After enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1966, Raymond Clausen was trained as a helicopter mechanic and had already completed a tour of duty before heading back to the jungles of Vietnam — against his mother’s wishes.
Continuing his military service was something Clausen felt like he had to do.
On Jan. 31, 1970, Clausen would go above and beyond his call of duty as his helicopter deployed to the enemy-infested area near Da Nang in South Vietnam.
Clausen’s crew’s mission was to search for enemy activity in the area when, suddenly, they noticed some concealed bunkers near the tree line.
Directed by higher command, Clausen and his crew landed in a nearby grassy field. Once the troops dismounted from the cargo bay, the helicopters lifted out and patrolled in circles, approximately 1,500 feet above the LZ.
Shortly after, the enemy engaged the ground troops, causing them to disperse, fanning outward. As they separated, Marines stepped on the various landmines in the area.
Clausen knew he had to help the troops below, so he leaned out of the helicopter’s window and directed his pilot as he landed the bird in a safe area to retrieve the wounded Marines.
Once they landed, Clausen leaped from the aircraft with a stretcher and ran through the minefield and helped carry the wounded Marines back to his helicopter.
Clausen knowingly made six separate trips across a minefield and is credited with saving 18 Marines that day. Once he knew all the men were accounted for, he signaled to the pilot to take off, taking the men to safety.
In total, Clausen has logged more than 3,000 hours of flight time as a crew chief and earned 98 air medals during his career.
President Nixon awarded Marine veteran Raymond Clausen the Medal of Honor on Jun. 15, 1971
Check of Medal of Honor Book‘s video below to hear one Marine’s heroic tale of sacrifice and determination:
The Vietnam War is one of the most controversial conflicts embarked upon by the United States. The Marines that retook the city of Hue City are the gold standard of urban warfare. Battalions of Americans, South Vietnamese, and the Viet Cong faced off fighting for every inch of the city. Essentially fighting with one hand tied behind their back, they triumphed over an overwhelming, well trained enemy. The battle was close, it was up to who wanted victory more – the communists or the Marines.
Communists massacred civilians
Not only were government and military officials massacred, but so were innocent civilians, including women and children, who were tortured, executed or buried alive.
Olga Dror, The New York Times
The battle for Hue City happened during the Tet Offensive, a nationwide coordinated assault on U.S. and allied controlled areas. During the initial days of the attack, communists massacred as many as 5,700 civilians. The victims are buried in mass graves when the city fell into enemy hands. The Viet Cong occupied the city for close to month before the Marine Corps liberated the city.
Supporters of the failed Struggle Movement escaped from the city in two years before the battle. Those same people would turn on their neighbors when they returned with the communists. With their help, the communists gathered intelligence of the city and selected people for death.
Politics attempted to restrict the Marines
Due to the historic aspect of many of the buildings in Hue, the usage of heavy weapons was significantly restricted during the initial days of fighting on both sides of the river. As friendly casualties mounted, and as initial estimates of the size of the enemy force in the Hue City area was significantly increased, fire restrictions were ultimately lifted. In our respectful opinion, our ability to successfully complete the mission was, initially, severely impacted by the rules of engagement.
Lessons Learned, Charlie 1/5, Operation Hue City, 31 January 1968 to 5 March 1968
To the uninitiated in Rules of Engagement, they’re a set of rules established by high command that dictate what weapons and tactics may be used. Anyone in violation of that can be charged with a war crime. In the example of the Battle of Hue City, also known as the Siege of Hue, the Marine Corps is forbidden to damage the buildings. That is absurd. This is war. The reasoning is that the city was the home to the Nguyen Dynasty, the last dynasty in Vietnam until 1883, and historically significant to Vietnamese culture.
Any commander worth his salt knows that the life one Marine, let alone an American, is worth ten thousand times the value of a structure. The Vietnam War was often hindered by policy makers micromanaging the boots on the ground. You wanted a war? Let the Marines fight it and shut up.
House to House, Street to Street
…Even with proper support of heavy weapons, which was ultimately provided to the Marines, we faced “hard corps” North Vietnamese Army troops who fought from prepared positions, moved to secondary positions, fought again, and finally, very reluctantly, died. In the capture of each room, each floor, each rooftop, each building, each street, it was ultimately the Marine rifleman who won the battle.
Lessons Learned, Charlie 1/5, Operation Hue City, 31 January 1968 to 5 March 1968
The fighting was so intense that Alpha company lost their Commanding Officer and many of their lieutenants. Charlie Company lost every single officer for the exception of two. The ferocity of combat and the escalating casualty rates saw PFC’s as platoon commanders in the thick of the fighting. Combat promotions were a common sight on the battlefield.
The Marine Corps’ sent three battalions to face off against 15 to 18 NVA battalions for domination of Hue. Initially supported by small arms and the South Vietnamese Army and Marines, it took everything to defeat the determined Viet Cong. The combined allied casualites at the conclusion of the battle climbed to over 3,800. The enemy sustained over 5,000 dead and an unknown amount of wounded.
The Marines adapted their tactics and with heroic determination drove the NVA and Vietcong from Hue despite being spread too thin and fire support being largely restricted – Richard Camp’s (Col. Ret). Death in the Citadel: U.S. Marines in the Battle for Hue City, 31 January to 2 March 1968 (2017)
It may surprise modern admirers of Finland that the Nordic country did not fight against the Axis during World War II. But their alignment with Hitler wasn’t for territory, ideology, or the persecution of certain ethnicities.
The Finns had one reason for siding with Germany: killing Russians.
And as the war dragged on and the eventual Soviet advance into the Baltics took its toll, the Finns developed a daring strategy of shadowing Russian bombers that had a devastating effect on Moscow’s ability to swallow its western neighbor.
In 1939, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact – the nonaggression agreement between the Nazis and the Soviet Union – contained a secret clause that put Finland in the Soviet sphere of influence. Shortly after, the USSR started negotiating for critical pieces of Finnish territory. A month later, the Russians shelled its own village to make it look like the Finns escalated the conflict.
The Russians then invaded Finland, sparking the so-called “Winter War.”
While the Finns fought the Red Army with tenacity, it was simply too much for the small country. When Russian Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov demanded huge concessions of land and surrender to the exhausted Finnish Army, they had to capitulate.
Finland didn’t stop during the interim peace from March 1940 to June 1941. The Nazis knew what was coming and sent troops to Finland to help them rearm and prepare. When Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa, the Nazi invasion of Russia, the Finns moved with German forces. Stalin counterattacked with air raids on Finnish cities, but the Finns were on the offensive.
After the German defeat at Stalingrad, Finland was rebuffed by the Red Army and pushed back to its 1940 positions. In February 1944, the Russians launched an air raid against Helsinki, the most heavily defended capital at the time (which is saying a lot).
In three waves, Russian bombing runs dropped 20,000 explosives on the capital. Only 3 percent of those actually hit the city. Finland had no night fighters and couldn’t intercept the bombers, even though they knew the Russians were coming.
The Finns had four squadrons of bombers with older, experienced pilots. Finland’s intelligence knew where the Russian bombers were flying from, their radio communication, how Red Army pilots operated, and all their tactics.
In February 1944, Finnish aircraft covertly slipped into Russian bomber formations flying under blackout conditions over the Gulf of Finland. The Finns had very different planes than the Russians, but even when the Russians turned on their navigation lights when they entered friendly airspace, the Finns just played along.
No one noticed.
A Finnish Air Force Dornier DO-17 Bomber from the era. Finland fielded 5 of these during WWII.
One by one, the returning Soviet bombers landed at Levashovo airfield. As the last squadron – the Finns – approached, they opened their bomb bays instead of their landing gear and dropped 80 bombs on the unsuspecting Russians.
The attack was such a success that the tactic was repeated on subsequent Soviet bombing runs. Finland’s pilots joined returning Russian formations and right before landing, hit the airfield with everything they could. For months, these attacks decimated the Russian airfields along the Finnish border and night raids slowly began to dwindle as the tactic took its toll.
While the RAF was known to attempt this tactic with single fighters, no one in World War II ever attempted to join enemy bomber formations in such numbers or with such access as Finland had against the Soviet Union.
There’s a lot to unpack in this headline – the legality of pirates, why there would be pirates in the 20th century, how they came to be flying the Goodyear Blimp of all things, and what would be the best way to be a pirate when your only ship is an unarmed airship that proudly displayed your tire company of choice.
First, let’s talk about legal piracy.
Definitely not your torrent collection. If you don’t know what torrents are, then you’re probably good.
Know that “piracy” is always illegal, and the only time it’s not against the law is when we agree to call it something else. In the old days – that is the old days of wooden sailing ships – ships known as “privateers” sailed the high seas. These were privately owned and operated ships that were allowed to board and capture this ship of a particular nation, claiming it and its cargo as prizes. A privateer is not a pirate for one simple reason: the privateer carries a Letter of Marque.
A Letter of Marque is issued by one country, listing the specific assets available to the privateer, the enemy nation from which those assets can be seized or destroyed, and the authorization for the privateer to do it in the name of the issuing country. Famous privateers include Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh (who raided Spanish gold ships for the English) and the Goodyear Blimp Resolute.
(U.S. Navy Photo)
For the first time since the War of 1812, the President, through Congress, issued a Letter of Marque to a civilian ship. In this case, the letter of marque allowed the private-owned airship to search for Japanese submarines in the Pacific Ocean, and allowed its crew to be armed without violating any laws of armed conflict.
And it was. The Resolute was based in Los Angeles and was used in regular patrols of the Pacific Ocean, searching for Japanese submarines operating along the United States West Coast. Its crews’ only armament was small arms, but there was little chance of the airship successfully boarding and capturing a Japanese submarine. The airship would just have radioed the location of the submarine to ships who could come do something about it.
Too bad there would be no chance of taking prize money.
Despite what many think, the Thompson submachine gun was not the first submachine gun.
But many will argue it was the best submachine gun ever put in the hands of fighting men – whether they were “good guys” or “bad guys.”
Well-made, robust, capable of firing more than 800 rounds a minute in some models and chambered for the man-stopping .45-caliber ACP round, the gun lived up to one of its original names: The Annihilator.
“I knew several soldiers who used Thompsons for special operations in Vietnam,” said Alan Archambault, a retired U.S. Army officer and former supervisory curator for the U.S. Army Center of Military History. “Even in the 1960s, the Thompson was still an iconic weapon for U.S. soldiers. Often when one soldier would rotate to the U.S., he would pass the Thompson on to another soldier in theater.”
The brainchild of Gen. John T. Thompson, a former chief of small arms for the Ordnance Department and firearms designer, the stalemate on the Western Front during The Great War (a.k.a. World War I) convinced him the ordinary infantryman needed a new weapon. Thompson wanted something he called “a trench broom.”
“Our boys in the infantry, now in the trenches, need a small machine gun, a gun that will fire 50 to 100 rounds, so light that he can drag it with him as he crawls on his belly from trench to trench, and wipe out a whole company single-handed,” Thompson wrote in a 1918 memo to firearms designers. “I want a little machine gun you can hold in your hands, fire from the hip and reload in the dark. You must use ammunition now available and I want it right away.”
Designers produced a prototype by 1919, but the first practical models were too late for the war. Still, Thompson convinced Colt to produce 15,000 M1921 submachine guns.
Early observers of the M1921 test-fired on the range were impressed by how much firepower the “little machine gun” delivered.
The problem was Thompson had no steady stream of customers, even when Thompson’s company Auto-Ordnance Corp. released the M1928 – considered by many the definitive Tommy gun model.
True, the U.S. Marine Corps purchased Thompsons and used them effectively in China and during the Latin American “banana wars” of the 1920s. The Postal Service armed its security personnel with Thompsons as well.
But the weapon was expensive – very expensive. Adjusted for inflation, its $200 price tag is roughly equivalent to $2,300 today.
To put things in perspective, consider the contemporary cost of prime, high-end arms like the Fabrique Nationale d’Herstal SCAR 17S 7.62×51 millimeter NATO – it costs about the same as a Tommy Gun did during the Roaring ’20s.
Besides, for better or worse the Thompson gained a “bad boy” reputation. A handful of criminals such as John Dillinger and George “Machine Gun” Kelly gave the weapon a bad name.
At first, potential customers such as the British government considered the Thompson “gangster weapons” and refused to purchase the submachine gun.
But by 1939, all that changed. Great Britain entered World War II starved for armaments.
The War Office eagerly purchased every M1928 it could, and the weapon was a hit with the Tommies – particularly the Commandos.
The weapon’s reliability and ability to bring devastating automatic fire to close quarters combat made the Thompson a favorite of the Commandos.
They even honored the weapon in the design of their unit recognition flash: A stylized Thompson superimposed on an anchor headed by an eagle.
There were also many American G.I.s who even relished the gangster panache of the Tommy Gun. Images of actors like James Cagney in “The Public Enemy” – easily one of the most violent movies of its time – ducking around a corner as a gangster fired on him with a Thompson were unforgettable.
“It was often seen in gangster films that were watched by impressionable young men who came of age during World War II,” Archambault said. “So, even before its use in World War II, it was an iconic weapon.”
Sure, the M-1 Garand was the basic weapon for the American infantryman. But the Thompson found its way into the hands of officers, squad leaders, paratroopers, U.S. Marines and any soldier lucky enough to grab one.
Also, G.I.s and Marines were fighting all across the globe in battlefield environments that included deserts, jungles and snow. The sheer reliability of the Thompson, particularly in its less-expensive but equally deadly M1A1 model, made it the perfect weapon to endure the lousiest battlefield conditions.
Eventually, the cost of the Thompson prompted development of the M-3 “Grease Gun,” which could be produced in greater quantities for far less money than even the M1A1.
But by the Korean War, the Army relegated the Thompson to a secondary role. By Vietnam, the first M-16s were in the hands of GIs and the military considered the Thompson obsolete.
Today, Thompson submachine guns are in high demand among collectors legally authorized to own full-auto weapons. On average, the price for a clean Tommy Gun is about $25,000.
We all know a nuclear blast on land brings devastating effects to the surrounding region. But what if humans detonated a nuclear bomb in space? Following is a transcript of the video.
Imagine if we detonated a nuclear bomb in space? Actually, you don’t have to.
You can see it for yourself. That was Starfish Prime — the highest-altitude nuclear test in history. In 1962, the US government launched a 1.4 megaton bomb from Johnston Island. And detonated it 400 km above the Pacific — about as high as where the International Space Station orbits today.
The detonation generated a giant fireball and created a burst of energy called an electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, that expanded for over 1,000 kilometers.
EMPs can cause a power surge, damaging electronic equipment in the process. And this one was no different. Across Hawaii, street lights went dark, telephones went down, and navigation and radar systems went out, not to mention the six, or so, satellites that failed.
And all this came from a 1.4 megaton bomb. Tsar Bomba, which was the largest nuclear bomb that has ever been detonated, was 50 megatons.
So what would happen if we detonated that above the United States?
For starters, there’s no atmosphere in space. So, there would be no mushroom-shaped cloud and no subsequent blast wave or mass destruction. Instead, you’d get a blinding fireball 4 times the size of Starfish Prime’s. And if you looked directly at it within the first 10 seconds, you could permanently damage your eyes.
Satellites wouldn’t be safe either. Radiation from the explosion would fry the circuits of hundreds of instruments in low-earth orbit. Including communication satellites, military spy satellites, and even science telescopes like the Hubble.
Plus, astronauts on board the International Space Station might be at risk of radiation poisoning.
On the ground, however, you’d probably be fine. The detonation point would be far enough away that the high-energy radiation wouldn’t reach you.
But don’t get too comfortable. Remember Starfish Prime’s EMP? This time, the EMP would cover ⅓ of the entire United States, bringing down regional power grids and electronics like a lightning strike.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. The radiation would also interact with oxygen and nitrogen in the atmosphere and create a spectacular aurora near the detonation site, that would last for days.
Now, let’s be clear. This will probably never happen. Super-thermonuclear devices like the Tsar Bomba no longer exist. And even if they did, the Tsar Bomba weighed around 27,000 kilograms. There are only a couple of operational rockets in the world that could manage to lift something that heavy into space in the first place.
So we’re probably safe from that, anyway. This video was made in large part thanks to the calculations from physicists at Los Alamos National Lab.
On Apr. 4, 1951, a Navy inductee burst into the Naval Hospital in Philadelphia, blood gushing from his nose, doubled over in pain. There was no trauma, but the soon-to-be sailor could barely walk and was covered in blood. The doctors began to suspect poison was the culprit – and they were right.
The name of the would-be recruit was not recorded in the literature, but he was slated to join the Army during the Korean War. But he soon regretted his decision and tried to shirk his duties by shuffling off his mortal coil. His preferred method of self-inhumation was poison: rat poison.
Proving that US troops can and will eat anything.
The man had been so desperate not to deploy that he would rather have offed himself with rat poison. Eventually, while taking the load of rat poison he thought it would require to kill an adult male, his senses returned to him, and he decided that would not be the best course of action. It took him more than four days to realize that rat poison wasn’t going to kill him, but it was going to be a very painful experience. That’s when he went to the hospital.
How did he manage to survive a dose of poison that should have easily killed its intended target? The toxic substance he used was Warfarin, an agent derived from a notorious poison affecting livestock. Warfarin decreases the body’s ability to clot blood, and the colorless, odorless substance is used to kill rats and vampire bats by forcing internal bleeding.
I’m suddenly okay with that.
Warfarin is in the powerful family of anticoagulants found accidentally by farmers who wondered why their livestock suddenly bled to death after eating slightly spoiled sweet clover. It turns out mold can reprogram a certain chemical in the clover. While the anticoagulant kills animals, it keeps humans from clotting in seriously life-threatening situations, like surgery and World War II – which is exactly how the substances in the clover were first used.
Researchers at the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation derived more versions of the anticoagulants based on the chemical in sweet clover. One of them proved mighty useful in killing rats. That compound was dubbed “warfarin.” While America began to use it in pest control substances, researchers kept testing its blood-related properties. So when the sailor stumbled into the hospital with a belly full of Warfarin, the team was able to reverse the effect by dosing him with Vitamin K.
Attempted suicide is some hardcore skating.
And now that there was a tested, effective antidote, the team could go to work researching the effects on Warfarin on humans. On top of preventing fatal blood clots throughout the human body, they found the drug could restore blood flow in stroke victims. The FDA soon approved its use for treating blood clots. But the true test came after President Dwight D. Eisenhower had a heart attack.
He was in Denver in 1955 visiting friends and family when he suffered the attack. Doctors were concerned that errant blood clots throughout his body could soon cause a stroke, killing or incapacitating the 34th President. They gave him the newly-approved Warfarin, saving the President’s life and allowing him to serve two terms in the White House.
“President Nixon” would just have to wait.
Because one depressed would-be sailor attempted suicide using rat poison and doctors were able to give him an antidote, thousands of tests were able to be conducted on the efficacy of the dangerous drug. Warfarin has since saved countless cardiovascular patients in the United States and abroad, including the man that led the United States into its mid-20th Century Golden Age.
The U.S. Coast Guard has always been the little agency that could.
It’s the only U.S. military branch that isn’t a permanent member of the Department of Defense, it’s constantly the last in line for the budget (it is one of the agencies with lots of money on the chopping block in President Donald Trump’s first budget proposal), and it’s constantly getting made fun of by the other services.
2. Respond to chemical, biological, nuclear, and other threats
Of course, the Coast Guard doesn’t just field the emergency calls for terror attacks. When law enforcement and intelligence agencies get word of possible threats, they can call the Maritime Safety and Security Teams. These guys specialize in securing American and friendly ports that are at heightened risk of attack.
3. Capturing and occupying captured oil rigs at sea
One of the largest special operations in history took place on March 21, 2003, when Navy SEALs and Polish special operators seized Iraq’s oil platforms at the same time that other forces took land-based sections of Iraq’s oil infrastructure.
The often unsung heroes of that operation are the soldiers and Coast Guardsmen who gave the SEALs the ride and provided the gun platforms that supported the operation from the water. The Coast Guard sent eight 25-foot boats to the platforms and provided the defensive positions that allowed the U.S. to hold the platforms after the SEALs captured them.
4. Landing U.S. soldiers and Marines at D-Day, Guadalcanal, and hundreds of other places
Did anyone think it odd that the Coast Guard would be in charge of landing and supporting operators hitting oil rigs in a carefully synchronized operation? It’s a little unusual, but only because they’re used to hitting beaches and rivers.
In the early days of World War II the Germans still had an advantage over the British. Even though the Royal Air Force had won the Battle of Britain, its bombers suffered heavy losses when they crossed the channel into occupied Europe.
British scientist believed this was due to advances in German radar technology.
Reconnaissance photos showed that the Germans indeed had a complex radar system involving two types of systems – long-range early warning and short-range precision – that allowed them to effectively guide night fighters to British bomber formations. In order to develop effective countermeasures against these radar systems the British scientists needed to study one.
Operation Biting was conceived to steal a German “Wurzburg” short-range radar.
A German radar installation at Bruneval, France, was identified as the best target to conduct a raid against.
The plan called for C Company, 2nd Parachute battalion led by Maj. John Frost to parachute into France, assault the German position, steal the radar, and then evacuate by sea back to England with their loot. Accompanying the paratroopers would be a Royal Air Force technician who would oversee the dismantling and transport of the radar.
After extensive training and briefings, the raid was set for late February, 1942, when a full moon and high tides would provide the perfect environment for the assault force.
On the last night of the mission window, the conditions were just right and the men of C Company embarked for France aboard converted Whitley bombers of No. 51 Squadron.
The company was divided into five sections each named after a famous British naval officer: Nelson, Jellicoe, Hardy, Drake, and Rodney. Three sections – Jellicoe, Hardy, and Drake – would assault the German garrison at the station and capture the Wurzburg radar. While this was taking place, Nelson would clear the evacuation beach and the area between it and the station. Finally, Rodney would be in reserve guarding the most likely approach of a German counterattack.
The drop was almost entirely successful with only a portion of the Nelson section missing the drop zone a couple miles. The rest of the paratroopers and their equipment landed on target. Frost and the three assault sections were able to rendezvous in just 10 minutes. The Germans still had no idea British paratroopers were in the area.
That didn’t last long though, as the paratroopers assaulted the villa near the radar station. The paratroopers killed the lone German defending the house with a machine gun on the upper floor. But the attack alerted the rest of the garrison in other nearby buildings who immediately began returning fire killing one of the paratroopers. Frost stated that once the firing started “for the whole two hours of the operation there was never a moment when some firing was not going on.”
As the paratroopers battled the Germans, Flight Sgt. C.W.H. Cox, the RAF technician sent along to dismantle the radar, led the engineers to the radar set to begin its deconstruction under heavy German fire. After a half hour of work they had the parts and information they needed and loaded them onto special carts to haul them to the evacuation beach. The men of C Company had also managed to capture two German radar technicians who had vital knowledge of the operation of the Wurzburg radar.
Frost then ordered the force to withdraw to the beach. This was just in time, as a column of German vehicles began to arrive at the radar station. Almost immediately upon departure the paratroopers encountered a German pillbox that should have been cleared by the Nelson task force. Due to a communications breakdown Frost had not learned about the missed drops of a large portion of the Nelson group.
A small portion of the force had arrived and was fighting to hold the beach but the remainder had been moving at double time to reach their objective. After a brief firefight with a German patrol, the remainder of Nelson arrived on the scene and cleared the pillbox allowing the rest of the force to continue to the beach.
Once on the beach, the communications problem became even worse – the paratroopers had no contact with the Royal Navy flotilla assigned to evacuate them. Frost tried to raise them on the radio and when that failed, he decided to fire signal flares. The flares worked, and just in time, as a lookout spotted a trail of headlights moving toward the beach. Three Royal Navy landing craft came ashore and the paratroopers hastily loaded themselves and their prizes onboard before setting out for home. The return trip was without incident and the raiders returned to England to a hero’s welcome.
The British losses were two killed, two wounded, and six men captured who had become separated during the fighting. But the amount of intelligence they returned to England was near priceless. The information provided by the captured Germans and the radar itself allowed the British to advance their countermeasures.
This would prove crucial in the airborne operations at Normandy two years later.
A New York Times article dated March 3, 1942, predicted that the success of the raid had “changed the nature of warfare itself” and that soon these types of commando units and actions would grow to encompass much larger formations such as the airborne divisions that the Allies formed.
As for the men of C Company and Frost, they would see action in North Africa and Italy before being a part of the ill-fated Operation Market-Garden.
Battle planners can draw out every detail of every movement of every plan of every strategy they can conceive and still lose. There are just some events in history that no one could have planned for, that no one saw coming.
You can call it “Murphy’s Law” or chalk these events up to simple bad luck, the fact remains that some things just happen in the course of fighting that no one expected. During major wars, battles, or actions, these events just tend to make and shape history for decades to come.
1. The Aircraft Carriers that left Pearl Harbor
The decision of whose luck was good or bad depends on which side of the Pacific Ocean you were on at the time. The Japanese Navy had hoped to strike a decisive blow against the American Navy on Dec. 7, 1941 by destroying its Pacific Fleet while it was anchored at Pearl Harbor. They might have succeeded, if it weren’t for the fact that the U.S.’ biggest naval weapons weren’t there that day.
Battleships are great and all, but by World War II, the future of naval warfare lay in naval aviation. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, they knocked a number of ships down (only two of them were permanently out) but the carriers were gone, delivering aircraft to Wake Island and Midway. We know how the war in the Pacific turned out.
2. Forgotten cigars led to the Confederacy’s ruin
When rebel Gen. Robert E. Lee distributed his plans for an invasion of Maryland among his general officers, Maj. Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson handed his copy to Maj. Gen. D.H. Hill. Hill wrapped the plans around three cigars – and then forgot about them. He left them in a field where they were found by a Union scout.
The plans were taken to then Union commander George McClellan, who used them to turn Lee around at the Battle of Antietam. The Union’s big victory at Antietam allowed President Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, which turned the war into a fight against slavery. Since the British Army couldn’t intervene for a pro-slavery government, the Brits were kept out of the war and the Confederacy slowly crumbled under the Union onslaught.
3. A gust of wind saves England from a French invasion
Even armchair military historians know how hard it is to invade and conquer the British Isles. It’s a feat only accomplished once since 1066, and it changed the western world forever. So when the French were on their way to England in 1545, it could have gone very wrong for the English.
England was outnumbered in ships and men by more than 2-1. Worse yet, most of the English defenders were rigged sailing ships that would not perform so well in the close quarters and windless seas of the Solent, where the French and English met. But just before the oared French ships poured into the English sailing ships, the wind picked up. Despite two separate landings, the French were repelled and forced back to France with their tail between their legs. England was saved yet again.
4. Navy dive bombers catch the Japanese with their pants down at Midway
Midway was arguably the turning point for World War II in the Pacific, but despite being able to read Japanese coded messages and knowing the Japanese were going to attack the island, the Navy almost didn’t pull out a victory. The initial attack on Midway went very well for Japan, but they were going to give the island another pounding with naval aircraft.
An earlier engagement left the Japanese destroyer Arashi separated from the main battle fleet. As it moved back to the main force, it was tailed by American aircraft from the carrier USS Enterprise. When the U.S. planes discovered the main Japanese fleet, they radioed its position. By the time American dive bombers arrived, the decks of the enemy carriers were covered in jet fuel, planes, and bombs. The Japanese lost four carriers and the war was changed forever.
5. A random artillery shell keeps the U.S. from taking Berlin
The U.S. 2nd Armored Division reached the Elbe River on April 11, 1945, but Gen. Dwight Eisenhower’s order to stop at the river wouldn’t reach them for another four days. Not to be deterred by things like rivers, the division’s engineers built a crude ferry using a steel cable to shuttle troops back and forth.
With men on the east bank of the river already, the ferry began to move the armor across the river, but before the first tank could land, an artillery shell, the only one fired in the engagement, snapped the cable and doused the ferry into the river. The Americans on the east bank were cut off and the American drive for Berlin halted. The Red Army would reach the city from the east on April 16th.
The French Foreign Legion looks for brave men from around the world to fill their ranks. When you cast a net that wide, you’re bound to catch some pretty awesome soldiers. Here are seven of the most decorated and vaunted members of the Legion:
French Foreign Legion Capt. Jean Danjou was a veteran of three wars, an amputee, and an all-around pimp when he slapped the crap out of Mexican infantry with his prosthetic hand.
(French Foreign Legion Museum)
Capt. Jean Danjou was a French Army officer and veteran of fighting in Algeria when he volunteered for legion duty in 1852. He later fought in the Siege of Sevastopol where he lost his left hand — but his greatest heroism was still before him.
Danjou was a staff officer in Mexico in 1863 when he volunteered to lead a guard force of only 65 legionnaires on a convoy deeper into the country. When the unit was ambushed by nearly 2,000 Mexican soldiers, Danjou ordered his men into an abandoned nearby farmhouse where they fought to nearly the last man, inflicting 300 casualties. Danjou was killed, but his prosthetic hand is still kept in reverent storage by the Legion, which parades it on the anniversary of the battle.
Sometimes called the “Swallow of Death,” Eugene Bullard distinguished himself as an infantryman, a fighter pilot, and a spy.
(U.S. Air Force)
Eugene Jacques Bullard
After his father was lynched in Georgia in 1903, a young Eugene Bullard decided to move to France. He worked for ten years to earn his passage and made it to France just in time for World War I. He enlisted in the Legion on the day he was of legal age, 19 years old.
He fought on the front lines of France and was twice in units that took so many losses that they had to be combined with other forces. In March, 1916, Bullard was with a group of men hit by an artillery shell, killing four and knocking out most of Bullard’s teeth. He volunteered to keep fighting and was hit by artillery again three days later. This time, a thigh injury ended his service on the ground and in the Legion.
But the young hero wasn’t done. He would go on to become the first Black fighter pilot, netting his first aerial kill in late 1917. When World War II rolled around, Bullard served as a spy until he was injured while resisting the German advance on Orleans in 1940. In 1954, he went to Paris as one of the military heroes invited to relight the Eternal Flame of the Tomb of the Unknown French Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe.
He later led his platoon at Massawa against numerous enemy positions, capturing them and a “large number of prisoners.” He was severely wounded near Damascus by machine gun fire, taking rounds to his hand, chest, arms, and face. Still he worked to get his men a new officer to lead them while heading to the aid station. While recovering, he received a letter from Gen. Charles de Gaulle, telling him that he would be the first American to receive the Croix de la Libération.
Prince Dmitri Amilakhvari eschewed a comfortable life in the countryside for a tough existence as a legionnairre. He later wrote a book about his service, mostly in Morrocco.
Prince Dmitri Amilakhvari
A Georgian Prince, Dmitri Amilakhvari joined the Legion in 1926 and saw action in South Morocco in 1933 and 1934. When World War II began, he went to Norway and worked with British forces to resist the German invasion there, fighting at Bjervick and Narvik, netting him the Norwegian War Cross with Sword.
Alex Rowe was a British child when an injury — a detached retina — prevented him from achieving his lifelong dream of joining the British Forces. He tried anyway, but was turned away. He later joined the Foreign Legion with his mother’s blessing. Funnily enough, he was made a sniper.
Rowe was awarded his fifth medal for bravery in 2010, France’s highest military honor, the Légion d’honneur. He has been awarded for shielding a Bosnian mother and child with his body during a gunfight, and was involved in a 360-degree ambush in Afghanistan where U.S. troops and French legionnaires had to fight their way out.
You may have noticed a select few Marines and sailors walking around in their uniforms with a green rope wrapped around their left arm — it’s not just for decoration.
That green rope is called a “French Fourragere,” and it was awarded to the members of the 5th and 6th Marine Regiments for their heroic actions during the Battle of Belleau Wood from the French government in WWI.
This rite of passage extends to Marines who serve in those respected units today to commemorate their brothers in that historic battle.
The Fourragere is authorized on all service uniforms, and dress coats or jackets where medals or ribbons are prescribed.
During the bloody summer months of 1918, the Marines and the Germans fiercely fought one another just northwest of the Paris-to-Metz road. For weeks, German Gen. Erich Ludendorff had his troops attack U.S. forces with artillery, machine guns, and deadly gas.
Although the Marines sustained thousands of casualties during the skirmish, the infantrymen charged their opposition through the wooded area with fixed bayonets.
It’s reported the French urged the Marines to turn back, but the grunts proceeded onward frequently engaging the enemy in hand-to-hand combat.
By June 26, 1918, the war-hardened Marines confirmed that they secured the woods from German forces and took many prisoners.
And the French Fourragere reminds Leathernecks in this storied units of their World War I bravery.
Lewis “Chesty” Puller (1898-1971), was a 37-year veteran of the USMC, ascended to the rank of Lieutenant General, and is the most decorated Marine in the history of the Corps. He served in: WWII, Haiti, Nicaragua, and the Korean War. The concrete facts surrounding his military service are astounding, but his grassroots legacy is carved out by stories echoed through generations of Marines that sound crazy enough to be true only for Puller.
His nickname “Chesty” came from the legend that he had a false “steel chest.”
There are many legends surrounding how Lewis “Chesty” Puller got his nickname. One says that it came from his boisterous, commanding, voice that was miraculously heard over the sounds of battle. There are even some that say that it is literal— and that his chest was hacked away in the banana wars and replaced with an iron steel slab.
“All right, they’re on our left, they’re on our right, they’re in front of us, they’re behind us, they can’t get away this time.”
This is one of the most iconic quotes from Puller. His men were completely surrounded, and what initially seemed like doom, would soon be revealed to them as the beginnings of victory.
Puller surveying the land before mobilizing in the Korean conflict
He always led by example.
Puller famously put the needs of his men in front of his own. In training, he carried his own pack and bedding roll while marching at the head of his battalion. He afforded himself no luxuries his men did not have—usually meaning a diet consisting only of “K” rations. When in New Britain, legend has it that he slept on the bare floor of an abandoned hut and refused to let the native people make him a mattress of banana leaves. And he always refused treatment when wounded until his men had been attended to.
He was awarded: 5 Navy Crosses, a Distinguished Service Cross, and the Silver Star.
Among the many reasons for his highly decorated resume,Puller earned them for: leading his men into five successful engagements against super numbered armed forces in Nicaragua, after a 6 day march he reversed and defeated an ambush on an insurgent platoon that tripled his men in size, held the front against mile-long enemy forces in Guadalcanal, and defended crucial division supply roots against outnumbering forces in sub-zero weather in the Korean War.
Look at that stack…
Smoked a pipe while under bombardment at Guadalcanal.
In 1942 “Chesty” was a Lt. Col, and commander of 1st battalion, 7th Marine Regiment at Guadalcanal. He was the only man with combat experience, and many of his men did not dig foxholes. Lt. Col. Puller’s leadership was immediately tested as they were bombarded their first night. Puller ran up and down the line, instructing his men to take cover (behind whatever they could) and when it was nearing over, Puller walked the lines while casually smoking a pipe and reassuring his Marines of their eventual victory.
The Incredible Story Of The Most Decorated Marine In American History
Puller’s most notable appearances in film are in HBO’s The Pacific where he was played by William Sadler, and (perhaps his most iconic representation in American storytelling) in the John Ford documentary about his life Chesty: A Tribute to a Legend narrated by John Wayne.
“Where the hell do you put the bayonet?”
This quote is taken from Puller while at… a flamethrower demonstration.