This Coastie crossed the English Channel 10 times on D-Day - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This Coastie crossed the English Channel 10 times on D-Day

Gordon Lease was 17-years-old and living in California when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The next day Lease was queued up to join the Navy, but the line was so long, the recruiters told him he wouldn’t be able to join that day. Lease joined the Coast Guard instead. But he ended up with the Navy . . . in an unexpected way.


Lease, now in his nineties, told SDPB how he ended up as an amphibious sailor on Navy Landing Ship Tanks (LST), designed to land men and material on beaches.

“The Navy found out we were good in small boats,” Gordon said. “And they needed amphibious sailors … that’s where we went.”

After a few years of guarding the West Coast against another Japanese attack and conducting search and rescue operations, the Navy exercised its authority to appropriate Coast Guard assets. In 1943, Gordon learned LST operations, driving the boats onto the shores of Maryland.

This Coastie crossed the English Channel 10 times on D-Day
Gordon Lease enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard after Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941. (Courtesy Gordon Lease)

Soldiers, sailors, and Coast Guardsmen trained for amphibious operations in the Chesapeake Bay and then boarded troop convoys bound for Europe and elsewhere. In Britain, Navy and Coast Guard personnel continued training to land men on beaches. LSTs like Lease’s were specially trained to land at certain places at certain times.

It wasn’t long before he was in the fight. Lease trained in February, and, by July 1943, he would land men and tanks on Sicily. He also piloted an LST during the landings at Salerno, Anzio, and Normandy.

This Coastie crossed the English Channel 10 times on D-Day
A photo by CPHOM Robert F. Sargent, USCG. A Coast Guard-manned LCVP from the U.S.S. Samuel Chase disembarks troops on the morning of 6 June 1944 at Omaha Beach. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Operation Neptune, the naval assault portion of Overlord, remains the largest single combat operation in Coast Guard history. It was more than just landing on the beaches; the Coast Guard managed boat handling, loading and discharging cargo at sea and ashore,  and directing vessel traffic. These landing craft carried up to 30 men and were also charged with taking the dead and wounded off the beaches under fire.

This Coastie crossed the English Channel 10 times on D-Day
A Sherman Tank makes its way ashore during the invasion of Salerno, Italy in September 1943. Gordon Lease describes this assault as worse than what he experienced at Normandy on D-Day. (Courtesy Gordon Lease)

“It doesn’t do you any good to be scared,” Gordon said. “I’m serious about that. If you want to do your job, forget getting hurt, forget being scared, forget about that aircraft, forget about the guy shooting at you. Just do your job.”

At Normandy, the Coast Guard ran a rescue flotilla, suggested by President Roosevelt himself. Coast Guard Vice Adm. Russell R. Waesche collected dozens of landing craft, small boats, and patrol ships to do the job. Sixty 83-foot USCG cutters made up “Rescue Flotilla One.” This flotilla saved more than 400 men on D-Day and more than a thousand more by the end of 1944.

Lease took his LST to the beaches of France 10 times throughout D-Day, trips that included picking up wounded men for treatment in England. For his efforts, he received the Coast Guard Commendation Medal and the French Legion of Honor.

The Coast Guard helped to develop the Mulberry; the artificial harbors used to offload cargo in recently captured ports. Coast Guard Cmdr. Quentin R. Walsh also helped plan the occupation of Cherbourg, assessing the condition of the ports there and accepting the surrender of a German-held fortress.

More Coast Guard ships were lost in the days following D-Day than any time in its history. Four landing craft were destroyed on the beaches while another 85 sank offshore. Their losses were not in vain, however. The wrecks of the Coast Guard vessels served as navigation markers, guiding other incoming ships and landing craft. The Coast Guard also lost 15 among the ranks during the invasion. Six of them are buried at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.

“I was operating a landing craft. And someone kept count,” Lease recalled. “I brought a-hundred-and-ten people off the beach at Normandy back to our ship to evacuate them to England for treatment.”

Gordon Lease left the Coast Guard after the war and enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve, where he would remain until 1951. Now 92 years old, Lease still fits into the Coast Guard uniform he wore on LST-381 on D-Day.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Ernest Hemingway was almost impossible to kill

If there ever was a candidate for history’s real “Most Interesting Man In the World,” the frontrunner for the title would have to be famed writer, boxer, veteran, and adventurer Ernest Hemingway. He drove an ambulance in World War I, covered the Spanish Civil War, hunted Nazi submarines in the Pacific, gave relationship advice to F. Scott Fitzgerald, and even drank with Castro after the 1959 Cuban Revolution.

That brief paragraph barely scratches the surface of the man’s epic life. But truthfully, Hemingway should have died many, many times during his epic journey. In the end, he was the only one who could have ever ended such a life. The Grim Reaper was probably afraid to come around.


As the man himself once said, “Death is like an old whore in a bar. I’ll buy her a drink but I won’t go upstairs with her.”

This Coastie crossed the English Channel 10 times on D-Day

Hemingway on crutches in World War I.

He was hit by a mortar in World War I

While driving an ambulance on the Italian Front of the Great War, Hemingway was hit by an Austrian shell while handing out chocolate. The blast knocked him out cold and buried him in the ground nearby. He was peppered from head to toe by shrapnel while two Italian soldiers next to him were killed almost instantly.

This Coastie crossed the English Channel 10 times on D-Day

Just not all at once.

He carried more diseases than an old sponge.

Throughout his life, Hemingway was struck down hard by things like anthrax, malaria, pneumonia, dysentery, skin cancer, hepatitis, anemia, diabetes, high blood pressure, and mental illness. Even so, he hunted big game in Africa while suffering from malaria, and even boxed the locals.

This Coastie crossed the English Channel 10 times on D-Day

Hemingway sparring with locals in Africa.

He got into a lot of fights.

The original Big Papa was a fan of fisticuffs. He took any and every opportunity to accept challenges to his boxing prowess, fighting the aforementioned African locals, Caribbean friends, and even contemporary authors who besmirched his good name. If anyone challenged his manhood, they could count on a physical challenge of their own.

This Coastie crossed the English Channel 10 times on D-Day

“Never sit at a table when you can stand at the bar.”

“I drink to make other people more interesting.”

Hemingway enjoyed a good cocktail or three. An entire book has been published with just the cocktails Hemingway enjoyed the most. His favorite was a double frozen blended daiquiri from his favorite bar in Havana, the Floridita. On one occasion, he and a friend drank 17 of the double-strength concoctions. Eventually, he had to stop drinking to mitigate liver damage. No kidding.

This Coastie crossed the English Channel 10 times on D-Day

Hemingway giving pointers on growing a vet beard. Probably.

The Nazis couldn’t kill him.

Hemingway was writing in Madrid when Spain was devastated by Fascist bombers and was in London when the Luftwaffe bombed that city. He was covering the D-Day landings of World War II, coming onto the beaches with the seventh wave and then moving inland through hedgerow country, moving with the Army through the Battle of the Bulge – all while suffering from pneumonia. All this after hunting Nazi submarines off of Cuba.

He even formed French Resistance members into a militia and helped capture Paris.

This Coastie crossed the English Channel 10 times on D-Day

God couldn’t kill him.

While on vacation in Africa, Hemingway and company were nearly killed in a plane crash. On their way to Uganda to receive medical care, their plane exploded upon takeoff. The resulting concussion caused him to leak cerebral fluid, and he suffered from two cracked discs, a kidney and liver rupture, a dislocated shoulder, and a broken skull. He still went on a planned fishing trip… where a brushfire burned his legs, front torso, lips, left hand, and right forearm.

He responded by getting up and winning a Nobel Prize.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why tattoos are one of the most time-honored military traditions

It seems like, every so often, every branch of the military updates its tattoo policy. It’s done for various reasons, but ultimately, it’s to keep an orderly and professional appearance. But ever since the first tattoo parlor opened its doors in 1846, tattoos have had a well-seated place in the hearts (and on the skin) of many troops and veterans.


The art of body-marking and tattooing as a status symbol for warriors dates back well over five thousand years. Everyone from the Ancient Greeks to the Maori tribes of New Zealand marked their warriors as a sign of their strength. Even before tattoos were widespread among the U.S. military, Revolutionary War sailors tattooed personal identifiers on their skin to avoid being illegally conscripted by the British Navy.

This Coastie crossed the English Channel 10 times on D-Day
And Teddy Roosevelt knew this guy (David E. Warford) would be perfect for the Rough Riders. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

During the American Civil War, early tattoo artist Martin Hildebrant traveled the battlefields and decorated the troops with various, patriotic designs. Even Marine Corps legend, Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler, was said to have an Eagle, Globe, and Anchor tattooed across his chest

Despite a general disinterest in tattoos among civilians in a post-WWI society, the 1925 book, The History of Tattooing, states that a whopping 90% of U.S. Sailors were tattooed. This was the golden age of sailors using their bodies as secondary service records of their achievements. Sailors would get a shellback turtle for crossing the equator, a golden dragon for crossing the International Date Line, and a golden shellback for crossing both at the same spot. Even rarer is a purple porpoise, which is for making this same crossing during the sacred hour of the spring equinox.

Related: Here are the meanings behind 19 classic sailor tattoos

Seeing a tattoo on an older sailor means either they sailed through a very specific spot at a very specific time — or they just really like purple dolphins.

This Coastie crossed the English Channel 10 times on D-Day

In today’s military, the old traditions still ring true. Sailors will still mark themselves for their Naval achievements. Marines still get the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor on their first liberty. Soldiers will still get one or more of the same six tattoos. And airmen will probably get something nice in a spot that doesn’t hurt too much.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Jeep: The necessity of innovation

Long before the development of JEEP prototypes, soldiers nicknamed a tractor that hauled guns as a JEEP because that’s all they had available to move equipment and soldiers. As the U.S. prepared to enter WWII, we were faced with a super slow logistics issue – mules, horses, and traditional battlefield movements were just too slow for the modern battlefield. Since U.S. military planners knew that eventually, the U.S. was going to have to get involved with WWII, they quickly realized that the only way to ensure a victory would be to revisit their approach to troop and equipment movement.


We had no guns or equipment 

The Army was ill-equipped to handle entering a global conflict, thanks in part to neglect, budget constrictions and typical Washington bureaucracy. Remember that for our role in WWI, we had to borrow howitzers from the French because we were so underfunded and had no arsenal or weapons stockpiles. It was just about the same setting for WWII, only with a greater sense of impending doom.

Horses and mules were just too slow 

Just like planners in WWI recognized that light infantry fire wasn’t going to win a trench war, planners in WWII quickly saw that the reliance on horses and mules to transport equipment was antiquated and slow.

WWI showed strategists that four-wheel trucks and motorized transports were not only faster at moving across the battlefield but could move troops and weaponry in and out with greater consistency. This not only could save lives, but it could save morale, too. After all, who wants to be stranded in the middle of a field somewhere?

A committee is formed

In true Army fashion, a committee was formed to study the “need” for light motorized transport vehicles that could support infantry and cavalry troops. The Army concluded that there were no vehicles available on the civilian market that could hold up in combat – nothing was durable and rugged enough to handle the terrain or the weight load of the equipment that needed to be moved.

The Army hoped to find a small go-anywhere recon scout car that might help deliver battlefield messages, transmit orders, and function as a weapons carrier. But the commission failed to locate a vehicle that could support the needs of the Army, so they turned to the civilian sector to see if any American companies could design this kind of vehicle from scratch.

In June 1940, 134 bid invitations were sent to companies that might be able to design the kind of vehicle that would suit the Army’s needs. The bid was on a short deadline, though, since we were fighting a war, and gave the companies just one month to come up with something. That’s tough even by today’s standards but almost impossible in 1940 before the computerization of draft work. Because of the short deadline, just two companies responded to the Army’s call – American Bantam and Willys-Overland. These were the only two companies still selling four-cylinder vehicles, and they both specialized in selling cars smaller than the (then) American standard size car. Both companies were relatively small and on the brink of bankruptcy, proving the old adage, “Necessity breeds innovation.”

Bantam gets the contract for a few weeks 

The drawings submitted by Willys-Overland weren’t nearly as comprehensive as the plans provided by Bantam Car Company. So Bantam was awarded the contract, and an order for 70 vehicles was placed. However, Bantam was such a small company that the Army worried it wouldn’t be able to meet the military’s needs once the war effort ramped up. So, while they loved the concept that Bantam presented, the Army ultimately sought out Ford Motor Company and reinvented Willys-Overland to rejoin the mission.

Both companies, Ford and Willy-Overland, watched the Bantam car’s testing and were allowed to examine the vehicle and the blueprints. Then, both designed their own vehicle based on Bantam’s designs.

Testing took forever but one company emerged 

All three companies submitted new designs, and their vehicles were tested over and over, with little tweaks made along the way. By the end of the trials, each company has a finalized design to submit for bidding. Ford called its vehicle the GP, Willys-Overland called theirs the Willys MA, and Bantam came up with the very original name of the BRC-40 and the MK II. In all, thousands of prototypes were built, tested, and discarded.

The prototypes shared the same military designations for a truck, ¼ ton, 4×4. No one knows precisely where the word “JEEP” comes from, but since all of the Army vehicles are General Purpose, and since soldiers love a good acronym, it’s more than likely that someone along the way slurred the GP into what we now know as JEEP.

In 1941, on being interviewed by a journalist about the type of vehicle he was driving, a soldier replied that it was a JEEP and the name stuck. Willys-Overland, whose vehicle the soldier happened to be driving, quickly trademarked the name. During the war, JEEPS were modified to operate in desert conditions, plow snow, and function as a fire truck, ambulance, and tractor. They were capable of laying cable, operating as generators, and could be reconfigured to become a small railroad engine. JEEPS were small enough to be loaded onto aircraft, could fit in gliders, and were a significant part of the D-Day invasion.

As we know them now, JEEPS are as much a part of military culture as they are part of regular driving vehicles. Who knew that their predecessors could have been reconfigured to be so useful for wartime battlefield operations?

MIGHTY HISTORY

The WWII photographer who showed the world military women and Tuskegee Airmen

During World War II, Toni Frissell volunteered as a photographer for the American Red Cross, Women’s Army Corps and Eighth Army Air Force, capturing images that would introduce military women and Tuskegee Airmen to the world.

While she’s perhaps best remembered for her high-fashion photography for Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, Frissell produced thousands of images of nurses, front-line soldiers, WACs, Black airmen, and orphaned children. She wanted to show the truth of the war, rather than concentrating only on fashion work. “I became so frustrated with fashions that I wanted to prove to myself that I could do a real reporting job,” she recalled. 

According to the Library of Congress, Frissell aggressively pursued wartime assignments at home and abroad, often over her family’s objections, using her connections with high-profile society matrons. Her photographs of Women’s Army Corps trainees were used to counter negative public perception of women serving in the military. Her images of the Black pilots in the 332nd Fighter Group also helped break down racist objections to people of color serving in the United States military.

This Coastie crossed the English Channel 10 times on D-Day
332nd Fighter Group Airmen at Ramitelli, Italy, March 1945. (Photo by Toni Frissell courtesy of the Library of Congress)

The Acting Assistant to Director for Army Air Forces (AAF) described her as “among the most valuable collaborators the AAF can number from all the ‘guests’ we have taken overseas to help us get our story not only told, but understood.” He urged her to make her prints available for publication in order to better tell the story of World War II military service and the war effort.

After the war, Frissell continued to work for Harper’s Bazaar, but she produced little fashion work after 1950. Her experience as a war observer encouraged her toward photojournalism; she did freelance work for Life, Look, Vogue, and Sports Illustrated until her retirement in 1967.

Frissell died on April 17, 1988, at the age of 81. Her collection of photos in the Library of Congress includes nearly 340,000 images as well as her archive of film negatives.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How Ketchup became the classic American condiment

No American cookout would be complete without ketchup. Millions of Americans douse their french fries, hamburgers, hot dogs, and other cookout favorites with the condiment every day. The tomato-based sauce is even a staple for military personnel and astronauts!

Catsup, now more commonly known as “ketchup,” was a British term designated for any “spiced” sauce. The British had access to a myriad of spices from their exploits across the world. Their ketchup was made of oysters, cloves, cayenne, cherries, walnuts, vinegars, mace, and more.


Americans were the first to create ketchup with tomatoes, a crop native to North America, and an 1896 issue of The New York Tribune even declared tomato ketchup to be America’s national condiment found “on every table in the land.” The most famous tomato ketchup is the Heinz 57 variety. Apparently, founder Henry Heinz purposely created his own spelling of “ketchup” to differentiate from his “catsup”-peddling competitors.

Early tomato ketchup was made from fermented skins and cores. But these fermenting tomato leftovers could explode and burst their containers! The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, signed by President Theodore Roosevelt, finally made this dangerous condiment safe to consume – and keep in the cupboard.

This Coastie crossed the English Channel 10 times on D-Day

The U.S. military has spent billions of dollars on ketchup since the late 19th century, from manufacturing the condiment to supplying all soldiers with packets of the sauce to spruce up their rations of mass-produced food.

Astronauts even carry ketchup into outer space! NASA provides nonperishable, shelf-stable food, but crews like to amp up the products with their favorite condiments.

This Coastie crossed the English Channel 10 times on D-Day
The STS-79 and Mir 22 crews gather on the Atlantis’s middeck for a meal of barbecue served by the STS-79 crew. Mission commander William Readdy offers the Mir 22 crew a bottle of ketchup to use on their meal.

Wherever you are this Fourth of July, we hope you are enjoying this historic condiment on your favorite foods!

This article originally appeared on National Archives. Follow @USNatArchives on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What does ‘Damn the Torpedoes’ mean anyway?

Outside of the Merrimack fighting the Monitor, the U.S. Navy doesn’t get a lot of attention when it comes to histories of the Civil War. But it deserves some. And maybe its finest moment came at the 1864 Battle of Mobile Bay, where Adm. David Farragut forced his way through a Confederate minefield and fought the Confederate Navy to a standstill.

This Coastie crossed the English Channel 10 times on D-Day
Admiral David Farragut, from wet collodion glass negative.

His victory over the last port on the Mississippi River completely cut the South off from moving cargo that could be sold abroad or importing critical weapons and supplies. It also helped secure an election victory for President Lincoln, ensuring the war would continue until the Federals won. 

The enduring memory of the Navy at Mobile Bay is Adm. Farragut’s order, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” But if submarines weren’t exactly a common thing in 1864, what did he mean by that? The answer starts with his order to sail through the minefield.

Farragut was the U.S. Navy’s first Admiral – a Rear Admiral, to be exact – and after 53 years in uniform by that time, one could argue that he deserved the title. Mobile Bay was the Confederacy’s last port on the Gulf of Mexico, so taking it was critical to the North’s plan to cut the South off from the rest of the world. It would be no easy undertaking. 

The harbor was defended by three forts that guarded the entrance to the bay, as well as three smaller gunboats, the ironclad CSS Tennessee, and a large minefield made up of what was then called “torpedoes.”

During the Civil War, underwater mines were referred to as “torpedoes” after the seagoing electric ray, known then as a torpedo fish, that could deliver electric shocks. Civil War-era mines were often modified beer barrels filled with gunpowder. If they stayed in the water too long, they could get waterlogged, and the gunpowder rendered useless. 

This Coastie crossed the English Channel 10 times on D-Day
Sailors stream the L L sweeping gear used to detonate magnetic ground mines out of the back of Motor Minesweeper 1023 during operations in the North Sea.

Farragut was attacking the defenders with 18 ships of many different types. Some were wooden hulls, others were ironclads, a mix of sail and steamships. When the flotilla steamed into Mobile harbor on August 5, 1864, the Confederate ships took positions just beyond the minefield. 

Leading the charge was the USS Tecumseh, an ironclad monitor which was ordered to stay east of the minefield. For whatever reason, the Tecumseh ran right into the minefield and was immediately struck by a torpedo. The ship sank in just two minutes, and so did the hearts of the Union sailors. But Farragut wasn’t deterred. He ordered the fleet to continue sailing. 

Farragut had been in Navy uniform since he was nine years old and he knew a thing or two about naval combat, whether it was sails or steam, iron or wood. When he ordered his ships to sail into the minefield, he knew two things many others may not have. The first is that the torpedoes were marked by floating black buoys. Their intent wasn’t necessarily to sink ships, it was to steer them closer to the guns of the coastal defenses.

Secondly, even though the torpedoes had just sunk the Tecumseh, he knew that they had been submerged for so long that they were likely going to be ineffective in the fighting. The crew did hear the sound of barrels hitting their hulls, but as Farragut predicted, they did not explode.

This Coastie crossed the English Channel 10 times on D-Day
Admiral David Farragut onboard the USS Hartford

During the crossing of the minefield, Farragut had lashed himself in the upper rigging of the USS Hartford, so that he could better see the fighting unobscured by the smoke of the battlefield. Farragut didn’t give his now-famous order until after the Tecumseh sank (if he did at all). 

According to lore, Farragut noticed the USS Brooklyn slow as it approached the remains of the Tecumseh, apparently hesitant to enter the minefield. That’s when Farragut shouted the famous phrase, “”Damn the torpedoes! Four bells. Captain Drayton, go ahead! Jouett, full speed!” which later, through a historical game of telephone, became, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”

The latter is likely just easier for landlubbers to understand.

Farragut’s order was successful and the Union Navy hit the gunboats and the CSS Tennessee so much that they all struck their colors eventually. It was still a gamble for the admiral, however. Not all of the mines had become waterlogged. When clearing the minefield the next day, one exploded, killing some of the sailors sent to clear them. 

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 ‘failed’ prototype planes that went on to serve for years

Prototype planes that lose competitions rarely get a second act. Just ask the YF-23 Black Widow II — two jets were produced and tested and now both will live out their days on display in museums. But there are a lucky few who have lost out only to get a second chance.

It’s rare, but, in a few cases, these runners-up made a huge impact with the United States military. The following planes made the most out of a second chance.


This Coastie crossed the English Channel 10 times on D-Day
(US Navy)

The XF4F-3 Wildcat in flight. This plane got a second chance after earlier prototypes fell short against the Brewster F2A Buffalo, which turned out to be a real lemon in combat.

Grumman F4F Wildcat

Believe it or not, the extremely successful Wildcat almost never saw the light of day. The original version of this plane lost a developmental competition to the Brewster F2A Buffalo. Thankfully, the Navy gave the Wildcat a second chance, and this plane ended up holding the line against the Imperial Japanese Navy’s force of Mitsubishi A6M Zeros.

This Coastie crossed the English Channel 10 times on D-Day
(USAF)

Boeing’s Model 299 did very well in the competition — until a fatal crash knocked it out of contention.

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress

The prototype of the B-17, known as Model 299, initially performed extremely well. It was faster and more powerful than the competition. Unfortunately, the Model 299 crashed during its second evaluation flight, killing both pilots on board. With the Model 299 destroyed and disqualified, Douglas won the competition with the B-18

Fortunately, the Army Air Force, who were extremely impressed with the B-17’s performance, found a legal loophole through and kept the program alive. It went on to be the mainstay of the Eighth Air Force in World War II.

This Coastie crossed the English Channel 10 times on D-Day
(USAF)

A version of the F-86 beat out the XF-88 Voodoo, but the plane survived as the basis for the F-101 Voodoo.

McDonnell XF-88 Voodoo

In 1946, the Army Air Force was looking for a long-range, jet-powered escort fighter. McDonnell offered up the XF-88 Voodoo to compete for this contract, which lost out to a version of the F-86 Sabre.

Combat in Korea quickly proved that the U.S. still needed an effective penetration fighter. So, McDonnell scaled up the XF-88 to make the prototype of the F-101 Voodoo, which entered service in 1957 and didn’t fully retire until 1983!

This Coastie crossed the English Channel 10 times on D-Day
(USAF)

The B-1A was cancelled, but made a comeback in the 1980s as the B-1B Lancer.

Rockwell B-1 Lancer

The B-1 originally fell victim to Jimmy Carter’s budget axe, but the need to replace aging B-52s was patently obvious. After intense political debate, the B-1B Lancer entered production in the 1980s. While this airframe no longer carries nukes, it can still put a real hurt on Russian ambitions in the Baltics or hammer the Chinese in the South China Sea.

This Coastie crossed the English Channel 10 times on D-Day

Northrop YF-17 Cobra

In the eyes of the Air Force, the YF-17 was inferior to the F-16 Fighting Falcon, but the Navy saw something in this design. After making some modifications, this prototype become the classic F/A-18 Hornet, which still serves today!

Articles

Nazi Germany tried to counterfeit its way to victory

The Third Reich attempted a number of unconventional plots to win World War II, including counterfeiting U.S. and British currency to destabilize the Allies’ wartime economies.


Not surprisingly, the Nazi plan relied on Jewish slave labor. Operation Bernhard recruited Jewish artists, printers, bankers, and others from concentration camps and pressed them into creating engraving plates and physically counterfeiting money and important documents.

This Coastie crossed the English Channel 10 times on D-Day
Nazi leaders organized a counterfeiting ring that created British bank notes. (Photo: Public Domain)

Prisoners pressed into counterfeiting who survived the war described an initial test where they would be asked to print greeting cards. Prisoners who printed it well enough or who had a strong background in art or printing were then sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

Adolf Burger, a printer who survived the war and wrote memoirs detailing his experiences, was personally congratulated by Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Hoss when he was selected for the program.

“Herr Burger!” Hoss reportedly said. “We need people like you. You’ll be sent to Berlin. You will work as a free man and I wish you every success.”

The men were granted special privileges not afforded to other prisoners, but they were not free.

This Coastie crossed the English Channel 10 times on D-Day
Starved prisoners, nearly dead from hunger, pose in the Ebensee, Austria, concentration camp. Prisoners forced to create counterfeit English bank notes were sent here for execution but survived thanks to a prisoner revolt. (Photo: U.S. Army Lt. A. E. Samuelson)

“I always said I was a dead man on holiday,” Burger told a historian. “We never believed we would get out of there. But in the block we had everything — food, white sheets on the bed. Each one of us had his own bed; not like Birkenau, where six of us slept under a single lice-ridden blanket.”

The plan to print American currency was scuttled quickly due to problems with getting the necessary papers and inks, but the Nazis were able to collect all the proper supplies to print British bank notes.

While the Nazis destroyed most of their records and the counterfeit notes after the war, Allied investigations into the scheme estimate that nearly 9,000 banknotes with a total value of over 134 million British pounds were printed, though as little as 10 percent may have been usable.

This Coastie crossed the English Channel 10 times on D-Day
The original plan for Operation Bernhard called for the counterfeit currency to be dropped by bombers. (Photo: Imperial War Museum)

The initial plan called for the Luftwaffe to airdrop the illicit currency into Britain and other Allied areas to get it into circulation, but a shortage of aircraft led to them distributing the money through a network of agents.

Surprisingly, they actually got some of the money into circulation by using it to pay unsuspecting intelligence sources and agents, a move that could have caused their intelligence networks to collapse if it had been discovered.

Britain learned about the plot from a spy in 1939, three years before the printing got underway in earnest. By 1943, it was finding some of the notes in circulation. Some of the first counterfeits were caught when people tried to redeem bank notes for pounds sterling using serial numbers that had already been redeemed at the bank.

This Coastie crossed the English Channel 10 times on D-Day
American troops ride a captured German tank during the Battle of Hurtgen Forest. The Allied advance in 1945 ended the German counterfeiting operation and resulted in the liberation of the printers. (Photo: U.S. Army)

As the Allied war machine bore down on Berlin, the counterfeiting operation was moved two times before the Nazis running it made the decision to destroy the equipment and records and kill the printers.

Luckily, the order was given to kill all the printers at the same time at the Ebensee prison camp, but a prison riot occurred while a truck was ferrying the printers to the site of their execution.

The printers escaped into the Ebensee prison population and were liberated by the Allied armies on May, 6, 1945.

Today, few of the counterfeit notes remain, though a large quantity was recently recovered from where it was dumped in Lake Toplitz. The lake has little to no oxygen below a depth of 65 feet, preserving the bank notes.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Boston Tea Party: How coffee became the official morning beverage of America

How does one start a revolution? It begins with a group of like-minded individuals who are bold enough to carry out an action against a superior entity, ultimately to change control of power. In the days of the American Revolution, these individuals were known as the Sons of Liberty, and their supporters — patriots like Sarah Bradlee Fulton, among others — predicated their success on secret preparation. How could they lead a rebellion against England’s powerful King George III and inspire townspeople to join their cause?

It didn’t happen overnight, but a series of events emboldened them to launch into action with an idea that was formed behind closed doors. It became known as the Boston Tea Party and is one of the most impactful political protests in history.


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1773: Working men disguised as Mohawks throw chests of tea into the harbour in protest against direct taxation by the British.

(Original Artist: Robert Reid. Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images.)

In the 1760s, the colonists living in Boston, Massachusetts, felt that the British were taking advantage of them. Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers who later penned America’s first political cartoon under the namesake “Join, or Die,” saw firsthand the strength and influence of a unified people. He shared these observations about his displeasure with the British through the written word, including poetry:

We have an old mother that peevish is grown,

She snubs us like children that scarce walk alone;

She forgets we’re grown up and have sense of our own,

Which nobody can deny, which nobody can deny.

Meanwhile, Boston’s economy thrived; they had successful taverns, the richest shipyard on the waterfront, 3,000 wooden and brick homes, and some 500 shops. The population of 16,000 were hardworking and young — half of them were teenagers. The majority in Boston were educated enough to read the ever-popular Boston Gazette newspaper and follow updates on how the British bullied and used them as pawns to fund their wartime debts (from the French and Indian Wars).

In 1765, Parliament, England’s governing body of the colonies, imposed the Stamp Act, which taxed Americans for anything made from paper after it arrived in colonial shipping ports. The Quartering Act followed, which demanded that citizens open their businesses and homes to British soldiers for housing and food. Two years later, the Townshend Act added paint, glass, lead, and tea to the list of taxable goods.

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Join, or Die. by Benjamin Franklin (1754), a political cartoon commentary on the disunity of the North American British colonies, was later used to encourage the former colonies to unite against British rule.

(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

The American colonists were naturally angry, and tensions were consolidated to an upheaval in anarchy. By this time, the secret society of rebels known as the Sons of Liberty had formed. Frontman Samuel Adams — among other members such as John Adams, John Hancock, and Paul Revere — held public gatherings at Faneuil Hall to gain notoriety. In secret, the future Founding Fathers also held private meetings at the Green Dragon Tavern or the “House of the Revolution,” previously located on Union Street in Boston’s North End. Samuel Adams’ individual actions had the British publicly cast him as “the most dangerous man in Massachusetts.”

Their freedoms were being infringed upon, writes Kathleen Krull in her book “What Was The Boston Tea Party?” They protested in small boycotts and skirmishes against loyalist businesses (those who sided with the British), which made the headlines in the next day’s newspaper — but, most importantly, it caught the attention of the royal tyrants. Adams encouraged other patriots who believed in their cause to act in defiance. They used intimidation, vandalism, and even defamation of tax collectors through a shameful punishment called tarring and feathering.

On Feb. 22, 1770, one of these strong-armed attempts turned violent when British customs officer, Ebenezer Richardson, fired his musket upon a group in his backyard, killing 11-year-old Christopher Seider. A month later, on March 5, 1770, Private Hugh White, a British soldier, used his bayonet against a patriot at the Custom House on King Street.

White escalated the verbal altercation to a physical one, and the angry mob countered with a volley of snowballs, rocks, and ice. Bells rang signalling a disturbance, and loyalists and patriots entered the street to see the commotion. As the riot ensued, the British fired their muskets, killing five colonists in what is today known as the Boston Massacre.

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The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. “Boston Massacre” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1870.

After these two incidents of bloodshed, the final straw was the imposition of the Tea Act, which was passed in May 1773. The Sons of Liberty had illegally smuggled tea from Holland because anything associated with the British infuriated them. Parliament countered with the enforcement of the British East India Company, the only tea that could be purchased. The once-adored tea from India and China, all 18 million pounds of it, had been outcasted by the colonists. So a group of American women began to make their own.

Women also played important if lesser-known roles in the events leading up to the Boston Tea Party. Similar to the Sons of Liberty, a group comprised of approximately 300 women was referred to as the Daughters of Liberty, and they had significant influence. Sarah Bradlee Fulton was an important figure who became known as the “Mother of the Boston Tea Party”; she later became one of the first women to come under the orders of George Washington as a spy during the American Revolution.

Fulton’s role in the Boston Tea Party wasn’t the infamous actions of dumping tea into Boston Harbor — it was more subtle, though equally important. Fulton is credited with suggesting that the patriots wear disguises during their great tea-dumping campaign to ensure that they couldn’t be recognized from a distance and would remain incognito when they ditched their outfits after the event.

Colonists also spread propaganda about British tea in the newspapers, instead valuing “Liberty Tea” made by American women in homemade batches. “Let us abjure the poisonous baneful plant and its odious infusion,” wrote one colonist. “Poisonous and odious, I mean, not on account of the physical qualities but on account of the political diseases and death that are connected with every particle of it.”

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The Green Dragon Tavern, the meeting place where the Sons of Liberty planned the Boston Tea Party.

(Photo courtesy of The Green Dragon Tavern Museum.)

The Liberty Tea used the red root bush herb found growing on riverbanks. Red sumac berries and homegrown leaves were used to make Indian Lemonade Tea. Other recipes meticulously crafted delicious Raspberry Leaf Tea. It was declared “as good as any other tea, and much more wholesome in the end.”

While the Daughters of Liberty generally voiced their dissatisfaction with the British in quieter ways, they occasionally had to get a little rowdy. One such incident involved a merchant who was hoarding coffee, which was later dubbed the “Coffee Party.” Abigail Adams wrote about it to her husband, John, on July 31, 1777.

“There has been much rout and noise in the town for several weeks. Some stores had been opened by a number of people and the coffee and sugar carried into the market and dealt out by pounds. It was rumoured that an eminent, wealthy, stingy merchant (who is a bachelor) had a hogshead of coffee in his store which he refused to sell to the committee under 6 shillings per pound. A number of females some say a hundred, some say more assembled with a cart and trucks, marched down to the warehouse and demanded the keys, which he refused to deliver, upon which one of them seized him by his neck and tossed him into the cart. Upon his finding no quarter he delivered the keys, when they tipped up the cart and discharged him, then opened the warehouse, hoisted out the coffee themselves, put it into the trucks and drove off. It was reported that he had a spanking among them, but this I believe was not true. A large concourse of men stood amazed silent spectators of the whole transaction.”

But what happened in Boston Harbor four years prior was a pivotal moment in the fight for American independence.

On Dec. 16, 1773, an assembly was called at the Old South Meeting House, the largest building in colonial Boston. This is where John Hancock made a passionate demand: “Let every man do what is right in his own eyes!” The historic meeting amassed an estimated 5,000 to 7,000 colonists unified together against tyranny. The Boston Tea Party was put into motion to resist British oppression and to rally against taxation without proper representation.

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The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. “Destruction of the tea” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1881.

That evening, disguised as American Indians, “Adams’ Mohawks” marched toward Griffin’s Wharf carrying axes and tomahawks, wearing feathers on their caps and warpaint on their faces. The only opposition between the liberators and 342 chests of tea was a British officer who had drawn his sword. He was no match for them and simply stepped aside as he was heavily outnumbered. The men split into three groups and boarded the three ships: the Dartmouth, the Eleanor, and the Beaver. They ordered the crew below deck, then used ropes and pulleys to hoist 90- to 400-pound chests of tea up from the cargo area, onto the deck, and into the harbor.

A large crowd gathered on the shoreline and cheered on their patriots as they emptied the tea into the shallow harbor. With low tide, the harbor’s height was only two feet, therefore the “Indians” had to stomp the piles of overflowing tea leaves to get them to sink. Some of the raiding force tried to sneak tea into their pockets — one was even brave enough to use a rowboat to collect his stash, but these canoes were overturned. After they emptied all of the crates, enough to fill 18.5 million teacups, the “Indians” ducked into safe houses, through the help of the Daughters of Liberty, and were home by 10 that night.

John Andrews, an observer, later wrote, “They say the actors were Indians… Whether they were or not to a transient observer they appear’d as such, being cloth’d in blankets with the heads muffled and copper color’d countenances, each being arm’d with a hatchet or ax, and pair pistols, nor was their dialect different from what I conceive these [sic] geniusses to speak, as their jargon was unintelligible to all but themselves.”

To this day, due to a pledge of secrecy, it remains unclear of who was directly involved in the historic action of dumping tea into Boston Harbor. But the event — known now as the Boston Tea Party — has become one of the most iconic events of the American Revolution, igniting a revolt against British rule and the beginning of a new unified nation.

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This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Navy actually had a training video on how to not kill your friends

One of the single worst things that plagues military forces is the phenomenon known as “friendly fire.” Some instances of friendly fire have been momentous, like the time Stonewall Jackson was shot by Confederate troops who mistook him for a Union general.


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There have been tragic, modern instances as well – like the case of Army Cpl. Pat Tillman.

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Former Arizona Cardinals football player Pat Tillman. (Photo from U.S. Army)

This was also a problem in World War II — reference the disastrous friendly fire incident off Sicily in July, 1943. In trying to prevent these terrible instances, the Navy put forth a very unique training film, featuring the fictional “Ensign Dilbert.”

No, this isn’t the same Dilbert that’s made Scott Adams very rich, although, Adams admits that the suggestion of the name was, in fact, inspired by a Navy character. This Dilbert is, well… an idiot. A real big one. The type whose sole purpose in life is to be a warning to others.

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The film was called, aptly, Don’t Kill Your Friends. In the film, the main character, training to be a fighter pilot in the Grumman F4F Wildcat, looks friendly and likable enough, but he repeatedly makes bone-headed mistakes that could get people killed. It even features one disastrous incident with a supposedly “safe” dummy cartridge, which can do some very serious harm when it falls from a fighter plane.

Check out the film below, complete with a supposedly likable “Dilbert” and the chain of disasters he causes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNOKAd560wc
(Jeff Quitney | YouTube)
MIGHTY HISTORY

How an addict became a Navy SEAL and a nightmare for the Taliban

The biographies of most Navy SEALs probably don’t include a rap sheet — theft, possession of meth, possession of crack, and so on. But if there’s ever been a story of redemption through continued hard work and perseverance, it belongs to Adam Brown. Facing 11 felony drug and weapons charges after being found in a pool of his own blood, he opted into a drug rehab program — which only worked for a short while.

His best chance at turning his life around came in the form of a SEAL trident.


Brown’s life began like so many other good-ol’ American boys before him. The Arkansas native was a straight-A student and star football player. He was kind, respectful to his elders, and always ready for goodnatured fun. It wasn’t until he met an old flame that his descent into addiction began. She had a drug habit and, though Brown enjoyed a drink, he wasn’t inclined toward anything harder than that. Eventually, his girlfriend wore him down and he was hooked after one hit of crack-cocaine.

From there, he devolved into injecting it into his veins. Then, he began to try other drugs. Eventually, he could only be found on the floors of crack houses. He hit rock bottom when the girl who helped get him hooked eventually left and he began stabbing himself in the neck with a knife. When police found him, he was laying in a pool of his own blood. That’s when they discovered all his outstanding warrants. Facing massive jail time and a family that was done with his addictive behaviors, the judge gave him the choice: rehab or jail.

It was in rehab that Brown gave his life over to Christianity and met his soon-to-be wife, also a fervent believer. The two were happy, but Brown soon regressed. After a short disappearance, his new bride found him in a crack house. Addiction is a viscous and persistent curse, and this same scenario repeated itself until his new love threatened to leave.

By 1998, he knew he had to do something, so he stopped into a recruiter’s office after finding out a friend was joining the Navy as an aviator. The recruiter balked when Brown revealed his drug use and rap sheet, but Brown had a friend in a high place: the highest-ranking recruiting officer in the region. He vouched for Brown, who was almost immediately shipped out to basic training.

He showed up with just the clothes on his back and went straight for SEAL training.

“The training awakened in Adam the psycho who never quit,” Eric Blehm, author of ‘Fearless: The Undaunted Courage and Ultimate Sacrifice of Navy SEAL Team Six Operator Adam Brown’ told Investors Business Daily. “He also had Kelley [his wife] and his faith, which gave him a refuge and a shield of strength.”
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Brown and Family, shortly before his last deployment to Afghanistan.

He was sent to SEAL Team Four, where he ended up with a knife in his eye due to a training accident. He covered the wound and continued on, eventually having to have the eye stitched up due to a loss of blood. He later lost his right eye — his dominant eye — during a room-clearing exercise and still he pressed on. He just learned to shoot with his left eye in SEAL sniper school.

Even with a 50-percent washout rate among those with two eyes, Adam Brown succeeded. He decided he wanted to join what he thought was the best of the best: SEAL Team Six. While waiting for the right time to train with SEAL Team Six, he took a deployment to Afghanistan in 2005, where a freak convoy accident left his right hand mangled and missing fingers. Instead of tending to his own wounds, he tended to others and pulled security until the last casualty was evacuated from the site.

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When you can’t shoot with your dominant hand, just use the other hand.

With his dominant eye and his dominant hand both out, Brown did exactly what you’d expect him to do: he simply learned to work with his other hand. For a year, he made history as the only SEAL to ever attempt (let alone pass) the training with only one eye. And he was shooting almost-perfect scores.

By November, 2006, Brown was Chief Petty Officer Brown and the following years saw more hardship and deployments for the SEAL. He bore the pain of arthritis, a bad back, a broken leg, and surgery on both ankles so he could return to combat duty. He deployed to Afghanistan’s Kunar Valley and to the cities and villages all over Iraq, going on nightly raids chasing IED bomb-makers. Brown was only 33.

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Navy SEAL Adam Brown personally went out of his way to hand out shoes and socks to Afghan kids in need.

(NavySEALs.com)

His final deployment came in March of 2010. Their mission was to kill or capture a high-value Taliban leader, code-named Objective Lake James. Just like the bomb-makers in Iraq, the target was responsible for the deaths of many American and NATO soldiers. Flying into the mountains of Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush via Chinook Helicopter, Brown and the other STS SEALs fast-roped into the area and humped to a nearby village.

As the SEALs approached a stronghold, they managed to silently take out an enemy sentry, but another fired at the SEALs with his AK-47. As the area opened up with small arms fire, the SEAL Team needed to get a grenade in a nearby window. It was close, but not close enough to throw one in. As Brown made his way around with a grenade launcher, shots rang out to his left, riddling the determined SEAL with bullets. He was hit in both legs. Once he was down, other enemy positions poured bullets toward him.

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His fellow SEALs got him out of the line of fire, but it would not be enough to save Adam Brown’s life. He died later that day, back at the base.

Though Brown’s story ends in his tragic death, it’s nonetheless a story about the power of human will in overcoming any challenge. Brown showed us that you can always shape your life in any way you want, and all it takes is the love and support of your family, friends, and the people who will always have your back. Fearless is a fitting name for his story – there was nothing in life that Adam Brown couldn’t overcome to shape his own destiny.

Read about Brown’s struggle against addiction along with all his combat successes and failures in Fearless: The Undaunted Courage and Ultimate Sacrifice of Navy SEAL Team Six Operator Adam Brown, by Eric Blehm.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why this World War II veteran was the saltiest sailor in American history

There are many outstanding sailors who could lay claim to the title of the U.S. Navy’s saltiest, but since the term is synonymous with “experienced,” there’s one who stands above all others: Nathan E. Cook. 

Many people haven’t heard of Nathan Cook. He wasn’t a Medal of Honor recipient and he didn’t save hundreds of lives in a single day, but what distinguished Cook from other American sailors is his 44 years of service to the Navy, through some of its most disruptive changes – and his long life. 

Cook was born during Grover Cleveland’s presidency in 1885 and two years before he died, he received a letter from President George H.W. Bush congratulating him on his 104th birthday. When he was 15 years old, he was working in a Kansas City meat packing plant when he came upon a poster that read “Join the Navy and See the World.”

“I thought that was a good idea,” Cook said to the Department of Veterans Affairs when he became a centenarian. “One of the Navy boys came out to see us, and said ‘You boys want to get in the Navy?’ I said ‘I sure do.’”

So he did. In 1901, he lied about his age and enlisted, soon finding himself aboard the screw steamer USS Pensacola, a Civil War-era training ship in California, where he learned to sail, operate the coal steamer, and most importantly, swim. 

His first real assignment was aboard the USS Adams, another screw steamer, headed to fight the Boxer Rebellion in China. The Boxers surrendered soon after he arrived, so he was soon back at sea, headed for the Philippines. Although Cook was too late to see service in the Spanish-American War, he was just in time for the Philippine Insurrection.

The people of the Philippines had helped the Americans take the island nation during the Spanish-American War, but once the war was over and Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States, the Filipinos realized the U.S. had no interest in granting them independence, so they decided to fight for it. 

After serving in and around the Philippines, he was transferred to the protected cruiser USS Columbia and sailed around the world, his first of four circumnavigations, bound for New York, where he met his first wife in 1905. He soon found himself aboard the USS Kansas, a pre-dreadnought battleship and part of President Theodore Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet, and making his second trip around the world. 

A chief petty officer by then, he befriended two ensigns aboard the Kansas, Chester Nimitz and William Halsey. 

Cook later injured himself off the coast of Gibraltar and was kept in the sickbay until he returned to New York. He learned his appendix had burst while underway but it had dried up and he had no complications.

Cook sailed into Veracruz with the Atlantic fleet aboard Admiral Frank Friday Fletcher’s flagship, the dreadnought battleship, USS Florida. 

By the time the United States entered World War I, Cook had been temporarily commissioned as a lieutenant. He was placed in command of a submarine chaser that sunk two U-boats and was later in command of a seagoing tug, the USS Favorite, in Brest, France. While on a rescue mission, towing a ship back to France, the Favorite was attacked by another U-boat. 

As they towed the damaged ship, two torpedoes were headed in the Favorite’s direction. Cook ordered a hard right rudder and they missed entirely. Cook returned fire with the tug’s 3-inch gun and sank the attacker. He was soon sailing the tug back to New York, where he returned to his permanent rank of boatswain.  

When World War II began, Cook was in the Caribbean operating out of Haiti and Panama. It was in Panama that he experienced his proudest moments of his naval career. 

Nathan E. Cook in his later years.

“I was the acting commanding officer,” he said. “The Canal insisted that every ship have a pilot aboard to take all the ships through the canal. Everyone else took a pilot except me. I was the only one to take command whenever I got orders to go through the canal. I was the only Naval officer allowed that duty, that’s a fact!” 

Later, he was transferred to the USS Falcon, a minesweeper that was converted into a submarine rescue ship. He retired in 1942, but the Navy promoted him to the permanent rank of lieutenant in recognition of his World War I service. 

Although he was not a Spanish-American War veteran, he was a member of the United Spanish War Veterans, which was open to members who served during that era, even if they didn’t serve in the war itself. 

Nathan Cook would live another 50 years after retiring from the Navy at age 56, dying in 1992 of what the Department of Veterans Affairs says was just old age. His secret to longevity was keeping fit and avoiding the vices of drugs, alcohol and tobacco. 

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