Bob Hope entertained the troops from WWII to Desert Storm - We Are The Mighty
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Bob Hope entertained the troops from WWII to Desert Storm

Bob Hope entertained troops on USO tours from 1941 to 1991 — fifty years of laughter and fun. From World War II to Vietnam to Desert Storm, Bob Hope was there for our nation’s heroes.


“He brought such enthusiasm, brought your life back to you. You felt like you were renewed,” said Seabee Ron Ronning, who saw Hope perform during his final USO show of the Vietnam War. “That was one of the biggest thrills of my life.”

A true patriot who traveled to more war zones than even some of the highest-ranking military leaders of all time, Bob Hope brought laughs to the front lines for the better half of the 21st Century.

As a tribute to his lasting impact on our country, President George W. Bush ordered all U.S. flags on government buildings be lowered to half-mast on the day of Hope’s funeral.

“Bob Hope served our nation when he went to battlefields to entertain thousands of troops from different generations,” the president told reporters before boarding Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base. “We extend our prayers to his family. God bless his soul.”

Hope’s legacy endures, continuing to impact service members through the Easterseals Bob Hope Veterans Support Program, which provides one-on-one employment services and referrals to other resources to meet the unique needs of military personnel and veterans transitioning out of the military into a civilian job, starting their own small business, or pursuing higher education.

Since launching in 2014, the program has served nearly 1,100 veterans and families, placing more than 600 into civilian positions and helping 83 pursue degrees. Free to all veterans (the program is not exclusive to those with a disability), the program was launched with a generous seed grant from The Bob Hope Legacy, a division of The Bob Dolores Hope Foundation, which supports organizations that bring hope to those in need.

To date, The Bob Hope Legacy has donated more than million dollars in support of Easterseals’ military and veteran services.

Bob Hope entertained the troops from WWII to Desert Storm

Bob Hope on stage with Miss World 1969, Eva Rueber-Staier, during a Christmas show for servicemen held on board the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Saratoga (CVA-60) in Formia Bay, Italy, Dec. 22, 1969.

(U.S. Navy)

During a week-long campaign this year (May 23-29) in observation of Memorial Day, Albertsons, Vons, and Pavilions shoppers throughout Southern California can make donations in support of the program via the pin pad at registers. 100 percent of the donations go directly to Easterseals Southern California’s Bob Hope Veterans Support Program.

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Jim Mattis wouldn’t be the first former general to serve as Secretary of Defense

With reports swirling that retired Marine Gen. James Mattis is a leading contender to be selected as Secretary of Defense for President-elect Donald Trump, some people think it would be unprecedented for a former general to serve as Pentagon chief.


Bob Hope entertained the troops from WWII to Desert Storm
(Photo: U.S. Navy Chief Mass Communications Specialist Shawn P. Eklund)

But General of the Army George C. Marshall might have something to say about that.

Marshall is perhaps best known for the “Marshall Plan” he put together as Secretary of State under President Harry S Truman to help rebuild Europe after World War II. Marshall had served two years in that post before leaving to become president of the American Red Cross.

Bob Hope entertained the troops from WWII to Desert Storm

But when the Korean War started in June 1950 and became a near-disaster, Truman fired then-Secretary of Defense Louis A. Johnson over the military’s lack of readiness. He then nominated Marshall to take over.

Marshall was technically prohibited from serving as Secretary of Defense. As a General of the Army, he was by law on active duty, and per 10 USC 113, nobody who was a commissioned officer can serve as Secretary of Defense without having been retired for seven years.

Congress, though, waived that provision to allow Marshall to serve.

Marshall spent a year in the Pentagon, not only working to get the military into fighting shape for the Korean War, but also rebuilding bridges that his predecessor had burned with the Joint Chiefs of Staff (particularly the Navy), and also with the State Department.

Within two months of Marshall becoming SecDef, the United States and allied forces had nearly reached the Yalu River in Korea. When the Chinese Communists intervened and pushed the allied forces back, Marshall would play a crucial role in President Truman’s decision to relieve General of the Army Douglas MacArthur as overall commander in Korea, despite his initial reluctance to see that happen.

Within a year, Marshall resigned as Secretary of Defense and was succeeded by his deputy, Roger A. Lovett. He would die eight years after leaving the Pentagon.

Famous for has program to save a war ravaged Europe, Marshall’s service as Secretary of Defense is a nearly-forgotten footnote in his long career.

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The Army bought this tiltrotor aircraft over 30 years before the Osprey flew

When the military adopted the V-22 tiltrotor aircraft in 2007, there were legions of naysayers who thought the military’s first tiltrotor was too unsafe and too expensive to be added to the fleet.


But while the V-22 did have a spotted history during development, it wasn’t the first military tiltrotor aircraft. A few such aircraft were in the early stages of development during World War II, and the U.S. Army bought a tiltrotor aircraft in 1956 — over 30 years before the first V-22 flew in 1989.

Video: YouTube/AIRBOYD

The Doak Model 16 was a vertical take-off and landing aircraft that used ducted tilt-rotors to generate forward thrust and — in the vertical flight mode — lift. Like the V-22, the Model 16 only rotated its rotors when transitioning between flight modes.

The Doak company spent years developing VTOL technologies before it sold a single Model 16 to the Army for further testing and development. For its part, the Army dubbed the Model 16 the VZ-4 and flew it for three years, evaluating its flight characteristics and the potential for full production and deployment.

Cobbled together with parts from other planes and using still experimental tiltrotor technologies, the VZ-4 had fairly impressive stats. It was capable of flying at 229 mph and had a 229-mile range.

Bob Hope entertained the troops from WWII to Desert Storm
The Doak VZ-4 hovers during flight testing. (Photo: U.S. Army)

But, the plane struggled with some “undesirable characteristics,” especially during the transitions between vertical and horizontal flight. The most problematic was a tendency for the nose of the aircraft to rise in relation to the tail during the switch between flight modes.

Ultimately, the Army passed on purchasing more of the planes and loaned its single Model 16 to NASA for continued tests. When NASA was finished with it, the aircraft was sent to the Army Transportation Museum at Fort Eustis, Virginia.

Nowadays, the performance of the CV-22 and MV-22 Osprey has left little doubt that there’s a place in the military inventory for tiltrotor aircraft. The Ospreys can fly from patches of dirt or relatively small ships at sea that traditional planes could never operate from. And they can fly for over 1,000 miles without refueling, over twice the range of the CH-47 Chinook helicopter.

These traits have earned the Ospreys spots in special operations units and Marine air-ground task forces around the world. And for the U.S. military, the road to tiltrotor aircraft all started with a single plane purchased in 1956.

Articles

DARPA designed a kit to make any plane or helicopter a drone

Move over, Jennifer Garner, there is a new ALIAS that’s more awesome than the show you were on for five seasons. This one, though, has been developed by DARPA, not JJ Abrams.


According to a report from Voactiv.com, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has unveiled the Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System. This system, already tested on the Cessna C-208 Caravan, the Sikorsky S-76 and the Diamond DA-42, took about six months to develop through Phase 2 of the program.

Bob Hope entertained the troops from WWII to Desert Storm
A three-man Iraqi aircrew from Squadron 3 fired an AGM-114 Hellfire missile from an AC-208 Caravan at a target on a bombing range near Al Asad Air Base. (Photo: courtesy Multi-National Security Transition Command Iraq Public Affairs)

Two versions of ALIAS were competing for the development contract. One was from Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky, the other was from Aurora Flight Systems. Both versions involve the use of a tablet computer (like an iPad or Kindle Fire) to fly the plane.

“In Phase 2, we exceeded our original program objectives with two performers, Sikorsky and Aurora Flight Sciences, each of which conducted flight tests on two different aircraft,” DARPA program manager Scott Wierzbanowski said in a release.

Bob Hope entertained the troops from WWII to Desert Storm
The Queens Helicopter Flight S-76 (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

DARPA selected Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky’s version for Phase 3 of the ALIAS program. Their version of ALIAS can be installed under the cabin floor, not taking up any space in the aircraft or helicopter, while quickly connecting to the flight systems of the plane or helicopter. The Army, Navy, Air Force, and NASA have all expressed interest in this system.

For a sneak peek at one way this system could work, here is a video released by Aurora Flight Systems:

MIGHTY HISTORY

When McCain refused an early release as prisoner of war

Sen. John McCain, a giant of American politics who died on Aug. 25, 2018, at 81, was perhaps most profoundly shaped by his military service and more than five years as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War.

And McCain’s survival through years of nearly fatal torture and hardship in the Hanoi prison known as the “Hanoi Hilton” was made more impressive by his refusal to be repatriated before the release of all the American POWs captured before him.


President Donald Trump, whom McCain criticized extensively, has repeatedly disparaged McCain’s military service, suggesting at a rally in July 2015 that the senator didn’t deserve the title of war hero.

“He was a war hero because he was captured,” said Trump, then a Republican presidential candidate. “I like people who weren’t captured.”

But McCain’s military service and suffering have made him as something of an anomaly in American political history, and a hero in the eyes of many.

McCain was offered an early release — but he refused it

A graduate of the US Naval Academy, McCain followed his father and grandfather, both four-star admirals, into the Navy, where he served as a bomber pilot in the Vietnam War.

On Oct. 26, 1967, when McCain was a US Navy lieutenant commander, his Skyhawk dive bomber was shot down over Hanoi. Shattering his leg and both arms during his ejection from the fighter plane, McCain was captured by the North Vietnamese and spent 5 1/2 years as a prisoner of war.

Bob Hope entertained the troops from WWII to Desert Storm

Lieutenant McCain (front right) with his squadron and T-2 Buckeye trainer, 1965.

(US Navy photo)

Less than a year into McCain’s imprisonment, his father was named commander of US forces in the Pacific, and the North Vietnamese saw an opportunity for leverage by offering the younger McCain’s release — what would have been both a propaganda victory and a way to demoralize other American POWs.

But McCain refused, sticking to the POW code of conduct that says troops must accept release in the order in which they are captured.

“I knew that every prisoner the Vietnamese tried to break, those who had arrived before me and those who would come after me, would be taunted with the story of how an admiral’s son had gone home early, a lucky beneficiary of America’s class-conscious society,” McCain later recalled.

The North Vietnamese reacted with fury and escalated McCain’s torture.

‘Every man has his breaking point. I had reached mine.’

McCain soon reached what he would later describe as his lowest point in Vietnam, and after surviving intense beatings and two suicide attempts, he signed a “confession” to war crimes written by his captors.

“I had learned what we all learned over there: Every man has his breaking point. I had reached mine,” McCain wrote in a first-person account published in US News World Report in May 1973.

For the next two weeks, McCain was allowed to recover from his debilitating injuries — a period he later described as the worst in his life.

“I was ashamed,” he wrote in his 1999 memoir, “Faith of My Fathers.” “I shook, as if my disgrace were a fever.”

For the next several years, the high-profile POW was subjected to prolonged brutal treatment and spent two years in solitary confinement in a windowless 10-by-10-foot cell.

Bob Hope entertained the troops from WWII to Desert Storm

President Richard Nixon Greets Former Vietnam Prisoner of War John McCain, Jr. at a Pre-POW Dinner Reception,1973.

McCain’s courage bolstered his political bona fides

In March 1973, two months after the signing of the Paris Peace Accords, McCain and his fellow prisoners were released in the order in which they were captured. An emaciated 36-year-old with a head of white hair, McCain returned home to continue his service in the Navy.

McCain retired from the Navy in 1981, moved to Arizona, and began his political career in the Republican Party, serving two terms in the House of Representatives. In 1986, he won a landslide election to the Senate, where he served for 30 years, during which time he launched two unsuccessful presidential bids.

McCain’s courage during his brutal captivity bolstered his political bona fides. As David Foster Wallace wrote in a profile of McCain in 2000, when he was a presidential candidate, the former Navy captain commanded the kind of moral authority and authentic patriotism that eludes the average politician.

“Try to imagine that moment between getting offered early release and turning it down,” Wallace wrote of McCain’s decision to remain in Vietnamese captivity. “Try to imagine it was you. Imagine how loudly your most basic, primal self-interest would have cried out to you in that moment, and all the ways you could rationalize accepting the offer. Can you hear it? If so, would you have refused to go?”

McCain, a military hawk, forever remained a staunch supporter of the Vietnam War, during which 58,000 Americans and nearly 3 million Vietnamese were killed. But he worked closely with John Kerry, a Democrat and fellow Vietnam veteran who advocated against the war, to normalize relations between the US and Vietnam in the 1990s, bringing the devastating conflict to a close.

Amanda Macias contributed to this report.

Featured image: Lieutenant Commander McCain being interviewed after his return from Vietnam, April 1973.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This designer might be the most important mind in American military history

These days, aircraft designers aren’t exactly household names. Quick, can you tell me who designed the F-22? How about the F-35? No? Don’t worry, not too many can.


Back in the day, aircraft designers were big names. Kelly Johnson of Lockheed is rightly famous for designing the SR-71 and P-38, among other planes. But only one man can say that he designed aircraft that helped avenge both Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 attacks.

Bob Hope entertained the troops from WWII to Desert Storm
Ed Heinemann. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

His name is Ed Heinemann, and he holds the distinction of having designed both the plane that won one of the most pivotal battles in naval history and today’s best multi-role fighter. According to the National Aviation Hall of Fame, he became the chief engineer at Douglas Aircraft Corporation’s El Segundo plant in the 1940s.

Bob Hope entertained the troops from WWII to Desert Storm
A Douglas A-20 Havoc pulls up during the Battle of the Bismarck Sea. (Photo from DoD)

While there, he designed the A-20 Havoc and, more notably, the SBD Dauntless. The SBD is most famous for what it did in the span of roughly five minutes on the morning of June 4, 1942, about 175 miles north-northwest of Midway Atoll. In that timeframe, three Japanese aircraft carriers, the Akagi, Soryu, and Kaga, were fatally damaged by dive-bombers launched from aircraft carriers USS Enterprise (CV 6) and Yorktown (CV 5).

The SBD wasn’t all. While with Douglas Aircraft Corporation, Heinemann also designed some Cold War standbys of the United States: The A-3 Skywarrior and the A-4 Skyhawk.

Bob Hope entertained the troops from WWII to Desert Storm
The A-3 Skywarrior may be the most underrated airplane of the Vietnam War. (U.S. Navy photo)

Heinemann left Douglas in 1962 to join a company called General Dynamics. In the wake of the Vietnam War, that company would be one of two asked to develop a lightweight fighter for the United States Air Force that took into account lessons learned from fighting the Communists. Heinemann oversaw the project team, which would produce a multi-role fighter that would become almost as widely exported at the Skyhawk, until his retirement in 1973.

Bob Hope entertained the troops from WWII to Desert Storm
A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the 18th Aggressor Squadron at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, May 4, 2016, takes off from the base during RED FLAG-Alaska (RF-A) 16-1. Aggressor pilots are trained to act as opposing forces in exercises like RF-A to better prepare U.S. and allied forces for aerial combat. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Turner)

That plane, Ed Heinemann’s last aviation creation, would win the competition, and even get to star in a movie, all while becoming the backbone of the United States Air Force in Desert Storm (where it served alongside some modified A-3s) as well as the War on Terror. According to a book he co-authored on aircraft design, Ed Heinemann, in the last days of his career, oversaw the development of the F-16 Fighting Falcon.

MIGHTY HISTORY

When Britain secretly saved 83,000 men from likely death, capture

Britain attempted a bold strategy early in the first World War: Knock the Ottoman Empire out of the war by defeating it at home, restricting the number of troops that the Central Powers could muster on the eastern and western fronts. It was a gamble that, if successful, could have seen the initial landing of five divisions knock an empire out of the war and reduce enemy forces by millions of troops.

Unfortunately for the UK, the strategy failed, leaving leadership to decide between reinforcing the Gallipoli Peninsula or evacuating the more than 80,000 troops strung along the front under the fire of Turkish guns.


Bob Hope entertained the troops from WWII to Desert Storm

The original invasion in February, 1915, had become quickly bogged down in the peninsula’s sharp terrain of ridges and valleys, and a stalemate starting in August poured fuel on the fires of calls for evacuation. On October 11, London asked Sir Ian Hamilton, the operation’s commander, what he thought his losses in an evacuation would be.

He responded that he would lose 50 percent — over 40,000 men.

Bob Hope entertained the troops from WWII to Desert Storm

Luckily, London had a general who had recently returned from France that was in better standing at that moment. By October 16, just five days later, Hamilton was out and Sir Charles Munro was headed to the front.

Munro was in favor of an evacuation of Gallipoli because he knew how badly reinforcements were needed in France. Sending any more troops to fight the Ottoman Empire would mean further shortages in France while an evacuation would allow for tens of thousands of more troops to head where many leaders thought they were more badly needed.

What Munro saw in his tours of the three major troop concentrations cemented his position. All three beachheads, Helles, Anzac, and Suvla, were deemed too tough to defend. Meanwhile, the Turks were winning the logistics war and now had 315,000 troops with increasing access to heavy artillery against Munro’s 134,000 men. Munro recommended a complete withdrawal.

Bob Hope entertained the troops from WWII to Desert Storm

Troops move supplies off of the beaches of Gallipoli.

London disagreed, ordering Helles to be defended while troops pulled out of Anzac and Suvla.

The task of planning the withdrawal fell to Australian Brig. Gen. Brudenell White. His proposal, soon adopted, called for a three-stage evacuation that focused on maintaining appearances for as long as possible.

“It is upon the existence of perfectly normal conditions,” White said, “that I rely for success.”

In phase one, nonessential personnel would slowly pull back to the ships at night under absolute quiet. At the front, defenders would remain silent until Ottoman patrols wandered close to see what was going on, then the defenders would open up with machine guns, rifles, and whatever else was at hand.

Bob Hope entertained the troops from WWII to Desert Storm

The drip rifle allowed troops to hide their withdrawal.

Meanwhile, during the day, groups of men were ordered to light extra campfires, to march in pre-determined patterns, and to move from ships to shore like they were newly arriving reinforcements. Starting December 8, these men acted like “Groundhog Day” characters, repeating all their actions like clockwork to give the impression that nothing out of the ordinary was happening.

This allowed the British and their allies to get the number of evacuees down to roughly 40,000 troops.

Phase two, which began December 15, included all the same subterfuge as phase one, but even essential personnel and supplies were moved to the shore and evacuated, once again under the cover of night. To maintain the impression of full manning and operations, stacks of boxed supplies were emptied from the inside out, leaving hollowed out squares of bandages, ammo, and other materiel. The last remaining defenders continued to fire their weapons in massive bursts at any Ottomans who got too close.

Finally, phase three was a two-night evacuation of the last defenders from the last hours of December 18 to 4 a.m. on December 20. To take some of the heat off of the barely-manned defenses at Suvla and Anzac, troops from Helles launched a series of attacks and feints.

To further mask the withdrawal, the final defenders to pull out of positions would leave “drip rifles,” weapons positioned at firing positions with two tins of water and a candle positioned so that they would fire a few minutes after the soldier departed, giving the impression that the men were still in the trenches.

As for the men on the beaches, they miraculously escaped with almost no loss of life. White’s tricks were so successful that the Ottomans basically treated the situation like it was “winter quarters,” where both sides hunker down for limited contact until the weather improves.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The crazy way subs used to communicate

In the early 1900s the navies of the world were quickly expanding their submarine fleets and with them the technology that they used to fight.


One problem submarines faced as they matured was how to communicate underwater. Radio communication was only a couple decades old and radio waves barely transmit underwater. To allow submarines to communicate with naval forts, each other, and surface vessels, the U.S. Navy tested an improvised “violin” for submarines that allowed communication at ranges of up to five miles.

Bob Hope entertained the troops from WWII to Desert Storm
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Ferrer Dalmau

The violins had a single string stretched between two large, metal rods connected to the hull of the submarine. A wheel with a rough edges spun in close proximity to the string. A Morse-code operator could tap a button that pressed the spinning wheel to the string, sending a vibration through the string, the rods, and then the submarine hull itself. This vibration would continue through the water to underwater microphones on ships and coastal installations. The tests began in 1913 with three violins being installed on three ships. There’s no sign that these violins were ever used in combat.

Today, submarines and sub killers hunt using sonar, so sound-emitting devices like the submarine violin would be too dangerous to use. Instead, modern subs use specialized antennas and very low frequency radio waves to communicate.

NOW: Here’s what life is like aboard the largest US Navy submarine

MIGHTY HISTORY

When the Coast Guard saved New York from a huge blast

In the early evening of April 24, 1943, Coast Guardsmen braved leaping flames and saved New York City from what could have been the largest man-made explosion in history to that point, a blast that would’ve wiped out sections of the harbor and, potentially, large swaths of the larger city and parts of New Jersey. Instead, just one ship was lost and zero lives.


Bob Hope entertained the troops from WWII to Desert Storm

Painting of the El Estero fire by Austin Dwyer.

(Austin Dwyer via U.S. Coast Guard)

While all the other branches rib the Coast Guard for being a band of puddle pirates, it’s important when really looking at its history to remember that, first, they actually have conducted a ton of deepwater missions. And, more importantly for this discussion, the shallow waters of the world are home to vital and dangerous missions that the Coast Guard does well.

The Coast Guard often takes on a large role during conflicts to help to ensure that war materiel is safely moved from industrial powerhouses in the U.S. to theaters of war overseas. During World War II, this included loading many of the Liberty Ships and other vessels that plied the Atlantic and Pacific.

But logistic expediencies created real hazards. It made sense in terms of speed and efficiency to move all the munitions, vehicles, and other vital supplies to a handful of ports and load it on ships from there. But doing so meant that strings of railroad cars and ships filled with explosive materials would be stored right next to each other.

On Saturday, April 24, Coast Guardsmen working on explosive loading details finished loading 1,365 tons of ammo onto the Panamanian freighter El Estero. But before they could even get fully aweigh, smoke started to come up out of the ship’s passageways.

Investigations would later reveal that the boiler had likely been leaking fuel oil into bilge water in the compartment below it, and a boiler flashback ignited the pooled fuel and started a fire. But once the fire was going, it would be able to boil oil to give itself more fuel and heat up the ammo until it started to explode.

The engine room crew immediately started fighting the flames with handheld extinguishers, but it wasn’t enough, so officers went to the Coast Guard barracks for volunteers. Could someone, anyone, please climb onto the burning ship, descend into its belly, and fight flames in the hopes of it not blowing up?

Bob Hope entertained the troops from WWII to Desert Storm

A graphic tried to tackle the level of damage if the ship had exploded. This high traffic area would have made an explosion of the El Estero especially catastrophic.

(New York Daily News illustration via U.S. Coast Guard)

But the Coast Guardsmen knew what was at stake. The loading docks were always filled with ammo and fuel and, on April 24, there were two other nearly full ships nearby, there were railroad cars loaded with ammunition waiting to unload, and there was a fuel farm that served the departing ships. A detonation on the El Estero would likely trigger a chain reaction.

And explosions like this had happened before. Before the U.S. joined World War I, American firms sold arms to each side under equal terms, but British buyers were able to secure more credit while German ones were unlikely to even be able to get their purchases to the fighting thanks to a British blockade. So, German saboteurs blew up the shipping facilities at Black Tom Island in New Jersey, killing at least five people, destroying over million in property, and partially excavating the island.

Another World War I explosion, this one on a ship with 5,000 tons of TNT in Halifax Harbor in Canada, had killed 1,500 people leveling a large section of Halifax, Canada, in 1917. The combined loads of the El Estero and nearby ships and trains, somewhere around 5,000 total tons of explosives, dwarfed the size of the Halifax explosion. And an El Estero explosion would’ve been on the doorstep of New York City and could’ve flattened everything for five miles around.

Bob Hope entertained the troops from WWII to Desert Storm

Coast Guardsmen on a fireboat. Small vessels like these assisted in controlling the El Estero fire.

(U.S. Coast Guard)

And so 60 Coast Guardsmen, most of them in dress uniforms while awaiting their Easter Day liberty passes, rushed to the ship. New York firefighters arrived soon after with a firefighting ship, and they began passing hoses into the holds of the El Estero, but it was Coast Guardsmen who descended into the smoke and fire.

Survivors would describe a heat that overwhelmed them. The hot deck plates warmed and then burned their feet, paint peeled off the walls, and the heat continued to build. The Coast Guard officer in charge was Lt.j.g. Francis McCausland. It was his first day of work at the station.

But he was able to get tugboats to move the other ammo ships away and ordered Army soldiers to shift as many of the train cars out of range as they could move. By the time that additional fire trucks and Coast Guard fireboats arrived at 5:35, the fiercely burning El Estero was largely isolated, but still surrounded by the city, fuel stores, and warehouses of ammo.

The Coast Guard seemed to get the upper hand on the ship for a few minutes as the oily black smoke gave way to yellow and white streaks of flames, a signal that streams of water were hitting the major source of the fire. But the oily smoke returned, and the heat continued to rise.

About 40 volunteers were ordered off the ship, and a crew of 20 stayed onboard to try and keep the fire contained as long as possible while the ship was towed to a safe detonation point. Those 20 passed their personal effects to the men ordered off, some of whom wanted to stay and keep working. These included an engaged man who had to personally be ordered off the decks.

The further the ship was out of the harbor, the more lives would be saved in New York City and in the surrounding harbor from the pending explosion. Coast Guardsmen shoved anti-aircraft shells from the decks into the water and kept directing the water from the tugs onto the hot ammo as they traveled.

Bob Hope entertained the troops from WWII to Desert Storm

The El Estero rests mostly below the waves.

(Public Domain)

Miraculously, their work was enough, and the ship was towed out as the nearby cities prepared for an explosion that never came. Fuel barrels on the decks popped and boomed open, but the burnt and exhausted Coast Guardsmen onboard were eventually able to build up enough water in the ship to sink it.

(The ship was designed so that it could only be scuttled from one spot that was directly underneath the burning boilers, so the Coast Guardsmen could only sink it by flooding it.)

Once the hull of the ship was under the waves, the threat of a full ammo explosion was largely dissipated. Firefighters kept water pouring onto the still burning superstructure for hours until, finally, the threat was gone. No one had died in a crisis that was later found to have threatened as many as one million residents with death, injury, or extreme property damage.

All the Coast Guardsmen involved were given special medals for their efforts, and the U.S. government overhauled ammo-handling procedures to move dangerous operations away from population centers. This would save lives in June 1944, when an ammo ship with 4,600 tons of ammunition exploded northeast of San Francisco, killing 300 sailors on the ship and nearby, but leaving the city untouched.

Articles

ISIS militants nabbed trying to escape capture by dressing as women

As the fighting in Mosul has started, some ISIS militants have been trying to make a fast getaway. Not a bad idea when you consider the atrocities they’ve committed and the size of the force lining up to drive them out.


According to the British newspaper The Sun, though, some of these militants have been trying to escape under the radar by dressing as women. For at least two of them, though, it didn’t work out – Kurdish peshmerga fighters saw through the disguise and nabbed them.

Kristina Dei, the founder and director of Go Global Media, posted a photo of the two ISIS fighters on Twitter .

 

This is an old play. In 2015, the blog Gateway Pundit released a collection of pictures showing terrorists who were caught while dressed in women’s clothing. In 2008, FoxNews.com reported that a Taliban commander in Afghanistan was disguised as a woman when he was killed in a firefight with American troops. A 2008 release by the United States Army and a 2004 release by the Marine Corps noted that during Operation Iraqi Freedom, insurgents were known to dress as women.  Such tactics were also seen in Afghanistan, as a 2011 release by the Virginia National Guard mentioned.

The tactic sometimes worked, as a 2009 article by the New York Daily News described how some Taliban insurgents were able to slip away from Marines. Items of clothing like the burqa also were used to hide weapons and explosives.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Hurricane is the overlooked hero of the Battle of Britain

The Battle of Britain was a turning point for the allied forces during WWII. After their evacuation at Dunkirk, the British Army was in a poor state, having abandoned much of its warfighting equipment and machinery in France. The Home Guard, the armed citizen militia that supported the British Army, was mobilized in anticipation of a German invasion of the British Isles. As Prime Minister Winston Churchill said, the British people prepared to fight the Germans on the beaches, on the landing grounds, in the fields and in the streets, and in the hills. Ferrying an army across the English Channel is no easy task though, and the Germans needed to secure air superiority before their invasion.

In July 1940, Germany began an air and sea blockade of Britain with the goal of compelling her government to negotiate a peace settlement. Initially targeting coastal-shipping convoys, ports, and shipping centers, the German Luftwaffe was redirected to incapacitate RAF Fighter Command on August 1. They targeted airfields and infrastructure in an attempt to defeat the RAF on the ground. It was the job of the RAF’s fighter pilots to repel these attacks by the much larger German Luftwaffe. In the words of Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding, “Our young men will have to shoot down their young men at the rate of five to one.”


Bob Hope entertained the troops from WWII to Desert Storm

Supermarine Spitfires during the Battle of Britain (Photo from the Imperial War Museum)

When people think about the Battle of Britain, they often envision elegant Supermarine Spitfires with their large, elliptical wings, locked in a deadly aerial ballet with German Messerschmitt Bf 109s. Or perhaps a mental image is conjured of those same beautiful Spitfires cutting swathes through formations of Luftwaffe Ju 87 Stuka dive-bombers or Heinkel He 111 level bombers. Either way, the hero aircraft of the Battle of Britain that most people remember is the Supermarine Spitfire. However, the truth of the matter is that the Hawker Hurricane shot down more German aircraft than all other air and ground defenses combined during the Battle of Britain.

Although it was not nearly as pretty as the Spitfire, looking rather like a sad Basset Hound, the Hurricane was a more stable gun platform with its thicker wings. They allowed its eight .303 Browning machine guns to be mounted closer together in the wings and closer to the center of the aircraft, producing more accurate fire. Though the Spitfire was armed with the exact same guns, its thinner wings forced them to be mounted further out from the fuselage which caused the plane to become unbalanced when they were fired.

Bob Hope entertained the troops from WWII to Desert Storm

Hawker Hurricanes during the Battle of Britain (Photo from the Imperial War Museum)

The Hurricane, with its wood and fabric construction, was also easier for ground crews to repair and conduct maintenance on. Conversely, the Spitfire’s metal construction meant that skilled metal workers were needed to conduct repairs. This difference in design also meant that the Hurricane could be produced quicker and in larger numbers than the Spitfire. During the Battle of Britain, 32 RAF fighter squadrons flew the Hurricane whereas only 19 squadrons flew Spitfires.

Bob Hope entertained the troops from WWII to Desert Storm

RAF pilots scramble to their Hurricanes (Royal Canadian Air Force photo)

This is not to say that the Spitfire was inferior to the Hurricane; in fact, it was arguably the better dogfighter. Although both planes were powered by the same Rolls-Royce 27-litre liquid-cooled V-12 Merlin engine, the Spitfire could climb faster and turn tighter thanks to its wing design. As a result, Spitfires were generally directed to intercept the Luftwaffe escort fighters while Hurricanes attacked the enemy bomber formations.

In short, neither the Spitfire nor the Hurricane could have won the Battle of Britain alone. The two planes complemented each other in the sky and worked together to repel the onslaught of German air attacks. In the end, the RAF reported 1,542 aircrew killed and 1,744 aircraft destroyed while the Luftwaffe reported 2,585 aircrew killed or missing, 925 captured, and 1,634 aircraft destroyed in combat. Failing to establish air superiority over Britain, Hitler was forced to postpone his invasion indefinitely. Shooting down a majority portion of enemy aircraft, the Hurricane deserves its fair share of fame alongside the Spitfire in staving off the Nazi threat.


MIGHTY HISTORY

Nuclear blasts used to be good ol’ Las Vegas entertainment

Long before Britney started her Las Vegas residency at the Planet Hollywood Casino, visitors and residents got their nightly entertainment elsewhere – likely from a member of the Rat Pack but every so often, they would get a thrill watching the United States Air Force. Not the Air Force rock band Max Impact, they were there to see mushroom clouds.


Bob Hope entertained the troops from WWII to Desert Storm

Between 1951 and 1992, the United States military conducted more than 900 atomic explosion tests, setting off nuclear bombs at what we now call the Nevada National Security Site. Back then, the same area in nearby Nye County was known as the Nevada Test Site. Some 100 of those nuclear tests were atmospheric detonations, and from just 65 miles away, the blasts and the resulting mushroom clouds could easily be seen from Las Vegas.

So obviously, the nuclear detonations, the brilliant flash of the detonation, along with the seismic tremors were great Las Vegas entertainment. And while the best views were supposedly from the downtown Las Vegas hotels, that didn’t stop visitor and locals alike from driving to the best views of the blast along the desert horizon.

Bob Hope entertained the troops from WWII to Desert Storm

That’s not the sunrise in the background.

In the 1950s, the population of Las Vegas more than doubled in size, as tourists and visitors moved to take advantage of the casino gaming industry as well as the hospitality industry in the city. Some tourists flocked to Vegas just to see the magnificent nuclear explosions in the distance. The nuclear tests were always done in the early morning hours, and hotels and bars would create Atomic Parties, where guests drank until dawn, finishing the night with a blast.

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