2 million declassified documents reveal new details of JFK assassination - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

2 million declassified documents reveal new details of JFK assassination

Most people know the basic history of the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy — that a former Marine named Lee Harvey Oswald, who had briefly defected to the Soviet Union, fired the shots that killed the 35th president using a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle that had been purchased from a mail-order catalog.


 

2 million declassified documents reveal new details of JFK assassination
Photo of Lee Harvey Oswald with rifle, taken in Oswald’s back yard, Neely Street, Dallas Texas, March 1963. (Photo released by the Warren Commission)

But could there be more to the story behind one of the most dramatic events of the 20th Century? With the declassification of over 2 million documents, now the assassin’s activities can be traced in weeks, months, and years before Oswald fired the shots that altered the course of history.

A former CIA agent and a former LAPD detective are now looking into these documents – carrying out an independent investigation spanning the entire world in order to answer the many questions about the assassination of President Kennedy that have divided America for decades: Did Oswald act alone, or did he have help? If so, who helped him, and why?

2 million declassified documents reveal new details of JFK assassination
The moment before Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The upcoming HISTORY series “JFK Declassified: Tracking Oswald” premieres April 25, 2017, and features a bombshell – a document showing that Oswald had met with Soviet officials in Mexico City six weeks before he assassinated John F. Kennedy.

The series features a host of interviews and new revelations, including insight from experts and former special operations soldiers like WATM friend Marty Skovlund. Check out the short trailer from HISTORY below.

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This is what would happen if Argentina tried to take back the Falkland Islands today

In 1982, the United Kingdom and Argentina fought a major war over the Falkland Islands. And yes, it was a major war. The British lost two destroyers, a landing ship, a merchant vessel, and two frigates. The Argentinean Navy lost a cruiser.


This doesn’t count the land or air battles as well. But Argentina hasn’t given up hope of taking back what they call the Malvinas. What would happen if they tried to take the islands today?

Both the Royal Navy and the Argentinean Navy have declined greatly, according to the “16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World.” In 1982, the British had two carriers they sent down to the south Atlantic. Today, the UK only has one — the HMS Ocean — and that ship cannot really operate the F-35 fighters that the Brits have bought, and their Harriers are long retired.

The only saving grace is that Argentina lacks the aircraft carrier they had in 1982 (formerly a British carrier, ironically), and has seen its amphibious force cut down to a modified Type 42 destroyer and an old amphibious transport. And its navy has four destroyers, six frigates, and some corvettes, along with three diesel-electric subs.

2 million declassified documents reveal new details of JFK assassination
Map of the Falkland Islands (Wikimedia Commons)

On the Falklands, the British have a garrison that houses 1,200 soldiers, according to a 2015 London Telegraph report. There is a flight of four Eurofighter Typhoons, plus a tanker and two Chinook helicopters, at RAF Mount Pleasant. A Type 23 frigate is usually in the South Atlantic as well (sometimes, the Brits will send a Type 45 destroyer), and there may or may not be a nuclear-powered submarine there.

The British have contingency plans to reinforce the Falklands, by adding up to a battalion and to send a couple more surface combatants.

This all depends on getting enough advanced warning. Argentina has one advantage: If it can achieve strategic and tactical surprise, its Air Force could use its A-4AR Fightinghawks (A-4s with F-16 avionics) to try and catch the Typhoons on the ground. Similarly, the Argentinean Navy will use its force of Super Etendards to try and sink any British ship in the area.

2 million declassified documents reveal new details of JFK assassination
An Argentinean Super Etendard that helped sink the Atlantic Conveyor. (Wikimedia Commons)

Once that’s done and air and sea superiority has been achieved, the Argentineans would likely move to land troops. The goal would be to grab control as quickly as possible. Once done, Argentina would try to reinforce its garrison before the British can get a sub on scene.

At that point, the British will face the same challenge they had in 1982 – re-capturing the Falklands at the end of a long logistical chain. Subs would move to cut off the Falklands, likely sinking any Argentinean warship or merchant vessel they catch at sea.

There might even be some Tomahawk strikes on Argentinean bases – an effort to catch their planes on the ground. Argentina has 22 Fightinghawks and 10 Super Etendards, according to World Air Forces 2017. If the force can be whittled down enough, the Brits may not need much air cover to take the islands back.

2 million declassified documents reveal new details of JFK assassination
The Type 45 destroyer HMS Dauntless. (Wikimedia Commons)

The British would have to commit most of its force of Type 45 destroyers and Type 23 frigates to the attack, and they would need to be able to land troops. Oh, yeah, and do it without carriers or planes. You only have to look at what happened to HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse to see how badly that can go.

But when cut off, and knowing that supplies cannot get through, any Argentinean garrison would eventually agree to surrender, likely parlaying to allow the British to land new troops at RAF Mount Pleasant. Much less hard fighting than in 1982, but the same ultimate outcome – Argentina loses – is the most likely one.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Pripyat is one of the creepiest military hardware graveyards in the world

Emptiness and gloom is pretty much the main theme at Pripyat, Ukraine, one of the largest ghost towns in the world.


Built as a small residential city for employees assigned to the nearby Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station, it was suddenly abandoned en masse after Chernobyl’s Number 4 reactor experienced the worst nuclear meltdown in history in 1986, spreading deadly radiation across Ukraine and large chunks of Eastern Europe.

As a direct result of this accident, decrepit farmers fields and forest clearings are now home to some of the eeriest military hardware graveyards in the world, full of untouchable Soviet-era equipment.

 

2 million declassified documents reveal new details of JFK assassination
Irradiated Soviet military equipment lies dormant near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

In the immediate aftermath of the meltdown, the power plant spewed uncontrollable amounts of toxic chemicals into the air, fatally irradiating hundreds, if not thousands, of the Pripyat’s citizens. Over the course of a few days, the entire town was told to pack lightly and leave right away by military personnel deployed to the area to help with the response to the effects of the meltdown.

Within a week, Pripyat, a once-thriving planned city was deserted — save for scores of tanks, helicopters, armored personnel carriers and heavy trucks brought in by the military to assist with the nuclear cleanup.

Thousands of tons worth of top-of-the-line military equipment were flown or driven into Pripyat, with hundreds of Ukrainian and Soviet troops to man the vehicles and gear. State-of-the-art remote-controlled fire suppression units, radiation monitors, cherry-pickers and more, were also brought in to tackle the horrifying situation that lay before Chernobyl and its neighboring towns.

The debacle proved to be a global embarrassment for the Soviet Union, still in control over Ukraine, and something needed to be done to make it go away quickly before further details of the accident made their way into Western newspapers.

2 million declassified documents reveal new details of JFK assassination
Thousands of tons worth of top-of-the-line military equipment were flown or driven into Pripyat, with hundreds of Ukrainian and Soviet troops to man the vehicles and gear. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
 

Cleanup and response crews were placed on rotating schedules to limit their exposure to radiation, though this proved in the long run to be poorly executed, leading to the deaths of many.

When removing helicopters and trucks from Pripyat and neighboring locales similarly affected by the meltdown, Geiger scans noted that every single truck brought into the disaster zone was severely radioactive. In effect, soldiers were operating inside cocoons of radioactivity, bombarding them with harmful cancer-causing radiation particles.

There was no other solution than to simply abandon these costly vehicles around Chernobyl rather than attempt to decontaminate and scrub them clean. Scores of tanks and trucks were left to rot in “mohyl’nyk” (Ukrainian burial grounds) after it was no longer feasible to safely operate them (the term “safely” being used very relatively and loosely here).

More equipment and military vehicles were brought in to assist with the post-meltdown cleanup, and more were similarly condemned and abandoned.

Helicopters, especially gargantuan Mil Mi-6 Hook transports, were listed among the worst cases of exposure, given that they were tasked with flying directly above the plant after the accident in order to release chemical solvents to eliminate fires burning beneath the plant’s blown-off roof. These helicopters were also abandoned at burial grounds, arranged among rows of dark green equipment.

Today, some of these armored trucks, tanks, helicopters, and even trains, still sit in the fields around the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station near Pripyat, which has since been enveloped in a sarcophagus to prevent further radiation leakage. The largest of these fields is known as the Rassokha Equipment Cemetery.

 

2 million declassified documents reveal new details of JFK assassination
There was no other solution than to simply abandon these costly vehicles around Chernobyl rather than attempt to decontaminate and scrub them clean. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The general area, known as the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, is mostly off-limits to the public, though occasional tour groups are permitted to briefly enter the Zone for a quick peek before being ushered out. Visiting the abandoned vehicle graveyards is prohibited, however.

The Ukrainian government has invested considerable amounts of time and money into securing the Chernobyl plant, still in a low state of operation, and with disposing of the vehicle mohyl’nyk, full of unsalvageable gear. Over the past decade, teams of specialists have entered these fields to dismantle large sections of the graveyards and bury them on the spot, ensuring that the radiation they emit is fully contained.

Even still, the burial of every single piece of hardware will take years, thanks to the sheer numbers used in the wake of the accident. The few remaining war machines left untouched serve as silent reminders of the worst nuclear disaster in history, never to be used again.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The bloodiest day in British military history

World War I is not the bloodiest war in the history of war, but rapid advances in technology as well as the failure of military leaders to adjust their tactics resulted in possibly the bloodiest day in British military history when the nation lost almost 20,000 troops on July 1, 1916.


The roots of the bloodshed of July 1 date back before the war even started as the Gatling Gun gave way to true machine guns, originally known as “gunpowder engines,” and advances in mortars, artillery, and even the standard rifle made soldiers of all types much more lethal.

2 million declassified documents reveal new details of JFK assassination
Members of the British Border Regiment rest in dugouts during the Battle of the Somme in 1916.
(Imperial War Museums)

But, importantly, many of these breakthroughs favored static defenses. Soldiers could march forward with machine guns, but they would struggle to quickly emplace them and get them into operation. Defenders, meanwhile, could build fortifications around their machine guns and mow down enemy forces with near impunity.

After the war started in 1914, Germany managed to quickly move into France before getting bogged down in a line that eventually stretched across Europe. A German attack at Verdun in early 1916 became a black hole for French troops. The attack was designed to bleed France dry and force it out of the war.

The Germans expected Britain to launch its own attack against German lines to relieve the pressure from France. And Britain did have a plan for an attack, but it would prove to be a failure.

2 million declassified documents reveal new details of JFK assassination
General Sir Sam Hughes watches a British attack at the Battle of the Somme, October 1917.
(BiblioArchives, CC BY 2.0)

A joint British-Franco assault was scheduled for the summer. The main thrust was to come along a narrow stretch of the River Somme and the first day would see approximately 100,000 British troops rushing German lines in what was hoped to be a quick advance.

The date was eventually set for July 1, 1916, and the British initiated a massive artillery bombardment for a week before the assault. But the Germans were able to move most of their troops into fortifications in the trenches, and relatively few troops were lost in the week before the British attacked.

2 million declassified documents reveal new details of JFK assassination
Staged film frame from The Battle of the Somme, a propaganda film that was likely filmed before the battle.
(Imperial War Museum)
 

When the artillery suddenly stopped on the morning of July 1, German machine gunners moved back to their positions and looked up to see thousands of British troops marching towards them.

The machine gunners opened up, artillery spotters started calling for fires, hell rained down on British troops.

The day wore on, and British troops kept marching across. Entire units took losses of 90 percent, basically wiping them out. British forces took 60 percent casualties wounded, missing, and killed. Approximately 19,240 of which were fatalities. They had taken three square miles territory.

2 million declassified documents reveal new details of JFK assassination
Soldiers with the Royal Irish Rifles sit in a communication trench on July 1, 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
(Cassowary Colorizations, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Since France suffered 190,000 casualties during the fight in the Somme, even that is a dubious success.

But the battle wasn’t over. While small changes in tactics and the later introduction of the tank reduced the number of casualties that Britain took, the battle would wage on for five months and the combatants eventually inflicted over 1,000,000 casualties on one another.

While Britain failed to take most of its planned objectives despite throwing hundreds of thousands of men into the grinder, one part was successful. German forces were forced to move some artillery and troops from the attack on Verdun to the Somme, relieving pressure on the French defenders.

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14 things you could buy with cacao seeds during colonial times

The cacao seed was used as currency in pre-colonial times to trade for goods and services. It’s a little hard to imagine that the deceptively simple bean that comes out of the Theobroma Cacao tree could have a value greater than gold. Yet, when you consider the indigenous creation myth across various Mesoamerican cultures, you can see why it was held in high esteem.

Food of the Gods

Behind the fruit there are reasons that made it especially valuable at the time. In mythology “his arrival” is attributed to Quetzalcóatl. The story goes that he brought it to earth to show men a food that was not disdained by the gods.

Diego Perez, Editor, Dinero en Imagen

For the European settlers engaging in trade, nothing could be more advantageous: trade goods for chocolate and sell it across the Atlantic to the aristocracy at a high price. To the traders from Spain, England, Italy and the American colonies, cacao was in high demand, and since it was also a currency, money literally grew on trees.

The word cacao means “food of the gods.” At 50,000 years old, it is one of the oldest words in the world. Its origins stem from South America and travel into Central America up to Mexico. It was consumed as a drink by the Aztec nobility and was a universal currency across North, Central and South America. Theoretically, if you could travel in the Americas, the cacao would have been the Dollar of the ancient world.

2 million declassified documents reveal new details of JFK assassination
You guys remember when Scrooge McDuck had so much gold he could dive into it like a pool? (Wikimedia Commons)

Inflation resistant

Growing cacao today is a challenge, but was even more so in pre-colonial times. Cacao plantations are small operations of up to five acres to prevent the spread of disease and pests. However, the plant is very sensitive and growers are mentally prepared to lose their whole crop yield – because it happens often. Hazards like too much wind or too much water can kill trees younger than two years old.

Many varieties of cacao exist, and they can be grouped into three general divisions: forastero, criollo, and trinitario. Forastero varieties are most commonly used in commercial production, whereas criollo varieties are very susceptible to disease and are not widely grown. Trinitario is a hybrid of the forastero and criollo varieties and produces a flavourful bean that is used in high-quality dark chocolate.

L. Russell Cook, President, Chocolate and Confectionery Division, W.R. Grace & Company, New York City, 1965–73. Author of Chocolate Production and Use

For the first five years of their lives, the flowers and budding cacao seeds are trimmed. This is done to ensure the most nutrients and energy are used to grow and strengthen the tree. It is at this five-year mark when the seed pods can be harvested. When harvesting the cacao pods workers cut them off instead of ripping them off. The pods will grow again during the next season in the same location, so harvesters are careful to cause as little damage to the branches as possible.

2 million declassified documents reveal new details of JFK assassination
Sweet, high-maintenance, worth a lot of money… they’re basically J-Lo (Wikimedia Commons)

The tree is also susceptible to pests such as the broad mite, flower-eating caterpillars, helopeltis and the yellow peach moth. Growers must trim excess branches and leaves to make sure it is as healthy as possible and energy isn’t diverted from essential areas. All of this, frankly, is a pain in the a** even with today’s technology, so one can appreciate how valuable the seeds were before modern agricultural practices.

Another benefit of the cacao seed as currency was that since it was biodegradable, it prevented hyperinflation by disintegrating after one year or so. However, the seeds are bulky and can get destroyed by accident when transported over long distances.

What could you buy with cacao seeds?

1 bean equals one tamale, large sapote fruit, or 20 small tomatoes.

3 beans equals a turkey egg or an avocado

3 beans equals one fish in a maize husk

30 beans equals a small rabbit

100 beans equals a female turkey or a rabbit

120 beans for shrunken beans

200-300 beans a male turkey

Additionally, in Mayan civilization you could buy:

8 to 10 equal for the services of a prostitute

10 seeds equal a rabbit

100 to 500 seeds for a male slave

1000 seeds for a female slave

You could also pay your taxes in cacao seeds and your debts. I’m submitting 10 lbs of cacao seeds to the IRS in lieu of income tax. I’m sure that will go over well.

Feature image: photo by Stefan Kuhn from Pixabay

MIGHTY HISTORY

How coasties saved an entire village in 1919 during the Spanish Flu

Alaska is still considered the last frontier, even in today’s modern times. The unforgiving and extreme weather coupled with the rough terrain makes it a challenging place to live. One hundred years ago – during the Spanish Flu – it was even more deadly.

The world is very familiar with the new words in our daily vocabulary: quarantine, face mask and social distancing, thanks to COVID-19 and the current global pandemic. Just 100 years ago this was the case as well, during the 1918-1919 Spanish Flu. The big difference between then and now are the extreme advancements in technology and medical care. According to the CDC, 500 million people were positive and 50 million people died from the Spanish Flu.


In a wild place like Alaska with scarce medical care, it was a sure death sentence.

When the Spanish Flu arrived in Alaska during the spring of 1919, it wiped out villages – and fast. World War I had just ended and on May 26, 1919, the USS Unalga was patrolling around the Aleutian Islands, near Akun Island located in Seredka Bay. The crew and ship were still technically considered part of the Navy, with the war only ending shortly before that. Their role in that moment was law enforcement, inspection, mail transport and rescues. They were also a floating court and were able to give medical care to those in need.

After a full day of training, the crew was resting when they received a distress call from a newer settlement on Unalaska Island. They reported a severe outbreak of the Spanish Flu. The Coast Guard didn’t hesitate; they planned to get underway at dawn. Although they would receive another distress call from a settlement in Bristol Bay, the captain made the decision to head to Unalaska Island first.

When the crew made their way off the ship, they were shocked. It was if the entirety of the settlement had been infected with the Spanish Flu, the doctor included. They also discovered that all but one operator of the small U.S. Navy radio station had it as well. The coastie crew of the USS Unalga was their last hope of survival.

With that, the 80 coasties dove in. Pharmacist’s Mate First Class E.S. Chase, Lieutenant Junior Grade Dr. F.H. Johnson and Lieutenant E.W. Scott (a dentist), were the only men on board with advanced medical training. Despite that, they were all in. For over a week they were the only resource of support for Unalaska with nothing but cloth masks to protect themselves.

The captain made the decision to utilize the food on board to feed the entire town. At one point, they were providing up to 1,000 meals a day. The coasties even built a temporary hospital with pumping and electricity that was powered through the ship’s own power plant.

Without the proper protective equipment that today we know is critical, many of the crew fell ill themselves, including the captain. Despite this, they charged on and continued working. Although the 80 coasties fought to save everyone, they did bury 45 villagers who succumbed to the Spanish Flu.

The crew was not only caring for the ill, but for the children of those who died because the orphanage became full. Without their willingness to step forward, the children were at risk of dying from starvation, the elements and even documented feral dogs that were roaming the island. Some of the crew even made clothing for the children.

On June 3, 1919, the Coast Guard Cutter arrived to support their efforts. With both crews nursing and caring for the sick, recovery began. Due to the dedication of these coasties, the mortality rate of the village was only 12 percent. The majority of Alaska was at 90 percent mortality. At the end of the Spanish flu, around 3,000 Alaskans lost their lives, most of them natives.

Thanks to these coasties, this village was spared that fate.

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The founder of Delta Force was almost impossible to kill

In 1952, the Green Bay Packers drafted “Chargin’ Charlie” Beckwith from the University of Georgia. But seeing as how the Korean War was already in its second year, Chargin’ Charlie declined the offer for a different green uniform.


Commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant, Charles Beckwith served a few years on the Korean Peninsula, in war and later peacetime. It was after Korea that he joined the 82d Airborne, and later, U.S. Army Special Forces.

2 million declassified documents reveal new details of JFK assassination
Col. Charles Beckwith toward the end of his career.

Beckwith’s first mission was to train the Royal Lao Army in 1960 but his mission to deploy with British SAS to Malaysia as they fought a Communist insurgency is one that forever changed military history.

It was there that Beckwith came down with a mean case of Leptospirosis — a bacterial infection that causes kidney failure and pulmonary hemorrhaging. Doctors did not expect Beckwith to survive.

In fact, they called it one of the three worst cases they’d ever seen. Beckwith was given three weeks to live — and he did.

2 million declassified documents reveal new details of JFK assassination
The British SAS patrol during Malayan insurgency.

He survived the infection and his time with the Special Air Service inspired him to develop the American Army’s version of such an elite unit. In 1963, he formed the specialty unit code-name Project Delta, personally selecting the men best suited to conduct long-range recon operations in Vietnam.

But his time in Delta — and on Earth — was nearly cut short in Vietnam in 1966. Beckwith was shot in his abdomen with a .50-caliber round. He was taped up, but essentially left for dead.

But death still didn’t come.

2 million declassified documents reveal new details of JFK assassination
A MACV Special Operation group in Vietnam circa 1969.

Beckwith not only recovered, he continued with his military career, fighting in a series of battles from the Tet Offensive in 1968 until the end of the war in 1973.

It was in the mid-70s that Beckwith’s elite unit idea finally became a full reality. He was given the authority and formed the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta in 1977. The new elite unit focused on anti-terror and hostage recovery ops, based on the model of the British SAS.

Unfortunately for Beckwith and Delta, their first mission was Operation Eagle Claw, the doomed hostage rescue of Americans held in Iran. After the catastrophic failure of Eagle Claw, Beckwith retired from the Army.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why Canada has a memorial to Nazi SS soldiers

Nothing about America’s northern neighbor was ever sympathetic to the Nazis. Or any fascist regime. Canada declared war on Japan the same day as the attack on Pearl Harbor. The U.S. didn’t even declare war until the day after. 

And yet, in a suburb of Toronto, on the shores of Lake Ontario, there sits a stone cenotaph inside St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Cemetery, commemorating the soldiers of the Nazi 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS who died during World War II. 

For those unfamiliar with the armed forces of Nazi Germany, the Schutzstaffel (SS for short) were the Nazi Party’s enforcement brigades. They were committed to policing the German population (and other populations, eventually), a secret police enforcing German law and Nazi racial purity laws. Some SS units were used in the notorious extermination camps across Europe.

The Waffen-SS were a series of armed combat units, dedicated to the Nazis, and not necessarily Germany. The ranks of the Waffen-SS weren’t only filled with Germans, however. After the launch of Operation Barbarossa, Waffen-SS units found volunteers and draftees from all over occupied Europe, mostly used to fight the Red Army on the Eastern Front. As many as a third of the Waffen-SS was made up of conscripts.

At the Nuremberg Trials, the Waffen-SS was found guilty of numerous war crimes, including crimes against humanity, the deportation of Jews, massacres at Oradour and Lidice, guarding and administration of concentration camps, killing of prisoners of war, among many others. So how the hell did a memorial to the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS end up in Toronto?

It’s no mistake. The memorial clearly contains the crest of the 14th Waffen-SS. It’s not even the only memorial to the SS in Canada. But the unit memorialized in St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Cemetery was made up of many Ukrainians who suffered under the famines that resulted from the Soviet Union’s agricultural policies. According to Canada’s Ottawa Citizen, many Ukrainian immigrants consider the Ukrainians who fought against the Soviets to be heroes. Canada lost an estimated 45,000 men fighting Nazi Germany in Europe. 

Many Ukrainians also argue against the accusations the Ukrainian members of the SS participated in wartime atrocities at all. Those that did, they argue, were under the command of the Nazi Party, and weren’t acting as Ukrainians – except the unit received a visit from Henrich Himmler himself. 

The memorial came under fire in 2020 after it was vandalized, the vandals calling the monument out for glorifying Nazi war criminals. The existence of the memorial came to the world’s attention after the Russian government tweeted about them.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is what happens when the president gets sick

The president of the United States never technically takes a day off. Even when they’re ostensibly “on vacation” they are still very much the leader of the country and have many duties to fulfill on a daily basis. For example, even while on vacation, they need to continue to have things like intelligence and national security briefings and other such meetings so that if an emergency does suddenly come up, they can react quickly in an informed way. Because of this, the president, in addition to never technically being able to have a full day off while on vacation, doesn’t get sick days either.

Of course, the president is not only human but also generally speaking a quite old human, and thus they get ill, occasionally seriously. So what happens then? This is where the 25th Amendment potentially comes into effect.


In a nutshell, among other things, it provides that if the president ever gets so ill that they cannot physically perform necessary presidential duties anymore, their vice president can become the “Acting President” on their behalf until they’re able to resume their duties. So, in a way, this is a mechanism for the president to take a sick day if they want it and whenever they want it.

It’s also noteworthy that even if the president does not wish to relinquish the office during a time when they are “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office”, the 25th Amendment provides a mechanism for the vice president to simply take the office from the president until such time as the president is once again able to resume duties.

(Amusingly, it’s not fully clear here what the scope of this section of the 25th Amendment is. For example, while the president is sleeping, and thus in an unconscious state, they are most definitely “unable to discharge the powers and duties of [the] office” until someone wakes them up. So technically the vice president and certain others could get together on any given night and temporarily make the vice president acting president until such time as the president wakes up and no doubt sends off the appropriate document to declare that they are, in fact, fit for duty, with Congress no doubt concurring at that point… Or, if I were president and my VP did that, I’d probably just take that rare opportunity to roll back over and sleep in for once, then maybe around noon have a leisurely breakfast before finally sending off the appropriate letter that I’m back in business.)

In the end, this latter rule allowing the vice president to forcibly take over is probably for the best as United States presidents are generally loath to give up the office, even temporarily. Despite many, many presidents having serious health issues and occasionally being incapacitated during their time in office (generally largely kept from the public eye at the time), only two have actually used this power in the over half a century since the 25th Amendment was ratified.

Breaking the trend, the first president to make use of the 25th Amendment was Ronald Reagan on July 13, 1985 when he temporarily officially bestowed the powers of the office onto Vice President George Bush while Reagan underwent surgery for colon cancer. Bush reportedly spent a whole 8 hours being president before Reagan decided he’d recovered enough from his surgery to start being president again.

2 million declassified documents reveal new details of JFK assassination
Ronald Reagan

A thing to note is that prior to handing off the powers of the presidency to Bush at 11:28AM, Reagan spent his morning as he normally did, going about presidential duties, and subsequently spent most of the evening after he became president again at 7:22PM catching up on everything he’d missed during the day. So not really much of a sick day.

The only other president to bestow the powers of the presidency on their vice president was George W. Bush in 2002 and later in 2007, each time so that he could have a colonoscopy. On each occasion, Vice President Dick Cheney was acting president for a little over 2 hours at which point Bush resumed his duties. Or to put it another way, during his 8 years in office, Bush technically had four hours of official time off, most of which he spent with a camera up his butt… (It’s good to be the president?)

This lack of leave taken for ill health is a surprising fact given, as previously alluded to, the large percentage of presidents who have suffered through various serious illnesses during their time in office.

Most infamously, Woodrow Wilson had a massive stroke in 1919 resulting in the temporary loss of use of the left side of his body, as well as him becoming blind in the left eye and with diminished vision in his right. What his cognitive state was at this time isn’t fully known, as this was all kept from the public by his wife, Edith, and his physician, Dr. Cary Grayson.

2 million declassified documents reveal new details of JFK assassination
Woodrow Wilson

So how was he able to run the country in this state? Well, he wasn’t really. His wife took over handling what information was passed to him and what issues she simply delegated out for other people to handle. She also barred any direct access to the president for several weeks after the stroke, with the lone exception being that Dr. Grayson was allowed to attend him (and we’re speculating nurses, though this is never mentioned anywhere we could find).

As Edith herself would later write,

So began my stewardship, I studied every paper, sent from the different Secretaries or Senators, and tried to digest and present in tabloid form the things that, despite my vigilance, had to go to the President. I, myself, never made a single decision regarding the disposition of public affairs. The only decision that was mine was what was important and what was not, and the very important decision of when to present matters to my husband.

That said, it is thought by many historians that her claim that she never made direct presidential decisions herself is at best stretching the truth and at worst a blatant lie. That’s not to mention completely controlling the information that went to the president and what tasks (and to whom) were delegated out is questionable for a person not elected to office to do, even for a day, let alone an extended period.

While Wilson did recover somewhat over the next year and a half or so of his presidency, in the interim there was much question over whether he was actually still mentally and physically fit enough to continue on as president. Despite this and certain very pressing and far reaching matters being decided, like whether the United States should join the League of Nations, he refused to give up his position- a key point discussed when the 25th Amendment was being drafted a few decades later.

While other presidents had before and after Wilson suffered from various ailments, most notable to the development of the 25th Amendment was Dwight D. Eisenhower. While in office, he suffered a severe heart attack and then a subsequent stroke. He also had to have surgery to remove about ten inches of his small intestine as a result of complications owing to Crohn’s disease.

2 million declassified documents reveal new details of JFK assassination
Dwight D. Eisenhower

During these times, he did attempt to take sick days by having Attorney General Herbert Brownell Jr write up a document passing off some of the powers and duties of the president to Vice President Richard Nixon. Other presidents had more or less done similar things before when necessary, but always in secret, so as not to publicly reveal their medical issues. Eisenhower was essentially bucking the trend of keeping it secret and trying to set a precedent to make the whole thing official.

And, indeed, from a practical standpoint, Nixon and Eisenhower’s cabinet did take over his duties when he was incapacitated. It also could be interpreted that Article II, Section 1, Clause 6 of the U.S. Constitution did allow for such when the president was unable “to discharge the powers and duties of the… office”.

But the wording here is sufficiently vague to call into question whether in these cases the vice president is actually endowed with the powers given to the president. Because of this, despite Eisenhower giving the green light, there was uncertainty whether Nixon was actually the acting president or not at these times, which could have created major problems had certain emergencies come up.

The matter finally came to a head with a president most considered the picture of robust, youthful, health — John F. Kennedy.

2 million declassified documents reveal new details of JFK assassination
John F. Kennedy

It turns out, Kennedy essentially needed his own pharmacy and team of doctors to keep him functioning semi-normally throughout his presidency — a fact only quite recently made publicly known.

The medical issues Kennedy suffered from were many and serious (some of which may in turn have been caused by the extensive medication he regularly took). First up was a potentially life threatening problem in Addison’s disease, where the adrenal glands don’t produce enough of certain essential hormones.

Next he suffered from osteoporosis resulting in three fractured vertebrae in his back. He also suffered from irritable bowel syndrome that saw him dealing with severe abdominal pain and occasional dangerous bouts of diarrhea. Then there was his hypothyroidism. And, just for fun, likely because of some of the medications he was on, he seemed particularly prone to infections.

To treat all this, he was variously put on thyroid hormone, Ritalin, methadone, Demerol, barbiturates (such as phenobarbital), various antidiarrheal drugs, testosterone, procaine, codeine, corticosteroids, Lomotil, Metamucil, paregoric, amphetamines, meprobamate, Librium, and given penicillin and various other antibiotics whenever infections would spring up…

Notably, many of these medications could potentially effect mood and his decision making ability. But without some of them, Kennedy would have been crippled by pain. Even with them, as Kennedy’s political advisor, Dave Powers, once noted, Kennedy always traveled “with crutches”. Further, when he was out of the public eye, he walked

gritting his teeth…but then when he came into the room where the crowd was gathered, he was erect and smiling, looking as fit and healthy as the light-heavyweight champion of the world. Then after he finished his speech and answered questions from the floor and shook hands with everyone, we would help him into the car and he would lean back on the seat and close his eyes in pain.

Kennedy’s many maladies were not, however, what helped spur the creation of the 25th Amendment, though may have been had they been widely known. Rather, it was when Kennedy was shot that everything finally came to a head, with the question being asked, “What would have happened had Kennedy lived, but been in a brain-dead state?”

As previously noted, while one could interpret Article II, Section 1, Clause 6 of the Constitution in such a way as to provide for the vice president to take over almost immediately in such cases, the wording wasn’t concrete enough on this or for many other such scenarios in which the vice president might need to become Acting President. It wasn’t even clear in these cases if the vice president did take over if the original president should get the job back if they were once again fit for office later during the allotted term.

This ambiguity is a major issue if, say, a nuclear strike was launched against the United States in the interim from when the president was no longer fit for office and when the government finally got around to deciding the vice president should indeed take over.

Thus, about a year and a half after Kennedy’s assassination, in July of 1965, congress sent the 25th Amendment out to the states to ratify, which it finally was on February 10, 1967, clarifying what should be done in many of these scenarios.

So to sum up, the president is not given any allotment of sick days, but the 25th Amendment does provide them a mechanism to take such if they feel like they’re unable to perform the duties of the office. But, for reasons like that it’s not politically couth for the president to show any weakness, only two presidents in history have ever done this since it became an option- both of whom were having something done to their colon at the time…

For the rest, when they were medically incapacitated, they seem to generally try to hide this from the public whenever possible and to delegate tasks and rearrange their work schedule as best they could to take a little time off. And, where they couldn’t do such, they simply muscled through the rest of their duties.

Bonus Facts:

  • It’s noteworthy that before the ratification of the 25th Amendment, the office of the vice president was vacant for various reasons about 1/5th of the history of the United States up to that point. Nobody much concerned themselves with this until more recent history when the vice president more or less became the “deputy president”. Since then, and thanks to the 25th Amendment clarifying such, the office of Vice President is obviously meticulously kept filled.
  • As noted, even when a president is “on vacation” they’re still expected to work and most modern presidents have typically travelled with an entourage of hundreds, including military advisers and even the press to ensure they’re remain briefed and aware of any relevant information they may need. To quote Nancy Reagan about the matter, “presidents don’t get vacations — they just get a change of scenery”.


This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Air Force’s first chief of staff snuck to the front to kill 3 Germans

He would later be the first top officer of the independent U.S. Air Force, a job he earned partially by leading the Allied air forces against Germany and Japan, but in World War I Carl Spatz was just a captain in charge of America’s aerodrome in France. So, when his bosses tried to order him home near the end of the war, Spatz begged for a week at the front and used the time to shoot down three German planes.


2 million declassified documents reveal new details of JFK assassination

U.S. Air Service Illustration showing World War I combat between Allied pilots and a German pilot.

(United States Air Service)

(Spatz would change his name to Spaatz in 1937 at the request of his family to hide its German origin and to help more people pronounce it properly, like “spots,” but we’re using the earlier spelling here since it’s what he used in World War I.)

Spatz’s main job in World War I was commander of the 31st Aero Squadron, and building up the aerodrome at Issoudun where American flyers trained on their way to the front. This was also where large amounts of repair and logistics were handled for the small but growing American air service.

The job was important and indicated a large amount of trust in Spatz, but he hadn’t gone to West Point and commissioned as an infantry officer in order to watch everyone else fight wars while he rode a desk.

For most of the war, he did his job dutifully. He led the improvements at Issoudun Aerodrome that turned it from a mass of hilly, rocky mud pits that broke plane after plane to a functioning air installation. But that meant that he facilitated the training of units like the 94th and 95th Aero Squadrons and then had to watch them fly off to combat without him.

Future American aces like Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, Lt. Douglas Campbell, and Capt. Hamilton Coolidge, passed under Spatz.

American pilots spent most of 1917 traveling to France and training, but the 94th Aero Squadron launched its first hostile mission in March 1918, and U.S. pilots were off to the races. Over the following six months, some American pilots were lost in a single day of fighting while others became ace-in-a-day or slowly racked up kills.

All the while, Spatz stayed at Issoudun, doing work.

2 million declassified documents reveal new details of JFK assassination

American pilots and gunners chewed through German pilots, but it was a tough fight. American troops joined the air war in 1917 and 1918, three years after some german pilots began earning experience.

(U.S. Army Pvt. J.E. Gibbon)

So when Spatz was ordered to the U.S. around late August 1918, he begged for a week on the front in France in order to get a little combat experience under his belt before returning home. That request was granted, and he went to the front in early September as a recently promoted major.

But in the first week, Spatz saw little combat and achieved no aerial victories, so he stuck around. He stuck around for three weeks, volunteering for missions but failing to bag any enemy pilots. But then, on September 26, he knew that an aerial attack was going down at Verdun and he asked to stay on duty to fly in it.

He went up on a patrol across enemy lines and took part in an attack on a group of German planes. The fighting was fierce, and Spatz was able to down three German planes in fairly quick succession. But even that wasn’t enough for Spatz once he had some blood on his teeth, and he gave chase to a fourth German plane fleeing east.

This was a mistake. Spatz flew too far before realizing that the rest of the friendly planes had already turned around because they were at bingo fuel. Spatz didn’t have enough gas to get home. But, despite his mistake, Spatz was still a disciplined and smart officer, and he went to salvage the situation as best he could.

He set himself up to get as far west as possible before his engine ran dry, and then he coasted the plane down to the ground, managing to crash into friendly territory, preventing his capture and allowing his plane to be salvaged.

For his hat trick, Spatz was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. He would spend the interwar years advocating for air power while bouncing through between captain and major as the Army raised and lowered the number of officers who could be at each rank.

But in World War II, he quickly earned temporary promotions to major general and then lieutenant general. After the war, he was promoted to general and then appointed first Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force in September 1947.

Articles

A piece of the White House was stolen by the Freemasons

Nearly 20 years after America was born, an Irish architect named James Hoban began laying down the first piece of stone for what would become The White House during an elaborate Freemason ceremony.


Less than 24 hours later, the first piece of stone that was laid down vanished and no one appeared to know its whereabouts. Since then, the search for the stone continues as various participants have attempted to locate the historic piece of foundation.

Although the formation of the Freemason’s fraternity is a fiercely guarded secret, their history dates back to 1390 when they were first referenced in a Regius Poem.

A commonly accepted theory is the group emerged from the stonemasons guild amid the middle ages.

Also read: The 10 most famous ghosts in the White House closets

In the late 1940s during President Harry Truman’s administration, the White House underwent major renovations as crew members brought in metal detectors in hopes to locate the stone by picking up its metallic minerals and many believed they may have discovered its location.

2 million declassified documents reveal new details of JFK assassination

President Harry Truman — Freemason

When Truman got wind of the search, he ordered them to halt the exploration immediately, which caught everyone off guard. In response, Truman then sent pieces of the White House to several various Freemason locations throughout the country.

Watch the History Channel‘s video to see how many have tried to unlock the mystery.

(History Channel, YouTube)

Also Read: The 5 weirdest books on Osama Bin Laden’s bookshelf

Fun Facts: George Washington, James Monroe, and Andrew Jackson were some of the 14 U.S. Presidents who reportedly claimed the title of being a part of the Freemasons.

8 signers of the Declaration of Independence and 9 signers of the U.S. Constitution were known Freemasons.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This soldier waited 150 years to receive the Medal of Honor

During the Civil War, the Medal of Honor didn’t carry the same weight it does among US troops these days. When it was first conceived in 1861, American troops getting medals for any reason was a new thing, even if it was for “personal valor.” More than 1,500 were awarded throughout the war. By 1917, however, the Medal of Honor achieved the status it was intended to carry in the first place, and 910 of those were rescinded to officially elevate the award. Since then, individual medals have been awarded, often long after the action for which they were won.

That’s how Alonzo Cushing was awarded his Medal of Honor for bravery before the enemy at the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg. It was presented to him by President Obama in 2014.


2 million declassified documents reveal new details of JFK assassination

Every photo of Cushing looks like he is ready to personally end some Confederate lives.

Major Alonzo Cushing was a Union artillery officer who graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point just a few short weeks after the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter. By the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg, Cushing was still a lieutenant in experience, but earned the rank of brevet major for his role at the recent Battle of Chancellorsville, in Virginia. The heavy toll the Union took during that battle must have weighed heavily on Cushing because he gave no ground to the enemy as long as he could still stand. He was also a veteran of Bull Run, Antietam, and Fredericksburg. By then, he knew how important his role was.

On the last day of the three-day Battle of Gettysburg, the artillery battery commander was wounded three separate times. First, shrapnel from an exploding shell tore through his shoulder. This was not enough to deter Cushing. Even after his second wound, which cut through his lower abdomen and literally spilled his guts, he stayed at his post, holding them in. It was the third injury that would silence him forever. He was ordered to fall to the rear. Instead, he ordered his guns to move closer and moved with them.

2 million declassified documents reveal new details of JFK assassination

The Gettysburg Cyclorama, 1883.

(Paul Dominique Philippoteaux)

Cushing defied orders to abandon his position on Cemetery Ridge at the critical point in the battle. The massive bombardment of Cemetery Ridge that cut into Alonzo Cushing preceded a full frontal infantry assault that came to be known as “Pickett’s Charge.” The Confederate attack on the Union position at Cemetery Ridge was as close as the Confederate Army would ever get to defeating the Union, losing more than half the men who made the charge.

Also killed was Brevet Maj. Cushing. Because of his previous wounds, Cushing could no longer yell loud enough to be heard by the men under his command. His First Sergeant literally picked him up and repeated his orders to the men. As he gave orders, the 22-year-old Cushing was hit in the mouth by an enemy bullet and was killed. His gallantry in combat earned him the permanent rank of Lt. Col. and a burial at his beloved West Point’s cemetery.

2 million declassified documents reveal new details of JFK assassination

If looks could kill, Cushing’s is an 1841 Howitzer.

Just as Cushing’s First Sergeant wrote to his family about his bravery in battle, the Wisconsin native became the subject of a letter-writing campaign more than 100-plus years later. Residents of Wisconsin were more concerned with recognizing one of their favorite sons for his valor. It wasn’t until 2014 that Congress was finally able to act and the President was able to concur.

“His part of our larger American story — one that continues today,” the President said. “The spirit, the courage, the determination that he demonstrated lives on in our brave men and women in uniform who this very day are serving and making sure that they are defending the freedoms that Alonzo helped to preserve. And it’s incumbent on all of us as Americans to uphold the values that they fight for, and to continue to honor their service long after they leave the battlefield – for decades, even centuries to come.”

2 million declassified documents reveal new details of JFK assassination

President Barack Obama awards the Medal of Honor to 1st Lt. Alonzo H. Cushing for his gallantry during combat at Gettysburg July 3, 1863. Receiving the medal at the White House ceremony, Nov. 6, 2014, is Helen Loring Ensign, Cushing’s first cousin, twice removed.

Accepting Cushing’s Medal of Honor was a distant first cousin of the young officer. Also present was Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh and 94-year-old historian Margaret Zerwekh. It was Zerwekh’s constant lobbying that made Cushing’s award a reality.

At 151 years, it was the longest wait of any Medal of Honor Recipient to receive the award.

Articles

America’s Patton tanks saw combat from Korea to Desert Storm

For over 40 years, some variant of the Patton family of tanks served America. From the mountains of Korea, the jungles of Vietnam, and through the deserts of the Middle East Patton tanks bested America’s enemies time and again.


In 1950, the first Patton tank, the M46, entered service. The M46 was originally based on the WWII M26 Pershing heavy tank. However, after extensive redesigns and improvements, it received its own designation and a new namesake — Gen. George S. Patton, a hero of WWII.

2 million declassified documents reveal new details of JFK assassination
A Marine checks his tank after taking Howitzer hits. (Dept. of Defense photo)

The M46 was armed with a 90mm main gun, a .50 caliber machine gun, and two .30 caliber machine guns, one mounted coaxially, the other forward-firing in the hull.

The arrival of the Patton into service was just in time as in June of that year North Korea, armed with formidable Russian T34 tanks, rolled across the 38th Parallel into South Korea. Fighting alongside WWII-era M4 Shermans and the M26 Pershings it was meant to replace, the M46 would see heavy combat in Korea.

Also read: This is what makes tankers so deadly

The first M46 tanks landed inside the Pusan Perimeter in August 1950 as part of the 6th Tank Battalion. They would prove critical in the defense. More M46s landed at Inchon with the 1st Marine Division’s 1st Tank Battalion.

2 million declassified documents reveal new details of JFK assassination
Pro tip: the paint doesn’t need to be realistic if your enemy is superstitious. (U.S. Army photo)

In an attempt at psychological warfare, the tankers of the 24th Infantry Division’s 6th Tank Battalion painted tiger faces on their tanks thinking it would demoralize their superstitious Chinese adversaries.

By mid-1951 the Patton tanks had replaced all M26 Pershings in service in Korea. However, the M46’s own shortcomings had already led to the development of a replacement — the M47 Patton.

Though the M47 was introduced in 1952, it would be too late for it to see combat in Korea. However, the M47 was important because even though it shared design features and components with the M46 Patton, it was considered America’s first all-new tank design since WWII.

The M47, though, was just an interim design while engineers completed work on its successor, the M48 Patton. The M47 would never see combat but the M48 would be a workhorse of American and allied armored units.

2 million declassified documents reveal new details of JFK assassination

Like its predecessors, the M48 also mounted a 90mm main gun; it was the last tank to do so, but had significant improvements in armor and performance.

The M48 was also introduced too late to see combat in Korea, but just over a decade later the Marines would take it to Vietnam. Soon, Army units were bringing their own Pattons to the fight.

Due to the nature of the conflict, the M48s did not often have the chance to go toe-to-toe with North Vietnamese armor. One of the few instances of tank combat came during the NVA assault on the Ben Het Camp where elements of the 1st Battalion, 69th Armored Regiment were stationed. The American Pattons easily defeated the NVA’s PT-76 tanks and BTR-50 APCs.

More often than not though, the M48s were relegated to infantry support — a role they excelled at. The Patton’s ruggedness allowed it to absorb a good amount of damage and its 90mm main gun was a welcome addition against dug-in enemies. A favorite of the troops was the Patton’s canister rounds, which acted like a giant shotgun through the jungle, cutting down man and tree alike.

A number of M48s were also converted to M67 “Zippo” tanks that mounted flamethrowers for dealing with stubborn Vietcong and NVA soldiers.

2 million declassified documents reveal new details of JFK assassination
An M67 throwing flames. No big deal. (U.S. Army photo)

The Patton was also one of the few vehicles that could withstand the landmines that were employed against American forces. As such, it was often used as a route clearance vehicle to “sniff out” the explosive devices.

While the M48 was slogging it out in Vietnam, the next in line of the Patton family of tanks was coming into service with the American military: the M60 Patton, the M48s eventual replacement.

The M60 was the final tank in the Patton family line and America’s first Main Battle Tank. It mounted a modern 105mm main gun, a .50 caliber machine gun for the commander, and a coaxial 7.62mm machine gun.

The M60 also was the basis for the M60 Armored Vehicle Launched Bridge and the M728 Combat Engineer Vehicle, both of which were deployed to Vietnam alongside the M48s.

The M60 itself would not be deployed to Vietnam, but would be a mainstay of American armored formations, particularly in Europe.

One of the more interesting developments of the M60 Patton was the M60A2. Derisively known as the “Starship” because of its overly complex technology, the M60A2 mounted the same 152mm gun/missile system as the M551 Sheridan. A redesigned turret and an abundance of new technology gave the A2 variation a distinct look. However, the design was an overall disappointment and it was quickly retired.

2 million declassified documents reveal new details of JFK assassination
An M60A2 tank driving off an amphibious landing craft. (U.S. Army photo)

Despite entering service some 30 years’ prior, the M60 Patton would not see significant combat until the end of its service history during the Persian Gulf War. Outfitting Marine tank battalions, the M60s performed admirably.

The Marines’ M60s spearheaded the assault to liberate Kuwait. In the fighting for Kuwait City, the M60 bested its original rival, the Soviet T62, time and again while sustaining only one tank lost to combat and no casualties. Marines manning Patton tanks destroyed over 100 Iraqi tanks and numerous other vehicles in the fighting.

2 million declassified documents reveal new details of JFK assassination
Marines from Company D, 2nd Tank Battalion, drive their M-60A1 main battle tank over a sand berm on Hill 231 while rehearsing their role as part of Task Force Breach Alpha during Operation Desert Storm. (Dept. of Defense photo)

Shortly after the Gulf War the M60 Patton was retired from combat service in favor of the new M1 Abrams. The last Pattons would return to Germany, the final resting place of their namesake, where they acted as OPFOR at the Combat Maneuver Training Center in Hohenfels before they too were retired in 2005.

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