Here's how the Red Baron got his name - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Here’s how the Red Baron got his name

“The Red Baron” remains one of history’s most feared fighter pilots. At the dawn of aerial combat Manfred von Richtofen was credited with 80 kills, most of which were won in planes painted bright red.


 

Richtofen was born into German royalty as a freiherr, which is similar to an English baron. Manfred’s father was a military officer who was disappointed when his own career was cut short by injury and so pushed his son to succeed where he failed.

 

Here’s how the Red Baron got his name
Photo: Wikipedia/C. J. von Duhren

Manfred began training for the military at the age of 11 in a military school, the Cadet Institute at Wahlstatt. The boy who would become the baron was undisciplined and a barely passing student according to his autobiography. He was also prone to dangerous stunts:

I had a tremendous liking for all sorts of risky tricks. One fine day I climbed with my friend Frankenberg the famous steeple of Wahlstatt by means of the lightning conductor and tied my handkerchief to the top. I remember exactly how difficult it was to negotiate the gutters. Ten years later, when I visited my little brother at Wahlstatt, I saw my handkerchief still tied up high in the air.

While Richtofen wasn’t interested in the military and was a lackluster student, he was a gifted athlete and felt it was his duty to fulfill his father’s wishes. He graduated from the school and was commissioned as a cavalry officer in 1912. After the outbreak of World War I, Richtofen initially spent his time doing reconnaissance.

But as the armies dug into trenches around Paris, the need for cavalry waned and cavalry soldiers were reassigned to positions laying cable or acting as couriers. Some officers, including Richtofen, were told that they would be assigned quartermaster duty. Richtofen balked.

“I have not gone to war to collect cheese and eggs, but for another purpose,” he said.

So he applied to training as an observer on reconnaissance flights. His first training flight was a disaster. He lost his equipment and failed to keep track of his position or heading. But he rededicated himself to training and became a skilled observer. As the war ground on he decided to become a pilot. His ambition was bolstered when he met Lt. Oswald Boelcke, a famous fighter pilot.

He earned his pilot’s certificate on Christmas of 1915 and continued training. He was eventually selected by Boelcke to be in Boelcke’s new unit. On Sep. 17, 1916, Richtofen went on his first patrol and scored his first kill.

After that, his momentum built as he scored kill after kill. For each victory, he commissioned a silver cup with the type of the plane he shot down engraved on the bottom.

It wasn’t until late 1916 that Richtofen painted his aircraft red. By this time, he was an accomplished fighter ace with 9 confirmed kills. A number of nicknames cropped up after Richtofen adopted the trademark paint job, including “The Red Baron.”

Here’s how the Red Baron got his name
Manfred Richtofen with the men of Jagdstaffel 11. Photo: Wikipedia/German Federal Archives

In Jan. 1917 the baron reached 16 kills and was given command of Jagdestaffel 11. He and his men continued to fight the British and in Apr. Richtofen reached a new milestone, finally passing Boelcke’s record 40 kills. By the end of the month, Richtofen had 52 total victories.

But only a few months later, Rictofen was wounded in an air battle when a round struck him in the head. He was initially blinded but regained his sight in time to land the plane. After a forced convalescent leave, Richtofen demanded to return to the front.

Of course, through all of this, the Red Baron was achieving new aerial victories. They seem to have lost their allure for him though. After the shot to his head, he became angry and brooding, but continued to fight.

Here’s how the Red Baron got his name
The plane Capt. Manfred Richtofen was shot down in after it was picked apart by souvenir hunters. Photo: Australian War Museum

In April 1918, he doubled Boelcke’s record and achieved his 80th kill. But Death was tired of waiting for the baron. On Apr. 21, 1918, the day after his 80th victory, Richtofen was shot through the chest while aggressively chasing a rookie Canadian pilot. There is speculation that his defeat in Apr. 21 can be credited to the traumatic brain injury he sustained the summer before.

The Red Baron had been feared but also respected by his enemies and the Australian aviators of No. 3 Squadron gave him a military burial with full honors.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Korean War started 68 years ago this week

When the Korean War erupted on June 25, 1950 — 68 years ago in June 2018 — Master Sgt. Thomas B. Hutton soon found himself serving there with the Eighth U.S. Army as a first sergeant in an automotive maintenance unit, duty that gave him a rare chance to see the land and people of Korea up close as the country went about its daily life amid the privations and perils of war.

Hutton was an avid photographer and during 1952, he turned his 35 mm lens to preserving what he saw, snapping hundreds of photos — in color — that afford a rare look and feel of the country at that time.

The photos show ordinary people — country folk and city dwellers — going about their daily tasks — washing clothes in a river, bustling past a railroad station, making their way down a country road, standing in a rice field and watching a passing train haul tanks to some distant railhead.


Hutton died in 1988 and hundreds of his slides ended up in the Texas home of one of his daughters. As it happened, her son was Army Col. Brandon D. Newton, who until June 2018, served two years as commander of U.S. Army Garrison Red Cloud and Area I. He’d digitized his grandfather’s Korean War photos, kept them on his smartphone, and one day in 2017 showed them to a Korean Army sergeant major who sat next to him at an informal dinner.

Here’s how the Red Baron got his name
Master Sgt. Thomas B. Hutton an Eighth U.S. Army first sergeant in an automotive maintenance unit looks out on the South Korea countryside during the Korean War circa 1952.
(U.S. Army photo)

The sergeant major was amazed. Color photos of the Korean War were rare enough, but these truly captured Korea’s history. They showed what the country looked like. What the people looked like. And they even included rare shots of some of the earliest members of two organizations that are part of the U.S.-South Korean military alliance to this day: the Korean Service Corps and the KATUSAs — South Korean Soldiers who serve shoulder-to-shoulder with U.S. Soldiers in U.S. Army units in Korea.

When the sergeant major asked Newton if he’d be willing to donate the photos to the Korean Army, Newton immediately said yes and soon gave the slides — 239 images — to the Korean Army.

The Korean Army was thrilled and got right to work on trying to pin down where the photos were taken and just what they showed. To get it right, they enlisted the aid of professors, museum curators and other experts.

Then on June 5, 2018 Newton, his wife and son were the guests of the Korean Army’s Personnel Command in Gyeryong, South Chungcheong Province, for an exhibition of some of Hutton’s photos and a ceremony marking the donation.

Here’s how the Red Baron got his name
Early photo of a group of Korean Service Corps members during the Korean War circa 1952.
(U.S. Army photo)


The photos will be preserved in the Korean army’s official archives and copies would be distributed to museums and other institutions, the Korean army said during the ceremony.

During brief remarks at the ceremony, Newton said of the photos:

“First, they provide a very accurate and important history of what Korea was like in 1952, not just for the American Army, the Eighth Army, but also for the ROK army, Korean Service Corps and the KATUSAs. Second — most importantly — they demonstrate the strength of the alliance and an alliance that’s been in place for 68 years. And it helps us understand that our alliance is not just about the relationship between the militaries but also between our people, between the people of the United States of America and the people of the Republic of Korea. It’s a relationship that not only is about our service today but it’s about spanning generations from grandfathers and fathers and sons.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks

As the towers fell and the nation reeled on Sept. 11, 2001, a team of New York Air National Guardsmen at the Northeast Air Defense Sector (NADS) in rural Rome, New York were tasked with searching for missing plans and scrambling fighters in response to the attacks.

Since renamed the Eastern Air Defense Sector, Air Guardsmen there were at the center of the military’s air response on that day. On duty for a NORAD training exercise, Vigilant Guardian, they now have a unique view on the events of Sept. 11, 2001, thanks to their roles in the response.


New York Air National Guard Maj. Jeremy Powell was a 31-year-old tech sergeant taking part in Exercise Vigilant Guardian when 9/11 occurred. He was the first military person to learn about the hijackings after taking the initial call from the Federal Aviation Administration’s Boston center. Master Sgt. Stacia Rountree was a 23-year-old senior airman working as an identification technician. Vigilant Guardian was her first major NORAD exercise.

Like every other American, Powell and Rountree remember that day vividly. Here are eight things they recall about the day that you might not know.

Here’s how the Red Baron got his name

After Sept. 11, 2001, this is what the NEADS operation floor looked like. Above the Q-93 (the large green radar scope) is the NORAD contingency suite that was installed immediately after 9/11 to provide radar data of the entire country.

(Master Sgt. Stacia Rountree, Eastern Air Defense Sector)

It was not a drill

It took some time for NEADS to realize 9/11 was a real-world scenario and not part of the exercise. Once they did, there was even more confusion trying to find the missing planes, which always seemed to be a step ahead of them.

“We were treating all the information we got as real-time, not understanding that it was coming to us late,” said Rountree, who basically became a liaison between the FAA and the military for the rest of that day.

“We were trying to figure out departure destination, how many people were on board, how big the aircraft actually was, and factoring all of that stuff in. That way the [F-15 and F-16] fighters, when they got airborne, would know that they had the right plane in sight,” she said.

“I stayed on the phone for 12-14 hours, just calling all the bases and asking how quick the fighters could get armed, get airborne, and if they could go to a certain location,” Powell said.

There was little time between FAA call and the first crash

Just 10 minutes elapsed between the time Powell took the first call to NEADS about the hijackings to when the first plane, American Airlines Flight 11, hit the North Tower — not enough time to get fighters into the air.

According to the 9/11 Commission’s report, the call from the FAA’s Boston center came into NEADS at 8:37 a.m.

“8:46 is when I scrambled the first fighters [from Otis Air National Guard Base, Massachusetts], and then 8:53 they were airborne,” Powell said.

But it was too late to help American 11, which hit the World Trade Center’s North Tower at 8:47 a.m.

There were several more reports of hijackings over the day

By the time the day was over, Rountree said there were probably 19 or 20 planes that she and the other ID techs had investigating as possible hijackings. Only the initial four — American 11, United Airlines Flight 175, American Airlines Flight 77 and United Airlines Flight 93 — were the real deal.

At one point, there were reports that American 11 was still airborne. Air traffic controllers likely confused it with American 77, which was somewhere over Washington, D.C. air-space.

Rountree said she tried to contact the FAA’s Washington Center to get a position on it, while Langley Air Force Base fighters were trying to get to the capital.

Here’s how the Red Baron got his name

New York Air National Guard Maj. Jeremy Powell, a tech sergeant on 9/11, was asked to play himself in the Paul Greengrass film “United 93” about the passengers who kept the fourth hijacked plane from reaching its destination in Washington, D.C. Powell, pictured here in a screen grab from the film, said he believed the movie was as spot-on as you could get, as far as what happened at NEADS was concerned.

“It was probably only a couple of minutes, but to me, it seemed like a lifetime. Then we got the reports that the plane hit the Pentagon,” Rountree remembered. “I was actively trying to find that plane, and I felt that we may have had some time. We didn’t.”

Fighter pilots were ready to make the ultimate sacrifice

The fighters were meant only to shadow potentially hijacked planes, but Rountree said there was discussion of those pilots making the ultimate sacrifice.

“In case their weapons were out, and if we would have had to use force, they were discussing whether or not those guys would have to go kamikaze,” she said, meaning some pilots were considering risking their own lives by using their planes to stop hijacked jetliners. “It was scary, when you thought about the possibility of them having to do that.”

There was a moment of hope for Flight 93

While all of the crashes were shocking, Rountree said that, for her, United 93 was the saddest. They had been trying to find the plane on radar and had called the FAA to get an updated position.

“They said, ‘It’s down,’ and we were thinking it landed,” Rountree remembered. But when they asked for landing confirmation, the info was clarified — it crashed. “For us, you had that glimmer of hope, and then… .”

NEADS was evacuated September 12

The day after 9/11, NEADS was evacuated because there was an unknown plane up at the time, and no one was supposed to be airborne.

“There were fighters coming back from air patrol over NYC … so our commander had them go supersonic over to where we were so they could figure out what it was. They thought it was heading toward us,” Rountree said.

It turned out to be a harmless floatplane, and it was forced to land.

9/11 changed the role of the air defense sectors

“Back then, the primary focus was that we were looking out at people coming to attack us from the outside,” Powell said. “We weren’t really focused on the inside.”

“Nobody thought that somebody would go ahead and utilize planes that were in the U.S. to do something, so our radar coverage was indicative of that,” Rountree explained. “Now, our coverage has definitely increased. It’s night and day versus then.”

The sector now has new and evolving technology.

“Our computer systems are bigger and better. … You should see all of the radars that are now hooked up. Everything the FAA sees, we see. We are much more actively involved in the identification of all aircraft in the United States,” Powell said.

Before 9/11, Rountree said they couldn’t always get in touch with critical personnel at the FAA centers. Now they can.

“We really didn’t have to talk to the various Air Traffic Control Center supervisors. Now, we have instant lines with everybody,” she said.

The military has been monitoring the skies over the U.S. ever since.

“A lot of people didn’t even realize that we were probably there, or what we even do, which could be a good thing,” Powell said. “It reinforces the idea that somebody’s always watching you, especially in the sky. The FAA’s there — that is their airspace — but the military is, too.”

Never Forget.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These are Frank Capra’s best World War II film works

Legendary director Frank Capra is perhaps best known for timeless classics, It’s A Wonderful Life and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. But his other signature work — done during World War II — was the series of Why We Fight films. These seven films, commissioned by the United States government, explained to American troops just why they were involved in World War II.

While only Prelude to War, the first in this seven-film series, ever won an Oscar, most of the other films in the “Why We Fight” series were positively received and remain classics to date (The Battle for Russia did omit the evils committed by the Soviet Union).

But Capra was responsible for making more than that seven-film series during World War II.


According to IMDb.com, Capra directed or produced several other documentaries for GIs and the American people. Among the other documentaries Capra did were Tunisian Victory, which covered the fighting in North Africa, Here is Germany, about how Germany came to fall under the Nazis, and Know your Enemy: Japan, which tried to explain how Japan ended up starting the global conflict.

Though some of these documentaries haven’t aged gracefully, others are seen as ahead of their time.

Here’s how the Red Baron got his name

Frank Capra received the Legion of Merit in 1943.

(US Army)

For instance, The Negro Soldier, a film intended to recruit African-Americans into the armed forces, didn’t just receive positive reviews. It was a progressive film that showcased the heroics deeds of black soldiers in war. It broke a number of cinematic stereotypes that were popular at the time and instead portrayed African-American service members as dignified troops. By 1944, this film became a mandatory watch for all soldiers in American replacement centers.

Here’s how the Red Baron got his name

Capra directed or produced over a dozen films for the military during World War II.

(US Army)

Other films didn’t fare quite as well. Know Your Enemy: Japan, for example, was mired in a form of “development hell” — the initial director was fired by Capra after submitting his rough draft. The reason for the firing was that the director, Joris Ivens, was too tough on Hirohito. This wasn’t the first time America pulled punches with regards to the emperor.

Here’s how the Red Baron got his name

Capra received the Distinguished Service Medal in 1945, even though some of his documentaries were misses.

(US Army)

Ultimately, Capra received both the Legion of Merit and the Distinguished Service Medal for his service during World War II.

His World War II documentaries are available for download via the Internet Archive, and some stream on Netflix or Amazon Prime.

Check out the Oscar-winning Prelude to War below:

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY HISTORY

Thousands more died in the Nazi blitz due to ignored spy reports

Imagine you had some of the world’s best spymasters, espionage rings, and analysts in the world, that intellectuals around the world were enamored with you and wanted to feed you information, and that all of that intelligence was needed to protect your massive military as it faced off against an existential threat to your people, your government, and your nation.

Then imagine you ignored all of that information because, like, can you ever really trust a spy?


Here’s how the Red Baron got his name

Richard Sorge, one of the most successful (and dead) spies of World War II.

(Bundesarchiv)

That was the reality for many of the spies in World War II, especially Richard “Ika” Sorge, whose spy reports gave a detailed breakdown of the Nazi blitz preparing to smash into the Soviet Union. He watched his nation fail to marshal its troops to face the threat.

Sorge born in 1895 to a German engineer working in Baku, Azerbajin, then a part of the Russian Empire and a major oil-producing region. He served in World War I with the German military but fell in love with communist ideology. After the war, he began teaching Marxism and got a PhD in political theory.

He moved to Moscow in 1924 and was recruited into Soviet intelligence and sent to China, then Japan. Through a surprising bit of luck, Sorge was able to meet up with a German officer named Lt. Col. Eugen Ott in Japan and become a member of the Nazi party.

Here’s how the Red Baron got his name

Richard Sorge was wounded in World War I.

(Photo by Eva Tilden)

As the conflicts that would flare up into World War II grew, Sorge was a member of the Soviet intelligence as well as the Nazi party and was respected in China and Japan. Better, he had intelligence assets available in all four countries. He was also a famous womanizer. In all four of these countries, he had women who fed him intelligence information that they wouldn’t dare tell anyone else.

He used the intelligence he gathered in Tokyo to ingratiate himself with the Germans who wanted to keep an eye on their Pacific ally. The trust he built up through feeding Berlin information allowed him to gather a lot of intelligence about the Nazis that he could feed to his true masters in Moscow.

In 1938, Sorge got in even deeper with the Nazis when his German handler got sick and his old friend Ott, who had helped him join the Nazi party in the first place, asked him to take on the task of drafting the German Embassy’s dispatches to Berlin, filled with all sorts of great information to pass on to his Moscow superiors.

In 1940 and 1941, Sorge was able to tap into his networks in China and Germany to paint a detailed picture of one of the most important points in the war: The German blitz against the Soviet Union.

Here’s how the Red Baron got his name

A Soviet T-34 burns in the field during Operation Barbarossa.

(Bundesarchiv)

Sorge, reporting from Tokyo, achieved a shocking level of precision, detailing the size of the force and pinpointing the week that the Nazis would invade. He reported that the attack would take place sometime between June 20 and 25. Operation Barbarossa, as it was named, launched on June 22.

Between Sorge and a spy in China, Walther Stennes, Moscow received 42 reports, all of them brushed aside by Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin who thought he had the measure of Hitler.

When the Germans struck, they hit with almost 4 million soldiers who were reinforced over the following weeks and months by units from Italy, Croatia, Slovakia, and Hungary.

Here’s how the Red Baron got his name

German officers pose with a captured Soviet plane.

The Soviet military, ill-positioned and -prepared, saw entire units swallowed up, killed, and captured as the Nazis cutoff unprotected supply lines and overran barely fortified positions. 600,000 Soviet troops were killed, captured, or seriously wounded in the first week while 4,000 aircraft were destroyed, many of them still on the ground.

Germany penetrated the Soviet Union 200 miles deep along a nearly 1,800-mile front in only seven days.

Of course, the Soviets were able to push the German forces back, largely thanks to delusional planning on the German side. Germany had expected to conquer Moscow before true winter set in and failed to properly equip its troops for fighting in the frozen wasteland that Russia quickly became. Commanders, chasing the operation’s impossible timetable, failed to secure their gains and left their own lengthening supply lines too lightly guarded.

The harsh winter and Soviet counterattacks hit hard. Russia, with its superior resources and manpower, was able to bleed Germany for its treachery and bloodshed.

But all of this came too late for the thousands unnecessarily lost in those opening days, as well as for Richard Sorge. Sorge continued to send information back to Moscow, including one important report that was actually read and believed. He was able to determine with a high degree of certainty that Tokyo would not enter the European Theater unless it was clear that Russia had lost, preferably if Moscow fell.

The Red Army moved massive numbers of troops from their Easter Front to the west, hastening their success against Hitler.

Even more impressive, Sorge had a contact with the Japanese premier’s closest advisers, and he was able to feed them information convincing them to keep invading further south into China and towards European positions in Asia, relieving pressure from Soviet Forces on the Eastern Front.

But Sorge’s luck ran out. On Oct. 10, 1941, security police arrested two members of Sorge’s espionage ring, and one of them spilled all the beans. Sorge was arrested and eventually cracked, admitting to being a communist spy. He was executed on Nov. 7, 1944, refused even his dying cigarette.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Coast Guard combat missions of Operation Iraqi Freedom

As in so many American conflicts, Coast Guard units and personnel in Operation Iraqi Freedom or OIF, performed several missions; including escort duty, force protection, maritime interdiction operations or MIO, and aids-to-navigation, or ATON, work. From the very outset of Middle East operations, the Coast Guard’s training and experience in these and other maritime activities played a vital role in OIF.


Late in 2002, Coast Guard headquarters alerted various units in the service’s Pacific Area and Atlantic Area about possible deployment to the Middle East. From November 2002 through January 2003, these units began activation, training and planning activities for an expected deployment in early 2003. In January, Pacific Area’s first major units deployed to the Arabian Gulf, including the high-endurance cutter Boutwell and ocean-going buoy tender Walnut. Both of these vessels had to cross the Pacific and Indian oceans to arrive at the Arabian Gulf and begin operations. Their responsibilities would include MIO and Walnut, in conjunction with members of the Coast Guard’s National Strike Force, would lead potential oil spill containment operations.

Here’s how the Red Baron got his name

Port Security Unit 309’s port security boat underway.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Atlantic Area provided many units of its own, sending the high-endurance cutter Dallas to the Mediterranean to support and escort Military Sealift Command shipping and Coalition battle groups in that theater of operations. Atlantic Area sent four 110-foot patrol boats (WPBs) to Italy together with support personnel and termed their base of operations “Patrol Forces Mediterranean” or PATFORMED, and it sent four WPBs to the Arabian Gulf with a Bahrain-based command called “Patrol Forces Southwest Asia,” PATFORSWA.

The service also activated Port Security Units and law enforcement boarding teams, LEDETs, which had proven successful in the Gulf War in 1990. Atlantic Area sent PSU 309 from Port Clinton, Ohio, to Italy to support PATFORMED while Pacific Area sent PSU 311 from San Pedro, California, and PSU 313 from Tacoma, Washington, to Kuwait to protect the Kuwait Naval Base and the commercial port of Shuaiba, respectively. LEDET personnel initially served aboard the WPBs and then switched to Navy patrol craft to perform MIO operations.

Here’s how the Red Baron got his name

Coast Guard Cutter Adak, a 110-foot patrol boat, interdicts a local dhow in the Northern Arabian Gulf.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

At 8 p.m. on March 19, Coalition forces launched Operation Iraqi Freedom. When hostilities commenced, all Coast Guard units were manned and ready. On March 20, personnel from PSU 311 and PSU 313 helped secure Iraq’s offshore oil terminals thereby preventing environmental damage and ensuring the flow of oil for a post-war Iraqi government. On March 21, littoral combat operations began and the WPB Adak served picket duty farther north than any other Coalition unit along the Khor Abd Allah Waterway. Adak captured the first Iraqi maritime prisoners of the war whose patrol boat had been destroyed upstream by an AC-130 gunship. On that same day, Adak participated in the capture of two Iraqi tugs and a mine-laying barge that had been modified to plant its deadly cargo in the waters of the Northern Arabian Gulf.

Once initial naval operations ceased, Coast Guard units began securing port facilities and waterways for the shipment of humanitarian aid to Iraq. On March 24, PSU 311 personnel deployed to the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr and, four days later, the WPB Wrangell led the first humanitarian aid shipment to that port facility. In addition to their primary mission of boarding vessels in the Northern Arabian Gulf, Coast Guard LEDETs secured the Iraqi shoreline from caches of weapons and munitions. Buoy tender Walnut, whose original mission included environmental protection from sabotaged oil facilities, surveyed and completely restored aids to navigation for the shipping lane leading to Iraq’s ports.

Here’s how the Red Baron got his name

Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Bruckenthal, a damage controlman, made the ultimate sacrifice during a boarding operation as member of a Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment team.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

On May 1, President George Bush declared an end to combat operations in Iraq. However, in less than a year the Coast Guard suffered its first and only death associated with OIF. On April 24, 2004, terrorists navigated three small vessels armed with explosives toward Iraq’s oil terminals. During this attack, the Navy patrol craft Firebolt intercepted one of the watercraft and members of LEDET 403 and Navy crew members proceeded toward the vessel in a rigid-hull inflatable boat or RHIB. Terrorists aboard the small vessel detonated its explosive cargo as the RHIB approached, overturning the boat and killing LEDET member Nathan Bruckenthal and two Navy crew members. Serving in his second tour of duty in Iraq, Bruckenthal had already received the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal and Combat Action Ribbon. He posthumously received the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart Medal and Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal. He was the first Coast Guardsman killed in combat since the Vietnam War and was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.

In OIF, the Coast Guard demonstrated the importance of a naval force experienced in shallow-water operations, MIO, port security and ATON work. The PSUs performed their port security duties efficiently in spite of their units being divided between three separate port facilities and two oil terminals. The WPBs operated for countless hours without maintenance in waters too shallow for Navy assets and served as the Coalition fleet’s workhorses in boarding, escort and force protection duties. The personnel of PATFORMED and PSU 309 demonstrated that Coast Guard units could serve in areas, such as the Mediterranean, lacking any form of Coast Guard infrastructure. PATFORSWA performed its mission effectively even though it was the first support detachment established by the Coast Guard. Fortunately, Walnut never had to employ its oil spill capability, but proved indispensable for MIO operations and ATON work on the Khor Abd Allah Waterway. Cutters Dallas and Boutwell provided much-needed logistical support, force protection and MIO operations. OIF was just one of the many combat operations fought by the Coast Guard since 1790 and its heroes are among the many members of the long blue line.

This article originally appeared on the United States Coast Guard. Follow @USCG on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Sherman was actually a great WWII tank

U.S. tanks were inferior to German tanks in WWII and were cut down in swathes, or so people tend to believe. After all, American tankers supposedly nicknamed the Sherman the “Ronson” because it “lights every time.” However, the Ronson Corporation did not start using this slogan to advertise their lighter fluid until the 1950s, and the Sherman was actually a very capable tank on the battlefield.

Here’s how the Red Baron got his name
This is how most people picture a Sherman during WWII (U.S. Army)

Thanks to media depictions in film and video games, the Medium Tank, M4 Sherman is remembered today as a tank with weak armor and an even weaker gun. However, this image is taken out of the context of the war in which it fought. Against the early-war Panzer III and Panzer IV tanks, the Sherman’s 75mm M3 short-barrel gun was capable of delivering knock-out punches. Moreover, the tank’s sloped frontal armor was adept at bouncing the incoming German fire.

As newer German tanks like the Panther and the Tiger appeared on the battlefield, the Sherman’s combat ability in a tank-on-tank fight was diminished. To counter the new threat, the Sherman was equipped with thicker frontal armor and a new gun. In 1944, the U.S. fielded the 76mm M1 high-velocity long-barrel gun which could actually penetrate a Tiger’s armor from the front. The gun had already seen action with U.S. Tank Destroyer Battalions. Mounted on the lightly-armored M18 Hellcat tank destoyer, the 76mm M1 was undoubtedly a threat to the German tanks.

Here’s how the Red Baron got his name
A destroyed Panther in the Falaise pocket (Public Domain)

In 1946, the U.S. Army’s Ballistic Research Lab conducted a study on the engagements fought by the 3rd and 4rd Armored Divisions during 1944. The study examined 30 armor-on-armor engagements and found that the Sherman had a 3.6-to-1 kill ratio against the German Panther. While part of the Sherman’s success is due to its new armor and gun, other wartime factors must be taken into account.

In 1944, the Germans were largely on the defensive against the allied invasion. Air superiority had all but been achieved by the allied forces. Close air support and strategic bombing severely crippled German industrial power and slowed the supply trains that moved parts, fuel and ammunition to the front. As a result, the Germans could not field a fighting majority of their over-engineered tanks, with many of them down for maintenance or sitting reserve. Moreover, many of Germany’s tank aces from earlier in the war, like Michael Wittmann, had been killed. German tanks were increasingly being crewed by inexperienced soldiers and sent up against allied veterans of Italy and North Africa.

Here’s how the Red Baron got his name
The long-barrel 76mm was better at killing tanks (U.S. Army)

However, despite the effectiveness of the 76mm M1, the preferred gun was still the 75mm M3. Why did troops prefer a gun with a shorter barrel that a Panther or Tiger tank commander would simply laugh at? The answer is the reality of combat in the European theater. Unlike their depiction in media, the majority of allied tank engagements on the western front were against anti-tank guns, infantry, and fortified positions like bunkers.

As previously mentioned, the Germans were less and less able to field their tanks as the war raged on. They also didn’t have that many to begin with. Roughly 9,000 Panther tanks were built between 1943 and 1945 and less than 1,400 Tiger I tanks were built between 1942 and 1945. Factor out the tanks that were destroyed prior to 1944, the ones that were yet to be built, and those unable to be fielded for one reason or another, and the peak of frontline Panther combat strength in 1944 was September at 2,304. However, that same month, Panther losses totaled 692. By comparison, the U.S. fielded an average of 2,000 Sherman tanks per Army Group.

With this in mind, the likelihood of a Sherman engaging in a tank battle with a Panther or Tiger was low. For the majority of their engagements against soft targets, the short-barrel 75mm M3 and 105mm M4 howitzer guns were more effective. While the 105mm howitzer shot a larger round than the 76mm M1, its short barrel propelled the heavy round at a low velocity. While it could fire a high-explosive anti-tank round that was capable of penetrating a Panther’s armor, it had to be shot at a high angle and with great precision in order to lob the slow and heavy round at the target. Rather, the 75mm and 105mm guns were used primarily to shoot high-explosive rounds. In fact, around 80% of rounds fired by all nations during WWII were HE and smoke.

The same BRL study that found the superior Sherman to Panther kill ratio also examined the lethality of American cannons and HE rounds since they were the most commonly used rounds. The study detonated an HE shell from each of the guns fielded during the war in a field and counted the number of casualty-inducing pieces of shrapnel within a 20-foot radius. The 105mm produced around 1,010 pieces of shrapnel and the 75mm produced 950. On the other hand, the late-war 90mm M3 long-barrel gun produced 672 pieces of shrapnel and the 76mm produced just 560. Because the 75mm was a low-velocity gun, it was able to use a longer shell that packed more high-explosive filler than the long guns. For this reason, it was actually more effective at eliminating the majority of targets that it came upon during the war.

While the Sherman did have its flaws like its high profile (which actually gave the crew a more spacious and comfortable fighting compartment), it was actually a very effective tool for the job that it was given. Supplemented by tank destroyers and supported by air cover, American tank columns rolled across Europe and smashed German defenses on their way to Berlin.

Here’s how the Red Baron got his name
(U.S. Army)
MIGHTY HISTORY

How World War I ushered in the century of oil

On July 7, 1919, a group of U.S. military members dedicated Zero Milestone — the point from which all road distances in the country would be measured — just south of the White House lawn in Washington, D.C. The next morning, they helped to define the future of the nation.

Instead of an exploratory rocket or deep-sea submarine, these explorers set out in 42 trucks, five passenger cars and an assortment of motorcycles, ambulances, tank trucks, mobile field kitchens, mobile repair shops and Signal Corps searchlight trucks. During the first three days of driving, they managed just over five miles per hour. This was most troubling because their goal was to explore the condition of American roads by driving across the U.S.


Participating in this exploratory party was U.S. Army Captain Dwight D. Eisenhower. Although he played a critical role in many portions of 20th-century U.S. history, his passion for roads may have carried the most significant impact on the domestic front. This trek, literally and figuratively, caught the nation and the young soldier at a crossroads.

Returning from World War I, Ike was entertaining the idea of leaving the military and accepting a civilian job. His decision to remain proved pivotal for the nation. By the end of the first half of the century, the roadscape — transformed with an interstate highway system while he was president — helped remake the nation and the lives of its occupants.

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Eisenhower served in the Tank Corps until 1922.

(Eisenhower Presidential Library, ARC 876971)

For Ike, though, roadways represented not only domestic development but also national security. By the early 1900s it become clear to many administrators that petroleum was a strategic resource to the nation’s present and future.

At the start of World War I, the world had an oil glut since there were few practical uses for it beyond kerosene for lighting. When the war was over, the developed world had little doubt that a nation’s future standing in the world was predicated on access to oil. “The Great War” introduced a 19th-century world to modern ideas and technologies, many of which required inexpensive crude.

Prime movers and national security

During and after World War I, there was a dramatic change in energy production, shifting heavily away from wood and hydropower and toward fossil fuels – coal and, ultimately, petroleum. And in comparison to coal, when utilized in vehicles and ships, petroleum brought flexibility as it could be transported with ease and used in different types of vehicles. That in itself represented a new type of weapon and a basic strategic advantage. Within a few decades of this energy transition, petroleum’s acquisition took on the spirit of an international arms race.

Even more significant, the international corporations that harvested oil throughout the world acquired a level of significance unknown to other industries, earning the encompassing name “Big Oil.” By the 1920s, Big Oil’s product – useless just decades prior – had become the lifeblood of national security to the U.S. and Great Britain. And from the start of this transition, the massive reserves held in the U.S. marked a strategic advantage with the potential to last generations.

As impressive as the U.S.’ domestic oil production was from 1900-1920, however, the real revolution occurred on the international scene, as British, Dutch and French European powers used corporations such as Shell, British Petroleum and others to begin developing oil wherever it occurred.

During this era of colonialism, each nation applied its age-old method of economic development by securing petroleum in less developed portions of the world, including Mexico, the Black Sea area and, ultimately, the Middle East. Redrawing global geography based on resource supply (such as gold, rubber and even human labor or slavery) of course, was not new; doing so specifically for sources of energy was a striking change.

Crude proves itself on the battlefield

“World War I was a war,” writes historian Daniel Yergin, “that was fought between men and machines. And these machines were powered by oil.”

When the war broke out, military strategy was organized around horses and other animals. With one horse on the field for every three men, such primitive modes dominated the fighting in this “transitional conflict.”

Throughout the war, the energy transition took place from horsepower to gas-powered trucks and tanks and, of course, to oil-burning ships and airplanes. Innovations put these new technologies into immediate action on the horrific battlefield of World War I.

It was the British, for instance, who set out to overcome the stalemate of trench warfare by devising an armored vehicle that was powered by the internal combustion engine. Under its code name “tank,” the vehicle was first used in 1916 at the Battle of the Somme. In addition, the British Expeditionary Force that went to France in 1914 was supported by a fleet of 827 motor cars and 15 motorcycles; by war’s end, the British army included 56,000 trucks, 23,000 motorcars and 34,000 motorcycles. These gas-powered vehicles offered superior flexibility on the battlefield.

Here’s how the Red Baron got his name

Government airplane manufactured by Dayton-Wright Airplane Company in 1918.

(U.S. National Archives)

In the air and sea, the strategic change was more obvious. By 1915, Britain had built 250 planes. In this era of the Red Baron and others, primitive airplanes often required that the pilot pack his own sidearm and use it for firing at his opponent. More often, though, the flying devices could be used for delivering explosives in episodes of tactical bombing. German pilots applied this new strategy to severe bombing of England with zeppelins and later with aircraft. Over the course of the war, the use of aircraft expanded remarkably: Britain, 55,000 planes; France, 68,0000 planes; Italy, 20,000; U.S., 15,000; and Germany, 48,000.

With these new uses, wartime petroleum supplies became a critical strategic military issue. Royal Dutch/Shell provided the war effort with much of its supply of crude. In addition, Britain expanded even more deeply in the Middle East. In particular, Britain had quickly come to depend on the Abadan refinery site in Persia, and when Turkey came into the war in 1915 as a partner with Germany, British soldiers defended it from Turkish invasion.

When the Allies expanded to include the U.S. in 1917, petroleum was a weapon on everyone’s mind. The Inter-Allied Petroleum Conference was created to pool, coordinate and control all oil supplies and tanker travel. The U.S. entry into the war made this organization necessary because it had been supplying such a large portion of the Allied effort thus far. Indeed, as the producer of nearly 70 percent of the world’s oil supply, the U.S.’ greatest weapon in the fighting of World War I may have been crude. President Woodrow Wilson appointed the nation’s first energy czar, whose responsibility was to work in close quarters with leaders of the American companies.

Infrastructure as a path to national power

When the young Eisenhower set out on his trek after the war, he deemed the party’s progress over the first two days “not too good” and as slow “as even the slowest troop train.” The roads they traveled across the U.S., Ike described as “average to nonexistent.” He continued:

“In some places, the heavy trucks broke through the surface of the road and we had to tow them out one by one, with the caterpillar tractor. Some days when we had counted on sixty or seventy or a hundred miles, we could do three or four.”

Eisenhower’s party completed its frontier trek and arrived in San Francisco, California on Sept. 6, 1919. Of course, the clearest implication that grew from Eisenhower’s trek was the need for roads. Unstated, however, was the symbolic suggestion that matters of transportation and of petroleum now demanded the involvement of the U.S. military, as it did in many industrialized nations.

The emphasis on roads and, later, particularly on Ike’s interstate system was transformative for the U.S.; however, Eisenhower was overlooking the fundamental shift in which he participated. The imperative was clear: Whether through road-building initiatives or through international diplomacy, the use of petroleum by his nation and others was now a reliance that carried with it implications for national stability and security.

Seen through this lens of history, petroleum’s road to essentialness in human life begins neither in its ability to propel the Model T nor to give form to the burping plastic Tupperware bowl. The imperative to maintain petroleum supplies begins with its necessity for each nation’s defense. Although petroleum use eventually made consumers’ lives simpler in numerous ways, its use by the military fell into a different category entirely. If the supply was insufficient, the nation’s most basic protections would be compromised.

After World War I in 1919, Eisenhower and his team thought they were determining only the need for roadways — “The old convoy,” he explained, “had started me thinking about good, two lane highways.”

At the same time, though, they were declaring a political commitment by the U.S. And thanks to its immense domestic reserves, the U.S. was late coming to this realization. Yet after the “war to end all wars,” it was a commitment already being acted upon by other nations, notably Germany and Britain, each of whom lacked essential supplies of crude.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUS on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How French special forces rescued the holiest site in Islam

It may surprise the younger counterterrorism buffs out there to know that France maintains one of the oldest and most experienced counterterror units in the world, the Group D’Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale. If you don’t speak French, all you need to know is that they’re gendarmes, soldiers who can arrest you and – when asked – will come to find you outside of France to arrest you.

This is not something you want to happen to you, as some foolish terrorists found out when they seized the holiest site in Islam at gunpoint.


Islam’s version of the end of the world has a number of minor and major signs to look out for. The major part begins with the appearance of the Mahdi, Islam’s redeemer, who brings the world’s Muslim community back to the religion, helps kill the anti-Christ, and paves the way for the rule of Jesus (yes, Christianity’s Jesus, same guy) on Earth.

Over the years, many people have come forward claiming to be the Mahdi. There was Dia Abdul Zahra Kadim, the leader of an Iraqi insurgent group, killed near Najaf in 2003. The founder of the Nation of Islam, W. Fard Mohammed, claimed to be the Mahdi as many of the Nation’s followers do. Others have followers make the claim for them, like a leader of a Turkish sex cult.

Here’s how the Red Baron got his name

“Listen, I never said I am the redeemer of Islam, I just didn’t say you were wrong to say I am.”

But no one in recent memory left quite the impression on history like Muhammad bin abd Allah al-Qahtani, who led his personal army, al-Ikhwan, to capture the Grand Mosque in Mecca at gunpoint. The Grand Mosque is home to the Kabaa, the holiest site in Islam and destination for all the world’s Islamic pilgrims, a voyage every Muslim must make once in their lifetime. There are a number of other important holy sites contained within.

And in 1979, Mohammed Abdullah al-Qahtani and an estimated 300-600 followers took it over, along with the tens of thousands of people inside. They actually let most of them go, but not before killing the poorly-armed security guards, cutting the phone lines, and sealing themselves in. They were well-armed, well-trained, and well-funded. The Saudis were going to need some help.

Here’s how the Red Baron got his name

“I choose Pierre.”

That’s where GIGN comes in. While the truly ignorant can laugh about how “French commandos” sounds when the only history they know is from World War II, the rest of you need to know these guys wear ski masks and carry .357 Magnums as their sidearm. When the GIGN come to kill you, they want to make sure the job is done. Their training course has an astonishing 95 percent washout rate. While the US was toying with the idea of a special counterterrorism force, GIGN was probably retaking a cargo container ship somewhere.

Their job in Saudi Arabia would be no different, except they would also be training the Saudi and Pakistani special forces who would be going into the Grand Mosque with them.

Here’s how the Red Baron got his name

Somewhere out there is a group of Pakistani commandos who pronounce “flashbang” with a little French accent. Fear those people.

The terrorists weren’t a bunch of desperate weirdos with a fundamentalist ideology. These guys were prepared to bring down the entire Saudi Kingdom while inciting other anti-Saud citizens to do the same. The terrorists immediately repelled the government’s counterattack and waited for whatever the King would throw at them next. GIGN is what came next. France sent three of their finest GIGN men who immediately began training their counterparts on how to effectively clear buildings of pesky terrorists. When the men were ready, they all prepared to storm the gates.

But there was a hitch. Muslim Saudi and Pakistani troops would be going in there alone because the Grand Mosque is forbidden to non-Muslims. Even when they’re trying to retake the mosque. Their GIGN mentors would have to sit back and wait to see how well they trained these men.

Here’s how the Red Baron got his name

This photo of the captured militants doesn’t do justice to how well-trained they were.

Some 50 Pakistani SSG commandos and 10,000 Saudi National Guardsmen stormed the Grand Mosque after two weeks or so of being held by the terrorists. On Dec. 4, 1979, the militants were disbursed from the mosque and forced to hide about in the now-evacuated city of Mecca. The guardsmen and SSG men fared well against the terrorists, killing roughly 560 of them while others fled the scene into Mecca and the countryside, where most were captured.

After the Frenchmen left Saudi Arabia, the hubbub surrounding the Grand Mosque seizure didn’t die. Instead of crackdowns of unruly citizens, the King of Saudi Arabia opted instead to implement many the famous “sharia” laws Saudi Arabia suffered through for decades; the restrictions on women, powerful religious police, and more. Only in the 2010s has the kingdom seen a loosening of these religious laws.

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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.

Here’s how the Red Baron got his name
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.

Here’s how the Red Baron got his name
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.

Here’s how the Red Baron got his name
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.

Here’s how the Red Baron got his name

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

This might be the most important moment in Marine aviation

In the 109 years of Marine Corps aviation, there have been significant accomplishments, happenings and many global conflicts. However, there’s one moment that’s considered the defining moment in Marine Corps aviation history. Marine 1st Lt. Alfred Cunningham was the first Marine on record to report for flight instruction all the way back in 1912. Over the course of the last 109 years, the most defining moment of aviation came on August 7, 1942, when members of the First Marine Division landed ashore on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.

Marine Corps aircraft weren’t on the scene that day, but that doesn’t mean aviation wasn’t central to the operation. In fact, it was explicitly because the Japanese were constructing an airfield on Guadalcanal that the Marine Corps participated in the first Allied offensive action in the first place.

The Japanese airfield was a direct threat to Australian communication. When the Marines captured it, it remained Henderson Field, after Marine Scout Bombing Squadron 241 commanding officer Maj. Lofton Henderson. Henderson had been killed at the Battle of Midway in June 1942. 

Once captured, the airstrip became the object of destructive and concentrated assaults by Japanese ground forces, complete with repeated bombings by enemy ships and air attacks by Japanese airplanes.

Navy, Army Air Corps, and Allied forces all joined in the battle to assist and aid the Marines. However, it was Marine pilots and aircrew who were directly involved with the operations of Cactus Air Force, the Allied codename for Guadalcanal Island. Like the rest of the Allied forces, the Marines came with one central mission in mind – to decimate the enemy and take control of the island and the airstrip.

After the first Marine aircraft landed on the island on August 20, 1942, there was no stopping what they could do. Between first landing in August and six months later in February when the island was considered secure, five Marine aviators performed such heroic acts that they all received the Medal of Honor for their bravery. Additionally, several Marines received the Navy Cross, including famous fighter ace pilots Capt. Marion Carl and Maj. Jack Cram. 

When enemy ships threatened to overtake Guadalcanal, Maj. Cram jumped into Brig. Gen. Roy Geiger’s assigned PBY Catalina and used the lumbering flying boat to make a torpedo attack against a Japanese transport carrier. 

The Battles of the Eastern Solomons and the Battle of Santa Cruz both reduced the number of aircraft carriers operating in Guadalcanal’s waters. As this shift occurred, land-based aviation became more critical than ever to help provide defense against the Japanese ships that were attempting to gain back control of the land. 

World War II encompasses so many firsts for military strategy, aviation and geopolitics. But nowhere during the war did Marine aviation personnel operate under such hardship conditions as they did during the six month Guadalcanal campaign. Combat aside, the island’s living conditions were absolutely terrible, and many Marines became ill with unfamiliar tropical diseases. Supplies were scarce, so there were reduced rations, inadequate medical supplies, and virtually no help from outside the island. For those who participated in the combat, Guadalcanal got a new name – Operation Shoestring.

The Battle of Midway helped to blunt the Japanese conquest of the Pacific and initiate offensive actions, but it was the protracted offensive actions at Guadalcanal that proved to be the turning point for the Pacific Theater. The flying leathernecks were no match for the Japanese crews that they encountered in the skies. 

In the 245 years that our Marine Corps has existed, there are several battles that epitomize what it means to be a Marine – Iwo Jima, Chosin, even Chesty Puller all bring to mind what it means to serve the Corps. But in terms of sterling Marine aviation, nothing compares to the efforts of the First Marine Division at Guadalcanal.

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That time American and Russian tanks faced off in a divided Berlin

Continuing tensions with Russia over its annexation of Crimea, backing of separatists in Ukraine, dealing weapons to the Taliban, and the hacking of the U.S. elections have led to many people on both sides of the divide saying that current U.S.-Russian tensions are worse than they were in the Cold War.


Apparently, those people have forgotten that U.S. and Russian troops killed each other a few times, conducted a standoff with tactical nuclear weapons in Cuba, and stared each other down in armed tanks in divided Berlin.

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This is one of the most boss photos on this site. (Photo: Central Intelligence Agency)

The incident started on Oct. 22, 1961, when America’s senior diplomat in West Berlin, E. Allan Lightner, Jr., attempted to cross the newly-erected Berlin Wall at a major checkpoint, Checkpoint Charlie. He was stopped by East German authorities who wanted to see his papers, but Lightner insisted that only the Soviets had the authority to check his papers.

He eventually turned back from the border, but Gen. Lucius Clay ordered that the next U.S. diplomat who needed to cross the border would be accompanied by military police in armed Jeeps. The next diplomat did cross the border with the Jeeps.

But Clay still wasn’t satisfied. He sent M48 tanks to the checkpoint and had them rev their engines. The Soviet commander requested permission to call an equal number of tanks out in response and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev approved it.

Here’s how the Red Baron got his name
American tanks at Checkpoint Charlie in October 1961. (Photo: Central Intelligence Agency)

So T-55 tanks pulled up to the opposite end of the street and, approximately 82 yards away from each other, the two sides threatened each other for 16 hours from Oct. 27-28, 1961.

News crews rushed to the scene and the world watched with bated breath to see if this would be the flame that set off the powder keg and descended the world into nuclear war.

But neither country wanted to fight World War III over paperwork in Berlin. President John F. Kennedy ordered back channels to be opened to reach a negotiation. Khrushchev agreed to a deal where the countries would take turns withdrawing a single tank at a time.

Here’s how the Red Baron got his name
Soviet tanks withdraw from Checkpoint Charlie at the end of the crisis. (Photo: Central Intelligence Agency)

The Soviets withdrew a T-55 and, a few minutes later, America pulled back an M48. The process continued until Checkpoint Charlie and its Soviet counterpoint had returned to their normal garrisons of a few soldiers on either side.

Today, the intersection has a replica checkpoint and a number of historical exhibits. Aside from the Cuban Missile Crisis the following year, Checkpoint Charlie may be the closest America and Soviet Russia came to blows in open warfare.

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The 7 deadliest weapons of the Crusades

The battles that marked the period of the Crusades were bloody and brutal. Medieval warfare flat out sucked; not only was it incredibly violent, but medicine was basically nonexistent, there was poor sanitation practices, and really bad tactics.


The weapons used in the fighting were about as hellish as any martial tools could get. Think about it — it’s no surprise the phrase “get Medieval on them” strikes such fear.

The warriors of the Crusades, from the late 1000s to mid-1200s, were a mix of peasants, soldiers, and knights, and their mix of weaponry reflected the means by which each could acquire arms.

Peasants often had simple weapons — mostly tools used for agriculture — since they could not afford such luxuries of destruction. Knights had more expensive swords and armor, while others had bows, arrows, and spears.

So what are the deadliest weapons to encounter during the Crusades?

1. A mace or club

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They’re fancy, but they’ll eff you up. (Photo: wiki user Samuraiantiqueworld)

 

The mace is a type of club with a ball at the end. When it comes to length, the mace varies between two or three feet. The shaft was made of wood while the ball was usually of iron.

The ball may be smooth and round or have flanges. While this is somewhat of an infantry weapon, some horsemen would also carry the mace. However, a cavalryman’s mace was much longer so that the rider could reach down and swipe his opponent.

The purpose of the mace was to crush bone since it is a top-heavy weapon. One blow from a mace could break a man’s bones easily. Many maces also had flanges for extra damage.

While a ball can crush, a mace with flanges can exploit and penetrate the flexible armor in order to crush the bone underneath, possibly causing the victim to bleed to death.

2. The spear

The spear may be simple in design, but it has proven itself to be an effective close combat weapon over the centuries.

The length of the spear is between six to eight feet. The purpose of the spear in combat is to keep your foe at a distance by thrusting at him, or if the infantryman in question has extra spears or a side arm he can rely on, he could throw it at the enemy.

Spears were used not only against infantry but also against cavalry charges — and to great effect.

The purpose of the spear is to pierce, not tickle. A good spear thrust can pierce and shatter bone, killing in one hit.

3. Arrows

 

Here’s how the Red Baron got his name
So small. So deadly. Is anyone else thinking of Rickon right now?

The arrow delivered by a bow provided a nasty punch to the enemy. Arrows used against the cavalry would have been shaped to pierce armor while arrows used against ill-equipped infantry likely had barbs to make them harder to pull out of skin and bone.

The men who fought at the Battle of Dorylaeum in 1097 during the First Crusade found this out when they fought the Seljuk Turks, who fired volley after volley of arrows into their opposition.

Even though the Crusaders won the battle, it was costly and they learned a valuable lesson about their enemy’s tactics.

The purpose of the arrow is simple: to strike an opponent from a distance. However, many Crusaders would soon learn to place padding under their chainmail. In doing so, the arrows are said to have passed through the chainmail only to lodge into the padding without piercing the soldier.

While killing is the objective, many forget that maiming is just a sufficient. However, if an archer cannot kill or maim his opponent, he can also be a nuisance and harass him by showering down arrows upon him.

4. Trebuchet

Here’s how the Red Baron got his name
Hey, at least there weren’t orcs in the Crusades, am I right? (Photo credit Luc Viatour)

The trebuchet is a siege engine first developed in China and brought westward by the armies of Islam, where it was introduced to European warfare during the First Crusade, though some historians doubt this timeline.

The trebuchet was a type of catapult and required many men to operate due to its sheer size and weight.

The amount of energy needed to send a projectile down range required a group of over 100 men pulling dozens of ropes that could generate enough force to send a 130-pound projectile nearly 500 feet.

The purpose of the trebuchet was to weaken and bring down fortress walls. Not only could it fire stone projectiles, it also delivered incendiary objects. While stone is meant to crush, objects of a flammable nature were hurled over castle or city walls to set the various buildings on fire.

Of course, if you want to start a plague, just load up the bodies of plague victims and send them over the walls, as the Mongols did at Caffa in 1347.

5. The battle axe

Here’s how the Red Baron got his name
The iron edge is for killing. The ornamental carvings are just for fun. (Photo by wiki user S Marshall)

 

The Medieval battle axe was used to great effect during the Crusades.

What made the battle axe a fan favorite of some Crusade-era fighters was that, while being close in size to a sword, it was cheap to use and required limited skill — much like the mace.

The axe was either single or double-headed and the length of the blade was roughly 10 inches from the upper and lower points.

What makes this weapon so destructive is that not only could it crush a man’s bones wearing armor, the right hit was capable of cutting a limb off. In addition to lopping off enemy limbs, it was also used by doctors to provide amputations on medical patients (though with no guarantee of success).

6. Sword

Of all the weapons to inflict a considerable amount of damage to a human body, the sword was the most prestigious.

While many men could afford such a weapon, primarily nobles and those of wealth used it. Of course, over time, many more men, particularly those who were equipped by the states; i.e. the kings, used the sword.

The problem with the sword during this period, however, was the amount of various designs. The average Crusader sword or European sword during the period was 30 inches in length and was about 2 inches wide at the hilt.

What made the sword so popular was that it was a symbol of authority. While its design suggests power and of great importance, the judgment it could deliver onto a foe was devastating.

The sword was designed to do three different things, crush, pierce, and slice. Of course, this depends on the blade of the sword. In any case, the three functions of the sword gave its user an upper hand.

If he could not crush his opponent with a single hit (knocking him over, or breaking his arm or leg), he could try to slice him in an exposed are not covered by armor. If that failed, he could try knocking him down and aim for the areas that are vulnerable like the armpits, groin, and knee pit to name a few.

While the sword during the Crusades probably did the least amount of killing, it had the greatest impact as in being the symbol of conquest.

7. Lance

 

Here’s how the Red Baron got his name

Don’t let the pretty little ponies fool you — the lance will mess your sh** up.

I tip my hat to the person who could survive a lance blow from a cavalryman. Yes, all weapons can kill if used properly, but of all the weapons mentioned, they either, crush, lop, slice, or pierce. In many cases, the victim survives or dies shortly after, which could be days.

The lance, which is least considered, won many of the battles during the early crusades. The lance did it all in one big swoop. As the lance made contact with the victim, it immediately crushed his torso and began to pierce through the body.

As it pierced, it began to slice through the vital organs before exiting the back. There are very few cases where the would-be receiver of the lance survived from his torso wound.

As the knights charged in with their lances, the enemy would be impaled immediately.

The length of a lance measured between 9 and 14 feet. Given the length and weight, along with the rider and his horse moving a full speed, it would not be unthinkable to suggest that two or even possibly three men could be impaled to a lance due to a swift cavalry charge into enemy lines.

The enemy would learn in later crusades to become more mobile and avoid cavalry charges at all costs.