7 craziest moments in Army history - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

7 craziest moments in Army history

The U.S. Army is the oldest American military branch, tracing its lineage back to when the Continental Congress stood up its first riflemen in June 1775. But in over 240 years of Army history, you’re bound to end up with some insane moments.


Here are seven of the U.S. Army’s craziest:

1. When it teamed up with Nazis and prisoners of war to defeat the SS

 

7 craziest moments in Army history
Schloss Itter (Itter Castle) in July 1979. (Photo: S.J. Morgan. CC BY-SA 3.0)

In May 1945, Germany was collapsing and it was obvious that the war in Europe was almost done. As it ended, Allies raced to secure evidence of war crimes and the Nazis worked to destroy it. This led to what has been dubbed World War II’s “strangest battle.”

American tankers rushed to where high-profile prisoners of war were held in Itter Castle in Austria. As a group of drunk SS soldiers marched on the castle to kill the POWs, the Americans offered to help the Wehrmacht defend themselves so that the SS couldn’t kill the POWs and all witnesses.

So, U.S. soldiers, German soldiers, and local resistance fighters fought side-by-side and saved the lives of the prisoners. The friendly German commander was killed in the six hours of fighting before U.S. reinforcements arrived and pushed back the surviving SS members.

2. When it created an imaginary division with inflatable tanks

7 craziest moments in Army history
Plate of Peas Production | YouTube

While the D-Day landings themselves were quite possibly the Army’s finest hour as multiple divisions landed next to its British and Canadian counterparts, the top-secret mission to mislead German intelligence during the Normandy Campaign and invasion of Germany may have been crazier.

Almost immediately after D-Day, the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops began deploying artists, actors, designers, and audio-technicians who were tasked with setting out inflatable equipment and patterns of movement that would make the Nazis think an entire combat division was in the area.

And it worked. The ruse was used on more than 20 occasions, often causing the Germans to redeploy forces to counter the fake division, likely saving thousands of lives during World War II.

3. When it promoted a 12-year-old to sergeant after he shot the Confederate colonel attempting to capture him

7 craziest moments in Army history
Photo: Library of Congress

John Lincoln Clem unofficially joined the Union Army at the age of 10 as a drummer boy. He fought a few times before becoming a national celebrity at the age of 12 in the Battle of Chickamagua. It was there that he was nearly captured by a Confederate colonel, but Clem used a sawed-off musket to shoot the officer and escape.

As he evaded other pursuers, his hat was reportedly hit three times by enemy fire. When he made it back to Union lines, he was promoted to sergeant and became America’s youngest-ever non-commissioned officer. He was later captured in another battle, traded in a prisoner exchange, and then was wounded twice before accepting discharge in 1864 at the age of 13.

4. When it fought America’s longest battle on its own

7 craziest moments in Army history
German mortars fire towards American positions during the Battle of Hurtgen Forest. (Photo: German Army Archives)

From September 1944 to February 1945, the Army fought the longest single battle of the nation’s history, a five-month meat grinder for control of the Hurtgen Forest during the drive into Germany.

The 9th Infantry Division marched into the forest on Sep. 12, 1944 to root out German defenders. The thick trees and impassable roads created a nightmare for the attackers. Mortar and artillery shells turned trees into explosions of long splinters that speared into American troops.

The 9th pressed forward while suffering heavy losses, and it was reinforced with 3rd Armored Division tanks. Another nine divisions, a tank battalion, and a Ranger battalion fought on the front lines before the battle finally ended in February 1945.

5. When one of its greatest generals attempted to sell the country out to the British

7 craziest moments in Army history

Army Col. Ethan Allen, partnered with then-Col. Benedict Arnold, demands the surrender of Fort Ticonderoga. (Photo: New York Public Library Digital Library)

There’s a reason “Benedict Arnold” is used as another word for “traitor.” He literally tried to sell the defenses he commanded to the British, threatening a strategically important position in the Revolutionary War. What made it so crazy was how important Maj. Gen. Arnold was before he became a traitor.

He had led the forces that won the Battle of Saratoga and led to diplomatic recognition and increased military assistance from the French. He also helped capture a major fort and its guns, and created America’s first purpose-built naval fleet (then sank it).

The closest modern equivalent would have been if Patton had fought his way through North Africa and half of Germany but then changed sides during the Battle of the Bulge because his new wife was German.

6. When all the Army gunners in an entire city fought off an imagined attack

 

7 craziest moments in Army history

The Battle of Los Angeles in 1942 saw the city’s sky lit up with searchlights and anti-aircraft fire as every gun crew in the area attempted to shoot down the Japanese planes bombing the city.

Except there was no air attack. A series of blinking lights had been spotted in the sky near the city and some unknown objects were spotted on radar, leading some military leaders to worry an air raid was coming. Skittish gun crews began firing, and the exploding shells left clouds of smoke that other gunners then fired at as they were illuminated by spotlights.

Over 1,400 rounds were fired in the one-hour “engagement.”

7. That time it rescued over 2,000 prisoners of war with a daring paratrooper raid

7 craziest moments in Army history

Filipino guerrillas worked with the U.S. troops across the Pacific during WWII. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

The Imperial Japanese were famously hostile towards prisoners of war, and a concerted effort was made in 1944 and 1945 to rescue prisoners before Japanese troops could kill them. On Feb. 23, 1945, a group of Americans and Philippine guerillas launched a daring paratrooper raid to liberate over 2,000 prisoners at Los Baños, Philippines.

The raid was shockingly effective, suffering no paratroopers killed and few American and Filipino casualties while freeing 2,147 prisoners. Future-Secretary of State Colin Powell said that he doubted “that any airborne unit in the world will ever rival the Los Baños prison raid.”

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“Band of Brothers” veteran Ed Tipper dies

Ed Tipper, a member of the famous D-Day-era “Easy Company,” died at his home in Lakewood, Colorado, Feb. 1.


He was 95.

According to a report by the Denver Post, the former paratrooper with the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, spent over 30 years as a teacher before retiring in 1979. He received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, among other decorations, for his service in World War II.

The Daily Caller noted that Tipper suffered severe wounds during the Battle of Carentan, including the loss of his right eye, when a German mortar shell hit while he was clearing a house. The opening credits of the HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers,” shows Tipper, played by Bart Raspoli, being comforted by Joe Liebgott, played by Ross McCall, in the aftermath of that hit.

“So much of what people talk about with him is what he did in the war. That was two years and really six days starting on D-Day,” his daughter, Kerry Tipper, told the newspaper. “Teaching was 30 years.”

Most notable, though, is that despite the wounds, which included two broken legs, Tipper managed to carry on a very active life.

“He just refused to accept people’s limitations,” his daughter Kerry told the Denver Post. The newspaper reported that Tipper took a list of things doctors said he couldn’t do and made it a checklist. He was known to be an avid skier well into his 80s.

7 craziest moments in Army history

His daughter also added that Tipper, like many in Easy Company, felt, “a little embarrassed that their group got attention, that theirs was spotlighted when there were so many other groups that did incredible things and made sacrifices.”

According to the Denver Post, Tipper is survived by a wife who he married in 1982, a daughter and a son-in-law. A public memorial service is scheduled for June 1.

Below, see the Battle of Carentan as portrayed in “Band of Brothers.” Ed Tipper is wounded at around 7:14 into the video:

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why America’s first purpose-built nightfighter was named for a spider

In World War II, aerial warfare became a 24-hour-a-day thing. The bombers came first, carrying out devastating raids, like the December, 1940 bombing of Coventry or the Blitz over London. The British, of course, returned the favor by sending RAF Bomber Command over Germany at night.


Neither side liked having their cities bombed in the middle of the night, but stopping them proved incredibly difficult. The United States watched from afar and got technical briefings on radar during the Battle of Britain. The United States Army Air Corps turned to Northrop to help develop a specialized nightfighter, while also turning the existing A-20 into an interim nightfighter.

7 craziest moments in Army history
A Northrop P-61 Black Widow at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (USAF photo)

What emerged was the P-61 Black Widow, named after the deadly spider that inspired its black coat of paint. The first thing that jumps out at you is the size. According to aviation historian Joe Baugher, this fighter was about as big as some bombers! Like the P-38, it was a twin-engine plane. Its armament was very heavy: four Hispano 20mm cannon in the belly and four M2 .50-caliber machine guns in a turret on the top. It could also carry over three tons of bombs.

7 craziest moments in Army history
Northrop P-61 Black Widow night fighter had pilot, radar operator, and gunner. (USAF photo)

Despite the plane’s size and weight, it proved to be very maneuverable. By the time it reached the front in June, 1944, much of the Japanese and German opposition had been destroyed. Still, the Smithsonian Institute notes that the P-61 scored 127 air-to-air kills of enemy aircraft (plus 18 V-1s).

7 craziest moments in Army history

Despite being designed to kill enemy planes, the P-61 also proved to be very good at “night intruder” missions. In short, this plane proved very capable when it came to shooting up enemy airfields, trains, supply convoys, tanks, and other ground installations. But World War II had seen the rise of the jet age, and a month before the Korean War, the last P-61s were retired.

Learn more about this plane with a lethal bite in the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZtg29VNTHM
(Dung Tran | YouTube)
MIGHTY HISTORY

5 heroes who earned a Medal of Honor in Hue City

At the end of January in 1968, the Viet Cong launched an offensive that turned the tide of the Vietnam War.

The Tet Offensive began on January 30 as the North Vietnamese occupied the city of Hue. US Marines spent nearly a month fighting a brutal urban battle to retake the city — which was 80% destroyed by the battle’s end, according to H.D.S. Greenway, a photographer embedded with the Marines during the war.

An estimated 1,800 Americans lost their lives during the battle.


But in the midst of the chaos, five men who faced harrowing circumstances risked their lives to save those of their comrades — and earned the nation’s highest award for courage in combat, the Medal of Honor.

During one of the ceremonies honoring these heroes, President Richard Nixon remarked on the incredible risks they took.

“They are men who faced death, and instead of losing courage they gave courage to the men around them,” he said.

7 craziest moments in Army history

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense inducts U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) John L. Canley into the Hall of Heroes during a ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 18, 2018, after being awarded the Medal of Honor by the President.

(DoD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

Gunnery Sergeant John L. Canley received his award over 50 years after carrying wounded Marines to safety.

Gunnery Sgt. John Canley, suffering from shrapnel wounds, led his men in the destruction of enemy-occupied buildings in Hue City.

When his men were injured, he leapt over a wall in plain sight — twice — to carry them to safe positions.

He was awarded the Medal of Honor in October 2018, over 50 years after he risked his life for his men.

Read the award citation here.

7 craziest moments in Army history

Medal of Honor recipient Chief Warrant Officer Frederick Ferguson shakes hands with President Richard Nixon after receiving his award in May 1969.

(Richard Nixon Library/YouTube)

Chief Warrant Officer Frederick Ferguson flew his helicopter through a barrage of anti-aircraft fire to rescue wounded comrades.

Chief Warrant Officer Frederick Ferguson ignored numerous calls to avoid the airspace surrounding Hue City during the early days of the battle.

He flew his helicopter through enemy fire, guiding the damaged aircraft so he could rescue wounded comrades and fly them back to safety.

His bravery saved the lives of five wounded soldiers.

Read the award citation here.

7 craziest moments in Army history

A photo shows Sgt. Alfredo Gonzalez with Gunnery Sgt. John Canley during the Vietnam War. Both have earned the Medal of Honor for actions taken during the brutal Battle of Hue City.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Tessa Watts)

Sergeant Alfredo Gonzalez

Sgt. Gonzalez and his unit were among the first to deploy into the Viet Cong-occupied Hue City.

Through five days of fighting, Gonzalez repeatedly exposed himself to direct enemy fire, leading his men despite his personal wounds.

Although he died during the battle, his actions ensured his comrades’ survival.

Read the award citation here.

7 craziest moments in Army history

Medal of Honor recipient Joe Hooper listens as his citation is read during the award ceremony in March 1969.

(National Archives/YouTube)

Sergeant Joe Hooper is described as the most decorated soldier of the Vietnam War.

Sgt. Hooper earned the Medal of Honor on the same day as company mate Staff Sgt. Sims.

Hooper suffered extraordinary wounds as he fought during the Battle of Hue City, during which he destroyed numerous enemy bunkers and raced across open fields under intense fire to save a wounded comrade.

Read his full award citation here.

7 craziest moments in Army history

Mary Sims accepts the Medal of Honor on behalf of her husband, Staff Sergeant Clifford Sims, who died during the Battle of Hue City.

(National Archives)

Staff Sergeant Clifford Sims, once an orphan, flung himself on top of an explosive device to save his platoon.

During an intense search-and-rescue mission, Staff Sgt. Sims heard the click of a booby trap as his platoon approached a bunker.

Shouting for his team to stay back, Sims jumped on top of the device to absorb the explosion.

Read the full award citation here.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive

The screams of a fellow soldier trapped inside his armored vehicle pierced through the radio.

Apparently surrounded by the enemy with no more ammunition, the soldier cried for help saying his crew had all been killed.

But with his radio keyed open and no one able to talk back to him, then-Spc. 4 Dave Garrod and others in Bravo Troop, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, could only listen to the desperate pleas.


“It was a knee knocker,” Garrod recalled as his 25th Infantry Division unit raced down to Tan Son Nhut Air Base, which was under siege by enemy forces. “I had no idea what we were driving into.”

Tet Offensive 

On Jan. 30, 1968, the Vietnam War escalated as enemy forces launched surprise attacks during the country’s New Year holiday.

7 craziest moments in Army history

Then-Spc. 5 Dwight Birdwell, middle, seen on top of a tank during the Vietnam War. Birdwell and other Soldiers with the 25th Infantry Division’s 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment helped defend Tan Son Nhut Air Base in a Tet Offensive attack Jan. 31, 1968.

About 85,000 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese army fighters rushed across the border to attack over 100 cities and towns in southern Vietnam in an attempt to break a stalemate in the war.

Weeks of intense fighting ensued causing heavy losses on both sides.

Before they could repel many of the attacks, thousands of U.S. and South Vietnamese troops would die. Tens of thousands of enemy fighters were also killed.

While not largely deemed a victory for the enemy forces, which suffered a greater toll, the attacks did trigger many in America to rethink U.S. involvement in the protracted war.

Tan Son Nhut

One of the enemy’s main targets was Tan Son Nhut, a key airbase near Saigon where the Military Assistance Command Vietnam and the South Vietnamese air force were headquartered.

After reports of Viet Cong fighters attempting to invade the airbase on Jan. 31, 1968, soldiers with 3rd Squadron’s Charlie Troop responded to the call.

As they drove toward the airbase in the early morning hours, then-Spc. 5 Dwight Birdwell remembers seeing no civilians along the highway — typically a bad omen.

7 craziest moments in Army history

Photos of Dwight Birdwell before he deployed to Vietnam.

Birdwell had seen attacks before during his tour, he said, but they were mainly mines or other small arms weapons fired by a hidden enemy. This day would be different.

When they arrived just outside the airbase, his unit’s column of tanks and armored personnel carriers suddenly stopped.

As if on cue, thousands of tracer rounds began to pepper the vehicles in front of his tank from both sides of the highway. Enemy fighters then jumped onto the vehicles, shooting inside of them.

“All hell broke loose,” Birdwell recalled.

A bullet then struck Birdwell’s tank commander right through the head and he collapsed inside the tank. Birdwell pulled him out, he said, and passed him over the side for medical treatment, which kept him alive.

Birdwell took command of the tank. By that time, all the vehicles ahead of him had been wiped out or were unable to return gunfire. Enemy fighters also set some ablaze after they failed to drive off with them.

“There was a lot of confusion and pandemonium,” he said.

His tank fired its 90 mm cannon toward the enemy while he shot off rounds from the .50-caliber machine gun to hold the enemy back.

Birdwell’s unit was stuck in the middle of an enemy invasion as hundreds of fighters had already crossed the highway and penetrated the airbase to his left. On his right side, even more fighters — some just 50 feet away — prepared to join the assault.

“They were getting close,” he recalled. “I could see their faces quite well.”

Around the same time he ran out of ammunition, a U.S. helicopter was hit and made an emergency landing behind his tank.

7 craziest moments in Army history

Spc. 4 Dave Garrod, left, poses for a photo with Spc. 5 Ed McKenna and Spc. 4 Joe Carlton during their tour in the Vietnam War.

“I thought that this is unreal,” Birdwell said. “Somebody is filming a movie.”

He jumped down from the tank and ran toward the helicopter. Once there, he grabbed one of the helicopter’s M-60 machine guns the door gunners had been using and returned to his position.

After a few minutes of firing rounds at the enemy, something hit the machine gun — likely an enemy bullet. The impact, he said, sprayed shrapnel up into his face and chest.

With the M-60 now destroyed, Birdwell said he took cover in a nearby ditch. He and a few soldiers then grabbed some M-16 rifles and grenades and moved to a closer position behind a large tree.

There, they exchanged gunfire and tossed grenades over the road until the enemy started to fire a machine gun at them.

As the barrage of bullets cut into the tree, it sounded like a chainsaw chewing it down.

“We were in a very desperate situation,” he said.

Reinforcements

Around that time, Garrod’s Bravo Troop began to roll into the area.

Soldiers in a different platoon within Charlie Troop also arrived to suppress the attack from inside the base.

“After pulling on line we started laying down fire,” Garrod recalled, “and trying to keep it as low as possible so as not to fire on Charlie Troop on the road.”

Garrod and other soldiers were then pulled away to help wounded crewmen near a textile factory from which the enemy had been commanding its attack.

Once there, he ran over to a tank that had been hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. Inside, he could see the tank’s loader who could not move due to his legs being seriously wounded.

“Being a small, skinny guy, I jumped down in the hatch and without thinking put him on my shoulders and stuck him up through the hatch,” he said.

Later that day, the intensity of the battle hit home for Garrod as he rested in the shade of his vehicle.

7 craziest moments in Army history

Dave Garrod, fifth from right, poses for a photo in front of a Vietnam War memorial near where the Tan Son Nhut Air Base attack occurred on Jan. 31, 1968.

He lifted his canteen up to take a drink when an awful smell overcame him.

“When I looked down on my flak jacket, there was a hunk of flesh from that loader,” he recalled. “It’s something that’s etched into your mind forever.”

Almost 20 soldiers from the squadron were killed and many more wounded as they defended the airbase that day. About two dozen South Vietnamese troops were also killed along with hundreds of enemy fighters.

Garrod earned an Army Commendation Medal with valor device for his actions and a Purple Heart in another mission a few days later. Birdwell earned a Silver Star and a Purple Heart.

The squadron was also awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.

Thirty years later, Garrod and other veterans traveled back to the site on the anniversary of the offensive as a way to find closure for what they saw that day.

They also visited a statue in a nearby park that honors those who were lost or suffered as a result of the battle.

Because of the devastation the war had caused, Garrod expected to see animosity on the faces of the Vietnamese people.

“Instead we found gracious, friendly people,” he said. “Even the veterans from the north whom we met … greeted us with hugs. It was very surprising. They had definitely moved on.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why one-third of the US thinks a second Civil War is coming

A Rasmussen poll released at the end of June 2018 revealed a fear among voters that political violence is on the rise, with one in three concerned a second US Civil War is on the horizon. The poll was conducted among likely American voters who were asked via telephone and online survey how likely that war would be.

A full one-third of voters said it was likely, and 11 percent said it was very likely. There’s no word on which side they might take. The day the poll was released, President Trump’s approval rating sat at 46 percent.

7 craziest moments in Army history
(The White House)

The poll also revealed that 59 percent of voters are fearful that those opposed to President Trump will resort to violence to advance their cause and another 33 percent were very concerned. A similar poll was conducted in the second year of Barack Obama’s presidency that revealed similar fears in similar numbers.

Related: This is what happens to every state in a modern American Civil War

The difference this time around lies in the recent public confrontations of Trump Administration officials, something neither Obama nor Bush officials faced during their Presidents’ tenures. Media outlets posture that the public pressure is backlash from this administration’s “Zero Tolerance” policy that pulled migrant children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.


By no means did civility rule the day for Obama officials. By this time in President Obama’s presidency, South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson interrupted the President’s speech to a joint session of Congress with a shout of, “You lie!” The heretofore unheard of interruption earned him a public rebuke in the House, and also led to his constituents chanting the same at him less than a decade later.

7 craziest moments in Army history
Wison’s outburst was in response to a comment Obama made about the Affordable Care Act. It would bite him in the ass later.

Obama’s first two years as President dealt largely with the global financial crisis of 2008, automaker bailouts, and financial regulations. As the Brookings Institution points out, no one in power thrives when the economy suffers and the Democrats lost their Congressional majority in the 2010 midterms.

A Second American Civil War would not be as clean cut as the pro-slavery vs. anti-slavery arguments or the federal authority vs. states’ rights arguments of the actual Civil War. The United States is now almost three times the size it was in the 1860s and belief systems and population are very different than they were back then. The issues facing the country are also much different, separated by more than 150 years.

7 craziest moments in Army history

The solution to this is to simply let your vote speak for your beliefs instead of your fists, or worse, a weapon. The peaceful transition of power ensures American democracy will endure, no matter who wins in 2020. The only Civil War sequel America needs is another Captain America movie.

Articles

That time US sailors got a bounty for capturing a Nazi ship

Prior to America’s official entry into World War II, the U.S. Navy was involved in “short of war” operations against Nazi Germany. In some cases this involved escorting merchant ships that were steaming to help supply England.


Tensions between the U.S and Germany increased after a Nazi submarine fired on the destroyer USS Greer (DD 145).

7 craziest moments in Army history
Theodore E. Chandler, the commanding officer of USS Omaha during the Odenwald incident. (US Navy photo)

But, as Samuel Eliot Morison pointed out in the “Battle of the Atlantic,” the U.S. was still operating under neutrality legislation. So, when they did stuff to Nazi vessels, they needed to have some legal grounds outside of a war declaration.

On Nov. 6, 1941, the light cruiser USS Omaha (CL 4) and the destroyer USS Somers (DD 381) were on patrol in the South Atlantic looking for a German raider. Two months had passed since the Greer had been fired on, and since then, the destroyer Kearny (DD 432) had been torpedoed and the destroyer USS Reuben James (DD 245) had been sunk.

7 craziest moments in Army history
USS Omaha (CL 4) in 1943. (US Navy photo)

The Omaha and Somers then came across a ship claiming to be an American merchant vessel out of Philadelphia. The interaction with the vessel drew suspicions, and the Omaha, under the command of Capt. Theodore E. Chandler, ordered the vessel to stop. A boarding party came aboard just as scuttling charges went off. The boarding party kept the ship from sinking, and determined its true identity as the German blockade runner Odenwald.

The ship was taken to Puerto Rico, where the cargo – over 6,200 tons, including 103 truck tires and lots of rubber – and the vessel were sold off. According to Samuel Eliot Morison, the Navy justified the intercept by claiming that the Odenwald was a suspected slave trader.

7 craziest moments in Army history
The Navy prize crew on board the Odenwald. Each of them received $3,000 in 1947. (US Navy photo)

In 1947, the Odenwald’s owners sued the Navy over the seizure. It didn’t pan out for them at all. The boarding party and prize crew assigned to the vessel, though, made out big-time: $3,000 each. Crew on board the Omaha and Somers got two months of pay and allowances.

That’s a prize worth as much as $34,000 today.

Chandler, though, never got that bonus. Although he was promoted to rear admiral, in January 1945, his flagship, the heavy cruiser USS Louisville (CA 28), was hit by kamikazes off Iwo Jima. While assisting in fighting fires, his lungs were badly injured, and he died of his wounds soon after.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The long-standing relationship between Rolex and the U.S. Navy SEALs

The keen-eyed viewer may have noticed Tyrone “Rone” Woods, played by James Badge Dale, sporting a Rolex Submariner 116610 in Michael Bay’s 2016 film 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. Some may write this appearance off as a Hollywood product placement by Bay, a known Rolex fan. However, the watch actually shows great attention to detail in Rone’s story and is an integral part of Navy SEAL history.


7 craziest moments in Army history

Rone’s Submariner is identifiable by its iconic cyclops magnifier (Paramount Pictures)

Rolex introduced the Submariner watch in 1954. While the watch has evolved into a luxury item that broadcasts wealth and success today, it was originally designed as a rugged, no-nonsense tool watch that professional divers could depend on. Its uni-directional rotating bezel allowed them to time their dives, its robust and accurate movement meant that it could keep good time in an age before battery-powered quartz timepieces, and its water-resistance rating of 660 feet meant that it could do all of this at the depths that professional divers operate at.

In 1962, the first two Navy SEAL teams were formed and they quickly adopted the Submariner as their dive watch. Tudor, Rolex’s more affordable sister brand (think Chevrolet to Cadillac), also made Submariners which were issued to the Navy’s elite warriors. By 1967, Rolex had picked up on the professional military application of their watches and utilized it in a magazine advertisement saying, “For years, it’s been standard gear for submariners, frogmen, and all who make their living on the seas.”

7 craziest moments in Army history

In 1967, a Rolex Submariner cost 0, or about id=”listicle-2648518781″,600 in today’s money (Rolex)

The Submariner, in both its Rolex and Tudor forms, was so ingrained in Navy SEAL culture and essential to their specialized missions, that it became standard issue. One Vietnam veteran recalled in an interview, “During the training in BUD/S we were issued our Tudor watches, black face for enlisted and blue faced for officers, and these went with us to our next duty station.” Indeed, the SEALs took their issued Submariners with them to the jungles of Vietnam. Like other servicemembers who purchased their own Submariners, the SEALs valued the watch for its ruggedness, dependability, and accuracy.

7 craziest moments in Army history

U.S. Navy SEALs Harry Humphries and Fran Scollise wearing their issued Submariners in Vietnam (Rolex Magazine)

In the decades after Vietnam, the advent of battery-powered dive computers and the evolution of Rolex into an expensive luxury brand caused the Navy to cease its issuance of Submariners to the SEALs. Today, however, some Navy SEALs still maintain the elite organization’s relationship with Rolex on their own dime. While Rone did not wear a Rolex Submariner 116610 as depicted in 13 Hours, he did wear a Rolex Sea-Dweller 16660, a more robust descendant of the Submariner with a greater water-resistance rating.

7 craziest moments in Army history

Rone wearing his Sea-Dweller (Cheryl Croft Bennett)

Before he joined the CIA’s Global Response Staff in 2010, Rone posted on RolexForums.com looking for a shop in the San Diego area where he could sell his Rolex Sea-Dweller and Panerai Luminor (the Italian Navy’s original issued dive watch). Although his post received no replies, the thread has since become a tribute to the late operator since his death in Benghazi in 2012.

7 craziest moments in Army history

Rone’s first and only post on the forum (RolexForums)

Though the fate of Rone’s Sea-Dweller is unknown, the fact that he is shown wearing a Rolex in 13 Hours is a testament to the care and attention to detail that Bay put in to depicting him and the other Americans in Benghazi during the 2012 attack.


MIGHTY HISTORY

What exactly is Iran’s shadowy Quds Force?

For many Americans, it can be tough to understand exactly how Iran’s military apparatus stacks up against our own. Both nations manage their defense efforts in fundamentally different ways due to necessity, cultural differences, and internal politics. The U.S. Military does not operate within America’s borders except under very specific circumstances, it receives its funding through Congress, and perhaps most importantly, there’s no question as to where its loyalties lie.


The Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran, however, function in a very different way, with its elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) overlapping many of the roles occupied by the nation’s formal Army and garnering the vast majority of the nation’s defense budget. The IRGC also operates a number of legitimate Iranian businesses, securing alternate funding sources while compounding power and influence over the nation’s economy and government. When Iranian citizens take to the streets to protest, it’s the IRGC that suppresses their efforts with brutal precision.

In April of this year, the United States chose to designate the IRGC as a terror group, but deep within the organization’s structure, a small sect of the IRGC has already carried that distinction for over a decade: the IRGC’s secretive foreign intervention arm, the Quds Force.

7 craziest moments in Army history

Quds Force operations are divided into 8 directories, shown here in different colors.

(WikiMedia Commons)

The Quds Force are tasked with clandestine operations outside of Iran

Because Iran isn’t capable of fielding a large and modern military that can stand toe to toe with giants like the U.S., the IRGC’s Quds Force has adopted a unique approach to projecting the nation’s power beyond Iran’s borders. The Quds Force operates entirely within the shadows, supporting foreign terror groups and militias, conducting attacks and assassinations, gathering intelligence, and doing anything else Iran needs to keep hidden behind a veil of plausible deniability.

Some Quds Force operatives could be compared to CIA handlers tasked with developing local intelligence assets. Others are more like American Green Berets, tasked with training and equipping foreign military forces. These troops are also known to engage in unconventional warfare operations themselves, often in the form of terror attacks, assassinations, and kidnappings.

7 craziest moments in Army history

Quds Day celebration in Iran, 2017.

(Mohammad Ranjbar via WikiMedia Commons)

They get their name from the city of Jerusalem

Iran’s long-standing beef with Israel permeates throughout the nation’s military apparatus, but none so directly as the Quds Force, also commonly referred to in Iran as Al-Quds. In Arabic, Al-Quds actually means Jerusalem, or literally translated, “The Holy One.” They didn’t adopt this name as a respectful nod to the ancient city under Israeli control, but rather as a lasting reminder of their long-standing goal to recapture Jerusalem for the Arabic People.

Iran also celebrates Quds Day, though not as a direct affirmation of support for the military unit. Quds Day, which has now spread throughout like-minded groups of the Middle East and even as far off as London, is a day dedicated to parades, fiery speeches, and other demonstrations meant to denounce Israel and Zionism. This year, Iran’s Quds Day celebrations also included burning American flags and effigies of President Donald Trump.

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Iran can’t go toe to toe with the U.S. and they know it, so they found a way around it.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Clayton Cupit)

They specialize in asymmetric warfare because they know the U.S. is stronger

Asymmetric warfare is, in a nutshell, a war between opponents with vastly different levels of resources or capabilities. Iran lacks the technological, diplomatic, and financial strengths the United States leans on to both deter and win armed conflicts, and as a result, they’ve opted not to fight on those terms.

In the modern era, this asymmetric approach has earned the Quds Force close friends in the form of terror organizations with similar extremist goals. Some, like Hezbollah, were even founded through Quds Force interventions. Even the Taliban, a group the Quds Force once fought side by side with American force against, has become an ally, bolstering Iran’s defenses along Afghanistan’s Western Border.

7 craziest moments in Army history

We’re pretty sure they make their ghillie suits out of confetti though.

(Javad Hadi via WikiMedia Commons)

No one is sure exactly how many troops are in the Quds Force

America’s Special Operations Command (USASOC) maintains a total force of about 33,000 troops, but it’s nearly impossible to tell how those numbers stack up against the Quds Force. Because of the secretive way in which subset of the IRGC operates, estimates have ranged from the low thousands to as many as 50,000 total troops, but to a certain extent, either number would be misleading.

Because a primary role of the Quds Force is to establish friendly militias and fighting forces inside the borders of other nations, the Quds Force total number doesn’t actually reflect the group’s force projection capabilities. With operations ranging from Syria to Venezuela, Iran’s influence over loosely affiliated fighting organizations the world over makes the danger presented by the Quds Force more difficult to quantify than conventional, or even many unconventional, military units.

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Specialized IEDs purpose built to penetrate armor began appearing in Iraq as a result of Quds Forces.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

The Quds Force is already responsible for hundreds, if not thousands, of American deaths

Declassified defense documents have linked the Quds Force to a rash of IED attacks in Iraq that claimed the lives of hundreds of U.S. service members during combat operations in recent years. These attacks utilized an explosively formed projectile, or EFP, designed specifically to be effective against armored vehicles like American troops utilize in combat zones. Iran’s special operations troops have also been involved in a number of insurgent attacks against U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq since 2003.

The Quds Force was implicated in the bombings of the U.S. Embassy, annex, and Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983 and 1984, along with a long list of other terror attacks. It’s important to note, however, that the Quds Force tends to advise and support rather than directly participate in these operations, granting Iran the deniability they need to avoid open war with the United States.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why the USS Jimmy Carter isn’t an aircraft carrier

The Navy’s tradition of honoring past American Presidents by naming aircraft carrier after them is alive and well. The USS Ronald Reagan, the Abraham Lincoln, and the Gerald Ford are all symbols of the projection of American naval power all over the world. There’s just one exception, one that goes unnoticed by many, mainly because it’s supposed to.

The USS Jimmy Carter is named after the 39th President of the United States, but it’s a nuclear submarine. And there’s a great reason for it.


7 craziest moments in Army history

Carter dreamed of attending the U.S. Naval Academy even as a three-year-old.

Like many 20th Century Presidents before him, Carter was a Navy veteran. Unlike Nixon, Bush 41, or President Ford, Carter’s contributions to the Navy didn’t happen primarily in wartime, however, it happened after the Second World War. Carter, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, was immediately appointed as an officer aboard a Navy submarine, the USS Pomfret. He served aboard a number of submarines, mostly electric-diesel submarines, until it was time to upgrade them. All of them.

While the United States was embroiled in the Korean War, Carter the engineering officer, was sent to work with the Atomic Energy Commission and later Union College in Upstate New York, where he became well-versed in the physics of nuclear energy and nuclear power plants. He would use that knowledge to serve under Admiral Hyman Rickover, helping develop the nuclear Navy. Carter would have to leave the active Navy in 1953 when his father died and left the family peanut farm without an owner. In less than a year after Carter’s departure, Rickover’s team would launch the USS Nautilus, the world’s first-ever nuclear-powered submarine and the first ship in a long line of nuclear ships.

7 craziest moments in Army history

The USS Nautilus

According to President Carter, Rickover was of the biggest influences on the young peanut farmer’s life. Carter’s 1976 campaign biography was even called Why Not The Best? – after a question Rickover asked the young naval officer while interviewing to join the nuclear submarine program.

Rickover asked Carter what his standing was in his graduating class at Annapolis and when Carter replied, Rickover asked him if he did his best.

“I started to say, ‘Yes sir,’ but I remembered who this was and recalled several times I could have learned more about our allies, our enemies, weapons, strategy and so forth. I was just human. I finally gulped and said, ‘No sir, I didn’t always do my best.”

“Why not?” asked Rickover. It was the last thing the Admiral said during the interview.

7 craziest moments in Army history

Rickover (far right) with then-President Carter and his wife Rosalyn, touring a U.S. nuclear submarine.

Later, of course, Carter would become Hyman Rickover’s Commander-in-Chief, having taken in everything he learned from Rickover about nuclear energy and the U.S. Navy. The nuclear sub would become one of the pillars of American national security.

As President, Carter would restrict the building of supercarriers due to their massive costs, instead favoring medium-sized aircraft carriers, much to the consternation of the Navy and defense contractors. It would make little sense to have Carter’s name on a weapons program he discouraged as President – kind of like having Andrew Jackson’s face on American currency even though the 12th President was opposed to central banking.

But the Navy had to do something for the only Annapolis graduate to ascend to the nation’s highest office and serve as the Leader of the Free World. So naming the third Seawolf-class submarine after the former submarine officer and onetime nuclear engineer made perfect sense. The USS Jimmy Carter is the most secret nuclear submarine on the planet, moving alone and silently on missions that are never disclosed to the greater American public.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 times Americans left to fight in foreign wars

In the past few years, dozens of veteran and civilian Americans left the comfort and safety of their homes to tackle what they saw as an unspeakable evil growing from the Middle East — the Islamic State. A new television documentary series from History followed those Americans as they fought with Kurdish fighters in Syria. The show pulls no punches in showing what combat looks like on the front lines of the fight against the world’s most ruthless terrorists.

You can catch Hunting ISIS every Tuesday at 11pm on History but read on and learn about how and why Americans fought the good fight long before their country was ready.”I heard the stories, I knew that ISIS was evil,” says PJ, a Marine Corps vet who served in Iraq. “But you can never understand the brutality that they’re capable of until you see it with your own eyes… Most people in America aren’t able or willing to come over here,” he says. “And for them, I will carry what weight I can.”


The group that came to be dubbed ISIS by Americans came to global recognition in 2014 while capitalizing on power vacuums in Iraq and Syria. The group managed to capture large swaths of both countries. In Iraq, ISIS captured most of Fallujah, took the provincial capital of Mosul, and even approached the outskirts of Baghdad.

 

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The ISIS terror state at the height of power in 2014.

(UnderstandingWar.org)

In Syria, ISIS occupied most of the country’s eastern half, basing out of the group’s de facto capital, Raqqa. At the height of its power in 2014, the would-be terrorist state controlled the lives of some 10 million people. What was most horrifying about life under ISIS control was not only the restrictions on personal freedoms for those 10 million people, but the punishments for breaking ISIS law, executions of political prisoners and POWs, and the genocides committed against “apostate” ethnic groups, especially Yazidis.

Horrified by the ongoing violence, many American veterans of the war in Iraq were inspired by the dogged resistance of the Kurdish Peshmerga as they fought to push back the dark tide of ISIS’ brand of Islamic extremism. The Peshmerga has long been the most effective fighting force in the region and a natural U.S. ally against ISIS.

Long before that alliance was solidified, and long before other regional powers, like Iran and Russia, decided to intervene in the two countries, some American veterans decided to travel to Iraq and join that fight alongside the region’s only remaining stand against terrorist domination. For them, they would be fighting the good fight and doing the right thing against the wishes of the U.S. government and military. They fight unpaid and unsanctioned. Worst of all, they face jail time if they’re caught by Americans — execution if they’re caught by the enemy.

“This battlefield called out to me personally, being that I have blood, sweat, and tears on that sand,” says PJ. “How many of my brothers lost their lives fighting those scumbags in Iraq? And now here they are from Raqqa to Mosul… we can stop this if we stand together.”

But the Islamic State isn’t the only evil Americans fought before their country was ready.

7 craziest moments in Army history
Members of the Lafayette Escadrille pose in front of their Nieuport fighters at the airfield in Verdun, France circa 1917.

1. World War I – Lafayette Escadrille

Named for the Marquis de Lafayette, a French general who was instrumental in the success of the American Revolution, the Lafayette Escadrille was a squadron of American airmen who volunteered to fight for the French against Germany in the first world war in 1916 – almost a full year before the United States entered the war on the side of the Entente.

7 craziest moments in Army history
American volunteers Merian C. Cooper and Cedric Fauntleroy, fighting in the Polish Air Force. The Soviets placed a large bounty on Cooper’s head.

 

2. Kosciuszko Squadron – Polish-Soviet War

For three years, Poland fought Soviet Russia for control of parts of Eastern Poland and Ukraine. American volunteers, wary of the spread of Communism to the West, volunteered for the Polish Air Forces against the Soviets with notable successes — the Soviets put half-million ruble bounty on one aviator’s head. One Polish general said of the Americans,

“The American pilots, though exhausted, fight tenaciously. During the last offensive, their commander attacked enemy formations from the rear, raining machine-gun bullets down on their heads. Without the American pilots’ help, we would long ago have been done for.”

7 craziest moments in Army history
Tom Mooney Company from the Lincoln Battalion. Jarama, Spain circa 1937.

 

3. Lincoln Battalion – Spanish Civil War

Fascism was the true enemy in Spain, where those loyal to the democratic Second Spanish Republic fought Francisco Franco’s nationalism for three years before their defeat in 1939. Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy were among the countries who officially supported the Nationalists, while the Soviet Union supported the left-leaning Republicans. Meanwhile, Britain and the U.S. officially stayed out of the fighting.

Many, many volunteers poured in from all over the world to fight for the Republican army in the International Brigades. For the Americans, they joined what was known as the Abraham Lincoln brigades, an amalgamation of English-speaking British and American volunteers.

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American pilots of No 71 ‘Eagle’ Squadron rush to their Hawker Hurricanes at Kirton-in-Lindsey, March 1941.

 

4. Eagle Squadrons – The Battle of Britain

The early days of World War II were dark days for the British. The threat of Nazi invasion loomed large over the whole of the island. We know today that they were relatively safe across the English Channel, but they hardly thought so back then. But after the seeds of our “special relationship” with the United Kingdom were sown in World War I, many Americans eschewed American neutrality to join the RAF in giving Jerry a black eye.

Those men would join the RAF’s three Eagle Squadrons. The first was formed in September 1940 and fought with the British until their units were transferred to the U.S. 8th Air Force in 1942.

7 craziest moments in Army history

5. The Flying Tigers – WWII China

A truly joint operation, the Flying Tigers were formed from a bold group of Army, Navy, and Marine Corps airmen and placed under the command of a retired American general attached to the Chinese Air Force. Three squadrons of 90 aircraft trained in Burma well before the U.S. entry to World War II. So, when their first combat mission came calling just 12 days after the attack at Pearl Harbor, they were more than ready.

When the U.S. came to take them back, they were made part of the U.S. Army’s 14th Air Force – the 23rd Fighter Group. The 23rd still flies planes with shark teeth nose art on their A-10 fleet, an homage to the P-40 Warhawks flown by the Flying Tigers.

MIGHTY HISTORY

George Custer’s younger brother earned two Medals of Honor in the same week

It’s funny how the older Custer can be so infamous for his worst military blunder, while his brother Thomas Ward can earn two Medals of Honor and practically be lost to history.


7 craziest moments in Army history
Note, I still haven’t shown a picture of Thomas Ward Custer yet. This is George.

Related: 9 amazing facts about General George Custer

“If you want to know what I think of him, all I can say, Tom ought to have been the general and I the captain,” so says Gen. George Armstrong Custer, who was probably right.

Custer’s famous last stand is one of the defining moments in the Indian Wars of the late 19th century. The name Custer evokes the memory of a legendary failure. If you don’t believe it, just read “We Were Soldiers Once… and Young.”

Retired Lt. Col. Hal Moore, commanding the 7th Cavalry at Ia Drang, worried he’d be just like the infamous 7th Cavalry commander Custer and lead his men to certain death.

“Casualties were beginning to pile up. As we dropped behind that termite hill, I fleetingly thought about an illustrious predecessor of mine in the 7th Cavalry, Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer, and his final stand in the valley of the Little Bighorn in Montana, eighty-nine years earlier. I was determined that history would not repeat itself in the valley of the Ia Drang.”

Thomas Ward Custer would die with his big brother at Little Bighorn and wouldn’t achieve the rank and notoriety of the elder Custer. He was a good soldier (to put it mildly) enlisting at age 16 to fight in the Civil War and fighting in the major battles of Chickamauga, Chattanooga, and in the Atlanta Campaign. He was enlisted for most of the war before earning a commission in October 1864.

Barely six months later — April 3, 1865 — the younger Custer captured a Confederate Regimental flag at Namozine Church. He did it after being wounded and thrown from his horse. He also took at least a dozen prisoners to boot.

7 craziest moments in Army history
Thomas Ward Custer, just after the Civil War ended.

Capturing an enemy flag was a big deal at the time of the Civil War. If a unit’s flag was captured, there was a good chance the unit’s cohesion would just fall apart. They were held in the middle of the unit and troops looked to them for assurance during the fighting – the assurance that the rest of the unit was still fighting with them.

Three days later, Thomas Ward captured another regiment’s colors at Saylor’s Creek, jumping from his horse during a cavalry charge, over and into the enemy lines. He was wounded in the face for his trouble and awarded his second Medal of Honor. General Charles E. Capeheart, an eyewitness, reported:

“Having crossed the line of temporary works on the flank of the road, we were encountered by a supporting battle line. It was the second time he [Tom] wrestled the colors. He received a shot in the face which knocked him back on his horse, but in a moment was soon upright in the saddle. Reaching out his right arm, he grasped the flag while the color bearer reeled. The bullet from Tom’s revolver must have pierced him in the region of the heart. Captain Custer wretched the standard from his grasp and bore it away in triumph.”

Just three days after Thomas Ward captured his second enemy regimental flag, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse, ending the Civil War.

Also read: These 12 facts might give you a new perspective on the Civil War

When the Civil War ended — at 20 and a brevet lieutenant colonel — Thomas decided to stay on in the Army. His exploits on the American frontier were the stuff of legend, including a tussle with the Western lawman “Wild Bill” Hickok.

It was following his brother George to Little Bighorn that would prove the younger Custer’s fatal mistake.

The site of Custer’s last stand in 1877. All that remained were the skeletons of cavalry horses. (Worst. Family Reunion. Ever.)

Thomas Ward Custer was slaughtered there during his brother’s infamous last stand, along with another brother, Boston Custer and their nephew, Henry Armstong Reed.

Articles

The ‘Nightfighters’ attacked Nazis with empty rifles and grenades

In the final six months of World War II, the 104th Division — “The Frontier Division” — launched a series of night attacks against German troops while equipped with only empty rifles, bayonets, and grenades, slicing and exploding their way through enemy lines on the drive to Berlin.


The 104th Division was stood up in Oregon on Sep. 15, 1942, around the same time that its future commander, Maj. Gen. Terry “Terrible Terry” Allen, was loading the 1st Inf. Division into ships for the invasion of North Africa.

7 craziest moments in Army history
A 1st Infantry Division tank in Germany in world War II. Maj. Gen. Terry Allen left the 1st Inf. Div. to command the 104th Inf. Div., a unit which quickly proved itself after arriving in France in 1944. (Photo: U.S. Army Tech. Sgt. Murray Shub)

One of Allen’s big takeaways from commanding the 1st in Tunisia was that night attacks were generally less costly than daytime assaults, especially against fortifications and massed guns. So, when he handed the 1st over to Maj. Gen. Clarence R. Huebner and was sent to take over the 104th, he insisted that the Frontier Division learn to fight at night.

According to a 1946 news article about the Division, Allen required the men to train 30-35 hours a week at night, well above the Army standard of eight to 12 hours.

7 craziest moments in Army history
American troops march in the Kasserine Pass in Tunisia. Tunisia was a formative experience for Maj. Gen. Terry Allen who took lessons from the battlefield there to the 104th Infantry Division. (Dept. of Defense photo)

After training in the U.S. and England, the 104th finally landed in France in September 1944 and was sent to Antwerp a month later to help capture the port there. In two weeks of bloody fighting that included multiple night assaults, the Timberwolves worked with the Canadians and British to eliminate Nazi defenses.

And some of those night assaults were conducted with only cold steel bayonets and the explosive fire of hand grenades.

Even when the “Nightfighters” had rifle ammunition and permission to use it, they seemed to prefer their bayonets and explosives, likely in a bid to reduce tell-tale muzzle flashes that would give away their position.

7 craziest moments in Army history
The bayonet has served the U.S. from the Revolutionary War to Iraq and Afghanistan, but was especially useful in World War I. (Photo: U.S. Defense Visual Information Center)

During the Battle of the Dykes near Antwerp, then-1st Lt. Cecil Bolton tried to use mortars to knock out enemy machine gun positions raining fire on his unit. After being knocked unconscious by German artillery, he awoke and led a two-man volunteer bazooka team against the German lines by sneaking through chest-deep, nearly frozen water in the canals to the enemy positions.

The three men took out one position with grenades and an artillery position with the rockets, only using rifle fire to take out a sniper and machine gun position who spotted them before they could attack. Bolton was wounded a second time while returning to U.S. lines and was later awarded the Medal of Honor.

The night attacks were usually reserved for positions in relatively open terrain, but were sometimes conducted against cities. The city of Eschweiler was captured in November thanks to a pre-dawn insertion of troops into the city center. Those men raised hell inside German lines at sunrise while the rest of their unit attacked from the outside.

7 craziest moments in Army history
104th Infantry Division soldiers drive a captured German tank in 1944 after painting it with U.S. markings. (Photo: U.S. Army)

A midnight attack on Lucherbourg went south when the Americans were spotted immediately after crossing a river, but the men pressed on anyways, seizing four houses at the edge of town and holding them against enemy counterattacks, including armored assaults, all night and the following day.

Then-Maj. Gen. Joseph “Lightning Joe” Collins praised the men for their daring and success during the campaign:

The second phase, involving the crossing of the Inde River and the advance to the Roer, was even more difficult, but with characteristic skill and dash, in a series of brilliant night attacks, the 104th Division forced a crossing of the Inde, and in a few days had cleared its entire sector to the Roer River.  I regard the operation which involved the seizure of Lamersdorf-Inden-Luchererg as one of the finest single pieces of work accomplished by any unit of the 7th Corps since D Day.

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German mortars fire towards American positions during the Battle of Hurtgen Forest. (Photo: German Army Archives)

On Oct. 23, 1944, the division deployed to the Battle of Hurtgen Forest, the longest single battle in which America ever fought.

The 104th later took part in Operation Grenade, the late-February 1945 crossing of the Roer River and the drive into the heart of Germany as well as the March 22 crossing of the Rhine. Over the following week, they captured important strategic points like airfields and created blocking positions to stop the escape of Nazi units.

On April 11, the division arrived at Nordhausen, Germany, and found a German concentration camp with 6,000 survivors and 5,000 corpses. The inmates of the camp had been forced to manufacture V-2 bombs until the American approach forced the Germans to withdraw.

7 craziest moments in Army history
This is the underground facility in Germany where prisoners of the concentration camp near Nordhausen were forced to create V-2 rockets for German use against the Allies. (Photo: German Federal Archives)

On April 26, the 104th met up with Russian troops that had been pushing the Germans west from Moscow. The Allied forces continued to hunt German units until May 5 when they ran out of Nazis to fight. Thus ended 195 days and nights of continuous combat, some of it conducted at night against machinegun nests and artillery positions by attackers armed only with blades and grenades.

The Timberwolves were scheduled to take part in the invasions of the Japanese home islands as part of Operations Olympic and Coronet. The operations were made unnecessary by Japan’s surrender on Sep. 2, 1945.

7 craziest moments in Army history
A memorial plaque for the 104th Infantry Division in Arlington National Cemetery. (Photo: Tim1965 CC BY-SA 3.0)

The 104th is now a training unit in the Army Reserve. It still proudly carries the names “Timberwolves” and “Nightfighters.”