Can you imagine having found one of the most famous shipwrecks in history and not being able to talk about it? Robert Ballard can. Ballard was the lead oceanographer for a fact-finding, top-secret Navy mission in 1985 and he helped discover the Titanic.
But how did the Navy find it? And why did it take so long for anyone to talk about it?
Well, the answer to the second question is simple. No one talked about it because the mission was top-secret. Scant details managed to make their way to the surface in the mid-1990s, but the Navy neither confirmed nor denied. So there wasn’t anything concrete to go on, and most people chalked up the idea that the Navy discovered the Titanic as a conspiracy theory.
Then James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster Titanic hit the silver screen, and there was a renewed interest in what kind of role the Navy played in the shipwreck’s discovery. Despite the renewed interest, the Navy kept a tight lid on any PR about the shipwreck.
Mum’s the word
The year was 1985, and America was deeply entrenched in the Cold War with the Soviet Union. A secret investigation was launched to explore two wrecked nuclear subs. The Navy wanted to get a closer look at the technology left aboard the USS Thresher and the USS Scorpion. Rumor had it that the USS Scorpion had been shot down by the Soviets, and part of the mission was to find out if that was true or not. Equally concerning was the fact that both of the ships were powered by nuclear reactors, and the Navy wanted to make sure there was no impact on the marine environment.
Ballard had a suspicion that the Titanic might be near the wrecked nuclear subs, so he asked the Navy for something unusual. He wanted to look for the ill-fated 1912 vessel while he and his crew were exploring the submarines.
Initially, the Navy said no way but then changed their minds, only if Ballard completed the Navy mission first. If there was “still time left over,” then Ballard could look for the Titanic.
Good thing there was some extra time, otherwise, the shipwreck might never have been discovered. Naturally, Ballard was super excited about his find – until the Navy said that he couldn’t say anything. Big Brass got nervous about the publicity around the shipwreck. So they clammed up and didn’t say anything about their big find for twenty years.
Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel pulled himself out of poverty by joining a gang headed by immigrant Meyer Lansky. During the Prohibition Era, Lansky and Siegel ran a large bootlegging operation and were influential in Jewish and Italian immigrant crime syndicate communities. In the 1930s, after organized crime made the mobster fabulously wealthy, Siegel moved to sunny Southern California, where he would continue his illegal activities.
It was there he met Dorothy di Frasso, an Italian Countess, at one of the her extravagant Beverly Hills parties. They began to travel the world together. Eventually, they invested in a new explosive called “radium-atomite” and sail for Italy in 1941, hoping to sell it to Italian Dictator Benito Mussolini.
Count Galeazzo Ciano, Mussolini’s son-in-law and foreign minister, was skeptical of the invention after the demonstration of the weapons went poorly. Ciano took a pass. Unfortunately for the Italians that very next year, the scientist developing the explosive would refine his product into a form of jellied nitroglycerin, an explosive more powerful and cheaper to produce than TNT and easier to transport than liquid nitroglycerin. When that scientist patented the explosive, Di Frasso’s name was on the patent as the owner.
While Siegel and Di Frasso were in Rome, the Nazi Luftwaffe commander, Gestapo founder, and Reichstag President Hermann Göring was there as well — fresh from annexing Czechoslovakia and ready to discuss the invasion of Poland. Meanwhile, the Beverly Hills couple were meeting all sorts of notable figures, including the new Pope Pius XII, Italian King Victor Immanuel II and his son Umberto II, and Mussolini himself.
Siegel and di Frasso eventually ran into Reichsmarschall Göring. The mobster’s daughter, who was eight-years-old at this time, remembered that her father was so angered by one of the men he met in Italy that he “wished he had shot him.” The story goes that the villa the couple were supposed to stay in as guests of the Italian government was taken by Göring, so the couple would have to be moved to less lavish quarters. Siegel, a Jewish American, unhappy with the treatment of Jews in Nazi-occupied areas and with the government anti-Semitic ideology, told friends and associates he wanted to kill the German Reichsmarschall, after meeting Göring just one time.
Göring does have one of history’s most punchable faces . . .
It was rumored Siegel also wanted to take out infamous Nazis Joseph Goebbels and Heinrich Himmler, but those rumors are unsubstantiated. The mobster would outlive Göring. The Reichsmarschall would famously kill himself with cyanide before he could be hanged at Nuremburg after the war.
For his part, Siegel would be gunned down in his Beverly Hills home by a different mistress in 1947.
(Editor’s Note – To commemorate the 78th anniversary of a legendary mission, the following is an updated repost of a story with retired Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” Cole, the last surviving member of the Doolittle Raiders originally published October 3, 2016 and before his death April 9, 2019, he was 103.)
Standing proudly in front of a B-25 Mitchell on display for a recent airshow in the central Texas town of Burnet, retired Lt. Col. Richard Cole slowly walked up to the antique bomber and clutched one of its propeller blades.
The last surviving Doolittle Raider, who had just marked his 101st birthday a few days before, smiled as he reminisced in the shadow of the bomber — a link to his storied past.
“When we got the B-25, it was a kick in the butt,” he later said, adding that he first flew the B-18 Bolo out of flight school. “It was fast and very maneuverable, with a good, steady bombing platform. You could fly it all over.”
Seventy-plus years ago, he co-piloted a similar bomber alongside then-Lt. Col. James Doolittle during a pivotal mission April 18, 1942, that helped turn the tide for the allies in the Pacific theater of World War II.
A U.S. Army Air Force B-25B Mitchell medium bomber, one of sixteen involved in the mission, takes off from the flight deck of the USS Hornet for an air raid on the Japanese Home Islands on April 18, 1942.
As the final member of the famed 80-man Army Air Forces unit, Cole was chosen to announce the name of the Air Force’s newest bomber, the B-21 Raider, at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference on Sept. 19 in Washington, D.C.
“I’ve never flown in any of the modern bombers so it’s pretty hard to realize how all of the improvements have meant to aviation,” he said at the Sept. 10 airshow. “All I can say is that the B-25 was like having a Ford Model T, (and now pilots are) getting into a Mustang.”
Crew No. 1 (Plane #40-2344, target Tokyo): 34th Bombardment Squadron, Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, pilot; Lt. Richard E. Cole, copilot; Lt. Henry A. Potter, navigator; SSgt. Fred A. Braemer, bombardier; SSgt. Paul J. Leonard, flight engineer/gunner. Cole is the last surviving member of the “Doolittle Raid” crews, having celebrated his 101st birthday.
Following the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, Doolittle developed a plan to retaliate with a daring air raid on Japan. Without escort fighters, he and the other crewmembers flew 16 modified Army B-25s off an aircraft carrier, the USS Hornet, for a one-way trip that had the makings of a suicide mission. The plan called for the aircraft, which were incapable of landing back on the aircraft carrier, to bomb industrial and military targets in five cities on the Japanese home islands and then continue on to friendly airfields in China.
Forced to launch 10 hours earlier than planned, due to the task force being spotted by a Japanese patrol boat, many aircrews later had to bail out of their fuel-parched aircraft after dropping their bomb loads. Doolittle’s crew, including Cole, parachuted into China and linked up with Chinese guerillas operating behind Japanese lines who helped them escape.
U.S. Air Force Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, Co-Pilot to Jimmy Doolittle during the Doolittle Raid, stands in front of a refurbished U.S. Navy B-25 Mitchell displayed at an airshow in Burnet, Texas. Lt. Col. Cole was honored by the community and guests as the only remaining military service member alive from the April 18, 1942 Doolittle Raid.
“The main memory I have was when my parachute opened,” Cole said of the mission. “But that was part of the job. I’d rather be sitting here than worried about a parachute jump.”
Being alone to tell the Raiders’ story these days has been something of a paradox for Cole.
“You can’t help but be happy that you’re here but on the other side of the coin you also wish that the people who were with you were here too,” he said. “But you know that that’s not possible so you have to live with it.”
The average age of the Raiders during the mission was 22, while Cole was a 26-year-old lieutenant, according to his daughter, Cindy Cole Chal.
“Dad was older on the raid,” she said. “Nobody thought that Dad would be the last one, even though he’s been in excellent health.”
Former Staff Sgt. David Thatcher was the second to last living Raider before he died at the age of 94. He was buried with full military honors June 27 in Montana.
As a 20-year-old gunner in Flight Crew No. 7, then-Cpl. Thatcher saved his four other crewmembers when their B-25 crash-landed into the sea near the Chinese coast after it bombed Japanese factories in Tokyo. He pulled them to safety on the surrounding beach and applied life-saving medical treatment, despite having injuries himself. He later earned the Silver Star for his actions.
Meanwhile, Cole parachuted into rainy weather at night and landed in a tree located on precarious terrain.
“I was fortunate in that I never touched the ground. My parachute drifted over a tall pine tree and caught on top leaving me about 10 feet off the ground,” he recounted in a 1973 letter posted on the official Doolittle Raider website. “At daybreak I was able to see that the terrain was very rough and had I tried to look around at night; probably would have fallen down a very steep hill.”
In a photograph found after Japan’s surrender in 1945, Lt. Robert L. Hite, copilot of crew 16, is led blindfolded from a Japanese transport aircraft after his B-25 crash landed in a China after bombing Nagoya on the the “Doolittle Raid” on Japan and he was captured. He was imprisoned for 40 months, but survived the war.
Once the sun rose, Cole walked westward and the next day he found an outpost belonging to the Chinese guerillas, the letter states.
On April 18, 2015, Cole and Thatcher were presented the Congressional Gold Medal for the Raiders’ efforts, the highest civilian honor given by Congress.
In his speech, a playful Cole couldn’t resist a touch of humor.
“Tonight’s affair couldn’t have been planned more accurately,” Cole said. “As I remember, the mission was over, it was Saturday night on the 18th of April and about this time David Thatcher was on the beach in China saving the rest of his crew and I was hanging in my parachute in a tree.”
Also at the ceremony, Thatcher spoke candidly as he gave advice to today’s Airmen.
“Be prepared for anything you run into — we weren’t,” he said. “Learn everything you possibly can, and be good at it.”
Lt. Col. Dick Cole, a Doolittle Raider, smiles while looking out of a B-25 aircraft April 20, 2013, on the Destin Airport, Fla. The B-25 is the aircraft he co-piloted during the Doolittle Raid.
Seven Raiders died during the mission: three were killed in action while another three were captured and executed and one died of disease in captivity.
The bombing runs did little damage but the mission rekindled the morale of the American people and struck fear into the Japanese with aircraft reaching their homeland.
“Knowing that we did the mission and did it like it was supposed to be done, we felt pretty good about it,” Cole said.
In response, the Japanese maneuvered their forces from around Australia and India to the Central Pacific, and sent two aircraft carriers to Alaska.
“The Japanese thought we were going to make more visits. But we didn’t have any equipment to do it and we had no plans for it,” Cole said. “For some reason they moved two carriers to Alaska, thinking that’s where we came from. When they did that, it evened up the number of carriers we had available for Midway.”
The Battle of Midway proved to be a major turning point in the war. Believing their Central Pacific flank to be vulnerable because of the Doolittle Raid, the Japanese launched an invasion force to secure the isolated atoll of Midway to establish a base and airfield. Unaware that U.S. Naval Intelligence had broken their naval codes and knew the date and location of the impending attack, the Japanese sailed directly into an ambush set by three U.S. carriers.
When the smoke cleared, U.S. Navy dive-bombers had sunk four Japanese carriers, the Akagi, Kaga, Soryu and Hiryu, all members of the six-carrier force that had launched the attack on Pearl Harbor, and more than 3,000 men, including many experienced combat pilots. The U.S. lost one carrier, the USS Yorktown, and about 300 men. The Japanese remained on the defensive for the rest of the war.
“When the time came for the Battle of Midway, the (U.S.) Navy was able to win and that started the Japanese on the downhill,” he said.
Nowadays, Cole has shifted his focus away from the twin-engine bomber to his tractor and lawnmower. He refuses to let his age stand in the way of his daily chores. So when not traveling for events, he tends to his acreage in Comfort, Texas, about an hour’s drive northwest from San Antonio.
“People ask me if I’m getting any flying time and I say, ‘Well, I’m getting a lot of single-engine time with the lawnmower,” he said, chuckling.
To keep the memory of Doolittle and the rest of the Raiders alive, he helps sell his book, “Dick Cole’s War,” which documents not only the Doolittle Raid, but his service after that mission with the First Air Commandos in Burma. Proceeds from the book go into a scholarship fund in Doolittle’s name for students in the aviation field.
U.S. Air Force Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, Co-Pilot to Jimmy Doolittle during the Doolittle Raid, holds a coin that has a coveted picture with his mother from 1942. The personally coveted coin was created to celebrate his 100th birthday last year. Lt. Col. Cole was honored by the community of Burnet, Texas as the only remaining military service member alive from the April 18, 1942 Doolittle Raid.
Cahl estimates her father has put in hundreds of thousands of dollars from the sales of books and signed lithograph prints into the fund to honor Doolittle, who died in 1993.
“All the time when I was flying with Colonel Doolittle, I was in awe over the fact that I was sitting next to him,” Cole said. “He put the word ‘team’ in the forefront of the English language.”
Now the sole survivor, Cole wants no part being the poster child for the historic mission.
“You did the mission. You did what you were supposed to do,” he said. “The people who were involved are all passing (away) and that’s the way it ends.
“I didn’t think any of the Raiders wanted to be singled out. We just wanted to be part of the big picture.”
U.S. Air Force Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, Co-Pilot to Jimmy Doolittle during the Doolittle Raid, smiles as he honors the U.S. flag during the singing of the national anthem at an airshow in Burnet, Texas. Lt. Col. Cole was honored by the community and guests as the only remaining military service member alive from the April 18, 1942 Doolittle Raid.
In November 1911, Italy was engaged in a costly war against the Ottoman Empire in what is today Libya. It worked out for the Italians in the end, easily defeating the Ottoman Empire, who was by then a shadow of its former glory. The war brought a number of new technologies onto the battlefield, most notably the airplane. Italian pilots were the first to use heavier than air aircraft for both reconnaissance and to drop bombs on enemy positions. One pilot was also the first to fly a night sortie.
For the Turks, who had no anti-air defenses, they were the first to shoot down an aircraft with small arms fire.
The German-built Taube monoplane like the one flown by Lt. Gavotti over Libya.
On Nov. 1, 1911, Giulio Gavotti, an Italian war pilot, climbed into the cockpit of his Etrich Taube monoplane. His mission was to fly over the Ain Zara oasis, occupied by Turkish troops. Instead of just flying over the target, he decided he would throw bombs out of the plane and into the mass of maybe 2,000 enemy soldiers below. The lieutenant would later write to his father that he was really pleased to be the first person to try. His efforts earned him the nickname “the Flying Artilleryman.”
“I notice the dark shape of the oasis. With one hand, I hold the steering wheel, with the other I take out one of the bombs and put it on my lap…. I take the bomb with my right hand, pull off the security tag and throw the bomb out, avoiding the wing. I can see it falling through the sky for couple of seconds and then it disappears. And after a little while, I can see a small dark cloud in the middle of the encampment. I am lucky. I have struck the target.”
And that’s how one pilot ushered in the Air Power age.
Giulio Gavotti, the first bomber pilot.
The young lieutenant had strapped a number of grapefruit-sized grenade-like bombs into a leather pouch in the cockpit. As he flew over the target, he would toss them over the side. The official history of the Italian Army in Libya says that Gavotti screwed in the detonators and flew at an altitude of just 600 feet as he made his bombing runs. He tossed three over the side at an oasis at Tagiura and then one over the Ain Zara Oasis. No one is really sure how many (if any) he actually killed on his run.
In response, the Ottoman Empire issued a formal complaint. Dropping bombs from aerial balloons was outlawed by the Hague Convention of 1899. The Italians countered that the airplanes weren’t balloons and any heavier-than-air craft was legally allowed to drop bombs as Gavotti had.
“I come back really pleased with the result,” Gavotti wrote. “I go straight to report to General Caneva. Everybody is satisfied.”
His wife, Pat, actually thought of it first, while watching Donald Trump on the Phil Donahue Show. The former President Nixon agreed with her enough to write Trump and let him know.
Daytime television talk shows weren’t always about who was the father of whose baby or giving a makeover to teen girls who used to be strippers. In the late 1980s, the shows weren’t always sensationalizing scandal. Shows like Phil Donahue’s actually talked in-depth about news and cultural phenomena that were worthy of the attention. One such phenomenon was the popularity of a real estate mogul in New York who was attracting headlines everywhere: Donald Trump.
He once debated mosh pits with Marilyn Manson.
In December, 1987, Donahue interviewed Trump on his show. Phil Donahue didn’t pull punches. From the get-go, he grilled Trump on his real estate management practices and the rumors associated with his “empire.” In the middle of the interview, Trump tells Donahue he’s able to be honest because he’s “not running for office,” after defending his policies – to the applause of a middle-class audience.
The look of surprise on Donahue’s face was clear, as he shouted “let’s hear it for the rich folks.” The debate over rent control continued for another ten minutes and the studio audience weren’t the only viewers impressed with the Donald’s performance, one viewer at home was also suitably impressed: Pat Nixon.
The former First Lady of the United States was so impressed with Trump’s responses to Donahue’s grilling that she told her husband, 37th President of the United States Richard Nixon. Nixon might have agreed with his wife, as he took the time to write to Trump:
I did not see the program, but Mrs. Nixon told me you were great on the Donahue show. As you can imagine, she is an expert on politics and she predicts that whenever you decide to run for office, you will be a winner!
The letter was stored away in the Nixon Presidential Library Archives until the author of a 2015 biography of Trump, called “Never Enough,” included it in the memoir of then-soon-to-be Presidential candidate Trump.
Trump’s interview on Donahue covered much more than rent control in New York City. His rhetoric was similar to the arguments he would come to use as a presidential candidate, including the idea of making American allies pay for the “services we are rendering” in providing for their defense.
Almost a year before America was attacked at Pearl Harbor and officially joined World war II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent his top aide to London to promise aid to Prime Minister Winston Churchill with a slightly amended Bible quote. This was the promise that would lead to the Lend-Lease Act, Destroyers for Bases, and other programs that would buy the British Empire time against the Third Reich.
Harry Lloyd Hopkins was one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s closest aides, eventually becoming the Secretary of Commerce.
(National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)
Harry L. Hopkins was a social worker in New York in 1931 when Roosevelt, as the governor of New York, tapped him to run the New York State Temporary Emergency Relief Administration. From there, Hopkins grew professionally closer to the governor and then went with him to the federal level as the administrator of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration.
By the time World War II broke out in 1939, Hopkins had been a trusted and capable entity for Roosevelt for eight years. So, despite being an economics guy, Roosevelt still leaned on him for foreign policy, as well.
By 1940 and 1941, Hopkins was being sent to London and Moscow to express support for the Allied Powers holding the line against Hitler. And, in January 1941, that was just Britain.
England was still reeling from the barely successful defense during the Battle of Britain where it staved off the air campaign and prevented a German cross-channel invasion but lost tens of thousands of British civilians and service members in the process.
That last bit, “Even to the end,” does not appear in the actual Bible quote, though the idea is similar. It’s from Ruth 1:16 which reads, “And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.”
In the Bible, this is followed by Ruth 1:17 which says, “Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.”
So, yeah, “Even to the end,” is just a more succinct version of what Ruth was saying there.
British and U.S. sailors inspect depth charges on destroyers slated for trade to Britain in 1940.
The message could not have been more clear to England, and it wasn’t the only sign that Roosevelt stood with Britain. He gave a speech January 6 where he laid out the “Four Freedoms” as a democratic condemnation of the fascist powers. And, as he built support in Congress, he continued shipping as much military hardware over as he could excuse.
Though America was technically neutral in the conflict at that point, Roosevelt made plans to “loan” equipment to Britain, to rent it out, to trade it for bases, and more. These efforts sent 50 destroyers and thousands of vehicles and weapons across the Atlantic. U.S. ships, including the Coast Guard, assured the sovereignty of other neutral nations, mostly by searching out Nazis and arresting them in places like Greenland.
Of course, all this work raised the ire of the Axis Powers. Combined with an embargo that would starve Japan of oil, this led to an attack against America which, in line with Japan’s military history to that point, took the form of a surprise attack over the seas. And then America took the gloves off, focusing less on sermons at dinner parties and more on smacking the absolute sh-t out of Japanese and German forces.
On Chartres Street in New Orleans’ French Quarter, you can find the best muffuletta sandwich and the best Pimm’s Cup cocktail at a place called Napoleon House – so named because it was going to be the residence of L’Empereur – just as soon as the pirates could rescue him from his exile in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
After the Battle of Waterloo saw the final defeat of Napoleon in 1815, he was exiled for the second time to a remote island where the world was certain he could never escape and never again threaten the security of Europe or its royal families. That island was St. Helena, from which the British could see pretty much anyone coming their way and fight off anyone who might try to rescue the emperor of the French. You would have to be a crazy kind of outlaw to attempt such a daring rescue.
New Orleans just happened to have a lot of those – and some very famous ones at that.
The same ones who helped fight the British at the Battle of New Orleans.
By 1821, Napoleon had been on this chunk of rock in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by British warships and British troops for five years. The onetime “Master of Europe” was likely getting tired of his forced retirement from public life. So were the fans of the Emperor. One of those fans was Nicolas Girod, the first popularly-elected mayor of New Orleans. Girod was a bonafide Bonaparte superfan. Girod was a Frenchman through and through and hated that his Emperor was on a rock somewhere in the ocean. He wanted to bring Napoleon to New Orleans, so he enlisted the most infamous pirate in New Orleans history to bring him there.
Jean Lafitte was the leader of the Barataria Bay pirates, the very same ones who helped Andrew Jackson defend New Orleans from the British in the 1815 battle. Lafitte and his men received pardons for their crimes that day. But the pirates and Girod were ready to take to the seas against the British once more, this time to bring Napoleon to his new home in New Orleans.
Where he probably would have felt right at home.
(Huge Ass Beers)
Lafitte hand-picked a crew of men with extensive experience in piloting small, fast boats. Though no writings of the specific plan exist, from what is known of the plot, it appeared the pirates were just going to fly past the British warships under the cover of darkness, land quickly on the shore, and attempt to spirit the emperor via the same way they came onto the island.
Just before the crew was set to depart in 1821, however, a ship arrived in the port of New Orleans with the news that Girod’s emperor had died. The plan was, of course, scrapped. Today, the house on Chartres Street still stands and is a restaurant and bar called “Napoleon House,” after its famous would-be tenant.
During the Vietnam War, the Republic F-105 Thunderchief — affectionately known as the “Thud” — was one of the U.S. Air Force’s primary strike aircraft. But amidst mounting losses from North Vietnamese surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft artillery, the Thud took on a new role — the Wild Weasel.
The Wild Weasels of the United States Air Force were some of the most courageous pilots in Vietnam. In a deadly game of cat and mouse, they flew fighter jets like the F-100, F-105 and F-4s deep into hostile airspace to coax the enemy into opening fire with their surface-to-air missiles. Once the Weasels located the site, other fighter bombers were called in to destroy the installations. In this episode of Warriors in their Own Words, Jerry Hoblit, Bill Sparks, Mike Gilroy, and Tom Wilson tell dramatic stories of their days as Wild Weasels.
F-105s take off on a mission to bomb North Vietnam, 1966.
A history of the Wild Weasels
The F-105 was originally conceived as a single-seat, tactical nuclear strike-fighter. In the early days of the war, these single-seat variants, F-105D’s, flew strike missions with Combat Air Patrol provided by F-100s to defend against MiG fighters.
However, during Operation Rolling Thunder in 1965, North Vietnamese air defenses improved with the addition of Soviet-made SA-2 Guideline missiles.
As American losses mounted from North Vietnamese SAMs and AAA, the decision was made to employ specialized F-100F two-seat fighters in a suppression role code-named “Wild Weasel.”
When the idea of flying directly into enemy air defenses was first briefed to the men flying the mission, an Electronic Warfare Officer gave the Wild Weasels their first motto by exclaiming,
“You gotta be sh*ttin’ me!”
After heavy losses in just seven weeks, it quickly became apparent that the F-100 was an insufficient aircraft to carry out the missions. The first Wild Weasel unit flying F-100’s was declared combat ineffective.
As luck would have it, Republic had produced two-seat trainer variants of the F-105 shortly before the end of the production run in 1964. These were quickly modified as the F-105F and rushed into the Wild Weasel role.
The newest Thud was also equipped to carry the first ever anti-radiation missile, the AGM-45 Shrike. These initial aircraft were designated Wild Weasel II.
Even with the improved F-105F, the tactics often remained the same as with the F-100. Using hunter-killer teams, a Wild Weasel aircraft would guide a flight of Thuds loaded with bombs and rockets to find the SAM sites and destroy them.
The Wild Weasel was essentially the bait.
Using their advanced radars and warning devices — or sometimes good ol’ drawing enemy fire — the Wild Weasels would “ferret out” the SAM sites, which then allowed the Thuds to come in and pulverize the position. This was often accomplished by simply following the missile’s smoke trail back to its launch site.
As the F-105F models were upgraded to G-models, known as Wild Weasel III, the Air Force began to change the tactics employed. The Wild Weasels would fly in ahead of a strike package to clear the area of SAMs, stay over the target during the bombing raid in order to attack any other SAMs or AAA that appeared, and then maintain their position until the bombers left the area, at which time they themselves would head for home as well.
This led to incredibly long, dangerous missions for the Wild Weasel crews–often three to five hours of intense flying in hostile air space. It also led to another motto for the Wild Weasels: “First In, Last Out.”
The Wild Weasel mission was exceedingly dangerous, but there was no shortage of brave, if not slightly crazy, volunteers willing to carry it out. Two Wild Weasel Thud pilots would be awarded the Medal of Honor for their gallantry in the air.
As his flight entered the target area, the lead engaged in a duel with a SAM site but was shot down while his wingman, Lincoln 02, was put out of action by flak. This left Dethlefsen and his wingman, Lincoln 04, to deal with the SAMs in the area. As Dethlefsen dove for an attack on the SAM site, he was jumped by two MiG-21 fighters.
Dodging two enemy missiles, he fled for cover in the enemy’s flak zone, betting that his pursuers wouldn’t follow. He again pressed the attack on the SAM and was again driven off by the fighters, his Thud absorbing several 37mm cannon shells.
As the strike package egressed from the area Dethlefsen decided to try one more time to destroy the SAM site. Leading his wingman in, he fired his AGM-45 and destroyed the radar. With the defenses down, the two Thuds pummeled the site with their bomb loads.
For good measure Dethlefsen rolled over and strafed the site with his 20mm cannon.
The second Medal of Honor was awarded to Lt. Col. Leo Thorsness for his actions on April 19, 1967. While leading a Wild Weasel mission of F-105’s, Thorsness and his wingman attacked and destroyed a SAM with missiles. Spotting another SAM, they proceeded to move in and destroy it with their bomb loads.
However, Thorsness’ wingman was shot down in the attack. The two crewmen bailed out and as they descended, Thorsness circled them to provide protection and maintain sight for the inbound rescue crews. As he did this, a MiG-17 approached.
Thorsness quickly responded and blasted the MiG with his 20mm cannon, sending it to the ground. As the rescue crews approached the scene, Thorsness peeled off to refuel; however, hearing of more MiG-17’s in the area, he quickly returned to the fight. Seeing the enemy fighters attempting a wagon wheel maneuver, he drove straight in and raked a MiG as it crossed his path.
Thorsness bugged out on afterburners at low-level to avoid the pursuing fighters. Eventually Thorsness was forced to return to base, almost out of fuel. He put his plane into a “glide” and landed at a forward air base with empty tanks.
Eventually high losses and improving technology would see many F-105’s replaced by the newer F-4 Phantom II in the Wild Weasel and strike roles, though F-105G’s continued to operate as Wild Weasels through the end of the war.
Many are still struggling to determine the safest way to go back to school in the fall. But one suggestion to take the curriculum outdoors is compelling for some people—and the idea has an interesting history. A recent article from the New York Times highlights how, in 1907, two Rhode Island doctors, Ellen Stone and Mary Packard, implemented a plan that would let kids go to school during a major tuberculosis outbreak.
Following a trend that took wind in Germany, the doctors paved the way for open-air classrooms in the state. They converted a brick building into being more public health-conscious by installing large windows on each side and keeping them open for the whole day. Remarkably, none of the children became sick, although they did endure open-air classes during freezing New England winters. Shortly, 65 schools soon implemented a similar plan, or simply held classes outside within the first two years of Dr. Stone and Packard’s successful plan.
Regardless of your opinion on how, and if, schools should open up, the story does have compelling implications for what early education could one day look like, even post-pandemic. And that’s because, as The Times points out, studies have shown that many children might be more likely to pay attention to what they’re learning if they’re outside, particularly for science and gym classes. That makes sense, because who wouldn’t prefer to learn about photosynthesis outdoors, looking at flowers and trees with the sun shining down, compared to simply studying a chalkboard or textbook cooped up inside? And since kids should exercise anyway, why not make it into a game on the playground?
We know that it’s more difficult to transmit the coronavirus outside, and as schools, districts, and families struggle to figure out their plans for the fall, this history lesson about outdoor teaching might be worth noting?
In 1955, the Army made a video about the the two most handsome military police officers in the history of the Army and their foot patrols through U.S. town, providing “moral guidance” for soldiers and interrupting all sorts of trouble before it starts.
Oddly, they don’t write a single speeding ticket, but they do snatch a staff sergeant for driving recklessly.
The military police are moving on foot through the town, learning all the local haunts off base and providing services ranging from giving bus route advice to providing first aid to injured soldiers. They interrupt fights before they happen and let troops know what areas are off limits.
A much wider portfolio than the speed traps they’re known for today.
And the video specifically highlights the “moral services” of the military police officers, which is pretty surprising information for anyone who’s partied with MPs.
The dangerous gunmen that the MPs stop from shooting up Augusta, Georgia.
But even in ’50s propaganda, the MPs get into some blue falcon shenanigans, waking up a soldier waiting on a bus to get onto him about his uniform, then detaining a soldier on pass for looking slightly shady.
They even find an idiot boot playing pool in his G.I. boots.
Their finest moment comes when they catch a wanted soldier carrying the world’s most adorable pistol while loitering near an art studio. Of course, our intrepid heroes catch the ne’er-do-well without a shot fired after drawing on him in the mean streets of Augusta, Georgia.
Actual line in this scene: “Punishment? Well, the sergeant’s company commander will take care of that.” Um, yeah, of course the commander makes the decision, because MPs have all the punitive powers of a Boy Scout.
Hint: If you want to make a group of soldiers look awesome, give them a more forgiving challenge than rolling boots in one of the safest cities in the Union. Maybe highlight their role in maneuver warfare or the way they breach buildings and fight gunmen inside.
The worst infraction the MPs find in this video, outside of the miniature gunfighter, is a stolen valor major at 25:30.
The video is almost 30 minutes long, but has plenty of unintentional humor to keep you chuckling. Check it out up top, and be sure to share it with any MP buddies who get too big for their britches.
Over the years, the British have taken a good many significant artifacts back to England with them. To its credit, the British Empire did an excellent job of preserving those relics. Still, plundering any country’s cultural treasures is kind of an a-hole thing to do. But there is one set of priceless antiquities that the British can feel good about rescuing and returning.
This one isn’t their fault.
One of the most troublesome incidents of the U.S.-led invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years was the theft and complete loss of priceless cultural treasures from the distant fields and local museums around these two countries. Many of the things looted in the chaos of these two conflicts may never be seen again. Not so for nine sculpted heads from the Fourth Century AD. These were intercepted at London’s Heathrow Airport in 2002 on a flight from Pakistan. The British Museum took control of the sculptures and restored them – but how did they get there?
It’s because the Taliban are the a-holes in this situation.
They usually are the a-holes in any situation.
These statue heads would have been atop artworks in the Buddhist temples of the ancient kingdom of Gandhāra some 1,500 years ago. The kingdom of Gandhāra straddled parts of what is today India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan at the time. As for what happened to the temples and the statues, the Taliban blew them up with dynamite. The terror group’s biggest destructive act was the use of anti-tank mines on Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Temples, which destroyed the beautiful pre-Islamic statues along the temple walls. The heads that were found in London were probably smuggled through Pakistan and on their way to the black market.
After their discovery, the British Museum was called in to document and catalog the priceless ancient sculptures. The heads will be on display in the museum for a short time, but will then be returned to the people of Afghanistan.
Kieran L. asks: Who started the conspiracy theory about the moon landing being fake?
Since the early 1970s conspiracy theorists have created ever more elaborate stories about how NASA faked the moon landings, much to the annoyance of the literal hundreds of thousands of people who worked in some capacity to make these missions a reality, and even more so to the men who were brave enough to sit in front of a massive controlled explosion, take a little jaunt through the soul crushing void of space in an extremely complex ship built by the lowest bidder, then get into another spacecraft whose ascent engine had never been test fired before they lit the candle, and all with the goal of exiting said ship with only a special suit between them and oblivion. And don’t even get the astronauts started on the paltry government salary they earned in doing all that and the hilarious lengths they had to go to to provide some semblance of a life insurance policy for their families should the worst happen during the missions. So who first got the idea that the moon landings were faked?
While it’s highly likely there were at least a few individuals here and there who doubted man could accomplish such a thing a little over a half century after the end of period in which humans were still hitching up covered wagons, the first to really get the moon landing hoax story going popularly was a writer named Bill Kaysing. How did he do it? Kaysing self-published a book in 1976 called We Never Went to the Moon: America’s Thirty Billion Dollar Swindle.
Released a few years after the Apollo 17 mission in 1972, Kaysing’s book popularly introduced some of the most well known talking points of moon landing deniers, such as that the astronauts should have been killed when they passed through the Van Allen radiation belts, noting the lack of stars in photographs, the missing blast crater below the lunar modules, etc. Beyond these, he also had some more, let’s say, “unusual” and occasionally offensive assertions which even the most ardent moon landing denier would probably rather distance themselves from.
Not exactly a best-seller, Kaysing’s book nonetheless laid the ground work for some of what would come after, with the idea further gaining steam in part thanks to the 1978 film Capricorn 1, which shows NASA faking a Mars landing and then going to any lengths to keep it a secret. As for the film, director Peter Hyams states he first got the idea for such a movie when musing over the Apollo 11 mission and thinking, “There was one event of really enormous importance that had almost no witnesses. And the only verification we have . . . came from a TV camera.”
Not an accurate statement in the slightest on the latter point, it nonetheless got the wheels turning and he ultimately developed a script based on this notion.
As to how Kaysing before him came to the conclusion that NASA faked the moon landings, the story, at least as Kaysing tells it, is that in the late 1950s he managed to view the results of a highly secretive internal study conducted by NASA on the feasibility of man successfully landing on the moon that concluded, in his own words: “That the chance of success was something like .0017 percent. In other words, it was hopeless.”
Kaysing doesn’t explain how NASA came up with such a precise figure given all the unknown variables at the time, nor why he put the qualifier “something like” followed by such an extremely exact number. He also did not name the report itself. And, in fact, as far as we can tell, NASA never conducted such an all encompassing study on the feasibility of a successful moon landing in the 1950s. Whether they did or not, we did find in our research looking for that report that NASA conducted a feasibility study on the proposed designs for several manned rockets immediately prior to Apollo program to decide which contractor to use. This, of course, has nothing to do with Kaysing, but we figured we’d mention it as we like to deal in facts and reading Kaysing’s various works has us feeling like we need to be cleansed a little by saying things that are actually true about NASA in this period.
Astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong in NASA’s training mockup of the Moon and lander module.
In any event, Kaysing would later assert that he determined from this report that there’s no way NASA could have improved these 0.0017% odds in the time between the results of this supposed study and the moon landings about a decade later.
Now, if Kaysing was just some random guy shouting in the wind, it’s unlikely anyone would have listened to him. Every conspiracy theory origin story needs at least some shred of credibility from the person starting it to get the fire going. For Kaysing’s assertions about the moon landings, this comes in the form of the fact that for a brief period he worked for Rocketdyne, a company that made rockets for the Apollo program. Not an engineer or having any similar technical expertise whatsoever, Kaysing’s background was primarily in writing, earning an English degree from the University of Redlands, after which he naturally got a job making furniture.
As for the writing gig he landed with Rocketdyne, his job was initially as a technical writer starting in 1956 and he eventually worked his way up to head of technical publications. He finally quit in 1963, deciding he’d had enough of working for the man.
After quitting, to quote him, “the rat race”, in 1963 Kaysing traveled the country in a trailer with his family, earning his living writing books on a variety of topics from motorcycles to farming.
This brings us to 1969 when he, like most everyone else in the world with access to a TV watched the moon landing. While watching, Kaysing recalled the supposed NASA study he’d seen all those years ago, as well as that engineers he’d worked with at the time in the late 1950s claimed that while the technology existed to get the astronauts to the moon, getting them back was not yet possible. He later stated he further thought,
As late as 1967 three astronauts died in a horrendous fire on the launch pad. But as of ’69, we could suddenly perform manned flight upon manned flight? With complete success? It’s just against all statistical odds.
Despite often describing himself as “the fastest pen in the west”, it would take Kaysing several years to write the book that introduced one of the most enduring conspiracy theories to the world.
As for why NASA would bother with the charade, he claimed NASA worked in tandem with the Defence Intelligence Agency to fake the moon landings to one up those pesky Russians. While certainly good for the country if they could get away with it, the benefit to NASA itself was, of course, funding. Said Kaysing, “They — both NASA and Rocketdyne — wanted the money to keep pouring in.” As to how he knew this, he goes on “I’ve worked in aerospace long enough to know that’s their goal.”
Model of Soviet Lunokhod automatic moon rover.
So how did NASA do it? He claimed that the footage of the moon landing was actually filmed on a soundstage. When later asked where this soundstage was located, Kaysing confidently stated that it was located in Area 51. As he doesn’t seem to have ever given clear evidence as to how he knew this, we can only assume because it’s not a proper space related conspiracy theory if Area 51 isn’t mentioned.
Kaysing also claimed that the F-1 engines used were too unreliable so NASA instead put several B-1 rockets inside each of the F-1 engines. Of course, in truth these wouldn’t have been powerful enough to get the Saturn V into orbit even if its tanks were mostly empty. (And given the frost and ice clearly visible covering certain relevant parts of the Saturn V here, it’s apparent the tanks could not have been mostly empty). There’s also the little problem that the clusters of B-1s he described couldn’t have fit in the F-1 engine bells and you can see footage of the F-1 engines working as advertised, with no clusters of engines anywhere in sight. Nevertheless, despite these problems with his story, he did purport that the Saturn V was launched to space as shown (though at other times has claimed that in fact as soon as the rocket was out of sight it was simply ditched in the ocean and never made it to space). Stick with us here people, he changed his story a lot over the years.
Whatever the case, in all initial cases, he claims the astronauts were not aboard.
(And if you’re now wondering how the U.S. fooled the Soviets and other nations tracking the rockets during these missions, he claims a way to fake signals was devised, allowing for tracking stations on Earth to think the craft was headed for the moon and, critically, successfully fooling the Soviets who were indeed closely tracking the missions to the moon and back.)
So what did Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins do during the mission if they weren’t zipping around in space? In the first edition of his book, Kaysing claims that they flew to Las Vegas where they mostly hung out at strip clubs when they weren’t in their rooms on the 24th floor of the Sands Hotel.
We can’t make this stuff up, but apparently Kaysing can.
Kaysing goes on that at one point one of the trio got into a fistfight with someone in broad daylight over a stripper. Sadly Kaysing doesn’t reveal which of the men did this, nor how he knew about it, so we’re forced to assume it was Buzz Aldrin who is the only member of the three we definitely know actually has gotten in a fist fight.
The Apollo 11 lunar landing mission crew, pictured from left to right, Neil A. Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, command module pilot; and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot.
In this case, in 2002, a 72 year old Buzz Aldrin punched Bart Sibrel who is a “we never landed on the moon” conspiracy theorist, “documentary” maker, and cab driver. Sibrel invited Aldrin to a hotel with Sibrel telling him he was making a children’s TV show on space. Once Aldrin arrived at the hotel, Sibrel pulled out a Bible and tried to get Aldrin to put his hand on it and swear that he had walked on the moon. Needless to say, Aldrin was pretty irritated at this point. Things got worse when Sibrel called Aldrin a “liar” and a “coward”, at which point Aldrin punched him.
As for his defense, Sibrel states, “When someone has gotten away with a crime, in my opinion, they deserve to be ambushed. I’m a journalist trying to get at the truth.” Unwilling to sway on what that truth is, however, Sibrel states, “I do know the moon landings were faked. I’d bet my life on it.” Not all is lost, however, because he states, “I know personally that Trump knows the moon landings are fake and he’s biding his time to reveal it at the end of this term, or at the end of his second term if he’s re-elected.” So, rest easy everyone, the truth will come out soon enough apparently.
In any event, going back to Kaysing’s book, he states that shortly before the astronauts were supposed to begin broadcasting from the moon, all three men arrived on a soundstage deep within the confines of Area 51 and ate cheese sandwiches. He also states that along with cheese sandwiches, NASA provided the men with buxom showgirls while at Area 51. Presumably this was the only way to pry the astronauts away from the strip clubs.
After eating the no doubt delicious sandwiches, Aldrin and Armstrong put on some space suits and pretended to walk across a fake moon set while reading out some, to quote Kaysing, “well-rehearsed lines” in a performance he called “not great” but “good enough”.
A description we personally feel is a little unfair considering it has apparently fooled seemingly every scientist on Earth then to now, including ones working for the nation directly competing with the US to land on the moon who would have relished any opportunity to even allege the whole thing was faked in a credible way, let alone prove it and embarrass the U.S. utterly in front of the whole world. But, unfortunately, as you might imagine, the Soviets at the time were monitoring the whole thing quite closely with their newfangled technology and so never got the opportunity to disprove the landings.
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin poses for a photograph beside the deployed United States flag during an Apollo 11 Extravehicular Activity on the lunar surface.
Amazingly Kaysing also claimed in his book that the fake moon landing footage was filmed live and that there was only “a seven second delay” between Armstrong and Aldrin’s performance and the broadcast the world was watching. Thus, had even a fly buzzed across the set, NASA would have only seconds to notice and cut the feed, lest such a mistake or inconsistency be noticed in the footage people would be watching for the rest of human history.
As for the splash down and recovery, he claims the astronauts were eventually put on a military cargo plane (a Lockheed C-5 Galaxy) and simply dropped from it in the capsule. As for how he knew this, he did provide a source for once, claiming that an airline pilot he talked to had seen the Apollo 15 module drop from a cargo plane. Who this pilot was, what airline he worked for, if he offered any evidence to support his claim, such as a flight log showing him piloting a plane in the area during the time of the splash down of Apollo 15, or even when he talked to said pilot, however, he fails to mention.
As for the moon rocks brought back, these were apparently meteorites found in Antarctica as well as some that were cleverly made in a NASA geology lab.
As to how NASA was able to keep the lid on things, despite nearly a half a million people working on the Apollo Program in some capacity, not just for NASA but countless independent organizations, he claims NASA simply only let those who needed to know the whole thing was a hoax know.
So following this reasoning that means all these scientists, engineers, etc. working on all the components and various facets of the mission were genuinely trying to make the moon landing happen, including knowing the requirements to make it happen and testing everything they made until it met those requirements… Meaning what was built and planned should have been capable of doing what the mission required…
That said, Kaysing admits a handful of people here and there would have had to know the whole thing was a sham, and thus NASA simply paid off those who could be paid off, promoted those who preferred that reward, threatened those who still wouldn’t go along, and murdered those who still resisted, which we’ll get into shortly.
The ridiculousness of many of these claims and how easily they crumple under the slightest bit of scrutiny is likely why in the 2002 re-release of his book Kaysing changed his story in various ways, including claiming that the engines on the Saturn V actually did work and that Collins, Aldrin, and Armstrong did go to space after all, instead of going to hang out with strippers in Vegas. He then states that all three men orbited the planet while pre-recorded, not live, footage was shown on Earth.
The swing arms move away and a plume of flame signals the liftoff of the Apollo 11 Saturn V space vehicle.
Despite, to put it mildly, straining credibility on pretty much everything he said from start to finish and him providing absurdly specific details, generally without bothering to provide any evidence whatsoever backing up these claims and changing those specific details frequently over time, Kaysing’s book and subsequent work nonetheless helped spawn the still thriving moon landing hoax conspiracy theory.
As for Kaysing, he didn’t stop there. He continued to sporadically come up with new allegations against NASA, including that the agency murdered the astronauts and teacher aboard the Challenger explosion. Why would they do this when the whole Christa McAuliffe thing was supposed to be a publicity stunt to get the public more interested in space travel, science, and what NASA was doing? According to Kaysing, “Christa McAuliffe, the only civilian and only woman aboard, refused to go along with the lie that you couldn’t see stars in space. So they blew her up, along with six other people, to keep that lie under wraps…”
Speaking of things that Kaysing said that are ridiculously easy to debunk with even a modicum of effort, we feel obligated to point out that Christa McAuliffe was not the only woman on board. NASA astronaut Judith Resnik was also killed in that tragedy.
Not stopping there, Kaysing also claimed the deaths of the Apollo 1 astronauts were intentional as one or more of the astronauts aboard was about to blow the whistle on the upcoming hoax plan. We feel obligated to point out here that, as previously mentioned, he also used this fire as evidence of NASA lacking expertise to get a man to the moon… Meaning according to Kaysing this fire was somehow both intentional to murder a few astronauts and also accidental owing to NASA’s incompetence.
Moving swiftly on, NASA officials also apparently had others killed, including safety inspector at North American Aviation Thomas Baron who wrote a report on NASA safety protocol violations after that tragic Apollo 1 fire.
It’s at this point, we should probably note that in the 1990s Kaysing decided to sue Jim Lovell. You see, in 1996 Lovell publicly stated “The guy is wacky. His position makes me feel angry. We spent a lot of time getting ready to go to the moon. We spent a lot of money, we took great risks, and it’s something everybody in this country should be proud of.”
Lovell also wrote to Kaysing asking him to “Tear up your manuscript and pursue a project that has some meaning. Leave a legacy you can be proud of, not some trash whose readers will doubt your sanity.”
Unwilling to stand for his good name being publicly besmirched, Kaysing naturally sued Lovell for defamation, though the case was eventually dismissed and nothing ever came of it.
Kaysing continued to assert that the moon landings were a hoax right up until his death in 2005, in between writing books on cookery, motorcycle safety, farming, taxes, survival, how to subsist on very little money, and travel guides, as well as making occasional appearances on such shows as Oprah expounding on his conspiracy theory work.
A 1963 conceptual model of the Apollo Lunar Excursion Module.
On the side he also promoted micro-housing as a solution for homeless people and ran a cat sanctuary called “FLOCK”, standing for “For the Love of Cats and Kittens”. So, yes, Kaysing was a man whose passions included micro housing, cats, survival, travel, living off almost nothing, and rapidly coming up with conspiracy theories. If only he’d been born later or the interwebs invented sooner, this man could have been an internet superstar.
Whatever the case, Kaysing’s death understandably garnered a mixed reaction from the scientific community, with few finding the ability to muster much sympathy for a man who accused NASA of murdering people.
Gone but not forgotten, Kaysing’s ideas have actually gained in popularity in recent years, particularly among younger generations according to various polls, such as one done by space consultant Mary Dittmar in 2005 showing that 25% of people 18-25 doubted man had ever walked on the moon.
This is all despite the fact that it’s never been easier to definitively debunk Kaysing’s various assertions. Not just via reading the countless explanations by scientists definitively addressing point by point every idea ever put forth by moon landing conspiracy theorists, there’s also the fact that there are literally pictures taken in the last decade showing clear evidence of some of the equipment sitting on the moon, including for the Apollo 11, 14, 15, 16, and 17 landing sites. Even in some cases showing the tracks left by the astronauts and the shadows from the flags planted themselves.
Naturally, moon landing deniers simply claim these photos too were faked, although why China, India, and Japan should cater to NASA on this one when they independently took pictures of their own verifying the moon landings is anybody’s guess.
We’ll have much, much more on all this in an upcoming article on How Do We Know Man Really Walked on the Moon?
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
The morning of March 19, 2003, marked the beginning of the Iraq War that would eventually lead to devastating loss for both countries. With its roots in the first Persian Gulf War, some argue that the Iraq/U.S. conflict was inevitable, while others consider it an unnecessary war.
After dictator Saddam Hussein’s refusal to abandon Iraq in 2003, U.S. and allied forces launched a full-scale attack. What followed were years of American occupation, a large number of Iraqi and American casualties, and a growing tide of opposition to the seemingly unending war. The Iraq War spanned nearly the entirety of two presidential administrations in the United States, leading to shifting strategies and new technologies. Eventually, the Obama administration withdrew the final troops in 2011, but the long years of warfare continue to affect the Iraqi nation. These Iraq War books recount, analyze, and revisit the effects and experiences of a war that some have deemed preventable.
(The Feminist Press at CUNY)
1. Dreaming of Baghdad
By Haifa Zangana
A humane approach to Middle Eastern affairs, Dreaming of Baghdad is a hauntingly beautiful memoir that will leave you with a new perspective on the “War on Terror”. We follow Haifa Zangana’s experience as a political activist during Saddam Hussein’s reign in Iraq. She — along with a small group who resisted Saddam’s rule — was eventually captured and imprisoned at Abu Ghraib.
There is a stark illumination on the psychological disturbances experienced by individuals under dictatorship. Zangana is brutally honest when retelling her story of exile and incarceration; she experienced the agonizing loss of friends and comrades through torture and death in prison. A first-hand account that shifts between time, place, and subjectivity to comment on how the trauma of power and war affect our memory.
2. Packed for the Wrong Trip
By W. Zach Griffith
The relatively unknown prison at Abu Ghraib garnered global attention once photos of the abuses inflicted on prisoners were released. Abu Ghraib quickly became the focal point of a worldwide scandal. Just a few months after the photographs were released, the 152nd Field Artillery Battalion of the Maine National Guard arrived to serve as guards. Originally trained and meant to serve in Afghanistan, the soldiers were deeply unprepared for the scrutiny they would receive and the attacks they would soon endure. The group of citizen-soldiers were forced to rely on each other in order to survive one of the darkest prisons in the world and change it for the better.
(Open Road + Grove/Atlantic)
3. The Finish
By Mark Bowden
Get inside the political choices that brought down Osama bin Laden. Bowden’s narrative takes the reader all the way back to President Clinton’s administration to discover the many seemingly minor actions that allowed al-Qaeda to grow. After Bin Laden’s terrorist organization wreaked havoc through the 1990s and early 2000s, taking him down became a top priority for foreign intelligence services around the world.
4. Why We Lost
By Daniel P. Bolger
Firsthand experience and understanding brings a new perspective to American actions in the Iraq War. With a career as an army general that spanned over 35 years, Daniel Bolger provides a candid look into U.S. led campaigns with an insider look into the meetings, strategies, and key players of the war.
Bolger’s main argument is that we lost the Iraq War because the American forces never knew who they were truly fighting. As Bolger puts it, “Every man shot by U.S. soldiers wore civilian clothes. If he had an AK-47, was he getting ready to shoot you or merely defending his family? If he was talking on a cell phone, was he tipping off the insurgency or setting off an IED, or was he phoning his wife?”
(Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)
5. The Iraq War: The Military Offensive, from Victory in 21 Days to the Insurgent Aftermath
By John Keegan
His background as a military historian with extensive knowledge on warfare gives Keegan’s discussion a refreshing, objective perspective. Keegan collated a well-detailed look into Iraqi history, from its origins in the Ottoman Empire to Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship. The Iraq War, despite its broad title, primarily recounts the 21-day invasion by the United States and allies that removed Hussein from power. As an explanation of the factors that led to the war, this is an unmissable resource.
(Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)
6. The Mirror Test: America at War in Iraq and Afghanistan
By J. Kael Weston
This powerful 2016 book examines the relationship between warfare and diplomacy. Like many of the other authors on this list, Weston had an inside look into the U.S. government during the Iraq War. Weston was a State Department official — serving over seven years in Iraq and Afghanistan. Weston uses this experience to show both the war and his own personal journey throughout the narrative. As a firsthand witness, he saw the sacrifice and casualties caused by a devastating war. The book follows Weston as he visits families, memorials, and the grave sites of 31 soldiers who perished in a helicopter crash on January 26, 2005 — an operation he personally ordered. This deeply affecting tale reckons with Weston’s and the country’s actions in Iraq.
7. Run to the Sound of the Guns: The True Story of an American Ranger at War in Afghanistan and Iraq
By Nicholas Moore
This eyewitness account of the Iraq War is presented through a series of vignettes as Nicholas Moore recounts the development of the Ranger Regiment. He chronicles the challenges troops had to face and adapt to while hunting for Iraq’s Most Wanted. Serving in an elite special operations unit, Moore was intimately involved in the war on terror, spending over a decade with the U.S. Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment.
Moore discusses the search and rescue of Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell and the devastating loss of the Chinook helicopter crash, which killed 38 men and one military working dog. Moore sees the events both as a soldier and as a husband and father who nearly lost his life in a global war against terrorism.
(Random House Publishing Group)
8. The Strongest Tribe: War, Politics, and the Endgame in Iraq
By Bing West
This is a straightforward recapitulation of the Iraq War that reconfigures the reader’s understanding of the long-lasting conflict. Whatever your political stance, West puts it all under the microscope and leaves you questioning what you thought you knew. From the United States’s entrance into the war to the brink of defeat in 2006, to the unimaginable turnaround in 2007, West criticizes the Bush administration and Army generals as he travels between the Pentagon and Ramadi. In the end, West asks us to reflect on our mistakes to avoid repeating history.
This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.