Soldiers who survived the bloodiest American battle of World War II tell their stories - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Soldiers who survived the bloodiest American battle of World War II tell their stories

On Dec. 16, 1944, the German army launched a massive surprise offensive into the Ardennes forest in Belgium which became known as “The Battle of the Bulge.” The battle, launched 70 years ago, would become the largest American engagement of the war — and the bloodiest — resulting in nearly 20,000 U.S. troops killed over five weeks.


Also Read: The Most Famous Photograph Of World War II Was Taken 70 Years Ago

MLive has more:

[Clifford] VanAuken, then a 19-year-old combat medic, was sleeping on the kitchen floor of a farmhouse near Nancy, France, when he was woken up at 2 a.m. to travel to Belgium.

“We thought the war was about over and then the Germans launched this horrendous attack,” he said. “It was a battle that surprised all ally commanders.”

In a must-see documentary about the members of Easy Co., 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, the survivors talk at length about the battle, the bitter cold, and the intense artillery fire that they had to endure.

“There was on top of this hill there was a ridge, a treeline,” said one veteran, who was there at Bastogne. “We were dug in on that ridge. The Germans knew right where we were, and they really gave us a shellacking.”

The incredible bravery of American troops, with support to come later by Lt. Gen. George Patton’s Third Army, ultimately led to an allied victory. But it came at a heavy price, with the U.S. Army suffering over 100,000 casualties, according to The History Channel.

“When a man was wounded, we felt glad for them. We felt happy for them,” Capt. Richard Winters later recounted. “He had a ticket to get out of there, and maybe a ticket to go home. And when we had a man who was killed, we found that he was at peace and he looked so peaceful. And we’re glad that he found peace.”

Watch some of the men who survived the battle tell their stories:

MIGHTY HISTORY

Allied WWII snipers in 13 extraordinary photographs

Photographical journey through the Allied snipers of World War II. Most are British and, or Canadian Snipers using the British Lee Enfield.


The first photograph shows a sniper demonstrating his camouflage (note: German Waffen-SS Camo Pattern: named unofficially “Early Plane Tree”) at a sniper school in a French village, July 27, 1944. The lesson here was probably “Know Your Enemy” to demonstrate how German Snipers were clothed.

 

Soldiers who survived the bloodiest American battle of World War II tell their stories

A sniper applying camouflage face cream at a sniper school in a Normandy village, July 27, 1944.

Soldiers who survived the bloodiest American battle of World War II tell their stories

A British sniper takes aim through the telescopic sights of his rifle on the range at a sniper training school in France, July 27, 1944.

Soldiers who survived the bloodiest American battle of World War II tell their stories

Snipers training at the same sniper school as the photographs above, somewhere in a French village, July 27, 1944.

Soldiers who survived the bloodiest American battle of World War II tell their stories

A 6th Airborne Division sniper on patrol in the Ardennes, wearing a snow camouflage suit, January 14, 1945.

Soldiers who survived the bloodiest American battle of World War II tell their stories

A British sniper, Private Sutcliffe, seated at a window of a house in Caen watching for enemy snipers through telescopic sights.

Soldiers who survived the bloodiest American battle of World War II tell their stories

A camouflage suit for a sniper of the British Army.

Soldiers who survived the bloodiest American battle of World War II tell their stories

A sniper from C Company, 5th Battalion, The Black Watch , 51st (Highland) Division, in position in the loft space of a ruined building in Gennep, Holland, February 14, 1945.

Soldiers who survived the bloodiest American battle of World War II tell their stories

Soldiers who survived the bloodiest American battle of World War II tell their stories

A sniper from the Seaforth Highlanders takes aim from behind a carrier as 15th (Scottish) Division troops deal with German resistance in Uelzen, April 16, 1945.

Soldiers who survived the bloodiest American battle of World War II tell their stories

Lance Corporal A P Proctor, a sniper with 56th Division, cleaning his rifle, November 24, 1943.

Soldiers who survived the bloodiest American battle of World War II tell their stories

Canadian Sniper, Pte. L. V. Hughe in World War II.

Soldiers who survived the bloodiest American battle of World War II tell their stories

Sergeant H.A. Marshall of the Calgary Highlanders Sniping Platoon. Kapellen, Belgium.

Soldiers who survived the bloodiest American battle of World War II tell their stories

 

Image Credits: Imperial War Museum and Canadian War Archives under C.C. License

 

MIGHTY HISTORY

This corporal recruited Nazi scientists for the space program

Once, a friend asked if I’d ever heard of Operation Paperclip. This was the secret program started at the end of World War II that allowed German rocket scientists, including some highly placed Nazis, to enter the United States and work for our military. Its name was derived from the secret practice of putting a paperclip on the first page of an individual’s visa as a signal to U.S. immigration officials to let them through, no questions asked. These former adversaries became the foundation of America’s space program and helped NASA put us on the moon.


I’d written about Paperclip in several books, so I was surprised when my friend told me that his grandfather had worked on a similar Army program that was even more secret.

This is how I got to meet Bob Jamison, my friend’s father. He’d just written a family memoir about his father, Jim Jamison, and the extraordinary adventures he had during World War II — and beyond.

Also read: The 9 best nonfiction history audiobooks you can get right now

Mack Maloney: Without really trying, your father found himself at several pivotal moments in history. For instance, he was the first person to ever fire a bazooka.

Bob Jamison: He worked at the famous Aberdeen Proving Ground, the place where the U.S. Army designs and tests a lot of its weapons even today. He started there in 1941 as a carpenter, but his ability to do just about any job caught the attention of the higher-ups, and he was recruited by the Ordnance Department to do ballistic testing. That’s how he got to fire the first bazooka. He also worked on the proximity fuse, which is still in use.

Soldiers who survived the bloodiest American battle of World War II tell their stories
Jim Jamison (in bow-tie) showing an invention to a General.

Then he was drafted into the military?

Yes. It was December 1943, and America needed fresh recruits. He went into the Army and suffered the same snafus as any soldier – for example, they lost his basic training file and made him take basic over again. He also had a very uncomfortable flight to Europe once he deployed. He caught a ride with some paratroopers and the plane was tossed around so badly, even the airborne guys were getting sick.

Then one of the plane’s engines began smoking. The pilot announced that they would probably have to ditch in the North Atlantic, a virtual death sentence. But – and here’s a good example of what kind of a guy my father was – he helped the crew hook up a light so they could look out at the engine and keep an eye on its condition during the long night. Then he took a nap. The plane landed safely and all ended well. But I’ll tell you, my dad was a very cool customer.

Related: The real ‘GI Joe’ is one of four living WWII Medal of Honor recipients

He was eventually made a corporal and assigned to a top-secret unit known only as V-2.

Yes. It was a program to surreptitiously seek out German rocket scientists and bring them over to our side without anyone knowing about it, including our closest allies. It was May 1945. The Germans had surrendered and Werner Von Braun, Germany’s top rocket scientist, had already contacted U.S. Army Intelligence. My father’s team was to find the rest of the scientists who’d worked with Von Braun, and do it before the Russians did. Sometimes his unit worked in two-man teams – one officer, one enlisted man – but later on they sent the enlisted men out alone. Army Intelligence would give them the names and locations of key scientists with orders to bring back anyone willing to come to America and work for us.

Soldiers who survived the bloodiest American battle of World War II tell their stories
Jim Jamison and his wife, Jean.

Your father was carrying orders signed by Eisenhower himself. Extraordinary for a corporal.

His best story about that happened when he was traveling alone. He was close to the Russian sector, hoping to connect with another German scientist, when he stopped at an American outpost to get directions. When he went back outside, he was stopped by a captain who had a colonel standing behind him. The captain told my dad the colonel’s Jeep had broken down and he was going to confiscate my father’s. But my father told the captain he couldn’t have his Jeep. The colonel stepped forward and said, “You better have a damn good reason why, soldier!” My dad pulled out his orders signed by Ike, giving him priority over anything else happening in the war zone. The officers read the orders, knew my father was right, and walked away, grumbling. It was an enlisted man’s dream come true!

Up next: This documentary alleges the US purchased its space program from Yugoslavia

One day your dad went out looking for rocket scientists and ran into someone totally unexpected.

My father and a captain were driving through Munich following up on a lead when they came upon a convoy of signal corps troops, the same outfit my father’s brother was serving in. My dad mentioned it to the captain, who told him to pull over. While the captain talked to the officer in charge, my father asked some of the soldiers if they knew Lester “Leck” Jamison. Leck overheard his name being mentioned and came around the truck and, to his amazement, saw my father.

Soldiers who survived the bloodiest American battle of World War II tell their stories
Jim Jamison and his brother, Leck.

Talk about a chance meeting.

Well, it was two brothers seeing a friendly face in a very unfriendly place. But it was one of a few really amazing situations my dad found himself in.

As you said, even though the war with Germany was over, your father was in a very hostile place.

There were still live land mines buried everywhere, including on the roadways. There were Nazi snipers hiding in outlying villages who didn’t realize Germany had surrendered. Even some German civilians – even children – believed they should fight to the very last. But not the least, the Russians desperately wanted the very same scientists my father and his V-2 team members were looking for. If he’d been caught with one, well – let’s just say the Russians liked to shoot first and seek forgiveness later.

It was the beginning moments of the next war – the Cold War.

Right. We were more or less inviting these scientists to America, and the Russians were forcing them at gunpoint back to Russia. The Russians were technically our allies, but at the same time, some very dangerous people.

Your dad had at least one face-to-face encounter with the Russians, and it led to yet another amazing happenstance.

He was given an assignment to find a German scientist Army Intelligence had heard was being kept against his will by the Russians. My father arrived at his destination, an old rural village that was split in two. The U.S had a small outpost at one end of town and the Russians had one at the other. On seeing my father’s orders, the captain of the American outpost was ready to assist in any way. My father told him he needed an interpreter to explain to the scientist why he was here, since he didn’t speak enough German to get the point across.

The captain sent for his interpreter, and when the man walked into the room, my father couldn’t believe his eyes. He was an old friend of his from back home named Jerome Porkorney. His family had fled Germany and eventually immigrated to America. He could speak Czech, Polish, German, Russian, and English.

More: This comic book legend fought Nazi panzers and earned a Bronze Star

Jerome confirmed that the scientist was on the Russian side of town awaiting a detail to transport him back to Russia. But Jerome had a plan. He inconspicuously made his way behind the houses and spoke to the German scientist, explaining that this was his one and only opportunity to escape and go to America. Then Jerome instructed my father to hide his wristwatch and wedding ring, because if the Russians saw any jewelry, they would take it. They would also be very suspicious if they saw my dad’s Tommy gun, so he was going into this unarmed.

While my dad stood casually in front of the American outpost and smoked a cigarette, Jerome took some schnapps to the two armed Russian soldiers at the other end of the street. On a subtle signal from Jerome, my father got in his Jeep and casually drove away. But once out of sight of the Russians, he doubled back and headed for the rear of the scientist’s house.

My dad knew this was a mortally dangerous affair. If he or Jerome were caught, they could be summarily shot. Even worse, if he wasn’t able to destroy his orders in time and the Russians figured out his mission, it would endanger the V-2 operation and, ultimately, America’s position in the coming space race.

He reached the back door of the scientist’s house not knowing what would happen next. But the man quickly jumped into the Jeep and they sped away. They’d pulled it off.

Your father’s unusual life didn’t end after he left the service.

He went back to work at Aberdeen after the war and continued to have a high profile. He worked on many secret cases for which he tested weapons and issued reports. One day in late 1963, two FBI agents arrived at Aberdeen, one with a rifle handcuffed to his wrist. They met with the post commander, who directed them to the branch chief, who sent them to the section chief, who sent them to my father. The agent un-handcuffed the rifle and gave it to my dad for testing but never let it out of his sight. When the tests were completed, the agent re-handcuffed the rifle to his wrist, and he and the other agent left. That rifle was believed to be the one used to assassinate President John F. Kennedy.

 

Mack Maloney is the author of numerous fiction series, including WingmanChopperOpsStarhawk, and Pirate Hunters, as well as the non-fiction UFOs in Wartime.
A native Bostonian, Maloney received a bachelor of science degree in journalism at Suffolk University and a master of arts degree in film at Emerson College. He is the host of a national radio show, Mack Maloney’s Military X-Files.
To learn more about Jim Jamison, please visit Clan Jamison Heroes Stories.
Articles

How the Battle of the Bulge would have gone if GIs had the Javelin

Let’s face some harsh reality, folks. While we won World War II in the European Theater, infantry anti-tank weapons were not one of the big reasons why. The sad fact of the matter is that the M1 and M9 bazookas were…well…GlobalSecurity.org notes that they “could not penetrate the heavy front armor of the German tanks.”


Suppose, though, that the GIs had perhaps the most modern anti-tank missile in the world. One that could reach out and touch the German tanks at a much safer range for the anti-tank specialists. In other words, imagine they had the FGM-148 Javelin. How might the Battle of the Bulge changed?

Soldiers who survived the bloodiest American battle of World War II tell their stories
U.S. Army soldiers with Company C, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division shoot the Javelin, an anti-tank weapon. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Patrick Kirby, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division)

Let’s look at the Javelin to understand how the battle would change. According to militaryfactory.com, the Javelin uses imaging infra-red guidance. By contrast, the bazooka rounds were unguided. This meant that the Javelin missiles have a much better chance of hitting their targets.

The Javelin also has longer range, a little over a mile and a half, compared to the bazooka’s two-tenths of a mile, allowing the anti-tank teams to move out of the way — or reload.

But how would World War II GIs have used the Javelin? While some infantry units might have these missiles, it is far more likely that they would have been used for blocking and delaying the armored thrusts. The best vehicle for that purpose would have been the classic Jeep.

According to militaryfactory.com, this vehicle could carry a driver and four troops. Or, a two-man Javelin team and, say, six to eight of the 33-pound missiles and a 14-pound launch unit. A section of two vehicles could easily be expected to take out a company of German tanks.

Soldiers who survived the bloodiest American battle of World War II tell their stories
Photo: Wikimedia

Their most likely use would be in ambushes, using hit and run tactics to weaken German units and to buy time for reinforcements of heavy units (like Patton’s Third Army) to prepare a devastating counter attack.

But its sheer effectiveness may even have ended that battle much sooner simply because the initial attacks would likely have been blunted — and the German tanks would have required infantry to move ahead to clear likely ambush sites, and that would have made it impossible to achieve the objective of capturing Antwerp.

That said, while tactically this alternate Battle of the Bulge would have been a quicker win for the Allies, strategically German resources might not have been depleted so badly. This would mean a longer war and potentially more casualties — and the first atomic bomb may have been dropped on a city in Germany, not Japan.

Articles

This special instinct can help troops survive an ambush

In the spring of 1970, U.S. forces attempted to fracture an NVA supply line in the Vietnam jungle, as 79 soldiers from Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry came under a vicious attack and became trapped in a heavily bunkered NVA fortification — unable to escape.


With nowhere to run, the troops began taking heavy casualties.

The hellish area was covered in thick towering trees which ruled out any possibility of dropping off extra supplies or evacuating the wounded. The only way to get to the ambushed men was from the ground.

Related: These are the most terrifying Vietnam War booby traps

If these ground troops were to lose this area to the enemy, the hope of an offensive victory would have died. The men at the point of attack managed to pull their wounded brothers out of harm’s way and quickly render care. The American forces formed a secure perimeter with the men they had left.

“Human instinct tells you to stay on that ground don’t move, return fire, don’t move,” Ken Woodard of Charlie Company explains during an interview. “You can get killed.”

The men did just that, without being ordered.

They were then able to create a base of fire putting rounds down range — buying time.

Also Read: These were the terrifying dangers of being a ‘Tunnel Rat’ in Vietnam

Monitoring the radio 2.5 miles away was Alpha Troop who closely studied how Charlie Company was maneuvering and volunteered to go in as a quick reaction force.

Soldiers who survived the bloodiest American battle of World War II tell their stories
Alpha Troop in Vietnam (Source: John Poindexter)

Led by Capt. John B. Poindexter, the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment (Alpha Troop) loaded up onto their Sherman tanks and armored personnel carriers and went in to help Charlie Company.

Not long after, the 11th ACR reached their brothers-in-arms in time and completed their rescue mission

Check out American Heroes Channel‘s video how these brave Americans reacted to being trapped by enemy fire.

(American Heroes Channel, YouTube)
MIGHTY HISTORY

46 years later: Reviewing the timeline of the Watergate Scandal

This week in 1974, the country saw both the Watergate scandal come to an end and Richard Nixon’s presidency come to a close. The scandal that began on June 17, 1972, took two long years to unfold. In the end, the sitting President was impeached and subsequently resigned the office of the presidency, making him the first and only President ever to do so.

It’s been 46 years, but to this day, Watergate remains one of the most infamous political scandals in American history, complete with intrigue, cover-ups, money trails, secret informants and proverbial smoking guns.

For today’s history lesson, here’s a quick refresher and a timeline of events in the Watergate Scandal leading up to the resignation of former President Richard M. Nixon.


June 17, 1972

Five men — James McCord, Frank Sturgis, Bernard Barker and two accomplices — were arrested while trying to bug the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters at the Watergate hotel. Among their possessions were rolls of film, bugging devices and thousands of dollars in cash.

Bob Woodward, a young Washington Post reporter, was sent to the arraignment of the Watergate burglars, and another young reporter, Carl Bernstein, starts to do some digging of his own.

June 20, 1972

Bob Woodward had his first contact with “Deep Throat,” his source and informant for the story. Deep Throat’s identity remained hidden for 30 years. In 2005, (at the age of 91) Mark Felt, the Associate Director of the FBI (as the scandal played out), admitted that he was, in fact, Deep Throat.

June 22, 1972

At a press conference regarding the incident, President Nixon denied that the White House was involved in the incident, stating unequivocally, “The White House has no involvement in this particular incident.”

June 25, 1972

Alfred Baldwin, a former FBI agent involved with the scandal, agreed to cooperate with authorities in the investigation. Baldwin names E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy as two of Nixon’s campaign aides who were involved in the burglary.

Aug. 1, 1972

The Washington Post reported that a ,000 check (funds intended for Nixon’s 1972 re-election campaign) was deposited in the bank account Bernard Barker — of one of the Watergate burglars.

August 29, 1972

Nixon continues to deny any involvement in the Watergate Burglary, telling reporters, “I can say categorically that his investigation indicates that no one on the White House staff, no one in this administration, presently employed, was involved in this very bizarre incident.”

In the same news conference, Nixon insists that there is no need for a special Watergate prosecutor.

September 1972

Deep Throat told Bob Woodward that the money for the burglary was controlled by assistants to Former Attorney General John Mitchell, who incidentally was now serving as the chief of Nixon’s re-election campaign. In words that would become Rule #1 in any good investigation, Felt told Woodward to “follow the money.”

September 29, 1972

The Washington Post reports that John Mitchell did, in fact, have control over that secret fund, while he was serving as Attorney General. When they reached out to Mitchell for comment, instead of cooperating, an enraged Mitchell threatened the reporters and Katherine Graham (publisher of The Washington Post). Woodward and Bernstein did not back down; instead, they printed Mitchell’s threat in the Post.

Oct. 10, 1972

Woodward and Bernstein report that the FBI made the connection between Nixon’s aides and the Watergate break-in.

November 7, 1972

Richard Nixon is elected to a second term in office; winning by a landslide against George McGovern.

Jan. 8, 1973

The Watergate break-in trials begin. Seven men go on trial, five of whom plead guilty.

Jan. 30, 1973

G. Gordon Liddy and James McCord were convicted for their roles in the Watergate break-in.

March 23, 1973

James McCord wrote a letter to Judge Sirica, who presided over the Watergate trial. The letter points to a conspiracy and a cover-up in the White House. The letter is read in open court.

April 30, 1973 

President Richard Nixon accepted responsibility for the scandal but maintained that he had no prior knowledge of it.

May 17th, 1973

Senate Watergate Committee begins public hearings that were nationally televised. During these hearing, Senator Howard Baker, R-Tenn., (Vice-Chairman of the committee) famously asked, “What did the President know, and when did he know it?”

May 18, 1973

Archibald Cox was appointed as a special prosecutor to lead the investigation into both Nixon’s re-election campaign and Watergate.

July 23, 1973

President Nixon was known to have recorded his calls in the Oval Office. It was believed he was in possession of dozens of tapes that proved his involvement in the cover-up; those tapes became known as the “Nixon Tapes.” The Senate Watergate Committee issues subpoenas for The Nixon Tapes after the President refused to turn them over.

July 27 -30, 1974

The articles of impeachment were approved by The House Judiciary Committee and proceedings begin. The articles of impeachment included obstruction of justice (impeding the Watergate investigation), abuse of power and violating public trust, and contempt of Congress by failing to comply with congressional subpoenas.

August 5, 1974

Folding under intense pressure, President Nixon finally releases the transcript of his conversations with then chief-of-staff, H. R. Haldeman. These transcripts proved that the President ordered a cover-up of the burglary at the Watergate Hotel on June 23. 1972, six days after the burglary.

August 8, 1974

In a nationally televised speech, the 37th President of the United States formally resigned, making him the first and only President ever to do so.

August 9, 1974

Richard Nixon signed his letter of resignation, and Gerald Ford was sworn in as the 38th President of the United States.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How ‘Hail to the Chief’ became the Presidential anthem

The song that many of us identify uniquely with the President of the United States has a surprisingly controversial history. Chester Arthur hated it, Ronald Reagan thought it was a necessary tradition for the office, and President Trump enters a room to Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA more often than not. But this essential piece of Presidential entrance music is almost as old as America itself.


During the President’s Inauguration, “The President’s Own” Marine Corps band plays Hail to the Chief after 45 seconds of four Ruffles and Flourishes. The song is also most traditionally played when the President of the United States enters an official event, but there are no real rules for the song outside of the inauguration. The Department of Defense only asks that the song isn’t played for anyone other than the sitting President.

You wouldn’t know it from the orchestral renditions, but the song actually has lyrics, written in 1900 by Albert Gamse:

Hail to the Chief we have chosen for the nation,
Hail to the Chief! We salute him, one and all.
Hail to the Chief, as we pledge cooperation
In proud fulfillment of a great, noble call.
Yours is the aim to make this grand country grander,
This you will do, that’s our strong, firm belief.
Hail to the one we selected as commander,
Hail to the President! Hail to the Chief!

The song itself can be traced all the way back to our sixth president, John Quincy Adams. At the time, the song was pop music, much like Greenwood’s song is to President Trump today. The Marine Band played it at the opening of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal in 1828, an event attended by President Adams. The first time it was played in honor of the Commander-In-Chief was for Andrew Jackson, at a similar canal event the next year.

Martin Van Buren was the first President to hear the tune played for his inauguration in 1837. John Tyler, who ascended to the Presidency after the sudden death of William Henry Harrison, was much derided during his term for the unelected way he came into power. To remind people who was in charge, First Lady Julia Tyler ensured the song was played whenever he arrived at events. The same was done for James K. Polk, who was a short guy. His wife Sarah wanted to make sure everyone knew when he arrived so he wasn’t overlooked.

Soldiers who survived the bloodiest American battle of World War II tell their stories

Hail to that mullet, President Polk.

By the time Chester Arthur came to office in 1881, he hated the song so much, he opted to replace it with another song. Luckily for him, the leader of the Marine Band just happened to be the “American March King” John Philip Sousa. He commissioned Sousa to write a replacement, which the band leader did.

How well did that replacement go over? If you’ve never heard of Presidential Polonaise, you’re in good company — because most of America hasn’t either. The Presidents quickly went back to using Hail to the Chief.

By 1954, the Department of Defense made the song the official music of the President. Of course, that doesn’t mean they have to use the music. The President is the boss, after all.

He isn’t really bound by law or tradition to have the song played for him on every occasion. President Gerald Ford asked the U.S. Marine Corps Band to play his alma mater’s — the University of Michigan — fight song, Hail to the Victors, instead. Jimmy Carter preferred the tune Jubilation by Sir Arthur Bliss. Ronald Reagan, however, felt the office required more tradition and reinvoked Hail to the Chief.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These 5 Navy rates that are extinct

Unlike in other services, sailors are referred to by their actual jobs. An E-5 in the Army could be an infantryman or a food service specialist, but you would still call them Sergeant. You might be able to distinguish an infantryman by a Combat Infantry Badge or Expert Infantry Badge, but they’re still a Sergeant. In the navy, although an E-5 is a Petty Officer 2nd Class, they could be identified as a Yeoman 2nd Class, Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class, or even Legalman 2nd Class. Of course, as jobs are eliminated and new ones are made, the list of titles based on rates changes. Here are some odd Navy rates that have gone the way of the dodo.

1. Loblolly Boy

Soldiers who survived the bloodiest American battle of World War II tell their stories
A surgeon and loblolly boy attend to a patient (Public Domain)

The early days of the American Navy were not pretty. Pay was poor, work conditions were rough, and amputation was prescribed like water, motrin and changing your socks are today. As such, it was the duty of loblolly boys to assist the ship’s surgeon in collecting the amputated limbs. They also hauled the buckets of tar that were used to cauterize the bloody stumps and spread sand to absorb the spilled blood. On top of their gruesome duties, the boys were also responsible for spoon feeding the patients a thick porridge called “loblolly” from which their name was derived. Loblolly boys remained in the Navy’s books until 1861. After going through several name changes and evolutions, loblolly boys are known today as hospital corpsmen.

2. Pigeoneer

Soldiers who survived the bloodiest American battle of World War II tell their stories
Pigeoneer 2nd Class Marcelle Whiteman holding a carrier pigeon (U.S. Navy)

Before the radio took off in the 1920s, carrier pigeons were a common communication method in the military. Their natural homing ability, fast speed, and high flying altitude made them a valuable asset when telegraph lines were not or could not be established. It was the job of pigeoneers to develop and care for the birds. Despite the introduction and rapid advancement of radio technology, the Navy retained the carrier pigeon trainer rate until 1961 as a last-ditch form of communication.

3. Aviation Carpenter’s Mate

Soldiers who survived the bloodiest American battle of World War II tell their stories
Early planes were not tough birds (U.S. Navy)

This one might take a minute to figure out. However, it bears remembering that early airplanes were made of wood and canvas. Modern aircraft take enough of a beating when they land on aircraft carriers, so you can imagine what sort of punishment the Navy’s early kites took when they touched down on the deck. Additionally, storing a wooden aircraft on a ship will inevitably lead to rot. It was the job of aviation carpenter’s mates to skillfully repair and maintain the damaged planes. The rate is one of the shortest-lived, being introduced in 1931 and being disestablished in 1941. The introduction of metal planes gave rise to the aviation metalsmith which evolved into the modern aviation structural mechanic.

4. Steward

Soldiers who survived the bloodiest American battle of World War II tell their stories
Filipino stewards aboard the USS Seattle during WWII (U.S. Navy)

The distinction between officers, non-commissioned officers, and junior enlisted sailors is very distinct in the Navy. The officers’ mess and the chief goat locker are prime examples of this. Stewards were responsible for preparing and serving the officers’ meals, maintaining their quarters, and caring for their uniforms. Due to the nature of the work, the majority of stewards were minorities like African-Americans and Filipinos. It’s worth noting that, until 1971, Filipino sailors were restricted to the steward rating. In 1975, the steward rate merged with the commissaryman rate to create the mess management specialist. This rating lasted until 2004 when it was changed to culinary specialist.

5. International Business Machine Operator

Soldiers who survived the bloodiest American battle of World War II tell their stories
All of that just to calculate the interest on a 1939 Ford (U.S. Navy)

This one sounds completely made up until you recall what IBM stands for. During WWII, the Navy saw the need for more precise and expedient calculations for things like gun trajectories, accurate accounting, and formulating logistics. Enter IBM and their calculators. In order to operate the complex machines, the Navy created the international business machine operator rate. Likely the only rate to be named after a private corporation, it only lasted for about a year before it was renamed to punched-card accounting machine operator. The rating has undergone many evolutions, but it is known today as the information systems technician.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What was it like to be the king who lost the American Colonies?

It’s hard being king; it’s even harder being the king who lost the American Colonies. King George III took over the throne at the age of 20. From his early life to the age of 82, King George would have a hard time finding vassals whom he could trust, field armies in back-to-back wars, meanwhile fighting a battle against mental illness. Across the British Empire he was a hero, a villain and an enigma. This is what it was like to be the last king of America.

King George was oved by commoners yet hated by nobles

A man of the people was King George’s biggest desire. There are stories in the Royal Archives that state that he would walk around Windsor and other towns surrounding London talking to commoners. Understandably, the peasants would not know how to react when the King of England burst through your front door and asked what they were doing…in their own home. People found it exciting that the King would take interest in their daily lives.

He was very proud of being born and educated in Britain. Most kings of the day, to include his grandfather and great grandfather were not. To be English culturally was immensely important to him and he used this badge of honor to win favor with the commoners. If he couldn’t make the aristocracy tow the line then he could force their hand by inspiring patriotism in the masses.

There were several attempts on his life by assassins and crazies. He took his assassinations in stride, he was used to being hated and loved equally.

King George III portrait

When the arrival of the King was announced, the band, as usual, played ‘God save the King’. I was standing at the stage-door, opposite the royal box, to see His Majesty. The moment he entered the box, a man in the pit, next the orchestra, on the right hand, stood up on the bench, and discharged a pistol at our august Monarch, as he came to the front of the box.

Never shall I forget His Majesty’s coolness – the whole audience was in an uproar. The King, on hearing the report of the pistol, retired a pace or two, stopped, and stood firmly for an instant; then came forward to the very front of the box, put his opera-glass to his eye, and looked round the house, without the smallest appearance of alarm or discomposure.Reminiscences of Michael Kelly (1826)

Earlier that day there was another assassination attempt when he was reviewing his troops at Hyde Park.

Another famous attempt was made by an unemployed maid who approached the King under the pretense of having him sign a petition and tried to kill him with a butter knife. She failed so miserably that the King said ‘The poor creature is mad; do not hurt her, she has not hurt me.’ The image of a compassionate monarch to the poor and sick is what he wanted to be remembered for. His popularity with the common folk did not help him push legislature in parliament, though. Influence through bribery, intimidation, and blackmail of the ruling class can only get you so far, even if you are the king.

His reign was mostly filled wars and rebellions

The 7 Years War, also known as the French and Indian War in American history, was the first global conflict spanning across five continents. At the conclusion of the War King George III ruled an empire five times larger than the Romans. That’s a lot of land to oversea and people to keep in line.

The King’s new Prime Minister George Grenville proposed taxing the Colonies because of the national debt. The Stamp Act that is so famous in America went unnoticed by news papers in England because it did not violate the Bill of Rights of 1688. In case you overslept in every U.S. History class ever, long story short we flipped sh*t over it and started a revolution. There were many factors that led to the rebellion but I digress. At the time King George didn’t think any of the Acts were a big deal at all.

Parliament was responsible for all of the taxes and Acts pressed upon the Colonies but the King was held responsible. Appointing ministers is the only constitutional power of the King. However, he was very involved with the matters of State. If he was supposed to be this benevolent monarch who loved his subjects, why didn’t he influence parliament for better treatment of the Americans? Why was there so much prejudice against Catholics and non-protestant religions? It’s fine to overreach to protect the rights of Englishmen at home but weren’t Colonists also Englishmen? Americans were just a cash cow to him.

After the U.S. Revolution, this English King did not have any love for the republics. Napoleon was rampaging throughout Europe and what better way to slap the French for aiding and abetting rebels?  Crushing the French was a way to save face after the humiliating loss of the American Colonies.

King George loved science

King George III sent Captain James Cook to observe the Transit of Venus in the South Seas in 1768. On June 3, 1769 Cook confirmed the King’s calculations. He studied astronomy profusely and admired the dance of celestial bodies in the sky. Cook’s voyage confirmed the king’s theory of when and where it could be observed on earth. Cook’s voyage also had a secret purpose – to find and map out the coastline of Australia. Cook claimed the land in the name of King George III. Subsequently, scientists were dispatched to document the Pandora’s Box of plant and animals on the new island continent. He commissioned other explorers around the world to find, document, and bring home knowledge. King George III doesn’t go out to the world, he makes the world come to him.

Throughout the King’s reign he had difficulty controlling his nobles the vast, newly stitched Empire. The colonizers did not honor the King’s wishes and treated the native population with contempt. In America, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and other territories there were whispers of revolution gaining traction. His inability to control the ruling class was a motif throughout his lifetime.

When he wasn’t feverishly archiving everything that came across his desk, mechanizations and astronomy gripped his interest. His curiosity and patronage helped kick start the industrial revolution. Although enlightened as a man of science, he was still prejudice. Catholics were the usual suspects that caught the brunt of his wrath. Taxation without representation was not a uniquely American gripe, the Catholics shared it too.

He suffered from mental illness

‘The Mad King’ is another famous title due his suffering from uncontrollable fits between 1788-89 and again in 1801.  In 1810 his deteriorating mental state became permanent until his death in 1820.

‘In the modern classification of mental illness, acute mania now appears to be the diagnosis that fits best with the available behavioral data.’ – Peter Garrad, professor of neurology at St. George’s University of London

Something is wrong with the King but scholars cannot agree on what exactly ailed him. Family troubles would trigger him the most. The Queen and her subjects would do their best to stop gossip from reaching the King’s ear out of fear it would make him ill again. Emilia, his favorite daughter, was having a love affair with a soldier twice her age. The news did not reach his ears until her death from tuberculosis resulting in, as expected, one of his most severe fits.

Uneasy is the head that wears the crown

King George III’s portrayed in American history as a tyrant, inflexible, and uncaring. To Englishmen of the day, they adored him – even though some of them tried to kill him. Naturally, he overestimated his support in the Colonies because at home the commoners worshipped him. Walking through someone’s door unannounced in London was quirky and relatable. In America, you would catch the 2nd amendment to the face. He allowed the nobles to rule parliament as a democratic monarchy. Americans wanted to rule themselves. Constant rebellion and scandals are enough to make anyone crazy. It is no wonder that in his spare time he dreamed of the far corners of the Empire and movement of planets. He owned the largest since Genghis Kahn and never got to see any of it.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How a modern battalion of Army Rangers would perform in Civil War combat

U.S. Army Rangers are some of the most storied warriors in history. The 75th Ranger Regiment traces its lineage back to World War II where it served with distinction in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. Modern Rangers are masters of warfare, using advanced technology and their extensive training to overwhelm their enemies.


But how would a battalion of 600 modern killers do in the Civil War? We started thinking of what this might be like, inspired by the Reddit user who wrote about a battle between the Roman Empire and modern-day Marines. Ironically enough, some of the world’s best infantrymen would make the biggest difference in the Civil War by becoming cavalry, artillery, and doctors.

The Cavalry Ranger on the Civil War battlefield

 

Soldiers who survived the bloodiest American battle of World War II tell their stories
Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Angela Stafford

Rangers who suddenly found themselves at the start of a Civil War battlefield would be able to choose a side and then straight up murder enemy skirmishers. Most Civil War battles opened with small groups of skirmishers taking careful, aimed shots at one another. Rangers equipped with SCAR rifles that can effectively fire up to 800 meters or M4s that are effective past 600 meters would have a greater range than most of their enemies. And the Rangers’ ability to fire dozens of rounds per minute vs. the enemy’s four rounds would be decisive.

But, their enemy would be firing using black powder. Once the artillery and infantry opened up, everything near the front line would quickly be covered in too much smoke for the Rangers to sight targets. Also, the huge disadvantage the Rangers faced in terms of numbers is unavoidable. Attempting to kill each enemy infantryman would quickly eat away at the Rangers’ irreplaceable ammo. So, the Ranger infantry couldn’t fight for long as infantry. Their skills as shock troops would still be invaluable.

The Rangers could jump in their vehicles and begin maneuvering like ultra-fast, mounted cavalry. Riding in Ranger Special Operation Vehicles or Humvees, the Rangers would quickly breach enemy lines and fire on reserve troop formations, communications lines, and unit leaders. The Rangers heavy and light machine guns and automatic grenade launchers would decimate grouped soldiers. Riflemen could dismount and begin engaging the tattered remnants that remained.

Enemy command posts would be especially vulnerable to this assault, giving the Rangers the ability to cut the head off the snake early in the battle.

Alternatively, they could simply wait out the first day and attack at night, sneaking up to the enemy camp on foot using their night vision and then assaulting through to the enemy commanders. This would conserve needed fuel and ammo, but it would increase the chances of a Ranger being shot.

Rangers and indirect-fire

Soldiers who survived the bloodiest American battle of World War II tell their stories
Photo: US Army Pfc. Nathaniel Newkirk

 

Mortarmen in the Rangers would quickly become a terrorizing force for enemy artillery batteries. Civil War artillery was moved with horses, fired with smoke-creating black powder, and fired only a few rounds per minute. Depending on the artillery piece, their range was anywhere from 500 to 5,000 meters. But, relatively rare rifled cannons could reach over 9 kilometers.

The Ranger mortars would have maximum ranges between 3,500 meters for the 60mm and 7,200 meters for the 120mm mortars. They would have a slight range disadvantage against some guns, but they would have a huge advantage in volume of fire, stealth, and mobility. The mortars could be mostly hidden in wooded areas or behind cover and fired safely, as long as the overhead area remained clear. Since modern mortars create much less smoke, enemy artillery batteries would be unlikely to see them. If the enemy were able to find and engage the mortarmen, the mortars could rush to another firing position and begin engaging the artillery battery again. In a fight of Ranger mortars vs. any single battery, the Rangers would quickly win.

But, the Rangers would be at a huge numerical disadvantage. By doctrine, Ranger battalions are assigned four 120mm mortar systems, four 81mm systems, and 12 60mm for a total of 20 mortars. Meanwhile, 393 guns faced off against each other Gettysburg. The Rangers would have to rely on mobility to stay alive and concentrate their fire when it was needed by friendly infantry.

After the ammo and fuel runs out

 

Soldiers who survived the bloodiest American battle of World War II tell their stories
Photo: US Air Force Justin Connaher

Of course, a modern Ranger battalion eats through ammunition, fuel, and batteries. The Rangers would dominate a couple of battles before their vehicles would need to be parked for the duration of the war. The ammunition could run out in a single battle if the men weren’t careful to conserve.

When the rifles and vehicles ran dry, the Rangers would still be useful. First, their personal armor would give them an advantage even if they had to capture repeating rifles to keep fighting. Also, all Rangers go through Ranger First Responder training, an advanced first aid for combat. Ranger medics go through even more training, acquiring a lot of skills that are typically done by physician’s assistants. This means any Ranger would be a great medical asset for a Civil War-era army, and Ranger Medics would outperform many doctors of the day. Just their modern knowledge of germs and the need for sterilization would have made a huge difference in cutting deaths due to infection.

Even without supply lines, 600 modern Rangers would have been extremely valuable to a Civil War general. They’d have single-handedly won early battles and remained strategically and tactically valuable for the duration of the war.

But would Rangers ultimately change the outcome of the Civil War? Unless you have a time machine, we’ll just have to settle for debating that in the comments section.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This vintage Army guide to Iraq is surprisingly relevant

U.S. involvement in Iraq has gone on for far longer than you might have thought. In the heat of World War II, Hitler had his eyes on the Middle East for resources. However, the British had laid claim to the area with the Sykes-Picot Agreement, and America was doing whatever they could to help their allies.

Although the circumstances for landing troops in the country were far different back then than they were in 1990 and 2003, elements of the local culture have remained the same. Surprisingly, the troops’ 1942 guide to Afghanistan still holds up fairly well today.


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Which had a lot to do with backing the Brits in the Anglo-Iraqi War.
(National Archive)

To prepare any American soldiers for their time in region, the U.S. Army printed several pamphlets, like the Short Guide to Iraq. The guide covered many things you’d expect to find in a pocket guide: general do’s and don’ts, translations and a pronunciation guide, and little snippets about daily life in Iraq.

Despite being more than a half-century old, the guide holds up surprisingly well. If you were to take the WWII-era pamphlet and swap out any use of “Nazism” with “Extremism,” you’d have a pretty useful modern tutorial. The goal back in the 40s was cull the spread of Nazi influence, just as today’s goal is to cull the spread of terrorism. The way to do this was, as always, by winning the hearts and minds of locals while keeping a military option on the table.

Soldiers who survived the bloodiest American battle of World War II tell their stories
Which is, and always will be, the American way of life.
(Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Todd Frantom)

Societies change over the years, but many of the “do’s and dont’s” in Iraq have a lot to do with religion and culturally appropriate reactions to hospitality. Certain things have proven timeless: It’s rude to refuse food, so, if you don’t want it, just take a small amount. Don’t gawk at two men holding hands while they walk. Don’t stare at people and accidentally give them the “Evil Eye.”

Even the little things about Iraq, like the fact that every price can be bargained and cigarettes make the best bribes, were known back then. Of course, like any good Army guide, it ends by reminding us that “every American soldier is an unofficial ambassador of good will.”

Be sure to read the Short Guide to Iraq before you mingle.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The heroic gunslinging lawman who took down the Indian Territory’s most wanted

Indian Territory following the American Civil War was a vast and open area where criminals, outlaws, and thieves found refuge. Much like no man’s land during World War I, whenever lawmen, cowboys, and posses entered, a gunfight was almost guaranteed. On its eastern border sat a frontier town called Fort Smith, Arkansas. The Fort Smith federal court was responsible for bringing justice over a jurisdiction that spanned nearly 75,000 miles.

The Five Civilized Tribes also called Indian Territory home. The Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole Indians lived where Oklahoma is today, and they had their own police, courts, and governments. The tribes could arrest only those who belonged to their communities and not outsiders such as white and Black men who committed crimes.


Standing at 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighing nearly 180 pounds, a former slave named Bass Reeves became one of the first Black deputies hired to the US Marshals Service. Reeves had served as the bodyguard of George Reeves — the son of William and a Texas slave owner — who joined the Confederacy during the American Civil War. Accounts vary — one story goes that he knocked out his owner with his fist after a dispute over a card game, while another said he ran away after hearing rumors of slaves being freed.

Soldiers who survived the bloodiest American battle of World War II tell their stories

Bass Reeves was born a slave but became the first Black deputy to serve west of the Mississippi. Screenshot from YouTube.

Either action was punishable by hanging, and Reeves feared the outcome, so he fled to the Indian Territory for sanctuary. As a runaway he lived among the Seminole and Creek Indians, learning their languages and culture. The tribes taught him ancient stalking and tracking techniques, improving his expertise as an outdoorsman. He later developed priceless skills such as shooting a .44 Winchester rifle and reloading a revolver, a must for all Old West gunslingers to master. He was an ambidextrous gunfighter, talented both in draw speed and accuracy, and over his career he would never once be wounded by an outlaw’s bullet.

When the 13th Amendment was passed in 1865 abolishing slavery, Reeves’ newfound freedom allowed him to relocate to Arkansas. There he married and had 11 children. Prior to his hiring as a deputy with the US Marshals at Fort Smith, Reeves used his knowledge of the land, his dexterity learned from the tribes, and his intuition to guide federal lawmen into the Indian badlands scouting for wanted outlaws.

The US Marshals’ policy required at least one other deputy or Indian scout to join a patrol since the wasteland was as unpredictable as it was dangerous. When Reeves took the job in 1875, more than 100 deputy marshals had been killed in apprehension attempts; thus Reeves took a different approach. He donned several different disguises, in similar fashion as the Lone Ranger, to gain a tactical advantage over the miscreants he identified for arrest.

Soldiers who survived the bloodiest American battle of World War II tell their stories

Bass Reeves — in the front row and far left with cane — served as a lawman in the American Indian territory of Muskogee, which is today’s Oklahoma. Photo courtesy of history.net.

He disguised himself as a tramp on the run from the law. He told two wanted brothers his story, glorifying his 28-mile journey on foot before pulling out his revolver and taking them into custody. He convinced a woman that he was avoiding a nearby posse, and she fed him a fresh meal and even offered him a bed to sleep in at her house overnight. In the middle of the night, he walked into her son’s bedroom, put handcuffs around his wrists, and was on horseback the next morning riding toward the jail.

His fearlessness never wavered, even when he was bedridden battling pneumonia. On Feb. 3, 1906, a Black man named Frank Brown chased his wife through town while armed with a knife. The wife burst through Reeves’ front door to hide from her husband. Brown followed her, screaming that he was going to kill her and brandishing his knife.

“Reeves reached under his pillow and secured his ever trusty revolver, with which he soon persuaded the wife-chaser that he was under arrest,” The Wichita Eagle reported that Sunday. “Reeves held his gun on the man while he sent his wife after a posseman, who took Brown to federal jail.”

Soldiers who survived the bloodiest American battle of World War II tell their stories

Belle Star was arrested by Bass Reeves in 1883 and charged with horse theft. She was one of many notable American outlaws Reeves apprehended. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Accounts of his arrests frequented the newspapers, each as astonishing as the next. Reeves didn’t take bribes nor was he appreciative of any favoritism. After his son, Bennie, murdered his wife, Reeves issued a warrant for his arrest. His son was convicted and sentenced to serve a life of imprisonment in Leavenworth.

Bass Reeves served as a deputy for more than 30 years and retired from federal law enforcement at age 67. He worked a brief two-year stint as a city policeman in downtown Muskogee, Oklahoma, where crime was low because of his presence, before he died in 1910. Throughout his career he made an estimated 3,000 arrests, personally killed 14 outlaws in self-defense, and has since become an icon of both the Old West and pop culture.

Al Burton, the author of Black Gun, Silver Star: The Life and Legend of Frontier Marshal Bass Reeves, wrote, “Bass Reeves is the closest real person to resemble the fictional Lone Ranger on the American western frontier of the nineteenth century.”

In addition to inspiring books and movies, Reeves’ likeness was recently featured in the HBO series Watchmen, bringing his no-nonsense persona to the opening of the fictionalized comic-book story.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

Articles

This is how to fire a Civil War cannon, step-by-step

With ATACMS, MLRS, HIMARs, the M109A6, and the M777, American artillery can and does deliver a huge punch at a distance. Compared to them, Civil War cannons look downright puny.


Don’t take that to the bank, though. These old cannon were pretty powerful in their day. The Smithsonian Channel decided to take a look at how to fire a Civil War cannon from start to finish using the Model 1841 12-pound howitzer.

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Model 1841 12-pound howitzer. (Photo by Ron Cogswell)

According to Antietam on the Web, the howitzer of the time had a 4.62-inch bore (117 millimeters) and a 53-inch long barrel. It had a range of 1,072 yards – or about the same distance an M40 sniper rifle chambered in 7.62mm NATO can reach out and touch someone.

It had three types of ammo: canister, which was essentially a giant shotgun shell; spherical case shot, which became known as a shrapnel shell; and a common shell, which was your basic impact-fused or time-fused explosive shell.

Without further ado, here’s the video from the Smithsonian Channel showing how to fire this cannon, using an authentic replica.

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