MIGHTY HISTORY

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

Soon after America set off its largest-ever nuclear blast on Bikini Atoll in the Pacific, one of the scientists behind the weapon’s design aimed for something even bigger: a 10,000-megaton blast that would’ve been 670,000 times as powerful as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, so large it would’ve destroyed a continent and poisoned the earth.


The story of the unnamed weapon centers around one man. Edward Teller was born in Hungary and was one of the European-Jewish physicists who escaped to the U.S. as Nazi Germany began its rise. He was one of the authors of the letter signed by Albert Einstein and sent to President Franklin D. Roosevelt that spurred America’s nuclear program in World War II.

But even while working on the atomic bomb during World War II, Teller and a few others were urging for a much larger “super bomb” than the first atomic weapons. They believed that, while the atomic bombs were aiming for about 10-15 kilotons of power, weapons that would boom at 10-15 megatons were possible.

While Teller’s first proposal for the super bomb would later be proven impossible, a 1951 design he created with Polish mathematician Stanislaw Ulam was the basis of thermonuclear weapons. The Teller-Ulam design was first detonated at Enewetak Atoll in 1952, creating a 10.4-megaton blast that dug out a 6,240-foot-wide crater at the test site. Some of the military men at the test responded with dread, certain that such a weapon could never be used.

Teller, on the other hand, wanted to think bigger.

The Castle Bravo test was the largest nuclear blast ever created by the U.S.

(U.S. Federal Government)

He proposed linking together multiple thermonuclear devices to create larger blasts. Slight permutations on this idea led to the U.S. CASTLE Bravo test with a 15-megaton yield—the largest America ever set off, and the Tsar Bomba display by Russia—the largest nuclear blast ever created by man at 50-megatons.

But at the Castle test series in 1954, while Teller and Ulam’s overall concept of thermonuclear devices was being proven over and over, the only individual bomb actually designed by Teller himself was a dud. It went off at only 110-kilotons, a tiny fraction of power compared to every other weapon tested in the series.

And Teller had a lot riding on success. The U.S. had split its nuclear efforts into two labs, adding Livermore National Laboratory to Los Alamos where the original atomic bombs had been created. Teller was one of the founders of Livermore, and his friends were helping run it. There were rumors that the government might stop funding Livermore efforts, effectively killing it.

So Teller went to the next meeting with the General Advisory Committee, where the nuclear scientists proposed new lines of effort and weapon designs, with two proposed ways forward for Livermore. He wanted the laboratory to look into tactical nuclear weapon designs on one hand, and to create a 10,000-megaton nuclear weapon on the other hand.

That would be a 10-gigaton blast. Alex Wellerstein, the nuclear history professor behind the NUKEMAP application, calculated that kind of destruction.

A 10,000 megaton weapon, by my estimation, would be powerful enough to set all of New England on fire. Or most of California. Or all of the UK and Ireland. Or all of France. Or all of Germany. Or both North and South Korea. And so on.

But that only accounts for the immediate overpressure wave and fireball. The lethal nuclear fallout would have immediately lethal levels of radiation across multiple countries, and likely would have poisoned the earth. We would show you what this looks like on NUKEMAP, but Wellerstein programmed it to “only” work with blasts up to 100 megatons, the largest bomb ever constructed. Teller’s weapon would have been 100 times as powerful.

The NUKEMAP application shows the damage from a 100-megaton blast on Moscow. The orange and yellow ovals going northeast are the fallout from the blast. While this may look safe for America, Teller’s proposed design would’ve been 100 times larger.

(NUKEMAP screenshot. Application by Alex Wellerstein)

When Teller went to the GAC with this proposal, they quickly threw cold water on it. What would be the point of such a weapon? It would be impossible to use the weapon without killing millions of civilians. Even if the bomb were dropped in the heart of the Soviet Union, it would poison vast swaths of Western Europe and potentially the U.S.

The GAC did endorse Livermore’s work on tactical nuclear weapons, and Teller eventually moved on to other passions. But the weapon is theoretically possible. But hopefully, no one can assemble a team sufficiently smart enough to design and manufacture the weapon that’s also stupid enough to build it.

After all, we already have nuclear arsenals large enough to destroy the world a few times over. Do we really need a single bomb that can do it?

(H/T to The Pentagon’s Brain, a book by Annie Jacobson where the author first learned about Teller’s proposal.)

Articles

This Marine received the Medal of Honor for his skills with a flamethrower

Born out of World War I, the flamethrower could only shoot flames for a matter of seconds, but it was essential for rooting out the enemy from entrenched positions. The flamethrower was a simple innovation – one canister for fuel, one for propellant. Launch fire. Charlie Mike.


The video below outlines exactly how the weapon worked and why it became a fundamental weapon for a World War II unit to have in the arsenal.

This video also introduces Hershel “Woody” Williams, a WWII-era Marine and flamethrower operator who fought on Iwo Jima. (He’s shown wearing the Medal of Honor he received for his actions there.)

What the video doesn’t tell you is that Williams is the last living Medal of Honor recipient from Iwo Jima. He singlehandedly took out seven Japanese pillboxes with his flamethrower that day.

“I remember crawling on my belly,” Williams told Weaponology. “I remember ’em coming, charging around that pillbox toward me. There were five or six of them. And I just opened up the flame and caught them. It was like they went from real fast running to real slow motion. But by cutting out those seven pillboxes, it opened up a hole and we got through.”

The humble Marine forgot to mention the seven fortifications he took out were part of a network of hardened, entrenched positions, minefields, and volcanic rock protected by withering machine gun crossfire that held the entire American invasion back.

For four hours, Woody Williams singlehandedly crawled to the pillboxes with only four Marine riflemen for cover. Since his flamethrower only fired for a matter of seconds, he had to repeatedly return to his lines for a new tank of fuel.

“The Japanese were really scared to death of flamethrowers,” Williams recalled.

With good reason.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the British plan to kill Erwin Rommel before D-Day

Very few enemy generals have captured the imagination of their foes. And of those, none seem to be as interesting as Nazi German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel. He was Hitler’s favorite and Patton’s “Magnificent Bastard” at the same time. Perhaps it’s because he never joined the Nazi Party that history gives the bold commander a reprieve or maybe it’s because he was implicated in a late war plot to assassinate Hitler.

No matter what the basis our fascination for the man was, the fact remained that he was a German Field Marshall and the best hope for keeping the Allied invasion of Fortress Europe at bay. He had to go.


To this end, the British hatched Operation Gaff, the plot to kill or capture Rommel behind enemy lines while he was in occupied France. Rommel was posted in France following the Allied victory in North Africa. Though his vaunted Afrika Corps had to evacuate those battlefields, Rommel still returned to Germany with a hero’s welcome. He would soon be posted in France, where he seriously upgraded the coastal defenses that would give the Allies so much trouble on June 6, 1944.

British Intelligence learned that Rommel’s field headquarters was located in La Roche-Guyon, France, the Special Air Service launched its plan. Six commandos parachuted into Occupied France near Orleans on July 25, 1944. They were to track down Rommel at his headquarters building, which they learned was lightly defended. There was just one problem.

Rommel was gone.

The Field Marshall was severely wounded in a car accident just a few days before the launch of Gaff. His staff car was overturned during strafing runs from two British Typhoon fighter planes. Just like a similar plan to kill Rommel in North Africa in 1941, the plot was foiled because Rommel was not in his house as the plan called for. But unlike in the 1941 plan, the commandos sent to kill Rommel in 1944, the commandos of Gaff didn’t just end their mission, they began the long walk back to the Allied lines. Along the way, the wreaked total havoc.

Their first stop was a train station that was ferrying troops to fight the Americans in France. They demolished the tracks at the station with way more explosives than necessary. Once the sabotage was done and German troops were dealing with the aftermath, the commandos engaged the HQ building, clearing it of its 12 Nazi guards. They then moved on from that station, destroying tracks all along the way until they were able to link up with the American forces.

Rommel didn’t live long, however.

The German general, of course, would be implicated by friends in the Valkyrie plot to kill Hitler at a military briefing at his Wolf’s Lair headquarters five full days before the SAS commandos ever landed in Europe. The wildly popular Rommel couldn’t just be branded as a traitor, so Hitler gave him the choice to commit suicide or stand before the People’s Court. The Court would have dragged his family through the mud, and the outcome would be the same, so Rommel chose to take cyanide on Oct. 14, 1944.

If Rommel had stayed in France instead, he would likely have been captured by the Americans and survived the war.

MIGHTY TRENDING

5 spots to keep in mind when you’re making Veterans Day plans

Veterans Day isn’t just a day to pause and reflect on the great sacrifices that troops have made in the name of this great country. It’s also a day of celebration and a moment for troops and veterans to take in the gratitude of the American people.

So, businesses across the country offer some sort of deal to anyone with a military ID, uniform, or veteran apparel, like a campaign cap. Sure, a free order of chicken wings might not be a fair trade for all that veterans have done for us, but it’s greatly appreciated nonetheless.

To help you properly celebrate Tactical Thanksgiving, we’ve put together a little guide here to make sure you don’t miss a spot on your tour of appreciation. Put the following places on your list and get ready for deals — all for the low, low price of just the gas in your car.


This list highlights types of businesses you should check out. For a list of specific spots that have officially announced Veterans Day discounts or freebies ahead of time, look here. Keep in mind, this list isn’t comprehensive and discounts may be subject to availability, but it’s definitely worth a read.

Make sure to adjust your schedule to account for a free breakfast, lunch, dinner, second breakfast, supper, late-afternoon snack…

Restaurants

Restaurants all over the country offer Veterans Day discounts — and that’s amazing. Most places you’ll go to will have little ways of making their meals more patriotic, too, like Red, White, and Blue Pancakes at IHOP or a burger adorned with a little American flag toothpick.

While the more well-known, chain restaurants are often able to take the financial hit of offering free meals, they might be extremely crowded — like, 2-hour-wait-times crowded. Meanwhile, the smaller, locally-owned spots may offer something smaller, like a free side, but you’ll likely get better service and a more personal “thank you.”

If you’re not the type to enjoy small talk during a haircut, at least it’s better than giving yourself a free haircut.

Barber shops

Getting a really good haircut isn’t cheap. And the places that offer a cheap chop typically aren’t all that good. For one day of the year, at least for veterans, this decision is made much easier, as even the good places offer their services for extremely low prices — some even offer free cuts.

What’s nice about getting a free haircut — in contrast to most other things on this list — is that when you let your barber know that you’re a veteran, it actually initiates a conversation. It’s much more personal than a quick thanks and a line item on the receipt.

If you’re in the Chicago area, I highly encourage you to take a visit to the National Veterans Art Museum. Every exhibit in there is made by our brothers- and sister-in-arms.

(National Veterans Art Museum)

Museums

Plenty of museums are free for veterans year round. Those that aren’t, however, typically offer free admission on Veterans Day.

If you look through the pamphlet of most any history museum, you’ll likely find that warfare is a central theme. And when you look deeper into most of the paintings in art museums, you’ll see that many of the beautiful pieces, adored by critics and enthusiasts alike, were created by veterans.

What better way to honor a fellow veteran’s work than by spending the day admiring some of it?

They always put on an amazing show for the troops and veterans at Disneyland on Veterans Day.

(Screengrab via 1st Marine Division Band)

Amusement parks and casinos

Many amusement parks close their gates around Labor Day — but some use Veterans Day as their final celebration of the year. This is perfect for veterans with kids or grandkids as it’s a way for the kiddos to enjoy the benefits of their service.

Or, if you’re not excited by cartoon mascots dancing around, know that most casinos on Veterans Day offer free cash credits for veterans. If you play your cards right (literally), you can take that free money walk away. Or just play one or two games and walk out with the remainder. Whatever floats your boat.

Nothing says “thank you for your service” better than a free beer or five.

(National Archives)

Your favorite bar

When the day comes to a close, there’s no better way to end a day of celebration than with a nice, hard drink. Head down to your local bar and you can probably get a free drink — either from the bartender or other patriotic patrons.

This one isn’t ever written down as an official thing, but it’s mostly agreed upon that bars will give veterans a free drink or two on Veterans Day.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why squadrons are the ‘beating heart’ of the Air Force

In the Air Force, squadrons are the basic level of operations, its “beating heart” as Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David Goldfein calls them.

To better understand how significant the squadron is to the Air Force, it’s also important to know what a squadron is.

Within the Air Force, the squadron is the lowest level of command with a headquarters element. Squadrons are typically commanded by a lieutenant colonel, though smaller squadrons may be commanded by majors, captains and sometimes even lieutenants. Squadrons can also vary in size and are usually identified numerically and by function. An example would be the 60th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron or the 355th Communications Squadron.


Two or more squadrons form a group. In the Air Force, groups are usually based upon the assignment of squadrons with similar functions. For example, the supply squadron, transportation, and aircraft maintenance squadron would be assigned to the Logistics Group, the flying squadrons would be assigned to the Operations Group and the Dental Squadron and the Medical Squadron would be assigned to the Medical Group. Groups, in turn, are then assigned to a wing with the same number. For instance, the 49th Logistics Group is assigned to the 49th Fighter Wing at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.

However, the squadron actually predates the Air Force. In March 1913, the first squadron was created when the Army ordered the creation of the Army Air Services’ 1st Provisional Aero Squadron – known today as the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, the U.S. military’s oldest flying unit.

The creation of higher echelons came later as the role of air power grew during World War I. Groups and wings were formed in order to remedy the difficulty of coordinating aerial activities between dispersed aero squadrons. Though WWI saw the first great military mobilization, it also saw the first huge drawdown. What was more than 660 aero units diminished to a little over 70 squadrons by 1919, with an air component that was 19,000 soldiers strong reduced to around 5 percent of what it used to be. No one would have predicted that after two decades, the air component found itself expanding once again.

108th Bombardment Squadron during the Korean War activation formation in 1951.

(US Air Force photo)

With the advent of World War II, then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt acknowledged the growing importance of airpower. He believed, according to his adviser, Harry Hopkins, “that airpower would win the war.” What was then renamed to the Army Air Corps was well funded and grew rapidly, seeing more planes and squadrons than it ever will in its history – from a workforce comprised of 26,500 soldiers in 1939 to a staggering 2,253,000-strong by 1945.

The aerial component saw a considerable drawdown after the war ended, and, despite becoming its own department through the National Security Act of 1947, the number of airmen and squadrons continued to fluctuate and shrink over the years.

In the current Air Force, led by Wilson, Goldfein, and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright, the push for revitalizing squadrons, empowering airmen and supporting innovation is stronger than ever, but unbeknownst to many, these concepts have been implemented by many successful military leaders of the past. A prime example is one of the U.S. Air Force’s most iconic figures: a man known for his prowess in the aerial battlefield and his famously distinctive lip foliage, Big. Gen. Robin Olds.

“Wolfpack” aviators of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing carry their Commanding Officer, Colonel Robin Olds, following his return from his last combat mission over North Vietnam, on 23 September 1967. This mission was his hundredth “official” combat mission, but his actual combat mission total for his tour was 152. Olds led the 8th TFW Wolfpack from September 1966 through September 1967, as it amassed 24 MiG victories, the greatest aerial combat record of an F-4 Wing in the Vietnam war.

(US Air Force)

Along with inspiring the Air Force tradition, Mustache March, Olds was known as a triple ace for shooting down 17 enemy aircraft during his career. Along with the accolades he received as a skilled fighter pilot, Olds was known for his innovative leadership. In Vietnam, he led the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing to 24 Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 jet aircraft kills – an unsurpassed total for that conflict.

One of the most significant moments in his career was on Jan. 2, 1967, during Operation Bolo, where he, as a colonel, entrusted the planning of an experimental and high-stakes mission to a quartet of veteran junior officers and pilots in his unit. Operation Bolo was conceived in response to the North Vietnamese use of MiG-21s to successfully shoot down F-105 Thunderchief aircraft. Olds noticed that F-4 Phantoms and F-105 Thunderchiefs routes became predictable. Enemy intelligence analysts would listen in on radio transmissions and were able to recognize F-105 and F-4 call signs and flight patterns and used the information to target the more vulnerable F-105s. Olds charged his men to come up with a plan to trick the North Vietnamese into thinking the F-4s were the F-105s. The F-4s were then fitted with the jamming pods usually carried by F-105s so that their electronic signature would be the same and also used the same call signs and flew the same routes and pod formations as the F-105s. Needless to say, the operation was a success and lead to the most MiGs shot down during a single mission.

Francis S. Gabreski (left) congratulates another World War II and Korean War ace, Maj. William T. Whisner (center). On the right is Lt. Col. George Jones, a MiG ace with 6.5 kills.

(US Air Force)

In a commentary commemorating Olds in March of 2018 written by Lt. Col. Bobby Schmitt, 16th Space Control Squadron commander, he said that Operation Bolo “showed innovation could work when the leader trusted and empowered his people to think of and implement new and better ways to do business.”

He also referred to Olds as “an innovative leader” at a time when the Air Force was in dire need of innovation to face difficult missions where a lot of people’s lives were at stake.

Just like Olds, Goldfein and Wilson ask airmen to help come up with ideas to reinvigorate squadrons for the force to be ready for the 21st-century fight.

They have gone as far as reviewing all Air Force instructions and empowering commanders to maneuver and make decisions as well as encourage wing commanders to let squadron commanders make important decisions.

Capt. Lacey Koelling, the 34th Aircraft Maintenance Unit officer in charge, and 34th Bomb Squadron members Capt. Lillian Pryor, a B-1 pilot; Capt. Danielle Zidack, a weapon systems officer; Capt. Lauren Olme, a B-1 pilot; and 1st Lt. Kimberly Auton, a weapon systems officer, conduct a preflight briefing prior to an all-female flight out of Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., March 21, 2018. The flight was in honor of WomenÕs History Month and consisted of routine training in the local area.

(Air Force photo by Sgt. Jette Carr)

During an Air Force update in September 2017, where Goldfein talked about creating healthy squadrons who excel in multi-domain warfare and ready to lead the joint force, he concluded by saying, “It’s the secretary and my job to release the brilliance found throughout the airmen in our Air Force,” a sentiment that echoes the voices of great Air Force leaders of the past, the present and the future.

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump reportedly considering Vietnam War hero for SecDef

President Donald Trump is considering picking Jim Webb, a former Democratic senator from Virginia who was secretary of the Navy during the Reagan administration, for defense secretary, several sources told The New York Times.

Officials speaking anonymously to the Times said that representatives for Vice President Mike Pence and acting White House chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney had contacted Webb and that his name had been circulating in the White House.


The news comes just days after Patrick Shanahan took over acting defense secretary in the wake of Jim Mattis’ resignation. Picking Webb would forgo a number of hawkish Republican officials who have been floated as potential replacements for Mattis, including Sens. Tom Cotton and Lindsey Graham.

Patrick Shanahan

Webb, 72, graduated from the Naval Academy in 1968. He served in Vietnam in a Marine rifle platoon and as a company commander.

He was wounded twice and received the Navy Cross, which ranks just below the Medal of Honor, for a 1969 engagement in which he sustained wounds while shielding a fellow Marine from a grenade during an assault on enemy bunkers.

Webb appeared to reference that engagement during a 2015 presidential debate, when he and other candidates were asked to name the enemy they were proudest to have made. “I’d have to say the enemy soldier that threw their grenade that wounded me,” Webb replied. “But he’s not around right now to talk to.”

After his military service, Webb attended Georgetown Law School, graduating in 1975, and from 1977 to 1981 was a House Committee on Veterans Affairs staff member.

He was widely criticized for a 1979 article titled “Women Can’t Fight,” in which he said recent gains in sexual equality had been “good,” but “no benefit to anyone can come from women serving in combat.”

Webb later changed his views on subject and apologized for the article but has faced backlash for it.

He was appointed assistant secretary of defense by President Ronald Reagan in 1984 and in 1987 was made secretary of the Navy. In that position he emphasized fleet modernization and pushed to open more jobs in the service to women. He resigned in 1988.

Webb later switched parties, and in 2006 he won a Senate seat as a Democrat from Virginia.

Webb expressed skepticism about US military campaigns abroad, including a 1990 opinion piece in which he criticized the US military build up in Saudi Arabia ahead of the first Gulf War.

In a 2004 opinion article, Webb analyzed the candidacies of John Kerry and George W. Bush, criticizing both — Kerry for his Vietnam War protests and Bush for committing “arguably … the greatest strategic blunder in modern memory” with the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Former Virginia Democratic Sen. Jim Webb.

(Webb2016.com / screengrab)

Fifteen years later, Webb had a testy exchange with the younger Bush at a reception for freshmen members of Congress. Webb declined to have a picture taken with Bush, who later approached Webb and asked about the latter’s son, who was a Marine serving in Iraq at the time. Webb reportedly said he was tempted to “slug” the president.

Webb was mentioned as a potential vice-presidential candidate alongside Barack Obama in 2008, but he said “under no circumstances” would he take the job.

Webb did join the 2016 race for the Democratic nomination for president, but he ended his candidacy in October 2015. A few months later, Webb said he would not vote for 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and added that he had not ruled out voting for Trump.

“This is nothing personal about Hillary Clinton, but the reason I think Donald Trump is getting so much support right now is not because of the racist, you know, et cetera, et cetera, it’s because people are seeing him,” Webb said at the time. “A certain group of people are seeing him as the only one who has the courage to step forward and say we’ve got to clean out the stables of the American governmental system right now.”

Other positions Webb has taken may burnish his appeal to Trump. In summer 2015, he said he was “skeptical” of the Iran nuclear deal signed by President Barack Obama, from which Trump has withdrawn.

During his presidential run, a staff member also said Webb was “his own national security adviser” — which may resonate with Trump, who has touted himself as more knowledgeable than his advisers.

On Dec. 31, 2018, days before The Times reported Webb was under consideration, a number of outlets suggested him to replace Mattis, including the Washington Examiner, a conservative-leaning news outlet, which published an opinion article titled “Trump’s base would love to have Jim Webb as defense secretary.”

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

Articles

8 famous people who served on D-Day

On June 6, 1944, the Allies embarked on the crucial invasion of Normandy on the northern coast of France. Allied forces suffered major casualties, but the ensuing campaign ultimately dislodged German forces from France.


Did you know these eight famous individuals participated in the D-Day invasion?

James Doohan

James Doohan | Golden Pacific Media, YouTube

Actor James Doohan is beloved among Trekkies for his portrayal of chief engineer Montgomery “Scotty” Scott in “Star Trek.”

Years before he donned the Starfleet uniform, Doohan joined the Royal Canadian Artillery during WWII. During the Normandy invasion, he stormed Juno Beach and took out two snipers before he was struck by six bullets from a machine gun, according to website Today I Found Out. He lost part of a finger, but the silver cigarette case in his pocket stopped a bullet from piercing his heart.

David Niven

David Niven | Oscars, Youtube

Academy Award-winning British thespian David Niven became a lieutenant-colonel of the British Commandos during the Second World War. In the D-Day invasion, he commanded the Phantom Signals Unit, according to the New York Post. This unit was responsible for keeping rear commanders informed on enemy positions.

After the war, he declined to speak much about his military experience.

Yogi Berra

Yogi Berra | Getty Photos / Al Bello

Famed baseball catcher Yogi Berra helped to storm Normandy by manning a Naval support craft. The vessel fired rockets at enemy positions on Omaha Beach.

The New York Post reports that Seaman Second Class Berra manned a machine gun during the battle.

Medgar Evers

Medgar Evers | YouTube

In 1963, activist Medgar Evers was assassinated due to his efforts to promote civil rights for African Americans. Decades earlier, Evers served in the 325th Port Company during WWII, eventually rising to the rank of sergeant. This segregated unit of black soldiers delivered supplies during the Normandy invasion, according to the NAACP.

J.D. Salinger

J.D. Salinger | Wikimedia Commons

“The Catcher in the Rye” author J.D. Salinger belonged to a unit that invaded Utah Beach on D-Day. According to Vanity Fair, Salinger carried several chapters of his magnum opus with him when he stormed the shores of France.

John Ford

John Ford | Allan Warren | Wikimedia Commons

Director John Ford, famous for Westerns like “Stagecoach” and “The Searchers,” also went ashore with the D-Day invasion.

As a commander in the US Naval Reserve, Ford led a team of US Coast Guard cameramen in filming a documentary on D-Day for the Navy.

His film on the Normandy invasion ultimately saw a very limited release to the public, due to the amount of Allied casualties. Much of the D-Day footage has since disappeared, according to the Los Angeles Times. 

Henry Fonda

Henry Fonda | National Museum of the United States Navy | Flickr

According to “WWII: The Book of Lists” by Chris Martin, American actor Henry Fonda served as a quartermaster on the destroyer USS Satterlee, which provided support to the Allies during the Normandy invasion. Years later, he played a part in the war epic “The Longest Day,” which focused on the D-Day landings.

Alec Guinness

Alec Guinness | Lucasfilm

“Star Wars” and “Bridge Over the River Kwai” star Alec Guinness served in Great Britain’s Royal Navy during WWII, according to the History Answers blog. StarWars.com reports that the Obi Wan actor served as an officer on a landing craft and transported British soldiers to the shores of Normandy on D-Day.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why the enemy should have brought a battalion to kill this soldier

Specialist Michael Fitzmaurice was stationed in the area near Khe Sanh on March 23, 1971. The base had just been re-activated to support Operation Lam Son 719, the South Vietnamese invasion of Laos. That night in March, the American base was attacked by North Vietnamese regular army sappers, who expected to overrun the Americans.

They just didn’t count on a 21-year-old from the Dakotas being there. They should have – and they should have brought more sappers.


American tanks cover the retreat of South Vietnamese forces from Laos.

Operation Lam Son 719 was an effort by the South Vietnamese to invade Laos to be able to cut off the Ho Chi Minh Trail, North Vietnam’s “secret” supply line into the South. It did not go well for the ARVN forces or the Americans who were there to evacuate wounded and cover their retreat. By March 25, 1971, the ARVN were in full retreat. Two days before the end of Lam Son, however, the North Vietnamese tried to hit the Army’s base at Khe Sanh with a force of sappers. Luckily the Army was able to repel the surprise attack and turn the NVA around.

Among those Army troops stationed at Khe Sanh that day was Michael J. Fitzmaurice, a soldier from the Dakotas who was about to take it to the Communists like a badass American from the Great North.

This is a shoot of Fitzmaurice receiving the Medal of Honor from President Nixon, so you can probably imagine what’s about to happen.

Fitzmaurice was manning a bunker that day with three other members of his unit, unaware the base had been infiltrated by NVA sappers. What he did notice was three explosive charges tossed in their bunker from out of nowhere. He quickly tossed two of them out of the bunker and then threw his body, flak vest first, over the last explosive. The blast severely wounded Fitzmaurice and partially blinded him, but his fellow soldiers were still alive. But Fitzmaurice didn’t stop there he also didn’t stay there.

He left the bunker and began taking down enemy troops with his rifle, one after another, until another grenade hit him and disabled that rifle. Still undeterred, he stopped an enemy soldier with his bare hands, killed him, took his weapon, and began fighting on. With that weapon in hand, he went back to the bunker and started taking down the attackers one by one, refusing to be evacuated.

For saving his buddies and taking down the enemy in the most conspicuous manner possible, he was rightfully awarded the Medal of Honor.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The massive SAS legend who made it through selection. Twice.

Donald Large had one of the aptest last names in the history of last names. He was a beast, 6-ft. 6 inches tall and 240 pounds by the time he went through SAS selection the first time (more on that in a moment). But his road to military service started when he was just an over-sized tyke.


Badass: The Legend of Lofty Large

www.youtube.com

Born in 1930, he was just a boy when British troops preparing for service in France and Germany began training near his home. He watched the men readying to take the fight to Hitler and decided he would be a military man as well, a goal made even easier by his frame, and the frequent hunting trips his dad took him on.

He started as an Army Cadet, a sort of military-affiliated Boy Scouts in Britain, and then managed to get into the real British army at just 15 years old. As he trained in the military and then served Britain, he grew to his adult height and received the nickname “Lofty,” but he still craved combat.

Despite thinking Korea was a useless war, Large volunteered to serve in it and was ordered to the Gloucestershire Regiment. He fought at the Battle of Imjin where a terrain feature was named Gloster Hill after his unit’s defense.

But Large was wounded from a gunshot and shrapnel in the fighting and was taken prisoner, surviving a 10-day forced march to a prisoner of war camp. He survived another gunshot wound, disease, 80 pounds of weight loss, and two years of muscle atrophy and near starvation before he was swapped in a wounded prisoner exchange.

The army tried to give him a medical discharge, but he came back swinging over four years and put on even more muscle than he had lost. Once doctors cleared him, he put in for Special Air Service Selection, one of the most grueling military selection processes in the world. (When the U.S. formed Delta Force in 1977, the American officer in command formed the selection process from the SAS model.)

Despite all the scar tissues, Large reportedly did quite well in selection, only struggling with jumping out of the plane due to his being oversized for the plane and parachute. He weighed enough that he fell faster than other paratroopers, and this combined with a fear of heights made falling the hardest part for him.

But he was a stalwart man and made the jump anyway. He had proven himself capable and was on his way to the SAS.

Except.

Except that he rode a motorcycle soon after and crashed, crushing his ankle. The SAS told him that he would need to go back through selection to prove he was still capable of meeting the unit’s high standards. While most people would’ve probably waited a few months if they ever went back, Large simply re-bandaged his ankle, found out what his new boot size was with the swelling and bandages, and went back.

Yeah, he went back through selection while his ankle was still injured. He had only taken four weeks from crash to his second selection process.

He would serve with the SAS around the world and retired in 1973. He died in 2006.

(A hat tip to Today I Found Out whose video, embedded at top, brought Large to our attention. Their article on Large is good as well. People who want to know more about him and his exploits can see an interview series with Large on YouTube. The SAS Commando wrote his own biography before he died, Soldier Against the Odds, but it’s sadly out of print.)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Intimidation: Army crew names their howitzer ‘Coronavirus’

The U.S. military is famous for several things. The food in the DFACs, early morning PT and extreme grooming standards, just to name a few. One of the most underrated things about the military though is the sense of humor amongst troops in the field.


One gun crew from the 1st Armored Division certainly lived up to that legacy of laughs this week after a picture was posted on the division’s website showing that soldiers had named their M109A6 Paladin self-propelled howitzer “Coronavirus.”

ALWAYS VIGILANT! We’re taking preventative measures in the field as we continue to train and protect the safety of our Soldiers and Leaders. As a force we must stay alert as we train to be lethal in combat. #IronSoldiers #BulldogBrigade #COVIDー19 #IIICorpsCOVID19pic.twitter.com/V79CftGvf1

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Yes, the virus currently circling its way around the globe and through the media has made its way into the psyche of a few soldiers.

But these 13Bs are hardly the first to christen their weapons with names. Earlier this year, an M1 Abrams belonging to the 3rd Infantry Division, was spotted sporting the name “Baby Yoda.” Other colorful names include “Change of Regime,” “Bull Dog II”, and “New Testament.”

The traditional isn’t limited to U.S. soldiers either.

In fact, soldiers have been naming their weapons since at least medieval times, when knights gave names to their trebuchets. And today, visitors to historic battlefields like Gettysburg can still make out the names etched on the back of a few artillery pieces.

As for the coronavirus, of COVID 19 as it is officially called, at press time, there are currently 11,500 cases in the U.S., according to a report from the Washington Post.

The U.S. military is on the frontlines of the country’s pandemic response. In addition to the thousands of National Guardsmen currently activated, President Donald Trump recently tasked the U.S. Navy to deploy both of its hospital ships to treat COVID 19 patients, reports Reuters.

The Navy operates two hospital ships, the U.S.N.S. Comfort and the U.S.N.S. Mercy. Although the ships belong to the Navy, the deck crew is usually manned by civilian members of Military Sealift Command, while the health care staff is comprised of military personnel.

The two ships, which were converted to floating hospitals from oil tankers in the 1970s, are the military’s only such vessels, with one covering the Atlantic and the other the Pacific.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY HISTORY

World War II’s most decorated woman was a housewife-turned-spy

French-born Odette Sansom was a sickly child. She wrestled with a slew of childhood illnesses, including a bout with polio that left her blind for three years. The adversity she overcame as a youth was good preparation for what she would do as an adult: joining the British “Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare.”


Sansom’s accomplishments in World War II earned her the Order of the British Empire, a knighthood of the French Légion d’Honneur, and she was the first woman to be awarded the George Cross for “acts of the greatest heroism.” Her life foreshadowed the fortitude she would require as she was tortured by the Gestapo, to whom she would never give any information.

Her exploits are detailed in an exciting new book by Larry Loftis, Code Name: Lise: The True Story of the Woman Who Became WWII’s Most Highly Decorated Spy. Loftis’ detail of Sansom’s life reads like a spy thriller but with the research of a nonfiction narrative, covering one of the best stories of clandestine heroism during the Second World War.

Sansom after the war.

(Imperial War Museum)

Sansom’s wartime story begins in 1941, as the British Admiralty was looking for native-born recruits they could send to Nazi-occupied France. Odette Sansom was a French-born woman who initially responded to the office’s request for photos of the French coastline — except she accidentally sent her photos to the War Office instead of the Admiralty. Soon, the Special Operations Executive, the department responsible for infiltrating Hitler’s Fortress Europe, would recruit her for much, much more.

After less than a year of training, Sansom found herself on a boat headed to France, landing near Cassis in 1942. She was picked up by a spy ring run out of Cannes, where she would work as a radio operator for her group leader, Peter Churchill, relaying secret information back to London. This was always a very dangerous task as the Gestapo were always looking for outgoing radio signals.

Sansom and Churchill.

(Imperial War Museum)

For more than a year, Lise, Sansom’s code name, kept one step ahead of the Gestapo. Along with her radio work, she acted as a courier for all of Southern France, sending messages between resistance cells and SOE operatives. Her skill and professionalism kept her alive, but accidents happen to even the best of operatives, and for Lise, it would be her undoing.

An agent riding a train fell asleep while carrying a list of 200 SOE agents operating in France in 1943. Eventually, that list fell into the hands of Nazi counterintelligence agents. A German double agent calling himself “Colonel Henri” infiltrated the group and betrayed them all. Colonel Henri was really Hugo Bleicher, the notorious Nazi spy hunter.

Sansom and Churchill were arrested and sent to Frenses Prison near Paris. The two were tortured and sentenced to death – a sentence that would never be carried out. While Churchill had no relations with Prime Minister Winston Churchill, his famous name saved both their lives.

Ravensbu

Sansom told the Nazis that Churchill was related to the Prime Minister and that she was the younger Churchill’s wife – and that she was also his boss, and not the other way around. This served the dual purpose of keeping the pressure off of Churchill, even though the Nazis only tortured Sansom even more, while keeping the two alive.

But while Sansom and Churchill survived the torture and execution orders, they spent much of the rest of the war in solitary confinement and suffering cruel, brutal treatment at the hands of her SS captors in the Ravensbrück concentration camp until it was liberated by the Red Army in 1945. But Sansom wasn’t liberated by the Russians. The camp commander drove her to an American position and surrendered himself to the U.S., with a “Churchill” as a bargaining chip.

Ravensbrück was a primary camp for women and political prisoners.

Though she physically came out of the war an emaciated shadow of her former self, the treatment left her with no ill will towards anyone. She would testify against the Nazis who imprisoned and tortured her during the Nuremberg Trials, but her main activities after the war involved helping ease the suffering of those affected by the war.

“How strong the reserves upon which you draw you never realize until you need them, but believe me they do not fail you,” she once said.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is ‘the moment of truth’ everyone faces in basic training

How long can you go in the enlistment process before it’s too late to back out? What exactly constitutes lying on your enlistment paperwork? How much weed can you actually admit to smoking before the military won’t accept you anymore? These are questions many recruits ask themselves as they go through the enlistment process. The problem with asking yourself is that you don’t know and the answer will still elude you.

If you lied to your recruiter to get to the Military Entrance Processing Station, and you lied there too, there’s one place in the enlistment process where you should probably come clean.


MEPS: Where memories of your first-ever awkward military moments are born.

The Military Entrance Procession Station is where potential military recruits are sent to test their suitability to join the military. It’s at MEPS you’ll get your first taste of forming acronyms, sharing a hotel room with a stranger, and having the elderly gawk at your naked body while measuring you like you’re a Saint Bernard at the Westminster Dog Show. More than that, it’s usually where you’ll be drug tested with someone watching you for the first time, take the ASVAB test, and where most of us lie about how much pot we smoked (for the record, you never tried it more than twice).

After your second visit to MEPS, you won’t be going home, you’ll be off to basic training, wherever that may be. Once you’re inprocessing at your basic training unit, you’ll likely be grilled about any personal information you might have neglected to tell your recruiter back home. This is where the truth makes or breaks your career – and integrity matters.

Just ask these guys.

Basic Training is where you’ll do a ton of paperwork, and most important among that paperwork is your actual, real military contract. When you go to sign this paper, the person working with you is going to ask if there’s anything you haven’t divulged that could affect your ability to enlist. Once you sign this paper, they own you, and it’s too late to back out. The government will move next to check out its new investment. That is to say, they’re actually going to check up on you. So when the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard asks you if there’s anything else, this is the “Moment of Truth.”

If you lie at this point, it will be held against you. Convictions, drug busts, massive debt, debilitating diseases, anything with a paper trail, (and remember you only ever smoked pot twice and you disliked it, so you never tried it again), all need to be laid out. If you come clean at the “Moment of Truth,” there’s a good chance you’ll be able to stay and enter the military. If you don’t and it comes up later, there’s a good chance you won’t.

Remember when you were going to be an Airborne Crytological Linguist but you lied about all your parking tickets? You will.

What you lied about may not be something that would require you getting kicked out of the military. Of course, there’s a reason you lied about it, so it likely would be serious enough for the military to think about kicking you out. Even if it isn’t that serious, it was a test of integrity in which you failed. In short, this is coming back to haunt you for the rest of your military career.

Or, you could just own up to it.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China debuts stunning missile that could nuke US cities

China has successfully tested a new hypersonic aircraft, a potential “hypersonic strike weapon” that could one day be capable of carrying multiple nuclear warheads and evading all existing defense networks like the US missile shields, according to Chinese state-run and state-affiliated media, citing experts and the domestic designers.


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The Xingkong-2 (Starry Sky-2) hypersonic experimental waverider vehicle designed by the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics in Beijing can reportedly achieve a top speed six times the velocity of sound.

During the recent test, conducted Aug 3, 2018, at an unspecified location in northwestern China, the aircraft was first carried by a multistage solid-fueled rocket before it separated to rely on independent propulsion — it is said to have maintained speeds above Mach 5.5 for 400 seconds. The max speed was reportedly Mach 6 or 4,600 miles per hour, according to the state-run China Daily.

The wedge-shaped vehicle made several high-altitude and large-angle maneuvers at a maximum altitude of a little over 18 miles. The aircraft then landed in the targeted area as intended, with observers touting the test as a “huge success.”

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