WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor

From the court-martial of Billy Mitchell to Robin Olds’ mustache, U.S. Air Force history is filled with examples of Airmen thumbing their nose at authority. So of course what started as a way to identify friendly units in mid-air in World War I quickly evolved into a way of thumbing one’s nose at military uniformity and authority. The unintended consequence of that effort is a gallery of beauty and style — a lasting legacy in the minds of generations to come.


WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor

This art form is as old as powered flight. In the context of war, crews created designs to immortalize their hometowns, their wives and sweethearts back home, to earn themselves a name in the minds of their enemies, or provide some kind of psychological protection from death, among other motifs.

WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor

 

Some things were universal. “Mors ab alto” is Latin for “Death from above.” And then some art was based entirely on the record of the plane. Like the B-29 Superfortress Bockscar, below, who dropped the atomic bomb dubbed Fat Man on Nagasaki, Japan, and whose nose art depicts a train boxcar nuking Nagasaki.

 

Nose art was also a great way to build esprit de corps with the crew and maintainers around a plane, as seen in this photo of the crew of Waddy’s Wagon recreating their own nose art.

 

WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor

Of course, a list of the best WWII nose art would not be complete without the pin-ups.

WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor

WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor

WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor

WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor

Nose art wasn’t all sexy women and bombs, though. Some crews used their nose to (deservedly) brag.

WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor

Don Gentile, World War II Eagle Squadron member and the first ace to beat Eddie Rickenbacker’s WWI dogfighting record, flew a P-51B famously called Shangri-La, which featured a bird wearing boxing gloves.

WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor

And sometimes, when your war record is long enough, it’s okay to let the world know you’re watching the clock.

WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor

Popular cartoons were also featured on World War II-era planes. Walt Disney famously looked the other way (in terms of copyright infringement) for much of the art done in the name of winning the war, notably on bomber jackets and nose art. The RAF’s Ian Gleed flew a Supermarine Spitfire featuring Geppetto’s cat Figaro.

WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor

American pilot and Doolittle Raider Ted Lawson flew a B-25 Mitchell Bomber over Tokyo called the Ruptured Duck, an image of an angry, sweating Donald Duck wearing pilot headphones in front of crossed crutches.

WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor

Next time you watch Dumbo with your kids, remember that Dumbo dropped ordnance on Japan and was said to be fairly accurate.

WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor

Bomb icons depicted the number of missions flown over the enemy. For some icons weren’t enough. Thumper here took the war personally and marked the name of each city it bombed.

WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor

 

Nose art was also used to complain (as all troops do) as a way to deal with the monotony of deployed life, the lack of supplies, and/or the frustrations of the crew to keep their bird flying, as seen by Malfunction Sired by Ford.

Or it was used to brag that they could keep their girl in the air, with whatever they had lying around.

 

WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor

Some crews definitely brought their A-game to the art form, like the crew of this B-29 Superfortress.

WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor

Others tried, but were ultimately (and obviously) better suited to fighting the war than designing the nose of their B-24 Liberator.

WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor

The award for all-around best nose-art in World War II has to go to the RAF’s James Archibald Findlay MacLachlan, who lost an arm to a combat injury early in the war and thus had to fly with a prosthetic limb. His fighter plane’s nose depicted the hand from his own amputated arm making the “V for Victory” sign.

WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor

Now: 6 of the most badass US military test pilots of all time

Articles

This is why the ‘Bouncing Betty’ was absolutely devastating

Developed by German Engineers during the 1930s as a defensive strategy of the Third Reich, the self-contained anti-personnel mine was originally named Schrapnellmine or S-Mine. Considered one of the deadliest tools on the battlefield, the French first encounter this version of bouncing mines in 1939 as it devastated their forces.


Dubbed the “Bouncing Betty” by American infantrymen, these mines were buried just underground, only exposing three prongs on the top which were usually camouflaged by the nearby grass vegetation.

Related: ISIS is digging up Nazi land mines in Egypt to use for IEDs

WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor

Once these prongs were disturbed by a foot or vehicle, the mine would shoot itself upward to around 3 feet or at its victim’s waist level using its black powder propellant. The fuse was designed with a half a second delay to allow its aerial travel.

As it detonated, ball bearings contained inside flew out rapidly and acted as the casualty producing element. The S-mine was lethal at 66 feet, but the American training manuals stated that serious casualties could be taken up to 460 feet.

The landmine had great psychological effects on ground troops as it was known to inflict serious wounds rather than kill.

Although the Schrapnellmine was highly effective and constructed mostly out of metallic parts, detection was quite simple using metal detectors. However, at the time, such heavy and expensive gear wasn’t available to all infantry units as they fought their way through the front lines.

Also Read: The US Navy has minehunting ships that are terrible at finding mines

So allied forces had to probe the soil with their knives and bayonets to search for the dangerous mines. When they were discovered, a soldier could disarm the Bouncing Betty with a sewing needle inserted in place of the mine’s safety pin.

Production of the Bouncing Betty ended in 1945 after Germany had manufactured 2 million of the mines.

(Lightning War 1941, YouTube)
MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the storied history behind the drill sergeant’s campaign hat

The very moment a United States Armed Forces recruit steps foot off the bus, they’ll be greeted by a non-commissioned officer wearing a campaign hat and, in that moment, their life will change forever. Every branch in the Armed Forces (with exception of the Navy) uses a variation of the same, broad-brimmed hat. When you see someone wearing it, you know they’re dedicated to breaking the civilian out of young prospects and molding Uncle Sam a batch of new, capable warfighters.

But long before the campaign hat became the official headgear of every private’s nightmares, it was used by soldiers in the Old West, who casually wore it for so long that it just kind of became an official thing.


WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor

Don’t get this confused with the Stetson worn by cavalrymen. The campaign hat was mostly worn by infantrymen.

(National Archives)

The campaign hat was first worn back in the 1840s by soldiers making their way across the country toward the Pacific. The typical forage cap used out east simply wasn’t a suitable option for blocking out the blinding sun that hung relentlessly above the American deserts.

The soldiers heading west were so far away from the brass (and military regulations was comparatively relaxed in those times) that they simply substituted regulation gear with whatever else made more sense. It was said that they were inspired by the sombreros of the Mexican Vaqueros, but the soldiers made their hats smaller to be more practical for longer rides.

The new unofficial hat finally got recognition and was authorized in the 1870s. This version was made of black felt, had a softer brim, and was still missing the distinctive pinch on the top. Over the years, the hat underwent several slight adjustments until becoming the campaign hat we know and love/fear today.

WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor

Technically speaking, Smokey the Bear has been around longer (1944) than the Army has officially had drill sergeants (1964). So they kinda took his hat.

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Stephen Linch)

The British took note of the campaign hat and soon incorporated it into the wardrobe of their armies located around the Empire, as many fought under conditions similar to those of the Wild West — like the Boer Wars in South Africa. Canadian, South African, and Kiwi troops all adapted the hat — the Canadian Military then famously handed it down to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

By the turn of the century, the hat also became synonymous with the Buffalo Soldiers — in fact, they were responsible for sewing in the iconic “Montana Pinch” we all recognize today. The Buffalo Soldiers were tasked into various national parks and became some of the first national park rangers.

Later, park rangers, CBP agents, and highway policemen would all wear similar campaign hats in honor of the Buffalo Soldiers who’d, essentially, laid the foundation for their careers. Meanwhile, the troops tossed the hat at the advent of WWI as helmets were the preferred combat headgear.

WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor

Never thought we would all have to thank the Coast Guard for keeping this terror-inducing hat alive and well… but they adopted it during the Spanish-American War and never abandoned it during the World Wars.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Richard Brahm)

One by one, each branch began putting recruits through more extensive and intense recruit training programs, helmed by the finest NCOs each branch had to offer. The Marines were the first in 1956 — and they needed an easily identifiable symbol to distinguish the drill instructor from everyone else.

They chose the campaign cover for all the same reasons the soldiers of the Wild West did — the fact that recruits couldn’t clearly see the eyes of the DI under the brim was just an added bonus. Other branches quickly followed suit. The Army adopted it in 1964 and the Air Force and Coast Guard did so in 1967

Which leaves out the Navy. Fact is, the Navy has just never had a reason to use the hat and has never showed any intentions of switching.

Articles

This was the first African American to receive the Medal of Honor

Of the 3,498 service members who have received the Medal of Honor throughout U.S. history, only 88 have been black.


In recognition of African American History Month, the Pentagon is sharing the stories of the brave men who so gallantly risked and gave their lives for others, even in times when others weren’t willing to do the same in return.

The first black recipient of the award was Army Sgt. William H. Carney, who earned the honor for protecting one of the United States’ greatest symbols during the Civil War — the American flag.

Carney was born into slavery in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1840. His family was eventually granted freedom and moved to Massachusetts, where Carney was eager to learn and secretly got involved in academics, despite laws and restrictions that banned blacks from learning to read and write.

Carney had wanted to pursue a career in the church, but when the Civil War broke out, he decided the best way he could serve God was by serving in the military to help free the oppressed.

In March 1863, Carney joined the Union Army and was attached to Company C, 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry Regiment, the first official black unit recruited for the Union in the north. Forty other black men served with him, including two of famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass’ sons.

WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor
A lithograph of the storming of Fort Wagner. (Wikimedia Commons)

Within a few months, Carney’s training would be put to the ultimate test during the unit’s first major combat mission in Charleston, South Carolina.

On July 18, 1863, the soldiers of Carney’s regiment led the charge on Fort Wagner. During the battle, the unit’s color guard was shot. Carney, who was just a few feet away, saw the dying man stumble, and he scrambled to catch the falling flag.

Despite suffering several serious gunshot wounds himself, Carney kept the symbol of the Union held high as he crawled up the hill to the walls of Fort Wagner, urging his fellow troops to follow him. He planted the flag in the sand at the base of the fort and held it upright until his near-lifeless body was rescued.

Even then, though, he didn’t give it up. Many witnesses said Carney refused to give the flag to his rescuers, holding onto it tighter until, with assistance, he made it to the Union’s temporary barracks.

Carney lost a lot of blood and nearly lost his life, but not once did he allow the flag to touch the ground. His heroics inspired other soldiers that day and were crucial to the North securing victory at Fort Wagner. Carney was promoted to the rank of sergeant for his actions.

For his bravery, Carney was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor on May 23, 1900.

Carney’s legacy serves as a shining example of the patriotism that Americans felt at that time, despite the color of their skin.

As for the 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry Regiment in which Carney served? It was disestablished long ago, but reactivated in 2008. It now serves as a National Guard ceremonial unit that renders honorary funerals and state functions. It was even invited to march in President Barack Obama’s inaugural parade.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Everything you need to know about the INF treaty in the news these days

In 1987, the Soviet Union had thousands of intermediate range nuclear missile pointed at Western Europe. On top of each of those thousands of missiles sat multiple nuclear warheads, ready to destroy the entire theater. The United States and its NATO allies had just as many — if not more — of the same kind. They were mobile and concealable, able to be fired from the Soviet Union or right on NATO’s doorstep.

By 1991, they were all gone.


The INF was the first agreement wherein the United States and USSR promised to actually reduce the overall number of weapons in their arsenals, eliminating an entire category of nuclear weapons altogether. Combined, the world’s two superpowers destroyed more than 2,600 nuclear missiles before the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor

Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, and President Ronald Reagan sign the INF Treaty in the East Room of the White House on Dec. 8, 1987.

The buildup to the INF Treaty

In the mid-to-late 1970s, the Soviet Union began a qualitative upgrade of its nuclear arsenal designed for the European Theater. At the time, the Cold War doctrine for NATO held that the Soviets could maintain a superiority in conventional weapons and troop strengths, but the Western allies were going to launch a nuclear attack in the event of an invasion.

So, when the Red Army began replacing its old, intermediate-range, single-warhead missiles to new, more advanced missiles with multiple warheads, European leaders flipped. Meanwhile, the only nuclear missiles the United States had were its own aging, intermediate-range nukes: the single-warhead Pershing 1a. After NATO pressured the United States to respond, the allies developed a “two-track” system to counter the Soviet threat: they would seek an agreement to limit their intermediate nuclear weapons arsenals while upgrading and replacing their own systems with multiple-warhead launchers.

WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor

A U.S. BGM-109 Gryphon intermediate-range nuclear weapon. The INF Treaty ended the service of these launchers.

Terms of the INF Treaty

The negotiations did not start off well. The Soviet delegation even walked out after the United States deployed its new Pershing II missiles in Europe in 1983. But, as talks continued, various ideas surfaced on how to best address the number of nuclear weapons. Ideas included limiting each country to 75 weapons each, a limit on the number of worldwide intermediate missiles (but none allowed in Europe), and, at one point, Mikhail Gorbachev even put forward the idea of eliminating all nuclear weapons by 2000.

In the end, formal talks lasted from 1981 until the signing of the INF treaty in 1987. The agreement eliminated missiles with a range between 310 and 3,400 miles. This included three types of nuclear missile from the U.S. arsenal and six from the Soviet arsenal. Signatories were also compelled to destroy training material, rocket stages, launch canisters, and the launchers themselves. The treaty also covered all future successor states to the Soviet Union, including Belarus, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and others.

Signatories are also prohibited from testing ground-launched missiles and other tech related to intermediate nuclear forces. After the ten years of monitoring, any signatory country can implement the terms of the agreement and call for a new inspection or general meeting.

WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor

A view of the Soviet Transporter-Erector-Launcher (TEL) for the SSC-X-4 ground-launched cruise missile system with a close-up view of the SSC-X-4 missile in the insert.

Why President Trump is reconsidering the INF Treaty

The INF Treaty solved a very specific crisis at a very specific time. It limited ground-based weapons from the European theater of the Cold War, but it didn’t cover air- or sea-based cruise missiles. In the years since, Russia has tested a number of weapons the United States says violate the terms of the INF Treaty. Russia counters that the U.S. has broken it as well.

If Russia isn’t abiding by the terms of the agreement, then the U.S. is unnecessarily limiting its defense posture — but that’s not even what the Trump Administration and National Security Advisor John Bolton are worried about. They’re concerned with China, who isn’t a signatory to the INF Treaty.

Proponents of the agreement argue that leaving the INF Treaty won’t force the Russians to comply with the treaty any more than they are now, that it could lead to another global arms race, and that ground-based nuclear weapons in Europe (or East Asia) just aren’t necessary anyway.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why the M18 Hellcat was America’s most underrated tank destroyer in World War II

To counter the German blitzkrieg, the U.S. Army needed to not only destroy individual tanks, it needed to destroy the Wehrmacht’s ability to use them effectively. To do that, it created an entirely new doctrine of mechanized warfare: tank destroyer forces.

In order to ambush massing enemy armor as it attempted a breakthrough, the Army needed a powerful, fast, armored vehicle that  would ride out to meet an armored attack while setting enemy tanks up to be ambushed at the same time. 

The result was the M18 Hellcat, the fastest armored vehicle until the development of the M2 Abrams, and the most effective anti-tank weapon of World War II. 

M18 Hellcat
US Army photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Before the time the United States entered World War II, it did not have an army that could effectively face everything the Nazis were using in Europe, so a number of technological innovations had to be created. One of those needs was a way to stop massed armor formations from breaking through the battlefield. 

The need was to create a weapons system that could stop heavy German tanks without getting blown away themselves. It needed enough armor so that enemy infantry couldn’t neutralize it on their own and it needed enough speed to move when it had to. It also had to be able to kill German tanks. 

More than a dozen models were developed by American manufacturers to meet these Army requirements, but as one need was met, another need would soon arise. Armor was soon sacrificed in favor of speed and mobility, its main turret was soon upgraded with the Sherman tank’s 76mm turret, and the M18 Hellcat was deployed in the field before it could be standardized. 

Hellcats first saw action in the Italian campaign of 1944 but they were already outgunned by upgraded German panzer and Tiger tanks, and particularly vulnerable to those tanks’ main turret rounds. 

M18 Hellcat in action during a 2007 reenactment (Wikimedia Commons)

Nevertheless, the Hellcat was still effective against Axis armor. Even though the armor of German panzers couldn’t be penetrated by the M18 76mm rounds, American tank crews were still able to use the Hellcat to their advantage. The biggest of these was how fast the M18 could take a shot at an enemy tank. When set up for an ambush on the flanks of advancing enemy armor, they were devastating.

American tank crews knew that a well-aimed shot between two specific plates of a panzer’s armor would cause the anti-tank round to ricochet into the enemy vehicle’s driving compartment and kill the crew. The tankers learned this trick in time to meet Hitler’s 1944 armor offensive against Patton’s 3rd Army at Arracourt.

It was at Arracourt that seven M18 Hellcat Tank Destroyers and 25 U.S. tanks  met a force of more than 200 Nazi tanks trying to push Patton back out of the the Lorraine Province of France. Over 11 days, the seven Hellcats destroyed or disabled 39 Nazi panzers.

At the Battle of the Bulge, the Hellcat’s top speed of 50 miles per hour allowed them to get ahead of German armor divisions looking to capture fuel to continue the fighting. This was slowed by Hellcat quickly moving their positions and firing into the advancing enemy.  

Although there are successful examples of Hellcats fighting with their designed purpose, in practice, they were normally used to support infantry operations.


Feature image: US Army photo

MIGHTY HISTORY

‘The Fighting McCooks’ were the Civil War’s largest military family

Few states were as pivotal to the Union victory in the Civil War as the state of Ohio. Ohio lent 320,000 soldiers to the cause, among them Generals Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman and Philip Sheridan. After the big names, one Ohio family famously lent more of its flesh and blood than any other family in the Union. Known as “The Fighting McCooks,” Daniel and John McCook were the sons of George McCook, a Pennsylvanian and veteran of the Whiskey Rebellion who immigrated from Ireland. As young adults, Daniel moved his family to Carrollton. John raised his sons in Steubenville.

As older men, the two would join the Union cause – along with 13 of their sons and numerous other family members. 

The elder brother, Daniel McCook, was already 62 years old when South Carolina Confederates began shelling Fort Sumter. Advanced in age, he volunteered to be a Union paymaster. His brother James, a physician, was also in his 60s. He volunteered his services as a doctor with the Union. 

George, another McCook brother and surgeon, also joined the Union army along with his son, George. The father and son surgical team donated their time to the cause, working for free. But it was the other two brothers and their “tribes” who would earn the McCook family their belligerent nickname. 

Daniel McCook was killed during Morgan’s Raid, the largest battle to take place in Ohio. Nine of his sons joined the U.S. military, most becoming officers and many did not survive either. Three from the “Tribe of Dan” (as they came to be called), died in combat.

John and his five sons were known as the “Tribe of John” – and all of them survived the war.

The McCooks
The McCook Family

The Tribe of Dan

The oldest son of Dan McCook, Latimer, joined as an infantry officer and fought in General Sherman’s March to the Sea. Though wounded on two separate occasions, he survived the war. George Wythe McCook was already a former Attorney General for the State of Ohio and a veteran of the Mexican War. He led the 157th Ohio infantry and after the war, he ran for governor (he lost). 

One of the middle children, Robert Latimer, raised his own regiment of infantry, trained them, and then led them into combat. He was soon transferred to the Army of Ohio. He would later lead troops in an attack against Confederates in Alabama, where he died from a gunshot wound. 

Alexander McCook spent his entire adult career in the U.S. Army. A graduate of West Point, he was a veteran of the Indian Wars and the Mexican War when the Civil War started. He fought at the First Battle of Bull Run, Nashville, Shiloh, and Chickamauga. He stayed in the Army long after the war ended. 

Daniel McCook, Jr. also became a Union general. A former law partner of William T. Sherman’s, he would end his career as a brigade commander under Sherman. It was Sherman who appointed him to lead a frontal attack on Confederate positions on Kennesaw Mountain. Daniel died in the assault. 

Edwin Stanton McCook was a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy who also raised his own infantry regiment. He joined Sherman’s March along with his other brothers and fought a Vicksburg, Chattanooga, and Atlanta. The youngest McCook was John James, who started his adult life as 1st Lt. McCook, fighting at Chattanooga and Chickamauga, among other places. Both of these brothers died after the war. 

Charles Morris McCook was the only brother to enlist as a private in the Union Army. He died at age 18 at First Bull Run. It was his first engagement of the war.

The Tribe of John

Though the patriarch of the tribe died shortly after the war’s end, all of John’s tribe lived at least 20 years after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House. His eldest son Edward joined a regiment of cavalry in Indiana and led them throughout the war, moving south and gaining rank, going from lieutenant to brigadier general in three years. It was Edward McCook that read the Emancipation Proclamation in Tallahassee, securing the Florida capital for the Union.

Just after becoming a lawyer, Anson McCook joined the Union Army. – twice. He fought under Sherman in Atlanta and was discharged after his term of service ended. He was later called to serve under Philip Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley, a call he answered.

There were two members of the “Fighting McCooks” who did not actually fight. Henry McCook was a Presbyterian chaplain in a volunteer infantry regiment.  John James was also a Presbyterian chaplain for a three-year infantry unit. 

The only McCook who fought the Civil War in the Navy, Roderick McCook was out capturing slave ships before the war started. During the war, he harassed Confederate shipping and naval forces in South Carolina and Virginia, most notably aboard a newly-mined Union ironclad warship.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how ‘Ripley at the Bridge’ became a Marine Corps legend

It’s impossible to describe John Ripley’s most famous action in a single headline. This Marine dangled from the Dong Ha Bridge for some three hours as North Vietnamese soldiers took potshots at him. He took his time attaching 500 pounds of explosives to the bridge, singlehandedly halting an advance of 20,000 Communists during the Easter Offensive.


WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor
Think about that when you have trouble getting out of bed for PT.

Then-Captain John Ripley was an American advisor in the northern regions of South Vietnam in 1972. He was at Camp Carroll, a firebase between Khe Sanh and Dong Ha, advising South Vietnamese troops. It was his second tour in Vietnam and things were mostly quiet…until they weren’t.

WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor
That second trip though…

The NVA had been testing the U.S. defenses at firebases in his area but they would quickly disengage. One day in March 1972, they didn’t stop. Enemy artillery started raining shells on the firebases in the area. The NVA was throwing everything they had at South Vietnam, 14 divisions and 26 independent regiments. The Easter Offensive had just begun.

As Camp Carroll was overrun and its ARVN garrison surrendered, Ripley and another American escaped on a CH-47 Chinook. But the helicopter took on too many fleeing ARVN troops and was forced to crash land on Highway 1, near Dong Ha.

At Dong Ha, close to the DMZ that separated North and South Vietnam, he found a number of South Vietnamese Marines who had no intention of surrendering. He also found some 200 North Vietnamese tanks and self-propelled artillery backed up for six miles – and ready to cross the Cam Lo River.

WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor
The tanks would drive down Highway 1 and into Saigon unless someone did something about it… SOME body… hmm…

“We didn’t have the wherewithal to stop that many tanks. We had little hand-held weapons. And we certainly didn’t have anything on the scale that was needed to deal with the threat. Originally 20 tanks had been reported.” Ripley chuckled softly at the memory years later.

With the monsoon season limiting American air support and the North Vietnamese controlling one half of the bridge, Ripley decided he had to blow up the bridge. By himself, if necessary.

Another American, Maj. James Smock drove him to the bridge in a tank and Ripley headed below where he found five ARVN engineers trying to rig the bridge to blow. They had 500 pounds of TNT. The problem was the way the explosives were laid out; the bridge wouldn’t be completely destroyed and the NVA would still be able to cross. They’d have to be rearranged.

By hand. With tanks and guns shooting at those hands.

WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor
And the Marine attached to those hands.

Meanwhile, 90-pound South Vietnamese Marine-Sergeant Huynh Van Luom dashed onto the bridge in what Ripley called “the bravest single act of heroism I’ve ever heard of, witnessed or experienced.”

Huynh fired two M72 light antitank assault weapon rounds at the lead NVA tank. The first shot missed, but the second hit the tank turret, stopping it cold. The entire column was stopped. It couldn’t move and couldn’t turn around.

The ARVN engineers below the bridge took off as Ripley climbed over the razor wire barrier designed to keep people from doing what he was about to do. He climbed hand over hand as Smock pushed the explosives out to him. Ripley grabbed the box and moved it to a better location.

“I would hand-walk out, then swing up to get my heels into the “I” beam,” Ripley said, recalling that he was still wearing all his web gear and slung rifle. “Then I’d swing down on one T beam and then leap over and grab another T beam.”

WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor
Think about that when you have trouble getting out of bed for PT.

For nearly three hours, Ripley dangled under the Dong Ha Bridge, rigging it to blow, and frustrating the enemy trying to kill him. To make matters worse, Ripley had no blasting caps, so he had to use timed fuses — fuses with an unknown time, set with his mouth.

Smock moved to rig the railway bridge to blow at the same time and moved back to friendly lines. The 500-foot bridges blew up just minutes later. The armored column became sitting ducks for the Navy’s ships offshore and South Vietnamese A-1 Skyraiders.

WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor

His effort on the bridge that day may have been the decisive factor that kept the North from taking Saigon until three years later.

Colonel John Ripley died in 2008 at the age of 69, but not before making a trip back to Dong Ha with some of his buddies from L/3/3 Marines in 1997.

WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor
Colonel John Ripley, hanging out in Dong Ha, one more time.

(Cover Photo: Painting by Col Charles Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret.) captures the spirit of Ripley at the bridge at Dong Ha.)

MIGHTY TRENDING

4 reasons why Doc is not in formation

It’s a known fact that Marines are territorial by nature and do not play well with other branches while in garrison. It stems from our culture. Even though other branches have more funding and better promotion mobility, our intensity on an individual and unit level cannot be matched.

This intensity means Marines will always choose to save face over admitting they’re hurting, tired, or sick to anyone — with one exception: the Navy Corpsman, often affectionately known as “Doc.”

No other MOS in any branch will ever earn the amount of unwavering loyalty shown to the corpsman by a ferocious pack of Devil Dogs. Not many can understand our way of life because, simply, they weren’t there. No one else was there — nobody except our corpsman.

When they’re not in formation, they get a pass, which is fine — but they’re often gone without explanation. Here’s what they’d tell you:


WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor
“You don’t want to distract me while I’m practicing this, Staff sergeant.”

 

They’re honing their craft

The Marine Corps does not have medics, but as a department of the Navy, the Navy sends us those who have the cajones to enter the fires of combat. They’re usually the only medical caregiver on deployments and will perform a wide range of duties, from preventing diseases to rendering urgent emergency treatment on the battlefield. They will utilize their weapon to protect the life of the patient under their care. Badasses.

Their chief may have some training planned for them or they may be fulfilling a class required by the Navy. It is not uncommon to hear that chief himself was in Iraq or Afghanistan at the outset of the conflict and is sharing his wisdom with the next generation. Whatever Navy sorcery is going on in the Battalion Aid Station that demands Sick Call to be canceled must be important. By all means, carry on.

WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor
Those who do not qualify for Marine Regs will be issued standard utility uniforms instead.

 

They’re embracing our beloved Corps

According to Article 6501, personnel serving with Marine Corps, officer and enlisted Navy personnel may wear Marine Corps service and utility uniforms, including insignia, following the Marine Corps uniform regulations. If, after a series of tests and inspections, one qualifies to wear Marine Regs (regulation), they will be issued service and dress uniforms at no cost to the service member including all accessories.

The corpsman must also abide by Marine Corps grooming standards. They are required to maintain both Navy and Marine uniforms while attached to the Fleet Marine Force until they return to a Naval unit once again. No one is going to have a problem with Doc missing formation because he’s adopting our customs and traditions.

WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor
“First Platoon used crayon on these forms… again…”

 

They could be attacking endless waves of paperwork

Behind every light-duty chit is a mountain of paperwork we’ll never have to deal with. Unfortunately for the corpsmen, they have to process, file, and report everything. They don’t only have to keep up to date with Navy readiness training but Marine Corps readiness as well.

If something is beyond the medical capabilities of the BAS, a troop will be sent to the Navy Hospital for advanced treatment. They will also have to explain — in writing why they made their recommendation. When you have thousands of Marines under your care, the administrative element of medicine piles up.

They’re probably skating, too

Corpsmen have inherited not only our sense of humor, but also our prowess to avoid stupid games when possible. Several have witnessed a Doc pop smoke before their very eyes in a masterful display of “not my pasture, not my bullsh*t,” inspiring envy and respect.

Corpsmen have done what few people have been able to do: become accepted by Marines as one of their own. Loyalty to a platoon goes both ways, and if anybody messes with a corpsman, they’re going face injuries that will warrant that same corpsman’s medical expertise.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how insanely specific WWI fighter planes had to be

In December of 1903, the Wright Brothers made history in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina as they took to the skies in their powered and controlled aircraft, making an 852-foot flight. Less than a dozen years later, mankind revolutionized military aviation with a hugely important invention: the synchronization gear.

This ingenious device managed the milliseconds that stood between crashing to the ground and defeating your enemy.


In the early days of World War I, aviation was still very much in its infancy. People were skeptical about the effectiveness of aircraft in battle, so many turned to mounted cavalry for reconnaissance. When that couldn’t cut it, they finally gave aircraft a shot — which turned out to be an effective way to cross no-man’s land without serious risk.

The low-power engines of the time, however, couldn’t build enough lift to carry any weapons what weren’t also found on the battlefield below. Machine guns only become a viable option once the engineers increased wing space. Thus, the iconic biplane was born.

WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor
Or you could fly with three winged Fokker Dr.I like the Red Baron because why not?

The attached machine gun, which usually faced the rear of the aircraft, could rain Hell from above, but they were extremely ineffective against other aircraft. To address that need, they affixed a forward-facing machine gun that could fire in the direction of the aircraft. The problem was, however, that there was a propeller to contend with.

As an interim solution, the British developed the F.E.2. This machine-gun faced the front of planes but, to avoid hitting the propellers, it was located in the middle of the aircraft. It wasn’t pretty but it was an effective compromise.

WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor
(Phillip Capper)

Then, the Germans introduced their newest advancement: the synchronization gear. Pilot Kurt Wintgens scored the first aerial victory utilizing one on July 1, 1915 — and it changed everything.

The theory behind it is fairly simple to explain. The machine gun was placed directly behind the propellers and would fire only when the propellers were safely out of the way. The execution, however, was much trickier. A poorly timed synchronization gear meant that the pilot would drop out of the sky like Wile E. Coyote.

WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor
Not something you’d want to have happen while you’re almost a kilometer above enemy territory.
(National Archive)

Let’s talk mechanics: A timing cam rotated at the same speed as the propellers. This would physically stop the trigger from pulling at the moment a propeller was in the line of fire. The timing cam allowed the propeller to move at a various RPMs without adjusting the machine gun itself.

Americans improved on this design by employing hydraulics near the end of the war. This meant a faster rate of fire, more acute synchronization, and increased gun accuracy. The system could be adapted for nearly any engine and aircraft. The synchronization gear became a relic after the jet engine eliminated the need for propellers, but it still stands as one of the most ingenious inventions in aviation.

For more information on the physics of WWI aviation, check out the video below:

MIGHTY HISTORY

The crazy improvised gas mask used by World War I troops

Time and again, the oft-repeated military adage is proven right: if it’s stupid and it works, it isn’t stupid. This old saying might be the military’s version of necessity being the mother of invention. Except in the military, necessity could mean the difference between life and death. This was certainly true of U.S. doughboys on the battlefields of World War I, where a single battle could cost up to 10,000 American lives or more.

Americans were used to overcoming long odds in combat. Our country was founded on long odds. But in the Great War, U.S. troops had to contend with a weapon from which they couldn’t recover: poison gas.


WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor

Many different gas masks were used on the Western Front, but one was more improvised than others.

Throughout American involvement in the First World War, poison gas attacks killed and maimed some 2,000 American troops and countless more allies who had been fighting for years before the doughboys arrived. As a result, all the Allied and Central Powers developed anti-gas countermeasures to try and give their troops a fighting chance in a chemical environment. But gas was introduced as a weapon very early in the fighting, long before the belligerents knew they’d need protection.

But they did need protection. Gas on the battlefield was first administered by releasing the gas from canisters while downwind – a method that could go awry at anytime, causing the wind to shift toward friendly forces. Later on, it would be used in artillery shells that would keep the gas in the enemy’s trench – at least, until the friendly troops advanced to take that trench.

WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor

German soldiers ignite chlorine gas canisters during the Second Battle of Ypres in Belgium on April 22, 1915.

But early gases weren’t as terrifying as chemical weapons developed in the course of the war. The first uses of gas attacks involved tear gas and chlorine gas. While tear gas is irritating, it’s relatively harmless. Even the first uses of tear gas on the Eastern Front saw the chemical freeze rather than deploy when fired. Chlorine gas, on the other hand, could be incredibly fatal but was not effective as an instrument of death. Chlorine gas had a telltale smell and green color. Troops knew instantly that the gas had been deployed.

To safeguard against it, allied troops used rags or towels covered in urine to protect their lungs from the gas. The thought was that the ammonia in urea was somehow neutralizing the chlorine to keep it from killing them. That wasn’t it at all. Chlorine just dissolves in water, so no chlorine would ever pass through the wet pieces of cloth on their face. They could have used coffee, and the trick would have still worked.

Water (or urine) wasn’t effective against what was to come.

WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor

Troops burned by mustard gas in the First World War.

More than half a million men were injured or killed by poison gas during World War I. The terrifying, disfiguring effects of gases like colorless phosgene gas that caused lungs to fill with fluid, drowning men in their beds over a period of days. Then there was mustard gas, a blistering agent that could soak into their uniforms, covering their entire bodies with painful, burning blisters.

Small wonder it was banned by the Geneva Protocol in 1925.

MIGHTY HISTORY

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

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


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

MLive has more:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

popular

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

If you’ve ever wanted to be a space shuttle door gunner, pay attention: the weapon you might be operating could look something like this monster – the only projectile weapon designed for and fired in orbit around the Earth. Of course, it was the Soviet Union during the Cold War, who else would do that?


WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor
espionagehistoryarchive.com

These are the people who taught terrorists to hijack planes just to be dicks to the West.

Despite some initial successes, the Soviet Union ended up losing the Space Race in a big way. Their loss is exemplified by the fact that the same day the Americans put men on the moon, the Soviets failed to land a probe there. So after a while, the disparity in technology irked the Soviet Union.

Most important to the USSR was the idea of American spacecraft being able to literally get their hands on Soviet satellites. Anti-satellite operations were something both powers prepared for, but the idea that the satellite itself would need protection up there all alone prompted the Soviets to arm one of theirs, just to see how that would go.

WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor
This is how that would go. (Russian military television: Voennaya Priemka)

 

The Soviets built a station code-named “Almaz,” a space station that held spy equipment, radar, and the R-23M, a 37-pound 14.5mm automatic cannon that could fire up to 5,000 rounds per minute that was accurate up to a mile away. There was just one problem: aiming the cannon. The cosmonauts in the station would have to rotate the entire space station to point the weapon.

It was supposed to be the first manned space station in orbit, but the Russians were more concerned with developing the weapon than they were other aspects of the capsule, like sensors and life support. So instead of building their grand space station, they slapped together what they had with the R-23M and a Soyuz capsule, called it the Salyut before launching it into space in 1971.

WWII nose art motivated airmen with sex and humor
All this space station and not one Death Star joke.

 

The CIA knew about every iteration of the Soviet Salyut spy stations, but what they – and much of the world – didn’t know is that they actually fired the R-23M while in orbit. On Jan. 24, 1975, Salyut 3 test fired its weapon before the station was supposed to de-orbit. The crew had not been aboard for around six months at this point. While the Soviets never released what happened during the test, the shots and the station were all destroyed when they re-entered the atmosphere.

Firing a gun in space would be very different from firing on Earth. First, there is no sound in the vacuum of space, so it would not go bang. Secondly, the Soviets would have had to fire some kind of thruster to balance out the force exerted on the capsule by the weapon’s recoil; otherwise the Salyut would have been pushed in the opposite direction. The weight of the projectile fired would determine how fast you would fly in the opposite direction.

Not to mention that shooting the weapon into Earth’s orbit could cause the bullets to hit the station itself from the opposite direction.

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