In July 1861, Union troops arrived in Boyd’s town and she wasn’t too happy about it. Since her father was a member of the Confederate 2nd Virginia Infantry Regiment, Boyd (born Isabella Maria Boyd) was “supporting the troops” with Confederate flags in her bedroom.
The Union troops tried to confiscate the flags, then threw up the Stars and Stripes over her house. An argument ensued, a soldier cursed at her mother, and then Boyd pulled out a pistol and shot the guy. She was later cleared of wrongdoing — because in the 1860s it was totally cool to shoot people who cussed at women — but the Union began tracking her activities.
And interestingly enough, she used this to her advantage, and tracked them instead.
Union officials began to monitor Boyd’s movements, but she used conversations with her minders to accumulate detailed information on their movements, sending the intelligence in letters to Confederate commanders. After one such letter was intercepted, Boyd escaped punishment by feigning ignorance. Her parents then sent her to live with her aunt and uncle in even tinier Front Royal (pop. 417), forty miles to the south.
In October 1861, after visiting her father’s camp, Boyd began work as a courier between generals Jackson and P. G. T. Beauregard and was detained briefly for her efforts. Her oft-noted charm was a weapon and, occasionally, a liability. After being captured by a pair of Union soldiers, Boyd claimed to have sweet talked them into escorting her back to Confederate lines, where she promptly had them arrested. When Boyd’s identity was revealed to the two hapless soldiers, they recognized it, suggesting that she already had attained something that spies tend to avoid—notoriety.
Notoriety is exactly what she found, as Boyd appears at least a few times in correspondence between senior Union leaders. While she was getting plenty of hate mail from the Union, she was earning respect from senior Confederates, to include Gen. Stonewall Jackson, who made her a captain and honorary aide-de-camp, according to AP.
Perhaps her biggest intelligence “get” came in May 1862, as she spied on a Union general and his staff through a peephole in a closet floor (Great job securing the SCIF, guys). Union forces had recently captured Front Royal, Virginia, but the general was about to pull a large portion of his forces east. It wasn’t long before the town was back in Confederate hands, thanks to Boyd’s messages.
John Paul Jones is “the father of the American Navy,” as a result of his decisive victories from 1776 to 1779 and how he laid the groundwork for the American Navy. But, he also served the governments of Britain and Russia.
John Paul was the son of a gardner, born in Scotland in 1747. In 1760, he was apprenticed to a captain of a British merchant ship. For the next 13 years, he served the Crown and private industry well, even though he may have abandoned a position as first mate on a ship after he became fed up with the slave trade.
In 1773, he was in command of the John, a trading brig, when he was attacked by by two sailors who wanted their wages early. Paul killed one of the men in the ensuing scuffle and ran to the American colonies out of the fear of facing an unfair prosecution.
There, he took the name John Paul Jones and sympathized with the rebellion that was taking root. When the war began in 1775, he joined the Continental Navy and was assigned to the Alfred as the first mate before being promoted to commander of the Providence.
As a commander, he was ordered to attack the British in European waters. He had a number of successful cruises, including one where he captured 16 British ships as prizes. After commanding the Providence, Ranger, and the Alfred, he got his own 40-gun ship, the Bonhomme Richard.
In 1779, Jones fought an epic battle against the British. From his flagship, he led three more American ships against the HMS Serapis and the HMS Countess of Scarborough.
Most of the action took place on the flagships after the Bonhomme Richard rammed the Serapis and they became locked together. Jones’ Marines fired on the British decks for hours, clearing them as cannon crews in both ships fired on each other from point blank range.
Jones fought as a rear admiral against the Turks in the 1787-1792 Russo-Turkish War. The Russians were ultimately victorious in the but Jones returned to France in 1790 while the two sides were still fighting.
It was there in Paris where he died in his bed two years later. He was buried in a Parisian graveyard where he remained until 1905 when he was transferred to the U.S. by four cruisers dispatched by President Theodore Roosevelt for that purpose. He was interred in the U.S. Naval Academy Chapel in 1913.
Come April 1st, it’s time to keep your ears opened and your eyes peeled, ready for whatever mischief might come your way. It’s a day where folks of all cultures plan and perform their best tricks, service members from all branches included. From physical pranks, to things that are somehow out of place, to flat-out destructive jokes, April Fools’ Day is known for mischief. There are even historical events, including elaborate and heart-stopping examples of how soldiers took advantage of this day of lighthearted fun.
Take a look at these fun pranks among the military community for a good laugh and possibly some ideas for weeks to come.
German Camp, 1915
On this day in 1915, the Geneva Tribune reported a French plane dropped a large object over a German camp. From a distance, the object appeared to be a huge bomb. Upon seeing it, soldiers ran for cover, though no explosion took place. Eventually, they approached the object, which was actually a giant football. On it was a tag that read, “April fool!”
Europe, 1943, the 30-Day Furlough
In a newspaper article in Stars and Stripes, a European publication for overseas soldiers, readers learned of a 30-day furlough available for overseas service members. They were said to be brought home by the newly refurbished ship, Normanie, which would be manned by Women’s Army Corps. What’s more is it stated on-ship entertainment provided by Gypsy Rose Lee and Betty Grable, two big names at the time.
Did you know that Irish bearskin helmets grow hair, so much so that it became a problem wherein they needed trimming? Specially requested by the staff of Buckingham Palace. That was the subject of an April Fools’ article in Soldier, a British magazine published in 1980. They even included scientific evidence on how the hair was able to grow once removed from the animal.
While members on the USS Kennedy suspected nothing more than a delivery of mail during a six month deployment in the Mediterranean, jokesters had other intentions. Navy members planned a surprise drop off on April Fools’ Day in 1986. The helicopter landed and released three greased piglets — each painted red, white and blue — who ran across the deck. The event was even filmed for future generations to see!
Old Guard Virginia, 2013
There are working dogs in the military, so why not working cats? Back in 2013 an announcement was made via the U.S. Army that they were launching a trained cat program, wherein felines would help the military moving forward. Specifically, their duties were to help Military Police track narcotics and catch criminals in their tracks.
Okinawa, Japan 2019
In perhaps one of the most widespread pranks in history, on April Fools’ Day, 2019, the Marine Corps base in Okinawa announced via social media that service members could grow facial hair openly … and have pets in their barracks rooms. Putting safety first, the post even mentioned that pets would need to wear reflective belts to ensure their visibility, likely during early morning hours of PT. Funny enough, right? The problem is people believed it! Some went as far as to throw out razors or take on pets, not realizing the whole announcement was a joke.
Traditionally, April Fools’ Day has been a time to bring in jokes and laughter, often with creative pranks. It’s a look back at how military members still saw the bright side of things, whether in time of war, deployment or simply in everyday situations.
Do you have a favorite military-related April Fools’ Day prank? Let us know about it!
When Woodrow Wilson ran for re-election as President of the United States in 1916, he was running against Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes. He didn’t expect to win but he won by a narrow margin. His campaign slogan “He kept us out of war” resonated with the isolationist views of many Americans at the time.
But if Warren Harding, then just a two-year senator from Ohio would have run like he wanted to, history might have been entirely different. The reason: his young mistress was a supporter of the German Empire.
Warren G. Harding is one of history’s less-often remembered presidents. His administration was wracked by scandal, his direction was unclear, and even he saw the office as a more ceremonial one. In the past, he was largely remembered for dying of a heart attack in the middle of his second term.
He was one of the most ironically quotable presidents, however, once confiding, “I am not fit for this office and should never have been here.”
In recent years, however, his personal life has been of much more interest to historians, chiefly his 15-year long affair with Carrie Fulton Phillips – a woman nearly 20 years younger than he.
As a senator, Harding was not a supporter of entering World War I, largely due to being both a Republican and an isolationist. Harding’s young mistress had her own opinions. Phillips took many overseas trips to Berlin in the years before World War I. Harding wrote love letters to her each and every time she went abroad.
When he was elected to the senate in 1914, the war was still new and Wilson pledged to keep the United States neutral. Then in 1915, a German submarine sank the liner Lusitania in 1915 with 128 Americans aboard.
Phillips still wanted her lover to support Germany in its foreign affairs. She was so staunchly supportive of Germany that the U.S. government began to monitor her. As German provocations continued, however, Harding, like many Americans, began to turn against the German Empire. Differing political views began to cause a rift in their relationship.
In running for the presidency against Democrat James Cox, he appealed to war weary Americans with the promise of a “return to normalcy,” the isolationist policies that dominated the pre-war years. He also vowed to keep the United States out of the League of Nations and help the economy through the post-war bust.
But had he run against Wilson in 1916, there is a good chance he might have won, as he was a charismatic and popular politician at the time. His mistress wanted him to stay in the senate and vote in favor of German interests, threatening to expose their relationship if he did not. Harding eventually ran in 1920.
Their relationship ran its course long before he was in the White House. By 1917, the wedge between them had driven them apart. In April of that year, the United States declared war on Germany and Harding had begun to see a new lover, an Ohioan living in New York City, Nan Britton. He continued seeing both Phillips and Britton until he ran for president in 1920.
In 1919, Nan Britton gave birth to a daughter, much later proven to be Harding’s daughter (through a DNA test). Phillips threatened to expose all of Harding’s affairs, but he offered her a deal: $5,000 every year as long as he was in office, along with the perks of his patronage. She accepted.
During the 1920 campaign season, the Republican Party picked up the tab to send Phillips and family on a long trip to Japan to prevent her from accidentally revealing Harding’s indiscretions. With her out of the way, he sailed to victory and took the White House.
In the early months of 1943, the USS Wahoo was on its third war patrol when the sub and its crew found themselves under the new leadership of Lt. Commander Dudley Morton after relieving Marvin Kennedy from his duty.
After serving in the Asiatic Fleet, the Kentucky native and Naval Academy graduate recognized that many of the submarine skippers weren’t as aggressive as he felt they needed for certain victory.
Highly motivated to prove his worth, Morton sailed his crew to New Guinea’s Wewak Harbor to attack a Japanese Destroyer. After firing five torpedoes at the enemy vessel and missing, the Japanese ship began to charge the Wahoo at full-speed.
Morton prepared his sailors and instructed them to remain calm. Once the enemy destroyer was within an 800-meter range, Morton once again ordered his crew to fire a torpedo, which resulted in a direct hit.
The Wahoo would sink four additional ships before heading back to home base, Pearl Harbor.
After a brief period back at Pearl Harbor to reload, the Wahoo set sail for the Sea of Japan and sank four other ships in the first week of October — bringing the tally up to 19.
It’s reported that on Oct. 11th, the Wahoo was hit by Japanese depth charges and aerial bombs, which damaged Morton’s submarine and caused her to sink near the near La Pérouse Strait — killing everyone on board.
Morton was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Navy Cross for his work as USS Wahoo’s skipper.
On Nov. 11, Americans celebrate veterans and honor those who served, but the date holds special meaning beyond our borders and around the world. In fact, the 11th of November is a solemn day to our many of our nation’s allies. To them it is Remembrance Day or Armistice Day, commemorating the end of World War I hostilities at the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month in 1918. The red poppy became synonymous with the fallen troops during the First World War — and has remained a symbol of their sacrifice ever since. But the poppies adopted this meaning because of the war poem “In Flanders Field” written by the Canadian Physician, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae.
It was at the second battle of Ypres, Belgium in April to May 1915 where McCrae saw the devastation firsthand. The Germans had just begun using chlorine gas against their enemies. Within the first ten minutes of the battle, there were already six thousand French casualties. After only the first seventeen days, half of McCrae’s brigade had died in battle.
McCrae’s close friend, Alexis Helmer, was killed in action on May 2nd. He chose to perform the burial service himself. As he laid his friend to rest, he saw beauty in the hellscape around him.
Red poppies are a hardy flower. Where the land had been destroyed by mortar fire, chlorine gas, and countless other environmental concerns, the poppies grew around the graves — not even the high sodium or increased levels of lime could deter the red blooms.
Nearly every grave was decorated, as if it were a symbol from above.
The next day, in the back of an ambulance overlooking the battlefield, McCrae wrote what would arguably become Canada’s most well-known literary work.
“In Flanders fields the poppies grow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.”
–In Flanders Field by John McCrae
McCrae would be promoted to the consulting physician of the First British Army just four days before succumbing to pneumonia on Jan. 28, 1918. He would never know the end of the war or see the true impact of his poem. Canadians, Brits, Aussies, and New Zealanders wear a red poppy to remember the fallen of all wars. Americans borrow from this tradition for Memorial Day.
The German Wehrmacht and Adolf Hitler’s panzer corps devastated the British military through France and Belgium. Hitler twice stopped his forces from delivering the kill shot on British troops at the French port known as Dunkirk — the location of one of the largest naval evacuations in history. Historians predict that Hitler’s decision to halt his army for three days in May 1940 was to give Winston Churchill, Britain’s new prime minister at the time, “a sporting chance” — despite having them completely surrounded.
While Hitler and Churchill were making strategic moves far and away from front-line combat on the battlefield, another Churchill was gaining near-mythical status for his otherworldly tactics, brazen leadership, and his mystifying ability to confuse the enemy and inspire his peers. On May 27, 1940, Lt. Col. John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill stood at the base of a tower and watched a German patrol approach a hill overlooking the French village of L’Epinette.
The first Nazi officer who appeared in sight was hit center mass from 30 yards — sparking the signal for the ambush. The German’s deadly wound was not from a gunshot but from an arrow fired from a longbow. Alongside two infantrymen from the Manchester Regiment, Churchill unsheathed his basket-hilted claymore medieval sword and commanded orders to maneuvering elements to take out the remaining German patrol. The British officer’s legend leading men in combat armed with a bow and arrow was born, and throughout World War II he repeatedly proved the worth of his nicknames — “Mad Jack” and “Fighting Jack.”
Jack Churchill, far right, leads a training exercise, sword in hand, from a Eureka boat in Inveraray. Although this is a training mission, he did carry a sword, longbow, and bagpipes in combat. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
But who exactly was “Mad Jack” Churchill, and what emboldened him to carry medieval weapons into modern combat?
Churchill was born in British-controlled Hong Kong and raised among Anglo-Scottish parents in England alongside his two brothers, Thomas and Robert (both would also have stellar World War II exploits). He received his education at a private institution called King William’s College on the Isle of Man and Royal Military College in Sandhurst, England. Here he fostered a passion for history and poetry and had a romanticism toward adventure that birthed a broader fascination for castles, plants, animals, and insects.
He was commissioned into the 2nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment in 1926 and arrived in Rangoon, Burma, to receive further training. He rode a Zenith motorcycle 1,500 miles from his signals course in Poona, India, mistakenly crashing into a water buffalo along the way. In Burma, he balanced his motorcycle on railroad ties as he listened for any signs of oncoming trains. While on duty he participated in flag marches traveling down the Irrawaddy River, Burma’s largest and most frequented commercial highway, to visit villages to collect intelligence on suspected bandits.
Before he left Burma and later the Army with a decade of service in 1936, he learned to play the bagpipes in Maymyo — now known as Pyin Oo Lwin — Mayanmar, an interest piqued by his Scottish heritage. He worked as a newspaper editor in Nairobi, Kenya, and his chiseled jawline led to gigs in male modeling. The adventurer gained attention in England as an entertainer, took a small role in the 1924 film The Thief of Baghdad to advise on archery techniques, and even showcased those skills from 200 yards at the World Archery Championships held in Oslo, Norway, in 1939.
After earning the statistic for the last bow and arrow kill by a British officer in combat, Churchill volunteered for No. 2 Commando, a special operations unit that gained notorious status for daring coastal raids. Dressed in a kilt and holding a set of bagpipes, Churchill played an impressive rendition of the tune March of the Cameron Men before the commandos took part in the ironically named Operation Archery (sometimes called the Måløy Raid), against German positions on the island of Vågsøy, Norway.
During the Italian amphibious landings in Sicily and Salerno he personally captured 42 German soldiers and an 81mm mortar team armed with only his sword. “In my opinion, any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed,” Churchill later reasoned. During a nighttime commando raid in Yugoslavia on the island of Brac, Churchill was wounded, captured, and imprisoned in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin. He tunneled a route out of the prison camp with another Royal Air Force prisoner but was captured and transferred to a more secure location in Austria, where he successfully escaped once more.
Major Jack Churchill examines one of four captured Belgian 75s. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
He was found by an American reconnaissance unit eight days later walking on a busted ankle after train hopping 150 miles across the Swiss Alps near Brenner pass. Following the war and into his 40s, he rescued an estimated 500 Jewish doctors and patients held hostage at a hospital in Jerusalem after the Hadassah Convoy Massacre in 1948.
“People are less likely to shoot at you if you are smiling at them,” he quipped while holding his blackthorn cane. In the 1950s, “Mad Jack” retired from military service with two Distinguished Service Order awards and found a passion for refurbished steamboats along the Thames. He also participated in motorcycle speed trials to quench his thirst for excitement.
“He didn’t brag about these things at all, but he would be happy to talk to anyone who asked, particularly if it was over a couple of nice glasses of wine in the evening,” his son Malcolm later said. Churchill was a humble warrior beyond what history proclaimed. He died in 1996 at age 89.
When it comes to the events of Dec. 7, 1941 — “a date which will live in infamy” — two films stand out.
There is the 1970 classic “Tora! Tora! Tora!,” which featured some of the biggest directors from American and Japanese cinema.
And then there is the 2001 film “Pearl Harbor,” directed by Michael Bay, and which had major stars like Academy Award winners Ben Affleck, Cuba Gooding, Jr., and Jon Voight.
So, which film was better?
Tora! Tora! Tora!
Pros: This film really delved into the history of the attack, including many of the factors as they were known back then. The strategic context of Japan’s decision to launch the attack is covered here.
Within the very real limits of special effects technology, you experience the attack. The cast plays the roles well — remarkable given the lack of big-name stars. They also catch the American arrogance at the time – underestimating Japan while at the same time knowing they were going to hit us somewhere.
Using American and Japanese talent also brought much more realism to this film, bringing a very good balance. The footage was so good, it was re-used in a number of other World War II epics, and for a flashback in a Magnum, P.I. episode!
Cons: The special effects are pretty cheesy in some cases. You also catch historical anachronisms – like the presence of USS Ticonderoga (CV 14). Also, this film is 46 years old – in some ways, scholarship and history has overtaken it.
Pros: The special effects make the experience of the attack far more intense. You also have some very good talent on screen, including three who won various Academy Awards. There were other future stars as well, including Josh Hartnett (“Black Hawk Down”) and Jennifer Garner (“Alias,” “The Kingdom,” “Elektra”).
Cons: Where do we start? How about the contrived storylines, particularly with Ben Affleck’s character? Maybe the unrealistic stuff as well, like the implausible selection of the characters played by Affleck and Hartnett to take part in the Doolittle Raid?
Not to mention the still-obvious errors (many of the “ships” hit in the film were Spruance-class destroyers in reserve). Not to mention the distracting romantic triangle. The biggest con is that we had a chance to capitalize on 30 years of new scholarship on World War II, and we got melodrama instead.
Which of these films comes out better? Believe it or not, the classic “Tora! Tora! Tora!,” despite its age, holds up much better.
The National Aeronautical and Space Administration has done very well with their small force of WB-57 Canberra reconnaissance planes. These planes have flown for nearly 60 years and they continue to serve today. With such a long, storied history, it’s easy to forget why the B-57 came to be in the first place. Let’s stroll down memory lane.
Originally, the B-57 Canberra was designed to be a light bomber that used high performance to avoid interception. The British started development of this plane in the latter years of World War II. While the American-produced versions did see some use as bombers during the Vietnam War, the Canberra truly hit its stride as a high-altitude reconnaissance asset for the Air Force.
The RB-57D Canberra variant was designed specifically for high-altitude recon missions.
The RB-57A was the first adaptation of the Canberra designed specifically for reconnaissance work, but the RB-57D was the first such plane intended to do so at high altitudes. Three versions of this recon jet were developed: One was for photo-reconnaissance, using advanced (for the time) camera, a second for electronic warfare, and a third that packed a powerful radar for mapping the ground.
The RB-57F, a much later version, which was created from re-manufacturing older Canberras. These souped-up planes featured more powerful engines and longer wings. They were able to operate at higher altitudes and were used for weather reconnaissance and to collect samples from nuclear tests.
This RB-57 started its life in the Air Force, and now flies with NASA as plane number 926.
Today, NASA still operates three B-57 Canberras. Whiles Canberras have now retired, a few are still flying in civilian hands, undertaking mapping missions.
Watch to video below to learn how the RB-57D was introduced to the United States.
The USS Yorktown (CV-5) was heavily damaged at the Battle of Coral Sea, but it pushed on to join other Navy forces at the Battle of Midway, where the valiant actions of the crew helped ensure a U.S. victory despite the loss of the ship.
On May 7, 1942, Task Force 17 found itself in a historic battle that would affect the direction of the war. During the Battle of the Coral Sea, a Japanese task force tried to invade the capital of Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby.
From May 7-8, the American and Japanese fleets clashed in the Pacific in the first naval battle where the two fleets couldn’t see each other. American planes sank the light carrier Shoho along with some smaller ships and damaged two other carriers. But Japanese forces sank the Lexington and heavily damaged the USS Yorktown.
The ship and air wing losses on each side would be important because Japan was planning an attack at Midway Atoll that could tip the balance of power in the Pacific or accelerate a Japanese victory in the war. Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz knew he needed his carriers ready to go.
And so the Yorktown, suffering from a penetrating bomb strike and eight near-misses, was far from combat ready. Its radar was out, there was a hole in the flight deck, an elevator was damaged, and she was leaking fuel and oil across the surface of the ocean.
An estimate by Rear Adm. Aubrey Fitch stated that it would take 90 days to repair the ship. Nimitz gave the ship three days before it had to ship out to Midway.
Thanks to codebreaking efforts, the U.S. was able to ambush the Japanese fleet heading to Midway. And even with the Yorktown present, America was outnumbered in all ship types. The Japanese had brought about 124 ships including six carriers against America’s 40 ships including only three carriers.
Spoiling for a fight
The first hours of the fight went horribly for the U.S., as land and ship-based torpedo planes went in waves against the Japanese carriers only to be cut down by Zeroes. Many of the planes couldn’t even get their torpedoes fired before they were shot down. Of the torpedoes that were launched, all either failed to hit or to explode.
The two flights rained dive bombs onto the Japanese carriers Kaga, Akagi, and Soryu. Recently fueled and re-armed Japanese planes on the decks went up in fireballs next to hoses and weapons strewn about the decks.
What followed was probably the most damaging few minutes of the war for the Japanese. Three carriers and much of their air arms were completely destroyed and sent to the bottom of the Pacific, largely thanks to the Yorktown which had limped into combat and still scored a staggering blow.
Another Japanese carrier, the Hiryu, was sank by other forces.
But the Japanese fleet survived and managed to exact its revenge on the Yorktown. The Hiryu’s planes found the American ship and hit it with three bombs. The already crippled ship lost its boilers and listed in the water. Navy Capt. Elliott Buckmaster ordered the Yorktown abandoned.
Sure, you’ve heard of the War on Drugs but what about drug use during military conflict, drugs in the Army, and even wars where people were high? Throughout history, drugs and wars have gone hand in hand. Needless to say, a military conflict is a stressful environment and the stress of the battlefield can be traumatizing to troops — drug use and war are no strangers to one another.
1. Amphetamines Keep Syrian Forces Fighting
Speed seems to be the drug of choice for military conflicts; amphetamine has that dangerous combination of keeping soldiers fighting for days on end and keeping them from getting any sleep. In the Middle East, Syrian-made Captagon is the speed of choice, being employed by ISIS fighters so they can stay alert during battle.
One minor setback: The drug, which was created in the ’60s to treat hyperactivity and narcolepsy, is highly addictive — so addictive that it was banned in the ‘8os (that’s how you know it’s bad). It’s also very cheap to make, yet has a street value of around $20 a tablet. The effects of Captagon keep the soldiers euphoric, sleepless, and energetic. The profits from Captagon sales are believed to be used by the Islamic State in Syria to buy weapons.
2. The First Opium War Was Non-Ironically Fought Over Opium
Take a wild guess as to the prominent drug of the First Opium War. If you said “opium,” then you are unsurprisingly correct. How it worked: Britain violated China’s ban on the importation of opium, seeking to right an imbalance in the flow of trade between the two countries. The Chinese people quickly became addicted to the drug, including those in the army.
It is estimated that 90% of the Emperor’s Army was addicted to opium. Put that head-to-head with a superior British military and, well, you can predict the outcome.
3. The American Civil War Created “Soldier’s Disease” and Morphine Addicts
During the Civil War, morphine was considered a “wonder drug” for the wounded. It was also used as an anesthetic and pain killer during field amputations. The problem was, after the war, many wounded soldiers carried on with their morphine use.
It was estimated that 400,000 soldiers returned from the war as addicts. The term “soldier’s disease” was even coined to describe the addiction. By the end of the 19th century, there were one million Americans who had “soldier’s disease.”
4. Zulu Warriors Fought While Tripping on Mushrooms
In the 1870s the British Empire wanted to conquer the Zulu Kingdom. To help combat their foes, the Zulus would use magic mushrooms and THC, packed in a snuff form. When the British came attacking, they just popped magic mushrooms and felt invincible.
5. World War I Soldiers Smoked ‘Em Up
Morphine fell out of favor after the “soldier’s disease” epidemic of the Civil War, and by the time World War One rolled around it was no longer in use. So, the doughboys in the trenches turned on to tobacco to calm their nerves and cigarettes were even distributed as part of military rations. Some 14 million were given out daily.
6. Hitler Fueled His Third Reich with Speed
Have you seen the documentary High Hitler? The whole Nazi regime was fueled on speed and meth to keep them marching. Along with that, the Americans, British, and Japanese troops popped amphetamines to stay awake. Some 200 million pills were distributed to soldiers by the American military. Soldiers and speed was thought of as the ultimate fighting combination.
7. The Vietnam War Was All Pot and Heroin
The ’60s was the time of cultural revolution. While the kids were getting high at Woodstock, so were the soldiers in Vietnam. Marijuana was the preferred drug of the troops – which they referred to as “the sh*t.” Things shifted in 1968 and society began to crackdown on weed. As a result, soldiers switched to heroin, which they mixed with tobacco and smoked in the field.
By the summer of 1971, 20 percent of American troops in Vietnam were heroin addicts.
8. Sierra Leone Civil War Numbed Boy Soldiers with Brown-Brown and Speed
You’d be hard-pressed to find a sadder chapter in history than that of Sierre Leone and the war fought with boy soldiers. To get children to kill, the drug lords used a combination of speed, cocaine, and “brown-brown”: a snorted mixture of cocaine and gunpowder.
The drugs would make the boy soldiers numb to everything around. To charge them up at night, the child troops would be made to watch Rambo movies.
9. Pill-Popping Energized the Iraq War
Much like how prescription drugs were abused by the rest of society in the 2000s, the pills were also abused by the American military. Prescription drug abuse tripled among soldiers during the Iraq War.
Afghanistan has always been known for opium and its poppy fields. In fact, the country produces 90% of the world’s supply. A 2009 United Nations study estimated that $160 million of drug money in Afghanistan goes to fund terrorist activities each year.
Heroin serves two distinct military tactics in this case: The Taliban was using the drug money to fight Americans, and also using the heroin to get Americans addicted.
Drunken British soldiers gulped alcohol to boost morale and give them the courage to kick Napoleon’s ass. Some Brit soldiers would spend a month’s wages on a single drinking session, which higher-ranking officers were told to strictly avoid.
12. The Speedball Was Invented During the Korean War
Most of what the average person knows about the Korean War is from watching reruns of the TV show M.A.S.H. But what type of drug abuse were these soldiers into during the military conflict?
The Korean War saw American servicemen stationed in Korea and Japan concocting the speedball: an injectable mixture of amphetamine and heroin.
13. Boko Haram Uses Sex-Enhancing Drugs
In the conflict between the Nigerian Army and Boko Haram militants, drugs have played a different role in the conflict than as in other wars and military encounters. Members of the Nigerian Army have noted that Boko Haram has turned their camps into sex enclaves.
When the troops captured their bases, they found a littering of condoms and sex-enhancing drugs. Surprisingly, the troops didn’t find Qur’an or other Islamic book.
14. The Gaza Strip Is a Drug Trafficking Epicenter
The war between Israel and the Palestinians indirectly caused a flurry of drug trafficking activity. Over 1,200 tunnels have been constructed on the Gaza/Egyptian border to smuggle food, weapons, goods, and drugs into Gaza.
The Contras were the US-backed and funded terrorist rebel groups that took on the left-wing, socialist Sandinista Junta of National Reconstruction government in Nicaragua.
In 1986, the Reagan Administration acknowledged that funds from cocaine smuggling helped fund the Contra, which included payments to known drug traffickers by the US State Department. So basically, the CIA worked with drug smugglers to fund an overthrow of the Nicaraguan government.
16. Hemp Played a Major Role in the Revolutionary War
As is widely known, America’s Founding Fathers were well into the hemp and cannabis. Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp. Needless to say, the Declaration of Independence was signed on hemp paper.
The Russians have a strange history with the Unidentified Flying Objects. While 99 percent of the UFOs encountered by Russia and the Soviet Union over the years were probably American spy planes, they insist that one of them actually landed and its crew decided to step out and stretch their legs.
And then they shot a bunch of children.
In the late 1980s, The New York Times quoted Soviet police Lt. Sergei A. Matveyev, who swore he saw the spaceship, saying that lanky, three-legged creatures landed in a park in the Russian city of Voronezh on Sept. 27, 1989. Some 300 miles from Moscow, citizens of Voronezh reported a deep red ball, around 10 feet in diameter, landing in a park.
“It was not an optical illusion,” he told the Russian TASS News Agency. “It was certainly a body flying in the sky. I thought I must be really tired, but I rubbed my eyes and it didn’t go away.”
Admit that you were thinking about this meme.
A hatch opened and out stepped a three-eyed creature that stood nine feet tall and was dressed in silver overalls and bronze boots. It left the ship with a companion and a robot. After taking a triangle formation around the robot, the robot came to life. A boy began to scream in terror. That’s when the stuff hit the fan. With a look, the boy was paralyzed.
The aliens disappeared briefly and returned with “what looked like a gun” and shot the boy, who disappeared. He reappeared later, after the spacecraft had departed. Citizens of the town reported multiple sightings of the ship between Sept. 23 and Sept. 27, but when Soviet investigators came to the scene, their only abnormal finding was elevated levels of radioactive Cesium-23.
As for the children who witnessed the landing in the park, they were all separated. When asked to draw what they saw that day, they all drew “a banana-shaped object that left behind in the sky the sign of the letter X.” The boy who was abducted could remember nothing about the craft.
The local interior minister said that if the craft appeared again, they would dispatch the Red Army to investigate the event. If the aliens had returned in full force to invade the Soviet Union, they would have met the joint capability of the Soviets along with the United States, as President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev agreed at the 1985 Lake Geneva Summit to join forces against any extraterrestrial invader.
In March 1967, U.S. Air Force Capt. Merlyn Dethlefsen and three other F-105 Thunderchief pilots were tasked to fly 50 miles north of Hanoi, the capital of North Vietnam. Once there, they were to destroy the Thai Nguyen Steel Works.
The works were protected by a ring of 85mm anti-aircraft guns, surface-to-air missile batteries, and squadrons of MiG-21 fighters on patrol. Needless to say, the airmen were outgunned. They went anyway.
“Thuds,” as F-105s were affectionately known, would go in ahead of fighter-bomber strike forces to strike SAM sites directly. They would purposely allow themselves to be targeted by the SAM batteries’ radar in order to track the source.
Then they would make their own strike runs at the SAM sites — a tactic known as the “Wild Weasel.”
What makes this mission particularly dangerous is not just that the Wild Weasel allowed himself to be tracked by SA-2 SAM batteries; the danger was also present for the Thuds who flew in behind him, who remained low enough to evade being tracked by the SAM radar and therefore became vulnerable to ground-based anti-aircraft fire.
During this mission, the batteries at Thai Nguyen were much more powerful than expected and took down two of the four Thuds immediately.
This was not the first rodeo for the remaining pilots.
This was not their last rodeo either — eventually, Dethlefsen and his Electronic Warfare Officer, Capt. Kevin “Mike” Gilroy, would fly 100 missions over North Vietnam.
After their two wingmen were shot down, Dethlefsen and Gilroy evaded the MiG interceptors by flying deeper into the anti-aircraft umbrella.
Wild Weasels’ orders usually called for only one attack pass at enemy defenses, but some missions required two. Merlyn Dethlefsen, Gilroy, and their heavily-damaged wingman did far more than the two required passes.
With enemy MiGs chasing them down — and heavily damaged by anti-aircraft guns — they destroyed one SAM site with Shrike missiles and another with a strafing run of 20mm rounds and the Thud’s 750-pound bombs.
A follow-on strike by 72 fighter-bombers would finish the steel works off.
Both of the remaining aircraft made it back to base full of holes from MiGs and 85mm guns.
Captain Dethlefsen was awarded the Medal of Honor the very next year while Gilroy received the Air Force Cross.