The British crippled the Italian Navy in World War II using old biplanes - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The British crippled the Italian Navy in World War II using old biplanes

Long before the outbreak of what would be known as World War II, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini was set on reviving the old Roman Empire. To do that, he needed complete control of the Mediterranean Sea to be able to resupply Italian and Axis forces fighting in North Africa.

Unfortunately for him, the only power standing in his way as World War II fully erupted in Europe was the mighty British Navy, whose reputation as a sea power was bolstered by the efficient use of any aircraft at its disposal. In the end, even a modern, powerful Navy like Fascist Italy’s was no match for British air power – even if the planes they used were 20 years old. 

Like any major power who wanted to stay relevant with changing times, the British Royal Navy began planning to fight any adversary who might challenge its dominance during wartime. For the British, this meant planning to fight Italy’s Regia Marina right after World War I, when Italy was still an ally. 

By 1935, when Italy’s expansionist plans became apparent, the Royal Navy increased their effort tenfold. It was a good plan. When Italy began operations in North Africa, the Mediterranean became its primary supply line, and an important battlefield for giving Axis forces the boot from North Africa. 

The British had another good reason for taking control of the middle sea. It needed to supply its own forces fighting in North Africa as well as resupplying its troops based in the Middle East and elsewhere. But the Italians weren’t planning on giving the Royal navy the decisive seaborne engagement they needed to make the Regia Marina irrelevant. 

The Italian Navy’s policy was to keep its ships in port, rather than risk them on the open seas. They figured if they weren’t out in the open like sitting ducks, they would be protected by coastal defenses. But ducks can sit anywhere, as they soon found out at Taranto in 1940. 

The British crippled the Italian Navy in World War II using old biplanes
Tarantino, Italy, 1940

After the fall of France and the destruction of the French Fleet, the only two forces left standing in the Mediterranean were the Italian and British Navies. The consequences for success and failure began to rise at a rapid pace. 

The fleet stationed at the port of Taranto was a considerable target, and a powerful enemy to face. The British soon planned Operation Judgement, a nighttime assault on the fleet using the only naval forces they could spare: four destroyers, three heavy cruisers and four squadrons of Fairey Swordfish biplane torpedo bombers from the carrier HMS Illustrious. 

Plans for the attack were so secret that no written records of Judgement were ever kept. In the end, half of the Swordfish planes were equipped with torpedoes and the other half were equipped with aerial bombs. They were going up against a well-defended harbor, complete with anti-aircraft guns, barrage balloons, and torpedo nets, all designed to keep the British from doing what they were about to do. 

On Nov. 11, 1940, after confirming the Italian fleet was at Taranto, the British launched Operation Judgement at just before 9pm local time. When they arrived, the Italians were totally unprepared to defend the fleet. Only a  quarter of the barrage balloons were in place and only a third of torpedo nets were in place. They were sitting ducks. 

The British crippled the Italian Navy in World War II using old biplanes
Navy Swordfish Bomber

Two waves of Swordfish bombers, totaling 20, hit the fleet at Taranto. In just a few hours, the Italian Navy lost half of its capital ships and moved the rest to a port far from British sea lanes. The Italian Navy wasn’t completely destroyed, but it was seriously wounded and its ability to hamper British efforts in the Mediterranean was seriously limited. 

With the loss of just two aircraft, and four airmen killed or captured, the British Royal Navy victory at Taranto ensured the British could support its troops in North Africa, and Hitler began to rethink his reliance on Mussolini to control the Mediterranean.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why this Soldier was nicknamed the ‘popcorn colonel’ in Vietnam will make you laugh

When Lt. Colonel Richard J. Shaw arrived in Vietnam, he had already proven himself a valorous Soldier by fighting the Germans in WWII, going toe-to-toe with the Chinese in Korea, and now he was looking to go up against the Viet Cong.


Once he had made it to the jungle, Shaw was assigned as an advisor to a Vietnamese regiment consisting of around 3,000 troops. Shaw had his work cut out for him — his troops were spread out across three different locations within his area of observation.

After getting embedded with his Vietnamese counterparts, Shaw adapted the local lifestyle and ate the indigenous foods. His daily diet consisted of three cold rice bowls, wrapped in leaves and served with some fried fish. He did this every day for 11 straight months… holy sh*t.

 

The British crippled the Italian Navy in World War II using old biplanes
Sticky rice with black beans and coconut. A standard Vietnamese dish. This is more than what the colonel ate. (Authenticworldfood.com)

 

Nearly a year later, Shaw’s weight had dropped dramatically due to light diet and all the physical activity required by fighting the enemy. The determined colonel was eventually pulled out of the jungle by his superiors and sent back to the rear to “fatten him up.”

Before taking time off for R&R, Shaw had sent a letter home asking his wife to send him some popcorn. Soon enough, a railroad cart arrived at Da Nang, where he was currently stationed — the goods had arrived. Shaw divided the popcorn kernels up between the three regiments and had them shipped to his friendly counterparts to be enjoyed.

Before Shaw headed back home for some much-earned time off, he befriended one of the regimental commanders, Capt. Tang. Shaw saved him three smaller bags of popcorn so he could take it back and share it with his family.

 

The British crippled the Italian Navy in World War II using old biplanes
UH-1B helicopters were commonly used for resupplying troops on the frontlines during the Vietnam War.

 

Eventually, Shaw returned to his troops and was surprised to meet a pissed-off Capt. Tang.

Apparently, the regimental commander took the popcorn kernels home and boiled them in water instead of cooking them in oil. Shaw just laughed at what he heard from his counterpart, who was still fuming in anger.

On that day, Shaw taught the loyal captain the proper way of cooking popcorn. The event earned Shaw the nickname of “popcorn colonel.”

Later, Lt. Colonel Shaw returned home from his Vietnam deployment and retired from honorable service in 1968.

Watch the American Heroes Channel‘s video below to hear the colonel’s humorous story for yourself.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why Bloody Mary is feared

Queen Mary I is the daughter of King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. The King loved his daughter but he desired a male heir to continue his line. He started to lust after Anne Boleyn, one of his wife’s ladies-in-waiting. Anne was higher-level servant that served as the Queen’s personal assistant but still low born. She allowed the King to pursue her. However, he needed his heir to be legitimate and considered divorcing the Queen. His divorce would trigger a chain of events that would change the course of history forever in England.

Mary falls from grace

Pope Clement VII happened to be Queen Catherine’s cousin. For six years the Pope attempted to delay the divorce, hoping to give Catherine enough time to birth a male heir. King Henry grew angrier over time and married Anne in secret. Henry declared that his marriage to Queen Catherine was invalid because she was the wife of his brother and thus the union was incestuous. He broke away from his ties to Rome and sparked the English Reformation by establishing The Church of England. The archbishop of Canter Bury, Thomas Cranmer, would then grant him an annulment instead.

queen mary
Portrait of Mary Tudor, Queen Mary I (1516 – 1558), circa 1550s
This portrait derives from the work of Hans Eworth who worked as a portrait and history painter (Flickr)

From this point forward Mary I is a bastard. Her titles revoked and cast out of her father’s favor. Her mother was forced to live in exile and this was the beginning of Mary’s deep seated hatred for her step mother, a protestant. Anne hated her too and continuously vied for Mary’s execution. Anne gave birth to a princess, Elizabeth I, whom also became a devoted protestant later in life.

Insult to injury

Anne’s failure to give the King an heir provided an opening for Mary to return to her father’s court but at a high cost. She would have to acknowledge him as the head of the Church of England and accept that her claim to royalty was illegitimate. She reluctantly agreed and regretted it for the rest of her life. For her humiliation she was reinstated at court and given a lavish residence – or be put to death.

As for Anne, she was beheaded on May 19, 1536 on false claims of multiple affairs with other men. The true reason for her execution was her failure to give Henry a male heir. The King married his third wife two weeks later — Jane Seymour. She was able to give Henry a male heir, Edward VI. Edward, also a dedicated protestant, who assumed the throne at the age of nine after his father’s death. Edward died of tuberculosis at the age of 15. He declared another heir so that neither of his sisters, Mary I or Elizabeth I would rule in his stead. Mary I was able to decisively wrestle power for herself in nine days and became the first Queen of England to rule in her own right.

Revenge of the Bloody Mary

For three years rebel bodies dangled from gibbets, and heretics were relentlessly executed, some 300 being burned at the stake. Thenceforward the queen, now known as Bloody Mary, was hated, her Spanish husband distrusted and slandered, and she herself blamed for the vicious slaughter.

Eric Norman Simons, The Queen and the Rebel: Mary Tudor and Wyatt the Younger

Mary also got her revenge against Thomas Cranmer who annulled her mother’s marriage and paved the way for Protestantism. He was burned at the stake for heresy.

Portrait of bloody mary
(Wikipedia)

Queen Mary I continued to rule for five years after taking the throne. She was ruthless and cruel, hellbent on revenge for the harsh life she lived. She blamed the protestants for everything and believed that by burning heretics alive she was saving the souls of everyone in her kingdom. After years of fighting mental illness and physical illness, she succumbed to uterine or ovarian cancer at the age of 42 in 1558. She gained the nickname ‘Bloody Mary,’ the first Queen of England.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the first helicopter pilot Medal of Honor was earned

While it might seem a little odd at first glance, it turns out the first helicopter pilot ever to receive the United States’ prestigious Medal of Honor, John Kelvin Koelsch, was born and and mostly raised in London, England. Considered an American citizen thanks to his parentage, Koelsch moved back to the US with his family in his teens, and soon after studied English at Princeton.

Described by his peers as “a man men admired and followed” Koelsch was a physically imposing individual who excelled at athletics and reportedly possessed a daunting intellect and a keen wit. Seemingly destined for intellectual greatness, Koelsch’s original plan was to become a lawyer, but he ultimately decided to join the war effort during WWII, enlisting with the U.S. Naval reserve as an aviation cadet on Sept. 14, 1942. He quickly rose through the ranks and was noted as being a terrifyingly effective torpedo bomber pilot.


Following WW2, Koelsch continued to serve with the Navy, though not before returning to Princeton to complete his degree.

At the start of the Korean War, Koelsch retrained as a helicopter pilot and ended up serving aboard, somewhat ironically, the USS Princeton.

Specializing in helicopter rescue, after what has been described as a “long tour of duty” aboard the USS Princeton, Koelsch turned down an offer to return to the United States with the rest of his squadron, simply telling his superiors that he wanted to remain until the job was done.

The British crippled the Italian Navy in World War II using old biplanes

Two U.S. Navy Grumman F9F-2 Panthers dump fuel as they fly past the aircraft carrier USS Princeton during Korean War operations.

His request granted and with the rest of his squadron back in the United States, Koelsch was transferred to the Helicopter Utility Squadron Two, a detachment of which he was put in charge of.

Not just a great pilot, Koelsch also tinkered extensively with his own helicopter, customizing it to handle the Korean weather better, as well as perform better at extremely low altitudes so as to make spotting injured comrades easier during rescue missions.

In addition, Koelsch had a hand in inventing a number of devices to make rescuing people caught in specific circumstances via helicopter easier, such as the so-called “horse collar” hoist and a floating sling for water-based rescues.

This all brings us around to July 3, 1951. The ship Koelsch was stationed on received a distress call from a downed Marine Captain called James Wilkins. According to reports, Wilkins’ Corsair had been downed during a routine reconnaissance mission and he had been badly injured, suffering a twisted knee and severe burns over the lower half of his body.

Unsurprisingly for a man who once stated “Rescuing downed pilots is my mission” in response to a question about why he took so many risky rescue missions, Koelsch immediately volunteered to attempt to go after Wilkins. His superiors, on the other hand, noted, amongst other things, that rescuing Wilkins would be near impossible due to the heavy ground resistance expected, Wilkins being deep in enemy territory, and the rapidly approaching night and thick fog making it unlikely he’d spot Wilkins even if flying right over him.

Despite all this, Koelsch loaded up his Sikorsky HO3S-1 and set off with his co-pilot, enlisted airman George Neal to at least make the attempt.

Described diplomatically as “slow moving”, Koelsch’s helicopter was both unarmed and travelled to Wilkins’ location without a fighter escort due to the aforementioned heavy fog that day making such an escort impossible. On that note, even without enemy fire, this combination of fog, approaching night, and mountainous terrain also made flying in those conditions exceedingly dangerous.

Nevertheless, flying as low as 50 feet above the ground at some points so as to make spotting Wilkins’ downed Corsair easier through the mist, the sound and sight of Koelsch’s helicopter lazily buzzing through the air caught the attention of Wilkins (who’d been hiding in the woods from North Korean forces), prompting him to return to the parachute — his reasoning being that this would be the easiest thing for his rescuer to see.

The British crippled the Italian Navy in World War II using old biplanes

John Kelvin Koelsch.

However, Koelsch brazen flying not far above the heads of nearby enemy forces saw them almost immediately begin firing at him as he came close to the region where Wilkins had been downed. Instead of, you know, getting out of range or doing anything whatsoever to protect his own life, when Koelsch located Wilkins, he simply hovered above him, weathering the hailstorm of bullets directed at himself and his chopper, and signaled for Wilkins to grab the hoist which had been lowered by Neal. As Wilkins would later note — “It was the greatest display of guts I ever saw.”

Unfortunately, it turns out helicopters don’t fly very well when the engine is riddled with bullet holes, and as Neal was winching Wilkins up, this is exactly what happened, causing the helicopter to crash.

Perhaps a problem for mere mortals, Koelsch was able to make something of a controlled crash into a mountainside, with himself and Neal avoiding any significant injuries, and Wilkins not suffering any further injuries as the chopper smashed into the ground.

Following the crash, Koelsch took charge of the situation and the trio fled the enemy forces, all the while taking special care to ensure Wilkins didn’t over exert himself. Koelsch and his cohorts managed to avoid capture for 9 days, eventually making their way to a small Korean fishing village. However, this is where the groups luck ran out and all three men were found hiding in a hut by North Korean forces.

During their march to a POW camp, Koelsch had the audacity to demand their captors provide Wilkins with immediate medical attention. After enough angry shouts from Koelsch, the North Korean soldiers eventually did just this; Wilkins would later credit Koelsch’s insensate and vehement pestering of their captors to give medical aid as something that ended up saving his life.

When the group reached the POW camp, Koelsch, despite being malnourished from his 9 days on the run with few supplies, shared his prisoner rations with the injured and sick, reportedly stating simply that they needed the food more than he did.

We should note at this point that Koelsch continued to do this while being periodically tortured by his captors for his refusal to cooperate in any way with them. When he wasn’t being tortured, Koelsch also continually argued with said captors about their mistreatment of his comrades, citing the Geneva Conventions. His refusal to shut up about this reportedly earned him a number of extra beatings.

Unfortunately, it all ended up being too much and Koelsch succumbed to a combination of malnutrition and dysentery, dying in October of 1951, about three months after his capture.

As for his companions, Neal and Wilkins ended up surviving the war.

In 1955, when the full extent of Koelsch’s actions and exemplary conduct while a prisoner became known, the decision was made to posthumously award him the Medal of Honor, with it noted that, beyond the selfless heroism displayed in the rescue attempt, “Koelsch steadfastly refused to aid his captors in any manner and served to inspire his fellow prisoners by his fortitude and consideration for others. His great personal valor and heroic spirit of self — sacrifice throughout sustain and enhance the finest traditions of the United States naval service.”

Koelsch’s remains were returned to the United States in 1955 by the Koreans and were interred at Arlington Cemetery, an honor reserved for all Medal of Honor awardees.

Further honors bestowed upon Koelesh include a Navy destroyer escort being named after him, as well as a flight simulator building in Hawaii.

Perhaps the most fitting honor though is that Koelsch display of stoic resilience in the face of unthinkable abuse, as well as his general conduct while a prisoner, served as one of the inspirations for the content of the 1955 Code of Conduct for American POWs which, among other things states:

If I am captured I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and aid others to escape. I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy.
… If I become a prisoner of war, I will keep faith with my fellow prisoners. I will give no information or take part in any action which might be harmful to my comrades. If I am senior, I will take command. If not, I will obey the lawful orders of those appointed over me and will back them up in every way…. When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am required to give name, rank, service number and date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability. I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country and its allies or harmful to their cause…. I will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

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7 rules of medieval knighthood that will make you re-think chivalry

People say “chivalry is dead” like that’s a terrible thing.

In the popular imagination, chivalry seems to harken back to some mythical era when armored knights rode about the land going on quests, saving maidens, and fighting evildoers.

But chivalry is really a word “that came to denote the code and culture of a martial estate which regarded war as its hereditary profession,” Maurice Keen writes in “Chivalry.”

He argues that medieval chivalry had a major part in molding “noble values,” and, as a result, has had an impact felt long after troubadours and jousting tournaments fell out of fashion. The romantic notion of the daring, pure-hearted knight errant lingers on, even today.

The British crippled the Italian Navy in World War II using old biplanes

It’s difficult to speak broadly about the medieval era in Europe, given that it encompasses several centuries and an entire continent. Generally speaking, however, in many cases, knights and medieval warriors served as a local lord’s private military. That meant that sometimes, regional conflicts set a group of armed toughs tearing through the countryside and doing whatever the heck they wanted.

Codes of chivalry didn’t take hold in vacuum. There was no uniform “code of chivalry,” and those codes that existed were often far more religious in nature than our modern concept of “hold the door for ladies.” They also cropped up in part to keep knights and warriors from acting on their worst impulses and attacking or extorting weaker individuals.

Starting in the late 900s and lasting till the thirteenth century, a movement known as the Peace and Truce of God rose in Europe. Basically, the Church imposed religious sanctions in order to halt the nobility from fighting among themselves at certain times and committing violence against local noncombatants. You can think of these as rules for knighthood.

The British crippled the Italian Navy in World War II using old biplanes

One 1023 oath, suggested by Bishop Warin of Beauvais for King Robert the Pious and his knights, gives us a good sense of some of the unexpected rules warriors might be asked to adopt, in response to their often violent behavior.

It includes some rather unusual injunctions and “illustrates the kind of oath that parties were expected to swear after having been caught breaking the peace,” according to Daniel Lord Smail and Kelly Gibson, who edited the sourcebook “Vengeance in Medieval Europe.” A main idea behind the movement was to use spiritual sanctions to give people a break from all the conflict and fighting that plagued certain areas at some points during the Middle Ages.

With that in mind, here are some of Bishop Warin of Beauvais’ proposed rules for knights, which indicate some truly bad and largely unchivalrous behavior on the part of medieval warriors:

1. Don’t beat up random members of the clergy

Bishop Warin of Beauvais barred knights from assaulting unarmed clerics, monks, and their companions, “unless they are committing a crime or unless it is in recompense for a crime for which they would not make amends, fifteen days after my warning.”

The British crippled the Italian Navy in World War II using old biplanes
Image by kollynlund from Pixabay

Gunald of Bordeaux also condemned anyone who “attacks, seizes, or beats a priest, deacon, or any other clergyman who is not bearing arms — shield, sword, coat of mail, or helmet — but is going along peacefully or staying in the house,” according to Fordham University’s medieval sourcebook.

Instead of formally cursing the offenders, Gunald vowed to excommunicate any attackers “unless he makes satisfaction, or unless the bishop discovers that the clergyman brought it upon himself by his own fault.”

2. Don’t steal livestock or kill farm animals for no reason

The oath includes an injunction against making off with bulls, cows, pigs, sheep, lambs, goats, donkeys, mares, and untamed colts.

The British crippled the Italian Navy in World War II using old biplanes

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

It also came out against seizing mules and horses at certain times of the year: “I will not exact by extortion mules and horses, male and female, and colts pasturing in the fields from the first of March to All Souls’ Day, unless I should find them doing damage to me.”

However, the bishop of Beauvais allowed that knights could kill villagers’ animals if they needed to feed themselves or their men.

In Gunwald’s proclamation, he also announced that any knight who robbed a poor person of a farm animal would be formally cursed.

3. Don’t assault, rob, kidnap, and torture random people

This rule should have probably gone without saying, but Bishop Warin of Beauvais felt that he needed to include it in the oath.

The bishop wanted knights to swear against mistreating male and female villagers, sergeants, merchants, and pilgrims. This abuse he cited included robbery, whipping, physical attacks, extortion, and kidnapping for ransom.

4. Don’t burn down or destroy houses unless you have a good reason

Arson was a big no in the bishop of Beauvais’s oath — for the most part.

Exceptions were made in the event a knight discovered “an enemy horseman or thief within” a certain house.

That sounds harsh, but Kaeuper writes that, while wrath was a sin, “vengeance is a cornerstone of the chivalric ethos, the harsh repayment justly given for an dimunition of precious honor.”

The British crippled the Italian Navy in World War II using old biplanes“Nocturnal fire” by Egbert van der Poel (1621–1664)

Knights were also warned against plundering and stealing from the poor, even “at the perfidious instigation” of a local lord.

Kaeuper cite’s Alan of Lille’s declaration that knights achieved the “highest degree of villainy” by supporting themselves by looting from impoverished people.

5. Don’t assist criminals

Knights had a bad rap in certain parts.

Kauper writes that Alan of Lille once said that knights had the “cruel nature of marauders” and that “soldiers have been made the leaders of pillaging bands; they have become cattle-thieves.”

The British crippled the Italian Navy in World War II using old biplanes
Image by Clarence Alford from Pixabay

Considering such a borderline criminal element, it’s not surprising that the Bishop Warin of Beauvais wanted knights to swear not to harbor and assist any “notorious public robber.”

He allows that, if a criminal comes to a knight for protection, that the knight should either make amends for the wrongdoer, force him to make amends within fifteen days, or deny him protection.

6. Don’t attack women — unless they give you a reason

The oath included a stipulation telling knights not to assault noblewomen traveling without their husbands. It also expanded protection to those attending them, along with widows and nuns, in general.

However, this shield was revoked if a knight “should find them committing misdeeds against” him.

7. Don’t ambush unarmed knights from Lent to Easter

A major part of the Peace and Truce of God movement was declaring that fighting should not take place during certain parts of the year.

The British crippled the Italian Navy in World War II using old biplanes

Photo from Public Domain

Yale Law School’s Avalon Project features a 1085 decree from Emperor Henry IV, which declares that peace should be observed every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, on apostles’ feast days, and from the ninth Sunday before Easter until the eighth day after Pentecost, among other times.

In a similar vein, Bishop Warin of Beauvais ordered medieval warriors not to attack unarmed knights “from the beginning of Lent until the end of Easter.”

Feature image: Roman Paroubek from Pixabay

MIGHTY HISTORY

This astronaut was the only American not on Earth on 9/11

If you were old enough, you remember exactly where you were on September 11, 2001 when you heard about the towers falling. Personally, I was on my way home from school after being let out early as a result of the attacks, when my mother told me what had happened. We had visited Washington, D.C., just a few months before, so while I wasn’t entirely familiar with the World Trade Center, I knew exactly what the Pentagon was; the fact it had been attacked shocked me. For NASA astronaut Capt. Frank L. Culbertson, Jr., who was in space aboard the International Space Station, the attacks on 9/11 were personal.

A South Carolina native, Culbertson attended the United States Naval Academy where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering. While at Annapolis, he was also a member of the Academy’s varsity rowing and wrestling teams. Following his graduation and commissioning in 1971, Ens. Culbertson served aboard the USS Fox in the Gulf of Tonkin before he reported to NAS Pensacola for flight training.


Culbertson earned his designation as a Naval Aviator in May 1973. Flying the F-4 Phantom, he served with VF-121 at NAS Miramar, VF-151 aboard the USS Midway out of Yokosuka, and with the Air Force 426th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron at Luke AFB where he served as a Weapons and Tactics Instructor. Culbertson then served as the Catapult and Arresting Gear Officer aboard the USS John F. Kennedy until May 1981 when he was selected to attend the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at NAS Patuxent River.
The British crippled the Italian Navy in World War II using old biplanes

A VF-151 ‘Vigilantes’ F-4 takes off (U.S. Navy)

Culbertson graduated from Test Pilot School with distinction in June 1982 and was assigned to the Carrier Systems Branch of the Strike Aircraft Test Directorate. He served as the Program Manager for all F-4 testing and as a test pilot for automatic carrier landing system tests and carrier suitability. Culbertson took part in fleet replacement training in the F-14 Tomcat with VF-101 at NAS Oceana from January 1984 until his selection for the astronaut training program.

Following his selection as a NASA astronaut candidate in May 1984, Culbertson completed basic astronaut training in June 1985. Since then, he worked on redesigning and testing Space Shuttle components, served as a launch support team member on four Shuttle flights, and assisted with the Challenger accident investigations.
The British crippled the Italian Navy in World War II using old biplanes

Culbertson’s official astronaut portrait (NASA)

Culbertson’s first space flight was a five-day mission from November 15-20, 1990 aboard STS-38 Atlantis. His second space flight was a 10 day mission from September 12-22, 1993 aboard STS-51 Discovery. On August 10, 2001, Culbertson made his third space flight as the only American crew member of Expedition 3 to the ISS. He lived and worked aboard the ISS for 129 days, and was in command of the station for 117 days. On 9/11, as the ISS passed over the New York City area, Culbertson took photographs of the smoke rising from Ground Zero in lower Manhattan.


He later learned that American Airlines Flight 77, the aircraft that crashed into the Pentagon, had been captained by a friend of his from the Navy. Charles “Chic” Burlingame III was the pilot of Flight 77 before it was hijacked following its takeoff from Washington Dulles International Airport. Culbertson and Burlingame had both been Midshipmen, Aeronautical Engineering students, and members of the Academy’s Drum Bugle Corps together at Annapolis. Both men also went on to attend flight school and become F-4 fighter pilots. With his trumpet aboard the ISS, Culbertson played taps in honor of his friend and all the other victims of the attacks that day. The Expedition 3 crew left the ISS aboard STS-108 Endeavour and landed at Kennedy Space Center on December 17, 2001.

The British crippled the Italian Navy in World War II using old biplanes

Culbertson’s official mission photograph for Expedition 3 (NASA)

Culbertson retired the next year on August 24. Over his long career in the Navy and with NASA, he logged over 8,900 flight hours in 55 different types of aircraft, and made 450 carrier landings, including over 350 arrested landings. His awards and honors include the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, and Humanitarian Service Medal. In 2010, he was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame. Of all his many achievements, Culbertson is still best known for being the only American not on Earth on 9/11.


MIGHTY HISTORY

The Korean War started 68 years ago this week

When the Korean War erupted on June 25, 1950 — 68 years ago in June 2018 — Master Sgt. Thomas B. Hutton soon found himself serving there with the Eighth U.S. Army as a first sergeant in an automotive maintenance unit, duty that gave him a rare chance to see the land and people of Korea up close as the country went about its daily life amid the privations and perils of war.

Hutton was an avid photographer and during 1952, he turned his 35 mm lens to preserving what he saw, snapping hundreds of photos — in color — that afford a rare look and feel of the country at that time.

The photos show ordinary people — country folk and city dwellers — going about their daily tasks — washing clothes in a river, bustling past a railroad station, making their way down a country road, standing in a rice field and watching a passing train haul tanks to some distant railhead.


Hutton died in 1988 and hundreds of his slides ended up in the Texas home of one of his daughters. As it happened, her son was Army Col. Brandon D. Newton, who until June 2018, served two years as commander of U.S. Army Garrison Red Cloud and Area I. He’d digitized his grandfather’s Korean War photos, kept them on his smartphone, and one day in 2017 showed them to a Korean Army sergeant major who sat next to him at an informal dinner.

The British crippled the Italian Navy in World War II using old biplanes
Master Sgt. Thomas B. Hutton an Eighth U.S. Army first sergeant in an automotive maintenance unit looks out on the South Korea countryside during the Korean War circa 1952.
(U.S. Army photo)

The sergeant major was amazed. Color photos of the Korean War were rare enough, but these truly captured Korea’s history. They showed what the country looked like. What the people looked like. And they even included rare shots of some of the earliest members of two organizations that are part of the U.S.-South Korean military alliance to this day: the Korean Service Corps and the KATUSAs — South Korean Soldiers who serve shoulder-to-shoulder with U.S. Soldiers in U.S. Army units in Korea.

When the sergeant major asked Newton if he’d be willing to donate the photos to the Korean Army, Newton immediately said yes and soon gave the slides — 239 images — to the Korean Army.

The Korean Army was thrilled and got right to work on trying to pin down where the photos were taken and just what they showed. To get it right, they enlisted the aid of professors, museum curators and other experts.

Then on June 5, 2018 Newton, his wife and son were the guests of the Korean Army’s Personnel Command in Gyeryong, South Chungcheong Province, for an exhibition of some of Hutton’s photos and a ceremony marking the donation.

The British crippled the Italian Navy in World War II using old biplanes
Early photo of a group of Korean Service Corps members during the Korean War circa 1952.
(U.S. Army photo)


The photos will be preserved in the Korean army’s official archives and copies would be distributed to museums and other institutions, the Korean army said during the ceremony.

During brief remarks at the ceremony, Newton said of the photos:

“First, they provide a very accurate and important history of what Korea was like in 1952, not just for the American Army, the Eighth Army, but also for the ROK army, Korean Service Corps and the KATUSAs. Second — most importantly — they demonstrate the strength of the alliance and an alliance that’s been in place for 68 years. And it helps us understand that our alliance is not just about the relationship between the militaries but also between our people, between the people of the United States of America and the people of the Republic of Korea. It’s a relationship that not only is about our service today but it’s about spanning generations from grandfathers and fathers and sons.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Boston Tea Party and the ungrateful colonists who started it all

On December 16, 1773 a bunch of rebel colonists from Massachusetts got sassy and decided to defy their one true king. While disguised as Indians, they dumped 342 chests of perfectly good tea into Boston Harbor – setting off a chain of events they’ll never come back from. 

Ungrateful, that’s what they were. How dare they throw a tantrum over another tax imposed by King George of Britain and the North Ministry. Didn’t they know that the temporary tax was for a good reason? Without it, the East India Company would have gone under and the British would lose money. The seven year French and Indian War depleted the treasury of Britain, the colonists needed to do their part and shore it up! Maybe the British screwed up by initially trying to hide the tax and collect it later on, but it’s only because they didn’t want to trouble colonists with the headache of knowing what it was really for. It was for their own good after all. But all those colonists cared about were their merchants who were illegally smuggling in Dutch tea to make a living and their so called “rights” for representation when taxed.

Selfish!

So, under the cover of painted faces and Indian garb, men snuck onto the ships that had pulled in and dumped all the tea into the harbor under protest against the British. Even Benjamin Franklin said it was wrong and that the East India Company should be paid back for the destruction of tea. After catching wind of the colonists despicable behavior, the rightfully angry Parliament enacted The Intolerable Acts law. For some reason, this made these heathens even more angry. Rules are for everyone’s good!

They didn’t need to be able to govern themselves anyway and what was so bad about having the British military keeping everyone safe in town? Britain was doing them a favor! Maybe the troops had to be housed inside the homes of colonists and empty buildings, but wasn’t it a small price to pay for safety and security? Well, apparently they didn’t think so because they got all of the colonies to rise up in indignation against Britain. 

What followed would be events that would live on in infamy. 

colonist

How dare these colonists thing they could “declare” independence. Who would have thought of such a thing? Certain people should have a place, especially the colonists, who were basically the step-children of the British. Equality disrupts too much, rules and rankings were put in place for a very good reason: order and decorum, staples of the British. Instead of remaining appreciative of this gift to be able to call oneself British, the colonists rebelled and fought. The American Revolutionary War would lead to the formation of a united country that fought for “liberties” and “freedom” for everyone. Sure those colonists eventually may have also won the war against the world’s leading power against all odds, but whatever. And okay, maybe the United States of America now has the world’s oldest written constitution that has been duplicated by numerous free countries since, but so what. 

Now they are stuck with a country that continues to extend equality for all people, evolving and modernizing with the changing times. This new country even apologizes for mistakes and changes its mind on issues by amending rules and law. Blasphemous. I hope the ancestors of those ungrateful tea throwing colonists are happy being American. 

MIGHTY HISTORY

This battle in North Africa was Germany’s Dunkirk miracle

When German and Italian forces began to collapse in Sicily in World War II, it became clear that they could either fight to the last man or could evacuate the 100,000 men and gear to Italy to man a series of defensive lines that would cost the Allies years to conquer. They launched a massive evacuation as armored generals George Patton and Bernard Montgomery raced for their blood.


The British crippled the Italian Navy in World War II using old biplanes

The Liberty Ship Robert Rowan explodes after suffering multiple bomb hits during Operation Husky. The ship had been filled with vital ammunition that, when burning, was also volatile.

(U.S. Army Signal Corps)

Operation Husky, the Allied invasion of Sicily in July 1943, was not without its flaws and screw-ups, but the Allied troops tore open a gap on the beaches and then pressed themselves against the Axis lines, driving back German and Italian troops.

U.S. Lt. Gen. George S. Patton Jr. and British Gen. Bernard L. Montgomery raced at the head of armored columns toward the port city of Messina on the island of Sicily’s east coast. Messina sat only two miles from the Italian mainland. If Germany had enough time there, it could ferry many of the 100,000 survivors to safety to fight again.

Germany had lost about 250,000 to capture in North Africa. It couldn’t afford six figures again, especially with the growing weakness of Italy as an ally. Mussolini was killed by crowds at home, and it was clear that Italian troops wouldn’t necessarily remain.

For weeks, German and Italian troops dug into the mountains, fighting delaying actions. On August 8, with the eventual collapse clear, Germany began secretly ferrying 60,000 Italian troops and about 40,000 Germans across to Italy.

The British crippled the Italian Navy in World War II using old biplanes

German troops and their British prisoners of war wait for the return of a ferry that would take them from Sicily to mainland Italy in August 1943.

(Bild Bundesarchiv)

The Allies knew by the next day that some sort of evacuation was underway. But just like how the Nazis failed to capitalize on the Dunkirk evacuation, so too did the Allies fail at Messina. Allied leaders remained focused on the ground fight. No ships closed the Strait of Messina, no planes took out the ports in Messina or mainland Italy.

This failure would come under scrutiny at the time and in the decades since.

Germany not only got approximately 100,000 Axis troops across, they were able to recover 2,000 tons of ammunition, 47 tanks, 94 heavy artillery pieces, and almost 10,000 vehicles, a massive success of sealift capability.

The British crippled the Italian Navy in World War II using old biplanes

Lt. Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., speaks with Lt. Col. Lyle Bernard near the city of Brolo on Sicily. As the sign in the back indicates, Messina is nearby.

(U.S. Army Signal Corps)

Of course, this made liberating Messina much easier than it otherwise would have been for Patton and Montgomery. But just like the evacuation at Dunkirk meant that Germany would have to face those troops later, the evacuation at Messina allowed Germany to reinforce itself in Italy.

This not only meant there were more German troops to kill in the defensive lines, but there were more German troops to hold Italy in the Tripartite Pact even as regular Italians wanted out.

MIGHTY HISTORY

10 rarely seen photos from the Spanish-American War

The Spanish-American War started after the USS Maine suddenly exploded in Havana Harbor in February 1898, an incident that was later found to be caused by faulty ship design but was blamed, at the time, on a Spanish mine. The resulting war was focused on Cuba, but the growing American military contested Spain across its empire, resulting in combat from the Atlantic to Pacific.


Here are 10 photos from the conflict:

The British crippled the Italian Navy in World War II using old biplanes

(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

The British crippled the Italian Navy in World War II using old biplanes

(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

The British crippled the Italian Navy in World War II using old biplanes

(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

The British crippled the Italian Navy in World War II using old biplanes

(U.S. Army Signal Corps)

The British crippled the Italian Navy in World War II using old biplanes

(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

The British crippled the Italian Navy in World War II using old biplanes

(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

The British crippled the Italian Navy in World War II using old biplanes

(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

The British crippled the Italian Navy in World War II using old biplanes

(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

The British crippled the Italian Navy in World War II using old biplanes

(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

The British crippled the Italian Navy in World War II using old biplanes

(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

MIGHTY HISTORY

The World War II origins of Navy ‘Torpedo Juice’

Going to any bartender that knows their craft and ordering a “torpedo juice,” means you’ll get a cocktail that’s two parts alcohol (any alcohol) and three parts pineapple juice. It’s not a bad drink, but it’s not exactly refined.

Neither were the World War II sailors who created the concoction. These guys had to do something to mask the harsh kick of the liquor by any means necessary. It just so happened that juice was the most readily available. 

In Mike Ostlund’s 2011 book, “Find ‘Em, Chase ‘Em, Sink ‘Em: The Mysterious Loss of the WWII Submarine USS Gudgeon,” he details how sailors were able to drink the grain alcohol carried by submarines, even after the Navy tainted the supply.

Even during the best days of World War II, a good stiff drink was hard to find. For U.S. Navy submarine crews, it was next to impossible – to find one. So they would make their own, using the fuel that fed the submarine’s deadly torpedoes. 

The British crippled the Italian Navy in World War II using old biplanes
Torpedo tubes on a US destroyer

One might think Americans would be used to either having to distill their own booze or to go completely without. The United States had only emerged from Prohibition less than a decade before the start of the Second World War. But no, Americans enjoyed their drinks and sailors were already known for their love of the hard stuff. 

Since there were no bars, pubs or stills aboard the submarines – and there wasn’t room for anything of the sort anyhow – they made the best of their situation. They converted to fuel used to drive their torpedoes into 180-proof alcohol. 

At first, the sailors could just pop open the fuel and start drinking, but it wasn’t always that way. Torpedo fuel was made from pure grain alcohol back then and the Navy brass knew it. They also knew that once the sailors aboard ship realized it, there would soon be a significant lack of fuel for torpedoes. 

Soon, Ostlund writed, Navy leadership began to add croton oil to the fuel stores. Drinking the alcohol with the oil additive gave sailors extreme stomach pains and diarrhea. Unlike the wood alcohol used by the government to poison industrial ethyl alcohol during Prohibition, the croton oil wouldn’t kill or blind sailors. They were still needed to fight the war, after all. The pain and suffering would soon pass. 

The Navy thought its fuel troubles were over and its fuel stores safe from thirsty sailors. They were wrong. There’s nothing more resourceful than a sailor in need of a drink on long haul sea voyages. 

Aboard the USS Gudgeon, sailors figured out how to separate the croton oil from the alcohol. The fuel was stored in five gallon cans and poured into a 50 gallon vat for use in the torpedoes. The sailors smuggled the fuel in their original five gallon containers back to anywhere they could set up a still, usually a hotel in a port city. 

They then simply distilled the oil from the alcohol, using the same method used to make grain alcohol in the first place. The stuff was then mixed with any kind of juice the sailors could find.

Operating a still in a random hotel wasn’t entirely without risk. The makeshift still setups can – and did – explode, setting fire to the hotel, buildings, and whatever happened to be nearby. A small price to pay for a bit of relaxation away from one of the world’s deadliest jobs. 

MIGHTY HISTORY

The last troop killed in WWII died after the war ended

On Dec. 7, 1941, the Empire of Japan launched a brutal attack on Pearl Harbor, killing over 2,300 American military personnel and catapulting the U.S. into World War II. After nearly four years of fierce fighting, Japan agreed to the terms of surrender as laid out in the Potsdam Declaration. On August 14th, 1945, this decision was broadcast across Japan.

A few weeks later, thousands of brave men gathered on the USS Missouri to witness a historic event as Gen. Douglas MacArthur, accompanied by Adms. Chester Nimitz and William Halsey, met with the Japanese delegation. Officials signed the Japanese Instrument of Surrender on September 2, 1945, finally putting a stop to the war and securing victory for the Allies.

The British crippled the Italian Navy in World War II using old biplanes
A still photo as the Japanese officially surrender.

Tragically, between the announcement of the surrender and the signing of the document, despite an active ceasefire, one last American life was lost.


During the war, Sgt. Anthony J. Marchione served as an aerial photographer with the 20th Combat Reconnaissance Squadron. On August 18, 1945, Marchione was on a mission to gather evidence that the Japanese were indeed complying with the ceasefire when the B-32 he was aboard took enemy fire.

Japanese machine guns ripped into the side of the B-32’s metal skin, creating a shower of shrapnel inside the cabin. Marchione noticed one of the crew members was gravely wounded and he rushed over. As the brave photographer helped his brother-in-arms, another barrage of enemy gunfire rained down on the American bomber.

The British crippled the Italian Navy in World War II using old biplanes
An American B-32.

The second round of incoming fire struck Marchione. He bled to death aboard his plane in the skies over Tokyo that Saturday afternoon. Sgt. Marchione’s tragic, untimely death has the dubious distinction of being the very last of World War II.

The aerial photographer was about a month away from celebrating his 20th birthday.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time Jimmy Carter saved Canada from nuclear destruction

In 1952, an accident at Canada’s Chalk River Laboratories near Deep River, Ontario caused a partial meltdown in an experimental nuclear reactor. Hydrogen explosions followed and hundreds of thousands of gallons of radioactive water flooded the core, heavily damaging the reactor.  When the Canadian government turned to U.S. nuclear experts for help, “Father of the Nuclear Navy” Rear Admiral Hyman Rickover sent his protégé – Lieutenant James Earl “Jimmy” Carter – to lead a team of maintainers into the reactor core to shut it down.


 

The British crippled the Italian Navy in World War II using old biplanes
Jimmy Carter in his 1947 class portrait from the U.S. Naval Academy yearbook.

The admiral was famous for the demands he put on the people who worked for him. His unorthodox methods almost kept him from making flag rank, but President Truman intervened on his behalf. It was a good call: the Navy’s 300 nuclear warships have never had a single nuclear incident.

Rickover’s team had access to the latest in nuclear energy technology because they were developing nuclear-powered ships for the U.S. Navy (the first nuclear submarine, the Nautilus, was completed in 1955). The Navy knew the technology the Canadians were using and how best to fix it.

The British crippled the Italian Navy in World War II using old biplanes
The Chalk River Labs site.

Rickover volunteered Carter to the Canadians to take the failing reactor apart so it could be replaced, a testament to the extraordinary faith and training the U.S. Navy places in its sailors – and to the good judgment of Adm. Rickover. First, the reactor had to be shut down, then it could be disassembled and replaced.

Carter, then 28 years old, had been in the Navy for six years. He was assigned to the Naval Reactors Branch of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission in Washington, D.C. Rickover’s demanding perfectionism was as instilled in Carter as it is today’s nuclear sailors.

The British crippled the Italian Navy in World War II using old biplanes

Rickover (left) served 61 years on active duty and saw Carter get elected President.

In his book “Reflections at Ninety,” Carter recalls preparing for the task. The team built a replica of the reactor on a nearby tennis court to practice their next move and track the work they’d already finished. Every pipe, bolt, and nut was rebuilt exactly as it was in the damaged reactor area.

Lieutenant Carter divided himself and his 23 guys into teams of three. Each worked 90-second shifts cleaning and repairing the reactor as per what they practiced on the tennis court. A minute and a half was the maximum time the human body could handle the amount of radiation in the area.

By today’s standards, it was still way too much radiation – Carter and his men were exposed to levels a thousand times higher than what is now considered safe. He and his team absorbed a year’s worth of radiation in that 90 seconds. The basement where they helped replace the reactor was so contaminated, Carter’s urine was radioactive for six months after the incident.

The British crippled the Italian Navy in World War II using old biplanes
The USS Jimmy Carter (U.S. Navy photo)

It makes sense that the ship named after President Carter would be a Seawolf-class nuclear submarine, as Carter helped develop the nuclear Navy and was the only U.S. President to be qualified for submarine duty. The USS Jimmy Carter was commissioned in February 2005.

The effects of this exposure eventually caught up to him. Carter developed cancerous tumors on his liver and brain at age 91 but was screened as cancer-free a year later.

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