Chesty Puller may have been America's first Wolverine - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Chesty Puller may have been America’s first Wolverine

Marine Corps legend Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller is known today for his heroics and his chest full of medals, but some Marines claimed in 1984 that the nickname was a reference to Puller’s metal ribcage, a prosthetic that was placed there after his chest was shot and chopped up by Haitian rebels.


You heard that right: The claim was that Chesty had a metal skeleton like the Marvel hero Wolverine.

 

Chesty Puller may have been America’s first Wolverine
The resemblance is uncanny. (Photo: US Marine Corps)

His nickname, “Chesty,” actually came from his impressive physique and stance, according to a Marine Corps article originally published in 1948 when Puller was a major and the acting commander of a battalion.

The writer of the article, Marine Sgt. Nolle T. Roberts, goes on to describe some stories that Puller’s men had added to his nickname after the fact, including the story of the Wolverine ribcage:

The nickname, “Chesty,” was a natural in view of the colonel’s ramrod stance and belligerent appearance and nature. However, the men of the wartime First Division boasted that Col. Puller had a false “steel chest,” apparently replacing the natural bone structure which had been hacked away by machette-swinging bandits in the Banana Wars. A few claimed that he developed the chest from shouting commands above the noise of battle.

Puller’s chest was likely made with steel because the Army was hoarding all the Adamantium to eventually create Wolverine.

For his part, Puller didn’t quite seem to understand the nickname or the stories surrounding it. In a 1954 letter to Maj. Frank C. Sheppard, Puller wrote:

I agree with you 100% I had done a little soldiering previous to Guadalcanal and had been called a lot of names, but why ‘Chesty?’ Especially the steel part?

The “little soldiering” that Puller is referring to included combat deployments to both Haiti and Nicaragua. Puller supported government forces in Nicaragua and earned his first two Navy Crosses leading units of local fighters against numerically superior rebel forces. So, “a little soldiering” was likely tongue-in-cheek, and it’s easy to see why Puller’s men may have seen him as a man of steel.

While Puller may not have understood the nickname, it’s become a part of Marine Corps culture. Puller is more commonly known by his nickname “Chesty” than by his actual name.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy battleships pulled off the biggest military deception of Desert Storm

The Desert Storm portion of the 1990-1991 Gulf War lasted only 100 hours, not only because the combined land forces of the Coalition gathered against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was overwhelming and talented – it was – but it was also the contribution of two of the U.S. Navy’s biggest floating guns that drew a significant portion of Saddam’s army off the battlefield.


Shelling from the 16-inch guns of the USS Missouri and USS Wisconsin made it all possible, playing a crucial role in a conflict that would end up being their last hurrah.

 

Here comes the boom.

 

Everyone knew a ground assault on Iraqi-occupied Kuwait was coming and had been for months. The only question for the Iraqis was where it would come from. Iraqi forces had been on the receiving end of a Noah’s Ark-like deluge of bombs and missiles for the past 40 days and 40 nights. Iraq believed the Coalition would make an amphibious landing near Kuwait’s Faylaka Island, when in reality the invasion was actually going into both Iraq and Kuwait, coming from Saudi Arabia.

If the Coalition could make the Iraqis believe an amphibious invasion was coming, however, it would pull essential Iraqi fighting units away from the actual invasion and toward the Persian Gulf. It was the ultimate military rope-a-dope.

Chesty Puller may have been America’s first Wolverine
Here’s what really happened.

 

The best way to make Saddam believe the Marines were landing was to soften up the supposed landing zone with a naval barrage that would make D-Day look like the 4th of July. The USS Missouri and USS Wisconsin were called up to continuously bombard the alleged landing beaches – and they sure made a spectacle of it. The Iraqi troops were supposedly shocked and demoralized, surrendering to the battleships’ reconnaissance drones as they buzzed overhead, looking for more targets.

It was the first time anyone surrendered to a drone. No one wanted to be on the receiving end of another Iowa-class barrage. But the Marine landing never came. Instead, the Iraqis got a massive left hook that knocked them out of the war.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What happens when rocket and missile launches go wrong

These days, when you see a rocket or missile launch, it almost seems routine. The engines fire and the rocket starts taking off, either sending an object directly to orbit or carrying enough firepower to blow something into orbit. What looks like standard procedure from the outside masks the fact that these rockets and missiles are very complex pieces of technology — and when this routine process goes wrong, it goes wrong very quickly and very violently.


Missiles are complex pieces of technology that are surprisingly delicate (a dropped tool once destroyed a Titan missile and its silo). With so many critical details involved, there are many opportunities for things to go wrong — and occasionally, they do. For example, in the 1980s, two RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles were accidentally launched, one by the United States Navy and one by the Royal Danish Navy. Thankfully, no injuries (outside of the respective captains’ pride) occurred in either incident.

www.youtube.com

A 2016 Trident II test for the Royal Navy is the most recent launch to have gone bad — and this test led to some disagreements between the Americans (who claimed the missile had to be destroyed) and the UK (who called the test a success). Thirty years earlier, the United States Navy had egg on its face when the first at-sea Trident II launch went out of control. Thankfully, in both of these cases, nobody was injured.

Chesty Puller may have been America’s first Wolverine

Mitrofan Nedelin’s tenure as the Soviet Army’s chief marshal of the artillery ended when the test of a SS-7 ended in a horrific explosion.

Other failed launches, however, have not had such fortunate endings. For instance, a test of a Soviet SS-7 Saddler intercontinental ballistic missile in 1960 killed the then-chief marshal of the artillery for the Soviet Army, Mitrofan Nedelin, and at least 100 other people. In 1996, a Chinese Long March rocket crashed down in a village, with some estimates claiming as many as 500 people were killed.

Chesty Puller may have been America’s first Wolverine

Video stills showing a Chinese Long March rocket going out of control before it crashed into a nearby village.

(United States Congress)

Today, failures are fewer and further between. One big reason for this is that many missiles now use solid fuel as opposed to liquid fuel. Liquid fuel is far more volatile and leads to explosions more frequently.

The launches you see nowadays may look routine from the outside, but remember, that’s the result of thousands of tests.

Watch the 1965 Air Force video below to see some missile launches, both successes and failures.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SOl4Jzfm6YU

www.youtube.com

popular

This is why the Screaming Eagles still rock an Airborne tab

When you think of airborne troops, there’s one unit that comes to mind because of its place in both history books and pop culture: the 101st Airborne Division. Nearly every major World War II film features — or at least mentions — the bravery and tenacity of the Screaming Eagles that jumped into action on D-Day.

Even after the triumphant stand of Easy Company at Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest, the 101st Airborne kept performing heroics that would land them in history books. This happened in the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, and again in the Global War on Terrorism.

Today, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t immediately recognize the iconic 101st patch — the Screaming Eagle. And when civilians see that patch, they immediately think of elite paratroopers. Here’s the thing: we technically haven’t been an airborne unit since 1968, but you’ll still find the words “AIRBORNE” above Old Abe — here’s why.


 

Chesty Puller may have been America’s first Wolverine
Funny how this thing never caught on…

Yes, you read that correctly. The Screaming Eagles have largely been re-designated away from the airborne world since their reactivation following Post-WWII restructuring. Fun fact: During the Korean War, the 101st was actually a training unit out of Camp Breckenridge, Kentucky, until 1953.

The unit bounced around a little before landing at Fort Campbell and being made into a “pentomic” division — meaning it was structured to fight with atomic warfare in mind. As the possibility of nuclear war grew, the role of the paratrooper in war shrank. The airborne infantrymen of the 101st were still needed — mostly involved in rapid deployment strategies — but the training was shifting with the times, and the times were changing indeed.

Then, on July 29th, 1965, the 1st Brigade landed at Cam Ranh Bay, South Vietnam, and the 101st adapted to their new role in the jungle. Now, we’re not saying that combat jumps into Vietnam didn’t happen they definitely did — but the 101st wasn’t conducting them.

Chesty Puller may have been America’s first Wolverine
(U.S. Army photo)

In case you’re wondering. Yes. It did have a loudspeaker to blast Ride of the Valkyries or Fortunate Son for Charlie to hear.

The Screaming Eagles were tasked with one of the largest areas of operations during the early days of the Vietnam War. Given the terrain and the nature of the enemy, airborne insertion at one point and moving from town to town just didn’t make good sense. They needed an alternative. They needed a way to get from place to place faster, efficiently, and safely. Enter the helicopter.

Helicopters saw use in the Korean War, but it was fairly rare — mostly just for medical evacuations. In the jungles of Vietnam, however, The UH-1 (or “Huey”) Iroquois and the 101st Airborne Division were like a match made in military heaven. The division designated itself as an airmobile division in mid-1968 and became the Air Assault division it is today in 1974.

Chesty Puller may have been America’s first Wolverine

If you really want to be technical, the airborne tab itself isn’t isn’t given to the troops. That still has to be earned individually. Think of the tab in the same vein as a unit citation.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kevin Doheny)

That leaves the 101st Airborne Division legs in everything but name. The air assault capabilities of the 101st are the contemporary evolution of the paratroopers of old. Now, don’t get this wrong: There are still several units on Fort Campbell that are still very much on airborne status, such as the 101st Pathfinders

Today, the Screaming Eagles are the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) — with “Air Assault” in parentheses. It’s a more accurate description of the unit, since we’re still involved with airborne operations — just not the paratrooper, jump-out-of-planes-and-into-combat type. Screaming Eagles just fast-rope from a helicopter or wait for it to make a solid landing for insertions.

The reason “airborne” is still in the name (and on a tab above Old Abe) is because it’s difficult as hell to change a division’s name while it’s still active. Go ahead and ask the 1st Cavalry Division about the last time they rode horses into combat or the 10th Mountain Division about when they last fought on an arctic mountaintop.

The names and insignia are historic. They’re part of a legacy that still lives on within the troops.

Also read: This is why Screaming Eagles wear cards on their helmets

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 things that will surprise you about Mojave Viper

Fire and maneuvering drills, mock IEDs and RPG attacks, and scrambled medical evacuations are just some of the exercises Marines and sailors conduct during their training at Mojave Viper.


The “Viper” takes place in Twentynine Palms, California, the largest training base of the Marine Corps.

Although each scenario the Marines encounter is under strict supervision, it’s the closest thing to war young infantrymen are exposed to before going toe-to-toe with the real enemy.

To make the setting as real as possible, the combative minds behind the training keep a few surprises in store for those who dare train in the desert landscape.

Related: 4 Asian-American heroes you should know about

1. The role players are out to beat you

Although this is training, the hired role players who pretend to be the enemy are plotting all types of sh*t behind your back. Just like while deployed, the enemy will smile to your face and then shoot you in the back when it comes time.

Chesty Puller may have been America’s first Wolverine
Lance Cpl. Mary C. McKenna (center) uses a HIDE system to document the iris of a man displaying suspicious behavior during Mojave Viper. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Mark Stroud)

2. Those are real amputees you’re dealing with

To make it as real as possible, when an IED attack occurs and all hell breaks loose, the government spares no expense. They cast role players who have previously lost limbs to help better immerse the Marine or sailor into the setting.

It’s pretty fun at times.

3. They use Hollywood practical effects

Just like in the movies, practical effects are used to make the chaos feel more organic. Hollywood makeup artists and special effects personnel are brought in to add realism to the mock suicide bombings and carnage.

Marines have no clue when something will pop off, so they must be ready at all times.

Chesty Puller may have been America’s first Wolverine
Marines with 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment treat casualties from at mock explosion during a first responder drill in a mock Afghan town at Range 215, as part of Mojave Viper. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

4. You can be taken as a POW

Remember when we said, “the role players are out to get you”? Well, we weren’t kidding. Some of the role players, like Kelvin Garvanne, were given the okay to kidnap Marines when the situation called for it.

Once a Marine is taken as a POW, it’s “game-on” for a rescue mission.

“We kidnapped Marines,” Mr. Garvanne explains. “One of the things we wanted to do in real time was capture a Marine.”

Chesty Puller may have been America’s first Wolverine
Kelvin Garvanne teaches these Marines cultural immersion. The Leathernecks learn about Afghan culture and customs from the experts.

5. The stars at night are big and bright deep in the heart of Mojave Viper

People, we sh*t you not!

Although the desert is hot all damn day long, once the sun drops off the horizon and the stars come out, you’ll forget where you are.

Cue the cheesy music.

Chesty Puller may have been America’s first Wolverine
Stargazing at Joshua Tree. (NPS photo by Lian Law)

Also Read: 6 things corpsmen should know before going to the ‘Greenside’

6. Although it’s training, you can still get hurt big time

To make it as real as possible, most of the training scenarios include plenty of live fire live, not excluding artillery and mortar rounds. With all this gear and tech being used, Marines can get all kinds of hurt.

And let’s not forget about all the freakin’ snakes that live in the area.

Chesty Puller may have been America’s first Wolverine
Running into this fang-filled snake could ruin your day in a heartbeat.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Remembering the USS Indianapolis (CA 35) on its 75th Anniversary

In the first minutes of July 30, 1945, two torpedoes fired from Japanese submarine I-58 struck the starboard side of USS Indianapolis (CA 35). One ripped off the ship’s bow, followed by another that hit crew berthing areas and knocked out communications.

In the dead of night, chaos ensued. It took only 12 minutes for the decorated warship that had carried President Roosevelt in the interwar years and earned ten battle stars for its World War II service up to that point to begin a descent to the bottom of the Philippine Sea.

Around 300 crew died in the initial blasts and went down with the ship. Between 800 and 900 men went into the water.


Indianapolis had completed a top-secret delivery of atomic bomb components to Tinian, an island in the Northern Marianas, days earlier. Unbeknownst to crew at the time, this mission would in the weeks to come contribute to the end of the war.

At the time of its sinking, the ship was returning unescorted to the Philippines to prepare for the invasion of mainland Japan and to resume its role as flagship of Admiral Raymond Spruance and the Fifth Fleet. Damage prevented transmission of a distress signal and misunderstood directives led to the Navy not reporting the ship’s failure to arrive.

Chesty Puller may have been America’s first Wolverine

Shortly after completing a top-secret delivery of atomic bomb components to Tinian, the USS Indianapolis was struck by torpedo and sank 75 years ago today.

Surviving Sailors and Marines were adrift for four days before the pilot of a U.S. Navy Lockheed PV-1 twin-engine patrol bomber located them. It was by pure chance that, on the afternoon of August 2, that the bomber spotted an oil slick while adjusting an antenna.

A massive air and surface rescue operation ensued that night and through the following day. Out of 1,195 crew, 316 survived the ordeal; four additional Sailors died shortly after rescue.

The survivors faced incomprehensible misery. Some found themselves scattered miles apart in seven different groups. Some were fortunate to have gone in the water near rafts and floating rations. Others, including the largest group of around 400 men, had nothing but life vests and floater nets. Men suffered from exposure, dehydration, attacks by hallucinating shipmates, exhaustion, hypothermia, and sharks.

Hallucinations were contagious as many dived underwater thinking that they were entering their ship to drink ice cold milk, only to guzzle sea water and initiate a horrible death. Others swam off alone to reach hotels or imaginary islands. Crew supported each other as best they could, some at the expense of their own lives. The captain of the ship’s Marine detachment swam himself to death circling his group to keep them together. The crew’s beloved chaplain succumbed to exhaustion after providing days of last rites to dying shipmates. Rescue crews had to fire at sharks feeding on the dead with rifles in order to recover bThe crew that went down with the ship or died in the water are memorialized on the Walls of the Missing in the American Battle Monuments Commission’s Manila American Cemetery. At last count, fifty survivors rest at NCA locations. Interments at Riverside National Cemetery in California and Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minnesota contain the largest groups of these Veterans.

The few remaining Indianapolis survivors, now in their 90s, will be celebrated at a virtual 75th anniversary reunion this July. A Congressional Gold Medal has been struck for the event.

On this anniversary, we reflect on the service and experience of Indianapolis‘s final crew, give thanks to those still with us, and remember those who passed. Their ordeal compelled the Navy to make safety improvements, such as mandatory movement reports and improved lifesaving equipment and training – all of which undoubtedly saved the lives of countless Sailors and Marines. Additionally, their successful final mission hastened the end of World War II.odies for identification and a proper burial at sea.

Today

The crew that went down with the ship or died in the water are memorialized on the Walls of the Missing in the American Battle Monuments Commission’s Manila American Cemetery. At last count, fifty survivors rest at NCA locations. Interments at Riverside National Cemetery in California and Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minnesota contain the largest groups of these Veterans.

The few remaining Indianapolis survivors, now in their 90s, will be celebrated at a virtual 75th anniversary reunion this July. A Congressional Gold Medal has been struck for the event.

On this anniversary, we reflect on the service and experience of Indianapolis‘s final crew, give thanks to those still with us, and remember those who passed. Their ordeal compelled the Navy to make safety improvements, such as mandatory movement reports and improved lifesaving equipment and training – all of which undoubtedly saved the lives of countless Sailors and Marines. Additionally, their successful final mission hastened the end of World War II.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 Old-Time celebrity favorites who wanted to join the OSS

When William “Wild Bill” Donovan created the Office of Strategic Services during World War II, he was looking to create a truly unique intelligence outfit whose ranks included the least suspicious group of spies, saboteurs, and strongmen who were willing to infiltrate enemy countries and gather intelligence for the Allied cause. This precursor to the modern-day Central Intelligence Agency included a number of famous agents.


Chesty Puller may have been America’s first Wolverine

Actor John Wayne visiting troops in Brisbane, Australia.

John Wayne

For such a military supporter to not have served in the military seems strange – and it seemed strange to him too. As a matter of fact, his service (or lack thereof) during World War II seemed to follow the actor for the rest of his life. But when he died, a certificate was found among his personal papers, from William Donovan, commander of the OSS, thanking him for his service to the office. All the Duke ever divulged about WWII service was gathering information while on a trip to Brisbane to entertain American troops, but ever since his death rumors swirled about what exactly his roles could have been. Only two people knew for sure – Wayne and Donovan.

Chesty Puller may have been America’s first Wolverine

Moe Berg

Moe Berg was possibly one of the most brilliant Americans who ever lived. And his service to the OSS was invaluable. Berg personally jumped into occupied Norway to help take down a Nazi heavy water plant in an attempt to keep the Third Reich from its nuclear ambitions. But Berg’s most valuable service was capturing film of important Japanese military targets while on a goodwill baseball trip before the war. A film he happily provided American authorities.

Chesty Puller may have been America’s first Wolverine

Marlene Dietrich

Before the United States entered World War II, Marlene Dietrich was way ahead of the game in hating on Hitler. After helping Jews escape persecution with her Hollywood salary, she renounced her German citizenship. During the war, she made so many trips to the front to entertain the troops, it was said she’d seen more action than General Eisenhower. The OSS recruited Dietrich to record propaganda songs in German to demoralize the enemy.

Chesty Puller may have been America’s first Wolverine

Julia Child

Before she began serving up French cuisine, TV Chef Julia Child was serving up French freedom with the OSS. She began her career working directly for Donovan, writing the names of agents on index cards. She later helped develop shark repellant for the OSS to keep sharks from detonating sabotage charges intended for German u-boats. Child also worked as the head of the OOS registry in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) memorizing every message that passed through her office.

Chesty Puller may have been America’s first Wolverine

John Steinbeck

The Of Mice and Men author and World War II correspondent was one of the earliest recruits for the Office of Strategic Services. In 1942, Steinbeck penned The Moon Is Down as an epic piece of pro-Norwegian propaganda that was translated into Danish and distributed by the Danish Resistance.

popular

7 former military jobs that we’d love to see come back

Throughout the U.S. military’s long and storied history, there have been many different military jobs that could only be completed by troops in specific, highly-trained roles. These military occupations and ratings were once critical to the fight until, eventually. they went the way of the dodo.

The military is an ever-changing beast. In one war, sending cavalrymen on horses was essential to mission success — in the next, they were useless. Once, there was a need for the Navy to have its very own rating of sailors who’d paint the sides of ships — until they figured out that all the lower enlisted could do it.

While no one is hounding for the return of horrible military jobs, like loblolly boy (an unfortunate soul who’s entire purpose was to dispose of amputated limbs) or pigeon trainer, bringing back these roles would definitely make life better.


Chesty Puller may have been America’s first Wolverine

That roar? It’s the sound of freedom.

(US Army)

Motorcycle riders

Nothing screams Americana like a badass riding on a Harley on the way to go f*ck some sh*t up. In WWI, these troops were seen as the evolution of horseback cavalry, able to effectively maneuver through battlefields. They served as both scouts and deliverymen.

Motorcycle riders could easily fit into the current cavalry — if they’re willing to give up the safety of up-armored vehicles for a boost of speed.

Chesty Puller may have been America’s first Wolverine

They’re one part door gunner, one part scout, and all parts badass.

(US Army)

Aeroscout observers

Aeroscouts did exactly what their name implies: They scouted from up in the air. They’d ride along with helicopters and get a bird’s eye view of the battlefield or enemy movements and relay it back to headquarters.

The only modern equivalent to this would be a UAV operator, but not even the best technology could replace the need for a skilled eye.

Chesty Puller may have been America’s first Wolverine

If each musician in the band can get their own identifier, why can’t cooks?

(US Army)

Doughgirls

Back in WWI, the WAC and the Red Cross had a specific military job for women who’d make sweets and deliver them to the troops. Apparently, the sweets they made were so good that doughnuts became an American breakfast staple as a result. But they weren’t just limited to just doughnuts. They made cakes, candies, and all sorts of desserts as well.

A return of the “doughgirls” isn’t that much of a stretch. Nearly every occupation in the military is broken down by specialization and areas of expertise with an exception for cooks. Cooks, in general, know who within their ranks is best at certain tasks better. One cook might be known for serving up gourmet, single-dish items while another is lauded for their ability to feed mass amounts of troops at once — or, in this case, making desserts that boost troop morale. Why not officially specialize and let a cook play to their strengths?

Chesty Puller may have been America’s first Wolverine

What other MOS can claim as many celebrities as cartoonists?

(US Army)

Cartoonists

Within the public affairs corps was the once-coveted position of cartoonist. They’d work with the various news outlets within the military and draw comic strips. Many pop-culture icons that served in the military, including Theodor Seuss Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss), Bill Mauldin of Willie and Joe fame, Shel Silverstein, and Stan Lee, cut their teeth on drawing cartoons for their fellow troops.

Comics as an art form are still beloved by troops today. Troops can’t get enough of Terminal Lance, even if they’re not in the Marines. If the military gave that creative outlet back to troops, many more stories could be told through a medium that troops adore, taking minds off the stresses of war.

Chesty Puller may have been America’s first Wolverine

How recently did Army barbers get the can? Well, Bill from 1997’s ‘King of the Hill’ was one.

(20th Century Fox)

Barbers

Many branches used to have their very own barber that would be embedded within the unit. They kept everyone up to standards and troops didn’t have to pay a dime. As with most service-industry military jobs, civilian contractors eventually took over.

Not to discredit the fine men and women currently serving their country as tailors and laundry specialists, but troops need haircuts every week. Because troops don’t exactly make a fortune, they pinch pennies. When they pinch pennies in selecting a barber, the results are sometimes tragic.

Chesty Puller may have been America’s first Wolverine

The schoolmaster is the dude with the violin because of course he is.

(US Navy)

Schoolmasters

Over a century ago, the Navy would take anyone willing to be on a ship. Whether they were smart (or even literate) wasn’t a factor. Schoolmasters had the duty of teaching adults what they would have learned in grade school, giving them a leg up on civilian peers who never had an education.

Let’s be real for a second. There are a lot of troops in the military who have a high school diploma or a GED that, despite the official paperwork, we all know are idiots. Having schoolmasters in service again would mean that command could refer these troops to night classes so they don’t get laughed at any time they need to read something out loud.

Chesty Puller may have been America’s first Wolverine

Hopefully, one of these will become a space shuttle door gunner and live out all of our wildest dreams.

Astronauts

As much as we all go to bed dreaming about being the first in line at the Space Corps recruitment office, each branch has had their own astronauts for a while- possibly the coolest military job to date. For a time, Uncle Sam exclusively sent service members into orbit. Recently, however, only a handful of actual troops have gone up.

The Army currently only has three astronauts serving under official capacity — but they’re more like liaisons to NASA. When the time is right for the Space Corps, these three are more-than-likely to rise among the ranks — you know, since they’re actually astronauts and not just people who like Star Wars.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This police detective is looking for an uncle who went MIA over occupied France

Tom McCaslin is a police detective in Omaha, Neb. and his coldest case is turning 75 in 2019. It’s the search for his uncle, Staff Sgt. Thomas J. McCaslin, one of eight crew members of a bomber that was shot down over Nazi-occupied France on June 22, 1944.

All these decades later, his nephew is hunting for his remains in order to bring the bomber crewman back home while four of his 12 siblings are still alive.


Chesty Puller may have been America’s first Wolverine

Top row, from left: Lt. Col. Don Weiss, Lt. David Meserow, Lt. Axel Slustrop. Bottom row: Staff Sgt. John H. Canty,, S/Sgt. Tom McCaslin, T/Sgt. Clement Monaco. All but Monaco were aboard the B-26 when it was shot down.

Their B-26 Marauder was shot down by Nazi flak while supporting the Allied push inland. As the British Second Army fought the German Panzergruppe West in the streets of below, the crew of the B-26 tried in vain to stay aloft. They went down anyway, and that was the last anyone ever heard of them. Well, most of them, anyway. The first was found in 1946, buried after the crash by locals. The remains of the bird’s four officers were discovered in 1986 by a farmer in his fields. They were taken to the American cemetery at Normandy. Another, the enlisted top tail gunner, was found by an amateur historian who also found the man’s dog tag.

That leaves two – and one of those is Thomas J. McCaslin, the Marauder’s bottom turret gunner. McCaslin’s nephew is looking for his uncle and the other crewman.

“If there’s a lead to follow, I’ll keep looking into it,” McCaslin told the Hartford Courant.

Chesty Puller may have been America’s first Wolverine

Det. Tom McCaslin of Omaha, Neb.

McCaslin’s mission has led him to talk to both the historian and the farmer who found the previous remains. He has also obtained numerous documents about the B-26 mission. It was one of 36 planes to fly over a chateau being used as a headquarters building by the Nazi SS. As the bomber began to make its run and open the doors, a flak burst cut the plane in two and sent it careening to earth. No one was able to bail out. In 40 seconds, it was all over, leaving those eight men among the 73,000 who would be unaccounted for during the war. McCaslin even has aerial recon photos of the crash site taken right after the crash.

McCaslin and his detective skills are largely responsible for the 2018 discovery of Staff Sgt. John Canty’s remains. His work persuaded French authorities to further search the field where his dog tag was found. Canty was later buried in Arlington National Cemetery. From interviewing relic hunters to requesting documents, McCaslin has worked tirelessly to track down the entire crew since the discovery of the first remains – which he only learned about through a newspaper.

Chesty Puller may have been America’s first Wolverine

The B-26 Marauder.

Detective McCaslin and his family have all worked the case tirelessly for years. As a family, they have hounded government agencies in an effort to step up the recovery of his uncle and another unaccounted-for airman from his crew. All hope is not lost. McCaslin is currently waiting for the DNA identification of some finger bones found in the area. He even has an eyewitness to the battle who reports that she saw parachutes as a young girl.

“The stuff they’ve uncovered is incredible,” says Jed Henry, a journalist and independent researcher who has become an advocate for families of missing service members from World War II. “To have the intelligence to sort through it, and the tenacity — and to care about it. … I’ve never seen a family that has gotten into this as much as they have.”

Chesty Puller may have been America’s first Wolverine

“My uncle joined (the military) in 1942, and we never saw him again,” Tom McCaslin said. “If there’s a chance to find him, we should do it.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

George Washington’s egg nog recipe will destroy you

The father of our country was famous for his moderation but when he did imbibe, he made sure his drink packed the punch of a Brown Bess. Not only did Washington keep a healthy supply of imported Madeira, he also distilled his own distinctive rye whiskey and the Commander-In-Chief always made sure his troops were well-lubricated when on the march. The most powerful weapon in his cellar came only once a year, however, the General’s egg nog made its presence felt.


Chesty Puller may have been America’s first Wolverine

“I cannot tell a lie, I’m totally wrecked. Merry Christmas to all, including the Mahometans.”

In the years since historians have rifle through all of our first president’s personal papers and diaries, a number of interesting recipes have been found, including Washington’s small beer recipe. Though his personal egg nog recipe has never been found written in his own hand, it is at least a good representation of what such a recipe in the days of yore would have been like – at least for a wealthy man such as General Washington. It is, unlike most recipes found online nowadays, remarkably blunt. No intros, just straight to the business of catching a buzz.

Maybe colonials weren’t the biggest fans of family get-togethers.

“One quart cream, one quart milk, one dozen tablespoons sugar, one pint brandy, ½ pint rye whiskey, ½ pint Jamaica rum, ¼ pint sherry—mix liquor first, then separate yolks and whites of 12 eggs, add sugar to beaten yolks, mix well. Add milk and cream, slowly beating. Beat whites of eggs until stiff and fold slowly into mixture. Let set in cool place for several days. Taste frequently.”

“Taste frequently” being the operative command from the first Commander-In-Chief. Be careful, this drink packs a wallop.

Chesty Puller may have been America’s first Wolverine

William Henry Harrison was a wuss.

While even the Farmer’s Almanac lists the recipe as General Washington’s, there is no evidence he ever wrote it, made it, or drank it. The earliest mention found of the recipe was in a 1948 book called Christmas With The Washingtons by Olive Bailey. While this recipe can’t really be found in earlier papers or other works, the book is in the catalogue at the Mount Vernon Archives and there is definitive proof that George and Martha Washington entertained Christmas guests with some kind of egg nog.

So why not this one?

The egg nog is a strong but delicious concoction that takes some work, like separating eggs and beating the whites until fluffy, then folding the whites into the mixture, but it is well worth the effort. Take heed, though: General Washington would not care much for soldiers in his army in a constant state of inebriation.

That is well-documented.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This one-man army was Britain’s classiest World War II veteran

It says a lot about a Britisher to even be considered for the title of “classiest,” but Maj. Robert Cain should definitely be in the running. He took on six Nazi tanks by himself while holding off the rest of the coming German onslaught. In the end, he was forced to retreat, but only because he ran out of ammunition. Before he did, however, he stopped killing Nazis long enough to take a shave. Only after he was properly clean-shaven did he make his retreat.

That’s class.


Chesty Puller may have been America’s first Wolverine

Classier than most of you are, anyway.

Cain was an officer of the British 1st Airborne Division during Operation Market Garden, the World War II Allied invasion of the Netherlands. British and Polish forces were to be dropped near Arnhem to advance on the city over three days. Cain was to lead his men in the first lift over Nazi-occupied territory, but the disastrous operation was flawed from the start, especially for Cain. Because of a technical snafu, he had to wait until the second day. It would prove fortuitous for everyone in his periphery.

When Cain landed, he and his men were sent forward into the city, where they unexpectedly encountered heavy enemy armor. The only thing they had to fight back against these defenses were small anti-tank weapons and mortars. The anti-tanks were not enough to penetrate the armor, and they were soon forced to fall back.

Chesty Puller may have been America’s first Wolverine

The small PIAT anti-tank weapon used by the British at Arnhem.

Many British troops were forced to surrender. Others who managed to fall back did so in complete disarray, low on ammunition and unable to take out the approaching armor. Cain and the rest of the British were eventually forced to retreat to nearby Oosterbeek, where they formed a perimeter and tried to protect the howitzers that would be catastrophically destroyed if they fell back further. Cain was in command of forward units, who were digging in a populated area, trying to hold the armor back.

After one of his men was killed by a tracked, armored vehicle with a mounted heavy gun, Cain picked up the anti-tank weapon and poured round after to round into the tank until it was disabled. His PIAT anti-tank weapon eventually exploded from overuse, incapacitating Cain for a half hour. When his vision returned, he went back to work with whatever he could use. When he ran out of anti-tank weapons, he used a two-inch mortar.

Chesty Puller may have been America’s first Wolverine

Major Robert Cain was fighting these. By himself.

Cain fought off Tiger tanks, flamethrower tanks, self-propelled guns, and even Nazi infantry in an effort to maintain his position in the village of Oosterbeek. He personally was responsible for destroying six armored vehicles, four of which were Tiger tanks. The Germans were forced to fall back this time, but the British were in no condition to pursue them. They made an orderly retreat across the river but, before they did, Maj. Cain took a moment to shave his face (he had been fighting for a full week by then) for a proper appearance. When he returned to the British Army that day, his commanding general commented on it.

“There’s one officer, at least, who’s shaved,” said Gen. Philip Hicks. To which Cain replied, “I was well brought up, sir.”

The respect of his fellow officers wasn’t the only thing he won that day. Cain was awarded the Victoria Cross for his gallantry.

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.”

Chesty Puller may have been America’s first Wolverine

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.

Chesty Puller may have been America’s first Wolverine
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?

Chesty Puller may have been America’s first Wolverine
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 4 biggest paper tigers in military history

mao zedong paper tiger

In the days following the end of World War II, Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong described the United States as a “paper tiger,” borrowing a centuries old Chinese expression that means a “blustering but harmless” person. Chairman Mao actually used the term to describe a lot of things: the atomic bomb, Chinese nationalist leader Chiang Kai-Shek, and German Chancellor Adolf Hitler. 

No matter how old the term is or where it came from, there are many examples of “paper tigers” throughout military history. It aptly describes a force that appears powerful on paper but falls apart in practice. Here are a few of history’s biggest.

1. 1940s France

France never deserved its reputation as the cheese-eating surrender monkeys many people incorrectly believe, even today. In 1940, the French Army was one of the world’s largest. France had fought a number of wars with great successes over the course of history. In 1940, it fielded the largest, most numerous, and most powerful artillery in the world. It had more tanks, more and better equipment and a better air force than Nazi Germany. It even had a string of carefully constructed fortifications designed to keep Germany out.

Despite all that and the French mobilization and preparation for war, the Nazis delivered a stunning defeat on the French in just six weeks, forever wrecking their reputation as formidable opponents, whether deserved or not. 

2. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq

At the end of the 1980s the Iraqi Army had just ended a nearly ten-year war with Iran that completely transformed the Iraqis into a large force of battle-hardened veterans. Hussein fielded the world’s fourth-largest army, and overran neighboring Kuwait in just a few hours. With 900,000 men, more than 5,000 tanks and almost 4,000 artillery pieces, much of it some of the best Soviet-built equipment available. 

Yet, when the United States and Coalition partners geared up for Operation Desert Storm, the result was a total rout. The Iraqis, who became veterans fighting Kurdish separatists and Iranian troops, were totally unprepared for the kind of mobile warfare the U.S. brought to bear. On top of that, the U.S. maintained complete air superiority, able to strike almost anywhere at any time. The large army Hussein fielded ended up surrendering en mass to Coalition troops. After 44 days of continuous bombing, the Iraqis were pushed out of Kuwait almost as fast as they had come in.

3. Egypt in the Six-Day War

By 1967, Israel was used to being the underdog in a rough neighborhood. It warned neighboring Egypt that closing the Straits of Tiran to Israeli ships would spark a war, but Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, with 240,000 men under arms wasn’t hearing it. He moved his troops in position to guard against Israeli aggression and closed the Straits anyway. He was still caught by surprise when Israeli launched a massive preemptive strike against Egypt that destroyed much of its air force on the ground. 

Even when Syria and Jordan joined the war on Egypt’s side, the inferiority of the Arab armies was apparent. The Israel Defense Forces enjoyed complete air superiority and inflicted a punishing defeat on all three countries. The Israelis not only soundly defeated Egypt in six days, but captured the entire Sinai Peninsula. 

4. Argentina in the Falklands War

Although not massive in terms of the numbers fielded by other armies on the list, the 60,000-strong army used to invade the British-held Falkland Islands in 1982 should have been more than enough to repel the UK task force sent by London to retake them. Reinforced by relatively large numbers of anti-aircraft guns, surface-to-air missiles, and Argentina’s not unsubstantial air forces should have been enough to repel the unprepared and incredibly distant British response. 

It only took three days for the UK to dispatch its forces. Even so, when it arrived, US naval intelligence deemed its success an “impossibility.” The British were outnumbered, outgunned, and should have been facing a disparity in air power – at least, on paper. Instead, the task force retook the islands within 74 days and the military junta that governed Argentina eventually fell as a result.

What other paper tigers belong on this list?

Do Not Sell My Personal Information