The suicidal way China scored its first World War II victory against Japan - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The suicidal way China scored its first World War II victory against Japan

In the annals of World War II history, the brutality of the Sino-Japanese War is often overshadowed by the fierce fighting on the eastern front between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. The horrors the Japanese inflicted on China are often lost in the systematic destruction and murder of the Holocaust.

When it comes to brutal fighting and horrible occupation, the Japanese war on mainland China had no equal. 

The suicidal way China scored its first World War II victory against Japan
1940 photo of Chiang Kai-shek in full military uniform.

Japan invaded Chinese Manchuria in 1931 but stopped after occupying the province. Still, it gave the Japanese a foothold on the continent and rose tensions between the two countries. In 1937, Japanese and Chinese troops fought for control of the Marco Polo Bridge near Peking. The event led to a full-scale invasion of China, setting off World War II in Asia. 

Within a year, the Japanese occupied the capital city of Peking, Shanghai, and Nanjin. Its Navy and Air Forces were completely destroyed. Still, the Chinese people and Nationalist government under Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek were steadfast in their resistance to the invasion and occupation. 

After, the de facto Chinese leader signaled that any surrender negotiations would be refused, the Japanese stopped trying to offer any terms. Having made so may gains so fast, however, the Imperial Japanese Army was forced to stop any advances and consolidate them. The Emperor ruled that no more wartime operations would be conducted in 1938.

Still, the Japanese were able to follow fleeing and disorganized Chinese troops along the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers. The Yellow River runs into southern Shandong Province around the fortified town of Taierzhuang, some 430 miles south of Beijing. There was no getting around Taierzhuang. To advance south into the strategically important Xuzhou area, the Japanese would have to take the town. 

The Japanese Army launched an all-out assault with 300 men. From the start of the attack, things did not go as planned. The initial assault led the Japanese soldiers into the town gates and into a temple, which the Chinese burned down, killing all 300 men inside. 

The very next day, the Japanese launched another, more successful assault, breaking the gates of the town and establishing an entry point. They took half of the town in the first day, but Chinese reinforcements arrived while the invaders were bogged down in urban combat. The new Chinese artillery lit up the Japanese outside the town. 

In all, more than 100,000 Chinese troops would fight at Taierzhuang against a total of 70,000 Japanese troops, along with tanks, artillery, and aircraft. 

The Chinese slowly began to retake parts of Taierzhuang. But Japan’s own reinforcements began to trickle in. The two sides were locked in a stalemate. In the outskirts of the city, Chinese farmers began to sabotage rail lines, waterways, and communication lines. The Japanese reinforcements were cut off from linking up and soon found their rear filled with Chinese troops.

Japanese tanks and other armored vehicles were also decimated by China “Dare to Die” Corps, Chinese soldiers who wore body armor and strapped high explosives to themselves so they could dive underneath enemy tanks and destroy them. 

These suicide bombers use everything from grenade vests to sticks of dynamite in place of anti-armor weapons to even the playing field. In a last-ditch effort to break the stalemate, Japan employed poison gas to dislodge the Chinese defenders. 

It was the first victory for China against Japan during what would become known as World War II. Though both sides lost roughly the same number of troops, the battle bought time for the Chinese government to escape the Japanese Army and showed that Japan could be defeated in battle.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Utopian love cult behind iconic bayonets of World War II

In 1848, the charismatic religious leader of a free-love cult fled to the city of Oneida, New York, and built a large mansion to house the dozens of members already involved and the hundreds who would join or be born into the cult in the following decades. In an odd twist of fate, this eventually led to hundreds of thousands of bayonets in American hands.


The story starts with that charismatic religious leader, a man named John Humphrey Noyes. He was a young student at Yale Divinity College in the 1830s when he learned about a new idea in Christianity, “Perfectionism.” This was basically the belief that man could become sinless on Earth through religious conversion and discipline.

Noyes might have had an ulterior motive in believing this. His journals reveal that he really wanted to bone down just, all the time. But as a fervent Christian, he believed that doing so was a sin, and even thinking about it much was impure. Perfectionism, as Noyes understood it, said all that was crap.

His particular understanding of Perfectionism basically said that, if you were a perfect child of God living in his perfect universe, then you were perfect, and so your thoughts and actions couldn’t be impure or sinful. This was a great “revelation” for a religious man who wanted to make it with at least a few ladies.

The suicidal way China scored its first World War II victory against Japan

The Oneida Community and its mansion house in the late 1800s.

(D.E. Smith via New York Public Library)

So, he did what anyone would do in that situation: He started a free-love commune and recruited dozens of couples into it. All the men were husband to each of the women, and all of the women were brides to each of the men. So, sex between any two members of the commune was great as long as it was voluntary and the guy interrupted the act in time to prevent pregnancy.

The commune started in Putney, Vermont, but sticklers there thought “communal marriage” included a lot of what the legal system called “adultery.” Noyes and his followers fled to Oneida, New York. There, they built a large mansion to hold the massive family. The Oneida Community Mansion House held 87 members at the start. But Noyes got into selective breeding the members and recruited more, eventually growing it to over 300.

To support this huge household, members of the community were encouraged to start and run profitable businesses. The profits went to communal expenses or purchases. There was no real personal property in the commune.

But, like all Utopian societies, the wheels eventually fell off. A big part of that was Noyes’s selective breeding program where, surprise surprise, Noyes was the most common man assigned to breed and his sessions were often with the most desired women. And not all the children born and raised in the community were true believers.

But when the commune broke up in 1881, it didn’t make sense to many members to dissolve everything. After all, the community had multiple successful businesses, and the house was worth a lot of money. So, the mansion was split into apartments with a communal kitchen and dining room, and the business interests were consolidated into a joint-stock company. Yeah, they went corporate.

That joint-stock company eventually concentrated on its silverware manufacturing, creating an iconic brand that still makes flatware today. But when Uncle Sam has come calling over the over 130 years since, the Oneida Limited company has generally answered, manufacturing whatever the military needed.

The suicidal way China scored its first World War II victory against Japan

Leaders at the Oneida Ltd. silverware plant in Oneida, New York, discuss how to manufacture U.S. Army bayonets in World War II.

(U.S. Office for Emergency Management)

In World War I, this was predominantly artillery shells, clips for ammunition, combat knives, and surgical instruments. Then, in World War II, the military asked them to make M1905 bayonets for the M1 Garand rifle as well as hand grenades, rifle sights, and more.

Now, those bayonets are a coveted collector’s item. Oneida manufactured an estimated 235,000 bayonets during the war, but something like 1.5 million were produced in the war, so it’s a fairly rare and coveted war item to find.

A weird legacy for what used to be a religious commune and cult built on free love.

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 ways the year 1968 traumatized America

There are going to be a lot of significant 50-year anniversaries in 2018. This is because 1968 was probably the most tumultuous year in American history since the Civil War. To this day, we still haven’t fully recovered as a country.


The tumult began immediately. Americans were buffeted by watching the Prague Spring roll over Czechoslovakia with the election of reformist Alexander Dubcek on January 5th. He instituted many meaningful reforms that spelled the end of Communism in the country. But the hopes of a peaceful collapse of the Iron Curtain were crushed by August, when Soviet and Eastern Bloc tanks rolled over the same ground.

That was only the beginning. Americans orbited the moon for the first time, Star Trek aired the first interracial kiss, and African-American athletes in the Mexico City Summer Olympics made the most political statement in the history of the games.

The suicidal way China scored its first World War II victory against Japan

The captured crew of the Pueblo.

1. The USS Pueblo is captured by North Korea

The Pueblo was a Navy Signals Intelligence ship. On January 23rd, she was attacked and boarded by North Koreans in international waters. But Pueblo’s crew didn’t go down without a fight. As the ship attempted to evade capture and destroy captured intel, it took two North Korean subchasers, four torpedo boats, and two MiG fighters to stop Pueblo. One U.S. sailor was killed and 83 others were captured and held for the next 355 days. They were beaten and used as propaganda tools the entire time.

The suicidal way China scored its first World War II victory against Japan

South Vietnamese Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan, chief of the national police, shoots Vietcong officer Nguyen Van Lem, also known as Bay Lop, on a Saigon street on Feb. 1, 1968.

(Photo by Eddie Adams)

2. The Tet Offensive begins in Vietnam

The U.S. was fully engaged in the Vietnam War by 1968 and, although there was evidence of a coming attack, it was not really suspected to come during the Tet holiday. At midnight on January 30th, Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces assaulted some 100 towns and cities, catching American and South Vietnamese troops completely by surprise. The next day, they hit the U.S. embassy in Saigon. Although most losses were quickly recaptured, the ancient capital of Hué was held for a full month.

The Tet Offensive, while a technically a battlefield failure, shook much faith in the Americans’ ability to win the war, including reporter and “Most Trusted Man in America,” Walter Cronkite. In February, the execution of Viet Cong Nguyễn Văn Lém by Nguyễn Ngọc Loan, a South Vietnamese police chief, as captured by famed photographer Eddie Adams, further turned the U.S. against the war.

www.youtube.com

3. President Johnson did not seek re-election

Johnson soundly beat Eugene McCarthy’s anti-war candidacy in the 1968 Democratic primary in New Hampshire. But just a few days later, Senator Robert F. Kennedy announced his candidacy and the Democrats were split between pro-war and anti-war Democrats, along with segregationist Democrats from the South. Johnson, unable to unite the party and concerned he wouldn’t survive another term, announced he would not seek another term as president on March 31st.

The president was right about uniting the party. Divided Democrats did not rally to their candidate Hubert Humphrey’s cause and Richard Nixon won the election.

The suicidal way China scored its first World War II victory against Japan

President Lyndon B. Johnson meeting with King in the White House Cabinet Room, 1966

4. Martin Luther King, Jr. is shot and killed

The famed Southern preacher and civil rights leader was killed at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4th. Riots erupted in major American cities, some lasting for days. His assassin, James Earl Ray, was a fugitive from justice who escaped the Missouri State Penitentiary. Ray was apprehended at London’s Heathrow Airport on June 8th.

During the ensuing riots, President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1968, The Fair Housing Act, into law.

The suicidal way China scored its first World War II victory against Japan

(Photo by Boris Yaro for the Los Angeles Times)

5. Robert F. Kennedy is shot at the Ambassador Hotel

Kennedy, fresh from his win in the June 4th California primary election, just finished addressing supporters at Los Angeles’ Ambassador Hotel. As he walked through the hotel’s kitchen, he was shaking hands with staff members and other supporters when Sirhan Sirhan rushed in and repeatedly shot him with a .22-caliber pistol. He died of his wounds the next day. Sirhan’s motive was Kennedy’s pro-Israel views.

The suicidal way China scored its first World War II victory against Japan

Police and demonstrators clash near the Conrad Hilton Hotel during the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

(Bettmann Archive – Getty Images)

6. Democratic Convention protests become a battle with police

From August 22-30, Democrats met to nominate Hubert Humphrey as their candidate for president. Outside, some 10,000 protestors descended upon Chicago’s streets. Mayor Richard Daley met them with 23,000 policemen in riot gear and National Guardsmen. At 3:30pm, police moved to arrest a man who lowered the American flag in Grant Park and began to beat him. The crowd responded by throwing rocks, concrete, and food at them. Violence spread throughout the area and America decided to vote for Richard Nixon.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the luckiest sailor on earth survived being sucked into a jet engine

During Desert Storm, the USS Theodore Roosevelt was on high alert. Petty Officers JD Bridges and Michael McDonald were prepping an A-6 Intruder fighter jet before takeoff. It was business as usual.


Mere seconds before the jet will sped down the runway, an accident that forever changed flight operations procedures occurred.

Bridges was completing checks to ensure the fighter was connected to the deck’s catapult for launch when he got too close to the high-powered engine and the turbine intake sucked him up in a split-second.

At full throttle, the Intruder’s engine generates 9,300 pounds of thrust — twice as strong as the most powerful tornado on record.

After Bridges got sucked in, the engine’s force violently pulled off his float coat, goggles, and the helmet from his head. Investigators believe that because his helmet was shredded by the sharp spinning blades, it partially jammed the engine.

The way the engine was designed, it ceased its own power and shut down immediately.

Miraculously, Bridges’ shoulder wedged against the nose cone as the engine slowed and he managed to remove himself out from the powerful intake space — escaping certain death. The aircraft’s pilot was ready to take off when he heard the disruption and powered down right away.

Also Read: This is why landing on an aircraft carrier never gets easy

Within moments, Bridges was carried to safety, suffering from a broken collarbone, superficial cuts from a few pieces of shrapnel, and a blown ear drum.  The Navy now uses this historic video as a training tool of what not to do while on the flight deck.

Bridges at a news conference a day after the accident. (Lithdad, YouTube)

MIGHTY HISTORY

That one time in 1995 when Russia almost nuked the United States

Russia almost blew the United States away with a nuclear strike in 1995 after mistakenly thinking it was under attack. If it weren’t for Russia’s then-president Boris Yeltsin, America as we know it wouldn’t exist. Under the “launch-on-warning” policy used by both nations, Russia had 30 minutes to decide to nuke us but Yeltsin only had five.


Here’s how this monumental mistake almost took place:

NOW: The US nuclear launch code during the Cold War was weaker than your granny’s AOL password

OR: Here’s the entire Cold War by the numbers

MIGHTY HISTORY

The 5 stupidest losses of the American Civil War

Military history is full of blunders. Even the best among history’s greatest leaders made mistakes in their careers, often at critical times. Napoleon took too long to invade Russia. The Crusader kingdoms decided to march their army in full armor across a burning desert to attack Saladin on his own ground, heck President Truman even called Douglas MacArthur a “dumb son-of-a b*tch.”

It happens.

During the American Civil War, any ill-timed loss or setback could have been catastrophic for either side. So winning when it mattered was vitally important. Too bad no one told these guys.


The suicidal way China scored its first World War II victory against Japan

. Fredericksburg

There’s no better example of poor execution ruining an excellent plan than the Battle of Fredericksburg. When the Union Army under Ambrose Burnside wanted to invade Virginia across the Rappahannock River, all went exactly as planned… until it came time to actually cross it. Gen. Henry Halleck, who was an excellent administrator but a terrible field commander, didn’t get the bridges downriver in time for the Union to keep the initiative. By the time they actually crossed the river, the Confederates were ready for them. But even so, the Federals could have been better – and that’s Burnside’s fault.

Burnside wasn’t exactly acting with military precision when he ordered his subordinates to attack the rebels with “at least a division” when the original plan called for some 60,000 troops. His underlings, following their orders, threw a thousand men in single waves at the reinforced enemy lines. Outnumbered by a lot, the rebels repelled the Federal Army, who retreated across the Rappahannock.

The suicidal way China scored its first World War II victory against Japan

Shiloh

At Shiloh, the Confederates boldly placed their camp near Sherman’s headquarters, achieving complete tactical surprise on the morning of the battle, a fight Sherman wanted to avoid. Eventually, the unprepared Union troops were forced into a fight by the approaching enemy army. But the Confederates weren’t able to press this advantage because Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston left P.G.T. Beauregard in command of the army from the rear, and then ran off to lead the fight from the front. Beauregard’s coordination led to the whole confederate Army getting mixed up in the fight. Later in the day, Johnston was killed after spending too many lives trying to take a fortified Union position called the “Hornet’s Nest” – an unnecessary venture.

The next day, the Confederates were down to half-strength, and the lull in the previous day’s fighting had allowed the Union to get reinforcements. Without knowing he was outnumbered by more than two-to-one, Beauregard remained in the battle and was himself surprised by a Union counterattack the next morning. The Confederates were later forced to retreat, having completely lost the initiative.

The suicidal way China scored its first World War II victory against Japan

Cold Harbor

Cold Harbor could have won the war for the Union in 1864. Instead, it’s a lesson learned. During the Overland Campaign, Grant and the Union Army ground at Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia for nearly two months with some 120,000 troops, outnumbering Lee two-to-one. The culmination of the campaign was an attack on the Confederate defenses at Cold Harbor, where Grant gambled that Lee’s decimated army would be so exhausted it would fall to a Union onslaught. Grant was right, and the defenses fell, and then he went onto Richmond, and the war was over.

Of course, that’s not what happened. What happened is the same thing that happens when any army throws thousands of men at reinforced defenses manned by veteran troops: wholesale slaughter. Grant massed his men in front of the Confederate defenses, and the rebels just fired shot after shot of canister into the throngs. Grant lost nearly 10 percent of his army, more than 12,000 men – and the war dragged on.

The suicidal way China scored its first World War II victory against Japan

The Crater

At the Siege of Petersburg, Va., an engagement that lasted nearly a full year, Union engineers dug a mineshaft underneath the Confederate defenses. It was a brilliant plan to destroy the Confederate defenses from below instead of attacking them head-on (Grant had learned a little lesson from Cold Harbor, so at least there’s that). There was a special division that had been drilling and training for the assault on the rebel lines immediately after the mine was blown up. They would roll up the rebels through the hole created in the defenses, and everyone could go home. The only problem was that that division happened to be an all-black U.S. Colored Troops unit, so at the last minute, Gen. George G. Meade swapped them out with a bunch of untrained rabble and put the world’s worst officer in charge of the attack.

The mine blew as planned and created a giant crater on the battlefield. The officer in command, Gen. James Ledlie, didn’t brief his men that they would be attacking around a crater and then got drunk during the battle. Instead of going around the crater and attacking, the Union troops ran into it, found it was too deep to get out of, and just stayed there while the rebels killed them.

The suicidal way China scored its first World War II victory against Japan

Antietam (hear me out…)

While Antietam isn’t technically a loss, it should have been a slam dunk for the Union Army. Instead, it was a gross loss of life. They outnumbered the rebels three-to-one, Lee had divided his forces into three different parts to facilitate its movement, oh, and George B. McClellan actually had Lee’s entire battle plan the whole time. It was found by two Union soldiers and delivered to the Union commander who waited a whole 18 hours to do anything about it. After squandering his foreknowledge of Lee’s plans, McClellan then dithered further, allowing Lee’s forces to mass near Sharpsburg, Md.

Once the armies were all set, the battle began, and the slaughter commenced. What should have been an easy rout for the Union turned out to be the bloodiest day in American history up until that point. After barely managing a win, McClellan allowed Lee’s army to escape without further harassment. McClellan’s lack of aggression was so apparent that President Lincoln fired him for it.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The youngest Special Forces captain in Vietnam was a war hero

The Vietnam war gave us a lot of things: Zippos, M16s, and the list goes on. Before it popped off, there hadn’t been a war like it; it was highly televised, deeply protested, and involved heavy use of special operations units. From this war came tons of stories of heroism and courage in the face of extreme danger. One such story that stands out from the rest is that of U.S. Army Captain William Albracht.

Albracht graduated from Alleman Catholic High School in Illinois in 1966 and found himself in Vietnam just three years later. He wasn’t just a Green Beret captain, he was the youngest Green Beret captain in the entire country. He took command of a hilltop outpost known as Firebase Kate with a total of 27 American Soldiers and 156 Montagnard militiamen. This is where Captain Albracht earned his place in history and solidified his status as an American badass.

This is the story of the youngest Green Beret captain in Vietnam:


The suicidal way China scored its first World War II victory against Japan

Landing Zone Kate in 1969.

(Storytellers International)

Firebase Kate

Landing Zone Kate, also referred to as Firebase White, was built in 1969 on a hilltop northwest of Quang Dug Province in Southern Vietnam. It was near the Cambodian border. It was also the first command for Captain Albracht, who was just 21 at the time.

The young captain saw the hilltop location as problematic, primarily because the North Vietnamese Army controlled the nearby road and could freely fire from Cambodia. To make matters worse, supplying the base was also a very tricky.

The suicidal way China scored its first World War II victory against Japan

Army Special Forces and Rangers in Vietnam.

(U.S. Army)

Supplies & discipline

Since the NVA controlled the road, supplies and personnel for LZ Kate could only be delivered via helicopter. Despite each delivery being protected by a wide range of aircraft, Captain Albracht felt it wasn’t enough support for their location.

On top of that, Sergeant Daniel Pierelli arrived ahead of Captain Albracht to find the troops located there playing volleyball and lounging around instead of preparing to defend the place. He and Captain Albracht made sure to address this before increasing patrols in an effort to gain more intelligence on the NVA. Unfortunately, fate had other plans.

The suicidal way China scored its first World War II victory against Japan

Army artillerymen in Vietnam.

(Storytellers International)

Siege at LZ Kate

On the morning of October 29th, the NVA launched the first assault on the Firebase, outnumbering the defenders 40 to 1. For the next few days, the men there sustained heavy casualties from small-arms gunfire, mortars, rockets, and artillery.

The wounded included Captain Albracht, who sustained a shrapnel wound in his arm on October 29th while he directed a medevac helicopter. He was given the opportunity to leave, but instead decided to stay at Kate and continue to lead his men.

The suicidal way China scored its first World War II victory against Japan

Members of Mike force on the left and a member of the Montagnard militia on the right.

A great escape

Supplies dwindled fast, and the situation wasn’t getting any better. Eventually, on November 1st, Captain Albracht realized Kate could not be saved and decided they needed to escape. They destroyed their gun tubes, artillery ammo, and anything that could be considered intelligence before slipping away.

He, along with around 150 men, eventually arrived at another Special Forces camp, only losing one American soldier in the jungle. In the early hours of November 2nd, they linked up with SF Mike Force, their closest allies. To do so, Captain Albracht had to cross an open field three times, putting himself at risk of being spotted by the enemy, to ensure the safety of his men.

Due to his heroics, the men safely escaped.

The suicidal way China scored its first World War II victory against Japan

Captain William Albracht in 2016.

(Photo by Kevin E. Schmidt)

Captain William Albracht

For his service and actions during the war, he earned three Silver Stars, three Purple Hearts, and five Bronze Stars. After the war, he continued serving his country in the Secret Service, guarding five presidents during his time. He then went on to manage security for the Ford Motor Company.

He returned home to Illinois in 2005 and, in 2012, he ran for Senator for Illinois’ 36th district. He co-wrote the book, Abandoned in Hell: The Fight for Vietnam’s Firebase Kate, and his story is featured in a documentary entitled Escape from Firebase Kate.

Captain Albracht is still alive today.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Selfless heroes of 9/11

On this day 19 years ago, America woke up to unimaginable news. Nineteen members of al Qaeda had hijacked four fuel-loaded U.S. commercial airplanes. One crashed into the Pentagon. Two more hit the World Trade Center. The final plane was destined for the White House, but thanks to the heroic efforts of the passengers and crew, it never made it. That day, a total of 2,977 lives were lost; killed in New York City, Washington, DC and outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

September 11, 2001, showed us the very worst of humanity, but it also showed the very best. Nineteen men set forth to destroy our country, while thousands more stepped forward to heal it. We were reminded of what Americans are capable of; incredible kindness, selflessness and unity. The 11 figures below are just a few of the remarkable individuals who put their lives on the line that day, and gave us exactly what we needed: Hope.


Father Mychal Judge

While thousands lost their lives on that dark day, the first recorded casualty was Father Mychal Judge. The Roman Catholic priest and NYFD chaplain chose to walk into the burning World Trade Center to bring comfort to wounded firefighters and others injured in the attack, listening to their final confessions and blessing them in their last moments. He gave his life just to bring others peace.

Flight 93 passengers Todd Beamer, Mark Bingham, Tom Burnett and Jeremy Glick

What would you do if your flight was hijacked? We’d all like to think we’d be as brave as these four men who fought their hijacker and helped prevent an even greater tragedy. When Todd Beamer, Mark Bingham, Tom Burnett and Jeremy Glick boarded United Airlines Flight 93 that morning, they had no idea what was about to happen. In a stroke of “luck,” the flight was delayed slightly. Because of this, when the hijackers took over the plane at 9:30, the other attacks had already taken place. When the four passengers called their loved ones, they learned of the hijacker’s intentions for the plane — to crash directly into the White House.

To prevent this from happening, they worked with members of the plane’s crew to fight back against the terrorists. When the hijackers realized the passengers might successfully breach the cockpit, they opted to crash the plane into a field in Pennsylvania, killing all on board. The efforts of Beamer, Bingham, Burnet and Glick saved hundreds of lives that would have been lost had the plane reached its intended target.Before the plane went down, Burnett spoke to his wife on the phone, saying calmly, “I know we’re all going to die. There’s three of us who are going to do something about it. I love you, honey.”

Betty Ong and Amy Sweeney

One thing all these stories have in common is quick thinking and calm resolve. Two flight attendants on American Airlines Flight 11 could easily have panicked when the plane was hijacked. A passenger had already been stabbed, some crew members were murdered, and the air was filled with something similar to mace, but they calmly notified their colleagues on the ground of the scene unfolding.

Those on the receiving end were astounded by their unwavering professionalism, listening carefully as they provided details about the hijackers throughout the flight. The information they shared helped the FBI uncover their full identities.

Wells Crowther

Wells Crowther, a 24-year-old equities trader, was working on the 104th floor of the South Tower when it was struck by Flight 175. He called his mother and left her a voicemail, calmly telling her, “Mom, this is Welles. I want you to know that I’m ok.”

He had no obligation to help anyone escape other than himself, but the former volunteer firefighter chose to anyway. He helped over a dozen people get out before running back into the building alongside firefighters to save even more. He carried one injured woman out on his back, directing disoriented and terrified office workers to the ground floor. Survivor Ling Young told CNN, “He’s definitely my guardian angel — no ifs, ands or buts — because without him, we would be sitting there, waiting [until] the building came down.”

His body was recovered in a stairwell, his hands still holding a “jaws of life” rescue tool. He is remembered as “the man in the red bandana,” a commanding, brave figure who worked to save all he could.

Brian Clark

Stanley Praimnath was trapped on the 81st floor of the South Tower when the second plane, Flight 175, struck. He was close enough to see the plane approaching, yet he survived the impact. Terrifyingly, he still had no way to escape the teetering tower. Luckily, Brain Clark heard his calls for help and talked him through a challenging escape route. As it turns out, by stopping to help Stanley, Brian also saved himself. Before he heard Stanley’s cries, he was headed to the upper floors to wait for help. The building collapsed within the hour. Those who had continued up the tower never made it out.

Michael Benfante and John Cerqueira

Two colleagues, Michael Benfante and John Cerqueira, were in the North Tower when the planes hit. Most people would be desperate to get out, but when the two men ran into a woman in a wheelchair on the 68th floor, they didn’t hesitate to stop. Together, they strapped Tina Hansen to a lightweight emergency chair and carried her down endless flights of treacherous stairs. Thanks to their selflessness and determination, all three of them survived.

Frank De Martini and Pablo Ortiz

Construction manager Frank De Martini and construction instructor Pablo Ortiz were both in the North Tower when it was hit. Instead of scrambling to safety, they took it upon themselves to rescue as many people as they possibly could. Many were trapped on the tower’s 88th and 89th floors, so the two men went into action. They opened jammed elevator doors, cleared debris, and directed people to safe escape routes. The North Tower collapsed while they were still inside. Before it did, however, they saved over 50 others.

Jason Thomas and Dave Karnes

Although members of the military eventually retire, their dedication to their country does not. Former Marine sergeants Jason Thomas and Dave Karnes had both been out of the military for some time. Yet, when they heard about the attack on the World Trade Center, they put their uniforms back on. Karnes was all the way in Connecticut when he sped off to New York at 120 mph to help.

He ran into Thomas at the site of the collapsed towers and together they began searching through the rubble. They identified two New York Port Authority police officers, William Jimeno and John McLoughlin, trapped 20 feet below the surface. Both men were seriously injured, but after a total of 11 hours they were both successfully rescued. Karnes later reenlisted, serving two tours of duty in Iraq.

Rick Rescorla

Cyril Richard Rescorla was born in Britain, but his dedication to the United States is unmatched. A Vietnam Vet with a Silver Star, police officer, and private security specialist, Rescorla had frequently warned the Port Authority that the World Trade Center was vulnerable. At the time of the attack, Rescorla was working as head of corporate security for Morgan Stanley in the South Tower, and when his fears were realized he dove in to help.

When the first plane hit the tower across from his, Rescorla was directed to keep his employees at their desks, but he ignored this order. Instead, he issued an evacuation order, walking employees through the emergency procedures he had made them rehearse time and time again. He had evacuated over 2,700 employees and visitors in just 16 minutes when the second plane struck the building they had just escaped from. Throughout the tense evacuation, his steady voice singing “God Bless America” and “Men of Harlech” rang out through a bullhorn, giving people strength and calm.

According to The New Yorker, he called his wife during the evacuation to tell her, “Stop crying. I have to get these people out safely. If something should happen to me, I want you to know I’ve never been happier. You made my life.”

He was last seen on the 10th floor of the South Tower on his way to find any who had been left behind.

Maj. Heather Penney and Col. Marc Sasseville

When Major Heather Penney and Colonel Marc Sasseville learned of the initial attacks, the two National Guard pilots prepared to intercept United Flight 93, the fourth and final hijacked plane. They aimed their two F-16s directly at the wayward Boeing 757…except they were completely unarmed. The only way for them to stop the plane would be to ram into it- essentially a suicide mission.

“We had to protect the airspace any way we could,” Maj. Heather Penney told The Washington Post in 2011. “We wouldn’t be shooting it down. We’d be ramming the aircraft. I would essentially be a kamikaze pilot.”

Fortunately, the passengers and crew of Flight 93 took on the job themselves. While Penney and Sasseville never had to complete their death-sentence mission, they were fully prepared to go down with their aircraft to protect others from harm.

Army Spc. Beah Doboszenski

On September 11, 2001, Army Spc. Beah Doboszenski was just a tour guide at the Pentagon. He was working on the opposite side of the building, so far away that he didn’t even hear the plane hit. The former volunteer firefighter and EMT didn’t hesitate to volunteer his services, however, racing to the site of the crash. He had to evade police officers and go around barricades to find a medical triage station and begin giving medical care to countless victims.

He then voluntarily ran back into the building to search for survivors while the building was still in flames. He gave medical aid to the injured outside, then went back into the building while it was still in flames. Former Vice President Joe Biden said of Doboszenski’s heroic act, “When people started streaming out of the building and screaming, he sprinted toward the crash site. For hours, he altered between treating his co-workers and dashing into the inferno with a team of six men.”

Last but not least, Roselle

Some heroes have two legs, but some have four. Roselle, a guide dog, was on the 78th floor with her blind owner, Michael Hingson, when the plane hit. She guided him all the way down to safety. Without her, he most likely wouldn’t have made it out alive. The heroic pup lived a long, happy life until her passing in June 2011, and her owner has since written a book in her honor.

These are just a few of the innumerable heroes of 9/11. To the police officers, firefighters, military personnel, and ordinary citizens who brought light to one of America’s darkest days: We humbly thank you.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This sailor earned the Medal of Honor for saving his crew from an Israeli attack

The officers of the USS Liberty were sunbathing on the decks of their ship on June 8, 1967, just outside of Egypt’s territorial waters. Not too far away, Egypt was in the middle of the Six Day War with the Israelis, who would occupy the Sinai Peninsula by the war’s end.


The peaceful day aboard the intelligence-gathering ship was destroyed when Israeli Mirage and Mystere jets tore through the air – and dropped ordnance that ripped through the Liberty’s hull.

 

The suicidal way China scored its first World War II victory against Japan
McGonagle shows the damaged Liberty in June 1967 (U.S. Navy photo)

Commander William McGonagle was severely wounded as the Israelis fired rockets, dropped napalm on the bridge, and then strafed his ship. He still managed to call his crew to quarters and take command of the Liberty from the bridge. The ship was on fire, men were dead and wounded, and McGonagle himself was burned by napalm and losing blood.

The Liberty was not a warship but a lightly-armed, converted freighter — a holdover from World War II. Her mission was to collect signals intelligence and radio intercepts on the war between the Arabs and Israelis but not to get involved in the fighting or violate Egyptian sovereignty.

With his ship still in range of the U.S. 6th Fleet, Cmdr. McGonagle radioed the USS Saratoga, which sent 12 fighters to assist. Those fighters were recalled on orders from Washington. The Israeli fighters eventually let up and disappeared on their own. But that wasn’t the end of the attack. When they were gone, three Israeli torpedo boats opened up on the American ship and blew a 40-foot hole in the Liberty’s hull.

The suicidal way China scored its first World War II victory against Japan
The hole in USS Liberty’s hull from an Israeli torpedo. (U.S. Navy photo)

The armaments on the USS Liberty were totally outmatched. The ship was carrying only four .50-caliber machine guns, a far cry from the Egyptian ship Israelis claim shelled the coastline that morning. The Liberty was a sitting duck.

Of the ship’s 294 men, 34 were killed in the attack and 171 were wounded.

With his ship burning and flooded, McGonagle directed the maneuvering of his ship for 17 hours while critically wounded. He refused medical treatment until he was convinced more critically wounded members of his crew were treated. He didn’t give up command until the Liberty encountered a U.S. destroyer.

For his gallantry and determination, McGonagle was awarded the Medal of Honor.

The suicidal way China scored its first World War II victory against Japan

Israel maintained that its attack on the Liberty was a mistake, that the planes were looking for an Egyptian ship, the El Quseir. Some find this troublesome, considering the El Quseir was a very different size than the Liberty and had a very different profile. Still, The IDF’s own inquiry says the Israeli Chief of Naval Operation did not know the Liberty was in the area. The captains of the torpedo boats maintained that closer identification was impossible because the Liberty was “enveloped in smoke.”

McGonagle’s official account of the incident corroborates the Israeli account, but the crew of the Liberty aren’t so certain. A 2002 BBC Documentary includes interviews with the Liberty’s crew, Israeli officials, and even Robert McNamara, the U.S. Secretary of Defense at the time.

“I was never satisfied with the Israeli explanation,” then-Secretary of State Dean Rusk said of the Liberty Incident “Their sustained attack to disable and sink Liberty precluded an assault by accident or some trigger-happy local commander. … I didn’t believe them then, and I don’t believe them to this day. The attack was outrageous.”

There are numerous conspiracy theory-related sites, some even run by Liberty crewmembers, that call into question some of the actions of the Israeli forces and of the orders from Washington. Some of these theories include:

• The Liberty was attacked to keep the U.S. from knowing about Israel’s upcoming attack on Syria.

• Trying to draw the U.S. into a greater anti-Arab war.

• Hiding Israeli war crimes (alleged massacres of Egyptian POWs).

• Israelis using unmarked aircraft.

• Torpedo boats machine gunning life rafts.

• Jamming radio signals meant that Israel knew the frequency the ships would be on– and thus knew they were American.

Official accounts (including from McGonagle) maintain that the Israeli torpedo ships halted mid-attack and offered assistance once the identity of Liberty was ascertained. The Americans politely declined.

Though Israel has apologized for the incident and paid reparations to the sailors’ families, many among the crew of the Liberty believe the U.S. still downplays the attack on their ship to kowtow to their longtime ally.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The 4 most poorly named military weapons

Some military vehicles are given names that accurately reflect what they do and how well they do it. Others, however, are not so fortunate — they’re given military monikers that simply don’t fit.

The following tools of war were either given names so lofty that it makes a mockery of their actual performance or a name so low-class that it’s a disgrace to the weapon.


The suicidal way China scored its first World War II victory against Japan

At Midway, the Devastator got devastated by Mitsubishi A6M “Zeke” fighters.

(U.S. Navy)

Douglas TBD Devastator

This plane’s name would have you thinking it’s something that can deliver a huge amount of firepower, sufficient enough to destroy whatever ship lays in its path. Unfortunately, this was far from the reality of the Douglas TBD Devastator.

At the Battle of Midway, a total of 41 Devastators attacked the Japanese carriers. Torpedo Squadron Eight, based on the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV 8) and accounted for 15 of those Devastators — all of which were wiped out. In total, only six Devastators survived. ‘Devastated’ is a much more fitting title.

The suicidal way China scored its first World War II victory against Japan

The KC-97 Stratofreighter was really an aerial refueling tanker, as seen in action with these A-7 Corsairs.

(USAF)

Boeing KC-97 Stratofreighter

This plane found quite a bit of success in its lifetime: 811 were built by the United States and it saw plenty of peacetime work. It was introduced in 1951 and stuck around until 1978 with the Air National Guard. So, what makes ‘Stratofreighter’ such a poor name choice?

This plane wasn’t a transport — it was a tanker. This plane refueled the bombers and fighters who took the fight to the enemy. Really, this plane should have been called the ‘Stratotanker’ (a name later used by the KC-135) because there’s no ‘freighter’ involved.

The suicidal way China scored its first World War II victory against Japan

The only things mauled by the MIM-46 Mauler were the reputations of those who thought it was a good idea.

(U.S. Army)

MIM-46 Mauler

This missile was intended, as the name implies, to maul enemy planes that approached on close-air support missions. Well, as it turns out, the only mauling the missile did was in theory. In reality, it suffered from all sorts of problems, ranging from failing launch canisters to malfunctioning guidance systems.

Ultimately, the Army instead turned to the MIM-72 Chaparral and Navy went with the RIM-7 Sea Sparrow. The MIM-46 was test fired in 1961 and, by 1965, the Mauler mauled no more.

The suicidal way China scored its first World War II victory against Japan

This was what the M247 Sergeant York was supposed to be. Reality was very different.

(U.S. Army)

M247 Sergeant York

Sergeant Alvin York was known for his marksmanship, earning the Medal of Honor for heroic acts performed during World War I. The M247 Sergeant York, conversely, was anything but a marksman. When it came time to test this vehicle, which was equipped with a pair of 40mm cannon and the radar of the F-16, it couldn’t even hit a hovering drone. The radar simply couldn’t track anything.

Surely, Sergeant York rolled in his grave over sharing a name with this lemon.

What weapons do you think have unfortunate names? Let us know in the comments!

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why President Truman turned down the Medal of Honor

Whenever he awarded the Medal of Honor as President of the United States, Harry Truman always remarked that he would rather have had the medal than be President. But when the time came for him to receive one he not only made it known he wouldn’t accept it, he actively blocked every effort.


In 1971, the former President was pushing 87 years old. Congress moved to award him the Medal he always wanted, but upon first hearing about it, “Give ’em Hell Harry” squashed any notion of the award.

 

The suicidal way China scored its first World War II victory against Japan
Sitting President Richard Nixon visiting Truman at the Truman Library in 1969.

“I don’t consider that I have done anything which should be the reason for any award, Congressional or otherwise,” Truman wrote upon hearing about the idea.

The former President was appreciative and considered the thought behind the move as an honor in and of itself. He sent a letter to his former political ally and Representative in Congress, William J. Randall, to be read to the chamber while it was in session.

The gist of the letter was that the Medal of Honor was an award for bravery in combat. Giving it to Truman just because he’s a former President would water down the award’s importance.

The suicidal way China scored its first World War II victory against Japan
Truman presented hundreds of Medals of Honor as President.

“Therefore, I close by saying thanks, but I will not accept a Congressional Medal of Honor,” he wrote in 1971. The former President and WWI artillery officer would die in December 1972 — the very next year — at age 88.

“Harry S. Truman will be remembered as one of the most courageous Presidents in our history, who led the Nation and the world through a critical period with exceptional vision and determination,” President Nixon wrote of Truman when he died. “Embroiled in controversy during his Presidency, his stature in the eyes of history has risen steadily ever since. He did what had to be done, when it had to be done.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

This wooden jet fighter showed just how desperate Germany was

By early 1944, the Germany and the Luftwaffe were in a bad state. Allied bombing had a devastating effect on oil supplies and the new P-51 Mustang was killing German pilots faster than they could be trained. Though Germany was developing the twin-engined Me 262 jet fighter to combat the allied bombers, Hitler’s constant interference and the strain on resources delayed the program. Luftwaffe Supreme Commander Reichmarschall Hermann Göring and Armaments Minister Albert Speer proposed the alternative solution of a single-engined jet fighter that was cheap and easy to produce and could be flown with very little training. Their idea was approved and a contract was issued for the Volksjäger, or “People’s Fighter”.

The Volksjäger requirements called for a single engine to reduce cost and construction complexity. Its airframe would be made primarily of wood and non-strategic metals since Germany’s reserve of war materials was dwindling. Moreover, the design had to be simple and able to be constructed by semi and non-skilled labor, including slave labor. The contract also required that the plane be easy to fly with very little experience, though this was more a sign of Germany’s desperation. “[The] unrealistic notion that this plane should be a ‘people’s fighter,’ in which the Hitler Youth, after a short training regimen with clipped-wing two-seater gliders like the DFS Stummel-Habicht, could fly for the defense of Germany, displayed the unbalanced fanaticism of those days,” recalled the plane’s designer, Dr. Ernst Heinkel, after the war.

Heinkel’s design, the He 162 Spatz (Sparrow), was selected on September 25, 1944. Incredibly, the first prototype flew less than 90 days later on December 6. Though the first flight was successful, it was noted that some of the glue holding the wooden frame together started to fail. The second test flight on December 10 saw a similar glue failure that caused the aileron to separate from the wing and resulted in a crash that killed the pilot. Still, Germany was desperate and testing pressed on without addressing the glue issue.

The suicidal way China scored its first World War II victory against Japan
The Hinterbrühl facility was captured in April 1945 (German Federal Archives)

Though the He 162 was supposed to be flown by Hitler Youth, the aircraft turned out to be too complex and required a more experienced pilot at the controls. A small number of training gliders were built and delivered to a Hitler Youth squadron at Sagan. However, the unit was in the process of forming when the war ended and did not undergo any training.

Despite the need for trained pilots, production of the He 162 began at Salzburg and the underground facilities at Hinterbrühl and Mittelwerk. The first operational unit received the He 162 in February 1945. Despite heavy allied bombing of German industry and air bases, I./JG 1 (First Fighter Wing) began training on the new jet in March and saw their first action with it the next month.

On April 19, the He 162 scored its first kill when Feldwebel Günther Kirchner shot down an RAF fighter. While on approach to land, the vulnerable jet fighter was shot down by another RAF fighter. Both the plane and pilot were lost. Though more victories were scored in April, I./JG 1 lost 13 He 162s and 10 pilots. However, only two were actually shot down. The other planes were lost due to mechanical failure, structural failure, or running out of fuel.

The suicidal way China scored its first World War II victory against Japan
A captured He 162 in France and later brought to the U.S. (U.S. National Archives)

On May 5, the squadron was grounded following the surrender of German forces in the Netherlands, Northwest Germany, and Denmark. Unlike other German squadrons with experimental aircraft, I./JG 1 did not destroy their planes. Rather, they turned them over to the British on May 6 who distributed them among the other allied nations for evaluation.

After the war, allied research found that the He 162 was actually a capable and well-designed fighter. Its inherent problems were the result of its rushed production. If the Germans had the time and resources for proper testing and evaluation, the plane could have been a serious threat to allied air superiority.

Today, many examples of the He 162 survive in museums including the RAF Museum in London and the Smithsonian Institute’s Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

The suicidal way China scored its first World War II victory against Japan
The He 162 at the National Air and Space Museum (Smithsonian Institute)
MIGHTY HISTORY

That time the British torched the White House

It’s hard to imagine that anyone could ever come close enough to set fire to the White House. Well, at least, it’s tough to imagine that in today’s world. But back in 1814, the White House wasn’t as heavily guarded or fortified, making it an easy target for retaliation-hungry British troops.

In fact, British troops just walked up to the house and set it on fire on a fateful day in August 1814. The Burning of Washington was a retaliation attack for the American burning of Toronto and much of America’s capital was set on fire. Little remained of the original city, including the original White House.

Causes and Reasons for the War of 1812

The year was 1814. The United States was engaged in the War of 1812 against the British Empire. We’d been fighting them and their allies for two long years. Battles were rough and fierce, and it seemed like the war would never end. Then some British troops decided to burn down the White House – which had serious consequences.

There were lots of reasons for the war, but there were two big reasons. First, there were really strict regulations on American trade and secondly, the UK was falsely imprisoning American seamen. Plus, the Brits weren’t exactly happy about the fact that America was pushing its boundaries and trying to expand in all directions.

The War of 1812 had serious impacts on all things in America. And since the country was still so fresh and new, it also had lasting consequences. Along with significant defeats by the British, Canadian, and indigenous armies, the War of 1812 brought about one of the most monumental moments of American history – the burning of the White House.

America is all about rebuilding

Even though the White House almost completely burned to the ground, America wasn’t going to give up that easily. Or that quickly. Only the south wall remained standing after the fire, but that didn’t deter those early Americans, because that’s what our country is all about – facing adversaries and coming out stronger. Of course, that was a little easier said than done.

Of course, it wasn’t just the loss of the White House that was devastating. Adding insult to injury, the British soldiers completely ransacked the place before they set it on fire. Of everything they took, only two items have been recovered to this day. A portrait of George Washington has been returned along with a jewelry box that apparently belonged to America’s first president. (No one knows if that’s true or not, but it makes a fun bit of American lore.)

Reconstruction on the White House took until 1817. During that time, President James Madison lived in the Octagon House and a residence called the Seven Buildings. The south portico was built in 1824, and the north portico was added in 1830.

Today’s White House might not be the original structure, but it still stands for the same things – democracy, freedom, and America.

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