This Special Forces soldier gave his life to save his allies - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This Special Forces soldier gave his life to save his allies

Army Staff Sgt. Richard R. Arsenault was posthumously awarded the Silver Star and the Distinguished Service Cross for valorous actions taken only two weeks apart in Vietnam.


The action that netted him the Distinguished Service Cross ended in his tragic death.

Arsenault was assigned to Advisory Team 43 supporting Republic of Vietnam forces opposing the North Vietnamese Army. On May 12, 1972, he accompanied a Vietnamese Regional Force unit in a combat operation in the Hua Nghia Province. Arsenault not only went on the mission, but he volunteered to act as the radio operator.

 

This Special Forces soldier gave his life to save his allies
A U.S. Army Ranger and military advisor trains Vietnamese forces during the Vietnam War. (Photo: U.S. Army)

 

The radio operator is a high-value target for an enemy force. The antennas clearly point out who is carrying the system, and taking down a radio and its operator cuts the force off from certain battlefield tools like artillery and close air support.

Despite the risks, Arsenault carried the system into battle and maneuvered near the front under heavy concentrations of mortar, machine gun, small arms, and rocket fire, according to his Silver Star citation. Arsenault moved up with the senior American advisor to Vietnamese forces in the district and used his M16 to suppress enemy fire.

As the fight ground on, it become a closer and tighter affair until the two forces were within 40 yards of one another, throwing grenades and using pistols to try to gain the upper hand. When eight NVA soldiers tried to flank Arsenault’s element at close range, he took them out with hand grenades and his rifle.

 

This Special Forces soldier gave his life to save his allies
Marines with Company G, 2d Battalion, 7th Marines, direct a concentration of fire at the enemy during Operation Allen Brook, 8 May 1968. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps).

 

The friendly Vietnamese forces were victorious, and Arsenault continued to work with them as a military advisor.

Exactly two weeks later, Arsenault and Army Capt. Ed Schwabe were accompanying 12th Regional Force Group soldiers as they searched out North Vietnamese soldiers in the province. The unit met light resistance from an enemy bunker, according to an excerpt from “Silence Was a Weapon: The Vietnam War in the Villages,” by Stuart Harrington.

Just a little later, Schwabe and Arsenault’s column was struck by a company-sized enemy ambush. Arsenault spotted the rocket being fired and tackled Schwabe to the ground while alerting others to the threat just before the rocket hit.

 

This Special Forces soldier gave his life to save his allies
Staff Sgt. Richard R. Arsenault gave his life to safe others in Vietnam in 1972. (Photo: Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund Wall of Faces. Submitted by Shirley Arsenault.)

 

The friendly forces were able to dart to limited cover in a nearby graveyard, saving the lives of the 12th Group command element and allowing them to devise a response to the ambush.

Unfortunately, while Arsenault had saved Schwabe’s life, Arsenault was killed by the first rocket and Schwabe was wounded and knocked unconscious.

Schwabe was pulled to safety by his interpreter and Arsenault was later posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his actions on May 12 and the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions on May 26.

Articles

The SR-71 Blackbird was almost the most versatile fighter plane ever

Have you ever looked at the old SR-71 Blackbird and wondered how awesome it would be as a fighter jet? So did the United States Air Force (for the most part). The SR-71 is based on the super-secret CIA’s A-12 reconnaissance plane. When the Air Force got a glimpse of the A-12 and its capabilities, their minds got to work. 

The first idea to come from the A-12 design was the YF-12, a single-seat interceptor aircraft that closely resembled the A-12 but came packing with guns and missiles instead of photographic and signals intelligence monitoring equipment. 

Lockheed’s YF-12 first took off in August 1963 and unlike its predecessor, the A-12, or its successor, the SR-71, there was nothing really secret about it. The President of the United States first revealed its existence but that might have been a strategic move. It covered up the CIA’s super-secret aircraft and provided enemies a window into the advancements Air Force fighters were making.

This Special Forces soldier gave his life to save his allies
“Hey, you guys know that whole strapping some guys to some giant rockets and shooting them into space? What if we did that, but a fighter jet?” (U.S. Air Force photo by Don Popp)

The YF-12 was every bit as great as expected, and every bit as great as both the A-12 and the SR-71. It could fly at supersonic speeds of more than 2,000 miles per hour and at altitudes of more than 80,000 feet. It is still the largest and fastest interceptor aircraft ever built. 

It also had an advanced fire control radar system to operate the AIM-47 missiles that could be mounted under its wings. Unlike other missile systems at the time, the AIM-47 was much more accurate and reliable in air-to-air combat. This would have made the YF-12 the deadliest aircraft in the world at the time. 

The Air Force was understandably excited at the prospect of integrating such a fighter aircraft into its air defense network. After successfully testing the AIM-47 missile integration, the USAF placed an order for more than 90 of these flying behemoths, ready to implement them into the defense of the United States. It was a little war brewing in Vietnam that would be the program’s demise. 

As the intensity of the fighting in Southeast Asia increased, so did the American commitment to South Vietnam. Spending on the war increased along with it. Concerned about the cost of the YF-12 program, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara declined to support the interceptor program and it was ultimately cancelled in 1968. 

This Special Forces soldier gave his life to save his allies
Buzzkill…
(Defense Intelligence Agency)

All was not lost for the unique airframe, however. Though there was no need for a supersonic, high-altitude interceptor for airspace defense in the U.S., there was a need for an ultra-fast, high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft to fly over places other aircraft wouldn’t dare. The SR-71 Blackbird was born from this need. 

The Blackbird looks exactly like its predecessors but outperforms both of them. It has a greater operational range than the YF-12 and is still the fastest air-breathing manned aircraft ever built, a record set in 1976. 

This Special Forces soldier gave his life to save his allies
U.S. Air Force

SR-71s were a brief view of what the YF-12 could have been: a fighter aircraft so accurate, it could hit a target on the ground while flying at three times the speed of sound. If another fighter or a surface-to-air missile came up at it, all the pilots had to do was hit the throttle and outrun it. The A-12s, YF-12s and SR-71s were titanium masterpieces of Cold War technology.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The military is the reason behind the ‘Amish Beard’

There’s no doubt that Amish communities in America have a distinctive look. Amish men wear a long, flowing, ZZ-Top-level beard that can make other hirsute pursuits just look pitiful in comparison. While they may not be the only ones sporting long, long whiskers these days, they’re likely the only bearded men you’ll see whose mustache areas are clean shaven — and the U.S. military is the reason why.


Among devoutly Christian Amish men, sporting a beard is like living the Bible. In the days and locales where the stories in the Christian Bible take place, beards were commonplace. When a young Amish boy gets married, he stops shaving his beard area and grows a facial homage to his biblical forebears, letting everyone in the community know this boy is now a man.

But they never stop shaving the mustache area. The Amish, a form of Mennonite, have many traditions and beliefs that separate them, not just from society, but also from other Mennonite and Christian groups. One such core beliefs is the growing of a beard.

Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard. – Leviticus 19:27

Another core tenet of Amish beliefs is pacifism and the rejection of military service – and the mustache is just one indicator of military service.

It used to be, anyway.

In the 1800s, British troops were actually required to wear some form of facial hair above the lip. This requirement lasted until warfare tech changed the game on the battlefields of World War I and a clean-shaven face was required to seal gas masks.

Related: How a change in warfare set men’s style for almost 100 years

In order to separate themselves physically from those who would engage in military service (while letting the world know they were married, because the Amish don’t exchange wedding rings), they decided to grow beards but shave their lips.

This Special Forces soldier gave his life to save his allies

British Army officers in the Crimean War.

It should be noted that the Amish prefer the term “nonresistance” as opposed to pacifism, because they are dedicated to avoiding confrontation in all areas of life, not just in military service.

Mustaches may not be as in vogue as they once were among military service members and regular troops are always clean shaven — almost everywhere in the western world — but still the old Amish tradition of keeping a clean upper lip lives on.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why it’s illegal to use weather modification in warfare

Despite how ridiculous some rules and laws may seem, they only have to exist because someone actually did something so ridiculous. That’s why it’s still legal to rain death from above, just as long as that death isn’t actual rain. In this case, the United States is the perpetrator, seeding the clouds in Vietnam to keep the North Vietnamese from infiltrating the South.


This Special Forces soldier gave his life to save his allies

“This weather is crazy, as if it’s happening to us on purpose!”

The idea is actually a pretty great one. Instead of bombing the Ho Chi Minh Trail into submission, they would simply render it unusable. With Operation Popeye, the United States Air Force seeded the clouds over the Ho Chi Minh Trail in an effort to make the Vietnamese monsoon season last longer, keep the trail muddy and treacherous, and prevent the North from moving men and material into South Vietnam.

From Thailand, the United States used C-130 and F-4C aircraft armed with lead iodide and silver iodide to spread into clouds above the trail. The chemicals condensed the water in those clouds, forming precipitation in the form of rain. They wanted to stop up the dirt roads used by enemy trucks and men, cause landslides, wash out river crossings, and keep the roads impassable.

The 54th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron contributed to the 2,602 cloud seeding missions flown during Popeye.

This Special Forces soldier gave his life to save his allies

That’s a lot of rain.

“I never even imagined that’s what that group was doing,” recalls Brian Heckman, a former Air Force pilot, “until we got over there and showed up for the briefing and then they told us what the project was all about. We just went around looking for clouds to seed.”

And so Popeye continued with gusto, even though Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird had no knowledge of the program and even testified to the “fact” that there were no such programs in Vietnam before Congress. The public didn’t find out about the program until the release of The Pentagon Papers, published by the New York Times and other newspapers in 1971. That’s how the Environmental Modification Convention came to pass in 1977.

This Special Forces soldier gave his life to save his allies

Chemtrails were still totally legal.

Its full name was actually the Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques, restricting “widespread, long-lasting or severe effects as the means of destruction, damage or injury.” It basically says that any manipulation of weather (aka “environmental modification”) as a means of destruction in wartime is strictly prohibited.

The United States was an early signatory to this agreement.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The most ‘Murican moments of every presidency, part four

Here we go. Rounding out the list of the most patriotic, most ‘Murican moments of every U.S. Presidency are the presidents of our age, numbers 35 through 44. Abraham Lincoln is already the all-time best, James Buchanan is the all-time worst — and no one gives a sh*t about Rutherford B. Hayes.


This Special Forces soldier gave his life to save his allies
Sorry, but it’s true. Now stop staring at us like that.

Since we’re approaching today’s era, it’s important for me to remind you all that We Are The Mighty is an apolitical organization and the last time we sided with a political party, the Whigs dissolved like… a week later. This is about America, and no matter how much you dislike(d) one of our Chief Executives, they all led the country to moments of American Glory.

This list is for the Presidents who have completed their time in office, so Trump won’t be on here — perhaps his most patriotic moment is yet to come.

John F. Kennedy

JFK’s time in office was tragically cut short, but his effect on American life is one that endures for the ages. In May, 1961, he addressed Congress to discuss America’s urgent national needs. In that speech, he challenged the United States to send a man to the moon and return him safely to Earth before the end of the next decade — calling for a plan that would find success after Kennedy left office (if he had lived).

But it wasn’t just that challenge that inspired America. It was Kennedy’s re-assertion of that challenge the next year while speaking at Rice University where he described the spirit of the United States. This is where he delivered the immortal line about why the United States takes on challenges like going to the moon — “not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

This Special Forces soldier gave his life to save his allies

Lyndon B. Johnson

Lyndon Johnson was a man of action, ready and able to push business through the political machine of the United States Congress at any cost. This made Johnson an extremely capable Chief Executive, whether you liked him or not. In the middle of the Cold War, during the very hot Vietnam War, amidst all the cultural revolutions that swept the U.S. in the 1960s, everyone could count on calm, collected leadership in the White House.

But his most American moment was forcing the passage of Civil Rights Acts through a Congress that didn’t always agree with that kind of legislation. Johnson, a Texan and devout Christian since age 15 believed in equal rights for all Americans and that it was the duty of Christians everywhere to deliver social justice in God’s name. So he put his infamous temper to work to pass Civil Rights legislation, even though it cost him and his party dearly.

This Special Forces soldier gave his life to save his allies

Richard Nixon

Richard Nixon took office during one of the most tumultuous times in American history ever. The year 1968 was a turning point for the people and culture of the United States and, despite his overall failure to maintain the solemnity of the office of president, Richard Nixon wasn’t a bad president at all. Had he not tried to cover up his role in the Watergate Scandal, he might have been remembered more fondly by history.

But while he was in office, he was the master of American foreign policy and used his skill to manage the Soviet Union and Communist China (which, by this time, were much less than friends) and use them to bring North Vietnam to the negotiating table. Where Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev trounced Kennedy in their first meeting, he couldn’t kick ol’ Nixon around. And, as they still say sometimes, “only Nixon could go to China.”

This Special Forces soldier gave his life to save his allies

This is how cool you think you look while smoking a pipe. You don’t, but he does.

Gerald Ford

Ford is, interestingly, the only President who was never elected to the White House. He ascended to the vice-presidency after his predecessor, Spiro Agnew, resigned in 1973 and became president the next year. Ford’s most American moment will also forever be his most controversial. As representative, as house speaker, and as vice president, Ford faced very little (if any) in the way of scandals, but one of his first acts as President was to pardon Richard Nixon for any wrongdoing associated with Watergate.

My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over. Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a government of laws and not of men. Here, the people rule. But there is a higher Power, by whatever name we honor Him, who ordains not only righteousness but love, not only justice, but mercy. … let us restore the golden rule to our political process, and let brotherly love purge our hearts of suspicion and hate.

The pardon was highly controversial at the time but history proved President Ford correct, so much so that incoming President Jimmy Carter thanked Ford for it as his 1977 inauguration.

“For myself and for our Nation, I want to thank my predecessor for all he has done to heal our land.”

Jimmy Carter

President Jimmy Carter is considered an unsuccessful President by most – including the former President himself. Carter always said his post-presidency was way more successful than his presidency. Carter’s administration was plagued by high inflation, an inherited energy crisis, and, of course, the Iran Hostage Crisis.

Carter’s most American moment came when he was originally supposed to address the nation about energy for the fifth time. Instead of rehashing what he’d said before, Carter laid out everything that was really plaguing the United States: mistrust in government, disrespect for American institutions, petty Washington politics, failures of his own leadership — a crisis of confidence. He told Americans the sad truth, unusual for a politician seeking re-election to any office.

This is not a message of happiness or reassurance, but it is the truth … and it is a warning.

But Carter also discussed how Americans could best the Crisis of Confidence. The Chief Executive and baptist minister implored Americans to have faith — faith in each other, faith in American institutions, and faith in our ability to govern ourselves. Although the speech was initially well-received, the “malaise” speech was a downer and came to be associated with his failed presidency.

Ronald Reagan

President Reagan was elected in a landslide over Carter, whose Presidency was marked by economic trouble and hostages in Iran, which Carter seemed impotent to free. Reagan offered Americans a new morning, augmented by his near-trademark humor and sunny disposition.

The only people who seldom saw that disposition were the Soviets, who were often on the receiving end of Reagan’s stellar speech-making abilities. Nowhere was this more apparent than during a speech late in the President’s second term where Reagan spoke at the Brandenburg Gate, site of the infamous Berlin Wall, and called out Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s new openness policy, saying if he truly desired peace he would come to the gate and “tear down this wall.”

This Special Forces soldier gave his life to save his allies

George H.W. Bush

President Reagan’s Vice-President George H.W. Bush was Reagan’s successor who handily won the election of 1988. But during the run-up to the election, Bush — a World War II aviator and former head of the CIA — was labeled a “wimp” by Newsweek Magazine.

Yet, when Iraqi troops poured across the Kuwaiti border and the rest of the world told him sanctions would bring Saddam to his knees, it didn’t take the President long to decide to check Saddam Hussein’s aggression. He moved so many troops to Saudi Arabia to prevent an Iraqi invasion that an offensive move seemed imminent. In 1991, Desert Shield switched to Desert Storm and expelled the Iraqis from Kuwait in some 40 days. Not only were the United States and her allies victorious, the looming shadow of military failure in Vietnam was broken.

This Special Forces soldier gave his life to save his allies

Bill Clinton

Love him or hate him, no one felt the pressure of partisan politics like Bill Clinton. After the 1992 election, his party controlled the White House and the Congress but two years later, he felt a wave of pressure as the opposition swept Congress in the midterms. To say the rest of his time in office was “rocky” would be the understatement of the century.

Still, despite the scandals that rocked his administration, Clinton was the first real post-Cold War president and his administration was the first to deal with being the world’s only superpower. Though he faced serious foreign policy challenges over eight years, he used the opportunity to turn attention to America’s domestic issues, including child health care, federal investment in local law enforcement, and securing a balanced budget (and surplus) before leaving office.

George W. Bush

Another “love him or hate him” President, the younger Bush was able to enjoy the Pax Americana for just a few short months before the whole world changed before all our very eyes. George W. Bush was known for a lot of things, but being a fantastic public speaker was not one of them — few would ever dispute that fact. But his most American moment came right after the attacks that changed the world, when he was trying to talk to the American people.

Bush was in the middle of a speech at Ground Zero, delivering his perspective on where the United States would go from here, when, from the background, people complained of not being able to hear what he was saying. Bush’s off-the-cuff response was just f*cking great.

Barack Obama

The election of Barack Obama was a historic first that foretold a shift away from the policies of the previous administration. But there was one policy of the United States that remained unchanged since the years of Bill Clinton – the hunt to capture or kill Osama bin Laden.

The day finally came on May 1, 2011. Then, President Barack Obama was able to inform Americans that forces of the United States finally got to the world’s most wanted terrorist. Jubilant crowds gathered everywhere, not just in front of the White House, but at baseball games, at Times Square, and in towns across America. If you’re not a fan of Obama’s measured tone and think it calls for more celebration, you can see what happened when John Cena broke the news to WWE fans in Tampa, Florida at about the same time.

For a look back at part three, click HERE.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The last horse charge of American cavalry was in World War II

While Poland is sometimes mocked for sending horse cavalry against tanks in World War II (it was actually horses against an infantry battalion, but still), the U.S. launched its own final cavalry charge two years later, breaking up a Japanese attack in the Philippines that bought time for the cavalrymen and other American troops.


This Special Forces soldier gave his life to save his allies

The jungles of the Philippines are thick, and fighting in them was treacherous.

(U.S. Army)

It came in April 1942 as part of the months-long effort to defend the Philippines from the Japanese invasion. The first Japanese attacks on the islands took place on the same day as the Pearl Harbor attack (though it was December 8 on the calendar because the international dateline falls between the two). Just two days later, the week of troop landings began.

The Americans on the Philippines weren’t ready for the fight, and U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur had to lean hard on his elite troops to protect the rest of the force as they withdrew to one defensive line after another. And cavalry was uniquely suited for that mission since it could ride out, disrupt an attack, and then quickly ride back to where the rest of the defenders had fortified themselves.

And so MacArthur called up the 26th Cavalry (Philippine Scouts), a unit that had American officers and Filipino enlisted men on horses. And all of them were well-equipped and good at their jobs.

But, like the rest of the American forces there, they faced a daunting enemy. The Japanese invaders were nearly all veterans from fighting in Korea or Manchuria, but few of the American defenders had seen combat. And the Japanese forces were better armed.

So much so that, unlike Poland, the American cavalry really did once charge tanks from horseback. Oh, and it worked.

The cavalry scouts were exhausted from days of acting as the eyes and ears of the Army, but a new amphibious operation on December 22 had put Japanese forces on the road to Manila. The defenders there crumbled in the following days and completely collapsed on January 16, 1942. If the 26th couldn’t intercept them and slow the tide, Manila would be gone within hours.

The American and Filipino men scouted ahead on horseback and managed to reach the village of Morong ahead of Japanese forces. The village sat on the Batalan River, and if the cavalrymen could prevent a crossing, they could buy precious hours.

The jungles of the Philippines are thick, and fighting them was treacherous.

(U.S. Army)

But as they were scouting the village, the Japanese vanguard suddenly appeared on the bridges. The commander had no time, no space for some well-thought-out and clever defense from cover. It was a “now-or-never” situation, and the 26th had a reputation for getting the job done.

So, the commander, Col. Clint Pierce, ordered a charge.

The men and horses surged forward, pistols blazing, at a vanguard of Japanese infantry backed up by tanks. But the American cavalry charge was so fierce that the Japanese ranks broke, and they dodged back across the river to form back up. It was so chaotic that even the tanks were forced to stop.

“Bent nearly prone across the horses’ necks, we flung ourselves at the Japanese advance, pistols firing full into their startled faces,” First Lt. Edwin Ramsey, a platoon leader, later wrote. “A few returned our fire but most fled in confusion. To them we must have seemed a vision from another century, wild-eyed horses pounding headlong; cheering, whooping men firing from the saddles.”

And so the cavalrymen held the line, dismounting after the first charge but preventing the Japanese crossing.

This Special Forces soldier gave his life to save his allies

Thousands of men died in the Bataan Death March.

(U.S. Army)

While the Philippine Scouts would be well decorated for their endeavors on January 16, and for other heroics during the defense of the Philippines, the story turns grim for them.

They took heavy losses that day before falling back to the rest of the American force after reinforcements arrived. And then they were isolated on the Bataan Peninsula. As the American forces began to starve, they butchered the horses and ate the meat. But even that wouldn’t be enough.

On April 9, 1942, the U.S. forces on the Bataan Peninsula surrendered to the Japanese. At least 600 Americans and 5,000 Filipinos were killed in the death march that followed.

That same month, the last U.S. Army horse cavalry unit turned in its animals in Nebraska.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These Jewish assassins targeted former Nazis to avenge the Holocaust

The reprisals against German members of the Nazi party didn’t end after the Nuremberg Trials. It was a well-known fact that many high-ranking members of the party survived World War II, the trials, and the Red Army’s wrath. The Jewish people that were left did their best to seek justice, but none were as dedicated as the Nokmim – “The Avengers.”


Without a doubt, the most famous of the Nazi hunters after World War II was Simon Wiesenthal, who ferreted out some 1,100 Nazi war criminals. Wiesenthal was a survivor at the Mauthausen death camp when it was liberated by American troops in 1945. As soon as his health was restored, he began to work in the War Crimes Section of the United States Army, gathering evidence to convict German war criminals.

The operative words here being evidence, convict, and war criminals.

This Special Forces soldier gave his life to save his allies
You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.

The Nokmim, as they were called, were not about to let anyone who committed those crimes against their people just walk free for lack of what a court determined was sufficient evidence. Wiesenthal would get the biggest names who escaped justice – those like Adolf Eichmann. The Nokmim would get the SS men, the prison guards, the Gestapo foot soldiers whose names might not be in history books.

As former anti-Nazi partisans who had fought in an underground movement for years before the war’s end, they were no strangers to killing.

“We had seen concentration camps,” Vitka Kovner told the Yad Vashem Magazine of her time fighting Nazis in occupied Lithuania. “And after what we witnessed there, we decided that even though the war was over, we had to take revenge for the spilling of Jewish blood.”

This Special Forces soldier gave his life to save his allies
Vitka Kovner-Kempner (far right) was a resistance fighter in the Vilna ghetto in modern-day Lithuania.
(Jewish Women’s Archive)

With that goal in mind, they acted. Former Nazi SS officers and enlisted men were found hanged by apparent suicides for years after the war’s end. Brakes on cars would suddenly become inoperative, causing deadly accidents. Former Nazis would be found in ditches, victims of apparent hit-and-runs. One was even found in his hospital bed before minor surgery with kerosene in his bloodstream.

One extreme plan even involved killing six million Germans as retribution for the Holocaust using a specially-designed, odorless, colorless poison, but had to settle for poisoning the bread at a prison camp for former SS men using arsenic. That plan may have killed up to 300 of the convicts.

This Special Forces soldier gave his life to save his allies
Some of the leaders of the Nakmim movement would later lead brigades in Israel’s 1948 Independence War.

But the group was comprised of more than just partisans. It may have even included British Army volunteers of Jewish descent who could move freely through the postwar world. No one knows who exactly was part of the group, but it was clear that their reach extended worldwide.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Who was the real Mulan?

Though we’re all familiar with the animated female warrior turned Disney princess, Hua Mulan has a much larger background and story than what we see on screen. Like most Disney films, both the animated and live-action versions of Mulan are based on folklore. Unlike Cinderella and Rapunzel, however, Mulan could very well have been a real warrior. 

This Special Forces soldier gave his life to save his allies

Hua Mulan is deeply rooted in Chinese culture. 

Definitive proof has yet to be found of Mulan’s existence, but many believe she was a real person. The legend of Mulan inspired the construction of shrines, tomb sites, statues and tablet inscriptions in her name, immortalizing her presence in Chinese culture. 

The best evidence for Mulan’s existence is an ancient poem.

Mulan is projected to have existed between 420 and 589 CE, during the Northern and Southern Dynasties. The most well-known and oldest written documentation of her story is in “The Ballad of Mulan,” a 360-word poem that was most likely written around 400 AD during the Northern Wei Dynasty. 

In the original Ballad, Mulan’s story sounds eerily familiar to Disney’s version. In it, a teenaged Mulan dresses as a man to take her father’s place in the army. That’s where the similarities end.

Unlike the Disney movie version, in the Ballad, Mulan receives the consent of her mother before leaving for active duty. Instead of her gender-swapping scheme being discovered, she maintains the charade throughout the war. When she returns home after many years of service, her younger siblings and parents prepare a feast as a welcoming gift. They invite her many fellow soldiers to the celebration as well. When the party commences, however, Mulan sheds her menswear for traditional female dress and makeup, much to the surprise of her former brothers-in-arms. 

Although she is offered awards and promotions from the Emporer, Mulan refuses and retires in her hometown. Little is known about her actual home province, but the Ballad points to the Yellow River and the Yan Mountain, which many people assume is her birthplace. 

This Special Forces soldier gave his life to save his allies

Another version of Mulan’s story is a 16th-century play. 

In this version, 17-year-old Mulan is still a female warrior who also takes her father’s place, but with the addition of having bound feet. Foot-binding was a popular practice in China at the time, and in this Mulan morph plays a dramatic part in her character’s symbolism. As if it wasn’t hard enough going beyond her place to enlist, she had to do it on tiny, broken feet. 

Unlike in other versions, Mulan is already well versed in martial arts, archery, and sword fighting, after being trained by her father since birth. He initially disapproves of her decision to take his place in the war, so she challenges him to a sword fight and wins him over with her knowledge of combat. 

Though the play does depict some rather progressive character traits for a woman of traditional ancient China, it sticks to most traditional gender standards of the time. Mulan unbinds her feet in order to wear men’s shoes for her military attire, but upon returning from service, she rebinds them. After her return from war, she enters an arranged marriage. 

Subsequent retellings illustrate how military gender norms have evolved.

Many later versions of Mulan’s story exist. For centuries, her popularity centered around challenging gender norms in a non-threatening way. 

In a 17th century novel, the Historical Romance of the Sui and Tan Dynasties, once Mulan returns home from battle and reveals her gender, she is summoned by way of imperial order to become a palace consort. In order to preserve her purity, Mulan commits suicide. This particular plot details how female purity was prioritized over all else during the period. 

This Special Forces soldier gave his life to save his allies

Mulan’s story was been held up by traditional Chinese authors throughout the years for her virtue, commitment, courage, and filial piety. Though her story leaves room for plenty of variation, her fundamental societal wrongdoing is to take on a traditionally male role. The story justifies it because of Mulan’s motives; She defies gender norms, but only to save her father and to serve her country. 

During the 1930s, her story began to depart from its traditional message. First, she became a national icon and morale booster for the fight against Japanese invasion. Later, she effectively became a national mascot during China’s Communist era for gender equality within the country. 

When the 20th century hit, Mulan was introduced to Western literature in Maxine Hong Kingston’s book, Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood among Ghosts, published in 1976. The book sparked a new era for the legend in which she was a victorious, bold, gender-defying hero. By the time Disney’s animated Mulan came out in 1998, her story had a considerably more empowering message than its literary predecessors. 

The real Mulan was an icon of cultural change, inside the military and out. 

Whether or not she was a real person, her story was relatable and empowering to women of service throughout the centuries. Even during the 20th century, women were often expected to return to traditionally female roles as soon as their military commitment was over– much like Mulan did. 

Today, Mulan stands as an inspiration to children and adults alike. While the US military welcomes women into many of the same service roles as men, female service members still face criticism from those who believe a woman’s first duty is to be home with her children. Because of challenges like these, her story will likely remain relevant for many years to come.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This black tank battalion earned 11 Silver Stars and the Medal of Honor

“Patton’s Panthers” was one of the most effective tank battalions in World War II, fighting a continuous 183 days at the front and inflicting heavy casualties on the Germans while crews racked up accolades from their peers, including three Medal of Honor nominations in their first month of combat.


In the end, the men of the 761st Tank Battalion were awarded a Medal of Honor, 11 Silver Stars, and about 300 Purple Hearts despite facing racism as the first black armored unit in combat and the second in U.S. military history.

 

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Tank Commander Harvey Woodard of the 761st Tank Battalion assesses terrain near Nancy, France, in November 1944. (Photo: Gen. George Patton Museum and Center of Leadership)

The first black armored unit was the 758th Tank Battalion which received 98 black enlisted men in 1941. The 761st followed in March 1942 as a light tank battalion but converted to medium tanks in September 1943.

At a time when most tank units were getting months of training, as little as three months in some cases, the 761st received over two years before shipping to France in October 1944. A historian for the unit, former Sgt. Wayne D. Robinson, theorized that this extended training time came because big Army couldn’t decide what to do with black forces.

But the Panthers got called to the show in 1944 and landed in France that October. Immediately, they made an impact on the attitudes of their peers in other units. Its first day of combat came on Oct. 31 when it fought for a vital hill. After just over a week of fighting, it was tasked with hitting German-held towns on Nov. 8.

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Tank crews from the 761st Tank Battalion await orders to clean out scattered Nazi machine gun nests in Coburg, Germany, April 25, 1945. (Photo: National Archives)

It was on that day that the battalion struck a German roadblock that could spell doom. The tanks were forced to stop, making them easy targets for German guns.

Despite fierce German fire, Staff Sgt. Ruben Rivers rushed out of his tank and attached a cable to the roadblock before dragging it out of the way. The American tanks pushed forward through the opening and the attack was successful.

The next day, Charlie Company 1st Sgt. Samuel Turley found his company under heavy German fire with wrecked tanks. He ordered the crews to dismount and organized a resistance before climbing from a ditch to lay down cover fire. His gamble saved his men, but he was cut down by German machine gun fire.

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Soldiers from Dog Company of the 761st Tank Battalion check equipment before leaving England for combat in France in the fall of 1944. (Photo: Gen. George Patton Museum and Center of Leadership)

The day after that, on Nov. 10, Sgt. Warren G.H. Crecy fought his way forward to save his men under fire until his tank was destroyed. He then commandeered another vehicle and killed his attackers with a .30-caliber machine gun before turning the weapon on German artillery observers.

On Nov. 11, Crecy was back at it. His tank was immobilized and he attempted to get it going until he saw German units attacking the nearby infantry. So he climbed onto his .50-cal. and gave them cover. Later that day, he destroyed machine gun nests and an anti-tank weapon.

Rivers was back in the spotlight Nov. 16-19. A mine shot fragments through his leg and destroyed his knee on Nov. 16. Despite the recommendation that he immediately evacuate, Rivers led the way across a brand-new bridge the next day and took on four German tanks, killing two and driving two more back.

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Lt. Gen. George Patton awards the Silver Star to Pvt. Ernest A. Jenkins of the 761st Tank Battalion. (Photo: Gen. George Patton Museum and Center of Leadership)

By Nov. 18, Rivers’ leg was infected but he still refused to go home. The next day, Rivers directed fierce fire onto German anti-tank guns until two rounds pierced his own tank and went through his head, killing him instantly.

All three men, Rivers, Crecy, and Turley, were nominated for the Medal of Honor but only Rivers received it.

The next month the 761st conducted assaults aimed at breaking up the German forces at the Battle of the Bulge, slowing German resupply and taking the pressure off the units under siege despite the fact that the 761st was fighting a numerically superior enemy.

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Gunner Cpl. Carlton Chapman poses in his M4 Sherman tank near Nancy, France, Nov. 5, 1944. (Photo: National Archives)

After another month and a half of fighting, the 761st threw itself against a dug in and numerically superior enemy once again while leading the armored spearhead through the Siegfried Line and fought “the fiercest of enemy resistance in the most heavily defended area of the war theater” for 72 hours according to its Presidential Unit Citation.

On May 5, 1945, the 761st linked up with Russian Forces in Steyr, Austria. Over the course of the war, the unit had lost nearly 50 percent of its starting forces and 71 tanks. It was also credited with inflicting 130,000 casualties.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This ‘shotgun’ is the most awesome firearm ever made

At the onset of the industrial revolution, people were looking at ways to mass-produce and commercialize nearly everything. But what about something as manual as duck hunting? Was there any way to mass-hunt ducks with some sort of firearm capable of knocking, say, 50 to 100 ducks out of the air all at once? Yes, in fact, there was. It was called the punt gun.


Back in the first decade of the 19th century, there existed a monster of a shotgun. Each of these guns was custom made for the ambitious hunter that wanted one, but in all cases, the barrels were somewhere between ten and thirteen feet in length. Most were muzzle-loaded while others had false breaches to load the over one pound of ammunition.

The overly-large shotgun weighed over 100 lbs. While many of the existing photos are of hunters jokingly posing like they’re using as a conventional shotgun, realistically, the recoil would’ve likely ripped someone’s arm off.

Instead, the gun was fastened to a punt — a flat-bottomed rowboat. The firer would position the boat towards a large flock of waterfowl and fire. The massive amount shot deployed with a single firing would most certainly take out enough birds to supply the hunter for an entire day. In order to properly mount the gun, the boats themselves needed to be specially-reinforced to account for the immense, destructive force.

 

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Not unlike the A-10 Warthog and its GAU-8 Avenger. (Photo by Sydney Harold Smith)

 

But these guns have nothing on the granddaddy of all punt guns – Irish Tom, the world’s largest. Created in Great Britain in the 1930s by W.W. Greener and the Whitworth Factory of Manchester, this gun weighed over 300 lbs, had a 14′ 1″ barrel, and fired 3lbs 2oz of buckshot. The original owner, Stanley Duncan, claimed his best shot downed 100 ducks.

Just a handful of market hunters equipped with punt guns was enough to nearly drive ducks to extinction, ultimately leading to the gun being outlawed. Original and modern remakes can be scarcely found by collectors.

In the UK, punt guns are also used ceremoniously. Ever since Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897, 21 punt guns have been fired during every coronation and jubilee in Cowbit Wash, Lincolnshire.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how the Israelis planned to kill Saddam Hussein

During the thick of the 1991 Gulf War, anti-Iraqi coalition forces were mounting some 2,000 air sorties against Iraqi targets in the Middle East. In retaliation, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein fired scud missiles at Israel.


Who wasn’t part of the coalition.

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It actually wasn’t that crazy of an idea. Many Arab countries joined the coalition and getting Israel to join it would put those Arab countries in the awkward position of fighting alongside Israel instead of attacking it, as they usually did.

The U.S. obviously wanted to keep that from happening.

Now, if you’ve been keeping track, the Israelis don’t take kindly to threats. Or attacks. Especially scud missile attacks. Over the course of 17 days, Iraq fired 39 Scud Missiles at the highly populated coastal cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa. An estimated 147 Israelis were killed.

To give you an idea of how Israel tends to retaliate to this sort of thing, the 1972 Munich Olympics attack killed 11 Israelis. In response, Israeli intelligence – the Mossad – launched Operation (no joke) WRATH OF GOD. They hunted down every Arab plotter of the Munich massacre and killed them. For 20 years.

Only the Mossad wasn’t about to wait 20 years to ice Saddam.

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That’s our job.

In 1992, they came up with Operation Bramble Bush, their plan to assassinate the Iraqi dictator. One agent, Nadav Zeevi, was tasked to find a pattern in Saddam’s movements. Then, the Israelis would track the dictator to where he would spend a longer amount of time. Once Saddam settled into a location, the Israelis would have their revenge.

But instead of an air strike, Israel wanted to mount a “glamorous” commando raid, using Sayeret Matkal special operators in a kill, definitely not capture mission. One version of the proposed raid had commandos launching missiles at Saddam during a funeral.

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Israel mounted crazy, balls-out commando raids in the past. Their legendary raid on Entebbe featured a caravan of cars designed to resemble Ugandan dictator Idi Amin’s entourage. They flew into Uganda, landed at the airport, drove off to the terminal, killed every terrorist, and then took their hostages to waiting planes in a hail of gunfire.

Unfortunately for history, they had to abort the idea. It was difficult to track Saddam because of the sheer number of his body doubles. Agent Zeevi even thought to just watch the dictator’s mistresses, but the body doubles also fooled the mistresses.

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I don’t know what’s real anymore.

To make matters worse, a dry run in Israel’s Negev Desert went horribly awry. Troops training for the raid in 1992 accidentally fired a live missile, killing five IDF soldiers. The accident led to officials canceling the operation.

They thought they might try again in 1999, waiting until Saddam was in a designated location. 40 operators divided into two groups; one within 200 meters of the location, painting the location as a target, the other six miles away, firing three Midras missiles on that target.

That plan was scrapped because the Americans and British were bombing Iraq anyway. And in the end, they didn’t have to assassinate the dictator. But let their effort be a lesson: just leave Israel alone.

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The first man killed in the Vietnam War was murdered by a fellow airman

On June 8, 1956, U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Richard Fitzgibbon died of gunshot wounds sustained in South Vietnam. He was the first casualty of what would be known to history as the Vietnam War.


Except it wasn’t a Viet Cong bullet that killed Fitzgibbon — it was a fellow airman.

Fitzgibbon was assigned to the Military Assistance Advisory Group, training South Vietnamese airmen in Saigon. A crew chief, he confronted the plane’s radio operator when they came under fire mid-flight, making sure the operator did his job.

 

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An early aircrew patch from MAAG Vietnam.

 

After the mission, the radio operator stewed over the altercation, heading to a bar to have a few drinks and loosen up. Except he drank heavily, and the incident only intensified his anger.

Later that day, the man approached Fitzgibbon on the porch of his barracks room as he handed out candy to Vietnamese children and shot the crew chief to death.

Fitzgibbon was a Navy veteran of World War II who later joined the Air Force. His son Richard joined the Marines and fought in Vietnam. He was killed in combat near Quang Tin in 1965.

 

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Richard Fitzgibbon Jr., left, and Richard Fitzgibbon III. The father was killed in Vietnam in 1956, while the son died there in 1965. (Photo from Sen. Ed Markey)

 

Technical Sergeant Fitzgibbon’s name wasn’t added to the Vietnam Memorial Wall until 1999, after a lobbying campaign from his family, with the help of Senator Ed Markey. The Department of Defense had to first change the criteria for adding a name — specifically identifying the start of the war.

The DoD now recognizes the date the MAAG was set up, Nov. 1, 1955, as the start of the conflict in Vietnam — the earliest date to qualify for having a casualty’s name added to the memorial wall.

 

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Richard Fitzgibbon’s name on the Vietnam Memorial Wall.

The Fitzgibbons were one of three father-son pairs who died in the Vietnam War.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was Chrysler’s nuclear-powered tank

The Chrysler TV-8 was an ugly duckling that would’ve waddled its way across Cold War battlefields slaying everything in its path until it was killed or ran out of ammo. It was equipped with a nuclear-powered engine that could propel it from Paris to Moscow and back with enough fuel to stop in Odessa, Ukraine, along the way.


Nucelar Powered Tanks – Fallout 4 Real

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So, first, to address the fact that the TV-8 is the ugly elephant in the room. Yes, we know that even Bethesda would look at this design in a Fallout 76 pitch session and be like, “No, not ready for primetime. That’s ridiculous.” But Chrysler wasn’t trying to create and field the world’s most threatening tank in appearance. The company wanted to create one of the most threatening tanks in practice.

To that end, they traded heavily on the obvious strategic advantage of a nuclear tank: virtually unlimited range. Gasoline has a relatively low energy density at 46.4 megajoules per kilogram. Diesel is a little better at 48 MJ/Kg. The low enriched Uranium used in many reactors boasts a whopping 5,184,000 MJ/Kg.

That means that every pound of fuel a nuclear tank carried would provide 108,000 times as much energy as a pound of diesel fuel. A similar design, the R32, was expected to have a 4,000-mile range.

So, yeah, the prototype TV-8 had an extreme range just thanks to the fuel it carried. That greatly limited its logistics needs. Sure, it needed ammo delivered along with water and food for the crew, but that’s it. No fuel trucks. No need for Patton to argue with Bradley about who got first dibs on petrol and diesel.

Chrysler wanted its prototype to survive nuclear bombs, so they packed everything in the teardrop-shaped, bulbous turret. The entire crew, the 90mm gun and its ammunition, and even the engine were up in the massive turret. The engine delivered electrical power to motors in the lightweight chassis underneath, that then propelled the 28-inch-wide tracks.

All of this equipment weighed only a total of 25 tons. For comparison, the M4 Sherman, a medium tank, weighed up to 42 tons, depending on the variant.

But the prototype had some serious drawbacks. First, it was actually powered by gasoline. It would get a nuclear vapor-cycle power plant if the design moved forward. But, more importantly, it was top heavy and provided little tactical improvement over conventional tanks. After all, most tanks aren’t lost in combat because of range problems. They’re killed by other tanks.

Of course, there’s also another serious and obvious drawback to nuclear-powered tanks: The loss of one in combat could easily irradiate the battlefield that the U.S. hoped to hold after the battle. Nuclear ships sunk at sea are surprisingly well contained by the water. Nuclear reactors destroyed on the surface of the earth would have no such protection, threatening recovery and maintenance crews.

So, any battle where a TV-8 was lost would create a large hazard zone for the victorious troops, but the TV-8 didn’t feature many improvements that would make it less likely to be killed in battle. It did feature a closed-circuit television to protect the crew from a nuclear flash, but that did nothing for anti-tank rounds, missiles, and RPGs.

In 1956, an Army review recommended the termination of the program and TV-8 never made it past that first, gas-powered prototype.

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