9 business owners you didn't know were veterans - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

9 business owners you didn’t know were veterans

Veterans make up a huge portion of our population. Oftentimes, we don’t even realize someone served until we strike up a conversation about their past. From folks who did their 20+ years and retired, to those who served a few years before finding a new career path, these dedicated Americans hide among us every day. Take a look at these prominent veteran business owners, many of whom you never realized were previous members of the military. Their new career path allowed them to change the face of today’s business world, all while bringing their background with them. 

1. Phil Knight, Co-Founder of Nike

As in Nike, THE Nike shoe and athletic wear company. Co-founder Phil Knight helped bring this business to life in the 1960s. Today, he’s listed as one of the richest people in the world. But before all of that, before one of the most recognizable mottos of all time — Just Do It — Knight was a member of the Army. He served a year of active duty while enlisted, then seven more years in the Reserves. 

2. Frederick Smith, FedEx

This massive company was built on the very logistics that train our military members today. Founder Frederick Smith took his training to heart by incorporating Marine tactics to his side gig, shipping packages from his dorm room. As we all know, it eventually became his full time gig (and then some), growing to be one of the biggest shipping companies in the world. It all began with Smith’s stint as a Marine, in which he was commissioned for three years, including two tours to Vietnam. 

3. Jack Taylor, Enterprise Rent-A-Car

You know them as the car company that will pick you up, but Enterprise actually got its start by veteran Jack Taylor. Taylor founded the company in 1957 when, as a sales manager at a Cadillac dealership, he saw a need for folks who needed rides to and from the shop while their vehicles were maintenanced. 

Before his work in the vehicle industry, Taylor served as a Navy pilot in WWII. A building at the U.S. Naval Institute is named after him, the Jack C. Taylor Conference Center in Annapolis. 

4. Jay Van Andel, AmWay

AmWay, the biggest name in modern multi-level marketing, was founded by Jay Van Andel, WWII vet. Van Andel was also chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce from 1979 to 1980. 

However, it was in the Air Force that Van Andel got his professional start. He served as a second lieutenant, training crews who worked with B-17 and B-29 bombers. 

In 1959 he co-founded American Way Association.

5. Paul Alling Sperry, Sperry Shoes

The stylish boat shoes that so many love AKA Sperrys or “top-siders” actually take their root with a veteran founder. Paul Alling Sperry joined the Naval Reserves in 1917 where he worked as an office aid. His short tenure in the military ended that same year. His grandfather, William Wallace Sperry also served as a sergeant major within the 13th Connecticut Infantry Regiment in the Civil War. 

Coming from a family of boaters, Sperry got the idea for his boating shoes after seeing his dog sprint across ice. He created shoes that had paw-like grooves in a thick rubber sole. Originally intended for boaters, the shoes are now a fashion icon across the U.S.

6. Gordon Logan, Sport Clips

In 1993, men began changing the way they could get their haircut with the start of Sports Clips. The now-household name, however, got its start with founder and veteran Gordon Logan. 

Logan served as an aircraft commander in the Air Force from 1969 until 1976. After departing the military for business school, he opened various salons in Texas, eventually franchising nationwide. 

7. Dave Liniger, Re/Max

Chances are you’ve seen hundreds of Re/Max signs in for-sale houses across the U.S. The brand, Real Estate Maximums, got its start back in 1973 when veteran, Dave Liniger, found success in flipping houses. 

Before hitting the real estate market by storm, Liniger was enlisted in the Air Force, where he was stationed in Arizona, Texas, Thailand, and Vietnam. He served between 1965 and 1971.

8 & 9. Walmart, Sam and Bud Walton

The mega-store of all retail stores, Walmart, was actually founded by a set of veteran brothers. Sam served from 1942 until 1945 as an Army intelligence officer. Meanwhile, his brother Bud joined the Navy as a bomber pilot, flying missions across the Pacific Ocean. 

Sam took over his first store, a five-and-dime store and franchise location of Butler Brothers, in 1945, supposedly with $5,000 of his earnings from the Army, and another $20,000 lent from his father-in-law. Sam and Bud opened the first Walmart location in 1962.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How John McCain survived Hanoi ‘flabbergasted’ fellow prisoners of war

The lout of a prison guard they called the “Bug” told Bud Day with a satisfied smirk that, “We’ve got the Crown Prince.”

As usual, Day, an Air Force major who would later receive the Medal of Honor, ignored the Bug.


Later in December 1967, the guards hauled a new prisoner strapped to a board into Day’s cell.

Day was in bad shape himself. He had escaped and was on the run for two weeks before being caught. The beatings had been merciless, but the condition of the new guy was something else.

“I’ve seen some dead that looked at least as good,” Day would later reportedly say. The new prisoner was in a semblance of a body cast. He weighed less than a hundred pounds. He had untended wounds from bayonets. His broken and withered right arm protruded from the cast at a crazy angle.

Day thought to himself that the North Vietnamese “have dumped this guy on us so they can blame us for killing him, because I didn’t think he was going to live out the day.”

Then Day caught the look: “His eyes, I’ll never forget, were just burning bright,” and “I started to get the feeling that if we could get a little grits into him and get him cleaned up and the infection didn’t get him, he was probably going to make it.”

“And that surprised me. That just flabbergasted me because I had given him up,” Day said, as recounted in the book “The Nightingale’s Song” by Marine Vietnam War veteran Robert Timberg.

9 business owners you didn’t know were veterans
Cover of the 1995 Robert Timberg book The Nightingale’s Song
(Simon & Schuster)

Day had just met Navy Lt. Cmdr. John Sidney McCain III, or as Radio Hanoi called him, “Air Pirate McCain.” Day realized this was the Bug’s “Crown Prince,” the son of Adm. John S. McCain, Jr., commander of U.S. Pacific Command.

Two reckonings

The nearly five years he spent as a POW were a reckoning for the future senator from Arizona.

But now, he’s facing a different kind of reckoning.

In July 2017, he was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer that usually is terminal.

Shortly after the diagnosis, McCain went to the Senate floor to plead for bipartisanship.

“Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio and on the Internet. To hell with them,” he said.

“We’ve been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle,” he added. “We’re getting nothing done, my friends; we’re getting nothing done.”

McCain, still chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, went home to Arizona before Christmas and has not returned.

Before leaving the Senate, McCain said in a floor speech that “I’m going home for a while to treat my illness,” McCain said in a floor speech before leaving the Senate. “I have every intention of returning here and giving many of you pause to regret all the nice things you said about me.”

“And I hope to impress on you again, that it is an honor to serve the American people in your company,” McCain added.

At his ranch in Sedona, Arizona, McCain has reportedly not been a model patient. He has jokingly accused his nurses of being in the witness protection program.

“His nurses, some of them are new, they don’t really know him, so they don’t understand that sarcasm is his form of affection,” Salter said May 28, 2018, on the “CBS This Morning” program.

“He fights, he’s fought with everybody at one point or another,” Salter said. “You know, he always talks about the country being 325 million opinionated, vociferous souls — and he’s one of them.”

In an audio excerpt from the book, McCain faced mortality.

“I don’t know how much longer I’ll be here,” he said in the book. “Maybe I’ll have another five years. Maybe with the advances in oncology, they’ll find new treatments for my cancer that will extend my life. Maybe I’ll be gone before you hear this. My predicament is, well, rather unpredictable.”

Maverick no more

In the 1990s, A&E ran a documentary on McCain that included in its title the moniker “American Maverick.” The title was probably suitable for a politician who clashed so frequently with others but managed to maintain friendships with rivals, including Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton.

McCain said he’s seeking to shed the “maverick” label, discussing the subject in an HBO documentary on his life that will air on Memorial Day.

“I’m a human being and I’m not a maverick,” McCain said in a trailer for the documentary obtained by ABC.

“I’ve been tested on a number of occasions. I haven’t always done the right thing,” he said, “but you will never talk to anyone who’s as fortunate as John McCain.”

Throughout his life and public career, McCain has demonstrated humor in dire circumstances and the ability to absorb grave blows and continue on.

When he was told that the Hoa Lo prison, dubbed the “Hanoi Hilton” by the POWs, had actually been turned into a hotel, McCain said “I hope the room service is better.”

He could also be self-deprecating.

“I did not enjoy the reputation of a serious pilot or an up-and-coming junior officer,” McCain, with long-time collaborator Mark Salter, wrote in his book “Faith of My Fathers,” describing life before his A-4 Skyhawk was shot down over Hanoi.

He had crashed three planes in training. He was assigned to attack aircraft and was not among the elite who flew fighters.

The look that riveted Bud Day in the prison camp signaled that the gadfly and carouser McCain was renewing a commitment “to serve a cause greater than oneself.”

It is a message that he has delivered to Naval Academy graduates and to congressional colleagues, and he has admitted to often falling short of living up to his own mantra.

After his return from Vietnam, there was a failed marriage and his implication in the “Keating Five” scandal, a bribery affair with a a corrupt wheeler-dealer that almost ended his career in politics.

9 business owners you didn’t know were veterans
McCain being interviewed after his return from Vietnam, April 1973

McCain recently described to CNN’s Jake Tapper how he wanted to be remembered.

“He served his country, and not always right,” McCain said. “Made a lot of mistakes. Made a lot of errors. But served his country. And I hope you could add ‘honorably’.”

On the campaign trail with McCain

The famously named “Straight Talk Express” campaign bus was actually reduced to a minivan when McCain was broke and running on fumes in the New Hampshire presidential primary of 2008. The few reporters still covering him had no problem squeezing in. The small group included this reporter, who covered the McCain campaigns for the New York Daily News in 2000 and 2008.

McCain would be off to some high school gym to speak, but mostly to listen. Everybody knew the script, because there wasn’t one, and that’s part of what made him a treat to cover.

His “Town Hall” events really were town halls. There might be a talking point at the top, or some message of the day fed to him by handlers, but McCain would get rid of it quickly and throw it open to the floor.

The practice had its downside. There was the guy who seemed to show up everywhere and always managed to grab the mic. He wanted to grow hemp, or maybe smoke it, and thought McCain should do something about it. It drove the candidate nuts.

The ad-lib nature of his campaigns sometimes backfired. There was the time in New Hampshire when he was headed to Boston for a Red Sox game and a sit-down with pitching hero Curt Schilling. Red Sox? New Hampshire primary? Impossible to screw that up.

The news of the day was that opponent Mitt Romney had hired undocumented immigrants to sweep out his stables, blow the leaves off his tennis courts, or similar tasks.

A small group of reporters hit McCain with the Romney question on his way to the car. McCain hadn’t heard. He started to laugh, thought better of it, and rushed back inside the hotel.

He could be seen in the lobby doubling up as aides explained the Romney situation. He came back out, said something to the effect of, “Of course, if true, this is troubling … ” and went to the ballgame.

Somebody wrote that McCain was the only candidate who could make you cry, and that was true.

In 2000, McCain was basically beaten when the campaign reached California. George W. Bush would be the Republican nominee.

McCain was running out the string in San Diego with many of his old Navy buds. On the dais was Adm. James Stockdale, who had been the senior officer in the prison camps. Stockdale received the Medal of Honor for his resistance to his captors.

Somehow, Stockdale had become the running mate of the flighty and vindictive Ross Perot, who had disrespected him and sidelined him from the campaign.

In his remarks, McCain turned to Stockdale and said that, no matter what, “You will be my commander — forever.”

There was a pause, and then the crowd stood and applauded.

His friends from the prison camps would occasionally travel with him on the bus or the plane. They were easy to pick out. During down times, they were the ones who would rag on him about what a lousy pilot he had been. It was a learning experience for those who covered McCain.

One of the former POWs was Everett Alvarez, who was the longest-held Navy pilot from the camps. At an event in California, there was a great rock n’ roll band that opened and closed for McCain. Outside the hall, as the crowd filed out, Alvarez was at an exit, enjoying the band as they blasted out ’60s hits.

“Great stuff,” he said to this reporter, who wondered later whether that was the first time Alvarez was hearing it.

Son of a son of a sailor

The title of the cover song of a Jimmy Buffett album applies to John McCain: “Son Of A Son Of A Sailor.”

His grandfather, John S. “Slew” McCain Sr., was an admiral who served in World War I and World War II. His father, John S. McCain Jr., was an admiral who served in submarines in World War II. Both father and grandfather were in Tokyo Bay after the Japanese surrender in World War II.

John S. McCain III was born on August 29, 1936, at Coco Solo Naval Air Station in the Panama Canal Zone. The family moved 20 times before he was out of high school, and his transience became an issue when he first ran for Congress in 1982.

His opponent tried to pin the “carpetbagger” label on him, and said he had only recently moved to Arizona. McCain said his opponent was correct: the place he had been in residence longest was Hanoi. He won easily.

McCain was an indifferent student and his poor academic record continued at the U.S. Naval Academy, where he graduated in 1958 fifth from the bottom in a class of 899.

9 business owners you didn’t know were veterans
McCain (front right) with his squadron and T-2 Buckeye trainer, 1965

After flight school, he was assigned to A-1 Skyraider squadrons and served on board the aircraft carriers Intrepid and Enterprise.

In 1967, in his first combat tour, he was assigned to the carrier USS Forrestal, flying the A-4 Skyhawk in Operation Rolling Thunder.

On July 29, 1967, McCain was in his A-4 on the flight deck when a missile on a following plane cooked off and hit the A-4, starting a fire that killed 134 and took more than a day to bring under control.

McCain transferred to the carrier USS Oriskany. On Oct. 26, 1967, McCain was flying his 23rd combat mission over North Vietnam when his aircraft was hit by a missile. He broke both arms and a leg when he ejected and nearly drowned when his parachute came down in Truc Bach Lake in Hanoi.

McCain’s decorations include the Silver Star, three Bronze Stars with combat ‘V’ devices, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart.

“In all candor, we thought our civilian commanders were complete idiots who didn’t have the least notion of what it took to win the war,” McCain would later write of the Vietnam war.

A final fight

McCain did not vote for President Donald Trump. The antipathy was there when Trump said during the campaign that McCain was “a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured,” but the break came later when a video emerged of Trump spewing vulgarities about women.

In speeches and in his writings since, McCain has not referred to Trump by name but made clear that he is opposed to some of the policies and crass appeals that won Trump the election.

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In an address in October 2017, at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, McCain said that it was wrong to “fear the world we have organized and led for three quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership, and our duty to remain the last, best hope of Earth.”

He said it was wrong to abandon those principles “for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems.”

To do so was “as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history,” McCain continued.

While hoping for recovery, McCain has made plans for what comes next. He said in the HBO Memorial Day documentary that “I know that this is a very serious disease. I greet every day with gratitude. I’m also very aware that none of us live forever.”

In his new book, McCain said that he was “prepared for either contingency.”

“I have some things I’d like to take care of first, some work that needs finishing, and some people I need to see,” he said.

He has asked that Barack Obama and George W. Bush give eulogies when his time comes. He has asked that Trump not attend his funeral.

McCain has also asked that he be laid to rest alongside Adm. Chuck Larson at the Naval Academy’s cemetery in Annapolis. Larson, who was twice superintendent of the Naval Academy, was McCain’s roommate at Annapolis.

In a message of his own last Memorial Day, McCain recalled his friend, the late Air Force Col. Leo Thorsness, a Medal of Honor recipient for his valor in Vietnam. Thorsness was shot down two weeks after the actions for which he would receive the medal.

“I was in prison with him, I lived with him for a period of time in the Hanoi Hilton,” McCain said.

Through the nation’s history, “we’ve always asked a few to protect the many,” McCain said. “We can remember them and cherish them, for, I believe, it’s only in America that we do such things to such a degree.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That one time the US detonated a nuke right over a bunch of soldiers

It was a clear beautiful day in the desert outside of Las Vegas on July 19, 1957 when the Air Force detonated a nuclear bomb over the heads of five soldiers as the cameras rolled.


No it wasn’t some torturous experiment or forced punishment. Five Air Force officers had volunteered to stand at “Ground Zero: Population 5” — as the group’s sign read — to demonstrate that it was perfectly safe for troops fighting on land while a nuke was detonated in the air.

It was the Cold War, with full-scale thermonuclear war always a possibility, and U.S. planners needed to know whether they could launch a first strike at the Soviets, while also sending in ground troops. And just in case there happened to be nuclear fallout, the public needed to know everything would be okay (good luck with that one).

And that’s where two colonels, two majors, and a fifth officer (along with a cameraman) came in.

 

9 business owners you didn’t know were veterans

From an excellent article on NPR:

As we watch, directly overhead, two F-89 jets roar into view, and one of them shoots off a nuclear missile carrying an atomic warhead.

They wait. There is a countdown; 18,500 feet above them, the missile is detonated and blows up. Which means, these men intentionally stood directly underneath an exploding 2-kiloton nuclear bomb. One of them, at the key moment (he’s wearing sunglasses), looks up. You have to see this to believe it.

The U.S. military conducted numerous nuclear weapons tests in Nevada and elsewhere during the Cold War, many of which affected service members. In a follow-up to the original NPR story, there is a mention of nearly $150 million being paid to more than 2,000 “onsite participants” of nuclear testing.

“Quite a few have died from cancer,” George Yoshitake, one of the survivors and the cameraman for the video above, told The New York Times in 2010. “No doubt it was related to the testing.”

Though NPR was able to track down the five officers and find out when they died (though some may still be alive), it was not clear whether cancer or something else was the cause.

NOW: The 30,000-pound bomb that could be used against Iran ‘boggles the mind’ 

MIGHTY HISTORY

Top 10 most damaging spy missions in history

The Espionage Act of 1917 defined espionage as the notion of obtaining or delivering information relating to national defense to a person who is not entitled to have it. The Act made espionage a crime punishable by death, but there are always men and women willing to risk it — for country, for honor, or maybe just for some quick cash.

Whether they infiltrated the enemy’s ranks or sweet-talked the details out of careless persons who ignore all those “loose lips sink ships” posters, these are the most notorious spies with the most successful espionage missions in history, ranked by the operations they disrupted, the damage they dealt, and the odds stacked against them.


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9 business owners you didn’t know were veterans

The Central Intelligence Agency team that discovered Soviet mole Aldrich Ames. From left to right: Sandy Grimes, Paul Redmond, Jeanne Vertefeuille, Diana Worthen, Dan Payne.

10. Aldrich Ames — COLD WAR

Aldrich Ames is a 31-year CIA veteran turned KGB double agent. In 1994, he was arrested by the FBI for spying for the Soviets along with his wife, Rosario Ames, who aided and abetted his espionage. Following his arrest and guilty plea, Ames revealed that he had compromised the identities of CIA and FBI human sources, leading some to be executed by the Soviet Union.

During a nearly year-long investigation into his subterfuge — and his subsequent trial — it was revealed that Ames had been spying for the Soviets since 1985, passing details about HUMINT sources, clandestine operations against the USSR, and providing classified information via “dead drops” in exchange for millions of dollars.

It was, in fact, the Ames’ lavish spending that finally led to their downfall, but by then, he had already nearly destroyed the American intelligence program in the Soviet Union.

Ames is currently serving his life sentence, while his wife, as part of a plea-bargain agreement, served only five years and walked free.

9 business owners you didn’t know were veterans

Virginia Hall receiving the Distinguished Service Cross from General Donovan in September 1945.

9. Virginia Hall “The Limping Lady” — WWII

Virginia Hall was one of the most successful espionage operatives of World War II, earning not only the contempt of the Gestapo, but the Distinguished Service Cross — the only civilian woman to be so honored. As a spy, she organized agent networks, recruited the local population of occupied France to run safe houses, and aided in the escape of Allied prisoners of war.

Oh, and she did it all with a wooden leg named ‘Cuthbert.’

Known by the Nazis as “The Limping Lady,” she was recruited by British spymaster Vera Atkins to report on German troop movements and recruit members for the resistance in France. Posturing as an American news reporter, she encoded messages into news broadcasts and passed encrypted missives to her contacts.

She signed up with the U.S. Office of Strategic Service and in 1944 she organized missions to sabotage the Germans. She is credited with more jailbreaks, sabotage missions, and leaks of troop movements than any other spy in France.

9 business owners you didn’t know were veterans

Harriet Tubman needs no introduction.

8. Harriet Tubman — CIVIL WAR

Everyone knows that Harriet Tubman helped slaves reach freedom through the Underground Railroad after her own escape in 1849. When the Civil War broke out 11 years later, she continued the fight by becoming a spy for the Union Army.

Though she was unable to read or write, Tubman was exceptionally bright. Her time spent with the Underground Railroad taught her to keep track of complex details and information, scout transportation routes, and arrange clandestine meetings.

She used these skills to build a spy ring, mapping territory, routes, and waterways, and collecting human intelligence about Confederate movements and weaponry. She was the first and only woman to organize a military operation during the Civil War, overseeing the transport of Union boats through Confederate-mined territory based on intel she had collected.

During the same raid, she helped to free 700 local slaves, 100 of whom would take up arms for the North.

9 business owners you didn’t know were veterans

George Blake, far left, along with other Soviet spies.

7. George Blake — WWII-Cold War

George Blake was recruited to the Secret Intelligence Service, otherwise known as MI6, during World War II. During the Korean War, he was taken prisoner by the Korean People’s Army, and during his three year detention he became a communist and decided to betray his country.

In 1953, he returned to Britain a hero, but secretly began his work as a double agent for the KGB, wherein he would compromise anti-communist operations and reportedly betray over 40 MI6 agents and dismantle MI6 operations in Eastern Europe.

In 1961, he was exposed by a Polish defector, arrested, and sentenced to 42 years of imprisonment, but in 1966 he broke out and fled to Moscow, where he was awarded the Order of Friendship by Vladimir Putin.

9 business owners you didn’t know were veterans

(Civil War Harper’s Weekly, April 4, 1863)

6. Agent 355 — AMERICAN REVOLUTION

There were several Patriot spy rings that worked to overthrow British occupation during the Revolutionary War, but very few of these secret groups had women who actively took part in the espionage. The Culper Spy Ring, however, is known mainly for a very unusual agent, a spy known then and now only as ‘355’ — the group’s code number for the word ‘woman.’ The mystery woman’s identity was kept secret to protect herself and likely her family, but her daring contributions to the American cause have been remembered in history. She took part in several counterintelligence missions, including spy operations that resulted in the arrest of major John Andrew — the head of England’s intelligence operations in New York — and the discovery of Benedict Arnold’s treason.

Some historians guess that Agent 355 was likely a shopkeeper or a merchant who learned information about Red Coat military operations from chatty British customers, and that she would then divulge this information to George Washington. Regardless of her methods, Agent 355 made critical contributions to the Revolutionary cause.

9 business owners you didn’t know were veterans

5. Rose Greenhow — CIVIL WAR

Confederate spy Rose Greenhow is credited with obtaining critical intelligence about the Union’s plans to attack in Manassas, Virginia. She established her spy network in Washington DC at the beginning of the Civil War, and it quickly proved its worth when Greenhow uncovered details about Union General Irvin McDowell’s plans in 1861. Greenhow spirited intelligence to Confederate General Pierre G.T. Beauregard, who requested extra troops when he met Union forces at Bull Run on July 21st.

The Battle of Bull Run was the first major land battle of the Civil War and, as a result of Greenhow’s intelligence, the South was able to achieve a major victory and launch their rebellion with momentum. Confederate President Jefferson Davis himself sent Greenhow a letter of appreciation after the battle.

Federal authorities were soon able to trace Greenhow’s activities, however, and she was placed under house arrest before an incarceration in the Old Capitol Prison. After her release, she would continue to fight for the Southern cause until her death at sea while transporting Confederate dispatches aboard a British blockade-runner.

9 business owners you didn’t know were veterans

Ronald Reagan’s July 21, 1987, meeting with MI 6 asset Oleg Gordievsky.

(Image via Ronald Reagan Presidential Library)

4. Oleg Gordievsky — COLD WAR+

Oleg Gordievsky has been given credit for shifting the balance of power during the Cold War. For 11 years, he spied for MI6 while working as a high-ranking KGB officer in London. In 1968, Gordievsky was a junior spy working abroad for the KGB when the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia. He resolved himself to fight the communist system from within. In 1972, Gordievsky was recruited by MI6 after he was referred by a Czech spy who had defected to Canada.

Over the next decade, Gordievsky would provide details of current and former KGB operations as well as the KGB’s attempts to influence western elections. He was exposed to Moscow by Aldrich Ames and managed to survive a KGB interrogation despite being drugged. MI6 managed to recover Gordievsky and smuggle him safely out of the country.

He is one of the highest-ranking KGB officers ever to operate western espionage missions and for this he was sentenced by Soviet authorities to death in absentia.

9 business owners you didn’t know were veterans

3. Francis Walsingham — TUDOR ENGLAND

Most spies work in secret, but Francis Walsingham served Queen Elizabeth I with the badass title of Spymaster. A staunch Protestant, Walsingham served as Principal Secretary of State for the Tudor queen before joining her Privy Council, where he devised an intricate spy network during her reign. He uncovered what became known as the Babington Plot of 1586, which lead to the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots the following year.

Encouraged by her supporters, Anthony Babington wrote a letter to Mary concerning “the dispatch” of Queen Elizabeth during Mary’s incarceration in England. Mary’s reply was intercepted by Walsingham and Thomas Phelippes, who copied the letter and forged a damning postscript to the end. Walsingham used the copied letter and the cipher text of the original to convince Elizabeth that for as long as Mary lived, she posed a threat to the Protestant throne.

Elizabeth reluctantly signed Mary’s death warrant and she was beheaded on February 8, 1587. Elizabeth safely reigned until her own death in 1603.

9 business owners you didn’t know were veterans

Former FBI agent Robert Hanssen.

(FBI photo)

2. Robert Hanssen — COLD WAR+

Former FBI agent Robert Hanssen spied for Soviet and Russian intelligence services from 1979 to 2001 and remains one of the most damaging double agents in American history. His espionage activities included delivering thousands of pages of classified material to Moscow, revealing the identities of human sources and agents and details about America’s nuclear operations.

One of his first acts as a Soviet spy was to expose Dmitri Polyakov, a Soviet general and CIA informant who was then executed. During his espionage tenure, he would receive over id=”listicle-2632960319″.4 million in cash and diamonds to betray his country.

The FBI discovered Hanssen’s treachery and he was indicted on 21 counts of spying for the Soviet Union and Russia. He would finally plead guilty to 15 counts of espionage and conspiracy in exchange for 15 consecutive life sentences in prison over the death penalty.

9 business owners you didn’t know were veterans

1. The Rosenbergs — COLD WAR

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were the first U.S. citizens to be convicted and executed for espionage during peacetime after they were found guilty of delivering classified information about the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union. Julius was an engineer for the U.S. Army Signal Corps and his wife Ethel worked there a secretary. In 1950, they were implicated by David Greenglass, Ethel’s younger brother, who worked at Los Alamos, a secret atomic bomb laboratory in the States and who confessed to providing classified intelligence to the Soviets.

The Los Angeles Times reported that not only did the Rosenbergs do “their best to give the Soviets top atomic secrets from the Manhattan Project, they succeed in handing over top military data on sonar and on radar that was used by [Moscow] to shoot down American planes in the Korean and Vietnam Wars.”

After a controversial trial and global speculation, they were executed via electric chair on June 19, 1953.

MIGHTY HISTORY

WATCH: When airfield turns museum

World War II was a scary time in the United States. At any moment, the country could face attack by our enemies, so every branch of the military was on guard. An especially vulnerable area was Florida because it’s so coastal. So the government decided to open several airfields. Their specific purpose was twofold. First, these airfields defended the country against submarines along the western Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. Their other function was to train pilots and aircrews. But what happened to them after the war? This post explores when airfields turn into museums.

Little Old Zephyrhills Makes Its Mark

One of these airfields was in the small town of Zephyrhills, Florida. In the early 1940s, the Army used Zephyrhills Army Airfield to provide advanced fighter pilot training before deploying to Europe. Pilots received training to fly P-51 Mustangs. The installation reached full operation by 1943. You might be thinking, “That seems like it was a little late in the war,” but it wasn’t too late to make a difference.

Zephyrhills was home to 500 men from the Army Air Corps 10th Fighter Squadron, also known as the Peashooters. The 10th Fighter Squadron trained in there between January 1943 and March 1944. Zephyrhills Army Airfield provided actual combat conditions, even going as far as using barracks and tents, to mimic what pilots and Soldiers would experience on the battlefield.

Thirteen months later, the pilots and aircrew were ready. And those combat conditions paid off as they landed at Normandy for the D-Day Invasion in June 1944.

When Airfield Turns Museum

When the war ended, the government donated the airfield to the city. There’s not a lot left now except for what the locals call the WWII Barracks. But the building is actually the old infirmary from when the post was active. After the city restored the building, they made good use of its history by turning it into Zephyrhills Museum of Military History.

The museum houses a plentiful collection of artifacts from World War II, including uniforms from the 10th Fighter Squadron. One of its standout displays is a photo of the 10th Fighter Squadron photo taken in 1945. And next to it is a photo of all who remained from the Squadron in 1996. How cool. Then, just outside the WWII Barracks is a WWII fighter plane, a C47 Sky Trooper from 1942. Zephyrhills might be small but it’s definitely mighty.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Air Force jet landed itself after the pilot ejected

In early 1970, Air Force Maj. Gary Foust took off in his Convair F-106 Delta Dart — nicknamed “Cornfield Bomber” — for a flight exercise with two fellow pilots, Majs. Jim Lowe, and Tom Curtis.


Flying north of Boston, Foust was at about 40,000 feet with Curtis, serving as his opponent positioned at a lower altitude ready to engage.

Related: These are the jets that the last man to walk the moon flew

After the pair met, they maneuvered into a vertical scissor, followed by other aerial dogfight maneuvers when things took a turn for the worse as Foust found himself in a left-hand turn flat spin.

For several moments, Foust remained in the deadly spin as he attempted to recover using his training and emergency procedures but was unsuccessful in pulling out of the dive. Lowe instructed his wingman to eject which he did 8,000 feet above the ground.

After the ejection, the Delta Dart nose dived recovering itself from the flat spin and landed a few miles away in a wheat field next to a small town named Big Sandy. The jet skidded a few hundred yards in 6 inches of snow while in idle until running out of fuel as Foust parachuted to the ground safely.

With no major structural damage, the aircraft was transported to McClellan Air Force Base to receive repairs and returned to service. Nine years after the incident, Foust was reassigned to pilot the “Cornfield Bomber” once again.

The Convair F-106 Delta Dart now calls the United States Air Force National Museum home.

Also Read: Air Force announces first 30 enlisted drone pilots

Check out the video from Armed Forces Update to see the amazing story unfold.

(Armed Forces Update, YouTube)
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5 more women who received the Distinguished Flying Cross

Editor’s Note: An earlier story posted at WATM on this subject claimed that only seven women had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. After readers notified us that our list was incomplete, we decided to post a new story with the additional information about women who received the Distinguished Flying Cross. A heartfelt thanks to all our readers for keeping us honest and accurate!


Women make up a smaller percentage of the military than men, but they have proven themselves throughout history to be brave, competent, and heroic. Take these sheroes for example:

1. Col. Andra V.P. Kniep

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Colonel Kniep. (Official U.S. Air Force photo)

When then Capt. Andra Kniep took off for a mission in her A-10 over Afghanistan on March 5, 2002, she had no idea she was about to accomplish a most unlikely feat — receiving two Distinguished Flying Crosses in two days.

On that first day, Kniep coordinated and led deadly night attacks against Taliban vehicles and positions, destroying numerous enemies. Once the nearly eight hour mission was completed, she then led her element to a “remote, unfamiliar, classified location” for recovery, according to her Distinguished Flying Cross citation.

The next day Kniep once again led her element against the enemy, this time taking control of the Operation Anaconda airspace. Kniep successfully coordinated attack elements using multiple platforms totaling fourteen aircraft. Due to her exceptional ability all elements in the congested airspace were able to complete their missions and support coalition ground forces. For her actions on March 6 she was awarded a second Distinguished Flying Cross.

2. Lt. Col. Kim Campbell

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Kim Campbell looks at her damaged hog, which she landed at her base after a mission over Baghdad in 2003. (Photo via National Air and Space Museum)

On April 7, 2003, then-Capt. Kim Campbell, piloting an A-10, was part of a two plane sortie flying close air support over Baghdad. When a call came over the radio of troops in contact, Campbell and her wingman responded. After numerous gun and rocket runs supporting the troops on the ground, Campbell’s aircraft took heavy fire.

As she fought with her stricken aircraft, it hurtled towards Baghdad and she faced the possibility of ejecting into hostile territory. Luckily, the A-10 has triple redundancy in its controls, and though both the hydraulic systems were inoperable, the manual reversion system was still functioning. Using this system “of cranks and cables,” Campbell said she was able to “fly the aircraft under mechanical control.”

For her efforts that day Campbell was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor.

3. Capt. Tricia Paulsen-Howe

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Lt General T. Michael Moseley presents Paulsen-Howe and her crew members the Distinguished Flying Cross. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Bridget Rapp)

On the same day of Capt. Campbell’s heroics, Capt. Tricia Paulsen-Howe and the rest of the crew of a KC-135 aircraft flew their unarmed tanker into harm’s way. According to the Air Force, Paulsen-Howe and crew entered hostile airspace to assist in the combat search and rescue mission of a downed F-15 north of Baghdad. They provided critical refueling assets during the operation. For their bravery the entire crew were each awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

4. Col. Tracy Onufer

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Colonel Tracy Onufer. (Official U.S. Air Force photo)

Col. Onufer had been an officer aboard Air Force Special Operations aircraft including the AC-130H and AC-130U flying combat missions in both Iraq and Afghanistan. She is currently serving as the Vice Commander of the 352nd Special Operations Wing and according to her Air Force biography is the recipient of a Distinguished Flying Cross for her actions overseas.

5. Capt. Lindsay Gordon

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A U.S. Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopter prepares to depart Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, on Jan 7, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Matt Hecht)

Capt. Lindsay Gordon was serving as an AH-64 Apache pilot with the 101st Airborne Division when she and Chief Warrant Officer David Woodward were called upon to support an exfiltration of a Ranger element in contact.

When 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment helicopters extracting the Rangers came under heavy fire, Gordon maneuvered her Apache into harm’s way to draw fire. Gordon and Woodward’s action were credited with saving numerous lives and aircraft. For their actions they were both awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Warsaw remembers the historic ghetto uprising 75 years later

Commemorations are being held to mark the 75th anniversary the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, when thousands of young Jewish fighters took up arms against occupying Nazi German forces during World War II.

The uprising broke out April 19, 1943, when about 750 Jewish fighters armed with pistols and other light arms attacked a German force more than three times their size.


Many left last testaments saying that they knew they would not survive but that they wanted to die at a time and place of their own choosing and not in the gas chambers at the Treblinka death camp, where more than 300,000 Warsaw Jews had already been sent.

Only a few dozen fighters survived when the Germans crushed the uprising. Most have since died or are no longer healthy enough to attend the observances.

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With more than 400,000 imprisoned Jews at its highest point, Nazi Germany’s Warsaw Ghetto was the largest in Poland during World War II. The final act of Jewish resistance started 75 years ago, on April 19, 1943, a month before the ghetto was burned down in May of that year.

Polish President Andrzej Duda is scheduled to visit a Jewish cemetery and then take part in the official ceremony at the Ghetto Heroes Monument.

The commemoration comes at a time of heightened tensions between Poland and Israel over Warsaw’s new Holocaust law, which came into effect in March 2018, and led to harsh criticism from Israel, Jewish organizations, and others.

The legislation penalizes statements attributing Nazi German crimes to the Polish state with fines or a jail term. Polish government officials say the law is meant to protect the country from false accusations of complicity.

Poland was invaded by Nazi Germany in World War II and ceased to exist as a state. An estimated 6 million Poles, about half of them Jews, were killed.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

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That time the US collected Soviet radar technology via the moon

A U-2 spyplane captured a strange photo in 1960; the Soviets had built a massive new antenna near a missile test range. The CIA and others immediately suspected that the array was part of a new radar system and wanted to figure out what its capabilities were, but it was deep in defended space.


So American intelligence decided to try a newly discovered option. In 1946, the U.S. Army Signal Corps had bounced communications signals off of the moon, proving that it had a suitable surface for relaying signals. The Navy spent the next decade building a system that would allow communications between far flung ships and bases by reflecting the signals off the moon.

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So the CIA, after they ruled out further collection by aircraft, decided for a literal moonshot. They would train highly sensitive antennas on the moon and wait for the Soviets to scan an object in front of the moon. When the radar energy that passed the target struck the moon and bounced back to the earth, the CIA could collect information from it to figure out how the new radar worked.

But the effort required truly massive receiving antennas. Most of the available antennas that would suffice were 150 feet wide and the best was a proposed 600-foot dish that was never completed. Even then, the CIA needed to get lucky and be looking at the same moment that the Soviet Union was using the radar in the direction of the moon.

They would get insanely lucky.

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Meanwhile, the Army and Air Force were just pissed that Russia was irradiating their future moon bases. (Illustration: U.S. Army Project Horizon)

The first break came in 1962 when the Soviet Union inadvertently reflected radar data out, not from the moon, but from their own atomic testing. The nuclear detonation created an ionized cloud that reflected signals and allowed some limited intercept.

In 1964, the CIA was able to start regularly collecting data from the Soviet site, dubbed the “Hen House Site,” after it reflected off the moon. A specially modified receiving station in Palo Alto, California, picked up the signals.

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To the surprise and delight of the CIA, the Russians began tracking the moon with the radar for practice, giving the U.S. up to 30 minutes at a time of continuous data. A CIA historical document detailing the effort said:

We expected to see a regular scanning, or “search” mode, and a tracking mode, where the beam follows a target. Both of these have been observed. In the latter, the Soviets, apparently just for practice, have set the radar to track the moon for as much as half an hour. This makes the intercept job much easier, as we then see the signal continuously rather than in short bursts as the beam swings by the moon.

The radar system was estimated to be quite sophisticated, capable of not only identifying and tracking individual targets but of tracking multiple targets and quickly switching focus between them. The system was so fast that the CIA felt confident it was controlled by a computer.

All in all, it made the system a serious threat to American efforts. It would later come to light that the system was designed to track and potentially defeat ballistic missiles. If successful, it could have negated the American nuclear deterrent.

Thanks to the efforts of the CIA, though, America was able to get a jump on the Russians and steal back the advantage.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Galileo was one of the world’s first defense contractors

Galileo Galilei, one of the world’s most famous scientists, mathematicians and inventors, kept his favor with the Venetian court by inventing and peddling items for the Venetian military, especially his famous telescope.


See, there are two bits of information about Galileo’s invention of the telescope in 1609 that some history books leave out. To start, he wasn’t the first inventor of the telescope. A Dutch spectacle maker invented it before him, and Galileo may have even seen that telescope before he invented his.

Second, one of the first things that Galileo did with his telescope was to send it to the Doge of Venice, one of the republic’s senior leaders, with the recommendation that it be used by the country’s army and navy as an instrument of war.

 

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Galileo Galilei created an 8-9x magnification telescope that he showed off the Venetian leaders. (Photo: Fresco by Giuseppe Bertini, Public Domain)

While Galileo might or might not have invented the first telescope, he almost certainly invented the most powerful one of his day. It was capable of an approximately 8-9x magnification at a time when everyone else reached only 4x.

That meant that Venetian admirals using a Galileo spyglass could have reconnoitered enemy fleets and positions from 8 miles away, where they would be pinpricks to someone using a 4x telescope and invisible to anyone who didn’t have a spyglass.

Galileo outlined this potential advantage in his letter to the doge, but the doge didn’t immediately buy it for Venetian forces. Still, Galileo was rewarded for his work. His salary as a professor of mathematics at the University of Padua was doubled and he was granted the position of “professor for life.”

The inventor, of course, went on to find other uses for a good telescope. Galileo invented a 20x telescope that allowed him to identify the larger moons of Jupiter, the phases of Venus, and other phenomena in the night sky.

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The telescope wasn’t the only thing that Galileo ever created for the military. He also created an improved “gunner’s compass” that allowed artillerymen at the time to quickly calculate elevation, making them more lethal in siege warfare.

MIGHTY HISTORY

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

As far as modern conventional warfare is concerned, the bullet or small explosive device are the standard, go-to weapon. And even today, many units around the world still adapt a bayonet into the unit crest.


But no weapon turns more heads while cracking the most skulls quite like the shovel.

To the uninformed, the shovel seems casual enough. It’s even played up for comic effect in cartoons, usually with a wacky sound effect. There’s even a video game called Shovel Knight that treats the titular character’s weapon as a joke.

Young privates don’t believe the shovel’s history as a weapon because they don’t know military history and only heard it used as a weapon from an salty old Sergeant First Class who has a story about his buddy “getting an e-tool kill.”

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This isn’t like those stories about a guy killing three men in a bar with a pencil. The spade had many uses back in the day, especially during the trench warfare of WWI and WWII. It wasn’t the most effective melee combat weapon, but damn was it handy.

But the bayonet has practically lost its importance. It is usually the fashion now to charge with bombs and spades only. The sharpened spade is a more handy and many-sided weapon; not only can it be used for jabbing a man under the chin, but it is much better for striking with because of its greater weight; and if one hits between the neck and shoulder it easily cleaves as far down as the chest. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

Much of the fighting was done between opposing trenches and occasionally the unfortunate bastards who found themselves in no-man’s land. But to even take an inch from the enemy, you had to over take their trench.

Raiding parties generally cleared portions of the trenches with hand grenades and shotguns. When it came time to fight the stragglers, the longer rifle and bayonet combo just wasn’t effective in narrow and often swamped trenches. Even the beauty of the trench knife – which included a knife for stabbing, brass knuckles for punching, and a spiked pummel for puncturing the enemy’s head– just didn’t have the range or power needed.

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Even though the only thing deadlier than a Marine is a pissed-off Marine with a knife. (Image via LIFE Magazine)

Troops being raided quickly adapted the tool they used to dig those trenches into a deadly weapon to defend those trenches. The sharp edge, originally purposed to cut through roots, found it’s way into the necks of their enemy. The additional weight behind it meant it could also break bones where the bayonet just pierced.

If the bayonet became the successor to a spear with a firearm, the spade was a mix of a battle ax with a club. Of course, troops would carry both into battle. But if one were to get lodged too deep in the enemy, which would make more sense to leave on the battlefield?

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These Brits with capes and shovels are far more of a bad ass than any butterbar who learns they’re authorized to wear a cape to events.

Stories about troops using a shovel as a weapon continue well through the Vietnam War. Even the modern E-Tool is designed as a call back to the glory days of it being an unexpectedly deadly weapon.

For more information on and the inspiration for this article, watch the video below.

(YouTube, InRangeTV)

MIGHTY HISTORY

The creator of ‘Amazing Grace’ was a sailor with a foul mouth

John Newton was not what you’d call a lucky man. One day, he went off to visit some friends in London and was caught up along the way by a press gang – Royal Navy troops sent just to force people into serving aboard the king’s ships. He found himself a midshipman on the HMS Harwich, a position he of course tried to desert immediately. But he was found out, flogged in front of the ship’s company and even attempted suicide.

But the hard luck doesn’t end there. The man who penned the hymn “Amazing Grace” sure lived a life that would inspire such work.


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If you ever have a bad day, remember John Newton through his autobiographical writing.

John Newton’s luck was bad even before his impressment. He was practically an orphan; his mother died of tuberculosis when he was six and he was forced to live with a cold, unfeeling relative. After joining the Navy, Newton renounced his faith and plotted to kill his shipmates. He was so difficult to work with, the crew of the Harwich decided to transfer him to the HMS Pegasus en route to India. The Pegasus was a slave trader, but the change in ships did not suit Newton’s temper. The Pegasus decided to leave him in West Africa during one of its slaving missions.

Not quite marooned but not far from it, Newton connected with an actual slaver. He joined the crew of a slave ship and openly challenged the captain by creating catchy songs about him filled with curses and language unlike anything anyone had ever heard. Sailors were known for their foul mouths, but Newton’s was so bad the slaver’s captain almost starved him to death for it.

That’s when a large storm hit their ship.

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Life aboard a British slaver in the mid-1700s.

The storm nearly sunk the ship, but Newton and another crewman tied themselves to the ship’s pumps and began to work for 11 hours to keep it from capsizing. After their miraculous escape, Newton saw the storm as a message from God. He began to work harder, eventually commanding his own slaving ship and sailing between ports in Africa and North America. Eventually, the man collapsed from overwork. He returned to England and never sailed again.

It was in his adopted home of Olney where he wrote a series of autobiographical hymnals, including the well-known “Amazing Grace” as we call it today. In this work, Newton learned how he was a “wretch” due to his participation in the North Atlantic Slave Trade. In life, he set out to help abolish it in England. Newton new connected with William Wilberforce, the British Parliamentarian who led the charge against slavery in Britain and ended it in the Empire in 1807.

MIGHTY HISTORY

When the French Army rebelled against its president

The 1950s and 60s were a more fraught time in French history than most Americans realize. It was a time where senior generals deployed their forces against French territory and threatened Paris and the sitting president twice in just three years.

The first coup came in 1958, following years of unrest. The French Fourth Republic, the government formed in 1946, a couple of years after the liberation of France from Nazi control, was never steady. Among other problems, an unpopular and bloody war in Algeria, then a French colony, was a millstone around the nation’s neck.


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Members of the French Army operate in Algeria.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Richard M. Hunt via State Archives of North Carolina)

In May, 1958, the government attempted to open negotiations with their major opponent in French Algeria, the Algerian National Liberation Front. If the war was unpopular, capitulating was worse. Rioters in French Algeria occupied an important government building.

The situation continued to degrade until May 24, when the troops got involved.

Military members in French Algeria launched Operation Resurrection, invading Corsica with little bloodshed. Gen. Jacques Massu, one of the senior military officials in French Algeria and the coup forces, agreed with others that the paratroopers could take Villacoublay Airfield, just a few miles from Paris.

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Gen. Charles de Gaulle and his men were greeted by huge crowds when Paris was liberated, and he enjoyed enduring popularity for years.

(U.S. Office of War Information photo by Jack Downey)

The French Fourth Republic, facing mounting unrest at home and the growing possibility of an invasion by its own forces, collapsed. Gen. Charles de Gaulle, who had avoided politics since 1946 but retained massive support of the protesters and France at large, took power. A new constitution was approved in September and the Fifth French Republic was born.

For the French people, this was a potential return to stability and sensible government. For forces in French Algeria, this was seen as the chance to focus on the business of fighting rebels.

But the French people outside of Algeria were still not fully behind the war — and it only got worse over the following years.

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Workers set up communications for the Ministry of Armament and General Liaisons, a part of the resistance during the Algerian War that survived the end of the war and became part of the permanent government there.

By 1960, de Gaulle was working to negotiate peace with the rebels and the morale of troops stationed there plummeted. Mid-career and senior officers began refusing orders as some troops tried to avoid dying in the final days of a lost war while others attempted to achieve some victories that would strengthen the French position and prevent a second Vietnam.

It was against this backdrop that the retired and popular French Gen. Maurice Challe met with senior officers and proposed a second coup, this one against de Gaulle. He was joined in the inner circle by generals Edmond Jouhaud, Andre Zeller, and Raoul Salan, but the group enjoyed the support of other senior officers.

In the final hours of April 21, 1961, French paratroopers took over important buildings and infrastructure in French Algeria, especially the capital, Algiers. Challe took to the radio the next morning to call on all other troops in French Algeria to cease supporting Paris and follow him instead. It had been less than three years since some of those same troops had supported the coup that brought de Gaulle to power.

Challe threatened Paris itself in his radio address, saying he, “reserved the right of extending the action to metropolitan France to reestablish a constitutional and republican order.”

De Gaulle gave his own public address, while wearing his old uniform, where he called on the people of French Algeria and France as a whole to resist the attack on the Fifth Republic.

France, for the most part, followed de Gaulle. Workers staged a symbolic, hour-long strike to show that they could shutdown industry if the coup continued. Citizens rallied and prepared to occupy the airfields around Paris with cars and bodies to prevent any planes from French Algeria landing.

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The six-foot, five-inch Charles de Gaulle was popular at home and imposing everywhere he went, but he faced numerous attempts to force him and his government from power by vocal and well-organized opposition, including some generals in French Algeria.

(John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library)

In French Algeria, the sentiment was more closely split, but too few soldiers supported the coup and too many supported the government for it to succeed.

Many pilots and crews flew their planes out of the country and sabotaged their own aircraft to prevent further use. Soldiers refused to leave their barracks or organized their own ruling committees if they thought their officers were loyal to the coup.

Oddly, despite de Gaulle calling for resisting “by all means” and ordering loyal troops to fire on rebel troops, there were no known cases of troops loyal to France attacking or inflicting casualties on rebelling troops. Rebel troops are thought to have killed less than five people, a tragic loss of life, yes, but much less than would be expected in a rebellion with organized battalions on each side.

By April 25, it was clear that the coup attempt had failed and many of its leaders fled, including three of the four leading generals. Challe was left alone in barracks with the commander of the paratrooper regiment that had supported him, Helie de Saint Marc. Challe told Saint Marc, “you are young, Saint Marc. We are going to pay a heavy price. I will certainly be shot. Let me surrender alone.”

Saint Marc remained in the barracks and the men were arrested the following morning. Challe was later sentenced to 15 years in prison. He served a little over five before receiving a pardon from de Gaulle. Saint Marc was sentenced to 10 but also received a pardon.

The Fifth Republic, despite its rocky start, endures today. Algeria achieved independence in 1962, ending France’s colonial empire.

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