An Army veterinarian first took down Ebola in the United States - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

An Army veterinarian first took down Ebola in the United States

“From a pathology point of view, it’s a fascinating virus,” says Dr. Nancy Jaax, a veterinarian and Army officer. She’s talking about the Ebola virus, a subject she knows a lot about, having prevented it from maybe spreading to the entire United States. “The opportunity to work with such a unique virus was irresistible to me.”


When Jaax came to the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in 1979, not much was known about Ebola. They knew it killed 90 percent of those infected, and that was about it. It was a Biosafety Level-4 pathogen: fatal to humans, easily transmittable (maybe even by air), with no effective treatments or vaccines. So when it showed up in a group of monkeys shipped in from the Philippines, it could have been really bad for the Reston, Va. lab where Jaax was working. Luckily, the Army has people like Col. Jaax working for it.

An Army veterinarian first took down Ebola in the United States

Jaax joined the Army with her husband in the late 70s to pursue her veterinary residency. Right away, her work in veterinary medicine was significant, as she and her team discovered the first diagnosed coronavirus in military working dogs. But dogs getting colds were the least of the Army’s research needs. Jaax wound up at USAMRIID in the veterinary pathology program. A few years into her stint there is when the macaques from the Philippines were found to have Ebola. It was her job to actually look for the virus under the microscope.

When she looked at the tissue sample of the dead monkeys, she actually found they had two highly-lethal contagions: simian hemorrhagic fever, which is not contagious to humans, and Ebola. They had to shut down the facility – except for those exposed to the viruses.

An Army veterinarian first took down Ebola in the United States

This was also my gut response. But luckily cooler heads prevailed.

The Reston Ebolavirus spread to all the facilities animals, who had to be put down. Unfortunately, it also infected a number of the USAMRIID workers who worked alongside Jaax. When they went to “depopulate” the facility, just under 50 people were found to have contracted the virus. The only thing was, unlike the other strands of Ebola, none of the Reston workers actually got sick or showed symptoms. In fact, their bodies didn’t respond to the virus at all. It came and went.

No one knows why. What they do know (and the reason we can all sleep soundly at night) is that the Army’s quarantine procedures worked as planned. None of the monkeys escaped into an Outbreak-like scenario. There was no worker with a small symptom who was nervous about it but decided to hide it so he could take the Metro to go to his kids birthday party. The virus stayed put, the monkeys were contained, and no one let the virus out of the facility.

That’s why we have procedures.

You can watch the story of Dr. Nancy Jaax and her experience with Ebola on NatGeo’s new miniseries The Hot Zone, a three-night special premiering Memorial Day, May 27th at 9pm on National Geographic.

Articles

How Green Berets earned the nickname ‘snake eaters’ and how it helped them in Vietnam

The U.S. Army’s Special Forces soldiers are some of the most capable troops in the world. They might even be the most capable people. Putting on the coveted green beret means being able to handle yourself in almost any situation at any time, and coming out on top. 

For those working in Special Forces, it comes with varying degrees of difficulty. Today’s Special Forces soldier works in counterterrorism, counter-narcotics, hostage rescue and other potentially classified operations. But the primary mission of those who wear the green beret is to wage unconventional warfare against a hostile, possibly occupied nation. 

This often means turning a population or oppressed minority against its occupiers. They often find themselves training an undermanned, underequipped fighting force. In Vietnam, where the Green Berets cut their teeth, this often meant surviving in the jungles for long periods of time.

An Army veterinarian first took down Ebola in the United States
U.S. Army

In Vietnam, the Military Assistance Command – Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG) was a joint CIA-Army operation used to collect intelligence and fight the covert war happening in the dense jungles of the country. The oppressed minority in this case were the Vietnamese tribes of Montagnards.

The Montagnards’ name comes from the French for “mountaineers” and though they live in Vietnam, they are ethnically and culturally different from the Vietnamese. The 30 tribes of Montagnards live off of the land, growing food and hunting for survival. They were looked down upon by the Vietnamese and didn’t trust either the north or the south. Eventually, they cast their lots with the south – and the reason for that was the Green Berets.

Army Special Forces soldiers worked with the Montagnards (called “Yards” for short) to form a kind of quick reaction force (QRF) that would defend southern villages from attacking bands of Viet Cong (VC). The highland areas occupied by the Yards were prime real estate for moving men and material to the war zones. Isolated villages were easy pickings for the VC. The Green Berets moved in to advise the Yards.

An Army veterinarian first took down Ebola in the United States
U.S. Army photo

By the end of 1963, the Yards were organized into a real fighting force of 43,000 men and an 18,000 strong QRF. The Green Berets and the Montagnards gelled instantly. The Yard appreciated the Army’s finest for their help and the green berets appreciated the honest, primal toughness of the Yards – and their resolve to defend what was theirs. 

They were a lot alike in that their ways seemed odd to everyone else. The Montagnards would often find food that seemed unwholesome or unsavory to others. The Special Forces knew what that was like. After displaying their survival skills to President Kennedy, skills where they caught and ate snakes, they were stuck with the moniker “snake eaters.” 

An Army veterinarian first took down Ebola in the United States
National Archives

To the rest of Vietnam, the Montagnards were called savages. The similarities didn’t stop there. The U.S. soldiers loved the Yards prowess in combat. They were natural soldiers, brave and trustworthy. They knew they could count on the Montagnards to watch their flanks. 

All good things must come to an end, however. When the United States was forced to leave South Vietnam to its own defense, things didn’t fare so well. The Montagnards fought well, but they couldn’t defend the whole country on their own. When the South Vietnamese government fell, they accepted the result.

But they didn’t fare well. The North Vietnamese did not forget the Montagnards’ work with the U.S. Army Special Forces and the communists made life especially hard for the mountain tribes in the years to come.


Feature image: U.S. Army

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the soldiers of Outpost Harry decimated an entire Chinese Division

By the summer of 1953, the Korean War had raged on for three years. The back and forth maneuvers up and down the peninsula had given way to a stalemate known as the Battle of the Outposts.


All along the 38th Parallel, the belligerents attacked one another’s outposts in the hopes of affecting a breakthrough. Blocking the Communist forces from driving straight on Seoul through the Cheorwon Valley, in an area known as the “Iron Triangle,” were three lonely outposts: Tom, Dick, and Harry.

Outpost Harry was situated on a hilltop in front of the Main Line of Resistance and opposite a Chinese position known as Star Hill. Being so far out in front meant that resupply was difficult and always under enemy observation. Harry’s 1,280-foot elevation did nothing to help matters.

On the night of June 10, 1953, as negotiations to end the war took place just over 50 miles away, elements of the Chinese 74th Division attacked in force. The task of defending the outpost that night fell on K Company, 15th Infantry Regiment. Having spent the previous days improving their defenses and sighting in weapons, they were given the order to hold at all costs.

The attack began with a bombardment by mortars, rockets, and artillery. Suddenly the outpost was illuminated by enemy flares. Bugles and whistles sounded and over 3,600 Chinese soldiers rushed toward the outpost. The Americans rained fire down on the advancing Chinese. They exploded 55 gallon drums of Napalm in the midst of the attackers and blasted them with artillery. They were able to repulse two determined waves before the Chinese made it to the trenches and engaged in hand-to-hand combat. The Chinese were overrunning the outpost.

Lt. Sam Buck, Forward Observer from the 39th Artillery Battalion, was in the Command Post on Harry when it was overrun by the Chinese. As Chinese grenades exploded in the bunker and his comrades were wounded, he continued to resist, dropping any Chinese that came through the door with a burst from his carbine. Eventually wounded and unable to continue firing, he played dead while the Chinese occupied the bunker. The fighting was so intense, one of his last actions before being evacuated later that night was to put the Company Commander’s eyeball back in its socket.

With the defense of the outpost in peril the defenders were rallied by Sgt. Ola Mize. Throughout the attack Mize moved about the outpost tending to wounded, resupplying ammunition, and killing numerous enemies. Three times he was knocked down by explosions and three times he continued his mission. For his actions he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Eventually artillery strikes called right on top of the outpost, along with reinforcements from C and E Companies, drove the Chinese out of the trenches. A diversionary attack by F Company, 65th Infantry Regiment also helped in clearing the area. The next morning only a handful of the original defenders were still in fighting shape. K Company was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for their gallantry at the outpost.

An Army veterinarian first took down Ebola in the United States
A United States Army artillery crew fires a 105-millimeter howitzer against North Korean Communist positions during a battle in the Republic of Korea. AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM

B Company, 15th Infantry Regiment relieved K Company and took up the defense of Harry on June 11. Again darkness fell, and the Chinese began bombarding the American positions. Advancing through their own artillery barrage, the Chinese were able to gain the trenches once again. The defenders threw back several attacks before being reinforced by B Company, 5th Regimental Combat Team. Together the two companies defeated a second Chinese regiment in as many nights. B Company, 15th Infantry was awarded the regiment’s second Presidential Unit Citation.

The next night it was A Company, 5th Regimental Combat Team’s turn on the outpost, and once again the Chinese sent a reinforced regiment against the American position. As before, the Chinese advanced through both their own artillery and the Americans’ before entering the trenches where bitter hand-to-hand combat took place. The 15th Infantry Regiment sent L Company to reinforce and drive out the Chinese while another unit of tanks and infantry assaulted through the valley in a diversionary attack. For their actions in the defense, A Company, 5th RCT was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation.

The following night, June 13, was relatively quiet. The main action was against a Chinese screening force that attempted to recover their dead from the area around the outpost.

On the night of June 14, a small Chinese force was able to close in on the trenches through their own artillery barrage and attack G Company, 15th Infantry from the rear of the outpost. Reinforcements from E Company, 15th Infantry and a diversionary attack by elements of the 65th Infantry drove the Chinese from the outpost once again.

The next two nights were quiet on the outpost and allowed for some much needed repairs. Men from the Sparta Battalion of the Greek Expeditionary Force were also brought into the area to reinforce the depleted and beleaguered defenders. The Chinese used this time to cobble together what was left of the 74th Division for one more attack on the outpost.

That attack came on the night of June 17. The Chinese threw everything they had left in one last desperate attempt to dislodge the defenders of Outpost Harry. That night the men of P Company, Sparta Battalion, bore the brunt of the Chinese attack. Friendly artillery pounded the slopes around the trenches while the Greeks threw back wave after wave of communist attackers. N Company, Sparta Battalion reinforced their brothers and drove off the Chinese. The 74th Division retreated from the area, combat ineffective after the battle with U.N. Forces. P Company was awarded the American Presidential Unit Citation for holding Outpost Harry the final night.

In total there were five Presidential Unit Citations given for action at Outpost Harry, as well as one Medal of Honor and numerous other personal awards for valor. Just over a month later the armistice was signed, and the defense of Outpost Harry was crucial in ensuring a favorable agreement.

MIGHTY MOVIES

This veteran comic has a tip to get New York City to buy your next plane ticket

Clifton Hoffler is an Army veteran and alumnus of the Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP) Comedy Bootcamp program. ASAP is an organization based in Virginia that builds communities for veterans, servicemembers, and military families through classes, performances, and partnerships in the arts. As part of their mission, ASAP offers a Comedy Bootcamp for veterans to explore and develop their comedic abilities.
Clifton is a minister, chef, and Army veteran who served more than twenty years – including multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, with the help of ASAP’s Comedy Bootcamp program, he’s adding standup comedian to his resume. For Clif, getting up on stage is another opportunity to adapt and overcome. It’s an important form of therapy and a way to better his health, and he encourages other veterans to learn to laugh because laughter “is the best medicine that’s out there.” 
MIGHTY HISTORY

Teddy Roosevelt IV became a Navy SEAL to fight in Vietnam

Like it or not, the United States has political family dynasties that extend across generations. Despite all the focus on the Bush and Clinton dynasties at the end of the 20th Century and into the 21st Century, it’s still hard to forget the greatest American family name to ever appear on a ballot: Roosevelt.


Roosevelt is the family that brought us terms like square deal, new deal, and Rough Riders that we use to this day. From Theodore’s then-progressive views on preserving the natural beauty of the United States to Franklin’s cool leadership through our toughest decades since the Civil War, Roosevelts have long stood for everything that is good about America, even if the two most notable members sat on different sides of the political aisle.

An Army veterinarian first took down Ebola in the United States

The later generations weren’t as politically active as their presidential ancestors, but their dedication to service never diminished. Roosevelts have served in the Army and Navy, as state legislators, the CIA and its forerunner, the Office of Strategic Services, just to name a few. Roosevelts fought in the trenches of World War I and landed at Normandy during D-Day.

There was even a Roosevelt silently stalking the Viet Cong in the jungles of Vietnam: Theodore Roosevelt IV.

An Army veterinarian first took down Ebola in the United States

Even as a Frogman, it’s hard to outshine the original TR.

TR-4 (as he’s called by some in the special operations community), graduated from BUD/S class 36 and deployed to Vietnam with UDT 11 as a Navy officer for two years. During his time in Vietnam, SEALs were becoming proficient at kill-or-capture missions against mid-level Viet Cong leaders. The VC were trying to form a shadow government in South Vietnam, in preparation for an eventual U.S. withdrawal and reunification of the country. The SEALs collected intelligence and then traced them to their hideouts among the civilian populations.

An Army veterinarian first took down Ebola in the United States

TR-4 today.

In the years following his service in the Navy, he joined the U.S. Foreign Service, serving in Washington, DC, and what is now Burkina Faso. Like his great-grandfather, Theodore Roosevelt IV advocates for conservation issues and works in favor of non-partisan anti-corruption efforts. TR-4 doesn’t seek public office, he’s an investment banker and a member of numerous political and public policy-related groups.

And yes, there is a Theodore Roosevelt V.

Articles

The best prequel Star Wars vehicle for each branch of the military

Star Wars is a cultural phenomenon with few rivals in the United States. Fans have often dreamed of flying in a starship or picking up a blaster and fighting alongside clones. Especially in the military, there are plenty of troops who look at Star Wars vehicles and think, “This job would be so much cooler if we had those.” To start, we don’t really talk about the sequel trilogy. And of course, the Imperial military was retooled from a fighting force to an occupying force, the Rebel Alliance was basically a terrorist organization and the Confederacy’s droid army was…well, mostly droids. So, for this list, we’ll be taking a look at the Grand Army of the Republic and the vehicles crewed by its legions of clone troopers to determine the best vehicles for the U.S. military from a galaxy far, far away.

1. Space Force: Venator-class Star Destroyer

An Army veterinarian first took down Ebola in the United States
Given the threats here on Earth, one Star Destroyer is probably enough (Lucasfilm)

This one just makes sense. A Star Destroyer is literally a gigantic spaceship. With its hyperdrive systems, powerful shield generators, generous firepower and complement of starfighters, the Venator is just the ship to stop all the other services from making (too much) fun of the newly formed service branch. A couple of orbital strikes in support of ground troops, and even Marines will be singing the praises of the Space Force. While the ship performs well in a vacuum, it’s limited in the atmosphere. Although it can land on natural terrain with some difficulty, the Venator lacks landing gear and requires specialized landing facilities to dock properly. Therefore, it makes the most sense to keep it in Earth’s orbit when it’s not in need of maintenance or exploring the galaxy (with a complement of Space Marines, of course).

2. Marine Corps: Low Altitude Assault Transport

An Army veterinarian first took down Ebola in the United States
Crayons not included (Lucasfilm)

Better known as the Republic Gunship, the LAAT is the ideal Republic vehicle for the Marines. Whether you need to land hard-charging devil dogs on a beach, in a jungle or on top of a mountain, the gunship can do it. Plus, its suite of rockets, guns and laser pods means it can hold its own and provide close air support to the Marines that it lands. In a way, the Marines already have a form of the LAAT in the fast VTOL V-22 Osprey. The Star Wars gunship just does it all better. If it helps, the LAAT almost certainly has the lift capability to carry speakers playing nothing but “Fortunate Son.” After all, droids don’t surf.

3. Air Force: ARC-170

An Army veterinarian first took down Ebola in the United States
It might even be good enough to replace the A-10…maybe (Lucasfilm)

Short for Aggressive ReConnaissance, the ARC-170 is a heavy high-endurance starfighter. While it would be more than capable in an atmospheric dogfight, its massive engines and heavy armor make it ideal for long-range space patrol. For this reason, it would excel in the Air Force’s mission of air superiority, but also be able to support the Space Force beyond Earth and even the solar system. Now, it’s entirely possible that Space Force would create their own Key West Agreement and prevent the other services from maintaining any space assets entirely. But, that’s delving a bit too deep into plausible science fiction. We’re just talking about Star Wars vehicles here.

4. Navy: Z-95 Headhunter

An Army veterinarian first took down Ebola in the United States
Maverick would definitely want one of these (Lucasfilm)

I get the argument that the Navy should crew space ships and take on the mission of the military in space, I do. However, with human conflict restricted to planet Earth and the formation of a Space Force, the Star Destroyer had to go to the guardians. As long as the Navy is still responsible for maintaining freedom of navigation on the seas, the best GAR vehicle for them is the Z-95. In contrast to its heavier three-seater counterpart, the ARC-170, the Headhunter lacks a hyperdrive. However, light-speed capabilities aren’t necessary to operate within the atmosphere from aircraft carriers on the sea. The Z-95 provides more than enough speed and firepower to take on any next-gen plane or ship that could be fielded by a hostile nation. Just don’t let Maverick buzz the tower in one of these. The sub-light thrusters might actually take it down.

5. Army: HAVw A6 Juggernaut

An Army veterinarian first took down Ebola in the United States
With a turbo tank, the Army would keep rolling along (Lucasfilm)

Known by fans as the Clone Turbo Tank, I’d be willing to bet that troops would call it a Juggernaut or even just Jug. Whatever you want to call it, this thing is a beast. At 30 meters tall and nearly 40 meters long, the 10-wheel drive Juggernaut would be an imposing sight on an Earth battlefield. With a top speed of just under 100 mph, thermally superconducting armor, and the firepower equivalent of a nuclear bomb, the Jug would have face no real threats from any other Army in the world today. IED? What IED? Russian super tank? Point, click, gone. Still, I wouldn’t want to be the 91B wheeled vehicle mechanic having to do maintenance on this thing. Can you imagine the drip pan for a “Jug?”

Articles

4 military blunders made by the Mother of Dragons so far in Season 7

WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FROM “DRAGONSTONE,””STORMBORN,” AND “THE QUEEN’S JUSTICE.”


Daenerys Targaryen (played by Emilia Clarke) has had a bad couple of weeks in this penultimate run of “Game of Thrones.” As of the first three episodes in season seven, her forces are well on their way to being defeated in detail.

For the audience, this makes for satisfying conflict and suspense. Most everyone is rooting for fall of Cersei at the hands of Khaleesi, and this will make their final showdown exceptional.

But we can’t help but note that if the Mother of Dragons had studied a little U.S. military history, she might not have suffered such losses. Instead, Daenerys has managed to blunder away large parts of her forces — and her advantage over the Lannisters — and she did it with a number elementary mistakes that cadets at West Point or Annapolis could have pointed out in an instant.

This is not exactly a resume-enhancer for the Commander-in-Chief of the Seven Kingdoms.

Check out her four biggest mistakes since returning to Westeros:

1. Dispersion of Forces

An Army veterinarian first took down Ebola in the United States
Looking at the map, it’s obvious that Daenerys Targaryen’s plan to hit multiple targets was bound to fail.

She made the decision to split her naval forces, trying to do too much at once. She sent part of her fleet to pick up the Dornish Army and to bring them back to Dragonstone, while sending the rest to deliver the Unsullied to take Casterly Rock.

Japan made similar mistakes in the weeks leading up to the Battle of Midway, costing them a light carrier sunk, two fleet carriers rendered combat ineffective due to battle damage or losses, and two other carriers with substantial combat power diverted to a secondary task.

2. Failure to Secure Control of the Sea

An Army veterinarian first took down Ebola in the United States
Map of the Battle of the North Cape…which Daenerys could have accomplished. (Wikimedia Commons)

Knowing that Yara and Theon Greyjoy were fleeing from the person who had usurped the throne of the Iron Islands, Daenerys should have sought to replicate the Battle of the North Cape, in which a pair of convoys was used to draw out the German battlecruiser Scharnhorst to where it could be destroyed by a superior force (or in this case, by the dragons). After that she could transport armies at leisure.

Instead, she didn’t deal with the enemy fleet, and look what happened.

3. Acting with Inadequate Intelligence

An Army veterinarian first took down Ebola in the United States
Joe Rochefort. (U.S. Navy photo)

Daenerys also failed to establish a means to determine enemy intentions, which, as Joe Rochefort proved, can be vital to defeating a foe. As a result, the Tyrells, not to mention their fortune and bannermen, fell to the combined Lannister/Tarly army.

4. Observing Restrictive Rules of Engagement

An Army veterinarian first took down Ebola in the United States
We don’t blame Daenerys, but this ruined city looks better than the Sept of Baelor right about now.

Daenerys did have the option of going straight at Cersei Lannister, but declined due to concerns about civilian casualties.

This has been a subject of controversy during conflicts throughout history. Every military leader is faced with measuring out the cost of “collateral damage” and so, too, must Daenerys — especially when her opponent has no sense of moral restraint. How many more losses will she suffer before she resorts to fighting at Cersei’s level?

Hopefully by now she must know not to underestimate her enemy…especially considering Cersei’s hiding a surface-to-air missile under King’s Landing…

An Army veterinarian first took down Ebola in the United States
Brace yourselves — the death of at least one dragon is coming. (Game of Thrones screenshot | HBO)

MIGHTY HISTORY

The last charge of the bicycle brigade

In World Wars I and II, where thousands of tanks clashed on land and hundreds of ships fought at sea, and millions of men charged each other through trenches and across hills and valleys on foot, hundreds of thousands of soldiers fought from their trusty steeds: the bicycle.

Yeah, the two-wheeled contraptions that most kids get for Christmas or a birthday a few times throughout their childhood was once a cutting-edge weapon of war — and they were effective.


An Army veterinarian first took down Ebola in the United States
Indian bicycle troops at the Battle of the Somme in 1916.
(Imperial War Museums)

 

The modern bicycle, with pedals and two wheels, emerged in the 1860s and slowly turned the “velocipede” from a leisure device of rich gentlemen into a viable method of transport. Fairly quickly, especially after the introduction of rubber tires, military experts saw a role for bicycles in wartime.

The European powers embraced the new technology first — not surprising, since that’s where the bike originated. Most military advocates pushed for the bike as a scout vehicle, allowing observers to get close to the front or ride near enemy units to collect data and then quickly get away with the information to friendly lines.

But, by the 1880s, there were already hotly debated movements to use the cyclists as a sort of alternate mounted infantry. Mounted infantrymen rode horses like cavalry, but generally dismounted and fought on foot when they arrived at the battle. They could cover more ground and often acted as a vanguard, tying down enemy forces until their foot-bound brethren could arrive.

In the late 1800s, cyclists took on challenges to prove their worth in battle. Bicycle infantry covered 40 miles a day with all their gear to prove they were more mobile, and messenger cyclists raced other signal soldiers working with flags and torches to prove who was faster. The cyclists won most of the competitions, and one messenger unit delivered from Washington, D.C. to Denver in just six days, covering approximately 1,700 miles while climbing 5,000 feet in altitude.

An Army veterinarian first took down Ebola in the United States
An ad recruiting cyclists for the British military.
(Imperial War Museums)

 

By the time Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in 1914 — coincidentally, on June 28, the same day that the 12th Tour de France began — cyclists were an accepted part of warfare.

As The Great War got underway, Allied governments rushed to increase the size of their cyclists corps. Reconnaissance cyclist John Parr, a 17-year-old who had lied about his age to join, was possibly Britain’s first casualty of the war, taking fire from German troops while relaying messages.

As the war ground on, Great Britain bought bicycles and trained troops to ride them, famously advertising that “bad teeth” were “no bar” to joining. Bicycle infantry units rode around the front, quickly reinforcing areas that had suffered unsustainable losses from German attacks or plussing up British positions for major attacks. Cyclists mounted coastal patrols and fought fires in areas raided by German aircraft.

And cyclists were added to standard units with even conventional infantry units getting a few cyclists to ride ahead and get orders, relaying them back to the unit so it could deploy effectively as it arrived. Eventually, even artillery units got cyclists, and some even experimented with towing the guns, especially machine guns, behind the bicycles. (This was one job that bikes weren’t great for. Just watch a dad huffing and puffing away while towing their kid — then imagine the kid weighs hundreds of pounds.)

An Army veterinarian first took down Ebola in the United States
It’s all whimsical and charming until you realize these are Nazi SS soldiers and they likely used the bicycles to more quickly murder people.
(German Federal Archives, CC BY-SA 3.0)

 

By the end of World War I, hundreds of thousands of troops were serving in bicycle units or roles, but the increasing role of the automobile threatened their continued use in warfare. Italy even equipped their elite marksmen, the Bianchi, with the bicycle so they could strike faster.

After all, many of the bike’s advantages over walking; the speed and the efficiency, or horseback riding, no animal to care for and feed, were also true of the automobiles. And, except for the need for gasoline, the automobile was simply a better tool. It was faster, could carry heavier loads, and it was less draining on the operator’s mind and body.

So, when World War II rolled around, the bicycle took on a smaller role, but it still served, mostly with scouts and the occasional military maneuver. Britain actually created a special bicycle for paratroopers, but then got larger gliders that could carry Jeeps before D-Day, so the bikes went ashore with Canadian soldiers and others instead of paratroopers.

Bicycle-mounted troops were key for many counterattacks or quick movements, especially where supply lines were long, or the demand for fuel for tanks was high. The fuel problems of Germany led to a greater concentration of bicycles in their units while the Allies, with better logistics and greater natural resources, relied more heavily on vehicles.

After World War II, some European militaries continued to employ these two-wheeled vehicles for reconnaissance and even anti-tank roles. Switzerland even kept its bicycle units around until 2001, nearly a century after standing up their first bicycle unit.

Today, bicycles enjoy a very limited role in special operations and espionage. U.S. operators even used bikes in Iraq and Afghanistan. But don’t expect a sudden increase in bicycle operations unless more guerrilla forces embrace them. A modern military is more likely to increase mobility with helicopters and armored vehicles. And, if necessary, electric motorcycles would provide much of the stealth of bicycles and even better mobility without wearing out the rider.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how ‘the most dangerous man in Europe’ hunted his fellow Nazis for Israel

Imagine Adolf Hitler’s top Nazi commando – a Waffen SS officer who helped implement Germany’s “Final Solution” – walking among the trees and photos of Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust.


It so happens that the same SS officer, Otto Skorzeny, was there in 1962 and was recruited to help Israel’s famed intelligence agency take out his former compatriots.

 

An Army veterinarian first took down Ebola in the United States

Skorzeny was an accomplished SS officer. His daring raid to rescue ousted Italian dictator Benito Mussolini earned him the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross, the highest award Nazi Germany could bestow. After D-Day, he led other commandos into Allied lines wearing American uniforms to capture U.S. weapons and attack from the rear. The Allies dubbed him the “most dangerous man in Europe” for his daring raids and wild schemes.

Though he literally escaped a trial at Nuremberg after the war, the Allies still believed he had a hand in exterminating the Jewish population of Europe.

An Army veterinarian first took down Ebola in the United States
Skorzeny after rescuing ousted Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.

In an exhaustively-researched March 2016 article, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz’ Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman talked to ex-Mossad agents who spoke to the paper on the condition of anonymity. They confirmed Skorzeny’s recruitment by the Jewish state’s intelligence agency, Mossad. How one of Adolph Hitler’s top Nazis became an agent of justice for the Jewish people is a story born more from self-preservation than redemption.

In the early 1960s, Mossad was attempting to prevent former Nazi rocket scientists from working on Egyptian defense projects. At the time, the two countries were mortal enemies and Egypt was still nursing its wounded pride from its defeat by Israel in 1948. The Israelis feared the technology from the program would be used to attack Israel. So they set out to stop foreign scientists from cooperating with the Arabs.

The Israelis used intimidation where possible. When that didn’t work, Mossad resorted to more extraordinary measures. Assassinations were common. But to kill these former Nazis, Israeli agents had to get close to them. They needed an inside man. That’s where Skorzeny came in.

An Army veterinarian first took down Ebola in the United States
Skorzeny’s Nazi Medals

When Mossad initially approached Skorzeny, he thought they were coming to kill him, figuring he was at the top of Israel’s assassination list. Israeli agents had just captured, tried, and hanged notorious Nazi fugitive Adolf Eichmann, violating Argentinian sovereignty to whisk the war criminal away for trial in Israel. Skorzeny agreed to help Mossad on the condition that legendary Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal remove Skorzeny from his list of war criminals – Skorzeny called the deal his “life insurance.”

He went to Israel accompanied by his Jewish handlers and met with top Mossad officials. This is where the Israelis walked him through Yad Vashem. No one trusted the Nazi, but his genuine interest in his “life insurance” meant Mossad could count on him. He immediately set to work compiling a list of German scientists, front companies, and addresses that were known to be assisting the Egyptians.

An Army veterinarian first took down Ebola in the United States
Egyptian Leader Gamal Abdel Nasser with a team of rocket scientists (1962).

 

Skorzeny intimidated or killed a number of former Nazi scientists working with Egypt. He even sent mail bombs to Egyptian factories and laboratories working on the rocket program. Neither Skorzeny nor Mossad ever admitted to working together. His biography mentions none of it. Only now will Mossad agents admit to Haaretz that the deal was struck.

The Nazi commando was never assassinated and died of cancer in 1975.  At both of his funerals, one in Spain and the other in his native Austria, former Nazi soldiers and friends gave his remains and military medals the Nazi salute.

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 ways East Germans escaped the grip of Communism

At the end of World War II, Germany was divided in half, leaving West and East Germany. The West was controlled by NATO and the Warsaw Pact nations controlled the East. The former capital of Berlin was torn in two, split between communists and capitalists.


As you might expect, life under a communist regime is hell and people were looking for a way out. After the Berlin Wall and Inner German border (IGB) were created and heavily guarded, only an estimated 5,000 escapees managed to sneak out and into the freedoms of Western civilization throughout the 28 years of the Wall’s existence.

1. Trains

In the early days of the Cold War, defecting wasn’t that difficult. It was estimated that, before the Berlin Wall and the IGB were erected, nearly 3.5 million East Germans defected to West Germany. Legal loopholes, a lack of physical borders, and little effort to keep East Germans meant that all it took to get away was to hop a train.

All of this changed on August 13th, 1961, when the Berlin Wall went up. By August 24th, the order was given to kill anyone attempting to leave East Germany.

 

An Army veterinarian first took down Ebola in the United States
The fact that so many people risked certain death to leave a Communist regime kinda proves it’s a sh*t system. (Courtesy of the German Federal Archives)

 

2. Wearing uniforms

One of the most iconic images of the Cold War was captured when an East German Soldier, Conrad Schumann, leaped over concertina wire on August 15th, 1961 as the Wall was being created.

It was also common to find guard and Soldier uniforms in East Berlin black marketplaces.

 

An Army veterinarian first took down Ebola in the United States
Schumann’s escape has since become synonymous with the era of German history. (Courtesy Photo)

 

3. Counterfeit passports

Speaking of black markets, special passports that allowed access past guards were also forged. There were certain citizens that were authorized to cross the border, legally, for various reasons. While actual passport holders were required to come back by nightfall, escapees with a fake passport and little interest in returning to a Soviet sh*thole said, “scheiß drauf” and never returned.

When Communists realized people were openly spending foreign money in 1979, black markets boomed because capitalism, uh, finds a way. Fun fact: an East German diplomat passport looked much like a Playboy Club: Munich membership card. If you placed your thumb over where the Playboy Bunny logo would be, you could sneak in.

 

An Army veterinarian first took down Ebola in the United States
Playboy saves the world, time and time again. (Courtesy Photo)

 

4. Jumping from high buildings

Many options for avoiding the Berlin Wall, such as passage through the Spree or Havel Rivers, were downright dangerous. While the guards would detain or shoot as you tried to sneak across the Wall, you ran the risk of drowning if you opted for a river crossing. In fact, many people drowned in escape attempts, but that wasn’t as dangerous as this option.

There were many tall buildings located near the Wall. Escapees would climb up to the highest floor needed and, boldly, jump. Many survived, some were wounded, but others weren’t as lucky.

As the years went on, the Wall grew, making this passage impossible.

 

An Army veterinarian first took down Ebola in the United States

 

5. Tunnels

The largest mass escape from East Berlin was when 57 people made their way through a tunnel, aptly named afterwords, “Tunnel 57.”

The tunnel systems were elaborate and ran deeply underground to prevent detection.

 

An Army veterinarian first took down Ebola in the United States
Shawshank Redemption has nothing on these East Berliners. (Courtesy of German Federal Archives)

 

6. Hiding in trunks

The final illegal journey from East Germany to the West was done by an American man who smuggled a father and his little girl in his vehicle just days before the Wall fell.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What to know about the Combat Controller who will get the Medal of Honor

President Donald Trump will posthumously award the Medal of Honor to the family of a fallen U.S. Air Force Special Tactics Combat Controller at a ceremony on Aug. 22, 2018, for his extraordinary heroism in March 2002 while deployed to Afghanistan.

According to the medal nomination, Tech. Sergeant John Chapman distinguished himself on the battlefield through “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity,” sacrificing his life to preserve those of his teammates. Chapman was part of a joint special operations reconnaissance team deployed to Afghanistan in 2002 that came under overwhelming enemy fire during a heroic rescue attempt on Takur Ghar mountain, Afghanistan, March 4, 2002.


“Tech. Sgt. John Chapman earned America’s highest military award, the Medal of Honor, for the actions he performed to save fellow Americans on a mountain in Afghanistan more than 16 years ago,” said Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson. “He will forever be an example of what it means to be one of America’s best and bravest Airmen.”

During the initial insertion onto Afghanistan’s Takur Ghar mountaintop, the MH-47 “Chinook” helicopter carrying Chapman and the joint special operations reconnaissance team flew into an enemy ambush. Intense enemy small arms and rocket propelled grenade fire significantly damaged the helicopter, throwing Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts into the “hornet’s nest” of enemies below. Following a controlled crash landing a few miles away, the remaining team members elected to fly back to the enemy-infested mountaintop in a heroic attempt to rescue Roberts.

An Army veterinarian first took down Ebola in the United States

Tech. Sgt. John Chapman

During the rescue attempt, Chapman and his teammates once again received heavy enemy fire from multiple directions. Chapman, despite the enemy fire, charged uphill through thigh-deep snow to directly assault an enemy position. He took the enemy bunker, cleared the position, and killed the enemy fighters occupying the position.

Then, with complete disregard for his own life, Chapman deliberately moved from the bunker’s protective cover to attack a second hostile bunker with an emplaced machine gun firing on the rescue team.

During this bold attack, he was struck and temporarily incapacitated by enemy fire.

Despite his wounds, Chapman regained his faculties and continued to fight relentlessly, sustaining a violent engagement with multiple enemy fighters before paying the ultimate sacrifice. In performance of these remarkably heroic actions, he is credited with saving the lives of his teammates.

“Tech. Sgt. John Chapman fought tenaciously for his nation and his teammates on that hill in Afghanistan,” said Air Force Chief of Staff General David L. Goldfein. “His inspiring story is one of selfless service, courage, perseverance, and honor as he fought side by side with his fellow Soldiers and Sailors against a determined and dug-in enemy. Tech. Sgt. Chapman represents all that is good, all that is right, and all that is best in our American Airmen.”

An Army veterinarian first took down Ebola in the United States

John Chapman holding a child in Afghanistan.

He continued, “I extend my deepest thanks to the members of Tech. Sgt. Chapman’s family, his military family, and the Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines who were his brothers on the battlefield and who have remained committed to honoring his legacy. He is a true American hero.

“This is a reflection of our commitment to recognizing the heroic actions of our Airmen,” said Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright. “As Chapman’s story reminds us, we have a sacred duty to honor the actions and sacrifices of all our service members. I share our Airmen’s deepest gratitude to the Chapman family, as well as the family members of all those who gave their lives serving our great nation.”

The Medal of Honor is the nation’s most prestigious military decoration. It is awarded by the president, in the name of Congress, to military members who have distinguished themselves conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life, above and beyond the call of duty, while engaged in action with an enemy of the United States.

Chapman will be the 19th Airman awarded the Medal of Honor since the Department of the Air Force was established in 1947. He will be the first Airman recognized with the medal for heroic actions occurring after the Vietnam War.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

Articles

What would happen if modern Marines conducted the Iwo Jima landings

The invasion of Iwo Jima was one of the most costly battles in the Pacific in World War II, largely because the aerial bombings and naval artillery bombardments that preceded the invasion failed to do serious damage to the 22,000 Japanese troops or their network of 1,500 bunkers and reinforced rooms carved into the island.


The Marines were forced to fight bitterly for nearly every yard of the island, and Japanese defenders emerged from hidden caves and bunkers at night to kidnap, torture, and kill American invaders.

An Army veterinarian first took down Ebola in the United States
Two flags were raised over Mount Suribachi during the fight to take Iwo Jima. The raising of the second flag became one of the most iconic photos of the war and Marine Corps history. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Archives)

Modern Marines would enjoy two big advantages that their predecessors lacked — night vision devices, including thermal and infrared technologies and bunker-busting weapons like thermobaric warheads. Other modern advances like counter-fire radar would play a role as well.

When the invasions first hit the beaches in 1945, the Japanese defenders refused to heavily contest the landings. Instead, they huddled in their miles of tunnels and waited for the Marines to come to them across minefields or to group up where mortars and artillery could kill many Americans in one hit.

An Army veterinarian first took down Ebola in the United States
Harriers, Hornets, and potentially even F-35 Lighting IIs could fly missions over Iwo Jima, annihilating Japanese mortar and artillery positions pinpointed by counter-fire radar. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Gregory Moore)

In those first hours, the counter-fire radar would shine. Japanese mortar positions and artillery were well protected and hidden. The counter-fire radar would be able to nearly pinpoint those weapons’ locations and the fire direction center would feed those locations to Marine Corps aviation assets.

Harriers and Hornets launching from amphibious assault ships could then hit these positions with guided bombs. Destroying the weapons would require accurate hits, but that’s sort of the point of precision weapons. And, if the Marine pilots brought along their F-35Bs, they could potentially carry the high velocity penetrating weapon, a bunker buster small enough to be carried on a smaller jet.

An Army veterinarian first took down Ebola in the United States
The SMAW-NE explosive warhead fills the target area with reactive metals and then ignites the cloud, creating a massive explosion. (GIF: YouTube/Discovery)

Meanwhile, the infantry Marines would find themselves with more options than their World War II counterparts. While the flamethrower — which was so important at Iwo Jima — is now a thing of the past, thermobaric rounds for the SMAW and other missiles would make up the difference.

The SMAW-Novel Explosive warhead is fired through an opening or thin wall of a a cave, building, or bunker and disperses a metal cloud that is then ignited, causing a large explosion that overpressurizes the area, killing or severely wounding everyone inside.

And other missiles like the TOW and Javelin are no slouches against bunkers.

With the Marines capable of destroying bunkers anytime the Japanese compromise their camouflage by firing from them, the defenders would fall back to their other major tactic on Iwo Jima, creeping out under cover of night to hit the Americans.

An Army veterinarian first took down Ebola in the United States
The Marines can see at night now. Your move, Imperial Japanese defenders in this imaginary battle. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Ashley Calingo)

But this would go even worse for them. While night vision was in its infancy in 1945, modern systems can amplify ambient light (what’s typically happening in green-tinted night devices), detect infrared energy (black and white night vision), or provide a detailed thermal map (blue, green, orange, yellow, and red vision). Any of these night optics would be able to see Japanese troops.

Aviation assets with infrared and light-amplifying devices could watch any defenders crawling from their bunkers and either hit them or report their locations to infantry and artillery units. The infantrymen could strongpoint their camps with vehicle and tripod mounted machine guns and missile systems with night optics.

An Army veterinarian first took down Ebola in the United States
When your artillery spotter is wearing night optics, there’s really no reason to stop firing when the sun goes down. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Juan Bustos)

Between the two, the Marines would enjoy a massive advantage in night fighting. Even if the defenders had their own systems, the 2017 Marines would be in a better position than their 1945 counterparts since in 1945 the Japanese were able to own the night. In 2017, they would be evenly matched at worst.

With the shift in power with modern technology, the Marines might even take Iwo Jima while inflicting greater casualties than they suffered. As it was, the Iwo Jima invasion was the only major engagement in World War II where they didn’t inflict more casualties than they suffered.

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