One man dumped most of the combat footage of D-Day into the English Channel - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

One man dumped most of the combat footage of D-Day into the English Channel

The Office of Strategic Services and the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force were all set to painstakingly document every aspect of the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944. And yet, the little footage that survives comes from the work of one combat cameraman — Hollywood director and then-Capt. John Ford.


Captain Ford was recommended for the Distinguished Service Medal for his work on that day. His citation reads:

“The returning film was assembled under his directions, and an overall D-Day report, complete with sound, was completed on D plus 5, and was shown to Mr. Winston Churchill. Copies were also flown to President Roosevelt and Mr. Stalin.”

The rest of the footage was lost a result of the invasion itself and of one junior officer, a Maj. W.A. Ullman, who unceremoniously dropped much of the footage shot on the American-led Omaha and Utah beaches into the English Channel.

An entire duffel bag, filled with D-Day footage.

One man dumped most of the combat footage of D-Day into the English Channel
Major Ullman’s orders to to transport the D-Day footage from Omaha Beach. Good job, Major. (NARA Photo)

On Utah and Omaha beaches, combat cameramen carrying bulky 35mm cameras and film made for easy targets for Nazi machine gunners defending Hitler’s shores. Even cameras mounted to landing craft didn’t survive the carnage.

The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration occasionally goes through its extensive records. One writer, Audrey Amidon, found what she believes is a once-secret film reel possibly shown to Allied troops in France on D plus 7.

She found the reels in separate, non-sequential Army Signal Corps catalogs, identified as combat footage taken from D-Day to D plus 3 — the first documentary of the invasion of Fortress Europe by the Allies.

NARA cites a document from the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force that could be proof the documentary film found by Amidon is the one shown to the troops in France. It refers to the above film as “an uncensored film of the assault on the French Coast.”

The fierce fighting on D-Day and the clumsiness of one Major are the reason we see the same footage of D-Day over and over again.


Feature image uploaded by Pierre Markuse via Flickr

MIGHTY HISTORY

This American-built King Cobra was passed on to the Russians

The United States fielded a number of famous fighters in World War II. The P-40 Warhawk, the P-47 Thunderbolt, the F4F Wildcat, the F6F Hellcat, the P-38 Lightning, the F4U Corsair, and the P-51 Mustang all made huge marks. There was one plane, however, that did a lot of damage to the Axis but didn’t enjoy the same fanfare.

And it makes sense — because the Bell P-63 Kingcobra never saw action with the United States.


The P-63 Kingcobra did most of its fighting for the Soviet Air Force, where it served as a tank-buster, armed with a 37mm cannon (about 25 percent bigger than the A-10’s gun), that could also hold its own in the air.

The Kingcobra also packed four M2 .50-caliber machine guns — two in the nose (with 200 rounds per gun) and two in the wings (with 900 rounds per gun). These guns proved more than enough to take out German fighters. The Kingcobra also was able to carry up to three 500-pound bombs or drop tanks. And, with a top speed of 410 miles per hour, this plane was no slowpoke.

One man dumped most of the combat footage of D-Day into the English Channel

The P-63 packed a single 37mm auto-cannon and four .50-caliber machine guns.

(USAF)

Nearly 2,400 Kingcobras were provided to the Soviet Union under the provisions of the Lend-Lease policy. Despite its solid performance, the Soviets never gave this plane much credit for what it did to the Nazis, preferring to highlight the Ilyushin Il-2 Sturmovik, a Russian design, for propaganda purposes.

One man dumped most of the combat footage of D-Day into the English Channel

Some P-63s did serve in the American military – as training aids for pilots headed overseas.

(USAF)

The P-63 also saw some service with the French, who got 112 planes and used them in Indochina until they got second-hand F8F Bearcats from the United States.

In a way, the Kingcobra did serve in the United States — mostly as either aerial targets or target tugs to help American pilots practice their gunnery. Some were even slated to become (but were never used as) target drones.

Learn more about this forgotten fighter in the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dpnXb5qmJsQ

www.youtube.com

One man dumped most of the combat footage of D-Day into the English Channel

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MIGHTY HISTORY

There was a time when duels ‘downsized’ the officer ranks

In 1814 the War of 1812 was rising in intensity and the young American nation found itself struggling to mount a serious defense against the British juggernaut. Compounding America’s problems of short-manning and a limited supply of weapons was the fact that officers kept killing each other in duels over matters of honor, Donald R. Hickey said in his book, The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict.


 

One man dumped most of the combat footage of D-Day into the English Channel
Duelists fighting to the death over perceived insults. Painting: Public Domain

 

“One in twelve American navy officers who died on active duty before 1815 were killed in duels, eighteen in all,” Stephen Budiansky wrote in Perilous Fight; “easily twice that number had fought a duel, and every officer lived with the knowledge that his reputation for courage was always liable to be tested on the field of honor.

A Smithsonian.com article noted an even grimmer statistic saying, “Between 1798 and the Civil War, the Navy lost two-thirds as many officers to dueling as it did to more than 60 years of combat at sea.”

One spot of ground near Washington, D.C. was popular for both duelists and journalists. At least 26 duels, many of them between military officers, were fought there. In one duel in 1820, Commodore Stephen Decatur, a decorated naval officer, was killed by Commodore James Barron over a years-old disagreement.

The disagreement stemmed from the Chesapeake-Leopard Affair and was the root cause of 8 other duels as well. Officers fought each other to the death to determine who should be blamed for the USS Chesapeake‘s surrender to the HMS Leopard in a skirmish in 1807.

Gen. Andrew Jackson was nearly killed in a duel in 1806 when he dueled attorney Charles Dickinson and was shot within inches of his heart. Jackson plugged the wound with a handkerchief before killing Dickinson.

One man dumped most of the combat footage of D-Day into the English Channel
Andrew Jackson wins the Battle of New Orleans two weeks after the War of 1812 ended. Not photographed: The hole in his chest from the nearly fatal dueling wound he shrugged off. Painting: Public Domain.

It got so bad that in 1814 the War Department threatened to discharge duelists in a failed attempt to bring the practice to an end.

This would have been a direct reversal of common military culture at the time. In 1813, a regimental commander refused a duel from one of the doctors in his unit. The doctor was later convicted of insubordination but immediately pardoned.

Other officers from the same camp had convinced the commanding general that it was a greater injustice that a duel had been refused than that a doctor had posted insubordinate notices. When the war was over, the Army kept the insubordinate doctor but released the colonel from service.

Abraham Lincoln, before he was president, nearly cut down Army officer James Shields. Lincoln had ridiculed Shields in the press and Shields demanded the chance to defend his honor. Lincoln chose broadswords as the weapon and, on the dueling ground, used his much larger arms to cut down a branch that was over Shields’ head.

With the encouragement of the crowd, the men called off the duel. During the Civil War, then-Brig. Gen. Shields defeated Stonewall Jackson at the Battle of Kernstown, an important victory for the Union.

Although generally frowned upon, duels still happened until after the Civil War.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time the Japanese tried to bomb the US using balloons

In the early hours of Dec. 7th, 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service, killing 2,403 service members and finalizing President Roosevelt’s decision to enter World War II.


Soon after the attacks, the U.S. decided to get a little payback and sent in a group of 80 brave men and 16 B-52 bombers to execute the famous “Doolittle Raids.”

Related: That time two Navy legends fought a duel with Marines

What most people don’t know, however, is that the Japanese had planned what they believed to be an epic response to these successful, retaliatory attacks.

One man dumped most of the combat footage of D-Day into the English Channel

On Nov. 3, 1944, Imperial Japan plotted to release approximately 9,000 hydrogen balloons packed with high-explosives and send them toward American shores to add to their kill count. Since their aircraft were incapable of reaching American soil, they figured this would be the best, undetectable approach.

After the Japanese deployed the paper-made balloons into a jet stream headed for the west coast, they calculated the journey would take three to four days — at which point, another attack could commence.

One man dumped most of the combat footage of D-Day into the English Channel
The lower section of the Japanese’s balloon bombs.

Also Read: That time pancakes helped fight the Japanese in WWII

An estimated 1,000 balloons reached their target but caused little-to-no damage. The other 8,000 fell harmlessly into the ocean.

The Press was instructed not to report this story to avoid giving the enemy any more exposure. However, one of the balloons caused a few fatalities.

On May 5, 1944, Reverend Archie Mitchell and his wife, Elise, were on their way to Gearhart Mountains for a picnic along with five Sunday school children in the car. While the reverend was locating a parking spot, the children and his wife came across one of the explosive balloons. Because the media was instructed not to report that specific story, the children began playing with it, unaware of the dangers, causing it to explode — killing them instantly.

Once again, the general population was instructed to keep the tragic event a secret. But, eventually, the word got out about the weapon and its intercontinental range.

Check out Simple History’s video below to learn more about this insane revenge plot.

 

Articles

This is what a broom tied to a mast means in the U.S. Navy

When the USS Wahoo sailed into Pear Harbor on Feb. 7, 1943, she had an odd ornament on her periscope: a common broom. But that broom was one of the most impressive symbols a crew could aspire to earn because it symbolized that the boat had destroyed an entire enemy convoy, sweeping it from the seas.


Historians aren’t certain where the tradition originated, but the story cited most often was that a Dutch admiral in the 1650s began the practice after sweeping the British from the seas at the Battle of Dungeness.

(Video: YouTube/Smithsonian Channel)

For the crew of the Wahoo, their great victory came in the middle of five tense days of fighting. It all began on Jan. 24 when the sub was mapping a forward Japanese base on a small island near Papua New Guinea. During the reconnaissance mission, the sailors spotted a destroyer in the water.

Flush with torpedoes and no other threats in sight, the Wahoo decided to engage. It fired a spread of three torpedoes but had underestimated the destroyer’s speed. The Wahoo fired another torpedo with the speed taken into account, but the destroyer turned out of the weapon’s path.

And then it bore down on the Wahoo, seeking to destroy the American sub. The crew played a high-stakes game of chicken by holding the sub in position. When the destroyer reached 1,200 yards, the crew fired the fifth torpedo, which the destroyer again avoided.

One man dumped most of the combat footage of D-Day into the English Channel
The Imperial Japanese Navy destroyer Hayate undergoes sea trials in 1925. Destroyers are relatively small and weak ships, but are well-suited to destroying submarines and protecting friendly ships. (Photo: Public Domain)

At 800 yards they fired their sixth and last forward torpedo, barely enough range for the torpedo to arm. The risk of failure was so great that Lt. Cmdr. Dudley Morton ordered a crash dive immediately after firing, putting as much water in the way of enemy depth charges as possible.

But the last torpedo swam true and hit the Japanese ship in the middle, breaking its keel and causing its boilers to burst.

The next day, Jan. 25, was relatively uneventful, but Jan. 26 would be the Wahoo’s date with destiny. Just over an hour after sunrise, the third officer spotted smoke over the horizon and Morton ordered an intercept course.

They found a four-ship convoy consisting of a tanker, a troop transport, and two freighters. All four were valuable targets, but sinking the troop transport could save thousands of lives and sinking tankers would slow the Japanese war machine by starving ships of fuel.

One man dumped most of the combat footage of D-Day into the English Channel
The USS Wahoo was one of the most successful and famous submarines in World War II, but it wouldn’t survive the war. (Photo: Public Domain)

There was no escort, but the Wahoo still had to watch for enemy deck guns and ramming maneuvers. The sub fired a four-torpedo spread at the two freighters, scoring three hits. The first target sank and the second was wounded. Wahoo then turned its attention to the tanker and the troop transport.

The troop transport attempted a ram, sailing straight at the Wahoo. Morton ordered a risky gambit, firing a torpedo at the transport after it drew close rather than taking evasive actions.

After the torpedo was launched, the transport took its own evasive action and abandoned its ramming maneuver. In doing so, the transport presented the sub with its broad sides, a prime target.

One man dumped most of the combat footage of D-Day into the English Channel
Imperial Japanese Navy tankers steam in a convoy in World War II. (Photo: Public Domain)

The Wahoo fired two more torpedoes and dove to avoid another attack. It was still diving when both torpedoes struck home. Eight minutes later, the Wahoo surfaced and saw that the transport was dead in the water. It fired a torpedo that failed to detonate and then a carefully aimed final shot that triggered a massive explosion and doomed the Japanese vessel.

As the tanker and the damaged freighter attempted to escape, Morton gave the controversial order to sink all manned boats launched from the dying transport. His rationale was that a manned, seaworthy vessel was a legal target and any survivors of the battle would go on to kill American soldiers and Marines during land battles.

A few hours later, the Wahoo was able to find and re-engage the two survivors of her earlier action. The tanker and the wounded freighter had steamed north but couldn’t move fast enough to escape the American sub.

The Wahoo waited for nightfall and then fired two torpedoes at the undamaged tanker. One hit, but the ship was still able to sail quickly. With only four torpedoes left and the Japanese ships taking evasive action, Wahoo waited and studied their movements.

One man dumped most of the combat footage of D-Day into the English Channel
A U.S. Navy Helldiver flies past a burning Japanese tanker in January 1945. The tankers allowed the Imperial Japanese Navy to refuel ships at far-flung bases and at sea. Sinking them crippled the navy. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

When certain they could predict the Japanese ships, the crew attacked again. The first pair of torpedoes were fired at the tanker just after it turned. One of them slammed into its middle, breaking the keel and quickly sending it to the depths.

The crippled freighter was firing what weapons it had at the sub and almost hit it with a shell, forcing it to dive. Then, a searchlight appeared from over the horizon, possibly signaling a Japanese warship that could save the freighter.

The Wahoo carefully lined up its final shot at 2,900 and fired both torpedoes at once with no spread, a sort of final Hail-Mary to try and sink the freighter before it could find safety with the warship.

The final pair of torpedoes both hit, their warheads tearing open the freighter and quickly sinking it before the Japanese ship, which turned out to be a destroyer, cleared the horizon.

One man dumped most of the combat footage of D-Day into the English Channel

The American crew escaped and continued their patrol, attempting to attack another convoy with just their deck guns on Jan. 27 and mapping a Japanese explosives facility on Jan. 28 before returning to Pearl Harbor with the triumphant broom flying high on Feb. 7.

Other ships have used brooms to symbolize great success, such as in 2003 when the USS Cheyenne flew one to celebrate that every Tomahawk it launched in Operation Iraqi Freedom landing on target with zero duds or failures.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Army lost a super heavy tank prototype for 27 years

As the Allies advanced on all fronts in World War II, the United States needed a new weapon. It had to be able to protect Allied troops while being powerful enough to break through the German defenses at the Siegfried line and land on the Japanese mainland. 

The Army built two prototypes of a super-heavy, super armored tank for just that purpose in 1945 – and then lost one of them almost as quickly. 

T28 Super Heavy Tank, Patton Museum, Fort Knox, Kentucky
T28 Super Heavy Tank, Patton Museum, Fort Knox, Kentucky (Mark Holloway, Wikimedia Commons)

Toward the end of 1944, American war planners knew the war was coming to a close. They were looking at how they would be able to smash through the vaunted defenses of the Siegfried Line that blocked their path into greater Germany. 

Nazi Germany’s Siegfried Line was a 300-mile line string of fortifications along the German border that was filled with bunkers, “dragon’s teeth” tank traps, pillboxes for machine guns and anything else that might slow or stop an enemy advance. 

Meanwhile, they were also preparing for the final invasion of the Japanese mainland. The year 1945 would bring them to the doorstep of mainland Japan, after the fall of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Japanese resistance had been extremely strong almost everywhere the Americans fought them. 

For both these reasons, the United States decided it needed an equalizer. It decided that this equalizer would come in the form of a massive tank, the T28 Super Heavy Tank

One man dumped most of the combat footage of D-Day into the English Channel
The T28 Tank on October 3, 1946 (US Army Signal Corps)

Concepts for super heavy tanks were nothing new. Germany, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom were already developing their own versions of massive tanks for the war. The American version came in at 95 tons, with 12-inch armor plating, and a massive, fixed 105mm turret as a main gun. This behemoth was powered by a Ford V8 engine that could only move at a top speed of eight miles per hour. 

Originally planning to build five, the full order had to be cancelled as the war had ended by the time the first working prototype was completed in the Fall of 1945. Still with two in the arsenal, the Army decided it would test the ones it had. 

The tests did not go as well as the Army had hoped. The first T28 was scrapped after an engine fire heavily damaged the tank during its first trials at the Yuma Proving Grounds. The second T28 fared much better but the program was scrapped anyway. Army planners had already created two newer, more versatile tanks without making it super heavy.

Then, everyone, including the Army, forgot about the T28. Literally. As tank concepts continued to evolve and more and better tank programs were rolled out in the 27 years following World War II, the Korean War, and even the Vietnam War, the T28 sat abandoned in a field. 

By the time someone discovered the massive World War II-era super heavy tank in a Fort Belvoir field in 1974, it was covered in brush and bushes had grown up around the tank. No one really knows if it had been there the entire time or where it could have been if it wasn’t there the entire time. 

It was soon moved to the Patton Museum of Cavalry and Armor at Fort Knox in Kentucky, as the remaining T28 prototype had really just become a museum piece in the intervening years. The Vietnam War was over, the Army was in its second generation of main battle tanks with the M60 Patton tank, and Japan and West Germany were now American allies. 

The T28 was moved from the Patton Museum at Fort Knox to Fort Benning in Georgia in 2010. 

MIGHTY HISTORY

Only one country who developed nuclear weapons ever gave them up

In 1979, American Vela Hotel satellites detected a bright double flash near the Prince Edward Islands of Antarctica. A double-flash is a clear indication of a nuclear explosion in the atmosphere, as all 41 of the previous double flashes turned out to be. The only thing was this time, no one was claiming this unannounced nuclear test.

A Soviet spy later announced the flashes were caused by a joint Israeli-South African nuclear test.


The South Africans had been researching atomic energy since at least 1965, with the delivery of a U.S.-made nuclear research reactor and a supply of highly enriched uranium fuel. The country soon began to pour its resources into its own uranium enrichment programs and by 1969, was able to produce weapons-grade uranium on its own. By the 1970s, South Africa was developing nuclear explosions for use in mining, but that program quickly became a weapons development program. By the 1980s, South Africa was a nuclear weapons state.

In the 1980s, South Africa was also developing missiles that could be used with the six warheads they constructed, based on the Israeli designs for its Shavit rockets.

One man dumped most of the combat footage of D-Day into the English Channel

Israel’s Shavit rockets delivers satellites into space for the Jewish state.

It’s important to note that during this entire process, South Africa was fighting a prolonged border insurrection with its breakaway state of South West Africa and its allies in Angola and Cuba. Between 1966 and 1989, the Cold War raged hot in the southern tip of the continent as the South West African People’s Organisation wrested control of the region against the South African Defence Forces. At the same time, the South Africans were fighting Angolan and Cuban intervention, as well as insurgent groups from nearby Zambia, especially the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia.

The extended fighting at their borders gave South Africa a big incentive to develop nuclear weapons to bring leverage to their position at the negotiating table. When the Western powers and the Soviet Union got wind of potential South African nuclear tests in the late 80s, they were horrified and pressured the South Africans to abort the test. But South Africa never had any intention of putting warheads on the missiles; they didn’t fit anyway. South Africa wanted the world to think they did, however.

One man dumped most of the combat footage of D-Day into the English Channel

A South African armored column in Ohangwena, Ovamboland in the 1970s.

Instead, the South Africans did the opposite. They signed a peace accord with all the belligerents they had been fighting for more than 20 years, withdrew their troops from South West Africa, and allowed the region to declare its independence as the new country of Namibia. The very next year, South Africa ended its nuclear program. Since then, it helped establish the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone and became party to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, ending more than 40 years of nuclear weapons research.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These armored M1s were nothing like the Abrams

The M1 Abrams tank is arguably the best in the world — there are many reasons why it dominates the battlefield. But it’s not the only vehicle to have been called the “M1.” Prior to World War II, there were two other M1s in service, and neither were anything like the Abrams. In fact, these vehicles were downright puny. That being said, these little vehicles were important in their own way.


It might not seem like the greatest lot in life, but some people leave a legacy of being an example of what not to do. That also apply to tanks and other armored vehicles — see the Soviet-era T-72 for a prime example of this, both in terms of design and operational experience. This was also the case with America’s earliest M1s.

One man dumped most of the combat footage of D-Day into the English Channel

The M1 armored car was so bad, America only bought a dozen.

(US Army)

The first of these vehicles was the M1 armored car. Looking at it, this vehicle lacked intimidation factor. It was best described as a funky-looking 1930s car with a turret that housed an M2 .50 caliber machine gun with two additional .30 caliber machine guns. Only about a dozen of these were built.

The vehicle only powered the rear four wheels. Even though it packed two spares, the biggest problem with this armored car was its off-road performance. As it turns out, all-wheel drive is necessary when not exclusively travelling on paved roads.

One man dumped most of the combat footage of D-Day into the English Channel

Civil War veterans inspect a M1 “combat car” at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York.

(DOD)

The other M1 was the M1 “combat car.” This ‘car’ was, in reality, much closer to a light tank, but there was a specific reason for the semantics. In the years between World Wars, cavalry was prohibited from operating tanks. So, instead, they created an “armored car” with a tank’s armaments: one M2 .50-caliber machine gun and one .30-caliber machine gun. A grand total of 113 M1s were purchased, and it hung around until 1943.

Neither of these M1s saw any combat — which was a good thing for their four-man crews. Still, these vehicles, made major contributions to the war effort by teaching America what was needed to create a truly modern armored force.

Learn more about these vehicles — and see how far armored vehicles have come in terms of design — in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3snjE5Ss1e0

www.youtube.com

Articles

Britain’s ‘unkillable’ soldier gave zero Fs about pain or death

There are officers who seem to be made of glass, staying firmly behind the barriers and barbed wire that keep them protected from the enemy guns.


And then there are those guys who are basically the Black Knight from Monty Python, declaring every injury a flesh wound and jumping back into the fray like an amputated hand ain’t no thang.

One man dumped most of the combat footage of D-Day into the English Channel
British Army Lt. Gen. Adrian Carton de Wiart. (Photo: Imperial War Museums)

That’s why Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart is a British legend; he literally lost a hand, an eye, and part of an ear while serving in three wars, including two World Wars.

Carton de Wiart was born to Belgian nobility in 1880 and sent to prestigious schools. But in 1899, the British found themselves in the second Boer War and Carton de Wiart jumped at the chance to experience combat. But the British only wanted British subjects aged 25 or older or who had their father’s consent.

So, Carton de Wiart employed a clever tactic called “lying” and shipped out under a pseudonym. His first war ended when he received enemy rounds to the stomach and groin and a trip back to England to recover.

One man dumped most of the combat footage of D-Day into the English Channel
The Boer War was old, nitty-gritty-style fighting. (Photo: Imperial War Museums)

But flesh wounds couldn’t keep the Black Knight out of the fight for long, and he volunteered for duty in 1914 during World War I, this time under his actual name as a naturalized citizen.

Similar to in the Boer War, Carton de Wiart found the enemy guns quickly and caught a few rounds from them, this time in his arm and face while fighting as a member of the Somaliland Camel Corps.

He accepted a Distinguished Service Order and headed out for a quick convalescence for his missing eye. According to Lord Ismay, Carton de Wiart was probably happy about the whole situation.

One man dumped most of the combat footage of D-Day into the English Channel
Then-Lt. Col. Adrian Carton de Wiart led British troops to victory after three other battalion commanders were killed at the Battle of La Boiselle. (Photo: Imperial War Museum)

“I honestly believe that he regarded the loss of an eye as a blessing,” he said, “As it allowed him to get out of Somaliland to Europe where he thought the real action was.”

And Carton de Wiart did get into the action. He was sent to the Western Front in 1915 (that’s the year after the enemy rounds knocked out his left eye and took a part of his ear, for those keeping track). Sporting a black eyepatch over his empty socket in the Second Battle of Ypres, he was probably laughing when the German artillery barrage slammed into his position, severely injuring his left hand.

Doctors refused to amputate the hand, so our Black Knight tore off two of his fingers and went back to work. Doctors finally gave in and took the rest of his hand later. That was 1915.

In 1916, Carton de Wiart took command of a regiment at the Somme. Yeah, he once again returned to the front just a year later after a serious injury that would have ended anyone else’s career.

One man dumped most of the combat footage of D-Day into the English Channel

At the Battle of the Somme, then-Lt. Col. Carton de Wiart saw three other battalion commanders die in the back-and-forth fighting at La Boiselle. He was later awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions.

During World War II, the hero of one war and a distinguished veteran of another took an assignment in Yugoslavia. When — at the age of 60 — his plane was shot down over the Mediterranean, he went ahead and swam his way to shore and was captured by the Italians.

Fun fact: that was Carton de Wiart’s second plane crash. He survived another crash in Lithuania between the wars.

Of course, even capture by the Italians wasn’t enough to stop him, and he attempted multiple escapes. At one point, he managed to evade capture for eight days.

He survived the war and continued to serve the British until he retired in 1947 as a lieutenant general.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why Alaska was so important for an American victory in WWII

It’s often called the “Forgotten Campaign of the Second World War” — and there’s no secret as to why. The campaign lost out on fanfare mostly because it took place in a far off, remote territory that few Americans lived on or cared about. And it didn’t help that it happened at a time when Marines and soldiers were pushing onto the beaches at the Battle of Guadalcanal.

The truth is, however, that the sporadic fighting and eventual American victory on the frozen, barren islands of Alaska proved instrumental to an Allied victory in the the Pacific.


One man dumped most of the combat footage of D-Day into the English Channel

A bit of a fixer-upper, but nothing that can’t be buffed out.

(National Archives)

Just six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese launched a two-day attack on Dutch Harbor, Alaska. On June 3rd and 4th, 1942, their targets were the Dutch Harbor Naval Operating Base and U.S. Army Fort Mears on Amaknak Island.

The Japanese attack was an attempt to establish a foothold in the Northern Pacific. From there, the Japanese could continue and advance towards either the Alaskan mainland or move toward the northwestern states of the United States. A few days later, on June 6th and 7th, the Japanese invaded and annexed the Alaskan islands of Kiska and Attu — along with the western-most Aleutian Islands.

It was a tactical victory for the Japanese but the Americans managed to shoot down a Zero during the Battle of Dutch Harbor, and it happened to land in relatively good condition.

One man dumped most of the combat footage of D-Day into the English Channel

Allied troops would move onto Kiska with over 34,000 troops… Just to find the island completely abandoned two weeks prior.

(National Archives)

Meanwhile, Japan was busy moving the bulk of their naval forces toward Midway to aid in recovery from the burgeoning American victory there. Back in North America, the Americans had regrouped and gained the support of the Canadian military.

The bolstered Allied troops moved toward Japanese-occupied territories. They sporadically picked off enemy vessels one by one as they pushed through the island chain. Then, on March 27th, 1943, the American and Japanese fleets squared off at the Battle of Komandorski Islands. The Americans took more damage, but caused enough to make the Japanese abandon their Aleutian garrisons.

On May 11th, U.S. and Canadian soldiers landed on Attu Island to take it back. Japanese dug in and booby-trapped much of the surrounding island. The Americans suffered 3,929 casualties — 580 dead, 1,148 wounded, and over 1,200 cold-weather injuries — but the Japanese were overrun. In a last-ditch effort, the Japanese committed the single largest banzai charge — an attack in which every infantryman first accepted their death before charging charged into battle — in all of the Pacific campaign. The Japanese suffered 2,351 deaths with hundreds of more believed to be lost to the unforgiving weather.

The captured Zero from Dutch Harbor, dubbed the Akutan Zero, was studied and reverse engineered by American technicians. Test pilots were successfully able to determine the weak-points and vulnerabilities of the fighter aircraft, which were quickly relayed to the rest of the Army Air Force. This information proved vital in later battles.

In the end, America would retake the islands and force the Japanese Navy back south to deal with the brunt of the American military. With the Japanese gone, the only route into the continental U.S. was secure again.

To learn more about the Aleutian Campaign, check out the video below!

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time the British torched the White House

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

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

Causes and Reasons for the War of 1812

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

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

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

America is all about rebuilding

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

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

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

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

These are the 5 weirdest presidential elections in American history (so far)

Every presidential election has memorable moments — some inspiring, some questionable. And then some are just plain bizarre.


If the possibility of a reality TV star becoming president sounds outlandish, history proves that crazier things have happened. One thing is for sure; there’s never a dull moment when electing the leader of the free world.

Related: That time the US Army attacked veterans because they wanted their benefits

1. That time the president ran against his vice president

 

One man dumped most of the combat footage of D-Day into the English Channel
Portrait of Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale in 1800 via White House Historical Association. John Vanderlyn portrait of Aaron Burr, 1802, Creative Commons via Wikimedia

Before the election of 1800, the electoral college picked the president and vice president by voting for their favorite candidate. Whoever got the most votes became president and the runner-up became vice president. But in 1800, the “two-vote” practice led to a tie between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr. It took over a week to sort the mess out, with Jefferson eventually becoming president. The ordeal resulted in the creation of the 12 Amendment, which eliminates the possibility of another draw from happening again.

2. That time a president attended his rival’s funeral

One man dumped most of the combat footage of D-Day into the English Channel
Ulysses S. Grant and Horace Greeley. Photos by Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs division.

The presidential election of 1872 sounds like it came out of an episode of the “Twilight Zone.” President Ulysses S. Grant was running for his second term in office against New York Tribune founder Horace Greeley, who died before the electoral college vote.

Greeley was running as a Liberal Republican, a party started by Republicans who were dissatisfied with Grant and his radical Republican supporters. Despite his new found party and the additional support of the Democratic Party, he lost in a landslide and died three weeks after his defeat. Grant attended Greeley’s funeral.

Other noteworthy candidates were Victoria Woodhull of the People’s Party—the first woman to run for president—and her running mate abolitionist Fredrick Douglass, the first African-American to be considered for the vice presidency.

3. That time a socialist ran his presidential campaign from prison

Eugen V. Debs was the Socialist Party’s front-runner through five presidential elections — from 1900 to 1920. He ran his last campaign as prisoner 9653 from an Atlanta Federal Penitentiary while serving ten years for opposing World War I.

4. That time Ronald Reagan stole President Carter’s debate notes

One man dumped most of the combat footage of D-Day into the English Channel
Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter. Photos by U.S. federal government.

 

“Debategate” happened in the final days of the 1980 presidential election. Someone stole Jimmy Carter’s briefing papers he was using in preparation for the debate with Reagan from the White House and turned them over to the GOP team. Reagan’s camp used the notes to destroy Carter in the debate and swipe the presidency.

No one knows for sure who the culprit was but Craig Shirley—a Reagan biographer—gathered enough evidence to suggest it was Paul Corbin, a Democrat, and one time Kennedy family confidant, according to Politico.

5. That time a president lost the popular vote but captured enough states to win the electoral vote

 

One man dumped most of the combat footage of D-Day into the English Channel
George W. Bush and Al Gore. Photos by U.S. federal government

 

The 2000 presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore was one of the closest in U.S. history. The presidency hinged on the Florida vote, whose margin triggered a mandatory recount. Litigations ensued, and various counties started additional recounts, ultimately involving the Supreme Court. The grueling 36-day recount battle seemed like an endless election. When the high court finally announced its contentious 5 to 4 decisions for Bush, no one was happy. Depending on which side of the aisle you were in, the belief was that the Supreme Court handed the presidency to Bush, or took it away from Gore.

MIGHTY HISTORY

7 light tanks the Army used to operate

With the Mobile Protected Firepower program in the testing and evaluation phase, the Army is getting closer to adding a light tank back into its inventory. The XM8 Armored Gun System was the last tank to come close to filling the role. However, it was cancelled in 1997 before it left the experimental phase. Here are 7 light tanks that did see service with the Army.

1. M1 Combat Car

One man dumped most of the combat footage of D-Day into the English Channel
Civil War veterans inspect an M1 Combat Car at the 1939 New York World’s Fair (Public Domain)

The introduction of the tank during WWI changed the face of war forever. However, America didn’t have a tank of its own during the war. Instead, U.S. soldiers like George S. Patton crewed French tanks like the Renault FT-17. After the war, America got to work developing its own armored doctrine and vehicles. Light tanks were defined as weighing five tons or less so that they could be carried by trucks. Then-Chief of Staff of the Army General Douglas MacArthur promoted the mechanization of the Army to equip cavalrymen with armored fighting vehicles as well. Designated as combat cars, these light tanks allowed cavalry units to exploit opportunities on the battlefield rather than being tied to the infantry in a support role. Despite its name, the M1 Combat Car was a bonafide light tank. Developed and built by the Rock Island Arsenal, it had tracks, light armor and a turret. Armed with just one .50-cal M2 Browning machine gun and two .30-cal M1919 Browning machine guns, the M1 was not well-suited for direct combat. By the time WWII started, the M1 was obsolete. Still, it paved the way as America’s first light tank.

2. Light Tank, M2

One man dumped most of the combat footage of D-Day into the English Channel
A Marine Corps M2A4 on Guadalcanal (Public Domain)

Another inter-war design, the M2 went through a number of variants before WWII. However, the most common was the M2A4 equipped with one 37mm M5 gun and five .30-cal M1919 Browning machine guns. Before WWII, the most common variant was the M2A2. It was only equipped with machine guns. The Spanish Civil War showed that tanks armed only with machine guns were ineffective, so the U.S. added the 37mm M5 gun. By the time WWII broke out, the Army had moved on to the M3 light tank. The only American unit to field the M2 in combat was the Marine Corps’ 1st Tank Battalion.

3. M3/M5 Stuart

One man dumped most of the combat footage of D-Day into the English Channel
An M5 of Company D, 761st Tank Battalion in Coburg, Germany (Public Domain)

An evolution of the M2, the M3/M5 Stuart was the main American light tank of WWII. The tank was also supplied to British forces under the Lend-Lease Act. It was British forces who named the tank Stuart after American Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart. The M3 featured thicker armor, modified suspension, and an upgraded 37mm M6 gun over the M2. The M5 was given an updated engine and an automatic transmission. It was also quieter, cooler, and more spacious inside than the M3. Initially designated the M4 light tank, it was redesignated the M5 to prevent confusion with the M4 Sherman tank. In the African and European theaters, the Stuart was outgunned by the heavier German tanks and deadly anti-tank units. However, it excelled at traditional cavalry missions like scouting and screening. In the Pacific theater, the Stuart saw more direct action. Japanese tanks were a rare sight and were generally outgunned by American tanks. Moreover, the dense jungles of the Pacific islands were more easily navigated by the smaller M3/M5 than the larger M4 Sherman.

4. M22 Locust

One man dumped most of the combat footage of D-Day into the English Channel
One M22 Locust that was successfully deployed during Operation Varsity (Public Domain)

Officially designated the Light Tank (Airborne), M22, the Locust was the first light tank of its kind. In 1941, the British War Office requested that America develop a light tank that could be transported via glider to support airborne troops. The result was an exceptionally small tank. Weighing just 7.4 metric tons and measuring 12 feet 11 inches long, 7 feet 1 inch wide, and 6 feet 1 inch tall, the Locust was truly a light tank. Crewed by 3 men, it was equipped with a 37mm M6 gun and one .30-cal M1919 Browning machine gun. However, the Locust was not ready to fight as soon as it landed. The turret was removed during flight in order to fit inside a glider. Upon landing, it took six men about 10 minutes to unload and assemble the Locust. As a result of this, its light armor, and small gun, the M22 performed poorly in British service during Operation Varsity in 1945. Of the eight tanks flown in to support the airborne operation, only four made it to the rendezvous point. Of those four, only two were undamaged and fit for service. Although a small number of Locusts were delivered to U.S. Army units, they never saw combat.

5. M24 Chaffee

One man dumped most of the combat footage of D-Day into the English Channel
An M24 Chaffee on guard duty outside the 1945 Nuremberg Trials (Public Domain)

Officially designated the Light Tank, M24, the Chaffee also owes it name to the British. While serving with the British Army, the M24 was named after U.S. General Adna R. Chaffee Jr. who is often referred to as the Father of the Armored Force for his work in developing the use of tanks in the U.S. Army. The British use of the M3 in North Africa demonstrated the shortcomings of its 37mm gun. However, the larger 75mm gun proved to be a more capable anti-tank weapon. In 1943, the Ordnance Corps started a project to develop a new light tank equipped with a 75mm gun. In order to keep the new tank under 20 tons, its light armor was heavily sloped to maximize its effectiveness. First delivered in October 1943, the M24 was equipped with a 75mm M6 main gun, one .50-cal M2 Browning machine gun, and two .30-cal M1919 Browning machine guns. The tank first saw action during the Battle of the Bulge and entered widespread use in December 1944. It was well-received for its improved off-road performance, reliability, and firepower over the M3/M5 Stuart. The M24 went on to serve during the Korean War where it suffered in direct combat but excelled in the reconnaissance and support roles alongside heavier tanks.

6. M41 Walker Bulldog

One man dumped most of the combat footage of D-Day into the English Channel
An M41 Walker Bulldog supports infantry during a U.S. exercise in Europe during the 1950s (Public Domain)

The M41 is unique in that is was developed independently by Cadillac and marketed to the U.S. military to replace the M24. First produced in 1951, the M41 was capable both as a reconnaissance vehicle thanks to its high speed and mobility, but also as a support tank with its 76mm M32A1 rifled cannon. The tank was named for the late General Walton Walker who was killed in a jeep accident in 1950. It was also the first American postwar light tank to see worldwide service and was heavily exported. Although the M41 was adopted too late to see use in the Korean War, five M41s were given to democratic Cuban forces for use during the Bay of Pigs Invasion. The Cubans received training at Fort Knox in March 1961 and were transported to Playa Girón on April 17. Despite heavy resistance, all five tanks made it ashore. Although they had initial successes, knocking out several communist T-34/85 tanks, heavy armored counterattacks meant that the tank crews expended all of their ammunition by noon. The surviving tanks were abandoned on the beach when the invasion failed.

7. M551 Sheridan

One man dumped most of the combat footage of D-Day into the English Channel
An M551 Sheridan of the 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry in Vietnam (Public Domain)

Entering service in 1967, the M551 Sheridan was a light tank developed for armored reconnaissance and airborne operations. Named for Union Civil War General Philip Sheridan, the M551 was designed to be dropped from a plane via parachute. It was also amphibious and capable of crossing rivers before heavy bridge-laying vehicles could be driven onto the battlefield. The Sheridan also featured a unique gun. Its 152mm M81 gun could fire conventional tank rounds. However, it also doubled as a launcher capable of firing the new MGM-51 Shillelagh guided anti-tank missile. The Sheridan performed well in Vietnam. Its light weight meant it was less prone to getting stuck in the mud compared to the heavier M48 Patton. The tank also excelled in direct-fire support of infantry. With its M657 High Explosive and M625 Canister rounds, it was an effective anti-personnel weapon. The Sheridan saw limited use during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. It saw its first combat air drop during Operation Just Cause in Panama where it also saw limited use. The Sheridan was retired from service in 1996 without a replacement. However, it did see limited use as a training aid for the Armored Officer Basic Course and as a simulated Soviet armored opposition force at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin until 2003.

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