This is the battle behind 'the Star-Spangled Banner' - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the battle behind ‘the Star-Spangled Banner’

The Star-Spangled Banner” is known from sea to shining sea, but few know the circumstances under which Francis Scott Key wrote America’s national anthem. Oddly enough, it was penned just after the short but bloody Battle of Baltimore.

In September of 1814—two years into the war between the U.K. and the U.S.—the British navy turned its attention towards Baltimore, Maryland. As a busy port, the city would either prove a devastating American loss, or a crucial victory if they managed to thwart the attack on Baltimore Harbor’s Fort McHenry.


As 5,000 British troops marched towards Fort McHenry, they encountered an unexpected setback at the Battle of North Point. There, American troops were lying in wait, prepared to stall the British until Baltimore’s defenses could be finalized. When they were satisfied with their delay, the Americans retreated, then awaited the main attack from within the city.

At dawn the very next day, approximately 4,300 British troops began to advance, forcing the U.S. troops to fall back. Still, the battle wasn’t easy for the British: They were startled to find that the Americans had 100 cannons and over 10,000 troops. Not long after they breached Balitmore’s inner defenses, the British soldiers fled to their ships, wanting to regroup for a less frontal attack.

This is the battle behind ‘the Star-Spangled Banner’

Meanwhile, at Fort McHenry, 1,000 U.S. troops awaited the British navy, who arrived in a rain of rockets and mortar shells. Harsh fire ensued for 27 hours, though this did not deter the Americans’ from their daily reveille: As the fighting drew to a close on the morning of September 14, an oversized American flag—made by a local woman and her 13-year-old daughter—was raised over Fort McHenry. In response to this sign of American strength, an encampment of British soldiers fired a final taunting round at the sky. With that, the Battle of Baltimore was officially over.

But prior to this, Francis Scott Key stood aboard the British ship HMS Tonnant, negotiating the release of Maryland resident Dr. William Beanes. Having succeeded in his mission, Key and the newly-freed Beanes watched the battle unfold from their enemy’s decks. At the sight of the raised American flag, Key was struck by a burst of poetic inspiration. He quickly scribbled a series of verses on a scrap of paper, not knowing these words would become an enduring symbol of American patriotism.

Originally titled “Defence on Fort M’Henry”—and then renamed “The Star-Spangled Banner” shortly thereafter—the poem became a sensation after its publication in the Baltimore American. Over 100 years later, Congress made it the national anthem of the United States.

But what exactly was going through Key’s mind as he jotted down the lyrics to the song of our country? In The Dawn’s Early Light, historian Walter Lord describes the Battle of Baltimore in vivid detail, providing intimate insight into the birth of the “Star-Spangled Banner” and the man who wrote it.

Click here to read an excerpt of The Dawn’s Early Light, and then download the book.

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The highest-ranking Filipino American was in the Army, not the Navy

America has had a close relationship with the Philippines since it acquired the island nation following the Spanish-American War. Many Filipinos joined native units in U.S. military and served alongside regular soldiers from the states during when the Japanese invaded in 1941. After the war, the 1947 Military Bases Agreement allowed Filipinos to enlist directly into the U.S. military. The majority of enlistees joined the U.S. Navy. As a result, future generations of Filipino Americans predominantly joined the Navy as well. In fact, Filipino cuisine Filipino cuisine is often served as a specialty meal in Navy galleys. However, the highest-ranking Filipino American in the U.S. military was not a sailor, but a soldier.

This is the battle behind ‘the Star-Spangled Banner’
Philippine Scouts fought with American soldiers during WWII (U.S. Army)

Not only is Lt. Gen. Edward Soriano the first Filipino American to become a general officer, but he also retains the record for achieving the highest rank. He was born in Alacala, Pangasinan in the Philippines in 1946, His father served as a corporal in the U.S. 57th Infantry Regiment. Part of the Philippine Scouts, the elder Soriano fought against the Japanese invasion until the American surrender at Bataan. He survived the Bataan Death March and the subsequent torture as a Japanese captive. He later served during the Korean War where he became a POW again. During this time, the younger Soriano moved with the rest of the family to Guam. The elder Soriano eventually retired from the Army as a major.

In the 1960s, the Sorianos moved from Guam to Salinas, California. Inspired by his father’s service in WWII and Korea, Soriano attended San Jose State University and commissioned through Army ROTC as an infantry officer in 1970. “I thought what me father was doing was good. He was a great example for me,” Soriano said. “He was probably the reason I joined the military.” Soriano graduated from the Infantry Officer Basic Course and completed his platoon leader time in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg. He then commanded companies in the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea, the 9th Infantry Division at Fort Lewis, and the 8th Infantry Division in Germany.

This is the battle behind ‘the Star-Spangled Banner’
Lt. Gen. Soriano in BDUs (U.S. Army)

Following his tour in Europe, Soriano attended the United States Army Command and General Staff College and subsequently completed a tour at The Pentagon. Afterwards, he took command of a battalion in the 2nd Armored Division at Fort Hood. Soriano attended the United States Army War College and completed another tour at The Pentagon.

During Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Soriano served as the chief of the Army liaison to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. He also served as the chief of the Army Section in the Office of the Chief of Staff where he contributed to the Secretary of Defense’s Gulf War Report.

In 1992, Soriano took command of the 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson. After changing out of command, he returned to Germany and deployed to Bosnia as part of the Operation Joint Endeavor peacekeeping mission. Soriano then completed another tour at The Pentagon, this time as Director, Officer Personnel Management. From 1999-2001, he returned to Fort Carson and commanded the 7th Infantry Division. He then served as Director of Homeland Security for the United States Joint Forces Command, the predecessor to Northern Command.

This is the battle behind ‘the Star-Spangled Banner’
Soriano (third from the left) at the groundbreaking of the 4th Infantry Division Museum in 2010 (U.S. Army)

Soriano’s last command was of I Corps and Fort Lewis in 2002. During his command, the 2nd Infantry Division completed the first deployment of the M1126 Stryker. He also ordered the court-martial of Ryan G. Anderson, the former Washington National Guardsman who was convicted of attempting to provide aid to al-Qaeda. On March 1, 2005, Soriano retired from active duty as a Lt. Gen.

Following his retirement, Soriano worked for Northrop Grumman as the Director of Training and Exercises for Homeland Security and Joint Forces Support. He remains active with the military community around Fort Carson and serves as a proponent for recognizing Filipino Veterans of WWII and their families.

Humor

7 ways to prove your spouse is a spy

If Hollywood thrillers have taught us anything about relationships it’s that your wife or husband could be a spy.


Countless dramatic storylines throughout cinematic history blast the prospect of living with the enemy and never knowing the truth until it’s too late.

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Robert Hanssen, a former FBI agent, pleaded guilty to selling U.S. secrets to the Soviets and Russia in 2001. He’s currently serving 15 life consecutive sentences — his wife claims she knew nothing about it.

If you ever suspect your spouse could in fact be a spy, check out these tips on how to prove your theory.

1. Randomly toss vegetables in the air

Most spies are great with cutlery. In 1996, we were blessed with the film The Long Kiss Goodnight starring Gina Davis who plays Samantha Caine a.k.a. Charly Baltimore a woman who learns about her mysterious past immediately after a stabbing and pinning a defenseless tomato against a custom made cabinet door.

 2. Take them to a carnival

You’ve been happily married for years and you know for fact you’ve never seen your better half ever fire a pistol or a rifle, but lately you’ve been seeing a different side to them. Here’s your chance to get more evidence of her double life.

Make it a date night to the local carnival and challenge her to a shooting game.

A red flag?

3. Get them wasted

People talk more than usual after tossing back a few.

Take it from Harry Tasker played by Arnold Schwarzenegger in James Cameron‘s 1994 action comedy hit True Lies — he wasn’t drunk, but the bad guys gave him some pretty good sh*t to admit his secret to his wife, who apparently never went to work with him, or an office Christmas party.

A long time.

4. Install a secret home surveillance system

We do it to watch nannies take care of our kids. … Just something to think about.

This is the battle behind ‘the Star-Spangled Banner’

5. Learn to curse in a few different languages

Spies are known to be cultured in many global customs after having traveled the world on secret missions.

Knowing an extra language or two helps them blend into those dangerous environments.

So here’s the trick — when they least expect it, blurt out a curse word in a different language. Watch to see if your suspected spook changes his expression. If it doesn’t, try another. Your spouse will ever get the hint you’re catching on or think you’ve got Tourettes.

Nothing?

6. Wardrobe

Movie spies are known for having some pretty bad ass suits and sunglasses. When they’re off saving the world or reporting sensitive information to foreign governments, they’ve got to do it in style.

Take notice how they remove or put on their sunglasses. If it appears they do in a dramatic fashion every time — you probably married a spy.

You’ll look super cool. 

7. Go to work with them

Let’s face it, in real life — unless you know they own their business — faking a job one is the hardest things your spouse could pull off. Think about it: if they’re into espionage and all that, wouldn’t she have to take you to pick up a dead drop or recruit an agent?

Can you think of any other tells that your spouse is a spook? Comment below.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time America stood its ground against invasion

Despite the United States landing an impressive victory against Great Britain during the Revolutionary War, the British kept coming back for more. The Battle of 1812 would span years and multiple attacks but on December 1, 1814 – General Andrew Jackson was ready for them. 

A British fleet had sailed into the Gulf of Mexico during the fall of 1814 in hopes of taking the territory of Louisiana, which was newly acquired by the United States. Jackson foiled their plans. As the commander of the 7th Military District, he was well prepared to prevent their attack with a surprise of his own. Knowing their intent to attack, he left Alabama and arrived in New Orleans to rally the city and establish his base on that fateful December day.

Not long after Andrew Jackson arrived, the British were sighted. After declaring martial law, he commissioned every man and weapon for use against the potential invaders. People rallied to support the cause, including military members, civilians, freed slaves, Choctaw people and a pirate by the name of Jean Lafitte. Supporters of the cause arrived from all over; many came in to join the fight from neighboring states.  

After hearing of the landing of the British on December 23, 1914, Jackson led a nighttime surprise attack on the unsuspecting British troops. Although this fight was inconclusive, it left an obvious sting. Jackson retreated, making more strategic plans to foil further attempts to invade New Orleans. The United States militia of over 4,000 men were well poised to defend Louisiana and they dug in to build the barrier defense system known as ‘Line Jackson’. This wall of mud, logs, cotton and earth would be a key part in the success of the official Battle of New Orleans. 

The pre-planned attack by the British on the western bank of Louisiana finally came in January, but the military and militia were well prepared to defend it. The Battle of New Orleans would last approximately two hours with the United States wounding over 2,000 British soldiers but only suffering 65 casualties themselves. It was this battle that would seal Jackson’s ability to be elected into the presidency later on in 1828.

andrew jackson

What those fighting didn’t know was that a peace treaty had been signed weeks before in Belgium, officially ending the War of 1812. Although the Battle of New Orleans could have been avoided if word had reached those in charge, the victory over the British sent an undeniable message: the United States wouldn’t be taken, ever. Following the victory, it led to the ‘Era of Good Feelings’  or nationalism, in which Americans were united in their pride for their country. 

Although the relationship between the two countries is now friendly, the road to getting there was paved with struggle and continued wars for power. In the end, despite overwhelming odds – Andrew Jackson and the United States prevailed and held steady. A young country with endless potential and possibilities, America has continually proven herself capable of demonstrating strength, conviction and the commitment to the endless pursuit of liberty for all.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This false flag attack triggered world’s largest war

We in the west have a tendency to focus on the European tensions that led to World War II. And while the rise of Mussolini and Hitler caused a massive conflict that rocked Europe and Russia, open fighting was going on in Asia for years before Germany’s encroachment into Sudetenland. And Japanese officers triggered a round of fighting in 1931 by attacking their own railroad.


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Japanese troops enter Tsitsihar, a city in northeast China.

(Japanese war camerman, public domain)

The Mukden Incident took place in 1931. Japan had ambitions on the Asian continent, but the Japanese political establishment was, shall we say, less aggressive about it than the Japanese military would have preferred.

There was a railroad running through the Liaodong Peninsula near Korea. It connected key cities in the peninsula to the rest of the continent. Japan acquired the railroad and peninsula after the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-1905, giving it a much larger foothold on the continent. The railroad became one of Japan’s most economically important assets on the continent.

But that wasn’t enough for the nation of Japan, and the troops stationed there were especially hawkish. They wanted Japan to take much more of China (Korea, too, for that matter). But the government kept focusing on increasing political and economic power over the surrounding area. But economic and political expansion takes time and doesn’t include artillery.

And, worse, China was politically unifying at the time. It created a real risk that China may become resilient to further expansion. There was even a possibility that Japan would eventually be kicked off the continent.

This is the battle behind ‘the Star-Spangled Banner’

The site of the 1931 railway sabotage that became known as the Mukden Incident and kicked off the fighting in Asia that would become World War II.

(Public domain)

So, in the middle of all this tension, someone blew up a short section of the railroad on Sept. 18, 1931. An under-powered bomb did little lasting damage, and the railway was operating again almost immediately.

But even more immediate was the counter-attack. In just a day, Japanese artillery was sending rounds into Chinese-held territory. In just a few months, Japan had conquered the most resource-rich areas bordering the peninsula. The limited damage, the quick Japanese retaliation, and the brutal invasion has led some historians to believe that mid-level Japanese Army officers conducted the bombing to give themselves a pretext for invasion.

It has become known as the Mukden Incident.

Japan occupied the area for the next 14 years, and its troops continued to conquer China. It attacked Shanghai in 1932, threatening European and American interests as well as, obviously, Chinese security and sovereignty.

The American and European navies stepped up their game in the Pacific, reinforcing Pacific outposts and building new ships. Meanwhile, Japan remained on the march, continuously expanding until 1942. It would conquer vast portions of China and all of Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam, Burma, and more.

And it all started with a shady as hell attack against its own railroad in 1931.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The game-changing Swedish warship that sank in its first battle

In 1563 and 1564, Sweden built a massive warship that was the pinnacle of naval technology at the time.

Its creation ushered in a sea change in naval combat — despite the fact that the ship sank early in its first battle.


King Eric XIV of Sweden ordered that the ship Mars be constructed to put Sweden at the forefront of naval artillery. It was a five-deck ship with two decks dedicated to artillery, mostly cannons. Even the crow’s nests had guns.

All this came at a time when naval engagements were decided by seamanship and armed boardings —where a group of sailors from one ship crossed to the deck of an enemy ship and fought with swords and pistols.

Naval artillery in the early and mid-1500s was focused on killing enemy personnel or causing structural damage to the enemy ship, but no one had ever sunk a ship that way. Ships were usually sank by fire, sabotage by boarding crews, or by ramming.

But Eric XIV had a vision of the future and ordered his admiral to take the Mars as part of a huge fleet aimed at Denmark and Lubeck (part of modern Germany) and sink ships using its naval artillery.

And the admiral delivered… probably. A Danish chaplain said that the Mars cast a somber shadow over the whole Danish and German fleet when it arrived. He also said it later sank the Longbark, one of the largest ships in the enemy fleet, with naval gunnery.

If accurate, it was likely the first time a ship was sunk by naval artillery.

This is the battle behind ‘the Star-Spangled Banner’

The 64-gun warship Vasa sits in museum. The ship was built in the tradition of the Mars, but wasn’t as well designed and floundered during its first voyage in 1628.

(Jorge Lascar, CC-BY 2.0)

But the Mars cast too large a shadow and, as a consequence, drew too many attackers. On the second day of the battle, enemy ships sent massive amounts of fireballs onto the Mars and disabled it before sending boarding parties onto it.

What happened next is unsure. A fire definitely occurred in the Mars‘ gunpowder stores, and that might have set the loaded cannons off. Regardless, the ship was destroyed in the following hours, left to sink in approximately 250 feet of water.

www.youtube.com

Luckily for archaeologists, it was 250 feet of the Baltic Sea, which lacks the large populations of shipworms that destroy wrecks in the rest of the world. And the cold water is relatively still, reducing erosion. According to researchers who spoke to National Geographic, the wreck might be the best preserved vessel of its kind.

The concept behind the Mars was proven in the years following its loss as navy after navy, including those of Denmark and Lubeck, constructed large ships reminiscent of the cannon-toting behemoth.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Babies were bathed in wine and 5 other fascinating facts about Spartans

In the ancient Greek imagination, the Spartans were considered the best of the best. A Spartan knew the difference between right and wrong, and he never chose wrong. He was always pious toward the gods, he said little but made every word count and he would rather die in a losing battle than come home in defeat. Under Spartan law, it was illegal to surrender. Creating a Spartan man was a process that took more than two decades and cost many lives. Here are 6 things to know about the agōgē, the education of the ancient Spartans.

1. Spartans practiced an early form of eugenics

When a male child was born in Sparta, he would be bathed in wine to test his strength. The Spartans believed that weak babies would react poorly to the wine and convulse or cry. Those infants which failed the test would either be left to die, or would become a slave. If a child passed the test, it would be examined by the Gerousia, the council of elders; a child born with defects would be deemed unfit and left to die. Those children that survived would be raised in their family households, where every day their parents would drill into them the need to put Sparta before themselves.

spartan
Somehow, wine was a test of strength.

2. Spartan education started at 7 years old

At the age of seven, a Spartan boy would leave his family’s home for the last time. He and the other boys would enter the agōgē, the training program where he would spend the next twenty-three years of his life. The boys were assigned to an ilea, a group of sixty boys under the watchful eye of an eiren; the eiren were in their twenties, further along in their education but not full Spartan citizens. The eiren would train the children’s bodies with sports, races, and all kinds of exercises, and would train their minds with history, politics, and literature. Spartans were also trained in the art of wit, to make them careful with their choice of words and allow them to talk down to other Greeks.

3. Children were impoverished to make them tough

The Spartans wanted to create soldiers who would never complain about the harsh conditions of war. Boys foraged their own reeds to weave their own beds, teaching them to be comfortable sleeping anywhere. They were deprived of clothing to make them comfortable in the boiling heat and the freezing cold. Children were deprived of food to make them familiar with hunger, but implicitly encouraged to steal food in order to make them stealthy; a boy who was caught would be whipped without mercy. Spartan boys were trained to be expert survivalists before they even finished puberty. (Some said that Spartans loved war so much because campaigns were less strenuous than their own training!)

4. A Spartan’s life revolved around his mess

When a Spartan man turned twenty, he would start applying for entry into a syssitia, a small club of men who ate all their meals together. This was the core of Spartan society; a man needed the unanimous consent of all members of the syssitia to join. If a man was unable to persuade a syssitia to accept him before he was thirty, he could not become a full citizen of Sparta. According to Spartan law, Spartans had to eat all their meals with their syssitia to encourage comradery. This created extremely strong bonds between the soldiers, and excluded everyone who could not meet the standards the Spartans set for themselves.

5. Some Spartan men joined the secret police

Young Spartans who proved themselves worthy were allowed to join the Crypteia, a secretive order which was responsible for oppressing the helots. The helots were the slaves of Sparta; the state owned the helots as public property and distributed them to Spartan families. Every year the Spartans declared war on the helots, allowing them to murder their slaves with impunity. Members of the Crypteia were sent into helots’ lands, to camp out and keep a watchful eye; those helots who seemed dangerous were to be killed before they could become a threat to the Spartan regime.

6. A Spartan’s education did not end until he was thirty

At 30, a Spartan man could become a full citizen who was allowed to marry and hold public office. He and his wife would be provided with a house, a farm and helots by the state, so the Spartan men could spend all their time on training for combat rather than worry about economic matters. For the first time since he was a child, a Spartan man would live under a private roof, though he would still eat all his meals with his syssitia

At last, he was a Spartan man.

Articles

This was the final combat flight for the P-51 Mustang and F4U Corsair

You might think that legendary fighter planes like the F4U Corsair and P-51 Mustang saw their last action in the Korean War.


It seems like a reasonable assumption – but it’d be dead wrong.

Believe it or not, the last combat those planes saw came around the time that F-4 Phantoms and MiG-21s were fighting for air superiority over North Vietnam, and Israeli Mirages and Neshers took on the air forces of Egypt, Syria, and other Arab countries.

This is the battle behind ‘the Star-Spangled Banner’
Ranker.com

In 1969, El Salvador and Honduras went to war. It lasted about 100 hours, and started less than three weeks after the end of a contentious qualifying series for the 1970 World Cup.

Dubbed the “Soccer War,” the fighting left nearly 3,200 people dead, both military and civilian.

Notable was that it was the last combat action that some legendary planes would see. The war started when El Salvador began its attacks — a makeshift affair with passenger planes being modified to carry bombs for the first strikes. El Salvadoran troops followed the strikes and pushed into Honduras.

Honduras at the time had 19 F4U Corsairs in its inventory, along with 6 AT-6 Texan attack planes. El Salvador had 11 P-51D Mustangs in service, plus some that upgraded Cavalier Mustangs. They had 25 F4U/FG-1 Corsairs in service as well.

During the fighting, Honduran Corsairs downed a P-51 and two Corsairs, gained air superiority over the battlefield, and began pushing the invaders back. Anti-aircraft fire claimed two more Salvadoran Mustangs, while two P-51s were lost in a mid-air collision.

Two Salvadoran Corsairs were also shot down by ground fire.

This is the battle behind ‘the Star-Spangled Banner’
Photo: US Navy

When all was said and done, the Organization of American States intervened to arrange for a cease-fire. The war ended with a status quo ante bellum. Today, both Air Forces operate A-37B Dragonfly attack planes (15 for El Salvador, 10 for Honduras), but Honduras also has nine F-5E Tiger II fighters. Honduras and El Salvador took over a decade to sign a formal peace treaty, but the underlying tensions remain in that region.

While the disputes that lead to the Soccer War have not been resolved, the Soccer War did give some legends one last chance to serve.

Articles

4 weird things armies fight over

You get into a mammoth fight with another country, and you both have to go for every advantage you can get. In some cases, that means fighting for resources that most people may not realize are all that important. While everyone knows that steel and oil can make and break campaigns, it turns out that everything from coal to fish oil to guano can be important too:


4. Coal

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The USS Jupiter was a collier ship that carried coal for other American ships before being converted to America’s first carrier, the USS Langley. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

While it’s usually either loved or hated for its role in making electricity, coal was a major fuel source for military operations during the time of America’s Civil War until a little past World War I. Even today, it’s important for industrial processes like forming steel for tanks and ships. And in World War II, Germany exploited a 1920s discovery that allowed them to turn coal into synthetic fuel and oil.

So, that hopefully explains why the Allies and Germans launched raids against coal reserves in and around Europe, often north of the Arctic Circle. The German war machine desperately needed enough fuel to fight on multiple fronts, especially when they began losing their oil fields in North Africa and the Balkans.

3. Diamonds

This is the battle behind ‘the Star-Spangled Banner’
British commandos, like these two in a photo from the St. Nazaire Raid, launched a daring mission to secure Antwerp’s diamonds before the Germans could seize them. (Photo: Public Domain)

Like coal, diamonds are valuable during war for their use in industry. Their physical strength is needed for the manufacture of important items like radar as well as the tools for manufacturing weapons and vehicles.

So, when the Third Reich launched its massive assault through the low countries, Britain sent agents to buy, steal, and capture Dutch diamonds before the Germans could. Most concentrated on buying stockpiles and accepting bags of them from Jewish traders for safekeeping, but one officer actually broke into a massive vault and made away with the jewels just as Nazi paratroopers hit the building.

2. Bat and bird crap

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Guano mines were an important source of saltpeter for munitions production. (Photo: Public Domain)

So, this one is probably the most surprising, but large deposits of bat and bird feces were actually a huge deal from soon after the invention of gunpowder through World War I. That’s because the animals have diets filled with insects and their feces are often filled with saltpeter, one of the key ingredients for gunpowder.

And major countries fought for large crap deposits. Spain invaded Peru and fought an alliance that included Bolivia, Chile, and Ecuador over the Chincha Islands in the 1860s. A Confederate regiment had to guard the deposits in Austin, Texas, for use in the Civil War. And one of Japan’s prizes in World War II was Nauru, a crap-soaked island between Hawaii and New Zealand.

1. Fish oil

This is the battle behind ‘the Star-Spangled Banner’
British commandos burn fish oil facilities in the Lofoten Islands in World War II. (Photo: War Office Capt. Tennyson d’Eyncourt, Imperial War Museum)

Not the stuff you get in capsules from nature made, we’re talking about huge vats of fish fats. The chemicals in the fish fat included glycerine, a crucial propellant for modern weapons. And that high flammability turns fish oil fires into massive columns of black smoke.

In World War II, this turned Norway and other countries that relied on the fishing industry into targets for the two sides. The Germans captured Norwegian fishing villages but failed to fortify them well, so the British and Canadian militaries sent commandos to trash the facilities and burn them to the ground, robbing the Germans of needed supplies and forcing them to defend far-flung facilities.

Articles

The ‘Skeleton Army’ was the Salvation Army’s primary enemy

When we think of the Salvation Army today, we likely think of thrift store clothing, department store Santas and the incessant ringing of a tiny bell as we struggle to find a few coins in the freezing cold. 

But the Salvation Army isn’t just collecting your pocket change and old, outdated clothing for fun. It’s a worldwide force of more than 1.7 million members who use military ranks to bring Christian salvation to the poor and needy. Make no mistake, the Salvation Army was designed to wage war against sin – and it does. 

Today’s Salvation Army might seem a lot like many other Christian charities, and it might well be. Whether you like that or not all depends on your beliefs. In the SA’s earliest days, however, there were many who very much disliked its mission, and one part in particular.

While the United States was off fighting to end the evils of slavery in the Civil War, two Londoners in England founded the Salvation Army to end the evils of sin. William Booth became the army’s first general and his wife Catherine became the mother of the Salvation Army. 

Their mission was to convert the prostitutes, gamblers, and boozehounds in London’s East End to their version of Christianity. The unique way the organization was formed pretty much established it as a kind of church within itself. 

The early Salvation Army’s soldiers would march in protest against England’s rampant alcoholism and in favor of sexual abstinence. But like all armies on a mission, they were bound to meet an enemy army.

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Hordes of mothers hunting for bargains? (Wikimedia Commons)

The Salvation Army’s opposing force would even come to real-life blows with the Christian group. 

What started out calling itself the Unconverted Salvation Army soon morphed into The Skeleton Army in the lower middle class neighborhoods of London, like Whitechapel and elsewhere in England, with the idea of opposing the Salvation Army wherever they turned up. 

The Skeleton Army counterprotested Salvation Army marches and even produced literature in the form of leaflets to help spread its message. Most of these leaflets were dubbed obscene at best and at worst, libelous and blasphemous. 

Their beef with the Salvation Army seemed to be its opposition to alcohol and support of not having sex. Soon, 21 English cities feature Skeleton Army units on the march against their Christian enemies. 

If they’d existed 100 years later, I guess we know what their theme song would be…

Everything about the Skeleton Army was designed to mock the Salvation Army in some way. They wore badges and carried flags that pictured a skull and crossbones. Its motto of “Beef, Beer, and Bacca” was supposed to mock the SA’s “Soup, Soap, and Salvation.”

Where the Salvation Army found success, the Skeleton Army was almost right there behind it. It even found city officials willing to back the Skeletons. English towns rose up to throw off the occupation of the Salvation Army as Skeletons disrupted SA meetings by throwing dead rats at the soldiers in worship. 

This is the battle behind ‘the Star-Spangled Banner’
Seriously, these guys were pretty metal (public domain)

The confrontations came to a head in Worthing, England in 1884. As the Salvation Army marched, local police tried to keep the peace between the Skeletons and the marchers, but things boiled over rather quickly. 4,000 Skeletons met the Salvation Army on the “battlefield” or Worthing, throwing bricks, rocks, glass, eggs and whatever else wasn’t nailed down. 

Battles between Skeletons and the Salvation Army raged for more than a decade, with the Skeletons trying to turn back the Salvationists at every turn. The Salvation Army won out eventually, as Skeletons slowly faded into history and the Salvation Army slowly made its way into the parking lot at Sears around Christmastime. 

Articles

9 bombers that can shoot down a fighter

When bombers beat fighters, it is very notable. But some bombers have more tools than others in an air-to-air fight. For instance, the F-105 shot down 27 MiGs during the Vietnam War, many thanks to its M61 cannon.


Here are some bombers that an enemy fighter would not want to get caught in front of.

1. De Havilland Mosquito

While some versions of this plane were designed as out-and-out bombers, with the bombardier in the nose, others swapped out the bombardier for a powerful armament of four .303-caliber machine guns and four 20mm cannons.

It goes without saying just what this could do to a fighter. One incident saw a number of Mosquitos being jumped by the deadly Focke-Wulf FW190. The Mosquitos shot down five of the enemy in return for three of their own in the dogfight.

This is the battle behind ‘the Star-Spangled Banner’
The Mosquito’s heavy armament of four .303-caliber machine guns and four 20mm cannon is very apparent. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

2. Douglas A-20G Havoc

During the Pacific War, Paul I. Gunn, also known as “Pappy” came up with the idea to make use of the extra .50-caliber machine guns that came from wrecked fighters. He put those on A-20 bombers.

Eventually his modifications were something that Douglas Aircraft began to put on the planes at the factory. The A-20G had six .50-caliber machine guns in the nose — the same firepower of a P-51 Mustang or F6F Hellcat. Against a Zero, that would be a deadly punch. The A-20 later was used as the basis for the P-70, a night fighter armed with four 20mm cannon.

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A look at the nose of an A-20G Havoc. (USAAF Photo)

3. Douglas A-26B Invader

Designed to replace the A-20 Havoc, the Invader was equipped to carry up to 14 .50-caliber machine guns in its nose. Nope, not a misprint; this was the combined firepower of a P-47 and a P-51. That is more than enough to ruin the life of an enemy pilot who gets caught in front of this plane.

This is the battle behind ‘the Star-Spangled Banner’
The A-26B Invader. Note the eight ,50-caliber machine guns in the nose. Six more were in the wings. (USAAF photo)

4. North American B-25J Mitchell

The medium bomber version of the B-25J was pretty much conventional, but another version based on the strafer modifications made by “Pappy” Gunn in the Southwest Pacific held 18 M2 .50-caliber machine guns. One B-25, therefore, had the firepower of three F4U Corsairs.

Other versions of the B-25, the G and H models, had fewer .50-caliber machine guns, but added a 75mm howitzer in the nose.

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5. Junkers Ju-88

Like the Allied planes listed above, the Ju-88 proved to be a very receptive candidate for heavy firepower in the nose. Some versions got four 20mm cannon and were equipped as night fighters. Others got two 37mm cannon and six 7.92mm machine guns, and were intended to kill tanks and/or bombers. Either way, it will leave a mark, even on the P-47.

This is the battle behind ‘the Star-Spangled Banner’
Ju-88 in flight. Some were armed with two 37mm cannon. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

6. Vought A-7D/E Corsair

The A-7 Corsair is widely seen as an attack aircraft. It carries a huge bomb load, but the D (Air Force) and E (Navy) models also have a M61 Vulcan with a thousand rounds of ammo. While no Navy or Air Force Corsairs scored an air-to-air kill in the type’s service, if a plane or helicopter was caught in front of this bird, it wouldn’t last long.

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An A-7E Corsair from VA-72 during Operation Desert Shield. (U.S. Navy photo)

7. F-105D/F/G Thunderchief

The F-105 is probably the tactical bomber with the highest air-to-air score since the end of World War II. Much of this was due to its M61 Vulcan with 1,029 rounds of ammo. You know what Leo Thorsness did with his F-105 against a bunch of MiGs.

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Republic F-105D in flight with full bomb load. (U.S. Air Force photo)

8. F-111 Aardvark

While it was an awesome strike aircraft that could still be contributing today, it is not that well known that the F-111 did have the option to carry a M61 cannon with 2,000 rounds of ammo. That is a lot of heat for whatever unfortunate plane is in front of it.

This is the battle behind ‘the Star-Spangled Banner’
General Dynamics F-111F at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

9. A-10 Thunderbolt

Widely beloved for its use as a close-air support plane in Desert Storm and the War on Terror, the A-10’s GAU-8 was designed to kill tanks. That didn’t mean it couldn’t be used against aerial targets. During Desert Storm, a pair of Iraqi helicopters found that out the hard way.

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BRRRRRT. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Articles

This failed secret mission changed special ops forever

Nearly four decades ago, America’s fledgling counter-terrorism force launched a daring operation to a remote desert outpost to rescue Americans held hostage. The mission failed, but its repercussions were felt for years, and the flames and death of that day forged the special operations force that was able to successfully execute even more daring — and successful — missions in the decades to come.


On Nov. 4, 1979, approximately 3,000 Iranian militants took control of the U.S. embassy in Tehran, holding 63 Americans hostage. An additional three U.S. members were seized at the Iranian Foreign Ministry for a total of 66.

This was in response to President Jimmy Carter allowing Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, the recently deposed Iranian ruler, into the U.S. for cancer treatment. New leadership in Iran wanted the shah back as well as the end of Western influence in their country.

After a few weeks, 13 hostages, all women or African Americans, were released but the remaining 53 would wait out five months of failed negotiations.

President Carter, originally wanting to end the hostage crisis diplomatically and without force, turned to alternative solutions as he felt the political pressure to resolve the problem. On April 16, 1980, he approved Operation Eagle Claw, a military rescue operation involving all four branches of the U.S. armed forces.

The two-day rescue mission consisted of eight Navy RH-53D helicopters and multiple variations of C-130 aircraft. All aircraft were to gather together at Desert One, a salt flat about 200 miles outside of Tehran. There, the helicopters would refuel through the C-130’s and then transport assault units into a mountain location near Tehran where the rescue mission would begin. Unfortunately, the mission never made it that far.

On April 24, 1980, Operation Eagle Claw began. All aircraft proceeded to Desert One but a strong dust storm complicated traveling. Two of the eight helicopters were unable to complete the mission and had to turn around. Another helicopter broke down at Desert One, leaving a total of five working helicopters. Mission commanders and leadership needed a minimum of six to complete the mission. The decision was made to abort the operation and return home.

During departure from Desert One, one of the helicopters collided with a C-130, killing eight U.S. service members. The remaining members all left in the additional C-130 leaving behind numerous helicopters, a C-130 and the eight dead Americans. The failed mission, in addition with loss of life, was a humiliating blow for the U.S. However, this tragedy put a magnifying glass over the inadequacies of joint operations, forever changing the future of the U.S. military and special operations.

The need for enhanced capabilities between more than one military service was the prediction for the future of the Armed Forces. Significant military reforms, such as the Goldwater-Nichols Act and Joint Doctrine, addressed the readiness and capability issues demonstrated in Operation Eagle Claw. It pointed out the necessity for a dedicated special operations section within the Department of Defense with the responsibility to prepare and maintain combat-ready forces to successfully conduct special operations.

Today, the different branches training alongside each other is common practice. Planning for missions consist of specific details with back up plans to the back up plans. Ultimately, the lives lost as Desert One weren’t in vain. The lessons learned from that mission made special operations into what we know them as today.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why World War II veterans are returning captured Japanese flags

It’s not uncommon for troops who overrun an enemy position to take a photo with a captured enemy banner. It’s just as common for them to take that banner home as a souvenir. There are a lot worse things to remove from the battlefield. American troops have been capturing flags since the founding of the republic.

So, why are these World War II veterans returning captured Japanese flags?


The importance of a unit’s standard dates back to antiquity. Roman legions carried standards that took on an almost divine quality, representing the Legion, the Emperor, and even the Gods themselves. They would take extraordinary measures to recover a captured standard, even invading neighboring countries decades after losing the standards just to get them back. The Japanese had a similar tradition with their Yosegaki Hinomaru.

This is the battle behind ‘the Star-Spangled Banner’

The hinomaru was a blank flag carried by every drafted Japanese soldier. It was signed by everyone in their life; mother, father, sisters, brothers, neighbors, teachers, wives, and children. It was a good luck charm that wished bravery and a safe return home to the carrier. The Japanese troop then marched off to war, the flag folded and tucked somewhere on his person.

These are usually the flags that were captured by American troops in World War II. Because no one enjoys taking photos with the flags of their fallen enemies like U.S. troops.

Read: These 13 photos of US troops with enemy flags show some traditions never die

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U.S. Marines with a yosegaki hinomaru after the Battle of Iwo Jima. (U.S. Army)

But American troops had no idea these flags were the personal keepsakes of fallen individuals and not unit flags carried by the Japanese army. Now that the men who captured these battlefield trophies are aging and dying, the flags are being sold off or thrown away altogether, but there’s a better way to handle these pieces of history: giving them back.

And that’s what World War II veterans and their families are doing. Through the international nonprofit Obon Society, families and veterans who still possess a captured yosegaki hinomaru are tracking down the Japanese veterans and families of Japanese veterans of the Pacific War to return the family heirlooms and help the aging veterans heal their decades-old, invisible wounds.

If there’s any doubt about the power of these standards, even to this day, just watch below as a Japanese man reacts to seeing his missing brother’s yosegaki hinomaru.

There are no better frenemies than American and Japanese veterans of WWII. In the years that followed, the U.S. and Japan grew ever closer as allies and as people. Despite the overwhelming brutality of the war, the enduring friendships that developed in the years since have been a testament to the idea that peace is always possible, even in the face of such hard fighting. The only thing that remains is handling the losses incurred along the way – brothers, fathers, sons, and friends.

Groups like the Obon Society and its team of researchers make it easy to start healing the pain that remains between families and friends who lost loved ones in the war. If you or your departed veterans have a flag like the ones seen in the photos above, contact the Obon Society to return the flag to its family and maybe even make contact with them.

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