Trick shooter Ed McGivern used his legendary skills to train law enforcement officers - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Trick shooter Ed McGivern used his legendary skills to train law enforcement officers

The names Elmer Keith, Jeff Cooper, and Jack O’Connor are legend in the shooting world. If you Google “famous gun writers,” they’re among the top results. If you scroll a good ways, you’ll come to a fella named Ed McGivern. The only thing he ever wrote of note is a tough-to-find book called Fast and Fancy Revolver Shooting, published in 1938. However, a lot of police officers and federal agents across the US back in the 1930s knew McGivern well from the training they received from this one-time trick shooter and legendary pistol expert.

When it came to pistol shooting, especially revolvers, there were few who wielded a hand cannon with more speed and skill than McGivern. His shooting feats were nothing short of superhuman: The man clearly had eyesight and reflexes that were far keener than the average person’s. The fantastical shooting and quick-draw abilities of fictional pistoleers were present in the very real-life McGivern, though he didn’t exactly cut the typical figure of a gunslinger. At just 5-foot-6, he was a small, barrel-shaped man who was the fastest gun on the planet during the years between the two world wars.

A traveling trick shooter

McGivern bolstered his income performing as a trick shooter in the 1920s and ’30s, traveling all over the United States to put on astonishing displays for giddy crowds. He routinely shot at an assortment of stationary and airborne targets, like clay pigeons and lead disks the size of a quarter. You want to really understand how good McGivern was? Go to a safe shooting area, throw a tin can in the air, and see if you can draw and hit it before it lands on the ground. Unless you’re Jerry Miculek or Julie Golob, you probably didn’t even get close.

Trick shooter Ed McGivern used his legendary skills to train law enforcement officers
Jerry Miculek is widely regarded as the fastest and most proficient speed shooter in the world, and he’s beaten several long-standing records set by trick shooter Ed McGivern. Photo courtesy of reddit.

McGivern could hit the can six times before it hit the dirt, on the draw. He could also throw playing cards in the air and cut them in two, edgewise, with a bullet. He could hit two aerial targets with two revolvers at the same time. Like I said, he was superhuman.

He set a revolver world record while on tour in 1932 that remains unbroken to this day and got him into the Guinness Book of World Records, until Guinness removed all shooting records a few years ago. McGivern fired two consecutive, five-shot groups from a revolver at a distance of 15 feet that “could be covered by a half-dollar piece” in a blinding 0.45 seconds (as clocked by shot timer). The diameter of a half-dollar was a hair over 1.2 inches. 

But this pistol prodigy went largely unnoticed for much of his life, working primarily as a sign painter in the small Montana town where he lived for 30 years.

Changing gigs

Unfortunately, arthritis eventually put an end to McGivern’s trick shooting career in his late 50s, so he decided to travel around and spread his knowledge instead of entertaining folks. 

He worked with law enforcement personnel all over the country. He taught marksmanship to police officers and federal agents from various LE agencies, including at the FBI’s training headquarters in Quantico, translating his exhibition-shooting experience into practical skills that focused on putting a lot of rounds on a target, accurately and quickly, under varying circumstances. At the time, most law enforcement in the US were still carrying double-action revolvers, McGivern’s specialty.

Trick shooter Ed McGivern used his legendary skills to train law enforcement officers

He started his trick shooting career using semi-auto handguns but realized he could shoot quite a bit faster with double-action revolvers. If there’s any doubt this is generally true, check out Miculek firing 12 shots from a revolver in under three seconds back in 1999. 

When it came to training law enforcement, McGivern taught them how to shoot fast and accurately at close targets, but he was a firm believer that a .357 Magnum revolver, with proper technique, could be used to effectively engage man-sized targets with repeatable accuracy at distances of 600 yards. He preferred to use a gun outfitted with a small-diameter rear aperture sight with a gold bead front sight for this kind of shooting, though he experimented with various peep sights and telescopic scopes.

In fact, McGivern was friends with Elmer Keith and was instrumental in creating the earliest magnum revolver cartridges. While Keith was (most likely) integral to the creation of the .357 Magnum, he ultimately went on to deride it when he developed the .44 Special into what would become the .44 Remington Magnum, a superior cartridge in his mind. McGivern, on the other hand, believed the .357 Mag was the ultimate revolver cartridge and devoted a whole lot of his time and effort to pushing the round to its limits with what would have been considered a service revolver at the time, both in terms of speed and close- and long-range accuracy.

Time has proved that McGivern may have ultimately been correct in his assessment of the .357 Magnum. Despite Keith’s proselytizing, the .44 Mag was always considered too overpowered for law enforcement use, while many departments and agencies adopted .357 wheelguns as replacements for or as an alternate option to .38 Special revolvers.

Today, despite a foray into use of the more powerful .40 S&W for semi-autos, the 9 mm chambering, with modern ammunition, reigns supreme in the LE and military worlds—and the characteristics of a 9 mm +P cartridge are more similar to a .357 load than they are to a .44 Mag. Perhaps McGivern was more on the money because he focused on volume of fire and LE applications, whereas Keith was more hunting focused.

Trick shooter Ed McGivern used his legendary skills to train law enforcement officers
Ed McGivern stands with officers of the Lewistown Police Department. Following his exploits as a trick shooter, McGivern trained the police department, the Fergus County Sheriff’s officers, the Montana Highway Patrol, and later the FBI, on firearms techniques. He did this free of charge. Screenshot from mtmemory.org.

The feats

Here’s a quick list of some of McGivern’s most famous shots with a double-action revolver. Think you could pull off any of them?

  • Hang a target, like a clay pigeon or lead quarter, from a string. Cut the string with the first shot, and hit the falling target with a second before it hits the ground.
  • String up three clays, one stationary, and set the other two swinging back and forth so they cross in front of the stationary target. Break all three clays with a single shot.
  • Drop a coin from shoulder height, and with the same hand, draw and fire as many shots as possible before the coin lands. (McGivern could fire two to three shots.)
  • Lay 10 revolvers on a bench with five rounds loaded in each. Proceed to shoot them in succession in double action for a total of 50 rounds in less than 21 seconds, with no misses on the target. McGivern could also do this with 20 guns, 100 shots, and 47 seconds.
  • McGivern did this reaction-time display with real guns and blanks, but if you want to try it, definitely use airsoft guns, safety glasses, and protective clothing. Face an opponent who is holding an aimed, cocked airsoft revolver at about 5 yards. Draw and fire from a regulation holster before your opponent can pull the trigger.
  • Balance two clays on top of each other with their edges facing the shooter. Break the bottom clay with the first shot, and break the top one with the second before it hits the bench.
  • Throw a target in the air, have a friend toss you a pistol, and hit the target before it hits the ground.
  • Shoot a 5-inch bull’s-eye pasted on a 24-inch square of plywood that’s tossed in the air at distances of 25 to 50 yards.
  • Draw, fire, and score a lethal hit on a man-sized target 15 to 18 feet away in 0.4 seconds or less. McGivern set a one-time record with this often repeated mainstay.

McGivern died on Dec. 12, 1957, at the age of 83 in Butte, Montana.

Jerry Miculek is one of the most remarkable competition shooters of our day, and it’s a privilege to see him shoot in person, as I imagine it must have been to see McGivern put on one of his trick-shooting displays.

Miculek has broken several of McGivern’s long-standing records, but there’s one he can’t beat. When Miculek tried to top the record of 10 shots in 0.45 seconds, he couldn’t score a better time than 0.57 seconds. McGivern set that record back in 1932 when he was 57 years old — and if Miculek can’t beat it, I don’t know who can.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

Articles

WWI’s deadliest sniper was from Canada

Clear eyesight, pinpoint accuracy, and having overwhelming patience are just some of the key factors of being an effective sniper in the battlefield.


Nine days after Britain declared war on Germany, Francis Pegahmagabow of the Shawanaga First Nation enlisted in the Algonquin Regiment of the Canadian Army, and shortly after left for basic training in Valcartier, Quebec.

Within just a few months, Francis and his unit were transported to the trenches of WWI and began enduring the war’s hardships, including exposure to the first of many German gas attacks.

Related: These 3 snipers had more kills than Carlos Hathcock in Vietnam

During his first few engagements, Francis began making a productive name for himself serving as an effective sniper and taking missions alone into “no man’s land,” surprising his commanders.

Climbing in rank and earning respect amongst his peers, Francis found himself in the vital role of the battalion sniper, collecting a variety of intel like enemy machine gun posts, patrol routes, and defensive position locations.

Francis would even sneak his way through enemy lines and cut souvenirs off of German uniforms while they slept, which eventually earned him a promotion to corporal. In 1916, he reverted back to the rank of private at his own petition.

Also read: The 6 best Hollywood sniper shots ever

He was wounded in the leg and later caught a case of pneumonia, but hit the ground running upon his return to the front lines, racking up medals for bravery by improving his kill count numbers and running messages back and forth to Allied troop units.

Trick shooter Ed McGivern used his legendary skills to train law enforcement officers
Francis Pegahmagabow in June 1945, (Canadian Museum of History/CBC/Screenshot)

Francis Pegahmagabow passed away on Aug. 5, 1952, but was credited with 378 kills and aiding in the capture of approximately 300 enemy combatants — making him the deadliest sniper of the Great War.

Check out The Great War‘s channel for a more in-depth look at Canada’s most prized sniper of WWI.

(The Great War, YouTube)
MIGHTY HISTORY

10 rarely seen photos from the Spanish-American War

The Spanish-American War started after the USS Maine suddenly exploded in Havana Harbor in February 1898, an incident that was later found to be caused by faulty ship design but was blamed, at the time, on a Spanish mine. The resulting war was focused on Cuba, but the growing American military contested Spain across its empire, resulting in combat from the Atlantic to Pacific.


Here are 10 photos from the conflict:

Trick shooter Ed McGivern used his legendary skills to train law enforcement officers

(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

Trick shooter Ed McGivern used his legendary skills to train law enforcement officers

(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

Trick shooter Ed McGivern used his legendary skills to train law enforcement officers

(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

Trick shooter Ed McGivern used his legendary skills to train law enforcement officers

(U.S. Army Signal Corps)

Trick shooter Ed McGivern used his legendary skills to train law enforcement officers

(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

Trick shooter Ed McGivern used his legendary skills to train law enforcement officers

(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

Trick shooter Ed McGivern used his legendary skills to train law enforcement officers

(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

Trick shooter Ed McGivern used his legendary skills to train law enforcement officers

(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

Trick shooter Ed McGivern used his legendary skills to train law enforcement officers

(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

Trick shooter Ed McGivern used his legendary skills to train law enforcement officers

(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Air Force pilot took on an entire anti-aircraft complex – and won

In March 1967, U.S. Air Force Capt. Merlyn Dethlefsen and three other F-105 Thunderchief pilots were tasked to fly 50 miles north of Hanoi, the capital of North Vietnam. Once there, they were to destroy the Thai Nguyen Steel Works.


The works were protected by a ring of 85mm anti-aircraft guns, surface-to-air missile batteries, and squadrons of MiG-21 fighters on patrol. Needless to say, the airmen were outgunned. They went anyway.

“Thuds,” as F-105s were affectionately known, would go in ahead of fighter-bomber strike forces to strike SAM sites directly. They would purposely allow themselves to be targeted by the SAM batteries’ radar in order to track the source.

Then they would make their own strike runs at the SAM sites — a tactic known as the “Wild Weasel.”

What makes this mission particularly dangerous is not just that the Wild Weasel allowed himself to be tracked by SA-2 SAM batteries; the danger was also present for the Thuds who flew in behind him, who remained low enough to evade being tracked by the SAM radar and therefore became vulnerable to ground-based anti-aircraft fire.

During this mission, the batteries at Thai Nguyen were much more powerful than expected and took down two of the four Thuds immediately.

Trick shooter Ed McGivern used his legendary skills to train law enforcement officers

This was not the first rodeo for the remaining pilots.

This was not their last rodeo either — eventually, Dethlefsen and his Electronic Warfare Officer, Capt. Kevin “Mike” Gilroy, would fly 100 missions over North Vietnam.

After their two wingmen were shot down, Dethlefsen and Gilroy evaded the MiG interceptors by flying deeper into the anti-aircraft umbrella.

Wild Weasels’ orders usually called for only one attack pass at enemy defenses, but some missions required two. Merlyn Dethlefsen, Gilroy, and their heavily-damaged wingman did far more than the two required passes.

With enemy MiGs chasing them down — and heavily damaged by anti-aircraft guns — they destroyed one SAM site with Shrike missiles and another with a strafing run of 20mm rounds and the Thud’s 750-pound bombs.

Trick shooter Ed McGivern used his legendary skills to train law enforcement officers
And then they had a Coke on the flightline. (Wikimedia Commons)

A follow-on strike by 72 fighter-bombers would finish the steel works off.

Both of the remaining aircraft made it back to base full of holes from MiGs and 85mm guns.

Captain Dethlefsen was awarded the Medal of Honor the very next year while Gilroy received the Air Force Cross.

Trick shooter Ed McGivern used his legendary skills to train law enforcement officers
Dethlefsen receives the Medal of Honor from President Johnson. (Wikimedia Commons)
Articles

Here’s the history behind ‘Reveille’

We’ve all heard the familiar tune being blared over the intercom or performed live bright and early as the American flag is raised for the beginning of the day.


For other troops stationed on a military base, it’s the bugle call that made them dash for cover so they wouldn’t have to stand outside and salute on a cold morning or throw your pillow at the window in your barracks like it’s going to get the signal to stop — you get the point.

But the motivation behind the “Reveille” tune isn’t to just wake us up, but instead is to remind us of those who have served in remembrance.

Trick shooter Ed McGivern used his legendary skills to train law enforcement officers
Airmen salute the flag during reveille at the Eglin Professional Development Center. (Photo: Tech. Sgt. Jasmin Taylor)

Reveille comes from the French word “réveiller” or in English to “to wake up.

In 1812, U.S. forces designated the iconic melody to call service members to muster up for roll call to start the work day.

It appears there is no official composer of the tune, which is used by about six countries like Denmark, Ireland, and Sweden to mark the start of the day.

The notes for each country do vary and they all have written different lyrics as well.

“Reveille” lyrics

“Out on a hike all day, dear

Part of the army grind

Weary and long the way, dear

But really I don’t mind

I’m getting tired so I can sleep

I want to sleep so I can dream

I want to dream so I can be with you

I’ve got your picture by my bed

‘Twill soon be placed beneath my head

To keep me company the whole night through

For a little while, whatever befalls

I will see your smile till reveille calls

I hope you’re tired enough to sleep

And please sleep long enough to dream

And look for me for I’ll be dreaming too”

Click play on the video below and try to sing along.

(United States Air Force Band – Topic, YouTube)Fun fact: Reveille is also the official name of the Texas A&M mascot in the ROTC program — a dog. That is all.
MIGHTY HISTORY

The heroic — and nearly forgotten — legend of ‘Pappy’ Gunn

When people mention “Pappy” — otherwise known as Gregory P. Boyington of VMF-214 — the “Black Sheep Squadron” immortalized in the late 1970s series “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” comes to mind.


There is a good reason; Boyington, a Medal of Honor recipient, is the top-scoring Marine Corps ace with 28 kills. He was also an ace with the Flying Tigers (six kills).

But there is another Pappy who did much to help turn back the Japanese in the Pacific Theater. This was Paul I. “Pappy” Gunn.

“Pappy” Gunn had served in the U.S. Navy for twenty years before retiring to start airlines in Hawaii and the Philippines. When Pearl Harbor was attacked, he returned to the service — and received a Distinguished Flying Cross for flying in medical supplies to besieged troops on the Bataan Peninsula. He was evacuated to Australia, and in the summer of 1942, he began his major contribution to the war effort.

Gunn started to add M2 .50-caliber machine guns to the noses of A-20 Havoc light bombers. The planes had been okay, able to carry a ton of bombs, but bombing from high altitude often didn’t work with ships. So Gunn began modifying the A-20s, and later the B-25s, with M2s scavenged from fighters that had brought back their pilots, but which wouldn’t be repaired. He also developed the tactics these planes would use.

 

Trick shooter Ed McGivern used his legendary skills to train law enforcement officers
9th Air Force Douglas A-20G or A-20H over France. Note the solid nose holding six M2 .50-caliber machine guns. (US Air Force photo)

It was a very lethal masterpiece. Word filtered back to the manufacturers, Douglas and North American, and soon new versions of the B-25 and A-20 were out, built and inspired by Gunn’s field modifications. One version of the B-25 would carry 18 forward-firing M2s — the firepower of three P-51 Mustangs!

These planes would make their mark in the Southwest Pacific. Japan was trying to reinforce troops in New Guinea, where the Americans and Australians were fighting fiercely. Gunn’s modifications would be put to the test in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea. Japan sent eight transports, escorted by eight destroyers to deliver nearly 7,000 troops to Lae from Rabaul.

On March 3, 1943, they began. The Japanese force was simply unprepared to handle the Allied firepower. Despite cover from 100 fighters, their convoy was savaged. The strafing, combined with skip-bombing and mast-height bombing, tore the transports and half the destroyers apart. Only 1200 troops and practically no equipment made it to Lae.

Trick shooter Ed McGivern used his legendary skills to train law enforcement officers
Planes from the 5th Air Force carry out a low-level attack during the Battle of the Bismarck Sea. (US Air Force photo)

Gunn would serve throughout the war, retiring as a full colonel. He then went back to re-building the airline he had started prior to World War II breaking out. In 1957, he was killed when his plane crashed during a storm. While not well-known, Gunn’s legend is one that does the United States Air Force proud.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This insanely talented sniper was known as ‘The White Death’

Considered the deadliest sniper of all time, Simo Hayha joined Finland’s Civil Guard at the age of 17 and quickly established himself as an excellent marksman. It was here that he honed his skills with the Mosin-Nagant, developing a talent that the Soviets would soon come to fear.


Hayha regularly practiced his warfighting craft by accurately firing his bolt-action rifle 16 times per minute at a target 500-feet away — which is a challenging task.

Trick shooter Ed McGivern used his legendary skills to train law enforcement officers

In 1939, the Soviet Union invaded Finland in what would become known as the “Winter War,” or the Russo-Finnish War.

Although the Finns were highly outnumbered, they had the home-field advantage and turned to guerrilla-style fighting to defend their territory from the encroaching Red Army.

In the beginning, Hayha found himself fighting against an enemy force of 4,000 with just 31 other men at his side.

Related video: 5 of the most badass snipers of all time – Featuring John Cena

On Dec. 31, 1939, Hayha scored 25 kill shots while dressed in all white to perfectly camouflage himself among the snow-covered terrain. The talented marksman would stalk his targets in freezing temperatures for several hours. Using the surrounding snow, Hayha packed himself deep within the frozen ground to decrease his chances of being noticed.

Hayha preferred using iron sights instead of optic scopes as other snipers had grown to favor. Although it was harder to get a fix on a target, using iron sights helped him avoid detection from light reflected off the scope.

As Hayha tallied up his kills, he was given a nickname that would write him into the history books — “The White Death.”

He tallied 505 kills, the highest count from any significant war. All of the kills were accomplished in fewer than 100 days — meaning he averaging over five per day. Hayha ended up getting wounded in the war; shot by an explosive bullet which nearly took off his lower left jaw.

Trick shooter Ed McGivern used his legendary skills to train law enforcement officers

He survived the wound and continued to live a long life. Hayha passed away in a veteran’s nursing home in 2002 at the age of 96.

Check out Simple History’s video below to learn more about this talented sniper’s record-setting life.

Articles

The youngest NCO in Army history shot a Confederate officer at age 12

Ohio native John Clem might have been small in stature, but he was big of heart. After running away from home following the death of his mother in 1861, he tried and tried again to join the Union Army as a drummer boy. He was rejected because he was only nine years old — and looked like it. 

Persistence eventually paid off, though. Even after the 22nd Michigan Infantry rejected the boy, he followed the unit wherever it went, and they eventually accepted him. The officers of the infantry unit all chipped in to pay him his regular salary until he was old enough to officially enlist.

Trick shooter Ed McGivern used his legendary skills to train law enforcement officers
Not the face of a kid that wants to hear about your 5th grader’s problems
(Mathew Brady/Library of Congress)

Although there are claims he fought at the Battle of Shiloh, Johnny Clem’s first documented battle of the Civil War placed him at the epic Battle of Chickamauga in Walker County, Georgia. This would make him a veteran at just 12 years old. Contemporaries say he used a musket that was trimmed down to a size he could effectively use on the battlefield – and use he did. 

Chickamauga did not go well for the Union Army. The battle saw the second-highest number of casualties inflicted of the whole war, second only to the Battle of Gettysburg. As the Union forces retreated, Clem was confronted by a Confederate colonel who demanded his surrender. Instead, the young Clem shot the enemy officer. 

Trick shooter Ed McGivern used his legendary skills to train law enforcement officers
Historians argue it may be the fastest a “Johnny” has ever become “John” (Mathew Brady/ Library of Congress)

After the fighting, Clem was promoted to sergeant, becoming the youngest non-commissioned officer to ever serve in the U.S. Army. Clem was captured by a Confederate patrol later that year. The men confiscated his Union uniform and used him as propaganda, claiming the Union was so hard-pressed for men that they had to put uniforms on children. 

Sgt. Clem was exchanged in 1863, in time to see more action with the Army of the Cumberland. He would be discharged in 1864, after being wounded in combat on two occasions. After the war, he finished high school and rejoined the Army. He attempted but failed to get into West Point but his service caught the attention of then-President Ulysses S. Grant, who gave Clem, now an adult, a commission in 1874. 

2nd Lt. Clem initially went to the Army Artillery School but transferred to the Quartermaster Corps, where he spent the rest of his Army career. He was routinely promoted and was still in the service when the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898. He deployed to Puerto Rico to serve as quartermaster in occupied San Juan. 

Trick shooter Ed McGivern used his legendary skills to train law enforcement officers
Can you imagine how tough this guy must have been on 20th-century kids? “When I was 9…” (Library of Congress)

By 1906, he was Col. John Clem, serving as chief quartermaster at Fort Sam Houston in Texas. At age 64 in 1915, he was finally forced to retire. At this time it was custom for Civil War veterans who reached the rank of colonel to be promoted to brigadier general, so John Clem, the 9-year-old boy who forced the Union Army to take him as a drummer boy during the Civil War, retired as Brig. Gen. Clem.

He was the last Civil War veteran to retire from Army service. In recognition of that fact, he was promoted once more in 1916 to major general. He lived to see the United States join World War I but not World War II. He died in 1937 at age 85.

Feature image: Wikimedia Commons

MIGHTY HISTORY

Here’s how Gurkhas became some of the world’s most feared warriors

Gurkhas are known as some of the fiercest warriors ever to take up arms. These soldiers from Nepal regularly receive high valor awards from both Britain and India because of their bravery, and they are skilled, in one case defeating Taliban ambushes while outnumbered over 30 to 1. They fought in British forces in almost every major conflict of the 20th and 21st centuries including both World Wars and in Iraq and Afghanistan.


 

Trick shooter Ed McGivern used his legendary skills to train law enforcement officers

A Gurkha Rifles unit in 1890. Photo: UK Ministry of Defence/Public Domain

The story of how they became some of Britain’s most capable warriors starts in a war that saw both the Gurkhas, a Hindu people named after the 8th-century Hindu warrior Guru Gorakhnath, and the British fighting for control of the same valley.

The Kathmandu Valley is surrounded by the Himalayan mountains. In 1767, the three valley kings had been fighting each other for years and suddenly realized that the Gurkha Army was invading. The Gurkha conquered parts of the valley and began a siege of one of the kingdoms’ capitals.

Related video:

In order to prevent conquest by the Gurkha, the Kathmandu kingdoms asked British officers serving nearby in the East India Company armies for assistance.

Capt. Captain George Kinloch led 2,500 soldiers with then-modern weapons into the valley to prevent the Gurkha expansion but failed to properly plan. Battlefield defeats against the Gurkha were made worse by disease and inadequate medical supplies.

A wave of desertions and a two-pronged assault launched by the Gurkha cinched the deal and Kinloch was forced to retreat from the valley. By 1768, the Gurkha armies were able to declare the valley and many of the surrounding mountains to be their own new nation, Nepal.

Over the next 46 years, both the Gurkha and the British expanded their areas of influence and control, creating a number of friction points both between themselves and other nations.

These friction points triggered the Anglo-Nepalese War in 1814. The Gurkha possessed much better knowledge of the terrain and plenty of veteran fighters. The British had numerical and technological advantages with tens of thousands of Indian soldiers equipped by the East India Company.

Despite numerous British advantages, the campaign went badly for the first year. One of the generals was killed in a small skirmish the day before war was officially declared. Other generals were known for cowardice on the battlefield, failing to attack when ordered. One even walked out of his camp.

Check the WATM podcast to hear the author and other veterans discuss how the Gurkhas became feared warriors.

Subscribe: iTunes | Google Play | Stitcher | More Subscribe Options

Still, some of the British forces fought valiantly. Col. David Ochterlony led a siege at the primary Gurkha fortress in 1815 while another colonel and 2,000 men captured a secondary fort. The Gurkha eventually surrendered the main fort to Ochterlony and peace documents were drafted.

During the campaign, a number of soldiers deserted their units and offered their services to the British East India forces. Many of these men were not Gurkha but were from Himalayan peoples previously conquered by the Gurkha.

The Gurkha leaders failed to accept the peace treaty and the British launched a second campaign to settle the matter, this time with Himalayan soldiers marching into the valley beside the British and Indian troops. This second campaign in 1816 made it nearly to the capital of Kathmandu before the Gurkha finally accepted the peace treaty.

The British added a clause into the treaty that allowed them to officially recruit Himalayan men, including Gurkha warriors, from the mountains for service in India and throughout the empire.

They served with distinction in wars against the Sihk, but they were truly lauded for actions in the Indian Mutiny of 1857. Gurkha soldiers served as the final guard of Brtish military and government leaders as rebelling Indian troops attempted to kill them.

While the British were successful in re-establishing rule in India, atrocities committed by the East India Company and their soldiers during the conflict led to the British crown abolishing company control of India.

When the crown established direct control of India, the Gurkha regiments were incorporated into the British Army.

Trick shooter Ed McGivern used his legendary skills to train law enforcement officers

Gurkhas’ service to Britain became a tradition that continued throughout the 1900s as they fought in both World Wars, Borneo, the Falkland Islands, Iraq, and Afghanistan, among other conflicts.

Trick shooter Ed McGivern used his legendary skills to train law enforcement officers

Since the breakup of the British empire, Gurkha soldiers have been able to choose to fight in the British or Indian armies which still contain “Gurkha” and “Gorkha” units respectively. They are known for their khukuri knives which feature a curved, 18-inch blade.

In the British military, Gurkha men were limited to serving as enlisted soldiers in Gurkha units until recently. Now, they can try out for both slots in officer training and coveted positions in special operations.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How this soldier earned the Medal of Honor while stoned

It is absolutely forbidden to do drugs in a war zone. It’s illegal to do drugs as a member of the Armed Forces — it always has been. Still, by the 1970s, marijuana use by U.S. troops in Vietnam was widespread. Tim O’Brien even wrote about it in The Things They Carried. One U.S. troop even earned the nation’s highest honor while high on it.


Peter Lemon was stationed at Fire Support Base Illingworth in Tay Ninh province, South Vietnam on Apr. 1, 1970. It was that day he became one of the youngest-ever Medal of Honor recipients at just 20 years old.

He was born in Toronto, an immigrant who willfully joined the U.S. Army to fight against the spread of Communism. He was from a family of military veterans, after all. He became an American citizen at 11 and enlisted as soon as he could. His optimism about the war in Vietnam quickly fell away after a series of disappointing events: allied troops killing surrendering enemy combatants, the fragging of a hated lieutenant, and the loathing the locals had for American troops.

Trick shooter Ed McGivern used his legendary skills to train law enforcement officers
Lemon in Vietnam.
(Photo from Peter Lemon)

So, when things got slow, he and his buddies passed the time by smoking a little pot. After a recon patrol one night, they blew off some steam with a little partying. He had no idea the next day would be the defining event of his life.

“We were all partying the night before,” Lemon said. “We weren’t expecting any action because we were in a support unit. It was the only time I ever went into combat stoned. You get really alert when you are stoned because you have to be.”

His fire base was located near the Ho Chi Minh Trail, admittedly bait for North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops to attack as they entered South Vietnam. There were many fire bases like it, as it was a common tactic to draw out masses of enemy troops. Unfortunately for the tired revelers at Illingworth, the night wasn’t as quiet as they expected.

At 2:06 am, the enemy struck in full force. 400 hardened NVA troops swarmed the 220 Americans at the fire base. The Americans lacked the critical piece to their fire base tactics: air support. The NVA destroyed the base’s communications and rained mortars and artillery on the sleepy Americans.

Trick shooter Ed McGivern used his legendary skills to train law enforcement officers
A hastily-constructed fire support base like Fire Support Base Illingworth.

Lemon, despite finishing a joint before bed, jumped out of his rack and manned a heavy machine gun until it couldn’t fire anymore. He did the same with his rifle. Both weapons malfunctioned. When those no longer worked, he switched to tossing hand grenades at the oncoming enemy. The NVA returned with a grenade of their own, injuring Lemon. He managed to take down all but one enemy. As soon as the Communist soldier reached his position, Lemon dispatched him in hand-to-hand combat.

That’s when fate stepped in. The day before, Illingworth received a shipment of 40 tons of 8-inch artillery shells it couldn’t use. The ammo was dumped in the middle of the base, and as soon as Lemon killed his attacker, the shells all detonated. The blast knocked Lemon to the ground and tore apart anyone near it.

Still, he managed to pick himself up, take a buddy to the aid station, and grab more grenades. He was shot by incoming NVA bullets for his trouble, but he pressed on. Then, realizing the base was about to be overrun, he charged the incoming enemy waves, tossing grenades and knocking them down with his fists as he moved, completely routing them.

He then retook another machine gun and fired into the NVA hordes (while standing fully in the open) until he passed out.

Trick shooter Ed McGivern used his legendary skills to train law enforcement officers
Lemon manning his machine gun.
(Artist’s rendering)

If all of that wasn’t enough, he refused medical evacuation until his more seriously wounded friends took off first. Lemon, now a motivational speaker, dedicates his Medal of Honor to his three friends who died in the fighting, Casey Waller, Brent Street, and Nathan Mann.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A rare look beyond the gates at Ellsworth AFB

Ellsworth Air Force Base just northeast of Rapid City, South Dakota includes a section called the Munitions Storage Area. You’re probably picturing your average weapons depot, right? Turns out, the reality is more explosive than you might think. The Ellsworth Munitions Storage Area has been nicknamed the “Bomb Dump,” and for good reason. 

Even bombs need to have a home somewhere

The 28th Munitions Squadron is in charge of every single explosive at the base as well as making sure that B1 launching equipment is always ready to go. That means no accidents can occur here or the whole thing could blow up. 

The outside world rarely gets to see this part of Ellsworth, which makes sense. Severely limiting access is necessary because it is such a dangerous place. How dangerous, you ask? Well, there are 678,500 pounds of net explosive weight. That’s why the Munitions Storage Area is far, far away from any populated areas of Ellsworth. 

ellsworth
A 122nd Fighter Wing munitions storage facility sits under a fresh coating of snow, Jan. 10, 2016, at the Indiana Air National Guard Base, Fort Wayne, Ind. The aging facility was originally constructed in 1991 and has served as munitions storage for both F-16 and A-10C aircraft. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. William Hopper)

Clumsy folks beware

Strictly speaking, munitions are anything that contain explosives. Small things like bullets, bomb bodies, and grenades are stored at the Ellsworth Munitions Storage Areas. However, so are a five-hundred-pound bomb body, a two-thousand-pound bomb body, and loaded cruise missiles. In other words, if you’re clumsy, this place is probably not for you.

To enter the Munitions Storage Area at Ellsworth, you have to pass through additional security beyond the gate. The Bomb Dump is so exclusive that many of the base’s employees have never even been inside of the 647 acres of the Munitions Storage Area. 

Talk about a no-risk area

If you do find yourself in this volatile area, first you’ll have to give up your cell phone, as their signals could accidentally set off sensitive explosives. After all, the risks here are no joke, and they’re not taking any risks. 

Inside, you’ll find 86 facilities. They are all neatly in a line and aptly named Long Row. The structures are built beside one another, but they don’t touch. Long Row was specifically designed for extra security, just in case there is a problem. For instance, if a bomb exploded in one of the buildings, the building beside it won’t sympathetically detonate. 

One bomb, two bomb, red bomb, blue bomb

The Munitions Storage Area also includes free-standing carts out in the open loaded with non-explosive bombs used for training. They are color-coded blue to indicate that they are trainers. 

On the Munitions Storage Area grounds, you’ll also find a bunch of “igloos” covered in earth. They were built in the 1950s with the idea that they would last quite a while. They sure are living up to their goals. 

A minimum of 24 inches of soil plus a concrete topper covers each igloo for protection from what’s inside: many different types of explosives. At least one of the igloos serves as munitions inspection, where every single explosive device that enters Ellsworth must pass through.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This real soldier’s photo is still hanging at Checkpoint Charlie

It’s been almost 30 years since the infamous Checkpoint Charlie, the primary crossing post between East and West Berlin, was taken down with the fall of the Berlin Wall. The original guardhouse was little more than a temporary shack for much of its life and has since been replaced. As the area in Berlin began to grow and become a tourist attraction, more and more Cold War-era sights were added to the checkpoint.

One of those sights is a photo of a real American soldier, looking East.


These days, the area in Berlin that saw some of the most intense showdowns between East and West is full of tourists and Berlin residents who probably wish they had taken a different route to work. For three Euro, you can take a photo with one of the soldier-reenactors who dress up to man the post. If you’re hungry, there’s a McDonald’s across the street. It’s very much not the Checkpoint Charlie of old, but still worth a visit. For military veterans approaching the once-legendary area, there might be a different question – who is that guy in the photo?

The “soldiers” holding the U.S. flag and posing for tourists were never troops, that’s just fun for the onlookers. But staring at the photo of the American soldier posted at the guardhouse, it’s clear that he’s wearing a real U.S. Army uniform.

His name is Jeff Harper.

Trick shooter Ed McGivern used his legendary skills to train law enforcement officers

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the checkpoint’s rise as a prime tourist attraction in the German capital, the photos of Sgt. Harper and his Soviet counterpart on the other side have become as synonymous with the checkpoint as anything else in Cold War lore. But Harper wasn’t exactly the stereotypical Cold Warrior. He was a U.S. Army tuba player with the 298th Army Band in Berlin from 89-94 and never pulled guard duty at the checkpoint. He was just 22 when the photo was taken.

In an interview with the German publication Der Tronkland, Harper said he almost dropped his coffee when he first saw his face up on the sign. That was 1999.

“I am very proud to have become part of the story to this extent and still be part of what is happening in Berlin today,” Harper said. “I can hardly imagine in how many photo albums I have been immortalized.”

Harper has since retired from the Army, but he was still in Berlin for the fall of the wall.

Trick shooter Ed McGivern used his legendary skills to train law enforcement officers

Jeff Harper after his retirement in 2010.

The most important thing to know about the photos is that they’re not part of any authentic recreation of the site. They’re an art exhibit, called Ohne Titel – or “Light Boxes.” The photo was taken by Berlin photographer Frank Thiel in 1994, as an attempt to capture photos of the last Allied soldiers in the city. The young Russian troop isn’t wearing a Soviet military uniform, he’s wearing a 1994 uniform of the Russian Federation.

“… These portraits translate the omnipresent sector signs of the past – “You are leaving the American/British/French sector” – into picture form. They are likewise a reference to the historical moment when Soviet and American tanks faced off against each other right here,” said Thiel. “By using two portraits to symbolize almost 50 years of history, I am suggesting that these two faces are representative.”

These days, Harper is enjoying the retired life driving his motorcycle around the highways of the American West. He says the highlight of his career in Berlin was being able to play in the band for President Bill Clinton. As for the Russian soldier on the opposite side, no one really knows who he is or where he ended up.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This general is the reason why working girls are called Hookers

In American history, good men have answered the call of duty to march in defense of freedom. They sacrifice privacy, comfort, and intimacy for months and sometimes even years. Troops find ways to relieve stress by working out and by communicating with loved ones. However, during the Civil War, it wasn’t as easy as calling your love via long distance and paying the charges.

Union and Confederate armies were followed from camp to camp by ladies of the night. Yet, one General was so enthusiastic about keeping the morale of his men high that he became a legend. He supported this kind of capitalistic free market to the point that it cemented the nickname for these entrepreneurs with his namesake. You’ve partied, yes, but you’ll never party like General Hooker.


.

Trick shooter Ed McGivern used his legendary skills to train law enforcement officers

Battle of Chancellorsville

Public Domain

General Joseph “fighting Joe” Hooker

Joseph Hooker was a Union Army officer that served as major general during the Civil War. On June 17, 1863, he moved the entire Army of the Potomac north through Loudoun. His army was to prepare to battle Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Where his massive army went, so did a large number of Soiled Doves that became known “Hooker’s Brigade.”

The Battle of Chancellorsville lasted from April 30 to May 6, 1863. General Hooker was not a decisive leader and took his time issuing orders, because of this, General Lee was able to make a risky decision and divide his smaller army in two. General Lee was able to outmaneuver and defeat a larger force due to this dichotomy of personalities. This loss followed General Hooker like a recurring VD.

Trick shooter Ed McGivern used his legendary skills to train law enforcement officers

(Public Domain)

The legend of General Hooker’s “hookers” became a slang term for a prostitute, and is derived from his last name but also due to the lack of military discipline at his headquarters near Washington, D.C. He would throw parties like the world was going to end and kept the parties going with him wherever he went.

Early in 1863, a new commander of the Army of the Potomac encouraged prostitutes to visit the troops as a morale measure, and reportedly used their services liberally himself. His name has been associated with the profession, he was General Joseph Hooker. – AN ANALYSIS OF THE MEDICAL PROBLEMS OF THE CIVIL WAR, ALFRED JAY BOLLET
Futurama: Blackjack and hookers

www.youtube.com

Etymology

Hooker (n.) “one who or that which hooks” in any sense, agent noun from hook (v.). Meaning “prostitute” (by 1845) often is traced to the disreputable morals of the Army of the Potomac (American Civil War) under the tenure of Gen. “Fighting Joe” Hooker (early 1863), and the word might have been popularized by this association at that time. – etymonline.com

Now, there will be some people who will say that the word ‘hooker’ was in the Oxford English Dictionary since 1567, which they are correct; It meant to pickpocket, swipe, or steal. However, the invention of the word is not what is in question here, it is the fact that this General partied so hard that he changed what the word meant.

Futurama: Blackjack and hookers

youtu.be

Legacy

In the end, General Hooker’s embarrassing loss to General Lee is overshadowed by the legacy of his parties and dedication to troop welfare, although, symbolically because they did get a lot of STDs. Actual troop welfare was terrible.

“People will think I am a highwayman or a bandit.” – “Hooker’s Comments on Chancellorsville,” Battles and Leaders, General Hooker
Do Not Sell My Personal Information