The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers

Before Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben arrived to train the Continental Army, they were a largely unorganized, untrained group of men who lacked skill, but not the spirit, of professional soldiers. That all changed at Valley Forge. 

Baron von Steuben
A Portrait of Major General Friedrich Wilhelm Augustus, Baron von Steuben by Ralph Earl

When Steuben took over responsibilities for training Gen. George Washington’s men in the ways of fighting a war, they may not have turned into pros overnight, but the training sure paid off in a big way. 

General Washington would appoint Baron von Steuben to a Major General’s grade and appoint him Inspector General of the Army at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. The Baron had his work cut out for him. 

He had to train the volunteers who enlisted from their previous professions to become trained soldiers fighting the best troops on the planet at the time: the British. Until he arrived, every new recruit was simply handed off to a regiment who trained those men to fight the way their commander believed they should, not according to any organized doctrine.

Von Steuben set up a training regimen that saw a training system where specialized noncommissioned officers would train new recruits from a doctrine prepared by him with translation from Steuben’s native German into English. The training program included European-style marching formations as well as training with the weapons they were issued, especially the bayonet. 

Before Steuben arrived to train the Continental Army, the men used their bayonets primarily as a cooking tool, most often as a kind of skewer. The Continentals didn’t trust the bayonet in combat, despite seeing the British troops use it effectively to break American lines at Bunker Hill.

“The American soldier, never having used this arm, had no faith in it, and never used it but to roast his beefsteak, and indeed often left it at home,” Steuben wrote.

The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers
Baron von Steuben drilling troops at Valley Forge. (Wikimedia commons)

The Americans depended on their guns for success in combat, which is probably the reason they hadn’t seen much success in combat up until this point. In Steuben’s mind, the musket was too unreliable when firing in combat and took too long to reload. It was necessary to go into a fight with a loaded rifle, of course, but once the fight devolved into a brawl, the bayonet would decide the victors. 

The bayonet was a solid weapon and he taught the Continental Army to use it. He would know, because he spent much of his life until that point fighting in European wars in the Prussian army. He drilled the Americans constantly, imposing strict discipline on them and forcing them to conform to a regimented way of war. He crafted the Army’s first field manual, “Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States, Part I.”

In 1779, the Continental Army would get a chance to show off their new skills with the bayonet at the Battle of Stony Point, which they won without firing a shot. They didn’t even have loaded muskets when they went into combat.

The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers
Steuben House, Major General Baron von Steuben’s house and “Jersey Estate” 1783-1788. Photo by Deborah Powell.

Washington planned a daring nighttime assault on the fort at Stony Point, 30 miles north of New York City. The Americans moved silently in the dark and infiltrated the defensive positions of the unfinished fort. By the time British sentries noticed Americans approaching Stony Point from the south, Americans under Gen. “Mad Anthony” Wayne were already inside. 

Americans had climbed the slopes approaching Stony Point so fast that British artillery pieces were not able to correct their positions to actually fire at the approaching rebel troops. The fighting lasted for just 25 minutes and the entire action only took an hour. 

The discipline instilled by Baron von Steuben and the trust he placed in the infantry bayonet were crucial to the success of the battle.  

MIGHTY HISTORY

How a single photograph allowed the Japanese emperor to stay in power

On September 2nd, 1945, the foreign affairs delegation of the Japanese Empire boarded the USS Missouri and signed the Japanese Instrument of Surrender under the guidance of Emperor Hirohito, finally putting an end to bloodiest war mankind has ever seen. From that moment on, the world and Japan could start to rebuild.

The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki forced Japan into an unconditional surrender, accepting all terms stated by the Potsdam Declaration. Among other stipulations, the terms of surrender meant that Japan must give up all lands outside of the mainland unless allowed by the Allied Forces, disarm their military, remove all obstacles to building a democratic society, and eliminate, for all time, “the authority and influence of those who have deceived and misled the people of Japan into embarking on world conquest.”

Despite those terms, it was Emperor Hirohito who vowed to maintain the peace — which was met with much disdain by many Americans and Japanese alike, with the exception of General Douglas MacArthur.


The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers

This photo.

(U.S. Army Photo by Lt. Gaetano Faillace)

The International Military Tribunal for the Far East was set up and those responsible for the many war crimes committed were brought to justice. Prime Ministers Tojo, Hirota, Koiso, and twenty-three others were all found guilty of Class-A war crimes and sentenced to execution. Another 5,700 would be tried for Class-B and -C war crimes. Hirohito and the other members of the Japanese Imperial family were simply exonerated at the request of Gen. MacArthur.

Gen. MacArthur knew that Japanese culture was very intertwined with the throne. Since the Japanese throne was willing to cooperate fully, America was able to turn its eyes to the burgeoning communist threat lurking in Asia. This plan could only work, however, if the people of Japan believed the Emperor when he said that peace between the two nations had been achieved.

With the announcement of that newly struck peace came a photo that was taken by Gen. MacArthur’s personal photographer, Lt. Gaetano Faillace that captured the General and the Emperor’s first meeting on September 27th, 1945.

The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers

As devastating as the nuclear bombs were, the firebombings of Tokyo and the rest of Japan were just as bad.

The Japanese press was reluctant to run the photo, but the Americans insisted. At this point in Japanese history, the people had just fought and died for the Emperor because they saw him as having incarnate divinity. Suddenly, some occupying force stepped in and showed the people a picture of their 5′ 5″ Emperor next to a 6-foot-tall American general.

General MacArthur knew the significance of the photo. The Japanese people knew the significance of the photo. And yetEmperor Hirohito gave his blessing for it to be published — affirming his commitment to bringing peace and rebuilding Japan at the expense of the height comparison.

The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers

It humanized him and would allow him to stay as head of state well into the 80s.

Calls for Hirohito’s abdication were growing among the Imperial family. While most would call for Hirohito’s son (and current Emperor), Akihito, to assume the throne when of age, other family members scrambled to make cases sit on the throne themselves. Their claim was that Hirohito was, in fact, not divine if he drove the Empire into the ground. Many of those claimants could have spelled ruin for MacArthur’s rebuilding process as some harbored a strong hatred for America.

So, the Humanity Declaration was given on New Year’s Day, 1946. In it, the Emperor stated in front of his entire people that the emperor was not divine and that the Japanese people were no more superior than any other people. MacArthur was pleased because it meant that Japan would move more towards more democratization.

The declaration, in essence, meant that Emperor Hirohito went from being a divine imperial sovereign to a regular constitutional monarch.

Emperor Hirohito formalized the 1947 Constitution of Japan — officially an amendment to the Meiji Constitution — and stripped himself almost entirely of political control. In the following years, Hirohito’s commitment to Japan led to restructuring and the entering of an era called the Japanese Economic Miracle. Japan became the world’s second largest economy by the time of Hirohito’s death on January 7th, 1989.

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3 heroes who became POWs twice

There is no easy time to be a prisoner of war.


The United States military’s code of conduct implores captured service members to continue to resist by any means possible. This often means reprisals from one’s captors. Therefore, surviving one stint in a POW camp can be excruciating.

To do it twice is unimaginable — except these three American servicemen did it.

The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers
The United States Code of Conduct is memorized by service members to act as a touchstone and a guide if captured. (Department of Defense)

1. Wendall A. Phillips

Phillips was assigned to the Air Transport Command as a radio operator on C-47 aircraft flying from bases in England.

While in Europe Phillips survived five separate crashes. During the last one, in late 1944, his aircraft was shot down. Though he walked away from the crash, he was unable to evade the Germans and was captured.

He and his fellow crewmembers were taken to a German POW camp in Belgium.

Phillips had no intention of sticking around though. After just 33 days Phillips and two other POW’s made a break for it.

Also read: Bob Hoover stole a Nazi plane to escape from a POW camp

Phillips simply snuck away while no guards were around. Finding a hole in the electric fence around the camp, Phillips and the other two men made good their escape and quickly found a place to hide.

Phillips travelled for three days before he linked up with the French Underground. The resistance fighters helped Phillips make it back to American lines.

After returning to American forces, Phillips was reassigned to the China-India-Burma Theater flying “the Hump” to bring supplies to forces fighting the Japanese.

Once again, Phillips’ airplane crashed and he was captured by the enemy.

The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers
POWs at Stalag 11B at Fallingbostel in Germany welcome their liberators, April 16, 1945. (Imperial War Museum Photo)

According to an article in The Morning Call, Phillips endured torture at the hands of the Japanese — they even forcibly removed his fingernails trying to get information out of him.

Phillips would not escape this time but he would survive his ordeal as a POW; he was released with the Japanese surrender in 1945.

2. Felix J. McCool

When Gen. Wainwright conveyed the American surrender in the Philippines to President Roosevelt, he said, “there is a limit to human endurance, and that limit has long since been passed.” But Gen. Wainwright was certainly not speaking for one Marine sergeant, Felix J. McCool.

McCool was still recovering from wounds he had received earlier in resisting the Japanese when he, the 4th Marine Regiment, and the rest of the defenders of Corregidor were rounded up and shipped off to internment.

Just getting there was bad enough as the captives were crammed into cattle cars so tightly that when men passed out or died they could not even fall down.

The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers
POWs in the Pacific Theater endured horrific conditions. Pictured here are men on the Bataan Death March with their hands bound behind their backs; later this would be labeled as a Japanese War Crime. (U.S. National Archives)

But for McCool, being a Marine meant that he was not out of the fight. He did everything in his power to resist his Japanese captors.

While working as forced labor on an airfield McCool and his fellow prisoners created a tiger trap on the runway — they later watched as a Japanese airplane crashed and burned due to their handiwork.  

McCool also managed to smuggle in medical supplies to help the sick and wounded.

He did this despite the constant threat of beatings and even summary execution. He carried on despite the horrendous conditions in the camp.

But there was worse to come.

McCool next endured a brutal voyage to Japan aboard a Japanese prisoner transport vessel, known as a “hell ship.” McCool survived the hellacious conditions only to be put to work in an underground coal mine. There he continued his resistance by sabotaging the work and keeping the faith with his fellow prisoners.

After thirteen months in the coal mine, McCool was freed by the ending of the war in the Pacific.

He returned to the United States and decided to stay in the Marine Corps. Then in 1950, now a Chief Warrant Officer, he found himself fighting the North Koreans.

McCool became part of the fateful Task Force Drysdale, an ad hoc, mixed-nationality unit that was attempting to fight its way toward the beleaguered Marines fighting at the Chosin Reservoir. When the task force was ambushed and separated along the roadway to Hagaru-ri, McCool was once again taken prisoner.

McCool and his fellow captives were marched far north through brutal cold with no rations. Once in their internment camp, the conditions hardly improved. Besides the brutal treatment, the men were also subjected to communist indoctrination and propaganda.

Related: The day we saved 2,147 prisoners from Los Baños Prison

McCool’s resistance earned him the ire of his captors and they threw him in the Hole — a barely three foot square hole in the ground. But he endured.

McCool was repatriated with many other Americans during Operation Big Switch after the end of hostilities.

According to his award citations, McCool spent over six years as a prisoner of war between his two internments.

He later wrote a book about his experiences and the poetry that he wrote to keep himself going during those terrible times.

3. Richard Keirn

Richard Keirn was a young flight officer on a B-17 when he arrived in England in 1944. On Sept. 11, 1944, he took to the skies in his first mission to bomb Nazi Germany. It would also be his last.

Keirn’s B-17 was shot down that day and he became a POW for the remainder of the war. Released in May 1945 after the defeat of Germany, Keirn returned to the United States and stayed in the military. He became a part of the newly formed U.S. Air Force.

In 1965, Keirn embarked for Vietnam, flying F-4 Phantom II’s.

Then on July 24, 1965, North Vietnamese surface-to-air missiles engaged and shot down an American aircraft for the first time. That aircraft was piloted by Capt. Richard Keirn.

Keirn ejected from his stricken aircraft and would spend nearly eight years as a POW in North Vietnam.

The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers
Newly freed prisoners of war celebrate as their C-141A aircraft lifts off from Hanoi, North Vietnam, on Feb. 12, 1973, during Operation Homecoming. The mission included 54 C-141 flights between Feb. 12 and April 4, 1973, returning 591 POWs to American soil. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Keirn, like many of his fellow POWs, made every effort to resist the North Vietnamese. For his actions as a POW, he was awarded a Silver Star and a Legion of Merit.

Keirn was released from captivity with many other downed airmen as part of Operation Homecoming in 1973.

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AN-1: America’s plan for submarine aircraft carriers

Today, America’s nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and ballistic missile submarines represent two of the most potent forms of force projection wielded by any force in military history. For a short time in the late 1950s, America had plans to put them together into a single GI Joe style superweapon: A submarine aircraft carrier.

The nuclear days before we got MAD

For a short four years after the United States dropped the only atomic bombs ever used in anger on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, America enjoyed a monopoly on the destructive power of splitting the atom. But on August 29, 1949, America’s former World War II allies in the Soviet Union conducted their own nuclear test at the Semipalatinsk test site in modern-day Kazakhstan. While America’s use of atomic weapons may have brought the world into the atomic age, it was truly the Soviet test that hurled the world’s two dominant superpowers into the decades-long staring contest we now know as the Cold War.

The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers
A 15-kiloton nuclear artillery round is fired from a 280-mm cannon 25 May 1953 at the Nevada Proving Grounds. (Photo courtesy of the National Nuclear Security Administration/Nevada Field Office)

The massive destructive power of these new weapons forced a strategic shift in military operations the world over. Today, it’s difficult to fully appreciate the scope of the challenge nuclear weapons posed to military operations in those early days. Since the early 1960s, the nuclear powers of the world have operated under the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction, or MAD. The premise behind MAD was simple as laid out by President Kennedy’s Defense Secretary Robert McNamara: Any single Soviet nuclear attack would be met with a barrage of American nuclear weapons, which would prompt a full-fledged launch of Soviet nuclear weapons in a deadly cascade.

The result, everyone knew, would be the end of life as we know it. MAD ensured there would be no winners in a nuclear conflict — effectively rendering nuclear weapons moot on the battlefield. If any single nuclear attack could bring about the end of the world, it was in the best interest of all nations never to launch such an attack at all. But prior to the advent of the MAD doctrine, nuclear weapons were largely seen like any other weapon in a nation’s arsenal. Because these weapons were so capable, many military leaders began devising entire strategies around their creative use (from developing what would become America’s nuclear triad to fielding backpack nukes on skiing Green Berets).

The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers
During the Cold War, Special Operators were tasked with carrying SADM backpack nukes behind enemy lines. (DoD Photos)

Of course, not all military planning was based on finding new ways to use nuclear weapons. There was also a pressing need to develop strategies and technologies that would be able to fight after the first few volleys of a nuclear exchange. One area of particular concern was America’s newfound air power. At the onset of World War II, the United States maintained just 2,500 or so military aircraft, but by the end of the war, America was an aviation powerhouse. With more than 300,000 tactical aircraft and a fleet of the most advanced bombers on Earth (the B-29 Stratofortress), America knew a potential World War III would be fought largely in the skies… but that posed a problem. How do you launch aircraft after all your airfields have been erased by nuclear hellfire?

That question led to a number of interesting programs, including the UFO-like VZ-9 Avrocar that theoretically wouldn’t need runways to take off. Another strategy first introduced in the 1950s called for a fleet of fighters that didn’t need runways, or even hangars that could be targeted by enemy bombers. Instead, the U.S. Navy wanted to launch fighter jets from submarines, just like they had been experimenting with launching cruise missiles.

Launching winged cruise missiles from submarines

The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers
USS Halibut (WikiMedia Commons)

In the 1950s, the United States was already hard at work experimenting with the idea of launching large missiles from submarines, in the early stages of what would become America’s seaward leg of the nuclear triad. In fact, the concept seemed so promising that some Navy officials began to wonder if they could launch small fighters from the hull of a submarine, just like they could with missiles.

RELATED: WHAT EXACTLY IS AMERICA’S NUCLEAR TRIAD?

After conducting missile tests aboard modified fleet ships, the Navy built two diesel-electric cruise missile submarines known as the Grayback Class. These subs could carry four large Regulus II missiles — which were turbojet-powered cruise missiles. After the Grayback Class subs’ promising performance, the Navy built a single Halibut-class vessel: a nuclear-powered submarine that could carry five of these large missiles. Unlike the submarine-launched ballistic missiles of today, these missiles were not fired while the sub was submerged. Instead, it would surface and launch the winged-cruise missiles via a ramp that led down the bow of the ship.

In order to defend itself against enemy ships, the USS Halibut also carried six 533-millimeter torpedo tubes, making the 350-foot long submarine a 5,000 thousand ton warfighting behemoth. Thanks to its S3W nuclear reactor, the Halibut had limitless range, which was important because the Regulus II missiles it carried had a range of only around 1,000 miles.

Because the Halibut had been designed to deploy winged cruise missiles of a similar size and weight to crewed fighter aircraft, the Navy saw an opportunity. Not only could these new submarines be used for missiles… they could also feasibly be used as carriers.

The plan to build submarine aircraft carriers

The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers
(WikiMedia Commons)

World War II had proven the value of aircraft carriers to the U.S. Navy, but after losing five such vessels and seven more escort carriers in the conflict, the Navy could see the value of an aircraft carrier that could submerge after launching its fighters.

Using the Halibut as a model, the U.S. Navy devised the AN-1 submarine aircraft carrier, which would carry eight fighters stored within two hangers inside the ship’s hull. In order to launch the fighters, the submarine would surface and orient the fighters straight up to be launched vertically. In order to manage the vertical launch, separate boosters would be affixed to the aircraft once they were on the launch rail. Those boosters would then fire, propelling the fighter into the air with enough speed and altitude for the fighter’s own engines to keep it flying.

The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers

According to the Navy’s plans, the AN-1 submarine aircraft carrier could launch four fighters in just 6 minutes and all eight fighters in less than eight minutes. Today’s Nimitz-class supercarriers can launch a fighter every 20 seconds when moving at full steam, but nonetheless, eight fighters in eight minutes was seen as an impressive figure at the time, especially for an aircraft carrier that could submerge again after launch.

Initially, the Navy hoped to use conventional fighter aircraft with the new submarine, and for a short time, the Grumman F-11F Tiger was considered for the role. But the 1950s saw such rapid advancement in aviation that the F-11 was soon deemed too slow to compete in the latter half of the 20th century. Instead, the Navy looked to Boeing to devise purpose-built fighters that could not only manage the stress of a vertical launch from an aircraft carrier submarine, but that could also attain speeds as high as Mach 3.

The challenges of flying a fighter from a submarine aircraft carrier

The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers

The proposed Boeing fighters never received a formal designation, but plans called for them to have an overall length of 70 feet, with a height of 19.5 feet and a wingspan of just 21.1 feet. They were to use a Wright SE-105 jet engine that produced 23,000 pounds of thrust and were to be crewed by a single pilot.

Boeing’s plan called for two additional SE-105 engines to be attached to the fighters to sustain its vertical liftoff, but once it had reached sufficient altitude, the aircraft would eject the two additional engines, which would later be recovered for re-use.

The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers

Vertical lift-off tests on other platforms had proven the viability of such a launch approach, but take-off is only half of what fighters do aboard aircraft carriers. In order to work, the fighters also needed to be able to land. On surface ship aircraft carriers, that’s done in a somewhat traditional manner, with fighters landing on the carriers’ deck and using a tail hook and cable to arrest its forward momentum.

Without sufficient deck space for such landings on a submarine, Boeing considered having its AN-1 fighters land vertically just like they took off. In theory, it was possible, but tests of such a landing approach proved too risky for all but the most experienced pilots. In order to land vertically with the engine facing the deck of the ship, the pilots would have to turn and look over their shoulder during landing — like using a jet engine to back into a parking spot from above, knowing full well that your aircraft (and potentially the submarine) would explode if you made even the slightest mistake.

The military landscape would shift dramatically again in the years that followed, as new ballistic missiles made it possible to launch nuclear weapons at far-flung targets with a great deal of accuracy and the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction reduced the likelihood of an early nuclear exchange wiping out airfields. America would ultimately invest heavily in massive supercarriers that, while unable to hide from enemy missiles, offer a great deal more capability and versatility than the AN-1 submarine aircraft carrier ever could.


This article by Alex Hollings was originally published by Sandboxx News. Follow Sandboxx News on Facebook.

Feature image: U.S. Navy

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the first Navy Medal of Honor

The first Navy Medal of Honor recipient was Captain of the Maintop John Williams. He was an enlisted leader sent to reinforce an attack on a Confederate battery at Mathias Point who continued caring for all of his sailors and the flag even as he was wounded and under intense fire in June, 1861.


The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers

Union warships and Confederate batteries exchange fire at Aquia Creek.

(U.S. Navy sketch by Lt. Cash)

The attack on Mathias Point was part of the constant struggle during the war for control of the waterways in the divided nation. The typical script in the course of the war was of Union troops and boats pushing their way along rivers and coasts to starve Confederate cities of supply, but there were early cases of Confederate troops cutting off river access for U.S. forces.

In May, 1861, the Commonwealth of Virginia sent troops to seize control of the Potomac, cutting off access to the sea from Washington D.C. Predictably, the Union ordered the Potomac flotilla, a small command consisting of just a few ships, to re-open the waterways.

One focus was Aquia Creek, a waterway that met up with the terminus of the Richmond and Fredericksburg railroads at Mathias Point. Obviously, a juncture of major land and sea transportation infrastructure is always a key strategic point.

The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers

Union sailors work with a cannon onboard the USS Thomas Freeborn.

(U.S. Navy)

The main ship in the flotilla was a small steamer, USS Thomas Freeborn, that carried only a few, light pieces of artillery, but it attempted multiple attacks on the new Confederate batteries on the Potomac in May and June, 1861. The initial fighting was not only indecisive, it was inconsequential. Neither side was able to inflict a serious injury on a member of the other force, and neither the battery nor the ships suffered real damage.

So, the Navy decided to switch to landing parties that would break up fortifications and prevent the construction of new fortifications and batteries. The first attack was on June 24, but it was during the follow-up attack on June 27 that Captain of the Maintop John Williams distinguished himself and earned the first Navy Medal of Honor.

Captain of the maintop was an enlisted position below that of the chief petty officer.

The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers

Union ships and Confederate batteries clash in 1861 as landing parties row to shore..

(U.S. Navy)

Potomac Flotilla Commander James Ward led the attack against a “large Confederate force,” which had not yet built fortifications on a position near Mathias Point. The Union troops managed to drive the Confederate pickets back toward their main force, but Ward was hit with a fatal gunshot wound soon after.

The men were ordered back to the boats, but then a second landing was made under the direction of a lieutenant, and the landing was quickly pushed back.

During this second landing, Williams “told his men, while lying off in the boat, that every man must die on his thwart sooner than leave a man behind,” according to his Medal of Honor citation. He was wounded in the thigh by a musket ball during the engagement, but retained control of his boat and carried the flag in his hand back to the Freeborn after the staff was destroyed by a musket ball.

The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers

Union ships fire on CSA batteries in Virginia in 1861.

(U.S. Navy)

The orders for his medal would not be approved until April 3, 1863.

Since then, Navy personnel have received hundreds of Medals of Honor. Most recently, the medal was awarded to Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Britt Slabinski for his initiative under serious fire in Operation Anaconda in 2002. Slabinski rescued multiple wounded service members after the insertion helicopter was destroyed by a rocket-propelled grenade and led a grueling defense until extracted.

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The origin of the famous ‘red phone’ in the Oval Office

In countless movies, in references across all mediums, the red phone exists. Brightly hued and highlighted through dramatic dialogue, we are shown this famous form of communication within the White House. But why is there a red phone in the first place? What does it do? And why it is so famous? After all, it’s just a phone. 

But, in actuality, it wasn’t a phone at all. Known as the Moscow-Washington Hotline, it was a direct line of communication between the White House and the Kremlin (where the Soviet Communist Headquarters resided). The line was established in 1963 after the Cuban Missile Crisis so that President John F. Kennedy, Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev and their advisors could connect directly and quickly. 

The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers
“Khrushchev… your signal sucks… damn it, I lost him. That’s not good.” (DoD photo)

The need for the line was put into place after the 1962 crisis, when it took the United States 12 hours to translate a message from Khrushchev. The 3,000-word message is stated as taking a “dangerous amount of time” in translation. This prompted both sides to streamline communication. Hence, the hotline. 

The communication first consisted of teletype machines. In the ’80s it was transitioned to a fax machine, and in 2008, it became an email line connected by a secure computer link with lightning-fast connection speeds. 

The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers
Well, that’s not red… or a phone… (Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library/ Wikimedia Commons)

Origins of the idea

There are several people who claim to have come up with the idea for direct communication, including a Harvard professor who had previously worked with the Department of Defense on nuclear war policies. The professor, Thomas Schelling, said the 1958 book Red Alert (which prompted the movie Dr. Strangelove) gave government officials the idea to connect directly– specifically, by showing the benefits of fast and direct conversations. 

After the agreement was signed, both sides began working on the logistics to lay this line, including ways to keep it secure such as encryption. The first message was sent on August 30th, 1963, including numbers and an apostrophe to ensure the connection worked properly.

The US sent: “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog’s back 1234567890,” a common test message, as it includes all 26 letters of the English alphabet. The first official use was to announce the assassination of JFK to Russia.

Over the years, the line has been accidentally cut multiple times, including when it was unknowingly bulldozed in Denmark. Today, there are bright and clear markers in Finland, as well as other countries, to help keep the line free from damage. 

Why a red phone?

This scene seems to be where it all started

Because there was never an actual red phone — or a phone at all for that matter — it’s an interesting addition to pop culture. Countless movies, video games and even movies portray a fictional red phone as a quick way to reach Russia. 

So where did the idea come from? It likely came from the movie, Dr. Strangelove, itself. The idea was then used throughout the 80s in political commercials, where it took off. President Ronald Reagan used the phone to market himself, showing off his Strategic Defense Initiative. In the 80s, it made another appearance for the 1984 election. It was also used in 2008 throughout Hilary Clinton’s campaign. In years since, it’s simply become a pop culture icon that remains recognizable in movies, museums and beyond.

Feature image: Jimmy Carter Library and Museum (Wikimedia Commons)

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how early World War II cluster bombs worked

The Joint Direct Attack Munition gets a lot of attention for its ability to strike within 30 feet of a target, no matter what the weather is like. But with all that attention, other bombs get short shrift it seems. Take, for instance, the cluster bomb.


The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers

The German SD2 bore a resemblance to a butterfly, getting the nickname “Butterfly bomb.”

(U.S. Army)

JDAMs can’t do everything

The truth is that cluster bombs can do things that JDAMs simply can’t. In fact, the bombs are so useful that, this past December, Secretary of Defense James Mattis decided to reverse the Obama Administration’s plan to ditch these valuable weapons. Despite recent controversy and efforts to ban their use, systems like these have been around for decades.

The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers

The CBU-103 is a modern cluster bomb, able to hit within 85 feet of its aimpoint with 202 BLU-97 submunitions from 10 miles away.

(U.S. Air Force)

Germany’s lethal “butterflies”

Cluster bombs first saw widespread use by both sides in World War II. The Germans used a version called the “Butterfly bomb,” also known as the SD2, which carried a number of “bomblets,” or four-and-a-half-pound submunitions. One attack in 1943 on British cities used over 3,000 of these bombs — some were set to go off immediately, others had a delayed detonation.

The system proved effective, so the United States made copies of that bomb: the M28 (100lbs) and the M29 (500lbs). The Americans added a proximity fuse to some of the bomblets, making them even more devastating to troops caught in the open.

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Modern cluster bombs are more lethal

Today, modern cluster bombs, like the CBU-97, make attack planes like the F-15E Strike Eagle or strategic bombers like the B-1B Lancer capable of wiping out dozens of tanks in a single pass. Other cluster bombs opt to replace the boom with the ability to knock out a country’s electrical grid.

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How WWII submarine commander Roy Davenport was awarded 5 Navy Crosses

World War II was the golden age of American submarine warfare. By war’s end, seven submarine commanders and one enlisted crew member had received the Medal of Honor. The US submarine fleet, often referred to as the “Silent Service” for its secretive undersea missions, operated independently and in wolf packs while patrolling contested sea lanes in the Pacific.

During war patrols beyond the range of American airpower, US submarines exacted a heavy toll on Japanese naval forces, sinking four fleet carriers, four escort carriers, one battleship, four heavy cruisers, nine light cruisers, 38 destroyers, and 23 submarines. 

Although Rear Adm. Roy Davenport was never awarded the Medal of Honor, he was the first and only US Navy sailor to be awarded five Navy Cross medals, an honor Davenport shares with US Marine Corps legend Chesty Puller. Even though the submarine commander is one of the most decorated sailors from World War II, the heroic exploits that made him so remain largely unknown.

FIRST NAVY CROSS: CAROLINE ISLANDS

Before he assumed command of the USS Haddock, Davenport had four submarine war patrols under his belt, having served as an executive officer on the USS Silversides under the command of Lt. Cmdr. Creed Burlingame. As the Haddock’s lieutenant commander, Davenport was awarded his first Navy Cross for conducting numerous hazardous missions into enemy-infested waters off the Caroline Islands between June 30 and Aug. 10, 1943. 

During a patrol near Palau, an island country that connects the western chain of the Caroline Islands with Micronesia, Davenport torpedoed and sank the 5,533-ton Saipan Maru, a Japanese transport ship. On July 26, 1943, Davenport fired a total of 15 Mark XIV torpedoes at ranges between 2,000 and 4,000 yards in four separate attacks. 

The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers
The crew of the USS Haddock (SS-231) pose for a group photo. Photo courtesy of navsource.org.

Davenport “pressed home his attacks with cool and courageous determination and despite intense and persistent hostile opposition, succeeded in sinking over 10,500 tons of enemy shipping and damaging over 35,500 tons,” his citation states.

SECOND NAVY CROSS: CAROLINE ISLANDS

Davenport was awarded his second Navy Cross while serving as the commanding officer on the sixth war patrol of the USS Haddock between Sept. 2 and Sept. 28, 1943. Over the course of the 27-day war patrol, Davenport engaged with four different Japanese ships. On Sept. 15, he fired four torpedoes, claiming two hits and a fire aboard the target vessel. When the enemy ship attempted to ram Davenport’s submarine, Davenport released two more torpedoes “down the throat.”

Five days later, Davenport came into contact with the Tonan Maru II, a 19,000-ton tanker. He fired six torpedoes from 3,700 yards; half of the volley impacted its target. Between Sept. 21 and Sept. 23, the Haddock engaged two more ships, missing the first with two torpedoes from 3,000 yards. However, the US submarine later claimed three confirmed hits on the second ship after releasing at least eight torpedoes. 

“He conducted daring attacks during this patrol which resulted in sinking over 39,000 tons of enemy shipping and damaging over 4,000 tons,” Davenport’s citation reads. “By skillful maneuvering, he successfully evaded enemy counter-attacks and brought his submarine through with no damage.”

THIRD NAVY CROSS: CAROLINE ISLANDS

Davenport was awarded his third Navy Cross while serving as commanding officer of the USS Haddock on its seventh war patrol from Oct. 20 to Nov. 15, 1943. The Haddock patrolled off the coast of the Truk Islands (now called Chuuk Islands), a cluster of 16 volcanic islands, which form part of the eastern Caroline Islands. From Nov. 1 to Nov. 2, Davenport attacked a freighter and a troopship with five torpedoes. The freighter was destroyed, while the troopship survived after catching fire.

“He skillfully conducted a surface torpedo attack against an enemy destroyer search group,” Davenport’s citation reads. “One destroyer was sunk and he thereafter conducted a successful surface retirement during the ensuing confusion. During the patrol, he also delivered highly successful attacks against two heavily escorted enemy convoys which resulted in sinking over 32,000 tons of enemy shipping.” 

The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers
The ship’s sponsor, Mrs. R. M. Davenport, with a champagne bottle for christening; Lt. Cmdr. Roy Davenport; and the matron of honor, Mrs. Garvey, with roses, are seen before the launching at Mare Island, March 23, 1944. Photo courtesy of the Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum/navsource.org.

FOURTH NAVY CROSS: HONSHU, JAPAN

After returning from the Caroline Islands, Davenport requested a transfer and became the first skipper of the USS Trepang, a brand-new, Balao-class submarine. Davenport led the first war patrol of the USS Trepang into enemy-controlled waters south of Honshu, Japan. On his first engagement, he fired six torpedoes at two large tankers, a freighter, and an escort. The engagement sunk the Takunan Maru, a 750-ton freighter.

“By excellent judgment, outstanding skill and aggressiveness, he closed and launched intelligently planned and smartly executed torpedo attacks,” Davenport’s fourth Navy Cross citation reads. “His skillful evasive tactics enabled his ship to escape enemy countermeasures and return to port safely.”

Between Sept. 13 and Oct. 23, 1944, Davenport was credited with sinking three ships and inflicting damage to a Yamashiro-class battleship. According to the Military Hall of Honor: “Davenport weathered a typhoon and, on 10-11 October, picked up a convoy of two tankers and one escort. Firing four stern tubes, he claimed three hits but no sinkings were confirmed in Japanese records. The next night, he fired four torpedoes at a Japanese landing craft, believing all missed. Postwar, he was credited with the 1,000-ton Transport No. 5.” 

FIFTH NAVY CROSS: LUZON STRAIT

The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers
Lt. Cmdr. Roy M. Davenport of Los Angeles, Calif., wears the Navy Cross recently presented to him for sinking “many thousands of tons” of enemy shipping. Davenport stands beside his vessel’s conning tower, on which are painted Japanese flags, indicating the enemy victims. Photo courtesy of navsource.org.

On Nov. 16, 1944, the USS Trepang departed for its second war patrol from Majuro, a chain of the Marshall Islands in the western Pacific Ocean. On his 10th war patrol, Davenport braved the hazardous waters of the Luzon Strait, which is located between Taiwan and the Philippines’ Luzon Islands.

During the 34-day patrol, Davenport led a wolf pack comprising three American submarines called “Roy’s Rangers.” The US submarines fired 22 torpedoes and destroyed four enemy ships, totaling 35,000 tons. However, the postwar Joint Army-Navy Assessment Committee — the US interservice agency that determined Japanese naval and merchant marine shipping losses during the war — reduced the tally from four to three ships sunk, for a revised total of 13,000 tons.

According to his fifth Navy Cross citation, “Daringly penetrating a strong hostile escort screen to deliver a series of night surface attacks, Commander Davenport launched his torpedoes into an escorted convoy, holding to his targets grimly in the face of heavy countermeasures and sinking an important amount of Japanese tonnage.

“During this excellently planned and brilliantly executed engagement, the TREPANG effectively coordinated her efforts with other submarines and, as a result of the combined firepower of these gallant ships, contributed to the destruction of the entire convoy within a period of three hours.”

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

Feature image: navsource.org

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3 examples of how battlecruisers sucked in a fight

There are some battlecruisers that might have lasted for a bit, but all too often, battlecruisers had a very short combat career — usually ending in a spectacular fashion.


They had originally been designed to carry a set of big guns to blast apart enemy cruisers, but they also had a very high top speed, so they could outrun anything that could give them a fair fight.

The Royal Navy was familiar with battlecruisers blowing up when hit. They saw it happen at Jutland and the Denmark Strait. But Japan had its own bad experience with battlecruisers. Here are three case studies.

The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers
HIJMS Akagi (US Navy photo)

1. HIJMS Akagi

Okay, technically, this is an aircraft carrier, but she was converted from a battle cruiser. Akagi was impressive – ww2db.com notes she displaced 36,500 tons and was over 850 feet long. She carried as many as 90 planes.

She went down because of one bomb. Granted, it was a 1,000-pound bomb, but it was still just one conventional bomb.

According to the book “Shattered Sword” by Jon Parshall and Anthony Tully, that bomb (plus the presence of aircraft being armed and fueled) lead to catastrophic fires that eventually forced Isoroku Yamamoto to order his old command to be scuttled.

Akagi had packed a powerful punch in six months of combat – including credit for wrecking the battleship USS Oklahoma (BB 37) and damaging the USS West Virginia (BB 48). But she proved to have a glass jaw.

The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers
Battlecruiser HIJMS Hiei at Saesbo in 1926. She was sunk in 1942. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

2. HIJMS Hiei

On paper, the HIJMS Hiei (along with her sister ship HIJMS Kirishima) should have torn through Daniel Callaghan’s force at Guadalcanal like a kid through Christmas presents. They were two of the four Kongo-class battlecruisers, and brought the biggest guns to the fight.

But instead, it was Dan Callaghan who triumphed that night (at the cost of his life). As for Hiei? She took an 8-inch armor-piercing shell in the steering compartment, and was left a cripple. The next morning, planes from Henderson Field finished her off.

Crippled by a cruiser, then sunk by planes from the airfield she was supposed to bombard, makes Hiei a classic loser.

Her sister, Kirishima, didn’t fare much better. She went toe-to-toe with the USS Washington (BB 56) two nights later, and was reduced to a wreck before she was scuttled.

The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers
Two views of HIJMS Kongo as she looked in 1944, the year she was sunk by USS Sealion (SS 315). (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

3. HIJMS Kongo

The lead Kongo-class battlecruiser lasted longer, mostly because during World War II, carriers were rightly seen as the more valuable targets. But when the USS Sealion (SS 315), commanded by Lt. Cdr. Eli Thomas Reich, got her in its sights, Kongo ended up as just another battlecruiser statistic.

Here sources disagree on how many hits she took. Anthony Tully notes at CombinedFleet.com that the Kongo took at least two hits, leading to an eventual capsizing and explosion.

Rear Adm. Samuel Eliot Morison said in the “History of United States Naval Operations in World War II” that a single hit lead to the explosive end of Kongo.

So, there you have it. Three more reasons why battlecruisers are losers — provided by the Japanese Navy.

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These are weird Navy traditions and their meanings

A recent Navy Times article notes that the crew of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG 71) joined the “Order of the Blue Nose” — a distinction reserved for ships and crew that crossing the Arctic Circle.


Most people have not heard of such a mystical Navy order, and there are others that are equally shrouded in seafaring lore, according to a list maintained by the Naval History and Heritage Command.

That list includes both well-known orders and not-so-well known orders. They are for notable feats — and in some cases, dubious ones.

The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers
Command Master Chief of aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) Spike Call plays the role of King Neptune during a crossing the line ceremony aboard the ship. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Clemente A. Lynch/Released)

Perhaps the most well-known is the “Order of the Shellback,” given to those sailors who have crossed the equator. The “Crossing the Line” ceremony has been portrayed both in the PBS documentary series “Carrier,” as well as being the plot point for an episode of “JAG” in the 1990s.

But there is more than one kind of shellback.

If you cross the equator at the International Date Line (about 900 miles east of Nauru), you become a “Golden Shellback” (since those who cross the International Date Line are called Golden Dragons).

If you cross the equator at the Prime Meridian (a position about 460 miles to the west of Sao Tome and Principe), you become an “Emerald Shellback.”

The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers
Crewmembers aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk (WMEC 913) line up on the flight deck and make sounds like a whale to call to the whales as part of their shellback ceremony. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by OS3 Vicente Arechiga)

Now, we can move to some lesser-known, and even dubious orders.

The “Order of the Caterpillar” is awarded to anyone who has to leave a plane on the spur of the moment due to the plane being unable to continue flying. You even get a golden caterpillar pin.

The eyes of the caterpillar will then explain the circumstances of said departure. The Naval History and Heritage Command, for instance, notes that ruby red eyes denote a midair collision.

The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers

Then, there is the becoming a member of the “Goldfish Club.” That involves spending time in a life raft. If you’re in the raft for more than 24 hours, you become a “Sea Squatter.”

The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers

Using the Panama Canal makes you a member of the “Order of the Ditch.”

The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers

Oh, and in case you are wondering, crossing the Antarctic Circle makes you a “Red Nose.”

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These daring defectors turned the Vietcong against itself

In 1966, the Marines in Vietnam found themselves with an unusual opportunity – to turn the tables on the enemy.


This came by way of Viet Cong and North Vietnamese defectors who were willing to be retrained to work and fight with American combat units. In exchange, they would receive better treatment and pay than they had at the hands of the communists.

This program dubbed “Chieu Hoi” (translated as “open arms”) offered defecting Viet Cong and North Vietnamese amnesty, healthcare, money, and employment assistance. After barely surviving under communist oppression, many were more than willing to give it up.

The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers
Kit Carson scouts were recruited from Vietcong defectors for their knowledge of the terrain and the local population. (Photo from AirborneOCS.com)

These incentives were enough to convince thousands of Viet Cong to desert and join the Americans. Due to their inherent knowledge of the terrain and the locals, the Marines called them Kit Carson scouts after the famous American frontiersman.

To the Vietnamese they were Hoi Chanh – or “one who has returned.”

To prepare for missions with American forces, communist defectors first had to pass training to become Kit Carson scouts.

For the 3rd Marine Division, an early proponent of the Kit Carson program, this training took place at Quang Tri City. Sergeant Maj. Tran Van Tranh, a communist infiltrator who defected when he saw the good life in South Vietnam, led the school there.

The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers
Recruiting leaflet for the Chieu Hoi program. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

At the school he lectured on mines, booby-traps, snipers, and ambushes. And how to detect and disarm each one.

In 1967, after seeing the effectiveness of the program with the Marines, U.S. commander Gen. William Westmoreland ordered all divisions to recruit and train at least 100 scouts each.

Other schools with other divisions soon followed. In the U.S. Army’s 9th Infantry Division the Hoi Chanhs became known as Tiger Scouts.

Despite their training and experience many Kit Carson Scouts lacked English language skills. This was overcome in the Marine Corps by training young Marines in the Vietnamese language prior to arriving in country. These Marines were then assigned as “handlers” to the scouts assigned to their unit.

The Kit Carson Scouts were able to perform numerous tasks that made them priceless to the American fighting men. They were able to talk to the local Vietnamese in their native language and could identify Viet Cong guerrillas in the villages.

Through their training and experience they became adept at spotting booby traps – often having laid some themselves – saving countless Americans from death and dismemberment.

Due to the nature of their work and being out in front of American forces the Kit Carson scouts often found themselves engaged in combat as well. Relying on their guerrilla instincts and proper military training from the Americans, they excelled.

Many were recommended for awards for their bravery.

The scouts proved their value early on. In a short period of time in late 1966 the few Kit Carson Scouts assigned to the Marines were credited with nearly 50 enemy kills and the detection of nearly 20 mines, booby-traps, or tunnels.

Another scout led Marines through unfamiliar territory, at night, allowing them to surprise and capture a 15-man contingent of Viet Cong.

In another instance, a scout on patrol with Recon Marines fought savagely when the unit was ambushed. His suppressive fire in the face of overwhelming odds drove the enemy back. He then located a suitable landing zone for extraction and single-handedly carried two wounded Marines there. It was only after he fell, exhausted, while working to clear the landing zone that the Marines realized he had been shot three times but had never stopped.

The usefulness of the Kit Carson Scouts did not stop on the battlefield though.

They were equally as valuable in civil affairs and psychological operations due to their understanding of the local population and the enemy. Most importantly, they could help recruit more Viet Cong to rally to the government’s cause.

In total, over 83,000 Viet Cong were convinced to defect to South Vietnam, though only a small number would become Kit Carson Scouts.

In a paper detailing his experiences as the Officer in Charge of Kit Carson Scouts for the 3rd Marine Division Capt. William Cowan explained “the methods of effective Scout employment are restricted only by the imagination…success varies proportionally with the unit’s attitude and methods of employment.”

He gives the example of a Kit Carson Scout, Nguyen Thuong, who worked with 2nd Battalion 9th Marines. This particular scout could do it all.

In one instance Thuong discovered a well-concealed trap but because of his experience he suspected an enemy observation post in the area. His keen instinct was correct and the Marines were able to sweep through and destroy it.

In a later mission, Thuong braved enemy mortars to determine their firing position and called out the coordinates, in English, to the Marines who were able to call for fire and silence the position.

Thuong also made broadcasts for the Marines psychological operations efforts and acted as a clandestine agent in the villages around the Cam Lo artillery base. His intelligence gathering was far superior to anything the Marines could hope to accomplish on their own.

The service of men like Thuong proved invaluable to the overall war effort. By wars end over 200 Kit Carson Scouts had been killed in action out of less than 3,000 who served with the Americans.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The awesome way a Cuban defector rescued his family

In 1991, a lone Russian-built MiG-21 approached the Florida coast from Cuba. The plane began “wagging” its wings, a recognized signal for friendly intent. The pilot was Orestes Lorenzo, and he was bringing the MiG to the United States in an attempt to defect from Cuba. The only problem was his wife and kids were still in Cuba.

Not for long.


The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers

If you want it done right…

That’s the thing about fighter pilots – no one will accuse them of being timid. Lorenzo was no different. He did fly a 40-year-old MiG straight at the coastline of the world’s lone superpower. In fact, Lorenzo was so daring, he wasn’t even in the Cuban Air Force when he took the jet. He told American officials he’d “borrowed” it to make the flight. Lorenzo didn’t even speak a word of English, he just yearned for freedom.

While he was in Cuba’s Air Force, he learned to fly in the Soviet Union and was deployed to fly air missions in Angola. After a second tour of duty in the Soviet Union, he and his family moved to an air base far from the Cuban capital of Havana. They found themselves unhappy with their situation, facing poverty, repression, and a government more concerned with itself than its people. Lorenzo and his wife hatched a plan to escape with their children, but it was only Lorenzo who landed at Naval Air Station Key West that day in 1991.

That’s where his daring comes in. Lorenzo was whisked away to Washington, where he was (presumably) debriefed, and received his asylum paperwork, as well as visas for his wife and two sons. All was almost set to go as planned, except now the Cuban government wouldn’t authorize his wife and children to leave the island nation. Orestes Lorenzo didn’t just accept his station in life like Castro wanted him to, and he sure as hell wasn’t about to accept this. Lorenzo launched a PR campaign that culminated in President George H.W. Bush giving a speech directed at Cuba, imploring Cuba to let his family go, all to no avail.

Castro refused, so the fighter pilot took matters into his own hands.

The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers

Spoiler alert: fighter pilots are brave.

Lorenzo raised ,000 to purchase a 1961 Cessna 310, a small, simple civilian aircraft. He even took lessons to learn to fly the Cessna like an expert. He got word to his family that they should be in a certain spot they all knew well, wearing orange t-shirts. At 5:07 p.m. on Dec. 19, 1992, Lorenzo took off from the Florida Keys in his 30-year-old Cessna and flew just 100 feet above the ocean.

Flying up above a set of cliffs on Cuba’s coastline, some 160 miles from Havana, he pulled up and saw three bright orange t-shirts waiting for him by the side of a road. He landed the plane, got his family inside, and took off again, headed for Marathon in the Florida Keys. Two hours later he and his family were safe.

The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers

The Lorenzo family lands in Marathon.

The U.S. returned the MiG to Cuba, and the Lorenzo family settled in Florida, starting a concrete business. Very few Cuban pilots were able to defect to the United States during the entire Cold War.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 people who were erased from history

It’s not easy to remove a person from history, but brutal leaders throughout history have erased some of their formerly close advisors.

After news of the execution of Jang Song-thaek, Kim Jong Un’s uncle and close advisor, broke in December 2013, North Korean state media has erased the man from history entirely, deleting him from online archives and photographs.


This extreme measure makes it “the largest deletion ever carried out by the official KCNA news agency and the Rodong Sinmun newspaper,” according to the Guardian.

But it wasn’t the first time a political leader has attempted to wipe a person clean out of history — here are five other people who were erased from existence:

Nikolai Yezhov, Joseph Stalin’s head of secret police

The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers
Stalin (center) with Nikolai Yezhov to his left. After Yezhov’s execution, he was airbrushed out of the photo.

Yezhov earned the nickname “The Vanishing Commissar” among art historians for his disappearance from photographs after his execution in 1940.

Yezhov, a loyal Stalinist, was head of the secret police during Stalin’s Great Purge, overseeing mass arrests and executions of those deemed disloyal to the Soviet regime before ironically being arrested, tortured, tried, and executed himself for disloyalty.

Stalin was known for eliminating all traces of those who fell out of his good side, or whom he no longer had use for, Yezhov included.

Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler’s propaganda minister

The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers
Goebbels (second from right) appears with Adolf Hitler and others at the home of film maker Leni Riefenstahl in 1937. In later images, he is missing.

Goebbels was immensely valued by Hitler for his enthusiasm, brilliant ideas, and vehement anti-semitism. Hitler made Goebbels his chief of propaganda, and sent him all over Germany to establish a Nazi presence and boost morale during the war. Goebbels was one of just a few people in Hitler’s inner-circle, even trusted with helping burn Hitler’s body after he committed suicide.

Like Stalin, Hitler was known for “erasing” people who fell out of his favor, though it remains unknown what Goebbels did that led to his being deleted from this famous 1937 photo taken at the home of German film maker Leni Riefenstahl.

Leon Trotsky, Russian revolutionary

The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers
Formerly close comrades, Trotsky appears in the image on the left at one of Lenin’s speeches; the same image, altered after the two split, shows Trotsky deleted.

An influential voice in the early days of the Soviet Union, Trotsky was initially a leader in the Bolshevik revolution, but references to Trotsky were eliminated after he switched his allegiance to the Mensheviks, splitting from comrade and fellow revolutionary Vladimir Lenin.

Lenin later denounced Trotsky as a “scoundrel” in 1917 (though Trotsky eventually rejoined the Bolsheviks), and after Lenin’s death Trotsky was eliminated from photos by Stalin. Trotsky was eventually exiled from the Soviet Union completely.

Bo Gu, senior leader of the Chinese Communist Party

The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers
Bo Gu, far left, appears in the photo with Mao Zedong and comrades; in the later photo, he is missing.

Qin Bangxian, better known as Bo Gu, was the “person with overall responsibility of the CCP,” and so had tremendous responsibility under leader Mao Zedong.

However, as a result of some miscommunication on tactical military defense at the Zunyi Conference during the Long March, Bo Gu was criticized for “serious partial political mistakes” and replaced in command by Zhang Wentian in 1935.

The exact miscommunication differs in most historical accounts, but it could be what led to Bo Gu’s fallout with Mao Zedong, and therefore could have been the reason for his elimination from this photo.

Grigoriy Nelyubov, Soviet cosmonaut

The Battle of Stony Point shows just how good Baron von Steuben was at training soldiers

Hand-picked for the first cosmonaut detachment in 1960, Nelyubov was a star choice for space flight for being “a remarkable person, an excellent pilot, a sportsman…”

A founding member of the top space team known as the Sochi Six, some say Nelyubov was the third or fourth person in space; others say he never made it into space before being expelled from the Soviet space program for alcohol-related misconduct. The incident led to his being deleted from program records.

Nelyubov was ultimately struck by a train and killed; his death was ruled a suicide.

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

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