The British trained ex-slaves to fight the US in the War of 1812 - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The British trained ex-slaves to fight the US in the War of 1812

If there was a real weakness in the system of the early United States, it was slavery. The practice of slavery kept a lot of American ideals just out of reach and was used against the young country on multiple occasions. During the War of 1812, the British attempted to exploit this weakness by training a group of former slaves to fight for a country that needed them to fight as free men.


The British trained ex-slaves to fight the US in the War of 1812

War of 1812 re-enactors, bring the Battle of Pensacola back to life, using the British Colonial Marines.

These days when we think of Colonial Marines, we’re thinking of the gung-ho Space Warriors from the movie Alien. But back when Lord Cochrane decided to resurrect his Corps of Colonial Marines, he was set on fighting the Americans on their home turf.

Cochrane first formed his Colonial Marines in response to a lack of proper Redcoats on British-held Caribbean territories. He believed a fighting force made up of men born and raised in the islands of the Caribbean would be hardier than importing British regulars from overseas. Having grown up around the tropics (and the diseases that come with the region) the men would be less prone to illness, a major problem with armed forces of the time.

For the slaves, enlistment meant instant freedom. Cochrane’s Marines served admirably from 1808 until they were disbanded two years later.

It was during this time Great Britain was fighting one of her greatest wars, the war against French Emperor Napoleon. Napoleon was considered by many in the British service to be an existential threat to the home islands, and as such, Britain drew on a large number of imperial troops, manpower, and resources to fight Napoleon in Europe. The problem was they also drew on resources that didn’t belong to the Empire, namely, American sailors. Since many of the American sailors were born in Britain, they rationalized, they could be impressed into the Royal Navy from American merchant ships.

This didn’t sit well with the Americans. For that (and a host of other reasons, many of which were less than noble) the United States declared war on its old mother country. For Cochrane, Britain was now fighting a world war. When appointed commander of the North American station, Cochrane realized the immediate need for more men, so he resurrected his Colonial Marines.

The British trained ex-slaves to fight the US in the War of 1812

Cochrane, creator of the Colonial Marines, also masterminded the burning of the White House.

Cochrane raised his new Colonial Marines in Florida, which served a strategic purpose, being so close to the former colonies. There, the unit was able to bolster the strength of British positions so close to Georgia and South Carolina. Its proximity to the land border of the U.S. also served to help raise men for the unit, taking in as many escaped slaves as it could train. The idea of an armed band of former slaves so close to the slaveholding South alarmed many in the former colonies.

The former slaves were lauded for their performance in combat by the Admiralty, who marveled at their discipline and ferocity. Colonial Marines participated in the Chesapeake Campaign during the War of 1812, which saw some of the heaviest fighting between the British and the Americans. This campaign included the Battles of Bladensburg, Baltimore, and Fort McHenry, as well as the burning of Washington. The Colonial Marines fought so well, it was said that Admiral George Cockburn preferred the Colonial Marines to regular Royal Navy Marines.

The British trained ex-slaves to fight the US in the War of 1812

Francis Scott Key may have made references to Britain’s Colonial Marine force at Fort McHenry in “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

The Colonial Marines were largely disbanded after the war’s end, but they weren’t abandoned. Some were still in the King’s service, being sent back to Britain or to Canada. Those who opted to leave the continental United States with the British forces were either in service on the island of Bermuda, or became civilian farmers, maintaining their status as free men.

For those who stayed in Florida after the war, the British allowed them to keep their fortifications and their arms, along with a substantial sum of money. But now that the war was over, Southern American slaveholders, still unhappy about the presence of a trained military force of armed former slaves so close to their homes decided to move on them. Under the command of Gen. Andrew Jackson, the Americans invaded Spanish Florida and burned the fort.

popular

This is why US troops in Vietnam called this gecko the ‘F*ck You Lizard’

One Vietnam veteran called the diminutive Tokay Geckos the “reception committee” for incoming American soldiers in country, “the only ones in Vietnam who were telling you the truth.”

The lizard is a true gecko, native to Southeast Asia, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia. The animal is nocturnal, so its distinctive call is heard only at night. It was this sound that prompted U.S. troops to informally dub it the “F*ck You Lizard.”

The Tokay Gecko can get pretty big for a gecko lizard, sometimes up to more than a foot in length. They were said to come out just when the jungles got pitch dark. Said another Vietnam veteran, who was stationed near the Cambodian border:

“Just when everyone was dozing out. You’d hear ’em in your sleep all night. You’d wake up in the morning, with fuckyou fuckyou fuckyou… echoing in your head.”

Good news for those Americans itching to be introduced to the nighttime mating call: someone introduced the Tokay Gecko to Florida and Hawaii. It’s best not to approach the animals, though. Tokay geckos are described as “the meanest lizard you will ever see,” “the reptilian pit bull” that will not hesitate to bite and clamp down.

The British trained ex-slaves to fight the US in the War of 1812

It’s unlikely that Vietnam veterans are interested in being reunited with the sound. In the words of a Vietnam vet on Reddit, “The jungle was telling me something. F*ck me. I got it.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Gen. Ham discusses his military career and how to stay ready for war

Few know mission command better than retired Gen. Carter F. Ham. In the time between his enlistment as an infantryman in 1973 and his retirement as a geographic combatant commander in 2013, Ham experienced the Army from a variety of perspectives, including as the commander of U.S. Army Europe and as the director for operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

As the current president and chief executive officer of the Association of the U.S. Army, Ham continues to make a difference on behalf of the men and women who serve. Here are his insights on mission command as the Army looks to the future.


Q: After having a career that spanned four decades, what does mission command mean to you?

A: When I think of mission command, it is getting the right process by which leaders make decisions to employ their forces from the strategic to tactical levels. It is freedom to act within intent and established parameters, and it’s achieving the right blend of initiative and control.

I’ve thought about this a lot as the Army sometimes has a tendency to rebrand old ideas with new names. The term “mission command” started gaining momentum over “command and control” in the late 2000s, particularly when Gen. Martin Dempsey was at Training and Doctrine Command. A lot of talk within the profession suggested this really wasn’t anything new but, rather, what the Army had always done in terms of mission-type orders and building trust.

The British trained ex-slaves to fight the US in the War of 1812

General Carter F. Ham.

My sense was that it wasn’t quite the same. The cohort of senior Army officers at the time, myself included, grew up mostly in the Cold War era with very clearly defined boundaries, rear areas, adjacent units, and the like. When that era changed and the Army found itself in highly irregular warfare, leaders recognized command and control wasn’t adequate for the new environment.

The command piece was okay, but the control piece was overly regulated given the circumstances in which the Army was anticipated to operate. It was time for a change, and I think mission command was exactly the right focus. With varying degrees at varying levels, and certainly as circumstances change, we must enable leaders to operate with empowered, disciplined initiative and higher degrees of flexibility.

Q: What were some of the biggest challenges you faced as commander of U.S. Africa Command?

A: Most Americans think of Africa as a single place; it’s not. It is huge; at the very least, Africa is 54 countries with vast geographic differences, linguistic challenges, and economic, cultural, and ethnic diversity. It’s an exceedingly complex area of operations.

When Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told me he intended to recommend the president nominate me for [commanding general of] the Africa Command, I had two feelings simultaneously. First was pure exhilaration: “Holy smokes, you’re going to be a combatant commander! You get your picture hung on the entryway of the Pentagon!”

But instantaneously, the second feeling hit: “You don’t know anything about Africa.” At the time, it was not a part of the world any of us in the military thought much about.

The British trained ex-slaves to fight the US in the War of 1812

Carter F. Ham as lieutenant colonel commanding U.S. forces in Camp Able Sentry, Macedonia, speaking to Admiral William Owens in 1995.

I was going from a very Europe-centric career — frankly a very comfortable setting for me because I had relationships with many of the senior leaders — to exceeding discomfort in Africa. It was intellectually stimulating, but I just didn’t have that foundational understanding of the area of operations as I did in Europe.

For me, this was mission command in practice at the upper operational and strategic levels. Despite the dispersed nature of U.S. forces, the requirement to work with host-nation forces, and the diversity of missions — ranging from very precise targeted activities and hostage rescue to maritime security, humanitarian assistance, and veterinary teams helping with herds of animals — there was still an expectation from the Secretary of Defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the other service chiefs. They were empowering me to make decisions in this vast and complex area of responsibility.

You can’t do that with a highly structured, highly controlling style of leadership. I had to catch myself sometimes, and my senior enlisted leaders would often remind me, “General, they don’t need you to tell them how many times to turn the screwdriver; they need your intent.”

If you can describe your intent, subordinate leaders will accomplish the mission.

Q: How does mission command need to evolve to maximize readiness for the future operational environment?

A: There is recognition that the Army has to refocus after 15-plus years of irregular warfare and counter-insurgency operations. Gen. [Mark] Milley has it right; we have to get back to preparing for combat operations across all domains against a very capable, state-based adversary. It’s a much more complex environment in which to operate.

The first half of my career was highly structured and very clearly focused on a state-based adversary, the Soviet Union. It was a very dangerous, but also very predictable, period. We knew their doctrine and organizational structure; they knew ours. We knew their equipment and capabilities; they knew ours. Our war plans were incredibly detailed: we knew exactly where we were going to fight and exactly where almost every soldier was going to go in the defense of Western Europe. Control was dominant.

That is not the environment in which the Army will operate in the future. We have to develop leaders who can thrive in the ambiguity that is certain to exist in future combat. Leaders must know how to exercise mission command and make proper decisions without linkages to their higher and adjacent units, or when communications are degraded. That, I think, is the great challenge the Army faces today.

The British trained ex-slaves to fight the US in the War of 1812

Carter F. Ham speaking to reporters during a press briefing at the Pentagon in October 2005.

Q: Can you discuss the importance of mission command for sustainment formations?

A: I’m not a logistician, but I learned the importance of sustainers early. When I was a division operations officer, I had some great mentoring from my division commander. The simple message was, “The brigades, they’re going to win the fight; you don’t need to spend time mapping things out for them. Your job is to set the conditions for those brigades to operate, and the biggest piece of that is sustainment.”

In the Cold War, sustainment was a complex operation; it’s tenfold more complex today. There are no longer safe rear areas, secure supply routes, or the ability to move “iron mountains” of supplies to the point of need at a moment’s notice.

In my era, sustainment was mostly a math problem: how do you move stuff from point A to point B? Today’s sustainment challenge is much more of an art than it is a science. How will sustainers make sure that dispersed, often separated, units have what they need to fight and win on the future battlefield?

The science is certainly still there; you still have to make sure fuel, water, chow, and ammunition are at the right place at the right time. But now, more than ever, sustainers have to be inside the heads of maneuver commanders, understanding what they want to achieve. That’s where it becomes more of an art, and I think that’s where mission command enters into the realm for sustainment leaders.

Q: How important is training?

A: I’m old enough to have been in the Army before there were combat training centers, and it’s night and day. I was an opposing force guy at the National Training Center in the mid- to late-1980s, and you could see the Army get better. Repetition matters. Complexity matters. The difficulty created in the training base matters.

We want Army leaders to be more challenged in their training than they will be in combat. That’s tough to achieve these days, particularly given multi-domain operations. How do you create that cyber, electronic warfare, or geographic complexity leaders will have to deal with? The more we invest in the rigors of our training, the better off we will be. That certainly applies to the sustainment force.

There are tremendous opportunities in the Synthetic Training Environment that allow for repetition and increased difficulty without great expense. At some point you still have to put Army units in the dirt to train, but it’s the most expensive way to do so. There’s so much you can do prior to that point so that units enter that phase at a much higher level. For all of our forces, the Synthetic Training Environment will yield a stronger Army that is able to train at levels we can’t imagine today.

The British trained ex-slaves to fight the US in the War of 1812

General Carter F. Ham being sworn into office as the Commanding General, U.S. Army Europe by Cairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen on Aug. 28, 2008.

Q: Where does integration with our allies and coalition partners fit into mission command?

A: In our guiding documents, including the National Military Strategy and Army vision, we’ve established a recognition that the Army will always operate with allies and partners. The scale will vary from time to time, but we’re always going to do so in some form. As fast as the Army is changing, we have to be careful we don’t leave our allies and partners out of our modernization efforts.

We also have to become increasingly comfortable with the idea of U.S. maneuver forces being sustained by forces of another country and vice versa. This became almost normal for us when our force presence in Iraq and Afghanistan was very high. Now that force levels are significantly lower, junior leaders have less opportunity to interact with our allies and partners. We have to find a way to replicate those kinds of activities in the training base.

Again, I think it is more art than science. Part of the art is making sure each of the partners has responsibility for support, for sustaining, and for direction in a coalition-type operation. That doesn’t happen by accident. Through the exercise of mission command, we want to create leaders who are comfortable in multinational environments.

Q: How are we doing as an Army when it comes to soldier resilience?

A: When I came home from Iraq, I think like many soldiers, I felt incomplete. I felt I had left soldiers behind; I came home and those I had served with were still there. I came to the Pentagon, the five-sided puzzle palace, and my work just didn’t feel very fulfilling. I had this tremendous longing to go back.

As a one-star general at the time, I don’t pretend I was on patrol facing hard combat every day like a squad leader or platoon sergeant. That’s an extraordinary kind of stress I frankly didn’t see on a daily basis. I think for leaders the effect is a little different; it’s a different kind of stress. Particularly for commanders, when you lose soldiers in combat — soldiers who are wounded or killed executing orders you issued — that stays with you.

When I came home, it was my wife who said, “Hey listen, you’ve changed.” That was important. It was recognition that a normal person can’t be exposed to combat and be unchanged. A lot of soldiers go through combat and deal with it very effectively. They’re resilient, they deal with it openly and confront it, and they continue to move forward. But there’s a spectrum, and on the other end are soldiers who have post-traumatic stress or, in more severe cases, traumatic brain injury. I was one of those who needed a little bit of help; mine came from an Army chaplain.

I’ll confess I was outed publicly. It wasn’t me coming forward; it was someone else talking about it. But as a general officer, my sense was [that] many other soldiers were having the same challenges readjusting to a nondeployed environment. If coming forward publicly would encourage one other soldier to get help and to say, “I’m having a tough time,” to his or her spouse, a chaplain, a social worker, a commander, a first sergeant, to somebody — then my speaking out was worthwhile.

I think the Army is once again leading the nation in matters like this. The senior leadership — the Secretary, Chief of Staff, and Sergeant Major of the Army — are coming forward and saying, “Hey, it is strength to step forward and say I need a little bit of help.”

The British trained ex-slaves to fight the US in the War of 1812

Carter F. Ham listens to a soldier’s comments during a visit to the headquarters of the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne), a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Reserve.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Mark Bell)

That’s what the Army needs. We need soldiers who can take a blow, whether physical or psychological, recover, and be stronger in continuing their mission.

There’s still a lot of work to be done; we shouldn’t kid ourselves that the stigma is gone. We have to keep it as a frontline Army effort and continue to say, “This can make you stronger; and when you’re stronger, our Army is stronger.” But I’m really proud of our efforts thus far.

Q: You’re one of only a few to rise from private to four-star general. What advice do you have for soldiers today?

A: First, recognize I didn’t go from private to four-star overnight; there were just a few intervening steps along the way. When I was enlisted, I rose to the exalted position of being our battalion command sergeant major’s driver. He was, to me, the model of the noncommissioned officer: mission-focused, hard on soldiers, and always fair. He made me a better soldier. And after all these years, it comes back to one question, “Why do you serve?”

We get so busy sometimes that we forget this. We talk a lot about what we do; we talk less about what we’re for. Whenever I have the opportunity to talk to young leaders, both enlisted and officers, I ask them to think about the oath they took. It is the bond that ties us together, the shared commitment each one of us made to serve the nation.

In my mind, it’s what makes the Army such a unique organization. I have lots of experience as a joint officer, and I truly value the other services. We have the best Marine Corps, the best Navy, and the best Air Force. But of all the services, I think the Army is uniquely of the people. We’re the biggest and most diverse. I think it’s worthwhile to sit back and say, “What is this Army for, and why is it that more than one million women and men have raised their right hand and said I’m willing to do this?”

Every now and then, take time to think about it. Don’t get consumed by it, but take pause and remember why you chose to serve this nation. I found when I did, it caused me to reflect as a professional soldier and “re-green” myself. For any Army leader — enlisted, officer, or civilian — it’s a worthy endeavor to remember why.

Arpi Dilanian is a strategic analyst in the Army G-4’s Logistics Initiatives Group. She holds a bachelor’s degree from American University and a master’s degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Matthew Howard is a strategic analyst in the Army G-4’s Logistics Initiatives Group. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Georgetown University.

This article was published in the January-March 2019 issue of Army Sustainment.

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

Intel

Why CIA analysts are often sent into combat zones

In the first season of Amazon’s Jack Ryan, the eponymous character begins as a low-level financial analyst within the CIA. The series is, essentially, one big prequel, connecting to what will ultimately become Tom Clancy’s Ryanverse, a fictional reality that’s the basis for many great films, like The Hunt for Red October and The Sum of All Fears.

At the series’ start, Ryan is just a lowly desk-jockey, reluctant to embrace danger — he begins the series complaining about being sent into a combat zone. Now, it’s not necessarily a plot hole, but a CIA analyst being reluctant to get into the mix is a lot like a young private complaining that they’re being sent to Afghanistan: It happens so often that they should kind of expect their number to be called.


CIA analysts often provide the Department of Defense with the actionable intelligence they need to conduct their missions. That being said, the life of a CIA analyst isn’t the fun, high-stakes adventure that films often make it out to be. Since information about specific events is rarely released to the public, we often only hear about their missions well after the fact, or in some broad, vague way.

Each analyst is specifically trained in a given field and is sent to a specific region to learn one specific thing. This is fairly well represented in the show — Ryan is sent to Yemen to learn about terrorist spending habits there. Actual analysts would be given more mundane tasks, yes, but their missions would be along those lines.

Even if it’s a tad unrealistic, upping the ante makes for a great show.

The British trained ex-slaves to fight the US in the War of 1812

Hacking in the real world is more like using software to crack passwords than improvising lines of written code, just to demystify that one, too.

For the most part, analysts often only report local happenings to their higher ups. Sure, a deep-undercover operative sent to Afghanistan in 2000 may have been doing all that secret-squirrel stuff and agents sent to Berlin in the 70s could have been living it up like James Bond — but analysts might be sent anywhere for any reason, like to get a feel of the trends in the Kazakh media.

The whole spy world gets demystified when you realize that it’s actually kinda boring. Take the often-misunderstood CIA cyber analysts, for example. Moments where you can flex your super-hacker muscles like they do in the movies probably exists, but you’re mostly just gathering intelligence via social media analysis.

The British trained ex-slaves to fight the US in the War of 1812

Don’t get that twisted, though. They’re still going to be involved with the cool moments you see in spy films — just not very often.

Hamid Karzai with Special Forces and CIA Paramilitary in late 2001.

Then there’re the analysts that get embedded with the troops. On one extreme, they’re working hand-in-hand with the special operations community to collect as much information as possible about any given threat, like on the Abbottabad Compound where Osama Bin Laden hid. Or they could be working with conventional forces to gather whatever the troops learn while deployed.

Everything just comes down to the second word in the CIA’s name — intelligence — and learning what they can from anywhere and everyone.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Green Beret’s new book challenges you to find resiliency

Ryan Hendrickson is a retired Green Beret who’s been through a lot. Despite overwhelming challenges, he refuses to wear the title of victim and instead calls himself a survivor. He wants you to do the same.

Tip of the Spear wasn’t supposed to be a book. It started as a journal for Hendrickson, a way to work through his thoughts and post-traumatic stress. But after a few months, he saw something in those writings – as did friends. “The therapeutic effect I got from writing actually turned into a book. I had to see the silver lining in something as bad as stepping on an IED [improvised explosive device]. A lot of people that were reading it said the book talks to everyone — not just military — as far as not being a victim in your life,” Hendrickson explained.


In September of 2010, Hendrickson was deployed to Afghanistan as an 18 Charlie, a Special Forces Engineer with Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th special forces. He had just completed the elite schooling to earn the coveted Green Beret and was feeling on top of the world. The first chapter of Tip of the Spear takes the reader vividly through what it’s like to arrive in Afghanistan – and the mission that changed his life.

When Hendrickson and his team entered the deserted Afghan village before dawn, he said he knew something big was coming. When his interpreter went too far ahead of uncleared ground, he had no choice but to quickly and quietly get him back. “I grabbed him by the back of the shirt and moved him around. You never like to have any unknown area or blind spot, so I put the muzzle of my M-4 in the doorway of the compound and stepped back… right onto the IED,” he shared.

Hendrickson said he didn’t realize he hit it at first, remembering that he just felt like he couldn’t breathe because of the heavy dust and ammonia in the air. “As the dust started to clear, I saw that my boot was six inches away from my leg…When I reached behind my knee to pull my leg up, my boot sort of flopped over with my toes pointed at me. I saw these two pearly white objects sticking out of my pant leg. Then it kicked in that it was bone,” he said.

It was then that Hendrickson realized it was really bad. His team couldn’t rush in to support him either, since they knew that if there was one IED, there were probably five. His interpreter started a tourniquet, effectively saving his life. After a while, his team was able to safely make it to him and they got him out. “We could hear the Taliban on chatter celebrating that I got hit and that they were going to move into position to ambush us. They splinted the leg the best they could to put the lower and upper part together,” he said.

The British trained ex-slaves to fight the US in the War of 1812

Hendrickson was in theater for over a week as they tried to stabilize him and keep him alive. When he made it to San Antonio, it would take 28 surgeries to reattach his leg. Then the real work began. “I had a sergeant major who came in to see me; he told me if I could get medically cleared he’d send me back to combat. That was the big driving factor behind me taking control of my life and hitting rehab as hard as I could. That and knowing the Taliban were cheering when I got hurt. I wasn’t going to let them beat me or win,” he explained.

Although he was medically retired, Hendrickson refused to accept it. After spending a grueling year in rehabilitation, he passed all the required tests and was reinstated into active duty through a special waiver. In March of 2012 – only a year and a half after almost losing his leg to an IED – his boots were back in the sands of Afghanistan.

It wasn’t easy though, he shared. The guys he was working with were concerned he’d be a liability. Hendrickson was sent to the biggest known IED province of Afghanistan, a real test given his own experience. He had to prove himself to his teammates and did it by methodically finding IED after IED, keeping them all safe.

The British trained ex-slaves to fight the US in the War of 1812

Hendrickson would continue to serve and deploy for years after that. In 2016, he earned a Silver Star for heroic efforts during a difficult seven-hour firefight in Afghanistan. “It wasn’t what I did, it was what we did…It’s the same thing all of us say, we were just doing our job,” he shared. He headed home fromAfghanistan in 2017 and found himself struggling with a lot, mentally.

After trying unsuccessfully to talk with a counselor, he sought help through the chaplain. He advised him to write, using that avenue to tell his story and work through his thoughts. Those thoughts and writing were unknowingly turning into a story of his life, both the good and the bad. It was here that he found healing and the deep resiliency he needed to never feel like a victim again.

Tip of the Spear will bring the reader on a powerful journey through a difficult childhood leading to military service spanning three branches, ultimately leading Hendrickson to become an elite Green Beret. The story culminates with the unfathomable challenge of coming back from an injury that almost took his life and was certainly considered the end of his military career. Hendrickson refused to quit and fought his way past the odds stacked against him.

It’s Hendrick’s hope that readers will use his journey to be inspired to do the same in their own lives. Anything is possible he says, but first you have to become a survivor, not a victim.

To purchase your copy of Tip of the Spear, click here.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time a U-boat sank as a result of flushing the toilet

In the 1970s, BP oil pipeline workers came across a curious item about 12 miles southwest of Cruden Bay, Aberdeenshire sitting about 86 meters under the surface- an old German U-Boat. In fact, one of the last U-Boats ever sunk in WWII. Unlike so many of its fellow subs, however, this one’s demise came about owing to a sequence of events all stemming from someone flushing the toilet incorrectly… So what exactly happened here?


U-1206’s Toilet Disaster

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U-1206’s Toilet Disaster

U-1206, a Type VIIC submarine, was officially ordered on April 2, 1942 and ultimately launched on December 30, 1943. About a year and a half later, On April 6, 1945, the shiny new craft with its crew of 50 men departed from Kristiansand, Norway on its first non-training patrol machine.

Pertinent to the topic at hand is that while most submarines at the time used a storage tank to stow the product of flushing on board toilets and other waste water, with stereotypical German engineering efficiency, U-boat designers went the other way and decided to eject the waste directly into the ocean.

On the plus side, this saved valuable space within the submarine while also reducing weight. The downside, of course, was that ejecting anything into the ocean required greater pressure inside than out. As a result, U-boats had long required that, in order to use the toilets, the ship would have to be near the surface

Of course, being so close to or on the surface is generally to be avoided when on patrol if a sub captain wants to see his ship not blown up. This resulted in crewmen who needed to purge their orifices while submerged needing to do so in containers, which would then be stored appropriately until the sub needed to surface and the offending substances could be ditched over board.

The British trained ex-slaves to fight the US in the War of 1812

As you can imagine, this didn’t exactly improve the already less than ideal smell of the air within the sub while it was plodding away down under. But there was nothing much that could be done about this…

That is, until some unknown German engineers designed a high pressure evacuation system. As to how this system worked, in a nutshell, the contents of the toilet were piped into an airlock of sorts. Once the offending matter found its way into said airlock, this would be sealed and subsequently pressurized, at which point a valve could be opened which would eject the fecal matter and fluids into the sea.

This all brings us to eight days into the patrol mission, on April 14, 1945.

Now, before we get into this, it should be noted that there are two versions of the story of what happened next- one version is stated by literally every single source we could find discussing this event on the interwebs, as well as repeated on the show QI and found in countless books on the subject. As for the other version, if you dig a little deeper, thanks to the good people at the Deutsches U-Boot Museum Archive, you can actually find the official account from 27 year old Captain Karl-Adolf Schlitt, who, minus a couple letters in his last name, couldn’t have been more aptly named for what was about to occur.

All this said, in both cases, the root cause of the sub’s sinking were the same- improper use of the toilet’s flushing mechanism.

That caveat out of the way, as the vessel was cruising along at around 70 meters below the surface and about eight miles from Peterhead, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, the popular version states that Captain Schlitt had need of evacuating his bowels and so, no doubt with dignity befitting a man of his stature and rank, did his business in the toilet. That done, he was now left to try to flush the thing.

Unable to figure out the complicated contraption, Captain Schlitt called in help from the “W.C. Waste Disposal Unit Manager”- literally the only guy on board officially trained in how to flush the toilet, apparently also known among the crew as (translated), “the shit-man”.

Unfortunately for the men that would soon die as a result, for whatever reason the crewman who was supposed to know how to flush the toilet made a mistake and turned the wrong valve…

That’s the popular version to which we could not find any primary document to support it, despite it being widely parroted. As for the official version, Captain Schlitt himself claimed, “In April 1945 U-1206 was in the North Sea off Britain. On board the diesel engines were faulty. We could not charge our batteries by the snorkel any more. In order to get the diesels working again we had put down about 8-10 miles from the British coast at 70mts, unseen by British patrols… I was in the engine room, when at the front of the boat there was a water leak. What I have learned is that a mechanic had tried to repair the forward WC’s outboard vent. I would say – although I do not have any proof – that the outer vent indicator either gave false readings or none at all.”

The British trained ex-slaves to fight the US in the War of 1812

As to why said mechanic was attempting to work on the toilet’s outboard vent while deeply submerged, that’s every bit as much of a mystery as to why an engineer trained in how to properly flush the toilet would have screwed it up so badly in the Captain Schlitt pooping version of the story.

Of course, it is always possible that the good Captain made up his version of things to avoid personal embarrassment and perhaps the other version came from crew members giving a very different account, but we could not locate any crew member’s version of events to verify that.

Whichever story is true, the result in either case was the contents of the toilet, if any, and the ocean outside shooting like a jet stream into the submarine.

Things were about to get a whole lot worse.

You see, as alluded to in Captain Schlitt’s account, the U-1206 was a diesel electric sub, featuring twin Germaniawerft F46 four-stroke engines, which charged a bank of batteries which, in turn, powered two electric motors capable of producing 750 horsepower combined. The problem was that the batteries were directly below the toilet area. According to Captain Schlitt, when the water rushed in, “…the batteries were covered with seawater. Chlorine gas started to fill the boat.”

As this was all happening, Captain Schlitt ordered the vessel to be surfaced. He then states, “The engineer who was in the control room at the time managed to make the boat buoyant and surfaced, despite severe flooding.”

So here they were, diesel engines down for maintenance, batteries soaking in seawater, having taken on a significant amount of said water, chlorine gas filling the ship, and on the surface just off the coast of enemy territory.

The nightmare for Captain Schlitt was about to get worse. As he noted in his account of events, “We were then incapable of diving or moving. At this point, British planes and patrols discovered us…”

With few options available, Captain Schlitt ordered various valves on the U-1206 be opened in order for it to fill with water, after which the crew abandoned the sub, with it shortly thereafter sinking.

The crew made their way to the Scottish coast on rubber rafts, but things didn’t go well here either. Schlitt states, “In the attempt to negotiate the steep coast in heavy seas, three crew members tragically died. Several men were taken onboard a British sloop. The dead were Hans Berkhauer, Karl Koren, and Emil Kupper.”

Ultimately 10 crewmen did make it shore, but just like their surviving compatriots at sea, were promptly captured.

In the aftermath, thankfully for just about everyone, just 16 days later, on April 30, 1945, Hitler bravely, and with no regard for his own personal safety, infiltrated the Führerbunker and single handedly managed to rid the world of one of the most notorious individuals of all time by putting a bullet through his own brain. About a week after that, Germany finally surrendered.

As for what happened to Captain Schlitt after, this isn’t clear, other than he appears to have lived to the ripe old age of 90, dying on April 7, 2009.

The British trained ex-slaves to fight the US in the War of 1812
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Bonus Facts:

The practice of calling the toilet the “head” was originally a maritime euphemism. This came from the fact that, classically, the toilet on a marine vessel, or at least where everyone would relieve themselves, was at the front of the ship (the head). This was so that water from the sea that splashed up on the front of the boat would wash the waste away. The first known documented occurrence of the term used to describe a toilet area was from 1708 by Woodes Rogers, Governor of the Bahamas, in his work “Cruising Voyage Around the World.”

Despite toilet paper having been around since at least the 6th century AD (initially in China), it wouldn’t be until the late 19th century when toilet paper would first be introduced in America and England and it wasn’t until the 1900s, around the same time the indoor toilet became common, that toilet paper would catch on with the masses. So what did people use for wiping before toilet paper? This depended greatly on region, personal preference, and wealth. Rich people often used hemp, lace, or wool. The 16th century French writer Francois Rabelais, in his work Gargantua and Pantagruel, recommended using “the neck of a goose, that is well downed”.

The goose is kind of getting the crappy end of that deal. *crickets* Poor people would poop in rivers and clean off with water, rags, wood shavings, leaves, hay, rocks, sand, moss, sea weed, apple husks, seashells, ferns, and pretty much whatever else was at hand and cheap/free. For seaman, the common thing was to use old frayed anchor cables. The Inuit’s and other peoples living in frigid regions tended to go with clumps of snow to wipe with, which, other than the coldness factor, is actually one of the better options it seems compared to many other of the aforementioned methods.Going back a ways in history, we know the Ancient Roman’s favorite wiping item, including in public restrooms, was a sponge on a stick that would sit in salt water and be placed back in the salt water when done… waiting for the next person…

Back to America, one extremely popular wiping item for a time was corn cobs and, later, Sears and Roebucks, Farmers Almanac, and other catalogs became popular. The Farmers Almanac even came with a hole in it so it could be easily hung in bathrooms for just this purpose… reading and wiping material in one, and no doubt boosting their sales when said magazine needed replaced!Around 1857, Joseph Gayetty came up with the first commercially available toilet paper in the United States. His paper “The greatest necessity of the age! Gayetty’s medicated paper for the water-closet” was sold in packages of flat sheets that were moistened and soaked with aloe. Gayetty’s toilet paper sold for about 50 cents a pack ( today), with 500 sheets in that package. Despite its comfort and superiority at cleaning, this wasn’t terribly popular, presumably because up to this point most people got their wiping materials for free from whatever was at hand, and humans hate change and newfangled innovations.

Around 1867, brothers Edward, Clarence, and Thomas Scott, who sold products from a push cart, started making and selling toilet paper as well. They did a bit better than Gayetty; their original toilet paper was much cheaper as it was not coated with aloe and moistened, but was just rolls of somewhat soft paper (often with splinters).As the indoor flushable toilet started to become popular, so did toilet paper. This is not surprising considering there was nothing really to grab in an indoor bathroom to wipe with, unlike outdoors where nature is at your disposal. The age old Farmers Almanac and similar such catalogs also were not well suited for this purpose because their pages tended to clog up the pipes in indoor plumbing.Even once it became popular, wiping with toilet paper still doesn’t appear to have been painless until surprisingly recently.

The aforementioned splinter problem seems to have been somewhat common until a few decades into the 20th century. In the 1930s, this changed with such companies as Northern Tissue boasting a “splinter free” toilet tissue.As for today, toilet paper is still extremely popular, though wet wipes, similar to Gayetty’s, have made a major come back in recent years, much to the chagrin of sewer workers the world over.Much like our forebears who shunned Gayetty’s innovation, vastly superior toilet seat add-on bidet systems that take 10 minutes to install and cost only around , literally paying for themselves in drastic reduction of toilet paper usage relatively quickly and providing significantly better cleaning, are still largely shunned for some reason.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Air Force space plane touches down after 2-year mission

The Air Force’s X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle is back on the ground after completing its latest record-breaking unmanned mission in space.

The experimental, clandestine space plane landed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Oct. 27, 2019, after more than two years in orbit, the service said in a release. This was the X-37B’s fifth space mission. Its last orbit ended in May 2017 after 718 days in space.

“The safe return of this spacecraft, after breaking its own endurance record, is the result of the innovative partnership between government and industry,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said in a statement. “The sky is no longer the limit for the Air Force and, if Congress approves, the U.S. Space Force.”


This was the second time the X-37B landed has landed at the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility. It took off for its fifth mission on Sept. 7, 2017.

While its pay loads and most of its activities are classified, the Air Force said at the time that the mission would carry “the Air Force Research Laboratory Advanced Structurally Embedded Thermal Spreader (ASETS-II) payload to test experimental electronics and oscillating heat pipe technologies in the long-duration space environment.”

The British trained ex-slaves to fight the US in the War of 1812

The Air Force’s X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle Mission 5 successfully landed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility Oct. 27, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

The space plane “conducted on-orbit experiments for 780 days during its mission, recently breaking its own record by being in orbit for more than two years,” the release said. That brings the total number of days spent on-orbit for the X-37B to 2,865, officials said.

The last two missions have pushed the boundaries for a test vehicle, originally designed to spend up to 270 days circling the Earth.

What the X-37B does is literally a matter of rocket science. According to the service, the X-37B is exploring the practicalities and risks of “reusable space vehicle technologies” while also experimenting with space technology.

Under the purview of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, the test vehicle can autonomously reenter the atmosphere and eventually land horizontally on a flight line.

“This program continues to push the envelope as the world’s only reusable space vehicle,” said Randy Walden, director of the Rapid Capabilities Office.

“With a successful landing today, the X-37B completed its longest flight to date and successfully completed all mission objectives. This mission successfully hosted Air Force Research Laboratory experiments, among others, as well as providing a ride for small satellites,” Walden said Sunday.

In July 2019, the service’s former top civilian gave a glimpse into the space plane’s mission.

Air Force X-37B spaceplane successfully returns to earth after 780-day mission

www.youtube.com

Speaking about space awareness and deterrence at the Aspen Security Forum, Heather Wilson described the vehicle as a “small version of the [NASA space] shuttle.”

It “can do an orbit that looks like an egg and, when it’s close to the Earth, it’s close enough to the atmosphere to turn where it is,” she said at the time.

“Which means our adversaries don’t know — and that happens on the far side of the Earth from our adversaries — where it’s going to come up next. And we know that that drives them nuts. And I’m really glad about that,” she added.

Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer and astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told Military.com that Wilson’s comments on its movement may shed light on “a previously secret orbit-related capability,” and explained that the aircraft’s movement likely throws an adversary off, even if just for a short time.

“The dip into the atmosphere causes a change in the timing of when it next comes overhead. So [trackers’] predictions are off, and [they] have to search for it all over again,” McDowell said at the time.

The Air Force is preparing to launch the sixth X-37B mission from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, in 2020.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army wants a new, lightweight ghillie suit for snipers

U.S. Army uniform officials are working on a lightweight, modular ghillie suit for snipers to replace the current Flame Resistant Ghillie System, or FRGS, that’s known for being too heavy for hot environments.

Program Executive Office Soldier is developing the Improved Ghillie System, or IGS, a modular system that would be worn over the field uniform, Debbie Williams, a systems acquisition expert with Product Manager Soldier Clothing and Individual Equipment, said in a recent Army press release posted on PEO Soldier’s website.


The FRGS was first fielded in 2012 at the Army Sniper School at Fort Benning, Georgia; U.S. Marine Corps Scout Sniper School at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia; and the Special Operations Target Interdiction Course at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

The IGS will consist of components such as sleeves, leggings, veil, and cape that can be added or taken off as needed, Williams said.

It will also do away with the ghillie suit accessory kit, which is standard with the FRGS, she said, explaining that soldiers were not using most of the items in the kit.

The British trained ex-slaves to fight the US in the War of 1812

A 1st Battalion, 175th Infantry, soldier practices camouflage, cover and concealment with the Flame Resistant Ghillie Suit, or FRGS, during training at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., in November 2012.

(Army photo)

The Army issued a request for proposal for the IGS on Aug. 28, 2018, according to the release.

The IGS will feature a lighter, more breathable fabric than the material used in the FRGS, said Mary Armacost, a textile technologist with PM SCIE.

The material will offer some flame-resistance, but soldiers will receive most of their protection from their Flame Resistant Combat Uniform, worn underneath the IGS, Army officials said.

If all goes well, the Army plans to buy about 3,500 IGSs to outfit the approximately 3,300 snipers in the service, as well as Army snipers in U.S. Special Operations Command, the release states.

The Army intends to conduct tests that will evaluate the new IGS in both lab and field environments during day and night conditions. A limited user evaluation is being scheduled for next spring, involving instructors from the Sniper School at Fort Benning.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army SSGT performs the ultimate Van Halen tribute and it goes viral

On October 6, legendary rocker Eddie Van Halen lost his battle with cancer. The death of the rocker shocked not just his legions of fans but people around the globe. As a tribute to the late great, Army Staff Sgt. Austin West took to the internet to play through his grief and offer one of the most fitting tributes to the musician.


Eddie Van Halen Tribute

www.youtube.com

West knew what many of us inherently understand – music unites us, both in times of hope and in times of grief. Of course, West wasn’t the only person who took to the internet to offer their tributes, but his was definitely the best.

The three-minute video of West has been viewed more than a million times. West, who is a recruiter based in Watertown, New York, instantly became a viral sensation, not just because of West’s stellar guitar skills but also because it’s so very clear that his tribute to the late rocker is so heartfelt.

West successfully manages to play half a dozen of Van Halen’s best-known guitar riffs, including “You Really Got Me,” “Panama” and “Eruption.” The Army musician reportedly told Stars and Stripes that he feels connected to both his guitar and the late musical legend.

The 26-guitar player first picked up an ax after listening to an AC/DC cassette. He was hooked and immediately wanted to learn how to play. Then, he saw Van Halen live in 2008, and that sealed the deal. He’s been playing for 13 years now, and he once played a single song for an AC/DC tribute band.

That tribute was never rehearsed and played flawlessly, West said, so it’s no surprise that his Van Halen tribute has had so many views and rings so true.

In an interview with the Watertown CBS affiliate WWNY, West said that even his earliest attempts at learning Van Halen’s music made him feel like a “rock god,” and that’s one of the many reasons he kept practicing.

During his Army career, West has worked as both a signal soldier and then held a post as a guitarist for the US Army Bank.

A soldier spotlight video for the US Army Recruiting Command, released in February, features West. In the video, he says that getting out of bed every morning is easier knowing he’s going to help someone, “whether it be in recruiting and helping change someone’s life and hearing their success stories or going out and playing in front of all these beautiful people.”

The Van Halen tribute video isn’t the first time that West’s guitar playing has reached countless fans. Back in 2015, he performed in a tour with the US Army Soldier Show. The Soldier Show is an annual production that visits installations around the country to feature the musical and theater talents of service members and to help raise awareness that creative positions in the Army exist. During West’s participation in 2015, the Soldier Show stopped at 74 installations.

In a time of increasing social isolation, music is one of the few shared creative outlets that can exist across all communities. Uniting through music, no matter if it’s Van Halen or Mozart, can help bring people together in a way that other media can’t. West’s touching tribute proves that viral videos don’t need to be over the top or extreme to be shared, liked, and appreciated by people all around the country. Music is all around us and helps provide us the foundation to share our stories, which is exactly what West has been able to do with his tribute to Eddie Van Halen. As a universal language, it helps unit us across cultures and can comfort people in times of need, grief, or sadness – emotions all felt when the world learned of Van Halen’s untimely death.

Once his recruiting billet is complete, West will be joining the Army pop-rock group, As You Were, for a three-year assignment.


MIGHTY CULTURE

This Marine kept a 50-year promise to his Vietnam War buddy

At age 83, Marine Corps veteran William Cox stands and walks with the help of a cane. But for one day in November, 2017, he stood for hours without it, wearing his old uniform. It was the last act of a promise he made in 1968 to his best buddy in Vietnam. That buddy, James Hollingsworth, was laid to rest that day.


Cox is a Vietnam War veteran and retired Master Sergeant. It was New Year’s Eve and he and retired First Sergeant Hollingsworth were fortified down in a bunker in the Marble Mountains, just south of Da Nang. From above them, the Viet Cong were raining explosives down on their position. Rockets, mortars, whatever the VC could find. As fiery death pelted their position, they made a promise to each other.

“Charlie was really putting on a fireworks show for us,” Cox told the Greenville News. “If we survived this attack, or survived Vietnam, we would contact each other every year on New Years.”

And they kept the pact they made in that bunker every year for 50 years. Cox, who lives in Piedmont, S.C., visited Hollingsworth at his Anderson County home just under 20 miles away. But it was another promise Cox made to Hollingsworth that was finally fulfilled one day in late November, 2017 — the retired Master Sergeant stood guard at his longtime friend’s funeral as he was laid to rest.

He then delivered his eulogy.

The British trained ex-slaves to fight the US in the War of 1812

That was also a promise kept, but not one made in Vietnam. When Cox found out his buddy was terminally ill, he made a visit. That’s when Hollingsworth made the morbid request of his longtime friend. The two had known each other long before spending that explosive New Year’s Eve together in 1968. Their bond as Marines kept their friendship for the rest of their lives.

Hollingsworth, a helicopter mechanic, and Cox, an ordnance chief, served in a helicopter squadron together. At the end of each mission, Cox would deliver Hollingsworth a line he delivered one last time at the end of his best friend’s eulogy.

“Hollie, you keep ’em flying, and I’ll keep ’em firing.”
MIGHTY HISTORY

Man of honor: The US Navy’s 1st African American master diver & amputee diver Carl Brashear

The US Air Force lost a nuclear bomb off the coast of Palomares, Spain. It was on Jan. 17, 1966, when a K-135 refueling aircraft collided midair with a B-52G long-range bomber carrying a payload of four 70-kiloton hydrogen bombs. Three parachutes deployed and the nuclear devices were located on land, while a fourth plummeted into the Mediterranean Sea. The Air Force asked for the Navy’s help to retrieve it.

The salvage ship USS Hoist and her crew responded. “We searched for the bomb close to the shoreline for about two and a half months, and all we were getting was pings on beer cans, coral heads, and other contacts,” recalled Master Chief Boatswain’s Mate Carl Brashear, the US Navy’s first African American Navy diver

Each time their sonar technology picked up a contact, the Navy sent divers to check it out. A fisherman who had witnessed the bomb entering the water told officials how close they were, and even used his fingers as a means of measurement. They were that close.

“So one day Admiral Guest said we would try it,” Brashear said in an interview in 1998. “So they made a replica of the bomb on the tender and then dropped it to see how it would show up on the screen, same dimension, same length, same diameter. Then we went out 6 miles, and the first pass, there the bomb was, 6 miles in 2,600 feet of water.”

The British trained ex-slaves to fight the US in the War of 1812
Navy salvors recover the lost hydrogen bomb on April 7, 1966, two weeks after Navy diver Carl Brashear was injured during the salvage operation. Photo courtesy of the United States Naval Undersea Museum.

The Alvin submersible was made for this type of operation. It managed to attach grapnels to the parachute shrouds connected to the bomb before it ran out of batteries and was forced to surface. Using the Cable-controlled Underwater Recovery Vehicle (CURV) developed to salvage torpedoes, Brashear began to hoist the bomb up from the deep. As Brashear was bringing it up, a lifting cable snapped and the boat broke loose. Brashear scrambled to manhandle another sailor out of the way as the boat yanked on the pipe that had the mooring line tied to it.

“That pipe came loose, flew across the deck, and it struck my leg below the knee,” he said. “They said I was way up in the air just turning flips. I landed about two foot inside of that freeboard. They said if I’d been two foot farther over, I’d have gone over the side. I jumped up and started to run and fell over. That’s when I knew how bad my leg was.”

At that time, Brashear had 18 years of service in the US Navy, joining in 1948 and becoming the first African American Navy diver in 1954. He was now in the fight for his life. Corpsmen aboard the Hoist secured two tourniquets around his leg, but by the time he got to a hospital he had no pulse or heartbeat due to blood loss. The medical staff administered 18 pints of blood, restarted his heart, and brought him back from the dead.

He was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for heroism in saving another sailor’s life at the risk of his own personal injury. His doctors told him it would take three years before he could walk again. The infection was so bad he agreed to have his leg amputated below the knee to fast-track his grueling rehabilitation.

The British trained ex-slaves to fight the US in the War of 1812
Brashear trains with his prosthetic leg to climb diving ladders, loaded with weights to simulate the heavy MK V diving rig. Photo courtesy of the United States Naval Undersea Museum.

Brashear was outfitted with his own prosthetic leg in December 1966, but amid the inequalities African Americans faced in the military, his prosthetic was painted to match white skin. That was not out of the norm for his personal experiences, as for his entire career he was subject to discrimination, harassment, threats, and ill treatment by his fellow service members. Despite it all, he persevered to become a pioneer in the diving industry. 

“It took more willpower than I ever thought I had, to accept the fact that I had lost a leg,” he later said. “Once I accepted that, I knew I would win the fight to become a master diver.”

The native of Kentucky who was raised attending segregated schools refused to submit to the medical survey board’s attempts to retire him, as they believed he was unfit for duty. Chief Warrant Officer Clair Axtell Jr., his old friend from salvage school, granted Brashear the opportunity to train at the Portsmouth Naval Hospital in Virginia. Even on the weekends he practiced diving in a MK V deep-sea rig, a shallow-water diving suit, and scuba gear. 

“It is not a sin to get knocked down,” he would often say. “It’s a sin to stay down.” 

The British trained ex-slaves to fight the US in the War of 1812
To achieve his dream of becoming a US Navy Master Diver, Carl Brashear had to prove his diving aptitude post-amputation. Photo taken either at the Norfolk diving school or the Deep Sea Diving School in Washington, DC. Photo courtesy of the United States Naval Undersea Museum.

He led daily calisthenics and suffered greatly, but he did not give up. Sometimes after he returned from a run, the end of his prosthetic would have a puddle of blood at the bottom. It was evidence he pushed his body beyond his limits. 

“In that year, if I had gone to sick bay, they would have written me up,” he said. “I’d go somewhere and hide and soak my leg in a bucket of hot water with salt in it — an old remedy. Then I’d get up the next morning and run.”

Against all odds, Carl Brashear qualified as the first Black Master Diver and first amputee Navy diver in US military history. He didn’t make a mistake during his evaluation. The next nine years Brashear lived out his dream as a Master Diver working on the submarine USS Hunley and on the salvage ship USS Recovery. 

He struggled with alcohol before achieving sobriety and retired from the Navy in 1979 with 31 years of military service. Actor Cuba Gooding Jr. immortalized his remarkable story in the 2000 movie Men of Honor. Brashear passed away in 2006 at the age of 75. He has since received further tributes, including a 700-foot cargo ship commissioned in 2008 called the USNS Carl Brashear. The Carl Brashear Foundation exists to share his achievements with as many people as possible.

MIGHTY CULTURE

After 23 years, soldier meets his father for the first time

The soldier nervously scanned the hotel lobby. Suddenly, his eyes lit up and a broad smile immediately filled his face.

“That’s my dad!” he said, and rushed to the hotel door. The soldier embraced his father, and it was clear he didn’t want to let go. Who could blame him?

This was June 24, 2019. He had waited 23 years for this moment.


The British trained ex-slaves to fight the US in the War of 1812

U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist with the 358th Engineer Company from Chambersburg, Pa., nervously awaits the arrival of his father, Jorge, June 24, 2019, at the Intercontinental Hotel in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

Leaving Guatemala

Spc. Brandon Paiz, remembered the day he learned he was going to leave his home.

“I was little, about nine and eight months,” Paiz reflected. “My mom said, ‘Hey we’re going to move to the United States with your stepdad, Roger.'”

Paiz, now a tall, muscular masonry/carpentry specialist with the 358th Engineer Company, talked about the apprehension he felt as a small child leaving his birthplace, Guatemala.

“It was a culture shock,” Paiz said. “The first thing I noticed about the United States is that is was really clean, the streets were really clean. It sounds weird, but they handed me a fruit — a banana — and I was like, holy cow, this thing is huge!”

Paiz said he was quick to adapt to his new home, starting with a new-found love of bacon. He also quickly learned to speak English from an unlikely source.

“Spongebob was my favorite cartoon when I was little,” Paiz said. “It was in Spanish, but when I came to the U.S., I kind of remembered the lines, what they were saying.”

The British trained ex-slaves to fight the US in the War of 1812

Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist from Chambersburg, Pa., with the 358th Engineer Company, sweats during construction work on a medical clinic June 21, 2019, in Tojocaz, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

He took three years of English as a Second Language classes and, with the help of Spongebob, didn’t need any more classes. Still, it was not easy for the boy.

“There were times I just wanted to go back and see my friends again,” he admitted. He had some scattered memories, such as living in a tall apartment building in Guatemala City, where he would go to the roof and play soccer alone for hours. He remembered buying chips from a lady named Dora, and huge celebrations each March in Guatemala City where people would carry massive statues of the saints down the streets.

“I would make rugs for the celebration,” Paiz said. He spoke quickly and with excitement when recalling his tight-knit community.

Paiz first lived in New Jersey, where he had to re-adapt to being part of a new community. He said while he was learning English, some of the neighborhood kids didn’t want to involve him in activities. However, just as he had used Spongebob to improve his English, Paiz used another tool to make new friends: kickball.

“I was really good at soccer, so when I started playing kickball, then the kids finally started talking to me,” he said with a laugh.

The British trained ex-slaves to fight the US in the War of 1812

Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist from Chambersburg, Pa., with the 358th Engineer Company, listens to the morning safety briefing before starting construction work on a medical clinic June 21, 2019, in Tojocaz, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

He was curious about his father. He didn’t know too much about him other than his name was Jorge and that he had seen some occasional pictures of him on his aunt Lorna’s Facebook. He didn’t understand why he had not been there, but he forgave him.

“People make mistakes,” Paiz said. “His mistake was he wasn’t really around as much as he should have been. I’m going to continue to build our relationship, because I can tell he regrets it. I don’t want to give him a hard time with more of the guilt he feels already, I’m just excited to get to know him more.”

The British trained ex-slaves to fight the US in the War of 1812

Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist from Chambersburg, Pa., with the 358th Engineer Company, hands construction equipment from a connex to Spc. Pierre Mebe, a plumber, also with the 358th, before beginning construction work on a medical clinic June 21, 2019, in Tojocaz, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

Joining the Army Reserve

“I joined the military for opportunity and education, but above all, I wanted to give back to the country that opened up the doors for me,” Paiz said. “I wanted to do it for the longest time, but I didn’t know exactly how I wanted to do it — whether I wanted to be a cop, but I wanted to do something to give back to the community, so I decided on the military.”

Paiz said he didn’t want to leave his mother, who had at this time divorced from Roger, so he decided on joining the Army Reserve. He didn’t realize it yet, but Paiz was about to join another tight-knit community.

He enlisted as a masonry/carpentry specialist and joined a rowdy group of construction soldiers from throughout Pennsylvania, the 358th Engineer Company, located in New Cumberland, Pennsylvania.

Joining the military proved beneficial in many ways. First, Paiz, who works as a sales representative for a cable company, was able to get the sense of service and giving back to his country as a soldier.

The British trained ex-slaves to fight the US in the War of 1812

Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist from Chambersburg, Pa., with the 358th Engineer Company, plays with some dogs outside a medical clinic construction site June 21 in Tojocaz, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

Secondly, Paiz was re-united with a friend from high school, Spc. Pierre Mede, who just like him, had migrated from another country — Haiti — to the United States as a child. The two quickly went from friends, to inseparable best friends.

But most of all, although Paiz didn’t know it yet, the tiny unit from Pennsylvania was about to bring him back to Guatemala. The unit’s annual training mission was in support of Beyond the Horizon, an annual training partnership between U.S Army South, and one of the nations in their area of responsibility in Central and South America. As it so happened, this year’s rotation was in Guatemala, where the 358th Engineers would be building a medical clinic in the mountain village of Tojocaz.

The British trained ex-slaves to fight the US in the War of 1812

U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist with the 358th Engineer Company from Chambersburg, Pa., embraces his father, Jorge, June 24, 2019, at the Intercontinental Hotel in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

Homecoming

Paiz knew his unit was going to be traveling to Guatemala. He knew that he would be flying in to Guatemala City where he would meet his aunt Lorna, who he had not seen in several years, but had been very close to growing up. But Paiz was not prepared for what would happen next at Guatemala City Airport.

“Obviously I recognized him, because I had seen him through photos,” Paiz said. “When I walked through the door … my heart just dropped. I knew this was the moment that I had been envisioning in my head for years — I just didn’t think it was going to be that day.

The British trained ex-slaves to fight the US in the War of 1812

U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist with the 358th Engineer Company from Chambersburg, Pa., embraces his father, Jorge, June 24, 2019, at the Intercontinental Hotel in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

“I hugged my aunt first, then my other aunt, and a family friend. Then it was his turn. I was really nervous when I finally met him.”

It was a moment he said had rehearsed in his mind countless times.

“I was really shocked, nervous, overwhelmed,” he said. “I had practiced what I was going to tell him for so many years, but it wouldn’t come out. I didn’t cry or anything, but I was glad that I finally closed that chapter in my life, and as it so happened, the military has done that for me.

“My heart was racing, and when I finally hugged him I was like, this is happening. This is real. Twenty-three years later I finally got to see my father.”

One of the soldiers snapped a photo of the brief, impromptu meeting. Paiz would carry it with him as he worked on the clinic with his friend Mede. It was a brief moment, but the two planned a second visit from Paiz in August.

The British trained ex-slaves to fight the US in the War of 1812

Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist from Chambersburg, Pa., with the 358th Engineer Company, checks the level on a block during construction work on a medical clinic June 21, 2019, in Tojocaz, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

The clinic

Paiz’ story affected his new brothers in the 358th. It provided the extra bit of motivation the soldiers needed on their construction rotation. Three weeks is not a long time, but if you ask the soldiers, three weeks high in the mountains of Guatemala, sweating and grinding in the hot sun for more than 12 hours every day can be very long. To add to it all, the 358th fell into a situation where they were already several days behind on the project.

The soldiers would leave at 5 a.m. every morning, and come home dirty, sweaty, sore and tired after laying brick until sometimes well after 8 p.m. But though they acknowledged their fatigue, none complained. Because of Paiz, this mission meant something more to them.

His non-commissioned officer, Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Pearce probably said it best: “We respect each other as people. Knowing the fact that one of the soldiers is originally from Guatemala, and that we’re here to help this community and this is his native country, I think everybody has pulled together to say ‘We want to do this.’ We are motivated to make this happen so we can say look what we did for this soldier’s native country.”

The British trained ex-slaves to fight the US in the War of 1812

U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist with the 358th Engineer Company from Chambersburg, Pa., embraces his father, Jorge, June 24, 2019, at the Intercontinental Hotel in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

Goodbye, for now

After waiting 23 years, Paiz had met his father and could look forward to the trip in August. As it turned out, he would not have to wait that long.

A couple weeks later, when some of the military leadership learned of Paiz’ unique situation, they arranged for him to hop on a helicopter that was already going from the base the soldiers were staying at with their Guatemalan counterparts in Huehuetenango to Guatemala City.

The flight was picking up some high-ranking officials and flying them back, so Paiz would only have a few minutes to see Jorge. They met for coffee at the Intercontinental Hotel in Guatemala City. Once again, his aunts were there and his cousin too. When everyone sat together at the table, it was as if the family had been together all along. Laughter filled the air.

The talk was of pride. Paiz’ cousin, Celia told him, “I am so proud of you that you became an American soldier. I am proud that you and the other soldiers work with the people here on this mission.”

The British trained ex-slaves to fight the US in the War of 1812

U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist with the 358th Engineer Company from Chambersburg, Pa., poses for a photo with his cousin Celia taken by his aunt Lorna, June 24 at the Intercontinental Hotel in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

There was more laughter, and then the room became quiet. Only Jorge spoke, and though he tried to remain composed, his son’s face brimmed with emotion. His father was apologizing.

“I’m very proud of you that you are an American soldier,” Jorge said. “I’m very proud that you are a good person and you make the right choices. You could have gone another path, but you chose the life of a soldier. That’s because you were raised well by your mother.”

He went on to say that although he had a family of his own, he still thought of his son even if it he felt as though he could not be there.

“That doesn’t mean that I don’t love you and I hope we can maintain strong communication moving forward. I’m grateful that life gave us an opportunity to reunite.” He went on to say that when he saw him now, even as a strapping 23-year-old man, he pictured an 8-year-old boy.

“My son. My blood. A good boy. A good son.”

Finally, Brandon Paiz had gotten what he really needed from his father.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

Universal Pictures and Regal are giving over 14,000 vets and service members free tickets to ‘First Man’

On Thursday, October 11, more than 14,000 free tickets will be presented to U.S. veterans and active-duty service members for Universal’s First Man — at more than 500 Regal locations nationwide.

Each of the first 25 service members (per location) with valid, government-issued ID who request a ticket will be given free admission to the 7:00 p.m. preview screening (or first show). First Man, from Academy Award-winning director Damien Chazelle and star Ryan Gosling, arrives in theaters nationwide on October 12.


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“During his career as a Naval aviator, our dad flew 78 combat missions in the Korean War,” said Mark and Rick Armstrong. “The friendships he forged during those critical years remained deeply important to him all of his days. Freedom — much like landing on the moon — is an achievement that is hard fought and hard won, and it cannot be accomplished without the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform and their loved ones. We’d like to join Universal and Regal in thanking all our current and past veterans, as well as their families, for their brave service to this great nation.”

“As an Air Force veteran, I am proud to see this historical achievement from other veterans and NASA featured on the big screen. These military heroes are an incredible example of the courage and determination that allowed us to reach new heights in space exploration,” said Ken Thewes, CMO at Regal. “As a tribute to the courageous men and women in the armed forces, we are honored to offer complimentary tickets for active-duty military and veterans to be the first to see First Man at any participating Regal theatres.”

The British trained ex-slaves to fight the US in the War of 1812

(Universal Pictures)

The promotion will be available at all Regal theatres playing First Man. Free tickets will be available on a first-come, first-served basis and may be picked up at the Regal box office on October 11. Each guest must present a valid government-issued military ID to receive their ticket, with a limit of one free ticket for each military ID presented, while supplies last. This offer is valid for the 7:00 p.m. screening (or first showing) of the film on October 11, only.

“Neil Armstrong represents the best and bravest of humanity, and this film from director Damien Chazelle is stunning,” said Jim Orr, President, Distribution, Universal Pictures. “Early audiences have championed this new masterpiece, and we’re grateful that our partners at Regal have opened their doors to active-duty and retired service members with free tickets. We know these heroes will enjoy First Man, and we’re thrilled they’ll be among the first to experience it.”

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