Christopher Lee: Film Legend and World War II Hero - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Christopher Lee: Film Legend and World War II Hero

Christopher Lee cemented himself as an icon of the silver screen. During his long and prestigious acting career he was in hundreds of films. His most notable roles were Dracula and later the Wizard Saruman in The Lord of the Rings. However, long before his acting career began, Lee had a lesser known, but just as impressive, career in the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and the British Army during World War II.


Lee enlisted in the RAF in 1940. He worked as an intelligence officer and specialized in decoding German cyphers. In 1943 Lee was seconded to the Army in an officer swap scheme. After this swap he served with the Gurkhas of the 8th Indian Infantry Division during the Battle of Monte Cassino.

There is little known about much of Lee’s time in service, as his records remain classified and he was “reluctant” to discuss anything to do with his service. Between the time he enlisted in the RAF and he was seconded to the Army, Lee was attached to the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG), which was the precursor to the Special Air Service (SAS). When pressed about his time serving with the SAS Lee said, “I was attached to the SAS from time to time, but we are forbidden – former, present, or future – to discuss any specific operations. Let’s just say I was in Special Forces and leave it at that. People can read into that what they like.”

After his time with the LRDG, Lee was assigned to the Special Operations Executive (SOE). During his time with the SOE, he conducted espionage, sabotage, and reconnaissance in the Axis occupied Europe. During his final few months of service Lee, who was fluent in several languages including French and German, was tasked with tracking down Nazi war criminals alongside the Central Registry of War Criminals.

When Lee described his time with the organization he stated, “We were given dossiers of what they’d done, and told to find them, interrogate them as much as we could and hand them over to the appropriate authority.” Lee retired from the RAF in 1946 as a Flight Lieutenant. Post retirement he was decorated for battlefield bravery by the Czech, Yugoslav, British, and Polish governments.

Christopher Lee: Film Legend and World War II Hero

Flying Officer C. F. C. Lee in Vatican City, 1944, soon after the Liberation of Rome. (Wikimedia Commons.)

Not long after his retirement from the RAF, Lee began his film career. It wasn’t long before he proved himself as a true legend of the film industry. This legendary icon of the silver screen, Sir Christopher Lee, passed away in June of 2015 after a lengthy battle with heart problems. His loss was greatly mourned by those who knew him, and those who loved him through his prolific work on screen.

Sir Christopher Lee will always be remembered for his iconic roles in major motion pictures, it can be said that he was one of, if not the, most prolific actors in motion picture history. However, the life he led before his film career is one that should be remembered and celebrated as well. Though details remain unknown and classified, and he never truly spoke of them, his service during World War II was nothing short of heroic. The world will never know what men like Christopher Lee did during the war, but they are heroes nonetheless.

In an interview with a somewhat eager reporter, Lee showed his cheeky yet firm stance on the discussion of his time with the SAS during the war. He leaned forward and whispered to the reporter, “Can you keep a secret?” The interviewer replied with an excited, “Yes!” Lee smiled and leaned back in his chair as he replied, “So can I.”


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This American bomber-killing missile had a nuclear punch

In the early days of the Cold War, the United States was working on developing advanced surface-to-air missiles to intercept Soviet bombers. The first and only missile for a while that fit the Air Force’s bill was dubbed the “Bomarc.”


According to Designation-Systems.net, the missile was first called the XF-99, as the Air Force was trying to pass it off as an unmanned fighter. Eventually, the Air Force switched to calling the Bomarc the IM-99.

Christopher Lee: Film Legend and World War II Hero
An IM-99 Bombarc launches on Aug. 21 1958, as part of the testing to prepare it for deployment. (USAF photo)

The system made its first flight in 1952, but development was a long process, with the IM-99A becoming operational in September 1959. The IM-99A had a range of 250 miles, a top speed of Mach 2.8, and could carry either a 1,000-pound high-explosive warhead or a 10-kiloton W40 warhead.

The IM-99A had a problem, though – its liquid fuel needed to be loaded into the booster before launch, a process that took about two minutes. The fueling was not exactly a safe process, and the fuel itself wasn’t entirely stable. So, the Air Force developed a version with a solid booster. The IM-99B would end up being a quantum leap in capability. Its speed increased to Mach 3, it had a range of 440 miles, and only carried the nuclear warhead.

Christopher Lee: Film Legend and World War II Hero
Boeing CIM-10 Bomarc at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Bomarc also has the distinction of making Canada a nuclear power. Well, sort of. Canada bought two squadrons’ worth of the missiles, replacing the CF-105 Arrow interceptor. Canada’s Bomarcs did have the nuclear warhead, operated under a dual-key arrangement similar to that used by West Germany’s Pershing I missiles.

The Bomarc, though, soon grew obsolete, and by the end of 1972 they were retired. However, the Bomarc would end up sharing the same fate as many old fighters, as many of the missiles were eventually used as target drones since their speed and high-altitude capability helped them simulate heavy Russian anti-ship missiles like the AS-4 Kitchen and AS-6 Kingfish.

Christopher Lee: Film Legend and World War II Hero
A former RCAF Bomarc converted to the CQM-10B target drone configuration launches. (USAF photo)

Over 700 Bomarcs were produced. Not a bad run at all for this missile.

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How Navajo code talkers saved Marines in WWII

Growing up on the Navajo reservation in New Mexico and Arizona, Chester Nez endured many indignities at the hands of the U.S. government.


During the Great Depression, the federal government slaughtered his family’s sheep herd, destroying their livelihood. Shipped off to Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding schools at the age of eight, he wasn’t even allowed to keep his Navajo name — administrators assigned him the name Chester in honor of President Chester A. Arthur. If teachers caught him speaking his native language, they beat him or washed his mouth out with a bar of soap.

Yet when U.S. Marine Corps recruiters arrived in Tuba City, Arizona in the spring of 1942, looking for young men fluent in Navajo and English, Nez volunteered for duty. It was less than six months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the Navy had suffered a string of defeats in the South Pacific.

“I thought about how my people were mistreated,” he later said. “But then I thought this would be my chance to do something for my country.”
Christopher Lee: Film Legend and World War II Hero

Chester Nez during World War II

Nez’s amazing sense of patriotic duty was a perfect fit for the secret program he was about to enter. The program was the brainchild of Philip Johnston, a 50-year-old civil engineer and World War I veteran who had read about the military’s need for a fast and secure means of encoding battlefield communications. As a member of the American Expeditionary Force in France during WWI, Johnston knew that Native American soldiers had transmitted messages in their tribal languages by telephone. The dialects, including Choctaw, Comanche, and Cherokee, were completely unknown to any Germans who might be listening in, giving the army a crucial advantage. Choctaw soldiers even developed a code based on their language for extra security, although it was never used in battle.

Johnston believed that Navajo represented an even greater opportunity to develop an indecipherable code — especially since the Germans had studied Choctaw in the interwar period. The son of missionaries, Johnston had grown up on the Navajo reservation and was fluent in the language, whose syntax and tonality make it incredibly complex. Depending on inflection and pronunciation, a single word can have as many as four distinct meanings. At the time, there was no Navajo alphabet — it remained an unwritten language spoken only on the reservation. While German anthropologists and journalists, including the Nazi propagandist Dr. Colin Ross, had studied other Native American tribes in the years after WWI, they did not make a subject of the Navajo. Johnston estimated that less than thirty people outside of the tribe had any familiarity with the dialect.

Christopher Lee: Film Legend and World War II Hero

A group of code talkers who took part in 1943’s Bougainville campaign

(USMC)

In February 1942, Johnston traveled to Camp Elliott in San Diego, California to present his idea to Lieutenant Colonel James E. Jones of the Signal Corps. Initially Jones was skeptical, but he gave Johnston the go-ahead to stage a demonstration for Major General Clayton B. Vogel, commander of the First Marine Division, Amphibious Corps of the Pacific Fleet. Johnston recruited four Navajos from the Los Angeles shipyards and brought them to San Diego for the test. They were divided into teams of two, sent to opposite ends of the building, and given six messages to encode and transmit via field telephones. After some quick word substitutions — “dive bomber” became “chicken hawk” (gini) — the Navajos were able to accurately translate the messages from English into Navajo and back again within seconds. Using standard cryptographic equipment of the day, the same task would have taken 30 minutes to complete.

Impressed by the demonstration, Vogel submitted a request to the Commandant of the Marine Corps to recruit and train 200 Navajos as communications specialists. The first 29 enlistees, Chester Nez among them, arrived at the San Diego Marine Corps Recruit Depot in May, 1942. Most had never been off the reservation before, and some had never even taken a bus or a train. Many had lied about their ages in order to sign up. After completing basic training, the members of 382nd Platoon, nicknamed “The Navajo School,” were sent to Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, California, and tasked with developing a code that was simple, fast, and reliable enough to be used in battlefield conditions.

The code they developed with the help of Signal Corps officers had two parts. First, hundreds of common military terms were assigned Navajo synonyms. “Submarine” became “iron fish” (besh-lo). “Colonel” became “silver eagle” (atsah-besh-le-gai). “Battleship” was “whale” (lo-tso); “fighter plane” was “hummingbird” (da-he-tih-hi); “America” was “our mother” (ne-he-mah); and so on. Next, each letter of the Roman alphabet was given up to three corresponding Navajo words. For example, “A” could be encoded as wol-la-chee (“ant”), be-la-sana (“apple”), or tse-nill (“axe”). “N” was tsah (“needle”) or a-chin (“nose”). Using this system, the Navajos could spell any English word while minimizing the repetitions that might allow enemy listeners to break the code.

In August 1942, the first group of Navajo code talkers completed their training and reported for duty at Guadalcanal. They were assigned to combat units and given field telephones and radios to transmit bombing coordinates, tactical orders, troop movements, etc. Messages written in English were encrypted by a code talker and radioed to a compatriot who had committed the entire code to memory. He would render the message back into English and pass it along; the written copies were destroyed immediately. In his memoir, Code Talker, Chester Nez recounted his first transmission: Beh-na-ali-tsosie a-knah-as-donih ah-toh nish-na-jih-goh dah-di-kad ah-deel-tahi (“Enemy machine gun nest on your right flank. Destroy”).

Christopher Lee: Film Legend and World War II Hero

Three of the original code talkers being honored by President George Bush in 2001

All told, more than 400 Navajo code talkers served in WWII. They played key roles in every major Marine engagement in the Pacific, including Okinawa, Tarawa, Bougainville, Saipan, Guam, and Peleliu. At Iwo Jima, six code talkers worked round the clock for the first two days of the battle, relaying more than 800 messages without error. According to Major Howard Connor, a signal officer in the 5th Marine Division, “were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima.”

The Japanese were skilled code breakers, yet they never managed to decipher the Navajo code. Even a Navajo soldier captured at Bataan (who was untrained as a code talker) could make neither heads nor tails of the encrypted messages he was forced to listen to–the strings of unrelated words sounded like gibberish to him. After the war, he told his Navajo comrades, “I never figured out what you guys who got me into all that trouble were saying.”

In addition to storming beaches, hunkering down in foxholes, and enduring the stifling heat and humidity of jungle combat, the code talkers faced an unexpected danger: U.S. soldiers who mistook them for the enemy. At Guadalcanal, a Navajo named William McCabe was in a chow line when someone yelled, “Halt, or I’m gonna shoot!” and dragged him off to be interrogated. Chester Nez was “captured” by US troops on the island of Anguar. They put a .45 pistol to his head and accused him of being a Japanese soldier impersonating a Marine. A superior officer had to step in to defuse the situation.

Christopher Lee: Film Legend and World War II Hero

Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton hosts a commemoration ceremony for the Navajo Code Talkers at 1st Marine Division Headquarters, Sept. 28, 2015.

(USMC photo by Cpl. Asia J. Sorenson)

After the war, Nez and his fellow code talkers returned to face the hardships of life on the reservation. New Mexico did not grant Navajos the right to vote until 1948. Jobs were scarce, and although the G.I. Bill provided veterans with financing for a home loan, many banks refused to grant loans to Navajos because they held reservation land parcels in trust and had no proof of title. When he went to a federal building in his USMC uniform to register for an identity card, Nez was told that he wasn’t a “full citizen” of the United States. To make matters even more difficult, the Navajo code was so valuable that the program remained classified for more than two decades after the war. The code talkers weren’t allowed to discuss the details of their service, and their incredible skill and bravery went unrecognized.

Thankfully, all that changed in 1968, when the code program was finally declassified. In 1971, President Richard M. Nixon presented the code talkers with a certificate of appreciation for their “patriotism, courage, and resourcefulness.” In 2001, the original members of The Navajo School were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President George W. Bush. Theirs is one of the most incredible stories of WWII: As boys, they were forbidden to speak their native language. As young men, they used that same language to save thousands of American lives, help to turn the tide of the war in the Pacific, and create one of the only unbroken codes in the history of modern warfare.

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

VA video series receives Emmy Award

A video story produced by VA focusing on a veteran boxing training program at Gleason’s Gym – America’s oldest active boxing gym – received an Emmy Award at a ceremony June 22, 2019, in Bethesda, Maryland.

The National Capital Chesapeake Bay Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences recognized the segment produced for VA’s “The American Veteran” video series, and honored the series with its second Emmy since the show was relaunched in 2017 after a three-year hiatus.

The recognition was announced at the 61st annual regional Emmy Awards ceremony and was presented in the Health/Science – Program Feature/Segment category. The segment, titled “The American Veteran: Veteran Boxing Training,” was produced, shot and edited by VA’s digital team, which is part of the Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs (OPIA).


The production team included lead producer/photographer/editor Ben Pekkanen, co-producer Timothy Lawson, executive producer Lyndon Johnson, and VA NY Harbor Healthcare System Adaptive Sports Program’s developer, Jonathan Glasberg.

Historic New York boxing gym opens its doors to Veterans

www.youtube.com

Located on the banks of the East River in the DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) neighborhood of Brooklyn, Gleason’s Gym is owned and operated by Vietnam veteran Bruce Silverglade. Silverglade, who has owned the gym since 1983, had long been interested in creating a training program for veterans, but wasn’t sure he could do it on his own. “I got a call from the VA hospital in Manhattan, from a fella by the name of Jonathan,” said Silverglade. “He came over to talk to me about a program they had.”

Christopher Lee: Film Legend and World War II Hero

In the following weeks, Silverglade and VA’s New York Harbor Healthcare System’s clinical coordinator for prosthetics, Dr. Jonathan Glasberg, developed the framework for the veterans in the Ring boxing training program offered at Gleason’s Gym.

The video is one part of VA’s ongoing effort to engage and reach out to the veteran community directly. The VA digital portfolio includes: more than 150 Facebook pages, most of which belong to individual VA medical centers; the VAntage Point blog; nearly 100 Twitter feeds; Instagram; a Flickr photo library; and a YouTube channel. The department also distributes the “Borne the Battle” podcast.

Christopher Lee: Film Legend and World War II Hero

“The American Veteran” was produced by VA for more than a decade before going on hiatus in 2014. During its active season, the show garnered numerous Telly, CINE and Aurora awards, as well as multiple Emmy awards and nominations.

According to its website, the National Academy of Television Arts Sciences (NATAS) is dedicated to the advancement of the arts and sciences of television and the promotion of creative leadership for artistic, educational and technical achievements within the television industry. NATAS recognizes excellence in television with the coveted Emmy Award; regional Emmys are given in 19 markets across the United States.

Watch the Emmy Award-winning story above or on VA’s YouTube channel.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

How the 6 armies in a North Korean war would be like ‘Game of Thrones’ houses

While on a Christmas tour in the Middle East, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Robert Neller, spoke to the troops and brought up the potential of a future fight in North Korea. He told the troops, “It would be Game of Thrones-like, and a lot of people would get hurt. I might be wrong, but it’s a very complicated issue.” He’s not entirely wrong.


While his words were in reference to the bloodshed and brutality of war, the build up to conflict isn’t too much of a stretch. The fighting in Game of Thrones is brutal and many of the foot soldiers are up against insurmountable odds — much like a full-scale war between several nations. Many of the events in Game of Thrones happen because of a war that took place before the series began — much like the real world after the Korean War.

Christopher Lee: Film Legend and World War II Hero
Grunts on deployment, am I right?

It also doesn’t hurt that both military life and the show have a lot of fighting, sex (including prostitution, unfortunately), and alcohol in them.

Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t caught up to the season finale of season seven, we recommend viewing one of our other great articles. If you have been keeping up with the series or just don’t care about spoilers, please enjoy a nerdy tongue-firmly-in-cheek response proving the Commandant of the USMC is more correct than he lead on.

6. North Korea is basically House Lannister

If you think about it, Kim Jong-un and King Joffery Baratheon have countless similarities. They’re both spoiled, rich, psychopathic brats who paint an image of godliness, who are very privileged thanks to the work of their predecessors, and yet they both demand unwavering respect without doing anything to earn it themselves.

As much as we laugh at the young dictators, they have plenty of power and control. One reason the Lannisters and North Korea weren’t eliminated right away was because of how they retaliate. The Starks won every battle in the War of Five Kings, but were slaughtered at the Red Wedding. The Tyrell line was straight up murdered in a holy place — along with thousands of innocent civilians. Hell, even the Lannister song Rains of Castermere is about how they’ll obliterate anyone in retaliation (damn, it’s a great song, tho…).

In real life, Seoul could suffer the same ruthless fate. Even if without the threat of nuclear warfare, just the conventional artillery on the border laying siege on the South Korean capital could put the death toll in the millions.

Christopher Lee: Film Legend and World War II Hero
They both also throw large feasts while their people starve.

5. South Korea is basically House Targaryen

South Korean history is rich and beautiful, dating back to when the Korean Empire stood tall  much like House Targaryen. They were both overthrown and crushed to near nothingness, but quickly rose to be key powers in their conflicts.

The post-Korean War economy of South Korea was devastated and their military might was worse, just like how the Targaryens would eventually dwindle to just Daenerys Targaryen. With the simple push from a friend (Daenerys’ gift of the dragon eggs and South Korea’s support from the U.S), they are now each among the most intimidating militaries in the world.

The Republic of Korea Armed Forces is one of the most technologically advanced modern militaries, which will be the cornerstone of the next battle, should it come to that.

Just like a Dragon.

Christopher Lee: Film Legend and World War II Hero
That, and they both definitely have air superiority over their enemies.

4. Japan Self-Defense Force is basically the Freefolk from Beyond the Wall

Once a primary enemy of many others on this list, they’re refocused on turning foes into allies to face the real threats.

Now their small populations are the most threatened, making them willing to do whatever it takes to survive.

Christopher Lee: Film Legend and World War II Hero
They are now hand in hand with the Starks/Americans, but we’ll get to that in a second.

3. China is basically House Greyjoy

Each have the most intimidating naval forces in their given worlds, even if they’re not the largest. While the Lannisters (North Korea) could talk a big game and maybe hold their own currently, their strong arm is still House Greyjoy (China.)

The Chinese government also “does not sow” when it comes to taking islands in the South China Sea. On the bright side, the rebels (Theon and Yara Greyjoy AKA Taiwan) who left the main land/house are devoted allies to the Targaryens.

Christopher Lee: Film Legend and World War II Hero
They both also somehow get impressively badass ships out of nowhere.

2. The United States of America is basically House Stark

Which leaves the honorable and — hardest fighting — armies, the Starks and the Americans. Each of the four remaining Starks make up the four branches of the Department of Defense.

The toughest fighter is definitely Jon Snow, our Marine. They even have experience fighting in the last war in the frozen north at (Battle of Chosin Reservoir for Marines and Beyond the Wall for Jon Snow). The special operations of the Special Forces and over all battle skill matches Arya Stark. The invaluable support and “eyes in the sky” that both the Air Force and Bran Stark have will be what makes this war. This leaves Sansa Stark for the Navy, because neither are really fighters — they’re more tactical support.

Christopher Lee: Film Legend and World War II Hero
And are both their militaries lead by someone who the internet thinks is possibly a deity? Yep!

1. Putin is basically a White Walker

The sleeper threat. Though they emerge as the real enemies of the balance in their respective worlds, everyone turns a blind eye to them while they destroy, conquer, and expand their reach. Neither seem interested in having allies, just minions.

It also doesn’t hurt their cause when everyone focuses on them; the Lannisters (North Korea) and Greyjoys (China) benefit. They’re also the primary enemy of the Freefolk (Japan) and, eventually, the Starks (Americans.)

Christopher Lee: Film Legend and World War II Hero
Putin would probably ride a dragon into battle shirtless or something equally douchey though…

MIGHTY TRENDING

Military on standby to evacuate consulate in Iraq

U.S. military forces in Iraq are standing by to help evacuate the U.S. consulate in the southern city of Basra after the State Department’s recent decision to temporarily close the facility because of threats made by Iranian forces.

“If American lives are at risk, then the [Defense Department] will take prudent steps to relocate the personnel from harm,” Army Col. Sean Ryan, spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force- Operation Inherent Resolve, told reporters at the Pentagon on Oct. 2, 2018.

The closure is in response to “increasing and specific threats” from the Iranian government and militias under its control, according to a Sept. 28, 2018 Associated Press report.


Basra, one of three U.S. diplomatic missions in Iraq, has been plagued by violent protests recently over government corruption and poor public services.

In mid-September 2018, three Katyusha rockets were fired at Basra’s airport, which houses the U.S. consulate, by a Shiite militia after it vowed revenge against Iraq protesters for setting fire to the Iranian consulate, the AP reported.

There were no casualties in the rocket attack, but U.S. Ambassador Douglas Silliman decided not to take chances and temporarily close the consulate.

“Ambassador Silliman is a great leader, and he determined that risk is not worth the reward,” Ryan said. “They are just not willing to put up with that. They are diplomats; they are not warfighters, so that is the route that we are going.”

Christopher Lee: Film Legend and World War II Hero

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Antonio Perez and Pvt. Michael Miller, from 2nd Platoon, Bravo Battery, 1-377 Field Artillery Regiment, attached to the 17th Fires Brigade pull security during a joint foot patrol in Basra, Iraq.

He did not have a timeline for the evacuation or how many U.S. military personnel would be involved. “Like I said, American lives are at risk … when asked, we will definitely support,” he said, adding, “It’s still very early in this process.”

But the rocket attack near the U.S. consulate isn’t the only incident involving Iran that has threatened American lives in the region.

Iran launched several ballistic missiles Oct. 1, 2018, toward eastern Syria, targeting militants it blamed for an attack on a military parade in September 2018, the AP reported. The missiles flew over Iraq and impacted at undisclosed locations inside Syria.

The strike came as a surprise to U.S. and coalition forces conducting operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Ryan said.

“These strikes potentially jeopardized the forces on the ground that are actually fighting ISIS and put them in danger,” he said, adding that Iran made no attempt to coordinate or de-conflict with U.S. or coalition forces. “I can tell you that Iran took no such measures, and professional militaries like the coalition and the Russian confederation de-conflict their operations for maximum safety.”

While U.S. forces were not near any of the missile impacts, “anytime anyone just fires missiles through uncoordinated airspace, it’s a threat,” he said.

In the past, Ryan has said that Iran is not known for being accurate with its missile attacks.

“I did say two weeks ago that they have bad aim,” he said. “That hasn’t changed, and that is actually one of the problems with Basra as well. You have folks out there shooting weapons that they may not know how to use.”

The incident is under investigation, he said, stressing that U.S. and coalition forces have no interest in having Iran conduct future strikes for any reason.

“The coalition is not requesting any support,” he said. “We can handle things ourselves; we don’t need anyone else firing into [the] region.”

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

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Warriors in their own words: Battle of the Bulge

The Battle of the Bulge was a Hail Mary pass by a führer who was quickly running out of options. Hitler desperately needed a decisive victory on either his Western or Eastern front. Remembering his series of victories after sneaking through the Ardennes forest in 1940, he went for a repeat in 1944.

On Dec. 16, 200,000 German troops and 1,000 tanks slammed into 80,000 Allied troops. Listen to troops who were there explain what it was like to turn away Hitler’s desperate gambit.


1. Over 1 million men were involved in the battle.

Christopher Lee: Film Legend and World War II Hero

The fighting started with an assault by 200,000 Germans against 80,000 Allied troops. But, as Patton’s Third Army swung north to hit the German flank and other Allied units rushed to the aid of the defenders, 600,000 Allied soldiers pushed back the German force that grew to 500,000 men.

2. The Allied troops who were attacked were primarily there to rest or train.

Christopher Lee: Film Legend and World War II Hero
Pfc. Frank Vukasin of Great Falls, Montana, stops to load a clip into his rifle at Houffalize, Belgium on Jan. 15, 1945. Photo: US Army courtesy of the Eisenhower Archives

The Ardennes was used as a training ground for green units and a recovery area for those coming off the frontline. The Americans in the area were expected to quickly fall or retreat. Hitler’s entire strategy depended on it.

Instead, rookies became veterans overnight and fatigued veterans dug deep to slow the German advance. Anti-tank teams targeted choke points in villages and mountain passes, creating flaming barricades of destroyed German armor that slowed the Blitzkrieg to a crawl.

3. The famous “NUTS!” response to a surrender request was basically bored paratroopers joking around.

Christopher Lee: Film Legend and World War II Hero
Brig. Gen. Anthony C. McAuliffe and Col. Harry Kinnard II at Bastogne after the battle. Photo: US Army courtesy of the Eisenhower Archives.

One of the most famous responses in history to a surrender request took place during the battle. Brig. Gen. Anthony C. McAuliffe responded with “N U T S” centered on a typewritten piece of paper.

McAuliffe had twice said, “Nuts,” when briefed on the surrender request, first to his acting chief of staff that woke him and then to his headquarter staff. When it came time to draft the formal response, McAuliffe couldn’t think of what to write. His men, who had found the “nuts” comments funny, urged him to just respond with those four letters.

4. German soldiers illegally wore American uniforms to sneak behind enemy lines.

Christopher Lee: Film Legend and World War II Hero

A major part of Hitler’s gamble was the belief that he could sow disorder in the American lines by sneaking English-speaking Germans in and having them sabotage equipment.

Instead, American G.I.s quickly discovered some of the imposters and began asking everyone trivia questions about American life to suss out the rest.

5. One of the worst war crimes committed against Allied troops in World War II took place during the battle.

The Malmédy Massacre occurred Dec. 17, 1944, when a group of over 100 Americans, mostly artillerymen with the 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion, were captured by German SS troops taking part in the German attack.

While the exact details are still argued by historians, approximately 84 American soldiers being held as prisoners of war were killed when German machine gunners opened fire on them. At least 21 other prisoners escaped and reported the murders, but the ongoing battle made a proper investigation impossible.

6. Hitler’s generals cautioned strongly against the entire operation.

Christopher Lee: Film Legend and World War II Hero

Hitler began amassing the troops needed for the offensive as far back as Aug. 1944, even though his generals thought the troops could be better used in the fight against Russia. Hitler refused to listen and stayed the course.

Ultimately, the Battle of the Bulge failed and the Americans continued their advance. With the large losses of both men and material Germany suffered in the Battle of the Bulge, the Third Reich was doomed. Hitler would go on to kill himself Apr. 30, 1945 (or, maybe not) and Germany surrendered May 8.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This B-1 pilot says UFOs in Arizona didn’t look like airplanes

A former B-1 bomber pilot who now works as a commercial aviator for American Airlines has spoken out about his recent UFO encounter over the Arizona desert.

Blenus Green and his co-pilot were flying an American Airlines Airbus A321 over Arizona in February 2018, when they were told by Albuquerque-based air traffic controllers that a flight ahead of them had reported a flying object not on radar. The controllers asked him to radio them if he saw anything similar.


Shortly afterwards, Green saw an object, according to recordings of his conversations with the controllers.

“It’s American 1095. Yeah, something just passed over us,” Green said. “I don’t know what it was, but at least two-three thousand feet above us. Yeah, it passed right over the top of us.”

Green was recently interviewed about his experience by a local Texas TV station. “Albuquerque Center asked us if we could look and just be on the lookout and see if we see anything, and I’m like ‘okay,'” Green said.

“So, sure enough, I was looking out the windscreen because I wanted to see if it was there and yeah, I did. I saw it,” Green said.

Green said that the object “was very bright but it wasn’t so bright that you couldn’t look at it,” and that “it didn’t look anything like an airplane.”

He noticed that the object was bright in areas where the sun was not reflecting off the metal. “Normally, if you have an object and the sun is shining this way, the reflection would be on this side, but this was bright all the way around,” he said.

Christopher Lee: Film Legend and World War II Hero
A B-1B Lancer
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman James Richardson)

“It was so bright that you really couldn’t make out what shape it was,” Green said.

With 20 years of flying experience, much of which was spent as a B-1 Lancer pilot in the US Air Force, Green said he wasn’t scared, but interested.

“I was just really fascinated by it. Just trying to figure out what it was because it was so out of the ordinary,” Green said.

Bob Tracey, the vice president of the company that owns the jet that first reported the object, said that his pilot also told him that the object was extremely bright after he was debriefed.

“Like you woke up in the morning and stared at a bright light,” Tracy said. “He said that it passed him at maybe a similar speed that an airliner would.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone… a farewell to Navy veteran and soul singer Bill Withers

Bill Withers died earlier in the week from complications from heart disease at age 81. Withers was known for his amazing vocals, soulful songs and was one of the best soul singers of all time. He was also a veteran of the United States Navy.

His death has resulted in an outpouring of mourning and grief from singers, artists and fans cross the world.

Regarded as one of the best songwriters of his generation, his influence has been seen in multiple genres of music and generations of artists. Withers gave us such classics as ‘Lean On Me,’ ‘Ain’t No Sunshine,’ ‘Grandma’s Hands,’ ‘Just the Two of Us’ and ‘Lovely Day.’

But there is one song that really resonates with veterans. In 1973, Withers released a song he had written while America was still involved in Vietnam.

Bill Withers – I Can’t Write Left Handed

www.youtube.com

Withers was born July 4, 1938, in Slab Fork, West Virginia. He was afflicted with a stutter from the time he was a child. He enlisted in the Navy at 18 where he served as an aircraft mechanic. He had good reason for wanting that field.

Withers told Rolling Stone, “My first goal was, I didn’t want to be a cook or a steward. So I went to aircraft-mechanic school. I still had to prove to people that thought I was genetically inferior that I wasn’t too stupid to drain the oil out of an airplane.”

While he was in the Navy, he was able to do speech therapy so he could stop stuttering. In fact, he stayed in the Navy as long as he could so he could work on his speech. He overcame his stutter using various techniques while also developing an interest in singing and songwriting. After nine years of service, he was discharged in 1965 and moved to Los Angeles to try and break into the music business. Withers worked for the aviation industry during the day while playing local night clubs at night trying to get noticed. His hard work paid off, when in 1970, he was signed to a record contract. His first album came out a year later and his career took off shortly thereafter.

After a couple of years of hits, Withers would write and perform a song that would be hailed as one of the most poignant songs about veterans and the war in Vietnam.

Christopher Lee: Film Legend and World War II Hero

“I Can’t Write Left-Handed” was written from the perspective of a wounded warrior. It wasn’t a political statement, it wasn’t self-righteous, it wasn’t inflammatory. It was simply what he thought Vietnam Veterans went through and what they were going to go through. It was one of the first songs to touch on the mental anguish and post traumatic stress many Vietnam Veterans experienced in the years after the war.

Withers opened the song with a spoken intro….

“We recorded this song on October the 6th. Since then the war’s been declared over. If you’re like me you’ll remember it like anybody remembers any war: one big drag. Lot of people write songs about wars and government … Very social things. But I think about young guys who were like I was when I was young. I had no more idea about any government, or political things or anything. And I think about those kind of young guys now who all of a sudden somebody comes up, and they’re very law-abiding, so if somebody says go they don’t ask any questions they just go. And I can remember not too long ago seeing a young guy with his right arm gone. Just got back. And I asked him how he was doing. He said he was doing all right now but he had thought he was gonna die. He said getting shot at didn’t bother him, it was getting shot that shook him up. And I tried to put myself in his position. Maybe he cried, maybe he said…”

The lyrics then tell us the story of the man with a missing right arm.

Christopher Lee: Film Legend and World War II Hero

I can’t write left handed

Would you please write a letter to my mother
Tell her to tell the family lawyer
Try to get a deferment for my younger brother

Tell the Reverend Harris to pray for me, lord, lord, lord
I ain’t gonna live, I don’t believe I’m going to live to get much older
Strange little man over here in Vietnam, I ain’t never
Bless his heart I ain’t never done nothin’ to, he done shot me in my shoulder

Boot camp we had classes
You know we talked about fightin’, fightin’ everyday
And lookin’ through rosy, rosy colored glasses
I must admit it seemed exciting anyway
But something that day overlooked to tell me
Bullet look better I must say
Rather when they comin’ at you.
But go without the other way

And please call up the Reverend Harris
And tell him to ask the lord to do some good things for me
Tell him, I ain’t gonna live, I ain’t gonna live, I ain’t gonna live to get much older
Strange little man over here in Vietnam, I ain’t never seen, bless his heart I
Ain’t never done nothing to, he done shot me in my shoulder

After a long career with many hits, Withers withdrew from the music industry. He felt that he was too old and that touring and performing were a young man’s game. Withers will go down as one of the true icons of soul and one of the best vocalists of his generation. Let us also remember him for his service to our country as well as using his talent to give a voice to those who served in Vietnam. Rest in peace, Sir.

Christopher Lee: Film Legend and World War II Hero
Articles

This was the badass predecessor to the AC-130 Spooky gunship

The C-47 fulfilled a number of roles in World War II and Korea. It was a supply plane, a plane for dropping paratroopers, and a tow for gliders.


But it was in the Vietnam War that the “Gooney Bird” would get its greatest mission — flying three 7.62mm miniguns through the night to devastate North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces.

Christopher Lee: Film Legend and World War II Hero
Night attack of a U.S. Air Force Douglas AC-47D Spooky gunship over the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) Team 21 compound at Pleiku in May 1969. This time-lapse photo shows the tracer round trajectories. (Photo: U.S. Army Spec. 5 Thomas A. Zangla)

The idea for a side-firing gunship had been floating around military circles since at least 1926. In fact, the technique had been tested successfully in 1927 when 1st Lt. Fred Nelson flew a DH-4 with a mounted .30-cal machine gun and destroyed a target on the ground.

But the Army Air Corps and the Army Air Forces never came around to the idea. It was 1963 before the idea of a side-firing aircraft got another serious test. A C-131B modified with gunsights and a minigun was successful in early tests and the experiment was repeated with a C-47.

Christopher Lee: Film Legend and World War II Hero
The U.S. Air Force AC-47 Dragon aircraft flies missions over South Vietnam in support of allied outposts. (Photo: Public Domain)

The C-47 performed swimmingly as well, and Air Force leader Gen. Curtis LeMay approved the modification of two planes in 1964.

The final combat variant of the AC-47 consisted of the cargo plane with three 7.62mm miniguns mounted on the left side — two in modified portholes near the cargo door and one in the cargo door itself. The triggers for the three guns were connected to a button in the pilot’s compartment.

The pilots would take off with a 7-man crew and seek out small bases and villages under fire by North Vietnamese forces. When fighting popped off, the crew would drop flares out of the open door and the pilot would fly a race track pattern over the target, pouring fire on it the whole time.

Christopher Lee: Film Legend and World War II Hero
Night attack of a U.S. Air Force Douglas AC-47D Spooky gunship over Saigon in 1968. This time lapse photo shows the tracer round trajectories. (Photo: Public Domain)

If the threat was too large for the AC-47, the flares it dropped would light up the target for follow-on fighters. The AC-47 would stay in the area, directing the attacks by other aircraft.

The AC-47, dubbed “Puff, the Magic Dragon,” by an officer who saw it at work, was so effective that the Air Force launched Project Gunship II, the program which resulted in the AC-130 still in service today.

Christopher Lee: Film Legend and World War II Hero
The AC-47D contained three miniguns mounted in the cargo hold. (Photo: Office of Air Force History)

A number of AC-47 pilots and crew members were cited for bravery while serving aboard the plane, including Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. John L. Levitow. Levitow was on an AC-47 that was struck by a mortar round.

Though he was peppered by approximately 40 pieces of shrapnel in the blast, he noticed that a flare — activated by another crewmember just before the blast — was rolling around the cargo area.

The flare had yet to fully ignite, but it was only a matter of time before it would, possibly killing the crew on its own and almost certainly causing the cargo hold of ammunition to go off. Levitow crawled to the flare, held the burning implement against his already wounded body, and moved to the door with it.

He was able to throw it out just before the flare ignited.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump and the Pentagon are split on US withdrawal from Syria

President Donald Trump is sounding off about an immediate withdrawal of US troops from Syria, according to multiple news reports published on April 5, 2018.

But the president reportedly faced some strong opposition from top military officials, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joe Dunford, who warned Trump of the consequences of a rapid withdrawal during a meeting on April 3, 2018.


After Trump ranted about the US “wasting” trillions of dollars in the Middle East during the meeting, he claimed that it had achieved “nothing” in return, according to officials familiar with the discussions.

During the meeting, Dunford reportedly said Trump’s plan was not productive and asked the president for clear instructions on what to do, The Associated Press reported.

Mattis chimed in and argued that a quick pull-out would not only be detrimental to the US, but doing so in a responsible manner would be logistically impossible. Mattis reportedly suggested a one-year withdrawal timeframe instead.

Christopher Lee: Film Legend and World War II Hero
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
(DOD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

Trump then countered and gave officials five to six months to destroy the Islamic State and then withdraw, officials told The Associated Press.

Trump also indicated that he expects the military to succeed in destroying ISIS by October 2018.

The reservations that Mattis and Dunford have expressed about US troops leaving Syria too quickly may be rooted in worries that ISIS militants are looking for ways to regroup in the region,according to the Military Times.

“Daesh is not over,” a commander of the US-backed Manbij Military Council said, referring to the transliteration of ISIS’s Arabic acronym. “Daesh still has cells present in all areas and every now and then there are problems in areas where the cells are still operating.”

Around 2,000 US troops are in Syria as of December 2017. Four US soldiers have been killed in action since the US became involved about three and a half years ago as part of Operation Inherent Resolve.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Thousands more died in the Nazi blitz due to ignored spy reports

Imagine you had some of the world’s best spymasters, espionage rings, and analysts in the world, that intellectuals around the world were enamored with you and wanted to feed you information, and that all of that intelligence was needed to protect your massive military as it faced off against an existential threat to your people, your government, and your nation.

Then imagine you ignored all of that information because, like, can you ever really trust a spy?


Christopher Lee: Film Legend and World War II Hero

Richard Sorge, one of the most successful (and dead) spies of World War II.

(Bundesarchiv)

That was the reality for many of the spies in World War II, especially Richard “Ika” Sorge, whose spy reports gave a detailed breakdown of the Nazi blitz preparing to smash into the Soviet Union. He watched his nation fail to marshal its troops to face the threat.

Sorge born in 1895 to a German engineer working in Baku, Azerbajin, then a part of the Russian Empire and a major oil-producing region. He served in World War I with the German military but fell in love with communist ideology. After the war, he began teaching Marxism and got a PhD in political theory.

He moved to Moscow in 1924 and was recruited into Soviet intelligence and sent to China, then Japan. Through a surprising bit of luck, Sorge was able to meet up with a German officer named Lt. Col. Eugen Ott in Japan and become a member of the Nazi party.

Christopher Lee: Film Legend and World War II Hero

Richard Sorge was wounded in World War I.

(Photo by Eva Tilden)

As the conflicts that would flare up into World War II grew, Sorge was a member of the Soviet intelligence as well as the Nazi party and was respected in China and Japan. Better, he had intelligence assets available in all four countries. He was also a famous womanizer. In all four of these countries, he had women who fed him intelligence information that they wouldn’t dare tell anyone else.

He used the intelligence he gathered in Tokyo to ingratiate himself with the Germans who wanted to keep an eye on their Pacific ally. The trust he built up through feeding Berlin information allowed him to gather a lot of intelligence about the Nazis that he could feed to his true masters in Moscow.

In 1938, Sorge got in even deeper with the Nazis when his German handler got sick and his old friend Ott, who had helped him join the Nazi party in the first place, asked him to take on the task of drafting the German Embassy’s dispatches to Berlin, filled with all sorts of great information to pass on to his Moscow superiors.

In 1940 and 1941, Sorge was able to tap into his networks in China and Germany to paint a detailed picture of one of the most important points in the war: The German blitz against the Soviet Union.

Christopher Lee: Film Legend and World War II Hero

A Soviet T-34 burns in the field during Operation Barbarossa.

(Bundesarchiv)

Sorge, reporting from Tokyo, achieved a shocking level of precision, detailing the size of the force and pinpointing the week that the Nazis would invade. He reported that the attack would take place sometime between June 20 and 25. Operation Barbarossa, as it was named, launched on June 22.

Between Sorge and a spy in China, Walther Stennes, Moscow received 42 reports, all of them brushed aside by Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin who thought he had the measure of Hitler.

When the Germans struck, they hit with almost 4 million soldiers who were reinforced over the following weeks and months by units from Italy, Croatia, Slovakia, and Hungary.

Christopher Lee: Film Legend and World War II Hero

German officers pose with a captured Soviet plane.

The Soviet military, ill-positioned and -prepared, saw entire units swallowed up, killed, and captured as the Nazis cutoff unprotected supply lines and overran barely fortified positions. 600,000 Soviet troops were killed, captured, or seriously wounded in the first week while 4,000 aircraft were destroyed, many of them still on the ground.

Germany penetrated the Soviet Union 200 miles deep along a nearly 1,800-mile front in only seven days.

Of course, the Soviets were able to push the German forces back, largely thanks to delusional planning on the German side. Germany had expected to conquer Moscow before true winter set in and failed to properly equip its troops for fighting in the frozen wasteland that Russia quickly became. Commanders, chasing the operation’s impossible timetable, failed to secure their gains and left their own lengthening supply lines too lightly guarded.

The harsh winter and Soviet counterattacks hit hard. Russia, with its superior resources and manpower, was able to bleed Germany for its treachery and bloodshed.

But all of this came too late for the thousands unnecessarily lost in those opening days, as well as for Richard Sorge. Sorge continued to send information back to Moscow, including one important report that was actually read and believed. He was able to determine with a high degree of certainty that Tokyo would not enter the European Theater unless it was clear that Russia had lost, preferably if Moscow fell.

The Red Army moved massive numbers of troops from their Easter Front to the west, hastening their success against Hitler.

Even more impressive, Sorge had a contact with the Japanese premier’s closest advisers, and he was able to feed them information convincing them to keep invading further south into China and towards European positions in Asia, relieving pressure from Soviet Forces on the Eastern Front.

But Sorge’s luck ran out. On Oct. 10, 1941, security police arrested two members of Sorge’s espionage ring, and one of them spilled all the beans. Sorge was arrested and eventually cracked, admitting to being a communist spy. He was executed on Nov. 7, 1944, refused even his dying cigarette.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Green Beret’s new book challenges you to find resiliency

Ryan Hendrickson is a retired Green Beret who’s been through a lot. Despite overwhelming challenges, he refuses to wear the title of victim and instead calls himself a survivor. He wants you to do the same.

Tip of the Spear wasn’t supposed to be a book. It started as a journal for Hendrickson, a way to work through his thoughts and post-traumatic stress. But after a few months, he saw something in those writings – as did friends. “The therapeutic effect I got from writing actually turned into a book. I had to see the silver lining in something as bad as stepping on an IED [improvised explosive device]. A lot of people that were reading it said the book talks to everyone — not just military — as far as not being a victim in your life,” Hendrickson explained.


In September of 2010, Hendrickson was deployed to Afghanistan as an 18 Charlie, a Special Forces Engineer with Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th special forces. He had just completed the elite schooling to earn the coveted Green Beret and was feeling on top of the world. The first chapter of Tip of the Spear takes the reader vividly through what it’s like to arrive in Afghanistan – and the mission that changed his life.

When Hendrickson and his team entered the deserted Afghan village before dawn, he said he knew something big was coming. When his interpreter went too far ahead of uncleared ground, he had no choice but to quickly and quietly get him back. “I grabbed him by the back of the shirt and moved him around. You never like to have any unknown area or blind spot, so I put the muzzle of my M-4 in the doorway of the compound and stepped back… right onto the IED,” he shared.

Hendrickson said he didn’t realize he hit it at first, remembering that he just felt like he couldn’t breathe because of the heavy dust and ammonia in the air. “As the dust started to clear, I saw that my boot was six inches away from my leg…When I reached behind my knee to pull my leg up, my boot sort of flopped over with my toes pointed at me. I saw these two pearly white objects sticking out of my pant leg. Then it kicked in that it was bone,” he said.

It was then that Hendrickson realized it was really bad. His team couldn’t rush in to support him either, since they knew that if there was one IED, there were probably five. His interpreter started a tourniquet, effectively saving his life. After a while, his team was able to safely make it to him and they got him out. “We could hear the Taliban on chatter celebrating that I got hit and that they were going to move into position to ambush us. They splinted the leg the best they could to put the lower and upper part together,” he said.

Christopher Lee: Film Legend and World War II Hero

Hendrickson was in theater for over a week as they tried to stabilize him and keep him alive. When he made it to San Antonio, it would take 28 surgeries to reattach his leg. Then the real work began. “I had a sergeant major who came in to see me; he told me if I could get medically cleared he’d send me back to combat. That was the big driving factor behind me taking control of my life and hitting rehab as hard as I could. That and knowing the Taliban were cheering when I got hurt. I wasn’t going to let them beat me or win,” he explained.

Although he was medically retired, Hendrickson refused to accept it. After spending a grueling year in rehabilitation, he passed all the required tests and was reinstated into active duty through a special waiver. In March of 2012 – only a year and a half after almost losing his leg to an IED – his boots were back in the sands of Afghanistan.

It wasn’t easy though, he shared. The guys he was working with were concerned he’d be a liability. Hendrickson was sent to the biggest known IED province of Afghanistan, a real test given his own experience. He had to prove himself to his teammates and did it by methodically finding IED after IED, keeping them all safe.

Christopher Lee: Film Legend and World War II Hero

Hendrickson would continue to serve and deploy for years after that. In 2016, he earned a Silver Star for heroic efforts during a difficult seven-hour firefight in Afghanistan. “It wasn’t what I did, it was what we did…It’s the same thing all of us say, we were just doing our job,” he shared. He headed home fromAfghanistan in 2017 and found himself struggling with a lot, mentally.

After trying unsuccessfully to talk with a counselor, he sought help through the chaplain. He advised him to write, using that avenue to tell his story and work through his thoughts. Those thoughts and writing were unknowingly turning into a story of his life, both the good and the bad. It was here that he found healing and the deep resiliency he needed to never feel like a victim again.

Tip of the Spear will bring the reader on a powerful journey through a difficult childhood leading to military service spanning three branches, ultimately leading Hendrickson to become an elite Green Beret. The story culminates with the unfathomable challenge of coming back from an injury that almost took his life and was certainly considered the end of his military career. Hendrickson refused to quit and fought his way past the odds stacked against him.

It’s Hendrick’s hope that readers will use his journey to be inspired to do the same in their own lives. Anything is possible he says, but first you have to become a survivor, not a victim.

To purchase your copy of Tip of the Spear, click here.

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