The last place anyone would expect to watch the Blue fight the Gray in Civil War combat is the fields of Western Europe. After all, they have centuries full of historical battles of their own to re-enact for the delight of families, students, and amateur historians alike. Yet, Civil War re-enactors bring those historical battles to life again and again.
Hundreds of re-enactors come from Poland, Italy, France, and Canada to take part in the spectacle. Like any good re-enactor in the United States, the actors are sure to keep all of their clothing, gear, and weapons in good shape – and to make sure they’re historically authentic (as authentic as they can be, fighting the American Civil War in Europe). After all, no one wants to be known as a “Farb” around these dedicated troopers.
After all, re-enactors are a dedicated group. The more historically accurate they are in movement, fighting, and dress, the more enjoyment everyone gets from the actor recreating the event. Onlookers learn more about history as well.
Union troops advance on a Confederate position.
The Europeans who are enthusiastic about the battles are no less dedicated than any American re-enactor. They’ve been to the U.S., they’ve visited the battle sites, they’ve seen the uniforms up close. Many of these soldiers have every detail accurate, right down to the last button.
In the recreation in the video above, the 1864 Battle of Bethesda Church, the Europeans are recreating a real European battalion, recruited from immigrants to the United States. But the battle they’re recreating isn’t the only one they do year after year. Every year they come to recreate a different battle, often from a different year of the war. The battles last for days, and the field commanders often determine the outcomes.
Unlike in the actual Civil War, however, these days end with beer and sausages shared between the two groups.
It’s easy to laugh at Hollywood when filmmakers use a basic blueprint to create one-dimensional “war hero” characters who are clearly clobbered together using stereotypes. But that got us thinking: What if Hollywood sees something in our military and veteran community that we’re too close to see for ourselves?
We talk so much about the disconnect between being a member of the military or being a civilian. It’s easy to see the differences and spotlight them – from language to attitude to what we choose to wear, a veteran always knows another veteran. But can a civilian spot one, too? Or is our community reduced to what film portrays us to see?
To help answer these questions, we turned to some of our favorite war movies and took a critical look at the main characters. We explored how they were presented – either as the hero, the anti-hero, the wildcard, or the leader, and then tried to distill what Hollywood is saying about us. What we discovered was pretty surprising. It turns out that Hollywood might just be onto something when they give us characters like Lt. Aldo Raine in Inglorious Basterds.
Here are the 5 most common archetypes we found in film.
Goose’s character in Top Gun did a lot to create this sort of irreverent service member who always has something quippy to add to briefs. Of course, we all know this person in real life, but the military is all about doing what we’re told to do, so when we see these jokester characters, it doesn’t totally ring true.
Ask civilians, and they’ll tell you that everyone in the military is just like Rambo … or at least, wants and tries to be as Rambo-esque as possible. We all know the type: a gym bro who spends all his extra hours building tree trunk thighs and a thick neck. Unfortunately, when we get characters like this in film, they’re all too trigger happy to be authentic. They’re so far from what real service members would consider a “superman” that the trope falls flat.
We’re really looking for a superman character who cares about those they lead, someone whose loyalty is unflinching and unwavering. A person who can take charge when needed and who possesses that rare confluence of confidence and competency. Sort of like Staff Sgt. Sykes in Jarhead. Sykes is funny, cares about his job, and those in his unit, traits that, by our count, make him a superman.
The strong, reserved and humble leader
Strong, humble leaders should be the cornerstone to our military, just like Morgan Freeman’s portrayal of Sgt. Maj. John Rawlins in Glory. Rawlins’ insight helps him gain the trust of his command, which leads him to promotion. But even as he gets his stripes, Rawlins is still questioning his ability to lead well. That’s a big distinction here since most films show us leaders who are so overly confident and never do any self-assessments. We’d much rather see more Rawlins-type characters than leaders who lead their units into peril.
Warner Bros. Pictures.
Lifers are only golden for a few years in the middle of their careers – somewhere between years eight and twelve when they have enough experience to see things differently and still have enough relevance to make change happen. At least, that’s the way we see it on film. Just take a close look at Heartbreak Ridge. Gunnery Sgt. Tom Highway is all Marine, all the time. But as his years stack up and his influence begins to lessen, the lifer ultimately comes to a crossroads where reinvention is required in order to keep on living.
Here’s the thing: yes, many lifers have this experience, but many don’t. We all know plenty of people who have done their 20, gotten out, and started new and successful careers in civilian sectors. What we need to see more of is the way that the military helps shape second careers and how the lessons learned in uniform translate to what happens once the boots come off.
What’s not to love in a mentor character? Well, of course it’s all about recognizing talent early on and honing it. Pushing younger military members further than they think they can go is a big part of mentorship. Getting down in the weeds and explaining to younger members of a unit just what life is like is the only way to pass on lessons learned. Except all too often, we see mentors use this platform to their own advantage and to advance their agendas. Hollywood does a decent job of this – we’re thinking about Maverick and Viper in Top Gun.
Explaining the military culture to outsiders can be tough, especially if all they know about us is by watching war movies. What people seem to understand is that there are certain archetypes. Now it’s up to scriptwriters and Hollywood to make sure we get a clearer and more accurate picture of life in the military.
Marine Corps Recruit Training Depot Parris Island is a sacred place that shapes everyday citizens into United States Marines. The journey from recruit in training to United States Marine is unforgettable and some even describe it as the best worst time of their life. Once a Marine leaves the island, most may never return.
U.S. Marines with 2nd Transportation Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, were given the opportunity to visit MCRD Parris Island, South Carolina during a professional military education trip on June 14, 2019.
The day started off with the Marines visiting the famous yellow footprints, the place where the training begins. They then made their way to the receiving bay where all recruits are allotted one phone call home to let their families know they arrived safely, followed by a tour of a recruit living quarters.
U.S. Marines with 2nd Transportation Support Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, pose for a group photo with Brig. Gen. James Gylnn, commanding general of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, and Sgt. Major William Carter, sergeant major of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., June 14, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)
“Going back to MCRD Parris Island was an overwhelming feeling,” said Pfc. Johnny Francis, who graduated from Parris Island on Nov. 23, 2019, now a motor vehicle operator with 2nd TSB. “It is the place that broke me, made me want to give up, but also gave me the courage to keep going and in turn allowed me to become a United States Marine.”
Marines pride themselves on being the best, and it all starts at recruit training. The Marine Corps has the longest entry level training of any of the four branches.
U.S. Marines with 2nd Transportation Support Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, walk down the road at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., June 14, 2019.
Recruits endure 13 weeks of rigorous physical, mental, and spiritual challenges. Under 24/7 watch and care of the Marine Corps Drill Instructor, recruits are completely stripped of their civilian habits and relearn everything the Marine Corps way.
“Getting to see recruit training as a Marine made me understand why we are held to such a high standard,” said Lance Cpl. Charlene Yabut, who graduated from Parris Island on Nov. 29, 2018, now a landing support specialist with 2nd TSB. “Those recruits don’t know it yet but they will remember everything that was drilled into their head. Being a Marine takes everything you have to offer every day and without the foundation that is laid here, we wouldn’t be the U.S. Marines.”
U.S. Marine Corps 1st Sgt. Nicholas Underwood with Company K, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, gives Marines from 2nd Transportation Support Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group a tour of Company K’s recruit living quarters at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., June 14, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)
2nd TSB ended their trip on the island with witnessing 570 new Marines from P and M Company march and graduate on the Pete Ross Parade Deck.
Graduation day marks the end of recruit training; it is the culminating and most awaited day by all new Marines.
“We wanted to bring the Marines from our unit here to allow them to reflect and remind them that we all stepped foot on those yellow footprints for a reason; we all wanted to become Marines,” said Capt. Brian Hassett, Alpha Company Commander, 2nd TSB, CLR 2, 2nd MLG. “We have earned the title, but it doesn’t end there. We have to keep working hard, stay dedicated and be prepared for when America calls.”
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
On Jan. 29, 2019, attorney and retired Navy Cmdr. John B. Wells sat in the office of Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), ready to meet with staff regarding Lee’s opposition to Blue Water Navy legislation, when his cell phone dinged and brought surprising news from the nearby U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
For Wells, the court’s ruling delightfully deflated the importance of his visit to try to persuade Lee not to again block legislation to extend disability compensation and Department of Veterans Affairs medical care to Navy veterans who deployed decades ago to territorial waters off Vietnam and now are ill, or dead, of ailments associated with Agent Orange and other defoliants used in the war.
Large stacks of 55-gallon drums filled with Agent Orange.
Unless the VA successfully petitions the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the decision in Procopio v. Wilkie, Blue Water veterans have won a victory denied them for two decades, both in the courts and Congress.
Wells is executive director of Military-Veterans Advocacy of Slidell, La., a non-profit corporation that litigates and advocates for veterans. He said he looked for years for the right case to challenge an appeals court decision that kept Agent Orange benefits from sailors whose ships steamed off Vietnam during the war.
Alfred Procopio Jr., suffers from prostate cancer and type 2 diabetes, two conditions on the VA list of ailments associated with Agent Orange exposure and that trigger benefits if veterans served in Vietnam for a time between Jan. 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, when U.S. involvement in the war officially ended.
Procopio was aboard the aircraft carrier Intrepid when, in July 1966, ship logs confirm it deployed to territorial waters off South Vietnam. The VA declined in April 2009 to find service connection for his ailments diagnosed a few years earlier. The Board of Veterans’ Appeals also denied service connection, in March 2011 and in July 2015, because Procopio had not gone ashore.
In denying such appeals, boards and judges routinely cite the 2008 appeals court ruling in Haas v. Peake, which affirmed the VA’s interpretation of the Agent Orange Act to exclude veterans from benefits if they didn’t come ashore, even if their ships steamed through Vietnam’s territorial sea, defined as within 12 nautical miles of the coastline.
To prepare for Procopio’s appeal, Wells said he interviewed lawyers at three firms offering pro bono expertise on briefs and arguments before appellate courts. He chose Melanie Bostwick of Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe LLP, in Washington, D.C., in part because of her plan to refine the challenge to Haas, focusing on what Congress meant in the Agent Orange Act by presuming exposure to defoliants if veterans served “in the Republic of Vietnam.”
Bostwick pushed the significance of the Act’s reference to the Republic of Vietnam “a step further than we had taken it and she was brilliant,” Wells said.
For Procopio, his lawyers didn’t argue that, given his ship’s location, he must have been exposed at some point to deadly defoliants just like veterans who served ashore. Instead they contended that Congress, in writing the law, intentionally used the formal name for the sovereign coastal nation. Under international law and based on the Act’s legislative history, they argued, “service in the Republic of Vietnam” must be read by the court to include naval service in its territorial waters.
Eight of 11 judges who heard the appeal accepted that argument. Another judge decided in favor of Procopio and Blue Water Navy veterans on other grounds. Two judges dissented.
With Procopio, the appeals court reversed its ruling in Haas. It disagreed that the Agent Orange law is ambiguous as to whether the list of presumptive diseases tied to defoliants should apply to sailors who supported the war from the sea.
Haas had let stand VA regulations that limited access to Agent Orange benefits to veterans who went ashore in Vietnam or patrolled its inland rivers and waterways. In Procopio, the court said what those judges missed a decade ago was the significance of the law granting presumption of service connection for certain diseases to veterans who “served in the Republic of Vietnam.” By using the formal name of that country, explained Judge Kimberly Ann Moore in writing the majority opinion, the Act extended benefit coverage to service in Vietnam’s territorial sea.
The court in Haas “went astray when it found ambiguity” in the plain language of the Act after reviewing “competing methods of defining the reaches of a sovereign nation,” wrote Moore. It should have recognized that Congress unambiguously defined the pool of veterans eligible for benefits as any veteran who had served anywhere in Vietnam, including the territorial sea.
“Congress has spoken directly to the question of whether those who served in the 12-nautical-mile territorial sea of the ‘Republic of Vietnam’ are entitled to [the Act’s] presumption if they meet [its] other requirements. They are. Because ‘the intent of Congress is clear, that is the end of the matter,’ ” Moore wrote, citing a 1984 Supreme Court decision that found a government agency must conform to clear legislative statements when interpreting and applying a law.
Defoliant spray run during the Vietnam War.
Judge Raymond T. Chen dissented in Procopio and was joined by Judge Thomas B. Dyk. Chen’s arguments are likely to be echoed by government attorneys if VA decides to seek Supreme Court review the case.
Chen wrote that, in his view, the Agent Orange Act is ambiguous as to whether benefits should apply to veterans who served offshore. The court majority, he said, “inappropriately pre-empts Congress’s role in determining whether the statute should apply in these circumstances — an issue which Congress is grappling with at this very time.”
By “repudiating a statutory interpretation from a 10-year old precedential opinion, without any evidence of changed circumstances,” Chen wrote, the majority “undermines the principle of stare decisis,” a doctrine that obligates courts to follow precedents set in previous decisions unless they can show clearly the previous decisions were wrongly decided.
Chen did “not find persuasive the majority’s conclusion that international law dictates its interpretation. The Haas court considered similar sources of evidence but still concluded that the statutory phrase was ambiguous,” he wrote.
Chen noted that Congress, in debating whether to extend Agent Orange benefits to Blue Water veterans, found it will require the allocation of id=”listicle-2627927786″.8 billion in fiscal 2019 and .7 billion over 10 years. With so much at stake and without “more compelling” evidence Haas got it wrong, he wrote, the court majority should have left the issue for Congress to settle.
“It is not for the Judiciary to step in and redirect such a significant budget item,” Chen wrote.
Wells said he expects the government to decide within a few weeks whether to petition the Supreme Court to review the case. Meanwhile, he said, “we are very happy with the way the case came out.”
Wells said the Haas case was ripe for reconsideration in part because “the court has been taking an increasingly jaundiced look at the VA and some of the stuff they’ve done” to deny benefits. Also, other cases had “drilled down” on weaknesses in the VA’s regulatory decisions excluding veterans from Agent Orange benefits.
“Frankly, when the VA stripped the benefit [from sailors] back in 2002, we believed that they had nobody in their general counsel’s office competent to understand” the Act and the legal definition of Republic of Vietnam, he said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Updated: In keeping with Facebook’s efforts to report fake news, we have updated this article to include the doctor’s full statement.
While the World Health Organization vehemently disagrees, Dr. Juergen Rissland, a lead doctor at the Institute for Virology at Saarland University Hospital in Germany, went on the record to say: Drinking whiskey can protect against COVID-19.
And that is definitely one report we can all get behind.
While appearing on “The Morning Show,” Dr. Rissland was asked about whether or not drinking could kill any viruses a person may have ingested. “Yes, of course, that’s true,” Dr. Rissland responded. “And the higher the percentage of alcohol, the better it is. For example, if you are a whisky lover, then that certainly isn’t a bad idea,” he continued, while offering this bit of sage advice to pace yourself: “But of course you need to bear in mind that you can’t do that every 15 minutes, that is something else to consider.”
Virologist Jurgen Rissland, who says alcohol can protect against COVID-19. Credit: Newsflash/Newsflash
After being prodded a little further by the show’s co-hosts who asked him if he was really suggesting folks drink high-proof alcohol, Dr. Rissland laughed. “I would like to say it can’t hurt, but in the end, it is definitely not a panacea. For God’s sake, you shouldn’t get me wrong here. I just wanted to make the point that the virus is vulnerable to high-proof alcohol, because it has an outer layer made of fat, and high proof alcohol destroys the virus. And one would need to drink quite a lot to get any sort of protection from infection.”
So we’ll take his advice with a good sense of humor… and probably a shot of whiskey.
On Apr. 24, 1951, Cpl. Hiroshi Miyamura — known as “Hershey” to his men — and his squad of a dozen machine gunners and five riflemen were stationed on a Korean hill to delay the Chinese attack everyone knew was coming. The hillside was pocked with trenches and craters and littered with razor wire. At 4 in the morning, the quiet was broken by the sound of bugles and whistles as waves of Chinese regulars swarmed across the Imjin River. One of those waves breaking against Miyamura’s position.
Suddenly, he was in charge of a suicide mission.
Born and raised in Gallup, New Mexico, the son of Japanese immigrants, Miyamura served in World War II with the famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a Japanese-American unit that became the most decorated unit for its size and length of service in the history of America, but did not see action. He joined up again when the Korean Conflict broke out in 1950 and was trained in heavy weapons and sent to Korea.
For hours that morning, the Chinese waves beat against Miyamura’s position. Their overwhelming numbers came straight at Miyamura as his machine guns slowly eliminated the enemy squad, one man at a time. As their ammunition dwindled, Miyamura, who was directing fire, firing his carbine, and hurling grenades at the attackers, ordered his squad to fix bayonets.
At one point, the Chinese began attempting to flank the remnants of the small unit, so Miyamura attacked — by himself.
“Chinese soldiers had been cautiously moving up the slope when Miyamura suddenly appeared in their midst,” Brig. Gen. Ralph Osborne, would later announce. “Jabbing and slashing, he scattered one group and wheeled around, breaking up another group the same way.”
He then returned to his squad and began tending to the wounded, but he soon realized his position was hopeless. He ordered a withdrawal.
As the men readied to pull out, another wave of Chinese struck and Miyamura moved to an untended machine gun and fired it until he was out of ammunition. He disabled the machine gun to keep out of enemy hands and was about to join the withdrawal when the Chinese again hit his position. He bayoneted his way to a second, untended machine gun and used it to cover his men’s withdrawal until he was forced to take shelter in a bunker and kept fighting. The area in front of the bunker was later discovered to be littered with the bodies of at least 50 of the enemy combatants.
When the fighting hit a lull, Hershey found himself alone.
Now wounded in the leg by grenade shrapnel, he began to work his way back from the front at times meeting — and besting — Chinese troops in hand-to-hand combat until, exhausted and weakened, he fell into a roadside ditch and was captured.
For the next 28 months, he struggled to survive in a North Korean POW camp, believing his entire squad had been killed or wounded. He also naively feared he would face a court-marshal for having lost so many of his men. (In fact, several of the squad had survived). So, when he was finally released at the end of the fighting he weighed less than 100 pounds and faced freedom with some trepidation.
The award had been kept secret for fear of enemy retaliation, so few ever knew of Hershey’s actions on that lonely Korean hill. So it was with some surprise that Miyamura was informed by Gen. Osborne of his MOH.
“What?” he is reported to have said. ‘I’ve been awarded what medal?’
On Oct. 27, 1953, then-Sergeant Miyamura — he had been promoted while in captivity — received his award from President Dwight Eisenhower at the White House and returned to Gallup where the city’s schools were let out, businesses had been closed, and some 5,000 people greeted him as he got off the train.
A private in the Army’s 34th Company of the Philippine Scouts, he became severely wounded while fighting off rebel forces in the Philippine Islands in 1911. With only one hand, he fought the enemy until they retreated, saving the many lives of those with whom he served.
Nísperos was the first Filipino to receive the Medal of Honor for his heroics in battle.
2. Telesforo Trinidad
In January 1915, a boiler exploded aboard the USS San Diego, violently knocking Trinidad backward and forcing him to abandon the ship. He gathered himself and returned to save two of his fellow men, despite suffering from his own burns.
The Navy awarded Trinidad the Medal of Honor and a $100 gratuity.
3. Kurt Chew-Een Lee
Lt. Lee was the first Asian-American Marine Officer in American military history and a freaking hero.
On the night of Nov. 2, 1950, Lee saved thousands of men during an attack while serving in the Korean War. He ventured out on a single man reconnaissance mission to locate the enemy and eventually confused them using a weapon none of his other Marines possessed — the ability to speak Mandarin.
Washington Receiving a Salute on the Field of Trenton (Artist: John Faed/Public Domain)
It’s difficult to imagine how history would have been altered if George Washington had been killed during the Revolutionary War. Without the father of our country leading its fight for freedom, the war might have been lost and America might still be a British colony. In fact, this alternative history might have come true if not for the moral convictions and gentlemanly ethics of a Scottish infantry officer named Patrick Ferguson.
A miniature of Ferguson c. 1774-177 (Artist unknown/Public Domain)
Ferguson was born into nobility in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, on May 25, 1744. His father was a senator at the College of Justice and his mother was the sister of Patrick Murray, 5th Lord Elibank. He began his military career early, joining the army at the age of 15. He served with the Royal Scots Greys and fought in the Seven Years’ War before he returned home due to a leg injury. In 1768, he returned to military service, purchasing command of a company in the 70th Regiment of Foot under the Colonelcy of his cousin, Alexander Johnstone. He commanded the company in the West Indies until his leg injury forced him to return home.
Ferguson arrived in Britain in 1772 and participated in light infantry training where he helped develop new tactics for the army. During this time, he also invented the Ferguson breech-loading rifle, arguably the most advanced sharpshooting rifle of its day. His sharp intellect and ingenuity caught the attention of General William Howe, Commander-in-Chief of British land forces in the colonies. Consequently, he was sent to fight in the American War of Independence.
British Army manual for the Ferguson rifle
In 1777, Ferguson arrived in the colonies and was given command of what became known as Ferguson’s Rifle Corps, a unit of 100 riflemen equipped with the new Ferguson rifle. One of their first engagements was the Battle of Brandywine in Pennsylvania on September 11.
Ferguson’s light infantry tactics emphasized small units of well-trained marksmen maneuvering around the battlefield over the doctrinal rank and file style of combat of the day. As such, Ferguson and his rifle corps moved ahead of General Howe’s army as they advanced on Philadelphia. As they maneuvered, Ferguson spotted a prominent American officer alongside another officer in Central European hussar dress; the two officers were conducting a reconnaissance mission on horseback. With their accurate sharpshooting rifles, Ferguson and his men could have easily cut the officers down in a volley of musket fire. However, the officers had their backs turned to the Brits. As a man of honor, Ferguson decided not to fire on the officers who were unaware of his presence.
Later in the battle, Ferguson was shot through his right elbow and taken to a field hospital. There, a surgeon told Ferguson that some American soldiers who were treated there earlier said that General Washington had been in that area earlier in the day. Ferguson wrote in his journal that, even if the officer had been Washington, he did not regret his decision.
Although the identity of the American officer remains uncertain, the man in hussar dress was almost certainly Count Casimir Pulaski, one of the Founding Fathers of U.S. Cavalry (along with Michael Kovats de Fabriczy). During the battle, Pulaski conducted reconnaissance missions and even scouted a retreat route for Washington after his army was defeated. If the American officer was indeed Washington, and if Ferguson had decided to take the shot, September 11, 1777, might have been a turning point in American history.
Portrait of Casimir Polaski (Artist: Jan Styka/Public Domain)
Ferguson took a year long hiatus from military service to recover from his wound and returned to battle in 1778. He continued to fight in the American War of Independence until his death during the Battle of King’s Mountain, on the border of North and South Carolina, on October 7, 1780. During the battle, Ferguson was shot from his horse. His foot was caught in the stirrup and he was dragged to the American side where he was approached for his surrender. In response, and as a final act of defiance, he drew a pistol and shot one of the Americans. The Patriots responded by shooting him eight times, stripping his body of clothing, and urinating on him before he was buried in an oxhide near the site of his fall.
While Ferguson’s actions at the Battle of King’s Mountain were less than gentlemanly, his determination to go down fighting embodies the warrior spirit. This is juxtaposed by his moral conviction to hold his fire at the Battle of Brandywine. Whether or not the American officer there was General Washington, Ferguson’s legacy will forever be marked by the shot he didn’t take.
Born Jacob Kurtzberg, the most influential comic book artist known to the world as Jack Kirby penned many of the most beloved superheros in today’s society.
The young Kirby found his calling at then Timely Comics, later known as Marvel Comics, by drawing in superheros. He and Joe Simon created a new patriotic hero and drew the iconic cover to what will be synonymous with comics in World War II. Captain America knocking the Hell out of Adolf Hitler in March 1941.
Duty called Kirby into the U.S. Army on June 7, 1942. He had created an inventory to be published in part of his absence, kissed his wife goodbye, and headed to Camp Stewart for Basic Training.
Being a small Jewish kid from New York, he had met people from across the country. People who had never traveled outside their family farm, Texans who never rode a horse, and everyone from every corner of the country. He did encounter antisemitism, but he credits working and living together as the moment that opened their eyes to how diverse the country really is.
His unit, the Fifth Infantry Division, landed in Liverpool where he saw the devastation of the German Stukas. He was now ready to land on Omaha Beach ten days after D-Day.
And ready for his Marvel co-creator, Stan Lee, to give one of his best Cameos.General Patton got word that his unit was killed and arrived personally with replacements. Patton was livid when he learned that the outfit had just arrived just fine. The mix-up came about because of an error in the maps, so Kirby’s Lieutenant saw to correcting it. His lieutenant learned his soldier drew Captain America and many other comics and assigned Private Kirby the unenviable task of being a scout to draw the maps.
Kirby would create new maps or draw on existing maps locations of enemy and friendly activity. His markings of Axis’ 88 anti-armor cannons were used to clear the way for troops.
Kirby’s unit crossed much of Northern France and took heavy casualties. Sketching in a notepad was the only thing that could keep his nerves intact while he mapped out enemy locations. His unit even liberated a remote factory, turned concentration camp. This was one of the first provable concentration camps the U.S. came across.
His maps would play a crucial role in the Battle of Metz, which he also personally fought in. Frozen by Himmler’s Panzers, he still fought them, referring to himself as a “Human Road Block.”
It was the unforgiving winter that sent him home. His feet had become purple with jungle rot and frostbite. It was so bad that he was rushed back to Paris and the doctors considered amputation. He was discharged in 1945, but not before being awarded a Combat Infantryman Badge and Bronze Star for all that he did in Europe.
Army 2nd Lt. Frank Luke, Jr., arguably America’s greatest fighter pilot of World War I, was finally downed after taking out 14 German observation balloons and four combat planes. But he took as many Germans with him as he could, strafing ground troops as he crashed and unloading his pistol into the infantry trying to capture him.
Luke enlisted in the Army on Sept. 25, 1917, for service in the aviation field. He took his first solo flight that December, received his commission the following January, and was in France by March.
After additional instruction there, Luke was ready to go on combat patrols. In an April 20, 1918, letter home, Luke described a severely injured pilot who later died and the constantly growing rows of graves for pilots. In between those two observations, he talked about what fun it is to fly.
Luke claimed his first kill in August, but the reported action took place after Luke became separated from the rest of the flight and few believed that the mouthy rookie had actually bagged a German.
Flying on Sept. 12, 1918, Luke found one of the heavily defended balloons while chasing three German aircraft. He conducted attack passes on the balloon and it exploded into flames on Luke’s third pass, just as the balloon was about to reach the ground.
The flaming gas and bladder fell upon the ground crew and the winch mechanism that held the balloons, killing the men and destroying the site. Two more American officers at a nearby airfield confirmed Luke’s balloon bust.
Two days later, the Arizona native brought down a second balloon in a morning patrol, but he still wasn’t liked by other members of his unit. The same afternoon, he was designated to take the risky run against another balloon as the rest of the formation fought enemy fighters. One, a friend of Luke’s named 1st Lt. Joseph Wehner, would cover Luke on his run.
Luke once again downed the enemy balloon and was headed for a second balloon when eight enemy planes chased him. His guns were malfunctioning so he ran back to friendly lines rather than risking further confrontation.
Wehner and Luke became a team and specialized in the dangerous mission of balloon busting. Over the following weeks, they pioneered techniques for bringing down the “sausages.” The pair grew so bold that they scheduled exhibitions for well-known pilots like then-Col. William Mitchell, inviting the VIPs to witness German balloons going down at exact times along the front.
On Sept. 18, the two men scored one of their most productive days including the balloon downing that made Wehner an ace, but Wehner was shot down during the attack on the second balloon. Luke responded by charging into the enemy formation, killing two, and then heading for home and killing an observation plane en route.
Luke was distraught at the loss of his partner and took greater risks in the air. His superior officers attempted to ground him, but Luke stole a plane and went back up anyway.
On his final flight on Sept. 29, he dropped a note from his plane that told the reader to “Watch three Hun balloons on the Meuse. Luke.”
The pilot flew across the battlefield, downing all three but attracting a patrol of eight German fighters. Sources differ on exactly what happened next, but the most important details are not in dispute.
Luke’s plane was damaged and he himself was hit, likely from machine gun fire from the ground. As he lost altitude, he conducted a strike against German troops, most likely with his machine guns, though locals who witnessed the fight reported that he may have used bombs dropped by hand.
All of Luke’s confirmed victories had taken place in September 1918. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for Sept. 12-15, a second for his actions on Sept. 18, and the Medal of Honor for his final flight on Sept. 29.
There were only a few places around the world more tense than in the Cold War showdown between East and West that occurred every day in divided Berlin. In the West, American and NATO guards stared down the barrels of the Soviet-backed East German border guards from the other side of the Berlin Wall. These guards were known to shoot down any East German civilian trying to cross the wall, sometimes leaving their mangled corpse in the barbed wire.
One American decided he was going to do what he could to help.
An East German border guard leaps over barbed wire and away from the East German “utopia.”
It’s a well-known fact by now that life behind the Iron Curtain wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Few places in the Eastern Bloc were more repressive than in East Germany, and East Berlin in particular. East Berlin’s proximity to the freedom enjoyed by West Germany and greater Western Europe forced the Communist regimes to be more harsh to those attempting to escape to freedom. Still, many East Germans made the attempt. Scores of people died trying to cross the Berlin Wall. Untold numbers more likely made the escape.
One of those successful escapees was Hans-Peter Spitzner and his daughter Peggy. Spitzner lived more than 100 miles from East Berlin, but when the Stasi – the East German secret police – came knocking on his door and arrested him in the middle of the night for not voting the Communist Party line, he was done. He resolved to get out of East Germany. When Spitzner’s wife was suddenly able to travel to the West for a family birthday, he decided to make his move.
Spitzner with his wife and daughter.
Spitzner read in a Communist newspaper about how American and other troops were stripping East German stores of their stocks using favorable currency conversion rates. Under the post-World War II agreements, Western allies had free and open access to East Berlin and could come and go as they pleased. The author of the article even mentioned that Western soldiers’ cars weren’t searched. Spitzner rationalized that he and his daughter could hide in one of those cars and escape to freedom.
So the man drove 120 miles to East Berlin, just to hang out at the bus stops frequented by Western troops. All day long, he asked if anyone would be willing to smuggle him and his daughter out. Eventually, a young U.S. Army troop named Eric Yaw was walking up to his black Toyota.
He agreed to smuggle Spitzner and his daughter out of East Germany.
Eric Yaw’s Toyota Corolla.
There was just one hitch: the heat sensors at Checkpoint Charlie. As soon as the family was in Yaw’s trunk, Spitzner was certain they were doomed. If they were caught, they’d be imprisoned. If they ran, they’d be shot. But as luck would have it, that day was particularly warm, and Yaw’s black Toyota retained enough heat to hide Spitzner and his daughter from the border guards. In just a few minutes, Yaw opened the trunk and informed the two they were free.
Spitzner phoned his wife on vacation in Austria and told her the news. Yaw was disciplined by the Army for smuggling the two East Germans, but repeatedly said he would do the same thing again. Today, Yaw is out of the Army but is still a family friend. The Spitzners have returned to their hometown in what used to be East Germany.
“The key is accuracy, rate of fire, and programmable ammunition,” said BAE Systems representative Scott Thompson in the YouTube video below.
While the Mk 110’s predecessors—the Mark 1 and Mark 2—are highly effective against large heavily armored targets, they are inefficient against today’s fast-moving threats, such as unmanned aerial vehicles, anti-ship missiles, and speedboats.
The Mk 110 on the other hand, can fire 220 rounds per minute at targets nine miles away with an intelligent and highly destructive 6-mode programmable 57-mm Mk 295 munition. The munition is a pre-fragmented, programmable, proximity-fuzed round that can explode on contact or deliver a shotgun effect with more than 8,000 pre-formed tungsten fragments. The gun’s digital fire control system responds to precise pointing orders and selects the munition fuze in fractions of a second upon firing.
The Mk 110 naval gun fires up to 220 rounds per minute.
Each round accelerates to 3,500 miles per hour.
In air burst mode, the round detonates in mid-air above the target.
The proximity mode uses a miniature radar system to trigger the fuse when the round gets close to the target.
The impact mode explodes the round on contact.
The Mk 110’s flexibility makes it the deck gun of choice for the U.S. Coast Guard’s National Security Cutter and offshore patrol cutter ships, as well as for the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). This American Heroes Channel video perfectly shows the Mk 110’s efficiency and power.
During one of the final and most important sieges of the Civil War, a combination of racism towards black troops, concern for appearances, and sheer blinding incompetence and cowardice led to the bloody disaster that was the Battle of the Crater.
The Confederate Army was engaged in a last ditch defense of Petersburg, Va., the logistics and rail hub that supplied the forces defending their capital at Richmond, against the Union Army under command of General Ulysses S. Grant. Once Petersburg fell, the war was as good as over.
The siege had turned into trench warfare that presaged World War I. Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s mastery of field fortifications and defense in depth had made offensive operations by the Union against entrenched Confederate troops a terribly bloody endeavor. The siege was at a stalemate, and new tactics were called for.
The Union 48th Pennsylvania Regiment was largely drawn from coal country, and its commander, Col. Henry Pleasants, was convinced they could dig a long mine under the rebel lines and use blasting powder blow to a large hole in their fortifications. A four-division assault force would then seize the heights overlooking Petersburg, greatly shortening the siege. His corps commander, Gen. Ambrose Burnside, endorsed the plan.
The operation was conducted with a strange mix of brute force labor and a strategic lassitude from higher command, and suffered from a chronic lack of logistical support. Most of the Union leadership, from Grant on down, was skeptical of the plan, and saw it as a way to keep the soldiers busy at best.
The 4th United States Colored Troops (USCT) under Gen. Edward Ferraro was specially trained to lead the assault, specifically to flank the crater on both sides. But Gen. George Meade, commander of the Union Army at the battle of Gettysburg, thought little of the plan and the abilities of the black troops to carry it out.
He also voiced concerns to Grant that if the attack failed, it would look as if black soldiers had been thrown away as cannon fodder. Grant agreed, Burnside inexplicably had his division commanders draw lots, and Brigadier Gen. James Ledlie drew the short straw.
It was bad enough that the last minute change brought in badly unprepared troops for a tricky attack, but Ledlie had the distinction of being one of the most drunken cowards in the Union officer corps. This was to have terrible consequences.
Union troops operating north of Petersburg had drawn off most of the Southern troops, leaving the line weakened, and the time was ideal for the assault. After months of labor and the emplacement of more than four tons of blasting powder under the Confederate fortifications, the attack began with triggering the explosives at 4:45 a.m. on June 30, 1864.
The resulting blast was the largest man-made explosion in history up to that point. A massive mushroom cloud, which sent men, horses, artillery, and huge amounts of earth flying into the air, left a crater 130-feet long, 75-feet wide, and 35-feet deep. The explosion killed a full third of the South Carolina unit defending the strongpoint, over 200 men, in an instant. The concussive force of the explosion left the rest of the brigade stunned for at least 15 minutes.
Despite the spectacular success of the mine blast, the assault started to go wrong from the beginning. Ledlie was drunk and hiding in a bunker in the rear, and his leaderless division ran into the crater instead of around it, milling about uncertainly. Other units pouring into the attack only added to the chaos.
The recovered Confederate troops laid a kill zone around the crater, keeping the Union troops pinned down, and fired everything from rifles to mortar shells into the packed troops stuck in the blast zone. The 4th USCT, despite being relegated to the second wave, penetrated farther than anyone, but suffered severely in the process.
After holding out for hours, a final counterattack by a Confederate brigade of Virginians routed the still numerically superior Union forces, which suffered appalling casualties, and many were taken prisoner.
There are many Southern eyewitness accounts of black prisoners being summarily shot down by Confederate troops, and the particularly severe casualty rates suffered by the black units seem to bear this out. Even some Union soldiers were reportedly involved in the killings, driven by fear of the Confederate warnings of reprisals for fighting alongside black soldiers. The shouting of “No Quarter!” and “Remember Fort Pillow!” by the black troops during their charge was also later cited as a justification for the executions by the Confederacy.
Burnside and Ledie were both relieved of duty after the disaster, though Burnside was later cleared by Congress since it was Meade who decided to replace the USCT at the last moment. Burnside never held a significant command again.
The supreme irony of the battle was that despite the efforts to spare the lives of black troops from politically inconvenient slaughter, the utter failure of the lead wave to force the breach lead to terrible casualties for the black units they had replaced. Gen. Grant later said “it was the saddest affair I witnessed during the war.”
The siege would drag on for another eight months, and Petersburg’s fall led to the prompt surrender of Richmond, precipitating Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse. The Crater remains a prime example of a brilliant plan spoiled by incompetent execution.