO ally.

Mattis said there needs to be a comprehensive plan developed to address this shortfall, because “cyber cuts across everything we do today.”

He added: “Because of the cyber domain, it’s not something the military can do in isolation.”

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10 best opening sequences from the glory days of military TV shows

During the halcyon days of broadcast television – before streaming media and DVRs existed – there were a host of military-themed shows on the airwaves. As much as the quality of the episodes (in some cases even more so) these programs were known for their openings and the associated theme songs. Here are 10 of the most classic:


MCCALE’S NAVY (1962-1966)

Forget JFK’s story from his time in the Pacific. Everything America knew about the history of PT boats came from “McCale’s Navy.” The show also showed that skippers could be cool and that POWs should be treated well; in fact, the Japanese prisoner “Fuji” was one of the gang. They even trusted him enough to make him their cook.

COMBAT (1962-1967)

“Combat” lasted five seasons before American attitudes toward the purity of war were tainted by the realities of the Vietnam Conflict that came blasting into living rooms via the nightly news. “Combat” set a serious tone with this opening with epic orchestration and a narrator who’s basically screaming at the viewers.

GOMER PYLE, U.S.M.C. (1964-1969)

“Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C.” was actually a spin-off of “The Andy Griffith Show” and introduced the public to two concepts that remain true today: DIs are likeable guys underneath their gruff exteriors and (surprise!) the Marine Corps is populated by a goofball or two.

BRANDED (1965-1966)

The drama of the opening theme of “Branded” was by-far the best part of this show. Watching Chuck Connors weather the dishonor of having his rank ripped from his shoulders, his sword broken in two, and the front gate closed behind him after he was shoved through it was heavy stuff.

F TROOP (1965-1967)

Manifest Destiny made into a sitcom. “F Troop” was a comedic take on life in the U.S. Calvary across the western frontier where Indian arrows went through head gear and nothing else.

HOGAN’S HEROES (1965-1971)

Not unlike what “F Troop” did to the reputation of Native Americans, “Hogan’s Heroes” showed the country that the Nazis weren’t inhuman tyrants but rather lovable idiots or clueless buffoons.

THE RAT PATROL (1966-1968)

This opening segment was all about the visual of U.S. Army jeeps going airborne over sand dunes without the guys holding onto the .50 cals in the back flying out or breaking their backs. “The Rat Patrol” was the show that introduced the nation to special ops and the idea that two light vehicles could take on (if not defeat) a column of Panzers.

STAR TREK (1966-1969)

For all of its allegory and social commentary, at its heart “Star Trek” was a show about military life on deployment. The opening remains among TV’s best with Capt. Kirk’s monologue, the Enterprise fly-by, and the soaring (albeit wordless) vocals.

M.A.S.H. (1972-1983)

Set during the Korean War, “M*A*S*H” was derived from Robert Altman’s 1970 black comedy of the same name and the theme song was an instrumental version of “Suicide is Painless” from the movie. The show’s finale was the most watched broadcast of any show ever until Super Bowl XLIV.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wNblF1PkSwo

THE A TEAM (1983-1987)

“Punished for a crime they did not commit.” Oh, the injustice of it all. “The A Team” was known for gunfights, explosions, and car crashes that netted ZERO casualties. It’s also the show that made Mr. T into a household name.

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These Japanese fire balloons were the grandaddies of the ICBM

While everyone knows about Pearl Harbor, what most don’t remember was that Japan tried hard throughout World War II to hit the U.S. mainland.


Tokyo ended up using very old technology – hot air balloons – to deliver bombs to the United States.

The genesis of this attack was the Doolittle Raid of 1942. The attack had caused the Japanese military to lose face, so they resolved to strike back. After several bomber projects failed, Tokyo turned to what they called the fūsen bakudan, or “fire bomb.” Manufactured primarily by teenage girl laborers, over 9,000 of these balloons were sent America’s way, according to WarHistoryOnline.com, with the goal of creating forest fires to draw American resources away from the front.

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In what may be the first intercontinental weapon in military history – the fūsen bakudan, or fire balloon. Japan produced 9,3000 of them. (Youtube Screenshot)

First launched in November 1944, the balloon bombs reached as far east as Detroit, Michigan. These 30-foot balloons used the jet stream to reach America. American and Canadian fighter pilots saw some of them, and shot down about 20. Many others were seen to come down, and at least seven were recovered by the U.S. Army.

The United States covered up knowledge of the ICBM precursor — mostly fool Japan into thinking the balloons weren’t making it to the mainland. Speculation centered around the internment camps and submarines, but geologists traced the sand in the sandbags to Japan.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
The Mitchell Memorial, listing the names of the only Americans killed killed by the Axis on the North American continent. (Youtube screenshot)

Only one of the bombs caused any fatalities. On May 5, 1945, a minster, Archie Mitchell, and his wife took five Sunday School students on an outing to the forest. Mrs. Mitchell and the students then found the balloon while Rev. Mitchell was still at the car. The bomb detonated while the students were trying to drag it out, and Mrs. Mitchell and all five students were either killed or later died of their wounds.

An Army investigation determined the balloon bomb had been in the area for weeks before it blew.

The tragedy surrounding that outing was the only balloon attack that was publicized by the military. As a result, Japan cancelled the program. America’s media blackout had worked. Only 300 of the balloon bombs were seen in the United States, according to a 1995 Salt Lake Tribune article. One bomb was found in Canada in 2014, and detonated by EOD personnel.

Check out this National Geographic video for more details of Japan’s WW2 ICBMs.

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Watch this Marine describe his personal battle at Tarawa

Louis Mamula was one of the Marines assigned to take Betio Island of the Tarawa Atoll in the Pacific.


What was supposed to be a tough but short battle where the Marines would quickly win became some of the bloodiest 76 hours in American history as obstacles on the approach and determined Japanese defenders made the Marines bleed for every bit of sand.

The idea behind capturing Betio Island in the Tarawa Atoll was that it would serve as the opening blow in a new front across the Japanese and give the Navy and Marine Corps a corridor through the Central Pacific to Japan.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Casualties and destruction after the battle for the Tarawa Atoll. (U.S. Navy)

But the landings ran into trouble as coral reefs and man-made obstacles in the water proved more troublesome than originally expected. Troops headed to the beaches sometimes had to get out of their amphibious vehicles and wade through chest-deep water to the beaches under fire.

On land, the situation wasn’t much better. The relatively flat island gave defensive machine gun positions wide fields of fire and favored the defender.

Mamula landed in this chaos and pushed forward with the other Marines of the 2nd Marine Division. In the video below, he discusses what it took to capture the island so well defended that the Japanese boasted, “a million Americans could not take Tarawa in 100 years!”

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17 things you didn’t know about the US Air Force

Happy 69th BRRRRRRRRRRThday, U.S. Air Force! In a very special episode of “things you didn’t know,” Team Mighty decided to give a shout out to the youngest branch of the U.S. military and fill in the blanks to help people, civilians and non-Airmen alike, learn a few things about those who live in fame or go down in flame.


1. The Air Force tracks Santa.

On December 24, 1955 a newspaper ad told kids that they could call Santa at an included phone number. The number listed called the U.S. Air Defense Command. The colonel on duty ordered his team to give all kids Santa’s “current location.” This tradition now handles calls from over 200 countries.

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2. The Air Force shares its birthday with the CIA.

Both were founded on September 18, 1947.

3. The Air Force used to be in the Army.

On Aug. 1, 1907, the U.S. Army Signal Corps formed the Aeronautical Division, which later evolved into the U.S. Army Air Force. The National Defense Act of 1947 created an independent Air Force.

4. An Airman first broke the sound barrier.

In 1947, then-Air Force Capt. Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in his Bell X-1 rocket-powered aircraft, kicking off a race of pilots who competed to do the next big thing, eventually leading to outer space and a man on the moon.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of

5. Airmen welcome their new commander by stomping on his or her roof.

A “roof stomp” is an Air Force tradition where airmen welcome a new commander or celebrate a special occasion by climbing up on the commander’s roof and making noise while others are banging on the windows and doors. Kind of like an episode of “The Walking Dead” but without the zombies.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of

6. The Air Force built a supercomputer out of Sony Playstations.

The Air Force Research Lab built a supercomputer called the Condor Cluster to analyze HD satellite imagery. The supercomputer is made up entirely of 1760 Playstation 3’s. It’s the 33rd most-powerful computer in the world.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Looks like they’re watching Terminator 2. Appropriate.

7. Airmen get hairier every spring.

Every year, Airmen participate in a Mustache March, a tradition where airmen grow mustaches throughout the month of March to honor Air Force legend, WWII and Vietnam veteran, and triple ace Brig. Gen. Robin Olds.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of

8. An Ace isn’t just a good pilot. They’re the best combat pilots.

An “ace” is a pilot who has shot down five or more enemy aircraft. The top jet ace in U.S. Air Force history is Joseph C. McConnell, a “Triple ace” who shot down 16 MiG fighters during the Korean War over a four month period, bagging three on his last combat mission of the war. His record still stands.

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That’s a lot of stars. (U.S. Air Force photo)

9. Airmen respect North Dakota.

At the height of the Cold War, North Dakota was home to so many USAF nuclear weapons that if it seceded from the Union, it would have been the third largest nuclear power in the world.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
That’s not North Dakota, that’s South Dakota, but you probably didn’t notice because we’re not in a nuclear war.

10. Some Airmen took the “Live in Fame” part of the Air Force song to heart.

Johnny Cash, George Carlin, Willie Nelson, Morgan Freeman, Hunter S. Thompson, and James Stewart are just a few celebrities who were Airmen. Stewart flew missions in World War II and Vietnam and rose to the rank of Brigadier General while still working in Hollywood.

11. An Air Force tour in Korea made Chuck Norris the man he is today.

While Chuck Norris was stationed in Korea, he realized he wasn’t physically able to do his job as an Air Policeman (now called Security Forces) and developed an interest in martial arts. This is also where he earned the nickname Chuck.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
And he still drops in for visits.  (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Tia Schroeder)

12. The Air Force boasts two Presidents.

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Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush served as airmen. Reagan served in WWII when the branch was still the Army Air Forces. Bush served in the Texas Air National Guard before transferring to the Air Force Reserve during the Vietnam era.

13. “Air Force One” isn’t a plane.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
It’s not Nelly’s shoes either.

It’s the radio call name for any U.S. Air Force plane carrying the President of the United States. The same as the Marine helicopter carrying POTUS is Marine One.

14. The Air Force’s F-117 fighter uses aerodynamics discovered from bumblebee flight.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of
Pictured: USAF Honeybee

15. Air Force weathermen are special forces.

They go through Army Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia, Air Force Basic Survival School, Air Force Water Survival Training, Air Force Underwater Egress Training, Combat Control School at Pope Field, North Carolina, and Special Tactics Training at Hurlbert Field. They work primarily with Air Force and Army Special Operations Forces but can also be attached to Marine MARSOC and Navy SEAL teams.

Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of

16. The Air Force is the only branch to directly fight the Soviet Union.

The U.S. and the Soviet Union fought one pitched battle — a dogfight during WWII over the Serbian town of Niš. The outcome wasn’t clear and both governments classified details of the incident.

17. The Air Force has an official band.

They do more than Souza marches, they drop singles and shoot music videos.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGdWkl9M_TYfeature=youtu.be

NOW: 32 Terms only Airmen understand

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