This might be the bloodiest day in modern military history - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This might be the bloodiest day in modern military history

On August 22, 1914, France launched 15 ill-fated assaults against German lines from France to Belgium, resulting in battles which, combined, cost 27,000 French lives and an unknown number of German deaths in a single day of fighting. On that day, there were more fatalities than the British experienced in the first day of the Battle of the Somme and more than the U.S. suffered in the Battle of Antietam in the Civil War.


This might be the bloodiest day in modern military history
(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

 

The Battle of the Frontiers, as it would come to be known, began in August, 1914, but historians disagree about the exact date on which it started in earnest. Basically, the French forces mobilized in early August to arrest Germany’s quick progress westward, setting off a series of smaller clashes as the armies maneuvered for position.

By August 22, France’s armies were in position and the command wanted to push forward, always advancing. A general assault was ordered, and French forces pressed against their German counterparts in fifteen distinct locations. French forces attempted to use old-war tactics in a new, industrialized state of war, and it didn’t go better for France than for anyone else in World War I.

French troops tried to force wedges between German armies that had machine guns in defensive positions, tried to conduct bayonet charges against enemies behind cover, and kept sending wave after wave of troops when the first few attacks didn’t work.

Possibly the fiercest of the fighting came at Rossignole when the French 3rd Colonial Infantry Division ran into the entire German 6th Army Corps. The French forces fought bravely with officers leading from the front, but outnumbered and in dire straits, the division was whittled down to virtually nothing.

This might be the bloodiest day in modern military history
(Imperial War Museum)

 

Of the division’s three generals, two were killed and one was injured and captured. The commanding general, thought to have gone mad during the battle, simply waded into the worst of the fighting until he was shot dead. Some of the division’s units lost all but a handful of their officers, and the more conservative estimates for French soldiers killed at Rossignole say up to 7,000 perished. Some estimates are 50 percent higher.

But while Rossignole was fierce, Charleroi to the north was nearly as contested and featured much larger groups of men, resulting in even more casualties. France’s 15 divisions at the Charleroi were reinforced by three from Britain, and higher headquarters thought it was a sufficient force to pit against a suspected 18 German divisions.

But the French commander on the ground thought the Germans had twice as many men or more. He protested his orders, but was sent forward anyway on August 21. The French force and their British allies attacked a German force of 38 divisions which held key bridges and other features that the French needed to take to be successful.

This might be the bloodiest day in modern military history
(Wellcome Collection, CC BY 4.0)

 

Because of the French belief at the time that it was always better to be on offense, they sent division after division into the meat grinder. Thousands more Frenchmen, as well as large numbers of British and German troops, were lost in the bitter fighting.

By the time the sun set on August 22, approximately 27,000 French troops had died along with tens of thousands more British and German troops, making it more costly fighting than the first day of the Battle of the Somme, where Britain lost almost 20,000 soldiers. And, like the Somme, the full battle would rage for weeks more.

This might be the bloodiest day in modern military history

In all, the Battles of the Frontiers resulted in over half a million casualties in a single month of fighting. The painful lessons learned would all too slowly cause both sides to rethink their tactics and strategy, but years of trench fighting and pointless cavalry charges and bayonet assaults against machine guns would be needed before truly modern tactics were adopted across the board.

Unfortunately for those who sacrificed their lives for France in that bloody month, the large collection of smaller battles are mostly forgotten when held up next to gargantuan fights, like the Battle of the Somme, where over a million men were killed, wounded, and captured in just under five months of fighting.

This might be the bloodiest day in modern military history
One of the bloodiest battles in history. (French National Library, Public Domain)

 

Of course, there are some ancient battles where larger numbers of troops were reported killed in a day or a few days of fighting, but the numbers are not always considered reliable. One day of battle, which may have been even larger and more deadly than August 22, 1914, was the day in 216 B.C. when Carthage and Rome fought the Battle of Cannae. There, Hannibal managed to encircle a much larger Roman force and kill nearly all of its troops.

Carthage reportedly lost as many as 6,000 men while the Romans, if the reports are accurate, lost over 50,000, who were either killed or committed suicide on the battlefield.

Articles

How Rangers ‘left their mark’ on the Italians at Sened Station

In early 1943, the 1st Ranger Battalion, known as Darby’s Rangers, was still relatively unknown and rather untested. All of that was about to change.


The Rangers had been formed less than a year before at the insistence of Gen. George Marshall. Marshall believed that the Americans needed a commando unit and ordered Major Orlando Darby to make it happen. On June 19, 1942, the 1st Ranger Battalion was activated from “volunteers not adverse to dangerous action.”

Though over 2,000 men had volunteered, only 575 officers and enlisted men were accepted into the battalion. The British Commandos then trained these men at their training facility at Achnacarry, Scotland.

This might be the bloodiest day in modern military history
William Darby. (U.S. Army photo)

Less than six months after their formation, the Rangers spearheaded the Allied invasion of North Africa by taking out Vichy French artillery batteries at Arzew, Algeria. In a quick but decisive move, the Rangers captured the guns and some 60 prisoners.

After helping secure the port facilities and a nearby town, the Rangers were withdrawn from action. They began an intense training period, focusing on forced marches and night fighting. Both would prove useful in the near future.

With the rapid advance of Allied forces across North Africa, and commanders unsure of what to do with a specialized raiding force like the Rangers, they were not involved in the ongoing combat.

That changed in February when the Rangers were called upon to conduct raids against Axis forces to gather intelligence and weaken enemy morale.

Darby devised a plan to attack the Italians at Sened Station.

Trucked to within 20 miles of their objective the Rangers set off in total darkness. The Rangers set a blistering pace and stealthily covered some fourteen miles before taking shelter among the rocks for the day.

Word was passed around for that night’s mission — the Rangers would leave their mark.

“They’ve got to know that they’ve been worked over by Rangers,” Capt. Roy Murray said. “Every man is to use his bayonet as much as he can. Those are our orders.”

While his men concealed themselves among rocks and brush, Darby and his executive officer, Major Herman Dammer, conducted a leaders’ reconnaissance of the Italian outpost.

With the final plan set, the Rangers prepared to move out as the sun set. Faces were blackened and anything that jingled or rattled was secured to ensure silence. Helmets had been traded for wool caps the night before.

Once the moon set, the Rangers began their movement toward the objective.

The raiding force consisted of three line companies and a detachment of 81mm mortars. They moved out three companies abreast, toward positions within 500 yards of the outpost.

Darby was able to track the movement of his men by an ingenious method. Using red-lensed flashlights covered with a shroud mounted on the pack of a few men, he was able to see when his units were in position. This also ensured that no man wondered off course.

This might be the bloodiest day in modern military history
Rangers train on the terrain of the 8 November assault at Arzew (U.S. Army Photograph)

When all was ready, Darby sent forward the order to fix bayonets and move out.

Slowly, silently, the Rangers crept toward the unsuspecting Italian garrison.

Some amount of noise must have made it to the Italians at their posts because they became suspicious. With the Rangers still some 200 yards out, Italian machine guns opened fire. In the pitch black, their fire was wild and inaccurate. The Rangers held their fire and continued to creep forward.

As the Rangers made it to within 50 yards of the wire, the Italian’s fire became too close for comfort. Italian sentries called out into the night, “Qui va la? Qui va la?” (“Who goes there?”)

All at once the Americans responded. The Rangers leapt up and charged across the short distance to the Italian perimeter. American Tommy Guns riddled the outpost as riflemen tossed hand grenades and stormed across the Italian defenses with their bayonets.

One Ranger, Cpl. James Altieri, stumbled into a trench and right on top of an Italian soldier. In the brief struggle, Altieri dispatched the man by stabbing him in the stomach. It was his first hand-to-hand kill. He immediately vomited before continuing the fight.

Altieri later described the fighting by saying, “We worked them over furiously, giving no quarter.”

As the Rangers cleared the outpost, the 81mm mortars pounded the Italian positions and cut off their retreat.

This might be the bloodiest day in modern military history
American troops march in the Kasserine Pass in Tunisia. (Dept. of Defense photo)

In just 20 minutes, the Rangers were victorious. The Rangers had killed some 75 Italians and captured eleven more from the elite 10th Bersaglieri Regiment. The Italian artillery and machine guns were destroyed in place.

The victory had cost the Rangers one man and another 20 wounded.

As Darby conferred with the assault commanders and consolidated his position, he could hear the distant rumble of tracked vehicles — German armor. This was expected; the raid had been intended to draw out the Germans to help commanders determine their strength. But it also meant it was time for the Rangers to get out of Dodge.

Also read: 8 more awesome nicknames that enemies gave the U.S. military

Retracing their steps, the Rangers set out on a forced march back to the French outpost with their prisoners in tow.

The sudden ferocity with which the Rangers struck earned them the nickname “the Black Death” among the Italians.

The daring raid also garnered Darby and eleven other Rangers a Silver Star for gallantry.

Darby and the Rangers would see more intense combat in North Africa before spearheading assaults into Sicily and Italy.

Their success convinced the Army to stand up four more Ranger battalions in the European theatre.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is why Iran’s Special Forces still wear US green berets

When looking at Iran’s 65th Airborne Special Force Brigade, you might notice a few striking similarities — the yellow enlisted chevrons seem a lot like the the yellow chevrons on old Army greens, for example. Before the Iranian Revolution, their unit insignia looked a lot like the De Oppresso Liber crest that signifies the United States Army Special Forces.

The distinctive green beret worn by the Iranians may not be the same shade of green worn by today’s U.S. Army Special Forces, but Iranian special operators wear green for a reason — they were trained by Americans.


In the 1960s, the United States sent four operational detachments of Army Special Forces operators to Iran to train the Shah’s Imperial military forces. The Mobile Training Teams spent two years as Military Assistance Advisory Group Iran. Before they could even get to Iran, the soldiers had to pass the Special Forces Officer course at Fort Bragg, then learn Farsi at the Monterey, Calif. Defense Language Institute. Only then would they be shipped to Iran to train Iranian Special Forces.

It’s been a long time since the 65th was a part of the Imperial Iranian Special Forces. Now called 65th NOHED Brigade (which is just a Farsi acronym for “airborne special forces”), the unit’s mission is very similar to the ones the U.S. Special Forces trained them for in the 1960s. They perform hostage rescue, psychological operations, irregular warfare, and train for counter-terrorism missions both in and outside of the Islamic Republic.

This might be the bloodiest day in modern military history

Inside the Iranian military, the unit is known as the “powerful ghosts.” The nickname stems from a mission given to the 65th in the mid-1990s. They were tasked to take buildings around Tehran from the regular military – and were able to do it in under two hours.

Since their initial standup with U.S. Special Forces, Iran’s 65th Airborne Special Force Brigade survived the 1979 Iranian Revolution, then they survived the brutal Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, and now advise the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as they fight for the Iran-dominated Assad regime in Syria against a fractured rebellion.

This might be the bloodiest day in modern military history

NOHED members operating a machine gun in highlands of Kordestan during Iran–Iraq War of the 1980s.

The legacy of the harsh but thorough training with American Green Berets continues in Iran. The current training includes endurance and survival in desert, jungle, and mountain warfare, among other schools, like parachute and freefall training, just like their erstwhile American allies taught so long ago.

Articles

This presidential nominee’s campaign was tanked by a tank

In the 1988 presidential campaign, Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis, the Democratic nominee for President, had a problem: he needed to look credible as a commander-in-chief during a time when Democrats were being criticized for their defense policies.


Throughout the 1980s, the Reagan Administration had been pushing through a major peace-time military build-up.

According to CQ Researcher, a large portion of the Democrats in Congress had opposed that build-up in the 1984 elections. That caused the perception that the Democrats were being weak on defense, which led to Reagan’s 49-state landslide.

Dukakis had been among those who were critical of the buildup, the mainstays of which — the B-1B Lancer, the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine, and a host of other weapon systems – are in service today (with a few exceptions).

 

This might be the bloodiest day in modern military history
An E-2C Hawkeye early warning and control aircraft flies over the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Zackary Alan Landers/Released)

Worse, according to a 2013 article in Politico, during the month of August, Dukakis had gone from leading Vice President George H.W. Bush by 17 points to trailing him, and one big reason was that 54 percent of Americans felt that then-Vice President Bush would do a better job on national security, while only 18 percent thought Dukakis would.

To counter that, Dukakis went on a swing that discussed defense, but one event was marked by defense workers jeering him. Then, he went on a visit to a General Dynamics plant in Michigan where he planned to ride in an M1 Abrams tank, a key part of the buildup that Democrats had criticized.

This might be the bloodiest day in modern military history
Aerial drone image of an M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank crew. (Dept. of Defense image)

 

However, to do the ride, Dukakis was told he had to wear protective headgear. He did so, and ended up sealing his fate.

Within a week, the photo of Dukakis in the helmet had become a joke (think Kushner in his vest), but the worst was to come when operatives with Bush’s campaign developed an attack ad. Using 11 seconds of footage, they highlighted Dukakis’s opposition to the Reagan buildup and foreign policy.

Dukakis, who had already been trailing, and already saw 25 percent of Americans less likely to vote for him, was now in freefall. He eventually lost the 1988 election by seven million votes.

You can see a video by Politico on the infamous tank ride below.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This WWII 101st Airborne vet celebrated his 100th birthday with a jump fest

On June 6, 1944, the free men of the world joined together to liberate Europe from the clutches of Hitler. One of these men was 23-year-old Jim “Pee Wee” Martin. A paratrooper in G Company, 3rd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, Martin was one of the original 101st Airborne troopers who went through jump school at Camp Toccoa, Georgia. It was during his airborne training that Martin received the nickname “Pee Wee” for his small stature. He went on to fight with the Screaming Eagles in Normandy, Operation Market Garden, and the Battle of the Bulge. During WWII, he earned the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. In April 2021, Martin celebrated his 100th birthday with a massive jump fest near his hometown of Xenia, Ohio.

This might be the bloodiest day in modern military history
Jim “Pee Wee” Martin in his Army uniform

One of the last surviving “Toccoa Men”, Martin’s birthday is April 29. To facilitate the festivities, his birthday celebration was held over the weekend from April 23-25. Distinguished guests in attendance included Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin Engler of the 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment. Other 101st Airborne veterans, all of whom are over 90, showed up to celebrate their brother in arms’ birthday.

This might be the bloodiest day in modern military history
Reenactors drop from restored WWII planes during the birthday celebration (U.S. Army)

The Commemorative Air Force also supported the festivities with restored WWII planes. Using two Douglas C-47 Skytrains and a C-53 Skytrooper, the CAF conducted a flyover and mass parachute drop with reenactors on all three days. After the main drop, tandem parachuting was opened to the public as well.

On the evening of April 24, Martin was presented with multiple gifts and awards. Notably, the city of Xenia declared April 29 as Jim “Pee Wee” Martin Day in honor of his WWII service. Martin also served as an advisor on Band of Brothers, the HBO miniseries that made the 101st Airborne a household name.

This might be the bloodiest day in modern military history
Representatives of the 101st Airborne came out to celebrate Martin’s birthday (U.S. Army)

Despite the weekend of festivities dedicated to him, Martin remains humble. He places emphasis on the achievements of his unit. “The Airborne, that patch got you any place you wanted to go and you didn’t have to lie or anything like that,” Martin said. “All you had to do is see that patch and people knew what you’d been doing. I’m very proud of the service that we did, and it’s not an individual thing about me; it’s what the unit did. I don’t go off of individuals.”

Martin also shared words of wisdom with the new generation of 101st troopers. “My advice is go in there, work hard, do everything right, don’t make any missteps, and remember this: all of us older guys are looking to you.”

This might be the bloodiest day in modern military history
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine (left) greets Jim “Pee Wee” Martin (second from the right) a happy birthday (U.S. Army)

Articles

This famous guerrilla leader captured the general hunting him

Confederate Col. John S. Mosby was one of the world’s greatest guerrilla leaders, deploying cavalry against Union forces in lightning raids. In one impressive raid, he even managed to kidnap the Union general who commanded forces sent to stop him.


The engagement took place in March 1863, when Mosby was new to his command. He and his men were interrogating prisoners when a Union deserter laid out the location of the brigade’s picket lines and other defenses.

This might be the bloodiest day in modern military history
John S. Mosby and his Rangers. (Photo: Public Domain)

As it turned out, the Union 2nd Vermont Brigade had moved camps, but its general decided to stay at a local doctor’s house about three miles from his closest regiment. It was the 2nd Vermont that had so often sent its cavalry forces to try and catch Mosby — and Mosby saw an opportunity to end the harassment.

Mosby created a daring plan to slip through the nearby picket lines and kidnap both Brig. Gen. Edwin Stoughton, the commander of 2nd Brigade, as well as the colonel who commanded the brigade’s cavalry regiment.

The Confederate forces launched their operation on the night of March 8. Mosby and 29 others followed the Union deserter through the picket lines, then cut carefully though the forest toward Fairfax Courthouse. They arrived without incident and went into action.

This might be the bloodiest day in modern military history
Union Brig. Gen. Edwin Stoughton with other Union soldiers. (Photo: Matthew Brady, U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

They cut the telegraph wires and captured the operator as well as most of the guards in the area. They attempted to grab the cavalry colonel but learned that he had been called to Washington.

But the general was there — and he was woken by Mosby spanking his back.

“There was no time for ceremony, so I drew up the bedclothes, pulled up the general’s shirt, and gave him a spank on his bare back, and told him to get up,” Mosby later wrote.

As the general tried to understand what was going on, Mosby asked him, “Do you know Mosby, General?”

The General replied, “Yes! Have you got the rascal?”

“No,” said Mosby. “He’s got you!”

This might be the bloodiest day in modern military history
Union Brig. Gen. Edwin Stoughton was captured by Confederate forces before his commission could be voted on by the Senate. (Photo: Matthew Brady, U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

Stoughton was captured with three other officers, a number of enlisted men, and at least 55 horses. When President Abraham Lincoln was told of the event, he supposedly said that he could always make a new brigadier general in five minutes, “but those horses cost $125 apiece!

Surprisingly, both the men of the 2nd Brigade and officers in nearby units had predicted that Stoughton would be captured if he didn’t move his headquarters, and Stoughton himself expressed concern about the thin manning of the picket lines.

The deserter stayed with Mosby’s Rangers for a year before he fell in combat.

Stoughton’s fall was, for obvious reasons, very quick. His capture was an embarrassment for the nation and his rank had not yet been confirmed by the Senate as a brigadier general. Lincoln withdrew his nomination. When Stoughton was traded back to Union lines two months later, he found that he had no military rank or position.

He left the military and died within a few years.

Mosby would go on to become a legend and survive the war. He later supported the Republican Party and was made consul to Hong Kong by President Ulysses S. Grant.

Articles

9 bombers that can shoot down a fighter

When bombers beat fighters, it is very notable. But some bombers have more tools than others in an air-to-air fight. For instance, the F-105 shot down 27 MiGs during the Vietnam War, many thanks to its M61 cannon.


Here are some bombers that an enemy fighter would not want to get caught in front of.

1. De Havilland Mosquito

While some versions of this plane were designed as out-and-out bombers, with the bombardier in the nose, others swapped out the bombardier for a powerful armament of four .303-caliber machine guns and four 20mm cannons.

It goes without saying just what this could do to a fighter. One incident saw a number of Mosquitos being jumped by the deadly Focke-Wulf FW190. The Mosquitos shot down five of the enemy in return for three of their own in the dogfight.

This might be the bloodiest day in modern military history
The Mosquito’s heavy armament of four .303-caliber machine guns and four 20mm cannon is very apparent. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

2. Douglas A-20G Havoc

During the Pacific War, Paul I. Gunn, also known as “Pappy” came up with the idea to make use of the extra .50-caliber machine guns that came from wrecked fighters. He put those on A-20 bombers.

Eventually his modifications were something that Douglas Aircraft began to put on the planes at the factory. The A-20G had six .50-caliber machine guns in the nose — the same firepower of a P-51 Mustang or F6F Hellcat. Against a Zero, that would be a deadly punch. The A-20 later was used as the basis for the P-70, a night fighter armed with four 20mm cannon.

This might be the bloodiest day in modern military history
A look at the nose of an A-20G Havoc. (USAAF Photo)

3. Douglas A-26B Invader

Designed to replace the A-20 Havoc, the Invader was equipped to carry up to 14 .50-caliber machine guns in its nose. Nope, not a misprint; this was the combined firepower of a P-47 and a P-51. That is more than enough to ruin the life of an enemy pilot who gets caught in front of this plane.

This might be the bloodiest day in modern military history
The A-26B Invader. Note the eight ,50-caliber machine guns in the nose. Six more were in the wings. (USAAF photo)

4. North American B-25J Mitchell

The medium bomber version of the B-25J was pretty much conventional, but another version based on the strafer modifications made by “Pappy” Gunn in the Southwest Pacific held 18 M2 .50-caliber machine guns. One B-25, therefore, had the firepower of three F4U Corsairs.

Other versions of the B-25, the G and H models, had fewer .50-caliber machine guns, but added a 75mm howitzer in the nose.

This might be the bloodiest day in modern military history

5. Junkers Ju-88

Like the Allied planes listed above, the Ju-88 proved to be a very receptive candidate for heavy firepower in the nose. Some versions got four 20mm cannon and were equipped as night fighters. Others got two 37mm cannon and six 7.92mm machine guns, and were intended to kill tanks and/or bombers. Either way, it will leave a mark, even on the P-47.

This might be the bloodiest day in modern military history
Ju-88 in flight. Some were armed with two 37mm cannon. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

6. Vought A-7D/E Corsair

The A-7 Corsair is widely seen as an attack aircraft. It carries a huge bomb load, but the D (Air Force) and E (Navy) models also have a M61 Vulcan with a thousand rounds of ammo. While no Navy or Air Force Corsairs scored an air-to-air kill in the type’s service, if a plane or helicopter was caught in front of this bird, it wouldn’t last long.

This might be the bloodiest day in modern military history
An A-7E Corsair from VA-72 during Operation Desert Shield. (U.S. Navy photo)

7. F-105D/F/G Thunderchief

The F-105 is probably the tactical bomber with the highest air-to-air score since the end of World War II. Much of this was due to its M61 Vulcan with 1,029 rounds of ammo. You know what Leo Thorsness did with his F-105 against a bunch of MiGs.

This might be the bloodiest day in modern military history
Republic F-105D in flight with full bomb load. (U.S. Air Force photo)

8. F-111 Aardvark

While it was an awesome strike aircraft that could still be contributing today, it is not that well known that the F-111 did have the option to carry a M61 cannon with 2,000 rounds of ammo. That is a lot of heat for whatever unfortunate plane is in front of it.

This might be the bloodiest day in modern military history
General Dynamics F-111F at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

9. A-10 Thunderbolt

Widely beloved for its use as a close-air support plane in Desert Storm and the War on Terror, the A-10’s GAU-8 was designed to kill tanks. That didn’t mean it couldn’t be used against aerial targets. During Desert Storm, a pair of Iraqi helicopters found that out the hard way.

This might be the bloodiest day in modern military history
BRRRRRT. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Articles

This is the latest on the sunken World War II graveyards in the Java Sea

The situation surrounding a number of Allied ships sunk in a series of desperate battles around what is now Indonesia 75 years ago is a mixed bag, a new report finds. Late last year, advocates worried that many of the wrecks had been looted by modern-day grave robbers, forever altering important monuments to World War II history.


This might be the bloodiest day in modern military history
At Tjilatjap, Java, Feb. 6, 1942, seen from USS Marblehead (CL-12), which was passing close aboard. Houston’s colors are half-masted pending return of her funeral party, ashore for burial of men lost when a bomb hit near her after eight-inch gun turret two days earlier during a Japanese air attack in Banka Strait. (US Navy photo)

According to a report by USNI News, recent sonar surveys show the wreck of the heavy cruiser USS Houston (CA 30) is still in good shape, while there is inconclusive data on the Australian light cruiser HMAS Perth.

Past surveys have revealed that other wrecks, including the Dutch destroyer HNLMS Kortenear, the British heavy cruiser HMS Exeter and the British destroyers HMS Encounter have been stripped by looters.

The British destroyer HMS Electra, also sunk in the battles around Indonesia, has been “picked over,” while the Dutch cruisers HNLMS Java and HNLMS Dr Ruyter have had large portions of their wrecks removed. In one special case, the submarine USS Perch (SS 176), scuttled by her crew, has also been salvaged.

Reports last November claimed that all three Dutch wrecks were completely looted.

According to the United States Navy’s Naval History and Heritage Command, only 368 personnel survived the sinking of USS Houston when she sank as a result of gunfire from the Japanese cruisers HIJMS Mogami and HIJMS Mikuma. Of those 368, only 291 survived roughly three and a half years in captivity.

This might be the bloodiest day in modern military history
At Darwin, Australia, probably on 15 or 18 February 1942. The destroyer astern of Houston may be USS Peary (DD-226). Among the ships in the background, to the left, are HMAS Terka and the SS Zealandia. (US Navy)

In a release, the Naval History and Heritage Command noted that the survey, conducted by the Australian National Maritime Museum and the National Research Centre of Archaeology Indonesia was the first survey to provide a full view of USS Houston’s wreckage, thanks to the use of remotely operated vehicles and multi-beam sonar scanning.

Past surveys had focused on sections of the ship, using underwater video cameras and still cameras to assess the status of the wreck.

“We’re grateful to the Australian National Maritime Museum and Indonesia’s National Research Centre of Archaeology for sharing this information with us,” Naval History and Heritage Command Director Sam Cox said in the release. “We take very seriously our obligation to remember the service of American and allied Sailors who have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of freedom.  We’ll do everything we can, and work with everyone we must, to safeguard their final resting places.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Tommy Gun lived up to its original name: The Annihilator

Despite what many think, the Thompson submachine gun was not the first submachine gun.

This might be the bloodiest day in modern military history

But many will argue it was the best submachine gun ever put in the hands of fighting men – whether they were “good guys” or “bad guys.”

Well-made, robust, capable of firing more than 800 rounds a minute in some models and chambered for the man-stopping .45-caliber ACP round, the gun lived up to one of its original names: The Annihilator.

“I knew several soldiers who used Thompsons for special operations in Vietnam,” said Alan Archambault, a retired U.S. Army officer and former supervisory curator for the U.S. Army Center of Military History. “Even in the 1960s, the Thompson was still an iconic weapon for U.S. soldiers. Often when one soldier would rotate to the U.S., he would pass the Thompson on to another soldier in theater.”

The brainchild of Gen. John T. Thompson, a former chief of small arms for the Ordnance Department and firearms designer, the stalemate on the Western Front during The Great War (a.k.a. World War I) convinced him the ordinary infantryman needed a new weapon. Thompson wanted something he called “a trench broom.”

“Our boys in the infantry, now in the trenches, need a small machine gun, a gun that will fire 50 to 100 rounds, so light that he can drag it with him as he crawls on his belly from trench to trench, and wipe out a whole company single-handed,” Thompson wrote in a 1918 memo to firearms designers. “I want a little machine gun you can hold in your hands, fire from the hip and reload in the dark. You must use ammunition now available and I want it right away.”

Designers produced a prototype by 1919, but the first practical models were too late for the war. Still, Thompson convinced Colt to produce 15,000 M1921 submachine guns.

Early observers of the M1921 test-fired on the range were impressed by how much firepower the “little machine gun” delivered.

This might be the bloodiest day in modern military history

The problem was Thompson had no steady stream of customers, even when Thompson’s company Auto-Ordnance Corp. released the M1928 – considered by many the definitive Tommy gun model.

True, the U.S. Marine Corps purchased Thompsons and used them effectively in China and during the Latin American “banana wars” of the 1920s. The Postal Service armed its security personnel with Thompsons as well.

But the weapon was expensive – very expensive. Adjusted for inflation, its $200 price tag is roughly equivalent to $2,300 today.

To put things in perspective, consider the contemporary cost of prime, high-end arms like the Fabrique Nationale d’Herstal SCAR 17S 7.62×51 millimeter NATO – it costs about the same as a Tommy Gun did during the Roaring ’20s.

Besides, for better or worse the Thompson gained a “bad boy” reputation. A handful of criminals such as John Dillinger and George “Machine Gun” Kelly gave the weapon a bad name.

At first, potential customers such as the British government considered the Thompson “gangster weapons” and refused to purchase the submachine gun.

But by 1939, all that changed. Great Britain entered World War II starved for armaments.

The War Office eagerly purchased every M1928 it could, and the weapon was a hit with the Tommies – particularly the Commandos.

The weapon’s reliability and ability to bring devastating automatic fire to close quarters combat made the Thompson a favorite of the Commandos.

They even honored the weapon in the design of their unit recognition flash: A stylized Thompson superimposed on an anchor headed by an eagle.

There were also many American G.I.s who even relished the gangster panache of the Tommy Gun. Images of actors like James Cagney in “The Public Enemy” – easily one of the most violent movies of its time – ducking around a corner as a gangster fired on him with a Thompson were unforgettable.

“It was often seen in gangster films that were watched by impressionable young men who came of age during World War II,” Archambault said.  “So, even before its use in World War II, it was an iconic weapon.”

Sure, the M-1 Garand was the basic weapon for the American infantryman. But the Thompson found its way into the hands of officers, squad leaders, paratroopers, U.S. Marines and any soldier lucky enough to grab one.

Also, G.I.s and Marines were fighting all across the globe in battlefield environments that included deserts, jungles and snow. The sheer reliability of the Thompson, particularly in its less-expensive but equally deadly M1A1 model, made it the perfect weapon to endure the lousiest battlefield conditions.

Eventually, the cost of the Thompson prompted development of the M-3 “Grease Gun,” which could be produced in greater quantities for far less money than even the M1A1.

But by the Korean War, the Army relegated the Thompson to a secondary role. By Vietnam, the first M-16s were in the hands of GIs and the military considered the Thompson obsolete.

Today, Thompson submachine guns are in high demand among collectors legally authorized to own full-auto weapons. On average, the price for a clean Tommy Gun is about $25,000.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the average gear a soldier in WW2 carried

D-Day, the Battle of the Bulge, and Operation Market Garden; no matter the campaign and no matter the battle, our nation’s bravest men fearlessly surged forward to defeat the German threat in World War II.


Although each infantryman was responsible for various duties throughout the war, they were all issued similar gear.

Related video:

The basic issue wasn’t anything like what troops receive today, but they made it work. Here’s what they carried to victory:

Related: This is why grunt gear isn’t for the average man

Combat pack

This waterproof bag carried everything the troop needed to sustain themselves while in the field, including toiletries, socks, a few rations, and whatever personal belongings they wanted to haul.

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(Screenshot via Jeff Quitney YouTube)

Cartridge belt

This belt contains pouches that hold 8-round clips of ammunition. At the bottom of each pouch is a small metal hole used for attaching other small pouches, including basic first-aid supplies.

First aid pouch

Today, troops have a full supply of hemorrhage-control dressings. Back in WW2, all they had was this pouch, which contains one to two battle dressings for self-aid.

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Also Read: This is what the average ‘doc’ carried on patrol in Vietnam

Bayonet

This was also typically attached to the cartridge belt for quick access. Troops never knew when the call to “fix bayonets” was coming, so they had to be ready, sharp, and easily reached.

Canteen cover

This pouch includes a canteen, canteen cup, and mess kit — all made of aluminum. It wasn’t uncommon for a forward-deployed troop to eat and drink all of his rations from this container, as many meals served on the front lines came from a large, communal pot.

E-tool

Also known as an entrenching tool or shovel, the E-tool was used for digging fighting holes and for driving stabler stakes into the ground. This tool was famously worn on troops’ backs and doubled as a fighting stick when sh*t hit the fan.

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Related: This is how the shovel became a deadlier weapon than a bayonet

Helmet

The average WW2-era helmet was comprised of a plastic liner and a steel shell. The liner helped the helmet fit on a troop’s head properly and, of course, the steel shell offered the troop some protection from incoming shrapnel.

Cargo pack

This pack contained a half of a tent, tent pins, and a blanket. Many troops decided not to haul this practical pack around and simply brought a raincoat instead.

Check out the video below to watch a complete breakdown of what these heroes carried into battle.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BK-LBPLhl3w
Articles

That time the Air Force landed bombers on tank treads

During the Cold War, the U.S. Air Force experimented with a seemingly crazy idea for dispersing the weight of their heaviest bomber across the tarmac of airports and bases. They would fit the bombers with tank tread-inspired landing gear.


The B-36 Peacemaker was the largest plane ever built by America. Originally designed before the Pearl Harbor attacks, the B-36 was supposed to be a cross-ocean bomber that could drop 10,000 pounds of ordnance on Berlin or Japan while taking off and landing in the U.S.

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Convair XB-36 takeoff during its first flight on March 29, 1950. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

When flying shorter routes, the plane could carry as much as 86,000 pounds.

The massive B-36 was slowly developed throughout World War II but was finished too late for the war. The first bomber rolled off the line six days after the Japanese surrender. But the plane’s capabilities, carrying 10,000 pounds of ordnance to targets thousands of miles away, made the plane perfect for a nuclear strike role in the Cold War.

There was one big problem, though. The B-36 was extremely heavy, about 419,000 pounds when fully armed. And all that weight initially sat on two smaller tires in the front and two larger ones under the wings.

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Convair XB-36 in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The weight on each tire was so great, the Peacemakers risked sinking into the concrete if they were parked for too long on most airstrips.

So the Air Force tried out a novel solution. They installed tank tread landing gear under the nose and both wings of the plane, allowing the weight to be spread over a much larger area.

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Side view of Convair XB-36. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

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(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Initial tests of the system were successful, but the Air Force scrapped it anyway. It focused on improving more airstrips rather than putting the bulky system on production B-36s. It did start buying the planes with four smaller wheels under each wing instead of the single large one, which also helped with the pressure per square inch on airfields.

The weight-to-surface-area problem would come up again with the B-47, the Peacemaker’s successor. B-47s dispersed during the Cuban Missile crisis sunk into the concrete of Logan Airport in Boston, Massachusetts and pilots had to hire a tow truck driver to pull them out of the holes they created.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Help reunite these WWII enemies who became best friends after the war

A crowdfunding campaign has launched to reunite two World War II veterans who fought against each other during the war and became as close as brothers after the war. The mission is to bring the two World War II veterans together again for a mini-documentary in Normandy, France.

They fought each other in Tunisia, Africa; however, they reunited decades after, and became friends, even as close as brothers. Sadly, there is not much time left, it may be even the last opportunity to do so. Graham lives in the United Kingdom and Charley in Germany, with their health decreasing and them getting older each day, it may be the last opportunity to have them meet again. But with your help, they may be able to reunite one more time and have their last encounter and story told in a mini-documentary.


This is their story


In late March 1943, Allied and Axis forces prepared for one of the fiercest battles of the World War II African campaign near Mareth, Tunisia. It was here, where after four months on the run, Rommel’s Africa Corps took one of its last stands. Enclosed on one side by rocky, hilly terrain and the Mediterranean on the other, capturing Mareth proved a difficult proposition for the British Eighth Army.

In order to outflank the Axis forces, the British 8th Armored Brigade, along with New Zealand infantry swung southwest and then north through an inland mountain pass to attack the Axis troops from behind.

They ran into the German 21. Panzer Division. Karl Friedrich “Charley” Koenig, only newly arrived in Tunisia as a 19-year-old officer candidate, waited for his first combat as a loader in a Panzer IV of Panzer-Regiment 5.

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‘Charley’ Koenig

Across the hardscrabble Matmata hills, Sherman tanks of the Sherwood Ranger Yeomanry Tank Regiment readied themselves for the attack. In one sat machine gunner and co-driver Graham Stevenson. Graham had fought at the battle at El Alamein and bailed out of a tank as a 17-year-old. Taking part in the hard fighting all along the way from Alamein through Tunisia, he had just barely reached the tender age of 18.

On March 23rd, Panzer Regiment 5 and the Sherwood Rangers tanks stalked one another and engaged in individual tank battles. Shells whistled loudly by Charley’s tank, his experienced commander advising calm. Their Panzer IV would not be knocked out on this day, but it would not be for long.

The next day, a radio signal warned the Germans of an incoming RAF Hurricane IID tank buster attack. Scrambling out of their Panzer IV, Charley’s crew moved side-to-side as Hurricanes swept in from all directions at nearly zero altitude firing their powerful 40-millimeter cannon.

An accurate Hurricane pilot hit the rear of the tank, shortly before a lone British artillery shell, fired out of the blue, made a direct hit on their front deck. A half-track arrived in the night to tow them to the be repaired. Charley was now out of the way, while Graham and his crew took part in the Tebaga Gap battle on March 26th, the Shermans and the Maori infantry inflicting a severe mauling on the 21. Panzer-Division.

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Graham Stevenson

Graham survived Africa and returned to England with the Sherwood Rangers to train in Sherman DD swimming tanks for the invasion of Normandy. Due to a slight disagreement with a commanding officer that landed him in the guardhouse, he came in on Gold Beach, Normandy a bit later than his Sherwood Ranger comrades.

In his first day of hedgerow fighting, untested and frightened infantrymen escorting his tank fled under fire, leaving Graham and his tank commander to conduct their own reconnaissance. Just steps outside of his tank, Graham was hit and nearly killed by German machine gun fire. As an artery bled out, his life hung on a thread. Luckily, a nearby aid station saved his life. But his war ended there.

Charley’s career ended in May, 1943, when he was taken prisoner by the Americans and transported to camps in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Belgium, and England before returning home in 1947. Even decades later, he could never forget the war in Africa, and his honorable opponents.

In 1991, he sought out the Sherwood Rangers and found Ken Ewing, head of the southern branch of the Sherwood Rangers Old Comrades’ Association. It wasn’t long before they became like brothers. After Charley attended ceremonies for the regiment in Normandy and Holland, he was invited in as a member of the Association, where he was accepted wholeheartedly by the remaining British World War II veterans, including Graham, who was in the same tank crew with Ken.

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Graham and Charley in the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

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Graham and Charley in Bayeux

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On Gold Beach, the German bunker which stood in the way of the Sherwood Rangers’ entry into Normandy still stands sentinel. On that spot this June 6th , the Sherwood Rangers dedicated a plaque to the tankers who fought and died to take this beach.

Now, Graham and Charley are the only members of Sherwood Rangers Old Comrades’ Association left alive who fought in Africa 75 years ago. Their friendship, which has transcended the brutality of war to reveal that mutual respect, healing, and reconciliation can exist between former enemies, sends a powerful message to future generations.

Heather Steele, Founder and CEO of non-profit organization World War II History Project, has launched a $25,000 crowdfunding campaign to make this reunion and filming of a mini-documentary happen. You can help make this possible — I’ve spoken with Heather and she’s incredible passionate to make this happen. There are various perks available for your kind donations from getting personalized postcards from the Veterans to flying in a WWII bomber or riding a tank!

Click here to Donate to the Crowdfunding Campaign!

MIGHTY HISTORY

The freak accident that saved a carrier at Pearl Harbor

Most Americans know the story of Pearl Harbor, how the Japanese planes descended from the clouds and attacked ship after ship in the harbor, hitting the floating fortresses of battleship row, damaging drydocks, and killing more than 2,300 Americans. But the most coveted targets of the attack were the aircraft carriers thankfully absent. Except one was supposed to be there that morning with a future fleet admiral on board, and they were both saved by a freak accident at sea.


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The USS Shaw explodes on December 7, 1941, during the Pearl Harbor attack.

(U.S. Navy)

Vice Adm. William Halsey, Jr., was a tough and direct man. And in November 1941, he was given a top-secret mission to ferry 12 Marine F4F Hellcats to Wake Island under the cover of an exercise. Wake Island is closer to Japan than Hawaii, and Washington didn’t want Japan to know the Marines were being reinforced.

The mission was vital, but also dangerous. Halsey knew that Japan was considering war with the U.S., and he knew that Japan had a long history of beginning conflicts with sneak attacks. He was so certain that a war with Japan was coming, that he ordered his task force split into two pieces. The slower ships, including his three battleships, were sent to conduct the naval exercise.

Halsey took the carrier Enterprise, three heavy cruisers, and nine destroyers as “Task Force 8” to deliver the planes. And those 13 ships would proceed “under war conditions,” according to Battle Order No. 1, signed by the Enterprise captain but ordered by Halsey.

All torpedoes were given warheads, planes were armed with their full combat load, and gunners were prepared for combat. Halsey had checked, and there were no plans for allied or merchant shipping in his path, so he ordered his planes to sink any ship sighted and down any plane.

If Task Force 8 ran into a group of ships, they would assume they were Japanese and start the war themselves. That’s not hyperbole, according to Halsey after the war:

Comdr. William H. Buracker, brought [the orders] to me and asked incredulously, “Admiral, did you authorize this thing?”
“Yes.”
“Do you realize that this means war?”
“Yes.”
Bill protested, “Goddammit, Admiral, you can’t start a private war of your own! Who’s going to take the responsibility?”
I replied, “I’ll take it! If anything gets in my way, we’ll shoot first and argue afterwards.”
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The USS Enterprise sails in October 1941 with its scout planes overhead.

(U.S. Navy)

Equipped, prepared, and looking for a war, Halsey and his men sailed until they got within range of Wake Island on December 4, dispatched the Marines, and then headed for home.

There is an interesting question here about whether it would have been better if Task Force 8 had met with the Japanese force at sea. It would surely have been eradicated, sending all 13 ships to the bottom, likely with all hands. But it would have warned Pearl of the attack, and might have sunk a Japanese ship or two before going down. And, the Japanese fleet was ordered to return home if intercepted or spotted before December 5.

But the worst case scenario would’ve been if Task Force 8 returned to Pearl on its scheduled date, December 6. The plan was to send most of the sailors and pilots ashore for leave or pass, giving Japan one of its prime carrier targets as well as additional cruisers to sink during the December 7 attack.

Luckily, a fluke accident occurred at sea. A destroyer had split a seam in rough seas, delaying the Task Force 8 arrival until, at best, 7:30 on December 7. A further delay during refueling pushed the timeline further right to noon.

Because of that single, slightly odd occurrence, 13 less ships, including one of America’s most valuable carriers, were present when the Japanese attack began. And the Japanese pilots were looking for the three carriers assigned to Pearl. As Imperial Japanese Navy Lt. Cmdr. Mitsuo Fuchida later described his arrival with the first wave:

I peered intently through my binoculars at the ships riding peacefully at anchor. One by one I counted them. Yes, the battleships were there all right, eight of them! But our last lingering hope of finding any carriers present was now gone. Not one was to be seen.
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USS Enterprise sailors watch as “scores” go up on a board detailing the ship and its pilots combat exploits.

(U.S. Navy)

And the Enterprise would go on to fight viciously for the U.S. in the war. Halsey spent December 7-8 looking for a fight. While it couldn’t make contact in those early moments of the war, it would find earn 20 battle stars in the fighting. It was instrumental to the victories at Midway, the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, the Philippine Sea, and Leyte Gulf.

It suffered numerous strikes, but always returned to the fight. Its crew earned the Presidential Unit Citation and the Navy Unit Commendation. The ship, and much of the crew, survived the war. But the Enterprise was decommissioned in 1947.

Two great articles, linked above, were instrumental in writing this article. But a hat tip also goes out to Walter R. Borneman whose book The Admirals inspired this piece.

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