Arthur Tien Chin was born in Portland, Oregon in 1913. He would die there in 1997, but not before being recognized for the incredible life he led.
The man would spend much of his life as an everyday postal worker started his adult life as a skilled fighter pilot and the first American ace of what would become known as World War II – he would even be recognized for his contributions.
Chin was born to Cantonese parents who immigrated to Oregon from Taishan, in China’s Guangdong Province. When the Japanese Empire invaded Manchuria in 1931, Chinese-Americans were shocked and outraged. From the safety of their new country, they decided something had to be done.
Chin began flight school with a class of around a dozen other Americans of Chinese descent, paid for by the Chinese expatriate community in Oregon. The only stipulation was that the students return to their homeland to fly against Japanese aggression.
He returned to Guangdong and joined the provincial air forces, as much of China was ruled by warlords at the time and many provinces had their own armies. He soon defected to the Kuomintang central government’s air force and was selected for advanced fighter training, from the Nazi German Luftwaffe.
Before the Axis Pact split the world into Axis and Allies with Germany and China on opposite sides, China was a major buyer of German weapons, especially aircraft. Upon his return to China, he was training other pilots in the use of the planes China actually had, outdated as they may be.
Chinese pilots were still fighting with fabric-covered Curtiss biplanes with open cockpits and rifle-sized machine guns in 1937. That’s the year Japan began a full-scale war with China. Chin and his fellow Americans went to work, despite the technological disadvantage of fighting against modern bombers and fighters.
His first kill came that year when he took down a Japanese Mitsubishi G3M2 twin-engine bomber, on his first day at an airfield near Nanjing. But the plane he was flying took heavy damage and he was forced to the ground. His second kill against the same bomber came the very next month, September 1937.
By February 1938, Chin and company were flying British Gloster Gladiator fighters, which were still biplanes but not cloth covered. Chinese fighter pilots were able to down significant Japanese Imperial planes at first, but when the Zero, the Mitsubishi A6M, was introduced to the skies over China, the Gladiator’s days were numbered. Despite the Gladiator’s shortcomings, Chin would score 6.5 kills in its cockpit.
Chin himself would be shot down by intercepting Zeros while flying an escort mission in Guangxi. Outnumbered and outgunned, he rammed his biplane into one of the Japanese fighters, taking it down. He flew his failing plane back to friendly territory and landed in a rice paddy. His face now badly burned from the incident, he waited until friendly troops came by to return to base.
He and his family were bombed shortly after, as Chin recovered from injuries sustained during his shootdown incident. When his Liuzhou home was bombed by the Japanese, his wife was killed as she covered his body to protect him from shrapnel and debris. He was moved to Hong Kong to recuperate.
But no rest came. It wasn’t long before Japan came for Hong Kong too. He was evacuated and moved to New York City for skin grafts. He left the Chinese military after he recovered in 1945. After a stint promoting the purchase of war bonds, he was sent back to China, this time as a civilian aviator. His mission to fly supplies over “the hump” – an air route over the Himalayas from India into China.
At the time, it was one of the most dangerous air routes in the whole war. But when the war ended in 1945, he returned to the US. Since he couldn’t find work as a pilot back in his home state of Oregon, so he became a postal officer.
In 1995, the United States recognized Chin as a veteran of World War II, awarding him the Distinguished Service Cross and the Air Medal for his service. A month after his 1997, he was inducted into the American Combat Airman Hall of Fame of the Commemorative Air Force Airpower Museum for his 8.5 kills, making him America’s first fighter ace of World War II.
History remembers Capt. Jay Zeamer as a tremendous pilot, but he had a rough time getting into the cockpit.
Originally commissioned in the Infantry Reserve, he later transferred to the Army Air Corps to fulfill his dream of flying. There was just one problem: he couldn’t pass the check ride to get into the pilot’s seat.
Despite many attempts, when war came to America in 1941 Zeamer was still stuck co-piloting B-26 Marauders.
Bored with life as a co-pilot, Zeamer asked for a transfer to another unit hoping to start over. Zeamer was eventually transferred to the 403rd Bomb Squadron, 43rd Bomb Group to fly B-17s.
Arriving at the 403rd, Zeamer met up with an old friend, Sgt. Joe Sarnoski, the squadron’s bombardier.
During a combat mission, Zeamer was forced to take over for another pilot, which effectively earned him the right to fly as first pilot. His cool under fire on the mission — and his expert flying skills — also earned him his first Silver Star.
Zeamer’s de facto confirmation made him a pilot, but he had no plane or crew. Through a series of events, Zeamer was able to acquire Sarnoski as both bombardier and navigator. The two began to assemble the rest of the team, testing out compatibility during various missions.
Many of the men, after just one mission with Zeamer, refused to ever fly with him again, but the crazy oddballs and renegades who could hack it ultimately rounded out the crew.
Zeamer and his crew were eventually nicknamed “The Eager Beavers” because they constantly volunteered for missions — especially the most dangerous ones. However, they were still without a plane of their own.
It just so happened that the perfect plane awaited the crew at their next assignment. As new arrivals to the 65th Bomb Squadron, they found a heavily damaged plane being used for parts.
The B-17E had a reputation for taking heavy damage on missions and many believed it to be because of its unfortunate tail number: #41-2666.
Beamer and his crew quickly claimed the plane as their own, and though they never got around to giving it a proper name, often referred to it as “Old 666” after the tail number. The crew repaired and upgraded the plane to their specifications. The .30-caliber machine guns were upgraded to .50-caliber mounts. The waist gunners’ single guns were replaced by twin .50 calibers as well. Zeamer even had a forward-firing gun mounted in the nose so he himself could shoot from the cockpit. All told the B-17 bristled with nineteen guns.
The Eager Beavers soon earned a reputation for their daring deeds. As Zeamer’s friend Walt Krell put it, “Whenever the 43rd got a real lousy mission – the worst possible mission of all that nobody else wanted to fly – they went down to see Zeamer and his gang.”
The Eager Beavers carried out the unwanted missions and earned themselves glory along the way. Every member of the crew received Silver Stars and two more earned Distinguished Flying Crosses. Zeamer himself received a second Silver Star for strafing Japanese searchlights with his forward-firing gun. Sarnoski was rewarded with a battlefield promotion to 2nd lieutenant.
The Eager Beavers and Old 666 took everything that was thrown at them and always returned home.
Then in June 1943, they faced the toughest mission yet – a reconnaissance flight by a lone B-17 over Japanese-infested territory. The mission was to map Bougainville for the upcoming Allied landings. At the last minute word came down that the crew would also need to photograph Buka Island to the north. Zeamer was livid; an already dangerous mission just became practically suicidal.
When Old 666 arrived over Buka, the lone Flying Fortress was spotted by the Japanese who scrambled 17 planes to intercept. The lead flight of Japanese Zeroes caught up to the Eager Beavers near the end of their mapping run.
Unable to stray from its course, Old 666 lumbered along, bracing as the Zeroes attacked. Five planes fanned out in front and flew headlong at the bomber. As the distance closed, the guns on both sides roared to life.
Zeamer scored a hit with his nose-mounted gun while Sarnoski downed one of the incoming Zeroes. Simultaneously, 20mm shells tore through the cockpit and nose, wounding Zeamer and blowing Sarnoski off his gun. Sarnoski dragged himself back to his gun and scored a hit on another fighter before slumping over, mortally wounded.
The battle raged for almost an hour. Zeamer was severely wounded, both legs shot and his rudder pedals blown away. Four other crew members were also wounded. Still, The Eager Beavers continued to rain fire onto the Japanese fighters while Zeamer struggled to maneuver the bomber. The Japanese fighters had brutally damaged the B-17E, forcing it below 10,000 feet with destroyed instrument panels, limited controls, and no oxygen system.
Eventually, the battered Zeroes retreated home, leaving the Eager Beavers to do the same.
Determined to return with the valuable photos, Zeamer refused to relinquish control of the bomber. The rest of the crew treated each others’ wounds and did what they could to keep the stricken bomber in the air.
Just over eight hours after the mission began, Old 666 landed in New Guinea. The fuselage was riddled with holes. Zeamer was nearly left for dead by the medics. He spent many months in hospitals recovering from the mission. Both Zeamer and Sarnoski would be awarded the Medal of Honor, one of only two crews to be so bestowed in World War II.
The mission to Bougainville is the most highly decorated mission ever. With their cumulative awards, the Eager Beavers are the most decorated crew in American history. General George Kenney would write in his memoirs that the mission “still stands in my mind as an epic of courage unequaled in the annals of air warfare.”
A few weeks after the bloody battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863, an odd event took place at the front lines of the Civil War armies camped on the Rappahannock River in Virginia. The two sides — camped approximately a mile from one another — engaged in a battle of the bands.
According to University of Virginia Professor Dr. Gary W. Gallagher in his Great Courses lecture series on the war, the concert was begun by a Union band on one side of the field who played a patriotic northern song, likely “Yankee Doodle” or “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Just after they finished playing, the Confederate band opened with the song “Dixie.”
The two bands then continued playing songs for one another throughout the early hours of the night, until the Union band started playing “Home on the Range,” a song popular in both Union and Confederate camps throughout the war.
The Confederate band joined in during the song, and soldiers from each side sang along.
Like the later Christmas Truce of World War I, the peace between the warring sides was short-lived. The Civil War would rage for almost two more years before its official end in May 1865. Indeed, the bloodiest battle of the war, Gettysburg, would take place just a few short weeks after the impromptu concert.
The fall of Custer and five of the companies under his command at the Battle of Little Bighorn on June 25, 1876, known by the Sioux Nation as the Battle of Greasy Grass, was as much a failure of reconnaissance and intelligence as of strategy and tactics, and a modern battle between the 7th Cavalry and the Sioux Nation would play out differently.
First and foremost, modern military formations have better intelligence gathering assets. While Gen. George A. Custer labored under the false impression that Sitting Bull, the Lakota leader, had only 800 warriors with him, it’s more likely that he had well over 1,000 and possibly as many as 2,500.
When Custer first spotted the signs of the camp on June 25, he wanted to spend time scouting and resting his men before attacking but thought his presence had been detected by Sioux forces and would soon be reported. So, he ordered hasty preparations for an attack.
But modern drones and listening devices would have let him know that the fighters who spotted his men were actually leaving the encampment and not reporting to Sitting Bull. Once Custer knew that and was able to spend time gathering intelligence, he would have learned of the size of the enemy force and at least hesitated to attack with his 647 men without getting reinforcements.
But if he did press the attack anyway, that battle would be most similar to a clash between uneven forces of cavalry and mounted infantry. While Custer’s men would likely have enjoyed a technological advantage, the four-to-one numerical advantage of the Lakota, Dakota, Sioux, and Northern Cheyenne forces would have been too much to overcome.
While Custer tried in 1876 to break through to the civilian parts of the camp to force the enemy to either fire in the direction of their loved ones or surrender, a modern Custer would likely try to draw out the enemy forces instead.
To help overcome his shortage of manpower, Custer would likely do this with a careful attack, trying to minimize civilian casualties while inflicting maximum damage on enemy vehicles.
Custer’s best chance would likely have been to send anti-armor missile teams into cover and concealment near the Sioux while one or two mechanized infantry companies deployed their Strykers just below the peak on nearby ridge lines.
Then, at a prearranged signal, the Strykers would roar over the ridge and fire TOW missiles at the Sioux vehicles. To keep the technological gap between the U.S. and Sioux forces, we’ll say the Sioux predominantly have Bradleys and HMMWVs.
The mortars embedded in the infantry companies could then start laying it on thick, slamming rounds into the top armor of enemy vehicles and hitting treads and tires with shrapnel to get mobility kills.
But Custer’s force of almost 650 troops would find it nearly impossible to keep over 2,000 enemies penned in for long, and the Sioux vehicles would make it into the open sooner or later. Once they did, their superiority in numbers would quickly turn the tide.
Custer could claim a victory at this point, satisfy himself with the large losses already inflicted and conduct an orderly withdrawal while radioing other U.S. government forces to be ready to attack the Sioux forces if they dispersed across the area.
If the Sioux followed him as a large group, he would be able to draw them to a larger government force and wipe them out.
If, instead, he pressed his luck, and continued to fight near the Little Bighorn River, it’s likely that the final result would once again be a victory for the Sioux. Once the government anti-tank Strykers and anti-armor teams had expended their missiles, attempts to take the Bradleys out with the Stryker guns would take much longer.
Sitting Bull would be able to get a force assembled, likely by staging it behind one of the hills that dominate the area, and then launch it from behind cover and into the American flank.
Once the American lines were properly disrupted, more and more Sioux vehicles would be able to escape from the camp and launch additional attacks against the beleaguered 7th Cavalry.
While the Sioux would have suffered much heavier losses than in the actual 1876 battle, the end result of a standing battle between the 7th Cavalry and the Sioux nation would always be subject to the huge numbers disparity on the ground.
In May 1945, the Axis powers were all but beaten, but the war was far from over for the United States. Germany surrendered to the Allies on May 8 but a lot of work was left to be done – namely, the invasion of mainland Japan. It was assumed that many Purple Heart medals would be needed, but history took a different course.
The ongoing Battle of Okinawa with its high casualty rates and fierce defenders made it clear to American leadership that the upcoming invasion of Japan’s main island would be a costly one for both sides.
The attack, of course, never came. Truman went for the nuclear option.
So what to do with all those medals? Give them to the troops, of course.
World War II was over but there was still plenty of American combat to come in the 20th century. Though the U.S. has ordered 34,000 more of them after the Vietnam War, the medals from 1945 are still updated and issued as needed.
“Time and combat will continue to erode the WWII stock, but it’s anyone’s guess how long it will be before the last Purple Heart for the invasion of Japan is pinned on a young soldier’s chest,” historian D.M. Giangreco, said in a 2010 e-mail to Stars and Stripes.
The refurbished medals were distributed to military posts, units, and hospitals between 1985 and 1999. Even if new ones were made, the number given wounded service members through 2010 is still less than the number manufactured in 1945.
The refurbished and new Purple Hearts are almost identical.
A recipient may never know for which war their medal was made.
“You are talking about minute types of differences where only a specialist, somebody who really looks at this stuff, and looks at it often, can tell,” Giangreco said.
Either way, if you earn a Purple Heart, you can wear it with pride.
Hamilton and Burr are now friends. More accurately, the descendants of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr are. Burr shot Hamilton in what has become probably the most famous duel in American history — and now you can watch their five-time great-grandchildren reenact the event.
The two Founding Fathers of the United States drew down on each other on July 11, 1804 in Weehawken, New Jersey. It was rumored that Hamilton, formerly the first Secretary of the Treasury, said some disparaging things about Burr during a society dinner. After a series of strongly-worded letters were exchanged and Hamilton refused to apologize, the two decided to settle it the very old-fashioned way.
Burr wasn’t the same after that.
Burr, a former Vice-President, fled the site and infamously tried to raise a personal army and cut out a piece of the nascent United States for himself after sparking a war with Spain in Florida. President Jefferson got wind of the scheme and had him arrested for treason. Burr was acquitted and lived in self-imposed exile in Europe for awhile. Alexander Hamilton died the day after the duel.
And Vice-Presidents stopped shooting people.
If you’re ever interested in seeing just how the Hamilton-Burr Duel went down, the good news is that now you can. In 2004, 200 years later, Douglas Hamilton, a fifth-great-grandson of Alexander Hamilton and Antonio Burr, a descendant of Aaron Burr’s cousin, met to re-enact the famous duel.
Peter MacDonald is one of the last remaining Navajo Code Talkers. The former chairman of the Navajo Nation recently sat down with VAntage Point staff to explain what made the “unbreakable” code so effective, and how it helped save lives and secure victory in the Pacific.
“Without Navajo, Marines would never have taken the island of Iwo Jima,” he said. “That’s how critical Navajo Code was to the war in the Pacific.”
The Unbreakable Code
Code Talkers used native languages to send military messages before World War II. Choctaw, for example, was used during World War I. The Marine Corps, however, needed an “unbreakable” code for its island-hopping campaign in the Pacific. Navajo, which was unwritten and known by few outside the tribe, seemed to fit the Corps’ requirements.
Twenty-nine Navajos were recruited to develop the code in 1942. They took their language and developed a “Type One Code” that assigned a Navajo word to each English letter. They also created special words for planes, ships and weapons.
Understanding Navajo didn’t mean a person could understand the code. While a person fluent in the language would hear a message that translated into a list of words that seemingly had no connection to each other, a code talker would hear a very clear message.
Here is an example:
Navajo Code: DIBEH, AH-NAH, A-SHIN, BE, AH-DEEL-TAHI, D-AH, NA-AS-TSO-SI, THAN-ZIE, TLO-CHIN Translation: SHEEP, EYES, NOSE, DEER, BLOW UP, TEA, MOUSE, TURKEY, ONION Deciphered Code: SEND DEMOLITION TEAM TO …
In addition to being unbreakable, the new code also reduced the amount of time it took to transmit and receive secret messages. Because all 17 pages of the Navajo code were memorized, there was no need to encrypt and decipher messages with the aid of coding machines. So, instead of taking several minutes to send and receive one message, Navajo code talkers could send several messages within seconds. This made the Navajo code talker an important part of any Marine unit.
In February 1942, American postal censors intercepted a strange letter that had been returned from an address in Argentina. Supposedly sent from an address in Springfield, Ohio, the postmark read that it was sent from New York City and it contained strange passages. The censors handed the letter over to the FBI.
That letter and others like it were addressed to and returned from the same undeliverable address in Argentina. All of them contained bizarre statements. When the FBI investigated the letters, they turned up the only American to hand over intelligence to Japanese during World War II.
The United States was fighting for its life against the Japanese Empire and Nazi Germany. The wounds from the attack on Pearl Harbor were still fresh and internally, the U.S. was doing everything in its power to clamp down on spies and informants in the homeland.
One of the means of securing wartime information was the use of postal inspectors who would read and censor mail. When they came across a returned letter addressed to an Inez Lopez de Molinali of Argentina, they read it. It made little sense to them.
“The only three dolls I have are three love Irish dolls. One of these dolls is an old fisherman with a net over his back, another is an old woman with wood on her back and a third is a little boy.”
Postal inspectors turned up five letters, all returned and all addressed to Senora Molinali. Only the letter supposedly from a Springfield, Ohio address was not in the American west. A couple of them had postmarks that were different from the return address. They were full of strangely-worded paragraphs that, on the surface, appeared to be about doll repairs.
“I just secured a lovely Siamese Temple Dancer, it had been damaged, that is tore in the middle. But it is now repaired and I like it very much. I could not get a mate for this Siam dancer, so I am redressing just a small plain ordinary doll into a second Siam doll…”
When the FBI got hold of all five letters, they were able to determine that the signatures on the letters were fakes and the people who allegedly sent them had no idea who Inez Molinali was nor did they know anyone in Argentina. They were doll collectors, however, and they all had one doll-related fact in common: Velvalee Dickinson’s doll shop.
Dickinson was a Stanford-educated divorcee who moved from San Francisco to New York City in 1937. Dickinson and her third husband were keeping the books for Japanese clients when they fell on hard times. They moved to New York for a fresh start, where Velvalee opened a new doll shop on Madison Avenue.
To drum up business, Velvalee advertised in a couple of national magazines and began corresponding by mail with doll collectors across the country – five of which had sent letters to Argentina.
The FBI determined that all the letters with forged signatures were written on the same typewriter, and thus were likely from the same person. When given to cryptographers who studied the words and the dates of the letters, the code became apparent. The “dolls” in the letters corresponded to ships of the U.S. Navy sent to various ports for repairs.
“Siam Dolls” were aircraft carriers, a tear in the middle meant a torpedo hit, the “old woman with wood on her back” was a wooden-decked warship, fishermen’s nets were actually anti-submarine nets, and so on.
When the FBI raided Velvalee Dickinson’s doll shop they found a large sum of money and a lavish lifestyle that being a dollmaker during World War II just was unlikely to support. A deeper investigation found that her former Japanese clients were diplomats. Her participation in Japanese society before the war led her to prominent Japanese officials, including the Consul General and the Japanese Naval Attache in Washington, DC.They had approached her to provide this information before the war began.
Dickinson was charged on May 5, 1944 of violating the espionage statutes, the Registration Act of 1917, and censorship statutes. She pleaded not guilty, claiming it was her husband who was the real spy. Her husband had fallen ill, however and nurses and caretakers said he did not have the mental capacity to conduct anything at the time, let alone espionage.
So Velvalee Dickinson accepted a plea bargain and was the only American who spied for the Japanese Empire after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Or at least, she was the only one who was ever caught.
For troops on the frontlines, receiving mail from home is a welcome reprieve from the stress and dangers of combat. During WWII, it was the job of units like the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion to make sure that mail sent from the states got to the troops overseas. What made the 6888th unique was that it was the only all-Black battalion of the Women’s Army Corps to serve overseas during the war.
Because of the high demand for frontline troops, the Army had a significant shortage of soldiers who could manage postal services in theater. In 1944, Black civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune lobbied First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt for “a role for Black women in war overseas.” Her efforts were joined by Black newspapers who called for the Army to give Black women the opportunity to support the war effort in a more direct role.
The Army responded by creating the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion in the Women’s Army Corps. Nicknamed the “Six Triple Eight”, the unit’s motto was “No mail, low morale.” The battalion was made up of 855 women, both officers and enlisted. Most of them worked as postal clerks. However, the women also filled other positions like cooks and mechanics. Because of this, the 6888th was a self-sufficient unit.
The 6888th left the United States for Europe on February 3, 1945. Twelve days later, the women arrived in Birmingham, England where they found the backlog of mail that they were responsible for. In the temporary post office, a converted aircraft hangar, mail was stacked to the ceiling. Some letters were postmarked as early as 1943. Part of the problem was that mail was commonly addressed with only a soldier’s first name or even a nickname.
The Army gave the 6888th six months to sort through the backlog of mail and sent a white officer to the unit to tell them how to do the job right. The 6888th’s commander, Major Charity Adams Earley responded by saying, “Sir, over my dead body.” The women devised their own system to sort the mail. Working in three shifts, seven days a week, each shift handled an estimated 65,000 pieces of mail. They completed their six-month tasking in just three months.
After they cleared the enormous backlog of mail in Birmingham, the women of the 6888th were sent across the Channel to France in May, 1945. The unit was camped in Rouen where they given another backlog of mail, some of which was postmarked 1942. According to Army historians, the military police of the 6888th were not allowed to carry weapons. As a result, the MPs were trained in jujitsu to deter “unwanted visitors.”
In May 1945, the women of the 6888th marched in a parade ceremony in honor of Joan of Arc through the marketplace where the saint was burned at the stake. By 1945, the women had cleared the Rouen backlog of mail and were sent to Paris. Upon their arrival, they marched through the city and were welcomed enthusiastically by the Parisians. They were even housed in a hotel where the staff treated them like top-tier guests.
With the war over on all fronts, the 6888th was cut by 300 women with 200 set to be discharged in January 1946. In February 1946, the women that remained were sent to Fort Dix, New Jersey where the unit was disbanded. There was no public recognition for the unit’s service.
In 2009, the 6888th was honored at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. Seven years later, the 6888th was inducted into the U.S. Army Women’s Foundation Hall of Fame. In 2018, a monument to the women of the 6888th was erected at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. When asked about her service by the American Veterans Center, 6888th veteran Anna Mae Robertson said with a chuckle, “I was doing the best I could.”
These incredible women weren’t the only ones to break new grounds during WWII. To learn about some of our country’s first Black Marines, keep reading here.
The “Flying Tigers” (formally known as the American Volunteer Group or AVG) were famous for being in the fight very early in World War II. They were recruited to fly for the Republic of China — with the quiet approval of the United States government.
Despite the fact many had no flight experience in fighters like the P-40s made famous by the AVG, they were able to inflict heavy casualties on the Japanese — even as they had to fall back due to being badly outnumbered.
So it’s not surprising that some of the Flying Tiger pilots became legends later in the war and beyond.
Some historians dispute that total, but what is beyond any doubt is the fact that Boyington would later become the top Marine ace of all time with 28 kills. He would also receive the Medal of Honor for his service.
2. James H. Howard
Howard was recruited for the Flying Tigers from the Navy. His kill total with the Flying Tigers was six and a third, per CAMCO bonus records (pilots received a $500 bonus for every confirmed kill).
Not bad, but his real moment of glory came when the son of American missionaries in China was all that stood between 30 German fighters and a group of B-17 Flying Fortresses on Jan. 11, 1944.
At least three of the Nazi fighters were shot down in that incident, and Howard probably put lead in more. He would receive the Medal of Honor for his actions.
He modestly said, “I seen my duty and I done it.”
3. Robert L. Scott
The Georgia native unofficially flew with the Flying Tigers before he took command of their successors, the 23rd Fighter Group, and was known as a “one-man air force.” Scott ultimately scored 13 kills with the 23rd Fighter Group, but was better known for writing the book “God is My Co-Pilot,” which later became a movie.
4. Robert W. Prescott
A 5.5-kill ace with the Flying Tigers, Prescott was best known for being among those who founded the Flying Tigers Line. While that aviation firm is now part of Federal Express, it did gain a measure of immortality in an episode of the 1960s iteration of Dragnet.
5. Robert Neale
Neale scored at least 15 kills with the Flying Tigers, per AVG records. Had he accepted a commission from the United States Army Air Force, he could have racked up a much higher total.
Instead, he stayed on, and was the first commander of the 23rd Fighter Group — while still a civilian — until Robert Scott officially took command. Neale then became a civilian ferry pilot for the duration of the war.
6. David “Tex” Hill
Hill was born in Korea — like Howard, the son of missionaries.
Prior to joining the AVG he served in the Navy, where he flew two planes that were notable during the Battle of Midway: The TBD Devastator torpedo bomber (notable for the losses suffered by torpedo squadrons) and the SB2U Vindicator (the plane flown by Richard Fleming, the only Medal of Honor recipient for the Battle of Midway).
Fastest jet in the world? That’s easy. Most people know it’s the SR-71, the reconnaissance plane so fast it could outrun missiles. But the fastest fighter jet? Well, the Soviets created a fighter jet to chase down the SR-71 Blackbird, and it was so fast that it’s still the fastest fighter jet ever built. And it’s still in service today.
The MiG-25 Foxbat looks ungainly and boxy next to fourth and fifth-generation fighters. Its younger sibling, the MiG-29, is much sleeker, and the aggressive-looking F-35, F-22, and even the Su-57 make for way better wall posters than the Foxbat.
By comparison, the Foxbat looks almost like a box truck. If you’re feeling generous, you could compare it to something like an old Chrysler LeBaron, instead.
But only if that Chrysler Lebaron could sweep down a drag strip at speeds over 60 percent faster than its rivals.
A two-seat trainer version of the MiG-25 flies over forested land.
The story of the Foxbat is a fairly simple one. When Russia first understood the SR-71, it realized that the step from a reconnaissance plane that could fly three times the speed of sound to a bomber that could do so was large but hardly insurmountable. They had to plan on U.S. bombers that could outrun ground-launched missiles.
And so they got to work on a fighter that could move on the edge of space with the SR-71 and the planned XB-70 Valkyrie. While they knew it was unlikely they could create a fighter that could fly faster than a reconnaissance plane, there was a decent chance that it could outfly the bomber since the bomber would have to carry more weight.
Lacking the materials science to create light airframes like the SR-71, it did the next best thing and just made the engines so powerful that they could muscle through, carrying the nickel-steel alloy frame to record heights and speed. And the engineers at the Mikoyan and Gurevich Design Bureau (MiG is a shortening of that name), were some of the world’s best engine designers.
They came up with a twin-turbojet design that could propel the MiG-25 to Mach 2.8 in operational conditions and 3.2 if the pilots were willing to risk the engines. The plane quickly set world records for speed, time to climb, and top altitudes for a fighter.
And that scared the U.S. and the rest of NATO. Not only was the Foxbat ridiculously fast and powerful, but its design suggested that it was super maneuverable, a design characteristic that the West was moving toward.
But two events would completely change the calculus for the Foxbat. One made it a plane without a mission, and the other took away much of the fear for pilots who might be called to face it.
First, a catastrophic crash killed two pilots and destroyed the 0-million XB-70 Valkyrie test aircraft in a program that was already suffering cost problems. The program was canceled. Suddenly, there was little prospect of a Mach 3 bomber for the Foxbat to chase, meaning the most critical mission for Soviet planners was preventing American air superiority.
When they disassembled, studied, re-assembled, and tested the plane, American engineers realized that it would almost always have a speed and altitude advantage against NATO planes, but it couldn’t capitalize on it. The Foxbat didn’t have a look-down, shoot-down radar system.
Without getting too into the technical weeds, the science of getting a radar that can see ahead of a fighter and beneath it without getting confused by ground clutter is actually sort of tough, and the Soviets hadn’t nailed it yet. So Foxbat pilots would be forced to descend to engage other fighters.
And once it was on a relatively even altitude with its adversaries, it would be relatively easy pickings. While it was undeniably fast, it was not actually super maneuverable. It was unlikely that a Foxbat could dodge missiles or win a dogfight. With a few changes to doctrine, planes like the F-4 Phantom could keep the Foxbat on the run or down it entirely.
Still, the Foxbat has continued in service in Post-Soviet Russia, and it’s still the fastest and highest-flying fighter jet in the world, carrying its full combat load so high that the pilot’s tears will boil off their faces. It just doesn’t matter because there’s nothing up there for the Foxbat to fight.
In the early years of the U.S. Military Academy’s history, the “Father of West Point,” Col. Sylvanus Thayer, was trying to whip the future officers of the U.S. military into shape. He began by outlawing alcohol on the academy grounds. The cadets were also not permitted to leave the academy.
Egg nog was pretty different back in 1826. Today, it’s more of a sweet, dessert drink and the addition of rum or brandy isn’t as popular as it once was. Back then, nog — like life — was a lot more intense.
Before the alcohol ban, an egg nog night was part of West Point’s Christmas tradition, and the cadets weren’t about to let the tradition die because of one guy’s teetotaling. So, a young cadet named Jefferson Davis and a group of others decided to sneak some booze into the eggnog party.
They snuck in a few gallons of whiskey under Thayer’s nose (with the help, of course, an enlisted man). On Christmas Day, officers of the day Capt. Ethan Allen Hitchcock and Lt. William A. Thorton tried to monitor the cadets, but they could only do so much. They were woken in the middle of the night by a drunken party in the barracks. They dispersed it, but the revelers sought revenge.
Partying cadets raged on a different floor and the officers moved to break that one up. Thorton was knocked to the floor with a piece of wood while another took a shot at Hitchcock with a pistol. He called a runner to get the Commandant, but that request was misinterpreted as a summons for artillery troops stationed on the grounds.
The cadets reinforced the windows and entrances to the barracks to prevent the artillerymen from gaining entry. The interiors and windows of the building were smashed and damaged. They literally drummed up the cadets from their beds to prepare for bombardment.
In the 1970s, BP oil pipeline workers came across a curious item about 12 miles southwest of Cruden Bay, Aberdeenshire sitting about 86 meters under the surface- an old German U-Boat. In fact, one of the last U-Boats ever sunk in WWII. Unlike so many of its fellow subs, however, this one’s demise came about owing to a sequence of events all stemming from someone flushing the toilet incorrectly… So what exactly happened here?
U-1206, a Type VIIC submarine, was officially ordered on April 2, 1942 and ultimately launched on December 30, 1943. About a year and a half later, On April 6, 1945, the shiny new craft with its crew of 50 men departed from Kristiansand, Norway on its first non-training patrol machine.
Pertinent to the topic at hand is that while most submarines at the time used a storage tank to stow the product of flushing on board toilets and other waste water, with stereotypical German engineering efficiency, U-boat designers went the other way and decided to eject the waste directly into the ocean.
On the plus side, this saved valuable space within the submarine while also reducing weight. The downside, of course, was that ejecting anything into the ocean required greater pressure inside than out. As a result, U-boats had long required that, in order to use the toilets, the ship would have to be near the surface
Of course, being so close to or on the surface is generally to be avoided when on patrol if a sub captain wants to see his ship not blown up. This resulted in crewmen who needed to purge their orifices while submerged needing to do so in containers, which would then be stored appropriately until the sub needed to surface and the offending substances could be ditched over board.
As you can imagine, this didn’t exactly improve the already less than ideal smell of the air within the sub while it was plodding away down under. But there was nothing much that could be done about this…
That is, until some unknown German engineers designed a high pressure evacuation system. As to how this system worked, in a nutshell, the contents of the toilet were piped into an airlock of sorts. Once the offending matter found its way into said airlock, this would be sealed and subsequently pressurized, at which point a valve could be opened which would eject the fecal matter and fluids into the sea.
This all brings us to eight days into the patrol mission, on April 14, 1945.
Now, before we get into this, it should be noted that there are two versions of the story of what happened next- one version is stated by literally every single source we could find discussing this event on the interwebs, as well as repeated on the show QI and found in countless books on the subject. As for the other version, if you dig a little deeper, thanks to the good people at the Deutsches U-Boot Museum Archive, you can actually find the official account from 27 year old Captain Karl-Adolf Schlitt, who, minus a couple letters in his last name, couldn’t have been more aptly named for what was about to occur.
All this said, in both cases, the root cause of the sub’s sinking were the same- improper use of the toilet’s flushing mechanism.
That caveat out of the way, as the vessel was cruising along at around 70 meters below the surface and about eight miles from Peterhead, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, the popular version states that Captain Schlitt had need of evacuating his bowels and so, no doubt with dignity befitting a man of his stature and rank, did his business in the toilet. That done, he was now left to try to flush the thing.
Unable to figure out the complicated contraption, Captain Schlitt called in help from the “W.C. Waste Disposal Unit Manager”- literally the only guy on board officially trained in how to flush the toilet, apparently also known among the crew as (translated), “the shit-man”.
Unfortunately for the men that would soon die as a result, for whatever reason the crewman who was supposed to know how to flush the toilet made a mistake and turned the wrong valve…
That’s the popular version to which we could not find any primary document to support it, despite it being widely parroted. As for the official version, Captain Schlitt himself claimed, “In April 1945 U-1206 was in the North Sea off Britain. On board the diesel engines were faulty. We could not charge our batteries by the snorkel any more. In order to get the diesels working again we had put down about 8-10 miles from the British coast at 70mts, unseen by British patrols… I was in the engine room, when at the front of the boat there was a water leak. What I have learned is that a mechanic had tried to repair the forward WC’s outboard vent. I would say – although I do not have any proof – that the outer vent indicator either gave false readings or none at all.”
As to why said mechanic was attempting to work on the toilet’s outboard vent while deeply submerged, that’s every bit as much of a mystery as to why an engineer trained in how to properly flush the toilet would have screwed it up so badly in the Captain Schlitt pooping version of the story.
Of course, it is always possible that the good Captain made up his version of things to avoid personal embarrassment and perhaps the other version came from crew members giving a very different account, but we could not locate any crew member’s version of events to verify that.
Whichever story is true, the result in either case was the contents of the toilet, if any, and the ocean outside shooting like a jet stream into the submarine.
Things were about to get a whole lot worse.
You see, as alluded to in Captain Schlitt’s account, the U-1206 was a diesel electric sub, featuring twin Germaniawerft F46 four-stroke engines, which charged a bank of batteries which, in turn, powered two electric motors capable of producing 750 horsepower combined. The problem was that the batteries were directly below the toilet area. According to Captain Schlitt, when the water rushed in, “…the batteries were covered with seawater. Chlorine gas started to fill the boat.”
As this was all happening, Captain Schlitt ordered the vessel to be surfaced. He then states, “The engineer who was in the control room at the time managed to make the boat buoyant and surfaced, despite severe flooding.”
So here they were, diesel engines down for maintenance, batteries soaking in seawater, having taken on a significant amount of said water, chlorine gas filling the ship, and on the surface just off the coast of enemy territory.
The nightmare for Captain Schlitt was about to get worse. As he noted in his account of events, “We were then incapable of diving or moving. At this point, British planes and patrols discovered us…”
With few options available, Captain Schlitt ordered various valves on the U-1206 be opened in order for it to fill with water, after which the crew abandoned the sub, with it shortly thereafter sinking.
The crew made their way to the Scottish coast on rubber rafts, but things didn’t go well here either. Schlitt states, “In the attempt to negotiate the steep coast in heavy seas, three crew members tragically died. Several men were taken onboard a British sloop. The dead were Hans Berkhauer, Karl Koren, and Emil Kupper.”
Ultimately 10 crewmen did make it shore, but just like their surviving compatriots at sea, were promptly captured.
In the aftermath, thankfully for just about everyone, just 16 days later, on April 30, 1945, Hitler bravely, and with no regard for his own personal safety, infiltrated the Führerbunker and single handedly managed to rid the world of one of the most notorious individuals of all time by putting a bullet through his own brain. About a week after that, Germany finally surrendered.
As for what happened to Captain Schlitt after, this isn’t clear, other than he appears to have lived to the ripe old age of 90, dying on April 7, 2009.
The practice of calling the toilet the “head” was originally a maritime euphemism. This came from the fact that, classically, the toilet on a marine vessel, or at least where everyone would relieve themselves, was at the front of the ship (the head). This was so that water from the sea that splashed up on the front of the boat would wash the waste away. The first known documented occurrence of the term used to describe a toilet area was from 1708 by Woodes Rogers, Governor of the Bahamas, in his work “Cruising Voyage Around the World.”
Despite toilet paper having been around since at least the 6th century AD (initially in China), it wouldn’t be until the late 19th century when toilet paper would first be introduced in America and England and it wasn’t until the 1900s, around the same time the indoor toilet became common, that toilet paper would catch on with the masses. So what did people use for wiping before toilet paper? This depended greatly on region, personal preference, and wealth. Rich people often used hemp, lace, or wool. The 16th century French writer Francois Rabelais, in his work Gargantua and Pantagruel, recommended using “the neck of a goose, that is well downed”.
The goose is kind of getting the crappy end of that deal. *crickets* Poor people would poop in rivers and clean off with water, rags, wood shavings, leaves, hay, rocks, sand, moss, sea weed, apple husks, seashells, ferns, and pretty much whatever else was at hand and cheap/free. For seaman, the common thing was to use old frayed anchor cables. The Inuit’s and other peoples living in frigid regions tended to go with clumps of snow to wipe with, which, other than the coldness factor, is actually one of the better options it seems compared to many other of the aforementioned methods.Going back a ways in history, we know the Ancient Roman’s favorite wiping item, including in public restrooms, was a sponge on a stick that would sit in salt water and be placed back in the salt water when done… waiting for the next person…
Back to America, one extremely popular wiping item for a time was corn cobs and, later, Sears and Roebucks, Farmers Almanac, and other catalogs became popular. The Farmers Almanac even came with a hole in it so it could be easily hung in bathrooms for just this purpose… reading and wiping material in one, and no doubt boosting their sales when said magazine needed replaced!Around 1857, Joseph Gayetty came up with the first commercially available toilet paper in the United States. His paper “The greatest necessity of the age! Gayetty’s medicated paper for the water-closet” was sold in packages of flat sheets that were moistened and soaked with aloe. Gayetty’s toilet paper sold for about 50 cents a pack ( today), with 500 sheets in that package. Despite its comfort and superiority at cleaning, this wasn’t terribly popular, presumably because up to this point most people got their wiping materials for free from whatever was at hand, and humans hate change and newfangled innovations.
Around 1867, brothers Edward, Clarence, and Thomas Scott, who sold products from a push cart, started making and selling toilet paper as well. They did a bit better than Gayetty; their original toilet paper was much cheaper as it was not coated with aloe and moistened, but was just rolls of somewhat soft paper (often with splinters).As the indoor flushable toilet started to become popular, so did toilet paper. This is not surprising considering there was nothing really to grab in an indoor bathroom to wipe with, unlike outdoors where nature is at your disposal. The age old Farmers Almanac and similar such catalogs also were not well suited for this purpose because their pages tended to clog up the pipes in indoor plumbing.Even once it became popular, wiping with toilet paper still doesn’t appear to have been painless until surprisingly recently.
The aforementioned splinter problem seems to have been somewhat common until a few decades into the 20th century. In the 1930s, this changed with such companies as Northern Tissue boasting a “splinter free” toilet tissue.As for today, toilet paper is still extremely popular, though wet wipes, similar to Gayetty’s, have made a major come back in recent years, much to the chagrin of sewer workers the world over.Much like our forebears who shunned Gayetty’s innovation, vastly superior toilet seat add-on bidet systems that take 10 minutes to install and cost only around , literally paying for themselves in drastic reduction of toilet paper usage relatively quickly and providing significantly better cleaning, are still largely shunned for some reason.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.