What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean

In 1986, a pair of aviation movies took America by storm. Both Doug Masters in Iron Eagle and Pete “Maverick” Mitchell in Top Gun took to the skies and dominated America’s enemies (we all know who the better pilot was). But in the five months between those two blockbuster releases, U.S. Navy pilots did some butt-kicking for real in the Mediterranean Sea. The butt-kickee? Libya, who endured several days of naval battles that were originally intended to just be some exercises.

Those exercises were planned in response to constant Libyan claims over the Gulf of Sidra. In 1981, the newly-elected President Ronald Reagan ordered the United States Navy to carry out some “freedom of navigation” exercises in the area. Just days into the exercise, two Libyan Su-22 Fitters attacked a pair of F-14 Tomcats. The Fitters were quickly were shot down, shutting down Libyan aggression for a while.

But similar exercises in March 1986, involving three carriers, their air wings, and over a dozen other vessels, would evolve into an epic brawl that made the 1981 incident look very tame by comparison.


According to the Air Combat Intelligence Group, the Libyans tried to approach the American carriers (USS Coral Sea (CV 43), USS Saratoga (CV 60), and USS America (CV 66)) that were on the scene during the exercises. Each attempt was turned back by American F-14 Tomcats and F/A-18 Hornets.

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
Libya started the fighting in the Gulf of Sidra by firing SA-5 Gammon missiles at American fighters.
(Photo by George Chernilevsky)

On March 24, things got serious. Libyan MiG-25 Foxbats once again tried to approach the American carriers. F-14 Tomcats went toe-to-toe with the Russian-built fighters and wound up in a non-lethal dogfight. After the Foxbats were chased away, Libyan commanders ordered SA-5 Gammon batteries to open fire. The F-14s dodged the missiles — with help from an EA-6B Prowler.

Such aggression couldn’t go unanswered. The counter-attack came shortly afterwards. A mix of A-7E Corsair attack planes armed with AGM-88 high-speed, anti-radiation missiles and A-6E Intruder all-weather attack planes armed with a mix of CBU-100 Rockeye cluster bombs and AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles were launched. Within a half-hour, first blood had been drawn.

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
Libya’s MiG-25 Foxbats tried to tangle with F-14 Tomcats, but had little luck.
(Photo by Rob Schleiffert)

A pair of A-6 Intruders located and attacked a Libyan Combatante II-class missile boat. The first one fired a Harpoon, damaging the vessel, making it an easy target for Rockeye cluster bombs dropped by the second. Then, A-7s fired off HARMs, destroying a SA-5 site. Two A-6s followed that up by disabling a Nanuchka II-class corvette with a Harpoon missile. That corvette was later towed back to port.

But aircraft weren’t the only ones that got in on the action. The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Yorktown (CG 48) fired two Harpoon missiles that disabled yet another Combatante II. The Libyans continued to fire SA-5 and SA-2 Guideline surface-to-air missiles at the American planes. A-6 Intruders responded to those attacks by sinking a Nanuchka II-class corvette.

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
The Navy came out on top. The memory of two Libyan vessels was left on the side of planes — as bragging rights.
(US Navy)

When all was said and done, 35 Libyan personnel were killed during the fighting. The United States Navy, conversely, suffered no losses.

Articles

This is actual WWII footage of a tank duel

While everyone talks about D-Day, what’s often forgotten is that getting past the Atlantic Wall was only the first step. The Allies had to fight their way out of Normandy and into the rest of France — not to mention across Germany.


This wasn’t easy. Germany had some very well-trained troops who were determined to put up a fight. One of the places where the Nazis held up the Allies was Villers-Bocage — a village to the southwest of Caen, a major objective of the initial staged.

 

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
This version of the M4 Sherman could take on the German Tiger tank on even terms and win. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

According to Battle of Normandy Tours, on June 13, 1944, a force of British tanks from the famous 7th Armoured Division — also known as the “Desert Rats” — headed towards Villers-Bocage. At that village, a company of German Tiger tanks, under the command of Michael Wittman, fought the British force of Cromwell and Sherman Firefly tanks.

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
A German Tiger in Sicily, 1943. (U.S. Army photo)

When all was said and done, Wittman’s force had destroyed 27 Allied tanks, according to WarfareHistoryNetwork.com. The Germans had also killed, wounded, or captured 188 Allied troops.

This video shows some of the fighting that took place during the Battle of Villers-Bocage. Warning: It does show some of the consequences of when armored vehicles are destroyed.

History, YouTube

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That time drunk samurai didn’t realize they were under attack

In 1560, a Japanese leader attempting to capture the capital of Kyoto lost his head and most of his men when his army got too drunk and loud to realize it was under attack by a much smaller force until the enemy had cut its way to the leader’s tent.


Japanese samurai leader Imagawa Yoshimoto launched an offensive in 1560 to invade to Kyoto, leading approximately 20,000-35,000 samurai west and capturing a series of small castles on his way.

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
Oda Nobunaga as painted by an Italian Jesuit. (Painting: Giovanni Nicolao, Public Domain)

Meanwhile, Oda Nobunaga controlled a small garrison approximately 60 miles east of Kyoto, right in the path of Imagawa’s massive force. While other garrisons and castles adopted a defensive posture or surrendered to Imagawa, Oda raised a small force of approximately 2,500 men, between one-twelfth and one-tenth the size of Imagawa’s army, and led it east.

As the two forces marched towards one another, each made its own small stop. Oda stopped to pray at the Atsuta Shrine. The priests there would later comment on how calm the samurai leader was.

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
Monuments to the two samurai leaders at the site of the Battle of Okehazama. (Photo: Tomio344456 CC BY-SA 3.0)

Imagawa, however, stopped to loot a few castles.

That night, Imagawa’s forces got hammered and feasted as Oda took advantage of the terrain and confusion.

First, he had a small group set up false battle flags from behind a ridgeline, giving the impression that he was firmly camped for the night. Then, he led most of his men through a careful maneuver under cover of darkness and thunderstorms.

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
Painting of the Battle of Okehazama where Oda Nobunaga defeated an enemy samurai against huge odds. (Image: Utagawa Toyonobu, Public Domain)

Oda’s force crept close to Imagawa’s camp and then attacked with its full force. The partying in the camp was so loud and the attack so sudden, that many of Imagawa’s samurai failed to realize they were in a fight.

Imagawa himself is said to have stormed from his tent to yell at his men for their level of drunkenness only to be immediately attacked by a spear-wielding enemy. Imagawa cut through the spear and injured his attacker, but was tackled and beheaded by another samurai.

The battle ended a short time later as Imagawa’s senior officers were cut down. Oda went on to consolidate his own power and ruled half of Japan before he was killed in 1582 by an assassin.

If you’ve ever seen that hilarious video about the history of Japan, Oda’s story is told from 3:15 to 3:40:

The site of the battle is now a park in Japan and a re-enactment is held every year in June.
MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why Germany gets blamed for starting World War I

On June 28, 1914, an assassin supplied by terrorists shot and killed the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, igniting an already tense situation between Serbia and the Hapsburg-controlled monarchy in Vienna. By July 1914, a month later, the world was at war, and by the end of the war, Austria-Hungary would no longer exist, and Germany would be punished in the treaty that ended it.

Even though Germany had nothing to do with igniting “the powder keg of Europe.”


What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean

A Bosnian terrorist kills an Austrian noble in Serbia so Germany and Russia go to war. Get it?

It’s a little more complicated than who started what but Germany gets the brunt of the blame for the war because of how the fight between Austria and Serbia escalated so fast, and no attempt was made to de-escalate it. The resulting deaths of millions worldwide along with the destruction wrought on European battlefields and the use of poison gas left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth (sometimes literally) throughout the duration of the war.

While Germany didn’t necessarily start World War I, it didn’t do much to stop it, either. In fact, many historians believe Germany actively encouraged the war, despite the systems of alliances in place that should have deterred the European powers from fighting. The Germans knew if Austria-Hungary invaded Serbia, the Russians would intervene on Serbia’s behalf. Then Germany would have to come to Austria’s aid.

That’s what the Germans wanted.

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean

Russians were still carrying religious icons into battle instead of modern weapons.

Even though Austria was satisfied with Sarajevo’s attempt to smooth things over, Germany convinced the Hapsburg Emperor that he could not only invade and win against the Serbians, but that Germany would have an easy time against all the other European allies. Germany really, really wanted a war with Russia to acquire new territory in the east, but couldn’t justify it. Going to war to back its Austrian ally was more than enough and Austria had a reason to go to war with Serbia. So Germany kept pushing its ally despite calls for peace from the rest of Europe.

Finally, Austria agreed and attacked Serbia, which caused the Russians to come to Serbia’s aid, which forced Germany to back Austria and France to back Russia. Then the Germans invaded France through Belgium, requiring England to intervene in the war as well. So Austria-Hungary technically started the war, but Germany tried to finish it. For four years.

That’s why Germany takes the blame for World War I.

Articles

These colorized photos show a new side of World War II

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
Marines finishing training at Parris Island in South Carolina./Alfred T. Palmer/The Library of Congress


The 1930s and 1940s were a time of upheaval for the US and the world at large.

Reeling from the start of the Great Depression in 1929, the world soon faced a greater disaster with World War II, which lasted from 1939 to 1945. Though the US did not enter into the war officially until after Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the global war still affected the country.

The following photos, from the US Library of Congress, give us a rare glimpse of life in the US during World War II in color. They show some of the amazing changes that the war helped usher into the US, such as women in the workforce and the widespread adoption of aerial and mechanized warfare.

Mrs. Virginia Davis, a riveter in the assembly and repairs department of the naval air base, supervises Chas. Potter, a National Youth Administration trainee from Michigan, in Corpus Christi, Texas. After eight weeks of training, he will go into the civil service.

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congres

Answering the nation’s need for woman-power, Davis made arrangements for the care of her two children during the day and joined her husband at work at the naval air base in Corpus Christi.

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Jesse Rhodes Waller, AOM, third class, tries out a .30-caliber machine gun he has just installed in a US Navy plane at the base in Corpus Christi.

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

A sailor at the base in Corpus Christi wears the new type of protective clothing and gas mask designed for use in chemical warfare.

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Jesse Rhodes Waller, AOM, third class, tries out a .30-caliber machine gun he has just installed on a US Navy plane in Corpus Christi.

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Feeding an SNC advanced-training plane its essential supply of gasoline is done by sailor mechanics in Corpus Christi.

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Av. Cadet Thanas at the base in Corpus Christi.

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Pearl Harbor widows went into war work to carry on the fight in Corpus Christi.

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean

Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Mrs. Eloise J. Ellis was appointed by the civil service to be senior supervisor in the assembly and repairs department at the naval base in Corpus Christi.

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

After seven years in the US Navy, J.D. Estes was considered an old sea salt by his mates at the base in Corpus Christi.

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Mrs. Irma Lee McElroy, a former office worker, painting the American insignia on an airplane wing. McElroy was a civil-service employee at the base in Corpus Christi.

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Aviation cadet in training at the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi.

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Plane at the base in Corpus Christi.

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Ensign Noressey and Cadet Thenics at the naval air base in Corpus Christi on a Grumman F3F-3 biplane fighter.

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Working with a sea plane at the base in Corpus Christi.

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Aviation cadets at the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi.

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
Howard R. Hollem/The Library of Congress

Mechanics service an A-20 bomber at Langley Field in Virginia.

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
Alfred T. Palmer/The Library of Congress

M-3 tank and crew using small arms at Fort Knox in Kentucky.

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
Alfred T. Palmer/The Library of Congress

M-4 tank line at Fort Knox in Kentucky.

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
Alfred T. Palmer/The Library of Congress

A young soldier of the armored forces holds and sights his Garand rifle at Fort Knox.

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
Alfred T. Palmer/The Library of Congress

Servicing an A-20 bomber at Langley Field.

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
Alfred T. Palmer/The Library of Congress

A US Marine lieutenant was a glider pilot in training at Page Field on Parris Island in South Carolina.

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
Alfred T. Palmer/The Library of Congress

Marines finish training at Parris Island in South Carolina.

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
Alfred T. Palmer/The Library of Congress

popular

How American GIs brought Spam to the world

No, we’re not talking about automated, unsolicited emails trying to sell you fat-burning pills or hair-loss recovery foam. The original Spam is a brand of precooked canned meat product made by the Hormel Foods Corporation. Today, there are 15 varieties of Spam sold in 41 countries and trademarked in over 100. It has transcended social classes and become an integral part of culinary cultures worldwide. So how did this canned luncheon meat product become a worldwide phenomenon? It’s due in large part to American GIs and WWII.

Introduced by Hormel in 1937, Spam aimed to increase the sale of pork shoulder, an unpopular cut of meat. Its name is the result of a contest won by Ken Daigneau, the brother of a Hormel executive. Hormel claims that the true meaning of the Spam name “is known by only a small circle of former Hormel Food executives,” however it is commonly accepted that it’s an abbreviation of spiced ham.


What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
A World War II-era can of Spam (Photo by Hormel Foods Corporation)

 

During WWII, delivering fresh meat to frontline troops was an extremely difficult task. Spam offered the military a canned solution that didn’t require refrigeration and possessed an extremely long shelf life. As Spam became an integral part of the GI diet, troops gave the meat a variety of nicknames like “ham that didn’t pass its physical,” “meatloaf without basic training,” and “Special Army Meat.” The grease from the luncheon meat was used to lubricate weapons and waterproof boots, and the empty cans could be filled with rocks and strung from wire perimeters as intruder alarms. By the end of the war, the military had purchased over 150 million pounds of Spam. For reference, a can of Spam today weighs 12 ounces.

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
Sgt. Arnold Bourdreau eating canned corned beef in Italy in 1945 (National Archives photo)

 

Troops across all theaters of the war brought Spam with them as a convenient and preserved meat ration. As a result of the war and the following occupations, Spam was introduced to European and Asian countries where it was quickly assimilated into local diets.

In the UK, Spam’s popularity grew out of necessity as the result of rationing. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher remembered Spam as “a wartime delicacy”. The canned luncheon meat has been adopted into various British recipes like Spam Yorkshire Breakfast, Spamish Omelette, Spam Hash and Spam Fritters.

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
Spam Fritters with chips and peas (Photo from SpamBrand.com.au)

 

Spam was also included as a part of Allied aid to the post-war Soviet Union. Strict food rations made meat even more scarce there than in Britain. “Without Spam we wouldn’t have been able to feed our army,” Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev declared in his memoir.

East Asian countries also adopted Spam as a result of rationing and the scarcity of meat. In Hong Kong, the canned meat was incorporated into local dishes like macaroni with fried egg, ramen and chicken soup. Spam was ingrained so deeply in Okinawan culture that it is used in traditional onigiri (rice balls or triangles usually wrapped in seaweed) and is used in the traditional dish chanpurū. In Korea, Spam’s popularity rose out of the Korean War. As fish became scarce, Spam was used as a replacement in kimbap (rice and vegetable seaweed rolls). The cans of luncheon meat were also used by U.S. troops to trade for goods, services and even information around their bases. Today, Korea is second only by the United States in Spam production and consumption.

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
Spam Classis Kimbap (Photo from Spam.com)

 

In Southeast Asia, Spam is most popular in the Philippines. Following WWII, Spam became a cultural symbol on the islands. It is most commonly eaten in Spamsilog, a twist on a traditional Filipino breakfast composed of rice (usually garlic fried rice), a sunny-side up egg, and a meat dish. Though Spam is commonly sliced and fried, it is also used in sandwiches, burgers and spaghetti. In the Philippines, Spam transcends social class and is extremely popular across all walks of life. There are at least 10 varieties of Spam sold in the Philippines that mimic the flavors of traditional meats. It’s estimated that 1.25 million kilos of Spam is sold annually in the Philippines. After Tropical Storm Ketsana in 2009, Hormel Foods donated over 30,000 pounds of Spam to the Philippine Red Cross.

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
Spamsilog is a breakfast dish that’s acceptable at any time of day (Photo from ThePeachKitchen.com)

 

In the United States, Spam is especially popular in Hawaii whose residents have the highest per capita consumption in the country. Spam is used most heavily in Spam musubi where a slice is placed on top of rice and wrapped in a band of nori seaweed. The Hawaiian market also features exclusive Spam variants like Honey Spam, Spam with Bacon, and Hot and Spicy Spam. Spam is even served in local McDonald’s and Burger King chains. Every spring, Oahu hosts an annual Spam festival called Waikiki Spam Jam where local chefs and restaurants compete to make new spam-themed dishes which are then sold at the street fair.

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
A selection of Spam variants at Waikiki Spam Jam (Photo by This Week Hawaii)

 

Although it is seen by some as a food of poverty or hard times due to its affordability and long shelf life, Spam’s popularity around the world is undeniable. Thanks in large part to the GIs that brought it with them, Spam was able to fill food gaps in countries ravaged by war and evolve into a dietary staple and cultural icon.

 

Articles

The first aerial refueling was straight-up nuts

Aerial refueling has always been risky business. Tankers fly through the sky, loaded to the gills with flammable fuels while dragging long hoses or booms behind them as jets chase after them like hungry mosquitos.


But if that’s risky, the first aerial refueling was straight-up crazy. Wesley Mays, a famous daredevil of the late-1910s and early-1920s, climbed from one biplane onto another with a 5-gallon jug of fuel strapped to his back.

Three men worked together to pull off the stunt. Mays, the daredevil, was joined by two pilots, Frank Hawks and Earl Daugherty. Mays rode along with his gas can in the plane piloted by Hawks. Then, he climbed out of Hawks’ passenger seat and walked onto the right wing tip.

From there, he waited for Daugherty to bring his wingtip in range and grabbed it. Mays lifted himself onto the wing and worked his way between the planes’ wings and into the cockpit. He poured the gas into the engine and strapped himself into his waiting seat, sealing his place in history.

The Army Air Corps got in on the aerial refueling action 2 years later in Jul. 1923, but they needed a way to transfer much more than 5-gallons at a time. So they opted to use a tanker aircraft, a hose, and a receiving aircraft. First Lt. Virgil Hines flew a DH-4B outfitted as the tanker ahead of 1st Lt. Frank W. Seifert’s DH-4B receiver. Hines dangled the hose behind and beneath his aircraft where Seifert could reach it.

 

The fuel was transported without incident, but engine trouble in Seifert’s plane prevented the duo from achieving a planned endurance record. Still, they developed techniques that allowed another Air Corps team to set the record with a 37-hour, 25-minute flight in Aug. 1923.

Today, aerial refuelings are usually conducted by specially designed aircraft, though modified fighters and attack jets such as the F/A-18 have been pressed into service when needed. The Navy has even looked at using its unmanned X-47B as an automated tanker, but the two aircraft sit in hangars and have not yet been modified for the test missions.

Articles

This is why Cossacks are Russia’s legendary fighting force

For centuries, friends and foes of Russia marveled at the fierce fighting skills of their Cossack Warriors. The Cossacks fought to defend the Russian Czar against any manner of enemies – from Ottoman Turks to Napoleon’s Grande Armée, through a World War, and even against the Bolshevik Red Army.

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
The last one had admittedly mixed results.

They expanded the borders of the Russian Empire, conquering Siberia and the Caucasus regions for the Czar, all the way to the Bering Sea – capturing one-sixth of the Earth’s land area. Their martial prowess was unmatched in the region for a long time and they refused to be tied to any master. Even the name “Cossack” in the Turkic languages of the time and area meant “free,” “adventurer,” or “wanderer.”

Cossack loyalty to the Russian Czar was earned over centuries of fighting to maintain that independence. Many Czars were faced with Cossack uprisings and were forced to deal with them in their own ways, from putting down the rebellion or forcibly moving the population to another area of the Russian Empire.

From a young age, Cossacks raised their children to be elite warriors and ethnically Cossack in every way possible. Training could begin in infancy and only ever stop in an actual pitched battle.

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
Keep your head down!

Eventually, the Russian nobility came to accept the Cossacks, endowing them with certain rights and privileges in the Empire for their continued service in defending Russia’s borders. And they earned those rights, too. After his Grand Armée was forced out of Russia, the Cossacks harassed them all the way back to France. It was the Cossacks who captured Paris and unseated the French Emperor.

When the Empire fell during World War I and the Czar abdicated, the Cossacks were divided between the Red and White factions of the Russian Civil War. They fought primarily for the White (anti-Communist) Russians, which earned them persecution when the Bolsheviks won the war and founded the Soviet Union.

The persecution got so bad, many Cossacks fought for Nazi Germany during WWII.

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MIGHTY HISTORY

The 10 most important tank battles in history

The tank is one of the most important weapon systems on the battlefield. Few weapons strike enemy soldiers with the fear that a fully loaded tank rolling towards them does.

After their trial by fire on the fields of Europe in World War I, tanks have become a necessity for any army that wants to be considered a serious foe.

In the one hundred years since its invention, tanks have been the winning factor in a number of battles. Entire wars have depended on their successful use.


Take a look at how 10 of the biggest tank battles in history went:

Battle of Cambrai: November 20 – December 8, 1917

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
A Mark IV (Male) tank of ‘H’ Battalion, ‘Hyacinth’, ditched in a German trench while supporting 1st Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment near Ribecourt during the Battle of Cambrai, 20 November 1917.

The Battle of Cambrai was the first time tanks were used on a large scale for a military offensive. The objective was to take the commune of Cambrai, an important supply point for the Germans at the heart of the Hindenburg Line, in order to reduce the pressure on the French.

Nineteen British divisions were assembled for the battle, including 476 tanks and five horsed cavalry divisions.

The initial attack on November 20th was met with huge success. The British had torn through four miles of German defenses and captured up to 7,500 prisoners with low casualties.

But by the end of the day, more than half of the tanks were out of action due to mechanical failure. The German Army launched a massive counterattack, and brutal trench warfare ensued.

By the end of the battle, almost all the British gains were lost, over 100 tanks were lost or destroyed, and both sides suffered around 40,000 casualties each.

Battle of Hannut: May 12 – 14, 1940

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
Two destroyed French SOMUA S35s and an artillery piece being inspected by German soldiers, May, 1940.

The Battle of Hannut was fought during the Battle of Belgium, Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Low Countries. It was part of the Wehrmacht’s thrust into the Ardennes region, and was meant to tie down the French First Army.

It was both the largest tank battle of the campaign, and the largest battle in armored warfare history at the time. Over 600 German tanks and 25,000 soldiers squared off against 600 French and Dutch armored vehicles and around 20,000 soldiers.

The battle was technically inconclusive. Some of the French First Army was able to fight their way through the Germans to reunite with their British comrades at Dunkirk, but they had lost well over 100 of their tanks and armored vehicles.

German losses were much lighter, with only around 50 tanks lost. While the French SOMUA S35 tank was considered as one of the best at the time, German tactics and communication technology made the Wehrmacht better.

Battle of Raseiniai: June 23 – 27, 1941

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
An abandoned Soviet A KV-2 tank, June, 1941.

The Battle of Raseiniai was a large tank battle fought at the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union. The battle was fought in Lithuania, then part of the Soviet Union’s Northwestern Front.

Some 240 German tanks from the 4th Panzer Group were tasked with destroying almost 750 Soviet tanks of the 3rd and 12th Mechanized Corps.

Despite their numerical advantage over the Wehrmacht, the result of the battle was an utter catastrophe for the Soviets. Some 700 Soviet tanks and their crews — almost the entirety of the Soviet Union’s deployed mechanized units on the Northwestern Front — were destroyed, damaged, or captured.

A large part of the German victory was due to their use of airpower. The Luftwaffe was unchallenged during the battle, and the close tank formations of the Soviets were easy targets for Ju 88 aircraft.

Battle of Brody: June 23 – 30, 1941

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
A German infantryman near a burning Soviet BT-5 tank, June, 1941.

The Battle of Brody is the largest tank battle in history, according to some historians.

Also fought during the beginning stages of Operation Barbarossa, the battle saw some 1,000 German panzers of the 1st Panzer Group’s III Army Corps smash into 3,000 Soviet tanks from the six mechanized corps of the Soviet 5th and 6th Armies.

Again outnumbered, the Wehrmacht proved that superior training, tactics, communication technology, and air support make all the difference.

The exact number of casualties is not known, but estimates put Soviet tank losses at somewhere between 800 to over 1,000. The Wehrmacht also suffered heavy casualties, with anywhere between 200 to 350 tanks destroyed.

“This, in fact, is the biggest tank battle in World War II, and sparsely a word has been written on it,” according to David Glantz, a historian of the Eastern Front and Soviet military.

Second Battle of El Alamein: October 23 – November 11, 1942

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
A mine explodes close to a British artillery tractor as it advances through enemy minefields and wire to the new front line, October 1942.

The Second Battle of El Alamein saw two legendary generals, Britain’s Bernard Montgomery, and Germany’s Erwin Rommel — who was nicknamed the “Desert Fox” — fight for the fate of North Africa.

North Africa had been a battleground since Fascist Italy’s invasion of Egypt in 1940. Germany’s Afrikakorps had to step in to prevent their defeat in 1941, and were able to push the British all the way into Egypt.

They were stopped at the First Battle of El Alamein, which, though technically a stalemate, did prevent the Afrikakorps from rolling through the rest of Egypt, and by extension the Middle East.

Montgomery assembled a force for a counterattack, including around 190,000 men and over 1,000 tanks. Rommel commanded a force of 116,000 German and Italian soldiers, and 540 tanks.

After days of hard fighting in the Egyptian desert, Montgomery was victorious. Five hundred German and Italian tanks, almost all of Rommel’s force, were destroyed or captured.

With the Americans launching Operation Torch in November 1942, the tide against the Germans began to turn in North Africa.

Battle of Prokhorovka: July 12, 1943

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
Panzer IIIs and IVs on the southern side of the Kursk salient at the start of Operation Citadel, July 1943.

The Battle of Prokhorovka took place during the larger Battle of Kursk. It was long thought to be the largest tank battle in history, but according to the book Demolishing the Myth: The Tank Battle at Prokhorovka, Kursk, July 1943 by Valeriy Zamulin, a Russian military historian, that is not the case.

But that is not to say it was small or insignificant. The battle saw over 600 Soviet tanks from the 5th Guards Tank Army smash head on into around 300 German tanks from the II SS-Panzer Corps.

The fighting was some of the most intense in the history of armored warfare. The Soviets lost around 400 tanks, more than half of their force. German tank losses were smaller by comparison, up to 80 tanks and assault guns destroyed.

The Germans were unable to take Prokhorovka, and although it was not destroyed (the original goal of the Soviets), the II SS-Panzer Corps was exhausted, and prevented from continuing their offensive.

Thus, the momentum swung to the side of the Soviets, who eventually won the Battle of Kursk

Operation Goodwood: July 18 – 20, 1944

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
Sherman tanks carrying infantry wait for the order to advance at the start of Operation ‘Goodwood’, 18 July 1944.

Operation Goodwood was a British offensive that was part of the Battle for Caen, one of the main inland targets that was part of Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Normandy. The goal was to break through to Caen so that it could be liberated.

The British had mustered as many as 1,100 tanks for the battle. The Wehrmacht had only around 370 tanks at their disposal, but they included the fearsome Tiger and Tiger II tanks.

The battle did not go the way the British intended. Their casualties were 5,000 men and 250 to 300 tanks destroyed. German losses were 75 tanks destroyed, mostly by airstrikes.

Operation Goodwood did cause some controversy. Montgomery claimed that all the objectives were achieved and that the mission was a success. But the British had only managed to penetrate roughly seven miles or so East of Caen.

But Goodwood did draw valuable German tanks away from the Western part of Caen, where the Americans were making their push to the city.

Battle of Chawinda: September 17 – 22, 1965

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
Indian soldiers in front of a destroyed Pakistani Sherman tank during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965.

The Battle of Chawinda was one of the largest tank battles fought since World War II. It was part of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, fought over control of Jammu and Kashmir.

After the Pakistani Army’s attempt to foment an insurgency (Operation Gibraltar) was discovered and subsequently foiled, India retaliated with an outright attack along the Pakistani border.

The Indian military had planned to take the city of Sialkot, an important railway hub and central part of the Grand Trunk Road, so that they could use it as a beachhead for further operations into Pakistan.

But the Indian force of 80,000 to 150,000 soldiers and 230 tanks was met outside of their objective at Chawinda by a Pakistani force of 30,000 to 50,000 men and 132 tanks.

After more than a day of intense fighting, a UNSC resolution was signed and an unconditional ceasefire was implemented. India lost anywhere between 29 to 129 tanks, whereas Pakistan lost up to 44 tanks.

Battle of the Valley of Tears: October 6 – 9, 1973

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
Israeli troops fight off Syrian soldiers in the Golan Heights, the area was later named the Valley of Tears

The Battle of the Valley of Tears was fought between Israel and Syria during the Yom Kippur War of 1973. The war had started on the holiest day in Judaism, when Syrian soldiers supported by 1,400 tanks crossed the border and invaded the Jewish state.

Just one Israeli armored brigade, roughly 100 or so tanks and armored vehicles stood in the way of the Syrian 7th Division, a force of 1,400 tanks, including 400 T-62s, at the time the most modern Soviet tank in the field.

The Israelis were manning British and American-made Centurion tanks, known for their good gunner sights. Unable to call in effective air support, the Israeli defenders dug in and fought off wave after wave of Syrian tank attacks.

Some Syrian tanks broke through, causing the Israeli tanks to turn their turrets backwards to destroy them. But one by one, the Israeli Centurions were knocked out.

But on the fourth day of the fighting, Israeli reinforcements arrived, and the Syrians were forced to withdraw. Almost all of Israel’s tanks were destroyed, but they gave far more than they got — Syrian armored vehicle losses were around 500, around 250 of which were tanks.

Battle of 73 Easting: February 26 – 27, 1991

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
An Iraqi Type 69 main battle tank burns after an attack by the 1st United Kingdom Armored Division during Operation Desert Storm, February 28, 1991.

The Battle of 73 Easting saw American and British tanks go up against Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Republican Guard Tawakalna Division. Saddam had been warning his people that the “mother of all battles” was on the horizon, and the battle of 73 Easting was certainly part of it.

The main part of the battle was fought between the US 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment and Iraq’s 18th Mechanized Brigade and 37th Armored Brigade.

The ensuing battle saw the Iraqi forces be completely decimated. Over 160 tanks and armored personnel carriers were destroyed, damaged, or captured by US forces. Up to 1,000 Iraqi soldiers were killed or wounded, and over 1,000 more were taken prisoner.

US losses were just six killed, 19 wounded, and one Bradley infantry fighting vehicle destroyed. Historian and author Rick Atkinson described the battle:

“Here could be seen, with almost flawless precision, the lethality of modern American weapons; the hegemony offered by AirLand Battle doctrine, with its brutal ballet of armor, artillery, and air power; and, not least, the élan of the American soldier, who fought with a competence worthy of his forefathers on more celebrated battlefields in more celebrated wars.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

You sing it, but do you really know what ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ is about?

The “Star-Spangled Banner” is American lyrics laid on top of a British song to make one glorious national anthem. It details the endurance of American troops against a British naval bombardment at the Battle of Fort McHenry in 1814.


But while Americans singing the song at baseball games know that the U.S. came out victorious, Francis Scott Key and other witnesses of the battle had little to be optimistic about. The British brought more ships to the fight than the Americans had cannons on the fort.

 

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
Lots of ships versus one teeny fort. (Image: Public Domain)

 

In Sep. 1814, America was reeling from the sacking and burning of Washington D.C. The first lady, Dolly Madison, had made it out of the city with crucial documents and a portrait of George Washington, but the presidential mansion and much of the capital was destroyed. The victorious British military made its way up the coast, this time targeting the important port at Baltimore.

The British planned a two-pronged assault on the city. The army would march overland to attack the city on foot while the navy was to destroy Fort McHenry and follow the river to the city. There, it would bombard the city and assist in its capture.

The ground attack seemed doomed from the start. About 12,000 American troops, many more than the British had expected, were guarding the city. So the British troops sat back and waited as dozens of British ships, including five of Britain’s eight bomb ketches, moved forward to bombard the fort that only had 19 guns with which to defend itself.

Luckily for the Americans, shallow waters around the fort kept some of the ships away. Unluckily for them, 16 ships were able to get within range of the fort while staying outside the range of the American guns.

Starting early on Sep. 13, the British fired on McHenry with rocket ships and bomb ketches. Bomb ketches were ships with a mortar or howitzer built into the deck. The gun could not be turned, so the ships were pointed at the fort and kept in place with spring-loaded anchor lines. The “bombs bursting in air,” came from these devastating ships.

Meanwhile, ships firing Congreve rockets sailed into range as well. The rockets were made in a variety of sizes. The ones that lit the night at Fort McHenry were mostly 32-pound rockets that carried seven pounds of explosives. They could explode in the air but were designed to be incendiary weapons, setting fires within forts and enemy ships.

 

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
Col. William Congreve, the inventor of Congreve rockets, created this lithograph to show how rocket ships worked in fleet action. (Image: Public Domain by British Col. William Congreve)

 

One moment was more dangerous than any other for the defenders; a bomb fired from one of the ketches landed in the fort’s gunpowder supply. It failed to go off and the troops were able to split the gunpowder into smaller stores around the tiny island.

At another point, British Rear Adm. George Cockburn thought the fort had been badly damaged and moved the ships closer for better accuracy. American artillerymen rushed through the incoming shells and began firing when the British came within range, driving them back.

The intense naval attack lasted for 25 hours.

Key watched the battle play out from a small American sloop behind the British force. He had been rowed into the harbor to negotiate the release of a friend held prisoner by the British. He and his friend were both allowed to leave the British prisoner ship as long as they did not return to shore until after the British bombardment.

The men weren’t allowed to row ashore because the British suspected they had heard the British plans to destroy the city. Key had and knew that a collapse of Fort McHenry spelled certain doom for Baltimore. Throughout the night, he watched the fort’s small storm flag wave through the wind and rain as rockets and bombs rained on the defenders below.

In the morning, he looked to the flagpole at first light to see if the fort had survived. If British colors were flying, Baltimore would be destroyed and America would lose a second major city in less than a month.

 

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
Spoiler alert: The flag still flies over Fort McHenry. (Photo: Owen Byrne Halifax CC BY 2.0)

 

The flag had changed overnight, but not to the Union Jack. A storm that raged throughout the battle had forced the fort to fly its smaller American flag. Since the morning dawned clear, the garrison changed to its normal flag, a 42-foot by 30-foot beast.

Key saw the garrison flag filling the morning sky and wrote the lyrics to the future national anthem in a fit of inspiration. Contrary to popular belief, the amateur poet wrote them as lyrics from the start, not as a poem. He was familiar with the popular song, “To Anacreon In Heaven” and wrote the lyrics to match up with it.

Meanwhile, the British troops ashore saw the American flag flying and knew that the naval assault had failed. They withdrew and left Baltimore in relative safety.

The “Star-Spangled Banner” would be published in newspapers up and down the coast over the following few days under a variety of names, usually “The Defense of Fort McHenry.” One publication called it, “The Star-Spangled Banner” and the name stuck.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why the Bolsheviks concealed the cowardly murder of the Czar royal family

Like many heads of state who reach power through blood rather than merit, Czar Nicholas II was utterly unprepared to rule Russia as it headed into the 20th century. He made one unpopular decision after the next. His loathed intimacy with the notorious mystic Grigori Rasputin was another reason he was unpopular. The turmoil agitating the country and the world at the turn of the century proved too much for this monarch who did not want to be a Czar. In early 1917, Russia was swept over by the Revolution and the Czar deposed, signing the end of a 300 years old imperial dynasty. That was not enough for the Bolsheviks to take over Russia; they needed the royal family murdered and kept secret, but why?

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
Nicholas II in 1912 (Public Domain)

The House of Special Purpose

After Nicholas’s removal from power, he was taken into custody along with his family by the Provisional Government. They were stripped of any title and placed under house arrest, first at the Alexander Palace, then in Tobolsk, Siberia, in August 1917. After the Bolsheviks came into power in October 1917, the Romanov’s conditions of detention deteriorated significantly. Finally, they were moved to Yekaterinburg’ Ipatiev House in the first half of 1918. There, they were openly considered as hostages.

All those under arrest will be held as hostages, and the slightest attempt at counter-revolutionary action in the town will result in the summary execution of the hostages.

Announcement in the local newspaper by Bolshevik War Commissar Filipp Goloshchyokin, in charge of the family’s incarceration in Yekaterinburg

In July 1918, pro-royalist soldiers from Czechoslovakia, called “Whites”, had been advancing through the country and closing on Yekaterinburg. The Bolsheviks feared they would try to rescue the Romanov and support the renewal of monarchy in Russia. So, on the evening of the 16th July 1918, during dinner, the entire family and their servants were ordered to go down to the cellar. There, amid a chaos of screams, escape attempts and bullets, they were summarily executed. Those who survived the shooting were dispatched with bayonets or the butts of guns. Over the next couple of months, many relatives and allies were assassinated around the country. The swift eradication resulted in 27 deaths in 84 days.

Bolsheviks controlled the media circus

A few days later, the murder of the former czar was publicly announced by the Bolsheviks, calling him “the personification of the barbarian landowner, of this ignoramus, dimwit and bloodthirsty savage” in the official party newspaper. However, the assassination of his family was kept secret. Although rumors began to spread, the official version was that Alexandra and her children had been moved for their protection. To prevent any recognition, the bodies were mutilated, burned with acid, and buried in a secret place in the forest. So why were the Bolsheviks happy to endorse the murder of Nicholas, but not that of his family?

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
1920 Bolshevik Party meeting: sitting (from left) are EnukidzeKalininBukharinTomskyLashevichKamenevPreobrazhenskySerebryakovLenin and Rykov
(Public Domain)

It’s speculated that it was mostly an image issue. The Red Revolution already struggled with a brutal reputation outside of the country. The violent repression of any hint of opposition made the revolution quite unpopular with many governments. Socialist and communist ideas were thoroughly mistrusted by the ruling class. Moreover, king George V of England was Nicholas’s first cousin and enjoyed a friendly relationship with the former monarch. Nicholas’s murder was received with sorrow, but the massacre of the entire family might have prompted a political and military response that would have overthrown the still unstable Bolshevik government.

The cover up

The “whites” and other enemies of the communist revolution tried to use the rumors flying around on the disappearance of the family to defame the movement and its famous leader, Lenin. If speculations had turned to facts, proving the massacre beyond the shadow of a doubt, Lenin’s image as a wise and fair leader would have been severely damaged. There is no historical evidence that Lenin was the one who gave the order for the assassination. In fact, he seemed in favor of a trial, with Leo Trotsky as the main accuser.

Even a biased trial could have been used as propaganda of justice of the new regime. However, the murders, if supported by evidence, could have been laid at the leader’s door — whether he was truly implicated or not, in an attempt to weaken his newly acquired position. In addition, the mysterious fate of the family led many European monarchs on a manhunt to rescue the last Romanov. Thus squandering resources and keeping their attention away from the fate of the Russian people under Bolshevik rule.

That is why the fate of the last heirs of the Russian imperial family was kept officially hidden for decades. The truth would lay hidden until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. The bodies were eventually recovered and five of the family members have now been laid in state, resting together in the St. Petersburg Cathedral.

Articles

These Japanese fire balloons were the grandaddies of the ICBM

While everyone knows about Pearl Harbor, what most don’t remember was that Japan tried hard throughout World War II to hit the U.S. mainland.


Tokyo ended up using very old technology – hot air balloons – to deliver bombs to the United States.

The genesis of this attack was the Doolittle Raid of 1942. The attack had caused the Japanese military to lose face, so they resolved to strike back. After several bomber projects failed, Tokyo turned to what they called the fūsen bakudan, or “fire bomb.” Manufactured primarily by teenage girl laborers, over 9,000 of these balloons were sent America’s way, according to WarHistoryOnline.com, with the goal of creating forest fires to draw American resources away from the front.

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
In what may be the first intercontinental weapon in military history – the fūsen bakudan, or fire balloon. Japan produced 9,3000 of them. (Youtube Screenshot)

First launched in November 1944, the balloon bombs reached as far east as Detroit, Michigan. These 30-foot balloons used the jet stream to reach America. American and Canadian fighter pilots saw some of them, and shot down about 20. Many others were seen to come down, and at least seven were recovered by the U.S. Army.

The United States covered up knowledge of the ICBM precursor — mostly fool Japan into thinking the balloons weren’t making it to the mainland. Speculation centered around the internment camps and submarines, but geologists traced the sand in the sandbags to Japan.

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
The Mitchell Memorial, listing the names of the only Americans killed killed by the Axis on the North American continent. (Youtube screenshot)

Only one of the bombs caused any fatalities. On May 5, 1945, a minster, Archie Mitchell, and his wife took five Sunday School students on an outing to the forest. Mrs. Mitchell and the students then found the balloon while Rev. Mitchell was still at the car. The bomb detonated while the students were trying to drag it out, and Mrs. Mitchell and all five students were either killed or later died of their wounds.

An Army investigation determined the balloon bomb had been in the area for weeks before it blew.

The tragedy surrounding that outing was the only balloon attack that was publicized by the military. As a result, Japan cancelled the program. America’s media blackout had worked. Only 300 of the balloon bombs were seen in the United States, according to a 1995 Salt Lake Tribune article. One bomb was found in Canada in 2014, and detonated by EOD personnel.

Check out this National Geographic video for more details of Japan’s WW2 ICBMs.

Articles

This American bomber-killing missile had a nuclear punch

In the early days of the Cold War, the United States was working on developing advanced surface-to-air missiles to intercept Soviet bombers. The first and only missile for a while that fit the Air Force’s bill was dubbed the “Bomarc.”


According to Designation-Systems.net, the missile was first called the XF-99, as the Air Force was trying to pass it off as an unmanned fighter. Eventually, the Air Force switched to calling the Bomarc the IM-99.

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
An IM-99 Bombarc launches on Aug. 21 1958, as part of the testing to prepare it for deployment. (USAF photo)

The system made its first flight in 1952, but development was a long process, with the IM-99A becoming operational in September 1959. The IM-99A had a range of 250 miles, a top speed of Mach 2.8, and could carry either a 1,000-pound high-explosive warhead or a 10-kiloton W40 warhead.

The IM-99A had a problem, though – its liquid fuel needed to be loaded into the booster before launch, a process that took about two minutes. The fueling was not exactly a safe process, and the fuel itself wasn’t entirely stable. So, the Air Force developed a version with a solid booster. The IM-99B would end up being a quantum leap in capability. Its speed increased to Mach 3, it had a range of 440 miles, and only carried the nuclear warhead.

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
Boeing CIM-10 Bomarc at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Bomarc also has the distinction of making Canada a nuclear power. Well, sort of. Canada bought two squadrons’ worth of the missiles, replacing the CF-105 Arrow interceptor. Canada’s Bomarcs did have the nuclear warhead, operated under a dual-key arrangement similar to that used by West Germany’s Pershing I missiles.

The Bomarc, though, soon grew obsolete, and by the end of 1972 they were retired. However, the Bomarc would end up sharing the same fate as many old fighters, as many of the missiles were eventually used as target drones since their speed and high-altitude capability helped them simulate heavy Russian anti-ship missiles like the AS-4 Kitchen and AS-6 Kingfish.

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean
A former RCAF Bomarc converted to the CQM-10B target drone configuration launches. (USAF photo)

Over 700 Bomarcs were produced. Not a bad run at all for this missile.

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